"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 89.25

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

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343 Responses to Open Thread 89.25

  1. Standing in the Shadows says:

    What is the current favorite prediction market?

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Two years ago I asked and didn’t get much response. At the time I believed that the answer was that Betfair was the best, while PredictIt was open to Americans. The situation with bitcoin and play-money markets may have changed since then.

      • andrewflicker says:

        Unfortunately, to my knowledge, it hasn’t. I made a small amount of money on PredictIT, that would have been much larger without fees, and really dislike that I’m restricted from making more money (than I am now by being gainfully employed, I mean) by being a superior forecaster on a few narrow issues.

  2. 10240 says:

    Re: this (exactly three years old) comment by Scott under the Categories Were Made For Man… post (saying that there is no harm in using transgender people’s preferred pronouns, and they are not withholding important information), and also this comment (most straight men, including Scott, use an anatomical/chromosomal definition of sex when it comes to who to have sex with/kiss/cuddle):

    A collection of (slightly cherry-picked) links showing that some transsexuals do have sex without disclosing that they are trans [1], and the claim that “an mtf transsexual is a woman” (in every acceptable sense of the word (as implied by the one who makes the claim)) is very much used to argue that there is nothing wrong with not disclosing this, and that having an issue with it is not heterosexuality but transphobia or homophobia [2]. [Links in reply, I suspect I’m running into some comment length limit.]

    Note that while in many of the stories I linked the man turned to be OK with the trans partner, most polls show that 60-90% of people wouldn’t be OK with it. On another note, I fully agree with the analysis that many people mistake a debate about definitions for a debate about facts, though I would use the same argument as an argument for the opposite side as Scott did (as did another commenter).

  3. Collin says:

    What’s your best life hack? Apologies for using the term life hack.

    I’m seeking non-trivial answers (ie. free lifetime global travel via credit card churning > methods of extracting ketchup from a bottle).

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      Just read the instructions.

      Many large, powerful bureaucracies have clearly written instruction manuals, and if you just read what they say, then write down what they say to write down and send it where they say, you win. Someone falsely report a debt against you? (For that matter, someone report a possibly-true debt you don’t want to pay and don’t feel like convincing the lender was wrong?) Send the right two letters and it just disappears. No, really. I’ve done this and it’s exactly as easy as it sounds, you just have to have the patience to write a few letters.

      Patrick’s hobby is debt letters: mine is small claims court (I am undefeated as both a plaintiff and a defendant standing in for my employer, and god I want more opportunities to play, because it’s a very fun game. [1]) You know how you win in small claims? Read the instructions. Show up in a suit and act like a calm professional, then do what the judge says and you win. How do I mean? Last time, the judge started the session of five cases by saying essentially “I’m going to repeatedly interrupt you to ask you “what did this person do which means they owe you money?” You’re going to ignore me and tell me why they’re mean or bad or made you sad. I don’t care; tell me why they owe you money.” Lo and behold, everyone did exactly what he said they would. Even people with really obvious breach of contract claims could not listen and follow basic instructions. If the guy before me had responded to the judge with “I paid him $5,000 to paint the house; we specified the paint should look like this; here is a photo of it not looking like this!” instead of a long rambling story about sprayers, he’d have won.

      When I go to small claims court, I find the relevant law (not as hard as it sounds for the kind of things that put you in small claims!), highlight the line that says “Alice owes Bob money if/unless X happens”, then read that out loud to the judge, along with a page of evidence that X did/did not happen. And then I win. It feels like cheating.

      There’s an interesting connection between nerddom and this superpower. Anyone who’s done tech support knows that most times a computer system tells you something has gone wrong, you can just look up what that means and do the obvious thing, and it works–but almost no one we know *does* this, due to some sort of learned helplessness. But most nerds I know don’t transfer this outside of the domain they learned it in. Turns out? Works IRL too.

      It’s like magic. Read the fucking instructions.

      [1] For the record I’ve only had to sue someone once, a very abusive landlord. I don’t go around filing frivolous lawsuits because, I mean, I’d rather live my life. Having done it once means it’s even less likely I’ll have to again: anyone who messes with me I will provide with court records demonstrating conclusively that if you try to cheat me, I will take you to court, win, and enjoy the entire process. But I sort of wish someone would make me go through with it. It’s much like how rationally I would much rather never end up in a bar fight, but having done enough BJJ that I think I’d probably be a favorite, part of my brain wishes idly that some clearly terrible person would force a physical confrontation.

      • Nornagest says:

        Send the right two letters and it just disappears.

        That’s a beautiful post.

      • Matt M says:

        Last time, the judge started the session of five cases by saying essentially “I’m going to repeatedly interrupt you to ask you “what did this person do which means they owe you money?” You’re going to ignore me and tell me why they’re mean or bad or made you sad. I don’t care; tell me why they owe you money.” Lo and behold, everyone did exactly what he said they would.

        I know it’s not actually representative of small claims court, but my dad watches a ton of “Judge Judy” type shows and it amazes me how many people insist on trying to fight with her and then act shocked when she rules against them. You can tell within the first 30 seconds of someone speaking whether they are going to win or lose, because inevitably, there’s always one side that is calm, polite, respectful, and sticks to the facts – while the other side yells, argues, name calls, and avoids direct answers to direct questions. The whole thing is utterly ridiculous.

        • fortaleza84 says:

          Part of it is that when people don’t have the facts on their side, they are a lot more likely to evade questions.

          Also, the sort of person who evades questions is a lot more likely to be a sloppy thinker; if they could think clearly they would have realized they were in the wrong and either not brought suit in the first place (if they are the plaintiff) or just paid the claim (if they are the defendant).

          Put another way, one can ask if people lose in court because they can’t present their case in a clear straightforward way, or if they can’t present their case in a clear straightforward way because they have a losing case. I would say 90% of the time, it’s the latter.

        • Garrett says:

          Rule #1 of courtroom proceedings: don’t piss off the judge.

    • skef says:

      I bought a used Lenovo x230t and physically removed the WIFI daughter-board. I only have work-related material on it. When I need to do work I leave my phone at home and take it to a coffee shop. At home I hook it up to a wired connection, and I have a USB WIFI dongle for unusual circumstances.

      I started out leaving the dongle at home too, but after about 3 months I don’t associate this machine with network access, so it hasn’t been a problem having it in my bag. If it starts to be I’ll just leave it at home again.

      For less flexible hardware, one could also just remove the relevant WIFI drivers.

      • Well... says:

        I like this one in letter and in spirit. I will piggyback on its spirit:

        Get rid of your smartphone and get a flip phone or “feature phone” instead. (Yes, I’m a Luddite; we’ve been over that already with the paper maps.*)

        Think hard and you’ll realize you really don’t need any of the functionality exclusive to a smartphone. You just don’t. Some of the stuff you’ll say “Yeah, but I might need it.” But most likely you won’t, and you often can minimize the likelihood further.

        Sans smartphone, you can also downgrade your phone plan and often save a lot of money. In the ethos of this blog, you could donate that money to charity. Against the ethos of this blog, you could spend it on guns and ammo or musical instruments.

        *Oh yeah, BTW, you can use paper maps after you ditch your smartphone.

        • hlynkacg says:

          Against the ethos of this blog, you could spend it on guns and ammo or musical instruments.

          Suddenly I realize why I sometimes feel like the lone mammal among the lizard people. 😉

        • Think hard and you’ll realize you really don’t need any of the functionality exclusive to a smartphone.

          I could carry a camera with me all the time and a digital recorder to record my talks so I can web them, and I could go back to wearing a watch and could carry a paperback in my pocket so as to have something to read while waiting for a table at a restaurant, but how else can I have internet access in my pocket?

          • Matt M says:

            There’s also something to be said for not having to carry 10 different devices when you could be carrying one.

          • Well... says:

            Most dumb phones have cameras and voice recorders. But that’s beside the point, which is you don’t always need something to read or internet access everywhere you go. I get that there’s sometimes a fuzzy line between needs and wants, but in the case of internet access and reading material it seems pretty obvious which category those fall in.

            I am arguing (yes, to what I anticipate is the disgust and shock of many of you) that the benefits of not having a smartphone outweigh whatever benefits you feel you’re getting from having internet/reading material/video games/etc. with you at all times.

          • The Nybbler says:

            but in the case of internet access and reading material it seems pretty obvious which category those fall in.

            Yeah, internet access is a want but reading material is an absolute necessity.

            But what are these benefits of not having a smartphone?

          • But that’s beside the point, which is you don’t always need something to read or internet access everywhere you go.

            I don’t need a phone everywhere I go–most of the humans who have ever lived managed without one. “Need” isn’t a useful concept in most of these discussions.

            Of the times I use my cell phone, I’m pretty sure a minority, probably less than a quarter, are using it as a phone. Just this morning I forgot to take my phone with me and the reason it was a problem was that I didn’t remember the exact location of the plant nursery I was planning to stop it on my way back and couldn’t check it via the mapping program on the phone.

          • John Schilling says:

            But that’s beside the point, which is you don’t always need something to read or internet access everywhere you go.

            And you never, ever, ever, need to post to or even read SSC. Yet here you are. As life hacks go, the value of the time you save never ever reading SSC again, will almost certainly exceed the value of the money the most of us spend on smartphones, yet here you are.

            Perhaps life hacks are best evaluated by a metric other than “need”

          • quaelegit says:

            > ….and could carry a paperback in my pocket so as to have something to read while waiting for a table at a restaurant,

            Apologies for the tangent, but HOW?! What kind of pockets do you have and what kind of paperbacks do you read so that this works?

            (Ok, some of my warmer jackets have had really big pockets but you’re in San Jose IIRC so I don’t think you’re wearing snow jackets very often.)

          • @
            quaelegit:

            What kind of paperbacks do you read that won’t fit in a pocket?

            I just did the experiment. The smaller paperbacks on my shelf, about 7″x4″, fit easily in my pants pocket. I expect some of the larger ones would fit in a sport jacket pocket, but I haven’t tried that.

          • Nick says:

            4″x7″ is spot on; I’ve long regarded Count to a Trillion by John C Wright to be the best proportioned book I own, and it’s 4.2×1.2×6.8 inches according to Amazon.

        • Jiro says:

          Think hard and you’ll realize you really don’t need any of the functionality exclusive to a smartphone.

          It is also true that you don’t need a lot of things. I just had to buy a can of gravy for use on leftover turkey. I didn’t need the gravy; it’s not as if turkey can’t be digested if I don’t put gravy on it.

          Would it then be sensible to say “don’t buy that can of gravy; you don’t need it”?

          For that matter, does anyone need to post on SSC? Would you advise people to avoid SSC for the same reason you advise them to avoid phones, that is, they don’t need it?

          (People do all sorts of things, which can make their life better, even though they don’t need to do those things.)

          • Well... says:

            My response was piggybacking on a suggested “life hack” that involved eliminating the use of a technology, presumably in order to improve one’s focus, comfort with being alone with one’s own thoughts, etc. My response offered those benefits plus others (e.g. lower cell phone bill).

            I’m not just advocating the categorical elimination of all “wants” universally. I mentioned that you don’t need a lot of smartphone functionality in anticipation of the objection that you do; many people falsely believe they just can’t live without their smartphones.

          • Jiro says:

            Nobody literally believes they can’t live without their smartphones. What they mean when they say that is that smartphones are very useful, not that they literally need them.

    • andrewflicker says:

      Let me first say that Andrew Hunter’s response is phenomenal, and will deeply overshadow anything this particular Andrew has to say.

      That being said, it’s *amazing* what sorts of things you can improve with simple hypothesis testing in real-life! People will spend *months* researching the best way to do something, without even spending a few days testing a theory! Often times you can conclusively prove relationships (whether they be work-related things like the correlation between free shipping promotions and product sales, or personal matters like the link between getting enough sleep and having the willpower to skip a calorie-dense lunch) with a modicum of effort and some basic math (and if you hate math, there are free calculators online!).

      Short list of a few things that such self-experimentation has helped me with:
      Diet/weightloss
      Mental focus
      Relationship harmony (holy shit, but this one surprised me. Society does it’s damnedest to convince you that experiments won’t help here!)
      Skill growth
      Exam grades
      Order of work tasks (aiming for total productivity)

      • Naimalj Khan says:

        Can you describe one of those experiments?

      • quaelegit says:

        My main hurdle with successful experiments is actually writing things down and keeping track of those notes. Unfortunately for Well…, the most successful tool I’ve found for this is my smartphone’s note taking and calender apps. (Well, for note taking and list-making and “remember to check X for Y at time Z”, which relates to both habits.)

        > Relationship harmony
        >Order of work tasks

        If you don’t mind talking about it, what sort of experiments/results have you done to improve this and how? These two in particular piqued my curiosity.

    • Deiseach says:

      Andrew Hunter covered read the instructions. I’ll say “Fill out forms”.

      Learn how to do it – some forms are dreadful, I agree, but if you simply read them through first, mentally mark out what parts you need to fill and what parts are not applicable, then take your time and complete them, it is doable.

      Then the next vital step is “send in the completed form (plus any supporting documents asked for)”.

      People make two basic errors: they panic and fill in the form in a rush, which means they put the wrong information in the wrong place or leave important information out, and then they put the completed form away and forget about it until either forcibly reminded or the deadline has passed. (Also, they forget the requested documentation – if a form says “please include two copies of ID when returning this form”, it means exactly that: TWO copies of different forms of ID. No copies is no good! One copy of one ID is no good! Two copies of the same piece of ID is no good! “Here’s a mass-mailing circular that came through my letterbox addressed to ‘Dear Occupant’, that’s proof of ID right?” is no good!)

      People commit these two basic mistakes, then complain about government bureaucracy and lazy civil/public servants and crappy public service when they don’t get what they applied for.

      I’ve spent the past two weeks chasing up parents to return forms given out to them to complete, for a national database for providing services for children with special and additional needs, that should all have been sent back to the relevant state agency before the first of this month. Parents are late returning forms = we’re late returning forms = state agency is late processing the data = well, you see where I’m going? Late or no provision of services next year which leads to somebody going on the local/national radio with a sob story blaming incompetent lazy public servants for why their kid is not getting the help they need.

      Learn to fill out forms correctly, then return those forms on time! Simples!

      • Rosemary7391 says:

        I agree with you in general, but also…

        Learn when a form is ignorable. And when it isn’t. A certain body I have to interact with sends me the same form multiple times a year, because their system is too dumb to cope with my actual circumstances. 9 times out of 10, I ignore it for a month and their system goes another loop in chasing it’s tail, meaning I no longer have to fill it. I fill it if I get a snarky letter from them.

    • Mark says:

      For UK – Suit of armour.

      Suit of armour dominates knife in fight and is entirely legal to walk around in. Beat your enemies to death with your gauntleted fists.

    • Anonymous says:

      methods of extracting ketchup from a bottle

      Use a knife.

      • Deiseach says:

        methods of extracting ketchup from a bottle

        If you’re near the end of the bottle, add a little vinegar and shake it. Yes, this makes the ketchup more runny, but you use every last bit instead of being the wasteful kind of “do you think money grows on trees?” that throws out food! 🙂

        Knife method works for when you’ve opened a new bottle and it’s still too full and thixotropic to flow properly; after you’ve removed some ketchup that leaves room in the bottle to get the rest flowing after a good shake.

  4. Andrew Hunter says:

    How many people are strongly motivated by praise from the right superiors?

    I had a conversation last night where I stated (in my mind uncontroversially) “of course, people will go to the ends of the earth for an “attaboy” from the right high-status leader they look up to” and my interlocutor stopped me to say she didn’t think most people did this. Which of us is typical-minding?

    I certainly know that having a senior black belt tell me that my sweep was really slick is a huge dopamine rush for me. The right thought leaders at work calling me out as having kicked ass is pretty similar. It’s difficult to measure their exact impact on my utility function: we could, in theory, run experiments where sometimes a Google Fellow calls me smart and sometime I get cash bonuses (it’d be hard and noisy…), but I can’t imagine how to funge BJJ approval against other incentives. But it feels like a major motivator for me–and I thought this was pretty typical for social monkeys.

    • Brad says:

      Napoleon said “A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon.” Granted that’s not quite the same as an attaboy, because you have a physical artifact that you can show off to others to prove that Napoleon praised you. But I think it comes from a similar place and you are more correct than your interlocutor.

      • Standing in the Shadows says:

        That bit of colored ribbon is motivating because it’s a signal to other people that this particular person displayed ability, grit, and valor under extreme duress, and thus is the kind of person that should be respected, and that a pretty girl should consider marrying.

        The ribbon itself is not the merit. If you gave everyone that ribbon, it would stop signalling valor or value.

        • Brad says:

          If a boss went around publicly praising everyone all the time I presume it would reduce the motivational value of praise from him as compared to another boss that was more stingy with praise.

    • James says:

      I find it hard to imagine myself motivated by this sort of thing, but that might be less a fact about me and more because there aren’t any high-status leaders that I look up to. The parts of my life that have high-status leaders (work is the only one I can think of right now) aren’t the parts that I care enough about to admire anyone in, and I don’t know any high-status leaders in the parts that I do care enough about (playing and writing music?).

      I’m trying to imagine what sort of effect praise from a hypothetical leader I did admire would have on me. (I’m reading Insanely Great at the moment, so I imagine an incredibly charismatic leader like Steve Jobs, able to imbue his subordinates with a strong sense of mission and importance.) I won’t say it would have no effect, but my guess is that I’d be able (and inclined) to switch back and forth between a kind of inside view perspective where I let the warm fuzzy glow work on me, and a detached outside view perspective where I’d be skeptical, perhaps even slightly creeped out by it.

      But I’d guess that you’re more right about typical people than your friend is.

    • Deiseach says:

      How many people are strongly motivated by praise from the right superiors?

      I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but I’ve never found praise motivating because (a) impostor syndrome perhaps? anyhow, I can’t bring myself to believe it’s genuine (whereas I do believe criticism and take it to heart) – I had a boss who gave me praise and my interior reaction was “well, she’s a nice and indeed soft-hearted woman who always tries to see the best in others, of course she will say nice things to me, she’d say the same if I was a chimpanzee bashing the keyboard” and (b) cynicism – praise is cheap, if you mean it give me money in my pay packet. I notice my superiors do not accept a “well done, George”, they get their allowances and annual bonuses and top-ups. “Employee of the Month” photo on the wall is a gimmick to get you to work harder for no recompense.

    • Matt C says:

      When I was younger, very strongly, although I was in my late twenties before I clearly understood the phenomenon as such.

      I still like attaboys, but it’s been a while since I felt surrounded by a golden glow because I got one. Most everybody has feet of clay to me now. Probably better this way.

    • Fossegrimen says:

      I don’t get motivated by it. I do get suspicious about what they are trying to trick me into doing.

      • Deiseach says:

        You’re a person after my own heart, Fossegrimen 🙂

        I suppose it does depend on the circumstances: a real actual Big Achiever, the guy (or gal) without whom the business would not be what it is today, someone on the Steve Jobs level, acknowledging sincerely (or a good imitation of sincerity) “Great work, Dan!” would give you an authentic glow of achievement.

        General ordinary boss? Sounds more like “We have received a mandate from the Board that instead of offering performance-related bonuses, instead employees should be motivated by praise and recognition, as this latest management fad seminar the CEO attended said it cost nothing and boosted productivity by 20% if you could fool the drones into thinking you actually cared about what they did and pretended that they were not interchangeable and easily replaceable cogs we will have to tolerate until automation and AI gets good enough we don’t need them anymore”.

    • Incurian says:

      I appreciate sincere praise from superiors I respect.

    • MrApophenia says:

      I think what you describe is a near-universal human trait in theory, but it has become increasingly less applicable because so few modern people spend their time in jobs where they actually like or respect their boss, so it rarely comes up.

  5. Scott Alexander says:

    Anyone have strong opinions on whether to choose a Roth 401k vs. regular if your employer offers both?

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      This is a topic of loud controversy among the financial planning people at work. What that means is that it doesn’t matter (or more precisely, that one or the other is better, but they’re sufficiently close and it’s too hard to predict which, so don’t worry too much about getting it right.)

      I recommend the trad 401K because if you retire early there are pretty simple tricks to play to bleed it into a roth IRA without too much pain, but it won’t suck horribly if you go roth.

      Important: max whichever you pick out. Then do a backdoor ROTH IRA and max that too (this you do totally independently of your employer. I use Betterment.) Then if you can, do a mega backdoor (this requires your 401K plan to not be terrible. Vanguard makes it trivial if you’re lucky enough to be using them.)

      • Brad says:

        Thanks for the pointer to the mega backdoor. I was aware of the regular one but not that.

        • Andrew Hunter says:

          Yeah, it’s a neat trick (that shouldn’t exist…) Neither should the normal backdoor. Unlike the normal backdoor, it takes a bit of actual understanding of what is goign on (at least moderately.)

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Thoughts on the probability of these still existing in 30-40yrs? Things with the name “backdoor” seem ripe for getting closed

          • Brad says:

            They are very likely to be closed. But that will almost certainly mean no additional contributions using them not any kind of retroactive invalidation of existing contributions. Among other reasons because it would be difficult to untangle.

            When the take and suspended loophole for social security was closed existing users were grandfathered in.

    • Anonymous Bosch says:

      Financial planners will tell you it comes down to whether you expect to be in a higher or lower tax bracket during retirement. Unless you have a very firm belief in this one way or the other (I certainly haven’t the faintest clue) I recommend hedging and having one Roth-style IRA/401k and one traditional IRA/401k. If you already have an IRA get the opposite 401k. If you don’t, my blind guess is a doctor’s income probably exceeds the limits for a Roth IRA, so traditional IRA + Roth 401k would be the way to go there.

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        Financial planners will tell you it comes down to whether you expect to be in a higher or lower tax bracket during retirement.

        This is right.

        I recommend hedging and having one Roth-style IRA/401k and one traditional IRA/401k. If you already have an IRA get the opposite 401k.

        This I find objectionable. Mind you, I think you gave him the same actionable advice I did: have a trad 401k and a roth IRA. But I don’t think this is an active hedge in any meaningful sense, nor should you be worried about mitigating “risk” here. It really is just a guess about whether your tax rates will be lower in retirement. Most people think yes, but you could imagine otherwise.

        In any case, it’s better to max out either one than freak out picking the best and max neither.

        (Of course, IANACFP, I just do this for fun, but I move enough money for enough people that I am pretty sure I know what I don’t know.)

    • Matt M says:

      I recommend not being overly reliant on either. These are government supported programs whose value is entirely related to the government choosing to continue to support them. If you’ve followed the news much lately, you’ve probably seen headlines like “Trump is planning on stealing your 401k!” These stories are usually exaggerated, but based on a very real possibility. When you build a nest egg on “tax-free” funds, the state still has something of a claim on your funds. Right now they say they won’t tax them so long as you meet certain criteria, but they set those criteria and can change the criteria at their own leisure.

      Make sure you have some reasonable amount of savings in already-taxed dollars in a traditional savings or brokerage account, one that everyone concedes is yours, and nobody else (especially the state) has any claim on whatsoever.

      • Protagoras says:

        That seems to be an argument against Roth; with the regular retirement funds, you get lower taxes now, and pay taxes later, with Roth, you forgo the lower taxes now in exchange for avoiding future taxes. If you’re concerned the government might change the rules (which is, of course, always a risk), use the regular option to get the benefit of the current rules immediately, so it doesn’t matter if the rules change later.

      • Nornagest says:

        These are government supported programs whose value is entirely related to the government choosing to continue to support them.

        Not entirely. Their tax advantages relative to a regular account with a brokerage of your choice depend on government policy that may or may not persist over the next 30-40 years, but the underlying equities are still yours, they’re just in a special category for tax purposes. Worst case, they change the rules on you and you’re e.g. on the hook for capital gains on your Roth IRA, which sucks but it’s not equivalent to losing everything.

        I would be much more worried about Social Security.

        • Matt M says:

          Worst case, they change the rules on you and you’re e.g. on the hook for capital gains on your Roth IRA, which sucks but it’s not equivalent to losing everything.

          Come on man, get creative here!

          It’s not just tax rates that matter here, it’s withdrawal penalties, which lead to a lack of liquidity.

          Worst case isn’t just “you have to pay regular capital gains taxes now” (at current rates, which happen to be higher than 2017 rates, whoops!) It’s also “but your early withdrawal penalty is still in effect, and actually, it just happened to go up. Whoops! So you’ve got a bunch of money squirreled away in an account that offers no advantages over a regular bank account, except it also has significantly less liquidity and you have to pay massive fees in order to touch it. Whoops!

          If we REALLY want to get paranoid, maybe it goes up to 99%. And maybe that’s followed by massive money printing and inflation, leading to a nice fat million dollar balance in your account that you saved up for years, only to watch it slowly lose all of its purchasing power while you’re powerless to do anything with it.

          • Nornagest says:

            Sure, but what’s in it for the government to do that?

            The withdrawal penalties don’t actually make the government a meaningful amount of money; they’re almost entirely a punitive measure designed to keep your money in the account until age 65, when you become a retiree newly flush with tax-free cash and presumptively grateful to your betters for keeping it there when you could have spent it on whisky and strippers in your misspent youth. Increasing the penalty looks bad and does nothing, which means it’s anathema to any government short of Ferdinand Marcos’.

            Now, there are a few Marcoses floating around. But if the government ever starts blatantly raiding retirement accounts, nothing is safe, because retirees are the last people that any politician wants to piss off in a democracy: they vote more than anyone else, they contribute more to party organizations, and to make matters worse they’re photogenically vulnerable. If the government’s taking your IRA then it’s decided to go full-bore tyrannical, the economy is fucked, and you should have been buying gold and ammo and cigarette cartons that you can use to trade for potatoes and shoot Lord Humongous after the inevitable collapse. And you might be that cynical, but I wouldn’t make it a cornerstone of my retirement strategy unless the tanks are literally in the streets.

            (This does not apply to Social Security, because there are ways to fudge the numbers there such that the current crop of retirees doesn’t get screwed. Slowly increasing the payout age is the most straightforward way to do this.)

          • Matt M says:

            You’re right, such an extreme scenario is not realistic. But we weren’t discussing realistic, we were discussing worst-case.

            Realistic is probably something like 401ks being increasingly seen as one of the “loopholes” that the rich use to avoid having to pay their “fair share.” A Bernie-esque politician is elected on a promise to stick it to the fat-cats, and one of the ways he does so is by significantly decreasing the value of these investments relative to normal accounts, without necessarily making them any more liquid. Maybe it’s not just “you have to pay current capital gains rates” but also an extra 10% charge as “interest” to compensate the government for the time value of money for all those years you were allowed to hold these funds without paying taxes on them, a system we now acknowledge was an immoral mistake.

        • Matt M says:

          I would be much more worried about Social Security.

          You shouldn’t “worry” about social security. You should completely dismiss it. The odds of anyone currently under the age of 50 of receiving anything of value from it is almost nil. The Supreme Court has already ruled that the tax collected and the benefit program are entirely separate and distinct, so there is no legal obstacle from the government simply stopping paying out benefits (and continuing to collect the tax, for that matter).

          • Protagoras says:

            Legal obstacles mean nothing to those who make the laws. The real obstacle to the government “simply stopping paying out benefits” is that old people vote. Do you expect that to change for some reason?

          • Matt M says:

            A shift in demographics such that there are fewer older people relative to younger people, combined with some sort of fiscal disaster leading to an actual need to cut spending in a meaningful way?

            I don’t really know, but I strongly advise everyone to have a better plan for their future needs than “hope people vote in a way that benefits me”

          • Chalid says:

            That is far too pessimistic. Have you ever actually looked at the numbers here?

            People under 50 might receive somewhat less than they currently are promised? Sure, that’s entirely possible. But saying they’ll get nothing, or a pittance? The kind of budget crunch required to send Social Security spending all the way to zero is very unlikely.

          • cassander says:

            @Chalid

            That sort of budget crunch is a mathematical certainty unless something changes. Granted, that’s mostly do to medicare/caid not SS, but since it’s all paid out of one budget, it all needs to be considered together.

          • Chalid says:

            Even if you take it at face value, that plot doesn’t even vaguely suggestive of a fifty-year-old receiving near-zero benefits from Social Security, let alone “mathematical certainty.” (You tend to overpromise in your link text).

            Maybe if the *entire* gap was made up with cutting Social Security, with everything else running on autopilot and no effective revenue raising measures being implemented, then you’d require a massive cut that would take social security to near zero at some point in the future.

            But this scenario in which the entire budget is fixed exclusively by cuts to Social Security and no one else suffers at all is silly; in reality Social Security probably would get cut less than the average program.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The real obstacle to the government “simply stopping paying out benefits” is that old people vote. Do you expect that to change for some reason?

            Yes. The Baby Boom generation is big. Generation X is small, and so gets screwed all the time. When Generation X is reaching traditional retirement age, that’s when screwing retirees will be fashionable.

          • cassander says:

            @Chalid says:

            Maybe if the *entire* gap was made up with cutting Social Security, with everything else running on autopilot and no effective revenue raising measures being implemented, then you’d require a massive cut that would take social security to near zero at some point in the future..

            You’re misrepresenting what I said. I said, specifically, that it’s incorrect to look at just SS, but that cuts of that scale are mathematically certain if nothing changes. They are. Is it plausible that they will all come out of SS? no. But lots of them will. I’m not going to quibble over your definition of “a pittance” but people paying into the system today are almost certainly likely to get much less than they are projected to get under current law, because there just isn’t going to be enough money to pay for it.

          • Chalid says:

            Look, this is the statement I was disputing, from Matt M: “You shouldn’t “worry” about social security. You should completely dismiss it. The odds of anyone currently under the age of 50 of receiving anything of value from it is almost nil.”

            I said this is way too pessimistic an estimate of what people should expect to receive. I don’t think the confusion here is due to me misrepresenting your post so much as that you did not clearly express the idea you say you wanted to express, but at any rate, I’m glad you now seem to agree with me that this scenario in which Social Security gets zeroed out in the early 2030s is very unlikely.

          • Chalid says:

            Anyway, putting some numbers on it: I would be surprised if a fifty-year-old today, who starts drawing benefits at age 65 and dies at age 80, receives less than 70% of what they’re currently promised from Social Security. Without having thought it through too much, I’d say that that’s a 20% probability event. Are we kind of in the same ballpark?

          • cassander says:

            @Chalid says:

            Anyway, putting some numbers on it: I would be surprised if a fifty-year-old today, who starts drawing benefits at age 65 and dies at age 80, receives less than 70% of what they’re currently promised from Social Security. Without having thought it through too much, I’d say that that’s a 20% probability event. Are we kind of in the same ballpark?

            The 50 year old is probably safe, but the 40 year old? much less so. But again, you can’t just look at SS. Any one of our entitlements, on its own, is affordable. the trouble is all of them put together.

          • Chalid says:

            you can’t just look at SS.

            Yes I can, because I was specifically responding to a comment about Social Security paying out nothing for everyone under 50 with near certainty. I said *that specific claim* was wrong. In no way was I making a comprehensive endorsement of the US government’s finances. If you want to have a broad discussion of the US government’s fiscal health, that’s great, just don’t pitch it as saying my narrow claim is wrong with mathematical certainty.

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        Yeah, any scenario in which my IRA of any form gets confiscated is not a scenario in which any us equity investment is of value (and I’m not really into buying ammo and antibiotics for retirement purposes.)

        Changing *tax* treatment might lean me towards trad over roth. Difference comes out being pretty small though.

        • Matt M says:

          Well they wouldn’t call it confiscation!

          But let’s be serious here, Scott is what, early 30s? Retirement funds are designed to be withdrawn in your 60s. Do you really think they won’t change the rules relating to retirement savings at all over the next 30 years? Or that any changes made will be in the favor of responsible savers in the upper quintile of incomes? Please.

          Taxes are the bribe you pay to get the state to renounce its claim to your assets (until you die at least). Morally reprehensible though they may be, there is some value in that.

    • Matt C says:

      I lean toward the traditional, when it comes to taxes there’s a lot of uncertainty about the future. I wouldn’t be surprised if the USA gets a VAT sometime in the next few decades. If they don’t grandfather the Roth IRAs somehow that’s going to suck for people who bet heavily that way.

      Like others say, a lot depends on what you expect your future income and retirement to be. Contributing to a trad while you’re in the 25% or 28% bracket, and withdrawing when you’re in the the 15% bracket, that ain’t bad. On the other hand, if your escalating celebrity means your income is going to continue to climb through retirement, maybe you want the Roth.

    • greghb says:

      Two simple points not mentioned above — not definitive, just useful when considering your options.

      A Roth lets you save “more” in a no-capital-gains account, in the following sense. Contribution limits are the same for both ($18k this year), but it’s post-tax money you’re putting away in a Roth and pre-tax in a traditional. In other words, that $18k is all yours in the Roth account, whereas [income tax]% is yet-to-be-removed in the traditional account. So if you’re agnostic about the tax rate now vs. later question, and you want to save the most you can in a retirement account, then Roth has this advantage.

      One thing you might find somewhat easy to predict is when you’re making your peak salary for your career. It’s often a reasonable bet that your income will be higher in this period than in your retirement. On that logic, it’s better to defer paying taxes during this period, just because higher income = higher income taxes. Of course, the tax rate could still increase during your retirement so that it would have been better to pay the taxes up front. But again, if you’re agnostic on that, it argues for traditional during a high-earning/high-tax career period.

    • Controls Freak says:

      Echoing that the standard advice is, “It depends on your expected future income.” However, it’s worse than that. It’s also dependent on future marginal tax rates. We’re close to the same age, and if you think you have a half-decent ability to predict what the marginal tax rates will be when we retire, you could probably make a lot more money on your prediction abilities than we could make by optimal selection of trad/Roth.

      So, like some others here, I also split the baby. This is in part just, “I have some this way and some that way, so maybe it will give me options when I want to cash them out.” My particular selection of the split is mainly due to two factors:

      1) As greghb mentioned, I want to best utilize my ‘tax-advantaged space’. If you’re maxing out your traditional contribution, you can move to a Roth and essentially bury ‘more’ money into a tax-advantaged position. (If you’re not hitting the traditional cap, then it’s back to the prediction problem in the first paragraph.) I don’t make quite enough money to max both a Roth IRA and Roth TSP (the federal gov’t version of a 401k), but I do make enough money to max the traditional versions. I can effectively sock away a little more if I do some Roth contributions. So which one do I do as a Roth? That’s informed by…

      2) Flexibility. Roth IRAs have a really amazing piece of flexibility that isn’t available in most other tax-advantaged accounts – you’ve paid taxes on your contributions already, so you can withdraw those contributions at any time for any (or no) reason. Ideally, you won’t have to. You want to leave this money sitting there until you retire. But lots of things can happen in life. I’m pretty risk-averse, and I’d naturally want a pretty large emergency fund… but there is a bit of a piece of mind in being able to say, “If shit really hits the fan in my life, I can pull out $X from my Roth IRA quickly, with no difficulty, no penalties, no nothing.” Conversely, the TSP is particularly inflexible, even compared to 401k programs, even the Roth version.

      So I’ve settled on maxing a traditional TSP and a Roth IRA. If I get promoted, I might move some of my TSP money into a Roth, too, but I’m pretty happy with this split for the above reasons.

  6. toastengineer says:

    A lot of other ideologies use motte-and-bailey type arguments, and to me it looks a lot like they’re actually doing so accidentally.

    Seems like that’d be a very easy thing to accidentally do, and hard to catch once you’ve started: it’s basically a Heisenbug; whenever you’re thinking carefully about a concept you switch to a different definition of that concept.

    So: are we using motte-and-balieys without noticing? How would we notice if we were?

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Depending on whether or not ‘we’ includes rationalists, absolutely yes.

      The motte is that “rationality is systemized winning.” The bailey is the insistence of rationalists on employing statistical reasoning even when it is unlikely to actually improve their decision making.

      So-called ‘fast-and-frugal heuristics’ like take-the-best often meet or surpass the accuracy of regression models and neural networks. So if you can make a decision that’s just as good in a fraction of the time and using much less information, obviously that’s the rational choice right? Nope.

      Anybody, even a lowly bioethicist who hasn’t even memorized Bayes Theorem, can use a heuristic. Doing statistics, even made-up statistics, is much more daunting. Perversely the most effective way to demonstrate how rational you are is to employ the more wasteful (and thus less rational) decision-making method.

    • rlms says:

      Obviously. What’s the alternative? “Everyone’s mind is stupid and broken, except mine because I read a Harry Potter fanfic that referenced some pop psychology”?

  7. Douglas Knight says:

    Is there a database or summary statistics of voting power over time? eg, percent of population eligible to vote / actually casting votes. But also size of districts. For example, the 1832 Reform in England barely increased the voting rolls, but had a big effect by equalizing the size of the districts. Probably the right summary statistic is the harmonic mean of voters per district.

  8. johan_larson says:

    There is broad agreement that the prequel trilogy of the Star Wars Saga wasn’t very good. It certainly wasn’t up to the level of the original triloigy, and parts of it were worse. But let’s look at this from a different perspective. In all those hours of film, what was actually good?

    I think Lucas did some good casting. Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor, Christopher Lee, Liam Neeson: these are fine actors.

    Some of the fight choreography was good, particularly the fight against Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace.

    Anything else?

    • cassander says:

      I disagree with the idea that the fight choreography in the prequels is really good. I will grant you that the lightsaber fights all look fantastic, but they are almost universally lacking in the dramatic tension that makes them feel like they have any emotional impact beyond sheer spectacle, and the ones that do have it usually fritter it away by going on too long. My favorite lightsaber fight is the darth vader/luke duel in Empire.

      That said, the whole pod racing sequence is pretty awesome. It’s too long and doesn’t belong in the film it’s in because it adds nothing to advance the plot, but it’s a great bit of filmmaking.

      • Nornagest says:

        The lightsaber fights in the original series are… not good kendo, they’re slowed down so you can see how they work, and the actors don’t really know what they’re doing, but they’re recognizable as something that looks kinda like a swordfight. (Probably because they’re cribbing from Kurosawa, but hey, steal from the best.) The lightsaber fights in the prequel trilogy look like a cross between a demonstration form and a rave, all as practiced by hyperactive rodents.

        I’ll take the former any day.

        • AlphaGamma says:

          For an in-universe explanation of the original-trilogy lightsaber duels, I like to think that a duel such as that between Obi-Wan and Vader is only the visible manifestation of a contest that is actually taking place mentally using the Force. This would explain why they both move much more slowly when fighting each other than they do when fighting people who are not competent Force users (such as Obi-Wan in the cantina).

    • John Schilling says:

      Senator Palpatine as a genuine Phantom Menace, a villain whose all-paths-lead-to-victory plotting leaves the heroes imagining they have won a great victory because they defeated losers like Darth Maul and Nute Gunray, and isn’t it nifty that our good friend Palpatine is moving up in the world as reward for all the help he’s given us? He loses a bit of that as he becomes more overtly the Evil Emperor, but a story like Star Wars needs a great villain and outside of the core trilogy it needs one that isn’t an obvious Darth Vader knockoff. Ian McDiarmid came through on that front.

      Qui-Gon Jinn as a superlatively competent but still modest and soft-spoken Jedi knight. The first trilogy set a high bar on what a Jedi in his prime would have to be when we finally got around to meeting one, and this time it was Liam Neeson who came through. To be fair, he’s kind of specialized in playing that guy for half his career, but that just means they picked the right actor. And backed him up with good writing and direction.

      The worldbuilding, especially on Coruscant, Naboo, and the expanded Tattoine. The Old Republic was a place of wonders brought alive.

      And really, there was a whole lot of good stuff there. Even after the last and worst of the three, my one-line review to the colleague who hadn’t been able to join us was, “This would have been a superb movie if only they had rewritten every single line of dialogue.” I still think that’s about right. But Palpatine and Qui-Gonn even got some good dialogue, and of course the worlds didn’t need any.

      • cassander says:

        <“This would have been a superb movie if only they had rewritten every single line of dialogue.”

        I think that’s a bit generous. “Good treatment, bad script” is as much as I’d go for 1 and 3 (2 is totally unredeemable, nothing that happens in that movie makes any sense). There are definitely some good ideas for a grand arc of the collapse of the republic, but it was more than just the dialogue that went wrong in translating it to the screen. My personal preference would mix in a whole lot of foundation trilogy style collapse of the republic (yes, I know Foundation was about an empire).

        I’ll give you that Ian McDiarmid did a great job with what he was given, but he was criminally underused.

      • ManyCookies says:

        I’m surprised by your prequel ranking, what problems did Revenge of the Sith have that Attack of the Clones didn’t?

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        The worldbuilding, especially on Coruscant, Naboo, and the expanded Tattoine. The Old Republic was a place of wonders brought alive.

        “The planet’s core.” Really?

        • John Schilling says:

          Better that than doing the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs. It’s an error in degree rather than in kind, and it comes from a character we don’t mind dismissing as a fool.

      • Matt M says:

        Qui-Gon Jinn as a superlatively competent but still modest and soft-spoken Jedi knight.

        Not modest enough. His arrogance comes through on his deathbed where his dying wish to his apprentice is to disobey the decision of the Jedi Council, leading to Anakin…

        • Deiseach says:

          His arrogance comes through on his deathbed

          But that’s the hero’s Tragic Flaw without which there is no tragedy because there is no hubris leading to over-reaching and triggering the corrective intervention by the punitive gods.

          Most of the movie, even with McGowan and Neeson, I was not emotionally involved (except for detesting Jar-Jar) but the death scene – oh, I blubbered. Got me right in my stony, black, little heart.

    • Incurian says:

      I think Lucas did some good casting. Natalie Portman

      Take it back!

    • Standing in the Shadows says:

      The fight choreography was terrible. Watch carefully in the “Dual of the Fates” against Darth Maul. There is a constant beat by beat by beat pattern of two of them stopping and one of them moving. What is happening is they are resyncing to their marks in the choreographed dance, as someone got slightly ahead or behind.

      If this was a real fight, the person who got a heartbeat ahead of the others would cut them in half, and win. But it wouldn’t look as flashy.

      Me, I think the best lightsaber duel shown on screen is the very final one between Maul and Kenobi in the previous season of Star Wars Rebels, and the one with the most emotional “squeeze your heart” significance is the one between Vader and Ahsoka in the finale of the season before that.

  9. Douglas Knight says:

    What kind of politicians are called by their given names?

    Left or Right? Moderate or Extreme? Male or Female?
    Is it a sign of support or opposition?

    • John Schilling says:

      Most kings, whether by their supporters or their opponents.

      Politicians who want to cultivate an “aw, shucks, just an ordinary Joe looking to serve” persona.

      Politicians who follow in the footsteps of a famous relative who is the default referent for the family name.

      And where do nicknames or initials fit on this scale? FDR, JFK, Bobby, Dubya, etc.

    • Deiseach says:

      Sometimes to differentiate, as in calling Hillary “Hillary” instead of “Clinton” in the “Hillary vs Trump” discussions; to say “Clinton vs Trump” would have people still, for a microsecond, thinking of the more famous Bill 🙂

      People trying to ‘down class’ themselves, as John Schilling says; David Cameron with his “Lots of people call me Dave, my mum calls me David, my wife calls me Dave, I don’t really notice what people call me” claim that nobody believed (and other efforts such as Ed Miliband and his “yes this is our kitchen” man of the people TV piece which evoked great disbelief and ridicule along the lines of “that may be the kitchen you let the au pair or nanny use but it’s not yours, Ed” fuelled by photos of the large downstairs kitchens in other houses on his street).

      • cassander says:

        Sometimes to differentiate, as in calling Hillary “Hillary” instead of “Clinton” in the “Hillary vs Trump” discussions; to say “Clinton vs Trump” would have people still, for a microsecond, thinking of the more famous Bill 🙂

        I live in the hope that someday I will be able to meet Hillary, and get a chance to refer to her as “President Clinton’s wife.” Not for selfish reasons, though, for SCIENCE! It’s an experiment to see if people can actually be struck dead by the evil eye.

        • Aapje says:

          I would favor “former primary lady,” which is a multi-faceted burn that simultaneously disses her for being inferior to and riding the coattails of her husband, points out to her that she lost the general election and calls her a has-been.

          • It seems to me that, as suggested by these comments, people dislike Hillary in a way that goes beyond political disagreement. I share that attitude. I didn’t dislike Obama, although I disapprove of much he did. I don’t dislike Trump, although he may well turn out worse for the country than Hillary would have been.

            This raises two questions. One is why Hillary causes that emotional response. The other is, if the response is common, why the Democrat Party didn’t recognize it and nominate someone else.

          • Iain says:

            It’s worth pointing out that Clinton has not always been unpopular. When she stepped down as Secretary of State in 2013, she was the most popular politician in the country.

            Also: not to belabour the point, but the idea that many people dislike Hillary Clinton more than political disagreements can easily explain is not inconsistent with the idea that her candidacy was harmed by latent sexism…

          • johansenindustries says:

            @Iain

            Of course, if you do want to blame people not liking her as being based on sexism, you really ought to be obligated to explain why Palin or Thatcher are not despised by those people.

            And, of course, if you’re talking about unreasonably hated candidates in the 2016 presidential election, then its the other New Yorker that rather wins that race.

            (And of course, Obama didn’t have the open contempt for Americans like Hillary ‘Deplorable’, ‘like with a cloth’ Clinton did. Even if you ignore that she and her husband are the very illustrations of liberal double standards, and ‘one rule for thee’ )

          • The Nybbler says:

            And of course, Obama didn’t have the open contempt for Americans like Hillary ‘Deplorable’, ‘like with a cloth’ Clinton did.

            “And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

            Not as bad as “deplorables”, but still condescension tinged with contempt at best. But Obama didn’t need those votes the way Hillary Clinton did.

          • Iain says:

            @johansenindustries:

            Of course, if you do want to blame people not liking her as being based on sexism, you really ought to be obligated to explain why Palin or Thatcher are not despised by those people.

            Because the people who disproportionately despise Palin and Thatcher are generally on the left, and the ones who disproportionately despise Clinton are more likely to be on the right. I’m not saying that sexism will singlehandedly determine anybody’s political opinions: I’m suggesting that, on the margin, people might be more likely to hate politicians they disagree with if they are women.

            (And of course, Obama didn’t have the open contempt for Americans like Hillary ‘Deplorable’, ‘like with a cloth’ Clinton did. Even if you ignore that she and her husband are the very illustrations of liberal double standards, and ‘one rule for thee’ )

            Have you ever actually read the entirety of Clinton’s “deplorable” speech? Because it doesn’t say what you think it does:

            But the other basket — and I know this because I see friends from all over America here — I see friends from Florida and Georgia and South Carolina and Texas — as well as, you know, New York and California — but that other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change. It doesn’t really even matter where it comes from. They don’t buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won’t wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they’re in a dead-end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.

            That America-hating witch. Can’t you feel the contempt oozing out of every pore?

          • dndnrsn says:

            Something that I’ve seen left-wing people do is bust out bigotries they’re not supposed to have when the target is right-wing. “Ding-Dong The Witch Is Dead” when Thatcher died would be a good example. A lot of the people who did that would probably get offended at someone calling Hillary Clinton a “witch.” Another example would be the transphobia and misogyny on display when left-wingers talk about how Coulter “has an adam’s apple.”

          • Matt M says:

            This raises two questions. One is why Hillary causes that emotional response. The other is, if the response is common, why the Democrat Party didn’t recognize it and nominate someone else.

            1. I actually think the emotional response to Hillary is something of an “uncanny valley” situation. She just comes across as SO rehearsed and practiced and like a robot who was built to consolidate political power. And everyone has seen this and known it since the early 90s. If you did a family feud style poll of “Name the least authentic person in America” I think she gets the #1 answer easily. And even Democrats don’t really disagree with this, they just say “Well who cares about that – her positions are good”, and I’m not saying that’s intellectually a bad position to take. But I think people view her as entirely disingenuous and that causes a gut emotional negative reaction in a way that a lot of other flaws do not.

            2. I think many in the Democratic party totally did know this, they just didn’t have the power to do anything about it until it was too late. (Unless we look to 2008, in which case we could hypothesize that at least one young Illinois Senator realized it and made a pretty big and successful bet on it)

          • johansenindustries says:

            @Iain

            What did you think I thought the speech was. Just her saying ‘half the people who will vote for my opponent are deplorable’ over and over again? Don’t you think that ‘look this other paragraph is inoffensive’ is an incredibly low bar? I would have thought that you could have at least managed two.

            The only current politician that has a big band of lovers, and whose opponents aren’t comeasurant is the peace-prize winning Obama. And that’s just because Obama-worship is nigh inexplicable. Any other popular politician – regardless of sex – has a roughly as loud hatedom.

          • Iain says:

            My point is that the evidence you are using to claim that Hillary Clinton has contempt for Americans was, in context, part of an argument for more outreach and empathy towards Trump supporters. “Some people like Trump because he says racist things, and we’re never going to win their votes. But other people like him because he promises change from an intolerable status quo, and we need to work to reach those people.”

            If you want to interpret that as contempt, that’s on you.

          • cassander says:

            @davidfriedman

            It seems to me that, as suggested by these comments, people dislike Hillary in a way that goes beyond political disagreement.

            I definitely do. The dislike built up before the latest campaign, but the “most qualified person ever to run” thing that pushed me over the edge.

            Hillary clinton is not particularly competent or high achieving. She went to above average schools and married well. As various first ladies, she was generally more of a hindrance than a help to bill. The one thing she was actually put in charge of, she screwed up. As a senator, she did nothing, and as SecState, she was a disaster. She had, even before losing the 2016 election, a very long record of NOT being very good at politics. Despite this, she had the gall to run as this hypercompetent super bureaucrat who was also a feminist icon. I expect a fair bit of hypocrisy in my politicians, but that was too much for me.

            She has come to represent much of what I loathe about modern politics: the class overeducated strovers that have come to dominate it (a class I am a member of), the utter lack of accountability, and the willingness of people to swallow and repeat absurd nonsense for tribal reasons.

            I can’t say that things were ever better, probably they weren’t, but to me Hillary isn’t just a politician whose policy preferences I disagree with, I disagree with most people on those, but a symbol of the corruption, intellectual and legal, at the core of the system. Ezra Klein earns a similar amount of wrath for similar reasons.

          • johansenindustries says:

            @Iain

            Not ‘some’; half. If you have to lie about what she said, then that’s on you.

          • Iain says:

            Certainly nobody would ever use language imprecisely. You can be especially certain that a person is being very precise about proportions when she starts the sentence with “You know, to just be grossly generalistic…”

            Was her statement poorly phrased? Sure! Did it leave her open to attack? Absolutely! Does it demonstrate contempt for Americans? C’mon.

          • Because the people who disproportionately despise Palin and Thatcher are generally on the left, and the ones who disproportionately despise Clinton are more likely to be on the right.

            My impression is that people on the left despised Palin–had a very low opinion of her–but didn’t hate her. They thought she was stupid. Hillary, people hate.

            Thatcher comes closer, but then Thatcher had been responsible for a large change in the world the people who hated her lived in, a change in what they saw as very much the wrong direction.

          • johansenindustries says:

            Nothing I said relied on the ‘half’ being literal.

            Are we agreed that she has contempt for the deplorable racists? Can we agree that she is referring to at least 20 million Americans* as deplorable racists?

            Would you agree that she has open contempt for those 20 million Americans? And would you acknowledge those Americans are Americans? That she had open disdain for.

            * And if you say by ‘half’ she didn’t mean a third, but more like a sixth, so ten million. Isn’t that still a really low bar for “Does it demonstrate contempt for Americans? C’mon.”

            I also feel that the sites and ‘journalists’ going to Clinton’s comment “actually in context” would have got down Trump’s throat if he had gone “Some are rajists. Some are good people” if he had said it about foreign criminals, let alone regular Americans.

          • Matt M says:

            “Some people like Trump because he says racist things, and we’re never going to win their votes. But other people like him because he promises change from an intolerable status quo, and we need to work to reach those people.”

            The problem is that she never clarifies how to figure out which is which.

            In the end, the implication is something like “The non-deplorable Trumpers will eventually see the light and vote for me, and the people who stay loyal to Trump after our totally superior arguments must just be incurable racists!” Which is why virtually all Trump supporters identified as “deplorables” and found these comments to be contemptuous of themselves.

          • Brad says:

            My impression is that people on the left despised Palin–had a very low opinion of her–but didn’t hate her. They thought she was stupid. Hillary, people hate.

            This matches my impression. Though those on the left in Alaska may have felt differently. I think it might have been different had they won or even more likely if they had won and then McCain died. As it was it was hard to really hate Palin because she never had much impact on anyone’s life.

            Now granted I could say the same thing about Hillary Clinton but people could plausibly believe that she had real power during her husband’s administration and then there was a stint as Senator and Sec. State (during which BENGHAZIIIII). But I do think the hatred is somewhat unreasonable given the relative lack of impact.

          • Iain says:

            Nothing I said relied on the ‘half’ being literal.

            You mean, aside from the part where you tried to call me a liar for paraphrasing it as “some”?

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Most people enjoy being turned into objects of pity about as much as they enjoy being turned into objects of contempt.

          • johansenindustries says:

            @Iain

            To call a million ‘some’ would be a lie. Not taking her ‘half’ literally we are still talking about over ten million. Calling that ‘some’ is a gross lie.

          • rlms says:

            Webster’s dictionary defines “some” as “being one, a part, or an unspecified number of something (such as a class or group) named or implied”. If you define it as “being one, a part, or an unspecified number (but like a pretty small number, not exactly sure what the upper limit is but it’s definitely less than a million) of something”, then that’s your right, but you should know that most people use another definition.

          • Nornagest says:

            people could plausibly believe that she had real power during her husband’s administration and then there was a stint as Senator and Sec. State (during which BENGHAZIIIII). But I do think the hatred is somewhat unreasonable given the relative lack of impact.

            SecState is one of the half-dozen or so positions that can end up being the second-most-important seat in the US Government, depending on internal administration politics, the priority of foreign relative to domestic policy, and how assertive Congress is feeling at the time. Hillary was definitely no Henry Kissinger during her tenure there, but it’s not an inherently low-impact role.

          • Deiseach says:

            Iain, so the reason I intensely dislike Hillary Clinton is because of internalised misogyny, me being a woman who should – if my dislike is not based on sexism – have wanted her to be First Woman President? (I didn’t much cotton to the notion of Sarah Palin as Vice President either, is that because of inherent sexism too?)

            That was Hillary’s big appeal to women voters: vote for me, I’m a woman! And the explanation for all those traitorous white women not voting for her ranged from sexism (all those strong independent modern working women? if they’re married, they’re in thrall to their husbands and fathers and male bosses telling them who to vote for!) to racism. The idea that “Yes, I’d like a woman president, that’s why I’m voting for Jill Stein” or “Yes, but not you because I don’t think you’re fit for the job” never gets any airing or examination.

            And I am now seeing the “white women who voted for Trump/didn’t vote for Hillary are seeking redemption” narrative being pitched. Seemingly the Democratic election results where “(a) surge of voter turnout swept women candidates into office with historic wins in New Jersey, Georgia, Washington, North Carolina, California, Utah and Virginia” are down to shamed women wanting to atone for having supported, or failed to oppose, Trump rather than it being that women will vote for a woman candidate they agree with and trust, but that candidate was not Hillary!

            I don’t think I hate Hillary Clinton, though you are free to disagree. But I do distrust her, and that’s not merely on policy grounds, but that she seems to be untrustworthy. There’s gaping ambition on show there, as well as barely-concealed impatience with those plainly deemed not intelligent enough to keep up with her level. Vote for me because I say so and I am so smart I know better than you what is good for you is the impression that comes across. The ambition reveals itself in how she turns her coat to suit whatever interviewer or niche group she is dealing with today; so when speaking to a religion reporter, it’s all about how she starts the day with an inspirational Bible quote and yes, maybe she’d like to be a Methodist minister, and of course she has struggled with the moral weight of abortion, whereas at a Planned Parenthood gala there’s nothing but full-throated support for reproductive justice; she’s a professional woman who is too busy with real, important work to potter about in the kitchen baking cookies like some stay-at-home failure and she’s a doting grandmother who in her law career worked for child advocacy; she’s tough on crime and the causes of crime and super-predators and she’s the best representative POC have ever had; she won’t truckle to the Russians and is a tough Secretary of State who isn’t afraid to be hawkish and as a woman she is a dove of peace – you know the drill.

            Bill was every bit as ambitious and flexible, shall we say? But he had and has buckets of charisma. Hillary has the robotic grimace that nobody seems to be able to disguise or teach her to disguise. The only other American politician in my life that I ever clapped eyes on and thought at first impression “They look shifty” was Richard Nixon, and that’s a dubious honour for Hillary to share!

          • Brad says:

            @Nornagest
            I agree a SecState can be consequential. Kissinger is a great example. Acheson too. But Clinton as SecState was roughly as consequential as John Kerry was after her. And no one hates him with the fiery passion of a thousand suns.

          • cassander says:

            @Brad

            HIllary was considerably more influential at least once, when she got the administration to obliterate Libya to no good purpose, the fallout for which we will be dealing with for decades.

          • Brad says:

            @cassander
            I don’t believe that you or much of anyone else is deeply concerned will the fate and welfare of the people of Libya.

            This is entirely post hoc. You hate Hillary Clinton and that’s why you are hyperaware of all her perceived shortcomings as Secretary of State. Not the other way around.

          • cassander says:

            @Brad says:

            This is entirely post hoc. You hate Hillary Clinton and that’s why you are hyperaware of all her perceived shortcomings as Secretary of State. Not the other way around.

            If you can’t think past “people who disagree with me are evil” why are you here? Does it not occur to you that her many shortcomings are why people dislike her?

            Of the the many fuckups in her career, Libya was unquestionably the worst, both morally and intellectually. There was never any chance that Libya could be bombed into democracy, but that was the course she advocated and made happen. I hate Hillary BECAUSE of Libya, and the absolute horror I felt as I saw that policies she advocated coming into effect knowing what they would mean for the people of Libya, years or decades of civil war far worse than what they’d had and a new dictator whose dictatorship was young and fresh, not old and reforming. It was crassly, incredibly, and unforgivably stupid, and she was feted for it. So no, it is not post hoc. I didn’t hate Hillary when she launched into Libya, I started to after.

          • Brad says:

            @cassander

            If you can’t think past “people who disagree with me are evil” why are you here?

            Don’t confuse my not believing you with not believing anyone. There’s a reason we have consistent nyms here.

            Also, there’s nothing especially evil about post hoc justification for preexisting feelings.

            This I believe:

            She has come to represent much of what I loathe about modern politics: the class overeducated strovers that have come to dominate it

            At least assuming strover is a typo for striver.

            Also this:

            The dislike built up before the latest campaign, but the “most qualified person ever to run” thing that pushed me over the edge.

          • cassander says:

            @Brad

            There’s nothing inconsistent with what I’ve said. Politicians get to be unusually mendacious or unusually incompetent, but not both. Hillary’s decision on libya was criminally bad, but there are lots of politicians who make criminally bad decisions. Most don’t decide to center campaigns around how awesome they are at decision making though, though. Libya was what began me down the path of loathing Clinton, her decision to campaign as “the most qualified person ever” to hold the presidency was the end. without the catastrophe of libya, her campaign persona wouldn’t have bothered me as much. It took both.

          • Deiseach says:

            HIllary was considerably more influential at least once, when she got the administration to obliterate Libya to no good purpose, the fallout for which we will be dealing with for decades.

            One example of which – Comic Con in Libya cancelled as threat to morals of the country:

            Later in the day members from the Deterrence Force — a group of mainly conservative Islamists that acts as the police for the UN-backed government — entered the venue, seized computers and arrested organisers, a participant said

            Oh, and modern-day slavery/indentured labour is a flourishing market on the coast:

            Migrants trying to reach Europe via North Africa are being sold at modern-day slave auctions by smugglers in Libya for as little as $400, a new investigation has revealed.

            Along the Libyan coast, smugglers have racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars putting migrants on the perilous journey to Europe on rickety boats across the Mediterranean Sea. Now they are being sold off to buyers for manual labor, according to CNN.

            But you know, Hillary showed she was tough enough to be President since she was as tough as a man and not a weak little woman by taking down Gadaffi, so that’s okay!

            I don’t believe that you or much of anyone else is deeply concerned will the fate and welfare of the people of Libya.

            Brad, I thought at the time it was a stupid decision and I’ve seen nothing since to change my mind. I thought it was a stupid decision when Britain tamely followed the US under a Republican leader to bomb Libya (both the Reagan-Thatcher and Cameron-Obama efforts). In short, I think “bombs to show we’ve got balls” is a stupid decision, no matter what party or what gender the person doing this is.

            But go ahead, live in your little dream of “they iz all mean h8rs who can’t stand a strong woman!” since plainly Saint Hillary can never, has never, and will never make a bad, wrong or mistaken move in her life.

          • Brad says:

            What conclusion do you expect people to draw from your years long obsession with hating an candidate that ran but didn’t win an election for the chief executive of a distant foreign nation? Curiously I never see any page long rants from you about Bill Shorten or Stephen Harper.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Brad

            As the duly-appointed Canadian in these parts, I feel it is my responsibility to point out that Stephen Harper was PM for almost a decade. I suggest Stockwell Day or Tom Mulcair as replacements.

            En tant que Canadien bien nommé dans ces régions, je crois qu’il est de ma responsabilité de souligner que Stephen Harper était le premier ministre depuis près d’une décennie. Je suggère Stockwell Day ou Tom Mulcair comme remplaçants. Bas avec les Anglais! Vive le Québec libre! Tabarnak!

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            The conclusion I draw id that Deiseach doesn’t need Brad’s permission to be interested in the subject.

          • Nick says:

            What conclusion do you expect people to draw from your years long obsession with hating an candidate that ran but didn’t win an election for the chief executive of a distant foreign nation? Curiously I never see any page long rants from you about Bill Shorten or Stephen Harper.

            Come on, Brad, is that really a fair characterization? This blog talks all the time about US politics. Commenters here talk all the time about US politics. Other blogs I’ve seen Deiseach comment on talk all the time about US politics. Much of the world pays attention to US politics. There’s nothing “curious” about it.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Brad and @Nick

            It’s really a no-brainer. If you lived in Pomerania of the HRE, you would pay attention to Austrian politics. If you lived in Ryukyu, you would pay attention to Japanese politics. If you lived in Cuba, you would pay attention to Soviet politics.

            So too – excepting those of us who happen to live in the other two of the three independent nations on Earth – we pay attention to the politics of USA.

          • beleester says:

            I’m feeling mildly sympathetic to Brad here, actually. Deiseach’s schtick during the campaign season could be summarized as “I’m just a disinterested foreigner, I don’t have a dog in this fight, I’m no fan of Trump… now bear with me while I explain all the ways that Hillary is a terrible person.”

            It’s a little unfair to characterize his criticism as “they iz all mean h8rs who can’t stand a strong woman!” He didn’t say that her critics were misogynistic, he just said that some people here have a very noticeable axe to grind against Clinton and he doesn’t believe that Libya was what made them start grinding their axes.

          • Nick says:

            I’m sympathetic to Brad’s point e.g. here, since I know from personal experience that disdain/hatred for Hillary was more extreme (in degree if not in kind) than that for, say, Palin, though IME about on par with the way I heard Thatcher spoken of; that doesn’t mean I think his criticism of Deiseach is correct. And for what it’s worth, I agree that Deiseach’s criticism of Brad was off point; she apparently had in mind folks like Iain above who did raise sexism as an explanation, but on rereading Brad’s posts, the closest he comes to suggesting that is saying that Palin might well have been hated the same way if she and McCain had been elected.

          • Deiseach says:

            Brad, I can honestly say I don’t hate Hillary Clinton. I dislike her, I distrust her, I think she has no centre to her deep down but the burning ambition to be The Big Boss, and that in one way I rather wish she had won the election just to see the way she would not meet the expectations put upon her by her supporters and all her broken promises, but the only politician I have come close to hating is Margaret Thatcher.

            My “obsession” is with pointing out that hey, no, actually it’s not the way you think it goes:

            Brad – You all hate Hillary for no reason at all!

            Commenters on here – No, I don’t hate her, and these are the reasons why I think she’s not a good candidate (list of reasons)

            Brad – Those are just post-hoc justifications because you hate her! If those hadn’t happened, you’d just find some other reason! Or no reason at all, because you hate her!

            Even if you do think that we really do hate her, can you genuinely see no reason at all why she might be “hated”?

            beleester, I genuinely thought the Democrats could and should have done a lot better with a candidate that could win the election than establishing (or trying to establish) a political dynasty with the Clintons like the Bushes had done. I thought Hillary was a disaster candidate and as you say, I listed out the reasons I thought so. And the problem hasn’t gone away, because who are the Democrats going to run in 2020? Granted that Trump will be a disaster, will not get re-elected (if he even runs), who is looking right now like somebody credible as the next President of the United States? Because it’s the misfortune of the rest of the world that the POTUS has such huge influence (remember all the freaking out about letting Trump have charge of the nuclear button, not to mention the delicate situation with North Korea, Russia, China, etc) so we have to take an interest in your elections. I wish we could ignore them and not care or know anymore than we know who the President of Lithuania is, but that’s not so. “A distant foreign nation”? Sometimes I wish you lot were as distant as Mars (Elon Musk, hurry up!) but three thousand miles isn’t enough. For instance, we now have Black Friday sales over here, even in local retail chains that are not the online American retailers like Amazon, purely because of the massive global influence and interconnectedness of American culture. FUCKING BLACK FRIDAY SALES WHEN WE DON’T EVEN CELEBRATE THANKSGIVING. Tell me again how you are soooo distant and what goes on in the USA has noooo effect on my country?

            As for Sarah Palin, does nobody remember some of the vitriol expended on her? Everything from the “she’s not really the mother of that child, her daughter is” (Andrew Sullivan was as extreme in trying to track down the ‘real’ facts of Trig’s birth as any Obama “birther”) to attempts, for example, to blame her for the Gabby Giffords shooting? Palin may well have gone cuckoo in her public pronouncements since the days of being McCain’s running mate, but even when she was just the Republican governor of Alaska who was selected by McCain (and there was conspicuous silence from the sisterhood who usually cheer over women breaking the glass ceiling – I suppose it only counts when you’re the ‘right’ kind of woman!), there was some really nasty talk in the media and online commentary from professional columnists, not to mention the usual partisan political amateurs in the public.

          • Deiseach says:

            dndnrsn, et aussi, Stephen Harper n’a jamais visité l’Irlande pour boire des pintes! 😉

          • Nornagest says:

            I genuinely thought the Democrats could and should have done a lot better with a candidate that could win the election than establishing (or trying to establish) a political dynasty with the Clintons like the Bushes had done.

            The Democrats can’t really strategize like that. Political parties in the US have relatively little sway over who gets to be a candidate — there are endorsement games you can play, and the Dems have their much-vaunted superdelegate system to put their fingers on the scales (the GOP doesn’t even have that), but at the end of the day, if Sparky the Wonder Dog says he’s running as a Democrat, and he wins the primary election, then he’s the candidate. (Assume for the sake of argument that Sparky is 35 years old and a natural-born US citizen.)

            The superdelegates (who can be assumed to represent the will of the Democratic party leadership) did go for Hillary, but I don’t think there’s evidence to show that that represents a real preference rather than just wanting to back the winning horse. In the 2008 election, most of them backed Obama as soon as he started looking like he’d get a majority.

    • Nornagest says:

      If it actually shows up in serious campaign material, I think most often it’s a populist affectation. Note that all three of the main candidates (plus Jeb!) did it to some extent in the 2016 election: Hillary, Bernie, and The Donald.

      In the press, or in sound-bite style slogans, I usually see it when a surname is too long or awkward to make good copy: “I Like Ike”, for example. Three-letter initialisms (“JFK”, “LBJ”) are a relative. What inspired “They Can’t Lick Our Dick” is anyone’s guess, though.

      Sometimes you see it as a sign of contempt, too. I think “Dubya” was typically of this type, though that’s properly a nickname. Probably related to tabloid reporting’s habit of referring to celebrities by given name.

      • Matt M says:

        I think using their actual given and/or preferred name is a sign of affection and/or respect, but using some sort of unapproved version is a sign of contempt. “The Donald” is a title, but “Dubya” was meant to imply stupidity and an affinity with rednecks. “Barry” was used against Obama as a reference to his earlier attempts to downplay his blackness when it suited him in his younger days. And we all know what “Barack HUSSEIN” was meant to get at…

        • Nornagest says:

          Even without the “Hussein”, I only ever saw a bare “Barack” on blogs during the Obama administration when Obama was doing something the author didn’t like. This sort of usage reads kind of paternalistic to my eye, as in “Donald, Donald, Donald, what are we going to do with you?”

  10. johan_larson says:

    So the ARA San Juan is now believed to have sunk, possibly because of an explosion. What are the chances the wreck will be found?

    • The Nybbler says:

      I expect the wreck will almost certainly be found; the location of the sound of its destruction can probably be calculated quite well.

    • bean says:

      It won’t. The British secretly stole it to use for their nefarious purposes against the peaceful Argentine people like they did in 1982.
      I’d say pretty good. I was pretty sure San Juan was dead a couple days ago, but at least the families have some closure now.

  11. liquidpotato says:

    Hi guys. I’m looking for book recommendations.

    I loved reading about parasites and had a great time going through Carl Zimmer’s Parasite Rex.

    I’m wondering if there are any other booms like that out there that talks about parasites for lay readers like me. I would appreciate it if anyone can point me to books like that.

    Thanks@

  12. onyomi says:

    Re. this discussion of sperm banks and what Gwern calls “homo hypocritus,” a larger point:

    I think one of the biggest reasons I’m an anarchocapitalist is that I think of ancap as the political philosophy that gives people what they really want and are willing to pay for, not what abstract moral systems and cultures cause them to say they want when others are listening and virtue signalling is free.

    In other words: you want drug prohibition? Fine. You and others who want it bear the legal and logistical costs of disrupting distribution networks, tracking down dealers and users, housing some of them in cages, etc. etc. You want a humanitarian intervention in the Middle East? Fine. You and others who want it bear the costs of making that happen. You want an all-white ethnostate? Fine, you and others who want it buy up all the property in a region and pay to keep others out. You want universal healthcare? Fine, you and others who want it raise the funds to make it happen.

    In other words, it’s democracy, but only those who want a thing pay for the thing. Public goods problem? Free rider? Why is that a lame excuse when people aren’t making the sorts of movies, video games, etc. you want (start a Kickstarter), but an okay excuse when people aren’t enforcing the kinds of laws, and doing the kinds of military actions you claim to want? Is providing free healthcare to your community genuinely more important to you and those who think like you than making movies and video games? If so, why won’t you find a way to overcome the public goods problem like the video game people have?

    Ancap: the “talk is cheap” political philosophy.

    • John Schilling says:

      Ancap: the “talk is cheap” political philosophy.

      Which is good, because all Ancap can afford is cheap talk.

      Talking about how governments are run by hypocrites and even democratic governments are elected by hypocritical voters, so we shouldn’t have them any more, doesn’t actually get rid of either the governments or the hypocrites. For that you need a way to get rid of the governments, and you need a way to keep the governments from coming back, and you need a way to keep the hypocrites from taking over the institutions of ancapistan and making them into vehicles for their hypocrisy just like they did the governments. You don’t have any of those things, you’ve never offered a plan for getting any of those things beyond “wish it were so”, and if you did I’m betting that it would end up looking an awful lot like a government.

      Especially when all the hypocrites who currently run actual governments and in your scenario would have to find something else to do with their time, get hold of it.

      • onyomi says:

        The best solution I can think of, which I’ve suggested several times previously and below, is to start by supporting secession anywhere and for any reason the issue comes up.

        A probably better, if less personally “cheap” option is probably to participate in or start something like a “free state project” based on getting together a critical mass of such people together in one spot.

        The difficulty may be that a. abstract propositions are hard to get people as passionate about as e.g. ethnic groups, regardless, and b. libertarianism is a uniquely “un-propositional” proposition, because of its “take over and leave you alone” goals. May suffer from some of the same problems as atheism as a “movement.”

        Supporting agorist options like Bitcoin may also be a powerful long-term strategy, and many of the people involved in making cryptocurrency happen right now are ancaps, so I don’t think it’s fair to say all they have is “cheap talk.” They may be in the process of striking a blow against one of government’s most powerful weapons (control of currencies).

        Especially when all the hypocrites who currently run actual governments and in your scenario would have to find something else to do with their time, get hold of it.

        I don’t think the same people will be in charge of ancapistan as are currently in charge of existing states because the selection mechanisms will be different (market rather than politics).

        • Eugene Dawn says:

          This is maybe a bit unfair, but this comment strikes me as the sort of behaviour that is the subject of your first comment: is ancaptopia what you “really want and are willing to pay [that is, make serious sacrifice] for”?, rather than what an “abstract moral system […] cause[s] [you] to say?”.

          After all, talk of encouraging secession, like virtue signalling, is free. An ancap who isn’t doing the hard work of founding a Seastead somewhere seems vulnerable to the exact same critique you make of prohibitionists.

          • onyomi says:

            I don’t think it’s the exact same critique, because I’m not critiquing cheap virtue signalling per se, I’m critiquing cheap virtue signalling as a selection mechanism for the people who have power to create, interpret, and enforce laws.

            My problem with prohibitionists isn’t that they lack the strength of their convictions or don’t do enough in the real world; it’s the means they employ to achieve their goals: our current, winner-takes-all, one-size-fits-all, political system (as well as their goals, which I don’t personally like, but that’s not my fundamental objection).

            This discussion with Tom Woods and Michael Malice, briefly encapsulated in this article, notes a bunch of positive developments away from this sort of model, as well as describing many of its failings in comparison to having a market for things.

        • John Schilling says:

          The best solution I can think of, which I’ve suggested several times previously and below, is to start by supporting secession anywhere and for any reason the issue comes up.

          Even if we assume that the secessionists are going to be pro-liberty, and history would like to have a word with you about that assumption, then once secession is accomplished you’ve got a weak new nation living right next door to an older and more powerful one that, by evaporative cooling, is going to be decidedly less libertarian, less anarchic, less tolerant of secession than it was on the day the libertarian secessionists decided to break away.

          This neighbor will have a powerful army, and a powerful grudge. If the newly-seceded nation is anything even remotely like anarcho-capitalist, then for reasons we have discussed before, neighboring statists (and not just the ones from which they seceded) will see them as a clear and present danger of terrorism, drug trafficking, human trafficking, etc, all things that statists thing are nigh-existential threats against which wars can be justly waged, and of course nation-states will correctly see secession itself as an existential threat.

          Against this, the ancap secessionists will have a militia, they probably won’t have an ocean of distance, and they will have the vocal support of people like onyomi – who cannot without becoming a despised hypocrite ask his own government to send its powerful army to their aid.

          How long do you expect the new nation to last before it is reconquered; what plan or even notion do you have to avoid that outcome? I’m still only seeing “I wish it were so; I wish all the nations with powerful methods, motives, and opportunities to crush this dream would refrain from doing so because I say I oppose it”.

    • Guy in TN says:

      Governments already pay for things like wars, drug enforcement, prisons, ect. They literally bear the cost for them, you can see it itemized in their budgets. The government has to weigh the benefits of their spending, and they bear the burden of a poor spending choice in the form of budget shortfalls (which, due to political considerations, can’t always be instantly “fixed” with higher taxes) .

      You want a humanitarian intervention in the Middle East? Fine. You and others who want it bear the costs of making that happen.

      Governments already come into existence because some group bears the financial and logistical costs to make it happen. Seizing power doesn’t come cheap.

      Not sure how any of this leads one to the conclusion of anarchism.

      • toastengineer says:

        Governments already pay for things like wars, drug enforcement, prisons, ect. They literally bear the cost for them, you can see it itemized in their budgets. The government has to weigh the benefits of their spending, and they bear the burden of a poor spending choice in the form of budget shortfalls (which, due to political considerations, can’t always be instantly “fixed” with higher taxes) .

        Ennnnnnhhhh, I don’t really think that’s the same thing. Do any of the people actually making the decisions face any penalty for unwise spending? Has the U.S. government ever actually failed to do something because it couldn’t pay for it?

        • Parties face being voted out of office, and the US govt has been known to go into shutdown over excessive spending.

          • toastengineer says:

            So in the most extreme cases there’s a ridiculously coarse (it’s not just the specific guy who spent the money who gets voted out) correction years after the fact, as opposed to the specific person who spent money immediately losing that money and noticing pretty quickly if he didn’t make it back. I really don’t see how the first situation is even comparable.

          • Guy in TN says:

            If you want to compare apples to apples, you’ve got to compare large government hierarchical institutions to large hierarchical private institutions. In either one, personnel change isn’t “immediate” in the face of a poor financial decision, and in both cases people at the top tend to be sheltered, while passing the burden down to people near the bottom. If you want to talk about “ridiculously coarse” punishment, how about when low level workers get laid off for decisions made by the top, while the CEO gets a golden parachute?

        • Guy in TN says:

          At the state on local level in particular, people certainly do bear the burdens of poor spending choices. Whole state agencies have gotten shut down with mass layoffs for being insolvent.

          While the federal government has access to a money printing machine, they can’t use that indefinitely either, due to inflation. Every time they pay for something they “cannot afford”, they actually bear the cost in the form of devaluation of currency.

          • toastengineer says:

            Every time they pay for something they “cannot afford”, they actually bear the cost in the form of devaluation of currency.

            … isn’t it everyone else who bears the cost? By your logic no-one would ever attempt to counterfeit currency.

          • Guy in TN says:

            isn’t it everyone else who bears the cost?

            The government has financial incentives not to just print money to pay for everything, in order to maintain the value of their currency. Runaway inflation would disrupt the government as well as the citizens.

            Counterfeiting is only effective when its done on a small scale. Would counterfeiting a hundred trillion dollars even be worth the paper its printed on, after the resulting inflation?

            OP said that people bearing costs for their decisions is what separated anarcho-capitalism from currently existing systems. I find that strange- in every system, actions still have costs and benefits. Even slave owners were not immune from the consequences of their decisions.

          • Guy in TN says:

            Re printing money:

            Irregardless, the ability to create money isn’t a problem unique to states. The ability to counterfeit instead of “paying the actual cost” does not go away in ancapistan.

    • I think of ancap as the political philosophy that gives people what they really want and are willing to pay for,

      I think of it as the system that gives people what they have been bamboozled into wanting by an unregulated advertising industry.

      • onyomi says:

        As opposed to what they are bamboozled into thinking they want by political ads?

        At least with consumer products and services you know pretty quick whether you’ve bought a lemon and can usually return/exchange/sue if blatant misrepresentation was involved, aren’t forced to buy what you know is a lemon because everyone else thought it was a good idea, and personally bear the costs of failing to caveat emptor/enjoy the fruits of doing your research.

        • rlms says:

          Government is very different from consumer products and services in the ways you mention, and distributing it via markets rather than democracy wouldn’t change that fact.

          “return/exchange/sue if blatant misrepresentation was involved”
          Given a government that guarantees your right to do so, yes.

          • toastengineer says:

            Given a government that guarantees your right to do so, yes.

            No, under anarchocapitalism fraud is just theft by deceit rather than stealth, it’d be dealt with exactly the same way as any other crime.

          • rlms says:

            @toastengineer
            Only if you assume that laws under ancap will be the same as present ones, which seems a bit pointless (if that’s the case, why bother having it at all?)

          • IrishDude says:

            Only if you assume that laws under ancap will be the same as present ones, which seems a bit pointless

            Under ancap, the present laws people would be willing to voluntarily pay to have enforced would be the same, the laws people wouldn’t voluntarily pay to be enforced would go away. Protection against fraud seems like the type of thing people would be willing to pay for, so it’s not pointless.

            Let’s say a rights enforcement agency offers a basic package A that will provide protection against assault and theft for $200 a month. They might also offer a stepped up package B that offers protection against fraud for $50 more a month and another stepped up package C that offers prosecution of drug dealers for $50 more a month. I suspect there’d be near universal support for package A from consumers, slightly less but almost universal support for package B, and the least support for package C.

            Aggregation of these rights enforcement preferences that people are willing to pay for will lead to some overlap with existing laws on a widespread basis (e.g. laws against murder), some overlap with existing laws on a localized basis (e.g. religious communities that may feel strongly about keeping drugs out), and complete elimination of some laws (e.g., sugar tariffs that only benefit an extreme minority).

          • rlms says:

            @IrishDude
            “Under ancap, the present laws people would be willing to voluntarily pay to have enforced would be the same, the laws people wouldn’t voluntarily pay to be enforced would go away.”
            Right. Additionally, some laws that don’t currently exist would come into existence, and some laws would continue to exist but be different.

            toastengineer seemed to imply two possibilities: either fraud will be punished (like now), or it won’t be. But there are infinite plausible laws against fraud that differ in e.g. how they define “blatant misrepresentation”. I don’t think it’s easy to see which one would be adopted by an ancap society, so it doesn’t make sense to say it would be dealt with “exactly the same way as any other crime”. In the same way as in the modern US? Or modern Japan, or 18th century France, or 10th century Zimbabwe etc., or in one of the myriad ways that haven’t yet been tried?

          • Guy in TN says:

            Having the law go to the highest bidder could result in essentially anything. I don’t understand the assumption that that would result in either anarchism or capitalism.

            I mean, do the congressmen who appropriate money to the police, not do so voluntarily today? Do the people who bribe congressman to pass the sugar tariffs not do so voluntarily as well?

          • John Schilling says:

            Under ancap, the present laws people would be willing to voluntarily pay to have enforced would be the same,

            Actually, under ancap it is possible that a law could be enforced against everyone because one sufficiently rich person is willing to pay to have it enforced, so “people” don’t have to be willing.

          • IrishDude says:

            @rlms

            But there are infinite plausible laws against fraud that differ in e.g. how they define “blatant misrepresentation”. I don’t think it’s easy to see which one would be adopted by an ancap society, so it doesn’t make sense to say it would be dealt with “exactly the same way as any other crime”.

            Ah, I see what you’re saying and I agree, the exact contours of laws against fraud are likely to vary under ancap compared to present laws. I can’t predict exactly what communication products will look like 20 years from now, and neither can I predict exactly what laws would look like if produced on the market.

            @John Schilling

            Actually, under ancap it is possible that a law could be enforced against everyone because one sufficiently rich person is willing to pay to have it enforced, so “people” don’t have to be willing.

            Jeff Bezos is the richest guy in the U.S. with $100 billion in wealth, which is only 0.1% of the total wealth of the U.S.. It’s probably cheaper for him to pay off key congress people to get favorable laws under the current statist system, than it would be to pay for favorable laws that people holding 99.9% of the wealth don’t want under a market for law system.

          • Guy in TN says:

            The top 400 wealthiest Americans own half of all U.S. wealth. With a little coordination, they could enslave the entire rest of the U.S. population, in a system that ran on legalized bribery.

            There’s also the issue of those top 400 having a lot more disposable income than the rest of us, so they could likely beat our bid for non-slavery with far less than 100% coordination.

          • hyperboloid says:

            @IrishDude

            While I have do doubt that the very wealthy have vastly more influence on public policy than you or me, there are some hard limits on there power.

            In our country Randall L. Stephenson, the CEO of AT&T, could not for instance decide that the justice department’s objections to his company’s deal with Time Warner were best dealt with by hiring assassins to gun down the attorney general on his way to work one morning. In countries were the state’s monopoly on violence has collapsed powerful businessmen can, and have done exactly that.

          • IrishDude says:

            @Guy in TN

            The top 400 wealthiest Americans own half of all U.S. wealth.

            Source? This link notes the net worth of the 400 wealthiest Americans as $2.7 trillion in 2017. This link has the net worth of all U.S. households as $96.2 trillion in the second quarter of 2017. If those numbers are accurate, the 400 wealthiest Americans have 2.8% of total U.S. net worth.

          • IrishDude says:

            @hyperboloid

            While I have do doubt that the very wealthy have vastly more influence on public policy than you or me, there are some hard limits on there power.

            I agree. Just as markets have constraints so do states and politics.

            In our country Randall L. Stephenson, the CEO of AT&T, could not for instance decide that the justice department’s objections to his company’s deal with Time Warner were best dealt with by hiring assassins to gun down the attorney general on his way to work one morning.

            Well, he could, though there are strong social norms against that as well as criminal consequences. Still, here’s a long list of political assassinations in the U.S., done for personal, business, and political reasons.

            In countries were the state’s monopoly on violence has collapsed powerful businessmen can, and have done exactly that.

            The link above cites a U.S. federal judge (John H. Wood Jr) that was assassinated due to a contract placed on him by a drug lord opposed to the judge’s harsh sentences, in parallel to the example you cite.

            Note also that the drug lord and powerful businessman in your case (Pablo Escobar) was elected to the Columbian government and was part of the state, so it’s not clear how good the presence of a state is on checking abuse of the powerful. Also, per your wikipedia link, “After Lara’s death, the Betancur government immediately approved the extradition law and began a war against organized crime.”, so the powerful businessman didn’t escape state sanction. I’m not sure what lesson to draw on the net value of states — whether strong or weak– on checking the abuses of the powerful, based on the Escobar example.

          • Nornagest says:

            Source? This link notes the net worth of the 400 wealthiest Americans as $2.7 trillion in 2017. This link has the net worth of all U.S. households as $96.2 trillion in the second quarter of 2017.

            It’s probably one of those tendentious definitions of “wealth” that excludes all the stuff that most middle-class households have their money locked up in, like primary residences and 401ks.

          • Guy in TN says:

            It was a mistaken interpretation on my part. The wealthiest 400 people own as much wealth as the bottom half of the U.S. population combined. http://www.politifact.com/wisconsin/statements/2011/mar/10/michael-moore/michael-moore-says-400-americans-have-more-wealth-/

            But still. If the law was for sale, they could enslave the bottom half of the U.S. with a little coordination. People aren’t going to like even opening the door to that being a legal possibility.

          • Guy in TN says:

            I’m struggling to see the advantage of switching to a system where the law could be bought and enforced by the wealthiest few.

            From a position of self-interest, I would be far, far worse off in such a system compared to the one we have today, which is governed somewhat democratically.

          • Standing in the Shadows says:

            If the law was for sale, they could enslave the bottom half of the U.S. with a little coordination.

            But, would they be worth the bargain?

            I suspect not.

            The top 400 do not want 800,000 abject slaves each to exercise their will over.

            They want instead some combination of exercising their will over each of their individual enthusiasms, the pleasures and adventures that technological civilization offers them, and playing status and signalling games between each other. The best status signalling for people in that class are ones that only that they can see, that the rest of us don’t know what to look for.

            Keeping thousands of slaves is *work*, and slaves are nowhere near as productive as what has replaced them: employees operating machines.

            ref: “The Natural History of the Rich”. Well worth reading.

          • IrishDude says:

            @Guy in TN

            I’m struggling to see the advantage of switching to a system where the law could be bought and enforced by the wealthiest few.

            Let’s take it as given that the 400 wealthiest people have as much wealth as the bottom 50% of U.S. households, which seems reasonable based on the link you provided. How does the market for homes, cars, food, electronics, appliances, car mechanics, dry cleaners, restaurants, etc. work? Is the market for these products and services primarily catered to the interests of the 400 wealthiest, or the bottom 50% least wealthiest?

            I don’t expect laws/enforcement to be exactly the same quality between the wealthy and the poor*, the same as I don’t expect cars or food to be the same quality, but there’s also reason to expect there to be a wide plethora of rights enforcement agencies catering to the interests of 50% poorest, not just the 400 wealthiest. In a market for law system, I don’t find your enslavement scenario plausible, though there has been enslavement codified and enforced by states throughout history.

            *-Laws/enforcement already aren’t the same quality between the wealthy and poor under systems where the state produces the law either. Note that regulatory compliance costs are more easily absorbed by large wealthy companies than their less wealthy counterparts, special interest laws favor the rich/connected over the poor, response times of cops vary in wealthy and poor areas, arrest rates for drug use vary in wealthy and poor areas, the wealthy are able to buy off criminal sanctions through settlements, the quality of lawyers vary for rich and poor, etc.

          • Guy in TN says:

            In a system where the law is determined democratically, I have one vote, and a rich person has one vote.

            In a system where the law is determined through bidding, for every one vote I have, a wealthy person may have 1000x that.

            And you are right, the poor people could band together and overwhelm the rich person. Your system isn’t all-nightmarish-all-the-time. But what is the pressing problem that we have that needs to be solved by removing constraints on the richest and most powerful? I understand that we are coming from radically different angles, but I am legitimately curious. What are you looking to solve by allowing the wealthiest people in the world had more power to buy lawmakers?

            To me, this is the source of most of our problems, not the solution to it. I think we need more frequent elections, and easier ability to recall politicians, and make it easier to pass direct referendums, and to cap political spending. Determining whether a potential law will increase social utility isn’t easy, but harnessing the collective will of the masses through voting is a good place to start. Making the law for sale skews the information it collects towards the will of the wealthiest.

          • IrishDude says:

            @Guy in TN

            But what is the pressing problem that we have that needs to be solved by removing constraints on the richest and most powerful? I understand that we are coming from radically different angles, but I am legitimately curious. What are you looking to solve by allowing the wealthiest people in the world had more power to buy lawmakers?

            Suppose the state had a monopoly on producing food or cars and I proposed letting a competitive market produce these goods instead. Would you expect the quality and price of those goods to improve once these goods were produced on a market? Or would you expect food and cars on the market to only be catered to the rich and powerful and for everyone else to lose out?

            I think private property and voluntary exchange creates strong incentives for innovators and entrepreneurs to come up with products and services that meet the varying preferences of individuals. Competition, rather than coercive monopoly, works to keep the prices of these goods and services low while improving on quality.

            Due to the knowledge problem with central actors trying to aggregate the varying preferences of millions of people, I prefer the emergent order of the market over the top-down solutions of central planners. Central planners don’t have the ability to aggregate millions of people’s preferences as so much of knowledge is local. In markets, each person pursues their preferences, bumps up against resource constraints and other people’s preferences, and through the price system order and balance emerges, taking into account widely dispersed knowledge on a global scale.

            Voting doesn’t create strong incentives to be informed; ask most voters about details of bills, the system of government we have, and who their elected officials are, and don’t be surprised to find a lot of rational ignorance. Voters have systematic economic biases and prefer lots of terrible policies, but given they have less than a 1 in million chance of influencing the election, they aren’t incentivized to reduce those biases. There’s no skin in the game when you vote, the way there IS skin in the game when you spend your own money.

            Public choice economics shows politicians are self-interested too, and given voter’s rational ignorance, it pays politicians to pay more attention to special interests (military contractors, unions, corn farmers, pharmaceutical companies, etc.) than the general public. See the dictator’s handbook for how politicians need to pay off their key constituencies to maintain power.

            And last, but not least, I don’t buy into political authority. I think if it’s wrong for me to steal from my neighbor, it’s doesn’t become right if a majority of my neighbors vote that it’s okay. I think state agents should be held to the same moral standard as the general public. If it’s wrong for me to lock my neighbor in a cage for smoking pot, it’s wrong if a person with a badge does it too.

            So the problem I’m trying to solve by moving production of law from the state to the market is the same problem I’m trying to solve by moving production of cars or food from the state to the market; I want to produce laws that better reflect the preferences of millions of individuals, in a more efficient manner, and in a way that is not morally wrong.

          • Guy in TN says:

            I appreciate the response, thanks for taking the time.

            Using the analogy of ancap vs. the state as a competitive market vs. monopoly market seems incorrect to me. A more appropriate comparison would be a competitive market vs. a non-market. And in that case, I do appreciate certain non-market aspects of our economy, such as public roads, public schools, ect. The price of these goods does improve for a poor person compared to a market setting (since the price for low income people is essentially zero in certain tax brackets).

            In a system with significant wealth disparity, markets are poor indicators of preference. Due to the diminishing marginal utility of money, a poor person adding $10 to the market is expressing a much larger preference than a rich person adding $100 dollars to the market. Elections have their downsides, but at least they equalize our preference expressions. For big-picture items (such as “what should the law of the land be”), this is important.

            If “voluntariness” is defined in the negative sense (as in, without outside restriction), then I don’t see capitalism as any more “voluntary” than socialism, since both require the threat of initiation of violence to be maintained.

            given they have less than a 1 in million chance of influencing the election, they aren’t incentivized to reduce those biases.

            What do you think the average person’s chances of influencing what the law will be, in a system where the law goes to the highest bidder? At least in the current system I still show up to vote. In your proposed system, I don’t think I would even get a chance to spend my money on a law. And what happens if someone comes along later with a higher bid? Do I get reimbursed? Low income people will be essentially locked out of participating in this system.

          • Guy in TN says:

            Regarding political authority:
            Are you really against all forms of legal authority? Having a two-tiered situation, where one person is designated more power than another, is the crux of what it means to be a “property owner”. Like the state, property is a claim of authority over others in a given space.

            Huemer proves too much in his arguments against the consent of the governed. Huemer’s procedural arguments against the authority of the state can all be turned back against the authority of property. As for his utilitarian arguments, he sets up a weakman of statists warning against the “war against all” and then demonstrates that this shows that statists can’t argue for anything beyond a night-watchman scenario. But the “war against all” isn’t our total argument for the state- the high life expediencies, high reports of life satisfaction, and general economic success of large welfare-states is our argument. Preventing the “war against all” is the bare minimum.

          • @Guy in TN:

            And in that case, I do appreciate certain non-market aspects of our economy, such as public roads, public schools, ect. The price of these goods does improve for a poor person compared to a market setting (since the price for low income people is essentially zero in certain tax brackets).

            The price is not zero. Low income people do not pay federal income tax. They do pay federal payroll taxes and sales taxes and they pay property tax indirectly in the price of what they buy.

            You also have to look at quality as well as price. Both law enforcement and schooling tend to be of very low quality in areas where most people are low income.

            For the specific case of schooling, you might want to look at The Beautiful Tree. It’s a book about low cost private schools in very poor countries–where people much poorer than the American poor are willing to pay for schools because the free public schools are so bad. In India, low cost private schools are effectively illegal because private schools are required to match the salaries of the public school teachers–but they exist anyway.

            Elections have their downsides, but at least they equalize our preference expressions.

            They equalize them with regard to income. But they also equalize them with regard to intensity, at least in the sort of simple model you are imagining (without lobbying, vote trading, and such), which means that my desire for something I mildly prefer gets the same weight as your desire for something of enormous importance to you. One of the advantages of markets is that they don’t do that.

            And the political system gives very unequal weights as between concentrated and dispersed interest groups. If a law, say an auto tariff, provides ten billion dollars of benefit to four auto firms and one auto union, they can probably get together and offer at least a billion dollars to Congress to buy the law–campaign contributions and other forms of support. If it provides a cost of twenty billion spread over about three hundred million people, consumers of autos and producers of export goods, they will be unable to raise anything like that amount, because of the problem of coordinating a dispersed group. That is why we have tariffs two hundred years after the economic analysis that shows they generally make the country that imposes them poorer was worked out.

            For big-picture items (such as “what should the law of the land be”), this is important.

            You might want to look into what anarcho-capitalists are proposing a little more carefully if you want to engage them in argument. In an A-C system, at least of the sort I have described and defended, there isn’t a “law of the land.” There are lots of private firms selling their customers the service of rights enforcement and dispute settlement. Each pair of firms finds it in their interest to agree on a private court to settle disputes between their customers, since that is less expensive and produces a higher quality of outcomes than fighting it out every time there is a disagreement. So it’s a polylegal system, one in which the law between A and B need not be the same as between C and D.

            If you are interested, I go into some detail in part III of my first book, which is webbed as a free pdf on my site.

            given they have less than a 1 in million chance of influencing the election, they aren’t incentivized to reduce those biases.

            What do you think the average person’s chances of influencing what the law will be, in a system where the law goes to the highest bidder?

            The individual in an A-C system chooses what rights enforcement agency to be a customer of, hence what legal rules to be under. He can’t choose any rules he wants, obviously, because the agency has to be offering rules that the other agencies it interacts with are willing to agree to. But it is in his interest to decide, among the available alternatives, which he prefers, since that’s what he will get–unlike the political case where what he votes for has essentially no effect on what he gets. Hence it is in the interest of the rights enforcement agencies to patronize private courts that use legal rules that individuals want to be under. You have a competitive market for legal rules.

            It’s true, of course, that the agencies will weight their customers’ preferences by how much they are willing to pay for them, just as private producers of other goods and services do. But being able to violate your rights, in a simple case being free to steal from you, is almost never worth more to me than the my not being able to violate your rights is worth to you.

            The main difference I would expect is that people willing to pay more will get a higher quality service–the private cops will show up faster in response to a phone call or a burglar alarm. That, of course, is true for public cops today.

          • Guy in TN says:

            The price is not zero. Low income people do not pay federal income tax. They do pay federal payroll taxes and sales taxes and they pay property tax indirectly in the price of what they buy.

            The Earned Income Tax Credit is as much a part of the tax system as is payroll and sales taxes. Including the EITC, the total price poor people “pay” for these services could very well be zero.

            But they also equalize them with regard to intensity, at least in the sort of simple model you are imagining (without lobbying, vote trading, and such), which means that my desire for something I mildly prefer gets the same weight as your desire for something of enormous importance to you. One of the advantages of markets is that they don’t do that.

            You are right that a basic voting system does not measure intensity, and that markets have an advantage in this regard. But markets do not capture all information regarding intensity either- how can a person with little to no money express their intensity on the marketplace? The best solution, in my view, is to reform voting in a way that measures intensity better than basic voting or markets can. This could be done with some sort of carrot/stick financial incentive that adjusts based on income. But if we were to simply switch from measuring equal preferences (basic voting) to measuring the intensity of the preferences of the wealthy (ancap), that would be a bad trade-off, in my opinion.

            In an A-C system, at least of the sort I have described and defended, there isn’t a “law of the land.” There are lots of private firms selling their customers the service of rights enforcement and dispute settlement.

            What is the difference between “rights enforcement” and “law of the land”? If I decide that I want it to be my right to enslave other people in a given territory, and I pay someone to enforce this right (gun, badge, and all), how is this different from “law”?

            Each pair of firms finds it in their interest to agree on a private court to settle disputes between their customers, since that is less expensive and produces a higher quality of outcomes than fighting it out every time there is a disagreement.

            Fighting and defeating your opponents is sometimes the most economical choice, rather than staying in perpetual competition. In the current system of “rights-enforces” (states), they sometimes sign a treaty, and sometimes they send in the tanks. Even in non-state enforcement situations (e.g. gangs, mafia), the same is true.

            Your argument that there ought to be more than one enforcement agency is ignoring that there already ismore than one enforcement agency in the US. Gangs offer you a whole different set of “laws” you can live by, and offer enforcement against outside violators of those “laws”. But the top enforcement agency (the state) crushes this competing enforcement agency at every chance it gets.

            I know that you argue that there is no incentive to enforce instead of settle. But if settling is the rational choice, what is stopping you from creating a competing rights agency right now, and getting the dominant rights agency (the state) to settle with you? The existence of current states “enforcing” instead of “settling” against gang members seems to be evidence against settling being the norm.

            The individual in an A-C system chooses what rights enforcement agency to be a customer of, hence what legal rules to be under.

            I…don’t understand this at all. Are you saying the laws you buy can only apply to yourself? Is there some sort of over-arching enforcement mechanism that makes sure that is always the case? (and how would this law be enforced?). Or is it that if I wanted to “enforce” against a third party, there would there be no legal mechanism that stops this?

            If 1,000,000 people wanted to band together and establish enforcement over a territory, and establish a law that says “there can be no other rights enforcement agencies in this region, and we will crush dissent with violence”, is there anything in your system that would prevent that from happening? Because this is what most people want. This is what state creation is, really.

          • I wrote:

            The individual in an A-C system chooses what rights enforcement agency to be a customer of, hence what legal rules to be under.

            Response:

            I…don’t understand this at all.

            Correct.

            That’s why I suggested that you might want to read a description of the proposed set of institutions. You are trying to create them out of your own imagination and, not surprisingly, it doesn’t work. If I could have given an adequate explanation and defense in something the length of a blog post it would not have been necessary to spend a fair chunk of a book doing so.

          • Guy in TN says:

            I appreciate you taking the time to engage with me. This sort of AC is very different from the school of thought that I used to be involved with.

            I think your criticisms for basic voting are absolutely on point, for what its worth.

  13. I haven’t seen anything in here about all the sexual harassment claims going around. I’m a little surprised not to see anything in SSC, as this sort of thing usually brings out the wolves. It is true that I haven’t been able to read all the threads recently, so maybe it was discussed in detail in a thread I didn’t read.

    So I am going to discuss several propositions about sexual harassment below. Many of them go completely against the grain of current media pundits, but this is SSC where we are actually allowed to use logic.

    1) The so-called casting couch. Why is this even un-ethical? The actress sleeps with the producer and he gives her a job. Sounds like both sides got what they wanted. I guess the studio might be getting screwed because they are expecting the producer to find the best actors. And of course there is likely to be deceit about what is happening, so the innocent actress goes in for an audition, not realizing that her acting ability makes no difference. And of course the actress who sleeps with the producer has no recourse if he doesn’t give her the job after all.

    2) Perhaps this is also somewhat true of sexual favors requested in the office environment? I’m not sure if it is any outsider’s business if the boss would prefer good looking women or even sexually available women for subordinates. Again, it is the firm that is getting hurt by the boss looking for perqs instead of trying to benefit the company. Plus it would be a lot more ethical to tell employees up-front the situation. This is now against the law, so of course dishonesty is required.

    3) I have had several abusive bosses in my time. None of them wanted sex from me, but often wanted me to treat them as emperors instead of me simply trying to do my best for the firm. In fact, in most companies, those workers who are most successful in flattering the boss usually do better when it comes to raises and promotions than those who do the best work. Why is sexual harassment treated as some special type of abuse, when other kinds of abuse are just as bad, just not actionable in a court of law?

    4) Could there be some discussion about what is sexual harassment? The pundits write as if we all pretty much agree on the definition, when that is very far from true. I think lots of motte and bailey going on. They talk about bosses requiring sex or be fired, but then a boss’s request for sex or a date is included, or even co-workers doing the same thing. Some seem to feel that any workplace flirtation is harassment, since different co-workers always have different levels of power. Also if male employees talk about sex at work, or go to a sex club together after work. Even if not all flirtation is harassment, blatant requests for sex often are considered to be so.

    5) To a certain extent, the harassment thing is an attack on all men. Men are usually expected to be the aggressors in dating, so if they don’t ask for dates, not many dates will happen. Also, men are usually a lot more interested in sex, certainly with new partners, and it seems like this desire itself is seen as bad in itself, and good guys are supposed feel guilty about it. It seems that any man who asks a women for sex may automatically be considered a harasser.

    6) I do think these overly broad attacks on men are ultimately bad for women too. Even if they aren’t interested in men asking them directly for sex, I think most women do want men to show interest in them romantically and ask them out. Is the sexual harassment thing so bad that it is worth also stopping a lot of romantic and sexual relationships?

    Okay, end of rant. I may have exaggerated in places, but I think I’m mostly right.

    • Matt M says:

      4, 5, and 6 are all highly related.

      4 has been a problem for years now, starting with when we replaced the word “rape” with “sexual assault.” Now there’s an attempt to loop sexual harassment and sexual assault in the same general category. And in these more recent scandals, there does seem to be some implied equivalency between “Harvey Weinstein literally held me down and forcibly penetrated me while I screamed at him to stop” and “Louis CK asked if he could masturbate in front of me and I said yes but I didn’t think he was really going to and then he did and I was too confused by the situation to tell him to stop but in hindsight I kinda wish he wouldn’t have done that.” Those things are very VERY different, yet they are being categorized as mostly the same, which is a huge problem. The term “sexual assault” has become too vague and generic to actually mean anything, which causes it to lose a lot of value and cache. A

      5 is part of that too. Radical feminists are, in fact, wanting to include “asking for sex” within the definition of sexual harassment (and thereby, within the definition of sexual assault, as discussed above.)

      And 6 is definitely true, because most normal women absolutely do not want to be the initiators, they do in fact want men to approach and flirt with them. I recently met a beautiful libertarian woman with a successful career who constantly bemoaned the lack of “real men” and complained that she and her girlfriends could go to bars in New York and no men would ever talk to them. And while she was telling that story the only thing going through my head was “don’t say or do anything that she might consider to be a come-on, lest you get banned from all future libertarian groups for being one of those creepy guys.”

      • The Nybbler says:

        And while she was telling that story the only thing going through my head was “don’t say or do anything that she might consider to be a come-on, lest you get banned from all future libertarian groups for being one of those creepy guys.”

        I suppose you could have stepped over the “creepy” valley completely with an unambiguous come-on, assuming you were interested.

        I can think of other reasons besides worry over sexual harassment issues that men weren’t talking to them in bars in certain parts of New York. But I imagine she’d notice if she was in a gay bar.

        • toastengineer says:

          I suppose you could have stepped over the “creepy” valley completely with an unambiguous come-on, assuming you were interested.

          Yeah, I would’ve responded with “well, you busy after this?” But then maybe you shouldn’t take advice on that kind of thing from me.

          • Aapje says:

            Except she might only want to be approached in bars and not where Matt M met her. And/or perhaps only approaches by men of a certain caliber are seen as valid approaches and low quality men who approach are classified as creeps.

            The problem is that women have wildly different rules for how & by whom they want to be approached and any transgression of such a rule can result in an accusation of sexual harassment that the #BelieveHer mob will feel compelled to support & signal boost.

            It’s like Russian roulette.

          • Matt M says:

            Right. And the past few weeks have made clear that a failed approach could be a ticking time bomb that might not destroy your reputation and/or career until several years later. That you won’t only be judged by today’s standards, but that if the standards change, your past behavior will be retroactively held to the NEW standards, whatever they may be. And you won’t get anything approximating a “fair hearing.” Any accusation will be instantly and immediately accepted as truth.

          • The Nybbler says:

            That you won’t only be judged by today’s standards, but that if the standards change, your past behavior will be retroactively held to the NEW standards

            That’s only for Democrats. Besides, a standard that arbitrary isn’t worth worrying about; they could get you for just talking to her, or for something made up or misremembered. If you’re going to Room 101 anyway, may as well enjoy the time with Julia.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            I think it’s actually worse than that, since many women are not above showing interest in a man in order to get something out of him, even if they are not interested in having physical relations with him.

            If the man takes this display of interest as a green light to make a pass at the girl, then suddenly he is setting himself up for trouble. Even if he desists once it becomes clear that his advances are unwelcome.

            I actually touched on a related issue in another thread. Women who use their sex appeal to get ahead and then freak out when men dare to hit on them.

            Ultimately, the problem is the intense gynocentrism which permeates modern Western society. We demand that men act gentlemanly without demanding that women act ladylike.

    • The Nybbler says:

      1) and 2) amount to replacing acting with prostitution, and there’s that principal-agent problem (though that may not, in fact, have been a factor in Weinstein’s case). I think in general most people have a moral intuition against requiring kickbacks to get a job, and sexual (or other intimate or degrading) kickbacks in particular, even if Homo Economicus subsp. Randimus wouldn’t have an issue.

    • John Schilling says:

      2) Perhaps this is also somewhat true of sexual favors requested in the office environment? I’m not sure if it is any outsider’s business if the boss would prefer good looking women or even sexually available women for subordinates.

      It is if the “available” part is obtained by fraud or coercion.

      And advertising for a “secretary” when the actual job being offered is “secretary/prostitute” is fraud. It might, in principle, be possible to openly advertise for and honestly hire a secretary/prostitute, but even in places where prostitution is legal basically nobody ever does this. They hire secretaries, don’t tell the candidates what they are really looking for, and only after the new hire has paid the substantial transaction costs of changing jobs spring the true job requirement on them.

      Using at minimum the even greater transaction costs (e.g. reputational penalties) involved in quitting a job so soon after starting, as a way to get a prostitute’s services for less than the going rate and from someone who didn’t sign up for prostitution at any rate. That’s fraud. If there’s also an element of “…and if you refuse I’ll see to it that you never work in this town again”, that’s coercion. And if someone demands sexual favors, who has just committed fraud to that end, I’m not going to be picky about needing to hear them say the “never work in this town again” part before I assume that there’s a side order of coercion going with that fraud.

      W/re the casting couch, at least the transaction costs for an audition and a refusal are lower than for taking a new job, and the looking sexy part is often a legitimate job requirement. But unless there’s a tacit understanding that “sexy actress” jobs really mean “sexy actress/prostitute”, and no retaliation for a “no”, you’re still crossing into fraud and coercion territory. To the extent that the Harvey Weinstein stories are accurate, I see plenty of fraud and enough threatened retaliation to suggest coercion was also part of his MO.

      Regarding the rest, meh, if you’re going to start with “why shouldn’t bosses be able to hire hot women and demand sex from them, it’s a free country”, then it doesn’t matter how relatively reasonable the rest of your questions are, you’re not going to get an honest or sincere dialogue on them from anyone who doesn’t already agree with you and doesn’t mind being seen as an apologist for outright sexual harassment.

      • @John. As I said in my original posting, the deceit itself could be unethical. But the problem is that the hullabaloo about sexual harassment is definitely not about the deceit involved — it is any expectation that it is ever reasonable to ever use sex in trade for anything else. I think what people are most aghast about is the more minor issue. And yes, one could characterize number 1 and 2 as equivalent to prostitution. But so could one any time one uses sex to gain a mate, or get someone to like you, or to agree with you on something else. Pretty much all sexual politics could be considered variants on prostitution. But it is the dishonesty which is the bad thing, not the sex itself.

        • beleester says:

          I’m not sure why you’re handwaving away the deceit and coercion aspects. Like, have there been a lot of news stories about producers who were upfront about wanting an actress who would sleep with them? Why are you so sure that people are aghast simply because the producers are using sex as a trade good, and not because of the deceit and coercion involved?

          I would also point out that “It would be okay, so long as all of society changed their minds on [important thing] at the same time” is not really a useful argument. In this case “There would be nothing wrong with the casting couch, so long as all of society changed to agree that prostitution is just a normal job and there’s nothing wrong with putting it in a wanted ad.” That’s a pretty big ask.

          • @ bel.

            Yes, my initial post was kind of a hodgepodge of different ideas. It was an attempt more to get some discussion started than a tightly argued essay. My six points were not necessarily related — they were all just issues that have occurred to me while reading about scandals. I’m certainly not expecting action on all of these issues — I just want the readership of SSC to think about them a bit, since there seems to be a dearth of discussion about it.

            Maybe I shouldn’t have put the two most controversial points first — it’s just the way they came up in my brain. I may have lost some agreement on the rest of the points by readers writing me off after the first two. Oh well, I did get some discussion going at least. I hope some others start new threads with thoughts of their own on these scandals.

        • John Schilling says:

          @John. As I said in my original posting, the deceit itself could be unethical. But the problem is that the hullabaloo about sexual harassment is definitely not about the deceit involved

          Since almost all of the incidents raised in most of the recent sexual harassment scandals has involved deceit and/or coercion, I’m not seeing how you can be at all confident about that. You’ve mentioned elswhere that you haven’t read the detailed accounts. You really need to do that if you are going to participate in this discussion.

          it is any expectation that it is ever reasonable to ever use sex in trade for anything else.

          Except that we know what people “using sex in trade” looks like, and this isn’t it. And we know what it looks like when Hollywood celebrities get caught trading for sex, and this isn’t that either. That leads to mocking disapproval, not you’ll-never-work-in-this-town-again disapproval.

          This is deceit, coercion, and sex wrapped together in an all too common package that most people just call “exploitation”. The bit where you complain, without even knowing what is going on, that they didn’t use the magic word “deceit”, puts you in the same boat as the prosecutors crossthread who are saying that “why don’t you get me a lawyer, dawg” isn’t a request for a lawyer.

          • You’ve mentioned elswhere that you haven’t read the detailed accounts. You really need to do that if you are going to participate in this discussion.

            I disagree. The details about Wienstein aren’t important, so I won’t spend my time reading them. What do I care about a power broker in Hollywood?

            What is important is the reaction of the general public (or really the media) to the scandal. The discussion is about trading sex for acting jobs, and that is what is deplorable. Look at the links I attached in my reply to Iain on sexual harassment. I see no concern at all about deceit. Please find me at least one citation that includes deceit as part of sexual harassment. The big scandals are about sexual harassment, not at all about deceit. This is part of why I am not happy with the big to-do about sexual harasssment — no one is talking about the real issues. Deceit is the worst part of sexual harassment; but is not talked about.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      In regards to 1, 2 & 3:

      It’s hard to explain it now, since the sexual revolution pretty much wiped out our culture’s concept of sexual ethics, but just because sex is consensual doesn’t mean that it isn’t a violation. Saying that everything is licit as long as all the involved parties consent threw open the flood gates of sexual violation.

      We’ve been slowly groping our way back to pre-sexual revolution ethics through increasingly tortured definitions of consent. Post-pubescent girls are too young to consent; plying women with alcohol is increasingly being defined as rape; lewd comments and leering are non-consensual; sex in exchange for money or favors is sex trafficking or sexual harassment respectively and assumed to be non-consensual. Personally I consider it violence against the English language but if it gets us where we need to go then it’s foolish to complain about it.

      In regards to 4, 5 & 6:

      That old SNL skit, “Be handsome, Be attractive, Don’t be unattractive” is pretty damn accurate IME.

      Sexual harassment is defined as an unwanted sexual advance. If you can read women and you know how to present yourself in your most attractive light (hint: study Game) you can flirt with and date colleagues. There’s still risk obviously: if you break up, she’s got a nuclear option to destroy your career. But unless you’re Quasimodo you don’t need to live in fear.

      If it seems like this sentiment is the polar opposite of the sentiment I expressed above, that’s the difference between an ought and an is. Our society’s courtship culture is in smoking ruins. But we all live in the ruins now, so you need to adapt and git gud.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Enormous Glowing Reactionary Brain: Actually, this is good, because it’s a left-wing path to undoing the Sexual Revolution

        (But seriously)

        I think part of the problem is that a gap between “good behaviour” and “absolutely taboo behaviour” is missing. It’s possible for someone’s behaviour to be shitty, and for them to be a shitty person, without their behaviour being criminal. When the sexual ethics, such as they are, has to place a shitty dude who keeps an eye out for drunk girls (drunk enough to have impaired decision-making abilities, not drunk enough to meet the legal bar for too intoxicated to consent, which tends to be a high bar) at parties in the box either of “guy doing nothing wrong, blameless participant in consensual sex” or “vile rapist, worthy of expulsion, if the legal system doesn’t get him it’s a black mark on the legal system” one of two things is going to happen:

        A, people are going to default to the second choice, because people are loath to say that someone being shitty is a good person. Or, B, which only (and not always) kicks in if the person in question has enough contextually relevant social status – they’re funny and charming in a Big Man on Campus way, they’re the star QB, they’re the mogul, they’re the network’s biggest talent, whatever – everyone just sort of keeps it under wraps and victims whisper to each other and to potential victims but the community does not openly turn against the person (someone coined the phrase “broken stair” to describe a person who is a member of a community who is predatory but this is only acknowledged by informal warnings).

        I think the ultimate problem is that the Sexual Revolution kind of stalled. It’s stuck halfway between “sex is great, have all the sex you want, consent is important, communicate and figure out what your sexual partners want, yay!” and “sex is dirty and kind of shameful, don’t talk about it, don’t be open about it.” And so people will have casual sex far more easily than they would have pre-revolution, but they will feel a bit bad about it (or, at least, some of them will), often with the result that they’ll anesthetize themselves first to get over their bad feelings. This is a situation that simultaneously leads to a lot of bad situations and misunderstandings and provides a smokescreen for predators who take advantage of said anesthetization and hide behind “oh it was a misunderstanding.”

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          Enormous Glowing Reactionary Brain: Actually, this is good, because it’s a left-wing path to undoing the Sexual Revolution

          (But seriously)

          I think part of the problem is that a gap between “good behaviour” and “absolutely taboo behaviour” is missing.

          Yes, this is an enormous problem.

          The consent binary doesn’t have any nuance. If a guy is lying about being a doctor to women to get them into bed you either have to criminalize it (rape by fraud) or just shrug and say “caveat emptor.” Which means that a lot of scummy behavior goes totally unpunished while the rest is disproportionately punished.

          I’m a bit torn because, as I said above, this situation is an affront against reason and manifestly unjust. But nobody else is making even the slightest bit of headway reversing the sexual revolution and restoring order. These awful tactics might be the only viable ones.

          I think the ultimate problem is that the Sexual Revolution kind of stalled. It’s stuck halfway between “sex is great, have all the sex you want, consent is important, communicate and figure out what your sexual partners want, yay!” and “sex is dirty and kind of shameful, don’t talk about it, don’t be open about it.”

          I think the real problem is that the communist revolution kind of stalled. It’s stuck halfway between “do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind” and “He works that he may keep alive. He does not count the labor itself as a part of his life; it is rather a sacrifice of his life. It is a commodity that he has auctioned off to another.”

          That is to say, when you set yourself an unachievable goal there’s no amount of sacrifice which will get you there.

          The ideal of free love was just as illusory as the ideal of true communism. Thankfully it’s been much less bloody, assuming that we don’t count the unborn, but it’s devastated our society nonetheless.

          The counter-revolution is well overdue.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Let’s not pretend the situation was great before. Plenty of guys did nasty things to women (their wives, or, not their wives) before the sexual revolution. I think this is one of those situations where nobody is honest about the difficulties and tradeoffs.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            Not great covers a lot of ground.

            I’d settle for a version of “not great” where we don’t have a third of children growing up without a father and less than half of marriages last longer than a Presidential term.

            We can trade horrific anecdotes until the sun burns out but at the end of the day we need to look around at the society we live in. By every measure it’s in shambles. This is not what success looks like.

          • dndnrsn says:

            It’s far from fair to attribute the entirety of that to the sexual revolution, completed or stalled.

          • Iain says:

            less than half of marriages last longer than a Presidential term.

            Citation? I think you are misinterpreting the actual statistic. The median marriage length is 8 years for marriages that end in divorce (see Table 8). If you look at Table 2 in that link, you will see that even among 50-59 year old women (the most divorce-prone demographic), less than half of them have ever been divorced. Figure 4a shows that 90% of first marriages reach their 5th anniversary, almost 80% reach their 10th, and almost 70% reach their 15th.

            “Shambles” might be overdoing it.

        • Jaskologist says:

          @dndnrsn

          I think you’re taking as an unexamined assumption that our feeling about sex are completely determined by society. But what if the sexual revolution stalled because some of our feelings towards sex are innate in human nature? It may not be that we’re stuck halfway, it may be that the Revolutionaries set an unrealistic goal, which floundered in the face of reality.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I’m not assuming that. Maybe it stalled because it’s advancing something impossible for biological reasons, because evopsych. Maybe hundreds or thousands of years of socialization are more powerful than all the top universities put together. Maybe it’s a bit of column A, bit of column B. I think the last is the most likely.

      • BBA says:

        Which sexual revolution do you mean? I usually associate the term with the 1960s, but, e.g., “casting couch” behavior was rampant well before then. Harry Cohn, the founder of Columbia Pictures, was particularly infamous for it, and was immortalized as Jack Woltz in The Godfather. (“She was beautiful! She was young, she was innocent, she was the greatest piece of ass I’ve ever had, and I’ve had ’em all over the world.”)

        In politics, we have the lurid contents of the Warren Harding papers, as well as Nelson Rockefeller’s death in flagrante delicto with his secretary. (Okay, that last one was in the ’70s, but if you’re going to tell me that Nelson frickin’ Rockefeller was part of the sexual revolution I’m not sure I can continue this conversation with a straight face.)

    • toastengineer says:

      Because sex between people where there is a major power imbalance often leads to misunderstandings, he-said-she-said situations, and people getting hurt in general, and it is therefore a heuristically wise to frown upon it.

      If a large dog wants to play with a little dog, the big dog is going to have to do a lot of bowing and rolling around; because he presents a higher risk of accidentally or intentionally harming the small dog, he has to put proportionally more effort in to signalling that he’s gentle.

      Similarly, I think it is appropriate that powerful people be held to higher standards of decorum simply because they are that much more dangerous.

      Also, men are usually a lot more interested in sex, certainly with new partners, and it seems like this desire itself is seen as bad in itself, and good guys are supposed feel guilty about it. It seems that any man who asks a women for sex may automatically be considered a harasser.

      Sure that’s what hyper-feminists think, but inverted stupidity is not wisdom. Don’t “feel bad about it,” but be aware that if you hold sway over people’s lives, simple requests are going to be taken as threats, and just because you didn’t intend to send a threat does not mean you are not on the hook for the consequences of your actions.

      • @toast. There are definitely people taking advantage of their power to treat others poorly, for both sexual and other reasons. But I suspect the vast majority of claims aren’t this, or at least are not nearly so clear.

      • fortaleza84 says:

        Regarding power imbalances, there is a huge power imbalance in the sexual marketplace between men and women. A slender young woman who is reasonably attractive has something that lots of men desperately want. People constantly defer to such a woman. And many such women have no problem taking advantage of their sex appeal to get stuff that they want.

        If we are going to hold powerful people to greater levels of responsibility, why shouldn’t the same thing apply to sexually appealing women?

        • Deiseach says:

          Well, yes, will nobody think of the poor rich powerful influential established men being held to ransom by brazen hussies who just waltz in the door of their office, and say “You wanna hit this, you gotta give me the starring role in your next blockbuster”?

          Those poor men, constantly being feted in industry trade rags as The Powers That Be In Hollywood, able to get hundreds of millions of dollars moving on a summer blockbuster with a sweep of their pen as they sign off on the dotted line, helplessly held in thrall to unknown women thirty years their junior who are the ones deciding what parts get given to whom!

          My heart, it bleeds for them, simply bleeds!

          • The comment you responded to wasn’t about starlets’ power over film producers, it was about attractive women’s power over men. Most attractive women are not starlets, most men are not film producers.

          • Deiseach says:

            But the discussion is in the context of the Hollywood scandals and all the dust that has been kicked up over them, it’s not in the ordinary “why can’t I get a date?/well bro women have all the power in that market and you can’t pay the appropriate price” discussions on here.

            So I think pointing out that the power differential is tilted in different ways in different situations is no harm as a reminder, since otherwise we will end up with “those darn good-looking young women trying out their sexy wiles on those poor hard-working Hollywood producers!”

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Your comment illustrates my point pretty well. If an attractive woman makes use of sex appeal or sex to get advantages from an influential man, our gynocentric society has no sympathy at all for the man and refuses to call the woman out for an abuse of power.

            You can use sarcasm and appeals to emotion all you want but there is no logical basis for this double standard.

            Many traditional societies would correctly label such a woman a “whore.”

            But our gynocentric society demands that men behave like gentlemen without demanding that women behave like ladies.

          • Jiro says:

            You can use sarcasm and appeals to emotion all you want but there is no logical basis for this double standard.

            Yes there is. “I have something you want” is not the same thing as “position of power”. A woman who offers sex can get turned down with no consequence to the man except that he doesn’t get sex from that particular woman. It won’t lock him off from a large chunk of the sex market, in the way that a woman who won’t accept a producer’s offer of sex gets locked out of a large chunk of the film market.

            It’s still unfair to third parties, but it’s not the same kind of problem.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Yes there is. “I have something you want” is not the same thing as “position of power

            I think the better way to put it is “I have something you desperately want which is not so easy for you to get.”

            Look at it this way: if the hiring manager at at New York City business demands sex from a girl applying to be a clerical worker, it’s an abuse of power. Even though there are literally tens of thousands of businesses throughout New York City which need clerical workers and at any given moment there are hundreds of such positions available. “She’s only being locked out of a tiny percentage of the job market” doesn’t hold water.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Harvey Weinstein isn’t the only guy out there. A woman flirting with a guy (just an ordinary guy, not a big-shot Hollywood producer) in order to get non-sexual favors is not unknown. In the case where she’s flirting with a guy she’s in no way interested in, this can go several ways

          1) She gets what she wants, he does nothing more. This is what she expects to happen.

          2) He ignores her flirting and refuses to do her the favor. She considers this sexism against her.

          3) She gets what she wants, he asks her out. She considers this an unwanted sexual advance and sexual harassment. “How could a disgusting toad like you think a gorgeous catch like me could possibly have any interest in you?” Never mind that she was deliberately sending false signals; he’s supposed to know that “5 doesn’t go into 8”, as the irrepressible Dr. House put it.

          4) He explicitly calls attention to her flirting and refuses to do the favor. She considers this both sexism AND sexual harassment.

          • John Schilling says:

            There are, of course, many other ways this could go. Including the ones where the woman doesn’t get what she wants and also doesn’t consider herself to be harassed, and even a few where the woman winds up sleeping with the man anyway. Cherrypicking only the cases where the woman gets what she wants at no cost, and the ones where she claims to be a victim, is not helpful.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Regardless of the outcome, if we start from the premise that people with power should be held to high standards not to abuse that power, it follows that attractive women should be criticized for using sex appeal and/or sex to get ahead.

            And in fact, women were traditionally held to such account in many societies. Indeed, I would argue that this is an essential aspect of being “ladylike.” Why else would ladies be expected to dress modestly?

            Of course nowadays our gynocentric society has thrown these standards out the window. It’s considered perfectly ok for a woman to go to work in a tight short dress, but heaven forbid the wrong man should tell her she looks sexy.

          • John Schilling says:

            Regardless of the outcome, if we start from the premise that people with power should be held to high standards not to abuse that power, it follows that attractive women should be criticized for using sex appeal and/or sex to get ahead.

            Why? You seem to be simply asserting that using power to “get ahead” is always and intrinsically “abuse”, and I’m pretty sure that’s not a standard you want to see applied consistently to all forms of power (e.g. those you happen to wield).

          • fortaleza84 says:

            “You seem to be simply asserting that using power to ‘get ahead’ is always and intrinsically ‘abuse'”

            I’m not asserting that at all, and in fact I haven’t defined “abuse.” But I do think that the concept of “abuse” should be symmetrical. If someone uses their ability to provide opportunities to get sex and that’s considered an abuse, it should also be considered an abuse if someone uses their sex or sex appeal to obtain opportunities under similar circumstances.

            It’s difficult to see why one the first use of power is abusive but the second is not. If a specific type of transaction is wrong, then either party to the transaction is potentially a wrongdoer.

    • Deiseach says:

      The so-called casting couch. Why is this even un-ethical? The actress sleeps with the producer and he gives her a job.

      (a) Because the producer does not demand the same toll from actors looking to be cast in parts (well, unless it’s one of the gay scandals, like Kevin Spacey and the rumours about “this helped Colin Farrell’s career” or when he was artistic director at the Old Vic: “Some relayed a story on one of the other threads that Spacey would share his dressing room with one or two young actors who were only playing small roles in Old Vic productions, and anyone who refused to share his dressing room when asked would never be cast at the Old Vic again. I don’t think any names were mentioned”)

      (b) it’s a way of taking advantage of young women who are looking for work and can’t get it unless they pay this toll, and also does not help them as their access to work is dependent on being attractive enough for the tastes of the producer and willing to exchange sexual access for parts, and they can lose out on work once they are deemed too old and no longer attractive enough, whereas actors are not subject to this and will be offered work based on whether they are considered bankable, not how old they are

      (c) it cheats talented actresses who lose out on a part to someone being imposed because she is the mistress of the backer/producer/director and who is not suited to the part

      (d) it is a form of bribery or extortion as it is an extra paid to someone in order to get a contract and has nothing to do with acting talent or suitability for the part, and bribes are generally considered unethical practice. It is also akin to ‘hiring family members or people you are in the same club with’ instead of a qualified candidate for the job, which people also seem to find unethical and discriminatory in general practice.

      (e) the producer can always cheat on his side of the bargain and having obtained the sexual encounter then not carry out the promise to cast the aspiring actress but cast an established actress/star instead, and the woman has no redress because the casting/hiring process does not have this as part of the terms (that is, if it were explicit and conventional practice in job interviews that “if sex is exchanged for work as agreed, then the work is legally due to the person” they would have recourse but it is not).

      • @D. As I’ve said elsewhere, deceit is unethical, and yes, the casting couch is probably often deceitful. But it is the deceit where it is unethical, not the sex.

        Of course fewer directors ask this of male actors, because those actors don’t have the currency the directors want. I don’t see this as a matter of ethics, but of human nature.

        I would prefer that directors cast actresses that have more acting talent instead of those simply more willing to do the necessary. And this is also true when it comes to employees of other businesses. But I’m not sure why it is necessarily unethical for directors or other bosses to have different preferences.

        • Brad says:

          But I’m not sure why it is necessarily unethical for directors or other bosses to have different preferences.

          Generally directors or other bosses have a web of ethical obligations that require them to put the interests of the film/company ahead of procuring sex for themselves. Even in the case of an owner they may well be such obligations — to lenders for example.

          • Matt M says:

            You know, this whole scandal makes me revisit my theory that acting talent isn’t nearly as variable as we think it is.

            Putting aside things like name value being good for movie posters, I’ve never felt like it’s obvious which actors are great and which ones aren’t, it seems to me that movies and tv shows are constantly “discovering” new acting talent that goes on to become great, as well as new acting talent that seems great to me but doesn’t go on to anything.

            If it were true that there are a whole lot of “capable” actors, then one undiscovered actress is just as good as any other. In this case, the casting couch doesn’t really do any harm to the film company. The only way it does harm is if it is causing directors to take clearly lesser talented actresses over clearly better talented ones. But I’m unconvinced this is what’s going on to any significant degree.

          • Protagoras says:

            The main reason I’m skeptical of your theory is that low budget productions usually have terrible acting; if any given actor could do the job, that would seem somewhat hard to explain. Admittedly, it could be poor directing/poor scripts making the actors in low budget productions look bad, but I really don’t think that can explain all of it.

          • Deiseach says:

            In this case, the casting couch doesn’t really do any harm to the film company. The only way it does harm is if it is causing directors to take clearly lesser talented actresses over clearly better talented ones.

            I think the problem is the whole culture where it’s understood that Big Shot Producer or Director (or some guy with deep pockets funding the project) will use his position to sleep with a lot of wannabe starlets on the promise of getting them their big break while having no intention of doing this at all; the cynical acceptance that there are thousands of dumb little Mary Janes from the Midwest who are pretty and talented by their local standards, who have stars in their eyes, and who turn up in Hollywood “following their dreams”, the vast majority of whom are simply not good enough – like top-notch universities, you may be the brightest kid in your school, county or even state, but when you get to Really Big Name College, everyone there is the best of their state and you’re back as one of the average group again, while only a few will be real stand-outs.

            The perception that the only entity harmed is the film studio if Big Name is smitten enough to cast his untalented mistress in a part, whereas as long as Big Name seduces then dumps the little idiot and doesn’t cost the studio money by sinking the new movie with a bad actress in a lead role then everything is fine, is objectionable.

          • Matt M says:

            Have you considered that the Midwest Mary Jane may be learning a valuable life lesson by this process?

            I have no sympathy for women who are willing to use their sexuality to get ahead in life, only to find out that it didn’t quite work the way they planned. Sorry.

          • Deiseach says:

            I have no sympathy for women who are willing to use their sexuality to get ahead in life, only to find out that it didn’t quite work the way they planned.

            And I have no sympathy for guys who feel unfairly constrained from hitting on a woman because they run the risk of being thought a creep who is taking advantage of the situation when that is precisely what they are trying to do (“wow, it is so unfair that me trying to think of a way to get this woman to give me a date would be considered being a self-centred asshole, simply because she’s telling me about something that has caused her pain and thinks we’re friends when in reality the only reason I am listening to her jabbering at all is because I want to bone her”). So we both dislike those who are pushy about trying to get something for nothing under false pretences, then feel hard-done by when they don’t get it!

    • dndnrsn says:

      1. Read what Weinstein is accused of. He didn’t pitch a quid pro quo. He got women alone with him and then did things ranging from coercion to the use of force. What guys are going down for is not quid pro quos – “I’ll get you the role if you sleep with me, deal or no deal“, “hey, I’ll help your comic career if you watch me go wild on my hog, deal or no deal” – but for behaviour that is far nastier.

      2. Again, there’s a difference between an open quid pro quo, and what many people are saying the problem is.

      3. People think sex is different from other things, people experience sexual violations as more serious than other violations.

      4. All I know is that of the stuff I’ve actually seen in the news falls – to me, at least – into the box of “behaviour that is at a minimum sketchy” rather than “clumsy passes.” And I suspect that there are a lot of predators who disguise what they’re doing as “clumsy passes” or “misunderstandings” or whatever – those things exist, but so do predators who hide behind them.

      5. What is “ask for a date” or “ask for sex”? Are there any cases of a guy semi-gracefully asking for a date once, in the absence of a major power differential, and getting nailed? Etc.

      6. The unfortunate side effect of all this is that men who care what women want will get the message “be less assertive,” while shitty guys who don’t care what women want will just find plausible deniability, with the result that a higher % of propositions, etc, will be by shitty guys. However, this doesn’t change the fact that right now there’s a high % of shitty guys (the issue of shitty women is almost certainly lesser, but hopefully will be dealt with someday) behaving nastily towards women, and women would prefer that not be the case.

      • James says:

        Good post.

        I’m glad we can contrarianishly question the received wisdom around here, but I’m also glad that we occasionally come down agreeing with it, too.

        • dndnrsn says:

          @James

          Well, in this case, I think the received wisdom is generally right. I might not agree with it 100%, and some of the talk around it seems a bit dicey, but:

          1. The guys getting nailed for this are accused of serious stuff that I don’t think it would be possible for them to think “this is an innocent advance.” A clumsy advance is “uh, um, er, do you, uh, want to, uh, get, uh, coffee some time” and I don’t think any of them are accused of that.

          2. False allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault – as in, cases where it is established to be false – tend to be extreme in what is accused. The most recent example would be the UVA hoax – which was conclusively established to be false. It featured a nightmarish account of hours of gang rape as part of a fraternity initiation ritual. It was also only a single accusation. In comparison, the current swathe of accusations are generally by multiple separate accusers, whose stories are similar but not so similar as to seem like collusion, of behaviour that ranges in magnitude (exposing yourself to someone is not as bad as rape, for example). It’s like the difference between cases of child molestation that were proved in court, and the grand-guignol stories from the daycare Satanic ritual abuse cases in the 1980s. Of course, this is not a perfect measure – but in general, people who make up stories tend to make up the most dramatic story they can think of.

          3. Anecdata, but, I can’t think of anybody I know where women were/are leery of being around a guy when there wasn’t someone there. Sure, lots of cases of dweeby loser guys who get laughed at by the social group and turned down by women, but they’re not the guys who get a reputation for being harassers or rapists or whatever, unless they’re dweeby loser guys whose “clumsy advances” include things like putting their hands up girls’ skirts.

          4. We know there’s a problem. When you look at the NISVS numbers, sexual assault, harassment, abuse, etc are really common – shockingly high among women (while the NISVS stat that 1/5 women in the US is a victim of rape or attempted rape at some point in her life is not as high as some of the more shakily-derived numbers, it’s still really high) and higher among men than one would think. A lot of women are coming out saying that they’ve been mistreated, a smaller number of men likewise, and by some rumblings, child molestation is scarily common in Hollywood. Unless people in Hollywood (or politics, or whatever) are significantly worse than everyone else, the obvious conclusion is that this stuff is happening in “real life” too.

          5. If people who aren’t the sort of stereotypical “hairdye NKVD” people that folks here seem so scared of address the provably real problem of sexual assault, harassment, abuse, etc, then said problem will not be addressed by those people alone. Thus, whatever the solutions found are, are more likely to be effective (more likely to grasp what is going on accurately, and thus more likely to address the problems effectively – lefty campus-type activists can’t even prevent harassment, abuse, and sexual assault in their own ranks, so clearly they’re not equipped to solve the problem for society in general) and more likely to be satisfactory to the kind of person who posts here (who, being median a guy with worse-than-average social skills, is probably unrealistically terrified of the thought that the whole thing is going to turn into a campaign against guys who suck at asking women out).

          • Aapje says:

            1. A clumsy move is also a grope or going in for a kiss, without the other person having sent the signals that it is right.

            2. The false allegations that become famous are the more extreme ones. There are many allegations that never become famous (or merely locally famous, which can be devastating as well), but do result in sanctions.

            4. Hollywood is probably worse. Hollywood seems like a very toxic environment, where there is an immense surplus of pretty, desperate young women dependent on arbitrary decisions by relatively few gatekeepers.

            5. Why do you think that the ‘normal’ people will do better when the mainstream media almost exclusively publishes the “hairdye NKVD” narrative? The rape stats of men don’t get any attention. It doesn’t even get called rape by the NISVS and they are the most progressive on this front. The racism and xenophobia behind Title IX is mostly ignored. 99% of the media did a hit job on Damore, who is that autistic nerd who doesn’t know the unwritten rules well enough. Why would his sexually incompetent equivalent, be safe from the eye of Sauron?

      • @dnd..
        1. Yes I agree that the deceit is the bigger problem, but that’s not what I hear about. No I have not read in detail what he is accused of.
        2. Deceit should be what we are concerned about here.
        3. Yes, folks think we need to panic about anything to do with sex. People talk about the sexual revolution making sex a less scared subject, but that never really happened. I wish we could talk about it like other subjects.
        4. Remember the motte and bailey. The highly publicized stuff is the most sketchy. The thousands of other claims that aren’t so publicized are likely to be a lot less clear.
        5. See my links to Iain below. I am sure that some guys awkwardly asking for dates are included in some women’s claims of sexual harassment. It would not be hard to include them in the definition by someone who wanted to do so.
        6. Yes

        • dndnrsn says:

          1. Read up on it. He’s accused of coercion and sexual assault including rape.

          2. Deceit, abuse of power, general shittiness, and that’s before you get into the stuff that would be criminal regardless o fwho did it.

          3. Some do, some don’t. It’s a very personal thing.

          4. But who is losing their job, being publicly pilloried, etc for those things? I don’t mean “haha Jeff asked me out what a dork.”

          5. Since definitions are often vague, that probably happens. But it’s more than made up for by the serious stuff. When women I know complain about guys being shitty, it’s “guy on the sidewalk hollered about wanting that pussy” or “hands going unwelcome places”, not “haha Jeff asked me out what a dork.” A guy who is too, uh, bad at reading people to realize that his method and persistence in asking someone out is unwelcome, yeah, that’s a shitty case, but it’s on him to figure out what he’s doing.

          Again, back to anecdata, from university mostly. Sure, there were dweeby guys where the attitude was “what a dork, can’t believe he asked her out, so out of his league.” But the guys about whom women, or people in general, had a strongly negative view, were they guys who did sketchy stuff. There’s enough guys who actually do stuff that’s objectively offensive that most women don’t need to pad the numbers by including that dork Jeff.

    • Iain says:

      On 1-3: A woman’s sexual availability to her boss should not be an important determinant of her job success. You have had abusive bosses. Do you think the situation would have been no worse if those abusive bosses also expected regular blow jobs from you in exchange for promotion / continued employment? The concept of a societal floor has been tossed around a lot recently in the context of airplane seats; the same idea applies here, only more so. A broad societal consensus against extorting sex out of your underlings stands in the way of a race to the bottom.

      If you don’t think this is obvious in a moral sense, consider that it is also terrible for any notion of meritocracy. Any organization you care about where people are expected to sleep their way to the top is an organization that is not accomplishing its goals as effectively as it otherwise could be.

      On 4-6: please be specific. What is an example of behaviour that has been reported as bad that you think should be seen as acceptable workplace flirtation? As dndnrsn says above, I’m not sure I’ve seen any of that in the recent reporting.

      • @ Iain. I found three different “definitions” of sexual harassment on the Internet. All of these are vague enough that I am sure every organization in the world could be found guilty, and pretty much any person, depending on who is doing the complaining.

        EEOC definition. This includes the absurd “unwanted sexual advances,” since one cannot know if they are unwanted until after one has made the advance. And communication between the sexes being what it is, one often can’t tell whether they are unwanted even after the advance.

        Examples here include sharing sexual items with co-workers or telling lewd jokes, staring in sexually offensive manner, inappropriate touching, asking about one’s sexual orientation. All of these items will be defined highly variably by different people.

        Examples here include requests for sexual favors, unwelcome physical contact, veiled suggestions of sexual activities, use of inappropriate body images to advertise events.

        When I look up statistics of women being sexually harassed of one out of three or one out of two, it is always self reports and always with no definition given to the one reporting. With such vague descriptions, the survey results will depend totally on how broad the respondents define the term, and has little to do with the actual level of behavior. So I don’t think we actually know how much of a problem sexual harassment really is.

        • Deiseach says:

          This includes the absurd “unwanted sexual advances,” since one cannot know if they are unwanted until after one has made the advance.

          I’m pretty sure most people would agree “pull my dick out and jerk off in front of you” comes under that definition, and those who don’t agree seem to work in the entertainment industry, so that gives us a helpful guide line: does the guy work in anything that can be deemed ‘the entertainment industry’? Then he’s likely to be a creep.

          Sounds rather harsh on the “gotta sing, gotta dance” bunch? We have two minor sex scandals brewing right now in Ireland (plus one or two other ‘in the wake of Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein, some skeletons in closets getting rattled as well as a few bandwagon jumpers about how they too had terrible horrible experiences decades back and will gladly do the rounds of the TV and radio chatshows to talk about it”) involving a gay comedian whose “apology” revolved around “my flamboyant and outrageous public persona” (it’s the epitome of a “I’m sorry you feel offended” effort since he actually included the line “While my conduct, which had been in keeping with my flamboyant and outrageous public persona may be regarded as offensive and unacceptable by many people, I at no time intended to upset anyone” and to top it off he’s only 24) and a national TV network producer caught in a sting operation to trap online paedophiles in the UK (one of the “rattling skeletons” cases that gives me grim amusement is a former theatre director who was/is one of the trendy lefty crowd who like to lecture backwards Ireland on all manner of failures to be modern and cosmopolitan).

          • There are terrible cases of people abusing their power for sex or other things. Those are pretty nasty, and to that extent this whole wave of accusations is a good thing, because the abuse is made public. (Although I suspect those accused are those who no longer have power — those who still have great power are immune to these things.)

            My concern is with statements that this is an incredible indictment on our society, and that millions of women are constantly subject to such harassment. These statements are mostly based on the thousands of (unexamined) claims of sexual harassment on #metoo and other places, and the polls of a high percentage of women who claim (undefined) sexual harassment.

            From what I’ve seen, most of these cases are where guys are being obnoxious, or they are mis-reading the sexual interest of the women around them, or they are simply being aggressive in trying to pick up women. I think that new laws or organizational rules that come out these over-arching claims will cause more harm to relationships between men and women than any benefits that accrue from making acceptable sexual overtures a lot less possible. It seems to me, if there is a human relations crisis in America, it is from people being alone and being scared to interact with others (sexual and otherwise). That women are offended by actions of obnoxious and over-aggressive men looks to be a much smaller problem, to women as well as men.

            Sure, I am guessing here about society’s problems, and I can be accused of only seeing my side, since I am a man. But I think the other side, which wants to make lots of new regulations, is guessing at least as much, and is poisoned at least as much from their own points of view.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      One thing of note: the sexual harassment resignations have all been of powerful people. We haven’t seen Joe the Plumber getting fired for accusations of harassment.

      • The Nybbler says:

        There’s the Neogaf guy. And of course you might not hear of lower-profile people getting fired.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Has Evilore been forced out?

          Last I knew he sat by while a circle-jerk of “believe her” was created, and then got hoist by his own petard when some woman accused him, which caused a mass exodus of moderators, but he still runs the place.

          I checked the Wikipedia page for NEoGAF and didn’t see that that’s changed.

  14. onyomi says:

    Related to this, but different enough for a different thread, and also part of my ongoing attempts to reconcile libertarianism with the critiques of the alt-right:

    Let’s imagine the alt-right is well, right about this: what if the individualist*, strong private property approach I suggest in the above thread (each person/group pays for what they want and doesn’t get to force others to do so by majority rule) is, in fact, a kind of ethic thought up by white people, especially white men, and which appeals most to white people, especially white men (hence the racial and gender makeup of libertarian gatherings). This is inconvenient for libertarianism as it means it may be difficult, if not impossible to get the rest of the world to go libertarian, especially in a world where it’s taken as a given that if you’re going to vote, women should also be able to vote. The alt-right uses this (in my view, likely mostly correct) fact to woo libertarians to their side: “you want a state run like Ron Paul would run it? Okay, but first it’s going to have to be almost all white for that to ever happen.”

    My ancap answer to this is simple: this might be true, but I don’t think the answer is national socialism. Rather, secession again seems to be the answer: if you think only a polity in which only white men can vote on policy will be a libertarian one, then secede and found a smaller state in which that is the case. If you think only a polity in which citizens are chosen for their willingness to pledge fealty to the principles of Rothbard will turn out like you like, then secede to found a state like that. This, of course, assumes the ability to secede in the first place, which is why I think first supporting the right to secede anywhere and any time it comes up is the most important first step.

    *I often resist the characterization of libertarianism as “individualist,” because I say “we do want to do things as groups, we just want those groups to form voluntarily.” However, I guess there is a sense in which imagining each individual to have the right to join or not join any given group as he sees fit is, itself, individualist. And also maybe the sort of ethic that, for whatever reasons, genetic, historical, circumstantial, etc. seems to appeal especially to white men more than any other group.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Ignoring the race angle for a minute, because it’s late and I don’t want to wake up to a million-post-long argument:

      One interesting thing that I’ve noticed is that when my libertarian / Objectivist friends go abroad, the places that leave the best impressions on them are much more autocratic than the US. Singapore, Hong Kong, even mainland China have been breathlessly and unironically praised as libertarian paradises.

      This was basically Moldbug’s big insight: what if it’s the quality of governance, and not political freedom, that determines how free you are in practice? If a single party state which has the death penalty for marijuana does a better job protecting your rights to Life Liberty and Property than the land of the free, then what?

      Libertarians tend to assume that the optimal level of state power for human flourishing is somewhere between a night watchman state and statelessness. But Hoppe’s and Moldbug’s view that it’s not about power but incentives seems viable as well.

      • If having secure, protected property is freedom, then those who have the most property have the most freedom. Hence, why Otto von Bismarck was the greatest libertarian of the late 19th century.

        I’d be a little more okay with this if anarcho-capitalists fairly acknowledged their ideal type of society for what it was: an aristocracy of property-owners, with varying ranks according to how much property one happens to hold at any given time.

        Now, by an “aristocracy” I don’t mean to imply that mobility into and between the various ranks of the aristocracy of property-owners is impossible. I don’t mean to imply a 100% rigid caste system. I mean simply that those who have more property will have more freedom and power, both in an economic sense and in a political sense.

        I’d be a little less critical of anarcho-capitalists if they fairly acknowledged that economic power will inevitably translate into political power (there are many mechanisms in any given form of society by which this is accomplished. Capitalism in particular includes the threat of capital flight, control over the media, and the ability to bribe private armies and/or official armies to launch coups. Even in the “land of the free and home of the brave,” even in the most “liberal democratic” societies on earth today, capital flight is the Sword of Damocles that prevents us from instituting 75% corporate tax rates and a $15/hr. minimum wage and simply forcing the capitalist class to heed the popular will and take their medicine (i.e. continue their operations at reduced profitability with merely the choice of investing in various industries within the U.S. itself to chase various relative levels of reduced profitability). And if you object that you don’t hear any popular will for a 75% corporate tax rate—well, of course! Not in the present context, when it means that all of America would be turned into Detroit, or worse! But if freed from the spectre of capital flight, many currently unthinkable policies would suddenly appear possible and indeed desirable to many people.

        This is how the dictatorship of capital works—not by changing people’s votes or preventing them from voting, but by changing how appealing various policies appear in the first place, and by making the consequences of those policies appear as an unchangeable natural law (as if a punitive tax on capital would be detrimental in all societies and situations rather than detrimental only in societies that rely on capital to allocate production and that allow capital to move freely to where it is most profitable—i.e. as if the profit incentive is eternally the only or best way to allocate production).

        One fundamental mechanism by which economic power is inevitably translated into political power that is common to all is simple historical materialism: people must eat before they can even think about voting, and they will inevitably prize eating above voting or any other political luxuries, so if you control the means to survival, you can already bully people’s politics), so that:
        1. Political equality alongside economic equality is theoretically viable, although it might fall apart as an unworkable arrangement for other reasons…
        2. Political inequality alongside economic equality is viable for sure (many historical examples), but
        3. Political equality alongside economic inequality is just wishful thinking and/or false advertising and/or hypocrisy.

        So if #2 is what anarcho-capitalists have in mind, then I welcome them to pitch that, and I’d be curious to see what kind of reception they get. But what irritates me is when anarcho-capitalists are pretending that they are offering door #3, when in fact door #3 has nothing behind it.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          I think 2. was supposed to say economic inequality right? If you see this within the edit window I’d suggest changing it because it makes your point more confusing.

          Anyway, yeah it’s a big problem for ancaps. The only existing societies which look much like their ideal, such as Medieval Iceland, were clan-based feudal societies.

          Hans-Hermann Hoppe makes a good argument that monarchy is actually closer to the libertarian ideal in practice than democracy. And historically monarchs are differentiated from other noblemen more by degree than by kind. So as much as anarcho-capitalists hate the comparison, it does seem like a neo-feudal structure would be the most workable implementation of their ideals.

          I’m personally ok with that. I care more about order than about who gets to wear the biggest hat. “It doesn’t matter whether a cat is white or black, as long as it catches mice.”

          • johansenindustries says:

            Surely the system that most fits Anarcho-Capitalists would be anarcho-capitalism?

            And what sort of country matched the the founding father’s ideals until the USA? I don’t know if anarcho-capitalism weould work anywhere with people’s values and expectations as they are, but that it hasn’t been tried isn’t porof that it wouldn’t, and the mechanics check out.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @johansenindustries,

            And what sort of country matched the the founding father’s ideals until the USA?

            Well they claimed to be emulating Athens and the Roman Republic.

            I don’t know how true this is, but I’ve also heard that the contemporary Holy Roman Empire’s electoral monarchy may have inspired the electoral college. And obviously they kept a great deal from the British, such as the bicameral legislature and the entirety of English common law.

            It was a novel form of government but it wasn’t completely without precedent. Each individual element had been employed elsewhere even if the synthesis was unique.

            Surely the system that most fits Anarcho-Capitalists would be anarcho-capitalism?

            So, it’s day 0 in ancapistan.

            I buy, or already owned, a large plot of land by the coast. I fence it off and hire a PMC to defend it. Anyone who wants to live or do business on my property is free to, they just need to pay me rent and follow all of my rules. If they try to leave without paying their back rent my PMC goes out and drags them back to work off the difference.

            Now I’m not just a landlord, I’m an actual honest-to-God feudal Lord with my very own manor and knights. And I haven’t violated the NAP at all to do it.

            How do you prevent that from happening immediately once anarchy is declared?

          • johansenindustries says:

            @ Nabil ad Dajjal

            I don’t think that what you’re describing is feudalism. Without vagrancy laws or (nigh) every spot of land being owned by a ‘lord’, I don’t think you’ve got feudalism.

            If I am missing something then the possible solution is pride. Just as people won’t stand for a politician declaring his election loss void, they won’t stand for being a serf.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @johansenindustries,

            Land ownership is the classic case of a Pareto distribution. So if owning the land gives you authority over everyone on it, the biggest 20% of landlords are going to rule over 80% of ancapistan’s surface area.

            That sounds pretty feudal to me.

            If I am missing something then the possible solution is pride. Just as people won’t stand for a politician declaring his election loss void, they won’t stand for being a serf.

            People will literally eat feces on camera for money.

            I’m not confident that dignity is worth very much to people.

          • johansenindustries says:

            I’ve realised that a big difference between the two is the lack of official stratification and the stratification by birth.

            However, the biggest is surely that being close to the land is no longer so important.

            We just need a tiny bit of land to buy some highrises. Then the 20% with their 80% can compete to sell us food. Will they have too much bargaining power? Ask Tescos or any other supermarket.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            Property is generally passed on to ones children, so I’m not sure how that really makes a difference. It’s still an inherited position even if the landlords don’t call themselves barons or counts.

            Your proposal sounds a lot like medieval towns. Write a charter, find an empty spot on the map, set up shop. Maybe you could even add in a provision for escaped bondsmen like the medieval principle of “town air makes free.”

            Again, I’m not saying that it would necessarily be a bad thing. If it works it works, feudal or not. But it sounds pretty damn feudal.

          • Wrong Species says:

            Hoppe is interesting. He basically agrees with the ancap critics on what the society would look like and then says that’s exactly what he wants:

            They [these confused libertarians] fantasized of a society where every one would be free to choose and cultivate whatever nonaggressive lifestyle, career, or character he wanted, and where, as as result of free-market economics, everyone could do so on an elevated level of general prosperity. Ironically, the movement that had set out to dismantle the state and restore private property and market economics was largely appropriated, and its appearance shaped, by the mental and emotional products of the welfare state: the new class of permanent adolescents.

            This intellectual combination could hardly end happily. Private property capitalism and egalitarian multiculturalism are as unlikely a combination as socialism and cultural conservatism. And in trying to combine what cannot be combined, much of the modern libertarian movement actually contributed to the further erosion of private property rights.

            Matt Bruenig goes through more of that here.

          • The only existing societies which look much like their ideal, such as Medieval Iceland, were clan-based feudal societies.

            Medieval Iceland was not a feudal society and there were no clans. Other than that …

          • johansenindustries says:

            When almost everyone lives in a town, then I don’t think it makes sense to call that feudal.

          • John Schilling says:

            Surely the system that most fits Anarcho-Capitalists would be anarcho-capitalism?

            What some people are looking for is the system that most fits anarcho-capitalists but has the virtue of not being too easy for a state or quasi-state to take over and de-anarchize.

            Feudal monarchies are worthy of consideration in this regard; they have some properties that seem favorable to liberty and capitalism if not outright anarchy, they allow for a modest degree of concentration of force, and they give the king a motive (i.e. the ability to keep being a king, which is good) to use that force to maintain the status quo.

            Democracy is also worthy of consideration; as you note the founders of the United States were somewhat aligned with the ancaps in sentiment and decided on a democracy that served their sentiments well for at least the better part of a century.

          • Whoops, yes, by option #2 I meant political inequality alongside economic inequality.

          • toastengineer says:

            If they try to leave without paying their back rent my PMC goes out and drags them back to work off the difference.

            Seems to me like that’s the difference there. In Ancapistan as I see it the REA would say “no, if you think this guy owes you you need to go to arbitration, and if the arbitrator rules in your favor then we’ll enforce the decision.” If they didn’t do that they’d get a reputation as rogue mercenaries instead of a respectable REA.

            Then, the arbitrator would say, “this guy owes you back rent, not indentured servitude; it’s nice that you are willing to let the guy crash on your land while he works off his debt, but he doesn’t like that option: put a cash price on it or fuck off.” Unless of course the contract actually says “you must work my land for x years,” but then you’d have to compete with all the other landlords who take cash.

            If your mercenary army does in fact drag the guy back without arbitration, every other REA in the region will be calling up your ‘serfs’ with an offer of “give us $X and we’ll take real good care of Mr. VonBismarck over here.”

          • onyomi says:

            Personally, I am still quite agnostic on the question of second-best options. Ultimately, I care more about the resulting system than how I get there (would rather live under a libertarian autocrat than a socialist democracy and vice-versa), but the question is which system, all else equal is more likely to produce good results?

            There is the Altright, somewhat Moldbuggy position that, ultimately, it’s the people and the institutional cultures they create that matter. Examples might be Australia and Haiti. Despite their remote geography, these seem to function a lot like European and African countries, respectively, presumably because of the genetic and/or cultural heritage of their inhabitants. Against this are examples like North and South Korea where a group of roughly identical genetic and cultural heritage gets split into two different systems with vastly different results.

            So if the Korea example proves it’s not just the people who matter, then is democracy or monarchy better? On the one hand, Hoppe’s critique of democracy seems to have some weight, but on the other, there’s the “Dictator’s Handbook,” theory, which says that the greater proportion of the population those in power have to keep happy to remain in power the better, overall, will be the government.

            In some sense, even ancap is an extreme extension of this: those in power in ancap world will be those repeatedly chosen by their customers, whose continued, direct financial support they will need. That is, there is a sense in which ancap tries to take the benefits of democracy (that you have to keep more people happy to remain in power than a dictator does) to the next level.

            *Side note re Hoppe’s contention that ancap won’t produce the sort of world many libertarians think they want: recently heard Richard Spencer noting how they’ve had more success putting on their events at public venues than private venues, basically because the state just carries out its contractual obligations once it makes a deal with you, while private venues frequently chicken out when they realize that hosting “nazis” is going to hurt their business. While this may be disappointing to libertarians hoping to find private business on the vanguard of free speech defense, it does seem to hint something about how ancapistan might be less libertarian in some ways than even the current status quo: in a world of all private property, if no one wants to give you a place to speak because your speaking will hurt their bottom line, then you don’t get to speak. This is worrisome to someone like myself with a strong presumption in favor of free speech, but maybe should reassure those who worry ancap world is automatically free-for-all world, or has no strong enforcement mechanisms without a presumed monopoly on force.

    • onyomi says:

      A somewhat obvious objection: maybe supporting the right of secession is itself an INTJ, white, male, classical liberal kind of thing to do. This creates a “liberalism sews the seeds of its own destruction” problem I’ve mentioned before, and which the alt-right harps on (“you can praise the values of individualism and freedom all day, but eventually you’ll be outcompeted by those acting in their collective interests and taking advantage of your respect for their freedom, which they don’t reciprocate”).

      My only thought about this right now is that there are a lot of potential reasons for secession, and so I think we should support all of them, event the seemingly illiberal ones.

    • Matt M says:

      My ancap answer to this is simple: this might be true, but I don’t think the answer is national socialism. Rather, secession again seems to be the answer

      I don’t think the alt-right is anti-secession. I think that right now, tactically, they think they have a better chance of electing alt-right political leaders nationally than they do fighting and winning a war against the US government. And I’m not sure they’re wrong.

      • onyomi says:

        Oh yes, I think that is true. Many on the altright seem to want to form e.g. a white ethnostate within some part of the territory that is now the US, for example, presumably, eventually, by seceding.

        I guess what I’m saying is that that goal does not have to be incompatible with the goals of libertarians, including those who don’t want to live in a white ethnostate, in a way that national socialism very much is.

      • Anon. says:

        Prior to the UK vote to leave the EU, Spencer expressed support for the multi-national bloc “as a potential racial empire” and an alternative to “American hegemony”, stating that he has “always been highly skeptical of so-called ‘Euro-Skeptics.'”

        The funny thing about this is how out of touch with actual white people’s preferences the alt-right is.

        • Anonymous says:

          The alt-right is a big, enormous tent where society’s undesirables get to live. It’s no wonder there’s not a lot of match-up with what the plebs or the zeitgeist crew want.

          And Spencer is a “white nationalist” while people over in Yurp are increasingly “nationalists who are white”. The salient difference being that they don’t feel particularly united with other white people; that thing is basically exclusive to the United States. The Spanish, French, Germans, Poles, Italians, etc have been nations longer than the United States has even existed, and it’ll take more than one Roman Salute-happy American to change that.

  15. johan_larson says:

    Desert Bus for Hope is an annual week-long fund raising event. Its 2017 iteration finished early this morning, having raised $650,300 dollars. The event itself is a lot of fun, consisting essentially of a week-long online telethon with most funds being raised through auctions of items donated by businesses (particularly Wizards of the Coast) and crafts makers. All raised funds go to Child’s Play, a US charity that provides video games and toys for hospitals.

    Desert Bus is a fun event and I really respect the crew that runs it. I gave Desert Bus some money this year. But I’m wondering whether the money is well spent. Providing video games, even for sick kids, seems like filling a very fringe need. I know there are some people here who care a lot about not just helping the needy but doing so effectively, and I’d be interested to hear what they make of this project.

    • Jiro says:

      The SSC idea that we should care for all human beings equally is bizarre. Most people care more for others similar to themselves and one form of similarity is cultural. (Which interest in video games falls into.)

      Furthermore, most people do not subscribe to the idea that you must find the area with the greatest need and donate only to that area until you’ve reduced the need to the next lowest. They want to distribute the charity donations among different types of needs; this creates less utility, but distributes more equally.

      Don’t assume that SSC norms are 1) universal and 2) unquestionable.

    • Matt M says:

      My unpopular opinion on these things is that I find them entirely pointless.

      Why should I pay you money to play video games?

      But wait – you say. You aren’t paying me to play the games. You’re donating to sick children!

      Then why are you playing the games again? I’ve never understood the “pledge money to me so I can do some activity I’d want to do anyway but also I’m doing it for the children” type of fund-raiser. Can we just eliminate the pointless middle step? I’ll donate to the sick children because sick children make me sad and I want to help them. You stay up all night playing videogames if you want. Everyone wins.

      • johan_larson says:

        With my cynical hat on, I think a lot of this sort of thing is motivated by a desire for attention or stature within the community. If you have more money than status you can get some by giving plenty to some worthwhile cause in a splashy way. If you have more time than status you can get some by agreeing to do something arduous or absurd and get people to sponsor you for doing so. And organizing events like this is sort of a second-order way of doing this. I expect the Loading Ready Run crew are bigger swinging dicks in their corner of the entertainment universe than they would have been if they had just kept making online skits, rather than organizing Desert Bus for Hope.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Adding the middle step where people donate money to some event so that the money can then be given to sick kids does in practice seem to result in people donating more to sick kids. I’m sure it’s a Schelling Point or something.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        I don’t understand the appeal of Desert Bus specifically, but the Extra Life streams I’ve watched in the past have actually been pretty entertaining.

        Skilled Let’s Players playing a spectacle fighter or a very difficult platformer. Funny Let’s Players playing an easily mocked game. It’s not going to be quite as good as edited material but it’s not like there’s no value to the viewer.

        Think of it like a variety show on an old telethon. It’s not quality television but it’s mildly entertaining and for a good cause.

      • johansenindustries says:

        I don’t know about this particularly. But Children in Need or Game Done quick consists of providing entertainment in exchange for advertisements of the charity (and perhaps a sense of obligation having been entertained?) and although I believe in the Landsburg approach a lot of people need to be convinced – perhaps by hearing ‘great charity’, ‘great donation’, ‘great charity’ on loop.

        In this case the game seems like a gimmick to advertise their auctions (and providing a way for companies to advertise by giving things for those auctions.)

      • toastengineer says:

        Then why are you playing the games again?

        Because it draws attention. People tune in for the entertainment and the “give to charity” message piggybacks on the genuinely interesting content. It’s more effective – and cheaper, if the streamers volunteer their time – than a big billboard that says “please give to charity” that people will actively try to ignore.

      • secondcityscientist says:

        The charity in question is acting like the advertisement. You watch the show because you like the show, and instead of the hosts asking you to buy Mountain Dew or Doritos or whatever, they ask you to donate to their charity. Perhaps you’re a robot who is completely unaffected by advertising, but most humans appear to be affected by advertising.

        The concept they use is even better than normal advertising because the whole stream works like a Skinner box. “Donate more money and we’ll keep doing stuff you like!”

      • Aapje says:

        Why should I pay you money to play video games?

        I think the idea is that it’s a signal of seriousness. Lots of charities want your money. Most people have no time to judge 10 gazillion charities. Examining a charity just because someone asks you too is a highly unbalanced situation, where the other person does little work to make you do a lot of work.

        Few people go to a lot of effort to plug a charity, so if you merely take those seriously, it will be much more manageable.

        But when I once had to do it, I felt like a beggar and I hated it.

      • The Pachyderminator says:

        Playing Desert Bus for hours on end is almost certainly not something anyone “would want to do anyway.”

        (The most obvious response to the actual question is that playing the game attracts attention and thereby draws much more money than a straightforward fundraising appeal would, and since the cost of playing the game is very small, this seems less problematic than e.g. a lavish “charity” dinner.)

  16. One of the odd things about American law schools is that their practice is the precise opposite of their politics. Most of the people running them and teaching in them support redistribution from the rich to the poor. The actual policies of the schools, on the other hand, redistribute from the poor to the rich.

    The reason for this paradox is simple. In order to exist, schools need students. Potential students judge schools in part by measures such as bar passage rate, summed up in the annual U.S. News and World Report ratings. One way of raising the measures of performance and so the ratings is by raising the quality of the school’s students, getting students likely to pass the bar and get good jobs, as judged ex ante by LSAT score and GPA. So schools bid for the best students by offering them financial aid, often full tuition scholarships. The students most likely to pass the bar and end up with high paying jobs are being subsidized on a massive scale, something like a hundred thousand dollars a student, by students who have a sizable risk of never passing the bar and, if they pass it, never getting a job that they could not have gotten without going to law school.

    There is a way in which this perverse outcome could be changed.

    What a student wants to know is not how well the average student at the school he is considering does–he is not the average student. What he wants to know is how well he will do if he goes there. That is what the school should be telling him.

    For simplicity I will take the case of bar passage as an outcome and LSAT score as a measure of student ability. The school could report bar passage rates, averaged over the last few years, as a function of student LSAT. If there are not enough students at each LSAT level to make that practical, the school could use a regression to fit the data and report the result.

    For more information, they could include GPA in the regression equation, letting a student estimate how likely he is, given his LSAT and GPA, to pass the bar if he goes to that school. They could report the same information for any other outcome measure that they have data on and applicants care about, such as chance of employment in a degree relevant job six months after graduation.

    Reporting the information in this form makes it more likely that applicants will choose the right school–not the school that is best but the school that is best for them. Stanford has a high bar pass rate, due at least in part to the high LSATs of their students. It does not follow that it is the best school for a student near the bottom of their range of qualifications. He might do better at a slightly less elite school such as Santa Clara, a school whose teaching is targeted at students at about his level. And the student near the bottom of the range for Santa Clara, a student who might barely get accepted there, might do better at a school one step further down.

    Reporting the information in this form, assuming that the information gets used, also reduces the incentive to subsidize the abler students, since doing so no longer raises the apparent quality of the school.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Why would they ever want to do that?

      It can only make their school look worse, which means losing revenue. Any law school which did this would immediately be at a disadvantage compared to other law schools which didn’t.

      I’m guessing that you’re not considering government intervention so how would you pitch this to university admins?

      • Why do you think it makes a school look worse? There isn’t a direct comparison between the information provided by a school that follows my system and the information provided by a school that doesn’t. The first reports “probability of bar passage = A + B*LSAT + C*GPA.” The second reports “probability of bar passage = .7 . If anything that makes the lower ranked school looks better, since under the old system it reported “Probability of bar passage = .5,” which made it unambiguously inferior to the higher ranked school.

        So far as getting them to do it, there are several possibilities. One is for some of the lower ranked schools to report, make it clear that they are targeting their teaching at a particular range of LSAT, and challenge other schools to report their results for students in that range.

        Another is for the AALS or the ABA to pressure schools to report the information.

        A third is for U.S. News and World Report to ask the schools for the information.

        I am working on an op-ed along these lines which I plan to submit to Chronicles of Higher Education, in the hope of getting the idea some traction with the relevant people.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      Stanford has a high bar pass rate, due at least in part to the high LSATs of their students. It does not follow that it is the best school for a student near the bottom of their range of qualifications. He might do better at a slightly less elite school such as Santa Clara, a school whose teaching is targeted at students at about his level.

      While I think this statement is true for maximizing that student’s chance of graduating with a J.D. (or *possibly* his chance of passing the bar, though I honestly wouldn’t expect the law school to make a difference at all) this strongly goes against my (non-lawyer but I date a lot of them) knowledge of that hypothetical student’s job market.

      If that student goes to Stanford and passes his classes (and works hard and networks well and does well as a 2L intern) he’s got a good shot at a associate position at a BIGLAW firm, in which case he will never sleep or have a social life again but will easily pay off his law school debt and have a good shot at riches.

      If he goes to Santa Clara, graduates top of his class and president of the law review…he won’t, because no biglaw firm bothers to even interview outside the T14. There is functionally zero chance he ever will have a high-paying legal career. If he’s very lucky he can find paralegal/document review work, or make peanuts as an independent small time lawyer.

      Conclusion: under no circumstances go to Santa Clara (I guess if they give you a full ride and you don’t mind setting fire to three years of your life; you just want to learn laws. I wouldn’t mind this.) If you want to roll the dice on maybe passing and striking it rich, in a pretty bad job even if you make it, possibly go to Stanford.

      I can’t directly verify this but it’s taken as gospel by literally everyone I know in the legal community. People are trying to help students realize this reality through schools reporting (mandatorily) various employment rates “in a legal field”, which helps, but a number of low tier schools are gaming this by hiring their own unemployable graduates for show long enough to count them as success stories.

      • Brad says:

        Conclusion: under no circumstances go to Santa Clara (I guess if they give you a full ride and you don’t mind setting fire to three years of your life; you just want to learn laws. I wouldn’t mind this.) If you want to roll the dice on maybe passing and striking it rich, in a pretty bad job even if you make it, possibly go to Stanford.

        As a scholarship recipient graduate of a low ranked law school that regrets going, I feel qualified to opine on this.

        For a general student without any special circumstances I’d say don’t go to law school and if you must go to law school go to Yale, Harvard, or Stanford. However there are a number of special circumstances where it can make sense to go to even a low ranked school.

        A few examples, all of which are based on people I went to law school with:

        * You just retired as NYPD detective at age 40. Due in part to your skill in manipulating the overtime rules, you are drawing a pension $75,000/year plus great health care. After you graduate law school you are all but guaranteed a job as a prosecutor and the waiver you need to double dip. After 3 years in law school and 20 years at the DA (age 63) you can retire again and collect two pensions.

        * You are a first or second generation immigrant, speak your home country’s language fluently, have 30 cousins and zillions of friends of the family that would all hire you if you had a law degree and hung out a shingle. (Make sure you aren’t kidding yourself here.)

        * Your father or mother owns a thriving law practice and would leave it to you if you got a law degree. Make sure there are no partners that would spoil the transition. Also consider brothers and sisters.

        * You are a successful professional in some other industry — sports management, real estate, music licensing — and know exactly how a law degree would help you advance your career within that industry. Make sure to seek out and talk to people that you work with that law degrees to confirm your thinking.

        FWIW not at all on the list is “I love arguing and I think I’d be a great lawyer”.

      • Winter Shaker says:

        Off-topic, but

        non-lawyer but I date a lot of them

        Wasn’t it you who was complaining a fair few threads back about never getting dates? In which case, was it any actionable advice that you received that helped you change your circumstances?

        • Deiseach says:

          Wasn’t it you who was complaining a fair few threads back about never getting dates?

          Was it Andrew Hunter? I thought I had a scuffle with him over his “drowning in [female attention]” comments, but that may have been another commenter I was rowing with over “what do women want”? So far as I can recall, Andrew wasn’t complaining about never getting dates, just that [can’t remember name of dating site] wasn’t getting any/enough worthwhile results for him? If I’m wrong, apologies to both parties for confusing you!

          Though we may square the circle if the complaint is construed as “I never get any dates with real humans, so I am reducing to dating lawyers” 😉

      • @Andrew:

        As it happens I have data inconsistent with your claim. My about to be daughter-in-law graduated from Santa Clara, has passed the bar (results came in a few days ago), and has a well paid job with a law firm. It isn’t a BIGLAW firm, but that isn’t obviously a negative, as your description of such jobs suggests.

        Stanford has a first time bar pass rate of about 87%, so someone near the low end of their distribution has a substantial chance of failing to pass. And your “networks well and does well as a 2L intern” is a good deal less likely for a student who barely made it into Stanford than one near the top of the class.

        or *possibly* his chance of passing the bar, though I honestly wouldn’t expect the law school to make a difference at all)

        I suspect you are mistaken. Elite law schools don’t pay much attention to teaching their students to pass the bar, since their students are mostly smart enough to manage via a bar review course. Less elites schools do focus on that. And being in a class where almost all the other students are smarter than you are and the professor tailors the class accordingly isn’t a very good way to learn things.

      • Deiseach says:

        If he’s very lucky he can find paralegal/document review work, or make peanuts as an independent small time lawyer.

        Is it really the case that a practicing lawyer in Middletown, Heartland Midwest, needs to be a member of BIGLAW firm to have a reasonable standard of living? There are no small to medium-sized/family-established law firms that deal with things like wills, house purchases, and my client was over the legal limit when driving but he had just attended a family celebration where unbeknownst to him someone had spiked the fruit punch cases?

        I realise we may be talking very different notions of “peanuts” versus “riches” but surely not every lawyer has a hope of “Go to TOPSCHOOL, graduate and get job with BIGLAW in ONE OF THE THREE OR FOUR HUGE COASTAL CITIES” career, and that “Middle-sized city in one of the states that is not New York or California also needs lawyers”?

        There are nine solicitors’ firms* in my small town (population around 10,000 if you include the hinterland), one of which I worked very briefly at, and while I wouldn’t say all (or even any) of them are rolling in filthy lucre, neither are they hanging round the courthouse every month the District Court sits going “Pssst, wanna hire a shyster? Dirt cheap!” They may be earning “peanuts” by your metric, but by the local metric they have a respectable professional lifestyle.

        *One of them is the nearest thing to an ambulance chaser we have, and is the go-to representative of choice for the career criminals, chancers and con artists looking to sue the local authority, and scumbags. But hey, even scumbags are entitled to legal representation, and plainly it makes a living for the law firm involved.

        • Garrett says:

          My understanding is that the legal profession has a bimodal pay structure. The first hump is the BIGLAW folks, where you go to actually make money practicing law.

          The second is the low end wills/estates/etc. where you will likely earn a reliable income, but not a very good one.

          The values I remember reading a few years ago for this were means on $150k/50k per year.

    • fortaleza84 says:

      One of the odd things about American law schools is that their practice is the precise opposite of their politics

      Newsflash: People are hypocrites.

      • It isn’t hypocrisy to do something that produces results you disapprove of if all the alternatives produce even worse results.

        • fortaleza84 says:

          I didn’t read your post very carefully and somehow I thought that part of your objection to law schools was that students who have little or no chance of getting legal jobs are going deep into (non-dischargeable) debt in order to enrich the faculty and administration at law schools.

          Anyway, there do exist other alternatives, for example cutting tuition across the board by 70-80%; rejecting all applicants who do not have a realistic chance of getting a job which justifies the tuition; and outright shuttering the law school.

          • Anyway, there do exist other alternatives, for example cutting tuition across the board by 70-80%; rejecting all applicants who do not have a realistic chance of getting a job which justifies the tuition; and outright shuttering the law school.

            The first one means shuttering the law school–do you assume that revenue is currently four or five times expenditure? The second just means that those applicants will go to another law school instead.

            My point wasn’t that the poor students end up with debt and without a suitable job, although that is a problem. It was that the poor students are subsidizing the good students and, in the current situation, there is no practical way for the schools to stop working that way.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            The first one means shuttering the law school–do you assume that revenue is currently four or five times expenditure?

            No, but I do think that revenue is 4 to 5 times what actually needs to be spent. 50 or 60 years ago, law school tuition was low enough that it was possible to work your way through law school at a minimum wage job. Even adjusting for inflation, law school tuition has increased dramatically since then.

            Has legal education improved all that much over the years? Not really, what’s happened is that a lot more money is spent on facilities, small classes, administrative bloat, high-paid professors, and “taxes” paid by the law school to the university which runs it.

            When I went to law school 25 years ago, tuition was half of what it is now, even adjusting for inflation. Was law school half as good? Of course not.

            Anyway, why is closing the law school an untenable idea? If there is no way to operate the law school without the cross-subsidies you complain of, it can be shut down.

            Here’s another alternative: Don’t offer discounts to top students and accept that the law school will drop in the rankings.

          • Here’s another alternative: Don’t offer

            discounts to top students and accept that the law school will drop in the rankings.

            And the lower rankings mean that the quality of applicants goes down, which pushes the ranking farther down. I don’t know if there is a stable equilibrium with no attempt to favor the more able students.

            On the general question of how inexpensive one could make a law school, I had a blog post some time ago, describing how you could get the total cost of law school education down to $20,000, but noting that the ABA would not accredit the school.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            And the lower rankings mean that the quality of applicants goes down, which pushes the ranking farther down.

            So what? Why should that matter?

            By the way, I looked at your blog post and did not see your calculation. But it seems like the ABA will accept a student faculty ratio of 25 to 1. You could easily hire professors for $50,000 per year and require them to teach 6 classes a year. If students take 8 classes per year, that’s about $2600 per year per student for faculty salaries. Of course there are other charges such as administration, facilities, and so on. But if you kept those to a minimum, I’m pretty confident that you could keep total tuition per year under $10,000, even ignoring endowments and donations.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Where do you expect to get a law professor for $50K?

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Where do you expect to get a law professor for $50K?

            Are you kidding? The academic job market is uniformly ridiculous. At this point, a lot of people would work for minimum wage if they can call themselves tenured professors.

            And on top of that, there are plenty of mother/attorneys slaving away in law firms who would jump at the chance to get paid $50k a year to teach 6 law school classes, 3 a semester.

            Why do law school professors get paid so much? Mainly because they are in a position to share in the bounty of the education loan scam. i.e. the federal government has made it possible to borrow tons of money to attend law school so naturally law schools have decided to capture all that money by raising tuition sky-high.

    • fortaleza84 raises a problem which was not the subject of my previous post but which I do have a different idea for dealing with–students who spend a lot of money getting a law degree which turns out to be worthless either because they are unable to pass the bar or because, having passed it, they are not good enough to get a job for which a law degree is required.

      The critical question is how to predict which students those are. Currently, student success is predicted by entering credentials, mainly LSAT and GPA. First year grades are a better predictor, but they only exist after the first year.

      Consider a school that wants a graduating class of 200 and currently gets it by admitting 200 first year students, using whatever LSAT and GPA cutoff results in accepting enough students so that 200 enroll. Suppose it drops its cutoff enough to get 300 students–and announces that, at the end of the first year, any student in the bottom half of the class may withdraw and get a full refund of his first year’s tuition. 100 students accept the offer at the end of the first year.

      The school’s revenue is the same as before the change, since there are still 200 students who paid. Their average quality of student is probably a little better, since first year grades are a better measure of quality than credentials at application and the students who drop out are going to be those who did badly in the first year, although not necessarily all the very worst, since the decision is up to them. The students who most obviously were not going to make it, as judged by the first year experience, have wasted a year–but not entirely wasted, since what they learned may be of some future use to them. And they have their money back.

      The only down side is that the school had to teach an extra hundred students for the first year. But law school applications have dropped sharply in recent years, so most schools have excess classroom capacity and, unless they have managed to get rid of a fair number of tenured professors, excess labor as well.

      There are additional details one might want to add in a real world version of this, designed to better control just how large a class one ended up with–perhaps the offer is first made to the bottom third of the class, then, after seeing how many accept it, to additional students just above that until the desired class size is reached.

      • Brad says:

        This strikes me as an excellent idea. Students do currently drop out, but probably not as many as should because of the sunk cost fallacy.

      • fortaleza84 says:

        “The critical question is how to predict which students those are”

        Based on my observations, I would say the best predictors of post-graduation legal employment at low-ranking law schools are (1) having a close family member who is in a position to hire you as an attorney; and (2) being an attractive and personable female.

  17. cwillu says:

    “It is both curious and interesting to find that practically
    nothing emerged during this dark and empty period in the western
    world to further the stirring developments of rolling-element
    bearings evident in the classical civilizations.
    There was undoubtedly interest in other facets of tribology toward the end
    of the dark millenium, but not in rolling-element bearings.
    Furthermore neither the well-established Chinese civilizations nor
    the Central or South American societies appear to have moved
    forward in this sphere of technology.
    One of the curious features
    of the otherwise highly advanced early American cultures is that
    neither the wheel nor the rolling-element bearing was in evidence.”

    Data re the dark age threads from a nasa article on the history of the ball bearing.

  18. Deiseach says:

    Has American Atheists Inc. finally taken on a target that’s too big for them? 🙂

    Suing schools, churches, and trying to ban Christmas is all very well, but they may just have tackled an opponent that will get the public up in arms against them – cute fuzzy animals!

    They may possibly have some kind of legal point here, but two things strike me:

    (1) Given that many people in the USA seem to have no problem referring to their pets as their “babies” and themselves as the “mommy” and/or “daddy” (I have since stopped having my eyes protrude on stalks over the latest social media post about “my baby” where the person posting is very sure they never want to be the parent of a human child but is all googly-woogly over an animal), this is not something that is going to make the public sympathetic to them, since it seems to relegate animals to “what are you saying, my precious Poochie-Woochie or Flopsy-Bunny isn’t good enough for this kind of thing? How very dare you attempt to stop me making a surrogate human out of a beast!”

    (2) The phrasing of the complaint letter makes the person complaining not alone sound like a massive pill but that this was rather a staged encounter and they deliberately went there looking to be offended (so they just happened to turn up on the one day in the year the Blessing of the Animals happened, after it was announced on the shelter’s Facebook page? What a very coincidental coincidence!)

    Candice Yaacobi, a North Arlington resident who is also a plaintiff, says in the suit that when she went to adopt a dog she saw Reihl “in full Franciscan vestmants.”(sic)

    “As a humanist atheist, being forced into an encounter with a member of clergy in order to avail herself of government services sent Candice the message that the BCAS and Bergen County regarded her as inferior to those citizens who happened to adhere to the favored religious view,” the group wrote in its complaint.

    Poor, poor Candice! Oh, the brutality of those shelter workers, grabbing her by the arms and dragging her by main force to stand in front of a cackling FULLY VESTED Catholic* religious as he PRAYED OUT LOUD IN AUDIBLE WORDS IN A LANGUAGE SHE UNDERSTOOD! Why, there may even have been the sprinkling of holy water involved! Terrible, awful, wickedness and on state public-money funded premises to boot!

    Personally, I think animal blessing services are a gimmick and I’d be just as happy if they never happened. But this is a relatively harmless annual public event that the shelter plainly hopes will get people coming in and maybe adopting an animal and at the least giving a donation. The atheists sound as if they were waiting for the maximum opportunity to be offended and this is all a publicity stunt on their part as well. I really do think “voluntarily deciding to adopt a shelter animal and the one day I walked in the door was the one day there was a blessing of the animals going on” is not on a par with “having to go to a public school or court or a government office to get my benefits and having a sermon imposed on me”. Can you say that an animal shelter really is government services, even if they do manage to wangle public funding? Dog wardens are one thing, shelters that let the public adopt lovable pooches are not the same to my way of thinking?

    *Quite likely not even Catholic, looking them up the Franciscan Order of the Divine Mercy is one of those ecumenical hodge-podge efforts copying Catholicism and other liturgical churches and ordaining their own clergy and bishop (Protestants, particularly Anglicans, seem to go ga-ga over St Francis, possibly because of the whole association with “cute cuddly animals”), so at least American Athieists Inc. are being equal-opportunity in their NO RELIGION HERE, even if they don’t know it. I wonder would they be any happier if the response was “Actually the guy is not real clergy, he’s a layman”? Probably not!

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I’m really confused now.

      Is animal blessing a real thing? Why?

      Most religious ceremonies have a kind of internal logic but this eludes me. The only thing I can think of here is that this was originally something that was supposed to protect farm animals from disease and predation but now is being pressed into service to get cat ladies into church. Is that it or am I missing something?

    • Nick says:

      “As a humanist atheist, being forced into an encounter with a member of clergy in order to avail herself of government services sent Candice the message that the BCAS and Bergen County regarded her as inferior to those citizens who happened to adhere to the favored religious view,” the group wrote in its complaint.

      Leaving aside the actual question of constitutionality, that complaint as written is astoundingly stupid. If I, say, go to the post office and the teller happens to be a local minister then I am “being forced into an encounter with a member of the clergy in order to avail [myself] of government services,” a case which is plainly fine. But I have to share this gem from the end of the article:

      “Not only were the shelter’s actions unconstitutional, they were completely unnecessary,” said Geoffrey T. Blackwell, staff attorney for American Atheists. “I thought it was well-settled that all dogs already go to heaven.”

      • Deiseach says:

        Yeah, given that the shelter had advertised this as “come along to the Blessing of the Animals and get your own pet blessed!” locally, and given that this only happens on one day of the year, and given that somehow this particular day was the one day Ms Whatsherface decided to go get a doggie-woggie, it seems very strange the lady had no idea, no idea at all! what would await her inside.

        It’s like complaining “I turned up at Our Lady of Perpetual Motion Roman Catholic church on Sunday at 10 a.m. and followed the crowd of people inside who were “attending Mass” and I was astounded, shocked and horrified to find myself forced into an encounter with a member of the clergy!” Plus, if the guy in question is not an ordained member of a Lutheran or Anglican church but one of this Order’s home-brew ‘ordinations’, then he’s a layman and not a member of the clergy, though that probably wouldn’t mollify them any, seeing as how they want to be treated as “as inferior to those citizens who happened to adhere to the favored religious view” in order to get this kind of thing driven out of public life.

        Like I said, if this was some religious organisation that handed out prayer leaflets and Gideon Bibles with every rescue animal and before you could adopt one you had to listen to a five-minute sermon on Noah and the Ark, I’d agree the Aggrieved Atheists had a point, but this was just seeking out an occasion to be Professionally Offended.

        And as I said, people may tolerate calls for “why must our kids be indoctrinated in school?” boycotts and protests, but when it comes to cute furry doggies and kitties, that’s another matter 🙂

    • Baeraad says:

      Given that many people in the USA seem to have no problem referring to their pets as their “babies” and themselves as the “mommy” and/or “daddy” (I have since stopped having my eyes protrude on stalks over the latest social media post about “my baby” where the person posting is very sure they never want to be the parent of a human child but is all googly-woogly over an animal)

      I fail to see why your eyes behaved in that upsetting manner in the first place. What’s so hard to understand? Animals are cute, children are gross and annoying. Not only that, but animals stay animals and remain harmless, while children grow up to be adults, who are less gross but graduate from being annoying to actively making your life miserable! :p I mean, you’d never catch a golden retriever being as unnecessarily mean-spirited as this atheist person.

      … I’ll grant you, I did recently read one of those desperately well-meaning Facebook posts about how you will cause a dog tremendous emotional distress if you don’t approach it juuuuuuuust right. It came just short of telling you that the dog would get triggered otherwise. But in my experience of actual dogs, they are admirably tolerant creatures who could teach many humans a thing or two about not sweating the small stuff.

      Poor, poor Candice! Oh, the brutality of those shelter workers, grabbing her by the arms and dragging her by main force to stand in front of a cackling FULLY VESTED Catholic* religious as he PRAYED OUT LOUD IN AUDIBLE WORDS IN A LANGUAGE SHE UNDERSTOOD!

      While I am replying mostly to counter-snark at you for your anti-kitten sentiments (which I consider far more heretical than your theism, quite frankly! :p ), I entirely share your sentiment here. People whining about being “forced into an encounter” with something perfectly harmless on public property sounds like exactly the sort of hysterical intolerance that’s turning our society into a war of all against all. Faugh to Candice, catching a snippet of a sermon won’t kill her.

      And as I said, people may tolerate calls for “why must our kids be indoctrinated in school?” boycotts and protests, but when it comes to cute furry doggies and kitties, that’s another matter 🙂

      Well, er… yes? Animals aren’t famous for developing strong religious convictions, no matter how much you preach at them.

  19. Anonymous says:

    What does a person with extremely low extraversion and extremely low neuroticism behave like? Studies?

  20. BBA says:

    Have I been banned from commenting on all WordPress based sites? If so, that sucks.

    EDIT: guess not.

    • Anonymous says:

      What did you do?

      • BBA says:

        I either tripped a spam filter or got banned for excessive shitposting on blog #1. Then another comment I posted got mysteriously eaten on blog #2. Given the arcane, eldritch workings of WordPress, I was wondering if there’s some sort of cross-site filter in place that would block my comments wherever I made them under my current name. Thankfully, that’s not the case (yet).

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