"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 86.75

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927 Responses to Open Thread 86.75

  1. Thegnskald says:

    On the constant communication issues between tribes, a focus point: The concept of freedom. I will be generalizing a lot about what and how people believe; this is intended to be explanatory rather than authoritative.

    So, let’s take the group that talks about freedom the most, the libertarians. To libertarians, “freedom” means the absence of coercive force; it means not being forced into things, or forced out of things. The Non Aggression Principle is, functionally, freedom. Notably, the libertarian concept of freedom lacks internal conflict; the freedom of person A doesn’t impose constraints on the freedom of person B. Libertarians are prone to seeing kings as being limited in freedoms, owing to the mutuality of coersive forces. (This is difficult to explain, a libertarian might do better, but approximately, there is no “freedom” to limit somebody else’s freedom, as you are destroying your own freedom by forcing the interaction into a coersive framework.)

    This provides a useful foil to look at the Left concept of freedom, which is performative, or oriented around positive rights; the Left concept of freedom is the ability to do things. The absence of coersion is a necessary but not sufficient condition for Left freedom; you also need the means to act. This concept of freedom in which “Property is theft” makes sense; if you own the only boat in the world, your ownership of it is effectively meaning only you have the freedom to (the capacity to) go to sea. The Left concept of freedom is full of conflict, as a result, as everybody’s freedoms are being limited by everybody else, and government has a role in ensuring an even allocation of freedom.

    The Right version of freedom is more choice or decision oriented; it looks, not at the actions available to you or the coersions you may face, but at the range of available choices you have available, and the consequences of those choices – the ability to choose is dependent on your choices meaning something, thus consequences are a critical element of Right freedom. There is less overt conflict than the Left concept of freedom, but instead, regarded as choices, freedom includes the ability to make poor choices. This produces a situation in which certain forms of freedom are obviously bad (and disagreements on this are where the conflicts arise), and limits on those freedoms are transparently good ideas.

    Thus, the Left sees the Libertarian concept of freedom as hollow and meaningless and the results as heartless – what does it matter if you aren’t being prevented from doing something if you can’t do it anyways? And the Right sees the Libertarian concept of freedom as dangerous and irresponsible, since, from their perspective, all Libertarian freedom has to offer is the ability to make poor choices.

    The Libertarians see the Left concept of freedom as – well, authoritarian, because it necessitates coersive force to maintain. The Right sees the Left concept of freedom as subversive and undermining the point of freedom, since the point of choice is picking your outcome, and erasing part of the consequences is erasing your agency in having chosen.

    The Libertarians see Right concepts of freedom as, again, authoritarian, because removing poor choices from consideration requires coercive force. The Left sees the Right focus on choice and consequences as heartless and erosive of freedom, as consequences limit your future capacity to act.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      Perhaps I’ve misunderstood, but what you’ve written seems self-contradictory as regards what you call the “Right”. In some places you write that they are against the ability to make poor choices and in other places you effectively write that they are for it.

      • Thegnskald says:

        Their idea of freedom appears to be oriented around choices – this is not the same as being in favor of all freedom within the context, rather, it produces a conceptualization in which it is self-evident that not all freedom is good.

        • Sniffnoy says:

          Sorry, but this doens’t really clarify matters. Could you perhaps give examples to illustrate the distinction you’re making?

          • powerfuller says:

            Forgive me if this is way off, but my reading was that in the Right framework, it is important people be allowed to make poor choices, otherwise they aren’t free to make choices. Also, it’s important they be allowed to suffer the negative consequences of their choices, otherwise their choices aren’t meaningful, and how free can you be if you’re only free to make choices that don’t affect anything? Most of the time, the negative outcomes are the natural feedback mechanism to prevent people from making such choices too often/repeatedly (which is another reason people ought be allowed to fail), but sometimes the negative outcome is too destructive, so the choice should not be allowed. People may argue over what counts as too destructive. So for example, if you blow your whole paycheck playing dice and go hungry until your next one, that’s what you (revealed preference) wanted. To give you money from the public funds to buy food is both unfair to people who didn’t go gambling and robs you of the meaningful consequences of your actions and your opportunity to learn. On the other hand, getting addicted to heroin is so destructive to your well-being that it ought be disallowed preemptively. People may disagree whether gambling is destructive enough to be banned, or heroin benign enough to be allowed. In general, it’s assumed you know what’s good for you better than we do, but common sense or cultural conceptions of what makes a good life mark the outer limits, more so than with the libertarians.

            Is that a fair formulation?

          • Randy M says:

            Sounds pretty good to me, and recapitulates a recent argument I had on here about fairness.

          • Aapje says:

            @Sniffnoy & Thegnskald

            Isn’t a major distinction between libertarians and the right that the libertarians want people to face the natural consequences of their choices, but the right wants to see people rewarded for the ‘right’ choices and punished for the ‘wrong’ choices. So the latter are much more happy to have the government punish people who they think did something bad or reward people who they did something good.

            Similarly, the distinction between the left and the right is often that the left prefers to teach people not to make bad choices, and if they nevertheless do, wants to treat them with kindness. The right is generally much more cynical and thinks that people can only be convinced not to make bad choices, if they see people suffer greatly for making those bad choices. Similarly, they think that people often only do good things for a reward, so they want big rewards (and thus large income disparities).

          • Thegnskald says:

            Aapje –

            It is my understanding that the Right isn’t interested in punishing people for making the wrong choices, per se, so much as trying to make the bad choices more obviously bad; that is, the right would be happier in a universe in which nobody does meth and nobody gets punished for making or doing it, and that is the world they are trying to achieve.

            Whereas libertarians see the punishment itself as unjust – and while they have no direct interest in making people experience the negative sides of their own decisions, they see making other people subsidize those bad decisions by use of force to be a distinctly bad thing.

            The right, meanwhile, does want people to experience the downsides of their decisions – not out of a perverse sense of justice, necessarily, but because they see adverse consequences as a necessary element of freedom, as much as positive consequences.

    • John Schilling says:

      If you own the only boat in the world, your ownership of it is effectively meaning only you have the freedom to (the capacity to) go to sea.

      Because of course nobody else can build another boat. Since most people do have the ability to either build boats or build/do things that can be traded for boats, I think that your formulation of,

      the Lefts concept of freedom is the ability to do things

      is incomplete. Ability to do things without effort, maybe?

      Or maybe this is a self-fulfilling prophecy: nobody else can, or at least nobody else will, build another boat in a world dominated by the claim, “You didn’t build that!” and seven billion people waiting in line to demand a share.

      • Iain says:

        This is uncharitable. Can you really not think of a single excludable resource?

        Moreover, you’re missing the broader point. Libertarians are concerned with the absence of coercion: is anybody preventing you from having a boat? The left sees coercion as one element of a broader question: do people actually have access to boats?

        On Hypothetical Island, there is only one boat, owned by Sailor Jim, and no trees suitable for boat-building. Do we always maximize freedom by letting Sailor Jim do whatever he wants with the boat? If there are no laws constraining what Sailor Jim can do with his boat, but many people who want to go to sea cannot, is that more or less free than a world with restrictive boat laws where most people can get to sea? Does it depend on additional details? If so, what details?

        • Incurian says:

          Maybe much of the ideological differences boil down to whether or not you think we’re living on an island with one boat.

          • Wrong Species says:

            To some extent we are. No, one guy doesn’t have access to all resources. But the idea that everyone can have a plot of land they can call their own doesn’t really jive with reality. What chance does the homeless guy have to acquire his own domain? Yes, theoretically he could but in actuality it’s probably not going to happen.

          • Maybe much of the ideological differences boil down to whether or not you think we’re living on an island with one boat.

            +1

          • Aapje says:

            Maybe much of the ideological differences boil down to whether or not you think we’re living on an island with one boat.

            This also does back to Different Worlds. One person can live in an environment or have things he cares about that requires cooperation to achieve the desired results, while another person lives in an environment or cares about things that are far more easily to achieve individually. The urban/rural divide may play a major role here, for example.

            And of course, people often see what they expect to see. Perhaps people with certain (big 5) traits are prone to see opportunity and disregard their dependency on others/luck factors/etc; while people with other traits have an opposite bias.

          • Iain says:

            Maybe much of the ideological differences boil down to whether or not you think we’re living on an island with one boat.

            The applicability of One Boat Theory obviously varies depending on what resources you’re talking about, and where you draw the line is ideological.

            But if you accept the claim that libertarians measure freedom by lack of coercion and leftists measure freedom based on ability to access that freedom, there’s an asymmetry here in favour of the left. On questions where avoiding coercion really does maximize access, leftists are free to adopt the libertarian approach. Government intervention is a means, not an end. The same is not true in the other direction: even in true One Boat cases, it’s hard for a libertarian to embrace intervention.

          • Incurian says:

            Another thought: even in a one-boat world, the answer to what is the best way to run the economy is not obviously “coercion.” Presumably that boat guy will need to trade for water and stuff. Maybe that’s taking the hypothetical too literally, but it seems that the scenario assumes not only that there is just one boat and no one can ever make another, but that boats are the only possible resource and everyone is without a boat is fucked forever (maybe something about comparative advantage?).

            It doesn’t matter how many boats there are, markets are awesome.

            Iain: It’s debatable whether coercion tends to maximize access, and obviously it’s also debatable whether markets do. I don’t think the left is generally free (in their own sense of the term) to take the liberty approach because they have a strong presumption in favor of coercion.

          • Iain says:

            …they have a strong presumption in favor of coercion.

            There’s a conversation happening further down the thread in which Wrong Species is doing a poor job of modeling libertarians. This kind of comment is the same mistake, applied to a different group.

            The left does not have a “strong presumption in favour of coercion”. If it looks like they do, it is because you are standing on a strong presumption against intervention, and assuming it is neutral ground. The left may not have an instinctive revulsion to government power, but that doesn’t mean that they see government power as a terminal goal.

            Another thought: even in a one-boat world, the answer to what is the best way to run the economy is not obviously “coercion.” Presumably that boat guy will need to trade for water and stuff.

            Suppose that Sailor Jim hates redheads with a fiery passion, and refuses to allow any redheads on his boat. As a result, the redheads of Hypothetical Island face significant disadvantages, relative to the blondes and brunettes with whom Sailor Jim is prepared to do business. Redheads have all the same legal rights, but their practical ability to exercise their freedom of movement is curtailed.

            It would be quite reasonable, from a leftist point of view, to pass a law mandating that people cannot be excluded from boat rides based on their hair colour, while otherwise allowing Sailor Jim to sell boat rides on the free market. From a libertarian standpoint, the options are basically to tell redheads to suck it up, or to deny the plausibility of the hypothetical.

            Leftism is more robust than hard-line libertarianism to the least convenient possible world. (This is largely a statement about hard-line libertarianism, not about leftism; the non-libertarian right has a similar advantage in ideological flexibility.)

          • Incurian says:

            There’s a conversation happening further down the thread in which Wrong Species is doing a poor job of modeling libertarians. This kind of comment is the same mistake, applied to a different group.

            I see the symmetry, but I think the difference is that I am right.

            From a libertarian standpoint, the options are basically to tell redheads to suck it up, or to deny the plausibility of the hypothetical.

            I feel for the redheads, but I think the alternative is worse because…

            Leftism is more robust than hard-line libertarianism to the least convenient possible world.

            I don’t agree with this. In the least convenient possible world, markets fail despite all incentives to be efficient, but governments are effective despite all incentives to be corrupt? I think you are cherry-picking which aspects of this world are actually inconvenient. At this point I should also point out that I’m not taking the position that markets are instantly perfect, efficient, and just, but they are almost always better than the alternative. The idea that we can embrace markets when they work well and use coercion when they don’t doesn’t impress me, I don’t have faith that in the least convenient world:
            a. We can identify where markets aren’t working
            b. We can make regulations that are net improvements to those markets
            c. Leftists will ever agree that markets are working well enough to stop tinkering with them
            d. Special interests won’t abuse government to benefit themselves at a cost to society

            I would let a omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent alien be my king, but short of that I put more faith in markets.

          • Iain says:

            I see the symmetry, but I think the difference is that I am right.

            Well, I guess that’s that. I am surprised to discover that I have a strong presumption in favour of coercion, but clearly you know best.

            The least convenient world for non-libertarians is one in which markets are superior in every single case. The least convenient world for libertarians is one in which intervention is superior at least once. (I will leave the relative plausibility of these worlds as an exercise for the reader.) The overall least convenient world is one in which markets are often, but not always, the right choice.

            It would be remarkably convenient if a single simple heuristic always produced the best outcomes. It would certainly save a lot of time and effort.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            The left may not have an instinctive revulsion to government power, but that doesn’t mean that they see government power as a terminal goal.

            The claim that they see it as a terminal goal has long bothered me, I confess. I see it made frequently. I can certainly see powerful people on the left who resort to it for its own sake, but that’s the motte; claiming that bohemian sandal wearers do the same is the bailey that doesn’t quite hold up to me.

            If I try to steelman the left’s argument, it’s rather that they see a solution that leaves everyone better off, and that solution is so clear to them that they’re willing to resort to big guys with sticks to enforce it. The existence of free agents who disagree isn’t relevant; they are clearly missing some key information, focusing too hard on irrelevant information, using misinformation, or are malicious. And there isn’t time to determine which and arrive at a consensus, as ideal as that might be. Better to proceed to implementation, and demonstrate success.

            Is this accurate to a first approximation?

            — Meanwhile:

            It would be quite reasonable, from a leftist point of view, to pass a law mandating that people cannot be excluded from boat rides based on their hair colour, while otherwise allowing Sailor Jim to sell boat rides on the free market.

            The failure mode I tend to see here is one I get by “going backward in time”. Suppose Sailor Jim knows he’s going to have to offer rides to every Tom, Dick, and Redhead if he builds that boat. What if, knowing that, he chooses not to build that boat in the first place? Then no one has a boat at all. How would we acquire a boat in that case? Indeed, what if we had trees on the island, but never realized one could tie enough trees together and weave cloth and hang it up to catch the wind and thus travel across the water? What if only one person made that connection, but kept it to himself because he knew he’d never be able to keep his brainchild, even if he got it to work?

            How many such opportunities are passing us by, unknown and invisible, because of a fear that anything that successful will be promptly nationalized?

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            I doubt that the coercion is very often an end in itself, but the democratic decision-making process lying behind it might well be.

          • Standing in the Shadows says:

            How many such opportunities are passing us by, unknown and invisible, because of a fear that anything that successful will be promptly nationalized?

            When I was a young kid, it was quite common for teachers to require that if you brought something cool to class, you had to have enough for everyone, or she would confiscate it.

            What this resulted in is everyone learned to only show and share cool things with friends they lived near and only very carefully and surreptitiously with friends they knew at school.

            I learned to be sneaky and secretive there. Maybe that was the intended lesson…

          • JayT says:

            The left does not have a “strong presumption in favour of coercion”.

            I would say that is true for the more mainstream left, but “a strong presumption in favor of coercion” is literally the point of socialism.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I would say that is true for the more mainstream left, but “a strong presumption in favor of coercion” is literally the point of socialism.

            This is why I often assert to self-proclaimed socialist friends and acquaintances that they aren’t really socialists. The strong sense I get from talking to them about their views is that they believe – in a manner very similar to social conservatives – that their way of doing things is correct, or at least an obvious improvement over status quo, and if it’s not as obvious to some people, it will quickly become so once implemented. Coercion would only be necessary for people as recalcitrant as, say, a mugger. Most people will note that things are either much better, or at least not bad, under the new system, settle down, and realize that working together benefits everyone. In other words, they’re really what I’d tend to call “cooperationalists”.

            In that sense, the failure mode I perceive are those in which people disagree with their ideas for what I consider to be legitimate reasons. In turn, the sense I get from them is that they’re perfectly aware that good people can disagree on details; that’s what voting’s for. (It’s much harder for good people to disagree on fundamentals, but this is where the discussion gets rather murky.)

          • Iain says:

            If I try to steelman the left’s argument, it’s rather that they see a solution that leaves everyone better off, and that solution is so clear to them that they’re willing to resort to big guys with sticks to enforce it. The existence of free agents who disagree isn’t relevant; they are clearly missing some key information, focusing too hard on irrelevant information, using misinformation, or are malicious. And there isn’t time to determine which and arrive at a consensus, as ideal as that might be. Better to proceed to implementation, and demonstrate success.

            I am trying to figure out how best to respond to this, because it is such a libertarian steelman of leftism. It’s not that it’s wrong; it’s just that it has a laser focus on specifically libertarian concerns. So, minor quibbles:

            Nobody except libertarians thinks about passing laws as “resorting to big guys with sticks to enforce them”. Guys with sticks are a vanishingly tiny part of how laws are enforced in the real world. I would prefer to say that laws are enforced by the overall rule of law — a complicated system of courts, police officers, legislatures, and so on. The state’s monopoly on the legitimate use of violence is a backstop for the rule of law in extreme situations, but it’s not the most salient piece. The moral authority for laws comes from the democratic procedure that produces them, and from the judicial process that reviews them for constitutionality, and so on — not from the enforcement mechanism.

            Similarly, the existence of people who disagree with a law is not a major area of concern. Consensus is not a realistic target. From a left (non-libertarian?) point of view, the question is simply: is the world a better place if we pass this law than if we don’t? If people disagree, there are safety valves built into the system. Laws can be overturned through new legislation. Certain rights are agreed to be essential — constitutional, you might say — and given special protection by the courts.

            Notice that your entire steelman of leftism is a series of responses to objections, rather than constructive justifications. That’s because the underlying justifications are obvious. The ability to set rules about how we are going to behave as a society is pretty useful! Libertarians are, after all, perfectly willing to enforce restrictions against murder and theft. The difference is just that libertarians have come up with reasons to draw distinctions between different types of rules. If you do not find those distinctions compelling, then it’s not hard to see how you end up as a “supporter” of government power. If I have a hammer, and I don’t have a moral opposition to hammers, and I see a nail…

            To be clear, I am not claiming that government power can’t be overused. Some problems aren’t nails. There are plenty of issues on which I find libertarian arguments compelling on pragmatic grounds. It’s the underlying principle — freedom can only be measured as a lack of coercion — with which I disagree.

            If you think that the Redhead Boat Access Act is bad because it discourages investment and leads to fewer boats for everyone, then I think you’re probably wrong, but there’s room for us to reconcile our opinions. Maybe you can show me that boat production (or small business ownership, or scientific innovation, or whatever) plummeted in the aftermath; maybe I can convince you that it didn’t.

            On the other hand, if you think that the Redhead Boat Access Act is bad because it is state coercion, and therefore morally wrong, then the asymmetry that I’ve been talking about comes into full force. This is the position that I’ve been calling “hard-line libertarianism”, and I claim that it is not robust to genuine One Boat circumstances in which a bit of intervention clearly makes society better off overall.

          • There is an important distinction between two lines of argument for the libertarian view that I think is mostly being missed here. One line is the idea that coercion is inherently wrong, that one should not coerce people even if doing so produces net benefits, even if it produces benefits for those being coerced. That’s a moral intuition that I think exists to some degree in most people. I don’t think most, even on the left, are comfortable with the idea of a benevolent slave society where some people have all their decisions made for them by other wiser people.

            The other is the argument that a society where coercion for good purposes is considered legitimate will work worse, produce worse outcomes by measures common to left and right, than one where it is not. Seen from this standpoint, the claim is that the idea that people are entitled to freedom in the libertarian sense produces better outcomes than the idea that they are entitled to freedom in the left sense, which libertarians would call “power”–the ability to get what they want.

            Obviously that wouldn’t be true if the coercion was being exercised by a benevolent, omniscient actor, since he would only coerce when doing so produced good effects. But we don’t have any of those. The people who actually decide to coerce are not outsiders but part of the game, individuals with their own interests, and will use their ability to coerce to promote those interests. If the basic rule is the libertarian one, most of the ways in which I can promote my interests benefit rather than injuring others, since I need their consent to buy from them or sell to them. In a system where there is some mechanism by which some people get to coerce others that is not the case.

            To put the point a little differently, one attraction of the libertarian view of freedom is that my freedom is not normally in conflict with yours. With the left view of freedom–power–there is an inherent conflict, since my doing what I want requires resources that you could use to do what you want. In order for me to have food or medical care someone else has to provide it, which reduces his power to get what he wants.

            This shows up pretty clearly in the attitudes of the left. Most of the rhetoric takes for granted an essential conflict, whether between classes, races, or genders. That’s a natural perception if the issue is who gets to achieve more of what he wants at the cost of someone else achieving less of what he wants. It isn’t a natural perception if the issues is who gets to not be coerced, since it isn’t necessary for me to coerce you in order that you not coerce me.

            I’m oversimplifying a little, but I think the basic point is correct.

            Seen from the standpoint of this view of libertarianism, the essential arguments are not philosophy but economics.

          • Incurian says:

            The least convenient world for non-libertarians is one in which markets are superior in every single case. The least convenient world for libertarians is one in which intervention is superior at least once. (I will leave the relative plausibility of these worlds as an exercise for the reader.) The overall least convenient world is one in which markets are often, but not always, the right choice.

            I don’t understand this, could you break it down for me?

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            @Iain: I think you couldn’t help but respond the right way (so long as you didn’t treat it as an opportunity for snark or something). After all, I did ask if this was accurate. I take what you’re saying here as that it’s kinda accurate, but incomplete in some important ways.

            You’re right that this was a libertarian way of looking at the liberal mindset; libertarians were the primary audience I had in mind (although I didn’t think to say so). And we agree that “big guys with sticks” is only a minor part of enforcement in a liberal’s system. I’ll add that this is why I think the libertarian lament “taxation is theft” rings hollow to liberal ears; liberals simply don’t see it that way. You give your money to the government to use wisely – that is, to spend on what aligns with the expressed will of the voters. You could refuse, but you won’t, and not because of the big sticks, but rather because you’d be doing your fellows a disservice.

            By contrast, the libertarian tends to believe that anyone who believes in helping their fellows will do so of their own accord, either personally, or with a group they trust. Given that, why have the state? they ask. And they answer that the only role the state is playing here is to provide those sticks in case you don’t feel that way. Extreme case, yes. But then they notice that we seem to be spending a lot of money on that extreme…

            But wait! the liberal reminds. We’re not just spending this money on the extreme case; the libertarian left out those courts and legislatures and coordinators. Suppose we honestly tried to do things the libertarian way. How long would it take for an honest charitable organization to spend comparable amounts of money doing nothing but measuring the problem, tracking it, analyzing it, building the measuring framework, and keeping its books in order? (Recall A Definite Beta Guy’s effortposts on accounting… and how much time do EAs spend simply meeting with EAs and talking about EA? And how many times do these admin problems end up having to be solved? the liberal cleverly injects… might be worth a general solution…)

            This isn’t the only problem libertarians have with state coercion, though, as you imply in the distinction they draw between laws against murder and theft, and laws enforcing other things. The way I put it, they ask what to do in cases where there’s significant disagreement on allocation – say, anything from 50-50 to 70-30 – which, by the way, seems to include nearly every bill that makes the news in Congress, and also includes every single Presidential popular vote since Monroe – and claim that a vote won’t cut it in a lot of these situations, esp. when there’s enough money involved to be worth rigging the vote. David Friedman’s point about benevolent, omniscient actors not existing is borne out here. We can’t rely on maximizing benevolence via a vote, when the candidates are aware of that voting process and are allowed to affect it. Curiously, liberals appear to strongly agree… but disagree on the specific cases in which this is happening. And I notice that for liberals, libertarians, and conservatives, the vote is typically considered fair when it aligns with the observer’s preferences…

            I left out the justifications, too. I considered them obvious, as you appear to. More education is better. Less violence is better. Better health care is better. (Our rivers are full of fish! The future lies ahead of us!) There’s plenty of shared ground. I just bleeped past that stuff only because the most interesting bits are the points of contention.

            Education, defense, roads, courts, health care, yes, all those things are valuable to just about everyone, but libertarians ask how valuable each one is relative to the others? and gets frustrated when they don’t get a straight answer, and eventually conclude that they never will, because everyone obviously scores everything differently when asked, and changes their mind frequently. Which is where a lot of the call for decentralization comes from. They want that coupling to be weak, because it is weak.

            Just to lay some cards on the table: I think “all state power is illegitimate” gets a lot of support because it’s short and simple, rather than being correct. I suspect a lot of libertarians would be demoralized when they find out how expensive some of these systems actually need to be. (Conservatives seem to be used to this level of toil, and will likely muscle through it in cases where libertarians will run out of energy.) Some systems might be dramatically cheaper, but there’s no obvious consensus on which ones (and libertarians have a habit of saying we can’t know, on principle, because fatal conceit).

            So, there’s my stab at a second-level approximation. How’m I doing so far?

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Redhead Boat Access Act: personally, I’m against it because of your former reason, and not even that strongly, so yes, I’d say there’s room for reconciliation so long as I think my concerns are being addressed seriously. In other words, I think I’m a libertarian to the extent that I think it leaves everyone better off.

            Believing “state coercion is wrong” as a moral endpoint doesn’t really jibe with this consequentialist view, IMO. But it’s also a useful shortcut for the longer argument, which does jibe with consequentialism. Any state coercion eventually culminates in someone being forced to do something they don’t want to do, or else big stick. It doesn’t matter how far out on the tail of the bell curve that occurs (excepting murder and theft), because someone’s going to be on that margin. If no one was on that margin, then there’d be no need for state coercion and we wouldn’t need to have this conversation.

            Meanwhile, the system of courts and fines and various other devices that lie between someone’s non-coerced consent and the big sticks is what libertarians are (supposed to be) in favor of, provided they’re private. For example, there’s nothing wrong in the libertarian mindset with responding to Sailor Jim’s redhead boycott with an embargo from everyone who supports redheads. Or a negotiation with Jim to pay him enough to relent on the boycott. Or an effort to solve whatever problems his boat solves in other ways. Or a mix of all of these.

            So I’m comfortable with your definition of “hard-line libertarian”, although I would want to engage with anyone who uses that argument to distinguish true hardliners from people who are just making this mental shortcut.

          • Iain says:

            @Incurian:

            I don’t understand this, could you break it down for me?

            Assume for the purposes of this discussion that the dividing line between libertarians and non-libertarians is the question of whether it is ever justified for a government to intervene in a market. (You: “At this point I should also point out that I’m not taking the position that markets are instantly perfect, efficient, and just, but they are almost always better than the alternative.”)

            If I am trying to defend the non-libertarian side of that line, the least convenient possible world is one in which government intervention is always negative — that is, “markets are superior in every single case”. This is because non-libertarians are not trying to eliminate the market completely. A leftist can justify not intervening in quite a large number of markets before reaching an ideological crisis.

            If I am trying to defend the libertarian side of the line, the crisis point comes much sooner, because libertarians want to eliminate all government intervention. The non-libertarian side has the option of saying “Okay, yeah, those arguments against intervention sound good. We won’t intervene here.” The libertarian side cannot use the same approach very often at all before calling the entire endeavour into question. Because of this, hypothetical worlds become inconvenient for libertarians at a relatively low threshold of successful intervention. Not only must it be true that it is very rarely superior for a government to intervene — it must also be true that there are no good mechanisms for correctly identifying those rare occasions.

            As a person trying to decide between libertarianism and non-libertarianism, the least convenient world is the one in which they both have good points and there’s no easy mechanism to decide whether or not intervention is good in a given scenario. Unfortunately, that world is much more compatible with non-libertarianism — at least it hasn’t ruled out a huge chunk of the solution space out of hand. Libertarianism proposes that the easiest way to make decisions (never intervene!) is also the best way. It would certainly be convenient if the universe organized itself to make things so easy; I, for one, am suspicious.

            Clearer?

            @Paul Brinkley:

            I don’t think I significantly disagree with any of that. At the end of the day, I think society is messy and difficult, and you’re better off acknowledging that messiness than trying to impose a nice clean system. I like libertarianism to the extent that it points out the problems in everybody else’s nice clean systems, and disagree with libertarianism to the extent that it tries to substitute its own.

          • Nornagest says:

            because libertarians want to eliminate all government intervention.

            The ideology you’re thinking of is ancap. Most libertarians are okay with government intervention in some set of cases. Usually a small one, because libertarians.

          • Iain says:

            @Nornagest:

            Yes. See the first paragraph of my post.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Guys with sticks are a vanishingly tiny part of how laws are enforced in the real world. I would prefer to say that laws are enforced by the overall rule of law — a complicated system of courts, police officers, legislatures, and so on. The state’s monopoly on the legitimate use of violence is a backstop for the rule of law in extreme situations[…]

            No, the state resorts to guys with sticks violence for small infractions. It’s just that we have such a well-trained populace nowadays that either they don’t run into it or they consider it perfectly normal. Drive a bit too fast: meet a guy with a stick. Ride your bicycle on the sidewalk: meet a guy with a stick. Refuse to pay a train fare: meet a guy with a stick. The state’s all about guys with sticks.

          • The least convenient world for libertarians is one in which intervention is superior at least once.

            No. The least convenient world for libertarians is one in which institutions that permit government intervention on net do more good than harm.

            The distinction matters. It’s pretty easy to think of situations in which a sufficiently wise and benevolent government intervention could be superior to pure markets. It’s very hard to describe institutions such that government will only intervene in those situations.

          • Not only must it be true that it is very rarely superior for a government to intervene — it must also be true that there are no good mechanisms for correctly identifying those rare occasions.

            You are getting a little closer there, but two things are wrong with what you wrote:

            1. Even if it is quite often superior for a government to intervene, allowing government intervention may still be a mistake if there are no good mechanisms for correctly identifying those occasions. So to show that allowing government intervention is desirable you need both of your conditions, not just either one of them.

            2. “Correctly identifying” isn’t enough. You need institutions such that it is in the interest of the people who do the intervening to correctly identity the situations where intervention is good and intervene in only those situations.

            I think your implicit model is a philosopher king government, a body of wise and benevolent people who are doing their best to do good. That isn’t your model of the market–and shouldn’t be–so why should it be your model of the political market that produces political outcomes?

          • JayT says:

            Guys with sticks are a vanishingly tiny part of how laws are enforced in the real world. I would prefer to say that laws are enforced by the overall rule of law — a complicated system of courts, police officers, legislatures, and so on.

            You realize that the three examples you give of people that enforce the law all literally carry sticks, right?

          • Mark says:

            To put the point a little differently, one attraction of the libertarian view of freedom is that my freedom is not normally in conflict with yours.

            Ownership (and social relations) are rivalrous, so the only reason why this is true is because the libertarian view of freedom assumes away any question of conflict over ownership.
            We won’t fight about what we want, because we don’t want to fight over what we have. Brilliant! Those darned left wingers, being so selfish and wanting power over others – they really need to check their premises.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            @Mark: I suspect you have a different definition of ownership than libertarians do.

            What do you think it means?

          • Mark says:

            @Paul Brinkley

            Most generally, ability to control use.

            In practice, some kind of social recognition that it is right for you to control the use of something. Where the society doing the recognising is strong enough to provide you with the ability.

            Also, I think there is a natural sense of ownership. We just know that certain things belong to us, that it’s our right to have them.

          • Aapje says:

            @Mark

            That sense of ownership is highly culturally determined though. Many cultures* had no sense of private land ownership until a dominant power who had that concept came around and made them ‘own up.’ Or who simply claimed ownership and started enforcing exclusivity.

            * Especially nomads

          • Mark says:

            @Aapje

            The objects of ownership are certainly culturally determined, I’m not sure that the sense itself is – in my experience children seem to have a stronger sense of ownership than they could possibly have learned from observation.

          • Aapje says:

            @Mark

            I thought that by ‘sense of ownership’ you meant which things people consider owned and which they consider communal property.

            I agree that all people have a sense of ownership for some things.

          • carvenvisage says:

            I think the biggest problem with mandating redhead boat access is the danger that it legitimises boat guy’s position. Hating gingers is just kind of obviously stupid if you think about it, so you should be encouraging people to think about it, which bringing the force of the state down on dissenters (yep, boat guy is no longer a garden variety asshole, he’s a dissenter now) is the opposite of.

          • soreff says:

            @Aapje

            @Mark

            That sense of ownership is highly culturally determined though. Many cultures* had no sense of private land ownership until a dominant power who had that concept came around and made them ‘own up.’ Or who simply claimed ownership and started enforcing exclusivity.

            * Especially nomads

            Wild speculation:

            Perhaps the “sense of ownership” that seems possibly
            innate is shaped by possessions in our evolutionary
            past. At a complete guess: One could imagine a hunter
            or gatherer carrying or wearing a few tools and
            resisting anyone taking those tools away from them –
            And there was no way that they could have enforced
            absentee land ownership of a parcel a thousand miles
            away.

            (Any suggestions on how one would test a guess
            like this???)

            Perhaps the “natural” sense of ownership matches
            something like that, and all the rest of property is
            specific to particular cultures.

          • Aapje says:

            @soreff

            I suspect that sense of ownership depends on a perception of scarcity. It’s basically hoarding and we know that people hoard when they think the shops will run out and don’t when they think the supply is secure.

        • John Schilling says:

          This is uncharitable. Can you really not think of a single excludable resource?

          Boats are not such a resource, and so when someone uses boats as their example I reasonably conclude that their argument is not confined to excludable resources. A conclusion which I find adequately reinforced by the observed behavior of the Left.

          • Thegnskald says:

            I used a boat as an example because I didn’t want to get mired down in the endless complexities of what constitutes valid land ownership and substitution goods, not to mention things like intellectual property or rentier rights. These are things libertarians don’t even agree about amongst themselves, and I didn’t want the discussion to become libertarians fighting about what constitutes libertarianism.

            So I made up a hypothetical, intended to represent these kinds of situations whereby a given resource is limited (artificially or otherwise) by ownership, which precludes actions by others.

            We could instead discuss, say, a land grant from the government that has been passed down eight generations as a nature preserve, in which no conversion has taken place, and which contains the only lake in a three hundred mile radius, and the would-be local fishermen who are upset they they aren’t allowed to fish because a guy who lives a thousand miles away had an ancestor who the governor liked?

            Or maybe we could just discuss the bloody boat, since it is a simpler hypothetical in which to construct the principles?

    • Jaskologist says:

      If life is a skill tree, the Right desires to get deep into a specialization branch. The Left desires to keep all branches available.

      • This sounds interesting, but I have no idea what you mean. Examples maybe?

        • keranih says:

          Right wants Joe Bob to be able to be the best dang shrimp griller on the planet, if that’s what he wants, and if Joe Bob gets enough business at his Shrimp Barbie Factory to pay his bills and shrink and allow him time to experiment with cooking marine invertebrates. Even if that means Joe Bob has no clue how to do anything other than fry shrimp, or if his shrimp grilling obsession means that he caters(*) only to really rich guys, who pay a thousand dollars a shrimp to watch Joe Bob fry them and serve them hot off the grill in sets of three. Some people get awesome shrimp, some people will never get any shrimp, and that sucks.

          Left wants *everyone* to know how to cook seafood without killing themselves. Even if that means “people who hate seafood”, people who like seafood but only if someone else cooks it, people who really should never cook anything for other humans, and people who can’t be trusted around heat sources three days out of five. And even if ‘cook seafood’ only means ‘oven bake catfish until the consistency of a stick’. Everyone gets awful tasting catfish, and that sucks.

          That we were originally talking about grilling shrimp is the point.

          (*) heh.

          • Aapje says:

            @keranih

            That doesn’t seem very charitable or correct.

            I think that a better comparison is that the left generally wants Billy Bob Poorson to have the same chance to become the best shrimp griller on the planet as William Richson III; while the right is much more comfortable with disparate chances, as long as the opportunity is still there if Billy Bob does everything right.

            I don’t see how the left wants everyone to (be able) to do any job, poorly.

        • Jaskologist says:

          In a lot of RPGs, there is a skill tree you climb as you level up. Once you get to a certain point, you need to pick a branch to specialize in. Do you want to specialize in spells that do a lot of damage at once, or do a lot of damage over time? Choosing one branch means forsaking another. But if you don’t choose a path, your abilities will be capped at some low level and you’ll never really be great at anything.

          Should a woman have to choose between a career and a family? The Left would say”Hell no.” The Right would say “what’s ‘should’ got to do with it?”

    • toastengineer says:

      his is difficult to explain, a libertarian might do better, but approximately, there is no “freedom” to limit somebody else’s freedom, as you are destroying your own freedom by forcing the interaction into a coersive framework.

      Enh?

      A king who people believe has the right to do whatever he wants to whomever he wants is perfectly free; I’d object to him being perfectly free because you shouldn’t\don’t have the right to harm other people except to stop them harming people.

      • John Schilling says:

        I’ve seen no shortage of people willing to say, and I don’t doubt that most of them sincerely believe, things along the line of “no man can be truly free unless all men are free”. This seems like an attempt to formalize a definition of “freedom” that encompasses that assertion.

        And I’m not buying it. It is entirely possible for some men to be truly free while other men are slaves pure and simple. It isn’t good, but it is possible and it happens more often than I’d like. I would rather our ability to recognize freedom not be crippled by a feel-good moralistic requirement to define away a huge chunk of the phase space in which freedom actually exists.

        • Deiseach says:

          It is entirely possible for some men to be truly free while other men are slaves pure and simple.

          Do you mean in the “natural slave” sense or the sense “yeah he’s working in the salt mines but I’m a noble at court” sense?

          I think that there is something that can be argued there; if slavery or something analogous to it exists, then that means that freedom is not an absolute right, it is contingent and revocable. A misfortune in war can mean that court noble ends up a slave in the victorious nation’s capital – or salt mine. If not alone the possibility but the actuality of slavery exists, then it can be extended to those formerly considered free, it just needs a slight change in definitions/laws/custom and practice/Mad King Verbrance who thinks he’s a boiled egg now declares everyone below the rank of duke and above the rank of knight his personal property and while he may be cuckoo, he’s a fantastic general, the army loves him to bits and will happily knock the head off anyone who says “oh no I’m not”.

          The only safeguard is to say, and make it stick, that nobody can be enslaved, there are no natural slaves, and turning people into property is no longer a spoil of war.

          • John Schilling says:

            The only safeguard is to say, and make it stick, that nobody can be enslaved, there are no natural slaves, and turning people into property is no longer a spoil of war.

            And what happens when you lose a war to the Mongols, or to ISIS or North Korea or the Nazis or whoever else it is in your world who doesn’t adhere to your ideal? Bam, that’s it, you’re enslaved. What happens when you are wrongfully convicted of the most heinous crimes? Imprisoned, dead, certainly not free.

            This has always been a possibility. It always will be, barring some truly absolute utopia beyond our ability to reasonably foresee. So either “freedom” is a word that does not have any referent in any possible world this side of Heaven and/or the Singularity, or it is a word that refers to a thing that people can have but can also have taken away from them. The latter seems more useful.

          • Deiseach says:

            it is a word that refers to a thing that people can have but can also have taken away from them

            Oh, definitely your freedom can be taken away. But there’s a difference between “that’s only an ideal, it doesn’t actually exist” and “your rights have been infringed”. We have such a thing as theft, but that does not mean that there are no such things as property rights.

          • John Schilling says:

            We have such a thing as theft, but that does not mean that there are no such things as property rights.

            Right, and we don’t say such silly things as “no man can be rich unless all men are rich” or “no man can own property until all thievery is done away with”.

            Well, OK, presumably somebody does, but it’s quite rare

          • Randy M says:

            It is said about criminal justice, I think, if not in that precise formulation. No justice for anyone while an innocent man is punished. (Which isn’t true in my estimation, since justice relates to specific penalties or restitution for acts individually committed, but never mind.)

            It is true about one facet of life by definition: there’s no equality while anyone person is unequal (though there can be equality in certain aspects, and it isn’t all or nothing). Whether it makes sense to think of equality as a right is debatable. Enforcing such a right has proven to be challenging, let’s say.

          • onyomi says:

            we don’t say such silly things as “no man can be rich unless all men are rich”

            We could, however, conceivably say that “no man can be rich if all men are (equally) rich,” since people usually conceive of “rich” in relative terms (otherwise almost everyone in the developed world would consider themselves “rich” by historical standards).

            Question is, what about freedom? Not sure. I am inclined toward the libertarian, negative definition of freedom (“freedom from” (theft, undue search and seizure…), as it seems more conceivable everyone could have that. “Freedom to” (follow your dreams, have access to the best healthcare technology) seems harder to imagine being perfectly, fully distributed across society so that someone won’t feel they’re not getting the short end of the stick.

          • Aapje says:

            @Randy M

            Do people actually say that?

            Benjamin Franklin said: “That it is better 100 guilty Persons should escape than that one innocent Person should suffer, is a Maxim that has been long and generally approved.”

            Voltaire said: “that generous Maxim, that ’tis much more Prudence to acquit two Persons, tho’ actually guilty, than to pass Sentence of Condemnation on one that is virtuous and innocent.”

            Both statements don’t demand that no innocent is convicted, ever, but rather, demand a (strong) bias in favor of the accused. Presumably, both statements are direction pushing anyway.

      • Thegnskald says:

        My understanding is slightly different than the others commenting here; very briefly, the king exists in a system of coercion, which the king cannot be immune to.

        So, while theoretically the king can coerce other people, in practice there is an imminent threat of death if the king rules poorly, or is even perceived as ruling poorly, so the king is as constrained as anyone else – possibly more constrained, in a 1984 “Nobody cares what the proles think” sort of way.

        • Aapje says:

          Indeed. The king doesn’t actually have absolute power in the way that a person who owns a robot army has power. The people he commands have to accept the orders, which is contingent on what he orders them to do.

    • cassander says:

      I see the left wing, at least in the US, coception of freedom much more closely associated with the puritan concept of ordered liberty that pure positivism. John Winthrop defined ordered liberty as “the freedom to do that which is good.” Contrary to Mencken, puritanism is not the haunting fear that someone, somewhere might be happy, but the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, might be enjoying something they shouldn’t be.

    • Wrong Species says:

      To libertarians, “freedom” means the absence of coercive force; it means not being forced into things, or forced out of things.

      That’s not exactly right. Libertarians oppose everything the government does, even when it is functionally the same as what they would approve of if a property owner did it. That’s why they disapprove of property tax but accept rent.

      • Nornagest says:

        …and they think the difference is the absence of coercive force.

        I know you’d probably argue that charging rent implies the use of coercive force, but the topic here is what libertarians think, not what others think about libertarian ideas.

        • Wrong Species says:

          My point is that the action itself isn’t fundamentally different, only the organization that does it. So it’s not exactly right to explain their opposition to something solely based on the action but you have to incorporate the history behind it too.

          • cassander says:

            it is fundamentally different. The government doesn’t give you the option of not paying, the landlord didn’t force you to live in his house.

          • Nornagest says:

            Honestly, I think that’s a weak point myself. The NAP doesn’t play particularly nice with land ownership; there have been a number of attempts to reconcile the two but they tend either to smell pretty post-hoc to me or to go some weird places. But then, I’m not a libertarian.

            That’s not the point, though. The point is that the libertarian theory of freedom really does revolve around the absence of coercion: that’s what libertarian books say, that’s what libertarians themselves say when you ask them. You think you’ve identified a point where that doesn’t work too well; fine, I have some edge cases too, just like I’ve got some for the conservative and liberal versions. But it’s pretty rude to take those edge cases for any ideology and use them to insist that actually its adherents must believe some other, less sophisticated (or more nefarious) thing, especially in a thread that’s explicitly about comparing and contrasting the theory.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @Nornegast

            I’m not saying that libertarians don’t believe what they say. I’m saying that their definition of coercion is idiosyncratic and highly different than the one used by others. It’s like when anarchists say that socialism is superior to capitalism. It’s important to note that their definition of capitalism includes the Soviet Union.

            @Cassander

            In the interests of not clogging up this sub thread, I responded more thoroughly to you below.

      • IrishDude says:

        You claim a government charging property taxes is functionally equivalent to a property owner charging rent to a tenant. I’d agree, but only in the sense that a stranger coming to my property I own and charging rent is equivalent to a property owner charging rent. If you own your property, and someone else that doesn’t own your property forces you to give them money for ‘rent’ or ‘property taxes’, most people would consider them thieves.

        A robber pointing a gun at a victim to take their money is functionally equivalent to a victim then pointing a gun at the robber to take their money back. The morality of the situations is different, I hope you’d agree.

      • Garrett says:

        Libertarians oppose everything the government does

        Certainly not. Libertarians ask what the proper role of the government is, and come to different conclusions than others. The generally agreed-upon answers include things like the Courts, infectious-disease control, the police, and the military. There is less agreement about things like roads and the fire department.

        Then there are disagreements about what those elements of government can do (mainly through limitations of what is viewed as legitimate to be in the criminal code).

        • You are using “libertarian” to mean “minarchist.” Some libertarians agree that government has a proper role, some don’t.

          Libertarian rhetoric (“taxation is theft”) isn’t compatible with the classical liberal minimal government that you are describing. On the other hand, “libertarian” meaning someone who wants to maximize liberty might be compatible with it, depending on whether or not there are ways of protecting liberty without a government that end up with more liberty than ways with a government.

    • aNeopuritan says:

      Albion’s Seed explains the difference between freedom and liberty.

    • Baeraad says:

      If the right-wingers and libertarians want the word “freedom” so much, they can have it as far as I’m concerned. I’d rather worry about “well-being” or suchlike. Because:

      This provides a useful foil to look at the Left concept of freedom, which is performative, or oriented around positive rights; the Left concept of freedom is the ability to do things. The absence of coersion is a necessary but not sufficient condition for Left freedom; you also need the means to act.

      To me, this isn’t so much grounds for a new and more convoluted definition of freedom and more a description of why I think freedom – in the sense of lacking exterior coercion – is an ultimately hollow goal. What good is being free to do whatever you want without having your needs met? Whereas on the other hand, having your needs met is a good thing even if you are not free to do whatever you want. Sure, having both at once is better if possible, but let’s worry about needs first and wants second.

      But I admit that that’s just one way that I find myself fitting in oddly with liberalism. From my perspective, modern-day liberals are puritans claiming to be libertines – and while I am all for puritans, the weird mental gymnastics you have to go through to claim to be something you’re not gives rise to all sorts of strange dysfunctions. They’d be a lot more sane and effective – and I’d be a lot more comfortable in supporting them – if they just admitted that yes, they wanted everyone to sit down, shut up and eat their vegetables.

      • Garrett says:

        One question which I haven’t seen the Left answer in a comprehensive fashion is:
        How do you determine what qualifies as a “need” to be met? And who do you have a claim against if it isn’t met?

        As some examples:
        Some countries have decided that Internet access constitutes a basic human right and the government must provide it. If so, how was this not a rights violation the day before? How do we know that this need as been met? Is dial-up good enough? Or is a low-latency high-speed fiber-optic line required?

        If someone dies (ever) can a claim be made that insufficient medical care was provided? After all, death is the ultimate deprivation of needs.

        What would be required for me to claim the sexual services of another (specific or generic) as a “need” and get it fulfilled? How does that principle fit with medical care?

        • Standing in the Shadows says:

          What would be required for me to claim the sexual services of another (specific or generic) as a “need” and get it fulfilled? How does that principle fit with medical care?

          I know there was a lot of crazy stuff written by progressive theorists a century and more ago on this topic, but I’ve never read a primary source for it beyond a few of the better known books by Wells, Orwell, and Huxley, (and Orwell and Huxley were cautionary warnings, not “this will be so awesome!”) and also hundreds of mostly unanswered “whatabout-isms” like the one above.

          So, consider this a rare and humble request for education, from anyone with a more sympathetic view of earlier progressive/left theory than I mine, yeah… what about that?

          • Thegnskald says:

            Legalize prostitution, maybe have state-run brothels, give out vouchers.

            The problem isn’t that there isn’t an obvious solution in Left frameworks (the terribleness of the solution varying with the particular framework in question), the problem (insomuch as we regard the situation as a problem) is that as a society, we don’t actually agree that sex can be meaningfully regarded as a need.

            The people insisting it is a need tend to be… ah, unsympathetic, which means the status quo is unlikely to change soon.

            Although at a certain point, given that I saw women complaining about this long before I heard about the men complaining about it, and given that both groups are still around, the solution seems fairly obvious. But honestly – I don’t think either group would agree to it, because I think their real complaint is that the people they want to have sex with don’t want to have sex with them, rather than that sex is entirely unavailable.

          • rlms says:

            “And all you here in this house, you good types, talk of the prejudice against this Yid and that black burglar bastard, this Paki and that poor woman.”
            “Changez, this is offensive, this is–”
            “But what about ugly bastards? What about us? What about our rights to be kissed?”

        • Aapje says:

          @Garrett

          I think that your thinking is very muddled and really misunderstands the arguments fundamentally.

          How do you determine what qualifies as a “need” to be met?

          In the same way how you determine what criminal laws to enforce (international standards, experts who try to build a consistent system and democratic lawmaking)

          And who do you have a claim against if it isn’t met?

          People can go to the courts if they feel their rights are violated.

          Some countries have decided that Internet access constitutes a basic human right and the government must provide it. If so, how was this not a rights violation the day before? How do we know that this need as been met? Is dial-up good enough? Or is a low-latency high-speed fiber-optic line required?

          The actual basic human right that is claimed is to be able to participate in society above a certain minimal threshold. Not having internet access really hampers people’s ability to find jobs, look up information, manage their finances, participate in the cultural life of the community, etc.

          So the reason why some people believe that the government now has to ensure that everyone can have internet access is that society changed, moving many things to the internet. The quality of internet access that has to be provided is whatever is considered sufficient to participate in society above a certain minimal threshold. This can change over time, for example, if a substantial number of employers start requiring video interviews with job applicants, there may be a need for high-speed internet.

          If someone dies (ever) can a claim be made that insufficient medical care was provided? After all, death is the ultimate deprivation of needs.

          The human right to life is really the right not to be killed. This is separate from the right to medical care, which is not a right to live forever. The idea that medical care is about ‘not dying’ is not what many people believe anyway.

          What would be required for me to claim the sexual services of another (specific or generic) as a “need” and get it fulfilled? How does that principle fit with medical care?

          A person may have a need for sexual release, but that doesn’t mean they have a need for sexual release with another person. Masturbation exists*. It has nothing to do with medical care, since sexuality is not a disease.

          Even if coitus is seen as a human need, this doesn’t mean that it has to be provided as a social service, since rights can conflict and then societies have to decide to what extent they can ensure that each right is met.

          One of your main mistakes seems to be that you think that the left demands that their rights are met fully, rather than realize that there are realistic limits. People often make extreme, direction pushing claims (like: “people deserve X”) without making clear that they actually believe in a more limited claim. Of course, this is certainly not limited to the left.

          * Some Dutch counties finance prostitutes for handicapped people who can not masturbate and cannot afford a prostitute themselves.

      • Civilis says:

        What good is being free to do whatever you want without having your needs met? Whereas on the other hand, having your needs met is a good thing even if you are not free to do whatever you want.

        At a meta-level, one of the most important freedoms is the freedom to prioritize which of your needs are more important than others, especially when it comes to the more abstract needs. There’s a reason that the pursuit of happiness is spelled out in the Declaration of Independence, and there’s a reason that it’s specifically the pursuit of happiness that’s a right.

        Any system has to deal with the problem scarcity. Promise to meet everyone’s needs for food are worthless if there isn’t enough food for everyone; someone’s promise is going to be worthless. When you apply this to abstract needs, like the need for friendship or respect or self-esteem, things which can’t be objectively measured and doled out by a central authority, you’ve made the problem worse. Sure, I might not actually find all those emotional needs stumbling for it on my own. But I have a much better chance of getting as many of my needs as possible by rationally assigning personal value to what I want and what I am willing to trade for it.

        • “At a meta-level, one of the most important freedoms is the freedom to prioritize which of your needs are more important than others, especially when it comes to the more abstract needs”

          True-ish but there is an important exception: you can’t do or pursue or have anything without being alive. An attempt to make freedom, or anything else, a higher priority than life therefore leads to paradoxes.

      • There is a non libertarianism right, you know. They have to go through weird gymnastics to explain why you should be free to kill any kind of animal with any kind of weapon, but not to ingest any kind of chemical or wear any clothes or engage in any kind of sex. Actually, puritanism about sex and drugs is more central.

    • IrishDude says:

      Thus, the Left sees the Libertarian concept of freedom as hollow and meaningless and the results as heartless – what does it matter if you aren’t being prevented from doing something if you can’t do it anyways?

      I see the absence of coercion as the substrate on which all other sorts of ways of life can be implemented. Don’t hit people and don’t take their stuff are the basics of living well with other people, but that’s not where freedom ends. People should be free to build churches and community centers, charities and recreation leagues, mutual aid societies and book clubs, rationalist communities and crowd-funded investments. Libertarianism has tons of room for people to engage in heart-felt connections and activities, and for the people on the Left that find it distressing that some people might not be able to do something, well, freedom means you get to help those people out and help them accomplish their goals.

      I place many obligations on myself to have heart towards people that struggle, and to do things to help them struggle less, even if I don’t think these obligations ought to be enforced with coercion.

      • Thegnskald says:

        Presuming you are libertarian, to a certain extent, you are just reiterating that you are libertarian here.

        Libertarianism, to some extent, does offer a substrate on which other things can theoretically be built; the issue is that it assumes “Allow all mutually permissible lifestyles to exist” is, in fact, the most important criteria for society. Most people don’t, and regard elements of “their” society moving in the “wrong” direction as a problem to be rectified.

        Which results in behavior that from the outside looks bizarre and terrible – a nation permitting foreign people of X religion, but executing its own people of X religion, for example. From the outside, it is a large group attacking a smaller group along bizarre and arbitrary lines. From the inside, however, it is solidarity, and punishing defectors of their culture.

        And it is understandable if you frame it in those terms; defectors break down the social order. I used a right-wing (for a given value of right-wing) example, but the left is just as prone to it.

        Libertarians, from this framework, are proposing formalizing and normalizing defection. And if you value social structures which are vulnerable to defection – that is, prisoner’s dilemma type social structures, which are more valuable to everyone than mutual defection but which end up rewarding defection – then libertarianism looks quite terrible.

        Welfare looks exactly like this to the Left; whatever charity we can muster to replace it is probably not going to be as comprehensive. So losing it, even if charity offers some substitution value, is on net a loss.

        • IrishDude says:

          the issue is that it assumes “Allow all mutually permissible lifestyles to exist” is, in fact, the most important criteria for society. Most people don’t, and regard elements of “their” society moving in the “wrong” direction as a problem to be rectified.

          There are many methods to move society in the ‘right’ direction, such as innovating new products and services and ways of living, persuading others the rightness of your cause, using social pressure to make ‘wrong’ ways of living more costly, and using physical coercion. It’s only the last of the methods libertarians are opposed to. Assuming libertarians lived in a non-physically coercive society, many of them would still find many things wrong with society they want to rectify, they’d just find non-violent ways to attempt to make those fixes.

          Libertarians, from this framework, are proposing formalizing and normalizing defection.

          Physical coercion is only one means of preventing defection. Gossip, shame, and ostracizing are other methods, and are consistent with libertarianism. These non-violent methods are what almost everyone, regardless of political philosophy, uses in their day-to-day interpersonal interactions, as people that use violence to deal with defection tend to find themselves shunned.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Apart from the fact that those require cooperation to work, there is a more substantial issue:

            It is my impression libertarians aren’t too pleased with the left using nonviolent social pressure to achieve its ends, either. Say, getting people fired for saying things the left doesn’t want said.

            Which leads me to believe that libertarianism involves a more fundamental rejection of the very idea of authority than a mere opposition to violence – which isn’t to say that NAP is misleading, but rather that it is not a complete description of libertarian cultural objectives.

            Which is somewhat beside the point of this thread, but it does seem that offering alternatives you wouldn’t actually countenance being used, as a way to paper over the holes left by the alternative being removed, seems somewhat flawed.

          • Incurian says:

            There’s a difference between believing those people are assholes and they should stop doing bad things, and saying “there ought to be a law.”

            Also, it’s not necessarily just the methods, it’s the way in which they ludicrously overreact and use those methods against undeserving targets.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Incurian –

            But, outside the NAP framework, why shouldn’t there be a law?

          • Incurian says:

            The thing you would be outlawing would be hard to define since it’s what, “people complaining about another person?” There would be a lot of collateral damage. I want to be able to complain about people to their employer. I just don’t think people ought to do it for trivial reasons. I suppose we could have a law that lists acceptable reasons to complain about people, but I’d much rather live with SJWs getting me fired occasionally than the government deciding what I’m allowed to say.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Incurian –

            Whoop, sorry, my response was aimed at the wrong level, I didn’t realize the specific subject you were discussing.

            My response still sort of works, but is overly unspecific.

            In regard to law, the assumption that a law is the wrong respond is a specifically libertarian impulse.

            In regard to the broader cultural issue, the norms which enable us to pass laws are to a significant extent the same norms that enable us to engage in social pressure.

            Which is to say, successfully getting people to agree to institutionalized NAP is likely to also make them less likely to approve of social pressure. Therefore, using social pressure as a substitute good for law, in terms of maintaining valuable social institutions, doesn’t look feasible.

          • Incurian says:

            In regard to the broader cultural issue, the norms which enable us to pass laws are to a significant extent the same norms that enable us to engage in social pressure.

            This strikes me as being incorrect. I have the capacity to disagree with something, even strongly, while still preferring argumentation or ostracization over violence. I think maybe I’m not understanding your point. What I’m reading is “people can’t disapprove of something without becoming violent.”

            Maybe you mean that embracing the NAP will make us less likely to scrutinize everyone else’s lifestyle? That sounds like a good thing.

            Perhaps the problem is lifestyles that are somewhat harmful but not really NAP-violating? And NAP-loving folks can’t even get upset about something unless violence is involved so bad stuff runs rampant?

            Since you’ve come here, you’ve done nothing but make high quality posts (quit it, you’re making me look bad), so I assume you’re making a good point but I’m just not understanding it.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Hm. Trying to switch gears – communicating across principle boundaries gets tricky, because the things you think you are saying may not translate well.

            Let’s try imagining a society with a social problem. Imagine a libertarian society with a racism problem – let us say it is a social problem, and the economic problem is largely nonexistent, so there are enough non-racist people around that emerald people live basically the same lives as the majority diamond people; life is semi-segregated.

            The problem is, specifically, that a significant percentage of diamond people are very rude to emerald people, and say nasty things about them and to them.

            Because emerald and diamond people are perfect economic substitutions, and because economic incentives have already made all the improvements that can be made, society is weirdly segregated – racists shop at one set of stores, everybody else shops at others.

            All the improvements that do not require social pressure or coercion have been made, and we are now stuck at a local maximum – racists are unhappy that emerald people are there still all, and the non-racists are unhappy that there are racists. Society would be better if the racists converted to non-racists, but there is no path from here to there.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            All the improvements that do not require social pressure or coercion have been made, and we are now stuck at a local maximum – racists are unhappy that emerald people are there still all, and the non-racists are unhappy that there are racists. Society would be better if the racists converted to non-racists, but there is no path from here to there.

            True, but the government/societal pressure doesn’t necessarily work for good: it’s quite possible that the racists would end up winning, and enforcing their racist views on everybody else (cf. Jim Crow, apartheid-era South Africa).

          • Jiro says:

            It is my impression libertarians aren’t too pleased with the left using nonviolent social pressure to achieve its ends, either.

            There are libertarians who are displeased with the fact that it’s easy to find strawberry-flavored candy but hard to find pear-flavored candy. Unless the libertarians are demanding a law to correct the thing that displeases them, it’s consistent with, and unrelated to, libertarianism to be displeased about all sorts of things.

          • Incurian says:

            I don’t understand why they can’t use social pressure.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Incurian –

            It isn’t that they can’t, it is that, in a broadly libertarian culture, if extent libertarians can be taken as a snapshot, it wouldn’t be culturally acceptable to do.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I agree with Thegnskald. Essentially, politics is downstream from culture. A culture that embraces the NAP would be made up of people who would also refuse to fire someone for having bad opinions, and would not attempt to harm someone by getting them fired because they have bad opinions.

            ETA: this is also generally why I’m not a libertarian. I see it as a utopian fantasy just like Marxism. “Once everyone agrees with me about liberty, everything will be great!” “Once everyone agrees with me about public ownership of capital, everything will be great!” Those worlds will never exist.

          • Incurian says:

            I don’t agree with that assessment.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Incurian, my model of you is libertarian/ancap. Is that correct?

            If so, a society that would enshrine the NAP is made up people like yourself.

            Would you ever try to get someone fired for having opinions you dislike but are unrelated to their job?

            Would you ever fire an employee because he or she has opinions that other members of the public dislike?

            Do you think you’re abnormal among other libertarians/ancaps, and that other libertarians/ancaps would engage in these behaviors?

          • Incurian says:

            Incurian, my model of you is libertarian/ancap. Is that correct?

            Correct.

            If so, a society that would enshrine the NAP is made up people like yourself.

            I’m not sure about this. Surely we’d have a lot of similar ideas about some topics, but there is a lot of room for diversity of thought. I will grant that in NAPistan, people are typically pro-NAP.

            Would you ever try to get someone fired for having opinions you dislike but are unrelated to their job?

            Would you ever fire an employee because he or she has opinions that other members of the public dislike?

            Not typically, but I admit there are possibly some extreme cases where I might.

            Do you think you’re abnormal among other libertarians/ancaps, and that other libertarians/ancaps would engage in these behaviors?

            I would have thought so, but one of my ancap buddies does not share my aversion to this kind of social pressure. Speaking of social pressure, getting someone fired for their opinions is not the only kind. If I were to grant for the sake of argument that I and all NAPistanis would never ever think about messing with someone’s employment for unrelated opinions they might hold, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other types of social pressure that we would use. NAPistan might have less pressure enforcing thought norms (I’m not convinced that dropping one particular type of social pressure, though admittedly an extreme one, would necessarily result in less overall social pressure), but it doesn’t follow that there would be none. Maybe I’m still missing the point.

            ETA: Thank you for taking the time to walk me through your thought process.

          • If so, a society that would enshrine the NAP is made up people like yourself.

            This wasn’t directed to me, but since I am also a libertarian anarchist I think my response is relevant.

            I don’t imagine an A-C society as being made up of people with an ideological commitment to the NAP–that’s probably one of the ways in which I differ from Rothbard and his followers. I see it as made up of people with views not very different from those they now have but without a special institution, government, which gets a pass on doing things that ordinary people are not entitled to do, such as taxation and conscription. The outcome of A-C would be a generally libertarian set of rules for economic reasons–that’s the equilibrium of the market for law, for reasons I tried to sketch in The Machinery of Freedom–not philosophical reasons.

            Similarly, the outcome of the ordinary competitive market is efficient in the technical economic sense not because people desire economic efficiency but because that’s the consequence of individuals each acting rationally to achieve their individual objectives.

            Most people are conservative in the literal sense of the term–they take for granted the set of institutions they are used to having.

          • Incurian says:

            This wasn’t directed to me, but since I am also a libertarian anarchist I think my response is relevant.

            A lot of these conversations remind me of stories attributed to ancient philosophers where some traveler will ask a question, and an aspiring student gives a naive answer vaguely in line with his teaching, but then the master points out some key insight he was missing and gives a brilliant response. It is illuminating.

          • SamChevre says:

            I think of myself as libertarian, and I’m strongly in favor of social pressure. (And I grew up Amish-Mennonite–I have a very good idea how much force social pressure can have.)

            I think the SJW left is wrong on the facts, so I object to them trying to get people fired for disagreeing with them–but I think trying to get people who disagree with you sufficiently strongly fired is reasonable and appropriate.

            Where I have a major problem is when the social pressure is backed up with coercion on one side, and kept to a minimum by coercion on the other: if there were no Civil Rights laws that make trying to get someone fired for being anti-feminist easy (because employing them puts the employer at risk of legal liability) and someone fired for getting divorced nearly impossible (because that’s “illegal discrimination based on marital status”), I’d think “acceptable tactics, foolish choice of target” to most of the “fire so-and-so for having bad thoughts” campaigns.

      • soreff says:

        I see the absence of coercion as the substrate on which all other sorts of ways of life can be implemented. Don’t hit people and don’t take their stuff are the basics of living well with other people, […]

        I guess this as as good a place as any to note this:

        Enforcing “don’t take their stuff” is one form of coercion.
        Given a dispute between two people over who controls some object or
        resource, when a third party, typically the courts and the state, comes
        in, picks a winner in the dispute, and sends in big guys with sticks to
        enforce it, that is a use of force. You may favor it, you may think
        it just, but it is still force.

        This is perhaps clearest when there is only a weak social consensus on
        whether something should be treated as property at all.

        Consider intellectual “property”:
        Hypothetically, suppose that patent laws were changed to make small
        firms (say 100 persons and below) immune from patent infringement claims.
        Regardless of whether this would be a good public policy, it would be a
        reduction in coercion. One group of people would no longer be
        subject to one form of attack from (in this case) patent trolls leveraging
        state power.

        There are many similar examples that could be given.

    • Drew says:

      The problem with the boat – as I see it – is that the “no substitutes!” assumption is doing all of the moral work.

      Yes, private property would be freedom-limiting if we were in an extreme scenario designed to make it freedom-limiting. But that’s true of everything.

      Take Medical Consent. Medical Consent would become freedom-limiting if we were facing a Zombie Apocalypse and only one person had blood with anti-Zombie Antibodies.

      The take-away isn’t to start re-writing our medical ethics rules. Instead, we make a note that changing everything would change some things. And to ask about consequences in our current circumstances.

      Since there aren’t Zombies, denying ourselves access to 1 person’s blood means … we don’t have that 1 person’s blood. The Red Cross spends an extra $100 advertising for donors. And life moves on.

      Since there isn’t One True Boat, losing access to Captain Jim’s boat means that I can’t use that particular boat. Maybe I have to pay a little extra to rent from the next guy. Or slightly alter my weekend plans.

      In practice, most “specific person won’t deal with me” cases just result in mild inconvenience or mild frustration. That’s not great. But spoiled weekend plans are hardly a loss of personal freedom.

      Even the “realistic” lake scenario derives all of its weight from the arbitrary (and geographically unrealistic) assumption that there aren’t any other bodies of water within 300 miles.

      Remove that, and you’re left with something mundane, on par with Old Man Jones saying, “That’s it! Those teenagers left trash in my yard for the last time! My dog choked on their plastic bags! I’m putting up some no-trespassing signs. No one fishes in my pond!”

      The Old Man Jones / Absentee Landlord scenarios both restrict my freedom in exactly the same ways; I can’t fish in my favored spot and have to mildly change my plans.

      • The libertarians in this thread who have argued along the lines of, “Just build yourself a new boat” or “rent a boat from someone else” or “trade something to the boat owner for the boat” or “just slightly change your plans” strike me as out of touch with prole existence. This is a real Horatio Alger, rags-to-riches, fantasy mindset.

        The fundamental problem of prole existence is that wages tend towards subsistence level (due to the reserve army of labor, which is replenished by recessions and by technology making more and more labor obsolete any time labor threatens to become scarce). Even the physiocrat economists like Turgot understood this.

        “The mere workman, who depends only on his hands and his industry, has nothing but such part of his labour as he is able to dispose of to others. He sells it at a cheaper or a dearer price; but this high or low price does not depend on himself alone; it results from the agreement he has made with the person who employs him. The latter pays him as little as he can help, and as he has the choice from among a great number of workmen, he prefers the person who works cheapest. The workmen are therefore obliged to lower their price in opposition to each other. In every species of labour it must, and, in effect, it does happen, that the wages of the workman is confined merely to what is necessary to procure him a subsistence.”–Turgot

        And while it is true that what society consider a “subsistence level” of comfort changes over time, if all workers stopped paying for internet or running water and started eating nothing but beans and rice and walked to work and did every penny-pinching thing imaginable in order to pocket the miserly difference between “modern comfort” and “true biological subsistence,” sales of consumer goods would collapse, unemployment would skyrocket, wages would plummet, and workers would be back to a subsistence level, albeit the much lower one that they had reconciled themselves to.

        Here’s another way of putting it: not everyone can be a capitalist. Even if the economy didn’t collapse, what if all workers around the world penny-pinched and saved up $1 million each over several decades and, instead of spending it on stuff, tried to live off the interest? If everyone tried to do this, there would be a huge disproportion of capital to labor. Nothing would get produced, no surplus value would be produced, money would be worthless, and interest rates (and rates of profit) would be zero.

        Machines can produce use-values, but they cannot produce value—that is, on average, machines do not add to the aggregate prices of society. Increased automation, under competitive pressures, merely cheapens the more efficiently-produced products (by attracting capital to that more-efficient and temporarily profitable line of business, driving up the supply and reducing the rate of profit in the more efficient lines of business back to the old average rate of profit) and leaves aggregate monetary profits the same. Only labor adds to aggregate monetary profits. I’m sorry, but the labor-theory of value is just simply true.

        The libertarian ideal of “hard-won, self-earned, self-acquired capital” that allows one to start “getting ahead” and coasting off that capital is the literal definition of *privilege*. It is something that will only ever be available to a minority (whether it be an industrious minority, an intellectual minority, a lucky minority, a racial minority…it doesn’t really matter how society chooses to pick these winners). It is of no solace to the typical prole.

        • The fundamental problem of prole existence is that wages tend towards subsistence level (due to the reserve army of labor, which is replenished by recessions and by technology making more and more labor obsolete any time labor threatens to become scarce). Even the physiocrat economists like Turgot understood this.

          Currently, average real per capita income in the developed world is between twenty and thirty times what it was through most of history. If your proles are at a third the average, that means their income is only about ten times what it was through most of history. How do you square that with your claim?

          The most sophisticated version of the iron law of wages is by Ricardo, who makes it clear that it is not subsistence in the normal sense but the wage level at which the laboring population just reproduces itself, and that what that wage level is depends on the tastes of the workers. If they have relatively luxurious tastes, they will be unwilling to bear the costs of having children until their income is relatively high. He also makes it clear that, while the iron law determines the long run equilibrium, wages can be above that level for an indefinite length of time in a growing economy.

        • John Schilling says:

          The fundamental problem of prole existence is that wages tend towards subsistence level

          The fundamental problem of prole existence is that A: “proles” basically don’t exist in modern developed economies (see Friedman), and B: the only path we’ve found that leads reliably from mostly-prole undeveloped economies to few-prole developed ones runs through “sweatshops” or “satanic mills”, but C: we’ve still got people demanding that the greatest economic problem ever is the poor helpless proles who must be protected by making sure nobody is allowed to build anything resembling a sweatshop.

        • Drew says:

          “Fantasy mindset” seems a bit much if we’re talking about actual working class people aspiring to buy actual boats.

          The US has at least 12 Million boats. If you don’t want to buy one, you can rent a rather nice boat for about $300 / day.

          Boat ownership isn’t restricted to the Upper-Middle classes. The “Cajun Navy” was in the news in the last few months for their rescue efforts.

          So, if your theories are telling you that boat-ownership is some fantastic impossibility, perhaps the problem is with the theory?

          On the other hand, if we’re not talking about actual boats, but using “Boat” to mean “an impossible purchase that’s still a moral necessity” then it seems that the assumptions are doing all the moral work.

          • Brad says:

            I don’t have solid evidence, but boat ownership seems to be most common among people that are economically upper middle class or wealthy but socially working class. In NYC a good example is retired NYPD officers.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            You can buy a 19 foot sailboat for what a moderately priced car costs, so it’s not as inaccessible a hobby as you might think.

            From my experience (as a helmsman-in-training, in a country that is not the US), it’s something for both upper-middle (and maybe even middle, depending on how you determine the borders between classes) class and wealthy people, but for those in the former category it’s usually their main past-time, while for the latter it can be just one of many.

          • Aapje says:

            Boats are notorious for the maintenance costs/effort though. There is a reason why the saying is: the two happiest days in a boat owner’s life is the day he buys it and the day he sells it.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Also: “Owning a yacht is like standing under a cold shower tearing up hundred dollar bills”.

            I heard this years ago when hundred dollar bills were worth somewhat more. Eventually it will be like standing under a cold shower feeding hundred dollar bills into a shredder.

          • Brad says:

            WHTA

            I’m sure this varies a lot from region to region, but where I grew up and still live, what Scott once referred to as the Labor social class (vs Gentry) were much more likely to *want* to own a boat. Think plumbers and electricians vs doctors and lawyers. Only once you get past wanting a boat does it become a question of who can afford one, including storage/transport and upkeep.

            When you get the Elite social class, again in the circles I’m familial with, boats are more desirable than for the Gentry, but probably still not as high as for Labor.

          • Boats are obviously not what’s at stake. They are a metaphor for means of production.

            How much money does it take to set up a state-of-the-art factory to produce anything these days. Millions of dollars? Hundreds of millions of dollars? I better get some strong bootstraps if I want to pull myself up to that level!

          • Incurian says:

            And to this day no more factories are built.

          • And obviously it doesn’t just have to be factories. It could be any means of production *substantial enough to allow a person to live off the resulting rate of profit by itself* (and hence be a true “capitalist” and not a “petty-capitalist” who still has to work). If the average rate of profit is, let’s say, 5%, then you’d need $1 million in capital, invested in a typically-successful way, to get $50,000/year in income. How many proles are going to accumulate $1 million in order to truly become a capitalist?

          • CatCube says:

            How many “capitalists” does this apply to in the real world? I know there’s a stereotype of rich business owners just sitting back and eating bon-bons, but most businesses will collapse into a heap of incompetence pretty quickly if the owners aren’t involved, and involved in a way that doesn’t destroy the business.

        • If your proles are at a third the average, that means their income is only about ten times what it was through most of history. How do you square that with your claim

          ?

          The price of some necessities, notably accomodation, tends to float up to what the average person can afford , which can leave the below average person struggling to meet the rent. Most advanced societies cushion the lead well off with at least some of free education, minimum wages , and rent control. Libertarians are opposed to all of these , so the worst off would be in a much more classically prolish position…..you can’t infer no proles in libertopia from no proles IRL.

          the only path we’ve found that leads reliably from mostly-prole undeveloped economies to few-prole developed ones runs through “sweatshops” or “satanic mills”, but C: we’ve still got people demanding that the greatest economic problem ever is the poor helpless proles who must be protected by making sure nobody is allowed to build anything resembling a sweatshop

          .

          The path to developed economies also ran through wage control, rent control, restrictions on hours worked, public education , etc. We have real world examples of communism and of mixed economies, but not of free market purism. Libertarians should not claim the successes of mixed economies and welfare states for themselves.

      • Evan Þ says:

        I’m not comfortable drawing a nice line between Zombie Apocalypses and everything else. If strictly protecting rights can clearly limit people’s freedom in some cases like those, can’t it do it less obviously in other cases, but to a degree where we should still intervene? Sure, if you’re 1940 Britain, it might be okay to let all German visitors stay at large in your country, and to let Jeff keep his stockpile of valuable metals… but maybe not.

        Or, for less Godwin-y cases, what about someone in post-Maria Puerto Rico who’s known to have a stockpile of canned food in his basement?

        • Jiro says:

          If you’re allowed to confiscate the food, you’ll create incentives which result in such people not having food in their basement to begin with.

          • Thegnskald says:

            We could always confiscate it and pay them an absurd amount of money for it later, when things settle down.

          • The Nybbler says:

            We could always confiscate it and pay them an absurd amount of money for it later, when things settle down.

            Perhaps works for metals in wartime. Not so much for immediately-useful supplies during a disaster; people are not going to be happy that they and theirs starved because you redistributed the food they wisely stockpiled to those who were less wise, no matter how much you pay the survivors afterwards.

          • Evan Þ says:

            If they actually starve, right, they aren’t going to be happy.

            But if they survive on rations, and get the absurd amount of money later, they might be less happy but will still be incentivized to do it again. (And maybe hide it better. Unless they want the money. Oh well; they’re incentivized to do something in either case.)

          • In a society where the government felt free to seize food, why would you trust their promise to pay you an absurd amount of money later? Wouldn’t the same political forces that made them seize the food in the first place be a reason not to richly reward the wicked hoarders afterwards?

            And if the hoarders did trust such promises, why would it be necessary to seize their food instead of buying it in exchange for a promise of later payment?

            In practice, when there is a shortage of something due to an emergency–snow shovels in a surprise heavy snowfall is the standard example–people strongly object to the sellers responding by raising their price.

          • Charles F says:

            You don’t have trust them to pay you the first time, you just have to not suspect too strongly that govt isn’t going to swoop in and seize your food. Then after they follow through with paying you the first time, you can stockpile it again thinking that even if it gets seized, you’ll still make a profit on it. And put a small portion of it behind the old woodshed this time.

            I might rather not have my food seized because I care more about being comfortable/secure now than getting a payout, or because I think I can sell it myself for more, or on principle, or something. But trusting that if I don’t get to keep my stuff, I at least get a good payout might be enough of a hedge that I’ll stockpile food anyway.

            People get mad, but they’ve still got to shovel their snow/eat, right? I’m not entirely sure what you were trying to say with the last paragraph, but if you’re selling your own necessities, I think people will be much more understanding of high prices than if you’re a store-owner overcharging them.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @DavidFriedman, if they publicly said so in advance through legislation, sure. Or if they actually did it for other food-owners in the past.

            How practical is this? Well, we can see from 1940’s Britain that political forces can very realistically press to take the valuable items but not deny compensation in some cases. I’m not sure how often, but I thought we’re talking on the theoretical level.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Charles F has it in the sense I mean.

            The government isn’t letting anybody starve; if actual starvation is on the table, seizing the hoards of a few people isn’t going to actually help.

            Rather, it is spreading meager comforts around in times of crisis, while simultaneously avoiding disincentivizing the behavior that permitted this to be possible in the first place.

            (The thing being, people would rather keep their stockpiles than sell them at exorbitant prices. Rewarding them with an exorbitant payout afterwards, and maybe also some sort of medal, is intended to make them feel less like victims and more like well-regarded heroes.)

          • Nornagest says:

            Pedantic, but: hoards. Dragons hoard, goblins horde.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Gyah. Edited. Thanks.

          • John Schilling says:

            We could always confiscate it and pay them an absurd amount of money for it later, when things settle down.

            You could also pay them an absurd amount of money up front, but I note that you aren’t proposing to do that. And you aren’t even suggesting that you could promise to pay a specific, absurd amount of money in the future. That, plus the use of “absurd”, tells me all I need to know about the notion that you could pay for what you take in the future.

          • Thegnskald says:

            John –

            The money you have right now should be spent fixing the crisis, is the short of it. Time preference; the money is more valuable during the crisis than after it.

          • John Schilling says:

            The money you have right now should be spent fixing the crisis, is the short of it.

            One of the advantages of modern economies, where “modern” means anything this side of the 15th century, is that money right now is fungible with money you can reasonably expect to have in the future, and at a fairly small premium if you are a reputable government that is actually going to be around in the future.

            So how much is it worth to you not to be called a thief? Because if you’re taking stuff without asking or paying when you could be paying at 2.6% interest, I’m probably not going to be the only one calling you a thief and questioning your commitment to pay later.

          • Almost every government allows itself to seize almost anything what in a state of war or crisis, and hoarding still occurs. Can you think why?

        • Drew says:

          The general claim is something like, “Language of ‘Rights’ gets weird in emergencies and other extreme circumstances.”

          This makes a perfectly reasonable gradient. If it’s a matter of Life or Death, go ahead and break into someone’s basement.

          Write your laws for the normal case. Then use pardons, or a “necessity defense” to handle emergencies after the fact. Or, realize that a misdemeanor theft conviction is much less bad than literal death.

          But the OP isn’t about necessity defenses or efficient breach of contract. It’s claiming that Boat Ownership is intrinsically oppressive during the normal course of things.

          That’s the part that I find silly, and the practical realities of “exclusive right to a boat” aren’t particularly related to the One True Boat hypothetical.

      • Thegnskald says:

        The problem with the boat – as I see it – is that the “no substitutes!” assumption is doing all of the moral work.

        – It is a simplified metaphor for a more complex set of real-world scenarios. We could say there are two boats, or three, or four, or any number of boats less than the number of people who want to use a boat, and the problem can basically remain unchanged.

        At a fundamental level, the example is pointing towards the problem of the exclusivity of ownership; ownership is, effectively, a right of exclusivity. Nobody else gets to use this. While being necessary to libertarian philosophy, it is in a fundamental way at odds with it, because the right of ownership is pretty much defined as a limit on non-violent actions other people are allowed to do. The philosophy gets around this by effectively treating property as an extension of the person so that use of the property becomes a form of violence, a semi-elegant hack with decent philosophical backing (conversion).

        But there is still a sticky spot there in the philosophy where moral intuitions start to go “Wait, what?”

        • Brad says:

          I think the central example of the extension-of-self intuition is chattels. If I’m fishing on a beach and have a cooler next to me with what I’ve caught so far, someone going in there and grabbing the fish pretty universally looks like aggression. Someone camping on land 5000 miles away from me that I have a piece of a paper that says I “own” is pretty far from that central example.

          • Thegnskald says:

            I think the major problem with land is that it is, by it’s nature, a giant pile of unconverted resources. Converting a small portion of that – building a farm, for the typical libertarian example – does a decent job of justifying owning that portion of it, but falls a bit flat if you then ask why that means the iron seven miles below the surface also belongs to them. And technically, by current legal doctrine, your ownership extends to the core of the planet – converting less than a percent of a percent of the resources amounting to total ownership is kind of weak, as arguments go.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I assume that land ownership going to the center of the earth makes sense because taking out something below the surface has a reasonable chance of affecting the surface.

            Meanwhile, I’m distracted by the idea of just taking out the pointy bit at the bottom.

          • JayT says:

            Is it true that land ownership goes to the center of the Earth? I was under the impression that land ownership doesn’t necessarily include mineral rights.

          • Thegnskald says:

            JayT –

            Property ownership and mineral rights get divorced by specification in the sale of the land – by default, they are incorporated together.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Nancy –

            Probably the greatest theft in history was when property rights were revised to not include everything above your property. Granted, the planet rotates, so the sphere of heaven you own changes constantly, but think of the trillions of stars that were just taken away from people.

            (Seriously, that was US law until airplanes became a thing.)

          • bean says:

            (Seriously, that was US law until airplanes became a thing.)

            In theory. In practice, property rights that you have no way to assert and that can’t be violated are pretty much meaningless. As soon as it became meaningful, we adopted a more useful compromise.

          • Aapje says:

            In The Netherlands mineral rights are not sold with the land (Napoleonic law), so this is specific to the US (and whatever other countries have similar laws).

          • In the U.S. the rules vary by state. It used to be the case that in Pennsylvania, a state made largely out of coal, property rights to land consisted of three separable estates: The surface estate, the mineral estate, and the support estate–the right not to have the owner of the mineral estate under your land dig out so much coal that your surface collapsed into his mine.

          • Brad says:

            There’s all kinds of strange property regimes. In some western states they developed oil and gas law by analogy to the ancient common law rules regarding wild animals under the theory that like animals oil and gas could wander from property to property.

          • Brad says:

            Anyway, going back to the original point, if we are going to appeal to intuitionistic notions to justify property rights within the framework of NAP, then chattels would be the central example and things like curtilage and planted fields would be about the outer boundary.

            And even within those boundaries absence of the owner, especially extended absence, weakens the case.

        • Drew says:

          – It is a simplified metaphor for a more complex set of real-world scenarios. We could say there are two boats, or three, or four, or any number of boats less than the number of people who want to use a boat, and the problem can basically remain unchanged.

          I disagree. Numbers matter. We can see this by comparing your hypothetical to what actually happens.

          One boat owner is a monopolist who’s able to have perfect and eternal collusion. They could get absurd prices by abusing the fact that Search-and-Rescue teams need boats as a matter of life-and-death.

          Twelve million boat-owners are a market. To see the practical difference, Google “Boat Rentals” and notice that fishing boats cost about $120 / day.

          “Jordanelle Rentals and Marina” is able to get $120 / day because there’s some people who want to use a boat, but don’t own one. After all, if everyone’s wants were met, no one would have to rent a boat.

          Why not more? Utah Law gives “Jordanelle Rentals and Marina” exclusive rights to their boats. What stops them from asking for $25,000 / day? Or more? Legally, they’re free to set whatever rate they want. People can pay it. Or they can go without Jordanelle’s boats.

          It turns out that numbers matter. There’s a bunch of boats on Salt Lake. Probably a few thousand. So, if I want to go fishing, I don’t need to rent from Jordanelle in particular. I just need to rent from someone.

          And, if I NEED to use a boat, I don’t need to outbid everyone in Utah. I just need to bid more than the least-interested person who’d otherwise rent a boat.

          If Jordanelle dropped out of the equation, there’d be a couple people who’d have to go without boats. But they’d be the people who were least interested in fishing.

          Maybe the market price would go up to $140 / day. But it wouldn’t support $25,000.

          This means that Jordanelle’s property rights give them some power.
          It’s the power to move market prices by a few dollars. And the power to change things so that the least-avid fisherman on the Salt Lake has to go bowling instead.

          But that’s hardly the infinite, freedom-destroying power of the owner of the One True Boat.

          Numbers matter.

  2. bean says:

    Naval Gazing: Mine Warfare, Part 1
    Series index
    Probably the most underappreciated of naval weapons is the humble mine. Mine warfare is unglamorous, dangerous, and potentially decisive.

    The first ship mined (as we understand the term today) was HMS Merlin, on July 9th, 1855. The ship, deployed to the Baltic as part of the Crimean War, suffered only minimal damage. The Russians had deployed primitive moored contact mines, tethered to the bottom, which detonated if a rod on the top was bumped by a passing ship. Interestingly, they were invented by Immanuel Nobel, father of Alfred Nobel. In response, the British initiated the first minesweeping operation a few days later, grappling the mines and hauling them up. Remote-controlled mines to be detonated from shore, were also used, but proved less successful than the contact mines.

    Mines played a part in the American Civil War, too, protecting harbors and interdicting rivers. The famous “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” quote actually referred to a minefield at Mobile Bay, because at the time, “torpedo” was a generic term for any underwater explosive.

    Mines developed slowly throughout the second half of the 19th century. The sea is not stationary, so creating a mine that would reliably detonate on contact and not be set off by waves was difficult. The first truly successful contact detonator was the Hertz horn, invented in the 1870s- these are the spikes seen on the most popular naval mine stereotype. Each horn is made of lead and contains a vial of sulfuric acid. When the horn is bent, the vial breaks and the acid runs down into a lead-acid battery, producing a current flow that detonates the mine.

    Another interesting innovation was the automatic depth setter. Contact mines need to be deep enough to be concealed while being shallow enough that ships can’t pass over them. Early on, moored mines had their cables cut individually to achieve this, but the automatic depth setter replaced this task. A mine would have three separate parts, the mine proper, the anchor (a box), and the plummet. Initially, the mine and the anchor would float together, while the plummet fell, attached to the anchor by a length of cable equal to the desired mine depth. When the plummet reached the end of its cable, it pulled a pin which allowed water to flood the anchor and start it sinking. The mine’s chain was then played out from the anchor as it fell. When the plummet reached the bottom, the chain was locked and the mine was dragged down to the desired depth by the anchor. A diagram of the process can be found here. (Note: this is actually an antenna mine, which is discussed further below)

    Mine warfare first made a major impact during the Russo-Japanese war. The first battleship sunk by mines was the Russian Petropavlovsk, the flagship of their Pacific fleet, while she was attempting to leave the base at Port Arthur. She took with her Admiral Makarov, the fleet commander and by far the best Russian admiral of the war. This was one of the first examples of offensive mining, or laying mines in areas an enemy is likely to pass through (as opposed to laying mines to keep an enemy out of a specific area).

    The Russians retaliated with their own offensive minelaying, sinking two Japanese pre-dreadnoughts, a third of their fleet. The Japanese also made use of drifting mines, which sank the Russian battleship Navarin during the Battle of Tsushima. This threat greatly concerned the British during World War I, and was one of the drivers of the British turn-away at Jutland, but it never materialized.

    World War I saw extensive use of mines by all sides. In October of 1914, the battleship HMS Audacious was sunk off of Ireland by a mine laid by the German auxiliary Berlin. The Germans initially focused on large minefields laid by surface ships and set deep in an attempt to kill British warships, while merchant ships would hopefully sail over them. Beginning in 1916, they switched to smaller submarine-laid fields intended to sink merchant shipping. The British countered by taking up large numbers of trawlers and converting them to sweep for mines. They also engaged in offensive minelaying off of German bases, and would use radio intercepts of orders to the German minesweepers to determine when the High Seas Fleet was about to sortie.

    Both sides also constructed large defensive minefields, the most prominent of which was the minefield in the Dardanelles. This minefield thwarted the initial attempt to force the strait, sinking three pre-dreadnoughts and damaging three more along with a battlecruiser, and the guns covering the field made it impossible to sweep. The allies landed at Gallipoli to silence the guns, but the attempt ultimately proved unsuccessful.

    The other major defensive minefield was the North Sea Mine Barrage, laid primarily by the US in the last few months of the war in an attempt to bottle up U-boats transiting out of the North Sea. It involved over 70,000 mines of a new type called antenna mines. The biggest problem with a traditional contact mine against submarines is that a submarine could avoid it by being either above or below it. To counter this, an antenna mine has an additional float above it that supports a copper antenna. When the antenna makes contact with the steel hull of a ship, the dissimilar metals produce a current that fires the mine. While very clever, this type of mine never proved particularly effective. The North Sea Barrage only claimed four U-boats, with another four possibles and eight damaged. The US launched a major operation to sweep them up, and in the process developed a device which allowed them to use steel minesweepers in the field without setting off the mines. Otherwise they would have been forced to use wooden minesweepers. (I believe this device is basically the opposite of active cathodic protection devices, but have been unable to confirm this.)

    The other side of using mines is dealing with them. Sweeping for mines is exactly what it sounds like. The standard method was to take a small vessel, originally a converted fishing trawler, and stream a pair of “sweeps” from it. These long wires are held out from the side of the ship by underwater gliders called kites which keep the cables under tension. The sweeps are designed to break the mooring cables of the mines, either through mechanical damage or small explosives, causing them to float to the surface where they are usually sunk by gunfire from the sweeper. The sweeps also serve a protective function. Mines are usually pushed aside by the bow wave, then drawn in to strike the side of the ship, but the sweeps prevent this from happening. Similar devices called paravanes are used by larger ships to protect them from mines, pushing the mines aside instead of cutting their cables.

    There are substantial drawbacks to sweeping, however. It’s a slow process, and the resulting path is fairly narrow. It has to be repeated frequently in areas that are in danger of being mined and consumes lots of ships and manpower. Also, some mines are fitted with anti-sweep devices, such as ratchets that allow the sweep to pass through the cable or explosive charges designed to sever the sweep when it passes.

    During World War II, contact mines played much the same role as they did during WWI, vast defensive fields being laid to protect channels, straits, and harbors. (Offensive minefields were mostly composed of influence mines.) They made up the vast majority of the field protecting Wonsan during the Korean War, which seriously hindered the US pursuit of the North Koreans in 1950. In 1988, the frigate USS Samuel B Roberts struck an Iranian version of a 1908 Russian mine and suffered serious damage, knocking out her engines and starting fires that took five hours to bring under control. Iraq and Iran both made extensive use of contact mines during their war in the 80s. As an amusing side-note, the Iranians attempted to improve the Russian M08 mine with more explosives. However, this required them to use a lighter cable, as the mine must lift both itself and the cable. It turned out that the lighter cable was too weak, and many mines snapped their moorings. Even primitive, century-old mines are more complex than they appear.

    Although contact mines have fallen in importance relative to influence mines since WWII, they remain a threat to this day. They’re cheap and highly effective, provided the target does not have advanced mine-warfare capabilities, such as good mine-avoidance sonars. If they do, then you need to look at influence mines, which I’ll discuss next time.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      Link to the mine diagram is broken.

    • Nornagest says:

      Offensive minefields were mostly composed of influence mines.

      What’s an…

      …then you need to look at influence mines, which I’ll discuss next time.

      …tease.

    • johan_larson says:

      I seem to remember that mine warefare is the absolute rock-bottom least prestigious branch of the US Navy.

      • bean says:

        If it’s not the bottom, you can see it from there. This could come back to bite us quite hard if we don’t get our act together. There are occasional efforts, but this is one area where we basically just buy other people’s systems.

    • Eltargrim says:

      The interaction between the antenna mine and the submarine is confusing me. I see how the submarine might avoid contact mines (shallow draught?), and I can see how the antenna allows for detection of anything above the mine, but it seems like the sub can still pass below the mine. Was it simply the case that submarines of that era usually travelled surfaced, and hence the antenna was supposed to be a sufficient solution?

      • bean says:

        Submarines did usually travel surfaced, yes. A submarine before the mid-40s was essentially a surface ship that could occasionally hide underwater. 200 ft was a fairly typical test (approximate maximum) depth at the time, and also the apparent maximum depth of the mines. So the submarine couldn’t just go under. There’s a couple of books on archive.org with more details on the North Sea Barrage.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      It’s pretty clear in my mind how the plummet’s cable being fully played out can unlock the anchor chain. It is not clear how the plummet hitting the bottom *relocks* it. Any insight here?

      • dodrian says:

        I don’t know how it actually works, but one way to do it would be to have a gear on one side of the drum, with a catch that is spring-loaded to push it into the gear. When the plummet is payed out it pulls the catch away from the gear, when the plummet hits the bottom the catch is pushed back in.

        • Andrew Hunter says:

          Relying on the sudden loss of tension in the plummet cable, I suppose? I guess that could work!

      • bean says:

        I don’t know the exact mechanism, but I’d suspect something very much like what dodrian describes.

    • Gobbobobble says:

      Southeast Asia and the Western Front infamously still have a ton of terrestrial mines lying around. Are there any notable nautical no-go zones due to old unswept mines?

      • bean says:

        Nothing quite as prominent, although there’s still some controversy over the degree of cleanup done in the North Sea. And I wouldn’t swear there weren’t places off Japan that didn’t have mines. The big difference is that you don’t have to worry about kids wandering into the areas marked ‘danger-mines’. On the other hand, if a chain breaks…

      • John Schilling says:

        If a chain breaks, the mine is supposed to go inert within the hour. If it doesn’t, it will wind up on a beach somewhere in no more than a few years, or the flotation chamber will rust through and it will sink. Influence mines depend on sensors with a finite battery life. The most recent war in which mines played a big part was the Iran-Iraq war from the 1980s; if the Persian Gulf is safe enough for regular travel, it’s hard to believe mines from any older conflict would still be an issue.

        You do occasionally run into problems where an air-dropped naval mine wound up buried in a coastal mud flat or the like where it is possible for someone to e.g. say “this looks like a great place for a beachfront house!” and then run into the thing with a bulldozer. That can be trouble even if the battery is dead.

        • bean says:

          My understanding is that the North Sea concerns are over construction projects, things like oil rigs and wind farms. And self-inerting mechanisms are notoriously bad. But yes, it’s not as bad at sea.

          • John Schilling says:

            That makes sense; an extension of the “mine buried in mud meets construction equipment” problem to the continental shelf.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        Johan’s thread below indirectly inspired a followup question: do mines have much effect on sea critters?

        The specific example that came to my mind was “what if a whale or something eats an un-tethered mine?”. IIUC, most mines are deployed in shallower places, but you discuss a bunch in the North Sea where large creatures can hang out. Any known cases of, e.g., whales or a salmon run or something getting setting off mines? If it happened would we even know?

        I seem to recall mines reacting specifically to metal, requiring the Brits to de-gauss their ships in WWII, so maybe organic contact isn’t really an issue?

        • bean says:

          I don’t know of any cases specifically, but I wouldn’t be surprised if whales hadn’t set off mines occasionally. But we also likely wouldn’t know.

          I seem to recall mines reacting specifically to metal, requiring the Brits to de-gauss their ships in WWII, so maybe organic contact isn’t really an issue?

          Those were magnetic mines, which I’ll discuss Sunday. They are unlikely to be affected by wildlife. (The same goes for antenna mines, obviously.) In fact, most influence mines are likely to resist biological effects.

    • Lillian says:

      Both sides also constructed large defensive minefields, the most prominent of which was the minefield in the Dardanelles. This minefield thwarted the initial attempt to force the strait, sinking three pre-dreadnoughts and damaging three more along with a battlecruiser, and the guns covering the field made it impossible to sweep.

      And that is how the little Ottoman minelayer Nusret (God’s Help) attained the largest battleship kill score in history.

      • bean says:

        Indeed, and I need to memorize Nusret’s name for the next time I play naval trivia.
        One of my current favorite questions:
        “What is the last ship that served with the US in WW2 that was sunk by enemy action?”
        (No prize, but I’m interested to see what people think.)

        • johan_larson says:

          My best guess is the USS Indianapolis, but I suspect the answer is more obscure than that.

        • AlphaGamma says:

          ARA General Belgrano, ex-USS Phoenix, sunk 2 May 1982 by HMS Conqueror.

          Edit: Argentina also had a submarine, the ARA Santa Fe, ex-USS Catfish, which was badly damaged by Royal Navy helicopters and captured a few days before the Belgrano was sunk. The Santa Fe sank at its moorings at some point due to the damage, and was then refloated and scuttled in deep water in 1985.

        • cassander says:

          I prefer to ask what is the last US ship still in service to sink an enemy ship at sea, the answer being the USS Constitution.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            I just got to the scene where she does so in the Aubrey-Maturin series. (Aubrey and Maturin are rescued from a shipwreck (uncontrolled fire) by the Java before their engagement and work some of the guns.) A fine moment even in a loss.

            Makes me want to go back and visit Old Ironsides again (I did the tour as a small child, but I think I’d appreciate it more.)

          • John Schilling says:

            s/last/only, I think. USS Simpson was decommissioned in 2015, the last of the Perry-class frigates to go, and I suspect because she was the last US Navy warship to sink an enemy vessel in a surface action.

        • Lillian says:

          I need to memorize Nusret’s name for the next time I play naval trivia.

          Important detail for the audience: The Turks had observed during previous actions that the Anglo-French force always turned into a nearby bay when retreating after bombarding the shore batteries. So in the cover of darkness Nusret laid a line of mines across the head of the bay, as well as other areas the enemy thought to be clear. Ten days later the battleship fleet didn’t just run over the new field, but kept repeatedly doing so in an almost comedic fashion. In all, it was really more of an offensive minefield than a defensive one, and that is why our little minelayer indisputably gets the credit for those kills.

          Sadly today Nusret is a wreck. The Turks had intended to turn her into a museum ship in the 50s, but for some reason she was instead sold to private interests and later sank. The wreck has been found, and i think salvaged, but i don’t know whether and how much she’s been restored. There is a very nice replica museum ship, though!

          • bean says:

            I intend to look at that campaign in more detail in a future Naval Gazing. There are some rather interesting and little-known actions involving battleships, that being one. I’m working on a column on the Battle of Lissa now, which is proving rather difficult, as that battle is completely incomprehensible.

          • Lillian says:

            Hah, good luck with that. Lissa was a glorious chaotic ramfest. Still it’s a good choice, since it was single-handedly responsible for the ram persisting into the twentieth century.

          • bean says:

            It’s also the first battle between seagoing ironclads, and I decided to start at the beginning. (For a variety of reasons, I have a really strong dislike of anything involving monitor-style ships, so I wrote my specs to exclude them.) The wiki article isn’t very well-written, but I think I have it beaten into submission. And yes, it is responsible for one of the stupider naval design decisions of the 19th century.

    • bean says:

      While hunting through a range table as part of a column I’m writing on ballistics, I ran across the source of the danger space data from last time, and discovered that it did not include the beam of the target ship. This makes the 5″/25 slightly more effective, but not enough to change the thrust of my argument.

  3. johan_larson says:

    I’ve been thinking about Dunbar’s Number, this idea that there is a finite limit on how many people we can deal with as individuals and when we have to deal with larger collections we start to deal in groups and abstractions. Supposedly this is why larger organizations are impersonal and bureaucratic; they are too big to care about the individual. The number itself is usually pegged at 150 or so.

    Suppose you tried to run a business while keeping this concept in mind. I think that would lead to two big strategic rules. First, you would never chase after opportunities that required you to get big. You would always be conscious that you are a wolf, not a rat or a whale, and target mid-sized opportunities. Second, if you did grow past the boundary, you would need to look for a way to either outsource work aggressively or fission. (Hopefully there would be some clean break you could fission along.)

    How big, financially speaking, could a Dunbar-conscious company get? Well, Craigslist did an estimated $335 million in business with a mere 185 employees, or $1.8 million per employee, so it’s probably the benchmark to beat.

    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/craigslist-beats-google-facebook-revenue-productivity-rob-kelly/

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Gore Associates would hive off sub-groups of less that 150 people.

      I’ve wondered about stocking an organization with people who have unusually good abilities to track people– maybe Dunbar’s number for such an organization would be higher.

    • toastengineer says:

      I always thought the way to do it would be to split companies off in to “cells” of 30-60 people and then have one super-cell at the top, composed entirely of people who you I’m 100% sure are loyal and committed to me that advises the cells on what they ought to be going for and resolves disputes between them.

      • markk116 says:

        This is basically what is done in companies now, but this leads to a massive managerial overhead. If you have a company of 1000 productive workers, and a manager can comfortably manage 25, you’d need 40 managers to manage them, and then two managers to manage the managers and then one person to manage the manager-managers.

        However, manager skill and worker independence greatly influence this. If we take the same example, but now need one manager for every eight workers, you’d need 125 managers to manage the workforce and another 16 to manage those. Then you’d also need two managers to manage those manager-managers and another manager to manage the manager-manager-manager (CEO).

        In the first example, your management is 4% of the company, but in the second example, it’s about 13%.

        • toastengineer says:

          I was hoping to eliminate the need for a tree of managers entirely, having each cell manage itself (maybe with one or two guys “at the helm,” maybe more non-hierarchically like Valve) and then each super-cell employee handles five or six entire cells. It’d be more like an alliance of small companies than one monolith. Isn’t that basically how Virgin works?

          I probably just have no idea how managing people and running companies actually work.

          • Aapje says:

            Yeah, some companies actually operate this way, effectively consisting of a bunch of small sub-companies with their own priorities, finances, etc. They sometimes bill each other internally. It has some issues. For example, at one company where I worked that had this model, the prime concern of each cell seemed to be ‘cover our ass.’ This resulted in all kinds of political games and subversion that was not intended to achieve the best outcome for the company, but to serve their own interests.

            For example, another cell had to provide a web service for me to use in my project and on the day of their deadline, they delivered something that didn’t work at all, yet reported to the super-cell that they were done. So then you got a he-said, she-said situation, until they delivered something that worked a few days later. So they essentially depended on their ability to bamboozle the super-cell to get a little deadline extension without being honest about it.

            Of course, such things also happen in more traditional companies, but a cell structure does incentivize entire cells to maximize their own well-being over the companies well-being, rather than just individuals.

    • Viliam says:

      The number itself is usually pegged at 150 or so.

      I think that’s supposed to include your family, neighbors, friends, and colleagues. That would make it maybe 50 colleagues if you have a life, 100 if you don’t.

      But as Nancy said, this number (whether it’s 150, 100, or 50) doesn’t have to be the limit of the whole organization; only the people you cooperate with. So you can split to groups by N, and physically separate those groups from each other.

      Of course, now we have a problem how those groups are supposed to cooperate. I think in the usual company people actually directly cooperate with rather small number of colleagues; it’s just that those other colleagues are also in the same building, which results in seeing unknown faces. Maybe if we would put each group of 50 in a separate building, and then have one extra building for meetings of managers, this could work. The managers would be members of two groups: the group they manage, and the group of managers; but if both groups contain 50 people, that still gives them together 100 people to cooperate with. I wonder if someone tried that.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      I’ve always thought the solution was more feudalism. Not in the sense, but the more generic sense of diffusion of control. We have 150-man fiefdoms with defined purposes, and overlords who have three jobs, listed in *increasing* importance:

      – set overall roadmaps
      – keep the peace / broker agreements
      – execute anyone who plays zero sum games with another fiefdom

      The last one is the important part that I think is missed in a lot of organizations. The big boss’s biggest job isn’t at all figuring out what market to emphasize or orienting the company towards internet sales or whatever, it’s noticing that Marketing is trying to look good by screwing over Sales, and immediately firing anyone responsible.

      Mistakes are survivable. Inefficiency is survivable. Internal backstabbing (in the tech biz, this is referred to, often in the context of Microsoft, as “Battlin’ Business Units”) is not.

    • Chalid says:

      I’ve worked in companies of size ~30, ~500, and ~30,000, and in all cases the number of people I had to actually “know” in the sense of having a good mental model of how they act, what their personality was like, etc. was about 10.

      Certainly in the 30,000 person company I’d often interact with other people but I didn’t have to actually understand them in any deep sense. e.g. I have a problem with some data, so I email the “data support” mailing list, I get a response from whoever is on rota that day, and then interact with them in a very generic way.

      Which is to say that Dunbar’s number wasn’t in any way a limiting factor on the company, at least in my roles; there was plenty more interaction that I could have handled. But rank and team membership allow you to abstract away people’s personalities while doing your job.

      • johan_larson says:

        Did you ever start identifying with your employer? Was the company ever “we” to you?

        • Chalid says:

          Yes, I identified with all my employers. Less so with the megacorp, but that was mostly because my job there was not as good as my job at the other companies.

          • aNeopuritan says:

            Employers, but not coworkers?

          • Aapje says:

            @aNeopuritan

            That wasn’t the question.

          • Chalid says:

            It’s like how I identify with the United States, but not with say Virginia or Alaska or Miami, and not with any particular American.

          • Standing in the Shadows says:

            It’s like how I identify with the United States, but not with say Virginia or Alaska or Miami, and not with any particular American.

            Odd that you would pick those, as Alaska and Miami are two places in the United States where you can find a significant number of residents who will more closely identify with that specific place over the US as a whole. Some of the other such places being NYC, the SF Bay Area, LA, and Hawaii.

    • tomconerly says:

      This is an interesting look at revenue per employee in the S&P 500. The highest is $7.9/million per employee. Those are large companies but I’d expect a small company to be able to match that per employee. Unfortunately I can’t find any data on smaller companies because most of them are private.

      Also depending on the measurement you might want to count something like WhatsApp which sold for $19 billion with 55 employees.

      • johan_larson says:

        Thanks. That’s a great link to Priceonomics. I was sure the top tech companies were also at the top in revenue per employee. But they’re not even close. Sometimes it’s hard to see out of one’s bubble.

        It’s strange that the big Wall Street companies didn’t rate. Where were Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley?

        • JayT says:

          The energy companies dominating doesn’t surprise me, but I agree that that I expected to see more Wall Street firms.

          • beta333 says:

            I think revenue is the wrong metric here. You’re probably interested in profit or market cap (Or ideally, maybe profits – salaries. If you’re only looking at after salary profit, then the employees won’t look valuable if they’re compensated fairly for their work).

            Imagine every company had 10% profit margins (For every $100 in expenses, they have $110 in revenue), but oil companies spend 95% of their expenses on oil fields, heavy machinery, oil tankers, pipelines, etc. and just 5% on salaries, whereas tech firms and financial firms spend 30% of their expenses on office space, computers, etc and 70% on salaries. For the oil companies, revenue = 22x salaries, whereas for the banks, revenue = ~1.5x salaries. Even a great disparity in salary per worker or assuming widely different profit margins, can’t really make up for the difference in revenue per employee. Revenue per employee isn’t a great measure of employee value added, because they don’t mention that employees at companies bringing in $7mm per employee, need $6.8mm of machinery and land to bring in that revenue.

            As for financial firms, I think even if you changed the metric, it might not be the big companies you’ve heard of. The ones making the most profit per employee are probably privately own hedge funds, HFTs, and algo trading firms, that are really small (10s, 100s, or maybe low 1000s employees) and for whom financial data is not publicly available. Once you become a huge bank, you need a lot of not-that-well-compensated employees just to keep everything running. People to answer phones, work as bank tellers, etc. as well as a ton of bureaucrats (can you use bureaucrats to describe a non-governmental role?) to deal with the administration of such a large company, and a bunch more to deal with all the regulations large banks face (and even more so for every new market they’re active in). GS has 30k employees. MS has 50k. They don’t even have large retail banking arms. JP Morgan Chase has 250k employees (They have a larger market cap, but that doesn’t fully explain the difference, I suspect a lot of it is due to having actual Chase bank locations to run all over the country.)

  4. Well... says:

    The SSC comment section is the most epistemically cautious, cross-culturally (i.e. across the blue-red divide) empathetic/civil group of people I know of or regularly interact with. Also one of the most intellectually diverse.

    1. Props to Scott for cultivating this environment. After I spent last weekend at a conference where the intellectual environment was NOT like this (but given the professional skills of most of the people there and topics in the presentations, maybe ought to have been at least a little more like it), I appreciate the conversation here that much more.

    2. You all deserve a pat on the back too, SSCers.

    3. Is this how it is in the Rationalist community in general? I don’t really see myself as part of that community and don’t regularly visit any websites that are part of that community aside from this one; the few glimpses I’ve had tell me the answer is no. But maybe I’m wrong?

    4. Post your theories on “What’s our secret sauce?”

    4a. Is “boiling off” part of it?

    • toastengineer says:

      I wouldn’t be surprised if part of it is that anyone who isn’t smart and tolerant enough to hang out here takes one look at the comment section, sees either someone saying that racial differences exist or that feminists make good points sometimes or that government is the best solution for certain problems, and bails. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if the posts themselves have this effect as well.

      Seems like the LessWrong comments sections are\were about as tolerant as this place is, if not quite as consistently high-quality. I’ve found the classier libertarian\anarchocapitalist hangouts tend to be similarly pleasant; that’s how I found SSC & rationalism, through libertarianism.

      And I’m sure some significant fraction of it is just careful gardening by Scott.

      And the secret sauce is just Thousand Island dressing (ketchup and mayonnaise,) same as almost all secret sauces. What I wanna know is what’s in Sheetz’s “Boom Boom” sauce, that stuff’s amazing.

      • Peffern says:

        My experience in the libertarianism-adjacent environments is that they tend to be too jargon-filled for me to get a good handle on them. Ditto for the Leftist flavor. What I like about SSC is that the viewpoints are varied enough that people don’t bother building impenetrable buzzword fortresses. That’s probably Scott’s doing.

        • toastengineer says:

          My experience in the libertarianism-adjacent environments is that they tend to be too jargon-filled for me to get a good handle on them.

          Huh. Can you give some examples? Only libertarian jargon I can think of is the NAP, which is just “don’t hurt people except to stop them hurting people*” and using the term “state” to refer to government. And “crony capitalism\corporatism” I suppose.

          *where hurting people means altering or using their property without their permission. This sounds like a weird way to define hurting but if you think about it, most of conventional morality can be defined in terms of property rights.

          In turn, the libertarian conception of property means your body and yourself, anything you’re freely given by another person (and fraud doesn’t count,) and anything produced entirely by and with your property, property you had permission to use, or unowned property (e.g. air.)

      • Viliam says:

        A tolerant community does not necessarily scare away intolerant people. Some people love to fight online, and don’t mind being in the minority. So it is also important that Scott actually bans those people (as opposed to just having that right in theory, but not actually exercising it), and that the community trusts Scott to do so.

        At LessWrong the quality is incosistent, so it is more difficult to agree on what is allowed and what is not. Here by “quality” I mean not just how smart and interesting is the article, but also what norms of politeness or non-mindkilling it follows. As an example, at SSC, Scott may sometimes write something that he really regrets later, and then he probably decides to write nicer than that in the future. But at LW, writing something less nice than usual may actually encourage other people to write even worse stuff, because instead of a regrettable mistake, they see a precedent that opens the gate for them.

        Unless it is something completely different. Maybe writing about quantum physics actually creates more dangerous enemies than writing about social justice. Or maybe it’s LW explicitly talking about creating a movement and changing the world (building the AI, raising the sanity waterline), while SSC feels to outsiders like ultimately just one busy person’s blog.

    • dodrian says:

      Re 4) I was prompted to join the community after reading several posts by Scott which seemed exceptionally level-headed and assumed the best from the people he disagreed with. That was something I wanted to see more of. In this way I think the community starts by self-selecting from a pool of reasonable people (and not because they want to hear more rants or cheerleading about why people they disagree with are dumb).

      It helps that this is still more of a comments section to a blog than a proper forum, and it helps that we get a new OT every few days, which kills discussions with more heat than light. There’s probably something to be said about making it more difficult to continue discussions that get past a certain depth (compare this to a bulletin board type forum where each reply brings the thread back up to the top of the page and make it easy for others to pile on).

      One thing that’s surprised me compared to other forums I’ve visited is how light-handed the moderation here is. This is probably mostly because Scott has better things to do with his time than read every comment, but the effect is that people aren’t playing ‘appeal-to-the-moderators’ games to try and get those they disagree with banned. Having vague rules (kind, true, necessary) rather than an explicit list again makes people less likely to try and game the system.

      In summary, what makes SSC work better for civilized disagreement than many other places on the internet?
      1) A positive example set by Scott
      2) The restrictive format of the comment section
      3) Taking a mostly hands-off approach to moderation.

    • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

      3. Is this how it is in the Rationalist community in general? I don’t really see myself as part of that community and don’t regularly visit any websites that are part of that community aside from this one; the few glimpses I’ve had tell me the answer is no. But maybe I’m wrong?

      It’s far more diverse, by virtue of not actually being a community and more of a network of loosely linked ones.

      I wouldn’t say the SSC comments section is super intellectually diverse, actually. More than is common in the internet nowadays, sure, but that’s damning with faint praise.

      • Incurian says:

        I wonder how much more diverse we can get and still communicate effectively.

        • rlms says:

          Significantly more, both in terms of having a higher (but still small) number of extremists and having more people from more centrist but underrepresented viewpoints.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          Somebody invite Terrence Tao to effort post here, and we’ll see how many people can understand him.

      • Well... says:

        I wouldn’t say the SSC comments section is super intellectually diverse, actually.

        My impression is it’s very ideologically diverse but not very culturally diverse.

        • SamChevre says:

          I’m not sure–it depends on what counts as “culture.” But it seems culturally diverse to me–more than most other places on the internet. You’ve got Catholics, polyamorists, people from multiple countries…

          Admittedly, we’re all weird, and most of us would look at something that said “the error rate went down 200%” and say “no way”.

          As a cautionary tale–the site that was like this a decade ago was Making Light.

        • quanta413 says:

          I partly agree with SamChevre, depends how you define culture. On the other hand, as Americans normally think of culture I’m pretty sure the answer would be “not culturally diverse”

          Judging by the 2017 survey results SSC is not very racially diverse. 88% white is pretty white. On the other hand, only 64% of the readership is from the U.S. which surprised me, so the racial demographics may partly reflect the underlying demographics of the countries the readers are from.

          Education level here is also higher than average, and atheists are way overrepresented.

          On the other hand, the political spectrum covered here is really broad.

          • John Schilling says:

            SSC is not very racially diverse. 88% white is pretty white. On the other hand, only 64% of the readership is from the U.S. which surprised me, so the racial demographics may partly reflect the underlying demographics of the countries the readers are from.

            If the SSC readership accurately reflected the underlying demographics of the countries the readers are from, and if we take the “other” category in Scott’s survey to be filled with random Europeans, we would expect to see 71.5% a non-hispanic white readership. So there’s still quite a bit of selection going on.

          • bean says:

            This seems like a textbook case of “Black People Less Likely”.

        • johan_larson says:

          My impression is it’s very ideologically diverse…

          Among the frequent posters? I see a pretty substantial right/libertarian skew. I would guess an American conservative or European anarchist would feel at home here, but a socialist or social democrat would feel like he’s swimming upstream all the time.

          Come to think of it, do we have a socialist among us? A social democrat? A Green?

          • quanta413 says:

            Come to think of it, do we have a socialist among us? A social democrat? A Green?

            I’m pretty sure we have some social democrat-y people here, but some of them also pattern match really badly to the current American fashion where a particular set of cultural beliefs is thought to be required to be “left”. IIRC Aapje said his beliefs were closest to the Dutch… Green party? (which I have no idea how it aligns compared to the U.S. one) And Deiseach is culturally conservative and Catholic, but as I understand it, she’s not economically right wing at all.

            But outside of when Freddie deBoer (who as I understand it has decided to bail from the hellish vortex of online argument; I assume mostly due to interactions he had in the broader media with his writing and on twitter and not here specifically but I don’t know), I don’t think we have many passionate socialists here in the old school sense. People who are pro safety net and welfare state sure, but not many pro-socialism in the shared ownership of the means of production sense. I think that’s largely due to the huge blow socialism as a whole took with the fall of the Soviet Union and the conversion of China to crony capitalism. I get the impression socialism has been hurting for numbers of true believers for decades.

          • Baeraad says:

            Hello! Socialist by preference, social democrat by pragmatism. (as in: I would prefer public ownership of the means of production and all that. I just don’t see how it’s possible anytime soon, and perhaps not ever. So I’ll settle for well-regulated capitalism backed by a welfare state, which is also not something that everyone’s going to be willing to go along with but which I can at least imagine getting a majority behind)

            But it’s true that conservatives and libertarians seem to dominate here. On the other hand, Scott himself starts out from a liberal viewpoint and then leans right from there, which seems to create an environment where people are less inclined to just dismiss left-leaning viewpoints.

          • Aapje says:

            Here is a short summary of the Dutch Green party program in English, so people can see for themselves. The American Green party seems more radical and unrealistic, although this may partly be because the programs on the American Green party site are long term, rather than for the next 4/5 years.

            As for my personal beliefs, they have become highly idiosyncratic. I do think that my disagreements with the social democratic left are mostly because I think they are wrong on the facts, while my disagreements with conservatives & libertarians are often more fundamental and about the desired outcomes.

          • Brad says:

            Among the frequent posters? I see a pretty substantial right/libertarian skew. I would guess an American conservative or European anarchist would feel at home here, but a socialist or social democrat would feel like he’s swimming upstream all the time.

            Forget socialist or social democrats, a bog standard supporter of the American Democratic Party sticks out like a sore thumb. A nominal socialist with an obsessive hatred for feminism, in contrast, would fit right in.

          • John Schilling says:

            a bog standard supporter of the American Democratic Party sticks out like a sore thumb.

            So does a standard supporter of the American Republican Party. We’ve got a few people here who will acknowledge having voted for Trump, but mostly for idiosyncratic non-MAGA reasons.

            SSC optimizes for attracting people who think a lot about political issues. Major political parties optimize for winning the votes of people who’d rather not think a lot about political issues (or they wouldn’t be major), and so wind up in a rather different place.

          • Brad says:

            So does a standard supporter of the American Republican Party.

            Conrad Honcho seems to do fine for himself here. Not a lot of dog piles or anything. That simply wouldn’t be the case for his mirror image.

            There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with a forum being a right wing space, but one ought not to be in denial about it.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            While I agree I’m a bog standard Republican voter, I disagree with “supporter of the Republican party.” I, and an awful lot of Republican voters, strongly dislike the Republican party and its leadership.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Brad –

            A few open threads ago Conrad opened a thread in which we mocked him endlessly for not wanting gay children.

            He was nice enough about it, so we were pretty good natured about the ribbing, but no, his right-wing views don’t actually fit in very well here.

            The difference is that he framed the conversation in an acceptable way – being about the children’s outcomes rather than his own feelings about them being gay, and admitting he would accept it if they were. I think most of us have decided he is a decent guy with ideas that would have been socially acceptable a few years ago, and don’t see much point in yelling at him about it.

            Whereas, to be blunt, the leftists here who have issues tend to be not-very-nice about it. The right-wing people mostly behave themselves, possibly because Scott has banned all the right-wing people who don’t, as, for as much as things heat up when left wing people aren’t nice, they explode when right wing people aren’t.

          • Chalid says:

            The bog standard Republican or Democratic party supporter is mostly not that enthused about their party leadership (presidents excepted) but they support their party because they dislike the other party much more.

          • Garrett says:

            I believe that the most recent survey showed that the commentators and the readers tended to be less right-wing than people generally thought.

            It’s possible that breaking down complex ideas and discarding all current standard thoughts leads to people thinking it’s on the other side, when really it’s merely showing that the issue is far more complex than people thought (see articles on gun control, wage gap, pharmaceutical effectiveness, etc). If the summary is “everything you know is wrong” and your prior was that the Lefty solution was correct, it could appear as a right-wing posting.

            Another consideration is that many of the issues being brought up are ones where right-wing positions are more likely to have something interesting to say. For example, analysis of existing programs such as SNAP, etc., often include criticism. Yet there isn’t a lot of discussion talking about the eg. benefits of school prayer, either.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            I believe that the most recent survey showed that the commentators and the readers tended to be less right-wing than people generally thought.

            That’s not super relevant without a measure of volume, if there’s 5 right-leaning commenters and 5 left-leaning commenters, but the left ones comment at a much higher rate, the space will seem (and really, be), more left biased, despite having an even distribution of people.

            One thing that maybe confounds percepion of skew is that I think that people here have less clustered beliefs than usual.

          • Thegnskald says:

            I think it is more to do with the fact that many people here see right-wing views as a novelty, rather than a threat.

            Right-wing is pretty far-tribe here – except, amusingly, a specific kind of far-right which shows up often. Apart from that particular tribe, their notions are quaint and interesting. (And I think that particular tribe gets the anger it does because it is a particularly modern-left version of right-wing thought, but that is a topic for another day.)

            And nobody likes dogpiling libertarians because they seem to enjoy it a little too much. I suspect libertarians revel in going to left-wing spaces and raising havoc, and having so much experience in arguing with leftists as a result, tend to do rather well in that situation.

            But a slightly different version of left? That is going to get some angry reactions. (I’ll cop to that, and have been trying to moderate myself a little better.)

          • skef says:

            A few open threads ago Conrad opened a thread in which we mocked him endlessly for not wanting gay children.

            I recall Conrad being mocked for his crackpot view of what causes homosexuality, and the reasonable, if arguable, assessment that his approach would be very alienating to any of his children who turned out to be gay, regardless of his stated intentions.

            That is, a number of people were criticizing him for what they took to be errors of fact, which is quite common in these comments from all “sides”.

          • a bog standard supporter of the American Democratic Party sticks out like a sore thumb.

            I don’t know if I count as “bog standard”, but I hold my job by virtue of being elected on the Democratic Party ticket every four years, and it is by no means a stretch for me support my fellow candidates on the ticket in Michigan. Do I “stick out like a sore thumb”?

            I wouldn’t have thought so, but then again, I am usually the last to know.

          • rlms says:

            You are definitely not bog standard.

          • JayT says:

            I think another issue is that (in America, at least) the left has a fairly homogeneous set of beliefs. The difference between a Bernie Sanders and a Hillary Clinton is more a matter of degrees. The right on the other hand, is just made up of everything that is left over. People will look at Donald Trump and an ancap and call them both right wing, even though they share almost none of the same views. There’s just a lot more room on “the right” when you have a place that is friendly to more obscure political views.

          • @ rlms

            You are definitely not bog standard.

            I should be flattered, but I’m guessing that to be distinguished from a “bog standard Democrat” is exceedingly faint praise.

            I mean, okay, I’m heterodox on a number of dimensions. I don’t demonize the Red Tribe. I winced at Hillary Clinton’s gun rhetoric. I see nothing wrong with “genetically modified” foods. I’m firmly pro-choice on abortion, but I have a good friend who pickets Planned Parenthood. I think deer are rats with hooves. I think efforts to reduce CO2 emissions are doomed to failure, and that direct human management of the atmosphere will be necessary to ameliorate climate change. I voted for Al Gore, but I doubt he would have made a great president. I am opposed to the removal of politically incorrect cemetery monuments.

            But I don’t think any of those things make me very unusual among Democrats.

            @ JayT

            the left has a fairly homogeneous set of beliefs.

            Outgroups always appear homogeneous.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I don’t think it’s that this is necessarily a right-wing space, so much as it’s a space where a certain brand of left is hated and feared, in a way that really distorts things, and really reduces standards of precision and charity. I think that a straight up Stalinist or Maoist would have a better time here than a liberal-ish SJ advocate.

            EDIT: To put it another way, imagine that libertarians really really hated and feared standard Republicans. A blog run by and for those libertarians would not be a left-wing blog.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @skef

            Seems a touch uncharitable to call my view of what causes homosexuality “crackpot” when it’s the only view consistent with current science.

            You’re welcome to change my mind, but you’ll need some actual facts or data. Simple outrage or mockery is not sufficient.

          • I would prefer public ownership of the means of production and all that. I just don’t see how it’s possible anytime soon

            Is what you mean that you don’t think it is politically possible to get it any time soon or that under current conditions, if you got it, it wouldn’t work well? If only the former, are you familiar with the standard economic arguments, going back to the calculation controversy (Mises et. al. v Lerner et. al.), for why it isn’t a workable system? The comparison of actual outcomes since then seems to support the Mises side.

          • Standing in the Shadows says:

            okay, I’m heterodox on a number of dimensions [list]

            You would be treated with freezing contempt at all the better social events and by the more connected people the Democratic Party orgs around Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Boston, and New York.

            Whereas the all the Republican voters that I know would welcome you to their backyard dinner parties with that list.

          • rlms says:

            It was definitely intended as a compliment! I was trying to point more at e.g. your “being elected on the Democratic Party ticket every four years” rather than suggesting you might have outlying beliefs.

          • Standing in the Shadows says:

            where a certain brand of left is hated and feared

            For good reason, I think. Not because of their positions on issues, or on their underlying constructive philosophies. Instead because of their playbook for entering a space, and then use outrage performance to shut down any conversation or concepts that they do not approve and prioritize.

            The only way to have a useful and learning conversation with a SJW is with one of them at a time, when they are outnumbered, and they have zero power.

          • Jaskologist says:

            This is probably one of those cases where the average person does not exist.

            Larry is the cream of the crop of the Democratic Party, which is non-average. But he’s not from the fringes of that group, which I think is the more relevant measure of “bog standard” in this discussion.

          • skef says:

            Seems a touch uncharitable to call my view of what causes homosexuality “crackpot” when it’s the only view consistent with current science.

            It has been explained over and over and over that the set of potential non-biological causes is vastly larger than the tiny space of “exposure to depictions and descriptions of homosexuality.” And assuming you really believe that the latter being the cause is “the only view consistent with current science”, perhaps you can point to some scientific evidence ruling out all other potential non-biological causes.

          • JayT says:

            @Larry, can you name two groups that are considered “left wing” but are as different from each other as libertarians and populists are? How about ancaps or fascists?

          • Nornagest says:

            YMMV on how different they are in practice, but left anarchists and Hillary Clinton-style wonkish technocrats are certainly running very different theory.

          • rlms says:

            “How about ancaps or fascists?”
            Wait, fascists are right-wing now?

          • Brad says:

            @Larry Kestenbaum

            Do I “stick out like a sore thumb”?

            But I don’t think any of those things make me very unusual among Democrats.

            I think the idiosyncrasies of the political positions you hold, mostly off-board, are besides the point. It’s the mostly off-board part that makes you a poor counterexample.

            Forget for a second the positions where you might be slightly or more out of step with the mainstream of the party, and take an issue where you are right there in the middle. Maybe it’s minimum wage or maybe it’s universal healthcare or maybe it’s immigration. But whatever it is, do you find yourself posting a lot about here? Do you push back when other people attack that position here?

            I’m not saying you have any kind of responsibility to do. On the contrary, I enjoy the mostly non-ideological posts you make about the political process at the local level a great deal.

            But what it does mean is that if someone says this place is ideologically diverse you aren’t a good example to represent the mainstream center left because your posts are mostly non-ideological.

            This is a right wing space because most of the posts that have any ideological valiance are either right wing or at least anti left. There’s lots of posters in this thread that have kinds of theories about why that might be — maybe it’s because right wing things are more fun to talk about, or maybe it’s because most thoughtful intelligent people are anti-social-left, or maybe it’s because left wing people can’t handle being challenged, or several other mooted explanations. I’m agnostic on that question, but which one, if any, is correct is irrelevant to the main point. I agree that this in an unusually thoughtful and open minded (on most issues) right wing space, but nonetheless still a right wing space.

            And that’s okay. It’s a part of the attraction for me, frankly. Not the angry posts from the perspective of people participating in blue spaces that (not so?) secretly loathe the people around them, those I could certainly live without, but the genuine red tribe and some of the libertarian posts are quite interesting in terms of “what’s the other side thinking”.

          • JayT says:

            @rlms, I’m saying that ancaps and fascists are both groups lumped into the right wing, but they have almost completely different goals and processes.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            It has been explained over and over and over that the set of potential non-biological causes is vastly larger than the tiny space of “exposure to depictions and descriptions of homosexuality.”

            It was never my contention that “exposure to depictions and descriptions of homosexuality” were the cause of homosexuality, but that they were at least one contributing factor. I also talked about molestation and cultures like Greeks and some Arab tribes where penetrating boys is acceptable.

            My contention is:

            Almost certainly not genetic.

            Almost certainly not “choice.”

            Perhaps some other biological influences like natal hormone exposure.

            Largely culturally conditioned or fostered by interpersonal interaction.

            Since culture seems to matter (I don’t think the Greeks or the Arabs are biologically gayer than anybody else), then exposure to messages that “gay is great” could lead to increased likelihood of participation in homosexual activities. Therefore I will not be taking my child to Pride parades or showing him pro-homosexual propaganda.

            What part of this is “crackpot?”

          • Thegnskald says:

            Eh. Fascists are left wing by some metrics, right wing by others. Neither wants to claim them, for obvious reasons, so the claims just get bandied about as a way of proving moral superiority.

            While communism was a thing, and there were enough left-wingers happy to include them in their camp, there was a balance to the claims, so most people were happy calling one the left-wing horror and the other the right-wing horror. Now that communism isn’t really material, both sides try to fling both horrors in the other’s camp.

            Meh.

          • You would be treated with freezing contempt at all the better social events and by the more connected people the Democratic Party orgs around Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Boston, and New York.

            Yet, somehow, I am on good terms with such people here in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which surely is as much of a bastion of liberalism as any of the places you listed.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @rlms

            Wait, fascists are left-wing now?

            I don’t know about fascism in general, but it wasn’t called “National Socialism” for nothing.

            For the modern example, look at Richard Spencer. He supports universal healthcare, is opposed to the RAISE act that would make immigration points-based, is pro-homosexual, and is an atheist. If one were to engage him and cure him of his racism, all the rest of his policies would be right at home with the Democratic party.

          • skef says:

            What part of this is “crackpot?”

            The paragraph before this sentence.

          • Randy M says:

            I should be flattered

            Go ahead and go with flattered; you don’t stick out for being unusual in belief, but are measured and well-spoken about what you know, in a way that isn’t bog standard many places. At least I think that’s the implication.

          • @ Jaskologist

            This is probably one of those cases where the average person does not exist.

            I was thinking of precisely that example!

            @ Brad

            Maybe it’s minimum wage or maybe it’s universal healthcare or maybe it’s immigration. But whatever it is, do you find yourself posting a lot about here? Do you push back when other people attack that position here?

            I don’t have unlimited time to argue with people who have different views. And I don’t have unusual insight into those issues. I am much more likely to write about topics where I am well-versed.

            @ Everybody

            Many thanks for the very kind comments.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Eh. Fascists are left wing by some metrics, right wing by others.

            It’s almost like modeling ideologies along one axis is dangerously simplistic or something. See also: modeling humans as belonging to one ideology at a time.

          • rlms says:

            @Conrad Honcho @Thegnskald
            Oops, I meant to question whether fascists were *right*-wing (referencing long debates we’ve had on the subject before which I’m not really interested in repeating).

            @Larry Kestenbaum
            Possibly someone who says “The only way to have a useful and learning conversation with a SJW is with one of them at a time, when they are outnumbered, and they have zero power” may not have the most accurate perception of what Democrat events are like.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            skef, so you agree homosexuality is likely caused by culture and personal interaction? Then shouldn’t avoiding the cultural exposure and personal interactions that are pro-homosexuality decrease the likelihood of homosexual behavior? This does not sound “crackpot” to me unless you’re pushing some kind of political agenda.

            Let’s say you would prefer if your kid is not a racist. Is it a good idea to expose him pro-racist media, and take him to a Klan march and cheer enthusiastically for the marchers?

          • Gobbobobble says:

            (I believe the original version of that comment also said “tied to a table”)

            Poor form, dude. If someone does us all the favor of taking a breath and editing out some of their needless heat, don’t go dragging it back in. There’s enough dealing-in-absolutes in that post to criticize without rekindling the obnoxious exaggeration that was wisely reconsidered.

          • skef says:

            skef, so you agree homosexuality is likely caused by culture and personal interaction?

            Not really, and certainly not in the normal sense of “caused by”. In the earlier thread and now I have mostly been accepting some of your premises for the sake of argument.

            The evidence that I am aware of suggests non-deterministic genetic propensity (twin studies) combined with environmental influences we only have the dimmest grasp on. It is entirely consistent with what we now know that the balance could be made up by what amounts to chance — chaotic influences that would be impossible to control in practice.

            Even assuming a significant social (again, broader than cultural) component, we have very little idea of what that might be. The current evidence for homosexual content playing a significant role seems worse than the evidence for that of “smothering mothers”, in that motherly smothering presumably has a more stable baseline, while common depictions of homosexuality have gone from almost zero to common relatively recently.

            Then shouldn’t avoiding the cultural exposure and personal interactions that are pro-homosexuality decrease the likelihood of homosexual behavior? This does not sound “crackpot” to me unless you’re pushing some kind of political agenda.

            Again and again you jump from the broad category of “culture” to explicit depiction of a particular content.

            Let’s say you would prefer if your kid is not a racist. Is it a good idea to expose him pro-racist media, and take him to a Klan march and cheer enthusiastically for the marchers?

            This sort of analogy seems to be the crux of your argument, even though its premises lie squarely in SJW space.

            Do you believe, for example, that a child never exposed to any romantic content would fail to be attracted to either sex? Do you not see that there are aspects of sexual attraction that are importantly different? That aside from the question of what can cause them to point in an unusual direction, the basic “mechanics” of normally asymmetric attraction likely lie deep in biology?

            The other area of evidence that is particularly relevant is that whatever the causes of sexual orientation, there is a broad consensus that, at least in males, it is fixed* prior to puberty, and correlates with certain childhood behaviors. Pre-pubescent is entirely consistent with environmental and even cultural, but much less so with your comparison to cultural attitudes of the sort that can change throughout someone’s life.

            * In the sense that one could also be “fixed” as a bisexual.

          • rlms says:

            @Gobbobobble
            Eh, the fact that that was in the original comment is useful Bayesian evidence about its author’s knowledge of the inner workings of the Democratic party. But I take your point.

          • Standing in the Shadows says:

            author’s knowledge of the inner workings of the Democratic party

            I know squat about the “inner workings of the Democratic party”.

            I just know what I’ve seen Democratic party people in those particular cities *do*.

            By “Democratic Party People” my own personal experience covers precinct captains, habitual recurring campaign volunteers, connected activists, people who run “register to vote” orgs inside corporations.

            What they *do* is snub and unperson people who are not in enthusiastic lockstep with the current mandatory hot issues. The only deviation permitted is to be “too far ahead of the curve”.

            It started getting notifiable about ten years ago, and continues to worsen to this day.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Conrad Honcho, accounts of male homosexual and heterosexual sexual awakening don’t seem wildly different from each other– in both cases, the person find that members of their preferred sex are sexually interesting and their non-preferred sex continue to be not sexually interesting.

            When there was little in the way of depictions of homosexual preferences (the 1950s or so), homosexuals were apt to feel very isolated and unhappy, and possibly marry women in the hope of making themselves “normal”. This was not a good thing.

          • By “Democratic Party People” my own personal experience covers precinct captains …

            I’m a little surprised to hear that there are 21st century people who still identify as “precinct captains”. But I guess some people are using manual typewriters and listening to vinyl records, too.

            The old-fashioned political-machine notion was that every precinct comes with a set of activists who would take effective responsibility for a party’s campaign efforts there. That idea died decades ago. Giving someone a title and a territory doesn’t necessarily motivate them to do anything. Team canvassing, directed centrally by each political campaign, gets the job done.

            (I searched for “precinct captain” on Google, and was amused to discover that around half the results are about Magic: The Gathering trading cards.)

            What they *do* is snub and unperson people who are not in enthusiastic lockstep with the current mandatory hot issues. The only deviation permitted is to be “too far ahead of the curve”.

            Maybe I’m hopelessly Midwestern, but that strikes me as snooty East/West coast kind of behavior, probably not limited to politics.

            Remember that, in actual day-to-day electoral politics, there is a severe shortage of activists and volunteers. Anyone who shows up and is willing to help is not going to be questioned closely about adherence to some party line, let alone expelled for having offbeat views.

          • Giving someone a title and a territory doesn’t necessarily motivate them to do anything.

            My impression from Plunkett was that the precinct captain was judged by the machine on the basis of how many votes he delivered, which motivated him to deliver votes.

          • Standing in the Shadows says:

            I’m a little surprised to hear that there are 21st century people who still identify as “precinct captains”.

            Like I said, I know jack shit about the organizational workings of the Democratic Party. My knowledge there is based on someone who, shall we say, “I used to know”. They decided to get into politics for reasons, started showing up at some local activist cafe gathering, demonstrated they are organized and outgoing, and was invited to stand for election for the position in their area. I was surprised to learn that it was a position that uses the public ballot, but that’s another thing I learned, is that the parties can use the public ballot and the public election cycles to fill their open internal positions. After they won that position, over the next few years, more and more in their eyes, everything wrong with the world was the “Rethuglicans” fault, and were the reason why all the good people didn’t have ponies and mansions. I went to a few next-step-up-the-org meetings with them, met lots more party people and volunteers, and discovered that as “hate the red tribe” as they were getting, most everyone else there was even worse. (And the way they rockstar worshiped the state level elected politicians was disgusting and embarrassing.)

            I kept my mouth shut, smiled, shook hands, and watched, and listened. But eventually it was noticed I often was not the last person to stop applauding…

            So yeah, that’s the entire extent of what I know about the on the ground working organization of the internal processes of the Democratic Party on the west coast.

          • Brad says:

            Last time I looked at a map, Boston and NYC weren’t on the west coast.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Incidentally, I fall somewhere around Social Democrat in terms of goals, I just disagree with them about pretty much everything they try to do to achieve those goals.

            I see the problems as *hard*, and the solutions proposed tend to be simplistic.

            Personally I would start by phasing out income taxes in favor of wealth taxes, because I think the focus on income instead of wealth benefits the entrenched upper classes, who tend to have relatively low income and high wealth (Yes, this is simplistic too). I would also add taxes on intellectual property.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            skef, Nancy, how do you explain the surveys that now fewer than half of teens identify as straight? What changed in the last decade or so to cause this large increase in gayness?

          • Standing in the Shadows says:

            … half of teens identify as straight …

            I see that in my tutoring groups, and I’m told it’s even more prevalent in the regular public school student body. But what I see *actually* happening is kids say lots of stuff, and the girls will crush on other girls, but when the kissing starts, and the dating happens, and the pairing up happens, almost all of these “pan”, “queer”, and “fluid” kids “just happen” to end up with someone of the opposite sex, and the exceptions are pretty easy to predict early on. And the *actually* gay kids don’t fuck around with all these new gender labels. They figure out they are gay really early, and then are clearly attracted to other kids who also very clearly gender identified and clearly also gay.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            What’s your source for fewer than half of teens identifying as straight?

            Let’s assume that the proportion of teens identifying as straight has dropped a lot, even if not that much.

            I would say that there’s more social permission to say what you want sexually, and that strikes me as a good thing.

            Unfortunately, there’s also something of an attack on straightness, so this may mean that some of the people describing themselves as not straight may be including rather minor desires as part of their identity.

            My favorite thing on gender identity was Hanne Blank saying that her orientation is sovereign. I only saw that in one article, so I don’t know whether she usually says it.

          • bean says:

            @Conrad
            What that survey said was that lots of kids were identifying themselves as ‘not exclusively straight’. In practice, I doubt anything has changed. 20 years ago, admitting that you’d found someone of the same sex attractive once was going to get you bullied and called names. Today, it gets you celebrated as cool and edgy. In either case, you’re actually going out with someone of the opposite sex. I’d like evidence that revealed preferences (actual dating patterns) are changing.

          • Standing in the Shadows says:

            Boston and NYC weren’t on the west coast

            That’s a fair cop.

            What I know from those places is from social and professional dealing with the machinery of the bottom level elected government there, and dealing with assorted people who live there who make sure that everyone around them know they are active members and volunteers for their Party.

            I know fuck all about how the party machinery and organization works there, I just know how those people use it to socially intake and socially exclude people.

            Try going to a social mixer for a group of people who in theory are together to talk about fundraising for an art gallery, or for organizing a work party to clean up an abandoned lot to turn it into a gurella peapatch, to pick two random personal examples, and then get told as part of the activities for the evening, we are *also* going to be stuffing envelopes for election literature, or doing phone banking for Dean, and then greeted with incredulous contempt for refusing to join in.

            Have it happen enough times.

            When I’m in deep red territory, or hanging out with a bunch of people who I know are Republican Party members, shit like that never happened. The closest thing was bowing my head and keeping my mouth shut while someone said grace over the food.

          • skef says:

            how do you explain the surveys that now fewer than half of teens identify as straight? What changed in the last decade or so to cause this large increase in gayness?

            I suspect that the main thing that has changed is that “identify” has become a pretty useless word to use in a survey.

            To the extent I travel in circles in this phase of my life, a large percentage of the women I know identify as “queer”. As far as I can tell, this identification has more to do with objections to standard views about gender roles than about who most of the people in question actually have sexual or romantic relationships with. By the numbers, the rates of bisexuality and homosexuality don’t seem to have changed much. “Queer” also applies to gender-fluidity, which is an identification that, if you want for, let’s say, “culturally determined” reasons, doesn’t require much of you.

            I don’t want to grump too much about this, because it’s most charitable to take people at their word about what they’re feeling. I also think that, aside from the occasional political trend, people are mostly honest about this stuff.

            Anyway, the surveys I would put more weight on right now are those that ask about actual hookups or relationships. Or even just asking men “how attracted are you to men?”, instead of asking about identity.

            Or I suppose we may just be talking past each other, and you care as much or more about such identity claims as you do about, uh, “acts”. That’s not how I was understanding what you were saying. In that case, the problem may come down to trying to control your children’s politics, which is another can of worms entirely.

            Added question: Has the incidence of claims of “homosexual” or “gay” or “lesbian” on recent surveys significantly increased? That would surprise me in a way that a significant decrease in “straight” would not.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Nancy, it’s this survey.

            bean, skef, I agree, more data is needed to know if they’re acting on their self-declared identification. But when we’ve got Bill Nye rapping about “butt stuff” and the kids are saying “I’m totes gay now”…I dunno. This seems connected.

            I also find it interesting that my views are considered “socially unacceptable” and into “crackpot” territory. I did not think the culture had changed so dramatically that saying I do not want my children to see me waving flags and cheering for sexual deviants lest it give them the message they will win my approval by participating in the activities I’m cheering for is that far out of the mainstream. If this is crackpottery, then one of us is out of touch. If it’s me, then, man, things have changed a lot.

            Remember, I’m tolerant of homosexuality. I am not at all suggesting other people should behave differently, nor am I criticizing. (I even have gay friends! That proves I’m not a homophobe, right?!?) But it seems the standard has moved from “tolerance” to “acceptance” to “cheering support.”

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            For what it’s worth, your ideas didn’t strike me as crackpotted, just to the right of what I agree with.

          • Thegnskald says:

            I think they confuse bisexuality with homosexuality.

            And it confuses identification with nature. Kinsey’s original reports suggest around 47% of men were bisexual to some extent back in the 40s (and 37% of men had engaged in homosexual behavior). 50% of men not being straight isn’t a huge change.

            The big change is that 87% of men identified as heterosexual at the time; it looks more like men are more accurate in labeling their sexuality, than that sexuality has changed.

          • skef says:

            I did not think the culture had changed so dramatically that saying I do not want my children to see me waving flags and cheering for sexual deviants [lest it give them the message they will win my approval by participating in the activities I’m cheering for] is that far out of the mainstream.

            What I think is crackpotty and potentially damaging to your children is your rationalization (which also shifts between various points on the axis between the motte and the bailey, as does your description of what you don’t want them to experience — is it your approval or depictions of homosexuality? Or is blocking out all of the latter a (rather involved) way of avoiding the former?).

            Not wanting your kids to see gay stuff is still quite mainstream, and without the bogus rationalization is something I would likely be grumpily silent about, as per site conventions.

            Do I think it is mainstream to feel fine about homosexuality, while also wanting to hide its existence from one’s children and using the phrase “sexual deviants”? No, that strikes me as a rather strange corner case, perhaps pointing to unresolved conceptual tensions. Or maybe I’m overreading “tolerance” as more than “not pushing to cast into the flames at this moment”.

          • Randy M says:

            Is Kinsey really reliable? I don’t have anything at hand, but I’ve read critique of him before, such as his biasing his samples with prisoners, etc.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Kinsey’s study had sampling issues, but a later follow-up study suggested they didn’t have a major impact on the overall results.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            And it confuses identification with nature. Kinsey’s original reports suggest around 47% of men were bisexual to some extent back in the 40s (and 37% of men had engaged in homosexual behavior). 50% of men not being straight isn’t a huge change.

            Given that Kinsey’s research incorporated a fair bit of dubious statistical practice,* I don’t think it’s safe to base any arguments on his conclusions.

            * Most obviously, taking “Men who are happy to talk about their sex lives to a stranger” as representative of “Men in general”.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            is it your approval or depictions of homosexuality? Or is blocking out all of the latter a (rather involved) way of avoiding the former?).

            It winds up being both, because my complaint with modern media is that depictions of homosexuality (in the sorts of media that would be watched by children [1] anyway, like Glee) are uniformly positive, and people who are not enthusiastically supporting homosexuality are evil like me.

            I’m also thinking of things like Jim Gaffigan’s tweet halfway down this page as examples of bad ideas, that I would not do.

            I do not think it is crackpottery to suggest that portraying a behavior as uniformly positive, cheering for it enthusiastically in front of kids, and portraying opponents of this behavior as evil just might, maybe, in some marginal edge cases, increase the likelihood children will engage in said behavior. And I certainly don’t see how failing to do these things could be harmful to the kids. I mean really, we’re now into “not taking your kids to Pride parades and sitting them down in front of Glee” is harmful? Is this slope going to end anywhere, or in 15 years are we going to be reporting people to CPS for not forcing their toddlers to watch gay porn?

            Feel free to do that with your children. I think it’s a poor choice.

            [1] In the previous discussion I had said “no evil gays on TV” and was reminded of some less than favorable portrayals of gay characters but they were on shows like The Wire and Orange is the New Black which aren’t really going to appeal to people until they’re in their teens and have already had The Talk.

          • rlms says:

            @Conrad Honcho
            Do you think that Jim Gaffigan’s silly tweet is going to significantly increase the probability of his children growing up and having sex with people of the same gender?

          • Nick says:

            In fairness to Conrad, rlms, I don’t think he’s saying that a tweet is going to make his kids gay, but I do think he’s saying taking them to a pride parade, in LGBT-themed clothing, sporting pride flags, is going to increase the chance they’re gay. Again, I still disagree with his conclusion that exposing kids to positive portrayals of homosexuality increases the chance they end up gay, but that’s still a much more defensible position than what you suggest.

          • Do you think that Jim Gaffigan’s silly tweet is going to significantly increase the probability of his children growing up and having sex with people of the same gender?

            I’m not Conrad but I think his basic point is correct. If children grow up seeing homosexuality portrayed in a generally positive way, more of them will end up either bisexual or homosexual.

            Someone in one of these threads quoted figures for the number of men who had had sex with other men, and it was a large minority as I remember. The more positive someone’s mental image of homosexuality, the more likely it will be that someone who isn’t repulsed by the idea of homosexual sex will engage in it. If the image is “homosexual activity is a courageous blow for human freedom and against stifling puritanism,” the odds could get pretty high.

            Whether that’s a good or bad thing is a more complicated question. Being bisexual expands the pool of possible partners, which has obvious benefits. For men, it also opens up some additional medical risks.

            If one believes, as many parents do, that your children will be happier if they end up married with children (and that you will be happier with grandchildren), then anything that diverts mate search away from partners of the opposite sex is in that respect undesirable.

            I am curious about the factual beliefs of those arguing against Conrad. Is your implicit assumption that everyone is somehow bound to be either homosexual or heterosexual? Isn’t it obvious that people who choose to be bisexual could choose to be either entirely heterosexual or entirely homosexual in their actions? Isn’t it likely that there is a continuum of sexual tastes ranging from only interested in members of one sex to only interested in members of the other? If so, isn’t it obvious that where on that continuum the actual breaks in behavior, between heterosexual and bisexual and between bisexual and homosexual, occur will depend, in part, on the picture someone gets of how attractive/unattractive, admirable/not admirable homosexuality is?

          • skef says:

            Is your implicit assumption that everyone is somehow bound to be either homosexual or heterosexual?

            No. “heterosexual” refers to people who are predominantly attracted to members of the opposite sex and “homosexual” refers to people who are predominantly attracted to members of the same sex. There are also “bisexuals”, who are attracted to men and women, “asexuals” who are attracted to neither, and various other less common patterns of attraction and people who don’t fit neatly into “male” and “female”.

            Isn’t it obvious that people who choose to be bisexual could choose to be either entirely heterosexual or entirely homosexual in their actions?

            Someone attracted to both men and women can have satisfying romantic or sexual relationships with either or both, as they like. Someone with a bisexual orientation can choose to do so with both men and women, but did not choose who they are attracted to. “Choose to be bisexual” is ambiguous between the two meanings.

            Isn’t it likely that there is a continuum of sexual tastes ranging from only interested in members of one sex to only interested in members of the other?

            Yes.

            If so, isn’t it obvious that where on that continuum the actual breaks in behavior, between heterosexual and bisexual and between bisexual and homosexual, occur will depend, in part, on the picture someone gets of how attractive/unattractive, admirable/not admirable homosexuality is?

            Again, it is important not to conflate orientation with behavior. With respect to men, at least, the attitude “most gay guys are just bisexuals who are making a choice” is inaccurate.

            If the thought is “homosexuals will do what they have to, but my son might be bisexual and in that case I would like him to date women rather than men”, the conventional wisdom is that you’ll get your wish. Gay men have a reputation for avoiding relationships with bisexuals because “they always eventually get burned”, and it’s not like there aren’t a plethora of cultural advantages to man/woman marriages.

            Personally I think parents should butt out of their children’s sex lives and shut the fuck up about prospective grand-kids, but that’s just me.

          • Again, it is important not to conflate orientation with behavior.

            I tried to explicitly distinguish them, although it would have been clearer if instead of writing “Isn’t it obvious that people who choose to be bisexual” I had written “who are bisexual in orientation.” But I did write

            “could choose to be either entirely heterosexual or entirely homosexual in their actions?”

            So far as I can tell, your only rebuttal to what I thought was a straightforward argument is the claim that someone who is bisexual by orientation won’t be able to be homosexual in his actions because no homosexual will be willing to have sex with him:

            Gay men have a reputation for avoiding relationships with bisexuals because “they always eventually get burned”, and it’s not like there aren’t a plethora of cultural advantages to man/woman marriages.

            To begin with, a man bisexual by inclination who wants homosexual sex can get it with another man of similar inclination. Beyond that, I think you greatly exaggerate how picky homosexual men are–a lot of people in that culture are into casual sex.

            So you are left with no argument against Conrad’s positive claim, that exposing his children to lots of positive views of homosexuality will make them more likely to end up engaging in homosexual activity. You just don’t think he should care.

            Personally I think parents should butt out of their children’s sex lives and shut the fuck up about prospective grand-kids, but that’s just me.

            Talking about crackpot notions …

          • Controls Freak says:

            If the thought is “homosexuals will do what they have to, but my son might be bisexual and in that case I would like him to date women rather than men”, the conventional wisdom is that you’ll get your wish. Gay men have a reputation for avoiding relationships with bisexuals because “they always eventually get burned”, and it’s not like there aren’t a plethora of cultural advantages to man/woman marriages.

            This is an interesting time to acknowledge that one of the things states might be trying to do with marriage policy is to encourage procreation.

          • @ DavidFriedman

            My impression from Plunkett was that the precinct captain was judged by the machine on the basis of how many votes he delivered, which motivated him to deliver votes.

            Plunkett had a tool that is no longer available today: patronage employment, also known as the “spoils system”, as in, “to the winner go the spoils.”

            In the 19th century, practically all government employees owed their jobs to a political party or machine. Campaign work was an explicit condition of emloyment. If a teacher or office clerk or street sweeper failed to turn out the vote in his precinct, he could be dismissed. Or, if the other party/faction happened to win control, he and all his colleagues would be replaced wholesale by a new set of workers with different loyalties.

            Courts no longer stand for this. Hence, today’s campaign volunteers are harder to motivate and control than they were in Plunkett’s day.

          • skef says:

            So you are left with no argument against Conrad’s positive claim, that exposing his children to lots of positive views of homosexuality will make them more likely to end up engaging in homosexual activity.

            Sorry, are we talking about Conrad’s latest motte, which is that what he plans to do with his kids could conceivably have an impact on their sexual behavior, or his bailey, which is that cultural influence — interpreted (over and over) as exposure to depictions or descriptions of homosexuality — determines orientation, and this is the only theory compatible with current scientific knowledge?

            I don’t remember arguing against the motte. It would surprise me if I had, given the great deal of evidence that even entirely gay guys will marry women and have kids under pressure from their parents. Some of them even stay monogamous, although my impression is that that’s rare. It generally sucks for them, not to mention their wives … but whatever.

            Social pressure, particularly from parents, works quite generally. If you’re worried for some reason that your kids might marry someone Jewish, I would guess it’s generally effective to describe Jews as immoral or dirty as your kids are growing up.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I’m not a parent, but if I want to increase my odds of my children being happy and me having grandchildren, I’d focus on having a good family life so that my children want to replicate it. Homosexuals who want children can arrange to have them. Heterosexuals who don’t want children can arrange to not have them. Either plan can fail, but succeeding is the way to bet.

            I would definitely want my children to know how to avoid and/or get out of abusive relationships.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @skef

            My motte and my bailey are one and the same.

            1) Culture influences orientation (what you call my bailey).

            2) Therefore I’m not going to expose my children to pro-homosexual cultural influences (what you call my motte).

            These are the same thing.

            But then you completely straw man with

            If you’re worried for some reason that your kids might marry someone Jewish, I would guess it’s generally effective to describe Jews as immoral or dirty as your kids are growing up.

            The only things I have ever said I would do regarding sexual orientation with regards to my kids’ upbringing is to not bring them to Pride parades like Jim Gaffigan did (rlms, my point was about the bringing of the kids to the parade, not about the tweet) and not show them pro-homosexual media. The only action I have ever taken in this regard is when I asked Mrs. Honcho to not watch Modern Family (which features a married gay couple) while the children are in the room.

            I have never described homosexuals as “immoral” or “dirty” in front of my children, nor will I, because my preference is that my children not even know homosexuality exists until they’re teenagers. Hopefully by then they will have only been exposed to pro-hetero memes and not pro-homo memes and will be more likely to have imprinted on “heterosexuality,” which has been a winning strategy for my genetic line since the invention of sexual reproduction.

            This is enough to get me labeled a socially unacceptable crackpot. The slippery slope is real. Fifteen years ago I was the first person I know to support gay marriage (reasons for which I will respond to Controls Freak in a minute), I have four gay friends with whom I have good relationships, and when I had the opportunity in my state to vote for gay marriage, I voted “yes.” Yet I am now the socially unacceptable crackpot because I will not go wave flags for them in front of my children. What other sexual preferences must I go attend parades for to avoid moral condemnation in your eyes? Is there any limit? Must I also wave flags for scat fetishes and bestiality or suffer in shame for my unenlightened bigotry?

            It will happen to you, too. I never thought it would happen to me, but it has. With homosexual acceptance morality as a positional good, unless something changes, in 15 years you’re going to be the evil homophobic bigot because you take the socially unacceptable stance of refusing to vigorously perform gay sex acts in front of your toddlers to make sure they don’t grow up thinking homosexuality is anything other than the best thing there ever was.

            @Controls Freak

            This is an interesting time to acknowledge that one of the things states might be trying to do with marriage policy is to encourage procreation.

            Not really. The state’s interest in marriage is divorce. The common “internet libertarian” argument about gay marriage is that “the government shouldn’t even be involved in marriage!” But this is silly because the government is always dragged in to divorce.

            90% of what government does is settle property disputes without people having to murder each other. Divorce is a big property/contract dispute. What’s the first thing you do in a contract dispute? Try to argue that the contract was never valid in the first place.

            The government short circuits this process by requiring you to get a marriage license. Bob can’t argue the contract is invalid when he went to county clerk’s office and proved that when marrying Alice he’s not already married to Betty, that they’re both sober, consenting and disease-free.

            Both sides of the gay marriage debate tried to make it out like it’s the state giving you a big Thumbs Up! for being in love, but it’s not. It’s really just to make it easier to adjudicate your divorce. This is why when Mrs. Honcho and I got married the booklet we received was one page about getting married and 29 pages about how to get a divorce.

            I’m for gay marriage because we have a descriptive system of government. If people want to get gay married, they’re going to get gay divorced, and so proper records will make the state’s job easier. The way it actually came about, with Kennedy’s ridiculous Supreme Court gay marriage love ballad decision was a travesty, but I voted for it when I could.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Conrad Honcho, I’ve read enough by homosexuals from an earlier era that not knowing that other homosexuals exist doesn’t keep people from being homosexual, it just makes them unhappy.

            Also, in this era, you can’t keep your children from knowing that homosexuality exists.

            I don’t think you’re under any obligation to take your children to pride parades.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Nancy, yes, some people will still grow up homosexual even if they’ve never heard of it before puberty. But on the margin, would keeping children ignorant of it (or, not presenting them with positive depictions) mean fewer of them grow up homosexual?

            I don’t have any good evidence, but it seems likely to me.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Nancy, I’m not assuming at all that I can control my children’s sexuality, just that since perhaps I can provide influence, and given that straight privilege is a thing, my children being heterosexual is preferable to them being homosexual.

            If asked, “would you rather you child be part of a historically persecuted minority associated with drug abuse and disease and non-reproduction or not” and you don’t answer in the negative then our values are so incongruous I don’t think we can have a discussion.

            I think that is the True Objection. It’s not permissible for me to prefer my children be heterosexual. But to me, they’re real people, with real names and faces, and when I think about their futures, they’re better off being heterosexual than homosexual. So I’m going to take the chance that not presenting them with pro-homosexual propaganda encourages heterosexuality (best option), and take a gamble that they won’t be too badly damaged if it turns out they were inescapably homosexual.

            Maybe it turns it out that they’ll be flaming homosexuals, and be really, really mad at me for not taking them to Pride parades at age 6 and waving rainbow flags, but that’s a chance I’m willing to take.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            We have evidence that being in an environment which pretends homosexuality doesn’t exist is bad for homosexuals.

            We have evidence that that people have innate sexual orientations, even if we don’t understand the causes.

            We have no idea whether there’s any significant proportion of people who do not become homosexual because they’ve never heard of it.

            As a general principle, I don’t recommend concealing facts about the world from children, and certainly not from teenagers.

          • or his bailey, which is that cultural influence — interpreted (over and over) as exposure to depictions or descriptions of homosexuality — determines orientation, and this is the only theory compatible with current scientific knowledge?

            Perhaps you could quote him making that claim? I seem to have missed it.

          • skef says:

            Perhaps you could quote him making that claim? I seem to have missed it.

            This subthread is a continuation of this earlier one.

          • skef says:

            @Conrad

            That was a hypothetical in response to David Friedman’s argument, not to yours.

          • @Skef:
            The position you attribute to Conrad:

            which is that cultural influence — interpreted (over and over) as exposure to depictions or descriptions of homosexuality — determines orientation, and this is the only theory compatible with current scientific knowledge?

            What Conrad wrote in the thread that you pointed at to justify your claim:

            note that current research has not identified a biological cause of homosexuality. If it’s not biological then it’s likely the result of cultural conditioning. …

            I believe homosexual behavior is culturally transmitted with about 65% certainty. I could entirely be wrong, and I would welcome evidence to the contrary…. but given the poor outcomes for homosexual behavior and the significant chance such behavior is culturally conditioned …

            Do you notice a difference between the level of certainty he expressed and the level you attributed to him?

          • Montfort says:

            @DavidF:
            from this thread, Conrad says:

            Seems a touch uncharitable to call my view of what causes homosexuality “crackpot” when it’s the only view consistent with current science

            If you’re only 65% sure current science has properly identified the cause of something, you can still say there’s only one view consistent with it, I guess. But, anyway, that’s where skef got that phrasing from, as a quick ctrl-f would have revealed.

          • Nick says:

            I have never described homosexuals as “immoral” or “dirty” in front of my children, nor will I, because my preference is that my children not even know homosexuality exists until they’re teenagers.

            Can you be more precise here, Conrad? If by “teenagers” you have a time in mind more like 12 rather than, say, 16, then I don’t think we substantially disagree on what the best approach is, just the reason why (frankly, though, I’d expect the kid to bring it up instead, at more like 9 or 10 years old). For that matter, I’m not sure Nancy would say that talking to them about it at the age of early puberty is harmful either.

            Re the larger issue here, I don’t think “I will explain to my kids what homosexuality is when they’re teenagers” on its own is what’s getting you treated as a crackpot. I think it’s a combination of 1) having an unusual view about the cause(s) of homosexuality; 2) not being clear about what ages we’re talking about here, since I for one see a pretty significant difference between 12 and 16; and 3) saying things like this:

            Must I also wave flags for scat fetishes and bestiality or suffer in shame for my unenlightened bigotry?

            in 15 years you’re going to be the evil homophobic bigot because you take the socially unacceptable stance of refusing to vigorously perform gay sex acts in front of your toddlers to make sure they don’t grow up thinking homosexuality is anything other than the best thing there ever was.

          • Aapje says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz

            We have evidence that being in an environment which pretends homosexuality doesn’t exist is bad for homosexuals.

            Yes and that an environment which considers homosexuality to be immoral causes some/many homosexual people to try to be straight.

            However, the logical consequence of this is that the opposite is also true and an environment which pretends that heterosexuality doesn’t exist and/or vilifies heterosexuality is bad for heterosexuals and causes some/many of them to try to be homosexual.

            This is especially relevant because there is an ideology that believes that oppression can only happen in one direction and thus has a tendency to wildly overcorrect and reject all evidence of the harm this does, as recognizing that would disprove the core dogma of their ideology.

            We have evidence that that people have innate sexual orientations, even if we don’t understand the causes.

            Sure, but according to Kinsey some people are strictly straight or homosexual, but others are more flexible. So it’s not implausible that there are people who could go either way and who would be better off rounding off to straight, if that choice results in a better life on average than rounding off to homosexual.

            As a general principle, I don’t recommend concealing facts about the world from children, and certainly not from teenagers.

            I agree that this seems very silly and impractical. I would rather suggest that Conrad would make his children resilient to the aforementioned ideology (as well as homophobes). For example by explaining to them that being straight and non-straight are both perfectly fine and healthy, that most people are straight, that many people tell falsehoods about these things, that they should not let themselves be forced in a sexuality that doesn’t match their innate preferences, explain bayesian reasoning based on base rates, etc.

            Then he can also explain the dangers of homosexuality if he wants them to have a bit of bias towards identifying as straight, although they should already have that bias if they use bayesian reasoning.

          • Controls Freak says:

            @Conrad

            The state’s interest in marriage is divorce.

            This is as incomprehensible to me as when someone says, “The cause of Major World Event X is Y.” Generally, that’s not how these things work. Instead, it’s a combination of a variety of factors. Analogously, marriage is a complicated institution, and there are a host of different state policies which touch on it in various contexts. It seems silly for anyone to say that there is one true… “The interest.”

            @Nancy

            We have evidence that that people have innate sexual orientations, even if we don’t understand the causes.

            Can you point to a reference that you think does a good job of presenting that evidence? When the APA had a chance to do so in their brief in Obergefell, the only thing they cited was an opinion poll. That’s pretty disappointing for scientific evidence coming from a major organization who we believe to be acting upon scientific evidence.

          • skef says:

            Can you point to a reference that you think does a good job of presenting that evidence?

            Here is one meta-analysis on conversion therapy studies.

          • Controls Freak says:

            That’s definitely a different question. I really shouldn’t have to make a list of things (and points in time) where people could say, “Treatments X, Y, and Z don’t seem to affect A,” where it’s painfully obvious that A is not, in fact, innate.

            Edit: In fact, I didn’t even mention that the APA had also cited their own policy paper on that topic in their Obergefell brief, precisely because it was so obviously irrelevant (not to mention other issues).

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            If you’re only 65% sure current science has properly identified the cause of something, you can still say there’s only one view consistent with it, I guess. But, anyway, that’s where skef got that phrasing from, as a quick ctrl-f would have revealed.

            I said “consistent with” and not “proven by.” Science has looked for a genetic cause of homosexuality and found absolutely nothing. It’s possible homosexuality is genetic, but it’s very, very unlikely. Einstein’s theory of special relativity rules out faster than light travel, and every experiment so far confirms this. It’s possible that faster than light travel is in fact possible, and Einstein was wrong, but it’s highly, highly unlikely.

            You can claim you think faster than light travel is possible, but that is not consistent with current science. The only position consistent with current science is that faster than light travel is not possible. It could be! But if you insist it is, your position is not consistent with current science.

            I admit biological causes of homosexuality are possible, but don’t seem particularly plausible because we haven’t identified “smoking gun” hormonal or biological differences between heterosexuals and homosexuals. A position that homosexuality is caused by biology is inconsistent with the current scientific research. If you insist it is, it is because of your political aims and not because of “science.”

            However, we absolutely have identified cultures that are more homosexual than neighboring cultures (ancient Greeks, some Arab tribes).

            So, the only position consistent with (which is different than proven by) current science is that culture matters in terms of sexual orientation.

            The push back I get in these discussions is entirely object level. If I said “if you would prefer you child not be a racist, you should probably not take them to Klan marches and have them watch as you enthusiastically cheer on the Klansmen” (even though you yourself are not a racist, and are simply there supporting free speech and assembly) no one would object. They would think this wise.

            There is no meta-principle at stake here. I’m only getting piled upon because limitless pro-homosexuality is a moral positional good.

          • Bellum Gallicum says:

            I grew up in a place where the 100 people I graduated high school with were the same people I started kindergarten with. And it seemed to me and my friends that about 5% of the males were homosexuals and it was pretty obvious by the age of seven. It was an incredibly masculine and rural community (farming, hunting, military) and these families seemed to be good sample of that community and so it didn’t seem to be culture which was intensely anti-homosexual and focused around guns football and military service.

            So it certainly seems genetic to me, but I would agree that whether people choose to live openly as homosexual or even admit it to themselves seems culturally dependent.

          • skef says:

            The push back I get in these discussions is entirely object level.

            Actually, you’ve received all sorts of different kinds of pushback, including this post of mine. And in response you just keep mischaracterizing the other positions and restipulating your own.

          • Montfort says:

            I said “consistent with” and not “proven by.”

            Is this post directed at me? Because mostly I just thought it was weird David didn’t remember that claim from earlier in the thread (though perhaps he didn’t read that post).

            But yes, that’s why my quote and post both use “consistent,” and do not contain the words “proof,” “prove,” “proven,” etc. And I don’t think the two quotes (the “consistent” and “65%” ones) are inconsistent with each other.

          • skef says:

            That’s definitely a different question. I really shouldn’t have to make a list of things (and points in time) where people could say, “Treatments X, Y, and Z don’t seem to affect A,” where it’s painfully obvious that A is not, in fact, innate.

            The question you’re asking relates to a psychological propensity. Do you think there are examples of innate psychological propensities (or even capacities) that differ between otherwise unexceptional individual humans, and experimental evidence of them as such? That might give us more of an idea of what you’re looking for.

          • Aapje says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            Just because the cause is not genetic, that doesn’t mean that the cause is social norms. There are many potential environmental influences beyond social norms.

            It can also be a generic random chance, so then it doesn’t inherit, but it’s also not environmental.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            “@Nancy

            >>We have evidence that that people have innate sexual orientations, even if we don’t understand the causes.

            >Can you point to a reference that you think does a good job of presenting that evidence?

            I didn’t mean references, I meant personal accounts.

            *****

            Conrad Honcho, David Friedman

            I think you’re discounting– in fact, ignoring– damage which gets done to homosexuals in favor of your hopes that bisexuals can be pushed towards heterosexual behavior.

          • Controls Freak says:

            @skef

            I think you’re getting it. I’m basically asking, “Given that basically all other questions of psychological propensities fall in the category of, ‘We have no bloody clue where in nature/nurture this is,’ why are people so willing to take a hard line stance on this one due to things like personal accounts (e.g. Nancy)?”

            For a more specific example, consider infidelity. When I was in grad school, I did a project on the neurobiology of pair bonding. On that topic, we have both an animal model (closely related species of voles, one of which pair up long-term sexually and one of which doesn’t) and a biological correlate (one example was microsatellite expression with subjective accounts of relationship quality). There’s a decent field of work in this (not all perfectly harmonious; there’s a few different mechanisms in play). Now, I still don’t believe this evidence (what I looked at at the time) is strong enough to say with much force that infidelity is innate, but if someone asks me to compare the quality of the evidence for this with the quality of public opinion polls and failed attempts at conversion therapy, I’m taking infidelity every time. (More likely, I’m saying, “We have no bloody clue for any of these things.”)

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Controls Freak, my take is more that a good bit of homosexuality is *not* shaped by social pressure, and that a lot of misery is caused by trying to make it not exist.

          • Controls Freak says:

            Nancy, I’m interested in the scientific evidence for the former, and I’m not particularly interested in the latter at the moment. (Conrad might be, but that’s between you and him.)

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz

            That’s a good way of putting it.

            Something that also never got addressed, that I can remember, when I brought it up is – to what degree are certain risky activities the result of a subculture that developed under great pressure? A sexual culture that involves a lot of short-term, possibly-anonymous, casual hookups is going to develop if homosexuality is repressed, you cannot have open relationships between two men, and secret relationships are still suspicious (this happened more to gay men than women; two guys who are “bachelor roommates” for whatever reasons attracts more suspicion than two “gal pals” in a “Boston marriage” or what have you). This isn’t the only example of this.

            Now, a sexual subculture consisting entirely of men is probably going to involve more risk-taking behaviour (promiscuity, drugs) than women, but men are in general more prone to such risk-taking behaviour than women are (for whatever combination of reasons). To some extent, gay male sexual norms are what a lot of straight men would do if they could – but a guy has to be a rockstar or whatever to be having casual sex with several women a week. A gay guy “just has to go to the right parties” as I was once told. But it’s easy to ponder how there would be less of a divergence had gay and bisexual men not spent a long time sneaking around furtively and so on due to what they were doing not being remotely tolerated.

          • skef says:

            @Controls Freak

            I won’t speak for Nancy. The standard I’ve argued for, and that I think there is significant scientific evidence supporting is “fixed before puberty by factors not currently understood”. Twin studies are evidence of a significant but not deciding genetic factor.

            I find the evidence from conversion therapy attempts more significant than you seem to, maybe on the basis that so many different strategies have been attempted.

            To the extent that “innate” is a stronger standard, I don’t think we have strong evidence for it (either way). But I don’t think I or most people feel that the difference between that and the one of the first paragraph call for different legal or social responses.

          • Controls Freak says:

            The standard I’ve argued for, and that I think there is significant scientific evidence supporting is “fixed before puberty by factors not currently understood”.

            I read that is being basically the same as, “Nobody’s conversion therapy has been shown to work (and this is going to be with reference to post-puberty populations for obvious reasons), and there’s a lot of pre-puberty variation that doesn’t correlate well with post-puberty outcomes, plus a bit of evidence that various stages of biological and non-biological early-life effects might be meaningful.” I think my rephrasing is more justified by the actual science without bringing in some extra, unwarranted implications. Do disagree?

            Twin studies are evidence of a significant but not deciding genetic factor.

            I haven’t seen good ones here, yet. That said, it’s been a couple years since I went looking. Do you have a reference to any specific studies or a review paper that you think is good?

            I find the evidence from conversion therapy attempts more significant than you seem to, maybe on the basis that so many different strategies have been attempted.

            As Scott once pointed out, honest alcoholism rehabilitation efforts struggle to show effectiveness better than a placebo. Many different strategies have been attempted. (I don’t want to repeat this line of reasoning with the many many things it applies to.) I really don’t give much weight to this. It’s just a different question.

            To the extent that “innate” is a stronger standard, I don’t think we have strong evidence for it (either way).

            Ok. Glad to see that I’m not crazy.

            But I don’t think I or most people feel that the difference between that and the one of the first paragraph call for different legal or social responses.

            I don’t know why everyone always feels compelled to bring this up when I ask about science. My queer theory prof proclaimed herself agnostic on the question of biological determinism, so I’m pretty comfortable with the idea that admitting that we don’t know isn’t terribly constraining on legal/social positions.

          • skef says:

            @Controls Freak

            Well, twin studies are (obviously) based on self-reporting. If we’re just writing off all such evidence, then no, there aren’t “better” studies.

            (I suppose in the general area of evidence I’ve neglected to mention the brain anatomy studies.)

          • Protagoras says:

            The effectiveness of alcoholism treatments doesn’t seem like a good comparison, as people do quit drinking; what the studies seem to show about various treatment approaches is that they quit about as well without help as they do with the kinds of help that have so far been investigated. A situation where some treatment produces some recoveries and no treatment produces about the same amount of recoveries seems significantly different from a situation where some treatment produces no recoveries and no treatment produces no recoveries.

          • skef says:

            Do disagree?

            Unless you discount even the instantaneous significance of self-reports, by which standard we would know almost nothing scientific about psychology, yes, I disagree. You can also ask people the same question over time and see if the answer changes, as in this kind of study.

          • Controls Freak says:

            @skef

            twin studies are (obviously) based on self-reporting. If we’re just writing off all such evidence

            I’m not writing them off because of the self-reporting. I’m writing them off because all the ones I saw were really poor evidence (e.g., terrible samples or large confidence intervals amenable to essentially any desired interpretation).

            (I suppose in the general area of evidence I’ve neglected to mention the brain anatomy studies.)

            …whereas on the other hand, I pretty much do discount pretty much all fMRI studies (in domains far beyond sexuality). Maybe there’s some signal in the noise coming out of that field, but I’d probably need a true believer to spend a pretty substantial amount of time with me to convince me that we can find it.

            @Protagoras

            The effectiveness of alcoholism treatments doesn’t seem like a good comparison, as people do quit drinking

            I didn’t want to have to go there. Because then we’re going to have an argument over what bisexuality is and whether or not we’ve defined our categories such that what you’re asking for is literally impossible by definition (…and tangents about hypothetically defining ‘bialcoholic’ get annoying). I would really prefer if we could just slip this into my statement above that “there’s a lot of pre-puberty variation that doesn’t correlate well with post-puberty outcomes”. I think that makes this line of discussion (and the definitional problem) unnecessary.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Something that also never got addressed, that I can remember, when I brought it up is – to what degree are certain risky activities the result of a subculture that developed under great pressure? A sexual culture that involves a lot of short-term, possibly-anonymous, casual hookups is going to develop if homosexuality is repressed, you cannot have open relationships between two men, and secret relationships are still suspicious (this happened more to gay men than women; two guys who are “bachelor roommates” for whatever reasons attracts more suspicion than two “gal pals” in a “Boston marriage” or what have you). This isn’t the only example of this.

            From the statistics I’ve seen, it doesn’t look as if the rate of STDs in the gay population has gone down as social acceptance has increased, which at first blush would seem to suggest that at least some kinds of risky sexual activity aren’t caused by social oppression.

          • Controls Freak says:

            You can also ask people the same question over time and see if the answer changes, as in this kind of study.

            I’m going to be as kind as I can and just point out that citing studies like this leave me … uh… let’s go with ‘unimpressed’? Maybe ‘sad for the state of this science’? They had a grand total of 66 individuals who initially identified as non-heterosexual. After ten years, 28 of them (42%) had changed to some other category than what they had originally identified. Please don’t tell me you want to try to probe subpopulations further in hopes of a Chinese Grandma Effect. I’m really really not taking a positive view on the underlying question in this comment; I’m just saying that this is not the study that’s going to help us much.

          • The standard I’ve argued for, and that I think there is significant scientific evidence supporting is “fixed before puberty by factors not currently understood”.

            Is that a standard for homosexual preferences or homosexual activity?

            There have been societies in which homosexual activity was much more common than in our society. One explanation is that some environmental difference caused more people to have homosexual preferences. But an alternative is that there were and are a lot of men who are willing to have sex with either men or women, depending on environmental circumstances. Thus you get high rates of homosexual activity in an environment such as a prison where women are not available. And you may also get high rates in a society where, for many men, women are less attractive partners for non-sexual reasons–less likely to have common interests and levels of education and such. Arguably the situation in Periclean Athens.

            On the other hand, in a society where homosexual activity is looked down on, whether or not illegal, and where women are available as potential sexual partners, the same people might almost all choose heterosexual activity.

            It seems to me that this interpretation is consistent with evidence offered on both sides of the argument. And to the extent that parents can control how positive or negative a view of homosexual activity their children get, which was what the original argument was about, it’s a reason why parents who think children who have a choice will be better off if they choose to be heterosexual in their activities would want to avoid exposing their children to positive pictures of homosexuality. For instance gay pride parades.

          • skef says:

            Is that a standard for homosexual preferences or homosexual activity?

            Preferences.

            It seems to me that this interpretation is consistent with evidence offered on both sides of the argument. And to the extent that parents can control how positive or negative a view of homosexual activity their children get, which was what the original argument was about, it’s a reason why parents who think children who have a choice will be better off if they choose to be heterosexual in their activities would want to avoid exposing their children to positive pictures of homosexuality.

            There is also evidence that throughout history, societies have made some of their members miserable. Is that relevant here, and if so, how are you proposing to address the issue?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @skef

            Actually, you’ve received all sorts of different kinds of pushback, including this post of mine. And in response you just keep mischaracterizing the other positions and restipulating your own.

            And over and over again you never answer the question of why the ancient greeks and arab tribes are more biologically gay than their neighbors.

            There is no winning here. I have drawn my line in the sand. In my life I have:

            1) befriended gays

            2) advocated for gay marriage

            3) voted in favor of gay marriage

            4) attended a gay wedding

            5) not in my adult life disparaged gays

            6) stated publicly that I would support my children should they turn out to be gay

            My line in the sand though is I will not evangelize homosexuality to my children. I know, I know, you will absolutely go wave flags for homosexuality in front of your children and plop them down in front of “gays are great and anybody who disagrees is evil” TV shows, but I will not. This makes you a better person than I am. You win.

            I’m going to sit back here in the “I’m Totally Evil For Not Being One Billion Percent Pro-Homosexual Penalty Box” and munch popcorn, waiting for you to get devoured by the “more-pro-homosexual-than-thou” cult.

          • rlms says:

            @Conrad Honcho
            Do you actually have a problem with people putting you in the “I’m Totally Evil For Not Being One Billion Percent Pro-Homosexual Penalty Box” for not taking your children to gay prides, or are you just imagining/assuming there are some windmills hulking giants who would? If the former, I suggest you find better people to hang out with. If the latter, you should worry less about the approval of hypothetical strangers.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @The original Mr. X

            From the statistics I’ve seen, it doesn’t look as if the rate of STDs in the gay population has gone down as social acceptance has increased, which at first blush would seem to suggest that at least some kinds of risky sexual activity aren’t caused by social oppression.

            But the social norms in the subculture date from a time where there was considerable oppression, and in some places – including in first-world countries – there is still considerable oppression. And it’s not a regular, uniform “here they looooove gay people, there they haaaaate them” thing. Someone who is gay or bisexual, but has a religious family, or is married with kids, or both, that guy is going to be sneaking around having sketchy hookups more than average. I believe the statistics show that men who are in the closet tend to have more anonymous sex, and generally riskier sexual practices?

            Men who are in the closet to themselves (the guys who will say they’re totally straight while hanging around the gas station washroom cruising) are also less likely to use protection, etc I think – it sort of gives them plausible deniability to themselves if they don’t conceptualize what they’re doing as going out looking for man-man sex, and tell themselves it’s just this weird thing that keeps happening (relevant Onion article) and doing stuff like carrying condoms or getting tested doesn’t fit into what they’re telling themselves (after all, having condoms on you is a sign you intend to seek out sex, and getting tested is something someone at risk of disease does!)

          • skef says:

            And over and over again you never answer the question of why the ancient greeks and arab tribes are more biologically gay than their neighbors.

            In terms of scientific evidence, the ancient Greek phenomenon seems the most difficult to interpret. Did older men really have romantic feelings for pubescent boys at significantly higher rates at that time, or were the rates of that about baseline, together with a lot of men looking for something like a fleshlight in an age with relatively primitive materials science?

            How much rural sheep fucking is going on right now, and how does that compare with earlier times and places? How would you get good data on that?

            One of the most (personally) distasteful aspects of these arguments is that a genuine emergent phenomenon — a substantial percentage of men have a high sex drive, and gay men with high sex drives can have a lot of sex without much difficulty — consistently generally reduces discussions of homosexuality to discussions of fucking, and particularly ass-fucking, which only some gay guys are into anyway. The significance or even existence of homoromantic orientation often doesn’t even seem to register. “Can’t you just not fuck guys?” That’s not really the issue.

            I absolutely get that you’re drawing a line for your kids based on what you tolerate but find distasteful. If I had to guess, you are also probably motivated by a desire for your childrens’ degree of acceptance to be capped at toleration. Given the background likelihoods, this may well be your primary motivation. If you hadn’t backed that up with a bunch of bogus rationalization, the discussion here would have stopped after a few “boooo!” responses.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Do you actually have a problem with people putting you in the “I’m Totally Evil For Not Being One Billion Percent Pro-Homosexual Penalty Box” for not taking your children to gay prides, or are you just imagining/assuming there are some windmills hulking giants who would?

            Yes, they’re here and now. I’ve said over and over again I have no problem with gays, have gay friends, have supported gay political causes. I am only outside the mainstream in this community because I will not evangelize homosexuality to my children. Why else am I argued with on this topic?

            If you hadn’t backed that up with a bunch of bogus rationalization, the discussion here would have stopped after a few “boooo!” responses.

            What about my rationalizations are bogus? I will absolutely update if you can demonstrate my rationalizations are bogus.

          • There is also evidence that throughout history, societies have made some of their members miserable. Is that relevant here, and if so, how are you proposing to address the issue?

            Having homosexual preferences which your parents wish you didn’t have would, I think, only be a serious problem with puberty. So one solution is to avoid offering positive views of homosexuality up to puberty and at puberty make it clear that you do not regard homosexual activity as wicked but do think it has some disadvantages, hence should only be engaged in by people who are only attracted to members of their own sex.

          • rlms says:

            @Conrad Honcho
            “Yes, they’re here and now.”
            You mean in this comments section. I don’t recall anyone calling you “totally evil”, or anything close to that. Rather, people are arguing with you because they think you wildly overestimate the likelihood of Modern Family making your children gay.

    • Deiseach says:

      4. Post your theories on “What’s our secret sauce?”

      The rule of the Rightful Caliph is known by its benevolence and efficacy 🙂

      I think most of us have had experiences of the yelling and hair-pulling elsewhere online, and have indulged in it ourselves. On here, something makes us want to be better than that. Scott writes very well, has a broad range of interests, produces a regular supply of the drug excellent content, and has attracted a lot of people who have expertise, even as an intelligent amateur, in various fields that they can communicate in an interesting manner (e.g. bean and Naval Gazing). Those who want to interact on a particular comment thread can do so and those that don’t need not feel that they’re falling behind, because there will be something else they can respond to later on. We’ve just had a very interesting and civilised discussion about the Dark Ages, for instance, all in response to a post by Scott.

      I also do think the absence of any kind of karma or gold or ranking system helps a lot to keep us on the straight and narrow in the comments. I’ve never seen the use of those as they tend to devolve into popularity contests rather than “yes, though I disagree with you on substantial matters, this was an excellent comment” acknowledgement.

    • Zorgon says:

      For a while, the “secret sauce” for me was two things:

      1) The ability to discuss specific things here that flat-out could not be discussed in any other space online (apart from those that were full of people making constant reference to “WE WUZ KANGZ” and “the gay agenda” etc etc etc).

      2) The presence of commenters like Deiseach, John Schilling and numerous others (those two just leap out at me right now) who have the unusual gift of being able to critique, pick apart and improve on things I post without coming across as being aggressive or condescending.

      These two particularly leap out at me, btw, when I read most criticisms of SSC’s community. Nearly all of them boil down to some form of “the SSC commentariat allows subject matter about which I disapprove” or “the SSC commentariat doesn’t engage in the kind of public excoriation I want them to!”

      The former is best thought of as an externality that isn’t really a phenomenon of SSC as much as it’s an anti-phenomenon of everywhere else. The latter, on the other hand, is a specific element of the SSC comment community which is perhaps difficult to intentionally construct; the kind of high-quality responses you get on here tend to attract other high-quality respondents, which has a self-reinforcing quality.

      My assumption would be that the only way to ensure a Scott-level commentariat would be to be a Scott-level blogger in the first place.

    • Wrong Species says:

      Just so we’re not completely circlejerking, we’re not perfect. Everyone has biases and we’re no exception. And the extent that bothers someone is at least partly influenced by their political beliefs.

      That being said, I think what makes our commentators better than many websites is that we’re more likely to be “grizzled veterans” of internet debating. And by debating, I don’t mean giving one sentence “smackdowns” that earn you praise from a social network. I mean the kind where you spend hours and days trying to figure out what the hell the other guy is even saying. Do that a few times and you start to see the process by which someone has different beliefs from you and it doesn’t seem that unreasonable. When someone comes here and hasn’t had their beliefs challenged before, it’s really obvious.

      • Well... says:

        Just so we’re not completely circlejerking, we’re not perfect.

        Ladies and gentlemen, Wrong Species has just uttered the magic phrase to commence the airing of grievances!

        • Mark says:

          Just so we’re not completely circlejerking

          You guys have got a nice comment section, here.
          Bad things:

          (1) Bit too smug for my tastes. Might be a cultural thing. (Non-US)

          (2) I feel like there are a few topics on which people can be pretty dogmatic – Anti-Communism, Libertarianism, evolutionary psychology – and comment threads on these topics tend to leave me dissatisfied.

          (3) “Red tribe”/”Blue tribe” – seems like these are normally used to mean “right”/”left”, which as I understand is abuse of the original terms.

          (4) I like reading the fringe posters like Autistic Thinker/Sidles here – I feel like they work well in this setting, not sure I would find them so interesting elsewhere. Maybe regular culling of oddballs is necessary to keep the place as is wanted.

          (5) Too much interest and focus on tribalism – it’s probably a bit naughty to say this, but I do get the sense that political, social discussion tends to have a bit of a robot-reductionist tendency – everything is about status, or everything is about tribalism. Smug reductionism. Kind of spoils things.

          • Nick says:

            “Red tribe”/”Blue tribe” – seems like these are normally used to mean “right”/”left”, which as I understand is abuse of the original terms.

            See an old essay by our host. Red tribe doesn’t map exactly to the political right in America, and blue tribe doesn’t map exactly to the political left in America; it’s a bit more complicated than that.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Blue/Red tribe is indeed misused, but I’m far from convinced it was hugely useful in the first place. “Blue” mapped to “urban latte liberals” and “Red” to “truck-ownin’ good ol’ boys” and people have just shifted to “left/right” – but you don’t have to use the terminology if you don’t want to. It’s fairly easy to say “educated urban middle class” and “rural blue-collar whites” or whatever. Then add other groups, because my preliminary research suggests that there are more than those kinds of people in the US.

          • quanta413 says:

            (3) “Red tribe”/”Blue tribe” – seems like these are normally used to mean “right”/”left”, which as I understand is abuse of the original terms.

            Pretty much yeah. A lot of people called “red tribe” here are going to be almost totally undistinguishable from the average “blue tribe” person except for on a few of their political views. It’s just that we constantly argue about those political things here so it looks like there’s a lot of what Scott called “red tribe” people here if you look just at politics. But realistically, probably half or more of the right wing people here are culturally “blue tribe”. Whereas I’d bet almost none of the “blue tribe” people here are actually culturally “red tribe”. If there is an old-fashioned blue collar democrat here who loves hunting and fishing and used to work in the coal industry or something (or anyone vaguely like this), they don’t talk about it much.

            Similarly, there are also views here where I’m pretty sure a lot of the posters who here are “red tribe” would be considered “blue tribe” if they argued about that instead (more and easier immigration for example). But relatively few people here are aggressively in favor of limiting immigration or at least want to argue about it, so it doesn’t come up.

          • Bellum Gallicum says:

            Interesting, I’m curious what defines a Red Tribe member that doesn’t want to limit immigration?
            It seems the basis of Red Tribe is the desire to have a in group (US citizens) promoted at the expense of everyone who isn’t in that group. Violent criminals, illegal immigrants, marxists, globalists, and citizens of other countries being the most commonly listed out groups.
            So I guess my question would be, How is someone in the Red Tribe open to the unlimited migration of the out groups into the in group?

            Speaking of red and blue, the primary in 2020 is going to be amazing! It will be an epic Highlander style throw down.
            2016 was like the Untouchables quote the others dudes brought a knife to a gunfight

            but in 2020 candidates are going to be rolling Deep! Protests, Twitter bombardments, Internet Memes, Media Infighting like we haven’t seen since before WWI, the first true internet elections!!!

            I think it’ll either be the Rock or Oprah

          • Brad says:

            Of course it’s possible. Think of a farmer that needs immigrant labor. Not open borders, but that’s more of a weakman than a relevant political position.

          • andrewflicker says:

            If there is an old-fashioned blue collar democrat here who loves hunting and fishing and used to work in the coal industry or something (or anyone vaguely like this), they don’t talk about it much.

            OK, so not quite- but my family’s law enforcement, my dad’s family was migrant orchard pickers til he was in gradeschool, I like fishing and hiking and camping a lot (especially if I can cook my own food over a fire), and I listen to a lot of “classic rock”. I kind of think of myself as a blue-tribe-adopted from red-tribe-roots, and which one I end up allying with depends a lot on context. (See “code switching”)

  5. R Flaum says:

    There’s something I’ve always wondered about bear-baiting, and I bet someone here knows the answer: How did they chain up the bear in the first place? Was it drugged, or a domesticated bear, or what?

    • keranih says:

      Bear baiting goes back since long before they had effective animal sedatives (critters drunk on rotting berries aside). Humans have captured “wild” animals frequently. One way is to find a young animal that can be more easily handled – often (but not always) by killing the mother. Another is to chase or lure it into a trap, or to chase it until it collapses of exhaustion.

      As for handling post capture, once caged – slip a nose over its head, or a slip chain – and choke it until it passes out, then muzzle it.

      Helps a lot if you’re a young man, and culturally accustomed to getting hurt. It should be noted that not only was this pre-ASPA, it’s also pre OSHA.

      • R Flaum says:

        Ah, that explains it — I hadn’t thought of using a noose to suffocate them. (Though getting that noose on the bear doesn’t seem like an entirely trivial task either)

  6. Conrad Honcho says:

    Vox recently published an article by Sean Illing titled “20 of America’s top political scientists gathered to discuss our democracy. They’re scared.” Apparently, democracy only happens when the left is winning.
    The first few paragraphs are unobjectionable. Yes, there is polarization. Yes there is loss of social cohesion. Yes the “class compromise” suffers when economic mobility suffers. And then it dissolves into “it’s all the outgroup.”

    A few nitpicks before the truly objectionable stuff:

    So far at least, our system of checks and balances is working — the courts are checking the executive branch

    No, the courts are yet another partisan divide. Activist judges attempted to stop Trump’s travel ban and having failed once, are about to fail again. Also, how is a judge in Hawaii attempting to block the democratically elected president from exercising basic authority over the nation’s borders granted to him by Congress, in accordance with the will of the voters and strongly in line with public opinion an example of healthy democracy?

    The very first government was two cavemen saying to each other “Okay, if anyone tries to come into the cave who isn’t us, hit him with this rock.” The most basic role of government is controlling borders, and if the people are not to be allowed to control who is and is not allowed across the borders, wouldn’t that be the end of democracy? You, the people, may no longer have any say in who does and does not come into your country?

    Also, Trump is appointing “Scalias all the way down,” so it seems the Executive and Legislative branches might finally be checking an out-of-control judiciary.

    the press remains free and vibrant

    The press is woefully unpopular. They’ll gleefully report Trump has 40-something percent approval while completely ignoring their own 36% approve / 50% disapprove ratings. Nearly half of voters now think the media just makes stuff up. Over and over again we see breathless reports from “anonymous sources” that sound ridiculous and few if any predictions made by these sources come true. Free, yes, but celebrity scandals, opinions about who “utterly destroyed” whom on twitter—this is vibrant?

    and Congress is (mostly) fulfilling its role as an equal branch.

    Congress is the only group in that poll people hate more than the media (19% approve / 60% disapprove). What has Congress done that one could describe as “fulfilling its role?” Who are these 19% of people who approve of Congress? And to qualify Congress’ performance with “mostly?” The most generous I could be is “barely.”

    Next we get:

    Nancy Bermeo, a politics professor at Princeton and Harvard, began her talk with a jarring reminder: Democracies don’t merely collapse, as that “implies a process devoid of will.” Democracies die because of deliberate decisions made by human beings.

    Followed immediately by Illing’s interpretation

    Usually, it’s because the people in power take democratic institutions for granted. They become disconnected from the citizenry. They develop interests separate and apart from the voters. They push policies that benefit themselves and harm the broader population. Do that long enough, Bermeo says, and you’ll cultivate an angry, divided society that pulls apart at the seams.

    How does this follow? Bermeo attributes the death of a democracy to malice, and then Illing immediately describes complacency and incompetence. Which is it?

    I agree with the next few paragraphs describing the failure of the economy to allow people to improve their lives in fair and predictable ways and how this damages the social contract that allows a democracy to function. This all sounds very much like the “economic anxiety” that drove Trump voters. Then we get to polarization:

    At the same time, we’ve seen a spike in racial animus, particularly on the right. It seems likely there’s a connection here.

    The linked study (which we’ve discussed in a previous open thread) says nothing about a “spike in racial animus,” and nothing about it being on the right. Instead, listed among the “Key Findings” of the study is:

    Democrats may be pressured to move further left on identity issues, given that both younger voters and the party’s donor class are quite far to the left on identity issues. If so, American politics would become further polarized along questions of culture and identity.

    Can anyone give me a charitable take on Illing’s statement? I can’t really think of one.

    My interpretation of the last 50 years of race relations has been a (largely successful) attempt to suppress racial consciousness, particularly among whites. A common refrain among (older) white people is “I don’t care if you’re black, white, purple or green, can you get the job done?” A willful colorblindness. It’s only been in the few years with the advancement of privilege ideology (coming from the left) that this is unsatisfactory. Silence is consent, and not noticing race and then not begging POC for forgiveness is the new definition of racism. So I can only model Illing’s thought process as “we’ve told white people they’re the devil and they don’t agree. This is a spike in racial animus among white people / the right.”

    Then we get into more Russia delusion:

    Hypocrisy aside, the reaction of nearly half the country to Russia’s meddling says a lot about our attachment to core democratic values like free and fair elections.

    I know, man, I know. I mean, when those evil Russians spent a whopping $100k on FaceBook ads mostly in 2015 and related to issues besides the Presidential election thereby demolishing the entire $10 billion dollars in American political advertising and who knows how much in mainstream media coverage, that was terrifying. But when CNN said they used Pokemon Go to promote Black Lives Matter swinging the entire election dramatically towards Trump, that’s the end of democracy right there. Game over man, game over. Just tear up the Constitution and crown Putin Czar of the World already.

    The reason we don’t care about this is because it’s silly. It’s very, very silly. Of course foreign interference in elections is undesirable, but in an interconnected world it’s unavoidable. Russia wants to influence our elections, and so does China and Israel and Canada and Carlos Slim and Mexico and everybody else. But it probably all winds up being kind of a wash. And overwhelmingly drowned out by the efforts of the American media and the campaigns themselves.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Most obviously, there’s Donald Trump, who has dispensed with one democratic norm after another. He’s fired an FBI director in order to undercut an investigation into his campaign’s possible collusion with Moscow

      The director of the FBI serves at the pleasure of the President. Firing him is not dispensing with any democratic norm. Bill Clinton also fired his FBI director. Was he dispensing with any democratic norm? And after the handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton, who trusts Comey in any political matter? The right justifiably distrusts him for, immediately after listing the actions she took that (in their minds definitely) constitute crimes refused to recommend prosecuting those crimes, and the left justifiably distrusts him for violating the universal law enforcement ethical standard of minimizing harm or exposure in criminal investigations. When you investigate Bob for rape but decide he probably didn’t rape, you do not then hold a press conference announcing to the world all the rape-like things Bob did that fall short of rape.

      staffed his White House with family members

      Two people. In advisory roles. No actual power or authority. And again, if we’re gnashing our teeth and rending our garments over this, how horrified were you about Hillary Clinton’s role in her husband’s White House? In what way are these significantly different?

      regularly attacked the free press;

      “We’ll repeat the most outlandish bullshit that you like getting peed on by Russian hookers but how dare you respond with anything but groveling obsequiousness.”

      and refused to divest himself of his business interests.

      Yes, because in order to maintain democracy we must only have career politicians who have no interests outside of technocratic politics. How can we have a democracy if actual people outside the permanent political class assume power?

      Kuran warns that autocrats tend to exploit these divisions by pushing “policies that may seem responsive to grievances but are ultimately counterproductive.” Think of Donald Trump’s “Muslim ban” or his insistence on building a giant wall on the southern border. Neither of these policies is likely to make a significant difference in the lives of Trump’s voters, but that’s not really the point.

      Perhaps because those are civilizational issues and not personal issues? Perhaps on the “personal issues” front they were also voting for Trump because they think better trade deals and reduced regulation will result in more or better jobs for them? And perhaps when liberals vote for amnesty for illegal aliens, or refugee resettlement, these are also policies that are unlikely to make a significant difference in the lives of Democrat voters, but that’s not really the point? No, no, no, they just hate and are skeered of Mexicans and Muslims for absolutely no reason.

      “Trump isn’t after success — he’s after failure,” Snyder argued. By that, he means that Trump isn’t after what we’d typically consider success — passing good legislation that improves the lives of voters. Instead, Trump has defined the problems in such a way that they can’t be solved. We can’t be young again. We can’t go backward in time. We can’t relive some lost golden age. So these voters are condemned to perpetual disappointment.

      The counterargument is that Trump’s idealization of the past is, in its own way, an expression of a desire for a better future. If you’re a Trump voter, restoring some lost version of America or revamping trade policies or rebuilding the military is a way to create a better tomorrow based on a model from the past.

      For Snyder, though, that’s not really the point. The point is that Trump’s nostalgia is a tactic designed to distract voters from the absence of serious solutions. Trump may not be an authoritarian, Snyder warns, but this is something authoritarians typically do. They need the public to be angry, resentful, and focused on problems that can’t be remedied.”

      But “revamping trade policies” seems like a serious solution to economic problems. We have trade policies for a reason. To address economic issues. Nobody drafted TPP for funsies. It was because some people thought they would be better off with that trade deal instead of a different, or no trade deal. “Building a wall and deporting illegals” sounds like a serious solution to illegal immigration. I mean, just by talking tough on illegal immigration, illegal border crossings are already down by 70%. You can argue the public shouldn’t see illegal immigration as a problem, but you cannot say it “can’t be solved” when just tough talk has reduced the rate of increase in the problem by 70%.

      And, seriously, “They need the public to be angry, resentful and focused on problems that can’t be remedied.” You mean like telling women they only reason the sum of income of all women is less than the sum of income of all men is because of evil sexism? And not at all because women choose different career paths for a variety of reasons, some of which are almost certainly biological in origin?

      You mean like telling black people the only reason the per-capita wealth of blacks is lower than that of whites, Asians and Jews is because of evil white supremacy? And not at all because individuals take different career paths for a variety of reasons, some of which are almost certainly cultural and biological in origin?

      Okay, yes, that one’s ridiculous. They would never mention Asians and Jews in the “racial inequality” demagoguery because it wrecks the “white supremacy” canard.

      The racial and gender inequality demagoguery is the epitome of “angry, resentful, and focused on problems that can’t be remedied,” because you cannot remedy this problem without genetic engineering on a scale such as to make us no longer human. Or perhaps eugenics that would put Hitler to shame.

      Bottom line: I was already pretty cynical about the trajectory of American democracy when I arrived at the conference, and I left feeling justified in that cynicism.

      Great, Illing. I’m so glad the conference reinforced your own prejudices. If it just weren’t for that damned outgroup everything would be peachy.

      • hlynkacg says:

        While I share your opinion of the Illing piece I think there are better places for this sort of rant.

        • The Nybbler says:

          They’re more likely to ban you on the subreddit for it. I didn’t get very far into the article before filing it under “Trump Derangement Syndrome” and giving up.

        • Alphonse says:

          As a point of pushback, I suspect that I’m not alone in regularly reading the Open Threads on SSC but not on the subreddit. If this were the culture-war-free OT, I’d agree with you, but it’s not, and I at least appreciated the top level post in this chain (and would never have seen it were it posted elsewhere).

          • Nornagest says:

            I check the subreddit once a month or so and invariably get annoyed and leave. The non-CW threads aren’t interesting, and the CW threads are bad for my blood pressure.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Nornagest, I check it every week or so, and normally see about one interesting new non-CW thread. Sadly, there’s very little discussion on most of them.

      • Incurian says:

        This only serves to highlight your…

        Okay, yes, that one’s ridiculous. They would never mention Asians and Jews in the “racial inequality” demagoguery because it wrecks the “white supremacy” canard.

        You know, I’ve always thought this would be a fun weak point to take advantage of, but you kind of have to turn into a monster to really exploit it fully and I don’t particularly want to do that.

        • AnonYEmous says:

          You know, I’ve always thought this would be a fun weak point to take advantage of, but you kind of have to turn into a monster to really exploit it fully and I don’t particularly want to do that.

          Plus if you try they’re conditioned to shut down because it’s too good of an argument

          i’m at least 60% serious about this

          • JayT says:

            This is something that always annoys me when people talk about silicon valley not having diversity.

    • Viliam says:

      I think you underestimate the Russians. Ideological war is the one thing they excel in. (Military based on “we have enough humans, and we don’t mind sacrificing them” only comes second.) I actually expect that Russians have more influence over American politics than even most of their critics believe. I would not be surprised to learn that in most major conflicts they support both sides, because their current strategy is essentially to paralyze potential enemies by creating as much chaos as possible. In other words, I suspect that Russians support both Trump and SJWs. (Note: I said “support” not “created”. One can nurture chaos quite efficiently by feeding what grew up naturally.)

      Otherwise; in general, I agree about the hypocrisy. It’s great when Democrat presidents have big powers, but it’s a threat to democracy when Republican presidents do the same. Just like it is okay to hate some ethnic groups, but it is unforgivable to hate some others. And how equality is the supreme value, unless it happens to be a microaggression. “It’s totally different when we do it!” Well, that doesn’t sound very convincing to bystanders.

      Trump is not a cause of the political chaos. He is a consequence.

      • @Viliam

        Trump is not a cause of the political chaos. He is a consequence.

        You kind of stole my comment that Trump is more a symptom of partisanship than a cause. It really is pretty incredible what a stupid and acerbic President we’ve elected to govern the most powerful country in the world. His tweets almost invariably poison the atmosphere even more, and they often end up crippling his own initiatives. But in retrospect, Trump seems to me the inevitable result of the hyper-partisanship on both sides for the last decade or two.

        • Baeraad says:

          While the article has a certain amount of (possibly unconscious) bias, as near as I can tell it doesn’t disagree with you about that part.

          But for all the reasons discussed above, people have gradually disengaged from the status quo. Something has cracked. Citizens have lost faith in the system. The social compact is broken. So now we’re left to stew in our racial and cultural resentments, which paved the way for a demagogue like Trump.

          • Aapje says:

            @Baeraad

            I just wish that there was more of a realization that these racial and cultural resentments exists on both sides and a for them to try to stamp it out on their own side.

            That is the only way we can fix this.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Aapje –

            I dunno, I find it kind of entertaining, after years of being called various versions of “concern troll” for years for complaining about how some of the rhetoric looks from the other side, watching those same people freak out over the exact same behavior now coming from the other side.

          • Aapje says:

            @Thegnskald

            Of course, seeing ‘the chickens come home to roost’ gives a sense of justice, but it’s very ugly justice.

            It’s like having a gang war. It may feel good to see criminals target each other, but it’s hard to call it justice when people get disproportionately hurt relative to their actual crimes and it’s impossible to call it justice when inevitably the violence hurts innocent bystanders.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I agree the Russians are excellent at subversion. Here’s KGB defector Yuri Bezmenov explaining the process of subverting a nation. But the whole “Russians made Trump win” narrative is silly, and when we’re to the point of CNN telling us about Russian activity in Pokemon Go…I just cannot take this seriously, and I cannot take seriously anyone who does.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          And that is why the Soviet Union cannot possibly fall.

          More seriously, there might be more subversion in general than we appreciate.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Subversion is about destroying an existing social or political order, not establishing a working one. One can be good at one without being any good at the other.

    • quanta413 says:

      Congress is the only group in that poll people hate more than the media (19% approve / 60% disapprove). What has Congress done that one could describe as “fulfilling its role?” Who are these 19% of people who approve of Congress? And to qualify Congress’ performance with “mostly?” The most generous I could be is “barely.”

      Your rant is overly long, but let me just pile on this bit.

      Congress has not been fulfilling its role for way too long. Presidents engage in war basically at whim at this point and have been for a while. And government by a combination of autopilot entitlement programs and executive orders is bad.

    • ManyCookies says:

      @Russia, I thought the main Russia concern was over the email hack, which had a huge impact on the race and ultimately the election. And from what I remember of the Comey senate hearing, no one was questioning that Russia was the offending party (though whether they did so independently or at Trump’s behest is a whole other question). If Russia was in fact behind the email hacks, would that level of interference still be unconcerning?

      • Was it interference in a foreign election when Obama went to the U.K. and said that if they voted for Brexit and then wanted a trade deal with the U.S., the U.S. would put them at the back of the line? It was obviously an attempt to influence the election.

        Not the same thing as trying to influence an election anonymously, but is that really the complaint?

      • One Name May Hide Another says:

        The DNC emails were given to WikiLeaks by disgruntled Democrat insiders and not by Russia. This is according not only to Assange himself (who still, BTW, has not ever been contacted for testimony by Mueller’s commission) but also to a personal account of Craig Murray, a British ambassador to Uzbekistan and a whistleblower hero who exposed human rights abuses by the Uzbek government. Murray personally met with one of the Democrats involved in the leaks.

        Additionally, according to an audio interview with Sy Herch, the source of the leaks was Seth Rich, a Democrat operative. Herch states in the interview that he knows this from his very high-level, “unbelievably accurate and careful” FBI source.

        The Intelligence Community Assessment blaming Russia was just that, an “assessment” presented with no evidence by a bunch of analysts “hand-picked” by Clapper. In any sufficiently large organization hand-picking analysts means hand-picking conclusions.

        It is, of course, no surprise that Clapper’s analysts could present no evidence given that the FBI never even bothered to examine the DNC servers. They relied solely on the opinion of CrowdStrike: a private company with a history of dubious work hired by the DNC.

        On top of that, we also had the Guccifer 2.0 persona deliberately planting “Russian fingerprints” in the DNC files they released and, while actually most likely operating in the US Eastern timezone, going through a Russian VPN in an apparent effort to falsely tie the DNC leaks to Russia.

    • cassander says:

      It’s vox, what do you expect? Providing the blue tribe with sophistry is their raison d’être. I can’t say they never rise above that level, but they don’t do so often.

  7. rlms says:

    One small but interminable argument I’ve seen here a lot is whether small countries are better or worse than big ones (specifically economically). In an attempt to settle it, I’ve graphed GDP/capita against population. My conclusion: really rich countries and other territories tend to be small, but beyond that there is little correlation either way.

    • That is a very good idea, but I don’t understand the graph. I presume the horizontal direction is GDP and the vertical direction is pop, but I don’t get it otherwise. And which countries are graphed there? How many in total? A table listing all the countries with their pop and GDP would be useful, especially if I could copy the data so I could play with it in Excel. I really love that you’ve done this analysis, but it could use more output.

      Plus of course I have the thought that correlation isn’t causation. Much of the discussion about large vs. small is whether large countries should be broken up or allow secession. I think that breaking up a large functional country will almost inevitably bring down the GDP per capita of all the smaller parties.

      • rlms says:

        The x axis is population and the y axis is GDP/capita (PPP) in US dollars. The sources are the third (CIA) table here and the 2016 data here (all countries/territories that appear on both should be included, except for a couple I messed up when changing the names that didn’t match).

        • Thank you.

          I am a bit suspicious of the incredibly high incomes of some of the small countries. Falkland Islands at $96,000 per year? Aren’t they mostly sheep farmers? Maybe a couple of billionaires live there? I do think the smallest countries have by far the most suspect data, so maybe pops of 1 million or less need to be eliminated. I am trying to turn this data into an Excel spreadsheet. If I succeed, maybe I will come up with more conclusions.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Based on skimming Wikipedia, apparently the Falkland Islands are a center for oil exploration and large-scale fishing.

    • Thegnskald says:

      Well… engaging in some armchair logic…

      A small country that isn’t rich would get absorbed by another country. So there would be a survivorship bias there.

      Add on top of that, that larger nations (by virtue of law.of averages) would skew more towards average, and phenomenon explained. Small countries are more likely to be outliers; small countries that aren’t outliers on the ‘rich’ side stop being countries.

      • rlms says:

        I don’t think your first paragraph explains the actual data. Small countries that are outliers on the poor side don’t get absorbed, there are plenty of them (see the first graph)! The issue isn’t that small countries are rich rather than poor (they are both), but rather that big countries aren’t ever very rich. Looking at the table of data I used, I think that can be largely explained by the fact small countries are better at being tax havens.

        • Jiro says:

          Maybe small countries have a larger variance?

        • Witness says:

          I think this is a sample-size bias of sorts. I seem to recall there being a specific name for it, but I can’t recall. The same sort of bias creeps up in studies about school and/or class sizes.

          Basically, larger groups of people have a stronger tendency to regress towards the mean, for the same reasons that any large sample of anything does. So outliers (in either direction) are more likely to be found among the small schools/classes/countries. Then, when you look for the best, you tend to find them there, and then assume that this means that the bestness was caused by the smallness.

          • rlms says:

            That’s definitely a thing, but I don’t think it applies here. Small countries are are very much outliers on the rich side, but not really on the poor side (the poorest countries have a fairly broad range of populations).

          • Thegnskald says:

            rlms –

            Adjust my survivorship bias down a bit. Does it line up better?

            (Do we have a history of small failed states?)

          • Nornagest says:

            Present-day Germany was formed essentially by consolidating most of the many microstates in central Europe over the second half of the 19th century. But the relatively stable national borders we now see are not the historical norm — countries used to fission and fusion a lot more than they do now.

        • Aapje says:

          Small countries can base their economy on niches the way large countries can’t.

          Ferrari can also only be Ferrari by virtue of being small. VW Group can have a profitable niche sub-brand (Porsche), but they can only be big by virtue of having low-margin brands as well.

  8. gbdub says:

    Sci-Fi Talk having become a bit of thing in the last few OTs, thought I’d pose a (fictional) culture-warry question that was asked at a Comic Con panel this summer:

    Wars vs. Trek – not which one you like better, that’s too easy. Which one, if you had to choose, would you eliminate entirely from history? No movies, shows, books, toys, nothing. The one you pick, and all of its influences, vaporize.

    Particularly interested in any Trekkies that would keep Star Wars, and vice versa.

    • Incurian says:

      I am a Trekkie and I would keep Star Wars.

      I think Star Trek is the better franchise. Its high points are higher, and its low points are nowhere near as low as Star Wars’. Star Trek at its best it deals with complex problems in a fair and interesting manner, and at its worst it’s uninteresting. Star Wars at its best has good versus evil, and at its worst it’s incomprehensible cringe. If you consider the reboots of both franchises, the Star Trek reboot betrayed the franchise but was still watchable – The Phantom Menace or the Force Awakens otoh… That being said, Picard’s speech in The Drumhead can’t compete with Luke mourning his family as the twin suns set over the Jundland Wastes to John Williams’ score.

      I prefer Mass Effect to either, though.

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        I am unclear why you are keeping Star Wars given your second graf. Does the existence of the Binary Sunset Theme trump all of Star Trek?

        • Incurian says:

          Yes. And to answer gbdub below, Star Wars gets a strong emotional reaction out of me that I wouldn’t give up, even though I think Star Trek is technically better in most ways.

      • gbdub says:

        Could you expand a bit on why you’d keep Star Wars? I was kind of waiting for the punchline, as it were, most of your post being why you prefer Trek.

        (btw, I will have to object to “low points nowhere near as low”. I can forgive low points in a TV series more than a movie trilogy, but there’s some cringey filler in just TOS and TNG. Heck, TNG had Wesley, the worst of Q, and that one pretty racist episode in just the first season. Maybe “the average installment is better” given that Wars had a whole prequel trilogy with maybe half a movie of good material?)

        • Incurian says:

          Jar Jar, Kylo Ren’s lightsaber, Hayden Christiansen + Natalie Portman…
          I’ll take Wesley and Q any day.

          • Lillian says:

            Kylo Ren’s light saber is awesome and there’s nothing wrong with it.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            But it has cross guards that another saber would slice right through. That defeats the entire purpose of cross guards!

          • Jaskologist says:

            You’re making a lot of assumptions about the internals of those cross-guards. If the saber-generating stuff is inside the main hilt, then those metal bits sticking out might get sliced up from the top, but they would still protect the wielder from removing his fingers.

          • Thegnskald says:

            It appears that saber-saber contact has a high friction coefficient, as they rarely (if ever?) slide.

            So that design might be fine.

          • JayT says:

            If they don’t slide, then what’s the point of the cross guard?

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            If they don’t slide, then what’s the point of the cross guard?

            Answer 1: for when the blade swings down along the other blade without touching it, landing on the other blade’s wielder’s hands.

            Answer 2: they *do* slide, if the strike angle is oblique enough, in about the same way that normal blades would slide. And then suddenly the crossguard matters.

            (Answer little-omega is, of course, that it’s just a story, and they don’t have to explain nuthin’ as long as it looks cool.)

          • Lillian says:

            But it has cross guards that another saber would slice right through. That defeats the entire purpose of cross guards!

            Steven Colbert explained this more than two years ago, man. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=dZ80zl46oho

            If they don’t slide, then what’s the point of the cross guard?

            Answer 3: It lets you cut the other guy during a blade lock, as demonstrated in the movie.

    • johan_larson says:

      May I wander off on a tangent? What’s the third-biggest sci-fi media franchise, after ST and SW?

      Alien?

      • JayT says:

        Planet of the Apes, probably.

      • Charles F says:

        I would guess Doctor Who, but is there some particular metric you’re interested in?

      • Nornagest says:

        Measured how? Income? Fandom size? Influence? Longevity?

        I think these would all have different answers. Doctor Who is probably the biggest fandom, but Terminator or something like it would probably edge it out money-wise. In influence terms there are lots of candidates.

      • Eltargrim says:

        Dr Who, perhaps?

      • JayT says:

        I guess it also depends on what you consider “Sci-fi”. Do superheros count? If yes, then I’d say Marvel and DC are ahead of Star Trek, and possibly even Star Wars.

      • keranih says:

        If we’re talking world-wide impact, decades of existence, and multi-media examples, then it’s Batman (or possibly Batman&Superman.)

        Further tangent – is there any *mundane* examples of a media franchise? Does Bond count?

        • johan_larson says:

          I’d say Bond counts. How about Sherlock Holmes? An awful lot of stories, books, TV shows, and movies are specifically about him and his sidekick.

        • gbdub says:

          Law and Order (and CSI, and NCIS…)? Nicholas Sparks? American Pie? Tyler Perry?

          There were 11 Pink Panther movies. A dozen Friday the 13th, if horror counts (I guess that’s borderline). Apparently there was an English comedy series called “Carry On” with 31 films.

          I’d say Indiana Jones counts – it has some supernatural elements to be sure, but it’s classic adventure style supernatural, not sci-fi / fantasy supernatural.

          (Bond definitely counts)

          EDIT: forgot I already mentioned The Fast and the Furious below.

      • Civilis says:

        I think this is going to come down on how you define ‘biggest’ and ‘franchise’.

        As an anime fan, I know there have been a lot of Gundam series, though it’s influence is still mostly confined to Asia. At least one of the Sentai series could also be a contender, and one with more US influence, depending on how you count it and the odd relationship with the Power Rangers series. There’s also Godzilla, which had several movies made in Hollywood.

      • Machine Interface says:

        The most influential sci-fi franchise outside Star Wars and Star Trek is the Cthulhu Mythos (which Lovecraft really conceived as science fiction — the lovecraftian “gods” are really just extremely advanced aliens, which are only seen as gods by feeble human minds — even if many of Lovecraft’s followers treated the mythos as a fantasy setting instead).

        Without the Cthulhu Mythos there would have been no Alien franchise, no Ghostbusters, no Stephen King, no The Thing, no Clive Barker or Hellraiser franchise, many missing episodes of Doctor Who, Star Trek, X-Files and countless other fantasy/sci-fi series, — and that’s just the “inspired by” stuff, there are also countless video games, board games and other derived products directly referencing the Cthulhu Mythos (it helps that it’s all public domain). And the trend show no sign of dying.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Plus, Lovecraft was an influence on pulp fantasy, and although the history of fantasy literature and gaming has been retconned to focus heavily on Tolkein, in reality a lot of tropes (especially in gaming) are very pulpy.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          I think everything that’s overtly Cthulhu counts, but not anything derived or inspired by it (e.g. Alien). Otherwise we end up saying everything’s in one big franchise because Shakespeare’s Tempest or something.

          Or maybe more recently, cyberpunk. The fact that we have Snow Crash, Johnny Mnemonic, Shadowrun, and JLA’s Cyborg should not allow us to conclude that Neuromancer is a major franchise, IMO.

    • John Schilling says:

      Get rid of Star Wars. It is quite fun, but it is ultimately just escapist light entertainment. And all of its influence has been to turn other things, that could have been more than that, into fun escapist light entertainment because $$$. Including Star Trek, to the extent that it isn’t now “fun” escapist grimdark entertainment instead.

      • johan_larson says:

        I’m fond of the timeline where “Ender’s Game” kicked off a successful movie franchise in the 80s, and the Vorkosigan Saga followed in the 90s. “Downbelow Station” was fun on the big screen, too.

      • Peffern says:

        Star Wars provides a good cultural touchstone for ‘nerdy’ stuff and provides a mechanism for people to share cultural markers with others, especially when people don’t have much experience with that skill.

        “We met talking about Star Wars but we both liked programming, video games, and Neal Stephenson! What are the odds?”

        SW might be worth it just for the nerd community existing in-and-of-itself.

        • John Schilling says:

          SW might be worth it just for the nerd community existing in-and-of-itself.

          Didn’t we just have a series of effort posts on how the “nerd community” bootstrapped itself into existence in the 1930s? And certainly the people whose unprecedented letter-writing campaign brought “Star Trek” back for a third season were A: nerds (or at least geeks) and B: a community.

          “Star Wars” made that community bigger; I’m not convinced it made it better.

        • JayT says:

          Don’t Star Trek conventions pre-date Star Wars? I feel like the “nerd community” was kind of inevitable.

      • gbdub says:

        And all of its influence has been to turn other things, that could have been more than that, into fun escapist light entertainment because $$$.

        I don’t think that’s quite fair. First, Star Wars probably played a big role in convincing studios that sci fi could be a money maker. Which, maybe that turns some potentially deep properties into light entertainment. On the other hand, maybe some deep properties don’t get made at all without Star Wars opening the door for big-budget sci fi. Does Blade Runner happen without it? (“A ha!” you could argue, “Blade Runner got neutered by studio execs who didn’t like that it wasn’t Star Wars – look how much better the director’s cut is, proving my point!” But the director’s cut never exists without the film getting green-lit in the first place…)

        Also, if sci fi “light entertainment” goes away, it’s probably not getting replaced by deep, cerebral sci fi. It’s getting replaced by other genres of light entertainment. The world without the JJ Abrams Treks isn’t a world with three more TNG films, it’s one with more Fast and Furious clones or whatever.

        • John Schilling says:

          If we can get “Silent Running” and “Soylent Green” made without the influence of “Star Wars”, I think “Blade Runner” would have come through OK. See also, “2001: A Space Odyssey”.

          You are right that Star Wars played a big role in convincing studios that Sci Fi could be a big money maker (again). I consider science fiction to be much more valuable than Sci Fi, and part of what Star Wars did was to obscure the distinction in a way that may have made good science fiction harder to bring to the big screen because people keep looking at it and saying “but if it had more spaceships and explosions it would make more money!”

        • aNeopuritan says:

          “The world without the JJ Abrams Treks isn’t a world with three more TNG films, it’s one with more Fast and Furious clones or whatever.”

          And that would make for a clearer line between Us and Them.

          • gbdub says:

            I disagree that that would be a good thing, unless you enjoy being snobbish / gatekeepery about your hobbies (which many people do).

        • Civilis says:

          Also, if sci fi “light entertainment” goes away, it’s probably not getting replaced by deep, cerebral sci fi. It’s getting replaced by other genres of light entertainment. The world without the JJ Abrams Treks isn’t a world with three more TNG films, it’s one with more Fast and Furious clones or whatever.

          Sci-fi (specifically, space sci-fi) took over from Westerns as the go-to light entertainment genre of choice, and the superhero genre has largely taken over from space sci-fi. In a sense, I’d suspect that Star Trek was more instrumental in the transition than Star Wars. In the absence of Trek, what would have taken over from Westerns, or would it have been another space sci-fi franchise? In the absence of Star Wars, would the superhero genre have arisen earlier, or would there be something else?

          • Jiro says:

            Blockbuster superhero movies and even series depend highly on modern special effects and took over pretty much when the special effects got good enough. They’re also based on source material with strong roots before Star Wars. So I think they would have appeared at about the same time.

      • Lillian says:

        If you lose Star Wars you don’t just lose some escapist light entertainment. You also lose Industrial Light and Magic, the special effects heavy weight in Hollywood. This is to the detriment of a huge number of films, and as a fan of what ILM does, i think sacrifing Star Trek does the least damage.

        Serioisly, special effects is the biggest reason to see movies, because it’s the one thing books can’t replicate. Reading about real live dinosaur theme park just does not compare to actually seeing real live dinosaur theme park.

        Though if you could keep Star Trek and ILM, then Star Wars might be expendable.

    • dodrian says:

      I would ask which franchise has had a greater positive impact. I’d argue for Trek being the franchise to keep.

      Trek is credited with bringing Sci-Fi to a more mainstream audience [Citation Needed], and even as setting the stage to allowing Star Wars to be made. It has had a positive impact through moral episodes (first interracial onscreen kiss, environmentalism in IV, equal rights episodes, etc etc). It has probably inspired more people into sciency/space jobs, though I’d definitely want to see more data on that (especially if you might consider Wars as a ‘gateway drug’ into sci-fi). On this criteria I’d want to keep Trek and dump Wars.

      On the other hand, Star Wars has had a greater cultural impact than Trek. I don’t think we’d see much of an artistic loss if we got rid of Trek. But Wars has given us so much – an excellent original trilogy of movies, big advances in special effects, and really moving pieces of music. That aspect would be awful to lose.

    • Jiro says:

      This is a popular culture version of the question of whether eliminating Hitler from history would prevent World War II, or better yet, preventing the assassination of Franz Ferdinand would prevent World War I. There are lots of things in media that trace back to Star Trek, but if you removed Star Trek from history, that doesn’t mean they’d all disappear. There would inevitably be other series with similar influences.

      The same can be said about Star Wars, of course.

    • zz says:

      Marry Trek, kill Wars, fuck Stargate.

      More interestingly, searching for the canonical order—fuck, marry, kill—I happened across this gem: “Fuck Halloween, kill Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas“.

      • Incurian says:

        Amanda Tapping?

        • zz says:

          Not that I would say no to a Stargate-age Amanda Tapping, but OP was most (2/3) of the way to “fuck marry kill”, so I rounded their post to fuck marry kill for humorous effect.

          In retrospect, the better sci-fi choice would have been Firefly, but sometimes my brain doesn’t think that quickly.

          • John Schilling says:

            Are we including the unaired episodes with Christina “YoSaffBridge” Hendricks? Because, A: wow and B: definitely do not marry, at least in character.

          • Incurian says:

            zz: I got it, I was just doing some locker room talk.

            John: GREAT points!

          • gbdub says:

            I’d let YoSaffBridge tell me Bible stories any day. Just keep anything sharp or valuable locked up.

            Or get a gun show from Nandi.

            Or go to war with Zoe.

            Or fix a spaceship with Kaylee.

            Or do literally anything in the same room with Inara.

            Okay River is pretty creepy/broken in an uncomfortable way.

            And were I into men, there’s something to be said for all the boys of Firefly – Captain Tightpants, the burly antihero, the geeky / irreverent / devoted pilot, the cerebral hot but awkward doctor, even the steadfast man of god with a mysterious past.

            I’m not sure there’s a sci-fi series with hotter characters than Firefly (The actual characters, as opposed to actors playing the characters).

          • Jaskologist says:

            I’m not sure there’s a sci-fi series with hotter characters than Firefly

            At long last, a competition where Andromeda comes out on top.

          • John Schilling says:

            Okay River is pretty creepy/broken in an uncomfortable way

            Yes, but I’d take on all the powers of the universe with her, just to see her smile.

    • cassander says:

      Star Trek for TV, Star Wars for movies and never the twain shall meet? Or is that cheating?

      • John Schilling says:

        If it’s not cheating, I like it. Particularly in this century, when TV is the forum of choice for thoughtful audiovisual entertainment. There was a while (in SF terms, the interregnum between Star Trek and Babylon 5) when that wasn’t the case.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Eliminate it from history and replace it with Jodorowsky’s Dune (1975), right?

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Star Wars was the beginning of big special effects sf movies. How much does this matter? Would they have been invented by someone else?

      Would losing Star Wars mean losing the Star Trek movies?

      • John Schilling says:

        Would losing Star Wars mean losing the Star Trek movies?

        I think we’d have gotten “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” but without as much special effects. Which is a mixed blessing, because the the intro flyaround of the Enterprise was the best thing about that movie and the opening sequence with the Klingon battlecruisers a close second, but maybe the rest of the movie would have been better if they hadn’t had the effects as a crutch?

        We probably wouldn’t have gotten “Wrath of Khan”, which is also a mixed blessing because that was the most fun of all the Star Trek movies but also the one that gave the most bad ideas to subsequent producers.

        And of course something like “The Voyage Home” is easy to do without much in the way of effects, and that’s good clean Star Trek fun if the franchise hasn’t been killed before you get to that point.

        • Standing in the Shadows says:

          I liked Wrath of Khan the most. Not just for huge slabs of well cured ham, and not just for Kirstie Alley back when she was sexy, and not just for James Horner’s theme, and not just for only trek uniforms that looked like functional uniforms (instead of tshirts or pajamas or knockoffs of 20thC uniforms)… but for the big one.

          Kirk’s life to that point had been “solve my immediate problem, and then run away and let everyone else deal with it”. Finally, some of those problems caught back up with him.

          I agree about “bad ideas to subsequent producers” started there, and the worst one was doubly bad because of how badly it was wasted. Kirk had a son. That should have been.. something more. [much text written, then deleted].

          And now since then how many of the trek writers and producers have pulled a “up to now for no reason at all unmentioned family member” for no good reason? Too many. Spock now has two, due to the idiocy of the current trashfire of a show.

    • Civilis says:

      While I wouldn’t consider myself a Star Wars fanboy, I’m more of a Star Wars fan than a Star Trek fan, and I’d probably get rid of Star Wars. I think that while Star Wars has a larger cultural footprint, it’s because the original trilogy perfectly filled a niche (or, more properly, niches) in the culture that would have been filled by something else, while Star Trek’s niche is still unique to Star Trek (and imitators).

      Star Wars is a well-done space opera, but it’s not the only or first space opera. The things that make Star Wars a cultural touchstone aren’t things that are reliant on Star Wars or even space opera. It’s got an incredibly well done soundtrack, and the Imperial March is the iconic villain music, but someone else would have written iconic villain music. Darth Vader is an incredibly well done villain that has influenced the look of dozens of villains, but someone else would have made their own Vader. Han Solo is one of the iconic dashing rogue reluctant heroes, but we’d have had someone else. Had we not had Star Wars, we’d have had all these, but probably not in the same package.

      With Star Trek, had the original series flopped, I don’t think we’d have seen anything filling that niche, and the only things since that have tried have been spin-offs or the occasional homage. I think most of what culturally touches on Star Trek is tied in to the premise of the series. You can have an iconic villain like Darth Vader without a space opera. You can’t have a Captain Kirk (or a Captain Picard) without the Star Trek setup.

      • Jiro says:

        I don’t think the Star Trek formula was so new or unusual that nobody else would come up with it. Star Trek is structurally a Western (“Wagon Train to the Stars” has some merit to it.). Central authority is far enough away that the crew has to solve their own problems, and they’re traveling so they have an opportunity to run into a new group of guest stars every week. (The other type of Western is a frontier town where the guest stars come in every week, which is covered by Deep Space Nine.)

        In a world without Star Trek, there would be something that would look like “Star Trek clone” to us as soon as the next sci fi story came through.

        • Civilis says:

          In a world without Star Trek, there would be something that would look like “Star Trek clone” to us as soon as the next sci fi story came through.

          I figured that between Westerns and the interest in manned space travel, a Space + Western series would eventually get written. The question is, if that initial attempt at doing a Space + Western had failed, what would have happened?

          I did a quick Wikipedia search (so not authoritative), and basically TV sci-fi between Star Trek ending in 1969 and Star Wars, there were no major new TV franchises. Sci-Fi TV between 1969 and Star Wars is effectively Star Trek reruns and the animated series. For the sake of hypotheticals, let’s assume that Star Trek had a cast with worse chemistry, and got cancelled second season (as almost happened). There would likely be much fewer reruns of the show, so a much smaller fanbase. In the real world, with an active fanbase, nobody tried to do a Star Trek clone; would the networks have bankrolled one if Star Trek had sputtered and died?

          • Jiro says:

            Space: 1999 can be considered a Star Trek clone. Quark was a Star Trek parody, even though they tried to shove Star Wars references into it. Lost in Space predated Star Trek but is good as an example here since it doesn’t matter whether it predated or postdated Star Trek. Sealab is a Star Trek clone in a non-space setting.

            Actually, I’d suggest another hypothesis: there weren’t many Star Trek clones because Star Trek wasn’t that influential. What we see when we look at history is Star Wars making a Star Trek revival and Star Trek clones possible, in the same way that it made a Buck Rogers revival and new shows like Battlestar Galactica possible. Star Wars was influential and Star Trek was carried along for the ride.

            And even then, I don’t think Star Wars *specifically* was essential; there would have been an action sci fi blockbuster at some point.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Perhaps scifi would have continued on in the Twilight Zone vein instead. That would be an interesting alternative path.

        • nimim.k.m. says:

          Fascinating that you point out Trek-as-Western.

          Isn’t the canonical answer that the success of Star Wars was based on it being a curious mashup of space opera (of both Flash Gordon and Asimov variety [1]) and pulp Westerns … and in addition to Westerns, also Kurosawa, pseudo-Asian mysticism, slapstick comedy duo, and WWII aircraft action [2], with the special sauce that the universe looked like lived-in (and had sabers made of light, which is possibly enables the coolest looking sword duels ever)?

          However, Westerns lend Trek only the structure (every week, new Planet of Hats!). Thematically, it is “science utopia” and moreover, the kind of utopia with that both manages to have a Starfleet and it isn’t ultimately focused on war (neither in the way of “space opera” or “military SF” are).

          Without Star Wars, we’d have more of Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. Without Trek, would we have a pro-science utopic sci-fi shows? I guess Doctor Who started as an educational show…

          [1] The Foundation books I read as a kid had explicit Star Destroyer expies as cover art. Back then I thought that publisher was being clueless, but today I think it’s far more likely that they were being very clever.

          [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dam_Busters_(film)

          • The Nybbler says:

            No need to mash up “space opera” and pulp Western. A “space opera” is already a pulp Western in space; the term comes from “horse opera”. Star Wars does add the Kurasowa influence (fortunately not usually called “sword opera”), so you get powered-up swords AND poorly-aimed guns.

    • carvenvisage says:

      Imo star wars was a worse influence:

      1. clap your hands and believe.

      2. positive emotions are magic

      3. negative ones will literally consume you, if allowed the least flicker, -including if you use one to restrain another

      It’s a message of complacency and just worldism, and the films are good enough, and its subtle enough, for it to stick.

      But I would delete star trek for being consciously political and for sucking.

      _

      I quite liked episode 1, especially/including the pod racing. Good action>bad philosophy.

      • Jiro says:

        And certain things are inherently evil to do.

        “If you give in to the anger of dark side you will turn evil”, translated into the modern world, is just another version of “if you kill him you’ll be just like him”, which would mean we shouldn’t fight wars even against Hitler or bin Laden, hurt people in self-defense, or even put criminals in jail.

        • moonfirestorm says:

          But Jedi fight wars and hurt people all the time, without any real danger of turning to the dark side.

          The Force focuses on your motivations and emotions for doing what you’re doing. You can put criminals in jail, but if you’re doing it because you hate the criminals (as opposed to wanting to make the world safer), that might be a problem.

          Although the Emperor trying to get Luke to kill him was kind of weird, given that Luke has no personal relationship with this person anyway and had lots of noble reasons to want to stop the Empire through stopping the Emperor.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Although the Emperor trying to get Luke to kill him was kind of weird, given that Luke has no personal relationship with this person anyway and had lots of noble reasons to want to stop the Empire through stopping the Emperor.

            That’s not why Luke wants to kill him right at the moment, though. Luke wants to kill him because he’s completely pissed off at the Emperor having led his friends into a lethal trap.

          • moonfirestorm says:

            Ah yeah, fair point.

  9. Andrew Hunter says:

    So we’ve all seen the paperclip maximization cookie clicker that got super popular this week, right? (WARNING: memetic hazard.)

    Actually quite a fun game, if as addictively empty as any clicker. I beat it and enjoyed it (I mostly avoid the genre), though I had two big annoyances (moderate spoilers):

    – There are too many possible soft locks. I lost my first playthrough when I made it basically impossible to get the next tech tree item by buying too many processors, and that’s not the only point at which you risk that.

    – The Von Neumann probe design is too opaque: it’s very unclear what the effect of any number of points in any of the features will actually be. (Also, at the beginning at least, it’s too hard to make any progress.)

    But overall had a lot of fun quirky details and places one can fill in story.

  10. Deiseach says:

    I saw this linked in the news today and it was a real jaw-dropper moment for me.

    Men! Women are killing you with our blood! The matriarchy (well, possibly only “Dutch women who have been pregnant at some time whose blood was given to Dutch men”) is causing your downfall!

    Between the hurricane, this, and the sea giving up its dead – when did we start living in a Matthew “Monk” Lewis Gothic novel?

  11. ManyCookies says:

    On the subject of Sci-Fi, how’s the Ender’s Shadow book sequence? Is it grounded like Speaker and the first 80% of Xenocide were, or did OSC permanently stay at Children of the Mind levels of weirdness?

    • Randy M says:

      I don’t recall the quality, but the style is much more the action oriented Ender’s Game than the philosophical discussion of the latter EG books.

      • Peffern says:

        I liked Ender’s Shadow because I love Bean, but I didn’t read the others. I liked it more than Children of the Mind and Xenocide but less than the good ones.

    • Eltargrim says:

      I found that it followed the pattern of the first sequence: the first book was tight and solid, and the second reasonably grounded; but when Card lets himself into the broader world things all go to hell. Never gets quite as weird as Children of the Mind, but the Shadow series has its own quirks. Where CotM disregards physics, the Shadow series plays it fast and loose with biology.

      If you enjoyed Ender’s Game, Ender’s Shadow is an excellent companion. The rest I’d probably place on the Xenocide tier: decent, but weird enough that you notice.

      • Randy M says:

        Speaking of weird, I personally prefer Card’s stand alone (and, perhaps not coincidentally, older) novels, such as Wyrms, Treason, & Worthing Saga. Anyone else branch out into these, or interested in a review?

    • shakeddown says:

      I somehow wound up reading Ender’s Shadow before Ender’s Game, but I still vastly prefer Ender’s Game (Ender’s Shadow tried to be a standalone book, but unless you’ve read Game there’s a lot of “what was the author thinking?” moments). And I’m usually very high on loyalty to whatever I saw first.
      Shadow sequels are okay. Nothing fantastic, and the characters are kind of inconsistent, but they’re reasonably fun.

    • carvenvisage says:

      It’s more like ender’s game.

  12. Viliam says:

    A few years ago I read the Millennium trilogy. I was unimpressed and couldn’t understand how such books could be popular. Then I forgot about them, and only recently remembered them again. Suddenly, the books started making sense, in a way.

    One thing that irritated me in the books was that every bad character turned out to be a literal Nazi. And not just an average Nazi, but a participant in some huge international Nazi conspiracy to overthrow democratic governments, or something like that (sorry if I got some detail wrong here, it was a few years ago). In the Millennium universe, one simply can’t be merely an asshole. Or merely a murderer. Or merely a rapist. The sets of all assholes, all murderers, all rapists, and all Nazis do not have merely a big intersection. They are literally the same set. In the Millennium universe, if you see an unsympathetic person, you can safely conclude that he (usually it’s “he”; only sometimes it’s “she” when we see a wife of someone who is an order of magnitude worse than her) is a member of an international Nazi conspiracy. In these books, this is a safe bet.

    I used to laugh at that, but now I feel like this is what people from certain part of the political spectrum actually believe. I mean, at least it would explain the popularity of the books.

    • Nornagest says:

      And here I thought the first book was too heavy-handed.

    • nimim.k.m. says:

      Before becoming a successful crime writer, Stieg Larsson was famous as a journalist specializing in Swedish neo-Nazis.

      • Montfort says:

        What bothered me most about the books of the Millennium series I read was how this knowledge made the good qualities ascribed to Blomkvist and the good things that happened to him seem a lot more like wish-fulfillment (or bragging, depending) than natural events and normal characterization, fan-service, and/or narrative convenience.

  13. Peffern says:

    I normally check for and access the hidden open thread through the archives. Is there a better way to do it that I’m missing?

  14. Atlas says:

    Do folks have any thoughts on what the consequences of a German victory in WW1 would have been? Feel free to be as speculative as you want, use whichever turning point you want, etc.

    • Protagoras says:

      So, Germany goes out of its way to avoid pissing off Britain. No aggressive Hochseeflotte building, no invasion of Belgium (start the war with a big attack on Russia, fight defensively against France). As long as we’re giving Germany more skillful diplomacy, have them find some way to convince Italy to honor their pre-war commitments (that the allies look considerably weaker without Britain should make it easier to convince Italy the central powers are the way to go). Russia eventually crumbles. May or may not involve Bolshevik revolution, but there’s nothing particular about this scenario that would hinder the Bolsheviks, so while they got lucky in the real world and very well might not have in any given alternate history, let’s not take away their luck since it isn’t really the point. Still, they get less territory; instead, German and Austrian puppet governments all over Eastern Europe. Without Britain or America in the war, France sues for peace after Russia exits. With the stipulated defensive war against France, not much French territory is actually occupied at the point the peace is negotiated, but probably the Italians try to justify taking a little slice, and perhaps the Germans do as well, or perhaps the Germans are satisfied with some French colonial possessions being ceded to them and some reparations.

      So Germany becomes a colonial power as it hoped, France becomes less of one. U.S. is largely unaffected. Since Britain doesn’t enter the war, Japan doesn’t either, so Japan doesn’t get Germany’s possessions in the Pacific (but probably still tries to use the distraction of the European war to cover attempts to increase their influence in China). Britain doesn’t take over Ottoman possessions, Ottoman Empire lumbers on a bit longer. Despite not gaining that Middle Eastern territory, it is probably to the benefit of the British that they don’t rack up huge war debt, so they probably end up in better shape on this scenario. Italy perhaps still goes fascist, but Austria and the Ottomans stand in the way of their making trouble in the Balkans down the road (they may still make trouble in Africa). No Nazis. France may go fascist, but that’s less scary than German fascism; I don’t think anything very much like WWII happens on this scenario. But there may be other European wars, depending on the evolving political situations in Germany, Austria, and the various Eastern European countries. I’m really not sure how to project this scenario into the later 20th century, as there are too many interacting moving parts; possibly gradual liberalization in the German core and concern about both the Soviets and the U.S. lead to attempts to pursue European unity, or perhaps without the post-WWII situation nothing EUish evolves and the European states continue to squabble. Colonial empires probably last longer; unclear how much longer. Soviet Union is probably less important throughout. Prospects for Japan very hard to predict.

      • SamChevre says:

        Are you counting Alsace-Lorraine as French territory, or German territory, or what? Because in my reading, getting Lorraine back is a central goal for France, and keeping Alsace a central goal for Germany.

        • Protagoras says:

          I’m counting it as German territory for the purposes of this story; by French territory, I mean territory France held at the start of the war, not territory France might have held at some point in history. For that matter, I recall that during the Dreyfus affair, in addition to the anti-semitism there seemed to be suspicion that Dreyfus being Alsatian meant he obviously must have German sympathies. For me that significantly undermines my inclination to trust the French insisting that it Alsace obviously 100% French.

    • cassander says:

      It’s hard to imagine how they could have possibly been worse than what we got. At the very least, it’s difficult to see how any german victory of any sort doesn’t lead to bolshevism getting strangled in its cradle. Entirely aside from geopolitical concerns, I can’t see kaiser willy not avenging the death of his cousin.

      • Protagoras says:

        If it’s still the Bolsheviks who actually make peace with the Germans, I don’t think I can agree with your analysis here. The Germans seem most likely to continue to think that having the Bolsheviks in charge in Russia makes Russia less of a threat to them, and in any event even after a German victory I think there would have been considerable German opposition to yet more large scale warfare so soon. I doubt there would have been more than the half-hearted anti-Bolshevik interventions of actual history.

        • cassander says:

          At brest-litovsk, the Czar and his family were still alive, and the germans had a war in the west they had to win before america showed up in large numbers. the bolsheviks were extremely weak throughout the russian civil war, as was demonstrated by operation Fautschlag where they advanced 500 miles in a month. Almost any concerted opposition would have been enough to unseat them, remember, poland, a country that didn’t exist in 1918, was able to fairly soundly defeat the red armies in 1920-21.

    • John Schilling says:

      Perhaps we should first classify potential German victories. I see three main categories:

      A – Quick win on all fronts. The Schlieffen plan works, Paris falls, Russia can’t stand alone and Britain alone can’t help her, the end. Britain and Russia at least survive, but the Russian frontier is pushed back and everything between the Pyrennes and the Dnepr, between the North Sea and the Med, is the playground of the German and Austro-Hungarian empires.

      B – Long slog leading to win on all fronts. The U-boats bring Britain close enough to starvation to negotiate terms in 1917, or the US doesn’t look likely to come help out so ditto. For bean’s sake, we’ll need a variant where the Germans win a decisive victory at Jutland. Now France and Italy probably survive as well, though with their borders shifted back. Russia also survives, holding her revolution as scheduled but with the Central Powers too weakened to claim all that much in the chaos.

      C – Win in the East, draw in the West. The outcome the stab-in-the-back myth says was within Germany’s reach in 1918. Brest-Litovsk happens, Germany consolidates her gains in the East, and at least looks strong enough in the West that the Allies don’t think they can impose Versailles-esque terms. Germany wins in the sense of coming out with more territory and a relatively stronger position in the postwar order, but is held to prewar borders on the West. The Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires still fall, but the Kaiser gets a seat at the table in deciding how they get divvied up.

      • cassander says:

        I’d tweak your C a bit. No unsrestricted U-boat war leads to the US not getting involved, the russian revolutions happen more or less on schedule, but without being able to wait for the americans the french mutinies are much worse, leading to a negotiated peace in late 1917 on german favorable terms, but with almost all the gains coming in the east.

      • bean says:

        For bean’s sake, we’ll need a variant where the Germans win a decisive victory at Jutland.

        I seriously considered replying to the OP “Beatty was in charge at Jutland”, although in fairness he did pretty decently when he was given the Grand Fleet later in the war.

      • dndnrsn says:

        This was my immediate reaction – a quick victory, or a slow victory? What we got was a slow Entente victory. It’s hard to see how a quick Entente victory happens. Anyway, consequences:

        A, a quick victory (maybe for whatever reason Britain doesn’t get involved or maybe the dice roll slightly differently and the Schlieffen plan works as advertised), is probably the best outcome. War is so awful that a quick victory is only bad if the winners are really evil. In most cases, the shorter the war, the better. A victor in a quick war is probably not going to be screaming for vengeance at the negotiation table, and fewer people die.

        B, probably much like what happened. The victors have still bled enough to want to stick it to the vanquished, which happened, but the war was so awful that nobody wants to go to war again to enforce the peace agreement, which also happened. What happened with Germany post-WWI is a worst of both worlds situation: a bad enough deal at Versailles to make Germany want revenge, but not enforced enough to keep them from taking it. A slow victory by Germany probably just makes things break like that, but the other way.

        C, probably somewhat similar to B. Consider that Italy was on the winning side in WWI, and still went fascist – they still didn’t like the deal they got after the war. Britain and France could quite easily enter a mindset of “we bled so much, for a tie? Clearly got to shake things up!”

      • Wrong Species says:

        How exactly does B happen? The only way that America wouldn’t help out is if Germany never restarted unrestricted submarine warfare. And if they didn’t use the U boats, then they get starved out while Britain eats. The only way I could see them winning past the Schlieffen Plan is by some impressive political maneuvering on their part and ineptitude on Britain’s.

        • Protagoras says:

          Germans win Jutland (somehow), German surface ships break the blockade and open up German trade with America, strengthening the pro-German forces in American politics. German surface ships also take up some of the burden of trying to blockade Britain, and since surface ships do not necessarily have to shoot first and ask questions later the way any submarine that hopes to survive needs to, the German blockade efforts are less offensive to America. Almost every story is helped greatly if German diplomats are less mind-bogglingly incompetent, so have them also not make the astonishingly stupid move of trying to make a deal with Mexico against America. Put that all together, and maybe the pro-war faction in America doesn’t get their way.

          • bean says:

            I endorse this completely. The British blockade was very unpopular in America, which had been a major German trading partner pre-war. I’ve seen suggestions that the 1916 fleet plan was to allow the US to break the British blockade.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Presumably Israel doesn’t happen. Anti-Semitism is probably still respectable.

      • S_J says:

        As part of (B) or (C)…

        For scenarios in which the United States stays out of the war, how many of them start with “the Zimmerman telegram was never sent” or “the Zimmerman telegram was never intercepted/decrypted” ?

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      If we assume no WW2, do atomic bombs get invented?

      • Protagoras says:

        Yes. Maybe later. That is one of the things that complicates the longer term predictions, as it isn’t obvious who would invent them first, and that could easily have a dramatic effect.

        • bean says:

          Less than you’d think. Nuclear weapons are expensive to make en masse. At its height in the mid-50s, the US nuclear weapons program was using something like 15% of the country’s electricity production. (Number remembered from the Atomic Museum and a quick google was people talking about nuclear power vs nuclear weapons). In World War 2 terms, being able to blow up one extra city every other month isn’t particularly impressive. These days, they come with serious diplomatic ramifications, but that wouldn’t necessarily be the case in a world where there’s no Manhattan Project to pour them out.

          • Protagoras says:

            I suppose given the home country of so many of the nuclear scientists, if a victorious Austria-Hungary holds itself together it is one of the most likely candidates to be the first nuclear power, and that probably wouldn’t produce particularly extraordinary effects. Nor would it be likely to do much if the U.S., still not an unlikely candidate, remains the first to go nuclear. But there are dark horse possibilities that could change things much more dramatically. Suppose no other power is willing to put the investment into nuclear weapons because of a generally more peaceful world, but Japan, feeling trapped by America and the European powers it is not able to divide against one another in this alternate timeline, holds back from war at the start of the 40s but desperately invests in its own Manhattan project instead. A suddenly nuclear armed Japan in the late 40s against a world otherwise without nukes doesn’t produce any striking results? Not the most likely scenario, to be sure, but it doesn’t seem impossible.

          • Nornagest says:

            At its height in the mid-50s, the US nuclear weapons program was using something like 15% of the country’s electricity production.

            Isn’t that because gaseous diffusion is really energy-expensive, and it just happened to be the refinement method we went with initially? It’s not necessary to refine uranium, though; we’ve all moved to Zippe centrifuges since, which (while still expensive) are a lot more efficient.

          • bean says:

            @Nornagest
            True. I did some research, and centrifuges appear about an order of magnitude more energy-efficient. Also, the US was building an absurd number of nukes. (That said, the Uranium converted into Pu is natural.) But even 1.5% of US electricity in the 50s is still a lot.

          • cassander says:

            @Protagoras

            Beyond just the problem of numbers the others have identified, it’s not enough just to build the bomb, you also need a delivery system, and in the 1940s, that took the most advanced airplane in the world, something that was really beyond the capacity of Japan to build. And even if Japan had built it, the US can catch up with a crash program in just a couple years anyway.

          • Protagoras says:

            Long range submarines (a Japanese speciality in the real world) launch oversized nuclear-armed torpedoes (doesn’t seem beyond Japanese capability) into several American harbors (and the entrance to Panama) in a sneak attack, perchance? Not saying Japan ends up winning the war that results, but it could certainly end up dramatic and messy. And for that matter, the Japanese were hardly terrible at designing airplanes; in the actual world they just had a lot of trouble building anywhere near sufficient numbers of their steadily improving designs as the war raged on, with their horrible raw material shortages and later their industries being bombed.

          • Nornagest says:

            Turns out on further investigation that gaseous diffusion is not the first large-scale refinement method we tried. The first used even less efficient but more enjoyably mad-sciencey machines called calutrons: basically giant mass spectrometers optimized for separating isotopes rather than analyzing them, courtesy of the subtly different paths taken by U-238 and U-235 in a magnetically bent particle beam. As you might expect from something that sounds like dialogue from a Bond villain just before he feeds the investors to Komodo dragons, they were ridiculously expensive even by the profligate standards of 1940s nuclear programs.

            This is all a bit of a sideline, though; since the calutrons were all shut down in 1945 and replaced by gaseous diffusion plants, they wouldn’t be relevant to electricity consumption in the Fifties. They reappear in the First Gulf War, though, as the basis for Saddam Hussein’s then-operational nuclear program (their parts were not, at the time, subject to export controls).

          • cassander says:

            @Protagoras

            Long range submarines (a Japanese speciality in the real world) launch oversized nuclear-armed torpedoes (doesn’t seem beyond Japanese capability) into several American harbors (and the entrance to Panama) in a sneak attack, perchance?

            the japanese long lance weighed 6000 lbs and delivered a 1000lb warhead. Little boy weighed 10,000lbs. Later nuclear torpedoes (the russian T-5 or the american type 45) had warheads in the 5kt range to keep the size rasonable.

            And for that matter, the Japanese were hardly terrible at designing airplanes; in the actual world they just had a lot of trouble building anywhere near sufficient numbers of their steadily improving designs as the war raged on, with their horrible raw material shortages and later their industries being bombed.

            the japanese problem with quality was at least as serious than their problems with numbers, except very early in the war, when they had a more serious quantity shortage.

            the zero is usually taken as an example of japanese prowess in this area, and it is an excellent design, for what it is. But it’s a design was driven by the fact that japan wasn’t able to make a reliable fighter sized engine that got more than 1000hp. And the zero was one of their better designs, the IJN’s main bomber was an out and out deathtrap. And its design too was largely driven by a need for extreme lightness to achieve sufficient performance on insufficient engines. Japan’s engines were weak because they lacked the engineering, industrial practice, and materials technology (the three are hard to separate) to make truly first rate engines in quantity, and without them, it doesn’t matter how good the rest of your design is.

            I don’t mean to denigrate the japanese achievement, to go from feudalism to where it was in the 40s in so little time was hugely impressive achievement, but Imperial Japan had a level of industrial capacity on a level with that of Italy. It was a third rate power that by virtue of geography, weak competition, and huge expenditures (as a share of national income) on arms managed to carve itself an outsized share of influence. But fast as it grew, its ambitions and ego grew faster, to its ultimate ruin.

          • bean says:

            @Nornagest
            I knew about the Calutrons, but as you said, they weren’t relevant to the discussion. I may try to track down more details on that figure.

            @cassander

            the japanese long lance weighed 6000 lbs and delivered a 1000lb warhead. Little boy weighed 10,000lbs. Later nuclear torpedoes (the russian T-5 or the american type 45) had warheads in the 5kt range to keep the size rasonable.

            First off, they’d probably plant it as a demolition charge using a minisub. Or just blow up the minisub. This is the Japanese. I’d almost expect them to man the nuclear delivery devices on purpose, to say nothing of the logistical simplifications.
            Second, the 5 kt (actually 10-15 kt according to SoA) limit on the Mk (not Type) 45 had everything to do with the necessary yield for the role and nothing to do with weight. The W34 weighed about half as much as the warhead on the Mk 48 torpedo. But there’s no reason to use more than you need.

            This plan actually sounds like the initial plans for the Soviet November-class. Push comes to shove, use the same solution. A really big torpedo.

          • cassander says:

            @bean

            First off, they’d probably plant it as a demolition charge using a minisub. Or just blow up the minisub. This is the Japanese. I’d almost expect them to man the nuclear delivery devices on purpose, to say nothing of the logistical simplifications.

            That is an embarrassingly good point.

            Second, the 5 kt (actually 10-15 kt according to SoA) limit on the Mk (not Type) 45 had everything to do with the necessary yield for the role and nothing to do with weight.

            Size and yield were not entirely unrelated. Type 53 developed at about the same time, with a 10 megaton yield, weighed 9000lbs.

            That said, I was unclear. The point I was trying to make was that ww2 era bombs were too large for torpedoes, and the nuclear torpedoes that eventually developed weren’t megaton monsters, .

          • bean says:

            Size and yield were not entirely unrelated. Type 53 developed at about the same time, with a 10 megaton yield, weighed 9000lbs.

            STOP USING BAD NOMENCLATURE! US NUCLEAR WEAPONS DID NOT USE A TYPE SERIES!
            The B53/W53 was much larger and had much higher yield. But these are both vastly more sophisticated devices than the Japanese would have had.

            That said, I was unclear. The point I was trying to make was that ww2 era bombs were too large for torpedoes, and the nuclear torpedoes that eventually developed weren’t megaton monsters,

            No, I get that. The nuclear torpedoes had the warheads they did for specific reasons. The problem was that late 50s tech didn’t really allow high-speed homing torpedoes, and you couldn’t get an accurate-enough fix from the launching submarine via wire guidance to make a conventional warhead work. So they used a nuclear warhead to compensate for the resulting inaccuracy, and the inaccuracy was to the level where 10-15 kt was enough. “What is the largest warhead we can cram into this volume/weight?” wasn’t the only driver of US nuclear weapons design after the early 50s. The weapon was sized to a specific target.

            The Soviets proposed the T-15 torpedo as a multimegaton monster for destroying US ports. It would have been a 155 cm torpedo. They decided not to, but the Japanese could do the same. Agree they couldn’t cram a nuke onto a regular torpedo at the time.

          • cassander says:

            @bean

            STOP USING BAD NOMENCLATURE!

            That one was just a typo.

          • John Schilling says:

            and in the 1940s, that took the most advanced airplane in the world, something that was really beyond the capacity of Japan to build.

            In the 1940s, we used the most advanced airplane in the world, because we happened to have a bunch of them lying around and we were in a hurry. It wasn’t necessary. We didn’t have to. We’ve been through this before, and anyone who can build an atomic bomb at all can build the sort of atomic bomb that will fit neatly in a typical Japanese (or German or Italian or whatever) medium bomber.
            Groves, Oppenheimer, et al didn’t need to, they had a hundred thousand or so Chinese allies dying every month and the Army gearing up for Olympic/Coronet, so they cut out a few months’ worth of physics experiments and shoehorned an armor-plated Gadget into a B-29.

            The Russians and the Brits did exactly the same thing because they had copies of the blueprints and were afraid of missing some clever secret; absolutely everyone else who went into the atom-bomb business started with much lighter designs. As would the Germans or the Japanese or Austro-Hungarians if it had come to that.

          • cassander says:

            @john Schilling

            the first british weapon weighed about 10k lbs and was carried on a jet bomber. Early soviet bombs were based on fat man, and similarly sized, and first carried by the Tu-4, which was a B-29 knockoff. The first french bomb was considerably smaller, but wasn’t deployed until the 60s.

            Bombs obviously got smaller with time, but it took years of development to get there. I think it is entirely unrealistic to imagine that the japanese could have crammed one into a betty in the 40s, at least not if you expected it to have more than a few miles of range. As bean points out, though, suicide nuking was obviously something the japanese would have been totally willing to pursue.

          • John Schilling says:

            the first british weapon weighed about 10k lbs and was carried on a jet bomber. Early soviet bombs were based on fat man, and similarly sized, and first carried by the Tu-4, which was a B-29 knockoff.

            The first British and Russian atomic bombs weighed 10,000 pounds because Fat Man weighed 10,000 pounds, the British and Russians both had Fat Man blueprints, and they didn’t want to risk missing some clever secret on their politically crucial first test. Nobody else did that, and it wasn’t because of some clever trick that only became known in the 1960s.

            We have, literally, been through exactly this discussion before, and it would be annoying to have to repeat it. Everything necessary to build 2000-pound atomic bombs was known to the Manhattan Project team in 1945, and to anyone following in their footsteps, and would almost certainly have been discovered by anyone else following a parallel path in a parallel universe. 10,000 pound atom bombs were several sorts of political expediency, but never a technical necessity.

          • bean says:

            Everything necessary to build 2000-pound atomic bombs was known to the Manhattan Project team in 1945, and to anyone following in their footsteps, and would almost certainly have been discovered by anyone else following a parallel path in a parallel universe

            I’m actually going to challenge you on this. I’m looking through my copy of Swords of Armageddon right now, and I’m not seeing where they could have made a 2000-lb weapon right away. Throughout most of 1949, the discussion was on a 6000-lb weapon for test in 1951, before a couple of major advances (Hansen gives most of the credit to the 92-point implosion system) meant they could make it a lot lighter. The Mk 7’s even greater improvements are credited to better HE and tampers, and the 92-point configuration. These are all things that took a couple of years to get right, and with US resources. Maybe if you throw fissionable material around with gay abandon you could make a 1940s bomb at 2000 lb, but that’s something that a Japanese nuclear program is even less likely to be able to do than the US could/did, and you know as well as I do that was a major concern until the mid-50s. The armor on Fat Man was about 25%, and Little Boy might have been cut by up to 50% if they were really aggressive. But I’m not seeing an 80% cut without some fairly serious improvements in technology.

            Re later nuclear powers and first weapons, the big difference was the propagation of simulation power and resources. This is stuff that the US couldn’t classify, and that a late-40s shoestring A-bomb project wouldn’t have.

          • John Schilling says:

            What made the Mark 5 and Mark 7 different (i.e. much lighter) than Fat Man were the aluminum bomb case, composite levitated pit, 92-point implosion, and overriding all of that, an actual specified requirement for a 3000-lb (Mark 5) or 1500 lb (Mark 7) bomb(*).

            That requirement was set, for a 45″ weapon, in January of 1950 (Hansen V-239). The first Mark 5 was complete by the end of the year. And there was nothing done during that year that could not have been done just as well during 1944-1945, nothing that depended on any post-1944 development or understanding.

            Levitated pits were being modeled at Los Alamos in 1944 (Hansen I-124), and by the end of 1945 were scheduled for testing in Operation Sandstone. Indeed, hollow or levitated pits were the original preferred design (Hasen I-200), set aside because of concerns about Rayleigh-Taylor instability that turned out to be a non-issue for the levitated configuration when they eventually got around to testing it. If the requirement for the first atomic bomb had called for a 2000-lb weapon, then there would have been nothing for it but to proceed with the initial levitated-pit design, and as it turns out it would have worked just fine.

            The rest is just engineering detail, and while it is certainly more tediously annoying to design and debug a 92-point implosion system vs 32-point, it isn’t years more annoying, and the outcome is in absolutely no doubt. Again, if that’s what was needed to meet the initial requirement, that’s what would have been done. In hindsight it would all have worked, and the marginal additional effort would still have left the schedule dominated by the production of fissile material.

            Instead, the Manhattan Project built a 10,000 pound bomb because it was slightly easier and more certain and they were in a tearing hurry, and then the relative handful who didn’t just go home and celebrate spent 1946-1950 using all their cleverness building ever more powerful and efficient 10,000-lb atom bombs and waffling on the subject of how much they even really wanted lighter weapons (which they would have to share with their arch-rivals, the United States Navy).

            TL,DR: When the United States committed to building lightweight atomic bombs, it got them in about a year, and it got them by using nothing it didn’t already know about a year before it built the first heavyweight atomic bombs.

            * Pedantically, the requirements were set by diameter rather than weight, but the one directly drove the other.

          • bean says:

            What made the Mark 5 and Mark 7 different (i.e. much lighter) than Fat Man were the aluminum bomb case, composite levitated pit, 92-point implosion, and overriding all of that, an actual specified requirement for a 3000-lb (Mark 5) or 1500 lb (Mark 7) bomb(*).

            Mk 5 weighed slightly more than half as much as the HE in Fat Man alone, so the aluminum case doesn’t really hold up as an explanation. 92-point implosion was a serious issue for them to work out, and they bought lots of IBM computers to do so. (V-216). They weren’t sure about the compression of the 92-point system in late 1949. (V-237) And the big problem I have with saying that it was the requirements is that the predicted weight of the Mk 5 was 5000 lb as late as August of 1950. (V-240) If it was all so simple to get to Mk 5 weight, why did they estimate 40% high mere months before the weapon was ready?

            That requirement was set, for a 45″ weapon, in January of 1950 (Hansen V-239). The first Mark 5 was complete by the end of the year. And there was nothing done during that year that could not have been done just as well during 1944-1945, nothing that depended on any post-1944 development or understanding.

            Hansen does reference improved explosives at one point, but I’ll sort of grant the point that there was nothing technologically out of reach for them. But there were a lot of things that had to be proved first. Once they were proved, they were the sort of things emerging nuclear powers could figure out from OSINT. I’ll grant that there’s path dependence in this, and a decision in 1944 for a smaller weapon would have moved the date up a lot, but I don’t think you can sustain the claim that it would have only delayed them a month or two.

            Instead, the Manhattan Project built a 10,000 pound bomb because it was slightly easier and more certain and they were in a tearing hurry, and then the relative handful who didn’t just go home and celebrate spent 1946-1950 using all their cleverness building ever more powerful and efficient 10,000-lb atom bombs and waffling on the subject of how much they even really wanted lighter weapons (which they would have to share with their arch-rivals, the United States Navy).

            Hansen explicitly credits knowledge gained on the Mk 4 as being critical to the Mk 5. There was lots of back and forth about “we can build lightweight bombs” “yes, but we can use the same advances to build even better heavyweight bombs”.
            All of that said, I don’t think ‘The X couldn’t deliver an atomic bomb’ is a good argument. There’s lots of ways to do it with a little cleverness. The US chose bombs, and everyone else followed, but a nuclear demolition charge dropped by a minisubmarine would be really devastating, too.

          • John Schilling says:

            Mk 5 weighed slightly more than half as much as the HE in Fat Man alone, so the aluminum case doesn’t really hold up as an explanation.

            The Mk 4 (basically a mass-produced Fat Man) lost about 2,400 lbs of its original 10,800 lb weight when it went from a steel to an aluminum case (Hansen V-181); that’s about 30% of the total weight reduction from the Mk 4 to the Mk 5, and second only to pit levitation in overall weight reduction.

            And the big problem I have with saying that it was the requirements is that the predicted weight of the Mk 5 was 5000 lb as late as August of 1950. (V-240)

            That wasn’t a prediction, that was a plan, based on the size of the weapons bays of aircraft being planned at the same time. See e.g. Hansen V-223; this was a concurrent process with the Air Force wanting bombs which were neither larger nor smaller than their planes were designed to carry. At one point, those requirements met at 45″ and 5000 lbs.

            You are right that there was uncertainty as to whether 92-point implosion would work. There was uncertainty as to whether pit levitation would work. Just as, in 1944, there was uncertainty as to whether implosion would work. All those uncertainties were resolved, not by years of analysis and computer modeling, but by building the device and testing it. Being practical engineers, at each stage they included only the uncertain elements necessary to meet the mission requirement of the day, and so it took several years of changing mission requirements (and some years of lean funding when they could do nothing but mostly-pointless analysis) to get around to testing all of the ingredients for a lightweight atomic bomb.

            But they all worked, the first time they were tested. If the requirement had been for a lightweight bomb up front, there’d have been nothing to do but try all those uncertain things up front. And, with or without the years of anguished uncertainty and analysis, they’d almost certainly have all worked the first time, just like they actually did.

          • bean says:

            The Mk 4 (basically a mass-produced Fat Man) lost about 2,400 lbs of its original 10,800 lb weight when it went from a steel to an aluminum case (Hansen V-181)

            No. The Mk 4 always used the steel case. A similar case, made of Aluminum, was used on the Mk 6. It was apparently designated the Mk 4 case, but it was used on the Mk 6. I’m not saying that it wasn’t a big part of the weight, but you’re still looking at 8 tons, not 1 ton.

            That wasn’t a prediction, that was a plan, based on the size of the weapons bays of aircraft being planned at the same time. See e.g. Hansen V-223; this was a concurrent process with the Air Force wanting bombs which were neither larger nor smaller than their planes were designed to carry. At one point, those requirements met at 45″ and 5000 lbs.

            Not how I read it. The bomb stayed at 45″, they just made it lighter on that diameter. Otherwise, please point me to where they decided they wanted to shave a ton off the weapon. Seriously, I can’t even find a good explanation for where that ton went, and I’ve looked.

            But they all worked, the first time they were tested. If the requirement had been for a lightweight bomb up front, there’d have been nothing to do but try all those uncertain things up front. And, with or without the years of anguished uncertainty and analysis, they’d almost certainly have all worked the first time, just like they actually did.

            I’m not at all sure on the 92-point system, but I don’t know how we can resolve that. Re the other elements, I’m not familiar enough with the history to know how obvious the solutions chosen were relative to other potential options.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Might atomic bombs be so expensive that, in a reasonably peaceful world (smallish wars only, no cold war), no one would invent them? People would probably notice that atomic bombs are possible, but spend their money on something else.

        • Nornagest says:

          Hard to say. We certainly have a lot of little tinpot dictators who’d be happy to build them now if they could get away with it, either to threaten their neighbors or to secure themselves against more powerful enemies, and one who has; and the world’s peaceful enough right now that I might not expect one without a WWII or Cold War to be moreso. But there might be path-dependence issues. The physics behind nukes is not particularly difficult by the standards of modern science, so I’d expect a good conceptual understanding of prompt criticality either way, but there are tough engineering problems in the way that might look less surmountable if there’d never been a Manhattan Project proving that it could be done.

          Overall I’d say it’d probably get done but it might have taken twenty, thirty more years.

        • bean says:

          Unlikely. Somebody’s going to want them, dreaming of the ultimate weapon. They’re expensive enough, though, that in a world with more tolerance for casualties (like the 40s), they won’t be quite as terrifying until a couple of years of stockpile is available.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m not so sure about that. Dollar for dollar, Fat Man-like weapons made with 1945 technology are not that much more devastating than the large-scale strategic bombing that had been going on for years at that point; but Hiroshima and Nagasaki were terrifying to the Japanese partly because they had no idea of what our capabilities were at that point. For all they knew we had a hundred of those things lined up.

            Whatever first use ended up looking like, I think those psychological effects would still have been there, unless we assume a really contrived intelligence environment.

          • bean says:

            Whatever first use ended up looking like, I think those psychological effects would still have been there, unless we assume a really contrived intelligence environment.

            I’m not sure that an intelligence environment like the one that happened then is the norm. Nukes would most likely first appear in a leading industrial power. Those aren’t that easy to close down.

    • Anonymous says:

      This may be of interest: Timeline of World History since 1914.

  15. isotropy says:

    This infectious little thing is going around….

    http://www.decisionproblem.com/paperclips/

    • Protagoras says:

      Indeed, one suspects there is a meta-paperclip AI at work, trying to fill the universe with paperclip making simulation games.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      I tried a few times to post that but none of the comments went through. I am worried I am somewhow shadow-banned from making top-level comments.

      • ldsrrs says:

        New commenter here: I have also just tried a couple times to make a top-level comment, but they didn’t appear. Do you know if there is some rule against it?

        • johan_larson says:

          No. Did you include any weird links or controversial words?

          Do you have JavaScript enabled in your browser?

          Try making an utterly innocuous post. You’ll have an hour to change or delete it.

          • ldsrrs says:

            I made an innocuous post and it appeared. I then edited my original post in and it disappeared. I guess something in it must be getting blocked. I did include a couple links, but they were to SSC. I don’t think I said anything controversial, but I supposed I may have run into some blacklist anyway.

            The comment was about a previous SSC post (perceptual control). I am not sure what the norm on commenting on past posts is, but I figured that I should post in a open thread since the post comment sections seem to die fairly quickly.

          • Nornagest says:

            There are some terms that will give you the symptoms you describe (the initials of “Horrible Banned Discourse”; the name of a controversy over gaming journalism a few years ago and some of its principals; others which you can find on the Comments page), but that doesn’t sound like anything that would have been likely to trigger them.

            WordPress magic, maybe.

          • ldsrrs says:

            I think I found what was blocking my post. The following two substrings (posted here in reverse) seem to have been responsible. I have no idea why.

            a at dot the positioning
            top the at be to dot the

          • Nornagest says:

            Positioning the dot at the?
            The dot to be at the top?

            Odd.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            These strings?

            positioning the dot at a
            the dot to be at the top

            The word “at” closely followed by “dot” sounds like spelling out email addresses. I don’t think the spam filter should care about that. And it’s the wrong order.

  16. Le Maistre Chat says:

    What do you make of the governor of Florida declaring a state of emergency because Richard Spencer is going to speak?

    It’s downright surreal to say “We can’t stop racist speech, but we can treat it like a hurricane.”
    Did you know that Spencer had a mere 19,000 followers when Twitter suspended his account? “We need to pay lots of attention to white nationalists because they’re so dangerous” seems like a self-fulfilling prophecy. He’ll never be able to rock you like a hurricane if you don’t make him famous.

    • Zorgon says:

      It’s the Farage effect, and it’s not going to stop until advertisers finally realise that toxoplasma clicks don’t actually sell their products at all.

      • AnonYEmous says:

        That might be true for the media, but this is a story about a statement by the governor. Do you think he would change if the media did?

        • JayT says:

          I think the OP is saying that if people like Spencer weren’t given so much publicity, then their get togethers would have like 20 people showing up, and then disappear without making a difference. As it is right now, there’s a ton of attention given to them, which brings out more of the people like Spencer, as well as protestors, which has been a recipe for unrest.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            It’s also all very silly. The National Policy Institute was formed in 2005, and has been having speaking events and conventions for over a decade now…with no influence, no unrest, and no one has cared. Until last year when the news media decided “evil Nazis are everywhere and here’s their leader!” and put Spencer on TV.

            If they had a decade-long history of, after their conventions, pouring into the streets and beating up minorities, yes, this would be a problem worthy of a “state of emergency.” But that does not appear to be the case.

            If the media just ignored Spencer (as they did for the last decade) there would be no problem.

    • Brad says:

      Is this a governance problem or a naming things problem?

      I’ve seen a lot of criticism of e.g. the Berkeley campus and city police for not adequately protecting Yiannopoulos and those that would like to have heard him speak. If under Florida law the procedural step of declaring a state of emergency is necessary to unlock the law enforcement resources necessary to ensure a peaceful event where Spencer can exercise his right to speak, that seems like a pretty good thing to me. Doesn’t it to you?

      Sure, it’s a little silly that in order to do that he has to call the speech an emergency, but it seems pretty churlish and counterproductive to criticize someone for taking a positive step because of the optics of what that step is called.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        If a state of emergency is a necessary procedural step to unlock enough resources to allow a very unpopular speaker to use the Free Speech clause, I’m not criticizing the Governor. But it’s quite surreal.
        A) If that’s it, Democrats get to frame it as a Republican Governor equating anti-racist rioters to a natural disaster.
        B) As Conrad Honcho said, Spencer’s institute had existed for 11 years, blue-skying about a North American ethnostate with Pepes for currency or whatever without one speaking engagement being followed by assaulting minorities. Surely it’s the fault of the media in fall 2016 if state authorities have to unlock those resources when he talks?

  17. Wrong Species says:

    Third times the charm: libertarianism part 3.(1 2)

    I have mentioned that property tax isn’t fundamentally different than rent up above. I want to break down exactly what I mean by that. Take four scenarios:

    1) You are born in a country and never reside anywhere else.

    2) You are an immigrant to a country.

    3) You live in one house your whole life.

    4) You grow up in one house and then leave and find another house to reside in.

    When it comes the voluntaristic qualities of each scenario, libertarians group up 1 and 2 compared to 3 and 4. But in my view, the better grouping is 1 and 3, versus 2 and 4. In 2 and 4, they both have a singular moment of consent when we can agree they consented to the rules of the land. But in one and three, there isn’t that singular moment and that’s what makes consent tricky in those situations. I think where libertarians get confused is that the central example of property tax is residing in a country your entire life and the central example of rent is leaving your parents house and finding a place on your own. That’s why they see property tax as involuntary and rent as voluntary. And the reason that these are the central examples of property tax and rent is that countries are big and properties are small. But big and small aren’t the fundamental aspect of voluntaryness. You can have tiny states and large property.

    • This doesn’t make much sense to me. I think your point is that while libertarians will say you volunteer to live in a house and can always move somewhere else, you are thinking one also volunteers to live in a country and can live somewhere else?

      This might make sense if there were as many countries as there are houses, and if there were as few barriers to switching countries as there are to switching houses. But neither of those are anywhere close to being true. I have lived in dozens of houses and apartments in my life, but only one country. It is definitely voluntary what house I live in. It would be a lot more difficult to switch countries, and there are a whole lot fewer choices of countries than houses.

      I don’t think this argument holds water.

      • Wrong Species says:

        If you were right, then libertarians could simply be satisfied with an arrangement that had smaller states. Conversely, property owners acquiring large tracts of land would be considered an involuntary arrangement. Either way, the distinction between state/property doesn’t hold.

        • quanta413 says:

          As a vaguely libertarian-ish person, if changing government really was as easy and flexible as changing houses currently is (in the U.S.), yes, I would consider your analogy fairly reasonable. You’re almost describing ancapistan at that point. It’s not just a matter of size but also of the ability to relatively easily leave one contract and form a new contract.

          But I don’t think you’ve even meaningfully answered why the vast difference in scale between even small states and large properties is somehow unimportant. When’s the last time a private property owner controlled as much land as a significant state? When Leopold II ruled the Congo? The house of Saud or something? I can only think of royalty, and I don’t think this is something libertarians really approve of.

          Or to look at it another way, total U.S. wealth is about 1000x as much wealth as the wealthiest man in the world (currently Bill Gates). Pretend for the moment that the U.S. has all the wealth so we exaggerate how much wealth is concentrated in one man. Now compare to the land and population claimed by various states as a fraction of the world total. If the largest state in the world consisted of 1/1000 of the population of the world (i.e. the largest government claimed 6 million citizens) and the typical state was far, far smaller that would metaphorically be similar to Bill Gates vs everyone else. The reality is that 6 million is a very small state, and most people live under governments that can and often do screw people orders of magnitude harder than Bill Gates ever could screw anyone.

        • Thegnskald says:

          I feel like you don’t read much libertarian thought, here.

          Smaller states (combined with open borders) is, in fact, one of the proposed solutions to the things they regard as problems. It isn’t universally regarded as a complete solution, but libertarians can’t agree on anything, so that isn’t a surprise.

          • Wrong Species says:

            You’re not even a libertarian right? This isn’t how all libertarians think but it’s pretty much the defining aspect of deontological anarcho-capitalism as written about by people like Murray Rothbard and Michael Huemer. Read For a New Liberty by Rothbard or Problems of Political Authority by Huemer if you want to know how they actually think. I promise you that they would not agree that small geographic states are the solution to the problems of bigger states.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Used to be.

            And Rothbard was making the rounds in libertarian circles when I left, with increasing interest as a result of various projects attempting to round up funding for a microstate.

          • actinide meta says:

            @Wrong Species

            Since you cite Huemer as an example of the philosophy you are trying to refute, it seems to me that he engages pretty directly with your line of argument practically right away in The Problem of Political Authority. He categorizes it as a social contract argument. From section 2.5.1:

            “Begin with the first condition on valid agreements: all parties to a contract must have a reasonable way of opting out… In light of [the extreme difficulty and cost of emigration], is the option of leaving the territory a reasonable way of opting out of the social contract?… [But] this is not the primary issue. The primary issue is whether one is being asked to give up something to which one has a right, as the price of rejecting the social contract… Here is one answer: perhaps the state owns all the territory over which it claims jurisdiction… Even if we granted that the state owns its territory, it is debatable whether it may expel people who reject the social contract [because of the really bad consequences of that]. But… we may instead focus on whether the state in fact owns all the territory over which it claims jurisdiction. [It doesn’t.]”

            So Huemer thinks the most important problem with equating the government’s actions with those of a property owner is just that the government doesn’t actually own the territory. Secondarily, he makes the point that even a legitimate property owner would probably not have an absolute moral right to their property in an analogously oligarchic situation. These objections seem pretty similar to the ones you are getting here. I don’t think that deontological libertarians are as insensitive to circumstance as you suppose.

            In my own view, the most relevant difference between states and properties is neither historical (in)justice or size. It’s entry cost. If it were practical to raise some capital, buy sovereign territory, and start a new state, without fighting a war, that wouldn’t make the actions of existing states right, but it would mean those of us who object to the status quo could go try to build better institutions instead of complaining.

            And conversely, if there were no property for sale anywhere in the world (or if the prices were astronomical), the argument that property rights were oppressive would… start sounding pretty good to me.

          • B Beck says:

            @Wrong Species

            I promise you that they would not agree that small geographic states are the solution to the problems of bigger states.”

            Small geographic states as the solution to the problems of bigger states is almost exactly what Rothbard argues for in Nations by Consent:Decomposing the Nation-State

          • Wrong Species says:

            @Beck

            You either misunderstand me or Rothbard. His point is that anarcho-capitalism is the only solution to the problem of nation states. Secession is simply a gateway. That is what my point was.

            @actinide

            And conversely, if there were no property for sale anywhere in the world (or if the prices were astronomical), the argument that

            Let’s say we dismantled states and started fresh. I don’t see any reason why economies of scale wouldn’t kick in and all the productive areas of the world would get bought up by the wealthy. In that world, land property because much more valuable because you can rule instead of simply charge rent. I think that scenario is very likely.

          • actinide meta says:

            @Wrong Species

            I don’t see any reason why economies of scale wouldn’t kick in and all the productive areas of the world would get bought up by the wealthy. In that world, land property because much more valuable because you can rule instead of simply charge rent.

            I explained why no one will ever peacefully buy up all the land in the world, or raise the prices to extreme levels, in a previous conversation with you. I can’t rule out that anarcho-capitalism would increase land prices (though it isn’t obvious; sovereigns have to pay for defense!). But if sovereign title is much more valuable that only makes it harder to get a monopoly. And we aren’t talking about anything analogous to “desert island” scenarios.

            If you mean that anarcho-capitalist institutions would fail to prevent violent conquest, or that the market would fail to find ways to provide security without huge territories that look just like states, or something like that, you could be right or wrong depending on the institutions. I call myself an ancap because I think that optimal institutions, whatever they are, probably don’t include recognizable states and do include a lot of free exchange. It doesn’t mean that I think Machinery of Freedom or Problem of Political Authority Part 2 are complete blueprints for a utopia. It certainly doesn’t mean that I think that if you tore down existing states better institutions would somehow automatically materialize. We have ample evidence that successful anarcho-capitalism isn’t inevitable, because the status quo obviously arose in some sense from “anarchy.”

          • Wrong Species says:

            @actinide meta

            You explained why one person couldn’t buy up the entire world, which was never something I actually believed. It was part of a thought experiment in the same manner that Tale of the Slave doesn’t depend on its realism to make its point. But there’s a difference between one guy and a bunch of rich guys.

          • actinide meta says:

            @Wrong Species

            It’s even harder for a group of people to significantly harm you by buying up property. They likewise have to come up with multiples of the whole wealth of the world to drive the price up significantly, and then they have to solve the extra problem of coordinating to oppress you.

          • But there’s a difference between one guy and a bunch of rich guys.

            The difference being that one guy has a monopoly and so can charge a monopoly price, a reasonably large number of rich guys are a competitive market and charge a competitive price because of the difficult of maintaining a cartel with many members.

        • actinide meta says:

          @Wrong Species

          Since you cite Huemer as an example of the philosophy you are trying to refute, it seems to me that he engages pretty directly with your line of argument practically right away in The Problem of Political Authority. He categorizes it as a social contract argument. From section 2.5.1:

          “Begin with the first condition on valid agreements: all parties to a contract must have a reasonable way of opting out… In light of [the extreme difficulty and cost of emigration], is the option of leaving the territory a reasonable way of opting out of the social contract?… [But] this is not the primary issue. The primary issue is whether one is being asked to give up something to which one has a right, as the price of rejecting the social contract… Here is one answer: perhaps the state owns all the territory over which it claims jurisdiction… Even if we granted that the state owns its territory, it is debatable whether it may expel people who reject the social contract [because of the really bad consequences of that]. But… we may instead focus on whether the state in fact owns all the territory over which it claims jurisdiction. [It doesn’t.]”

          So Huemer thinks the most important problem with equating the government’s actions with those of a property owner is just that the government doesn’t actually own the territory. Secondarily, he makes the point that even a legitimate property owner would probably not have an absolute moral right to their property in an analogously oligarchic situation. These objections seem pretty similar to the ones you are getting here. I don’t think that deontological libertarians are as insensitive to details of the situation as you suppose.

          In my own view, the most important difference between states and properties is neither historical (in)justice or size. It’s entry cost. If it were practical to raise some capital, buy sovereign territory, and start a new state, without fighting a war, that wouldn’t make the actions of existing states right, but it would mean those of us who object to the status quo could go try to build better institutions instead of complaining.

          And conversely, if there were no property for sale anywhere in the world (or, to anticipate an objection, if the prices were astronomical), the argument that property rights were oppressive would… start sounding pretty good to me.

    • JayT says:

      Yeah, your example only works in a world with open borders, which is something most libertarians want. One reason being, because then governments would be more like landlords, where if you don’t like them, then you can go try out a different one.

      I get the feeling you’re trying to model this, but in using a simple model, you’re missing out on some of the major problems libertarians are trying to solve.

    • BBA says:

      Please, just stop. Libertarianism is completely internally consistent, and trying to debunk it on its own terms is the equivalent of trying to find a contradiction in Lobachevsky geometry because there’s no way Euclid could’ve been wrong.

      (And for that matter, the same is true for libertarians trying to debunk statism.)

      • Wrong Species says:

        They can only both be true if they start from different premises. But both are supposed to be upheld by premises we can all agree with so that’s not true. It’s not like I’m the only one who sees inconsistencies in libertarian thought. It’s just that most of the people who do are radical leftists and don’t engage with libertarians.

        • JayT says:

          Consistent and true are obviously two completely different things.

          Also, it’s obviously not true that everyone is starting from the same premise.

          • Wrong Species says:

            Also, it’s obviously not true that everyone is starting from the same premise.

            Everyone has their own set of unspoken assumptions that they carry with them, sure. But when it comes to explicit argument, everyone assumes that there isn’t some unshakeable difference with other people or they wouldn’t bother arguing in the first place. Debate assumes that we can peel back enough layers to get at some level of agreement.

          • JayT says:

            I don’t think that is actually true. For example, there are people that think inequality is bad, full stop. They think it is bad for moral reasons. However, I think that the concept of inequality is meaningless. What I think matters is quality of life, and worrying about inequality doesn’t necessarily have any impact on that. Some of the most equal countries are extremely poor, and some of the most unequal countries are very rich. To me, the rich countries have a better system because across the board the quality of life is better than in the poor country, but I know people that would disagree. There is no way to peel back enough layers to get to a point of agreement.

          • BBA says:

            Also, it’s obviously not true that everyone is starting from the same premise.

            Took the words out of my mouth. Libertarians start with the view that “government is necessarily bad” and statists start with the view that “government is not necessarily bad.” These can’t be derived from more abstract principles, any more than Euclid’s fifth postulate can be derived from the other four.

    • IrishDude says:

      I group 1 and 2 compared to 3 and 4, but not for voluntaristic qualities, but for just ownership qualities. As I said above “A robber pointing a gun at a victim to take their money is functionally equivalent to a victim then pointing a gun at the robber to take their money back. The morality of the situations is different, I hope you’d agree.” Who owns what makes a big difference in when coercion is justified.

      If Jane builds a house and farm on unclaimed land, she has just ownership over it. If she then rents her house out to Joe she’s justified in collecting rent. She’d be justified in using coercion to remove Joe from her property if he didn’t pay the rent he agreed to. If Bob comes along and claims by fiat that he owns Jane’s property, and charges Jane rent (or property taxes), and then uses coercion to remove her from her property if she doesn’t pay the rent he demands, that use of coercion is unjustified.

      • To put the point differently, the equivalency between taxes and rent implicitly assumes that the government is the legitimate owner of the country. Libertarians don’t have a fully adequate moral theory of ownership of unproduced resources, most notably land, but “an organization with an army just announced that a wide area with lots of people belongs to it and residents can only remain if they pay for the privilege” isn’t a very plausible candidate. Adding “and a majority of those in the area approve” isn’t that much of an improvement.

        • hyperboloid says:

          If states are not legitimate owners of property, then who is?

          Every inch of privately owned land in north America was stolen from Indians, who likely stole it from other Indians.
          Trace the origin of every cent earned from honest investment back far enough and you will find it’s ultimate origin in some long forgotten principle sum that somebody stole form somebody else. The societies in which the first capitalist ventures were founded were themselves based on systems of slavery and imperialism. Behind every factory built, and every mineshaft dug, was a great army of unfree labor. From the very beginning the wheels of industry were lubricated with blood.

          Libertarianism is not the opposition to coercion, it is instead an elaborate rationalization for using violence to defend title to stolen goods. By what possible standard can you declare that the passage of time has somehow legitimized the original plunder?

          Property is a special kind of right of exclusive use over a thing. When I say that I own something, I mean that there is a socially sanctioned mechanism by which I can deploy violence in defense of my right. All schemes for the distribution of property rights are by necessity coercive.
          We can either use violence in defense of an arbitrary status quo, attempt the impossible and return all the wealth in the world to the descendants of it’s last honest owners, or do the sensible thing and try to distribute property on what ever way is most conducive to the public good.

          • Incurian says:

            or do the sensible thing and try to distribute property on what ever way is most conducive to the public good.

            If only there were some way…

            ETA: You raise a good point about legitimacy. Nonetheless, I find the right solution is the same… This might be a problem on my end and I’m examining it.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            At some point in the course of this screed*, “was stolen at some time in the distant past from one dead person by another dead person” seems to have transmuted itself into “was stolen by the current owners”. The argument against this is not so much that the passage of time legitimizes the original plunder as that (1) the current owner, who nearly always paid market price for whatever he’s got, is hardly ever in any sense a beneficiary of the historical plunder, still less its perpetrator; (2) trying to identify a set of present-day victims and beneficiaries is, as you observe, impossible anyway– which makes it seem rather harsh to blame anyone for not trying to do it; (3) in any case, extending the accusation from landed property to “every cent earned from honest investment” is far too ambitious– most of that wealth was created quite recently, recently enough so that anyone who wants to claim that there was theft involved can reasonably be expected to take the owner to court and prove it.

            *I will happily take back this word if you’ll take back “rationalization”.

          • pontifex says:

            The societies in which the first capitalist ventures were founded were themselves based on systems of slavery and imperialism. Behind every factory built, and every mineshaft dug, was a great army of unfree labor. From the very beginning the wheels of industry were lubricated with blood.

            Actually, capitalism was never very compatible with slavery. All the places that practiced slavery experienced slower economic development than those that did not. Slavery just wasn’t a very good way of allocating labor. For example, eastern europe developed more slowly than western europe because serfdom lasted longer there. The southern US developed slower than the North. And so on.

            Imperialism doesn’t have much to do with capitalism, either. A lot of european countries achieved high levels of economic development with no empire. And a lot of countries, like Spain and Britain after WWII, went broke despite having overseas colonies. There was some effort to make colonies pay for themselves through mercantilist policies, but the general consensus is that it didn’t work that well.

            Libertarianism is not the opposition to coercion, it is instead an elaborate rationalization for using violence to defend title to stolen goods. By what possible standard can you declare that the passage of time has somehow legitimized the original plunder?

            It isn’t about “legitimacy,” but about believing capitalism is an effective and reasonably fair system.

            We can either use violence in defense of an arbitrary status quo, attempt the impossible and return all the wealth in the world to the descendants of it’s last honest owners, or do the sensible thing and try to distribute property on what ever way is most conducive to the public good.

            Here is an honest question, and I’m NOT trying to troll you. In what way does your “sensible” solution differ from what real world communists did in the 20th century?

          • 天可汗 says:

            do the sensible thing and try to distribute property on what ever way is most conducive to the public good

            How do you propose to determine that?

          • The societies in which the first capitalist ventures were founded were themselves based on systems of slavery and imperialism.

            More nearly true of Democracy. Slaves may have been as much as half of the population of Athens, adult male citizens only a small fraction. The Dorian league was converted into the Athenian Empire, enforced by killing or enslaving those unwilling to go along.

        • nimim.k.m. says:

          Libertarians don’t have a fully adequate moral theory of ownership of unproduced resources, most notably land, but “an organization with an army just announced that a wide area with lots of people belongs to it and residents can only remain if they pay for the privilege” isn’t a very plausible candidate.

          I feel inclined to agree with hyperboloid. What, exactly, is your theory how the private land property came into being? As far as I remember, this has been discussed multiple times merely on the SSC open threads in past years and I struggle to belief you have not seen arguments in same vein before, and yet again we have an argument in the vein of “suddenly an organization with an army just announced it rules over some area and people”, which is particularly ahistorical example.

          Where I live, there are some significant swathes of private land property that came into being because the local crownhead told some people “Hey folks, you can have all the forests around there (waves hand) if you go and inhabit them, implicitly claiming right to them from those other people who also plausibly could think they have a rightful claim to them, and turn them into farmland that will be part of my kingdom. My part of deal: you don’t have to pay taxes for a couple of first years until you get that farming business going on, and I’ll help you dealing with those other people when they disagree about this deal.” (And then there’s a question of what the local nomads thought about this idea of turning their traditional hunting grounds into farmland, which bothered no one except them themselves.)

          The ensuing national history mostly consists of several centuries of various disagreements which parts of lands rightfully belonged to whom and who they should pay tax to and who are the “whom” in the first place, really.

          And that’s just one particular story about some relatively small piece of land area; the world history knows many stories.

          The Anglo-centric economics literature loves to study history of the Anglo-speaking countries: In addition to the US case summarized by hyperboloid, you have the UK where there was stuff like the enclosures of 19th century, or the colonization of Ireland.

          I’ve been lately avoiding these discussions about libertarianism because they never seem to get anywhere. They always seem to begin with discussions about abstract principles within a framework of hypotheticals that are very well suited to arguing how the government is a special kind of evil compared to other forms of ruling over land areas, and yet always seems to ignore the task of explaining how, exactly, those abstract hypotheticals involving Alices, Bobs, Joes and boats map into the existing history of land ownership, which is mostly a history of blatant injustice of who could get their claim to a particular piece of property such as land (and quite often also other people) to stick against claims of everybody else?

          And yet the unstated implication is that obviously the abstract hypotheticals justify getting rid of the special kind of evil that is state, never mind that often the state is both the historical creator of the private property in the modern legalistic sense and the instrument for resolving the disputes regarding property (internal disputes resolved within its internal political system, externally by waging wars with other claimants).

          In previous discussions, I remember Iceland has been brought up as an example of a historic sort-of-libertarian society (especially the Commonwealth era), which seems a bit like of a fascinating special case where a lone island was inhospitable and uninteresting enough that the original settlers have mostly managed to keep it for themselves (even during the periods when the area was politically ruled by other Scandinavian kingdoms).

          I give it to the extreme left-wing activists that they appear to be a more ethically consistent (though immensely impractical) when they either in addition to getting rid of the state also advocate getting rid of private property, or propose replacing the state and the existing society with a structure that hopefully would be more just. (At least, compared to the kind of libertarians who argue for getting rid of the state on moral grounds. Practical policy-level discussions about the societal benefits of free markets vs statist structures are slightly different matter.)

          • quanta413 says:

            And yet the unstated implication is that obviously the abstract hypotheticals justify getting rid of the special kind of evil that is state, never mind that often the state is both the historical creator of the private property in the modern legalistic sense and the instrument for resolving the disputes regarding property (internal disputes resolved within its internal political system, externally by waging wars with other claimants).

            I think this is somewhat misleading. The sheer power of the state makes private property without its imprimatur much less valuable, but that doesn’t mean states created private property in any sort of useful way (not saying you explicitly stated this, but you imply the modern legalistic sense is very important). The modern legal sense of property was not created ex nihilo by the state; it usually only works well when it aligns well with older custom and pre-existing reality on the ground (i.e. possession) or when it creates new forms of property (like cap and tax on pollution emissions). I enjoyed Hernando de Soto’s The Mystery of Capital on the importance of the state’s legal property matching the people’s own sense and on how the U.S. government in many areas often depended on pre-existing arrangements; it changed my understanding of how property rights form and what is important about them. De Soto did/does a lot of work with governments trying to legally formalize pre-existing informal property arrangements so that people can gain security with respect to the state that could otherwise take their property away and so they can gain access to larger markets.

            Personally, I don’t think abolishing states would be a good idea, but that’s partly because I think they serve a useful function of setting some defaults for many forms of agreement and as a last resort for settling disputes and partly because I think the power will end up being concentrated somewhere. But if a state’s default legal system doesn’t reflect what people there actually do, then I’d rather the state gave way than the people.

  18. Odovacer says:

    What do you dislike about technology? Anything from the effects of certain technologies, to concepts, to uses, or pet peeves.

    GPS: Computer directions have gotten me out of a lot of jams. They’re very useful. However, I often find that they can be aggravating. For example, they will often have me cut through a residential neighborhood to make a left on a busy road where the cross-traffic doesn’t stop. Or, it will have me exit the highway, only to get right back on it, or take the highway when local streets are much easier and faster to navigate. I don’t know if it thinks it will save me a few seconds, but it often takes me more time overall.

    Sharing: I don’t care where you went for vacation, or what you had for dinner. I agreed to be your Facebook/Twitter friend because I know you and it would be “rude” not to. Thankfully, we can now mute/unfollow other people.

    Hype about old concepts: AirBnB is just boarding rooms. Uber is just a taxi. Bodega is just vending machines. These are very old concepts, but because there’s an app these very old concepts are now “amazing”!

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a Luddite, I’ve used all of the above. I’m just channeling my inner Andy Rooney.

    • Nornagest says:

      AirBnB is just boarding rooms. Uber is just a taxi. Bodega is just vending machines. These are very old concepts, but because there’s an app these very old concepts are now “amazing”!

      They are exciting for two reasons. The first, more obvious one is that the app takes a lot of the friction out — before Uber, when I visited a strange city, I’d have to find a phone booth, flip through to the “taxi” section of the phone book there, find the company that looked least likely to overcharge me, feed fifty cents into the machine, hope the connection wasn’t too terrible and that the dispatcher and I spoke mutually intelligible dialects of English, and then wait an hour for a car to be available. In the five years or so between the demise of the phone booth and the rise of Uber, I’d have to Google it ahead of time or I’d just be screwed. Now I just summon an Uber or a Lyft and it’s there in five.

      The second, more arguable one is that a lot of customary and regulatory cruft and Seeing-Like-A-Stateing tends to accumulate around these concepts, and by pretending that the app makes it something totally new and different we can reset that in a way that would otherwise be politically impossible. This has admittedly mixed effects, and a lot of ink’s been spilled over its downsides, but I think it’s probably a good thing on balance — as evidenced by the fact that most of the complaints seem to come from a handful of rent-seekers (plus a few hopeless ideologues).

      • Well... says:

        Your Uber example isn’t fair. Suppose all other technology had advanced the same as it has except Uber and other ridesharing services and their respective apps weren’t invented. You’d get to your strange city, type 4 letters into your smartphone, hit the call button, and schedule your pickup. No reason why Ace Taxi should take any longer to get to you than Uber, given you’re in the same city.

        • Standing in the Shadows says:

          And still talk to the impossible to understand dispatcher, wait the hour for the car to MAYBE show up, in a wreck with bad shocks, with a driver who reeks of smoke, bad cologne, and who is yelling at his wife’s brother-in-law in farsi on his phone, and who’s credit card reader still doesn’t work. And he’s in a shitty mood because he has to pay his taxi company for his own job, bribe his scheduler to get shifts so he can go home and see his wife and son while they are awake at least once a week, bribe his dispatcher to get this fare, bribe the garage mechanic to get a car that that actually runs, and has to work for 12 hours a day with no bennies, combining the worst of gig work with the worst of a job, with none of the advantages of either. While the owner of his taxi company is a fully paid up member of the “keep the city counselors and the members of the regulatory board in untraceable undeclared big bags of small bills spending money” club.

          Yeah no, the taxi companies deserve to die, the politicians they bought should be in prison, and there is no reason to have any goodwill towards the defenders of the taxi cartels. There is nothing there left to steelman.

          I fully support Uber, because it is apparent to me that it has required a team of asshole business psychopaths backed with billions of dollars of VC money to burn that rotten industry to the ground. Uber loses money on every ride, and I am all for VC billionaires subsidizing my life infrastructure. And when they both are done killing each other, the field is open to new TNCs. Once the taxi cartels are dead, staked, burned, and salted, there is no natural moat, no really high barriers to entry in the TNC industry.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          One large difference I see is in the models for certifying taxi drivers. Uber’s and Lyft’s seems to be less onerous. Another is the payment model, namely with the lack of tipping. (I’m not opposed to tipping in principle, but I personally find it preferable to not have to worry about it.)

          Of course, one could argue that these models are better because competition is forcing Uber / Lyft to beat the classic taxi system or go bankrupt. Technology is just the assistant here.

          • Brad says:

            I think Lyft has in app tipping and uber is putting it in under pressure. Once tipping is an option it is soon going to be socially mandated.

          • Jonathan says:

            I think Lyft has in app tipping and uber is putting it in under pressure. Once tipping is an option it is soon going to be socially mandated.

            Uber has already added it.

        • Nornagest says:

          No reason why Ace Taxi should take any longer to get to you than Uber, given you’re in the same city.

          Maybe there is “no reason”, but I was in a city that had banned Ubers recently, and the taxi I called still took an hour to get there.

          That strongly suggests to me that there’s some complexity here that’s being glossed over. One obvious issue is economy of scale — in most cities there are lots of taxi companies and each driver only works for a single one, so if I call a random taxi company its closest taxi is likely to be physically further from me than if I use a ridesharing app, where there are only two main companies (Uber and Lyft) and many drivers are hooked into both networks. Wouldn’t be surprised if the Uber/Lyft algorithm does a better job of dispatching than human dispatchers, either.

          • gbdub says:

            This discussion came up in a previous OT (can’t recall which one) and I think the answer was that taxi drivers strongly prefer street hails to dispatch, and if you’re far enough away from common pickup points that you can’t street hail a cab, the cabbie isn’t going to want to pick you up. Which makes sense, from the cabbie’s perspective – he doesn’t want to drop off / pick up in the boonies, where he’ll spend a lot of time driving without a fare.

            Uber punishes drivers who decline too many dispatches, so the effective pool of available drivers to pick you up in the boonies is larger.

          • Well... says:

            from the cabbie’s perspective – he doesn’t want to drop off / pick up in the boonies, where he’ll spend a lot of time driving without a fare.

            But doesn’t Uber have that same…

            Uber punishes drivers who decline too many dispatches

            …Oh. But, as I said further down, there aren’t that many Uber drivers, are there? And also, how sustainable is this? Wouldn’t the pool of Uber drivers eventually gel around busy areas where there are fewer fares worth turning down?

          • John Schilling says:

            Wouldn’t the pool of Uber drivers eventually gel around busy areas where there are fewer fares worth turning down?

            “Worth turning down” is doing the heavy lifting here. If Uber wants their drivers available 24/7 on ten minutes’ notice anywhere in downtown Sunnyvale, it will make those fares the offers too good to refuse, and it will do it without the riders noticing or paying extra. Fares that might pull drivers away from the preferred markets, Uber can make those invisible or it can just not subsidize them in which case drivers will start turning them down.

            So long as the investment money keeps flowing, Uber can make the drivers favor whatever markets it wants. And it quite reasonably wants to favor the markets filled with the sort of people most likely to become Uber investors.

          • gbdub says:

            The other trick is that in many (most? all?) places with a large traditional taxi presence, only taxis are allowed to pick up street hails – Uber drivers can legally only pick up fares they are dispatched to. Ubers also can’t wait at taxi stands.

            So the quick, easy fare pickups that cause cabbies to be lousy at getting to dispatched rides are not available to Uber drivers.

          • Standing in the Shadows says:

            I have been an Uber passenger going to back when all they did was black towncars. I’ve talked to a lot of Uber drivers, and for a few years one of my office EAs drove for Uber on weekends.

            Uber makes a best effort to dispatch the nearest driver, where nearest is roughly measured in drivetime (They used to have a problem where if you were too close to a freeway, it would select a driver that was nearby in euclidean space, but they were on the freeway and the next exit is 5 miles down.)

            It tries to interleave a bit, so if a driver is heading in your direction to drop someone off, they can immediately confirm they will come pick you up, after they drop that person off.

            If you want, you can select UberPool. And then the car will overlap passengers, picking up and dropping off people. This gets cheap. During peak times, when there are a lot of UberPool passengers, I can often UberPool across a major city for cheaper than the cost of the local muni bus system.

            Uber does not tell the driver the destination until the passenger gets picked up.

            Uber penalizes drivers for declining too many times, and increases the penalty if the pickup is in any geo that is, ah, “sensitive”, or any geo that statistically has too many declines. This is why Black America *loves* Uber: they will go into black neighborhoods, and they will pick up black passengers.

            I’ve spoken to Uber drivers who used to drive taxi, who will freely admit they used to refuse to go to black neighborhoods or carry black passengers, but now willingly do so. Drivers would claim that taxi to and from black neighborhoods ran too high a risk of fare stiffing, muggings, and “bad passengers”. Activists say the drivers overstate the problem. Either way, it’s much less of a problem for a TNC.

            If a destination is “too far”, then the driver can refuse with much less penalty. If it’s “too too far”, and the driver cannot pick up a passenger for the return, then the passenger get billed for the empty return trip.

            I’ve talked to Uber drivers who have taken passangers on long trips, up to 4 hours. Those get expensive, but if you missed your flight, and you HAVE to be there, Uber can do that. My own personal record is 3 hours: I had an Uber pick me up from an airport, drive me 90 minutes to a remote office park, someone waiting at the lab handed me a suitcase full of prototypes, and then the Uber drove me back to the airport.

            I know one guy who used to love Uber, and now hates it, because they won’t come pick him up. Said guy is a foulmouthed asshole and is proud of it, and ran afoul of one of Uber’s best features: the drivers get to rate the passengers just like the passengers rate the drivers. If a passenger’s rating drops below a certain point, the driver can decline to pick them up without penalty. If it drops even lower, Uber will kick them out of the system. Sometimes Uber till tell them they are kicked, and sometimes they just get shadowbanned: they can open the app, and request a pickup, but there just always is “there are no cars available”.

            Another feature that the drivers love: if a passenger damages the car, Uber bills the passenger for the repairs. If the passenger throws up in the car, the driver can immediately go a detailer, have it cleaned while it’s fresh, and the passenger gets billed for the cleanup. This is why Uber drivers are willing to do the “weekend club district runs”, in addition to the fare multipliers that are in effect in such areas.

          • Aapje says:

            @Standing in the Shadows

            Uber is generally cashless which means that they aren’t good targets for muggings, so that may play a major role too for why those drivers are willing to go into bad neighborhoods.

          • Bellum Gallicum says:

            I feel the reason Uber works better than taxis is that Venture companies have given Uber Billions of dollars to expand because software companies have much less regulatory burden and tax capture than a regular company.

            Because when a software company enters a business areana they get to compete without having to support the overall system.

            For example if I used a computer program to choose the ten best NBA players and pay each of them twice what they previous made. You win every championship because you wouldn’t have to buy a team, build an areana, or be subject to collective bargaining.

            This is what is underlying much of business in American and creating the conditions of the stratification of salaries and real estate prices

            If you earn in an uncaptured industry like software or finance everyone has high incomes and expensive houses, while everyone who works in other industries wonders why it’s impossible to get ahead.
            Which has caused many people in my opinion to dodge the whole thing by working for the government, Non Profits, or not work at all

            It’s not that software and banks are bad and factories and stores are good it’s that factories and stores have been around forever and are subject to massive amounts of regulation per capita by comparison

        • JayT says:

          No reason why Ace Taxi should take any longer to get to you than Uber, given you’re in the same city.

          There are actually several reasons why it will take a taxi longer to get to you.
          1) The taxis on its way to pick you up can grab a random person off the street before getting to you in the hopes they are going in the right direction, thus getting them two fares.

          2) The taxi can pick up someone off the street and just forget about you, making the dispatcher send out another cab, that can do the same.

          3) Taxis have specific zones they have to pick fairs up from. If there’s a taxi assigned to a sleepy suburb on Friday night they can’t drive out to the theater that just let out downtown to pick you up. You have to wait for one of the taxis in your zone.

          4) There are limits to how many taxis there are. If there is unexpected demand, there is nothing they can do to get more taxis on the road.

          • Well... says:

            Right but there aren’t that many Uber drivers either, are there? It seems like the Uber experience in large cities/busy suburbs just outside large cities is being pitted against the taxi experience in sleepy suburbs.

          • JayT says:

            The number of Uber drivers can, and does, change depending on demand. I know people that are not full time Uber drivers by any stretch, but if they don’t have anything going on during a weekend, and there is some event going on, they will turn on the Uber app and go grab some fares. The number of drivers expands and contracts along with the demand. Taxis on the other hand have to schedule their drivers, and even then, they have limits as to how many can be in a given area.

            The issue isn’t so much with taxis in sleepy suburbs, the issue is that there aren’t enough taxis in the city centers. So even if you call for one, it doesn’t mean you will definitely get one in any reasonable time frame.

        • John Schilling says:

          Except that Ace Taxi would almost certainly have to generate positive cash flow from the new scheme in the first year or two, and so couldn’t match the service/price point of a company that can subsidize its first decade of operations on investor hype and handwaving about driverless cars.

          • Well... says:

            You’re not exactly selling Uber there as something other than hype.

          • John Schilling says:

            I’m not trying to. However, I will note that hype can be a useful tool for extracting money from fools and putting it to less-foolish uses. Uber has provided and will continue for at least a few more years to provide a useful transportation service for millions of people who were not well-served by conventional taxis. There’s a small chance that it will be critical to the development of self-driving cars. What else would the fools paying for it have been doing with their money, if not for Uber?

          • Standing in the Shadows says:

            Austin Texas is an interesting place to look at for a post-Uber world. It is served by several local TNCs, some of which are organized as co-ops or as public-benefit corporations, which are now starting to experiment with cross federating their drivers and passengers.

            The only really difficult barrier to entry for the TNC industry ever was the existing taxi cartels. Once they are destroyed, there is not much of a natural monopoly, and not much need for national or international scale. This will make things a bit more difficult for people who travel to other cities a lot, but that’s a business problem with a technical solution.

          • Well... says:

            @John Schilling:

            I generally oppose driverless cars, so that’s still not a plus for Uber.

    • Baeraad says:

      TOUCHSCREENS! D<

      I hate those things. I am always pushing too hard or not hard enough. And my fingertops end up feeling weird because I've rubbed away all the oils from them. Give me buttons or give me death!

      Other than that, I can't actually think of anything. There are some things that annoy me because they're replacing something I'm used to with something I now have to learn how to use, and of course the social consequences of technology can be regrettable, but as far as the technology itself goes… touchscreens. Fuck'em.

      • Protagoras says:

        A view held by all right-thinking people, who can in fact be identified as right-thinking on the basis of their holding this view.

      • Odovacer says:

        I forgot that! I really dislike typing on a touchscreen. I often end up hitting the wrong keys.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        My peeve with touchscreens is that I can’t touch type. I can go over 100 wpm on a computer. On a touch screen, I’m lucky if I get 20. 10 if I have to use punctuation.

        • carvenvisage says:

          Have you tried disabling the audio feedback? usually there’s a big of lag which could be disconcerting if you’re used to keys clacking in rhythm with your fingers.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Lag is definitely not the bottleneck. The bottleneck is my having to use my thumbs to do what I could normally do with all ten fingers.

    • gbdub says:

      Stop trying to cram networks into things that don’t need them. It’s a huge vulnerability, leads to waste, and frankly I just don’t need internet access on my toaster.

    • Well... says:

      Since I am a Luddite, this is total catnip for me…

      +1 for GPS – I love my assortment of paper maps and take pride in those rare instances where I need to pull off somewhere to open one up and get my bearings.

      +1 for Sharing, though that points to a deeper and more general problem with social media and the internet.

      +1 for hype about old concepts.

      I’ll add…

      Emoticons and LOLspeak. Other than the odd smiley or tongue-out smiley to sort of give people permission to laugh along with you, I hate emoticons and these silly abbreviations. (Not ALL abbreviations; “ttyl” is OK, as is OK, because both do save time and convey meaning in an honest way, but “LOL” is disingenuous because you’re not really laughing out loud–“haha” is more honest because it’s self-contained–and OMFG doesn’t become less vulgar just because you haven’t spelled out the word “fucking.”) Speaking of which…

      The phrase “for fuck’s sake” and all its variations and abbreviations. (Yes, language is technology.) I hate this phrase; it belies an attitude that is directly opposite of empathy or humility. It’s the verbal equivalent of the posture where you’re standing there with your arms crossed tapping your foot impatiently, waiting for the other person to catch up to you in your enlightened, superior intellectual position. It’s patronizing, the way an annoyed parent talks to a misbehaved child.

      Modern cars. Automatic transmissions are bad enough, but I can be a bit sympathetic there. But, cars that keep you in your lane, that are full of giant touch-screens, that you need a PhD in electrical engineering to change the brakes on…all that stuff is just kinda pathetic. Speaking of which…

      Automatic driver’s door windows. I can forgive those horrible automatic windows on all the other doors, since when you’re alone in your car you might not be able to reach them, but the window that’s right next to you–the one that goes up and down the most and whose mechanism is at the greatest risk of meeting its lifetime cycle limit–could easily be controlled by a crank. Cranking a window up and down is not hard. It doesn’t take that long. And it’s more satisfying, kind of like being able to hang up on someone by slamming the phone down rather than by pressing a button. Speaking of which…

      Smartphones. You really don’t need to walk around with the internet in your pocket. You just don’t. A few people in a few select professions can make reasoned arguments about needing to be able to access various modes of communication, but even there I’m still left with some narrow-eyed doubt.

      Text messages longer than 50 characters. Just call me. Or we can text back and forth to say we’re unable to talk right now and then one of us can call the other later.

      Buffets in which the silverware and napkins are placed at the beginning of the line rather than at the end. OK, this is pushing the definition of “technology” a bit, but it definitely is a kind of system design issue. First of all, I’m going to be carrying a plate and shoveling food onto it. Let me focus on that task without juggling extra items. Second of all, it’s not until I get to the end when I’ll really know what silverware I need and I’ll be thinking about how to wipe up my face after I’ve gobbled up all this mess. For any of you planning a spread for a party or an event, please take note.

      Driverless cars. I think there’s a high probability that we will not be able to have mixed-autonomy roads for very long (ostensibly for safety reasons) which means driverless cars are the death of regular cars. I like regular cars. I like car culture. And even though I occasionally would rather be reading or sleeping or whatever else, I like driving.

      IoT. I don’t need my phone to talk to my lamp to talk to my shoes to talk to my toaster oven. Nobody does. And as another commenter pointed out, it just opens up all these potential points of vulnerability.

      Wearables. And here I mean things that are active (so, not glasses), talk to other devices (so, not traditional wristwatches), and maybe some third criterion that I’m forgetting. I’m not absolutely opposed to cyborgism, since prescription medication and eyeglasses and pacemakers and prosthetic limbs are steps along that road, but I think I’m opposed to elective cyborgism that’s meant to enhance people beyond their natural capabilities or to modify people beyond their natural qualities. Speaking of which…

      Tattoos, piercings, and other similar types of permanent body modification. The body you were born with is a completed work of beauty, not a blank canvas. I theorize that to see your body as a blank canvas suggests you might have a mental disorder akin to facial blindness. Every reason given for getting one of these body modifications (that I’ve ever heard anyway) leaves open another way the person could have gotten that same benefit without the body modification: “This symbol is important to me;” –> “Paint it on your bedroom wall.” “I like pain;” –> “Pay someone to slap you in the face.” Etc. The one exception is as a marker of group belonging, as in a gang or military unit or primitive tribe. To that point, it’s true that body modification has been the norm for most of human history and that the thousand or so years–now ending–when it was tabooed in the Western world was the aberration, but for most of that time humans lived in small tribes and experienced a lot of conflict. Markers of tribal identity were important for survival and morale reasons.

      Headphones or earbuds worn in public. Get that junk out of your ears/off your head. Come live in the real world with the rest of us.

      Boy, I’m getting grumpier as I write this. I should stop.

      [Edited to add: here’s a few that don’t make me quite so pissed off.]
      The lighter fluid people pour over charcoals when barbecuing. This stuff makes everything you cook taste like chemicals. I doubt it’s healthy. To get your coals started, just build a small wood fire, then place your coals gently on top of it. Add more coals as those first ones catch. It’s really not that hard.

      Big lawns. And by big I mean bigger than about 200 square feet, because a little lawn is nice to walk around barefoot on now and then or set up an occasional game of backyard badminton or whatever. Beyond that, who needs that much grass? Nobody, that’s who. It’s a pain to mow and rake, it’s a pain to weed and