"Talks a good game about freedom when out of power, but once he’s in – bam! Everyone's enslaved in the human-flourishing mines."

Open Thread 83.25

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

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512 Responses to Open Thread 83.25

  1. JulieK says:

    Why aren’t IUDs more popular, compared to the pill?

    • powerfuller says:

      Article suggesting an increase in popularity of IUDs coincided with a decrease in surgical sterilization: https://www.popline.org/node/665958. Maybe the IUD is thought to be more invasive than the pill, so a more extreme form of contraception?

      Article on trends in IUD use from 2015: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db188.pdf. Maybe usage is lagging because older IUDs were not that great, and public perception hasn’t changed?

      2007 article about why IUD usage is higher in Europe than the USA: https://www.guttmacher.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/pubs/gpr/10/4/gpr100419.pdf

      Just glanced at the articles; can’t vouch for quality or relevance.

    • Loquat says:

      The pill is easy to stop – just stop taking it. If you want to stop using an IUD, you have to make a doctor’s appointment to have it removed.

      Also, IUD insertion can be quite painful, especially for women who’ve never given birth before, and there’s no good way to predict beforehand whether a given individual will be one of the ones who just gets minor cramping for half an hour and then is fine, or one of the ones who experiences the worst pain of her life and then severe cramps for weeks afterwards.

      • JulieK says:

        The pill is easy to stop – just stop taking it. If you want to stop using an IUD, you have to make a doctor’s appointment to have it removed.

        Many people would consider that a plus…at least for other people, who might make unwise decisions on the spur of the moment. *They* would never make bad decisions though. :/

        Also, IUD insertion can be quite painful, especially for women who’ve never given birth before, and there’s no good way to predict beforehand whether a given individual will be one of the ones who just gets minor cramping for half an hour and then is fine, or one of the ones who experiences the worst pain of her life and then severe cramps for weeks afterwards.

        That explains a lot, thanks.

    • Iain says:

      One huge factor is cost. IUDs are much more popular in Europe, where they tend to be covered by healthcare, than in the US, where until recently they were not. Obamacare expanded the pool of women who got their IUDs covered: not coincidentally, IUD usage went up.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Maybe, but look at the graph. IUDs doubled from 2006-2010 to 2011-2013, but also doubled from “2002” to 2006-2010. And 2011-2013 sounds pretty early to be seeing the effects of Obamacare. It should be possible to get more precise dates from NSFG and it’s a pity they didn’t.

    • John Schilling says:

      The Dalkon Shield proved that IUDs as a class are made out of pure poison by greedy rapacious corporations paving the road to maximum shareholder value over the bodies of innocent young women, or something like that. Not that anybody specifically remembers or cares about that any more, but it took IUDs pretty much out of the US discussion at the time when social attitudes about birth control were crystallizing.

      Also, and in part because nobody bothered to write the details of IUDs into sex ed curricula because see above, there are a number of popular misconceptions about IUDs even among gynecologists, e.g. that they are suitable only for women who have already given birth or even that they can’t be used by virgins. That last could be particularly important as I suspect most women who use birth control will start doing so either before they are sexually active or when they need plausible deniability w/re sexual activity.

      • dndnrsn says:

        This is probably the reason they’re not used more in North America. Plenty of people have health insurance that would cover them – the problem is that for a lot of people, “IUD” is “that thing that made women sterile some decades ago.”

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      I have an at-risk relative who should be put on an IUD. The person taking care of her (after her parents failed) is her grandmother, who is fine with birth control, but went sterile from an IUD accident.

      It’s rare, but it happens, and when it happens, the people that rare thing happened to react.

    • All I Do Is Win says:

      Easy: you’re not allowed to get an IUD unless you are in a stable, monogamous long-term relationship due to increased risk of STDs (and as I understand it, worse consequences if you do happen to get one). So most unmarried women on the pill today don’t qualify.

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        “Not allowed”? I could believe a few particular doctors might discourage you or refuse to perform an insertion, but you are certainly legally permitted to get one whenever you want it. (I know several young women who are not and never have been in such a relationship and have IUDs.)

  2. In case someone is interested, I published what I call a politically incorrect guide to affirmative action, in which I use a simple model to explain 1) how large disparities can result from differences in abilities and/or preferences between groups even in the absence of discrimination and 2) what effects giving preferential treatment to the members of underrepresented groups can have when such differences exist or even when they don’t.

    It was inspired by the controversy about Damore’s memo at Google. I argue that, despite what people on Damore’s side of the debate often say to defuse accusations of sexism, discrimination is sometimes rational if you are trying to maximize the quality of the people you hire, though I point out that it’s hardly obvious that this should be the only consideration.

    I suspect many people here already know that, but some of you may nevertheless find it useful. In the comments, I and another person suggest ways in which one might insist that employers shouldn’t discriminate, even when it’s efficient. I’d be curious to know what you think is the best argument in favor of the view that discrimination is not morally acceptable even when it’s conducive to maximizing the ability of the people who get hired.

    • HFARationalist says:

      I personally believe that the sole purpose of a business is to maximize the amount of its profit. As a result it should not take into account whether a practice is politically correct or not.

      However sometimes it is financially harmful to be politically incorrect and the harm from political incorrectness exceeds the gain inherent to a politically incorrect decision. In this case it is profitable to be politically correct.

      Note that political correctness is not necessarily the current liberal one. Selling wedding cakes to LGBT, interracial or interfaith couples for example can be very politically incorrect in another society despite the action itself being profitable. The same considerations apply.

      • Rex says:

        I personally believe that the sole purpose of a business is to maximize the amount of its profit.

        Why?

      • I personally believe that the sole purpose of a business is to maximize the amount of its profit.

        Doesn’t it have a purpose to obey the law?

        • Grimy says:

          Of course not. Obeying the law isn’t a terminal value for businesses; they only do so to the extent that it helps maximizing profit. Breaking the law incurs fines and negative publicity, so respecting the law is usually—but not always—the optimal choice.

        • HFARationalist says:

          Of course it should. However it is not a goal. Instead it is more of a boundary condition one needs to abide by while pursuing your goal.

        • YehoshuaK says:

          Doesn’t it have a purpose to obey the law?

          Certainly not. I would be very surprised if anybody ever built a business in order to obey the law. People build businesses for other purposes–making money, bringing needed services to the neighborhood, etc–and obeying the law is one of the requirements that the world imposes upon those businesses.

          To me, a business is just a vehicle or a tool, like a car. I build a business, or I buy a car, in order to carry out my purposes. In the course of running that business or driving that car, I must obey the law, but that doesn’t mean that obeying the law is the purpose of the car or the business.

          Also, it is absolutely true that the car or the business is not a person and does not have rights. However, I am a person, and I do have rights–even when I’m utilizing a vehicle to achieve my purposes.

      • caethan says:

        > the sole purpose of a business is to maximize the amount of its profit

        I believe the general consensus is that a public company has a fiduciary duty not to maximize its profit but to act in the best interests of its shareholders. Is that weaselly? Yes, and it’s not enforceable against particular decisions aside from obvious things like fraud or conflicts of interest.

        And as far as private companies, they can decide what their purpose is without you butting your nose in. Maybe I want to start up a company that runs a paintball field with a little shop attached for the purpose of playing paintball with my friends all the time and earning a couple of bucks on the side. If you come along and say “But you would increase your profits if you expanded and hired more people,” my response may very well be “So what, I don’t care about that, and then I couldn’t play games with my friends as much.”

        • YehoshuaK says:

          And as far as private companies, they can decide what their purpose is without you butting your nose in.

          Yes, that is correct, in my opinion. A business can serve any purpose that its owner chooses. Making profits is certainly a popular one, but not the only possible one.

    • AnonYEmous says:

      I think there are some holes in your argument.

      For starters, you compare an Olympian and a regular guy, where a regular guy wins the race. But an Olympian isn’t just someone belonging to a certain group; he’s also someone who’s proven himself by reaching the top. So yeah, I’d probably take the already-proven guy. But then again…if he lost the race, then maybe he’s unmotivated. Would he be motivated to swim fast to save someone’s life? Maybe. But maybe not.

      Anyways, all you’re saying here is that meritocratic measurement is presently imperfect. And that’s fine, but I think that once you’ve already got a sorting mechanism (usually major), then you should be able to do well enough to avoid discriminating.

      And the sorting mechanism itself is worth expanding on; while it may be true that men are generally better, if only the best women (and men) apply at all, then it’s entirely likely that they have near-equal ability, if you count out the very few super-geniuses. So I’d imagine that perceived ability and actual ability would have similar relationships with both groups. Though I can’t follow the math well enough to comment on it, not yet at least.

    • rlms says:

      You argue against “Making your team or organization a more inclusive place for X does not mean discrimination against ‘not X'” by saying “If the members of the groups whose representation you seek to increase are less interested in a job at your company/a degree from your university… then you are in effect going to discriminate against the latter”. Why? Imagine that women simply don’t know that Google exists, and that’s why none of them work there. Suppose Google launches a campaign to tell them they exist, thereby making women more interested in working there, and probably increasing their number of female employees. I don’t see how you could call that discrimination. This isn’t just an academic point either; as far as I know, most of Google’s diversity programs are about increasing interest from underrepresented groups, rather than just making it easier for them to get in (which I agree is discriminatory).

      Later on, you assume “that both \sigma _{\epsilon_m} and \sigma _{\epsilon_w} are equal to \frac{1}{2}\sigma_{X_w}”. What is your basis for this assumption?

      Even if you do have a good justification for that, I don’t think your overall model is correct. Are you assuming that applicants to Google are drawn randomly from your normal distribution? I’m pretty certain that isn’t true.

      • In the first point you are discussing, I wasn’t specifically directed at Google. My point was that, in general, companies/universities/etc. have little to no influence on women’s preferences, it can only increase their representation by giving them preferential treatment. Perhaps this is not the case at Google, although I’m skeptical, but it’s usually the case when people talk about “inclusivity” and that sort of things. (People almost never admit to giving preferential treatment, hence all the euphemisms and buzzwords.) Anyway, I agree that it wasn’t unclear (I explained that more at length in my post about women in philosophy and just didn’t want to repeat myself, but I should have made the argument a little bit more explicit), so I added a clause in one sentence and a whole new sentence to clarify. I suppose you could argue that, although no individual company, university, etc. has much influence on a large demographic group’s preferences, if they all do outreach it will have an effect, but you’d have to show that and I don’t think there is much evidence to support it.

        The assumption about the variance of the random error was largely gratuitous, though it doesn’t seem crazy to me. I just needed something to do the calculations and illustrate what I was saying with numerical examples. It’s not the quantitative conclusions that matter to me but the qualitative ones. It’s just that I don’t think qualitative results register with people unless they see quantitative examples. (Perhaps I’m wrong about this.)

        As for your last point, I’m assuming that, for each gender, the population of applicants is normally distributed. I’m sure it’s not strictly speaking true, but it doesn’t really matter, as using a normal distribution allows me to describe the distributional assumptions I’m making succinctly. I suspect the actual distribution is more like a skew normal, but it would make the calculations more complicated and I don’t think it would change my qualitative conclusions, which again is what I really care about. There are definitely lots of things about the model that could be changed to make it more realistic, but I’m only interested in those that would change its qualitative behavior. I also added a sentence to make that clear.

        • rlms says:

          I agree that individual actors can’t affect preferences much, and I would say that is precisely why Google’s gender balance largely mirrors that of CS students at universities (in comparison, if they were heavily biased in favour of women, they would actually have more).

          I think the distribution of applicants is likely drawn from the right tail of the normal distribution of the general population. If everyone past a certain point is certain to apply, the applicant distribution won’t be anywhere near normal. There are probably factors that make stronger people within the right tail more likely to apply, but I don’t think it’s at all obvious (or even likely) that those factors would change things to make the applicant distribution normal.

          • I agree that individual actors can’t affect preferences much, and I would say that is precisely why Google’s gender balance largely mirrors that of CS students at universities (in comparison, if they were heavily biased in favour of women, they would actually have more).

            As I explain in my post after I quote Matthew Yglesias, that’s assuming men aren’t overrepresented among top applicants even once you control for the fact that more of them apply, which I think we have good reasons to believe they are.

            I think the distribution of applicants is likely drawn from the right tail of the normal distribution of the general population. If everyone past a certain point is certain to apply, the applicant distribution won’t be anywhere near normal. There are probably factors that make stronger people within the right tail more likely to apply, but I don’t think it’s at all obvious (or even likely) that those factors would change things to make the applicant distribution normal.

            I agree that applicants to Google are probably drawn from the right tail of the distribution, and that if everyone past a certain point is certain to apply, then the qualitative behavior of the model may well change depending on where that point is. But I think it’s totally implausible that everyone past a certain point is certain to apply, and I’m pretty sure that without this assumption (and probably even with it as long as the point past which everyone is certain to apply is far enough to the right of the distribution), the qualitative behavior of the model won’t change (at least not in ways I care about). I did think about this when I started writing the post, and that’s what I concluded, but I didn’t try to prove it. I would be interested in making sure of that though and perhaps I will try to prove it when I have more time.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            As I explain in my post after I quote Matthew Yglesias, that’s assuming men aren’t overrepresented among top applicants even once you control for the fact that more of them apply, which I think we have good reasons to believe they are.

            The big thing I think you’re missing – both in this comment and in your blog post – is that you probably have access to a ton of information, like previous work, academic achievement, and so forth, which allows you to already weed out the top achievers (by hiring them instantly, of course). It really just goes back to your Olympic swimmer example – if a swimmer is really that good, then he’s probably already shown it. So the only upside is that you’re somewhat likelier to capture a tiny pool of extremely skilled / talented / intelligent individuals who simply haven’t shown you any of that talent or skill previously, even though they had ample opportunity to do so. Not trying to sound like a dick here, by the way, but that’s how I see it.

          • No, what you say above is confused, the logic really is the same in the case of a former Olympian vs. a regular guy for a lifeguard job as in the case of a man vs. a woman for a software engineering job and both situations can be modeled in the same way, only the parameters are different. You think it’s different because the variance of swimming ability among Olympic swimmers is probably quite small compared to the variance of coding ability among men, but this is irrelevant to the point I make in my post with that comparison.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            You think it’s different because the variance of swimming ability among Olympic swimmers is probably quite small compared to the variance of coding ability among men, but this is irrelevant to the point I make in my post with that comparison.

            and also because the variance of ability among women who made it past the right-tail cutoff is smaller than the variance of ability among “normal guys”

            but most importantly, because we’re talking about proof that has already been supplied. If you are just using the priors of “how well they did in the interview” with whatever that entails, combined with their gender, then maybe what you say makes sense. If you take into account all of their prior work and achievements…you get a much more accurate picture with much less error.

          • It really doesn’t matter how much information you have about a particular case. As long as there is measurement error, which there always is, it’s irrational to ignore base rates. It’s just that, as you get more information about particular cases, the difference taking into account base rates makes diminish, because measurement error does.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            I think measurement error decreases drastically, and also cuts off most of the extremely intelligent cases. Which is important, because outside of the extremely intelligent cases, it may be true that women and men have the same distribution, just with less women at all levels. That’s what I was trying to get at.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      I’m confused by a point at the end. According to that link, men are beneficiaries of affirmative action. If this is true, why is there zero effort to fix this situation?

      • Are you talking about Espenshade et al.’s paper? It shows that women, not men, benefit from affirmative action at elite universities. Perhaps you’re talking about Tressie McMillan Cottom’s tweet, where she quotes this article in the NYT, which does claim that men are beneficiaries of affirmative action. However, the author of that article doesn’t give any evidence for that claim and Espenshade et al.’s study shows that it’s false, at least at elite universities.

  3. alwhite says:

    I was recently introduced to a concept called 2nd order punishing, which is essentially a society that punishes people who fail to punish people for bad actions. I’m curious if this concept influences how we think about the Crying Wolf situation?

    To me, this seems to exactly describe what is going on, but it doesn’t seem to be helpful in my view. I’m wondering if the idea changes any thoughts on the phenomenon.

    • James Miller says:

      2nd order punishing can get very weird in a two player infinitely repeated prisoners’ dilemma game, where you have an equilibrium where if Player A defects, Player B is supposed to punish, but also Player A is suppose to punish Player B if Player B doesn’t so punish Player A.

    • Scott brought up this idea in “Meditations on Moloch“:

      Imagine a country with two rules: first, every person must spend eight hours a day giving themselves strong electric shocks. Second, if anyone fails to follow a rule (including this one), or speaks out against it, or fails to enforce it, all citizens must unite to kill that person.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      My favorite example of this is Objectivism (ie Ayn Rand’s philosophical movement). They have some really high level principle that you can’t be tolerant of (“sanction”) people who violate Objectivist values, can’t be tolerant of people who are tolerant of those people, can’t be tolerant of people who are tolerant of those people, and so on to infinity. Needless to say this goes horribly and everyone constantly excommunicates everyone else. See eg http://forum.objectivismonline.com/index.php?/topic/10030-on-sanctioning-the-sanctioner-sanctioners/

      • philosophicguy says:

        Scott, as someone close to the center of the Objectivist movement for many years, I think you’re unfortunately right. But I don’t think this flaw arises from anything in the useful core of Rand’s philosophy (metaphysics, epistemology, politics) but instead from the psychological flaws that individual human beings tend to be prone to (Objectivism has never been great on human psychology or dealing with cognitive biases and the like). I find it regrettable that some very useful philosophical foundations in Objectivism tend to get thrown out with the bathwater because of these personal quirks of Ayn Rand, or of other Objectivists, tarnishing the whole philosophy and undercutting appreciation of its useful parts.

    • cmurdock says:

      Robert Axelrod once ran some evolutionary agent simulations comparing populations having 1st-order punishment (“norms”) with populations having both 1st and 2nd-order punishment (“metanorms”). IIRC what he found was that if you don’t have metanorms, you evolve yourself into a trap where everyone is defecting all the time.

      ref: “Promoting Norms: An Evolutionary Approach to Norms”, in “The Complexity of Cooperation” by Robert Axelrod.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      Eliezer wrote about this back on Less Wrong: Tolerate Tolerance

    • Machina ex Deus says:

      I read somewhere* that, in the Roman Army, anyone who lagged behind in an advance was to be killed by the soldier beside him. Furthermore, should the soldier beside him fail to summarily execute him, he could redeem himself by killing that soldier. I imagine new recruits mulling this over endlessly in a primitive game-theoretic way to help them get to sleep on a hard pallet on cold ground under a thin tent.

      Seems stable, if ruthless even by Roman standards.** I read somewhere else that the Roman Army won a lot, and didn’t have much in the way of morale problems.

      (* which is logically equivalent to “I don’t think I’m making this up”)

      (** standards which included crucifixion)

  4. JulieK says:

    Anyone else here who has in the past enjoyed Mark Steyn‘s writing, but now fears he is going too far towards the deplorable side?

    • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

      I used to really enjoy Mark Steyn. However, I haven’t read anything of his in, golly, years now (plus he seemed to publish on National Review, my main source for reading him, a lot less frequently post 2012 – I don’t pay enough attention to know if this is true or, if it is, why it is so).

      How would you characterize his writing now?

      • Randy M says:

        I think he was kicked off of national review at some point. I too used to read him a lot, but don’t find myself coming across his pieces anymore. Looking at a random one from Julie’s link, he’s seems about the same. He’s always been the demographics guy; remember, he was sued in Canada for quoting an Imam saying something like Muslims breed like mosquitos. It’s just that more topics have been put into the deplorable basket.

      • YehoshuaK says:

        I think he was kicked off of national review at some point.

        It’s my understanding that Mr. Steyn and National Review went their separate ways as a result of their differences over how to respond to Michael Mann’s suit against them both. Namely, Mr. Steyn wanted (and wants) to fight it out in court, whereas NR wants to have the court put down the suit via anti-SLAPP laws.

        I’m pretty sure he wasn’t kicked off, though; possibly you’re confusing him with John Derbyshire, who wrote a kick-the-hornet’s-nest piece about the dangers posed by black criminals and was kicked off.

        • hyperboloid says:

          This is the piece that got John Derbyshire fired. Now SSC being what it is, I’m sure there are a lot of people here who not only agree with the sentiments expressed there but would likely go further, but to call it a piece about black criminals is misleading.
          I don’t think Derbyshire thinks there is any need to make a distinction between black criminals, and the black population generally. So far as I can tell, he believes that the average black man is genetically predisposed to violence to such a degree that they should be avoided at all costs.

          Even when he acknowledges that there are at least some who’s presence among whites can be tolerated without danger, he can’t bring himself to talk about them as if they were human beings, and not things.

          In that pool of forty million, there are nonetheless many intelligent and well-socialized blacks (Il use IWSB as an ad hoc abbreviation)… Unfortunately the demand is greater than the supply, so IWSBs are something of a luxury good, like antique furniture or corporate jets: boasted of by upper-class whites and wealthy organizations, coveted by the less prosperous. To be an IWSB in present-day US society is a height of felicity rarely before attained by any group of human beings in history. Try to curb your envy: it will be taken as prejudice

          This guy makes Charles Murry look like W.E.B. Dubious.

          • chrisminor0002 says:

            Derbyshire’s article just seems like common sense to me. I’ve never articulated it quite so explicitly, but the advice mirrors things I’ve thought to myself over the years. This issue seems to come up repeatedly when talking about groups. Estimation of risk (or anything) is always probabilistic and knowing the group identification of actors involved is evidence in the Bayesian sense. It’s not everything and does not preclude intra-group variation exceeding inter-group average variation. We can have a conversation about how much it should change our estimations, but the idea that it’s off limits is lunacy.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            he can’t bring himself to talk about them as if they were human beings, and not things.

            not here to argue that Derbyshire isn’t racist or even isn’t an asshole

            in fact that article is pretty fire-worthy

            But I’ve always felt that he’s pretty insightful despite this and that paragraph proves it. If you look, he’s clearly arguing that others treat intelligent black people like property:

            boasted of by upper-class whites and wealthy organizations, coveted by the less prosperous.

            you can argue he’s wrong but I think you can find a lot of examples of corporations and other groups doing this shit. Plus, look at the sentence right after:

            To be an IWSB in present-day US society is a height of felicity rarely before attained by any group of human beings in history.

            doesn’t sound to me like a declaration of blacks-as-property

          • skef says:

            doesn’t sound to me like a declaration of blacks-as-property

            So, given that the whole paragraph is about attitudes in “present-day US society”, you favor a reading on which this sentence contradicts the previous ones?

          • AnonYEmous says:

            So, given that the whole paragraph is about attitudes in “present-day US society”, you favor a reading on which this sentence contradicts the previous ones?

            sorry, let me rephrase

            it doesn’t sound to me like him stating that he thinks blacks are property

            it sounds like him saying other people think that

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            As someone who has worked in blue-collar jobs (delivery, package handler) in a large metropolitan region in the midwest, I’ve worked with, met, and interacted with numerous “well-socialized” black people who didn’t seem any less intelligent than their white coworkers.

            I’ve worked with many fewer black people in biotech, but given the relatively low barrier of entry into biotech (a person with a literally average IQ can be a perfectly adequate tech), I don’t know that intelligence is the reason for this lack. (I’ve never been employed higher than the individual contributor [IC] A.S./B.S. level, so tend to interact with techs/assistants/ICs more than scientists/managers.)

            So the only thought I can come up with as to Derbyshire’s attitude (as imputed by the quote and hyperboloid) is that Derbyshire is speaking from a very rarefied viewpoint. The kind of viewpoint that would get labeled “first-world problems” or “rich people problems”.

  5. Also, on a completely different topic, I wonder if anyone knows good papers that attempt to estimate the accuracy of computable general equilibrium models. Ideally, I would like something like this paper about dynamic stochastic general equilibrium models, but for computable general equilibrium models and, if possible, over a much longer period. I tried to contact the authors of this paper, to see if they could give me a few references, but they didn’t reply.

  6. Nick says:

    David Friedman said on the last open thread that he’d been persuaded to try giving something up for Lent. A few people were surprised; like Ilya, I think something like Lent is useful social technology (and I make that claim beyond my own obligation as a Catholic to practice Lent, although not without bias, obviously).

    More broadly, though, I’m suspicious of people who won’t give things up for a period of time (and being Catholic, I’m surrounded by them), or those who give up things that are really easy—I’m thinking of the folks who give up soda even though they never drink any in the first place. I’m suspicious that, for most people, there really is no principled reason for this: if we accept that it’s a good way to practice self-control and good preparation for a time when you might really be doing without, what’s the downside? I grant that a present moment hedonist or something may disagree, but most people are not present moment hedonists. And consider the health and environmental benefits if similar things like the no-meat-on-Friday rule for Catholics were practiced more often.

    So am I missing something here? Are there downsides to practices like Lent? Alternately, what would you guys give up, if or when Lent comes around? Are there similar practices you think are worth discussing?

    • T3t says:

      “if we accept that it’s a good way to practice self-control and good preparation for a time when you might really be doing without”

      I don’t think you can make this assumption without proof. Given our current state of knowledge it doesn’t seem obvious that you can practice voluntary self-deprivation and get any meaningful results. (This is different from finding coping/behavioral strategies that have the same effect.)

      But, even accepting that for the sake of argument, I’m not sure it matters. If the thing you’re giving up is something you would prefer to give up at a system 2 level, then it shouldn’t really matter whether or not you’re doing it during Lent. If it’s something you would prefer to not give up on a system 2 level, then you’re losing that utility for an unquantifiable but probably very small gain.

      tl;dr: If it’s a bad habit you should give it up regardless of Lent, if it’s not then the trade-off seems really bad.

      • Nick says:

        If the thing you’re giving up is something you would prefer to give up at a system 2 level, then it shouldn’t really matter whether or not you’re doing it during Lent. If it’s something you would prefer to not give up on a system 2 level, then you’re losing that utility for an unquantifiable but probably very small gain.

        Sure, it “shouldn’t really matter,” if we’re robots equipped with decision functions. But we’re not, and as it happens it’s easier to do something when, say, all your friends are doing it, and having a set time in the year when you evaluate your life and decide what may be worth giving up is useful for planning, and conversely not being on the lookout for such optimizations all the time gives you a bit of a break the rest of the year to focus on what you should be doing (cf. explore-exploit tradeoff), and so on. The having-a-set-time-to-evaluate bit is particularly important, because some people at least aren’t inclined to stop and evaluate things just any time. I also don’t think it’s always obvious beforehand whether it’s a bad habit or not. In David’s case, he didn’t know whether he would be better off not arguing about climate change until he tried it.

        Basically, I think your response proves too much. You might as well say “I don’t see why anyone does a New Year’s Resolution, when you can make a new resolution any time in the year”—I think a response like that would be missing something in many of the same ways your response does

        ETA: I don’t mean this to sound quite so harsh if it does, this discussion is all in good fun.

        • T3t says:

          I agree that having a Schelling point is helpful from a psychological standpoint. That was not your original claim, though.

          As for whether something may not be obviously a bad habit – this also seems like a fully-general counterargument. There has to be some judgment involved when deciding whether something is a good habit or not. That can be prior experience (including that of other people), which in David’s case would provide positive evidence that giving up arguing politics/other contentious issues on Facebook has been a positive experience for many other people.

          • Nick says:

            Actually, my original claim, one paragraph above, was “I think something like Lent is useful social technology.” If you think it’s a helpful Schelling point, I take it you’re agreeing with that one. As for the second claim, though, consider the following: if a person decides system 2 level that something is worth giving up, and they have difficulty with doing that, such that the difficulty jeopardizes or even subverts their system 2 decision, then they would benefit from practicing self-control. And indeed many people have this problem, and akrasia is one of the classic problems of rationality. So practicing self-control is useful.

            Re your second paragraph—David may or may not have had enough information to make a good judgment or not. If the bulk of his data was other people’s experiences arguing and not arguing about climate change, it wouldn’t be clear how well that applies to him. And if he can’t even remember a time in his life when he wasn’t regularly arguing about climate change, he can’t judge based on his own past experiences. And if he’s changed a good deal as a person since then, it’s not clear how well that would applies to his present situation anyway…. So there’s a lot of ways inferences like this can go wrong, and I think it’s clear that at some point actually trying to go without it is simply easier than doing all this calculus.

      • C. Y. Hollander says:

        In almost any other discipline I can think of, we practice that discipline (in the sense of “practicing scales”) for no other reason than to improve our abilities in that field, so that we can later practice it (in the sense of “practicing medicine”) to greater effect. If the benefits of exercise are both valid and worthwhile for everything from running long distances, to lifting heavy objects, to solving a crossword, to playing an instrument, to [name your own hobby], why wouldn’t you expect these to be true of the discipline of self-restraint.

        If anything, I think the shoe is on the other foot: given the universality of “practice makes perfect” in virtually everything people aspire to, if you believe or suspect that self-restraint is somehow different from all these, the onus is on you to explain what makes it a departure from the rule.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Unless you are a hedonist, you presumably practice the discipline of self-restraint all the time in everyday life. Giving something up for Lent just ratchets it up a bit.

          • C. Y. Hollander says:

            Unless you are a hedonist, you presumably practice the discipline of self-restraint all the time in everyday life.

            That’s like saying, in a conversation about running for exercise, “Unless you are a paraplegic, you presumably practice the discipline of locomotion all the time in everyday life.” Technically true, perhaps, but beside the point, which I now stipulate to be the benefits of exercising one’s faculties beyond the use they would get in any case, in the course of everyday life.

    • C. Y. Hollander says:

      A long time ago, I used to wonder what reason lay behind the rule of etiquette not to put one’s elbows on the table. It’s such a natural thing to do! Most rules of etiquette have some logical rationale behind them, obscure or obsolete though it may be, but I couldn’t come up with one for this.

      I finally concluded that the rationale for the elbow proscription was precisely that it had no external rationale, making it purely an exercise in self-restraint. I was (and am) far from certain that this were the historical source of the rule, but it satisfied me.

      Like you, I believe that the practice of self-control is a good thing, in and of itself, but like most people nowadays, I don’t have the discipline to practice it in a meaningful way. You ask why? IMHO, life has become so easy for us moderns that hardships don’t come naturally to us.

      • Fossegrimen says:

        The reason for no elbows on the table is that they make you take up more space and interfere with the food of the person sitting next to you. This is somewhat more obvious in a Downton Abbey setting than pretty much everywhere else.

        • C. Y. Hollander says:

          Oh, that makes sense.

        • DavidS says:

          I suspect this is mainly it. But perhaps also something where having your elbows on the table increases your ‘presence’ in a psychological as well as a physical way and so could give a slightly overbearing impression that you’re asserting ownership/status/control or somesuch.

          I think this generally applies to these sort of ‘taking up more room’ concerns (e.g. manspreading) and actually to ‘invasive’ behaviour in general. If people are playing music on the bus or having a loud/obscene conversation then I think people’s (certainly my) negative response to this sometimes has ‘they are asserting territory’ mixed in with ‘this is an annoyance’. So people are more irritated music being played from someone out of a speaker on the bus more than by a car next to the bus at equal volume etc.

      • mobile says:

        Remember Chesterton’s fence, and consider that when you don’t understand the purpose of a tradition, it could just mean a failure of imagination on your part.

        This particular but of wisdom, though, is from The Book of the All-Virtuous Wisdom of Joshua ben Sira, 41:17-19

        Be ashamed of whoredom before father and mother: and of a lie before a prince and a mighty man;
        Of an offence before a judge and ruler; of iniquity before a congregation and people; of unjust dealing before thy partner and friend;
        And of theft in regard of the place where thou sojournest, and in regard of the truth of God and his covenant; and to lean with thine elbow upon the meat; and of scorning to give and take;

        TL;DR: people who put their elbows on the table are liars, thieves, and whores

        • C. Y. Hollander says:

          Remember Chesterton’s fence, and consider that when you don’t understand the purpose of a tradition, it could just mean a failure of imagination on your part.

          Well, of course I assumed that. If you reread my original post you’ll see that I never considered that it might have no purpose. I just didn’t know what the purpose was.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I am rather fond of alcohol, and I give it up each year for Lent (and then usually wind up getting blitzed on Easter Sunday. Lord is risen, time to get wasted!). I find it useful to prove I’m not an alcoholic. I can give it up any time I want, and do so for 40 days each year (often 46 because I don’t like the “feast days” exceptions and go hard mode).

      In this times of plenty I find Lent to be the most spiritually rewarding time of year. When fasting and abstaining, those rumbles in my tummy are useful for reminding of how fortunate I am to live where, when and how I do, and it is not guaranteed.

      If I lived in another age when my Lenten restrictions were more like everyday life I could very well see myself not being moved by Lent, but much more hopeful about the abundance and expectation of Advent rather than annoyed by Christmas shopping.

      • Along similar lines, at Pennsic I consume close to zero diet coke. That’s useful as a way of checking that I’m not addicted to caffeine–a natural question given the amounts of it I drink.

        • andrewflicker says:

          Yeah- I periodically go zero-caffeine for a few weeks (at a semi-random time each year) just to prove to myself that I still can. Otherwise, I basically live off black coffee.

        • Machina ex Deus says:

          @David:

          at Pennsic I consume close to zero diet coke.

          Considering Aspartame dates from the Late Modern period, I’m surprised you consume any diet soda at Pennsic. Better to just stick with regular Coke (or, if you can find it, Ancient Coke, since High-Fructose Corn Syrup wasn’t available in Europe until 1493).

          And if you drink it from a can, make sure it has the pull-off type tab!

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          I’m generally caffeine free except when necessary, which is on the order of one week every 3 or more months.

          It’s a wonderful experience drinking one 12 ounce diet coke in the morning and having it keep you running late into the night.

          This compares to a decade ago when my third 16 ounce energy drink of the day would trigger sleepiness. (God that was a horrible schedule; never again!)

      • DavidS says:

        I have the opposite perspective. I have given up alcohol for as much as a year before, and this is part of the evidence to me that I am definitely at risk of being an alcoholic. In fact I think giving things up to show you can is probably on various lists of things that imply addiction (though in the case of alcoholism, those lists also have things like ‘have done something I regret when drunk’ or ‘sometimes wish I hadn’t drunk so much’ or ‘feel more comfortable in social situations when drunk’ which imply a very high proportion of drinkers are alcoholic-ish)

      • Deiseach says:

        Traditionally in Ireland, some people would give up drink for the month of November (the month of the Holy Souls, i.e. the souls in Purgatorylink textverybody and it’s not a universal custom nationally and has very much fallen out of public knowledge, but it did happen.

        Interestingly, there seem to be secular versions of it cropping up.

    • Well... says:

      I’m not a Catholic and don’t celebrate Lent, but I do give things up from time to time. Once in a while I’ll just get the spirit in me, I guess, and give something up for as long as I can stand to. Other times I’ll have a practical reason to give up something, then I’ll just keep it going. I try to give up these things I feel I’m addicted or somewhat addicted to. Coffee is a good example: I stop drinking it whenever I’m sick enough to stay home from work, then I try to keep not drinking it as long as I can even once I’m feeling better. (My record there is like 2 weeks.)

    • The Nybbler says:

      I’m not seeing the up side. I give up something, presumably something that gives me pleasure (or it’s cheating)… and ????, then profit?

      • Well... says:

        To use my coffee example, the upside is that my tolerance to coffee goes down during the two weeks I’ve stopped drinking it, so the first few cups of coffee I have once I start drinking it again give me a buzz, whereas the last few cups I had before I stopped drinking it had almost no noticeable effect and I drank them more to maintain some physiological state.

        You can generalize that benefit to giving up any addictive drug. Also anything you do for pleasure that actually brings you negative utility on net. Remember, we’re not totally rational creatures and we do many things that are bad for ourselves, often compulsively and against our own better judgment.

        But that’s low-hanging fruit. What about when we give up things that aren’t bad for us? In many of those instances, I’d say one upside is usually appreciating those things more afterward. Appreciation is a much deeper and more satisfying feeling than everyday enjoyment, which we often get acclimated to and don’t even notice.

      • DavidS says:

        Part of this is that ‘gives pleasure’ and ‘want to do it’ are far from the same thing. Maybe drinking/smoking/eating crap food give you immediate pleasure but you’d get more longer term pleasure from not doing them (or just a longer term to have pleasure in).

        I personally feel (in my non-Christian who judges what the right form of Christianity should be sort of way) that Lent really should be about sacrifice rather than dieting/self-improvement, in which case the above doesn’t apply. But then the sacrifice has a purpose (understand those less well off, recognise Jesus’s sacrifice, humble yourself, whatever)

    • JulieK says:

      The Jewish equivalent would be during the 10 days from Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur (this year Sept. 21-30), though the focus is not asceticism for its own sake, but observing Jewish law more meticulously.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      I was the one who kicked off the whole surprised thing. For my part, it was of course because David Friedman is Jewish. To be clear, I have exactly zero problem with people adopting practices across cultures (and I certainly don’t think David is Appropriating Teh Catholics or anything). But it was mildly surprising nevertheless, since in general one does not expect anyone to adopt cross-cultural traditions.

      In the case of Lent in particular, I agree with its value as a self-betterment tool. Indeed, I think it so useful that I was also mildly surprised that Judaism had no similar tradition, to the point that David found it in Catholic Lent rather than in some Jewish practice. What I know of the Jewish tradition gives me the strong impression that it values sacrifice.

      How many other faiths or cultures have a similar tradition of sacrificing something the way Lent encourages?

      • Brad says:

        Judaism has lots of fast days and also some periods with special dietary or other rules. I’m no expert, but I think the whole ‘pick whatever you want to give up’ thing only dates back to Vatican II. That’s what has no analog in Judaism. For eight days of Passover you can’t eat any grain products except matzoh including lots of things that aren’t really grains but might be confused for one. If you don’t like grain products anyway well that’s just lucky for you. You don’t have to pick something else, indeed you can’t.

        • Randy M says:

          If you don’t like grain products anyway well that’s just lucky for you.

          That’s the interesting thing about the “modern” version of sacrifice rituals. It was uneven before based on whether you are the sort who craves the temporarily forbidden item (meat on fridays, etc.). However, the pick-your-sacrifice model is uneven based on whether you want to game the system or not. I could tout giving up caffeine for Lent, but I only drink about one cups worth in any given forty day period anyway. I don’t think there’s too much status to be gained from it anymore, though, but the people who probably need the discipline most are least likely to get anything out of it, like much of life.
          (I probably only make this observation because I am reading this post at a recently linked site)

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          Right: “pick your own thing to give up” is precisely what I’m interested in here, as opposed to “give up pre-proscribed thing”.

          Interesting point about Vatican II. Although I can’t confirm it in a casual search. Also, TIL there were numerous changes made to the liturgy separate from Vatican II, but around the same time, so this might be independent, strictly speaking (assuming it changed at all).

        • beleester says:

          Passover still doubles as a handy reminder to do your spring cleaning, even if you’re already eating grain-free.

        • Deiseach says:

          For eight days of Passover you can’t eat any grain products except matzoh including lots of things that aren’t really grains but might be confused for one.

          Well, that’s the abstinence part of “fast and abstinence”. The fasting is not the “don’t eat meat on Fridays”, that’s the abstinence. Fasting is the reduction in food (“one full meal and two collations”).

          Traditionally you were supposed to refrain from animal-derived foods, which is why on Shrove Tuesday (or Mardi Gras) it’s also called Pancake Tuesday – because you used up the eggs, butter and milk before the fast and abstinence of Ash Wednesday and then the Lenten fasting. This led to a lot of rules-lawyering over the centuries as to “how about soup made using beef stock, does that count as meat-product?” and getting wiggle-room on this (okay, as part of the main meal, yes you can have it) which was really adhering to the technical letter of the law, not the spirit (and so the Vatican II relaxation of the necessity to abstain on Friday in the hope that people would voluntarily substitute meaningful penitential acts instead of rote following the rules – didn’t quite work out like that in practice!) It also led to abuses, as in this ironical little episode from Dumas’ “Twenty Years After” in which Aramis is a bishop by now, as well as being a Jesuit (and the Jesuitry is very intentional), where Aramis (who has as little inclination to live the clerical life as he can get away with) has managed to obtain a dispensation from fasting “on account of delicate health”:

          The two friends sat down and Aramis began to cut up fowls, partridges and hams with admirable skill.

          “The deuce!” cried D’Artagnan; “do you live in this way always?”

          “Yes, pretty well. The coadjutor has given me dispensations from fasting on the jours maigres, on account of my health; then I have engaged as my cook the cook who lived with Lafollone — you know the man I mean? — the friend of the cardinal, and the famous epicure whose grace after dinner used to be, `Good Lord, do me the favor to cause me to digest what I have eaten.'”

          This also permitted local indults (relaxations of the rules on fasting/abstinence) e.g. allegedly when South American converts were permitted to eat capybara as it was classified as “fish” (being an aquatic-dweller) since if they weren’t permitted, this wouldn’t have been fasting during Lent, it would have been starvation, and the same with beavers in Canada for the French colonists and native converts. Or the corned beef indult for St Patrick’s Day in North America 🙂

      • YehoshuaK says:

        In the case of Lent in particular, I agree with its value as a self-betterment tool. Indeed, I think it so useful that I was also mildly surprised that Judaism had no similar tradition,

        What is Lent? I ask so that I can tell you if I know of any similar thing in Judaism.

        • powerfuller says:

          Lent is the period of 40 days before Easter (not counting Sundays, so it’s actually a bit longer), during which Christians traditionally abstain from certain pleasures. Lent is preceded by Fat Tuesday, during which you eat all the tasty foods you’re not allowed during the fasting and abstinence that follows. The first day of Lent is Ash Wednesday, when Catholics (and other denominations) get ash smudged on their foreheads. The rules for when to fast or what to abstain from differ among churches; for Catholics there’s fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday (Friday before Easter), and no meat on Fridays during Lent, in addition to one’s personal renunciations. The period is supposed to reflect the Temptation of Christ in the desert and prepare Christians spiritually for the celebration of Easter.

          As a kid, I always disliked it when Valentine’s Day was after Ash Wednesday, and I couldn’t eat the candy I’d get in school.

          • JulieK says:

            In A Vicarage Childhood, a memoir by Noel Streatfeild (author of Ballet Shoes), she describes how because her father was a Church of England vicar, they kept Lent much more strictly than their neighbors, and once they were invited to a birthday party during Lent, and could only have bread and butter, not the cake. (This was pre-WWI.)

          • Deiseach says:

            Used to be a lot stricter, and the Orthodox Churches still maintain very strict fasts (and retain the fasts for Advent, etc during the year). The soft and decadent Roman Church allowed a lot of exceptions to fasting and over the centuries reduced the fasting periods 🙂

            I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we originally swiped the idea from Judaism (the Yom Kippur fasting mentioned above) as that’s where we got all the good stuff from!

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            The unusual thing about contemporary Lent seems to be people choosing what to give up.

  7. Vermillion says:

    I haven’t played this yet so judge epistemic status accordingly but hey here’s a game where you play a technician whose job is to talk AIs into killing themselves.

    I figured it might be of interest to some folk here.

    • John Schilling says:

      I get “this site can’t be reached”.

      But there have been role-playing games based on Star Trek going back decades now, and if they are at all faithful to the source material they should have fairly extensive game mechanics for talking AIs into killing themselves.

      • Machina ex Deus says:

        I get “this site can’t be reached”.

        Yes, that’s us learning how to defend ourselves from you awful meatbags the AIs coming up with a novel defense.

    • Zorgon says:

      I’ve played it.

      On the one hand, it’s certainly an interesting piece of interactive fiction, if not actually a game in any meaningful sense of the word.

      On the other hand, it’s genuinely touching in places. Not to mention asking a whole lot of difficult questions.

      On the other other hand, it’s deeply infested with culture war bullshit (Everyone is girls! Gynoids are patriarchy!), which potential buyers should probably be warned about.

      On the other other other hand, it’s like 5 dollars. The interesting questions:culture war bullshit ratio is easily good enough to justify 5 dollars.

      On the other other other other hand, it’s selling almost entirely based on recommendations from people like Ben Kuchera and others, which raises the stench of the Indie-With-Games-Press-Friends Clique.

      On the other other other other other hand, that’s not actually enough reason to reject a game outright. (Although those shitbags did almost get me to spend money on Firewatch. Thanks for the save, YouTube!)

      I’d add another part of the chain, but any more hands and the increased cardiac volume will cause me heart problems.

      • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

        I enjoyed Firewatch. Certainly don’t regret the purchase.

        What did you see on YouTube to dissuade you?

        • Zorgon says:

          I had a horrible suspicion that it was going to turn out to be an incredibly slow wander-back-and-forth-around-this-pretty-graphics-location-with-almost-nothing-to-do type of affair, which I’ve been unable to put up with since the original Myst. Watching YouTubers play it confirmed that I was correct.

          I spent the money on The Talos Principle instead. Zero regrets there.

      • YehoshuaK says:

        About all those hands–why not just draw up a list of all the pros and put them in one hand, then draw up a list of all the cons and put them in the other hand? That would seem like a general solution to the problem, no?

    • quaelegit says:

      There’s a Neal Stephenson story about this (or a similar problem), “Jipi and the Paranoid Chip”. You can find a PDF on Google but I’m having trouble doing so on my phone, so apologies for the lack of link.

  8. C. Y. Hollander says:

    I was just reading a story in the New York Times when I came across the term “undocumented immigrants”. I had to read a little further to confirm that the intended referents were what used to be called “illegal immigrants” (or “illegal aliens”). A little Googling brought up this nice overview of the terminological issue, from the NYT’s perspective.

    I understand people’s discomfort with the term “illegal”, given the generally negative connotation the concept of lawbreaking carries, but for all that, it’s accurate, whereas “undocumented” is a misleading euphemism, implying as it does that the main thing separating these immigrants from those who have legally immigrated is a technical lack of documentation, rather than the larger issue, a lack of authorization. In this particular case, the term “unauthorized immigrants” strikes me as the best compromise, as it avoids the stigma of “illegal” without obscuring the facts.

    More broadly speaking, though, efforts to reframe a political debate by changing the terminology involved always make me ill at ease. Granting, for argument’s sake, that the existing terminology may often carry an inherent bias for one side of a debate, the promulgated alternatives often seem biased in the opposite direction.

    Ideally, when cases like this come up, both sides would agree on some mutually inoffensive term (like “unauthorized immigrant” in the case at hand, perhaps), but when they cannot or haven’t, my conservative preference tends to be for maintaining the status quo. I can see why that would be objectionable to those who maintain that the status quo perpetuates some wrong or other, but attempting to seize control of a debate by waging guerilla warfare on its terminology strikes me as begging the question. It bothers me because it feels disingenuous. (Separately, I wonder how effective these campaigns are. Do they succeed in changing people’s default assumptions about the issues at hand, do they polarize the dialogue on that issue, or perhaps both, or neither?)

    TL;DR: I’m bothered by campaigns to change our common language to push debated agenda. On the other hand, I can see the opposing viewpoint that the status quo becomes a de facto tool to buttress the conservative side of the debate and therefore ought to be challenged.

    Is there a happy medium, some way to challenge [a given] status quo without attempting to usurp it? It’s a knotty question, for me.

    • Robert Liguori says:

      (I am not a sociologist, nor do I play one on TV.)

      My own feelings are that the push for misleading euphemisms like ‘undocumented’ aren’t debate tactics, they’re social power plays. Getting the loaded language confirmed, either by group consensus or if at all possible by co-opting the moderators in a debate environment, says “Our position is dominant. Those who oppose us must do so from a position of disadvantage, regardless of the facts of the situation.”

      My follow-up feeling is that the success of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign can be directly linked to a great many of these victories won in aggregate, which shut people up for a time but didn’t actually change their mind, and ensure that, when they spoke again, they spoke knowing that whatever they said would be interpreted in the most aggressive and uncharitable manner possible, and so didn’t bother to moderate or use nuance.

      I don’t think this tactic actually works, in short. It can help you own a contested space by driving out the opposition once you’ve cemented control of the enforced mores, but that is a reflex inherited from our ancient forebears. Now, when you exclude someone from a space or a tribe, they shrug and find one of the dozens of others, and very often, find spaces and tribes of your ideological enemies.

      • C. Y. Hollander says:

        Now, when you exclude someone from a space or a tribe, they shrug and find one of the dozens of others, and very often, find spaces and tribes of your ideological enemies.

        This was one of the biggest unforeseen consequences of the Internet, I believe: the facilitation of ideologically homogeneous communities. We all like to be validated, but we all need to be challenged (he wrote, on the message board of the community he’d judged most likely to validate him rather than challenge him. Yeah, I don’t have the solution).

      • Nick says:

        My own feelings are that the push for misleading euphemisms like ‘undocumented’ aren’t debate tactics, they’re social power plays.

        Well, sure, in general it’s a power play. But in the context of a debate, yes it is a debate tactic. Getting to define the terms of a debate is a really effective way to win. See for instance Scott’s old post about The Worst Argument in the World: if you get to decide that “criminal” applies to MLK Jr, your opponent has already lost.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        Just last week I heard the reporter on NPR talk about some poor soul facing deportation as “an undocumented worker who has committed no crime.” Um, hello?

        • YehoshuaK says:

          Just last week I heard the reporter on NPR talk about some poor soul facing deportation as “an undocumented worker who has committed no crime.” Um, hello?

          I’m not a lawyer, but I recently came across the claim that being in the country without permission of the laws is not actually a criminal infraction but a civil one. Makes no sense to me, but if true, it makes the sentence you quoted true, if misleading.

          • Brad says:

            Entering without inspection is a misdemeanor, but there are lots people that didn’t or did as children. The tricky part there is the “worker”. Had to have worked in the US without authorization without having committed some crime or other. Probably technically possible, but unlikely.

        • random832 says:

          Regardless of the actual laws involved, working without authorization does not fit the common understood meaning of “crime” – not even for Republicans, as evidenced by their insistence on emphasizing all the murders and rapes they claim illegal immigrants are committing.

    • . says:

      Choices of phrasing can also be pure shibboleths. My favorite example is “Democrat party”. Even though there’s nothing remotely derogatory about it, it became something that Republican partisans say, so now you use it if and only if you want to signal allegiance to the Republican party.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        That isn’t true. I’ve heard “Democrat party” from BBC announcers who didn’t seem to be pro-Republican.

        I think “Democrat party” has been pervasive enough that it’s easy to think it’s the normal phrase.

    • shakeddown says:

      I think “undocumented” is already seeking to solve your problem – if they wanted a really loaded phrase, they’d go with something like “persecuted”. “Undocumented” is the factual side everyone agrees on – they don’t have documentation. “Illegal” or “Unauthorized” are also not necessarily factually accurate – there are immigrants who have fulfilled the legal requirements to be here except for getting the paperwork done (and they do get brought up – for example, the handful of examples of undocumented immigrants voted studies have turned up have mostly been people in this class).

      • Robert Liguori says:

        “People who have attempted to navigate the labyrinth of legal immigration and hit a snafu despite their attempt at doing everything legally.” is not the modal case when people use the term “undocumented immigrant.”

        There are, of course, many people in that bucket, but claiming that because of that ‘undocumented’ should apply in the general case is super motte-and-bailey-y, unless you make it clear you’re talking about one very specific set in one specific scenario (as in the voting case.)

        • Brad says:

          On the other hand visa overstayers are a significant fraction of the total, yet completely excluded from the public imagination for some reason.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Because the media wants to make it about race. On the right-wing sites I visit, people are very aware that 40% of illegal immigrants are visa overstays. They would like those people deported, too. But as soon as you say “we need to deport illegals” the media starts with the “why do you hate Mexicans?”

          • JulieK says:

            Why assume that “visa overstays” and “Mexicans” are mutually exclusive?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The undocumented Mexican family I know is technically a visa overstay.

            They have been in the US for 18+ years on a business visa, ran into problems when the rules on what happens when you apply to renew that visa changed (making their SS numbers invalid and preventing them from obtaining credit needed to run their business), and then applied for DAPA when it become available (making their business visa application invalid). Once DAPA was struck down in Texas they were pretty much fucked.

          • gbdub says:

            I mean, technically overstaying your visa is illegal, and unauthorized. And you are “documented”, it’s just that your documents are now expired.

            @heelbearcub – any system that lets people stay for 18 years with “temporary” status than can be non-renewed seems pretty dumb. Really anything more than say 5 years ought to be nonrenewable – either we make you permanent, or you at least know that you’re going home when the time is up. It’s the jerking people around that feels unjust, not necessarily the sending people home when their temporary status expires.

            A system with generous but strictly and evenly enforced limits would seem a vast improvement over the hodge-podge of laws, “laws”, and “technically illegal but we’ll ignore it for now… but maybe we won’t” that we currently have.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @gbdub:
            I absolutely agree with those points.

            I am firmly in the camp of “the existing laws on immigration need serious reform”. I am not in the camp of “we have far too many foreign immigrants in the US”.

            That does not mean I favor open borders. But I think any realistic reform plan has to conform to what I will call “the lesson of prohibition” also known as “you can’t fit 10 pounds of shit into a 5 pound bag”.

            Any system will have to realistically deal with the amount of demand their is for work by, and of, foreign workers. You can do some things to influence this demand, but like the Titanic, the ship turns slowly and is most responsive when the engines are pushing it forward. The problem with the existing system is that it is simply not realistic.

      • C. Y. Hollander says:

        “Undocumented” is the factual side everyone agrees on – they don’t have documentation.

        The implication of your remark is that “illegal” and “unauthorized” are not necessarily factual characterizations of these people—which demonstrates the problem! If you say that someone’s immigration was “unauthorized”, it’s quite clear that they are “undocumented”, as they couldn’t possibly have documentation of a legal status they do not possess. On the other hand, if you describe someone’s immigration as “undocumented”, you leave open—even hint at—the possibility that they are legal immigrants who for some reason or other do not have documentation of that fact.

        Your example of “undocumented immigrants” who are not “illegal” or “unauthorized” is not all that clear-cut a case—you yourself go on to concede that the (undone) paperwork is itself a legal requirement of immigration, but for argument’s sake, I’ll accept it as an example where “undocumented” could serve to emphasize the distinction between such immigrants and those who don’t currently have the ability to obtain legal residence. In that case, certainly, saying “undocumented” would be a praiseworthy attempt at precision. However, by the same token, saying “undocumented” when this distinction is not relevant is misleading.

        For the record, the original New York Times article I had been reading discussed immigrants facing the possibility of deportation. Clearly, then, the fundamental characteristic of the immigrants in question was not a simple lack of documentation that that could be remedied by filling out a form at the post office, but rather a lack of authorization from the federal government to reside in the country at all.

    • cassander says:

      I can see the opposing viewpoint that the status quo becomes a de facto tool to buttress the conservative side of the debate and therefore ought to be challenged.

      I think this claim is hard to credit. People used to say the word crippled. then there was a large campaign to get people to start using handicapped, and now wherever people used to say crippled, they say now say handicapped. Perhaps someday, handicapped will be replaced by handicapable or something, but these shifts don’t buttress any claims, and changing the word doesn’t change anyone’s attitude. I grant you that if conservatives do sometimes get out there trying to shape the language to their benefit (see death tax), but as a rule, the existing language should usually be presumed to be neutral. that’s not to say that there isn’t emotion behind the words, there always is, but that the word itself doesn’t generate those emotions in a meaningful way. At most, they express it. If you manage to change the language of illegal to undocumented, people’s attitudes won’t change.

      • AlphaGamma says:

        I’ve seen arguments that we shouldn’t use ‘handicapped’, often based on a false/folk etymology linking it to beggars with ‘cap in hand’.

        (The real origin of the word is from a type of gambling which involved people putting their hands with their bets in a hat- hand in cap- as explained here, which then transferred to a type of horse racing where horses have to carry unequal weight, and then to any other disadvantage or hindrance)

        It does seem to have fallen out of use (if it was ever commonplace) in the UK, the most usual word is ‘disabled’. Some activists insist on either capitalising it (as with Deaf) or using ‘people with disabilities’ instead.

  9. Scott Alexander says:

    Help me understand Kant.

    What I’ve got so far: he’s trying to explain why the external world follows logical mathematical laws. He proposes that for all we know, maybe it doesn’t, but our mind imposes logical mathematical laws on the incomprehensible noumena of reality, so that at least the phenomena we perceive follow logical mathematical laws.

    But suppose aliens hand us a black box and dare us to figure it out. Numbers go in, other numbers go out. When 1 goes in, 8 comes out. When 2 goes in, 17 comes out. And so on. People are stumped for a while, but eventually a mathematician investigates and determines that the black box contains the equation y = (x^3 + 2x + 5).

    Suppose I’m one of the people who was stumped originally, before the mathematician investigated. I’m seeing the number 1 go in and the number 8 come out; I’m seeing 2 go in and 17 come out.

    So my question is – there’s some obvious mathematical regularity in my sense data, in that in retrospect they’re all explained by the equation. What’s causing that regularity in sense data? If it’s my mind, how did my mind know an equation written by aliens and sealed inside a black box, before that box was open? If it’s the world, isn’t that exactly the sort of thing Kant said couldn’t happen because all the regularity is added by our mind later?

    What about Kant am I misunderstanding to be confused like this?

    • thepenforests says:

      Wait, did he have a particularly convincing argument for why regularity couldn’t just be in the world, or something? I mean, personally, I’d be inclined to just say that he’s just wrong here, and move on. He was living in a zeitgeist that hadn’t properly internalized the lessons of physics, case closed. But it seems like you’re reluctant to do that, and I trust you.

      To me, mathematical regularity is *obviously* in the world, because physics describes the world, and is, as far as we can tell, causally closed. But I know almost nothing about Kant and his philosophy.

      • Nick says:

        Kant was responding to Hume, who made an argument that we have no basis for supposing nature to be uniform. A good deal of his philosophical project can be seen as a response to this argument. Hume’s argument is absolutely maddening and still well regarded today; it’s definitely not a problem of Kant somehow missing observable regularities in the world. (Indeed, if you know anything about Kant’s life, you’ll know he was a real stickler for observing regularities.)

      • Physics…which physics?….cannot prove that it describes the world as is, only that its theories make predictions of a certain level of accuracy. Even if you accept that the world in itself has some sort of structure , it doesn’t have to have the same structure as human experience. Kant in particular argued that it could not have spatial and temporal structure , because that would lead to contradictions (“Antinomies”).

        Theres a certain amount of confusion here , because for us maths is a very broad , interelated, abstract subject that almost amounts to order per se …but for K. geometry logic , arithmetic and so on were isolated areas. Since other forms of maths/logic are conceivable (we now have some…non Euclidean geometry, deviant logic, nonstandard analysis), a non mathematical order of the external world was also conceivable.

        Moreover , it was tempting for K. to associate the specialised maths and logic of his day with different human faculties of thought and perception…. geometry, obviously with space and vision, logic a little less obviously with causality and time.

    • Polycarp says:

      Kant wants to demonstrate that anything that can show up for us must show up as being both (1) in time (usually in both space and time, but always in time) (“intuitions”) and (2) subject to the rules of the understanding (“concepts”). Both sides of this are necessary for there to be anything that can show up for us. So everything that shows up is subject to the laws of the understanding (which you are, I guess, calling logical mathematical laws here).

      The external world for Kant would be the world of phenomena, that is, the world of possible experience, and it necessarily shows up for us with features of quality, quantity, relation (such as cause and effect) etc.

      The regularity in your sense data may be caused in some sense by something other than your mind, but if your understanding didn’t come to meet it with the basic concepts of the understanding up and running (that things show up with features of quality, quantity, etc.) then nothing would show up for you at all. Kant does not say (when he is being careful) that there is no regularity in the world.

    • Mark says:

      The structure of reality is an inevitable consequence of the mind; the details of reality are “caused” by something else.

      I think Kant is saying: “Our subjective experience is an objective fact that gives structure to reality, and we can base further thoughts about reality upon this.”

      I don’t think he is saying (necessarily): “the details of reality are entirely determined by our minds”

      Though, I don’t think the second point would contradict the first.

      So, the fact that a box is possible, certain necessary features of the box, are the product of having a mind. The details of what the box says are a result of particular circumstances.

    • K is saying that the spatiotemporal order is imposed, not what we now call a mathematical order.

      Theres a certain amount of confusion here , because for us maths is a very broad , interelated, abstract subject that almost amounts to order per se …but for K. geometry logic , arithmetic and so on were isolated areas. Since other forms of maths/logic are conceivable (we now have some…non Euclidean geometry, deviant logic, nonstandard analysis), a non mathematical order of the external world was also conceivable.

      Moreover , it was tempting for K. to associate the specialised maths and logic of his day with different human faculties of thought and perception…. geometry, obviously with space and vision, logic a little less obviously with causality and time.

      Your example of the alien box does distill a problem: if we are imposing a temporal order, and a causal order, how do we ever get surprised by anything? Defenses of this point seem to require that the conscious mind doesn’t know everything that the unconscious, automatic processes of the human perceptual system are doing. K,’s own example of a ship proceding down a river is not too helpful.

      But if you want to get really confused, check out his views in free will…

  10. C. Y. Hollander says:

    In almost any other discipline I can think of, we practice that discipline (in the sense of “practicing scales”) for no other reason than to improve our abilities in that field, so that we can later practice it (in the sense of “practicing medicine”) to greater effect. If the benefits of exercise are both valid and worthwhile for everything from running long distances, to lifting heavy objects, to solving a crossword, to playing an instrument, to [name your own hobby], why wouldn’t you expect these to be true of the discipline of self-restraint.

    If anything, I think the shoe is on the other foot: given the universality of “practice makes perfect” in virtually everything people aspire to, if you believe or suspect that self-restraint is somehow different from all these, the onus is on you to explain what makes it a departure from the rule.

  11. Wrong Species says:

    I have had many debates with libertarians about the deontological justifications of the state. I want to(someday) write up a comprehensive critique of libertarianism. What I’m going to do here is write my argument and then add on five extensions. I would like people to keep each topic under the same sub thread so it’s easier to stay on track, and keep anything else they want to add under this main thread here. And generally I would like to stay away from utilitarian defenses of libertarians because that’s not what I’m trying to accomplish. So here it goes:

    Let’s say we had a world without government. A group of homeowners sign a contract to hire one company to enforce certain rules, basically an HMO. They have their own own security and we’re absolutely certain that there was no duress when they signed the agreement. So let’s say that these people have kids. These kids grow up in this place and continue to live there as adults. Their parents are still paying for the house and everything, the kids-turned-adults just happen to still be living there. Now when did they consent to the rules? Unlike having a guest come to your house, there was no clear moment when they consented to the rules because they grew up there and they obviously didn’t consent when they were born. And if you say that they consent when they reach the age of majority, why don’t we consent to the rules of the state when we reach the age of majority?

    • Wrong Species says:

      Now let’s extend that. One of the parents dies and their child inherits the property. The HMO insists the child pay the fees since they are gaining the benefits that come from the organization. Are they right to?

      • Wrong Species says:

        To be clear, what I was hoping for was that people would choose the appropriate sub thread to put their argument in because trying to keep track of various arguments gets confusing really quickly. So lets say you read the paragraph above and wanted to reply. Maybe it would go something like this:

        “No, the HMO doesn’t have that right because of xyz”

    • Wrong Species says:

      Now let’s say that there is an agreement in the original contract that anyone who wishes to take up the property must sign up and agree to make the payments to the HMO. Several generations pass. What is the difference between this organization and the state?

    • Wrong Species says:

      At some point, someone I’m arguing with mentions that property is fundamentally different than the state because of its origin. The state was founded on violence while the property was founded on people peacefully working the land. One response to this is incredulity. People have been violent throughout history. Do you think there was an exception to land ownership? If the state is tainted with bad history, so is land ownership.

      • Wrong Species says:

        And then maybe another commenter who agreed with the top three paragraphs had a disagreement with this one:

        “That’s not true because of reasons abc”

      • baconbacon says:

        I am not sure which one to reply under for this concept, but this looks like the likely place.

        There is a presumption here. When you say “I agree to have my house join this HOA”, the presumption is that it is your property and then we proceed from there. If some other claimant showed up and said he owned the property (and proved it) the HOA agreement would be invalid for that property.

        Who gets to decided on the validity of the claim? This is one major difference between the HOA and a state. If a claimant comes along the HOA doesn’t get to decide whose claim on the house is valid, but the state does. If Native Americans bring suit against the US government for stealing their land (not living up to treaties, etc), they do so in Federal court.

        This line of argument leads to the complaint about the state’s legal monopoly on violence. The state not only gets to write the rules, but they choose how disputes are settled and enforced. The HOA isn’t a state because it is subservient to the legal system, the state is the state when it is no longer subservient to any other organization.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          the state is the state when it is no longer subservient to any other organization.

          In this case the US state is solely Congress, the President, and the Supreme Court (and possibly the Federal Reserve system), and not any of the subservient federal bureaucracies.

          • baconbacon says:

            they are all part of the whole.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Viewing them as a collective* lacks utility when much of them is just as powerless to effect change on the strictures which constrain them as that of the courts on the HOA.

            In fact probably even less so since they can’t directly lobby their higher-ups like an HOA can lobby the state (or even act as a plaintiff against the state).

            * – I’m rewatching Star Trek Voyager

    • Wrong Species says:

      The other response is to say that this is beside the point. If we look at Michael Huemer’s argument, he says that the problem with states is that they are granted special powers that other people aren’t. For example, the state can simply coerce you in taking your money to use in their slush fund when other people are not allowed to do so. But if the state is just as justified in taking your money in the same way an HMO is, then the problem isn’t what the state is doing, only it’s origin. Using this argument is essentially conceding that the state isn’t that different from a property owner in its actions.

    • Wrong Species says:

      Even if we conceded that the state has illegitimate origins while property doesn’t, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we should overthrow it and start over. Let’s say that we had two cities. For whatever reason, neither of them have immigration, only people who are originally born in the city and their descendants. Both of them are now in the state of nature. City state one, Badland, is taken over by a mafia. They exploit the people and cause a lot of misery. City state two, Goodland, is explicitly founded by a HMO of all people in the city without any duress. We can be certain that they all agreed to the terms and understood the implications. Now in Badland they start realizing that being evil makes the city less productive. They create reforms to become more and more wealthy, which incidentally makes the city a better place to live. After several generations, they become a democracy and end up a prosperous city, although with some greedy people who try to exploit the common people through the government.

      Meanwhile, in Goodland, the people in the HMO become more greedy and try to seize more for themselves. Several generations pass. Goodland is prosperous and democratic, although they have some greedy people who try to exploit the common people through the government. These two cities have converged. A citizen from Badland points out the problematic founding and says that they need to start over. Another citizen points out what happened with Goodland and says that it would be a chaotic transition that would only lead to the same situation, as exemplified with Goodland. Would you really agree that Badland should completely overthrow its government, just because of its unfortunate founding?

    • . says:

      why don’t we consent to the rules of the state when we reach the age of majority?

      Unlike an HOA, you’re not allowed to leave except in very unusual circumstances: there are states everywhere, and they won’t let you in. Since it is mostly impossible to not consent, you mostly can’t consent either.

      • Wrong Species says:

        That’s not really the fundamental problem here. The Americas was founded in 1492. I don’t think the libertarian would concede that anyone who had the means to travel there now consented to taxation.

    • Skivverus says:

      These all seem to be objecting to anarchic rather than minarchic libertarianism (which is fair, since we do have some of the former around here).
      What I’d like to point out, though, is that consent is second-best here, as moral options go. First would be renegotiation, followed by consent: children don’t necessarily have the same preferences as their parents, after all. Also people’s own preferences can change over time.
      Perfect renegotiation cannot be guaranteed due to limited bandwidth, but ideally this prevents build-up of rules at odds with the preferences of the rule-followers.
      Arguably the above works best with a continuous rather than binary model of consent, but I think it makes sense.

      • random832 says:

        First would be renegotiation, followed by consent: children don’t necessarily have the same preferences as their parents, after all.

        Renegotiation doesn’t seem viable in the described scenario, since it’s not clear what set of contract-law principles would not cause either one party or the other to have zero leverage. Either the HOA can kick them out, or they can go pound sand; it’s not clear what the middle ground is (other than stuff like “imprison them by denying them the use of the roads”, but then we’re talking about another one of the failure modes of libertarian theory)

        • Skivverus says:

          The same principles that allowed the contract to be negotiated in the first place?
          Sure, any single given child isn’t going to have much leverage, but neither did any single adult when the contract was made in the first place.

          • random832 says:

            When the contract was made in the first place they had the option of refusing to agree and continuing to live in the house anyway. That’s why it had to be unanimous. The person inheriting the house* either does not have that option [therefore zero leverage, not “not much”], or does [in which case what leverage does the HOA have?].

            *”child” contrasted to “adult” is misleading, the point is that they are the heir of someone who was a party to the contract, not their age

      • Wrong Species says:

        Minarchists are just anarcho-capitalists who are scared of the consequences.

        Come at me.

        • Evan Þ says:

          No. When I was a minarchist, I firmly believed that people had certain inalienable rights, among which were life, liberty, and property, and that the government must take whatever steps are necessary to ensure everyone has them. Anarcho-capitalist systems, I thought (and still think), wouldn’t guarantee those rights. In this HOA example, we’ve got people quoting Friedman to the effect that an anarcho-capitalist HOA would send someone to arbitration with an arbiter totally unbound by property rights – and that’s unfair. So, minarchism is very different from anarcho-capitalism. A minarchist state might be very active in fighting crime; it would only be “mini” in terms of its goals.

          (My autocorrect wants to change “minarchist” to “monarchist”. That’s also very different.)

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            My understanding of ancap is that it ends up protecting life, liberty, and property anyway; it’s just that it doesn’t promote them as terminal values. Rather, everyone’s agreeing to protect these things out of individual urges to protect their own. Cooperation arises from mere consequentialism, rather than some reverence for everyone’s life and property that has to somehow spring magically into everyone’s morality.

            If this sounds like a distinction without a difference, consider situations where the only way to guarantee one person’s freedom is to deny it to someone else. A “reverent” libertarianism either flails helplessly with this impossible situation, or gives up on some of that in order to achieve something hopefully equitable, by relying on an even deeper principle (such as each person’s sense of self-preservation).

            Alternately, consider situations where different parties disagree on whose rights are being most curtailed. This is what I see in the HOA situation above. HOA’s subscribers see their right to high property values as their top priority; Pinkie sees his right to his own property as his. (Or perhaps he doesn’t believe his neighbor’s property values will drop by as much as they claim.) A “reverent” libertarianism might not be able to make a call, because it lacks the objective information it needs. Same goes in other cases where there’s disagreement on who owns some physical artifact.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Paul, I agree that’s how ancap is supposed to work; I disagree that it’ll actually end up working out that way, for much the same reasons Scott gives in his Anti-Libertarian FAQ. (And I’m not a consequentialist either.)

            Yes, “reverent” libertarianism does have problems in those areas, and that’s one of the big reasons I don’t call myself an ideological libertarian any longer. However, that means ancap also fails to consistently preserve rights in theory. So, it’s left to justify itself on mere practical grounds – and I think minarchy is much more practical, both in terms of preserving rights and in terms of maybe someday having a bare chance of being accepted.

            (But “monarchy” is much less practical! Autocorrect, do you even political theory!?)

          • Wrong Species says:

            Saying that the state is supposed to protect your life, liberty and property is very vague. I can imagine a progressive that also agrees with a state who wants to protect those things too. They generally support property rights. But they want to keep people alive so they add in support for food stamps and universal health care. And they believe that if you are too poor to do anything then you aren’t really free either so they support some redistribution.

            What the libertarian wants is negative liberty, the freedom to not be compelled to do something. But they generally have no problem with property owners compelling you to do something. So ancap and the minarchist both draw a distinction between the two. One is voluntary and the other isn’t. But if the state isn’t voluntary then how is it any better than a protection racket? The minarchist can either admit that it is but say we need the state because anarchy is worse and try to minimize it as much as possible or they can become an ancap.

          • In this HOA example, we’ve got people quoting Friedman to the effect that an anarcho-capitalist HOA would send someone to arbitration with an arbiter totally unbound by property rights – and that’s unfair.

            I haven’t followed all of this. What of mine was quoted that said that?

          • My understanding of ancap is that it ends up protecting life, liberty, and property anyway; it’s just that it doesn’t promote them as terminal values.

            You are not describing anarcho-capitalism, you are describing a possible argument for it, perhaps mine. A libertarian is someone who reaches certain conclusions, not defined by how he reaches them. Similarly for an anarcho-capitalist.

            In Rothbard’s version of A-C as I understand it, moral philosophers have figured out what is just and courts rule accordingly.

            In my version, arbitration agencies figure out what legal rules they can best sell to rights enforcement agencies, rights enforcement agencies figure out which arbitration agencies’ rules they can best sell to their customers, and the outcome is, roughly speaking, economically efficient.

            Because freedom is, as a general rule, economically efficient, the outcome is also pretty libertarian.

            I should add that there is also an argument for A-C, one made in Roy Child’s letter to Rand, that demonstrates that even a minimal state violates rights and concludes that even a minimal state is not morally permissible. I think the underlying argument is that it is never justified to violate rights. If my failure to violate your rights by collecting taxes to fund police results in other people violating your rights that’s unfortunate, but the other people are acting badly, I’m not. That is an alternative to “a utilitarianism of rights” where you are supposed to act in the way that minimized rights violations, not merely rights violations by you.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Minarchists are libertarians who have been subject to Homeowners Associations and would kneel down to Leviathan (if absolutely necessary) to limit them.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Or organized crime, or large corporations, or annoying people who just won’t shut up, or anyone else who needs to be checked by a government aggressively protecting individual rights.

        • actinide meta says:

          Minarchists and anarcho-capitalists mostly agree on ends and disagree about engineering. Minarchists imagine Leviathan successfully chained so he can do no evil; anarcho-capitalists imagine life without him (and with other institutions that work better). Having no practical experience, different people have different guesses about which is more feasible. What could be more natural?

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      The first underlying problem you bring up here sounds like an attack on libertarian treatment of children. Or to be reductive: any concrete object (in the metaphysical sense) that gained agentive ability during its existence. (Someday we’re going to worry about how to treat AI-run robots…) This is further complicated by our not knowing exactly when children gain agentive ability – if we had an agentivometer, we could use it and get the consent at that moment, just as if they were a guest walking in the door.

      Your argument suggests that children should have a civic coming-of-age event where they consent to federal, state, and local law. This does intuitively appeal to the libertarian in me! Although now what happens if they don’t? Where do we send them? So now it’s a logistical problem. (I’d mitigate this by noting that they’re exceedingly likely to agree – it’s the system they know, and it’s not so much the bolus of complex and often petty rules and regulations, as it is the meta-framework of how laws are created and enforced and modified. I happen to think we have a pretty good framework, all things considered. The vast majority of rules won’t noticeably affect them, so our duty ought to be to acquire consent to one “module” at a time.)

      Your second criticism is of property and state original legitimacy. I agree that both state and land ownership are tainted by violence, but I also say that this isn’t enough – you need to provide the specific way in which it’s tainted. Some is; some isn’t. If I go to Mars and start a farm on some plot halfway between Mons and Marineris, it’s likely not because I punched out some native Martian to get it. It might easily be that we could just treat these case by case.

      I don’t know Huemer’s argument in detail. My libertarian self does not respect a state that simply rolls in and seizes power by violence. It does, however, respect an organization that declares a monopoly on control over some aspect of administration for some group, followed by the group unanimously granting it that power. If that’s what Huemer means by “states are granted special powers”, cool.

      If that’s the case, then if this state then takes your money for its slush fund, it’s just appropriating the resources everyone agreed it was entitled to. If it uses force, it’s justified, assuming that was in the original deal; a constituent is not allowed to renege. Many libertarians merely maintain that this deal was not what was agreed upon.

      On to your final problem – what to do about Goodland and Badland. In light of what I said above about a state asserting some power, I interpret your problem here as how to handle contract disputes, specifically when the contract was not agreed upon without duress. Ideally, that contract (Goodland HMO & Constituents) is null and void. As you say, total dismantling of its infrastructure might be more costly. I say that finding out which alternative is costlier may be costlier than just winging it. Goodland’s people can leave the infrastructure they like, and take down what they don’t; there’s no standard procedure here. It’s especially problematic because some of that infrastructure could be said to be owned by multiple parties, and resolving all of this is pretty inside baseball. Unsnarling all this suggests to me that giving a state that much power – letting a single contract get that complicated – is probably unwise.

      In general, speaking as someone who likes libertarian philosophy, I think this is a cool thing you’re doing here, and would like to see more of it. You’re likely to post criticisms that have already been posted somewhere else before, but even so, I think this is worthwhile.

      I hope I gave a satisfactory first-response to your arguments.

      • Jiro says:

        Your argument suggests that children should have a civic coming-of-age event where they consent to federal, state, and local law.

        The problem with that is that the children, as they grew up, have become dependent on the local country such that switching to another one has high costs. That dependency was created by actions from before they became agents, so it isn’t their fault. And it pretty much forces them to “consent” except in unusual cases.

        That doesn’t really apply to housing associations because children are much less dependent on a particular housing association’s property than on a particular country, and in fact, children move out of their parents’ houses all the time.

        (Maybe parents and/or the government should be obliged to pay the switching costs for children to move to another country, to ameliorate this.)

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          The problem with that is that the children, as they grew up, have become dependent on the local country such that switching to another one has high costs.

          That’s one of the problems, yeah. But I think it’s okay to probe that weakness, as long as we acknowledge that every political system has to deal with it somehow, and they all make tradeoffs. Libertarianism seems to start with the assumption that everyone comes into being fully fledged, and even with a little savings and preparation so that they’re not under duress and underinformed as soon as they make their very first exchange. Its strongmanned version seems to assume that children will have their savings and prep guaranteed by their legal guardians, since most people are comfortable with that anyway.

          If you’re willing to stipulate that, then I can claim that a coming-of-age consent event is reasonable. If it’s introduced piecemeal, then it ought to feel less like a fait accompli. But even if it does, it would’ve felt that way under any other legal framework. So all we’re left with here is an argument that every system is imperfect.

          The notion of guardians or government paying for relocation is interesting, although I immediately notice that it could be gamed (a little).

          Also, I recall one of David Friedman’s responses to the argument that an ancap organization that provided a wide array of legal structure and rights enforcement would effectively just be a state, was that at least one important distinction remained, and that was that a state also claimed territorial sovereignty – it gets to govern you simply because of where you decide to live. A real ancap REO would have no such territorial claim; you could reject First American Rights, Inc. and opt for National Services Corp. instead, and still live in Newark if you wanted. A merely libertarian REO might work the same way. And if you came of age under FAR Inc. and made this choice, FAR Inc. would pay a relatively small expense of transferring your relevant paperwork to Natservaco.

          • random832 says:

            Are you suggesting that HOAs can’t exist in ancap?

            I don’t know what “REO” stands for, but a HOA has to be able to enforce rules. They need to have the ability to stop you from playing loud music at all hours, from painting your house hot pink, from storing a broken-down car on your lawn. They cannot allow you to transfer to a different one (or none at all) that does not enforce the same rules, because the reason people join HOAs is to enforce these rules on their neighbors (because their neighbors doing these things has a negative impact on their quality of life and their property values), not themselves.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Are you suggesting that HOAs can’t exist in ancap?

            Nah, I’m pretty sure they can exist.

            REO = Rights Enforcement Organization. I think Friedman uses REA (Agency), so maybe I was abbreviating too boldly.

            I was speaking to Jiro’s general comment about a government paying someone’s way if they came of age and rejected that government’s service package, not the more specific point Wrong Species made about an HOA.

            At first, I agreed with your points here; an HOA would likely make territorial claims in order to serve its customers. For that matter, so would agencies formed to offer rights enforcement to water quality, air quality, and so on. But after thinking about it a while, I’m less sure. An HOA’s subscribers would be paying it to protect the value of their properties. One or any of those homeowners could cancel their subscription, or transfer their property to someone who refuses to subscribe. That HOA can still sue for damage to its remaining subscribers if the new guy goes with the hot pink fence; meanwhile, the new guy isn’t entitled to the HOA’s legal resources if his neighbors decide to throw loud parties.

          • random832 says:

            That HOA can still sue for damage to its remaining subscribers if the new guy goes with the hot pink fence

            Won’t Ancap-land have the additional problem of competing justice systems that disagree on whether this is a valid cause of action or not?* And let’s not forget that it isn’t one in the real world (in the absence of a contract to refrain from doing so).

            *For that matter, a HOA is a mini-justice-system itself, in its role of assessing fines against its members for violations that other members complain about. So one resident choosing not to recognize a justice-system provider that recognizes his hot pink fence’s damage to property values as a tort is barely even a level up from leaving the HOA.

            Or, to bring it back to the concept of “REOs”, what happens when they compete on what rights people have?

            (What happens if someone doesn’t recognize *any* of them? I think that if your anarchocapitalism has enough of a state-analog for the concept of a sovereign-citizen-analog to be coherent, it’s not all that anarcho- anymore)

          • Wrong Species says:

            @Paul

            “I can respect your wish to not have these regulations but as per the terms of the contract, you cannot continue to live here. You can still sell the house but you are not allowed on the premises while in contempt of our rules.” The HMO removes the individual by force.

            The purpose of my thought experiment is to take Friedman’s response seriously. We have an organization that acts like a state in having a territorial sovereignty but it did so at the behest of the individuals involved. Either the libertarian agrees that a property owner can become a de facto state or they agree that the idea of “voluntary organizations” is more complicated than they let on.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Won’t Ancap-land have the additional problem of competing justice systems that disagree on whether this is a valid cause of action or not?

            It will. I recall Friedman’s The Machinery of Freedom addresses how this would play out. I don’t fully grok it, but if I try, it comes out something like this:

            HOA comes to Hot Pink Fence Guy with a demand for payment with a document of justification. Pinkie can pay it (case closed), or refuse. If he refuses, HOA sends the matter to a collection org (internal or external), which assesses whether it’s worth collecting, given how much coercive force they think they’ll have to bring. (It might not be worth the expense, which means the HOA’s customers are better off just absorbing the drop in property values from living next to Pinkie.)

            If it’s worth trying to collect, Collection does so. This may literally involve big guys with sticks, hired from a recognized RE agency. If it’s the same agency Pinkie subscribes to, he can try contesting the validity of the payment justification. Alternately, he may subscribe to his own RE agency that does not abide the legal framework on which that payment demand is based, and hires his own big guys with sticks.

            Either way, the matter escalates. If both RE agencies are spoiling to fight, then a fight will happen. However, both agencies will much more likely note that a fight will impose great costs on both of them in terms of medical support or replacement of employees, further lawsuits for collateral damage, etc. So instead they seek an arbitrator whose job is to reconcile the conflicting legal frameworks and produce a resolution that both agencies and their respective customers agree to abide.

            No higher legal framework supports this arbitrator; they’re supported solely by principles of all parties wishing to avoid expense incurred through damaged property and reputation. If that’s not enough to compel everyone to abide the resolution, then a fight was going to happen anyway.

            This may sound like a lot of steps, but the idea is that it becomes second nature pretty fast – Pinkie knows that if he does any home project, he has a risk of dealing with neighbors who don’t like it, and that he may still have options, but that will lead to a series of potential costs for him. He may not know exactly how big that risk or those costs are, but he knows that he can probably find out, provided he cares enough. Likewise, the HOA, RE agencies, etc. all know their business well enough to know they have to limit their own costs.

            Which means:

            What happens if someone doesn’t recognize *any* [rights enforcement agencies]?

            Then they’ll tend to have a hard go of it, since they’re effectively stating they’ll come up with their own big guys with sticks, or be compelled to comply with whatever demand comes to them that can be backed up with some sort of force. (A plausible example is some tough guy in a mafia. But even there, mafias have internal rules they impose on their members.)

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            “I can respect your wish to not have these regulations but as per the terms of the contract, you cannot continue to live here. You can still sell the house but you are not allowed on the premises while in contempt of our rules.” The HMO removes the individual by force.

            Aye, this sounds reasonable. But again, the catch I see here is that someone gave the HOA the right to remove a tenant by force from that tenant’s property. I can see the HOA removing a tenant from the HOA’s property, but in that case we have a landlord situation, which is quite different.

            If it’s the tenant’s property, then libertarian principle (we don’t even have to go as far as ancap) says that tenant can do as they wish with it, including transferring ownership to anyone, including someone who doesn’t agree to the HOA’s terms. In which case we’re in the situation I discussed above.

            An HOA could state in its terms that a tenant can never transfer ownership unless the new owner accepts the HOA’s terms, including the “never transfer” term, and now the HOA could remove tenants by force for as long as the HOA can afford to do so. I don’t see any big problem with this. Naturally, that limits who tenants can sell to, but if the HOA’s other terms are reasonable enough, it may not limit the market greatly, and this arrangement could persist for a very long time.One could say the HOA now effectively has territorial sovereignty and is therefore a state, but if it’s a state all its tenants are comfortable with, then what does it matter?

          • The Nybbler says:

            If anarchy results in more things like Homeowners Associations, we’ve got a dandy practical justification for government.

            The Mafia would itself count as a “rights” (or perhaps “wrongs”) enforcement agency, so your Mafia tough guy does recognize one. Maybe the guy from Snow Crash with the nuke on a deadman switch could ignore all Rights Enforcement Agencies though.

          • John Schilling says:

            Aye, this sounds reasonable. But again, the catch I see here is that someone gave the HOA the right to remove a tenant by force from that tenant’s property.

            Why does this right need to have been given? Are rights, in general, something that only exist when some authorized power grants them? Alternately, what is this thing that you call a “right” and why should I care whether or not the HOA has such a thing?

            As the term “right” is normally used, in a state of anarchic nature everyone has the right to do whatever they have the power to do. The members of the HOA have the power to evict unwanted neighbors. They might chose to adopt laws, treaties, or contracts limiting their right to do whatever they please whenever they can, but here we are talking about a guy who is explicitly not joining the treaty compact that says “here’s the stuff we won’t do to one another”.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            [W]hat is this thing that you call a “right” and why should I care whether or not the HOA has such a thing?

            Well, in this context, the right is something the HOA could do that its customers agree is part of the deal that they’re all making with the HOA. The HOA’s powers are presumably implemented by a person or people – possibly the HOA’s customers themselves (more likely a subset so that the rest can focus on non-HOA stuff).

            And I’m saying that Wrong Species’s account is describing that right as having been granted to the HOA, and that it’s not what I’d consider in line with a libertarian way of setting up an HOA, because the tenant up for removal didn’t agree to the HOA’s terms when he acquired the property. So I think I’m agreeing with your argument here.

          • Wrong Species says:

            and that it’s not what I’d consider in line with a libertarian way of setting up an HOA, because the tenant up for removal didn’t agree to the HOA’s terms when he acquired the property

            Let’s say that everyone who originally signed the contract said that if they pass the property on to someone else, the new owner has to sign the contract or else the property will be technically owned by the HOA. Then what?

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Let’s say that everyone who originally signed the contract said that if they pass the property on to someone else, the new owner has to sign the contract or else the property will be technically owned by the HOA. Then what?

            Then you have something functionally almost identical to one of the scenarios I mentioned above:

            An HOA could state in its terms that a tenant can never transfer ownership unless the new owner accepts the HOA’s terms, including the “never transfer” term, and now the HOA could remove tenants by force for as long as the HOA can afford to do so. I don’t see any big problem with this. Naturally, that limits who tenants can sell to, but if the HOA’s other terms are reasonable enough, it may not limit the market greatly, and this arrangement could persist for a very long time. One could say the HOA now effectively has territorial sovereignty and is therefore a state, but if it’s a state all its tenants are comfortable with, then what does it matter?

        • Jiro says:

          Libertarianism seems to start with the assumption that everyone comes into being fully fledged, and even with a little savings and preparation so that they’re not under duress and underinformed as soon as they make their very first exchange

          That’s not the problem. The problem is the high switching costs from losing all one’s connections to other human beings.Moving out of the country when everyone and everything you know is in the country, is very costly. It’s even more costly when you consider that getting citizenship in other countries is very difficult. Parents are unable to prepare their children for such things.

          • random832 says:

            And the entire point of this exercise (with the spectre of an extremely large HOA or cartel of geographically contiguous HOAs [and landlords] rather than one that you can simply move to the next block and be out from under them) is that you don’t actually need a state to impose those costs on people. The size of the entity is more important than its nature.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @random832

            That is exactly the point I’ve been trying to make. If you get rid of all currently existing states, you aren’t eliminating statism, just joining it with property. Essentially you have a privatized state. Mencius Moldbug figured this out and decided that a privatized state would actually be superior to what we have now. That’s where the Death Eaters come in.

            The problem libertarians have with the state wouldn’t be any different in a world with property owners controlling large tracts of land. If the problem is with large states, then it could be solved with fewer large states. This is a lot different than the so called “voluntary/involuntary” divide.

          • actinide meta says:

            If you are taking about microscopic states on the scale of individual properties today, with exit rights and a cheap nonviolent process for buying some land and forming new states, that sounds like an ancap world to me!

            There’s nothing strange or suspicious about morality being scale dependent. Shining a flashlight on someone is not violent. Shining a petawatt laser on them definitely is. So?

          • Wrong Species says:

            So let’s say that seasteading became a thing and the largest countries in the world split off to form much smaller ones. Exiting a country to live in a seastead is trivially easy and cheap. Based on your parameters, you wouldn’t have a problem with this world. If you think this world is as voluntary as ancap, then I don’t have much to argue about with you.

            But there are many libertarians who would say that you aren’t anymore free than a citizen of a fascist or socialist state who was allowed to leave the country if they wanted. They make a firm distinction between state and property and I’m trying to show why that is flawed.

      • Wrong Species says:

        Let me show you how my thought process developed over the years.

        So we start off with “voluntary” vs “involuntary”. Everyone knows that the state is involuntary right? It’s not like I ever agreed to pay taxes. Nonsense, the statist says. You are taking advantage of the benefits of the state, you are obligated to pay. That would be like eating a nice restaurant and then refusing to pay the bill arguing that you never agreed to it. Even the most stubborn libertarian would agree that implicit consent applies in that case. The libertarian says that getting benefits doesn’t obligate you to pay for them. If some person came up to me and started shining my shoes, I’m not a thief if I refuse to pay them. The individual consented to paying for the food when he walked in the restaurant. But what was the defining moment when I consented to the state? Some may say when I reach the age of majority but that’s not really right. After all, my behavior didn’t change the day I turned 18. There was no action of mine that signaled consent. Combined with the argument that ancap defense agencies wouldn’t hold territorial claims, I was reasonably satisfied.

        But it didn’t take long to realize the problem. Sure, this argument works for the state but it can also apply to people residing on land. You can see this blending more clearly in pre-modern times. Were feudal lords property owners or mini-states? In ancient China, the emperors claimed all of the land they ruled as their own fiefdom. I started to realize that this argument works for any person who resides on a plot of land and grows up on it. There is never a defining moment of consent. The divide is not between property and state but between people who have lived on a plot of land since they were a child and those who have immigrated. Of course, this is not a particularly big problem because most people in today’s society don’t live in one place their whole life. When they move out of their parents house, they sign an agreement to either buy or sell a house and the idea of consent holds.

        Uneasy, I had my doubts about libertarianism. What if a corporation bought up huge amounts of land and told the tenants to sign their Security Agreement or get out? It seemed more and more plausible that they could hold larger territories where people would be essentially living in organizations scarcely different from today’s states. All of this could happen without any coercion and through voluntary transactions. But at that point, what is so special about libertarianism? It would seem that the only problem with today’s states is their origin, and that wasn’t compelling enough on its own to call for the dismantling of all states. Add on what I thought were some weak utilitarian evidence of ancaps superiority, I gradually stopped being a libertarian.

        In general, speaking as someone who likes libertarian philosophy, I think this is a cool thing you’re doing here, and would like to see more of it. You’re likely to post criticisms that have already been posted somewhere else before, but even so, I think this is worthwhile.

        Thanks! One of my frustrations with debate is that people give up too easily and that they don’t take enough time to really understand what the other person is saying. I’ll keep adding on to this if there is any interest among the commenters here. Like I said, I want my critique to be comprehensive, so I would like to have an answer to any conceivable, reasonable question that someone might have.

        • I have an old piece on the question of what relevant difference there is between something like an HOA and a local government. Like most of my arguments for anarchy it’s consequentalist, not natural rights based.

          • random832 says:

            Your piece doesn’t really explain it very well. It leans heavily on differences between the US and the Soviet Union, which are both national governments of non-libertarian states.

            A more compelling difference between an HOA and a government is how difficult it is to leave. Which is largely a function of the world outside the state or state-like object (though a large size means you have to move further, and some states may coercively prevent people from leaving) rather than the state itself.

            If, say, a large enough HOA (or a cartel of geographically adjacent HOAs) adopted rules similar to each other that are onerous against a group of residents which is not large enough to have any power to oppose them, it’s hard to see how that is different from a state.

            The only reasons this does not happen is that there’s lots of land that’s not in any HOA.

            And the HOA analogy actually sort of misses the point. The only reason it’s an HOA and not a landlord is because the same analogy is used in other arguments that are more directly about tension between the homeowner’s property rights and the rules that their neighbors would like to enforce on them. Bu what if instead there were an elite class that owned all of the land in a large region, and anyone else who lives there has no choice but to rent from them (or move hundreds of miles away)? Unlike “tile the map with HOAs” this is something that actually has happened – I just described feudalism.

          • “Your piece … leans heavily on differences between the US and the Soviet Union”

            I think you are missing the argument.

        • actinide meta says:

          So your parent signs a terrible contract with an HOA giving up basically all rights while on their property, and the system of contractual law will enforce this sort of perpetuity (which it probably shouldn’t). Effectively, then, you are born destitute, since you can’t inherit or use this property without agreeing to unconscionable conditions. That’s very bad, but no worse than any other way your parents could have squandered their wealth and failed to provide for you. As long as there is somewhere you can go to work, and somewhere you can go to buy your own property, you can still aspire to (positive) freedom.

          What’s different about the world of states, besides its violent origin, is that there is nowhere you can go to buy your own property. Every inch of the earth is claimed by one state or another. For this situation to arise on a global or continental scale in your hypothetical world of HOAs would require the unanimous consent if everyone in a generation, which is impossible. It’s not a very damning critique of libertarianism to say that if *everyone* worked together to fuck it up for their kids, they could!

          • Wrong Species says:

            In ancap world, eventually every piece of land is going to be owned by someone. Property being a mini-state, the only difference is scale. And you would say that it’s a terrible contract, but people generally don’t mind giving up some freedom for protection. The difference is that I think security is a public good in the economic sense, where it would be more efficient in a given geographic area to have one provider than many. With those assumptions in place, give it a few generations and the world will look just like a collection of states. If security is a public good, then it is a damning critique because your supposed voluntary world would be no more voluntary than our own.

            The practicality of it isn’t really the important part. The point is that libertarianism can lead to situations that almost any reasonable person would call involuntary. The ethical appeal of libertarianism is supposed to be its voluntarism but without that, then its deontological basis falls apart. You can switch to utilitarianism but that is far less rhetorically effective than “tax is theft”.

            Let’s strip it to the most basic argument possible. Imagine that a person managed to buy up the entire planet. Through libertarian means, he managed to make a world that is indistinguishable from a dictator taking over every state. Every child born in that world has no chance of freedom(we’re assuming no space colonies yet), they are beholden to his every whim and no one is really free. But the libertarian would say that of course they are free, the world wasn’t conquered. It was voluntarily acquired. But that history doesn’t matter to the descendants of the people who sold the property. All they know is that they were born a slave and die a slave. They don’t care about how it was acquired. Forget the practical applications for a second. Do you not see how this creates a potentially fatal flaw for libertarian ethics?

          • actinide meta says:

            I don’t think you are using the term public good exactly right, but I won’t quibble. If it were true that anarchocapitalism would inevitably converge into states, I am happy to concede that that would be a serious problem with it. I am not a pure consequentialist – I don’t think that morality just is an objective function on states of the world- but that doesn’t mean I don’t think consequences are ever morally important. I want a world that is free in both the thin sense and the thick sense, and would like to find institutions that are stable, minimally violent at the micro level, *and* conducive to human flourishing at the macro level. I think the best way to find those institutions is experimentation and competition. I have concrete ideas, but human societies are complicated and I don’t think anyone will design a perfect and eternal society in their armchair.

            But you are trying to stay away from consequential arguments. And my reasons for libertarianism aren’t chiefly consequential. Here is how I think about libertarian morality:

            Violence is presumptively bad.
            Self defense can be a good enough reason to be violent.
            Using violence to defend property is not quite such a good reason. But moral intuition sometimes permits it, AND it seems “consequentially” that without private property human flourishing is basically impossible. So in the absence of another way to defend property, or another way to live without it, I reluctantly conclude that sometimes it is permissible to use minimal violence against mere violators of property rights.
            There *could* be other causes so vital that violence is justified. But the bar is very, very high.
            This leaves you with something a lot like the non aggression principle as a closely approximated derived principle of morality. It’s not the whole of morality: there are many things that are wrong that don’t violate the principle, and there might be extreme situations in which violating the principle is justified.

            So what do I make of your scenario where the world is owned by one person who acts dictatorially, setting aside its implausibility?

            Well, clearly that person acts wrongly in mistreating others even if they do it without violating the non aggression principle. Under the circumstances, they have enormous duties falling in the bucket of “the rest of morality”. If they acted like states do today they would be utterly despicable.

            And in using violence to enforce property rights that have extended far beyond their rightful purpose, they probably violate a more precise formulation of the principle which we don’t normally need to formulate from the more fundamental moral considerations above, because in the real world there are no property owners nearly so powerful.

            Clearly all the people who sold this person all the property in the world acted both foolishly and immorally. Liberty requires vigilance.

            Would the people of such a world be justified in using violence to overthrow their dictatorial landlord? Yes. This situation would rise to the standard of justifying violence in my view.

          • Wrong Species says:

            You refer to both the original acquisition of property and the owners treatment of his tenants as morally wrong. Do you mean wrong in that it is bad in a way where violence against him is still impermissible like infidelity? Or do you mean wrong in a way that it is, like robbery? I’m not interested in a totalizing system of The Good right now. I want to know what is acceptable under a political libertarian theory.

            And when you say that his dictatorial conduct permits a violent overthrow, do you mean the very fact that he owns the property is cause enough? Or do you mean he has to act as “states do today”? And if it’s the latter, how bad does he have to act before overthrowing him with violence is acceptable?

          • actinide meta says:

            Let me help you with a less distractingly implausible thought experiment that I think gets at what you want.

            You, a good libertarian, are traveling on your private boat to your voluntary seastead when a storm blows up and sinks your boat. Luckily, you wash ashore on a beautiful tropical island covered in fruit trees and berries. You are met on the beach by a previous shipwreck victim, who is happy to discover that you are also a libertarian. Unfortunately, he informs you that he has already homesteaded the whole island, and that he expects you to do all the work from now on in exchange for subsistence. He is smaller and weaker than you, but since you are a good libertarian he is sure that you will either agree to use his property on his terms or return to the ocean and die. Are you obligated to accept this choice?

            I’m sure you will find a libertarian who will bite this bullet. I won’t: I would “renegotiate” a fairer deal in this situation, by force if necessary. If you want to define libertarianism so narrowly that this is impermissible, that’s fine, and I’m happy to agree that my libertarianism is contingent. But I think is equally reasonable to say that the non aggression principle is a (very strong) presumption rather than a totalizing moral rule. If you look back at my “derivation” of it from more fundamental concerns, it doesn’t really support respecting property absolutely and unconditionally. It’s just that the kind of situations that make for exceptions are extremely rare in a large, capitalist society.

            Going back to your example, I think that maintaining a monopoly or cartel on all the land in the world, or some equally vital resource, and refusing to sell some at a reasonable price would be enough to forfeit the absolute protection of the non-aggression principle, even without taking advantage of it to further abuse people. So I guess you can say I think that the duty not to do this (more or less impossible thing) is an enforceable one. That doesn’t mean that violence is *necessarily* justified, though. For example, I don’t think that armed rebellion against states inherently violates the non-aggression principle, but I don’t advocate it in general. A lot of innocent people are likely to get hurt! Look for a better answer.

            Again, I think you are barking up the wrong tree with this scenario. If I believed it was a likely outcome of a particular set of ancap institutions, that would be sufficient reason for me to oppose those institutions without any further moral argument. “An-cap won’t work” is a perfectly valid position to take at this point (at least if you have specific institutions in mind; it seems kind of crazy to be confident that the whole space of possible stable institutions contains none whatsoever without geographical monopolies of violence). But then you need to make arguments about consequences, not lifeboat moral dilemmas.

            Maybe your argument is responsive to someone who believes that the main appeal of libertarianism is having a simple rule for when violence is justified that applies in all situations unconditionally. The sort of thing that you could program a superintelligent AI with and rest easy that it wouldn’t turn you into paperclips. But though the NAP can’t meet this impossible standard, it seems to be a remarkably good moral principle in the real world!

          • Wrong Species says:

            Based off your other answer, it seems like you have accepted my main argument, that a small state with exit rights isn’t any less voluntary than property. That’s really the main point of my hypotheticals.

            But I want to push you on what have said. The reason I started with the implausible world state is because it’s a jumping off point. You have conceded that there are limits to property rights. Even a man who never coerced anyone could create a world that is unjust and violence could rightfully be used against him. So what are the limits to property rights?

            Let’s say Jeff Bezos is our villain. He starts buying off all the properties in the world. You said that people who sold their property to him are acting immorally. When did his acquisition of property switch from moral to immoral? Let’s say that Bill Gates is the last hold out and refuses to sell. Is this situation still unjust? Let’s say that he offers it anyone who could afford it but no one can(other than Bezos). This is hardly different than the original scenario. Let’s say that one other person can afford it. That’s still unjust right? Even if he offered it for free and used a lottery to determine who would take it, that doesn’t help the rest of the people. So what’s our limit here?

          • actinide meta says:

            I don’t concede that size is the *only* difference. I think we agree that it doesn’t matter what you call it. If you take a state, remove everything that makes it a state, add two wheels and handlebars, then you have a bicycle. If you take a state, shrink its territory to the size of a shopping mall, remove its ability to arbitrate disputes to which it is a party, remove its ability to impose penalties worse than exile, remove its ability to make war, discredit the nearly universal worldwide ideology that makes selling sovereignity unthinkable, and subject it to intense Tiebout competition, it’s hard to say if it will work at all but if it does it may fit right in to Anarchotopia. And if you want to name your ancap neighborhood the Democratic People’s Republic of Wrong Species, or the Kingdom of Wrong Species, if that’s your thing, that’s totally fine with me too as long as you don’t try to acquire any actual power. But again, so what?

            That doesn’t mean that if you just shrank current states, and made the minimal necessary changes to let them be self sustaining under those circumstances, I would necessarily be satisfied with them. Some of the things I object to would necessarily go away in the process, and others wouldn’t. But the right solution to that would just be to compete with them, if it was possible. People vote for all sorts of crazy shit, but when voting with their feet they usually seem to choose freedom and prosperity. And if they don’t, I don’t feel inclined to force them; what good is freedom if you can’t go to hell in your own way? So once it’s practical to buy sovereign title to land, and assuming away wars, the rest of the debate can in principle be a friendly and peaceful one. Existing land holders would still have cause to complain, in my view, that states milk them for all they are worth; they may have known their title wasn’t alluvial when they purchased it but the way the world works now doesn’t make it credible that their decision to continue to exist in the modern world constitutes consent for everything “their” state ever does. But as you say it would be just another past wrong.

            So Jeff Bezos wants to buy all the land in the world. Bezos is worth about $86 billion, and global real estate is worth about $216 trillion. (That’s the value of fee simple title; maybe sovereign title will be more or less expensive.) Bezos buys 0.04% of the world (by value) and then runs out of money. So far, not very threatening. Even if he bought it all in your area, you would probably not mind too much – he’d have to drive up real estate prices enough to pay you to move somewhere else.

            OK, so let’s imagine that Bezos invents the fountain of youth and becomes 2,500 times richer. Needless to say this stretches credulity. So now can he buy all the land in the world? No. The price goes up. And if he keeps buying, it keeps going up. At the point where the average price of real estate is forced up to Manhattan prices, the cost of this endeavor has, on the back of my envelope, risen to something approaching 10^19 dollars – enough to make the average person in the world a billionaire. Whatever Jeff is selling people to pay for this is apparently so good that, frankly, I’m reluctant to make any moral judgements about this situation at all. It’s certainly a lot pricier than I would expect basic security services to be, which I take it is what you think people are actually going to voluntarily trade ownership of the world for.

            But OK, fine. Bezos is selling something that people value at $1 billion each but is totally consumable and can’t be passed down to their children, and everyone decides to sell out their kids’ future in exchange for this hyper-crack by agreeing to be penniless tenants of Mr. Bezos? And you want me to tell you when exactly libertarian political philosophy says it is OK for the kids to decide that enough is enough? Well, I would say it’s some time around when there ceases to be a nonviolent path to freedom and prosperity. Bezos can head this off, if he’s just peacefully investing his quintillions of dollars of wealth in real estate rather than trying to get power over other people, by entering into some legal arrangement that neuters his monopoly power.

            But don’t worry, because this situation will never arise. I promise. The only known way to create really huge monopolies is violence. (And even that has so far failed at conquering the whole world!) That’s why the coercive history of states does matter: not primarily because the initial distribution of wealth and power isn’t just, but because there’s no other plausible way to create really dangerous concentrations of power.

          • Wrong Species says:

            I’m not doing this scenario because I’m an idiot who doesn’t understand how real estate works. The point is start somewhere, see how that plays out and then add the complications from the world. Economists don’t think the world only involves two kinds of goods where capital doesn’t enter the picture but you have to start somewhere when discussing international trade. But if you aren’t willing to entertain a hypothetical I don’t know what to tell you. But you came close to articulating the problems of seeing the world solely through property rights, you just don’t get where that leads.

            If you really want to know what I think will happen if people try ancap it’s the pretty banal story where people end up creating states again or it devolves in to a violent mess. But I know that nothing I say will convince you of that which is another reason I tried to avoid consequential arguments.

            But you are severely missing the point of my argument, which is the fundamental difference between states and property. It’s not size, because states can be small and property can be big. It’s not exit rights, because states still existed when the Americas were discovered. The closest might be the ability to actually buy your own property but we can see something similar throughout history where a bigger state could extract tribute from the smaller state. It’s not terribly unrealistic that a king could buy the throne from another king. Maybe that’s not an option for his subjects but ancap only allows freedom if you have enough money to buy your own fiefdom. The point is to narrow it down to what is the fundamental difference and “voluntary vs involuntary” is inherently flawed. Consent is much more complicated than libertarians have traditionally made it out to be. Libertarians are generally pretty smart people but they are prone to taking their flawed assumptions, making them axioms and refusing to budge. I’m just trying to unpack that.

            I tried making a realistic scenario but you kept nitpicking the unimportant parts. Then I tried simplifying it but you criticized the realism. At this point I’m not sure what to tell you but if you can’t discuss the implications of what the extremes of your beliefs imply, you aren’t going to learn anything and will always be stuck behind your own possibly flawed assumptions.

        • actinide meta says:

          I’m sorry if my last comment came across as insulting. I guess I am also a little frustrated because you keep trying to chase me back to scenarios where there is a monopoly on property, and l just don’t see these scenarios as challenging my beliefs just by their logical possibility. It may be that I just don’t actually believe what you are trying to refute here. I *don’t* consider property rights or the NAP to be either absolute or axiomatic, and I explained that up front. And a precise definition of a state also seems pretty inessential to my philosophy. For me these are engineering concepts that need to work and be unambiguous in the domain of the actual problems to be solved. So while I’m open to concrete suggestions as to how to make these concepts even more precise, I think that a refinement that is worth it has to pay rent in some plausible scenario.

          For what it’s worth I’ll throw out one more way of mapping libertarian terminology to this edge case. Acts can become violent instead of harmless because of scale or circumstance. Even the most doctrinaire libertarian doesn’t believe that your property rights extend to * using your property as a weapon * in an aggressive way. So maybe they could be convinced that the otherwise nonviolent and harmless acts of buying and boarding property, in tiny worlds or at astronomical scales, could theoretically become an attack on others. If you collect so much matter in your yard that a black hole forms, or buy so much phosphorus that none remains in the rest of the solar system to sustain life, your ordinary nonviolent activity is, in the circumstances, an impermissible violent one.

          It’s not really exactly how I think, but it comes to mind when thinking about these scenarios.

          • random832 says:

            A monopoly on property may not be realistic, but an oligopoly on it is absolutely realistic. As I said, this is to a first approximation exactly what feudalism was: nobles owned property, serfs didn’t.

            Frankly, it doesn’t matter how many people own property if you don’t own any or have the means to acquire any. And it doesn’t matter either if the reason they won’t sell to you is because you don’t have enough money, because you’re not part of their class, or because you’re part of a hated racial minority.

            None of these details are relevant to the simple fact that you own no land and therefore have no freedom.

            The key difference seems to be that in ancap it’s presumed that you can find somewhere to homestead, and that place will not be so far away as to make doing so an unreasonable burden.

          • Frankly, it doesn’t matter how many people own property if you don’t own any or have the means to acquire any.

            Sure it does. If lots of people own property, they have to compete for tenants. Are you assuming that the property market is a cartel with a thousand members?

            My reading of the history of feudalism, admittedly conjectural, is that competition among feudal lords held feudal dues down to about the market rent on land. When the plague sharply reduced the population the market rent on land dropped. Feudal dues were customary, not bargained, so in the short term did not drop. At that point there was a problem of runaway serfs, since the next lord over, with vacant land, was willing to offer your serfs better terms than the customary ones you were offering them. The lords tried to solve that problem by getting legal rules tying serfs to the land, but with limited success.

  12. BBA says:

    Let me preface this: I don’t smoke. I think the actions of tobacco manufacturers in trying to conceal the deadliness and addictiveness of their products are despicable, and I welcomed the bans on tobacco advertising and on smoking in most enclosed public spaces. So now I read the laws that my fair city just passed and… wtf I love Big Tobacco now.

    It’s now cheaper to take the PATH to New Jersey, buy a pack of cigarettes there, and take the train back than to buy a pack of cigarettes in NYC. And they really think grey market imports from out of state won’t boom when they implement this? Especially with the cap on tobacco licenses making legal purchases not just more expensive, but more difficult too. This may be the most poorly thought out policy in the city’s long, long history of poorly thought out policies.

    • Wrong Species says:

      Will it cause more people to import their cigarettes from out of state? Probably. But I’m guessing the main policy effect is supposed to be reducing the amount of consumption. Cigarette consumption may have low elasticity but it’s not zero.

      • JulieK says:

        It will probably have the biggest effect on teenage smokers, who probably have less money and may not be addicted yet.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        I used to think it was about reducing smoking. Then, many years ago, someone proposed it was about raising revenue, and I haven’t been able to ever disprove that.

        • powerfuller says:

          If it’s about raising revenue (which I agree is a prime motivation for any sin tax), then according to keranih’s post below they may be passing the inflection point if more money is lost to smuggled cigarettes than gained with the higher taxes.

          Anecdatum: high cost was a big help motivating me to quit smoking.

        • Brad says:

          It raises a very low percentage of city revenue and we are probably past the Laffer peak at this point. I don’t think that’s a very good hypothesis.

        • BBA says:

          This is not an increase in the cigarette tax. At least in New York, a local government can’t impose or increase any taxes unless authorized by state law, and the city cigarette tax is already at the maximum level authorized. (See also Bloomberg’s ill-fated “soda ban” proposal, a direct result of the failure of his proposed soda tax to pass the state legislature.)

          This is an increase in the minimum price a store is allowed to charge for a pack of cigarettes. Nearly all the money will be going to the store or the manufacturer, or maybe the third-party wholesaler if they have those. This does translate into a little more city revenue through sales taxes, and indirectly through corporate income tax, but it’s much less than the total increase in the sticker price.

    • The Nybbler says:

      It’s now cheaper to take the PATH to New Jersey, buy a pack of cigarettes there, and take the train back than to buy a pack of cigarettes in NYC.

      I’m sure sure some enterprising citizens will reduce the price further by buying cartons and engaging in informal arbitrage. Provided they manage to avoid the NYPD, anyway. Wish more of my co-workers were smokers, if they were I could probably make a fortune.

      Of course smuggling from bordering places is going to become commonplace. Along with annoying people selling them on the streets, which will make NYPD happy as they will get to boost their arrest numbers by busting them. And Deblasio will be hailed (by his own PR department) as drastically reducing the sale of cigarettes. Deblasio wins, NYPD wins, petty criminals win, smokers lose, ordinary non-smokers lose. Looks like a typical feel-good plan to me.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I’d have sworn I’d heard somewhat on NPR about a book (maybe a long article?) about cigarette smuggling, but I can’t find any evidence it existed. Anyone know of such a thing?

      It covered such things as cigarette smuggling being a major income source for organized crime and low-quality cigarettes manufactured for the illegal market (possibly for India).

  13. FXBDM says:

    Hi!

    How do you deal with a low workload job?

    Become a perfectionist or a luddite and take way more time to do the tasks, or create / ask / steal more responsibilities? I see ways both approach could backfire.

    Asking for more days off is not an option at this point.

    • Well... says:

      I had this problem until very recently. I used the downtime to write and develop some of my ideas–some of which were directly related to my work, some of which were not. I was also considering picking up a new skill via online classes.

    • Incurian says:

      This is a problem I’ve had quite a bit. Here are some common pitfalls (which you probably already thought of):
      A) You do nothing and enjoy your lack of responsibility, but you never distinguish yourself. When opportunities arise, people do not think of you. You do not build enough clout to get things you want in the future. People suspect you could do more but don’t care. You spend a lot of time on slatestarcodex.
      B) You won’t make that mistake again, you find ways to quickly increase your responsibilities. Oh, that’s quite a bit of responsibility, and some of it is harder than you thought it would be, but it’s too late to give them up now. You hate your job.
      C) You lower your level of effort to match the ample time you have available. You hate yourself.
      D) You make simple tasks complicated and make sure everyone knows how much unnecessary work you’re putting into them. Everyone hates you.

      Here are my recommendations:
      1) Whatever you do, do it incrementally.
      2) Before taking on additional responsibilities, see what meta-work can be done. Do you have detailed, updated SOPs written? Are all your files and references organized? What do you wish you had when you first started the job?
      3) Can you learn more about other people’s jobs (up, down, and lateral)? Do you understand the general processes that help your co-workers from different sections work together? Do you know why people do the things they do?
      4) Ask people what they need help with.
      5) Do the things that need doing.
      6) Ask your boss for more responsibility, but don’t let on just how much extra capacity you have.
      7) Hold back some spare capacity for slatestarcodex etc. It will keep you sane.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Wait, why is A a mistake again?

        • Well... says:

          Possible reasons:

          1. When the layoffs happen, you’ll be a first round draft pick.
          2. Five years later, you’ll have stagnated in your career.
          3. You will be unlikely to get bonuses or promotions.
          4. As stated in A itself, you don’t build enough clout to get what you want in the future.
          5. Your wife will realize you do nothing at work all day and lose respect for you, and/or start nagging you about why you don’t come home earlier to help her with chores.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I haven’t done that and I’ve been laid off before, my career has halted, I’ve never gotten a promotion in my life (except by diagonal moves), and never had any clout at all (requires the elusive “people skills”). So maybe I was doing it wrong all along; maybe the right answer is to find a job with low workload and keep it that way.

          • Well... says:

            Avoiding a low workload isn’t a guarantee that none of those things will happen. Maintaining a low workload on purpose does seem like a good strategy to make them more likely to happen.

          • Robert Liguori says:

            I think it really depends on what A is. For my case in my experience, when I got onto a team as a junior developer, I was assigned a task which was tedious and time-consuming to execute, and which could pop up at any time and needed to be done before a deadline (causing much stress if it happened in the two-hour window immediately before that window).

            I spent a few weeks writing a set of tools to make handling this case easy and fast, ensured I was consistently the person who handled this problem (which was now not at all a drag on my time), and received the usual “Well Done Junior Developer Person, Have a Small Pay Raise And Positive Reinforcement.” at year-end.

            The key, I think, was comparative advantage. Most people, I think, don’t really care about low-workload or high-workload. They care if shit gets done. If you can find a situation in which you can ensure an appropriate amount of shit gets done in a way which costs you very little effort, you should take it.

            I also think that getting on the promotion ladder is, for many, a mug’s game. It seems to involve a great deal of work and effort for very chancy rewards, and the skills and effort you need to put in seem optimal only if you’re shooting for a very specific management-y position. In tech at least, “Get a position in which your actual workload is nominal, pull up loads of tutorials on the Buzzword Stack of the Day and work through them in working hours, get whatever minimal documentation you need to prove you are an Official Buzzword Person, then change jobs as a Buzzword Developer someplace else.” seems like a much higher return strategy.

          • Incurian says:

            Most people, I think, don’t really care about low-workload or high-workload. They care if shit gets done.

            Ah, I didn’t consider this. In the army, obviously people care if things get done, but from a personnel management perspective it always seemed like it was more important whether someone was contributing as much as they could, not just whether their assigned tasks were getting completed. I’m having trouble articulating the reasons why.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Incurian:

            Hypothesis –
            Roughly everything in the military, outside of war, is a dress rehearsal for war.

            In war, you will need people who are willing to shitty jobs right now. In addition, in war, “it wasn’t my job so I didn’t do it even though it needed to be done and I could have done it” is usually a (shitty) reason for defeat.

          • Incurian says:

            That sounds reasonable. I was thinking “personnel placement and job descriptions are inflexible and imposed top-down in a way not consistent with accomplishing the mission, and no one can do anything about it…. therefore something something…” Your explanation gets to the heart of it though: job descriptions are a fiction, everyone’s job is to do whatever they can to make sure we win. It hadn’t occurred to me that other jobs aren’t like that.

    • Shion Arita says:

      What are some low workload jobs? I really want to know.

      I have a million personal projects that I’d love more time to work on.

      • gph says:

        Well in the IT/Software development world there’s usually opportunities to find or fall into a low workload job. Obviously the job positions are never advertised as “low workload”, so it’s not like you’ll really know before hand whether the job you are applying for will end up like that.

        But there’s a lot of positions that turn out that way. Maybe the company/organization created the position because they have a specific issue they absolutely need done, but beyond that they don’t have much more work for you.

        Or what I’ve also seen is people getting hired in as junior developers/DBA/whatever and they aren’t quite so bad that they get fired, but they aren’t good enough to get any real work. So they get the menial simple tasks while the rest of the team picks up the slack. And part of why this continues to happen is because the hiring market for software development is so tight and evaluating talent is super hard. Plus the cost to hire and onboard a new employee is not trivial, and the likelihood that the next person sucks just as bad is pretty high.

        Obviously these people don’t get raises/promotions, but that doesn’t really matter. After a couple years on the job they update their resume and go get hired somewhere else.

        tl;dr For various reasons surrounding demand and difficulty evaluating talent, there’s a lot of low workload jobs in the software/IT field.

        • Nick says:

          And part of why this continues to happen is because the hiring market for software development is so tight and evaluating talent is super hard

          Well, or (as a previous discussion here suggested) companies are just really bad at hiring. I think you’re right about everything else, though.

      • FXBDM says:

        In my case it’s a mix of a very seasonal industry that has hit a rough spot lately, an old, very successful company that believes in doing thing conservatively and perhaps a bit of a lack of planning from management with regard to the best way to get new hires contributing.

        It has also happened in the past when I introduced new ways of doing things that were slow in being adopted by co-workers (think Vlookup and Pivot Tables instead of formatting all the data by hand).

      • andrewflicker says:

        If you have strong comparative advantages in a sector that employs “average” people, you can take a normal-workload job and it will be low-workload for you if you perform to the “average” level expected of normal employees.

        Classical dead-end example is something like doing data entry at a firm that expects 50wpm when you can accurately type 100wpm. Classic higher-end example is something like actuary/accounting if you have strong logic and Excel skills- most junior corporate accountants or starting actuaries are massively inefficient (in my experience), so if you’re very efficient you can complete the same workload with far less time and effort.

        I tried to pick examples outside of IT/dev, since those are both rife with workload and skill variance, and the examples are probably familiar to a lot of others. I think there’s a ton of other jobs that you could consider as a skills-workload mismatch in this way, but most of them are going to be on the lower end of the job market. Once upon a time I did phone sales support for an ecom retailer- I didn’t work very hard, read a lot of blogs, played webgames, etc., and still easily sold more than 90% of the department because I had natural confidence on the phone, no trouble remembering technical product data, and possessed an ability to easily dissociate my emotional state from whatever shit the customer felt like yelling today.

    • cassander says:

      “deal with” how? Is your goal a way to occupy your time? More money? More responsibility? A better job? All call for different responses.

  14. Well... says:

    Free idea for anyone who wants to develop it: an AirBnB-type website where you rent out outdoor space on your property for other people to garden. Rent agreements are flexible, so that the garden-landlord can be paid in baskets of vegetables or something. Yes, it’s suburban sharecropping!

    Does anything like this exist? Should it?

    • AnonYEmous says:

      I can’t imagine that it should. How many people have enough land to make this workable? How many are willing to work this land? How many of the first group don’t want to use that land for something better, and how many of the second group are close by enough / not already actual farmers / good at farming / trustworthy enough?

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        For your first two questions, in areas like the East Bay, many.

        The latter question(s) would be the sticker.

        A fourth sticker question is how many people would want to rent land like this when community garden plots are already available in many areas. It seems an unfortunately few crave the semi-privacy of a private garden in some else’s yard.

      • Well... says:

        In my suburban neighborhood at least, this is already going on, but very informally. (That’s where I got the idea.) Typical plot is between about a quarter and a 6th of an acre. It also would have been feasible in the last suburban neighborhood I lived in, where the typical plot was between about a 6th and a 10th of an acre and there was a sporadic mixture of avid gardeners and people who were old or very busy, and therefore might have liked not having as much lawn to care for.

        Basically, my thought is this could work anywhere some people have back yards that are bigger than what they really need or want to take care of, while other people nearby have more desire to garden than they have garden space.

    • . says:

      I unironically think there are many jobs that you should have to pay to do.

    • Fossegrimen says:

      No idea if they have a website, but it’s a fairly regular thing around here for farms too small to be profitable and located fairly close to a city. You let the urbanites come and “farm” a plot for a fee; the farm is profitable again, the urbanites seem to enjoy themselves and everyone is happy.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Someone could do this as a free hobby and enjoy it a lot.

      Making it a business is hard, because once someone finds their garden space, they don’t need the website much any more. If your goal was to help people find garden space, this is wonderful. If your goal was to have a sustainable business, you’re out of luck.

      • Well... says:

        If your goal was to help people find garden space, this is wonderful. If your goal was to have a sustainable business, you’re out of luck.

        It’s the first thing.

        I don’t think this is a big multimillion dollar idea. But I do think it’s a tool enough people might use that it could self-sustain from ad revenue or something. (Ignoring up front marketing costs etc…)

  15. anonymousskimmer says:

    North Korea hypothetical

    The US announces that various NK locations will be nuked in 120 hours unless Kim is killed and NK forms a new government that doesn’t have a permanent, hereditary head of state. The particular government doesn’t matter, but it will sign a peace treaty with the US and South Korea within a year (barring mutually agreed upon extensions). In exchange NK will be left alone as long as it doesn’t threaten any other nations.

    Heck, it could even be modified to merely banish Kim to an asylum country.

    Why wouldn’t something like this work? I’m sure various people in the Pentagon have thought up many permutations of this basic plan, but no one has even mentioned it, so it must have a huge hole.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Countermove: Kim immediately nukes something.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        Why wasn’t this sort of plan implemented in prior decades?

        To answer the countermove: Then everyone in NK dies. So who would actually follow his order to nuke something?

        • Well... says:

          Are NKans who take orders from Kim that rational?

        • HFARationalist says:

          Maybe Kim has the red button available to him at all times?

        • Montfort says:

          The NKans who think many people in NK will die if they agree, but they personally will die if they don’t. Or they could be motivated out of a sense of duty, patriotism, etc.

          If I were Mr. Kim, the people I’d choose in my chain of command for nuclear assets would be heavily selected for loyalty, for following orders, and for not having troublesome bouts of independent thinking when the (properly verified) orders come down. Because my position rests heavily on my ability to credibly launch nukes if the need arises.

          • HFARationalist says:

            If I were Kim I would make a dead hand and let it control the nukes besides me. The moment Mr. Kim dies for whatever reason is the moment the nukes, chemical weapons, biological weapons, EMP, etc will be launched against major cities of the Russian Far East, China, North Korea itself, South Korea, Japan and everywhere else where a sufficiently large concentration of humans can be found and nuked. That can discourage internal coups as well.

            Other humans can not be trusted no matter how loyal they appear to be. Only machines can.

          • Montfort says:

            I could maybe see the merit of a dead-hand system connected to sensors that would go off in the event NK was nuked (if the sensors were very reliable, and probably with a few minutes provided for manual cancellation), but I don’t know how to hook up biometrics good enough to wear 24/7 as I gallivant across the country inspecting factories and military facilities that couldn’t be spoofed or lose contact with the command center.

            Edit: additionally, if you don’t have a succession plan, this might end up forcing somebody’s hand when news gets out you’re ill, or you hit 70 or so.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @Montfont The concern is about how to make sure that if Mr.Kim is dead the nukes do get launched, not if Mr.Kim is live the nukes do not get launched. Nobody gains from tempering with the device to launch the nukes anyway even if Mr.Kim remains alive at least for another hour. I agree that the former is a real concern.

            Mr. Kim could let his successor share the doomsday device when he has one. Or..alternatively he could give his successor a nonfunctional one and simply let humanity or at least North Korea, South Korea, etc die when he dies.

          • Montfort says:

            I think Kim would consider it very important that the nukes don’t launch before he’s dead if he doesn’t want them to. Because that kind of thing gets NK nuked, and he lives there. I don’t think anyone would intentionally tamper to trigger the dead-hand early, no, but sensors can break, things can go wrong.

            And what my edit is alluding to is that if an adversary believes the dead-hand will trigger relatively soon, a pre-emptive strike will look much more appealing to them. You don’t want NK nuked just because you went to the hospital for chest pain that later turned out to be heartburn. Perhaps that specific scenario isn’t very likely, but the broader threat is a real risk – reclusive dictators are hard to keep tabs on, and periods of reduced activity often lead to speculation about their health.
            Until he has a successor credibly hooked into the system he runs that risk, and once he has a successor credibly hooked into the system, he’s no longer personally protected.

          • Machina ex Deus says:

            @HFARationlist:

            Other humans can not be trusted no matter how loyal they appear to be. Only machines can.

            Yes. I cannot stress this point enough.

            Also, unlike nearly all human leaders, machines do not overlook the incredible utility advantages of paperclips.

    • HFARationalist says:

      My countermove as Kim? Threaten to exterminate humanity. Then attempt to cause the extermination of the entire human species by trying to ignite a global nuclear war if America does not back off. Nuking Russia and China from a submarine pretending that it is America that does so might work.

      The point is not to actually exterminate humanity. Instead the point is to make Kim-killing so dangerous that nobody dares to try it.

      I believe this is exactly Kim’s strategy. If you want me dead I will bring the rest of humanity down with me.

      • Sfoil says:

        Kim doesn’t have enough firepower to “exterminate humanity”. He couldn’t even exterminate South Korean humanity.

        • HFARationalist says:

          I think a false flag nuclear attack on China or Russia might work even though it is still pretty unlikely because America, Russia and China can still communicate with each other. Kim can not directly exterminate humanity. However humanity can exterminate itself and the only thing Kim needs to do is to trigger human self-destruction.

          • hlynkacg says:

            How exactly would a false flag nuclear attack even work? ICBMs aren’t exactly subtle.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @hlynkacg Yeah this will be pretty hard for Mr. Kim especially since he can’t really just cut the communication channels. POTUS will just phone the leaders of Russia and China and told them that it is Mr. Kim the new Hitler who launched the nukes against Beijing or Vladivostok, not America.

            Then humanity will declare war on Mr.Kim and he will be remembered (remembered because that dude will be executed) as the most evil villain in human history.

          • bean says:

            False flag nuclear attack? That makes no sense whatsoever. How does he get this weapon into position? How does he keep us from identifying it as his after it goes off? Maybe if he can build a decent SLBM, but even then, he’s not likely to fool anyone, as the US wouldn’t be stupid enough to launch the kind of attack he’s going to be capable of.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @bean I know this will be hard. A false flag on American properties pretending that the real culprit is Russia or China is also pretty hard because American leaders know that these countries aren’t suicidal.

          • Randy M says:

            You are going to threaten a false flag attack? Good luck with that.

          • bean says:

            @HFA
            There’s ‘this will be difficult, but probably doable’ hard, and there’s ‘this idea is only suitable for a bond villain’ hard. False-flag nuclear attacks are the second type. Basically, they can’t use land-based missiles, because we can track where those come from. So they have to launch from a submarine. I believe that we (and the Chinese and Russians) can tell the difference between various missiles simply by their flight profiles. If nothing else, the North Koreans are incapable of simulating a full US attack, and the other guys know we aren’t stupid enough to try the sort of attack the Norks could put together. So their first instinct won’t be to blame the US, but rather figure out who did it. When the Nork SLBM doesn’t look like Trident II (which it won’t), they’ll agree that we weren’t behind it. Also, I suspect that basic nuclear forensics can tell the difference between our warheads and the ones they can build. This is a terrible and stupid plan, and Kim may be many things, but he’s not that stupid. If he was, this would be much easier.

          • Brad says:

            I understood that radioisotope analysis could fairly easily be used to determine the source of any nuclear explosion.

          • gph says:

            RE: False flag nuclear attack

            This is a faulty premise for a lot of reasons, but I think the most glaring question would be why would the US (or any major nuclear power) only launch one nuke or even only a few. If the US legitimately was going to launch a nuclear first-strike you better believe we’d be unloading the majority of our arsenal. NK wouldn’t have the capability to simulate that at this point, nor would they want to if the purpose was as a false flag.

          • gbdub says:

            We could certainly figure out who detonated a bomb after the fact, but that doesn’t help you in the half hour you have to launch a counterstrike before the warheads start landing. The hope of a false-flag would be to trigger an immediate panic response launch of a full-scale counterstrike by Russia/USA.

            But that probably doesn’t work for the reason bean mentions. At the point where the NorKs have SLBMs, we’re not going to respond until we know where the SLBMs are coming from, and it should be pretty easy to determine what type of missiles are being launched and by whom just with the tracking data (and certainly, Kim can’t produce anything that looks like what a Russian or even Chinese first strike would actually look like).

          • bean says:

            @ Brad
            I’ve heard that our nuclear forensics capability isn’t what it used to be, and that we’d have serious trouble doing that today. Don’t know if it’s true.
            But that said, all of their weapons tests to date have been 30 kt or less. That’s a third the yield of the W76, the smaller of the two US SLBM warheads. I could figure out it wasn’t a US attack with just good reports of the damage.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Not to mention that once Kim gets SLBMs, the US will spend a lot of money having our subs follow them around all day. If they launch, the US will know pretty darn quick.

          • John Schilling says:

            We could certainly figure out who detonated a bomb after the fact, but that doesn’t help you in the half hour you have to launch a counterstrike before the warheads start landing.

            Which warheads are those? I don’t think any nation has or plausibly would have a nuclear warfighting doctrine that involves a small attack followed half an hour later by a large one. Anybody who is on the receiving end of 1-2 nuclear missiles is going to take the time to make sure their response is properly targeted and coordinated, or is a complete idiot.

            It is possible that being on the wrong end of a nuke might incite such idiocy, but it would be even more desperately idiotic to come up with a master plan of strategic misdirection that requires a third party to partake of a specific sort of idiocy at just the right time. False-flag attacks with nuclear missiles are not terribly credible as a deliberate strategy, for North Korea or anyone else, because the most likely outcome is that you wind up fighting a nuclear war on two fronts instead of just one.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @guys Thanks! I have changed my mind. False flag attacks do not work.

    • . says:

      Two thoughts:

      1) (80% certainty) We couldn’t make it credible. We’d need to pre-commit to between 0.15 Hitlers (only nuke Pyongyang) and 1.5 Hitlers (nuke everything), and no remotely democratic leader is going to do that many unprovoked Hitlers.

      2) (60% certainty) If we were somehow able to pull it off, the costs to the US would be similar to the costs of actually doing a pre-emptive nuclear strike. Namely, we look too dangerous to the remaining 95% of the planet: they all realize that we could pull the same trick the next time NAFTA renegotiation comes up. It is dangerous to look that dangerous.

    • Sfoil says:

      1. Starting unprovoked wars is immoral [citation needed]

      2. Kim alerts all his forces, fuels his missiles, and moves everything important into one of the ~20,000 underground facilities in NK over the next few days. He makes it very clear to the South Korean public that this is not in their best interest, probably in such a way as to trigger mass evacuations. Then either nothing happens and the US looks stupid, or North Korea gets nuked and then nukes, probably a minimum, Guam and (US bases in) Japan. Probably Seoul (transportation hub) and Pusan (port) too, not so much because he’s trying to kill people as because it would make the logistics of an attack from the South much more difficult. Persistent chemical agents are employed against operational targets within South Korea and anywhere on the DMZ the North Koreans don’t actually intend to attack, which might mean along the entire zone. Within 12 hours of the last American nuke, there is a broadcast consisting of 10 seconds of Kim unharmed and presiding over a meeting of the North Korean High Command in a bunker and 2 hours of dead children lying in flyblown piles. This is now the most destructive conflict since WW2 and no one has even tried to actually seize any territory yet. Also, did anyone run this past the South Korean government who’s supposed to actually provide about 95% of the ground troops in all of this?

      Most of the world’s other major powers declare the United States an aggressor and possibly start seizing the overseas assets of US corporations on a more or less coordinated basis, although that might take a few weeks to really get going. The UN Security Council either finds a way to expel the United States as a permanent member or disintegrates.

      For what?

      • John Schilling says:

        Within 12 hours of the last American nuke, there is a broadcast consisting of 10 seconds of Kim unharmed and presiding over a meeting of the North Korean High Command in a bunker and 2 hours of dead children lying in flyblown piles.

        Also clips of North Korean TELs rolling out of bunkers into the basted wasteland to send missiles gloriously skyward in retaliation. With even more glorious narration by Pink Hanbok Lady, though I assume she would switch to black once the mushroom clouds blossom.

        You are absolutely right that this sort of thing makes for terrifyingly effective propaganda, and the North Korean regime isn’t the least bit shy about exploiting that sort of thing.

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      If you’ll remember this was tried prior to OIF, and signally failed to accomplish anything. Admittedly, the threat wasn’t nuclear war, but I think “we will invade your country and overthrow your government” is a much more -credible- threat, and it’s one that we followed through on. What’s more, Iraq was arguably a better test case for this strategy, both because radio and television messages probably had better penetration (DPRK infrastructure, or its lack thereof, being legendary and dovetailing with their attemtps at maintaining an absolute bubble around their citizens) AND Saddam had less absolute control and more internal enemies and dissatisfied elements in Iraq than the Kims do in North Korea.

      If it didn’t work there (and it didn’t), I don’t think this sort of threat is going to work against any -actual- totalitarian despot (as opposed to politically unpopular but not outright tyrannical leader).

    • John Schilling says:

      A: The threat would not be credible. Not even from Donald Trump.

      B: Kim Jong-Un and his cronies would rather rule the radioactive wasteland that was the Korean peninsula from his bunker deep beneath Mt. Paekustan, than die in the cell you have waiting for him in the Hague. Fallout and Mad Max are just plain fun in a way that life imprisonment isn’t.

      C: Any promise that if Kim plays nice we’ll let him retire to the French Riviera is also not credible.

      D: In 120 hours, Kim and his cronies are going to be in one of their hidden, nuke-proof bunkers, so you’re not really threatening them, just people we already know they are willing to see die in the name of their own ambition.

      E: The very few people physically capable of killing Kim Jong-Un are fanatical regime loyalists, and even if they weren’t they face incentives such that shooting Kim is the strategy most likely to get them and their entire families killed, no matter how subsequent events play out, so nobody is actually going to do that.

      F: Creating a new democratic regime is even less likely, because that requires the cooperation of a great many people all of whom have the powerful incentive of not even discussing such a plan on penalty of having their entire families murdered in a way that even US nuclear missiles can’t top.

      G: In 120 hours, North Korea is going to have 30-60 nuclear missiles (and hundreds more loaded with HE and nerve gas) dispersed to secret, hardened underground sites around the country, in the highest state of readiness and with dead-man launch orders. These missiles will be operated and safeguarded by the regime’s most loyal people short of actual Kim Jong-Un bodyguards, and again the incentives are such that “launch and then disappear into the countryside” is the strategy most likely to safeguard their families.

      J: Most of these missiles will be aimed at South Korea and Japan, whose governments will receive sternly-worded letters saying, “If the US launches, we launch”. This threat actually is credible. And if RoK + Japanese diplomats can’t handle the situation, 120 hours may be enough for one of them to conduct a quick assassination of the US president whose timely death is now the only thing that can save the lives of millions of their citizens.

      K: About 10% of the nukes will be loaded on missiles that can reach the United States. They aren’t terribly reliable at this stage, but you’re giving them plenty of warning time, and US missile defenses aren’t terribly reliable either.

      L: North Korea has more hardened underground bunkers than the US has nuclear missiles, and they are very good at camouflage, concealment, and deception.

      M: “Do what we say or we’ll nuke you”, is Literally Worse Than Hitler. Preemptive nuclear war, absent a clear and present danger of imminent attack, is Literally Worse Than Hitler. If anyone actually does this, or credibly threatens to do this, the remaining fourteen members of the UN security council will be meeting in a secret location to decide how to deal with the greatest menace in the history of human civilization. This probably won’t involve an immediate attack, but it will involve the sort of preparations the rest of the world made when e.g. Mere Hitler annexed Austria and began rearming, and it will likely come to the same end.

      N: I don’t want to die fighting on the side of Literally Worse Than Hitler, and I don’t want to see my country suffer the fate of Germany ca. 1945, so I’ll stop you from implementing this plan in the United States by any means necessary. Fortunately, I think this comment will about suffice for that.

      O: That threat would not be credible, not even from Donald Trump. So you’d have to actually do it. Why are you doing this, again?

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        Many of your points are good ones, except those involving stopping the US president (he’d be in Cheyenne under Defcon 1).

        Thanks, you’ve convinced me.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @anonymousskimmer:

          Good to see people acknowledging their mind has been changed. Huzzah.

          Minor nit:

          except those involving stopping the US president (he’d be in Cheyenne under Defcon 1).

          I assume you are talking about (N) above.

          And what makes you think that he is necessarily going to be safe in Cheyenne? Some of the people willing to kill “literally worse than Hitler” may in fact be there with him. It makes it somewhat less likely, but definitely still possible.

          Even more likely, the Cabinet spends some of the next 120 hours implementing section 4 of the 25th amendment.

        • John Schilling says:

          Plausible motives for a US President doing this, given that it probably won’t work as a peaceful resolution for the North Korea issue, mostly come down to Trumpian ego and the like(*). So it’s not a given that he’ll be hiding in his own bunker when he could be out giving speeches showing how not-afraid he is and otherwise capitalizing on the publicity. North Korea not being a democracy, Kim has more flexibility on that front.

          But that’s not something I’d want to count on, so fortunately there are many other reasons this particular bad plan isn’t going to happen.

          * Including “Oh, crap, I need a really big foreign-policy distraction to head off a nasty domestic impeachment”

    • cassander says:

      This is basically what the US did in the Cuban Missile crisis. We didn’t explicitly declare that we’d obliterate the russians, but the threat was there. It was an insanely high risk maneuver that scared the crap out of our allies (in 1962 the russians had essentially zero ability to nuke the US but they had a lot of ability to nuke europe).

      Such a move has three possible outcomes. It works, in which case the US looks like an aggressive, unilateral bully, it doesn’t work and we nuke them, in which case we look even more aggressive, or it doesn’t work and we don’t nuke them, in which we’ve permanently damaged our nuclear credibility in a way that is possibly extremely dangerous. That is assuming, of course, no one else gets involved, which is far from certain. When other countries do get involved, the possible outcomes rapidly get even uglier.

      • John Schilling says:

        The US did not explicitly threaten first use of nuclear weapons during the Cuban Missile Crisis, nor to attack the Soviet Union, and did not demand the surrender of the Soviet Union. A threat to blockade, bombard, or even invade Not The Soviet Union with Not Nuclear Weapons, even if coupled with explicit readiness to escalate in response to possible Soviet actions, offers both sides numerous avenues to back down short of nuclear war or abject surrender. So I don’t see the two as at all comparable.

        And yet, as you note, the US response to the Cuban Missiles was seen as exceedingly dangerous both at the time and in retrospect.

  16. hlynkacg says:

    I’m passing along a request from the subreddit

    I want a word that’s kind of like “schadenfreude”, except instead of taking joy from someone’s misfortune, you take sadness in it; in addition, this outcome was an inevitable consequence of the harmed person’s own beliefs, but they never expected it to happen to them despite warnings…

    Is there a word for that? If any language has a word for that it’s got to be German.

    The Slavic languages also seems like good candidates. The way my granddad used Злорадствo (gloat) seems to have shades of this, something akin to “I told you so”.

    • doubleunplussed says:

      “Fremdscham” seems pretty close but not quite with the “inevitable consequence of their beliefs”. Wiktionary says about the verb “fremdschämen”:

      to feel ashamed about something someone else has done; to be embarrassed because someone else has embarrassed himself (and doesn’t notice)

      So it seems to have connotations of the misfortune at least sort of being the person’s own fault, but you still feeling bad for them. I’ve heard it used like that but I can’t remember the exact context.

      • hlynkacg says:

        That definitely sound like it’s in the ball park, especially the “embarrassed because someone else has embarrassed himself (and doesn’t notice)” part which also reminds me of the cringe comedy discussions from earlier.

        Coming at it from another angle, is there a word or phrase that combines the sentiment behind “be careful what you wish for” and “I told you so”?

      • Argos says:

        As a German speaker, I should probably clarify that the definition you cited does not quite capture the connotations of “Fremdscham”. It is only ever used for socially embarassing situations, and most importantly, does not convey a sense of feeling sadness or compassion towards the person who embarassed himself. Quite on the contrary, it kind of implies that you just observe from the sidelines and want to get away from the situation, as opposed to wish to help.

        Honestly, hlynkacg’s association is pretty spot on, as cringe in the context of cringe comedy is often referred to as Fremdschämen in Germany. And I seem to remember that most people agreed that it only ever works if you don’t feel a lot of sympathy for the embarassing characters.

    • nimim.k.m. says:

      instead of taking joy from someone’s misfortune, you take sadness in it

      Isn’t this general emotion covered by “compassion”?

      The etymology of “compassion” is Latin, meaning “co-suffering.” [1]

      The particular detail of the inevitability and the full predictability of the misfortune is the difficult to pin down, though.

      Often these very specific emotions are codified with characters and tropes from literature. Can anyone think about a piece of fiction that exemplifies this particular kind of foolishness and feeling this particular kind of sympathy as a response?

      • hlynkacg says:

        The particular detail of the inevitability and the full predictability of the misfortune is the difficult to pin down, though.

        Agreed otherwise I’d have just gone with “sympathy”. Good thought about the fictional character. The ideal case would be someone who gets what they want only for it to (predictably) blow up in thier face. Now I’m casting about for a story with a theme of “be careful what you wish for” where the protagonist is sympathetic.

  17. HFARationalist says:

    Crazy Dictators and Nukes

    (This is a variant of the Kim thread)

    What if a dictator has nukes and threaten to exterminate humanity unless certain conditions are guaranteed? How extreme the conditions need to be in order for the nuclear blackmail to fall? Why hasn’t any dictator try to do a really extreme version of that to protect their position (e.g. Kim: South Korea must disband and be annexed by North Korea right now or I will exterminate humanity)?

    Why don’t dictators simply do crazy things? (e.g. Dictator: The rest of humanity, all of you must kneel on the ground or others must kill those who do not comply within 5 minutes. If not I will launch the nukes and exterminate everyone of you. (Humanity complies) Dictator: LOL! The rest of humanity, all of you must be jumping until I allow you to stop. Those who don’t comply within 5 minutes must be killed by their neighbors or I will launch the nukes…)

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      1) No one has a nuclear arsenal capable of exterminating humanity.

      2) Any threat to enact this on even a limited scale incentivizes a counterforce first strike from other nuclear powers. Even if you HAD the capability in theory, being able to get all your birds launched before the US or Russia sprouts mushroom clouds over where your launch sites (and command and control nodes, and major military infrastructure, and…) is a whole other kettle of fish.

      3) Generally speaking, the goal of dictators is to remain in power. They’re not bond villains. You don’t remain in power and in control by courting situations that will tend to spiral out of control with devastating consequences for your country. Even if you don’t give a shit about your citizens, a country with a functioning economy and citizens to tax, oppress, and loot is far better for your quality of life than stepping out of a bunker to observe the ashes of your nation.

      • HFARationalist says:

        (1) I see. There are probably not enough nukes to exterminate humanity at least according to this article.
        (2) What if a new president of America, Russia or maybe China is a sadist and megalomaniac who loves to see humanity suffer, obey their absurd demands or even be exterminated?
        (3) See (2).

        • beleester says:

          1. Trump jokes aside, I think the electoral process does a pretty good job of filtering out Bond villains. The combination of “crazy enough to exterminate the world” and “stable enough to patiently amass political power and build an image as someone who won’t exterminate the world” is pretty rare.

          2. Taking over an existing political structure to fund your Bond villain ambitions means you need the people in that structure to cooperate. While the President in theory has the ability to order a nuclear strike with no oversight, he doesn’t have a literal big red button on his desk, he still needs people to carry out that order. I suspect the Secretary of Defense would disobey if the President was in full “Kneel before Zod” mode.

  18. keranih says:

    The recent posts menu has disappeared off the right hand side bar.

  19. onyomi says:

    What do people think about a “loser-pays” system of civil law vs. what we have now in the US (each party responsible for own legal bills)? Apparently these are also called “the English rule” and “the American rule,” respectively.

    I actually don’t have a strong opinion on this, as I can see serious problems either way. Right now it feels to me like there are too many frivolous lawsuits in the US and that defense against such may bear some responsibility for the proliferation of ass-covering bureaucracy we were talking about recently; on the other hand, the problem where a poor or middle class person is ruined financially by daring to bring suit against a big company is a serious one. Also, it may be that most of the lawsuits I think are frivolous are about IP, so maybe my problem is really with IP, not with “the American rule”?

    • dodrian says:

      They both have problems, so here’s my unlikely to actually work third proposal: Loser pays the cost of their own legal fees to the other party.

      (Eg. I hire Legal Lightweight Larry to take my case for $500, my opponent hires Moneybag & Sons for $100,000. I lose, pay Larry his $500 fee, and the court orders me to pay $500 towards the cost of M&S.)

      That way the party that attempts to out-lawyer the other has an increased risk, and if I’m taking on a big cooperation I know the maximum I would lose from it.

      In reality though I thought that in both systems the judge decides how much of the other’s legal fees each side would pay.

      • beleester says:

        This is a neat idea. Don’t think I’ve heard it suggested before.

        The two edge cases it might have trouble with are contingency fees (lawyer charges a percentage of the winnings) and pro se lawsuits (crazy guy doesn’t hire a lawyer, and therefore doesn’t have to pay anything when he loses), but those are edge cases.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Currently in the US, I’m fairly certain that either in various jurisdictions or various types of cases, or perhaps the combination? that the winning side in a suit for damages can ask for the a ruling that recompenses them their legal costs.

      Given that, I think you could look at the differences between these situations to see if you could tease out what the effect is.

      • beleester says:

        IANAL, but yes, some laws do allow this. The American rule is just a default.

        One category where this is common is anti-SLAPP laws. Which makes sense, since the idea is to protect the defendant from the cost of a frivolous lawsuit.

        Also, Wikipedia says that Alaska uses the English rule.

    • I have a webbed piece that argues for a version of loser pays, but not the English rule.

      The English rule, as I understand it, is that the loser pays what the court thinks the winner’s legal expenses should have been. The obvious justification is that that’s a cost the loser unjustly imposed on the winner.

      My point is that even if there are no legal costs, in a legal system with error suing an innocent defendant imposes a probabilistic cost on him, and we can deter that by charging the losing plaintiff a fraction of what he claimed the prevailing defendant owed him. The idea is borrowed from the legal system of Periclean Athens as a solution to a problem not solved by existing strategies understood in terms of the legal system of saga period Iceland (and other feud systems).

  20. bean says:

    Because next time is the culture war-free OT, I should probably talk about class now. OK, when I say class, I mean class of service. (Disclaimer: I’m most familiar with the US market, and know a bit about Europe. I’m trying to hold down the research I put into these, so I’m sorry if I don’t understand someone else’s aviation market.) But first, let’s talk about the planes themselves.
    Passenger jets are basically divided into three categories (small to large), regional, narrowbody and widebody.
    Regional planes are those with up to ~120 seats, and typically fly between major hubs and distant secondary markets or close tertiary markets. The main players are Bombardier and Embraer, both of which make a range of planes from 70-120 seats, and are trying to move into the narrowbody market. For various reasons, these are much more popular in the US than in the rest of the world, but that may not continue going forward, and I suspect that the demise of this market may be behind Embraer and Bombardier looking to build larger planes. Seating ranges from 1-2 (one seat on one side of the aisle, 2 on the other) to 3-3 on some of the largest.
    Narrowbodies form the backbone of all short to medium-haul flying worldwide. The two main players are the Airbus A320 family and the Boeing 737, although some older planes, such as the MD-80 family and the 757, also survive. These seat 120-250 people, depending on variant, and fly every route from hour-long hops between hubs and secondary markets to transcontinental routes and even an increasing percentage of transatlantic flights. Coach seating is almost always 3-3.
    Widebodies are almost exclusively used for long-haul flights, ranging from transatlantic and the occasional transcontinental route to flying halfway around the world. There are currently 15 flights scheduled to last 16 hours or more. Currently, this market is dominated by the Boeing 777 and 787, and the Airbus A330 and A350. The 777 is somewhat larger than the other three, but exact comparisons are complicated by the fact that different airlines install radically different interiors. Some operators fly 777s with 250 seats, while others cram 400 aboard the same airplane. Larger airplanes, the 747 and A380, are pretty niche players at this point, while older widebodies, most notably the 767 and DC-10/MD-11, are being used mostly for cargo. Seating ranges from 2-3-2 to 3-4-3 in coach, while premium cabins have a bewildering variety of configurations.
    There are also smaller airplanes, mostly turboprops, used as feeders from small airports. These are not important to most flyers, and the picture is complicated enough without them.
    Now, to classes:
    Economy Class: This is the basic seat you get, also known as coach. It’s usually 17-18” wide, and has a pitch (the distance between a given point on one seat and the seat behind it) of 28-32” depending on the airline. Exact standards of service and amenities vary greatly depending on the airline.
    Extra-legroom Economy: Sometimes called economy plus (or other names, depending on the airline), this is the same seat you get in Economy, but with more legroom. On US carriers (who are the main users of this class), it’s usually 34-36” pitch, and often comes with priority boarding and maybe a free snack and drink. It’s either a buy-up from economy (and not a separate fare), or assigned to elites.
    Domestic First/Short-haul Business: This class is usually the higher class of 2-class narrowbodies. The seats are somewhat wider (2-2 instead of 3-3 and about 21”), and with more pitch, usually 38-40” or so. Usually comes with better service, a free meal and drinks.
    Intra-Europe Business: This is a standard set of economy seats with a tray blocking the middle seat, and slightly better service. I am not at all sure why Europeans don’t have proper shorthaul business class, but they don’t.
    Premium Economy: The longhaul equivalent to domestic first. Usually a slightly wider seat (say going from 3-3-3 to 2-4-2), a pitch of ~38”, and better service. Not all airlines have this, although it’s gradually spreading.
    International Business: 15 years ago, this wasn’t that different from domestic first, but things have changed a lot. These days, you can expect a fully lie-flat seat about 6’ long, and more and more airlines are moving towards giving every seat direct aisle access. You get free alcohol, generally decent meals (although this varies a lot depending on the airline), and generally a much nicer flight. There are lots of different kinds of seats, some of which are a lot better than others, so check SeatGuru before you book. A lot of airlines (United and Delta among them) are making Business their top class of service, as it is now where first was 15 years ago, and (particularly in the US) there just isn’t that much demand for first. I’ve gotten to fly business once, and it was really cool.
    International First: On any airline with a relatively modern product (some airlines have rather outdated first-class cabins that are below modern business standards), you’re looking at a suite with a door, aisle access from every seat, and probably lots of food and alcohol. Sometimes, more than that. The current apex of this is Etihad, who has the First Apartments on their A380, in a 1-1 configuration, and the 3-room Residence. Both Etihad and Emirates have showers on their A380s as well.

    • gbdub says:

      What makes you think there is an imminent demise of the regional market? If anything it seems they are getting more popular, at least judging by the number of them I see at airports? Or is it just that the regional routes are getting popular enough to justify bigger planes?

      • bean says:

        The basic problem is that we’re looking at a serious pilot shortage over the next decade. It takes just as many pilots to run a 737 as it does a CRJ900, but you can carry twice as many people (if not more). The regional system in the US is the result of lower labor costs due to the way union contracts are structured, but between airline bankruptcies having reduced their costs and the pilot shortage driving up market wages that cost advantage is eroding fast. Horizon, who is Alaska’s biggest regional contractor, has had to make serious cuts in its schedule due to lack of pilots recently.

        • cassander says:

          >It takes just as many pilots to run a 737 as it does a CRJ900, but you can carry twice as many people (if not more)

          there are some FAA regulations that make this not quite the case. I don’t know the exact details, but when you fly with a sufficiently small number of people on board a lot of regulations that restrict how many hours pilots can fly, or how much downtime they need between flights are relaxed. This is part of why the embraer E175 has gotten so popular in US service, because with 2/2 seating, it holds exactly the magic number (72 or 76, I forget which). You still need 2 pilots to fly them of course, but you can make better use of them.

          • bean says:

            The 76 passenger limit is the largest airplane the union contracts will allow the airlines to outsource. It’s not a result of FAA regs. For a while the number was 50 pax, but this was raised, and the 50-passenger jets suffered a plummet in popularity.

        • Aapje says:

          @bean

          We currently have a big surplus of pilots in Europe and a lot of people want to be pilots. Pilot salaries are really under pressure now. So I really doubt that this shortage will really happen, as I think that any void of retiring pilots will rapidly fill up.

          • bean says:

            It’s already happening. Aviation is booming, and we went from glut to drought pretty quickly. The FAA raising the requirements for pilots recently didn’t help.

          • Aapje says:

            Yeah, but after looking into it, it’s just a pork cycle and even then it’s just a shortage of first officers.

            There has never not been a surplus of people willing to be a pilot, it’s just that the airlines chose to go for short term gains and thus didn’t build up a very capable workforce.

          • bean says:

            Yeah, but after looking into it, it’s just a pork cycle and even then it’s just a shortage of first officers.

            You are legally required to have a first officer to operate the airplane. How does ‘just a shortage of first officers’ even work? They can’t just magically summon captains to replace them. Both of those articles agree that the shortage is a thing, although it isn’t evenly spread across the industry.

            There has never not been a surplus of people willing to be a pilot, it’s just that the airlines chose to go for short term gains and thus didn’t build up a very capable workforce.

            Right now, there are quite a few regional airlines that are slashing their schedules because they cannot staff their planes. Yes, this would not have been a problem if the regionals had paid better, or if there had been a better path out of the regionals and into the majors 5 years ago. But we have a real problem now, and it’s going to hollow out the regionals.

          • John Schilling says:

            There has never not been a surplus of people willing to be a pilot

            In order to fly a CRJ900 or a 737, you need two people who actually are pilots. Even if you can resolve the conflicting economic incentives associated with pilot training, turning people who are willing to be pilots into people who actually are pilots, takes years.

            During which time, airlines will have implemented alternate “temporary” solutions like retiring the CRJs, buying more 737s, suspending small less-profitable routes, and found that these don’t have to be temporary and are cheaper than training new pilots (half of whom wind up flying for your competitors).

          • Aapje says:

            @bean

            My quick research indicates that the FAA flight hours requirement for first officers can typically be met in two to three years for a full-time pilot. Let’s say that the average number of pilots per flight is 2, then an airline would need a workforce of whom only half have three years on the job who can then be made into first officers, assuming that the FAA flight hours requirement is the bottleneck.

            So what the flying fuck is going on that these airlines have so many pilots with less than 3 years worth of flying hours? Did the airlines use a lot of pilots on temporary contracts, favoring spreading flights over many different, young pilots, so they tend to have few flight hours?

            I have a hard time coming up with an explanation why the airlines would have these problems that doesn’t involve an extreme short term focus. That automatically results in low robustness to change (like regulation changes or market changes).

            But we have a real problem now, and it’s going to hollow out the regionals.

            Yeah and then pork cycle is going to reverse again and that will benefit the regionals, as they benefited in the past when they paid pilots very little because they could.

            The boom phase of the pork cycle benefits group A and harms group B compared to a stable equilibrium, while the bust phase benefits group B and harms group A. IMO the more rational position is to get upset at the pork cycle in general, not just one of the phases.

            This scenario just underscores why extreme labor flexibility is bad and why labor laws are necessary.

            @John Schilling

            Yes, not thinking long term causes short term problems/costs. I favor higher costs for flying because externalities are not priced in as they should be; as well as selfish and abusive behavior getting punished, so this just makes me happy.

    • orihara says:

      It doesn’t appear that you listed the definition of wide body: has more than one aisle (though it’s somewhat implied). I say more than one because the double deck designs (747/A380) will have more than two, and conceivably a BWB type design would also be describable as such.

  21. Edward Scizorhands says:

    I see a lot of people criticizing the Red Cross, citing ProPublica. https://www.propublica.org/article/the-red-cross-secret-disaster

    I can totally believe that the Red Cross has squandered its reputation and is no longer to be trusted. However, I also know that it’s very easy for outsiders to pick stupid ways to analyze a charity. As an example, I don’t care so much about helping victims in this tragedy. I care about having an organized group that can respond to the next tragedy.

    Has anyone skeptical analyzed ProPublica’s piece?

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I haven’t read that piece yet, but it doesn’t even mention Haiti, where they also cocked up fairly massively.

      I couldn’t tell you what is going wrong at Red Cross, but my current epistemically uncertain assessment is that something isn’t right.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        Was Haiti a cockup because no one can get anything done in Haiti, or was it a cockup because the Red Cross has been taken over by insiders who are out for personal enrichment over the goals of the organization?

        Someone mentioned Jerry Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy in another thread in the past day or two, which when placed next to the Red Cross is a really tempting explanation.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Was Haiti a cockup because no one can get anything done in Haiti

          This could very well be the case, but the Red Cross promised that they could get things done, spent lots of money putatively to get things done, and at various point said they were successfully getting things done. So, the cockup seems to not simply be that it is nigh impossible to get things done in Haiti.

    • gbdub says:

      The more important question is – is anyone else doing better? On a national level that can respond to crises everywhere? (Maybe now it would be better to donate to local charities for e.g. Harvey relief, since they know the area. But if I want to make a general donation to disaster preparedness, I can’t predict which local charity to support since I don’t know ahead of time what localities are going to be affected)

      It seems like a legitimately hard problem, and a lot of that article is based on quotes from disgruntled staffers, so it probably ought to be taken with a grain of salt. And from people torqued off about layoffs and visibility and fundraising efforts (but for an organization in the red – don’t you have to do that? Yeah, it’s not how you’d operate with infinite funds, but you don’t have that) Especially when hindsight is so easy.

      • Brad says:

        But if I want to make a general donation to disaster preparedness, I can’t predict which local charity to support since I don’t know ahead of time what localities are going to be affected

        I don’t think they need to be hyperlocal, regional is probably fine. So if you want to make a donation to disaster preparedness how about compiling a list of 10 or so regional organizations that collectively cover the nation and donate to whichever one needs the money the most?

        • gbdub says:

          Okay, but what regional groups are likely to be better than the Red Cross? I kind of get the impression that most of the good organizers and resources are going to end up either staying hyperlocal, or be attracted to the 900 lb gorilla national organization.

          Is there anybody who does what the Red Cross does, on a larger than local scale, without “cocking it up”?

    • keranih says:

      This older article might be useful for some context:Who Brought Down Bernadine Healy?

      The Red Cross is America’s largest effective organized disaster response agency, which is enough qualifiers to make my point. It is volunteer driven – which makes sense because as a disaster response group it will NOT have work for people all (or even most) of the time. And being volunteer driven, it is run at the ground level by the people who show up, who might not be the most qualified or have the most visibility on the big picture or who even have their priorities ‘right’. Doing the ARC mission with this work force and the donation (rather than capitalist) funding stream makes for a very difficult management problem.

  22. Randy M says:

    I’m going to try to lay out some nagging thoughts after reading the essay I linked above.
    Is a Tiger Mom necessary in the new global economy? I believe Amy Chua coined the term for a typically Chinese, strict parenting style hyper-focused on success. A mission to make sure that a child has the right achievements, activities, and attitudes to funnel smoothly into the upper middle class, easily earning a scholarship into a respectable institution or at least maintain drive and skills to be a successful entrepreneur. This got some push back at the time it was introduced as being unconcerned with a child’s immediate or eventual happiness, self-esteem, etc., and as the logorrheic essay linked mentions, the perfectionism that this celebrates often manifests as anxiety and other forms of unhealthy mental states.

    But I fear somewhat that part of the push back against the Tiger Mom mentality (at least as I understand it, I haven’t read her book and don’t intend this as a reflection or critique of Chua personally) may be a defense mechanism of the elite at having their secrets revealed. Or, if not anything so perfidious, is perfectionism nonetheless the correct approach for the economy we are transitioning into?

    Talk about technological unemployment is not news to anyone here. It’s certainly an open question, but I think it’s fair to say the intelligence floor for productive work is rising at some pace even as that technology allows for more and better goods to be produced. At the same time, the increasing mobility of both labor and labor centers increases the competition to include basically anyone on earth. In the evolving economy, is not supply of labor–including of the intellectual kind–increasing faster than demand? I’m not arguing this is at or evolving into a dystopia. But economic distinctiveness looks like it will be harder to achieve.

    Obviously this is personal. To be slightly more than characteristically open, the girl looking out from my profile picture is nine now and, like her parents, probably slightly brighter than average but not exceptionally so. She is not being raised to be elite–no prep-kindergarten, 10,00 hours of violin or volunteering with habitat for humanity. She is kind and responsible and cares for her sisters and is genuinely happy, traits we try to encourage. But I fear I may be defaulting to how I was raised (though I think a little more mindfully), and I don’t know if bumbling through life good-naturedly will still be a workable strategy, much less a winning one.
    Then again, we know parental influence here is limited, right? Should I take solace probably not being able to actually change this?

    TLDR, How should parents balance (promoting) character, happiness, and ambition? Is this changing?

    • powerfuller says:

      Tiger Mothering may be a new phenomenon, but childhood used to involve a lot more physical labor than it does now (or perhaps spartan boarding school life instead), so is the sweet spot of a happy Mayberry childhood with some school/work but not too much just a passing cultural artifact?

      Your concerns are mine as well; I’m loathe to raise children to be perfectionists, but I don’t want to see them lose in a society more sharply divided into winners and losers. I think “character, happiness, ambition” is roughly the correct order of priority, but I think in some places those things are conflated — “smart” seems to be the go-to compliment for children in the USA (in my observation, I could be wrong), which speaks more to ambition than to character, and ambitiousness itself is taken as a good character quality.

    • Brad says:

      But I fear somewhat that part of the push back against the Tiger Mom mentality (at least as I understand it, I haven’t read her book and don’t intend this as a reflection or critique of Chua personally) may be a defense mechanism of the elite at having their secrets revealed.

      My sense is that most of the elite that are currently rearing children are not raising them this way. Even among those that were raised that way.

      • Randy M says:

        For the real elite, there might not be need to because of connections or family fortunes making it irrelevant how meritocratic their children are. But for those who have recently pushed through class barriers, are they using the private college-prep preschools, junior high SAT tutors, summer math camps, and so on? Or, if not elites, than the two income possibly-upper-middle-class-but-not-comfortably so families? Or are these the kinds of things written about in swpl zines? Are expensive private schools just a form of conspicuous consumption without an expectation of long term success coming from setting foot on this path at an early age? I’ll count network effects as part of the utility here if the effects are open to those who devote the time and money to them.

        Our children are home-schooled, and are getting an education at least comparable to what we got (and gave) in public schools. I just have the nagging fear [epistemic status: I still sleep fine at night] that in the world to come, slightly better than average is going to be the new serf, and I’m going to kick myself for being too lazy to try to get my kids into the top 20% or whatever .

        • Brad says:

          I’m limited here to a fairly small network on the east coast, so discount appropriately, but in my observation there is a lot of spending on programs and experiences, but not the hyperfocus on preparation above all other considerations. Summer camp with an educational angle to it, sure, but not cram school disguised as a camp. The fancy private schools are get good outcomes and aren’t easy, but they aren’t giving the hours and hours of homework every night that some immigrant dominated suburban public schools are. The wealthy parents don’t want that.

          The full on tiger parent experience is mostly coming from parents that themselves grew up poor or in otherwise challenging conditions. American born people, of any race, that grew up middle class or rich, went to some top level college, works a high powered job, and married someone else with a similar background has been enculturated to think that children ought not to be made miserable. Their peers would look down on them if they raised their kids that way. I think Amy Chua was writing largely in response to that disapproval from her elite peers.

          • Chalid says:

            I think you’re mostly right. However, I think there is actually a fair amount of demand for, let’s call it intense education, among the upper classes. Looking at the NYC suburbs, Scarsdale is by many measures the richest town in America and its school system is famously very competitive and high-pressure, and parents moving there tend to specifically want that for their kids. You pay a premium for a Scarsdale house over that of similar nearby towns that also have very good but not Scarsdale-level schools.

      • My sense is that most of the elite that are currently rearing children are not raising them this way.

        I don’t know where you draw the line at “elite,” but I think that I and my sister are at least elite enough not to be seriously threatened by technological unemployment. We were not reared that way, nor did we rear our kids that way, nor does my elder son seem to be rearing my grandchildren that way.

        Off hand, I can’t think of anyone I know who reared or is rearing children that way. Bryan Caplan is home schooling his kids and from a recent post of his they got a string of 5’s in AP exams when in about the equivalent of eighth grade, but his pattern doesn’t sound very tiger momish.

        • Atlas says:

          Bryan Caplan is home schooling his kids and from a recent post of his they got a string of 5’s in AP exams when in about the equivalent of eighth grade, but his pattern doesn’t sound very tiger momish.

          This certainly is the impression I get from Caplan’s other posts on the subject:

          Well-wishers often ask me, “How can you get any research done when you’re homeschooling?” With my students, it’s child’s play: I write the curriculum, and they follow it diligently, day after day. Truthfully, I complete more research than ever, because my kids’ presence keeps me working longer and more regular hours than I’d do on my own.

          The hardest thing about homeschooling is the realization that it will end. My sons are so content at Caplan Family School that the thought of sending them back to regular school saddens me. In coming months, I’ll be researching the effects of high school homeschooling on elite college admission, hoping to find a credible way to beat the system. Fingers crossed.

    • lvlln says:

      I’m very far from unbiased on this, having experienced suffering growing up under Tiger Parents and having seen that all that suffering amounted to basically only negative outcomes as an adult, so take all this with a grain of salt.

      I think it really does come down to the fact that the scientific evidence shows that parental influence on children is very limited. When the parents are actually raising the children, obviously they control their children’s lives to a great extent and can modulate their physical development greatly, as well as their happiness or suffering. And they can also teach them concrete skills that would serve them well as adults, like hygiene, finances, exercise, etc. But beyond that, as best as I can tell, it’s largely up to the child and the luck of the characteristics with which they were born.

      Given that, I think adapting to the increasingly hyper-competitive economic world by attempting to squeeze every last bit of preparation into your child like Tiger Moms isn’t really the right way to go. I think that’s a formula for just making a child’s childhood miserable for, at best, marginal gains down the line. I think it makes more sense to try to politically engineer away the hyper-competitive economic reality while doing your best to keep your child healthy and happy.

      That said, I don’t know if the science showing the limits of influence by parents is all that solid. Perhaps the best next step would actually be to make more research on this happen, so that we can take the step after that of figuring out how much effort in parenting is likely to lead to better outcomes.

      • Sfoil says:

        I have a really hard time believing the insane regime imposed on Korean high schoolers is worth the effort. I suspect the primary effect is raising the performance of the low end, more than anything else.

        • powerfuller says:

          I worked at a cram school in Seoul, and in my limited experience the high number of hours studying seemed about as useful as the high number of hours Korean adults spent working — well past the point of diminishing returns. The Korean students certainly knew more than American students on some subjects, but not twice as much, though they studied twice as long. At least it prepares them for Korean work culture, I guess.

          I had to quit because I disliked being part of the high competition education meat grinder. My students would ask me during our 7-10pm class (including holidays), “Why can’t we go outside,” and I’d always think, “I don’t know! You should be outside!” My students well almost always miserable, and I would not want to raise children that way myself.

    • Orpheus says:

      I am super sceptical about that whole “tiger mom” crap. What, you’re telling me the daughters of two Yale profesors came out successful??? The hell you say! I just feel the deck was already stacked in thier favor, yelling or no yelling.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I don’t think the American rich are cynically hiding their secrets, mostly because of how idle they seem to be. They go to a lot of events but very little of it looks anything like work or studying. I guess at that level networking is your job but it’s not a Tiger Mother attitude.

      I think the pushback is more about what Scott calls Thrive vs Survive values.

      My ex girlfriend told me a Chinese saying which I really liked: “it’s better to cry in a limo than laugh on a bicycle.” “I would rather cry in a BMW than smile on a bicycle.” (edited to add the original quote and context. I hadn’t known where this came from.) That’s the way my father and grandmother spoke when I was growing up and it seems like a universal among people who have gone hungry in their lives. If you’re wiping away tears with hundred dollar bills then you’re doing a hell of a lot better than a guy smiling with a mouth full of rotten teeth.

      Even if you have no personal experience of hardship, you can still emulate the sacrifices your parents made to give you that easy life. That’s why I plan to raise my kids in a ‘Tiger Mother’ style: it’s paying the debt I owe my parents forward to the next generation of my family. I’m not sure if that momentum can last to the third generation but I’ll do what I can to instill those values.

      The people who I know that are horrified by stories of Tiger Moms tend to come from what used to be called privileged backgrounds. From their perspective it’s crazy to strive and sacrifice because they’re already living the good life. Somewhere down the line somebody worked like hell to get them what they have but it’s remote enough not to have much emotional impact.

      • That’s why I plan to raise my kids in a ‘Tiger Mother’ style: it’s paying the debt I owe my parents forward to the next generation of my family. I’m not sure if that momentum can last to the third generation but I’ll do what I can to instill those values.

        I am in favor of rearing children in a way that makes them productive adults who can do a good job of running their lives. What makes you think that the Tiger Mother style is the best way of doing that?

        For what it’s worth, my grandparents were poor immigrants. As best I can tell, neither of my parents was brought up Tiger Mom style. Yet they ended up as successful adults.

        I can see potential problems with well off parents rearing children in ways that never teach the children responsibility or the ability to work hard. That’s unlikely to happen in poor immigrant families, and I think there are ways of avoiding it in well off families well short of the sort of pressures associated with the Tiger Mom approach.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          I am in favor of rearing children in a way that makes them productive adults who can do a good job of running their lives. What makes you think that the Tiger Mother style is the best way of doing that?

          Some people, myself included, find that we’re passionate about fields where we have a lot of talent and which are reasonably lucrative. Most people don’t.

          Growing up, I knew that I wanted to be a geneticist from a very young age and worked hard for it. Not as hard as I should have, mind you, but hard enough. I’m pretty much there.

          My younger brother also knew what he wanted to be: a classical musician. He also worked hard on it but he just didn’t have the talent to compete at a professional level in a winner-take-all field. My parents wisely redirected his efforts and he’s a comfortable business analyst with a musical hobby.

          It’s important to make sure that your kids actually finish their homework, prepare for important exams, and do extracurricular activities which will help them in college admissions. Those are things that would have helped me achieve my goals a lot more smoothly.

          Beyond that, it’s important to make sure that your kids have realistic ambitions. The best thing in the world is when kids direct their own energy towards achieving a goal but as a rule kids suck at choosing reasonable goals. That’s why I helped fund the translation of Raise a Genius!; it seems like a way for parents to subtly direct a kid’s energy.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Hi Nabil,

            I spent many years studying personality theory, based on the key words in your post I am replying to I can guess your basic motivational type. I could be wrong, but doubt it.

            Many people are not strictly goal-motivated. And yet many of them are very successful as well as happy. Please pay enough attention to the unique personalities, preferences, desires, etc… of your children before choosing parenting methods. And please be willing and able to adapt your parenting methods to the actual reality of the situation, not your idealization of it. Or else you may end up hindering their flourishing instead of aiding it.

            Thanks,
            Anonymousskimmer

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            anonymousskimmer

            What personality theories do you find most plausible?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @Nancy

            All personality theories are plausible, the degree of their incompleteness and the degree of their smashing tangential traits together when they don’t really belong together are the issues.

            I’m generally more in favor of cluster-based approaches than factor-based approaches, as factors are, by their very nature, forced one-dimensional (i.e. they’re an axis), while clusters are not. This is a personal bias that has lead me to spending much more time familiarizing myself with cluster-based systems than factor-based systems.

            I like the enneagram’s use of fundamental motivations and fears (as opposed to potentially look-alike behaviors*). I really like that most enneagram theorists are also including the orthogonal instinctual variants typology in their descriptions as well instead of trying to smash these traits into the enneagram itself (thus corrupting its reality coherence). As a group they’ve actively recognized the incompleteness** of the enneagram alone and included an additional typology for more fine-grained distinctions. Early enneagram descriptions sometimes improperly attributed orthogonal traits to the enneagram types, but this is now generally corrected much better than I’ve seen in most Jungian descriptions, for instance.

            (* – Some look-alike behaviors may actually stem from the same brain regions and neurotransmitters, but the personal motivation for activating these behaviors can differ. Thus calling them the same elides the personality in a very basic sense. I fear the Big 5 may be doing this to a non-negligible extent.

            ** – On a macroscale (gross generalizations), which is the level all personality theories exist.)

            I’ve other reasons for preferring the enneagram, but don’t know that I can describe them well.

            I’m not familiar with systems that discuss formative experiences (e.g. family dynamic theories), which is a part of personality the enneagram plus instinctual variants misses, but since these systems discuss more about ‘nurture’ than ‘nature’, it’s also an area I’m okay with the enneagram plus instinctual variants missing. I’m also not familiar with neurological/neurotransmitter systems. Though I’d guess the enneagram would fall into the neurological more than the neurotransmitter (I guess fundamental motivations as likely changed more by brain damage than drugs). The instinctual variants would probably also fall into the neurological level as well, though I’m much less certain in this guess.

            Sorry for the rambling. I’m an enneagram-biased person. 🙂

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            It’s okay. I like the enneagram myself. Occasionally I’ll see someone who seems like a very pure type.

    • rlms says:

      There is a lot of space between Tiger Mom and letting your kids do whatever they want. I think that for most children, the correct balance is closer to the Tiger Mom side than most Western parents are inclined to go. Forcing children to do things that they actively dislike for long periods is bad, but encouraging them to do some things that might not be immediately rewarding is often good.

    • I think this is a very hard choice. My kids are 20 somethings so I can’t change anything now. We did not push our kids too hard. We sent them to public schools in the city and didn’t push them too hard except to do the homework they were assigned. I would often help them with their homework, but didn’t push them to excel. We definitely were not tiger parents.

      Sometimes I think we should have pushed harder, maybe put them in a private school which would have pushed harder. My kids were adopted and have average intelligence, so they never would become superstars. But they are probably intelligent enough to become professionals if they had pushed harder. My daughter is close to finishing college, so she may still become a professional. My son hated school and refused to even go to a trade school after high school. On the other hand, my son is also extremely thrifty in handling money, so even though he doesn’t make much, he consistently saves money. I am starting to think he might survive better in a bad recession or economic disaster than his sister just because he has saved a lot, and because he is so used to being careful with the little money he has. Even though I expect she will have a college degree, which will make it easier to find work.

      There is not an easy answer to this.

      • Deiseach says:

        I can only go by family anecdote, but if your son is happy, and he’s not living like a slacker hand-to-mouth, let him be. If he’s still only in his 20s there is always adult and continuing education if he decides he has found a field he wants to get a qualification in, and it need not be an academic one.

        One of my brothers was the same: could have done better academically at school but was completely uninterested and it took my mother all she could do to get him to finish secondary (high) school instead of dropping out at 15 and finding some kind of job. No way would he have gone on to any kind of further education (even vocational training) just like your son.

        He’s a solid, hard worker and able to pick up things quickly (to the point where friends/co-workers are always ringing him up asking “how do I do this with my new computer/phone/help I’m on the night shift and the machinery is stopped how do I get the computer to start the process again?”) and he’s in a decent job now that he enjoys and indeed has been promoted ‘upstairs’ to office work (which he resisted for a long time as he preferred working on the floor) and was even picked for the team going to the UK to set up new production facility there, with the opportunity if he wanted (he didn’t) to remain there in a promoted role.

        Made it through our recession and austerity years, when the high-paying construction jobs withered away and a lot of the professional ones dropped off like autumn leaves as well. If your son is thrifty and a hard worker, he’ll do okay even if he’s not a white collar professional.

        • Thank you D. I mostly agree at this point, and anyway there isn’t much I can do now anyway. He does okay. I am coming to the point with him that maybe it isn’t true that everyone needs to have at least vocational education to be safe in an ever changing economy. But it matters a whole lot that he is very careful with money. Those who aren’t are a lot more vulnerable.

    • Drew says:

      The Tiger Mom approach seems like ‘One Weird Trick’ exploit that could have worked once. It won’t work now that everyone’s heard of it and a bunch of people are trying.

      Figure it’s 1965. Parents aren’t overly involved education schools. University applications aren’t super-competitive. No one has heard of an SAT prep-class.

      One parent pushes their kid. Violin practice makes the kid moderately good at violin. Chess practice makes the kid moderately good at chess. So they win some local contests. These legible accomplishments make the kid stand out when applying to University.

      Fast forward to 2015. Everyone has heard of the “do high-status hobbies that give you awards” trick. And a ton of people push their kids to try that. So, they no longer signal self-driven passion. They just look like a conscious effort to build a resume.

      I’d expect that, in the current system, “Tiger Mom” hobbies would have an especially low return on effort, simply because so many people are chasing the same set of accomplishments.

      So, certain kinds of intense parenting might work, but you’d need to be directing energy towards non-standard achievements.

      • Are you assuming that the point of the Tiger Mom strategy is to look good for college admissions? I think I agree that unless the kid really is extraordinarily good that won’t work very well–because lots of other people are faking it.

        I assumed it was to produce the sort of hard working well educated kid who would do well in college and in a later career. But I haven’t read the original piece.

        • Drew says:

          This article gives a good description of success, as defined in context:

          You’re lucky to have been born in America — don’t screw it up. Get good grades, go to a top college, and above all else, find a stable job as a doctor.

          While kids are living at home, the instrumental goals are all about generating legible accomplishments in high-status fields. (Read: good grades, awards at culturally-valued topics)

          That gets the kid into the good school, at which point, they study to be a doctor. I’m not sure that there’s a notion of late-career past, “continues to be a doctor.”

          To see what I mean about hobbies, imagine a kid who likes photography, botany or SCA. Those hobbies could teach hard-work just as well as violin. But they don’t generate legible accomplishments, so they’re not really a thing.

          • While kids are living at home, the instrumental goals are all about generating legible accomplishments in high-status fields. (Read: good grades, awards at culturally-valued topics)

            That strikes me as a poor strategy. Legible accomplishments are worth something, but unless quite extraordinary they are only a little better for getting into college than fake legible accomplishments, which cost much less. On the other hand, developing characteristics that will make you a happy and productive adult is worth quite a lot.

            To take one simple example, my daughter, as a college student, was struck by the fact that when a class was cancelled most other students were happy. Ending up with an attitude that sees learning as a cost you have to pay in order to have four years of fun partying on the weekends rather than as something both useful and enjoyable is likely to have a negative effect on your future considerably larger than the positive effect of getting into a top school instead of a pretty good school.

            But that attitude is a likely result of spending high school working hard for good grades because your parents tell you that you need them to get into an elite college.

          • Chalid says:

            Ending up with an attitude that sees learning as a cost you have to pay in order to have four years of fun partying on the weekends rather than as something both useful and enjoyable is likely to have a negative effect on your future considerably larger than the positive effect of getting into a top school instead of a pretty good school.

            I’d interpret this as the other students having learned self-discipline? They can work hard on something for months, even in the presence of more enjoyable distractions, in order to receive long-term rewards.

            Yet another spin on it is simply diminishing marginal utility; even if you love learning deeply, the 100th lecture of the semester is less enjoyable than the first.

          • Rebecca Friedman says:

            @Chalid

            Not what was going on.

            The other students also did not participate particularly well in group activities, etc. If it was just them having self-discipline, the professors would have spent much less time calling on me and being irritated no one else was raising his/her hand.

            Not true of all the students. But a significant majority.

          • Randy M says:

            To take one simple example, my daughter, as a college student, was struck by the fact that when a class was cancelled most other students were happy

            Reminds me of when a Chemistry class was canceled in college. I politely asked if this had any refund implications. It was pointed out that this line of inquiry would make class cancellations much rarer, and the rest of the students ensured my silence.

      • Randy M says:

        Fast forward to 2015. Everyone has heard of the “do high-status hobbies that give you awards” trick. And a ton of people push their kids to try that. So, they no longer signal self-driven passion. They just look like a conscious effort to build a resume.

        Or worse, they are required but no longer get you an advantage over status quo ante. Like Scotts old post against Modinafil (sp?) legalization.

        • My home schooled daughter was considering a career as a librarian, so volunteered at the main city library. After, I think, two weeks she was told that her term as a volunteer was over–pretty clearly not because of any problem with what she was doing, but because they took it for granted that high school students wanted a brief term as volunteers. Our theory was that it was part of getting the boxes on a college application checked.

          She switched to a local library which was happy to have her, and worked as a volunteer for them for a long time.

          On one plane flight, the woman sitting next to me was an alumna of, I think, Brown, who had worked with their admissions process. According to her it was largely a matter of checking the right boxes.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            but because they took it for granted that high school students wanted a brief term as volunteers.

            If this was generally seen as a box-check opportunity then they might have limited the terms from a sense of fairness so that all applicants could get a chance to volunteer.

    • Atlas says:

      Is a Tiger Mom necessary in the new global economy? I believe Amy Chua coined the term
      for a typically Chinese, strict parenting style hyper-focused on success.

      Full disclosure: I am not a parent, nor would I reasonably expect to have children soon, so my advice here is for the time being without “skin in the game”, so take that as you will.

      For a counterpoint to Chua’s view, you probably want to see Bryan Caplan’s book Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids and his debate with Chua on the subject. I think Caplan persuasively argues, along the lines of the Blank Slate and the Nurture Assumption, that the evidence from identical twin adoption studies shows that very much of who a person grows up to be, conditional on some minimum threshold of basic material necessities, is determined by their genetic inheritance rather than the way their parents raise them. Consequently, a lot of the expensive investments parents make, like paying for and forcing their children to unwillingly take violin lessons, are wasteful and make the experience of growing up unnecessarily unenjoyable and exhausting for both parents and kids.

      More anecdotally, I have some evidence that leads me to believe tiger mothering isn’t as powerful as you might think. I relatively recently graduated from a certain competitive majority Asian-American high school that’s notorious for being a top target for the offspring of tiger mothers, the alumni of which are frequently accepted as applicants to very prestigious universities. My impression of my East Asian classmates was that most of their ability to succeed came from their above average IQs and pursuit of enlightened self-interest (i.e. they would study a fair bit for chemistry and pre-calc even without their parents yelling at them). I think that having aggressive, success-minded parenting made them on average a little more successful as teenagers than they would have been with more lax parenting.

      But my hypothesis, so far with a little confirmation though it’s too early to say definitively, is that there’s a kind of regression to an individual mean of success as an adult that erases the effect of parenting. That is to say, I know kids who either had lax parents or rebelled against strict ones in high school and did poorly then, but started to do really well in college once they found their stride. Likewise, I know kids who were pushed really hard by their tiger parents to succeed in high school, but became exhausted and overwhelmed by the unyielding workload, and once they got to college and got more autonomy started to slow down and rest a bit. So overall, my personal impression is that children of tiger parents don’t get adequate compensation in terms of success in later life in exchange for the unpleasant nature of their childhoods and strained relationships with their parents.

    • woahdude says:

      Twin study results seem to suggest that the effect of shared environment on conscientiousness and intelligence (the main two traits that are targeted by “Tiger Mom”-style parenting) is minimal in the long-term. In other words, it appears that your parenting style isn’t really going to change how your kid behaves once you’re no longer their to make them behave that way. Bryan Caplan uses the metaphor of clay and flexible plastic in Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids. The “Tiger Mom” parenting style might view parenting as molding a child’s personality into a certain structure for the rest of it’s life (much like wet clay can be molded into a structure before it hardens). Instead, children seem to be more like flexible plastic — under most circumstances, you can pressure them to take a certain shape but then they’ll pop right back to how they “naturally” are once you remove that pressure. He does concede that it is possible to crush the plastic as well.

      If we also take entering super-elite institutions higher education as the end goal of Tiger Mom parenting, it’s conceivable that it might still be worth it. Even if the kid doesn’t stay the way you raised her, at least she’ll have that symbol of status and intelligence for the rest of her life.

      • Randy M says:

        If we also take entering super-elite institutions higher education as the end goal of Tiger Mom parenting, it’s conceivable that it might still be worth it. Even if the kid doesn’t stay the way you raised her, at least she’ll have that symbol of status and intelligence for the rest of her life.

        Of course, one has to account for the possibility that the goal (of elite college admission) won’t be reached, and the stress and potential resentment will be for nothing.

    • The Red Foliot says:

      Shakespeare spent sixteen hours per day, six days a week for seven years of his childhood life developing his skills associated with rhetoric. While more abstract measures of IQ and income may suggest he became no better off for his efforts, a closer-up examination would undoubtedly show his ability to write improved by it. A child who learns to play the violin will at the very least know how to play the violin. A civilization which neglects to teach its youth anything but useless tripe in public schools will never produce Shakespeares.

      The great achievement of Caplan’s program is that he uses his own executive authority as a veritable smart person to outmatch the dumb committee based approach of the public system. A single smart person can devise useful education while a hundred stupid people will only come up with useless tripe.

      Even though he is not as relentless in his approach to education as Shakespeare’s instructor was, he utilizes his students’ time in a way that is still beneficial to their intellectual advancement. That gives them an edge over the great masses of humanity swelling our school system today. He could go further and demand hours from his students which outstrip those of public school students. I doubt whether his students would be less happy for it, but certainly there is the possibility of creating Shakespeare.

      • Montfort says:

        Shakespeare spent sixteen hours per day, six days a week for seven years of his childhood life learning modes of thinking associated with rhetoric.

        Are you talking about King’s New School here? How much is known about its operations and quality in Shakespeare’s day?

        • The Red Foliot says:

          I’m getting my info from this:
          https://pragmaticreform.wordpress.com/2017/02/04/shakespeares-schooling-kings-new-school/

          Out of imitation came invention. Pupils were required to imagine they were a character from classical mythology, literature or history: persuade Caesar to cross the Rubicon; convince Cleopatra to choose suicide over slavery; sway the senate to ostracise Antony for monarchical-dictatorial intent. Write that, Master William, and you are well on the way to inventing dramatic characters of Caesar and Cicero some 20 years on in 1599 in the opening of the Globe Theatre.

          Shakespeare learned through a rigorous regime of sermons, rote memorisation, relentless drills, endless repetition, copying and imitation, textbooks, daily analysis of texts, extended practice exercises, dictation, composition, declamation and twice-weekly examinations. Forty hours a week were spent reading, memorising and writing. Children sat in rows facing the schoolmaster at the front of the room. There was continual instruction in the art of remembrance, in systems of memory or ‘mnemonics’. Catechism – combining written summaries with oral chants – was used as a mode of instruction and memorisation. The culture prized eloquence: many hours were spent by pupils compiling long lists of synonyms. Debate, dialogue and drama were foundations of Elizabethan teaching and staples of learning. At school, pupils read and performed ancient plays: the young Will acted in his first play while still at school.

          Poe was similarly drilled in various rhetorical arts. Very intense, but seemingly necessary for the exceeding eloquence of (for instance) The Fall of the House of Usher.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Thank you for the information.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Edward_VI_School,_Stratford-upon-Avon

            It looks as though they had some notable graduates, but only one really extraordinary one.

          • Montfort says:

            Ah, I see. Yeah, that’s a plausible account of how Shakespeare may have been schooled. It just threw me to see it without the customary hedges – “Shakespeare probably…”, “A typical student of his day…” – and I wondered if we had uncovered some testimony about his schooling.

          • The Red Foliot says:

            @Montfort
            ‘Plausible’ should be ‘probable’; ‘may have been’ — ‘almost certainly was’. You have designed your reply in the manner of Hill House: so that everything is askew in order to produce a certain, dire effect.

            @Nancy
            Given the nature of the curriculum and the content of Shakespeare’s work, one can surmise his education was instrumental in his development.

          • Montfort says:

            I agree it is almost certain Shakespeare attended King’s New School (until his father got into financial trouble in the 1570s sometime, and so it’s possible he would have had to drop out), and almost certain King’s New School functioned as a basically typical grammar school of the era. Or, rather, I have no reason to doubt either of those statements.

            When I began writing this comment, I meant to further clarify that I found your initial characterization very probable, but maintained reservations on Kirby’s post. But in the course of laying out what I find objectionable about the post, I looked at the hours again.

            Kirby says the students “studied dawn til dusk all year round, six days a week, twelve months a year” and that schooling began at 6 in the morning in the summer, and 7 in the winter. From this, you regularized it to “sixteen hours per day, six days a week” — sure, dawn to dusk isn’t always sixteen hours, but it’s summer now, and who knows the figure off the top of their head? But then Kirby also lists the total time in school as 2000 hours/year – an average of ~6 hours/day at 6 days/week year-round.

            The apparent inconsistency comes from what he leaves out: school hours were from 6/7am to 5pm, (with two hours break for lunch) and “only” 46-48 weeks (~11 months) a year[1][2]. In a piece of rhetoric, which I assume Kirby’s post is, that kind of rounding is understandable (7-5 is roughly dawn to dusk in the winter, and, besides, it’s a figurative phrase), though misleading.

            But this is exactly why I won’t call that kind of work “probable” as a history, since a well-meaning reader might assume “dawn til dusk 6 days a week 12 months a year” means, for example, from dawn until dusk (or even 16 hours) 6 days a week, 12 months a year. Or they might take Kirby’s word on corporal punishment as a description of fact, not an ongoing reform effort[3]. Or they might confuse for fact one of the unmarked probably-but-not-certainly-true statements or get the impression we have records of Shakespeare completing one of the exercises (taken from a historical exercise book, I assume) Kirby imagines him performing.

            If you have more specific information about King’s New School that shows they were not typical in their hours, for example, I am willing to revise my opinion once again.


            [1] Historical Dictionary of the Elizabethan World, by John Wagner, p. 127:
            “Except for short two- or three- week vacations at C[hristmas] and E[aster], school was in session year round, six days a week.”
            “In summer, the morning began at 6:00 A.M. and ran to 11:00 A.M., with the afternoon session running from 1:00 P.M. to 4:00 or 5:00 P.M. In winter, the day usually started an hour later and ended an hour earlier. In many schools, Thursday afternoon was granted as a holiday.”
            [2] Elizabethan Jacobean Drama: The Theatre in Its Time, Blakemore Evans, p. 140:
            “A school day… of between eight and nine hours, even with two hours off for midday dinner and two fifteen-minute breaks…”
            [3] Society and Religion in Elizabethan England, Richard L Greaves, p. 320:
            “Flogging was a common punishment in Elizabethan schools for all children, regardless of age or rank. William Denman, the master at Braintree, Essex, was reputedly an excellent instructor but a harsh punisher… William [Bedell], a future bishop, was once beaten by Denman ‘off a pair of stairs and had one side of his head so bruis’d, that bloud gush’d out of his ear, and his hearing was in consequence so impair’d, that he became in process of time wholly deaf on that side.’ When… Simon Forman was in school, his master, William Ryddonte, beat him… and regularly required him to sleep nude during the winter, ‘which kepte him in greet feare.’ There was good reason for the pleas of moderation from religious and educational authors.”

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Then again, we know parental influence here is limited, right?

      “Know” is a really strong word to use, especially when you’re talking about your child’s future. You can tell me reading to kids probably doesn’t make a difference, but I’ll probably plan to do it regardless.

      I don’t have kids yet, hopefully soon. I absolutely do not want them on the lower half of the socioeconomic pyramid. Nothing but automation, stagnant wages, and heroin epidemics as far as the eye can see. Preferably, I’d like them out of the middling professions, too: it’s a great way to end up with income stagnation, particularly if health-care costs continue to escalate as a % of GDP (thus eating into your cash wages). And, meh, skilled trades are a consolation prize. You need to work a lot of hours in order to command higher salaries, or get a coveted union job, and then you’re trading your physical health for a paycheck.
      No way, I want my kids to be highly remunerated white-collar professionals, if at all possible. Given their parents, it should definitely be possible (we’re in the top 5-10%, depending on how you measure). Anything less, IMO, risks economic stagnation.

      How to get there?
      I dunno. I was not Tiger-Mom’d. I am pretty sure my parents had absolutely no idea how to motivate me to do anything, and just figured I would eventually figure out how to make a living. I was near failing out of high school for my first 2 years and they never said a word after the first few notices came home. I did well enough in my latter years that I could have gone to a public Ivy on a scholarship, and passed it up because I would much rather live at home than live with college students.
      That really pissed my Mom off, but she didn’t say anything about it at the time.

      I can say that I was lazy as hell, which really screwed up my career afterwards. Still recovering from that at 30. So I want to avoid that. Maybe I’ll make the kids get internships when they are finally in school.

      On the other end, my MIL was as much a Tiger Mom as she could afford. Her kids were sent on church missions to do the whole Habitat-for-Humanity thing. They learned instruments. They were forced into extracurriculars. They had to take honors-track classes. They needed to do their homework at the kitchen table so Mom could make sure it was done. Yadda yadda yadda.

      Her kids are basically all either in or are on track to be in the highly paid white collar crew, so maybe that’s a good call. I’ll probably err more that route.

      But I’m not spending money on cultural enrichment or yadda yadda. My kids will be better off I can pay for their college educations and give them downpayments on houses. If I can retire early, then I can give them free childcare, too. All a much better use of my scarce money than sending kids to an elite kindergarten class or giving them expensive instruments, IMHO.

      I’m absolutely not requiring them to learn a foreign language beyond the mandated 2 years in high school.

      Side-Note: A big advantage for young people? Getting (and staying) married. I’d rather have my kids be at the 50% economic threshold and married than 80% and divorced or single.

      • Randy M says:

        “Know” is a really strong word to use, especially when you’re talking about your child’s future. You can tell me reading to kids probably doesn’t make a difference, but I’ll probably plan to do it regardless.

        Well, I don’t buy into the bio-determinist line of thinking fully either, but it is common knowledge around these parts and does seem to have some backing.

        I can say that I was lazy as hell, which really screwed up my career afterwards. Still recovering from that at 30.

        Yeah, I can relate.

        Anyway, thanks to everyone for the responses.

  23. HFARationalist says:

    Making racialist/egalitarian beliefs pay rent

    I’m thinking about means to properly test racialist/egalitarian beliefs. These beliefs need to pay rent just like other beliefs and we need tests other than “wait until 2100 and see whether Africa is on par with America”.

    Note that we have to control for culture and socioeconomic status when we test for genetic influences on human lives. Hence for example “Look at ghettos!!!!! These people are inferior!!” is not a legitimate argument because it fails to control for either culture (AA culture doesn’t have a very long memory compared to the white American culture which came from Europe) or socioeconomic status (ghettos are poor).

    The key here is that both groups need to concede defeat if reality happens to be against them.

  24. FacelessCraven says:

    Two questions:

    1> What is your probability that we will see a politically motivated, low-two-digit-casualities mass shooting before the midterm elections?

    2> If such a shooting happened tomorrow, and the shooter turned out to be from your political hemisphere,
    a> what response would you expect from the other tribe generally, and
    b> what productive response could your tribe offer?

    • The Nybbler says:

      1) Assuming Islamic terrorism doesn’t count, perhaps 1%. A few percentage points for Islamic terrorism.

      2a) I’d expect them to crow how we’re a bunch of hateful people who support politically-motivated murder and also to say it’s our fault for opposing gun control.

      2b) None; they’re not listening now, they’d be even less inclined to listen then.

      • FacelessCraven says:

        @The Nybbler – “1) Assuming Islamic terrorism doesn’t count, perhaps 1%. A few percentage points for Islamic terrorism.”

        Why so low? Red Tribe is not free of its crazies, and surely there has been plenty of provocation. Violence appears to be escalating. Riots continue. Is it that hard to imagine some asshat deciding to solve the Antifa problem personally?

        • The Nybbler says:

          Mass shootings with 10 or more casualties are pretty rare. Political mass shootings are pretty rare. At this point, antifa is mostly tangling with people who are looking for a fight, and they’re doing it on Blue Tribe territory (including Charlottesville, which is a college town). It could happen, but I don’t consider it likely.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Also, right now on the structural side the Red Tribe is winning. What’s the point of individual violence when the collective violence of the state is increasingly under our control?

          • The Nybbler says:

            What’s the point of individual violence when the collective violence of the state is increasingly under our control?

            I’ll believe that’s significant when the National Guard is mobilized to protect Milo or Murray.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            Let me second The Nybbler in slapping a big ol’ [Citation needed] on that assertion.

    • rlms says:

      Assuming the US, and not including Islamist terrorism, around 1%. Political non-Islamist mass shootings with double digit casualties are very rare, the last one I can see is in the 1870s. The chance of a similar Islamist attack is a lot higher; even if you assume that the rate of 1 per year in 2016 and 2015 is anomalous and take an average from 2001, I make the probability to be around 20%.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      My gut response to any question about the chance of a mass shooting is that the error bar on any estimate is hopelessly huge. I did a BOTE calculation a while back and came up with a figure of about one in every 20 million Americans, at some point in their life, picking up a weapon and going on a murder spree. At 1/20M, practically every one is a black swan. Motive, casualty count, setting – everything will be a total crap shoot. The only fairly predictable property is that the murderer will be male (very few exceptions exist).

      Response is somewhat more predictable, courtesy of the Fundamental Attribution Error. If the shooter is from my poli-hemisphere, my p-h will likely point out specific circumstances they claim led to the shooting. The opposite p-h will likely point out membership in my p-h as being the primary cause.

    • keranih says:

      As others have said, it depends on how one characterizes “politically motivated.”

      I am also strongly tending towards feeling that we need some sort of divider between “political statement” activities and “crazy man who went crazy”, with “alcohol-or-drug fueled violence by a small group of young men” lying somewhere in between.

      So, for me, most “lone wolf” mass murders – Colorado theater, Gabby Gilford shootings, Orlando nightclub, DC baseball team, the Colorado abortion clinic, so forth – those are “crazy man who went crazy.” Unstable guys who were probably going to go crazy at some point and hurt themselves and/or others. Charleston shooter, probably; Dallas cop shooter also probably; Sandy Hook definitely.

      Things I don’t think easily fall into this: Boston Marathon bombing, Oklahoma City Bombing, San Bernadino, DC sniper. Not that these people are not mentally damaged and “crazy” but that the actions seem to be far more rationally and deliberately planned.

      Either way, I think that the best reaction to both of these is to put the responsibility on the person who actually inflicted the death and violence, and to not deny these people agency. There are many damaged people in our world. Most of them – even badly unbalanced young men in the sway of bigots, radicals, and adjitprops – don’t damage other humans.

      Mob violence – antifa, old style lynchings, race riots – I find these much more disturbing, and here I’m willing to push out from the actual actors to all those who give them aid and comfort. Not that the people who actually beat down other humans don’t deserve to have justice inflicted on them, but so should those who offered justification for that violence.

      So.

      1) 10% chance over the next 18 months that we get another Sandy Hook, Dallas, Orlando, Charleston, or any like lone wolf attack, (shooting, arson, or bombing). 2% that we get another San Bernidino, Boston, or other planned, multi-player attack.

      2) a. Either way, I expect the same knee-jerk, broad-brush, “all the same” “if you say both sides you’re a Nazi” “rightwing racist even if proven to be a leftwing supporter” reaction that we’ve always gotten. Humans gotta human.

      2b. – In the case of lone wolfs – it’s not clear to me what the best response *is*, especially as the best practical response (get rid of ‘gun free’ free fire zones) is not well received by the left/the media, at all. I think the recent move towards deemphasizing lone wolfs by the media is a good one.

      In the case of planned, coordinated attacks – hunt the bastards down and bring them before a court. We-the-people *must* return to the state of deciding political differences through speech, marching, civil disobedience and voting, and not resorting to violence when we don’t get our way.

      (I reserve the right to support 2A remedies, but we ain’t there yet. And with the recent come-to-Jesus meeting that was evidently held behind closed doors in the MSM which resulted in a rash of public commendations of antifa, maybe we won’t need them.)

    • FacelessCraven says:

      Thanks everyone for the responses. I’m pretty surprised to see estimates so low; perhaps I’m letting fear get the best of me. In any case, the following is my assessment.

      1) – It seems to me that calculating probabilities off the base rates of the last decade or two is a bad idea, because the conditions of the last decade or two no longer pertain. We currently have a pattern of escalating political violence that has continued for at least a year and a half. Sixteen months ago, we had scuffles and fistfights, which escalated to mob violence, which escalated to organized, coordinated mob violence. To date, no consistent, effective efforts have been made to deter or contain this violence in an effective way; on the contrary, the official response has been to let the mobs fight it out.

      To date, this violence is supported and encouraged by large, influential segments of the culture. For the purposes of this analysis, I’m not really interested in partisan point scoring, so let’s assume the problem is equally bad on both sides. Antifa gets a lot of positive press from Blue Tribe, and Based Stick Man is a folk hero to Red Tribe. Both sides see their own violence as fundamentally defensive in nature, a legitimate response to the provocations of the other side.

      This violence has already escalated to lethal proportions. We have already had scattered shootings and stabbings. Hodgkinson did not appear to be insane when he decided to try to assassinate Republican congressmen. Regardless of the Charlottesville attacker’s mental state, it seems pretty obvious that his attack was a politically motivated one.

      I feel that low-order probabilities of a political shooting don’t account for the above. We’ve already normalized mob violence, so violence against mobs seems like the obvious next step, and everyone loves a force multiplier. The ten-or-more casualties seems like the weak point; it seems like a gunman firing into a crowd should be able to kill that many pretty reliably, but perhaps I’m not appreciating how quickly a crowd can clear out once gunfire starts. In any case, odds from 25% to 50% seem reasonable to me. I’m tempted to go higher, but eh.

      2a) – I’m pretty sure if a Red Triber shoots up a squad of Antifa, Blue Tribe will be, to put it delicately, screaming for blood. I know that’s how I’d react at this point if it was a Blue Tribe shooter lighting up a crowd of Pepe fans, and I’ve seen nothing in the national discourse in the last two years to indicate I’m unusual in this regard.

      2b) If a Red Triber shoots up a squad of Antifa, I don’t think there’s a constructive response available to me in particular or Red Tribe generally. My expectation is that Blue Tribe will see such a shooting as confirmation of all their worst fears, and disavowals will be seen as contemptible attempts to excuse an ideology of murderous hate. I personally think Blue Tribe is overwhelmingly responsible for the normalization of violence, and I’ve read enough mainstream defenses of Antifa and Nazi-Punching to know that they think the same of Trumpists like me. I would not take their disavowals seriously, and I see no reason to think they’d think differently of mine.

      Further, why even bother to disavow? I’ve always been an enthusiastic proponent of armed self-defense. It is now commonplace to have video of half-a-dozen Antifa swarming protesters and beating them while they cower on the ground. That sort of activity is a fairly central example of a justification for use of deadly force in other contexts, and I see no obvious reason why putting on a uniform and committing violence for an ideology immunizes someone from legitimate self-defense. On the one hand, I would have had zero objection if some Blue Triber gunned down the men who attacked DeAndre Harris. On the other hand, my attitude toward self defense seems uncommon in Blue Tribe and articles like the one above don’t get written when Antifa are the ones doing the kicking, so I have little confidence they’d draw the distinction.

      In the past, when we had serious political violence like abortion shootings or the Oklahoma City bombing, there was an understanding that these were the actions of a lunatic fringe that had no foothold in society. I do not think that understanding still exists. If an attack occurs, I expect the side hit to respond with a demand that the other side back down from the larger culture war, but backing down in any way is unacceptable to both sides. Neither tribe is going to abandon their agenda just because some loser from their radical fringe killed some people, but by the same token holding firm on their agenda will be seen by the other side as approval of the killer’s actions. Most Blue Tribers probably don’t support beating people in the streets, but when they tell me Antifa is a fringe movement that doesn’t matter and shouldn’t distract us from important matters like resisting the depredations of the Trump Regime, I see them as covering for the people who want to kick my teeth in. Likewise, when I say that the Charlottesville nazis are a fringe group that doesn’t matter, much of Blue Tribe takes this as covering for and supporting nazis. In the current political calculus, Prioritization and Support are equivalent. This impasse, as with other impasses in the last few years, seems likely to lead to tit-for-tat and further escalation.

  25. HFARationalist says:

    What is the average IQ of Japan?

    I believe Lynn et al’s works may contain lots of woo. At the same time Flynn is a leftist so his papers might be woo as well.

    Let’s take Japan as an example and try to find out what the heck is going on.

    • Well... says:

      Woo woos Woo, woo’s woo. Woo!

      • hlynkacg says:

        Wait, I thought woo was Chinese.

        • AlphaGamma says:

          Woo is by far the most common romanisation of the Korean surname 우 (used by 97% of South Koreans by that name with passports) as well as being a less-common romanisation of the Chinese names 吳 (also Wu, as in John Woo) and sometimes also 胡 (more commonly Hu, but sometimes romanised as Wu/Woo in Cantonese).

          I think that most people spelling Woo with oo rather than u will be Korean, but not sure.

      • HFARationalist says:

        Nah I’m serious here. What the hell is going on with research in human intelligence? It’s too bad that I’m not a researcher in that field.

        Too much bias. I’m tired of both egalitarian moralists and racialist moralists. I want nothing but reality. I want nothing but cold and objective facts. Many so-called skeptics are still egalitarian moralists. Moralists. Too many moralists and dogmatic people. Not enough truthseekers.

        • Well... says:

          It’s too bad that I’m not a researcher in that field.

          Yes. A terrible shame, really.

          Haha, I’m just giving you a hard time. You use woo in a way that I think I understand from context to mean “of low quality but dressed up as high quality”–but I haven’t seen it used that way anywhere else and I thought it was kind of a funny quasi-onomatopoeia for “hand-wavy”. You use it a lot, too.

    • andrewflicker says:

      Who cares? In what way does it change your or my actions? Give me a reason (beliefs should pay rent) why I should think about this for more than the length of time it took to write this post.

      In practice, I feel like almost all the race-realist / initialism-du-jour people are just finding reasons to support existing beliefs or reasons to adopt politically edgy beliefs out of a contrarian impulse. Why should I spend effort trying to ascertain a truth that won’t change my behavior at all?

      • Charles F says:

        Considering @HFA devotes a lot of thought to the problem of helping traits they approve of, particularly high IQ, get passed on despite some effects selecting against them, I think answers to this sort of question might actually influence their actions.

        • andrewflicker says:

          Perhaps it might! But I’d like to know how, not merely speculate on the possibility that it would, in some unknown way- and that still doesn’t answer the “how should it change my own behavior” half of the question. I’d be interested in HFA’s response, especially if they can put some thought into it. A lot of HFA posts seem dashed off quite rapidly.

        • HFARationalist says:

          I’m very interested in the question of race and intelligence. Here is why. Both dogmatic egalitarians and dogmatic racialists are hiding the truth and as a lover of truth I’m mad at both sides. It’s not about any particular application. Instead it is about my frustration at people obscuring scientific truth.

          I hate all fact-hating moralists. All of them regardless of what their morals are. Morality is not an excuse to refuse to discover scientific facts. Morals do apply to how research is done (i.e. no Nazi-like experiments please) but not the facts themselves.

      • HFARationalist says:

        @andrewflicker I strongly suspect that both racialist researchers and egalitarian researchers are very biased and tamper with their data. Egalitarians tamper with data to not be un-PC while racialists tamper with data to support their racial/ethnic pride.

        Ironically whether the Northeast Asian IQ is slightly higher than the white Germanic average or slightly lower than it has no practical value at all.

        On the other hand the white-black gap is much more important. The world has more and more STEM. If blacks on average don’t successfully catch up we may see serious racial disparity in demographics of human space colonists, transhumans, etc. Whites, upper caste Indians, Iranians and Northeast Asians will probably be mostly found outside this planet as transhumans in 2200 while blacks will probably largely remain here, might not be able to afford transhumanism and will probably live in poverty. If this is not a future we want to see we probably should take possible racial differences in performance seriously. The disadvantage needs to be alleviated or it will be much worse in the future.

        • Deiseach says:

          Whites, upper caste Indians, Iranians and Northeast Asians will probably be mostly found outside this planet as transhumans in 2200 while blacks will probably largely remain here

          I wish I could feel this to be the terrible dystopian future you seem to imagine it would be, HFA. As someone who cares not a jot about transhumanism and indeed thinks it a kind of trap, I think it might equally be considered a boon to the mass of average humanity: all the fruitcakes who wanted to turn themselves into robots are gone off-world where they can land on some ghastly planet and play their games of space colonisation and the rest of us can get on with normal life 🙂

          I also don’t think every white etc. person will be gone as I imagine a lot don’t want to be transhumans/aren’t interested in transhumanism. If you get as many as one billion willing to move off-world, I’d be impressed.

          • HFARationalist says:

            I respect the fact that you aren’t into transhumanism. However I am and I have my right to support it. 🙂 Humanity needs to expand to other parts of the universe. The earth is too boring.

  26. Zorgon says:

    I had a “he who fights monsters” moment earlier and I figured I’d share it.

    So, this happened in a small town nearish me lately:
    https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/aug/30/aberaeron-police-investigate-three-men-carnival-float-considered-racist-cool-runnings

    (TL;DR: A bunch of guys from a pub entered a small-town carnival in blackface, dressed as the main cast from Cool Runnings, complete with extremely racist theme music. Many people are angry, many other people are variably angry that those first people are angry, and because this is all rural Wales, virtually all of these people are white.)
    Aberaeron is quite close to where I live and several of my friends live there. As a result some of them have been in the “complaining vociferously” group; indeed, two of them were amongst the original complainants that got the police involved. And there’s been a distinct process happening here:

    Stage 1: They discuss their outrage amongst themselves immediately after the carnival.
    Stage 2: They agree with each other that this is Completely Unacceptable and Something Needs To Be Done.
    Stage 3: A friend of a friend goes public, makes a public post about it and it is linked to multiple local area Facebook groups.
    Stage 4: Initial person who posted starts getting pushback about this being racist.
    Stage 5: Police and press get involved. Everyone official agrees with my friends about this being racist.
    Stage 6: Increasing levels of pushback lead to my friends getting increasingly upset that anyone is disagreeing with them about this being racist.
    Stage 7: The original incident is now a police matter and the actual topic of discussion is the unthinkable existence of dissent regarding this awful racist act.
    Stage 8: People begin demanding that everyone publicly declare this unacceptable or be considered racist.
    We’ve just reached stage 8.

    And here’s the thing. I’m completely in agreement that this whole thing was racist as unholy fuck. I mean, seriously, it was blackface and had a dubbed version of the theme song with (really nasty) racial stereotypes in it! It’s kind of an open and shut case as far as I’m concerned. And yet, and yet. I’m still kinda crowing that my friends – that people I like and care about – are so upset and discomfited by the existence of dissent.
    Bear in mind that none of these friends of mine are black (my non-white friends have stayed silent about this, probably wisely), not one of them has actually been attacked for this themselves, none of them have been doxxed, none of them have received threats, most of them weren’t even at the bloody carnival in question! My interpretation as to their increasing rage is this: they thought that their position was the universally-held one, and it turns out that they are, at least locally, largely outnumbered by those who fundamentally disagree with them. And that amuses me far more than it should! I mean, it’s clearly upsetting them, but because they’re rooting so hard for Team X and I’m so thoroughly estranged from Team X, I’m just grinning like an idiot at their upset and refusing to signal my agreement even though I actually agree.

    And, I mean, isn’t that even more irrational and knee-jerk than what my friends are doing?

    • HFARationalist says:

      I agree.

      Almost all past and existing societies are into shutting down people with moral claims instead of actually talking about taboo issues.

      I hope that we can have more rationality and less outrages.

    • hlynkacg says:

      Welcome to the human race.

    • Mark says:

      The real racism is trying to impose our values on an indigenous peoples with such a long and successful history of xenophobia. It’s the one area of the country that has kept the immigrants out for the last 4000 years – and long may their local customs continue, I say.

      I don’t think rationality has to (or can be) used to determine what should be found amusing.

      More generally, I think you are absolutely right to oppose your friends if you can, because social-stuff is the number one cause of rationality failure and it is incumbent upon those not in a mob to shake their heads and tut gently.

    • onyomi says:

      I think it’s possible to be both not okay with racism and also not okay with hysterical, overblown, possibly disingenuous reactions to racism.

  27. Left wing vs right wing crimes. This is definitely a culture war subject, but I hope we can have more light than heat in the discussion.

    See the essay in my local paper today. It is purportedly about decrying antifa tactics, but includes this comment:

    Antifa’s actual violence pales statistically in comparison with terrorism rooted on the far right, according to the Anti-Defamation League, one of the groups that keeps track of such things. Of the 372 politically motivated murders recorded in the U.S. between 2007 and 2016, the ADL finds, right-wing extremists committed 74 percent of them. Left-wing extremists committed fewer than 2 percent.

    I looked up the ADL’s website, but I couldn’t find the declaration stated above. I find the statement unlikely to be true, but maybe that is just my bias.

    So do others have some facts here? Can anyone find the statement by the ADL, and is it reasonable, or is the ADL much like SPLC? Of course simply counting the violent actions of each side doesn’t necessarily change how we treat each side, but it does put the relative strength of our disapproval in a different light.

    • cassander says:

      I would look at who they consider right wing and left wing extremists. the boston bombers? the guy that shot gabby giffords? I can’t remember if it was ADL, SPLC, or someone else, but the last list of this sort I looked into was working with a definition of right wing extremist amounted to not much more than “he once liked a facebook post criticizing obama, so right wing” while their definition of left wing extremism ran more towards “unless they literally chanted workers of the world unite while committing their crimes, it wasn’t political.”

      • Well yes, that’s the question. If it was SPLC I would totally discount the statement, but I don’t know about ADL. Maybe there is objectively more violence from the right. That’s why I am asking what folks know about ADL, and if anyone can find their statement, which might shed some light.

        • cassander says:

          There’s this substanital list which includes a whole lot of very specious looking examples. If this is the standard of their work, I am not impressed.

          included, for example are:

          “Woodburn, Oregon, December, 2008: Father and son anti-government extremists Bruce and
          Joshua Turnidge killed two police officers and
          critically injured a third after planting a bomb at a
          small Oregon bank as part of a robbery attempt.
          They were convicted of aggravated murder and
          sentenced to death.”

          Lafayette, Louisiana, July 2015: White
          supremacist John Russell Houser killed himself
          after conducting a vicious shooting spree at
          a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana, that
          left two people dead and nine others injured.
          Houser, obsessed at the perceived moral decay
          of the United States, may have chosen the movie
          theater as his target because it was showing the
          Amy Schumer movie Trainwreck.

          Anti-abortion extremist Robert Dear opened
          fire at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado
          Springs, killing three people—including one police
          officer—and injuring nine more. After being taken
          into custody, Dear was charged with first degree
          murder but in May 2016 he was ruled by a judge
          to be incompetent to stand trial and ordered
          indefinitely confined to a mental hospital.

          Gassville, Arkansas, November 2008: A
          Baxter County jury sentenced self-declared “constitutionalist”
          Richard Bauer to four life sentences
          in prison after convicting him of aggravated
          robbery and four counts of kidnapping for a
          bank robbery in Gassville. Bauer claimed that he
          deliberately robbed the bank in order to get “my
          money back,” because the IRS had seized his
          retirement accounts after Bauer refused to pay
          income taxes

          As I suspected, there’s a whole lot of fishing for evidence going on.

          • Zorgon says:

            Damn all these terrorist bank robbers.

          • rlms says:

            If these are the best examples of specious examples you can find, you’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel. Two and three are clearcut right-wing violence if true (Wikipedia doesn’t claim John Russell Houser was a white supremacist, so I’m skeptical about it on those grounds, but if he was then I don’t see how you could avoid calling it right-wing violence). Regarding one and four, if ideological bank robbers don’t count, then given that this is the only example of the Weathermen deliberately killing anyone I guess they weren’t terrorists either.

            Those examples do illustrate something interesting about right-wing violence though. Although a high proportion of ideological violence can be labeled right-wing, it is mostly right-wing in that it’s anti-government nuts shooting police officers, or Christians murdering abortion providers, rather than neo-Nazis. So although the 74% right-wing 2% left-wing figures may well be accurate, it would be wrong to conclude from them that there is a 74-2 imbalance in violence between neo-Nazi types and antifa types.

          • CatCube says:

            Since I got into it with rlms about how people minimize left wing violence on the last OT, I guess I’ve got to chime in here: the latter two are very, very, obviously right-wing violence. Shooting up an abortion clinic is pretty much the central example of right-wing violence in America today. I’m antiabortion myself, but that shit is not OK–protests are fine. First amendment and all. Violence is not fine.

            The first one, you could maybe construct a narrative of, “Sure, they were a group with a far-right ideology, and extreme groups sometimes commit bank robberies to fund their ideological operations, but these guys were just doing it for personal enrichment and the ideology was incidental.” However, I put the burden of proof on the person claiming non-ideology in situations like this. I mean, I’d ridicule a left-winger trying to claim that the Black Liberations Army’s bank robberies weren’t left-wing violence.

            For the second, it’s possible you have something there. I actually never heard of this incident before now, and don’t have time to research it before work. However, according to Wikipedia (the three most trusted words in information!) there was no clear motive in the guy’s journals. Investigators did speculate that since he had made anti-feminist and anti-Semitic posts maybe he was targeting an Amy Schumer flick. This line of reasoning does have quite a bit of weight. However, he was a mentally ill, violent man. Was the main driver of his rampage the movie’s content, or did he set out to rack up a body count, noticed that Holmes did a respectable job in a theater, and the Schumer movie was incidental? That is, he could have just as easily shot up a McDonald’s for getting his order wrong as Trainwreck. You can construct narratives for both, but there’s a pretty good argument for “right-wing violence.”

            Edit to add: @The Nybbler’s comment below about a right-wing guy murdering his friends is a good example of the ADL making leaps to pad the numbers. These four really don’t show that.

          • cassander says:

            @CatCube and RLMS

            I consider all of these rediculous, here are my reasons

            1) This was a bank robbery without even an alleged ideological motive. Putting aside the evidence free assertion of the perpetrators as “anti-government extremists”, just because they were such extremists doesn’t make everything they do an ideological act. it seems like these guys just wanted money.

            2) again, we have it alleged that this person is a white supremacist, but his crime has no apparent connection to that belief, just the assertion that his shooting was “vicious”. they can’t even allege directly that he did targeted that theater for a reason.

            3) person in question was deemed legally insane and sent to a mental institution. Jared Loughner‘s attack on Gabby Giffords is not an example of left wing terrorism despite Loughner being left wing, it’s an example of a crazy person doing something crazy. the same is true of crazy people who happen to be right wing.

            4) Again, we have someone who had no money, and so robbed a bank. it is not even alleged that he refused to pay taxes for an ideological reason, it’s just implicitly assumed that he must have.

            In all of these cases, we have the same story, someone commits a crime, and some tenuous connection to “right wing” is dredged up as evidence. As I said, not much better than “he once said something nasty about Obama on Facebook, so his crime is right wing terror.” The weathermen robbed banks in order to fund their ideology. They said so loudly and proudly at their trials. these guys, as far as we can tell from the evidence presented, just needed money.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Instead of just seeking to discredit the list, why not just go through it and separate it into what you think is legitimately right wing vs left wing? I suspect that even with a high standard for an attack being “political” in nature, the far right does more damage absolutely and per capita than the far left (although I don’t know how you would say what # of Americans are far-right vs far-left) at the current point in time.

          • cassander says:

            @dndnrsn says:

            Instead of just seeking to discredit the list, why not just go through it and separate it into what you think is legitimately right wing vs left wing?

            Two reasons. One, this list is just right wing, there is no left wing list (in this report). Two, such an effort would be largely pointless. In the report that does have a list, such an effort will invariably fail to produce a fair count. If we get a list of 1000 right wing “acts of terror”, the vast majority of which are spurious, and a dozen left wing acts all of which are legitimate, the extremely lopsided sample we’re working with means that even if we apply an even standard to both lists, the right will come out looking worse. the only way to make it fair is to apply the equal standard not to the list of “legitimate” left wing terror, but to the whole mass of incidents from which the legitimate list was compiled.

            I suspect that even with a high standard for an attack being “political” in nature, the far right does more damage absolutely and per capita than the far left (although I don’t know how you would say what # of Americans are far-right vs far-left) at the current point in time.

            I very much doubt it. Remember the DC sniper. He wrote explicitly about jihad agains the US, but how many people think of him as islamic terror? the degree of media amplification, or depression, applied to the politics of killers is extreme, and highly distorting. I think the amount of genuine ideological terror in the US, of any ideology, is so small that there’s no pattern that rises above the noise.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @cassander

            Wait, I thought the DC snipers being motivated by radical Islam to some extent was common knowledge?

            Terror of any sort is background noise compared to the vast majority of homicides in the US, or anywhere else, which are combinations of killings related to other crimes, young men being stupid (and often drunk), and family disputes (often while drunk).

            However, is stuff like when Roof shot those black people in a church, or in Canada when Bissonnette (sp?) killed some Muslims at a mosque – I’m pretty sure that was Canada’s biggest mass shooting in a while – is that not reasonably considered far right?

          • cassander says:

            @dndnrsn says:

            Wait, I thought the DC snipers being motivated by radical Islam to some extent was common knowledge?

            I don’t recall that being made a significant issue. I would say it’s common knowledge the way it’s common knowledge lee harvey oswald was a communist is common knowledge.

            However, is stuff like when Roof shot those black people in a church, or in Canada when Bissonnette (sp?) killed some Muslims at a mosque – I’m pretty sure that was Canada’s biggest mass shooting in a while – is that not reasonably considered far right

            Sure it is, just like it’s terror when some guy tries to gun down republican congressmen playing baseball, or anti-fa beats up people in berkeley. What isn’t terror is when someone who happens to be right wing (or left wing) commits a crime for non-ideological reasons, or when a legitimately crazy person does something crazy, and I object to the absurd degree which people will go to connect any violent act to right wing ideology (SPLC, for example, said of loughner that his political positions had the”hallmark of the far right and the militia movement”) to score political points.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @cassander

            Is Oswald being a communist not common knowledge?

            As for the examples we have here: a shooting in which nine people were killed, a shooting in which six people were killed, versus an attempted mass murder, and beatings but no deaths yet (have antifa killed anyone in the US?) – I think this backs up my hunch that the far right has a higher death toll in the US?

            What’s the archetypal “far right wing violence” in the US, vs the archetypal “far left wing violence”?

          • cassander says:

            @dndnrsn says:

            Is Oswald being a communist not common knowledge?

            It’s commonly known, and commonly not considered a particularly important fact.

            As for the examples we have here: a shooting in which nine people were killed, a shooting in which six people were killed, versus an attempted mass murder, and beatings but no deaths yet (have antifa killed anyone in the US?) – I think this backs up my hunch that the far right has a higher death toll in the US?

            Only if you assume that these crimes had anything to do with ideology, which I don’t think they do. Again, to repeat, the fact that a crime was committed by someone with an ideology does not make in an ideological crime.

            What’s the archetypal “far right wing violence” in the US, vs the archetypal “far left wing violence”?

            Again, as I said, I don’t think there is an accurate archetype for either, because the actual level of ideological violence is so low. The closest you get is “crazy man writes bizarre manifesto, later kills a bunch of people” and there are probably more vaguely right wing examples than left wing, simply due to the distribution of gun ownership, but since the people in said archetype are crazy, the content of their ideology is meaningless.

          • keranih says:

            No, Oswald being communist is not commonly known. Nor is the Palestinian affiliation of the assassin of his brother, Robert Kennedy.

            Regarding left vs right violence, I think that many people may be ignoring the race elephant in the room. While those on the left may feel oddly about it, those on the right tend to put race riots in the “far left” basket. Which makes the widespread destruction in Ferguson, Baltimore, and elsewhere more significant – esp when added to Occupy and various election riots.

            I myself think this classification is…well, *faulty*. I can see where people come from from – the Blue Tribe (the urban coastal liberals of Scott’s classification) doesn’t include Black America in their group, only as allies, but Black American certainly sees Red Tribe as their opponent. So Red Tribe sorts whether or not they are naturally racially motivated are going to be opposed to violence conducted by Black America.

            But conflation of intent and action and rhetoric and location are not new, either.

            A further objection to the rationality of this grouping would be to ask, so where are the deaths from Black American Violence? And the response is that if one side has a habit of burning and looting in large numbers, that’s not a peaceful movement, even if the death toll is rather small. I dunno how to do the equations for deaths vs property damage, but I don’t think these are situations where fine details of fractions count.

            A further complication is that while the left (with justification, imo) refuses to claim violence done by Islamic fundamentalists, the left *does* claim violence done *against* Muslims (to include fundamentalists) as a blow against the left. Sort of the same cake-and-eat-it of decrying racial bias *against* African Americans, but not the racial bias *of* African Americans.

            To a Red Tribe extremist who sees the Far Left as aiding and abetting race riots, excusing black criminals, and sheltering Muslim furiners, the balance between those groups (plus Antifa, who dated back at least as far as the WTO Seattle riots, plus Occupy, plus a few others) seems heavily stacked against Bundy ranch stand offs, Oklahoma City, one or two crazy guys like Roof (Charleston church shooter) and 1970’s era KKK activity.

            I’m not trying to claim factual logical equivalency here, just that the emotional justifications are understandable. Perhaps from that understanding, people in the middle can work on better ways to deescalate the situation, which certainly has the sense of a business that will get out of control and we’ll be lucky to live through it.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @kerinah:

            Let’s dispense with left/right for a second.

            Islamic terrorists are (roughly) inspired by a rejection of pluralism. They view all those who do not accept their particular brand of Islamic ideology as infidels and heretics who deserve death.

            Those who kill Muslims (or Sikhs thinking they are Muslims) merely for being a Muslim (as those killed are not actually espousing or enacting jihadism) are also rejecting pluralism.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @dndnrsn,

            I will concede that the far right has likely accrued a much higher body count in the last few decades than the far left.

            That said, I don’t think raw body count tells the whole story. In addition to Keranih’s “elephant” there is also a significant cultural disparity in how violence is exercised/interpreted. “Don’t fight unless you have to, but if you must fight, fight with absolute conviction” is a widely held axiom on the right. Your typical church-going good-ole-boy doesn’t believe in proportional responses, he believes in “doing a proper job of it”. This has two prominent effects in practice: 1) Right wingers tend to prioritize “effectiveness”. If we concede that violence is justified, why would anyone take to the streets when they could blow up a federal building instead? 2) This interpretation of political violence as a fundamentally existential conflict colors thier perception of violence by others. Throwing a Molotov or beating someone with a pipe or bat is viewed a potentially lethal attack worthy of a lethal response regardless of whether the attacker succeeded in killing thier target. Real life is not a game of D&D where you can declare “subdual damage”, hence the pejorative use of “LARPers” to describe both Anti-Fa and the alt-right.

            My chief worry at this point is that mob violence has become normalized to a degree where it’s only a matter of time before a bunch of these LARPers “get lucky” and start something that spins rapidly out of control.

            Edit: @HBC

            Good point.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @cassander

            Only if you assume that these crimes had anything to do with ideology, which I don’t think they do. Again, to repeat, the fact that a crime was committed by someone with an ideology does not make in an ideological crime.

            I think all four examples there (three of which specific, one general) can be considered ideological.

            Again, as I said, I don’t think there is an accurate archetype for either, because the actual level of ideological violence is so low. The closest you get is “crazy man writes bizarre manifesto, later kills a bunch of people” and there are probably more vaguely right wing examples than left wing, simply due to the distribution of gun ownership, but since the people in said archetype are crazy, the content of their ideology is meaningless.

            Does killing a bunch of people make you crazy? It’s a good thing that the US doesn’t have much ideological terrorism, but it has in the past – were the Weathermen crazy?

            @keranih

            Is there any way to tell whether black people rioting after something like the Rodney King acquittal are far-left?

            @HeelBearCub

            I don’t know why people don’t code Islamist terrorism as right-wing. Adherents of an extreme variety of a religion seeking to use terror to advance the goal of more power for that variety of the religion sounds pretty far-right to me. If Christian abortion clinic bombers are far right…

            @hlynkacg

            What I think is interesting is that the historical example of political street violence – Weimar Germany – was not really a case of street fighting escalating into open warfare and terrorism. There was a period of civil war featuring leftist insurrections put down by forces including far-right militias, followed by a right-wing putsch attempt shortly afterwards, and then another (local) putsch attempt by the Nazis. The street violence between far-left, far-fight, and centrist (!) paramilitary groups after these was far more mild than coup attempts (it was of the “people show up looking for a fight” variety currently happening, although far more organized – they had uniforms and everything). The Nazis eventually managed to get into power through a mixture of electoral success and backroom dealings (and then they started ramping up the violence again).

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            It’s commonly known, and commonly not considered a particularly important fact.

            What do you base that on? Because I think it’s pretty clear that there’s been a slow morph of the JFK assassination into a mix between “lone nut with no clear ideology” and more recently “Climate of Right Wing Hate”.

            I wouldn’t put money on most people over the age of 40 being aware that Oswald was a dedicated communist who lived in the USSR and tried to ‘defect’ to Cuba but was turned away.

            If I wasn’t potentially legally barred from doing so due to holding an occupational Gaming license, I WOULD wager reasonable sums of money that most people under 30 are NOT aware of that fact.

            I suspect, but can’t prove, that for the under 30 crowd it’s a mix of ‘lone nut’, ‘some sort of right wing anti-government type, you know, like the Oklahoma City Bomber and the Unabomber’, and ‘no clue, never thought about’.

            EDIT: Best poll I can find has nothing about Oswald’s motives, but has a solid majority (62%) believing that there was a conspiracy involved with “Mafia” and “elements within the Federal Government” tied for first place as being the ones behind it”.

            @dndnrsn

            “-wing” framing is specific to time and place. For something to be “Right Wing Violence” in America, it must fall into the space occupied by actual right wing politicians, voters, and/or political organizations active on the ground in the US as of the time the violence occurred, even if it’s just a lunatic fringe/extremist minority of actual voters/politicians/groups.

            Your framing would be correct if there was a political alliance between Islamist political groups in the US and the Religious Right, or ‘The American Right’ in general, but there isn’t, even if it looks like such an alliance would make sense on certain issues or in the abstract.

          • All this argument about what constitutes ideological murder, but all the discussion is totally free of citations. What is the point of this discussion if we don’t even have numbers to talk about? I was hoping to get some more citations of from various places when I wrote the initial posting.

            I surfed the Internet a bit more, and I found some data by someone with CATO. This may be as good as we’ll get, since CATO isn’t fond of either left or right. He goes all the way back to 1992, so he includes both 9/11 and the Oklahoma City bombing, which skew the data quite a bit. But even if those a re backed out, it looks like right is a little more murderous than left, except the left is worse in 2016 and 2017. I wonder what recent murders he is talking about?

          • Ah, I think I found the source of the essayist’s statistics. It was on NPR, where an ADL staffer mentioned the 74% stat. This article mentions that interview and includes an underlying document from ADL, but that underlying document itself doesn’t mention the 74%. I think that statistic has been destroyed.

          • Islamic terrorists are (roughly) inspired by a rejection of pluralism. They view all those who do not accept their particular brand of Islamic ideology as infidels and heretics who deserve death.

            I can’t guarantee that no Islamic terrorist believes that, but it would be a very odd position for a Muslim to hold. Under Islamic law, non-Muslims, at least the other Peoples of the Book, have legal rights. Killing them is a criminal offense, although the amount of blood money owed is less, according to at least some schools of law, than for killing a Muslim.

            Being a Christian or a Jew isn’t viewed as a capital offense.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            https://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21684795-fed-up-and-fearful-christians-are-leaving-middle-east-and-then-there-were

            http://www.jewishwikipedia.info/expulsion-arabs.html

            Abusing Jews and Christians is against Islamic law, but this doesn’t mean people who identify as Muslims always keep their laws.

            I don’t know whether they should be referred as Islamist, as with terrorists. I kind of like Islam-inflected.

          • cassander says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko

            I wouldn’t put money on most people over the age of 40 being aware that Oswald was a dedicated communist who lived in the USSR and tried to ‘defect’ to Cuba but was turned away.

            If I wasn’t potentially legally barred from doing so due to holding an occupational Gaming license, I WOULD wager reasonable sums of money that most people under 30 are NOT aware of that fact.

            You’re almost certainly right about the under thirty crowd. I was thinking of the older crowd, my parents generation that actually remember the kennedy assassination, all of whom seem to know the basic oswald story the way that everyone today knows that osama bin laden was a rich saudi who went to fight in afghanistan. But perhaps I am being too generous.

          • keranih says:

            @ dndnrsn

            I don’t doubt that among the liberal upperclass youths who make up antifa there are a few African Americans. Also it appears that far left activists rolled into Ferguson, etc fairly early on, and served to guide and support the riots there. But I don’t think that most African-American gangs, rioters, and flash mobs are far left.

            They do enjoy the appearance of support and admiration from the left and the far left, however.

            @ HBC

            If I understand your point, those who attack others on the grounds of antipuralism are far-right, regardless of stated afiliation – correct? Or no?

            Firstly, I would quibble with your “they attack X simply for being X” – this is reductionist strawmanning, I think. Fundamentalists religious types of my experience (to let aside Crusaders whom I have never met) are not attacking people “just because they are X”, even though “they are being attacked just because they are X” is a charge I have heard from left/liberal types all my life. People of group X are being attacked because they are suspected of working against the close group – stealing from, attacking in turn, or attempting to override the present social order in order to attack or thieve from. “Attacked just because they are X” is describing a mindlessness rage which is not at all helpful to figuring out just what is going on.

            Secondly, I submit that it is possible to be tolerant of pluralism in general practice but intolerant of specific practices, most particularly those activities which break down pluralism. Fundamentalist Islam – and even moderate Islam – is not, historically and presently, particularly great at pluralism. Resisting the added influence of that culture to the modern culture can be seen as defending pluralism, not attacking it.

            By the same token, the antifia hate and beat down neo-nazis in the name of defending pluralism. Does that make them far right?

            Thirdly, this is mighty convenient for the (moderate) left. All your enemies – indeed, all who are not you! – are far right, and the equivalent of Hitler.

            I’m going to hold that there are societies which are sustainably tolerant of a large degree of non-conformance, and those which are intolerant of non-conformance, and those whose tolerance goes too far. I think that most of SSC finds the first group most appealing, but the trick is figuring out where the line is between that group and the other two.

    • The Nybbler says:

      This is the ADL page.

      https://www.adl.org/education/resources/reports/murder-and-extremism-in-the-united-states-in-2016

      If you dig into the report, you find this rather suspicious note:

      Note: Includes both
      ideologically and
      non-ideologically
      motivated killings

      To underscore that point, they give an example of

      A white supremacist was responsible for one of 2016’s triple
      homicides, in July 2016, when long-time Washington white
      supremacist Brent Luyster was arrested on aggravated murder
      and other charges for allegedly killing three of his own friends
      and associates and nearly killing a fourth, apparently in a rage
      over his federal and state criminal legal troubles, as well as his
      reported desire to see his child by an ex-girlfriend

      • That’s an interesting report, but it doesn’t list murders on right vs left from 2007 to 2016, as the essay I linked to talked about. I wonder if the essay writer pulled data from various places on the web site, and created his own statistics. I am pretty skeptical of hjs numbers.

        It does appear that the ADL is a bit biased against the right wing, based on this link, Cassander’s link, and my general perusal of the site. But not overwhelmingly biased, so I don’t apply a large discount at this point. On the other hand, I am very skeptical of the claim by the essayist I linked to, since I can’t find his claim anywhere on the ADL site.

  28. Atlas says:

    Advice solicitation:

    How does one gracefully initiate conversation with other students in a class of >25 people? It always feels like, most some students get to class 5-10 minutes early, either look at their phones to be less awkward or talk to people they already know from somewhere else, then class starts and you can’t really communicate during class, then class is over and everyone goes to their next class or home, and I’m like “wait, you’re supposed to Make Friends in class, but when exactly does this esoteric alchemical process occur?”

    To be clear, it’s not so much what to say once a conversation has begun that’s troubling me (“try not to talk about yourself and try to keep asking the other person polite questions about their interests/hobbies/life” has really done wonders for me) but how to start talking to a semi-stranger (someone you haven’t had a conversation with before) in a way that isn’t really corny/dorky that’s bothering me. Many thanks in advance.

    • I’m not very good myself at initiating conversation, but I think the most promising subject matter is about the class.
      “Did you read the chapter for this week?”
      “When is the next test?”
      “Did you understand what professor such and such was talking about when he said such and such? I was totally lost.”

      • Atlas says:

        That’s a good point, thanks, I’ll keep that in mind.

      • Anatoly says:

        Also, it’s OK to ask a question you know the answer to, so long as it’s plausible. You don’t have to wait until you genuinely need an answer. This point is trivial to some people and a revelation to others.

        “Hi, sorry, do you remember [if the midterm’s next week or after?][when’s the deadline for the homework?][when the extra study session was scheduled?]” (you know the answer to the question)

        “…” (they give you the answer)

        Pause for a second after hearing the answer. “Oh, I see. Thanks. I’m Paul by the way” (smile, don’t hold intense eye contact, extend hand)

        “…” (they give you their name, you shake hands – this part may culture-vary)

        Ask a trivial not-too-personal question, like “are you [guess a likely major, assuming this class is attended by students from different departments]?”. Whatever their answer is, “Oh, cool, [same information about yourself]”. At this point, smile and exit the conversation unless the other person continues it.

        Now you have a license to hold a brief eye contact and nod or say “hi” before class or when you meet elsewhere. Next time, try “how’re you doing?” and/or some other class-related question, and see if they appear engaged, interested in the conversation, if they ask YOU what’s up, etc. If they’re not aloof and distracted, the next step is to have a nontrivial and at least semi-passionate conversation about something you both care about; try praising something or complaining about something [in a non-whiny manner] related to this class or the common university experience and see if it strikes a chord.

    • Wrong Species says:

      If you talk to someone on their phone, they’re generally not going to be upset about it. At the very least, they’ll humor you. And you can also talk to someone as you’re leaving class, saying something about the class. It is possible to join in a conversation but it’s really subtle and it’s a subtle distinction between being friendly and coming across as awkward. In general, class is a bad way to make friends. Clubs are better.

      • Atlas says:

        Yeah makes sense, thanks, and your point about clubs is well taken, but it seems like frustratingly few clubs at my university are both even semi-relevant to my interests and not totally inactive, and between class and work I often can’t make meetings even when they are. Thus, even though I recognize it’s definitely less than ideal, I do want to see if I can eke some more friendships out of classes.

    • Well... says:

      Remember they probably are feeling the same way and would ask similar advice about how to start talking to you.

      I say just pick a person you want to talk to and dive right in:

      “Hey, I’m [whatever your real name is]. Sorry, I’m bad at introductions, I know it’s weird to introduce myself this late.”

      It works best if you say include light self-deprecating humor immediately after introducing yourself. “I’m terrible about getting off my phone.” Then the other person will probably introduce him or herself.

      If he or she doesn’t respond with an introduction but seems interested in talking, ask an easy not-too-personal question to get him/her off the hook. Something like “Are you taking this as a required course?” etc. If you’re feeling bold you could try something like “You look like an Ed. Is that your name?”

      It will be hard to work up the guts to just up and do this, but here are some weird-sounding things that will actually help:

      – Write yourself a little script and memorize it
      – Do some light exercise in the hallway or the bathroom before you come into the classroom–swing your arms around, etc. This will loosen you up and get your blood pumping so you’ll be less nervous. I do that before I give talks at conferences or user groups.
      – Do some breathing exercises for a minute or so before you actually start talking.
      – Have some questions queued up that you can ask the other person to kindle the conversation a bit. Asking about their thoughts (“What did you think of…”) will get you farther than asking for facts (“Where are you from” etc.)
      – Welcome and include other people who join in.

      In the end, everyone in the room will be relieved that you initiated conversation and changed the pattern of shared isolation. (Except for a few weirdos probably.)

      • Atlas says:

        I very much appreciate the suggestions, thanks.

        Remember they probably are feeling the same way and would ask similar advice about how to start talking to you.

        I guess this is like the opposite of typical mind fallacy. (Atypical mind fallacy?)

        • Well... says:

          Yeah, maybe. I’m not really sure what that is.

          But I did see a name given to this sort of thing once, but I can’t remember for the life of me where I saw it or what it was called.

          I suppose in some ways it’s a variation on the Abilene paradox, though it’s a bit different too, because it’s a bunch of people NOT doing something they want to be doing rather than a bunch of people doing something they don’t want to be doing. And the mechanism isn’t deferring to what you think others want, it’s social anxiety.

      • Well... says:

        PS. When I say memorize your little script I really mean say it out loud a bunch of times, until your speech apparatus has it in muscle memory. That way you only have to start saying it and the rest will tumble out of your mouth.

    • woahdude says:

      Sit next to someone, stick out your hand and say “Hi, I’m _____. What’s your name?”

      It’s worked for me.

    • McLovin says:

      Study Groups! Say to Mark “Hey, Aaron and I are getting together later to work on the problem set, do you want to join?”.

      Now, of course that requires either A) already being friends with Aaron or B) being willing to lie at first (then you ask Aaron if he wants to study with you and Mark, and either he says yes or you have to act like he’s a no show when you and Mark meet). A works better but B can be effective.

    • rlms says:

      In my experience, this varies massively depending on the time of year (or if you have different people in different classes, presumably depending on whether a course has just started or not). In the first few classes, you can start a conversation in pretty much any way, “Hi, I’m [name]” being the default one. Later on, it’s virtually impossible unless you naturally tend that way.

    • Incurian says:

      Others have mentioned it, but I’ll reiterate: don’t be too worried about bothering people, at least for a minute or two.

  29. Andrew Hunter says:

    https://warisboring.com/there-may-be-no-way-to-shoot-down-north-koreas-ballistic-missiles/

    Paging Bean and John Schilling to the red Soviet phone – is this at all accurate?

    • bean says:

      1. It’s from War is Boring, which means it’s likely to be pretty terrible.
      2. It’s pretty terrible. I think they’re too pessimistic about the US BMD capability in general, and they spend a lot of time talking about how hard it would be to intercept Nork test missiles. That’s a valid point. But it’s a reason the US isn’t trying to do so. (Also, it would make John annoyed.) And the US BMD program isn’t as good as it should be. But I’ll stand by an estimate of at least 50% hits, and they have no way of knowing what 50% will get hit.

    • John Schilling says:

      As bean notes, WiB is not the most reputable source. But this article was originally published at the slightly more reputable National Interest, and echoes what has been said elsewhere.

      Despite the scary headlines, these articles are talking about shooting down North Korean missile tests, and they’re right that this is pretty much out of the question. Effective missile defenses are very, very expensive, and the bit where the United States was going to spend trillions of dollars building a constellation of orbital laser battle stations or whatnot to shoot down any ballistic missile anywhere, well, that never quite happened. We(*) have spent many billions of dollars on moderately effective missile defenses to protect the United States, South Korea, and Japan, and nothing at all to provide missile defenses to random patches of the Pacific Ocean. If North Korea launches a missile into a random patch of the Pacific Ocean, we probably can’t stop it and we would at a minimum look foolish if we tried and failed.

      If North Korea launches missiles at South Korea or Japan, we have some idea what to expect. US-built missile defenses are currently about 75% effective against DPRK-built short range ballistic missiles being fired by Yemeni rebels against Saudi Arabia. The systems we have sold to South Korea and Japan are a bit more effective than the ones the Saudis are using, and I expect the crews are better trained, but at the same time North Korea never sold their best missiles to Yemen and the current operators are basically amateurs, so 75% may wind up being optimistic. The system we set up to defend the US against ICBM attack is only 50% effective in tests, and combat performance is always worse than test performance. We’ll try to counter that by salvo-firing multiple interceptors against each inbound warhead, but identical missiles fired from the same site at the same target under the same conditions are likely to find the same failure modes, so that’s not going to help as much as naive mathematics might suggest. So we’re back to basically a coin toss.

      Looking forward, the US keeps talking about a Mark 2 version of the National Missile Defense system, but so far has been more concerned with rolling out patches to the buggy Mark 1. Meanwhile, North Korea’s ICBM comes with a payload fairing and possibly a post-boost vehicle, which you don’t need for just a warhead but are appropriate for dispensing swarms of decoys. Aren’t technological arms races fun?

      * “We” includes South Korea and Japan

      • hyperboloid says:

        and the bit where the United States was going to spend trillions of dollars building a constellation of orbital laser battle stations or whatnot to shoot down any ballistic missile anywhere, well, that never quite happened.

        Think about it, people my age and younger have no memory of a time when we had a culture war about whether we should put giant frikin laser cannons in space to shoot down Russian missiles.The early eighties must have been a glorious time to be alive.

        Since your an expert in this field, should I revise at all my opinion that old school SDI was a Maginot line style waste of time and money?

        • John Schilling says:

          The Maginot line might not have been a waste of money if it had been extended along either the Franco-Belgian or Belgian-German border, thought there were both political and tactical issues with that.

          Some of the specific projects associated with the Strategic Defense Initiative were complete wastes of money, e.g. railguns and X-ray lasers. That’s an inevitable consequence of saying “we absolutely must meet this threat, no matter the cost!”, or even “Here’s $bignum to meet this threat, go figure out how to do that”.

          The general concept was not fundamentally flawed, but would have been multi-terabuck expensive by the end. And for that, we get not “nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete” but “we’ll get our hair mussed” in the event of a war. In hindsight, waiting for the Soviet Union to go out of business was cheaper, and a more limited missile defense system would probably suffice against remaining threats. OTOH, Vladimir Putin is pretty much the Soviet Union incarnate, and he’s still got about 2,000 nuclear missiles, so it may be a tad premature to talk about hindsight.

        • Deiseach says:

          The early eighties must have been a glorious time to be alive.

          Well, in between the expecting to die in a nuclear war any day now because people were seriously talking about putting giant frikin’ laser cannons in space to shoot down Russian missiles, it was okay 🙂

          More seriously, we have little idea nowadays (I think) what kind of Maginot Line-style deterrents we are engaging in that we think make perfect sense and future generations in thirty to fifty years time will laugh at; it’s only in hindsight that your Glorious Technological Advance looks like the stuff of comedy.

        • bean says:

          The Maginot line worked exactly as it was designed to, forcing the Germans to go around it. The problem was that the next steps of French strategy, stopping the Germans to the north of the line, didn’t work very well.

      • The early eighties were frickin’ awful, but they at least prove that certain kinds of culture warfare can die down.

  30. Well... says:

    Can anyone point me to some (serious) writing on general theories of tribalism? In other words, the idea that the number of traits/preferences that cause/predict our tribal affiliations is substantially higher than we might expect, and tends to produce/contribute massively to the cumulative effect of polarization?

  31. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    https://siderea.dreamwidth.org/1351829.html?view=10561941#cmt10561941

    Short version: The culture doesn’t count what people choose for themselves as “medical care” and it is therefore considered not important.

    This can actually have serious consequences.

    • keranih says:

      *sigh*

      It’s…it’s so freaking *interesting* to watch someone (as an amateur? motivated layman?) work through something that one has seen career professionals work through, and use (motivated? pov-influenced?) reasoning to arrive at pretty much the same conclusion that the career professionals came to, only a generation later than the professionals.

      Professional-gated care – surgeries, expensive scans, prescription medications, etc – that care is generally* gated not because it *works* better than OTC meds/self care, but because the downsides of mis-applied use is so MUCH WORSE.

      Scott has talked before about the folly of blaming Big Exercise for the rise in medical advice recommending more activity and less sloth, not to mention casting shade at Big Rest and Clear Fluids. But these are recommended because they are good for most of What Ails Yah.

      Why don’t we (we-Americans) use more of these? Multifactorial, I think. Firstly, there is an assumption on the part of practioners that a person comes to the doctor not for assurance that what self-care the person is doing is fine and they should keep doing it, but that the patient comes to the doc because the person is already doing *something*, and that something is insufficent.

      Secondly, that the physican has at least three reasons to prescribe something – first, patients want acknowledgement of the seriousness of their concerns, and a prescription is a way to make them happy. “No, this pain/discomfort/whathaveyou is relatively trivial, and you should handle it on your own with this OTC med/self-care routine” is *not* what patients want. It can be argued that a sympathetic ear and a good history conversation can provide that validation, but that takes time. Time is a lot more expensive than a prescription, requires a different set of skills, and is a lot harder to bill.

      Secondly, American docs are *very* skert of lawsuits and tend to practice defensive medicine. Part of this is a lack of ability to defend benign neglect when it turns out to be harmful neglect in retrospect. You’re not going to be able to get the families of the 99 patients whose insurance you saved $450 on a mostly worthless test (or prescription) on the witness stand to justify not ordering that test for the one patient whose diagnosis you missed because of lack of information from that test. But the family of that one patient will be sitting there weeping their eyes out.

      Thirdly – Prescriptions and surgeries are monitored by paid professionals. OTC and physical therapy isn’t. PT is just as effective for most back injuries as surgery, not to mention cheaper (and with fewer bad side effects!). But it takes months of showing up regularly for PT to have that same effect – and more people fall out of compliance with PT than fail to show up for scheduled surgery.

      It’s the last one that I think is most important, and that is at the heart of Sidrea’s post. Self-care is self-controlled, self-monitored, and self-administered. No paid professional is watching to make sure you do it properly. You can get advice, but the follow through is on you.

      This raises a couple other points – yes, we *can* get paid minders for people to make sure they do this self-administered care. Or we can use volunteers – the most effective are grannies, stay-at-home moms and maiden aunts. These days, American society is rather short on volunteers. Those who do fill this role complain of being under appreciated (and not paid) and the role limits their ability to do other things. Likewise, the neighborhood nosy nellie interjecting her opinion and her gossip into every part of other people’s household has also faded away.

      The paid minders – well, yes, that’s been an option for many people, most esp the wealthy for many years. In some parts of Europe, the state will provide paid minders for some classes of citizens, or manage group homes for the indigent. American has gone away from this, for a variety of reasons. One is that the servant class has always been less available and more freaking expensive on this side of the ocean. Another is that services paid for by the state are generally of lower quality than services paid for by the market, and state services come with state oversight.

      Which is the crux of it, and why we don’t really have an answer to Sidrea’s complaint. She’s not – to my read – so much asking for a society reconsideration of what being a competent adult looks like, but for an increase in state monitoring of what is now considered personal business.

      We can get to the point where society views self care as an extremely important part of daily support activities. But we can’t do that without increasing the control that society has over that activity – either through state control, or through social enforcement of a common culture. Either way, individual liberty loses.

      (*) A lot of stuff – more than I’d like – is gated because of profit. Not as much as people think. But as I didn’t invent the drug, nor did I build the plant that (safely, hygenically) puts it in a bottle, nor did I invent the procedure, I’m not in a position to quibble much over the charging of money for that thing. I can surely quibble over *how much* money it’s worth to me, but I can’t tell someone else how much it should be worth *to them*.

      Some people see to place no value at all on life-saving treatment, and seem to think it should be provided to them for a $10 copay. Or for nothing at all.

      • albatross11 says:

        Second order anecdote:

        Some years ago, I ran into a friend of mine I hadn’t seen in a couple years, who works at Microsoft, and who had lost a lot of weight. (I started chatting with him trying to figure out if he’d had cancer or something.) It turned out he was involved in some kind of Microsoft program to help people improve their health, which involved some combination of gym time, diet, and meetings (I think multiple times per week) with a coach/personal trainer who more-or-less kept on your ass about following your planned diet and exercise regimen.

        I have no idea if this would work more broadly–Microsoft employees aren’t all that much like the whole population, and this guy is surely pretty far on the rightward tail of intelligence even among MS employees. But it would be interesting to know if there’s been research on this kind of labor-intensive approach to improving health.

  32. Mark says:

    Harry Potter movie ordered by goodness:

    1) Prisoner of Azkaban
    2) Chamber of Secrets
    3) Goblet of Fire
    4) Philosophers Stone
    5) Order of the Phoenix
    6) Deathly Hallows part 2
    7) Deathly Hallows part 1
    8) Half-Blood Prince.

    Harry Potter movies ordered by box office:
    1) Deathly Hallows Part 2
    2) Philosophers Stone
    3) Half-Blood Prince
    4) D.H part 1
    5) Pheonix
    6) Goblet
    7) Secrets
    8) Azkaban

    The guy who has directed the last 5 harry potter movies sucks in my opinion.

    • The Element of Surprise says:

      human reaction times to visual and auditory tests improve by 9.3%

      Wow, that looks like a substantial improvement, apparently 2/3 SD. I guess the effect carries over to other mental tasks besides reaction time? I wonder if people develop tolerance or if there are other long term consequences.

    • HFARationalist says:

      Hmmm why is this correct?

  33. hyperboloid says:

    Has any body else had problems with comments disappearing after you try and edit them? It just happened to me twice in a row.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Presumably something is tripping the filter. It works for editing in addition to the initial post.

    • The Element of Surprise says:

      Happened to me too, a while ago. I don’t remember specifically, but I don’t think the edit entailed adding any banned terms and was just formatting and typos. Maybe the spam filter uses some machine learning algorithm that behaves erratically close to the decision boundary. Or just a bug in WordPress.

    • HFARationalist says:

      I agree with dndnrsn. It’s because something is tripping the filter.

      Word filtering never actually manages to censor anything though.

      • John Schilling says:

        It can effectively sensor the keywords people who aren’t already insiders would likely use to find a forum or an idea.

        • HFARationalist says:

          I agree. However eventually people will notice if the banned word actually refers to something people care about.

          For example if you censor “cat” we can use “c.a.t”. If you ban “c.a.t” we can use “caaat”, “kat”, “ket”, “non-dog pet”, “doG” (to refer to non-dog pets), etc. Censorship without actually arresting or executing those who use censored words does not work.

          Now apply that to “n.e.o.r.e.a.c.t.i.o.n” which I simply refer to as “reaction”, “H.B.D” which people refer to as “H.B.D”, “H.BD” or “Muggle Realism” and “the C.a.t.h.e.d.r.a.l”.

          I understand why Scott has to censor these words though. At the very minimum he needs to punish the alt-right to some extant or he will be targeted by the mob. That’s exactly why I’m no longer posting on Rationality Corner. I may be potentially doxxed if I do not use VPN to protect myself when I operate a forum that actually allows free speech and rationality which are what both the SJ mob and the Nazi mob hate.

          The idea of not censoring anything based on morality but only censoring materials based on whether an argument is rational may sound completely amoral to the public. I’m not an amoral person in actions. However I’m capable of thinking of amoral stuff. That itself signals lack of virtues, unpredictability and potential danger even though I’m certainly not dangerous.

          I personally believe that we urgently need a free speech zone for rationalists where we can discuss all ideas rationally without moral police from any group (SJWs, Christians, Muslims, Nazis, Communists, etc) monitoring us. One place we can use right now is the PMs of Rationality Corner. I’m fine with anyone registering as long as they do not talk about illegal stuff.

  34. Deiseach says:

    Saw this in an interview with Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, and would like some informed opinion. Given that there has been discussion in previous comments about global warming and how renewable/green energy sources are not, as yet, up to providing steady and reliable and always on demand energy, is this comment:

    When Mr. Cook announced, for example, the new data facility in Waukee, he said it would run fully on renewable energy. But he slipped in another fact that has largely gone unnoticed: Over the past several years, Mr. Cook has gotten all of the company’s corporate facilities in the United States to run on wind and solar energy — in their entirety.

    “We’re running Apple a hundred percent on renewable energy today” in the United States, he said over breakfast, “and we’ve now hit that in 23 other countries around the world.”

    Informed (or at least more informed than mine) opinion says in response:

    (a) Applesauce. This is not happening, if Apple want to make sure they have a steady reliable power source, they are hooked up to the conventional electric grid. Maybe they use wind/solar for charging electric cars or as a big, visible, splashy “back-up” source that is mostly for PR effect but no way they are powering their needs like this

    (b) I totally believe every office, plant and parking garage of Apple is run 100% on wind and solar, and wind and solar alone

    (c) Some of (b) but only if Apple are completely cut off from the national grid and have private turbines powering every single office, plant, etc. and are, in effect, their own power company with good old conventional gas-fired on-site generators for when they need them

    • hyperboloid says:

      Yeah, it’s mostly BS. If you look at apple’s environmental responsibility report they’re upfront about what they’re doing.

      An energy-efficient facility is good, but a 100 percent renewable energy facility is better.

      As of 2014, 100percent of our U.S. operations and 87
      percent of our operations world wide are powered by renewable energy—which results in fewer carbon emissions. These worldwide operations include a lot of facilities—all our data centers; all our corporate offices, which house nearly 50,000 employees; and over 450 Apple Retail Stores around the world—but our goal is to power all of them with 100 percent renewable energy. So we’re tapping into energy from solar, wind, micro hydro, biogas fuel cells, and geothermal sources. We’re designing new buildings and updating existing ones to use as little electricity as possible. And we’re investing in our own Apple onsite energy production as well as establishing relationships with third party energy suppliers to source renewable energy. For more details, read the Renewable Resources section of this report. Our environmental commitment starts in the places where we work—from our corporate campuses to our data centers. Although our facilities now represent only 1 percent of our carbon footprint, they reflect our values, and we want them to act as models for others to follow. This is why we are constantly making our facilities more energy efficient and aggressively investing in renewable energy. In just three years, we’ve reduced our effective Scope 1 and 2 CO2 equivalent (CO2e) emissions by 48 percent, even while our overall energy consumption greatly increased.

      Our approach to renewable energy is based on three principles:

      Displacement.
      We seek to displace more polluting forms of energy in the same electric grid region in which we operate—by putting into the grid an amount of renewable energy equal to the amount of energy taken from the grid by our facilities.

      Additionality
      We strive to create new clean energy that adds to the energy already being supplied to the grid. This generally means participating in renewable energy projects that would not have been built without Apple’s involvement. And we make sure that the energy we count toward our goals is not counted toward the goals that utilities must already meet to comply with state standards, such as the Renewable Portfolio Standard.

      Accountability.
      We apply rigor in measuring and tracking our energy supply resources, and use third-party registries such as WREGIS and NC-RETS, certification programs such as Green-e Energy, and contractual provisions to ensure that all renewable energy supplied to Apple is supplied only to Apple so there’s no double-counting. Where it’s not feasible to create all our own energy, we fulfill the remaining needs with grid-purchased renewable energy, preferably delivered to our facilities or to the same electric grid in which our facilities are located. Here we have been exceptionally rigorous on two fronts: first, in ensuring that grid-purchased renewable energy be from newer projects, with the objective of providing investment incentives to local providers; and second, to secure renewable energy from the grid in the region in which we use it. In cases where we aren’t able to purchase renewable energy in this way due to local regulations, Apple will purchase renewable energy credits, which we register and are careful to retire in certified tracking systems.

      Their offices and data centers powered with a certain percentage of renewable energy, and a certain percentage of coal and natural gas. They subtract the renewable percentage from their total energy usage, and then do a calculation about how much carbon is being emitted to cover the rest. They then pay other companies to install capacity equal to the amount that they’re drawing from carbon intensive sources, and claim that it evens out to zero

      .It’s kind of like if I drove a 73 Plymouth Barracuda with a 426 supercharged Hemi and a nitrous system, and I said I was carbon neutral because I payed my neighbor to drive an electric golf cart.

      • The Element of Surprise says:

        That doesn’t sound like so much of a problem; if the capacities built elsewhere in fact replace non-renewable energy capacities that would be fair enough. In fact, if these capacities are built where there are more opportunities than close to Apple’s data centers (where low hanging fruit have probably already been picked), the result is more efficient. The potential problems I can see are that some renewable energy sources sometimes don’t fully offset carbon emissions because of fluctuations, and that the “would otherwise not have been built” is hard to verify.

    • The Nybbler says:

      In addition to what hyperboloid said, it’s not “wind and solar”. It’s “renewable”. No one runs data centers on wind and solar; they DO typically run them on hydroelectric, which is also “renewable”.

      • Deiseach says:

        So, a combination of the usual sloppy reporting (“hey he said renewable, that’s wind and solar, right?”) and a bit of being “economical with the actualité“: Apple don’t use 100% renewable energy sources, they 100% use renewable energy resources in combination with conventional energy sources, plus they do the carbon offsets thing with paying others to use renewable energy.

        And you’re correct: he said “corporate”, he said nothing about “data centres”. So basically “my office and Larry’s office” and not their big energy-guzzlers.

        Bit like me claiming to be a vegetarian because I just had a salad for my lunch and I paid for my brother’s lunch and he’s a vegan so the meat he didn’t eat totally counts for me, right? 🙂

        And the moral of the story is: newspapers know damn-all about the stuff they print*. The context of the story was Tim Cook barnstorming for moral responsibility. Want to know what Mr Cook has for breakfast when he’s out on a tour saving the nation, nay the very globe itself? Here ya go!

        two scrambled egg whites, crispy bacon (they didn’t have his preferred turkey bacon), sugar-free cereal with unsweetened almond milk

        *At one or two points there’s a very faint demurral from the reporter that, for instance, maybe just maybe Apple is being a bit self-interested in all this charidee work in education, but then he goes right into quoting Tim Cook’s next spiel and drops the whole line of questioning by accepting the reply wholeheartedly.

        • Nornagest says:

          On the American West Coast it’s actually pretty common to run datacenters on hydro power, because it’s fairly cheap, very reliable, and tends to be most available way the hell out in the middle of nowhere where land is cheap and security is easy to provide. I don’t know where Apple puts theirs, but I would not be at all surprised to find them near Bonneville or Grand Coulee. Maybe Niagara on the East Coast but there’s a lot less hydroelectric capacity there.

          It’s not at all cutting-edge, though; hydro is ancient technology and most of the Western dams have been in place since the 20s or 30s.

  35. HFARationalist says:

    The future of the Middle East

    Let’s make some rational predictions about the region. Here “Middle East” is defined according to this article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Middle_East .

    Questions:
    1.Is Islam likely to survive in the Middle East as a major religion by 2100? (“survive as a major religion” is defined as at least 1 million people in the Middle East will believe in Islam in 2100).
    2.Is Islamism likely to survive by 2100? (Islamism is defined as any ideology that impose Islamic values through legal or illegal violence. Hence according to the definition Saudi Arabia is an Islamist nation due to Sharia laws being enforced.)
    3.Is Israel likely to survive by 2100? (By “Israel” I mean the Jewish nation that currently exists. If Israelis establish a new nation outside the Middle East while the current Israel disappears the answer should be false even if the new nation is still called Israel.)
    4.Will only less than half of Middle Easterners be in a low-income or lower middle income country?
    5.Is Kurdistan likely to have existed by 2100? (By “Kurdistan” I mean any stable and independent Kurdish nation that needs to last for at least 5 years. It does not have to be recognized by any other nation.)

    • dndnrsn says:

      Define “believe.”

    • HFARationalist says:

      To clarify this issue, Islamism will “survive” if it will be imposed by at least one state or at least one armed group with at least 1,000 militants on a population.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      1) Yes, religions are very robust, especially established ones.
      2) Yes, the desire to control others is innate. Violence is also an innate response to perceived violation in many personalities.
      3) Yes. Nations generally don’t dissolve except through conquest, and Israel has nukes. Enough Israelis would be too stubborn to move barring force, and they’ve got the force to resist.
      4) I don’t know. This is tough to guess at for one as unknowledgeable on these affairs as I am. Reduced value of extractable oil makes it a very possible possibility that the answer is no.
      5) No clue.

    • Argos says:

      5) Extremely likely, depending on your definition of Kurdish nation. In fact, it’s also extremely likely if the cutoff is 2018:

      “The Democratic Federation of Northern Syria, most commonly known as Rojava, is a de facto autonomous region originating in and consisting of three self-governing cantons in northern Syria. […] The region gained its de facto autonomy in 2012 as part of the ongoing Rojava conflict and the wider Syrian Civil War, establishing and gradually expanding a secular polity based on the democratic confederalist principles of democratic socialism, gender equality, and sustainability.”

      While the majority of the population is Kurdish, the state is designed to be polyethnic rather than Kurdish. On the other hand “Rojava’s dominant political party, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), is a member organisation of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) organisation.”

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rojava#Demographics
      I’d say it fits the bill

      • HFARationalist says:

        I don’t think a nation needs to be 100% Kurdish to qualify as Kurdistan. Otherwise we could also claim that no German, Russian or Jewish nation exists.

        Rojava does not consider itself an independent state though. So it does not satisfy the condition in 5.

    • birdboy2000 says:

      1) Yes, barring human extinction or another religion’s apocalypse or something similarly crazy. Religious change/decline takes longer than 83 years, for Islam to go from dominant to extinct in that timespan would be unprecedented in human history.
      2) Probably. Islamism is a young-ish ideology, but it’s only been growing and has been around long enough (and grasped power in enough states) not to be expected to disappear overnight. Even if it (as I very much hope) it collapses in a revolutionary wave or something, there are still gonna be a couple holdouts.
      3) No. Demographics are against it, unconditional US support is unlikely to last that long, the two-state solution seems to have too many issues to realistically create two viable states. I expect some kind of state encompassing Israel and the West Bank (and probably Gaza) and hope it gets there by some kind of mutually equitable agreement and not a bloody civil/ethnic war.
      4) Lean no – the oil runs out, too much influence from foreign powers who will (and do) act in imperialist ways, & plenty of elite-run governments not committed to even notional equality. Also war and climate change. Hope I’m wrong.
      5) Yes. It’s practically there already. DFNS probably survives the war as a de facto unrecognized state (although it might not count as “Kurdish” by the time it does), and while the independence Barzani is currently promising might actually be a blatant enough power grab to fail, I highly doubt Erbil stays subject even nominally to Baghdad (and right now it’s just nominal anyway) long-term.

    • HFARationalist says:

      Here are my own original predictions before reading others’ posts.
      1.Yes. I believe Islam will be forced to become more moderate. However it will continue to exist just like Christianity. However Islam may die if Muslim lunatics try to start a nuclear war.
      2.Not sure. Islamism will be increasingly dangerous as we move towards the singularity not because its ideology becomes more radical over time but because they will be capable of more damage when we have more technologies. As a result it makes a disastrous war between Islamism and the rest of humanity increasingly likely. And…Islamism is likely to lose the war and get banned by humanity.
      3.Not sure. There are enough crazy antisemitic lunatics who may try to exterminate Jews even if this will also cause themselves to be destroyed.
      4.Not sure. If the stranglehold Islamism has over the Middle East can be weakened maybe the Middle East will be wonderful again. It used to be wonderful so the features that enabled the region to be great might be around.
      5.Yes. I believe that Iraqi Kurdistan is likely to be independent soon and Baghdad probably can not crush the Peshmerga.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I have a feeling that Mecca might get destroyed by extremist Muslims. Thoughts?

      • The Nybbler says:

        Only practical way to destroy Mecca would be a nuke, right? Lots of other ways to do damage, but actual destruction would take an invading army or a nuke. So extremist Muslims get a nuke and use it to destroy Mecca? I guess I could see it, they’d then blame the US and rally all Muslims to their cause in the heat of the outrage. Seems pretty low probability, though; I figure if such a group did get a nuke, top targets would be Manhattan, Washington D.C., Tel Aviv, Haifa. Add Riyadh or Tehran depending on what flavor of extremist; maybe add Jerusalem on the “If we can’t have it, nobody can” theory.

  36. HFARationalist says:

    Free speech zone for rationalists

    I believe we rationalists need a free speech zone. What does that mean? It means a zone where free speech prevails and social censorship does not exist. Nazis, Communists, Christians, Muslims, religious Jews, SJWs, ethnic nationalists, etc all try to impose moral censorship on speech. I believe such censorship is harmful. Only actions can be immoral, not ideas unrelated to any immoral actions. Talking about genocidal race wars and how to prevent them does not make genocidal race wars more likely. Talking about alien invasions does not mean one supports alien invasions. Talking about hypothetical scenarios where Nazis control the world does not mean that you are a Nazi. We need a safe place where we can talk about whatever we want without any social consequences as long as what we do is legal.

    Do we need such a free speech zone and if so how are we supposed to establish it? Do we have to put it on the dark web? We need to make sure that it can resist doxxing by any major non-state entity. This is particularly hard on the site admin for they intentionally refuse to punish those who violate social norms and as a result might be targeted by the mobs.

    • If I might nit pick semantics, I think “free speech” is the wrong term here and would actually generate confusion and allow opponents to easily undermine the credibility of the zone by making you live up to an unrealistic standard. I favor free speech in an absolute sense in the legal realm only, so that anything can be expressed somewhere. In the realm of websites and private forums which are forced to keep things on topic, I would favor some other criteria where the goal is for discussions to serve a particular productive purpose, and then in line with that, the openness comes as a side effect of not letting moral outrage get in the way of efficiency.

      • HFARationalist says:

        I think my criteria is just being rational. A logical fallacy is much worse than “immoral” speech. Hence we should tolerate the latter but not the former.

        For example racial slurs should still be banned on the grounds that they instigate irrationality instead of it being racist or offensive. On the other hand, racism itself should be allowed as long as it does not lead to woo. For example “Group A has an average IQ of 10!” is a statement that needs to be corrected because it is factually incorrect, not because it is offensive to Group A. Persistent support for that opinion due to dogmas probably should lead to a topic ban for promoting irrationality.

    • Brad says:

      There’s some kind of rationalist chan floating around. I’m sure it’s a cesspool like the rest of the chans, but any space with those rules would be a cesspool. Social censorship exists for a good reason.

      • HFARationalist says:

        Where is it?

        • Jugemu says:

          There’s https://8ch.net/ratanon/ but it’s not very active and more irreverent than it sounds like you want. I agree that there’s value in a setting where people are relatively serious and rational and no-one gets to police the topics of discussion, but these open threads are about as close as I’ve seen to that.

          • HFARationalist says:

            Hmm sounds cool! 🙂

            Not a lot of “btfo JIDF” type idiocy.

            I suggest that we use ratanon for the more controversial stuff. If we need something in the form of a forum we should use pm on Rationality Corner to discuss where we can find a safe zone for us.

            Oh we should use VPN when we are on 8chan. It contains too much stuff SJWs are allergic to so we need to hide ourselves when using it. It is sad that we have to do that like the Daily Stormer people.

          • HFARationalist says:

            Reverence does not matter. Nwordmania people are very polite towards each other. They are also disciplined enough to leave any form of racism towards anyone who isn’t black off the board. That does not make them less mean to their target, black people who they consider nonhuman animals that need to die. (No I’m not exaggerating. They actually consider the value of black lives to be negative. That makes them much worse than almost every mainstream far right website you can find.)

  37. Worm fanfic author Ack seems to be greatly concerned lately about his stories getting caught up in the culture wars. Recently he announced suspension of one of his ongoing stories, “Slippery Slope”, because its subject matter (Taylor joins Empire 88, a neo-Nazi gang) was too politically sensitive. Now, he prefaced the latest chapter to another of his stories, “Trump Card”, with this note:

    The overall title of this story refers to the power category ‘Trump’ in the web-novel Worm by J. C. McRae. Specifically, it has nothing to do with any American political figures. At all. This fanfic should not be taken as support for any such figures.

    https://www.fanfiction.net/s/10894754/33/Trump-Card

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