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Open Thread 81.75

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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975 Responses to Open Thread 81.75

  1. Machina ex Deus says:

    In the last* thread, entobat wrote:

    As a data point, I am pro-abortion, pro-infanticide, and pro-incest.

    and:

    Blastocysts do not have personhood; this does not magically change when they become fetuses. Fetuses do not have personhood; this does not magically change when they are removed from the uterus.

    Obviously a 10-year-old has personhood, so there is some day between conception and 10-year-old-ness where personhood manifests, and we should probably err on the side of caution in figuring out where it is. But I see no reason to believe that “the day of birth is probably fine” is insufficiently cautious.

    I just wanted to give everybody in favor of abortion but opposed to infanticide the opportunity to respond in a more appropriate, more salient place.

    Go for it.

    (* Culture-War-and-GMO-Free)

    • Winter Shaker says:

      There certainly seemed to be a lot of people on that thread taking the ‘abortion is immoral’ stance, without dealing with the possibility that abortion starts out at not-immoral at the zygote stage, but gradually becomes more likely to be immoral with increasing possibility of the blastocyst / embryo / foetus being able to suffer, which struck me as odd given that seems to be most people’s ethical intuition.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      One of the really obnoxious things about the abortion debate is how people tend to engage in such extremely black and white thinking. This is a bullet that nobody needs to bite.

      I’d agree that abortion is homicide in exactly the same way that infanticide is. But that doesn’t mean that abortion is never justified, nor that infanticide should be legal.

      Abortion coupled with genetic screening is a boon for public health. It’s a life-saving medical treatment for conditions like ecotopic pregnancies. It can help reduce the damage caused by rape incest and infidelity. Under all of those circumstances it also provides valuable embryonic stem cells to researchers.

      You don’t need to pretend that abortion is clean and uncomplicated in order to oppose bans on it. If you’ve ever supported a war, congratulations, you understand that homicide isn’t always murder. It shouldn’t be a first resort but sometimes it’s the best out of a bunch of bad options.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        One of the really obnoxious things about the abortion debate is how people tend to engage in such extremely black and white thinking. This is a bullet that nobody needs to bite.

        This doesn’t just happen in the abortion issue, either. People get this worked up about gun control, visa overstays, and even bimetallism.

        I often wonder if this is truer in the US than in other nations, and if so, if it’s only among specific slices of the US. (A lot of my friends in Texas don’t get nearly so worked up over politics as my friends in DC.) It’s like there’s this primal nerve that people have gotten good at linking to various viewpoints.

        • Jiro says:

          Gun control opponents engage in what seems to be black and white thinking because of a combination of:
          1) slippery slope considerations
          2) actual statements from gun control supporters that they want to ban all civilian gun ownership
          3) arbitrary restrictions that are the equivalent of banning all books which contain a prime number of pages. (I mean, why look at that as black and white? It’s not a ban on all books, right?)

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Yeah; they do. The interesting thing to me about this is that these reasons are on their conscious minds. Whenever someone challenges why gun rights advocates are so black-and-white and there’s a GRA within earshot, these reasons (and others) are given. It’s not kneejerk, it’s not argument from authority, and in many cases, it’s implied that if these conditions did not hold, GRAs would be measurably more receptive. I’m sometimes rather stunned at how many GRAs suddenly sound like Rhodes scholars while looking like they’d rather be noodling catfish or something.

          • qwints says:

            Amusingly this maps perfectly onto opponents of abortion restrictions.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            It absolutely does, and this has been pointed out on the SSC comments many times since I started following them, to general agreement. I’m not aware of any -explicit- incrementalist planning on the part of the hardcore anti-abortion activists, but that’s mostly because they’re not that subtle, they’ve just come right out and said “I will NEVER settle for ANYTHING less than a total ban on this heinous slaughter of the innocent!”.

            That said, it seems to me that the window for banning abortion in the US closed some time ago, and that most of the attempts to back-door restrictions by introducing bureaucratic and administrative hurdles are going to die off over the next 20-30 years as the population that cares ages out.

            Then again, there’s still an amazing amount of year-round anti-abortion advertisements on billboards and roadside signage in this part of the country, so maybe I’m being overly optimistic.

          • roystgnr says:

            Wait, is “as the population that cares ages out” a thing that’s going to happen? Neither Gallup nor Pew have measured much change in opinion over abortion, over decades. So no, there’s not going to be any ban, but neither is there likely to be any end to the acrimony.

            I know “the left is winning the culture war” or whatever, and that’s certainly true for some major issues like gay marriage, but abortion isn’t one of those issues.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            By “age out” I don’t mean 10-20 years. I mean 30-50 years from now. The gallup polling shows a slow but steady drift, and I expect that to continue barring a black swan event like another Great Awakening.

          • Incrementalism works fine where there is agreement on the goal , and agreement that flat prohibition won’t work: the way most countries have tackled smoking is an example.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          If I were in a position of more social influence or wealth, one of my long-term goals would be to convince gun control advocates in the US to give up the long term strategy of incrementalism with the terminal goal of a UK/AU style regime. Without that strategy in place, I think that we probably COULD put the issue to bed.

          • How does that differ from just giving up?

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Because there exist legal schemes controlling the sale, transfer, transport, use, and manufacture of firearms short of a UK/AU style framework. Therefore one can abandon the long-term goal of a UK/AU style framework and still advocate for a robust and well-enforced legal scheme of regulation.

            Amusingly enough, your question illustrates precisely the problem with incrementalism I was alluding to above, in that in practice rather than assisting in finding good stable compromise points between two opposing factions, it creates and reinforces an all-or-nothing mindset in both sides.

      • Garrett says:

        I think the black/white thinking is because that’s ultimately what gets coded into law. Attempts at providing discretion such as the good-cause-as-determined-by-a-judge are opposed.

        I’d object to your statement about “public health”. At best it reduces health-care costs. But someone delivering to-term a child with a genetic disorder doesn’t have a negative impact on the health of others (like communicable diseases do).

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          I’d object to your statement about “public health”. At best it reduces health-care costs. But someone delivering to-term a child with a genetic disorder doesn’t have a negative impact on the health of others (like communicable diseases do).

          If the child survives to reproductive age it has the potential to affect the health of a lot of other people down the line.

          Reducing the incidence of congenital disorders benefits not just parents but society as a whole. Non-destructive methods like gene editing may take on part of that function in the future but right now it’s pretty much just abortion.

          • albatross11 says:

            This argument aligns surprisingly well with the concerns of some pro-life people, especially the Catholic Church, that abortion and euthanasia lead naturally to infanticide and killing of handicapped people. If abortion is killing a human but is justified anyway when the fetus has some genetic disorder, it seems like the same argument applies to a 20 year old (expensive to care for, pain in the as to deal with) adult with the same genetic disorder.

    • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

      I mean, when pushed about it, most people who are for abortion still think there should be restrictions in place. The law in most countries that do allow it reflect this: abortion is legal until n weeks, barring exceptional circumstances.

      Which makes sense, entobat’s reasoning doesn’t seem that bad, the problem is that his starting premises are kind of whack: Most people believe newborns to have personhood, and that doesn’t magically happen when they’re taken out of the uterus. Those who support abortion believe Blastocysts do not. Personhood is gained, gradually or abruptly, somewhere in between. Hence, a restriction. Since the issue of determining “when” is hard, a conservative estimate is used.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        I’ve always thought that a good conservative estimate would be 24-25 weeks, going off of brain development and activity, with things getting progressively murkier from there until the point where you could deliver the fetus and it could survive without an incubator or other advanced medical care beyond the care that any infant would require.

        Which is not to say that I necessarily support a total and absolute ban on abortions after the 24-25 week mark, but I do think it gets increasingly dicey after that point and that you need increasingly strong arguments for it, arguments that would be equally persuasive if you were arguing for killing an adult human. Since I’m perfectly ok with the idea that it is morally acceptable, sometimes even morally obligatory, to kill, I can live with that, and I think that the more you make pregnancy easy to detect prior and abortions easy to get prior to that 24-25 week cut-off, the fewer of those more difficult edge cases any legal or social scheme will have to cope with.

        • Iain says:

          Yeah, it’s worth pointing out that abortions after that point are a tiny minority, and are primarily motivated by serious threats to the health of the mother or significant late-developing fetal abnormalities. They generally occur in wanted pregnancies that go wrong. Insofar as any other late-term abortions take place, they are nearly always a result of difficulty accessing an earlier abortion. I am pro-choice, but I would be happy to trade off non-medical abortions after 20ish weeks in exchange for improved access earlier in pregnancy. You can argue for personhood later on, but the typical abortion takes place when the fetus weighs less than an ounce and has no capacity to feel pain. I’m very comfortable concluding that it’s not a person yet.

          (For what it’s worth, I draw the line for personhood somewhere around the second year of undergrad.)

          • soreff says:

            (For what it’s worth, I draw the line for personhood somewhere around the second year of undergrad.)

            Seems reasonable… 🙂

            I’m not sure whether that is a looser or more stringent criterion than Heinlein’s

            Anyone who cannot cope with mathematics is not fully human. At best, he is a tolerable subhuman who has learned to wear his shoes, bathe, and not make messes in the house.

            It depends on what counts as “mathematics”, and on the
            particular undergraduate curriculum…

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          Unfortunately, the christian right did a pretty good job poisoining the well on this one in the 90s, and even if my view became mainstream on the right (I don’t think it is ATM) I think it will take a generation or two AFTER that for things to settle in enough to satisfy feminists that conservatives aren’t going to try and play the incremental ratchet game the way they have in the past.

          Am I crazy for thinking that “Incrementalism” is actually a FAILURE mode of democratic governance in general? As in, it’s basically a way to subvert preferences rather than find a stable compromise.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think incrementalism is the normal state of affairs. If abortions are banned at 4 months, why not try to push them down to being banned at 3 months, given that you believe they’re all murders (as some pro-lifers do)? Alternatively, why not try to push them up to 5 months, given that you believe there’re morally acceptable up to the moment of birth (as some pro-choicers do)?

            There are only two natural focal points here–conception or birth. All the others we can choose are pretty arbitrary and fuzzy. The trimesters are relevant focal points because of the early court cases (and I think that distinction comes from medical science of the time), but there’s not some inherent logic for why the boundary should be drawn there.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            There are only two natural focal points here–conception or birth. All the others we can choose are pretty arbitrary and fuzzy. The trimesters are relevant focal points because of the early court cases (and I think that distinction comes from medical science of the time), but there’s not some inherent logic for why the boundary should be drawn there.

            I’d say there’s at least one other natural, well-defined focal point: implantation of the fertilized egg in the uterine wall. AIUI, conception happens without fertilization very frequently; it’s quite natural; in the majority of cases, it probably isn’t even detected (the woman keeps having normal periods). There even exist birth control methods that rely on this. It’s a bit weird to me that it doesn’t figure more into the public discourse.

            Other natural focal points include detections of heartbeat and brainwave activity. Again, AIUI, these are expensive enough to detect that they aren’t routinely done for every pregnancy. I have noticed a relative dearth of people asking about how intuitive these come across as indicating worth of Constitutional protection, although I see it come up every once in a while in random forums.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            There’s another focal point of keeping the status quo. Most of Europe has abortion laws that are not at either of your focal points and yet they are stable. They just aren’t an issue. There is little activism to make them as liberal as American laws. (There are ongoing fights in conservative countries. Maybe activists from liberal countries focus on this, rather than local activism.)

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            There are only two natural focal points here–conception or birth. All the others we can choose are pretty arbitrary and fuzzy.

            I don’t think that’s true at all. higher-level brain activity and ability to maintain basic functions of respiration, circulation, and so on without third-party assistance are pretty broadly accepted as metrics of personhood, which is why it’s possible for a spouse to instruct a physician to remove life support from someone with no high-level brain function without the spouse and physician being arraigned for conspiracy to commit murder.

            That said, I agree that incrementalism is the normal state of affairs. That’s sort of my point. I’m saying that it’s a fundamental flaw with a democratic system if it’s intended to maintain a stable equilibrium between conflicting ideologies. It seems to be a natural argument for devolution, federalism, secession, or simply for smaller units of political organization.

    • Don_Flamingo says:

      I am in favor of abortion, but opposed to infanticide (as being legal within a country, assuming I care about that countries well-being). It’s dangerous for the stability of a country, if people are exposed to the more general idea that killing ‘people’ (who are not say murderers and therefore have kind of brought it upon themselves) is fine for the state or private actors to do. Having life being seen as sacred and a strong taboo against killing, which even the government is allowed to violate in only the most exceptional of circumstances (or even not at all) is probably a very good thing to have in a modern society. Abortion can of course be seen as killing and it kind of is. But it also kind of isn’t (meaning it’s not always obviously perceived as ‘killing’, which is the only thing that matters). Life is messy and because of that, allowing a loophole for that sacred taboo is a much needed, if not exactly elegant fix to give people the tools to make horrible situations into merely bad ones.

      If I were born a Spartiate in ancient times this reasoning wouldn’t of course apply, since killing people is part of that particular country, which I’d be most partial to. Infanticide is obviously the right thing to do in Sparta.

    • secret_tunnel says:

      I think we need to be careful to avoid The Worst Argument in the World when talking about abortion. “Is it murder or not?” is arbitrary if we don’t examine why murder is bad in the first place.

      If I get murdered, I don’t expect to care, because I’ll be dead. It won’t matter to me. But it’s gonna really suck for people who love me and will be devastated by my loss. To me, death is tragic because of how it effects people who are still alive.

      So, if someone dies, and no one cares… did anything bad happen?

      • Skivverus says:

        Suppose, for the sake of argument, not: if somebody dies, how much time do you spend determining whether anyone cares before calling it bad/okay?
        Calling it bad and it actually being okay results in punishing an innocent third party.
        Calling it okay and it actually being bad results in the people who thought it was bad punishing you.

        • Don_Flamingo says:

          Well, in German law at least such considerations (the murder victim was well liked/the world is better off/indifferent to/worse off without the victim) are explicitly forbidden. (sorry, no English article for that)
          https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantifizierungsverbot

          Basically human lives must never be quantified. The life of a healthy infant has the same value as a man on his deathbed.
          This is derived from the constitunial principles of ‘human dignity’ and equality under the law.

          Because of that our supreme court decided, that the ministry of defense can’t shoot down planes about to commit a 9/11-style attack without commiting a crime (I hope they still would, though now I also wonder if it would create a constitunioal crisis, if it actually is done and our government is not feeling like imprisoning it’s own people for doing the sensible thing).

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            Because of that our supreme court decided, that the ministry of defense can’t shoot down planes about to commit a 9/11-style attack without commiting a crime

            Wow.

            Is there a German expression equivalent to “the Constitution is not a suicide pact” as used here? Because if it doesn’t exist, it needs to be coined.

          • Brad says:

            Because of the unfortunate history of the emergency powers clause of the Weimer Republic constitution, not only does the current one not have any such clause but it has this one: ” All Germans shall have the right to resist any person seeking to abolish this constitutional order, if no other remedy is available.”

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            That seems insane and eminentlly self-contradictory on its face. If you cannot quantify human life, you can never use lethal force for any purpose at any time period…the existence of armed police and a military inside Germany would seem to contradict that.

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            This is good law. Anything that is explicitly allowed is likely to become routine.

            Reminds me of the “ticking time bomb” that folks liked to think about back when America was in its Saw IV phase. Should the law allow you to torture a prisoner, in the incredibly unlikely event that there is a nuke about to explode somewhere in Boston, and the prisoner knows where it is? Best answer is “no, the law should not allow it, but someone would do it, and they would be pardoned”.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @hoghoghoghoghog

            How is that good law? If we are to take it at face value (and I don’t believe we can given that the polizei exist), then “one life is worth an infinite/indefinite number of other lives”.

            If we take that stipulation seriously, then no police officer could, for example, use lethal force to defend themselves or others against a violent offender, no matter whether said offender was a guy with a knife and bad reaction to his latest batch of drugs or a terrorist with a bunch of hostages wired to blow. After all, killing one person to save more than one person quantifying the value of human life and saying one life is worth less than a finite amount of others, banned under the law.

            So we have a law that basically -requires- that it be ignored as a matter of course, setting an even worse precedent.

          • James Miller says:

            >Basically human lives must never be quantified.

            Governments must at least implicitly quantify the value of human life when they, for example, decide how much to spend on road safety.

          • Don_Flamingo says:

            No saying this is necessarily the sanest policy, by any measure. But constitutional law seems always sentimental and contradictory (to actual law, that supposedly is constitutional) like that to me. In the article it’s also mentioned that killing a hostage taker to free a hostage is still allowed, so they do allow for some concessions to more ‘practical morality’, I guess. The problem with the plane would not be the life of the hijacker, but the passenger, who would be hostages. Constitutional law seems to be a lot more about adopting very strict rules to avoid a range of bad outcomes/policy, whilst also inadvertently prohibiting some stuff that would be good. So basically Germany (or the US for that matter) can’t really become a totalitarian Murderstate, without having to fight and kill a constitution first. If you write in that killing people with no ‘quality of life’ is (even sometimes) ok, then all of a sudden all disabled people (who aren’t necessarily suffering or unhappy) are on the chopping block really quickly and once that is accepted (the state killing peple according to some arbitrary (seeming) rules) it might go after some pesky, unliked minorities next (probably adopting something constitunial sounding language, when justifying it). Writing the perfect law from a/some utilitarian standpoint is impossible (or the result would be too incomprehensible and complicated for most of the governed), so they write a merely good-enough law to avoid a bigger existential risk.

            A constitution I believe in reality isn’t necessarily a strong roadblock to effective and sane action either. Obama still did ‘murder’ al-Awlaki (which I think was very sane) with only flimsical constitionality and got away with it, but it probably prevents governments from making a habit out of such things (which I think is good).

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            If so, then the Quantifizierungsverbot is an entirely meaningless concept. As described, it is a flat proscription to any quantification or abstract consideration that weighs the value of a human life against any other human life or lives, in terms of either quantity or quality. Therefore, ANY policy or law which permits quantification or abstract consideration of human lives against one another means that in fact there is no such blanket ban.

            To get back to a recurrent recent theme, once you allow exceptions to meta-norms for object-level reasons, you have nothing left but object-level argument. Meta-norms are only valid and extant so long as they are fully generalized. Which is why we should be very careful about how such norms are crafted: they are all or nothing propositions.

            So no, I don’t think much of that as a concept. Far more honest to simply bite the bullet and say “Yes, it is right and moral and good that we as people quantify the value of human lives. Some human lives are worth more than others, and we will formulate policy on that basis”.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        Well, we prosecute people who kill homeless drifters.

      • rahien.din says:

        someone dies, and no one cares…

        Seems overly (and unnecessarily) harsh. It implies that women who have abortions don’t have any connection to their fetuses, or that they simply forget about them. This may sometimes be the case, but I don’t think it applies generally.

        There has to be a better way of pursuing this line of thought.

        • secret_tunnel says:

          To elaborate, I don’t want to imply that women (or the potential fathers, or their friends who are excited for them) can’t have any connection to the fetus at all. If they do have the only emotional connection, though, isn’t their choice to have an abortion not really effecting anyone but themselves?

          I realize this is an insanely slippery slope, and obviously we shouldn’t base our laws around the idea that it’s okay to murder homeless people if you can prove they didn’t have any friends, but when it comes to abortion, I don’t see what the negative consequences actually are outside of the woman’s potential sadness.

          • rahien.din says:

            Eh. I hadn’t intended to make such an objection. I am only really pushing back against that specific connotation of your phraseology.

            [Roll to resist temptation: fail]

            I don’t see what the negative consequences actually are outside of the woman’s potential sadness.

            Well, of course.

            You’ve redefined personhood as “having a positive effect on those around me such that my absence has definite and meaningful negative consequences.” And, sure, if the fetus has no innate personhood at any point in gestation (and neither does the expectation of personhood factor in,) then yeah, the fetus is just a weird organ and abortion is just another kind of [organ]-ectomy. A direct analogy is the person who must undergo a below-the-knee amputation. They might be sad their leg is gone below the knee, but this sadness is the main direct negative consequence, and the operation itself is not unethical.

            But the idea that each person has an innate right to personhood is maybe the most important basis of any just theory of law. Forget the invisible homeless drifter – innate personhood is the reason why it’s illegal to murder a person whom everyone overtly despises and whose continued existence is a nauseous burden on everyone around them.

            So I just think that, by excising the concept of innate personhood, your argument proves too much*. You don’t have a coherent way to claim “We can perform abortions because the fetus’ absence has no direct negative consequences” while claiming “We can not kill homeless drifters even though their absence has no direct negative consequences” and also “We can not kill people everyone hates or people that are overt burdens on society, even though their absence would constitute a removal of direct negative consequences.”

            * It throws the bathwater out with the baby. Har har har.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Why stop with friendless drifters? If 0.5% of the population belong to some ethnic minority, and the other 99.5% of the population hate them with a burning passion, maybe we should kill off the minority on the grounds that the majority’s satisfaction at knowing they’re dead will outweigh the minority’s (temporary) pain at being killed.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @The original

            And that’s why I think the right to life is more important than the concept of reducing pain. If all you care about is pain(like a pure utilitarian would), then murder loses a lot of its stigma.

      • albatross11 says:

        There are occasional serial killers that kill homeless people. Would you call that murder under your definition, assuming the homeless people were friendless?

      • AnonYEmous says:

        So is it then OK to kill people as long as no one cares?

        I guess the argument being that this is a non-central example, but still – as pointed out, we don’t consider the amount of caring to be the main issue. It’s a lot more reasonable to note that we consider the loss of future life the issue…and that’s also a subject I may broach on a later date, because it relates to a very good argument I don’t want to waste just yet.

      • Wrong Species says:

        I wish people would stop linking to this. It’s only the “worst argument in the world” if you’re a pure utilitarian and even they struggle with the implications. of being a pure utilitarian.

    • baconbacon says:

      Blastocysts do not have personhood; this does not magically change when they become fetuses. Fetuses do not have personhood; this does not magically change when they are removed from the uterus.

      I am surprised no one has noted the obvious difference between abortion and infanticide. You don’t need to kill a baby to get rid of it, there are many willing parents (and organizations) that will take your newborn and care for it in some manner of speaking. Post birth there is no necessity for the the infant to impose a burden on its mother in order to survive in the same way it did pre birth.

      • Wrong Species says:

        Let’s say that a mother couldn’t find an organization or person to dump their baby. Is infanticide acceptable now?

    • AKL says:

      My gut is that the moral weight we should attribute to a fetus, baby, animal, or whatever is in a sense the product of its capacity for self interest, the value others place on it, and its potential for future happiness.

      To measure whether something has the capacity for self interest I would ask questions like: does it respond to stimuli? is it aware of its surroundings? can it feel pain? is it sentient? does it express preferences?

      Regarding the potential for future happiness, I think most people intuitively agree that it is more tragic when a 20 year old dies in a car accident than when a 95 year old dies in a car accident. Likewise, I think it’s more tragic when an excited expecting parent suffers a miscarriage than when someone who didn’t know they were pregnant and didn’t want to be pregnant has a miscarriage.

      Since a blastocyst has -in my mind- no capacity for self interest, I ascribe it basically no moral weight (arguably should be non-zero / epistemic humility). As a fetus matures, it gains more and more moral weight as its capacity for self interest grows. Birth is not some magic dividing line, but it is a meaningful one; the child can almost definitely respond to stimuli, express preferences, etc. to a much greater degree than a fetus. And this weight continues to grow as the child matures, from recognizing itself to speaking to generating abstract, complex thoughts.

      So a 20 year old merits greater moral consideration than a 90 year old, but I have no idea where the scale balances, say a 15 year old vs. a 30 year old.

      The upshot is that early term abortions are “bad,” but trivially so. Almost definitely less bad than thwarting the preferences of the mother. As the fetus / baby matures and accrues capacity for self interest, killing the fetus / baby becomes worse. My view is that current abortion policy is overly restrictive. Where specifically I would draw the line, and under what circumstances (really wanting an abortion, victim of a crime, health risks carrying to term, etc.), I don’t know. Further, I have no idea how I could ever know, aside from fuzzy intuitions.

      • rahien.din says:

        Quibble :

        Since a blastocyst has -in my mind- no capacity for self interest, I ascribe it basically no moral weight (arguably should be non-zero / epistemic humility).

        A blastocyst’s capacity for self-interest is its own homeostasis. It takes in nutrients, eliminates waste, builds more cells, and has a narrow range of environmental conditions necessary for its stability.

        One could say the exact same of a newborn.

        A newborn is essentially the immature brainstem in action. They have no meaningful input from their cortex, they do not possess volition, they are all but blind, and their every action is a response to some homeostatic circumstance. Take it from a pediatric neurologist : any apparent capacity for knowing self-interest or expression of preference that you perceive in a newborn is inside your head, not the baby’s. It’s an adaptive and beautiful and loving illusion.

        Even if you say “But the newborn cries audibly!”, I would respond that you are ethically preferencing one state (and one method of communication) over another based merely on your own emotional response. A blastocyst’s chemical and hormonal cries are not functionally different in their purpose or complexity from the newborn’s cries, nor are they any less perceptible or affecting to their mother.

        Ultimately… your line of thinking endorses neonatal infanticide.

        • AKL says:

          Your argument implies that all multi-cellular organisms have moral weight at least as great as a newborn baby, no?

          Taking a different tack, are you arguing that a blastocyst and newborn baby have equivalent capacity to suffer? Can a blastocyst feel pain?

          • rahien.din says:

            I’m really not making a positive claim (and I haven’t stated my own framework). I’m only objecting to yours. My only point : your line of thinking does not reliably distinguish between the blastocyst and the neonate.

            Let me say, though, that I do think a blastocyst is ethically distinct from a neonate. Just not on the terms you describe.

            Can ____ feel pain?

            I am highly skeptical of this type of argument. Certainly, pain is morally and ethically salient. But I am not convinced that “But does ____ feel pain?” is substantially different from “But think of the children!”

            Moreover, we have to describe the meaning of “ethically-salient pain.”
            – Is it a consistent response to a homeostatic threat? All organisms possess this. I am skeptical of the “[X organism]’s greater complexity gives it more ethical salience than [Y organism], other things being equal” argument.
            – Is it a response to homeostatic threat which elicits interaction, though it is not necessarily conscious? Trees under attack will send chemical signals to their local network in order to recruit help, warn neighbors, and if death is imminent, to bequeath their stores of nutrients. Neonates are not truly interacting with their caretakers, even to the degree that trees do. Their cries are the audible equivalent of the blastocyst’s chemical and hormonal signals.
            – Is it the ability to consciously perceive threats both to homeostasis but also to an entity which one identifies as an independent self? Presumably only humans and some sufficiently-mature animals possess this. Neonates almost certainly do not, as they have basically no meaningful cortical efferents.

          • AKL says:

            My only point : your line of thinking does not reliably distinguish between the blastocyst and the neonate.

            Yes, that’s the idea. Attempts to identify a clear dividing line between “OK to terminate” and “Not OK to terminate” are wrongheaded. Not reliably distinguishing between a fetus and a newborn is a feature, not a bug.

            Certainly, pain is morally and ethically salient. But I am not convinced that “But does ____ feel pain?” is substantially different from “But think of the children!”

            I don’t understand what you’re arguing here.

            Moreover, we have to describe the meaning of “ethically-salient pain.”

            Why? However you want to define it, a fetus accrues more of it (rather, the capacity for it) as the fetus matures.

            More broadly, I’m not really sure what part of my framing you disagree with. Is it that you can’t use this framework to draw an unambiguous red line?

          • rahien.din says:

            Ethically, you can’t tell a blastocyst from a neonate. Your line of thinking may endorse neonatal infanticide.

            That’s a feature, not a bug.

            What part of my framing do you disagree with?

            I guess we disagree qualitatitively about whether this specific case is a feature or a bug?

            But I think I understand you better : you seem to view ethical weight as accruing gradually, based on certain evolving features of the organism, with no meaningful discontinuities. I hope that is a fair summation?

            Without resort to some kind of discrete ethical threshold or “Obviously!”, I am not sure how to make a case why your continuous-accrual-of-ethical-weight system ought to be weighted to disallow neonatal infanticide.

    • entobat says:

      Hey, I’m famous now!

      This thread is a bit large for me to want to engage in it, but I’m watching eagerly.

    • Well, in this case, I will also include my reply to that post for which there were no comments in the previous thread.

      Blastocysts do not have personhood; this does not magically change when they become fetuses. Fetuses do not have personhood; this does not magically change when they are removed from the uterus.
      Obviously a 10-year-old has personhood, so there is some day between conception and 10-year-old-ness where personhood manifests, and we should probably err on the side of caution in figuring out where it is. But I see no reason to believe that “the day of birth is probably fine” is insufficiently cautious.

      I don’t agree with your final result, but I understand the comment. I think it was in some college class I took long ago that I came across the comment that humans are not conscious until they learn to talk. I think this means that babies don’t really think of themselves as different from others, and it is only at some point after living in human society that they do think this way. And perhaps the difference is language.

      Thus people think and act much as animals in their first few years, so perhaps they should have the same moral worth as animals? I don’t buy this normative conclusion, but I can understand that someone might. I think people have moral worth even before they think like people, but I don’t have any analytical framework to say why.

    • S_J says:

      I am curious about another question:

      Of those who are vegetarian on the grounds of not wanting to cause suffering to animals, who supports abortion?

      It might seem a stretch, but at some point in the development from human embryo to human fetus, the process of abortion causes suffering.

      Where does the level of suffering rise to the point of the same level of wrongness as raising/killing animals for meat?

      (Caveat: I may not have a perfect mental model of vegetarian, or of a supporter of abortion. Due to family and cultural background, I’m not a vegetarian. I grew up in a religious family, but my parents taught me that abortion was wrong on the argument that “abortion stops a beating heart”. I don’t have good data on whether that’s accurate. But I’m still opposed to abortions after that point in gestation.)

      • Charles F says:

        I’m one of those people for some interpretations of “supports abortion.” And just based on the observation the vegetarians are lefties, it’s probably pretty common.

        I don’t think “stopping a beating heart” is the crux of the issue for most people in that camp. The intentions behind it make up a lot of the difference. Somebody who’s hungry, and has a ham sandwich didn’t have a particularly compelling motivation for metaphorically stopping a heart. Somebody who wants to avoid a lot of dramatic, often unpleasant life changes has a bit more standing.

        And certainly for me, killing the animals is much less of a big deal than the conditions we make them live in. With a large majority abortions, I don’t think the fetus is developed enough to have much in the way of experiences or suffering. So the loss of potential and possibly emotional damage to the parents is still there, but it’s not really analogous to the arguments for vegetarianism.

        Your question about where the levels of wrongness meet is tough. Somebody who isn’t vegetarian is certainly contributing to a lot of death and suffering, but somebody who supports abortion for unwanted pregnancies might, depending on judgement and luck, never get an abortion, get an abortion which lets the parents wait until the right time and end up greatly improving their lives and the lives of their future children, or get one or more abortions that depending on your ideas of personhood amount to a waste of resources or murder without much overall benefit.

        I don’t think we’ve seen that support for abortion ends in societies with lots of irresponsible people getting them because of bad decision-making. So I don’t think supporting abortion is particularly immoral, since even if we all got on board with infanticide, it would remain very uncommon and maybe the people doing it would tend to have net good reasons, but it’s hard to say for any abortion in particular.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      A while ago (probably in the nineties), I read a book which claimed that Americans mostly stably defaulted to abortion should be completely legal for the first three months, regulated for the second three months, and very hard to get in the last three months, and there was no one in politics representing the majority point of view.

      I hesitate a bit because there may have been a person or two in politics who did represent that point of view, but it certainly hasn’t been a strong movement.

      • hyperboloid says:

        I suspect there are numerous political issues where there is no one representing the majority point of view. The median voter theorem depends on certain assumptions, namely that voter preferences distrusted continuously, rather than say bimodally, and that differences in voter turn out rates are not a factor. In the real world the electorate is polarized, and people who hold extreme positions have much stronger preferences and are therefore more likely to vote.

    • Yosarian2 says:

      I’m pro choice, but I think it’s fair to say that very late term abortions do start to become morally problematic as the brain of the fetus becomes more and more human-like.

      I don’t really worry about it because as far as I can tell very late term abortions are very rare and usually only happen for a good medical reason like “the fetus has a severe problem and will die in early childhood anyway,” If people often got 8th month abortions for no good reason I would see that as a problem, but as far as I can tell that almost never happens.

      By the same token, I think the kinds of beurocratic restrictions conservative states put on abortion, like wait times, unnecessary scans, reducing the number of clinics, ect, are very immoral since I would expect the primary effect of them would be to delay abortions into later in the pregnancy.

  2. Nabil ad Dajjal says:

    When did kid’s cartoons start getting good?

    A friend of mine recently showed me Steven Universe. I had mostly heard about it third-hand from people complaining about the Tumblr fandom, but it’s actually middling quality SF. And while it’s deeply progressive, bordering on SJ really, the creator is obviously more invested in creating good art than agitprop.

    Since Avatar came out there seems to be a niche of “smart children’s cartoon” which I don’t remember existing when I was a kid in the nineties. I’ve heard similar things about Gravity Falls and My Little Pony although I’ve never seen the former and refuse to watch the latter (bronies are so goddamn weird, I’m sorry I just can’t deal with it).

    So when and why did this happen?

    • Machina ex Deus says:

      I think a better question is probably, “Why were kids’ cartoons so insipid for a long stretch?”

      I grew up on Bugs Bunny and Tom & Jerry. They always had clever references for the adults to laugh at, not all of them pop-culture (cf. “Kill the Wabbit”). Plots may not have been as sophisticated as in Stephen Universe, and settings were usually stock (mad scientist’s castle, forest, desert canyon landscape), but that’s probably because they couldn’t have plot arcs across episodes (really, 7-minute shorts) the way Avatar can.

      The rarer, Saturday-morning-only, cartoons seemed to be by a handful of companies, and were less silly (Godzilla, Tarzan). I think toy tie-ins usually sucked, and probably have a lot to do with the decline in general quality.

      Somewhere in there were the Japanese imports, the most awesome of which was Star Blazers. They were only half-aimed at kids anyway; I understand a lot more re-watching them now with various kids and nephews.

      By the time my kids started watching Saturday-morning cartoons, they were all promotions for Japanese collectibles. Or Dragon Ball Z, which I quickly discovered was highly overrated (and filled with characters named after vegetables). But by that point, there was an entire cable network for cartoons, plus Qubo, and 24-hour kids’ programming from PBS.

      • BBA says:

        Up until the ’60s or so, cartoons were often “all ages” entertainment. This was especially the case during the pre-television days when every movie was preceded by a newsreel and a cartoon, which is where the Bugs Bunny and Tom & Jerry shorts originated. On TV, early seasons of The Flintstones ran in prime time and were sponsored by a cigarette company.

        Maybe we’re just reverting to the earlier norm?

        • Aapje says:

          were sponsored by a cigarette company.

          Cigarette companies primarily target children and adolescents (very, very few people start smoking past puberty).

          • BBA says:

            Not overtly. Even when cigarette ads were allowed on TV, they weren’t advertising during the Bozo the Clown Hour. They’ve always aimed for plausible deniability, the infamous Joe Camel campaign showing the limits of plausibility.

          • Vorkon says:

            Okay, forgive me for getting on my soapbox for a minute here: I despise the “Joe Camel was a sneaky attempt to target kids” argument.

            Joe Camel was just a cool dude, no different than the cool dudes you would see in any other cigarette ad, (back when they were still allowed to advertise at all that is) or alcohol ads today, except that he happened to be a camel. If your company was named after an animal, and you needed to sell your product by showing cool dudes using it, wouldn’t YOU make said “cool dude” an anthropomorphized version of that animal, too?

            I hated that argument when it was first made, and I hate it even more today, because by its very nature, it implies that cartoons are inherently suited only for children, and that just isn’t the case. You’ll note that we were JUST talking about how cartoons used to be “all-ages” entertainment; didn’t Joe Camel originate in that same era?

            Joe Camel isn’t an example of plausibly deniable advertising targeted at kids. He’s an example of the even more common phenomenon of “morally panicked busybodies banning anything they can plausibly make a ‘But Think Of The CHILDREN’ argument over.” It may very well be a good thing for public health and safety that the tobacco industry, in general, has been reigned in over the years, but Joe Camel is an innocent casualty of that war.

          • Jiro says:

            Wikipedia says this:

            “Internal documents produced to the court in Mangini v. R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, San Francisco County Superior Court No. 959516, demonstrated the industry’s interest in targeting children as future smokers.[6] The importance of the youth market was illustrated in a 1974 presentation by RJR’s Vice-President of Marketing who explained that the “young adult market . . . represent[s] tomorrow’s cigarette business. As this 14-24 age group matures, they will account for a key share of the total cigarette volume – for at least the next 25 years.”[7] A 1974 memo by the R. J. Reynolds Research Department points out that capturing the young adult market is vital because “virtually all [smokers] start by the age of 25” and “most smokers begin smoking regularly and select a usual brand at or before the age of 18.”[8]”

          • Vorkon says:

            And where does that memo reference Joe Camel, specifically?

            Of course the industry, as a whole, has an interest in advertising to children. That doesn’t mean Joe Camel is any more specifically targeted toward children than any other cigarette ad that features unreasonably cool people being unreasonably cool, and implies “hey, you can be unreasonably cool, too.” (i.e. pretty much every other cigarette ad.)

            Additionally, even if you DO accept that kids tend to respond favorably to anthropomorphic animals, and assume that the character was designed to capitalize on this fact, that memo is only talking about the 14-25 year old demographic. Isn’t the demographic that you would normally expect to ensnare with an anthropomorphic animal mascot a little bit younger than 14? Wouldn’t a 15 year old who publically admitted to liking cartoons be mocked mercilessly by their peers, ESPECIALLY back in the 80s, before anime had gotten big in the US, and all the good cartoons we’re discussing in this thread hadn’t premiered yet?

            I’ll admit, I’m somewhat biased on this issue, as the “cartoons are just for kids” argument hits fairly close to home for me, but I fail to see any substantive difference between that argument and the “Joe Camel is targeted at kids” argument.

          • Matt M says:

            As this 14-24 age group matures

            Is 14 years old really the “children” that everyone thinks are going to be swayed by a talking cartoon camel?

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Most nefarious abuse of cartoons since Metropolitan Life used the Peanuts characters to get children hooked on annuities.

          • BBA says:

            You’ll note that we were JUST talking about how cartoons used to be “all-ages” entertainment; didn’t Joe Camel originate in that same era?

            No. The character originated in a 1970s European ad campaign, and was first rolled out in America in 1987.

            I think the strategy was, roughly, make young kids aware of Camels so when they’re a few years older and want to start smoking for the first time, it’ll be the brand they ask for. Just from personal experience, I was aware of the campaign from a very young age. I don’t know if it was intentional but it certainly helped Camel’s share of the underage market.

          • John Schilling says:

            Isn’t this thread about when cartoons started becoming good (for adults, again)? With some debate about the timing, but a clear understanding that for a long time nobody was even trying?

            Because if I recall correctly, the “Joe Camel” controversy blew up in the long interregnum between Chuck Jones and e.g. Animaniacs, when conventional wisdom among everyone but the anime-watching loser geeks was that cartoons and comic books were strictly kid’s stuff. And by “kid’s stuff”, I don’t mean “14-24 year olds”

            Certainly tobacco companies have aimed their advertising at people under 18. Possibly they have deliberately targeted the pre-teens that are the central example of “children” in a way that late adolescents very much aren’t, but that AFIK hasn’t been proven. Imagining or reflecting that Joe Camel was such proof, is just ignorance – of a sort so common at that time I would not want to ascribe malice to it.

          • Nornagest says:

            Well, conventional wisdom among everyone presumably includes conventional wisdom among tobacco company marketing executives.

            Though if I recall correctly, that was also about the time that Ralph Bakshi came out with Cool World (very R-rated).

          • John Schilling says:

            And as BBA notes, the campaign first came out in France in 1974; the perception of comics was different and more adult-oriented there as well.

    • AlphaGamma says:

      Does The Tick count? That first aired in 1994. Of course, it was less popular- it became a cult hit later when in re-runs.

      Animaniacs (first aired 1993) is also pretty smart.

      Incidentally, both of these were on the same network originally.

      • random832 says:

        I once read an analysis suggesting there was a “second golden age” of cartoons in the late 80s through the 90s, driven by offshoring of the actual animation work (which allowed more budget to be spent on writing, and the writing not to be wasted on low-quality animation)

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          “Second golden age” might be accurate. My memory wants to put a stake in the ground at the year that Batman: The Animated Series debuted, opening a small floodgate that gradually grew over the years.

          Cartoon Network probably had a hand in it as well, perhaps enabled by widespread cable TV, making it possible to serve a market of people nostalgic for older cartoons from Warner Bros. and Hanna Barbera, and looking for more. Inject some classic anime and some burgeoning 3D and you’ve now got the pretty pictures and breadth of writing necessary to bring in the crowds and the ad revenue, finance more production, and then start being selective of your writing and animation talent.

          There were spikes of good and bad writing here and there, as I recall. I grew up in the 70s watching old WB cartoons of course, which were generally sterling, but every once in a while some completionist would air lesser-known shorts, and so I’d see some Porky Pig cartoon drumming up support for the war effort, or various Merrie Melodies or Popeye or Betty Boop shorts that weren’t very engaging. Hanna Barbera cartoons seemed about on par with sitcoms at the time, and had the same vibe – I didn’t get them. (I also didn’t understand why Wile E. Coyote was funny until years later.)

          The 1980s were a sea of toy cartoons – Gobots, Transformers, He-man, Dungeons and Dragons, some comics (Spider-man, Hulk), and various arcade games (Donkey Kong, Pac-man, etc.). Writing quality varied a lot – every once in a while I’d see a He-man or Spider-man or D&D episode and wonder how in the heck that story got in there…

      • Matt M says:

        Yeah, I was going to suggest Animaniacs as a possible candidate here. I watched it religiously for years as a child!

      • Odovacer says:

        Animaniacs was good. I also enjoyed Tiny Toons, Exosquad, and the Bruce Tim DC shows, Batman, Justice League, etc.

    • FacelessCraven says:

      Gargoyles and Reboot in the 90s were both fantastic.

    • Jordan D. says:

      I do urge you to watch Gravity Falls when you have a chance. Of all the ‘good kids shows’ of the past decade, it’s easily my favorite.

      I dunno when this happened, but I think the ‘why’ is: somebody realized that if you add an extreme focus on characterization and character development to the traditional children’s cartoon formula of ‘exciting adventure happens every episode’, the viewer’s brain stops encoding the show as ‘entertaining performer I like to watch’ and starts referring to it as ‘a friend whom I have been through so much with.’

      I mean- Dexter’s Lab, Courage the Cowardly Dog, Powerpuff Girls, etc were funny and enjoyable shows. They introduced cool concepts, they didn’t talk down to kids too much, they were fun to watch, etc. But they didn’t really go anywhere the same way that the modern smart cartoons do.

      (I think this is also why I liked Pokemon so much as a child, even though the episodes were comparatively plodding, the animation was bad and the characters were all total morons. Non-Japanese cartoons just weren’t even trying to give me character development or over-arcing plot.)

      • gbdub says:

        And of course the move from “mostly episodic” to “arc based” hasn’t been limited to kids’ shows.

        • beleester says:

          The fact that it’s now easy to access the complete run of a TV show and you don’t have to worry that you’ll lose someone if they pick up the show mid-season probably contributed to that.

          • blame says:

            My thoughts exactly. I also think that the shift from tv to streaming services encourages “arc based” storytelling for the same reason: you don’t have to worry about losing viewers because they missed an important episode. So I expect this trend to continue and strengthen.

            As for good old shows, I remember that as a kid I enjoyed “The Animals of Farthing Wood”

      • cassander says:

        Gravity falls is an amazing show. It’s up there with top 5 or 10 shows of all times in terms of how well its plot develops and pays off.

    • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

      When did kid’s cartoons start getting good?

      How many of these cartoons are really “kids’ cartoons”? There seems to be a growing demograhic of older cartoon consumers, so many of these shows may be more targeted to them or to have a “broad appeal”, that is, to not alienate this segment.

      • Matt M says:

        This all happened at around the same time though, and the things probably influenced each other.

        Many people here are pointing to the late 80s/early 90s as the time when “kids cartoons started getting good.”

        Of course, The Simpsons (cartoon aimed just as much at adults as at kids) debuted in the late 80s and reached the height of its popularity in the early/mid 90s. Its most successful successors (Family Guy, Futurama, etc.) followed in the late 90s/early 2000s.

        Meanwhile, the “young adult cartoon” genre (Beavis and Butthead, Daria, etc.) sprang up in the mid/late 90s as well.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      I remember as a kid being frustrated with the cartoons, even the cartoons I loved, being repetitive.

      I’m sure there were hundreds of thousands like me. Some of them grew up into cartoon writers and producers. They kept the things they liked, and fixed the things they didn’t like.

      Children’s media evolves the same way adult media evolves.

    • axiomsofdominion says:

      There were a ton of smart kids shows in the 90s. Maybe you personally only watched junk? Dexter’s Lab was brilliant. They had so many clever plays on pop culture and also social norms that often only really smart kids or adults understood but they stayed fun for regular kids.

      Can you give us a list of what you watched that you felt was garbage?

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        I liked Dexter’s Lab but it really wasn’t the same kind of show. It was highly episodic with essentially no episode-to-episode continuity with thinly sketched characters and setting. As far as I can remember it never attempted to deal with any deeper themes like feelings of loss, love, duty etc.

        I never watched the DCAU or Gargoyles, though from what I’ve heard they would qualify. I did watch Code Lyoko which in retrospect would count (if we’re allowing Frenchime).

        Mostly I watched shows like the Powerpuff Girls, Courage the Cowardly Dog, Hey Arnold, Doug, etc. They were entertaining as a kid but didn’t really have much in the way of substance.

        • J Mann says:

          Did you watch Samurai Jack? Dexter was smart and amusing, but Samurai Jack upped it a level. (And IMHO, Symbionic Titan showed what a kid’s show can do).

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            I liked Samurai Jack but, counting only the original series and not the newest season, it didn’t have any plot or character developments which lasted longer than an episode. Unless you count Jack being able to jump good in later scenes, which is a stretch.

            It was however a very contemplative and artistic show without going over kids heads. I love it and it was / is a really good series.

            I guess what I’m gesturing at is that as good as it is, it’s not quite in the category of cartoons that I’m talking about.

        • axiomsofdominion says:

          You think Recess, Dexter, Doug, Courage, and Hey Arnold had no substance but Steven Universe and Avatar do? Hmm. Are you equating substance with long term plot? Hey Arnold certainly dealt with those themes, as did Doug. Have you re-watched all these shows as an adult?

          Its highly likely that you would notice the themes and subtext more now as an adult. I’m not sure actual children who watched Steven Universe vs Powerpuff Girls or Courage would pick one as more deep, whereas as an adult you are more equipped to think about that stuff.

    • MrApophenia says:

      I haven’t done enough research to prove it caused the greater trend, but my bet would be on Warner Brothers in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This is when they recreated an animation wing of the company (which had been defunct since the 1960s). The first of two big things they did at this point was to get a partnership going with Stephen Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment; this partnership led to Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain, and Freakazoid!, all of which are well-regarded as being a lot smarter and higher quality than other children’s animation at the time.

      The second big thing that happened right around this time is that Warner Brothers merged with Time Inc., creating Time Warner; this is how they came to be the owners of DC Comics. So they gave their animation wing access to the DC Comics characters, hired Dini and Timm, and you also wind up with Batman the Animated Series and the various extremely smart, high-quality cartoons to come out of that. (Side note – if anyone hasn’t watched the animated Justice League series, it’s on Netflix and absolutely worth checking out. I’d hold up the 2nd season of Justice League as one of my favorite TV shows, period, not just a good cartoon.)

      The “2nd golden age” or “american animation renaissance” is considered to have started around this time, but my suspicion is it was Warner Brothers that got things started.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        ISTR season 1 of Justice League was below B:TAS par, enough so that the producers noted it in some interview and made a conscious effort to “work on the writing”. There was a noticeable story difference between seasons 1 and 2 – important to anyone deciding to binge-watch.

        • MrApophenia says:

          Very true. There are a couple decent episodes in season 1 that are probably worth revisiting later on in viewing, but everyone should just start with season 2 if they want to try it out.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            One of the issues with Justice League that started in season 2 was leaning on continuity with Superman: the Animated Series. The pilot, “Stolen Memories”, and the Darkseid arc are required viewing to get the full impact. And you definitely want the full impact of moments like this, delivered by Emil Hamilton (who had been written as Superman’s best friend outside his Clark identity):
            “I used to think you were a guardian angel, sent to answer our prayers. But Lucifer was an angel too, wasn’t he?”
            (When Superman storms off after that conversation, Hamilton is shown catching his breath like a man who’s just been in combat.)

      • eyeballfrog says:

        Personally as seasons go I preferred the Cadmus arc of JLU, but season 2 of JL has my favorite episode, “A Better World”. (Which admittedly inspired the Cadmus arc, so no surprises there I guess.)

        Also I think that since my introduction to the DC universe was through the DCAU, I kind of perceive it as canon. This is sometimes hard to square with other DC properties (a white green lantern? weird).

        • CatCube says:

          “Hereafter” was my personal favorite (The wolf pack leader starting a fight with Superman, then a cut to Superman wearing a fucking cape made out of the wolf guarantees that), and then behind it is “The Terror Beyond”. “A Better World” is a close third, though.

          • MrApophenia says:

            “A Better World” is probably my favorite too (Batman vs. Batman in a fight of kung fu and ethics!) but I think my close second favorite is actually “Wild Cards.” I just love the idea of a whole episode that’s “Hey you know how the Joker always hijacks the TV broadcast to announce his mad scheme? Well here’s what it would be like to be watching TV when that happened.”

          • CatCube says:

            Yeah, I put some consideration as to where “Wild Cards” was in the list, as Mark Hamill is the Joker, as far as I’m concerned. He always played the character as a clown who kills people, where even Heath Ledger played him as a killer who happens to wear clown makeup.

            One of my favorite sequences from Batman: The Animated Series:
            [Gangster is auctioning a nuclear weapon]
            Gangster: So, what are my bids?
            Joker: How about nothing. Zero, zip, zilch, nada.
            [Throws a razor playing card at the gangster’s feet]
            My personal check for bupkis, drawn on the First National Bank of Squadoo!

            The Joker there isn’t a tortured soul, he’s having a ball.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I remember “The Terror Beyond” as the first time I saw snark subverted in a cartoon or superhero story. The writers of these things seem to have a deep-rooted assumption that snarky characters are smarter and better. So to have a Justice League episode open with Hawkgirl sneaking at “Hera give me strength!” and then the whole show turn out to be about no one wants to be an atheist like her was… something.

          • CatCube says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            and then the whole show turn out to be about no one wants to be an atheist like her was… something.

            That actually is the main reason it’s so high up on my list of episodes.

      • onyomi says:

        Apparently that surprisingly good X-Men cartoon from the 90s inspired the first Bryan Singer movie, which, in turn, inspired all the relatively good and adult comic book movies we have now (I actually like comic books, though am getting a bit tired of the trend at this point).

        Batman: The Animated Series, probably the best version of Batman, really, also came out the same year.

        I think both were probably influenced by anime to some extent, and the Japanese were especially receptive to these particular inventions.

      • Vorkon says:

        I don’t get why everybody in this thread keeps talking about “the late 80s” and early 90s. Every example of a quality children’s cartoon that has been brought up in this thread so far has been from the 90s.

        There were a select few American cartoons from the 80s that I might call “good,” but they were VERY few and far between. Off the top of my head I can only think of Duck Tales and Gummi Bears, but those were just Disney being Disney, and weren’t really representative of any trends elsewhere in the industry, and The Real Ghostbusters, which was some sort of strange lightning in a bottle, which somehow managed to sneak through the cracks with some decent writing before the cartoon/toy industry of the day got their claws into it in later seasons.

    • lvlln says:

      Could the increase in competition from other screen entertainment have to do with it? From the 90s to 2010s, video games became much better and more accessible in the home, going from arcades to consoles to phones & tablets that are always on the person. And social media blew up from 2000s to 2010s. Maybe smarter shows are better at holding kids’ attentions than less smart ones, especially if there’s continuity from episode to episode?

      Also, I wonder if there’s some sort of synergy between social media and smart kids’ shows? I imagine smarter shows are more fun to discuss with friends than less smart shows.

      I highly recommend Gravity Falls. Sweet and short, just 2 seasons of great fun. Even if I didn’t particularly get into the whole mystery aspect, I didn’t get any less out of it, I felt.

    • carvenvisage says:

      There’s been good cartoons at least as far back as Tom and Jerry and Looney tunes.

      Some recent but not that recent ones (good, not necessarily smart):

      S tier: jackie chan adventures
      tier 2: powerpuff girls, Yu-gi-oh. Maybe pokemon?
      tier Other-people-say-it’s-great: samurai jack

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Check out the new Voltron on Netflix.

      • CatCube says:

        It bothers me more than it should that the left and right arm trunnions on Voltron have different designs. Seriously, embrace the power of “Other side opposite hand”.

    • kenziegirl says:

      Doesn’t look like there’s much talk of Disney yet, they were also putting out good output in the early 90s for television. This article has a pretty good synopsis of some of the trends at that time in mainstream kids cartoons: link. Of course this was my era so I feel nostalgic for all of this stuff, but it’s nice to see my opinions validated!

      • random832 says:

        The problem with Disney is that their policy of always making only 65 episodes is just long enough for a show to get canceled once it starts to really hit its stride.

      • Vorkon says:

        Speaking of which, am I the only one here who is at least tentatively excited about the new Duck Tales reboot?

        Everything seems to be coming together perfectly for that show: Top-notch voice talent, (I mean, seriously, David Tennant as Scrooge AND Lin Manuel Miranda as Gizmoduck?) a cool art style that seems like a synthesis of the original show, the old Carl Barks comics that inspired it, and more modern sensibilities, and writers who all worked on Gravity Falls. I could just be falling for the hype, but it seems like they’d have to be trying very hard to screw this one up.

        And speaking of Gravity Falls, am I the only one who’s seeing the promotional material for the this show as being, basically, Gravity Falls season 3? It’s not just the obvious fact that Webby has had Mabel’s personality grafted directly onto her, either; the entire setup of the show is basically the same. Think about it, a group of twins/triplets go off to live with their selfish, grouchy old great uncle, have adventures in a setting that looks like a normal town, but where crazy fantastical shit is always happening, and slowly bring him out of his shell as they come together as a family. The main difference is mostly just how financially successful the greedy uncle is. And the fact that they’re all ducks. Heck, the uncle even has a dull-witted but lovable loyal assistant (Launchpad/Soos), Huey seems to basically be Dipper, but with the Junior Woodchuck’s Guidebook instead of the Journal, and Louie’s sarcastic slacker demeanor seems vaguely similar to Wendy. The only main character who doesn’t seem to map directly to a Gravity Falls character is Dewey. Even Donald is… Well, Donald is Donald, but the promotional materials I’ve seen also seem to imply that he used to be very close to Scrooge and go on adventures with him all the time until they had some sort of falling out, not unlike Stan’s relationship with another important character on Gravity Falls.

        I guess I’ll find out soon, at any rate. I mostly just wanted to get all this speculation out of my system before the thing premiers, I think. :op

        • CatCube says:

          Just watched it, as I forgot that it was today until I saw your comment. I think it’ll be a good show if they can keep up the same quality they had here.

    • CatCube says:

      I don’t know if I’d call it good (I enjoyed it, though tastes may differ), but Scooby Doo: Mystery Incorporated was certainly compelling. It’s not often you find a cartoon ostensibly for kids where a teenager gets executed with a machine gun.

    • Well... says:

      I’ve gone back and watched two shows I used to watch a lot when I was a kid: “Pinky and the Brain” and “Batman: The Animated Series”, and both still strike me as excellent.

      I don’t think Batman (or any other superhero type thing) works as programming for adults (movies or otherwise), but as a kid’s cartoon, man, it shimmers and shines.

      “Spongebob” didn’t come out until I was way too old for cartoons, but eventually (by my late 20s/early 30s) I discovered how entertaining it is and I’d say it’s the only “kid’s” cartoon I would happily watch on my own.

      • Matt M says:

        I’ve had an idea rolling around in my head regarding a Pinky and the Brain related project, but I’d need some help. Let me know if you might be interested!

    • nimim.k.m. says:

      Other poster more knowledgeable on the particulars of the US TV animation have elaborated on many other points already, but I wonder if this is a plausible effect explaining what kind of shows there is around today: what the people who are today old enough to be in the business of creating children’s entertainment used to watch themselves? Not only as kids, but also as teenagers and young adults.

      If my timelines are not totally messed up, the 1990s (that other commenters call the “second golden age”) coincided with when anime started to spread into the US and elsewhere in the West. (Funimation was founded in 1994 to distribute English dub of Dragon Ball).

    • Deiseach says:

      Danger Mouse, a British kids’ cartoon from the 80s which had hilarious tongue-in-cheek fourth wall breaking, poking fun at the “James Bond suave secret agent and a Brit” archetype and especially at the reduced geo-political influence of London and Britain as a world power, playing with the clichés of the spy genre, a narrator clearly meant to be a theatre actor reduced to doing voice-overs who yearned for better things (see quote below), and all manner of internal references that probably went over the heads of the kids watching it but would certainly have amused any adults watching along, all done knowingly alongside the very basic, stripped-down, cheap-as-we-can-get-it animation style.

      Narrator: London: Home of the elastic ruler, the clockwork lamppost and the inflatable knitting needle. A peaceful city, a city where, for once, there are no crimes, no adventures and no villains. Where nothing disturbs the cheery rustle of litter, the nimble dance of the pickpockets’ fingers, and the soft swish of a shark’s fin cutting through the tarmac. One of my better days. In fact, w–SHARK’S FIN? No, look, I was promised! They said there wouldn’t be any–oh, DRAT. Not the blessed pillarbox! Not the world’s greatest secret agent again! Oh really, this is too ridiculous! They said I could do poetry, I want to do poetry…!

      Quote from episode linked, over the classic cliché shot of “map representing the journey taken”:

      Astute viewers may wonder why the Paris-bound Orient Express is in Bucharest. Simple. The driver took a wrong turning at Zagreb.

  3. Winter Shaker says:

    I was recently linked to this article about many common instances of recycling being actively counterproductive in terms of wasted resources, and only encouraged by local authorities as a means of preventing people from illegally dumping when they are confronted with the true market cost of landfill. Assuming this is the case, what should we be trying to steer ourselves towards?

    Mandatory deposit schemes on food/drink containers (increasing transport costs as they will need to be more durable and therefore made of heavier materials, and also will need to be transported back to factories for refill)?

    Manufacturers obliged to pay for disposal/reuse of packaging (again, creating transport costs in getting the materials back to the manufacturers, but incentivising the creation of less rubbish in the first place)?

    A push towards genuinely compostable packaging, with tax incentives in its favour (which seems like the neatest solution if we can get the chemistry right and and make it affordable)?

    Just resign ourselves to having to dig enormous holes to fill with rubbish and then try to turf them over in a not-too-ugly/dangerous way when they’re full up?

    [Edit – or end up like in one of the Red Dwarf books, designating one of the planets of our solar system as the waste planet and sending all the trash there … of course, in the book, it was Earth that drew the short straw – the human colonies on all the others managed to argue why it shouldn’t be their planet 🙂 ]

    • JulieK says:

      A tax on anything that generates waste (e.g. food packaged in non-recyclable material), with the revenue used to subsidize landfills and pay for litter pickup?

      • Jaskologist says:

        Define “waste.” Under most definitions I could think of, the market would already be working hard to optimize away anything superfluous to the product (all that packaging costs money too, after all).

        • Matt M says:

          I don’t really have the time to look for it, but I remember reading an article featuring a recycling skeptic economics professor who said something like, “The recycling industry rests on the premise that my empty beer cans have legitimate value – if true, then you should be paying me to come collect them, but in most cases, the exact opposite is demanded.” I believe she had a standing public offer to sell her various forms of trash to people, and no takers.

          • schazjmd says:

            Huh…I was under the impression that the premise of recycling was that they provide a channel for disposing some types of objects in a way that is less bad for the environment. (That possibly some of the disposal methods can result in a new value state was the cherry, not the sundae.)

          • gbdub says:

            If a material can be collected, sorted, and recycled for less than it costs to make a new one from raw materials, then it will have positive value and someone ought to be willing to pay for it.

            Keep in mind here that “cost” roughly scales with “energy expenditure” which roughly scales with “pollution / bad for the environment”.

            Most of the things that are notionally but not economically recyclable don’t seem particularly hazardous to store in landfills. Unsightly perhaps, but not actually damaging.

          • rlms says:

            It is possible that some things might be economical to recycle systemically, but not with a method of “wait for people to offer you their waste, then go and collect it”. I don’t think the possible profitability of recycling is the main reason it is promoted though.

            Of course, there are many cases where people would take her up on her offer. Scrap metal is valuable, people often throw away almost-functional appliances and furniture, and I think bulk textiles have positive value (see here, I assume that even the clothes that are recycled rather than resold have some value but perhaps that isn’t true).

        • John Schilling says:

          (all that packaging costs money too, after all).

          The packaging is hardly superfluous; it’s what people for the most part actually buy. You walk into your grocery store with a vague notion of beer or breakfast cereal, and you see a brightly-labeled cardboard box or aluminum can and you buy that. The “product” merely has to be not so bad as to have you feeling completely ripped off, the packaging has to be good enough to make the sale.

          There are stores where you can buy breakfast cereal from bins that actually let you see the product you are buying (and smell it and probably sneak a taste), scooping it into cheap plastic bags or containers you provide yourself. Care to guess what fraction of the market avails themselves of that service and saves the cost of the packaging?

          So, no, manufacturers aren’t going to be optimizing away the packaging any time soon. Online sales might start to change that, but I note that Amazon still defaults to showing the cover of a book rather than any part of its content.

          • Corey says:

            To expand on this, in the world of food packaging is a positive good as it retards spoilage, reducing wastage of the food.

            My layperson’s guess: that also might be why you don’t see biodegradable food packaging catching on. Biodegrading is just another form of spoilage, and so you’d need packaging that degrades very slowly, so it doesn’t go encouraging bacterial growth until after its food payload is already spoiled, or it might make the food go bad *faster*.

        • Jaskologist says:

          @John Schilling

          Let me clarify my position: I think that manufacturers have already done everything they can to use the minimum packaging they can, balanced against their many other concerns.

          Blister packs are super-annoying, but they protect against shop-lifting. Pop cans get thinner and thinner (they cut the amount of metal used in half in a decade!). Produce shoppers can pick up individual apples and put them in the amazingly thin bags the store provides, or just a grab a pre-assembled bag of them if they find their time more important. And I’m told by insiders that the cardboard box industry is absolutely cut-throat.

          Basically, eliminating waste is something that capitalism is extremely good at. I’m not sure what additional “waste” we expect to be able to cut off.

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah, the notion that we need the state to somehow incentivize corporations with razor-thin margins to minimize waste has always been incredibly laughable.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Interesting article. The aluminium bottle sounds like it should be a best-of-both-worlds scenario, but that piece was written in 2002, and I haven’t heard of them taking off (at least, not here in the UK). I wonder what went wrong.

        • vV_Vv says:

          Define “waste.”

          Something that people don’t want lying around after they have used the product, and that it costs money and resources to get rid of.

          Under most definitions I could think of, the market would already be working hard to optimize away anything superfluous to the product

          But the market is distorted by waste disposal being subsidized and the existence of an environment with a limited capacity to absorb waste that can be consumed by anybody free of charge, causing a “tragedy of the commons” scenario.

          Under the current system, if there is a biodegradable packaging that costs $ 1 per unit, and a packaging that lasts 500 years and costs $ 0.99 per unit, and the two are equally functional, the market will choose the latter. Somebody will then have to deal with this stuff, possibly storing it somewhere for 500 years, which will have costs, but since these costs don’t enter in the transaction between the manufacturer and the customer, the market does not optimize for them.

    • random832 says:

      Mandatory deposit schemes on food/drink containers (increasing transport costs as they will need to be more durable and therefore made of heavier materials, and also will need to be transported back to factories for refill)?

      A deposit scheme doesn’t entail actual reuse (some states have them now on drink containers that are identical to the ones used everywhere else), it can simply be a mechanism to make the manufacturer responsible for disposal.

    • skef says:

      “Just resign ourselves” will often be the sensible option. Part of the distortion in thinking about recycling is exaggerating the costs of dumping.

      Another is not noticing how anything remotely complicated is (apparently?) not worth doing. The natural way to “recycle” glass is to reuse the actual container. That was what they did with coke bottles way back when. Now, some combination of organizational difficulty and (I would guess) worries about contamination prevent any of that. When considering alternatives to landfill-ing what is no longer wanted, the barriers have to be pretty low.

      • Winter Shaker says:

        The natural way to “recycle” glass is to reuse the actual container. That was what they did with coke bottles way back when.

        Yeah, I remember when I was young we used to get milk delivered in glass bottles that you left on your doorstep for collection and refilling. Now there is no delivery, and our milk comes in nominally-recyclable (but presumably not actually worth the bother recycling) plastic bottles.

        It certainly feels like a step in the wrong direction, and the timing is way too wrong for me to be able to blame it on the birds 🙂

        But given that milk is already a perishable product, not liable to be stored for months like fizzy drinks, it seems plausible that we ought to be able to package it in some sort of plastic-like but fully compostible material. I’m curious as to what are the barriers to doing that.

        • AlphaGamma says:

          Yeah, I remember when I was young we used to get milk delivered in glass bottles that you left on your doorstep for collection and refilling. Now there is no delivery, and our milk comes in nominally-recyclable (but presumably not actually worth the bother recycling) plastic bottles.

          Still the case where my parents live in the UK. Incidentally, milk is delivered in electric vehicles and has been for well over half a century, due to a combination of low speed and range requirements, quiet operation (important for a vehicle making frequent deliveries in residential areas early in the morning), and frequent short stops during which an IC-powered vehicle would have to be left idling.

      • Brad says:

        How reasonable are these fears of contamination? If I gave you an old fashioned glass coke or milk bottle of unknown prior provenance would you hesitate to drink out of it after running it through your dishwasher’s sanitize cycle?

        • gbdub says:

          Glass is pretty easy to sanitize. Homebrewers know that beer bottles can be safely reused many times with basic home sanitation practices. And that’s a case where any contamination at all creates a pretty obvious degradation of the product.

          And of course kegs are still reused in the industry. Hell, everything except the containers for packaged food is reused in the food industry. Your local dairy doesn’t throw out their trucks after one shipment.

          • Brad says:

            But in those cases I know the provenance. If I have a glass bottle that I filed with beer and drank I know I’m okay with filing it with a beer after cleaning it. But if I get a beer bottle bought from a store somehow back to the company that makes that beer, could they do anything with that bottle with reasonable certainty that it would be okay? (Speaking from a technical point of view, not a legal one.)

          • gbdub says:

            My understanding is that they used to do precisely that (reuse customer returned bottles, back when making bottles was more expensive) and still do with customer returned kegs, so I don’t see why not.

            There are still a few fancy milk companies that sell in glass bottles with deposits, which get reused.

            5 gallon water cooler jugs are also often sold with a significant deposit you get back upon return, presumably for reuse.

            What do you suspect could be done to contaminate a glass bottle that would survive routine inspection, cleaning, and sanitation?

          • Brad says:

            I have no idea really. What was the famous case with the Tylenol in the 80s, cyanide? I assume that would wash out easily enough. But would most everything?

            Edit: In case it was unclear: What I was trying to get at, is there something I could put in the bottle to be returned that would survive the company’s routine inspection, cleaning, and sanitation, and go on to sicken or kill their customers. Not having any kind of chemistry or production background, I genuinely have no idea.

          • Protagoras says:

            As I recall, the Tylenol case was deliberate tampering. It’s not clear that reuse would have any significant effect on how difficult that is.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            There’s probably something, available to someone, that could survive the cleaning/rebottling process, but it would require an insane amount of work to attack a random person, and I can already randomly poison people at the supermarket produce stand.

            Quality control may be the bigger issue. If you have 1000 bottles come from your supplier and 10 are broken, you fire your supplier. Neither the supplier, nor you, needs to inspect each of 1000 bottles. Mass production means you would only need to look at one from each batch.

            Checking each and every glass bottle is a lot more work, and you won’t know the defects you need to be concerned about until you’ve had some failures, which cost your brand. And you also have to deal with the bad bottles possibly messing up your inspection systems.

          • Aapje says:

            @Edward Scizorhands

            That is not necessarily true. Lots of manufacturing processes still check every item to some extent (preferably in an automated way, of course), because not all failures affect an entire batch.

    • JulieK says:

      p.s. on recycling: Where I live, drink bottles have a deposit. But there aren’t any automatic machines that accept bottles and give you back coins. You have to go into the store and give them to a clerk, who gives you your money (or possibly only store credit). And the closest grocery store, which will sell me bottles of drink anytime, only accepts bottle returns on Sundays from 7 am to 2 pm. 🙁

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Recycling imposes significant costs on my family, in terms of my time and family peace, because Teenager doesn’t want to do it. If I could find some reliable list of things that are worth recycling and things that aren’t, that would help me. A lot.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Aluminum is worth recycling. Nothing else is, unless you live in a dense city.

        • random832 says:

          What about steel/tin cans? Though I’d expect that they can be more efficiently magnetically extracted from the normal garbage stream than collected separately from consumers.

          • massivefocusedinaction says:

            Most iron ores are much easier to refine than bauxite.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Steel cans are pretty marginal. I don’t think they justify building a recycling system in a town or a household, but if you are putting out a bin with aluminum in it, you might as well include steel.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      only encouraged by local authorities as a means of preventing people from illegally dumping when they are confronted with the true market cost of landfill

      That is not what the article says. It says that you could justify recycling that way, but not that this has any connection to the real world. The article says that local authorities lose money on recycling, compared to landfill. You could imagine that a higher authority both subsidizes the landfill and requires recycling, but that’s not true. Maybe a higher authority both subsidizes the landfill and coordinates propaganda, but I doubt it does either.

      The article throws a lot of ideas together and asserts that they are coherent, but actually they contradict each other. It probably does eventually say what you said, but it is completely wrong, as can be deduced entirely from information in the article.

      If you are worried about illegal dumpers, you have to be specific about who they are. If the state is worried about towns dumping, it could subsidize landfills, but probably it should just enforce the law because towns produce too much garbage to hide. If the concern is about individuals, maybe it would be a good idea to subsidize local trash collection. This may well be done, but, again, recycling costs the local town real money, not just compared to what it charges residents. I think the main concern about dumping is not individuals nor towns, but intermediate size groups, such as builders. They are small enough not to get caught, but they produce truckfuls of garbage that they have to dump somewhere, either free or for pay. But I believe that my town charges them more than it charges me.

    • qwints says:

      It’s not particularly accurate or rigorous, but I enjoyed the Penn & Teller Bullshit! episode on recycling.

    • soreff says:

      Nice article! Thanks very much for the link.

      One other alternative: Subsidize the development of technologies to more cheaply detect
      illegal dumping? Small drones and cheap cameras and computer image processing must
      move the tradeoff in the direction of a bit more enforcement, and more realistic landfill
      prices. How far they move it is an interesting question…

  4. bean says:

    Naval Gazing
    The Battleships of Pearl Harbor, Part 3
    Series Index

    The invasion began on Leyte Island in October of 1944, and triggered the largest naval battle in history, the battle of Leyte Gulf. The Japanese, who had long planned for the ‘Decisive Battle’ between their battleships and those of the US, planned a counterattack on the US landings in three main groups. Their carriers would come in from the north and draw off the US carriers covering the invasion, while two groups of battleships would sneak up on the invasion fleet from the east, passing through the Philippines and pincering the US transports from the north and south.

    The northern group (basically without planes after severe losses in June during the Battle of the Philippine Sea) managed to draw off Admiral Halsey. He’s often criticized for this, but in fairness, he was tasked with destroying the Japanese fleet, and the US didn’t realize how badly they’d been hammered. The center group (with the faster battleships) had been detected, and appeared to have turned back after Musashi, Yamato’s sister ship, was sunk. They in fact resumed their course, and their encounter with escort carrier group Taffy 3 is the stuff of legend, but also a matter for another time.

    The southern group had two older battleships, Fuso and Yamashiro, famous as the possessors of the ugliest superstructures ever fitted to dreadnoughts, the heavy cruiser Mogami and four destroyers. It was to pass through the Surigao Strait on its way into Leyte Gulf, and had manage to escape nearly unscathed by American air attack, if not unnoticed. They were followed by an independent cruiser group, two heavy and one light cruiser and 7 destroyers, far enough back to not participate in the main battle.

    Rear Admiral Jesse Oldendorf was the commander of the 7th Fleet’s heavy support forces. He had battleships West Virginia, Maryland, Mississippi, Tennessee, California and Pennsylvania. Of the survivors of Pearl Harbor, only Nevada was missing, on her way from the Atlantic. Oldendorf also had four heavy and four light cruisers, 28 destroyers, and 39 torpedo boats. He placed the battleships across the northern end of the strait, with the cruisers in two groups slightly to the south. The PT boats and destroyers were distributed along the sides of the straits, to launch torpedo attacks as the Japanese came north.

    And now, as John Schilling requested, I will tell the story of “Surigao Strait, where a Japanese task force encountered a fleet of invincible zombie battleships on a dark and stormy night”. (To be pedantic, there were squalls, but it wasn’t particularly stormy, as best I can tell.)

    The PT boats made the first contact at 22:36 on October 24th, 1944. They launched repeated attacks over the next few hours, but all failed to harm the Japanese. Then, at 0300 on the 25th, the destroyers began their attacks, much more successfully. The first two torpedoes hit Fuso after an 8-minute run, crippling her, and sinking her within the hour. (Probably. Her exact fate is shrouded in mystery, and I don’t have time to run this down.) Four more ships were hit by the next wave of torpedoes at 0320, Yamishiro (who was able to maintain speed, but flooded the magazines for Turrets 5 and 6) and three of the destroyers. One merely lost her bow, while the other two went down immediately. Ten minutes later, Yamirshiro was hit again, but struggled back to 18 knots.

    At 0351, Oldendorf’s cruisers opened fire, followed by the battleships two minutes later. The Americans lay cleanly across the bows of the Japanese force, crossing their T perfectly. West Virginia, Tennessee and California had all been refitted with Mk 8 fire-control radar, while Maryland, Pennsylvania and Mississippi had the older Mk 3. West Virginia fired first, at 22,800 yards, and scored a hit on her first salvo. She was followed by Tennessee and California at 0355. Their fire was very effective, even though they were shooting over the cruisers part of the time. Initially, Yamishiro’s narrow radar target made it difficult for them to see, but she began to turn to unmask Turret 3 (Turret 4 having been disabled early on) at 0359, and this broadened her profile enough that Maryland was able to join the fight, aided by ranging on West Virginia’s shell splashes.

    Yamashiro’s hull has never been examined, and the night action did not allow a careful examination of the hits, but she was badly handled by the American bombardment, and at 0405 she was hit by yet another torpedo. She finally managed to straddle the cruiser USS Denver a minute later, the closest she would get to damaging a major US warship (a few destroyers suffered damage from her secondary guns). At 0409, Oldendorf was told that he might be hitting a US destroyer, the Albert W. Grant, and ordered a cease-fire. Mississippi had finally gotten on target, and fired the last salvo from the battleships, bringing to a close the era of the big-gun battleship. Ironically, though she was not at Pearl Harbor, she later became the testbed for the RIM-2 Terrier SAM. Pennsylvania never fired.

    Mogami had been disabled by cruiser fire, and she and Yamishiro turned south to try to rendezvous with the follow-on cruiser force. However, she was caught by two more torpedoes, and began listing 45 degrees to port. By 0421, she was on the bottom, with only 10 of her 1,600 crewmen surviving.

    The cruiser group following the battleships turned back after its flagship, Nachi, collided with Mogami. The ships of that group, along with destroyer Shigure of the lead group, survived. Mogami, slowed by the collision, was sunk by airplanes the next morning.

    The invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa were the last actions for the old battleships, in their traditional role of providing fire support. Several ships did prepare to meet Yamato if she managed to run the gauntlet of American aircraft to Okinawa, but it did not prove necessary.

    Nor were the ships immune to damage (except at Suriago). Every one except the Pennsylvania took at least one Kamikaze hit, and Maryland was torpedoed off the Marianas in June of 1944. She made it back to Pearl under her own power, and was back in the battle line come August. Pennsylvania was torpedoed off Okinawa the next year, mangling three shafts. She was sent home, and never fully repaired due to the late stage of the war.

    Postwar, Nevada and Pennsylvania were too old (and Pennsylvania too damaged) to retain, and were used as a target vessels in the atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll. Both were dangerously contaminated. Pennsylvania sunk off Kwajalein Atoll, and Nevada was sunk off Hawaii by gunfire and torpedoes from, among others, the USS Iowa.
    The other three ships were laid up in reserve, where they remained until 1959, when they were given up for scrapping. It’s sad that none of them were preserved, although I suspect that they were not well-maintained in reserve, and that made it uneconomical to turn them into museum ships.

    • Iain says:

      Fuso and Yamashiro, famous as the possessors of the ugliest superstructures ever fitted to dreadnoughts

      Your story checks out.

      • bean says:

        There’s actually a mystery here. It’s obvious that the pagoda masts were created to confuse and frighten enemy gunners. But the Japanese insisted on fighting at night, throwing that advantage away. I can’t figure out why.
        (And no, the theory that the US was seeking out night fighting to avoid having to look at them isn’t true, based on battle records.)

      • FacelessCraven says:

        Fuso and Yamashiro, famous as the possessors of the ugliest superstructures ever fitted to dreadnoughts

        OBJECTION! How dare you slander those glorious pagodas!?

        • bean says:

          Because they’re hideous. The only uglier thing is French pre-dreadnoughts, for what I suspect are similar reasons. I generally try to avoid having opinions on aesthetic matters, but I make an exception for ships.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            This honestly baffles me. Fuso’s pagodas are one of my all-time favorite ship shapes. I especially like how they break the usual convention of a central mountain-shape as seen on pretty much all late-model battleships. The fore-and-aft pagodas are delightfully original!

            *googles French pre-dreads, emits gagging noises* …okay, *those* are dreadful.

          • bean says:

            But it’s just a bunch of platforms slapped onto the original tripod mast. (Seriously, that’s what it is. She didn’t look bad when first built.) So you have this tall, narrow tower. Different, yes, but not in a good way. It looks ungainly.
            In my completely unbiased opinion, the Iowa is the best-looking ship ever. A graceful, balanced profile is beautiful, and Fuso is graceful only in comparison to Charles Martel. (Trigger warning: extreme ugliness. May be an effective emetic.)

          • beleester says:

            I don’t think the french pre-dreads are as bad. The tumblehome hull gives them a unique look, even if they did throw a random pile of guns and decking on top of that.

            The Fuso makes me think “There was a point where you should have stopped adding platforms, and that point was about five years ago.” The badness is concentrated in a particular spot.

            Although it did give rise to some great parodies.

          • gbdub says:

            Clearly the Iowa is a better looking ship than Fuso, but describing anything above the main deck as “graceful” is a stretch.

            Frankly I find the superstructures of just about every warship of the era pretty ugly. You’ve got the hull, clearly sleek and shaped with a graceful purpose. Even the turrets I’ll grant have a powerful utilitarian beauty. But the big lump in the middle is a mess of random shapes, tacked on greebles, antennas and angles. A neo-gothic folly built from the contents of a particularly well-supplied junkyard.

            Fuso takes this to an extreme, with the post-hoc tacking on being literal. The pagoda mast reminds me of one of those power poles in developing countries constantly sprouting new wires and widgets of questionable safety and legality.

          • bean says:

            Clearly the Iowa is a better looking ship than Fuso, but describing anything above the main deck as “graceful” is a stretch.

            Take it back! Now!

            I can sort of understand what you’re getting at. But when viewed as part of the ship, I think it looks really, really good. Seriously, standing aft of Turret 3, and looking past it at the superstructure, I get shivers. It probably wouldn’t work if we chopped it off and turned it into a building, and I suspect my ability to evaluate photos is permanently damaged, but in person, the ship is stunning.

          • Nornagest says:

            Yeah, the pagoda masts are ugly to my eye, but Charles Martel has an appealingly retro look to her. The masts look a little unbalanced, and she doesn’t really look like a battleship to me, but the whole is a fairly clean piece of industrial design.

          • bean says:

            Fine. Martel was the first to hand, and may not have been the worst. What about Carnot?

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Huh, I actually don’t mind the French pre-dreads. Have a steampunk vibe IMO. (Though that does skew actually building the things toward being a bad idea…)

          • Nornagest says:

            Carnot’s pretty ugly. It looks like what might happen if you gave Victor Frankenstein a pile of welding gear and told him to kitbash together a side-paddle steamer, one of Blake’s dark Satanic mills, and the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine.

          • Protagoras says:

            Carnot kind of looks like a fictional superweapon, the kind that shows up as a boss enemy in some computer games or that the mad scientist builds in some fiction. I guess battleships generally are more like that than any other actual weapon, but the haphazard placement of the guns (and are those gun ports on the side? Or what?) make this one look more fictional superweapony and less actual warshipy.

          • bean says:

            and are those gun ports on the side? Or what?

            Portholes. The guns are all in turrets. She’s a pre-dreadnought, not a broadside ship.
            No, I have no idea where the armor is, or why there are so many opening so low on the hull. Let’s just assume the French were crazy, and move on.

            On the broader level, I will agree that there is something interestingly steampunk about the designs. But when i apply naval aesthetics to them, they’re awful.

          • John Schilling says:

            Pre-dreadnoughts were all about hedging bets on which type of armament was really best for killing battleships. So the French secretly gave the Carnot a full three-deck battery of 36-lb muzzle-loading smoothbores, just to be safe. The portholes are a lie.

            Also, there has to be a ram. But they hide it in the stern to be extra sneaky.

          • bean says:

            Pre-dreadnoughts were all about hedging bets on which type of armament was really best for killing battleships. So the French secretly gave the Carnot a full three-deck battery of 36-lb muzzle-loading smoothbores, just to be safe. The portholes are a lie.

            That would make her, by my math, the most heavily armed first-rate ever, and the only one not powered by sail.

          • Deiseach says:

            What about Carnot?

            Plainly designed by someone who read too much Verne (“Yeah the Nautilus is so cool but I bet I can build something even cooler!”) 🙂

          • John Schilling says:

            the only one not powered by sail

            Stuns’ls hung below the main and secondary armament when trained to broadside. And the crane-like structure at the bow is for a corvus. The French had it covered, man.

          • bean says:

            Stuns’ls hung below the main and secondary armament when trained to broadside. And the crane-like structure at the bow is for a corvus. The French had it covered, man.

            Scott, I think we’re going to need your expertise here. He’s clearly cracked.

          • John Schilling says:

            Hey, I’m not the one who designed that monstrosity. You yourself offered up photographic proof that the thing was built before my grandparents were even born.

          • bean says:

            Hey, I’m not the one who designed that monstrosity. You yourself offered up photographic proof that the thing was built before my grandparents were even born.

            I didn’t claim you were responsible for it. But you’re interpreting it wrong. There’s not nearly enough sail area when using the guns as yards, and a corvus wouldn’t work well at all because of the ram. Also, even the French aren’t stupid enough to mount gunports as low as the bottom row of portholes are. Next you’re going to start raving about, I don’t know, using dolphins to intercept torpedoes or something.
            It’s a specific type of naval psychosis, and I know how to treat it, but I’m not legally allowed to. That’s why I need Scott’s help.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I had to look up what a corvus is, it brings to mind a question!

            When was the last time y’all experts can think of that a navy vessel was boarded (you know what I mean, like as a wartime action)? Preferably one belonging to a major power but stories about those ~craaazy~ third-worlders work, too. I would naively expect sometime in the 19th century due to 20th century tech making it infeasible but, I dunno man, some crazy shit happened in the WWs.

          • John Schilling says:

            and a corvus wouldn’t work well at all because of the ram

            I told you, the ram was in the stern. The French are sneaky, they are.

          • bean says:

            @Gobbobobble
            There are a couple of cases that come close to what you’re asking for. The Altmark Incident, the capture of U-505, and the USS Borie’s battle with U-405. The last wasn’t technically a boarding, but it was a fight between two ships that had rammed each other, carried out with small arms. Again, these are only the ones that I remembered offhand, and I’m sure there are quite a few I’m forgetting.

            @John

            I told you, the ram was in the stern. The French are sneaky, they are.

            More proof of my theory that you’ve contracted a rare naval psychosis. The stern is close to the screws, which you don’t want to damage on another ship, and very few ships had sufficient astern power or control to make astern ramming practical. The French are not that stupid. Now if you told me the Italians had done it….

          • Protagoras says:

            On how low the gunports are (portholes, really! What an absurd idea, that someone would put that many portholes on a warship), I thought it was a common problem on three decker ships for the lowest deck to be unusable because it was too close to the waterline in heavy seas. Are you sure those are lower than anybody (even the French, who you admit are crazy) would build, given that it was so common to build them too low?

          • bean says:

            Are you sure those are lower than anybody (even the French, who you admit are crazy) would build, given that it was so common to build them too low?

            It was common to build them low enough that you couldn’t fight them in heavy seas. Given the weird shaping of some of the lower ports on Carnot, and the fact that she looks to be moving slowly in a flat calm, I don’t think it’s plausible even for the French to mount them that low.

          • John Schilling says:

            Now if you told me the Italians had done it….

            The Italians would have put the ram in the stern, and tried to turn the screws into metal-boring turbo-drills to enhance the effect.

          • bean says:

            The Italians would have put the ram in the stern, and tried to turn the screws into metal-boring turbo-drills to enhance the effect.

            No, that’s what the Germans would have done. The Italians wouldn’t have thought that far ahead.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            The Italians would have put an extra set of propellers on the front of the ship, so they could run away more easily.

      • John Schilling says:

        I can’t tell where the superstructure ends and the mast begins. It looks like someone was playing Jenga with twenty-ton steel blocks, on the deck of a moving ship.

      • cassander says:

        Only if by ugliest, you mean he meant most awesome.

        @bean

        Your poor aesthetic taste aside, I thought the point of the high masts was to elevate the spotters as much as possible.

        • bean says:

          Only if by ugliest, you mean he meant most awesome.

          No. No I did not, unless you mean awesome in the same way that a major disaster might be.

          I thought the point of the high masts was to elevate the spotters as much as possible.

          There are ways to do high masts that don’t look like you were just randomly stacking platforms until they threatened to fall over. Like, say, every other power managed to. The fact that the Japanese refused to integrate any of the fire-control equipment, and thus needed all of those platforms, is not something they should be proud of.

    • John Schilling says:

      Challenge met; well done sir.

      Do you know offhand whether the destroyer torpedo attacks were done visually or by radar? An eight-minute run would be about five miles, which for a night attack suggests radar, but I haven’t ever heard that was US doctrine. If so, it would explain why the destroyers were scoring hits where the PT boats didn’t.

      • bean says:

        I can’t see why it wouldn’t be radar, as I believe that they were making radar-guided torpedo attacks as early as Vella Gulf. The big difference is that US destroyers had CICs, while the PT boats didn’t. They did have radar, but small boats are notorious for being bad platforms to do anything.

        (For those who don’t know, CIC is the combat information center. Basically, it’s a room charged with keeping track of what is going on around the ship in an integrated way, which is harder than it sounds. It was the key to US night tactics late in the war.)

        Edit:
        War College Analysis confirms that attacks were radar-controlled, and that at least some of the destroyers were actually unable to see the Japanese due to a smokescreen.

    • Hey Bean: did I miss anything in the armor sections where you talked about effectiveness of armor vs missiles?

      Given that we don’t mount it anymore, I’m guessing the answer is “not much”, but what would happen if a Harpoon landed a hit on Iowa’s belt?

      • bean says:

        It would bounce. So long as most missiles are designed to damage or (if they’re lucky) sink ships of >4000 tons, a battleship’s belt is pretty safe. The deck probably is, too, although the upperworks are still vulnerable, and I definitely don’t want to give the impression that Iowa was invulnerable to missile fire. The problem is that it’s much easier to build a missile with better armor penetration than it is to build an armored warship. If heavy armor started to become common, then missiles with AP warheads would also become common.

        • Okay, so it’s just that the Harpoon doesn’t _have_ to. We could totally build a comparable missile that bothered to do more aggressive anti-armor stuff that’d work on a 12” belt? Cool.

          (Though, wait, seriously? Would it really be relatively feasible? While anti-armor missiles are smaller, defeating modenr tank armor is manifestly non-trivial, and that’s thinner (though smarter–I wonder what the economic cost of putting Chobham armor across a dreadnought would be?) What’s more, my understanding is that anti-armor warheads rely on penetrating being the entire game: if we get an explosively formed penetrator through the armor a tank is small enough that we can’t not hit something crucial and mission-kill the tank (and you have a quite reasonable shit of hitting the ammo and really ruining your opponent’s toy.) I am much more doubtful that even a successful penetration from modern-style AP warheads would do significant damage to a large warship–take out one turret or whatever, sure, but disable her? Am I totally offbase?

          (Heck, you mentioned offhand the large jump between hitting a carrier with a missile and successfully disabling it.)

          What would it take to build a missile that–taking as read that it landed a solid hit–would have a reasonable chance of mission killing an Iowa? How about even just a Nimitz?

          • bean says:

            Okay, so it’s just that the Harpoon doesn’t _have_ to. We could totally build a comparable missile that bothered to do more aggressive anti-armor stuff that’d work on a 12” belt? Cool.

            That’s not exactly what I said, although I may not have been totally clear. Harpoon is too small to be a really effective weapon against big warships unless the warhead is nuclear. Fitting a HEAT warhead would be easy enough, and it would go through 12″ armor quite easily. But as you point out, anti-tank weapons are targeted at tanks, which are not particularly tough once you get through their armor. A HEAT-Harpoon would leave a nasty hole, but HEAT warheads are not known for great penetration depth after the initial hole. An EFP might do better, although I’m not sure how well it would stay together after penetrating the belt. In any case, you’ll wreck whatever’s directly inboard of the hit, but not much more.
            To be really effective, you need a bigger missile. The likely candidates are things like the P-500 and P-700, which have warheads almost as heavy as an entire Harpoon. At least one big Soviet ASM or SSM (can’t remember which one offhand) has a shaped-charge warhead behind the fuel tank, to scatter the fuel most effectively throughout the ship.
            Chobham armor is designed to deal with some fairly specific threats, namely HEAT warheads and maybe to a lesser extent long-rods. (It’s been a while since I read much about tank armor.) IIRC, It’s not going to be that much more effective than RHA against something like 16″ shellfire, due to the different scales involved.

            What would it take to build a missile that–taking as read that it landed a solid hit–would have a reasonable chance of mission killing an Iowa? How about even just a Nimitz?

            The challenges are fairly similar. I’d say P-500/-700 class for both. The Nimitzs are surprisingly robust. Or targeting the upperworks, which is where a lot of important stuff is that has only an inch or two of armor.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          Modern tank armor is thinner but also far tougher to defeat than an equivalent amount of steel armor. Bean can correct me, but I’m pretty sure that the belt armor on WW2 era ships was pretty comparable in terms of metallurgy and shaping to the Rolled Homogenous Armor (RHA) used for armored vehicles, just on a far larger scale. So 12″ is a little over 300mm.

          Even after we stopped using actual homogenous nickel-steel armor, it was still the standard measure of armor toughness, so now people talk about this or that armor being equivalent to X millimeters of RHA. The real numbers are close held for obvious reasons, but the best estimates for modern, top-end Chobham-style armor on the front and turret portions of tanks like the Challenger 2 and M1A2 Abrams start at the equivalent of a meter of RHA and go upwards from there.

          The limiting factor would be making a -wide- enough hole to matter or at least to deliver energy through, not the ability to penetrate ~300mm of RHA.

          • Right, I mentioned this offhand. There are three interesting scenarios:

            1) functionally unarmored hulls
            2) RHA armored hulls in the 300mm range
            3) Chobham/similar high quality reactive or composite armor (either in tank thickness or in fact 300mm actual, not equivalent? Is the latter affordable?)

            Certainly modern AP warheads, like those used in anti-armor weapons, can penetrate 1 and 2; at least *some* of the time they succeed against 3a. What I don’t know:

            – scaled up, could they succeed against 3b?
            – scaled up, could they penetrate _widely_ or _deeply_ enough, even against 2, let alone 3a or 3b, to mission-kill an Iowa-sized vessel with any reason probability? (Heck, how hard is it to do that against 1?)

          • bean says:

            AIUI, you’re correct about the armor metallurgy. And about the problems inherent in sinking a large warship. Sure, a Hellfire might put a hole in the belt (although there’s actually a standoff due to the sloped belt on Iowa). But it’s not going to do much more. And we have procedures for dealing with that.

          • bean says:

            – scaled up, could they succeed against 3b?

            Yes. Shaped-charge RHA penetration is roughly 5x the charge diameter. No conceivable amount of armor can keep out a Harpoon-sized charge.

            – scaled up, could they penetrate _widely_ or _deeply_ enough, even against 2, let alone 3a or 3b, to mission-kill an Iowa-sized vessel with any reason probability? (Heck, how hard is it to do that against 1?)

            That’s the problem. Basically, to kill a ship, the best way is to scatter burning stuff about and make a bunch of small holes everywhere to let water or fire through. When SAMs are used against ships, they’re very good at this. They make a bunch of tiny holes, which makes traditional patching methods useless. Armor, even an inch or two, defeats this kind of attack quite well. The next step up is what some missiles have gone to, a multi-EFP warhead. This makes fewer holes, but they can be in thicker metal. I don’t have good data on how thick, but I suspect it’s probably much less effective over a couple of inches. They might also do better in going through the next bulkhead. Again, it’s been a while since I looked at this stuff.
            But that’s not going to work well on the outside of a battleship’s hull. Again, I’d recommend going for the upperworks for a mission kill. Barring that, use a big shaped charge, and try to spread your fuel around.

        • bean says:

          Typo here. Should be “sink ships of <4000 tons". Basically, modern ASMs are targeted at the most common sort of surface ships. A Burke would probably survive a hit with a reasonable amount of fighting capability, and I don’t see one disabling something bigger, though it would make a tremendous mess.

    • thepenforests says:

      Bean, a general question:

      Where do we get these minute-by-minute accurate reports of what happened during battles? Were there, like, battlefield stenographers or something?

      I guess naively I would have expected battles to be so chaotic and intense that no one would be noting “Ah, at 1907 we turned NNE and then sustained precisely three hits from shells in the aft” or whatever. But I guess I must be wrong about that?

      (I’m not surprised that we can reconstruct battles in general, mind you. I just wouldn’t have expected it to be so precise in terms of the timing and specifics of exactly what happened)

      • bean says:

        Where do we get these minute-by-minute accurate reports of what happened during battles? Were there, like, battlefield stenographers or something?

        They’re reconstructed after the fact, based mostly on the logs of the ships involved, along with things like track charts (produced in real time to keep track of the situation around the ship). There was explicitly someone tasked with recording what the ship did and saw, usually a yeoman. If you read the better naval histories, they’ll be full of references to ‘ship X recorded this at time A, ship Y at time B. [Often, A and B are 10 or more minutes different in WW2, particularly for ships on different sides.] Ship Y’s time makes more sense because…’ Morison’s History of the US Navy in WW2 is full of this kind of stuff.

        I guess naively I would have expected battles to be so chaotic and intense that no one would be noting “Ah, at 1907 we turned NNE and then sustained precisely three hits from shells in the aft” or whatever. But I guess I must be wrong about that?

        Damage is often the hardest thing to reconstruct, and there’s some doubt about even things like the number of torpedoes that hit West Virginia, because of the extent of the damage. The initial reports on Arizona had a torpedo hit forward, which later turned out to be a near-miss by a bomb when they examined the hull. That said, careful examination can usually work out how many hits were made, and interviews with the survivors can work out things like the sequence of hits, and their relation to other events which can be accurately timed.

        (I’m not surprised that we can reconstruct battles in general, mind you. I just wouldn’t have expected it to be so precise in terms of the timing and specifics of exactly what happened)

        There’s always some margin of error in these things, but we know things like how fast torpedoes go. Given the range at launch (written down in the log), we know it will take so long for the torpedoes to hit, for instance. The reference time for the battle might be off by a few minutes, but the relative timing of events is pretty tight.
        If you want the sort of information that naval historians work from, here is the Naval War College analysis of Surigao.

  5. dwschulze says:

    The comments to “Contra Grant” by Scott and Adam Grant don’t mention the greater male variability hypothesis, which was mentioned in Hyde’s article. That hypothesis says that when there is a large variability combined with a small difference in the mean you can get a significant number of outliers such as more male geniuses and more males who are mentally retarded.

    Hyde reported a moderate difference of 0.41 in computer self-efficacy and a small difference of 0.33 in current computer use. Those differences along with the greater male variability hypothesis could explain the larger number of males in tech companies that are highly selective about who they hire (hire from the right tail).

    • JulieK says:

      Are tech companies more selective in hiring than companies in other prestigious professions where the percentage of women is higher?

      • gbdub says:

        More selective in general? Maybe not. But more selective for the particular traits where men excel relative to women… probably?

        • skef says:

          You’re answering the question in a way that counts against the variability hypothesis as an explanation for the phenomenon.

          • gbdub says:

            Not really. If you’re selecting only from the far right tail of IQ, AND you require a certain minimum aptitude in “computer self-efficacy” or whatever, your pool is going to be more male-skewed than if you’re selecting on IQ alone.

    • skef says:

      selective hiring != every employee is king of the moon

    • Chalid says:

      Then you expect more-competitive tech companies to have relatively fewer women than less-competitive ones. And more-competitive sub-careers to have fewer women than less-competitive ones (software architect vs QA engineer vs helpdesk).

      If this is masked by affirmative action you’d expect large M/F performance disparities in competitive parts of the industry and smaller disparities is less competitive areas.

    • The Element of Surprise says:

      It is probably wise of Scott to tackle this one controversial hypothesis at a time.

  6. JulieK says:

    Which genetic quirks have you observed in yourself and your family?
    My father was left-handed, and so are two of my kids.
    I have a lazy eyelid, and so do some of my kids.
    My husband used to have a tongue-tie, meaning that the tissue connecting his tongue to the bottom of his mouth is shorter and tighter than usual (until a surgeon snipped it), so I wasn’t surprised when all my kids inherited the trait. I was surprised a few years ago when a nurse came to put a thermometer in my mouth said to me, “Did you know you have tongue-tie?” 🙂

    • Incurian says:

      Sun-sneezing.

    • johnjohn says:

      I don’t get hangovers. Neither does my father

      • Dissonant Cognizance says:

        I’m envious. My father quit drinking before I was born, and says it was because he’d get horrible headaches. I thought he was just a stick in the mud, but then shortly after I turned 30 I noticed some beers would send me straight to a throbbing hangover before I’d even finish the can, do not pass Go, do not enjoy a slight buzz.

        Considering the “some beers” for me are all widely-distributed macrobrews, I imagine due to the time period my dad was entirely unable to find a beer that did not trigger this effect, while at least for the time being I can take refuge upmarket in hipstery West Coast IIPAs.

        • gbdub says:

          Wait, double IPAs are fine but macros give you a throbbing headache? Are you maybe allergic to one of the adjuncts (like rice or corn)? Because everything else that’s in macros is several times more prevalent in a DIPA.

          • Dissonant Cognizance says:

            No food allergies that I’m aware of, but I sometimes get headaches from diet sodas as well. I don’t think they’re connected though.

            One beer that reliably kicks me in the head every time is Pabst Blue Ribbon. I figure there’s some preservative or by-product of their budget-fermentation ingredients (rice and corn, like you said, but also apparently high fructose corn syrup, which is ridiculous) that they’re not particularly careful about controlling. I notably don’t get the same effect from sake or whiskey, so who the hell knows. Maybe it’s all some psychosomatic effect my subconscious pulls to justify pricier drinks.

      • Protagoras says:

        People certainly vary in how susceptible they are to hangovers, but people who never get hangovers are people who never drink very much (perhaps not realizing that because they don’t realize quite how much other people do drink sometimes).

        • Anonymous says:

          I used to drink quite a lot (specifically – binge drinking; if I drank, I drank until I couldn’t), and never got hangovers. Worst I’ve experienced was dry mouth, grogginess and an upset stomach (easily fixed by a cup of tea). But never headaches or hypersensitivity of any sort.

        • johnjohn says:

          I drink. Trust me.

          My father made a living drumming in a rock band for 10 years. He drank.

          Disbelief is a pretty typical reaction when someone describes a lived experience that’s notably different from yours, so I get it.

          I don’t get headaches from drinking. I’m “slow” mentally the day after*, and my stomach can go absolutely haywire. But no, I don’t get what people describe as hangovers.
          I’m currently sitting at work after having had 4 pints of strong beer last night, feeling pretty damned great… I mean, my stomach is screaming at me for eating jalapeno pork rinds and pizza as a goodnight snack, but other than that. Pretty great!

          I did a ketogenic diet for a while and for some reason that triggered massive hangovers. I just figured it was because I had turned 30 and I’d now join the hangover club, but no, a few weeks after I quit the diet they disappeared again.

          *When I had untreated ADHD this actually meant I was more productive than normal, ugh

        • Protagoras says:

          OK, what I’m getting is that you think hangover=headache, which is not right. I suppose I can believe that some people don’t get headaches as one of their hangover symptoms; symptoms definitely vary.

          • Anonymous says:

            Per Wikipedia:

            An alcohol hangover is associated with a variety of symptoms that may include drowsiness, headache, concentration problems, dry mouth, dizziness, gastrointestinal complaints, fatigue, sweating, nausea, hyper-excitability, anxiety and a feeling of general discomfort that may last more than 24 hours

            Bolded parts are those I experienced after a night of heavy drinking. Drowsiness/grogginess is confounded by the simple fact of irregular sleep. Gastrointestinal complaints are confounded by irregular consumption (I probably shouldn’t have eaten all those salted peanuts, etc) and direct effects of alcohol – it’s a poison, after all – not its after-effects. Dry mouth is just about the only symptom I could ascribe to the actual hangover.

          • johnjohn says:

            Based on the list anon posted

            Symptoms I don’t get:
            drowsiness, headache, concentration problems, dry mouth, dizziness, fatigue, sweating, nausea, anxiety and discomfort

            Symptoms I get:
            occasionally I get hyper-excitable (.. but that’s a good thing?), occasionally I get gastro-intenstinal issues

            you’re gonna call that getting a hangover?

    • andrewflicker says:

      I’ve got a very minor heart valve defect that causes orthostatic pre-syncope if I stand up too quickly. It seems to have grown less severe as I’ve gotten older, but when I was a teenager it was particularly bad- I once jumped out of bed and ran straight into a wall after passing out as soon as I went vertical. Apparently both of my maternal uncles and my maternal grandfather had the same issues, also worse during adolescence and lessening with age.

    • DrBeat says:

      When I fall asleep, my neck sweats profusely. Just my neck, and just the time when I fall asleep, not persisting over the whole time I am asleep. If I take a short nap, I wake up drenched. If I manage to sleep the whole night without waking up, it’s dried up by the time I awaken.

      My father is the only other person on the planet, as far as I know, who has this problem.

    • Nornagest says:

      Left-handedness runs in my family. I’m right-handed myself, but I can manage chopsticks or a mouse with either hand; can’t write left-handed, though.

      So do migraines. My father and sister get them badly enough to be a serious quality-of-life issue; I’ve only had two or three in my life, starting in my early twenties. The first time I got the aura but not the headache, which was weird enough that I’d probably have thought I was having a stroke or something if I hadn’t read about migraine symptoms beforehand.

    • roystgnr says:

      When I was like 10 I had symptoms of hyperthyroidism, which I shrugged off because it wasn’t bad and because from an outside view “hyperthyroidism” seemed like a much less likely explanation than “hypochondria”.

      It turns out that both my father and his mother needed some extreme medical care for hyperthyroidism, so I’m now resigned to someday undergoing the family rite of passage myself: taking a pill of radioactive iodine, hanging out in the hospital near a screaming Geiger counter until my thyroid dies, then taking daily thyroid hormone pills for the rest of my life to replace it.

    • Well... says:

      Both my parents are left-handed; I am their only left-handed offspring, including my half-siblings. My mom has a left-handed brother, and then her two other brothers and both her parents are right-handed.

      My mom has a cleft chin. (No clue what my dad’s chin looks like, I’ve never seen it.) I have a cleft chin and so does my younger brother, but my twin brother does not.

      I have an apparently above-average amount of mobility in/control over my facial muscles, ear muscles, tongue, etc. and so do my mom and my twin brother.

      The rest of my genetic quirks have mostly to do with my being a mirror image twin. As stated above, I’m left-handed and he is not. We have scissor bites, going opposite ways. We have a few moles that match on opposite sides from each other too. Stuff like that.

    • DeWitt says:

      My father and two of my brothers have the following quirks, though not all three of us (brothers) have all three going on:

      – Slight indentation in the chest, somehow
      – Slight amounts of facial hair, and the hair that does grow is highly specific to boot (we’re not Asian or somesuch, either)
      – Dark chocolate makes us sneeze somehow

    • caethan says:

      Me, my mother, and my brother can all wiggle our patella from side to side about an inch or so with straight legs and relaxed muscles. Seems to track along with some subclinical hyperflexibility (and knee pain when I don’t do my knee exercises regularly).

      • Charles F says:

        Do you mean wiggle it on its own, not move it around with your hand? I think it’s normal to be able to move it left/right/up/down, but really cool if you have some sort of voluntary control over your kneecap.

    • Anonymous says:

      Which genetic quirks have you observed in yourself and your family?

      Malocclusion, in myself and my sister. Hers was bad enough to need correction, mine’s a feature, not a bug! :sticks tongue out through clenched teeth:

      • Well... says:

        I’m assuming you’re a white person here…correct me if that’s wrong.

        Do you also have olive skin? (Meaning, sort of a naturally darker tanned look.)

        All the white people I’ve met who have malocclusion have kinda olive skin.

    • Lirio says:

      Which genetic quirks have you observed in yourself and your family?

      Both my father and me are highly resistant to most stimulants to the point that caffeine has no effect on either of us. Not a diminished effect, zero effect that either has been able to detect on any arbitrary quantity of caffeine drunk thus far (though i have yet to try Black Blood of the Earth). The first time i experienced what a stimulant high was supposed to feel like involved a prescription for lisdexamphetamine, and that was effective for all of three days before i developed total resistance to it. After that i needed to be off it for two weeks in order to get at least day’s use out of the pills, and i was never able to get more than two days after the first time. Moreover only the first day high was actually enjoyable. Subsequent highs ranged from “trying but useful” to “oh god please make it stop”. It’s pretty funny that the psych sternly cautioned me to stay off them during weekends lest i get addicted, only to have them stop working half-way through the week.

      On the other hand, while nicotine is allegedly a stimulant, both my father and myself are susceptible to it. He is a lifelong smoker, though by now he’s down to around three smokes a day. While i never actually asked what he gets out of it, i think it makes him feel relaxed. For me it was definitely the calming effect, but since i treated it like medicine i smoked very irregularly. Eventually i just couldn’t be arsed any more and haven’t smoked for years, even though the cravings never really go away. That’s not to say i quit though, i swear that i’m in control of this and can start again any time i want!

    • neciampater says:

      Isn’t that the frenulum? I once broke a woman’s frenulum making out.

  7. BBA says:

    From the subreddit, an in-depth analysis of a ridiculous issue: whether the stereotype of bronies as right-wing is accurate.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I agree with the analysis: it should be obvious that most bronies aren’t in the alt-right, just on numbers alone. The brony subculture is almost certainly several times larger than the alt-right subculture. It’s fun to imagine that a third of Americans are in the basket with us but the vast majority of deplorables are just normies who oppose open borders.

      That said, it was really jarring to see how many alt-right commentators embraced the show. It was very surreal to read Jim’s defense of the show especially given his position on anime. I mean I watch cartoons myself but I don’t try to incorporate guilty pleasures into my political philosophy.

      • BBA says:

        Neither I nor the OP on Reddit said anything about the alt-right. We’re talking about the right wing, which is half the country and certainly larger than any despised Internet nerd subculture.

    • DrBeat says:

      Seeing that list of all the communities SomethingAwful has managed to get tarred as Evil Right Wing Racist Misogynist Losers makes me want to jump in front of a train.

      • Nornagest says:

        To be fair, I was hanging out at TV Tropes when SA found it, and at the time it really was a profoundly dysfunctional community that was full of losers. Not particularly right-wing, racist, or misogynist, though.

        • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

          The problem with the TV Tropes thing is that they leveraged the disgruntlement of a segment of the community re the site’s organization, the community, etc. to then support their stronger and less related proposals.

          I was mostly on my way out of the community when the whole drama happened, but it was a pretty disheartening experience to see it torn apart like that.

      • BBA says:

        For all I think your beliefs that the entire world runs on middle-school cliques and “popularity” are overblown, there’s no denying that the Goons work that way.

        That said, the explanation feels a little too neat. The Goons have far-reaching cultural influence on the internet, well beyond their own nasty enclaves (think of how far chanspeak has spread, and now realize that Goons created 4chan) but they aren’t a secret cabal running everything as some would like to insinuate. They’re reflective of broader trends as much as they are trendmakers.

        • Nornagest says:

          Every so often, over the last couple years, I’ve realized that a good chunk of contemporary political discourse derives from an ugly little internecine struggle in an Internet forum for pretentious nerds, and then I feel like I have to sit down and stare at the wall for a while.

        • DrBeat says:

          I didn’t say they were secretly running everything. Though they do have a lot more influence than you say, the line goes from Lassiez’s Faire to Weird Twitter to pretty much everyone with power on the winning side of the Culture Wars.

          I’m saying, the amount of damage they can do, the amount of contempt they spread, makes me despondent.

  8. Paul Brinkley says:

    How many of those corvids, dolphins, chimpanzees, octopi, and other creatures we test for sentience are likely to be lizardmen?

  9. Robert Liguori says:

    Recent Events have gotten me thinking more about actually applying financial independence.

    One point I’ve realized is that for many people, hearing “I saved enough money so that I don’t think I need to work any more.” triggers feelings of “Your lifestyle is really weird.” and “You are apparently obscenely rich.” There is a lot of weird and unstated anxiety around money and earnings in my local area, and I assume it to be similarly elsewhere; taking the active step of quitting your job and sending this signal to everyone you know seems to carry a huge cost.

    Therefore, when you’ve reached a point where getting fired won’t impoverish you, there seems like there’d be an extra quiet factor to taking public stands for things you find important (that are considered taboo by your work culture); if you get fired for standing up for something you believe in strongly, then you’re not making a statement about your lifestyle. You’re just taking the cultural importance we place on our jobs and using that to highlight the point you’re making about what it was you were standing up for.

    As a person who has several pages of spreadsheets analyzing my likely financial outcomes in a variety of scenarios, I freely concede that I’m likely overthinking this. But I do wonder if any other SSC readers feel that there are strong incentives over than the purely financial to remain what our culture considers Gainfully Employed, and how those incentives might end up being used.

    • skef says:

      if you get fired for standing up for something you believe in strongly, then you’re not making a statement about your lifestyle.

      Good lord, that’s no fun. You have to quit, in a meeting, preferably while yelling and pointing.

      I did this once; it was pretty great.

      • Incurian says:

        Go on…

      • FacelessCraven says:

        Seconding request for details.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        OP deliver, pls!

      • Aapje says:

        Video or it didn’t happen.

      • skef says:

        Background: The company in question was suffering the end-stages of an internal battle set up by a past merger. I had been hired to assist with what amounted to window dressing for a “blue sky” grant competition thing, and within a few months my ostensible boss left and I was in charge of that corner. I did an … acceptable job with it (no one really cared), but also took over a more interesting and complicated design problem, and did quite well with that, eventually consulting first with one side of the schism and then the other. The battles and other things made the job unpleasant, and any talk of salary adjustment couldn’t happen “yet” for reasons that didn’t look like they would change any time soon. I was already looking elsewhere.

        Almost no one in the meeting knew any of this. I had been flown to a remote (for me) site to talk about the complicated problem, which the other people were supposed to have read about before-hand. When some jerk asserted that the approach “can’t work” in a way that made it clear he had just skimmed the first few pages, I was just done — first at him, and then at everyone else.

        For me, stuff like this is never truly spontaneous, but I put enough prospective thought into where my lines are that when one is crossed I can react directly. Once or twice I’ve gotten the “you should really sleep on this stuff” advice, which makes me think, “Oh, yes. Let’s make all of our really hard decisions while feeling absolutely nothing.”

    • Corey says:

      UBI arguments touch on some of this – how much do people work because they have to vs. because they want to. No consensus; it’s likely very individually variable.

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      Moot point. I’m 36 and due to some issues and some bad choices coping with said issues in my mid-20s, I am exceedingly unlikely to reach financial independence or even functional retirement.

    • Chalid says:

      I sometimes wonder about this, and the question always comes back to what I would do with myself all day. Granted I enjoy my typical vacation day more than my typical workday but I’m not sure that would be true after a year or five off, especially with the lower spending; and I definitely enjoy my current job more than whatever job I could get after being out of the workforce for a few years.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      But I do wonder if any other SSC readers feel that there are strong incentives over than the purely financial to remain what our culture considers Gainfully Employed…

      I’d give this an emphatic yes. Gainful Employment confers status just as much as it confers money. If you’re a FIRE candidate, your job likely accrues you a lot of status: you can always say “I am a doctor” or “I am a programmer” or whatever and have an easier time navigating most social situations. Plus, getting access to more friends.

      Plus, jobs are what people often talk about in day-to-day conversation.

      You can avoid all of this by travelling and blowing up your Instagram feed with carefully picked pictures. But then you’re blowing your FIRE stash real fast.

      Of course, if you’re the kind of person who is into FIRE, you are also the kind of person who does not care about the social status from your job (much like you don’t care about the social status from your clothes, car, etc).

      • Charles F says:

        I find that “programmer” doesn’t equate to status with many people I care about mattering to. (Which might be more of an indication that I chose the wrong occupation than a problem with what you’re saying, but there it is.) Apart from that, status is useful for what it can get you, and doesn’t transfer well from one context to another. I could be overlooking a lot of important things, but professional status gets me more opportunities to make money (including freedom to work on things I like more), and I’m not sure what else. If I want to connect with people, rather than just working with people, I have to find other ways to be valuable/gain status.

        I’m not sure what you mean by getting access to more friends. Can you elaborate?

        In my experience, jobs rarely come up in conversation outside of the workplace. Is that not typical? And I haven’t ever had to navigate explaining to a new acquaintance that I’m independently wealthy, but is it really that difficult a conversation to have?

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          Most people I know talk about work with at least some regularity. With a few acquaintances, it’s probably the dominant topic.

          I don’t know any people who are retired early, so perhaps the dynamic is different. I would think probably not if you are living a typical FIRE lifestyle, which is not the models and bottles lifestyle typical people would expect of an independently wealthy retiree.

          • Robert Liguori says:

            “So, what do you do?” is a default icebreaker I hear a lot, and a good (but not total) amount of small talk centers around work stuff.

            I feel like it wouldn’t be hard to optimize around this, though, by getting a fake job. As a programmer, I feel like I could easily knock out a few apps, put some commits on open source tools, and have enough to justify calling myself a professional programmer to laypeople. I’m sure there are other jobs once could do this for as well.

      • Chalid says:

        I think “I used to be a programmer, but now I’m retired” conveys a comparable amount of status and opportunities for conversation as “I’m a programmer.”

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          If you are retired early, you are weird, and it becomes a game to determine if you are the bad weird or the good weird.

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah, there’s a big difference between “retired early because I became super wealthy and figured might as well” and “retired early because I ate ramen noodles for 20 years so I wouldn’t have to work anymore.”

            A seems exotic and mysterious and interesting. B seems lazy and weird and autistic.

          • baconbacon says:

            “retired early because I sacrificed for a few years so I would be free to pursue my own dreams on my own terms.”

    • Rock Lobster says:

      To this point, one thing that always kind of amazes me is how much money people spend just to maintain their jobs. Everything from on-the-go coffee to living in an expensive locale for the commuting amenities (I realize schools and crime and such are factors here too) to paying through the nose for childcare, these things all add up to the point where you’re practically paying to work. Not to mention things like eating out all the time, extra car(s), not being able to shop efficiently, and just in general not being able to deal with all the minor emergencies of life.

      Most people in my world just don’t really seem to think that way and treat retirement as something for only the very wealthy, or something just barely scraped together by the age of 65. Money just burns a hole in most people’s pockets.

      • Robert Liguori says:

        I feel like a lot of the lifestyle stuff isn’t treated as a job maintenance expense, but just as a lifestyle thing. In my experience, most people have a vague, culturally-and-peer-mediated sense of what their lifestyle should be, and often keep to that even when it’s costing them both money and utils.

    • veeloxtrox says:

      But I do wonder if any other SSC readers feel that there are strong incentives over than the purely financial to remain what our culture considers Gainfully Employed, and how those incentives might end up being used.

      I am beginning to plan for early retirement. Even if I quite my 9-5 there is still a good chance I will work part time/consult as something to do, add more structure to my life, a way to keep my mind sharp, and supplement income.

      If you haven’t found it already, the Mr. Money Mustache blog is worth looking into.

    • Anonymous says:

      But I do wonder if any other SSC readers feel that there are strong incentives over than the purely financial to remain what our culture considers Gainfully Employed, and how those incentives might end up being used.

      Sure. Not having your close relatives with +2 SD in Industriousness incessantly try to shame you, for one. Not having to explain in detail what is it that you do to new acquaintances, for another.

    • The Nybbler says:

      But I do wonder if any other SSC readers feel that there are strong incentives over than the purely financial to remain what our culture considers Gainfully Employed, and how those incentives might end up being used.

      I certainly don’t. I was unemployed last year, and aside from worrying about money, it was great. Unfortuantely the chance of achieving financial independence in my lifetime is about nil; no matter how much I make, it’s not going to be enough (especially with taxes and other expenses constantly increasing). It would take at least double-digit millions.

      • Anonymous says:

        I certainly don’t. I was unemployed last year, and aside from worrying about money, it was great.

        Yeah, I can second that. Being FI is better than being traditionally employed, IMO, but it’s not all milk and honey.

        Unfortuantely the chance of achieving financial independence in my lifetime is about nil; no matter how much I make, it’s not going to be enough (especially with taxes and other expenses constantly increasing). It would take at least double-digit millions.

        Dafuq? What are you expenses like?

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        It would take at least double-digit millions.

        4% SWR. $10 million in assets gives you a 4% SWR of $400,000 per year.

        So….like…unless you literally wipe your ass with money, you probably don’t need that much.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        I’ve always understood the magic number was around $3M for about a $100,000 annual income without touching the principal.?

        • Nornagest says:

          I’ve heard of “safe” withdrawal rates of anywhere between 2% and 4% of the principal. Probably depends how paranoid you’re being.

        • Brad says:

          The traditional rule of thumb is a 2% withdrawal rate for a perpetual endowment. The extreme early retirement guys use a bunch of different arguments to say that 4-5% is more appropriate for their purposes.

          ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          As I said above, most likely academic for me unless I am rather unusually lucky in my efforts over the next decade, but good to know. Thanks.

      • Robert Liguori says:

        That sounds like an awfully specific number. It sounds high to me, but I assume you can do the math yourself.

        But, to get to my question, I assume that you were spending much of that year looking for a job, and answered questions about what you did during that time accordingly?

        • The Nybbler says:

          I wasn’t unemployed the entire year; for the few months I was I generally just said I was between jobs if anyone asked. If I was financially independent, I’d just have said I was retired; I’m mid-40s, so it wouldn’t be out of the question if I’d hit the IPO lottery or something.

          As far as I can tell, all expenses just keep going up and up — property tax, healthcare, and taxes on investments being some big ones. And I have no way of making 4% reliably; there’s always the chance of another 2008. And I’m not interested in a frugal retirement; what’s the point? So whatever the figure is, it’s well beyond my reach and (because expenses keep going up) probably always will be.

          • Robert Liguori says:

            Ah, that’s another factor: You are (I assume) in California, where people winning the IPO lottery is a thing.

            Have you considered not being in California?

            It is a hell of an ask to consider uprooting yourself and moving to another state, but if you are willing to do so, you can drastically cut at least two of those listed expenses (plus general living expenses, obviously). I don’t think the Early Retirement people mentioned earlier ever say explicitly “Look carefully at where you choose to live, because this won’t work if you live in some place where costs of living keep ballooning upwards.”, but I feel it’s pretty strongly implied.

            And it might help you to recontextualize things; if you accept that if things go genuinely dire, retiring to suburban Colorado is an option and that you are choosing to work to buy a luxury good (life where you currently are) you value highly and consider worth it.

            But again, I don’t know your life situation.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I’m in the New York area (northern New Jersey), which isn’t as high COL as the Bay Area. Moving somewhere else that’s low COL probably isn’t happening, because my wife’s an artist and low COL places aren’t known for their arts communities. And I couldn’t do it until I quit working anyway. But that aside, the real issue is time. I have a living grandfather over twice my age, which suggests I could live a good long time. Suppose 5 years from now I retire, and 20 years from now another 2008 hits and wipes out a good chunk of that investment (since there’s no way I could keep it in anything as safe as cash)…. then I’m pretty much done for. I’d need a huge excess over projected expenses to safely retire.

            (Also, suburban Colorado’s getting expensive too.)

          • Robert Liguori says:

            Well, with regards to the 2008 situation, you pare down. The safe withdrawal limit of 4% comes from the fact that stock-heavy investments average at over twice that pre-tax, and once that investment stream becomes your primary source of income, it doesn’t get taxed that heavily. The idea is that you grow your nest egg every year that isn’t a 2008, and when the actual 2008 happens, you have a cushion, and you extend that cushion by finding expenses to cut.

            Then, after a few years, the market will rebound as it did in 2010, and you’ll likely be better off than you were before.

            Of course, past performance doesn’t ensure future returns, and a second Great Depression is going to be terrible for early retirees…but I think it will be even more terrible for workers without significant savings.

            But the great thing is that you can do both; you can save to the extent you personally feel comfortable saving and not feeling like you’re being overly frugal, and keep working until you’ve passed your own personal milestone for financial security. And if, after consideration, you’ve decided that’s “Never.”, then that’s your choice.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I’m totally serious when I suggest Downtown Detroit as a place with an arts scene and a very low COL. It seems artsy, but I’m, not an arts person, so maybe I’m not sensing it right, but the right areas of Detroit proper are cheap, beautiful (both natural and manmade), and safe. The hipsters are there in force.

    • sophiegrouchy says:

      As a nanny I don’t earn a particularly large amount, especially for living in NYC, but I only spend about $18k/year and save the rest. Since I don’t spend that much, I can realistically FIRE after saving only $500k. Especially since I plan on moving to a lower cost of living area afterwards.

      Anyways, I expect to still work side gigs in the sorts of things I find amusing. Dog sitting, crafting, etc. Maybe homesteading. Besides the small income, I expect it will help provide me with a sense of usefulness, and something to keep me in a routine. Previous times without jobs or schooling I end up not doing much all day and it feels bad. I wouldn’t want a “real” job though because it would limit things like the ability to hit the road and go wherever.

      • Matt M says:

        living in NYC, but I only spend about $18k/year

        Wat?

        That’s not even enough for one year of rent in NYC!

        • sophiegrouchy says:

          Many people live in NYC on $18k/year or less. You just don’t normally interact with them because they aren’t in your social class. I find it super easy, and buy/do pretty much everything I want (except for getting a dog).

          I have three roomies, and it keeps the rent down, despite having a very nice place that is literally 30 seconds from the subway stop in a super hipster area. I like having roomies, and wouldn’t live alone even if it were the same cost.

          Monthly expenses:
          Rent: $840
          Utilities and shared home goods: $40ish
          Food and restaurant: $200- $250
          Subway Pass: $120
          Against Malaria Foundation: $33
          Cell phone, Republic Wireless: $25
          Netflix: $10
          Everything else (entertainment, hobby, clothes, electronics, etc): $200ish

        • Chalid says:

          NYC income distribution, about 25% of the city comes in below $25k/year.

          Also, a median income map of the United States. I find this one really interesting!

          • Matt M says:

            This is insane and makes me feel ridiculously privileged. I lived in a middle class town in Oregon and was impressed with my ability to get by on 20k per year (single).

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            That is interesting. I am actually just about EXACTLY median income for my area. which is…sort of sad.

            EDIT: Also, local dynamic is exactly OPPOSITE the theoretical urban-rural divide. I live in a 35-40,000 person public college town on the mississippi in SE Missouri. Median income for the census divisions in the town proper are right on $25-35K. The rural areas surrounding the town are all $50-55K.

            Which actually made sense once I thought about it. Town proper is mostly cheap low-quality apartments and run down old houses. The nicer, newer neighborhoods with the bigger houses are all out along county highways and such, and the farmers seem to have more disposable income than your average wal-mart/mcdonald’s/etc employee.

          • Chalid says:

            NYC itself is the same way. You sometimes encounter people saying things like “$200k isn’t that much in NYC” which the map shows is crazy; there are a few neighborhoods that are that rich but most of the city is making nowhere near that. But you really can find large regions with $200k+ median income when you go out into the suburbs in Westchester or Long Island or Connecticut.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Oh, I already knew that the rich suburbs and bedroom communities of NYC, Chicago, LA were richer than the inner city metro areas.

            What I didn’t expect was for the effect to persist for 25-50,000 population towns out in the heart of flyover country a day’s drive from the nearest thing to a “Metro” area.

            It’s less dramatic, and the “wealthier” areas are still rather less affluent than the bigger metro areas are, but look at places like Carbondale and Cairo in Illinois. Poplar Bluff and Cape Girardeau in Missouri. Murray, Mayfield, and Paducah in Kentucky, and so on.

            Awhile back I was arguing with someone (Bint?) about the whole “independent farmers don’t exist anymore” thing. This strikes me as another illustration of the fact that they do, even if they aren’t the dominant force in that market sector that they were 40-50 years ago.

        • Maybe as a nanny you receive free lodgings? If so, that should be an implicit increase in your salary.

          Edit: okay answered before my response. I take this back.

          • sophiegrouchy says:

            I EARN a goodly amount more than $18k. That number is just what I SPEND (approximately). The rest goes into savings.

  10. Paul Brinkley says:

    I ran across an article debunking many of the claims in James Damore’s diversity memo. I haven’t had time to read either meticulously enough to resolve the disparities yet. Perhaps someone else does.

    • gbdub says:

      One of the APA papers linked in that article was the Hyde study, and the author references the Grant article, which Scott has already dealt with.

      Overall I don’t find that article super convincing. To the extent it “debunks” Damore, it only does so by basically conceding that men and women have different preferences, but argues that the evidence for those differences being genetic/biological is weak. It hand waves at “cultural expectations” as an alternative explanation but I don’t think it proves that there is no biological component (to me that would be the threshold for a “debunking” rather than a “questioning”).

      But I think Scott has the right tack on this argument – genetic or not, the differences in preferences seem to manifest early enough, and to be real enough, that from the perspective of Google hiring they might as well be innate. The source of these differences is irrelevant to the question of whether truly non-sexist practices would actually result in gender parity in the field.

      • Corey says:

        But I think Scott has the right tack on this argument – genetic or not, the differences in preferences seem to manifest early enough, and to be real enough, that from the perspective of Google hiring they might as well be innate. The source of these differences is irrelevant to the question of whether truly non-sexist practices would actually result in gender parity in the field.

        This leads to Kevin Drum’s criticism – if Damore’s central point was that Google’s diversity initiatives are wasteful, he could have made the same points with simply the age-old “it’s a pipeline problem” argument without going Full Bio-Determinist. This would make the same point with about 5% of the blowback.

        I don’t know if I buy Drum’s resulting theory that he was looking to invoke conservative martyrdom / wingnut welfare, though.

        • gbdub says:

          “Pipeline problem” might be an SJ acceptable criticism of Google’s diversity issues, but it doesn’t really fit with Damore’s proposed solutions of “make Google value women’s interests more”. EDIT: I may have misread you – are you / Drum saying “leave in ‘women prefer other fields’ but scrub out any reference to genetics?@

          It’s still annoying, because it really feels like the right answer is “some amount of bio-determinism amplified by social factors” but the bio-determined part gets isolated demands for rigor ritual evisceration because of the ick factor.

          • Corey says:

            I assumed his goal was, semi-charitably described, “stop making us feel bad because we don’t have gender parity, because gender parity is impossible”. You don’t need bio-determinism to argue that, just a skew in applicant pool, which exists, is easily observable, and doesn’t violate anyone’s religion to point out.

            Google might go on to (futilely, in Damore’s view) try to affect the pipeline by funding women-in-STEM scholarships and such (I’m sure they do already), which is still a waste of resources but solves the primary problem of “stop making us feel bad”.

            Then again, I might be projecting SSC-commentariat consensus on the manifesto; my first thought after reading it was “what’s his SSC handle?”. Then I realized since there was no reference to Chesterton’s fence, he probably wasn’t one of us 🙂

          • John Schilling says:

            “Pipeline problem” might be an SJ acceptable criticism of Google’s diversity issues,

            I’m not sure it is even that. I’ve mostly only seen “pipeline” arguments dismissed with eyerolling and the like, but I took it as implied that if the argument had been expanded to a formal ten-page memo and policy recommendation it would have gotten more than rolled eyes as pushback.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Expected response to pipeline argument: “Little girls are turned off from programming because experiences observing sexist programmer behavior. Therefore we need to double our efforts to eliminate sexism among current programmers.”

          • lvlln says:

            I think Conrad Honcho has it correct in terms of responses to calling it a pipeline problem. In general, the SJ fix for pipeline problems is to fix at every single point on the pipeline, with no less priority put at the end than at the beginning, with the reasoning that people need role models that look like them at the end of the pipeline in order to fix problems earlier on the pipeline.

            Of course, the empirical evidence required to support this assertion that role models that share their demographics at the end of the pipeline affects their decisions earlier on the pipeline, and that increasing role models at the end will fix or at least alleviate the problems earlier on is never provided, and asking for such evidence is considered verboten.

            However, I don’t think it is quite as much a live wire as the issue of average differences between population based on genetics. So I don’t know that this would have blown up to such proportions if he had just stuck to invoking the pipeline, while leaving open the possibility that it was that dastardly patriarchy causing the pipeline effects. I think he would have just been called another bigoted cis white tech bro and put on some internal blacklists, but we in the general public wouldn’t have learned about it, and he wouldn’t have gotten fired.

          • The Nybbler says:

            “Pipeline problem” might be an SJ acceptable criticism of Google’s diversity issues,

            It’s not; it’s a feminist bingo square, in fact, it’s the free square.

            As Honcho notes, mentioning it usually gets a response like “No, it’s not pipeline, it’s all you horrible white males driving women out. See, here’s a reference to a barely-relevant story by Jessica Valenti interviewing one woman who left the field because she didn’t feel like she fit in, and also she had a kid…”

        • random832 says:

          I don’t know if I buy Drum’s resulting theory that he was looking to invoke conservative martyrdom / wingnut welfare, though.

          One thing that I noticed is that some of it (there was a bit that seemed to go ‘we could change the way we define these jobs to value the skills women have more, but that would probably be bad for business so let’s not’, and of course the bizarre tangent on cultural marxism) seemed tacked-on and tailor-made for ensuring that.

          It almost looks like a “hope that some of these ideas will find receptive audiences and change the culture, but I’m gonna get fired anyway, so I’d better make extra sure the right will take me in” kind of thing.

          • Corey says:

            Updating the estimate: He has a Twitter account now called @Fired4Truth, whose profile picture is wearing a “Goolag” shirt. The account’s not verified so there’s some chance it’s a Poe or an affinity grift. If it’s his, he’s definitely playing up the martyrdom.

            I still don’t think this means Damore himself is running an affinity grift; he seems more like a True Believer who judged that the martyrdom was worth it to evangelize the cause.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I still don’t think this means Damore himself is running an affinity grift; he seems more like a True Believer who judged that the martyrdom was worth it to evangelize the cause.

            Or it could be that he wasn’t expecting to get fired, but now that he has been, he figures he might as well try and turn it to his advantage.

    • Anonymous Bosch says:

      There is evidence for a non-zero effect of gender but Damore’s citiations were for the most part thin and ill-chosen. I found Josh Barro’s criticism more convincing.

      • The Element of Surprise says:

        Barro makes three citations: One to the memo itself, one to the google diversity page, and one to an article apparently describing a study where 120 people were interviewed. It is possible that Damore’s citations may have been unconvincing, possibly low quality research, or not making the point Damore is trying to make. But then I see the people, who accuse Damore of motivated reasoning and making up post hoc just-so-stories responding with articles that look SO MUCH like motivated reasoning and post hoc just-so-stories.
        The best case conclusion I can draw from this situation is that there is just not much high quality scientific evidence lying around, and that both sides just have different priors?

        • Anonymous Bosch says:

          Barro isn’t criticizing Damore’s summary of the social science, he’s criticizing the reasoning. Pointing out that A doesn’t necessarily lead to B doesn’t require citations in the way Varinsky or Grant or someone challenging him on the truth of his premises does.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            I mean, just from the start, he has four bullet points – the first two are hypotheticals (pretty weak ones at that), and the latter two don’t do anything to explain the choices made in high school and college.

            Moreover, he argues that women may be rejected due to “culture fit”, i.e. dissimilarity to the hiring manager. But as I think InferentialDistance was trying to point out, this could happen to men too – either because they have differing personalities, or because the hiring manager happens to be female. Even if you think the personality thing doesn’t happen, why aren’t men interviewed by women automatically given a second look? The fact that this doesn’t happen suggests that this policy has more to do with appeasing political ideologues over improving the company.

            His next argument is that, because some people believe they are disadvantaged (maybe), you need to give them overt advantages to counter it. OK, but you gotta admit that this seems unfair to other people, who don’t get these overt advantages. I’ll finish with this: What seems likely to him, seems unlikely to me.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The four bullet points are completely unconvincing

            1) Hiring managers overlooking women due to bias.

            At Google, hiring managers do not (or did not; they mess with the process a bit from time to time) choose the candidates. Furthermore, the people who DO choose the candidates are actively looking for women, as you might expect from a company as progressive as Google. This is a possible explanation in a vacuum, it is not credible at Google.

            2) Women may self-select out of the field because they internalize the stereotype that it is “for men,” and the stereotype may also make men overconfident in their fitness for the field and more inclined to pursue employment in it.

            On the first part, you mean despite the push to get more women for the past few decades? The existence of this positive-feedback effect in general would predict a bimodal (or perhaps trimodal) distribution of employment, where nearly all careers would be either very male dominated or very female dominated (with a possible metastable state at parity). At a glance of Department of Labor figures, this is not the case; the disparity varies continuously.

            3) A male majority is self-reinforcing due to rejecting women for culture fit.

            Same issues with positive feedback. Also, there may be one or two male Googlers who would have the courage to call for the rejection of an extremely nasty but otherwise qualified female candidate for “culture fit”… but not more than that.

            4) Nasty techies harassing women out of the field.

            So those techies are so much more sexist and prone to harassment than lawyers and salespeople. Right. This is just nerd-bashing by another name.

      • InferentialDistance says:

        No scholarly citations at all. Entirely armchair theory and speculation. No effort made to account for pipeline effects, no argument made on why men who suffer disadvantages similar to women should be excluded from joining the programs that help deal with those problems. Argues that it’s fine to dismiss scientific data about differences because people would use it to argue against diversity policies.

        It’s bad.

    • The Element of Surprise says:

      Is there any poll among relevant scientists about questions of gender differences in aptitude, interests, cultural expectations, and how greatly each influence the differences in gender representation in different fields? Maybe there is something similar to the polls among climate scientist about AGW. I would want to know what the scientific opinion actually is, but I don’t trust the little bit of object level discussion we now get, since people with certain opinions or insights might prefer to just stay quiet for obvious reasons.

    • InferentialDistance says:

      First study is the Hyde meta-analysis that doesn’t even check for people-vs-objects, and still finds 22% differences. The next citation is just outright lied about:

      differences are replicated across cultures for both college-age and adult samples, and differences are broadly consistent with gender stereotypes

      The article writer confuses “people oriented” with “empathy”, cites the Hyde meta-analysis on an irrelevant topic (personality differences, which are robust in the literature), doesn’t understand that “neuroticism” has a specific meaning in the context of personality, and of its relation to anxiety.

      The entirety of the rest of her points are “it doesn’t prove that these differences are biological”. But, you know, there’s not any proof that they’re from anything else either. And there’s more evidence showing the impact of biology on preferences and behavior than there is of socialization. Hormone therapies change behavior. Psychoactive drugs change behavior. Biology matters.

  11. Corey says:

    A thought experiment that may help to get to the root of a teamwork problem in Damore-ghazi. One of the more popular responses touched on this, but it’s full of SSC boo-lights so rather than link it I’ll construct something parallel.

    Scene: A company whose products are mostly or entirely software. Size is 100 people or more (on up to megacorp). You represent senior management.

    A front-line individual contributor posts where all employees can see and are reasonably likely to, a missive about how the India office is hurting the company. (Any software company of this size or more has one, of course; if they’re outsourcing to eg Tata instead all the same arguments apply plus some extras). Specifically:

    – The office is stacked with freshers[1], hurting productivity and code quality
    – The office wouldn’t exist except that Indians are so cheap to hire
    – Skewing hiring towards India is hurting product quality compared to a counterfactual of hiring 1/3 as many in the US

    For least-convenient-possible-world reasons, assume all that is objectively true. Also assume it won’t leak (so public pressure doesn’t apply), and the government doesn’t care about anti-Indian discrimination so government pressure doesn’t apply (probably approximately true in real life).

    So how do you handle this guy, outside of firing?

    It seems to me keeping him around is, at best, going to cause significant logistical problems or significant morale problems. You’d have to keep him away from any work that involves the India team (if such work even exists) and possibly away from your H1B crew and/or Indian-American co-workers. Otherwise there are going to be significant resentments on both sides.

    [1] Freshers = just out of college. They are subsidized by the Indian govermnent in addition to having entry-level wages, so hiring does tend to get stacked that way. (Caveat: my experience is from 2000s, so actual India-relations conditions may have evolved some since then).

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Not sure this is a good example. IME, US-side teams required to work with India-side teams have a view of India that is best categorized as “makes Jim Crow seem pleasant.”

      Maybe it’s different in tech specifically, but this is absolutely the consensus opinion of any staff team required to fix all the mistakes of work with the Indian offshore team. At least the ones I have familiarity with, or hear second-hand from.

      All upper management knows staff does not like dealing with the offshore team. Even our mandatory HR events led with “yeah, we know the offshore India team sucks, but you need to stay positive and own business processes anyways.”

      • Corey says:

        The key is “saying this stuff where the Indians can hear you.” That’s what would cause the friction.

        I’ve actually made these criticisms – in private to management – at a former job.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          Possibly key. My understanding is that Google has a culture where nailing 95 theses to the wall is acceptable.

          In my prior job (and current one for that matter), you wouldn’t be allowed to broadcast anything to the entire company. It’s not your place to do so.

          • C. Y. Hollander says:

            My understanding is that Google has a culture where nailing 95 theses to the wall is acceptable.

            By the evidence of this incident, it would seem it does not.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Maybe nailing 95 progressive theses to the wall is acceptable.

            1. Google needs more Stalins.

          • johan_larson says:

            When I was at Google, there were a lot of internal newsgroups that hosted very wide-ranging discussions. There were also weekly show&tell meetings where people could stand up and ask impertinent questions of senior staff. I got the impression that management fostered a culture of generally open discourse, but I don’t remember any manifestos like Damore’s while I was there.

            As far as I can tell Google is generally tolerant of criticism, since it’s a large beast and most of us small-fry just plain can’t hurt it. But Damore aimed too hard a kick at too sensitive a location, so Google actually felt it and decided that this it could not put up with.

          • Anonymous says:

            Might it be that Google *had* such a culture, but no longer does?

          • Orpheus says:

            Hind sight being 20-20, I think we can all agree that having such culture is a bad idea.

          • Hind sight being 20-20, I think we can all agree that having such culture is a bad idea.

            The culture being discussed is having the ability to having wide ranging discussions and allowed to criticize the company. Which sounds like a very SSC friendly culture, and so probably the opposite of what you said. What culture do you refer to?

            Whether it is a good culture for business to take place is another issue, and I suspect it is somewhat dysfunctional for a business to allow constant political discussion. But I very much doubt I’d get full agreement on that.

          • Orpheus says:

            @Mark V Anderson:

            Whether it is a good culture for business to take place is another issue, and I suspect it is somewhat dysfunctional for a business to allow constant political discussion.

            This is what I meant, minus the “somewhat”. I mean, Google really got themselves into a no win situation with that thing: Either they don’t fire the guy who wrote the manifesto, and suffer the rage of the SJWs, or they do and antagonize all the people who didn’t think he should be fired. Either way, a lot of people angry at you.

          • Jiro says:

            I mean, Google really got themselves into a no win situation with that thing: Either they don’t fire the guy who wrote the manifesto, and suffer the rage of the SJWs, or they do and antagonize all the people who didn’t think he should be fired. Either way, a lot of people angry at you.

            If you rob a bank and the police are chasing you, you’re in a no-win situation: Give in to the police and go to jail, or run away and be treated as a fugitive.

            Having bad things happen is a consequence of the bank robbery, not of the choice to flee or surrender.

          • Orpheus says:

            @Jiro:
            Yes, which, unless I misunderstood your analogy, is exactly what I am arguing.

    • Jiro says:

      Did the guy post to a forum that is supposed to be for candid discussion of company practices, and which already had negative things said about hiring non-Indians (visible where non-Indians could see them)?

    • vV_Vv says:

      So how do you handle this guy, outside of firing?

      Wind down and eventually close the India office, replace its workers with more productive Americans and give a production bonus or promotion to the guy who pointed out the problem.

      That is what would happen if the management was primarily motivated to maximize shareholder value. Of course, because of the principal-agent problem, it does not work this way. You represent senior management, and that guy just publicly proved you incompetent at your job. Better fire him in order to send a message to everybody and double down with your sunk cost policies, shareholder value be damned.

  12. Corey says:

    Another Damore-ghazi issue facet: Anyone want to add to a list of objectively-false sentiments you have to espouse to hold an office job? I’m thinking “girls are as good as boys at this job” (assuming it’s even false) wouldn’t make the top 10.

    Caveat: Not all of these are false in all situations. Also I probably have some skew because I feel about jobs like incels feel about women, and for similar reasons. And contradicting some of these is probably not bad enough to get you fired, but is decidedly suboptimal career wise. Off the top of my head:

    – I’m passionate about [company mission]
    – I’m here for the long haul, and the company is here for me for the long haul
    – [company mission] creates positive value for the world
    – I care about shareholder ROI over other measures of work goodness
    – Management and co-workers are all competent, useful and helpful
    – We’re paid according to the value we create
    – Our business model is not misleading to customers

    • Jiro says:

      I think mentioning those in this context is misleading. If you said those things were false, you may get fired, but you probably won’t get a social media storm or have inaccurate news articles written about you, and most people outside the company would be willing to agree that those things are false. Google’s support of social justice is part of a wide society-based problem, not just some company forcing its employees to toe the line.

      Furthermore, it’s not clear that you’d get fired if you said those things in a forum devoted to internal criticism of the company.

    • andrewflicker says:

      Eh… it depends a lot on what level/position in a megacorp we’re talking about. I work in a corporate headquarters with a few hundred staff, so not nearly Google sized, but large enough to be the kind of business we’re talking about. Outside of Director level staff and up, few of your points are actually needed to be espoused by employees.

      Only your “managers and coworkers are all competent” piece I think still makes the cut, and even then in a much weaker form- most big companies do “reverse evaluations” where you evaluate your boss to his or her boss / HR, and as long as you’re diplomatic you can get away with a lot of criticism. If you create a lot of value, you’re likely to even be listened to, since your manager might be a fairly replaceable middle management cog in comparison to (eg) a senior programmer, veteran graphics designer, or allstar salesperson. In addition, almost everyone I know in this job and previous companies at which I’ve worked had more-or-less open contempt for some small subset of their coworkers. As long as it doesn’t get personal and you can mostly avoid that person, such feelings are tolerated- sometimes they’re even tacitly encouraged if competitive instincts can be productively harnessed.

      I once got a promotion by angrily calling our CMO (after perhaps too many glasses of wine) and telling him that I’d be happy to do our email marketer’s entire job on top of my own for only 40% of his salary (on top of my own).

  13. Brad says:

    In the links thread, in response to a post that in part called for liberal people to take efforts to reduce polarization I wrote:

    If you want to work on reducing polarization at home is the place to start. I see plenty of calls for understanding and being charitable towards Trump voters. Where I can go to find articles or TV segments calling on Trump voters to understand and empathize with people like me?

    The conversation involved other things and I don’t blame my interlocutor for passing over this, but I want to open it to everyone. It’s pretty clearly the minority position, but there is a small but steady stream of articles in liberal media elite publications calling for understanding and empathizing with the White working class in middle America. Is there any significant parallel phenomenon in any medium in the red or gray tribes calling for looking at the motivations and anxieties of urban, White, professional Clinton voters in anything even approaching a charitable way?

    N.B. I admit this is a semi-gotcha question because I expect the answer to be no. However, I think the most interesting result would be if the answer turns out to be yes. The least interesting result would be a bunch of posts saying no, but but the blue tribe is so evil! They don’t deserve any understanding!

    • bean says:

      I think I’d point to Haidt’s stuff on modeling the other side as at least a partial answer to this. IMO, the typical Clinton voter is voting for things which sound good, but won’t work. “Free healthcare for everyone” sounds great, as does “no racism”. But both are hard enough to implement that I don’t really trust the government to do the job. This isn’t really hard to understand, and I do sympathize with them.
      The fraction of conservatives that says “liberals are evil and out to get us all” is smaller than the fraction which says “liberals are nice people who are fundamentally misguided”. But I do think it’s growing, and that’s a dangerous thing.

      • Iain says:

        Surely Haidt is an example of Team Blue making an effort to better understand Team Red, not vice versa. Brad is asking for his counterpart on the other side.

        • bean says:

          I was referring to Haidt’s results on the Intellectual Turing Test. Conservatives are much better at modeling liberals than the other way around.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          Agreed on both counts.

          Unfortunately, I’ve seen this question raised in the past, and I know the stock response. The TL;DR version is that Team Red already understands Team Blue fairly well – all they have to do is turn on the news to anything other than Fox. The longer version is that Red people with Blue acquaintances get a strong correlation between Blue viewpoints and journalist viewpoints (aside from Fox). This is independent of whether Red people think Red viewpoints are more correct; all one has to recognize is that they differ, and most journalism either extolls or assumes one side more than the other.

          Haidt even ran a study, frequently alluded to by the right (EDIT: including bean while I was writing this), that suggested that the right understands the left more than the other way around. As I recall, it was a rather clever study, although I admit I have the same suspicion toward it that I do toward any sociology study. Is it replicable, etc.?. Then again, I keep getting confirmation of it every time I see one of my blue friends post some political point to Facebook or elsewhere, and I instantly notice it’s not even something my red friends believe. I honestly can’t remember the last time one of them nailed a conservative viewpoint.

          (It’s genuinely harder to find this in the other direction, but my red friends are conspicuously less likely to post their political views, so my sample size suffers. It’s also possible that I just have an unusually mild group of conservative acquaintances.)

    • gbdub says:

      Was there a push to understand McCain voters in 2008? How much of this steady stream of liberal thinkpieces would exist in the reality where Hillary won?

      Losers are going to spend more effort hand-wringing over why they lost than winners spend wondering why they didn’t win bigger. The thoughtful losers are going to realize they need to figure out how to convince some of the other side. Add to that that “working class” is something the Dems used to own – lamenting and explaining that loss might be key to winning back a Dem coalition.

      The pro-Trump narrative, rightly or wrongly, was “you guys already have your voice, you’ve been dismissing and insulting us for too long, now you have to listen to us”. The election vindicated this narrative. Why would you expect them to question it?

      • Paul Zrimsek says:

        This. There was an exactly analogous assumption among Republicans after 2012 that they had to find some way to reach Hispanic voters, which turned out to be just about as sincere (and just about as necessary).

      • gbdub says:

        A couple more points as I think about it more. Really, white working class populism was the emergent phenomenon of the 2016 election. We’re trying to explain them because they’re the thing that needs explaining. I doubt we’d see the same thinkpieces about Jeb Bush voters (but we might see more right-wing thinkpieces about people who voted for new president Bernie Sanders).

        You don’t need to explain urban Democrat moderates any more than you need to explain moderate Republicans. They are a known phenomenon. You might need to have more charitable takes on say radfems or BLM, but so far they are fringe and ignored. If the Dems win a major election on the backs of BLM activism, then you’ll probably see more.

        Also, the sort of thoughtful Republicans that would write about understanding Hillary voters are probably themselves not super high on Trump (or actively trying to rein him in), so they too are trying to grasp the white working class populism phenomenon.

        Finally, I really do think moderate Republicans have more access and exposure to moderate Democrat views and media than moderate Democrats have to Trump’s base. Those who are interested in engaging with pro-Hillary ideas don’t need journalists to mount a safari to the mysterious land of Flyover on their behalf.

        This is not saying “Dems are evil”, just that there’s a lot more distance between “moderate Hillary voter” and “rabidly pro-Trump white working class” than there is between “moderate Hillary voter” and “Republican who would have preferred Bush or Rubio”.

        • Brad says:

          Finally, I really do think moderate Republicans have more access and exposure to moderate Democrat views and media than moderate Democrats have to Trump’s base. Those who are interested in engaging with pro-Hillary ideas don’t need journalists to mount a safari to the mysterious land of Flyover on their behalf.

          This is not saying “Dems are evil”, just that there’s a lot more distance between “moderate Hillary voter” and “rabidly pro-Trump white working class” than there is between “moderate Hillary voter” and “Republican who would have preferred Bush or Rubio”.

          Sure. But I don’t understand why that’s relevant. If the reducing polarization project requires understanding and compassion from the moderate Hillary voters to the rabidly pro-Trump white working class, then doesn’t it also require understanding and compassion from the rabidly pro-Trump white working class to the moderate Hillary voter?

          I don’t see where moderate Republicans come into the question at all. There aren’t any think pieces on understanding moderate Republicans.

          • gbdub says:

            I don’t think too much of the immoderate left is writing understanding think pieces either. It’s not like “understand the Trumpers” was the universal or even majority reaction to Trump – those are still the exception while the rule is “10 ways Trump is exactly like Hitler and nuclear war starts tomorrow”.

            And that crowd is not happy with the understanding think pieces. Hell I just had several friends on my Facebook feed calling the ACLU a hate group for crying out loud.

            Most of the thoughtful think pieces are coming from the middle on both sides. The world would be a better place if more people reached out to the other side, but I think you overestimate the degree to which it’s happening at either pole.

          • Brad says:

            Where are any thoughtful think pieces from the moderate conservatives calling for understanding and compassion towards the immoderate left? That would be the parallel to what’s happening on the left. Not pieces designed to tell the moderate right they can work with the moderate left.

            You are trying to claim the situation is symmetric, but I see no evidence of that. Maybe the lack of symmetry isn’t a big deal and maybe it comes down to having recently lost the presidency — I thought that was a decent point — but this thread of the conversation where you claim it is symmetric is wholly unconvincing to me so far.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            A brief search turns up a few examples, like Glenn Beck on BLM.

            I can’t speak for how frequent or widespread this is because I don’t follow mainstream conservative thinkpieces much unless I’m linked to a specific article via someplace else, already knowing where they stand and generally being uninterested in anything they have to say. I get most of my thinkpieces via places like Lawfare, Popehat, Volokh Conspiracy, Small Wars Journal etc, and not so much NRO, Breitbart, WSJ Editorial, etc.

    • Matt M says:

      I think Glenn Beck has been doing some of this in more recent years (and his fall from relevance may be due, in large part, to this decision). Listen to his more recent stuff and it’s full of calls for peace, love, and unity. Of sermons about loving your neighbor and how we’re all Americans and we need to understand each other. About how liberals and conservatives “want the same things, we just disagree on how to get there,” etc.

      There’s also the left-libertarian faction who has become far more, let’s say, “equal opportunity critics” post Trump. As in, they aren’t necessarily saying good things about the left, but they’ve started saying “the right is just as bad as the left” louder and with greater ferocity.

    • John Schilling says:

      Is there any significant parallel phenomenon in any medium in the red or gray tribes calling for looking at the motivations and anxieties of urban, White, professional Clinton voters in anything even approaching a charitable way?

      Not that I know of, but which “medium in the red or gray tribes” were you thinking of?

      Gray Tribe doesn’t have much in the way of mass media at all; what we do have is specialized, very much anti-Trump, and mostly geared towards urban white professionals who almost voted for Clinton or maybe held their noses and actually did, so there’s not much of a gap to bridge there. But it’s not being marketed much outside of Gray tribe.

      Red Tribe has a bit more of the media to work with, but Red Tribe isn’t exactly unanimous on Trump except in the “not as bad as Hillary!” sense.

      I think the median MAGA-hatted Trump voter is watching a mix of entertainment and news programming out of Blue Tribe’s Hollywood bastion, and some specialized Red Tribe news outlets whose pitch is basically “For when you’re tired of liberal intellectuals not even bothering to hide their contempt.” It’s probably not reasonable to expect the latter to offer up apologetics for liberal intellectuals, but Red Tribe still watches an awful lot of Blue Tribe scripted entertainment. So that’s where I’d start looking for the sort of thing you want, and if I don’t see it I’ll ask Blue Tribe why they aren’t selling it.

      Hmm, “Big Bang Theory” seems to be a clumsy attempt at getting a broad swath of Blue and Red America to understand and empathize with at least one set of urban white professionals who mostly voted for Clinton. But that’s a special, and AFIK entirely apolitical, case.

      • Brad says:

        With “any medium” I was trying to leave the door open for something out of the box, like mega pastors’ sermons.

        • Glen Raphael says:

          @brad:

          With “any medium” I was trying to leave the door open for something out of the box, like mega pastors’ sermons.

          I can think of one thing that used to fit that bill: The Advocates For Self Government (a libertarian outreach group) teaches communication skills to political activists – how to have productive conversations, how to get your ideas across without making people angry, that sort of thing…which requires understanding where the people you’re talking to are coming from. So their “Communicator Course” used to include a unit (I think I had it on audiocassette?) called “How To Talk To Liberals”, recorded by a psychologist who was trying to convey to libertarians how liberals think. The part I remember best went something like:

          “Never never assume that they know you have good intentions; they do not. Their whole guilt system is tied up in the idea that THEY have the good intentions – and you don’t!”

          Thus no matter WHAT the topic, you always have to start out by CLEARLY SAYING what your good intentions are – emphasizing that you definitely do want the same things they do. You worry about the disadvantaged classes. You don’t want people to be hurt or go hungry or be discriminated against…and this is WHY you think (insert policy here) might be a good idea.

          Because if you EVER skip that first step of clearly stating your intentions, part of your audience will assume the reason you want (insert policy here) must be that you are a bad person who kicks puppies and hates babies. (I mean, sure, some will assume that anyway, but at least you’ll have tried!)

          A couple other units of the course involved techniques to let the other person reach conclusions for themselves rather than lecturing at them. Some of this was motivated by Meyers-Briggs style analysis – libertarians tend to find long detailed careful logical arguments worked to convince THEM, so they assume that’s what other people want too – and this is usually not the case. One alternative is the Socratic option – ask questions designed to help the other person realize something is wrong and solve for themselves what the better option might be. Another technique was to come up with a really carefully-worded short sound-byte type answer that gets across the gist of your solution while not providing much specific detail – that way the other person can figure out the details or ask you to fill in the ones they most care about.

          Both of these were ways to deal with the problem that liberals have different vocabulary and background assumptions than you, so you’re essentially speaking a different language. Liberals can convince themselves of some point because they speak their own language fluently; you can’t directly convince them nearly as well as they can convince themselves because too much gets lost in translation.

      • Matt M says:

        Hmm, “Big Bang Theory” seems to be a clumsy attempt at getting a broad swath of Blue and Red America to understand and empathize with at least one set of urban white professionals who mostly voted for Clinton. But that’s a special, and AFIK entirely apolitical, case.

        An interesting point that I hadn’t considered before.

        And yes, while the show itself is nominally apolitical, I’m pretty sure that approximately zero of the seven main characters would be considered likely Trump voters.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          I’d peg Sheldon as a possible Trump voter, if not a likely Trump voter. He’s a white male from Texas that has an adoration of the military and proud his invention might serve to enforce order.

          • Matt M says:

            He’s also a Bay Area college professor with an advanced degree.

            He has some personality quirks that you might associate with Trumpism, but statistically, the odds seem quite small…

          • John Schilling says:

            Sheldon is “from Texas” in roughly the same sense that Ayn Rand was “from Russia”, and I don’t see him as seeing Donald Trump as a force for order.

            Penny of the early seasons would plausibly have voted for Trump. Amy might have created Trump as a laboratory experiment without running it past the bioethics community, but the timing doesn’t really work.

          • johan_larson says:

            Sheldon’s mom is the likeliest Trump voter, I should think.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            I don’t see him as seeing Donald Trump as a force for order

            Even if you don’t personally see Donald Trump as the best force for order, the tribe that values order above all else voted for Trump.

          • Not Bernadette’s dad?

          • MrApophenia says:

            @A Definite Beta Guy

            They may value order in general, but in this particular case polls tend to find that one of Trump’s biggest selling points among his supporters was the degree to which he created chaos in Washington. There are lots of analogies to things like chucking a brick through the window of the Washington establishment.

          • Vorkon says:

            Out of all the characters in Big Bang Theory, Sheldon seems like the one most likely to frequent SSC, and SSC readers seem to include a larger number of Trump supporters than you’d expect to find among most highly educated Bay Aryans, so yeah, I can definitely see it.

          • Matt M says:

            and SSC readers seem to include a larger number of Trump supporters than you’d expect to find among most highly educated Bay Aryans

            And yet, I’d still peg “voted for Trump” at well below 50% among SSC readers/commenters

          • Brad says:

            Not weighted by number of comments.

          • Matt M says:

            Not weighted by number of comments.

            I think a lot of the people that are assumed to be Trump voters on this site did not, actually, vote for him.

          • Brad says:

            “I assume my assumptions are more accurate than other people’s assumptions.”

          • InferentialDistance says:

            SSC Survey has people skew heavily left, with liberal (i.e. democrats) and socialists summing to more than 50%. Libertarians probably split between democrats for social policy and republicans for economic policy. Conservatives plus N.e.o.r.e.a.c.t.i.o.n.a.r.i.e.s. is only 11%. 59% were very unfavorable to Trump, with another 23% being unfavorable. Favorable plus very favorable sums to less than 7%.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            if his assumptions really are more accurate than other people’s assumptions, then that’s a reasonable assumption to make

            now are you going to go for an empirical test or just circle jerk it up

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Do we have information about what proportion of ssc survey-answerers vote?

          • Matt M says:

            I’m sure this won’t satisfy Brad at all, but I vaguely remember a thread where we discussed “Who did you actually vote for” and VERY few people stepped up and said “I voted for Trump.” Even in the aftermath of his victory when you’d expect some people to want to falsely jump on the bandwagon.

            To use myself as an example, I’m guessing Brad sees me as a Trump supporter, but I did not vote.

          • Brad says:

            now are you going to go for an empirical test or just circle jerk it up

            I’ve been asking that for months.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            If you believe what posters say about their beliefs and votes, it’s trivially demonstrated by going back and looking through the comment sections on posts for the second half of 2016. Brad doesn’t.

            He has previously stated, forcefully and repeatedly, that he considers SSC’s libertarian and libertarian-leaning posters to be de-facto Trump supporters by dint of our obvious revealed preferences.

            As someone who has voted Independent, Reform, Libertarian, and even Boston Tea one time, but never GOP, and has maintained a fairly consistent political stance over the past decade or so I find this a bit offensive, but the man is entitled to his opinions.

          • Machina ex Deus says:

            @Matt M:

            I think a lot of the people that are assumed to be Trump voters on this site did not, actually, vote for him.

            That’s too high of a bar: I’m a Trump voter, in spite of not actually voting for him.*

            What seems to be lacking is the critical distinction between Trump voter and Trump supporter. When I talk to fellow Trump voters, I almost always discover they aren’t actually supporters, they just held their nose and picked the lesser of two evils. And Trump’s kept the one (implicit) promise that matters to us: Not Being Hillary Clinton.

            There’s another phenomenon layered on top of that: however much I dislike Trump, I still think it’s possible to be unfair and biased in reporting about him. For some reason, while it’s in the interests of most of the media to remind me why I hate Trump, they end up instead reminding me why I hate them.

            (* I would have, if there had been any chance at all of my 100%-urban not-state being competitive.)

          • skef says:

            What seems to be lacking is the critical distinction between Trump voter and Trump supporter. When I talk to fellow Trump voters, I almost always discover they aren’t actually supporters, they just held their nose and picked the lesser of two evils.

            The key aspect of this attitude, of course, is that it is prospective. “Although I voted for Trump, no matter what happens in the future, however bad, I’m not in any way responsible. Any blame falls on Hillary or maybe nebulous primary voters.”

          • Machina ex Deus says:

            @skef:

            The key aspect of this attitude, of course, is that it is prospective. “Although I voted for Trump, no matter what happens in the future, however bad, I’m not in any way responsible. Any blame falls on Hillary or maybe nebulous primary voters.”

            Yeah, literally nobody has said anything like that to me.

            Is there really anything to your comment beyond “Republicans suck”? Are you aware that projection is a thing?

            I think Conservatives tend to be more realistic than Liberals: sometimes you’re faced with unpalatable choices, but if you just opt out, you get the worse one. We also tend to be more realistic about Trump’s ability to take over and establish himself as a dictator—to wit, there’s no chance, and there wouldn’t be even if the Republican Congress supported him.

            I am disappointed that nobody seems to be taking this opportunity to rein in the power of the Executive Branch, but I guess we’ve got three more years for that.

          • skef says:

            Is there really anything to your comment beyond “Republicans suck”? Are you aware that projection is a thing?

            Yes, I am aware of projection, and that part of the “not responsible” phenomenon is that the modal Trump voters’ projection of Hillary scales as necessary.

        • James Miller says:

          Penny is probably a Trump voter, if she bothers to vote, because she is white, not college educated, and attractive.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            and married

          • Matt M says:

            Penny is largely ignorant of the world and has few strong opinions of her own. I think she would easily fall into the “support Hillary because she’s a woman and Trump is a creep” camp.

            I’d actually peg Raj as the most likely Trump voter, as he occasionally expresses redpill/socially conservative viewpoints. Probably the most likely to see a groping billionaire as an inspirational figure.

          • random832 says:

            @Matt M Maybe, but Raj is not a US citizen. There’s an episode where he’s concerned about possibly being deported because the research project he was working on ran out of grant money.

    • BBA says:

      As I understand it “urban white professionals” don’t make up the bulk of Clinton supporters. That would be the nonwhite working class, which by some definitions is larger than the white working class that propelled Trump to victory.

      • qwints says:

        Not according to CNN’s exit polls. . Nonwhite, no college degree made up about 1/4 of Clinton supporters while white, college degree made up about 1/3.

        I thought this 538 piece claiming that education was the major factor was pretty persuasive.

        • BBA says:

          Huh. I’ve often heard that the future of the Democratic party was a coalition of non-whites, but I guess that future isn’t quite here yet.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      What do you think the Red Tribe misunderstands about the Blue Tribe that you would like corrected? “I wish for once Sean Hannity would say _______ about [Democrat voters|the left|urbanites].” What goes in the blank?

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      What precisely is there that you think is not understood or empathized with?

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        Personally I think both sides understand each other quite well, they just pretend not to in order to make their rhetoric sound more badass. However:

        Wrt misunderstandings: there is a standard failure mode where conservatives treat things that leftists view as side-effects/trade-offs as the core leftist agenda[*]. The left isn’t pro-Islam; that’s a side effect of scrupulosity about separating Church and State, in a context where Islam is the religion in everyone’s crosshairs. The left doesn’t favor climate regulation because they like regulation; they just think it is an acceptable cost.

        Wrt empathizing: I don’t think conservatives realize how scary nationalism is. (Conservatives make this even worse when they insist that nationalism is human nature – if this were true, we should be extra vigilant in suppressing it.)

        [*] Wild speculation: this happens because conservatives are less consequentialist, and therefore more likely to think in terms of principles rather than means and ends.

        • Nornagest says:

          Nationalism isn’t an aspect of human nature. Nationalism as we know it didn’t even exist until the 1700s or so. Tribalism is an aspect of human nature, and in my more cynical moments (which, as I’ve said before, is now most of them) I’ve thought that it can’t be suppressed, that trying only makes it come out in new and inevitably more sinister ways.

          On the other hand, I don’t think leftists are substantially more consequentialist than conservatives. It would speak well for them if they were, but consequentialism is not intuitive to anyone, and only a tiny fraction of the population ever bothers to develop it.

        • Matt M says:

          The left doesn’t favor climate regulation because they like regulation; they just think it is an acceptable cost.

          That’s funny, I actually think the right doesn’t go down this line of thought ENOUGH…

          Like, take left-wing support for “public transportation” over private vehicles. Most conservatives I know assume this is just hippy environmentalist stuff that’s misguided but not particularly harmful.

          It usually takes me to come along and say “Have you considered that a population dependent on government-operated transportation would be much easier to control than a population where everyone owns their own private vehicle?”

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            We can play this game all day. Have you considered that public transportation allows the poor to leave their enclaves, making them harder to control? Have you considered that a population dependent on private vehicles cannot travel anonymously? But this is all pretty silly.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @hoghoghoghoghog

            Have you considered that public transportation allows the poor to leave their enclaves, making them harder to control?

            Well, both I (who doesn’t own a car) and my mother (who works at a branch library in one of our city’s poorest neighborhoods) agree that the upcoming “improvements” to the Anchorage public bus system (which will make getting around so much harder for me; no longer having a direct route to most places I take the bus to/from) seem designed to make it much more difficult for people in the “poor enclaves” to get near the “nicer” neighborhoods.

          • Charles F says:

            the upcoming “improvements” to the Anchorage public bus system (which will make getting around so much harder for me; no longer having a direct route to most places I take the bus to/from) seem designed to make it much more difficult for people in the “poor enclaves” to get near the “nicer” neighborhoods.

            Yeah, I’ve seen this happen. We used to have a main bus route that went straight through town from one end to the other and back. And in most of the important areas left you <10min walk away from anywhere you wanted to go. No transfers except at hubs, no memorizing a bunch of weird twisty routes. Now we've got our new system that's supposed to have designed to make everything more accessible, and just happens to route lines that start or end in low-income areas away from the richer parts. (You *can* usually get a bit closer to your destination, but with longer waits (a huge pain in winter) and rides, and more transfers)

          • Have you considered that a population dependent on government-operated transportation would be much easier to control than a population where everyone owns their own private vehicle?

            Is taking public transportation away supposed to mean that everyone can suddenlty afford a car, or that the poor just don’t get to go anywhere? From the left perspective, this fits “the right hate poor people and want them to be as wretched as possible”.

          • Matt M says:

            The central examples I was thinking of were less “Let’s install public transportation where none existed” and more things like “Let’s eliminate a lane of traffic for a dedicated light-rail system” or “Let’s shut down this particular area to cars to make it a pedestrian-friendly zone” or things like that with fairly obvious trade-offs.

            That said, public transportation does not make the poor more mobile in a manner that correlates with decreased control. The government can shut-down or re-route the buses immediately if it wants to. The buses only go where the government tells them to go. Cars go anywhere.

        • cassander says:

          The left isn’t pro-Islam; that’s a side effect of scrupulosity about separating Church and State, in a context where Islam is the religion in everyone’s crosshairs. The left doesn’t favor climate regulation because they like regulation; they just think it is an acceptable cost.

          This strikes me as….hard to swallow in a world where, e.g. feminists will defend the burka. The enemy of my enemy is my friend is a much more plausible explanation.

          > The left doesn’t favor climate regulation because they like regulation; they just think it is an acceptable cost.

          again, not always. There are large segments of the left that actively want a cause to crusade for, the bigger the better.

          Wrt empathizing: I don’t think conservatives realize how scary nationalism is.

          Not nearly as scary as socialism is.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @cassander

            Nationalism and socialism both have their body counts, but remember, nationalism did not begin and end with fascism: one could lay WWI at the door of nationalism very easily.

          • cassander says:

            @dndnrsn

            World War one was a war. Wars between powerful countries seem to occur largely regardless of ideology. Maybe you can make a case for a global democratic/capitalist peace being the exception, but I’m not ready to make that claim yet as we’ve only had that for about 30 years. An ideology that gets you willing to slaughter your own every single time it’s tried is clearly more pernicious that one that merely allows you license to slaughter others. Pointing out that capitalism is far from perfect does not disprove, or even bear upon, the claim that revolutionary socialism is uniquely pernicious.

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            This which-is-worse discussion is important, but sort of orthogonal to the point I intended. I don’t expect conservatives to support socialism, I’d just like them to be more circumspect about nationalism.

          • cassander says:

            @hoghoghoghoghog

            You can’t beat something with nothing what do you see as the alternative to nationalism do you see that’s less pernicious?

          • AnonYEmous says:

            I don’t think you need to equate nationalism to socialism. Or if you do, it’s in more of a gradual sense, where “socialism” also means things like welfare programs.

            The point being, small amounts of it are good and helpful. Taking it too far can lead to disaster. I think America and much of Europe need more nationalism, especially since they’re in danger of falling to other, more virulent forms of tribalism which can cause a lot more damage. (Like how if you don’t implement some amount of wealth equality, the people will riot and establish a communist dictatorship). I would like a social-democratic equivalent to nationalism, and I’m hoping that can happen.

          • @Anon
            (Civic) National Social(-liberal)ism

          • dndnrsn says:

            @cassander

            Nationalism of the German (Germans wanting Germany to have its place in the sun, feeling that Germany had been unfairly left out of the period of most colonization, and getting the rather stupid idea to try and compete with Britain at sea), Serbian (Serbs in Serbia proper believing their brethren under Hapsburg rule should be a part of Serbia), and pan-Slavic (Russians seeing themselves as being on the same side as those Serbs) varieties certainly played a role, though. A war might still have happened; people generally find reasons for war, but the war that happened happened in part because of nationalism.

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            @cassander

            You can’t beat something with nothing what do you see as the alternative to nationalism do you see that’s less pernicious?

            I think conservatism has two strong alternatives to nationalism: tradition and enlightened self-interest. Admittedly this is a better fit in some countries than others: in the US, enlightened self-interest is the traditional mode of politics, which seems less true for e.g. Russia.

            On the flip side, nationalism isn’t even a good fit for anti-socialists. In a world where the upper class is more cosmopolitan than the lower, national consciousness can easily shade into class consciousness.

          • cassander says:

            @dndnrsn says:

            A war might still have happened; people generally find reasons for war, but the war that happened happened in part because of nationalism.

            I’d say that the causation runs just as much the other way, that “place in the sun” got shouted as much because of the war because of the war as to cause war, and that such tribalism is absolutely universal in all wars. The particulars are unique in every conflict, of course, but I see nothing fundamentally different about them in WW1 vs any other war.

            @hoghoghog

            I think conservatism has two strong alternatives to nationalism: tradition and enlightened self-interest.

            I don’t mean to be snarky, but I don’t see how either of those is in any way a substitute for nationalism.

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            I guess I’m not sure what you want nationalism to do? I was assuming you had in mind something like “nationalism prevents mob rule by making people put national interest above class interest”

          • cassander says:

            @hoghog

            I guess I’m not sure what you want nationalism to do? I was assuming you had in mind something like “nationalism prevents mob rule by making people put national interest above class interest”

            My take was more “nationalism prevents civil war (and reduced demand for politics in general) by keeping everyone thinking they’re part of the same tribe”.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @cassander

            I’d say that the causation runs just as much the other way, that “place in the sun” got shouted as much because of the war because of the war as to cause war, and that such tribalism is absolutely universal in all wars. The particulars are unique in every conflict, of course, but I see nothing fundamentally different about them in WW1 vs any other war.

            Germany started trying to make elbow room for itself while complaining that it wasn’t fair that all the other countries had snapped up the good colonies before they could unify enough to do that before the war, so it can hardly have been because of the war.

            WWI is not some special, different event, and even without nationalism Germany probably still wants more (like everyone does), but pan-Slavic nationalism was to some extent behind the Russian desire to back the Serbs, and without Serbian nationalism Franz Ferdinand does not get shot. Sooner or later something else would probably have set it off, but we’re dealing with history as it was.

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            I’d like remind that Germany existed because of nationalism? Of course, it wasn’t the only only reason, but it was a major contributing force on Bismarck’s chessboard while creating Germany.

          • On the flip side, nationalism isn’t even a good fit for anti-socialists.

            Indeed, Stalin was both a socialist and a nationalist. I think that was true of Mao as well. So that gives you two of the three most murderous socialist regimes–I’m not sure about the Khmer Rouge.

        • AnonYEmous says:

          The left isn’t pro-Islam; that’s a side effect of scrupulosity about separating Church and State, in a context where Islam is the religion in everyone’s crosshairs.

          I’m pretty sure they’re just pro-underdog, with underdog only calculated in a west-centric manner.

        • @Matt M

          But then what’s the purpose of the control?

          I think the left doesn’t see government as necessarily meaning a lack of control by individuals, but instead a way of exercising collective agency, which is why they aim to democratize government as well as enlarge it, so more and more things are in the hands of “the people”. There is control of the individual, but it was never any different and you were always at the mercy of entities larger than yourself such as corporations, so the only way to truly exercise control is to become part of a larger collective, where you will yes, be controlled as always in a literal sense as an individual, but in turn take part as an individual but equal component in the mechanism of control for the whole of society. There is control of the individual, but also control by the individual. You gain control by transcending your individual weakness and becoming the government.

          Thesis: the yearing for control and agency in the face of forces larger than oneself.
          Anti-thesis: all powerful government that wipes out individuality
          Synthesis: A direct democratic all powerful government that transcends individuality.

          I don’t agree with this, but I think this is the spiritual core of collectivist strains of leftism. The reason they don’t fear “big government” is because they see themselves as being part of government. On an individual level they are being controlled, but since they took part in crafting that mechanism of control as a member of democratic state society, it actually represents a form of agency. This explains why these leftists don’t support autocracies. If the end goal was merely control of the individual, their nightmare wouldn’t be a corporate state.

          • cassander says:

            this is well put.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            but instead a way of exercising collective agency,

            This part in particular bugs me, because recently I’ve been told very sternly by large portions of the left (and by no one on the right) that there is no collective agency when the topic is immigration policy.

          • Brad says:

            I’ve been told very sternly by large portions of the left

            What is this kind of statement supposed to mean? Clearly it isn’t literally true. Whatever figurative meaning you might have intended isn’t clear to me.

          • @Edward Scizorhands

            The left are also internationalists (only ever strategically nationalist), so to them the agency of all humanity should be collectivized, and consequently a national collective would be outvoted by an international collective. Since they are trying to form such a thing, they want countries to be diversified in terms of culture and race and so on. Anti-immigration means being against a larger humanity and means denying our collective destiny.

        • The left doesn’t favor climate regulation because they like regulation; they just think it is an acceptable cost.

          Some evidence against that position.

          Not exactly “like regulation” but “like what they see as the non-climate benefits of regulation they argue for as necessary to control climate change.”

          That cartoon seems, by casual observation, to be popular with people on the left making climate arguments, and it doesn’t seem to occur to them that it’s a reason for people to be skeptical of their climate position.

        • The left isn’t pro-Islam; that’s a side effect of scrupulosity about separating Church and State

          I agree that the left isn’t pro-Islam. But I think the appearance of being pro-Islam is a side effect of two other things:

          1: The right is very much concerned about Islamic terrorism and Islam as a threat, and the left is against whatever the right is for.

          2: Much of the left is pro-Palestinian/anti-Israel, I think as a carryover of the anti-western colonialism attitude.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        I’ll agree that the left isn’t pro-islam.

        Regarding the left and increased regulatory authority over the economy, increased centralization of political power, and increased redistribution of wealth both intra and inter-nationally, I have to say that this is exactly as convincing a claim as a libertarian saying

        “It’s not that I actually WANT the state to have less power. It’s just that I see the state having less power as an acceptable and necessary COST of accomplishing….”

        Would you take that statement seriously if, say, Dr. Friedman or Onyomi said it? If not, why should I take that statement seriously when left wing politicians and intellectuals make it about climate policy?

        EDIT: Basically, the fact that increasing government control over the economy and the mechanisms of wealth distribution and redistribution are instrumental goals rather than terminal goals does not mean that they are not still -goals-.

        Regarding nationalism, Nornagest captured it best. Nationalism is simply one form of tribalism. I have a hard time taking you seriously when you try to claim that left wing political philosophies have a monopoly on resistance to tribalism.

        • hoghoghoghoghog says:

          Your comparison to libertarianism is a perfect illustration of the mistake. Opposition to (a fairly narrow definition of) coercion really is central to deontological libertarianism. Leftists aren’t libertarians, so we conclude that support of coercion is central to leftism. It just doesn’t follow.

          If not, why should I take [the statement that it’s not that I actually WANT state power] when left wing politicians and intellectuals make it about climate policy?

          For one thing, it lets you predict their favored policies. Remember, a carbon tax is farther left than cap-and-trade or direct regulation. You would never expect that if you thought this was all a fig leaf for government power. It also tells you that libertarians should be able to make alliances with liberals (e.g. with Yglesias on housing policy, or with Will Wilkinson on everything except redistribution).

          I have a hard time taking you seriously when you try to claim that left wing political philosophies have a monopoly on resistance to tribalism.

          I do not claim that. I do think the right is pretty cavalier about stoking tribalism (you might remember ‘Real Americans’).

          • Remember, a carbon tax is farther left than cap-and-trade or direct regulation.

            In what sense is it farther left? Sanders vs Clinton? Defined by the other views of the people who support each?

            I would have classified both cap and trade and carbon tax, which are pretty much two variants of the same approach, as less socialist hence less left than direct regulation.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          , so you conclude that support of coercion is central to leftism.

          Except I didn’t conclude that. I called it an instrumental goal, as distinct from a terminal goal. Do you understand what those two terms are and how they relate to one another?

          a carbon tax is farther left than cap-and-trade or direct regulation. You would never expect that if you thought this was all a fig leaf for government power.

          Of course you would. Money IS power. In a state with even a moderately mixed economy a government without the money to fund its programs and policies or pay its personnel has extremely limited power, and its power increases in direct proportion to the amount of GDP it controls via tax revenue and spending.

          I do think the right is pretty cavalier about stoking tribalism

          I would agree, and note that you left out the religious right. Almost as cavalier as the left. Nation, Creed, Race, Sex, Gender Identity, Sexual Orientation, Class, it’s ALL tribalism.

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            Sorry, I was not clear: my beef is with people who believe that government power is a terminal goal for leftists. I don’t like your libertarian comparison because small government is a terminal goal for many libertarians (so I interpret it as a bad argument for something that you don’t actually believe.)

            Money IS power.

            You are flattening out a potentially important distinction. Here’s Will Wilkinson making the point much better than I could:
            https://www.vox.com/2016/9/1/12732168/economic-freedom-score-america-welfare-state

          • baconbacon says:

            Wilkinson makes a basic error in this piece, he equates GDP and GDP growth with wealth, and (follows someone else’s conclusion) that because large government (in already advanced countries) is correlated with ‘stable’ GDP growth that the large government isn’t hampering the growth much.

            Here’s the puzzle. As a general rule, when nations grow wealthier, the public demands more and better government services, increasing government spending as a percentage of GDP. (This is known as “Wagner’s law.”) According to standard growth theory, ongoing increase in the size of government ought to exert downward pressure on rates of growth. But we don’t see the expected effect in the data. Long-term national growth trends are amazingly stable.

            Because government spending (g) is included in GDP calculations it has a ‘stabilizing’ effect when it is increased, even as it decreases consumption at the household level.

            If you look at GDP per capita (PPP) lists you typically see a country like Canada ~20% lower in GDP per capita than the US. However if you look at final household consumption then it is ~35% lower. This wikipedia list of final household consumption has Denmark (one of Wilkinson’s examples in his graph) with final household consumption of ~$18,000 a year vs the US at $35,000.

            This has been a criticism of GDP for ages, in the US during WW2 GDP saw ‘robust’ growth, but consumption was stagnant to falling and that was compared to years during the great depression. Basics like stockings and milk were hard to come buy and yet the economy grew at enormous rates.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Fair enough, I can understand why you have that beef, though I’d note that libertarians would argue in much the same way that smaller government is an instrumental goal, and that the terminal goal is maximized individual liberty. I think that Libertarians and Liberals come to blows so often these days precisely because while they have often had overlapping terminal goals in the past (and still do to some extent), their philosophical approaches to achieving those goals are almost polar opposites.

            As far as the article, I don’t see how Wilkinson’s argument addresses my point at all. Your claim was that “you wouldn’t predict taxation to be a position further to the left of cap-and-trade or direct regulation if you believe that liberals see increased government power as a goal to be pursued”. My counterpoint was “Of course you would, and in fact I did, because money is the ultimate power through which the Government accomplishes things, and liberals want a government with a sufficient power supply to accomplish their goals.” To make it more clear, increased regulatory authority is also good, but money is better because it can be used for all your goals, not just the one. Money can be directed as needed to provide either leverage to boost support for or to pay directly for, say, enforcement of gun control, or for improved public schooling or programs getting more people into college or forgiving student loans, or for more welfare spending, or for the hiring of more EPA inspectors to ensure compliance with environmental regulations, and so on and so forth. This observation also helps to shed light on why the GOP is incapable of meaningful reduction of government revenues and spending. The mainstream GOP and especially its base doesn’t object to government size on philosophical grounds, only in terms of the legitimacy of the goals the spending is directed towards.

            Having read the article, Wilksinon’s claim boils down to “hey guys, you can preserve (economic) liberty while having a robust redistributive state!”. Setting aside any issues I might have with the claim, it doesn’t touch on my point that money is power. I was making no claims either way on the subject of freedom/liberty here.

        • rlms says:

          “Would you take that statement seriously if, say, Dr. Friedman or Onyomi said it? If not, why should I take that statement seriously when left wing politicians and intellectuals make it about climate policy?”
          As hoghoghog says, the two situations are not comparable. The state having less power and the state having more power are not symmetric. Consider the analogous situation where Alice says “we need a bigger army to achieve our goals, it might cost more but it will be worth it” and Bob says “we need a smaller army to achieve our goals, it might be bad in some way but it will be worth it”. I would assume that Alice is being genuine, because her argument obviously makes sense. I would be more skeptical about Bob, because his doesn’t.

          That said, while approximately no-one on the left supports increased state power ceteris paribus, I think it’s fair to say that a large part of it is basically indifferent to it — they view the cost as very low. I don’t think that the right as a whole is any different though.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            As hoghoghog says, the two situations are not comparable.

            Then please provide an argument with evidence demonstrating that this is not the case. I laid out my reasoning why it -is- the case, and I responded to the article he linked. My core reasoning was never addressed.

            Consider the analogous situation where Alice says “we need a bigger army to achieve our goals, it might cost more but it will be worth it” and Bob says “we need a smaller army to achieve our goals, it might be bad in some way but it will be worth it”.

            Yes, it’s analogous in that Alice’s and Bob’s arguments both make equal amounts of sense and are symmetrical. You’re undermining your argument, not reinforcing it. In fact, Bob’s argument is a common one among both liberals and libertarians, and in more detailed form it goes:

            The costs of:

            -Less ability to respond to humanitarian crises overseas.
            -Less ability to check the aggression of rogue states or check the geopolitical additions of would-be regional hegemons.
            -America no longer having sufficient strength to act as the guarantor of international stability in the form of the bulk of NATO’s real power, freedom of navigation of the seas, etc.

            is outweighed by the benefits of:

            -Having the funds to spend for more important and impactful domestic spending.
            -Reducing our capacity to engage in needless and immoral meddling in other countries’ affairs.
            -Not having US citizens killed in fights that we should never have picked in the first place.
            -Long term decrease in geopolitical enemies and terrorists who have hostility towards the US. Don’t Start Nothin’, Won’t Be Nothin’.

            I don’t think that the right as a whole is any different though.

            You apparently missed the part where I said: “The mainstream GOP and especially its base doesn’t object to government size on philosophical grounds, only in terms of the legitimacy of the goals the spending is directed towards.”

          • rlms says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko
            I think there is some confusion here. You originally claimed that “I don’t *want* X, but it’s a necessary cost to accomplish our goals” was unconvincing when X was “more/less state power”, but then in my example where X was “bigger/smaller army” you said it was perfectly valid. What’s the difference between them?

            Let me restate my argument. Claiming that we need to make X more powerful (for whatever value of X) in order to achieve Y despite cost Z is very plausible argument, because making things more powerful
            tautologically increases their goal-achieving ability. Arguments of this form can be dishonest: if someone benefits from making X more powerful independently of Y, the above argument might not be their true reason for their position. But if the arguer is only interested in Y, they are probably being genuine.

            In comparison, claiming that we need to make X *less* powerful in order to achieve goal Y despite cost Z is not plausible. If you want to invade somewhere, a smaller army isn’t going to help. Someone making that argument transparently has making X less powerful as a “terminal” goal. Requests to make the government bigger (by mainstream right-wingers or left-wingers) fall in the first category, your libertarian example falls in the second category. That is why they are not symmetrical.

            Now, one might (and you have) argued that this is irrelevant. The first kind of arguer is interested in changing X in order to achieve Y *with it*, the second kind is interested in changing X for its own sake (or to achieve Y), but both of them have changing X as a goal. But this misses the point, which is that just because you should distrust libertarians who claim that decreasing the size of is negative/neutral in itself but necessary for other things, you shouldn’t necessarily distrust non-libertarians who make corresponding claims about increases.

          • cassander says:

            That said, while approximately no-one on the left supports increased state power ceteris paribus, I think it’s fair to say that a large part of it is basically indifferent to it — they view the cost as very low. I don’t think that the right as a whole is any different though.

            there are enormous swathes of the left wing coalition that DO support state power for its own sake, specifically the government employee unions and the people who surround them. these groups have enormous influence on the left, both politically and intellectually, and it’s naive in the extreme to think that their motives and arguments will have no effect on their coalition partners’ thinking.

          • rlms says:

            @cassander
            They have interests in increasing their own power, but not in e.g. raising taxes. Also, the military.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            In comparison, claiming that we need to make X *less* powerful in order to achieve goal Y despite cost Z is not plausible. If you want to invade somewhere, a smaller army isn’t going to help. Someone making that argument transparently has making X less powerful as a “terminal” goal. Requests to make the government bigger (by mainstream right-wingers or left-wingers) fall in the first category, your libertarian example falls in the second category. That is why they are not symmetrical.

            Not necessarily; if you think that the government has become too big and is stifling economic growth, for example, arguing that “We need to make the government smaller in order to stimulate economic growth” would make perfect sense.

          • Jiro says:

            But this misses the point, which is that just because you should distrust libertarians who claim that decreasing the size of is negative/neutral in itself but necessary for other things, you shouldn’t necessarily distrust non-libertarians who make corresponding claims about increases.

            That doesn;t follow. Consider an example where “other things” is itself a reduction in something, such as less corruption or less opportunity for regulatory capture.

          • rlms says:

            @The original Mr. X
            I think there are two possible cases there. In the first, that’s the distinction between “make X less powerful to achieve Y *with it*”, and “make X less powerful” (for its own sake). If you think that reducing government size causes economic stimulus as a general rule, you are promoting making it less powerful for its own sake. If you are only arguing that it is sensible in this particular case, you are making a sophisticated argument along the lines of “taking harsher action on this group will actually embolden them due to second-order effects”. Those are exceptions, but the libertarian hypothetical doesn’t fall into either category.

            @Jiro
            The “other things” there are part of the intrinsic benefits of decreasing the size of the state. It wouldn’t really make sense for a libertarian to say “we don’t want to decrease the size of the state, but it would reduce corruption and opportunity for regulatory capture enough that it’s worth doing”. They would just say that those other things made decreasing the size of the state positive in itself.

          • cassander says:

            @rlms says:

            They have interests in increasing their own power, but not in e.g. raising taxes. Also, the military.

            one, the best way to increase their power IS to increase taxes. and two, I don’t know what you mean be “also, the military”. the military is not uniformly right wing, and gets less right wing as you go up in rank. More importantly, though, the US military has no political influence outside of military questions. US soldiers are not members giant unions that take dues from everyone’s pay and donate it overwhelmingly to one political party. And even if such a thing did exist, the size of the military is absolutely dwarfed by civil service bureaucracies. the california teachers union alone has more members than the entire US navy, and that’s one bureaucracy in one state.

          • rlms says:

            @cassander
            Individual members of the California Teachers’ Union want more money, so they pressure the government to give them a greater slice of the pie. But they benefit from higher taxes only if they are directly linked with higher spending on education, and only if the increase in spending outweighs what they have to pay.

            Numbers aren’t the only relevant thing. US government spending (all levels) on education and the military is approximately equal.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            @rlms:

            Individual members of the California Teachers’ Union want more money, so they pressure the government to give them a greater slice of the pie. But they benefit from higher taxes only if they are directly linked with higher spending on education, and only if the increase in spending outweighs what they have to pay.

            You picked an unfortunate example. First off: California education spending is indeed directly linked to state revenue. Due to Proposition 98, education automatically gets a minimum percentage of the state budget and automatically get a raise whenever spending increases.

            Since education gets ~43% of the state budget (the largest component of that being spent on salaries) but teachers are only ~1% of the state population, it also seems like teachers do on-net gain more than they lose from higher state taxes.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            If you think that reducing government size causes economic stimulus as a general rule, you are promoting making it less powerful for its own sake.

            Actually you’d be promoting making the govt. less powerful for the sake of economic growth, unless you’re using a non-standard definition of “for its own sake”.

          • rlms says:

            @Glen Raphael
            Interesting! I don’t think that’s typical though (I may be mistaken).

            @The original Mr. X
            Yes, I am using a non-standard definition of “for its own sake” (I think it makes sense though). No-one actually wants a smaller government literally for its own sake (note that “it” here refers to the event of having smaller government, not the government), people who want it do so because there are things they dislike about powerful governments. Sometimes they oppose them on moral principles, but more commonly they do so because they think powerful governments have inevitable bad consequences. So “for the sake of having smaller government” is equivalent to “for the sake of the positive consequences inexorably connected to having smaller government”.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Yes, I am using a non-standard definition of “for its own sake” (I think it makes sense though). No-one actually wants a smaller government literally for its own sake (note that “it” here refers to the event of having smaller government, not the government), people who want it do so because there are things they dislike about powerful governments. Sometimes they oppose them on moral principles, but more commonly they do so because they think powerful governments have inevitable bad consequences. So “for the sake of having smaller government” is equivalent to “for the sake of the positive consequences inexorably connected to having smaller government”.

            But then the supposed asymmetry between left and right collapses: both sides want to change the scope of the government not as an end in itself, but because they think that doing so will help achieve some other goal.

          • rlms says:

            @The original Mr. X
            The difference is that in the example, libertarians think that decreasing the size of government inevitably leads to/is intrinsically bound with positive economic consequences, but non-libertarians don’t think that increasing it *inevitably* leads to good things. Hitler increased the size of government (probably) but few people think that was good; non-libertarians only support increases that achieve separate goals, whereas libertarians support any and all decreases “for their own sake”.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            You originally claimed that “I don’t *want* X, but it’s a necessary cost to accomplish our goals” was unconvincing when X was “more/less state power”

            Precision matters in this case. I didn’t claim it was unconvincing when it was “more state power” or “less state power” in general. Only when it is “More state power” with respect to the goals of liberals, OR “less state power” with respect to the goals of libertarians.

            if someone benefits from making X more powerful independently of Y, the above argument might not be their true reason for their position. But if the arguer is only interested in Y, they are probably being genuine.

            Agreed. I think that my claim follows this form quite closely. Like so:

            Someone with doctrinaire libertarian views benefits from a weaker, less-well funded government independent of any one policy issue, because they have many policy issues which benefit from that weakness and lack of funding, and their ideal world is one in which the state is smaller than it is now as a share of GDP. Therefore we should be skeptical of claims that libertarians see decreasing strength and funding as a “necessary cost” rather than a secondary benefit of their policy prescriptions. But when a libertarian claims that MORE state power is a necessary cost of achieving a goal (e.g. strengthening court power to enforce contract law or providing for a stronger military in the face of a new and more powerful military threat) they are much more likely to be genuine.

            Someone with mainstream liberal views benefits from a stronger, better-funded government independent of any one policy issue, because they have many policy issues which benefit from that strength and funding and because their ideal world is one in which the state is larger than it is now as a share of GDP. Therefore it is appropriate to be skeptical of claims that they see increasing strength as a “necessary cost” rather than a secondary benefit. But when a liberal claims that LESS state power is a necessary cost of achieving a goal (e.g. weakening the military to achieve better overall security and prosperity) they are much more likely to be genuine.

            Hopefully, this clarifies things. It should also explain why I didn’t find you military example persuasive. In short, if the “necessary cost” does not clearly and materially harm another goal of the speaker, regardless of the speaker and regardless of the issue, there is a good reason to suspect that the “necessary cost” is not in fact a cost from the speaker’s point of view. It’s why I consider the more honest to position to be “Of COURSE I support a more powerful, expansive state, and these sorts of issues are a perfect illustration of why! It’s the right tool for the job”. And to their credit there are liberals willing to bite the bullet and make that argument.

          • cassander says:

            @rlms says:

            Individual members of the California Teachers’ Union want more money, so they pressure the government to give them a greater slice of the pie. But they benefit from higher taxes only if they are directly linked with higher spending on education, and only if the increase in spending outweighs what they have to pay.

            Putting aside Glen Raphael’s point, your math here is off. First, a much higher share of the of public employees is shielded from taxation (pensions, healthcare benefits, etc.) than for private sector workers, so higher taxes will effect them much less than everyone else. Second, there are more than 350,000 people in the union, there are 35 million people in california. that means that, for any given tax increase, as long as their expected payout is more than 1% of the money raised, they come out ahead. it’s mathematically implausible for tax hikes NOT to benefit them, even without prop 98.

            Numbers aren’t the only relevant thing. US government spending (all levels) on education and the military is approximately equal.t

            the defense budget is around 650 billion dollars. Education spending just on primary and secondary education was 640 billion in 2014. Spending on tertiary education is at least half again as much.

            So “for the sake of having smaller government” is equivalent to “for the sake of the positive consequences inexorably connected to having smaller government”.

            by that logic, I could argue that the left believes in positive consequences inexorably connected to having a larger government, and thus believes in larger government for its own sake. What’s good for the goose….

          • The original Mr. X says:

            The difference is that in the example, libertarians think that decreasing the size of government inevitably leads to/is intrinsically bound with positive economic consequences, but non-libertarians don’t think that increasing it *inevitably* leads to good things. Hitler increased the size of government (probably) but few people think that was good; non-libertarians only support increases that achieve separate goals, whereas libertarians support any and all decreases “for their own sake”.

            Not necessarily. For example, abolishing the police and court system would result in a pretty major decrease in state power, but I don’t think many libertarians would expect everything to be all economically hunky-dory now that you’ve removed the things stopping people from defrauding, swindling, robbing, etc., people.

          • Matt M says:

            Libertarians do not favor “no police and no courts”

            They favor private police and private courts.

          • random832 says:

            Libertarians do not favor “no police and no courts”

            They favor private police and private courts.

            Police and courts whose authority you can opt out of are not police and courts. Police and courts whose authority you cannot opt out of are not private.

          • Matt M says:

            You cannot “opt-out” of a private court. The court can still pass a judgment against you if you refuse to participate.

            It’s up to the rest of society (on an individual basis) to decide which court judgments they will honor and which they will not.

            The prison wardens are the ones who can opt-out, not the accused/convicted.

          • Libertarians do not favor “no police and no courts”

            They favor private police and private courts.

            True of anarcho-capitalists, but they are a minority of those who identify as libertarian.

          • Matt M says:

            David,

            Can you link me to any prominent libertarians who favor NO courts and NO police at all?

            It’s true that what I describe is more accurately an AnCap position, but I think the “libertarian” position would then be “police and courts are among the few things the government IS allowed to do and I’m okay with it” as a comparison.

          • random832 says:

            It’s up to the rest of society (on an individual basis) to decide which court judgments they will honor and which they will not.

            The convicted will not honor it, obviously.

            So why not just cut off the middlemen and hire someone to kidnap someone at gunpoint into your private prison?

          • Can you link me to any prominent libertarians who favor NO courts and NO police at all?

            That probably depends on how you define courts and police. Robert LeFevre was a libertarian pacifist and reasonably prominent, but pre-web–Prof in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is in part based on him and I believe he was responsible for the father of the Koch brothers becoming a libertarian. I think that as a pacifist he would have opposed police doing the sorts of things we associate with police–using force. His view, if I correctly understand it, would be that the unwillingness of other people to cooperate with rights violators would be a sufficient sanction. He might have approved of private courts generating the information needed to determine who were rights violators.

            The usual anarcho-capitalist models have private courts and people who use force against rights violators. For my version, see part III of my Machinery of Freedom (second edition webbed as a pdf on my site).

    • Gobbobobble says:

      I think the people talking about how “the Red Tribe already understands the Blue Tribe” are missing the point. In many depictions of fistfights, the combatants’ friends are gathered around and attempt to deescalate (“it’s not worth it man, let it go”) up to physically restraining and forcibly separating them when it comes to blows.

      I think what Brad is asking for is, where are Big Red’s buddies in this metaphor? (Though I think disputing who he identifies as Big Blue’s is fair game)

      Unfortunately, I don’t have a good answer. I do think that it is a role that desperately needs filling, but I don’t think the mass media on either side has enough incentive for it.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        I can’t speak for anyone else, but I certainly do my part to take that side in day to day discussions (much along the lines of my comments to Faceless Craven earlier).

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Wouldn’t that role be filled by all the neocons constantly shitting on Trump?

  14. Matt M says:

    Does anyone know of any dating sites or online communities that cater primarily to the interests of strong introverts?

    One of my biggest frustrations with modern dating is the mad rush for frequent, in-person interactions. If you don’t ask to meet someone in person right away, they’ll probably stop talking to you. And ultimately, most of them seem to expect multiple dates per week, usually in busy public places, etc. And here I am thinking “the entire reason I wanted a relationship is so I can have someone to interact with without having to spend a lot of time in busy public places.”

    In the past I’ve gotten a lot of satisfaction out of long-distance, online relationships, which ultimately seemed to collapse when the other person meets someone in-person they prefer more. My needs are primarily emotional, the desire is mostly “someone to talk to.” In person would be great, but I don’t want to get greedy here.

    I know of the existence of things like Anastasia Date and international sites which seem conducive to the long-distance thing, but those always strike me as incredibly scammy – as if the best case scenario is that you’re entering into some sort of prostitution or mail-order-bride situation (worst case being they take your money and don’t give you anything).

    Anyone have any thoughts on this?

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Are you sure dating is what you want?

      The ideal relationship you’re describing sounds more like a pen pal than a girlfriend. It’s more than possible to meet opposite-sex friends online: you can use Facebook or a hundred other social media sites to connect to people you’ll rarely if ever meet in real life.

      Using dating sites for that purpose, without clearly advertising that you’re not interested in meeting, seems deceptive. Those sites are generally either for people looking for both physical and emotional intimacy or more often for just physical intimacy.

      • Matt M says:

        No, I’m not really sure what I want – that’s a large part of the problem.

        It’s not that I DON’T want physical contact. It’s just that it’s not a huge priority for me, and it seems to be a huge priority for most other people, which leads to difficulties. IF I could find someone locally that I was aligned on with this (take it slow, meet in person infrequently, most meetings are at someone’s residence and not at a loud bar, etc.) that would be fantastic. But there don’t seem to be many females out there who want that sort of thing, so trying to go through Tinder every day and hoping I can find one who is seems counterintuitive. I’d rather have a place where everyone is already screened as being okay with that, and then try to find one local, or not, if that makes sense?

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          Alright, well I wish you luck but I don’t think I have much actionable advice.

          It’s definitely possible to meet someone primarily at your or their apartments (e.g. Netflix and chill) but those tend to be unserious and primarily physical relationships. I’m fairly confident that you don’t want that.

          In my experience, women tend to infer that you’re not serious if you don’t take them out often enough. To some extent “we don’t go out anymore” is just a shit test but there’s an element of genuine anxiety: nobody wants to be the side chick if they can avoid it. So you’ll probably want to come up with a way to assuage that fear without going too far outside of your comfort zone.

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            Huh, this suggests that places where there is a strong presupposition that everyone is serious might work better for introverts (less need to signal). So, maybe something like eharmony?

          • gbdub says:

            I always thought of “Netflix and chill” as possible casual FWB, but also kind of the default state for longer term relationships.

            Early on, everything is exciting and there’s pressure for every date to be an experience. After awhile you realize you like hanging out more than you like the activities you came up with to justify meeting in public.

            I suspect there are a lot of inherently introverted women who still want a few public dates up front to sort out the creepers (I don’t know you at all, but you want me to spend an evening alone at your house?) and the lazy booty-callers. Once you get over that hump (no pun intended) there are plenty of relationships that end up being two people just hanging out alone.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @gbdub,

            I’d say it’s more of a failure mode than a default state.

            Today is actually my weekly date night. My girlfriend and I are going to stay in tonight and cook a steak dinner together but that’s because we’re already planning to go to Shakespeare in the Park on Sunday. Normally we’d be out on a Thursday evening.

            It’s easy to forget to go out regularly but it’s relationship poison long term. You need to fan the flames a bit if you don’t want to burn out.

          • gbdub says:

            Says you. Some people really just are introverted, and Shakespeare in the Park gives them nothing that “steak dinner at home followed by cuddling and movies” doesn’t.

            Actually my girlfriend and I found we were getting into a number of fights over “not doing anything” when in reality neither of us actually wanted to go out and do anything, we just felt like we ought to be “doing something”.

            So we’ve settled on a metric of “are we doing this because we actually will enjoy it more than the alternatives, or are we doing it so our Instagram feed looks better”. We used this to nix going clubbing on a night on vacation recently when we were both already exhausted. The reality was we were pressuring ourselves to “not waste a night of vacation” when really “a good night’s sleep so we can be more active tomorrow” was what made us happier.

            We do have to bias it a bit toward “go out” because “sit around” has inertia, but an overwhelming pressure to do stuff just to outdo your Facebook friends is toxic in its own way.

          • Matt M says:

            Some people really just are introverted, and Shakespeare in the Park gives them nothing that “steak dinner at home followed by cuddling and movies” doesn’t.

            I’d go even further than this. It’s not even that going out in public gives me nothing extra – it’s that it’s a net negative. Shakespeare in the park would be a stressful and draining experience for me. I’d be willing to do it every so often for the sake of a good friend and/or potential romantic partner (I’m not agoraphobic or anything), but it’s just not something I would ever actively want to do.

            Which means that if I DO go do it, I end up seeing it as a sacrifice on my part for the sake of the other person. But they don’t see it that way, they see it as a neutral thing we both enjoy equally. And conflict arises from there.

            Basically, I’m looking for a girl who wouldn’t be insulted if I said to her “The fact that I’m leaving my house to meet you is itself emblematic of affection and interest and I expect it to be treated as such”

          • random832 says:

            Which means that if I DO go do it, I end up seeing it as a sacrifice on my part for the sake of the other person. But they don’t see it that way, they see it as a neutral thing we both enjoy equally. And conflict arises from there.

            I wonder if one of the problems with relationships in general, for everyone, is that there’s no way to discuss what is or isn’t a sacrifice for the other person’s sake without seeming either resentful or at least like you’re “keeping score” (but you’re, of course, the bad guy if you bring it up in response to a complaint sparked by your score in her book falling too low)

          • Loquat says:

            Shakespeare in the park would be a stressful and draining experience for me.

            You know, this seems like the sort of thing you should put right in your profile – INTROVERT WHO DISLIKES BUSY PUBLIC ACTIVITIES, SEEKS SIMILARLY INTROVERTED WOMAN. Is it already there and people are just not taking it seriously, or are you not being explicit about it up front, or what?

            I met my husband on OKCupid, which asked users to (honestly) take a bunch of personality tests and match based on the results, so introverts would be matched with introverts, etc. I hear it’s gone downhill in more recent years, but a site with that sort of approach is probably going to work a lot better for you than Tinder.

          • Matt M says:

            You know, this seems like the sort of thing you should put right in your profile – INTROVERT WHO DISLIKES BUSY PUBLIC ACTIVITIES, SEEKS SIMILARLY INTROVERTED WOMAN. Is it already there and people are just not taking it seriously, or are you not being explicit about it up front, or what?

            I think the answer is “people who are looking for that aren’t on general interest dating sites.”

            When I first started online dating (5+ years ago) this was my general strategy. I was very specific about what I was looking for, and very honest and up-front about my quirks, eccentricities, and flaws. This effort was a massive failures. I got very few replies, and zero actual dates.

            At one point I went to some women (and successful men) for advice and they basically said, “What are you, an idiot? For any given woman, you are probably competing with literally hundreds of other men, most of whom are selling themselves as “I am absolutely perfect.” You think you’re going to succeed with a message of “Here are a lot of common and popular things that I hate – please date me anyway?”

            I took their advice and made my profile as general and non-specific as possible. Success went up, noticeably. I still wasn’t doing well but I at least got some first dates and a couple hook-ups. But the process was long and draining and emotionally exhausting for me, and none of the dates ever resulted in meaningful relationships.

            I think the most likely scenario here is that women who have interests similar to mine simply don’t exist, or that they’re sufficiently rare that my odds of finding one who isn’t already taken is approximately zero. The most logical thing to do is probably to just give up and resign myself to foreveralone or whatever.

            But if I’m using myself as an example, the gender-flipped version of me has already given up on eharmony and POF and okcupid. They’re tired of dealing with people who won’t talk to you unless you agree to immediate, frequent, public dates. They’ve adopted some other alternative strategy, or given up completely. So my question is – what IS the alternative strategy, and/or how do you locate & identify people who have given up?

        • Brad says:

          I know this is some kind of red pill live wire, but it sounds like you should consider a single mom. I was talking to a friend of mine that meets that description and her complaints about online dating were a lot like yours. She doesn’t want to go out and meet right away because going out means getting a baby sitter and using up precious free time. If she’s going to do that she wants to know the person better before hand to have a better chance that it is worth her time. Not interested in bars and clubs, etc.

          • Matt M says:

            Holy lord no. I don’t consider myself a redpill, but “single mom” is probably my only absolute dealbreaker.

          • eyeballfrog says:

            Out of curiosity, what makes it a dealbreaker? You’re not wrong to have that reaction, but the reason for it might help in figuring out what you’re looking for and where to go looking for it.

          • Matt M says:

            A perfect storm of many factors…

            1. A general dislike of children
            2. A general belief that single parenthood is really irresponsible, to the point of being indicative of a great moral failing such that it is hard for me to respect such people
            3. Standard redpill arguments regarding how most single moms are the people who, in their youthful/attractive days, wouldn’t give nerds like me the time of day, until now that they’re in trouble and their looks are fading and they suddenly have in interest in stable, responsible, men – I’m supposed to be totally cool with that and come to their rescue

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I don’t consider myself a redpill, but “single mom” is probably my only absolute dealbreaker.

            It was mine, too.

            Guess what the punchline is.

          • Anonymous says:

            Guess what the punchline is.

            You helped make another one? 😉

          • baconbacon says:

            1. A general dislike of children
            2. A general belief that single parenthood is really irresponsible, to the point of being indicative of a great moral failing such that it is hard for me to respect such people
            3. Standard redpill arguments regarding how most single moms are the people who, in their youthful/attractive days, wouldn’t give nerds like me the time of day, until now that they’re in trouble and their looks are fading and they suddenly have in interest in stable, responsible, men – I’m supposed to be totally cool with that and come to their rescue

            #1 is good reason not to date a woman with children.

            #2 is easy, restrict your dating to single mothers of no fault of their own (ie widows and the like), or to women who have multiple other factors pointing away from it being a moral failing (ie professionally successful single mothers whose children aren’t obvious brats).

            #3 When I had no job and no money no one would sell me a car, now that I have money I’m not about to go to one of those dealerships who are suddenly falling all over themselves to sell me one! Long story short both parties in a relationship should gain from being together, how you would have hypothetically acted when you were both very different people many years ago is of minimal importance.

            This last line isn’t Disney smoke either. My wife refused to date me in college, point blank. We got in touch again in our late 20s (she wasn’t a single mother) and got engaged before our 2nd date. I could easily have screwed up a great thing by holding her actual (not imagined) rejection from years before against her but instead I mostly let it go (not that I handled it perfectly, but well enough) and that was actually part of what she was looking for (maturity).

          • Anonymous says:

            single mothers of no fault of their own (ie widows and the like)

            I wouldn’t lump widows with single mothers at all, technically correct though that may be.

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah, widows wouldn’t be excluded from 2 and 3, but #1 would still be an issue.

            And even if the arguments for 3 are weak, 1 and 2 are still there.

            I can imagine being willing to date a single mother if everything else about the woman was perfect, but that’s basically what it would take.

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            I’d be pretty freaked out about how to handle a kid. On the other hand there is at least one advantage of single moms for us introverts: you’re never going to be the main person in her life, so there’s no need to live up to that standard.

          • baconbacon says:

            I’d be pretty freaked out about how to handle a kid.

            The good news is you don’t have to. Even if the mom is explicitly looking for a new husband/father to the kid, they aren’t going to dump them on you right away (if any of them try it should be a deal breaker for you). Most single moms are going to be looking for time to live their own lives a little, even on “family” dates where you take the kids to the fair or park, the kids will be playing with other kids. Not their mom’s new boyfriend.

            Treat them the same way you would a co worker you don’t really care to get to know. Polite detachment for a while, and if things work out with the mom you will eventually slide into his life (reasonably) comfortably.

    • rahien.din says:

      The groundwork is a basic, honest inventory. What is it about your prior relationships that you have found satisfying? What did they lack? How would you describe your own sexuality? What do you need from a partner, and what do you want? What can you offer in to a partner, and what can’t you?

      From there, you just need 1. a proper method (goals are for suckers) and 2. the willingness to be surprised, by yourself and by others.

      However, like Nabil I am not convinced you want to date – “frequent in-person interactions” is the very definition thereof. You seem to want a successful long-term emotional correspondence.

      ETA: one other thing about relationships is that they are successful bidirectional imaginings. Keep that in mind.

      • Matt M says:

        However, like Nabil I am not convinced you want to date – “frequent in-person interactions” is the very definition thereof. You seem to want a successful long-term emotional correspondence.

        Yes. This is true.

        So my question is, “Where do I meet females who might also want this?”

        • rahien.din says:

          You might try personal ads of various types – that’s a good way to be upfront about what you need and want. Or, restrict your dating-site profiles in such a way that the only people who find your profile interesting are people like you.

          I don’t know anything about your life (nor have I any right to) but I would say it’s always wise to be open to surprises. The right person has a way of introducing you to yourself. Speaking from direct experience, I would not have been successful in my current relationship without having gone through a very specific relationship that was painful-wonderful and ultimately transformative.

        • sophiegrouchy says:

          Why does it matter if they are females, given that it mainly seems like you want a penpal/ hangout friend?

          • Matt M says:

            Well, I do also have biology-based physical desires. Probably less so than the average person but they aren’t non-existent.

        • moonfirestorm says:

          Start playing World of Warcraft.

          Tongue-in-cheek, but it actually worked for me. Played WoW because it was fun, eventually gave it up because I was in college and figured I should probably be going out in the world, with a main focus of having dating prospects.

          Failed at that for about 3 years, went back to WoW because if I’m going to fail anyway, might as well have something to do. Turns out there are a decent amount of women in my age range, and we start with a common interest (and a bundle of related interests) and the ability to show off my intelligence. I’m now dating a lovely girl I met there.

          Long-distance is inevitable and is always a problem, but hey, having your SO be 6 hours of driving away actually works out pretty well if you only want infrequent in-person interaction.

          • Matt M says:

            I’ve been playing since Vanilla, man.

            Too much competition for me. Any obvious female will always have a following of 20 dudes competing for her attention. I’m not really the competitive type so I never tend to win these things.

          • moonfirestorm says:

            This hasn’t been my experience, and actually I don’t think I ever remember having competition on any of my relationships, at least not in-game.

            Maybe it’s a different setting? Most of the people I’ve met have been through my raiding guilds. I tend not to be super hardcore, but we are talking like 8-10 hours a week with serious progression and an expectation that people will do their homework with regards to their class. Maybe women in those sort of guilds are less interested in a bunch of men fighting over them and being flirty?

            The way it generally starts is that I need to interact with people fairly regularly for raid-related stuff, and sometimes we hit it off, and start talking about unrelated things. This eventually leads to phone numbers being exchanged, and things go from there. I don’t remember being actively flirty: it’s more showing competence within the game, being friendly, and sort of coming up through the friend zone. My current girlfriend and I have been friends and raided together for years before deciding we were into each other.

            Could have just been lucky too I suppose, but we’re talking 4 solid relationships and ~4 OK ones within 4-5 years, of which 5 were ready to move to the real world and 2 did. Probably not a great track record for most people, but way better than I’ve ever done in the real world.

          • Matt M says:

            Wow, that’s really weird. In my 10+ years I’ve probably only met about four females within my age range. About half of them already have boyfriends, and the other half constantly have every other guy in the guild flirting with them.

          • moonfirestorm says:

            I don’t really have a good explanation for our different experiences.

            It’s not that my people are more mature, because they’re definitely not. It just never escalates beyond casual jokes, no one’s actually flirting. I had to chew out an officer for rather explicitly drunk-texting another raider once, but that was the only issue I had in years of being the raid leader (and thus the guy who would have to deal with that).

            My ~15-person raid team currently has 6 women, at least 5 of them in their 20s or 30s. All are currently in relationships (3 to other raiders on the team, 3 to people who play the game but are not part of the team). We’ve had at least 3 other women in the guild since June 2016 (when I joined this team). This team is way more woman-heavy than any of my previous teams, but there were at least 2 women on all of my previous teams.

            I’d say maybe it’s because we don’t constantly flirt, but a female player would have no way of knowing that before joining, and if that was the problem you’d have met women, but they would have left quickly due to the environment, so that doesn’t work.

            Only thing I can think of is Alliance v Horde? I’m Horde, and my perception is that Horde tends to be either completely immature 13 year-olds or fairly hardcore, focused players, whereas the Alliance is more of a social, casual faction. It’s possible the latter leads to more flirty congregation around the women.

          • Matt M says:

            That is odd. I switched from Horde to Ally about two years ago and haven’t noticed any major differences in gender balance or maturity leve.

            My current guild has a decent gender balance but most of the females are old ladies. There’s only two that I know to be within my rough age range and both have boyfriends already (which doesn’t seem to stop many other guildies from flirting with them anyway)

    • kenziegirl says:

      I’d recommend sites that are more skewed toward friend/pen pal relationships, or the ones that let you advertise that’s what you’re looking for, versus dating.

      As a fellow introvert, I sympathize with your inclinations, but I do think there is a trade-off. My ideal friendship would be someone who (1) checks in every month or so, (2) who doesn’t pester me too much, and (3) who is always available when I’m in the mood to get together. And (4) who would settle for chilling at home doing nothing in particular. It’s not realistic though and it’s an entirely self-interested way to go about doing friendship. (2) If you’re not getting regular meaningful interaction with this person, can you really call it a friendship? (3) Everyone I know, like me, is really busy with other obligations and is rarely able to drop everything on a dime to socialize. (4) Again, everyone is really busy, if they just want to sit at home doing nothing in particular, they don’t need me for that. I’ve found my invite/acceptance ratio really goes up when I suggest something more special and specific (that yes, takes more work to plan but makes for a fun night out). And without those things aligned, why would this person care enough about me to do (1)?

      So, YMMV, but I do find that having a meaningful relationship requires stretching out of my introvert comfort zone. When I don’t make the effort, I can’t maintain the friendship.

      • Matt M says:

        It’s not realistic though and it’s an entirely self-interested way to go about doing friendship

        But why, assuming the other person wants the same things?

        I’ve pretty much already ruled out the possibility of having a healthy and functional relationship with a normal person who has normal social needs. Either they’d be miserable with me, or I’d make myself miserable trying to keep them satisfied.

        But I feel like if I met someone with similar social needs to myself, we could make it work just fine. And I’m pretty sure my next best alternative isn’t “figure out how to make myself appealing to normal people,” but rather “resign myself to a lifetime of solitude and hope that robot wives are invented before I die”

        • Deiseach says:

          resign myself to a lifetime of solitude and hope that robot wives are invented before I die

          Genuinely sorry about that. I think in one way I hit the jackpot when I got the genetic combination that resulted in both “extremely introverted, don’t much like people and would prefer to be alone and left alone” with “asexual and aromantic”. If you’re gonna be messed up, go big or go home!

          That means I am not interested in getting, finding or having a relationship that is sexual and romantic or sexual but not romantic or romantic but not sexual, which means it’s much less stressful all round since I don’t have clashing “want to be on my own, prefer staying in to going on, not interested in/good with kids, if I do go out and do stuff with you please recognise that this is a genuine sacrifice on my part, not going to have/want lots of friends and a social life” with “but I want a special person in my life” desires.

          For people who do want a special person and can’t find one/can only find a mundane person who sooner or later will want to have friends round, go out and do things, etc./can find another person with your traits but you both grate on one another, then that is really hard and I’m sorry. I have no suggestions; I don’t think you are being unreasonable in your requirements because heck, I share them too but I also think it’s not really very likely to happen. The best way it works out is when the couple agree that one person stays in and is happy with not being part of a circle of friends who all socialise and the other person goes out and does things on their own/with that circle of friends and that neither party is being unreasonable or demanding by doing this, but that takes balance and strong-mindedness on both parts; it worked for my parents but the active partner is going to have to put up with a fair amount of “so where’s your partner, why didn’t he/she come along?” at the start and they may get tired of having to explain “no they’re not sick/working, they just didn’t want to come and no, that isn’t an insult and doesn’t mean they don’t like you, they just don’t like parties”.

    • Well... says:

      Get a dog. Take the dog to a dog park. Over time you will get to know the girls who go there. Girls who have dogs are usually pretty cool.

      – The dogs do things that prompt their owners to talk to each other in easy, non-awkward ways.
      – Your dog is there, providing the “pet therapy” effect that will make it easier to talk.
      – It’s a quiet, relaxed setting in which it’s not considered rude for you to sit off by yourself and not talk to anyone if you feel like it (though since you’re there to meet girls, you should eventually go talk to them).
      – It provides its own “slow drip” into a relationship since you see people there for relatively short periods of time about once a week.
      – Buncha other stuff that seems like it fits what you’re looking for.

      • Matt M says:

        I don’t like animals either.

        (And yes, I know at this point I’m just shooting down all suggestions and making excuses for not improving)

        • Well... says:

          Do you dislike animals more than you dislike loneliness?

          Also, what is it about animals you dislike? If it is some of the elements they tend to have in common with children, then I’m curious what you expect to eventually offer and get out of a long-term relationship with a woman, since women tend to want kids eventually even if they don’t think they will when they are younger.

          • Matt M says:

            I dislike things that are loud, unpredictable, and place a lot of requirements and responsibilities on me.

            So that rules out kids, pets, and most women. Yes, I know.

          • Well... says:

            Well, nobody “likes” those kinds of things. So when you say you “dislike” them, does it mean you are so averse to them you would forego enduring happiness, fulfillment, and companionship to avoid them? Or is it something you might be able to learn to deal with in return for greater rewards?

          • Matt M says:

            does it mean you are so averse to them you would forego enduring happiness, fulfillment, and companionship to avoid them?

            Uh, I guess it does? Or when I say “I dislike X” what I mean is “I seem to dislike X significantly more than the average person.”

      • Do not do this.

        Girls don’t talk to you as a dog owners because they like dogs, they do so because it’s a convenient excuse and you’re hot. I promise you this.

        Dogs are a massively logistical commitment and mine, as much as I love her, has rewritten my life in many ways, not all of which are good. I am stuck with her for another decade. If I had just gotten her to pick up women (and I really did believe that she might help–women do love her when they pay attention to me for whatever reason) I’d be furious at her and miserable for having her.

        • Matt M says:

          Trust me, I know.

          And people have started mis-interpreting my post. I’m NOT looking for general “help me meet women” advice. As I said, I’ve given up on that. I’m looking for “help me meet a very very specific kind of woman, with the qualifier that I am unwilling to use general ‘meet women’ tactics and just hope to luckily stumble upon the right type”

    • sophiegrouchy says:

      It sounds like you’d do well with a good roommate. It’s not too hard to get a roomie from the SSC/rationality community if you post about it on the various listservs. You can spend most your time alone in your room, and when you want to hang, venture into the living room.

      Probably best to get two slightly extroverted roomies, so you can just join them when they’re hanging in the living room. Two introverts are probably rarely in the living room at the same time.

      • Matt M says:

        Haha, no way, not a chance. I said strong introvert remember? My home is my shelter from other people. I don’t want to live with someone else!

    • winchester says:

      /r/ForeverAloneDating has many such people. Though it has a high male:female ratio, so competition is a problem. A thoughtful post, maybe a modified version of your OP in this thread, will probably get some responses. Being willing to start with a long-distance relationship will grow your pool a lot.

  15. axiomsofdominion says:

    I’d like to ask people if they think political organizing is done poorly. This is non partisan. I feel like there is a lot left on the field internet wise as far as organizing goes. Most groups seem to have a mailing list, some apps, and a red/white/blue color scheme. Everything is mostly top down, even “grass roots” type sites. Any organizing among individuals has to be done on poorly suited Twitter and Facebook accounts. There is no central location of political focused content. Maybe a group has a shittily managed Slack at best.

    Many smaller groups would do well with a web forum designed for autonomous members of a federation. Basically each group has their own section they fully control, they can assign permissions, groups can choose to accept other groups permissions, and you probably want a facebook/twitter log in accepting public section to draw members in. You’d only need more information to grant permissions. Election reform groups and third parties are a good example. These groups have value to each other, there’s a lot and they are mostly small, and they have minimal impact and like many idea based groups they lack good geographical clumping.

    Thoughts?

    • qwints says:

      Yeah – it’s awful, but web forums aren’t really a solution. At a very basic level, you need your organizing to generate and effectively spend resources (which boil down to time and money). There are two fundamental challenges – 1) most people don’t like doing the effective things and 2) the iron law of institutions. Web forums exacerbate rather than solve those problems.

      Recruiting and persuading people isn’t fun for most people – it has a very high failure rate and requires centering the other person. Most would rather talk to people they agree with, or at most, yell at people they don’t. And since most people don’t stick around when getting yelled at, countless forums degenerate into people yelling at people they mostly agree with. It’s not just web forums – Occupy in most cities essentially consisted entirely of true believers talking to each other.

      Simultaneously, web forums provide a space for people to have power (both technologically and persuasively). People like power, and tend to take steps to preserve or increase what they’ve got even if that comes at the expense of the larger movement. The danger here is that people spend more energy maintaining their status rather than focusing on growing the group – since the latter involves bringing in more people that could threaten their status. I can think of a couple of high profile examples of once influential groups that collapsed into the cult of personality for a single individual.

      • axiomsofdominion says:

        Well its not a traditional web forum. There are autonomous groups. You can cooperate with something like recognizing permissions, but you don’t have to. Groups would mostly be real world existing organizations, not like you’d be founding a bunch of groups from random members.

        Also, maintaining status type stuff is already at the limit. Dems vs everyone else, how each existing group is very top down and hierarchical, etc. Also you provide a space for organizing rather than growing, so taking the already existing group of Sanders supporters for instance and providing better tools than fishing around on Twitter.

  16. MrApophenia says:

    One interesting angle on the Damore thing that I hadn’t seen pointed out until now – Matt Yglesias from Vox made the following point on their podcast that a lot of this is assuming that Google actually does have a diversity-favoring bias and they fired Damore for violating it, but given what we know about Google (ie, gender discrimination complaints, active lawsuit against them from the government on these grounds, etc.) should we assume that’s true?

    The relevant bit:

    “I was struck most of all by the naivete of this memo. The premise of this memo is that Google and its politically correct leaders inhabit an ideological echo chamber in which they are trying really hard to increase the diversity of their engineering staff, and like, that’s just not true. If before this had happened last week you had been like, “What’s the deal with diversity at Google?” I would say “Google, like a lot of companies, does a lot of PR around this. But do they hire women engineers? No. Do they have women top executives? No. Do I hear terrible things from women who work there? Yes, all the time.”

    And then this guy has to go ruin the party for himself by writing this memo that’s like, “Hey guys, maybe we should just SAY we’re kinda sexist assholes!” and then they’re all like *groan* “James, no! No! It’s marketing, like you know, how we used to have this slogan of ‘Don’t be evil,’ but we still do evil stuff, right?”

    It’s such a software engineer reaction to just take at face value company marketing material and be like, “Aha! We have this overwhelming ideology!” So that’s interesting. And then of course he gets fired, because you can’t – especially if you don’t actually care about diversity but just have a kind of marketing push around it, then this is a no brainer, right? It would be really hard to fundamentally shift the workforce at Google and the internal corporate culture, but it’s really easy to fire one guy nobody’s ever heard of.”

    • Wrong Species says:

      Or maybe Google is really trying to hire women engineers and they can’t find any. If Google was just doing this as a marketing gimmick and didn’t have an attitude that tried to throw progressivism down everyone’s face he probably wouldn’t have written that article.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Hey guys, maybe we should just SAY we’re kinda sexist assholes!

      I know this is a quote, but I really have to push back at this. So many people are just outright lying about what the memo said.

      He had 2 major points:
      1. Google has become an left-wing echo chamber that shuts down debate.
      2. Diversity is important. Our efforts to increase it haven’t yielded much fruit; maybe if we looked at the relevant science, we could do a better job.

      For that, fired.

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        Right, the point is that (2) wouldn’t have gotten him fired if his corporate masters really did think that diversity is important and really did care about doing a good job.

        • Aapje says:

          Not if they are in an echo chamber where those non-effective methods are the only ones you are allowed to think about.

        • I think the ideologically important thing here is that agreement with diversity as a goal is not sufficient. It’s the belief in biological inequality that is the true faux pas. Although he was speaking in average terms about traits and how to accomodate them to best achieve diversity, this was intepreted as support for a superior/inferior dichotomy, as talk of biological differences often does, especially when it’s about sensitive things like neuroticism and competitiveness.

      • Jack Lecter says:

        …which totally resolves the whole ‘echo chamber’ question.

        Good of them to clarify that for us.

    • John Schilling says:

      Google is being sued for gender discrimination. We should thus have high confidence that they have a very active and aggressive “diversity-favoring bias” in their current hiring and management practices. That’s the only way to survive lawsuits like that. And it is usually implemented in a clumsy and ineffective manner that puts most of the cost on the rank and file work force, e.g. forcing them to sit through lectures on “here’s how to stop being a sexist bigot and scaring away all the women and minorities who the plaintiff insists would be working here if you weren’t scaring them away you sexist bigots”.

      I don’t know enough about Google’s internal dynamics to have a feel for what form this bias is manifesting, but again I have high confidence that it is present in some form, and I suspect it may have been wearing on Damore when he set down to write his memo.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Assuming you are correct, that was corporate hitting the employees with a clue-bat, which apparently missed Damore.

        “Corp: Hey guys, we stand to lose a great deal of money if you don’t make sure any of your engagement in certain behaviors isn’t known to corporate.

        D: You mean this behavior right here?!”

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        Come on, HBC. You did read his post, didn’t you? Framing it as the stuff of which successful EEOC Hostile Work Environment claims are made is rich.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Framing it as the stuff of which successful EEOC Hostile Work Environment claims are made is rich.

          Why not? SJW Twitter and some of Slashdot’s few resident SJWs have. I got jeered at for saying this before the Damore piece came out, but this is really what they believe, that speech which contradicts their beliefs, or even the presence of someone who they know holds wrong beliefs, constitutes an actionably hostile environment.

          I really hope Google tries to use that in their defense, because it’ll mean a court can make a ruling on that claim. Currently it constitutes a form of First Amendment violation which evades review; private companies (at least those less woke than Google, which would fire anyway and merely uses the hostile environment thing to sound less hypocritical when they claim they allow employees to speak up) feel compelled by the threat of lawsuit to fire people for speech the government cannot restrict, but since they _could_ fire the employee even without that threat, the fired employee has no cause of action.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          While Brad is wrong about the broader baseline philosophical underpinnings that pre-date our First amendment, he’s right that these cases -aren’t- First Amendment ones.

          And the reason why not is that we’re not yet at the point where those voices on twitter and slashdot represent the sort of viewpoint used for “reasonable person” analysis. They’d certainly LIKE to be, and every time something like this happens and there is insufficient pushback they probably move a bit closer, but we’re not there yet.

          That said, none of that is about to be addressed in this case. It only would have been if he -hadn’t- been fired, and one of the complainers had filed a complaint.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      One interesting thing implied by your quote, and which often seen stated outright elsewhere, is that a diverse staff is the default. That upper management is actively working to limit diversity but if they let up then there would be a sudden surge of women and URMs into these positions.

      Putting aside the factual question of whether that’s true, the idea is that the most moral choice is also the easiest choice. This has interesting implications:

      In the universe Matt Yglesias describes, being a “sexist asshole” is a lot of work for what seems like little benefit. If you’re an amoral white man in an upper management position you might not want women and URMs competing for your job, but you would definitely want them as subordinates since they’re just as (if not more) capable and work for lower pay. Your best move would be to push as hard as possible for more diversity at each position below your own. These same incentives should logically also apply to each level above you all the way up to the board of directors. You would expect to ultimately see highly diverse companies with almost entirely white male shareholders.

      He doesn’t seem to expect to see this result.

      So what am I missing? Is he positing a literal Old Boys’ Club colluding, that these men are so filled with hate that they’re throwing money away purely out of spite, or something else?

      I’m trying not to engage in Bulverism but rather I want to understand his understanding of these people’s mindsets. His model of how other people think.

      • MrApophenia says:

        Being a podcast, they didn’t do as much linking as in an article or blog post, but they seemed to be basing their view largely on research showing that people are happier working in a more homogeneous environment than in a diverse one. They tend to bias hiring accordingly.

        They definitely did discuss reasons women are less likely to go into tech in general (although they put it to cultural rather than biological reasons); their position also seems to be, however, that these are not mutually exclusive positions. It is possible for there to be reasons outside Google’s control that women are less likely to apply to work at Google, and also for Google to have crappy workplace policies about women. (In fact, the former may make the latter more likely.)

        I mostly just found it interesting in the sense that, yeah, wait, why are we actually taking this guy’s word as gospel that Google actually holds the views he claims they do?

        • eyeballfrog says:

          If workers are happier in a more homogeneous environment than a diverse one, why are we pushing diversity? I would think that making workers happier is a good thing.

          • Charles F says:

            Wouldn’t anybody currently pushing diversity say that if working with women/minorities makes white men unhappy, that’s something to be fixed, not accommodated. And that if the women/minorities are unhappy it’s because of harassment, which should be eliminated, not accepted as a reason why diversity programs are bad overall.?

          • MrApophenia says:

            The same research they mentioned (and maybe they will link it when they post show notes, will post here if they do, otherwise no idea what specific paper they mean) is purported to show that workers are happier in more homogeneous environments, but that these environments also produce less effective work outcomes.

            I could see a moral argument here, though, even if that isn’t true. Even if it is the case that the office environment from Mad Men made all the men who worked there happier, it doesn’t necessarily follow that this is an acceptable state of affairs to leave in place, as it is immiserating the excluded would-be workers.

          • Aapje says:

            Still, the question is then why they don’t go after jobs with way more skewed ratio’s first, like logging or nursing?

          • BBA says:

            Because tech has prestige, money, and (unlike the similarly skewed financial sector) mostly left-wing values.

      • Vorkon says:

        One interesting thing implied by your quote, and which often seen stated outright elsewhere, is that a diverse staff is the default. That upper management is actively working to limit diversity but if they let up then there would be a sudden surge of women and URMs into these positions.

        I’m just highlighting this observation, because I think it’s interesting that most of Damore’s critics accept this “diverse staff is the default” paradigm as implicitly true and self-evidently obvious, and never even bother arguing for or against it, while completely missing the fact that Damore’s central argument is “a diverse staff is NOT the default.” I’m not sure if they just can’t fathom a mindset that doesn’t accept that implicitly, or if they’re ignoring it purposefully, (and, to be honest, it’s probably a bit of both) but I think this issue has a lot to do with why they all seem to be talking over each other.

    • Matt M says:

      It’s such a software engineer reaction to just take at face value company marketing material and be like, “Aha! We have this overwhelming ideology!”

      Is it reasonable to fire a software engineer for doing something you expect software engineers to do?

      Further, is it reasonable to fire someone for taking explicitly repeated company mantras literally?

      If Google doesn’t really mean what it says about diversity, then it should probably stop saying it, right? Conversely, I’m absolutely confident that if a feminist wrote a similar essay saying “Google doesn’t mean what they say about diversity” she would NOT be fired. Google’s response would be something like “We do mean it, but it’s very hard, but we agree with you, we don’t have enough diversity yet! Thanks for holding us accountable!”

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        Nybbler or other former Google employees can correct me, but as I understand it that’s not even a hypothetical and in fact such essays HAVE been posted internally in the past.

      • Brad says:

        Further, is it reasonable to fire someone for taking explicitly repeated company mantras literally?

        If Google doesn’t really mean what it says about diversity, then it should probably stop saying it, right?

        Yes and no, respectively. The world isn’t a Dr. Seuss book. And most of us wouldn’t want it to be. It boggles the mind that there are apparently numerous twenty and thirty somethings running around that haven’t figured that out yet.

        I guess if someone has a bona fide disability that impacts the ability to understand appropriate behavior on the basis of implicit cues, and they let their employer know that they have it, the company has to figure out whether it can make a reasonable accommodation (block internal company forums?) But I don’t think that happened here.

        • Anonymous says:

          Yes and no, respectively. The world isn’t a Dr. Seuss book. And most of us wouldn’t want it to be. It boggles the mind that there are apparently numerous twenty and thirty somethings running around that haven’t figured that out yet.

          Most of us wouldn’t want a world without duplicity and falsehood? Citation needed.

        • Jaskologist says:

          I think there are actually a lot of us who believe that the left is lying when it claims to value diversity, tolerance, etc. But we occasionally, with much difficulty try to be more charitable than that and come up with alternate explanations.

          • MrApophenia says:

            I think the idea being proposed here is that the people who run Google are not actually “the left,” they are merely pretending to be for PR reasons. (Which still says interesting things about social pressure to conform if true, of course.)

          • Brad says:

            You are really going to claim that most people in the red tribe have as a terminal value telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth all the time? (Explicitly stated of course, no implicature allowed.) That out there in middle American there’s no such thing as polite fiction? Come on.

            This isn’t a blue vs red thing, it’s gray vs the rest of the planet.

          • gbdub says:

            Polite fiction is pretending not to notice when someone has a zit on their nose, or smiling and waving to the person on the bus you don’t actually like that much.

            When you’re setting up entire corporate job functions for the sole purpose of advancing that fiction, and firing those who don’t get in line, I think you’re a bit beyond “polite fiction”.

          • Brad says:

            How about propagating the meme that ‘it is unacceptable to have sex outside of marriage and doing so is likely to ruin your life’? All the people that participate in propagating that really believe it is the truth the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?

            Purity dances are are being attended by fathers that never sex outside of marriage?

          • Jaskologist says:

            @Brad,

            I’m not claiming that. If RedCorp proclaimed “RedCorp believe strongly in Supporting the Troops” and then fired a guy who said “hey, we might support the troops better if we donated to Wounded Warriors Fund B instead of Wounded Warriors Fund A,” lefties would have a legit complaint. RedCorp was lying, and we shouldn’t say “well of course they didn’t mean it” as a way of excusing them.

            MrApophenia does offer an alternative interpretation to “leftists lie about wanting diversity and tolerance,” namely “those people aren’t actually leftists.” I’m not sure I believe it, but it’s a much better answer.

          • Anonymous says:

            How about propagating the meme that ‘it is unacceptable to have sex outside of marriage and doing so is likely to ruin your life’? All the people that participate in propagating that really believe it is the truth the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?

            That one happens to actually be true, per science.

            http://i.imgur.com/eqKnba0.jpg
            http://i.imgur.com/sggs9Fz.png

          • MrApophenia says:

            @Jaskologist

            I am not sure whether it is right or not but that is definitely Yglesias’ argument – that Google didn’t fire the memo-writer because of their deeply held beliefs about diversity, but rather because they actually pretty much believe the same things the memo writer does and foolishly writing a memo like that makes it much harder to maintain the fiction of caring about diversity.

            Which, y’know, not sure whether that’s true or not, but it’s a view of all this I hadn’t seen anywhere else.

          • You should be defaulting to the idea that left and right have different definitions of fairness, diversity and equality.

          • Brad says:

            @Jaskologist

            I’m not claiming that. If RedCorp proclaimed “RedCorp believe strongly in Supporting the Troops” and then fired a guy who said “hey, we might support the troops better if we donated to Wounded Warriors Fund B instead of Wounded Warriors Fund A,” lefties would have a legit complaint. RedCorp was lying, and we shouldn’t say “well of course they didn’t mean it” as a way of excusing them.

            There’s likely a hospital system nearby to where you live that has been rapidly expanding in the last 10 years. It used to own at most 3-4 hospitals but now it not only owns more hospitals but it has bought up physicians practices too. Go to their website and you’ll find somewhere a statement of values.

            1) Do you think that this statement of values actually represents what those that run the organization care about? In particular as reflected by their actions?

            2) How exactly would the world be a better place if this statement of values didn’t exist?

          • Matt M says:

            If the statement of values does not reflect the actual values, of course the world would be a better place if it didn’t exist.

            It serves only as propaganda designed to confuse and misdirect. I must be misunderstanding your point because this strikes me as obvious and I’m confused as to how anyone could possibly disagree.

            What value does a lying statement like that have to society? I can appreciate that it adds some value to the hospital (you can convince people you believe the right things without having to actually believe them, PR and all that), but I fail to see how that’s a good thing in any macro sense.

        • gbdub says:

          Being forced to ritually express things that no one actually believes to be true, and to suppress things everyone does believe, is certainly common. But I disagree that it’s popular – it seems like that’s the core objection of anti-PC backlash.

          Anyway, perhaps he “should have known” through “implicit cues” that what he said was going to cause problems. But I think you’re still dodging the question of whether saying what he said should have caused problems (or at least problems of this magnitude). That’s key to the position of most of the anti-Googlers here.

          • Brad says:

            The anti-PC backlash isn’t about the tactics of political correctness, it’s about the content of what is being pushed with those tactics. Those screaming loudest about how terrible PC is have plenty of their own taboos they are willing to go to the mat to protect. Just look at “supporting our troops” and you’ll find a ton of PC-like behavior.

          • gbdub says:

            So the people who complain about jingoism when confronted with “support our troops” are totally on board with being pressured to express sentiment they don’t personally believe?

          • Brad says:

            I don’t get the question.

            People that complain about jingoism don’t like being pressured to express how much they support the troops. People that don’t like Hispanics don’t like being pressured not to call them rapists and murderers and some, I assume, good people.

            The people from the first group are largely okay with the pressure on the second group and vice versa. There is no large scale anti-PC movement as such. Claiming to be against political correctness by and large just means you have the second set of preferences.

          • lvlln says:

            I don’t think many of the loudest voices in the anti-PC backlash like Bret Weinstein, Sam Harris, Bill Maher, Maajid Nawaz, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Dave Rubin would exhibit much PC-like behavior when it comes to “Support our Troops.” I think it’s true that many people who are against PC are doing so for entirely object-level ideological or tribal reasons, but considering the incredibly wide range of political views, from very far left like Freddie DeBoer to very far right like Mike Cernovich who are part of the backlash, I don’t think it’s a good explanation for the motivations anti-PC backlash in general.

          • Brad says:

            @lvlln
            I think you are doing the typical mind fallacy thing. Your flavor of anti-political correctness is numerically extremely unusual. Most people would not consider Bret Weinstein, Sam Harris, Bill Maher, Maajid Nawaz, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Dave Rubin to be the loudest voices of the anti-PC backlash. Though Bill Maher would probably come closest. I don’t even recognize half those names and I spend a significant amount of time every week arguing on the internet about issues exactly like this.

            Far and away the number one voice in the “anti-PC backlash” is Donald Trump. Substantially all the voters that told pollsters that political correctness was one of the biggest problems facing America were channeling Trump, not Dave Rubin (whoever that is).

          • Matt M says:

            What about Red Tribe “support our troops” rhetoric do you think is knowing falsehood?

            I would say the “The troops are doing a moral good even if their commanders are ordering them to do something morally wrong” is some pretty damn flimsy logic. Especially when we’re dealing with a voluntary, non-conscripted force.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I don’t think it’s nearly as flimsy as you paint it, but then I’m biased.

            Volunteering to be meat for the machine may be objectively stupid irrational but it is still better to live in a society where such people exist than one where they do not.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @Brad

            Lvlln’s flavor of anti-PC is the dominant one here at SSC, something you seem bound and determined to ignore.

            That said, I agree that “Support the Troops” is often PC bullshit, and I encourage people who don’t sincerely believe it to take a stand against it. I certainly have a lot more respect for anti-war or anti-military types who do than the ones who try to square that particular circle, much the same way as most GLBT types aren’t particularly comforted by “Love the sinner, hate the sin”.

          • Matt M says:

            Volunteering to be meat for the machine may be objectively stupid irrational but it is still better to live in a society where such people exist than one where they do not.

            I’m thinking less “meat for the machine” and more “baby killers”

            “Just following orders” is seen as a lame excuse for our enemies, but when it comes to ourselves, “Support the troops, oppose the war” seems perfectly reasonable.

            Sorry, but if a general orders a drone pilot to drop a bomb on a hospital, I think the drone pilot deserves to be spat on when he returns home.

            If you think the war is illegal and immoral and unjustified, people who joined during wartime are knowingly and intentionally committing illegal, immoral, and unjustified acts of aggression.

          • lvlln says:

            @Brad

            I don’t think most anti-PC people think like me or like Maher. But the fact that most people who are anti-PC are unprincipled right-wingers who often exhibit PC-like behavior in other areas of speech like “Support Our Troops” is about as true and about as interesting as the fact that most people who are anti-climate-change-denial are unprincipled left-wingers who often exhibit science denial behavior in other areas of science like genetic basis of preferences and IQ. It still makes sense to say that the core objection to climate-change-denial is that it’s denying what is obviously consensus among scientific experts, even if the vast majority of the people don’t actually care about scientific expertise and are merely using it as an excuse to beat on their opponents.

            Basically any sides of any political argument is going to be dominated by unprincipled tribalists. One can then conclude that the core argument of any side of any political argument is just wanting to beat on their opponents, but I don’t think that’s generally what’s meant when describing something as the core argument of a side, and it’s not a very interesting or useful way to use it.

            Then again, I’m not a mind reader and don’t know exactly what gbdub meant. If gbdub actually did mean something along the lines of “the actual reasoning (i.e. lack thereof) that the majority of people who hold that position use,” then I am mistaken, and you are correct, Brad.

          • Brad says:

            @lvlln
            Gbdub’s point was explicitly about popularity (“I disagree that it’s popular”). So was mine (“And most of us wouldn’t want it to be.”)

            The revealed preferences of the mass of Americans (and humans more generally) is directly relevant to that disagreement, not the most rarefied, steel-manned version of what some claim to believe. If you don’t find that interesting, that’s fine, but it is what the discussion at hand is about.

          • lvlln says:

            @Brad

            Alright, fair enough. The fact that the vast majority of any given side of any given political argument are unprincipled tribalists does seem to support your point in this bottom-level thread, and I seem to be wrong.

          • gbdub says:

            Well, I was really referring to anti-PC as lvlln describes it, but if Brad thinks that’s too fringe to count, then so be it.

            Still, I think it is true most people don’t like being ritually forced to declare things they don’t actually believe, or at least don’t sympathize with. They are inconsistent, because people are inconsistent about everything, and are often okay with forcing that on others.

          • If you think the war is illegal and immoral and unjustified, people who joined during wartime are knowingly and intentionally committing illegal, immoral, and unjustified acts of aggression.

            Does “knowingly” mean they know they are committing the acts or they know that the acts they are committing are illegal, immoral and unjustified acts of aggression? Your statement can be read either way. The first version is the one that is true, the second is the one needed, for the moral conclusion I think you want to draw.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Does Google hire woman engineers?

      Yes, in proportion to their availability. I’m sure they’d like to hire more, but so do Apple, Netflix, Facebook, etc, and they’re all playing from the same playbook.

      Do they have woman top executives?

      According to Business Insider, yes. No woman founders, but asking Larry or Sergey to get a sex change seems rather extreme.

      Do I hear terrible things from women who work there? Yes, all the time.

      Perhaps, but I’d suggest taking them with a grain of salt. The story I told a few OTs back, about a woman who ended up crying in the stairwell about the horrible hostility at work, when, if you read her story for its actual content rather than emoting, it simply described a co-worker politely and timidly asking her on a date? That was Google, and as it turns out, one of Damore’s public witch-burners.

    • bean says:

      Google, like a lot of companies, does a lot of PR around this. But do they hire women engineers? No. Do they have women top executives? No. Do I hear terrible things from women who work there? Yes, all the time.

      If Google isn’t hiring women engineers or women executives, then who are these women saying terrible things about it?

      • Anonymous says:

        I’m pretty sure they do. Just not anywhere approaching parity, due to the inevitable shortage of qualified women.

        The author of the quote probably meant it as a rhetorical flourish, not literally.

        • bean says:

          I’m pretty sure they do. Just not anywhere approaching parity, due to the inevitable shortage of qualified women.

          That was rather my point. The statement that Google has no women engineers is both stupidly wrong and directly contradicted by the statement that there are lots of women talking about how terrible it is.

          • Hey good point. Yes the comment was meant to be somewhat rhetorical, but I would think even the rhetorical points wouldn’t be internally contradictory.

            But do they hire women engineers? No.

            Do I hear terrible things from women who work there? Yes, all the time.

            Edit: Theoretically, he could have meant he hears terrible things from women secretaries and so wasn’t contradictory. But I think from context he means women engineers in the second quote.

    • Anon. says:

      This is bizarre..

    • InferentialDistance says:

      Or, they really are pro-diversity, but they follow the progressive’s anti-science policy advice, and thus end up with entirely ineffective methods of increasing the number female engineers and executives. When they should be trying to figure out how to get elementary-school girls to follow through on math and computers all the way through high school and college, rather than competing against all the other tech companies for the meager 20% of applicants who are women. Assuming there is a way to pull that off, however.

      • Anonymous says:

        Assuming there is a way to pull that off, however.

        Third world countries can do it. The secret is probably “do what brings the money, doesn’t matter if you aren’t interested in it” vs “follow your dreams, girl”.

        • InferentialDistance says:

          Third world countries are poor. I don’t think telling girls to chase money is sufficient to replicate the effect.

        • Matt M says:

          The secret is probably “do what brings the money, doesn’t matter if you aren’t interested in it” vs “follow your dreams, girl”.

          I wonder if this explains the results we see where the most progressive/feminist countries still have the least “diversity” in many occupations.

          “Follow your dreams, girl” seems like a very feminist message. And if it’s true that most women don’t dream of coding, then promoting this message is going to result in very few female coders.

          As an aside, I met a few Indian women in business school who had been software engineers. Usually when I asked them why, the answer was something like “I didn’t care about software engineering at all, it was just the best job I qualified for and my family encouraged me to make the most money possible.”

          My guess is that western feminists would sneer at that sort of outcome. They would see this not as a victory for feminism, but as another example of the evil capitalist patriarchy oppressing women and forcing them to abandon their dreams and become a wage-slave for profit instead.

          • Barely matters says:

            . They would see this not as a victory for feminism, but as another example of the evil capitalist patriarchy oppressing women and forcing them to abandon their dreams and become a wage-slave for profit instead.

            And they wouldn’t really be wrong. This is just the downside of fighting hard for equality without understanding how the other group lives.

            “Congrats on your newfound equality. Enjoy your 90 hour weeks in the code mines. Yeah, I’d rather being doing something else too.”

            Now, it won’t quite work that way, because women still have a bunch of other options that men don’t (Marry a coder and let them work, have a child with a coder and then spend time with your kids, divorce said coder, etc) which let them opt out without sacrificing as much. As long as other options exist, women won’t have nearly the same incentive to work in shitty conditions that men do, and will be outcompeted because the other side just wants it more.

            Women in the third world compete harder because those other options aren’t nearly as effective as they are here. That said, neither of us will ever be able to convince the crowd pushing for gender parity of the reality that having too many options has drawbacks, and that you can’t expect a group to be competitive in every field, against another group that is focused into a narrower band.

      • The Nybbler says:

        When they should be trying to figure out how to get elementary-school girls to follow through on math and computers all the way through high school and college, rather than competing against all the other tech companies for the meager 20% of applicants who are women. Assuming there is a way to pull that off, however.

        The last part is the kicker. If there is a way to pull that off, no one knows how to do it. They’ve been trying for at least three decades. Some things they try have no effect, some appear to have an effect but it quickly goes away.

  17. hoghoghoghoghog says:

    Since immigration policy is in the US news, I’m wondering about tradable visa regimes (by visa I mean something like the US green card). In other words
    1) The government auctions off a bunch of visas to speculators
    2) Speculators sell them to each other and end users
    3) End users activate the visa, after which it is no longer tradable

    My questions are
    a) Has anything like this been tried (maybe at the city level for countries with internal movement controls)
    b) If you replace lottery or point systems with this, what happens next?
    c) Who wins and who loses? It’s particularly unclear to me whether utilitarians should see this as an improvement over the US status quo (assuming total number of immigrants stays the same) – it seems more efficient, but also like it would decrease the redistributive effects of immigration

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      Regarding (b), here are some effects I can imagine.

      i) Pro-refugee activists can now directly affect things (by raising money to buy visas for refugees). At least in the US this means refugee population gets way more Christian (although they won’t be legally classified as refugees, since they’ll have entered the country on a regular visa). There is a potential perverse incentive if the government cancels refugee programs in order to drive up the price of visas.

      ii) We get a much better idea of how valuable immigrating is, and how much value the species is or is not leaving on the table by restricting it.

      iii) Great opportunity for international retail banks, who can offer immigration loans.

      • Matt M says:

        Great opportunity for international retail banks, who can offer immigration loans.

        I feel like it would take approximately five hours for this to be spun as “enabling human traffickers”

        You know who else is likely to buy a lot of these things? Russian mobsters who want to get their prostitutes over here.

        • hoghoghoghoghog says:

          I dunno, they’d be competing with legitimate businesses for these things after all. Unclear whether a Russian prostitute is worth as much to a mobster as a Mexican horticulturalist is worth to a farmer. So I expect the Russian mob would stick with the illegal approach.

          • Matt M says:

            Well in that case, the tech companies will buy them all and 100% of visas will go to Indians and Chinese

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            I don’t think the tech industry would absorb them all. Current immigration rate is about 1 million per year (this includes returning expats but I don’t think that’s too significant). The US only has 3.5 million software developers.

    • dodrian says:

      The US likes to imagine the typical legal immigrant as a plucky underdog with naught but a dream, oppressed by the laws in their native land but ready to explode with entrepreneurialsm (a word unknown in the rest of the globe) if only given that sweet taste of freedom and generous right-to-work laws.

      An auction system would strip away the last vestiges of this veneer and ensure that only the powerful or wealthy get a shot at American greatness (who can already come in through ties to companies that can sponsor them for work, etc). At least with an auction system some of those who get in must be able to prop up the image of the American dream, right?

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        Although maybe more entrepreneurial people can expect to get more of a benefit to moving, so would be more willing to pay?

        (I’m also not sure that most of us want entrepreneurs – they are the most likely to out-compete natives, which is the main worry with immigration. From that point of view the ideal immigrant is an old money drone.)

    • Jaskologist says:

      It works to get more money from immigrants. It doesn’t address concerns like security. For that, you’d need to make the speculators liable in some way for crimes committed by whoever they sell to.

      • Anonymous says:

        AFAIK, it used to be that way in the US.

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        Sorry I left this out: let’s say part of “activating your visa” is going through all the current security stuff. AFAIK that’s not much of a barrier most of the time.

    • Brad says:

      I don’t know of any auctions, but many countries have a program such that you can essentially buy your way in. Hungary’s is probably the most straightforward it requires you to invest in government bonds that pay no interest, but the US EB-5 program (‘investor visa’) is not that much different when you get right down to it.

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        That’s pretty interesting, particularly given that Hungary was ground zero for the refugee controversy. I wonder if anyone tried handing out bonds to the Syrians? Anyway it looks like Jobbik has killed the program, so that’s some evidence that a program like this isn’t much more resistant to ethnic nationalists than more traditional policies.

      • Standing in the Shadows says:

        The US has such a program. The one here is cheaper and more humane then the ones offered by the EU, Canada, or New Zealand, where the visa can be had just for giving the local national government a pile of local money roughly equal to a million US dollars.

        The US one costs roughly a tenth that, and instead of giving it to the government, you are required to sink it into a local business that has actual hard capital such as a building, or a commercial lease, and is required to have actual employees getting paid actual money for actual work.

        It’s sometimes sneeringly called “the McDonald’s Visa”, since that company is the one that spends the lobby dollars keeping that door open, and the investment level and employment requirements map perfectly onto buying and operating a McDonald’s franchise.

        This same visa is also often used to to buy and operate a remote rural motel (thus “Patel Motel”), or a hair and nail salon (has anyone in the US had a paid manipedi NOT done by a Vietnamese woman?), a dry cleaning business (Koreans), or a parking tower (Soomaali), or a small convenience store (accurately portrayed in the fictional Kwik-E-Mart).

    • vV_Vv says:

      If you replace lottery or point systems with this, what happens next?

      Lots of your immigrants are mobsters and/or relatives of corrupt government officials.

  18. lvlln says:

    I know there’s some crossover between people who read Scott Alexander and Scott Aaronson. I rather liked the latter’s recent post about the life of Andrey Nikolaevich Kolmogorov, a mathematician who lived in the Soviet Union in the early/mid 20th century. I don’t think I found the post entirely convincing, but I must admit Aaronson made some good points about balancing the conflicting goals of truth-telling with personal safety.

    I think these passages show some of the main points of the essay:

    I’ve long been fascinated by the psychology of unspeakable truths. Like, for any halfway perceptive person in the USSR, there must have been an incredible temptation to make a name for yourself as a daring truth-teller: so much low-hanging fruit! So much to say that’s correct and important, and that best of all, hardly anyone else is saying!

    But then one would think better of it. It’s not as if, when you speak a forbidden truth, your colleagues and superiors will thank you for correcting their misconceptions. Indeed, it’s not as if they didn’t already know, on some level, whatever you imagined yourself telling them. In fact it’s often because they fear you might be right that the authorities see no choice but to make an example of you, lest the heresy spread more widely. One corollary is that the more reasonably and cogently you make your case, the more you force the authorities’ hand.

    Does this mean that, like Winston Smith, the iconoclast simply must to accept that 2+2=5, and that a boot will stamp on a human face forever? No, not at all. Instead the iconoclast can choose what I think of as the Kolmogorov option. This is where you build up fortresses of truth in places the ideological authorities don’t particularly understand or care about, like pure math, or butterfly taxonomy, or irregular verbs. You avoid a direct assault on any beliefs your culture considers necessary for it to operate. You even seek out common ground with the local enforcers of orthodoxy. Best of all is a shared enemy, and a way your knowledge and skills might be useful against that enemy. For Kolmogorov, the shared enemy was the Nazis; for someone today, an excellent choice might be Trump, who’s rightly despised by many intellectual factions that spend most of their time despising each other. Meanwhile, you wait for a moment when, because of social tectonic shifts beyond your control, the ruling ideology has become fragile enough that truth-tellers acting in concert really can bring it down. You accept that this moment of reckoning might never arrive, or not in your lifetime. But even if so, you could still be honored by future generations for building your local pocket of truth, and for not giving falsehood any more aid or comfort than was necessary for your survival.

    • James says:

      That part reminds me of this passage, which I love. It made me feel a little bit less lost—that there may, after all, be a purpose to our usually-futile-seeming little enclave of contrarianism around these parts.

      I like the post, even quite a lot, but I’m not sure I agree with how it seems to apply to recent events – the guy should have just kept his mouth shut? I’m not so sure.

      • Machina ex Deus says:

        The linked tweet says:

        As Milton Friedman famously put it, ‘Only a crisis—actual or perceived—produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes the politically inevitable.’

        This has been a public service announcement. Also, “Ideas Lying Around” is an excellent name for a blog.

    • Eponymous says:

      I view this piece as an amazing work of art, in which Scott manages to perfectly communicate his opinion of the memo and surrounding cultural factors, but in a wonderfully indirect manner, which itself speaks volumes.

    • Aapje says:

      Where I disagree with this is that I think that the ability to criticize differs greatly based on the circumstances of a person, their charisma, their teflon-layer*, etc. I think that people ought to speak out at a level that they can get away with.

      * The magical ability to always be able to avoid/dodge shit.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Here’s my comment to Aaronson’s post:

      “Stalinism didn’t go away on its own. Khrushchev chose to move towards a less horrible totalitarian government. Presumably he observed, thought, kept silent, and waited. I’m actually quite impressed, even though that’s hardly a morally ideal approach.

      “There’s a different lesson I’m seeing in Kolmogorov’s life than most people seem to. Instead of opposing the worst thing in his environment, he made as much good as he could and that turned out to be quite a bit of good. Granting that he had extraordinary talents, it seems to me that not enough people ask about how much good they can do locally.”

      I’ll add that Effective Altruism is a good way of solving a particular problem, but it doesn’t address best ways of improving what’s going on for things that affect your life. Anyone know of work on that?

  19. joe lambke says:

    New to SlateStarCodex, trying to comment on this well done post:
    “CONTRA GRANT ON EXAGGERATED DIFFERENCES”

    It is great to see the careful differentiation between “Identify Politics” as a silo of unified personhood, and how people have interests, and it is similar interests that forms groups. Well laid out in your post.

    I am an Architect and Urban Design researcher. Years ago delivered a paper to the American Sociological Association about tendencies in people’s interests, and how shared interests become groups of people with the same occupations. The paper is titled “Work, Professions, Society and Meaning” and can be found on the Acadamia website.

    The paper above provides a framework for thinking about how these interests affect society.

    Thanks
    Joe

    • hlynkacg says:

      Welcome to the party!

      A note on the comments; Scott (our host) occasionally disables the comments on potentially controversial posts that get widely linked to discourage brigading. Discussion of these posts typically happens in the following open thread.

    • joe lambke says:

      Thanks for the heads up about how this works… I was unable to locate a way to comment on the actual post, and I was excited by the connections. As I reread my post now, i see the misspelling “Identity Politics,” grammar issues, etc.

      I would like to work-up a more thorough description of the link between “Work, Professions, Society and Meaning” and Scott’s essay “CONTRA GRANT ON EXAGGERATED DIFFERENCES” because back in 2006, when i wrote that paper I had no idea where it was heading… The ideas seemed entirely out of left field.

      However, after reading Scott’s essay, it appears the ‘Human Interest Diagram’ is an opposite way to view politics of the human endeavour from Identity Politics. I have been estranged from Identity Politics without knowing why.

      More soon.
      Joe

  20. MichaelWStory says:

    Help required!

    Many SSC diaspora members (including me!) signed up to the Good Judgment Project back in the early 2010s and were disproportionately selected to join the Superforecasters, whose aptitude and rapid feedback-led improvements in producing accurate future predictions helped us win the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity ACE Tournament and made huge progress in the study of individual differences, psychological bias, rationality, judgment and decision making.

    I’m posting here now because we at Good Judgment need capable volunteers once again- we are working in collaboration with IARPA on the new Hybrid Forecasting Competition (HFC) Program, a multi-year, IARPA-funded research program designed to test the limits of geopolitical forecasting by combining the ingenuity of human analysts with the best available machine systems.

    We need human analysts to forecast on topics including global politics, diplomacy, citizen unrest, economics and infectious diseases as well as gather and evaluate geopolitically and geoeconomically relevant news texts or evaluate statistical models or data sources, depending on experimental condition.

    The signup link is https://www.hybridforecasting.com/ – it’ll be a rare chance to work with a range of prototype human-machine hybrid forecasting systems in the experimental stage and contribute to the ongoing improvement of the US Intelligence Community’s forecasting capability.

  21. gbdub says:

    What do you (or should we) call the rhetorical strategy of, essentially motte-and-bailey from the attackers’ perspective?

    That is, the attacker shows up, rampages around the bailey smashing real but irrelevant structures (arguments), ignores the hulking motte, and then declares the whole edifice “debunked” and leaves?

    • dndnrsn says:

      If medieval warfare is going to be the theme, how about chevauchée?

      • Montfort says:

        I like the analogy. We should start translating more argumentative fallacies into historical military terms.

    • lvlln says:

      Isn’t this just a version of the strawman?

      • Protagoras says:

        That was my thought. He does specify “real but irrelevant” arguments, but I don’t think straw men are required to be entirely invented.

        • gbdub says:

          So the example that triggered this was the post above with a “debunking” of Damore’s memo that focused exclusively on the biodeterminism without really addressing the implications of preferences, even if not bio-determined.

          So it’s not a strawman, in that Damore really did use biodeterminism as an explanation of different preferences. But you can’t fully debunk the whole thing just by providing a different explanation for the preference, because the rest stands as long as the preferences are real and emerge before college graduation.

        • rlms says:

          A real strawman is a weakman.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I would call it stretching a metaphor beyond the point of usefulness.

      Motte and bailey describes a set of rhetorical tactics. You’re describing a distinct set of rhetorical tactics, but in a way which makes people likely to confuse it with motte and bailey tactics.

      That said, there does need to be a good term for superficial debunking of the “John Oliver EVISCERATES Republicans!” variety. Maybe one which plays around with the bizarre violent imagery which normally accompanies them online.

      Debunking and quartering? MSTemboweling? Let me know if I’m on the right track.

      • gbdub says:

        Maybe a boxing metaphor would work. Sort of like landing a lot of weak body shots and acting like you got a KO.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I wish I could find it, but I saw an article (or a picture with a mash-up of headlines) about John Stewart “killing,” “eviscerating,” “laying waste to,” “UTTERLY DESTROYING,” etc all sorts of people. Reading them all together it makes Stewart sound like the most horrific homicidal warlord since Genghis Khan.

        That aside, I agree. I do think there is a tactic though of taking down one non-central part of an argument or a body of arguments (and perhaps even a strawman version of the argument, such as people saying Demore said women were ‘biologically inferior,’ which he never did, he addressed preferences) and then declaring the entire thing debunked.

        Controversial study is published. Blogger finds typo, says “debunked,” and then whenever you bring the study up in the future opponents say “that study has been debunked.” I’m not sure there’s a name for this.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          Me neither. I would like one. It appears to be a sequence of two: ignoratio elenchi (per rahien.din below), followed by proof by repeated assertion.

        • Nornagest says:

          Someday our idioms are really going to confuse a generation of history students, aren’t they?

    • Anonymous says:

      Raiding?

    • Vorkon says:

      Isn’t that basically the Gish Gallop?

      I mean, it’s not a perfect one-to-one comparison; the Gish Gallop specifically only works in timed, verbal debates, where the idea is to refute so many minor points that the opponent doesn’t know where to begin defending themselves, and you make them look foolish, but the general idea seems to be pretty similar: Nitpick a bunch of mostly irrelevant points, while ignoring the central argument.

      I definitely wouldn’t describe it as “motte and bailey from the attackers’ perspective,” though. An attack where you fail to take the motte is, by definition, an unsuccessful attack. You’re describing a situation in which taking the motte was never an objective to begin with.

      • Thank you. I’ve seen people use that term, and so now I needed to look it up. Yes, the original posting is talking about a Gish Gallop. I guess that’s the term to use. Rather a ponderous term, but at least there is a term.

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      The bailey isn’t “irrelevant”, though. The -motte- is.

      The motte is a minimal claim or definition that is easily defensible and hard to attack/disprove, but also doesn’t really get you leverage on an argument. Example: “Calling a traumatized person a liar is a shitty thing to do, and we shouldn’t be shitty to traumatized people.”

      The bailey is a more expansive or abused/manipulated claim or definition that you cannot actually defend, but has much more rhetorical punch and leverage. Example: “All rape accusations must be treated as unquestionably true and acted on accordingly.”

      So you use your bailey claim in arguments until challenged, and when challenged or pressed, you retreat to the more easily defended claim. As soon as the attacker leaves or gives up, you back to using your bailey claim.

    • beleester says:

      The motte-and-bailey is the opposite of a weakman. If your opponent is using a motte-and-bailey, they’re basically saying that the position you’re attacking (the bailey) is a weakman, and that you should be attacking the motte. And on the flip side, if your opponent is using a weakman against you, and you defend yourself by calling it that, they can accuse you of using a motte-and-bailey against them.

  22. A Definite Beta Guy says:

    AR Background Part 2

    So, previously, I discussed Cash Application. There’s some special issues in Cash Application that routinely cause problems for us that I wanted to mention specifically.

    Missing Remittance
    You wouldn’t believe the number of customers who simply do not send any sort of remittance advice with their checks. As a brief reminder, the remittance advice is the check payment detail, similar to your memo line. It specifies where A/R should put the money.

    Without a remittance advice, A/R is in the dark.

    Ideally, A/R would not touch such checks, unless we are absolutely certain how to apply them. For example, if a customer historically sends $2,000 checks monthly, we can take a look at previous checks and determine what invoice the customer has paid. Or, if a customer has exactly $50,000 on their account, and they have sent us a $50,000 check, we can be pretty sure the customer intends to clear up their entire balance.
    Any check we aren’t sure about would remain unapplied.

    In practice, A/R is penalized for having unapplied cash. So A/R will usually apply checks aggressively, which leads to many mistakes.

    In my experience, missing remittance advices usually occur because the customer does not think the remittance advice is important, or the check has hit an intermediary. The intermediary usually thinks the remittance advice is unimportant and discards it, while forwarding the check to the bank.

    If you are in A/P, please do not forget the remittance advice!

    Incomplete/insufficient Remittance
    A more complicated issue is a remittance advice that does not tie out directly to our system, either in terms of balances, or in terms of billing descriptions.
    The best way to explain this is to explain the ideal system, of which the closest is the 835 standard in health-care.
    835s are electronic files that contain all claim information required by HIPAA, which is usually more than enough to match a payment a claim.
    Here’s how it will work, in lay terms:
    A pharmacy may process 100 prescriptions in a week. The pharmacy will have information like the prescription number, the pharmacy number*, date of service, drug, patient name, etc. This information will be sent electronically to an insurance company**.
    The insurance company will then cut a check for those 100 prescriptions. It will then prepare an electronic remittance advice that includes prescription number, pharmacy number, etc, and send that along with their check.
    Because every insurance company is sending the same standard file, and because all the fields are standard, pharmacies can translate the files into their system and post cash directly to their A/R systems. This will, theoretically, eliminate ALL cash application.

    Unfortunately, most industries do not have this level of standardization. For instance, Rearden Steel will most likely send an invoice to Taggart Transcontinetal that will bill items like the following:
    -Steel
    -Shipping and handling charge
    -Company Discount

    In the Rearden Steel billing system, this will be shortened into a bill code, like the following:
    -STL
    -SHIP

    This will not be standard, so Taggart Transcontinental will send back something like the following:
    -ST
    -S&H

    It’s quite possible Taggart will not even do that, and simply send back a remittance that says “Bill 07312017,” or something else without specific line item detail.

    Theoretically, invoice numbers could be tied to every single item. However, it would require both the billing department to include invoice numbers for every single billing line, and the accounts payable department to include invoice number for every single payment line. In practice, neither of these are feasible (and I have definitely asked!)

    While at an initial glance it may appear that these minor differences are no big deal, it actually becomes impossible to apply cash rather quickly. In one case, I had a certain Danish company who disagreed with their pricing on multiple line items, and sent over checks with what they thought was the correct price. They had specific line item detail, but the line items had descriptions unique to their system, which did not tie out at all to our system.

    In practice this looked like the following:
    Bill:
    -Steel $100,000
    -Shipping and handling $30,000
    -Rail Tie $140,000
    -Rearden Metal $70,000

    Payment:
    -RE11 $80,000
    -RE25 $25,000
    -RE49 $75,000
    -RE1000 $70,000

    In practice, the above remittance advice is useless and the check remains unapplied. This becomes more complicated as more separate billing items are added.

    In the prior comment, someone who worked in medical insurance remarked on how often his/her checks were misapplied. In practice, I saw many checks from medical insurance providers where they declined to use industry-standard pharmacy numbers at all, and decided instead to use their own unique “provider number.” In practice, this made it very difficult to figure out payment application.

    Incomplete remittances are the bane of my existence, particularly with major national companies. They are typically slow to respond, and therefore their accounts become virtually unreconcilable with all the unapplied cash.

    Electronic Payments
    It’s my belief that checks are usually easier to handle than electronic payments (either ACHs or Wires). Usually, if we receive a paper check, we have a payer name, along with a check number, check amount, and cut date. Using this information, we can contact who wrote the check, and they can look into their system to determine what the check is for.

    ACH (Automated Clearing House) payments provide much less information, and it is not consistent across payers. So whereas, with a check, I will receive a check number and a payer number, with an ACH, I will receive an ACH description populated with whatever the sending company deigned to populate.

    So, for example, I might have received a $1,000 ACH from someone, with a long string of numbers, followed by “Dept of Health” followed by another long string of numbers. I cannot identify a unique check number, I have no idea what the other numbers are for, and I have no idea which “Dept of Health” I am dealing with. Because of this, a lot of ACHs sat unapplied for a long time, because I had to go back to the bank and ask them to track down who sent it (which in turn required my bank to ask the other bank, and the other bank to find a representative from the payer).

    Wire*** payments tend to be even worse. Wire payments have less information than an ACH, as they are not processed in an electronic batch format (slightly more information in footnotes). Also, in my experience, they have not been loaded automatically, which requires someone to manually load the information into our A/R universe. I have never really inquired into this, but I suspect it’s because the banks do not actual send electronic reports of our daily wires (since we receive so few). It’s up to us to look into our bank account and download our daily reports.

    Next time, I’ll go into the Collections portion of A/R.

    • *Pharmacy Numbers are usually NPIs (National Provider Identifier). This is a 10 digit number assigned by CMS.
    • ** Pharmacies actually send data to the Pharmacy Benefit Manager, a special company that handles pharmacy claims on behalf of the insurance company.
    • ***Wires and ACHs are different. Wire payments are real-time settlements between different banks. ACHs are batch loaded, so they would typically occur at the end of the business day. ACHs are more common, as they are cheaper.

    • Deiseach says:

      You wouldn’t believe the number of customers who simply do not send any sort of remittance advice with their checks.

      Oh, I think I would 🙂 Have had plenty of instances of opening an envelope to find a forlorn piece of paper/cheque/other item with no explanation as to who sent it, what it’s for, or what I’m supposed to do with it. It’s particularly bad when it comes to money, as you say, since (a) you can’t just ignore it and (b) you have no idea what it’s for – paying a bill? hiring a room? donation? reimbursement for expenses? what?

      In my experience, missing remittance advices usually occur because the customer does not think the remittance advice is important, or the check has hit an intermediary. The intermediary usually thinks the remittance advice is unimportant and discards it, while forwarding the check to the bank.

      That explanation sounds the most probable for what I said about our pension contributions not being allocated to our account. We always make sure to (1) keep copies of all cheques and payments made, together with original invoices on file (2) attach a copy of the relevant invoice/statement/contribution period to our payment cheque so the person on the other end knows what it’s for, which is why we were baffled when the cheques were plainly being cashed but the account manager said “nope, no sign we ever got ’em”.

      Cash handling is a pain and a job I try and avoid as much as possible, because nobody thanks you for doing it and yet if money goes missing you are hauled over the coals and in deep, deep trouble (as in “did you steal that? so where is it, then, if you didn’t steal it?” and it doesn’t matter if you’ve worked there ten years and been spotlessly honest all that time, the automatic assumption if money goes missing is “who was the last person to have anything to do with it? ‘cos they’re the guilty party”).

      So, for example, I might have received a $1,000 ACH from someone, with a long string of numbers, followed by “Dept of Health” followed by another long string of numbers. I cannot identify a unique check number, I have no idea what the other numbers are for, and I have no idea which “Dept of Health” I am dealing with.

      End-of-month bank reconciliations! When the only details on the statement are “lodgement”! And we’re getting funding from four different bodies under six different schemes, all of which has to be accounted for to the government department which ultimately pays it to us, as well as funding from various sources such as fees, donations, fundraisers, etc.

      Oh the joy and fun of trying to determine which payment is from [body 1], [body 2], [other]! And if from [body 1], is it [programme A payment] or [separate programme B payment which co-incidentally is for the same amount]? Because when we’re doing the quarterly returns, we must distinguish between and account for the funds received from [programme A], [B], etc. or else!

      The “or else” actually happened, when representatives from The National Capital came down to overhaul our accounts as they insisted (by their records) that we were running an overdraft, despite us emailing records to them showing that no, we were in the black. They were making dire murmurings of taking control of receipts and expenditure away from us altogether as plainly we could not manage our finances, and I wish I’d been there for the board meeting when it was demonstrated that the screw-up was on their end and they had to leave with their tails between their legs, but alas, that joy was denied me 🙂

      No idea what was going on there, but we have our suspicions that there was some kind of inter-
      or intra-departmental turf war going on and this taking over disbursement was a power-grab on the part of the particular body these two belonged to – except it didn’t work and they left with egg on their faces.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        Ha, we actually do bank reconciliations every single day. Well, at my current job I haven’t yet because it’s not my function, but I am pretty sure they do daily recs.
        It’s a massive pain in the butt, because usually the variance is just a loading error: a few checks didn’t make the bank’s EDI file cut-off, so they weren’t included on the detail sent to us, even though it was actually put into our account.
        EXTREMELY annoying.
        What’s even more annoying is when there is an internal wire but we can’t actually look at the account. So we just the EDI file, and then an internal wire payment. And they don’t much. So we have no idea what the variance is, because we don’t have the detail that makes up the wire.
        “Rec this” is surprisingly a common throw-away, even when it’s impossible because we don’t have both sides of the ledger. That happened a handful of times in my last position.

        And yes, cash app is absolutely thankless (bolding so everyone sees it). It requires a ton of legwork to apply cash correctly, but it’s usually considered a low-tier function, so you get no credit for doing it correctly. If you mess up, it’s a big problem, and you can get in big trouble.

        The only winning move is not to play!

        • Deiseach says:

          a few checks didn’t make the bank’s EDI file cut-off

          Five minutes past the time. Five effin’ minutes because the upload was slow, and that meant the cut-off time was missed, which meant it all had to be uploaded again (which was not a problem) but the processing date had to be changed to the next day, which should have been no problem except this was to pay wages, which meant every single staff member ringing up going “hey, I checked my bank balance and my wages weren’t paid in, what happened?”

          We do end-of-the-month bank recs, which generally aren’t a problem, except for one month when there was a discrepancy of €2.50. I was going cross-eyed checking and re-checking and couldn’t find the error anywhere, and it didn’t help that my boss kept asking every so often “So, did you find that mistake yet?” (No, there aren’t any missing zeroes there, that is literally two euro and fifty cents which you might think isn’t bad on routinely handling a couple of hundred thousand every month, but you don’t know public sector work).

          What actually did help was next month someone made a duplicate entry which was a big discrepancy, so I had to go line-by-line through six months’ worth of bank statements and cash book/payments book entries manually, but by cracky not alone did I correct the large discrepancy, I found that missing €2.50 as well! It’s a man’s life in the army clerical assistant grades! 🙂

          Daily bank recs, funnily enough, aren’t as bad because they mean you can catch an error fast and usually people remember “Oh yeah, I put that payment in under that heading, guess it was the wrong one, huh?” whereas when you leave it for longer, it’s “what payment? when?”

          It requires a ton of legwork to apply cash correctly, but it’s usually considered a low-tier function, so you get no credit for doing it correctly

          You said it, brother! It’s funny, because it’s the one job that requires diligence, honesty, reliability and (not to throw heavy words around but) integrity, because you’re dealing with money, and yet it’s considered low-tier, low-pay grunt work.

          One of these days, Beta Guy, we’ll snap, write a cheque clearing out the entire bank balance, then run off to Rio and blow it all in six months of decadent living. You’ll never take us alive, copper! 😀

    • CatCube says:

      I almost don’t want to believe your story about a customer who created their own line item descriptions, because what kind of psychotic asshole would think that it’s OK to do that?

      For checks that come in without remittance advice, is there generally a process for determining a default application? You’ve already stated that it might be obvious due to the amounts but for situations where it’s totally lacking, for example, apply it to bills that are about to go delinquent or something?

      • Matt M says:

        Yeah, my gut instinct here is to say “who cares about remittance, why can’t you just automatically apply the amount to their total balance, prioritizing the ‘most delinquent bill’ or whatever”

        • Yeah, my gut instinct here is to say “who cares about remittance, why can’t you just automatically apply the amount to their total balance, prioritizing the ‘most delinquent bill’ or whatever”

          Ha lots of companies do that anyway, even if you do have a remittance. As a tax accountant, I know for sure lots of governments do that. They create a completely bogus tax charge, and when the taxpayer sends them money for a real tax charge they apply it to the bogus one. They then create a taxes due invoice, probably with interest and penalties attached for the real tax charge that wasn’t applied to. OF course most governments have phone trees and waiting lines to talk. Also the person who answers the phone often has no access to the billing history, so they defer it to someone else, who may never get around to calling you back. Add to that many government employees simply aren’t smart enough to untangle a billing mess, and you can end up with issues that go on for months or years.

          But now I’ve hijacked Beta Guy’s thread with one beefs about revenue departments. Sorry.

        • nyccine says:

          If they have only one account, that works, but if they have multiple active accounts, and keeping them current matters, then that doesn’t work.

          While not AR myself, I do work a customer service function that gets these sorts of inquiries all the time. There is a running problem with customers who just pay what the spreadsheet tells them to pay; if they have credits on certain accounts (for any number of reasons – overpayments, billing adjustments, deposit refunds) well, that just gets deducted from the total amount they need to pay, right? Except this results in a customer with, say, an account owing $90.00, and another with a credit of $45.00, cutting us a check for $45.00. Our sorter (this is all automated; we couldn’t possibly staff enough people to manually deal with the thousands of payments we get a day) directs it to the account owing money, and they’re late by $45.00.

          Sure, someone could manually move the money, except of course nobody handled the check, and our computer system isn’t sophisticated enough to do that. And if we take our own initiative and start moving money around, then about half the time the customer starts freaking out about how dare we, those accounts are actually for different customers, and one can’t be billed for another’s charges (we’re just supposed to know this, given that all the accounts are under one company’s name, they just manage those properties for umpteen billion people), or there’s some special bookkeeping they’re doing and moving that money screws it up, or something else.

        • Deiseach says:

          Who cares about remittance, why can’t you just automatically apply the amount to their total balance

          Speaking from the other side, not a great idea if you have several orders simultaneously with the same supplier. Maybe you have Large Order A, which is still in the process of being delivered so items are constantly arriving, then smaller Order B which is complete, and New Order C which hasn’t been processed yet.

          I as customer have received all of Order B and am happy with it, so I want to pay off all the balance on B. C hasn’t been received by me yet, so I don’t want to pay for it until I get it. A is still coming through and some of the things I might return (various reasons – damaged in transit, now that I’ve got it I see it’s not what I wanted, person who originally ordered it has now changed their mind, etc) so I’m paying off A piece by piece (a pain in the backside for everyone but it’s necessary to keep track of what I have received/am keeping and what I’m returning/hasn’t arrived yet).

          So I send off a cheque for $AMOUNT in order to pay all of B, part of A, and none of C. If supplier simply applies it all to A (the oldest and largest outstanding bill), that (a) mucks up my system of “what have I paid for” (b) maybe has me paying for items I’ve just returned (c) really annoys me.

          Something like this happened with one supplier when two separate invoices for two separate centres were paid (by two separate cheques). However it happened, both cheques were applied to bill A, leaving that centre with a credit balance, but then it looked like the bill for centre B had not been paid, and we got the “if you don’t pay your bill, the service will be discontinued” message.

          So this meant we had to issue another cheque for the same amount for centre B to pay the same bill we’d already paid, plus get reimbursed from centre A for the money they now owed us, plus re-juggle the entries on our accountancy software package to reflect the changes (luckily, our particular package is very forgiving and lets us change entries with ease – other packages really don’t and make it very, very complicated).

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          We can’t apply the cash because it screws up the collections side of thing (which I haven’t gotten into quite yet).

          What will happen, using Des’s example, is that I will apply a check to Order A (the oldest), when it was actually intended for Order B. So I will call Des and say Order B is still outstanding and needs to pay it. Des will respond that she did in fact pay Order B, and will refuse to pay a penny more.

          This goes round and round until I correct the cash misapplication.

          A lot of people on my A/R team will say “so what? If I move the cash around, it just means you owe something else.” This is the wrong way to think about it. Very possibly, our customer disagrees that they will in fact owe something else. For example, Des’ company may have returned 5% of their goods, and should get a 5% discount. Or there might be a disagreement on price. Or….basically, just because something is billed on my end, doesn’t mean the customer agrees that they actually owe it.

          Once checks start getting misapplied, it becomes difficult to unravel. I don’t even bother going back and reapplying checks in our system because it’s so tedious, I just rec out the account and haggle over the final number. Technically our payments are misapplied but if the account is at zero and the billings are accurate, none of our upper management is concerned. That’s because our budgets are based off the actual billings getting generated, not how I apply checks.

          Expanding on the above:
          Order A – 100k
          Order B – 50k
          Order C – 20k
          Total: 170k

          Des check
          Check 1 – 30k
          Check 2- 30k
          Check 3- 30k
          Check 4 -30k
          Total: 120k

          Assuming someone misapplied this and left us with a $50,000 balance, I’d just a list of our billings and determine what Des disagrees with. I’ll find out that she thinks Order A should’ve only really been 50k because she returned half the goods (which no one told me!). I do my investigative work and determine that it really should have been 60k because the contract guaranteed that minimum amount.
          Des checks with her side, agrees, and cuts a 10k check for the difference.
          I tell my billing department to book a 40k credit, apply the 10k check and 40k credit to whatever’s open, and call it a day. The actual checks and credits could be “applied” in our system to anything, but no one cares because the actual billings will tie out for both companies.

          • Deiseach says:

            Des will respond that she did in fact pay Order B, and will refuse to pay a penny more.

            Indeed yes, this is exactly how that conversation would go. How well you know me already! 🙂

            “Look, I put it in with the cheque that this is to pay off bill B. I didn’t tell you to pay off bill A. As far as I’m concerned, we’ve paid off bill B, and it’s your problem if you think we haven’t”.

            Paying off a very large order in parts as the deliveries were made happened in a former job where we were building and equipping three schools. Part of that was ordering labware. Glass tends to be breakable 🙂 So counting up all the test tubes, flasks, etc. that got broken in transit, refusing delivery and returning them, and deducting the value from the invoice was a routine thing. If we’d paid the whole thing in advance, we would have paid for goods we couldn’t use and the supplier might well have told us “your problem, if you want replacements, that’s a separate order and a new bill” (this particular supplier was reasonable and didn’t pull that, but that was partly because the order was so large, and we would probably be using them as suppliers for goods in future, that it was worth their while to stay on our good side. Some are not so reasonable).

            The actual checks and credits could be “applied” in our system to anything, but no one cares because the actual billings will tie out for both companies.

            Agreement there; as long as you can make purchases on one side and payments on the other balance off, and the bank rec agrees with cheques issued, everyone is happy(ish).

    • Loquat says:

      More tales from the medical insurance side of things: while there is no shortage of providers who lose, ignore, or otherwise don’t follow our remittance advice, I have to admit my employer creates some problems for the A/R folks by having extremely minimalist RAs. The source of the problem is that our claims are handled in an old-fashioned all-text green-on-black system that probably dates back to the 80’s, and was never designed to handle medical bills.

      So a provider sends us a bill that looks like this:
      Date of Service 5/5/2017, patient X
      99314: 100.00
      97140: 50.00
      82306: 50.00

      And we do Medicare supplements, which means we’re secondary to Medicare and pay the patient’s Medicare-assigned deductible and/or coinsurance for them, so the provider has to also send Medicare’s remittance advice, looking like this:
      Date of Service 5/5/2017, patient X
      99314: 57.83 approved, patient coinsurance 11.57
      97140: 49.35 approved, patient coinsurance 9.87
      82306: denied, not medically necessary, 0 approved

      And then we summarize the whole thing into one line in our system, like this:
      Date of Service 5/5/2017, patient X
      total charge 200.00, medicare approved 107.18, we paid 21.44

      And then we get the call asking why there’s still a $50 balance left, because our claims system doesn’t have a way to express “Medicare denied a portion of this claim”.

      Unrelated: I have mixed feeling about ACHs, largely because a noticeable percentage of medical providers who signed up for ACH payment through the clearinghouse we use are nonetheless not set up to download the associated electronic remittance advice through said clearinghouse’s website. So then they call us asking us to please fax them one instead, which is one of things that’s little trouble when it’s a one-time thing and a huge pain in the ass when there are hundreds or thousands of requests, so we resist doing it and lean on them to actually use the website.

  23. Is this criticism of Marx accurate? It seems fairly devastating.

    Doesn’t this belief imply that a machine couldn’t make an identical machine without using itself up in the process?

    • Well... says:

      I want to read that criticism, but the wall-of-text effect is blocking me. (Amusingly this probably wouldn’t be an issue if your link had been to a blog post rather than an image of text laid out in three dense columns.) Can you summarize?

    • Marx seems to be saying that the capacity of a means of production to add exchange value to a commodity is equal to its use value, which essentially means that (since everything in measured in socially necessary labor time in Marxism) the labor time that went into producing the means of production is then transfered to the product to become its exchange value. However, machines don’t operate themselves and in order to make a profit, there must be extra value added, and this comes from the workers involved in production. This is how Marx comes to the conclusion that labor is the sole source of surplus value creation, the means of production merely being “dead labor”.

      However, this rests on the assumption that the utility of the means of production in creating a valuable product is equal to its own exchange value, and that as the utility or use value of the machine depletes, its exchange value is depleted in equal proportion so that it is entirely transfered to whatever products it produces over its lifespan. If true, this would mean that all capital inputs always equal all capital outputs, and that the ability of a type of machine to create other products of equal “cost” (exchange value is supposed to equal price when supply and demand are equal) has a directly proportional relationship to the amount of “socially necessary labor time” embodied in the construction of said machine.

    • 1soru1 says:

      Take a 3d printer that can print itself. The first such machine takes 50 million hours to produce, so can’t be produced unless economic forces conspire to persuade enough of the right people to put in that effort.

      The second takes 100 hours to mine and ship the raw materials, and 1 second to press the ‘duplicate yourself’ button. And so does the third or fourth.

      The use-value of such machines, compared to a world in which they didn’t exist, is immense. The exchange value will depend entirely on the legal regime in place. Something like patents, or other tight legal control over who can buy one, the exchange value will be slightly below the use value. No restrictions, and it will be only slightly above the cost of the raw materials.

      Consequently, Marxian economics is never predictive; the OP is just one of several flaws when you try to use it that way. Instead it’s proper use is evaluative; given a known set of exchange values, who does the legal regime that created them favor, and by how much?

      • But it’s supposed to be predictive in that it predicts that the rate of profit will decline due to capital supplanting workers, and not being able to create any surplus value, which is what is supposed to lead to the collapse of capitalism in the first place. He predicts a classless, moneyless, international society as the end result of this (with a bit of violent forcing from the proletariat). Marx predicts that exchange value will disappear to be replaced only with use values, the historical role of capitalism being over.

        Now, he was kind of close if you squint but for the wrong reasons; but it’s not capital intensity per se that should lead to a steady continuous decline in the rate of profit, but a certain threshold when automation leads to true replacement of workers, and starts removing more workers than can be transfered to new productive roles. Even then, that’s not about capital not being able to add exchange value, but about the unemployed not having wages to consume with, and would be corrected by the welfare state/nationalized wages/basic income, or by spreading around the automated capital more etc. The prediction that the rate of profit will inevitably decline until it hits zero seems dubious on the basis that the means of production can’t produce surplus value, because they absolutely can. Different predictions are drawn from this.

    • Drew says:

      Marx created an accounting system. It tells you how Marx wants to assign value within some system. But it doesn’t really predict anything. So it’s not a “model” in the economic sense.

      Suppose you looked at an accounting textbook and read:

      > Corporate investment works by taking an initial some of money (M) converting it into capital inventory (C) and then selling the product of that inventory on the market for some other amount of money (M’).
      >
      > The exact form of the process is therefore M-C-M’, where M’ = M + D M = the original sum advanced, plus an increment. This increment or excess over the original value I call “[accounting profit].”

      This wouldn’t be surprising or controversial. It’s just an accounting identity. Accounting profit is the amount of money that’s left over once you account for your expenses.

      However, accounting identities aren’t forward looking models. They’ll never (themselves) predict what’s going to happen next year. They’re just a way of annotating the data that you’ve already received.

      In practice, every conversation I’ve had with a Marxist ends up with them asserting “Well, Marx defined these terms in the following ways, so we’d describe that transaction as ____.” Occasionally, they’re correct; their description matches what Marx said.

      The problem is that this claim just reduces to, “I can create a reasonably consistent system of double-entry bookkeeping that uses ‘labor’ to denominate stuff instead of ‘money’.”

      And that’s true, but so what? Replace “labor” with “energy” and you can have an energy theory of value that describes commodities in terms socially-necessary watt-hours. It’s an interesting accounting exercise. But it’s not engaging with any economic problem.

      • But it doesn’t really predict anything.

        He predicts the declining rate of profit and therefore the end of capitalism, to be supplanted by socialism, and its highest stage; communism. Now, there’s motivated reasoning in that Marx was a communist before he fully developed his theory, but his explanation of capitalist economies is crafted such that capitalism abolishing itself (and the bourgeoisie having to be burnt off like ticks by the proletariat) is the logical conclusion.

        • Drew says:

          That’s fair. Marx does lay out predictions for the fate of society. Those have been generally falsified.

          I was thinking that his models don’t predict anything about next period’s productivity.

          • cassander says:

            I was thinking that his models don’t predict anything about next period’s productivity.

            Marx explicitly predicts that socialist production will be more productive than capitalist. His entire argument for socialism giving way to communism is premised on the assumption that socialism will be so productive (and unlike capitalism, so well distributed) that post-scarcity conditions will be achieved.

          • @cassander

            This is critical, because if you don’t think that, then you’d just wait for capitalism to produce communism automatically, but if capitalism is going to start collapsing due to its own contradictions, then you need a revolution to build socialism on the back of the collapsing system to spur the way to post-scarcity. If you don’t believe that all that would be justified would be some sort of social democratic reformism.

      • Drew says:

        And, that shouldn’t be taken as an especially damning criticism of Marx himself. His work is what it is.

        Instead, the problem is that his followers never went anywhere with their accounting. And they got so far behind real economics that they’re now completely irrelevant.

        Every economist has to take a couple classes that cover “dynamic, stochastic, general equilibrium models.” These were a major area of research back in the 1960s.

        They’re the models that start with lines like:

        Suppose that a country’s production is a function of capital and labor. Write this as Y = F(C, L). Assume that “F” is increasing in both ‘C’ and ‘L’.

        The amount of labor availble each round is …, and the amount of capital available is … . Wages and rental rates are … . Agents want to maximize … .

        The models are dynamic because they (like Marx) include equations about how capital changes period-over-period. They’re stochastic because they (like Marx) describe production as a function of just the current capital and labor stocks.

        They’re ‘equilibrium models’ because (unlike Marx) they make predictions about future states.

        There are REAMS of papers on these models. People have done every conceivable variation. One good. Two goods. N Goods. Separate production processes for consumables and labor. Random shocks. Hyperbolic discounting. Whatever.

        The theorists have taken these models and looked at what you can prove given various assumptions about F. The empiricists have tried a bunch of reasonably-specific versions of F and seen how well they can calibrate the things to historical GDPs.

        This matters, because Marx’s work, once you get into it, just looks like an under-specified DSGE. (“Production equals the socially necessary labor invested in a good, plus the replacement cost of any capital consumed” becomes “Y = L + a C” where ‘a’ is some rate of depreciation)

        Playing with that kind of model would make for an interesting homework assignment. And I’m sure people have tried calibrations with that sort of production function.

        But, in the end, the whole Marxist project seems to reduce to people talking about a specific instance of a model that was current in 1960. That’s profoundly disappointing.

    • I don’t think this article understands the distinction between use-value and exchange-value very well.

      Marx’s law of value says that the exchange-value of a commodity arises from the socially-necessary abstract labor-time needed to produce that commodity. However, the use-value of a commodity is something else entirely. A use-value (such as a machine considered in-and-of-itself as a machine and not as a marketed commodity) might be able to replicate itself *in use-value terms* without adding one iota of exchange-value.

      For example, imagine that corn kernels planted themselves and that land was infinite and had no rent. In that case, a kernel of corn might produce 10 kernels of corn, which might produce 100, and so on…endlessly, and without any labor input needed. However, this would not be a source of exchange-value or surplus-value. In fact, the exchange-value of these kernels of corn would be exactly zero in this case. People would not pay for corn or exchange anything for it, despite the fact that they might still find corn very much useful and desirable. Corn would simply be too easy to produce to be able to charge anything for it.

      Marx’s law of value argues, in line with the classical economists such as Adam Smith and David Ricardo, that all costs of production of *commodity inputs* are ultimately traceable to labor costs in the last analysis. (Land is not a commodity, as it is not produced for sale, so it is a separate matter—hence the need for the assumption of infinite land and no rents). With no labor costs or rents, the cost of production of corn would be zero.

      Therefore, if corn had any “price of production” at all (price of production is the cost of production + the average rate of profit), then the business of corn production would have an infinite rate of profit. All activity would flow into the corn-producing sector until corn was as plentiful as air, at which point corn’s price of production would fall until corn production was yielding merely average profits. With a cost of production of zero, corn’s price of production would also have to be zero in order to even-out the super-profits in the corn-producing sector.

      Going back to the issue of machines: the law of value implies that a machine might very well produce multiple copies of itself, but this would be relevant only in a use-value sense. Any machine that could be produced entirely by other machines, whose inputs and inputs of inputs etc. are likewise produced entirely by machines, would eventually settle on an exchange-value of zero, and this production would not be a source of surplus exchange-value. This is regardless of the fact that the machine might remain very useful. Lots of useful things have an exchange-value of zero (such as air, or the washing of dishes for oneself, or grain that is produced by a peasant for his own subsistence and not marketed).

      • For example, imagine that corn kernels planted themselves and that land was infinite and had no rent. In that case, a kernel of corn might produce 10 kernels of corn, which might produce 100, and so on…endlessly, and without any labor input needed. However, this would not be a source of exchange-value or surplus-value. In fact, the exchange-value of these kernels of corn would be exactly zero in this case. People would not pay for corn or exchange anything for it, despite the fact that they might still find corn very much useful and desirable. Corn would simply be too easy to produce to be able to charge anything for it.

        Key word there.

        Self-reproduction =/= post-scarcity

        Going back to the issue of machines: the law of value implies that a machine might very well produce multiple copies of itself, but this would be relevant only in a use-value sense.

        Any machine that could be produced entirely by other machines, whose inputs and inputs of inputs etc. are likewise produced entirely by machines, would eventually settle on an exchange-value of zero

        You seem to be assuming infinite resources which isn’t a reasonable assumptio