THE JOYFUL REDUCTION OF UNCERTAINTY

Open Thread 91.75

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

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818 Responses to Open Thread 91.75

  1. Mark Atwood says:

    What is your favorite meditation support app?

  2. dreeves says:

    Announcement: Scott’s classic post on Schelling fences for slippery slopes is reborn on the Beeminder blog: https://blog.beeminder.com/schelling/

  3. Egregious Philbin says:

    You know how it was previously Proven By Scientists that playing the music of Mozart for fetuses made them smarter? (Of course this was debunked)

    Fine, but what about that, for the audiobook of the Sequences?

    Heck, play it while driving your kids to school in the morning for years, and I suspect they will reach Hungarian Jewish Mathematician level.

    (Half serious)

    • Viliam says:

      Go ahead, make about 20 experiments, one of them should succeed at p = 0.05 level and get published in a psychological journal.

      This is how science gets done these days.

  4. Ttar says:

    Which do you think is more dangerous to the long-term electoral prospects of the right wing coalition in the U.S.?
    1. Anti-immigration stance
    2. Anti-entitlement stance
    3. Anti-atheist stance
    And which stance is likeliest to be sacrificed in order to attract voters, if such sacrifice becomes necessary? Also put “perceived” in front of any of these positions if it makes you feel better about the epistemic status of this post.

    • JonathanD says:

      Well, of the three, I only think (2) is a negative in the first place. I think the anti-immigration stance is good for their long-term electoral prospects, and the anti-atheist stance a non-issue. Why do you think all three of these are net negative?

      • Ttar says:

        I think they’re all risky over the next 3-7 decades as all three demographics are growing (or at least, the number of people who disagree with the right on each issue is growing). Immigrants are growing as share of population (and Trump won’t stop that), atheist/agnostic/irreligious is growing, and support for more entitlement programs is growing.

        • Aapje says:

          Support for immigration among Democrats may be less than assumed. There is an interesting study (pdf), which found a substantial gap between non-Hispanic whites (other groups were not polled) who were asked directly and those who got to answer in an indirect way, where they didn’t have to explicitly give the non-politically correct answer. So it seems that a lot of people hide their true beliefs, even in an anonymous telephone poll.

          Interestingly, the study found that Democrats support immigration restrictions just as often as Republicans, although the former hide their true beliefs far more often.

          Another very interesting study (pdf) found a similar results for opposition to affirmative action. When asked in an indirect way, white Democrats and Republicans expressed the same level of opposition to affirmative action. A notable finding was that this opposition didn’t correlate significantly to a measure of commitment to racial harmony, but it did correlate strongly to a belief in individualism.

          Unfortunately, I don’t believe that there are similar studies for other ethnic groups, but they may have a similar gap between what they openly say and what they believe. Even in the (possibly too ‘liberal’) poll results, we see that many ethnic groups have ideas that are in opposition to the Democrat platform. We also already see that Asians get treated as whites or worse when it comes to affirmative action. It remains to be seen whether this treatment will sour them on the Democrats.

          In general, political correctness may be one of the major weaknesses of the Democrats. It seems to me that a false understanding of the actual support for policies creates a huge risk of ‘running ahead of the troops’ (as the Dutch saying goes). In war, the military leader who does that tends gets killed and similarly, politicians who are too extreme lose support. It can be very hard to realize this when the polls keep saying that many people strongly support policies X, Y and Z, but in reality, far fewer people actually support these policies.

        • Deiseach says:

          atheist/agnostic/irreligious is growing

          I wouldn’t be so sanguine about that, I’ve seen some atheist sites/posters cheerleading about how in censuses/surveys the number of “nones” is growing, and it seems to me as mistaken as the Democrat “demographics is destiny” stance. All the black/minority voters who turned out for Obama did not turn out for Hillary; the “nones” are just as, or more, likely to be “raised vaguely Christian/other, non-practicing, don’t really care one way or another/spiritual not religious/don’t go to church on Sundays but do believe in God/not affiliated with any particular denomination but believe in some Greater Power or Meaning” as they are to be ‘pure’ no gods, demons, ghosts, fairies type atheists or agnostics.

          Pinning your “rationalism and materialist atheism is winning, 28% of respondents answered “none” to the religious affiliation question!” hopes on that is gravely mistaken. Look at all the dumb ghost-hunting shows on TV. Nobody believes in real hauntings (certainly not the hosts), perhaps a tiny fraction of the viewers do think real ghosts exist, but it’s all done as entertainment complete with pseudo-scientific trappings (such as night vision cameras which have no real purpose except that they’re a third- or fourth-generation copy of original genuine psychic investigators methods, they’re only there to provide the faintly eerie imagery to create the mood of spookiness and to fit in with the expectations of the viewers – ghost hunting involves filming with night vision).

          Yet these shows continue, even when everyone involved is in agreement that it’s reality-TV trash entertainment and nothing to do with malign spirits. If the ‘nones’ really meant “atheist affiliation is growing”, these types of thing would wither on the vine. Getting religion out of public life does not mean replacement by purely reasonable matters, it means all kinds of weird crap that did not fit into established religion floats to the top and is now unrepressed by any kind of control.

        • JonathanD says:

          I may be projecting my beliefs onto others in my coalition (typical minding?), but I think (like Aapje) that anti-immigration sentiment is stronger on the left than is generally believed. I’m a fairly typical center-left democrat, and this is one of my areas of disagreement with my party. I think that importing labor is bad for the labor we already have here, and that making this a central plank of our platform has alienated working people, which is a huge mistake, as working people were and should remain the heart of the democratic party. It kills me to see them voting Republican.

          I think the wall is a very stupid public works program, but I’d quite like to see mandatory e-verify, coupled with an end to chain migration and reform/reduction of the various guest worker programs. Tack on a points based immigration system like Canada uses and I think we’d see a lot less pain and a lot more prosperity among pretty much everyone who works for a living. Given that the democratic party is supposed to be the party of the working people, it’s a set of priorities I’d really like to see us embrace.

          While I don’t think my view is the majority one, I think there are a lot more folks on my side who agree with me than you’d think, and I think that this policy in particular is one that help push Trump over the finish line, and will continue to help the republican party for at least the next decade or two. As for three to seven, who knows? In thirty years self-driving trucks are going to end the most common good-paying blue collar job. The world will be a very different place.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Tack on a points based immigration system like Canada uses

            FFS. Don’t import a ruling class! Please! You just make vertical social movement that much more difficult for those already here. Import an upper class along with a lower class – it’s already harder for the lower classes to immigrate anyway, so you’ll still get a disparity in favor of so-called ‘merit’.

            We are a Republic, not an Aristocracy. We threw out those Brits for a reason.

            5 categories:
            1) Asylum seekers
            2) Refuge seekers
            3) Those with family waiting (whether chain or not)
            4) Those with a job waiting
            5) Everyone else

            Then treat everyone in each category the same. If any are going to be prioritized it needs to be in an egalitarian a manner as possible (e.g. those with a job starting in 3 weeks can be prioritized over those with a job starting in 6 months, those seeking refuge from an incipient hypercane or volcanic eruption can be prioritized over those seeking refuge from an earthquake which has already happened).

          • dndnrsn says:

            @JonathanD:

            People who want less immigration and think a Canadian-style points system is a way to do that (apologies if I’m misreading you here) – they/you do know that Canada takes in over 2x the per capita legal immigrants as the US does, right?

            Don’t get me wrong. I think the Canadian immigration system is great, although it (and the surrounding systems – see below) do have some problems, and that we are able to take in a high per-capita rate of immigrants without that sparking a significant backlash is proof the system works. (Also, see further below)

            By “surrounding systems,” I mean, just because someone can get into Canada with an engineering or medical degree or whatever, does not mean they can use it; the local guilds might keep them from practicing without upgrading their credentials, even if their credentials are fine already. But that’s not really a problem with our immigration system.

            Additionally, one major reason we have no significant anti-immigrant political party/movement is that all 3 major political parties are roughly equally decent at attracting the votes of people who have acquired citizenship after coming here, of second-generation immigrants, etc. For example, the Conservatives are not the “white party” like the Republicans are. This means that immigration doesn’t get treated like a means to an end, as it seems to in the US.

          • quanta413 says:

            … 2x the per capita legal immigrants

            Yes, but the number of illegal immigrants in Canada is only .2% of the population. In the U.S. it’s ~3.4% of the population. Canada actually has the control it wants over its borders, in other words.

            that we are able to take in a high per-capita rate of immigrants without that sparking a significant backlash is proof the system works.

            Or it’s largely because Canada doesn’t share an enormous land border with a much poorer country.

            The demographic makeup of the two countries’ immigrants have significant differences. The U.S. has more immigrants from Latin America and fewer from Asia (as a proportion of immigrants). Even in the U.S. the cultural tension between Latin Americans and whites is notably much higher than between Asians and whites. I’m less sure of differences in economic status of immigrants, but I’d bet that Canadian migrants are notably better off in their country of origin than U.S. immigrants are (on average).

            I’d argue geography and cultural differences in the migrants comparing the U.S. and Canada probably determine most of the current differences in outcomes between the U.S. and Canada.

            Note: I don’t think immigration to the U.S. is bad; I think it’s probably good on net, although I think there’s a low chance that I’m very wrong. I’d also prefer a more Canadian type of immigration system to the current U.S. one, but I don’t expect it would actually cause much to change.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @quanta413

            Yes, but the number of illegal immigrants in Canada is only .2% of the population. In the U.S. it’s ~3.4% of the population. Canada actually has the control it wants over its borders, in other words.

            My understanding is that illegal immigration in the US is currently close to net 0 – people enter illegally, but they also leave sometimes? It’s a higher % of the population than in Canada, obviously, but it’s not a significant number getting added each year. Whereas in Canada, 0.7 legal immigrants per 100 Canadians per year, in a country of 30-odd million…

            Or it’s largely because Canada doesn’t share an enormous land border with a much poorer country.

            Look, a key part of being Canadian is about being smug over things that are completely out of anyone’s control. It’s the custom of my people.

            The demographic makeup of the two countries’ immigrants have significant differences. The U.S. has more immigrants from Latin America and fewer from Asia (as a proportion of immigrants). Even in the U.S. the cultural tension between Latin Americans and whites is notably much higher than between Asians and whites. I’m less sure of differences in economic status of immigrants, but I’d bet that Canadian migrants are notably better off in their country of origin than U.S. immigrants are (on average).

            I’d argue geography and cultural differences in the migrants comparing the U.S. and Canada probably determine most of the current differences in outcomes between the U.S. and Canada.

            But if they’re better off because people able to muster enough points are generally better off…

            Let’s put it this way – if the deal was, points system replacing the US’ current rather dysfunctional family-based system, double per capita immigration, and secure the southern border – would the Republicans, or immigration skeptics in general, go for that?

          • quanta413 says:

            @dndnrsn

            My understanding is that illegal immigration in the US is currently close to net 0 – people enter illegally, but they also leave sometimes? It’s a higher % of the population than in Canada, obviously, but it’s not a significant number getting added each year. Whereas in Canada, 0.7 legal immigrants per 100 Canadians per year, in a country of 30-odd million…

            Sure, it might be net zero this year; it’s very hard to count. But people’s memories are quite a bit longer than that even if they have rather severe accuracy problems. I find the overall current total probably a more reliable estimate anyways. The difference in legal immigrant inflows per capita is about a factor of 2. But when you include illegal inflows, it’s less. By stocks instead of flows including legal and illegal, the difference is a factor of ~1.5 (~20%/~13%).

            But if they’re better off because people able to muster enough points are generally better off…

            Even if it wasn’t for the point system, people able to cross an ocean are generally better off than those that have to swim across the Rio Grande avoiding the border patrol. I’m sure points have some marginal effect, but let’s not kid ourselves here. I’d probably pay a coyote if I was in the sort of situation a person who’s crossing the U.S. Mexico border illegally is.

            Let’s put it this way – if the deal was, points system replacing the US’ current rather dysfunctional family-based system, double per capita immigration, and secure the southern border – would the Republicans, or immigration skeptics in general, go for that?

            Well, a lot of Republicans are perfectly happy with current immigrant inflows, but they might like that system even more. However, that obviously wouldn’t be the nativist half of the party you’re talking about.

            I’m not nativist, but I’d take significantly less of a deal than that in a heartbeat. My only real disagreement with the current situation is the normalization of law breaking, but I can think of lots of other ways the U.S. encourages that that I find much, much worse.

            However, I’ll pretend I’m nativist for a moment. Considering immigration is a flow on top of current stocks, a better question might be about changing the stocks over time. Something like “would you trade U.S. demographics for something as close to Canadian demographics as possible without deporting U.S. citizens if the shift was to occur over two decades?” For the purpose of the question, let’s assume African Americans are like white Americans in native-ness or whatever to avoid the additional confounding of demographic differences that pre-dated the last century of policy. I’m guessing a few nativists would take this deal cold. And I’m guessing a significant portion of nativists would take this deal if they didn’t think they could get a better one. I think they are wrong in thinking they could get a better deal though, because of the land border with Mexico and dysfunctional U.S. government. It’s all kind of moot though because they aren’t even going to get a slight improvement from their perspective over the status quo because Democrats and half the Republican party but whatever.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @quanta413

            No disagreement that the US system is dysfunctional, for a whole bunch of reasons. Canada’s refugee/asylum system is probably our weakest point – understaffed and underfunded, which creates backlogs, and backlogs simultaneously hurt those who have a legitimate claim (by making then wait in limbo) and benefit those who don’t (by letting them wait in limbo). But it seems to me like the entire US system follows a similar pattern of having lots of bad incentives. Unfortunately, beyond geographic reasons, the parties are far more polarized on the issue than Canadian parties – it’s highly unlikely the Republicans are going to have anything like the Harper/Kenney combo to make the Republicans more attractive to immigrant voters/second generation immigrants. Anyone who might will probably get buried in the primaries like happened to poor Jeb!, most likely.

          • JonathanD says:

            People who want less immigration and think a Canadian-style points system is a way to do that (apologies if I’m misreading you here) – they/you do know that Canada takes in over 2x the per capita legal immigrants as the US does, right?

            Four days later and this thread is likely dead, but . . .

            I didn’t, but surely that could be tuned. I’m saying that I like the idea of treating immigration like an opportunity to recruit other countries’ best people and turn them fellow citizens. This seems much better than treating it like a prize for a lottery we’re running.

            It’s the approach I like. Once we decide on that, we can set the number we’re admitting for any given year based on needs of the moment.

          • JonathanD says:

            FFS. Don’t import a ruling class! Please! You just make vertical social movement that much more difficult for those already here. Import an upper class along with a lower class – it’s already harder for the lower classes to immigrate anyway, so you’ll still get a disparity in favor of so-called ‘merit’.

            Again, much too long in replying, but . . .

            I’m not clear on the problem here. If, over time, our country brings in the best and the brightest from around the world, in moderate numbers, how does that hurt us? Isn’t that how a bunch of the biggest companies we have got their start? Shouldn’t having better people resources benefit us?

          • we can set the number we’re admitting for any given year based on needs of the moment.

            You are making two assumptions, both false.

            The first is the philosopher king model of government–assuming that the decision is being made by a wise “we” who will decide on the optimal number of immigrants.

            The second is the assumption that needs are a simple matter of objective fact–one part of the mistaken assumption that leads to the idea that we would be better off if government decided how much of what was produced, so we wouldn’t foolishly waste our resources on things we don’t need.

            If, over time, our country brings in the best and the brightest from around the world, in moderate numbers, how does that hurt us?

            Who is “us?”

            If you are one of the current best and brightest, you might prefer not to have competitors come in and compete down your wages but might be delighted at having hard working poorly educated people come in who will mow your lawn and clean your house.

            If you are one of the current hard working and poorly educated, you might prefer not to have hard working, poorly educated foreigners come in and offer to do the same thing for less but be delighted at having best and brightest come in to spend part of their high income hiring you to mow their lawn or clean their house.

            You seem to think of people as a resource belonging to the collective rather than as a bunch of individuals, each with his own interests. If each person who comes in belongs to us, we might prefer, for a given number, to get the best and the brightest. If each of them belongs to himself and the best and brightest can expect to get paid accordingly, what I want is not to get the most valuable people into the country but the people most valuable to me–meaning ones whose abilities complement mine rather than substituting for mine.

            At a slight tangent … . On your view of things, why is it better to get one $80,000 person, however measured, than two $40,000 people? You mentioned companies. They don’t find that their optimal policy is to only hire the best (and most expensive) people.

    • cassander says:

      I don’t think the Republican party is even perceived to be anti atheist.

      The anti immigration set has a home in the party, but they don’t dominate it. Saying the Republican party is anti immigrant is as inaccurate as saying the Democratic party is pro single payer. and in any case, the electoral consequences of diving those people out of the party are far worse than keeping them.

      And while democrats often try to paint Republicans as anti entitlement, Republicans rarely do anything but expand entitlements, they just expand them more slowly than democrats, so that stance was sacrificed a long time ago.

      • meh says:

        I don’t think the Republican party is even perceived to be anti atheist.

        I think they are, unless there is some distinction you are making that I don’t think their members make; or perhaps some motte/bailey stance.

        http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/02/23/u-s-religious-groups-and-their-political-leanings/

        Either they are anti-atheist or atheists are anti them?

        • cassander says:

          it’s definitely that the racists are anti-them, not that they’re anti-atheist. Atheists aren’t a politically salient enough category to bother being against.

          • Evan Þ says:

            the racists

            Freudian typo?

          • cassander says:

            @Evan Þ

            damn autocorrect. Yeah, that should be “atheists”.

          • meh says:

            Atheists aren’t a politically salient enough category to be *for*, but are salient enough to be against. I.e. you wouldn’t want to court them, but your base likes being against them… I am somewhat surprised that there is any question about this… they just don’t bother thinking about atheists? Every other thing they shout about is about religion.

            Although, I guess I shouldn’t be that surprised… any comment I make here seems to automatically get a comment against it. I could say it is raining, and someone would tell me it wasn’t.

          • cassander says:

            @meh

            I am somewhat surprised that there is any question about this… they just don’t bother thinking about atheists?

            Yes.

            Every other thing they shout about is about religion

            It’s not, but being pro-religion is not the same thing as being anti-atheist.

            Although, I guess I shouldn’t be that surprised… any comment I make here seems to automatically get a comment against it.

            that’s sort of the point of this. What good would it do to you go somewhere where everyone agreed with you?

          • meh says:

            Thanks, I never though of it that way. On the other hand, maybe we only agree, or are willing to reason towards, some base ideas; and then can advance past that to other interesting ideas.

            The contrarian reflex is quite strong here.

          • Nick says:

            Although, I guess I shouldn’t be that surprised… any comment I make here seems to automatically get a comment against it. I could say it is raining, and someone would tell me it wasn’t.

            I have to point out cassander posted first, and you’re the one who posted to disagree with him. That post was not very persuasive; “I think they are” is not an argument, and the graph of party alignment may, as you acknowledged, be interpreted the exact opposite way. So don’t be surprised that cassander isn’t ready to reverse his position and agree with you.

          • rlms says:

            I’m not sure about the extent to which Republicans are anti-atheist, but I’m pretty sure anti-atheists are largely Republican.

            For some data on the first question, see here. White Evangelicals are overwhelmingly Republican AFAIK, and they rate atheists very unfavourably (only atheists’ attitudes towards them are more negative).

          • Deiseach says:

            they just don’t bother thinking about atheists? Every other thing they shout about is about religion.

            Religion in the context of some large culture war objectives (mainly abortion but also encompassing LGBT rights). Few to none are running on “atheism is evil and this guy is an atheist so he’s evil so don’t vote for him”, it’s more (a) real belief for a minority (b) appeal to general shared values for a greater part. Most experiences of atheism are on the level of “guy in the glossy magazines or one of those talking head shows sneering about us”. Nobody is out there protesting that Planned Parenthood are atheists out to spread atheism.

            They don’t care about your atheism, meh, because they are simply not aware of it.

          • rlms says:

            @Deiseach
            “Few to none are running on “atheism is evil and this guy is an atheist so he’s evil so don’t vote for him””

            At least one is. From the ease with which I found that example, I expect there are more.

          • meh says:

            @rlms
            That seems pretty atheism neutral to me. It is clearly just pro religion, and religious culture war, as is every other comment about atheism. Nobody really cares about atheism, only the billion things surrounding it.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            For the past four decades, the General Social Survey has asked a representative sample of Americans a battery of questions about whether people would support the rights of disliked groups — giving the examples of homosexuals, atheists, communists, militarists and racists

            / … /

            In generations past, evangelicals had low levels of support for unpopular speech rights; as of 2014, they nearly match nonevangelicals’ support for free speech.
            https://img.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/files/2017/12/lewis-1024×825.png

            Elite conservative advocacy has increasingly emphasized respect for the rights of others. And experimental survey results suggest that priming evangelicals to think about their own rights increases their political tolerance toward the groups they like least. For conservative Christians, claiming their own rights seems to lead to believing in extending rights to others.

            https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/12/05/abortion-taught-conservative-christians-to-argue-for-minority-rights-as-theyre-doing-today-in-masterpiece-cakeshop

          • Deiseach says:

            rlms, the guy is Jewish, and by one account the Jewish population of Texas is 0.6%. So by an appeal to “does not have the values you want to represent you in Austin”, are we to take it that he is appealing to Jewish voters? No? Then what kind of voters? Plainly voters who he can represent himself to as “sharing your values”. And what values are these?

            Well, the rest of his campaign letter is all about “we did this, that and the other for the state economy and we saved all this money”, so if I go by this, then what he thinks the voters really care about is a balanced state budget and money. Unless we’re going to go the stereotype of “Jews only care about money” and hence these are the values he thinks are important on a religious level, this looks more like he is using “she’s an atheist!” as a kind of desperate scramble to discourage likely voters from voting for her, not because he cares (or thinks the voters really care) about belief in God per se; otherwise his letter would be all theology and not finance.

            “She’s an atheist” is being used as short-hand for “she doesn’t share local values” and given that her Twitter account had the tags #Democrat #Bisexual #NativeAmerican #Latina, #Feminist #Activist, and one of her campaign proposals was “We live in a big state with a lot of women and to ensure their health care needs we will help fund Women’s health centers like Planned Parenthood”, I imagine this might not have been too far off the mark. I don’t know if Fort Worth is particularly politically/socially conservative and anyone who knows the particular district they were running in can correct me, but I’m going to make a wild guess here that the “as an atheist she doesn’t share our values” was a safe stand-in for the things he couldn’t say about race, sexual orientation, and gender. The constituents would have got the message, outsiders like us think it’s about “she is not a religious believer”.

          • meh says:

            Somehow the party is so extremely *neutral* atheist, that they can use ‘atheist’ as a stand in for multiple things they hate!
            Cool. Can you tell me what atheist is a stand in for in this?

            “Two guys break into an atheist’s home. He has a little atheist wife and two little atheist daughters. Two guys break into his home and tie him up in a chair and gag him. And then they take his two daughters in front of him and rape both of them and then shoot them and they take his wife and then decapitate her head off in front of him. And then they can look at him and say, ‘Isn’t it great that I don’t have to worry about being judged? Isn’t it great that there’s nothing wrong with this? There’s no right or wrong, now is it dude?’”

          • rlms says:

            @Deiseach
            I don’t think it’s necessarily relevant that Goldman is Jewish. I believe there’s a commenter here who says he would never vote for an atheist because he thinks politicians should be constrained by belief in some higher power (without regard for exactly which). It’s possible Goldman/his prospective voters are the same.

            But discounting that possibility, I think you can still call Goldman anti-atheist even if he’s only using “atheist” to represent a bundle of beliefs. I’d call the left-wingers who make general anti-Christian complaints anti-Christian, even if they would be perfectly happy with a Christian who thought Jesus was gay and would’ve supported Planned Parenthood.

          • Jiro says:

            Cool. Can you tell me what atheist is a stand in for in this?

            Scott covered this.. He thinks it’s perfectly fine because it’s just a thought experiment and hey, rationalists use thought experiments all the time without necessarily wanting them to happen.

            (Which of course is a case of Scott ignoring connotation and being too charitable.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I believe there’s a commenter here who says he would never vote for an atheist because he thinks politicians should be constrained by belief in some higher power (without regard for exactly which). It’s possible Goldman/his prospective voters are the same.

            Yes, which is not the same thing as being “anti-atheist.” I don’t have a problem with atheists in general, just the whole “power unrestricted by possibility of inescapable judgement” thing.

            For instance, many people may not want to vote for theocratic evangelicals like Roy Moore. That doesn’t make them “anti-religious.” Just “anti-extremely religious with power over them.”

            There are lots of character traits that are perfectly fine for normal people (like constant shitposting on twitter) but people don’t really want in a political leader.

          • meh says:

            Conrad, though there may a long list of things you hate more than atheists, that is very definitely anti-atheist.

          • Aftagley says:

            > “Yes, which is not the same thing as being “anti-atheist.” I don’t have a problem with atheists in general, just the whole “power unrestricted by possibility of inescapable judgement” thing. ”

            Interesting.

            How far would this extend for you in terms of needing the politicians to fear judgement? Would someone who was religious, but non-theistic (say a western buddhist) be “judged” enough for you?

            (rereading this, I’m worried this question sounds snarky. I’m honestly asking, any weirdness of language is unintentional.)

          • meh says:

            No, it is the same… substitute any other minority group, and you realize how insane this sounds.

            I would never vote for , but I’m not anti-them, and have no problem with them in general.

            Does that not sound ridiculous? Either I have gone insane, or the rest of this blog has.

          • Randy M says:

            Taboo “anti”

          • Nick says:

            Conrad, for as long as Catholics have held public offices in America there have been concerns that we’d be “taking orders from the pope” or that the obligations of our faith render us incapable of being, say, president or federal judge. Do you think your position generalizes to folks who wouldn’t vote for a Catholic or appoint one to federal judge? I ask because the Roy Moore example is a little too easy; the question is not whether you’d be strictly unwilling to vote for Richard Dawkins but whether you’d be strictly unwilling to vote for The Nice Atheist Next Door.

            meh,

            Literally no one at present is agreeing with Conrad. You are not the sole voice of reason.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Do you think your position generalizes to folks who wouldn’t vote for a Catholic or appoint one to federal judge?

            Certainly, and they are free to do that (well, not the “appoint one to federal judge” bit because that would be the government doing it, and there’s no religious test for government office allowed).

            I’m not really bothered by people hating Catholics (or not wanting Catholics to have political power). Remember they hated Jesus first.

            “We need to get religious nutters who talk to their sky fairy imaginary friend out of office and put in rational atheist people like us!” is a common enough sentiment, and I don’t think it’s invalid. I’m okay with having fingers wagged at me for having the opposite opinion.

          • rlms says:

            @Conrad Honcho
            I agree from the opposite perspective (in that I am sympathetic to not wanting religious politicians, but think that not wanting atheists is *valid*). But I’d happily call people who won’t vote for theists anti-religious.

          • Nick says:

            Hmm. Well, that’s consistent if nothing else. And you’re right that I’m confusing the question of a religious test for office in the case of appointing a federal judge. Regardless, I think that—rightly—you can’t escape the label of “anti-atheist” for that position, much as I don’t think Protestants who insist they’d never vote for a Catholic can escape the “anti-Catholic” label. It’s hardly as pernicious as what many folks have faced in the past in America, but it’s still prejudice, based as it is on a presumption about the atheist’s relationship to proper exercise of power.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Yes, which is not the same thing as being “anti-atheist.” I don’t have a problem with atheists in general, just the whole “power unrestricted by possibility of inescapable judgement” thing.

            The only absolute escape for an atheist in our political system is suicide. Anything else and you can be prosecuted or impeached.

            Since for atheists suicide is non-existence, absolute termination of all hopes and dreams that one has worked toward, why isn’t that seen as sufficient?

            A religious type at least believes that something better may come on the other side due to the righteousness of their actions. That’s an actual incentive to be (righteously) bad.

          • meh says:

            Conrad, nobody is wagging at your anti-atheist opinions, they are wagging at your opinion that they are somehow not anti-atheist.

            Nobody is saying people are not free to be anti-catholic. Nobody cares that it doesn’t bother you. We are just saying that it is obvious to call someone who is anti-catholic ‘anti-catholic’. You are bringing up completely tangential points.

          • Conrad, though there may a long list of things you hate more than atheists, that is very definitely anti-atheist.

            That’s one of several comments which all argue that not wanting to vote for an X, or to have an X do a particular job, qualifies as ‘anti-X.”

            That seems wrong to me. Suppose there is some religion X which implies that you should never tell a lie. Arguably, being a believer in that religion makes you better suited for some jobs and worse suited for others. If I believe that am I anti-X or pro-X?

            Suppose there are elected jobs of both sorts. I am against voting for an X for positions where being able to lie is an asset (diplomat, perhaps, supposing they were elected), prefer to vote for an X for positions were it is a liability. An I anti-X or pro-X.

            Someone put it in terms of prejudice, which is generally a negative term. But what if my “prejudice” is true?

            I like cooking. I like inviting lots of people for dinner parties. I would prefer not to invite orthodox Jews, Muslims, vegetarians or people with serious allergies, because if I do that restricts the range of what I can cook. Am I anti all of those? Is my preference a prejudice?

          • “We need to get religious nutters who talk to their sky fairy imaginary friend out of office and put in rational atheist people like us!” is a common enough sentiment, and I don’t think it’s invalid. I’m okay with having fingers wagged at me for having the opposite opinion.

            I mostly fall into Conrad’s camp. I am an atheist, and I would slightly favor an atheist candidate over a religious one. Religious people take faith as a positive value, while I believe it is at most a necessary evil. Therefore, it seems to me that an atheist candidate is more likely to be rational. So I would take an atheist candidate over a religious one, all else being equal. Not that I’ve ever had the chance to vote for anyone who admitted to being an atheist.

            At the risk of putting words in Conrad’s mouth, I suspect he’d vote for an atheist over a terrible religious candidate. Although in the US, he never has to make such a choice.

          • meh says:

            Yes David, all of your prejudices are just true.

            ..are we just practicing debate skills here?

          • Nornagest says:

            Beats practicing snarky one-liners.

          • meh says:

            me… you… ?? I don’t understand.

            Practicing debate skills means not actually believing your comments, but just having a desire to argue against something.

            Or he thinks it is impossible to be anti-atheist, because prejudices against them are true.

          • Anonymous says:

            @meh

            Debate gets much more pleasant when you realize you will not convince the person you’re speaking to, and cease trying, but rather aim to convince the non-participating audience.

          • meh says:

            Well, I guess cassander proved he was right for at least 4 people.

      • Nornagest says:

        You could make a better case for anti-atheism back in the Nineties and early 2000s, when the predominant stereotype of the GOP was that it was basically a fundie institution. That stereotype hasn’t fully died out, but I don’t think it’s nearly as ubiquitous as it once was; the stereotypes that replaced it are no kinder, but they don’t carry the same religious valence. Either way, I don’t think anyone was ever much concerned for protecting the poor atheists: they were much more interested in women, gay people, and, after 9/11, Muslims.

        The GOP is still widely perceived as pro-fundie, and that’s probably enough to make some New Atheist types feel oppressed by it, but there are like six of those guys left these days and they weren’t running the Left even when their ideas were much more important.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          FWIW, that’s the impression I get as an outsider. Back in the Bush era there was a not-insignificant part of the Republican Party (at least in terms of visibility; I’m not sure how numerically important they were) which equated “America” with “Christianity” and saw atheists as a threat to the country’s values. Over the last decade or so, however, other culture war issues like gay marriage and immigration have become more salient, and any current anti-atheism has more to do with the fact that atheists are statistically more likely to be social liberals than with atheism per se.

          • Viliam says:

            Political alliances can change. For example, if Democrats would decide that atheism is islamophobic and therefore racist, Republicans could become a party of Christians and atheists.

            This may seem weird now, but if it happens, then it will simply become the new normal, and some rationalizations for the new status quo will be made up (e.g. that Christianity and atheism are the traditional American values).

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Post-Christianity: a traditional American value since Benjamin Franklin became a deist?

          • Nick says:

            Thomas Paine is probably an even better example.

          • Aapje says:

            @Viliam

            Is it any more weird than small government types and those who like farm subsidies both (usually) voting Republican?

      • Chalid says:

        I think a lot of this is the Cold War – as the more stridently anti-Communist party Republicans also were anti-atheistic. After the Cold War ended Communism became less important and so did attitudes toward atheism.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      Let’s say “long-term” means “20-40 years.”

      Well, certainly not anti-atheism. It’s possible to imagine a future in which anti-atheism is a big electoral negative, but such a future is a long way off.

      I’d say probably anti-immigration. Anti-entitlement is possible, especially if we do move fairly rapidly into large-scale structural unemployment due to automation — but such a future in such a timeframe is by no means guaranteed, and getting from the current stance to a pro-entitlement stance without fracturing the party is not uncomplicated.

      Meanwhile, immigration is in the here and now, and has been in the here-and-recently. We might imagine a future where being anti-immigration was less of a big deal because either immigration had slowed markedly or immigrants and immigrant-sympathizing groups had been thoroughly disenfranchised, but again, such a future is not guaranteed. Current trends are to make anti-immigration more and more costly, I think.

      • Ttar says:

        What if we expand “atheism” to “irreligious?” Lack of religion is exploding, even if positive identification with the label atheism isn’t. And atheists would mostly argue that marking your religion are “none” is verging on the definition of being an atheist, in some ways. Even getting 50% of the 3-5% of the population who explicitly rejects God and religion would be a significant bump in a world where elections are decided by a couple of percentage points.

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          I’d argue that conservatives are already not particularly anti-irreligious. Indeed, a good test for the difference between being irreligious and being atheist is probably whether you feel particularly bothered by the religious sentiments of the conservative wing of the country.

        • Deiseach says:

          What if we expand “atheism” to “irreligious?”

          I would still contend that in an American context, “lack of religion” does not equate to “irreligious”. That’s why public civic religion expressions use “God” or even “Heavenly Father” rather than “Jesus” for invocations on public occasions (like Obama in speeches signing off with “God bless America”); “Jesus” is specifically Christian, “God” is vague and broad enough to cover everything from Hinduism to Judaism to Christianity to whatever deity or deities you believe in yourself. A lot of the “none” respondents on surveys mean “I’m not a member of any particular church, I don’t attend Sunday services, it’s me and my personal relationship with Jesus”. Or they are the “spiritual not religious” types who, if they are better off, can afford to take up fads in meditation practices, Buddhism for Westerners, or the kind of red-thread kabbalism that was such a craze amongst celebrities a while back; the less well-off will have card readings online, watch psychics on TV, and do things like burning incense for luck and cleansing. A lot of superstition, boutique spiritualities, pick’n’mix practices drawing from paganism (or what they imagine paganism was), various non-Christian religious traditions, and whatever appeals to them re: charms, icons, small rituals and so forth.

          I think few of the “nones” are actual atheists/agnostics who have thought about it, a lot of them are merely unconnected, raised in non-religious families, or vaguely drifting without being pro- or against religion.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I think you overestimate the popularity of immigration. And I think Democrats have turned it into some kind of moral issue, when for most people it’s a practical issue. Are these people competing with me for jobs? Are they committing crimes? Terrorism? Are they integrating into society? Are these people I want to eventually give votes and thereby political power over me to? But the message I get from the Democrats really has nothing to do with whether bringing in new people is good or bad for the current citizens, but is all about how nice the immigrants are and how only bad people would ever want to stop anyone from coming here for any reason and you want to be a good person, don’t you? If you shake off that weird slave morality, then the only strong pro-immigration folks are businesses (who don’t have that many votes) and the immigrants themselves, who (hopefully) can’t vote.

        • If you shake off that weird slave morality, then the only strong pro-immigration folks are businesses (who don’t have that many votes) and the immigrants themselves, who (hopefully) can’t vote.

          And libertarians and economists. Also not that many votes.

        • DavidS says:

          Does ‘weird slave morality’ just mean ‘altruism beyond nationstate’ here?

          Also you list ‘practical’ things that are all negative and then say pro-immigration ‘really’ has nothing to do with practicalities. But you could very easily make the reverse argument, and say people ask ‘might they create jobs? Useful goods and services? Become much needed nurses or doctors?’ And that opposition isnt really about impact but opponents are really just bigots.

          • quanta413 says:

            Isn’t Christianity a “slave morality”? Maybe he means it’s a weird form of Christian morality. I actually wouldn’t be opposed to this description of the sort of empty progressivism that serves as an agreed baseline since that’s intellectually and culturally part of where it descended from. I mean “empty” in the sense that (A) I find it probably a step backward from a lot of previous moral theories and (B) I don’t think many people actually hold that explicit belief set, it’s more like the intersection of agreed upon things of a large collection of political allies. Any real individual will typically have a more full set of beliefs but it may conflict politically with the larger group so those beliefs become “private” instead.

          • Nornagest says:

            “Slave morality” is a Nietzsche thing. I’m oversimplifying like crazy here, and Nietzsche was so oblique and aphoristic that any three readers of him are going to have five interpretations, but it roughly means a morality rooted in what he called ressentiment: weakness, oppression, resentment of strength, egalitarian or leveling impulses. It tends to be universalist and deontological, as opposed to master morality which is individualistic and virtue-ethical. It tends to emphasize altruism more, but it’s not defined by it: the stuff he classified as “master morality” often placed great emphasis on generosity, for example, but as a means of ennobling the giver, not as a means of lifting up the recipients. YMMV on how accurately this actually represents the evolution of ethics; personally I suspect he’s capturing one strain of Christian and subsequent ethics pretty well, but ignoring some equally valid strains and getting pre-Christian ethics very wrong.

            Nietzsche was mainly trying to describe the impulses behind Christian morality, but I think he’d have classified most of its ideological descendants the same way.

          • DavidS says:

            Sorry, I am (somewhat) familiar with Nietzsche. Just seemed an odd usage and also tbh odd to take Nietzsche’s model as if it was some sort of shared given

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            There are some Christians who do what I’d call a “slave morality” (and yes I was borrowing the term from Nietzsche), but I don’t think that’s a good interpretation of Christianity. I think it’s more common in the Democrat/left/social justice mindset than Christians.

            There are plenty of critics of Christianity who will accuse Christians of hypocrisy for not giving away all their possessions to the poor, or “if the Catholic Church really cared about poor people they’d sell the Vatican and give away the money! Checkmate, papists!”

            But Jesus said to treat others the way you would want to be treated. Would I want my neighbor to be my slave? To work for me to his own detriment, and to give me things he can’t afford to give, or would deprive his family of? No. I would want him to help me, where he could, if I needed help. But otherwise his first duties are to God and to his family. I’ll treat him that way and I’d like him to treat me that way.

            Aquinas describe the concentric circles of duty: my wife before my cousin, my cousin before my neighbor, my neighbor before the stranger. You still absolutely have a duty to help the stranger, but not so much that you’re failing your duty to your wife, cousin, or neighbor.

            An extreme example of this self-abnegating slave morality would be the Swedish man who was raped by a male refugee but who didn’t want to report the incident because he didn’t want the refugee deported or negative media attention brought to refugees/immigrants. This elevation of the hostile stranger over all other duties is not compatible with long-term civilization. Eventually the Giving Tree is just a stump.

    • Anonymous says:

      Which do you think is more dangerous to the long-term electoral prospects of the right wing coalition in the U.S.?

      What’s long? 25 years? 50? 250? 500?

      1. Anti-immigration stance

      This is severely unlikely to go, given that immigrants are not right-wing clients. The only motive I can think of is betrayal at the top, by people who stand to profit personally from said immigration.

      2. Anti-entitlement stance

      This will probably go eventually, as nationalism rises in fervor. It’ll probably get cut whenever said coalition begins to think that cutting welfare is going to hurt their enemies more than it’ll hurt them.

      3. Anti-atheist stance

      I doubt it. The High Atheists are highly placed in the left-wing coalition, and the Low Atheists are left-wing clients.

      • Ttar says:

        What about people like David Rubin? Or Sam Harris’s right wing flirtations? Or Moldbug? Plenty of potential atheist clients of the right, just being driven away currently by (perceived) hostility in the coalition.

        Agreed that in the 25-75 years I should have defined as long term, immigration restriction is going to probably draw more votes than.it loses.

        • Anonymous says:

          People like those (the examples you give are High Atheists) make up a drop in the ocean of votes. The Low Atheists are a worthwhile target, because there’s a lot of them, but they’re in the enemy camp because of welfare, and they’re not going to stop being in the enemy camp so long as the left-wing coalition favours welfare.

          • Nornagest says:

            Could you expand on “Low Atheists” here? I thought I had an idea of what you meant when I read the ancestor, but the link to welfare doesn’t make sense to me.

          • Anonymous says:

            Roughly, Low Atheists are the folks who put ‘no religion’ on the census, rather than ‘atheist’. Where High Atheists are mostly law-abiding, successful people, Low Atheists tend to be lower class and more criminal than average.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m not sure you’re right about that. I haven’t been able to find the kind of fine-grained data that would let me conclusively disprove it, but if you browse Pew’s religious affiliation data, you find that affiliation with “none” tracks roughly with “atheist/agnostic”, and that both are common in the smaller Northeastern states. If “none”s were a lower-class thing, I’d expect them instead to be common in the big urban centers but rare in the less urbanized parts of New England.

            You see a similar pattern if you look at the urban centers themselves: Detroit’s rates of religious Nones are only slightly higher than Houston or DFW and much lower than SF and Seattle. (Atheist/agnostic affiliation in Detroit, on the other hand, is roughly twice that in Houston or DFW.) Same goes for Baltimore.

            “None” is probably capturing a lot of things, but I’d expect one of the big ones to be the spiritual-but-not-religious crowd — which is very distinctly Blue.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nornagest: have you seen the Mitchell & Webb sketch where a very conservative Anglican vicar talks down to a couple of rich Blue Brits?
            It’s amazing.

          • Nick says:

            I once recited that entire sketch from memory in an empty restaurant in Pennsylvania. Good times.

          • Nornagest says:

            @Le Maistre Chat, Original Mr. X —

            That’s great.

        • Deiseach says:

          So you’re saying that those people would happily flip to the Republicans once the fundamentalists were dropped? “Great, now all that bleeding-heart religious tripe about the poor and protecting all lives even the least of these is dumped, we can get started on the kinds of tough decisions that need to be made to weed out the low IQ and useless eaters”?

          I don’t think so.

          • Ttar says:

            I think the argument is that if GOP leaders and media outlets took a more conciliatory tone with potentially-reactionary atheists (left-libertarians, deprecation, etc) they could potentially expand without having to also alienate fundamentalists.

      • Anonymous says:

        I derped on #2. “cutting welfare is going to hurt their enemies more than it’ll hurt them”->”supporting welfare will draw more support from their base than it helps the opposite side retain their clients”.

    • John Schilling says:

      Probably anti-entitlement. The three biggest voting blocks in the “right wing coalition” are now the geezers, the WWC precariat, and the evangelicals. The evangelicals are ideologically opposed to entitlements in general, but not usually averse to taking advantage of them personally. The other two groups, are each practically addicted to two of the three biggest entitlement programs contemporary US – Social Security, Medicare, and Obamacare. The right can nibble at the trivial entitlement programs, but that won’t give them the enthusiasm they need and when they touch one of the big three – well, we’ve just seen them try to take down Obamacare and look how well that’s working for them. Look how well it worked for Bush the Younger to try to reform Social Security.

      Anti-immigrant positions, handled badly, could cost them some middle-class hispanic citizens who might otherwise be a better fit for the GOP than the Democratic Party, which isn’t a trivial matter, but probably not as big as the above

      Anti-atheist is irrelevant because atheists who would ever be willing to join a right-wing coalition are a trivial irrelevance and likely will be for the foreseeable future. Agnostics and the generically non-religious are more common, but this isn’t the 1980s when the GOP tried to make “secular humanist” a dirty word. If evangelicals will vote for Donald Trump because he supports them on key object-level issues and says the right pacifying code words, I’m guessing Ted Cruz will have the words to pacify agnostics who support his object-level positions.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Of those, it’s the anti-entitlement stance, but since they seem to be unable to put it in practice anyway, it’s not that big an issue. There aren’t enough committed atheists to worry about, and there’s probably more who strongly care about the issue who would like to curtail immigration than open it up.

      The biggest danger to it is simply that politics follows culture and the cultural mainstream is nearly completely captured by the left wing. If it becomes further anathema to support anyone to the right of Hillary Clinton, they’ll lose more votes. Second biggest danger is demographic shift to left-wing groups.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        Yeah, this follows my thinking pretty closely. Followed through to their logical conclusion, the GOP policies on entitlements would damage their political base enough to make them unelectable. However, the GOP cannot get on board to actually IMPLEMENT these massive entitlement cuts. The last GOP government passed Med Part D, putting things in the opposite direction.

        This might change as the Millennials gather more power, though, as the Millennials want to EXPAND the entitlement programs, not merely avoid cuts.

        The anti-immigration stance might be an issue in the short and medium-term because it pattern matches to “racist.” However, the vast majority of Americans want to keep immigration steady or reduce it. Increasing immigration is a small position. This will probably play out in the GOP’s favor over the long-run.

    • You might think that anti-immigration is dangerous to the right because the country is going through demographic change, but if America becomes minority white and majority Hispanic, it’s extremely likely that we’ll see the end of the existing party system and turn over to the next two big parties, as happened in the past. From the perspective of the Republican Party then, anti-immigration is a way of preserving the existence of their party, because it would be a totally unrecognizable party if the culture south of the border becomes the new culture of the USA. There’s also the possibility that a harsh enough Republican administration could actually enact the measures the base wants on immigration.

      I think the anti-entitlement stance is the most dangerous to their long term electoral prospects, because automation is going to cause permanent mass unemployment. Extrapolating out, any party that refuses to support basic income or a negative income tax or some similar universal solution is going to fall by the way side, and unlike immigration, there’s no way to keep automation from advancing, short of massive regulatory restrictions that Republicans wouldn’t be in favor of anyway.

      • Mary says:

        Hispanics are turning white just as previous generations of immigrants — Irish, Italian, Slavonic — became white. You might as well observe that we were no longer majority white after the 19th century.

        • Jiro says:

          Hispanics do not end up voting the same as existing white voters do.

        • Anonymous says:

          @Mary

          It has been observed, and not just by me, that the USA is no longer majority Anglo. Many Hispanics are mostly white, but ‘white’ is not the only important distinction unless you are Richard Spencer.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            ???
            Is being Anglo a genetic thing? To me, white people who lost Spanish, German, etc. as a mother tongue and black people whode families aren’t recent immigrants count.

          • Anonymous says:

            All behavioural traits are heritable. Changing language is very little. Even assimilating into the local culture won’t usually make a person of one heritage into someone near-local in behaviour and demeanor.

          • dndnrsn says:

            In Canada, at least, “Anglo” means “speaks English as a first language; is white”, depending on how much Quebecois identity hangs together, it might even just mean “speaks English as a first language” someday.

          • Obelix says:

            dndnrsn:

            In Canada, at least, “Anglo” means “speaks English as a first language; is white”

            I don’t know about “anglo”, but to me an English Canadian doesn’t even need to speak English as a first language, so long as they are culturally integrated in the English Canadian nation. And trust me, the Quebec identity is very likely to keep “hanging together” as you say.

      • Aapje says:

        @Forward Synthesis

        Entitlements may not actually satisfy many of the mass unemployed, because they base their self-worth on employment, independence of the government, self-reliance, etc.

        I fear that the US especially and other countries to a (slightly) lesser extent have painted themselves in the corner, where the values that were pushed onto people and/or were already part of their culture for a long time, make them not accept or even able to handle a UBI. I think that a UBI can only work if we have a culture where people earn status by volunteer work, so they won’t just sit in front of the TV all day or such.

        Even if we ignore the transitional problems of moving towards an UBI, the end state may require major cultural change, where we fundamentally upend the value system of many people, in a way that Democrats have not been able to do for many people for the last centuries/decades*.

        One scenario is that this will change and that many voters will shift to supporting Democrats, but perhaps an even more likely scenario is that people will start to demand a solution that is compatible with their value system, which may be impossible. So these people may then become very susceptible to radicals that promise the impossible, as many people were very susceptible to fascism and communism in the early 20th century.

        * If anything, Democrats have been alienating these people, with ‘deplorables’ and ‘they cling to guns or religion,’ which just reminds these people of their failure to succeed within their value system. It feels like empathy and concern to those who see a victim status as recognition of needs and a failure of the system, but merely as an attack to those who see a victim status as personal failure.

        • Randy M says:

          I share your concerns about welfare and self-worth.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          but perhaps an even more likely scenario is that people will start to demand a solution that is compatible with their value system, which may be impossible.

          I could see something like a modern day Amish movement, or the city of New Athens in Childhood’s End (miniseries version).

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          You can paint a wage subsidy to look an awful lot like people still providing for themselves. I’m not sure how far you can take it, but you could, at the least, make their jobs tax free while still paying into their SS credits.

  5. baconbits9 says:

    The most wrong thing I heard today was Bret Weinstein on the Joe Rogan Podcast (episode 1006) stating that in a free market in a competition between a person constrained by morals and an unconstrained person (all other things being equal I would presume) that the unconstrained person must out compete the constrained person as the would learn the immoral avenues to earning more money and would exploit them while having access to all the moral avenues as well. This is wrong for three primary reasons (and probably a bunch of secondary ones as well).

    1. Weinstein ignores the size of the punishment for immoral behavior as a factor. He argues that the immoral actor will learn what activities and immoral actions aren’t being policed and maneuver into those. What he doesn’t mention is that learning process will lead to him being caught in avenues that are being policed. The assumption that he will eventually get to the point where he can exploit his knowledge of the weaknesses in the system is based on the assumption that profit from these areas will exceed the costs of learning. It is very easy for such an immoral businessman to end up dead, imprisoned or financially ruined relatively early in the game, or starting from miles behind after early attempts failed more frequently than the moral one. In short the costs of getting caught have to be accounted for.

    2. A presumption of super powers is given to the immoral man, without justification. What super powers? The ability to flip back and forth between expert execution of differing strategies. The moral participant only has to become an expert in the constrained set of moral actions, while the immoral has to learn and demonstrate expertise across both. You cannot just assume that a man with the same personality traits as another could match him in a game with half of the experience. You wouldn’t look at a 2 sport athlete and that he was hitting his maximum potential in both.

    3. The assumption that the immoral man has avenues that the moral man doesn’t, while the moral man has no such recourse is actually incorrect. The moral man has one advantage over the immoral, and that is pointing out to his clients that they are being fleeced*. Even indirect jabs work, in our current not perfectly free system you have companies that advertise their transparency, which is a contrast between their behavior and their competitors.

    *technically the immoral man can lie and accuse the moral man of the same thing, but that accusations should carry less weight and more risk.

    • Randy M says:

      As to 1, are you assuming that every immoral yet advantageous action will be made illegal? Or are you referring to extra-legal punishment? I wonder if the person you are responding to presumes that a market is unfree to the extent that immoral actions are punished.

      • baconbits9 says:

        The assumption that Weinstein started with was in a free market, and that any punishments were market based (iirc he specifically used the phrase ‘without regulation).

      • Mary says:

        There are punishments that do not require the intervention of law, and if your argument is really that a free market requires that force and fraud not be punished — it would likewise require that merchants who band together to kill, imprison, or financially ruin those who use force and fraud not be punished.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      1) A) People learn from other people’s experience.
      B) At the margin it’s ‘better’ to be slightly immoral (law abiding) than to be fully moral (law abiding), as the general punishment for first time offenders is often a warning – and then only if the offense can be proven, even in society (“boys will be boys”, ‘I made a mistake yet admitting it brings me closer to god’).

      2) The immoral man doesn’t have to be an expert in the moral, he merely has to convince the arbiters that what he did isn’t so bad and that he has “learned his lesson”. Whereas the moral man generally isn’t going around trying to convince anyone of his morality, and thus has a lack in trying to convince the arbiter that what the immoral man did is worthy of punishment. Socializing the convincing may help or hurt, it depends on how many voices jump onto either side of the argument.

      3) The immoral man is also selling to other immoral men along with the moral men. Plenty of people want to jump on a ponzi scheme early on despite knowing it’s a ponzi scheme. And plenty of others are willing to be blinded out of avarice. And don’t miss out on the likes of the surname effect.

      Edit to add: The legal system must navigate through a bunch of moral systems, while people are constrained by the system they personally hold to. Thus moral people are more constrained than the legal system requires, while immoral people may well be within the letter of the law, and at any rate are within the moral bounds of enough other people so as to not alienate everyone.

      • baconbits9 says:

        At the margin it’s ‘better’ to be slightly immoral (law abiding) than to be fully moral (law abiding), as the general punishment for first time offenders is often a warning – and then only if the offense can be proven, even in society (“boys will be boys”, ‘I made a mistake yet admitting it brings me closer to god’).

        This only works in specific circumstances. If later mistakes will be punished more harshly for people with a prior record than those without you can very easily build a model in which minor offenses are really not worth it as a mistake later will cause the long term repercussions to vastly outweigh the benefits.

        1) A) People learn from other people’s experience.

        This cuts both ways, if there are more moral successful people (which is what you would probably expect) then it is easier to copy the moral model, where as the immoral model is filled with failures which show only a fraction of the needed information AND the immoral success will be more willing to use violence or other means to keep you out of their domains.

        2) The immoral man doesn’t have to be an expert in the moral, he merely has to convince the arbiters that what he did isn’t so bad and that he has “learned his lesson”.

        To do as well as the moral man in the moral realm he has to be as much of an expert in negotiating these relationships. You can posit that the value of being immoral exceeds the costs of not having as much expertise, but you still have to account for that loss. You cannot simply say that immoral man = moral man in venue X and > in venue Y. To say otherwise is to ignore the aspects of competence related to experience, and the rest of his model explicitly lies on the immoral persons ability to learn what actions can be gotten away with. By making one person dynamic and one static he creates a false equivalence.

        Whereas the moral man generally isn’t going around trying to convince anyone of his morality, and thus has a lack in trying to convince the arbiter that what the immoral man did is worthy of punishment.

        All you have to do is convince the consumer (who could be viewed as an arbiter) that you are more moral than the other guy, which is going to be an easier task when the facts actually line up that way. This is a significant advantage that can prevent the immoral actor from both going very far in the immoral direction while still being able to participate in the areas that are policed.

        Finally what was wrong about his position was that he stated that the immoral man WOULD out compete the moral man. Now you can create the framework where the immoral man will out compete by making these effects small, but that is a much weaker claim, and wasn’t the one made.

        • Aapje says:

          Now you can create the framework where the immoral man will out compete by making these effects small, but that is a much weaker claim, and wasn’t the one made.

          But it is an advantage on the margins. The person who acts 1% more immorally than others has a comparative advantage and in situations where it’s winner takes all or partly that, a 1% comparative advantage leads to much more than a 1% benefit.

          The issue is not so much that a single person makes this choice, but that you get a collective movement towards the new norm, as those who do are more likely to succeed and those who don’t are more likely to fail. So if the benefit of immoral behavior is substantial, then more moral behavior becomes the outlier. These outliers then tend to be ‘punished’ by the market and may even be punished by the less moral actors to defend their racket.

          So acting morally might not even be an option at that point, when you cannot succeed while acting morally.

          Furthermore, a 1% deviation from the norm is relatively safe, especially for white collar crime, because there tends to be a lot of sympathy with minor transgressions with no clear victim.

          Basically, it’s smart to be Jerry del Missier*, but foolish to be Bernie Madoff.

          * COO of Barclays who admitted to instructing his subordinates to submit falsified LIBORs, but who was not charged, but merely had to resign and got millions in deferred bonuses after resigning. He has started a new company.

          • baconbits9 says:

            But it is an advantage on the margins. The person who acts 1% more immorally than others has a comparative advantage and in situations where it’s winner takes all or partly that, a 1% comparative advantage leads to much more than a 1% benefit.

            You have only discussed benefits and ignored costs. Imagine an extremely punitive society where minor transgressions are reacted to harshly when caught, being 1% less moral would put at risk of ruin frequently. In winner take all situations (which are rare) you also have massive incentives to uncover your competitions misdeeds.

            So acting morally might not even be an option at that point, when you cannot succeed while acting morally.

            It might be, but you have made like 50 unspoken assumptions to get there. It is an enormous leap from “this situation an immoral man would out compete a moral one” to “in a free market an immoral man definitely out competes a moral one.”

            Basically, it’s smart to be Jerry del Missier*, but foolish to be Bernie Madoff

            It’s even smarter to be Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, or a google founder. Of course this argument doesn’t work in either direction since we don’t live under the assumed conditions.

          • Aapje says:

            Imagine an extremely punitive society

            My perception and that of seemingly quite a few people, is that we live in a society that is selectively punitive and selectively permissive.

            Just look at Jerry del Missier. It is quite possible that he benefited quite a bit from his immorality, while his punishment is minimal and quite plausibly smaller than his immorality won him (although neither the costs or benefits can be calculated accurately, but that we cannot declare with high likelihood that the benefit was smaller than the punishment shows that he was not subjected to extreme punishment).

            In winner take all situations (which are rare) you also have massive incentives to uncover your competitions misdeeds.

            I think that they are a lot less rare than you think, especially if you include situations that are partially so (in other words, where the benefit of being a relatively small outlier is disproportionate).

            Uncovering misdeeds is also merely advantageous if:
            – you actually have strong evidence
            – the impact of the misdeeds is clear
            – society is sufficiently punitive, so the costs of transgressing is greater than the benefits
            – the number of transgressors is small enough that you don’t just keep losing out to other transgressors that you cannot uncover

            Again, the recent financial crisis failed for all of these. The evidence generally became available after the crash, people only saw the actual costs of the behavior (and cared sufficiently) after the crash, punishment was light and the number of transgressors was large. So bankers could choose to act immorally before the crisis and be greatly rewarded before and mildly punished after; or choose to act morally, losing out before the crisis and probably not benefiting afterwards.

            I don’t really see the incentive for moral behavior there…

            You have only discussed benefits and ignored costs. […] being 1% less moral would put at risk of ruin frequently.

            BTW: Have you considered the possibility that being (far) more moral may put people at risk of ruin as well? It seems far wiser to be a fraudster than a whistle-blower. The former actually has a decent chance of riches and probably a far smaller chance of ruin than the latter.

            In general, our society seems to reward erring on the side of immorality (which is not the same as illegality, btw).

            It is an enormous leap from “this situation an immoral man would out compete a moral one” to “in a free market an immoral man definitely out competes a moral one.”

            Well, I disagree with the blanket statement, but I do think that in many cases the a- or immoral will out compete the moral person.

            It’s certainly very hard to make a case against moderate immorality. I don’t think that most people are capable of distinguishing moderate immorality from morality; or even worse, they may actually see moderate immorality as better. For example, people seem to see a lack of sexism in favor of women as sexism against women.

            Lots of highly scrupulous and moral people who act more immoral find that they have far greater success in life, as they then do what most normal people do naturally (but deceive themselves about).

            It’s even smarter to be Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, or a google founder.

            That is not a fair comparison, as those people have exceptional skills. The argument that immorality can provide a strong comparative advantage doesn’t mean that there are no other ways to gain a strong comparative advantage. Doping + me doesn’t beat Lance Armstrong, but Lance Armstrong + doping does beat Lance Armstrong without doping.

            Even if natural talent is crucial to be a top cyclist and doping merely provides a 5% boost, then that 5% can put Lance ahead of the other cyclists to win, while the more moral with similar talent gets stuck with 3rd place with far lower rewards.

          • baconbits9 says:

            My perception and that of seemingly quite a few people, is that we live in a society that is selectively punitive and selectively permissive.

            The example was not “this society” it was under a free market.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Uncovering misdeeds is also merely advantageous if:

            No, uncovering misdeeds in a free market is advantageous if it gains you market share in some way.

            I don’t really see the incentive for moral behavior there…

            well you keep talking about a different situation, so, yeah?

          • Aapje says:

            You keep refusing to address the specific example(s) I give or address the obvious injustices that exist in reality. Instead, you seem to have blind faith that the ‘free market’ provides justice.

            I’m not seeing an actual argument why this would be the case.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I’m not addressing them because they aren’t relevant. I have specifically stated several times that what is incorrect about the position is the logical conclusion that the immoral man must eventually out compete the moral one in a free market. I have not once stated that a free market must provide the opposite outcome (unless I have typed something very badly) either.

            Finally I am never going to concede that an example of an immoral actor succeeding in a heavily regulated market is somehow an indictment of how he would have preformed in a free market setting.

          • I think the critical question here is how easy it is to lie about your utility function. If it is just as easy to convince people that you are moral when you are not as when you are, then being moral is an additional constraint and reduces your expected return.

            But consider that all of are giving a running commentary on the inside of our heads in facial expressions, voice tones, gestures. In order to appear to be moral when you are not, you have to be running two processes in real time–one to figure out what you would be thinking if you were the person you are pretending to be, one to figure out how to act given the person you actually are. Doing that successfully is hard.

            Given that most people cannot do it, being moral has a sizable benefit–your employer doesn’t have to spend as much effort watching you to make sure you are not stealing from him, your spouse doesn’t have to spend as much effort watching you to be sure you are not cheating on her (or him). In the simple case where your utility function is public knowledge and all interactions are voluntary, being moral, defined for my purposes as maximizing the summed welfare of everyone you interact with, is profitable–because the benefit of associating with you feeds back to you in the terms people are willing to offer to associate with you.

            All of which I discuss in more detail in a chapter in the third edition of Machinery and I think also in Hidden Order.

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            You are assuming duplicity, but my perception is that many/most people who choose to act immorally rationalize their immorality. So if their moral system M forbade X at time T, but they choose to do X at time T+1, their moral system at time T+1 is not M and a separate moral system N which allows for X. Instead, it is M’, which is a modified version of M that has incorporated the rationalization for X.

            I do accept the claim that M’ is generally more internally inconsistent, but pretty much all people seem to have internally inconsistent moral systems, which they generally seem to cope with better than with an internally consistent moral system (which is inflexible and otherwise has major downsides).

            So your objection does not persuade me (or I rationalize it away 😛 ).

            Also, let me quote from this paper:

            In scientific studies concerning the detection of deception, observers are typically given videotaped or audiotaped statements from a number of people who are either lying or telling the truth. After each statement, observers are asked to judge whether the statement is true or false. In a review of all the literature available at the time, Kraut (1980) found an accuracy rate (percentage of correct answers) of 57%, which is a low score because 50% accuracy can be expected by chance alone. (Guessing whether someone is lying or not gives a 50% chance of being correct.) Vrij (2000a) reviewed an additional 39 studies that were published after 1980 (the year of Kraut’s publication) and found an almost identical accuracy rate of 56.6%. In a minority of studies, accuracy in detecting lies was computed separately from accuracy in detecting truth. Where this did occur, results showed a truth bias; that is, judges are more likely to consider that messages are truthful than deceptive and, as a result, truthful messages are identified with relatively high accuracy (67%) and deceptive messages with relatively low accuracy (44%). In fact, 44% is below the level of chance, and people would be more accurate at detecting lies if they simply guessed. One explanation for the truth bias is that in daily life, most people are more often confronted with truthful than with deceptive statements and so are therefore more inclined to assume that the behavior they observe is honest (the so-called availability heuristic; O’Sullivan, Ekman, & Friesen, 1988).

            So average people/students seem extremely bad at recognizing lies and seem to have a substantial bias to believe lies. This suggests that moderate immorality is beneficial to the self-interests of a person, when the profit of the lie and the cost of being found out are identical.

            In the simple case where your utility function is public knowledge and all interactions are voluntary, being moral, defined for my purposes as maximizing the summed welfare of everyone you interact with, is profitable–because the benefit of associating with you feeds back to you in the terms people are willing to offer to associate with you.

            Except that being overly moral makes you a danger to people, because you may then rat on them when they commit minor transgressions. Furthermore, you become less useful as a co-conspirator.

            It seems to me that when my level of morality is (arbitrary number) 5, I’d generally prefer to deal with people who have a very similar level of morality, not people who are at 0 or 10.

            Being scolded by a teacher on the playground for telling on rule-breaking kids was a major sobering experience for me, back when I was little. It showed me that people don’t actually favor maximum morality or rule-following, but a system that favors effective cooperation.

            A certain level of immorality is arguably quite beneficial to effective human cooperation and we would have a worse outcome if people acted more morally based on strict rules. After all, people are not really that good at estimating externalities and such, so their strict rules will probably cause more accidental harm than what moderate selfishness prevents.

          • @Aapje: The fact that someone usually cannot recognize a lie in one taped statement by a stranger does not mean that he cannot tell whether someone he has had substantial real space interaction with is accurately representing his morality.

    • Lillian says:

      Empirical observation: Clinical sociopaths have very poor impulse control and overwhelmingly wind up in prison or dead.

      Theory: Best as we can tell, empathy and delayed gratification are rooted in the same brain structures, so a person completely unconstrained by morals will also be completely unconstrained by long term planning. This is a very bad trait in a businessman.

      Speculation: That said, it seems evident to me that a degree of moral flexibility is an asset in environments were most interactions are superficial. Most business relationships are not dependent on having a strong moral character, but rather on mutual profit. The key then is to have loose enough morals that more avenues to profit are open to you, but not so loose that you are unable to maintain trust and long term relationships with your business partners.

      • albatross11 says:

        Lillian:

        Would we be aware of sociopaths who behaved prudently to avoid such things? I mean, if Alice never robs banks because she has a sense of right and wrong and knows it would be evil to do, and Bob never robs banks because he has a good idea of how likely it is that he’d get caught and end up doing a decade in prison, how would we distinguish between them from the outside?

        • Lillian says:

          This is a fully general problem. You can’t distinguish between people who are moral out of principle and people who are moral out of convenience, so empirical claims are necessarily about observable behaviour. What we observe is that the people who act in a completely amoral fashion are also really bad at exercising self-restraint and engaging in long term planning, which makes them poor businessmen.

          • You can’t distinguish between people who are moral out of principle and people who are moral out of convenience

            That’s a slight exaggeration.

            Consider the case of the prudent predator which I used to bring up in arguments with Objectivists–someone who violates other people’s rights only when the expected return of doing so, including all consequences, is positive. The future is uncertain, so there is some probability that he will lose the gamble, be caught stealing even though he only does it when the risk is very low relative to the reward. At which point we can distinguish him from the honest man who wouldn’t steal even if there was no probability at all of being caught.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      > that the unconstrained person must out compete the constrained person

      I was nodding my head until I got to this. I fully expect the moral person to hold the advantage.

      Being moral* is a superpower. It makes you predictable, and there are a lot of things in our society you can only do if you’re predictable, in this kind of way. Extreme examples would be diamond trade by orthodox jews, but pretty much everywhere you can find small scale examples of how people would much rather do business with a moral person. The simplest, I think, is that you can give your word. The happily unconstrained can’t. He can simulate a moral person, of course, but the effort to do so plus the effort to selectively decide when not to is far from trivial.

      *) There are many definitions of morality, so here I’m going with trustworthy and inclined to win-win situations.

      • Aapje says:

        @Radu

        I think that it is wrong to equate high morals with predictability. In a corrupt system, the highly moral person is the unpredictable element. The moderately a- or immoral will go along with the system as long as the personal benefits of cooperating are greater than the benefits of defecting. That person will adapt to the culture. In contrast, the person with high morals will not accept the culture and will defect.

        It’s probably more accurate to say that the highly moral and the highly a- or immoral people are the unpredictable ones, while the moderately a- or immoral are predictable.

        Perhaps you can even argue that morality in itself is irrelevant to predictability, but rather that people whose desire for conforming is smaller than their other desires are unpredictable*.

        * And this is situational, as a person who is happy to conform to one situation, might not be so willing to conform to another situation.

        • John Schilling says:

          In a corrupt system, the highly moral person is the unpredictable element.

          Really? I can see incompatible, but not unpredictable.

          The moderately a- or immoral will go along with the system as long as the personal benefits of cooperating are greater than the benefits of defecting.

          Which is predictable only “as long as” the relative benefits of cooperating and defecting are predictable to outsiders. You’ve almost explicitly stated that the predictability of the immoral person is contingent on hidden variables.

          That person will adapt to the culture. In contrast, the person with high morals will not accept the culture and will defect.

          And here you’ve explicitly stated that the moral person will behave in a single specific manner, full stop. That’s the essence of predictability.

          It looks to me like you shot down your own argument within three sentences of having made it.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            In a society where everyone is used to “free-market” bribery, suddenly being arrested after trying to bribe Eliot Carrot Serpico leads most people to distrust Eliot Carrot Serpico, regardless of whether they admire his moral stance or not. You know where you stand with the expected bribery, but you never know if Eliot Carrot Serpico is going to arrest you for some minor infraction that you weren’t aware of.

            (I personally find haggling to be immoral as it favors certain people over others based upon the market unrelated trait of haggling ability and preference, thus unequally spreading the net profit needed to support a business among the clientelle. In the modern world this takes on the form of Amazon’s variable pricing, which favors those with the technological know-how to game that pricing system, which permanently benefits the sellers and a few gamers at the expense of the many. I seem to be atypical in this moral sense, as most people think it’s right.)

          • Aapje says:

            @John Schilling

            Cooperation happens within certain bounds. Defecting can be leaving, sabotage, going to the press secretly, whistle blowing openly, taking a gun and shooting up the place, etc. Quite variable.

            Also, different highly moral people have different breaking points, so you don’t know when they will revolt either. Furthermore, organizations of course tend to gate keep and/or shed the people who they expect to revolt, so they tend to end up with just the people whose behavior is hardest to predict.

            One can easily observe that the elements that cause unexpected damage to corrupt systems are those who revolt one way or the other (Deep Throat, Edward Snowden), not the moderate amoral or immoral.

            Which is predictable only “as long as” the relative benefits of cooperating and defecting are predictable to outsiders. You’ve almost explicitly stated that the predictability of the immoral person is contingent on hidden variables.

            Predictability/transparency to outsiders reduces the chance that highly moral people will enter a corrupt system*, because they can predict a moral mismatch. Once people are inside the system, the incentives are often so strong that many people adapt to the system.

            Or perhaps I don’t understand what you mean exactly…

            * Except those who enter for the explicit purpose of finding evidence of misdeeds.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      What do moral and immoral mean in this context?

      Some people seem to define moral behavior in business to such a high standard that it might be destructive to the business– for example morality requires paying more than average to employees.

      Can airlines get away with offering unambiguous ticket prices? Is this something that seems moral, but the customers are so likely to go for apparently lower prices that clear prices just won’t work.

      On the other hand, if the business erodes its good reputation by gradually lowering the quality of its products, is this good sense or slow self-destruction?

      • Aapje says:

        @Nancy

        You are engaging in hyperbole here. Paying higher wages than average lowers profits by a little or by a lot, depending on how much they pay more, which may or may not be destructive to the business. Going from high profits to slightly less high profits is not destructive. There may also be indirect effects, like the higher pay attracting better workers that actually makes the company more profitable in the long term.

        Also, it is impossible for every business to pay their workers less than average, so if no one is willing to pay more than average, you get a downward pay spiral. We see the opposite in CEO pay, where most companies want to pay just a bit more than average, so you get an upward pay spiral.

        Such a spiral can only be stopped by a force that resists it (like worker strikes) or by voluntary moral behavior. Humans act moral at their own expense all the time. For example, I’ve had many opportunities to steal food from the shared fridge at work, yet I did not.

        I think that the assumption that capitalism leaves no room for moral behavior that costs the business something is wrong. I think that the hyper-capitalists who advocate capitalism based on amorality undermine capitalism as a workable system and thus boost anti-capitalism.

        On the other hand, if the business erodes its good reputation by gradually lowering the quality of its products, is this good sense or slow self-destruction?

        The issue here is that the marginal benefits of lower quality tends to be continuous, while the reputation costs tends to be a step function. Of course, smart businesses recognize this and choose not to maximize their profits in the short term when it threatens their profits in the long term. An example is that Ferrari chooses to sell fewer cars than it can, although not by increasing the prices greatly. This way, they actually get to choose their customers and get to place restrictions on what happens to their cars, as they know that their customers in large part determine their brand image. So they choose to preserve an attractive brand image over selling more cars or selling their cars for more money.

        • Jiro says:

          Going from high profits to slightly less high profits is not destructive.

          Just like the benefit of immorality, this harm happens at the margin.

          • Aapje says:

            @Jiro

            Sure and failing companies have the strongest incentive to be immoral. That is why maintaining a moral Schelling fence tends to require some means of punishing those who defect.

            This doesn’t necessarily have to be a legal remedy, of course.

      • baconbits9 says:

        What do moral and immoral mean in this context?

        The example is fairly simple and non specific, I take it to mean constrained vs unconstrained where a totally unconstrained person is willing to do anything based only on their estimates of the risk/reward and the constrained person won’t. The actual type of actions are of secondary importance.

      • For purposes of economic analysis, I find it useful to define “moral” as “acting to maximize the summed benefit to the members of the group you are a voluntary part of.” Examples would be a husband acting to maximize summed benefit to himself and his wife, an employee or employer acting to maximize their summed benefit, and the like.

        That isn’t my view of morality, but it’s the behavior that is in the self interest of the individual if the fact that he behaves that way is publicly observable, which makes it interesting if you want to explain why there are people who don’t steal even if nobody is watching, and similar puzzles.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          So you’re saying that the most immoral people will give all their belongings away.

          Okay, I give up. The immoral will indeed not do better than the moral in a free market.

          🙂

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/12/28/adderall-risks-much-more-than-you-wanted-to-know/

      Psychiatrists’ main response to this perverse and unwinnable system is to give people Adderall, but feel guilty about it.

      Scott has demonstrated that in a free-market system people will tend to act immorally (on the margin). Or at the very least broaden their sense of morality from its base state, and then go on to justify this broadening to themselves and other people.

      • baconbits9 says:

        This is not an example of a free market at all.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          But it is in the most important sense: The sellers (psychs) can choose to sell a product or not, though they know it’s frowned upon. The buyers can keep going to different psychs to get the product.

          Even in a free market not everyone can be a merchant.

      • quanta413 says:

        I can’t help but notice that psychiatrists collect the same fee whether or not they give you the necessary prescription. And if they work at a larger hospital on salary, it’s even more moot. Sure, you might argue that independent psychiatrists want repeat customers, but nowhere in the above paragraphs does Scott claim this is a motivation he’s seen. Instead he’s worried about the false positive vs. false negative tradeoffs in setting the threshold. This tradeoff will occur in any system, so if you’ve got a solution (even on how it should be determined in priciple, no numbers required) I’m all ears.

        So I’m mystified as to how you see the free market as contributing to this particular problem. Unless you have a specific alternate system in mind where people are not allowed to switch doctors unless they move at least 50 miles. Notably, not all socialized systems will work this way.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          I’ll drop this line of argument as I’m not interested in pursuing it.

          Show me a free market and then we can have the far more difficult argument as to whether particular successful and unsuccessful actors within it are moral or immoral.

          • Rick Hull says:

            How about a flea market or a swap meet? Or the NASDAQ.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Ok, now make a claim about any of the actors.

          • Rick Hull says:

            Transactions are voluntary and benefit both parties.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Insider trading.

          • Rick Hull says:

            At a flea market or swap meet? Sure. All information is presumably asymmetric. There is nothing wrong with that in principle. Insider trading in securities is defensible as well. There is nothing inherently immoral about it. The justification for prohibiting insider trading is that it will lure more uninformed traders into the marketplace.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            We disagree on the bounds of morality then, making any further discussion fruitless.

          • Controls Freak says:

            Well, if your conversation with Rick is over, I’d like to take it in a slightly different direction. Is it particularly the asymmetric information problem that you find outside the bounds of morality?

            If so, would you, on those grounds, argue against the requirement that health insurance companies sell policies to all customers and do so at the same price point, without regard to pre-existing conditions? After all, this is just taking a situation of potential asymmetric information (you know that you have expensive health problems, but they’re unaware) and enshrining it in law.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            If so, would you, on those grounds, argue against the requirement that health insurance companies sell policies to all customers and do so at the same price point, without regard to pre-existing conditions? After all, this is just taking a situation of potential asymmetric information (you know that you have expensive health problems, but they’re unaware) and enshrining it in law.

            I would require that they have to accept you, but allow them to require you to seek a full physical or otherwise divulge all pre-existing conditions so that they can effectively budget for the expected future by raising the future distributed price-point.

            Knowing that they are required to do this they are allowed to use their actuarial tables to account for general population expectations in terms of pre-existing conditions when setting their price points. There is thus no information asymmetry on a population basis, which is the basis under which health insurance operates.

            I would also require them to fully list what benefits they do and do not allow, including experimental but medically recommended techniques. We have way too many examples of people being blindsided by their insurance companies through this sort of information asymmetry.

            It is immoral to allow someone to die or debilitate when this is practicably preventable, as this extinguishes value generation. It is also immoral to allow a safety net to fail because of an unexpected degree of utilization, for the same reason.

          • Controls Freak says:

            so that they can effectively budget for the expected future by raising the future distributed price-point

            It’s an iterated game, though. Not long ago, there was a story here about the one patient in Iowa whose chronic illness medication cost $12M/yr. The companies were playing a game of, “You have to price low enough to get other customers, but if he picks your plan, you’re going to lose money.” Yes, this is an extreme case of a more common problem – they can’t effectively price for the future, because customers get to jump around between plans each year. The company can’t say, “We priced this plan for you (general “you”)! Why are you picking this other plan?!?!”

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            The moral course of action is often difficult.

            Other forms of insurance generally pay premiums to reinsurers for these purposes.

            I can theoretically pick a new car insurance company every month. The health insurance companies are lucky to get a lock-in for a year.

          • Controls Freak says:

            I’m not sure what to do with this response. You said that we can fix the moral problem by exposing information for the purposes of future pricing. I pointed out that that’s, uh, not really true. I’m not sure what you’re getting at now.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            I don’t know everything.

            Yes, I’m trying to make a point, but I’m also trying to figure out what’s moral and what’s immoral.

            Ergo I’m not just arguing against you, I’m also trying to find where the goal-posts are.

            With respect to the original issue you brought up: “If so, would you, on those grounds, argue against the requirement that health insurance companies sell policies to all customers and do so at the same price point, without regard to pre-existing conditions?”

            I’m saying no, because there are multiple possible alternatives, not all of which have been shown to be impracticable. But choosing the default (effective refusal of insurance due to higher pre-existing condition price points), is still a less moral, or even immoral, choice, given these possible alternatives.

            I’d be open to multiple price points, as long as genuine affordability was guaranteed to all, but that’s not the current status quo in the USA. So I’m saying that within the current baseline of price points that there is still much the insurance companies can do to adjust for, or eliminate, information asymmetry.

          • John Schilling says:

            I don’t know everything.

            Yes, I’m trying to make a point, but I’m also trying to figure out what’s moral and what’s immoral.

            What is moral has to be a subset of what is possible, or else morality is worthless in the real world. If the list of things you don’t know includes the One Clever Trick for providing health insurance to people with severe pre-existing conditions but without the adverse-selection death spiral, then you might want to back off on demanding that this be considered morally necessary. If all you’ve got is “it would good if…”, but not a way to overcome known obstacles, sensible people are not going to pay much attention to your theory of morality.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            If the list of things you don’t know includes the One Clever Trick for providing health insurance to people with severe pre-existing conditions but without the adverse-selection death spiral,

            We’re testing that out, both in the USA and other nations, using a variety of tricks.

            Being in favor of testing alternatives is better than saying let the market decide, when we already know that the market decides for sub-optimal solutions (compared to the tests in other nations).

            I don’t see what any of these arguments have to do about the morality of how to deal with information asymmetry in a health insurance context, though.

          • when we already know that the market decides for sub-optimal solutions

            How do you know that? Neither medicine nor health insurance in the U.S. is a free market.

            So far as theory is concerned, a market system will not correct inequality, whether in medical needs or income earning potential. Is that what you mean by sub-optimal?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Access itself to vital techniques is more important than equality in the health care system.

            The market (free or not) previously priced out access to vital techniques which were otherwise theoretically available (e.g. through one-off charity on the part of surgical teams, or through increasing the allotment of medical school graduate internships and charitable contributions to hospitals – so supply-side availability wasn’t the principle bottleneck).

            Yes, this is sub-optimal.

            Life, as the fundamental unit of value generation, is beyond value. Unfortunately the health care market treats it as something which can be (differentially) valued or not.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Unfortunately the health care market treats it as something which can be (differentially) valued or not.

            Governments treat it that way, too. They have to place some value on human life, because they can’t decide whether it makes sense to spend money on guard rails or water safety or hospitals or a hundred other things.

          • Controls Freak says:

            Life, as the fundamental unit of value generation, is beyond value. Unfortunately the health care market treats it as something which can be (differentially) valued or not.

            Well, most of what is done in the healthcare system isn’t truly vital for life. The go-to example is to suppose that something feels a little off in your wrist. It’s not all that terrible, but it’s clearly not optimal. If you choose to go to a doctor, he’s almost certainly going to say, “Just give it time to rest. Maybe take an OTC painkiller if it’s really bothering you. If it gets noticeably worse in the next few weeks, come back.”

            If Aaron Rodgers thinks something feels a little off in his wrist (the right one, of course), the response is going to be different, because it is differently valued. The difference in a couple weeks of healing or a reduced chance of aggravation is worth literally millions of dollars to them; it’s not to me. Do you think this is immoral?

          • Life, as the fundamental unit of value generation, is beyond value.

            A popular claim, but one inconsistent with human behavior.

            You don’t get to make decisions for me but you do get to make decisions for yourself. If your life is infinitely valuable to you, you should be willing to sacrifice all other values to it. You should spend not a penny on any pleasure that does not increase life expectancy as long as there is some expenditure that does increase it–a safer but more expensive car, more routine doctor’s visits, … . You should be equally unwilling to exchange life expectancy for non-monetary values. That means holding your weight at its medically optimal value, eating your best estimate of the most nutritious diet (least expensive most nutritious, since you could always spend any money you save on better health care), never taking any avoidable risk.

            If that is not how you live, then what you wrote is not only false, it is something you yourself do not believe, as demonstrated by how you act with regard to the one life you have most control over.

      • Scott has demonstrated that in a free-market system people will tend to act immorally …

        Feeling guilty is immoral?

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          No, but it indicates that one has taken what one believes to be an immoral action, or an action of ambiguous morality.

      • Lillian says:

        This looks to me like non-free market forces trying really hard to enforce immoral behaviour (not giving Adderall to people who want it) and the free market breaking on the side of moral behaviour anyway (giving Adderall to people who want it).

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          Morality is defined by raw desires of the purchaser?

          Does this make it immoral for doctors to refuse antibiotics to people with viral infections who want the antibiotic?

          • Nornagest says:

            A person with a viral infection who asks for penicillin won’t get cured. A person who asks for Adderall to study for finals or whatever will, presumably, find himself more focused when he takes it.

            People do often not know what they want or not want what’s good for them, but I’m not convinced that this is one of those times.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            The person with the viral infection won’t have to worry about coming down with a bacterial infection while their immune system is busy fighting off the virus.

            You’re always giving someone a potential list of side-effects when you’re giving them a drug.

            It’s better for the adderall-seeker in the long-term if they develop natural focus instead (perhaps through a meditation program). And this is what a more moral prescriptionist would prescribe.

            Perhaps a moral prescriptionist would allow them a small amount of low-dose adderall while simultaneously requiring them to practice focus techniques, with the understanding that once their natural focus has improved sufficiently (if this happens) that they will stop being prescribed the adderall.

            So given these two other options, which the prescriptionist undoubtedly should know about, prescribing the drug is not the moral choice.

          • Nornagest says:

            That just sounds like naturalistic fallacy to me. There’s nothing that makes e.g. meditation-induced focus inherently better than drug-induced focus; yes, there’s possible side effects, and drugs are more expensive than meditating, but meditation has downsides too, starting with a commitment of at least twenty minutes daily. One or the other might be better in individual cases, but I’m not seeing a good case for declaring one better in all. Definitely not a hard moral prescription.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            I may be biased having had bad side-effects from psychoactive medication (ssri induced hypomania, which resulted in a crash that left me nearly bedridden for a month after taking the mood-stabilizer which was prescribed for the hypomania, and consequent university drop out) when my problems were actually structural/social adaptation to college.

          • Lillian says:

            Morality is determined by which course of action has the greatest expected value. The downsides of giving Adderall to people who want it but don’t need it are much lower than the downsides of not giving Adderall who want it and need it. It therefore stands to reason that we should err on the side of giving people Adderall (as the free market encourages), rather than the side of not giving people Adderall (as the various governemtn agencies encourages). That’s before taking into account all the social costs incurred by enforcing restrictions on Adderall consumption, which i believe far exceed the costs of Adderall consumption itself. If there’s an easy way to both obtain Adderall and get law enforcement off your back, i consider that a good thing.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Assuming we don’t end up in a situation where people who would greatly prefer to be drug free, or people who metabolically gain less from adderall than is typical, don’t feel pressured to take it.

            As of now, given the drive to use adderall for tests in our final-exam-semester-based-educational-system or keeping up with others in tedious work, it seems to me that adderall is being used to psychologically solve a societal disorder. And that a drug will eventually become a requirement for basic functioning in society.

            This may be the slippery slope fallacy on my end, but I’d still like to see the genuine societal disorder treated first before encouraging people to adapt to the disorder through medication.

    • albatross11 says:

      Immoral behavior that screws over or offends people you are doing business with often doesn’t pay at all. This Paul Graham essay talks about this w.r.t. startups. Or think of JP Morgan’s famous quote: “A man I do not trust could not get money from me on all the bonds in Christendom.”

      Immoral/unethical behavior pays when the people with whom you’re doing business either don’t know or don’t care about it. If you find a way to cut the cost of manufacturing widgets by 10% by dumping toxins in some river somewhere in a way that gets past the regulators and courts, you get a benefit from doing so.

      There’s one good reason to avoid doing business with unethical people even when they don’t seem to be pointing their unethical behavior at you: A very common pattern of con games is that I’m defrauding you, but convincing you that you and I are really defrauding someone else together. For example, many very big and sophisticated institutional investors were invested in Bernie Madoff’s fund, despite the fact that his pattern of returns (and lots of other surrounding evidence) strongly suggested fraud–the explanation I’ve seen for that is that those sophisticated investors believed that he was front-running trades from his own brokerage house (cheating his own house’s investors) to get those returns. That is, they thought that he and they were together cheating his brokerage house’s investors, when really, he was cheating them. When you do business with someone who’s unethical, you should probably assume they’ll screw you over as happily as they’ll screw anyone else over, if they have the chance.

  6. Evan Þ says:

    I suppose you’ve tried Google and Bing Translate?

  7. cassander says:

    I want a space capital ship game. The more in depth the better. I’m thinking a sophisticated energy management system, lots of classes, upgrades and customization, a crew management system, the works. Story is nice, but of secondary concern to gameplay. Single player or multiplayer is fine.

    The last game to scratch this particular itch was FTL, but I’ve played through that exhaustively. Something in a more space trader/ escape velocity mold would also work. Any recommendations?

    • Anonymous says:

      Starscape?

    • Randy M says:

      Video game or tabletop?

    • bean says:

      Children of a dead Earth is probably worth a look.

    • Michael Handy says:

      Nexus, the Jupiter incident. It’s more of a “Commodore Level” sim, with a central ship and escorts, but you’ll enjoy it.

    • ManyCookies says:

      FTL: Captain’s Edition? Adds a LOT of new stuff and does a complete balance overhaul.

    • Zorgon says:

      If you can handle the awful interface, Aurora 4x ( http://aurora2.pentarch.org/ ) has what you’re looking for with the exception of energy management.

      I’ve been kicking around ideas about a 4x game with a huge amount of granularity in ship systems (especially energy management) and more Real Life-inspired concepts for things like weapon presentation energy and the like (albeit not using Newtonian movement because argh). All driven by lua scripting. I made some progress on it a long time ago and then got distracted by paid work. One day I’ll go back to it.

      • cassander says:

        I always had the idea of having several types of unobtanium randomly distributed around the galaxy each of which was necessary for a different type of superscience that you’re researching. so unobtanium1 is used for making armor, 2 for shields, 3 for engines, and so on. Then you’d research technologies and build ships in accord with the stuff you have a lot of. The idea is to make different races take different technological paths, to make resources fell more strategic, to keep things from feeling sam-y.

    • Charles F says:

      Not exactly a space capital ship game, I don’t think. But Dungeon of the Endless is a lot of fun and has a lot of the good parts of FTL in it.

    • Incurian says:

      From Other Suns is like FTL but co-op and first person on Oculus.

    • Lillian says:

      If you’re willing to go old school, i recommend Starfleet Command II: Empires at War and its expansion Starfleet Command: Orion Pirates. It has pretty much everything you ask for. There is great tactical depth with approach, energy management, damage control, careful manoeuvring, and attack timing all being key to winning in battles; there’s loads and loads of ships with varying classes, weapon types, and specializations, all with customizeable loadouts; and it has a basic crew management system that includes crew losses affecting ship performance, engineering teams for effecting repairs, and marines for carrying and repelling boarding operations. It’s sequel Starfleet Command III is more polished but also a little dumbed down. It’s still worth it to run through its three campaigns, but for free play and skirmishing you really want Orion Pirates.

      Also despite the games being nearly old enough to vote, they still has a small active community with unofficial patches, mods and stuff: http://www.dynaverse.net/forum/index.php

    • qwints says:

      Independence War is a lesser known classic. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/I-War_(1997_video_game)

  8. secret_tunnel says:

    Being home for Christmas and having to tolerate a house that’s colder than I’d prefer got me thinking: what if there was a democratic thermostat? Each person in the house has an app on their phone and gets to vote on what temperature the thermostat should be at. And then maybe you take an average of everyone’s votes, or maybe people who vote for a higher temperature have to pay a larger chunk of the heating bill at the end of the month.

    Thought experiment: what’s the best way to design this system to incentivize honesty as a good strategy rather than “He wants it 60 degrees and I want it 70, so I’ll vote for 80 degrees so that it averages out to 70”?

    • Anonymous says:

      Compartmentalize. If you want it cold in a room, just turn down the heater in that room. Common rooms are a problem, but you don’t have to stay in them all the time.

      Wear warmer clothing.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      80% of the time it takes the mean or median temperature. 20% of the time it takes one of the extreme temperatures. If you can’t live with your own temperature vote for at least 2 hours, it lets you override, but you lose your voting privileges for 48 hours.

    • mobile says:

      Lulz. My workplace already has this. The web site glosses over this, but if there are conflicts (people sitting next to each other sending conflicting instructions), it stops listening to those users for a few minutes and tries to satisfy some global average preferences.

    • actinide meta says:

      Mechanism Design: Thermostats

      If you split the cost evenly, and you (all) have single peaked preferences, using the median of the temperature votes is incentive compatible.

      Otherwise… start reading about the Clarke “pivotal mechanism”, but basically you are in for a world of hurt. In general you will have to decide between efficiency (making the best temperature decision) and balance (collecting just enough money to pay the bill). There are a few other special cases where everything works out, but in general it’s not pretty.

      (If you do manage to solve this problem in general, you will have Solved Politics. It could be the most important technological advance ever.)

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      For fricks sake people, just broaden the range of temperatures you find acceptable. I’m fine anywhere between about 68F and 85F (20 – 29.4 C) given a humidity of around 40 – 60 %, though I prefer being shirtless above ~82F (27.8 C).

      • baconbits9 says:

        Can’t you broaden that range? Our house is 62 most of the time, why are you such a wimp?

      • A1987dM says:

        For fricks sake people, just broaden the range of temperatures you find acceptable.

        How do you go about doing that?

        • Lillian says:

          Yeah i’d like to know too, since my body’s internal temperature regulation is so bad i’m frequently too cold and too hot simultaneously.

        • Charles F says:

          The easiest way to start is to layer. Dressing for a range of temperatures is a very worthwhile skill and it should get most people more than the range mentioned above.

          If you need to be okay with more difficult temperatures the big things are just hydration, and practice as far as I can tell. Just make an effort to spend time every day in the conditions you want to acclimate to and eventually you won’t notice it. I make a point to just walk for a half hour or so outside every day, and it’s enough to stay used to just about whatever the seasons are doing.

          • A1987dM says:

            The easiest way to start is to layer.

            If you need to be okay with more difficult temperatures the big things are just hydration, and practice as far as I can tell.

            Yeah, and once you’re already wearing as little clothes as socially acceptable and drinking four liters of water a day, and have done so for a month, and you still feel unconfortably warm, then what?

          • Charles F says:

            Then you might have found a limit for how much you can tolerate heat. But that probably happens at 95+F, so a little outside the normal thermostat range. But if you do need to deal with that sort of range, there are things you can do, like putting a damp cloth on the back of your neck and pointing a fan at it, taking walks to get some airflow, wearing those fancy high-tech clothes that help keep you cool, eating spicy things to sweat more, or moving to a better climate.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        How do you broaden the range of temperatures you find acceptable?

        I top out at 85F. if there’s much humidity. One summer it seems as though I was tolerating 90F, but in retrospect I think I was less miserable but just as knocked out.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          Different thicknesses or kinds of clothes. You can layer if you want or need to.

          Reduce movement or increase movement as necessary.

          Force yourself to stop shivering and just let the cold set in. As long as you aren’t out for a long time or in extreme cold this may be doable without any damage or serious pain.

          Everyone will top out eventually. But the bottom has a lot more leeway.

    • Vanessa Kowalski says:

      IMO taking the median is a simple and reasonable strategy. It will find a temperature s.t. the number of people for whom it is too cold is equal to the number of people for whom it is too hot.

    • maintain says:

      Why can’t you just wear a coat?

    • A1987dM says:

      Thought experiment: what’s the best way to design this system to incentivize honesty as a good strategy rather than “He wants it 60 degrees and I want it 70, so I’ll vote for 80 degrees so that it averages out to 70”?

      If there’s an odd number of people, the median doesn’t have that issue. If Alice’s preferred temperature is less than Bob’s is less than Charlie’s, it doesn’t matter whether Alice writes down her actual preference or “zero kelvin”, the thermostat will be set at Bob’s temperature either way.

  9. Jaskologist says:

    Deiseach, you’ll probably enjoy this one.

    I read Crime and Punishment recently. Dostoevsky devotes Chapter V:1 there to a conversation with a polyamorous progressive. It’s amazing how little has changed in the intervening 150 years; the character even uses the label “progressive” (though not “polyamourous”)! Nothing new under the sun.

    Fair warning, the progressive does not come off very well, although he later turns out to be a better man than his interlocutor.

    The character’s introduction:

    [Petrovitch] had heard of Andrey Semyonovitch, who had once been his ward, as a leading young progressive who was taking an important part in certain interesting circles, the doings of which were a legend in the provinces. It had impressed Pyotr Petrovitch. These powerful omniscient circles who despised everyone and showed everyone up had long inspired in him a peculiar but quite vague alarm. He had not, of course, been able to form even an approximate notion of what they meant. He, like everyone, had heard that there were, especially in Petersburg, progressives of some sort, nihilists and so on, and, like many people, he exaggerated and distorted the significance of those words to an absurd degree. What for many years past he had feared more than anything was being shown up and this was the chief ground for his continual uneasiness

    On gender equality, and why he is right to hit a woman back:

    You don’t understand; I used to think, indeed, that if women are equal to men in all respects, even in strength (as is maintained now) there ought to be equality in that, too. Of course, I reflected afterwards that such a question ought not really to arise, for there ought not to be fighting and in the future society fighting is unthinkable… and that it would be a queer thing to seek for equality in fighting.

    On polyamory and marriage:

    “You know, Terebyeva (who is in the community now) was blamed because when she left her family and… devoted… herself, she wrote to her father and mother that she wouldn’t go on living conventionally and was entering on a free marriage and it was said that that was too harsh, that she might have spared them and have written more kindly. I think that’s all nonsense and there’s no need of softness; on the contrary, what’s wanted is protest. Varents had been married seven years, she abandoned her two children, she told her husband straight out in a letter: ‘I have realised that I cannot be happy with you. I can never forgive you that you have deceived me by concealing from me that there is another organisation of society by means of the communities. I have only lately learned it from a great-hearted man to whom I have given myself and with whom I am establishing a community. I speak plainly because I consider it dishonest to deceive you. Do as you think best. Do not hope to get me back, you are too late. I hope you will be happy.’ That’s how letters like that ought to be written!”

    “Is that Terebyeva the one you said had made a third free marriage?”

    “No, it’s only the second, really! But what if it were the fourth, what if it were the fifteenth, that’s all nonsense! And if ever I regretted the death of my father and mother, it is now, and I sometimes think if my parents were living what a protest I would have aimed at them! I would have done something on purpose… I would have shown them! I would have astonished them! I am really sorry there is no one!”

    “To surprise! He-he! Well, be that as you will,” Pyotr Petrovitch interrupted, “but tell me this; do you know the dead man’s daughter, the delicate-looking little thing? It’s true what they say about her, [that she is a prostitute,] isn’t it?”

    “What of it? I think, that is, it is my own personal conviction that this is the normal condition of women. Why not? I mean, distinguons. In our present society it is not altogether normal, because it is compulsory, but in the future society it will be perfectly normal, because it will be voluntary. Even as it is, she was quite right: she was suffering and that was her asset, so to speak, her capital which she had a perfect right to dispose of. Of course, in the future society there will be no need of assets, but her part will have another significance, rational and in harmony with her environment. As to Sofya Semyonovna personally, I regard her action as a vigorous protest against the organisation of society, and I respect her deeply for it; I rejoice indeed when I look at her!”

    On altruism and systemic change:

    “I cannot, I confess, in principle sympathise with private charity, for it not only fails to eradicate the evil but even promotes it, yet I must admit that I saw your [alms-giving] with pleasure.”

    On children and polyamory again:

    “Children? You referred to children,” Lebeziatnikov started off like a warhorse at the trumpet call. “Children are a social question and a question of first importance, I agree; but the question of children has another solution. Some refuse to have children altogether, because they suggest the institution of the family. We’ll speak of children later, but now as to the question of honour, I confess that’s my weak point. That horrid, military, Pushkin expression is unthinkable in the dictionary of the future. What does it mean indeed? It’s nonsense, there will be no deception in a free marriage! That is only the natural consequence of a legal marriage, so to say, its corrective, a protest. So that indeed it’s not humiliating… and if I ever, to suppose an absurdity, were to be legally married, I should be positively glad of it. I should say to my wife: ‘My dear, hitherto I have loved you, now I respect you, for you’ve shown you can protest!’ You laugh! That’s because you are incapable of getting away from prejudices. Confound it all! I understand now where the unpleasantness is of being deceived in a legal marriage, but it’s simply a despicable consequence of a despicable position in which both are humiliated. When the deception is open, as in a free marriage, then it does not exist, it’s unthinkable. Your wife will only prove how she respects you by considering you incapable of opposing her happiness and avenging yourself on her for her new husband. Damn it all! I sometimes dream if I were to be married, pfoo! I mean if I were to marry, legally or not, it’s just the same, I should present my wife with a lover if she had not found one for herself. ‘My dear,’ I should say, ‘I love you, but even more than that I desire you to respect me. See!’ Am I not right?”

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Man, maybe this makes me a classless barbarian but those exerpts were exhausting to read. Russian literature isn’t exactly known for its brevity but would it have killed him to write more naturalistic dialogue?

      Having gotten that out of the way, the sentiments sounded eerily familiar. I especially liked the bit quoted from the ex-wife’s letter because it’s basically the pre-revolutionary Russian version of “I’m not haaappy.” This sort of philosophy is so tailor-made to justify indulging in one’s worst impulses it probably shouldn’t be surprising that it pops up in roughly the same form so often.

      • Deiseach says:

        Russian literature isn’t exactly known for its brevity but would it have killed him to write more naturalistic dialogue?

        Translation is hard, unless someone can read the original and knows if it sounds accurate or not, we don’t know if the translator is being literal (and long-winded) or of necessity expanding in English what is more pithy in Russian.

        But again, even “naturalistic” dialogue in novels and films is just as artificial, you have to put in the “um, ah, I think, like, y’know?” at places to break up what your characters are saying, and they still have to get across ‘Joe double-crossed Bob about the proceeds of the bank robbery and now Velma, Bob’s ex-girlfriend, is informing on him to the cops for the reward’. I think that’s what was so praised about the “cheeseburger” dialogue in Pulp Fiction, that it was the kind of unrelated to the plot, trivial conversation ordinary people have, but of course it was as highly scripted and artificial as any other dialogue and no more ‘natural’ than the rest of the lines the actors had to deliver.

        The larger point – yeah, the main points of progressivism versus conservatism don’t really change, down to saying sex work is a legitimate career choice, slut-shaming is bad, and jealousy only happens because of monogamy 🙂

        • The original Mr. X says:

          FWIW I’ve had the same reaction as Nabil to all the 19th-century Russian novels I’ve read, no matter who had translated them, so I suspect this is just the way in which 19th-century Russian novelists used to write.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I’m no expert in 19th century Russian literature, but this does seem to be the way Dostoevsky writes. Personally, I love it. Brothers Karamazov is a masterpiece, and Crime and Punishment was also very good.

          • hlynkacg says:

            It’s a mix of things.

            On one hand Slavic languages are difficult to translate into English. The use of prefixes/suffixes to delineate object and subject case coupled with more free-form sentence construction means that a lot of phrases that sound “punchy” in Russian end up sounding rather awkward in English. This is source of the old Russian reversal. In Russia you do not play the game, game play you. “Game play you” is perfectly valid translation but English lacks the appropriate suffixes that would designate “you” as the subject.

            Combine this with Dostoevsky’s reputation for being flowery and the result is what you see above.

    • The Red Foliot says:

      Dostoevsky was fond of portraying leftists (((THE OUTGROUP))) as either manipulative sociopaths or muddled pseudo-intellectuals inadvertently being used by said sociopaths. It’s a pattern that would reappear in Demons, his most politically charged book.

      • baconbits9 says:

        Its not like the long term outcomes of Russian politics proved him wrong. Its one thing to say the right in the US demonizes the left when they haven’t yet done anything worth demonizing, its another thing when within 30 years of his death the left in Russia was embarking on the early stages of some of the worst crimes in human history.

      • The Red Foliot says:

        Well, in Dostoevsky’s time things were still fairly peaceful. Radicalism was nascent, as the induction of Western ideas had only just begun, and had the World War not thrown things askew I don’t know if the radicals would have gotten a chance to test their ideas. Dostoevsky was simply a reactionary who viewed the induction of Western thought with dismay. Raskolnikov describes a dream he had near the end of Crime and Punishment, in which a disease sweeping from the east sows dissent in the hearts of the Russian people so that they are then on overcome with a hatred for each other and all things. Probably one of the reasons Dostoevsky was big on religion was that he saw it as a binding force that would bring society together and provide people with seemingly objective reasons for doing things.

        • baconbits9 says:

          Raskolnikov describes a dream he had near the end of Crime and Punishment, in which a disease sweeping from the east sows dissent in the hearts of the Russian people so that they are then on overcome with a hatred for each other and all things

          Sounds like a pretty accurate vision of what actually happened.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          Well, in Dostoevsky’s time things were still fairly peaceful.

          The fact that Dostoevsky was perceptive enough to see where these “still fairly peaceful” things would end up is a point in his favour, not a point against him.

        • quanta413 says:

          Do you realize that Dostoevsky didn’t start out as a reactionary but as a someone sympathetic to progressive causes? He had a rather brutal run in with the Tsar’s secret police if you’ll read the article. I think it’s fair to say that Dostoevsky’s beliefs as a young man being repressed by the government probably influenced his later aversion to Western progressivisms (for lack of a better word).

          EDIT: Striked through “later” because upon further research, his set of beliefs over time maps very poorly to any big name philosophy. For example, it seems he was averse to atheism his whole life.

        • The Red Foliot says:

          I think his exile allowed him time to develop his views on the subject matters that would become the running themes of his later novels. I don’t think he was traumatized into adopting them. The exile may have exasperated certain tendencies, but they were in him all along.

        • quanta413 says:

          @Red Foliot

          That may be a fair interpretation. He was a deeply Orthodox Christian his entire life. However, he certainly seems to have been much more sympathetic to socialist ideas before he got shipped of to Siberia; I don’t think your original comment “Dostoevsky was simply a reactionary who viewed the induction of western thought with dismay” is accurate considering he was part of a reading circle about a lot of these ideas and got shipped off to prison (really, the predecessor to the gulags) for it…

          Unfortunately, he’s dead, and we can’t inspect his mind so we’ll never really know how much he changed.

      • Deiseach says:

        You could still fillet out the main points of those speeches, modernise the language a bit, and post them on Tumblr to acclaim for being in the vanguard of sexual politics and social change 😉

        • Jaskologist says:

          Which is worrisome. We know how that turned out for Russia, and I really don’t want to go down that path.

        • @Jaskologist

          Well, the part that caused so much suffering in Russia was the communism part, not the weird gender egalitarian polyamory, which was later crushed by Stalin anyway. I’d argue that as much as SJWs are annoying, intersectional ideology partly acts as a tamp on the economic agenda. The class essentialists really are right that it’s a distraction from class warfare. Economic radicalism is comparatively weak in our time compared to pre-revolutionary Russia.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I’m not sure you can separate the two out so easily, given that both sprang/spring from the same “We know how to make utopia, we can do better than every previous generation, now let’s tear down some Chesterton’s fences!” attitude.

          • Mary says:

            Stalin crushed it because by that point it was obvious even to the most die-hard Communist that the country would go to hell in a handbasket if they kept it up.

  10. onyomi says:

    Not attempting to suggest anyone else adopt my scheme, but in attempting to categorize what really matters in contemporary political debates, created this tweak on the usual libertarian two-axis political compass.

    My thinking is that no one identifies as an “authoritarian,” but many have more communal/group-oriented sensibilities, which may tend to correlate highly with an authoritarian streak, though not necessarily so.

    And I put justice/equity/fairness or something on one end, with civilization on the other, as I’m fairly convinced of the importance to those two factors in defining what we now call “left” and “right” respectively.

    Any thoughts? Either on how to more usefully define the axes and/or where various thinkers/schools of thought belong? You may notice my upper-left quadrant is rather empty. Not sure if this is because it genuinely is an underexplored area or just because of the thinkers I’m exposed to. I guess so-called “left libertarians” would belong there as well.

    • cactus head says:

      Can you unpack the reasoning behind putting equity and civilization as opposites? I don’t think that’s obvious to most people.

      • onyomi says:

        My reasoning behind that was this:

        Almost everyone thinks fairness/justice/equity is a good thing (though opinions probably vary on whether equality of outcome is inherently desirable), and almost everyone (with a few radical Rousseau-ians and environmentalists excepted) thinks “civilization,” broadly defined (increased wealth, longer lifespans, new developments in art and technology, high social capital) is a good thing, but I think there’s very strong, real disagreement on the prioritization.

        For example, I don’t believe American Red Tribe “hates the poor,” but if helping the poor involves sacrificing values like respect, hard work, community, personal responsibility, etc. etc., they’ll come down on the side of personal responsibility, virtue ethics, etc. And I don’t think even Ayn Rand “hated” the poor, but you can tell that when it came down to siding with the great men who invented things or the “moochers” who simply took up space, she was going to side with the former. That is, it’s convenient for her philosophy that, in the process of creating a grand civilization some stupid people got to come along for the ride, but it’s not because it helps the stupid people that she values the civilization.

        On the other hand, Blue Tribe is nominally in favor of science, technology, etc. but when the question is “good for the economy or good for underprivileged groups?” they seem to consistently come down on the side of the latter. They aren’t anti-everybody getting richer but if the choice is between “everybody get richer, but the rich get richer faster” and “narrow the gap between rich and poor” or “protect those in the direst circumstances even if it creates some incentives that undermine personal responsibility and community values,” they seem usually to chose the latter.

        On the more communalist side, I think the contrast between Marx and Nietzche is relevant: they both believe that group dynamics are more important than individual dynamics, but Marx is ultimately siding with the people he sees as oppressed or unsuccessful in the current system, while Nietzche is on the side of fitness, beauty, success, etc. This manifests in the difference between e.g. communists and fascists or SJWs and the alt-right.

        • LewisT says:

          As Margaret Thatcher said, “[Liberals] would rather have the poor poorer provided the rich were less rich.” (Whatever you think of her, you have to admit she had a sense of humour.)

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          For what it’s worth, I think Rand hated rich moochers (crony capitalists, bad politicians) more than she hated poor moochers.

        • blacktrance says:

          I don’t think lumping together justice/fairness and equality into one category works that well. The (statist) left’s conception of justice involves economic equality and the right’s doesn’t, but that doesn’t mean the right cares less about fairness, it means they have a different idea of what it is. Indeed, justice is conducive to civilizational progress – it’s not a coincidence that countries with unreliable/corrupt law enforcement systems and weak property rights are generally not nice places to live.

    • Anonymous says:

      I still like this plot better.

    • rahien.din says:

      And I put justice/equity/fairness or something on one end, with civilization on the other, as I’m fairly convinced of the importance to those two factors in defining what we now call “left” and “right” respectively.

      I completely bounced on this. Why would the opposite of equity be civilization? Most Blue Tribe interventions take the form of “Use civilization to create equity/justice/fairness.”

      Maybe I just don’t know what you mean by “civilization.”

      Edit : ninja’ed…

    • Sniffnoy says:

      I feel like for a proper reply I should explain my own scheme, but just replying to this in particular–

      To my mind the natural contrast with equity is “prosperity”. Do you think this is essentially the same as what you mean by “civilization”, or is that something else?

      Given your inclusion of an “individualist+equity” quadrant actually I’m a little uncertain what you mean by equity. Something I’ve noticed is that leftists (under which I am including SJers and similar even if they are not properly leftists) and liberals (in the roughly-classical sense) mean pretty different things by “equality”. I’ve begun to think that the liberal notion of “equality” would be better described as “orthogonality”; it’s something pretty different than what the leftists mean by it, which unfortunately seems to be what most people mean by it these days. :-/ (But also it’s just a more descriptive term; it really is about things being independent from one another, not about things being equal.) I’m wondering if your “equity” side is actually bundling equality and orthogonality together; to my mind this is a mistake. Although perhaps I’m misinterpreting. But if “equity” means “equality” in the leftist sense then I don’t see how it makes sense with individualism at all; whereas if it means “orthogonality”, or is mashing them together, then I’d expect some of the people you put under “individualist+civilization” to be more on the “equity” side (such as Rand, although I’ve never actually read Rand and am going based on secondhand knowledge of her writing, so that’s maybe just my own misinterpretation).

      • onyomi says:

        To further clarify what I mean by “civilization,” I think it’s a combination of material prosperity and social capital, or whatever it is that has caused us to become less violent on Steven Pinker’s account, and which may possibly have been undermined somewhat by e. g. welfare programs that make it less unpleasant to be a single mother.

        It probably also has a lot of overlap with Hanson’s “farmer” values, as opposed to “forager” values.

        • Sniffnoy says:

          Oh interesting. That’s pretty different from what I was thinking. That’s kind of strange to me because I don’t really get how you separate that from communalism.

          • onyomi says:

            Well I think communalism and individualism manifest differently depending on whether you are more of a “farmer” or a “forager.”

            Example: traditional farmer communalism is hierarchical and usually patriarchal. Yet community can be very important, maybe even more important. It’s just a community in which everyone has clearly defined, different roles. On the other hand, forager communalism is more egalitarian.

            It may be that the egalitarian individualist is a bit of a rare bird; hence my relatively empty upper left quadrant. But I still think it’s quite possible. Part of what got me thinking about it was a debate between Chomsky and Foucault. It seemed to me that while they were both broadly left wing (committed more to egalitarian justice than preservation of traditional values, etc.), Chomsky was much more of a modernist individualist classical liberal, while Foucault was very postmodern and group-focused.

            I also considered naming the “individualist” and “communalist” axes “modern” and “postmodern,” respectively.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            Example: traditional farmer communalism is hierarchical and usually patriarchal. Yet community can be very important, maybe even more important. It’s just a community in which everyone has clearly defined, different roles. On the other hand, forager communalism is more egalitarian.

            I think you’ve misunderstood my question here; my point is that I would, as you say, associate “farmer values” with communalism. I don’t understand how you separate the two to get “farmer individualism”. Like OK you have groups like the GOP that sort of try to combine the two but ultimately their individualism isn’t really so much individualism as family-ism. Like, of course hierarchy is communalistic. (Here I’m using “hierarchy” in the sense of “that thing liberals refer to as ‘hierarchy’ and don’t like”, not in the sense of “that thing that leftists refer to as ‘hierarhcy’ and don’t like”; the latter is (IMO) ridiculously broad, and is certainly entirely compatible with individualism.)

            It may be that the egalitarian individualist is a bit of a rare bird; hence my relatively empty upper left quadrant. But I still think it’s quite possible. Part of what got me thinking about it was a debate between Chomsky and Foucault. It seemed to me that while they were both broadly left wing (committed more to egalitarian justice than preservation of traditional values, etc.), Chomsky was much more of a modernist individualist classical liberal, while Foucault was very postmodern and group-focused.

            Dunno. This sort of thing is why I think poles rather than axes (or to put it another way, simplices, not cubes 🙂 ) is the right way to go…

    • Zorgon says:

      My thinking is that no one identifies as an “authoritarian,”

      This is true, and yet… how the fuck else do they think “anyone who disagrees with my declared moral judgement is an un-person who should be removed from the public discourse on pain of being ruined or even imprisoned” should be described?

      • toastengineer says:

        The same way everyone justifies their own bad behavior; they say “this case is special.” Those aren’t just “people who disagree,” they’re Nazis, especially the ones who for example want everything they want except open borders.

      • zoozoc says:

        The problem with “authoritarian” is that both Republicans and Democrats (on average) fall roughly within the same location on the “authoritarian” axis.

    • John Schilling says:

      Both “Equity” and “Civilization” are too ill-defined for this to be of any value, except as a straight tribal attack against all those people in the Bad Tribe who talk about “equality” and are therefore the enemies of the civilization-preserving Good Tribe. From your attempts to unpack “civilization” above, you’re using a fairly non-standard definition, and since nobody is going to change their definition (or add another inconsistent definition to their personal lexicon) just to use your chart, that limits your chart to basically a private tool. Find another name.

      At the other end, there are several common definitions of “equality” that are going to be folded into your “equity”, and most of them are incompatible with at least one of extreme communalism and extreme individualism. So I don’t see how that can anchor an axis that is supposed to be orthogonal to the communalism-individualism one.

    • imoimo says:

      I find your axes interesting, but the naming somewhat confusing.

      In particular, communal and civilizational sound too similar to me. What I think you’re getting at is “wants to use civilization-level action as a tool” and “considers civilization-level success as an end goal”, respectively. So maybe your vertical axis as a whole should be labeled “means” and your horizontal axis “ends”?

      Also, an unimportant quibble: why is Nietzche not in the upper right quadrant? I get that he wants a stronger civilization so rightward makes sense (especially compared to “equity”). But I read him as using the individual as the means (and, confusingly for your choice of axes, sort of the ends?). I’m really not getting how he uses civilization as means. He does talk a lot about Christianity which is civilization-level, but he doesn’t have much nice to say there. For the record my main exposure to Nietzsche has been Thus Spoke Zarathustra, so if I’ve missed some main points of his I’d be happy to be corrected.

    • rlms says:

      Looks like the regular one but upside down.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Did you by any chance read yet Jonathan Haidt and his moral foundations? “The Righteous Mind” would be the book. I find that after reading it everything is a lot less confusing, including the red/blue tribe issue. Main difference would be a lot more dimensions. Even if you pack things, you can’t really get away with less than 3 axes: care/protection, individualism, and “traditional values”.

    • commenter#1 says:

      Your approach is very similar to Arnold Kling’s:

      My hypothesis is that progressives, conservatives, and libertarians view politics along three different axes. For progressives, the main axis has oppressors at one end and the oppressed at the other. For conservatives, the main axis has civilization at one end and barbarism at the other. For libertarians, the main axis has coercion at one end and free choice at the other.

      He has a whole category on his blog unpacking this idea and applying it to modern debates. link text

    • cassander says:

      reposted in the correct place:

      Putting aside quibbling over where people and groups belong, what I think you’re saying is that on the far right you have the civilization guys saying “the rules are X and “fair” outcomes are those that come from following the rules.” On the left you have “fair outcomes are X, and fair rules are those that produce those outcomes”.

      I think that might better be described as order vs equity.

    • Wrong Species says:

      I think a better left/right scheme would be expanding vs concentrating circle. The most right wing group would be someone who thought their tribe of 100 people is the only thing that matters. The most left wing person is someone who thinks that rocks should be worthy of moral concern. It works pretty well although there are some awkward situations. A nationalist who wants to seize the means of the production in their country would be to the right of an open borders neoliberal.

  11. cassander says:

    Putting aside quibbling over where people and groups belong, what I think you’re saying is that on the far right you have the civilization guys saying “the rules are X and “fair” outcomes are those that come from following the rules.” On the left you have “fair outcomes are X, and fair rules are those that produce those outcomes”.

    I think that might better be described as order vs equity.

    • onyomi says:

      This must be a response to my post above; I think that is a pretty good summary, though it’s also about simple priorities and trade-offs. I want people in the third world to be happy and prosperous, but I’m not willing to risk destruction of Western civilization to try to make it happen.

      But I don’t think everyone agrees with me. I think there are many people who, though they don’t necessarily desire the destruction of first world civilization and values, are nevertheless willing to allow those things to become casualties of the more important quest to uplift the most historically underprivileged.

      The individualist-communalist spectrum is similarly about trade-offs: almost no one denies that big group dynamics are real and important, but the individualist is unwilling to sacrifice the rights of the individual for the good of the collective and vice-versa.

  12. Odovacer says:

    So, anyone else see The Last Jedi?

    • lvlln says:

      I saw it last week. I’d rank it far above The Force Awakens, but well below A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back and slightly above Revenge of the Sith. That said, I thought it had both some of the best scenes and some of the worst scenes I’ve seen in any Star Wars movie.

      It’s a strange movie. One of my friends I expected to love the movie ended up absolutely hating it, while another one of my friends I expected to have a middling reaction to it ended up absolutely loving it and calling me “double Hitler” for ranking it slightly above Revenge of the Sith.

      So at a meta level, I’d say it’s an excellent movie just for the polarizing and unexpected reactions it created. But the movie itself… again, some really good parts – mainly the stuff with Luke, Rey, & Kylo Ren – and some really bad parts – mainly the parts with Finn and Rose and that entire middle act with the chase – with more of the latter.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      Nope; you’re the only one. 😉

      I liked it overall. I thought it had significant flaws, but I thought that the Rey/Luke arc was satisfying and the overall themes of the movie were good.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      Yes. I absolutely hated it, and so did all my family. The film just seemed to lack the fun of the other movies, so sitting through it was really quite a chore.

      (Also, a plot hole [?] which I haven’t seen picked up on, but which pretty much ruined the movie for me. In Episode VII the First Order was basically just clinging on in a corner of the Galaxy while the Republic ruled everything else, but by the time Episode VIII starts the FO had taken control and the Republic was reduced to four ships running away from an enemy battle fleet. Fair enough, but it seems that Episode VIII followed on directly from Episode VII, so where did the First Order get the time to actually take over the Galaxy? Even if we assume that most of the Rey/Luke scenes were flashbacks, it doesn’t look like Rey was on that island for more than a few weeks at most, so within about a fortnight this Galaxy-spanning Republic was completely destroyed. Either Snoke is actually the greatest military genius in Galactic history, or the Republic’s leadership were the biggest group of bumbling incompetents, neither of which really squares with what we see on screen.)

      (Oh, and another thing: Cbr’f cyna gb oernx bagb Fabxr’f qernqabhtug vf jung ranoyrf gur Svefg Beqre gb svaq bhg gur Erfvfgnapr cyna bs qvfgenpgvat gurz jvgu gur rzcgl pehvfre juvyfg gur eroryf farnx njnl bagb gung fnyg cynarg, zrnavat gung Cbr vf erfcbafvoyr sbe nobhg 99% bs gur Erfvfgnapr pnfhnygvrf naq sbe rffragvnyyl qrfgeblvat gurz nf n svtugvat sbepr. Jvyy ur rire unir gb ngbar sbe, be rira npxabjyrqtr, guvf fperj hc? V jbhyqa’g pbhag ba vg; va snpg, V’q jntre tbbq zbarl gung vg jvyy or pbzcyrgryl sbetbggra nobhg ol gur arkg zbivr.)

      • Chalid says:

        I was overall a fan, but the point that you rot13ed really bothered me, too.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          To be fair, gung checyr-unverq nqzveny ynql jnf cerggl boghfr. Jura Cbr nfxrq ure jung ure cyna jnf, jul qvqa’g fur whfg gryy uvz, vafgrnq bs jvggrevat ba nobhg ubj ubcr vf yvxr gur fha? Be, jura Cbr fnvq gung gelvat gb rfpncr va hanezbherq rfpncr pensgf jbhyq erfhyg va gurz nyy trggvat xvyyrq, jul abg gryy uvz “Ab, gurl’ir tbg pybnxvat qrivprf sbe gur Svefg Beqre jba’g frr gurz, cyhf gurer’f n uvqqra sbegerff ba gung arneol cynarg jurer jr pna eraqrmibhf naq jnvg sbe bhe nyyvrf gb fubj hc”? Vs fur jnf jbeevrq nobhg Cbr ehaavat bss naq qbvat fbzrguvat fghcvq, znxvat vg ybbx nf vs fur unq ab vqrn jung gb qb naq gurve bayl ubcr bs fheiviny ynl va fbzr zvyyvba-gb-bar tnzoyr jnf bar bs gur zbfg pbhagrecebqhpgvir guvatf fur pbhyq unir qbar.

          • toastengineer says:

            Personally I liked the part where ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.

          • TheContinentalOp says:

            I haven’t seen any one else bring this up, so maybe I am remembering this wrong, but Sebz gur oevqtr Nqzveny Ynhen Qrea jngpurf gur genafcbegf fubcf urnq gbjneq gur cynarg. QW orgenlf gur erfvfgnapr naq gryyf gur Svefg Beqre nobhg gur pybnxrq genafcbegf naq gura bcra sver.

            Ubj vf Ynhen Qrea noyr gb frr pybnxrq fuvcf whfg ol fgnevat bhg n jvaqbj?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Gur pybnxvat qrivprf uvq gurz sebz gur rarzl fpnaaref, abg gur anxrq rlr. (Juvpu vgfrys envfrf n arj dhrfgvba, anzryl, tvira gung gur Svefg Beqre jnf pyrneyl pybfr rabhtu gb frr naq sver ba gur Erfvfgnapr rfpncr fuvcf, jul qvq checyr unve nqzveny ynql guvax gurl’q or noyr gb rfpncr va gur svefg cynpr?)

      • shakeddown says:

        “Chore” describes it pretty well. The Luke/Rey arc wasn’t bad (with some exceptions), but the rest of it was mainly just boring filler stuff that didn’t go anywhere.
        (Also, when you try to make every scene slowed-down and artsy/dramatic, it just makes every scene boring.)
        I’d rank it as slightly better than TFA, making the overall rank 3,5,1~2~4~6,3.5,,8,7.

      • Also hated it. It ruins Luke’s character.

        Yhxr xarj sebz Lbqn’f grnpuvatf naq uvf yrffba va Rzcver gung Sbepr Ivfvbaf pna or zvfyrnqvat, naq va Erghea bs gur Wrqv ur jnf jvyyvat gb evfx qrngu naq pbasebag gur qnexarff va uvf sngure. Abj va gur Ynfg Wrqv, ur pbzcyrgryl fcnmmrf bhg naq qenjf uvf fnore gb xvyy Xlyb orpnhfr ur frafrq qnexarff va uvz, vafgrnq bs jung gur erny Yhxr jbhyq qb, juvpu jbhyq or gb gel naq pbasebag uvz nobhg vg. Vafgrnq Yhxr pbasvezf gur irel qnexarff ur fnj naq pnhfrf vg gb znavsrfg shyyl.

        Gura ba gbc bs gung, ur oynzrf gur Wrqv grnpuvatf vafgrnq bs uvzfrys, naq ur pbagvahrf zbcvat nebhaq ba na vfynaq ershfvat gb gnxr erfcbafvovyvgl. Va gur raq uvf fnpevsvpr vf pyrneyl fhccbfrq gb erqrrz uvz, ohg vg’f abg yvxr ur tbrf naq qverpgyl pbasebagf Xlyb (yvxr ur fubhyq unir qbar ntrf ntb), ohg vafgrnq zreryl qrynlf uvz jvgu n sbepr cebwrpgvba grpuavdhr gung pbfgf uvz uvf yvsr. Ur qvrf fher, ohg ur trgf gb qb fb ybbxvat ng n ornhgvshy fhafrg naq vafgrnq bs penjyvat nobhg va unys ba n fnyg syng qlvat bs fnore oheaf.

        There’s a thread of cynical nihilism that runs through this entire movie that goes against the Star Wars ethos (SW can be dark and classically tragic, but not cynical), and makes it just like every other depressing morally grey movie. It’s not it’s own magical naive thing anymore. It’s just a (boring) action movie in space.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          There’s a thread of cynical nihilism that runs through this entire movie that goes against the Star Wars ethos (SW can be dark and classically tragic, but not cynical), and makes it just like every other depressing morally grey movie. It’s not it’s own magical naive thing anymore. It’s just a (boring) action movie in space.

          I keep trying to come up with something to add, but I don’t think I can, because you’re really put your finger on it.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Those who exist now are more important than the dead past.

            Fight for what you love not against what you hate and you will be successful.

            Those are the dominant moral threads throughout the film.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Those are the dominant moral threads throughout the film.

            Those are things that people said in the films, although I’m scratching my head trying to think of any actual events or actions that would suggest these morals.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Kylo Ren still caught in the past.

            Rey freed from her attachment to the past, and able to do the right thing thanks to this.

            Vice-admiral Amilyn Holdo acting for the benefit of her people versus Commander Poe’s sacrificing his people left and right (purposefully and by accident) to hit at the First Order.

            Holdo and Leia effectively forgiving Poe because they see his skills (tempered by experience) as necessary to the rebellion (heck, I’m sure all of them made huge mistakes that cost lives during their careers in the rebellion).

            Rose Tico’s kindness to the oppressed living children and fathiers who reminded her of her past.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Rey freed from her attachment to the past, and able to do the right thing thanks to this.

            I didn’t see any evidence of this. About the only wrong thing Rey did as a result of her past was trying to go back to Jaku instead of staying and helping the Resistance, but it looked like she’d forgotten about this idea anyway, since it’s never mentioned in Episode VIII.

            Vice-admiral Amilyn Holdo acting for the benefit of her people versus Commander Poe’s sacrificing his people left and right (purposefully and by accident) to hit at the First Order.

            Given that her strange determination to talk in wishy-washy similes about the sun instead of actually communicating her plan to her subordinates ended up precipitating a mutiny, I’m not sure she can really be considered a good role model. Speaking of which…

            Holdo and Leia effectively forgiving Poe because they see his skills (tempered by experience) as necessary to the rebellion (heck, I’m sure all of them made huge mistakes that cost lives during their careers in the rebellion).

            Poe didn’t just make mistakes, he led a mutiny and pulled a gun on his superior officer. Letting that sort of behaviour go unpunished would be extremely bad for discipline. There’s a reason why real-life militaries all come down very hard on insubordination. (This is one of the reasons why I get the impression that whoever wrong TLJ doesn’t know anything about warfare or military history.)

            Rose Tico’s kindness to the oppressed living children and fathiers who reminded her of her past.

            She let the alien horses out to help her in her escape, but I don’t recall her doing much to help the children.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            1) You see this start in the dark-side cave, and end when Kylo tells her the truth and she doesn’t decide to go with him. She needed her parents to be people who loved her when she was younger, but was able to resist just jumping for the first person she’s attracted and connected to who said she was personally important.

            2) I don’t know that she had a full plan at the time, just the idea of one. And even if she had it’s better to keep people motivated to think of alternatives (which hopefully they’d tell her) than not.

            3) This isn’t a national military, it’s a rebel force. Learning experiences are more important than acting against internal rebellion.

            4) There wasn’t much she could do for the children (other than stop Finn from attacking them). One got her ring, despite the risk of giving that up and the opportunity that he’d show it to his superiors and they’d know she was with the rebellion.

          • Jiro says:

            Don’t forget:
            1) Social justice casting; the Empire is all white male while the Rebellion has few white males (especially if you exclude Luke, an existing character who couldn’t be changed).

            2) It seemed to me like the whole Rey’s parents plot was shoehorned in because fans were saying that Rey couldn’t have all her Mary Sue powers unless she was related to someone and the writer wanted to shoot that idea down. We never saw Rey act as if her parents were important before this subplot.

            3) What is Kylo Ren’s boss doing confessing in front of Kylo that he was just manipulating him? That’s got to get you a spot on the evil overlord list.

            4) If Jedi history books are worthless, why did anyone bother keeping them in the first place? Also, wouldn’t it be better to not put all your eggs in one basket and have *only* Rey be the way Jedi knowledge is passed on?

    • Mark says:

      It felt very inconsequential.

      Nothing that happened in the Force Awakens had any consequences (Star Killer destruction had no effect and was completely pointless – mystery of parents is no mystery – Luke left map to his location for no reason.) None of the plans they have in the Last Jedi have any actual effect on anything that happens – Rei’s training is a big nothing, the master hacker sub-plot turns out to be pointless, the main character death is not a death, the main character clever survival isn’t a survival…

      I really disliked Force Awakens, so I’m not too bothered about them nixxing the plot from that – I like Kylo Ren – other than that, this movie has a bad story. Hyperspace kamikaze is not possible given the plots of all of the other films. I mean, that plot point was really bad.

      I liked the stuff about them all being retards messing everything up, but I don’t think that’s enough to sustain a compelling franchise. The new characters aren’t developed, and I’d say the old characters have been anti-developed.
      So, it’s alright to watch for 2 hours or whatever, but in terms of being a franchise film, it’s just bad. Bad like marvel films.

      Hyperspace Kamikaze is worse than Jar Jar.

      • sandoratthezoo says:

        Marvel is maybe the most successful franchise in the history of film franchises (on at least a commercial level. And what is the definition of franchise if not commercial?), so I’m not sure that your indictment would be perceived as such by the audience.

        I think that as far as a franchise making operation goes, a clarion call of, “Hey, not every one-in-a-million shot can succeed, and characters can’t depend on trusting arbitrary scruffy strangers or making successes of arbitrary creaky overwrought plans” is salutory. Disney clearly hopes to make another 12+ of these movies. If they’re all just constant streams of “great shot kid, one in a million,” that sounds exhausting to me (and, don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed the original “great shot kid.”)

        Hyperspace kamikaze obviously can not be considered a coherent part of the shared setting — but the Star Wars setting is already very, very, very compromised. We’ve seen in Star Trek that you can have one-off tricks that would obviously be world-changing and then ignore them forever, and that while nerds like you and me will bitch about it (and I have! And did!), it doesn’t prevent the franchise from going forward.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        I’m not certain that the kamikaze hit itself happened in hyperspace, or if a hyperspace jump was just used to get the ship as close as possible to the imperial ships before dropping out of hyperspace to prevent the imperial ships from dodging or taking it out.

        The rebel cruiser and imperial flagship were still traveling at very high speed.

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          If you can take out like a dozen star destroyers and some kind of dreadnought thing with one cruiser and one life, I promise I can break the setting with it, regardless of whether you’re in or out of hyperspace, moving fast or slow, or it has to only be done on alternate tuesdays.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Watching the movie I wasn’t entirely sure whether multiple star destroyers were hit or whether that was just foreground debris field from the lead ship.

          • CatCube says:

            My thing was “why didn’t they do that with any of the other ships that ran out of fuel?”

            I mean, I thought that right then. We saw the medical ship run out of fuel and the commander sending his last regards, and we saw the penultimate ship run out, so there were at least two other opportunities to do it on screen. Plus, there were implied to be many ships. I enjoyed the movie overall, but I was pissed at that scene.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            To be fair, the other ships were tiny compared to the cruiser, and thus much easier to take out regardless. And then the fact that you’d actually take that maneuver is telegraphed.

            What surprised me is why the imperial capital ships didn’t take a short hyperspace jump to put themselves in better range of the rebel ships.

          • Alphonse says:

            Seeing others who are equally irked by the hyperspace kamikaze is gratifying to me. The scene was well-done aesthetically, but I felt like the coherency of the setting jumped the shark in that moment.

            Just as others did, I also immediately wondered why the smaller accompanying ships weren’t similarly used to suicide kill the pursuing ships (and even if the medical ship couldn’t KO Snoke’s mega-ship, proportionally it should still be able to take out an ISD). At minimum, permitting hyperspace kamikaze attacks just BREAKS the setting.

            I realize Star Wars is fiction, and I get the “you’re arguing about realism in a series with space wizards” response, but I’ve played enough Star Wars games where the ship-to-ship combat felt about as realistic as in any game, that the implications of that scene still felt like some Hollywood entity was destroying some part of my childhood.

            Sadly, no one else in my extended family seems to care. At least I can go on with the knowledge that others thought hyperspace kamikaze was worse than Jar Jar.

      • lvlln says:

        None of the plans they have in the Last Jedi have any actual effect on anything that happens – Rei’s training is a big nothing, the master hacker sub-plot turns out to be pointless, the main character death is not a death, the main character clever survival isn’t a survival…

        This kinda gets at one major problem I had with the film, which was the overuse of twists. It was nice to see some surprises in this movie after the utterly predictable The Force Awakens – where the attack on Starkiller Base felt more like a party than like a last ditch effort by a desperate army like in A New Hope – but it just did it again and again, to the point of exhaustion. It’s good to keep us guessing, but when basically every event in the film is part of a twist, it loses its impact and just becomes boring.

        Off the top of my head,
        – In the opening battle, Rose’s sister manages to knock the remote to release the bombs, but WHATATWIST, it falls past her, but WHATATWIST, she actually managed to quickly snag it a la the sweat drop in Mission Impossible by reaching under the floor.
        – Kylo Ren has Leia dead to rights, but he can’t get himself to kill his mother, but WHATATWIST, his First Order buddies just do it for him by shooting from behind him, but WHATATWIST, turns out Leia survived and manages to use force powers to fly herself back to safety.
        – Poe’s a hothead who’s wrongly demanding answers from admiral Holdo, but WHATATWIST, turns out he was right to question her because she had no better plan than to just abandon ship, but WHATATWIST, turns out Holdo’s plan, made together with Leia, was actually pretty smart.
        – The codebreaker is just a mercenary with no love for the resistance and demands Rose’s sentimental necklace as downpayment, but WHATATWIST, he’s actually a nice guy with a heart who only wanted that necklace for its use in helping them break into the tracking room on the Star Destroyer and happily returned it to her, but WHATATWIST, he’s actually ACTUALLY just a mercenary with no love for the resistance and sold them out for $.
        – Luke finally arrives to sacrifice himself battling the First Order to delay them while everyone escapes, but WHATATWIST, he was actually projecting his image and not sacrificing himself, but WHATATWIST, putting all that effort into projection did end up killing him.

        I’m probably missing a few other examples. Again, keeping us guessing is fine, but overdoing it makes it tiresome. And perhaps worst of all, they didn’t do it with the one scene where such a misdirection would’ve been excellent! When Snoke is screeching “I cannot be betrayed!” followed by the light saber next to him fidgeting a little, they might as well have stopped the scene with a record scratch, had Kylo Ren turn to the camera, wink, and say “he thinks I’m going to kill Rey based on what he reads in my mind, but what he doesn’t know is that my true enemy isn’t her but actually him!” before continuing the scene. All they needed to fix it was not making the light saber fidget but to just show a glancing shot of it in frame – that would’ve been a hint but would’ve still kept us guessing.

        • Aftagley says:

          Your commend has finally solidified what was just kind of a gnawing negative feeling I had about the film and helped me figure out why I disliked it.

          You’ll notice, that these all are at least 3-point WHATATWISTS, or they have a plot, then a twist, then a twist on top of the twist. In all the points you mentioned above I really enjoyed the first twist, and was annoyed by the one that came next because every single time it just twisted the plot back to how it was before.

          You think Kylo’s going to show some humanity and maybe not kill his mom? Plot twist, Nope!

          You think Poe might step up and become a leader in the resistance by siezing command? Plot twist, nope!

          You think the codebreaker might secretly be a good character? Plot twist, nope!

          You think Luke is going to finally live up to his reputation as magic space wizard supreme? Plot twist, nope, he’s gone.

          It’s like for every thread, the writers looked at all the twists and turns the plot had made and purposefully added one more so that the movie would end up in as boring and uninteresting a place as possible.

        • Nick says:

          I think there’s two separate things going on here: overuse of the twist as a plot mechanism, and ruining one’s first twist with a second twist, which I think is a distinct phenomenon. I don’t mind a twist at all, and I think the ones you mention would have worked fine if they hadn’t gone for the second twist. Reason being that a good twist*, like any subversion generally, requires setup and laying of clues, so that it’s a good but fair surprise if you don’t pick up on it and a pleasing confirmation of expectations if you do. Adding a second twist in there might captivate the folks in the first category who weren’t paying attention, but all it does is annoy folks in the second category who were.

          I saw a similar situation in a short story I critiqued for a friend. It was a sequel to one where he had laid clues that his seemingly bright and outgoing character is actually desperately lonely. I’d picked it up on it, since I’d done a lengthy critique of that one too, but when he reveals this in the sequel, he immediately subverts that too, in a way we couldn’t possibly have picked up on, and the two are confusingly mixed together, so that you can’t even tell which was the “real” reveal in the first place. It’s supposed to show the deductive prowess of our main character to figure all this out, but all it does is frustrate the attentive reader.

          I think the fourth one you mention, the codebreaker’s betrayal, is a perfect example of this. We never get any indication our codebreaker would betray them—we’re led to believe he’s scummy and in it for the money, and then that he’s not so bad after all. That’s a fine twist. In fact, when they get on the ship, the evil BB-8 notices them, so there’s ample reason to think they’ve been found out and will be intercepted without the stupid betrayal. And why bother to give the necklace back to a girl you’re turning over to the bad guys? It just makes no sense on any level. The longer I spend looking at this, the more annoyed I get.

          The Poe–Holdo one is a bit better by contrast. We’re told from the start that Holdo is more competent than she looks. We know Leia wanted to get to an obscure planet with ample communication, and we could see that Holdo was hiding something. The middle “twist” is, properly speaking, just misdirection, with the rest of the signs pointing to the twist at the end. With the codebreaker, by contrast, all the signs point to him being a softer person than he appears, and it’s the second twist that comes out of nowhere. It would have been much, much worse if, say, the first Holdo twist were “actually we’re fueling the ships to go to that mining planet and broadcast for help” and the second twist were “actually actually I’m eeevil and a double agent and I’ve revealed your positions, muahahahah!!”

          *I’ll cop to pulling a No True Scotsman here, but whatever.

          • Mark says:

            The other weird thing about the codebreaker is that he isn’t the codebreaker – he’s just some guy who happens to be in the jail who is also a codebreaker.
            Is that another pointless twist?
            I don’t think he betrayed them to the first order – he betrayed the rebellion once he was captured by the first order, which kind of makes sense given the earlier scenes where he suggests that they are all as bad as each other. (Though, some people have noted the code breaker wouldn’t really have any way of knowing what Holdo’s secret plan was, so how would he be able to betray the ships?)
            Whichever way, the fact that all of these questions and queries keep coming up seems suggestive of the story-telling not being very good.

            Some right-wingers are getting a bee in their bonnet about the “SJ” undertones of the casino plot – personally I didn’t see that, and the criticism seems slightly deranged – I didn’t mind the plot itself, but the whole thing seemed weirdly shoe-horned in for no real reason (everything about it was weird, from the phone call to the little alien dude having a fire fight with the union, to the ending where is was all completely pointless, and then Rose fell in love with Finn…)

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            DJ (the codebreaker — del Toro’s character) hears about Holdo’s plan when Finn and Poe are talking on the comm.

            DJ only starts dealing with the First Order once their group is captured, he doesn’t betray Finn and Rose to the First Order in the first case (evil BB-88 figures them out on its own). But he does betray the Resistance’s plan to the First Order from there, leading directly to the deaths of like 90% of the remaining Resistance.

          • Aftagley says:

            The other weird thing about the codebreaker is that he isn’t the codebreaker – he’s just some guy who happens to be in the jail who is also a codebreaker.
            Is that another pointless twist?

            Right? Like, I thought this was a hyper-complex feat of hacking only possible by one person in the universe. How come the first random codebreaker they run into can also do it? I kept expecting some grand reveal of how he was the true ‘red flower’ hacker, but it just didn’t come.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            How come the first random codebreaker they run into can also do it?

            Because it isn’t random – they’re on the gambling planet. The one place code-breakers galore will migrate to.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            My fanwank is that he actually was the redflower hacker, but that he had gambled away all his jewelry, and they guy they saw wearing it was just some random rich schmuck who had won it on a dice roll.

          • Nick says:

            Thanks, Mark and sandor—how exactly the codebreaker came to betray them was something I must have missed in the film, and that does make more sense.

          • Aftagley says:

            My fanwank is that he actually was the redflower hacker, but that he had gambled away all his jewelry, and they guy they saw wearing it was just some random rich schmuck who had won it on a dice roll.

            I like this, and have therefore accepted it as cannon.

            Because it isn’t random – they’re on the gambling planet. The one place code-breakers galore will migrate to.

            Is this an established thing? Were audiences supposed to walk into this movie with the firm preconception that gambling planets attract the best code-breakers?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Were audiences supposed to walk into this movie with the firm preconception that gambling planets attract the best code-breakers?

            This was basically said when that old what’s-her-name from the first movie said that the master codebreaker spent all his time there.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            This was basically said when that old what’s-her-name from the first movie said that the master codebreaker spent all his time there.

            “This codebreaker guy hangs out at this planet” doesn’t imply (at least not to me) that “All the codebreakers hang out at this planet”.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Of course not all.

            But if you’re a codebreaker you’ll usually being using your talent to get money. You have two options: 1) Use it to steal from the wealthy, 2) Get hired by the wealthy. A place where the less scrupulous wealthy congregate is the best place for both of these options.

          • Jiro says:

            I like this, and have therefore accepted it as cannon.

            I assumed that’s what it was. But they never did say it.

            It might be an editing problem. I can see them intending that and not realizing they cut out the scene establishing it.

    • Zorgon says:

      I saw it just before Xmas.

      It wasn’t all that bad; certainly not The Phantom Menace-level awful. Most of it didn’t make a great deal of sense and the people saying it threw away more-or-less everything from the previous movie for no reason at all are completely right; still, I don’t really watch Star Wars movies for their narrative coherence, given that Lucas was and is a hack. I watch them for the PEWPEWPEW and grand spectacles, and this provided those in spades. The frozen salt-plain with the red dust beneath the surface was visually magnificent.

    • johan_larson says:

      My views are mixed.

      – Another Death Star analogue? So tiresome. Couldn’t they at least have pitted one Death Star against another Death Star, rather than attacking it with fighters again?
      – Poor Snoke. What a thing to go through as a young man. For the first time in the saga we have a villain whose motivations make sense.
      – Rey’s training by the trio of Force ghosts was awesome. Anakin, Yoda, and Obi-Wan, together again. Best part of the film.
      – Excellent writing and acting in Poe and Finn’s Rest&Recreation scenes. Did they or didn’t they? That will launch a thousand fanfics, minimum.
      – They paid Mark Hamill millions to show up for one scene, in which he uttered three sentences before mysteriously vanishing. Idiots. Idiots.
      – Rest is peace, Leia. Rest in peace.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        – Poor Snoke. What a thing to go through as a young man. For the first time in the saga we have a villain whose motivations make sense.

        Do you mean Kylo Ren here? I don’t think we learn anything about Snoke’s backstory, unless I’d nodded off for that part.

        (Although now that you bring it up, the idea of Yhxr cynaavat, rira sbe n frpbaq, gb zheqre uvf bja ncceragvpr naq pybfr snzvyl zrzore va uvf orq just struck me as wildly out of character, given how he’s portrayed in the Original Trilogy.)

      • Lillian says:

        Another Death Star analogue? So tiresome. Couldn’t they at least have pitted one Death Star against another Death Star, rather than attacking it with fighters again?

        You know, i mentioned Legend of the Galactic Heroes a few threads ago, and the plot of a few episodes is exactly that. They strap thrusters on their fleet killer battle station and then send it against the enemy’s fleet killer battle station, at which point the two proceed to trade doom laser shots while thousands of warships swarm around them. It was awesome.

        • johan_larson says:

          Anyone who’s a fan of giant space fleets going to battle should read the Lensman series, particularly the later books. Among other shenanigans, they turn an entire sun into a death-ray and crash whole planets into each other.

          That said, the stories were written in the 30s and 40s, and it shows. Judging by the surnames, all the human officers of the Galactic Patrol are white. And all but one of them are male.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Smith shows inclusiveness by having one of the characters be Dutch…. but not of high status.

            The material about women is tiresome. Not only is there only one Lensman who’s a woman, but she’s only there because she’s needed to negotiate with a planet where all sentients are women who hate men. (Non-sentient males? It’s been a while since I’ve read the books.)

            There *are* women who can use the Lens (I grant your distinction that they aren’t officers). Four out of the five Children of the Lens are women (approximately– they look adult but mature much more slowly than basic humans), but the fifth is a man, and by some coincidence, he’s the one with no extreme talent except leading his four sisters.

            All this being said, there’s a lot of hyperbolic fun in the books.

            Do you have an opinion about starting with Triplanetary (which starts with an explanation of the background, and a very nice explanation it is, too) or with Galactic Patrol, in which case the backstory is gradually revealed?

            I started with Triplanetary (it’s one of the weaker books in the series, with stories which were retconned into Lensman but still has some good bits), and only tried starting with Galactic Patrol later. The effect is very different.

            https://scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/1616/reading-order-for-the-lensman-books

          • johan_larson says:

            @Nancy

            Do you have an opinion about starting with Triplanetary (which starts with an explanation of the background, and a very nice explanation it is, too) or with Galactic Patrol, in which case the backstory is gradually revealed?

            I think the best bet is to start with Galactic Patrol and read through to Children of the Lens. If you then decide you must have more, read the other two or three books as tie-ins, off the main sequence. They’re significantly weaker after all and not necessary for understanding the main plot line.

            Actually Galactic Patrol works just fine as a stand-alone novel too.

    • ManyCookies says:

      Spoilers

      The Last Jedi had some great ideas and themes that were a. executed badly b. probably more suited to a somber toned spinoff movie. I liked it in a contrarian sort of way – I was wearily expecting ESB/RotJ 2.0 and got something way different – but I don’t think I’d rewatch it all the way through.

      Spoilers

      • Lillian says:

        See i have the opposite opinion, the Last Jedi was full of terrible ideas that were executed very well. It was a fun film to watch, a spectacle that i enjoyed for as long as it lasted, but once it was over and i had time to dwell on it, that feeling of elation faded into vague sadness and disappointment. There’s just nothing at all underneath all those flashy set-pieces and jokes.

      • beleester says:

        Yeah, it seems to be very pointedly not trying to be The Empire Strikes Back 2.0, and on that front at least, it succeeds.

        I had some problems with it (which everyone is busy discussing in the thread above, so I won’t repeat them), but they weren’t deal breakers, and I like what it did with Kylo Ren, Rey, and Luke. And as usual, it looked very nice.

    • Incurian says:

      It was horrible, and anyone who disagrees is probably a pod person.

    • Nick says:

      I saw it on Tuesday. I’m still deeply ambivalent about it, still trying to make sense of the themes—is ending the Jedi still Luke’s goal at the end? Should Rey (and Kylo) be seeking balance rather than to become light side paladins? Is sacrificing yourself to save the galaxy the wrong thing to do? Does Rose think her sister shouldn’t have sacrificed herself? After a two and a half hour film, I’m still just… really not sure about all these things.

      • beleester says:

        is ending the Jedi still Luke’s goal at the end?

        I would say no. Luke tells Kylo “I am not the last Jedi,” which seems like a pretty clear statement that he expects Rey to carry on in his footsteps.

        Should Rey (and Kylo) be seeking balance rather than to become light side paladins?

        I don’t know. It makes a point of showing Rey and Kylo taking their own paths, but I would say that they’re still clearly light side/dark side. I think the movie is instead saying “You don’t need to be a carbon copy of your predecessor to follow in their footsteps.” Rey is not Luke, and Kylo isn’t Vader, but one is still a hero and the other a villain.

        Is sacrificing yourself to save the galaxy the wrong thing to do? Does Rose think her sister shouldn’t have sacrificed herself?

        The movie certainly seems to think that it’s wrong. And I can see a point of view where it’s rational to not take the immediate, self-sacrificing route and instead preserve your strength while you look for a better option.

        The Rebellion only has so many self-sacrificing heroes. And the First Order seems to have no shortage of giant battleships. The Rebellion can’t afford to lose so many people, even if they’re getting incredible mileage out of their sacrifices. But if they can survive, and gather strength, maybe they won’t need so many heroic sacrifices.

        (How the First Order has managed to shrug off the loss of two Death Stars, the Starkiller Base (bigger than a death star), two Dreadnoughts, and innumerable other war machines with no visible loss in military power is left as an exercise for the reader. Personally, I’m hoping that the Macguffin in the third movie will be some sort of giant war factory like the Star Forge.)

        • Odovacer says:

          The movie certainly seems to think that it’s wrong. And I can see a point of view where it’s rational to not take the immediate, self-sacrificing route and instead preserve your strength while you look for a better option.

          But Luke sacrifices himself to save the ~12 people left in the rebellion. Was that the wrong thing to do too?

          Also, what budget committee is approving these massive money-holes? I can imagine an Imperial bureaucrat protesting, “W..w..well, my Lord, we lost 900 Trillion Imperial Credits on the last two Death Stars each, so I must strongly…uh…just..mildly suggest, that we not spend 500 quintillion on a planet-sized Death Star that can be blown up by a single X-wing. Perhaps we could forgo building the giant weapon and instead invest on laser-proof armor for our stormtroopers? I believe a captain Phasma has paid for hers out of pocket. Mind you sir, this is merely a suggestion.”

          Does Palpatine/Snoke just completely dominate so much that whatever cockamamie scheme they propose is instantly approved? Someone could have a lot of fun writing fanfiction about Star Wars economics.

          Regardless, JJ Abrams is directing Episode IX, so I expect many mysteries to pop up, but have no satisfying conclusion, ala Lost, Alias, Episode VII, etc.

    • outis says:

      I went to see it because I heard that the critics and the audience were in vehement disagreement, and I wanted to see why. It turns out that the critics are idiots. Now I’m afraid I’m going to have to get a Netflix subscription, to find out if the audience are on to something or if they are like the famous broken clock.

      • The Nybbler says:

        The especially harsh critics are wrong about _Bright_ for the obvious culture war reasons (The two lines “Fairy lives don’t matter today” and “Elves are rich and run the world” would probably be sufficient, never mind all the Mexicans being gang members and Orcs being violent thugs. No points for guessing who Elves and Orcs are stand-ins for). But it’s interesting ideas poorly executed; the dialog is pretty bad and there’s plot holes you can drive a truck through. I’ll probably watch the sequel anyway.

        One showerthought: The in-universe reason people are prejudiced against Orcs is they supported the wrong side in a war against a Dark Lord some time ago. I have to wonder if that Dark Lord is perhaps gur fba bs n wrjvfu (or ryivfu) pnecragre sebz anmnergu.

        • Randy M says:

          Never heard of that one before. I assume its a Netflix exclusive/original? Interesting to see a star like Smith in a vehicle like that.

  13. bean says:

    Armor part 3 is up at Naval Gazing.
    Also, it’s the two month anniversary at obormot, and I’m doing another request for input on future topics.

    • cassander says:

      I’m always in favor of more contemporary topics.

    • Zorgon says:

      OK, so this is off the wheelhouse a little, but I’ve been meaning to ask for a while and since I already mentioned it in this OT:

      What would you, as the absolute foremost ship-nut I’ve ever encountered in my entire digital life, want out of a 4X space strategy game? (With especial reference to ships, ship design and the realities of crews in those circumstances.)

      • cassander says:

        Not bean, but the best game ever in this regard has to be Master of Orion II. The ship design possibilities in that game were enormous, with a large number of viable strategies and interesting tradeoffs most of the way through the tech tree.

        • Zorgon says:

          There’s been a LOT of development in that genre since MOO2, though. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an undisputed classic, but it’s not like 4X has been like turn-based unit tactics games (effectively abandoned in the west between the two XCOM eras); there are hundreds of 4X games out there.

          Most fall into two categories – “MOO2 only with some extra gimmick” and “variably successful attempt at new 4X”. The various Star Empires games fit nicely into 1, while Stellaris is the most recent attempt at 2. (Most have an unfortunate habit of falling into rock/paper/scissors mechanics.)

          • cassander says:

            There’s been a lot of attempted development since moo2, but I don’t think there’s been much real improvement. most of the imitators have been more complicated and less deep, particularly when it comes to ship combat.

            Stellaris has come closest, I think, though it remains hobbled by a few bad interface choices (the pop system scales atrociously, and sectors are a bad jerryrig to cover for it)

      • bean says:

        Aurora has about 90% of it covered. I’d like a slightly better mechanism for doing related designs, as it’s currently impossible to, say, replace a set of lasers with upgraded versions without retooling, even though this makes no sense. And there’s a serious gap in the crew system. No rotation, so you have the best crews in the oldest ships.
        Haven’t played Masters of Orion.

        • Zorgon says:

          Automatic rotation is a feature in more recent versions of Aurora, just to note. You set the standard tour of duty on the Officer screen. Helps a lot with the whole “half your officers retiring because it takes 5 years to build a ship” thing too.

  14. jeqofire says:

    What does it mean to “accept” something? In the sense of accepting a seemingly unchangeable negative—death, disability, defeat, etc? It seems like this is a nebulous concept with enough different meanings and uses that applying it to a negative circumstance strikes me as dubious, but maybe I’m missing something?
    Does this form of acceptance differ from acknowledging or admitting to the circumstance in question? Are or aren’t we smuggling in “And this seemingly negative thing is OK, if not actually good“?
    Where does a psychologically healthy acceptance of something unpleasant end, and unhealthy learned helplessness or laziness begin?

    • Charles F says:

      When I’ve accepted something, I don’t have an overriding emotional reaction to thinking about it. I move from becoming so upset when I consider, say, an injury that it derails my train of thought to being able to consider it in the context of whatever situation. Like, being able to be frustrated that I can’t do something, or happy that I get a good parking spot, instead of being mad at whatever caused it whenever it comes up.

      It’s definitely different from acknowledging or admitting. Avoidance/denial are certainly ways one could react to something that they hadn’t accepted, but they’re not the only emotional baggage that could go along with something. I don’t think it requires thinking the thing is actually OK, though that would certainly help. I don’t think that my version does bleed into learned helplessness and laziness, not attaching emotions to the thing in question should allow you to work against or try to fix the thing based on other considerations than emotional baggage.

  15. Andrew Hunter says:

    So I’ve never watched The Office (just didn’t have the interest.) Cultural osmosis told me that the character people like is Jim, who is generally described as nice, likable, fairly low status but happy. I know he has a weird coworker and rival Dwight who is generally described as overbearing, weird, and in somewhat of a (unfairly) dominant position over Jim. I know Ribbonfarm sometimes uses The Office to explain his theories of social dynamics, but not having seen much, it’s hard to contextualize. Then I happened to watch this youtube video of how Jim treats Dwight.

    Now, I found most of those pranks somewhat funny. But overall, the video sickened me a little bit. The overwhelming impression I got of Jim is that he is a callous sociopath who enjoys tormenting Dwight (who is weak, low status, and too weird for anyone to care about.) Dwight may not be the nicest person, but he doesn’t begin to deserve being treated like this, nor does Jim gain anything from it–he’s just pulling the wings off flies. I mean, look at his demeanor when describing his actions–does this person have any empathy at all? And the rare times that other people show up (usually Pam, who I know is dating him…) they seem to sympathize with Jim. What the hell is going on? Am I

    * Overgeneralizing from a very small set of unrepresentative clips
    * That, but the rest of the show makes Dwight actually deserve this treatment
    * Reading way too much into this
    * accurately characterizing these people?

    If it’s the last, I’m pretty depressed at how whatever-the-polite-word-for-normies think. This is an admirable, likable person? It makes more sense that Ribbonfarm seems to consider the show an exercise in how sociopaths function, but damn, this is more depressing than I thought.

    • Loquat says:

      I have only watched the British version of The Office, not the American version, and I’ve heard the latter does make some changes to the characters. But Dwight’s British equivalent, Gareth, kind of earns that treatment, largely through his irritating combination of blatantly sucking up to the boss and trying to throw his weight around with everyone else because he’s Assistant Manager (which he’s actually not, he’s Assistant TO the Manager, a correction Jim’s British equivalent is constantly making whenever Gareth claims to be AM).

    • Incurian says:

      That’s out of context. Dwight is pretty insufferable. If you were to watch a compilation of all his scheming to get his coworkers fired or being an asshole about using his meager authority, Jim wouldn’t look so bad. If he were just awkward in social situations and people picked on him for it, then you’d have a point, but he totally deserves the pranking.

      ETA: And I like Dwight. At school we assigned everyone a character from the office and I was immediately identified as a Dwight. He’s not all bad, but he has done some bad stuff, enough that the pranking is justified.

    • rahien.din says:

      Dwight is not entirely unredeemed, but, he is an arrogant, vicious, bootlicking embodiment of the Dunning-Kruger effect. He genuinely harms Jim, such as when he steals Jim’s biggest client (and thereby, Jim’s annual bonus). He’s the personification of everything wrong with the modern work environment. So Dwight largely deserves it.

      And Jim doesn’t get let off the hook, either. Verisimilitude bites him in the ass at some very inopportune times.

    • baconbits9 says:

      I think the real reason is a combination of the fact that you don’t see all the pranks in sequence on the show, and that they are treated as consequence free. The same way as your average viewer is fine with unlimited numbers of faceless henchmen getting shot in action movies, as long as the consequences aren’t real there is a disconnect.

      • Randy M says:

        There is an episode (late in season 2, I think) where Michael the boss is mediating between Jim and Dwight, and Michael reads a list of pranks Jim has done, with cuts to Jim’s responses, which start out amused at himself, and fade to embarrassment and remorse. In the same way that the quick cuts to intro don’t allow the audience to consider the sum of all the pranks Jim pulls, which is usually about 1 in every 3 episodes or so, it’s clear Jim hasn’t really seen it from an outside perspective before.

        When the pranks work, they work as comedy largely because of the visual effect. Also, they usually require as much or more work to set up than they would to recover from (like a stapler in Jello, or gift wrapping Dwight’s desk). The meta-joke is that this is, early on, the sole avenue of Jim’s ambition and effort, whereas he has a job he is embarrassed about that he doesn’t need to try at and doesn’t bother to advance in. Dwight, meanwhile, is a try-hard who excels at his job through devotion to his superior and completely disregarding his coworkers, peppering his interactions with insults and taking any chance to screw them over, in addition to taking himself way too seriously.

        Jim, like Michael Bluth from Arrested Development, is the straight man and viewpoint character but over time the show admits that he isn’t flawless and has some role to play in the office dramas.

        If you want to see Jim get comeuppance, see the episodes where Charles minor becomes regional manager. Jim wears a tux to work to mock Dwight’s office dress code memo and impress the easily impressible Michael, without realizing Charles is starting that day an is a little more down to earth than the made for comedy regular cast.

        There’s also plenty of episodes where Jim and Dwight cooperate, or Jim shows some care for Dwight, such as when Dwight gets a concussion or when they leave a favorable review for his agro-tourism side job.

    • Brad says:

      There was a guy in college who attached himself to my group of friends. In the years after college those of us that stayed in touch stopped telling stories of the things we did to this guy because they tended to provoke horrified reactions. The thing is though he wasn’t just annoying, he was seriously nasty whenever he thought he could get away with it. These incidents drained away whatever natural sympathy anyone might have had for an annoying guy who just wanted to have friends.

    • Bobby Shaftoe says:

      I’ve recently watched a lot of the office. I’ve seen “Jim is actually a psychopath” as a pretty common contrarian “hot take”, so you certainly aren’t the only one.

      I have a different perspective though. For one thing, I think the show has to be understood in a somewhat “magical realism” context. One the one hand, the characters, especially Dwight and Michael, are absurd. There is no way they could exist in the real world. But in the world of the Office, Dwight is one of the best salesmen, and the Scranton branch under Michaels leadership stays profitable against all odds. When Dwight and Michael interact with people outside of the office, they often pull out bits of self awareness that are not apparent during their in office shenanigans. Dwight knows that he is ridiculous, and he can modulate his behaviors as needed. On the other hand, he wants to be ridiculous. His rivalry with Jim is an outlet for this kind of behavior. Jim and Pam are the ones who always engage with him. For examples:

      Pam: Okay. So… you would be the Regional Manager, and the Assistant Regional Manager. Andy is your number two. I would be the Secret Assistant Regional Manager.
      Dwight: Mmmmmm, let’s call it Secret Assistant to the Regional Manager.
      Pam: Mm-hmm.
      Dwight: Do you accept?
      Pam: Absolutely, I do.

      Pam (to camera): I learned from Jim, if Dwight ever asks you to accept something secret… you reply, “Absolutely, I do.”

      Although on the surface Jim and Pam are laughing at, rather than with, Dwight, I think the situation is more nuanced than it might seem. What isn’t shown in these “compilation of pranks” videos are all the moments where, when things get serious for one reason or another, both Jim and Dwight show real kindness to each other, often in ways that are hidden from the other.

    • Nick says:

      14:15: “You know, these actually don’t sound that funny, one after another… but he does—deserve it, though.”

    • Aapje says:

      @Andrew Hunter

      The show alternates between a lot of sympathy for the characters and being very harsh on them. I think that you can make any character seem picked on or being a giant douche by cherry picking clips. Ultimately, there is a lot of nuance that shines through, but it is nuance that is not so much present at first, but built up over time. At first when watching the show, you see the extremes and then some nuance gets introduced later and this changes your view of the characters. Some of the characters are first portrayed as ugly and get revealed to have nice traits and some of the characters are first portrayed as nice, but get revealed to have nasty traits.

      You can’t really get that from individual clips though, you actually need to see the show to have a frame of reference, so you can see the shifts.

      Jim and Pam are the normie characters that get more sympathy and less harshness than other characters, but they are clearly criticized within the show as well. One of the main criticisms is that they are unambitious losers, with way more capability than necessary for their job, but they prefer to be the best in their office environment, rather than seek greater challenges where they may fail. It’s the kind of soft criticism that most people empathize with, of course (‘you are too good for what you do’). It’s softball criticism to keep viewers happy.

      Dwight is an authoritarian person who loves rules and rank, but has limited sensitivity to the emotional needs of others, so he has low natural leadership ability. So within the show, the other characters both feed Dwight’s needs by giving him ‘rank’ and rules to follow/police and undermine him to keep him from getting too ambitious and dangerous. The pranking is part of the latter. An example of the former is that Dwight has the title ‘assistant to the regional manager’ which provides no higher salary or actual rank above a salesperson, but which he sees as being 2nd in command. Dwight calls himself the ‘assistant regional manager.’ So people exploit Dwight’s eagerness for rank by giving him a title that he perceives as granting rank, but which is actually just a ruse.

      However, it is not really fair to see this as a case where Dwight merely gets exploited/abused by others, because he also exploits/abuses others. Dwight also pranks Jim in turn, sometimes to great excess. For example, in one (season 7) episode, Dwight keeps attacking Jim with snowballs and snowball traps and refuses Jim’s surrender when he is hurt and full of fear. It’s really quite abusive. That was at a point in the show where the writing got quite poor, though.

      Anyway, I think that the common view is that season 1 is where the show is still finding it’s voice, season 2 is very good, season 3 slightly worse. Season 4 is where the down-slide starts (although that season is still quite good). So if you want to watch it, I suggest merely watching season 1-3 and perhaps also 4.

    • Wrong Species says:

      Sociopath doesn’t mean “person does mean things sometimes”.

    • raj says:

      I think you’ve misread it.

      Dwight is an insufferable and undersocialized jerk -like someone with aspergers, and not in that kind of weird-but-harmless way. Also, he is a sort of fantastical character that can only exist in the world of the office, so there is no way someone could interact with him reasonably.

      But Jim has found a way to engage with him, creating a sort of “frenemy” dynamic. You might say that Jim is toying with Dwight, but the alternative is *ignoring* him, like everyone else does.

      In the end it amounts to Jim and Pam being Dwights’ only real friends in the office, though the nature of their friendship is subtle.

  16. johan_larson says:

    A few OTs back, we were discussing upcoming books, including Bryan Caplan’s “The Case Against Education.” An article based on the book is now available over at The Atlantic:

    https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/01/whats-college-good-for/546590/?utm_source=atltw

    • johan_larson says:

      Let’s suppose Caplan is right, so most college degrees aren’t actually all that useful, but employers think they are very valuable in indicating quality employees. How can a savvy person take advantage of this situation?

      I can think of two things to do. First, don’t pay top dollar for a second-rate degree. Some small private colleges charge almost as much as top-tier colleges, without being nearly as prestigious. And since prestige is the point of a college education, not the actual knowledge, an expensive but unprestigious college education is a waste. If you have to get a college education, and the point isn’t the prestige but only the fact of having a college degree, get the cheapest one that counts. That’s probably a state school, or better yet a two-year community college degree followed by two years at a four-year college with an articulation agreement (so courses transfer cleanly.)

      Second, check whether the career you want to pursue actually requires a college degree. And if it doesn’t, don’t go to college. Spend those four years in an entry level job learning the business. Or do two years of college rather than four.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Indeed, in the average study, senior year of college brings more than twice the pay increase of freshman, sophomore, and junior years combined. Unless colleges delay job training until the very end, signaling is practically the only explanation.

      Pretty sure this has been brought up before, but there’s another possible explanation. Many of those who drop out are those who can’t hack it. We don’t get dropouts through random sampling. This explanation works whether the main value of college is signalling (in which case those who drop out are signalling they can’t hack it) or training (in which case those who drop out are those who aren’t being succesfully trained)

      • quanta413 says:

        I don’t think it makes sense to say this fact can be explained through the training model unless we add epicycles to the training model. IIRC the whole point of the sheepskin effect is that comparisons were made between people who dropped out after x semesters with a barely passing average and those who after graduated with a barely passing average in x + 1 semesters. If training was the explanation, it doesn’t make sense that the second group would have a huge wage premium over the first group. They both should have gained roughly equal amounts of training from barely passing the first 7 semesters of class.

        The only way it makes sense is to add additional details (which are plausible, but I feel like they are still epicycles compared to the obvious explanation: “a degree usually has no relationship to training you for a future job”) like “employers don’t want to spend the time evaluating your college courses in any way other than pass/fail because it’s not worth their time to make such an evaluation” (probably true).

        For what it’s worth, I think there are some degrees that train many students in them for their future jobs, and some degrees do train you for something. But I still think the idea that college is essentially an expensive signal of some mixture of intelligence, persistence (or “willingness to put up with bullshit”), and the right social indicators (or “class conformity”) makes a lot more sense. Required credentials are relevant as well for some jobs.

        • bean says:

          I think that dropping out after 7 semesters is a fairly serious red flag to employers. You’re almost done with your degree, and you know that employers put a high premium on you having a degree, right or wrong. If you aren’t willing to hold your nose and get that last semester done, it doesn’t make me think highly of your conscientiousness. I suppose you could classify that as signalling, but it’s signalling something indisputably important, not just “I’m of the right social class”.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            https://blog.petersons.com/2015/11/11/top-11-reasons-why-college-students-dropout-dont-let-it-happen-to-you/

            I do wonder if so-called conscientiousness is as important as it’s made out to be, and how context-dependent it is. I also wonder how much conscientiousness is needed for varying people in varying circumstances to graduate. I can easily imagine someone with a very high degree of conscientiousness dropping out under the appropriate circumstances while someone with noticeably less completes.

            I can also imagine an aromantic having far less conscientiousness in a romantic relationship than a romantic, and an asocial having far less conscientiousness in a social milieu than a social, while both have more conscientiousness in another context than their counterparts.

          • Nick says:

            I have a friend who dropped out after seven semesters. It turned out he was seriously confused about his degree requirements and was taking the bare minimum of classes each semester, which in retrospect explains why he never had any work and was playing video games all the time. So he didn’t go the last semester because he simply couldn’t finish his degree in that time. I do feel bad for him; I counseled lots of folks on how to finish in time and what to take, including a biochem major whose freshman schedule was seriously f@$#ed, but my friend never asked for my help or said anything was wrong until it was too late!

            Following anonymousskimmer, I’d speculate there’s at least two kinds of conscientiousness. He had one kind, to be sure—he always did his work, but not to the best of his ability, and my impression was that he didn’t feel it was worth it. On the other hand, I don’t always do my work, but when I do, I’m an uncompromising perfectionist—I’ve chosen not to turn in things which I don’t feel are good enough, and at work now I delay projects I’m working on to fiddle with the code or even the documentation. About a third of the comments I write on SSC are never posted; I edit and edit and edit but never get them the way I want them, or I decide it’s better off not being posted. There’s the conscientiousness of getting things started, and there’s the conscientiousness of following through.

          • bean says:

            Of the things on that list, family emergency is the only one that makes sense with one semester left to go. (That should have been my framing, not just seven semesters.) it

            That said, college is a lot like work, to the point where being the sort of person who can get a college degree is a good indicator of work success. I think we probably underrate this because we are the sort of people who find college fairly easy.

          • quanta413 says:

            If you aren’t willing to hold your nose and get that last semester done, it doesn’t make me think highly of your conscientiousness. I suppose you could classify that as signalling, but it’s signalling something indisputably important, not just “I’m of the right social class”.

            From your post, I think we actually agree about this example. This sort of thing is exactly what is meant by signalling. The signalling hypothesis isn’t that the signal indicates nothing of value. It’s that finishing college is signalling a mixture of (mostly) valuable traits that most people who finish college would have whether or not they went to college i.e. college doesn’t affect the traits students are sending a signal about. Intelligence and persistence are valuable; it’s just that college doesn’t do much to increase either of those traits. Even the ability to fit in with a particular social class is of value since people work in groups- even if it’s kind of a dickish criteria. In this case what you call “conscientiousness” is what I called “persistence” or “willingness to put up with bullshit”. Whether or not you have the conscientiousness to put up with the last semester of college has little to do with training (at least training you received in college), but a lot to do with what sort of person you are. And it’s a costly signal to send. Signalling conscientiousness has nothing to do with building human capital that wasn’t there before college.

            From the economic point of view, college as signalling may be very wasteful if there are much cheaper ways people could send true signals about the traits of interest. We already have cheap (compared to college), good signals of intelligence that people usually have to take to apply for college like the SAT and ACT. It’s also not hard to tell if someone’s roughly of the desired social class or what have you just by talking to them, and this criteria is arguably ethically wrong anyways. That just leaves persistence or conscientiousness as being something people need to send a signal about. These are admittedly harder to test, since until people are adults you might worry that their parents are heavily influencing what you can observe about these. But I find it hard to believe that they can’t be accurately tested for less than ~50-200 thousand dollars and four to five years of time.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            “I think we probably underrate this because we are the sort of people who find college fairly easy.”

            As I’ve said before here, I dropped out multiple times. It took me 12 years to earn an A.S. (with 123 semester credit equivalents which transferred), and an additional 5 years to earn a B.S (with just under 200 transferrable semester credit equivalents). I only finished because my wife wouldn’t let me drop out the last semester — 35 hours at work + nearly full-time at school + not enough money to take a required gen ed course at the school (fortunately I could take it online at a cheaper community college) + tons and tons of frustration and anger at the entire college process.

            None* of my managers have had a serious problem with my work, and have in fact thought it was generally very good (though I do better at the white collar stuff than the blue/pink collar stuff).

            The fundamental problem with college is that it’s broadly homogenous in the US (though the rest of the world does differ in important respects) – you need particular traits, even some which may be detrimental or constraining to real-life functioning, to make it through. We need more diversity in tertiary education.

            * – Okay, just the baker who was paranoid that we minimum wage flunkies were talking behind his back. This was when I was 19 or 20.

          • publiusvarinius says:

            I think that dropping out after 7 semesters is a fairly serious red flag to employers.

            I am pretty darn sure that difference between “dropping out after 7 semesters” and “dropping out after 1 semester” simply never shows up in the hiring process of most (90%++) all companies. These processes tend to treat the signal as binary, degree/no-degree.

            To gather some weak evidence, one could send out nigh-identical CVs and compare response rates – although response rates to cold CVs are low enough to make the experiment time-consuming anyway.

    • rahien.din says:

      Caplan doesn’t understand his own vocabulary.

      Caplan : I’m cynical about students. The vast majority are philistines.

      phil·is·tine
      ˈfiləˌstēn
      noun
      1. a person who is hostile or indifferent to culture and the arts, or who has no understanding of them.

      Caplan : From kindergarten on, students spend thousands of hours studying subjects irrelevant to the modern labor market. Why do English classes focus on literature and poetry instead of business and technical writing? Why do advanced-math classes bother with proofs almost no student can follow? When will the typical student use history? Trigonometry? Art? Music? Physics? Latin? The class clown who snarks “What does this have to do with real life?” is onto something.

      Caplan is the very definition of a philistine.

      Caplan is using numbers incorrectly.

      Fifty years ago, college was a full-time job. The typical student spent 40 hours a week in class or studying.

      Effort has since collapsed across the board. “Full time” college students now average 27 hours of academic work a week—including just 14 hours spent studying.

      According to his assertions and his sources, the numbers should probably be :
      – 50 years ago : 40 hours total, 24 hours studying, 16 hours in class
      – Today : 27 hours total, 14 hours studying, 13 hours in class

      These are different courseloads – a rather elementary error on his part. If we normalize :

      – 50 years ago, 13 hour courseload : 19.5 hours studying, 32.5 hours total
      – Today, 13 hour courseload : 14 hours studying, 27 hours total.

      – 50 years ago, 16 hour courseload : 24 hours studying, 40 hours total
      – Today, 16 hour courseload : 17.2 hours studying, 33.2 hours total

      So the average 2017 student’s effort level is about 83% of what it was 50 years ago, to the tune of 5-7 fewer hours of studying per week.

      Heavens to fuckin’ Betsy we’re all goddamn doomed.

      And what, pray tell, are these insouciant brats doing with those ill-gotten 5-7 hours per week?

      Having fun

      ‘What!’ said rahien.din at length, in a faint voice.

      Having fun

      How. Dare. They. You can’t have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat.

      His two main criticisms directly oppose each other.

      – Caplan the philistine proclaims that the vast majority of college is irrelevant to modern life.
      – Caplan the master in his cook’s apron proclaims that 5-7 fewer hours of studying per week is a deplorable collapse of effort.

      But if most of a collegiate education is useless, then students should be spending as little time as necessary learning those useless things! Or, if it is an educational crime to spend 5-7 fewer hours per weeks studying, then it must mean that these subjects have great value! Make up your mind, professor!

      Here’s my interpretation of the facts he presents.

      If over the course of 50 years we didn’t get a good deal better at teaching college students, then something would be very, very wrong with our society. This is especially true given that 50 years ago we didn’t have computers. The digital revolution has given students and instructors access to a wide variety of instructional techniques and information sources. Caplan must account for these, so on some level his claim must be “Despite access to computers and despite natural progress in teaching methods, the process of collegiate learning is just as efficient in 2017 as it was in 1967.” I don’t think that’s remotely plausible.

      So while I don’t discount some amount of grade inflation, I think that 5-7 fewer hours of studying per week could be interpreted (at least in part) as a success.

      If students are fulfilling the requirements of the agreement they struck with their university, then no one may criticize their use of free time. Especially when 8 hours are spent working for pay, 6 hours are spent exercising, and 16 hours are spent using computers for fun or doing hobbies that are neither “other forms of entertainment,” “socializing,” or “watching TV.” That’s 30 hours a week spent on activities that, to me, would seem to develop a young person in healthy and productive ways.

      Which brings me to my last point. I am sure this has been done to death, but : it’s preposterous for an academic professor to compose an erudite essay at the Atlantic on their computer, distribute it by the internet, and therein to bemoan the irrelevance of such things as literature, advanced mathematics, and physics. Why do we need physics, trigonometry, and advanced mathematical proofs that few students can follow? So that someone can design Dr. Caplan’s laptop and the vast network of computers that will let us read it. Why do we need literature, poetry, and other written arts? So that someone can teach Dr. Caplan how to write a compelling, coherent essay. Why do we need history? So that Dr. Caplan can learn how to compare prior eras to our current situation. Such things as these suffer from the same problem as vaccinations : they are so integral to our societal health, and so very effective in their role, that their effect has become invisible.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        If over the course of 50 years we didn’t get a good deal better at teaching college students, then something would be very, very wrong with our society.

        Why? We’ve already been teaching people things for millennia now, so even if there was some sort of continuous improvement in our teaching methods (an extremely dubious assumption in the first place), an extra fifty years wouldn’t make much difference.

        • Randy M says:

          If nothing else, it is simpler to find Journal articles and locate books in libraries. I expect the time in the library to write a paper was cut down a bit around the turn of the century. Evaluating sources might be harder now, though, and there’s more published about everything, so perhaps it’s evened out.

        • rahien.din says:

          I kind of went into why.

          We’ve already been teaching people things for millennia now … so an extra fifty years wouldn’t make much difference.

          This is like saying “We’ve been doing agriculture / war / mathematics / physics / metallurgy / art / music for millenia, an extra fifty years wouldn’t make much difference.” That’s obviously false.

          You’ve basically exempted education from the list of disciplines in which we endeavor to progressively improve our methods.

          It is rather dubious to assume that there is some sort of continuous improvement in our teaching methods

          I hadn’t really assumed so. But, if we don’t assume that, then we take as premise that there may be discontinuous improvements in our teaching methods. If that is so, then the late 20th century would seem to be a fertile ground for some leap forward.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I kind of went into why.

            You said a bit about computers, and nothing about “natural progress in teaching methods”, whatever that might be.

            This is like saying “We’ve been doing agriculture / war / mathematics / physics / metallurgy / art / music for millenia, an extra fifty years wouldn’t make much difference.” That’s obviously false.

            “Much difference” in the sense of “much increase in quality”. Art, music, and to a lesser extent military leadership, are all different to fifty years ago, but it is (to say the least) not obvious that our artists, musicians, and generals are better than their predecessors in the sixties.

            You’ve basically exempted education from the list of disciplines in which we endeavor to progressively improve our methods.

            There are lots of areas where we don’t expect progressive improvements — parenting, for example, or maintaining friendships, or inspiring underlings, all of which strike me as far more analogous to education than working out mathematical formulae does.

            I hadn’t really assumed so. But, if we don’t assume that, then we take as premise that there may be discontinuous improvements in our teaching methods. If that is so, then the late 20th century would seem to be a fertile ground for some leap forward.

            Why?

      • baconbits9 says:

        Caplan is the very definition of a philistine.

        No. Caplan loves the arts, and seeks them out for his own enjoyment. What he is noting is that the majority of students don’t care about them and don’t seek them out on their own. Their exposure in school is a waste and the courses are mostly selected for ease of passing not for aesthetic enjoyment and certainly not for practical implementation.

        These are different courseloads – a rather elementary error on his part. If we normalize :

        Why would you “normalize”? Taking a lighter course load is less work. Either the students are taking longer to complete degrees or they are graduating with fewer extra credits, either way they are putting in less work per day than those of 50 years ago by a substantial amount. They are even putting in less work per credit hour despite the lower over all load, so they aren’t hyper focused either. Doing less and doing it less often is, well, LESS.

        • Randy M says:

          courses are mostly selected for ease of passing not for aesthetic enjoyment and certainly not for practical implementation.

          I don’t think this is a fair way to evaluate. Consider the risks of taking a course and not passing it, versus the risks in checking out a book on a topic or visiting a museum. I don’t know if students are doing those latter things, but not taking a course on the arts isn’t a fair way of judging them when it could have significant costs and is easily replicated off-line.
          For instance, in school I wanted to take a “Sci-fi and culture” class outside my biology major, but declined because it would put me over 16 credits, and taking more than 15 or 16 (don’t recall the cut off) credits in a semester incurred an additional per credit cost. Similarly a neuroscience course, despite having an interest in the topic, I didn’t have the time. I did later take a course on Kurt Vonnegut because it was interesting and filled in some elective requirement.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I don’t think Caplan’s arguments against college are going to represent the commenting section of SSC.

            I think Caplan’s argument would be more along the lines of “if you take courses in X and then graduate and spend basically no leisure time pursuing X you probably took it for the easy A, not for an inherent interest”.

          • Randy M says:

            Yes, but perusing the easy A is the rational choice where the cost of failing is repeating the course for about $1,000, Likewise, not taking interesting but nonessential courses is rational when the cost per marginal credit is hundreds of dollars and increased risk of failing required courses.
            And in highly competitive environments, the cost of lowering your GPA may be non-negligible. (GPA probably doesn’t matter for most students, but perhaps for those seeking a phd it is a consideration?)

          • baconbits9 says:

            Yes, but this all fits in with Caplan’s thesis, that college is a signalling, not learning, game for most and that it is a waste on the social level.

          • Randy M says:

            Okay, I find that quite persuasive, but given the stakes of the game, I’m not going to condemn the players as philistines.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I would just say that in Caplan’s world/mind he isn’t condemning them to be philistines, he just thinks that is what they are and that there shouldn’t be a pretense that everyone loves or should love art.

        • rahien.din says:

          Why would you “normalize”?

          Because we have to make a rigorous comparison. It’s a very basic error. Students taking fewer credit-hours should be spending less time studying on their own. We have to adjust for that or our comparisons will be invalid.

          I agree that they are demonstrably spending less study time per credit hour, but this is not necessarily a bad thing or the wrong thing.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Because we have to make a rigorous comparison. It’s a very basic error. Students taking fewer credit-hours should be spending less time studying on their own. We have to adjust for that or our comparisons will be invalid.

            His argument isn’t on this level though, his argument is that the effort level of college students is way down. You are normalizing away an actual difference, you don’t just normalize everything, you normalize to the definition of what you are trying to measure.

          • rahien.din says:

            baconbits9,

            His argument isn’t on this level though

            His argument needs more rigor because there are two facets to the question of “How much effort are students expending now, when compared to 50 years ago?”

            If you just look at the raw numbers then yes, 27 is a little more than half of 40 – scary.

            If you actually examine what’s going on, it’s an extra 45-60 minutes of free time per day, for equivalent courseloads.

            Or, it’s effectively one fewer course per semester – which should please Caplan, who thinks that most of collegiate education is irrelevant to the modern labor market.

          • baconbits9 says:

            His argument needs more rigor because there are two facets to the question of “How much effort are students expending now, when compared to 50 years ago?”

            There are? I think virtually everyone would consider the amount of time doing something a primary factor of effort. You would normalize for hours if the number of hours available was lower for some reason.

            If you actually examine what’s going on, it’s an extra 45-60 minutes of free time per day, for equivalent courseloads.

            If your boss asked why you weren’t putting in the effort required at work, how smoothly would your explanation of “Well I am working just as hard when I am here, I am just showing up an hour later every day” would go over? How many people do you think would agree that working hard for 30 hours is the same amount of effort as working hard for 40 hours?

            Or, it’s effectively one fewer course per semester – which should please Caplan, who thinks that most of collegiate education is irrelevant to the modern labor market.

            You have it backwards, Caplan is citing this as evidence that the value of education to the modern labor market has declined. There is no reason for him to be happy about it.

          • rahien.din says:

            If your boss asked why you weren’t putting in the effort required at work

            But that isn’t what we are discussing. We are discussing students who are putting in less effort than they would have 50 years ago, but who are still putting in the effort required to get a degree. Caplan says “today’s college students are less willing than those of previous generations to do the bare minimum of showing up for class and temporarily learning whatever’s on the test,” but he never says that more kids are failing their classes and/or dropping out. He cites grade inflation as a reason why students are still passing.

            Less effort for the same result is not a bad thing. If Andy expends 100 units of effort to build 100 widgets per hour, and Bob expends 150 units of effort to build the same 100 widgets per hour, who is the better widget builder?

            If Andy expends 27 hours a week to attain a degree in four years, and Bob expends 40 hours a week to attain the same degree in the same time, who is the more effective student? You might contend “Bob would have learned the material better, though,” but Caplan does not permit this! He describes most subjects as a waste of effort. If Bob really endeavors to integrate meaningless knowledge into his self, he has poor judgment.

            Effort for effort’s sake is not a virtue.

            If you want to claim that this overall decrease in effort is a bad thing, you’d have to show that it has some bad consequence. But it doesn’t. Per Caplan, the course material has low inherent value, and employers do not attach value to it. If studying does not enrich the student personally, and does not improve their prospects, then any excess effort studying is evidence of poor judgment.

            You have it backwards, Caplan is citing this as evidence that the value of education to the modern labor market has declined.

            I think I agree with you here.

            But Caplan ought to be praising this behavior. As an economist he ought not be so shocked by it.

            Moreover, why is that a bad thing? Maybe this is evidence that the value of this sort of education is not simply in its applicability to the job market?

          • baconbits9 says:

            Less effort for the same result is not a bad thing. If Andy expends 100 units of effort to build 100 widgets per hour, and Bob expends 150 units of effort to build the same 100 widgets per hour, who is the better widget builder?

            If this was actually your argument then you would have normalized for the value of the degree along with the effort, but you didn’t. If anything you tried to do the opposite by deleting the difference in course work an average degree took. This would only make sense if the value of the degree was in signalling and not learning, which is the basis of Caplan’s broad, anti college thesis.

          • rlms says:

            @baconbits9
            “This would only make sense if the value of the degree was in signalling and not learning, which is the basis of Caplan’s broad, anti college thesis.”
            Yes, that’s exactly the point. Caplan’s point about student effort is inconsistent with his thesis about signalling.

          • quanta413 says:

            @rlms

            Yes, that’s exactly the point. Caplan’s point about student effort is inconsistent with his thesis about signalling.

            What? How? If student effort can drop and student learning and human capital output is low, but the value of a degree to the individual remains unchanged or grows, how is that not an argument in favor of the signalling explanation?

            @rahien.din

            But Caplan ought to be praising this behavior. As an economist he ought not be so shocked by it.

            He’s not shocked by it, and he explicitly endorses behaving in this way on an individual level in the article (he tells college ready students to go to college to collect their claim check for more money). But it’s still a huge societal waste. Libertarians have concerns about the greater good too (partly because this sort of behavior implies we can almost all come out ahead by changing the system; bonus points in that the change would make it less coercive).

            Maybe this is evidence that the value of this sort of education is not simply in its applicability to the job market?

            That’s why he cites all those studies showing that humans have terrible retention for all the things they are supposed to have learned during college. And also why he points out that students tend to be philistines so it’s not a classical liberal education or its benefits that they are trying to get (or receiving even if unwillingly). So college is (A) often not applicable to the job market and (B) most people retain very little of what colleges supposedly teach them and don’t seem to gain much of the classical liberal ideal either. That leaves the value to be in either signalling (there must be a cheaper way to send truthful signals here) or as a sort of class indoctrination system (which is good if you’re a sort of reactionary or aristocrat and bad if you’re most anything else).

            EDIT: I guess you could also make the Noah Smith argument that partying is important for “connections”, but I find this theory so terrible outside of the ivy league (where it’s still a morally bankrupt argument in favor of them even if true) that I’m not going to engage it unless someone reeeaaally wants to defend it.

          • rahien.din says:

            baconbits9,

            If this was actually your argument then you would have normalized for the value of the degree along with the effort

            Sheesh.

            Let’s assume that if a product declines in value, one should pay less for that product, if possible.

            – 50 years ago : more units of value per degree ; more overall effort and more effort per credit-hour to attain degree
            – Today : fewer units of value per degree; less overall effort and less effort per credit-hour to attain degree

            Again, this seems like a wise decision on the part of the students.

            If we were to normalize for the apparent value of a degree in the modern labor market (numbers which are not available in the sources we have been using so far), I would wager that students are expending a similar amount of effort per education-value-unit as they would have in the late 60’s.

            He’s not shocked by it, and he explicitly endorses behaving in this way on an individual level in the article

            Goalposts!

            The behavior I’m referring to is “expend as little effort as possible.” Caplan does want kids to go to college, in order that they can increase their earning potential. Attaining a degree is the behavior he explicitly endorses.

            I am (have been, and will be) responding to his criticism of how students spend their effort during college. Caplan decries the apparent “collapse of effort.” He seems to find it shocking that students are spending 27 hours a week now, whereas in the 1960’s they were spending 40 hours a week. He does not endorse the decrease in effort whatsoever.

            Neither do you! Both you and Caplan seem to believe that the decrease in effort is itself a bad thing.

          • quanta413 says:

            Neither do you! Both you and Caplan seem to believe that the decrease in effort is itself a bad thing.

            I have never said that and don’t think that so I don’t know why you think I think that. I don’t think Caplan does either. It’s bad because along with all the other lines of evidence it’s a sign that the value of the degree is not in what it adds to a student’s human capital! I don’t buy your claim that teaching has gotten better because it’s still done the same way and a lot of the professors have been teaching for decades! Maybe not many back to the 60s, but very many back to the 90s easily. I also have 50 year old textbooks and 5 year old textbooks and I can look and see that on average no meaningful change has occurred. Far too much of college boils down to charging the student or the government ~$100,000 and 5 years of time to send a signal about the student’s intelligence, perseverance, and social class. But we know there are much cheaper ways to send truthful signals about intelligence (because they are required for bloody college admissions) and the third thing is morally questionable to even use as a criteria! That just leaves the second, but I still don’t believe it should cost that much to figure out.

            The decline in effort would not be a problem if college education was cheap (and I mean including all the externalities, not just cheap to the student) or if there was no better way to accomplish at least a very large chunk of its functions. It would also not be a problem if the point of college was to serve as an extended adolescence with partying and people paid for that themselves, but even then there are a hell of lot cheaper ways to get beer and some drinking buddies.

            EDIT: Response no longer relevant.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            My impression is that more college students have jobs these days. If so, that would explain part of why they’re putting less effort into college.

        • rahien.din says:

          What he is noting is that the majority of students don’t care about them and don’t seek them out on their own.

          To the extent that this is true, Caplan should approve of that decision!

          He derides art and music as “irrelevant to the modern labor market,” asks “When will the typical student use [these]?” and endorses the snarky comment “What [do art and music] have to do with real life?” and the implicit answer “Nothing.”

          So if a student doesn’t seek out the arts, good job student for focusing only on that which is relevant or required.

          Maybe this is the curse of parsimony, but : there’s nothing in the essay about Caplan’s love of the arts, or his desire to see them preserved and promulgated, or any shred of “I have found the arts to be valuable despite my students’ philistinic attitudes.” One would think that if the arts were truly something he found important, meaningful, and enriching, he would at least include that as a disclaimer.

          • baconbits9 says:

            To the extent that this is true, Caplan should approve of that decision!

            He does, he doesn’t approve of massive transfer of funds to schools to teach them when they aren’t wanted by most employers or employees in the name of “the arts”.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Maybe this is the curse of parsimony, but : there’s nothing in the essay about Caplan’s love of the arts, or his desire to see them preserved and promulgated, or any shred of “I have found the arts to be valuable despite my students’ philistinic attitudes.” One would think that if the arts were truly something he found important, meaningful, and enriching, he would at least include that as a disclaimer.

            Why? To fit your preconceived notions of what an argument should look like? To hedge his bets? His argument is (supposed to be) an analysis of the costs and benefits of the current university system, not his subjective tastes.

          • rahien.din says:

            His argument is (supposed to be) an analysis of the costs and benefits of the current university system, not his subjective tastes.

            Can I connect some other things you’ve said here?

            In your replies to Deiseach, you describe how marketable skills provide the fundamental stability/solvency that allows a person to pursue their other interests. And this is what education should be for. I think this is fair, and largely true.

            But I would contend that some of the skills and faculties developed in these other classes (arts, math, etc.) are transferable – I have certainly found this to be true despite having a professional career that does not rely on, for instance, a working knowledge of history.

            Moreover, the student who is permitted to pick only the things they find to be relevant before having learned them will simply Dunning-Kruger themselves into a much poorer education, and their university into a set of courses that naive college students find to be a priori alluring-yet-unintimidating. I am a better epileptologist because someone forced me to take 1. circuits, and 2. digital signal processing, despite the fact that I hated them at the time and thought they would be totally useless for my (mistakenly-) intended career.

            And exposure does ignite interest. I think Caplan’s dead wrong about that. The only people who ever get interested in a thing (be it marketable or otherwise) are the ones who are exposed to it.

          • quanta413 says:

            @rahien

            Moreover, the student who is permitted to pick only the things they find to be relevant before having learned them will simply Dunning-Kruger themselves into a much poorer education, and their university into a set of courses that naive college students find to be a priori alluring-yet-unintimidating.

            I honestly can’t tell how much you are describing a possible alternative and how much you are describing how universities actually work outside some of the “harder” majors like engineering or physics (to be fair, my impression is that history was also a “harder” major, but I don’t know the field well enough to know if this is true in general). In the worst case where universities have an incentive to push the students into easier classes, you get this. In the more typical case, you see students take a bunch of easy classes in communications or whatever, spend 5 nights a week partying, and then get their degree. At tuition costs routinely around 100,000 for five years, this is a tremendous waste of time and money from a societal point of view even if it personally benefits the party-goers.

            I am a better epileptologist because someone forced me to take 1. circuits, and 2. digital signal processing, despite the fact that I hated them at the time and thought they would be totally useless for my (mistakenly-) intended career.

            Were those required for pre-med or did you originally plan to be an engineer or something related?

          • rahien.din says:

            quanta413,

            In the more typical case, you see students take a bunch of easy classes in communications or whatever, spend 5 nights a week partying, and then get their degree. At tuition costs routinely around 100,000 for five years, this is a tremendous waste of time and money from a societal point of view even if it personally benefits the party-goers.

            You may be right! I probably don’t have much to add there.

            Were those required for pre-med or did you originally plan to be an engineer or something related?

            I was a biomedical engineering major in undergrad.

          • quanta413 says:

            I was a biomedical engineering major in undergrad.

            Considering that you ended up an epileptologist but were forced to take digital circuits because you thought you would be an engineer, I don’t think this says much about the U.S. system of college requirements either way.

            Granted, engineering degrees are one of the few degrees that people (including Caplan) mostly agree you are likely to end up using a lot of your knowledge and skills from later. However, since you didn’t end up an engineer, the best we can say is that maybe it’s suggestive of forcing more non-engineer students to take the harder math and engineering classes. Although I wouldn’t personally endorse this. We already bleed too many students from those majors because a lot of people can’t even pass their intro sequences; I think it’d be best to see how much sorting and retention could improve first.

          • rahien.din says:

            quanta413,

            I didn’t think I was going to be an engineer. BME was pre-med on steroids.

            I didn’t even think I was going to ever use circuits or DSP ever again – they appeared to have no practical value. What’s more, those were hard, hard courses. I had to drop circuits the first time around, and retook it in a summer semester. If anything, these courses made it harder on me.

            I thought I was going to be an orthopedic surgeon. If anything, I thought I was going to use my mechanics, solids, and materials engineering.

            Turns out I was dead wrong!

            If I hadn’t been forced to take something that appeared to have no practical value, and which didn’t inherently enhance my med-school admission prospects, I would not be nearly as good at my current job.

          • quanta413 says:

            @rahien.din

            If you thought you were going to be an orthopedic surgeon, doesn’t that still leave it as coincidence? I still fail to see how it says anything about college or college requirements one way or the other that you can choose to take non required things for your intended goal (surgeon) and some of them may randomly turn out to be useful when you become something else (epileptologist). If anything, this just argues for unbundling more. There’s no reason that we should rely on people accidentally having taken something useful to something they decide to do later during a single 4 or 5 year pass long before they know what they are going to do for work or for hobbies. It should be reasonable to take one class at a time later in life.

            And how much of your solids, mechanics, and materials engineering knowledge did you end up using? A full accounting has to also account for all the things you took and didn’t end up using.

            Admittedly, I am sympathetic to the argument that specifically learning the “harder” sciences is useful for so many possible jobs and as a mode of thinking that if that was most of what college consisted of for most people (instead of what it consists of for a significant minority, I wouldn’t be so worried). But that’s also my own field, so I’m obviously very biased. Even then, I don’t believe the current system for producing degrees in physics etc. is very sensible.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            If I hadn’t been forced to take something that appeared to have no practical value, and which didn’t inherently enhance my med-school admission prospects, I would not be nearly as good at my current job.

            I’m at least partially angry at High School and college requirements in that I had to give up options which would have (in my then belief) made me better at my job in order to take the required course load.

            In High School this meant forgoing a second year of community college (and thus graduating high school with an A.S. as at least one of my friends did) so that I could take Calculus at the community college and second year Chemistry at high school while also fulfilling my Art, History and English requirements. Of course this meant missing out on college Biology and college or high school Physics. Knowing what I know now I’d just skip the high school diploma and take the A.S., but knowing what I know now so many things would be different.

            (I could take a total of 9 quarter classes at the community college per year or 12 semester classes at the high school. So even though each college class was worth 4/3rds of each high school class, I’d still need to take one or two of them to fulfill the high school gen eds which required one or two high school classes, respectively.)

            And that was high school. Things were worse in college, especially once you factored in the number of times I dropped out, the number of colleges I attended, and the varying degree requirements at those colleges.

      • baconbits9 says:

        How. Dare. They. You can’t have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat.

        How. Dare. They. You can’t have any pudding if you don’t do into $100,000 worth of debt to do so.

        • rahien.din says:

          I won’t argue with this. College costs too much, and some people would be better-served by trade schools anyway. CMIIW, but I think that’s a different argument than is addressed by the article. It might be fleshed out in his book.

          • quanta413 says:

            I think you are badly misunderstanding Caplan’s criticism. He’s not writing the book to criticize students (although that may be incidental). He’s criticizing the existence of a system that adds little value (human capital) to its students compared to the cost of sending them through it. If it wasn’t for the negative distributional effects of the system and if the government wasn’t footing so much of the bill (on both the supply and demand sides), I don’t think he’d be so concerned.

          • rahien.din says:

            I think you are badly misunderstanding Caplan’s … book

            See, I thought I was responding to the online essay.

          • quanta413 says:

            Mea culpa for my poor wording. I have only read the essay and his other writings. I was still talking about the essay. When I said he’s not writing the book to criticize students, I don’t mean that you could have read the book, it’s not even out. I can’t have read it either. I am giving you my interpretation of why he’s writing it (and the essay), which I think is far more accurate than yours. Consider “writing the book” to be shorthand for “writing the book and essay”.

            You seem to think that his main point is that

            His two main criticisms directly oppose each other.

            – Caplan the philistine proclaims that the vast majority of college is irrelevant to modern life.
            – Caplan the master in his cook’s apron proclaims that 5-7 fewer hours of studying per week is a deplorable collapse of effort.

            But if most of a collegiate education is useless, then students should be spending as little time as necessary learning those useless things! Or, if it is an educational crime to spend 5-7 fewer hours per weeks studying, then it must mean that these subjects have great value! Make up your mind, professor!

            But neither of these things is his point. I’m not sure how you missed it, but his concern is about the societal waste of this system. It doesn’t succeed very well at its supposed goals, yet individuals who go through it are rewarded anyways.

            Anyways, he himself would still encourage any prepared student to in fact go waste their time in college given the current system. To quote him:

            Would I advise an academically well-prepared 18-year-old to skip college because she won’t learn much of value? Absolutely not. Studying irrelevancies for the next four years will impress future employers and raise her income potential. If she tried to leap straight into her first white-collar job, insisting, “I have the right stuff to graduate, I just choose not to,” employers wouldn’t believe her. To unilaterally curtail your education is to relegate yourself to a lower-quality pool of workers. For the individual, college pays.

            So he’s not writing to convince students not to go to college or to bash them as lazy. He’s bashing that students don’t learn enough to make the point that the system clearly does not do even vaguely well enough at the goal of getting students to learn things in the long term. And yet they are rewarded, so learning cannot explain why they go to college.

            His worry is about broader concerns than any individual maximizing their personal returns. It’s societal. Quoting him again

            This does not mean, however, that higher education paves the way to general prosperity or social justice. When we look at countries around the world, a year of education appears to raise an individual’s income by 8 to 11 percent. By contrast, increasing education across a country’s population by an average of one year per person raises the national income by only 1 to 3 percent. In other words, education enriches individuals much more than it enriches nations.

            Similarly, you claim that Caplan misuses the term philistine because he says students are philistine but also is willing to point out that most students won’t use what they learn at their jobs. But the essay is structured so that Caplan is knocking down multiple explanations for college in a row. First he attacks the possibility that it’s for job training by arguing that the way wage premiums arise from it does not match what we’d expect if that were true.

            Of course, many people will argue that college “helps you become a better citizen”, “it’s not all about money”, “it teaches you how to think and learn thoughout life” yada yada. So then he goes on to cite studies about how college largely fails at this goal.

            College has many unrelated and somewhat contradictory arguments people deploy in its favor as a system. So that’s why he has to switch gears and attack from multiple angles. He wants to convince as many people as possible, so he has to show college is inadequate at accomplishing many of its supposed societal purposes not just one.

            His overarching point is “this system is immensely socially wasteful and consumes a great deal of money and time while not attaining its stated goals”. It’s not that employment training is unimportant or that culture is unimportant. However, since those are some supposed goals of college, he has to spend a lot of time arguing that it doesn’t accomplish those things well. I guess this can come off as an attack against those things in and of themselves although that’s not his point.

          • rahien.din says:

            quanta413,

            You don’t seem to have understood what I’ve written.

          • quanta413 says:

            You don’t seem to have understood what I’ve written.

            Great. Would you like to explain how you think this is so the way I’ve explained how I think you misunderstand Caplan?

          • rahien.din says:

            Would you like to explain how you think this is so, the way I’ve explained how I think you misunderstand Caplan?

            Your impression of some of my beliefs is just incorrect. I can understand how you drew some of those conclusions, but I don’t understand how you drew some others. And I don’t absolve myself.

            I would like to continue, but I just don’t think we’re communicating effectively. If I don’t know where the breakdown is, how can either of us be confident that any explanation on my part is going to work? (You’re asking for a lot. And, er, effort for effort’s sake is not a virtue – nor is it a luxury I can afford in the next few days.) Which sucks. But, I don’t see a great way forward in this moment.

            If you do, I’d be interested. Here’s a ROT13’ed email address : pbagvahr.bhe.qvfphffvba@tznvy.pbz

          • quanta413 says:

            @rahien.din

            Fair enough. I think you’re right. We’re missing each other’s mental models by too much. Thanks for the e-mail. I’ll e-mail you later after I step back and think some more about what I’m trying to communicate. Then we can continue at a more leisurely pace if you like.

            EDIT: I’ll probably also buy the book after it’s out, and maybe I’ll e-mail you then or make another topic then if it adds enough compared to the essay.

      • johan_larson says:

        If over the course of 50 years we didn’t get a good deal better at teaching college students, then something would be very, very wrong with our society. This is especially true given that 50 years ago we didn’t have computers. … I don’t think that’s remotely plausible.

        It seems quite plausible to me, since how we actually teach students is a great deal like it was a generation or two ago. My father received a college education in the 60s and I received one in the late 80s to early 90s. Both of us attended classes where instructors presented material orally and wrote stuff on a blackboard. Both of us read textbooks. Both of us completed problem sets in analytical courses and wrote papers for humanities courses. The experience was clearly very similar.

        To be sure, there were some differences. I had access to a scientific calculator which made some calculations easier, whereas dad had to calculate manually or approximate using a slide rule. And I had access to a PC with word processing software, which made it easier to write and edit papers, whereas dad used a manual typewriter. But these are differences of degree only, not of kind, rather like the difference between his first car (with a manual transmission) and mine (with an automatic.)

        Given my experience, I can easily believe that college instruction has improved only a little or not at all over the past generation or two.

        • quanta413 says:

          I went to college around 2010 and can confirm it’s still basically the same modulo maybe half of classes using powerpoint instead of old slide projectors and a blackboard. There has been a slight change at a lot of universities since I got to graduate school though. A number of classes now use iClickers in their larger lectures to force students to (A) attend lecture and (B) pay a little bit of attention during lecture. It’s not obvious to me that it makes a huge difference, but I think there may be some studies showing it’s marginally helpful.

          • The Nybbler says:

            That’s not a slight change, that’s destruction of the whole university undergraduate system. The whole point of lectures is to skip them.

          • quanta413 says:

            Touche.

            I admit that I skipped around half my lectures. I was a weird outlier though and mostly replaced skipping lectures with doing more work. Who needs a time-tuner if you can just skip unnecessary lectures? I don’t think I would do as well trying that today.

          • CatCube says:

            I got more out of my interactions with the faculty during class than I ever got out of my textbooks. Hell, there were whole classes where I only picked up the book for an hour or two outside of doing the problems given in class.

            I still keep the textbooks, since they’re good references, but it’s so much faster and easier to learn when somebody walks through a problem live and you can ask for clarification than when you just have somebody puke it onto a page and shove it in front of your face.

          • quanta413 says:

            @CatCube

            How good at explaining things to you was the median professor you took classes with? And how big were the classes? My experience was about half the time I preferred the book. I certainly felt most books had significantly more preparation put into them than most of my professors had put into lecture. I admit that what’s preferred is partly a matter of preference. I certainly have met a lot of people who prefer lecture, although I’ve also noticed that a significant chunk of them actually seem to have less recall of the lecture than I do.

            Maybe half the classes I took had ~100 people or more. The rest were much smaller. Usually 10-30.

            My experience was that maybe half the professors I took courses from had thought things through well enough (including presenting something not just using it) that they would even have comparably good exposition to say a 20th percentile from the bottom textbook I had. Although there was a lot less spread in textbook quality than professor quality. Clarification was more mixed bag. In a strict sense, a book always loses. But books do have indices; I also had google. For a big chunk of classes, I didn’t need any clarification of concepts, or I just needed to practice. For a significant chunk of the few where I did need it, the professors weren’t helpful (“you should think about it harder” was once the only thing someone told me in response to an extremely specific question about whether or not they wanted a very ugly exact answer or a series approximation to the nth degree). On the other hand for a significant chunk of classes where I did need clarification, there were some very good professors. Overall, I found that about half of my classes were best skipped. Of the half that weren’t best skipped, maybe half of those were trading at about even with the book for me and half were beating it handily. My actual skipping didn’t perfectly overlap with what should have been skipped due to a combination of being really sleepy in the morning and having to figure out whose classes were worth attending. I never noticed any correlation with the subject, it just depended on the professor’s personal qualities.

            The worst case I saw was a professor whose book was superb, but who gave some of the worst lectures I have ever seen. The first lecture was so bad that before the second class lecture I made a 5 x 5 bingo board of “things to never do when presenting” thinking as a joke that I’d take a drink whenever I got 5 in a row… unfortunately it dawned on me during the second lecture that I’d fill the bingo board so rapidly as to risk alcohol poisoning… I left halfway through the lecture and didn’t return for any lectures after that.

          • CatCube says:

            I’m sure that I had bad instructors, since simple probability says there must have been some, but none were bad enough that it stuck with me. Granted, I’m talking from 12 years on for my undergraduate. I do note that I entered and exited undergrad with very poor study habits, as I never really had to spend a lot of time studying and was able to rely mostly on the lectures. (I did get magna cum laude, so this wasn’t a “D for degree” type thing.)

            I’m only 5 years out from my master’s, though that was a little different. The US Army Engineer School had a thing with the Missouri University of Science and Technology where a bunch of the Engineer Captain’s Career Course counted towards credit, you took some night classes, and then took a semester “off” from the Army (with full pay) to go to the campus and finish your degree. So most of my instruction was from the civil engineering faculty, and was uniformly excellent. The lecture for cold-formed steel design deserves special mention, as it was by Roger LaBoube, one of the experts in the field and heavily involved in development of the applicable code.

          • bean says:

            The US Army Engineer School had a thing with the Missouri University of Science and Technology where a bunch of the Engineer Captain’s Career Course counted towards credit, you took some night classes, and then took a semester “off” from the Army (with full pay) to go to the campus and finish your degree.

            Interesting. I didn’t know about that program. Of course, I was in aerospace, so why would I?

            To add to what you said, I had about two genuinely bad professors there. One was in materials, and did enough research that he couldn’t be replaced. The other was a teaching professor, who I can only assume was hired by the electrical engineering department in a moment of pure insanity. Most of the rest ranged from slightly better than the book to much, much better. The better ones were mostly the in-department ones teaching upper level courses.

      • rlms says:

        A lot more people go to college nowadays than 50 years ago, which seems relevant to discussions of progress in teaching methods.

      • Deiseach says:

        Why do English classes focus on literature and poetry instead of business and technical writing?

        Because the purpose of education is not “knock out a row of cogs to insert in the machinery of the economy”.

        Everything I ever read from Caplan just adds another pebble to the pile of “I want to drop-kick him into a volcano”.

        • baconbits9 says:

          Because the purpose of education is not “knock out a row of cogs to insert in the machinery of the economy”.

          You could take the opposite view. Teaching literature and poetry virtually exclusively sends your students out into the market place with few marketable skills that means they practically have to start out as a cog. Toss in the loans and no default on top of it and it is virtually certain that they will end up at the cog level for an extended period. Transferable skills make you valuable and mobile, personal aesthetic skills often means you have to ignore or subsume them and become a cog.

        • Randy M says:

          At the end of the day, some value systems may conclude that a life time of debt (exaggeration by a couple multiples, perhaps) is a small price to pay for the kind of deep-rooted individuality that comes from reading Dostyvsky, Joyce, et al, but we should at the least have the decency to sell University on these merits and to decouple it from the employment gatekeepers inasmuch as it is inessential for some particular careers to employ people with appreciation for the themes of Hamlet.

          And we should certainly not pretend that the people who were unable to develop into something other than cogs from the previous twelve years of exposure to history’s greatest wordsmiths will do so in the ensuing four to eight.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Why would you need a lifetime of debt to read books that are available for virtually nothing?

            I often think of my plumber who is a weird guy. In his 60s he was mostly indifferent to me until he found out (at the time) I worked at his favorite bakery. He went on to expound in great detail not only on the pastries that we had, but on the owner’s education, the developers of his favorite cakes and their history and his multiple trips to France to explore their bakeries. Having a quality, marketable skill had allowed him to express his individuality and explore his own peculiar (particular?) tastes in a broad way.

          • Randy M says:

            My reply is to Deiseach, who argues for a particular ideal of education and its ennobling effects. I am granting for the sake of argument that it is capable of doing so, for some portion of the population, but that under the current scheme that this is something of a fraud, to sell students on college on the basis of lifetime increase of earnings, and then justify the required courses on the basis of “it will make you a better person”, while charging thousands of dollars for each course.

            I support an expensive educational opportunity for the idle rich who can afford to debate nuances of Keats with the chaps on the green, and a cheaper, more utilitarian education for the masses, who also have access to classic literature, lectures, documentaries, etc. virtually for free through libraries and the internet if they have the drive to seek it out. This would be for a societal cost much less than universal education for two decades.

          • Everything I ever read from Caplan just adds another pebble to the pile of “I want to drop-kick him into a volcano”.

            Have you read his book on why people underestimate how many children they should have?

        • toastengineer says:

          You’re assuming that colleges are actually capable of imbuing an appreciation of the arts, and I’m not sure that’s not a very reasonable assumption. I didn’t end up taking many arts\literature classes in college but I distinctly remember the classes either detracting from my enjoyment of the work or presenting blatant garbage as high art.

          I enjoyed reading the Aeneid and the Iliad and the Odyssey, but I would’ve enjoyed those books a lot more if I didn’t have to put the actual stories down to pick up the Cliff’s Notes instead because we were being tested on trivia questions and recalling unimportant lines of dialogue.

          I also had a literature class where the text presented just plain didn’t make sense; I couldn’t even tell where scenes began and ended or where the characters were or what characters were even present. I was being asked to write 5-page papers analyzing what amounted to Time Cube except way less interesting.

          That first example illustrates one of the biggest problems I see with schooling in both higher and public education; everyone tries to “game the system” so to speak, so the system tunes itself based on the people who are gaming it, making it impossible to pass if you try to do things the way you’re supposed to.

          Like if I’d tried to pass that ancient literature class by actually engaging with the text, I never would have passed any of the tests – everyone else is just trying to get the easy A by reading the Cliff’s Notes instead of the book, so the test questions end up being based more on the Cliff’s Notes than the book. If you try to do what you’re supposed to do, you lose.

          If you try to pass math class by actually learning math instead of just memorizing enough tricks to get the right answers on the upcoming test, you fail.

          If you go through college picking classes based on what sounds interesting and where the gaps in your knowledge are, you won’t graduate; the schedule is set up based on the assumption that you’re just going to pick whatever classes bring you closer to your degree with the least effort. If you go through college trying to actually learn instead of directly optimizing for fastest graduation with least effort, you don’t graduate in 4 years.

          • baconbits9 says:

            If you try to pass math class by actually learning math instead of just memorizing enough tricks to get the right answers on the upcoming test, you fail.

            I had a similar experience as you in literature, but I struggled with Calculus until the year I spent a few weeks trying to understand it on my own.

          • toastengineer says:

            Yeah, me too actually, calculus was the best I’d ever done in a math class specifically because I tried to learn a bit of it before the semester started.

            But that’s kinda my point; the class just isn’t set up to actually teach calculus, if you want to learn calculus you have to take time in addition to attending calculus class and doing calculus homework to… learn calculus.

          • Nick says:

            To what extent is this just a problem of methods not reinforcing knowledge? I found I got later material a lot better and faster when I was going back to practice previously covered material regularly (and I don’t just mean cramming for the test). This kind of reinforcement is often missing—I don’t know if professors just assume it shouldn’t be necessary or that students will know to do that on their own or what. I recall an interesting story from Ben Tilly where he deliberately designed two thirds of each week’s linear algebra homework to reinforce old material and it worked really well. I notice textbooks and stuff sometimes doing this, where some practice problems are obviously designed to make you practice your trig or something—but just because the textbook has them doesn’t mean the professor’s assigning them!

          • If you try to pass math class by actually learning math instead of just memorizing enough tricks to get the right answers on the upcoming test, you fail.

            Not my experience.

      • Deiseach says:

        When will the typical student use history?

        You all are well aware of the screaming fits I pitch over ignorance of history as shown by the latest “everyone knows that the moon landing was faked by the Jesuits in order to allow the lizard person ‘elected’ as president to distract attention from the fact that Columbus discovered the Fountain of Youth” posts that get put up and passed about on social media. You can imagine, therefore, my reaction to this.

        When will the typical student use history, Bryan? Well, how about right the fuck now, in knowing what Fascism really is, Nazism, Communism, authoritarian regimes, and the like? And so being able to discern if someone yelling “Fascist!” online really means “follower of a Fascist ideology” or “you don’t think the way I think you should think”.

        Well, never mind, Bryan. I’m sure you’re a hit every Fourth of July explaining that this is a celebration of the Summer Solstice instituted by George Washington after the Battle of Khe Sanh in honour of General Abraham “Old Blood’n’Guts” Lincoln who led the Liberation of Paris in the Third World War on “D for Doughnuts” Day, coincidentally the same day that the first doughnuts were ever baked by Betsy Ross and her Dairy Dunking bakery during the Roaring Twenties!

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          You all are well aware of the screaming fits I pitch over ignorance of history as shown by the latest “everyone knows that the moon landing was faked by the Jesuits in order to allow the lizard person ‘elected’ as president to distract attention from the fact that Columbus discovered the Fountain of Youth” posts that get put up and passed about on social media. You can imagine, therefore, my reaction to this.

          That sort of paranoia shows a very high degree of historical awareness.

        • toastengineer says:

          But (at least in the U.S.) all of those people took history classes every school week for at least 12 years. Hell, a few of those misconceptions are taught in those very classes!

          • Deiseach says:

            Hell, a few of those misconceptions are taught in those very classes!

            Which is what drives me up the wall and is why I think good history is so very important. If people believe crap with the history lessons they’re already getting, imagine what they’d believe if they had no history!

            Would Bryan Caplan say “When does the average student ever need to use economics, so let’s do away with commerce/business studies in school”?

            There are two traps here:

            (1) Teaching to the test: I don’t know the situation in the US, but I see often enough complaints that in the UK history classes have boiled down to ‘learn about the Second World War because that’s what the exam will be about’. If you set the curriculum so that you have a ‘list of dates of important battles’ plus ‘the Nazis were bad’ course of history, the textbooks are written to that, and the teachers are discouraged from giving a good overview of history and told just ‘stick to teaching them the dates of the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and that the Nazis were bad’, then you lose the benefits of introducing students to history. Or any other subject, and then you are only churning out cogs for employers – this year the businesses want everyone to learn to speak Mandarin, next year they want everyone to be able to code, the year after they want every school leaver to be an accountant, etc.

            (2) Letting kids study what they prefer/what the parents think will get them a good job – there’s been enough calls to drop subjects like art and music in Irish schools and ‘teach the kids German instead because they can use that to get a job’. Let pupils study only what they like or are interested in, and they won’t study the things that bore them. All you STEM types may now be quietly cheering at the thought of “great, I could have dropped all that useless English and done triple Maths instead!” but for instance I would have dropped Maths, because not everybody likes the same thing. (I now pause to let you all gasp in horror about how maths is great, is fun, is beautiful, is so useful, you need maths in so many everyday contexts, how can anyone not like maths?
            Well, extrapolate that out to history, art, geography, a second or third language, etc.)

            The point is to introduce students to a range of subjects and try to give them a basic grounding in a wide variety of topics. You might never know you love and are really good at geography until you take it in school.

            That would also lead to a two (or even three) tier level of education, where the ‘optional luxury extras’ subjects only get taught to particular children. You’re working-class and will (if lucky) get a job in the box factory, you don’t need (and therefore don’t deserve) the exposure to poetry, art or music. So what if you will never use it to Get A Job, but would have found pleasure, enrichment, and something to add joy and breadth to your life in Shakespeare? If you’re not the Right Socio-Economic Class, you don’t get this, because it’s not necessary for training you for work.

            To hell with that. What shall we do with all this useless beauty? Enjoy it because we are humans, not things. Give us bread, but give us roses too!

          • quanta413 says:

            Which is what drives me up the wall and is why I think good history is so very important. If people believe crap with the history lessons they’re already getting, imagine what they’d believe if they had no history!

            Why should we assume they gained anything from those classes when they can’t get even a small fraction of what they were taught right years later? There’s no good evidence that what they believe is meaningfully different from if they had never taken history at all! (EDIT: Well, there’s a little bit. The things that get repeated a lot at school over many years they remember in garbled form, but it’s not clear if this is useful). Most people don’t remember things they don’t use, don’t think about, and don’t care about. For a lot of people a large fraction of school is just pointless torture through boredom.

            Would Bryan Caplan say “When does the average student ever need to use economics, so let’s do away with commerce/business studies in school”?

            Probably, yes. He wouldn’t abolish studying history or business as an option for those who really want to. But he would abolish it being a bloody requirement for almost anyone who wants to make good money.

            (2) Letting kids study what they prefer/what the parents think will get them a good job – there’s been enough calls to drop subjects like art and music in Irish schools and ‘teach the kids German instead because they can use that to get a job’. Let pupils study only what they like or are interested in, and they won’t study the things that bore them. All you STEM types may now be quietly cheering at the thought of “great, I could have dropped all that useless English and done triple Maths instead!” but for instance I would have dropped Maths, because not everybody likes the same thing. (I now pause to let you all gasp in horror about how maths is great, is fun, is beautiful, is so useful, you need maths in so many everyday contexts, how can anyone not like maths?
            Well, extrapolate that out to history, art, geography, a second or third language, etc.)

            I don’t think anyone in STEM will be shocked, shocked that most people don’t like math. Not only do most people make it abundantly clear that they do not like math; a significant and vocal minority will look down upon anyone who does like math for almost the entirety of anyone’s school life.

            I actually think it would be highly ideal if children who don’t want to or can’t learn even typical high school subjects (and I would literally start this cutoff before Algebra I or reading Romeo and Juliet) aren’t forced to. I like lots of subjects and started reading Shakespeare when I was young (although high school really put a damper on that love), and I love math, but I see no reason to torture hundreds of other people to learn about conic sections or geometric proofs or read Hamlet because I like those things. I barely use those parts of math anymore and I spend a significant chunk of my job doing mathematical modeling! I still read a great deal, but frankly, the whole being forced to read specific books thing is mostly a crock. Up until I entered high school, I went to a school where you just had to read some amount of whatever from the school library each semester and it was bloody great. The children at that school seemed reasonably literate (probably a little better off than a demographically similar group at my high school), and no one was forced to sit through a whole month to read and analyze The Great Gatsby.

            Currently, as far as I can tell, many adults (maybe even a majority who finished college) can’t perform basic arithmetic quickly and consistently without a calculator despite having been drilled in it or things using it for a decade or more! I think a lot of people would benefit from a slower pace in math and more practical focus. I could just be turned loose with a book to do whatever, and I wished I had just been turned loose earlier. Everyone wins! And more people in the U.S. probably remember something about The Great Gatsby from the critically panned movie with DiCaprio than remember it from when they were forced to pretend to read it in high school but just skimmed the cliffnotes (or if they were a sad soul like me, actually read it).

    • johan_larson says:

      In my view all of this focus on college stems from our habit of using college for three related but different purposes:
      – general intellectual training
      – elite selection and preparation
      – job-specific training

      If we were to separate these functions, we would probably be better off.

      To begin with, I doubt there would be much of a demand for post-secondary schools focused on the first function (general intellectual training,) but perhaps some of the hardest-core intellectuals would be into it. Becoming smarter and more knowledgeable in general is a worthy thing, but it should be possible to do it on the cheap. I doubt we’d subsidize it much, if at all.

      The second function (elite selection and training) is why I think we focus so intently on colleges as they are now. We use them as gatekeepers to high position, the big jobs with high status and usually high pay. But does it really have to take four years, or even more, to sort out the capable from the nearly capable? The military doesn’t run Officer Candidate School for four years; it’s more like half a year. I can accept that selecting the people who are going to (or are likely to) run the show is worth doing carefully, and that there are some things worth teaching them. And of course since people are status-hungry, competition for position at whatever Social OCSes we run is going to be keen. But whatever else these institutions are, they are going to be small, because the elite pretty much by definition has to be small. Separated out, I would expect this function could be served in a year or so, and might enroll 10% of each cohort. Maybe 20% if we’re feeling exceptionally egalitarian and want to cast the net wide.

      And finally we arrive at the job-specific training. This is what most people actually need, but it’s also what we’re not doing a particularly good job of delivering. To begin with, there is no particular reason this function has to be combined with the other two. We don’t need to educate the folks who want to be writers and editors together with the folks who want to be data scientists and engineers. Their job functions have very little overlap, meaning their curricula should have very little overlap, so their education could easily be done in separate institutions. And job training programs can be diverse. Some jobs are simple and require no training at all. Others are very complicated, and can easily take close to a decade of training to master. And if we were to separate the three functions, only a few of the job training institutes would look and operate much like traditional colleges.

      But ultimately, we are so focused on college, and so willing to spend money on them, because we are confounding three quite different purposes that current colleges serve: general intellectual training, elite selection and preparation, and job-specific training. If we are to separate the functions, the first one would probably mostly wither, the second would be short and specific (and hence not too expensive), and the third would have its proper place as the destination for nearly everybody.

      • Incurian says:

        The military doesn’t run Officer Candidate School for four years; it’s more like half a year.

        This is a particularly bad example as the traditional method of training officers was at a military university (eg West Point) and it did take four years, and the new methods still require a degree. OCS candidates need to have a degree before they begin, and ROTC takes place as you earn a degree at a civilian university.

        ETA: My own opinion, as an ROTC guy who did seven years active in the army, is that requiring a degree is a good thing for the officer corps, even if nothing an officer learned in college is directly applicable to his job (which I don’t think is the case, a lot of stuff is applicable since the job is so freaking broad). A degree demonstrates a minimum of intellectual ability, and the ability to stick with something for four years. It might not be the best way, there are lots of false positives and negatives, but it’s better than nothing.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          More importantly a degree demonstrates an ability to continually function at adequate levels within a hierarchical system – something incredibly important to the military.

        • CatCube says:

          I think a good part of it is simply age; when you require four more years of schooling, you’re going to get lieutenants who are at minimum 21-22 years old. If you pay attention to the privates that joined at 22, they were a lot less stupid than their 18-year-old counterparts.

  17. Baeraad says:

    Have some amateur evo-psych theories!

    Having spent more time than I actually wanted to in mostly-male, mostly-unrestrained-by-social-mores environments (because the more polite and female-dominated environments where I’m actually comfortable have become filled with feminists who hate me), I have developed the following theory: the fundamental male desire is to turn the whole world into you.

    It just feels like it fits everything. The complete disinterest in style, novelty and diversity (everything should have the same form: yours!). The determination to be as gross and biological about everything as possible (everything is better with your bodily fluids all over it! Maybe you can impregnate it, but even if not, it’ll at least smell like you!). The urge to plaster your name on everything and take credit for it (Donald Trump is really the perfect case study for unrestrained, incontinent masculinity…). The endless intellectual one-upmanship (you should have exactly the same opinions as me, and I will spew statistics over you until you fall in line!). Remember that Doctor Who episode, “The End of Time”? The one where every single person on Earth transforms into a clone of the villain? I think that, deep within his prostate, that’s what every man wants. In the undying words of Louis CK (who ended up proving his own point, actually), the male attitude boils down to: “More of me! More of meee!”

    What’s that, you say? I sound like a prissy, man-hating bitch? Well, duh! Why do you think I’d prefer to hang out with a bunch of chicks if the feminists would just let me?

    But of course feminists hate me for a reason, and a large part of that reason is that I’m equally unimpressed with the female attitude. As near as I can tell (and obviously here I’m hampered by not having first-hand experience, but being limited to observation), women don’t want everything to be like them. No, no. As near as I can tell, a woman wants a sprawling, diverse, colourful world filled with a multitude of interesting things – that always gives her exactly what she wants, exactly when she wants it, in exactly the right form and quantities. Because she deserves it!

    Really, I don’t know what depresses me more – the impossibly long list of things people in female-dominated environments expect me to do and not do (or else I am a bad person), or the way people in male-dominated environments want absolutely nothing from me except that I hold still so they can piss all over me (because there’s no such thing as a good person or a bad person, it’s all about who’s the pisser and who’s the pissee).

    The good news (and I have to remind myself constantly that it in fact exists) is that people aren’t quite as simple as that. Humans are complicated, they have layers upon layers covering the most fundamental instincts. In particular, the better sort of person, male or female, has the ability for restraint, for recognising that they don’t necessarily deserve something just because it feels natural to them. Good men will grant others their own little slices of the world to shape in their image, as long as they get theirs. Good women will forgive others their failure to be perfect as long as they at least seem to be trying (again, this is conjecture – but I have a number of female friends who I spend a lot of time talking to, and I swear I can just feel them silently noting my dysfunctions and then dutifully forgiving me for them at every turn. It’s a bit unnerving, but I guess it works). We are not slaves to our inherent unreasonableness.

    I do keep feeling that the world has less and less restraint and good people in it, and more and more Trumps and feminists, but that part might just be my winter depression talking…

    • The original Mr. X says:

      I have developed the following theory: the fundamental male desire is to turn the whole world into you.

      I don’t think that’s true. It’s more like, the fundamental male desire is to be top dog, and to have everyone else acknowledge their top-dog-ness. Hence things like putting your name and image on everything (to show how important you are), intellectual one-upmanship (to show everybody how much smarter you are), grossness (because being able to get away with violating norms of politeness is a mark of high status). Men are fine with other men being different, just as long as one of the ways in which they differ is by having lower status.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      > But of course feminists hate me for a reason, and a large part of that reason is that I’m equally unimpressed with the female attitude.

      I’ll be the bad guy and point out that you’re the common factor in both circles. And this doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re the bad guy/girl, but I’d be willing to bet at least a modest amount that there is a problem with the way you’re choosing your circles. In none of my men-only circles ever was there any interest in bodily fluids.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        In none of my men-only circles ever was there any interest in bodily fluids.

        Yeah, as far as I remember, most of the males I know/knew outgrew that particular obsession at around the age of fourteen.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Minor point: In most human societies, men dress up about as much as women. I believe the desire for variety in clothes got knocked out of men by some combination of the French Revolution and Puritanism.

      I’m pretty sure you can find better people, possibly among rationalists and possibly in relatively non-political hobby groups.

      Also, are mixed groups better behaved than single-gender groups?

      • Mary says:

        Depends. In ancient Greek society, a man who dressed up as much as a woman was presumed to be an adulterer. Obviously so womanly a man was interested in women.

    • Randy M says:

      I do not find your diagnosis convincing, but I nonetheless endorse your prescription. Neither male or female is innately good, and self restraint is an essential virtue for each that is largely denigrated of late.

    • skef says:

      An evo-psych theory has to be tied somehow to evolutionary fitness. Your view is more like a totalizing meta-narrative.

  18. Aapje says:

    SSC Reddit pointed me to this paper on migration (reform) by Eric Weinstein which is truly a breath of fresh air. Instead of ignoring that migration has disparate negative and positive impacts on various groups and that changing the amount of migration will reorder the social contract (harming some and benefiting others), or declaring that the self-interest of certain groups is not legitimate, the paper actually recognizes these costs and benefits and seeks to find a model where all groups will profit from migration.

    Now, I’m not sure that I find his solution(s) that persuasive, as I see many problems with them, but merely the relative lack of sophistry and treating opponents to migration as rational agents is fairly exceptional for migration-proponents in my experience.

    • actinide meta says:

      I think this is exactly the moral equivalent of American antebellum proposals to end slavery by buying out slaveholders: an improvement over an incredibly destructive and appalling status quo, probably an improvement over an incredibly destructive and appalling civil war, very clearly not the first best solution, and not very likely to actually succeed.

      So sign me up, I guess? But “the self-interest of certain groups is not legitimate” is the plain fact of the matter. And personally, I have more hope that someone will find a scrap of land, somewhere, to build a free and open society.

      • baconbits9 says:

        Sometimes I feel like the best solution to slavery in the US would have been for the North to succeed from the south.

        • Aftagley says:

          Well, when it came time for the Civil War, the North did succeed. 🙂

        • Aftagley says:

          In all seriousness, are you claiming this would solve the issue of slavery in the territory we now consider to be the United States, or would it just have led to the end of slavery in the area that would now be calling itself the United States?

          • baconbits9 says:

            Let me preface by saying that I “sometimes think” is shorthand for “I wonder how strong a case could be made for it”

            The basic outline for the North leaving ending slavery in the South is.

            1. Create a free zone right on the border of the South where slaves could escape to. Without fugitive slave laws or a common government this would hopefully increase the number of runaways who made it to permanent freedom. My guess is that it would allow organizations committed to the abolishment of slavery the opportunity to set up posts near the border which would eventually lead to the founding of free towns that would give escapees a target to aim for.

            2. Elimination of any subsidies that were propping up slavery. My knowledge is to sketchy to guess at the magnitude (and maybe even direction) of this one, but I am fairly confident that there were some tariffs which in effect subsidized the practice.

            3. Isolation as the only major slave economy left. The European powers were, in general, against slavery by this point in history. Cutting off, or heavily restricting trade from the US would be much more difficult than just restricting trade from the south (practically, politically and economically).

          • John Schilling says:

            Regarding #1, do not underestimate the extent to which Northern society, in spite of not being cool with slavery, was still generally racist. Plans that involve a large number of black men and women, many with no skills beyond menial agricultural or domestic labor, hanging around unsupervised in “free towns” or whatnot, may wind up exceeding local tolerance for that sort of thing.

            And w/re #3, even when there was an actual civil war in progress, even when this war had been effectively recharacterized as a Crusade Against Slavery, the European Powers were still quite willing to trade with the Evil Slaveholding South. To sell guns to the evil slaveholding southerners who were fighting to perpetuate slavery. To sell fully-equipped warships to the slaveholders even when that was a (profitable) violation of generally recognized international law at the time.

            This was about a century early for “The evil meanies are doing badness; we should embargo them!” to be an effective or even legitimate strategy. Your private businessmen want to make money trading with the evil meanies; by what 19th-century legal right do you propose to stop them?

            That said, the expansion of Egypt as an alternative cotton supplier goes a long way towards crippling the plantation economy, with or without a civil war, with or without secession (in either direction).

          • Randy M says:

            That said, the expansion of Egypt as an alternative cotton supplier goes a long way towards crippling the plantation economy,

            Was that while it was under European rule?

          • John Schilling says:

            Ottoman rule, though with some French and English influence

          • baconbits9 says:

            Regarding #1, do not underestimate the extent to which Northern society, in spite of not being cool with slavery, was still generally racist. Plans that involve a large number of black men and women, many with no skills beyond menial agricultural or domestic labor, hanging around unsupervised in “free towns” or whatnot, may wind up exceeding local tolerance for that sort of thing.

            Regarding this, my history is fairly thin, but iirc post civil war there was some substantial migration to cities like Detroit which helped them boom during that period. Obviously Detroit is a pretty…. fraught? example with their long history of racial issues. The idea of the Free Town would not be as a final destination, but as a demarcation line. “Get here and you are free”, sort of an above ground stop on the underground railroad.

            And w/re #3, even when there was an actual civil war in progress, even when this war had been effectively recharacterized as a Crusade Against Slavery, the European Powers were still quite willing to trade with the Evil Slaveholding South. To sell guns to the evil slaveholding southerners who were fighting to perpetuate slavery.

            IIRC there was also a popular view in Europe that the North’s attempts at preserving the union were illegitimate as well, and that the EP was essentially mollifying for anti slavery Europeans (at least in terms of the manner and timing of implementation).

            In the long run I don’t believe that embargos are an effective method of breaking a ruling class (unless they are a part of a larger war), partially because of how isolating places like Iraq and North Korea worked out. The hope would be more along the lines that a different structure with southerners having more direct trade with Europe (rather than heavily moving goods through northern ports) might lead to a different, non slave holding class, claiming power.

        • I believe some abolitionists argued for secession.

      • Aapje says:

        But “the self-interest of certain groups is not legitimate” is the plain fact of the matter.

        I think that in a democracy, one should openly defend this if one believes it. Instead, what I see is that people tend to pretend that the self-interest of certain groups is not what it actually is. So they pretend not to harm the group, so they don’t have to actually defend the consequences of their choices. IMO, this is immoral.

        When the British ended slavery, they compensated slave owners. The US mostly chose not to. But I don’t think that either pretended that emancipating slaves would benefit slave owners.

        • actinide meta says:

          Well, if someone is claiming that literally every person in the first world would benefit from increased migration, obviously they are a liar or an idiot.

          It’s pretty obvious that migrants benefit enormously from migration. Crude estimates are that free migration would double world GDP, with most of the benefit going to the poorest and most oppressed people in the world. It’s relatively certain that first world countries’ citizens would benefit on the whole (and it is certain if recent migrants were denied government benefits). The effects on unskilled laborers in the first world are not obvious, because there are conflicting effects of substitution and complementarity (in particular native language skills tend to be complements), but econometric results seem to range from “small but negative” to “small but positive” at current levels of migration. I can certainly believe that vastly expanded migration could be bad for that group, though it’s not obvious. But almost certainly such harm is totally dwarfed by the benefit to migrants.

          So to defend migration restrictions morally, you more or less need to both weigh distributional concerns over efficiency ones among first world people and totally ignore the welfare of all other people. Or you need a deontological view in which states own their territories and may do whatever they please to foreigners as well as trampling on the freedoms of their own citizens, which boils down to the same thing. I think either of these views are, in and of themselves, as reprehensible as it’s possible for a moral theory to be, so I’m not really interested in whether opponents of migration are motivated by selfish economic concerns or racism or something else. If you’re willing to do unlimited harm to innocents to advance your interests, it doesn’t matter to me what your interests are.

          • rlms says:

            I think it’s pretty uncontroversial for governments to promote the interests of their citizens over those of foreigners; otherwise they’d give far more effective foreign aid.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Crude estimates are that free migration would double world GDP, with most of the benefit going to the poorest and most oppressed people in the world.

            Do these crude estimates take into account the danger of migrants turning the places they migrate to into places more like the places they migrated from? Take the US, drop in 400 million poor people, and the infrastructure (physical, cultural, political, you name it) simply is not going to survive.

          • actinide meta says:

            @Nybbler

            No, as I understand it they assume that the rule of law will survive, that factor prices will equibrilate, and I think pessimistically that there’s no increase in capital. And I think the estimates imply levels of migration that wouldn’t actually happen overnight even in a world without borders. Thus I call them crude estimates.

            I think it’s reasonable to be concerned about disequilibrium effects and violence and unknown unknowns when a radical change is proposed. So if you want to argue for “only” increasing migration by, say, 50% per year so that we can safely stop if the fabric of society can’t handle it, rather than opening all borders tomorrow, that’s a perfectly respectable position. Needless to say that’s not usually where people deploying your argument want to go.

            @rlms
            Even pure “citizenism”, which I think is awful, won’t get you to supporting a policy that also on net hurts citizens!

            Foreign aid, which in dollar terms hurts citizens on net *more* than it helps foreigners, is not really in the same category.

          • The Red Foliot says:

            So to defend migration restrictions morally, you more or less need to … totally ignore the welfare of all other people.

            Or you could be measuring welfare by something other than GDP. I think you need a really tight definition of what ‘welfare’ is, otherwise you end up having enough wiggle room to justify whatever arbitrary caprices you happen to have.

            Also, if you do attempt to provide a truly ‘tight’ definition of welfare, you might end up perceiving the utter futility of human existence, since no human ideal can sustain very much scrutiny.

          • On “foreign aid.” It’s not clear that transfers from the governments of rich countries to the governments of poor countries benefit the inhabitants of the poor countries. It’s arguable that such transfers hurt them, since they provide the government with resources that don’t depend on how well their population is doing, resources that can be used to maintain the power of the incumbents, and resources that increase the stakes in political conflicts.

            Or you could be measuring welfare by something other than GDP

            I can’t speak to the estimates in question, but the usual economic arguments don’t defined welfare by GDP. The define it by the summed effect on everyone affected, defined by what someone would pay to get or prevent a change. What total utility would be if you assumed that everyone had the same marginal utility of income.

          • Mary says:

            they provide the government with resources that don’t depend on how well their population is doing,

            That actively depend on how well their population is doing — except the correlation is negative. Actual improvement cuts off the spigot. (Conversely, cutting the spigot may bring improvement, since it requires local prosperity to tax.)

          • outis says:

            Crude estimates are that free migration would double world GDP, with most of the benefit going to the poorest and most oppressed people in the world. […] But almost certainly such harm is totally dwarfed by the benefit to migrants.

            These arguments have no purchase with anyone who has paid attention to recent history. We just saw how things went with globalization (mostly in the sense of sinicization). Yes, GDP went up, including American GDP. Just as planned!

            But many Americans are worse off than before, America has a lopsided economy where a large segment of the population has no useful role to play, China is going to become the world leading country, it is now proven that you don’t need democracy or liberalism to enjoy a market economy, the main global pole of attraction is switching to market authoritarianism, etc. etc.

            When it comes to immigration, which is supported by the same people for the same reasons, the prudent thing to do with those GDP projection is to take them and shove them. Where, I won’t say.

            On top of that, these projections come from spherical cow models that ignore most factors that affect the development and well-being of a nation, but I won’t bother getting into that.

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            I can’t speak to the estimates in question, but the usual economic arguments don’t defined welfare by GDP. The define it by the summed effect on everyone affected, defined by what someone would pay to get or prevent a change. What total utility would be if you assumed that everyone had the same marginal utility of income.

            Is that actually measurable? Or is this a bailey, where the actual models then fall back on the motte (GDP and such)?

            Also, I don’t actually see that definition used by the proponents in the public debate (in the media, politics, etc), or at least, not without being waved away.

            Opponents of migration are commonly quite crude, but I think that their crude objections do reflect actual costs that are too often ignored or casually dismissed by the proponents. In the latter case, I generally detect a strong lack of understanding that disparate impact exists, so some groups (generally not those that the proponents are a member of) suffer much more and benefit much less.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Luckily, we have Europe to look at as an example of the sorts of things that can happen if you have large-scale immigration. For example, the great proliferation in the number of armed police and anti-ramming concrete bollards in public places.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Yeah… what Mr. X said. GDP going up because we opened the borders to Muslims has very little utility to me. I’m not in the ultra-wealthy group that nearly all the gains go to, and even if I was I would love Christendom more than my bank account.
            I actually find most immigrants to the U.S. likable, but open borders as an ideology means hurting all of Europe with Islam.

          • Mark says:

            I had a first time experience the other day – someone said (to my face) that my ancient alien theories were ‘haram’.

            It’s not that bad, it just feels like we’re going back a couple of hundred years or something.

          • actinide meta says:

            @DavidFriedman
            @Aapje

            I think in this case the predictions really are just of the effects on income, not welfare. Again, I think they should just be taken as a back of the envelope guide to the scope of benefits available rather than a crystal ball prediction of the effects of policy change taking into account all objections.

            However, a full utilitarian analysis is going to come out much better for migration, because extremely poor migrants are putting their marginal dollar toward having more of their children survive to adulthood, and the non financial welfare harms are things like small increases in crime and people finding life in a multicultural society less cozy and trusting. I know the sign of how I weigh these concerns.

          • actinide meta says:

            @outis

            But many Americans are worse off than before, America has a lopsided economy where a large segment of the population has no useful role to play, China is going to become the world leading country,

            And a billion fewer people are living in extreme poverty. So even if everything you say is true, sign me up.

            The thing is, though, from a nationalistic point of view migration has the opposite effect of the historical changes you are complaining about. Liberalizing the movement of goods and capital but not people or legal systems predictably moves as much economic activity to where the cheapest labor is (that doesn’t have *too* awful laws). China has far more than the US of the most valuable thing in the world: people. Letting people move as well instead moves all the activity to wherever the best laws (and existing knowledge and patterns of trade) are. America could easily remain a world hyperpower if it fully embraced migration.

          • Randy M says:

            Letting people move as well instead moves all the activity to wherever the best laws (and existing knowledge and patterns of trade) are.

            This is a democracy. You cannot assume the laws will stay constant.

          • actinide meta says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            I would love Christendom more than my bank account

            Are you aware that we… worship a Middle Eastern refugee?

            Familiar with the parable of the Good Samaritan? It really ought to be translated as the Good Muslim for a modern audience.

            I’m sorry, but of all people Christians really don’t have a leg to stand on in opposing immigration.

            Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            However, a full utilitarian analysis is going to come out much better for migration, because extremely poor migrants are putting their marginal dollar toward having more of their children survive to adulthood,

            How many immigrants are actually “putting their marginal dollar toward having more of their children survive to adulthood”? How many would be if you just opened the floodgates and let everybody come in?

            and the non financial welfare harms are things like small increases in crime and people finding life in a multicultural society less cozy and trusting.

            “Small increases in crime” as in “thousands of schoolgirls being raped over a period of thirty years“.

            I know the sign of how I weigh these concerns.

            Yeah, I mean, those schoolgirls were just like slave-owners, so their self-interest isn’t legitimate.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Actinide:

            Funny how people only realised that Christianity absolutely demands open borders when the trendy liberal set decided to support them, isn’t it?

            Also, if we’re trading Biblical proof-texts, how about Deuteronomy 20.16-18, where God commands the Israelites to kill the Canaanites to stop their culture being contaminated by the Canaanites’:

            But of the cities of these people, which the Lord thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth: but thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee: that they teach you not to do after all their abominations, which they have done unto their gods; so should ye sin against the Lord your God.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Oh, and:

            Are you aware that we… worship a Middle Eastern refugee?

            A Middle Eastern refugee who went back home after the danger was past. How many present-day immigrants do you expect will return to their homelands?

          • actinide meta says:

            @Randy

            Sure, it’s a concern. But frankly I think it’s a fairly safe bet that the government will continue to be run by the rich, special interests, bureaucrats, and the dead hand of some remarkably prescient mechanism designers from the 18th century. Americans have been doing their best to disassemble that system for centuries and I doubt that immigrants will be any more successful.

            This is also the problem with the original paper’s diagnosis of opposition to immigration. The “class interest” theory adequately explains why young minimum wage workers might oppose immigration. That would be interesting if any government anywhere gave a flying frankfurter for the opinions of young minimum wage workers. I think a much more plausible explanation is that comfortable people prefer to keep poverty and suffering far away from them where it doesn’t trouble their conscience.

          • Mark says:

            Familiar with the parable of the Good Samaritan…
            I’m sorry, but of all people Christians really don’t have a leg to stand on in opposing immigration.

            The Jewish guy doesn’t stay with the Samaritans forever, though.

            I always thought that the lesson of the good samaritan is that people’s moral worth isn’t determined by their background or social standing, it’s more to do with their actions.
            That doesn’t sound like an argument for uncontrolled immigration to me – I mean what about the pharasees and all of those bad sorts, the bandits? It seems more to me that it would be in keeping with controlled immigration with some sort of measure of moral worth, perhaps combined with deportation if you turned out to be a levite.

          • Mark says:

            So, the argument for open borders is that however much worse life becomes for working class developed country people, the poor in the rest of the world will be better off.

            Couldn’t we use the same argument to confiscate the wealth of developed world wealthy and distribute it to the Afghans?

            No matter how much they love their 2nd house, I’m sure the Afghans would appreciate it more.

            Seems like a dishonest argument to me.

          • Randy M says:

            Sure, it’s a concern. But frankly I think it’s a fairly safe bet that the government will continue to be run by the rich, special interests, bureaucrats, and the dead hand of some remarkably prescient mechanism designers from the 18th century. Americans have been doing their best to disassemble that system for centuries and I doubt that immigrants will be any more successful.

            This is rather glib. First, there’s more to society than the legal apparatus, and there’s more to government than the highest level profiteers. The only thing keeping those mechanisms running (to the extent that they are) is people’s beliefs in them, and if you import people with other beliefs they will stop running. If the people come to have priorities other than low corruption, a light hand of government, open commerce, and equality before the law, like, say, reverence towards their religion, benefiting their kin, the ability to use minor beaurocratic positions for personal gain, enforcing tribal vendettas, easy access to young girls/boys for sex, and so on, because the people have been replaced and different cultures and genetic groups have different inclinations, then the society will change in a multitude of ways small and large.

          • rlms says:

            “Small increases in crime” as in “thousands of schoolgirls being raped over a period of thirty years“.

            What is the base rate of child sex abuse, and how has it changed in recent decades?

          • Aapje says:

            @actinide meta

            However, a full utilitarian analysis is going to come out much better for migration, because extremely poor migrants are putting their marginal dollar toward having more of their children survive to adulthood, and the non financial welfare harms are things like small increases in crime and people finding life in a multicultural society less cozy and trusting. I know the sign of how I weigh these concerns.

            If the concern is for saving lives, then migration to the West seems one of the least effective ways to do so. Just look at Syria. The vast majority of people at risk already migrated to Lebanon, Turkey and such, with some of the richest migrating on to Europe. Why would those who cannot migrate to these countries have an easier time migrating a greater distance, to EU or the US? If you look at Hispanics that migrate to the US, then there doesn’t seem to be a major risk to their children either, in their home countries.

            AFAIK, there are no significant number of people whose children are dying and would not if they could freely migrate to Europe or the US.

            The people at major risk of death are usually the people stuck in a certain place, which is why aid is sent to them. My perception is that the aid is generally quite effective at keeping people from dying, except when aid is hampered. The same thing that hampers aid typically hampers easy migration as well, so migration is then not a superior option.

            If highly capable people just keep fleeing their home countries for the West, then the West will at best end up extremely overcrowded and their home countries will stay shitty, because they won’t have enough quality people to improve them. Ultimately, I only think that truly significant numbers of non-Westerners can get better lives if the non-Western countries improve.

            people finding life in a multicultural society less cozy and trusting

            It’s not so much that multicultural society is just less cozy and trusting, but that a significant part of the Western elite no longer believe in assimilation or integration, but desire a fractured society.

            We actually had very a fractured situation in Europe for a long time. It was nationalism that provided a greater sense of unity that made people willing to sacrifice more personal well being for more people, so you could have more large-scale societies. This also enabled the United States of America to exist.

            So it’s not so much that a multicultural society is less cozy and trusting, but that it runs a high risk of imploding.

            I think that you lose yourself in concern over effects at the margin, while history has quite a few revolutions, which tend to really cause death and destruction. Favoring small (and debatable) benefits that substantially increase the risk of major damage seems unwise to me.

          • Randy M says:

            I think a much more plausible explanation is that comfortable people prefer to keep poverty and suffering far away from them where it doesn’t trouble their conscience.

            The comfortable people by and large are quite in favor of wide scale third world immigration, precisely because they will be able to build their own borders and employ their own border patrols in gated communities.

          • actinide meta says:

            @Mr. X

            You’re going to have to introduce me to the “trendy liberal set” (I assume you mean ‘progressive’) that favors open borders. As far as I can tell both major political parties in the US firmly oppose any increase at all in immigration. The left fears that immigration is in tension with support for the welfare state, and I guess I don’t need to explain to you how the right feels about it. Sanders described open borders as “a Koch brothers proposal”. Which is not far wrong; the people who seriously support it are mostly radical libertarians. In short, there is absolutely no danger of anything changing.

            I don’t really want to trade “Biblical zingers;” neither of us will run out of decontextualized quotes any time soon and I’m not a fundamentalist anyway. If your interpretation of Christianity, taken as a whole, is that it sanctions violence against the helpless to maintain cultural purity, I don’t think we have enough common ground to have a useful conversation. It’s certainly a (sad) truth that people have managed to reconcile an extremely wide variety of political programs with nominal Christianity.

          • Aapje says:

            @Mark

            So, the argument for open borders is that however much worse life becomes for working class developed country people, the poor in the rest of the world will be better off.

            Couldn’t we use the same argument to confiscate the wealth of developed world wealthy and distribute it to the Afghans?

            Or the proponents of this, who almost always are the ones who benefit from this arrangement, can voluntarily choose to give away all their money that they don’t strictly need to be able to work and to live at a third world level of welfare. Then it would seem a lot less like being generous to a homeless person, by giving the homeless person the things that you just stole from another poor person.

          • Mark says:

            You’re going to have to introduce me to the “trendy liberal set” (I assume you mean ‘progressive’) that favors open borders. As far as I can tell both major political parties in the US firmly oppose any increase at all in immigration.

            Well, I could definitely introduce you to such people in Europe.

            The EU commissioner for immigration wrote an article recently where he basically said, “Immigration can’t be stopped, nothing can be done, you have to work harder to make the immigrants feel at home.”

            So, a suggestion. The US should let the EU test out open borders with Africa, see how it works out, and if it leads to a new golden age, they can relax immigration restrictions.

          • Sfoil says:

            @actinide

            You’re going to have to introduce me to the “trendy liberal set” (I assume you mean ‘progressive’) that favors open borders. As far as I can tell both major political parties in the US firmly oppose any increase at all in immigration.

            Very few people use the term “open borders” in public. However, arguments that “immigration improves the economy” without claiming diminishing returns or countervailing negatives are extremely common. These two positions aren’t completely equivalent but the former follows very easily from the latter.

            Trump was elected (barely) largely on a platform of stopping illegal immigration, so obviously there is opposition to mass immigration. However, would you describe his efforts to reduce immigration to the United States as being universally popular? What about with “the left”? What about similar efforts by some governments in Eastern Europe? It’s true that in the past some organized labor groups saw mass immigration as a threat. If it was true 20 years ago, is it true today? I think the answer to all of these questions is “no”.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Actinide:

            You’re going to have to introduce me to the “trendy liberal set” (I assume you mean ‘progressive’) that favors open borders. As far as I can tell both major political parties in the US firmly oppose any increase at all in immigration. The left fears that immigration is in tension with support for the welfare state, and I guess I don’t need to explain to you how the right feels about it. Sanders described open borders as “a Koch brothers proposal”. Which is not far wrong; the people who seriously support it are mostly radical libertarians. In short, there is absolutely no danger of anything changing.

            There might not be many people who are explicitly in favour of open borders, but there is a large contingent who are against any effective enforcement of immigration policy.

            I don’t really want to trade “Biblical zingers;” neither of us will run out of decontextualized quotes any time soon and I’m not a fundamentalist anyway. If your interpretation of Christianity, taken as a whole, is that it sanctions violence against the helpless to maintain cultural purity, I don’t think we have enough common ground to have a useful conversation. It’s certainly a (sad) truth that people have managed to reconcile an extremely wide variety of political programs with nominal Christianity.

            Of course I don’t think that Christianity “sanctions violence against the helpless to maintain cultural purity”, any more than I think it requires us to adopt your own extreme immigration policies.

          • Wrong Species says:

            I think it’s pretty uncontroversial for governments to promote the interests of their citizens over those of foreigners;

            This is essentially right. I don’t think foreigners have zero rights but they sure as hell don’t have a right to live in the United States. Think about it like a family. If I have a kid, I’m obligated to care for that kid, even if I could do “more good” by giving malaria nets to ten kids. I may have enough disposable income to adopt some poor orphan but I’m not a reprehensible person because I don’t.

          • actinide meta says:

            @Aapje

            AFAIK, there are no significant number of people whose children are dying and would not if they could freely migrate to Europe or the US.

            In the US, we could start with the ten million people right next door in Haiti, who have a child mortality rate of 7% and 59% of whom are living on less than $2.41 per day. Haitian immigrant households in the US have a median income of $47K and while I’m sure average haitians would do worse than marginal haitians I am guessing they would do all right.

            There are worse hellholes in the world than Haiti.

            The same thing that hampers aid typically hampers easy migration as well, so migration is then not a superior option.

            This just isn’t true. It might be hard to get people out of some active war zones. But most places that just have incredibly shitty governments, that will prevent any economic improvement from persisting, don’t actually have barbed wire keeping people in them. In general it’s easy to move people to a place where they can increase their income 10x or more. It could be financed by just loaning them the money.

            If highly capable people just keep fleeing their home countries for the West, then the West will at best end up extremely overcrowded and their home countries will stay shitty, because they won’t have enough quality people to improve them. Ultimately, I only think that truly significant numbers of non-Westerners can get better lives if the non-Western countries improve.

            The best bet for improving screwed up places is Tiebout competition, where governments have to maintain some level of not sucking in order to keep their populations. As things are you can have a pretty good life as an oppressive ruling class, because the serfs have nowhere to go.

            So it’s not so much that a multicultural society is less cozy and trusting, but that it runs a high risk of imploding.

            I’m all for worrying about tail risks. But if the price of slightly more political stability in the first world is forcing billions of people to live in abject poverty, it’s too high a price to pay.

            How would you feel if you found yourself in Haiti, and no first world government would permit you to leave?

          • The Nybbler says:

            @actinide meta

            These “non-equilibrium” effects are pretty significant. It’s true they won’t happen (much) for increasing immigration X% (for some value of X which is a lot smaller than which would occur under open borders) with safeguards and restrictions. But that wasn’t the proposal; the proposal was “free migration”. Presumably opening up immigration X% would not only reduce the problems compared to free migration, but the benefits as well. You can’t use “doubling the world GDP under free migration” to argue for “opening up immigration X%”.

            I think it’s reasonable to assume extremely high levels of migration under a true open borders policy. Not only will you get refugees and economic migrants, you’ll have governments shipping you troublemakers and do-gooders shipping over the destitute by the boatload.

            Edit:
            No, I do not want to import 10 million Haitians. Where would you put them? Put them in Florida and they are 1/3rd of the population; that’s going to cause serious disequilibrium effects. They’re basically going to run the state (most likely into the ground).

          • actinide meta says:

            @Mark

            So, the argument for open borders is that however much worse life becomes for working class developed country people, the poor in the rest of the world will be better off.

            Couldn’t we use the same argument to confiscate the wealth of developed world wealthy and distribute it to the Afghans?

            To the extent that it stipulates that migration will be bad for the developed world working class, which is not a fact, the purely utilitarian argument for open borders has that form, because all utilitarian arguments for anything have that form. So let’s see what happens if we try to apply it to wealth redistribution. The answer is that you find that if you confiscate large fractions of wealth or income it causes massive deadweight losses, because people won’t work as hard to support strangers far away as they will to support themselves. This counterargument doesn’t apply to migration, which increases efficiency in dollar terms. A limitedamount of such redistribution looks pretty good in utilitarian terms, at least if you ignore the cost of the mechanisms required to impose it, and the serious problems with government foreign aid (see @DavidFriedman and @Mary’s posts). My own radical political proposals replace taxation with mandatory charitable giving as a mechanism for redistribution and public goods provision. One of the benefits is that charity can be directed beyond the borders of a polity.

            Almost all of my own charitable giving goes outside the US or to research that has global applicability. So I do think that generally speaking wealth is better off in the hands of the extremely poor. But no amount of giving will put any significant dent in third world poverty, because poor places are exactly those where capital accumulation is impossible. Migration, in contrast, could essentially eliminate poverty.

            I’m not actually a utilitarian, though I think consequences are important. Another argument for open borders is that it’s presumptively wrong to use violence to stop people from engaging in peaceful pursuits like migration and trade, and this argument applies equally well against redistribution.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            Yeah… what Mr. X said. GDP going up because we opened the borders to Muslims has very little utility to me. I’m not in the ultra-wealthy group that nearly all the gains go to, and even if I was I would love Christendom more than my bank account.

            If you love christendom, then you should want more immigration, since most of it is from Latin American countries that are very Christian. Why do you think progressives suddenly became so christian friendly? Catholics are a growing voting bloc.

          • Chalid says:

            The comfortable people by and large are quite in favor of wide scale third world immigration, precisely because they will be able to build their own borders and employ their own border patrols in gated communities.

            Data? My instinct would be to say that pro-immigration sentiment is strongest in cities where contact with immigrants is routine. And anti-immigration sentiment is often strong in areas without many immigrants.

          • Randy M says:

            “Are city-dwellers open borders proponents” is not isomorphic to “are powerful people open borders proponents.”
            The sort of comfortable people actinide wants to afflict are able to insulate themselves from its downsides.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Do these crude estimates take into account the danger of migrants turning the places they migrate to into places more like the places they migrated from? Take the US, drop in 400 million poor people, and the infrastructure (physical, cultural, political, you name it) simply is not going to survive.

            400 million people have the means, motivation and opportunity to move to the US at the drop of a hat? This is only an argument against transferring resources to people conditional on them moving to a western country, not on open borders.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Data? My instinct would be to say that pro-immigration sentiment is strongest in cities where contact with immigrants is routine. And anti-immigration sentiment is often strong in areas without many immigrants.

            Yeah, but what sort of contacts? If you can afford to live in a nice upper-middle-class neighbourhood and the only immigrants you interact with are the owners of the local ethnic restaurant, the Polish nanny you hired for your children, and maybe the PhD holder from India who lives down the road, you’re still insulating yourself from most of the negative effects.

            ETA: Also, there’s the possibility that city-dwellers who don’t like immigration will move to areas without many immigrants.

          • Chalid says:

            So what I’m hearing is “I don’t have any data to support my generalization.”

            Edit: high skilled workers are subject to immigrant competition, too.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Entirely coincidentally, it looks like Germany’s made the news again:

            Organisers of Berlin’s New Year’s Eve celebrations are to set up a “safe zone” for women for the first time.

            The new security measures planned for the Brandenburg Gate party come amid concerns about sexual assaults.

            A large number of assaults and robberies targeting women at Cologne’s New Year’s Eve celebrations two years ago horrified Germany.

            Hundreds of women reported being attacked by gangs of men with migrant backgrounds.

            The events in Cologne heightened tensions in the country over the large influx of refugees and migrants – 1.1m people arrived in Germany in 2015, some, but by no means all, fleeing violence in Syria and Iraq.

            Still, as long as the GDP’s up, right?

          • Randy M says:

            So what I’m hearing is “I don’t have any data to support my generalization.”

            *cough*

            Data? My instinct would be to say

          • Chalid says:

            *cough*

            Exactly. By saying “my instinct” I explicitly warn the reader that I’m not able to immediately back up my statement with much hard quantitative evidence.

            This is why I was inviting you to provide evidence for your assertion, since you provided no such disclaimer.

          • Randy M says:

            Examples of powerful pro-immigration proponents is easy to find. Speculation as to their motives is not going to be simply proven, but it is true that people who tend to benefit greatest from cheap labor have the resources to avoid any attendant problems with increased criminality, disease, corruption, etc. Claiming they are aware of this is an assumption but seems most charitable towards their faculties.

          • Chalid says:

            Examples of almost anything are easy to find.

            Anyway, I am now convinced that you are not going to present any evidence beyond your intuition, and as I’ve already noted my intuitions differ, and I don’t have the time for a research project, so there is little chance anyone will benefit from pursuing this any further.

          • rlms says:

            Have some data. I think it supports Chalid. Of course, one confounding factor in this question is the fact that immigrants are typically pro-immigrant. But eyeballing the graph in the second link, I don’t think that has much of an effect: even assuming that all immigrants vote Democrat, the trend would still remain if their votes were removed.

          • Mark says:

            @chaild
            There was a study of pro-immigration sentiment in the UK, as I remember, the conclusion was that pro-immigration sentiment is linked to transience rather than exposure to immigrants. Areas with high immigrant populations, but where native people have established communities, make use of the local services, etc. are the areas with the most anti-immigrant sentiment.

            Populations like young people, students, the rich, city dwellers, who either don’t make use of local services (can afford to buy their own communities), or who aren’t particularly interested in local community due to transience are normally pro-immigrant.

            @actinide meta

            I guess the counter-argument is that community matters for economic outcomes. You see pretty clearly that there are massive differences in outcome within a polity depending on the culture of the community in question.
            If migration changes community in negative ways, it’s going to be a really inefficient way to trade.

            I guess the left-wing response to that is that there aren’t really community differences and that the differences in outcome are largely the result of discrimination. Personally, I think there might be a bit of a vicious circle at times, but that doesn’t change the fact that there are some communities out there with messed up values, that cause immense problems and that I don’t want to have to deal with.

          • actinide meta says:

            A number of people have replied taking the position that open borders advocates are common on the left and/or among the powerful and/or in Europe, and are maybe hiding their level of support for the idea for strategic reasons. My picture of the situation, at least in the U.S., is that Republican politicians find it in their interests to say mean things about immigrants and/or things that can be construed that way by a sufficiently hostile audience, and that consequently Democratic politicians and supporters find it in their interests to try to shame them for that in order to get people sympathetic to immigrants out to vote for them, but that it’s all cheap talk and debate over symbolism and affect and that neither party seriously intends to make any changes in policy worth talking about. But I don’t really know, so I think I’ll just concede this point.

            @Nybbler

            No, I do not want to import 10 million Haitians. Where would you put them? Put them in Florida and they are 1/3rd of the population; that’s going to cause serious disequilibrium effects.

            Well, they’d go wherever the jobs are, since we have (thank God!) free migration within the United States. Bus tickets are cheap. But Florida’s economy would have to grow less than 1% to absorb Haiti’s GDP. In principle, everything after that is gravy! I think the practical difficulties mostly stem from government programs that try to instantly move immigrants to first world standards of living rather than just improve their lot (public education, minimum wages, etc), and these should be tweaked in an open borders world!

            I’m trying to argue that the present system of first world border controls is causing tens of trillions of dollars per year of net harm to the world, mostly concentrated on innocent and vulnerable people. It’s not really constructive to engage with this by arguing that if (a) you eliminated every immigration restriction simultaneously with the stroke of a pen, (b) magically airlifted tens or hundreds of millions of people simultaneously to places where no one is expecting or actively trying to hire them, and (c) don’t change anything else, there would be some problems. Yes, there would. So that’s probably not exactly the right policy proposal.

            I think that borders should be open. But if somehow I could wave a magic wand and set U.S. immigration policy, I would not try to get there overnight. If you really want a concrete transitional policy, you could try something like

            (a) Replace the complicated and dehumanizing immigration system with an outright auction of permissive, greencard-like visas to whoever wants to buy them.

            (b) Pay for refugee visas explicitly as a budget item (and of course charities can also do so). Otherwise trust the market to come up with financing mechanisms for the poor.

            (c) Set the quantity of visas sold initially to something around the current actual (not authorized) rate of immigration, which we know we can absorb

            (d) Increase the quantity of visas issued exponentially, regardless of what happens to the price, unless and until there are major failures of civil order. If there are big problems, solve them and move on.

            (e) When people cheat (while the visas are still expensive), don’t panic, just bill them for the visas they should have bought (plus penalties)

            The goal would be to drive the cost of the visas close to zero eventually, as the world approaches equilibrium, and then you can dismantle the whole ugly system forever.

            This approach mostly maximizes welfare, for a given rate of transition, in dollar rather than “utility” terms. So high skilled immigration may very well increase first, even though it’s not as exciting in poverty reduction terms. You could try to find a way to “fix” that, but I think you could just get to high skilled equilibrium pretty fast.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @actinide meta

            So high skilled immigration may very well increase first, even though it’s not as exciting in poverty reduction terms. You could try to find a way to “fix” that, but I think you could just get to high skilled equilibrium pretty fast.

            This is fine except when allowing immigration into a country with an internal high-cost to become high-skilled. Plenty of people from higher SES families can afford the cost and the competition, but you’re seriously negatively impacting the life-time earnings and savings potential of those natives who personally paid their way up.

            At least with uncredentialed blue-collar jobs everyone, native and immigrant alike, is taken down (or up) to the same low living standards. This pisses off the natives who expect higher living standards based on what their uncredentialed parents had, but it’s even worse for the credentialed who must face lower living standards than their immigrant peers, thanks to higher debt service requirements.

            You’re going to have to fix the credentialing or college affordability problems first.

          • Wrong Species says:

            (e) When people cheat (while the visas are still expensive), don’t panic, just bill them for the visas they should have bought (plus penalties)

            That’s not transitional open borders. That’s just open borders. You’re still not getting that having laws and not enforcing them is effectively the same as not having the laws.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            (d) Increase the quantity of visas issued exponentially, regardless of what happens to the price, unless and until there are major failures of civil order. If there are big problems, solve them and move on.

            What if these “big problems” can’t be solved without sending lots of the recent immigrants back home?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            What if these “big problems” can’t be solved without sending lots of the recent immigrants back home?

            That’s one of the ‘nice things’ about permanent residence versus visas.

            The kind way of handling it would be to send them back, refund most of their money, and then allow them priority when the gates open again.

          • @Aapje:

            The definition of improvement I described is what Marshall called (I think) economic improvement, current people in my field refer to as improvement in efficiency (or “wealth maximization” if the person is Richard Posner). Most economists, if pressed, would refer to it as Hicks-Kaldor improvement.

            It’s what an economist means if he says “free trade makes us better off” or something similar. The problems with statistical measures such as GDP or national income are routinely pointed out in elementary economics courses. As Marshall put it more than a century ago, when a man marries his housekeeper the national income goes down.

            The usual argument isn’t “we measured economic efficiency before and after a free trade agreement was passed and it went up.” It’s rather “here are the reason to expect that reducing trade barriers will increase economic efficiency.” We occasionally support the theoretical argument by pointing to evidence that free trade produces benefits, commonly the cases of 19th century England and 20th century Hong Kong, but those are cases where the improvement is arguably so large that we don’t need a precise definition to recognize it.

            The theoretical argument necessarily leaves out things that we don’t have a good enough theory to account for, such as cultural changes due to immigration. But most people who oppose free trade or immigration think they are bad things even aside from those, and most of the time they believe that due to accepting arguments that economists have known to be mistaken for about two hundred years now.

            Or in other words, we have more reason to believe that their arguments are wrong than that our conclusions are right.

          • actinide meta says:

            @Wrong Species

            I don’t think severity of enforcement penalties matters a lot in this regime, because the flow of people sneaking over the border is pretty quickly going to be a small fraction of the whole. Demand to immigrate illegally may even decrease, because people may decide to “wait” for an easy and safe visa, because people who expect to eventually be legal residents or citizens will expect to eventually pay the penalties, and because illegal immigrants face increased competition from vastly expanded legal immigration. (Low-skilled non-native-language-speaking immigrants are much better substitutes for each other than for native labor!) It’s probably easier and cheaper to just account for the illegal immigration flows when setting the exponential schedule than to cut them off at great expense just to let the same people in legally in a few years.

            But in the scheme of things, it doesn’t matter very much. That’s basically my message in this thread: the harms from migration restrictions are so enormous that very little else is worth worrying about until that’s fixed.

          • Mark says:

            Is there any reason why open borders should be preferred to imperialism?

            If things are really bad in country A, there will probably be more people for whom it isn’t bad enough to make them leave, than there are people who would get a heavy util hit at the idea of foreign involvement in government.
            And all the people who would otherwise move to country B, would definitely be in favour.

          • Wrong Species says:

            That’s basically my message in this thread: the harms from migration restrictions are so enormous that very little else is worth worrying about until that’s fixed.

            Do you spend all of your disposable income on charity? If not, then you should do so. Whatever benefits you get from a bigger apartment pale in comparison to the threat of malaria. You should only be spending enough to keep yourself alive and working. Even spending on your own kids is out of the question, since it’s the one versus the money.

            The point is not that I think you should actually do that. The point is about obligations. The US government has a strong obligation towards its own citizens. That’s the point of its existence. It isn’t automatically obligated to help every person on the entire planet. There are some weaker obligations not to kill people arbitrarily or plunder but the USG should work towards the benefit of its citizens. Anything else is supererogatory and shouldn’t come at the expense of its own people.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @actinide meta

            Well, they’d go wherever the jobs are, since we have (thank God!) free migration within the United States. Bus tickets are cheap. But Florida’s economy would have to grow less than 1% to absorb Haiti’s GDP. In principle, everything after that is gravy!

            Jobs, for unskilled French or Creole speaking workers? There aren’t any, or at least there aren’t anything like 10 million. No, they’d do what all the other immigrant groups have done, which is to cluster somewhere, where they could form immigrant communities. And since there’s no reason for them to cluster anywhere else, it would be the nearest part of the US. Florida doesn’t have to absorb their GDP; I’m not even sure what that means. It has to absorb the actual people. Who instantly form a huge voting bloc.

            I’m trying to argue that the present system of first world border controls is causing tens of trillions of dollars per year of net harm to the world, mostly concentrated on innocent and vulnerable people.

            And I’m trying to argue that you’re ignoring the enormous amount of harm prevented by those border controls. Haiti isn’t desperately poor because it’s poor in natural resources or colonialism or because of some evil leadership imposed from above. It’s desperately poor because that’s how the Haitians make it. Take those same Haitians, drop them wholesale into a first-world polity, and you risk turning it into a third-world polity. At which point the Haitians have gained only in the short term, and everyone else has lost. If you took those same Haitians and introduced them much more slowly, that’s another story entirely. But you can’t “exponentially increase” that value, unless you’re using a very very small exponent. You need a low enough rate that they can be assimilated, so by the time there’s enough of them to make a serious political effect, most of them are first-worlders in attitude and culture.

            (d) Increase the quantity of visas issued exponentially, regardless of what happens to the price, unless and until there are major failures of civil order. If there are big problems, solve them and move on.

            Uh, yeah, I don’t think deliberately testing the system to failure is a great idea.

          • outis says:

            @actinide meta:

            The thing is, though, from a nationalistic point of view migration has the opposite effect of the historical changes you are complaining about. Liberalizing the movement of goods and capital but not people or legal systems predictably moves as much economic activity to where the cheapest labor is (that doesn’t have *too* awful laws).

            No, mass immigration does not counteract of the negative effects of delocalization; it increases some, and adds some new ones. For instance: when the factories move abroad, lots of working class people lose their job. Many low-skill jobs remain, though, because not everything can be done abroad and shipped. But then you bring in masses of low-skill labor who completely undercut the local working class.

            Also, everything you have said makes me doubt that you are even capable of taking a nationalistic point of view. You’re using the word “nation”, but you’re thinking of a mass of land with some set of laws, with the people living in it being completely interchangeable with any other people. That is a complete denial (probably paired with a complete misunderstanding) of the concept of nation.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Actinide: no it should not be translated as “the good Muslim.” That would be deceiving people. Where do you get off thinking you’re entitled to translate the Bible? You’ve thought about the Bible for 25 minutes and think you’ve come to some interesting conclusions? Well let me tell you something: the Church stands with 2000 years of pain and bafflement and hunger behind her…

          • Anonymous says:

            @Le Maistre Chat
            @actinide meta

            Given who society deems villains nowadays, a better translation would be “the Good Neo-Nazi”, or “the Good Racist”. “The Good Cisgendered White Male”!

          • Take those same Haitians, drop them wholesale into a first-world polity, and you risk turning it into a third-world polity.

            We did the experiment, over and over again, in the 19th and early 20th century. The fraction of immigrants in the population was higher in the late 19th and early 20th century than it is now, and they were coming in at a rate of about one percent of the population a year.

            Why didn’t that have the effect you describe?

          • Anonymous says:

            We did the experiment, over and over again, in the 19th and early 20th century. The fraction of immigrants in the population was higher in the late 19th and early 20th century than it is now, and they were coming in at a rate of about one percent of the population a year.

            Why didn’t that have the effect you describe?

            Because they were mostly “white persons of good character”, rather than Haitians?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            This thread is way too deep.

            @DavidFriedman

            The fraction of immigrants in the population was higher in the late 19th and early 20th century than it is now, and they were coming in at a rate of about one percent of the population a year.

            Why didn’t that have the effect you describe?

            What percentage of those homesteaded? Using family connections or savings from their homeland to start?

            They basically continued their same way of life in the new land, and were standard working class people as a result. This is no longer the case, and wouldn’t have been the case in the 19th and early 20th centuries for those who immigrated from hunter-gatherer tribes from, e.g., the Amazon.

          • Brad says:

            anonymousskimmer

            What percentage of those homesteaded? Using family connections or savings from their homeland to start?

            What percentage of immigrants today, authorized or otherwise, do you think don’t have family connections or any savings?

          • rlms says:

            I didn’t realise the US was being inundated by hunter-gathers. Mind you, I didn’t realise Europe had become an Islamist theocracy until I read it here, and I live there, so perhaps I’m just not very observant.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @Brad
            We’re talking about Haitians. Not generic immigrants.

            The family connections back then, to the extent they existed, were often enough to people already living a middle-class lifestyle.

            When this wasn’t the case you had ghettos full of Irish, or the like.

            @rlms
            I’m making a comparison. An entire family immigrating from Europe could expect to maintain their fishing or farming lifestyle without change and still be middle class (with free land from the government on top of that to start). A dirt-poor Haitian family moving today doesn’t have an equivalent lifestyle in the US. Even the Haitians have homes, where economically speaking they’d be the equivalent of homeless people in the US.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @David Friedman

            They were more skilled and less poor, compared to the population of Americans at that time, than Haitians are now compared to the population of the US now.

            That rate of immigration is lower than would happen under open borders today. In particular, there weren’t so many do-gooder organizations who would move poor people wholesale to the US.

            There was no welfare state; if they failed they failed, and were not as much of a burden on those here.

            There were more low-skill jobs.

            Even so, immigrants did overwhelm certain places locally, resulting in ghettos.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            if they failed they failed, and were not as much of a burden on those here.

            One of my step-great-great-(great?)-grandfathers ended up in an asylum.

            In particular, there weren’t so many do-gooder organizations who would move poor people wholesale to the US.

            Ideally far more of these organizations would be helping the immigrants assimilate and develop job skills.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Ideally far more of these organizations would be helping the immigrants assimilate and develop job skills.

            Ideally, yes. Realistically, however…

          • Brad says:

            Because they were mostly “white persons of good character”, rather than Haitians?

            That magical whiteness is so awesome. Well, not all whites obviously. Hajnal line and all that. And I’m not sure about those swarthy Mediterraneans either. I think they might be half-breeds.

            If only we had a word for the good kind of white.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Brad

            Nothing magical about it.

            The right environment (one which strongly incentivizes saving for the winter), the right kind of institutions (illegal cousin marriages, for instance) and the right amount of criminal execution work wonders if applied somewhat consistently for the better part of two millennia. Drop the population of Haiti on a hypothetical temperate land, co-ruled by the Catholic Church and iron-fisted warlords, and I’ll bet they’d closely approximate the temperament and cooperativeness of intra-Hajnal whites. The reverse is probably also true; if you place the aforementioned whites in a winterless environment under barbaric institutions, they’d likely eventually start to approximate Haitians.

          • actinide meta says:

            Y’all seem to be ignoring the ~700,000 Haitians currently living in the U.S., with a median household income of $47,200 compared to $56,500 for native-born Americans. Despite the obvious reasons that number can’t be directly extrapolated to the median or the newly arrived Haitian, I think it’s pretty hard to reconcile with the view that there aren’t any jobs for Haitian immigrants to do.

            (Most of the Haitians that are not living in poverty are living in the United States! The remittances sent by Haitians living and working abroad to families in Haiti represent something like a third of Haiti’s GDP.)

            To be honest, I’m baffled by the same people (e.g. @The Nybbler) believing simultaneously that huge numbers of poor people will quickly immigrate if permitted and that there isn’t in fact a huge demand for their (cheap!) labor. Most immigrants are ineligible for most welfare programs in the US (I’m more than happy to stipulate that we should fix any loopholes as part of an asymptotic open borders program) and the cost of living here is obviously higher than in most poor places. Why do you think people want to come, exactly?

          • The Nybbler says:

            One of my step-great-great-(great?)-grandfathers ended up in an asylum.

            Asylums. Terrible places. Pretty much warehousing the mentally ill as cheaply as possible, with a side order of Mengele-class experiments for some of the bad ones. Mostly gone now. Now the mentally ill are collecting SSI disability, housing assistance, and other forms of welfare, and are out on the street making everyone else’s life worse. Better for them, certainly, but it’s another difference between the 19th and early 20th centuries and now.

            Most immigrants are ineligible for most welfare programs in the US (I’m more than happy to stipulate that we should fix any loopholes as part of an asymptotic open borders program)

            I do not believe today’s do-gooders would allow poor immigrants to starve on the streets once they were here.

          • actinide meta says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            no it should not be translated as “the good Muslim.” That would be deceiving people. Where do you get off thinking you’re entitled to translate the Bible? You’ve thought about the Bible for 25 minutes and think you’ve come to some interesting conclusions? Well let me tell you something: the Church stands with 2000 years of pain and bafflement and hunger behind her…

            Uh, please stay calm. I haven’t spent even 25 minutes working on a cultural translation of the Bible, and the idea that to the original audience of the “Good Samaritan” story the “Samaritans” were a despised, shunned, heretical religious outgroup (and that casual modern Christian readers, who have only heard the word “Samaritan” in association with “Good” are pretty likely to miss this important dimension of the parable) is not remotely my idea (or, I think, particularly controversial). But if you’re saying that this information belongs in a sermon or commentary or whatever rather than literally in a translation, I agree.

            @Anonymous

            Given who society deems villains nowadays, a better translation would be “the Good Neo-Nazi”, or “the Good Racist”. “The Good Cisgendered White Male”!

            If that’s what it takes to shock your congregation, then yes.

          • Mark says:

            Hmmm… the original claim was that border controls were somehow anti-christian given the message of the parable of the good samaritan.

            If the good samaritan were to become the good muslim, I think it’d be pretty uncontroversial in most congregations – maybe I’m being too generous here but, I feel like “not all Muslims are absolutely evil” is something that most Christians have probably already taken on board.

            Probably depends on their proximity to Muslims. Might be a good one for Copts.

            Anyway, doesn’t really have anything to do with border controls.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Actinide:

            Uh, please stay calm.

            She was referencing this sketch.

            Anyway, it strikes me that we’ve fortunate enough to have a large surviving corpus of early Christian writers, who, coming from a culture more similar to Jesus’ own, would be more likely to understand the nuances of his teachings, and who wouldn’t be affected by modern secular fashions. So, Actinide (or anyone, really), if you can show that the patristic consensus was in favour of open borders, I’ll happily admit that you’re correct, and that Christianity does indeed require us to let anybody who wishes immigrate. If not, perhaps you could explain why, exactly, we should credit the notion that the true message of Christianity was completely hidden to those closest to Jesus, only to be discovered by someone living two thousand years after him.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Incidentally, immigration was quite the hot topic in the late Roman Empire, so if the Church thought that Christian teaching required them to let in any group of Goths (Vandals, Huns, Franks, Alamanni…) that came knocking, she had plenty of opportunity to say so.

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            Most economists, if pressed, would refer to it as Hicks-Kaldor improvement.

            Which is based on assumptions that seem untrue, so it seems doubtful that a Hicks-Kaldor improvement can be guaranteed, rather than hoped for.

            Also, the model you are using is presumably a model based on the assumption of stability, while the claim of many critics is that main downsides are destabilization. It’s like turning off the safety features in your browser to make it more efficient with CPU/memory/etc. That will work until your machine gets taken over by malware and you have a far less stable system than before. And if you run into one of these encrypting malwares, it may even be worse than that.

            The argument that turning off these safety features offers a marginal improvement in the short term is correct. Does it offer an overall improvement in the long term? Most experts say no…

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            One way that the world is different is just that travel is a lot cheaper.

            Still, my impression is that if people are merely poor rather than living in a war/disaster zone, they don’t all emigrate. Instead, the people most likely to earn money leave and send remittances to their families.

            A general point for the anti-immigrationists: What do you think the right size for a freedom to travel, work, and settle zone should be?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            “Ideally far more of these organizations would be helping the immigrants assimilate and develop job skills.”

            There used to be organizations like that in the ’20s or so, ethnically based rather than help from people not related to the immigrants.

            I have no idea why there’s less of that these days. Or is there more than I’ve heard about?

        • Chalid says:

          When the British ended slavery, they compensated slave owners. The US mostly chose not to. But I don’t think that either pretended that emancipating slaves would benefit slave owners.

          Who are the groups that you think would be hurt? The studies I’ve seen suggest most groups benefit and a few groups (mainly unskilled) would see small effects of uncertain sign. You can talk about culture effects but they’re pretty speculative.

          Lots of people *think* they’re hurt by immigration, sure, but that’s not really evidence, especially on SSC.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            Lots of people think they’re hurt when foreigners gang rape their children or blow them to smithereens.

            Thank God we have brave men like you to tell us that actually they’re all better off for it!

            Really, when you think about it isn’t being hacked apart with a machete a small price to pay if it means that the Koch brothers can afford another summer home in Monaco? One lost dollar is a tragedy but ten of thousand rapes are a statistic.

          • Chalid says:

            When BLM says that police are systematically racist and point at all the black children killed by police, do you listen and believe or do you look for data and studies that attempt to measure the effects?

          • Lots of people think they’re hurt when foreigners gang rape their children or blow them to smithereens.

            Is there evidence that immigrants are, on average, more inclined to commit crimes (other than violating immigration laws in the case of illegal immigrants) than other people? You seem to be assuming that, but I don’t think the evidence, in the U.S. case, supports it.

          • Mark says:

            It depends where the migrants come from.

            The US already has some high crime minorities, so migrants are on average probably better.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @DavidFriedman

            You can’t apply the US (let alone the Canadian) experience to Europe, or elsewhere, any more than you can apply those place’s experience to the US or Canada. Very different situations, primarily geographically.

  19. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    In a previous discussion, someone mentioned learning to enjoy exercise. I was wondering whether that actually happens, and if so, how?

    • Incurian says:

      After you get over the initial hump of “omg this sucks so bad,” it’s fun to track your progress. It gives you a sense of accomplishment (both for increasing weight lifted or decreasing run time, and for looking/feeling better), in addition to an endorphin rush.

      • Aapje says:

        @Incurian

        I don’t think that everyone enjoys this. I don’t, for example.

        I think that it’s impossible to give a general recipe for this anymore than it is possible to give a random person job advice without knowing more to be able to better determine what kind of things that person enjoys, which varies per individual.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I’m going to assume from the lack of replies that learning to enjoy exercise is rare.

      I’ve got a bit of a story on the subject. I’ve become able to enjoy walking.

      I didn’t used to– any pleasure associated with walking was about a pleasant environment, but walking was pretty much just instrumental for me.

      After ten years or so of work on coordination (tai chi and Alexander Technique mostly) I found that I was liking to walk. This wasn’t why I was doing work on coordination– it felt good in itself, and I felt a strong drive to get better connected to my sensory experience. Also, tai made the day better.

      I was surprised to find I was liking walking. More recently, sometimes I’ll feel like walking rather than riding a bicycle. This doesn’t mean I want to deliberately go for a walk. The desire only hits when I’m already out of the house.

      I don’t want to do a cardio challenge– I want to walk at a comfortable pace.

      I don’t have a complete answer to what changed, but when I was a kid, I’d fall down fairly often. No injury worse than skinned knees. No obvious cause.

      After those years of bodywork, I have an explanation. My muscles were so tight that I didn’t swing my thigh forward far enough, so I’d swing my lower leg around the outside to take a step. If I misjudged the amount of swing, I’d catch my toes on the ground and go down.

      I don’t remember what I spent on bodywork, but it wasn’t cheap. It could probably be viewed as being in the range of what a middle class person could afford if they didn’t have a lot of other luxuries.

      Recently, I tried out an Eric Franklin exercise. Stack your hands on top of each other in front of your diaphagm– (that’s at the breastbone. Move your hands down when you inhale and up when you exhale.

      I was having a hard time with this– my hands would move in the opposite direction.

      I figured out that I was so habitually tense that my lower torso didn’t expand when I breathe. Instead, my habit is to lean up and back to make some room for my lungs.

      This is a very plausible explanation for why I don’t like physical exercise. I’m working on changing my breathing pattern– this should improve my quality of life whether I end up liking exercise or not.

      • Aapje says:

        I’m going to assume from the lack of replies that learning to enjoy exercise is rare.

        I would say that it’s more of an impossible question to answer generically. It’s like the question: “I don’t enjoy my job, how do I start to enjoy it?”

        There are a thousand possible answers to that question, where the personal traits of the asker makes some of those useful and others useless.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Those of you who found that running is too hard on your joints might be interested in Running with the Whole Body.

        It’s a set of Feldenkrais exercises (gentle attentive movement) to improve running.

        I’ve only done a little of it, but the working on the connection between my ankles and my hips did unflatten my feet for a while.

        Do read the comments– they’re from people who improved their running.

    • lvlln says:

      I lived a mostly sedentary lifestyle in my childhood and adolescence, during which I absolutely hated exercise. In my early 20s, I actually started exercising and found myself starting to enjoy exercise, to the point that I was probably unhealthily addicted to it at some points. I’m not sure how this happened, though.

      One possible explanation is that I lucked into forms of exercise – running, cycling, parkour, ultimate Frisbee – which I was already predisposed to like. But that merely moves the question back a step. And it’s not like I hadn’t done those things (except parkour) before during my adolescence – I had tried and not enjoyed them. At least, not enjoyed them enough to prioritize doing them over sedentary things.

      It’s possible, as Incurian mentions, that the gamification aspect got me bootstrapped, creating a cycle by which I landed at a new place in terms of my preference for exercise. My starting of exercising was part of a weight-loss regime I had decided to take up for myself, which involved an almost obsessive amount of stat tracking. And my experience with video games tells me that I really like stat tracking. One factor here might be that entering adult life after college meant a lot more uncertainty in my life with a lot less predictable results from effort, and exercise – like (most) video games – was something that I could reliably count on to provide meaningful, measurable benefits commensurate to the time and effort I put in.

      One thing I notice every winter when I become more sedentary than most of the year is that I start feeling muscle pain, particularly in my legs, which I seem to be able to alleviate by going to the gym if I haven’t been in a week or 2, and which seems to go away until next winter once the winter is over and I start exercising much more regularly again. It’s possible that there’s some sort of addiction-like mechanism where once one’s body is used to regular exercise, the lack thereof causes pain, which obviously increases the relative attractiveness of continuing regular exercise, thus making one “enjoy” exercise like how an alcoholic “enjoys” drinking alcohol.

      I get the sense that there’s no one answer that would work for all or even most people, though.

      As an aside, recently, like you, I’ve started to enjoy walking despite never having enjoyed it before. Previously, walking even 5 minutes without having a podcast to listen to felt like a chore, and now I find myself choosing to walk 30 minutes or more without any artificial stimulus and enjoying it. For me, it has to do with getting into mindful meditation, and choosing to practice it while walking.

    • Nornagest says:

      You know how your assigned reading in school is an ungodly slog and then later you go back and read the same books as an adult, not because you’re being forced to but because you want to, and like magic they suddenly become enjoyable? It worked kinda like that for me.

      I was such an unathletic child that the powers that be actually stuck me in remedial gym classes for a couple of years. I don’t know if this actually represented delayed development of some kind or just unusual laziness and stubbornness, though I’m leaning towards the latter. In any case they were worse than useless, so obviously that in third grade I started attending regular classes on my own initiative — over the objections, but for some reason not the actual interference, of various authority figures. Those classes at least weren’t actively destructive, but not very helpful either: the level of activity they mandated (for a lazy and stubborn child, at least) was enough to be painful but not enough to actually improve my fitness. And that’s pretty much how it stood through the rest of my K-12 schooling.

      Now I’m probably in the top 5% of physical fitness for my age range. How did I get here from there? First, I found a type of physical activity — martial arts — that I actually enjoyed for its own sake. But that wouldn’t have been enough by itself. After a couple years I got to the point where I was being held back by my poor strength and endurance, so my instructor talked me into setting goals for bodyweight exercise out of class — push-ups, sit-ups, squats. And that’s when I found that pure exercise on my own initiative, with a clear goal in mind and clear progress towards it, is nowhere near as miserable as the same exercise forced on me as part of an open-ended physical education curriculum — or, worse, as punishment. After that I think becoming physically fit was almost a foregone conclusion, though it took a few years to get there.

      When I eventually got to levels that bodyweight training couldn’t help me with, I started running (which I eventually gave up because it was too hard on my joints) and lifting weights (which I still do).

    • rahien.din says:

      I think it’s all about finding the exercise you enjoy.

      I fucking hate riding a stationary bike. I like riding my bike but dislike the effort in setting up for a good bike ride. I feel great running until my busted feet and ankles hobble me. I really enjoy the lifting program I have recently embarked upon. There’s just about no downside for me. But it took a lot of doing to find that out.

      • Through elementary school and most of high school I didn’t enjoy gym and knew I was bad at such things. The first change was my doing judo outside of school. I wasn’t unusually good at it but I don’t think I was unusually bad, and on the whole I enjoyed it. Then, at some point late in high school, I discovered that I was not unusually bad at wrestling, possibly due to the Judo experience.

        Much later, when the SCA was very young and I was one of the original people doing it in the Midwest, I discovered that I not only enjoyed sword and shield fighting, I was good at it. I eventually concluded that I was probably somewhat stronger and faster than average, and the reason I was always bad at sports was that these were things the other kids were doing lots of for fun and I only did in gym class because I had to. Faced with a sport that was new to all of us that no longer applied.

  20. Aftagley says:

    I got injured back in October, and after a few overly-sedentary months of recovery I’m looking to pursue a weight-loss plan to get back in shape. Despite not having the best eating habits, I’ve normally had an active-enough lifestyle to never worry about dieting, so I’ve never before tried to figure out what the best kind of diet is. Looking at the topic now, there are a seemingly infinite number of occasionally contradicting strategies that all claim to be the weight loss plan possible.

    My understanding of weight loss currently starts and ends with the idea that as long as Calories In < Calories Out, you'll lose weight. The larger caloric deficit you run, the quicker you lose weight, although you expose yourself to unpleasantness if your deficit gets too big. The existence of all these diets, however, makes me think there must be something else going on. Are there any diets or plans that can increase the gains you get from running a caloric deficit?

    Basically, if 'Rate of Fat Lost' = ('Calories In' – 'Calories Out') * X, where X is some mystical factor you get from pursuing the best diet possible, how large can X get, and what diet leads to a particularly large X factor?

    • baconbits9 says:

      My understanding of weight loss currently starts and ends with the idea that as long as Calories In < Calories Out, you'll lose weight.

      Remember that these aren’t independent variables. Shifting your diet might shift your energy level, and shifting your exercise patterns can change your hunger level. IIRC there was a study on runners that found people who ran in the morning compensated by eating more calories and struggled to lose weight, where as people who ran in the evening didn’t increase their calorie load as much.

      In general I think that weight lifting has been shown to be the best at burning fat. I think it is a combination of a few things, the actual exercise, the muscle gains which help reshape your metabolism, and the underrated aspect of physically being able to do more leading to a healthier lifestyle (I’m not talking mr universe competitors here, just improved general strength).

    • lvlln says:

      The way I see it, Calories In < Calories Out is indeed what you fundamentally need to achieve in order to lose weight (not necessarily just fat), and all the diets and techniques people use & suggest are just to modulate those 2 variables.

      Because, fact is, those aren't just variables you can easily adjust to how you desire. They're incredibly difficult to change, and there are feedback effects where changing one thing makes further change or changing another thing much harder. E.g. eating less to lower Calories In also tends to make it harder to increase exercise to raise Calories Out.

      I used to be obese for most of my childhood and all of my adolescence before I decided to lose weight in my early 20s. What worked for me was to actually see it as simply as Calories In < Calories Out and adjusting those 2 variables intentionally. I counted Calories and limited myself to some number each day, planning out my meals and not straying no matter how hungry I got. I exercised a certain amount every day no matter how tired I felt or how bad the weather was. I was able to get into a healthy weight range fairly quickly – less than a year – and have stayed there since.

      But from what I hear, that's not a very reasonable strategy for most people. Some people call this a moral failing and just tell them to buckle up and try harder, but I don't think that's a good way of thinking of it. One doesn't control how much willpower one has, and while one can develop it, it's a very slow and difficult process. Rather, one should find a way that allows one to take similar control of their Calories In and Calories Out variables in a way that matches their willpower.

      I think that's where, say, diets high in fat and protein come in – gram per gram, fat is more caloric than protein or carbohydrates, but they also tend to be more sating, so it may be possible to find the magic point where by eating more fat and less carbs, one is taking in fewer calories despite being more sated.

      I'm skeptical that there's much of an X factor to consider or that it's particularly easy to change. Building muscle through weight lifting can help, I believe, because muscle burns (very slightly, almost negligibly so, but still slightly) more calories than fat pound-for-pound, but building muscle is a very slow process, and if your goal is weight loss, spending that time and effort just burning calories via cardio seems likely to be better. But if you hate cardio and can tolerate weight lifting, then obviously weight lifting is the way to go.

      I think the biggest single factor is probably just measuring and being mindful. When I was losing weight, I recorded my weight and my waist size every single day, sometimes multiple times a day. I found that just doing this provides input that nudged my behavior in ways that were more effective than if I had just pre-committed to some caloric limit or minimum exercise per day and had only taken measurements occasionally.

      • Viliam says:

        Indeed, food has properties other than mere calories. Sugar gives you calories, but after a short while it makes you hungry again. Fat gives you calories, but sates you for longer time. Unless you consume it immediately before exercise, fat is the better option.

        It’s actually even more complicated. Even the same food can have different properties when it is e.g. blended. The rule of thumb is that more “raw” food is usually better (gives you more long-term-energy per calorie). That means uncooked is better than cooked (except for stuff that needs to be cooked, such as legumes), whole-grain is better than refined, and chopped is better than blended.

        The simplest way to achieve quite good results is to make 50% of you food unprocessed vegetables and fruits, which can be achieved by making a habit of adding unprocessed vegetables to each meal, and eating some fruit between the meals. To achieve perfection, add some nuts, flax seeds, and spices.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Rate of Fat Lost = Calories In – Calories Out.

      Calories In is pretty simple. Unfortunately, figuring Calories Out requires solving a non-linear differential equation depending on Calories In, previous rates of fat lost, and a bunch of other variables that you can’t actually measure. Also some of the unknowns are unknown, as are most of the coefficients and exponents.

      Personally I prefer the feedback method (_The Hacker’s Diet_ has a complex implementation). You can measure both rate of fat lost and calories in. If you’re gaining weight, reduce calories in. This method is painful but effective.

    • actinide meta says:

      Different micronutrients are used for energy at different efficiencies; it’s up to you whether to account for this as reduced calories in or extra calories out (“thermogenesis”) but the former accounting is more useful to a calorie counting dieter. Basically, you can knock 20% off calories from protein. Nutritional labeling should do this for you but as far as I know doesn’t anywhere; labels and databases tell you how much energy a food would provide to a steam engine rather than a human. For some reason this isn’t well known.

      As other people have said, calories out and hunger are both subject to complex feedback effects. One approximation I’ve seen (but won’t endorse) is to assume that in the long term, equilibrium weight is a monotonic function of calories in.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Nutritional labeling should do this for you but as far as I know doesn’t anywhere; labels and databases tell you how much energy a food would provide to a steam engine rather than a human. For some reason this isn’t well known.

        The steam engine claim is a common claim, but not true; the labels are based on metabolizable energy, after correcting for energy lost via urine, feces, and gas. But your point is valid, thermogenesis isn’t included there. Which suggests the practical difference between fat and protein may differ depending on ambient temperature; if it’s cold, the obligatory thermogenesis will be compensated by a reduction in adaptive thermogenesis, thus eliminating the difference. But if it’s hot (or you’re working out), the obligatory thermogenesis will result in additional energy expenditure to cool, accentuating the difference.

        • actinide meta says:

          I stand corrected on the “steam engine” claim, thank you. Do you know the scale of those other energy losses for the “big three” macronutrients?

          • The Nybbler says:

            It’s in the link; No change in fat and carbohydrate, about 25% drop in fermentable dietary fiber, 10% drop in alcohol. Separately, that document notes that monosachharides are about 5% lower in calories than equal weight of polysachharides. Though I still don’t see how Coca-Cola gets 140 calories from 39g of sugar (mostly monosachharides if HFCS-sweetened); my best guess would be the weight of the sugar is based on a mix containing the hydrate.

    • Charles F says:

      The existence of all these diets, however, makes me think there must be something else going on. Are there any diets or plans that can increase the gains you get from running a caloric deficit?

      As far as I know, you can’t increase the fat loss effects of a given deficit. It’s going to be about 1lb per 3500kcal. But the diets mostly exist because maintaining a deficit is hard, so they try to add psychological tricks to make it less unpleasant.

    • rahien.din says:

      The existence of all these diets, however, makes me think there must be something else going on.

      It could actually be evidence that everybody wishes there was something else going on, when in fact there is a single difficult answer.

      Change your lifestyle so that you eat more vegetables, eat more protein, eat/drink less junk food, and move around more.

    • fortaleza84 says:

      Based on personal observations, regular consumption of cinnamon tea seems to help a bit.

      But anyway, besides Calories In and Calories Out, there is another factor — Perceived Calories In. One of the ways some diets work (or try to work) is by playing on the difference between Calories In and Perceived Calories In.

      Thus, a lot of people agree that one way to lose a modest amount of weight without trying very hard is to stop drinking sweetened drinks like soda and juice. Evidently, sweetened drinks allow you to consume a lot more calories than you realize. Similarly, highly processed “junk foods” seem to operate in a similar way.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        regular consumption of cinnamon tea seems to help a bit.

        For those who want to try this use Ceylon cinnamon. It has the lowest coumarin content (by orders of magnitude), and is thus the safest to imbibe.

  21. johan_larson says:

    I’ve been watching the HBO series True Detective over the holidays, and enjoying it. It’s a noir cop drama, with the first season focusing on a series of killings with occult ties in Louisiana, and the second dealing with corruption, drugs, prostitution, and murder in LA.

    Unfortunately the third season isn’t available yet, so I’m looking around for something similar, on screen or in print. Any recommendations for modern noir drama?

    • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

      >yet

      Seriously, though, have you seen The Killing?

    • Well... says:

      I don’t know how modern is modern, but “The Wire” ran from around 2000 to 2005. (I refuse to DDG that right now to get more precise dates.) Also I don’t know how noir is noir.

      “The Wire” has unfortunately been the subject of massive hype, but it really is basically the best thing ever filmed.

      If you’ve already seen “The Wire” and want More Like This, there’s a 6-part miniseries that preceded it called “The Corner” that should scratch your itch.

      • johan_larson says:

        “The Wire” is indeed very good. I don’t think I’d call it noir though, at least in the first season. The word that comes to mind is “street”. The good guys, meaning the cops, are sometimes a bit cynical, but they’re too clearly good guys. The worst of them are merely useless. For proper noir, I think they’d need to be part of the problem, really over the line.

        As I recall, things head noir-ward in later seasons, though.

        • Controls Freak says:

          I think what you’re looking for is “The Shield”. It ran at the same time as “The Wire”. It’s not as consistently good as “The Wire”, but it’s probably more noir in the sense that you seem to be looking for, and its high points are very high.

        • Well... says:

          Interesting. I think of noir as meaning something like “shadowy and cynical” both in the visual and figurative sense of the show.

  22. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Personal update: today, Holy Innocents Day, is my last full day in Cancun. Nobody had enough time off work to visit through the Christmas season, which would mean flying out on Epiphany/Wizard Kings Day.
    It is easier to find an English Mass in a tourist port like this than a Latin Mass.
    There’s a unique Cirque de Soleil show here that I’m seeing tonight. 🙂

  23. Are there any political parties in the world with this approach(?):
    -Strong on borders, citizenship, and national sovereignty
    -Pro welfare state and basic income (and higher taxes on the top brackets if necessary)
    -First Amendment and Second Amendment style approach to arms and speech
    -Generally soft-libertarian approach to citizen’s rights
    -Pro market competition, wary of nationalization, and supports cutting red tape, lowering barriers to entry, reducing occupational licensing, loosening up zoning laws, and generally supporting small business, while getting stronger on breaking up unnatural monopolies with anti-monopoly laws, and putting in place stronger regulations of natural monopolies
    -Make freedom of property proportional to whether it is business property, the nature of the business, the number of employees etc, and aim to free up individual property as much as possible
    -Pro transhumanism/morphological freedom
    -AGI and automation optimist, but supports subsidizing friendliness research
    -Supports (ethical and gradual) population reduction with automation to pick up the slack

    …or am I stuffed?

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      This is way outside my knowledge base, but would Switzerland in general meet most of these criteria? It seems likely that it would meet the first four, at least.

      A coalition of parties may be the only thing which can pull these principles off, as some of them seem nearly mutually exclusive.

      Some of these principles are really very new. I doubt any political party currently has them all as planks. Some of the principles seem like they don’t belong in politics at all.

    • @anonymousskimmer

      I’ve been thinking I like Switzerland for a while now.

      some of them seem nearly mutually exclusive.

      How so?

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        I’m quite happy to have ancestry from canton Glarus (one of the last two Swiss cantons practicing direct democracy).

        Ideologically they aren’t exclusive, but practicably you’d need to use very strong force, possibly including conscription, for the borders, sovereignty, loosening of (local) zoning laws, and enforcement of anti-monopoly laws.

        It would be difficult to enforce the gradation of rights without being seen as anti-libertarian.

        And your last bullet point sounds draconian – how would it be possible to “support” population reduction, except in the most oblique of ways, without highly anti-democratic and anti-transhumanist actions?

      • @anonymousskimmer

        Ideologically they aren’t exclusive, but practicably you’d need to use very strong force, possibly including conscription, for the borders, sovereignty, loosening of (local) zoning laws, and enforcement of anti-monopoly laws.

        Well, if you go positively militaristic on borders sure, but more funding for whatever the local equivalent of ICE is and a visa regime that outright excludes certain troublesome countries would count as getting tough to me. Walls clearly work in the right context too when you are facing direct illegal inflows rather than visa overstays. Enforcement of anti-monopoly laws requires you to be no more militaristic than the enforcement of any other economic regulation, and zoning law relaxation isn’t really an extreme policy.

        It would be difficult to enforce the gradation of rights without being seen as anti-libertarian.

        If the majority, the poor and middle class are seeing greater rights in practice, then surely they’d understand. It’s only black or white thinkers that would have trouble.

        And your last bullet point sounds draconian – how would it be possible to “support” population reduction, except in the most oblique of ways, without highly anti-democratic and anti-transhumanist actions?

        Subtle things that nudge the issue should be enough, considering Western populations are already on a downward trend (another reason not to import loads of people and end up back where we started in terms of density). For example, you could adjust government benefits based on childlessness, or support tax cuts for the childless in a reverse of the traditional policy. Another thing would be subsidizing the message much like governments subsidize environmental PSAs today. You don’t need to go full China and write into law that people can only have one kid. It’s quite sufficient for it to be oblique given we’re headed in that direction anyway. Just need to give it a little extra push.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          For example, you could adjust government benefits based on childlessness, or support tax cuts for the childless in a reverse of the traditional policy.

          I think the most politically correct (feasible) policy would be to subsidize children up to the median family (with a reduced subsidy on a per child basis) and then cut the subsidy off entirely. – A couple would get subsidy X, a couple with child would get X + X/4, a couple with 2 children would get X + X/4 + X/8, as would a couple with any number of additional children.

          You might also increase the subsidy the older the parents are when the child is born (this could be as easy as linking the subsidy to current average parental age), as this effectively decreases real population size by spreading out generations.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          If the majority, the poor and middle class are seeing greater rights in practice, then surely they’d understand.

          It really depends on how they relatively value these rights.

          And don’t underestimate the number of people who are black-and-white thinkers.

      • Sniffnoy says:

        ForwardSynthesis, you might want to post your replies to comments as replies to the comment you’re replying to, rather than as sibling comments to them.

    • Mary says:

      -Make freedom of property proportional to whether it is business property, the nature of the business, the number of employees etc, and aim to free up individual property as much as possible

      Reads like: bureaucrats explicitly get to pick on you because of your business — or because they feign their reason is your business.

      • Bureaucrats already get to do this because we don’t live in an anarcho-capitalist society. The difference here is that instead, regulations are applied on a different basis than just looking at the problem they aim to solve, and instead firm size is included as an important factor in every piece of business legislation. This means that small businesses aren’t saddled with regulations meant for much larger businesses in the same industry, and so aren’t saddled with huge fixed costs that limit their ability to compete.

  24. Well... says:

    Soundgarden has a song called “Limo Wreck”. (It’s one of the lesser songs off of Superunknown, which means it’s still a better song than 99.999% of all other rock songs.) (listen) (lyrics)

    Maybe it’s the imperial stout I drank instead of eating dinner, but I hadn’t considered it up until this very minute that the name “Limo Wreck” might be a play on “limerick”. The lyrics don’t read as a limerick, and although the song is in 3/4 (but with mostly 5-bar phrasing!) it’s a rather plodding 3/4 and nothing about it has even a trace of limerick-ish silliness. In fact it’s a downright not fun song.

    So now I’m stymied as to whether the play on words is intended, and if so what it means: I know it probably isn’t intentional, but it also seems too perfect not to be.

    SSC readers, I’ll take your crackpot theories on this now.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      1) It’s a broken limerick.

      2) They couldn’t make it sound good in song-terms as a limerick, so changed it accordingly before publication.

  25. toastengineer says:

    Question for the folks who have better mathematical intuition than I:

    Let’s say that it’s in my best interest that everyone know the approximate number of times a certain thing has happened, but it’d be a very bad idea to even record the exact number of times it has happened.

    I was thinking of something along these lines: Say I want the recorded count to be +-100 of the actual count. I start with a recorded value of 0. Then, every time the event happens, there is a 1/100 chance that I add 100 to the count.

    Intuitively it feels like law of averages should keep the count roughly in range of the real value, but I’m also a little suspicious that accumulated error would render it meaningless over time. Which is it? Is there a better way to do this?

    • quanta413 says:

      Well, if the event has happened n times, the expected value of your average is n.

      After a given number of events, the full result of the process you are describing is a binomial distribution with p = .01. The expected value is n*p and the variance is np(1-p). So when you multiply by 100, you indeed can expect that on average your result will be accurate (~n) with a variance of .99n (so a standard deviation of about sqrt(n)) with a variance of about 99n (so a standard deviation of ~10*sqrt(n) ). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binomial_distribution

      I suppose you may want the reverse information (given an estimate from your process x what is the likelihood the truce count is n) but I’m too lazy to look it up or work it out right now (it will depend on your prior beliefs about the likely values of n).

      Why do you expect that concealing the exact number this way is an improvement? If it’s too sensitive to explain why (because it would give away the subject matter) that’s fine, but I’m interested to see if when I know why it needs to be hidden if maybe a better way to hide the sensitive information while preserving the signal you want may be found.

      EDIT: Mistake in original variance I think. Too lazy to get out paper. I think I have it right now. If someone else either does it by hand or is less rusty at mental math, that’s appreciated.

    • johan_larson says:

      The approximation process you are proposing will not stay within +/-100 of the real value. Consider the possibility that the event happens twice, but the process just happens to increment on both of those times, so it will show value 200.

      That said, the process you describe does have the same average as the true count, so the long-term average will converge to a very close approximation of the true count.

      There is no particular reason to use the number 100 in your process. At each count, you could draw a random number uniformly from the range [0.9, 1.1], and add that to your accumulated total. The number would then converge more rapidly to the true count, and you could give much tighter extreme-case error bars: whatever the accumulated value shows, it is at least 90% of the true count and at most 110% of the true count.

      • quanta413 says:

        Perhaps a certain amount of uncertainty is desired here though? After all, otherwise, we may as well just count correctly. Without more detail from OP, hard to tell how much uncertainty (deniability perhaps?) is needed.

        • toastengineer says:

          This is 100% a thought experiment; I was just reading Gwern’s article on darknet markets and saw mention of how displaying the exact number of transactions a seller has conducted is a security risk, and it set me to wondering… since obviously you want to publish how many successful transactions the seller has had on Totally Legal Things For Very Very Private People Dot Onion, and even recording that number is a security risk.

    • sty_silver says:

      I’ll add this: If you have this kind of experiment where you add to your number at “random,” then the absolute average difference to the expected value goes up, not down (in fact it goes up arbitrarily far over time). What goes down is the relative difference (as in the absolute difference divided by the number of trials). That converges to zero.

      So you cannot keep the mistake within an absolute range unless you do things fundamentally differently, whether it is +/- 100 or any other. What you can do (and what your proposed method will do) is to (probably or eventually) keep it within a 0,1% range (or any other relative range) around the real number of occurences.

  26. Ab Ba says:

    So, I’m not sure why I’m writing this, whether I expect advice or sympathy or what. But I had to tell the story to someone (even if anonymously), so here it goes. It all started less than a year ago.

    All my life I had fantasies about being a girl (when I say “fantasies” I mean both sexual and non-sexual stuff), but I never conceptualized this as “I am transgender”. To be honest, I had quite a bit internalized transphobia, and the notion of being “transgender” seemed bizarre at best, repulsive at worst. That started to change several years ago, due to my interactions with the online transgender community and in particular its intersection with the rationalsphere.

    Less than a year ago, I decided to try presenting myself as a woman online. Initially I justified it to myself as sort of “just for the lolz”. Very quickly, I discovered that it felt incredibly good. And, at some point, I was finally ready to admit to myself that I am trans (although it started out with a lot of imposter syndrome).

    In the Glorious Transhumanist Future, I want to have a body (or a digital avatar of a body) that can be made male or female whenever I want. The best self-description I have for myself is “genderfluid”. But if I am forced to choose between a male body and a female body, I think I would rather have a female body. I’m not 100% sure because, after all, I never actually *had* a female body. And still, if a magic fairy came to me and offered to make me a girl of average conventional attractiveness, instantaneously and irreversibly, I would say yes without thinking too long.

    Now, there is also the sexual orientation thing. This part is weird. When I think of myself as boy, I am only attracted to girls. But when I think of myself as a girl, I am attracted to both sexes. Indeed, in most of my sexual fantasies I am a woman having sex with men (but not in all of them: other combinations also appear). On the other hand, I am not sure I am capable of falling in love with a man? My best guess at this point is that I’m (sort of) bisexual and gynoromantic.

    At some point, I told all of that to my wife. I thought it wouldn’t be such a big deal, since she is bisexual and had relationship with women before (that was before our own relationship: we are monogamous). I could hardly be wrong more.

    Not only that she was shocked by those revelations and initially said some pretty hurtful things (that she was sorry for later), she quite clearly told me that if I decided to transition, chances are she will not stay with me.

    I love my wife. We are together for many beautiful years. We have children together. I don’t want to lose her, and I don’t want to have our kids grow in a broken home. I’m also terribly worried about her since she is somewhat depressive and explicitly taked about suicide several times during this crisis. I had this picture in my head of us as two cute lesbians, but apparently this is not to be. So, I told her that I have no intention to transition even though doubt kept gnawing me inside.

    Backing up a little, for many years I felt the lack of close friends. I drifted apart with my childhood friends, and I cut off my relationship with the one that remained because of a certain bitter betrayal and disappointment. As I said, I love my wife, but I felt like I need at least one close friend in addition. Soon after this story began, I made a few wonderful female friends online. I became especially close with one of them, telling her everything about my situation and the crisis with my wife, and having this extra support helped a lot to survive the crisis.

    The initial crisis winded down, and my wife and I even ended up having sex while fantasising that I’m a girl (actually we did a few times even before). But the possibility of transition remained entirely outside the overton window, so to speak. My new online friendships continued, and for a while, everything seemed fine. I was stuck in a male body, but at least with those girls I could pretend to be a girl myself and it felt great.

    My wife is very jealous. I knew this for a long time. Eventually she said to be in no unclear terms that she cannot tolerate me having female friends (even though she now knows I’m bisexual, she seems to be mostly in denial about it). Now, there was nothing sexual or romantic whatsoever in my relationship with those girls. In particular, my closest friend (with whom I truly felt closer than any other friend I had for many years) was married herself and wasn’t interested in additional partners. But there was no helping it. So I severed all contact with my friends. In particular, it required quitting the online spaces where I presented female.

    This is basically all. In a way, I’m back to square one. I have no close friends, I have have no place in which I can be a girl. I cannot transition (I’m not 100% sure I *want* to transition, because of all sorts of reasons, but it would be nice at least having that option open). But my marriage seems intact (although my wife is still feels angry with me for becoming so close with that girl in the first place). I don’t know where to go from now. Most probably, I just have to buckle up and persevere. It feels harder now that I experienced some alternative, but there is no choice.

    Well, maybe I’ll live to see the Singularity and maybe we won’t be all made into paperclips, and then who knows what is possible… Or maybe not. This is life, I guess.

    • Anonymous says:

      This is about as good an outcome as you can hope for. Endure. In enduring, grow strong.

      (I’m not 100% sure I *want* to transition, because of all sorts of reasons, but it would be nice at least having that option open).

      Don’t. Current body change tech is shit.

    • Mark says:

      Rationally speaking, male bodies are better than female bodies.

      Also, men tend to be cooler.

      My female version on face app was as hot as hell though, and sassy to boot, and it did make me wonder what it’d be like to be a woman. I would like to get made up as a woman to see what it looked like – I’m guessing I’d be less attractive as a woman than I am as a man, so I don’t think it’d be a good idea to make a permanent change.

      If we had magic, I think I’d give it a whirl, even though it’s worse being a woman. Like playing the game on hard mode.
      I suppose most women would transform into men.

      • Mark says:

        Also, I don’t think it makes any sense to talk about gender-swapping for pleasure after the magic singularity – whichever gender you are you’ll be able to reach maximum pleasure settings – the decision won’t be based on a need, or even an object-level desire, it’ll be based on aesthetics/morality.

      • Lillian says:

        Funny, my perspective on this is the complete opposite of yours. To me, being a woman feels like like easy mode, while being a man looks like hard mode. Yes it’s true that men are bigger, stronger, faster, and tougher than women, in terms of raw physicality male bodies are vastly superior to female ones on all criteria. But all that means is that men are expected to do the bulk of the fighting and grunt work, which suits me just fine because i have zero interest in those things. The fact that most men seem to actively like being meat machines, as evidenced by the doofy grin a guy gets after he’s successfully manhandled a heavy object into place, is just further evidence that there are some significant differences between men and women’s psyches.

        Sure if we had magic i’d probably give manhood a whirl, but i’d probably get tired of it once the novelty wore off. As much as i love my guy friends, being them just looks utterly exhausting. Not to mention that i frankly have no idea how to do male behaviour. Maybe it’s not as hard as it appears, but i’ve got a general notion that most of what people find cute and endearing about me would be very much not so if i were a guy.

        • Nornagest says:

          I wouldn’t mind the extra five years of lifespan. But I think I’d find being a woman harder — not because of the size and strength I’d lose (I wouldn’t like losing it, because having it makes me proud and using it is fun, but it’s not like I need it to hunt mammoth on a regular basis), but because I’d be expected to be all emotionally available and shit.

          I guess what I’m saying is I think you’ve got the right model here.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            because I’d be expected to be all emotionally available and shit.

            This is part of human nature, male or female.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          I would agree with your model. Western society makes being a woman easy mode.

          • Deiseach says:

            I’m glad to know you’d like to be a woman, Le Maistre Chat!

            So since you are now operating on easy mode, you will have no objections to me judging you on how fuckable I find you? Including such pearls as “I’d fuck her now, sure, but not back when I was young and ripped” and “[Held to be very attractive female celebs] yeah they’re only conventionally attractive, nothing special”.

            Which means, my dear La Maitresse, if you fail to be “Hollywood actress attractive” which is still only “conventionally attractive”, you are deemed not even worthy of being a disposable night’s entertainment by a guy who freely admits he’s not as good-looking and attractive as he used to be.

            I think it’s more accurate to say some women (if they’re young enough and attractive enough) have it easier in some ways, and some men have it easier in others. I think aging is still one of the ways men have it easier, in that generally they get judged less harshly over “letting themselves go” and at least a proportion of older men seem to think they are still capable of getting a (much) younger woman on the strength of their looks and personality (and not “in a good paying job and can provide a dependable reliable family life”).

            Re: Lillian, when I was eleven or twelve I wanted to be a boy, but only because it seemed boys had more fun (there was so much “you can’t do that” “why?” “because you’re a girl”). For curiosity’s sake, I might like to try “what is the male version of you” (I don’t expect it to be hugely different) but I think after a couple of hours I’d be “Okay, had enough, change back now”. I’m female, I have no strong objections to being female, I have no strong desire to be male, I came to acceptance of my gender back in my adolescence.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Daisy

            In your scenario, does he get to keep his current mind, or does that get flipped female as well?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Deiseach: I guess you missed all the things I said previously about my gender and adolescence.

          • Jiro says:

            Which means, my dear La Maitresse, if you fail to be “Hollywood actress attractive” which is still only “conventionally attractive”

            Hasn’t it been shown that women tend to think that most men are below average in attractiveness, while men do not do the reverse to women?

            This means that while judging a female version of him based on attractiveness would be bad in this one case, in the long run it would benefit him.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Jiro & @Deiseach:
            Guys, I’m female and if I come across as masculine online it’s because I’ve been conscious of being a gender misfit since 14. I went through a “transgender” “phase” (remove quotes from one or the other as you please) and have long since decided I’m simply a woman.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I think the “le” throws a lot of people off; it’s like the reverse of the anime girl avatar.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @dndnrsn: I got called out on the bad grammar, that it should be La Maistre Chatte, but that this also sounds dirty.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            So since you are now operating on easy mode, you will have no objections to me judging you on how fuckable I find you? Including such pearls as “I’d fuck her now, sure, but not back when I was young and ripped” and “[Held to be very attractive female celebs] yeah they’re only conventionally attractive, nothing special”.

            Go ahead. I’d rather be faced with a constant stream of propositions I can pick and choose from than have to approach people myself and get rejected nine times out of ten, which is what romance/sex/dating is like for most men.

          • Aapje says:

            @Deiseach

            Men typically get less sexual attention than they desire and women more, which is one factor that leads to reduced empathy between men and women (where the lack of empathy with women gets regularly called out, but the opposite not so much).

            So the question: “how would it feel like to be in the shoes of the other gender” quite often results in a ‘grass is greener’ response: “I’d love to no longer have the downside of my gender*.”

            * Where people conveniently forget the upsides.

          • Mark says:

            Go ahead. I’d rather be faced with a constant stream of propositions I can pick and choose from than have to approach people myself and get rejected nine times out of ten, which is what romance/sex/dating is like for most men.

            Is it? I think most men get some kind of hint that she might be interested before they go full on in with the big approach. And, if you are just flying in cold, “you wanna fuck?” with random strangers, my goodness, that’s got to give you a thick skin really rapidly, surely?

            You should be thankful that society has forced you to gain that strength.

          • Zorgon says: