THE JOYFUL REDUCTION OF UNCERTAINTY

Open Thread 92.75

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1,250 Responses to Open Thread 92.75

  1. powerfuller says:

    Anybody have good suggestions for Latin texts on the easier side that are not Caesar’s Commentaries?

    • Evan Þ says:

      The Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible?

      • SteveReilly says:

        If you like poetry, I’ve always found Catullus to be fairly easy (especially if you get The Student’s Catullus by Garrison). For prose, Apuleius has an offbeat style but isn’t usually too demanding. But he might be later than you’re looking for.

        But yeah, this is good advice if you aren’t too fussed about the dates. I practice some Greek with the New Testament since it’s much easier than any other prose writer I know of. Plus, if you’re familiar with the Bible, that makes it easier to get into a language you’re not too familiar with.

        • powerfuller says:

          Thanks for the suggestion. I’ve read a little bit of Catullus, and he’s a good way to learn some, ahem, interesting vocabulary. I should amend my post above; I’m not super picky about being purely classical (I mostly meant “not written by a Latin teacher”). I have very little sense, though, how different classical is from late or medieval Latin.

          • quaelegit says:

            I’m not an expert, but my impression is that between classical and medieval Latin spelling and vocab changed a lot, grammar less so. (And grammar — or at least syntax conventions — changed a lot from early to later Classical Latin also, so if like me you mostly learned from Vergil and Empire writers you’ll probably find the older stuff like Plautus very difficult).

            Another poetry rec — Martial’s epigrams are short and hilarious, so low effort and high pay off 🙂

          • Nick says:

            If you can find a book on medieval Latin there will often be an introduction reviewing the major changes. Beeson’s has an intro like that, although it’s not the one I primarily relied on for my Medieval Latin class, and skimming it again it looks briefer than I remember.

            ETA: The two biggest grammar changes are probably 1) subjunctive becomes a mess and 2) indirect discourse is done differently.

          • powerfuller says:

            subjunctive becomes a mess

            Haha, if there were a better way to scare off a novice Latinist…

            I’ve been working through Moreland & Fleischer’s textbook, and I really appreciate them putting the subjunctive at the very beginning; last time I tried Latin was with the Cambridge series in high school, and introducing all that complexity in the 3rd or 4th book just made me want to give up altogether.

      • powerfuller says:

        @Evan

        That’s a good suggestion! I suppose it’ll be helpful (too helpful?) I already will have an idea what’s going on in, say, Genesis 1.

    • Michael Handy says:

      Eutropius is a pretty easy read, much easier than Cicero, anyway. He was actually used as a textbook for classical Latin in the Late Empire. And its nice to get a History that isn’t Tacitus

  2. bean says:

    On Naval Gazing: Bringing Back the Battleships. Specifically, why it’s a bad idea.

    • cassander says:

      ah, but what if we bring them back as amphibious assault battleships!

      • bean says:

        Cassander,
        That is only exceeded in stupidity by the designs which leave Turret III. The ship is basically rebuilt aft of the conning tower (seriously, why are they mucking about in the superstructure?), which is expensive. There will be serious weight and balance problems because of the loss of Turret III. See Ise and Hyuga for an example of this. And there’s the topweight issues of the flight deck and the stuff on it. And the problem that the ship as a whole is pretty full already. Where do the flight crews, maintenance staff, and Marines go?
        Wait…. Is that a twin-arm launcher FORWARD OF TURRET I? Leaving aside the fact that there isn’t space for the magazine there, can anyone tell me the big problem?
        Yes. Blast damage. Seriously, people?
        (Also, there are no guidance radars.)

        Also, it looks ugly. And it makes no sense. Let’s compare it to the USS America. The running cost should be broadly similar. (Actually, America will be a lot cheaper, but that’s not the important bit.) America cost $3.4 billion. My $2 billion estimate was for a fairly simple reactivation, so this conversion would probably equal or exceed America’s cost. And for what? Fewer helicopters, fewer Marines, worse access.

        Digging into my reference books, this looks to be pretty closely based on an early 60s proposal to convert the Iowas into Commando Ships (sort of proto-LPHs). The twin-arm launcher was supposed to be an ASROC (weird, but almost understandable) and the conning tower looks like it was supposed to be replaced, which didn’t happen on that model. The design almost got approved, and might have if not for the squeeze that Polaris put on the Navy’s budget. But it’s a lot less attractive today, because you can’t cram 1,800 Marines onboard with modern habitability standards, and the ships have been out of service for about three times as long as they had been when it was mooted.

        • cassander says:

          Oh, I know. It’s not a good idea. It wasn’t even a good idea in the 60s. It just amuses me.

          • bean says:

            If the numbers given in Friedman had worked out, it might have been a good choice then, actually. But I suspect they wouldn’t have been quite that good, and the situation has changed a lot since then.

            Also, a correction. This appears to be a similar 80s scheme, with the intention of carrying Harriers. Lightly loaded, they would have been used for spotting for the main guns and Tomahawk batteries. Which makes absolutely no sense at all.

          • cassander says:

            @bean

            how could they possibly have thought that was a good use for harriers? Putting aside that they already had RQ-2s, and that helicopters would be better at the job, using a fully combat capable fighter for that is insanely extravagant even by the standards of the US military. They must have been intended for air defense as well.

          • bean says:

            how could they possibly have thought that was a good use for harriers?

            Beats me. I’m just reporting what Dulin & Garzke had to say about the design. The person who dreamt it up was apparently one of the advocates of the guns in the fire support role, and it’s pretty obvious what I think of that.

            Putting aside that they already had RQ-2s

            This was part of Phase II, which was cancelled fairly quickly. I don’t think RQ-2 was on the table at that time.

            and that helicopters would be better at the job

            For the guns, yes. Maybe not if you’re planning on playing with TASM, but that’s what the OTH-T is for.

            using a fully combat capable fighter for that is insanely extravagant even by the standards of the US military.

            Yep. Hence my derision.

            They must have been intended for air defense as well.

            The radar-equipped Harrier didn’t even start development until 1987, well after Phase II was dead. A visual-only Harrier with Sidewinders is not a particularly good air-defense fighter. It was a stupid idea on all levels.

          • John Schilling says:

            You all are forgetting that the 16″ gun is such an awesome weapon that the Marines will be able to simply walk in and take over, the enemy’s morale having been utterly shattered along with his bunkers and his bodies by that awesome ballistic awesomeness. But without 16″ guns firing in support, the Marines are doomed, DOOMED!, because the pansy girlie-man weapons of the modern navy simply don’t have the raw bunker- and morale-shattering awesome awesomeness of the only true fire support weapon, the 16″ gun.

            At least, I think that was the theory.

          • bean says:

            At least, I think that was the theory.

            Pretty much. But that does raise the question of why they planned to remove 33% of the 16″ guns to make this mod.

            (Also, the obvious counterargument is that it didn’t work all that well on the Japanese.)

    • gbdub says:

      What would a modern warship designed to optimally fill a battleship-type role look like? It would need to be:
      1) Large and very powerful (probably nuclear powered?), able to keep up with supercarriers
      2) Primarily a surface combatant / fire support platform (but with sufficient self-defense AA resources)
      3) Survivable – able to either avoid or absorb significant hits from modern anti-ship weapons

      I’m guessing it would not have big guns, other than maybe something like what they were talking about for Zumwalt (long range precision shells, one or two guns). Would it be significantly armored? Is there any point to significant armor anymore (that seems to be one of the biggest knocks against the “battleship” in modern warfare – so much deadweight steel being hauled around to defend against weapons that no longer exist)?

      • James C says:

        You know, I might even point at the nuclear submarine as the modern successor. If my fairly scant knowledge holds up, they’re a primarily anti-warship platform (leaving aside the nuclear deterent boats) to which vessels of other types have little ability to threaten. While they are very different constructions, their place in operations seems quite similar on the face of things.

        • bean says:

          Indeed. The role of the battleship is split between the SSN and the CVN these days, and while there might be some room to build big surface ships, trying to build a ‘modern battleship’ is not a particularly good way to get something useful.

      • bean says:

        What would a modern warship designed to optimally fill a battleship-type role look like?

        What do you mean when you say “battleship-type role”? I’m not trying to be difficult, because it’s a very important question. If you’re trying to replace the battleship in its original role, build a carrier. Those have taken over as the sea-control capital ship. (Alternatively, build an SSN. Depends on exactly what you want to do.)
        If you’re trying to replace the role they had in the 80s, then I’d say ~25,000 tons, good looking, fairly standard AEGIS fit, and fleet flag facilities, so you also can replace the LCCs. Probably a relatively heavy gun armament to impress visitors (4-6 of the biggest guns you can get cheaply, and they don’t even have to work that well).
        You seem to be looking for a ship which has the traits of a battleship, but those are incidental to role, and don’t make that much sense today. Aircraft, submarines, and maybe LRASM from VLS are the way to go for surface strike. Fire support has loads of options, none of which need heavy guns. And there are better ways to get survivability than armor, so we should probably leave it off.

        Edit:
        To expand on this slightly, let’s consider the question “What would a modern warship designed to optimally fill a galley-type role look like?”
        Either it would look like a galley made of steel and we’d all point and laugh, or it would look like a destroyer because that’s what it is. The battleship’s role is better filled by other ships, and attempting to bring back something identifiable as a battleship is basically spending the defense budget on LARPing that it’s 80 years ago. This isn’t a notably better idea than LARPing that it’s 800 years ago, although it’s somewhat more obvious in the second case what we’re doing.

        • gbdub says:

          To clarify, I’m not saying such a ship would be a good idea or a good use of reaources (indeed, this exercise might show that the best possible ship isn’t that good).

          Basically, I want a surface combatant designed to plausibly defeat any and all other surface combatants, and to survive attacks from the same. Basically a pure Dreadnought, with modern weapons and defenses.

          • bean says:

            OK, so you do want to LARP. John basically covered this one. (I’ve been reading a lot about strategy and fleet design lately for upcoming columns, so I tended to think in those terms.)

          • gbdub says:

            I’m honestly not sure how harsh being dismissed as “LARPing” should be taken from you (or anyone on this blog for that matter) 😉

          • bean says:

            It’s not intended to be harsh unless you start lobbying people to build it. It’s interesting enough to look at, so long as everyone understands that we’re not serious.
            (I may have read too much about people making stupid procurement decisions lately, so I’m coming down kind of hard on this stuff. I suspect that nobody important to defense procurement reads SSC Open Threads, and I really should lighten up.)

      • John Schilling says:

        The singular requirement for a battleship is that it be very, very hard to sink. That goes back to the old “line of battle” concept that gave battleships their name – lose one, and you’ve got a gap in your formation that means you lose the whole battle and maybe the war, so there’s a minimum standard that a ship has to meet or you just won’t include it in the line of battle at all. This becomes even more important if we don’t have lines of battle but rather task forces built around a single capital ship.

        I’ve argued elsewhere that even at the height of the dreadnought age, it wasn’t citadels of impenetrable armor that actually kept battleships from sinking but size and damage tolerance, meaning compartmentalization and redundancy, reserve buoyancy and stability margins, and more damage control capability than you ever thought you’d need (no, still more than that). Against modern weapons, you probably will want splinter protection everywhere (particularly the antennas), but not much more than that. Maybe a modest armored deck at the waterline, as with the old “protected cruisers”.

        Mostly, survivability is going to come from a very robust air and missile defense system. The Aegis system on modern US destroyers and cruisers would be a good place to start, but has inadequate redundancy and the directors can’t really be armored. There are roughly equivalent systems abroad, as well. Make a hardened, redundant version of one of those, and back it up with lots of point-defense systems, not just a couple of RD-D2s. Laser weapons are a wild card, but might be the thing that makes battleships practical in the 21st century.

        Then figure out how you’re going to do torpedo defense, which people mostly have clever unproven ideas on.

        Then figure out what you’re going to do with your big, expensive, nigh-unsinkable, expensive ship that doesn’t yet have a mission to justify the great and terrible expense.

        • gbdub says:

          That’s roughly what I was looking for, thanks.

          The problem seems to be that such a ship could basically only plausibly built as more than a one-off by the USN, and apart from the USN there aren’t really any fleets to justify turning such a beast loose on.

          Does the equation change at all if there were a peer or near-peer blue water navy to fight? Or is it still just supercarriers and subs as the premier anti-fleet platforms?

          • John Schilling says:

            The problem seems to be that such a ship could basically only plausibly built as more than a one-off by the USN, and apart from the USN there aren’t really any fleets to justify turning such a beast loose on.

            The Chinese could afford to build 3-4 of them. The Soviet Union used to be able to, and that’s sort of what lead to the Kirovs, but the Russian economy has not and may not recover to that point again. Then again, maybe they will.

            Doesn’t mean they will make battleships, because it might be that a mix of SSNs and CVNs can cover the same missions better and cheaper. That’s probably the way to bet at present, but if you tell me that someone is going to build a “battleship” in the next decade that’s where I’d bet on it coming from.

          • bean says:

            Does the equation change at all if there were a peer or near-peer blue water navy to fight? Or is it still just supercarriers and subs as the premier anti-fleet platforms?

            If you want to focus on anti-ship, build submarines. Carriers are decent at fighting other ships and very good at projecting power. I can’t see why this would be better than lots of LRASMs in the VLS cells of conventional escorts. Kirov is a bit of an odd duck, but I’m still trying to wrap my head around the Soviet Navy in general.

          • John Schilling says:

            Submarine dominance in naval warfare depends on a set of assumptions that may not prove valid in the future. That, plus submarines being nearly useless for show-of-force missions, could well lead to someone hedging their bets in the way the Russians did with the Kirovs.

          • gbdub says:

            I can’t see why this would be better than lots of LRASMs in the VLS cells of conventional escorts.

            Presumably survivability, but if the answer is “any hit(s) from modern anti-ship weapons on any plausible surface ship will be at least a mission kill” then LRASMs distributed across multiple ships could certainly be better than concentrating them into a single larger platform.

            Really this was just thinking about whether such a thing would even be plausible/possible. For a long time the primary mission of capital ships was to sink other capital ships, and in modern warfare that is not really the case (carriers and SSBNs are all about power projection, meanwhile SSNs and various anti-ship platforms are designed to sink capital ships but aren’t themselves really capital ships).

          • bean says:

            @John

            Submarine dominance in naval warfare depends on a set of assumptions that may not prove valid in the future.

            The same is true of any weapon proposed. Water has proved remarkably difficult to see through, so I’ll bet on the submarine as being quite potent for a long time to come.

            That, plus submarines being nearly useless for show-of-force missions, could well lead to someone hedging their bets in the way the Russians did with the Kirovs.

            AIUI, the Kirovs were intended to be the flagships of Bastion-protection forces way up north. That sort of requires a surface ship, and some of the size and propulsion choices were a result of Soviet tech being big and power-hungry. Also, the seas are really rough up there. I could see the US building something of approximately that size for presence/flagship missions, but I wouldn’t really call it a battleship successor.

            @gbdub

            Presumably survivability, but if the answer is “any hit(s) from modern anti-ship weapons on any plausible surface ship will be at least a mission kill” then LRASMs distributed across multiple ships could certainly be better than concentrating them into a single larger platform.

            I wouldn’t say that, but I do think that the trends today are definitely such that 3 ships of 10,000 tons apiece are a better choice than one of 25,000.

            Really this was just thinking about whether such a thing would even be plausible/possible. For a long time the primary mission of capital ships was to sink other capital ships, and in modern warfare that is not really the case (carriers and SSBNs are all about power projection, meanwhile SSNs and various anti-ship platforms are designed to sink capital ships but aren’t themselves really capital ships).

            Aviation allowed naval forces to develop power projection in a way previously impossible. There was no equivalent to the cruise missile in Nelson’s or Jellicoe’s day. I can’t say I’m surprised that this has played rather heavily with the categories.

        • bean says:

          Make a hardened, redundant version of one of those, and back it up with lots of point-defense systems, not just a couple of RD-D2s.

          Nitpick: The big problem with doing that is that the installation of CIWS is apparently limited by electronic interference. (This is a surprisingly common problem on modern warships, and one of the main reasons that the BBG conversions never happened. They couldn’t fit that many more missile launchers than they could on a CG, and it would have been a lot more expensive.)
          That might well be a serious problem for the whole ship, actually.

          • John Schilling says:

            There’s no reason you can’t use electro-optical fire control for a PD-SAM or a CIWS, with no interference problem and probably not much degradation of performance outside of really horrid weather. The US military is biased towards absolute dominance of the EM spectrum and a reluctance to acknowledge that photons smaller than an inch across have any military relevance, but I think that’s a blind spot that may bite them in the future and a number of foreign systems (e.g. Kashtan, Millenium) have at least a secondary EO mode.

          • bean says:

            AIUI, those are OK, but not as reliable or effective as radar. I’ll check sources later for more details, but I think you probably seriously underrate how bad weather will affect them.

    • gbdub says:

      On another tangent – it seems like the USN has an anti-ship missile gap. We’re puttering around with Harpoons, relatively short range subsonic weapons that would take several shots to take out any sort of sizable warship, even if they could get past modern anti-missile defenses (which seems unlikely). Or Tomahawks, which are bigger but still slow and sound like they would have been pretty iffy from a targeting/guidance standpoint. LRASM is a bigger and more survivable weapon, but still subsonic (and only recently coming online).

      Meanwhile the various potential enemies have big supersonic missiles designed to at least put a very big hole in a supercarrier and sink anything smaller outright.

      How bad is this gap actually, and how much does it matter? The problems of targeting being what they are, are the adversaries actually dangerous weapon systems, or just scary missiles that would be lucky to get an aimed shot off?

      • bean says:

        The problems I outlined in last Friday’s post are not unique to targeting carriers at all. With the demise of the Soviets, it’s made more and more sense to not worry about going after enemy ships with the surface fleet. And the world grows less tolerant of collateral damage all the time, so submarines and aircraft (which can get better locks on the target before firing) are the ASuW platforms of choice.

        The other issue is that the USN doesn’t face a symmetrical situation. Big ASMs are essentially an inferior substitute for aircraft, but we have aircraft. And I can’t think of very many supercarriers for us to shoot at, either, so we don’t need missiles designed to kill them.

        The problems of targeting being what they are, are the adversaries actually dangerous weapon systems, or just scary missiles that would be lucky to get an aimed shot off?

        More of the later. They’re potentially dangerous, but not nearly as dangerous as their proponents think.

      • cassander says:

        It does and it doesn’t. The harpoon is admittedly pretty lousy, but the USN doesn’t really have a lot of potential enemy ships to sink right now, so it doesn’t really need a good ASM. Should such enemies emerge, the US will still have its large fleet of submarines and carriers, both of which are perfectly good at sinking enemy ships.

        Heavy supersonic cruise missiles are big. the Shipwreck/Granit weighs 15,000lb and delivers a 1,500lb warhead compared to 3,000 and 1,000lb for a tomahawk, and 1,500 and 500 for a harpoon you can get about 4 tomahawks in a VLS cell big enough for one granit. I’d much rather stuff my surface ships full of many more defensive missiles than an enemy can possibly bring, dramatically reducing their PK, then use aircraft and subs to sink anything that needs sinking.

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        Assuming for the moment the planes don’t get shot down (we have reasonable air superiority and OPFOR doesn’t have US-quality AAW surface combatants [1]) what’s a carrier commanders’ best weapon system for sinking a surface combatant from the air? Harpoons are air-launchable, sure, but as you say they’re not that good. Do we have other good air launched munitions that could effectively sink a modern destroyer, even putting aside whether point defense would take them out?

        [1] For that matter, a question I’m not clear about: assuming for the moment everyone know where each other is, since you make it quite clear that’s a big deal: suppose the ComDesRon of CSG3 says something unflattering about CSG11’s commander’s mother, and in a fury he orders Nimitz’s air wing to sink CSG3’s surface combatants. (We’ll also assume Stennis does not get involved, so there’s no air-to-air component of this battle.) Could our F/A-18s get within strike range of CSG3, or would they get shot out of the sky pretty reliably by a hail of Standards?

        • cassander says:

          @Andrew Hunter

          Well, we will have LRASM shortly. And if the enemy is using their sensors, then EA-18s are supposedly capable of providing target quality data via passive listening and triangulation, which means you can use a whole bunch of other weapons, including air launched tomahawks. And if you can get relatively close, the SDB-II has an anti-moving target capability.

          • bean says:

            which means you can use a whole bunch of other weapons, including air launched tomahawks.

            Air-launched tomahawks? That’s not a thing. I do think TacTom has some anti-shipping capability, but they haven’t air-launched in ages.

            And if you can get relatively close, the SDB-II has an anti-moving target capability.

            SDB has a fairly absurd glide range. You don’t have to get that close.

          • cassander says:

            @bean

            You’re right of course, I was somehow getting the JASSM mixed up with the tomahawk.

        • bean says:

          what’s a carrier commanders’ best weapon system for sinking a surface combatant from the air? Harpoons are air-launchable, sure, but as you say they’re not that good.

          Actually, I think the Harpoon is a pretty good missile for what it’s intended for, which is hunting frigates/small destroyers. If you want to kill big ships, not so much, but we have LRASM coming for that.

          Do we have other good air launched munitions that could effectively sink a modern destroyer, even putting aside whether point defense would take them out?

          Cassander points out LRASM. Honestly, LGBs are probably what we’d use today. They don’t care that much if the target is moving, although you have to get closer than I’d want to use them.

      • John Schilling says:

        aircraft (which can get better locks on the target before firing) are the ASuW platforms of choice.

        Right, but for anyone who doesn’t have an aircraft carrier, “aircraft” may in this context default to “a helicopter or maybe an MPA”. Asking either of those to take on anything bigger than a corvette with their typical on-board weaponry is probably asking too much. If they can whistle up a couple dozen SSMs from a task group a hundred kilometers away, that’s probably a fair substitute for a squadron of carrier-based strike aircraft.

        Taking the Harpoons off US destroyers is basically an admission that the United States is going to run away rather than fight with anything less than air supremacy. Which, being basically true and already obvious, makes it a sensible economic move. The rest of the world can’t afford to do that.

        • bean says:

          Right, but for anyone who doesn’t have an aircraft carrier, “aircraft” may in this context default to “a helicopter or maybe an MPA”. Asking either of those to take on anything bigger than a corvette with their typical on-board weaponry is probably asking too much. If they can whistle up a couple dozen SSMs from a task group a hundred kilometers away, that’s probably a fair substitute for a squadron of carrier-based strike aircraft.

          Granted, but the question was explicitly in the context of the US, which has basically all of the aircraft carriers.

          Taking the Harpoons off US destroyers is basically an admission that the United States is going to run away rather than fight with anything less than air supremacy. Which, being basically true and already obvious, makes it a sensible economic move. The rest of the world can’t afford to do that.

          I’m not sure I’d frame it that way. We’re more concerned about collateral damage than we are about fighting without air supremacy, and Harpoon is easy to install. We could get it back pretty quickly if we need to.

          • John Schilling says:

            I think using the on-board helo for targeting eliminates the collateral damage risk in almost all practical circumstances, particularly with Block II+ Harpoon and the ability to take mid-course updates from the helicopter. But even with a fixed trajectory, TOF is going to be less than ten minutes, not enough time for the target to move more than a few miles, so it should be possible to set the aquisition window tight enough to include the target and nothing but the target.

            It might sometimes be possible for the target to e.g. hide in the immediate shadow of a container ship or something, but I don’t buy that we’re taking away the missiles because we think the target will always be so hidden, or that we don’t think our helo aircrew can tell the difference.

            And while the US and its allies have basically all of the carriers, I’m not convinced we have enough carriers that there will always be one available wherever the US Navy has to fight.

          • bean says:

            I think using the on-board helo for targeting eliminates the collateral damage risk in almost all practical circumstances, particularly with Block II+ Harpoon and the ability to take mid-course updates from the helicopter. But even with a fixed trajectory, TOF is going to be less than ten minutes, not enough time for the target to move more than a few miles, so it should be possible to set the aquisition window tight enough to include the target and nothing but the target.

            I’m not quite as sanguine as you are about this. I’ll grant that the Block II+ changes things, but before that, you did have the 10 minute blind spot, which is enough for a warship to run about 5 nm. I can’t say for sure how the seeker can be set up, but potentially anything within 5 nm could be vulnerable. In practice, add about 50% to these numbers because of delays in the process.

            And while the US and its allies have basically all of the carriers, I’m not convinced we have enough carriers that there will always be one available wherever the US Navy has to fight.

            Again, I point out that Harpoon is easy to install. A couple of days, max. And I kind of doubt we’ll be fighting people with air defense systems in that many places at once without enough warning to put it back on.

          • John Schilling says:

            And I kind of doubt we’ll be fighting people with air defense systems in that many places at once without enough warning to put it back on.

            The idea that America’s enemies will always give us advance warning and whatever time we need to deploy the preferred force mix is another conceit that I think is going to bite us hard some day.

            W/re the Harpoons, though, my preference at the time was to replace the deployed Block I’s with a surface-launch SLAM or SLAM-ER. Datalink can be provided by the helos or by the ship itself if the missile climbs to a modest altitude during cruise and acquisition. Result should be almost as good an anti-ship missile as a straight Harpoon with a more responsive tactical land-attack capability than Tomahawk.

            Useful for, say, taking out missile batteries and radar stations in Yemen immediately after they shoot at US destroyers, rather than waiting a few days for someone to set up a Tomahawk strike plan. Plus you get to assess the collateral damage risk through the missile’s FLIR thirty seconds before impact.

          • bean says:

            That’s an irritatingly good point. Thinking it over, I’m not sure why SLAM was never surface-launched. (SLAM-ER won’t fit in a Harpoon tube because of the wings.) I think it’s probably fair to blame the aviation community for this.
            WRT the Harpoons themselves, though, what hasn’t been pointed out here yet is the use of SAMs in surface-to-surface mode. Standard and ESSM will do a perfectly good job sinking ships, and we’re carrying them anyway. Yes, it may be horizon-limited (or not, I’m not sure), but given that they’re a lot faster, and thus harder to shoot down, I suspect the Harpoons wouldn’t do a whole lot against a serious opponent.

          • John Schilling says:

            We can probably blame a lot on the aviation community, yes. Whatever naval aviation uses for stand-off strike missions, against land or sea targets, there’s little excuse not to have a version with a solid booster on it for surface launch, and it’s particularly galling when the base system was surface-launched from day one.

            Standard and ESSM will do a perfectly good job sinking ships,

            Actually, they don’t seem to be very good at all at sinking ships; what they can do is mission-kill ships, if you can get close enough. Rather like the 6″ HE shell in the ironclad age.

            I do think that over-the-horizon attack, cued by helos, drones, ESM, whatever, is likely to be decisive, and I don’t think people will generally shy away from firing them for fear of hitting merchant ships. Well, the USN will until it starts losing destroyers. Meanwhile, we’re seeing just about everybody but the USN field a new generation of SSMs designed to defeat modern missile defenses. The LRASM is about a decade late to that party, IMO, and it remains to be seen whether stealth beats speed in this area.

          • bean says:

            Actually, they don’t seem to be very good at all at sinking ships; what they can do is mission-kill ships, if you can get close enough. Rather like the 6″ HE shell in the ironclad age.

            Slight imprecision on my part, but I will stand by the sense that they’re not much less effective than conventional SSMs. AAW warheads are nasty.

            Meanwhile, we’re seeing just about everybody but the USN field a new generation of SSMs designed to defeat modern missile defenses. The LRASM is about a decade late to that party, IMO, and it remains to be seen whether stealth beats speed in this area.

            Fortunately, some of those people are our friends. I know there’s been interest in NSM.

    • bean says:

      Why the carriers are not doomed, Part 2 (originally Part 1) is up now.
      Also, comments have been switched from manual approval to CAPTCHA.

  3. CatCube says:

    Just as a fun threadstarter: What words have you only seen written, and aren’t sure of the pronunciation? (Or, at least, until you write it here and then go to merriam-webster.com to look up.)

    For me, one is “metastasis/metastasized”. I can’t recall having it come up in conversation, nor was I watching a medical show where it was used.

    I was reminded of this when my parents and I were talking about “hegemony”. I had always thought the stress in that word was on the first, not the second syllable.

    Edit: One other I thought of, though I found out the pronunciation after talking to a professor 15 or so years ago: Keynes (as in John Maynard Keynes)

    • powerfuller says:

      For me, quite a few French expressions, and anytime you must chose between a hard and a soft C or G: “treacle” and “truculent,” for example, I always thought had soft Cs, and “oleaginous” a hard G. Wrong, wrong, wrong…

      • Paul Zrimsek says:

        In younger days I ran into the same problem with “egregious”.

      • Winter Shaker says:

        On a similar note, a lot of people pronounce Genghis Khan with two hard ‘g’s, whereas only the second one should be hard (that’s why it has an ‘h’ after it in).

    • lvlln says:

      Can’t think of any words off the top of my head, but I’m reminded of a This American Life episode where they had on a woman who thought “misled” was pronounced with a long “i” – i.e. “ma-ee-zl-d” and was the past tense of “to misle,” a word meaning something along the lines of “to deceive” because she had only ever seen it in writing, rather than the past tense of “mislead.”

      For at least a few months in my childhood, I thought “mature” rhymed with “nature,” because I had only ever read it in a Calvin & Hobbes comic. Also, I was still learning English at the time, and the idea that words that have similar spellings but completely different pronunciations was still a concept I was getting my head around.

      • entobat says:

        I remember playing Monopoly as a child and thinking the Community Chest card was “life insurance matures” (rhymes with natures).

      • Well... says:

        When I was a wee lad, I figured “action” must be pronounced “AK-tee-yon”. I didn’t mispronounce nation or station or fraction, but for some reason I thought that’s how action was pronounced.

        Until about age 19 I thought “homage” was pronounced “HOME-edge” until a friend corrected me, laughing that what I was talking about was a way to describe a quantity of Homer Simpsons.

    • SteveReilly says:

      I once pronounced “environs” and my friend thought I was joking with my pronunciation. I went along with that and pretended I was joking, except now I don’t remember which way I pronounced so I have no idea what the correct pronunciation is. Oh, and I once pronounced the “c” in “victuals”.

      BTW, both pronunciations of “hegemony”are ok from what I can tell.

      • CatCube says:

        I didn’t know that the “proper” pronunciation of “victual” was “vittle”! I thought that was a regionalism. (Where I come from, “creek” is pronounced as “crick”)

      • Well... says:

        Hegemony ought to be pronounced in a way that rhymes with macaroni.

        • johan_larson says:

          Yankee Doodle went to town
          A-riding on a pony
          Pushed the other nations around
          And called it hegemony

    • Anatoly says:

      “Chagrin”. Please don’t tell me, I want to remain ignorant.

      I was visiting the US recently and wanted to buy some melatonin before going back home, to help with the jetlag (it’s prescription-only in my country). Stood on the sidewalk before going into the pharmacy for a few minutes, debating with myself where to put the stress in “melatonin” so I don’t sound silly. Convinced myself it was definitely one way, went in, asked about it, the clerk repeated it back with a different stress.

      The “misled as paste tense of misle” mentioned above is frequent – I remember a long thread on mispronounced words on salon.com back in the 90s where dozens of people admitted to it. Ever since then I pronounce it liked that jokingly with my then-gf, now-wife and some friends (“you misle-d me!”).

      • Well... says:

        Chagrin is pronounced CHAG-rin. Should rhyme with “flag grin”. The “ch” is a gutteral H, like you often hear in Hebrew.

        Melatonin is pronounced mee-LAT-oh-nin. Should rhyme with “he sat on skin.”

    • David Speyer says:

      Into my early twenties, I thought “subterfuge” was “SOOT-er-fudge”. I am not aware of any words that I have the same issue with now, but I didn’t know that I didn’t know how to pronounce subterfuge either.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I don’t usually notice until I do try to pronounce them. One I ran into lately was “homage” — I heard someone say “homadge” and thought to myself “Surely it’s o-mazh”? Then I decided it’s “paid homadge” but “an o-mazh”. Looking it up, it appears Merriam-Webster agrees with me, but I wasn’t sure.

      • DavidS says:

        Pretty sure you’re right (from UK perspective, and assuming mazh is roughly how one would pronounce marge as in the spread or Simpson

        • The Nybbler says:

          No, definitely not Marge as in Simpson; the a is not a diphthong, there’s no r, and the final consonant is a voiced fricative rather than an affricate. It’s difficult to describe with common words with someone from the UK (something about separated by a common language), since I’m not sure how many are pronounced there.

          • rlms says:

            I think marge is pronounced differently in the UK. We would say it in the same way as the ending of “mirage” (at least, I would). I imagine you would pronounce the second syllable of “homage” as in “an homage” in the same way as “mirage”, we would too. But I think we’d say “miraadg”, “homaadg” (“dg” as in “grudge”) and you say “miraaj”, “homaaj” (“j” as in French “je”).

            Going back to your original comment, what sound is the “a” in “paid homadge”? I’d say “paid homidg”, “i” as in “pit”.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I imagine you would pronounce the second syllable of “homage” as in “an homage” in the same way as “mirage”, we would too.

            Yes, that’s right, assuming we pronounce “mirage” similarly. I thought David meant the American prounciation of Marge because that’s the one used on The Simpsons. Unless they dub it to UK English? (which would be hilarious, but seems unlikely)

            Going back to your original comment, what sound is the “a” in “paid homadge”? I’d say “paid homidg”, “i” as in “pit”.

            Same, with the caveat that’s it’s one of those lazy unstressed vowels that isn’t very distinct unless one is carefully enunciating.

          • DavidS says:

            I meant what rlms says. I apparently remember American ‘Marge’ in a way that translates it into our pronunciation

          • Tarpitz says:

            Interesting. I (Oxfordshire, posh schools, Oxford, mid 30s) would say “miraazh” and “homaazh” but “Mardge”.

            But now that I think about it, imagining the words in most regional accents “dg” sounds right to all of them, so this is probably a class and/or regional thing.

            Further possible confound: my Granny was a French teacher, I spent a fair bit of time in France as a kid, so maybe French is influencing me here.

            Update: checked with a friend from the same general background but without the France stuff: his pronunciation is the same as mine.

            Oh, and also yes to “pay homidge”.

    • Witness says:

      Dour and quay are words I recently got to correct people on.

    • Vorkon says:

      It’s been quite a few years since I first heard it out loud and realized my error, but for the longest time I thought “epitome” was pronounced “epi-tome.”

      • The Nybbler says:

        You might owe that one to Ernest P. Worrell; as I recall he had a commercial where he talked about the epi-tome of excellence.

        • Vorkon says:

          Oh man, I think you might be right about that; I used to love Ernest when I was little. I don’t remember the commercial, but I can definitely imagine one making an impression on me. Thanks!

      • Winter Shaker says:

        For this reason, I am disappointed that the guitar brand Epiphone is not pronounced the same as ‘epiphany’ 🙂

    • achenx says:

      I learned “hegemony” relatively recently too.

      Um, how is “Keynes” pronounced?

      • cassander says:

        like Kaynz, the word “cane” with a z at the end. Or at least that’s how I do it.

        • achenx says:

          Well, that’s my answer then. I always thought “Keens”.

          • CatCube says:

            Better than me…I thought it was “Key-ness.” And, of course, I’m arguing with the professor (not about the pronunciation, but about economics) so I got to look really stupid that day.

          • Rick Hull says:

            I’m sure the prof judged you a peynes 😉

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Oddly, it apparently is “Keens” if you’re talking about Milton Keynes. It’s just the dead-in-the-long-run economist who’s “Canes”.

          • One of my old ideas for a computer program to teach economics was a simulation in which you were the authorities in charge of either a monetarist or a Keynesian economy and your problem was to figure out which it was at minimum cost in avoidable unemployment, inflation, etc.

            I was going to call it Milton Keynes.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            A sim called Milton Keynes really ought to give you the option to reign in Hell rather than serve at the central bank.

      • If you want to get really confused, check out the correct pronunciation of Gonville and Caius.

        • CatCube says:

          I didn’t really think about it when I posted, but this reminds me of a YouTube video that doesn’t have enough views: Shibboleth

          • Brad says:

            > Trottiscliffe

            Apparently pronounced trozli?!? Not sure why but that one seemed most outrageous to me.

            Great video.

          • CatCube says:

            @Brad

            The captions have all the pronunciations in IPA if you want to verify.

            l note that the comments say that “Godmanchester” is not pronounced as in the video, but as it’s spelled. So this video may not be the be-all and end-all of pronunciation guides. All of the other ones I’ve verified from the video have been correct, though (Featherstonhaugh, for example)

          • Thank you – that video was delightful!

      • Well... says:

        Colin Farrell; Colin Powell. Their first names are pronounced differently.

    • gbdub says:

      The various derivatives of hyperbol- always gave me problems (having seen them in print long before my peers were using such words in speech). I thought “hyperbole” was pronounced hyper-bowl (i.e. 3 syllables, like a high-strung eating vessel) and “hyperbola” was “hyper-BOLA” (a string-and-ball weapon with ADD) rather than “hi-PER-bulluh”.

    • smocc says:

      “Hysteresis” I have heard it pronounced, but only by a Frenchwoman, so I am not sure if it is pronounced differently by English speakers.

      Also, despite growing up with an economist father, I still have a tendency to start pronouncing it “eco-NOM-ist”

      • The Nybbler says:

        Hysteresis — four syllables, accent on the third. Not three syllables, accent on the second, as I initially thought.

    • johan_larson says:

      I used to think “segue” rhymed with “league”. And “Penelope” rhymed with “antelope”. And “Hermione” was pronounced HER-me-own.

      • Evan Þ says:

        I thought it was pronounced HER-my-OWN-ee. Then a friend pointed me to the right pronunciation, and pointed out that Rowling had Victor Krum make exactly that mistake so as to inform all her readers of the right way to pronounce that name.

      • Well... says:

        I thought Margot was pronounced MAR-gott (rhymes with star spot).

        Penelope still makes me think of cantaloupe. My friend Penelope is sweet, juicy, and best served cut up into domino-sized pieces.

        • The Nybbler says:

          I thought Margot was pronounced MAR-gott (rhymes with star spot).

          So did Jean Harlow, at which point Margot Asquith told her “It’s Margo. The ‘t’ is silent — as in Harlow.”

          (or so the story goes)

    • WashedOut says:

      Most of mine are foreign borrowed phrases.

      fait accompli – is it faye accomplee?
      prima facie – preema fassie?
      Synapse – Sigh-naps or sinnaps?

      There are probably plenty others but I get the benefit of the doubt with an Australian accent so they don’t become issues.

      • Nornagest says:

        “Fate a-kumplee” and “pry-ma fay-shee”, roughly, using American pronunciations for those. I pronounce “synapse” as “sinnaps” but Wiktionary says both are correct if I’m parsing the IPA correctly.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Merriam Webster allows various pronunciations for “fait accompli”, but the “t” is pronounced in all of them. I pronounce approximately as “fet akomplee”. My problem with that one is I usually think it’s spelled with an ‘s’ in the singular, which it is not.

        According to the same source with “prima facie” it’s “pryma fashee” “pryma fasee” “pryma fashia” or “pryma fasia” but not “preema” anything. Which is too bad because I would have agreed with your pronunciation.

        • Tarpitz says:

          English public school Latin – and hence UK received pronunciation – is preema fackeeay, or at a stretch preema fasseeay or preema fasheeay. Pryma may well be the default US pronunciation (see also bona fyeds vs. bona feedays).

          • In general Received Pronunciation for Latin phrases is not similar to public school Latin pronunciation. The pronunciation you’re taught in school is a mimic of how the Romans would have pronounced it, but normally these phrases have conventionalized English pronunciations which have been modified by centuries of sound change and therefore sound quite different from how the Romans would have pronounced them, with lots of diphthongs and stuff. In general, actually, it’s British usage which tends to prefer these conventional Anglicized pronunciations, while Americans tend to backcorrect to the 1 AD pronunciation. For example, the OED gives the pronunciation of “prima facie” as: British, pryma fayshy; American, preema fayshy.

          • Tarpitz says:

            Huh. That has not been my experience. Pronunciation is weird.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Americans tend to backcorrect to the 1 AD pronunciation. For example, the OED gives the pronunciation of “prima facie” as: British, pryma fayshy; American, preema fayshy.

            “Preema fayshy” isn’t very close at all to the Classical pronunciation, which should be something like “preemah fackiay”.

      • Winter Shaker says:

        Also, fuchsia. Which, out of trollishness, I will continue to pronounce as ‘fuchs’ (the German name of the guy for whom the flower, and therefore the colour, is named) + ‘-ia’. Being from Scotland, I have in my native phonology the ‘ch’ sound as distinct from ‘ck’.

        • German “Fuchs” isn’t pronounced with that ‘ch’ sound, though. It’s just [fʊks]. In general, the cluster /ks/ is spelt in German as “chs”, not as “ks”; I don’t think the cluster /xs/ occurs in any German words.

          • Creutzer says:

            It does, but only if there’s a morpheme boundary in between. That is, if the stem ends in -ch and then the suffix -s is attached. Compare Dachs the animal and Dachs the genitive of roof.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            German “Fuchs” isn’t pronounced with that ‘ch’ sound, though. It’s just [fʊks].

            Come to think of it, I don’t remember being drilled thoroughly in the pronunciation rules of German back at school. They just kind of glossed over that part. I eventually picked up that the ‘ch’ in ‘ich’ is different from the ‘ch’ in ‘ach’, but I obviously never picked up that it assimilates to a ‘k’ before ‘s’. Even after listening to a lot of Rammstein – either it’s a rare combination or I just never noticed.

            Well, I will change my pronunication, but only to more accurately reflect the botanist’s name. ‘Fyu-sha’ is still a bridge too far 🙂

      • entobat says:

        Fun fact: the fait in fait accompli is pronounced as “fet” (rhymes with “bet”), but only because of the initial vowel at the start of the next word. (This is called a liaison.) Otherwise it would be “feh”.

    • JayT says:

      I was probably 20 years old before I realized that “Chloe” was pronounced “clo-ee”. I knew that “clo-ee” was a name, I just always assumed that Chloe (pronounced “clo” in my mind) was just a different name. To this day though, I still read it as “clo” and have to make a concerted effort to change it in my mind.

      • Brad says:

        I had something similar with Siobhán.

      • Anatoly says:

        I had the same problem with Phoebe. I watched Friends and I knew there was a character there named “feebee” whose name I wasn’t sure how to spell; and separately there was the written name Phoebe which I wasn’t sure how to pronounce, but probably something like “feb”.

      • JulieK says:

        For a long time I didn’t know that hors d’oeuvres and “auderbs” were the same thing.

        ObLink: Wakeen

        • Randy M says:

          Ditto for me with ren-divis and ron-dayvu.

          • Nick says:

            One I can’t wrap my head around is reconnoiter. Google claims I’ve been pronouncing it wrong all this time, but frankly “ruh-KAHN-ih-ter” sounds a lot less stupid to me than the suggested “ree-kuh-NOI-ter” or “reh-kuh-NOI-ter.”* It even fits better with reconnaissance, with which it shares its etymology.

            *I know Google suggests placing the accent on the second syllable, but that’s not how the voice is pronouncing it, or how I’ve actually heard it pronounced. I truly give up on this word.

      • Tarpitz says:

        The vicar in the village where I grew up told a story about asking a pregnant parishioner what she planned to name her child.

        “Gooey,” she replied. “It’s the name of the hero in this book I’m reading.”

        “Oh, really? How do you spell it?”

        “G-U-Y.”

    • outis says:

      Most of them, until I came to the US. For a while, it was common for me not to understand words people said, ask them for the spelling, and figuring out it was a word I knew, but whose pronunciation I had guessed entirely wrong.

      That has not happened in a while, but I don’t know if it’s because my pronunciation got better, or because people have decided that it’s “not nice” to correct me (thereby leaving me to be forever wrong).

    • Orpheus says:

      Can I use this thread to bitch about other people mispronouncing words? Specifically, every time I hear an american say “hamartia”, they pronounce it with the t sounding like an s (i.e. like you would pronounce “Martian”) whereas it should be pronounced like the t in “Art”. I don’t know why but this drives me crazy.

    • B Beck says:

      I have to look up the pronunciation of “nicoise” every time I order it.

      • quaelegit says:

        *Deleted comment* it’s the feminine demonym for Nice and apparently a type of salad, in case anyone else was wondering 🙂

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      I definitely screwed up “Keynes” for a few years. It probably didn’t help that my freshman year economics professor also mispronounced it….

    • schazjmd says:

      Calliope. When I’d only seen it written, I thought it was pronounced “kall – e – ope”.

      And macabre — “mak’ – uh – bur”.

    • JulieK says:

      The dictionary tells me that duchy is pronounced dutch-ee, not duke-ee, but I still find it hard to convince myself.

    • quaelegit says:

      Hegemony can be pronounced with the stress on the first syllable, wikitionary backs me up on this! https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/hegemony 😛

      (But seriously, I’ve definitely heard “HEDGE-amony” but never “hiJEMiny or heJEMiny” — apologies for aproximating IPA with regular roman alphabet letters).

      A similar example that I’m still in denial about: it’s apparently “in-TRE-pid”, not “IN-tre-ped” (but the latter one still sounds way better to me so…)

      There have definitely been some cases where I was familiar with a word as spelled and a word as pronounced and didn’t realize they were the same word for years, but I can’t remember examples right now.

      ================

      Edit: on a similar topic — does anyone have internal pronunciations that they know are incorrect/uncommon but maintain for convenience? Like in my head I pronounce “fuchsia” the xkcd for spelling.

      Also, throughout elementary school I mentally pronounced letter closings, “since-rely”. I knew the correct pronunciation and I don’t think I ever verbally mispronounced it but just whenever writing or reading it, basically to remind myself of the proper spelling.

      Two others:

      1. the only way I can spell ‘medieval’ correctly is to think of it as ‘medi eval’ (Just like Middle Ages! This might be part of the reason I’m into etymology…)

      2. Necessary — “neckess ary” is the only way I can remember whether the ‘c’ or the ‘s’ is doubled (also got this trick from Latin — specifically the pronunciation of the adjective “necesse”) 😛

      • Nick says:

        Edit: on a similar topic — does anyone have internal pronunciations that they know are incorrect/uncommon but maintain for convenience? Like in my head I pronounce “fuchsia” the xkcd for spelling.

        I do this for spelling a lot, or did anyway. Usually it’s an “if it were phonetic” pronunciation.

      • Well... says:

        does anyone have internal pronunciations that they know are incorrect/uncommon but maintain for convenience?

        Yeah, basically goddamn everything. And not even for convenience so much as amusement. The accent I use when writing (or talking quietly to myself) is totally ridiculous.

        For example, the word “wheat” contains an audible whistle at the beginning, and the h in “whom” is drawn out so it lasts a few actual seconds, and the whole word is spoken at a comically high regal pitch.

        I know how to properly pronounce Poughkeepsie but I mentally say “poe-KEEP-see” anyway because it’s funnier.

        I pretty much only say “soap” in an Australian accent, like “SOR-rip”. Same with fiber: “FAW-yee-bah”.

        Chalk it up to having been a twin and developed a knack for microphasia.

    • entobat says:

      I still cannot bring myself to say “beetlejuice” instead of “bet-ull-geeze” (Betelgeuse). It makes me feel like a kid trying to scare his friends at a sleepover.

  4. Well... says:

    Back in October I conducted an SSC survey comprised of lots of random-ish questions, meant to uncover any weird skews among SSC readers. The survey was on Google forms. I haven’t dug into the data yet and I don’t know when I’ll get around to it, but it’s all up in tabular form here for those who are interested. If anyone can recommend the best way to post a downloadable CSV of the data for others to download (does Google Forms have a built-in way to do that?), I’m all ears.

  5. Well... says:

    What do you guys think of this statement:

    Libertarianism is not nearly as threatening or offensive to the politically correct mainstream (think Overton window) as social conservatism (which for these purposes includes things like e.g. criticism of gay marriage and feminism, being anti-abortion, etc.). Whereas a social conservative could be fired, blackballed, or otherwise beleaguered for his views, a libertarian–even a quite extreme one–is mostly just seen as a bit kooky but is not in any comparable danger.

    I’m especially interested to know whether any libertarians agree.

    • Anonymous Bosch says:

      Social conservatism is the politically correct mainstream in wide swathes of the country while libertarianism isn’t so I’d have to disagree. It’s a big country out there.

      • Well... says:

        OK, I’ll tweak “politically correct mainstream” so it is clearer what I mean.

      • outis says:

        There’s a reason why those parts are called “flyover country”.

        • Well... says:

          Inherent in the idea of “mainstream” is a kind of authority; of certain viewpoints being “in the drinking water” so to speak. It doesn’t necessarily mean having dominance via sheer numbers.

          If you close your eyes and throw a dart at a map of the US you are likely to land on a place where the majority are socially conservative, and are subjected rather than contributors to the politically correct mainstream.

          • albatross11 says:

            …but if you scale the map by population, that changes.

          • quanta413 says:

            Even if you rescale by population, social conservatism is still more common than the opposite. A lot of voters for the democratic party are still pretty socially conservative. African-Americans and Latinos (especially ones older than 30) are typically not socially liberal. Neither are Muslims.

            Socially liberal people may dominate the upper classes, but they’re still in the minority overall.

          • Rob K says:

            @guanta413 define? Support for gay marriage and legalization of marijauna, and regarding gay relationships and extramarital sex as moral, are all now majority positions.

            Seems to me that part of the cultural upheaval we’re going through right now is about both social liberals and social conservatives reacting to the relatively rapid reversal in their balance of power on those issues.

          • quanta413 says:

            @Rob K

            Thanks for your point. I wasn’t thinking precisely enough about what exactly counted as socially conservative. More in a relative sense about desired family structure, religiousness, etc. I just went to check Pew surveys on these things again to update my beliefs. I’ll put the links in I used to update in case others want to see.

            Latinos are less religious than I thought (see here). A little more than white people, but not hugely so like Africans Americans are much more religious than white people.

            I just checked Pew about those specific isssues since you mentioned those all went majority; I’ve updated on where the center sits for those issues. I was a few years behind in my impression of public positions.

            I was mostly thinking that African-Americans and Latinos are socially conservative relative to white people. I didn’t realize the change in support had been so strong in the last few years. If you look at Pew, African American support of gay marriage just crossed into the majority in 2017, whereas for whites that happened in 2013. http://www.pewforum.org/fact-sheet/changing-attitudes-on-gay-marriage/

            Marijuana wasn’t even a thing I was thinking of as being related to social conservatism (except as correlation). It’s too easy to imagine a social conservative thinking it should be treated like alcohol. Say bad but not illegal.

    • SamChevre says:

      I think it depends very strongly on which articulation of libertarianism. If it’s the Caplan-Levy-Bleeding Heart version that basically is social technocracy (often mis-called social democracy, but look at views on Orban and Le Pen to see the lack of liking for actual democracy) with the serial numbers filed off, yes, the leftist mainstream doesn’t find it threatening. If it’s the more traditional version of libertarianism/classic liberalism, with the emphasis on freedom of association, reducing the power of government bureaucracies in education (the Koch brothers-Bill Buckley version), and so on, it’s much hated, although maybe not as much as social conservatism.

      • Anonymous Bosch says:

        If it’s the Caplan-Levy-Bleeding Heart version that basically is social technocracy (often mis-called social democracy, but look at views on Orban and Le Pen to see the lack of liking for actual democracy)

        Unsure disliking a particular democratic politician translates to disliking “actual democracy.” Disliking democracy as a concept seems to be the bailiwick of the paleos, not the neolibs.

        • SamChevre says:

          Agree that disliking a particular politician is not anti-democratic. But thinking that a large number of the most important questions for a nation should be decided by unelected bodies (such as the courts, or an international group like the UN or EU) seems like technocracy rather than democracy.

      • blacktrance says:

        I’m somewhat surprised you put Caplan closer to Levy than to the Koch brothers.

    • The Nybbler says:

      At Google, libertarianism was nearly as offensive as social conservatism. The main issue was how much they conflicted with SJW orthodoxy.

    • toastengineer says:

      Hasn’t been my experience. Leftists generally seem to think libertarianism = ‘social darwinism.’

      • Viliam says:

        I would also guess that if someone has enough political power to get a conservative fired, they also have enough political power to get a libertarian (or an inconvenient liberal) called conservative and then fired.

        (If you ask a random person, they probably believe that Damore or GrammarGreat are conservative. From the perspective of consequences, there is no much difference between being a conservative and being falsely accused of being conservative. Reality checks are simply not done anymore. Actually, people are more likely to rewrite Wikipedia to conform to the public opinion; especially if they can find great quotes from “reliable sources”.)

        • DavidS says:

          Do you think (genuine question) that most conservatives would identify Damore as a conservative?

          I should say though that Damore’s recent law case does seem to claim he’s conservative.

    • John Schilling says:

      The Koch Brothers are generally counted among the ranks of libertarians, what with David Koch having been the Libertarian Party’s VP nominee in 1980 and Charles Koch having co-founded the Cato institute, and both supporting generally libertarian causes and policies since.

      The “politically correct mainstream”(*) nonetheless seems to regard the Koch Brothers as being made of Pure Evil, the greatest threat to democracy and goodness this side of Donald Trump and devoid of any redeeming virtue. See e.g. Jill/Moon.

      So I’m guessing that libertarians are regarded as every bit as abhorrent as social conservatives, to the extent that they have any power. Gary Johnson libertarians might get a pass where deplorable Trumpists do not, but only because Gary Johnson got 3% of the vote and isn’t a billionaire. If the political class starts paying attention to the Cato institute’s take on the social or political issue du jour, people will remember that they and libertarians generally are Evil, otherwise the libertarians will get to slide under the radar for a while.

      There’s an advantage to being able to slide under the radar, but at some point you have to be able to exercise at least soft power or all is lost.

      * I am assuming that by “politically correct mainstream” you mean A: progressives and B: people who shut up if they think their words might offend progressives.

      • Matt M says:

        The Koch Brothers are generally counted among the ranks of libertarians

        Are they?

        I’d bet if you did a family feud style survey of “describe the political beliefs of the Koch brothers”, conservative would beat libertarian at least 2:1. That’s neither fair nor accurate, but I believe that is the perception.

        • John Schilling says:

          I’d bet if you did a survey, you’d get a plurality if not a majority describing libertarians as a subset of conservatives. Note, e.g., the persistent assertions that the SSC commentariat has a right-wing bias, which is only remotely plausible if we count the libertarians as “right-wing”. And I’ve been explicitly ranked as among the most conservative/right-wing commenters more times than I can count.

        • Well... says:

          I think everyday people mainly think of the Koch brothers as fat cigar-smoking Rich People who drink poor people’s blood, like Monte Burns only in real life. The Kochs are thought of primarily as Pro-Rich & Anti-Poor; conservative or libertarian is an afterthought.

        • outis says:

          I personally had no idea the Koch Brothers were associated with libertarianism. My only knowledge of them is based on their treatment in the media in the last couple of years, and the picture I got was that of fat-cat robber-baron capitalists with no ideology other than money.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            I think it was Murray Rothbard who first called them the Kochtopus, some 40 years ago.

          • SamChevre says:

            I think that sums up the way the mainstream treats libertarianism. The Kochs founded or funded much of the infrastructure for inside-the-Beltway libertarianism–Cato, Reason, IHS.

            The more-traditional libertarian views are much more fringe, and I’d expect would be very unfavorably treated by the press if they paid attention: think the Mises Institute, Lew Rockwell, and so on. Here’s a good summary of that branch of libertarianism.

          • Well... says:

            I would guess most people associate libertarianism more with Penn & Teller than with the Koch Brothers, who instead are mostly associated with Evil Cigar-Smoking Fat Cat Monte-Burns-in-real-life.

          • John Schilling says:

            Is there evidence that most people are familiar with Penn Gillette’s political views?

            As for the Kochs being fat-cat robber-baron capitalists, yes, that’s the point. Libertarians as fat-cat robber-baron capitalist apologists is a very common view even here; it’s why we get lumped in with “the Right” in spite of being aligned with the political Left on most non-economic issues.

          • Well... says:

            Is there evidence that most people are familiar with Penn Gillette’s political views?

            I would guess once you control for people who are familiar with Penn Jillette–as in, they could look at a picture of him and at least say something like “that’s Penn from Penn and Teller”–and not just those who get into him for his political views, the answer is yes. Maybe not a supermajority, but a majority for sure.

            I don’t think that’s true for the Koch Bros, about whom I would guess most people who are familiar at least with the name only know “they’re rich and they fund campaigns that are pro-rich and anti-poor.” These are not people who’ve heard of the Cato Institute, and if they have, most of them just assume it is also aligned with a merely pro-rich ideology.

            Take those people aside and ask them if that is the same thing as libertarianism, and I hypothesize most would say something like “nah, libertarianism is more what that kooky guy from work believes, about privatizing the social security and legalizing drugs.”

          • I think it was Murray Rothbard who first called them the Kochtopus

            I don’t know if it was Rothbard who coined the term but it was intra-libertarian rhetoric used by libertarians who thought the Kochs had too much influence over the libertarian movement–I think in particular the LP.

          • outis says:

            Wouldn’t the Kochs have exactly the correct amount of influence, allocated to them by the market?

          • it’s why we get lumped in with “the Right” in spite of being aligned with the political Left on most non-economic issues.

            Or maybe it’s this sort of thing:-

            Is Reason actually left-libertarian now? I quit subscribing a long time ago; when Virginia Postrel left it was a serious drop in quality, but I didn’t think they’d actually gone over to left-libertarianism (*shudder*)

            (Nybbler)

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        I am in agreement with this. The Koch Brothers are treated as the most vile, repugnant people in the world, right after Donald Trump, and are pretty much ardent libertarians.

        I do think that “moderate” libertarians tend to get a better reception than social conservatives, but that’s because the moderate libertarians are well-spoken, educated, and tend to concede that we shouldn’t entirely dismantle the welfare and regulatory states immediately. I’m probably putting people like Tyler Cowen in this camp, but there are also people on other, liberally dominated forums, that tend to have a few libertarians hanging around.

        Actual libertarianism, though? All issues are social issues. If you want to cut the welfare state, you hate the poor. Scott Walker’s campaign against the public unions in Wisconsin got him a good 15 minutes of hate, which probably would have been permanent had he been elected President.

        Also, the “mainstream” progressive ideology seems to require some pretty extreme beliefs about the absolute parity of IQ across all conceivable genetic groups, and a belief that any under-representation by any of these identical-yet-distinct-when-we-say-so groups in certain fields indicates structural oppression which the government must correct. That’s definitely a social issue, and I definitely don’t see libertarians climbing aboard with that one.

        • Rob K says:

          All of this “treated as the most vile, repugnant people in the world” thing seems like hyperventilating.

          High dollar financiers of political causes are going to be villain figures for those who oppose those political causes. Probably more so than people who wield other kinds of influence, e.g. organizational leadership, since large infusions of money seem “unfair” to the average person in a way that e.g. leading the NRA or the ACLU doesn’t.

          George Soros attracts criticism, some of it extreme and vitriolic, from the right. The Kochs attract criticism, some of it extreme and vitriolic, from the left.

    • Matt M says:

      I am a libertarian and I think this is absolutely true.

      Remember, for a long time, libertarianism was thought of as “socially liberal, economically conservative” and while I’m sure plenty of campus SJWs do in fact favor higher taxes, it’s social issues that seem to drive the real hostility and hatred in society. Consider the reaction Trump gets for “build a wall” as opposed to “reduce the corporate income tax.”

      In the professional world, people are inclined to want to get along with their co-workers rather than hate them. And the libertarian probably has at least one viewpoint that is tolerable to virtually everyone. So if you’re working in silicon valley and want to make friends with the liberal crowd, you talk about how you also hate drone bombings and would like to see a less militarized police force and an end to the war on drugs. If you find yourself in rural kansas, you talk about how taxes are too high and how the government needs to stop meddling with people just trying to earn a living, etc.

      The fact that libertarians are still seen as somewhat rare (although this is decreasing) also makes you the fargroup rather than the outgroup. You’re not a threat, because your candidate isn’t winning an election anytime soon. The Trump voter, the fan of George W Bush, they are threats, because they sometimes win.

      • rahien.din says:

        it’s social issues that seem to drive the real hostility and hatred in society.

        I don’t disagree with you, but, your formulation strikes me as extremely strange. The social domain is the only domain in which hatred and hostility could exist. Saying “People only seem to hate each other over social issues” is like saying “People only seem get hungry for food” or “People only seem to dance to music.”

        This may be a useless quibble and useless for you to clarify, but I’m not sure where the “seem” comes in, and it makes me wonder if there isn’t some other difference in the way we are thinking about it.

        • Matt M says:

          This is probably a semantics issue. In the most literal sense, corporate tax policy is a “social issue” in that uh… it’s an issue that we decide socially?

          But in common usage, “social” tends to describe matters of morality that are (seen as) unconnected with money and economics, and “economic” tends to describe matters of taxation, fiscal, monetary policy, etc.

          I think that most people tend to view economic questions (i.e. what should the tax rate be, what should the minimum wage be) as technical questions that can perfectly optimized by doing a lot of math or something (this is obviously incorrect, but hey!). Whereas “social issues” are the ones where math is irrelevant. No financial wizardry can tell you whether abortion is legal or not… whether affirmative action is justified or not, etc. To oppose someone on those issues isn’t just to quibble over mathematical formulas, it is to endorse blatant immorality.

        • gbdub says:

          At least in this sort of discussion, “social issues” means gay rights, abortion, drug policy, maybe immigration. As opposed to “economic issues” like taxes, business regulation, trade, etc. Until at least the Oughts, libertarians were aligned more with liberals/Democrats on the former, and conservatives/Republicans on the latter. But now that there’s a populist right and an authoritarian left, all bets are somewhat off.

          Obviously people can have strong moral beliefs, and strong disagreements, on things in that “economic” bucket, but traditionally “tax less” didn’t get you labeled a bigot. Increasing polarization is changing that.

        • Well... says:

          Some people on the Left do say angry things about Trump’s economic policy, usually along the lines of “Trump wants to give himself and his rich buddies a tax cut” but those same people usually spend most of their time on social issues.

      • DavidS says:

        Completely agree (as another UKer). People might think libertarians are wrong, or selfish/self-interested. But the real ire is on social/’values’ things around sexism, racism, homophobia etc. etc.

        In fact on the other side, the right criticises the left for all sorts of ‘your economics are bad’ things but the strongest invective is probably around claims of anti-semitism (and sometime misogyny).

        People just feel more strongly, and I think it’s because it feels like ‘morally wrong’ rather than ‘strategically/factually incorrect’. I know plenty of people who e.g. when we had a recent cabinet reshuffle basically did their initial ‘what is this person like’ check by looking up how they voted on iconic things like gay marriage.

        Of course, you do have a thing where people claim economic stuff is actually social/values stuff, e.g. that welfare policy isn’t just poorly managed/cheap but based on evil Tories hating the disabled/poor/sick and wanting them to suffer, or that higher taxes isn’t to do with wanting better public services etc. but just hatred/jealousy of people with more money. But I think you have to be quite far down the tribal route in the first place for these to kick in to the same degree as instinctive ‘values’ issues.

        I don’t know how far it’s the same on the right, because large chunks of the right (at least in UK) has the same ‘liberal’ values on race, gender etc. E.g. recent Conservative reshuffle was explicitly pitched as a ‘this is getting more women and minorities into Cabinet and making it more representative of the country as a whole’)

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      My perception is that this was very true in the oughts, still somewhat true but declining due to increasing polarization.

    • rahien.din says:

      I am not a libertarian, but, here’s a competing hypothesis :

      Libertarians are so uncommon that they are present no threat to other ideologies. And so no one takes the effort of taking offense at their views. At worst, libertarians get dismissed as “a bit kooky.”

      • Matt M says:

        Agree that this is a huge part of it. People wouldn’t hate Republicans if they held 0 house seats, 0 senate seats, and won 0 electoral votes.

        • Nornagest says:

          People hate neo-Nazis (or, if you’d prefer, Communists), who hold zero Congressional seats and have never won an electoral vote.

          • Matt M says:

            I don’t think a totally serious dyed-in-the-wool communist would have any great difficulty at Google, to be honest.

            But keep in mind, the two sides go to great lengths to tar the other with that branch. Blue tribe would tell you that neo-Nazis hold a whole lot of house seats, because every Republican basically is one, or at least is sympathetic to them and is promoting their agenda. Red tribe would say the same about Dems and communists.

            And that’s why I said it’s a “huge part” of it, but you’re right, it’s certainly not the whole thing.

          • John Schilling says:

            People who bother to hate neo-Nazis define them in a manner that at least overlaps a group with two hundred and ninety seats in the House and Senate and a puppet in the White House.

          • Andrew Cady says:

            Nazis conquered half of Europe though. Plus there was that business with the camps.

            The Nazi regime was hugely influential to the point of being the kind of historical event that may be remembered — popularly — for thousands of years. Both of my grandfathers fought in a war against them, and this is representative of the population.

            Libertarians never had an empire. Libertarians never changed the course of history. None of my ancestors fought in any wars against Libertarians. It’s not analogous.

            If Nazism had never taken off in Europe, if Hitler had just remained obscure and politically unsuccessful, while some FDR type regime took control of Germany, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to believe that nobody would care about Nazis today.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Republican/right thoughtpieces describing SJWs/Antifa as fascist movements are also not hard to find.

          • Well... says:

            Republican/right thoughtpieces describing SJWs/Antifa as fascist movements are also not hard to find.

            Maybe in journalism. Not so when they are say, communications to employees from CEOs at large firms, or to students from college presidents. Compare with the ease of finding communications about inclusiveness and diversity. (Reduce “Antifa are fascist” to something milder to make this a better apples-to-apples comparison.)

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Libertarians never had an empire. Libertarians never changed the course of history. None of my ancestors fought in any wars against Libertarians.

            Gilded Age?

          • John Schilling says:

            Libertarians never had an empire.

            They arguably had a couple back in the 19th century, when “Liberal” still had its classical meaning and we hadn’t had to come up with “Libertarian” to distinguish that from other, later brands of liberalism.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          People wouldn’t hate Republicans if they held 0 house seats, 0 senate seats, and won 0 electoral votes.

          Rand Paul.

          I think the real issue is that, as might be expected, there is no truly coherent definition of Libertarian.

          Another issue is that (this a point I frequently repeat, sorry) politics is coalitional and at least one reflex/impulse in the broad Libertarian sphere is a tendency to reject things like compromise and organization.

          Insert scene about “People’s Front of Judea”.

          Nonetheless, the most politically successful Libertarians over the last several decades have mostly had success by aligning themselves in coalition with conservatives. As the Koch brothers found out this last general election cycle, those victories are fairly Pyrrhic. Turns out they had a tiger by the tail.

          • Incurian says:

            Another issue is that (this a point I frequently repeat, sorry) politics is coalitional and at least one reflex/impulse in the broad Libertarian sphere is a tendency to reject things like compromise and organization.

            This is something I think about a lot. I have a question for the libertarians of SSC. Supposing you were willing to compromise on your principles a little bit (and a lot a bit if you’re an anarchist maybe), if you were in charge of the Libertarian Party, which things would you be willing to compromise on to actually get elected and have a seat at the table, assuming you would follow through on your campaign promises? Which things would you never compromise on? Do you think the set of compromises you’d be willing to accept would be viable in a real election? Does anyone want to make an argument strongly in favor or against compromise for libertarians?

          • Matt M says:

            The reason libertarians don’t win isn’t because they haven’t compromised enough. It’s because they’ve already compromised too much.

          • John Schilling says:

            Does anyone want to make an argument strongly in favor or against compromise for libertarians?

            That’s going to depend on whether this is the Zeno’s surrender version of “compromise”, where the other side gets half of what they ask for this election cycle, and then half of what’s left the next, and so on.

            If it’s a genuine compromise, then for non-anarchist libertarians I would expect almost everything except black-letter civil liberties issues would be on the table, and then ask what the Republicans and Democrats are willing to compromise on from their end.

          • Matt M says:

            And even if I accepted your premise, the actual method by which libertarians “compromise” isn’t by making the LP platform more like the GOP platform.

            It’s by keeping their own beliefs but calling themselves a Republican and finding the right districts they can win in (the Pauls, Justin Amash, Gary Johnson as governor, etc.)

          • The Nybbler says:

            The reason Libertarians don’t win is because they can’t compromise enough to win without becoming non-libertarians, because people don’t want it. Liberty has little constituency.

          • quanta413 says:

            @HeelBearCub

            Insert scene about “People’s Front of Judea”.

            We of the Judean People’s Front are clearly the true and rightful leaders. Besides what has the government ever done for us?

            More seriously, I don’t think that Libertarians reject compromise any more than other political groups do (Tyler Cowen’s blog is titled Marginal Revolution after all). Philosophically, yeah, not so great about organization though.

            I don’t think the Koch brothers success was pyrrhic though. Once you take into account how things that libertarians don’t like about Trump tend to be defeated or softened (Muslim ban), Trump’s actual policy outcomes are reasonably what libertarians would expect from a Republican and certainly better from a libertarian point of view than what they’d get from a Democratic legislature + Clinton. I actually expected Trump to be worse from a libertarian point of view. Arguably Trump so far is much better than Bush II. If Trump keeps rolling back regulations and doesn’t start a major war before he’s gone, from a strictly policy point of view, the congress and his Presidency will easily have turned out better than Bush II. Bush II got us Medicare part D, No Child Left Behind, The Patriot Act, two major invasions of Middle Eastern countries, and probably a bunch of other shit I’m forgetting.

            @Incurian

            I don’t think there is any position that a not (D) or (R) party could take that would give them a chance in hell of getting significant electoral power. Nothing to do with compromise or not. Just institutional reasons.

            So for libertarians who wish to seriously accumulate power that leaves the choices of (A) infiltrate Democrats, (B) infiltrate Republicans, and (C) attempt to convince whoever is most likely to agree in the current environment. The Koch’s have focused most of their effort on (B) to limited success, but I doubt (A) would have worked in the past.

            However, (A) may be becoming a pretty good option as the Democrats are largely shedding their lower class and union roots. The more Democrats are a coalition of wealthy “progressives” (a la Silicon Valley or NYC) and minorities, the better the chances look for a sort of Libertarian philosophy that favors a UBI for redistribution but less regulations. The obvious compromise would be with the SJ people. Basically cutting them some checks and having some jobs be a little bit less than filled by the most qualified candidates in exchange for freedom from most government interference. Think Silicon valley and Google again. I expect that in reality this would degenerate into some form of crony capitalism, but what the hell doesn’t? The Chinese Communist Party did.

            (A) is really terrible news if you’re an old school socialist like Freddie DeBoer though.

          • Incurian says:

            (this is not sarcastic) This is what I really like about you guys, you don’t get wrapped around the axle answering a dumb question – you fix the question.

          • quanta413 says:

            @HeelBearCub

            Insert scene about “People’s Front of Judea”.

            We of the Judean People’s Front are clearly the true and rightful leaders. Besides what has the government ever done for us?

            More seriously, I don’t think that Libertarians reject compromise any more than other political groups do (Tyler Cowen’s blog is titled Marginal Revolution after all). Philosophically, yeah, not so great about organization though.

            I don’t think the Koch brothers success was pyrrhic though. Once you take into account how things that libertarians’ don’t like about Trump tend to be defeated or softened (Muslim ban), Trump’s actual policy outcomes are reasonably what libertarians would expect from a Republican and certainly better from a libertarian point of view than what they’d get from a Democratic legislature + Clinton. I actually expected Trump to be worse from a libertarian point of view. Arguably Trump so far is much better than Bush II. If Trump keeps rolling back regulations and doesn’t start a major war before he’s gone, from a strictly policy point of view, the congress and his Presidency will easily have turned out better than Bush II. Bush II got us Medicare part D, No Child Left Behind, The Patriot Act, two major invasions of Middle Eastern countries, and probably a bunch of other shit I’m forgetting.

            @Incurian

            I don’t think there is any position that a not (D) or (R) party could take that would give them a chance in hell of getting significant electoral power. Nothing to do with compromise or not. Just institutional reasons.

            So for libertarians who wish to seriously accumulate power that leaves the choices of (A) infiltrate Democrats, (B) infiltrate Republicans, and (C) attempt to convince whoever is most likely to agree in the current environment. The Koch’s have focused most of their effort on (B) to limited success, but I doubt (A) would have worked in the past.

            However, (A) may be becoming a pretty good option as the Democrats are largely shedding their lower class and union roots. The more Democrats are a coalition of wealthy “progressives” (a la Silicon Valley or NYC) and minorities, the better the chances look for a sort of Libertarian philosophy that favors a UBI for redistribution but less regulations. The obvious compromise would be with the SJ people. Basically cutting them some checks and having some jobs be a little bit less than filled by the most qualified candidates in exchange for freedom from most government interference. Think Silicon valley and Google again. I expect that in reality this would degenerate into some form of crony capitalism, but what the hell doesn’t? The Chinese Communist Party did.

            (A) is really terrible news if you’re an old school socialist like Freddie DeBoer though. Actually it sounds kind of shitty to me too, and I’m pretty far from socialism in most of my beliefs.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @quanta413:

            Once you take into account how things that libertarians’ don’t like about Trump tend to be defeated or softened (Muslim ban), Trump’s actual policy outcomes are reasonably what libertarians would expect from a Republican and certainly better from a libertarian point of view than what they’d get from a Democratic legislature + Clinton

            And it is at this point that I stop taking seriously any claims about Libertarians wanting principled things and not simply wanting ingroup victory…

          • John Schilling says:

            Trump’s actual policy outcomes seem to be mostly nonexistent so far, with everything having been gridlocked into oblivion aside from a Scalia-esque supreme court justice and tax bill that mostly just reduces the corporate income tax. How is that inconsistent with the long-standing and sincere Libertarian principle that government should be weak and taxes should be low?

            Admittedly, from a PR standpoint we’d probably prefer to get that (lack of) outcome by some means other than electing a guy who promises to do harmful and stupid things but can’t really do much of anything, and then there’s the concern that Trump could figure out how to start doing stuff in the future.

          • Brad says:

            Gorsuch, so far, shares a perfectly coincident voting record with Thomas. Thomas has a very mixed record with civil liberties on the Supreme Court.

            There may well be good and sufficient reasons why one might think Thomas is right to have such a mixed record, but from a purely libertarian perspective it is hard to see how a Justice that we might expect to have a mixed record on civil liberties as a big win.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Brad –

            I think it is because the Left has a pretty poor track record in terms of supporting rule of law, which is a big deal to libertarians. They seem to prioritize rule of law over strict justice; it is more important to them to have legally correct rulings than ideologically preferable ones.

          • Brad says:

            @Thegnskald
            Is it a big deal to libertarians qua libertarians or is tied up in the fuzzy, specifically American mish-mash that includes some libertarianism certainly, but gives coequal pride of place to things like federalism — and more generally includes a reverence for the constitution and framers and so on that is above and beyond what one might expect from a purely functional standpoint (i.e. only inasmuch as they are liberty promoting)?

            I don’t see how cherishing the rule of law per se is connected to libertarianism. The libertarian philosophy as much or more than any other recognizes that law can be a force for evil.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think it’s important to distinguish libertarians (greens, socialists, pacifists, etc.) by whether they have a particular endpoint in mind, or whether they think things should move in a particular direction from where we are now.

            Put me in the Gilded age, and my politics would probably look a lot like Freddie DeBoer’s. Today, not so much–then, we needed to move in a direction somewhat more like where we are now (more protection for workers, more regulation to handle public health and externalities, etc.) Now, we have a lot of those things, and the marginal value of more of this is probably negative.

            People who are mainly libertarian *by direction* want to move things from where we are now to a better place, say by legalizing marijuana or dialing back our bomb-them-till-they-love-us foreign policy. That implies some openness to compromise.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Wait, what does Libertarianism have against Federalism? I thought that, unless you go ancap, it would be considered a useful structure for devolving power, and that if anything that we could use *more* State:Federal federalist patterns in County:State, Municipality:County, and Community:Municipality relationships.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Brad –

            Explanations seem to vary by libertarian.

            The general theme is that rule of law is a prerequisite for freedom, either or both by limiting the evil of law (if it applies equally to everyone, that forms a natural limit to its evil), or by ensuring equal protections under the law (specifically, the law can’t be bent to punish you for this one specific thing you did that people decide after the fact should have been illegal).

            So when rulings undermine the rule of law, it undermines freedom.

            (There is at least a core of truth in this, given the importance of codification of law. How far it actually extends is a matter of interpretation)

          • Brad says:

            @Gobbobobble
            I don’t think libertarianism as a philosophy has anything against federalism, but I don’t think it has anything for it either.

            The notion that federalism invariably promotes liberty is, I think, part of a sort of Whig history type mechanism for reconciling extreme enthusiasm for the United States and its system of government with a commitment to libertarianism.

            In practice a state or local government can be oppressive as a national one can. Indeed the tiniest governments are often observed to be oppressive for no especially good reason at all, even in theory. (Think HOAs.)

            @Thegnskald
            I see what you are saying and there is some merit to it, but see also my answer to Gobbobobble above. I find it a little suspicious that the very same “strict constructionism” which was a decidedly conservative project (see Bork and Scalia) is transmogrified into a libertarian project, despite its negative consequences for pro-liberty doctrines, by the expedient of pointing to the importance of the rule of law.

            Particularly given that it takes place as part of a discussion where in other sub-parts of it there are complaints that it is unfair to situate libertariansim as part of the broader right wing.

          • which things would you be willing to compromise on to actually get elected and have a seat at the table

            That’s two different questions. One is on what issues would you be willing to compromise your beliefs, the other is on what issues would you be willing to provide political support to people who disagreed with you.

            In the U.S. the obvious case of the latter is the vote to organize the house or senate, which determines who is the majority leader, who the minority leader. The equivalent in most European systems would be which parties you were willing to go into coalition with.

            I think a libertarian politician should be willing to ally with anyone whose position is closer to his than the alternative. That would, for instance, be someone who wanted to legalize Marijuana but not Heroin, someone who wanted to permit freer immigration but well short of open borders. It would permit a libertarian congressman to be a Republican as long as he thought the Republicans were closer to his position than the Democrats.

            But if I were a libertarian running for office (quite unlikely), I wouldn’t be willing to say that I believed in those positions. I was unhappy in this election with the fact that Gary Johnson said he was in favor of anti-discrimination laws, which I consider a clearly non-libertarian position. I don’t know him well enough to tell if that really is his position or if he was deliberately watering down his views in order to get more votes.

            But then, my unwillingness to lie in order to get votes is one of several reasons why I am unlikely to ever run for office.

          • quanta413 says:

            @HeelBearCub

            And it is at this point that I stop taking seriously any claims about Libertarians wanting principled things and not simply wanting ingroup victory…

            Care to back that up? Please explain why libertarians should prefer a hypothetical democratic Congress with Hillary as President from a libertarian policy point of view. Not taking into account Trump’s shooting his mouth off constantly which I explicitly left out for a reason. Policy wise, the only significant thing that has happened the last year has been a corporate tax cut with some loopholes being reduced. Probably a net gain from a libertarian point of view although maybe not for big deficit hawks. And a lot of regulations have been stripped down or delayed. Definitely a gain from a libertarian point of view.

            Trump also got to appoint a supreme court justice. Gorsuch is probably better from a libertarian point of view than anyone Clinton would have appointed.

            Foreign policy is basically the same as it would have been under any President. Buddy buddy with Saudia Arabia and Israel. Drone Strikes galore. All negatives, but no more negative than U.S. policy on average for the last several decades. And not yet worse than Bush II.

            Trade policy is basically the same as it would have been with any President.

            Immigration is slightly tighter but it had been slowing for years already. Tighter immigration is negative but there isn’t any wall, and immigration is not the only libertarian issue.

            Like John Schilling says, the main thing to worry about is if Trump somehow succeeded at doing some of the shit he says he would. But Trump is full of hot air, and a lot of his worst tendencies (trade and immigration) are checked by the Republican congress not giving a fuck what he thinks.

            @Brad

            I don’t see how cherishing the rule of law per se is connected to libertarianism. The libertarian philosophy as much or more than any other recognizes that law can be a force for evil.

            If you count Hayek’s thought as important to libertarian thought, then it is to minarchists and similar types of libertarians. What Hayek meant by “rule of law” was not merely that there were written laws and those were the rules. My fuzzy memory is that it was more about the specific equality among individuals before the law.

          • baconbits9 says:

            In practice a state or local government can be oppressive as a national one can.

            @ Brad: it depends on the definition, but there is a reasonable case that a small government cannot be as oppressive as a national one. Scale matters in both the resources that a government can put to use, the scope of its oppression and the cost of getting out from under it. One well armed compound could plausibly hold off/scare a local government, but stands no chance against the US Federal government without access to nukes.

          • Brad says:

            @quanta413

            Trump also got to appoint a supreme court justice. Gorsuch is probably better from a libertarian point of view than anyone Clinton would have appointed.

            I don’t think that’s true for all values of libertarian. It depends on the saliency of various issues to the libertarian in question.

            My fuzzy memory is that it was more about the specific equality among individuals before the law.

            That seems pretty far afield from saying something like “even though Thomas voted to let the police search cell phones without a warrant, it was really a libertarian vote because the Constitution correctly interpreted required the result and so the opposite result would actually have hurt freedom more via eroding the rule of law.”

            It’s reasoning of that sort, I’m calling a stretch.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @Brad

            Ah, thanks, that makes sense now. I could make some counter-arguments in favor of federalism but I think my own comfortableness with syncretisms is beside the point 🙂

            I strongly suspect that for libertarianism, federalism is a strong step in the right direction at this moment in time – but will agree that it’s not an inherently desired position.

          • Iain says:

            Trump pretty clearly does not have strong opinions on policy details. (See, for example, the recent DACA roundtable, in which Trump agreed to Feinstein’s proposal for a clean passage of the DREAM Act until Kevin McCarthy reminded him that he wanted border security as part of the package.) To a first approximation, the real decisions are being made by Republican leadership outside the White House. Unsurprisingly, then, the concrete outcomes of the Trump administration thus far have been pretty much identical to what you’d expect from Generic Republican President X. (Jerusalem is the only counter-example I can come up with off the top of my head.)

            To the extent that libertarians see Generic Republican President X as a good outcome, it does not seem unfair to slot them in on the right. This is obviously not true of all libertarians: Connor Friedersdorf, for example, has been all over Jeff Sessions and drug policy / civil forfeiture / forensic reform. If the shoe fits, though…

          • albatross11 says:

            Re federalism and libertarianism:

            I think libertarianism is consistent with a lot of different ideas about how the limited government you want should be run. Are we better with congress/president or parliament? Should we have first-past-the-post elections or approval voting? Geographical districts or proportional representation? Should we have a lot of important decisions made by referendum? How powerful should the courts be w.r.t. overruling the actions of the other parts of the government?

            Some libertarians have thought deeply about this–notably Hayek. But I don’t think there’s any inherent reason why libertarians would naturally have one answer to these questions over another.

          • quanta413 says:

            @Brad

            I don’t think that’s true for all values of libertarian. It depends on the saliency of various issues to the libertarian in question.

            True, but I think it’s probably true for most libertarians (as the term is understood in the U.S.) given most probable Clinton candidates. It’s sketchy; I don’t think the supreme court is as important to libertarians as to conservatives.

            That seems pretty far afield from saying something like “even though Thomas voted to let the police search cell phones without a warrant, it was really a libertarian vote because the Constitution correctly interpreted required the result and so the opposite result would actually have hurt freedom more via eroding the rule of law.”

            It’s reasoning of that sort, I’m calling a stretch.

            I understand now. Agreed. A process based philosophy is quite orthogonal from a libertarian one.

            EDIT:
            @Iain

            To the extent that libertarians see Generic Republican President X as a good outcome, it does not seem unfair to slot them in on the right. This is obviously not true of all libertarians: Connor Friedersdorf, for example, has been all over Jeff Sessions and drug policy / civil forfeiture / forensic reform. If the shoe fits, though…

            I don’t think I’d say it’s a good outcome from a libertarian point of view. It’s just… not that bad. Especially in comparison to what could have been since there was (and it still could happen) the possibility that Trump would NOT look like generic Republican President X. Tariffs going up would be a really bad outcome. More gridlock might have been preferable, but maybe not.

            From a libertarian perspective, Jeff Sessions’s preferences are obviously terrible on drug policy and civil forfeiture. Previous Justice Department drug policy was better before. I don’t understand well enough to evaluate whether his position as AG makes much difference with respect to civil forfeiture. My vague impression is that the law itself needs to change if progress is to be made here. That’s slowly happening state by state with marijuana. I’m not aware of how it’s going with civil forfeiture.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Unsurprisingly, then, the concrete outcomes of the Trump administration thus far have been pretty much identical to what you’d expect from Generic Republican President X. (Jerusalem is the only counter-example I can come up with off the top of my head.)

            Curious why that’s a counter-example. Is it just that Generic $PARTY$ President X would know better than to shake hornets nests? If I think of which party is more willing to disregard the Palestinians (or the UN) it’s the Republicans.

          • albatross11 says:

            HeelBearClub:

            Can you point out which political movements’ members don’t make calculations like that? Because the whole line about the Trump administration having been better on libertarian issues than the Clinton administration may or may not be true, but it seems like it’s exactly the same logic behind imploring progressives to vote for Hillary despite her warlike foreign policy and close relationships to the big banks, because at least she’ll be better on supreme court appointees and gun control.

            Everyone who votes for the lesser evil does this calculation.

          • albatross11 says:

            One other aside, though, is that you can have ideas about how government agents should behave that are orthogonal to your beliefs about what would be good policies. For example, it’s quite internally consistent to believe:

            a. Legally recognized gay marriage is a good policy.

            b. The members of the supreme court should not accomplish policy goals by suddenly discovering that the constitution requires something that almost nobody actually thought it required (including the people who wrote it and every judge or legal scholar who ever considered the matter) until about about twenty years ago.

            If you prefer the other side of the issue, you might believe that

            a. Gay marriage is bad policy.

            b. County clerks in states where gay marriage is the policy should issue marriage licenses in compliance with the law.

            These aren’t either one libertarian positions, necessarily, but they’re consistent with libertarian positions.

          • Controls Freak says:

            The notion that federalism invariably promotes liberty is, I think, part of a sort of Whig history type mechanism for reconciling extreme enthusiasm for the United States and its system of government with a commitment to libertarianism.

            In practice a state or local government can be oppressive as a national one can. Indeed the tiniest governments are often observed to be oppressive for no especially good reason at all, even in theory. (Think HOAs.)

            I know I’ve quoted Kennedy’s opinion in Bond v. United States more than once here, but I’d like to add to that. I don’t think it’s particularly Whiggish, because we see veins of this in places like Federalist 45 and throughout the constitutional design. Different groups, optimized for their own domains, hopefully working together, but performing a check on power when necessary. This is the core design. I think the same type of thing when people talk about corporate power. Yes, it’s bad to let corporations have too much power (trust busting was good). But it’s also useful to have some corporate power (Apple can fight tooth and nail to make sure that every digital search close to their reach is done with i’s dotted and t’s crossed according to public law).

            The dual to this is that I think your argument proves too much. Sure, there’s no reason to say that small/large gov’t is inherently more/less oppressive (and following the first paragraph, I’d say that I think this is a mischaracterization of the argument, anyway). But there’s also no reason to say that this type of branch or that type of branch is inherently more/less oppressive. Any one, if left unchecked, can clearly devolve into oppression. But that’s why we have other centers of power.

            Your HOA is a little tyranny? That’s why we have state/local government. Your state wants to enslave black people? That’s why we have federal government. Your federal government wants your pot? That’s why we have state government. Your President wants to ban Muslims? That’s why we have the judiciary. And so on and so forth. Lots of different power basins allow for lots of opportunities for the people to find a way to get what they want, even if one body of powerful elected officials gets together to oppress you.

            Now, there’s a lot of balancing to be done to make this all work together. You can’t just let some get neutered, willy-nilly (I mean, we’ve talked federal/state/local/HOA/corporate/etc.; we might be able to get away without some, but it’s always a “be careful” situation). You probably should try to overlap some of their critical paths. If the states don’t make the federal gov’t work, they won’t be able to defend themselves from hostile invasion; if the federal gov’t works Too Good (with bonus tyrant!), then the states have a way of shutting the whole thing down. Similar with the mechanisms of power across the federal branches.

            I really really object to “federalism” being characterized as “big government bad; small government good”. They’re different. They have different purposes, different competencies, and need to work together/against one another in complicated ways in order to best preserve liberty. (Of course, this is all modulo the Mongols David Friedman. Assuming we’re going to have gov’t, how do we do it?)

            Thomas voted to let the police search cell phones without a warrant

            Can you refresh my memory? Riley was unanimous (search incident to arrest), and I’m not remembering which one you’re referring to.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @quanta413:

            I think you are ignoring the very real damage being done to equality before the law that is happening on the executive side. In addition, the overall Republican coalition is being pulled farther and farther towards the idea of “If the (Republican) president does it, it’s not illegal”. This is not a principled stand for rule by Presidential fiat, but that is actually more harmful to freedom than the principled stand.

            You seem to view this rhetoric as costless and meaningless, but I think that is an extremely naive reading. This kind of thinking is what lead to Trump being able to win first the Republican nomination and then the Preisdency.

            It as if, while watching the risen tide eat away invisibly and slowly at a building foundation, you observe the cavity and conclude that a) the building is still standing, so no actual damage has been done, and b) the foundation looks much the same as after the last wave, so it’s probably not the waves undermining the foundation.

          • cassander says:

            @HeelBearCub says:

            I think you are ignoring the very real damage being done to equality before the law that is happening on the executive side. In addition, the overall Republican coalition is being pulled farther and farther towards the idea of “If the (Republican) president does it, it’s not illegal”. This is not a principled stand for rule by Presidential fiat, but that is actually more harmful to freedom than the principled stand.

            Given that the last democratic president decided to legalize millions of politically sympathetic illegal immigrants on nothing but his say so under the guise of prosecutorial discretion and the many legal difficulties of last democratic candidate for president, the idea that this is a uniquely republican vice rings a bit hollow

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @cassander:
            Prosecutorial discretion is literally written into the law.

          • cassander says:

            @HeelBearCub

            So if Congress hadn’t quite gotten the votes needed to pass their tax bill, and trump ordered the IRS not to prosecute anyone who didn’t pay taxes over the amounts of the rates he desired, you’d be totally fine with that? Prosecutorial discretion is not license to ignore the law.

          • quanta413 says:

            @HeelBearCub

            I think you are ignoring the very real damage being done to equality before the law that is happening on the executive side. In addition, the overall Republican coalition is being pulled farther and farther towards the idea of “If the (Republican) president does it, it’s not illegal”. This is not a principled stand for rule by Presidential fiat, but that is actually more harmful to freedom than the principled stand.

            Let me put it this way. I might take this claim seriously if partisans either explicitly backing the President because politics is Greens vs Blues, or simply ignoring the shady things their side does wasn’t already the norm. On top of that, the Republican Senate and House ignore the President as much as they can. Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan have no love lost for Trump. And Trump’s approval rating is abysmal. Trump probably has less backing for engaging in arbitrary bullshit than most past Presidents.

            As far as equality before the law, have there been some laws passed I missed? The travel ban is stupid but not that severe of a problem on the scale of U.S. fuck ups. If Trump doesn’t engage in a major ground invasion of a Muslim country, he’ll have harmed significantly fewer Muslims than Bush II’s actions did.

            You seem to view this rhetoric as costless and meaningless, but I think that is an extremely naive reading. This kind of thinking is what lead to Trump being able to win first the Republican nomination and then the Preisdency.

            It as if, while watching the risen tide eat away invisibly and slowly at a building foundation, you observe the cavity and conclude that a) the building is still standing, so no actual damage has been done, and b) the foundation looks much the same as after the last wave, so it’s probably not the waves undermining the foundation.

            I don’t view the rhetoric as costless and meaningless. I just happen to believe there are a few orders of magnitude difference in moral significance between tens or hundreds of thousands of dead bodies and saying stupid and morally despicable things on Twitter. And tens or hundreds of thousands of dead bodies is not an atypical outcome of Presidential decisions.

            So do you have any better argument than vague metaphor or ad hominem?

            Maybe you can explain why from a libertarian point of view, Trump’s rhetoric should be viewed as comparably corrosive to freedom as the massive expansion in government surveillance powers that has taken place for the last two decades. Because I think those are the waves eating at the foundation while you pay attention to the theater in the building above.

          • IrishDude says:

            @Incurian

            Supposing you were willing to compromise on your principles a little bit (and a lot a bit if you’re an anarchist maybe), if you were in charge of the Libertarian Party, which things would you be willing to compromise on to actually get elected and have a seat at the table, assuming you would follow through on your campaign promises?

            I’d compromise on income redistribution in order to minimize personal and business regulation. Having a state that let’s people and businesses pursue their interests as they see fit (barring harm initiation against others) without being subject to paternal micromanagement would be a big gain, and I’d be willing to maintain or slightly expand income redistribution to get there.

          • albatross11 says:

            Hence the way a lot of moderate libertarians and fellow travelers support an UBI of some kind. It’s a compromise that should meet the “don’t let people starve in the streets” goal of social safety net programs, without imposing a lot of control-by-petty-bureaucrat on millions of people.

          • Chalid says:

            @cassander It’s obviously already the case that the IRS investigates some types of potential tax frauds very carefully and basically ignores others. We are regularly reminded during political confirmation hearings that people pay illegal immigrant nannies cash under the table. On the other hand, you’ve got a really high chance of getting an audit if you claim a deduction for a home office.

          • Brad says:

            I recently had cause to look at the rules surrounding home offices. It is a very limited deduction. Hardly anyone should be taking it and those that do should be taking it on very small areas of the house.

            It’s an easy to see why something that’s as narrowly drawn as that provides juicy targets for audits. Above all, because the IRS can easily see who is and isn’t taking the deduction, and so who is potentially cheating. It doesn’t have to send agents to sit outside your house and note that there’s an extra person living there.

            Whereas with nannies, there’s no way on the face of a return to know if someone is paying a nanny off the books. Or is accepting money off the books for that matter. That kind of fraud is a lot harder to uncover.

          • Chalid says:

            @Brad

            Seems like you could do decently well by looking at cases where the family has children younger than five years old, and the mother and father both work full-time, the family isn’t claiming a childcare deduction, and the family income is over $250k or so? All that information should be easily accessible to the IRS.

            Sure you get false positives when grandparents help out or whatever but I think the hit rate would still be pretty high.

          • cassander says:

            @Chalid says:

            >It’s obviously already the case that the IRS investigates some types of potential tax frauds very carefully and basically ignores others. We are regularly reminded during political confirmation hearings that people pay illegal immigrant nannies cash under the table. On the other hand, you’ve got a really high chance of getting an audit if you claim a deduction for a home office.

            I’m aware. That is an example of a good use of prosecutorial discretion, focusing effort in places where the law is easiest to enforce. People claiming home office deductions are not a politically salient group, targeting them is not being done for blatantly political reasons, and the government is not blatantly announcing that people who break tax laws in other ways will be ignored. None of these things is true of DACA.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Having a state that let’s people and businesses pursue their interests as they see fit (barring harm initiation against others)

            Couldn’t you drive basically any existing regulation through that loophole? Environmental regulation to prevent the harm of all sorts of externalities including lead poisoning, acid rain, ozone erosion; financial regulation to prevent the harm of various clever fleecings; labor regulation to prevent harmful abuse by employers due to power disparities…

            Are there any major categories of regulation that aren’t proposed/defended on the grounds of protecting people from some manner of harm?

          • Iain says:

            @Gobbobobble:

            Curious why that’s a counter-example. Is it just that Generic $PARTY$ President X would know better than to shake hornets nests?

            That was my thought, yeah, although I attempted to pull up evidence for it just now and was reminded that Romney talked about moving the embassy during the campaign.

            @quanta13:

            My understanding is that Jeff Sessions is doing his best to keep civil forfeiture around, including the rollback of some Obama-era restrictions.

            Libertarianism is not a magical get-out-of-political-classification-free card. It is meaningful to talk about whether one libertarian is further right or left than another: for example, if some libertarians focus their assessment of the Trump administration on tax cuts — an area where libertarian thought leans right — and others focus their assessment on civil liberties and drug policy — an area where libertarians line up better with the left.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I don’t know about practical consequences, but where I hang out on facebook, raving hatred of libertarians isn’t all that rare. I’m not sure how it compares to hatred of conservatives. To some extent libertarians and conservatives get conflated.

      • albatross11 says:

        It feels to me, intuitively, that this is driven at least partly by a change in internet culture over the last 5-10 years, in which a lot of formerly pretty moderate and mainstream people have become extremely intolerant of disagreement on some issues. My sense is that that’s a moral stance–to want to restrict immigration from Mexico or to repeal gay marriage isn’t just incorrect policy, it marks you out as an evil person.

    • gbdub says:

      Insofar as the “politically correct mainstream” is basically neoliberal with left/progressive views on social justice issues (broadly defined):

      Tolerance for libertarians was probably more true in the early oughts when abortion and the war were bigger issues, and when the gay marriage debate was more about “live and let live” and less about “make them bake cake”.

      Libertarian views on affirmative action and free speech / free association absolutism were always problematic, and the degree to which they clash with the progressive left seems to be getting worse.

      For economic leftists, “techbros” are increasingly the face of the evils of capitalism, and since those guys are overrepresented among the weirdo Libertarian set, that will also hurt tolerance going forward.

      Libertarians still have pro-immigration and anti-police-militarization to lean on as common ground I suppose.

      Basically, libertarians are tolerated insofar as they align with the tolerator on the live issues of the day.

      • Well... says:

        Basically, libertarians are tolerated insofar as they align with the tolerator on the live issues of the day.

        That’s an interesting take on it.

        Libertarians still have pro-immigration and anti-police-militarization to lean on as common ground I suppose.

        And pot legalization. And school prayer. How about wishing for an end to the electoral college? I really don’t know how the tribes have aligned around that one.

        • Nornagest says:

          How about wishing for an end to the electoral college? I really don’t know how the tribes have aligned around that one.

          I’ve been hearing some Blue frustration about the EC over the last year, but it’s hard to evaluate how much long-term staying power it has. It’s a very wonkish issue, and it’s hard to keep wonkish issues in the public consciousness that long.

          The Reds I know are silent on it.

          • meh says:

            There is an interstate compact initiative that has been going for about 10 years.

            The problem is that EC is constitutional, so it is maximum difficulty to change, but may not be of maximum benefit.

            I have not heard any good arguments for EC

          • outis says:

            I am against any change to the constitution, whatever the content, because in the current political climate if people start touching the constitution we’re guaranteed to end up with something worse.

          • Nick says:

            The Reds I know are silent on it too, but I’ve definitely heard broadly Republican-aligned folks rush to the defense of the Electoral College. Maybe including on SSC, I can’t recall.

            I expect to see Democrat-aligned folks continue to blast the Electoral College every time they lose an election because of it—and because of the way it’s structured, we can expect any popular vote–EC splits to be in favor of Republicans for the foreseeable future.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            The Reds I know are silent on it.

            Do you mean silent as in “don’t have an opinion” or silent as in “aren’t clamoring about it?” The Red opinion on the EC is “it’s fine” and you nobody clamors about things they think are fine.

          • Rob K says:

            @Nick

            re: stable valence of the electoral college edge, that’s probably inaccurate – the state distribution of the party coalitions has shifted enough that the advantage of the electoral college has swung back and forth quite recently. Based on the distributions of support Obama was more likely than his opponents to win a popular vote tie, or to overcome a popular vote deficit, in both 2008 and 2012.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            (Perhaps) interestingly, I was unaware of Libertarian views disproving of the Electoral College.

            This is probably a result of the fact the most prominent and well known Libertarian of the last several decades has been Ron Paul, who has been a prominent supporter of the “states rights” Libertarian position.

            Also, my impression is that those who are Libertarian inclined are most likely to insist on the idea that we have a Republic not a Democracy (and that Democracies are bad).

          • Matt M says:

            “States Rights” is a decent catch-phrase, but I’m pretty sure the Ron Paul position is “smaller governments whenever possible.” To the extent that the EC provides greater power to smaller units of government, I suspect that he would favor it. But he has no particular attachment to states themselves. If you broke the US up into 50 sovereign states, I think he’d be arguing for county-level secession pretty damn quick.

          • Well... says:

            EC just feels like a big complicated clunky top-down centralized thing imposed on the states by the Federal government, regardless whether this picture is accurate.

        • I don’t think libertarians tend to have any opinion on the electoral college. They aren’t against it for ideological reasons because they don’t, as a rule, see democracy as a moral issue–fifty-one percent voting to violate my rights is no more legitimate than forty-nine percent doing it. But they also are not for it for ideological reasons.

        • Glen Raphael says:

          @Well…:
          [listing common ground]
          > And pot legalization. And school prayer.

          School prayer? That one’s not common ground with liberals. For people who care about prayer in public school, the most salient libertarian value is that there shouldn’t be public school. After you get the government out of the schooling business, whether “school prayer” is a thing stops being a political issue and becomes a simple matter of satisfying customer preferences. In a free market instead of cars in “any color you like, so long as it’s black” drivers who really want red cars seek companies willing to sell red cars; similarly parents who want bible-based instruction with a daily opening prayer can, if they so choose, purchase that good without having to inflict it on everybody else at the same time.

          • Well... says:

            I know, but within the confines of a practical issue in which there are public schools, libertarians (in my experience) tend to oppose school prayer.

          • Well... says:

            PS. Might have something to do with atheists being overrepresented among libertarians. (I haven’t verified whether this is true, but I’m pretty sure it is.)

          • albatross11 says:

            The modern variation of this is how you feel about vouchers for K-12 education being used for religious schools.

          • Explain how giving parents free rein to indoctrinat their children maximises human liberty.

          • Well... says:

            @TheAncientGeekAKA1Z:

            Authority and coercion within the relatively natural context of a nuclear family’s household hierarchy is usually not at issue to libertarians.

            (I stopped considering myself a libertarian years ago so someone who’s had more time to philosophize on it can correct me if this is inaccurate.)

          • Explain how giving parents free rein to indoctrinat their children maximises human liberty.

            Because the alternative is giving the public school free reign to indoctrinate all of the children.

            Parents are more likely to care about the welfare of their own children than any other adults are. And diversity in indoctrination is better, ceteris paribus, than uniformity in indoctrination.

          • Because the alternative is giving the public school free reign to indoctrinate all of the children.

            It is possible for a country to constitutionally forbid certain kinds of indoctrination in public shcools, so that is not the only alternative. Opponents of libertarianism general want a liberal state, not an authoritarian one.

            Authority and coercion within the relatively natural context of a nuclear family’s household hierarchy is usually not at issue to libertarians.

            Which is one reason for thinking most libertarians are on the right.

          • cassander says:

            @TheAncientGeekAKA1Z

            There is no such thing as education without indoctrination. Even if you have some method for ensuring that nothing but unvarnished fact is taught, the selection of which facts to teach cannot help but influence people’s attitudes. The choice is not between indoctrination and education, the choice is between one centralized system of indoctrination or multiple independent systems of indoctrination, and it is rare that powerful monopolies work out well for anyone besides the monopolists.

          • albatross11 says:

            Well:

            I think libertarians mostly think about state / law type coercion. Think about that polygamous Mormon splinter group (FLDS?) in the news a few years ago, where there’s a woman who wants to leave an arranged marriage with which she’s unhappy.

            I think pretty much all libertarians would demand that she be allowed to leave–no matter what the beliefs of her community or even what agreements she might have made in the marriage contract, she should be able to leave if she decides she no longer wants to be part of the community. Overt coercion by the FLDS members or the mainstream legal system would be something most libertarians would see as very bad.

            On the other hand, if she finds it hard to leave, despite being very unhappy with being the 16-year-old fourth wife of some 70-year-old church bigwig, because of the indoctrination of her community, the likelihood of ostracism from her family and friends, or other kinds of social pressure, that’s something I thinkmost libertarians wouldn’t see as a major issue needing some kind of legal or political response.

            Now, here’s the thing: there are times where social pressure is *incredibly stifling and nasty and oppressive.* This is probably something of a blind spot in a lot of libertarians’ thinking, at least in the US, because most Americans don’t live under such oppressive/stifling/nasty social pressure in most areas that matter to them. (And social conservatives will correctly point out that some of that oppressive/stifling/nasty social pressure is what makes societies function–a man who knows that beating up his wife will lose him all his friends may be more effectively deterred than a man who knows it will get him a week in jail.)

            You can see this same issue w.r.t. blacks’ and womens’ professional societies and mentoring and such–these are an attempt to release some of the social forces that maybe are keeping blacks and women out of engineering or science or software. They may work or not, but they’re addressing a problem that’s probably harder for most libertarians to see than most other people.

            When I was younger (and much more of a pure libertarian), I also thought that way–it was easy to discount social forces, because I’m probably in about the first percentile of susceptibility to them.

            One thing that has changed my mind is having three children[1]. One of my kids is very much like me–he could frankly give a fuck what social messages are demanding of him, at least absent actual physical danger–if he wants to do it, he does it. (Electronics? Acting? Obsessing over geography?) One of my kids is super-socially-aware, and she seems to infer all kinds of social patterns as rules even when nobody ever makes them explicit. She’s convinced me to make sure she sees that, for example, I have a bunch of smart female coworkers who are scientists and mathematicians, that girls can be good at math and learn to code and such.

            [1] Having kids and raising them is a hell of an effective antidote a lot of one-parameter models of human nature and the world.

          • Matt M says:

            Explain how giving parents free rein to indoctrinat their children maximises human liberty.

            David Friedman already basically said this, but my answer is “because parents are almost certainly more likely to indoctrinate their children in a pro-liberty manner than the state is”

          • Randy M says:

            The assumption is that parents care more about their children than the government will.
            There have certainly been parents more devoted to causes and willing to sacrifice their children to them in one way or another.
            But there have also been governments so willing.

          • John Schilling says:

            Explain how giving parents free rein to indoctrinat their children maximises human liberty.

            Parents will chose many different ways to indoctrinate their children, including not at all. This creates a society in which new adults can compare the life they have been indoctrinated to lead with those other people are enjoying and, if this leads them to choose something different, gives them role models and mentors.

            If indoctrination is left instead to the Holy Church or Holy State or Holy People’s Will, that creates a monoculture which is much harder on anyone who might chose to be different.

          • There is no such thing as education without indoctrination.

            There is such a thing as Fallacy of Grey.

            he choice is not between indoctrination and education, the choice is between one centralized system of indoctrination or multiple independent systems of indoctrination, a

            No, there is a choice of more or less indoctrination. If the public system is constrained, and the private systems isn’t, then the public system is going to be less.

          • baconbits9 says:

            If the public system is constrained, and the private systems isn’t, then the public system is going to be less.

            This isn’t remotely true.

          • @Baconbite

            Argue your point .

            because parents are almost certainly more likely to indoctrinate their children in a pro-liberty manner than the state is”

            @Matt
            The overwhelming evidence is that they will indoctrinate their kids as they were indoctrinated. That’s how religions keep going for millennia.

            @JohnSchilling

            This creates a society in which new adults can compare the life they have been indoctrinated to lead with those other people are enjoying a

            If they are still able and willing to consider other ways, then the job of indoctrination was half done. Have you ever met a fanatic?

            The assumption is that parents care more about their children than the government will

            So if they are believers in the fundamentalist church of the flying spaghetti monster, they will want their little darlings brought up in it. There are parents who care by *not* getting their kids vaccinated. Outcomes depend on competence as well as intentions.

          • Well... says:

            @cassander:

            There is no such thing as education without indoctrination. Even if you have some method for ensuring that nothing but unvarnished fact is taught, the selection of which facts to teach cannot help but influence people’s attitudes.

            Oh that’s not even the half of it! Suppose a teacher can magically select facts that are “neutral” (possible only with magic; in real life there’s no such thing); the teacher himself may still be a tool of indoctrination. For example, if a student admires and looks up to this teacher, and learns that the teacher is gay, or Christian, or whatever else, the student could be more likely to think favorably toward gay people/Christians/etc.

          • cassander says:

            @TheAncientGeekAKA1Z

            No, there is a choice of more or less indoctrination. If the public system is constrained, and the private systems isn’t, then the public system is going to be less

            You’re shaping a child’s worldview, there’s not a lot of grey here. turning them all into open minded secular humanists is just as much indoctrination as turning them all into close minded evangelical christians.

          • rlms says:

            @Matt M

            David Friedman already basically said this, but my answer is “because parents are almost certainly more likely to indoctrinate their children in a pro-liberty manner than the state is”

            In the context of the present day US, or in general? (And if the former, in the meaning all parents or just homeschooling parents?)

            @cassander

            You’re shaping a child’s worldview, there’s not a lot of grey here. turning them all into open minded secular humanists is just as much indoctrination as turning them all into close minded evangelical christians.

            To what extent do public schools turn kids into open minded secular humanists? I would bet that the majority of people share their parents’ religious views when they graduate high school.

            @general
            I think a major point in favour of public education in this debate is that if your kids’ school tells them that there are five lights, you can provide an opposing force (and hopefully the more drastic the indoctrination, the easier it is to argue against), but for homeschooling there is no such symmetry.

            In practice, I think homeschooling leads to far more indoctrination than public schooling. Probably the homeschooled are more likely to share the political/religious views of their parents than the publicly educated, but it’s still only a small minority of the latter group that diverge before college. Of course, possibly this is because indoctrination isn’t real and beliefs come from mostly-genetic moral foundations.

          • cassander says:

            @rlms

            >To what extent do public schools turn kids into open minded secular humanists? I would bet that the majority of people share their parents’ religious views when they graduate high school.

            modern public schools don’t really try to do that, so it’s not suprising that they don’t achieve it. But that there isn’t an explicit, articulated goal of achieving a certain named philosophy in students doesn’t mean that there indoctrination towards the whatever you want to want to call the vague mishmash of the aspects of modern progressivism that are popular among teachers and school administrators.

          • It is possible for a country to constitutionally forbid certain kinds of indoctrination in public shcools, so that is not the only alternative.

            It is possible to forbid kinds of indoctrination that the people running the system disapprove of. Those are not usually the kinds one wants to worry about.

            Schools are supposed to teach people things. We don’t have a divine oracle to determine what things are true. The same teaching that someone who agrees with it regards as education someone who disagrees with it will see as indoctrination.

            Steve Landsberg tells the story of two encounters with his daughter’s (in both cases public) school. The first involved the school taking the truth of Christian beliefs for granted. When Steve pointed out that they shouldn’t the teacher was very apologetic–it had not occurred to him (or her–I don’t remember) that not everyone shared those beliefs.

            The second time involved the truth of environmentalist beliefs, our moral obligation to take care of Mother Earth. When Steve objected, the teacher’s response was that nobody could disagree with that.

          • Matt M says:

            In the context of the present day US, or in general? (And if the former, in the meaning all parents or just homeschooling parents?)

            In general, and all parents. State schools indoctrinate their pupils with pro-state views by definition.

            Some parents might choose to similarly indoctrinate, but surely some will not.

          • albatross11 says:

            Matt M:

            Sort-of, maybe, kinda. I mean when I grew up (and went to relatively crappy rural public schools) we said the pledge of allegiance every day, and we studied American history for many unproductive years and then had one world history class in high school. And the American history was almost fairy-tale level, with all the rough edges filed off, till high school. On the other hand, I sure don’t think we got a lot of explicit pro-state indoctrination. I don’t think we talked about the ethnic cleansing of the Indians, say, but we did talk a lot about slavery, since that got us to the Civil War.

            I’m sure there was plenty of implicit indoctrination–the underlying assumption of almost everyone there was that a state much like ours was necessary for a decent life, that something like American democracy was the highest form of government you could have, etc. But it wasn’t like we were being raised to be Draka or something.

          • John Schilling says:

            if your kids’ school tells them that there are five lights, you can provide an opposing force

            And they might believe you, or they might believe the school. But only if you actually do speak in opposition to the school, which you won’t if you believed the school’s five-lights version yourself, or if your parents did and so nobody told you the truth.

            School vs. parents (iff the parents care) leads asymptotically to complete faith in five lights; the truth decays with a half-life of one generation. Even if the truth gives the parents who know and care a persuasive edge, the end result is still inexorably complete faith in five lights, albeit slower.

            but for homeschooling there is no such symmetry.

            Homeschooling, or parental choice in schooling, gives you a slow random walk rather than an inexorable Cthulhu-sinestrian swim. Add in even a modest degree of adult persuasion, and it will be a random-ish walk centered the truth.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            @TheAncientGeekAKA1Z

            Explain how giving parents free rein to indoctrinat their children maximises human liberty.

            I think I had simply assumed everybody here already grokked the standard case for letting the market provide those goods for which quality matters most. If one fully groks the standard case – if one can easily explain how, say, having the market provide groceries gets us better groceries compared to having state-run supermarkets and bakeries then education isn’t a special case – it’s pretty much the exact same thing.

            If you think market provision means some people will have trouble buying food/education, that might imply an argument for subsidizing some food/education, but it’s not an argument for having the government directly run all the supermarkets/schools and hire all the checkout clerks/teachers using taxpayer funds. If you think some businesses might cheat their customers, that might imply an argument for laws against fraud, but again, it’s not an argument for nationalizing the whole sector.

            And sure, one might imagine a world in which centralizing education under a single bureaucracy made education work better, but…that’s probably not the world we live in.

            But setting all that aside, I personally tend to think in terms of wanting to minimize single points of failure. If nearly all the schools are run by the same regional organization, there’s room for some sort of Ministry of Truth to decide what gets taught to everyone, which can only be done by ensuring that less popular views get wiped out or denigrated or watered down into meaninglessness.

            And, well…truth matters.

            (And also: freedom counts as a “less popular view” in this context)

            It’s a lot harder to know if what you’ve learned is true if everybody in your town learned their facts in the same order you did from the same book you did at the same age you did so you never encounter opposition. One failure mode is that the Ministry of Truth introduces popular deliberate falsehoods into the curriculum; another failure mode is that the Ministry ends up dumbing things down to the lowest common denominator, refusing to teach things it knows are true because somebody finds those things too offensive to say outright.

            In practice we do tend to get a certain amount of regional variation – school boards in California spend extra effort teaching kids false things about recycling, while school boards in Texas spend extra effort not teaching kids true things about about evolution – but within each region it’s a local monoculture. Teaching only true ideas isn’t an available option, but what might be an available option is a world where different people learned different ideas in different ways and in different orders because they attend many different kinds of schools. A world where one school can try radical experiments and other schools can copy the experiments that work better at producing happy smart well-adjusted well-informed kids while experiments that don’t work as well fall by the wayside. An educational ecosystem, not a monoculture.

            Does any of that help?

          • rlms says:

            @Matt M
            Sure, if you’re defining pro-liberty as anti-state then I agree.

            @John Schilling

            School vs. parents (iff the parents care) leads asymptotically to complete faith in five lights; the truth decays with a half-life of one generation. Even if the truth gives the parents who know and care a persuasive edge, the end result is still inexorably complete faith in five lights, albeit slower.

            That’s true only if school and parents are the only factors that affect beliefs, and if the schools’ positions stay constant. But even granting those assumptions as true enough, it says nothing about the speed of convergence. And empirically, I think it is fairly slow.

          • John Schilling says:

            That’s true only if school and parents are the only factors that affect beliefs,

            If other factors are of significant importance, then “we must have universal public education or there will be nothing to counter the you-know-whos indoctrinating their children with false beliefs!” argument loses most of its force.

            and if the schools’ positions stay constant.

            I think it’s pretty much a given that state-run schools are going to be constant in their position on “It is good for the State to have more power”, and everything related to it. And I think that is more powerful than you give it credit for.

          • rlms says:

            If other factors are of significant importance, then “we must have universal public education or there will be nothing to counter the you-know-whos indoctrinating their children with false beliefs!” argument loses most of its force.

            Who’s using that argument? My stance is that universal public education (in the sense that public education should be available to all, and some form of education should be mandatory in some age range) is beneficial for various reasons, but I don’t think ability to counter indoctrination is one of them.

            I think public schooling is on balance better than homeschooling with regard to indoctrination, but I don’t think it’s a major problem for either. Widespread private schooling (replacing public) could be significantly worse than both however. Schools that cater to opinionated minorities could end up indoctrinating children of the apathetic majority.

          • John Schilling says:

            Who’s using that argument?

            You certainly seemed to be. This,

            My stance is that universal public education [mandatory] is beneficial for various reasons, but I don’t think ability to counter indoctrination is one of them.

            seems contrary to your prior statement,

            if your kids’ school tells them that there are five lights, you can provide an opposing force, but for homeschooling there is no such symmetry.

            Either five-lights level indoctrination is a problem that we fear parents might impose and for which public education is the remedy, or it isn’t. If it is, then your stance is that counter-indoctrination is a benefit of public education. If it isn’t, then we don’t need to worry about “symmetry” for home-schooling. Possibly I’m missing something here, in which case please clarify.

          • rlms says:

            @John Schilling
            Various people upthread say that indoctrination is inevitable, and that choosing between homeschooling and public education is just picking your poison. This grants that parental indoctrination is a problem. I am saying that even if you think both sides want to indoctrinate, the situation isn’t symmetrical. So if indoctrination is the only factor, those people should prefer public schools (or at least, not straightforwardly prefer homeschooling because it gives diversity in indoctrinations).

            Personally, I don’t agree that parental indoctrination is a problem. But if argued along those lines, I’d have to also argue that public school indoctrination isn’t a problem either, which would be a harder sell than my argument above (and exactly what counts as problematic indoctrination is pretty subjective anyway).

          • I am saying that even if you think both sides want to indoctrinate, the situation isn’t symmetrical.

            I agree.

            So if indoctrination is the only factor, those people should prefer public schools

            On the contrary. If kids are all indoctrinated with the same ideas there is much less opportunity for them to later reject the indoctrination as a result of interacting with others than if different kids are indoctrinated with different ideas. The society is much more at risk of error if there is a single orthodoxy that might be wrong than if there are lots of different views, hence people willing to find errors in arguments for any of them.

            It’s called “diversity.”

          • rlms says:

            @DavidFriedman
            Yes, I acknowledged that factor in favour of homeschooling in my parenthetical. Personally I think the balance is still in favour of public schooling, but that’s an empirical question. What do you think the distribution of indoctrinatedness for homeschooled/public schooled students looks like? I think the less indoctrinated half is probably similar for both, but the homeschoolers with the greatest indoctrinatedness are much worse off than the most indoctrinated public schoolers.

          • albatross11 says:

            John Schilling:

            So, that seems plausible, but it wasn’t the sense I came away from my public schooling with at all. There were several teachers who expressed skepticism with state power or explained why there were particular limits on state power in US law in our social studies classes, and I definitely didn’t get any sense of a pervasive “the state should be more powerful” message. Maybe I’m just dense, but I didn’t notice it.

          • albatross11 says:

            rlms:

            It seems like this turns on the uniformity/diversity of homeschoolers and private schools.

            On one side, you can imagine a world where all homeschoolers are fundamentalist Christians, and so homeschooling just gives X% of the kids a single indoctrination.

            On the other, you can imagine a world where every homeschooler is different, and so homeschooling gives X% of the kids a more-or-less random and very wide range of indoctrination.

            The people I know who have homeschooled their kids are extremely diverse intellectually, but I am sure this is not a random sample, and I don’t know off the top of my head how this looks.

            In terms of private schools, similarly, you’re looking at who operates schools and what indoctrination parents want. If you replaced every public school in America with a Catholic school, you’d probably get more uniform indoctrination. If you replaced public schools with vouchers for private schools without limit, I think you’d get a wide range of schools–many religious schools of different religions, many nonreligious schools or not-especially-religious schools (the way Boy Scouts or AA have someplace for God/religion in them without being particularly religious organizations) whose focus was on, say, Montessori methods for teaching, or math and science, or ecology, or whatever.

            My intuition is that, in the end, you’d end up with schools whose indoctrination roughly matched the diversity of the views of the parents. Maybe different in different regions, among different races and classes and ethnicities, very likely different by religion, but massively different by parental interests and beliefs.

          • but the homeschoolers with the greatest indoctrinatedness are much worse off than the most indoctrinated public schoolers.

            That might be right, since the public school students are also getting influence from their parents, who may disagree with the school. It’s less the case for private schools, since the parents will select a school only partly on the basis of how much it agrees with them.

            Part of the issue is whether the home schooled kids get to interact with others–something very easy nowadays over the internet but likely to happen in other contexts. If the others you interact with have all been taught the same view of the world you have, which is more likely to happen with the public school, interacting with them doesn’t make you less indoctrinated. If they have learned a different view, it does.

          • The Red Foliot says:

            Public schools indoctrinate you… but not intellectually. The intellectual influence of public schools is weak, maybe even negative. The more substantial form of indoctrination comes from its social influence. It is the other kids who indoctrinate you. Mostly they indoctrinate you into thinking that learning is “gay” and that the ideal way to live is to debauch yourself with sex, drugs, video games, and alcohol. So the choice is whether you want communities and individuals indoctrinating kids in whatever ways they prefer, or whether you want an aimless and ineffectual government-sponsored program to stifle any controlled attempt at indoctrination, out of sheer incompetence, so that everyone degenerates into monkeys.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            From what I’ve read, homeschooling parents did make an effort for their children to have a social life, even before the internet.

            Some schools allow home-schooled kids to take part in extra-curricular activities.

          • In our area, there was a home schooling group that got together once a week at a local park. My younger son used it to get players for the D&D game he ran.

            I don’t remember either of our home schooled children acquiring any real friends that way, however. Most of their social interaction, some of which did result in long term friendships, was online.

          • n an inexorable Cthulhu-sinestrian swim.

            Like the one that put Trump in office.

          • I think I had simply assumed everybody here already grokked the standard case for letting the market provide those goods for which quality matters most. If one fully groks the standard case – if one can easily explain how, say, having the market provide groceries gets us better groceries compared to having state-run supermarkets and bakeries

            Nope. Everyone knows what a potato is. Provision of technically/expert services such as law , medicine and education is different, because people can’t make good judgements about them. Ordinary market mechanisms need to be supplemented by professional accreditation, or third party advisors. As I have pointed out, there is evidence that some parents will provide objectively bad medical care for their children, if allowed to.

            But setting all that aside, I personally tend to think in terms of wanting to minimize single points of failure. If nearly all the schools are run by the same regional organization, there’s room for some sort of Ministry of Truth to decide what gets taught to everyone, which can only be done by ensuring that less popular views get wiped out or denigrated or watered down into meaninglessness.

            States have the opportunity to minimise indoctrination by mandating public schooling, and preventing religious(etc) indoctrination in public schools. States also have the opportunity to forbid indoctrination in private schools. (Minimising indoctrination just doesn’t mean minimising diversity).

            But right-libertopias have no mechanism to prevent private indoctrination , and therefore upper limit on indoctrination.

          • States have the opportunity to minimise indoctrination by mandating public schooling, and preventing religious(etc) indoctrination in public schools.

            Religious parents have the opportunity to minimize religious indoctrination by insisting that their children study other religions, but most of them won’t, since they have no reason to.

            States have the opportunity to minimize political indoctrination in the public schools but most of them won’t, both because such indoctrination benefits them and because the people in question view the beliefs in question as true.

            You seem to have an implicit philosopher king model of the state, in which it, unlike a parent, is a wise person with only benevolent motives.

            On the other hand, a parent does not have the opportunity to maximize the indoctrination of his kids, because those kids, both as children and adults, will be interacting with others reared by other parents and taught other views. The state does have the opportunity, if all kids go to public schools, to make sure they are all indoctrinated with the same beliefs–limited only by whatever other beliefs the parents offer their kids.

            And those parents were also once kids indoctrinated in whatever views the public schools teach.

            I’m curious, incidentally, as to your definition of “religious indoctrination.” We can probably agree that teaching all the kids that Catholicism is true, or teaching all the kids that Sunni Islam is true, qualifies. But what about teaching all the kids that Catholicism is false or that Sunni Islam is false? Is the only reason not to count that as also religious indoctrination the fact that you don’t happen to believe in either of those systems of belief?

            Suppose all kids are taught that we have an obligation to Mother Earth so should not litter or pollute or waste energy, or … . Does that count as religious indoctrination? How about if they are taught that they shouldn’t lie or cheat on tests? That they should obey the law? That they should vote?

          • States have the opportunity to minimize political indoctrination in the public schools but most of them won’t, both because such indoctrination benefits them and because the people in question view the beliefs in question as true.

            You seem to have an implicit philosopher king model of the state, in which it, unlike a parent, is a wise person with only benevolent motives.

            No, I am just talking about liberal states.

            On the other hand, a parent does not have the opportunity to maximize the indoctrination of his kids, because those kids, both as children and adults, will be interacting with others reared by other parents and taught other views

            You think that happens in Iran? If you assume pre-existing diversity, then the libertarian problem with indoctrination doesn’t seem to bad, and , in fact, the libertarian problem with “freedom of association” doesn’t seem that bad either. Libertarian solutions work if you just happen to be starting from exactly the right place, ie magic. Statist solutions work by constitutional constraints, ie by mechanism.

            I’m curious, incidentally, as to your definition of “religious indoctrination.” We can probably agree that teaching all the kids that Catholicism is true, or teaching all the kids that Sunni Islam is true, qualifies. But what about teaching all the kids that Catholicism is false or that Sunni Islam is false? Is the only reason not to count that as also religious indoctrination the fact that you don’t happen to believe in either of those systems of belief?

            I can’t argue apriori what the objectively correct age of majority is, but that doesn’t seem to be a problem in practice.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            No, I am just talking about liberal states.

            Liberal states aren’t against indoctrination, they’re just in favour of liberal indoctrination. In Britain, for example, the schools inspection board marks down schools which don’t teach their children about a sufficiently wide set of sexual practices.

          • You think that happens in Iran? If you assume pre-existing diversity, then the libertarian problem with indoctrination doesn’t seem to bad, … Statist solutions work by constitutional constraints, ie by mechanism.

            And you think that if Iran had constitutional rules on what children had to be taught, they would include a critique of Twelver Shia doctrine?

            If children in Iran were taught by their parents, a majority would get the current religious orthodoxy, some would get other views. If they all go to public schools, they will all be taught the orthodoxy.

            Isn’t that obvious? The situation where you argue that parental control doesn’t work–lack of diversity–is the situation in which state control works still worse.

            I wrote:

            I’m curious, incidentally, as to your definition of “religious indoctrination.” We can probably agree that teaching all the kids that Catholicism is true, or teaching all the kids that Sunni Islam is true, qualifies. But what about teaching all the kids that Catholicism is false or that Sunni Islam is false? Is the only reason not to count that as also religious indoctrination the fact that you don’t happen to believe in either of those systems of belief?

            Your response was:

            I can’t argue apriori what the objectively correct age of majority is, but that doesn’t seem to be a problem in practice.

            Which doesn’t seem to respond to my point. Do you agree that teaching views of religion that you agree with counts as indoctrination just as teaching views you disagree with does? If so, what do you want your non-indoctrinating schools to teach about religion–pretend it doesn’t exist? How about other issues that people disagree on?

    • I think your statement is correct in direction but too strong, so far as the academic world is concerned. As a libertarian I agree with the academic orthodoxy on more issues than if I was a conservative–in some cases, such as immigration, holding a stronger version of the position than liberals.

      • Well... says:

        To what extent do you think your agreeing with them* is really part of their calculus about whether to find you offensive or threatening? Are so many of them that rational?

        *Here I mean the general “them”, not the ones who are familiar with you or who for whatever reason are very literate in terms of different political ideologies.

        • I don’t think these are matters of objective calculation. If you agree with someone on some issues that tends to make you think of him as a reasonable person, so when he disagrees with you on another issue you either figure he might be right or, more likely, that he is making an understandable but unfortunate error.

          The same thing happens if you know and respect someone due to interactions having nothing to do with politics. One of my SCA friends has been heavily involved in internet regulation issues. The fact that he thinks net neutrality was a good idea makes me less confident that it was a bad idea–because I know he is a reasonable and sensible person.

          • Well... says:

            What I meant was, do you think most of those people first get to know your political ideas and then say “Yes, David Friedman is a libertarian, and although I’m not we seem to agree on several things so he is less threatening to me than a solid right-winger would be,” or do they gather only enough information to be able to say “Wait, David Friedman is a libertarian! That means he must believe [X Y and Z strawmen about libertarianism, some of which I agree with and some of which I don’t]” with additional information they learn about you only serving to galvanize this view through confirmation bias?

    • JayT says:

      I think the only reason that a libertarian would be considered less threatening is that there is some common ground with the PC mainstream, as you mention gay marriage, abortion, immigration, etc.

      However, as soon as free speech or freedom of association come into play, then they are more often than not labeled bigots by the people that are strongly offended by conservatives.

    • blacktrance says:

      I’m a libertarian, and I think this was unambiguously true until several years ago, but now it’s more complicated. With progressive/libertarian victories on same-sex marriage and (to a lesser degree) marijuana legalization, and the decline of political social conservatism as a Republican faction, it’s become increasingly difficult for to see socons as prominent opponents, so the alliance (never that strong to begin with) broke down. Interestingly, now each side often “reads” the other as socially conservative – e.g. progressives sometimes see libertarians’ opposition to SJ as motivated by covert social conservatism, while libertarians see SJ as soconism wrapped in anti-oppression rhetoric. There’s also been somewhat of a trend of progressives easing up on harsh criticism of social conservatives, seeing it as classist.

      In theory, Republican-style social conservatism is beyond the pale. In practice, that’s not salient because progressives don’t expect to encounter anyone with those views. When they meet with disagreement (whether online on in real life), it’s more likely to be from a libertarian. So we’ve become more prominent as an enemy.

      • Well... says:

        There’s also been somewhat of a trend of progressives easing up on harsh criticism of social conservatives, seeing it as classist.

        Really? That’s interesting if it’s true but I’m not aware of it. Curious whether others have noticed this same thing.

        • Matt M says:

          A bit. Maybe more among the younger, SJ-inclined crowd. Genuine hillbillies get elegies (they can’t help where they’re from or how they were raised), but “techbros” are treated as irredeemable scum of the Earth.

          • Well... says:

            Hm. The only related experience I recall is a walking-Jezebel-article coworker complaining about her in-laws, who it sounds like are “hillbillies.” She sort of briefly winked at a “they can’t help where they’re from” attitude but got right back to complaining about them, calling them sexist, chauvinist, obsolete/stuck in a bygone era, etc. and threw in something along the lines of “I don’t know how my husband escaped being that way but thank goodness he did.”

          • Matt M says:

            Think back to all of those articles before and after the election that were basically “Ivy League educated New York-based journalist travels to West Virginia to ‘understand’ Trump voters.” They treated rural social conservatives as some sort of bizarre and uncontacted tribe. Not civilized, like us, to be sure, but also not worthy of outright contempt.

            Nobody is attempting to “understand” the techbros. They’re just dismissed as clearly evil.

          • Brad says:

            I’m not sure what the bitterness is about, you have the explanation right there:

            “they can’t help where they’re from or how they were raised”

            Do you really think you deserve some kind of social pass for telling people that you think black people are are dumb and that we should cut food stamps — because, what, you think you don’t have any choice but to not only think it but identify as someone that thinks those things?

            You had and have every opportunity to hear about and embrace the gospel, yet rejected it. Of course people are going to see that differently than someone from an un-contacted tribe. That’s how human nature works.

          • quanta413 says:

            @Brad

            What the fuck? Did the comment you’re responding to get deleted or something? I’m not sure what any of the above has to do with anyone thinking “black people are dumb” except in the vaguest guilt by association sense. Is techbros now being defined as “Silicon valley KKK members” or something?

          • Matt M says:

            You had and have every opportunity to hear about and embrace the gospel, yet rejected it. Of course people are going to see that differently than someone from an un-contacted tribe. That’s how human nature works.

            Of course it is.

            But it results in a somewhat counterintuitive result wherein someone with a thick southern accent who says “Mama told me them dark-skinned folks are all bred to be criminals” is brushed off as “Oh sure he’s ignorant but he can’t help it” while someone who writes a 500-page book with detailed sources citing that studies have shown people of African decent have, on average, lower IQs by 5-10 points is treated as Hitler incarnate.

          • Well... says:

            @Quanta413: Brad’s comment was written in a bit of a confusing way. He’s saying the techbros naturally get less sympathy from SJWs because techbros, being up on the latest thought trends and located in hip places like the Bay Area, are presumably saturated in the PC holy water and therefore have apparently chosen to reject it, unlike the unbaptized Hillbillies who just haven’t yet learned about (e.g.) race and gender being social constructs.

            (This is meant neither as an endorsement nor refutation of Brad’s comment, just trying to clarify it.)

    • Baeraad says:

      I completely agree with the statement. I would even go so far as to say that the politically correct mainstream is pretty libertarian, just in a moderate, wishy-washy way. Present any libertarian view to a liberal and they’re most likely to squirm and say, “weeeeeell, I wouldn’t go that far, but it’s true that…”

      The funny thing is of course that apparently “socially conservative, fiscally liberal” is the most common outlook according to surveys. I guess it’s the position that resonates with the lukewarm majority (“let’s keep everything mostly the way it is, but sure, I guess I could stand to give some more money to the needy”), but lukewarm people aren’t the ones getting into heated arguments online or starting petitions to have someone fired for not agreeing with them.

      So to the parts of the politically correct mainstream that actually get things done? Yes, libertarianism is about a thousand times more acceptable.

      • Well... says:

        Right. Most people, even if they align broadly with the SJW left, seem amenable to statements that start with “it shouldn’t be the government’s business whether…”

      • Incurian says:

        Present any libertarian view to a liberal and they’re most likely to squirm and say, “weeeeeell, I wouldn’t go that far, but it’s true that…”

        Similarly, I’ve found the best way to get people on the right to reaffirm their [possibly previously non-existent] libertarian bona fides is to suggest anarchism might be a good idea.

    • Brad says:

      Libertarianism is not nearly as threatening or offensive to the politically correct mainstream (think Overton window) as social conservatism (which for these purposes includes things like e.g. criticism of gay marriage and feminism, being anti-abortion, etc.). Whereas a social conservative could be fired, blackballed, or otherwise beleaguered for his views, a libertarian–even a quite extreme one–is mostly just seen as a bit kooky but is not in any comparable danger.

      I think there’s some things that need to be unpacked in there.

      I might agree with the statement *all other things being equal* but there are other things that correlate with those beliefs. If the social conservative is an older guy with a big family that works hard and the only way you know that he is socially conservative is that he that he never ever curses and you think you may have overheard him talking on the phone one time about going to a pro-life rally, that’s going to garner a different reaction than a twenty-something guy that can’t wait to pigeonhole his co-workers and explain to them at great length how taxation is theft and we need to go back to the gold standard.

      Separately, we need to account for the rise of the “alt right” or whatever else you want to call it — people that aren’t evangelical Christians but have very strong opinions on “social issues”. I have rarely seen such people labeled “social conservatives” even if that is technically accurate.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Separately, we need to account for the rise of the “alt right” or whatever else you want to call it — people that aren’t evangelical Christians but have very strong opinions on “social issues”.

        Not even just not evangelical, often not Christian at all. Spencer is an atheist, and some white identarians truck with neo-paganism and assert that Christianity itself is a Semitic religion inflicted upon Europe by tricky Jews. They call Jesus a “k*ke on a stick,” which is kind of “frowned upon” in socially conservative circles.

        ETA: There’s an interesting article in The Atlantic about the secularization of radical American politics. The alt right isn’t holy rollers, and there aren’t so many Reverends in BLM.

        • Well... says:

          Right, the all-trite are a kind of new thing ideologically. A lot of them are pro-abortion, atheist/anti-Christian or sometimes neopagan, pro-gay marriage (though with a weird snark layer over it?), pro-pot legalization, etc. The only issues that would mark them as socially conservative have to do with race (which for them is tied to immmigration) and maybe gun rights. (Others I’m not thinking of?)

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Pretty much. Spencer also supports universal healthcare (for his white ethnostate). There is a lot of outgroup homogeneity bias going on with regards to Republicans/the right and the “alt right.” Left-leaning individuals and the left-leaning portions of the media seem to think the alt-right is either just saying what conservatives really believe but won’t say, or are simply a more extreme version of conservatives.

            But there’s a reason why you never see Ann Coulter quoting the “scholarly research of Dr. David Duke” or Sean Hannity interviewing “friend of the show Richard Spencer:” conservatives don’t agree with these people on any issue except maybe immigration (but in a far less racially motivated way). If I were to engage Richard Spencer and cure him of his racism he’d be a big-government, pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, pro-universal healthcare anti-racist atheist. That is, a Democrat.

          • Brad says:

            A lot of them are pro-abortion, atheist/anti-Christian or sometimes neopagan, pro-gay marriage (though with a weird snark layer over it?), pro-pot legalization, etc.

            This doesn’t match my experiences. At best there’s grudging acceptance for gay marriage, for example.

            But it is such an amorphous term and I couldn’t find any polling. (Found this for libertarians http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/08/25/in-search-of-libertarians/)

            My overarching point was that someone like Damore (which is what this is about, right?) is not the central example that comes to mind when I hear “social conservative”.

          • albatross11 says:

            I’m not convinced I’m at all plugged into the mainstream of alt-right thinking, but reading Steve Sailer and Greg Cochran plus their comment sections, my impressions are:

            a. Strong dissent from both right and left on a lot of factual claims about race and ethnicity and religion and sex/gender. (Black/white IQ gap, whether Mexican immigrants assimilate to white American performance, whether Muslim immigrants are a big risk to import terrorism, etc.)

            b. More agreement with cons than libs on specific bits of race-related policy–affirmative action, discrimination cases based on disparate impact, etc.

            c. Skepticism about US foreign policy, sometimes on h.bd grounds, but more commonly just on grounds that a lot of liberals and libertarians can agree with.

            d. Skepticism about a lot of mainstream economic policy–immigration, but also free trade, extremely deferential regulation of big financial companies, lax enforcement of antitrust law, etc.

            e. Some skepticism of police conduct, but mixed with a lot of what looks to me to be tribal identification with police facing down criminals, especially minority criminals.

            f. Massive skepticism about the honestly and competence of mainstream US media. Sometimes this extends to right-wing media like Fox, but it seems very pervasive when talking about the Washington Post/NYT/NPR/CNN consensus view of reality. (I think a lot of this is a symptom of the fact that the strongest alt-right ideas/positions tend to be the ones the mainstream media sees as outside the window of acceptable discussion, and so has a really hard time handling well.)

            g. Some level of pushback on SJW-style concerns about trans rights, gay rights, etc. Not much overt of hostility toward gays, but a lot of skepticism about the gay rights movement.

            h. Much less hostility toward entitlement programs than I think you’d see from either libertarians or Paul Ryan style Republicans.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Conrad:

            But there’s a reason why you never see Ann Coulter quoting the “scholarly research of Dr. David Duke” or Sean Hannity interviewing “friend of the show Richard Spencer:” conservatives don’t agree with these people on any issue except maybe immigration (but in a far less racially motivated way). If I were to engage Richard Spencer and cure him of his racism he’d be a big-government, pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, pro-universal healthcare anti-racist atheist. That is, a Democrat.

            Reminds me of the British National Party, who were (back in the Blair days, before they started splintering and dropped off the radar) widely describes as “far-right”, although on virtually every policy except immigration they were noticeably to the left of the Labour Party (they were big on NHS spending and on nationalising things, for example), and most of their support came from inner-city Labour strongholds.

          • Well... says:

            @Brad:

            My overarching point was that someone like Damore (which is what this is about, right?) is not the central example that comes to mind when I hear “social conservative”.

            I don’t think of Damore as socially conservative, and he did not inspire my OP.

            (Damore seems to align most closely with Gray Tribe — if I remember right he was expressly supportive of racial/gender diversity in the workplace but questioned the wisdom and ethicality of how it was being accomplished — though I don’t know what he thinks his politics are.)

          • Well... says:

            Richard Spencer is gay, isn’t he?

          • rlms says:

            @Well…
            No (at least, he was married to a woman). You might be thinking of Milo, who is (and is married to a black man).

          • Well... says:

            Are you sure? Doesn’t he live with another man? And doesn’t he come off a bit…*that gesture Fred Sanford does by wobbling his hand from side to side*…and then there’s the haircut.

            I’m pretty sure Richard Spencer is gay.

          • skef says:

            @Well is one of our local belles of the third grade playground when it comes to this subject. He hates him some faggots, and he knows ’em when he sees ’em! And he has learned that getting his digs in this way minimizes the blow-back.

          • Aapje says:

            @rlms & Well

            Being or having* been married to a woman doesn’t preclude a person from being gay (or bi), but neither does a less masculine/more feminine demeanor mean that a person is necessarily gay.

            A little googling shows me no actual evidence that he ever had a gay relationship.

            I don’t think it is reasonable to conclude that a less masculine demeanor combined with pro-gay statements are sufficient proof that someone is gay. It is merely solid proof that he is not anti-gay.

            * Wiki says that the most recent personal statement by Spencer from April 2017 is that he is now together with his wife (again?).

          • Well... says:

            @skef:

            Wait, you think I actually hate gay people? I can’t tell if you’re being facetious.

            OK for the record: — and I hate clarifying like this because now it’s ruined.. — Suspecting Richard Spencer of being gay is my own little subversive in-joke, which I admit I consistently deliver way too flatly/dryly to be understood properly in a text-based medium. (And looking back on it, I regret having left out the part about “Don’t Spencer and Jack Donovan live together in a McMansion in exurban Bozeman?”)

          • skef says:

            Of course you hate gay people, although you might not fully realize it. Trust me, I have a sixth sense for this sort of thing.

          • Trust me, I have a sixth sense for this sort of thing.

            Why would you expect either Well or anyone else to trust you on that?

          • albatross11 says:

            Bug report: sarcasm tag not working on SSC.

          • Well... says:

            @albatross11:

            I didn’t know there was a tag like that. How would it work normally?

            OK OK I’m kidding. Sheesh. Now back to Richard Spencer asking Jack Donovan (both men are shirtless in this scene) what he thinks of his haircut…

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I’m going to join in the chorus of people who don’t think that libertarians get a pass over (other) conservatives.

      Monied libertarians are figures of hatred, e.g. the Kochs.
      Armed libertarians are figures of fear, e.g. the Bundys.
      Academic libertarians are only tolerated because they’re broke and defenseless.

      This is an uncharitable take but I think as a general pattern it holds true: self-defense is the most unforgivable crime in modern liberalism. If you can protect yourself or can afford to pay someone else to protect you then that is proof of evil in the eyes of many if not most people.

      • Brad says:

        This is an uncharitable take but

        Is this the rationalist version of “no offense, but”?

      • Well... says:

        I’ve argued elsewhere that I don’t think the Kochs are widely regarded as libertarians by the Left. (Though this may be a false equivalence; those in a position to affect the Kochs — other rich people? high-profile journalists? — probably do know they are libertarians.)

        I don’t think most people really fear the Bundys. Instead I sense they are regarded as goofy whackos, sort of like “sovereign citizens,” or Mike Nichols from Bowling for Columbine, or that Steve Austin character from 30 Rock who was running for congress.

        self-defense is the most unforgivable crime in modern liberalism.

        An intriguing idea, although I can envision a possible exception for certain racially-charged situations.

      • rlms says:

        To be fair, sovereign citizen types can be quite dangerous if you’re a police officer (see here).

        • Well... says:

          I’m not saying it’d be irrational to fear that type of libertarian if you made enemies with one, I’m saying most people simply see them as tragic/silly.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Deluded and unfocused, but that doesn’t make them not dangerous. Generally speaking I view sovereign citizens the way I view a loaded gun: expect that a bullet is about to come out of the barrel at anytime.

          • Well... says:

            Intellectually you are right. I’m saying the popular conception of them is as ridiculous and worthy of mockery. The mass action is to point and laugh, not to buy extra door locks.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Well:
            I think that is a function of numbers and proximity, as well as their actual ideas being ridiculous.

            People laugh at Scientology as well, but also view it as dangerous.

            I think you are trying to set up an either/or dichotomy that doesn’t really exist?

          • Well... says:

            Now you’ve got me thinking. Does one exist? Intuitively it feels like one does: either your ideology is something that e.g. local news stations would basically automatically characterize as evil and backward, or it isn’t.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Well:
            No, I think you have the incorrect intuition.

            The first rule of local news is “If it bleeds, it leads.” Local news covers things entirely in terms of current outcome.

            I contend that if a sov-cit rants in the public square about fringed flags, it gets covered as absurdity. If he starts shooting at the cop cars that have driven onto his “territory” it gets covered as an evil to be feared.

          • Well... says:

            The event does, but with what attitude is his ideology regarded? Even in the shooting scenario, I can envision the news anchors snickering as they read a brief description of what a sovereign citizen is off the teleprompter.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Well:

            Militia movement? The Bundy Ranch?

            Again, I think you are misreading things.

    • MereComments says:

      I agree with the folks who say this used to be the case, but increasingly is not.

      From where I’m sitting, libertarians are seen as, at best, rapacious anti-social greedheads, and at worst (and more likely) closet white supremacists. I would not openly identify as a libertarian any more than I’d openly identify as a social conservative.

    • mdet says:

      I think labels like “liberal”, “conservative”, and “libertarian” usually obscure more than they illuminate so my take:

      People who approach politics in a technocratic way are likely to see disagreement as simply a matter of flawed logic. People who approach politics with a sense of moral imperative will be more likely to see disagreement as an existential conflict. I think this mostly holds, regardless of partisanship.

      I feel like “Taxation is theft” is the “moral imperative” version of libertarianism.

      • Matt M says:

        It absolutely is that. And intentionally so. Designed specifically to allow libertarianism to compete in an increasingly emotional and less technocratic world.

        • Nornagest says:

          The trouble with “taxation is theft” is that if you’re talking to someone that doesn’t already have the intuition that taxation is theft, they can just say “no, that’s stupid” and go right back to whatever slogan they were repeating before.

          Slogans are great for riling up the base, but if you don’t have a base to speak of, riling it up is a losing proposition.

          • albatross11 says:

            It’s also “the worst argument in the world.”

            Taxation is rather like theft, and maybe you can make an argument that it’s morally the same as me stealing your car, but the catchphrase seems like it’s intended to import all my moral intuitions about grand theft auto to a very different situation.

          • Thegnskald says:

            It is rather more effective than most people here will give it credit for, not necessarily because it imports moral intuitions, but because it causes a moment of confusion in someone who hasn’t encountered the idea before.

            Because it isn’t immediately obvious why it isn’t theft.

            It appears weaker than it is, as an argumentative tactic, because pretty much everyone here who can comment on it has already encountered it, and has already found counter-arguments.

            The “worst argument in the world” counter-argument isn’t strong – because it concedes the point that it is the same as the, but merely treats the moral implications as different. It fundamentally requires a sort of utilitarianism; deontologically, the argument is harder to pose, because it requires creating a special class of people who are allowed to take things from you without your consent.

            The strong counter-argument requires a broader philosophical grounding, in treating property as a creation of government, rather than a natural right. This requires rejecting a lot of moral intuitions most people are loathe to do away with, however, because the idea that the natural state of affairs is one in which you can only hold what you can defend is repugnant to most people. Noticing that property as we understand it today is a very modern notion is hard to come to grips with, because from a modern perspective, any other situation appears fundamentally injust.

          • Brad says:

            The preexisting commitments problem also exists for the “taxation is theft” proponent. Forget most people, most self identified libertarians think we need some government (e.g. for defense) and that means taxes.

            While the theft concept can perhaps admit some unusual exigent exceptions (think stealing medicine for a sick child type hypos) trying to argue that there’s an foreseeable, indefinite, routine case that is theft but nonetheless okay, but while some other stuff that looks awfully similar is also theft but in that case not okay, is a tough row to hoe.

            I can see how it might be effective for anarchists, but for any other sort of libertarian it doesn’t get you much. Arguing that theft is okay for common defense, but not for building highways doesn’t get you any further than arguing that taxes are okay for common defense, but not for building highways.

          • The strong counter-argument requires a broader philosophical grounding, in treating property as a creation of government, rather than a natural right.

            Property in general cannot be a creation of government because it exists both in stateless societies and, in a primitive form, among territorial animals.

            The particular rules of property in a given state are to some degree created by the government of that state.

            For more on some of this see my old piece on a positive account of rights.

            On the “taxation is theft” argument, it’s worth noting that Mike Huemer devotes a book to a critical examination of the arguments for why it isn’t–for why government is entitled to do things we would consider wrong if done by private individuals.

          • IrishDude says:

            @Brad

            While the theft concept can perhaps admit some unusual exigent exceptions (think stealing medicine for a sick child type hypos) trying to argue that there’s an foreseeable, indefinite, routine case that is theft but nonetheless okay, but while some other stuff that looks awfully similar is also theft but in that case not okay, is a tough row to hoe.

            Before going ancap, I was a nightwatch state libertarian that considered taxes to be a ‘necessary evil’ to produce things that I thought could not be produced on a market like security and arbitration. My assumption at that time was that competitive security and court services would lead to battling gangs and societal disarray, so the minimal theft needed to prevent that was justified.

            The argument justifying taxes (theft) for security and courts didn’t apply to things like highways, because at the time I was aware of private roads and highways, which made me think this resource could plausibly be produced by the market. Also, even if roads would have difficulty being produced on the market, I didn’t think theft was justified to make roads because the consequences of a poorer road system didn’t pass my theft justification threshold the way it could be justified to use theft to prevent violent clashes in society.

          • Brad says:

            @IrishDude
            Maybe I wasn’t clear or maybe you were just riffing.

            In case it was the former, what I was trying to say was that if in order to justify the statement “taxation is theft” you need to do major surgery on the definition of theft (i.e. in order to carve out this large area where it is morally justified) then it wasn’t really a true or useful statement in the first place.

            Like I said if you are anarchist, then sure it is a statement consistent with your beliefs, and I’ll leave it up to your judgment whether it is an effective proselytizing tool. But for the more usual type of libertarian it seems to create as many problems for the speaker as it does the listener.

          • albatross11 says:

            One issue here is that, even if there is some way to organize your society without coercion (taxes, eminent domain, mandatory jury duty, occasionally drafting a few people to work in the Imperial Salt Mines, etc.), that doesn’t mean we know how to do it.

            We have a lot of experience with trying to set up more-or-less Democratic, modern regimes in places we’d like better governed. Sometimes, they take, but often, they don’t–perhaps the underlying beliefs or institutions or culture or even personalities of the people in those countries doesn’t support what’s needed to keep such a government going. (Just having a country where essentially nobody in the military will go along with a coup is probably a really huge win for democracy remaining stable.)

            It’s quite possible that we would have the same problem transitioning to a lower- or zero-coercion sort of society. There is nothing in the world easier than speculating about some utopia when you don’t have to actually implement it with real humans and real enemies and real problems to deal with. [Added:]But even if you had one that worked, there would probably be a whole network of beliefs/institutions/etc. that supported it.

            This is one reason why I think David Friedman’s work on alternative legal/social systems is so interesting. It’s cool to see some worked examples where you get a functioning society with nothing that looks much like an IRS or a draft to the salt mines or whatever. Such examples might give us a kind of roadmap to decrease the amount of coercion by the state in our society, as we did when we got rid of the military draft in the US.

          • Matt M says:

            But for the more usual type of libertarian it seems to create as many problems for the speaker as it does the listener.

            See, I’m not sure this is true. I think even most “limited government” libertarians (i.e. not specifically AnCap) can be led to freely admit that they agree that taxation is theft. Their belief is not “taxation is morally justified” but rather something to the effect of “in certain situations, one immoral thing is better than the alternative.”

            I see it as almost similar to Scott’s point about “coordinated meanness.” He’s not necessarily saying that well-coordinated meanness is a morally virtuous outcome, only that it’s better than the alternative of non-coordinated meanness, and that “nobody is mean at all” is probably a utopian ideal that we cannot actually achieve.

            I think most libertarians see AnCaps as naieve utopians. That it’s totally fine in theory, it just wouldn’t “work” in real life. That a little bit of theft is acceptable in order to stop a whole lot of murder.

          • JayT says:

            I think a lot of libertarians would also believe that a use-based tax is not theft, as long as they aren’t forced to use that thing. For example, a toll road is not theft because you are paying for the privilege of driving on that road. If you don’t want to do that, you can just stay home. Something like property tax is very different because you can’t avoid it, even if you don’t want any of the services it provides.

          • The first half of Michael Huemer’s book on the problem of political authority consists of discussing and rebutting all of the arguments used to show that taxation is not theft, more generally that governments are entitled to do the sorts of things we regard as wrong when individuals do them.

            The second half is devoted to the one argument he thinks cannot be so easily rebutted–that if governments are not free to do such things very bad things will happen. He eventually rejects that argument too on the grounds that a stateless society is workable, but that’s what rejecting it requires.

            Similarly, I argued long ago that if we could not solve the national defense problem in an A-C system we were better off not eliminating that part of government, because Moscow would charge higher taxes than Washington.

          • bean says:

            Similarly, I argued long ago that if we could not solve the national defense problem in an A-C system we were better off not eliminating that part of government, because Moscow would charge higher taxes than Washington.

            This is a debate we need to have, because I really, really don’t think that Ancap is going to be able to solve it. Next OT?

          • Andrew Cady says:

            The power to collect tax is a form of property.

    • Andrew Cady says:

      I agree that libertarianism per se is not that offensive. But if you want to embarrass a libertarian before mainstream liberals, you only have to ask them about the Civil Rights Act, segregation in restaurants and hotels, racial discrimination in hiring, etc.. If people understood libertarianism better they would find it more offensive for that reason alone — that libertarian position is outside the Overton Window.

      • toastengineer says:

        And I would say “that situation was a massive exception, of course; if you were a black guy traveling you really might end up sleeping on the street because no hotel would take black customers! Even if that’s not really an NAP violation, it’s pretty close. But remember, freedom of association is also the reason things like the Civil Rights movement could even happen. The government was pretty open about how much it hated MLK, if there wasn’t a clear right to associate with whoever you want and refuse to associate with whoever you want, the government might well have arrested people just for engaging with Civil Rights protests. And look at how the Rat Pack refused to play for any venue that segregated its customers; even though that anti-gay bakery was clearly in the wrong, it’s the same right being exercised.”

        • Feedom of Association in the sense of the right to hold political meetings might well have contributed to the civil rights movement, but it is perfectly possible to have that narrower version without the wider version that allows business owners to discriminate. Most democracies do.

          • Well... says:

            Unimportant nitpick, but isn’t “associate to talk about political ideas and make plans for demonstrations” wider, not narrower, than “associate to exchange goods and services for money”?

        • Andrew Cady says:

          And I would say “that situation was a massive exception, of course; if you were a black guy traveling you really might end up sleeping on the street because no hotel would take black customers! Even if that’s not really an NAP violation, it’s pretty close.

          Once you acknowledge that my ownership of my property imposes a cost on the rest of the world (i.e., the non-owners of that property), the whole foundation of libertarianism crumbles.

          In particular, if a traveler who cannot find a decent place to sleep while traveling is being “aggressed” upon by the property owners of the world collectively, then any homeless person has an even stronger claim.

        • Loquat says:

          Remember too that it wasn’t just racist business owners individually choosing to serve only whites and not blacks; in many areas there were actually laws mandating that businesses not serve both whites and blacks. So the committed libertarian answer would be to focus on those laws and argue that if they’d been removed private action could have solved the rest of the problem.

          • Richard Epstein has argued that the problem was implicit requirements by local governments. It wasn’t illegal to seat both blacks and whites at your lunch counter, but if you did it you might get a visit from the health inspector.

          • Matt M says:

            Wasn’t Plessy vs Ferguson a case of a railroad wanting to integrate, but the state government refusing to allow it?

      • Well... says:

        But if you want to embarrass a libertarian before mainstream liberals, you only have to ask them about the Civil Rights Act, segregation in restaurants and hotels, racial discrimination in hiring, etc.

        And since those issues are almost never in the news (at least not relative to gay marriage a few years ago or Muslim immigration now) the libertarian doesn’t get that opportunity.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      The hatred of libertarians that I’ve seen seems to be about fear and rage that libertarians will eliminate government programs which are keeping people alive.

  6. Jefferson says:

    After seeing a few similar questions in previous threads:
    Does anybody have recommendations for books to read that cover major world history anywhere between the beginning of recorded history and the present day? As a young child, I enjoyed the Story of the World books, and I’m looking for something similar.

    • chrisbenson1 says:

      A Short History of the World by H.G. Wells is a quick and easy read – he starts at the beginning and gets you through WWI.

      Another good survey-type book is Charles Van Doren’s A History of Knowledge: Past, Present, Future.

    • SteveReilly says:

      JM Roberts wrote the Penguin History of the World, which gets updated on occasion so it probably comes close to the present day. I wasn’t too crazy about it, but since my main complaint (it’s too general and never got into the interesting details) is exactly what the book is for, it might be what you’re looking for.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      I liked the Human Web by McNeill and McNeill. W. McNeill has written a couple other books that are more popular and might also be considered histories of the world, but that’s the one that I’ve read.

    • Gombrich’s Little History of the World.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I’ve slowly been making my way through Will and Ariel Durant’s The Story of Civilization.

    • chrisbenson1 says:

      Another good, recent book is Sapiens by Harari.

    • Cartoon History of the Universe – Parts I-VII. It’s a lot of fun to read, and is remarkably good on the details!

  7. Andrew Hunter says:

    I have bet Scott $1000 to charity at even odds that an upcoming journalist’s book on the rationalist community will be a hit job. I hope I lose.

    • rlms says:

      The journalist seems pretty nice and genuine, although as you say that is often a fiendish facade. More interestingly, Scott seems confident you will lose, but not so confident that he refused the bet (which I feel he would’ve done if e.g. Tom Chivers is actually his brother or something). I’m not sure what to take from that, but I think overall it’s unlikely to be a hit job (20% or so). Possibly relevant datapoint: someone random person on tumblr thinks the journalist is the 50th worst person on Twitter.

      • toastengineer says:

        I dunno, the guy seems pretty pro-nerd in general and not all that CW-y, and the “50th worst person on Twitter” article seems to suggest that a particular brand of awful people don’t like him, so he’s got that going for him.

        Still putting 70% on it being misrepresentative, possibly by accident. Perhaps with a little hand-wringing about actually – *gasp* – talking to the Hated Enemy!

        EDIT:

        Apparently he actually reads SSC and has for at least a while… I’m downgrading to 50-50 odds. Probably gonna be a fair amount of handwringing for ass-covering purposes though.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I’m not sure how you’d manage to sell such a book without it being a hit piece, so I wouldn’t have taken that bet. On the other hand, 50th worst person on Twitter according to random tumblr is quite the endorsement, so maybe…

    • Matt M says:

      That’s a pretty hefty bet, but I’d be inclined to agree with you on this one.

    • Aapje says:

      @Andrew

      How will you two decide whether it’s a hit job or not? That seems like a fairly subjective statement.

      Is it a hit job if he brings up things like Roko’s Basilisk and doesn’t present it in a way that is most generous to rationalists?

      Is it a hit job if he lets critics have their say? How many critics and how bad their arguments before you will conclude that it is a hit job?

      Is it a hit job if he mistakenly argues that some things are more common than you/Scott believe they are (autism, polyandry, etc)?

      Or do you have a trusted arbiter who decides?

      I would argue that the quality of your bet depends heavily upon what the standards are.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        They discussed this on the subreddit thread. Bakkot and PM_ME_UR_OBSIDIAN are the appointed neutral judges should they be needed.

        Also, exact bet wording is that the piece will be “hugely negative towards SSC and the associated community”.

      • Glen Raphael says:

        A tiny bit of evidence in favor of “hit job” is that (based on the excerpt article) the writer thinks rationalwiki has something to do with rationalism (and hasn’t investigated enough to determine otherwise).

        • Aapje says:

          A relatively positive article about rationalists on a Christian site recently made the same mistake.

          It really seems like a fairly common mistake that people make and I don’t think one can read much into it.

          • albatross11 says:

            That seems like exactly the kind of mistake a well-intentioned outsider who isn’t very familiar with the ground is likely to make. Very different from the more common hit-job techniques of finding one or two extreme outliers in a group and making them the central examples, or putting words in the mouth of your target to smear them, or generating your own ideas about implications of their ideas and then claiming that your targets desire those implications.

    • DavidS says:

      I love Tom Chivers. My bet is that it will be a bit critical and jokey about sillier looking bits of the community but not what I would call a hit job. I don’t know who your referee is, though: I know some people in any community/faction/movement will see basically anything written about them from outside as a nefarious attack.

      • Tarpitz says:

        Back when Chivers had a blog on the Telegraph website, my interactions with him were universally positive. We also have friends in common, and my confidence that he is fundamentally a good person who would be averse in general to the idea of writing a hit piece is quite high. He is also, at the very least, clearly a nerdy man, and likely to be sympathetic to at least the underlying psychology. Perhaps he thinks AI risk concern or libertarianism (for example) are foolish, but I would expect a fair hearing and polite and reasonable disagreement, not dismissal and thinly veiled invective.

    • Brad says:

      I find it concerning if he is introducing himself over on the reddit. That place makes this look like Oberlin. He might end up concluding that rationalism, or at least the ssc part of it, is a branch of the far far right.

      • Deiseach says:

        That place makes this look like Oberlin

        I dunno, I keep managing to get banned off it so there must be some effort at least towards protecting the Endangered Left on the sub-reddit (the most recent was for “personal attack” which I have no idea what that’s about, so I’m waiting for the mods to tell me why and where I went wrong. Honestly, some of the commenters on there do make me think “Wowsers, I have encountered a special snowflake in the wild, and here was me thinking they were an imaginary species!”)

      • Deiseach says:

        I’m outing myself now, but to hell with it.

        Re: the sub-reddit, I got banned over the cow thing. I thought that might be it, but I couldn’t believe that would seriously be the reason.

        It was seriously the reason.

        Names redacted to protect the guilty:

        [Commenter on the Bundy court case in the news again]

        Meanwhile the cows are still on our land, grazing our pasture, and we aren’t being paid a red cent.

        If the BLM are too chickenshit to go in there, enforce the rule of law, impound and auction the cows, at very least they should go in there with helicopters and destroy them to protect our land and deny the thief his ill gotten gains.

        [Me in response}

        I think I’d respect your opinion on this more if I felt you knew which end of a cow the milk comes out of, but I don’t somehow get the impression that you are a child of the soil.

        Apparently advocating state violence against a private individual is not problematic, but being sarcastic in return is a personal attack, an insult, and “a useless and inflammatory addition to the conversation”.

        I know the mods have a tough job and I really don’t want to pick them out for any kind of censure and I am not trying to play the “poor little me, I am being persecuted” card, and yes I am way more confrontational and aggressive over on the sub-reddit (it does not have the same Protecting Aura of Niceness) but I genuinely do not understand the reasoning here.

        EDIT: And I’m not reproducing this here to gin up a hate against the mods, I would like someone to take me by the hand and explain this to me. If “machine gun a herd of cows from helicopters” is “that’s only a joke so we didn’t ban the person”, then why isn’t “I don’t think you know anything about cows” a joke too? If “you don’t know anything about cows” is a deadly serious insult, why isn’t “machine gun a herd of cows” also a bad thing to say?

        EDIT EDIT: This is also not demanding the original commenter be banned as well in a tit-for-tat way, I couldn’t care less if they do or don’t get banned for what they did or didn’t say. I would like a coherent explanation because to me this seems unusual criteria for decisions and if I don’t understand my trespass I may repeat it again.

        • The Nybbler says:

          I’m outing myself now, but to hell with it.

          Your style was rather unmistakable. Not to mention your username was similar.

          I have a long screed saved against the mods that I haven’t posted, but I’m tempted. At least two of them simply have taken a particular disliking to me, and one of them has a particular liking for “special snowflakes” who go in and break the supposed rules all the time, but are protected by the mods from similarly nasty responses.

          Meanwhile they banned me for making a Star Wars reference (“Every word you just said is wrong”) in response to an outrageously silly statement by one of their protected people.

          (incidentally milk comes out of neither end of a cow; it comes out of the underside. Nice try)

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @Deiseach:
          I don’t go to the sub-Reddit and I have no sense of their moderation policy.

          But I’ll give you even money I know why you got banned, because you violated the very common rule of many forums, which is that you don’t directly attack other members of the forum. Personal attacks are forbidden.

          Most places you have much, much, much more leeway when you say generally inflammatory things about general events and figures in the public eye.

          • John Schilling says:

            But I’ll give you even money I know why you got banned, because you violated the very common rule of many forums, which is that you don’t directly attack other members of the forum. Personal attacks are forbidden.

            I’ve been a moderator, albeit not on reddit, and this. You can have civil dialogue among people who insult third parties who aren’t present, but not among people who are insulting each other. Severity of the insult (e.g. Cliven Bundy is a thief who deserves to have his cattle destroyed vs. [redacted] commenter is a fool who deserves to be ignored) is secondary at best.

            The trick is to not call people idiots, but entice them to revealing their own idiocy in ways everybody will recognize. Then smile silently.

          • Deiseach says:

            Ah, I’m deflated from my original sense of what the heck? Now I’m mostly “Of all the things to get banned for, The Cow Thing?”

            Again, I don’t see why “shoot this guy’s cattle (and by the way, who cares about animal suffering)” is an okay, unremarkable statement, and what was intended to be “I kinda think you’re not someone familiar with a farming background” in a joking manner is a dreadful awful slur.

            Now, I think if I had come back with “That’s dreadful, you plainly don’t care about animal suffering to make such a suggestion, you are a heartless butcher” (in the best ‘evangelical vegan to meat-eaters’ style), that would have been an insult or a personal remark. But I didn’t do that.

            Now I do understand better, given what John Schilling has said – that I was being interpreted as calling the other person a fool. That is not what I intended, what I intended was “I think you betray a lack of familiarity with this kind of rural mindset and background to the situation which means your comment is lacking”. But if the mods took it that I was saying “You’re a fool”, then now I see why the ban.

            But okay, if saying anything at all in response is an insult, I should definitely say nothing and keep on saying it, which I may do in future – just lurk and read, no commenting.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Deiseach:
            I don’t know about Ireland, but in the USA, you called the guy a moron in easily understood euphemistic language that is understood to be intended to cause offense. I imagine that referring to things like “what comes out of the South end of a North bound bull” are common the world over.

            Based on previous interactions, I imagine you were probably in high-dudgeon when you did it, and so some part of you probably even intended it that way, but hoped it was colorful enough to afford plausible deniability.

            The idea that you need to “say nothing” doesn’t strike me as likely. Rather, you need to show some respect for the other denizen’s of the forum. Framing a comment that disagrees with their position, even vociferously, in a respectful way doesn’t seem like it should be in any way unattainable for someone of your substantial verbal talents. I just don’t think you particularly like to do it, especially when you feel like rural, non-urbane folks are being slighted.

            Edit: I also think there is thing in some parts where insulting people in discourse is just sort of expected. I’m thinking of things like the tradition in the U.K. Parliament of being quite disrespectful to your opponents, verbally jeering them while they are speaking, etc. Perhaps that sort of thing is is hanging you up as well.

          • meh says:

            https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/not_know_which_end_is_up#English

            I find that site to be useful at preventing myself from accidentally using common phrases incorrectly.

            I’m also confused by the animal suffering argument. Could you explain?

          • Nick says:

            Edit: I also think there is thing in some parts where insulting people in discourse is just sort of expected. I’m thinking of things like the tradition in the U.K. Parliament of being quite disrespectful to your opponents, verbally jeering them while they are speaking, etc. Perhaps that sort of thing is is hanging you up as well.

            This is not only common in some places but in some contexts. Familiarity makes it possible, for one: the Richard Carrier thing I said below is totally a joke at Deiseach’s expense, but somehow I don’t think she’s going to bust down my door with a potato harvesting shovel. More importantly, in some contexts (though probably not here) the joke is being respectful: she could, after all, have called a spade a spade. Granted, a third option is always “be even more respectful,” but 1) I’ve just been told by a dozen people that’s not always a good idea, and 2) I’m not sure leaving no room for the more jocular responses is a good thing, since that reduces how familiar we can be with the people we’re talking to. Should we be punishing people for slagging?

          • Deiseach says:

            I don’t think she’s going to bust down my door with a potato harvesting shovel

            You barbarian, it’s called a loy 🙂 And potatoes are dug up with a sprong then picked by hand (generally what you’d do with a few beds of spuds in a small garden patch but even on commercial farms up to relatively recently humans doing the hand picking was the norm; nowadays they’ve gone all modern and have machinery not human pickers any more). Here’s a Youtube link to an organic farm doing it the old-school way!

        • meh says:

          It sounds like he was advocating destroying the cows, not the people. So unless you consider cows private individuals, I don’t see what violence he was advocating.

          • Deiseach says:

            So unless you consider cows private individuals, I don’t see what violence he was advocating.

            The cows belong to a particular individual and are that person’s property, the whole point of the commenter was that these were not wild cattle. So they were advocating (a) destroy someone’s property (b) taking the cows as animals, to go with the animal rights advocacy side of things, killing them by machine gun from a helicopter is a very cruel and inefficient way of doing it, the animals would suffer physical and other (can you say emotional in the case of a cow?) pain, some would be injured not killed and would suffer and so on. Even those of us who think it is licit and moral to keep cows as food animals would not be partial to “kill them by machine gun”.

            So the suggestion seemed to me very over the top which is why I replied in kind, I didn’t mean to call them a fool (had I wanted to say “You’re a damn fool” I would have said “You are a damn fool”), rather that regardless of one’s opinion on the merits of Bundy’s case and actions, it would be very unlikely someone from a farming or rural background would be comfortable with expressing that opinion in the form “if the BLM won’t impound his cows because they’re too chickenshit, they should at least slaughter them in this melodramatic and inhumane way”, which led me to believe the commenter was city rather than country based and bred, had insufficient understanding and knowledge of/sympathy with the particular situation, and therefore their opinion as expressed in those terms was not useful as a contribution to the debate, hence my reply couched as “Do you even a cow?”

            Thanks for the advice and enlightenment, though, this is really very helpful in understanding how I unwittingly trod all over corns on several persons’ feet!

          • Brad says:

            The cows belong to a particular individual and are that person’s property, the whole point of the commenter was that these were not wild cattle.

            I haven’t followed all of the ins and outs of the case, but as I understand it there’s an order forfeiting those cows to the federal government in order to defray some of the millions of dollars in back grazing fees owed. It was an unsuccessful attempt to enforce that forfeiture order that started the whole kerfuffle to begin with.

            While destroying the government’s property seems wasteful and your point about animal cruelty is well taken, there does seem to be something quite unsettling about someone that successfully resisted a lawful attempt to execute a federal court judgment via the threat of violence just getting away with it and the judgment going unenforced.

            What if some random rich person living in Connecticut decided not to pay his taxes and then when IRS officials came under a court order to seize his Ferrari, let’s say, in order to auction it off and pay the pay taxes he pulled a gun on them. Do you think they would just leave, never come back, and they’d just give up on ever getting that money?

            The whole episode makes a mockery of the rule of law. That’s something I thought conservatives (and if you believe the posters elsewhere in this thread, libertarians) were all about.

          • meh says:

            Again, how do you go from destroying property to violence against an individual?

            It sounds like you may have an argument for mods being too sensitive, especially against people with certain views, and histories, but instead of arguing that you are trying to make it sound like your comment was completely defensible, and making an absurd claim like ‘I was merely compassionately pointing out the hole in the commenters knowledge and experience, in the most sympathetic and selfless way possible… and something about animal welfare! I am completely baffled how anyone could find that insulting’

            Whether that is true or not, at least that is how it sounds to an outsider.

          • Nick says:

            Violence is still violence regardless of whether it’s directed at people or animals or objects. Granted, the first is more serious than the second, and the second is more serious than the third, but they’re all varieties of violence.

            Brad’s point about the forfeiture of the cows to pay the back fees is well taken. I happen to agree about the rule of law point, but I don’t speak for all conservatives here. Of course, there’s the usual exception that an unjust law is no law at all, but that surely doesn’t apply here.

          • meh says:

            @Nick
            I’m not sure I see the point. The statement was not ‘what is violence’ it was

            violence against a private individual

            the ‘violence is violence’ tautology does nothing to advance the ‘property is individuals’ claims.

          • Nick says:

            meh,

            You’re right, I should have looked back at Deiseach’s original wording. But if I read Deiseach right she’s since walked back her claim. She didn’t reaffirm that it was violence against private individuals and has instead emphasized that it’s violence against cows.

          • meh says:

            @Nick
            I did not read any walking back in that comment. I only see additional points about the poster being evil.

          • Deiseach says:

            Brad, the cows are not going to be pulling any guns on anyone, why say “If we can’t get them impounded and auctioned off, let’s destroy them”? That’s pure destructiveness. That’s “if my enemy can’t be punished any other way, then scorched earth” calls for vengeance.

            Nick, meh is right: I’m not walking back anything. I think that was a bad comment which is why I replied to it with criticism.

            meh, Nick is right: I’m not calling anyone evil, just that this is a terrible thing to suggest unless they were joking/very angry, and even if you’re very angry maybe hold off on “send in the government helicopters with machine guns”, all right?

            Mark, if that’s an insult, may they never get called anything worse!

          • Brad says:

            The Ferrari isn’t going to pull a gun on anyone either.

            Look I’m not endorsing hellfiring the cows, that’s clearly not such a great idea. But certainly something should have been done long since. You can’t go in to try to enforce a court order, be faced with a bunch of people with guns threatening to shoot federal officials if they enforce the law, and then just give up.

            We wouldn’t even be a country at this point if George Washington had done that with the people that didn’t want to pay taxes on whiskey.

          • John Schilling says:

            You can’t go in to try to enforce a court order, be faced with a bunch of people with guns threatening to shoot federal officials if they enforce the law, and then just give up.

            Right. What you can do is, besiege them until they surrender, then arrest them, then put forth the evidence to convict them, then put them in jail for a very long time for all the trouble they have caused.

            If you screw up on the penultimate step of that process, to the point where a federal judge says essentially “game over, you goose-stepping morons“, then machine-gunning their cattle looks an awful lot like spite and very little like rule of law. Rule of law actually does mean that sometimes you have to watch people you know to be criminals, walk away scot-free

          • Brad says:

            First, you can fire the prosecutors / FBI agents that screwed up, which won’t happen.

            Second, the fact that you can’t put them in prison for having threatened federal officials trying to do their jobs, because your law enforcement / prosecutors screwed up, is neither nor there. The underlying civil judgement for grazing fees still exists and the rule of law still requires to be executed. Prosecutorial misconduct in a separate criminal case has nothing to do with that.

            The sanction against the government was dismissing the indictments with prejudice, not giving a get-out-jail-and-judgments-free card to the defendants usable for anything and everything they’ve ever done or will do.

          • meh says:

            Not evil, just that he endorses violence against individuals (which I don’t see where he does), and then you throw on stuff about animal suffering because somehow that will resonate with snowflakes…

            I think you try to do the least amount necessary to get banned, that way you can claim to being persecuted. You then post here about how in the world your innocent comment could be taken to be an insult, and look how awful the original posters comment is.

            I think you have an argument, but that argument is your post is insulting, but did not cross the line to banishment

          • John Schilling says:

            Second, the fact that you can’t put them in prison for having threatened federal officials trying to do their jobs, because your law enforcement / prosecutors screwed up, is neither nor there. The underlying civil judgement for grazing fees still exists and the rule of law still requires to be executed.

            Speed limits also exist and the rule of law still needs to be executed. It is nonetheless often the right thing for a highway patrolmen to watch a car blow by him at twenty miles over the limit and do absolutely nothing.

            Prosecutorial discretion is absolutely a thing, and the very first place it should be used is when someone proposes opening fire with machine guns in a case where this will look very much like gratuitous retaliation for exposing prosecutorial misconduct.

            The Bundys probably get to graze their remaining cattle wherever they want for the next few years without paying a cent. This will look, to the average observer (i.e. not you), as slightly less of an injustice than the proposed alternative. There is no course of action that will be broadly accepted as justice. That is the price for having appointed this particular bunch of goose-stepping morons. Maybe try not to do that again.

        • I think I’d respect your opinion on this more if I felt you knew which end of a cow the milk comes out of, but I don’t somehow get the impression that you are a child of the soil.

          I must say that if I was the moderator I would have banned you and not the earlier poster too. Your comments were entirely an insult to the other commenter and did not bring forward the argument at all. The other commenter may have been beyond the pale in the arguments they made, but they were still arguing in good faith. You, D, were not.

      • Nick says:

        An aside: I was browsing the subreddit’s list of bans the other day, and it’s weird—about half of the bans look perfectly just, overdue even, while the other half look like ridiculous overreach. I mean, on the one hand you have folks getting banned saying “Jesus, you sound like almost as gross a piece of shit as he is” and on the other you have The Nybbler getting the same length ban for making a Star Wars reference?*

        I’ll grant that I don’t participate in the subreddit, I just read it sometimes, and I definitely have different standards for the discussions I enjoy reading than for the discussions I enjoy participating in, so maybe if Nybbler said that to me or I started praising Richard Carrier in front of Deiseach I’d be clamoring to Scott for bans too. And yes, the subreddit is clearly inundated with far right folks saying inflammatory things, which we don’t see much of here. But even so.

        *ETA: Okay, I only just read Deiseach’s full thread above, and Nybbler has commented and says too it was just a Star Wars reference.

        • Montfort says:

          Quoting something whose literal meaning is “you’re totally wrong,” and whose tone is dismissive seems like something it should be possible to be banned for. Especially if it’s not obvious it’s a quote (arguable: it’s altered, it doesn’t possess memorable deviations from typical english, but on the other hand it is recent and from a popular film).

          I don’t use the subreddit, so I can’t say whether or not that particular ban makes sense according to their policies, but it certainly doesn’t seem absurd that it might be consistent.

        • Jiro says:

          One of the moderators threatened someone with a ban for pointing out that a poster had said inconsistent things on that subreddit and on another one.

          The moderators are also really bad at banning trolls and people indistinguishable from trolls., if they’re smart enough to troll (or lucky enough that they happen to act like they are trolling) without using rude language. Not all trolling consists of insults.

          • ManyCookies says:

            Eh, “No scouring reddit comment histories” is a reasonable rule imo.

          • meh says:

            If someone has no opinion, and is only commenting to antagonize people, is banning not reasonable?

            Maybe you are only imaging it being used nefariously against people making good faith arguments.

          • Jiro says:

            Eh, “No scouring reddit comment histories” is a reasonable rule imo.

            Scouring them for what? There’s a difference between scouring them for doing evil things elsewhere and scouring them for insincerity.

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            @Jiro

            Scouring them for what? There’s a difference between scouring them for doing evil things elsewhere and scouring them for insincerity.

            Which kind of instance of insincerity we are exactly talking about, and how it was relevant to the discussion at hand?

          • Jiro says:

            Complaining when someone approves of Trump’s statement about shithole countries, when he himself approved of it in another subreddit.

            He tried to justify it by saying that there could be readers from those countries on slatestarcodex, but somehow I doubt that there are a lot of Haitians and Somalis on /r/slatestarcodex compared to /r/drama.

        • nimim.k.m. says:

          I see both highlights as examples of moderators trying to maintain reasonable community norms (enforce respectful, honest discussion in good faith instead of “gratuitous snark”; the particular instance of snark being a Star Wars reference does not make it less snarky). I’m not very active on the subreddit so it’s possible that mods fail at upholding that standard with impartiality (someone gets a pass when others do not). But as single actions on their own, they make sense to me.

          This kind of norm, of course, is fully consistent with having difficulty detecting trolls (that Jiro mentioned in the sibling comment). An attempt to have discussion in good faith often translates to “take things people say with face value”. Troll who wants to provoke reactions and does it intelligently can have a field day at such forum.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The user I was replying to actually rarely has respectful and honest discussion in good faith. Another user actually went on a rant about that, but because it was longer-winded (the mods prefer verbosity) that user didn’t get banned. One of the mods is openly fond of one of the users who breaks the stated rules all the time, and has said that this is right and will continue to do so, but naturally she usually gets a pass. Even when they did give her a ban they were apologetic about it.

          • ManyCookies says:

            @Nybbler

            She’s more low efforty than personal attacky, which is what I think the mods are most sensitive to.

  8. ContrarianSystem says:

    Does anyone have experience dealing with a someone close (family member in my case) who has a longstanding (multi-year) paranoid delusion about being followed, recorded, hacked, etc? I’m going through all the medical/psych channels and making progress but the individual still has no idea it’s all in his head. I’m curious if anyone has successfully convinced a paranoid/delusional person to be able to hold to conflicting ideas in their head at the same time (eg “I’m certainly being followed because I see it happening” and “I’m certainly not being followed because I’m mentally ill and my brain can’t not experience being followed”).

    Anything helps here. Thanks!

    • Mark Atwood says:

      Are you absolutely SURE that their belief is a delusion?

      There have been people randomly targeted by channers and by WinRM hobbyists for the lulz.

      I’ve had a couple of weirdly random stalkers myself, one of which turned out to have been stealing my mail.

      It takes just one person with their own wobbly grip of sanity with an interest and adequate computer skills, to turn your life into a hell right out the delusions of the worst case of paranoia you can conceive, and “interest” could be little more than “he insulted me when we were coworkers that one time”.

      • Zorgon says:

        Yeah, pretty much entirely agreed.

        My usual take on this is “how many actors does this person’s belief require?” Which is of course a refinement on Occam’s Razor but it works really well; I’ve encountered a couple of cases of “paranoid” people actually being harassed and followed, usually by an obsessive stalker.

        Meanwhile, there was a recent story shared during the #metoo phenomenon by a woman who insisted that men she passed constantly made obscene comments to her – not “it happened when I passed this group on the street”, but continually at all times while in public; strangers would apparently relentlessly and constantly make obscene and obnoxious remarks. This apparently finally ended when she yelled at one of her supposed interlocutors and he scurried away in shock. That screams, to me, of paranoid delusion; right down to confronting it and temporarily scaring it away.

        Now, a lot of the people who push #metoo want to believe that women that are literally constantly surrounded by obscene comments that completely and uniformly disappear when confronted might exist. My take on it? My priors are far higher for a given person being stalked and followed, recorded, hacked than they are for that.

        • ContrarianSystem says:

          The belief entails a certainty of being followed by dozens of different people and unmarked vehicles across two cities. Beyond the number of actors, the material cost of would be a $1MM+ spy operation…all with the supposed goal to bring a highly illogical, relatively small lawsuit against the person, which, though apparently motivated by financial gain, would net significantly less than of the estimated cost of the recon operation in the first place. All evidence of this multiyear observation rests in language of belief and feeling, often with the “pieces of the puzzle” being assembled after the events have taken place (ie “I didn’t realize it at the time, but now after thinking about it constantly for days, I just know for certain the man in the hat was working for Person X”).

          • Tarpitz says:

            A member of my immediate family has paranoid schizophrenia. This sounds exactly like (some of) the delusional beliefs she had. She’s much better now, but an extended stay in an institution and a lot of serious medication have been involved. I do not think it is possible for people to reason themselves out of such beliefs without chemical assistance, sadly.

    • ohwhatisthis? says:

      Oh, we are now past the age where people can say that they are delusional about possibly being followed, recorded, or hacked.

      There are numerous examples of companies spying on customers with data….with it totally suggestible that your microphone and camera is on, and then a product is being sold and recommended with all the trackable data you don’t buy or google, with *that* company data then becoming NSA data…

      With perhaps even a hyper-intelligent AI in the background somewhere, doing who knows what.

      The sci-fi authors of the 60’s wrote that this was a possibility….and now we are here.

  9. Scott says:

    Remember that weirdly dimming star that was hypothesized to be a result of an alien Dyson-sphere-like megastructure? Well there was a Kickstarter that raised $100k for telescope time to investigate it, and the data is finally in: its an irregular dust ring. An unsurprising result about a surprising observation, but a great story about citizen science!

    https://astronomynow.com/2018/01/03/new-data-debunks-alien-megastructure-theory-on-mysterious-tabbys-star/

  10. Nick says:

    (Content warning for scrupulosity, I suppose.)

    I sometimes wonder whether there’s a meekness treadmill.

    Those of you who have heard of the hedonic treadmill will have an idea what I mean, viz. no permanent gain despite major changes. You may expect more money, fewer irritations, or a nicer job to raise your happiness set point, but soon you adjust and you’re as happy or unhappy as ever.

    I’m a very conflict-averse person, largely I think owing to my upbringing.* I was hurt by folks who by not checking their anger said or did things they regretted. I don’t think this is something others should be subjected to; consequently, I don’t want to hurt people. I avoid picking fights, using harsh language, or saying anything impulsively. With six or seven years of practice I’m pretty good at it, too. Ask my friends and they can hardly recall a time I’ve said something intended to hurt someone.**

    The permanent gain I wanted here is a decrease in conflict, or the negative consequences of conflict at least. I attempted that by avoiding what I took to be escalating behaviors: name-calling, yelling, etc. But I’ve found it doesn’t work. Some, though not all, have simply grown more sensitive to when I’m angry. I know folks who enter screaming rages and say lots of hurtful things when they’re pissed; this is fine. Yet, should I set my jaw or bite my tongue, the things I want to say are apparently just read into those actions.

    A kind of conditioning is occurring, which in retrospect should have been obvious. By being more delicate in how I treat people and in how much emotion I show, I’m only encouraging and reinforcing people to develop thinner skins and to lash out more severely. This doesn’t occur to everyone, just as not everyone develops a thicker skin when confronted with an angry, unfiltered person. But it happens to some for sure. And of course folks don’t develop a thick or thin skin simpliciter—it’s a function of expectations they’ved formed about the behavior of a particular person, which may differ from their expectations about others or folks generally. I wouldn’t bat an eye if a family member were in a screaming fit; I would if my boss were.

    Therefore it seems to me sometimes that this has been a waste. That I’ve expended a lot of effort reining in my emotions for nothing. That if I just bit someone’s head off once in a while then everyone, me especially, would be better off. At the time it seemed like a good idea; many folks’ mode of conflict resolution is “screaming match, followed by making up, or not,” and I wanted terribly to avoid that. And this is after all just an application of the Golden Rule. But one can’t avoid being hurtful just by never raising one’s voice, or never calling someone an idiot—it takes more than that, always more than that. With the conditioning I described above, there is a kind of arms race between my capacity for patience and others’ capacities for indignation and harm. That is not a race I can win.

    So as I understand it, there are broadly two options here:
    1) Be perfect, all the time.
    2) Quit while you’re behind.

    For the reasons I’ve articulated above, I take it that (1) is off the table. It’s not that being perfect isn’t what we’re called to be—I’m a Christian, after all!—it’s that my approach isn’t cultivating perfection. It’s optimizing for something else; it’s some strange, alien virtue more fit for AI or angels than ordinary humans.

    I have a deep aversion to (2)—am I saying it’s okay to be mean?—but maybe that’s my own poor understanding. By accepting (2) can I truly encourage others to treat me with the same level of respect with which I treat them? If so, where are the stable solutions to that? The Golden Rule has always seemed simple and obvious, but the conditioning I’ve described here is unstable, a subtle failure mode no doubt owing to my extreme aversion to conflict. As I understand it, the radical honesty folks, for instance, have a solution, but I don’t think I could live in a world of radical honesty. So what other stable solutions am I missing here?

    *I’ll grant that maybe this isn’t so much due to my upbringing as an unusual response to said upbringing, but that’s neither here nor there.

    **I asked seven, but only three responded. Two could recall no incidents, but I don’t think they considered the question long. Another could with prodding recall two incidents since I started college five years ago and a few more before then.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      Can you be more detailed about what kind of negative reactions are still occurring? Like, are people screaming at you in response to you setting your jaw?

      I’m pretty meek myself, and while it’s not enough to head off all hostility, I’m pretty sure it makes a big and positive difference. But Different Worlds and all that…

      • Nick says:

        Can you be more detailed about what kind of negative reactions are still occurring?

        Sorry, but no; the way I put the jaw-setting thing was misleading, in retrospect, and I’m not going to go into specifics, because I don’t exactly mean for this thread to be personal.

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          Are you feeling like meekness doesn’t help at all, or just that it doesn’t help as much as it should?

          Never raising my voice does not prevent others from raising their voices, but that it does prevent escalation loops where we both end up screaming.

          It does not prevent all disagreements and conflict. I do believe that it means they’re conducted less painfully and more rationally.

          It does pretty much ensure that I’m treated ‘unfairly’, in that others raise their voice at me, and I never raise mine at them. This frustrates me sometimes, but I mostly just accept it.

          (One of the key mental structures making this sustainable is a deep inner arrogance that prevents me from expecting others to treat me as well as I treat them, which you may not be able or willing to replicate.)

    • baconbits9 says:

      So as I understand it, there are broadly two options here:
      1) Be perfect, all the time.

      I’m not a religious scholar, but the more central Christian claim is to seek and give forgiveness, not to attempt to live perfectly. I have also heard that a better translation of ‘meek’ is ‘the man who holds back’, not the ‘man who is never confrontational’, this makes meek a manner of relativity, not an absolute. Finally I would say that hiding your emotions is a form of deception and is just not healthy.

    • Bobby Shaftoe says:

      Maybe the people you are interacting with are being unreasonable, and just looking for trouble. But if I assume that the problem is on your end, here’s what I imagine is going on, based on what you’ve written:

      The problem may be that you are still getting quite upset in your head, and although you aren’t yelling, you are still telegraphing your emotions in ways that are more clear than you realize.

      The solution would then be the cultivate genuine calmness and charity towards whoever you’re interacting with.

      Also, your characterization of yourself as very meek and never wanting to hurt anyone is at odds with your stated desire to occasionally bite someones head off.

      • Nornagest says:

        This post next to your username must be what a type error feels like.

      • Nick says:

        Lots of people are unreasonable when they’re angry; I don’t necessarily hold that against them, nor do I hold them at fault just for reading me more carefully. And certainly I still get upset in my head, as anyone will get upset if pushed far enough. And yes, I still telegraph my emotions somewhat. And I guess I didn’t make this part clear, but I really and truly have been trying to cultivate genuine calmness and charity for the last several years. That is not enough.

        Also, your characterization of yourself as very meek and never wanting to hurt anyone is at odds with your stated desire to occasionally bite someones head off.

        I’m sorry, but this is a baffling thing to say. Have you never felt conflicting feelings in your life? Intellectually and as a matter of longstanding practice I do not want to hurt people. Sometimes when people really, really piss me off I want to hurt them. These two things are not irreconcilable; on the contrary, the latter, should I indulge it, just reinforces the former, and the former, should I indulge it, magnifies the latter.

    • WashedOut says:

      I second the suggestion made by baconbits9. By your definition of meekness you are on a kind of treadmill. But you are not actually acting in a way that is consistent with this virtue, hence you’re in this predicament.

      To be meek is to be powerful and capable of harming others, and yet retain control/restraint over this aspect of your self. Jung would describe this as “having integrated one’s shadow”. We can see this play out in the people around us day to day – we tend not to respect harmless people. Women certainly do not find harmless men attractive; they tear them to pieces over time.

      My proposed solution would be to neither seek or avoid conflict, but to have the tools necessary to deal with it. This means learning to confronting people about a problem with the explicit aim of setting your affairs in better order than they were before (even by your own standards). Thus the ‘conflict’ or interpersonal tension becomes simply a process that you both voluntarily go through in order to reach some improved state.

      • Nick says:

        As far as my not actually living out the virtue of meekness, you and baconbits9 are spot on. What I’m looking for here—what I called toward the end a “stable solution” to the problem of treating others as you want to be treated—is, if I understand you, what you call the tools necessary to deal with conflict (mine doesn’t so much deal with conflict as, at best, infinitely put it off). What the heck are those? What does that look like? Here’s where I see your framing go wrong: you say I need to confront people about a problem with the explicit aim of straightening things out. I agree that that would be ideal. But various “naive” approaches to this, like radical honesty, often fail. Sometimes it simply leaves the problem unresolved; sometimes everything blows up in your face. So what is a reliable method for approaching conflict so as to minimize these bad outcomes? Give me a body of tools that work for all sorts of conflicts and all sorts of people and I’ll happily switch.

        • WashedOut says:

          NB apologies in advance if the latter-half of this sounds like MBA-speak – i don’t have one and i’m not that guy.

          Forget “radical honesty”, it is complete garbage. We need not even invoke regular honesty to answer your question. Just a quick side note on this. The RadHon doctrine endorses the enunciation of whatever statement or observation comes to one’s mind at the time. The proposed justification is that truth=what you are thinking=good; lies=what you think they want to hear=bad. The thing is most people most of the time have a filter which is made up of various parameters they tweak depending on the social situation. For instance, talking to their girlfriend they might set their filter to Compassion=8, Kindness=7, Assertiveness=3, Neuroticism=2 or somesuch for the purpose of having an affectionate social experience. Talking to their boss the next day the dials would be completely different, instead optimising for perceived conscientiousness, with some higher assertiveness thrown in to get your point across. In RadHon land however, the responsibility of tweaking these parameters gets shirked in favour of the “say what you are now thinking -> say what you are now thinking -> etc” routine. One damaging effect of this is to promote low-effort communications to the same level as effort-thoughts, so the person you’re trying to communicate with now has to try to parse an unprocessed signal. NOT GOOD FOR YOUR RELATIONSHIPS.

          Regarding niceness. If your supply of niceness is infinite (or if your willingness to be nice is unconditional – same thing here) then the marginal value of each nice thing you do is approximately zero. Conversely if you treat niceness as a finite quantity, an exhaustible resource that needs to be allocated wisely, then the recipients of your niceness will be able to value it correctly. “Sam is nice all the time, that’s just his personality. Everything he says is nice. I can’t tell if he actually likes my idea!” Zero information conveyed by a nice statement, given your ~100% track record of nice statements.

          Regarding reliable tools for conflict resolution. I’ll tell you what works for me after many years of trial and error.
          1. The conflict resolution process can actually start before the conflict heats up, but it requires you to see it coming.
          “I have this goal. It involves me interacting/collaborating with these people. These other people have incentives x y z, which will tend to make them behave a certain way. Is this behavioral tendency of theirs at odds with my goal?”

          2. Now you have ‘insider’ information about their trajectory, and if you’re good you can spot a collision course.
          “I’m appointed quality control engineer on this job. The guys in the thing-producing department are short-staffed and will probably have to rush to meet their deadline in order to get their bonus. They will tend to cut-corners on some important features which it is my job to safeguard.”

          3. Pitcure the potential conflict.
          “I am at the end of their workflow, and they are going to present a thing to me which I cannot sign off on. This is going to make them mad and accuse me of being a pedantic stick-in-the-mud. They will blame me for the production shortfall and deadline blowout.”

          4. Now your forward-thinking is done and we are acting in real time. Request a meeting in the early stages of the project, tell them who you are, what you do, and what your expectations are.
          “Hey lads i’m Kurt from Quality, im working on your Thing with you. I can tell you’re a few people short and snowed-under with work. Just wanted to get on the same page about what we want to deliver by the end of the quarter, so we don’t have any surprises. As you know, P Q and R are the essential components that need my sign- off in order to complete. I think we are at risk of falling short on them due to our situation, is that right? OK thought so, well I want to be able to sign off on this so here are our options…

          Any conflict that occurs from now on takes place within an existing agreed framework of problem-solving, where they know you want what’s best for the project and are not just being a dick. They know what they have to do in order to prevent X from happening. They know how you will have to act if X happens.

          Fully generalised:
          -under these conditions we will be successful
          -if these things happen, I will have to act in this way
          -If i act in this way, you will be adversely affected and I don’t want that
          -let’s work together to create those successful conditions

          You’ll notice the recurring theme is clarity of each others’ intentions and incentives.

          Sometimes [a naive approach] simply leaves the problem unresolved; sometimes everything blows up in your face.

          Yes and I put it to you that that happens when the problem isn’t properly defined prior; and when a surprise occurs that is outside the discussed narrative.

          Let me know if any of the above hasn’t made sense.

        • baconbits9 says:

          What I’m looking for here—what I called toward the end a “stable solution” to the problem of treating others as you want to be treated—is, if I understand you, what you call the tools necessary to deal with conflict (mine doesn’t so much deal with conflict as, at best, infinitely put it off). What the heck are those? What does that look like?

          I think the structure you are looking for is broad respect. It would be a long post to get even the basics down, but what it looks like is a person who won’t be pushed around, but also doesn’t push other people around. This is the best (only?) way to be respected by those who push people around AND the people who are sick of being pushed around. It is a very narrow behavior path to get to.

    • Baeraad says:

      I think I know what you mean. I try to be polite and supportive to everyone I spend time with, because that’s how I like to be and I don’t want anyone to get mad at me. But sometimes I feel like, after years of that, their expectations are so raised that when I do show a hint of temper or say something they don’t like, they react with shock, horror and betrayal. I don’t know what to make of that.

      I would suggest that there’s an alternative explanation, though, which is that we select friends who are much like ourselves. I’m thin-skinned and hate drama – therefore my friends tend to be thin-skinned and hate drama – therefore, they have a very low tolerance for people revealing their undisguised emotions to them. It’s not a treadmill, it’s just something that was there right from the start of the relationship but which takes a long time to notice, especially when you’re making an effort to avoid situations where it would come up.

      • Nick says:

        I think I know what you mean. I try to be polite and supportive to everyone I spend time with, because that’s how I like to be and I don’t want anyone to get mad at me. But sometimes I feel like, after years of that, their expectations are so raised that when I do show a hint of temper or say something they don’t like, they react with shock, horror and betrayal. I don’t know what to make of that.

        Someone who gets it!! This makes me feel a little better.

        I would suggest that there’s an alternative explanation, though, which is that we select friends who are much like ourselves. I’m thin-skinned and hate drama – therefore my friends tend to be thin-skinned and hate drama – therefore, they have a very low tolerance for people revealing their undisguised emotions to them. It’s not a treadmill, it’s just something that was there right from the start of the relationship but which takes a long time to notice, especially when you’re making an effort to avoid situations where it would come up.

        This is an interesting alternative, and I need to think about it. How do you suppose we’d test which of our explanations is right? The only way that occurs to me is undisguising my emotions from the start, but I suppose that would just attract different people than normal. I suppose if I truly did attract different people, and not simply the same people as before but operating on different expectations about me, that would falsify my explanation….

        Uh, like I said, I need to think about this. 😛

        • Aapje says:

          How do you suppose we’d test which of our explanations is right?

          You may have people in your life who chose to associate with you and people like you, but also people who didn’t make such a choice, but still interact with you. If the theory is correct, one would expect the former group to be thin-skinned and hate drama much more than the latter group.

          • Nick says:

            That’s an excellent point. Most of my family is the yell-about-everything-and-say-sorry-later-or-not type.

    • skef says:

      I don’t have anything very useful to say about your conundrum, but I am going to offer a different, more specific interpretation of what might be going on.

      You describe a substantial ongoing effort at controlling your own behavior, and say:

      I avoid picking fights, using harsh language, or saying anything impulsively. With six or seven years of practice I’m pretty good at it, too.

      I know folks who enter screaming rages and say lots of hurtful things when they’re pissed; this is fine. Yet, should I set my jaw or bite my tongue, the things I want to say are apparently just read into those actions.

      In my experience, people view behavior that they consider to be “out of control” very differently than behavior they consider to be “under control”, and put a lot more emotional weight on the latter.

      At the extreme end of the former are people who go into a kind of fugue state in pursuit of whatever they happen to want, wreaking havoc along the way, and then can’t even recall their behavior later, or offer bizarre interpretations of it. Many people like this are still generally well liked, with a “that’s just X being X” rider granted on their social contract.

      On the other hand, people tend to be very unhappy when someone does something harmful or critical while in control, and therefore “intentionally”. I occasionally fly off the handle, usually when I’m less socially functional due to some stressor. But I’m generally quite careful about avoiding harm (as distinct from criticism, anyway), and my criticisms (and, yes, meannesses) are generally intentional — I could have done otherwise. And people generally just really hate that shit, and judge me accordingly.

      So this may be less of a treadmill than having found yourself on the wrong side of a dichotomy.

      • Nick says:

        On the other hand, people tend to be very unhappy when someone does something harmful or critical while in control, and therefore “intentionally”. I occasionally fly off the handle, usually when I’m less socially functional due to some stressor. But I’m generally quite careful about avoiding harm (as distinct from criticism, anyway), and my criticisms (and, yes, meannesses) are generally intentional — I could have done otherwise. And people generally just really hate that shit, and judge me accordingly.

        So this may be less of a treadmill than having found yourself on the wrong side of a dichotomy.

        This is interesting, and explains well my observation about people who fly off the handle getting off easy. But it’s pretty depressing if true, because this sounds exactly like what I want to avoid. This sounds like a stupid dichotomy that at best only applies to people who “can’t control themselves” when they’re angry—why in the world is it being applied to people like you or me?

        • skef says:

          It’s analogous to the distinction between murder and manslaughter: The more understanding someone has of the implications and side effects of their actions, the more responsible they are for those actions. To the extent that those side effects are negative (such as hurt feelings), that increase in responsibility reflects negatively on the agent.

          It’s applied to everyone, but the more control one has the more one is subject to the increase.

          The potential upside is that if this is not a treadmill, but a “static” difference impact, it’s easier to correct for with what amounts to a yet more nuanced understanding of the side effects. I’m not big on “pick your battles” because that just focuses back on “you”, and anyway it’s not like I’m actually resource-constrained in these cases. (In a way, “pick your battles” is a more specific version of “it’s all about you”.) But if and when its appropriate to criticize (or whatever) and it comes from a place of deliberation, muffling the content of the criticism (or whatever) a bit further than is strictly accurate or seemingly called for can be a means of lowering the emotional effect, which in most of us is the mechanism by which it can (with luck) be correcting.

          • Nick says:

            So, my trouble here then is that it would be “easy” for me to just throw morals to the wind and flip out on someone when they piss me off—I’m still tempted to every time, obviously—and from the sounds of it, people would just give me a free pass. Which to me sounds ridiculous. On the other hand, if I really try to exercise self-restraint here, and really try, and really try, and slip up, I am a monster. That’s why I’m saying this dichotomy sounds stupid: unless you literally figuratively see red and can’t exercise any self-control when you’re angry, which I can’t imagine applies to very many people, I don’t see why people should be getting a free pass for exercising less control. And when that self-control runs out, I don’t see how it’s so dissimilar to, why it should be treated so differently from, the seeing-red people whose breaking point is stubbing their toe or whatever.

    • gbdub says:

      It could be that your “meekness treadmill” is due to typical minding on the part of the people you’re interacting with: they know that they’d be upset in a situation, assume that you will be equally upset, and see any sign of negative reaction in your part as confirmation of this. There’s also the commonly held idea that “blowing off steam” is good for you, so perhaps they assume you’re constantly bottling up rage and assume any negative sign is indicative of a pending major outburst.

      Alternatively, perhaps you are good at suppressing negative outbursts, but bad at hiding that you’re actively suppressing your instincts, thus people are reacting to what they think your true feelings are, rather than what you are outwardly showing.

      Finally, is it possible that, in becoming very sensitive to your own negative reactions (to reduce them) you’ve become hypersensitive to the negative reactions of others in response to you? If you were the sort to flip out at the slightest provocation, would you even notice the reactions your jaw setting is eliciting?

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I started college five years ago

      I can’t find a citation, but I’ve read in discussions of criminology that male aggressive behavior drops off markedly after age 27 or so, so one solution to criminal recidivism is to just lock criminals up until they’re older and more mellow. The solution to your problem may be “get a little older.”

    • ninjafetus says:

      You’re optimizing to the wrong metric, which I think you’ve realized. If the goal is “reduce conflict”, you might reach local minima by not escalating, but your global metric will still be bad as long as you continue to associate with the same people under the same conditions.

      But there’s another method. You don’t have to match bad behavior with your own to exert influence. Just set boundaries and leave whenever they start to transgress them. Enforcing boundaries is not contradictory to kindness. You don’t have to escalate and yell, you can still be polite and generous and forgiving. But it’s perfectly acceptable to limit your participation in a relationship if you’re treated badly. “Forgiveness” doesn’t mean “let you mistreat me forever.” It means “I’ve let go of my animus towards you, and I wish you the best (even if I don’t want to spend time together anymore.)”

      If someone genuinely wants to spend time with you, they’ll respect the boundaries. If not, you probably should limit their participation in your life anyway. Your life isn’t an Offspring song, extra suffering doesn’t show you “really care”. It just shows unaddressed dysfunction.

      People have this romantic notion that if they were perfect they could smile and walk through the abuse and be above it all, and that would be an ideal way to be “nice”. But that’s not helping you, and it’s certainly not helping the others in your relationships be the best people they can be.

    • Barely matters says:

      4 points of note:

      1) You teach people how to treat you. If people realize that you won’t stand up for yourself, they have incentive to keep pushing.

      2) Once people know you, they’ll calibrate and infer your actual stance by distance from your baseline. This isn’t going away, because this kind of “sensitivity to other people’s feelings” and the resulting reduction in social friction is something people value, despite treadmills like this being one of the serious downsides.

      3) If you are treating people the way you’d like to be treated, and they are treating you the way they’d like to be treated, no one is actually being treated the way they would like to be treated (Unless both parties have identical treatment preferences).

      4) Even being perfect won’t save you from being hurtful. If you have or accomplish anything that people value, some people will be hurt solely by the fact that you choose to give it to someone else. Not hurting people is structurally impossible unless you’re, like, an orphan with no connections at all, pledge to stay that way, and don’t count your own pain within this metric. You’d probably be better off becoming comfortable with hurting people sometimes and striving to minimize it in the long term, rather than the immediate.

    • Viliam says:

      My rule of thumb for dealing with other people is that as a first approximation, I am the only person able to change myself (and even that is difficult), while everyone else just remains the same, forever. From this perspective, the only way to make other people treat you better is simply to start meeting many new people, and remain in contact only with those who treat you the way you want to be treated.

      As I said, this is just a first approximation. I don’t believe this is literally true; I am not that exceptional person. Sometimes I change, sometimes other people do. But from my internal perspective, my changes happen as a result of my strong desires. Other people’s changes do not happen as a result of my desires. Logically, they happen as a result of their desires; but that is something I have no access to. Not even when they tell me, because people live in self-deception all the time. I see barely any relation between what most people report they want, and what they actually do. And I am the same, from outside. The thing is that not all “desires” are created equal. Some of them are mere pleasant dreams, which may often come to my attention, and I may talk about them often, but then something else takes my attention again, and ultimately nothing gets done. But a few of them are like a burning fire which never goes away, only sometimes burns with low intensity, and then something fans the flame again, and then things just explode. And these two types are difficult to distinguish from outside, or even from inside. I believe such fires are burning in other people, too; I just don’t know what they relate to, and which decade of their life will witness the moment of explosion. Therefore, for any specific change and any specific time period, the probability that the other person will change in that specific way at that specific moment is pretty much zero.

      You seem to have an internal fire that drives you to what you call “meekness”. (The quotes do not mean disagreement, only that different people might have different interpretations of the same word; and I am referring to “whatever is the thing that you deeply desire”, having no interest in dictionary debates.) I guess, most people do not have exactly this kind of internal fire; instead, they have other priorities and desire other things. (This is not a value judgment; people are different, and there are many things worthy of desire.) So even if they value the same thing, they will treat it more casually. They may not even notice their lack of reciprocity, because they are thinking about something else at the moment. If you have a good connection with them, maybe you could have a talk with them; without blaming them, just say “you know, it is my spiritual desire to interact with people this way, and it would be nice if we could share that”; and they maybe they will start paying attention to this when they are with you. (I wonder how many desires of my friends I trample without noticing, simply because it happens to be a thing I usually do not consciously think about; not because I would have any desire to hurt them.)

      Then, there are also people who mistake niceness for weakness; perhaps because they never experienced niceness that didn’t result from weakness in the sensitive period of their lives. We can pity the poor souls, but from the “other people don’t change (at the moment we need them to)” perspective, the proper approach is to be assertive and hold your ground when dealing with them. (This implies that you have to treat different people differently.)

      In my model of the world (being an atheist, my standard assumption is that any behavior evolved because it provided selfish advantage in certain context; it’s just a question of recognizing the proper context), the main advantage of niceness is that it is a ticket that allows you to interact with other nice people. If you are a nice person, and you interact with an asshole, you are in a momentary disadvantage, full stop. Your advantage manifests when there are other nice people, who invite you to their party; and the asshole doesn’t get the invitation there. The “karmic punishment” for the asshole is having to interact mostly with other assholes, because everyone else tries to avoid them as much as they can. But this doesn’t always work automatically. Some nice people remain stuck with assholes because of some kind of learned helplessness. (They may believe that everyone is an asshole, so they have no motivation to try meeting other people. They may believe that sticking with the assholes is virtuous; either in general, or because they believe they owe it to some specific asshole for some specific reason.) Some assholes succeed to surround themselves with such helpless nice people; others change their environment often and make good initial impressions so it always takes some nice people longer to update. But in general, using your niceness to get rid of assholes and instead associate with other nice people seems to me like the right way (both the evolutionary purpose and the moral thing to do from libertarian-ish perspective) to “use” niceness.

    • Nick says:

      Hey everyone, thanks for the responses. I won’t be making any more direct responses to this thread, but a lot of it was really helpful and I’ll be thinking it over.

  11. ManyCookies says:

    Andrew Hunter’s FtL post two OTs ago has me curious, what are some other interesting FtL travel and communications systems in sci-fi books? I liked Enderverse’s model of “instant communication, light speed travel” a lot, before OSC went off his rocker in Xenocide and introduced instant travel.

    • John Schilling says:

      Physicist and hard-SF author Geoffrey Landis has put together a taxonomy of FTL drives that covers pretty much everything that has ever come up in science fiction, hard or soft. Lots of interesting stuff, and bonus points if you can come up with something that isn’t on the Landis list.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Nothing completely off the charts, but two which don’t quite fit:

        The Infinite Improbability Drive: it’s somewhere between a jump drive and modifying the parameters of the universe. Calculate exactly the improbability of something happening, feed it into the drive, and it happens.

        Also, another jump drive variant, the “20 decimals of similarity” which allows a Van Vogt hero (or maybe just Gilbert Gosseyn) to go someplace he’d memorized before.

        • Nornagest says:

          Calculate exactly the improbability of something happening, feed it into the drive, and it happens.

          In-universe, IIRC, there was some kind of distinction between this type of finite improbability engine, which can e.g. be used to “break the ice at parties by making all the molecules in the hostess’s undergarments jump three feet to the left”, and the infinite improbability drive used for FTL, which is never adequately explained.

          I don’t think the logic actually holds up, but it’s an incredibly silly setting anyway.

          • ManyCookies says:

            Douglas Adam’s space travel, time travel, and technological systems are “Whatever is funniest for this scene.”

          • Glen Raphael says:

            Nornagest:

            In-universe, IIRC, there was some kind of distinction between this type of finite improbability engine, which can e.g. be used to “break the ice at parties by making all the molecules in the hostess’s undergarments jump three feet to the left”, and the infinite improbability drive used for FTL, which is never adequately explained.

            It was a funny idea somewhat analogous to having a smart AI bootstrap itself into ever-greater superintelligence.

            The idea was that if technology could be used (via various bits of handwavium) to break the laws of probability a little, one could use that precise capability to break them a lot. Instead of a high intelligence engine letting one build smarter intelligence engines, a high improbability engine lets one spontaneously produce higher improbability engines, until you’ve gone as far along that dimension as there is to go.

        • John Schilling says:

          Both of those look like straight 1.4 jump drives in Landis’s taxonomy, which does not require the author to use the words “jump” or “drive”. Technobabble involving quantum mechanics is explicitly cited, as is the possibility of a human mind doing it without any machinery.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The Gosseyn thing is a 1.4.1 variant, but with neither unrestricted target selection nor restricted in the 1.4.1.1 way. No quantum mechanics involved; I think it owes more to sympathetic magic than quantum mechanics. The Infinite Improbability drive is just weird though it’s main effect is effectively (unrestricted) 1.4.1; the setting obviously isn’t exactly serious.

      • Well... says:

        I don’t see Ludicrous Speed on there.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      In no particular order:

      – The Star Wars EU (the movies are just speed-of-plot + arbitrary contrivances. I am still angry they made it to Bespin sans hyperdrive.) Yes, really. It’s dead simple (point to point jumps in straight lines, stay away from gravity wells) but works well narratively and after the authors came up with Interdictor cruisers a number of books used them in surprising or interesting ways to produce tactical surprise or flexibility. Especially for mainstream work, I have to admit that Star Wars hyperdrives work well for the stories they want to tell.

      – Revelation Space is probably the best-considered high-speed STL setting I know of (plus some interesting corner cases.) A great style and aesthetic, as well. Too bad I just hate the writing, plots, characters, and books, and reading them feels like cleaning heavy underbrush.

      – the Eschaton duology by Stross, of course. The only writer I can think of who confronts the acausal implications of FTL travel instead of just invoking Belisario. (For those who haven’t read it: yes, their FTL travel lets you travel back in time arbitrarily. Too bad there’s a strong AI who did it, err, “first”, spread you across the galaxy, and left ten-foot letters of stone telling you “THOU SHALT NOT VIOLATE CAUSALITY IN MY HISTORIC LIGHTCONE, OR ELSE.” The series is about the meaning and consequences of that statement. Too bad Stross considers the setting unworkable, due to some mistakes in book 2. I’d love to see a lot more here.

      – The Hyperion Cantos has some fucking weird shit going on, but through four books we see three effective travel regimes, all of which produce dramatically different societies. The religious aspects and deeply soft space opera I can understand some people not liking, but for soft fiction he does a good job actually thinking about the consequences (Pohl’s maxim of traffic jams.)

      Sure I can think of more given some time or a pass over my bookshelves…

      (With the exception of island hopping. Almost everyone gets island hopping wrong.)

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        (I guess this is more a list of settings where I enjoyed what they did with FTL, than particularly interesting FTL systems.)

      • Nornagest says:

        Too bad Stross considers the setting unworkable, due to some mistakes in book 2.

        Have any idea what those mistakes are? I’ve heard this before but not in detail, and I’m drawing a blank trying to figure it out myself. There are some things about the ReMastered that don’t quite make sense to me but no obvious setting-killers.

        • Andrew Hunter says:

          Some discussion here. I think he’s being a bit unreasonable in terms of how broken things are, but it’s his toy, not mine.

          I think he also decided it wasn’t realistic enough for a time travel setting, hence Palimpsest. Palimpsest is a good book and I enjoyed it, but it is Primer-level incomprehensible (probably correct for a book about acausal war.)

          • Nornagest says:

            I think I read that at some point, presumably before I got fed up with the increasing Culture Warriness of Charlie’s blog and noped out of there. It doesn’t really answer the question: it establishes that there are problems but not what the problems are.

            My best guess would be that it’s not weird enough. Naively the good-guy side has an I Win button that it’s not using: we know the Eschaton has no qualms about excessive force, by the end of the story we know it knows about the ReMastered’s plan, and right now it’s the only large-scale causality-violating power going, so there’s no good reason for it not to already have melted every Sig rune and totenkopf pin in the universe (and the planets they’re on if it’s feeling thorough) with gray goo or virus bombs or whatever incomprehensible weapons it does this sort of shit with. That is probably something you could work around, I already have some ideas of how you could do it, but they don’t look very much like the clever but still fairly conventional war of expansion in Iron Sunrise.

            That’s all pretty speculative, though.

          • MrApophenia says:

            I think the idea Stross was going for was that the Eschaton wasn’t the only acausal entity – the potential rival AI the Remastered were trying to build was also actively interfering in history to bring about its own existence, and the events of the book are what a time travel war between two acausal AIs looks like from the point of view of linear time humans.

            Or rather, that was the theory, but he thinks he screwed up how that should actually work. He went back to the problem of how a war between rival time traveling factions should look with the novella Palimpsest, which is a very fun read.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            Right, that’s what he said, but just because a war between two globally acausal entities didn’t look like Iron Sunrise doesn’t mean Iron Sunrise doesn’t look like *something*. There are all sorts of plausible explanations for the plot, most around the theme of “the remastered don’t know their god {isn’t a god, is the Eschaton playing silly buggers}.”

      • gbdub says:

        Been awhile since I’ve been deep in the Start Wars EU, so I can’t recall, do they ever really explain how communication works? I vaguely recall some mention of “hyperspace comms” but it’s hard to reconcile that with how we see hyperspace portrayed, which is more like moving to a separate dimension or something.

        • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

          A series of hyperspace communication buoys (hypercomm buoys) are scattered across most of the known galaxy. One of the later NJO books revolves around the desperate defense of one of these buoys, as the Bad Guys try to cripple the Good Guys’ communications.

          I think the idea is that the buoys can broadcast through hyperspace for short distances, operating in hyperspace the same way that radio operates in real space, so you can have real-time hologram communications with someone on the other side of the galaxy (though we only see the Jedi Council and the Emperor himself, presumably the top .00000000000001% of the galactic social heirarchy, so who knows how widespread it is?).

      • bean says:

        I am still angry they made it to Bespin sans hyperdrive.

        EU canon is that they used the backup hyperdrive, which is like an x12. In other words, really slow.

        • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

          I missed that detail, apparently. Can you recall when that was introduced?

          • bean says:

            Sorry, no. It’s been way too long. I do know that all of my RPG sourcebooks credit the Falcon with a backup hyperdrive, which is the highest level of canon as far as I’m concerned.

    • cassander says:

      I was always a fan of the way Babylon 5 did hyperspace/drive. The show was never much concerned about the details, but there was some decent thought behind it.

      There exists an alternate dimension called hyperspace. Hyperspace roughly maps to realspace, but not in a way that is always predictable, meaning that while travel through hyperspace is faster than light, some ways are faster than others. Hyperspace is full of energy (yes, I know) which makes it dangerous and makes sensors not very useful so well trod hyperspace routes have beacons and navigation aids.

      You don’t need a special engine to move in hyperspace, but getting to and from there takes a lot of energy, so most people use hyperspace gates, which are large and expensive ways to get in or out of it. Large military ships with plenty of power are capable of forming their own jump points. FTL communication works by beaming signals through hyperspace, which is effectively real time, though it probably shouldn’t be.

      It’s a nice combination that usually felt very plausible and gave you a lot of narrative options.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        I don’t like being negative, but Babylon 5 is an example of my least favorite FTL system: the one where they call space as we know it “realspace.” It’s an in-universe admission that FTL is fake.

        • John Schilling says:

          Or an understanding of how humans adapt language to new circumstances. What do you think people will call what is presently just called “space”, when they need to distinguish it from something else that is called “space” but isn’t the same thing? Hint: They won’t want to waste syllables and they won’t care about pedantic literal correctness.

          Here in the real world, for example, you’ll find people using the phrase “real world” to distinguish from e.g. college campuses, without meaning to assert that college campuses are fake.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Well I would think they’d just call 3-dimensions+gravity “space” and the other thing some other word of one or two syllables.
            Though now that you mention it, didn’t John Milton coin the term “outer space”? So I guess it could change within the era of Modern English.

          • John Schilling says:

            The “other thing”, as usually represented, has three dimensions plus time, making it sufficiently space-like that it is going to get a name of the form “[adjective]space”. Which instantly makes the unadorned “space” ambiguous, in that it could refer just to the vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big place that’s got Earth in it, or to that and [adjective]space combined. A neologism will be coined to refer specifically and only to the big place that’s got Earth in it, and that neologism will also be of the form “[adjective]space”. Adjectives of more than two syllables need not apply.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            I’ve seen multiple settings use the term “N-space” which fits your short, pithy, and clear criteria, though as you imply most hyperspace implementations also seem to have 3+1 Minkowski dimensions, so it doesn’t exactly pass the fridge test. (Sometimes this is backexplained by N being short for “normal”, but no one believes that.)

            I am pretty happy with N-space as a name anyway.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Yeah, also “real world” is used distinguish the internet.

            e.g. “Cyber-attack causes real-world harm.”

          • Winter Shaker says:

            I am pleased that ‘real life’ has its own Wikipedia entry.

        • Eltargrim says:

          @Le Maistre Chat

          Sci-fi may have been borrowing from the real space/reciprocal space distinction in solid-state physics and crystallography. The difference between real space and reciprocal space is simply a Fourier transformation, they’re both physically “real”, but reciprocal space doesn’t correspond to our everyday intuitions. Notably, they’re both three-dimensional space, but long length vectors in realspace are short in reciprocal space.

    • b_jonas says:

      An interesting thread listing many forms of faster than light communication in fiction is “https://scifi.stackexchange.com/q/96389/4918” “Which Sci-fi universe uses the most forms of FTL (Faster Than Light)?” on Science Fiction Stack Exchange.

      You might also look through the comment thread of Scott’s sci-fi writeup about faster than light communication “http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/08/09/the-lizard-people-of-alpha-draconis-1-decided-to-build-an-ansible/” .

  12. Matt M says:

    Does anyone know of any websites or other sources that attempt to rate or recommend media (particularly current, popular media) on both the vectors of popularity as well as critical acclaim.

    Basically, I want to re-connect with pop culture (I’m thinking mainly movies, TV, music here), and I want to mainly consume products that are… let’s call it “influential”, for lack of a better word. Stuff that people talk about. At the extreme high end, this is easy enough… I know that Breaking Bad is influential because literally everyone around me talks about it and references it frequently. I know that Marvel movies are popular and generally of decent quality, that people like Beyonce and Taylor Swift, etc. But at the tier below, once the obvious ones are out of the way, I’m not sure how to go about this.

    Places like Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes are nice in theory, but they focus so heavily in critical acclaim that they suck in entirely too many small/independent stuff that clearly is not influential at all. If I go to the RT “what’s fresh” list, 90% of the movies are things I’ve never heard of. That’s not really what I’m looking for. On the other hand, I can google “Highest grossing movies of the 2000s” and learn that wow, people sure did fork out a lot of money to see Harry Potter, Shrek, and Pirates of the Caribbean sequels. Nickelback sells a lot of records, but I’m not sure they’re influential either.

    Does anyone have any suggestions here?

      • Matt M says:

        Thanks for the link. Unfortunately this isn’t really a sustainable thing. It’s just a bunch of people saying “Here’s what we think at this moment in time.”

        It also doesn’t help that their first entry in the first link is, sure enough, a movie I’ve never even heard of!

        • johan_larson says:

          Let me see if I understand what you want. You want pointers to works that are respected and influential, not necessarily popular or financially successful. Is that righit?

          That’s hard, because while there is plenty of commentary of new works, discussions about older stuff tends to be more subcultural. It’s behind the scenes. I think you’ll need to find groups of people who are serious fans of the genres you are interested in, and find out what they are talking about. Anything the fans are still talking about decades after it came out is worthy of attention. For example, SF fans were still getting into fights about “Starship Troopers” in the nineties, which is pretty remarkable for a book published in 1959.

          • Matt M says:

            Not really. I want pointers to works that are both respected and popular.

            In other words: No art-house oscar bait that every critic loved, but that grossed <5M. And also no "Medea Goes to France" or whatever else is making a lot of money off fart jokes these days.

            I think most works that are both popular and critically respected become "influential" sort of by default so that's the word I used, but I'm not necessarily looking for influence itself.

            I want Breaking Bad, The Avengers, and Coldplay – but like, the next level below that (because those are obvious and I'm already familiar with them).

          • mobile says:

            What he wants is to invest his scare attention and time into those popular cultural works that will maximize the amount of common knowledge he has with his society, and in particular with his peers.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I want Breaking Bad, The Avengers, and Coldplay – but like, the next level below that (because those are obvious and I’m already familiar with them).

            This is tough because Breaking Bad was closer to an art house flick for most of its run. It only became a cultural phenomenon in its final season, having one 1 episode break 2 million viewers before that, and its first two seasons averaged well under 1.5 million (wikipedia). Even its popular finale with 4.3 million viewers per episode is very weak, Simpsons didn’t fall that low until year 27, and peaked with almost 7X as many viewers (again wikipedia). The Walking Dead’s worst rated season still averaged a million more viewers than BB. Heck the panned “fear the walking dead” spin off pulled in more viewers than your average BB episode.

          • JayT says:

            I’m pretty sure that Breaking Bad owes most of its commercial success to Netflix. When it showed up there and everyone binge watched is when it became a cultural phenomenon. At least, that was my impression at the time.

          • Fahundo says:

            I’m not so sure that TV ratings numbers are the most reliable metric here. In my bubble at least, almost no one is going to watch the most popular current TV show by tuning in when it airs. They’re either watching on Netflix or finding some other way to stream or download it.

          • Matt M says:

            baconbits,

            Consider it a range. I don’t want anything less popular than Breaking Bad, and I don’t want anything less critically acclaimed than The Avengers.

          • meh says:

            Discovery is part of the pop culture journey. But you seem to have your criteria.

            No art-house oscar bait that every critic loved, but that grossed <5M. And also no "Medea Goes to France" or whatever else is making a lot of money off fart jokes these days.

            Just go down rotten tomatoes, or imdb ratings, and cross reference with audience score and box office. Come up with whatever score works for you.

        • johnjohn says:

          “It also doesn’t help that their first entry in the first link is, sure enough, a movie I’ve never even heard of!”

          That’s a regional thing, it’s a british movie but otherwise fits your criteria

    • Nornagest says:

      Exposure (~= financial success) matters but it’s clearly not the whole story. Think of Avatar (2009 film; smurfs, not ninjas): far and away the most successful film of 2009, one of the most successful in history, even critically well-reviewed, but when it comes to lasting effects on pop culture it pretty much sank without a ripple. I think more people these days talk about Avatar (animated series; ninjas, not smurfs), which made a tiny fraction of the money.

      • Matt M says:

        An interesting point. Any thoughts as to how to track that bit of nuance?

        • Nornagest says:

          I don’t know. Number of mentions in some corpus (Google Trends, maybe?) might be an interesting metric, although terms might be ambiguous in some cases (like the two I listed).

          • Fahundo says:

            Google Trends, maybe?

            This method will likely get you lots of movies that have been heavily meme’d on, such as the Bee Movie.

      • Nick says:

        Avatar might have gotten more attention if it had a sequel lined up for everyone to think and talk about. I thought they had immediately lined up a sequel, but googling it looks like it got massively delayed planning for the three after that and now it’s coming out in 2020. Eleven years is an incredibly long time to wait for a sequel.

        • Nornagest says:

          Don’t think a sequel’s required for pop-culture influence. Fight Club didn’t get a sequel (nor was it a blockbuster, though it was successful) but it’s one of the most influential movies of the last twenty years. Ditto The Big Lebowski. Donnie Darko has a sequel no one’s ever heard of. The Matrix has two sequels that everyone’s heard of but wish they hadn’t.

          • Nick says:

            It’s not required, but surely it helps. Well, with the possible exception of The Matrix, but even there when people think of the sequels they want to go watch the original, as if to wash the bad taste out of their mouth.

        • meh says:

          I dunno… The more people think and talk about Avatar, the more they realize it was not good (as a movie at least, probably good as a technology exhibition).

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THk19WfVHhY

          • Nornagest says:

            It’s weird. Technically extremely well done, great set design, nothing wrong with the cast, the script is at least competent if not particularly special, but that’s all wrapped around a core of… nothing. Or rather a strange kind of negative wish fulfillment. It’s the only movie I’ve ever gotten the urge to write fanfiction about in order to point out its logical and ideological flaws.

            (Never actually did, though.)

          • Deiseach says:

            Technically extremely well done, great set design, nothing wrong with the cast, the script is at least competent if not particularly special

            The only part of Avatar (the space smurfs) movie I’ve seen was about five minutes when I was passing through the living room when someone was watching it on television, and I pretty much immediately started cheering on Evil Human General and his plan of genocide because the space smurfs were so annoying and wet.

            I think the problem was that there was no there there; the blue smurfs were good CGI but still CGI which contrasted weirdly with the live-action actors, and the main story was “human guy gets to live out fantasies plus get magic cure oh yeah and environmentalism is cool, kids”.

          • Nornagest says:

            Precisely. Well, not to the extent of genocide, but I wouldn’t mind seeing them get their asses kicked, and CEO Whatshisface and General Coffee Mug clearly only needed genocide by authorial fiat anyway.

            Besides, if we’ve got to watch thinly veiled colonial parables in space, why can’t I have “Flashman Does Eywa”? Most of the plot would still work, and it’d be vastly more entertaining than yet another Dances With Wolves.

          • bean says:

            Besides, if we’ve got to watch thinly veiled colonial parables in space, why can’t I have “Flashman Does Eywa”?

            Oh please oh please oh please someone do this. That would be amazing.

          • Nornagest says:

            What price glory? I’ve never tallied it up, but the score would have to include bloodshed, tedium, murder, dishonesty, and, mainly, long periods of stark, pants-wetting terror.

            But the truth is, I’ve always been a coward. Oh, I’d won my share of laurels long before I set foot on Pandora or any other godforsaken ball of rock — two Bronze Stars and the Navy Cross, and I’m told by one who’d know that I’d escaped the Medal of Honor only by staying too alive to make a good martyr — but in all cases the main credit rightfully belonged to others, or utter coincidence cast me in a far better light than I’d deserved, or at least I’d had my back well and truly against the wall. My part in the recent debacle was more ignominious still — yet it made me, however briefly, a household name from Timbuktu to Tharsis and rekindled long-dormant dreams of adventure in millions of American schoolboys. The idiots.

            I won’t bore you with the whys and wherefores of my early career; I’m told there’s a shoddy biopic appearing soon, anyway, and a ractive or two to put you in my shoes through Bengal Anchor and the bloody streets of Chittagong. What you need to know is, it was my talent for languages that put me there — along with broad shoulders and an undoubted gift for kissing up to my bosses that’s never been equaled in insight to what they’re planning. And it was the same misbegotten skill that brought me, still groggy from six years’ cryosleep and with wires taped to my shaven skull, to the brink of a nutrient vat where slept a shaggy-maned monster like a cross between a leopard and a Latvian, all blue and bioluminescent. A creature, I should add, with my own handsome face.

            …okay, I guess I’ve written fanfic now.

            This is fun. Maybe I’ll continue.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            What the lord am I reading, can someone explain this?

          • Nornagest says:

            The Flashman novels are a long-running historical fiction series by George MacDonald Fraser, starring an antiheroic British soldier who ends up witnessing most of the military and political disasters of the mid-to-late 19th century.

            Since Avatar is basically Dances With Wolves in space, I thought it might be good for a laugh to transpose the lead roles: Harry Flashman’s got basically the same job description as Dances’ lead,
            but a very different personality and perceptions. I might have gotten a little bit carried away.

          • bean says:

            @Nornagest
            Very well done indeed. You nailed his voice.

      • hls2003 says:

        Disney just opened a series of Avatar (space smurfs)-themed rides at their Animal Kingdom park. I think it’s fair to say that Disney is often a pop cultural arbiter, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the (decidedly forgettable) space smurfs Avatar regained some cultural relevance. (A shame, too, since magic ninjas Avatar was much more fun).

    • gbdub says:

      Are you talking “currently influential” or “ever”? Because there are of course those AFI lists of 100 greatest [X] films, which tend to have a good mix of stuff that’s popular, influential, and has remained significant over time

      • Matt M says:

        Yeah, that’s pretty close to what I’m looking for, only I’m more interested in current stuff than old stuff. So if instead of “ever” it was “between 20 and 5 years ago” that would be pretty great!

        Basically what I really want is some sort of mash-up of Rotten Tomatoes and Box Office receipts that uses some sort of weighted average to tell me “these are the movies that are both popular AND good” in whatever timeframe I choose to filer by.

        • JayT says:

          Why not just got to Box Office Mojo and see the highest grossing movies, and then cross reference that list with Rotten tomatoes?

          I assume there are similar sites for music as well, though I don’t pay attention to the music scene, so I don’t know.

          TV will be harder because not all stations are created equal. A mediocre CBS drama like Blue Bloods will have more viewers than a something like Game of Thrones, but obviously GoT is more culturally important. And that’s not even bringing in Netflix, who doesn’t release viewership numbers.

    • Wrong Species says:

      Movies aren’t really as influential as they used to be so I’m not sure you’re going to find much besides superhero movies(by current, I assume you mean this decade). There are very few must see movies now. Other than superhero movies, there are Star Wars movies, animated Disney/Pixar movies and whatever Christopher Nolan comes out with. That’s pretty much it for very high grossing and has good reviews.

    • dndnrsn says:

      You’re probably going to have to wait longer than 5-20 years for good assessments of what was actually good. You can’t just look at sales, and critics don’t necessarily praise what’s remembered 50 years later. You can’t look at Oscars – people probably remember Apocalypse Now better than Kramer vs Kramer.

    • j1000000 says:

      It seems like you’re looking for, basically, “stuff that is liked and talked about amongst college-educated but not completely pretentious white people.” If that’s not a total mischaracterization, then your best bet is probably a site like The Ringer or maybe the arts section of things like Vox or The Atlantic.

      But if you’re looking to watch this stuff in order to be able to enter “the cultural conversation,” in my experience people on what I’ll call “college-educated middlebrow Twitter” pretty much only talk about current, ongoing shows–even if you never watched The Wire, you’re not “culturally illiterate” on middlebrow Twitter, because people only ever talk about the latest season of the latest show.

      Game of Thrones is the only still active show that I can think of off the top of my head that has had years of cultural dominance. In 2017 I’d say the two movies that fit your criteria were Lady Bird and Get Out. Maybe The Florida Project.

  13. dodrian says:

    Thank you to whoever linked their board game recommendations a few threads back.

    I received Splendor from my wish list, and have really enjoyed it so far.

    I bought Spyfall for my brother-in-law, it was well received and a big hit at our New Years celebrations.

  14. BBA says:

    Odd trivia on the extent of sovereignty:

    According to the Law of the Sea treaty, every nation considered to extend out twelve nautical miles from its coastline. Beyond twelve miles, it’s international waters. The United States has not ratified this treaty, but did ratify a predecessor establishing the twelve-mile limit, so we’re bound by this as well.

    Historically, the limit was generally three miles, defined as roughly the distance a cannonball could be fired from shore. This survives in a quirk of US law regarding the territorial sea: most states* with a coastline extend three miles out to sea. Between three and twelve miles, you are within the United States but not within the bounds of any state. This was a mere curiosity until offshore oil and gas extraction became a thing, and both state and federal governments as owners of submerged lands stood to make money off leasing.

    *Exceptions include Texas and the Gulf coast of Florida, where treaties regarding the annexation of the respective territories specify that the seaward boundaries of the states extend three leagues, or nine miles. This does not apply to the states in between on the Gulf, or to Florida’s Atlantic coast. Also, the Great Lakes are not international waters, but have a defined US-Canada boundary within them, and the American portions arer entirely within their abutting states.

    In the meantime, another issue arises: state laws cover all sorts of topics (crimes, liability issues, licensing, etc.) that federal law is silent on. A few specific laws about territorial waters have been passed, notably establishing a few federal crimes and banning gambling until you reach the 12-mile mark. But for the most part, Congress decided to just incorporate the neighboring state’s law by reference. Thus if you commit what would be a state crime on a ship or oil platform that is between the 3-mile limit and the 12-mile limit, it is a federal crime you would be charged with, but one defined by a state statute. The same also applies to other federal enclaves, such as military bases and national parks, that are within a state but not subject to state sovereignty. And that’s part of why nobody knows how many federal crimes there are – because thousands of them are created by one section of law.

    I don’t know how other federal nations handle this. Probably less clumsily than we do, since they had our mistakes to learn from.

    • Evan Þ says:

      Interesting!

      This isn’t the first time the federal government incorporated a neighboring state’s law by reference; when organized new territories, the federal government would often do the same thing with some nearby state. All in all, I think it’s a good thing; it gives a well-defined body of law without the gaps that might come from Congress randomly leaving things out.

      Even more weirdly, during the days of the Unequal Treaties when the US Court in China had extraterritorial jurisdiction, the treaties specifying that certain people be tried under US law didn’t specify any state… so the court, by its own authority, chose the law of the District of Columbia. As far as I’m aware, this choice was never brought up in appeals.

    • Aapje says:

      @BBA

      This just strengthens my already existing belief that the US is rather strange in preferring to just hack a bunch of minor fixes onto a shitty system (which together add up to a monstrosity), rather than make some greater changes. Instead of having the federal government convict people for breaking state law, why not just make the state have jurisdiction instead? Even if oil/gas is an issue, doesn’t it make more sense to just toss some money to the federal government or make a special agreement just for offshore extraction in that region?

      I don’t know how other federal nations handle this.

      The Kingdom of the Netherlands is a federation (of which The Netherlands is but one nation), but the other nations are small islands on the other side of the world, so there are no territorial issues. Also, The Netherlands utterly dominates the federation, both in practical ways and legally, so they/we can mostly just force changes if we really care.

      Also, in general we just fix issues (for example, we recently traded some land with Belgium because the land could not be effectively policed by the nation it belonged to).

      • The Kingdom of the Netherlands is a federation

        Historically, as I understand it, the Netherlands consisted of a group of independent nations that happened, by a weird and continued coincidence, to all select the same person as chief executive. I gather that is no longer the case.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          I’m interested in the Dutch perspective on this, too. To use an anglo-centric analogy, my understanding was that, like the US, a bunch of culturally/linguistically-related-but-administratively/historically-distinct provinces all decided together that Great Britain the Hapsburgs can fuck off and we’ll need to team up to make that happen.

          Or maybe we’re thinking of different things?

        • Aapje says:

          @DavidFriedman

          Your misconceptions seem to stem from not realizing that the The Kingdom of the Netherlands is distinct from the The Netherlands (which is a constitutional monarchy, but is not officially called a Kingdom). I’ll get back to that later, but I’ll first talk about the history of The Netherlands (not the Kingdom).

          Once upon a time the region that is now The Netherlands was a mess of polities that encompassed cities and larger regions. Various empires like the Roman empire and the Roman Empire tried to rule this region, but could not maintain effective control. Holland (the western region near the sea) was also a swampy, mosquito infested hellhole. Then the draining and cultivating of uninhabited swampy land in the western Netherlands greatly increased the economic productivity of Holland, which made it a center of power and which allowed taking advantage of the many waterways for trade and such. This center of power was fought over in the ‘Hook and Cod Wars’ between 1350 and 1490, where the Cods represented the progressive cities and the Hooks the conservative rural noblemen. L’histoire se répète.

          Anyway, the conservative noblemen invited the Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy, who was also Count of Flanders, to conquer Holland, which he did. The Burgundian rulers gradually increased the region under their control. Then later the Habsburgs inherited the Burgundian possessions. So eventually there was a state (now) called the Seventeen Provinces, encompassing pretty much the Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg).

          Eventually, the Habsburg archduke Philip II, who was also the King of Spain, got to rule the Seventeen Provinces. Protestantism had taken over much of the Northern provinces, but Philip II was a anti-heresy Catholic, so he was oppressing Protestantism, causing a revolt (1568–1648). The revolt eventually succeeded, but only for the Northern provinces. So this is really where The Netherlands and Belgium became separated, which turned out to be permanent, despite a brief attempt to (much) later unite them again.

          Anyway, after gaining independence from Spain in 1588 (the final outcome was achieved fairly early, the rest of the revolt/war was mainly a stalemate), the northern provinces formed a confederation, called the Dutch Republic or the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. So at this point we have our first true federal state. Then the Dutch Golden Age, Dutch colonies, then economic problems, lost wars and such. The populace became discontent.

          In early 1795, intervention by French revolutionary forces led to the downfall of the old Dutch Republic. This revolt had a lot of popular support. So at this point The Netherlands became a unitary state (which was permanent), but under French rule. The Dutch populace rapidly became discontent with the French though, because Napoleon Bonaparte wanted to extract much wealth from The Netherlands to fund his wars. Fortunately, Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated at Waterloo (by an allied force including a very large contingent of Dutch and Belgian troops), giving The Netherlands their independence back.

          Then The Netherlands was briefly united with Belgium and Luxembourg again. So at that point you had the Kingdom of the Netherlands. I don’t think that was set up as a confederation though. It doesn’t matter much really, because it quickly broke up again. After this, The Netherlands increasingly became a proper democracy, taking power away from the King and enfranchising an increasing percentage of the populace.

          After WW II, The Netherlands lost their big remaining colony (Indonesia) and gave semi-independence to 3 smaller colonies. Since then, The Kingdom of the Netherlands is a confederation consisting of:
          – The Netherlands
          – Aruba
          – Curaçao
          – Sint Maarten

          These nations are all centralized unitary states, with their own representative parliamentary democracy, currency, etc. However, there is an overarching governmental structure that can intervene in each nation. The Netherlands has a majority of the vote, so in practice it just means that The Netherlands can intervene in Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten.

          Despite being part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten are not actually part of the EU. Interestingly, Sint Maarten is actually half of an Island, where the other half is Saint-Martin, which is part of France. So half of the Island is in the EU and half of it isn’t. So the EU actually extends into the Carribean.

          • quaelegit says:

            > Various empires like the Roman empire and the Roman Empire tried to rule this region,

            Not sure if typo or a joke about the Holy Roman Empire…

          • Aapje says:

            That was an editing error.

            TLDR of my comment is that the Kingdom of the Netherlands is a bit like a weak UK and The Netherlands is a bit like England (although there are significant differences, so don’t take this analogy too far).

            Also note that my recounting of Dutch history is simplified and I left things out. For example, there are also three Caribbean Islands that are part of The Netherlands as special municipalities since 2010. This is somewhat similar to how Puerto Rico is part of the US, but is not a state or part of a state. Although Puerto Rico has a their own elected government, but this is presumably because Puerto Rico is relatively large.

            To get a sense of scale, the before-mentioned three Caribbean Islands have a combined population of 25,000. Puerto Rico has nearly 4 million.

      • In this particular case, “just fixing it” has HUGE state tax ramifications for oil rigs, so companies would fight tooth-and-nail to stop it from happening.

        • Aapje says:

          They could still just make the state’s legal jurisdiction extend to 12 miles and then add a special exception for oil rigs. That seems a lot simpler.

          It also has the benefit that new activities in the 12 miles zone will then simply fall under state law, so the mess doesn’t increase as new economic activity happens in the zone.

          • Garrett says:

            The traditional US response to such things would be to have fishing trawlers and casino boats add just enough equipment to now qualify as oil rigs.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Garrett says:

            >The traditional US response to such things would be to have fishing trawlers and casino boats add just enough equipment to now qualify as oil rigs.

            Want. This might a starting point for a satirical technothriller.

          • Wouldn’t it make more sense to just attach a casino to an oil rig that’s already there?

          • Nornagest says:

            Are there a lot of oil rigs more than 12 miles out?

          • Aapje says:

            Golden Nugget Oil Rig and Casino… no smoking.

    • Randy M says:

      In the meantime, another issue arises: state laws cover all sorts of topics (crimes, liability issues, licensing, etc.) that federal law is silent on… Thus if you commit what would be a state crime on a ship or oil platform that is between the 3-mile limit and the 12-mile limit, it is a federal crime you would be charged with, but one defined by a state statute.

      I was holding out hopes you had found some profitable or at least amusing loophole at the intersection of these jurisdictions.
      But, you have at least justified the existence of maritime lawyers like the redoubtable Mr Cutestory.

      • BBA says:

        I was holding out hopes you had found some profitable or at least amusing loophole at the intersection of these jurisdictions.

        I was too.

        Actually, what spurred my interest in this was wondering how a cruise ship from, say, New York to Bermuda and back is allowed to open its onboard casino while it’s in international waters, but dedicated casino ships that just go the minimum distance to international waters and back in order to avoid state gambling laws don’t exist. Turns out, there’s a convoluted set of rules on this very topic to effectively allow cruise ship casinos (except in Hawaii, and with special rules around Alaska) while banning dedicated casino ships (except, for some reason, in Indiana).

        • add_lhr says:

          I went on one of these casino cruises in Florida in 2007 – we did indeed simply sail 12 miles out to see, loiter for 2-3 hours, and then return.

          So I think they are legal in other states as well, possibly under clause (1)(B)(ii) of that statute “[…] this section does not prohibit […] the gambling device remains on board that vessel while the vessel is within the boundaries of that State or possession”

        • Deiseach says:

          dedicated casino ships that just go the minimum distance to international waters and back in order to avoid state gambling laws don’t exist

          I’m only going off memories of Chandler and Hammett novels, but didn’t something like this exist during the 30s/40s? Probably laws got passed to shut down that loophole?

          It was not much to look at. A converted seagoing freighter with scummed and rusted plates, the superstructure cut down to the boat deck level, and above that two stumpy masts just high enough for a radio antenna. There was light on the Montecito also and music floated across the wet dark sea. The spooning couples took their teeth out of each other’s necks and stared at the ship and giggled.

          The taxi swept around in a wide curve, careened just enough to give the passengers a thrill, and eased up to the hemp fenders along the stage. The taxi’s motor idled and backfired in the fog. A lazy searchlight beam swept a circle about fifty yards out from the ship.

          The taximan hooked to the stage and a sloe-eyed lad in a blue mess jacket with bright buttons, a bright smile and a gangster mouth, handed the girls up from the taxi. I was last. The casual neat way he looked me over told me something about him. The casual neat way he bumped my shoulder clip told me more.

          “Nix,” he said softly. “Nix.”

          He had a smoothly husky voice, a hard Harry straining himself through a silk handkerchief. He jerked his chin at the taximan. The taximan dropped a short loop over a bitt, turned his wheel a little, and climbed out on the stage. He stepped behind me.

          “No gats on the boat, laddy. Sorry and all that rot,” Mess-jacket purred.

          “I could check it. It’s just part of my clothes. I’m a fellow who wants to see Brunette, on business.”

          He seemed mildly amused. “Never heard of him,” he smiled. “On your way, bo.”

          The taximan hooked a wrist through my right arm.

          “I want to see Brunette,” I said. My voice sounded weak and frail, like an old lady’s voice.

          “Let’s not argue,” the sloe-eyed lad said. “We’re not in Bay City now, not even in California, and by some good opinions not even in the U.S.A. Beat it.”

          Looks like Chandler based his account off a real gambling ship anchored off Santa Monica.

  15. Boyd Silken says:

    Anyone know of any effective counseling/treatments for Broader Autism Phenotype (BAP)?

    • Nornagest says:

      This is the first I’ve heard of it, but it sounds like the sort of thing that would’ve been coined to describe subclinical traits, i.e. stuff that doesn’t interfere with daily life by medical standards. Since the medical community is very averse to messing with stuff in that bucket, I bet you the answer is “no”.

  16. SteveReilly says:

    Does anyone have much of an opinion on the Skeptic article about Sandusky? https://www.skeptic.com/reading_room/trial-by-therapy-jerry-sandusky-case-revisited/

    I’ve been so sure he was guilty that it gave me a bit of a jolt and made me wonder if I’d screwed up bad in judging the guy. And Elizabeth Loftus buys into it, and she seems really good with false memory stuff. And I haven’t read about the case in so long that I’m not sure exactly how credible the witnesses are.

    But then I worried that maybe Loftus was pulling a Jonathan Haidt, where you get well-known for noticing a psychological quirk, so then you notice the quirk everywhere. And the article is really badly written (Seriously? The picture of the woman in the bar?). And Crewes downplays weird behavior on Sandusky’s part which makes me wonder how seriously he’s taking this.

    Still, is the article just full of crap. or is there something to it?

    • John Schilling says:

      The original version of McQueary’s testimony seems sufficient to establish that some sort of sexual misconduct, if not actual rape, probably occurred. We shouldn’t be putting people in prison on “probably”, of course. But neither should we be e.g. conjuring nigh-conspiratorial fantasies out of the fact that McQueary’s story wasn’t a perfect recitation of the original through many retellings over subsequent months. We know that’s not how memory works, we know pretty much what McQueary said when his memory was still fresh, and we ought to suspect there isn’t much substance beneath a story that focuses on such trivia.

      I’m still going to go with the jury verdict on this one. I could be persuaded otherwise, but this isn’t going to do it.

      • Matt M says:

        I’m interested in the fact that McQueary’s testimony seemed to get steadily more incriminating towards Sandusky with each retelling. It’s not as if he sometimes errored on one side or the other, which you might suspect from a completely neutral “faulty memory.” It maps pretty well to “He is suggestible based on what he’s heard about other cases.”

        If you ask someone if Person X committed Crime Y, they may say they’re not sure. If you then tell them that multiple other people have independently accused Person X of committing Crime Y on other occasions, I have to believe you’re more likely to then say, “Yes! I saw that, too!” The power of suggestion is very strong. The motivation to tell authority figures “what they want to hear” is very strong. A decade ago, nobody wanted to hear that Sandusky was a pedophile, so the story was weak. Now, that’s exactly what everyone wants to hear, and the story is strong. I guess that could be a total coincidence, but it’s almost a little too convinenent.

        • John Schilling says:

          It’s not as if he sometimes errored on one side or the other, which you might suspect from a completely neutral “faulty memory.”

          That’s not actually what I would expect from an actual faulty memory. Actual memories aren’t neutral, and evolve towards a confident and coherent recapitulation of a preferred narrative. And if a person’s initial memory of a confused reality lead them to e.g. accuse a colleague of a heinous crime, they are going to really prefer the narrative where that colleague is unambiguously guilty of that crime.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      If it’s based entirely on “recovered memories”, it should be overturned. That would be like being jailed for Satanic ritual abuse.
      But this article could be excessively biased.

    • Percival Krusen says:

      I am not overly familiar with the Sandusky case outside of the article you linked.

      That said, I would rate the article HOLY S***.

      In sum, these are the possible reasons to hypothesize that none of the accusations are accurate:

      1. Accusers were perhaps persuaded by the possibility of getting a massive sum of money by participating. Some of them could have additionally been persuaded by fear of missing out — if Sandusky’s going down anyway, why not get in on the payout? And, attorneys with an interest in winning money could have persuaded otherwise reluctant accusers.
      2. Accusers were persuaded by “recovered memory” therapy that persuaded them that they had memories they didn’t really have.
      3. Accusers were persuaded by confirmation bias and/or social pressure (including pressure from police and prosecutors) causing them to extrapolate or hallucinate accusations from limited information and memories.

      The article does a pretty good job of laying out that all the accusers could have been under the influence of at least one of these three effects. Let’s assume the article is generally accurate in its facts and descriptions (a dumb assumption, but my point is argument-checking, not fact checking). The remaining question is, are these effects real? And how powerful are they?

      My answer is, THEY ARE VERY REAL AND VERY POWERFUL. The financial motive is probably the least controversial of the three. But I also think the kind of confabulation/hallucination effects possible through “recovered memory” therapy, confirmation bias, and/or social pressure are very powerful and not commonly understood. Most people believe that the human brain is actually pretty good at rationally evaluating reality independent of social influences. I think powerful social influences can overpower reality evaluation pretty handily.

      It’s very damning that none of the accusers were just of the ordinary “yup, he abused me/I saw the abuse, yup, I remember it just like any normal memories, yup, I told that to the authorities the first time I was questioned and my story stayed consistent, yup, I was an actual witness/victim and didn’t just extrapolate from limited information.”

    • S_J says:

      As a comparison… a doctor of sports-medicine from another Mid-Western state was recently accused of sexual abuse by former-patients. The former patients were typically young, female gymnists. (A few of those women have risen to international prominence in the sport of gymnastics since the time they were under the care of that doctor.)

      How many of those accusations could be characterized (or mis-characterized) in a similar way?

      Somewhat like the Sandusky case: once these accusations were released in the news, many more accusations came forth. How many of the follow-up accusations could be characterized (or mis-characterized) as non-victims jumping on the bandwagon to get a payout?

      This kind of thing needs careful investigation. But we shouldn’t automatically dismiss all accusations as attention-seeking. And we shouldn’t immediately believe all accusations at first brush, either.

      Nota Bene: My first instinct was that Sandusky was guilty.

      From Wikipedia, before I read the Skeptic article, I find claims that:
      (A) Penn State Board of Trustees commissioned an independent investigation, and requested former FBI director Louis Freeh to head up that investigation. The results of that investigation were that the leadership of the Penn State athletic department had covered up Sandusky’s crimes, and ignored/downplayed the report given by McQueary.

      (B) the crime that led to the Pennsylvania Attorney General filing charges was based on a different report. The accuser is un-named in Wiki, but the investigation was triggered by a different report from someone at an area High School. The AG ‘s office claimed to have found evidence that Sandusky had been using the organization known as Second Mile to groom his victims.

      From the Skeptic article, I see
      (C) A different outside investigation, before any of these accusations became public, was made for the purpose of maintaining/revoking the Security clearance of the then-President of Penn State. This investigation failed to find any evidence of crime or cover-up.

      (D) The reputed victim of the McQueary incident denied that it happened as-described.

      (E) The McQueary report is remembered in different ways, at different times, by various people. Apparently, even McQueary himself didn’t always quote the same date for the incident.

      I’m leaning towards the other evidence discovered in part (B) above as enough to show that Sandusky was guilty of multiple instances of sexual assault. It’s possible for (C) to be true, and still not on-point…if the investigator was not looking into the Athletic Department and its interactions with Sandusky and Second Mile.

      Point (E) might be evidence that McQueary had seen multiple instances of questionable activity, but one stuck out in his mind as obviously-sexual-in-nature.

    • ohwhatisthis? says:

      There is lots of different evidence to suggest Sandusky was guilty…but perhaps the numbers became inflated due to monetary incentives.

      Doesn’t this *strongly* suggest that monetary rewards should be removed from cases that don’t have direct immediate physical evidence of incompetence, like damage to a house. All that should be paid for in these cases is enough to replace the travel, food, and lost income from ones day job in court.

      I’m not the biggest believer in repressed memories. People forget all kinds of memories from when they are young, good and bad. I view it more as psychoanalysts working in the arena of the unprovables.

      • ohwhatisthis? says:

        Now faulty memories due to poor wet-hardware, a brain full of cognitive biases, and “creativity” in what people say they remember I can believe.

    • gbdub says:

      In any case of alleged misconduct from more than say a year ago, in which multiple additional accusers join the case only after the initial accusations are publicized, how large must integer N be before there is a >50% chance that at least one of the accusers is making the whole thing up (or at a minimum going off of badly mangled ‘repressed memories’ or similar)?

      I’m guessing N is smaller than the number of accusers against Sandusky (or Harvey Weinstein, or Dr. Nasser (sp?)).

      But this of course doesn’t mean that they are not guilty in every case, just that there’s a decent chance that someone has hopped onto the publicity with a false or exaggerated account.

      My sense is that the likelihood is extremely high that Sandusky is guilty of at least one, and more likely several, of the assaults he was convicted of. It’s going to be hard to poke holes in every one of those cases.

  17. Le Maistre Chat says:

    I think we need a drug war just for recreational drugs that users inject. Users litter their used needles, creating a public health hazard of diseases up to HIV for innocent citizens. We can believe that individuals have a right to ruin their own lives with narcotics, but in the case of these drugs that changes nothing.

    • WashedOut says:

      In Australia there are “safe injecting rooms” and needle deposit boxes in most public bathrooms. I can’t comment on their effectiveness. This seems to be a better strategy in principle if you think the drug war is bad but dirty needles are worse.

      One problem with a ‘war on injecting drugs’ is that it’s hard territory to isolate. The ‘war’ will tend to creep into areas you want to handle less aggressively, e.g. pot.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        What’s the evidence that heroin addicts confine that activity to a “safe injecting room” given the opportunity?

        This is how crazy it’s gotten on the Left coast:

        Infected needles as an on-the-job hazard for Starbucks employees
        10,000 (or 13,000?) dirty needles collected as litter in San Francisco in March 2017
        (Incidentally, how do you San Frans survive there, between this and human feces in public places? Segregation by income?)

        Meanwhile in Portland, where the local government eschews cleanup in favor of telling innocent citizens to go buy a Sharps container and put any junkie syringe they find inside and drive it to the one public biohazard box on the Waterfront, children have started getting stabbed in the face with them in public parks:

        I dunno if the users are already sociopaths or if heroin or meth use changes one’s personality to stop thinking of others, but yikes.

        “It’s hard territory to isolate”… since pot IS an illegal drug in the United States and only gets around it through nullification by WA, OR, CA, CO & c, I’m not currently seeing taking it and other drugs people can abuse without creating a public health hazard (cocaine, LSD) off the list as having a high risk of creeping back.

        • WashedOut says:

          What’s the evidence that heroin addicts confine that activity to a “safe injecting room” given the opportunity?

          Usage stats from safe injecting rooms in Sydney over the period 2001 – 2015:

          More than 965,000 injections have been supervised
          Management of more than 5,925 overdoses without a single fatality.
          Over 15,300 people have registered to use the centre since opening.
          70% of the people visiting MSIC had never accessed any local health services prior to visiting the centre.
          More than 12,000 referrals have been made to external health and social welfare services.
          The number of ambulance call outs to Kings Cross has reduced by 80% since MSIC opened.
          There has been no increase in crime in the Kings Cross area.
          The Kings Cross MSIC has been independently evaluated multiple times. All results show the centre is successful and cost effective.
          The number of publicly discarded needles and syringes halved in Kings Cross after the opening of MSIC

          So if we take “effectiveness” to mean “reduction in gross harm to broader society” this room appears to have had a net positive effect on Sydney.

          It is unknown (and probably unknowable) whether everyone who injects in such a facility exactly translates to one less person injecting on the street (where harm can be done to others). Maybe these users shoot up anywhere anytime they want, but if they are in the general vicinity of the safe room they go there. Even so, the case for safe injecting rooms looks to have some merit.

        • outis says:

          Why doesn’t Starbucks give their baristas heavy gloves to use when handling trash?

        • Winter Shaker says:

          As far as I can tell, San Francisco doesn’t have a safe injecting site; it’s difficult to see how adding one could make things worse. As far as I understand, the consensus seems to be that safe injection sites do not noticeably worsen the problem of people injecting drugs in the surrounding neighbourhood outside them, but they do significantly reduce the risk of overdose deaths and the spread of blood-borne diseases, so I suspect that a lot of the opposition to them comes from a sort of purity/sanctity objection to people using (injectable) drugs at all, rather than a harm-focussed assessment that they actually increase net health risks.

          But I am not sure how big an impact they have – if they take only a tiny fraction of injecting users off the street, at great expense, that would be a strike against them. I would like to see lots of cities run controlled trials.

          Generally, though, if you want to get needles off the street, you probably need to address why people are using needles specifically in the first place. I’m not sure how to get a good handle on that, but if it is to do with the price of opiates being so high that people need to get every last penny’s worth (and not waste some to the atmosphere as in smoking), then making affordable, purity-and-dosage-controlled smokable heroin available, at least to registered addicts if you want to have such a system, should decrease the number of needles even if it doesn’t do anything to decrease the number of users.

          If it is the case that injection delivers such an intense rush relative to smoking that most users offered the choice between smoking and injecting will choose to inject even when the cost of a fix is a trivial concern, then that’s more of a problem, but in that case, safe injection sites (especially when combined with the availability of pharmaceutical grade opiates, since a ‘safe injection site’ by itself still implies people bringing their own, probably fentanyl-laced or otherwise contaminated drugs to the site) should still get *some* of the needles off the streets. You can then add specific crackdowns on discarding needles – heck, if you’re willing to invest enough forensic resources, used needles should be a pretty good source of DNA evidence as to who has discarded them – then you can probably make it a no-brainer for anyone who wants to inject to do so at a safe site. At what financial cost I don’t know, but if your city is already spending a large amount of money arresting and jailing drug users generally, then it shouldn’t be too much of a wrench to start focussing those resources on the needle-droppers.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I mean, if I need an injectable drug I’m paying $50 for a copay and my insurance is paying who-knows-what for the visit (plus the drug itself). Against this background there’s a proposal to spend tax money on helping recreational drug users shoot heroin? That is beyond the pale, unless you really are a utilitarian. And the drug users in this case look a lot like utility monsters.

          • Urstoff says:

            How does that make them look like utility monsters?

            Preventing the transmission of diseases and exposure of bystanders to dirty needles seems like a worthy public health policy.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Spend money on them, they get huge amounts of positive utility. Don’t, and they cause huge amounts of negative utility, from dying in the streets to spreading disease.

          • Urstoff says:

            Okay, I can see that. Is that an argument against safe injection sites?

          • rlms says:

            I don’t think users’ utility would be particularly increased by having safe injection sites (especially if we disregard the ones who get help and stop using as a consequence of them). Overall, if combined a crackdown on those who don’t use them, it could even decrease.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Against this background there’s a proposal to spend tax money on helping recreational drug users shoot heroin? That is beyond the pale, unless you really are a utilitarian.

            Well, we’re already spending a lot of tax money on recreational drug users: trying, with little meaningful success, to stop the drugs getting to them in the first place, arresting, prosecuting and punishing them when they get caught with drugs, some fraction going on attempts at rehabilitation and, depending on where you are, some fraction going on methodone maintenance.

            As long as ‘just leave them alone’ isn’t a live option*, it’s not obvious that the current policy is a better investment of tax funds than one which would at least stabilise injecting drug users on a calibrated, uncontaminated dose which is a lot less likely to kill them, while, as Urstoff points out, also reducing some of the negative externalities that Prohibition doesn’t seem to be very good at preventing.

            As for utility monsterism … unless I am mistaken, it’s not like there’s an infinite capacity for tolerance. Even if someone ups their dose initially, it’s not like they’ll eventually progress to injecting their own bodyweight and beyond every day, they’ll just top out at an asymptote (though someone more versed in pharmacology please correct me here). Plus, to the extent that prescription heroin reduces the incentive to recruit new users in order to raise funds for one’s own supply, it would be actively reducing the size of the problem in the future. That depends on how you do it – it is presumably wise to limit your free prescriptions to people who already have a drug habit, while encouraging people towards abstinence where that is reasonably achievable, and not just start giving it out to whoever asks, but I don’t think one has to be a utilitarian to think that spending taxes on providing addicts with a stable supply could be better than spending that money harassing them in ways that impose significant collateral harms on the rest of society.

            [*edit: just to be clear, I’m not advocating that ‘do nothing’ should necessarily be our response to injecting drug users; to the extent that they create externalities, I’m happy to support government intervention, just deeply unconvinced that interventions based primarily on punishment cause more good than harm]

          • JulieK says:

            > Smokable heroin

            Bring back opium dens!

          • The Nybbler says:

            trying, with little meaningful success, to stop the drugs getting to them in the first place, arresting, prosecuting and punishing them when they get caught with drugs, some fraction going on attempts at rehabilitation and, depending on where you are, some fraction going on methodone maintenance.

            I’m not in favor of any of that. And it doesn’t seem like giving them help using drugs is going to reduce any of the spending on any of that either. Instead the proposal is to both keep drugs illegal and subsidize illegal drug use.

            Additionally, there’s the problem that subsidizing something tends to produce more of it.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Instead the proposal is to both keep drugs illegal and subsidize illegal drug use.

            Additionally, there’s the problem that subsidizing something tends to produce more of it.

            Oh, I see. I was taking ‘keeping the discarding of needles illegal (and doing whatever else seems likely to reduce overall harms)’ as the crux of the discussion here. Well, okay. I am open to persuasion that making it prima-facie illegal to use a drug prevents more harm than it causes, but I am not convinced that that is the case with any of the currently popular prohibited drugs when compared to a legalisation-plus-regulation regime that is actually calibrated at reducing overall harms. LMC’s parent comment did say ‘We can believe that individuals have a right to ruin their own lives with narcotics’, suggesting she is non-committal about the war on drugs in general, as opposed to the ‘war on needles’.

            But even so, I don’t think that it is obviously crazy that keeping heroin use generally illegal while subsidizing less dangerous forms of it for those whom prohibition has failed to prevent from becoming addicts would be obviously crazy. Sort of ‘it is a crime to put yourself in a position where you are likely to become an addict, but once you have become one, we will register you institute whatever policy minimises harm’.

            We are not, after all, talking about subsidizing the use of contraband street heroin here – we’re talking about subsidizing the use of pharmaceutical grade heroin in accurate doses, to registered addicts that our best efforts have failed to prevent from becoming problematic users in the first place, specifically to reduce the rates of use of contraband street heroin. If we prefer, we can subsidize pharmaceutical grade heroin only for on-site consumption at safe injecting facilities, to reduce the rates of use of any kinds of opiates outside such facilities. Given how much more dangerous the on-street, uncalibrated, likely-to-be-contaminated criminally-supplied heroin is (combined with the knock-on effects of the illegal market on other crimes) than than the pharmacutical, consumed-at-safe-sites heroin, I am fairly sanguine about us being able to ‘get more of what we subsidise’ while still coming out ahead in terms of lives saved / chaos averted. If I had to choose between being drug-free and being alive, I don’t think I’d have much difficulty, after all. But like I say, I am open to persuasion and would like to see controlled trials done, where otherwise demographically comparable cities either do or don’t institute some combination of safe injection sites and/or subsidised pharmaceutical heroin.

          • Thegnskald says:

            I would liken it to ashtrays in airplane bathrooms. You aren’t allowed to smoke in there, but given that someone is going to anyways, an ashtray is preferable to a trash fire.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Winter Shaker

            I don’t see how the proposal isn’t “free heroin with professional assistance in dosing for everyone who who wants it”. This may or may not be better on a “total harm” basis than full-on drug war, but full-on drug war is pants-on-head stupid and is thus a bad comparison. The idea that the rest of us should pay for other people’s drug use because otherwise they’ll suffer and cause huge negative utility is, I think, a problem with utilitarianism.

            @Thegnskald
            If you actually use the ashtray in an airplane restroom you have a high risk of ending the flight in plastic handcuffs and ending your productive life with a felony charge. The proposal for safe injecting sites has no such disincentive.

          • Lillian says:

            Nybbler, that is not a problem with utilitarianism, it’s a problem with the framing of the question. Given that we are going to spend large amounts of money out of the public purse, it is more utilitarian to spend it on safe injection sites and drug subsidies, than in creating a massive police and carceral state in an ultimately futile effort to get people to stop doing drugs. That does not mean that it’s the most utilitarian thing out of all the possible options.

            In my opinion as a utilitarian, the greatest utility comes from a world in which you can buy your heroin at the local drug store. We shouldn’t give addicts free drugs any more than we give alcoholics free alcohol. Let the FDA ensure the supply is untainted, treat used needles as any other dangerous waste item, and the free market can take care of the rest. This whole thing were we treat drug users like some special social class, in need of either harsh punishment or mollycoddling, is bullshit and needs to stop.

      • Andrew Cady says:

        You don’t need “safe injecting rooms” just to dispose of needles properly. Type 1 diabetics (who surely use more needles per person than junkies) demonstrate this.

        At present, needle users are taught never to recap the disposable needles, but instead to drop them into a needle disposal box. This is to minimize the risk of self-injury during recapping. However, recapping is actually easy; you just have to be careful. (And self-injury isn’t even a big deal when you’re self-injecting with the same needle.)

        For those who can’t manage that level of care, there are these: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Safety_syringe

        Probably junkies don’t want those because they want to reuse the syringes. You could perhaps build the syringe into a clasp, possibly self-closing, that would contain it safely, yet allow reuse.

        The general problem seems to be that syringe technology is designed around assumptions about the user’s level of personal responsibility that don’t apply to junkies.

        • Aapje says:

          However, recapping is actually easy; you just have to be careful.

          Many people don’t consider it easy to always be careful…

        • mobile says:

          Easy things are not as easy and important things are not as important when you are high.

    • Well... says:

      I think we need a drug war just for recreational drugs that users inject.

      Because drug wars work so well at achieving their intended purposes?

    • yossarian says:

      There has been a somewhat existent public scare in Russia about 15 years back or so about the HIV-infected people doing things like purposefully leaving the infected needles behind or even taking pieces of razor blades, purposefully dipping them in their blood and doing things like embedding them in the handrails on staircases or somewhere where people are likely to grab them and cut themselves and getting infected. I think it was pretty well debunked by the doctors pointing out that first, the garbage collectors generally don’t grab the trash with their bare hands unless they’ve got heavy-duty gloves on (as, even if you don’t consider infected needles, garbage can be freaking GROSS and dangerous), and most of the blood-borne disease carriers don’t even survive that long exposed to the air to be a threat. It’s only when a bunch of junkies actually reuse a single needle in a session of circle-injecting where it actually provides any big infection threat.

      • Aapje says:

        There was a case in The Netherlands where three HIV-infected men organized orgies, with others who were then drugged with GHB. These people were then anally raped without condoms. In some cases, they were also injected with the blood of one of the HIV-infected men.

        Initially there was skepticism after earlier scares of a similar nature, but phone taps showed that the allegations were true and the perpetrators were convicted.

  18. WashedOut says:

    Video game general

    I’m looking for a new PC game to start – would appreciate your recommendations.

    My criteria:
    -makes you think (includes some form of puzzle-solving or lateral thinking)
    -not a gratuitous amount of cut-scenes, preferably none. I want a game, not a playable movie. For reference, I stopped playing The Last of Us about half an hour in because of the constant banal interruptions to play.
    -combat, army building, military strategy themes are a plus but not essential
    -RPGs with stat-building, character development and skill/trait customisation a strong plus

    Previously played and enjoyed:
    Myst series, Obduction, League of Legends, Diablo 3, Resident Evil (most recent one), Dark Souls 3 (though frustrating).

    • Rick Hull says:

      I just started playing Door Kickers again. Most similar to XCOM including limited character development but there are experience levels, 5 classes, and a broad array of realistic equipment.

    • Fahundo says:

      Does your aversion to cut scenes extend to RPGs that have dialog prompts?

      • WashedOut says:

        No, I just mean cinematic cut scenes that interrupt gameplay, usually for purposes of disclosing plot.

        • Fahundo says:

          Divinity Original Sin 2 has plenty of dialog but not a lot of cinematic cut scenes. It’s an RPG where you manage a squad of 4.It has a classless system in which any character can potentially learn any ability, and there’s room to customize builds. The combat is somewhat unique and features lots of powerful status ailments and battlefield control options.

          It’s not the most challenging lateral-thinking wise, but probably better than average.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      How do you feel about Mass Effect?

      I also don’t fully understand your opposition to cutscenes–should all plot be delivered during actual action? That seems somewhat restrictive.

      • WashedOut says:

        RE: Mass Effect – never played it. I think a satirical youtube montage of all the games bugs put me off.

        I’d rather find out what the plot is through gameplay and paying attention to designers’ clues, rather than being force-spoon-fed C-grade cinema dialogue. Same with movies – I’m OK with not knowing what the story arc is until it reveals itself through the sequence of events.

        I like games where you are just dropped into a world and have to figure things out for yourself.

        • toastengineer says:

          Are you talking about ME: Andromeda or the entire series?

          ME is glitchy but well… most of what VG critics call the greatest games tend to be weak on the technical aspect. Yanno, do you want the game they spent the whole dev time making sure the computer program part of it worked properly or the one where they spent all their time making the entertaining parts of it perfect?

          I’d say pick up ME1 just because it’s old and cheap nowadays, don’t bother with the other two; they both have Electronic Arts’ stink on ’em.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’d say 2 is the strongest of the series overall.

            1 is the most thematically coherent and internally consistent, and partly because of that it’s also the truest to the Seventies/Eighties sci-fi feel that they’re going for, but they hadn’t quite gotten the characters nailed yet and that’s what any Bioware game stands or falls by. Its gameplay’s also pretty clunky, although it has some features I wish the rest of the series had kept.

            2 is certainly where some of the problems started that eventually dragged the series down — style-over-substance twists, plot threads that get dropped for no good reason, misplaced edginess, weak conclusions. But it’s got the strongest cast and the strongest script, and gameplay that’s much better than 1 and not much worse than 3. The suicide mission at the end is also very impressive, though marred by a completely nonsensical boss battle. Roll a Vanguard, romance the space babe or hunk of your choice, enjoy shotgunning vorcha in the face and don’t think too hard about the changes it made.

            3 has some points where it’s as good as anything in 2, and its nuts-and-bolts gameplay is the best of the series, but its large-scale plot makes no sense, it’s inconsistent even at the level of individual scenes, its villains are terrible and its new heroes aren’t much better, and its ending is one of the weakest I’ve seen in a AAA game, even after the patches. Skip it.

            I haven’t played Andromeda.

    • Anonymous says:

      Undertale (retro psych RPG, set in a fantasy world).

      Jagged Alliance 2 (small unit tactics RPG, set in a fictional modern-day Banana Republic).

      Crusader Kings 2 (medieval RPG with grand strategy elements).

      Long Live The Queen (choose-your-own adventure with RPG elements, set in renaissance fantasyland).

      Mount and Blade: Warband (exactly what it says on the tin, heavy on combat and RPG elements).

      Cubicle Quest (allegorical lifepath jRPG).

      The Longest Journey (classic pixel-hunting adventure game).

      Fallout 1 and 2 (post-apocalyptic RPG).

      Geneforge (fantasy RPG).

      Nethergate: Resurrection (fantasy RPG, set in Roman Britain).

      Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri (turn-based strategy on a hostile extraterrestrial planet).

      Populous: the Beginning (real-time strategy with some RPG elements).

      • Thegnskald says:

        Mount & Blade is a great game.

        And I recommend against ever playing it, because it does medieval combat so well (although the controls take some getting used to), it will ruin other games for you.

    • Thegnskald says:

      RPG+Army:
      Eador: Masters of the Broken World is a decent game. I couldn’t quite get into the long-term of it, when you get enough magic points to transfer heroes between worlds, but it is solid enough. It is sort of like Civilization (but not really at all), with a turn-based tactical combat.

      Battlelords: Warcry is an Age of Empires-style game with a persistent lord/hero. Decent game, although you run into the exploration limits fairly quickly.

      Lords of Magic is a fantastic game, albeit older; it is hard to describe, as, while Elemental: Fallen Enchantress is a modern reboot, nothing has ever quite been like it.

      Dungeon Keeper is great. Don’t bother with the sequel or the reboots, though.

      Warlock: Master of the Arcane is a reboot of Master of Magic, which is a civlization-esque game set in a fantasy universe; the RPG elements are a bit weak, though.

      For RPG+Puzzles:

      Lufia 2 is the king of this subgenre. Plot is meh, characters are so-so, but it has interesting-ish puzzles (nothing world-spanning, mind, just “Solve this puzzle to open this door”) and fantastic music.

      For RPG+Puzzle+Action:

      Hexen and Hexen II. That is, uh, pretty much it, as far as I know.

      For RPG+Action:
      Torchlight (and to a lesser extent Torchlight 2). Diablo-esque game with a more playful attitude. They are the spiritual successors to Fate.

      Grim Dawn:
      A better version of Path of Exile. Which, if you haven’t played, is another Diablo-esque game. Haven’t played much yet, but a solid game.

      You might also enjoy the isomorphic RPGs, which tend to be more puzzle-heavy than standard action RPGs. Avadon is an example of this genre, of which I haven’t played much. I think Baldur’s Gate was considered this genre?

      There are also squad ARPGs, which seem the closest thing to what you describe; Pillars of Eternity is supposed to be good, but I could never get into it. Dungeon Siege likewise.

    • dodrian says:

      Others have given good recommendations strictly per your criteria, I’m going to make a few sideways suggestions that you still might enjoy:

      The X-COM series springs to mind as a good military squad-building puzzle game. Especially look at some of the complete-overhaul mods (The Long War) if you want to increase the class/stat-building aspects of it. It’s brutally difficult, though incredibly rewarding if you play on permadeath mode (though, start a campaign and play a few missions to get the hang of things before going for that). Cut scenes are in-between missions to advance plot, but they very rarely interrupt gameplay – they are for outlining/debriefing.

      The Borderlands series is a good 1st person shoot-em-up with RPG elements. It’s not heavy on puzzle solving, but it does help a lot if you plan out your attack and think up a strategy that best uses your skills/weapons before rushing into the next area. There are 4-6 classes in each game, and three separate skill trees per class.

      FTL is a rogue-like where you command a crew on a starship. It’s similar to RPGs in how you have to manage your money and customize your ship in different ways, and those decisions do affect the strategy you use when encountering others.

      Thinking pretty far outside the box: Braid and Fez are two puzzle-heavy platformers which both have unique mechanics. I’m not usually a fan of platformers, but I loved both of these. I especially recommend Braid, and it has a fairly short playthrough time.

      • Thegnskald says:

        I’ll second FTL, although I will warn that it will probably annoy most people. Like most roguelikes, you can’t necessarily win every playthrough – you may never get that piece of equipment that makes your build viable, for the standard roguelike screw-you. What it does worse is that it has a final boss fight that violates the until-then established rules of the game (don’t bother optimizing a pure boarding party strategy, basically, because it won’t work, at least as of the last time I played, which was some years ago).

        It also has unlockables that are entirely chance-driven, which can lead to endless frustration for completionists.

        ETA:

        Borderlands is a great series, with an important caveat: It is a multiplayer game. If you don’t have someone to play with, it isn’t worth playing. It quickly becomes “Whose numbers are higher” in single player mode.

        • lvlln says:

          I’ll second FTL, although I will warn that it will probably annoy most people. Like most roguelikes, you can’t necessarily win every playthrough – you may never get that piece of equipment that makes your build viable, for the standard roguelike screw-you. What it does worse is that it has a final boss fight that violates the until-then established rules of the game (don’t bother optimizing a pure boarding party strategy, basically, because it won’t work, at least as of the last time I played, which was some years ago).

          I’m also a huge fan of FTL, or at least I was for an intense few months after which I quit cold turkey because of how addicted I was. I’d say “Like most roguelikes, you can’t necessarily win every playthrough” is vastly underselling it – you’ll lose almost every playthrough at first, and later, you’ll probably still lose most of playthroughs. My first win came after having played for about 40 hours. Given that each failed playthrough generally takes 0.5-2 hours, I’m guessing that was around my 30th-40th playthrough. My 2nd win came on the very next playthrough, which was pretty shocking to me, but I did manage to win with some regularity after that, even going on streaks occasionally, but probably still losing more than I won. And even so the game was insanely fun – in fact, losing often felt just as fun as winning!

          (don’t bother optimizing a pure boarding party strategy, basically, because it won’t work, at least as of the last time I played, which was some years ago)

          I only played the vanilla version before the updates, but at the time, I had found that a boarding party strategy was the most consistent one for beating the boss. The strategy had to be slightly modified to account for the boss’s quirks, but not by much. Maybe that slight modification is what you mean when you say “pure” boarding party strategy. Certainly a “pure” one was a path to disaster.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Yep. I went pure. I wanted to capture the big bad capital ship, hoping for a different ending.

          • ManyCookies says:

            Advanced Edition introduced an augment that lets you ignore that particular anti-boarding quirk. But even then, using weapons to get past the quirk is within the spirit of a pure boarding challenge imo.

            But how “pure” is pure? Are we allowing bombs and MC, or zero-nada-zip offense besides boarding? The former is pretty doable on most boarding ships and runs, the later I’ve pulled off on a god Mantis B run (6 fully trained mantises + perfect defense) and a somewhat weird Phase 1 strat to kill the crew off through their L3 medbay.

          • Nornagest says:

            FTL is a great game, but getting some of the ships is incredibly frustrating. Probably four or five times now I’ve fulfilled all the prerequisites for the crystal cruiser but one, though I haven’t played for a year or so.

          • ManyCookies says:

            @Nornagest They added a much easier alternate unlock for the crystal ship, now you just need to win on all A and B ships.

          • AnarchyDice says:

            Alternatively, get Rock Ship C and rename the crystal crewmember you start with to “Ruwen” and then aim for Rock Homeworlds, where the crystal portal will be marked with the quest marker.

            https://www.reddit.com/r/ftlgame/comments/2hjnyg/rock_c_ship_ruwen_quest_marker/

    • AnarchyDice says:

      Deck building as a replacement for stats/leveling? I’ve been really enjoying Slay the Spire despite it not being fully released yet. It is a deckbuilding rogue-like focused around small combats.

      If you’re looking for Grand Strategy with lots of numbers and management, Europa Universalis 4 (and its WWII cousin Hearts of Iron) where you run a country from early 1400’s to the early 1800’s, balancing conquests, armies, technology, and alliances. Lots of butterfly effects here, making for interesting historical changes depending on randomness and your effects on the world. Lots of creative problem solving depending on your start to wheel-and-deal into getting the right allies to punch up against the great powers like France, the Ottomans, Ming, Spain, or whoever else happens to get really powerful. I’m still working on a run where I started as the Mamluk’s (modern Egypt area) and beat back the Ottoman Turks to form Arabia and unite Islam. I’m thinking my next game I’m going to either play as an aggressive Papal State or try to conquer Europe starting as a small Native American tribe.

      • Protagoras says:

        Hearts of Iron is very frustrating with the way each iteration from 2-4 (I haven’t played 1) does some things right that the others do badly wrong, and conversely. Like the latest version handles puppet states and peace settlements much better than previous iterations, but the supply and resource systems are much inferior. Still waiting for the HOI that has all the good ideas and throws out all the terrible ones.

      • Thegnskald says:

        Personally, I am not a huge fan of Europa Universalis. Stellaris is a better game overall, IMO.

        Europa Universalis suffers from being way, way too long-term. An hour of gameplay doesn’t equate to much in-game progress; you can spend a real-world week setting up favorable conditions to enable you to conquer and integrate a single province, in a world with hundreds.

        Plus, you will spend literally hundreds of dollars just to make the game functional, as they have regularly updated the game in ways that break previous functionality in order to enable new functionality that is only available as purchased DLC (for example, tall rather than wide development, which worked better before they added the DLC to explicitly enable the strategy). Basic features, like the ability to give provinces to allies after a successful war they assisted in, requires a purchase.

        Stellaris will probably go the same direction with regard to DLC, given it is the same company, but hasn’t yet, at least.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          EU4, like probably all Paradox Games, has a fairly steep learning curve. And it doesn’t have many delusions of balance – you can’t just drop into whatever country you like and iterate your way to world domination like in Civ. It requires planning and for true world conquest you need gamey/cheesey/exploitative tricks. I haven’t played Stellaris much since release but iirc it is much more Civvy in the sense that everyone (bar the Ancient Empires) is dropped in at once with comparable starting conditions.

          Also the RNG is an asshole and goes against the Sid Principle of giving players choices between good things – Paradox games have a lot of roguelike-ish crotch punches that you have to deal with and it gets discouraging at times.

          There being a lot to absorb is one of its greatest strengths and weaknesses. It takes a lot of youtube and trial-and-error to really get a good sense of what you’re doing. CK2 has Ireland for “Noob Island”, in EU4 I’d guess probably England or Portugal – give up the mainland clay or ally Castile, respectively, and after that you can keep to yourself without much hassling. And savescum like hell your first few games – learn the lessons and be able apply it without having restart or figure out how climb out of a hole without a complete toolbox.

          Plus, you will spend literally hundreds of dollars just to make the game functional, as they have regularly updated the game in ways that break previous functionality in order to enable new functionality that is only available as purchased DLC

          Yep, getting in new can suck with all the DLC. It can be mitigated at least. You can roll back to earlier patches with Steam settings, so that it doesn’t punish you for not having the relevant expansion yet (though this can make googling for game advice trickier). The older DLC can generally be gotten cheap, too, sales are fairly frequent. But, yeah, like with the game mechanics, it’s a steep hill to climb.

          Quite enjoyable once you get up, though.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Try The Talos Principle. No military or combat, but it’s all interesting puzzles and a unique philosophical/techno-religious theme that the SSC crowd might enjoy.

      Basically you’re a robot who wakes up in a garden in a vacant world except the voice of the Creator who says “this world is yours, just don’t go to that tower” and the rest is about the decisions you make and the puzzles you solve to get to the tower.

      • quaelegit says:

        I wasn’t going to comment because I don’t play video games enough to be confident in my conclusions, but Talos principle is one of a handful of games I’ve (almost) finished in the last decade.

        It has very few cinematic cut scenes (I think), but a lot of extra stuff that could be considered to slow down gameplay — mostly long text passages or short audio recordings about philosophy. If you enjoy SSC posts and comments, you’ll probably enjoy these.

        The reason I didn’t finish was because a combination of crappy computer and poor video game skills meant that I couldn’t get the timing right to complete some of the late game puzzles, but I really enjoyed it up till then and I intend to buy a better windows computer and finish it at some point 🙂

    • CatCube says:

      I enjoyed “The Witness” and thought it was a decent spiritual successor to “Myst”. Note that the puzzles are all variations on the same theme, so if that’s not your thing it could get boring. The story, such as it is, is all revealed by finding recordings throughout the game world. Unfortunately, the story is kind of a twee ball of nonsense as far as I could figure, but I enjoyed the puzzle progression immensely.

    • Unsaintly says:

      I would suggest the Total War series, specifically the recent Warhammer versions.
      Leaders and hero-type characters have RPG skill trees, with the special named characters having quests
      Every faction plays radically differently from the others, and so you will need to devise and use different tactics and army compositions to fight them. While not puzzle-solving in a traditional sense, your request for military themes suggests that you are open to regarding complex tactical situations as “makes you think”
      Quest Battles have a short cutscene before each one where the character gives a speech about why they’re fighting, but they are 100% skippable and don’t tell you vital information.
      Total War: Warhammer 2 has a few cutscenes during the campaign if you follow the Vortex victory path. They’re pretty short and there’s like 5 during an entire campaign so I wouldn’t count it as gratuitous. Also 100% skippable.

    • Randy M says:

      Let me recommend the Renowned Explorers Society. It’s a strategy game where you assemble a team of pulp heroes to search ruins for treasures, trying to optimize your advancements and somewhat goofy tactical play to get the high score. Not too expensive, either.

      • Nick says:

        Looks like a video game version of Fortune and Glory.

        • Randy M says:

          Somehow I’ve never heard of that. The themes are similar.
          RES definitely has the press your luck aspect, along with some simple tech trees and variable player powers and tactical combat (same system for social encounters).

          • Nick says:

            Does it have two games modes? In Fortune and Glory you can play by either pitting all the adventurers against each other, or putting them together against the Nazis. I’ve only played against the Nazis, because that’s the shorter campaign and we only had six hours. 😀

          • Randy M says:

            RES is not a port of FaG (umm….). There’s no nazis, just intra-organization rivalry with the flashy Frenchman’s team. There are multiple game modes at this point, though.

    • toastengineer says:

      I might humbly suggest INJECTION, which I made (and is only like 75% finished but it’s polished enough that you might not notice.) It’s a puzzle game where there are “cutscenes” but you can just walk past whoever is talking to you, there’s only one bit in the entire game where you have to wait for someone to finish speaking before moving on. You solve the levels by altering the Python interpreter’s state directly with an REPL.

      Similarly I might suggest Else Heart.Break(), which is basically Myst with Ruby programming. It has dialogue scenes but they’re short and they’re in broken english anyway. Really the adventure game aspect pales in comparison to the “world I can fuck around with and break” aspect.

      Would also second X-COM, specifically OpenX-COM possibly with mods. OpenXCOM requires the original game’s files but I think they’re official freeware now?

      Maybe From The Depths? It’s a RTS game married with a block-based building game; you build warships out of blocks and then send them to fight. The building is very deep and complicated; maybe too complicated.

      Oh, and Dwarf Fortress, you might like that too.

    • BBA says:

      My avatar compels me to plug the Disgaea series, a couple of which have been ported to the PC – though I haven’t played the PC ports, and don’t know how well they transferred from the Playstation. They’re turn-based strategy JRPGs, a la Fire Emblem or FF Tactics, but with a lot more room for character customization. Potential downsides are silly anime humor (all cutscenes are skippable though) and some gratuitous level-grinding.

      • Randy M says:

        In Disgaea’s case, the gratuitous level-grinding is a downside if you like it, not if you don’t;
        you could be doing somewhat monotonous skirmish for incremental numerical changes for… forever.

    • Algirdas Vėlyvis says:

      I’m seconding The Talos Principle: not an RPG, no combat, just pure puzzle solving in first person format. Pure fun. Few cutscenes, as I recall.

      Portal and Portal 2: again not an RPG, no combat, just puzzle solving. Puzzles easier than The Talos Principle. Portal 1 is very short, 4-5 hours playthrough, so it is best considered as an introduction to Portal 2 which is longer. Few cutscenes. Main advantages: voice acting 11 stars out of 10, as well as excellent story (absolutely must play Portal 1 before 2, because major spoiler). Bonus points if you are a scientist – the story heavily satirizes scientific research. Might be the best video game ever made, IMO.

      This was s triumph.
      I’ making a note here:
      HUGE SUCCESS.
      It’s hard to overstate
      my satisfaction.

      Starcraft (SC) and SC2. Arguably, the ultimate RTS. Plenty of thinking. Original SC has just been rereleased as Remasterd version with decent graphics. SC2 Campaign is not very hard on two medium difficulty levels (too hard for me on brutal). Online 1v1 (or team games) with other people has nice ranking system, once your MMR is settled by the system, you get equal share victories and defeats. Online play has fewer (alas, nonzero) raging cretins than MOBAs. SC2 campaign contains cutscenes in between all levels, story is told exclusively through cutscenes.

      The Fall – puzzle solving, nice story, no cutscenes I think.

      Anti-recommendation: Broken Age – point-and-click adventure / puzzle-solving. Boring story, meh puzzles, “cutesy” graphics style not very endearing.

      • WashedOut says:

        Thanks for the 2nd Talos recommendation – I will have to follow up, sounds exactly my jam.

        I loved Portal 1, one of the best games in the genre imo. Unlike you I found Portal 2 to be a big let-down in a lot of ways. What I did like was the visual stylistic touches, additional mechanics like slippery goo and bouncy goo, and the longer gameplay experience. But the INCESSANT attempts at comedic commentary from Steven Merchant…god damn, some of the cringiest writing i’ve heard. In any other game I might have tolerated it or even appreciated it, but PORTAL? Remember the first time you played Portal 1 and you got that anxiety, confusion and despair? That’s what i wanted more of and I got the opposite.

        Like every other man on the plant I grew up playing Starcraft. To this day I have never played SCII because the original (+expansion packs ofc) were so important to me.

        I’ll look into The Fall.

        Thanks

        • Matt M says:

          SCII really isn’t that bad from a gameplay perspective, and the single player campaigns have some interesting progression/building options that are implemented fairly well IMO.

          The storyline is an unbelievably terrible clusterfuck of bad ideas. So uh, steel yourself for that…

        • Algirdas Vėlyvis says:

          god damn, some of the cringiest writing i’ve heard.

          Ah, but isn’t that exactly as intended? Wheatley is an avatar for Dunning-Kruger effect. He is a moron with no conception of the depth of his own stupidity. He is not a likable character. Not supposed to be. Any humor derived from his comedic commentary is supposed to be at best a grim chuckle along the lines of “shut up, moron”, and at worst – make you cringe.

          Remember the first time you played Portal 1 and you got that anxiety, confusion and despair?

          Yes, I do! Good stuff. For me, the atmosphere was partially replicated by Tartarus levels in Portal 2 (I will concede that supporting your opinion, Wheatley is absent in those levels).

          RE: SC2. You can not step into same river twice. SC2 is a logical continuation of Brood war, but certainly is not same. Campaign story lines are wrapped up fairly well. (I disagree with Matt M about clusterfuck. SC universe is, after all, a clicheic, Star Wars-esque epic story. Plucky humans clash with hordes of insectoid bugs buggers zerg, while having to fend off wise, but grumpy psychic Protoss. Silliness is inevitable. I think Blizzard did well within these constraints.) New units add a ton of variety in multiplayer. Matchmaking works well. Arcade of user-made games is neat (nothing that reached popularity of DotA, though).

          In general I like what Blizzard did with the game. They seem to care. I don’t know if it is Mike Morhaime’s pet project or what, but compared to a random triple-A shooter that no one remembers a few months after the release, SC2 is vibrant. Blizzard supports e-sports scene and supports wider community (e.g. StarCrafts animated series from Carbot). Apparently at the BlizzCon two years ago, when LotV was released, they had a panel dedicated to the future of SC2. They claim that users asked, unambiguously, for more content. Blizzard obliged with more single-player missions, continuously adding more content to co-op mode, and cosmetic stuff (skin packs, voice packs, blah blah, but if users are willing to pay – and they are, I see all that fluff in-game – that does contribute to the game going strong). Sure, popularity has waned since the heyday of Wings of Liberty, and it will never be LoL or Dota2, but in my book SC2 is a great success.

          • cassander says:

            On the story, maybe it’s just nostalgia/getting older, but I find the first SC to have a much more compelling story. It’s not particularly deep, but the characters are likable and things proceed in a way that more or less makes sense given the fantastic nature of the setting. For SC2, I felt like things make much less sense. I never played the second expansion, so maybe that puts things back together, but the second one starts with finally saving kerrigan from the zerg, only for the story to her becoming zergified again for…reasons? it annoyed me enough that I totally lost interest.

            On gameplay, I think brood wars is just about a perfect RTS. You could play a game in 45 minutes that was complicated, deep, with a nice balance between micro and macro. I feel that SC2 is a lot twitchier, it requires a lot more micromanagement and tactical clicking and having a high APM count. My understanding is that they did this in order to make competitive play more interesting, but I was pretty good (I was very briefly in diamond league when that was, IIRC, the top 5% of players) and I always found it obnoxious.

  19. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I see exercise programs and such frequently have a disclaimer that tells people to consult their physician before starting.

    This is probably reasonable self-protection for people offering exercise programs, but do people ever consult their physicians? Do physicians have enough knowledge of their patients and of exercise programs to give sensible advice?

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      This is probably reasonable self-protection for people offering exercise programs, but do people ever consult their physicians?

      I’m guessing people who write those disclaimers don’t know. The important thing is that their ass is covered. Offering an exercise program in a thong is a crime.

    • fortaleza84 says:

      I think it does happen from time to time. For example, at an annual checkup the patient mentions that he is thinking of starting to go to the gym and discusses it with the doctor. Or the doctor brings up the issue himself.

      I’m not a doctor myself, but I would guess that for people who are young or middle-aged and in decent health, the doctor is not going to be able to give advice better than what could be found in 5 or 10 minutes of internet searches.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      If you are being treated by your doctor for, say, heart disease, you might not want to just show up at the local Crossfit and start going as hard as your (other) muscles will let you.

      People can have medical conditions that limit what kind of excercise they should engage in. People also don’t necessarily actually know their own condition.

  20. outis says:

    I got slightly above 30 on this test that was part of the SSC survey: https://psychology-tools.com/autism-spectrum-quotient/

    Does that mean I am autistic? On the spectrum?

    • Nornagest says:

      No, it means your score on a quiz on the Internet overlaps that typical of autistic people. Pretty much every test like this comes with some boilerplate somewhere saying that it’s not meant to be used for diagnostic purposes, and while you’d be correct if you thought that smells of ass-covering, there is actually a good reason for it too.

      • outis says:

        But from reading some of Scott’s posts (like the recent one on Adderall), it sounds like these kinds of questionnaires are basically how psychiatrists diagnose people too. What else would a professional look into to determine if I’m on the spectrum? Whether my life has been affected? I’m professionally high-functioning, but my social situation is bad enough to qualify as significantly impaired, whatever the cause.

        • quanta413 says:

          Professionally high-functioning is already somewhat of a strike against having autism; it makes it significantly less likely and means the severity almost certainly can’t be that high. Socially, if you are really severely impaired, you may want to see a psychiatrist. One thing I’d note is that among adults, I think having literally 0 friends is not rare enough that it would necessarily count as significantly impaired. There are a lot of reasons you could have social difficulty. If you’re a nerd (and you probably are, that’s basically what the AQ test reads as to me), you’ve probably got some of those.

          I think sometimes to nerdy people it appears as if more normal people have social superpowers, but the reality is that a lot of perfectly normal people suffer a lot of the same communication problems, difficulty reading context, and nervousness in large groups. And in my experience adults tend to lack friends if you compare them to children or college students, so for some young adults who had fewer friends than average the sudden shift may feel like a social disability becoming clear when it’s more like a normal part of aging and changes in social responsibilities.

          • outis says:

            Oh, I’m certainly not rock-back-and-forth autistic. I would have said I may have Asperger’s, if the BDSM-V or whatever had not retired that term in favor of “autistic spectrum”. But I have had at least one person ask me if I was autistic, unprompted.

            As for the social situation, I have had issues since adolescence, so it can’t be the aging phenomenon you are talking about.

        • US says:

          Diagnostics in this area involves a lot more than just answering a few questions. The diagnostic process that lead to me getting an Asperger’s diagnosis took most of a week and involved multiple visits to a neuropsychological unit. Gold-standard diagnostics in this area involves both observing behaviour closely in what is known to be diagnostically relevant contexts, as well as asking questions to people who are not the person of interest (parents, caregivers), and neither of these aspects are covered in an online multiple-choice test.

    • quanta413 says:

      I’m going to be a little lazy here, and just link my post from the last time I answered this question.

      http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/12/24/open-thread-91-5/#comment-581790

      tl;dr. The test is not perfect and the base rate of autism is low. Therefore you most likely don’t have autism if your score is in the 30s. Also, if you read the DSM-5 criteria, you can see that it actually overlaps less with the AQ test than you might expect. I scored ~36 on the AQ test, but I could only plausibly meet a small subset of the criteria in the DSM-5 at a low severity at worst.

      If you read the original paper, you’ll see that mathematics majors score unusually high on the test even when not autistic. Similarly, I’d bet a lot of people here who aren’t autistic have high AQ scores.

    • ohwhatisthis? says:

      Well, literally everyone is on the spectrum, thanks to it’s definition based on the gaussian distribution.

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4552377/

      And about 2/5 of those diagnosed score above average,with 1/4 scoring below typical make distribution.

      That word may mean something different in practice what you think it means.

  21. Deej says:

    Hello, I’m looking for some help from the rationalist community establishing some principles of rational debate with my bosses at work. Where would be the best place to ask for this? (Lesser Wrong, comments here, subreddit?)

    I would expand upon in the relevant place but brief back ground as follows – My perception at work is that I try to discuss things rationally and objectively, but other people are often really just trying to defend a position. This will almost always be under at least the pretence of rational, objective debate and often the other person probably believes that’s what they’re doing.

    Perhaps naively, I think that if we could agree some principles debate and perhaps do a bit on cognitive bias, then the problem would go away to some extent. I’d get on better at work, and as a team we’d do better work.

    (Realise I may have delusions of above average objectivoty and rationality relative to my team here)