THE JOYFUL REDUCTION OF UNCERTAINTY

Open Thread 90.75

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856 Responses to Open Thread 90.75

  1. Matt M says:

    I’ve gotten back into blogging again, but for various reasons, I don’t want to link to my blog here. That said, I would like some feedback from you guys on my specific argument.

    I was responding to a piece in Reason, which is critical of the GOP tax plan under the reasoning that it will add to the deficit. Reason, of course, is a nominally libertarian organization. My position is that there is no valid libertarian reason to oppose higher deficits, in and of themselves. The deficit is essentially spending minus taxes. Libertarians believe taxation is equivalent to theft. Less taxation is a good, in and of itself.

    Spending; however, is a different story. In and of itself spending is not bad. Spending is only bad because the spending is ultimately sourced by taxation (which is bad). Government spending that was somehow sourced exclusively from voluntary private donations would not be bad in any way. In fact, a whole lot of libertarian theory is premised on the logic that the actions performed by the state could also be financed by voluntary transactions, if necessary.

    So lower taxes leading to a higher deficit is not “bad” by libertarian standards. One potential objection that comes up is that – if they cannot finance spending via taxation, the government will instead print money, and finance it in the form of higher inflation. Some libertarians will even refer to the “inflation tax.” But I don’t think this is quite right either. I’d much rather face high inflation than high income taxes, as inflation is much easier to avoid. Libertarians already actively promote and encourage the ownership of inflation-resistant assets – mostly gold and bitcoin, but things like real estate and stocks are fairly inflation-resistant too. In a world where the revenues from income tax are replaced entirely by money-printing, libertarians as a group probably do fairly well, relative to other groups who are not particularly skeptical of the inflationary aspects of the federal reserve note.

    So where, exactly, is my logic faulty here? I feel like these are obvious points, but I see just about nobody making them – so surely I’ve made some sort of mistake…

    • The Nybbler says:

      I’m surprised to see Reason fall into the deficit-hawking thing. Since taxes and spending are considered separately, any tax plan with a reduction in total taxation will increase the deficit (unless you make growth assumptions that will certainly be attacked). That means that if you’re a deficit hawk, you have to oppose any tax reform which reduces taxes. Very strange for a libertarian.

      I think the flaw in your argument is that inflating your way out of a significant deficit would require hyperinflation, which is bad for just about everyone. Collapse of the economy bad. But politically you can’t tax your way out of a deficit either, because for every new tax dollar expected, there’s 10 ideas on how to spend it. If you want to get out of a deficit you first have to control spending; then perhaps increasing taxes would help (depending on where on the Laffer curve you are).

      • Matt M says:

        I think the flaw in your argument is that inflating your way out of a significant deficit would require hyperinflation, which is bad for just about everyone. Collapse of the economy bad.

        Yeah, I concede that this is true. I wouldn’t want to live in a Mad Max sort of world, even if I had adequately prepared and stockpiled gold, bullets, and gasoline – and relatively speaking, was in a much better position than most of my neighbors.

        That said, the whole “all taxation replaced by money printing” isn’t actually likely. But when we’re talking $100B amounts, that’s not economy-destroying. And given that I consider myself reasonably well prepared for inflation (as most libertarians likely are), I’d much rather have higher inflation than higher income taxes.

    • baconbacon says:

      Spending; however, is a different story. In and of itself spending is not bad. Spending is only bad because the spending is ultimately sourced by taxation (which is bad). Government spending that was somehow sourced exclusively from voluntary private donations would not be bad in any way. In fact, a whole lot of libertarian theory is premised on the logic that the actions performed by the state could also be financed by voluntary transactions, if necessary.

      Many (most?) libertarians generally believe that government spending is bad in that it distorts markets and reduces savings and investment.

      • Matt M says:

        That’s fair – there definitely is a crowding out effect. But I think that’s a very minor deal compared to say, “taxation is theft.”

        In my actual blog post, I used a rich donor analogy. If Bill Gates gave $1B to some organization to serve some social purpose, nobody would criticize that. A “government” that does not engage in involuntary taxation and sources all of its revenue via voluntary donations is not really any different from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is it?

        • baconbacon says:

          How is the government getting the funds if not through involuntary taxation? If you say borrowing then you are basically saying “we won’t tax to spend, but we promise to tax to pay back this bond”. If you envision a government that will only pay off their debts through more and more borrowing, who actually would (voluntarily) fund this government?

          • Matt M says:

            Right, I’m not saying it’s practical in any sense. The reducto ad absurdum obviously does not stand up to serious scrutiny and pressure testing.

            But in our actual current circumstances, replacing $100B of income tax with $100B in money printing seems like a net win for libertarians. Maybe there’s some hypothetical point where if that number rises to a high enough degree the logic stops holding, but I don’t know where that is and I don’t think we have to worry about reaching it anytime soon.

          • baconbacon says:

            It seems like a net win if you believe this current tax cut will eventually be paid for with spending cuts or growth. If not it will be paid for with higher taxes later. If it is unpopular enough to lead to the Ds gaining power and using it as an excuse to raise to raise taxes even further then that could be a significant net negative.

          • John Schilling says:

            But in our actual current circumstances, replacing $100B of income tax with $100B in money printing seems like a net win for libertarians.

            It is a net win for anarchists, in that it brings the United States that much closer to anarchy. It is probably not a net win for non-anarchist libertarians in that being non-anarchist libertarians indicates that they place positive value on having a functional government, and in that the institutions best positioned to build a functional new government between the 49th parallel and the Rio Grande are not generally libertarian in character. The idea that a reduction in tax revenues will lead to the government printing only as much money as is safe and then reducing spending to address the shortfall, is wishful thinking at best.

            But $100 billion is is not enough billions to add up to real money in the context of the US economy, federal budget, or national debt, so this is mostly irrelevant.

          • Matt M says:

            So what is the libertarian justification for being concerned about the deficit specifically (rather than taxation and spending, its two levers)?

          • John Schilling says:

            It is deficits specifically that threaten to make governments insolvent and maybe trash their currencies along the way. Taxation and/or spending without deficits don’t do that.

    • Iain says:

      Halfway through this post, you switch from asking whether deficit spending is good for libertarians ideologically — that is, does it bring the government closer to the libertarian ideal — to asking whether deficit spending is financially advantageous for individual libertarians. (“…libertarians as a group probably do fairly well”, and so on.)

      I would have expected the libertarian stance to depend much more on the issues baconbacon discusses above (distorted markets, etc…) than on personal financial gain. As a non-libertarian, I certainly find baconbacon’s stance more compelling. While I am willing to be convinced that the libertarian stance on a given issue leads to better outcomes, I am highly dubious that “libertarians are relatively better off” should count as a better outcome.

      You might personally find “taxation is theft!” to be a bigger deal than “taxation is inefficient!”, but that’s not true of most people. Indeed, I would be a bit surprised if it were even true of most libertarians.

      • Matt M says:

        Fair.

        I think I intended the point to be less “libertarians benefit financially” and more “inflation can theoretically be avoided – by anyone!”

        An avoidable harm is inherently better than an unavoidable harm, is it not?

        The fact that libertarians are predominately the ones who will avoid it, in practice, is icing on the cake.

        • baconbacon says:

          Inflation cannot be avoided by everyone though, so in terms of harm it is just a question of distribution.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      There’s no valid libertarian reason to oppose a giant meteor strike either, but a libertarian is still allowed to regard a giant meteor strike as a bad thing.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        I think there’s an unwritten assumption that any political opinion piece run by Reason is based on libertarian arguments. No one’s going to argue against a giant meteor strike on libertarian grounds.

        • Evan Þ says:

          There was actually a series on that on the Volokh Conspiracy about six years ago. A meteor is an act of nature, and an act of nature can’t directly violate anyone’s rights, right? So if the government should merely protect people’s rights, then the government shouldn’t do anything about the meteor.

          Except, this is a highly undesirable conclusion. I don’t think any of the bloggers, even the most libertarian, were inclined to bite that bullet.

          It was several years after that I stopped being a libertarian.

          • Rick Hull says:

            There was actually a series on that on the Volokh Conspiracy about six years ago. A meteor is an act of nature, and an act of nature can’t directly violate anyone’s rights, right? So if the government should merely protect people’s rights, then the government shouldn’t do anything about the meteor.

            Whether people’s lives are destroyed by a meteor (nature) or a bomb (evil foreigners) isn’t relevant. Collective action to prevent or mitigate harm is something we should do, full stop. There can be disagreement about the form and structure of that collective action, such as whether it requires a monopoly on the use of force (i.e. govt) or can be performed under voluntary consent. But the idea that harm from natural disaster is somehow exempt from protectionary response… who actually believes this?

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      I find it useful to ignore the money and watch the flows of goods and services. When the government spends, a certain quantity of goods and services flows as the government wishes. The immediate providers of those goods and services are paid for them by the government, and therefore receive other compensating goods and services; but overall society can only produce so much, and government directing some of it means there’s less for everyone else.

      In a government without running debt, a deficit one year would mean a surplus the next; so more real appropriation one year would mean less the next; and the average rate would be determined by the tax rate. But when the debt has no prospect of being paid off, it’s the spending rate that determines how much the government is actually taking–taxing and borrowing just determine the distribution of the burden.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Thats an amusing thought experiment: libertarianism becomes so popular that the government stops collecting taxes and just funds itself through debt. Its bonds retain the highest rating, because it reserves the right to collect taxes to pay them off.

    • Jack Lecter says:

      I really enjoy your posts here. I’d be interested in reading the blog.

      If you don’t want to link directly, could you maybe give us a verbal hint? Like, does linking carry some specific social signal, or don’t you want us reading it at all?

    • Jack Lecter says:

      Also,

      So where, exactly, is my logic faulty here? I feel like these are obvious points, but I see just about nobody making them – so surely I’ve made some sort of mistake…

      I find a useful heuristic for this situation is to consider the probability that you’re the first person to think of something, and compare it to the probability that you’re the first person to mention it. If a point seeems obvious to you, and you can’t believe no one else has thought of it, explicitly consider the odds that others have thought of it and not said anything.

      The more obvious the point is, the lower the likelihood other people will have chosen not to address it, even if they think it’s wrong.

    • JulieK says:

      If taxation is comparable to theft, deficit spending is comparable to stealing someone’s credit card and buying stuff with it. Sooner or later he’ll have to pay the bill, or go bankrupt.
      (Assume for the sake of this analogy that he can’t contest the charges.)

      • Anonymous says:

        If taxation is comparable to theft

        Taxation is most directly comparable to the local mafia demanding protection money. They do actually protect you to a large extent, though, on pain of losing their cashflows. In most places the payment is only mandatory while doing business in the territory of a particular mob, and going somewhere else is permitted, so it’s not as if it’s particularly tyrannical.

        • albatross11 says:

          Depending on the regime, taxes are something kind-of like Mafia protection money, but also something like HOA fees (you agreed to them buying the house and they get spent providing stuff you want) or bundled fees for services where you have to pay for a bunch of stuff you don’t want (ESPN, aggressive wars in the middle east) to get the stuff you do want (Food Network, NSF).

          It’s very easy to fall back into the worst argument in the world from here, so we should avoid that.

          • Anonymous says:

            Depending on the regime, taxes are something kind-of like Mafia protection money, but also something like HOA fees (you agreed to them buying the house and they get spent providing stuff you want) or bundled fees for services where you have to pay for a bunch of stuff you don’t want (ESPN, aggressive wars in the middle east) to get the stuff you do want (Food Network, NSF).

            No disagreement here. There are a lot of different taxes. I was referring mostly to the common income tax (which most people pay) and value added tax (which everyone except subsistence hermits pays); you certainly have a point that there are other types of taxes, which resemble other things.

            It’s very easy to fall back into the worst argument in the world from here, so we should avoid that.

            And that is?

          • albatross11 says:

            The worst argument in the world.

            The point is, taxes are a little like each of those things, but they’re not exactly like any of those things. We can reason a bit by analogy but we need to be careful not to carry over our moral reaction to mafia protection money to taxes at an emotional level–instead, we need to think about whether taxes as collected are morally right or wrong on their own.

        • baconbacon says:

          King: These are the rules, if you don’t like them you are free to leave.

          People pile into boats and leave to the new lands.

          King: I have determined that the new lands are also part of my dominion, with special rules. If you don’t like em, leave.

          People fight a war, and form a new government.

          New government: These are the rules, if you don’t like them, leave.

          People pile into wagons and leave, heading to new lands.

          New government: We have decided that the new lands are now under the dominion of the new government, here are the rules. If you don’t like it, why don’t you just leave?

          • Anonymous says:

            This all reminds me of the history of Rome, where the barbarian invaders at the late stages of the fall were in part composed of ex-citizens who fled the Empire due to overtaxation.

            Seriously, though, in most cases it goes like:

            Sovereign: “Here are the new tax rules. If you don’t like them, leave.”
            Some People: *grudgingly pay*
            Other People: *evade taxes via methods legal and illegal*
            Small Minority of Weirdoes: *actually leave*

        • vV_Vv says:

          Taxation is most directly comparable to the local mafia demanding protection money.

          But it is a mafia which allows you to elect the boss, and gives you a bunch of guarantees against discretionary use of power which are enforced procedurally.

          The thing that libertarians/ancaps fail to understand is that there will be always somebody extorting protection money from you. It’s better for it to be a democratically elected government rather than an actual gangster or a warlord.

          • Nornagest says:

            Only applies to ancaps, and it would be more accurate to call it the thing they dispute than the thing they fail to understand. The whole point of anarchism (-cap or otherwise) is to notice that most existing modes of social organization involve someone extorting protection money from you and to propose models where that doesn’t happen. Those models may or may not be practical, but treating extortion like some brute fact of nature that they’re willfully denying is very shallow, and highly uncharitable.

          • Anonymous says:

            It’s better for it to be a democratically elected government rather than an actual gangster or a warlord.

            The Death Eaters might dispute that one! 😉

    • AnarchyDice says:

      Have you linked it in the past? I already follow the blog you speak of, so it’s cool to put a SSC name to a blog.

    • Alex Zavoluk says:

      Well, spending can be bad. Spending more on the Drug War probably has negative consequences on the margin, for example, even if that money were donated to the government.

  2. Aapje says:

    This is an effort post about aggressive tax avoidance and tax rulings.

    Rulings are agreements between tax payers and the Internal Revenue Service about the taxation arrangement for the tax payer. The official justification is to provide tax payers with certainty about the taxes they have to pay. Since tax law can be ambiguous and sometimes based on value judgments, tax payers may otherwise not be sure what taxes they may end up paying. This is especially true if tax payers want to minimize their taxes by going to limit of what is allowed. (Big) companies tend to be especially interested in going to the limit, because doing so can reduce their taxes a lot. Rulings are agreements made in advance, so the tax payer knows how they will be taxed if they comply with the agreement.

    Going to the limit of tax law is not merely something that is done to evade taxes in a single tax regime, but also to take advantage of the differences between tax regimes. This “aggressive tax avoidance” (ATA) is increasingly seen as unethical and something that needs to be prohibited. ATA takes advantage of rules that prevent double taxation, the ability to make income or profit taxable in a different way and in a different country, that countries define the nationality of a company differently, as well as low or no taxes on certain kinds of income/profit in certain countries.

    To give an example of how this works, we can look at how Uber does ATA. Uber uses the “Double Dutch” method*. The first part of this method is that Uber Technologies Inc. (the US part of the company) pays 1.45% of net revenue in royalties to Uber International C.V., a Dutch subsidiary. Dutch tax law has a very low rate of royalty tax, effectively about 5%. The average effective actual federal corporate tax rate in the US is ~20%.

    The second mechanism is that Uber has a different Dutch subsidiary, Uber B.V., where every payment for a non-US Uber ride goes to. 80% of this is then sent back to the driver and 20% is kept as revenue. An Uber passenger in Barcelona thus actually pays a Dutch company and the Spanish driver gets paid by a Dutch company. Then Uber B.V. has the same type of agreement with Uber International C.V. as Uber Technologies Inc. So they pay royalties, but unlike the payment by Uber Technologies Inc., this one is completely untaxed.

    Even though Uber International C.V. is Dutch, its headquarters are in Bermuda. Dutch tax law doesn’t charge corporate income tax for Dutch companies that have no business operations or taxable income in The Netherlands, because they get seen as a foreign company (Bermudan in this case). However, the American IRS sees it as a Dutch company and allows it to indefinitely defer taxes & allows it to profit from international agreements that the US doesn’t have with Bermuda. Bermuda doesn’t charge a corporate income tax, so how they see the company doesn’t matter. So the end result is that no corporate income tax is paid.

    * There is also a method that goes through Ireland to The Netherlands to Bermuda or the Caymans, called the “Double Irish with a Dutch sandwich,” which sounds like a lunch consisting of two Guinness beers and a cheese sandwich, but isn’t.

    [continued in next comment]

    • Aapje says:

      So this method allows a companies to pay a very low tax rate, where most of that goes to The Netherlands, which offers the classic tax haven deal: the tax haven makes it possible to move income/profits that are not produced in the tax haven to the tax haven, in return for a low tax rate. So the tax haven gets to tax income/profits that it wouldn’t get to tax otherwise, while the company pays almost no taxes in the place(s) where it actually operates.

      Because the Netherlands is a country with a substantial economy, which the government does want to tax quite a bit, they can’t really design their tax rates at the optimal level for a tax haven. They’d ideally want separate tax rates for foreign companies that use an ATA method and for Dutch companies. Although the official justification of rulings is to clarify the law, they can also be used to effectively create different rules for some. For example, Starbucks has admitted to getting a special low tax rate for royalties in The Netherlands. By keeping the rulings secret, a country can very effectively have separate tax regimes.

      Of course, openly being a tax haven means that foreign governments and Dutch companies (and citizens) will be not-amused. Some years ago, the US became quite not-amused with tax evasion and money laundering in Switzerland due to their bank secrecy laws. The US forced the issue, so the Swiss had to give up their bank secrecy, ruining part of their national business model. Many countries already tax payments going to countries they see as tax havens. So key to being a Western tax haven is seeming so respectable that other countries allow untaxed capital to flow to the country, based on the assumption that fair taxes will paid, but then not actually doing so*. This is one reason why countries try to keep these rulings secret.

      * There was a vote today in the EU parliament on a motion to add The Netherlands, Malta, Ireland and Luxembourg to a list of tax havens, but voting was tied.

      Lots of information about the Dutch rulings has been uncovered recently. The Dutch IRS claims that a so-called ‘APA/ATR-team’ has to be involved when making rulings, that rulings are not allowed for tax evasion purposes, that the intent is not to deceive foreign governments, that the rulings have to have a certain format, etc. However, a 2004 memo was uncovered in which a top bureaucrat advised the Deputy Minister of Finance to allow rulings intended to deceive foreign IRS’s. The memo said that there is a “preference for a minimal interpretation of the good faith requirement.” Furthermore, the advice was to put less information in the ruling, to hide information if the ruling was shared with other IRS’s. In a 2015 memo, created by the ‘APA/ATR-team’ for the Deputy Minister of Finance, the IRS admits to approving deals which result in foreign IRS’s not taxing the amount to which they are entitled, by not informing the other country. This effectively allows companies to lie to a non-Dutch IRS about how they are taxed by the Dutch IRS, taking advantage of anti-double taxation rules unjustly.

      One of the rulings (for Procter & Gamble) was made public as part of the Paradise Papers leak and it turned out to break many of the rules that the Dutch IRS claims it follows. It was not shown to the specialized ‘APA/ATR-team’ and it was only signed by one IRS inspector, rather than two, as required. A ruling has to contain argumentation for why the ruling is needed, its scope and the duration of the agreement, but these were all missing.

      The Dutch IRS is also not (yet) complying with a EU rule that went into effect in January and which requires some information about new rulings to be shared with other IRS’s.

      There has been a huge leak of rulings made by Luxembourg in 2014, which showed effective tax rates below 1%.

      I hope you guys found this interesting. Please don’t hesitate to ask questions or such.

    • John Schilling says:

      The first part of this method is that Uber Technologies Inc. (the US part of the company) pays 1.45% of net revenue in royalties to Uber International C.V., a Dutch subsidiary.

      This sounds like it ought to be a US income event for Uber International C.V., in that it is selling a valuable product (the royalty-generating IP) to a US customer (Uber Technologies Inc) for use in the US. So it should be subject to US corporate income tax even if the money changes hands overseas. Is this the case, and if not why not?

      • Aapje says:

        Yes, the 1.45% is taxed by the US, which means that for every $10 in revenue, 14.5¢ gets taxed by the US. I don’t know what the tax rate is exactly. If we assume it is 20%, then the US would get 2.9¢ for every $10 in revenue.

        • But Uber Technologies only gets to deduct that same 1.45% of revenue as an expense and pays at the corporate rate on the rest of its profit. I don’t see how that reduces the total taxes on the revenue of Uber Technologies. Uber Tech is saving 14.5 cents on each ten dollars and Uber Int is paying 14.5 cents on each ten dollars.

          What am I missing?

          • Aapje says:

            The revenue that Uber generates outside of the US never enters the US, it is seen as profits of a Dutch subsidiary by the US and as profits of a Bermudan subsidiary by The Netherlands.

            The 1.45% of revenue that gets sent to Uber Technologies is the only money that get passed back to the US and taxed.

            So essentially it seems that the US tax system is set up to tax revenue, but by this method a company can pretend that the part of the non-US profits that they send back to the US is the only revenue they have, shielding the remaining 98.55% of revenue from being taxed by the US (or getting taxed in any significant way by any other nation).

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Aapje’s source actually says the opposite, that the Dutch firm owes the American one 1.45% of net foreign revenue. I think this is effectively an inversion, the Dutch firm being the real firm accumulating most worldwide revenue. The Dutch firm bought out the American firm for a small upfront fee (back when the valuation was low) and a long-term 1.45%. Why it bought out 98.55% and not 100%, I do not know.

        The interesting part is the double Dutch, but I think your question applies to that, too.

    • @Aapje

      I am somewhat confused by some of your comments.

      1) I find it confusing when you use Internal Revenue Service and IRS as synonyms for tax departments — thus the Dutch IRS. I can’t tell when you are really talking about the IRS (US federal tax authority), and when some other country’s tax authority.

      2) I keep hearing that Uber has always lost money. Why the heck do they have such a complicated structure when they don’t pay income taxes anyway?

      3) Do you know why the Dutch sub is paid 1.45% royalties? The only way for this to work legally is if that Dutch sub owns critical intellectual property, probably trademark value. Do you have any idea what the value is and how it transferred there, since I think the company started in the US and so the value mostly originated there? By the way, the important tax rate in the US is the 35% marginal rate paid by large companies (assuming Uber does pay tax). The average rate doesn’t matter — companies pay their next dollar of tax at the marginal rate.

      4) I don’t understand why there is no tax at all in the Spanish example. The majority of the income should be in Spain in this example, and a smaller part in Netherlands for doing the administrative work, and 1.45% royalty, also in Netherlands and subject to the 5% tax. Where does the no tax come from?

      5) How does Uber get income into Bermuda, other than for actual car rides in Bermuda. Usually tax havens like Bermuda are pumped with income using intellectual property, but you said above the trademarks are in the Netherlands.

      I am rather interested in this subject, since I am a corporate tax accountant in the US, but I have never gotten much involved in complicated international schemes to save tax. I have indeed heard of leveraging the lower Dutch tax rate on intangibles, which is why there are so many holding companies there, although I haven’t been directly involved in them.

      • Aapje says:

        @Mark V Anderson

        I am somewhat confused by some of your comments.

        This stuff is quite complicated and I may not understand it all completely myself. However, I think that it is a hugely important topic, so it’s important to try to understand it. As to your points:

        1. I thought this would make it clearer to Americans. Guess I was wrong.

        2. I know that making a loss gives a company a tax deduction, but does that tax deduction actually completely eliminate income tax? If not, this kind of structure makes sense. As far as I can tell, this structure allows companies to make bigger losses/less profit in the US, by keeping international profits outside of the US.

        I think that this structure also allows a multinational to make an overall profit (if you look at the profits of all separate companies that make up the bigger company), but to make a loss in the US, if they don’t send all their profits back to the US. I also think that this structure allows a company to deceive people to what their actual profits/losses are. The money that flows through The Netherlands to Bermuda doesn’t have to be disclosed by Dutch law and Bermuda doesn’t require that it be disclosed either.

        3. The royalties go from the Dutch subsidiary to the American parent company, actually. I presume that this is to send back part of the international profits to the American parent company, but to have the profits treated as income. If a Spanish customer would have paid $10 to the American Uber company, Uber would have to pay income tax over that whole $10. With this structure, they only pay tax over 1.45% of that $10.

        Also, I don’t think they actually pay 5% royalty tax in The Netherlands, because I expect them to have a similar deal as Starbucks. So I think that the actual royalty tax is between 0 and 5%.

        4. As far I know, income tax is typically not paid where the income is generated, but where it is received. This allows companies to sell products or services in a country without paying income tax there. They do get to pay import tax and sales tax when applicable. Since Uber rides are a service, Uber doesn’t pay import tax. In some places, no sales tax is paid either, because Uber found a loophole for that too.

        5. All the income for the non-US rides goes to The Netherlands, which allows 98.55% of it to be passed on to Bermuda, where it is taxed at a 0% rate. 1.45% is diverted to the US, to be taxed there.

        • If a Spanish customer would have paid $10 to the American Uber company, Uber would have to pay income tax over that whole $10.

          It sounds as though you think corporate income tax is on revenue. It isn’t–it’s on revenue net of costs (profit, in one of the senses of the word). Most of the money from the Spanish customer goes to the driver, not to Uber, so only the net would be taxable in the U.S. if Uber was set up as an entirely U.S. corporation.

          A further complication is that if Spain taxed Uber for that profit, those taxes would be a credit against U.S. taxes. Do you know if Spain does? My not very well informed impression is that the U.S. is an outlier, that most countries tax profit earned in the country, not profit earned anywhere by a company legally located in the country.

          If that is correct, Uber would still be paying taxes to the Netherlands for money earned there, to Spain for money earned there, … . All they are doing is avoiding U.S. taxes on money earned outside of the U.S.

          • Aapje says:

            Uber themselves say that they transfer the profits to The Netherlands (where it gets passed on to Bermuda where there is no corporate income tax), at least from the UK.

            They seem to do the same for all foreign subsidiaries.

          • Uber themselves say that they transfer the profits to The Netherlands

            That is not correct. That allegation is by the author of the article you are linking to, not quoted from or attributed to Uber.

            The online taxi-hailing service was reportedly able to pay such a low sum as it legally transferred profits to its sister company in the Netherlands, where it would be liable for a lower rate of tax.

            The statement that is attributed to an Uber spokesman is:

            “With corporation tax, past losses offset current and future profits – as is the case with Uber, which made losses in the UK in previous years,”

        • As far I know, income tax is typically not paid where the income is generated, but where it is received.

          This is definitely not true. If Uber provides services in Spain, the Spanish government will most definitely require Uber to pay income taxes on income they earned in Spain. It is true that if A pays a dividend to B, then B receiving the dividend pays income tax, but A will also be subject to income on whatever goods or services income they created in the first place.

          This is also an issue for the Bermuda income. For income to be allocated to Bermuda, that means the income must somehow be created in Bermuda, not just the money was received there. Of course it isn’t Bermuda that will contest the income there, it is the countries whose income was allocated away from them that will be auditing Uber and making them pay tax in their own country.

          I am curious where you found this information. I appreciate your post, but I think there are some holes there that you didn’t see because this isn’t your profession. I understand tax pretty well, but I am not proficient at finding good sources, so I’d be interested in knowing yours.

          Edit: I just saw your link in the response to David F, so that is at at least one of your sources? I don’t think Uber does admit they transferred profits to NL in that article. They are saying they are offsetting current income against previous years’ losses.

          • Aapje says:

            I think that my link shows both that Uber offsets losses, but also that they transfer money to The Netherlands:

            The online taxi-hailing service was reportedly able to pay such a low sum as it legally transferred profits to its sister company in the Netherlands, where it would be liable for a lower rate of tax.

            These seem like separate things. Merely offsetting losses doesn’t require moving money abroad.

          • I think that my link shows

            Your link doesn’t show anything. It claims that Uber “was reportedly able to.” It could be true, but it’s a claim made with zero evidence offered.

            What you earlier wrote was:

            Uber themselves say that they transfer the profits to The Netherlands

            Do you agree that that statement was, so far as you know, false, not supported in any way by the story you linked to?

          • Aapje says:

            Yes, that statement was false. I misread.

    • BBA says:

      I was under the impression that Uber has consistently lost money since its founding, which suggests that all this is unnecessary. There’s no need to engage in aggressive tax-avoidance strategies if you don’t have any profits to tax.

      (I suppose they do intend to become profitable eventually, but where’s the fun in that?)

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Are you also under the impression that Amazon “loses money”? That is definitely false. With Uber, it’s a lot harder to tell.
        I think the point is that if you run an operating profit, you can defer taxes by reinvesting the profits. But a multinational wants to use profits in one country to fund investment in another, hence the need for another way to avoid taxes.

        • BBA says:

          I’m well aware of Amazon’s aggressive reinvestment of profits. But Amazon isn’t getting periodic cash infusions from venture capitalists anymore. Uber is. And I suspect the lack of a route to profitability is a big part of why they haven’t IPO’d yet.

  3. AKL says:

    How much, if at all, should we care about the personal behavior of elected representatives independent of any impact on policy outcomes? I wanted Al Franken to resign because I thought he was bad for the Democratic party brand and ultimately his presence made progressive changes I wanted less likely. Also, because it seems likely he’s a sleaze. But really because of policy. I think that whether they realize it or not, most people make exactly the same type of calculation.

    All else equal I would rather vote for a good person, but I’m not sure I’d be willing to make any meaningful policy sacrifices to do so. Should I be willing to, say, raise the probability of 1M people losing Medicaid coverage by .0001% (or kick one person off Medicaid) (or replace this with a policy goal you like) in exchange for replacing Franken with his imaginary non-sleaze doppleganger? What if he was credibly accused of armed robbery? Murder? I -think- I don’t care about behavior at all, and I -think- I am happy with that frame, but I have low confidence in the latter. Do folks feel the same way?

    • Matt M says:

      I’ve been thinking a bit about this and updating my mental model of this sort of thing. I’m increasing coming around to “almost zero.” Personal behavior matters to the extent that it reveals a person’s character. Does character matter?

      I think character matters in politics in one specific way – it helps you determine whether or not the person is likely to keep their promises. High character people will probably keep their promises, low character people probably will not.

      So if you have to choose between two people who support your preferred policies, the high character option is probably better, because they will actually do what you want, while the low character may defect. But I can’t really see a good reason to support a high character person who supports policies I oppose. This isn’t (supposed to be) a popularity contest. We aren’t electing a pope. Anyone who thinks that politicians are supposed to represent “the best of us” or whatever is probably unreasonably naieve.

      • DavidS says:

        Disagree strongly. Most of what most politicians do is on issues where they made no promises, so how they think/feel/value is important. I’d rather elect someone who shared my values but reached a slightly different conclusion on some big ticket items than one whose policies I agreed with but reached them for totally different reasons.

        Of course some ‘character’ issues are more important than others. But if I thought a politician e.g. was racist or held poor people in contempt I wouldn’t elect them even if their manifesto pledges did not reflect that. Not out of piety but because that belief would come out in thousands of small but important decisions.

        This is mostly important for people with independent decision making powers of course. For an mp/congressman you might be focused on the values/character of the party/leadership they’d empower instead.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          I endorse the above. I’ve long thought that if you want to know what a politician will decide on the issues of the past term, read their platform.* If you want to know how a politician will decide on the issues of the coming term, read their character.

          And since the issues of tomorrow will be more important…

          *Platform is, of course, important, to the extent that its issues will come up later. It’s just that it won’t be complete coverage.

          • I’m totally with Matt on this. If the candidate has honesty issues, then I can’t trust him to keep his promises. But otherwise the ethics of the candidate do not matter at all to me.

            It is my impression that highly idealistic politicians “with character” have historically done much more harm to society than the average pol out there who just treats as a job. Maybe that’s partly my ideological point of view. Usually those who have been called “high character” are those with highly aggressive personalities always trying to find more ways to “help” their constituents with ever more government programs. IMO 95% of these programs feed the politicians ego, but are a net loss to society.

            It also depends on how you define “character.” Six months ago Franken would have been cited as one with high character, and now he’s not. David gives examples of racism or held the poor in contempt. IMO such attitudes very little determine the laws they pass — because all pols try to pass laws that look good, regardless of what they think. I look at issues only.

          • DavidS says:

            Sounds like you’d worry about character too: you’d avoid these ‘highly aggressive personalities’ if possible?

            Politicians want to pass laws that look good sure, but that doesn’t get you very far into the detail. All politicians might e.g. say safeguards must be put in place so some policy doesn’t harm some group, but some of those politicians will want to make sure the safeguards actually work, whereas others will make a token effort. Unless the policy is massively in the public eye and has very sophisticated commentators, few will be able to tell the difference. Public opinion just isn’t granular enough to guide the fine detail of policy.

            I also wouldn’t get too hung up on those examples. On the other side of the political spectrum, I also equally worry about electing politicians who don’t seem to register cost or disruption to business as something that matters, who seem to resent the rich, or who appear to have a strong ‘government always knows best’ instinct. Even when as is quite frequent their actual manifesto is more muted.

          • @David.

            Sounds like you’d worry about character too: you’d avoid these ‘highly aggressive personalities’ if possible?

            That isn’t character, that is issues. If a candidate has my skepticism of new government programs, I support them because we agree on the issues. Whether that candidate is honest about this I care about, but that is the extent of character that matters to me. If the candidate is racist or contemptuous of certain groups of people, or is generally a rotten guy has very low priority. I suppose if the guy is nasty enough then he might have trouble working with others, and so he won’t get his ideas moved along. But that is a question of competence, not character. And it seems to me that many politicians of quite low morals do fine in getting their agendas passed.

          • DavidS says:

            Fair enough, I think we’re talking cross-purposes. I don’t think either of us just look at manifestos, or for that matter think it’s a big deal if e.g. a politician cheats on their spouse (except I guess from more of an external perspective: i.e. insofar as this allows blackmail leverage over them or might lead to them having to resign in scandal). Both of us care about why people support specific policies and what the underpinning rationales/perspectives are.

            Is that accurate?

          • Is that accurate?

            I think so. I think part of the problem with our discussion is that most discussion of character in the public arena these days relate to issues of sexual behavior or other personal characteristics that have little to do with their public responsibilities. I think we both agree that there are many such attributes commonly labeled as “character” that have little bearing on how a politician performs his public duties?

            Where we disagree is on characteristics that bear directly on the politician’s duties. You said you would vote against those who are racist or contemptuous of the poor. While I find those qualities to be usually unfavorable (although it depends on how they are defined), it would rarely affect my vote because I don’t think even those qualities would have much affect on how they conduct their duties. But that kind of character isn’t what the public discussion is about anyway.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        My mental gymnastics to avoid caring about sexual misconduct [1] allegations is that the social sexual rules “society” [2] wants me to endorse or enforce are not my social sexual rules. I’m a Catholic and think people would be better off not be having sex outside of marriage because you avoid drama, disease, regret, (some) harassment, risk of unwanted pregnancies, lawsuits, and of course eternal damnation. This is the way I choose to live my life (today, anyway).

        Now I don’t go around shaming or forcing other people into behaving this way, because they don’t share my religious or cultural beliefs. Even if they do, it’s still not my job to go judging others.

        But when “society” wants me to enforce social-sexual rules against Al Franken or Donald Trump groping or kissing somebody (allegedly) or shun Roy Moore for (allegedly) dating high school girls during a time and place where an awful lot of marriage-material girls were off the market at 18, “society” only wants to shun and shame overly aggressive heterosexual men. Well that’s only a very small part of the social-sexual rules that I think work well. What about sexually aggressive women? What about adultery? What about prostitutes? What about pornography? What about homosexual behavior of any kind? Do I get to scold people who engage in those behaviors and run them out of public life? Pretty sure if I did that I’d be shouted down as a prudish nutjob trying to force his morality on everybody else.

        Now, I don’t want to force my social-sexual rules on anybody else because my religion requires voluntary agreement that these rules are better. So I’m sure not going to be party to enforcing someone else’s social-sexual rules.

        Also, I don’t think cad shaming is going to do anything to solve the problem of powerful men acting like cads unless you do something about the women who like having sex with cads. Donald Trump seems like a results-oriented guy. He wouldn’t be making passes at dozens of women if they didn’t work a reasonable amount of the time. But if we don’t get to shame the kind of women who jump into bed with tall billionaire TV stars then tall billionaire TV stars are going to act as though they’re surrounded by women who might like to jump into bed with tall billionaire TV stars. Start shaming sluts and maybe cads will stop acting as if they’re surrounded by sluts.

        So, maybe I’ll join in on the cad shaming when the feminists start slut shaming and gay bashing, but I’m not holding my breath. In the meantime I’m just going to vote on policies and not care what you do sex-wise that isn’t provably illegal.

        [1] By “sexual misconduct” I mean crude comments, passes, attempts to kiss or cop feels, and particularly those instances where there is no proof. This does not include Harvey Weinstein, caught on tape trying to forcibly rape a woman. Crimes should definitely be punished by the justice system.

        [2] By “society” I mean the media, the talking heads, the pundits, the “party leadership,” people screeching on twitter, etc.

        • albatross11 says:

          There are many social changes w.r.t. human sexuality I can kind-of imagine getting to happen, including ones in a more conservative direction. But making it hard for tall billionaire TV stars to get laid looks genuinely difficult.

        • On the general point that current sexual standards are not the universal opinion of mankind …

          Through most of the 19th century, the typical age of consent in the U.S. was 14, lower in some states. Hawaii, the last state to raise its age of consent, did so in 2001, from 14 to 16. As best I can tell, if Moore had succeeded in the attempt to seduce a 14 year old in Hawaii instead of Alabama, it would have been legal.

          Under Rabbinic law, a girl was an adult at twelve and a half, at which point she could marry without her parents’ consent.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Pretty sure 14 was the age of consent in Canada until recently. Most original age of consent laws set in the 19th century were set at much lower ages (10, 11), IIRC.

          • Anonymous says:

            IIRC, even the concept of legal age of consent enshrined in civil law is a recent thing. Before early modernity, there was something like “age of marriage”, and none of this silliness about who is allowed to have casual intercourse or not.

          • rlms says:

            And luckily no-one ever had sex before marriage, so the law perfectly reflected reality (this is called formalism).

          • Anonymous says:

            @rlms

            And luckily no-one ever had sex before marriage, so the law perfectly reflected reality (this is called formalism).

            Of course they had sex before marriage, and even without marriage. But it was wrong, and the law backed you up on that. Nowadays, it’s not even wrong, and good luck trying to stop your teenage daughter from having irresponsible sex via legal means.

            On the other hand, I could be interpreting you wrong. I mean, you could be against having laws against f.ex. theft, on the grounds that it doesn’t actually prevent all theft forever.

          • rlms says:

            @Anonymous
            What location and timeframe are you talking about? The legal definition of marriage has changed several times in England at least, so unless you think morality changed with it then you can’t make the blanket statement that people in the past could use the law to support their moral judgements on this issue.

          • Anonymous says:

            What location and timeframe are you talking about?

            Let’s say 19th century England, home to the seduction tort and adultery being a felony (at least I think it was at that time).

            Paging @DavidFriendman – when was adultery stricken from the crimes list in Britain?

            The legal definition of marriage has changed several times in England at least, so unless you think morality changed with it then you can’t make the blanket statement that people in the past could use the law to support their moral judgements on this issue.

            Normies frequently outsource morality to legality. Public morality has certainly changed over time, even if some people occasionally object that something that is legal is very, very wrong.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Ethics is what you do when no one is looking.

      Politicians have the ability to do a lot of unseen things. More so in the executive branch, but legislators also to some degree, by doing all sorts of horse-trading and backroom deals for various programs.

      People with high values on their Character score will, I suggest, be less likely to do Evil Things when they have the ability to do so out of the public eye. If something constrains them, whatever that something is (moral code, fear of God, scrupulosity), they won’t decide to kill a bunch of Cambodian kids or poison a town well or hundreds of other things.

      I’m not sure how well I believe what I just wrote, since I think this is the first time I’ve put it into words.

      • baconbacon says:

        How could you murder that man?

        I did it in public with lots of people watching, that means it wasn’t unethical! (I’m just kidding).

      • pansnarrans says:

        I massively believe in this. I don’t know if that makes me a sucker who watches too much TV, but I believe it. For example, say an aide comes to the president and says: “We can stop the current big news item from becoming a minor embarrassment for the White House, but to do so we’d have to screw over some innocent people.” I feel much safer for said innocent people if the president is Obama, rather than Trump.

        (Example used is meant to be illustrative and reflects my bias; not trying to start a Trump vs Obama row. Feel free to reverse names if that works better for you.)

      • cassander says:

        “The difference between a moral man and a man of honor is that the latter regrets a discreditable act, even when it has worked and he has not been caught.”

        -H. L. Mencken

        I would reverse his terms, but the point remains a good one.

    • gbdub says:

      Roy Moore is quite clearly at least a sleeze.

      But if I’m an Alabama Republican, what is more likely to impact my life in a way I don’t like:
      1) Roy Moore, known sleeze, keeping his job
      2) A senate seat flipping to the Democrats

      Given how much Senators are extensions of their national party in terms of policy, maybe putting party over sexual proclivities makes sense? It seems weird that you’d make a guy a Senator who you wouldn’t trust to be alone with your daughter for 5 minutes, but on the other hand, if the main thing you want out of a Senator is a reliable GOP vote, there’s logic to it.

      The Dems will, now that Moore is out, crow about how much more moral they are for ditching Franken voluntarily. But talk is cheap when you know Franken is just going to be swapped for a guy who will vote the same way on everything you care about.

      • AKL says:

        The Dems will, now that Moore is out, crow about how much more moral they are for ditching Franken voluntarily. But talk is cheap when you know Franken is just going to be swapped for a guy who will vote the same way on everything you care about.

        Because I believe it is effective politics (meaning it makes more likely real world outcomes I would like to see), I would be furious with my side for NOT making that argument. Even though it is of course totally (mostly?) full of shit.

        I’ve been working on not getting annoyed when the shoe is on the other foot.

        • gbdub says:

          That’s fair, but it’s also effective politics to support a hateful person who will vote for policies you like over a nicer person who will vote against all of them.

          And it’s not like you have to go very far back to get Dems on the other side *cough* Clinton *cough* Kennedy… Who was it that said something like she’d gladly get on her knees for Bill to keep abortion legal?

          Effective politics makes me feel gross.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        The thing about Roy Moore being a sleaze that confused me is that I remember the first time media made him famous, for refusing to remove the Ten Commandments from a courthouse. Why did the nine women he sleazed wait until now to accuse him, instead of the first time he was the subject of Two-Minute Hat

        • albatross11 says:

          Yeah, this is a major issue with Moore and with similar cases elsewhere.

          a. When the political stakes are high enough, it’s quite plausible you could get a few people to make false accusations against one of the candidates.

          Those might be devoted partisans, people who are on the take, personal enemies of the candidate who are willing to humiliate themselves to drag the bastard down, crazy people who have convinced themselves of stuff that hasn’t happened, etc.

          I have no reason to suspect this of happening in Moore’s case, but it’s not like I can really know one way or another!

          b. As outsiders, we rely on news reporters (maybe also official investigations) to filter out the made-up or crazy-people accusations.

          The problem here is that probably 95%+ of the prestige media in the US are strongly opposed to Trump and his broad movement. I sympathize with them, to be honest, but this means that they have *immense* internal incentives to believe bad things about important Trump allies. They also have strong personal and professional incentives to quiet their internal doubts, ignore any parts of the story that don’t quite ring true, and run with it.

          c. There are a *whole bunch* of high-profile cases where the reporting from prestigious news sources on some story, especially a culture-war type story with an important moral lesson, turned out to be really crappy. For example:

          (i) The Martin/Zimmerman shooting was widely reported as a big white guy murdering a little black kid. After Zimmerman was charged and tried for murder and got off, the best picture of reality, as far as I could get it, was that Zimmerman (a not-very-big hispanic guy) was on the ground on his back, with Martin on top of him beating the hell out of him, when he pulled the trigger. In the coverage before the trial, MSNBC rewrote the transcript of Zimmerman’s 911 call to make the conversation with the dispatcher fit the story they were trying to tell.

          (ii) In the Ferguson shooting, the original reporting was that Michael Brown was murdered in cold blood by a cop named Darren Wilson, with his hands up begging for mercy. There was an independent Justice Dept. investigation and a local grand jury investigation of the matter, and when more detail came out, the story, as best I could follow it, looked really different from that initial story. (Brown carried out a small-time strong-arm robbery in a convenience store, then got hassled by Wilson, then attacked him while he (Wilson) was still in his car, and finally they separated and then Wilson shot him. There doesn’t seem to be any evidence that Brown was trying to surrender.)

          In both of these cases, there was a serious independent investigation separate from the original news story, which is why we can know that many of the news reports got all kinds of details wrong.

          (iii) The trope-namer for recent culture-war cases was obviously the Rolling Stone story about this bizarre made-up gang rape fraternity initiation thing. (The reporter appears to have found a crazy woman who was making stuff up or deluding herself or something, and bought into the story herself enough to run with it.) This story had the property that if you read through it carefully, you could see that it was really hard for it to be true.

          (iv) We’ve discussed before how often that at least the headline-level reporting on Trump’s actions are pretty low-quality–the reporters and editors have a story in mind, and they’re going to find a way to tell that story whether the facts go along or not.

          It’s also worth noting that a huge amount of the public commentary, bloggers, talking heads, etc., on all these cases reached for the most inflamatory language and imagery possible. I didn’t get much sense, looking at the mainstream coverage of those cases, that very many of the reporters/editors/news sources were particularly trying to inform me–I thought they were either trying to convince me or make me mad.

          This leaves us in a kind-of frustrating place w.r.t. these accusations. Probably Moore is just as smarmy as he looks to be. But supppose these accusations aren’t true–I think there’s at least a 10% probability that the coverage of the prestige media would still look the same as it does right now. Maybe higher[1]

          [1] I’m not quite sure how to construct a base rate. Politician sex scandals? Culture war stories? Moral panics like the satanic ritual abuse craziness?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Yeah, the epistemic issue sucks.
            The case against Moore looks strong, because the accusations include falsifiable circumstantial details like “Here’s him creeping on me in writing” or “he was banned from a mall”.
            However, this is all coming from journalists, who are the princes of lies under general incentives and have especially strong incentives if accusing an old Culture War enemy of sex crimes has a chance of flipping the US Senate to their Party.

          • Matt M says:

            However, this is all coming from journalists, who are the princes of lies under general incentives and have especially strong incentives if accusing an old Culture War enemy of sex crimes has a chance of flipping the US Senate to their Party.

            Crying wolf is also an issue here. I feel like over the last few days, we were inundated with articles like “Here’s why Moore’s accusers are REALLY SUPER DUPER ULTRA CREDIBLE and not at all like those crazy unfounded rumors that typically get thrown at candidates for office!” But notably, in those articles, there was never any particular reference to say Trump’s accusers or Clarence Thomas’ accusers or whatever. It was all “No, this time it’s REALLY credible” without any form of concession that previous attempts weren’t as credible.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Matt M

            You don’t even have to go to previous accusations. Beverly Young Nelson clearly lied when she said Moore wrote the inscription in the yearbook (she originally said he wrote the entire thing). And the notes she added were likely a recent addition, not something she noted at the time. She’s a liar… but the mainstream media except Fox kept making excuses for her. That doesn’t mean the other accusations aren’t true, but a clearly false accusation lowers P(guilty|accused) for the other accusations IMO.

            The mall thing also appears to be nothing but hearsay and rumor.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nybbler: Oh, is that so? I’m surprised that they’d make false claims that can be checked like that, rather than safely presenting no circumstantial evidence and trusting in the popularity of #BelieveWomen.

          • The Nybbler says:

            By making false claims they got to attack him again for having the temerity to call his accuser a liar. I don’t like Roy Moore and haven’t since the Ten Commandments thing. If pictures had shown up with him and an underaged goat I’d have enjoyed a good laugh…. but his opponents (and I don’t mean Doug Jones) are far more dangerous than he is.

          • SamChevre says:

            I would add an additional note in the Moore case, which I found incredibly frustrating: deliberately and intentionally confusing the issue and who was saying what.

            There were exactly two accusers. Everyone else said Moore had dated them and did nothing more inappropriate than kiss them. The really key issue is that Moore is married to someone about 15 years younger. He dated several other women who were in the same age range, and seems to have behaved in with them in ways that everyone thought, and thinks, were fine. He may have flirted with other women in the same age range, and they may have found it uncomfortable (the mall story). But the media is really hostile to disparate-age relationships right now, so it’s done a lot to give the impression that “dated an 18-year-old and kissed her in front of her mother after the date” and “groped a 14-year-old” are pretty much the same thing.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Sam, yes, I thought Moore’s case was very different than other recent allegations because of that.

            1) Back in the 70s, in Alabama, not a lot of women went to college. An awful lot of women got married right out of high school. My wife was the first person in her family to go to college, and her mother had three sisters. All four women were married and popping out kids at 18. So if you’re a man who spent his 20s fighting the Vietnam war and then establishing a law career, you might not have time for a family. If at 32 you’re ready to have a family, you don’t marry a 32-year-old woman unless you want to be called “step dad.” And if an awful lot of the good women, like the ones in my wife’s family, are married at 18, you look at 17- and 18- year-olds for a wife.

            In today’s culture, perhaps look for a college girl instead. One of my co-workers is 34 and is dating with plans to marry a 20-year-old when she finishes college. His friends are giving him crap but I told him I think he’s doing it exactly right. In this regard, Roy Moore did nothing wrong.

            2) Given the women who said he dated them when they were 17 and 18 and Moore was a perfect gentlemen, I find the story of the 14-year-old less than credible. I find it hard to believe he was a perfect gentleman with the 17-year-old but then went full-on rapist with the 14-year-old. This is like a scowling Pedobear “too old” meme.

            And then of course the media and his political enemies treated this as if it was EXTREMELY CREDIBLE, inserting “alleged pedophile” into every news story about him, and of course internet activists who don’t have to worry about libel or slander so much up this to “CHILD RAPIST.”

            Now, I think the whole Alabama senate election was a debacle, and I think Roy Moore is a theocratic nutjob who never should have been put in the ticket, but I think the sex allegations were entirely a political hitjob, and he was severely wronged by those. But hey, it worked, so expect to this times 100 come midterms.

          • MrApophenia says:

            There were exactly two accusers. Everyone else said Moore had dated them and did nothing more inappropriate than kiss them.

            There are 2 women who say he actually had sex with them when they were underaged. There’s a third woman who says he repeatedly asked her out when she was 14, unsuccessfully.

            The mall thing is ambiguous – three mall employees say he wasn’t banned from the mall, but several local police officers say he was. However, what I find more interesting is the Gadsden cop who was told by the department to keep an eye on Roy Moore at high school football games and make sure he didn’t try anything with the cheerleaders.

            “We were also told to watch him at the ballgames and make sure that he didn’t hang around the cheerleaders,” Faye said.

            “The rumor was that Roy Moore likes young girls,” she added. “It was not only in our department but at the courthouse, too.”

            The fact that Roy Moore liked to hit on teenagers was apparently just a known fact of life in Gadsden.

            (Also, the fact that Luther Strange’s campaign also tried to dig up evidence of the rumors during the primary somewhat undercuts the idea that it was just an evil smear campaign concocted by Jeff Bezos.)

            The really key issue is that Moore is married to someone about 15 years younger.

            And also that he wrote in his autobiography that she first caught his eye when he watched her perform in her school dance recital at age 15.

          • Iain says:

            It’s also important to note that Roy Moore did not have any good answers for any of this and kept changing his story. This article has a good summary. This bit is particularly relevant:

            4. The yearbook. Moore says he never met Nelson. That leaves him to explain why she has a 1977 high-school yearbook bearing the inscription: “To a sweeter more beautiful girl, I could not say ‘Merry Christmas.’ Christmas, 1977, Love, Roy Moore.” Moore points out that Nelson, too, has something to explain: Why, he asks, are the exact date and place where he ostensibly signed the yearbook written below his name “in a style inconsistent with the rest of the yearbook inscription”? That’s a good question. It’s possible that somebody else appended those details. But what’s striking is that Moore doesn’t challenge the inscription itself. He can’t dispute that it bears an uncanny resemblance to his handwriting on other documents. […] It’s also curious that Moore’s campaign, which has dug up old documents bearing his signature, has yet to produce any that don’t match Nelson’s inscription. And the yearbook itself nails down that the inscription was written in late 1977, when Moore was 30 and Nelson had just turned 16. So even if you discount the appended text, we’re left with Moore’s note to a “beautiful girl” half his age, whom he claims he never knew.

            Roy Moore’s denials are a cloud of ink designed to give just enough plausible deniability for people who desperately want to believe. It’s a bit disappointing that people here seem to have fallen for it. For example: I challenge anybody who believes that Beverly Young Nelson originally claimed that Roy Moore wrote the entire yearbook inscription, including the part underneath in obviously different handwriting, to find any evidence of such a claim. Hint: it never happened.

            There is no conceivable reason that Beverly Young Nelson, a Trump supporter, would have told her sister, her mother, and her husband about the assault years before the public unless it actually happened. An ex-boyfriend of Leigh Corfman (who is, incidentally, also a Republican) confirmed that her story to the Washington Post was the same story she’d told him when they dated between 2009 and 2011. The reason that the media kept calling the accusations credible is because there is a mountain of otherwise inexplicable evidence backing them up.

            You can rationally hold that voting for a pedophile is better than voting for a Democrat, but you’re just lying to yourself if you try to deny that Roy Moore sexually abused teenagers.

          • baconbacon says:

            And the yearbook itself nails down that the inscription was written in late 1977, when Moore was 30 and Nelson had just turned 16. So even if you discount the appended text, we’re left with Moore’s note to a “beautiful girl” half his age, whom he claims he never knew.

            What percent of yearbook inscriptions could be viewed negatively if spun in that way? What percent are remembered by the writer decades later? The year book inscription is the weakest evidence in the case as far as I can tell, it means nothing on its own (also most inscriptions from adults are requested, and are supposed to mean more to the student).

          • You can rationally hold that voting for a pedophile

            Quoting Wikipedia:

            Pedophilia or paedophilia is a psychiatric disorder in which an adult or older adolescent experiences a primary or exclusive sexual attraction to prepubescent children.

            As best I can tell, the youngest woman Moore is accused of making advances to was fourteen.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Note to self: never sign a teenager’s yearbook because that means you raped her.

          • Iain says:

            @baconbacon:
            I agree that the yearbook on its own proves little — only that Roy Moore has met Beverly Young Nelson. Unfortunately for Roy Moore, she made other allegations, too, and Roy Moore’s insistent denial that he ever met her undermines his credibility on those other questions.

            Really, we’re only talking about the yearbook because it’s the one accusation where Roy Moore’s denials managed to gain even the slightest traction. Leigh Corfman’s accusation is the really damning one, to my eye, because of the number of people she told long before Moore ever ran for Senate.

            @Conrad Honcho:

            Note to self: never sign a teenager’s yearbook because that means you raped her.

            Alternatively: if you sign a teenager’s yearbook and she later accuses you of sexual assault, don’t lie blatantly about signing the yearbook, unless you want everybody to assume that you’re lying about the rest of it too.

            Also, don’t sexually assault teenagers.

            @David Friedman:
            Your pedantry is duly noted. Thank you for your valuable contribution.

          • lvlln says:

            Calling Roy Moore a pedophile is at best a worst argument in the world and at worst just a lie. I don’t think calling that out is pedantry. I consider a 30 year old preying upon a 14 year old to be reprehensible, but I do think it’s even more reprehensible for a 30 year old to prey upon an 8 year old, and I think it’s extremely harmful to conflate the 2, and even moreso to stubbornly continue doing so when that’s pointed out.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Alternatively: if you sign a teenager’s yearbook and she later accuses you of sexual assault, don’t lie blatantly about signing the yearbook, unless you want everybody to assume that you’re lying about the rest of it too.

            Alternatively alternatively: if you’re trying to accuse someone of attempted rape based on a yearbook signature, don’t alter the signature yourself, and if you do alter it yourself, explain why you did that while presenting the evidence unless you want everybody to assume that you’ve manufactured the rest of the story, too.

            By the way, do you remember everyone whose yearbook you’ve ever signed? And I’m assuming the last time you signed a yearbook was less than 40 years ago.

          • Brad says:

            @lvlln

            Calling Roy Moore a pedophile is at best a worst argument in the world and at worst just a lie. I don’t think calling that out is pedantry. I consider a 30 year old preying upon a 14 year old to be reprehensible, but I do think it’s even more reprehensible for a 30 year old to prey upon an 8 year old, and I think it’s extremely harmful to conflate the 2, and even moreso to stubbornly continue doing so when that’s pointed out.

            This argument would be much stronger if it was 16 or 17. But just as 14 isn’t 8 it also isn’t 16 or 17.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Alternatively alternatively: if you’re trying to accuse someone of attempted rape based on a yearbook signature, don’t alter the signature yourself, and if you do alter it yourself, explain why you did that while presenting the evidence unless you want everybody to assume that you’ve manufactured the rest of the story, too.

            The signature has not been “altered.”

            I don’t know what happened, but if Moore’s defenders try to prove something is wrong because someone added details underneath a signature in a yearbook, they’re trying to snow me.

            In high school a teacher recommended we add notes of just who signed our yearbooks because “in 20 years you don’t know who ‘Andrea’ is, I’m serious, you won’t.” This looks exactly like that.

            It’s extremely obvious, looking just at the image by itself with no context https://trofire.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/2017-12-11-Roy-Moore-Yearbook-1068×561.jpg, that someone else added something underneath, and there is absolutely no attempt to hide that. That’s why the date is written twice, once as “Christmas 1977” (by the original writer) and again as “12-22-77” (by someone who was providing notes of just who/where this was in clearly different handwriting).

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I’ve lost track; is the woman who accused him of attempted rape when she was 14 credible? The other 8 accusations are flirting or dating at 16-18, which was legal and makes a lot more sense for a 30-something attorney, creepy or not, looking for a wife before most women went to college.

          • Iain says:

            @lvlln:

            As Brad says, 14 is not 16. If you think that pedophilia is the wrong word, I gladly give you permission to pretend I wrote “ephebophile”, or whatever other term you would prefer to use to describe a 32 year old man who placed a 14 year old girl’s hand on his underwear. It doesn’t make the slightest difference to my actual argument.

            @Le Maistre Chat:

            There are two accusations that go beyond flirting. One is Leigh Corfman, who was 14 when Roy Moore allegedly picked her up outside a courthouse where her mother was filing her divorce papers. This is the case I mention above, where he stripped them down to their underwear. It is quite credible — there are records of Corfman’s mother being present at the courthouse on the date in question, and several people have confirmed that Corfman told them her story about Roy Moore years ago (including an ex-boyfriend who presumably has little reason to lie on her behalf). Here’s the open letter she wrote to Moore.

            The other accusation of assault is from Beverly Young Nelson, the owner of the much-discussed yearbook. She alleges that, a few weeks after signing her yearbook, Moore offered to drive her home, groped her breasts, and tried to force her head onto his crotch.

            Both of these women are Republican, and presumably had little interest in electing a Democrat.

          • baconbacon says:

            32 year old man who placed a 14 year old girl’s hand on his underwear.

            It is cheap to take an accusation and claim that it is definitive, especially considering the mostly level headed discourse on both sides leading up to this.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            I have members of my extended family of my grandparents’ generation where they got married where the girl was about the age being discussed and the guy was about the age being discussed, and they remained happily married for the next 60+ years.

            I think of strong honorable men like my granduncles and strong beloved women like my grandaunts, and then I look at the people who are calling these kind of relationship “abusive”, and I can see who are the good people and who are not good people.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            When a Moore attacker posts the image in black and white instead of color so you can’t see the last name and both dates were written in a different color ink, I wonder if they’re trying to snow me…

            ETA: For the record, I think Moore is a whacko and do not agree with his politics. But I also don’t like political hit jobs of sex accusations from 40 years ago deciding elections. I don’t think there’s going to be a single policy debate in the midterm elections, it’s just going to be screaming sex crime accusations from sea to shining sea.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The mall thing is ambiguous – three mall employees say he wasn’t banned from the mall, but several local police officers say he was.

            What police officers? The original story had a mall employee say that a police officer told them that Moore was banned from the mall, but the actual police officer refused to talk to the reporter. There probably was a rumor that he was banned from the mall.

            @Iain

            I challenge anybody who believes that Beverly Young Nelson originally claimed that Roy Moore wrote the entire yearbook inscription, including the part underneath in obviously different handwriting, to find any evidence of such a claim.

            From various articles:

            Nelson went on, describing another incident in which Moore signed a school yearbook of hers when she was 16.

            “He wrote in my yearbook as follows: ‘To a sweeter more beautiful girl, I could not say Merry Christmas, Christmas, 1977, Love, Roy Moore, Old Hickory House. Roy Moore, DA.'”

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Both of these women are Republican, and presumably had little interest in electing a Democrat.

            Lots of Republicans did not like Moore. All of this was taking place during a power struggle between the Bannon populists and the GOP establishment.

          • phil says:

            fwiw Beverly Young Nelson’s voter registration was inactive (it appears that that doesn’t preclude the possibility that she might have voted for Trump, but depending on the mechanics of when registrations go inactive, it might speak to the likelihood that she did)

            http://www.commonsenseevaluation.com/2017/11/14/t-beverly-young-nelson-has-an-inactive-voter-registration/#sthash.5HbGLs6Q.dpbs

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            the last name and both dates were written in a different color ink,

            So the first time I’d ever seen the yearbook image was about an hour ago when I searched for images.

            With this second image, I’m even more convinced that there is no attempt at subterfuge.

          • Iain says:

            @Conrad Honcho:
            It was not written in two colours of ink. It’s chromatic aberration, caused by a shallow depth of field. None of the other photos or videos of the yearbook show the effect.

            The original photo was not published in black and white, either. Here’s an article from the day of the allegation, containing a photo that is clearly in colour: look at her hand, and at the inside cover of the yearbook.

            I don’t know where you keep getting all of these claims, but you might want to reconsider the trust you place in your source.

          • lvlln says:

            As Brad says, 14 is not 16. If you think that pedophilia is the wrong word, I gladly give you permission to pretend I wrote “ephebophile”, or whatever other term you would prefer to use to describe a 32 year old man who placed a 14 year old girl’s hand on his underwear. It doesn’t make the slightest difference to my actual argument.

            I don’t really get this point about the distinction between 14 & 16 when it comes to the term “pedophile” here, since both of those ages are generally considered not pre-pubescent. FWIW, obviously a 30 year old preying upon a 14 year old is more reprehensible than the same preying upon a 16 year old (all else being equal), but even more obviously, neither is accurately described as “pedophilia.”

            My pretending that you wrote some other word doesn’t actually address the issue of you stating something that’s blatantly misleading at best and a lie at worst, though. Does it change the fact that a 32 year old sexually abusing a 14 year old is utterly reprehensible? Not in the least. But you don’t get to round up all reprehensible acts beyond some threshold to some emotionally loaded term that doesn’t accurately describe the specific issue under discussion. No more than one gets to call Barack Obama a Socialist or Bret Weinstein a white supremacist. At least not without push back.

            I’m pretty sure this isn’t what’s happening in this specific situation with you, but it’s concerning to me how much people seem to be willing to not just bend but simply break the meaning of words in order to smear people they don’t like. I think, especially in charged topics like this, it’s important to insist that people be honest and tell the truth.

            To play devil’s advocate, I think there’s a strong argument that can be made that the term “pedophile” has been re-defined through common usage to mean “anyone above the age of consent who has a sexual attraction to anyone below the age of consent (excluding exceptions written into law where if the age difference is small enough, it’s still considered legal).” Much like how I think there’s a somewhat strong argument that can be made that the term “racist” has been re-defined through common usage to mean “anyone who is white.” But I think there’s also a strong argument that can be made that we haven’t reached that point yet in common usage. I’m not sure what the empirical evidence points to. My perception is that people have a visceral reaction to the term “pedophile” which still implies a definition that has specifically to do with attraction to pre-pubescent children, even when they intellectually use it with the “age of consent” definition.

            I also think there’s a strong argument to be made that sexually abusing a 14 year old is just as bad as sexually abusing an 8 year old, even if I’d disagree. Under that framework, it would make sense to just disregard any sort of distinction between “pedophile” and whatever Roy Moore is, at least when it comes to moral condemnation. But that argument would still need to be made, not just assumed.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Thanks for the link Iain. I don’t think I’ve ever been proven wrong by an /r/conspiracy link before, jeebus. Anyway, she still pretended as though the entire thing was written by Moore at first and backtracked later, and a yearbook signature doesn’t mean a damn thing. I signed a lot of yearbooks back in the day and I don’t remember raping anybody.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I don’t really get this point about the distinction between 14 & 16 when it comes to the term “pedophile” here, since both of those ages are generally considered post-pubescent.

            Well, to pick nits, for most people, there’s up to a year of pre-high-school life while being 14, and the school change is a fairly prominent milestone. So I think 14 is at the tail end of what would be considered (mid-)pubescent.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I’m pretty sure this isn’t what’s happening in this specific situation with you, but it’s concerning to me how much people seem to be willing to not just bend but simply break the meaning of words in order to smear people they don’t like.

            Also stating unproven allegations as if they’re proven facts.

            It’s one if you’re just shitposting “rah rah my team” rhetoric on the internet, but you can’t pretend it’s persuasive, certainly not on a blog that is extremely concerned with epistemic humility. I could make a case that Obama is a muslim sympathizer, or more sympathetic to issues facing muslims than those of other creeds, but I can’t come here screaming “U-BAMA IS A SEKRIT MUSLIM” and expect that to do anything other than demonstrate I’m a nutjob my own lack of epistemic rigor.

          • Brad says:

            @lvlln
            Ephebophile is a highly obscure word that’s part of a medical or scientific attempt to classify the world into a nice neat taxonomy. The sense of pedophile that excludes ephebophile is likewise obscure.

            Pedophile as a word that is used with non-trivial frequency means an adult that is sexually interested in a person that is too young for him to be sexually interested in.

            So there aren’t two separate issues, viz:

            Does it change the fact that a 32 year old sexually abusing a 14 year old is utterly reprehensible? Not in the least. But you don’t get to round up all reprehensible acts beyond some threshold to some emotionally loaded term that doesn’t accurately describe the specific issue under discussion.

            I also think there’s a strong argument to be made that sexually abusing a 14 year old is just as bad as sexually abusing an 8 year old, even if I’d disagree.

            these are one in the same issue. If sexual contact between a 14 year old and thirty something amounts to child abuse (morally speaking, not legally) than it is accurate to call the thirty something a pedophile, pedantic prescriptivism notwithstanding.

          • lvlln says:

            Ephebophile is a highly obscure word that’s part of a medical or scientific attempt to classify the world into a nice neat taxonomy. The sense of pedophile that excludes ephebophile is likewise obscure.

            Pedophile as a word that is used with non-trivial frequency means an adult that is sexually interested in a person that is too young for him to be sexually interested in.

            So there aren’t two separate issues, viz:

            Does it change the fact that a 32 year old sexually abusing a 14 year old is utterly reprehensible? Not in the least. But you don’t get to round up all reprehensible acts beyond some threshold to some emotionally loaded term that doesn’t accurately describe the specific issue under discussion.

            I also think there’s a strong argument to be made that sexually abusing a 14 year old is just as bad as sexually abusing an 8 year old, even if I’d disagree.

            these are one in the same issue. If sexual contact between a 14 year old and thirty something amounts to child abuse (morally speaking, not legally) than it is accurate to call the thirty something a pedophile, pedantic prescriptivism notwithstanding.

            I don’t think this is a terrible argument, but I disagree with it. I think there are varying degrees of (sexual) child abuse, and I don’t think it serves us well to round all of it down to “pedophilia.” This is because I perceive the visceral reaction people have to the term “pedophile” as reflecting the belief that that person being sexually attracted to people who are specifically pre-pubescent. That is to say, I disagree that the meaning of “pedophile” that excludes the “ephebophile” category is obscure. I think it’s true that the term “ephebophile” is obscure, but it doesn’t then follow that “pedophile” takes over the area of that meaning. I think it’s just a symptom of people tending not to think carefully about this, because they tend not to think much about it at all, because it’s highly uncomfortable for most people to think about it. I also think that’s a huge reason why we ought to be precise and accurate in our terminology when discussing this and be careful not to create unnecessary emotional affect – the very fact that it’s so emotionally charged means that we are going to tend to be more careless when talking about it, so we have to try extra hard lest we fall into traps.

            I do agree that it “is used with non-trivial frequency [to mean] an adult that is sexually interested in a person that is too young for him to be sexually interested in.” I just don’t think “non-trivial frequency” is nearly enough to outweigh what I perceive as the “revealed definition” based on how people react to the term. Just like how I perceive “socialist” to be used with non-trivial frequency to mean “anyone economically to the left of Ayn Rand,” but I don’t think that justifies calling Barack Obama a socialist. At least not without push back. Because I perceive the way people react to someone being labeled a “socialist” to be more congruent with a more strict and extreme definition of the word than “economically to the left of Ayn Rand.”

          • Brad says:

            I don’t think the comparison to socialist meaning “to the left on Ayn Rand” is apt. The definition you are suggesting we cabin pedophile to is the equivalent of insisting that socialism means “collective ownership of the means of production” and so not even North Korea or Cuba would qualify anymore because they now allow some small entrepreneurs to operate. The equivalent of socialism meaning “to the left of Ayn Rand” would be if someone called an 60 year old that started sleeping with a 25 year old a pedophile (which AFAIK no one does). Unlike your socialism example, here we have a phenomenon that is directly adjacent to the core usage of the word.

            In any event I dispute your characterization of the revealed definition. In my experience people tend to have very similar reactions to hearing about a thirty something molesting a 14 year old as hearing about a thirty something molesting an 8 year old. It isn’t the word pedophile that is conjuring up that reaction, the reaction is there and so one word to describe the unified phenomenon is appropriate. Maybe some posters want to point to the 19th century or make some kind of is-ought argument to say that widespread disgust is totally unfair, but that’s neither here nor there when it comes to the terminology question.

          • Nornagest says:

            I have a bad reaction to the word “ephebophile”, but that’s mainly because I used to hang out on TV Tropes, where it was at one time in fashion for certain parties to use it to justify talking in grotesque detail about their fantasies regarding underage (usually) anime characters — no, it’s fine, it’s ephebophilia, she’s fifteen, see?

            I do feel like there’s a qualitative difference between creeping on sexually mature but socially immature people and on kids, but I don’t know how to draw the line without falling into this trap.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nornagest: Heh, the ol’ tribal heuristic. “In some times and places it’s not immoral to be aroused by 15-year-olds, but men who do it today are HUGE CREEPS, so I won’t be.”
            I’m not saying this is a bad heuristic.

          • rlms says:

            Large numbers, possibly a majority, of the victims in the three child sex abuse scandals I can think of off the top of my head (Jimmy Savile, Rotherham, the Catholic church) were pubescent. But referring to the perpetrators in those as paedophiles is uncontroversial; in fact they are pretty much central examples of the category.

          • JayT says:

            All three of your examples included prepubescent children.

          • rlms says:

            Yes, that’s why I started my comment with “large numbers”, not “all”. My point is that if you refer to an individual e.g. priest as a paedophile, you don’t get too many people jumping up to say “Wait! Are you sure that all his victims were pubescent?”.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            But oddly enough, Mohammed had sex with Aisha when she was 9 years old and many Westerners would push back against calling him a pedophile.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            My point is that if you refer to an individual e.g. priest as a paedophile, you don’t get too many people jumping up to say “Wait! Are you sure that all his victims were pubescent?”.

            I think the usual assumption, at least in the States, is that none of them were.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Yes, that’s why I started my comment with “large numbers”, not “all”. My point is that if you refer to an individual e.g. priest as a paedophile, you don’t get too many people jumping up to say “Wait! Are you sure that all his victims were pubescent?”.

            When the media’s whipping up a moral panic about something, precise distinctions often get forgotten. That doesn’t mean that we should import such inexactitude into calmer discussions, though.

          • John Schilling says:

            a. When the political stakes are high enough, it’s quite plausible you could get a few people to make false accusations against one of the candidates.

            What is much, much less plausible is “getting” several people to make false accusations that would remain credible after the sort of investigation that any major political scandal and/or media event will incite, without leaving a trail of people willing to testify that the DNC/Jones Campaign/whomever tried to get them to make false accusations but they refused. Honesty is not a virtue limited to conservatives, and it is not plausible that the accusations against Moore were the result of a Democratic conspiracy. To claim otherwise, even in a lame, “I can’t prove it wasn’t so” sense, is itself a false accusation.

            It is possible that Roy Moore is not specifically guilty of sexual assault or statutory rape, After 30+ years, that would be difficult to prove in any event. But that still leaves us with a story of Moore having behaved in a manner that was considered at least marginally sleazy by the standards of 1970s Alabama. And those standards haven’t exactly evolved to embrace libertinism in the decades sense. And it also leaves us with Moore offering only the most ineffectual defense of his conduct. That the people of Alabama ultimately chose not to be represented by him, does not require invoking a conspiracy.

          • I’ve lost track; is the woman who accused him of attempted rape when she was 14 credible?

            Unless more details have come out since I read the story, she didn’t accuse him of attempted rape but of attempted seduction.

          • Well, to pick nits, for most people, there’s up to a year of pre-high-school life while being 14, and the school change is a fairly prominent milestone. So I think 14 is at the tail end of what would be considered (mid-)pubescent.

            It may be a prominent milestone, but it has nothing to do with the definition of pubescent. Look it up.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Honesty is not a virtue limited to conservatives, and it is not plausible that the accusations against Moore were the result of a Democratic conspiracy.

            More plausibly a Republican conspiracy. The senate race was a power struggle between Steve Bannon and Mitch McConnell. Why on earth Bannon chose this battle at this time is beyond me. Roy Moore is not a MAGA candidate. Roy Moore is a bible banging theocrat who thinks gays did 9/11. Bannon tried to call this “Trumpism without Trump,” but Trump won by shrugging at social issues and running on BUILD WALL DEPORT ILLEGALS BOMB ISIS KILL TPP BAN MUSLIMS BEAT CHYNA JOBS JOBS JOBS. Want to win in a red or purple state? Put that on shirt and scream it into a microphone at every campaign stop and you win. Update TPP to NAFTA I guess. But “well if we just crucify all the gays the Lord will smile on the Dow Jones Industrial Average!” is a non-starter.

            But that still leaves us with a story of Moore having behaved in a manner that was considered at least marginally sleazy by the standards of 1970s Alabama. And those standards haven’t exactly evolved to embrace libertinism in the decades sense.

            What I’m left with is disbelief at the state of the social-sexual culture in the media. While the rainbow flag waving is approaching “clapping for Stalin” levels of lunacy, a man wanting to date and marry a young woman and start a family is “sleazy.” Presented with only mild hyperbole:

            “So, whatcha into? Fur suits? Watersports? Scat play? No judgements here man, whatever a lesbian eskimo transmidget, two men, a woman, three donkeys and a shaved asian boy do in the privacy of their own sex dungeon is natural and beautiful, just like God ha ha who are we kidding he abandoned us long ago Mother Non-Binary Identifying Parental Unit Nature intended #LoveIsLove #LoveWins and here’s Bill Nye with a song about butt stuff!”

            “Well, I’m a healthy, cisgendered heterosexual man who is attracted to sexually mature females in their prime fertile years. I plan to chastely date one for a reasonable amount of time until we choose to dedicate our lives to one another at which point, bonded in holy matrimony, we will engage in vaginal intercourse with the lights out in the missionary position for the sole purpose of procreation.”

            “… … You MONSTER! There is no place for you in polite society!”

            And I don’t think we’re anywhere near peak degeneracy.

          • lvlln says:

            @Brad

            I don’t think the comparison to socialist meaning “to the left on Ayn Rand” is apt. The definition you are suggesting we cabin pedophile to is the equivalent of insisting that socialism means “collective ownership of the means of production” and so not even North Korea or Cuba would qualify anymore because they now allow some small entrepreneurs to operate. The equivalent of socialism meaning “to the left of Ayn Rand” would be if someone called an 60 year old that started sleeping with a 25 year old a pedophile (which AFAIK no one does). Unlike your socialism example, here we have a phenomenon that is directly adjacent to the core usage of the word.

            In any event I dispute your characterization of the revealed definition. In my experience people tend to have very similar reactions to hearing about a thirty something molesting a 14 year old as hearing about a thirty something molesting an 8 year old. It isn’t the word pedophile that is conjuring up that reaction, the reaction is there and so one word to describe the unified phenomenon is appropriate. Maybe some posters want to point to the 19th century or make some kind of is-ought argument to say that widespread disgust is totally unfair, but that’s neither here nor there when it comes to the terminology question.

            I disagree with both these paragraphs, but I can at least respect the arguments. I do think “left of Ayn Rand” is directly adjacent to the true revealed definition of “socialism” in exactly the same way that “30 year old sexually abusing a 14 year old” is directly adjacent to the true revealed definition of “pedophile.” I think, as much revulsion as people have to a 30yo sexually abusing a 14yo, the revulsion they tend to have to the same abusing an 8yo is much worse. And to whatever extent that revulsion is the same, it seems to be caused solely by bucketing both of them into the same bucket.

            It’s hard for me to figure out a way to resolve our disagreements without actually looking into the empirical evidence, though, and not being a sociologist or linguist, I don’t know what empirical evidence would even be useful. But at the very least, I appreciate that you’re making the argument instead of flippantly dismissing it as pedantry. Because this is an issue of truth and honesty, not pedantry (but that’s exactly what a pendant would say, isn’t it?).

          • lvlln says:

            @rlms

            Yes, that’s why I started my comment with “large numbers”, not “all”. My point is that if you refer to an individual e.g. priest as a paedophile, you don’t get too many people jumping up to say “Wait! Are you sure that all his victims were pubescent?”.

            You don’t need “all” the victims to be pre-pubescent, you need at least 1 of the victims to be pre-pubescent. The sense I got from those events is that those perpetrators were uncontroversially labeled “pedophiles” to whatever extent that they sexually abused pre-pubescents, and that if none of their victims had been, then the labeling of them as “pedophiles” would have been quite controversial.

          • albatross11 says:

            John:

            This is the core of my original point. Given the media coverage, do I trust that false accusations would have been shown as false?

            I noted three culture-war stories (off the top of my head, so beware the availability heuristic) in recent years where, as far as I can tell, lots of media coverage (including conservative media coverage) did not, in fact, seem to get rid of false claims or lead to a clear and correct view of what had actually happened. The current widely-accepted narrative in the Brown and Martin shootings is, as far as I can tell, *still* not a very good fit to the facts as they eventually came out.

            Those examples make me skeptical of whether or not false accusations would be successfully removed from the narrative by all the journalists paying attention to these stories.

            And my complaint here isn’t particularly about Moore–I don’t know much about Moore’s politics, and what I do know I don’t much like. It’s about how we should think about this kind of accusation.

            When there’s a big public sex scandal in the media about a politician, in a politically critical election, how much trust should I have that the media will do a good job investigating and reporting on it? When the consensus of mainstream media sources is that X happened, how much confidence should I have that X actually happened?

          • Randy M says:

            You don’t need “all” the victims to be pre-pubescent, you need at least 1 of the victims to be pre-pubescent.

            Reminds me of the joke that ends “but you fuck just one goat, and they call you MacGregor the Goatfucker from then til eternity” or something.

          • baconbacon says:

            “You see that bridge over there? I built that bridge with my own two hands. Do they call me McGregor the bridge builder? No. You see that barn over there, built that with my own two hands. Do they call me McGregor the bridge builder? No. See that row of homes? I built all of them, all ten, with my own two hands. Do they call me McGregor the home builder? No. But you fuck one goat…..

          • @Conrad:
            What strikes me about the Moore story is that the emphasis was on the wrong feature of the offense. Being attracted to a fourteen year old is not a perversion, although acting on that attraction may be illegal at the moment and under many circumstances immoral. There is nothing terribly objectionable about a thirty year old man dating, or marrying, a sixteen year old woman–I’m ten and a half years older than my wife, although she was well over sixteen when we first met.

            But if the account of the older of the two most serious accusers are true, the 16 year old, he aggressively groped her after getting her to get in his car at night by offering to drive her home, and when he finally gave up on his attempts he told her that if she told anyone nobody would believe her because she was a girl and he was a high status adult (D.A.).

            That is pretty ugly behavior.

          • John Schilling says:

            This is the core of my original point. Given the media coverage, do I trust that false accusations would have been shown as false?

            You certainly ought to. The New York Times, CNN, and every other “left-wing” media outlet, accurately reported that the Killian memos were a hoax. They accurately reported that the UVA fraternity rape story was a hoax. They accurately reported that liberal media darlings Janet Cooke, Jayson Blair, Stephen Glass, and Brian Williams had perpetrated hoaxes. They weren’t the first to break these stories, but neither did they deny them to the bitter end.

            Don’ trust center-left mass media outlets to devote crack teams of investigative reporters to break such stories. But do trust that if someone perpetrates a provable hoax, then when some blogger breaks the story everyone else will join on the dogpile even if it’s their tribe that ran with the hoax.

            That doesn’t mean that where there isn’t an actual, provable, hoax, they’ll slant the story the way you’d prefer (and call “fair and balanced”) rather than the way they prefer. These are two different things, with two different incentive structures.

          • rlms says:

            Furthermore, there *was* a provably false accusation against Roy Moore. The liberal media (in this case the WP) checked the facts; discovered contradictions and found that the accuser had stated “I’ve accepted a job to work in the conservative media movement to combat the lies and deceipt (sic) of the liberal MSM.” online; and didn’t publish the claim.

          • albatross11 says:

            John Schilling:

            It’s true that we know about major journalistic failures because other journalists report on them. In all three of the culture-war-heavy cases I described, I only know about the problems because they were reported in other major news sources. However:

            a. There is an obvious problem with assuming that this means that all such failures are found and reported, rather than assuming that this shows that there are many failures, and some get discovered and reported. What fraction of major news sources that get reported in the Washington Post or New York Times or CNN or NPR[1] have major, critical facts wrong, so that the picture you get from their story is massively wrong? I don’t know the answer to that, but I infer from the visible failures that it’s probably at least 5-10% of the time.

            b. Two of the three examples I used had an independent in-depth investigation going on, which dug up the additional facts that called some major aspects of those stories into question. If Zimmerman had never gone to trial, it is not at all clear to me that we’d ever have heard about how different the situation apparently was[2] than what was reported in mainstream news sources, and especially what was reported early on in the stories.

            c. An election sex scandal case has the problem that it only really matters for a short time. Even if the truth ultimately comes out, it may not matter if it comes out a few weeks after the election. Though it’s not clear anyone will be looking a few weeks after the election.

            I should clarify that none of what I’m talking about is necessarily partisan (though I suspect the overwhelming dislike of Trump et al by almost everyone in journalism makes errors in one direction more likely), and none of what I’m talking about requires some kind of conspiracy. I think it’s both easy and probably pretty common for a really flawed picture of reality to become the mainstream view, based on reporting by mainstream, respectable sources of news that manage, for whatever reason, to get it wrong.

            How would we measure how often this happens?

            [1] These are all news sources I read and have some reasonable level of trust in–I’m not choosing intentionally crappy ones like Buzzfeed or the Daily Mail.

            [2] I’m assuming that the evidence that came out in the final trial probably led us to a pretty accurate picture of what happened, but I’m stuck, as always, with trusting that they tried to get to the truth.

        • John Schilling says:

          Why did the nine women he sleazed wait until now to accuse him, instead of the first time he was the subject of Two-Minute Hate

          Because Harvey Weinstein hadn’t opened that particular floodgate in 2003, making such accusations a lower reward, higher risk activity.

        • Nornagest says:

          The mainstream Left only positioned itself as the guardian of sexual morality relatively recently. Maybe there was no strategic incentive to play up Moore’s sleaze during the Ten Commandments episode, which was… what, late Nineties, early 2000s, something like that? Back when the Moral Majority wing of the GOP was still strong, certainly.

          That wouldn’t be a very strong incentive for the women making the accusations, but it would be one for most of the people in a position to popularize those accusations.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            That’s a really good point. True accusations wouldn’t get broadcast by the media until journalists chose to become the morality police.

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah, “Always believe the victim” wasn’t really a thing until recently.

            Nobody but the National Enquirer was willing to touch the Monica Lewinsky story until a literal semen-soaked dress was produced…

          • albatross11 says:

            There’s definitely a herd mentality thing going on there–once one or two news sources report a story about X, then it’s easier for the next one to do so. When there’s a rash of stories about the burning issue of the month, everyone comes out of the woodwork with stories about the burning issue, and they are often none too careful about making sure the facts of the case exactly support the story.

          • albatross11 says:

            So it seems like the model you (and John) are proposing for this is something like:

            Imagine a world in which Weinstein successfully buys off/intimidates/shuts up his accusers, the big story on him doesn’t break, and the whole “teaching moment” on sexual harassment doesn’t happen.

            In that world, we don’t see these stories about Roy Moore, either because the women don’t come forward or the reporters don’t publish the stories.

            Is that basically what you think?

          • Nornagest says:

            I wrote my post independently of John’s and he’s putting more emphasis on the Weinstein angle than I’d considered. But I think the two are compatible. In a world where the center-left establishment doesn’t see one of its functions as safeguarding sexual morality, we should expect stories about sexual immorality to have a harder time blowing up, since most of the national news is aligned with the center-left establishment. Especially stories about prominent members of that establishment, like Weinstein, but it’s still true for enemies of it like Moore: if you’re a New York reporter in the cultural milieu of the early 2000s, you can accuse a dude like Moore of being a hypocrite for failing to live up to his own sexual ethics, but there’s a limit to how big a stink you can make before you start looking like a hypocrite yourself.

            And that makes it significantly harder to get the ball rolling, whether we imagine the “teaching moment” being sparked by Weinstein or somebody else. In today’s cultural environment I think we would have seen something like this either way, sooner or later, but the early 2000s were a different time.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Anita Hill was there to accuse Clarence Thomas (R) in an attempt to derail his Supreme Court nomination way back in 91. The left was certainly willing to morality police that one. ABC broke the Mark Foley (R) scandal in 2063. Yes, none of the mainstream media would touch the Clinton (D)’s Lewinski scandal (fun fact: that’s pretty much what launched the Drudge Report), nor would they touch John Edward (D)’s affair until the Enquirer literally chased him into a hotel bathroom, but I’m seeing a different pattern than you.

        • albatross11 says:

          Conrad:

          US society is massively wrapped around the axle about both sex and adolescence, and it shows in stuff like this.

          Let’s assume Moore didn’t commit any actual sexual assaults, but did routinely make a nuisance of himself hitting on girls who were of the legal age of consent[1] in the state, but who were also pretty young for him, 30 years ago. This is an entirely plausible picture of the world given the stories that have come out, though obviously I can’t know what really happened.

          Would that be a reason to vote against him? I’m not really clear why. A 30-something guy hitting on a 16-year old is kind-of distasteful, but it’s not evil, and it’s not some kind of sign of underlying pedophilia or anything. The same guy being persistent enough to be noted as a bit of a nuisance (the local cops know about this dude, but he’s not doing anything illegal, so they just run him off when he’s getting too annoying) is kind-of embarrassing, but again, we’re not talking about a major moral failing here.

          Of course, the culture-war side of this is dishonest as hell–the same people who were talking about how horrible it was for Moore to hit on teenagers would happily berate anyone who argued that girls that same age shouldn’t be given fairly explicit sex ed classes, free contraception, and access to abortion without getting their parents involved. But that’s just how tribalism works, and there’s no fixing it.

          [1] At the time this was going on, as I understand it, he was either a law student or a lawyer, so I’m assuming he knew exactly what the legal age of consent was in his state and acted accordingly. This is especially true if he knew he was getting complaints from the parents of the girls in question about this creepy 30-year-old hitting on them–he would have known that staying above the age-of-consent line was the key to staying out of jail.

          • baconbacon says:

            A 30-something guy hitting on a 16-year old is kind-of distasteful, but it’s not evil,

            I would, in general, disagree here. Selecting targets who have far less experience/far more naivety than you do can definitely be predatory behavior. There are some social rules for mitigating these types of behavior (often making it openly know to the parents is one) so it isn’t automatically evil, but some interactions clearly are over that line. What Moore did I don’t know.

          • Anonymous says:

            Selecting targets who have far less experience/far more naivety than you do can definitely be predatory behavior.

            More like, “behaviour that helps build lasting marriages”. IIRC, couples where the man is significantly older are more stable.

          • baconbacon says:

            More like, “behaviour that helps build lasting marriages”. IIRC, couples where the man is significantly older are more stable.

            You have jumped right over a gaping chasm that most relationships don’t end in marriage, and then hopped over a second, smaller one, where by a lasting marriage somehow precludes predatory behavior.

          • Iain says:

            Of course, the culture-war side of this is dishonest as hell–the same people who were talking about how horrible it was for Moore to hit on teenagers would happily berate anyone who argued that girls that same age shouldn’t be given fairly explicit sex ed classes, free contraception, and access to abortion without getting their parents involved. But that’s just how tribalism works, and there’s no fixing it.

            C’mon. You don’t get to write this kind of nonsense and then complain about tribalism. This is “Checkmate, atheists!” levels of non-sequitur.

            Do you really think it’s impossible to have a consistent philosophy that supports contraception, abortion, and sex-ed, but opposes pedophilia? You’re allowed to think that philosophy is wrong, but claiming that it’s “dishonest as hell” to take that position is silly.

          • Anonymous says:

            You have jumped right over a gaping chasm that most relationships don’t end in marriage

            A tragedy. (No joke.)

            and then hopped over a second, smaller one, where by a lasting marriage somehow precludes predatory behavior.

            At least some of what I infer you mean by “predatory behaviour” is “proper husband and wife dynamics” to me. Unless you care to specify/correct me.

          • skef says:

            I do sometimes feel sorry for all of the married straight guys so convinced that they are one of the very few who occasionally fuck other women.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Selecting targets who have far less experience/far more naivety than you do can definitely be predatory behavior.

            And I would agree with that if the 17- and 18-year-olds said they had sex with him. But they say he did not try to have sex with him. So if their stories are true, and Moore admits to having dated teenagers with their parents’ permission, then I’m guessing he was looking for a wife, not young tail.

            When I was in high school one of my friends was dating a 30 year old guy from her church. Brought him to homecoming. Some people (myself included) snickered, but nobody seemed to think he was “preying” on her. It was fairly obvious to everyone that they were each looking to marry someone who shared their faith.

            [potentially excessive tribal snark]Also, an awful lot of the redditors screaming “CHILD RAPIST!!” about Moore are the same people who will “akshually, hebephilia is not the same thing as pedophilia” in other contexts.[/potentially excessive tribal snark]

          • so I’m assuming he knew exactly what the legal age of consent was in his state and acted accordingly.

            I am pretty sure the age of consent in Alabama at the time was 16 and I believe one of the claims is that he made advances to a 14 year old. The others all seem to be 16 or older.

          • baconbacon says:

            At least some of what I infer you mean by “predatory behaviour” is “proper husband and wife dynamics” to me. Unless you care to specify/correct me.

            Are you defining all marriages that don’t end in divorce as healthy? If not, you then have to look at the individual marriages and the behaviors within to draw the correct conclusion.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Do you really think it’s impossible to have a consistent philosophy that supports contraception, abortion, and sex-ed, but opposes pedophilia? You’re allowed to think that philosophy is wrong, but claiming that it’s “dishonest as hell” to take that position is silly.

            It is dishonest to lump attraction-to-children in with attraction-to-teenagers, though. The former warrants a biological disgust reaction. The latter are sexually mature; the social immorality stems from power disparities and emotional maturity (which is why you don’t accuse two teenagers getting it on of being co-pedos).

            By all means, Moore trolling for high schoolers makes him an immoral sleazebag. But shouting “Pedophile! Pedophile!” is FUD.

          • Anonymous says:

            Are you defining all marriages that don’t end in divorce as healthy?

            In a jurisdiction with free divorce? Yeah, that’s an excellent rule of thumb.

            If not, you then have to look at the individual marriages and the behaviors within to draw the correct conclusion.

            Sure.

          • baconbacon says:

            And I would agree with that if the 17- and 18-year-olds said they had sex with him. But they say he did not try to have sex with him. So if their stories are true, and Moore admits to having dated teenagers with their parents’ permission, then I’m guessing he was looking for a wife, not young tail.

            This is why I specifically said I have no idea of what Moore actually did. There is clearly a large gap of grey area for everyone in what is acceptable. No liberals (I shouldn’t write that, there probably is an article somewhere discussing how the man should always be younger than the woman to counteract the physical imbalance in the relationship) have an issue with a man being somewhat older than his date, or with teens dating in general, and I doubt that many conservatives would be OK with this story if Moore was 60 and trying to date 16 year olds.

            This is a major problem with codifying laws. It becomes a fight over the mathematical equation of when something crosses the line and gives actual predators an outline of how to behave and stay out of trouble, while still (potentially) causing lots of pain. Meanwhile complicated social norms that have arisen must get shunted behind the law.

            Still no opinion on Moore’s behavior.

          • baconbacon says:

            In a jurisdiction with free divorce? Yeah, that’s an excellent rule of thumb.

            It is not if you are trying to locate predatory behavior, only if you are looking for a justification for your blind spot.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            By all means, Moore trolling for high schoolers makes him an immoral sleazebag.

            I agree with this only if he was having (or trying to have) sex with them. The only people who say Moore tried to have sex with him were underage at the time. I find it hard to believe he would expose himself to 14-year-olds no problem, but the legal-age women he was just taking to ice cream socials and what have you.

            If more women came forward and said they had sex with Moore or Moore approached them for sex when they were of legal age, I would be far more inclined to believe the 14-year-old. Otherwise this all seems like people who can’t believe there exists anyone who would want to marry a young woman before sleeping with her.

          • baconbacon says:

            It is dishonest to lump attraction-to-children in with attraction-to-teenagers, though. The former warrants a biological disgust reaction. The latter are sexually mature; the social immorality stems from power disparities and emotional maturity (which is why you don’t accuse two teenagers getting it on of being co-pedos).

            I don’t know, one disturbing part of the behavior is that Moore appears to have been approaching girls who are as young as he could legally get away with, and not just “younger than him”. Maybe this isn’t true and he happened to approach a spectrum of ages and we have a reporting bias (for obvious reasons), but I think it is fair to include some insinuations of impropriety toward someone who only tries to date a specific age, and that age happens to be ‘the youngest without landing me in prison’.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Otherwise this all seems like people who can’t believe there exists anyone who would want to marry a young woman before sleeping with her.

            Ehh, I dunno. There’s some merit to your point that in 70’s Alabama it could’ve been making the best of a bad situation (~everyone in his cohort had already gotten married), but I still think it’s creepy to hit up high schoolers with “hey wanna get married when you graduate” – there’s still a large power disparity and turning 18 (or 16) doesn’t mean you know what you’re getting into with a commitment like marriage. The brain is still developing into one’s early 20s, IIRC. 25yo and 40yo? Sure, have fun. 18 and 28 trips some predator flags, though.

          • Anonymous says:

            It is not if you are trying to locate predatory behavior, only if you are looking for a justification for your blind spot.

            To me, the whole deal of legal fornication/adultery/divorce looks a great deal more serious that some fools figuring out that doing these things isn’t actually illegal anymore. I mean, in a society that has disjoined sexuality from reproduction, what exactly is the argument against consensual pedophilia? This all “predatory behaviour” thing sounds to me like it’s grasping for straws, when your lizard brain is screaming at you that what you behold is wrong, but you can’t quite make it fit with other modern ideas, like the aforementioned sexual-reproductive disjunction and “free love”.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            but I think it is fair to include some insinuations of impropriety toward someone who only tries to date a specific age, and that age happens to be ‘the youngest without landing me in prison’.

            Agreed, it’s a red flag, but it does not imply that he’d go after pre-adolescents if it were legal. Which is what pedophile means. There’s a watershed difference between physically-but-not-mentally-mature and an actual child.

            ETA @Anonymous

            what exactly is the argument against consensual pedophilia?

            That children lack the faculties to provide informed consent. Plain and simple.

            If you mean teenagers the discussion gets murkier since the position generally seems to be that they have the faculties to provide consent to each other but not to adults. Which is a bit eat-cake-and-have-it-too, but adolescence is exceptional in many ways so I can accept it.

          • baconbacon says:

            I mean, in a society that has disjoined sexuality from reproduction, what exactly is the argument against consensual pedophilia?

            Perhaps it is simply the fact that I am not starting with the assumption that it is consensual. Which is the assumption most against pedophilia start with, and that we aren’t trying to define our way out of the situation.

          • rlms says:

            “I mean, in a society that has disjoined sexuality from reproduction, what exactly is the argument against consensual pedophilia?”
            From Brave New World: “For a very long period before the time of Our Ford, and even for some generations afterwards, erotic play between children had been regarded as abnormal (there was a roar of laughter); and not only abnormal, actually immoral (no!): and had therefore been rigorously suppressed.”

          • albatross11 says:

            Iain:

            First, we’re not talking about pedophilia here. I mean, I know it’s satisfying to call someone you don’t like a pedophile, but my comment was explicitly assuming that he was dating women who were very young, but still above the legal age of consent (so no crime)–probably 16 at the time. Sixteen year old girls are also physically mature women who are capable of having children–this looks nothing like pedophilia.

            Second, I probably shouldn’t have included that bit in the comment without putting more time in it, and I apologize for it. I do think there’s an inconsistency in a lot of elite expressed views w.r.t. teenage sexual freedom, but also, the inconsistency is probably just part of the general way American culture is wrapped around the axle on both sex and adolescence.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Do you really think it’s impossible to have a consistent philosophy that supports contraception, abortion, and sex-ed, but opposes pedophilia? You’re allowed to think that philosophy is wrong, but claiming that it’s “dishonest as hell” to take that position is silly.

            As others have said, none of the accusations relate to paedophilia. And for the record, I at least do think it’s inconsistent that modern society thinks schoolchildren should be exposed to sexually explicit material and generally encouraged to sleep around like over-sexed rabbits, but that, if this sexual experimentation involves sleeping with someone a decade or two older than them, then that’s terrible and they’ll likely be scarred for life by the experience.

          • shakeddown says:

            I’d say this is a symptom of the deeper inconsistency where we’re deeply against the enforcement of social norms/laws encroaching on people’s autonomy for their own good, but then make a giant hole for children. Once you have that binary setting (instead of more gradual “sometimes it’s kinda justified, depending on the person and circumstances”), it’s not far to “everyone should have sex with everyone except people under 18.”

          • MrApophenia says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            Re: “believe the 14 year old”

            There are actually two different women who say they were 14 year olds when he molested them (both of whom had privately told family members years ago, long before Moore decided to run for the Senate) and a third who says he asked her out repeatedly at age 14 but her mother forbade it.

            So yeah, if you assume he was only dating 16 and 17 year olds in his 30s, then sure, he is merely creepy as hell. But I see no reason to assume that.

          • There are actually two different women who say they were 14 year olds when he molested them

            Not according to the Time magazine list of all accusers.

            One accusation of an attempt to seduce a 14 year old. You may have been confused by another case where the woman met Moore when she was 14 and he asked her out on dates when she was 16. No molesting alleged in that case.

          • MrApophenia says:

            Thanks for sending this, I was indeed wrong on the age of two accusers.

            (Although since one of the two saying he sexually assaulted her says she was 16, that also means the comments above about how all the older teenagers say he was a perfect gentleman are also false.)

          • @MrApophenia:

            Correct. One of the 16 year olds described very ungentlemanly behavior.

        • This argument would be much stronger if it was 16 or 17. But just as 14 isn’t 8 it also isn’t 16 or 17.

          It is, however, after the age of puberty for most Americans, so being attracted to fourteen year old girls isn’t pedophilia.

          • Brad says:

            See my discussion with lvlln above. I don’t think the definition of pedophilia as medical jargon is any kind of trump card in this discussion. No one is diagnosing Moore for treatment purposes.

          • albatross11 says:

            Brad:

            My objection to the word here is that it seems like it’s intended to get an emotional reaction independent of the claimed facts of the case.

          • rlms says:

            @albatross11 etc.
            Do you think the things that Roy Moore has been accused of (undressing and sexually touching a 14 year old; groping a 16 year old and forcing her head towards his crotch*) are reprehensible? If the victims in question were 10 and 12, would the situation be vastly different? Categories Man tells us that arguing about what “paedophilia” *really* means is a dead end; the only thing that matters is how useful different definitions are. I don’t see why including the first situation above in the definition makes it any less useful, except to people who want to portray Roy Moore etc. in as positive a light as possible.

            *I appreciate that if your main source of information is the comments here, you may have not realised these were the accusations against him

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Do you think the things that Roy Moore has been accused of (undressing and sexually touching a 14 year old; groping a 16 year old and forcing her head towards his crotch*) are reprehensible? If the victims in question were 10 and 12, would the situation be vastly different?

            10, absolutely. 12 is in the transition zone, so it is definitely worse but harder to determine “vastly”. I would say probably yes. Are you saying it would *not* be vastly different if the victims were 4 and 6?

            The 14yo case(s?) makes this a great deal worse than Conrad’s “just looking for a wife” scenario, but come on, it is still not the same thing as going after kids. Being physically attracted to post-pubescent teenagers is normal, teenagers do it all the time and it’s moderately encouraged. Adults are expected to stay away for very good reasons, but reproductive viability is not one of them. Sexual attraction to children is beyond the fucking pale.

            Because this isn’t about making Roy Moore, Predator at Large, look good. It’s about how can we emphasize the Extreme Badness of sexual misconduct with children (e.g. Jerry Sandusky) if we’ve already used “pedophile” and “child rapist” for Moore’s reprehensible behavior with post-pubescent teenagers?

            It’s not some “well, uh, shades of grey, man, Moore’s in a grey zone” bullshit. It’s “there are multiple levels of hell, throwing everyone in with Brutus is FUD”

          • On the pedophilia issue.

            I think “perversion” is a useful term, although one that carries with it too much emotive baggage. Something is perverted if it is used for something inconsistent with its proper purpose, where “proper” might be defined, depending on context, in a variety of ways, of which I find evolution the most relevant here.

            Pedophilia is a perversion because the reason we have the set of emotions (and associated structures) for sex is in order to reproduce, and someone before puberty can’t do so.

            Diet coke, which I drink a good deal of, is also a perversion, since the preference for sweetness evolved for a function, and non-caloric sugar substitutes are a way of getting the reward that served that function without serving it.

            There are reasons to be suspicious of perversion–using a tool for a purpose it was not designed for is often a mistake, as anyone looking at a screwdriver that has been used too many times to pry up the lid of a paint can can observe. The argument is similar to the argument for Chesterton’s fence.

            The reasons are not strong enough to conclude that a perversion is always a mistake.

            Calling Moore’s interest in a fourteen year old pedophilia implies a different wrong thing about him than his behavior actually demonstrated, implies a perverted sexual taste rather than unethical behavior. It’s close to the distinction between labeling someone as insane and labeling him as wicked. It’s the sort of confusion that leads to muddled thinking and is useful for demagoguery.

          • Brad says:

            Fourteen is not, in general, post pubescent. It is during puberty which is a multi-year period. There’s a picture of the victim floating around at age 14. YMMV but I certainly don’t think she looks like an adult woman.

            There’s either one of two things going on here: 1) genuine cultural differences (along what lines though?) or 2) a contrarian insistence that the actually dominant cultural value is just wrong (with some is-ought argument), along with the not very subtle implication that those defending it know it is wrong.

            I kind of hope it is number one.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Keepin’ it classy with not very subtle attacks on motive. Peace out.

          • A1987dM says:

            @David Friedman:

            That’s one of the cases where the connotations are so different that my brain treats the two instances of “perversion” as two separate words that happen to be spelled and pronounced the same, even though I know they share the same etymology and semantics. (“my brain” = System 1, “I” = System 2)

          • albatross11 says:

            rlms:

            If he did in fact sexually assault anyone, regardless of age, that’s seriously wrong. It’s even nastier if he did it to someone who was very young, or exploited his official position to prevent her saying anything about it. No question about that.

            If he was just dating very young women who were above the legal age of consent in the state at the time (probably 16), that’s kind-of creepy, but not criminal. It’s also not 100% clear to me that this behavior is immoral, exactly. (Though you can make an argument for that, as a couple people did above, in terms of the likelihood that he may have been trying to take advantage of their lack of experience.) It *is* clear to me that this is not pedophilia as we normally define the term, so when people toss the term around to describe Moore, it feels to me like an attempt to stick an emotionally-loaded label on him to short-circuit clear thinking.

          • rlms says:

            @albatrosss11
            Right. That’s why I said the *accusations* against him. That he had a (in my opinion) creepy habit of hitting on/dating teenage girls is uncontroversial, so no-one needs to accuse him of it. As far as I can tell, no-one here has referred to that latter behaviour as paedophilia (except you in complaining about it).

    • Dog says:

      I’m not sure where I fall on this, but I think a strong argument can be made that, in addition to their direct role in governing, politicians serve as figureheads for society, and that when we as a society say, “We don’t care how evil you are, as long as you do what we want”, that is going to have a corrosive effect on public morality. My gut reaction is not to care about a politician’s personal behavior, but I’m not strongly motivated by group / tribal affiliation (something I’m guessing is true of many SSC readers). I think it would be easy for me to underestimate the impact a publicly immoral leader might have on the behavior of their followers.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I strongly disagree with holding up political leaders as any kind of moral guidepost. The good ones are the exceptions. Politics is not morality. Politics is pragmatism. If you need moral leaders, get a religion.

        • Randy M says:

          That’s irrelevant as to whether or not people will do so, though. Politicians are powerful people, and that is going to both corrupt, and invite emulation.

          I think a fair standard is “We don’t have to look too closely, but if something offensive* comes to light, hold them accountable.” Fair, but unworkable as it invites opposition to dig up dirt to show, as in, say, Clinton, or Obama’s senate opponent’s divorce records.

          (* the convenient thing about a Democracy is that everyone can decide for themselves what is offensive enough to merit voting against.)

    • rlms says:

      If everyone else on your side copies your attitude, then you have the prisoner’s dilemma: if both sides refuse sleazy candidates then that is better than if both sides accept them. But as using sleazy candidates when your opponent refuses to gives you an edge, it’s difficult to get both sides to cooperate.

      On a more concrete level, I think there is enough uncertainty how positive the effects of the election of a given politician would be that I’d definitely consider personal behaviour in choosing who to vote for.

      • AKL says:

        I wonder about the correlation between “your favored candidate wins” and “net of all time horizons, your favored policy outcomes occur.”

        Plausibly the answer is 0.

        Plenty of room for just so stories here. Trump victory –> Democratic wave –> major implications for redistricting –> long term, structural shift to the left. Obama overreach –> Republican wave –> big tax cuts –> 50% increase in baseline economic growth rates, forever. Etc.

        And that’s not even accounting for the huge uncertainty in the actual impact of policy changes. After all depending on your priors we’re all pretty sure the next huge tax cut/increase will definitely lead to a major economic boom/catastrophe.

        Writing this out, I’m thinking now that we’re probably all massively, massively overconfident that a given political outcome actually has the impact we initially believe.

    • xXxanonxXx says:

      That article The Federalist published where a Baptist philosophy professor defends voting for Moore as the lesser of two evils seems relevant. There was a lot of backlash from people who (I suspect) don’t share the Baptist’s moral philosophy anyway. It’s easy to grandstand when you have nothing to lose politically.

    • MrApophenia says:

      I think I care a bit more than a lot of folks in the thread about this.

      I can swallow a lot in the name of policy victories. I mean, this isn’t totally abstract – I’m pretty sure Hillary Clinton is a basically corrupt and self-dealing power-broker (just like her husband), and I still voted for her. At the end of the day, policy trumps character a lot of the time. (I swear I typed that and got into the next paragraph before I realized, now I’m leaving it.)

      But I think there are lines where I don’t know if I would vote for someone. If I were in a similar situation (with the parties reversed), and it was Jones who turned out to be a child molester, I don’t think I’d actually be able to bring myself to vote for them. I definitely wouldn’t vote for Moore either, but I think odds are pretty good I’d sit it out.

      Which seems to have been what an awful lot of Alabama Republicans did as well. They didn’t flip, but they didn’t support Moore.

    • shakeddown says:

      I think pushing Franken into resigning was pretty bad for democrats. It can easily read as “selling one of your own out for the moral/political high ground” rather than genuine virtue, considering how thin the allegations against him were. Which puts the Dems as sanctimonious rather than ethical.

      • I agree. I thought both cases were overreactions, the Franken case more so than the Moore case.

        • albatross11 says:

          Based on what came out in public, I agree. But there’s always a possibility that there’s stuff that hasn’t yet come out that led Franken to realize he’d rather resign than deal with it.

  4. bean says:

    Today at Naval Gazing:
    Part 1 of the story of the Peruvian ironclad Huascar.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      I gotta wonder: is there a particular reason to care about the Huascar? While the story is interesting, this strikes me as a very niche topic even among pre-dreadnoughts. Am I missing the larger importance of Peru here?

      Also, post request: the rewrite of your missile defense post, because this has been coming up as a topic offline from various friends of mine who assert carriers are all doomed, and I’d like a better reference.

      • gbdub says:

        I enjoyed it. There weren’t that many ship-to-ship battles involving ironclads (Lissa was already covered, and Hampton Roads is already known to anyone with a passing interest in the subject). So this was new and interesting to me.

      • bean says:

        Basically, there were very few ironclad battles, so I looked into this one and found it interesting.

        I’ll look into doing a light update on the carrier doom posts, but a full rewrite is not going to happen soon.

      • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

        OT, but have you seen The Last Jedi? There’s a question here that you might have insight into. (Well, at least if you subscribe to the theory that the space combat in Star Wars is based on WWII naval warfare.)

        • bean says:

          I haven’t and won’t. I refuse to acknowledge Disney’s destruction of the EU, unless Mara Jade is in this movie.

          In terms of the question, not really. Trying to hit a ship was hard enough, hitting a specific spot didn’t really happen. The closest I know of is when they went after Yamato, they tried to hit just one side with torpedoes to make her more likely to capsize. Musashi had been hit from both sides, and took a lot more torpedoes to sink.

          • Lillian says:

            They didn’t destroy it, they just set it aside into its own alternate universe. Also frankly, do you really think anyone making Star Wars sequels would bind themselves to decades of EU material? George Lucas himself never gave a shit about the EU when he made the prequels or the Clone Wars show, he wouldn’t have given a shit about it if he’d chosen to make sequels. Nobody would have, it was already a full time job just getting the EU authors to write stuff that was in line with the rest of the EU. It was inevitable that EU would be ditched as soon as someone with full creative control started making stories set after Return of the Jedi. It’s unrealistic to expect otherwise.

          • bean says:

            They’re still selling the books, but they’ve closed it off to new content, and are developing the new stuff with almost no reference to the old. Thrawn’s reintroduction is an exception, but that’s mostly because he’s so amazing that they couldn’t keep him out. My suggestion was to do it like a comic book adaptation, and keep the best bits. There was a lot of garbage, but also some absolute gems.

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            Thanks.

            Amusingly, I generally take the exact opposite tack, and refuse to acknowledge anything but the movies. (That includes Clone Wars, of course; I’ve seen some episodes because the kids watch it, but though they’re sometimes fun to watch, I don’t think of them as really being part of the story. I think the word is “headcanon”?)

            … I think that’s mostly about scope, though. Canon that’s got far too much detail for me to possibly take it all in may be more realistic, but that’s not really what I’m looking for. Perhaps I’d have gotten past that if the first few EU novels I tried had been more engaging, or if I’d had more free time back then.

          • bean says:

            … I think that’s mostly about scope, though. Canon that’s got far too much detail for me to possibly take it all in may be more realistic, but that’s not really what I’m looking for. Perhaps I’d have gotten past that if the first few EU novels I tried had been more engaging, or if I’d had more free time back then.

            I can sort of understand that. But Star Wars was what I did in high school before I got into aerospace. So I threw lots of time at it. And there were some really good novels in there, too. I reread the Thrawn Trilogy a couple years ago, and was blown away by how good it was. There’s also a lot of absolute dreck.

  5. Jaskologist says:

    Likely of interest to many here, especially those who remember the days when we debated en are ex and democracy.

    Neuhaus Was Right

    Neuhaus thought attachment to our liberal democracy much weaker than generally supposed. “What is happening now,” he wrote [in 1996], “is a growing alienation of millions of Americans from a government they do not recognize as theirs; what is happening now is an erosion of moral adherence to this political system.” He was particularly concerned by how this would affect coming generations. “What are the consequences when many millions of children are told and come to believe that the government that rules them is morally illegitimate?”

    Young people in North America and Western Europe are becoming skeptical of free speech, human rights, and free elections. Not only are they less likely to vote than young people in the past, they are less likely to attend protests, marches, and sit-ins. They are half as likely as older people to join humanitarian organizations or human rights campaigns. Robert Bellah spoke of a “civil religion” that sustains democratic faith. In terms of that faith, today’s youth are unchurched. They are increasingly alienated from democratic rituals, from democratic values, from democracy itself.

    When John Paul II wrote Evangelium Vitae, he was able to hail “an almost universal consensus with regard to the value of democracy.” That consensus is now collapsing. A war on the weak has been conducted in the name of democracy, and whoever resists it is called “anti-democratic”—no matter how broad his electoral support. We should learn from, rather than denounce, these dissenters. Candidates as disparate as Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Jeremy Corbyn, and Marine Le Pen share one great thing: Against a regime that enshrines private interest, they assert, however crudely, the primacy of the common good. In doing so, they have revived the practice of democracy while challenging its ideology. We must do the same.

    • Winter Shaker says:

      Interesting read, with some worrying statistics, but also quite a few weirdnesses.

      Politics is confined to policy questions rather than competing visions of right and wrong.

      Not sure what he means by that. I’m not a USAian, but the last national election looked pretty ‘competing visions of right and wrong’-ish to me.

      Our regime … accepts abortion and overdose as the price for free love and free trade.

      One is tempted to respond that the US regime accepts overdose as the price for not being willing to back down from the instance that punishment must be the central plank of drug policy, and for refusing to treat people with drug problems as fully human by allowing (and funding) life-saving harm-reduction policies such as supervised injecting facilities, or legal supplies of opiates of know dosage and purity. Sure, the collapse in economic opportunity in former manufacturing areas is part of the problem, but the War on Drugs is also very likely to be part of the problem, and it’s a part of the problem that directly contradicts the ‘things are bad because of maximising individual choice’ narrative.

      And it’s pretty jarring to see him bringing up abortion as if it were obviously as bad as the other concerns he brings up. I mean, I suppose it’s a Catholic magazine he’s writing for, but he must know that abortion is an idiosyncratic concern of Catholics and some other Christian groups, which is an atrocity only if you accept some insufficiently-established (to the rest of us) claims, right? It’s a bit like seeing someone from the Muslim world making an argument about the conditions of the modern world causing such ills as poverty, lack of education, war and cartoons of Mohammed – even if they were persuasive on the first items, seeing them tied to a highly religion-specific concern does not fill the reader with confidence that he is opposing bad things for good reasons.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        It’s pretty jarring to see this poster bringing up abortion as if it’s obviously less bad than the other concerns. I mean, I suppose Winter Shaker is a liberal, but he must know that support for abortion is an idiosyncratic concern of WEIRD people, which is OK only if you accept some insufficiently-established claims, right? It’s a bit like seeing some disciple of Peter Singer making an argument about how we should all be doing more to promote charity, effective altruism, and people’s freedom to have sex with animals — even if they were persuasive on the first items, seeing them tied to a highly idiosyncratic concern does not fill the reader with confidence that he is supporting good things for good reasons.

        • Winter Shaker says:

          Well, it may not be obviously less bad than the other concerns, but it’s certainly not obviously as bad as the other concerns. And it’s not as if you have to be a liberal to not have a no-abortion stance anyway. ‘Permissible up to 40 days after conception’ seems to be a mainstream position in Islam, for instance, not a religion strongly associated with liberal attitudes.
          Things like

          A national increase in deaths from suicide, alcohol, and drug abuse has caused overall life expectancy to decline for the first time since the AIDS epidemic.

          are all matters that concern the suffering of sentient entities. So are things like

          Thirty-two percent of young Americans say they would welcome a strongman who doesn’t have to “bother with parliament and elections” (up from a quarter in 1995). And they don’t mind if he arrives in uniform. One in six supports military rule (up from one in sixteen)

          (assuming that his implication is that it would be worse for the people living in the USA to live under a military dictatorship than a democracy).

          If you don’t actually think that the suffering or wellbeing of sentient entities is a major concern, if you think that high rates of alcoholism, suicide and tyranny are bad for reasons that have little to do with the suffering that they cause, then fair enough. But if you’re going to do that, then you should at least be up-front about it, and make it clear that you are not trying to connect with the people (I would have thought a majority of people) who would disfavour the spread of alcoholism, suicide and tyranny precisely because of the suffering they cause.

          Would you, out of curiosity, be less, more or equally likely to take someone’s concerns about poverty, war etc seriously if you knew that they considered cartoons of Mohammed to be a comparable evil?

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Well, it may not be obviously less bad than the other concerns, but it’s certainly not obviously as bad as the other concerns. And it’s not as if you have to be a liberal to not have a no-abortion stance anyway. ‘Permissible up to 40 days after conception’ seems to be a mainstream position in Islam, for instance, not a religion strongly associated with liberal attitudes.

            Reading “absolutely no abortions” into a generally pro-life stance is like reading YEC into a generally creationist stance. Try harder.

          • rlms says:

            @Gobbobobble
            If you consider abortion to be a problem comparable to “deaths from suicide, alcohol, and drug abuse”, then “absolutely no abortions” is the obvious stance to take, unless you have an edgy position that the ideal number of suicides and overdoses is positive (which, regardless of general plausibility, seems unlikely in this context).

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I don’t see why considering something a problem of a given degree of seriousness implies that all problems of that tier warrant the same level of utter eradication. By your standard, “an argument about the conditions of the modern world causing such ills as poverty, lack of education, war and police shootings” would be just as WEIRD.

            Additionally, even pro-choice people generally agree that the ideal number of abortions is zero. I strongly doubt that right-to-die folks would have suicides in their ideal world. But we don’t live in an ideal world so we’re left to deal with edge cases as humanely as possible. The bridge too far comes when it is asserted that core cases be treated the same way as those under exceptional circumstances.

          • unless you have an edgy position that the ideal number of suicides and overdoses is positive

            It’s edgy to believe that some lives are so bad that the people living them would have good reason to end them?

          • rlms says:

            @Gobbobobble
            This is my argument:
            If you think abortion is a similar problem to deaths from suicide, alcohol, and drug abuse, you think an abortion is a tragic death (tantamount to murder). So it makes sense that you would apply the normal (at least for the general cluster of pro-life type people) attitude towards tragic deaths to abortion, i.e. that all abortions are terrible and should be treated similarly to killing adult humans.

            I do think your example quote is weird: it suggests that war and police shootings are similarly harmful. It’s this effect that makes Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking a trope (CW: TVTropes).

            I definitely don’t think “pro-choice people generally agree that the ideal number of abortions is zero”, any more than meat eating people generally agree that the ideal number of animals killed for meat is zero.

            @DavidFriedman
            I would say so. I think most people who support assisted suicide prefer to mentally frame it as something other than suicide. If you explicitly said “some people have terrible lives and should commit suicide”, I doubt the response would be wholehearted agreement.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            i.e. that all abortions are terrible and should be treated similarly to killing adult humans.

            Precisely. To be minimized, but sometimes the lesser evil in exceptional circumstances.

            I definitely don’t think “pro-choice people generally agree that the ideal number of abortions is zero”

            In what way is “some abortions” a more ideal scenario than “the only fetuses conceived are ones that will be successfully carried to term by mothers that want them”

          • lvlln says:

            In what way is “some abortions” a more ideal scenario than “the only fetuses conceived are ones that will be successfully carried to term by mothers that want them”

            I think a world in which “the only fetuses conceived are ones that will be successfully carried to term by mothers that want them” would almost certainly be a totalitarian hellhole where all heterosexual activity of everyone is strictly controlled through coercion or brainwashing. Because, as far as I can tell, the only way to guarantee that is to make sure that heterosexual sex happens only when the mothers want to carry a baby to term and never when the mothers don’t want to. What I’ve observed about how humans behave indicates to me that this wouldn’t be possible without unprecedentedly strict control of people’s behaviors. I think it’s possible that non-abortion contraception could get much much more reliable than they are now, but I don’t find it plausible that it would ever reach literal 100% reliability.

            I think I recall seeing some polls indicate that a good portion of pro-choice people do believe that abortion is something that, in an ideal society, ought to happen rarely (I think Bill Clinton famously said something to this effect). I don’t think I know any such pro-choice people, though; I’m pro-choice and basically everyone I know IRL is pro-choice, and the impression I get from my conversations is that there is no ideal number of abortions – they should happen exactly as often as women deem it based on their individual decisions about their own situations. Our ideal world wouldn’t posit a set # of abortions, but rather that a woman having an abortion at any point before birth would be treated by others as exactly as noteworthy as her getting her appendix removed.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I think a world in which “the only fetuses conceived are ones that will be successfully carried to term by mothers that want them” would almost certainly be a totalitarian hellhole where all heterosexual activity of everyone is strictly controlled through coercion or brainwashing.

            Same rules apply to suicide+overdose.

            Alternatively, contraception is 100% free and effective, we cure any possible sources of a miscarriage, and everyone is enlightened enough to accurately predict whether they should conceive or not. Sounds about as plausible as reducing suicide and overdose to zero without a totalitarian hellhole.

            Our ideal world wouldn’t posit a set # of abortions, but rather that a woman having an abortion at any point before birth would be treated by others as exactly as noteworthy as her getting her appendix removed.

            That is concerning. Apparently I held too high an opinion of pro-choicers*.

          • Randy M says:

            That is concerning. Apparently I held too high an opinion of pro-lifers.

            ?

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @Randy

            As in I thought we agreed on “it’s tragic but sometimes necessary” and mostly disagreed on what circumstances constitute “sometimes”, and how tragic.

            I can respect assigning less moral worth to a fetus than to a full-grown infant, but the utter indifference of equating the moral worth to that of a vestigial organ is positively Lovecraftian.

          • Nornagest says:

            Surely you meant “pro-choicers”, then?

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Oh. Derp. Just managed to fix within the edit window. Thanks, guys.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            If you don’t actually think that the suffering or wellbeing of sentient entities is a major concern, if you think that high rates of alcoholism, suicide and tyranny are bad for reasons that have little to do with the suffering that they cause, then fair enough. But if you’re going to do that, then you should at least be up-front about it, and make it clear that you are not trying to connect with the people (I would have thought a majority of people) who would disfavour the spread of alcoholism, suicide and tyranny precisely because of the suffering they cause.

            I don’t think the majority of people limit their disapproval to things that cause suffering. If you doubt this, try conducting a quick straw poll among your friends/neighbours/co-workers as to whether necrophilia, bestiality, or having sex with people in comas is permissible.

            (Also, it seems likely that foetuses, at least towards the end of pregnancy, are capable of suffering. At any rate, newborn infants pretty clearly are, and there seems no reason why soon-to-be-born infants wouldn’t be similarly capable in this regard.)

          • Our ideal world wouldn’t posit a set # of abortions, but rather that a woman having an abortion at any point before birth would be treated by others as exactly as noteworthy as her getting her appendix removed.

            Do you feel the same way about infanticide? If not, why such a sharp distinction between killing the offspring just before and just after delivery?

          • A1987dM says:

            Also, it seems likely that foetuses, at least towards the end of pregnancy, are capable of suffering.

            Not that many people think that abortion should be permissible all the way until “towards the end of pregnancy”. Most abortions are had in the first trimester AFAIK.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Not that many people think that abortion should be permissible all the way until “towards the end of pregnancy”.

            We’ve got someone in this very thread saying that “basically everyone [he] know[s]” thinks that abortion “at any point before birth” should be considered “as noteworthy as her getting her appendix removed”.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Mr X:

            I don’t think the majority of people limit their disapproval to things that cause suffering. If you doubt this, try conducting a quick straw poll among your friends/neighbours/co-workers as to whether necrophilia, bestiality, or having sex with people in comas is permissible.

            I suspect that a lot of our intuitive responses in these sort of areas are effectively hygiene (including what you might call genetic hygiene) responses that have been hardwired into us by evolution. Sex with animals and the dead is likely to promote the spread of disease, which would cause suffering to anyone else you might infect (and sex with someone in a coma is probably sufficiently close to sex with a dead body that we pattern-match it into the same bracket). Like cannibalism can spread brain diseases, and incest raises the risk of children with birth defects, so it’s no surprise that we developed taboos about them. But to the extent that we now have the technology to mitigate these risks, we are left with a range of behaviours that are not, if you actually sit down to analyse it, as dangerous as they were in the ancestral past, yet the squick factor remains.

            To the extent that we can’t mitigate those risks, then moral disapproval is still justifiable on harm-related grounds.

            Of course, I am perfectly open to arguments along the lines that, although we have no reason to think that an early-stages embryo is itself capable of suffering and therefore an entity worthy of moral concern in its own right, nonetheless a society that permits early-stage abortion* will suffer in other ways, such as being outcompeted and conquered by rival societies. I’m not persuaded that that is true, but one could make a much more reasonable case for that sort of claim than one could make for treating the embryo as morally indistinguishable from a sentient person.

            *To be clear, I am not wedded to ‘abortion must be freely available up until birth’; if there is good reason to think that the suffering caused to a late-stage foetus outweighs that of a woman who does not want to carry it to term and yet has not been able to arrange a termination at an earlier stage, then that is a relevant consideration, but the the article certainly read to me as if the author was lamenting the fact that abortion was legal at all, and expected his readers to find that as reasonable a concern as alcoholism, suicide, overdose or political tyranny.

          • lvlln says:

            Our ideal world wouldn’t posit a set # of abortions, but rather that a woman having an abortion at any point before birth would be treated by others as exactly as noteworthy as her getting her appendix removed.

            Do you feel the same way about infanticide? If not, why such a sharp distinction between killing the offspring just before and just after delivery?

            So this is a topic where I’ve actually recently slightly modulated my position, thanks in large part to listening to this episode of Julia Galef’s podcast where she interviews a philosopher about moral uncertainty. But to get into my mindset from before that, I simply drew an arbitrary line at birth between “clump of cells” and “human.” And I just didn’t consider anything that’s not “human” as having moral worth.

            I’m not sure if that’s the exact same reasoning that my peers IRL have – I suspect some of it might also be justified by privileging the freedom & autonomy of women over all other values.

            I’m now a little more doubtful that this view is correct, just based on the fact that it is highly unlikely that the moral intuitions that I happened to land on are the correct ones, despite there being massive amounts of people who landed on a conflicting moral intuition. I’ve also come to think the experience of suffering as mattering more than classification of “human” and “non-human,” and so I’ve come around to the argument that abortion after a certain point is immoral due to the suffering experienced by the fetus. I’m not convinced that it’s correct, because I don’t know if a fetus really does experience suffering, and I’m not sure how this would be empirically proved or even if it’s empirically provable at all. But I see it as a reasonable argument that a reasonable person could be convinced by.

            That said, I’ve read at least one argument that infanticide up to a certain age is morally permissible which I didn’t think was obviously wrong. The notion does cause me to have what I think is a reflexive disgust reaction, but I also think that such a disgust reaction may be caused by the same irrational part of my mind that makes me see babies as cute and worth protecting, rather than due to anything rational. So while I find discomfort at the notion of infanticide, I would say that a society which permits infanticide isn’t automatically one that I would condemn as immoral. Much like I would say that a society which outlaws all abortion isn’t automatically one that I would condemn as immoral.

            I’m not sure I answered your question satisfactorily. Unfortunately, this is an area where I feel like I have a hard time thinking clearly.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Winter Shaker:

            The point is that you’re criticising the article for using a controversial premise (that abortion is wrong) by yourself using a controversial premise (hedonism), which is inconsistent.

          • Like cannibalism can spread brain diseases, and incest raises the risk of children with birth defects, so it’s no surprise that we developed taboos about them.

            I’m dubious about both explanations. The brain disease one is, I think, based on one example in a rather obscure corner of the world–is there any reason to believe that it was a sufficiently serious problem elsewhere to explain a strong and nearly universal human norm?

            I think a more plausible explanation is that, if cannibalism is legitimate, individuals have a reason to kill others that they would not otherwise have, under some circumstances quite a strong reason, and that raises serious costs. I discuss the point in Chapter 15 of Law’s Order.

            The incest argument is a little more persuasive, but I note the existence of at least one substantial and long existing culture where first cousin marriage was considered particularly desirable. So I suspect that in that case as well there may be other reasons driving the norm.

          • albatross11 says:

            DavidFriedman:

            I suspect the utimate driver for why cannibalism is unwise as a strategy is at least partly the fact that it’s a dead-end. Eat deer or cattle or sheep or goats or pigs, and your food animals can get nutrition out of stuff you can’t live on. It expands your set of possible food sources. Eat humans and it’s a complete dead-end–they couldn’t eat anything you couldn’t eat.

          • Nornagest says:

            The brain disease one is, I think, based on one example in a rather obscure corner of the world–is there any reason to believe that it was a sufficiently serious problem elsewhere to explain a strong and nearly universal human norm?

            Hard to say. Kuru is pretty obscure, but that might be because cannibalism in the modern day is pretty obscure — prion diseases (scrapie, mad cow) are a major concern in food animals.

          • baconbacon says:

            I suspect the utimate driver for why cannibalism is unwise as a strategy is at least partly the fact that it’s a dead-end. Eat deer or cattle or sheep or goats or pigs, and your food animals can get nutrition out of stuff you can’t live on. It expands your set of possible food sources. Eat humans and it’s a complete dead-end–they couldn’t eat anything you couldn’t eat.

            This explains why canabalism isn’t year round, but you could still have situations with perishable and seasonal food supplies where ‘excess’ population could be turned into a food store during the winter. The fact that it takes extraordinary circumstances for cannibalism to occur suggests that it is more than just your explanation.

          • And you also have situations where someone dies and all that meat is buried instead of being consumed. On the face of it that’s a substantial waste, so we need a good explanation for why almost all human societies have a strong norm against.

          • John Schilling says:

            This explains why canabalism isn’t year round, but you could still have situations with perishable and seasonal food supplies where ‘excess’ population could be turned into a food store during the winter.

            For that matter, there have been societies which have kept slaves and used them to e.g. carry supplies for their army, but AFIK none which ate the slaves once they’d finished eating the food they had been carrying. I do not think the taboo on cannibalism can be ascribed to purely utilitarian concerns, even if filtered through evolutionary biology. Unless you consider the meta-utilitarian “this comes almost inextricably bundled with social behavior, and that is too useful to get rid of for a marginally useful food source”.

          • Viliam says:

            Also, it seems likely that foetuses, at least towards the end of pregnancy, are capable of suffering.

            From political perspective, what matters is whether we (the voters) are capable of empathy with their suffering. Or rather, whether politicians believe that we are.

            And that’s why it is strategically important to publicly pretend to be pure sociopaths towards babies. Anything else, and you are not sacrificing enough to our lord Moloch.

        • Tandagore says:

          Winter Shaker has also mentioned that he is not from the US, one of the very few countries where abortion is a real society-wide discussed issue. In most countries in Europe, it’s just… not.

          • In most countries in Europe, as I understand it, early term abortion is legal, later term abortion, under most circumstances, is not.

            So a position intermediate between what the more extreme right to life people want and current U.S. law.

          • gbdub says:

            This has always seemed odd to me – abortion *seems* to be less of a live issue in European politics, and yet, restrictions on abortion are generally more severe than in the US (at least in theory – some argue that abortion in at least parts of the US is legal but functionally inaccessible).

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @gbdub
            Multi-party (i.e. >2) systems can actually arrive at a moderate conclusion instead of getting stuck in a never-ending fight to the death between the two extremes?

          • Anonymous says:

            @gdub

            Abortion is a live issue in some places in Yurp, such as Poland.

          • Aapje says:

            @gbdub

            The majority of Americans support having some restrictions on abortion and thus do not support total legalization or a total ban.

            If we assume that Europeans have somewhat similar beliefs, then don’t their laws just reflect the average opinion? There being less debate about the issue can be explained by abortion not being part of the culture war in those countries (it is part of the culture war in Poland, though).

  6. baconbacon says:

    Black and Grey market economics

    Lots of discussion about Bitcoin and its uses in the most recent open thread, so I thought I would write up a little something on shady economics which might give some context to how they generally work and how that could potentially affect bitcoin.

    1. First a basic (incomplete) definition: Black markets are where goods and services are traded in a way that is illegal in that jurisdiction. It could be the goods that are illegal, the medium of exchange, not collecting taxes, any number of things.

    2. Making something illegal generally doesn’t stop it from occurring. Enforcement is needed, sometimes social pressure can play a role in enforcement, but I will stick to actual state attempts to enforce laws. Enforcement requires resources, so to make something new illegal will mean increasing the government budget or switching around funds from somewhere else. Say the US correctly claims (as in this is the hypothetical, not that I know what actual bitcoin transactions are for) that Bitcoin is mostly used for drug transactions and decides to make it illegal on this justification and starts prosecuting bitcoin users. What happens to the use of drugs? An economically naive person might speculate that making Bitcoin illegal makes it harder to obtain drugs, and so should decrease consumption, but that depends. On what? Well if the enforcement dollars come from the general ‘drug fighting’ pool of dollars then you basically would expect a shift in how drug users/dealers are caught*, because you are adding people caught by the bitcoin task force, but dropping people who were being caught by conventional anti drug task force. Because the end goal of drug users is to use drugs, not to spend bitcoin, you would expect this shift to be ineffective (if the government happens to be particularly good at catching bitcoin users the drug users will go back to using cash/barter/etc to procure them), at best. It is like stopping your teenage daughter from going to a dance to prevent her from having sex, putting all your effort into stopping her from going to any particular dance is going to allow many other opportunities for her. Long story short trying to curb drug use by making bitcoin illegal is unlikely to succeed without an increase in funding. It also kind of makes bitcoin using drug dealers ambivalent (on a rational, macro scale) about the government’s policy toward bitcoin, as it is unlikely (beyond accidentally publicizing that it is easy to procure drugs with bitcoin) to impact overall sales.

    3. What happens to the overall dollar value of bitcoin? Making it illegal might make it less useful to legitimate businesses and push down on the price, but making things illegal generally drives prices up. Why? It increases the risks of holding and producing those goods, meaning effective supply decreases and prices rise. Which side will dominate is hard to say, but if you start from the supposition that most bitcoin uses are illegal then it would be reasonable for prices to increase over the long run**. Obviously other concerns can dominate (ie a different crypto currency could cut into their market share) over that time frame and make this hard to observe.

    4. Finally the importance of centralized vs decentralized needs to be mentioned. If you want to end the use of windows as an operating system, the government could probably pull that off as they know who produces windows software and can go right for them. If you want to end the use of all operating systems you are going to have a much more difficult time as now there is another major player you have to take down, while also fighting back all the systems that will try to rise into the void created by the repression. Bitcoin looks like it fits into the latter category, where there is no central point to stop usage. Shutting down massive mining operations in China will not take those currently in circulation out, and will open up large incentives for setting up a mining operation elsewhere.

    * The government could be better or worse at catching bitcoin users vs drug users so it won’t be neutral typically

    ** this can coincide with a short term crash as legitimate users flood the market initially in trying to dump their inventory.

  7. narfiklonel says:

    Someone on Reddit is claiming to be donating an enormous amount (~$86 million worth!) of Bitcoin to charity, and is taking suggestions on what to do with it. Good opportunity to get a word in on behalf of EA causes.

  8. Brad says:

    Why does google keep on making their products less and less powerful? Why do they care so much more about cleanliness than useability? The new news google com is lobotomized.

    /rant

    • The Element of Surprise says:

      Because you are not smilar enough to the target user. The target user gets confused when there are too many buttons to press, too many things happening at once, too many configuration options that suddenly make stuff work differently than before.
      I assume they introduce their products and don’t yet know how people are going to use it, so they give many options. Then they measure what stuff gets used in what way (and how it influences revenue) most of the time, and cut the things that only few people use, or people use rarily.

    • skef says:

      Note: If you’re looking for the old searchy stuff, doing a normal google search and then following the “news” link still brings up that interface.

  9. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Don’t people who won’t eat eggs and dairy realize the name “vegans” makes them sound like space aliens?
    They should be called Those Who Walk Away From Omelettes.

  10. ADifferentAnonymous says:

    I just stumbled on Random Critical Analysis’s General Factor of Consumption theory. Of all the answers to Scott’s cost disease, this is maybe the only one that makes me feel like I understand something I didn’t before.

    tl;dr run a principle component analysis on nations’ spending patterns by category, and you get a first principle component that correlates quite well with per capita disposable income.

    To me the mind-blowing aspect of this is that things that we think are under the control of a nation actually seem to mostly be a function of its wealth. Or more succintly, “everything is endogenous”.

    (Not sure if SSC discussed this when it came out, but I didn’t see anything in the open threads from the time)

    • Aapje says:

      Doesn’t this just show that household spending has different outcomes than government spending and more specifically, that household spending causes cost disease much more than government spending?

      Isn’t this an argument for big government? Apparently you get more healthcare for the buck if you tax and spend, rather than let individuals spend more themselves.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        The data covers all spending, public and private, so it doesn’t tell us this. In fact, it tells us that politically imitating one European country or another will cure almost none of our cost disease.

        (See: US spends above trend on health, and Britain with its NHS spends below, but these residuals account for a very small part of the expenditure difference)

        I do think it’s a strong argument that increasing national wealth inexorably goes to a lot of pointless places, so we should be more willing to trade off against economic growth if we actually can get something good in exchange for it.

  11. Robert Liguori says:

    A question of mild to moderate culture-war-redness:

    It is oft claimed that going to college turns Red Tribe people Blue, and Blue Tribe people Bluer. There have been a number of stats and studies to this affect. I, however, am more curious in anecdotes.

    Of the people who post here, do you feel that going to university or being involved with higher education steered you towards one quadrant of the political compass versus another?

    I spent a little time reviewing my old LiveJournal from back in the days, and once I had gotten the embarrassed cringes at decade-old-me’s smug smarminess down to a mild twitch, I noted with interest where my opinions seemed to have changed, and where they hadn’t.

    Notably, I updated fairly strongly in the direction of LGBT rights being important, but also towards the understanding that gender differences were in fact a Thing, and that differing outcomes by sex on average didn’t seem to have that much to do with discrimination.

    Does anyone else have any idea of their own changes in heading, if any? I can also go ahead and talk about the incidents I wrote about (and have reminded myself about) if there is any interest.

    • Unsaintly says:

      I entered college a diehard libertarian with a bunch of views I now consider both clearly wrong and morally reprehensible. I came out very progressive. However, from the inside it doesn’t feel like college itself was the reason for this. The bigger reason was being away from my hugely conservative parents for extended periods of time and feeling free to form my own beliefs. None of my college courses were particularly liberal, nor did any of my professors push any progressive view stronger than “multicultural societies are hard, but sometimes work” and I wasn’t involved in any especially left-leaning campus activities or groups. It really does feel like I just grew out of conservatism naturally rather than being pushed/pulled out of it.

      That being said, I’m not sure how to determine if that impression is correct, or if my environment was actually more left-pushing than I thought and that had I been in a theoretical right-leaning environment with all other factors equal I wouldn’t have stayed conservative.

    • rlms says:

      I think my object level political opinions are pretty much the same as they were when I was fourteen.

    • cassander says:

      It is oft claimed that going to college turns Red Tribe people Blue, and Blue Tribe people Bluer.

      I suspect the second part of this is more accurate than the first.

      Remember, people showing up at college are 18. The vast majority of them know basically nothing about anything. The average blue tribe freshman will have show up with little more than a vague “I’m pro-LGBT rights”. They don’t have strong opinions about, say, what bathrooms transgender people should use (not the best example because it’s been in the news lately, but you get the idea), because they’ve probably never even thought about the question. Then they hear arguments from other people who also identify as pro-LGBT, who have thought about it, and who explain how being pro-LGBT requires letting people use whatever bathroom they want and adopt those positions. their mind hasn’t really been changed, because they didn’t have an opinion to change, they’ve just learned a new “fact”.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I basically stayed the course, but I graduated in 1992, just before the previous PC wave.

    • Protagoras says:

      Before college, I was a somewhat right leaning libertarian. It was during my fairly lengthy time in college that I evolved into the somewhat libertarian leaning leftist I am now. I know a lot more now than I did when I was younger, and from the inside it feels like the reason my views have changed is because I know more, but I can see the degree to which bias affects the conclusions drawn by so many other people and it would be absurdly arrogant to assume it isn’t a factor in my case. Even being of above average intelligence seems, on most of the available evidence, to usually only produce above average talent for rationalization. I can only even try to fight such biases as I am able to detect, and actively resisting biases doesn’t seem to work reliably even when they are known and the attempt is made. Still, unless I wish to devolve into absurdity and take to coin flipping or something, it seems I can only rely on my best judgment, while continuing to seek more information whenever possible.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      I ended up becoming considerably more right-wing, after twice being on the receiving end of a two-minutes’ hate by leftist mobs. I also ended up with a considerably scepticism of the wisdom of technocratic experts, due to getting a good look at the sort of people who’d most likely end up running any technocracy.

    • Robert Liguori says:

      For myself, I was a Computer Science major at Va Tech, from 02 to 06.

      Some of the shifts are easy to figure and document. I came into college with the intellectual awareness that LGBT people existed and had problems, and ended up joining the furry club my sophomore year. (For those not involved in the fandom, the furry fandom leans wildly disproportionately gay and trans, and this was reflected in the club membership.) Gay marriage has a bit more urgency when you personally know a couple whose ability to run their business together is impacted by what were Virginia’s laws at the time.

      As for the gender stuff…well, I was a CS major. Female membership started low, and got lower as the years progressed, and the same pattern could be noted across all of the really mathy courses I took. I didn’t see any obvious discrimination, and it seemed more likely to me that there were fewer women than men with the kind of super-nerdy focused interest you needed to be really into math or physics or programming. Either there was invisible discrimination everywhere, or there was a non-discrimination explanation.

      Strangely enough, the Super-Feminist English Teacher Who Only Accepts Politically Acceptable Essays was someone I had, and who I managed to shrug off with remarkable aplomb at the time. This was a freshman English class, and I was fresh from some equally-terrible high school teachers, so I just engaged in a few rounds of guessing the teacher’s password, made the requisite noises in the discussion portion, got my B, and moved on.

      I also attended a debate between a feminist speaker arguing against porn, and Ron Jeremy. That one ended up being a giant loss for Team Antiporn, from my perspective at least. The anti debater threw out a lot of accusatory statements, simply leading to Ron shrugging and saying he didn’t see any of that himself. He came across as polite, friendly, and very much as though a whole bunch more evidence was needed to accuse him of predation, or enabling predation. Said anti debater also cut me off mid-question when it was clear I was digging into one of her earlier statements of questionable factual veracity.

      All in all, my opinion from the whole deal was 1: It is truly remarkable how many college students will take the opportunity to make the same tired dick jokes, and 2: if this was the best the anti-porn faction could muster, they clearly didn’t have much in the way of arguments.

      Reading the responses so far, it does seem like the usual shift is something of a gradual shift Blue-wards unless something dramatic and specific happens to you. I’d be interested to see who else has opinion on the what, why, and how of this phenomenon.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        I came into college with the intellectual awareness that LGBT people existed and had problems, and ended up joining the furry club my sophomore year. (For those not involved in the fandom, the furry fandom leans wildly disproportionately gay and trans, and this was reflected in the club membership.)

        You might not want to tell people that if we’re all supposed to support LGBT. 😉

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      Curiously: being raised Roman Catholic made me bluer. Going to UT Austin (and reading Usenet circa 1992) made me redder. In both cases, I felt like I was feeling out the dominant narrative for weak points.

      Today, I’m mostly libertarian, spending a noticeable amount of time trying to pick that apart.

    • As best I recall, I was a classical liberal when I entered college (at sixteen), a somewhat harder core libertarian when I graduated, but I don’t seem to have become an anarchist until a few years later. At least, I remember the change being triggered by reading The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, which was published a year or so after I graduated.

      I don’t think any of my classes had much effect on my political views, although arguing with fellow students probably had some. The biggest change I can remember, not political but related, was becoming a moral realist as a result of losing an argument with Isaiah Berlin.

      • christhenottopher says:

        Forgive me if this is a question you’ve gotten before, but do you know how many generations back the liberal/libertarian streak goes in your family? And is there any correlation you’ve seen between getting formal education and libertarian-like beliefs?

        • My father’s father died when my father was ten or so. I met my mother’s father but have no idea what his political views were. So I have no evidence on political views prior to my father’s generation.

          My mother’s brother Aaron was left wing for a while.

          I haven’t observed a correlation between formal education and libertarian beliefs, with either sign, but I don’t have enough data, in particular enough observations of people without formal education, to say.

    • AnonYEmous says:

      I had my political opinions change unrelated to college, and that will continue.

      I’m in a pretty liberal state, so the colleges are like that too. I have had plenty of super-left and feminist professors, and I’ve done a pretty good job not bringing up politics nearly at all, god bless. That’s my story.

    • I went to college in the ’70’s, much earlier than many here. But college was pretty leftist then too, if not so much in your face as it is sometimes now. Most students pretty much ignored politics. I remember a couple of politically biased classes, but majoring in Accounting, this was only a risk for distribution courses.

      College changed me very little politically. I was vaguely libertarian when I went in, and the same coming out. I knew little of real life, and I realized that, so my beliefs weren’t very strong. My beliefs have gotten much stronger in the next 35 years, as I figure some stuff out. Interestingly, I still lean vaguely libertarian, but I have stronger feelings about individual issues. Not so much any movements as a whole.

    • BBA says:

      I felt like I moved significantly rightward in college, and significantly leftward when I entered the workforce, but I may not actually have gone anywhere. I think I just notice and exaggerate my disagreements with whatever crowd I’m in. Thus here I feel like a raving SJW sometimes, even though my disagreements with the social justice movement are what brought me here in the first place.

    • dndnrsn says:

      I moved more left in some things, but more right in other things, and the movement was far more in meta-level than object-level stuff. I consider myself a left-winger, and there are a lot of left-wingers who reach similar conclusions to me, but their ways of reaching those conclusions are strange to me. It’s more about attitude/worldview than actual opinions, y’know? This was largely a reaction to attitudes/worldviews more prevalent on campuses than off them, and to the way that proponents are often very difficult to have a reasonable disagreement with. I imagine that if I’d been exposed to the right-wing equivalents, the opposite would have happened. Also, I can’t think of any actual object-level opinions I moved right on. I can think of some I moved left on.

      I moved right when I started working – not because of “I don’t want to give the gummint my monies” but more because of a. having a job involving dealing with a fairly incompetent government bureaucracy and b. realizing that I had subconsciously been assuming that everyone was as smart as the people I dealt with on a daily basis; as it turns out going from dealing with people who got into good schools to dealing with the general populace means the average smarts of the people you’re dealing with drops.

      Going to grad school moved me to the right a little, with the same caveat as the first paragraph, because suddenly I was working much harder and getting better marks and it was far more due to my personal efforts than any external change; it changed how I viewed agency – previously, I’d sort of blamed poor results on things I couldn’t control. Similarly, getting into better shape had a similar effect.

    • Rob K says:

      I moved in an idiosyncratic anarchist direction during college, and then back into a more mainstream political orientation afterwards.

      I think there were two reasons for this. First, I was in college during the late second Bush term, which was kind of an ideologically freeing time; the complete collapse in support for the administration meant there was plenty of time to spend engaging in debates over less conventionally polarized and more fun stuff like the mechanisms by which exploitative centers of power develop historically, or how to align the levels at which decisions are made with the levels at which their impacts are felt. Then I graduated into the teeth of a rather historically dramatic election and its aftermath, and all of a sudden my opinions about whether an affluent nation should guarantee basic health care for its citizens were more relevant than my thoughts on Jim Scott’s analysis of how different agricultural schemes lend themselves to centralization or decentralization.

      Second, reading about the history of contact between empires and those who empires want to subjugate is a great way to become an anarchist. Being an ideological anarchist and attempting to do something practical about it after college will bring you into contact with someone who attempts to run meetings on anarchist principles, which is a great way to stop being an anarchist.

    • WashedOut says:

      Prior to uni I was firmly-left on almost all issues.

      During uni I was a Socialist of the Trotsky/Fourth International stripe.

      Shortly after joining the workforce I developed strong sympathies for laissez faire economic policies and minimal government.

      So yes, I was blue and went bluer, then jumped into a pool of red paint.

    • cactus head says:

      I moved from teenage south park style centrist to almost-SJW in late high school, then from almost-SJW through grey-tribe/rationalist/libertarian to far right during university. Both swings were because of reading ideology on the internet and had nothing to do with real world politics. From the inside it feels like my facts changed greatly and my values changed very little.

    • Nick says:

      I don’t think I really moved to the left or right on the object-level, but I’m just out of college, so maybe it’s going to take time to see its impact. I feel farther to the right, though, perhaps because everyone I know moved further to the left.

      ETA: Since I feel bad about not giving anyone here anything to chew on, I’ll add that the much more interesting transition in my beliefs was from an attempt at a genuine having-it-both-ways moderate Catholicism to a great deal of pessimism that that’s even possible. I went into college all bright-eyed and idealistic that dialogue with the left was possible if only orthodox Catholics could see, and aggressively emphasize, the aspects of e.g. Catholic social teaching on which they could agree with leftists. That empathy on both sides could be gained and a foundation for work toward economic justice or buttressing the family or decreasing racism, sexism, homophobia, etc could be crafted. And when I got to college, I thought I’d found Catholics who were doing just that.

      Sustained contact with them rid me of that notion. They weren’t actually orthodox Catholics; their beliefs were only Catholic so far as that coincided with fashionable thought on the left, and Catholic teaching which didn’t so coincide was ignored. That’s not to say they weren’t sincere, but they had been so thoroughly miseducated I despaired of ever correcting them. I grew increasingly frustrated that Catholicism was being, to my mind, perverted for politics; even those who insisted they were totally orthodox refused over and over to affirm inconvenient teachings (I’m looking at you, Fr. James Martin). Catholic “third way” economics like Distributism languished in obscurity the last few years while Catholics left and right took papal pronouncements about the importance of the environment, the destructiveness of capitalism, and so on as naked partisanship. Catholics on the right, meanwhile, were either embarrassed if knowledgeable of Catholic teaching, or assumed with seventy million others that it was coextensive with the platform of the Republican party. Where is the courage of our convictions?

      I’m so sick of this false ecumenism. I’m so sick of this perverted “dialogue.” And I’m so sick of this slack, enervated Catholicism unable to speak for itself except in the distorted terms of contemporary left or right thought. For all our object-level disagreements, give me the attitude Antonin Scalia any day.

    • johan_larson says:

      I was a pretty hard-core libertarian coming out of high school. It was just in the air in the late 80’s; although it was called neo-conservativism at the time. I remember Friedman’s “Free to Choose” making stone-cold sense to me.

      I’ve since drifted centerward, and think of myself as a moderate conservative with pro-science and populist mix-ins. I don’t think my evolution had anything to do with college. Not a lot of political discussion to be had in data structures class. It probably had more to do with the influence of my father, a pro-business social democrat in the Scandinavian style.

      • I was a pretty hard-core libertarian coming out of high school. It was just in the air in the late 80’s; although it was called neo-conservativism at the time.

        I cannot remember libertarianism ever being called neo-conservatism in any context I was involved in. To quote Wikipedia:

        Neoconservatism (commonly shortened to neocon) is a political movement born in the United States during the 1960s among liberal hawks who became disenchanted with the foreign policy platform of the Democratic Party.

        That’s almost the opposite of the libertarian position, since libertarians tend to favor a less interventionist foreign policy than either major party, while rejecting the economic views of modern liberals (U.S. sense).

    • rahien.din says:

      Prior to college, I had been not-quite-indoctrinated into Redneck trickle-down Republicanism by frequent exposure to the Excellence In Broadcasting network, by my family’s endorsement of the term “libtard,” and by our participation in the Southern Baptist Church. I can remember, during elementary school, standing beside my parents silently picketing an abortion clinic.

      One important step was becoming demystified by exposure to the full spectrum of ideas. For instance, I had been brought up to be incredibly skeptical of evolution. Then I took a genetics class, and wondered what all the fuss had been about.

      The other important step was that becoming good friends with a bunch of folks who turned out to be rather vocal liberals – to the extent that they didn’t talk to me for a week or two after GWB’s reelection. They were and are excellent people. They could express their strongly-held views with conviction, and could also respond to my objections with genuine and thoughtful challenges, things that made me reconsider my starting points and my logical steps. It was fun, and enriching.

      And yes, that also gave me a more broad-spectrum set of arguments with which to assemble my worldview, but that isn’t what really made me go bluer. The only reason why we could have these discussions was because we valued each other. The principle that people have value – utterly regardless of their beliefs or their character or their instrumentality – had been glaringly absent from my conservative upbringing, even in my religion. Here I had found it, with a bunch of libtards, go figure. It’s why I turned blue.

      I have since grown further. I became a huge fan of Dan Carlin and his “neo-prudentism.” I read a lot of early-to-mid 2000’s Andrew Sullivan, and (now somewhat abashedly) a lot of Dan Savage. I discovered a kind of concurrentism via Michael Tkacz’s “cosmogonical fallacy.” I converted to Catholicism, in order to marry a wonderful Catholic girl. And the mother of the girl I married is at once quiveringly and vituperatively rage-Republican, and also a deep well of compassion for her family and for the inner-city projects kids she taught in one of her city’s roughest schools. So there’s a lot to assemble here.

      But that one principle – people are valuable – is what my friends gave me, and what I live by.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      I entered college anti-SJ libertarian, came out pro-SJ liberaltarian. The more dramatic change, the SJ one, came primarily from becoming emotionally close to someone more directly affected by SJ issues, and secondarily from Scott giving me a gateway into actually understanding some social justice claims.

      I spent at least two years before either of these processes began, and I don’t think the general milieu budged me at all; there were a bunch of SJ people on campus making arguments that made no sense to me, but I had always known there were a bunch of SJ people on campuses making arguments that made no sense to me.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Blue and Red tribes are supposed to refer to cultural and class markers not just politics. Politics are part of it but it’s entirely possible to be a Blue Republican or a Red Democrat. /rant

      College made me more “Blue” in the sense that I picked up a lot of the etiquette of the intelligentsia. Even in a biochemistry program a plurality of my required courses were essentially finishing school for bien pensants. That’s not necessarily a bad thing: in my experience working class accents and mannerisms are usually interpreted as signs of racism and sexism, so unlearning them is important for your career.

      It also pushed me way way out to the right politically. Partly the push came from examining the evidence behind positions I had uncritically accepted. One moment in particular was when I started looking into the evidence cited in The Mismeasure of Man and was furious to discover that I had been blatantly lied to. Another big one was when I Red-pilled myself by learning Game. The rest of the push was the experience of living in the ghettos of various cities as an attempt to save money on housing.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      As an engineering student who did lots of his gen-ed stuff as AP or dual enrollment in high school, I wasn’t really exposed to anything political in my course work. This was in the late 90s/early 00s, though, so who knows, maybe now they’re teaching Feminist Circuits and Queer Number Theory. I flirted with libertarianism during the Bush years because I really didn’t like neoconservatism, but basically I formed all my political opinions reading Pat Buchanan and watching him on the McLaughlin Group in the 90s and still pretty much hold all those same opinions today.

      • quaelegit says:

        > So who knows, maybe now they’re teaching Feminist Circuits and Queer Number Theory.

        They aren’t. At least not at Berkeley.

        The C.S. ethics class would probably seem terribly biased-liberal to most SSCers given the way arguments were framed and discussed, but there was actually a fair amount of overlap with some of the topics that come up on SSC a lot (self-driving cars and automation affecting the workforce come to mind). It’s a 1-unit class out of a 120-unit degree.

        Actually, one of the first assigned readings in above mentioned ethics class was an SSC post! (IIRC Toxoplasma of Rage.)

        • quaelegit says:

          >They aren’t. At least not at Berkeley.

          Although who knows, I come very a very liberal background so I probably wouldn’t notice if it were. All I can say with a reasonable amount of certainty is that the subjects covered in lecture and in homework were entirely engineering. (One example I can think of that’s culture war-y: the stable marriage algorithm is still explained in terms of men proposing to women — I think people would make jokes about it being an old fashioned scenario but everyone realized it was far clearer to stick with the traditional explanation and I never heard anyone make a stink about it.)

          Breadths of course all bets are off, but there’s a lot that aren’t particularly culture war-y: my linguistics survey course and Irish theatre*/lit course stayed away from (American) culture war stuff entirely as far as I remember. Anthropology not so much 😛

        • rlms says:

          My Software Engineering course last year (not at Berkeley) briefly mentioned the gender gap in CS and made the assumption that it was to some extent innate.

        • Nornagest says:

          I hated my CS ethics class, but I hated it for the same reason that Scott hates bioethics: it framed everything in a very zero-sum, hyper-precautionary, almost Luddite way. Some of the examples did include stuff like automation affecting the workforce, but its political valence was a sideline; the problem was that it was too conservative in the context of actual engineering practice, not too liberal in the context of society. (It was also totally at odds with how things work in industry, but I didn’t know that when I took it.) The current version might be more social justice-aligned; that was a few years ago.

          Breadth courses were a mixed bag. Most of the time it possible to avoid social justice indoctrination (though it sometimes took some creativity), but one requirement was two courses in… I forget what they called it, but it boiled down to race/class/gender studies and adjacent topics. Had to just keep my head down and regurgitate as needed for those ones, and I hated every minute of it.

          Aside from that, I ended up taking a lot of linguistics and archaeology courses, and while I did still end up with a professor who called himself a Marxian archaeologist, that seemed mostly to imply interpreting potsherds and petroglyphs in terms of economics rather than religion or culture. The class ended up being about the pre-Columbian Puebloans, who had a fascinating culture, and it didn’t stray much into present-day politics.

          • The Nybbler says:

            CS Ethics? I’m pretty sure that those who consider whether they SHOULD do something before they go ahead and do it never get anything done.

            I mean, yeah, maybe you screw up and have velociraptors running rampant in LA. But HOW COOL IS THAT?

          • Nornagest says:

            I almost wish I had to track down and shoot a pack of velociraptors every time someone broke the build. It’d make my life a lot more exciting.

        • bean says:

          I had an ethics class (for some reason, it’s required for aerospace and CS), and I came to the conclusion that the class itself was unethical. Bad ethics ranks fairly low as a cause of failure compared to other factors, and a class focusing on those factors would do more good.
          The class itself wasn’t particularly SJish. I engaged in a very vigorous defense of nuclear weapons as morally good, and nobody really got bothered by it. (I will admit that I did this at least partially because the class consensus was that they were morally neutral, and I wanted an argument.)

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      In college? Yes, I became more “left,” but more in the direction of internationalism. I went into college as something not far removed from a min-archist (STOP AUTOCORRECTING. I DO NOT WANT A KING). I became convinced that there were enough collective action problems at national and international levels and democracy is generally secure enough to support a traditional modern-sized government.

      College was mostly non-political for me, because I took mostly business classes. However, my gen eds tended to be EXTREME left-wing. My US FP foreign class was a litany of “here are all the stupid illegal wars we fight.” My sociology class was “RCG RCG everyone is oppressed!” Ya know, etc. My English class was full of people who thought we should just give out to money to everyone so we can boost consumerism and therefore boost growth, so I wrote Ayn Rand quotes on the wall every day before class.

      Psychology was surprisingly not that way, and our psyc professor was actually more inclined to give Evo-Psych a favorable treatment.

      I’ve always been socially permissive, so college did not affect any of my stances on social issues. If anything, I became less convinced that things like gay marriage should be constitutionally guaranteed rights.

      So college? Small potatoes.

      Post-college, especially marriage? WAY more conservative, way less inclined to trust government to spend my money wisely, way more intolerant of the tax burden, way more interested in annihilating tiny little third-world nations that might cause harm to my family, way less interested in social projects that sound like code for “more crime and crappier schools.” Far, far, far less charitable to systematic oppression arguments and far, far, far worse opinions of philosophies that amount to “you didn’t build that.”

    • bean says:

      Political views didn’t change much in college, and those that did were fairly orthagonal to classes or even real-world peer interaction. But I went to an engineering school and had a lot of AP credits, so I only had a few gen ed classes. The only one that was at all left-leaning was Sci-Fi lit, and that was fairly mild.

    • gbdub says:

      I was a pretty standard neoconservative in high school (got a standing ovation for a challenging question I asked of an anti-war hippie vet in a campus Iraq war debate!), but generally naive. Went to a very liberal public university (but in engineering, so not THAT liberal).

      College exposed me to a lot more knowledge, and a lot more liberals. Of all stripes, levels of extremity, and thoughtfulness. Which made me on the one hand more sympathetic to some of their positions (particularly LGBT issues – I was in no way homophobic in high school, but college made me much more aware/supportive) but on the other hand much more annoyed by and generally skeptical of their excesses.

      Now I’m probably closest to “bleeding heart libertarian” if you corner me and make me pick something. I don’t think college moved me left per se, so much as “getting older and less naive”.

      I might just be contrarian – now I live somewhere with a ton of hardcore conservatives and I find myself getting annoyed with conservatism much more than I did in college.

      EDIT: perhaps oddly, college made me more sympathetic to the concept of “microaggressions”, although I don’t think the term was in vogue at the time. Taking mostly ancient or Russian history and engineering classes, I didn’t get exposed to a ton of in-class leftist propaganda, but there were many anti-conservative “microaggressions”.

    • JayT says:

      I grew up in a very Religious Right family, and my schooling was heavily RR too, so I more or less shared those views. In college I definitely moved leftward on social issues, mainly because as I came to know people from more walks of life, I realized that I cared very little about what they did in their personal lives. In general, it was in college that I really discovered libertarian thought, and that has influenced me quite a bit. So if you consider libertarian to the left of Religious Right, then I suppose I moved to the left.

      I was not very interested in politics as a teenager, so I really didn’t have many beliefs beyond “I hope my team wins the election!”

    • achenx says:

      I was very vaguely libertarian in high school, without really understanding things specifically. After college I wouldn’t say any of my principles changed, but I understood positions better.

      For context, I appear to be older than many of you but not all. The time period here is the late Clinton years. In the sense that polls sometimes show people’s lifetime political views being affected by their first election choices, I don’t doubt that part of my opposition to the two major US parties comes from my first presidential race being Bush vs Gore, though the fact that the choices have mostly just gotten worse since then hasn’t helped. (On the topic of old LiveJournals, my own LJ recounts my utter disgust with Bush vs Kerry. I often thought of that last year, when Bush vs Kerry seemed like the good ol’ days. This has not given me optimism that we’ve hit the bottom yet.)

    • John Schilling says:

      I was much more sympathetic to anarchism, particularly anarcho-socialism, when I graduated high school. Also, and somewhat paradoxically, to Reagan-style Republican conservatism – the paradox is mostly near/far mode with the Cold War and its aftermath still dominating near-term political thinking.

      University education per se had little to do with the evolution of my political thought towards a non-anarchist libertarian position, More exposure to the range of human experiences, both in person and through reading, greatly reduced the appeal of anarchism. The university environment may have facilitated that. I don’t think my college education had much to do with the end of the cold war, however.

    • quaelegit says:

      I just graduated from undergrad. In the latter half of college I became much less confident in my views, and its entirely due to discovering SSC. I had some sense of “everyone is biased, including myself” and even some “map =/= territory” before, but from SSC I learned a lot about epistemic uncertainty and gained new models for politics and group relations in general (ingroup/outgroup, signalling, ideology is not the movement, etc.). And from the commenters I’ve gained a lot of insight into other worldviews that I’ve never seen explained before (and that I would be afraid to ask about in real life).

      So thank you for your lessons and perspectives, Scott and SSC commenters 🙂

      (On the other hand I’m not sure if “approaching a political equivalent of Buridan’s Ass” is a good place to be, but at least it leaves me more open to change if that should be necessary.)

    • birdboy2000 says:

      I came into college a red liberal/pinko/not sure if to call myself a social democrat or communist and came out the same way.

      My shift towards radicalism (of the “red revolution now” variety, not the “the US was a marginally worse evil during the cold war” variety) came in 2014-15, over both the ant thing alienating me from liberals and browsing /leftypol/ exposing me to a ton of leftist thought. Hillary’s nomination and the DNC leaks (and reaction to same) ended any doubt I had about the subject.

      That said, spending the first couple years after graduating (I graduated in ’12) with no job, no hope, and a lot of friends in the same position didn’t exactly give me cause to believe in the system. As a materialist, I have to acknowledge this made it a much easier shift to make.

    • Kevin C. says:

      When I graduated HS in 2000, I was mostly your standard 90’s “redneck” Republican, only not religious and with a certain fondness for the Alaskan Independence Party. Then I went to college in southern California, and ended up coming out much of the way toward my current position as a “Death Eater.” As another example of the problems with the “left-right” spectrum as currently defined (rather than just sticking with the original definitions of those terms) is that this meant becoming less pro-capitalism, which many would consider a “leftward” movement (but as most of my objections and preferred alternatives are essentially “pre-capitalist,” I would call the movement rightward).

  12. bean says:

    I need advice on phones. Looks like my current one (a Nexus 5X) packed up unexpectedly. I got it about 15 months ago, and it’s the second Nexus that’s died on me early. I need to replace it with another Android (I will not buy Apple, period), and I’d like something that’s going to get replaced because it’s old (obsolete, and I want to replace it), not because the warranty ran out. I’m also not going to spend huge amounts of money, but low cost isn’t my main driver.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      You aren’t going to get what you want.

      Consumer phone hardware really is still improving, and will continue to do so for quite a bit (Moore’s law style limits may limit the pure CPU improvements, but screens and batteries and such really are getting better.) As a consequence, a long lived phone is going to be obsolete within two years tops.

      The market has noticed this and spoken: people will not pay any meaningful premium for a phone that can be trusted to live (and have useful Flash / battery / software updates for) several years. So they aren’t sold.

      • bean says:

        Two years is fine. I’m not looking for a lifetime product, just one that will be obsolete instead of dying on me.

      • Wrong Species says:

        I don’t think this as true as it used to be. I have an IPhone 6 and I’m only now thinking about upgrading and even then, I’ll probably wait a year. Most phones just don’t change that much year to year.

      • Rosemary7391 says:

        I don’t think that it’s available in the USA, but the Fairphone is a nice option that addresses your points. It has a long intended support life, and they sell spare parts. It’s quite easy to repair if need be; they send you the part and you just need a normal screwdriver (not even that for the screen). The nice bit about that is that it is just as easy to upgrade as to repair. I’d say it has been less reliable than Samsung phones I’ve previously used to death in 4/5 years, but the self repair option and 2 year warranty (battery excepted) helps with that. And the software has definitely improved over my time of owning it.

    • Charles F says:

      How much do you expect from your phone? I don’t have any recommendations in a class with the Nexus phones, but I’ve had good experiences with the moto G (4 or 5 years now) and the moto e (got one for my mother about 3 years ago). Both of them would probably be considered obsolete by a lot of standards, but I can run the few apps I care about on them without any trouble. And I still don’t have to charge it more than every other day. I haven’t tried the newer models, so things could have changed, but what I’ve seen from the line is solid.

    • Dog says:

      If you’ve been put off by your Nexus experiences, it’s worth noting that both the Nexus 4 and 5X were manufactured by LG, while the Pixel and Pixel 2 (smaller size) are manufactured by HTC. I’m generally happy with my Pixel 2. The camera is great, stock android is great. Weak points are the speakers and the large bezels.

    • pontifex says:

      If you want a phone that will be supported (and continue to receive security updates) for a long time, you pretty much have to go with iPhone or (to a lesser extent) Nexus. Everything else will be orphaned by the manufacturer in a year or less.

      iPhone also lets you much more effectively limit data access by applications. The phone feels much more like it’s mine, rather than Google’s.

      • bean says:

        You’ve managed to name the two phones I absolutely will not buy. I refuse to pay the Apple premium or hand control of my digital life to them. And I’m going to do my best to never give any money to LG ever again.

        • Andrew Hunter says:

          The Pixel phones (“Pixel” is the new brand for flagship android devices, replacing what used to be “Nexus”) are mostly HTC (with the exception of the Pixel 2 XL.) If you don’t object to giving HTC money, they are going to be the phones supported by Google for the longest time frame, it’s just not going to be as long as you’re ever going to hope.

          I have a Pixel 1 XL. I like it. It was very expensive, but can probably be had for cheaper now.

          • bean says:

            My first smartphone was out of support the day I got it. This was irritating, but not as irritating as a phone that dies on you. Again, all I really want is for it to last into 2020 at this point.

        • pontifex says:

          You don’t have to “hand control of your digital life” to Apple if you have an iPhone.

          I have an iPhone and I use CardDAV to synchronize my contacts with Fastmail. Similarly, I CalDAV to synchronize my calendar with Fastmail. And my email is with Fastmail as well. I don’t use iCloud for anything except the Find My Iphone feature.

          On the other hand, to even log in to an Android phone you need a GMail account. And nowadays, you need a phone number to register a GMail account. Android phones also usually come with apps preinstalled that you can’t uninstall.

          Apple is a censor that bans apps from their app store for being malware or for sometimes for political reasons. Google is a censor that bans apps from their app store for
          political reasons, but allows in malware.

          Yes, Android allows sideloading (for now) and iphone doesn’t. But if you are technical and you really care, you can sideload on either platform. But you will notice that privacy settings like allowing the Maps app to track you only when the app is open are conspicuously missing on Android. Hmm…

          • Lillian says:

            Uh, my phone has a shortcut in the menu bar to toggle location tracking with the push of a button. Gmaps can’t track me unless the app is open, because location services are only ever enabled when i think an app needs them, and disabled the rest of the time. On top of that, there is privacy setting to disable Gmaps tracking, it’s just in your Google account rather than the app itself. This is actually more convenient, because it gives you a single location where you can disable every other type of tracking Google does.

    • skef says:

      My general strategy has to buy the 1) higher-end 2) Samsung phone with 3) a removable battery 4) from 12-18 months ago 5) reconditioned. I also get 1-2 spare batteries with an external charger (which tend to be cheap for phones of that age).

      None have died on me yet, although I eventually have to start cleaning some of the electrical contacts more frequently.

      At around 3 years old, some of the app updates will start taxing it. The Browser seems to be the worst offender, typically.

      • Nornagest says:

        I used to be a Samsung guy, but every phone I bought from them had something significantly wrong with it. These were flagship phones, too, not the discount stuff.

        • skef says:

          Well, my current phone is a Samsung Galaxy Alpha, and before that was a Galaxy II Skyrocket. So one of the features of this strategy is that one’s information is somewhat out of date.

          I was meh about the Skyrocket but I have liked the Alpha quite a bit, especially its modest form-factor. It’s borderline fancy, and apparently came out way over-priced and failed as a product, but then the secondary market mostly forgot that the only problem was with the price.

    • Eltargrim says:

      Having recently had a similar experience with a sudden, unexpected Nexus 5X failure: has your device fallen victim to the boot loop, and if so have you contacted LG about it? My 5X was out of warranty by 2 weeks, and they replaced it free of charge (minus some international shipping fees). Might be worth thinking about, as they have an extended warranty on the boot loop issue.

      • bean says:

        Don’t think it was the boot loop. Seems to be a battery/power problem of some sort. It was on, and then it just stopped. Attempts to turn it on since then have shown a bit of the boot sequence, but usually not very much. How much is based on how long it’s been since I last tried.

        • rmtodd says:

          What you describe sounds consistent with the boot loop to me: the system getting partway thru bootup, showing the Annoying Boot Animation, then sitting there spinning in the animation for a bit while the big CPUs are locked up until (I assume) the watchdog timer fires and the thing reboots to the “Google” screen to try it again.

          • bean says:

            Yeah. Further investigation shows that it is the boot loop. I actually got to the home screen using the freezer method before it packed up.

          • Eltargrim says:

            Give that it sounds like the boot loop, I’d recommend contacting LG. The replacement process should be free for you, given you’re in the US, and it gives you some time to figure out an ideal replacement phone. Good luck!

          • bean says:

            Unfortunately, it was an amazon purchase, and while the order form said US, the warranty card says India. (I probably should have known, but that was a rather hasty purchase, due to the last one basically not charging.) Also, it’s been a while since my last backup, so I’m more concerned with getting the data off. I went with the Moto, as it’s the right price, I don’t need a high-end phone, and I really strongly don’t want one made by LG.

    • rmtodd says:

      Yeah, I had the same thing happen to me a few weeks ago. The Nexus 5X, and apparently several other phones made by LG, have some dodgy hardware that LG doesn’t seem to know how to fix (several people over in the Nexus5X reddit have reported getting “repaired” phones that suffered the same fate months later). The main symptom is that the phone gets far enough into the bootstrap process to show the annoying little animation and then just spins there.

      There is a way, if you’re sufficiently adventurous and technically inclined, to more-or-less resurrect the phone; I’ve done it as per advice from over on the Nexus5X reddit. Here’s how it goes: The problem is theorized to be dodgy soldering that causes a lockup on one or both of the “big” CPU cores in the machine (Nexus5X has 6 cores, 2 really powerful ones and 4 less powerful ones). If you can get the machine stable enough to unlock the bootloader and flash a replacement firmware image someone on the reddit came up with that just outright disables the two “big” cores, the phone seems to run OK on just the four “lesser” cores. Of course, the catch is how do you go and unlock the bootloader settings if your phone never successfully boots? The trick seems to be, curiously enough, heating the phone up enough causes the phone to successfully boot — it’s not clear why this works, but the popular theory is that if the phone gets warm enough the thermal cutouts automatically disable the “big” cores. People on the reddit suggested various schemes with heat guns and the like, but I found that just having the phone on, plugged into a charger, and wrapped fairly tightly with a blanket was enough to warm it up to where it’d stay up long enough to unlock the bootloader (and copy off stuff I wanted to save, in case the fix didn’t work). Again, there’s plenty of discussion of this on the Nexus5X reddit.

      If, on the other hand, you don’t feel like doing that much tinkering with a dying phone and just want to buy something that works, I bought a Motorola G5S Plus to serve as my new main phone. Seems to work pretty good, and while they don’t do Android 8 yet, it is supposed to be coming soon. I would have preferred a Google phone for the software-update timeliness, but I wasn’t gonna pay $600 for a piece of hardware unless I had some assurances Google had had them made by someone with a working soldering setup.

      • bean says:

        Got it. Tried the freezer, and it didn’t quite work. (It didn’t help that I was having power issues at the same time.) Right now, I’ve got an improvised hotbox the phone is in. I happen to have a plug-in thermostat (my last apartment didn’t have central air, and the window unit was so old that it didn’t have a thermostat, so I improvised), which is hooked up to the space heater and a couple of blankets covering a lid leaning on the heater. Keeping the phone at a nice 120 F, which seems to do the trick. I can get in and work on it. For some reason, it refuses to talk to the USB cable, so I’m having to upload all the pics to Google Drive. (No, direct file transfer didn’t work either.)

    • sohois says:

      I always recommend this whenever phones come up and frankly I’m shocked it isn’t widespread at this point. Don’t waste hundreds of pounds(or dollars) on a phone from a big manufacturer when you can literally buy near identical Chinese manufacturer phones for much much cheaper.

      I suppose partly this is because Chinese brands, of any type of good, tend to have a dodgy reputation, but really when you think about phones it makes no sense to apply this. The hardware used is all made by third parties. The software is made by Google. All phones are manufactured in China, regardless of if they’re a Samsung/iPhone or a Xiaomi/Meizu. The only difference seems to be that in the West Apple have successfully set a price for phones in the minds of the public that is way above the cost of production.

      I’m on my third Chinese made phone, and each of the past 2 were replaced by choice rather than due to faults. Current phone is a Xiaomi MiMax 2, it’s an outstanding piece of tech though probably not for everyone – at 6.4 inches it’s a lot bigger than many people are comfortable with. If you don’t mind the size I would definitely recommend it.

      Otherwise, it will depend on the specifics of the phone you are looking for. If you don’t want any hassle then stick with the bigger players, which are Xiaomi, Huawei, Meizu, Oppo, LeEco. Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 is the best of those for a mid tier option. All of these guys will have long update cycles, their phones will have plenty of international bands so you won’t have to do much research. These guys do still have a slight premium on price over the smaller players, so if you’re really concerned about getting a bargain then you can turn to the likes of Ulefone, Elephone, Doogee, Oukitel, Vernee. You’ll be able to find information about these guys at http://www.gizchina.com or r/chinaphones.

    • dodrian says:

      I have a OnePlus (3T)… I was a bit concerned when they switched away from removable battery and storage, but since I now have Dropbox Pro and a (mostly) unlimited data plan I realized that the storage isn’t actually a problem. Dash Charging on the OnePlus is incredibly fast, so battery hasn’t been an issue either.

      What convinced me to go with them was that the posted instructions on how to root the phone on their own website. I’ve ended up being happy with their software – the updates come quickly, but if for some reason they decide to stop updating I can switch to Cyanogenmod or similar with no issues.

      If you don’t like the price of their latest phones, you could look at buying used/refurbished earlier model. And it looks like Amazon stocks some of their earlier models.

      • albatross11 says:

        I’ve been assimilated into the Borg and carry an iPhone[1], but my understanding is that most Android phones do not get regular OS updates and security patches. This potentially leaves you carrying around a computer in your pocket that hasn’t been patched in two years and has widely-known and published vulnerabilities that anyone can use to take over your phone.

        [1] Of course, an Apple version of a Borg Cube would be much more thin and stylish. On the other hand, it wouldn’t be very good at assimilating alien technology because of intentional incompatibilities….

        • dodrian says:

          That was my experience owning two low-mid range Android phones – “we’ll get around to it when we get around to it” was the Manufacturers attitude, and unfortunately the manufacturers are responsible for OS updates (I believe Google is trying to change this, because most manufacturers don’t care about anything but their current flagship).

          My OnePlus asks me to update fairly regularly (every two weeks or so?), and even though they’ve released two major versions since, I’m still getting (though my model is only a little more than a year old) regular OS updates.

          My point was, that as OnePlus is upfront about how to root the phone and install a third-party OS (though in practice based on Android). This would mean I would be responsible for the security updates – but the community around modded phones is pretty fast at pushing them out. The ability to install your own OS does a lot to phone longevity, because if the manufacturer stops supporting the model you can still get the latest updates (and often custom OSs have less cruft to slow the phone down).

          This does require a bit of technical knowhow, but as OnePlus gave official and easy-to-follow instructions, it requires much less than for most ‘droids. For what it’s worth, I was able to root my Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 after a little bit of online searching and legwork (giving me an extra year of use), but never managed to do the same for my LG G3. The instructions for the OnePlus make it look much much easier than I had for either of those.

          • CatCube says:

            I’m the (one) guy with a Windows Phone, and Microsoft seems to be on the ball about updating it. The problem is that it feels like each update increases the bloat, so the phone will run slower, or sometimes hang on webpages for what I suspect are out of memory errors, where it didn’t do that before.

            Sometimes I wish they’d stop fucking with it.

          • pontifex says:

            Sometimes I wish they’d stop fucking with it.

            Your wish is granted!

            You have two more wishes.

    • gbdub says:

      I have to say this thread has not made me regret owning an iPhone….

      • Wrong Species says:

        Same. People complain about the price but Apple supports their phones for years so it’s still a pretty good value.

      • Nornagest says:

        Yeah. The price is painful, and Apple’s habit of trying to lock you into its walled garden is annoying, but it does actually Just Work.

        • gbdub says:

          I mean, when the garden is nice, there’s a lot of good to be said for walls…

          (Really I picked iPhone mostly because my family already had them, and I’m the designated family tech support. But I’ve really come to appreciate the “Just (mostly) Works” that doesn’t seem to exist among the ‘droids except maybe the Google flagships. I treat my phone as an appliance, not a hobby, so that’s a big part of it – I feel differently about my home PCs, so there I use Windows. (But not Linux, nerds))

          • Nornagest says:

            The walled garden isn’t that nice, is the thing. Apple is fundamentally not an applications company and their applications leave a lot to be desired. iTunes is particularly bad, and I find it endlessly annoying that tasks that should take fifteen seconds with a local filesystem interface instead take an app setup and a cloud transaction. But Apple will do its damnedest to rope you into its stupid dance, because that sells more iDevices.

            For me it’s worth it for not having to deal with all the issues I’ve had with Android phones, though.

    • gph says:

      https://www.xda-developers.com/best-value-flagship-of-2017/

      OnePlus is probably the best way to go. They make their phones very user friendly for rooting/custom ROMs, and they are generally better than other OEMs on keeping the latest updates available.

  13. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Multiple leftist Facebook friends are now saying that it’s all because of black women that they won Alabama. That sounds so random. It’s well-known in American politics that the black vote is a monolith, so why celebrate only women and not men?

    • Charles F says:

      The black vote is a monolith, but turnout is fickle, right? Was the turnout for black women much higher than it was for men? I couldn’t find numbers in 5 minutes of googling, but that seems like the most plausible explanation.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        The black vote is a monolith, but turnout is fickle, right?

        Yeah, of course. I’m just seeing this praise with no citation of a gender difference in the turnout, is all.

        • beleester says:

          It’s because Roy Moore was thought to be uniquely repulsive to women, due to the sexual assault allegations (and just having really regressive views in general).

          Exit polls show Jones did get more votes from women. However, race was a much larger split, and a (small) majority of voters said the allegations weren’t a factor in their decision.

          “Black women won the election” is a bit reductionist, but I think it’s fair to say that black people and women turned out strongly for Jones.

          • albatross11 says:

            Blacks vote like 90% Democratic, so I’m sure Jones got nearly all the black vote. But the interesting question is whether he got more such votes because of Moore than he would have against some other Republican.

        • dndnrsn says:

          There is a gender difference in turnout – black women are even more strong Democrat voters than black men. I’m going with exit polling for 2012 rather than 2016, because I heard there was some weirdness with 2016 exit polling, but if you look at it, black women went 96% for Obama vs 87% for black men. Additionally, black women were 8% of the electorate and black men were 5% – presumably at least some of that gap is due to greater likelihood to vote.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Whoa, 60% more likely to vote than black men, according to 2012 exit polling? Interesting.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I imagine that since there’s usually a male-female gap in the population due to men being more likely to die earlier doing stupider stuff, that’s part of it. White women are 38 vs white men’s 34 in the same exit polling. I would imagine some things hit black men harder than white men (homicide, imprisonment, disenfranchisement due to criminal record presumably follow that a higher % of black men get hit by those things than white men). But after everything’s accounted for there’s probably still some difference not explained by those factors.

          • albatross11 says:

            I strongly suspect that a big source of the difference in turnout between black women and men has to do with incarceration and felony convictions.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Beyond that, for men and women in general, are women who are entitled to vote more likely than men who are entitled to vote? Do early deaths, incarceration, disenfranchisement due to incarceration explain the gap between white women and white men entirely, or only partially?

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Another contributing factor: women are more likely to have the free time on voting day, labor laws ostensibly requiring the time be made available notwithstanding.

          • Aapje says:

            Women also live longer and old people have a high turnout, so this means that the average woman is more likely to vote, as the average woman is older.

    • outis says:

      The voter block that decided Jones’s victory was Alabama Republicans. Lots of them stayed home or wrote in a third candidate (I think there were more write-in votes than Jones’s entire margin). That was the major change that decided the election; the change in Democratic turnout was, by comparison, minor, and would have been irrelevant if Republican voters had turned out for Moore like they would have for any other Republican candidate.

      Of course, new papers choose to print bar graphs showing the percentage of valid votes, so the people who abstained do not show up. That’s how you get the right narrative.

      • albatross11 says:

        To be fair, in any story involving statistics or mathematical modeling, almost no journalists will ever get to a good description of reality except by amazing good luck. Innumeracy seems to be almost a requirement of the field.

        • cassander says:

          it’s worst than that, half the time they can’t even get budget numbers right. I don’t want to get into a debate about kansas, but most of the articles I’ve read about it cite general fund figures as if they were the entire state budget, confuse debt and deficit, or make other fundamental basic errors. It’s terrifying.

      • Iain says:

        The Alabama Secretary of State predicted turnout at 25%. It was actually at 40%. Special elections normally don’t get that kind of turnout, and black voters typically vote at lower rates for special elections and off-year elections.

        The media spin leading up to the election was that Doug Jones was not energizing the black vote. The spin turned out to be wrong. These articles are the result.

        • gbdub says:

          So what worked? I’ve met a fair number of black people from Alabama, and while they exclusively vote Democratic, their social views would get them hit with a bike lock in Berkeley – can’t imagine Jones was a major turn-on for them.

          • Iain says:

            Jones is hardly a radical leftist.

            I’m not an expert on the politics of Alabama, but as far as I can tell it was a combination of opposition to Roy “I think America was great at the time when families were united — even though we had slavery” Moore and a huge get-out-the-vote effort. The Democrats managed to funnel a fair bit of support to Doug Jones — Obama recorded a robocall, for example — without making it look like he was a DNC puppet.

          • gbdub says:

            I didn’t mean to imply that he was a far leftist, just that, as a basically bog-standard Democrat, it was unclear why he’d inspire a lot of extra black voters to turn out, relative to the other bog-standard Democrats that inspired the pre-election turnout estimates.

          • Witness says:

            Maybe this had something to do with it?

    • Deiseach says:

      why celebrate only women and not men?

      I think because of a particular graph/graphic going around:

      White men: voted 72% for Moore
      White women: voted 63% for Moore
      Black men: voted 93% for Jones
      Black women: voted 98% for Jones

      So given that the accusations against Moore have to do with sexual misconduct/hebephilia, the emphasis is on the women’s vote, especially “Why did white women vote for Moore not Jones?”

      African American women made up 18 per cent of the vote and approximately 97 per cent of their vote went to Mr Jones – compared with 65 per cent of white women (who made up 30 per cent of voters) opting for Mr Moore. In contrast, the vote among black men made up just 12 per cent of the vote even though 92 per cent voted for Mr Jones.

  14. Le Maistre Chat says:

    What’s the current science on human lineages?
    The model that we all came Out of Africa ~60,000 years ago has been revised to include 1.8-2.6% Neanderthal ancestry in all (?) Eurasians, and therefore Native Americans, plus 4-6% Denisovan ancestry in Melanesians and Australian Aborigines.
    One piece of the human puzzle that’s unclear to me are the Negritos of Asia. It’s intuitive that hunter-gatherers who colonized southern Asia from Africa ~60,000 YA would have looked like Black Africans, but specifically resembling Pygmies is surprising. How large a data set do we have of paleolithic H. sapiens sapiens skeletons?

    • Douglas Knight says:

      I think the date for OOA is more like 100kya, or at least 75kya. There are remains in Australia 60kya.

      I think you’re confused by some kind of “living fossil” fallacy.

      What is surprising about Negritos? Populations change size all the time. It’s just a niche. They’ve been sequenced and they’re related to surrounding populations. Distantly related, but closer than they are to other Negrito populations, let alone Black Africans, let alone pygmies. Some have Denisovan ancestry; some don’t. They don’t look like Black Africans in any way but skin color. They have a few traits in common with pygmies, but that’s convergent evolution. Also, pygmies (along with Bushmen) probably diverged from Black Africans long before OOA.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        I think the date for OOA is more like 100kya, or at least 75kya. There are remains in Australia 60kya.

        I was under the impression that “Adam”, the LCA of all extant Y-haplotypes, was dated to ~60,000 YA, very close to the first arrival in Australia. It didn’t make a lot of sense to me that our ancestors expanded overland by Suez and also invented rafts and sped them all the way to Australia at about the same time, but I thought that was the state of the science.

        Yes, I’m confused, because the “living fossil” is one of the hypotheses about them mentioned in the link. It talks about the hypothesis that living Negritos are genetically-isolated relics of once-widespread Asian hunter-gatherers, as well as studies claiming continuing admixture (“distantly related to neighbors, but closer than they are to other Negrito populations”).
        Anyway, I think you’re misunderstanding that I thought Negritos are closely related to Pygmies. I was just saying that when H. sapiens sapiens first left Africa, it’s intuitive that we would share a phenotype regardless of genetic diversity (all being under tropical African selection pressure), and IF Negritos are relic descendants of the first Hss southern Asians (it seems definitely not?) before they mixed with Denisovans and entered Melanesia, that would be evidence for the ur-Asians being Pygmy-size. Do we have evidence that it’s more recent adaptation to a niche?

        Also, pygmies (along with Bushmen) probably diverged from Black Africans long before OOA.

        Wow, it seems they really did. 260,000 years ago, unless peer review rips that date apart.
        Do we know which sub-Saharan Africans all Eurasians are most closely related to? African demography has changed a lot in the past 2500 years.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          It talks about the hypothesis that living Negritos are genetically-isolated relics of once-widespread Asian hunter-gatherers

          That’s probably true. But the “living fossil fallacy” is that the Negritos are more like the common ancestor of OOA than the dominant populations. The fallacy is to select them over the other population; they have the same relation to the common ancestor: 75ky of evolution. So one of the two must have changed size, so there was enough time for either to. So, yes, the OOA population might have been all small, but this seems like a pretty arbitrary hypothesis you have suggested. The fossils in Africa definitely don’t suggest this. I don’t know about the earliest OOA fossils. Presumably the early Australian fossils are full size.

          Are you suggesting that Denisovan introgression made them big? That seems pretty arbitrary to me. Why would you think that? There are Negritos with Denisovan admixture. I think that there are populations that are pretty close to Australian and Papuans, but without Denisovan admixture, but maybe I’m confused. And, of course, most OOA populations are big without Denisovan admixture.

          The 260kya should be treated very tentatively. Razib Khan suggests that maybe archaic introgression is confusing the models.

          Do we know which sub-Saharan Africans all Eurasians are most closely related to? African demography has changed a lot in the past 2500 years.

          Northeast Africans are closest, for the not useful reason that they back to Africa blood in the past 2500 years.
          Ignoring that, yes, the Bantu expansion messes everything up. It wiped out the population structure and it’s hard to get an answer other than: they’re all equally related to OOA.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            That’s probably true. But the “living fossil fallacy” is that the Negritos are more like the common ancestor of OOA than the dominant populations. The fallacy is to select them over the other population; they have the same relation to the common ancestor: 75ky of evolution.

            OK, I see the fallacy now. Even if the OOA founding population had a very similar phenotype to Black Africans, Negritos have the same relation of ~75k years of mutation to the founders as Scandinavians or Amerinds or anyone else, which could easily include novel mutations for the phenotype of short stature. Being among the only Asians to retain the archaic genes for melanin and hair shape wouldn’t make them living fossils.
            So I suppose the interesting question is what did Asians look like at the end of the paleolithic? Geneticists have found that the full set of three fair skin mutations only entered most of Europe (save Scandinavia) with farmers from Asia Minor. The Siberian/Korean/Japanese cluster has evidence for paleolithic continuity, though one might surmise their phenotype had more similarities to early Americans back then. And there were “Caucasoid” north Eurasians who mixed with farmers coming from Asia Minor to become the Yamnaya lineage. Do we know anything about Iran, India, or Southeast Asia?

    • B Beck says:

      There seems to be evidence of a ‘drip’ of people leaving Africa much earlier than 60,000 years ago, followed by a larger migration. I’ve only read the abstract, so I’m not sure what findings they’re citing.

      link text

  15. hash872 says:

    Is cryptocurrency speculation crazy?? Like, pure speculation. I am pretty convinced that we’re in the middle of a tulip mania-like bubble with bitcoin & others, and that it will eventually pop- but, crazy bull markets can go on for a long time. (Hence the stories about shorts who got burned trying to short Pets.com or whatever in the late 90s/2000 stock market bubble- they were right eventually, but wrong about the timing). I would basically purchase various crypto coins with the specific goal of finding a ‘bigger fool’ weeks or days down the road- I hesitate to call this financial ‘trading’, per se. I’m quite aware of the risks and lack of real underlying value- and trying to take advantage of the bigger fools before it collapses, like pre-2008 house flippers or the aforementioned stock market runup.

    Like, is this a crazy strategy if

    I go in eyes wide open as to the risk
    I’m obviously utilizing a small % of my net worth, specifically set aside for speculative investments
    I have a day job and am reasonably financially secure
    I consistently take my earnings out (i.e. don’t keep reinvesting them gambler-style)

    Once I’ve doubled my initial stake (and taken that profit out of cryptocurrency and back to the bank), I have essentially broken even and any earnings after that are pure profit. Is this a non-crazy course of speculative action?

    Along that vein- is there a quasi-liquid market for non-bitcoin cryptocurrencies? Any good online guides as to wallet security? I am seriously considering taking advantage of this market craze while it’s still here (I think my only other posting on SSC also related to financial speculation, if that gives you an idea as to what’s on my mind these days lol)

    • baconbacon says:

      Once I’ve doubled my initial stake (and taken that profit out of cryptocurrency and back to the bank), I have essentially broken even and any earnings after that are pure profit. Is this a non-crazy course of speculative action?

      Assuming you actually double your initial stake. For bitcoin you are talking about it hitting ~$33,000. What is your exit strategy? Why is that your exit strategy? How much are you willing to lose before you pull the plug entirely?

      • Nornagest says:

        The price per coin tells you pretty much nothing; it’s a big number but it’s a more or less infinitely fungible commodity. Lately I’ve been thinking about it more in terms of market cap.

        Cryptocurrency was hovering around half a trillion in total market cap last time I checked (it’s been bearish today, so probably lower now). Gold is somewhere around eight trillion. Since Bitcoin at present occupies a store-of-value niche comparable to gold, a 2x rise in Bitcoin requires it to pull a sizeable fraction of investors from gold or a comparable asset. That’s not totally outlandish but it’s a tall enough order to get me a little worried.

        On the other hand, if Core manages to unfuck itself, its scaling problems are resolved, and it starts getting adopted as a medium of exchange, then the sky’s the limit.

        • baconbacon says:

          OP is (in his words) trying to play a bubble, which is (typically) psychological in nature. This makes the sticker price per coin relevant. If you can’t see bitcoin going that high then you can’t see doubling you money in bitcoin.

          Functionally he sounds like a house flipper in the 2000s, only he doesn’t know if its 2003 or 2006, the only thing he knows is that it isn’t 2001.

        • gph says:

          >On the other hand, if Core manages to unfuck itself, its scaling problems are resolved, and it starts getting adopted as a medium of exchange, then the sky’s the limit.

          I still don’t think it’s a good medium of exchange for anyone not trying to use it for illegal/illicit means. It’s inherently deflationary, which isn’t really the end of the world for a currency, but it’s not exactly good. See this article from 2014, I haven’t seen any great counterarguments yet:

          https://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2014/04/money

          • I can’t read that article–it’s apparently behind a paywall triggered by reading some number of Economist articles.

            But being mildly deflationary for a currency is desirable–see my father’s old article “The Optimal Quantity of Money.” The social cost of holding currency as a shock absorber is about zero due to law of large number effects–the average variation in the sum of all currency stocks is small because individual variations average out. The private cost is the interest rate. So you get the optimal stock of money with a nominal interest rate near zero, which means an inflation rate that is about the negative of the real interest rate.

            Quite a neat argument. As I pointed out to him, this is the outcome you get with private competing currencies due to the zero profit condition, assuming that the actual cost of maintaining a currency in circulation is negligible.

          • Nick says:

            I can’t read that article–it’s apparently behind a paywall triggered by reading some number of Economist articles.

            I don’t know what browser you’re using, but opening in private or incognito often circumvents this. I use this trick to read Quora.

            ETA: Okay, I actually tried this on the Economist and it didn’t work. I had to clear all my Economist cookies before I was able to view another article. Sorry; I should have tried first.

          • baconbacon says:

            It’s inherently deflationary, which isn’t really the end of the world for a currency, but it’s not exactly good.

            “Here is my money”

            “I don’t want that money, it is going to increase in value if I hold it!”

            Said no one ever.

          • Loquat says:

            “Wait a minute, why should I spend this currency now? It’s going to increase in value if I hold it! I think I’ll hoard it and not spend it unless I absolutely have to.”

            Said… actually quite a lot of people who realized they were holding a deflating currency.

          • John Schilling says:

            Here is your salary. We’re going to reduce it every year. Here is your home mortgage. We’re not going to reduce that every year. Enjoy.

          • Here is your salary. We’re going to reduce it every year. Here is your home mortgage. We’re not going to reduce that every year. Enjoy.

            If you borrow money in a deflationary currency the nominal interest rate allows for the deflation, just as it allows in the other direction with an inflationary currency.

            The problem you describe isn’t due to a currency that increases its value over time but to a currency that deflates faster or inflates more slowly than was expected when the loan was made. It applies to a currency that inflates at eight percent and was expected to inflate at ten percent just as much as to one that deflates at two percent and was expected to maintain a constant value over time.

          • baconbacon says:

            Here is your salary. We’re going to reduce it every year. Here is your home mortgage. We’re not going to reduce that every year. Enjoy.

            “Here is your salary, it stays flat, as does your home mortgage. Everything else gets cheaper every year. Enjoy!”

            “Here is your salary, it decreases slightly every year. You can now refinance into a 0.25% annual loan cutting your borrowing costs down by 95%. Every thing else is also cheaper every year. Enjoy!”

      • hash872 says:

        There is no ‘exit strategy’ (and I was looking at other coins as much as bitcoin). It’s- buy, say $1000 worth (in one currency, to keep it simple for now). Sell every time there’s a set rise in value (say, 20%). Move profits to bank account and purchase another $1000 (or, sell off amount equal to profit, leaving me with $1000 invested still- either or). I am profiting off the purely speculative volatility while locking in profits. If the price drops, simply wait until it goes back up again.

        After I’ve made $1000 in profits, I can’t be affected by the bubble bursting and the value of said coin going to zero, so I’m not concerned (at worst I’ve broken even). Continue strategy until bubble bursts (whenever that is). I understand this is less profitable than the pure buy and hold strategy, but a million times less risky…..

        What am I missing? What would be the reasons not to do this? Taxes?

        • Nornagest says:

          Traders in any market commonly take profits, but unless they’re day traders they don’t usually do it this often or this mechanically. There are a number of tradeoffs inherent in doing it more often; tax is a concern, yes (holding an asset for less than a year means you’re on the hook for regular income when you sell, as opposed to capital gains, and selling your entire stack every time means you’re being taxed on your entire stack), but more importantly doing it every 20% up means you’re locking yourself out of most of that exponential growth.

          If you want to play with house money, I think a better way to do it in the crypto market is to buy out your cost basis (plus tax) when you’ve made substantial profits and hold the rest until you feel like cashing out. (Note that you are still risking your initial stake! And the graph right now looks pretty hairy to me.) If you just want regular dividends, there are less risky and effortful ways to get them.

          • hash872 says:

            Thanks man. Still kinda putting my trading strategy together here, but….. hard to compare rational traders in a ‘normal’ market versus speculators in the midst of a mania. I guess my underlying philosophy is that I think crypto is a bubble and will crash dramatically at some point, so ‘hold the rest until you feel like cashing out’ is impossible to time. I was probably too conservative with 20% (just sort of made that number up), and, I do understand the value of compound interest/growth- but, I feel like mechanically withdrawing x % of profit every time that number’s achieved is a rational ‘get out while the getting’s good’, before the inevitable crash. Less profit but way less risk. Anyways, just thinking out loud here

    • beleester says:

      If you’re only betting what you can afford to lose, then you’re within the realm of sanity. It’s not any crazier than taking your money to the casino.

      Maybe a little less crazy than that, actually. The odds are definitely against you at the casino, the odds are only probably against you in the market.

  16. littskad says:

    There’s been a bit of a controversy brewing the past couple weeks on Language Log. It started when Geoffrey Pullum put up a post about singular they (A letter saying they won) in which he noted that in his personal grammar, he’s arrived at the point that, for him, it’s grammatical to use singular they for an indefinite person, but not yet for a specific person. His post included the sentence: “It turns out that Phillip Garcia’s profile reveals that he is — sorry, that they are — one of the opponents of gender binarity whose own choice is that they would prefer to be referred to with the pronoun they all the time.”

    This sentence raised quite the shitstorm. Pullum followed it up with a post (Courtesy and personal pronoun choice) where he pushed back against people accusing him of trans- and other assorted -phobias for merely noting that internal grammars are really difficult to change and that, despite his own wishes, this is going to be a struggle for him, but he also strenuously objected to this “most extreme manifestation of prescriptivist Stalinism I have ever encountered.”

    This, unsurprisingly, didn’t suffice. There have been two replies posted by Eric Bakovic (If you can’t say something nice… and On when listening is better than talking: A call for contemplation and empathy). These latter two had comments open for a little while (although they were clearly heavily moderated), while Pullum’s posts, as is customary for him, never had comments open.

    I find a lot of the rhetoric around this pretty unfortunate. This issue has never come up for me personally, so I don’t actually know how much effort I’d be willing to put forth, but I honestly believe I’d try. However, if every slip up is going to be greeted with accusations of being hurtful, and requirements to listen to long lectures about the pecking orders of various groups’ relative power and privilege, I don’t know how long my efforts would last. I also don’t think it’s very helpful to blame an unwillingness to listen to these sorts of lectures on “feeling defensive”, as Eric Bakovic does, and to label anyone who disagrees with the party line as simply not “willing to listen and learn”.

    I guess what I really object to is the insistence that, because these issues are extremely important to some people, they should get to require that they become extremely important to me, too, alongside every other small group’s extremely important issues.

    • skef says:

      One of the things in the background of this particular controversy is the problem of people who find X easy to remember and apply not grasping how other people might find X difficult.

      Another solution for X is foreign language requirements in grad programs (which are, admittedly, mostly dying out). People who pick up a new language without too much difficulty are often quick to make this or that argument for why doing so is valuable and important, even when the level of understanding actually required of students (because it’s much harder for some people) isn’t good for much.

      Some people seem to find it easy, and even enjoyable, to put a set of consciously-considered grammatical rules between their thoughts and what they say. I find this completely mystifying. I can reflect on grammar, and certainly do some of that when editing. But in real time?

      Pullum made a rhetorical mistake by purposely writing and lamp-shading that “correction”. But people are using that flub to grandstand and ignore the underlying point.

      All these isolated demands for Utopia …

      • Creutzer says:

        Some people seem to find it easy, and even enjoyable, to put a set of consciously-considered grammatical rules between their thoughts and what they say. I find this completely mystifying. I can reflect on grammar, and certainly do some of that when editing. But in real time?

        You’re misunderstanding what’s going on. Nobody finds it easy to put a set of consciously-considered grammatical rules between their thoughts and what they say. You can only speak once you have acquired the ability to automatically apply them without conscious attention – you need to turn the declarative knowledge of the grammar into procedural knowledge. It’s like learning to ride a bicycle or play an instrument – quite literally, if some neurolinguistic studies are to be believed.

        For some reason, some people seem to find it easier to automatise these rules than others. Indeed, some seem to acquire the procedural knowledge without even going through declarative knowledge at all. In addition, there is known individual variation in auditory processing – some people have a much easier time learning to segment an auditory stream in a foreign language. This is a very important contributor to ease of language learning.

        • albatross11 says:

          Also, it’s very common to use which set of grammatical rules you have internalized as a class marker.

        • skef says:

          You’re misunderstanding what’s going on. Nobody finds it easy to put a set of consciously-considered grammatical rules between their thoughts and what they say. You can only speak once you have acquired the ability to automatically apply them without conscious attention

          This third sentence is certainly true, but that fact does not secure the truth of the second.

          When I read, for example, David Foster Wallace on grammar (or DFW on his mother on grammar), it seems to me that what they describe is a kind of enjoyment in imposing a small number of corrective rules that they are at least semi-conscious of on top of the normal subliminal language generation capacities. As long as that set is small enough, I don’t see why doing so would be impossible for a human, or why it couldn’t be something some people are better at than others.

          So basically I grant that the bulk of language generation is sub-conscious, and for your claim that no one does anything other than that add: citation needed.

          • Creutzer says:

            I was being sloppy in my formulation. What I meant to say is that nobody who is good at learning foreign languages is so in virtue of being good at consciously using rules, because nobody speaks a foreign language that way. Nobody is fast enough at consciously applying such rules in order to generate more than simple and very halting speech. Writing is a different matter entirely – it’s perfectly possible to write in a language whose rules you know only consciously, but haven’t automatised.

          • skef says:

            I expect that’s true. It seems to me that the biggest differentiating factor in ease of language acquisition is a particular kind of memory. I’m good at remembering things that are (somewhat mysteriously) tied into a some kind of structure, but bad with isolated facts. So the word in French for A or even worse the gender of A in French seems to be no big problem for some people even when many As are involved, but really hard for me. (I’m also terrible at remembering names.)

            So it’s a different skill, but leads to the same sort of “why not just have everyone do this” sort of assessment on the part of some people who can do it easily.

    • Brad says:

      The first post (If you can’t say …) seemed fine to me. A little on the nasty side, sure, but mostly on the topic of linguistics. The second one ( On when listening is …) had no business being posted there. Or anywhere, maybe, but certainly not there.

    • baconbacon says:

      This makes me feel old at 38. My memory of social activism from 20 years ago was that it was heavily focused on “treat us like individuals, not based on our race/sexual orientation” ie “I’m a woman who is black, not a black woman”. Nowadays (now that word makes me feel very old), reading the linked articles and some of the pieces linked in those it sounds like this whole approach has been scrapped and it is about wanting to be treated differently based on the group you identify with. It is a weird switch.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        I’m not even 30 and I agree. It’s like everyone is gleefully throwing in the rubbish bin all the lessons from preschool about how to get along.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        If being labeled as part of a group gets you discriminated against, demand to be treated as an individual. If that group identity gets you special privileges, demand to be treated as part of the group.

        • gbdub says:

          Identity politics works until straight white folks start wanting an identity. Perhaps if you could manage to split up white Christians along some sort of identity lines, but that’s been either untried or unsuccessful. Socioeconomic class and nationalism was the best effort, but that’s been abandoned outside the Bernie bros.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      I suppose it is true that there are two replies “posted by Eric Baković,” in the sense that he has used his privilege of posting to exercise editorial control, but I think it worth clarifying that he is not the author of the first, nor the sole author of the second. This is relevant to their differences, indeed, the very reason both exist.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I would agree… English works fine with all sorts of violations of agreement in number, but a singular “they” referring to a specific person doesn’t work; it’s jarring. However, as a compromise, I will be willing to try to use “they” if the person in question does indeed carry a live mouse around in their pocket; effort for effort. Otherwise it’s a tax on me (and everyone else) for their oddity. I do in fact know someone who demands “they”. I avoid referring to them at all. (Note this post works because “someone” is indefinite).

      • CatCube says:

        I will be willing to try to use “they” if the person in question does indeed carry a live mouse around in their pocket; effort for effort.

        I’m going to steal this and file off the serial numbers.

      • Nornagest says:

        Minsc and Boo stand ready.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I don’t have a problem with the singular they. It may be a matter of regional variation.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I have also been known to write “themself” even though I find it as little weird because I feel as though I might as well be consistent.

          • Nick says:

            I’d considered mentioning “themself,” but hadn’t found a good place to. I’ve seen it too, and it’s the best example to me of oddities resulting from singular they. I think “themselves” is definitely the better option; if your verbs and possessives are going to agree in number, your reflexive pronouns might as well too.

    • outis says:

      It’s pretty funny that “prescriptivism” was linguistics’s own Satan (though a Satan made of straw, often) for the longest time, and now suddenly the progressive thing to do is to embrace this unilaterally prescribed innovation. It was always clear to me that the universal embrace of “descriptivism” was purely based on what was politically expedient, but the sudden reversal really makes it blatant. I mean, people will openly tell you that the right solution to these issues is to rewrite the grammars and style guides so as to change the language.

      It’s just another example of how nobody has any principles ever. Every single position, down to something as marginal and nerdy and the choice of linguistic ideology, is chosen on the sole basis of which group it seems to benefit. I said it was funny, but it’s actually despair-inducing.

    • Winter Shaker says:

      I do sometimes spend time with people who go by singular ‘they’, and I too find that it doesn’t feel like part of my grammar like ‘they’ referring to a non-specified person does. On the other hand, some clearly recent constructions (such as the odd positioning of ‘even’ in ‘What even is that?’) seem to have become part of my normal way of speaking. Not sure what to make of that.

      • Loquat says:

        I feel the same way about both of those things – singular ‘they’ feels intensely wrong when I’m referring to a specific known person, while “what even is that?” feels perfectly normal.

        In the latter case, I feel like my internal grammar enforcer is ok with it because it was already acceptable to use “even” as an intensifier before other verbs – ‘what does that even mean?’ or ‘what do you even do around here?’

        • Nick says:

          Yeah, I don’t think there’s anything odd about ‘even’ here. I’d also note that having a word there helps with the natural cadence of the sentence if we want to place emphasis on ‘is’ (which we do). Other acceptable alternatives are ‘What the hell is that?’ or ‘Just what is that?’ but neither, in my opinion, mean quite the same thing.

    • James says:

      My problem with singular “they” is not to do with the pronoun itself but how verbs conjugate with it. “Robert is my friend.” -> “They are my friend.” A pronoun that changes the rest of the sentence when it’s substituted for its noun is broken, as far as I’m concerned. (I’ve even seen people get tripped up by this and use “are” on “they”-ish people, even when they’re not using a pronoun, as in “Robert are my friend”, which is abominable.)

      • Creutzer says:

        You’re trying to rationalise something here, and your rationalisation isn’t working.

        All the students are gathered in the hallway. ~ Everyone is gathered in the hallway. (Crucially, not *Every student is gathered in the hallway, which isn’t a good sentence.)

        But I’d be surprised if you found “Someone apparently opened the window. They must have been insane – it’s freezing” as jarring. At least I don’t – my grammar is the same as Pullum’s, which I suspect is pretty wide-spread.

        • James says:

          You’re trying to rationalise something here, and your rationalisation isn’t working.

          It’s certainly possible.

          All the students are gathered in the hallway. ~ Everyone is gathered in the hallway. (Crucially, not *Every student is gathered in the hallway, which isn’t a good sentence.)

          I agree the first two of these are fine and the last one is bad.

          But I’d be surprised if you found “Someone apparently opened the window. They must have been insane – it’s freezing” as jarring. At least I don’t – my grammar is the same as Pullum’s, which I suspect is pretty wide-spread.

          No, I don’t find that jarring. Should I? I don’t see the relevance of this one to my point.

        • Nick says:

          This example actually fails to mirror James’, because the grammatical form “must” already agrees with singular or plural, which is not the case with most verbs. A better mirror would be “Someone apparently opened the window. They are clearly insane – it’s freezing” or “They need to close it before I freeze”.

          • James says:

            OK, yes, that’s a better match and I see what Creutzer was going for now. I admit I don’t find “they are clearly insane” weird there, where its referent is “someone”.

            What can I say? Applying “are” to a known, singular, definite individual feels weird to me, moreso than “they” does.

          • Creutzer says:

            I’m not sure your last statement is meaningful. How can you possibly separate the two, given that they necessarily co-occur and “are” is “are” only because there is they?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            James:

            “What can I say? Applying “are” to a known, singular, definite individual feels weird to me, moreso than “they” does.”

            What do you make of “How are you doing?”?

      • SamChevre says:

        Their name is they, because they are many.

    • James says:

      Aside from the issue of whether it’s reasonable to expect everyone to use “they” regardless of whether or not they find it grammatical, I do find the sentence in question frustratingly passive aggressive. It parenthetically uses “he”, whilst trying to pass this off as a slip—which it obviously isn’t, because if it genuinely was, he would’ve used backspace and corrected it.

      • dodrian says:

        Or they made the slip, and went back to correct it, but left the slip in to make a point about how difficult it can be to remember during normal conversation.

        • Brad says:

          Or they made the slip, and went back to correct it,

          This raises a question, if some people are entitled to be referred to as ‘they’ aren’t other people equally entitled to be referred to has ‘he’? Haven’t you just misgendered Geoffrey Pullum?

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          There’s now a note on the post saying exactly this:

          In case you thought “reveals that he is — sorry, that they are —” above was mockery, let me tell you that I originally wrote “reveals that he is”, and then realized that I had already made my first slip, so instead of silently concealing it, I revealed my shame by making the self-edit overt.

          • Randy M says:

            I revealed my shame

            Oh good grief. It’s shameful to fail to internalize a trivial yet idiosyncratic request to go against decades of grammar norms?

          • A1987dM says:

            I usually agree with GKP on pretty much everything, but fact is, in writing “X — I mean, Y” is basically always sarcastic (the standard way of doing that non-sarcastically being “Y (I originally typed X)”), so he did fail xkcd.com/169 this time.

          • Nick says:

            fact is, in writing “X — I mean, Y” is basically always sarcastic (the standard way of doing that non-sarcastically being “Y (I originally typed X)”), so he did fail xkcd.com/169 this time.

            Personally I facepalmed when I read that in the post, and while I was glad he explained what he really meant, simply adding “I’m sorry I phrased it that way, since it’s so easy to mistaken for sarcasm” would have gone a long way. Of course, it’s not like the folks reading him the riot act had to assume the negative interpretation….

    • BBA says:

      My prediction is that “he” and “she” will go the way of “thou” in the coming decades, and everyone will be a “they.” But knowing it’s coming won’t make the shift in language any less awkward.

      • James says:

        A friend of mine has already started using “they” for everyone, but not consistently.

      • Speaking as a writer that would be a serious loss, since it eliminates one of the most convenient tools for distinguishing among characters in text.

        • skef says:

          Not to mention other groups of objects.

        • Iain says:

          In other contexts, this is known as the Gay Fanfiction Problem.

        • BBA says:

          Other languages lack gendered pronouns, and they manage.

          • Anonymous says:

            Which ones? (None of the ones I know appear to be in that set.)

          • Winter Shaker says:

            I’m currently in the early stages of learning Finnish, where in the official, formal/written version of the language, they already just have the one pronoun, ‘hän’, which covers both ‘he’ and ‘she’, for persons, while ‘se’ is the inanimate pronoun, equivalent to ‘it’. But apparently it gets more extreme once you get into the casual spoken language, where ‘se’ has entirely taken over as the third person singular pronoun, like if ‘he’ and ‘she’ were replaced by ‘it’ in English.

          • lvlln says:

            Korean lacks gendered pronouns. When I was learning English after moving to the US as a child, I found the fact that pronouns are gendered to be utterly bizarre and absurd. I see that it’s somewhat useful now, but it still strikes me as somewhat bizarre, as if we had separate pronouns for, say, people who are wearing hats and people who aren’t wearing hats at the moment. Like, it does communicate useful information, but it seems weird that gender is the one thing that matters and nothing else.

          • Nick says:

            Like, it does communicate useful information, but it seems weird that gender is the one thing that matters and nothing else.

            Well, gender and number are marked. And case, sort of, although that obviously has more to do with the role of the pronoun in the sentence than with the pronoun’s antecedent. The only exception I can think of is when a language marks things like agent and patient more strictly than we do in English, so that it would strike someone as very odd if not ungrammatical to hear of a stone or table doing something instead of merely undergoing change or being in some state, but outside of Panini’s Sanskrit grammar I can’t think of any good examples of this, and even there Panini acknowledges that common parlance permits the blurring of agent and patient anyway.

          • Creutzer says:

            I’m not sure what you have in mind regarding Sanskrit, but there are languages which do not have the same notion of “subject” as the familiar Indo-European languages. So-called ergative languages do not distinguish between nominative and accusative, but between ergative and absolutive. In these languages, the stone in “the stone fell” has the same case marking as the stone in “John cleft the stone” – absolute case. Ergative case is for agents and causes – so a stone can appear in ergative case, but only when it is the cause of a process rather than undergoing it. For example, in “the stone killed John”.

            There are also some weird languages that have a nominative-accusative distinction in one tense and an ergative-absolutive distinction in another tense. They’re called split-ergative languages.

          • Nick says:

            Creutzer, yeah, I didn’t bring up ergative-absolutive languages because I think it’s a bit different phenomenon, although on consideration it may be relevant after all. Thinking out loud here: it’s my understanding that one can still say in an EA language, as you suggest, “The stone killed John” and the stone is grammatically the agent of the sentence, even if not thematically. By contrast, under Panini’s analysis the stone shouldn’t be considered an agent at all, and the sentence shouldn’t even be formed that way (perhaps “John was killed by the stone,” where the stone is the means of some other agent’s action, or perhaps a natural event, but generally wouldn’t considered an agent), but common parlance is nonetheless that way. So I was raising the possibility of a language which doesn’t even allow such pseudo-agents as in “The stone killed John,” though I don’t know of any examples myself. Panini, it seems to me, was trying to make thematical relations out to be grammatical relations, and he’s admitting that descriptively that’s just not how Sanskrit was used. I got this from the History of Philosophy episode on Panini; he provides his sources, though I don’t know from which he got this interpretation, although poking around the Internet it looks as though other sources say similar things.

            It was my understanding that Sanskrit has split ergativity, with those cases appearing on the perfect tenses, but I’d have to find a source for that. It looks on a quick Google like it appears in later Indo-Aryan languages, but I’m not seeing any mention of it in Sanskrit, so salt to taste.

            And I should mention that in raising the “John was killed by the stone” example, I was reminded of another interesting example: in Latin that would be expressed by the ablative of means and not by the ablative of agent. The ablative of agent uses ab + the noun, while the ablative of means uses just the noun (and both in the ablative case, of course!). So there’s a grammatical difference in Latin at least in that situation. But Latin already marks for grammatical case, and English clearly doesn’t do this, so this is really beside the point of my original comment to lvlln.

          • Randy M says:

            Korean lacks gendered pronouns. When I was learning English after moving to the US as a child, I found the fact that pronouns are gendered to be utterly bizarre and absurd.

            But at least gendered pronouns reflect (if not 100% perfectly) a distinction in reality. Spanish (among others) has genders for every single noun!

          • Loquat says:

            Mandarin Chinese also historically lacked gendered pronouns – in fact, if you’re speaking aloud, it doesn’t even distinguish between he/she and it.

            They’ve added gendered pronouns in the written language, though, presumably because it’s useful.

          • Creutzer says:

            @Nick:

            I think the lack of distinction between agent and cause subjects is a typological universal.

            Here’s a hunch I have about the Latin thing, though obviously I haven’t done the necessary investigation: maybe the “ablative” vs “ab + ablative” distinction in Latin is actually the English “from” vs “by” distinction. You can’t use “from” with a passive in English (*killed from the stone), but the question is whether those passives that go with a plain ablative in Latin are really passives rather than anticausatives (died from the stone).

    • dodrian says:

      I have been using singular ‘them’ for a while in referring to hypothetical people or people of unknown gender for a while. It seems the least bad solution for a language that doesn’t have one (though see dinosaur comics and the xkcd parody).

      A few years ago a friend asked to be referred to as ‘they’ or ‘them’ in the third person. It felt like a reasonable request, since it was important to them, and they were corrective but polite when you got it wrong. It didn’t take long to get used to.

    • rlms says:

      I have an odd internal grammar regarding this issue. Not only do I refer to people of unknown gender as “they”, I often still use “they” even if I know the (binary) gender of a person if the whoever’s listening to me doesn’t.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I actually really like having the option to use the singular they, I just don’t like being required to use it.

      Grammatical gender can be bizarre and arbitrary at times (e.g. the entire German language) but in English at least gendered pronouns usually provide a lot of useful information. Using they to refer to someone whose sex you know is withholding that information.

      For example, at my lab there’s a coworker who identifies as non-binary. They are behaviorally and physically indistinguishable from a cis-lesbian. Using their preferred pronoun is pointless for anyone who has spoken to them for a few seconds and confusing for anyone who hasn’t.

      There are circumstances where it makes sense to play that information close to the chest, but here and in every other case I’ve seen it’s an unnecessary hindrance to understanding anything about them.

      • gbdub says:

        That’s part of what gets me – pronouns convey information. Imperfectly, to be sure, but when you start demanding a special pronoun for non binary gender fluid squirrelkin you’ve removed the utility. At that point I’m just going to abandon pronouns entirely and use your name.

        That said I’m all for adding “y’all” as acceptable English, just not sure how to remove the lower class Southern stigma from it.

        • Witness says:

          That said I’m all for adding “y’all” as acceptable English, just not sure how to remove the lower class Southern stigma from it.

          Best way is to just start usin’ it, y’all.

          • LewisT says:

            I tried that with “ye” my first year of college (in the context of translating German). It didn’t catch on.

        • Nick says:

          That said I’m all for adding “y’all” as acceptable English, just not sure how to remove the lower class Southern stigma from it.

          I used it all the time in my Latin and Greek translations so my professor was aware I knew it was plural. In writing one could say “you (pl.),” but that just doesn’t work when reading one’s translation aloud.

          • powerfuller says:

            @Nick

            I’ve done the same. This reminds me of one of my teachers, who was from South Carolina. While he usually spoke without it, there’s nothing quite as delightful as hearing Latin in a Southern accent.

          • quaelegit says:

            My classmates and I sometimes did this, but since we were in California we usually didn’t because it felt too close to mocking Southern accents (at least, that was my personal thoughts, Idk what anyone else thought about it).

            In silly enough contexts*, this has propagated back to Latin, so that you (pl.) might be greeted, “Salvete, v’omnes!”

            *I have mostly observed it at the NJCL convention.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          No, bring back the thou/ye distinction, that’s what I say.

      • A1987dM says:

        Using they to refer to someone whose sex you know is withholding that information.

        Withholding information when said information is irrelevant to what you’re saying is ordinarily perfectly normal.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          The thing is, gender/sex is usually pretty damn relevant when you’re talking about human interaction.

          The “who cares about what genitals they have?!?” meme misses that between sex differences and gender roles there are only a few cases where it isn’t relevant. Unless you’re on an anonymous imageboard, the sexes/genders of people involved one of the first things you need to know in order to understand the dynamics of a situation.

          • albatross11 says:

            It seems like the explicit goal of the change in grammatical rules here is to try to change the way people think–to force them into patterns of thought that don’t rely so much on knowing what gender each person in the conversation is.

            On one side, this may be a worthwhile goal–maybe we’ll get a better society out of it as a result. On the other side, I don’t feel a moral obligation to go along with massive social-engineering schemes to redesign society just because I think the people pushing them have broadly admirable goals.

          • A1987dM says:

            “Usually” as in “the majority of times gendered pronouns are used by the average person” I can agree, but “only a few cases”/”unless you’re on an anonymous imageboard” sounds way too strong to me.

            E.g. if I’m citing a scientific paper the gender of its author is pretty much irrelevant (though these days few papers have a single author so usually I can just say “they”), if I’m telling you I had my eyesight tested the oculist’s gender is irrelevant, if I tell you I bought something second-hand the seller’s gender is often irrelevant, if I tell you I’m renting a new place the owner’s gender is usually irrelevant, and so on, but in certain languages in certain situations I can’t withhold this information without drawing attention to the fact I’m withholding it (or at least it’s not immediately obvious how to, e.g. I had originally typed “landlord/landlady” instead of “owner” above), and I think that’s a bug, not a feature.

            For comparison, whether the author/oculist/seller/owner is somebody I already knew is much more likely to be relevant, but I don’t know any language which would require me to go out of my way in order to withhold that information.

  17. pontifex says:

    Star Wars is obviously a parable about neo-reaktionry politics.

    The good guys in the original movies are all either royalty (Princess Leia), or a small group of elite, unelected knights defending the traditions of the realm (Obi Wan, etc.) Democratically elected politicans are portrayed as either evil and self-serving (Senator Palpatine) or incompetent and laughable (Jar Jar Binks.) Yes, Jar Jar was a politican– look it up!

    The Republic is portrayed as corrupt and evil. Because it’s become so big and centralized, it’s bound to be bad. Instead, society should be organized as a loose patchwork of independent states (like the Rebels). The government on most worlds has become so politically correct and left-leaning that it refuses to even protect the citizens against being kidnapped by Sand People. Most cities we see look like the bad parts of San Francisco. You can imagine the smell. And do I even need to mention the cantina scene and how it portrays multiculturalism?

    When Luke needs enlightenment, who does he turn to? Yoda, a former Libertarian who accidentally dyed himself green by taking unlicensed medications to increase his midichlorian count. Yoda has achieved reaktinary enlightenment and now hides out from the Cathedral on a swamp planet.

    Clearly, it all makes sense now! I never knew Lucas was such a crazy guy.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Tatooine wasn’t left-leaning, it was ancap. Only the Huts had pretty much cornered most of the markets.

    • Nornagest says:

      Cute, but I think the only world we see in the Old Republic that doesn’t have substantial autonomy already is Coruscant, which is the capital. The Trade Federation guys are obvious. The world raising the clones seems to be running its own show. Naboo has a queen. Tattooine is basically 19th-century Sicily with more sand.

      • baconbacon says:

        Tattooine is basically 19th-century Sicily with more sand.

        And almost exactly the same number of Jedi, its eerie.

  18. nfeltman says:

    It looks like Vox took Scott’s advice

  19. WashedOut says:

    State your profession, followed by the most exciting sub-field of work or inquiry for you at the moment.

    I am a consulting geotechnical engineer. It is my responsibility to investigate and assess ground conditions in terms of the strength of soils and rock mass to support infrastructure and mining.

    What’s really blowing my hair back currently is slope stability modelling using probabilistic inputs for soil strengths, and estimating Probability of Failure rather than the classical notion of engineering Factor of Safety. The interesting this about this is actually the data analysis/interpretation stage. As you can imagine, statistical soil properties soil are encumbered with big problems of spatio-temporal heterogeneity, sample disturbance, (un)reliability of empirical correlations, etc. etc. Optimizing a ground investigation programme for low cost/efficient data collection is a fun challenge.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I’m a “software engineer”. Sorry, there’s nothing exciting in the field; it’s all a grind. What interesting stuff there is all gets done by well-connected PhDs and PhD students who never manage to get a product out. The work which gets products put out is basically dealing with corner case after corner case in legacy code bases (code is “legacy” immediately upon commit), not to mention the inevitable last minute changes in direction and scope. And there’s always someone who wants to bikeshed about variable names or something, usually right before a release deadline. Many capable programmers, seeing this, simply go off to play in the shangri-la of new programming languages, either fashionable things like Rust or Haskell, or in really advanced cases, they write their own language when they should be writing the 9934th test case for the 20 lines of code they wrote last week.

      • WashedOut says:

        Thanks for the laugh! What is the attitude towards/level of interest in Wolfram products in your field?

        • The Nybbler says:

          I’m a great fan of incandescent light bulbs and I hope the ban against them is finally for-real repealed… oh, you meant the other Wolfram. Haven’t had much contact with them in my part of the field.

      • johan_larson says:

        If it’s all grind all the time, you need to find yourself a younger project. It will have less accumulated cruft, so you can design and build big slabs of functionality, rather than carefully carving little puzzle pieces that fit between untouchable existing features.

        But yeah, there’s a lot of grind. Most work, most of the time, is not cool. Spending even 10% of your time on cool stuff is a lot.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          Agreed, but older projects tend to make more use of this arcane financial instrument called “actually selling a product to consumers”

      • Iain says:

        Rust may be a new programming language, but it is shipping real code. I work on a codebase that would have been right in Rust’s wheelhouse if Rust had been a viable option fifteen years ago, and I feel strongly that Rust is a significant improvement over C++ for systems programming.

      • Garrett says:

        At my last job, whenever somebody referenced our vaguely-enforced style guide on line length limitations I’d respond with a link to NewEgg or Amazon for a 132-column printer, pointing out that this has been an obsolete requirement for almost 40 years now.

        At my current job, I’m afraid to have a sense of humor.

        • gbdub says:

          I’m not sure how to write a standard that says “80 characters, but if that’s obviously stupid up to ~100 is fine” but it would be nice if I could.

          • The Nybbler says:

            This is a bad standard, because that sort of formatting should be handled automatically. Only way I know to significantly reduce such arguments.

          • gbdub says:

            Not sure how you would automate, given that by “obviously stupid” I meant “cases that applying the firm rule to result in reduced readability in most actual use applications”, which is fairly subjective.

        • bzium says:

          Isn’t readability the reason to keep your lines short? Sending people links to printers sounds like a bit of a non-sequitur.

          • johan_larson says:

            Readability in what context? 24-inch displays are commonplace now. We’re not coding on VT-100s any more.

            I’ve worked at a place that had a strict 80-character rule, and meeting that requirement was a real pain. I’d often have to break up lines in contrived ways, particularly after four or five levels of indentation.

            I believe in code review, and readability is a proper concern when doing it. Very long lines are a hindrance to readability, and should be addressed with that in mind as part of code review. But a strict limit on line lengths is more trouble than it is worth, and sometimes actually detracts from readability.

          • Nornagest says:

            There is a readability tradeoff between line length and variable naming conventions — generally the more readable your variable names are, the more space they take up. The issue gets particularly acute in heavily templated C++ (a bad idea for readability anyway, but still common) or for the verbose callback semantics used by many languages.

          • pontifex says:

            I hate this meme that’s going around that line length limits are obsolete.

            Have you people ever heard of a “laptop”? Or a “cell phone”? Both devices where reading super-long lines is painful. Both came out some time after the VT-100, or so I am told.

            And no, small font sizes or scrolling are not an option for me. I’m old, and grumpy. >:|

    • CatCube says:

      Are they working up to compatibility with LRFD or Ultimate Strength Design as used for everything above the footings? That’d be cool. Then if we can get the damn mechanical engineers on board we can design most of our systems to a known reliability, rather than using the same FS for dead and live loads.

      I can see that you’ll still have some pretty low resistance factors on soils just due to the inherent uncertainty. I mean, if you had Jesus with you on a jobsite and asked Him for the subgrade properties, He’s going to give you a range of values.

      • WashedOut says:

        Load and Resistance Factor Design – for pile foundation assessments, offshore platform bearing capacity stuff, most vanilla geotech for structural applications – yes. For mining – no.

        The problem with presenting your stability assessment in terms of Reliability Index is that you are basically saying “Congratulations Mr Asset Manager, your asset is 3-sigma away from failure, which we think is satisfactory.” At which point the client has to a) grapple with a probability and b) check with his insurer about whether he will still be covered if he accepts this risk.

        As for what Jesus would do: he would simply smile and remind us that a contractive soil will always fail in an undrained manner. I swear if I see another engineer assign drained frictional properties to a loose silt im going to join a militia.

    • Eltargrim says:

      I’m a glass chemist. My specialty is the structural characterization of glass: determining the “molecular” arrangements of the various components of the glass in question, and relating that to various different properties, including strength, hardness, optical transmission, non-linear optical, chemical durability, and many others.

      The coolest thing in my field right now, in my opinion, is the concept of single crystal writing in bulk glass. A defining property of a glass is that a glass is structurally disordered. Conversely, a single crystal is (nearly) perfectly ordered, with some tolerance for slight defects.

      For some glass compositions (e.g. Sb2S3), you can use a laser to “write” single crystal lines into a glass. These lines are a) of arbitrary length, b) of arbitrary 3D geometry, and c) a single crystal despite the significant length scales involved. This is fascinating! The glass is undergoing a solid-solid phase transition from a disordered state to a (nearly) perfectly ordered state. The study of this has significant implications, both practically (these single-crystal architectures could be useful for a number of purposes) and fundamentally (data on the nature of the transition between glass and crystal).

      Further reading: Savytskii et. al., Rotating lattice single crystal architecture on the surface of glass, Sci. Rep., 2016

      • Aapje says:

        Your comment inspired me to share these links:

        Cool video about Prince Rupert’s Drops (tadpole-shaped droplets created by dropping molted glass in water and which have special properties).

        One of the common ways in which red tribe Americans investigate material properties is by firing bullets at something, very interesting what happens.

        Dutch scientist Constantijn Huygens at one point asked the English scientist Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, to investigate the properties of the drops. She did a bunch of experiments. Margaret Cavendish is also the writer of a novel that some consider one of the earliest examples of (proto-)science fiction, The Blazing World (published in 1666).

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          At 5:29, there’s an instance where the bullet shatters the drop, and then the tail disintegrates starting with the far end.

    • Well... says:

      As you can imagine, statistical soil properties soil are encumbered with big problems of spatio-temporal heterogeneity, sample disturbance, (un)reliability of empirical correlations, etc. etc.

      I have no formal background in engineering or any other STEM field, but if I can unpack your jargon then yes, I think I can imagine! Let me make sure I’m doing it right:

      spatio-temporal heterogeneity – Over time soil in various parts of the area becomes different. Maybe it compacts differently, maybe it gets added sequentially from different sources, etc. So a given site might have a mix of soils, of different ages, each with its own properties. This will complicate the overall statistical model of the soil at that site.

      sample disturbance – This either means parts of the site itself are being disturbed leading to the possibility that samples taken from this or that spot are not in fact representative and therefore produce bad data, or that the samples under analysis are tampered with and therefore produce bad data. I suspect it means something closer to the former.

      (un)reliability of empirical correlations – Essentially this boils down to “the models used for the statistical analysis are unproven and sometimes produce inconsistent results.”

      Yeah, I could see this being a fun challenge. Basically a game of “fix the model” but by looking at the whole interdisciplinary chain from sedimentology through equipment through statistics?

      • CatCube says:

        Essentially this boils down to “the models used for the statistical analysis are unproven and sometimes produce inconsistent results

        Part of the issues with geotechnical engineering are that many of the equations don’t have theoretical support. That is, we have an equation that seems to fit the data, but we can’t derive it from first principles. I mean, take a falling body. The equations for that *do* fit the data, but they can also get the equation by mathematical derivation from Newton’s laws.

        Soils, in many cases, don’t have that. I’m structural, so not up on the geotech state of the art, but I recall than fine-grained soils (silts and clays) were especially prone to this. Basically, they fit a curve to particular properties, often with fudge factors that depend on soil type. These work well enough for design, but the scatter is a lot wider than you’ll see in most other engineering.

    • Loquat says:

      I’m an insurance agent, specializing in (American) Medicare-related health insurance plans. I don’t think anything going on there qualifies as exciting, but I do find it interesting that the “Donut Hole” in Medicare prescription drug coverage is scheduled to close in a little over 2 years. (It’s mostly closed now, which means you don’t pay full price in the gap but instead a percentage.)

      Basically, medicare drug coverage was originally designed like this:
      1. You have an annual deductible, and pay full price until you meet it.
      2. Then your plan starts paying 75% of the cost of your drugs, with you paying 25%.
      3. But if your total annual costs go over a certain threshold, you fall in the gap and pay full price again.
      4. But then if your annual out-of-pocket costs go over another threshold, you leave the gap and go into catastrophic coverage where you pay only 5%.

      But most people don’t know or want to have to know the actual price of their drugs so they can keep track of the 25% or progress towards the gap, so most plans replace step 2 with an arrangement where most drugs get assigned flat copays and only a few drugs have you pay a percentage, but for those few it can be as high as 45-50%, so right now with the gap mostly closed people taking those drugs actually see lower costs in the gap, which is kinda nuts.

      Overall, though, most people who go in the gap still see their costs go up noticeably, so flat-out removing step 3 from the above will be a net win for Medicare recipients with serious drug costs. Now, if only they’d consider adding a hard annual out-of-pocket limit…

      • WashedOut says:

        Interesting. What’s the annual cost of a decent health insurance policy in USA? How much state-to-state variance is there, and what drives this variance?

        • Loquat says:

          To your first question: our system is a ridiculous hodgepodge such that the answer varies widely depending on the personal circumstances of the person seeking to buy the insurance.

          In my specialty, Medicare, which is a government program reserved for the elderly and the seriously disabled, the typical individual has to pay a premium to the government of $1,608 annually (though they may be required to pay more if their income is above a certain threshold), and must purchase prescription drug coverage separately at an average annual premium of roughly $400. These costs are artificially low, though, because the government subsidizes the coverage. A full coverage Medicare Supplement, which pays the sometimes substantial out-of-pocket costs Medicare leaves the individual to pay, can range from $1,000 to $3,000 or more, depending on what state it’s in, the age of the covered person, whether the plan will automatically raise its rates as the person gets older, etc.

          For persons who do not qualify for Medicare, group coverage through an employer is generally the most desirable option. Looking at my own employer, a mid-range plan (deductible under $2,000) for a single person would cost about $6,540 per year, but for tax purposes around $5,000 of that is paid directly by the employer and not officially considered a payment made by the covered person. If employer coverage is not an option, you’re probably stuck with the individual market where there’s been a lot of chatter lately about premiums being in a death spiral. “Silver” plans seem to range anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 or more, which you might think is comparable to my employer’s cost except that as an individual purchaser you have to pay the whole premium yourself, so the cost is a lot more visible. Lots of people on the individual plans do qualify for government premium subsidies, though.

          State-to-state variance… some of it is differences in how much care insurers expect their policyholders to use, and some of it is different levels of state regulation. I don’t know enough about the non-Medicare market to really address this in detail.

  20. ManyCookies says:

    Quick terminology question: is just-so the same as unfalsifiable, or am I missing a subtlety?

    • Anatoly says:

      I would define “just-so” as “superficially plausible, yet missing the evidence required to make up a serious or compelling argument”. This may overlap with unfalsifiable, but usually does not.

      An unfalsifiable argument may not be a just-so story when it doesn’t sound superficially plausible, e.g. the explanation “the world was created 6000 years ago by God in such a way that it looks precisely as if it existed for billions of years, with fossils already in the ground, photons in space as if they travelled millions of years from their stars etc. etc.” is unfalsifiable but not a just-so story.

      A just-so story is usually falsifiable, it’s just hard to do, e.g. “humans do X because our ancestors in the savannah found X useful for these reasons” is falsifiable by a more careful analysis which human societies do X, whether in fact X was practiced in the savannah, the whole evo-psych explanatory framework might be susceptible to attack, etc.

      • albatross11 says:

        I think of just-so stories[1] as stories constructed by the process:

        a. Observe what is there.

        b. Spin out a plausible tale about how it might have happened.

        This isn’t inherently wrong, but it doesn’t leave you any way to find out whether you’re right or not. Because you started from the observations and then pieced together a story about it, your story will always be consistent with your observations. So the fact that you can construct a convincing story for how something might have happened, after the fact, doesn’t tell me whether your convincing story is true or not.

        [1] I assume named after the Kipling stories (stuff like “How the Camel Got Its Hump”).

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          Agreed. I’ve always connected it to the Sequence idea of privileging the hypothesis–you’re picking one possible explanation without any real indication that it’s in any way special among the set of possible explanations.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            The Texas Sharpshooter fallacy is also related. To me, the core of the idea of a just-so story is the feeling a listener gets that, if the speaker believed ~X to be the case instead of X, he would give you just as glib an “explanation” of how the same set of data accounts for ~X.

      • lvlln says:

        I think Anatoly nailed it. A narrative that is plausible given the evidence, but for which there is no particular support over other narratives. It’s usually falsifiable, but it hasn’t been falsified because extra evidence would be required to falsify it. And I think often the fact that the narrative hasn’t been falsified is invoked as support for the narrative being true, even though all it supports is that the narrative isn’t yet definitively known to be false.

    • Well... says:

      I think of just-so as something that supports one’s own argument without addressing any (or enough) counter-arguments.

      • Well... says:

        Like for example, an argument in favor of welfare or minimum wage hikes or whatever that uses an anecdote about a hard-working single mom who deserves a break, her kids are smart and would really blossom if their mom didn’t have to work so much and could help them more with their homework, etc.

        The anecdote doesn’t address any of the counterarguments, and if it does it has a handy one-off excuse that works for the anecdote but not as a general way to address the counterarguments.

    • gbdub says:

      I was under the impression that “just-so” was a pejorative crafted specifically for overzealous applications of evopsych. The name is a reference to Kipling’s “Just-So Stories”, a collection for fanciful tales about how, e.g. the leopard got his spots.

      So if an argument sounds like it would work as an etiological myth, it’s probably just-so.

      I think “unfalsifiable” is probably not right, more like “unverifiable”.

  21. johan_larson says:

    I think we can all agree that the twentieth century had some problems. Several episodes that caused the deaths of millions seem like they could have been avoided with a bit of forethought.

    But what if they weren’t? What if the twentieth century in all its horror and glory was pretty much the best case scenario, the product of hundreds of iterations of intervention by benevolent external agents (such as time travellers). They tried their best to make things better before settling on the history we know as the best realistically possible scenario.

    That suggests that all the bad things in our timeline is either justified by some greater good that they enabled or some greater evil they allowed us to avoid. But what in the world might those greater goods and greater evils be?

    The only thing that comes to mind (on the greater-evil side of the ledger) is large-scale nuclear war. As you may remember, we didn’t have one of those.

    Any other possibilities?

    • Björn says:

      Leibniz argued something like that to explain why God lets evil exist in the world. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Best_of_all_possible_worlds

      I think it’s a problematic idea to take all possible histories and to order them how bad they are. I mean, how to you argue which history is worse then another. If one has countless massacres and the other doesn’t, it’s easy, but there will always happen bad things, so one would have to compare them directly, and compiling a “worst of genocide” list is always a stupid idea.

    • SamChevre says:

      There’s a story about that. Timely Intervention, by Doug Muder (yes, Red Families Blue Families Doug Muder.) I like several of the other stories on the page, especially the Mike deSalvo stories.

    • rahien.din says:

      Maybe, a la Answer to Job, the relationship isn’t as direct as you may be suggesting. Maybe this isn’t the best-case-scenario, but one of innumerable overall-good-case-scenarios, in which evil is permitted because it does not overwhelm all the good, in order that the overall amount of goodness is maximized, rather than evil being justified by resulting in a greater good.

      Evil isn’t work or effort or investment. Evil is simply evil.

    • baconbacon says:

      Several episodes that caused the deaths of millions seem like they could have been avoided with a bit of forethought.

      Which events do you think could have been avoided with forethought?

    • albatross11 says:

      johan:

      If this theory were true, I think it would lead to a prediction: More evil will be allowed in the world as God faces more constraints. Civilization-destroying nuclear war or human-extinguishing engineered plagues are both things possible in the 20th/21st century, but not in the 18th century, and they’re so horrible that God might have to accept a lot of bad outcomes to avoid them.

      On the other hand, the same technological/social/economic progress that made these dangers possible also made it possible to pull most of the world out of poverty, eliminate Smallpox, etc. So you might be seeing a kind of balance–on one side, avoiding destruction, on the other side, using tools related to the ones that might end humanity to max out their well-being.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Large scale conventional wars with tech well beyond 1945.

  22. Well... says:

    Since it’s a culture war-permissive thread…

    Is there a war on Christmas? I’ve written my answer to this question at my blog. Curious to hear y’all’s thoughts. I’m especially interested if anyone can point to actual cases of bad things happening to explcit-Christmas-celebrators, “Merry Christmas”-wishers, nativity scene displayers, etc. (in the developed world, let’s say).

    My boring argument boils down to “depends how you define War on Christmas” and “I can understand why many say there isn’t one, but I can understand why many say there is.” In the end I urge those scoffing the idea to practice empathy.

    • rahien.din says:

      Arguendo : Christmas emerges victorious from The War on Christmas. Which December holidays would have been defeated?

      • Well... says:

        Answering that seemingly facetious question seriously, from an American perspective, I’d say that if Christmas emerges victorious from the war against it, what’s been defeated isn’t this or that other December holiday but the notion that other December holidays ought to be acknowledged equally by default–in a society where >90% (or something close to that percentage?) of people celebrate Christmas in December and no other religious holidays.

        Like, when someone wishes me “Happy Holidays” which plural holidays are they referring to? If I’m Joe Sixpack I celebrate Christmas. That’s it.

        “Seasons greetings” well that’s nice, but why are you greeting me this season and not the other three seasons? What’s so special about this season? Oh, right: it’s got Christmas in it.

        • albatross11 says:

          Happy Holidays could plausibly be Christmas + New Years (Christians) or Hanukkah + New Years. It could conceivably be Kwanzaa + New Years (non-Christian American blacks that celebrate Kwanzaa). Or maybe just New Years (eveyone else).

          • gbdub says:

            What percentage of African Americans actually celebrate Kwanzaa? What percentage actually celebrate it at the exclusion of Christmas?

            Oh hell, LMGTF myself – Wikipedia says it’s as low as 1-5%

          • Well... says:

            My black wife and her family think Kwanzaa is a joke.

            I have a lot of black friends. None of them take Kwanzaa seriously.

        • Quiet Lurker says:

          Like, when someone wishes me “Happy Holidays” which plural holidays are they referring to? If I’m Joe Sixpack I celebrate Christmas. That’s it.

          I’m pretty much Joe Sixpack and I always thought this was a weird argument.

          Where I grew up literally everyone (to my knowledge) was a Christian and I’m sure I remember everyone saying “Happy Holidays” or something almost identical to it. I always assumed it to mean the important winter holidays: Thanksgiving, New Years and, most importantly, Christmas.

          • Witness says:

            I’m with you here. When I was growing up “Happy Holidays” was just one of several ways to greet people in the winter months. And it didn’t seem weird at all – just about every “Merry Christmas’ was paired with a ‘Happy New Year’.

            Then I got older and some people started getting weird about it. Or maybe they were always weird about it and I just didn’t notice before, or they just got louder. I can only assume the Uruk Machine got to them.

          • Well... says:

            Well yeah, “Happy Holidays” didn’t take on this (perceived) flavor of “Because I’m enlightened and non-bigoted and multicultural enough to know that Well Actually Christmas isn’t the only holiday being celebrated this month” until the War on Christmas became a thing. So I’m referring to that phrase in its current context.

        • Brad says:

          Although I am a Hanukkah celebrator, I have some sympathy with the war on Christmas narrative.

          There were all these people celebrating Christmas and having a grand old time. Some Jewish kids felt left out, so parents started digging into the very large catalog of obscure Jewish holidays (New Years for the Trees, anyone?) found Hanukkah and decided it was basically Jewish Christmas. Okay fair enough, why should those kids be left out.

          But to then go and insist that everyone treat your heretofore obscure holiday, with essentially zero religious significance, that 2% of the population celebrates, as if it were equally important as the actual #2 holiday of the majority religion, that 90+% of the population celebrates, seems somewhat unreasonable. That’s not even getting into Kwanzaa.

          • Well... says:

            Exactly. Exactly.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think the “war on Christmas” discussion is ultimately about the distinction between religious[1] holidays vs civic ones.

            As an example, Catholics recently celebrated the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Non-Catholics were certainly welcome to the Mass that day, but really, it’s a feast day that matters to Catholics and maybe some Orthodox churches (I’m not sure), but not to much of anyone else. It’s a feast day that’s really pretty-much focused on a particular community. And this is partly about defining community membership.

            One way you can think about who is a serious vs not-so-serious Catholic is in terms of whether they bother showing up for the holy days of obligation that aren’t Easter or Christmas. Or whether they go to the optional celebrations that are important but aren’t mandatory. These are feast days, and even holidays, that are at least as much about exclusion (the only people who bother with them are believers or at least community members). The classic examples here in US / Western culture are Easter and Passover.

            By contrast, civic holidays are about inclusion–about appealing to as wide a range of people as possible. Independence day or New Year’s Day are purely secular affairs, and they are meant to bind together the whole society/nation, not just a specific community.

            The tension is that Christmas is an explicitly Christian holiday, but it has also been absorbed into US culture as an American civic holiday. There’s a tension between treating it like a Christian holiday (where non-Christians are excluded, not in a hostile way, but rather in the same way that Passover or Eids aren’t actually my holidays and aren’t really about me) or like a civic holiday (where everyone is invited, but then invited to a secular/civic thing involving pretty lights and decorated trees and fat guys in red suits, but not something that’s specific to Christians).

            The other tension there is in defining what we want the default US culture to look like.

            Perhaps in World #1, we have freedom of religion and no religious discrimination, but the default US culture is explicitly Christian–public events start with a Christian prayer, civic Christmas decorations involve Nativity scenes, etc.

            And in World #2, we have the same freedom or religion and lack of religious discrimination, but the default US culture is irreligious or even somewhat hostile to religion.

            That’s a sort-of classic bit of the culture war there. Commercial culture tends toward maximally inclusive/secular because that’s how you sell stuff to the most people; media culture in the US seems to me to be rather hostile to Christians who take their religion seriously for Blue Tribe/Red Tribe reasons and also because of the kind of people who end up in media.

            [1] Or maybe just “exclusive,” since you could imagine a holiday that didn’t get celebrated by most of the society but wasn’t about religion. If we celebrate Nielsday and Yuri’s Night, we’re being exclusive (most people don’t care) without an implied religious belief.

          • Well... says:

            @ albratross11:

            I think that summarizes it well.

            To expand on that second tension, it’s about people’s expectations as to whether American society is essentially Christian (or Christian by “default” as you said; that’s a good way of putting it).

            Many people remember American culture feeling fairly default-Christian most of their lives, and are uncomfortable with changes (in the last few decades?) that make it feel less so. This includes people who might not be serious Christians themselves but who nevertheless derive some kind of comfort or security from that particular form of cultural groundedness.

          • Civilis says:

            But to then go and insist that everyone treat your heretofore obscure holiday, with essentially zero religious significance, that 2% of the population celebrates, as if it were equally important as the actual #2 holiday of the majority religion, that 90+% of the population celebrates, seems somewhat unreasonable. That’s not even getting into Kwanzaa.

            I’ll take the unusual tack and point out that Christmas itself wasn’t really a major holiday until relatively recently. It’s a relatively minor festival repurposed to cover up one or more traditional non-Christian celebrations.

            The flip side of this is that the values Christmas has come to represent are relatively universal in nature, such that some of the best-regarded cultural stories of Christmas are either only nominally Christian (Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer) or completely disconnected from Christian theology (How the Grinch Stole Christmas). Despite being Catholic, my personal Christmas traditions include reading Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather the night before.

            Since it’s not possible to separate the religious and cultural institutions of Christmas, those citing a ‘War on Christmas’ cite the attempted forced banishment of the word ‘Christmas’ from the public sphere as an attack on everything in the package, including the underlying values.

          • Brad says:

            Just goes to show you what I don’t know. It seemed entirely reasonable to me that Christ was born would be #2 behind Christ was resurrected.

          • Randy M says:

            Your empathy is appreciated. In similar vein, while getting annoyed at anyone who hypothetically tells you to not say “Merry Christmas” seems pretty fair, getting annoyed at any who tells you “Happy Holidays” seems pretty grinchy itself.

          • I’ll take the unusual tack and point out that Christmas itself wasn’t really a major holiday until relatively recently.

            Could you expand on that? It sounds as though the December 25th date was agreed on pretty early, and it was a prominent holiday by the high middle ages.

          • Civilis says:

            Could you expand on that? It sounds as though the December 25th date was agreed on pretty early, and it was a prominent holiday by the high middle ages.

            I’m a Catholic, so my experience is limited, but I understand that most of the Orthodox churches put a lot of the festivities associated in western Christianity with Christmas on other calendar days, most notably the Epiphany. As far as religious holidays, I would think Pentecost Sunday would be the most logical choice for the second most important from a purely religious standpoint. Ash Wednesday is also important, although given the nature of the day as the opening of the 40 days of sacrifice before Easter, it’s typically celebrated beforehand (Mardi Gras). Some cultures place a lot of emphasis on All Saints / All Souls, which, again, we celebrate beforehand (Halloween).

            Your empathy is appreciated. In similar vein, while getting annoyed at anyone who hypothetically tells you to not say “Merry Christmas” seems pretty fair, getting annoyed at any who tells you “Happy Holidays” seems pretty grinchy itself.

            I agree, and I’m certainly not going to complain about being wished ‘Happy Holidays’. It’s more a feeling that there’s no reason I should feel bad if I accidentally wish someone that doesn’t celebrate Christmas a ‘Merry Christmas’, nor is there a reason people should be forced into a cookie-cutter bland culture in their interactions with strangers.

          • Jaskologist says:

            @Civilis

            While I generally approve of viewing “the past few centuries” as “relatively recently,” just how many hundreds of years are we talking about?

          • LewisT says:

            @Civilis

            I’ll take the unusual tack and point out that Christmas itself wasn’t really a major holiday until relatively recently. It’s a relatively minor festival repurposed to cover up one or more traditional non-Christian celebrations.

            Not all that recently. Christmas is a late-comer, to be sure, but it was already being observed at the time of Augustine. Two hundred years later, the Second Council of Tours (c. 566) established the Twelve Days of Christmas and ordered an Advent fast. By the 11th century, the Advent fast was made mandatory throughout all of Western Christendom and was second in duration only to Lent. Charlemagne and William the Conqueror were both crowned on Christmas Day (800 and 1066), and we know with certainty that Christmas was the second-most important festival in the Christian calendar by the time of the Reformation. It’s been a major Christian holiday for at least the last ~1400 years, and it’s been just as important to Christians as it is today for at least the last ~700 years.

            I’m no expert on Judaism, but I don’t believe Hanukkah was celebrated nearly as widely in Judaism as Christmas was in Christianity until very recently.

          • Well... says:

            Hannukah wasn’t celebrated widely until the 1970s, in my understanding.

          • S_J says:

            I’ll take the unusual tack and point out that Christmas itself wasn’t really a major holiday until relatively recently. It’s a relatively minor festival repurposed to cover up one or more traditional non-Christian celebrations.

            One of the oddities of the history of Christmas in the Anglosphere is that the holiday had become too much of a party. So certain sects of Christianity advocated against celebrating Christmas.

            One of these groups played an important part of the English Civil War. Since they were staunchly against the then-current role of the Catholic church in the Christian world, they pushed back heavily against many Catholic feasts and festivals…especially Christmas.

            Thus, when Oliver Cromwell was in-charge-of-English-government-but-not-King, his government tried to stamp out the celebration of Christmas.

            It wasn’t fully successful, but it downplay or suppress many of the older English customs of Christmas-time.

            Settlers in certain parts of New England–the ones who were closest to the Puritan tradition–also did not celebrate Christmas.

            Other settlers, especially those in Virginia and Pennsylvania, were fond celebrators of Christmas. (I can’t figure out if George Washington usually celebrated Christmas, but he did know how to crash a Christmas party that he wasn’t invited to…)

            During the 1800s, a revival of Christmas celebration came in the Anglospheric world. Parts of this happened when the Crown of England passed into the hands of the house of Hanover. Christmas customs from the German-speaking regions of Europe were celebrated by the Royal Family. These customs (Christmas trees among them) seeped out into the broader culture.

            Charles Dickens also did a good deal to increase the celebration of Christmas.

            This may be why Christmas appears to be very old, and very new, in the Anglospheric world.

          • Civilis says:

            Not all that recently. Christmas is a late-comer, to be sure, but it was already being observed at the time of Augustine. Two hundred years later, the Second Council of Tours (c. 566) established the Twelve Days of Christmas and ordered an Advent fast. By the 11th century, the Advent fast was made mandatory throughout all of Western Christendom and was second in duration only to Lent. Charlemagne and William the Conqueror were both crowned on Christmas Day (800 and 1066), and we know with certainty that Christmas was the second-most important festival in the Christian calendar by the time of the Reformation. It’s been a major Christian holiday for at least the last ~1400 years, and it’s been just as important to Christians as it is today for at least the last ~700 years.

            Always glad to learn something new. Looking into it, I think I get thrown off by the Puritan pushback against too much ‘Popery’, which notably included Cromwell banning Christmas and had assumed that that sentiment (pushing back against the showy feasts) was common among Protestant pushback against Catholicism. I saw the low point with the Puritans, without considering how important it was before that, or, for that matter, why it was pushed aside by the more Puritan sects in the first place. I also apologize for being overly literal in my reading of the initial piece; just as we don’t wish people a Merry Christmas only on December 25th, the Christmas season isn’t just Christmas Day itself.

            However, I think this is irrelevant to my original point. Whether or not Christmas was important a millennia ago, the modern holiday combines the traditional religious Nativity of our Lord with the barely-religious Santa Claus and the fundamentally secular stories of Scrooge (who I completely forgot to mention in the original post) and the Grinch. And despite being religious, I don’t mind the inclusion.

            Happy Chanukah, everyone.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Brad:

            “But to then go and insist that everyone treat your heretofore obscure holiday, with essentially zero religious significance, that 2% of the population celebrates, as if it were equally important as the actual #2 holiday of the majority religion, that 90+% of the population celebrates, seems somewhat unreasonable. That’s not even getting into Kwanzaa.”

            You’re not being asked to celebrate Chanukah, just acknowledge that it exists. I’m not sure if this is fair to your “treat as equally important”.

            As for the war on Christmas more generally, I think it depends on what you mean by Christmas. If you mean a holiday celebrating Jesus’ birth, then I think it’s not in any trouble. If you mean a holiday where people who celebrate Jesus’ birth feel as though they’re in a society which unanimously agrees with them– an experience which was an imprint for a lot of Americans– then it is being opposed.

            I find I have no trouble typing “Jesus’ birth”, but choke a bit at “Christ’s birth”. Is this just me? I feel as though I wasn’t exactly raised Jewish, I was raised Jewish-not-Christian.

          • Randy M says:

            the fundamentally secular stories of Scrooge

            Hmm… I think it would be more accurate to say the heterodox stories of Scrooge, unless the spirits are truly read to be “bits of undigested beef” or otherwise psychological.
            Because I don’t think secular has lots of room for sentient spirits.

          • beleester says:

            “95% of people celebrate Christmas” can also be read as “5% of people don’t.” Which can in turn be read as “1 in 20 times you wish someone a ‘Merry Christmas,’ they’ll give you a weird look and wish you a ‘Chag Sameach’ in return.”

            (Or something similarly awkward, like “Um, I don’t celebrate Christmas, but… thanks?”)

            That’s a pretty low rate if you only need to send season’s greetings to your friends, but if you’re working retail and talking to dozens of people a day, this is going to be a daily source of awkwardness for you. Even at low rates of other religions, I think it’s pretty reasonable for a company to prefer “Happy whatever-it-is-you’re-celebrating”, or as we usually abbreviate it, “Happy Holidays.”

            Point being, just because something is rare for an individual doesn’t mean it can’t happen frequently at the institutional level.

          • tgb says:

            @albatross11 I disagree – if I understand your argument, it would imply that we should expect fervent Christians to be backing the War on Christmas. Instead, it is the opposite. Your argument seems to be that the War on Christmas is trying to make Christmas back into a purely religious holiday and NOT the de facto civic holiday it has become, and the people who would benefit from that are the people for whom Christmas-as-a-religious-holiday would increase in-group ties. Those are the most religious and, in reality, those who are most against the War on Christmas.

            On the other hand, I agree that the War on Christmas is about religious vs. civic holidays and whether religious holidays ought to be part of the ‘default culture’ of the US.

          • skef says:

            Your argument seems to be that the War on Christmas is trying to make Christmas back into a purely religious holiday and NOT the de facto civic holiday it has become, and the people who would benefit from that are the people for whom Christmas-as-a-religious-holiday would increase in-group ties.

            I don’t read albatross11 as saying this. I think he’s referring to the tension foregrounded by cultural discussion of the holiday as an important Christian holiday. Basically: for a while it was a working civic holiday because people, including marginally or nonreligious people, were doing Christmas-y stuff without thinking about it too hard. Now that the Christian link is more in people’s minds it works less well as a civic holiday.

          • lvlln says:

            “95% of people celebrate Christmas” can also be read as “5% of people don’t.” Which can in turn be read as “1 in 20 times you wish someone a ‘Merry Christmas,’ they’ll give you a weird look and wish you a ‘Chag Sameach’ in return.”

            (Or something similarly awkward, like “Um, I don’t celebrate Christmas, but… thanks?”)

            I don’t really say “Merry Christmas” other than on 12/25 or during events that are specifically for Christmas, so don’t really have much experience with people’s reactions to being told “Merry Christmas,” but is that really the expected common or typical reaction from people who don’t celebrate Christmas? I do celebrate Christmas secularly, so perhaps I have a hard time putting myself into that frame of mind. I imagine that if someone told me, say, “Happy Hannukah” (I don’t celebrate Hannukah) I would just smile and continue on my way without feeling any awkwardness or offense. Especially if I was in a country where some supermajority of people celebrated Hannukah.

            I do think it makes sense for many companies to use “Happy Holidays” as a standard, in order not to piss off potential customers who find “Merry Christmas” offensive, but I also think it probably makes sense for many companies to use “Merry Christmas,” in order not to piss off potential customers who find NOT “Merry Christmas” offensive. It would have to depend largely on their potential customer base.

          • Brad says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz
            I do celebrate Hanukkah. That aside, in terms equally important vs acknowledging that it exsits: how about an analogy?

            Suppose that someone at your office was retiring after 30 years with the company. The company was throwing a party, coworkers bought presents and so on. As the party is being thrown you go around loudly insisting that it is also your third full year of sobriety and everyone should acknowledge that that too is an important milestone worth celebrating and that people should mention both when they talk about what the party is for. Would that be more insisting on equal importance or acknowledging existence?

            Also, we don’t go around insisting that people acknowledge the existence of Log B’Omer or Tu Beshvat or even Shavuot.

            P.S. I think I’d have a similar reaction to you if I were to type out ‘the Messiah’s birth’. For whatever reason the Greek version is different, I think of it as a last name even though I know it isn’t.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Randy M:

            I can see “A Christmas Carol” as secular because the message is “be kind to poor people because it’s the decent thing to do” rather than “be kind to poor people because it’s what God wants”.

            It’s secular, even the the Christmas ghosts make it not materialist.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I thought the moral was “be kind to poor people or else you’ll be tortured for eternity after you die.”

          • baconbacon says:

            The moral of “A Christmas Carol” is that Scrooge is in a hell of his own making already. The first two ghosts show him poor, but happy people, while he is miserable and rich. The third one shows him that he still cares for people and for himself. It’s the opposite of Sartre, hell isn’t other people, hell is the absence of other people.

        • rahien.din says:

          the notion that other December holidays ought to be acknowledged equally by default

          I can see why you find this to be nonsensical or antidemocratic. But why is it a War?

          • Well... says:

            I think people take it kind of personal, and understandably so. Christmas is a pretty huge marker of Christendom, Westernness, etc. and it has its place in Americana too. “War” is probably a hyperbole that serves to draw attention to the issue or is a reflection of people’s emotions, or both. To many people it might even feel like a coordinated assault.

        • A1987dM says:

          FWIW, in Italy “happy holidays” is perfectly normal even among groups entirely composed of Catholics and has always been for as long as I can remember, because it includes Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, St Stephen’s Day (i.e. Boxing Day), the Feast of the Holy Family (i.e. the first Sunday after Christmas, does it even have any particular secular name?), St Sylvester’s Day (i.e. New Year’s Eve), the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God (i.e. New Year’s Day), the Epiphany, and possibly a few others I’m forgetting. (School children have two weeks off, at least from 24 December to 6 January plus sometimes one or two days at the beginning and/or the end in order not to e.g. end school on Monday or start school again on Friday.)

          • Deiseach says:

            it includes Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, St Stephen’s Day (i.e. Boxing Day), the Feast of the Holy Family (i.e. the first Sunday after Christmas, does it even have any particular secular name?), St Sylvester’s Day (i.e. New Year’s Eve), the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God (i.e. New Year’s Day), the Epiphany

            Those are the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas, because liturgically Christmastide does not begin until Christmas Day (up to then, we’re still in Advent).

            Secular Christmas gets celebrated from the start of December up to Christmas Day, and then nothing more. If I’m being extra-cynical, I’d say it gets celebrated as the shopping season from Black Friday (yes, that and ‘Cyber Monday’ have percolated over to this side of the Atlantic) to the ‘January’ (now starting on the 27th of December) Sales.

          • Nick says:

            (yes, that and ‘Cyber Monday’ have percolated over to this side of the Atlantic)

            You’re welcome. 😀

        • AlphaGamma says:

          Like, when someone wishes me “Happy Holidays” which plural holidays are they referring to? If I’m Joe Sixpack I celebrate Christmas. That’s it.

          The standard greeting in England (majority of the population claim to be Christian but attend church maybe once or twice a year) is “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year“. That’s two holidays.

    • rahien.din says:

      I should state my position.

      I guess I view “Happy Holidays” and “Season’s Greetings” in the same light as handicapped parking spaces. They decrease the convenience of my daily life, they serve in part to point out disparities which I don’t really want to confront, and they are sometimes very blatantly misused. But on the whole I am glad they exist.

    • skef says:

      I grew up atheist. (Not in the “we’re atheists!” sense, but in the sense that when I put it together that other people had spiritual beliefs and asked my mother about it, she said something that amounted to “yeah, we don’t believe in that kind of thing.”) We celebrated Christmas with a tree and presents. Some years I even remember caroling, so I’ve also expressed any number of Christian sentiments without thinking about it. Santa Claus figures into this picture as the putative source of (some of) the presents.

      I currently have two strings of lights up in my place right now, and some years I do a tree.

      Like a lot of people, what I celebrate in December amounts to a bunch of the sort of pagan stuff European Christianity soaked up into its Christmas celebration, re-distilled away from any spirituality, Christian, pagan, or otherwise. It seems particularly attuned to cold weather, although that appearance may just be a cultural association.

      It seems to me that what has happened is that this sort of quasi-secular Christmas has suffered a bit from its own internal contradictions. It’s reasonably good for some atheists and many of those who are spiritual-NOS. It’s less good for people of any other religious background, including Christians, for whom it emphasizes all the wrong things. Practicing Jews have their own exhausting calendar, thank you very much. I don’t know the contemporary Islamic take on Christmas so I won’t speak to it.

      The “solution” to these contradictions has basically been to change the name, or rather to remove the name and celebrate an anonymous “holiday” among others. Go to the mall: all the same decorations are there. Most of the actual changes in behavior have to do with the stuff that has always been kind of weird. Yes, having kids sing “Christ this” and “Christ that” in public schools doesn’t really fly anymore. It only flew before because no one was thinking much about what they were saying.

  23. SamChevre says:

    I’d say it’s not a war between Christmas and other holidays. It’s a war between an explicitly religious holiday, and the idea that religion is a somewhat-disreputable hobby that ought not to affect or be brought to the attention of anyone who isn’t an active participant. (Compare laïcité, freedom of worship to the more-American no establishment of religion, freedom of religious exercise.)

  24. gbdub says:

    Thoughts on the Strzok issue and how it should (or shouldn’t) impact how we view the Mueller investigation?

    We had a discussion a couple threads back on the likelihood of Trump being impeached.

    I would think that, at a minimum, the Strzok revelations and how Mueller may have (mis)handled them makes it much less likely that GOP congressmen would turn on Trump for anything other than basically blatant high treason.

    Then again I doubt anybody GOP inclined is exactly surprised that the FBI was (is) full of Clinton sympathizers, so maybe it changes nothing.

    • skef says:

      Thoughts on the Strzok issue and how it should (or shouldn’t) impact how we view the Mueller investigation?

      My only thought is that I always mistake that name for “strtok”.

    • BBA says:

      The only way Trump is leaving office before noon on January 20, 2021 is in a coffin. People are paying attention to the Russia scandal because they hope otherwise, but it’s wishful thinking.

      Strzok doesn’t move the needle either way. Might increase the chances of a premature end to the Mueller investigation, but then Congress was always going to ignore whatever Mueller came up with.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        But it gives them political cover to do so. Just like the RNC was going to oppose Roy Moore no matter what because he was Bannon’s project (and a theocratic nutjob), and the sex accusations were just a convenient excuse.

    • BBA says:

      New shit has come to light. Lo and behold, there are other out-of-context texts from the same FBI agents suggesting bias in the opposite direction. This will probably not change anything.

      • AnonYEmous says:

        more like out-of-context text, and a very mild one at that

        compare to, say

        “Maybe you’re meant to stay where you are because you’re meant to protect the country from that menace,”

        or the already widely-quoted “insurance policy” quote

        “I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office—that there’s no way he gets elected—but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40…”

        it’s not like FBI agents can’t have political bias, but it sure does confirm some narratives there doesn’t it

      • The article you link to says:

        His messages included calling Chelsea Clinton “self-entitled,” and mocking Eric Holder. He wrote, “I’m worried about what happens if HRC is elected.”

        Given the nature of the campaign, an enthusiastic Hillary supporter might be worried about what would happen after she was elected–up to and including worries about assassination. And supporting the Democrats doesn’t imply approving of Hilary’s daughter. Or Eric Holder.

        Do you have any quotes from the correspondence that actually support the claim the article you link to is making? Neither of the links in the article does so. The article reads like a desperate attempt by someone to blunt the effect of the initial set of quotes, which were much less ambiguous.

  25. rahien.din says:

    [Disclaimer : if anyone objects to this as too Culture-War, consider it retracted.]

    One compelling description of liberty is “Your right to swing your fist ends just where my nose begins.” This makes perfect sense in an aphoristic, “Ah-ha!” kind of way.

    But that definition can be exploited. If I move my nose closer to your fist, I’ve restricted your liberty, and illegitimately. And I don’t know that the obvious objection “But I want to swing my fist!” would necessarily be a full answer to that illegitimate behavior, if only because that makes you sound like someone who wants an excuse to punch people in the nose. And not punching people in the nose is the exact injunction at the heart of this definition of liberty

    Is there a term for that illegitimate behavior? If not, maybe “swinging your nose”?

    • albatross11 says:

      I think this is basically the insight Coase had into how externalities work. The real-world case of this is where you build an airport, then people build houses nearby, and then later the homeowners demand that your airport do expensive noise-abatement procedures because the noise of those jets is messing up their property values.

      But I really only learned this by reading David Friedman’s wonderful book _Law’s Order_, and it seems unlikely that I could explain it as well as he did.

      This essay explains the idea pretty well.

    • Wrong Species says:

      Freedom vs coercion is a scale, not a dichotomy. Every inch closer you are to me reduces my freedom by X%.

    • Guy in TN says:

      I wouldn’t call that response “exploiting” the definition. Rather, its correctly pointing out that to achieve perfect negative-liberty, you have to be the only person on the planet.

      One route would be to broaden your description of liberty to include things beyond restrictions on human/human physical contact. For example, defining “liberty” to not include building a moat or cage around someone (without touching!) so that they were imprisoned.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      Your question mainly shows how subtly loaded “Your right to swing your fist ends just where my nose begins” is. The only reason “But I want to swing my fist!” makes me sound like someone who wants an excuse to punch people is that no one ever swings their fist for any other reason. So it makes a poor analogy (I realize it’s not your analogy) for most of the liberties people are trying to curtail when they invoke it.

      • Evan Þ says:

        Unfortunately, for some rights in the minds of some people, that makes it a very good analogy. Take the right to guns, the right to offend people with free speech, the right to anonymous currency transactions, the right to privacy in general…

      • Winter Shaker says:

        “Your right to swing your poi“, then? 🙂

  26. skef says:

    Anyway, why can’t we have a war on New Year’s? It is by far the shittiest holiday, revolving entirely around calibrating one’s drug ingestion to maximize excitement at a particular time that isn’t really all that late, with almost inevitably anticlimactic results. There’s basically one associated song and it’s fucking annoying.

    Just seeing the first stupid year-end lists of the season today makes me want to hurl.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      I dunno, seems like a good excuse to hang out and drink with friends instead of spending more time with family.

      • skef says:

        You conveniently set aside all the romantic pressures and expectations.

        And “being anywhere in Wisconsin” is a much better excuse for that.

        • Well... says:

          Yeah, there’s a definite “young & single” tilt to Beta Guy’s comment. No wife and kids for Beta Guy, I’m guessing.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            No kids. Mrs. ADBG doesn’t really demand a lot of romance, just a kiss at midnight. We’re both low-key people.

            The worst part is that our friend is in LOVE with Anderson Cooper, and Anderson Cooper’s NYE show is really, really lame.

    • Well... says:

      I don’t know if New Years is the shittiest (stay up late drinking champagne and eating snacks sounds like the setup for a good time) but it is the most overrated holiday (because that’s basically every party ever), and like you said, inevitably anti-climactic (because nothing magical actually happens after all the build-up and hype).

      You might even be right that the problem is that the Big Moment happens at midnight and not some later hour that is something of an accomplishment to stay awake to, like 2 or 3am.

      For the past several years I’ve gone to bed before midnight on December 31st and I don’t feel like I’m missing anything.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      The worst part is watching the ball drop. It’s ridiculously boring to watch on TV, and if you go in person you can expect to stand in the world’s largest mosh pit for six to eight hours before you even get to the boring part.

      The best part is that weird Rankin and Bass claymation movie. I have no idea how they survived all the drugs that must have gone into producing that movie.

    • bean says:

      With my fireworks hat on (thing I used to do), I’m in complete agreement. Particularly in Washington state (where I was at the time), it was awful. Turn up as soon as it gets light, work like crazy in the cold, finish up as it gets dark, then spend 8 hours standing around when it’s really cold making sure that idiots who think that “keep out” signs don’t apply to them don’t mess up the wires. Then shoot and clean up.
      If we swapped with July 4th, it would be much better. In the summer, you can’t shoot until like 11 PM anyway, and in the winter, you’d be home in time for dinner.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      I would prefer a war on Halloween. Well, not a war precisely, but at least an intensive diplomatic offensive, backed with occasional drone strikes and other kinetic military action, to force it to withdraw to its former kids-only borders.

      • gbdub says:

        I will fight you.

        Seriously adult Halloween is the only holiday that is actually both fun and unique for childless adults.

      • achenx says:

        Yes, I will volunteer for that war kinetic military action.

      • John Schilling says:

        Halloween must not fall. Halloween is the last bulwark against eternal commercial “The Holidays”. Once upon a time, the existence of Thanksgiving made it unseemly to play Christmas carols or put up Santa-themed decorations in November, and so the pressure to buy overpriced plane tickets to visit one’s family and expensive gifts to give them was at least confined to a single month. Now that we just have “the Holidays”, which are generically about family and celebration in a culture-independent way, that barrier has fallen.

        Halloween, with a unique and decidedly non-generic theme. Halloween can’t be neatly folded into “the Holidays”, and its own unique commercial appeal enlists the costume- and candy-sellers to do battle against the airlines and gift stores, while the greeting-card industry plays both sides against each other. If Halloween falls, those damn bells will jingle up past October, through September, and we’ll wind up singing “Let it Snow!” in July.

        Halloween must not fall

        • albatross11 says:

          A century from now, our descendants will take for granted that all commercial locations are decorated with fake snow, reindeer, and fat guys in red suits, and play traditional commercial music involving snow, roasting chestnuts, etc. Almost nobody will know the origin of this tradition.

    • Randy M says:

      that isn’t really all that late

      I haven’t see the back side of midnight regularly for a good while now, let alone on New Years.
      I don’t care much for the televised festivities of the day, but a party and some resolutions aren’t a bad day to welcome the new calendar.

    • Rosemary7391 says:

      Don’t say this in Scotland! Here it’s such a well liked holiday that we get an extra bank holiday to sleep off the hangover, compared to England.

      • skef says:

        But no fish cookies, right? That’s Austria or something?

      • Winter Shaker says:

        Scottish person checking in. As American pop culture suffuses the rest of the Anglophone world, it has been losing ground against Christmas (which apparently was the lesser of the two holidays here until relatively recently), but Hogmanay is still a pretty big deal.

        I personally shall be leaving Scotland to celebrate it, at an international folk music and dance festival which is happening in Czechia this year, and if that is your cup of tea, I can heartily recommend it as a superior alternative where you spend the evening dancing, come outside to watch the fireworks at midnight, go back inside and continue dancing into the wee hours. Beats freezing for hours to watch a ball drop (not that we have that exact tradition here, we just have someone count down the last ten seconds of the old year).

    • achenx says:

      New Years is kind of dumb but seems mostly avoidable, I think. Sometimes I stay up, sometimes I don’t. I’m actually going to a party this year for the first time in awhile, but since I’ll be bringing kids along we’ll be checking out of the party by, say, 8pm at the latest, so can go home, stay up or not, whatever. Plus it comes with an honest-to-goodness day off, and as far as I know there are no culture war battles brewing over it (please don’t correct me if I am wrong), so really it seems pretty middle-of-the-pack as far as holidays go.

      • Evan Þ says:

        and as far as I know there are no culture war battles brewing over it

        That’s because the war was already fought and won long ago (at least outside the Eastern Orthodox Church).

        • Deiseach says:

          as far as I know there are no culture war battles brewing over it

          Well, that’s because they’ve already been fought. See the comments on Hogmanay – the reason it is such a big deal in Scotland is because of Calvinism (or Knox’s version thereof). New Year’s Day was heavily promoted by the Scots theocracy of the time as a secular alternative to Christmas, because Christmas was a wicked Papist creation polluting the pure Gospel, and if the unregenerate laity were going to insist on still having a celebration to get drunk during the end of winter, well they could do it on a completely non-religious state-sanctioned day, and taking the existing celebrations around the end of the year/New Year’s Day and promoting them was a way of doing this.

      • Nick says:

        I like reset buttons. My last New Year’s resolution actually was the flashcard one, and it went pretty well this time (four months before I got myself derailed!). I’m probably going to try the same one again come the new year.

        Also, upon rereading that post, I have to draw attention to this:

        As soon as you hear “kabbalistic” you think “this is going to be super weird and super awesome”, and the kabbalists do not disappoint. They say that all year, God is watching all the horrible things we do and thinking “Oh man, I am totally going to do some righteous smiting on that squid314 person.” And as God finalizes destinies for the New Year (which for Judaism and therefore for God begins in late September/early October) He is remembering all those resolutions He made. Kol Nidre is when we release ourselves from our vows in the hope that God will reciprocate by releasing Himself from His and so let us live and stay happy and healthy for another year.

        I’m a little disappointed this didn’t make its way somehow into Unsong, but it’s nice on its own.

        • A1987dM says:

          I like reset buttons.

          Me too, so much that I have twelve as many of them!

          • Nick says:

            Fair enough. I’d say his first problem with resolutions doesn’t apply to me, since I always choose well in advance. I also do have another yearly resolution already, namely Lent, although that only lasts 40 or so days. But his other two problems are well stated.

  27. Conrad Honcho says:

    Can we all agree though that Thanksgiving is the best holiday? Four day weekend, no gift giving, no decorations, just food, family and then a tryptophan coma?

    • powerfuller says:

      Oh, I definitely agree Thanksgiving is the best holiday, hands down, now and forever. I used to date a Korean-Canadian, which meant we got to celebrate three Thanksgivings in a row (Korean in September, Canadian in October, and American in November). Truly a blessed time in my life.

      Despite all the talk on the War on Christmas, I could argue that the “war on Thanksgiving” is even worse, with the commercialism of Black Friday on one side, and the “Thanksgiving is a celebration of genocide” argument on the other. At least those arguing we ought call Christmas trees holiday trees are not arguing that Christmas shouldn’t be celebrate at all by anybody. On that note, it’s probably a good thing that Thanksgiving gets overshadowed by Christmas, or there would be more hoopla about it.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      There are a lot of people who have to work Black Friday. Thankfully, I am no longer one of them!

      Thanksgiving has the best food, but it’s a restrictive menu. Turkey in particular sucks. Our Christmas party is going to have roasted chicken and lasagna, and my family dinner will be prime rib.

      • Evan Þ says:

        I’ve had some good turkeys – unfortunately, not recently. When I was growing up, my family used to serve ham for Thanksgiving; that’s easier to make well.

        The side dishes are good, though – stuffing, well-roasted spiced vegetables, sweet potato pie…

    • rahien.din says:

      Thanksgiving is absolutely the best holiday, for all the reasons you state.

      Let me add: the recognizable yet broad flavor palette, football, and the natural superiority of fall over the other three seasons.

    • Brad says:

      I find Thanksgiving underwhelming. I don’t like turkey and my extended family doesn’t have any tradition of getting together. That leaves four day weekend.

      I like Labor Day. Fourth of July is good too, except when it falls on Wednesday.

      • Evan Þ says:

        my extended family doesn’t have any tradition of getting together.

        If you’re interested, maybe make that tradition? Last year, I flew down to meet my sister in college, and we both drove up to our aunt and uncle’s. It was good to get to see them all.

    • Wrong Species says:

      I prefer Christmas ham over Thanksgiving turkey

      Thanksgiving is more likely to have extended family and it’s more awkward around them then immediate family

      More people get off Christmas than Thanksgiving.

      Thanksgiving doesn’t have movies.

      Christmas is more ritualistic. That probably doesn’t mean a lot to some people but I think it helps make it more special than a big meal.

      On Thanksgiving, people are more focused on Christmas than anything else. Christmas is the one day where almost nobody is actually doing anything except relaxing.

      I actually like gift giving. It helps when you have family members outside of your parents who give good gifts.

      • powerfuller says:

        It’s only one, but at least “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” is a good movie.

        • JayT says:

          National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is possibly my favorite movie ever. At the very least, it’s the one I can watch over and over without getting tired of it.

          Also, there’s Die Hard.

    • JayT says:

      I love Thanksgiving, but for me it still falls just short of Christmas. Both have great food, lots of time off, and family, but Christmas lasts longer* and I enjoy the decorations quite a bit. I would leave Christmas lights up year-round if it were more socially acceptable.

      *eg, I had friends over last night for an early Christmas dinner and it was lovely, this evening I have my end of year office party, etc.

    • achenx says:

      Life pro tip: you don’t have to have turkey! We’ve had Thanksgiving ham the past couple years, and it’s great. All the sides still work, unless you literally cook stuffing inside the bird.

      Possible problem: What do you have for Christmas then? I mean, nothing wrong with ham again, but if you’re a Christmas ham person then it is something to consider.

      • Nornagest says:

        I cooked a large duck for Thanksgiving a couple years ago when the dinner ended up being small. It worked pretty well (and I like duck better than I like turkey).

        • achenx says:

          This is a good point too. There are other birds available. For either holiday, even: remember Scrooge’s Christmas goose.

          Hm. Anyone ever had goose? Is it appreciably different from turkey?

          • JayT says:

            It’s been a long time since I’ve had goose, but my recollection is that it’s more similar to duck than turkey.

          • rahien.din says:

            Goose is SPECTACULAR.

            It’s like unto duck, but so much more delicious. The richer, darker flavor of goose makes duck seem insipid in comparison.

            And the fat that drips out of the goose is perfect for frying anything, in particular potatoes.

            If I had my druthers, I would have a ham and a goose for every Christmas.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Yes I have had goose, and it is indeed different to turkey. Although I’m rubbish at describing tastes, I’d say goose has a richer and stronger flavour than turkey, and also a slightly more chewy texture (not in a bad way, though).

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Tried duck for the first time this week and wasn’t terribly impressed. It sure did render a TON of fat, but there was not much meat on a 5 pound bird. It was also damn difficult to cut, much more so than any other bird I’ve ever had.

            Might try a goose…how much do I need to feed, say, 4 people?

            Not having turkey is apparently blasphemy. I’ve suggested it at any of the 4 Thanksgivings I regularly go to. I am always told to pound salt. No one wants to give up turkey as a Thanksgiving tradition.

            Oh well. At least it gets drowned in gravy.

          • skef says:

            ADBG: You should try one more duck, and then the goose.

          • Nornagest says:

            Goose is a pretty big bird. A medium-sized one would probably feed four people with some left over for sandwiches, especially if you’ve got the traditional array of side dishes.

          • Loquat says:

            ADBG – I haven’t done whole duck before, but I’ve had great results with duck legs doing a sort of pseudo-confit (pre-salt legs, overnight if possible, pack into small baking dish so they’ll wind up submerged in their own fat, cook low+slow for a couple hours – this recipe explains in more detail )

          • Winter Shaker says:

            A Definite Beta Guy:

            Not having turkey is apparently blasphemy. I’ve suggested it at any of the 4 Thanksgivings I regularly go to. I am always told to pound salt.

            Have you tried scaring them off?

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Duck leg confit might be the only thing I try. I’ll give that recipe a shot. I am a sucker for dark meat. I saved the rendered fat from the last duck, so I’m probably good to go on that front.

            I would love to have a Cthulhu-Turkey, but my wife would kill me with her Death Glare. She already despises the marshmallows-on-sweet-potatoes.

            In positive news, beef rib roast is on sale for $4.99/lb, and, being the king of meats, is definitely on the menu for tomorrow!

          • Loquat says:

            She already despises the marshmallows-on-sweet-potatoes.

            My husband and I are both in full agreement with her on that front! He even used to think he disliked sweet potatoes in general, until I cooked him some with no added sugar or candy of any kind.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Capon is another lesser-known fowl. In my experience, it’s like chicken, but larger and tastier.

          • @Nancy:

            A capon isn’t a different fowl, it’s a castrated male chicken.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Yes, I should have said that better.

            I will still maintain that capon is a somewhat different eating experience than chicken, and makes for a better display.

      • JayT says:

        Christmas prime rib and crab is where it’s at.

        Also, I would say that if you don’t like the Thanksgiving turkey, that you should probably try a different approach to cooking the turkey. I always thought I hated turkey until I took control of cooking it. Turns out, I just didn’t like overcooked turkey.

      • rahien.din says:

        My great-aunt was a gourmet cook but refused to eat poultry. She would make Cuban roast pork and beef Wellington every Thanksgiving.

      • gbdub says:

        I think you just need “a visually impressive cut of meat” (sorry vegans). I’ve done a New York Strip roast the last couple years (nice for childless couples, since you can get one only a few pounds, i.e. small enough that two people can eat all of it before becoming utterly sick of it, which is not true of turkey or a ham.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Last two years the wife cooked goose. I said I really wanted to have a Christmas goose, just like in A Christmas Carol. Pretty darn good.

    • Well... says:

      I know you don’t have to have turkey on Thanksgiving (finally got my wife to admit turkey sucks, we had chicken this year, hallelujah) but the association, for me anyway, along with all the rotten memories of it from childhood, is still strong enough to soil the holiday in my mind.

      Best holiday is April Fool’s day. Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day are also good because barbecue, but 4th of July is my favorite of those three because Murka. Discovered fireworks (“Hey I think i just saw fireworks behind those trees!”) are better than “let’s go see the fireworks,” and July 4th has potentially both going for it anyway. Also, our national anthem gives me goosebumps, the good kind.

      I’ve only done one so far but my Torahically correct Passover was pretty awesome. Two feasts, with a week of buttered matzah in between.

      • Evan Þ says:

        my Torahically correct Passover

        I’m curious – did you have lamb? If so, where’d you kill it, and what does your HOA say about the blood on your lintels? If not, then it might be Talmudically correct, but I wouldn’t call it Torahically correct.

        • Mark Atwood says:

          Question from honest ignorance, how much blood is required to be compliant?

          Just one drop is probably not a problem or even noticeable to a HOA, a landlord, a property manager, or a condo association.

        • Well... says:

          You’re confusing the actual “passing over” event with the God-ordained holiday.

          The Passover celebration, as specified in the Torah, is:

          1. Get rid of all your leavened bread products
          2. Have a “convocation” (a feast) honoring YHVH, on the sabbath that starts the holiday
          3. Eat matzah for a week in place of leavened bread products
          4. Repeat step 2 on the sabbath that ends the holiday

          What you eat for those feasts is not specified. I did in fact make lamb, but did not kill the thing myself.

  28. Anonymous says:

    A hypothetical scenario.

    A friend asks you to do him a favour. This favour is not especially onerous, or dangerous, compared to the value of being owed a favour by said friend.

    However, said favour is both immoral (as considered by you, but not by your friend) and illegal (as considered by the jurisdiction where it would be taking place in).

    What do?

    In particular, I would like to know which excuse you would prefer, if you would decline – “no, that’s immoral/wrong” vs “no, that’s illegal” (or even “no, that’s both illegal and immoral”).

    • Randy M says:

      Difficult to response accurately without an example. Maybe something like “let them download pirated movies using your computer?”
      With that example in mind, I’m going to try to change the subject, suggest some other activity, and ultimately as them to look elsewhere, but try not to lose a friend over it.
      Answer will change with more significantly immoral requests, or extenuating circumstances.

      • Anonymous says:

        How about “aiding welfare fraud”?

        • Witness says:

          I think I would just say “no”. If pressed, I might say “That’s bad and you should feel bad” or possibly “Is there another way I can help you out?” depending on my assessment of the friend’s past behavior and current desperation.

        • Protagoras says:

          My mother was guilty of this at one point. When my maternal grandmother died, the primary heirs were my mother and two cousins (my aunt had already died some years earlier). One of the cousins renounced her claim to a share of the inheritance in order to avoid having that impact her eligibility for public assistance, on the understanding that my mother and her sister, who would then split her share, would funnel it back to her afterward under the table. I’m not altogether sure what I would have done if the decision had been mine; the welfare queen cousin had kids with disability issues she always had trouble affording taking care of (concern for the kids was, I think, my mother’s primary motive for participating), but was certainly also an irresponsible person who had brought a lot of her problems on herself.

        • add_lhr says:

          I would be led by my assessment of the morality in this case. If I truly believed that he deserved the welfare benefit under the spirit of the law, but I need to do something illegal to help him qualify, then I might. For example, if he needed my help to “recreate” a document that I know he legitimately had but lost.

          If he’s just trying to get something he’s not entitled to, I would either say I’m not comfortable with it (if a close friend), or vaguely say yes, not do anything and then ignore him every time he reminds me.

          Similarly, I would most likely not help a friend with a request that was legal but I considered immoral – for example, if this friend legally qualifies for something that I considered an abusive tax shelter / loophole, and needed my help demonstrating that, I probably wouldn’t.

    • lvlln says:

      When you say it’s not dangerous, do you also mean that the likelihood of being caught for the illegal activity is very low as well, or that it’s just inherently not dangerous only when not taking into account law enforcement?

      I think I’d definitely invoke the morality. I wouldn’t say “that’s immoral,” but rather “I consider that immoral,” and I would expect my friend to respect my own sense of morality enough to drop the request even if his sense of morality says that it’s moral.

      And if it’s inherently not dangerous but carries some significant risk of my being arrested, I’d also say “that’s illegal, and I don’t want to risk my freedom/life/future for it.” If it carries low risk of being arrested – at least, relative to the gains that my friend would get – I’d probably not invoke the legality but just stick with invoking my sense of morality.

      • Anonymous says:

        When you say it’s not dangerous, do you also mean that the likelihood of being caught for the illegal activity is very low as well, or that it’s just inherently not dangerous only when not taking into account law enforcement?

        Both. In unlikely case of legal trouble, you’d get at most a slap on the wrist. Your friend may be liable for more than that.

    • Nornagest says:

      It seems to me that “that’s illegal” could be pointing to one of two things: either you don’t want to take the chance of prosecution for it, or your personal ethics are such that breaking the law is immoral in itself. I gather from the tone of this comment that there’s no realistic chance of prosecution, and it’s fairly clear that your friend doesn’t believe breaking the law is immoral, so you can’t persuade him that way. All that leaves is one flavor or another of personal moral objection, so you might as well say so.

    • baconbacon says:

      In particular, I would like to know which excuse you would prefer, if you would decline – “no, that’s immoral/wrong” vs “no, that’s illegal” (or even “no, that’s both illegal and immoral”).

      No, that is immoral is the better answer. No, that is illegal opens you up to “yeah, but helping fugitive slaves was also illegal, who cares about legal/illegal?” No it is immoral says “My personal code won’t let me do that”, which has fewer chinks (unless you are generally a hypocrite/lazy morally most of the time).

      • Deiseach says:

        “yeah, but helping fugitive slaves was also illegal, who cares about legal/illegal?”

        It is amazing how fast people who use this line suddenly become very outraged about something they disagree with not being illegal/when something happens to them that has them shouting for the cops and the courts to get involved.

        Let that “who cares about legal or illegal” person have their wallet stolen, they will very rapidly be demanding the full rigour of the law to be applied.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Let that “who cares about legal or illegal” person have their wallet stolen, they will very rapidly be demanding the full rigour of the law to be applied.

          Because they think theft (at least from them) is wrong, not because it’s illegal.

          • Deiseach says:

            They think it’s wrong but they want recourse to legal remedies, not “oh who cares about legal/illegal, let’s settle it some other way”. If you ask them “maybe it’s wrong but why should there be a law about it?” I imagine you’d get some kind of defence of the need for law and order in a society 🙂

            “Who cares about legal/illegal” is generally only applied to “But I want to do this thing” cases, not as a general principle.

          • DavidS says:

            I think this is consistent. They want the law to reflect what is moral (because as a matter of fact this empowers moral people and allows the immoral to be punished) but don’t think we should follow laws that are immoral.

            To be honest, I think this is true of the vast majority of people – though how immoral the law has to be varies. In the hardcore version the existence of the law adds no information to the morals. But for most it’s more ‘obey the law unless it comes into conflict with a higher value’.

        • Incurian says:

          If you only like some laws, you’re a hypocrite?

          • lvlln says:

            I think the hypocrisy comes from the fact that “yeah, but helping fugitive slaves was also illegal, who cares about legal/illegal?” is a fully general argument against not wanting to break any law. If the argument was more like “yeah, but helping fugitive slaves was also illegal, and helping fugitive slaves was obviously moral, and breaking this specific law in this specific way that I want you to break the law is also moral just like helping fugitive slaves was, so who cares about legal/illegal in this specific case?” then there would be no hypocrisy.

            Perhaps the former argument is meant to imply the latter more narrow argument, but I think it makes just as much sense to interpret it as a fully general one.

          • albatross11 says:

            It feels like that’s an overlap of proves-too-much and noncentral example.

        • Nick says:

          As Catholics we have recourse to Aquinas, for whom, as the famous formulation goes, an unjust law is no law at all. The folks at the partially examined life podcast have a nice summary. Well, if you can look past the first sentence:

          Natural law seems like a relic, remembered only by Catholics who use it as thin grounds for odd sexual theories: the evil of condoms, the intrinsic disorder of homosexuals.

          😛

          Of course, the classic problem has always been our personal opinions of justice potentially giving us free reign, or exceptions and special privileges at least. This is precisely the issue which Scalia of all people raises in his opinion for Employment Division v Smith (you’ll recall Brad brought this case up in re the cake baking case), quoting Reynolds v. United States:

          To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself.

          Scalia has elsewhere remarked that he really does disagree with Aquinas on this point—folks are not exempt from a facially neutral law simply because their religion dictates otherwise (I’ve been doing research, Brad 🙂 ). Scalia’s conservative, of course; he just thinks there’s ample justification in the Constitution for defending his own religious beliefs, if not the religious beliefs of everyone else, and if that’s a problem, that’s up to folks to amend the Constitution.

          I’m inclined to side with Aquinas and MLK here, though I really need to look at more opinions on this—but that’s not to say this isn’t an issue over which people of good will may disagree.

    • Jiro says:

      The usual answer to a question like this should be “what’s the favor?” Otherwise it’s easy for someone to ask this kind of question about a non-central case, get an answer that applies only to a central case, and use it to justify how he acts in the non-central case.

      Also, while you said that the favor is not especially onerous or dangerous, you didn’t specify how immoral it is. Immorality comes in degrees just like onerousness and dangerousness. I might help a friend pirate a movie but not help him dox someone, for instance.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Whether I’d decline or not would have something to do with how immoral I find it, and also likelyhood of getting caught. If I did decline I’d probably start with the illegality, as it requires less justification.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        I just posted a nearly identical comment below, so I’ll just delete that and say “+1” to your sentiment.

      • Lillian says:

        Like Nabil ad Dajjal this pretty much perfectly encapsulates my position, but unlike him i’m not content to just +1, so i will expand a little. To me, loyalty to friends and family is a high moral principle, so i would refuse to help only if it would infringe that principle or some higher one. As for the legality of the matter, i don’t care and never have, except insofar as Johnny Law can make me care. However, i’m still likely to use “it’s illegal” as an excuse, because in my experience people are more likely to try to persuade you to make exceptions to your moral principles than to let go of your fear of the state’s monopoly on violence.