THE JOYFUL REDUCTION OF UNCERTAINTY

Links 2/18: Link Biao Incident

Punding, an uncommon side effect of abusing amphetamines and other dopaminergic drugs, involves “compulsive fascination with and performance of repetitive, mechanical tasks, such as assembling and disassembling, collecting, or sorting household objects, [for example] collecting pebbles and lining them up as perfectly as possible, disassembling wristwatches and putting them back together again, building hundreds of small wooden boxes”, etc. Also: “They are not generally aware that there is a compulsive element, but will continue even when they have good reason to stop. Rylander describes a burglar who started punding, and could not stop, even though he was suffering from an increasing apprehension of being caught.”

After the US repealed net neutrality provisions, the state of Montana has made its own rule demanding neutrality from providers receiving state contracts. Not sure how much this matters for broader society – or how many internet providers the average Montana state government office has to choose from, or what they’ll do if none of them agree to be neutral.

Surprisingly, Tibetan monks are more afraid of death than any other group studied.

Trump places tariffs on solar panels (and washing machines) in a move some people warn could set back renewable energy (and laundry, I guess). Anyone have an explanation for how focusing on solar in particular isn’t just gratuitiously evil? (commenters answer)

Less-covered spaceflight news: New Zealand startup Rocket Lab reaches orbit with a low-cost rocket using an electric-pump driven engine and 3D-printed parts. In more depressing space news: Google Lunar X Prize has officially announced that everyone loses and they will not be extending the contest further.

Was looking into tinnitus for a patient recently and came across this weird (temporary?) tinnitus treatment on Reddit that everyone says works. Possible explanation for why it might work here gives interesting insight into (some) tinnitus mechanism.

One reason the US doesn’t use the metric system: the scientist shipped in from Europe to testify to Congress on the issue was kidnapped by pirates. Bonus: the pirates may also have got one of the six Standard Kilograms.

NSA removes “honesty” and “openness” from its list of core values.

Paul Addis, a San Francisco activist and attorney famous for setting the Burning Man man on fire early to protest the corporatization of the event. Burning Man founder said Addis’ arson was “the single most pure act of radical self-expression to occur at this massive hipster tail-gate party in over a decade” – but Addis was sentenced to four years in prison for arson anyway. After release, he committed suicide by jumping in front of the BART.

More from the Department Of Weird Blockchain Projects Named Luna: “Luna DNA” allows users to upload their genetic data in exchange for a crypto-token called “Luna Coin”. What could possibly go wrong?

“[Aristotle has] a slight but consistent and habitual penchant in the corpus for humorous verbal play…there seems to be only about one pun per score of Bekker pages, but…there is no class or area of study in which Aristotle totally avoids punning.” (h/t Lou Keep)

New Statesman on Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Tories’ answer to Jeremy Corbyn: “He has never been seen (except perhaps by his wife) in anything other than a suit and tie. He speaks in sonorous Edwardian English and is unfailingly courteous…[In primary school], he played the stock markets using a £50 inheritance from a relative, standing up at the General Electric Company’s annual meeting and castigating a board – that included his father – for the firm’s “pathetic” dividend. A contemporary newspaper photograph showed the precocious 12-year-old solemnly reading the Financial Times beside his teddy bears…[He was married] in Canterbury Cathedral, the archbishop having authorised a Tridentine mass in ecclesiastical Latin in light of Rees-Mogg’s fervent Catholicism. The couple now have six children aged between seven months and ten, all bearing the names of Catholic popes and saints.” From his Wikipedia page: “Speaking in July 2017, Rees-Mogg conceded that ‘I’ve made no pretence to be a modern man at all, ever'”. Despite being by all accounts a colorful and likeable character, he doesn’t seem very competent and his opinions are out-of-touch and (imho) pretty dumb. Based on Jeremy Corbyn’s career path, Rees-Mogg will probably be Prime Minister within a year. Article is also interesting as an example of how left-leaning media has developed a counterproductive habit of sometimes covering the Right in terms of “We all know we should dislike this person, but look how cool they are!” This seems new and surprising and seems to require an explanation, maybe in terms of outgroup-fargroup dynamics.

After a lot of work, some people have been able to find an economic argument for why open borders would be a bad idea – but it still implies “a case against the stringency of current [immigration] restrictions” (though see here).

Credentialism watch: MIT is launching a new masters program in economics that doesn’t require a college or high school degree. Applicants need to take some free online courses and pass some non-free online tests, and then if they do well they can move on to the in-school part of the course. The program is being offered in affiliation with a group studying developmental economics and poverty, and is at least partly aimed at poor students from Third World countries. But Americans are already taking advantage of it, and it has more promise than most things in this sphere to help increase social mobility and bring down education costs.

Related: congratulations to Trinity College in Connecticut, the first (?) US college to break the $70,000/year price barrier. $100K or bust!

Related, if you think about it: It’s sometimes reported that SAT score and college GPA “only” correlate at a modest 0.35. But a book on education (h/t Timofey Pnin) points out that this is because higher-SAT-scoring students go to more elite colleges and major in more difficult subjects. Once this and some other confounders are adjusted for, the correlation rises to 0.68.

Contrary to what you might have learned in school, the tallest mountain in the solar system isn’t Olympos Mons. It’s Rheasilvia, a mountain on the asteroid Vesta whose height is almost 9% of the total radius of the asteroid.

Amazon enters the health care sector, so far just in order to provide health care for its own employees and those of a few other participating large companies. Claims that this mission will make it “free from profit-making incentives”, though some might ask how exactly profit-making incentives differ from cost-cutting incentives, which they’ll definitely have. Shares in major insurance companies fell 5% on the announcement. Interesting that the US health system has accidentally incentivized corporations to figure out solutions to rising health care costs, but I am not sure this is actually possible under current regulations other than by just providing worse care – the one cost-cutting measure that always works.

Study claims that pain tolerance predicts how many friends you have, although the theorized mechanism is something about the opiate system, and not just that social interaction is inherently painful and the number of friends you have depends on your ability to tolerate it (what does it say about me that this was my first guess?) Anyhow, Reddit seems to have mostly debunked it, which pretty closely matches my expectations for how this sort of result would fare.

For reasons lost to time, apprentice attorneys in the UK are called “devils”, their apprenticeship is called a “devilling”, and their supervisor is called a “devil-master”. May be related to similar practice of calling apprentice printers printer’s devils, likewise mysterious in origin. Theories include puns (they always got covered in ink, so they were practicing “the black arts”), superstition (originally people thought printing was really creepy and possibly satanic because you could create a book full of perfect identical letters), and racism (one of the first printer’s apprentices was an African, and everyone just assumed the only reasonable explanation for a person having black skin was that they were the Devil). A final theory is that printers’ devils were responsible for managing the box of discarded or broken letters, colorfully known as a hellbox. (h/t Eric Rall)

Campus free speech watch: FIRE demands college release its records about its firing of a professor who vocally supported Black Lives Matter.

Hawaiian Redditors describe their experiences receiving the false-alarm broadcast that Hawaii was about to be nuked. Some of these stories must be fake, but they’re still fun to read.

Your Twitter Followers Are Probably Bots. Everyone important, including honest people who don’t deliberately pay for bots to follow them, probably has bots following them on Twitter, mostly because bots follow a bunch of famous people in order to look more like real accounts. There are some techniques you can use to determine how many of your followers are bots. Complete with an analysis of how a New York attorney general who’s conducting investigations into people with fake followers on Twitter has…a bunch of fake followers on Twitter.

Marginal Revolution commenters on why automating trucking will take longer than you think.

A lot of big nutrition studies coming out recently. I’m not going to describe the results because there’s a lot of debate on how they should best be described and I don’t want to take a position without much more room to explain myself. But one is a randomized controlled trial on how adding sugar to the diet affects insulin sensitivity – this is really impressive since (for what I assume are ethical/IRB reasons) nobody had ever studied this via RCT before. The other is a large sample size study testing low-fat vs. low-carb diets over a long period with high compliance, partly sponsored by Gary Taubes-affiliated Nutritional Science Initiative.

Contrary to previous research, newer research suggests that increased incentives (eg paying people for a good score) does not increase adult IQ test performance. Related: IQ predicts self-control in chimpanzees.

Did you know: Blue is a dating-site for verified “blue check” Twitter users only. All we need is a policy of giving the children of two bluecheck users their own bluecheck and then we can have a true hereditary aristocracy.

Close to my heart: the relationship between sensory processing problems and obsessive-compulsive symptoms.

List Of Substances Administered To Adolf Hitler. If you’ve ever thought “Man, some of that Nazi stuff sounds like it came from a guy who was on a cocktail of methamphetamine, cocaine, adrenaline, testosterone, strychnine, heroin, oxycodone, morphine, barbituates, and human fecal bacteria”, well, you’re not wrong.

Related: the story of the most-unfortunately-named person in American history: Dr. Gay Hitler.

New meta-analysis: no evidence mindfulness works for anything. I suspect this is true the way it’s commonly practiced and studied (“if you’re feeling down, listen to this mindfulness tape for five minutes a day!”), less true for more becoming-a-Buddhist-monk-level stuff.

KnowYourMeme: “Hamilkin refers to a subculture of people who identify with characters from the musical Hamilton to the point where they believe they are those characters, spiritually.” Sort of wonder if closer examination would reveal this to consist entirely of eight very vocal twelve-year olds, three schizophrenics, several thousand trolls pretending to believe it for the lolz, and a bunch of writers exaggerating it for clicks – but I also sort of wonder this about flat-earthers and the alt-right.

More in the “contra poverty traps” research agenda: children whose parents are kicked off disability insurance are less likely to use disability insurance themselves as adults.

George Strait, the best-selling country singer of all time, is Jeff Bezos’ cousin. Also interesting: “Bezos” is a Cuban name, although Jeff himself is not of Cuban descent and got it from his stepfather.

The naming convention for the Trojan asteroids dictates that asteroids in front of Jupiter are named for Greek heroes from the Trojan War, and asteroids behind Jupiter are named for Trojan heroes. Two asteroids – 617 Patroclus and 624 Hektor – were named before the convention arose and are “on the wrong side” (h/t Alice Maz)

Trump is considering replacing some food stamp benefits with delivery of pre-prepared food boxes – I’ve previously written here about reasons I think something like this is a bad idea.

Just when everyone agreed ego depletion was debunked and dead, Baumeister et al strike back with a pre-registered study that continues to show the effect. Haven’t gotten a chance to look at it seriously yet, but glad that pre-registration etc are catching on.

Redditors who work in gun shops talk about their job and recount their weird experiences.

Russian lifehack: “Moscow residents say they have found that the only way to get the [government] to clear snow is to write the name of opposition leader Alexei Navalny on it”. Sort of related: in the 1970s, the West Virginia government refused to fund a necessary bridge in the town of Vulcan. The people of Vulcan appealed to the USSR to provide the funding; after the USSR expressed interest in helping, West Virginia approved it immediately.

Greg Cochran: most likely cause of the global decrease in frog populations is a fungal disease, possibly spread by researchers investigating the most likely cause of the global decrease in frog populations.

Related to a discussion from a while ago: update in the field of sexual-orientation-detecting neural networks replicates that they are clearly more accurate than humans in using faces to guess whether or not people are gay. Their claim that, given five images, they can detect gay men with 91% accuracy seems unbelievable; waiting to hear further research.

Peter at Bayesian Investor responds to my predictions for the next five years. Related: M at Unremediated Genderspace responds to my article about categorization systems and gender.

Lincoln Network releases their survey on viewpoint diversity in the tech industry. Key points include a self-described moderate saying “I’ve never heard of anyone who left tech because of their views. That’s ridiculous”, and 59% of self-identified very conservative people saying they know people who avoided or left jobs in tech because they felt they weren’t welcome due to their political views. People in five out of six political categories (including liberals, but not very-liberals) say they feel less comfortable sharing viewpoints with colleagues after Google diversity memo issue. Keep in mind high likelihood of sampling bias, though this shouldn’t affect results aggregated by political group as much.

The Tiffany Problem is an issue sometimes encountered by authors and other creative types, where trying to be realistic makes a work feel more unrealistic. Named after a medievalist who included a character named Tiffany (common medieval name), only to be told her book was unrealistic because obviously nobody would be named that back then.

In 1957, Mad Magazine published an article on a made-up system of measurement written by a 19-year old Donald Knuth.

Nobody really knows what the languages of the now-extinct Tasmanian aborigines sounded like, but various scholars have created Palawi kana, a conlang intended to resemble them as much as possible, and it’s even caught on a little in Tasmanian schools and government. Also, am I just pattern-matching, or do a suspicious number of unrelated languages use some version of “mina” to mean “me”?

Related: fascinated by this unsourced claim on Wikipedia that the Ewe of Nigeria believe themselves to be descendants of the one guy who didn’t participate in building the Tower of Babel, and their language to be the perfect language. Anyone know more about this belief, or how common stories like these are for different groups’ languages?

California state government is considering a bill that would mandate very strong pro-housing pro-development policies in almost all major urban areas. By the usual boring standard of state government issues, this is a unfathomably huge deal and could end the housing crisis single-handedly. Possible unintended consequence: since it works by mandating pro-development policies within a certain radius of mass transit, expect no more mass transit ever if it passes. Other possible unintended consequence: I’m less sure than many of my friends that pro-development policies are always good in all cases – but right now the pendulum is so far in the other direction that I’m happy to have one state shake things up a little (okay, maybe a lot) and put the fear of God into NIMBYs so they’ll compromise more elsewhere. Needless to say, Berkeleyans are already writing op-eds about how it will “cause massive damage to the global environment for thousands of years, possibly enough to tip the balance to the extinction of the entire human race.” No word yet on whether the bill has any chance of getting passed in the real world. Some discussion on Marginal Revolution.

China cracks down on funeral strippers.

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663 Responses to Links 2/18: Link Biao Incident

  1. LHN says:

    One of the authors has a non-paywalled link to “Death and the Self”, the study of Tibetan monks et al.

    http://ninastrohminger.com/s/Nichols_et_al-2018-Cognitive_Science.pdf

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Thanks.

    • Deiseach says:

      Surprisingly, Tibetan monks are more afraid of death than any other group studied.

      Have you seen the Tibetan hells? Tibetan Buddhism tends to be a lot more materially-grounded (and heavily into demonic/might as well be demonic entities) than other varieties of Buddhism, it’s not surprising that having a detailed system of the dangers of being caught in the bardo would make you very anxious not to die any earlier than you can help it.

    • Speaker To Animals says:

      Maybe the Tibetans should practice mindfulness.

  2. Jiro says:

    After a lot of work, some people have been able to find an economic argument for why open borders would be a bad idea – but it still implies “a case against the stringency of current [immigration] restrictions”.

    If you want to improve the economic standing of the whole world, tax citizens heavily and spend all the money on foreign aid. I’m sure a 25% increase in taxes could buy an awful lot of malaria nets and lead us to have productive people instead of dead ones.

    People who are concerned about the effect of immigrants are generally concerned about the effect of the immigrants on the existing citizens, not the effect on the immigrants, on the whole country including the immigrants, or on the whole world. This kind of paper misses the point.

    • baconbits9 says:

      There is very little reason to think that a massive tax and transfer scheme would improve the economic situation of the whole world.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      In case you’re not being sarcastic: taxes aren’t free. Increasing taxes too much will most likely lead to less money being collected – there is an optimum level of taxation in respect to how much money you can extract from an economy.

      And that’s without taking into consideration what the global optimum level is – after all, taxing people means you’re taking money from people. But by far the most important are opportunity costs. Taxing work for example makes it less likely for people to want to work. If somebody makes 40k and you take 20k as taxes, but you put back into the society various benefits, many will pick unemployment, disability, early retirement over working. Taxing businesses makes less likely for new businesses to appear, investments to be made etc. Money will swiftly be moving abroad.

      And lastly, there are voices which say foreign aid is the worst thing to happen to underdeveloped countries. Instead of building their own economy centered around producing and selling things they need, what you have is a big distributive economy where the government has control of the faucet and has very little interest to support any competing sources of wealth.

      I’m sorry for exaggerating if you were sarcastic. It’s just that it’s been know for many years that “just money” doesn’t solve everything.

  3. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Aristotle seems to treat puns as serious business in Sophistical Refutations.

    Jacob Rees-Mogg makes me swoon.

    • Deiseach says:

      Jacob Rees-Mogg makes me swoon.

      Then you should appreciate this image of him from a recent issue of Private Eye magazine.

      In theory I should like the Rees-Moggs (Reeses-Mogg?) more than I do, but for various reasons (e.g. Father being one of Margaret Thatcher’s Conservatives), I don’t. I think it’s probably that he’s too English and I’m too Irish for this to work 🙂

      Also, it’s hard to take someone very seriously when you’ve just discovered that his late father-in-law sounds like a minor character from a Wodehouse novel – Somerset de Chair? Probably pronounced “Muggins”, like other English aristocratic names of that type. I would recommend reading the Wikipedia articles on Jacob’s in-laws; Evelyn Waugh seems to have been correct in his novels that English aristocrats of the 30s/40s/50s did little more than have scandalous affairs, divorces, multiple marriages, and exotic deaths while living on luxurious estates with massive art collections and even more massive fortunes.

      Despite being by all accounts a colorful and likeable character, he doesn’t seem very competent and his opinions are out-of-touch and (in many cases) pretty dumb.

      You would think, but remember Boris Johnson and his image of “Cripes! Crikey!” upper-class idiot? And yet he got himself elected Mayor of London, came within a gnat’s crotchet of becoming Prime Minister in the wake of Cameron’s resignation post-Brexit shock result, has managed to survive the Tory bloodbath and be made Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and is still quite influential despite it all. While Rees-Mogg may look like the stock Tory minor gentry Colonel (retd.) Blimp, he does have the political pedigree (and married into the aristocracy is no harm, either), and possibly some kind of brain beneath that top hat. Apparently he made a nice little fortune for himself after going into the City:

      He worked in the City of London for Lloyd George Management until 2007. He then co-founded hedge fund management business Somerset Capital Management LLP. Rees-Mogg amassed a significant fortune: in 2016, he and his wife had a combined net worth estimated at more than £100 million.

      So – background, connections and money do mean influence.

      I’d be very slow to write him off, he probably won’t go far in today’s Conservative Party on the side facing the public, but behind the scenes where party policy is made? Who knows?

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Yeah, Deiseach, I find that “gentleman who refuses to be modern” act kind of admirable and cute. It’s not a morally serious protest against modernity like being Amish, it’s more like HP Lovecraft’s or Yarvin’s schtick with the bonus of being Catholic.
        I have no disagreement with what Evelyn Waugh had to say about the sort of people his family are. I’m not an uncritical fan, and for that matter I’m not an uncritical fan of Waugh either… part of his old timey Englishman persona included being distant to his children. 🙁

        • Nornagest says:

          It plays better when you’re British, I think, or at least when you’ve read enough old books that you’re indistinguishable from an Oxbridge don. When you’re just some nerd… I used to know a dude from Eugene who always wore brogues and brimmed hats and pleated trousers, and professed an antiquated code of behavior, and argued for enn-arr-ecks positions on the Internet before it was really a thing, and it just came off kind of cringey and off-putting. I think it was mostly the speech pattern he affected: unless you’re a genius actor, you’re never going to sound like you’re from the Forties unless you grew up in the Twenties, and trying just makes you sound like an alien infiltrator wearing a meat suit.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I think I know who you’re talking about!

          • ChrisA says:

            Brougues are very normal shoes in the UK, perhaps 30% of the population wears them on a regular basis. Pleated trousers aren’t too uncommon either. Rees-Mogg is like Trump though, someone slightly fitting a stereotype that iterates with media to reinforce the stereotype and ends up a bit of a caricature as a result.

      • Alethenous says:

        [Warning: complete navel-gazing]

        I kind of think of Rees-Mogg as a sort of genteel equivalent of the American alt-right. For people made uncomfortable by the decline of patriotism and globalisation of national cultures, in comes this full-blown Latin-speaking top-hat-wearing gentleman of the old school, in complete flagrant defiance of the feeling of Cthulhu always swimming left, with enough memetic qualities to make him stick and reasonable enough to not be completely unpalatable (he opposes gay marriage, for instance, but claims he wouldn’t move against it because it’s not his business).

        I have to admit that, though I strongly disapprove of his actual views, I have some aesthetic attraction.

        • Prussian says:

          I simply can’t agree with this. The AltRight’s stated goal is the creation of an ethno-state, whites only. There is no evidence whatsoever that JRM wants any of this. In many of his comments he’s shown himself to be more of an internationalist (opposing the lunacy of trade barriers etc.) than most of the labour party.

          I think it’s the opposite. JRM is disliked aesthetically be people who can’t argue against his views.

          • I think it’s easy enough to argue against his Catholic moral absolutism, and his screw-you attitudes to welfare. You’ve argued against some to them yourself. And if he’s not creating an ethnostate, how is he solving your muslim problem?

          • Watchman says:

            We have a Muslim problem? News to me and I live in a c. 20% (off the top of my head) Muslim city. We have an immigrant integration problem (not just Muslims) and the idiocy of attempts to apply multiculturalism in practice, and the normal religious extremists (albeit we seem to have sent most of them to Syria of late), but no Muslim problem I’ve noticed. Other than one of my colleagues doesn’t have a bacon butty when we do a breakfast run, but then neither do our Buddhist or Jain colleagues…

          • That’s what you get when you derive your facts from reality instead of Breibart.

          • Watchman says:

            It’s a bad habit, made easier by the fact Brietbart writing tends to put me on edge…

          • Juxtapository says:

            You know, I’ve never seen this as internally consistent- “In many of his comments he’s shown himself to be more of an internationalist (opposing the lunacy of trade barriers etc.) than most of the labour party.”. He’s meant to be pro free-trade, and pro-brexit. Yet the EU is the biggest free trading bloc in the world to date.

            Certainly, 10-15 years ago, one could make the argument, and make it convincingly, that Europe was a huge barrier to global free trade, effectively European protectionism. That no longer really washes- Europe is in the business of negotiating a variety of free trade deals across the world- some of which are absolutely colossal.

            Europe is going to be the main driver of free trade for the foreseeable future, assuming it stays together. When Britain leaves, there is no rationally predictable state of affairs where we end up, in anything like the near future, with access to as many customers and markets as we had pre-exit.

          • Matt M says:

            That no longer really washes- Europe is in the business of negotiating a variety of free trade deals across the world- some of which are absolutely colossal.

            “Free trade deals” are an oxymoron. Free trade is what happens in the absence of deals. Any country that wanted to show a commitment to free trade could unilaterally declare itself to practice free trade with all other nations.

            EU member nations, notably, cannot do that.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M:
            You can’t unilaterally change the laws and regulations of other countries. Unilaterally allow freely traded imports does not grant the same to exports.

            Thus, free(er) trade is either the result of binding agreement under law, or ephemeral.

          • Matt M says:

            Unilaterally allow freely traded imports does not grant the same to exports

            .

            Of course not – but who says you have to?

          • Juxtapository says:

            Matt, there are various ways of understanding or defining free trade. I tend to understand it as trade absent tariffs or undue regulatory restrictions. If I can trade as freely with person in country Y as I can with the person who runs the company down the road, I would say a free trade relationship exists there.

            This is the definition returned by a simple search online “international trade left to its natural course without tariffs, quotas, or other restrictions”. And from the OECD- ” Free trade occurs when goods and services can be bought and sold between countries or sub-national regions without tariffs, quotas or other restrictions being applied”. That’s pretty much in line with my thinking.

            Now, given the world we live in, British departure from Europe *increases*, indisputably, the tariffs levied on British products. It also cuts us off from other non-tariff arrangements being currently negotiated by Europe with other countries and blocs. A theoretical commitment to free trade can, of course, be announced by any country- indeed, strength of commitment could be shown by unilaterally dropping all tariffs. But you don’t really have free trade in that situation, since trade is bi-directional, and tariffs are still going to apply to goods you wish to export.

            Now if every country did what you did (and perhaps, what Rees-Mogg would like to see in an ideal world), and dropped all tariffs, subsidies, and so forth, then you’d have free trade absent any deals. But deals are how we currently get free trade relationships- they’re a necessary evil, if you like. I don’t think I’m in a minority for having the view that free trade deals aren’t oxymoronic, either- even Rees-Mogg and co would agree. They are constantly calling for the negotiation of free trade deals away from Europe. I’m sceptical of our prospects, but that is beside the point here.

            Edit: I’ve just noticed your comment to HeelBearcub- “who says you have to?” My answer may be clear from what I’ve written here, but you only “have to” if you want to have a free trade relationship, and not simply a one-way policy of not levying imports.

          • Matt M says:

            If you actually believe in free trade then you believe that tariffs and quotas don’t make anybody better off.

            As I understand it, “trade negotiations” are typically tit-for-tat. Basically “You agree to lower your tariff on our X, and we’ll agree to lower our tariff on your Y.” But this implies disagreement with the idea that tariffs are harmful to both parties. Which means you don’t actually favor “free trade” at all. You still see tariffs as a way that a nation can “get one over” on other nations – such that you are only willing to lower yours as a negotiation tactic in order to get something back in exchange.

            My position is quite different. Tariffs are bad, period. They make both sides worse off. I would prefer my country to immediately abolish all tariffs. If other nations reciprocate, so much the better. If they don’t, oh well – I don’t really care.

          • Juxtapository says:

            I’m worried that we may actually have a non-disagreement here (or at least, our disagreement is somewhere other than where I thought it was at first) which is being obscured by the definitions at play. To be absolutely clear; I’m for free trade where that means country A and country B are effectively trading as if everyone were in country A. I’d like the zone/s of that sort of activity to be as big as possible, because I think that in economic terms, that is best for everyone involved (are there losers *within* given countries? Sure- but on balance, free trade creates more than it destroys). In my ideal world, the “free trade zone” is basically everywhere. And to be clear- free trade in Europe, at least, and for many other deals which have been struck, is not based on negotiations around particular industries or kinds of import/export. It’s universal.

            But what you’re describing is quite different, and seems insensitive to economic realities, which makes me think you view free trade (or specifically, a lack of tariffs) as something like a good in itself. You say you’d be ok with a situation where your country dropped all tariffs, regardless of what other countries do. Maybe you would be, but it would put companies based in your country at a major disadvantage- they end up having to compete on an “even” footing domestically with foreign trade, whilst suffering from barriers to entry of those same foreign markets. And that’s just the obvious consequence.

          • Matt M says:

            Maybe you would be, but it would put companies based in your country at a major disadvantage- they end up having to compete on an “even” footing domestically with foreign trade, whilst suffering from barriers to entry of those same foreign markets. And that’s just the obvious consequence.

            How does this differ from a standard defense of mercantilism?

          • Randy M says:

            @Juxtapository, I think the free-trader argument there will be that tariffs hurt your consumers more than they help your producers so you should end them unilaterally, or perhaps bluff in order to convince other to end theirs but if they will not end their protectionism you should still end yours to reap the benefits of lower prices and shift to an industry you have a more competitive advantage in.

          • But what you’re describing is quite different, and seems insensitive to economic realities

            He is correct in terms of economic realities–unilateral free trade benefits the country that engages in it. He is wrong only in terms of political realities.

            A tariff makes the population of the country that imposes it worse off but it makes a subset of the population, the protected industry, better off. The desires of concentrated interest groups get more heavily weighted in the political market than the desires of dispersed interest groups, so imposing a tariff is politically profitable, so governments are willing to drop tariffs only in exchange for trading partners dropping theirs.

            As one way of seeing what is wrong with your argument, suppose you replace the trading partner that still has tariffs with an identical economy, with two changes. It has complete free trade. But it also has transportation costs that raise the costs of your goods to it by the amount of the tariffs in the previous case.

            If you agree that dropping your tariffs is good for your citizens in that case, doesn’t it follow that it is also good for them in the original case?

          • Aapje says:

            I think that this discussion is very simplistic.

            Encouraging trade is not just about removing tariffs, but also about aligning regulations. If country A has regulations RA with costs of compliance CA, while country B has regulations RB with costs of compliance of CB, then the burden for domestic buyers and sellers is CA and CB, respectively, but the cost to people who buy and sell both domestically and with the other country is the costs of the union of RA and RB.

            So increasing the overlap between RA and RB reduces the additional costs associated with international trade. Many of the trade agreements seek to do this, not just to reduce tariffs.

            Note that regulations can decrease transaction costs compared to an environment where buyers and/or sellers are not regulated. So minimizing regulations probably doesn’t maximally encourage trade.

            Another way by which contemporary trade agreements try to reduce transaction costs/risks is by creating parallel legal systems that can override/bypass the domestic legal systems. This is extremely controversial, because these legal systems can mandate compensation to multinationals when democratically elected politicians enact new regulations that place burdens on multinationals. Many of the critics, including me, consider the claimed increased in trade too small to justify the weakening of democratic decision making power. Basically, I oppose having to compensate multinationals when forcing them to behave more morally, because I don’t believe that acting immorally is a right. Compensating those who those who were acting immorally, but no longer are allowed to, encourages boundary pushing/rule lawyering and discourages self-imposed morality.

          • Unilaterally allow freely traded imports does not grant the same to exports

            .

            Of course not – but who says you have to?

            It’s useful to avoid being ripped off, and made a fool of.

          • Matt M says:

            Look, I’m not even here to debate the merits of free trade vs protectionism.

            But I AM here to take a pretty definitive stand that, if your position is “We can’t eliminate our tariffs! Because then other countries would take advantage of our generosity and our country would suffer!” then you are NOT, in favor of free trade. You are a protectionist, just like any other.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Matt M

            There’s a subtler argument that is compatible with free trade. Namely, that if we adopt a policy of tit-for-tat with tariffs, the result (in a world where other countries do not believe free trade is advantageous to them) will be more free trade than if we simply provide free trade regardless.

          • Matt M says:

            There’s a subtler argument that is compatible with free trade. Namely, that if we adopt a policy of tit-for-tat with tariffs, the result (in a world where other countries do not believe free trade is advantageous to them) will be more free trade than if we simply provide free trade regardless.

            I think there’s a flaw in the logic here relating to the process.

            If we think of trade negotiations as tit-for-tat, where the way you convince someone to lower their own tariffs is by lowering your own, then logically, the way to get the lowest total tariffs in general is to lower all of your own tariffs to zero, right?

        • Juxtapository says:

          Thanks for this response David. I’m not in total agreement but this allows for some useful clarification.

          If you agree that dropping your tariffs is good for your citizens in that case, doesn’t it follow that it is also good for them in the original case?

          I don’t agree with that, however. Where inter-country transport costs would be such as to strongly disadvantage companies/traders on only one side of that equation, a free trade arrangement might be inadvisable (at least by my lights- I’ll get into my reasons shortly).

          Another situation where such an imbalance emerges is the case of subsidies, where one of the free trading nations substantially subsidises a given product or industry (e.g. America and corn). I imagine that if Mexico, somehow getting around NAFTA restrictions, imposed tariffs on US corn to bring the price up to a pre-subsidy level, that would be regarded as protectionist in quite a bad sense. It would be claimed that the Mexican consumer is better off getting cheap corn from the US etc, to hell with the special interests of the corn industry. That’s certainly not untrue in the short term. But it does kill the domestic corn industry. Perhaps that would be excusable if it was just a case of losing out to fair competition, but we know that’s not what’s happening in cases like this.

          Tariffs and subsidies are both forms of governmental meddling- and when your country takes the position that you won’t pursue “free trade deals” and will simply drop your own tariffs and the like, you put all of your industries at the mercy of foreign governments, which are politically incentivised to promote businesses in their countries, not yours.

          Now there is one fairly glaring point I’ve not addressed- why care about particular industries, in any of these cases? If citizens benefit in terms of cheaper goods, so much the better. But I don’t think, in the case of “no tariffs country” that that would be true for very long. Short-to-middle term, once domestic alternatives go bust, prices can be pushed up (yes, new domestic players can emerge, but then the cycle just begins again- and the foreign suppliers are always working at an advantage). Mid-to-long term, you’ve got a country that just can’t compete on exports, and which is being flooded with cheap imports. That’s not good news for any economy as a whole, and by extension, no good for its citizenry. …This ended up longer than I wanted it to be- hopefully I’m missing no glaring errors in my reasoning.

          • ChrisA says:

            Wow Juxt you really you have a super mercantilist view of life, a country flooded with cheap imports is a rich country not a poor one. Bring on cheap cars, clothes, food please. They had a much clearer view on this in the 19C, that’s why abolishing of the corn laws was considered a progressive cause in those days. Also this ridiculous idea that once you start buying from someone else makes you dependent on them needs to be put to rest. Do you grow your own food in case the supermarket starts to ramp up prices of food?

      • nameless1 says:

        It seems to me modern democracy went from “I will vote for someone who will lead the country responsibly” to considering voting a form of trolling. Maybe because people feel actual elected governments are powerless to other forces, or maybe they feel their votes do not count for much anyway as the elite has solidified. Trump and Berlusconi are clearly troll votes, and so is Corbyn as he sounds like a relic from older times when the left really believed in socialism, an ironically unironic oldschool commie who makes a good ironic troll vote. Same with this guy, excellent troll vote. In a different way, not the Trump way, not in the way of voting in an elephant in china shop who calls countries shitholes, but quite the opposite way, someone who is ironically unironically a gentleman from 1700-something.

        One thing that really caught my eyes in the article is “flaunting privilege, instead of trying to hide it”. That is true of Trump and Berlusconi as well. Everybody understands the elites are privileged, but there is something respectable about someone not trying to hide it, that is, not taking us for idiots but assumes we would notice it anyway.

        I would love to have a female candidate who is literally a princess and does not try to hide it at all, rather both flaunting it and making fun of it a little. Just like Marie Antoinette, whose famous “why don’t they eat cake” was not meant literally but as sad black humor and self-deprecating irony i.e. roleplaying the privileged clueless bimbo, the classic style of her birth city: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiener_Schm%C3%A4h

        • Aapje says:

          It seems to me modern democracy went from “I will vote for someone who will lead the country responsibly” to considering voting a form of trolling.

          I would argue that these people don’t think that the ‘responsible’ politicians are actually responsible or rather…that they seek or are fine with harm happening to the anti-establishment voter.

          One could liken it to a person who is on fire jumping into the river. They don’t really want to be in the river, they just want to no longer be on fire.

          • Saint Fiasco says:

            It’s more like someone who is trying to work and his laptop is constantly freezing, so he bangs it on the table a little to get it to work better.

            It takes a kind of naive optimism to believe that you can fix an extremely complicated system by shaking its components around at random.

          • Aapje says:

            Sure, but if you actually tried several different repair people and none could fix the problem, wouldn’t you be awfully tempted (or just be frustrated enough) to go a’banging?

            It takes a kind of naive optimism

            You misspelled ‘desperation’.

            A survey I’ve seen for Geert Wilders’s voters showed that a very large percentage were very skeptical about their vote doing any good.

            In general, anti-establishment candidates tend to draw a lot of voters who had given up on politics and stopped voting, but just give it one more try.

          • Saint Fiasco says:

            Definitely. It’s perfectly understandable.
            Still, when I do it I always regret it afterwards.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Trump and Berlusconi are clearly troll votes

          Right. I didn’t really want to pull out of the TPP, Paris Accords, renegotiate or end NAFTA, deport illegals, enforce our immigration laws, cut my taxes, stop arming ISIS and bomb the shit out of them instead, stack the courts with conservative judges. I mean, who could actually want things that are clearly in my interest and the national interest? Just trollin’ bro!

          • The Nybbler says:

            Right, there’s a big difference from having appeal with trolls, and having appeal ONLY with trolls. But those in the Blue Tribe bubble– especially Blue Tribe Democratic media — don’t really understand that people could be serious about those things. They never really understood Trump’s appeal even non-politically — that some people actually and unironically like his gaudy extravagance.

          • mdet says:

            This article from very early in the campaign provides 30 examples of Trump supporters explaining at length in their own words why they like Trump. While there are definitely those who support him for specific policy reasons, there are also those who say “I know he would do a pretty terrible job at this point, but I really am at the point of letting the whole thing burn down and explode”, “I just want to watch the chaos unfold if a purely ego-driven man were to experience success with a presidential run”, “His appeal is more emotional than rational”, “The presidency is a joke! Trump is a wild card”, “We are desperate. Desperate people do desperate things”, etc.

            This reader note, also from The Atlantic, is from a man who explains his vote for Trump as “Maybe Trump won’t do a thing to change or fix any of it. Hillary definitely would not have changed any of it. So I voted for the monkey wrench, the middle finger, the wrecking ball”.

            So yes, I think it is fair to say that a significant subset of Trump supporters went in with limited expectations that he would actually fix or improve anything, and just wanted someone who would upend politics-as-usual for the sake of it.

          • quanta413 says:

            @mdet

            Articles that take a nonrandom sample with n=30 shouldn’t be taken seriously as evidence. And in a population of tens of millions, a “significant subset” of all sorts of silly things can be found.

            The more boring explanation is more accurate. Most voters vote by party and so most Trump voters were voting (R). At the margins, maybe Hillary couldn’t mobilize minorities as well as Obama had. Trump peeled off a few swing areas because blah blah or whatever. Or maybe Republicans controlling redistricting clinched things or whatever. But the fancy post electoral narratives are mostly just-so story perturbations on the tribal divide between (R) and (D). Could be head of lettuce vs a tomato and you’d probably only shift voting patterns by a few percentage points here and there.

          • mdet says:

            I don’t dispute anything you say. I agree that Hillary lost because she was an incredibly weak candidate who didn’t have Obama’s charisma or racial-minority relateability, she was hobbled by lots of credible accusations of corruption, and that a third straight Democratic term would have been difficult no matter who the candidates were.

            That being said, it doesn’t explain what exactly Trump’s supporters saw in him. The fact that I’ve heard people from every political and ideological background admit that Donald Trump is impulsive, petty & vindictive, acts mostly to inflate his own ego, is not exactly well-versed in the details of policy, law, or governance, has a history of shady business dealings, and is prone to yuge hyperbole if not outright fabrication — none of which are qualities we typically want in a president — it begs the questions even more: Did his supporters not agree that he had these qualities? Did they see these qualities as positives? Did they see them as negatives, but saw other redeeming qualities in him?

            With over 60M voters, I’m sure there are countless reasonings & motivations for supporting him. I only meant to point out with my comment that “People who agree that Donald Trump’s personal qualities are an obstacle to achieving their policy goals, but nonetheless decided that upending politics-as-usual by throwing the traditional DC elites out the window is a worthy goal in itself”, the “I just want to watch DC burn” type, IS one kind of Trump supporter. By contrast, I also know supporters who think his personal qualities described above are making him MORE effective at governing and getting Republican policies passed, and those who don’t believe he has these characteristics at all.

          • cassander says:

            @mdet

            So yes, I think it is fair to say that a significant subset of Trump supporters went in with limited expectations that he would actually fix or improve anything, and just wanted someone who would upend politics-as-usual for the sake of it.

            The latter does not follow from the former. If I have some problem, and I think there’s a 0% chance of Hillary fixing it and a 5% chance of trump fixing it, you don’t have much faith in trump, but he’s still your much better option, and picking him doesn’t indicate a desire to burn things down. the thought process is “He might not help, but she definitely won’t.”

            That being said, it doesn’t explain what exactly Trump’s supporters saw in him. The fact that I’ve heard people from every political and ideological background admit that Donald Trump is impulsive, petty & vindictive, acts mostly to inflate his own ego, is not exactly well-versed in the details of policy, law, or governance, has a history of shady business dealings, and is prone to yuge hyperbole if not outright fabrication — none of which are qualities we typically want in a president — it begs the questions even more: Did his supporters not agree that he had these qualities? Did they see these qualities as positives? Did they see them as negatives, but saw other redeeming qualities in him?

            Not really a trump supporter, but that description applies to most of the people who run for president. Trump is different in these regards largely in style, not substance.

          • Matt M says:

            impulsive, petty & vindictive, acts mostly to inflate his own ego, is not exactly well-versed in the details of policy, law, or governance, has a history of shady business dealings, and is prone to yuge hyperbole if not outright fabrication — none of which are qualities we typically want in a president

            Incorrect.

            For most people, there is one and only one quality they want in a President: “Is likely to advance my political agenda.”

            Trump did a better job convincing Red Tribe + >50% of independents that he would do a better job of achieving their desired ends than Hillary did of convincing Blue Tribe + >50% of independents. That’s it.

          • mdet says:

            @cassander and @Matt M

            I’m not asking why people voted for Trump over Hillary. That’s easy, and I’ve already given my view. The more interesting questions are “Why did the Republican electorate choose Donald Trump instead of the dozen other candidates in the GOP primary? Why did they stick with him through the general, even as some Never Trump Republicans tried to get their own party’s nominee to lose, and many publications who had reliably endorsed the Republican nominee for the past 50, 75, 100 years came out and refused to endorse him? How is it that people with fairly large overlaps in their policy preferences came to disagree so vigorously?”

            Some of the reason is that he broke with the party on trade, took a harder line on immigration (Conrad Honcho’s reasons). But I stand by my point (and what I think is conventional wisdom) that another reason is that some people considered the dysfunction, corruption, and incompetency among the DC political class to be so great that even if Trump accomplished next to nothing policy-wise, the simple act of him upending conventional politics, hurling insults at Dems & Repubs alike, and providing a voice for them to air their cultural grievances would be worth it. I think this can be reasonably described as a “troll” vote — not because they weren’t sincere but because they consider “disrupts and upsets the kind of people who I dislike” to be a terminal goal that is at least as important as any policy achievement.

          • John Schilling says:

            The more interesting questions are “Why did the Republican electorate choose Donald Trump instead of the dozen other candidates in the GOP primary?

            If I recall correctly, the Republican electorate for the most part chose those dozen other candidates over Donald Trump. But the rules don’t allow “a dozen GOP candidates” to go up against Hillary in the general election, and the majority of Republicans who didn’t want Trump couldn’t agree on which one of the dozen-plus they did want. Right up until the delegate math said “there can be only One, and because you all dithered the One’s name is Trump”, a consistent 60+% of the GOP electorate voted for Not Donald Trump.

            If you’re looking for someone to blame, Megan McArdle has some choice scapegoats for you. If you’re looking for why a large minority of Republicans preferred Trump to any of the establishment candidates, I think we’ve been through that here before.

            Why did they stick with him through the general, even as some Never Trump Republicans tried to get their own party’s nominee to lose,

            Because Donald Trump at least pretended to be a Republican, and Hillary Clinton didn’t. Yes, there were a lot of Republicans who very much wanted Donald Trump to not be president. There were even more Republicans, roughly 100.00% of them, who wanted Hillary Clinton to not be president. The number of Republicans who would have genuinely preferred Hillary to Trump, wasn’t enough to matter. And once the primaries and the conventions were over, that’s all that mattered.

            Since you say you understand why Republicans loathe Hillary Clinton to such a degree, what’s not to understand?

          • mdet says:

            I think you’re misunderstanding what I’m trying to say.

            Nameless1 said that many people voted for Trump as a form of trolling. Conrad Honcho disagreed, saying that he supports Trump because of policy, especially where Trump deviates from Republican orthodoxy. I agreed with Nameless, saying that while some people became fans of Trump for his unorthodox policy positions, other people became fans of him for his unorthodox personality (among presidential candidates). My thesis here is “There is a group of people for whom Donald Trump’s bomb-throwing mentality, his habit of disrupting politics-as-usual, enraging liberals, attacking fellow Republicans as weak / corrupt / inept, etc. are a central part of his appeal, perhaps even more central than any particular policy position. I consider it accurate to describe these people as trolls”.

            I bring up the primaries because I think this group of people were the ones who thrilled to Trump immediately, while the people who did NOT enjoy the bomb-throwing supported other candidates. I agree that basic partisanship largely explains why everyone stuck with Trump for the general election, but even then, I think the Never Trump faction would disagree with Cassander & Matt M’s statements that Trump’s ONLY difference was style, or that people ONLY weighed “will advance my agenda” without evaluating Trump’s personality, character, competency, stability, etc. Something about him set him apart from other Republicans in a way that even people with similar policy preference wound up fiercely divided. Therefore, policy preferences alone are not enough to predict support for Trump, and I propose “willingness to disrupt & inflame opponents” —ie “trolling” — as one of the dividers

            Thanks for the reminder that Trump won the primaries with a plurality, not a majority, though. Maybe I need to be more focused with my train of thought if yall aren’t following what I mean to say?

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            There is a group of people for whom Donald Trump’s bomb-throwing mentality, his habit of disrupting politics-as-usual, enraging liberals, attacking fellow Republicans as weak / corrupt / inept, etc. are a central part of his appeal, perhaps even more central than any particular policy position. I consider it accurate to describe these people as trolls.

            I believe one contrary idea is the “border reaver” theory, i.e., there are a large number of people who consider Trump’s personality appealing because that’s exactly the sort of behaviour their RL culture considers praiseworthy, only turned up to 11. If this is true (I have no idea whether or not it is) then I don’t think “trolls” is a good description.

            (OTOH, the word “trolls” has already changed its internet meaning once, and I have the funny feeling it may be morphing again?)

          • mdet says:

            My definition of Troll has always been “someone who goes into a conversation with disrupting, upsetting, possibly inflaming, as their priority”. Although it sounds like Conrad may have interpreted it as “someone who is sarcastic or insincere”

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            Now that I think about it, I know at least two distinct contemporary meanings for the word “troll” – the one you just gave, and, e.g., “Russian troll”. I suppose the common factor would be dishonesty?

            (Which also covers the original meaning, now that I think of it. Seems a bit too broad though?)

          • dndnrsn says:

            @mdet

            Also, wasting other people’s time and energy. If I argue with you in a way that makes you put in more effort, and I’m doing this intentionally just to mess with you, I’m trolling you.

          • Matt M says:

            mdet,

            I said they wanted someone most likely to advance their desired ends. Trump’s brash, un-PC behavior made him seem far more likely to actually do things like that than the standard crop of milquetoast beltway Republicans.

            The issue Republican voters had with John McCain, Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, etc. isn’t that they didn’t claim to support the right positions, it’s that, when given power, they never actually followed through.

            Trump didn’t just sound like someone who agreed with them – he sounded like someone who might actually do something. One of the biggest ways he communicated that was by being so egregiously un-PC that “polite society” would hate him forever.

            I’ve likened it before to a gang initiation. Violent gangs sometimes require new members to kill someone, to prove they aren’t undercover cops. Red tribe wanted Trump to do something to prove he wasn’t going to be just like every other boring Republicans. So he came out with “Mexicans are rapists!” and they were like “Well, that seems like something no establishment person would say!” And then it was “Because you’d be in jail!” and they really believed. And by the time we got around to “Grab em by the pussy!” it was like “Okay, okay, we get it already! You’re not a cop! Chill out!”

          • cassander says:

            @Matt M

            I’d agree with what you say, though I’d also add to it that trump’s innate talent for grabbing media attention was certainly a boon. He has a knack for infuriating his opponents into losing their cool and getting them to condemn things he says that lots of people believed. “mexico’s not sending their best” I think is a great example. I think a lot of people heard that, and thought, yeah, that’s probably true. And then saw everyone who wasn’t trump get on TV and talk about how awful it was that he said it. Not so much that it wasn’t true, but that it was terrible to say. And the people who thought that said to themselves “well, if they think that’s awful, they probably think i’m awful. Fuck them”

        • quaelegit says:

          I can’t speak to Wiener Schmach (or Viennese stereotypes), but the phrase “let them eat cake” predates Marie Antoinette and only became associated with her in the decades after the revolution as an example of how out-of-touch the royalty and nobility were: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Let_them_eat_cake

          (So I don’t think this is an example of what you’re describing, although I could be misunderstanding you.)

        • The pols are trolling the public too. Why else make Boris Foreign Sec?

      • jchrieture says:

        Recommended to the SSC’s anglophiles (Deiseach especially) are Mervyn Wall’s two novels The Unfortunate Fursey (1948) and The Return of Fursey (1948).

        Imagine a collaboration of Wodehouse, Rowling, Heller, Proulx, and Flannery O’Conner … such a light-heartedly dark-themed collaboration might produce novels similar to Wall’s.

        Wall’s novels contain much to please all sides in the culture wars … and to offend all sides too. 🙂

        • rlms says:

          You need to change your name again.

          • Prussian says:

            Who is this guy anyway?

          • Aapje says:

            @Prussian

            A frequently banned, but very persistent person called John Sidles who has a variety of behaviors that a lot of people dislike, like:
            – a tendency to orate, rather than debate
            – writing as if his own, highly-idiosyncratic opinions constitute the consensus
            – adding gratuitous insults to his comments
            – to respond with reading lists that have minimal relevance to what people were talking about
            – a general lack of coherence and logical reasoning

            Due to the futility of engaging with him & his persistence, many have decided to simply ignore him.

          • popoorangutan says:

            So, xe is a rationalist orangu-stan?

          • Deiseach says:

            adding gratuitous insults to his comments

            I don’t know if I’d call it “insults” as such, but Mr Sidles does like poking the sleeping bear.

            Note how in that comment he:

            (a) calls me an Anglophile
            (b) assumes I have never heard of Mervyn Wall’s novels
            (c) implies, via the Anglophile remark, that Wall and the subjects of the novels are English in orientation, a very discreditable assertion to make about Naomh Fursa!

            Ah John, you’re a terrible man altogether!

    • Speaker To Animals says:

      Jacob Rees-Mogg makes me swoon.

      Lack of sugar has the same effect on me.

    • zzzzort says:

      Names of the Rees-Mogg children (via Wikipedia):
      Peter Theodore Alphege Rees-Mogg
      Mary Anne Charlotte Emma Rees-Mogg
      Thomas Wentworth Somerset Dunstan Rees-Mogg
      Anselm Charles Fitzwilliam Rees-Mogg
      Alfred Wulfric Leyson Pius Rees-Mogg
      Sixtus Dominic Boniface Christopher Rees-Mogg

      Note that Alfred Wulfric was born in 2016, well after JK Rowling chose Albus Wulfric as a whimsical, semi-ridiculous name for a centenarian.

  4. LHN says:

    You could justify 624 Hektor as being from the point in the Iliad where Achilles is refusing to return the body for burial.

    • Speaker To Animals says:

      Are there any asteroids with elliptical orbits that pass inside and outside Jupiters orbit?

  5. JPNunez says:

    Well it is obvious Patroklus and Hektor are on the wrong side because each side still hasn’t recovered their respective corpses.

  6. Freddie deBoer says:

    Sorry if OT but I wrote a little thing about my own recent experience to make the point that calls to make involuntary admissions easier could actually have the effect of getting less people to seek out care: https://fredrikdeboer.com/2018/02/23/the-involuntary-admission-barrier-to-care/

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Good post.

      My impression is that the system has a razor-thin line between “too healthy to need voluntary admission” and “so sick they need involuntary admission”. I blame insurance companies. Hospitals know that most people can’t pay for their own stays and won’t admit unless insurance guarantees approval. Insurance always has the incentive to prefer cheaper less-intense levels of care, and the only reason they would ever approve anything is fear of being sued if something went horribly wrong. In non-psych medicine, it’s usually pretty clear that something can go horribly wrong if a person is refused hospital admission. In psych, most of the ways something can go horribly wrong involve danger to self or others (I don’t think you can sue for “I kept being depressed for years even though they could have treated me”).

      Unclear if any of this really matters because if you’re admitted voluntarily, and you decide to leave, you initiate an Intention To Terminate Treatment procedure and your doctors get to choose whether to agree or switch you to involuntary. At least where I used to work in Michigan, they are allowed to consider this decision for…seventy-two hours. Most doctors just let the clock run out so that they don’t get accused of letting a dangerous person go early if the patient later turns out to be dangerous.

      I’ve been meaning to post a Guide To Dealing With Inpatient Psych Admissions at some point, but I doubt it’ll contain much that you don’t already know.

      • antpocalypse says:

        Definitely not saying insurance companies don’t have incentives to prefer less intensive care, but an anecdote about a perverse reversal: a family member of mine spent 21 days inpatient because insurance would cover the hospital stay apparently indefinitely, but would not cover the (presumably cheaper) subacute treatment program that the psychiatrist was ready to release him to after ~10 days. We’re collectively still scratching our heads over that one.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          My guess is bureaucracy. Either they have an official policy of covering subacute treatment, or they don’t. If they don’t, they’re not going to break their policy just because someone tells them it will save them money in one situation.

    • Ttar says:

      This seems obviously true, for the same reason that drug use criminalization/nonemployability results in fewer people seeking treatment for drug dependency.

    • Matt M says:

      Obviously true.

      In my former career I worked closely with many veterans returning from overseas deployments who felt this issue very acutely. These are people who are at real risk for needing some serious care, but also people who are fiercely independent, highly protective of their status as “macho” guys who don’t need help, and generally, people who like guns and lean red tribe.

      They are overwhelmingly pre-disposed to not talking about their problems or feelings with anyone. And the more you shout about how we need more restrictions and less freedom for the “mentally ill” the less likely they are to seek help.

      • S_J says:

        One detail of this problem which may not seem as obvious to non-Red-Tribe, or non-military-veteran people:

        There appears to be a hairs-breadth of legal difference between the category sought psychiatric counseling for mental stress and the category was adjudicated mental defective per the Prohibited Persons list in the Gun Control Act of 1968.

        If a military veteran wants to go hunting with his buddies, he needs to be off the Prohibited Persons list to ever possess a firearm lawfully. (He also needs to be off that list to purchase lawfully from a licensed dealer.)

        Such a possibility is very distressing to a person who views themselves as a law-abiding member of society, but who is convinced that their personal mental trouble doesn’t make them a threat to others.

        This isn’t the only reason for which a military veteran might not want to seek psychiatric help. But it is linked cultural pre-disposition to appear fiercely independent. (An independent person is able to arm himself/herself for self-defense. He/she the first-responders to their own emergency situations. When seconds count, the Police will be minutes away…etc.)

        This is likely rooted in the fact that the practice of psychiatry is not nearly as predictable as other medical specialties, and psychiatrists have the power to put any veteran on the above Prohibited Persons list.

        This is an element of the social problem around providing psychological help to veterans. And it’s very hard to solve.

        • engleberg says:

          Yes, you don’t need to be in the military long to flinch from chickenshit. A sensitive person might well flinch harder.

        • Mark Atwood says:

          And there are a more than a few Blues (especially here in Seattle) who consider that particular problem an intentional feature that needs to be pushed even harder. My own ears have heard friend-of-friend professional therapists say at social events after having had a few glasses of wine that if a vet ever came to them, they would do exactly that to them, to much nodding and agreement from their circles of friends.

          *spit* “therapists”.

  7. Izaak says:

    I don’t know if I can see the paper anywhere, but if their data set is asymmetrical, it’s trivial to get high sounding accuracy scores — for example, if only 10% of the men that they have pictures of are gay, then predicting everyone is straight gives you a 90% accuracy.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      No, machine learning is not that stupid.

      You can see the preprint here or here.

      • Izaak says:

        I know what an ROC curve is, but not every paper is a good one. After reading the paper it’s clear that this is a pretty robust result (although I’m worried it’s overfitting), but you can’t always just assume that every paper is good.

      • Psychophysicist says:

        Counterpoint (from the head of Google’s AI division): Machine learning is nearly that stupid.

        At least, as it is practiced in the current publication landscape, where people just analyze datasets without thinking about what goes into them, and present model benchmark scores without attempting to find out what features of the dataset they are leveraging, or of the results transfer to controlled datasets. I give it under 10 years before the replication crisis hits ML.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Do you make the second paragraph accusation against this paper? Like Izaak, you are wrong.

          Do you think your link makes the accusation? It is careful not to. It keeps its hands clean but it tricks you. Don’t read liars. Don’t be evil.

          There are legitimate complaints about this paper. Your link even makes some. But no one attacking this paper is satisfied with truth.

    • matthewravery says:

      According to the paper, the samples were basically balanced.

      Having said that, I found their approach for presenting results bizarre. They fed images of two people in, with one person claiming to be gay and the other strait. They asked the machine learner to predict which was which. These outcomes were compared to those of humans on Mechanical Turk. As a result, they reported probabilities that the predictor was able to correctly rank-order images from two people rather than the probability that they were able to predict sexual orientation correctly for images from a single person. By comparing to the Turk users, they’re able to make the claim that they can do this better than people, but I don’t know why rank ordering is the interesting task. Typically when evaluating a classifier, you look at prediction accuracy rather than rank order accuracy. This gives you things like rates of true positives, false positives, etc. for each group. Here we have none of that. As a result, sentences like this from the abstract seem misleading to me:

      Given a single facial image, a classifier could correctly distinguish between gay and heterosexual men in 81% of cases, and in 71%of cases for women. Human judges achieved much lower accuracy: 61% for men and 54% for women.

      A close reading gets you to the right place, but the natural way to interpret this is “This thing will tell you based on a single image whether a man is gay or strait 81% of the time,” which is not what this means at all.

      Regardless, I wonder how drawing your sample from a population of images explicitly being used to seek romantic partnership effects the usefulness for predicting sexual orientation of the images. (The paper took images from dating websites to get their sample.) Thus authors address this a little:

      We take several steps to mitigate the influence of such factors. First, the facial featuresare extracted using a DNN that was specifically developed to focus on non-transient facial features, disregarding the head’s orientationand the background.

      By attempting to focus on “non-transient facial features”, do interpret this to mean genetic ones? Are hair style, piercings, etc. considered “transient”? They say they focus on the face, which is theoretically justified by PHT, and their main results are based on features extracted by a different deep learner, but the heuristic explanation they gave for how this extracts facial features didn’t explain what “non-transient” meant, either. All that I can find in here indicates that it just means “not the head’s orientation” and “not the background”, which still leaves a lot of things one might think were “transient” in a literal sense.

  8. Prof. Quincy Adams Wagstaff says:

    “Anyone have an explanation for how focusing on solar in particular isn’t just gratuitiously evil?”

    For a man who prides himself on mensa-levelup you can say some gratuitously dull statements.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Banned.

      • bean says:

        Are you doing OK, Scott? That’s the third ban in the last two days, after a couple of months of no bans at all. I’m not saying that the people in question don’t deserve banning (you’re generally more forbearing than I would be if it was my blog), but you seem touchy. Anything we can do?

        • Scott Alexander says:

          I haven’t seen as much banworthy things recently (until the past three days). Maybe I haven’t been reading enough.

          In terms of what people can do, the best thing would be for someone to actually fix the comment report system.

          • Brad says:

            I would change this line:
            if ( !wp_verify_nonce( $nonce, 'pmcc_comment_' . $comment_id ) ) {

            to
            if (TRUE || !wp_verify_nonce( $nonce, 'pmcc_comment_' . $comment_id ) ) {

            in crowd-control.php

            That will shut off checking the nonce which is the part seems to not be working. It’ll also make it easier for people to flood you with reports programmatically, but the nonce wasn’t that secure anyway.

        • Deiseach says:

          The Reign of Terror is sudden, fierce, unanticipated, far-reaching and bloody, bean, what did you expect? 😉

          • John Schilling says:

            Amongst the weaponry of the Reign of Terror are such elements as sudden ferocity, unanticipated bloodiness, great reach, and an almost fanatical devotion to the Rightful Caliph.

    • Deiseach says:

      I have no idea if this is remotely correct, but my first thought on tariffs on solar panels was about a form of protectionism – didn’t I read something about how China is the major manufacturer of these and is practically dumping them on the market? So tariffs on Chinese panels could be meant to boost manufacturing and purchasing of American-made panels instead? Increased demand for American panels = jobs in American plants manufacturing solar panels = manufacturing jobs for the Rust Belt?

      • Radu Floricica says:

        My thoughts were similar. With the current trend, the US solar power industry will just die.
        With tariffs you encourage them to develop, invest, grow… and in a few years you take away the tariffs and they’ll be large enough for economies of scale to have come into play. And when that’s not enough (and it won’t be, not 100%), they’ll be very motivated to innovate in order to offer something different/better than China. Because they will have already invested too much.

        • baconbits9 says:

          In practice what happens is that the most important part of the companies profitability becomes the tariffs, and as such the company will spend a large portion of its focus in ensuring their continued existence. Innovations actually become a liability because you effectively have a large marginal tax rate, if you leap into real competitiveness with foreign manufacturers the tariff should drop and you basically reap no, or very limited, real gains making the risk/reward payoff low.

          The incentives of tariffs on domestic producers are pretty straightforward, you want to produce and sell as much now under favorable conditions and have no long term liabilities which will plummet in value should the tariff ever be repealed. These push heavily against real long term investment.

          • Aapje says:

            Innovations actually become a liability because you effectively have a large marginal tax rate, if you leap into real competitiveness with foreign manufacturers the tariff should drop and you basically reap no, or very limited, real gains making the risk/reward payoff low.

            At a minimum, the domestic manufacturers are encouraged to innovate just as fast as the foreign manufacturers, to prevent having to ask for increased tariffs, which can cause the politicians to reevaluate and possibly end/reduce the tariffs for being too high.

            If the domestic manufacturers expect that the tariffs will be temporary, which seems likely, then they are encouraged to work towards real competitiveness. The most rational solution seems to me to try to achieve real competitiveness, yet squirrel away most of the profits and/or put most of your profits in R&D, so that you seem reliant on the tariffs, but if they get repealed, you are/can easily become profitable without them.

          • baconbits9 says:

            At a minimum, the domestic manufacturers are encouraged to innovate just as fast as the foreign manufacturers, to prevent having to ask for increased tariffs, which can cause the politicians to reevaluate and possibly end/reduce the tariffs for being too high.

            The US companies are competing with other US companies and Chinese companies. The Chinese companies are lobbying for subsidies and innovating, the US companies are going to keep up by just innovating? Additionally you have started the selection process for US companies on the basis of those that were successful lobbyists, these are going to change tactics right away?

            If the domestic manufacturers expect that the tariffs will be temporary, which seems likely

            Why does this seem likely? The express purposes of the tariffs are to counter Chinese subsidies, are Chinese subsidies expected to be temporary? Allegedly the Chinese subsidies are put in place with the goal of dominating the solar industry, putting US tariffs in place to prevent that implies that the US tariffs should last as long as the Chinese subsidies and that the tariffs will extend the length of time it takes for China to dominate the industry.

            The actual time frame for tariffs should be assumed to be indefinite until the political climate that enabled them changes.

            The most rational solution seems to me to try to achieve real competitiveness, yet squirrel away most of the profits and/or put most of your profits in R&D, so that you seem reliant on the tariffs, but if they get repealed, you are/can easily become profitable without them.

            US dollars are highly fungible, you can invest them anywhere, why would you choose to invest them heavily into an uncertain industry where you expect to have a major source of competitiveness removed?

            If you try to figure out the expected return of investment in industries under tariffs after tariffs are removed you always get a lower than average rate of return*. You only get higher investment if they are expected to be long lasting tariffs.

            *Technically you can get around this by assuming that the industry has an above average rate of return prior to the tariff but then you have no justification for the actual tariff.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            squirrel away most of the profits and/or put most of your profits in R&D, so that you seem reliant on the tariffs

            In the US you’re required to report profits to the government, no matter what you do with them.

          • Aapje says:

            @baconbits9

            The Chinese companies are lobbying for subsidies and innovating, the US companies are going to keep up by just innovating?

            The US companies may have a major innovation and may be able to keep the Chinese from copying it. They may outlast the Chinese willingness to subsidize. The US and China may agree to mutually abandon subsidies. The demand may grow so high that China can’t keep up.

            Not going bankrupt now opens up a lot of possibility for the future.

            Why does this [=ending US subsidies] seem likely? The express purposes of the tariffs are to counter Chinese subsidies, are Chinese subsidies expected to be temporary?

            The US has extreme political polarization, so a future Democrat president may prefer to cancel them, even if it is just to do the opposite of Trump.

            Also, someone else said that the tariffs already have a sunset clause, so they will expire (in steps) if nobody does anything to prevent that.

            I would not bet on riding the gravy train, if I was a US manufacturer.

            US dollars are highly fungible, you can invest them anywhere, why would you choose to invest them heavily into an uncertain industry where you expect to have a major source of competitiveness removed?

            ROI is historically very low, so risk-taking is favored.

            Solar panels are almost certainly going to be a huge industry, with major growth. Holding out to profit from this makes sense.

            We live in a world where Amazon made losses for ages, where Uber seems to be prepared to make major losses to capture a market that they can only recoup with self-driving cars, etc.

          • Aapje says:

            @Paul Zrimsek

            If you have high R&D, it’s not profit, it’s expenses.

            There are tricks to reduce the official profit as well. I live in a tax paradise, profits from US companies end up going here (and out again) with minimal taxation.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The US companies may have a major innovation and may be able to keep the Chinese from copying it. They may outlast the Chinese willingness to subsidize. The US and China may agree to mutually abandon subsidies.

            Maybe’s are a long way from a logical conclusion. All of these maybes exist in non tariffed industries to some extent, investment flows to highest expected returns and money is fungible.

            The demand may grow so high that China can’t keep up.

            Demand is related to price, tariffs increase the price and therefore lower demand. If demand might grow so high that China can’t keep up with tariffs then it is almost a certainty that it would have been higher without tariffs.

            The US has extreme political polarization, so a future Democrat president may prefer to cancel them, even if it is just to do the opposite of Trump.

            Uncertainty is generally considered bad for investment, not good.

            ROI is historically very low, so risk-taking is favored.

            First this isn’t true automatically and is an oversimplification of how investment decisions are made. Secondly you aren’t demonstrating that investment in solar specifically will result and there are reasons, which is the burden.

            We live in a world where Amazon made losses for ages,

            So why do we have to protect solar against losses to enable them? The majority of the arguments you have made work just as well, if not better, for the solar industry without tariffs.

          • Aapje says:

            @baconbits

            Demand is related to price, tariffs increase the price and therefore lower demand. If demand might grow so high that China can’t keep up with tariffs then it is almost a certainty that it would have been higher without tariffs.

            Yes, but US companies won’t get to profit from that if they go bankrupt. Having more profit go to someone else is often worse than getting less profit yourself.

            Uncertainty is generally considered bad for investment, not good.

            Uncertainty merely requires a premium to compensate for the uncertainty. Many people prefer investing in stocks over bonds, because they feel that the premium is sufficient.

            But you are correct that the uncertainty may be too much for investors, but not too much for Trump/the government.

            So why do we have to protect solar against losses to enable them? The majority of the arguments you have made work just as well, if not better, for the solar industry without tariffs.

            The government has (more or less) infinite coffers, which has game theory advantages.

            Also, the government may play a different game, for example, they may be speculating on a major crisis in China, resulting in an inability by China to stay in the race, allowing the US to become dominant.

            The game of your company being the winner is a different one than the game of trying to have the winner(s) in your country.

            There are also military reasons to have domestic production of (future) critical goods.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            If you have high R&D, it’s not profit, it’s expenses.

            Then you’re not squirreling away profit, just adding an expense you wouldn’t have had otherwise.

            To the extent that companies are able to use accounting tricks to hide profit from the state I’d expect them to be making full use of these already.

          • baconbits9 says:

            @ Aapje

            The whole discussion is based around the idea that you can support an industry with tariffs while it grows and then remove the tariffs and let it flourish on its own later. Further you posited that the solar industry wouldn’t wan’t to go back asking for more tariffs (be they larger or longer or whatever) and would be investing in innovation, everything you just wrote flatly contradicts that particular statement and supports the original statement that I made regarding how the incentives will actually align.

        • Antistotle says:

          A good friend of mine is working with a company that has some game changing patents in the works, and is having trouble getting funding in the US.

          Part of it is (at least the perception) that China is selling panels at near zero or less margin. Part of it is the scandals involving Solandra and other solar companies during the previous administration. The dumping may have played a part in their failure.

          • The Nybbler says:

            There’s also the unfortunate issue that solar panel breakthroughs are a dime a dozen. They happen as regularly as battery capacity breakthroughs, and as often live up to the hype.

          • ChrisA says:

            A US person doesn’t need to manufacture in the US to get the economic benefit from their ideas. Steve Jobs showed this with the I-Phone, the majority of the profit comes from the ideas, the actual manufacturing receives very little of the rent. People over-fixate on return on manufacturing capital as a source of profits, the vast majority of profit comes not from fixed capital but from intangible capital. If the US can continue to generate intangible capital (like your friends ideas in solar) the actual manufacturing being done elsewhere will make little difference to US wealth.

      • Mikk Salu says:

        European Union and China have a dispute over solar panel trade. Though, last year they reached an agreement that EU will reduce its anti-dumping tariffs over time.

  9. jkcunningham says:

    I have only read the abstract on the “Death and the Self” study but it seems to me that being “less generous than any other group about the prospect of giving up a slightly longer life…” is not necessarily the same thing as having a higher fear of death.

    And the explanation for how focusing on solar in particular isn’t just gratuitously evil that I’ve heard is that China has been dumping solar panels at below cost, destroying yet another native manufacturing industry. I have no idea if this is true – or more to the point, whether it’s the best response. But it’s a lot more plausible than gratuitous evil.

    • jonmarcus says:

      Keep reading in the abstract. From it: “…Monastic Tibetan Buddhists showed significantly greater fear of death than any other group.”

      I would say “significantly greater fear of death” is quite close to the same thing as “having a higher fear of death”.

  10. Ttar says:

    The best argument for the solar panel tariff is that China has been pouring cash into it’s star industry so they can sell panels way below cost, destroying the solar manufacturing industry in the US and any other nation that competes. Trump’s tariff decision brings foreign panel costs up in line with domestic panel costs, stabilizing the US marketplace and protecting it against the inevitable shock that would occur if the US manufacturers went out of business and then Chinese manufacturers jacked up their prices once they had a monopoly. Also Chinese manufacturers play pretty fast and loose with IP law, allowing them to produce US designs without paying R&D costs. By increasing tariffs to support US industry, the companies that invest in more R&D are rewarded more for their effort. Regardless, trade policy isn’t likely to have a major impact on solar adoption or end user costs, especially compared to regulatory and incentive policies.

    • J Mann says:

      There is also an argument many people find appealing, which is that it is in America’s interest to make some solar panels here, rather than importing inexpensive solar panels from China. If so, then your alternatives are to either race China on their alleged subsidies or take some kind of tit for tat action to discourage them.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Haven’t the Chinese also restricted export of raw materials related to solar panel manufacture? The link is from 2009 but I seem to recall stories about them doing this on and off.

    • baconbits9 says:

      Chinese manufacturers jacked up their prices once they had a monopoly.

      The fact that you use the plural for manufacturers would mean that it isn’t a monopoly and they wouldn’t be able to jack up prices.

      • The Nybbler says:

        The fact that you use the plural for manufacturers would mean that it isn’t a monopoly and they wouldn’t be able to jack up prices.

        That only applies in the absence of collusion, whether government-directed or otherwise.

      • Randy M says:

        Unless there was some kind of government intervention in the matter.
        I’m not saying the Chinese government does micromanage specific economic sectors–but I wouldn’t assume they are above it.

        • baconbits9 says:

          The assumption here then (on top of a bunch of others) is that the Chinese government has an incentive to raise prices and a high level of control. Even when these are true it is difficult for cartels to succeed (see Opec) over substantial periods of time. While the scheme always sounds simple it is extraordinarily complex to pull off because of how scale economies work. Your first step has to be to build up production to a level where it can satisfy demand at the falsely low prices. When prices rise you expect a drop in demand, if you attempt to exert monopoly/cartel force then you will expect a large drop in demand which is going to mean many manufacturers either going out of business or running at partial capacity indefinitely.

          Meanwhile every solar manufacturer in China will have spent years learning how to work the government system of subsidies and vying for preferential treatment. When it comes time to ‘jack up prices’ they will be fighting to be the ones who get to use their maximum capacity, those that lose the fights will have an enormous incentive to either produce and sell them illegally, or ship their expertise overseas to start a competing manufacturer or lobby aggressively to expand the number produced and sold, lowering prices.

          • Michael Handy says:

            Your analysis works in a free market system. China can of course just go “These three businesses get to continue producing, the rest have their trade license revoked. If you want to ship your expertise overseas we have a nice cell in the Western provinces you can ship it to.”

          • baconbits9 says:

            How does China stop other countries from entering the solar panel market once they have raised prices? They have to be able to simultaneously maintain high prices with the ability to flood the market with panels if a new competitor emerges. Just to make up some numbers, say that at $100 a panel that world wide demand is for roughly 1 million solar panels a year, at $200 a panel demand cut to 600,000 panels.

            China pumps out 1 million panels a year and sells them, at a loss of $50 per panel, for $100 each, every other solar panel manufacturer goes out of business, the China jacks prices up to $200 each and starts selling 600,000 a year. They shut down 40% of their factories and just rake in the money.

            What stops a company in some other country from starting up and selling solar panels from $150-199 each? By closing 40% of their factories China no longer has the ability to flood the market with 1 million panels at $100 each to drive new competitors out of business.

            To run a cartel like this you have to maintain excess production capability to threaten new entrants with, but that same excess capability provides an enormous incentive to cheat the cartel.

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            How expensive is it actually going to be, though, to keep those factories in working order even though they’re currently idle? You’d have to look at real figures to decide whether that would be a feasible strategy, but it seems at least possible that it is.

            (I don’t think cheating would be a problem here, because I don’t see how anyone is going to secretly start operating one of the mothballed factories without getting caught.)

          • baconbits9 says:

            How expensive is it actually going to be, though, to keep those factories in working order even though they’re currently idle? You’d have to look at real figures to decide whether that would be a feasible strategy, but it seems at least possible that it is.

            The answer to this is it is very expensive to effectively mothball a factory. To just shut it down and put up a fence is cheap, but to enable it to be up and running in a short period of time is very expensive. What workers are you going to use 2 years after it closes? Who is upgrading the software and hardware to account for changes? The foreign company that attempts to open isn’t likely to reproduce 4-5 year old designs that the factories were tooled for when they closed.

            Its not just the factory either, its the supply chains that have to be maintained. Before you get those factories online you have to get all the raw materials and specific intermediary components going in the right direction again. Have you mothballed all of those or are they closed or supplying other parts of the economy?

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            I’m not sure this is all necessarily quite such a problem in a managed economy as it would be in a free market. Labour is plentiful and can be moved between different parts of the economy by fiat. Changing supply chains might be disruptive, but you just have to be able to bring the factories back online within, say, a year or so – and you’ll probably never need to actually do it so long as your potential competition knows that you can and will if necessary. Retooling extra factories can be treated as an overhead. Stockpiling might also play a role.

            Personally, it all sounds unlikely, but I’m not convinced the possibility can be dismissed on principle without someone actually analyzing the specific details.

      • J Mann says:

        I think the idea is that the Chinese government views localization of the solar industry as a good, so it is willing to subsidize Chinese solar manufacture for a period to attempt national dominance.

        You’re right that the end state isn’t literally monopoly profits – it’s either oligopoly profits, cartel profits, or a market clearing price with jobs and expertise concentrated in China rather than distributed.

    • Buckyballas says:

      Quick clarification:
      This tariff is not just about China. US anti-dumping tariffs against China have already been in place since 2012 to combat the subsidies/loans you are referring to. The percentage depends on the manufacturer, and is revisited from time to time (last time in 2015). The new 30% tariff is on top of the anti-dumping tariffs and applies to all countries, with the exception of “Generalized System of Preferences” countries. Thailand and the Philippines are GSP countries, but they still pay the tariff since they export a lot of solar cells/panels to the US.

      Regarding R&D rewards, this tariff is probably hurting more than helping. The biggest solar R&D spenders in the world (by far) are First Solar and SunPower, both US-based companies. First Solar manufactures in both the US and Malaysia, but their products are not affected by the new tariffs either way, since the tariffs are on crystalline silicon based solar only, and First Solar uses a different technology. SunPower manufactures primarily in the Philippines, Malaysia, and Mexico, and does use crystalline Si, so they are getting hammered. Of the next 8 biggest R&D spenders, only 1 has any manufacturing capacity in the US (SolarWorld, one of the plaintiffs in the case). Tesla, which plans to manufacture in Buffalo, NY, may be added to this list, but I haven’t found updated numbers of Tesla’s solar-specific R&D spending.

      One argument used in favor of the tariff is that it encourages foreign firms to build factories in the US. I am aware of one Chinese company who is considering such a move, Jinko Solar, but given the fact that the tariffs only last 5 years, with a step down in tariffs each year, it is difficult to justify an $100M+ investment in a solar cell factory, which would take a year to build and another year to ramp, not to mention the high relative costs required to maintain and staff such a facility. A solar module factory (where cells are assembled into panels) might make more sense, so there is some opportunity there.

      Ultimately, I think this measure will have a significant short term negative impact on US companies like SunPower, a moderate short term negative impact on the US solar industry at large (with some benefits to manufacturers like First Solar, Tesla, and SolarWorld and bigger losses to the rest of the ecosystem, installers, developers, etc.), a small short term negative impact on non-US manufacturers, and very little long term impact on anybody (excluding the people who get laid off and the businesses which go bankrupt – those people are getting screwed). It seems more like way to check the “tariffs” box on the “stuff Trump promised” list than an important development one way or the other.

      • herculesorion says:

        “US-based companies”. Yeah, which depend on Chinese solar panels manufactured by government-subsidized providers.

        Rather surprised to see Strong Principle Free-Market Arguments deployed in favor of companies who are getting special benefits from government subsidies, but, y’know, I ain’t no libertarian genius.

        “a moderate short term negative impact on the US solar industry at large”

        I wish people would stop doing this thing where they use “solar industry” to refer to the people who hire third-party contractors to have some Mexicans nail solar panels to your roof. That’s no more the “solar industry” than the dude who plugs in my cable box is the “telecommunications industry”.

        • shakeddown says:

          I wish people would stop doing this thing where they use “solar industry” to refer to the people who hire third-party contractors to have some Mexicans nail solar panels to your roof. That’s no more the “solar industry” than the dude who plugs in my cable box is the “telecommunications industry”.

          They’re jobs that are part of the process of getting solar power (in both the sense that they’re necessary to get it and that increasing or decreasing the total amount of solar energy produced increases or decreases the number of these jobs).

          I can’t tell if your reference to “Mexicans” is self-aware or means I should write you off as someone who eats up Brietbart articles about immigration.

          • herculesorion says:

            “They’re jobs that are part of the process of getting solar power ”

            Nnnnnnnnnope. They’re part of the Solar Panel installation industry, which is distinct from the kind of industry that’s being protected by tariffs created in response to subsidies granted to foreign producers.

        • Rather surprised to see Strong Principle Free-Market Arguments deployed in favor of companies who are getting special benefits from government subsidies, but, y’know, I ain’t no libertarian genius.

          In favor of American consumers who benefit by the willingness of foreign governments to subsidize what they buy. So far as the U.S. end of the transaction is concerned, it doesn’t matter whether low prices of Chinese solar are due to more efficient production or government subsidies. It’s only the Chinese taxpayers for whom it makes a difference.

          • nameless1 says:

            How can someone who understands transaction costs be a libertarian? Once China dominates the US market and decides to hike prices creating an entirely new US solar industry would have enormous upstart costs, while expanding an existing, protectionism-created small solar industry a far smaller one. This is the classic coordination problem that requires regulation (customers who understand their long term self-interest would occasionally buy a US panel precisely as a hedge to keep the industry alive for these cases, but cannot coordinate well).

            Even militaries understand how it works. When after WWI Germany was limited to a small army, they made sure to hire top quality soldiers and train them very well, so later on when, er, that guy decided to ignore the limitation he could kick basically all of them into NCO status and thus the new recruits, conscripts pouring in would have someone to teach them. That is exactly how you expand a small, protected industry later on when the price hike comes. While starting an army from 0 is a very difficult job.

            This is precisely a reverse Coase Theorem, David. The absence of transaction costs makes libertarian solutions work well. But huge transaction costs require nonlibertarian solutions.

            If you followed the privatization, renationalization, reprivatization, the whole circus of British railroads, eventually the good solution turned out to be exactly what transaction costs predict. Train service and the food at the station is provided by private companies because it is not hard to sell a car or a beer tap if the demand drops and buy again when it increases. But the rail and buildings are owed by the state because if demand drops and you tear them down or just neglect to maintain them it will cost a lot to build them again once the demand is up.

            Every time responding to changes in demand or supply would have a hell of a friction cost you need nonlibertarian solutions.

          • Murphy says:

            @nameless1

            If your government/organization/etc so certain that china is going to jack up the prices then the answer is simple: soak up lots of heavily subsidized pannels, either install them or stick em in a warehouse.

            When the chinese government decides to jack up prices you undercut them with the warehouses full of stuff you have and make bank.

            Unless of course you’re not so sure they’ll actually do the jacking up the prices bit. then it becomes a risky investment.

          • Tarpitz says:

            If you followed the privatization, renationalization, reprivatization, the whole circus of British railroads, eventually the good solution turned out to be exactly what transaction costs predict.

            Hang on, hold the phone. You’re suggesting something somehow related to rail in Britain is a good solution? Egads, what would a bad one look like?

          • rlms says:

            rail : UK :: healthcare :: US

          • Anon. says:

            Once China dominates the US market and decides to hike prices creating an entirely new US solar industry would have enormous upstart costs, while expanding an existing, protectionism-created small solar industry a far smaller one.

            People keep bringing up this fantastical scenario, but AFAIK it has literally never happened. Do you have any evidence of this subsidize-damage foreign industry-reap profits by increasing prices strategy ever working?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Once China dominates the US market and decides to hike prices creating an entirely new US solar industry would have enormous upstart costs, while expanding an existing, protectionism-created small solar industry a far smaller one.

            Why would that be? Scaling up a small, expensive industry to a large, cheap one isn’t necessarily a huge amount cheaper than building a large, cheap one to begin with. We went through this with certain sorts of LCD panels; there were some made (I believe mostly for the defense and aerospace market) in the US at great expense with low volumes, which cost far more than Korean and Chinese made LCD panels, and the companies involved had no idea how to scale up.

            Besides, who cares? We’re talking about solar panels here. Suppose China puts all the other producers out of business through dumping of panels, then they twist their mustaches and jack up the prices to ludicrous levels. Solar has plenty of substitutes. Looks like we’re building more gas-fired turbines. Or wind turbines. Maybe we’ve got to drive some batteries out to remote locations more often. It’s not like a lack of solar panels will bring the country to its knees.

          • nameless1 says:

            @Murphy

            Gambling with taxpayer money is not exactly a libertarian solution either.

            Tarpitz, rlms

            UK rail may resemble US healthcare in that it is good quality, but expensive. But actually not so expensive, compared to European prices. I would call it a moderate success. Virgin trains at commuter times are good and not expensive, smaller lines outside commuter times can be expensive. I would call it a moderate success.

            The Nybbler

            Strange, scaling up should be easy. You just hire a lot of people and promote current workers into team leaders / trainers. You take your existing procedures, knowhow and basically clone your plants. You know what equipment to buy, how to run the place, you don’t have to experiment. Look at any fast food chain. Once it works in one place you can make it work in a hundred.

            Speaking from experience. Look, when you are an IT project manager working at a multinational corporation and the boss goes you gotta implement, I don’t know, say, package tracking in one subsidiary your basic problem is not having much of an idea how it should work in general and for this company in particular. But once you did it in one subsidiary cloning the project is a lot easier. I literally do this.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Strange, scaling up should be easy. You just hire a lot of people and promote current workers into team leaders / trainers. You take your existing procedures, knowhow and basically clone your plants. You know what equipment to buy, how to run the place, you don’t have to experiment. Look at any fast food chain. Once it works in one place you can make it work in a hundred.

            Only a handful of fast food chains have hundreds of places, and most of them are franchises, not under a single corporate umbrella and lots of them go out of business or change ownership due to poor performance during their early years.

          • baconbits9 says:

            How can someone who understands transaction costs be a libertarian?

            Looks at US federal budget… nope, no transaction costs there.

          • rlms says:

            @nameless1
            That’s definitely not the comparison I was going for! My intended meaning was “terrible, regardless of government policy” (at least for relatively long distance trains). I don’t think British trains are particularly bad for price, the problems are things like punctuality and availability of seats.

          • Tarpitz says:

            Virgin trains at commuter times are good and not expensive, smaller lines outside commuter times can be expensive.

            Are we living in the same country? Fares are higher at commuter times, for the obvious reason of greater demand, all fares are high when compared to any other mode of transport short of private helicopter, and as RLMS says, punctuality and reliability of service are lousy. My memory, and conversations with older people (I was quite young when privatization went through) lead me to believe that British Rail was even worse, but that’s about as strong an endorsement as I can give it.

            At minimum, services in France and Holland are much better.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Strange, scaling up should be easy. You just hire a lot of people and promote current workers into team leaders / trainers. You take your existing procedures, knowhow and basically clone your plants.

            This is extremely naive. Scaling up most likely doesn’t mean making more small plants. It probably means making bigger plants. With different manufacturing processes suited to lower-cost higher-volume production; certainly fewer person-hours per unit produced. Your whole supply pipeline has to scale too, not to mention distribution, and it’s not a matter of “just do the same thing but more of it”.

          • ChrisA says:

            On the UK rail privatisation, it was stunning success in reversing the decline in passenger numbers – after nationalisation passenger numbers declined for decades to about half the peak in 1940s, then started increasing right after privatisation back to and exceeding 1940’s peak. And of course the rail network is much smaller than then. So we have a text book example of revealed preference showing a great success that all the progressive members of society should applaud given their preference for public transport…right?

          • ChrisA says:

            On the solar tariffs, what is depressing for me is that these arguments for the tariffs are exactly the same ones the protectionists having been putting forward for hundreds of years, and despite all the logic thrown at them about how it benefits just a small section of society rather than all of society, it seems like they can’t get it. This seems to me to quantitatively different to arguments around communism or socialism vs private enterprise, because those are more value systems not subject to logic (you either prefer equality over freedom or you don’t, it’s a preference). Free trade vs protectionists claim to be operating in the same preference framework, but end up in very different place. Would it help to mention again the UK corn law debates from the 19C? Essentially all these arguments on domestic solar panels manufacture needing to be protected were exactly the same as the arguments that local corn production needed to be protected so the UK didn’t become dependent on overseas countries for food production. But of course this meant that poor people had to pay much more for food and rich farmers got rich as a result. When the corn laws were abolished there were no bad consequences, in fact the economy and population grew like never before. This was probably one of the most welfare enhancing political decisions ever. We could have the same with solar with the move from fossil fuel production. But some greedy domestic manufacturers, like the rich farmers, will twist our emotions to try to selfishly continue to extract their rent from us.

          • herculesorion says:

            Anon.
            “People keep bringing up this fantastical scenario, but AFAIK it has literally never happened.”

            womp womp

            ******
            DavidFriedman
            “So far as the U.S. end of the transaction is concerned, it doesn’t matter whether low prices of Chinese solar are due to more efficient production or government subsidies.”

            Yes! THAT IS THE POINT OF TARIFFS. Correcting the distortion of price signals that lead to a non-preferred option being lower-cost. People seem to be OK with this for emissions control, right?

            ******

            ChrisA
            “But some greedy domestic manufacturers, like the rich farmers, will twist our emotions to try to selfishly continue to extract their rent from us.”

            See it’s interesting that you’re rolling in with this because it’s exactly what is happening–domestic industry members twisting emotions. “Killing the American solar industry.” “Destroying American jobs.” “Skyrocketing prices.” This is the rhetoric we’re dealing with, and it’s exactly the kind of thing you say is bad to hear, the kind of arguments you say are fallacious appeals to emotion.

            “[A]ll these arguments on domestic solar panels manufacture needing to be protected were exactly the same as the arguments that local corn production needed to be protected so the UK didn’t become dependent on overseas countries for food production.”

            Hey, yeah, now imagine if there were one food provider for the entire world and it was a country with a totalitarian government an a demonstrated willingness to engage in market manipulation.

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            Essentially all these arguments … were exactly the same as the arguments that local corn production needed to be protected so the UK didn’t become dependent on overseas countries for food production.

            When the corn laws were abolished there were no bad consequences

            Don’t the shortages in World War II count?

            (On the other hand, there was no actual risk of starvation – not that Britain knew that at the time the country was allowed to become dependent on food imports! Arguably the economic benefits of allowing a completely free market in food outweigh the risk of needing to introduce rationing in time of war.)

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:
          • Questioner says:

            David Freedman writes:

            In favor of American consumers who benefit by the willingness of foreign governments to subsidize what they buy.

            I used to feel that way. Now I lean towards being in favor of US individuals being able to have functional lives, which for most males means “having a job,” and which for most females equals either “having a job”, or”being married to a man who has a job.”

            Have you read Poul Anderson’s “Psychotechnic history”? I think he does a good job nailing the long term effects on society of having a large number of unemployed people. I’d rather like for the US to avoid that future.

            And if that means anyone pissing their money away on solar panels will have to piss a little bit more, I’m not going to lose much sleep over that.

          • Questioner says:

            @Murphy says:

            If your government/organization/etc so certain that china is going to jack up the prices then the answer is simple: soak up lots of heavily subsidized pannels, either install them or stick em in a warehouse.

            1: Installing them requires the US gov’t giving people lots of subsidies
            2: Put them in a warehouse? And then what? What’s that do to their effective lifespan? How efficient will they be compared to ones being made 4 years from now? How much will the Chinese learned about how to make solar panels, and what will that do for their ability to make better panels, cheaper?
            3: How will that enable the US to build a solar panel industry at the point in time when China decides to take advantage of their market position?

            “Strategic reserves” work for raw materials. Not so much for finished products in a technologically advancing market

            @Anon

            “People keep bringing up this fantastical scenario, but AFAIK it has literally never happened. Do you have any evidence of this subsidize-damage foreign industry-reap profits by increasing prices strategy ever working?”

            @ ChrisA says:

            On the solar tariffs, what is depressing for me is that these arguments for the tariffs are exactly the same ones the protectionists having been putting forward for hundreds of years, and despite all the logic thrown at them about how it benefits just a small section of society rather than all of society, it seems like they can’t get it.

            Reality check time, guys.

            1: Why do you think the Chinese gov’t is spending billions of $ in subsidies for their solar panel manufacturers? Are they just a bunch of idiots pissing money away? Or does making it so a bunch of your people have jobs == positive benefit to society that’s worth the $$$?

            2: Is there any place in the US where installing solar panels is the economically efficient thing to do? Do those solar panels, absent subsidies, produce power cost competitively with nuclear? With natural gas?

            No?

            Then I think it’s a bit late to be talking about “violations of rational economic policy”, no?

            3: Here’s a proposal: How about we get a law saying that government policies, at both the State and Federal level, can only provide benefits for American made solar panels.

            No tariffs, no, special duties, but no subsidies (and that includes no forcing the electric company to buy the output from your panels. Yo negotiate a fair price they’re willing to pay? No problem. But no gov’t power forcing them to buy).

            Would ANY non-US solar panels be sold under that regime? If the answer is “no”, then on what grounds are you complaining about Trump distorting an already hideously distorted market?

            4: What Chris at least appears to have missed out is that “keeping people employed” is not merely a benefit to the people who are employed. It’s a benefit to the people who aren’t paying for their unemployment insurance. It’s a benefit for the people who aren’t paying for their “disability payments”, that they move over to once their unemployment runs out.

            It’s a benefit for the society that doesn’t have these people becoming one more statistic in the opioid “epidemic”.

            If you have a vigorously growing economy, then “having people move to more competitive employers”is a good thing.

            You might h ave noticed that US manufacturing employment isn’t exactly booming.

            5: Oh, and for the question: “does protectionism work?” IIRC, the reason the US won the Civil War was because of a vast manufacturing base in the North, built up via protective tariffs that jacked up the cost of British goods high enough so that lower productivity US manufacturers could compete

          • I used to feel that way. Now I lean towards being in favor of US individuals being able to have functional lives, which for most males means “having a job,” and which for most females equals either “having a job”, or”being married to a man who has a job.”

            And why do you think China subsidizing things makes that less likely?

            If, in the limiting case, they just give us stuff for free, we take that stuff and spend our time and energy making whatever stuff they don’t give us for free.

            There’s a story you might want to read. It isn’t dealing with exactly the same fallacy, but a close cousin.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Why do you think the Chinese gov’t is spending billions of $ in subsidies for their solar panel manufacturers? Are they just a bunch of idiots pissing money away?

            “China” is not one single entity with a singular goal. There are many different components and it’s quite possible that “China” is doing something economically stupid in places. Dumping a product in hopes that it somehow magically means they get to control everything in the future wouldn’t even make the top 10 of stupid economic plans of the past century.

          • Questioner says:

            @DavidFriedman asks

            And why do you think China subsidizing things makes that less likely?

            Because the history of the last ~20 years in the US has been of China moving in to manufacturing industries where there are people employed in the US, the US businesses going under, and a lot o f their employees ending up on disability after their unemployment ran out.

            It’s basically my understanding of where the opioid epidemic has come from, since once on Medicare / Medicaid they get lots of really cheap pain pills.

            The Trump voters who flipped PA and MI to Trump were white working class Democrats who voted for Obama twice, often still voted for the Dem Senate candidate, but voted for Trump because he promised to bring back some of the lost manufacturing jobs. So the facts on the ground that i know of say my “story” has some relevance to reality.

            Reality check: the people who do manufacturing jobs don’t want to do the same kind of jobs you and I want to do. You can say “f-off, losers, i want my cheap solar panels!” Then you can watch them put a Trump, or worse, in the White House.

            “Jobs” are not fungible.

            The work people want to do is not fungible.

            The people who do not enjoy the life of the mind that we do are still people. The Americans who want jobs of a manual nature are still owed respect. And we American citizens have a duty to them that we do not have to Chinese peasants.

            So if an upper middle class US family has to pay an extra 10% for their solar panels, but 1,000 – 10,000 US families don’t get destroyed, i’m going to call that a win.

          • baconbits9 says:

            So if an upper middle class US family has to pay an extra 10% for their solar panels, but 1,000 – 10,000 US families don’t get destroyed, i’m going to call that a win.

            This isn’t how it works. What happens is that some middle class family doesn’t install solar panels so the guys that install solar panels don’t get jobs and on down the line and the 1,000 families you allegedly ‘save’ are displaced by 2-3x as many.

          • Brad says:

            The Americans who want jobs of a manual nature are still owed respect. And we American citizens have a duty to them that we do not have to Chinese peasants.

            Respect is a two way street. Where are all the calls for working class people in the rust belt to understand and empathize with people like me?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            If no other reason, then because they can riot at the voting booth and help install a horrible government. The same as why I might tell my cousin that he should care about the fate of the poor inner city youth where he lives, when my cousin doesn’t feel they respect him back at all. (And my cousin will scoff and say the riots hurt those inner city people more than him, why, that’s proof they are stupid, you can’t reason with that!!11)

          • Brad says:

            I think the idea that the 2016 election was a WWC riot is an over-read and motivated reading it.

            After eight years of Obama, it was the Republican candidate’s turn. That’s all that’s needed to understand the election. Any alternate theory bears a heavy burden of persuasion. Vague hand-waiving in the direction of the rust belt doesn’t cut it.

            In any event, even if I did buy the WWC riot theory, that still is vastly insufficient to justify unilateral love and respect towards a population from which I get back only contempt and hatred. At best it would justify certain policy tweaks.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I don’t think we need universal love, just like my cousin doesn’t need to universally love the people he doesn’t like. You just need them to not be so mad they hurt themselves and incidentally you.

    • Baisius says:

      Interestingly, the tariffs were originally implemented by the Obama administration.

  11. J Mann says:

    An anti-open borders argument doesn’t seem hard to construct (although I don’t think it necessarily wins the day).

    Step 1) Borrow Krugman’s “not so fast” argument on trade – even if open borders helps the general welfare substantially, there are specific communities who will be hurt by the shock, with no easy way to compensate them. Depending on the amount of harm and our concern for their welfare, we may want at least some controls.

    Step 2) To the extent that we provide more guaranteed services (education, health care, roads, transit subsidies, whatever) to people located in the US than outside the US and think it’s a good idea, open borders may be a challenge.

    • dvr says:

      I feel like there’s a more basic argument against open borders, going something like this:
      -The right institutions are important for economic prosperity.
      -America is a democracy, so the votes of its citizens influence its institutions.
      -Political attitudes are difficult to change and often passed down to children.
      -Therefore large-scale immigration from countries with the wrong institutions could change voting patterns in the US, potentially destroying the institutions that make it different from the third world countries the immigrants originate from.

      I haven’t done any calculations, but my intuition is that the cost of destroying the institutions that generate prosperity would far overwhelm any gains in efficiency from labor mobility.

      How true this is depends on how effectively destination countries can assimilate immigrants. It seems like a more permissive immigration policy would lead to less effective assimilation than we see today.

      • Randy M says:

        I think the reply to this is that with immigration you are selecting against people who want to replicate their home institutions, as demonstrated by them leaving it.
        The rebuttal to that response would be that people may be immigrating for material prosperity without acknowledging that the institutions/customs of the nations have anything to do with creating that prosperity.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Yeah, I really don’t think the illiterate illegals dragging themselves (or being dragged by “aid agencies”) across the border are super gung-ho about the constitution and respect for the rule of law. Our own citizenry, educated in our own school systems don’t understand the value of our institutions and come out thinking the United States is irredeemably evil, wealthy only because of exploitation, slavery and theft, and that it’s systems need to be razed.

          Among the reasons I gave up on libertarianism is that such ideologies don’t compete well in the current paradigm. The Democrats and their accomplices in the Republican party import illiterate 3rd-worlders (e.g. Somalians), put them in Section 8 housing and give them welfare and then say “okay, time for the marketplace of ideas to work! It’s up to you to go into the immigrant ghettos and explain to them the benefits of limited Constitutional government and free market capitalism, and pay no attention to the endless flood of media and educational propaganda that America and it’s foundations are irredeemably racist, sexist and generally evil. See you at the polls!”

          Thanks but no thanks.

          • baconbits9 says:

            There are less than 100,000 Somalis in the US by most estimates. Outside of that one specific group every other ethnic group on Wikipedia’s list has > $30,000 a year in household income. 95 of the 103 listed ethnic groups have household incomes averaging $40,000+. The vast majority of immigrants do not land in the situation you describe, most show up, find jobs and support their families and participate in the marketplace.

          • Iain says:

            Indeed, the US is so terrible at integrating Somali immigrants into American ideals that, when other countries send delegations to Minnesota to figure out how to replicate their success, one of the main questions is how Minnesota ended up with so many Somalis owning small businesses.

            Somali immigration to America is a failure in the same way that Italian immigration was in the early 1900s — that is to say, it basically isn’t. Are there growing pains? Sure. Will the people hyperventilating about this seem pretty ridiculous fifty years from now? Absolutely.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Fine, I withdraw the specifics about Somalians. Regardless, more than half of immigrants are on welfare. Great, some Somalians own small businesses, but overall we’re importing people who can’t support themselves. Why?

          • John Schilling says:

            Where “on welfare” means someone in the family has used some “welfare” service at some time in the past year, and two levels deep into the referencing I can’t find a comprehensive listing of what the people responsible for this factoid consider to be “welfare” services.

            If your sources won’t define their terms, why should I care about their claims?

          • ilikekittycat says:

            You haven’t spoken to any illiterate illegals if you think they aren’t acutely, daily aware of how much better US governance/institutions are

          • jhertzlinger says:

            There is the problem of radical immigrants to Minnesota raising children with the goal of overthrowing capitalism.

            But enough about Gus Hall…

          • Incurian says:

            Where “on welfare” means someone in the family has used some “welfare” service at some time in the past year, and two levels deep into the referencing I can’t find a comprehensive listing of what the people responsible for this factoid consider to be “welfare” services.

            If your sources won’t define their terms, why should I care about their claims?

            https://cis.org/Report/Welfare-Use-Immigrant-and-Native-Households
            If you scroll down to “programs examined” it lists them, and although there is some aggregation in the graphs, it does break it down by individual program in all the charts.

            Even without that though, it includes a comparison to native households so you still have some idea of what the base rate should be even if you don’t know precisely what they’re comparing.

            I think it would be more interesting to see if the pattern persists into the second and third generation, since one would expect assimilation and financial success to be less than perfect at first.

        • Questioner says:

          “I think the reply to this is that with immigration you are selecting against people who want to replicate their home institutions, as demonstrated by them leaving it.”

          If that were true, then all the people leaving CA and moving toe NV would have made it a rock-ribbed Republican State. Instead Hillary won.

          So, sadly, no, it doesn’t appear to work that way.

      • vV_Vv says:

        The rebuttal to that response would be that people may be immigrating for material prosperity without acknowledging that the institutions/customs of the nations have anything to do with creating that prosperity.

        Or, more generally, they may not care. People migrate for individual reasons, not to achieve a world-wide Pareto-optimal equilibrium.

        • John Schilling says:

          See also the behavior of Californians migrating to Colorado, Oregon, etc. The general perception at least is that they seek to replicate California’s customs and institutions even as they seek to enjoy the benefits of not-California’s customs and institutions.

      • Guy in TN says:

        You appear to be making a leap from the trivially true statement of “economic prosperity is influenced by political cultural institutions” to the more contestable claim of “a country’s economic prosperity is the result of its political and cultural institutions”. This ignores things like natural disasters, war, and sheer bad luck.

        Look at the U.S. after Hurricane Katrina, which had a flood of immigrants moving away from Louisiana into the surrounding states. Can you imagine a Texan saying:
        “Hmm, Texas is a desirable place to live because of its institutions that have been created by Texans. Immigrants from Louisiana must be leaving the state because of its undesirable conditions, which have been created by the institutions (and therefore the people) who live there! Therefore, the logical thing to do is to restrict immigration from Louisiana.”

        It could be that the immigrants actually have superior institutions and cultures, but this line of thinking does not actually investigate that.

        • Randy M says:

          I can imagine one such Texan saying “gee, that hurricane a few years back? The refugees are still hanging around here. I wonder if perhaps it was more than just the hurricane that they wanted to get away from?”
          Over time, war, natural disaster, and bad luck should average out between the two populations, unless they weren’t natural disasters or mere luck causing the tragedies, but poorly governance, short time preference among the population, longstanding feuds that sparked the war, etc.

          • Matt M says:

            It’s particularly interesting in that as far as I know, it was Houston specifically that received the largest number of “refugees” from New Orleans.

            This summer, Houston had a natural disaster that, on its own terms, was at least as bad as Katrina. As far as I know, there are no noticeable trends of Houstonians relocating to Louisiana…

          • vV_Vv says:

            Political and cultural institutions influence how much destruction and misery a natural disaster causes for the same physical intensity.

            Compare, for instance, the 2010 Haiti earthquake with the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. The Japenese earthquake was stronger and caused a significant tsunami, but the death toll and long term disruptions were far lower.

          • Guy in TN says:

            Over time, war, natural disaster, and bad luck should average out between the two populations, unless they weren’t natural disasters or mere luck causing the tragedies, but poorly governance, short time preference among the population

            Is your position that natural disasters are, on average, equal across all given areas of land on Earth?

            And war- how can a nation be to blame for how its neighbors behave? If South Korea turns into a bombed-out husk, can we lay the blame on the South Korean’s “poor governance, short time preferences, ect”?

            This all reeks of just-worldism.

          • Guy in TN says:

            In addition: the economic success of a nation is often the result of the destruction of another nation. This sort of success isn’t self-sustainable, it is parasitic on other nations.

            See: The U.S. genociding an entire continent, the Europe colonizing and enslaving vast areas of Africa and Asia for examples of this sort of parasitic success.

            Replacing parasites may, on the surface, appear to be “diluting a successful culture and institution”, if you analyze their success context-free.

          • vV_Vv says:

            See: The U.S. genociding an entire continent, the Europe colonizing and enslaving vast areas of Africa and Asia for examples of this sort of parasitic success.

            European countries that never colonized anything in Africa and Asia do as well or better than the European countries that had large empires.

            European success is anything but parasitic, if anything, its the colonized countries that benefited from colonization, on average.

          • rlms says:

            European success is anything but parasitic, if anything, its the colonized countries that benefited from colonization, on average.

            Thailand.

          • J Mann says:

            @Guy in TN

            In addition: the economic success of a nation is often the result of the destruction of another nation. This sort of success isn’t self-sustainable, it is parasitic on other nations.

            I don’t think “parasitic” is necessarily the right metaphor. If Western culture replaced existing culture, you might get closer with a metaphor like competition for ecological niches. And of course, most of the cultures in alleged conflict with existing Western culture are themselves the product of replacing or converting existing cultures at some point in their own history.

            Ultimately, you need a standard. If we decide Western culture is morally repugnant, then we’re more likely to find that a replacement or a fusion is likely to be an improvement. If we generally find it preferable to many alternatives, then maybe we mess with it a little more cautiously.

          • Guy in TN says:

            It’s not that the culture merely “replaced” another, its that its success was largely dependent on turning another culture into its subordinate. This “successful” culture can not stand on its own. The most plain example I can think of would be the U.S. South during the early-1800’s. When slavery collapsed, the old-South culture collapsed with it.

            Even looking at it through the standard of “replacement” rather than “parasitism”, the idea that the “best culture is that one that wins” is a pretty tenuous position. In a war, does the superior culture always win? I suspect this position would be abandoned if they ever found themselves on the losing end of a battle against China, Martians, ect.

          • Guy in TN says:

            Ultimately, you need a standard. If we decide Western culture is morally repugnant, then we’re more likely to find that a replacement or a fusion is likely to be an improvement. If we generally find it preferable to many alternatives, then maybe we mess with it a little more cautiously.

            Or alternatively, “culture” is too complex and all-encompassing to develop a standard for. You might as well ask to develop a standard for the best way to a human to live, codify it into law, and bingo- you’ve got paradise.

            If we don’t know or can’t agree (and while some people think they know, we definitely don’t agree) then perhaps we should proceed cautiously when legally classifying (and basing immigration on) people as having superior or inferior cultures.

          • mdet says:

            @Matt_M

            This summer, Houston had a natural disaster that, on its own terms, was at least as bad as Katrina. As far as I know, there are no noticeable trends of Houstonians relocating to Louisiana.

            Houston is the closest major city to New Orleans (after Baton Rouge, which was also hit by Katrina). The reverse is not true — Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas are closer to Houston than New Orleans. Also, I was under the impression that, because Houston is much larger than New Orleans, the damage was comparably severe but nowhere near as extensive.

          • J Mann says:

            @Guy in TN

            Sure, I’m not arguing the social Darwinist position that a culture’s survival indicates its value. I’m just saying that some of the examples you provided, particularly Western settlers and biota replacing the Native Americans, doesn’t fit a “parasitic” model well.

            Ultimately, you do have to ask if a culture is worth preserving on its own terms, given the alternatives.

          • vV_Vv says:

            @Guy in TN

            It’s not that the culture merely “replaced” another, its that its success was largely dependent on turning another culture into its subordinate. This “successful” culture can not stand on its own.

            Since you ignored my comment above, I will restate it more clearly: this is false.

            Just look at this atlas of colonialism. Notably absent are Switzerland and the Scandinavian countries that never colonized anything (unless you count Greenland as a colony) and today, by any metric, they do better than France and the UK, the quintessential colonial empires.
            Germany and Italy had few colonies, conquered late and held for little time, today Germany is the powerhouse of Europe and Italy is doing better than Spain and Portugal, which used to be major colonial empires.
            Slavic countries never colonized anything (other than Russia colonizing Alaska and then selling it off to the US), now they range from first-world tier (Slovenia, Czech Rep.) to top of developing world tier (Albania).

            There is no positive correlation between present success and having been a colonial power, if anything, it looks like having been a colonial power may actually hurt present success.

            The most plain example I can think of would be the U.S. South during the early-1800’s. When slavery collapsed, the old-South culture collapsed with it.

            And was replaced by the Union culture and its wage labor economy, under which the US became the largest world power without having significant colonial possessions. Or are you going to claim that the US economy is based on the exploitation of Puerto Rico?

          • Nornagest says:

            Slavic countries never colonized anything (other than Russia colonizing Alaska and then selling it off to the US)

            Russia is as huge as it is mostly because 16th- and 17th-century Russians spent a lot of time subjugating the tribal populations that used to rule what’s now Siberia; conquests also continued in Central Asia into the late 19th century, but most of that territory was lost to what’s now the ‘stans during the breakup of the Soviet Union. And they tried to colonize parts of the Far East during the Russo-Japanese War, but got their asses kicked and only ended up holding onto a few frozen islands.

            It wasn’t a modal colonial empire, but functionally it was a colonial empire. In some ways still is.

          • vV_Vv says:

            Russia is as huge as it is mostly because 16th- and 17th-century Russians spent a lot of time subjugating the tribal populations that used to rule what’s now Siberia.

            Ok, but according to this logic, if you go back enough, then Scotland is an English colony, England is a Wessex colony, China is a Qin colony, and so on.

            It wasn’t a modal colonial empire, but functionally it was a colonial empire. In some ways still is.

            Even if you count Russia as a colonial empire, today it does worse per capita than the central European Slavic countries.

          • Nornagest says:

            Ok, but according to this logic, if you go back enough, then Scotland is an English colony, England is a Wessex colony, China is a Qin colony, and so on.

            Sure. I’m more concerned with the timeline. This was all happening at about the same time as Western Europe was colonizing the Americas and starting to make inroads into Asia and Africa.

        • B Beck says:

          A few people in Houston, at least, were saying something at least a little like that.

          Taking to the open microphone, speakers demanded an end to “perpetual entitlements” for “Katrina illegal immigrants.”

          • Guy in TN says:

            Well, those people in Houston got their comeuppance last year, I suppose.

            Turns out bad things really can happen to good people, who could have guessed.

  12. sourcreamus says:

    “Anyone have an explanation for how focusing on solar in particular isn’t just gratuitiously evil?”
    Even though most of the press has been about the solar panels, the washing machine tariff is actually a bigger deal because it is a larger tariff and there are many more washing machines than solar panels. This was done on the recommendation of the U.S. International Trade Commission which found that imports of solar panels and washing machines were causing “serious injury” to domestic manufacture. This was done at the request of the domestic manufacturers under the Trade Act of 1974.
    This is bad for solar in this country, but overall the bigger concern for solar is local building regulations.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Does “domestic manufacture” include Mexico under NAFTA rules? Because I was under the impression that the US appliance manufacturers moved their factories to Mexico some time ago.

      • Buckyballas says:

        From the US Trade representative website:

        U.S. law requires the exclusion of Canada or Mexico from a Section 201 action if the President determines that imports from that country do not account for a substantial share of imports and do not contribute importantly to serious injury to domestic producers. Based on the information and findings of the ITC, the President determined that Canada met these criteria with respect to the Washers case, and Mexico did not. Both Mexico and Canada are included in the solar remedy.

        tl;dr Mexico is not excluded from either tariff.

    • Jiro says:

      Even though most of the press has been about the solar panels, the washing machine tariff is actually a bigger deal

      The solar panels can be spun as “Trump wants to hurt environment-friendly energy and benefit the evil coal and oil companies”. The washing machines cannot. This is why.

    • Jaskologist says:

      So this would mean that it was domestic solar industry who requested those tariffs, which would mean that we now have the opportunity to forge a bipartisan left-right agreement that solar panel manufacturers are gratuitously evil.

      (If you think the same act is no longer evil now that a different entity did it, that’s worth thinking on as well.)

    • Nornagest says:

      If this means I’ll be able to buy a new washing machine that won’t lock itself at the beginning of the cycle and refuse to unlock until five minutes after it’s finished, I’ll wear a MAGA hat for a week.

      (I think that’s because of American safety regulations designed to keep two-year-olds from climbing in and spin-cycling themselves to death, though, so it probably won’t.)

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Yes, my washing machine is ~14 years old and needed some minor servicing. Two different repair guys both looked at it and said we should absolutely keep it for as long as possible because the modern chinese washing machines are utter garbage.

        • Gossage Vardebedian says:

          The modern American ones are the same. It’s all about compliance with energy-efficiency regulations. We run our dishwasher on “sanitize” or “turbo” or whatever the high-temperature option is every single time, because that’s the only way the dishes get clean.

        • Aapje says:

          @Conrad Honcho

          If you do need to replace it, I suggest looking at German washing machines. Miele and Bosch, for example. I don’t know whether the prices are OK in the US, but they are of high quality.

          • Matt M says:

            The complaint isn’t that manufacturers are choosing to cut corners and produce low quality devices – it’s that regulations have made it such that “high quality” appliances are literally illegal to sell in the US.

    • Buckyballas says:

      This is bad for solar in this country, but overall the bigger concern for solar is local building regulations.

      Yes but one concern (tariffs) is easy to fix (just don’t do them) and one (permitting, building codes) is not.

    • Odovacer says:

      Even though most of the press has been about the solar panels, the washing machine tariff is actually a bigger deal because it is a larger tariff and there are many more washing machines than solar panels.

      I saw that too. According to the census ~85% of US households have a washing machine, while ~1.3 million of them have solar panels. There are 126.2 million households in the US.

      Solar power is sexy, but washing machines get shit done and out!

  13. Nicholas Weininger says:

    SB 827, the Scott Wiener bill, may not be in practice as strong as some of us might hope.

    — It explicitly does not override local anti-demolition ordinances. As Sen. Wiener himself admitted, in order to placate a mostly very hostile audience at a town hall in western SF I attended, SF at least basically does not allow demolition of any “sound” residential structure.

    — It also does not expand “as of right” building, so NIMBYs can still tie stuff up in discretionary review.

    — And it keeps in place extremely strong “anti-displacement” protections for rent controlled tenants.

    That said, if this passes, it will be very, very interesting to see what happens when somebody proposes to take their mansion in St. Francis Wood and carve it up into a half-dozen small apartments, the way mansions in so much of the rest of the country have been routinely carved up over the past few generations.

    • Nicholas Weininger says:

      Speaking of which, as a strong supporter of the bill, I give this roughly a 15% chance of passing in something close to its current form (no major alterations to the degree to which, or conditions under which, it removes restrictions); a 25% chance of passing but in a significantly attenuated form (e.g. much narrower radii around “transit hubs”, much milder relaxation of restrictions within those radii), and a 60% chance of going down in flames. Still worth fighting for, though.

      btw Scott Wiener’s response to the “no wealthy neighborhood will ever allow transit to be built near them again” argument is: wealthy neighborhoods already so fiercely resist transit that adding reason N+1 for them to do so won’t make much difference in practice. Seems plausible.

      • shakeddown says:

        Wiener also mentioned considering specifying that the transit zones are set by the transit at a given date (possibly in the past), so there’s no incentive to reducing transit.

    • grendelkhan says:

      One option I’d seen floated is an idea where current tenants are guaranteed spots if they want them in the new building at the rates they’re currently paying–if you’re replacing a four-apartment building with a forty-apartment building, this is a cost, but given that it completely defangs the displacement problem, it’s probably worth it.

      Plus, there are plenty of empty lots and laundromats to build on, at least to start with. And if it helps, the tech industry is behind it. Maybe we have a chance. Hell, even a significantly scaled-back version would be a massive improvement–if there’s anywhere that development becomes by-right rather than bogged down in endless procedural delays, it’s a huge benefit.

      (Edit: Life comes at you fast! A series of amendments were announced today, implementing demolition controls, preserving rent control where it exists (boo, but opponents will like it), right-to-remain, and clarifying that the density limits apply to transit stops, not transit corridors.

      Hopefully this will mollify the left enough to get them on board; I doubt the wealthy landowning class can stop the bill on their own.)

    • johan_larson says:

      A serious attempt to do something about housing in the Bay area is very welcome. I have colleagues who work in the area and they are clearly suffering. Working in Silicon Valley means making an unpalatable choice between paying really high rents (or mortgage payments) or really long commutes.

      It’s been clear for some time that Silicon Valley (including San Francisco) is choking on it’s own success. I really only see two ways for this to go: either the Bay area somehow finds a way to allow a lot more construction or the tech industry somehow finds a way to distribute a lot of its employment beyond the Bay area.

  14. Friendly White Nationalist says:

    Scott, I’m surprised that you would equate the alt-right with flat-earthers. What are your major points of disagreement with the alt-right? What do we differ on? I’m open to a civil discussion of these differences, if you are.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Banned for obvious troll account.

      And for anyone else who has the same question – the alt-right seem like flat-earthers to me because both seem to be optimizing too specifically to hit exactly the boxes society considers most stupid and evil.

      I’m not referring to people like Steve Sailer here, who seems to have gotten his opinions the same way as anyone else. But people who actually use Nazi-style insignia and stuff are either too stupid to live, or optimizing for fit to negative stereotypes

      And I think “optimizing to fit negative stereotypes” is a pretty common thing with a lot of social reasons to do it – for one thing, it helps you build up a “tribe of outcasts”; for another, it’s the biggest possible F U to the system. There are thousands of Satanists, not for the same reason there are lots of Hindus or Muslims, but because there are a lot of people who, for one reason or another, saw Christianity and thought “How can I be those people’s outgroup as effectively as possible?”

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        I think the Satanist comparison hits the nail on the head. Some people want to be right-wing in the sense of believing the exact opposite of everything the state religion teaches.

      • Well... says:

        That’s an interesting way to think about it. I wonder if that could be blended with my “three sections” model…at first glance it could at least serve as yet another explanation why when the mainstream press talks about the all-trite they really mean the trolls and the nutjobs, not the Steve Sailer types (whom I’d guess they often don’t even know about).

      • vV_Vv says:

        And I think “optimizing to fit negative stereotypes” is a pretty common thing with a lot of social reasons to do it – for one thing, it helps you build up a “tribe of outcasts”; for another, it’s the biggest possible F U to the system. There are thousands of Satanists, not for the same reason there are lots of Hindus or Muslims, but because there are a lot of people who, for one reason or another, saw Christianity and thought “How can I be those people’s outgroup as effectively as possible?”

        Same logic behind Gay Prides and Slut Walks. And even same motive really, since their aim is to antagonize conservatives, who in the West pretty much overlap with Christians.

        Satanists don’t seem to have any political goals, and as a movement they are hardly relevant, while LGBT activists and feminists obviously have political goals, and so far have been quite successful at achieving them. Which raises the question, is the alt-right strategy of open defiance going to be similarly successful? Hard to say, but the fact that the alt-right does this fits my model of them as “SJWs for white men”.

        • Nornagest says:

          Satanists don’t seem to have any political goals

          Not really true. LaVeyan Satanism, the largest group, is basically a thin layer of ritual wrapped around an edgier, more explicitly anti-Christian version of Objectivism with a sprinkling of Nietzsche, and it has the politics you’d expect from that. (It’s also atheistic in a sort of proto-New Atheist way — it dates back to the middle Sixties, so predates Dawkins et al, but Satan is venerated in it as a symbol of individuality and transgression, not as a supernatural figure.)

          It’s not big enough for those political goals to matter, though.

          • Deiseach says:

            LaVeyan Satanism has any kind of a goal? Frankly, my impression of it was three parts showbiz, three parts the usual ‘any crank or crackpot can set up a going concern in California because there’s one born every minute’ and maybe the remainder something something psychology liberation science new era of progress something something.

            Mainly what I got from it (and Anton LaVey himself) was that this was a way for the bourgeois Boomers of the late 50s/60s to get some mild naughtiness thrills from being daring without any real risk of needing to believe or commit to anything deeper than a rote script about liberation and authenticity and creativity and so forth. An updated American version of Aleister Crowley, with more slickness and salesmanship and a lot less of Crowley’s real scholarship. As a Catholic, I never got the impression LaVey believed in any of this in more than a metaphorical way (apart from natural skepticism about ‘sinning on Saturday, church on Sunday, back to sinning on Monday’ kind of Christians and societal double-standards) but it made a good racket and to be fair to him I don’t think he did anyone any genuine physical harm (I don’t think the sex’n’drugs’n’rock and roll lifestyle really took off until other groups in the 60s).

            But the successors to his governance in The Church of Satan Inc. may have developed and taken it in a different direction, so I have no idea.

          • Nornagest says:

            Crowley was smarter, crazier, and a whole lot more charismatic than LaVey, and he had a real eye for comparative religion. I’ve read and enjoyed several of his books. I’ve read The Satanic Bible, too, but there’s not much in it to appeal to an adult.

            But I don’t think it was entirely showmanship. I think LaVey believed what he was saying, as far as it went. It’s just that he wasn’t saying much that a dozen other groups weren’t also saying around the same time, aside from the veneer of blasphemous ritual to appeal to the folks for whom Rand wasn’t edgy enough.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nornagest: There was an odd circle, or overlapping circles, of British intellectuals who were good at comparative religion at the time. Crowley was in the Golden Dawn with a woman named Evelyn Underhill, who befriended the Inkling Charles Williams, who as far as I can tell was only ever a High Church Anglican but knew both C.S. Lewis and T.S. Eliot, who did know their comparative religion.
            That this was at the same time as the Bloomsbury Group, where T.S. Eliot got a lot of nastiness for becoming the token Christian, shows how there used to be much diversity among intellectuals.

          • jg29a says:

            Isn’t LaVeyan Satanism also rather significant in the history of BDSM culture, for better or for worse (e.g., overwhelmingly heterosexual and male-dominant)?

          • Nornagest says:

            Not that I’ve ever heard, although the two grew up around the same time and place (West Coast, especially San Francisco, mid-Sixties) so there may have been some crossover. My understanding is that the modern kink scene got most of its tropes from the older (and still ongoing) leather subculture among gay men, although of course people have been tying each other up for kicks forever — seriously, there’s recognizable BDSM stuff in the Kama Sutra.

          • vV_Vv says:

            As far as I understand, Satanism (at least Crowley’s brand) is derived from Theosophy and other 19th century occultist movements that were popular among the high-gentry and elite.

            These movements never sought mass visibility, they rejected Christianity to set themselves apart from the common people and replaced it with a mostly pretend spirituality based on a mishmash of ancient and exotic religions, that allowed practitioner to signal how educated and refined they were.

            It doesn’t surpise me that these people eventually mingled with Randian Objectivists, as Randian Objectivists had a similar elitist, anti-traditionalist slant.

            By contrast, gay activists, feminists and alt-righters seek mass appeal. This is why you see these people parading on the streets, while you never see Satanists or Objectivists parading.

      • Friendly WN says:

        Scott, with respect, you mistake my intent here. I’m interested in friendly discourse on the alt-right, dissident right, white identity, white nationalism, etc. and constructive criticism on those views from the intelligent people of many different political orientations on this site. If you don’t want that, you can politely refuse, but I ask that you don’t ban me for it.

        It is, of course, your blog, so you can do what you like, but I’m not sure why I’ve aroused your anger. I don’t see that I’ve been rude, or engaged in any sort of trolling, or spamming, or anything like that.

        I’m a fan of Steve Sailer’s, by the way, and I agree with you that the Nazi LARPing you see on the fringes of the dissident right is counterproductive (for your reasons, yes, but they also do it just to get attention), just as I’m sure Stalinist LARPing is annoying to the average socialist. Are white nationalists not allowed on this site?

      • Bugmaster says:

        I don’t think that’s entirely true. As I see it, the alt-right is kind of like feminism: there are lots of different gradations of it, and although they are all bound by the same core ideology, the details vary greatly between all the different denominations. Likewise, the alt-right tends to be defined by its most vocal and radical proponents, whose views are not necessarily 100% representative of everyone who chooses to identify with the label.

        Now, as it happens, I personally find the alt-right similar to feminism in one other aspect — I believe that their core ideology is severely mistaken and/or abhorrent. Nonetheless, misunderstanding these movements does no one any favors.

        • Prussian says:

          I’m happy to have a dialogue with you about this – you can see my extended thoughts on it here.

          If I were to pick one thing above all that I have a quarrel with the alt-right about, it is that they are all about running down other people. They’re like western feminists or SJWs in that regard. You spend some time in altright circles and it’s one long drone about evil, conspiratorial jews, black criminals etc. etc.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Now this is exactly what I’m looking for: I want to know why you believe the alt-right is mistaken

          1) There is plenty of evidence a body politic of all white people will still make terrible decisions. Vermont is 97% white and still electing Bernie Sanders. Sweden is super white and is ruled by feminists intent on destroying anything that ever made Sweden Sweden. So, establish a white ethnostate and you just get a monoculture making awful decisions instead of a multiculture making awful decisions.

          2) There is no path between the current United States and anything resembling an ethnostate short of violent revolution (not happening) or balkanization followed by complete collapse and the creation of new states. This basically makes you about as politically relevant as, say, Tankies. When discussing politics, the rest of us kind of need to argue over things that are at least sort of feasible given political reality. WN or identarian ideas are less silly in places that are already or have a history of a monoethnic populace, like say Poland. But not the United States.

          So, the political aims of the alt-right are both not obviously desirable and almost certainly impossible to implement. They either don’t know this, which means they’re not worth engaging because of extreme ignorance, or they do know this and are saying it anyway, in which case they’re, as Scott pointed out, like Satanists. Haha, yes, yes, I get it, funny joke, but I’m not going to have serious theological discussions with you.

          ETA @Prussian:

          If I were to pick one thing above all that I have a quarrel with the alt-right about, it is that they are all about running down other people.

          They absolutely do that, but isn’t an awful lot of alt-right stuff also about white pride, accomplishment, and historical greatness? Yes, they absolutely run others down, but I don’t think they’re “all about” running others down, anymore than say black nationalists are “all about” hating whitey. Yes, black nationalists hate whitey, but they also really like black people and culture.

        • Bugmaster says:

          Very briefly, any movement that makes policy decisions about individual people based primarily on their demographic category — as opposed to their individual performance in some area of interest — is factually wrong, and therefore can never achieve positive results. This applies to both ethno-nationalists and feminists.

        • Well... says:

          I want to know why you believe the alt-right is mistaken, if you’re willing to explain that.

          I explained it on my blog.

          Excerpt:

          I would say a large majority of people in the alt-right view race as a zero-sum prisoner’s dilemma game, where each racial group looks out for their own interests at the expense of others. The way the alt-right sees it, whites as a racial group (for various reasons depending who you ask) are losing or will lose the game because the other racial groups are consciously looking out for their own interests and undermining others while whites naively are not. The alt-right’s answer then is for whites to start consciously looking out for their own interests, even directly copying some of the tactics of other racial identitarian groups.

          This prison-yard way of looking at the world is repulsive to me, but I also think it is ontologically and strategically flawed. Modelling the dynamic between various racial groups as a prisoner’s dilemma is wrong, because in a prisoner’s dilemma the prisoners cannot communicate for mutual benefit. In reality, there are many people of all races who do not wish to play that game, and prefer to communicate for mutual benefit instead. There are also many people of all races willing to criticize their own group. Political correctness, social justice, and globalism get in the way of this, but so does white identitarianism, which drives other people back to their own race’s identitarianism, causing a vicious cycle.

          A better strategy would be to de-escalate the cycle with a focus on enhancing interracial communication and maximizing the already large set of people who wish to communicate. Rejecting the lies of political correctness, social justice, and globalism does not mean one has to live by an equally destructive mirror-image version of it. Correcting for distortions in scale and perspective caused by the internet is a useful starting point.

        • cassander says:

          The alt right has a few different core ideologies that differ in degree, not just kind. Steve Sailer and Voldemort might agree about hte biological roots of IQ, but they hardly share a common ideology.

        • vV_Vv says:

          My main disagreement with the alt-right is their support for a strict racial-ethno-state.

          I agree that different racial-ethnic groups have different average IQ (and possibly conscientiousness, propensity to anti-sociality, etc.), and this is likely due in part to genetic differences, but these are, indeed, averages. Why would you deny a smart, hard-working, law-abiding African the chance to live in a Western country and contribute to it? This does not seem an efficient way to defend the interests of anybody, including native Westerns.

        • vV_Vv says:

          Respectfully, I would characterize each of your arguments as strawmen, so I haven’t really learned anything new.

          Can you summarize what are, in your opinion, the strongest and most central arguments of the alt-right?

        • Prussian says:

          What vV_Vv said. I wrote 20,000 words against racialism and to do so, I read my way through VDARE, Counter-Currents, Jared Taylor, TheRightStuff etc. If I missed something, please let me know.

          @Conrad Honcho,

          They absolutely do that, but isn’t an awful lot of alt-right stuff also about white pride, accomplishment, and historical greatness?

          Well, to some degree – but when it’s done, it’s sterile. There’s not much by the way of concrete plans or even ideas or initiatives to make things better. They hymn the praises of European art and architecture, but their knowledge of it is shallow, and they certainly don’t produce anything new. I’d contrast them – negatively – with the Manosphere. Yes, there’s a lot of cranky and nasty stuff in the ‘Sphere, but there is also a chunk of resources to try to get men to be better men, to help them. There’s at least something positive there. I really don’t see that with the AltRight.

        • Well... says:

          @Friendly WN:

          I’m glad that these are the best anti-alt-right arguments the left has to offer.

          I’m not on the left. I’m not sure why you would assume critics of the alt-right are on the left or even to your left! Besides white identitarianism, what exactly is “right” about the alt-right?

          It sounds like a problem we have on the white nationalist side is not getting our best arguments out there effectively — a problem of outreach. That, and not getting out there with the proper tone. Jared Taylor’s style is the future, I am thinking.

          Jared Taylor’s been doing his thing at least since 1990. That’s almost 30 years. How long have Steve Sailer and John Derbyshire been writing their alt-right stuff? How about VDARE, how old is that? OK, what about the lesser known stuff…Bonald’s been blogging since 2009. The Bloody Shovel blog is 7 years old. Jew Among You’s been going since 2010. Moon of Alabama has posts going back to 2004. Why haven’t any of them been effective at getting the best arguments out there? Have they been holding back?

          (Honestly, I don’t even think the problem is not getting the message out there. I would bet the alt-right isn’t failing to attract people, but rather is failing to keep people. How old are you, Friendly WN?)

          Some of us have been musing lately that the age of trolling is over, and it’s time to become more dignified, with better optics, but without losing our asabiyyah, or our sense of humor.

          You mean become Steve Sailer, because Steve Sailer has never been tried before?

          It’s time for a White civil rights movement.

          Why? Do you think the black Civil Rights movement was effective at achieving its goals with no huge risk of significant negative unintended consequences? If not, why would you want to copy that?

      • Fossegrimen says:

        Judging from the alt-right people I have met, I would suspect that you are confusing the media caricature of the alt-right with the actual alt-right. Steve Sailer seems like a pretty standard sample of the latter while the former seems nigh-on nonexistent.

      • to hit exactly the boxes society considers most stupid and evil.

        I think most people would regard flat earthers as stupid but not evil.

      • Jiro says:

        the alt-right seem like flat-earthers to me because both seem to be optimizing too specifically to hit exactly the boxes society considers most stupid and evil.

        I could say the same thing about the gay rights movement a decade or two ago. It seems to have had more success than the flat-earthers have.

      • nameless1 says:

        True for /pol/, not true for Jared Taylor. Just by reading his Wikipedia page I am sort of astounded how normal, respectable and well-adjusted a white supermacist can be. If not for the white supremacy parts, he is exactly the kind of guy you would invite over to dinner.

        • Aapje says:

          I would certainly be interested in talking to him about his Japanese upbringing and how this impacted his views. He seems like a fascinating specimen to study.

          The few ‘classic’ racists I met in real life were just dumb and foolish (the one that was obsessed with having sex with a black woman was weird, but not in an interesting way).

        • vV_Vv says:

          I would certainly be interested in talking to him about his Japanese upbringing and how this impacted his views. He seems like a fascinating specimen to study.

          Would the Japanese mainstream political culture essentially correspond to the alt-right if practiced by whites in the West?

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            vV_Vv;

            A qualified ‘Yes’
            White ethnostatists that I know point to japan as an example of a country which has an immigration policy that explicitly attempts to preserve the demographic composition. And I have heard people use “Japan, but for white people” as an actual sales pitch for what they advocate.

            However, Japan has political/cultural features that they are either ambivalent about or don’t think should necessarily be replicated.

            Also Japan does have demographic problems common to all developed nations, namely, falling population, but as long as they’re able to prevent a foreign invasion and/or mass migration influx there’s little risk of future generations of Japanese people being dispossessed of their islands, and I highly doubt that a negative fertility can persist indefinitely. Robotics in their minds can better fill the financial burdens of an inverted population pyramid than a mass of third worlders, and a falling population can potentially put upward pressure on wages and downward pressure on home prices. (Whereas replacement migration would more likely do the opposite)

        • vV_Vv says:

          Can you state what the main differences are?

          I guess it’s difficult to tell exactly because the “alt-right” is quite varied and hard to pinpoint to a specific set of positions, but it seems to me that there are significant elements in common: e.g. traditionalism, ethno-national pride, high restrictions on immigration (in particular on immigrants becoming citizens), anti-interventionist foreign policy (this was an American imposition to Japan after WW2, but it seems to have entered into their mainstream culture, the Western alt-righters are anti-interventionist by choice).

      • onyomi says:

        I agree with Scott’s appraisal of the /pol/ sort of alt-right, but is that really more representative of “alt-right” as a movement than Steve Sailer? Sure, they may outnumber Steve Sailers, but who is more representative of the intellectual heart of the movement?

        I feel like comparing “the alt-right” to flat-earthers or Satanists because of /pol/ is perfectly analogous to comparing feminists to flat-earthers or Satanists because of Tumblr, where you could describe the motivations of many as “how can I most effectively signal outgroup with respect to the cis-het-white-patriarchy?”

        • Brad says:

          Somewhere north of 40 million Americans consider themselves feminists. The part of of Tumblr you are thinking of consists of what — a few hundred people? It’s not even a rounding error.

          What about the alt-right? How big is it and what percent of it consists of people that post on /pol/ or similar?

          • Aapje says:

            Somewhere north of 40 million Americans consider themselves feminists.

            Does that make them part of ‘the movement’ or does that make them sympathizers who are not central to the movement? If the organized elements of the movement fight for X & Y and some people who self-identify as feminists prefer Z, but have no effective lobby/advocacy for Z, then is Z part of feminism?

            Or are there multiple feminisms? Feminism as the identity, feminism as the organized movement, feminism as the academic field, etc. When is it useful/reasonable to conflate these? What is the overlap? Do people selectively conflate these as a tactic (both supporters and opponents)?

            What about the alt-right? How big is it and what percent of it consists of people that post on /pol/ or similar?

            What is the definition of alt-right that you want to use? Self-identification, beliefs, being part of an organized movement with a political goal, etc?

            In what way do you worry about them? If it’s about harassment, /pol/ are the ones that are the threat and Sailer/Taylor/etc are pretty insignificant. If it’s about having a sufficiently intellectual ideology to be attractive to those who may gain actual power, Sailer/Taylor/etc are the ones who can be more than just counterculture.

          • nameless1 says:

            I think “consider themselves” is not a good measure here. Look if you ask people if you like rock music, even if they care very little about music they will say yes. It is just the basic music they play in every bar, it is not bad, why be against it. Why would any woman or broadly liberal man, even when they don’t actually care, not say yes if they are asked if they are feminists? It is the default answer. It is like asking people whether they care about the environment or feeding the poor. Even if they never spent 5 minutes thinking about it, the answer is um, I guess, yes?

            You had to filter those 40M down to people who actually have a basic idea what feminist theory is and put some effort into promoting feminism.

            I think the alt-right may be more like some obscure musical genre. Most people honestly have no idea and will say so. Those who have an idea are either strongly into it or strongly against it.

          • Brad says:

            Maybe you are right in the bigger picture, but how is feminism being the default answer compatible with 18% of US adults identifying themselves as feminist? That’s not an especially high percentage, the total number is just high because there are A LOT of people in the United States. I think it can sometimes be easy to lose sight of that online.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            But /pol/ doesn’t even identify as alt-right. /pol/ identifies as /pol/.

          • Aapje says:

            @Brad

            I think that it’s more accurate to say that feminism is the default answer for certain subsets of society. I’ve definitely seen quite a few feminists try to recruit people by presenting it as the default, using dumb slogans like “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people” or “feminism is the fight for gender equality.”

            It’s also probably a hard belief to maintain in the face of reality, since so many ‘populist feminist’ claims are rather extreme & most people will run into counterexamples of these extreme claims (like sexy men being used in commercials, where the same thing with sexy women is commonly used to argue that only women are sexually objectified).

            People can then stop being feminists, become feminists that reject part of or most of the populist feminism or ignore certain facts.

          • onyomi says:

            I think the number of people with attitudes like those seen on Tumblr is a lot greater than a few hundred and probably a lot greater than the number of /pol/-type people in existence, given that there seems to be a contingent of them at any university or college in America ready to show up and try to sabotage female scientists making controversial claims like “there are biological differences between the brains of men and women.”

            I don’t know how many such people actually believe there are no average biological differences between brains of men and women and how many just think that fact can’t be stated in public without malicious intent. If the former, I’d say they are just as crazy/anti-science as flat-earthers.

            There are a lot more self-identified feminists than alt-right, to be sure, though I think a lot of that comes from feminism having been around longer and, as Aapje mentioned, presented as a kind of default. But I’m not convinced that the proportion of activist/intellectually engaged feminists more interested in signalling opposition to the cis-het-white patriarchy outgroup rather than searching for truth is any lower than the proportion of engaged alt-right supporters more interested in signalling opposition to the SJW-Jewish/urban-minority outgroup than searching for truth.

    • J Mann says:

      I suspect that a lot of the disagreement comes down to how different people define the alt-right.

      If you define it as “Trump voters” or “a populist reaction to elite, trade-friendly Republican elites,” or “people who thought Hillary was talking about them when she said ‘deplorables,’ ” then they’re not crazy or purposely offensive.

      If you define it as “people who associate themselves with Nazis to make a statement, or who don’t disassociate themselves when that first group shows up at their rallies,” then they’re a lot harder to defend.

      Neither definition is necessarily more correct than the other, but it’s helpful to clarify which one a person is using before starting a discussion.

      • jumpinjacksplash says:

        I’d have thought the normal definition was something like “white-American nationalists;” I’m not sure anyone’s seriously referring to all Trump-voters/populist Republicans as “Alt Right,” but I think it has to be broad enough to include the Sailor/Taylor/[soldier/spy] category along with the frogs-and-swastikas brigade. A bit like how “Socialist,” defined sensibly, wouldn’t include people who like Obamacare but would include people a bit to the left of Bernie who want to nationalise major industries but would also include avowed Stalinists/Maoists, hammer-and-sickle flags and all.

        • J Mann says:

          IMHO, when you’re talking to somebody, you have to find out what they understand it to mean, or agree what it means.

          I always saw it as a populist reaction to Mitt Romney republicanism – more anti-trade and anti-immigration.

          FWIW, I have to admit that I think white nationalism needs definition too. I often find that people use it to mean things I wouldn’t personally use it to describe.

          • jumpinjacksplash says:

            I agree, and I’ve seen it used broadly enough to refer to Ron Paul-type libertarians (basically any non-Tea Party populist) and narrowly enough to just mean self-identified Nazis. I don’t think it’s quite a synonym for racism/white nationalism, as David Duke and the KKK don’t seem to described as “alt-right” very often (I may be wrong on that). I don’t know enough about their history to know if it’s defined genetically to refer to the ideological descendants of Pat Buchanan’s nationalism. If it is, they missed a trick on being called “neopaleoconservatives.”

            In my experience, “white nationalism” tends to be used to mean what it sounds like: thinking that [country X] should operate primarily/exclusively for the benefit of white people. I think this is what people are accusing Trump of when they call him a white nationalist (that he implicitly only cares about white people), and this is the critique extended (fairly or not) to Republicans more generally. Explicit/avowed white nationalists seem to be saying that explicitly, although often going a lot further.

        • Aapje says:

          Sailor/Taylor/[soldier/spy]

          If we had upvotes, you would get one.

        • Well... says:

          I defined the alt-right on my blog as being comprised of three types of people: those who troll, those who subscribe to crazy theories, and those who try to make serious articulate arguments — and all three do so in opposition to globalism, political correctness, and social justice. I labeled these groups of people the Kids, the Wackos, and the Grownups, respectively.

          What do you think of that definition?

          (I noted that usually the mainstream press refers to only the Kids and Wackos when they say “alt-right.” I also provided my own criticisms of the Grownups.)

          • J Mann says:

            Your definition tracks mine pretty well.

            When Scott says he doesn’t mean Sailer, I guess that means he’s excluding the “grown-ups” for the purposes of his main post.

            There’s a fourth group, which is the literal grown-ups – people with jobs and other concerns who identify as alt-right because they think Mitt Romney and Mitch McConnell aren’t representing their interests, but don’t generally show up at rallies or on twitter. Since they’re the part of the iceberg that’s underwater, we can’t say much about them.

          • Well... says:

            I include the assenting commenters at various blogs/sites as members of those blogs’/sites’ respective sections.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            I prefer to define people by beliefs rather than by their communication ability or their optics. That said, it’s harder to pin down the beliefs of inarticulate and unstable individuals precisely because they’re inarticulate and unstable, but there are almost always stable and articulate versions of every ideology espoused by at least one person.

            My dividing line for alt-right is as follows;

            Should European Countries and European-settled countries [US Australia Canada] try to Retain their demographic composition in the face of the desire of millions or potentially billions of non-Europeans from the third world to move to Europe and settle there permanently?

            If you answer ‘Yes’ you’re AR. If you answer ‘It doesn’t matter’ you’re center right, center, or center left. If you answer by saying that demographic replacement is desirable, you’re a far leftist. Some people like Lauren southern will say ‘Yes’ to Europe but ‘It doesn’t matter’ to the United States and Canada.

            As a middle ground you could sub-classify people by how desperate they are to implement their beliefs. But people often make the mistake of assuming there is a 1-1 relationship between 1: How far your beliefs deviate from the norm/overton window 2: How militant you are in the application of your beliefs.

          • But people often make the mistake of assuming there is a 1-1 relationship between 1: How far your beliefs deviate from the norm/overton window 2: How militant you are in the application of your beliefs.

            Perhaps because the willingness to use violence (and/or the need of a liberal state to protect itself against violent actors) is the most legitimate reason for having an OW.

  15. Dave says:

    538 has always published it’s data, via GitHub. All that happened recently is that they added the branded webpage you linked on top of it. If you click on the “info” buttons, you are sent to the backing GitHub projects.

    • quaelegit says:

      Thank you for clarifying! Scott’s post confused me because I’ve seen the github links in a lot of their articles. I was guessing that they were releasing additional (previously restricted) data, but organizing a new site to access it also makes sense.

  16. Randy M says:

    NSA removes “honesty” and “openness” from its list of core values.

    Which weirdly does not seem to align with their new core values of dishonesty and opaqueness.

    “Hamilkin refers to a subculture of people who identify with characters from the musical Hamilton to the point where they believe they are those characters, spiritually.”

    I’d expect there’s a larger group who play act as characters once played by Mark Hamil, so it’s kind of cheeky to take that name.

    • Lillian says:

      Pretty sure dishonesty and opaqueness have always been part of the NSA’s core values. For a long time it was a running joke in Washington that NSA stood for “No Such Agency”.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Pretty sure dishonesty and opaqueness have always been part of the NSA’s core values. For a long time it was a running joke in Washington that NSA stood for “No Such Agency”.

        Yes, that joke goes back to before the NSA officially existed (but was well known to). However, dishonesty is at least a relatively new value, goes only as far back as the whole Clipper/Capstone key escrow thing. Before that, they pretty much didn’t say anything at all.

  17. bean says:

    NSA removes “honesty” and “openness” from its list of core values.

    Given that we’re dealing with large-organizational statements, I don’t think we can read too much into this. The NSA’s relevant committee didn’t have anything better to do, so they changed their mission statement core values.

  18. jumpinjacksplash says:

    2 Points on the British things:

    1) Jacob Rees-Mogg is sufficiently famous in the UK that the New Statesman piece is more of a detail/things-you-already-know article than a ‘look at this guy’ profile. In terms of fame/role in the political system, he’s broadly analogous to Ted Cruz, and most New Statesman readers will know of and already dislike him. He’s also a sufficiently fringe figure to be funny and act as a kind of weak-man of the Tories more generally.

    2) They only have devils in Scotland, and they’re for advocates (specialised higher-level trial lawyers) as opposed to solicitors (the equivalent of attorneys). Their English equivalents are less-excitingly named ‘pupils.’

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      2) They only have devils in Scotland,

      Ah, so that’s where they live when not goin’ down to Georgia, lookin’ for a soul to steal.

    • Incurian says:

      Advocates’ Devils.

    • They only have devils in Scotland,

      Ineed.

    • AlphaGamma says:

      The main exception is the Treasury Devil, who is a barrister (English equivalent of a Scottish advocate) who acts for the government in civil cases, though he (so far all have been men) is not a government employee.

      Treasury Devil is one of the better-sounding British government positions along with Shadow Chancellor and First Sea Lord, although unlike those two it is not official- the Treasury Devil is officially called First Junior Treasury Counsel (Common Law).

      Technically, the Treasury Devil must be Junior Counsel, ie not a QC (a senior barrister who has been granted the honorific). So there is currently no Treasury Devil, as the main Treasury Counsel is a QC, although he is often referred to as Treasury Devil.

      The origin of the term may come from the English usage (related to the Scottish one) of “devil” as a junior, but fully qualified, barrister, paid to work on behalf of a senior one- in this case the Treasury Devil is “devilling” for the Attorney General.

      • Garter King of Arms, Black Rod, Lord Privy Seal, Master of the Rolls, Bailff of the Chiltern Hundreds, Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports….

      • zzzzort says:

        I always thought that Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer had one of the highest ratios of title coolness to job interestingness. Sort of the inverse of the Speaker of the House of Commons.

        • The Nybbler says:

          “Chancellor of the Exchequer” is UK for “Secretary of the Treasury”, right? And “Shadow” means they’re the candidate the opposition would put in place if they had the power, which they don’t. So the job is literally nothing above being a regular opposition MP?

          • zzzzort says:

            The alternate title is ‘economic spokesperson’ for the party out of power. The job comes with a fair amount of publicity, and it’s important-ish, but generally in a complaining about the government’s accounting sort of way.

  19. The Nybbler says:

    Campus free speech watch: FIRE demands college release its records about its firing of a professor who vocally supported Black Lives Matter.

    This one, from my neck of the woods, is just weird. Essex County, New Jersey is split between pretty solid wealthy Blue Tribe areas, some very heavily poor black and Hispanic areas, with a wee bit of Red Tribe and a Portuguese population. Essex County (community) College is located in Newark and has a mostly minority population; the wealthy Blue Tribers aren’t sending their kids there, and the few Red Tribers aren’t either. So the whole thing makes me wonder… who complained, and why did the school care? Firing someone for their appearance on a televised debate program (even if their views are repugnant) is on vanishingly thin ice First-Amendment-wise for a public college, especially if they didn’t mention their association with the college. And the college’s response has been to clam up and delay.

  20. AZpie says:

    New meta-analysis: no evidence mindfulness works for anything.

    Prosociality.

    • Cheese says:

      Yes, important distinction. Novella maybe draws too long a bow initially (although he acknowledges and clarifies in the comments).

      Although you would expect that the extremely pertinent points they make about a) researcher bias effect and b) active vs. passive control would tend to be commonalities between any researched effects.

      The active vs passive control is the real bug for me. Scott has talked a fair bit in his psychiatry posts about how the evidence for CBE/psychoanalysis stacks up well against passive, but when you look at ‘talking to a nice person’ it tends to fall down a bit. Similarly, CBE tends to be the trend because its advocates did their studies at the time when the field was shifting more to ‘let’s do something that actually works about all this’. Mindfulness reads very similar to me.

      Author bias is a massive problem too. A couple of studies i’ve seen sited as being good evidence in certain settings co-incidentally happen to have the bloke who’s written a book on the topic as the author. A lot of it is telling us what we already know as well – exercise and good nutrition can help you? Well I never.

      This isn’t to say that any of the mood or motivation effects are going to be bunk. But common sense tends to say well if we really active control very strictly (i’d really like to see mindfullness vs something like ‘preferred relaxation activity’ – be that beach or walking in the park or civ V or whatever) then i’m not so sure we’ll get the same effects.

      • AZpie says:

        Yeah, good comment.

        I do think that Novella seems to have some signaling priorities – e.g. here the point is to remain and seem skeptical, even if it means sacrificing the informative quality of a headline. He seems highly well-mannered and articulate in the comments, however, which makes his ideas easy to follow.

        He perhaps jumps too quickly to the conclusion that the bottom line is somewhere else than in contemplative practice, but then again I’m not sure he’s got any real opinions on the matter – as a skepticist, he shouldn’t, but then again, it may be worth signaling that he does (that it ‘doesn’t work’, like the headline says).

        Much better than this article linked by Scott is the earlier one on SBM, where he cites the Mind the Hype paper.

        I also think that Novella is right to be highly critical of the current state of mindfulness research.

  21. Deiseach says:

    RE: the Hawaiian fake nuclear alert, am I an idiot? Because I do realise that everyone seems to have been genuinely afraid, but my first thought was “Did nobody go online? turn on the TV? check the news to see if the 24-hour news channels were having a meltdown about HAWAII IS GONNA BE NUKED!”

    The stories I’ve read seem to have people uncritically accepting “It’s on the local channel saying it’s not a drill, it must be true!” and then panicking.

    Maybe it’s because we don’t have these kinds of drills in my country, so I’m not conditioned to “oh the siren is going off – get to the shelters!” but if I saw something about “this is not a drill, the bombs are going to fall” I’d be scrabbling around online and with the television and radio to see what was happening and if this was really true?

    • Evan Þ says:

      I don’t know what I’d do if I got that alert from the Official State Warning System, but there’s a sizeable chance that I’d be too busy praying (and calling family, considering whether there’s a safer place nearby, etc) to have any time to look up other news sources.

      • Deiseach says:

        I suppose my attitude is coloured by what happened back when 9/11 took place; I was coming home after sitting final exams for a course, saw in a store window the TV turned on with the Twin Towers burning but being too pre-occupied wondering how I’d done in the exam, it didn’t register with me that this was the news – I thought it was a disaster movie like the Towering Inferno or something as a daytime matinee movie.

        Wasn’t until I got home and turned on the news that I realised no, this was really happening in real life to real people in real time.

        So I think that’s why, in such a case, I’d be looking for corroboration that “holy crap there really is a nuclear missile on the way!”

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          It’s a very different experience when you’re on the other side of the Atlantic ocean. The WTC attacks didn’t actually affect you except in vague geopolitical terms, but we felt very immediately threatened.

          I was a kid in upstate New York when the WTC attacks happened. Parents were pulling their kids out of school the entire morning because they wanted to play it safe. Nobody really knew who had attacked us and it was unclear whether the attacks would continue. People watched the news to try to get more information after the fact but as soon as they heard that something was up they went into crisis mode.

          My dad was working a bit uptown of the towers and when he heard about the attacks he stepped outside to take a look at it and see what was going on with his own eyes. It was only good timing that kept him from getting a lungful of carcinogenic debris for his curiosity.

          I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume the worst when you hear about something like that. By all means, get confirmation after you’ve taken basic precautions. But step one needs to be making sure that you and your family are safe if it’s a real emergency.

    • quaelegit says:

      Growing up in the US in the 1990s/2000s I never had a nuclear related drill that I can remember, so yeah I might think to check the internet (although my one experience with tornado warnings suggests otherwise).

      But my parents (currently in their 50s) had them regularly, so it’s plausible to me that middle-aged and older people would react like that. From documentaries/people’s stories, this was exactly how people were trained to recognize a nuclear attack, it was the narrative they were expecting, and at the time they were taught it there was no other source of news to check.

    • Nornagest says:

      Never had a nuclear attack drill growing up. I read about people having them, but I get the impression that was a Cold War thing, and probably early Cold War at that.

      (The town I grew up in was pretty rural, but close enough to a major military base that populated areas would have been inside the thermal radiation contour if the Russians had decided it warranted something in the megaton range.)

    • meh says:

      It seemed credible probably because Hawaii is geographically closest to N Korea. People decided to panic instead of check their facebook i guess.

      • John Schilling says:

        People decided to panic instead of check their facebook i guess.

        How about, instead of checking their facebook, checking their Hitchhiker’s Guide and not panicking? What do these people do in the event of e.g. a fire alarm or tsunami warning? Hawaii gets tsunami warnings on a fairly regular basis, and tsunamis can cause nuclear levels of devastation when they actually hit, but I haven’t heard of this level of panic, fatalism, or despair in those cases.

    • youzicha says:

      In a real attack there might not be very much time, so you might be better off acting immediately on the warning. The missile flight time from North Korea to Hawaii is about 20 minutes, but it will take some time (10 minutes or so?) to detect it, confirm it, and pass down the warning. Since the same people distribute the warning to news outlets and send it to cellphones, the cellphone notification should arrive first.

      My favorite story about people reacting is this real-life version of Evangelion. I don’t endore it as a civil defense strategy, but I’m still impressed by their equanimity.

    • Doctor Mist says:

      This is interesting. If the alert had not been a mistake, what would you expect to see?

      Where would the agency that sent the false alarm have gotten its warning from? Would that agency alert the national networks?

      I remember just after the Loma Prieta earthquake. We were without power, so we couldn’t check the TV. On battery-powered radios, you could find stations that were talking about it, but lots of others, pre-programmed or nonlocal, were playing the usual music or chatter. And this was in the hours and days after the quake, when there were credible reports of death, damage, and fire.

      Did nobody go online? turn on the TV?

      Where would you go online to find out if an alert was genuine? In two minutes (on the assumption that two minutes is all you could spare before assembling your gear in a closet)?

      These days there are websites you get to by googling “Did I just feel an earthquake”, and within five or ten minutes you’ll see some confirmation that there was indeed an earthquake nearby. But if it was just a heavy truck driving by, or transient vertigo, all you get is the suspicion five or ten minutes later that there wasn’t an earthquake; you never get a site that says, “Nope, no earthquake in the last ten minutes.”

      From what I’ve read, people did turn on the TV, and it was reporting the alert, because the stations had gotten the alert, too. What else was there to say?

      I’m not trying to down-vote your question, because I think underneath it there is a good one. How could you have determined that the alert was bogus? From the stories Scott pointed to, the closest thing I see is some people who decided it was bogus because nothing like this had ever happened before so it probably wasn’t happening now. They turned out to be right, and maybe statistically that’s the best approach.

      But your question wasn’t “Why didn’t they sensibly assume it was a false alarm?” but rather “Why didn’t they look for a more reliable source?” and I’m trying to sort out in my mind what that might be. Apparently there was nobody in authority saying “false alarm” until they tweeted it (!) half an hour later, so the best you would get is an absence of awareness, but that could be explained as either “it’s nothing” or “news hasn’t reached them yet”.

      I am seriously hoping some reader will tell me the obvious way, which I am not thinking of, to address this question, because I suspect this will not be the last such false alarm.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      There were what were presumably nuclear attack drills when I was in school in the 60s, but they said the drills for wind storms. However, this was Delaware, and we never had high winds.

  22. Nabil ad Dajjal says:

    The funeral strippers seemed inexplicable but the article gives a pretty rational, if undignified, signalling explanation.

    If a large number of mourners show up to the funeral it shows that the deceased is respected. So families of the deceased provide entertainment, including strippers, to lure in more “mourners” for the benefit of the deceased. I’m assuming that there’s at least some plausible deniability that the crowd would have gathered even without the entertainment on offer.

    It’s still just about the most disrespectful thing that I can imagine at a funeral. The vulgarity of stripping at a funeral isn’t helped by adding crass self-promotion. It sounds like the CCP is on the same page.

    • Alkatyn says:

      Copying my tumblr post on the subject:

      This is actually my favorite real life example of munchkinning.

      In some areas of China there’s a belief that your position in the afterlife is based on how many people attend your funeral. Presumably this is meant to be a proxy for how liked you are or something along those lines, but some rich but not very popular people decided they could rig the system by paying entertainers of various sorts, including strippers, to come to their funerals, so lots of people would attend the funeral.

      I love this as an example of the weird intersection of capitalism and traditional beliefs. Also for the mental image of the heavenly bureaucracy’s response to them getting in on a technicality

    • Aapje says:

      Another common belief in northern China is that people can only find peace in the afterlife when they have a partner, so there is a trade in dead women, to posthumously marry and bury with unmarried men (there is a surplus of men, so male bodies are worthless). A typical price is in the range of a few thousand dollars. An alternative is to bury a fake woman with the single man, like a blow up doll, but not everyone finds this acceptable.

      The Chinese also burn paper reproductions of various goods to give them to their dead relatives, so they can use them in the afterlife. Fake money is common, but also paper houses, televisions, smartphones, etc.

      • Deiseach says:

        I had heard of ghost marriages, I had not heard that they were actually burying bodies together. Is this a new development or only a regional thing?

        • Aapje says:

          I think that they always used to do that. It was probably temporarily suppressed as Mao cracked down on it (and as he cracked down on people in general, so they had more pressing concerns), but made a comeback with the liberalizations. In so far that it did happen back then, it probably was not openly talked about, while now it is (I became aware of this because a Dutch emigrant, who speaks Chinese very well, has been making a TV show about China & he got people to openly talk about it).

          It’s also likely that the more extreme gender ratios due to the one child policy and the atomization of Chinese society are increasing the number of men who die without having been married & thus are making this more common.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        My favorite version of this is Hell Bank Notes.

        It makes sense: why burn a paper representation of a smart phone when you can burn a paper representation of $1,000,000,000? That way the dead can buy as many smart phones as they want.

        Although then again, with that kind of runaway inflation the afterlife’s economy might look like Zimbabwe’s. Maybe the smart phone is the better choice after all.

        • jumpinjacksplash says:

          Especially as being able to spend your $1,000,000,000 would depend on other people’s relatives burning smartphones etc so you’ve got something to buy? Surely the optimum strategy is to burn vast quantities of something everyone wants but which isn’t glamorous enough for other people to focus on, allowing the deceased to have a monopoly and price-gouge outrageously.

          Especially as toilet paper’s already flammable.

          • Aapje says:

            The quantity you’d have to burn seems a problem.

            Better burn a paper model of a toilet paper factory.

    • Lillian says:

      Hiring paid mourners used to be a practice all over the world, but it seems to have completely died out in the West. The other classic way to attract a crowd was to provide a banquet open to any and all who attend the funeral, thereby ensuring a large showing.

      Personally, i want drinking, drugging, feasting, heavy metal, fireworks, and strippers at my funeral. If i can afford to have that kind of send-off then i have succeeded at life, so screw solemnity and mourning, everyone’s invited to celebrate my victory. People should party, make noise, lose control, start a riot, set the cop’s cars on fire. They should make it so raucous and loud that i can hear them from hell.

  23. Mark says:

    Does anyone know of any good qualifications you can get just by paying to take tests without any tuition that aren’t economics and are (a) likely to improve employability or (b) mathy?

    Open University costs about 20,000 now, and you’re apparently not allowed to skip ahead with self-study. I was hoping to self study maths courses then do a graduate diploma. They don’t seem to make it easy to do things on the cheap, though. Seem to have requirements for taking higher level courses.

    The Royal Statistical Society used to do tests that were equivalent to a first year/second year etc. of degree or masters in statistics, just the test, no tuition for about a hundred quid. But they stopped that last year because Universities didn’t like it.

    So much for competition.

    • littskad says:

      Taking exams is more or less the standard way to become an actuary.

      • johan_larson says:

        Can you become a licensed actuary just by taking exams? Or is a degree in actuarial science also required?

        • ManyCookies says:

          In theory yes, in practice the job market is so saturated companies look for further qualifications beyond exams taken. Although you definitely don’t need an actuarial science degree in particular; if anything it’s a (slight) drawback, sort of like having a video game design degree rather than a comp sci/graphics degree.

          • littskad says:

            I think how saturated the market is depends greatly on where you are. If you’ve passed a couple of exams and are willing to look around and relocate, there are still jobs.

        • SamChevre says:

          Just the exams. An actuarial science degree helps you pass the first few exams, which is useful–you usually need to have a couple passed exams to get a job–but I think less than half of our entry-level hires have an actuarial science degree.

      • ManyCookies says:

        At this point the entry level job market is so saturated that you need a college degree and/or relevant work experience to stand a reasonable chance (along with summer internships, relevant projects, high GPA etc).

    • sharper13 says:

      1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_Governors_University is competency-based and you pay ~$2500/6 months to pass all the tests you can in order to complete classes. There is some drag from the counselors to spend more time on each class, but if you pick the right degree program, you can progress much more rapidly than in a traditional environment.

      2. Most U.S. schools accept (and give in their testing centers) CLEP tests for credits equiv. to the first couple years of college. You can get most, if not all, the way to an Associates degree that way.

      2. Technology careers like networking, systems administration, security, etc… are heavily boosted by certifications which don’t require tuition. If you get a CCNA, you can get an entry level networking job, then get a CCNP while you build up 2-3 years experience and you’ll have a decent career start. Some of them have classes designed to make the test easier, but if you can read/memorize information in books, or pay a minimal amount to watch classes via online videos, you can just take the test directly for the certifications.

  24. Atlas says:

    After a lot of work, some people have been able to find an economic argument for why open borders would be a bad idea – but it still implies “a case against the stringency of current [immigration] restrictions”.

    Respectfully, I don’t think this is the best summary of the paper’s conclusions and its context. The “some people” here, Michael Clemens and Lant Pritchett, aren’t random economists—they’re both notable figures in the development of the modern case for open borders. For instance, Clemens’ 2011 JEP article “Economics and Emigration: Trillion Dollar Bills on the Sidewalk?” is a, if not indeed the, primary academic economic argument for open borders, and Pritchett wrote a useful book in 2006 with the self-explanatory title “Let Their People Come: Breaking the Gridlock on International Labor Mobility.”

    Then, as far as the paper itself goes, I don’t think “open borders is a bad idea, and here’s why, but maybe we should have a little more immigration” is really the takeaway. It’s more like Clemens and Pritchett are saying that open borders seems like a pretty obvious and well-supported idea given what economists think about markets in general, but they try to steelman possible concerns about it to be charitable. The result is that they arrive at a position that—I mean, I guess you can call anti-open borders, but it would be like 90% congruent with what libertarian/leftist/neoliberal open borders supporters believe, and 90% opposed to what all-trite/mainstream conservative/labor-leftist immigration restrictionists believe. Clemens and Pritchett conclude:

    The new case for efficiency-enhancing restrictions on labor mobility turns out to be an efficiency case against most existing restrictions on labor mobility. The new “epidemiological” argument against “open borders” relies on hypothetical deleterious impacts on productivity in the host country from “too many” migrants from low productivity countries. But the current situation for labor mobility is not open borders or anything remotely approaching open borders. The case against open borders is like the case against “free
    trade” being made in India in the late 1980s when India had both widespread licensing
    restrictions on nearly all imports and the highest tariffs in the world.
    [my emphasis]

  25. creedofhubris says:

    That pain/social networks study uses “wall sit duration” as its measure of pain tolerance. A little research shows that this is mainly used as an exercise technique, and a way to build muscle strength. I don’t see anyone else using it to measure pain. I tried it, and while it was painful, my legs also gave out on me and I could barely walk afterwards. I am suspicious of this metric.

    • Thomas Jørgensen says:

      … That means they measured fitness/leg strength very directly.

      Wallsit hurts, yes, but not enough to stop you doing it before you fall off the wall from fatigue poison accumulation unless your paintolerance is unusually low.

      .. and greater fitness levels correlating with greater social networks is a complete no-brainer.

  26. Prussian says:

    Despite being by all accounts a colorful and likeable character, he doesn’t seem very competent and his opinions are out-of-touch and (in many cases) pretty dumb

    I’m going to have to ask, “citation needed”, and no, the New Statesmen article doesn’t count. All it does it describe JRM as an “ultra reactionary”, an “extremist” and a host of words that don’t really mean anything. Here are JRM’s positions:

    – Pro-Brexit
    – Pro-free trade
    – Against Britain getting involved in Syria
    – Anti-immigration
    – Skeptical of global warming
    – Opposed to gay marriage

    This is all pretty standard stuff. The only one where I’m completely at odds with him is gay marriage, but it’s hardly an uncommon view. On the one issue where he’s on the wrong side of the science – Global Warming – what he’s actually said is that nothing Britain can do will make a difference as long as India and China are not on board, and that it’s better solved through technological growth.

    You may disagree with his views on immigration, but then you don’t live in a country which has a de-facto death penalty for blasphemy and is slowly decriminalizing rape [I adore S.A.’s writing, but he has the most determined blind spot when it comes to this point.]. Incidentally, his views on gay marriage may be wrongheaded, but consider that JRM’s opponents are fine with those who want homosexuality itself outlawed, or even have gays killed. And so on.

    So simply saying his views are “pretty dumb” strikes me as petitio principii. You need to argue this, rather than assert it.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Right… I’m not seeing anything that makes him unqualified to be Prime Minister when the Left is in bed with Islam.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I agree there are conditions in which I would need to argue it, but I think it’s socially acceptable to assert an opinion without justifying it. In fact, I’m not sure what it would mean for there to be a divide between opinions you could assert without justification, and ones you couldn’t.

      But if it makes you feel better, I’ll add an IMHO into the paragraph.

      • Prussian says:

        Well, fair enough – it is a link round up after all, rather than one of your essays. I guess I’m more used to the detail of those.

        However, still a good subject for discussion in the comments then.

        (N.B.: I would be endlessly interested to discuss this specific issue with you)

    • Atlas says:

      he doesn’t seem very competent

      I’m curious as to why Scott thinks this as well, since JRM seems to have been pretty successful in finance and started his own hedge-fund management business. If JRM was, say, a professor of religious studies or a Bertie Wooser-style gentleman of leisure living on his inheritance I’d be more sympathetic, but to a first approximation it seems to me that anyone who’s succeeded in finance can get some presumption of competence until proven incompetent.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        The New Statesman article quotes another finance person who said JRM wasn’t a very good investor (don’t know if it’s true, just going off what article says). He also seems to have lost the debate mentioned at the end pretty handily. If he’s noticeably subpar at a college debate club, can’t imagine Prime Minister’s Questions will go very well.

        • Prussian says:

          Here I have to ask you consider the source. You wouldn’t know from reading that article that Cambridge debates are conducted three on a team, a team that doesn’t necessarily know each other before, so you don’t know whether it’s Mogg or his opponents who lost the debate. Second, the debates are won or lost based on votes, which isn’t necessarily a measure of ability. The article even mentions that JRM was greeted by one of those howling student mobs with which you must be all too familiar in the US. If they flooded the room – there is only a certain capacity in the Cambridge Union – the debate would have been lost for Mogg no matter what.

          Annoyingly, CU doesn’t seem to have uploaded that debate, but you can see JRM’s performance at many other debates there and I think you’ll see he handles himself with aplomb.

          • Aapje says:

            I would also be wary of judging someone by a single debate. I think you have to be a truly exceptional (or sophist) debater to never lose or do badly in any debate, on every topic.

    • rlms says:

      You may disagree with his views on immigration, but then you don’t live in a country which has a de-facto death penalty for blasphemy and is slowly decriminalizing rape

      Bangladesh?

      • Prussian says:

        First of all – CRUD, I accidentally hit “report” rather than “reply”. Sorry, how does one reverse that?

        Re: the rest of this, please just look at the ongoing trickle of information on the ‘grooming scandal’, the cartoon pogroms etc. etc.

        • Nornagest says:

          You can’t, but it’s highly unlikely to cause problems. Scott’s the only guy that reviews those, and if it’s not a bad post he’ll just ignore it.

        • rlms says:

          First of all – CRUD, I accidentally hit “report” rather than “reply”. Sorry, how does one reverse that?

          You can’t, but accidental reports are frequent and inconsequential so don’t worry about it.

          Re: the rest of this, please just look at the ongoing trickle of information on the ‘grooming scandal’, the cartoon pogroms etc. etc.

          It would be more convincing if you had some stats.

          • Prussian says:

            Still feel like a heel about that though.

            As regards the rest, I can do better than that and propose an experiment:

            1. Go to London.
            2. Wander around all day with a sign denouncing Christ and Christianity
            3. Wander around all day with a sign denouncing Islam and Muhammad.

            No one – not one – person I have ever proposed that to is willing to go as far as step 3. No matter how much they insist there’s no such thing as islamization, they will not take that step – because they’d be dead if they did. There’s a number of different ways you can try the same thing: try looking obviously gay or jewish in the Muslim parts of London or Paris.

            In any review of the ‘grooming’ scandal – read the systematic rape of little girls by Muslims – the same thing has emerged: police turn a blind eye out of fear of angering the Muslim community. Nor is Rotherham the only case; cases are popping up all over the country. Same thing with the attacks in Germany; many women have found themselves receiving death threats for coming forward, and there has been a persistent attempt to sweep it under the rug. Same thing in Sweden. And so on.

            As regards stats, well, 52% of British Muslims want to see homosexuality criminalized, 100% want to see it outlawed. Something like 24% think that murder for blasphemy is legit, and so on.

            All this stuff is easily findable through some googling and reading.

          • John Schilling says:

            No one – not one – person I have ever proposed that to is willing to go as far as step 3.

            If someone says,

            “I don’t think people will literally kill you for behaving like a complete asshole”,

            and you respond with,

            “Prove it – go be a complete asshole for a day and see if you’re still breathing!”,

            you should at least be open to the possibility that their refusal to spend a day being a complete asshole might be caused by something other than a fear of imminent death.

          • Prussian says:

            Yes, that’s the excuse they always, always make. “Oh, I’m not going to hold a sign denouncing Islam because I want to be polite”.

            Such people never, ever have any problem with the sign denouncing Christianity. Or anything directed at Christianity for that matter.

            Okay, maybe you don’t want to do that. How about speaking out in defense of Muslim apostates? Death threats. Or against the grooming scandals? Death threats. Or allowing atheists to practice the same criticism of Islam they do of literally any other religion? Death threats. Again, try being visibly gay or visibly Jewish in, say, Les Banileus of Paris.

            They will literally try to kill (and may well succeed) you for exercising your right to free speech, or speaking up in favour of women’s rights, or in defense of minority communities (just look at the attacks on Jews, Sikhs and Yezidi). Go talk to Ayaan Hirsi Ali or Nonie Darwish or Connie Axel Meyer or Ibn Warraq or any other dissident to see how well that goes.

            But please feel free to bracket all that under “being an asshole” if it makes you feel better.

          • John Schilling says:

            Such people never, ever have any problem with the sign denouncing Christianity. Or anything directed at Christianity for that matter.

            Really?

            Are you honestly saying that you have asked people to “wander around all day with a sign denouncing Christ and Christianity”, and they have done this, only then to balk at the “Islam and Muhammad” version?

            Because I’m going to hazard a guess that 100.00% of the people that you have actually asked to carry a sign denouncing any religion, have in fact refused to carry a sign denouncing any religion. Well, except for the bit where I suspect the actual ratio is 0/0.

          • Prussian says:

            Do you really want me to list all the anti-Christian blasphemous works out there? The number of comedians and cartoonists and all the rest who make fun of Christianity and have done so for decades, with no fear and no hesitation?

            This does not look like honest reasoning. You are evading all the other points I made – the provable, real cases of people who live in fear of their lives simply for leaving the religion or condemning the maltreatment of women – and just focusing on the sign.

            The sign suggestion is a simple experimental demonstration of the general case. I’ll up it: I’ll carry the anti-Christian sign, you have to carry the anti-Islam sign. Deal? Don’t bother, I know the answer already.

            I know this type of evasion all too well. People always good at explaining how they are totally in favor of free speech / women’s rights / freedom of conscience / rights of minority communities…. but, but, but… in this case…

            I’ve lost count of the number of articles about Ayaan Hirsi Ali who say, well, of course the writer’s against FGM, but this Ayaan person is just too extreme… – that go, oh of course the writer believes in free speech, but those cartoonists just went too far… – oh, of course the writer is pro-gay rights, but why do gays have to be so darn provocative? Don’t they know we live in a multi-cultural society now? As the saying goes, everything before the ‘but’ is crap.

          • Prussian says:

            Okay, you don’t want to carry the sign and don’t think the right to carry it is important. Fine. Let me ask the following points:

            1. Do you think gays should have the right to be openly gay and not risk assault?
            2. Do you think that women deserve the right to dress as they want and not be assaulted or raped?
            3. Do you think writers and critics should have the right to criticize what they want – including religious ideas – without fearing for their safety?
            4. Do you think that minority religious communities, such as the Orthodox Jews or the Yezidi, deserve to be left safe and not subject to attack?
            5. Do you think that individuals have the right to choose their religion free of threat? If a Muslim chooses to change his or her faith or become an atheist with no fear?
            7. Do you think that secular law should take precedence over religious law?

            If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to any of those, answer this last question:

            8. Do you think that you should have the right to argue those points, forcefully and in public, without being in fear of your life or liberty?

            Well, you no longer have that right throughout much of Europe.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Prussian, you are merely repeating your assertion, not making an argument. You’ve made some vague references to what might be actual evidence, but you really haven’t brought it together into an argument.

          • Prussian says:

            Fine, it’s just an assertion. There’s been no explosion of attacks on Jews. Yezidi live fine. There’s no “gay free zones”. You’re free to speak as loudly as you want against Islam with no consequence. There’s no danger to unveiled women. “Les tournantes” – ritualized gang-rape – is just a myth. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is free to speak as she wishes; she doesn’t need 24 hour protection, nor does any other dissident. Theo Van Gogh’s death was an accident. FGM isn’t real. The assaults in Germany aren’t real. All of this is just assertion.

          • Prussian says:

            If you insist that it’s all just assertion, please feel free to read the following That’s an extremely long post – only an excerpt of the full thing though which will have more evidence than you can shake a stick at. The password is ForTheArgument (and please note that I have to be careful even putting that stuff out.

          • Prussian says:

            Or here, here, here , here, here… Or here, where the HuffPo admits to the existence of Sharia courts that are terrible for women’s rights. Or here and here

          • 4. Wander around all day with a Swastika…

            What you seem to mean by “de facto death penalty” is “there are things you can say or do which will raise an angry mob”.

            You seem to be assuming there was a pre-existing baseline where anybody could say anything, in any way. But there’s pretty much always been something that will raise an angry mob, if stated offensively enough. The tolerance of modern Christians is the exception, not the rule.

            Since you can’t wave a magic wand to make people tolerant, and you can’t generally get rid of whole sections of the population, a lot of places have come up with a solution consisting of restrictions on speech , such as blasphemy laws. Pragmatically, the idea is that the state steps in earlier, and more softly, than the mob.

            It’s there odd to portray the “de facto death penalty” as the absence of free speech, since, in actually indicates the absence of official constraints on speech.

            I also don’t know what you think JRM will do to help. He’s under the same constraints as everyone else. Do you want him to pass blasphemy laws?

          • Prussian says:

            Hey, Scott? One for you about free speech – you’ve got someone here who says that if people are lynched for their opinions, that’s not an infringement of free speech, since only government can infringe free speech.

            The intellectual dishonesty here is matchless. 1. Comparing criticising a religion to wearing the hakenkreuz, 2. Completely ignoring the cases of gay rights / women’s rights etc. that actually bring the murders, 3. Making shifty excuses for lynchings…

            Since you can’t wave a magic wand to make people tolerant, and you can’t generally get rid of whole sections of the population, a lot of places have come up with a solution consisting of restrictions on speech

            …you’d have been a real hit in the Deep South,

            Oh since we can’t wave a magic wand to make people tolerant, we’d better have restrictions on knee-grows gittin’ uppity

            and you can’t generally get rid of whole sections of the population,

            That’s why you shouldn’t let such people in in the first place, and you certainly can stop making the situation worse.

            I’m done here. There isn’t any honest attempt to engage with any evidence or any argument. I really expected better here. More fool me.

          • Tarpitz says:

            First, an anecdote.

            One one occasion when I still lived in London (so more than four years ago but less than ten) I was walking alone through Soho* from wherever I’d been drinking to whichever stop I then needed for a night bus home. In an otherwise unpopulated alley, I came across a group of perhaps four or five (seemingly) Muslim boys and/or young men aggressively harassing a clearly terrified gay man, who was cowering in a doorway. Fueled by some combination of Dutch courage and public school stupidity, I loudly enquired as to what the f*** they thought they were doing, imputed that it was “none of their f***ing business who he wants to f***,” and suggested they f*** off, which mercifully they did. Their erstwhile victim leapt to his feet, thanked me, kissed me on the mouth and ran off. I stood for a moment in mild bewilderment, then went on to catch my bus. I imagine I probably fell asleep on it and missed my stop – I usually did.

            Second, an observation.

            Had similar events transpired twenty or thirty years earlier, but with white (culturally Christian?) perpetrators, I doubt anyone would find it very surprising.

            Now, it’s possible that Islam is a uniquely powerful inocculant against what our host has elsewhere called the Universal Culture, but it seems to me likely that assimilation will comfortably outpace relative population growth, either through migration or birth rates, in the medium term, just as it always has.

            That’s not to say that I don’t share your distaste for our current taboos on criticism of bad aspects of minority cultures. I just see the whole business as less an existential cultural threat than an unfortunate downside of an overall desirable process which we could and should do more to mitigate.

            *For those unfamiliar, Soho is a small, formerly (and perhaps still a little) seedy but now extremely expensive area of central London known for its night life, which has for many years been (or at any rate contained) the hub of London’s gay community.

          • Prussian says:

            Thank goodness, some honest disagreement here.

            That’s not to say that I don’t share your distaste for our current taboos on criticism of bad aspects of minority cultures. I just see the whole business as less an existential cultural threat than an unfortunate downside of an overall desirable process which we could and should do more to mitigate.

            May I clarify here? I think – and please let me know if I’m getting this wrong – that you are taking the line that this is just a temporary situation. As the generations pass, these views will fade into something more in line with liberal values, the same way – as you say – that 20,30 years ago, vicious anti-gay stuff was much more common among average Brits. The Muslim community is just a bit behind that curve.

            (again, please correct me if I’ve got this wrong)

            I wish that were the case. Here are the reasons why I don’t believe that it is.

            1. There’s a consistent finding that later generation Muslims are more fanatical than previous. See here for example. That’s not just a finding limited to Europe; in places like Indonesia and Malaysia, many people report the same thing. My dad was in Somalia in the ’80s, just before the civil war, and he told me – and I’ve heard similar things from many people – that you barely saw a headscarf, much less a burka.

            2. People have been holding that Islam would become more liberal for a very long time. Sir Richard Burton, writing over a hundred years ago, expressed this same hope. It still hasn’t happened. Writing in 1836, E.W. Lane expressed the same hope. It has always been a mirage, so unless there’s a really good reason things have suddenly changed, I’d be very skeptical of that idea.

            3. Even if it were the case that Muslims already here were mellowing, that wouldn’t fix the problem of those arriving straight from the heart of the Islamic world.

            4. Other minority cultures have assimilated just fine – multiculturalism works extraordinarily well with Hindus, Buddhists, Christians from the Middle East and Africa, etc. Here’s a paper that shows how Muslim immigrants take thirty years to get to the point of Infidel immigrants who have just arrived.

            5. The level of fanaticism and hatred is something completely different. This was shocking to Europeans over a hundred years ago, let alone now. We’re not talking about homophobic slurs, we’re talking about stone-cold murder for blasphemy, apostasy etc. The only group that I can think of that approaches this level of fanaticism are German neo-Nazis (real ones, not these AltRight wannabes).

            6. There isn’t a single Muslim country will a good record in its treatment of Infidels. In places like Pakistan, Bangladesh, the entire Middle East, even comparatively moderate states like Malaysia and Indonesia, Infidels face a very rough time of it.

            So – and it gives me no pleasure to write this – I think that Islam is indeed uniquely resistant to the Universal Culture. I’ve written elsewhere that it’s not Islam vs. the West, it’s Islam vs. Everything Else.

            I hope against hope that you’re right here. But all the evidence I’ve seen (see here for example, password: ForTheArgument) is the other way.

            So what I fear is that the future for Britain – and Europe more generally – is at best a situation that makes the Troubles of Ireland look like nothing, and at worst, something closer to a continental civil war.

            So, yeah, I do think that Islam is uniquely resistant to the Universal Culture – and that the future of Europe is at best a terror-war that makes the Irish Troubles look like nothing, and at worst, is something close to a continental civil war.

          • Prussian says:

            N.B.: Soho is still pretty freakin’ seedy, just expensively so these days 😀

          • Tarpitz says:

            Your characterization of my position is about right, and in all honesty I probably overstated my case anyway. Certainly I would expect Punjabi Catholics (like my stepmother’s family) to integrate more quickly than Punjabi Muslims of similar social, educational and economic standing, for example.

            I guess I see the connection between culture and religion as more contingent than you seem to, which leads me to be more optimistic about the long term prospects for Muslim integration, at least in Britain. If I was German I’d probably be more worried too: quantities matter with stuff like this, and the politics and demographics in our countries are pretty different. I’m also certainly with you in thinking that proscribing criticism of cultures while constantly apologising for your own is insanity.

            But yeah, maybe the big difference is that you expect the fundamental content of a religion’s scripture to be the primary driver of the culture that derives from it, and I don’t, not in the long run. I also don’t share your pessimism as to the likelihood of Islamic terrorism igniting a hot war in Europe, or the resurgence of authentic fascist regimes, but perhaps that’s complacency born of growing up in a country that hasn’t gone in much for political extremism in the last three hundred and fifty years or so.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Prussian

            Are you considering the extent to which the rise of a fairly harsh and strict form of Sunni Islam worldwide is due to particular factors – to some extent at least, active attempts by some Saudis and people in other Gulf States to export that version of the religion/bring people there to study it? This doesn’t have to be anything inherent to Islam that’s lacking in other religions. If there was some hyper-rich Christian state that spent a bunch of money promoting an equivalent form of Christianity, would that be something inherent to Christianity? (Think a much more intense version of how some American conservative Christians have bankrolled evangelical Protestantism overseas).

            EDIT: Another factor would be the degree to which that form of Sunni Islam got tied up in the Cold War – the US tried to use it as a cat’s paw against the USSR; in the long run it’s turned out to be not such a great decision.

          • Prussian says:

            @Tarpitz

            Ah. That would explain it. Do you know that I have always honest engagement, even if it’s disagreement, when it comes to Infidel immigrants or descendants of Infidel immigrants? But I get the most unpleasant dishonesty from ‘native’ Europeans. Go figure.

            Ironically, it’s part of the reason I’m pro-immigration.

            I think you summarise our differences quite accurately. I’d only append that my view that Islam is more conditioned by its text than other religions based on its observed behaviour. We do seem to have managed to understand each other’s positions though.

            May I make a suggestion? Suggest to me some further resources to look up & I’ll make every effort to look them up. For my part I’d suggest reading Lee Harris’ Civilisation and Its Enemies and The Suicide Of Reason. If you like Slate Star Codex, I think you’ll like these books – they have a similarity of style treat with so much more – Hegelian historiography, evolutionary psychology, evolution as applied to societies – than the usual ‘politics only’ books.

            And, perhaps, my own little efforts may interest you…

            Thanks for the exchange!

          • Sir Richard Burton, writing over a hundred years ago, expressed this same hope. It still hasn’t happened. Writing in 1836, E.W. Lane expressed the same hope.

            I think both of those were commenting on Islamic societies, not on Islamic immigrants to western societies.

          • Prussian says:

            @Tarpitz,

            I also don’t share your pessimism as to the likelihood of Islamic terrorism igniting a hot war in Europe, or the resurgence of authentic fascist regimes, but perhaps that’s complacency born of growing up in a country that hasn’t gone in much for political extremism in the last three hundred and fifty years or so.

            That may well be it. On the other hand, I’m the first man in two generations of my family not to live under tyranny. I’ve seen societies collapse. I know just how bad things can get.

            Here’s one scenario:

            the influx of Muslims continues, carrying with it ever more Islamic state terrorists. The level and number of attacks rises and rises until we see ones like Charlie Hebdo every month. Then every week. In response, the European governments collapse, either to votes or to putsch (I’m already hearing form Bundeswehr members talking about another Operation Valkyrie), along with militias and nativist gangs who have decided to repay Islam in its own coin. At this point the new Sultan Edrogran decides to invade to “protect Europe’s Muslim minorities”. Then President Le Pen remembers that France is a nuclear power, and Ankara vanishes in hot clouds.

            And then things get really nasty.

            @DavidFriedman,

            I think both of those were commenting on Islamic societies, not on Islamic immigrants to western societies.

            True. Of course, there weren’t any Islamic immigrants then. However, it’s still very suggestive. This isn’t an isolated data point; all the evidence falls in the same general line, that Islam is hideously resistant towards liberal values, that it is more likely to wipe those out than be liberalized itself.

            (I also think you’d be interested in Lee Harris, btw. Also a good book to read is Islam and the Psychology of the Musulman by Andre Servier, which you can find here. )

            @dnd, first of all, that’s not reassuring. Let’s say the spread of fanaticism and cruelty is purely down to Saudi Arabia. We still have a massive problem. It’s like people who say that Global Warming is only due to natural causes – I’m like Guys, the damn planet is still getting hotter!

            That said, what’s the version of Islam they’re pushing? The version is Salafism, a strict adherence to what is found in the Koran and Hadith. The Saudis are so effective, not just because of their money, but because the books really do back up what they’re preaching.

            We also have a history of fanaticism and cruelty that long predates the existence of Saudi Arabia. Spend a little time with Andrew Bostrom’s The Legacy of Jihad or The Legacy of Islamic Antisemtisim and see the historical data he’s amassed there.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Prussian

            First, this discussion is made significantly more complicated by the fact that Islam really hasn’t (yet, hopefully) experienced the sort of secular-critical-scholarship that the Hebrew Bible and New Testament have had since the 17th-18th centuries (although most of the really good Biblical criticism dates from the middle 19th onwards, and most of the low-hanging fruit was plucked by the middle 20th). This was due to the amount of trouble you’d get in for questioning the “official version” decreasing. Islam is still in a place where you can’t study the textual history of the Quran in the same way as has been done with the Hebrew Bible or New Testament, or at least there isn’t the critical mass of scholars willing to do it that one needs. So it’s hard to discuss the Quran in the same way we’d discuss, say, the way that the Hebrew Bible was edited together from multiple works written at different places and times, or some books are multiple books combined (quite roughly in places), or how we would discuss the question of the sources used by the different gospels or which letters of Paul were actually written by the same person in the New Testament.

            Second, considering that, I’m liable to suspect the Quran isn’t as undivided as you’re presenting it – the Hebrew Bible and New Testament certainly aren’t undivided in their message, what rules you’re supposed to follow, etc. Further, an attempt to apply critical scholarship to the Quran would probably cast a pretty skeptical eye on a lot of the Hadiths – the methods of transmission traditionally used are very different from how scholars today would seek to identify what’s original, etc.

            Third, even if the really nasty militant Sunnis are following “the rules” to the letter… if you follow the rules in parts of the Hebrew Bible to the letter, you’ve got some pretty nasty stuff, and depending on which rules you chose, following the rules in the New Testament to the letter leads either to something that can be pretty nasty, or to a weird and impractical cult.

            So, it’s not something that’s inherent to Islam. Christianity has had its periods of fanaticism and sectarian warfare that are pretty serious. It is reassuring to say “this is just because of the influence of certain groups” because that means if the influence of that group wanes or whatever, things will presumably get better, or at least, not worse.

            Fourth, compare the different patterns in North America and Europe. Due in large part to geography and its “filtering” effect, but also to our greater ability to integrate immigrants, things here are quite different: in Canada, for example, I’m pretty sure all terrorism by Muslims with a body count has been by converts who were rather messed up individuals before converting.

            In parts of Europe, things aren’t looking as good, but I’d observe that “young men lacking prospects, feeling hard done by and disrespected, turn to some mixture of petty crime and violent crime, occasionally spectacularly violent, in order to feel strong and important” is not a pattern limited to second or third generation Muslim guys in France or wherever in the present day – it exists in different forms among different groups, and has existed in the past. I think this also explains the observation that the perpetrators in Europe are often guys who were not especially observant Muslims.

            On the one hand, you’ve got the problem of a few oil-rich Gulf States exporting a really nasty version of their religion, plus the CIA trying to use that as a catspaw. That’s a tricky problem, but it’s not something that is inherent to Islam; the fact that prior to the Saudi-educated cleric showing up and telling everybody to quit the local, usually significantly more relaxed, form of Islam things were nowhere near as bad shows that it isn’t.

            On the other hand, you’ve got the problem of young men struggling with anomie, lacking good prospects, feeling (rightly or wrongly) alienated, discriminated against, put-upon. That’s not limited to Muslims; while in Europe right now the Muslim versions of this are the most likely to commit headline-getting acts of violence, it won’t necessarily stay that way (cf. Cruz, Nikolas). This is also tricky, but again, not something limited to Muslims.

          • zzzzort says:

            52% of British Muslims want to see homosexuality criminalized, 100% want to see it outlawed.

            Pretty sure Sadiq Khan would disagree with that characterization.
            https://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/11878/sadiq_khan/tooting/divisions?policy=826

          • Prussian says:

            @zzz, whatever Sadiq Khan says, the facts are unambiguous.

          • If Sadiq is a Muslim, as I gather he is, then the fact that he does not want homosexuality outlawed is sufficient to show that your 100% claim is false.

          • Prussian says:

            If Sadiq is a Muslim, as I gather he is, then the fact that he does not want homosexuality outlawed is sufficient to show that your 100% claim is false.

            Apparently some people won’t even accurately read what I’ve written, much less follow up on the sources. Here is what that study – not my “claim” – found:

            1. 52% of Muslims in the UK want homosexuality criminalised.

            2. 100% of Muslims in the UK think homosexuality is morally unacceptable.

            See the distinction? Oh, and this is a study, a survey, you know, the kind they do to gauge opinion. They can’t literally ask every Muslim in the country, any more than any opinion poll literally asks anyone, so please spare me the argument “Oh, I found this one guy…”

          • zzzzort says:

            @Prussian

            1) You originally said criminalize and outlaw, not outlaw and immoral. In your non-correction correction you said criminalize.

            2) In the actual survey, 52% disagreed with the statement homosexuality in the UK should be legal (no mention of criminalization). For comparison, homosexuality was legalized everywhere in the US in 2003 (by court decision).

            3) The survey didn’t include any question about whether homosexuality was moral (unless that’s a different survey?), and the 100% response you quote does not make any sense, especially given support for gay marriage was 36% (again, for comparison, about US in 2009 levels or present day levels for Mormons).

          • Prussian says:

            1. False.
            2. Obviously false; if people don’t want something legal, clearly they want it to be illegal.
            3. You’re right, I got confused with my surveys. Here’s the one showing that 0% of British Muslims think being gay is acceptable (note that this is being reported in the Guardian)

            Oh, you can find Phillips survey results here – do take in the 36% who don’t object to violence for blasphemy, the 34% who don’t condemn stoning adulteresses to death etc.

          • Apparently some people won’t even accurately read what I’ve written, much less follow up on the sources.

            What you wrote was:

            As regards stats, well, 52% of British Muslims want to see homosexuality criminalized, 100% want to see it outlawed.

            Sadiq Khan is a British Muslim, does not want to see homosexuality outlawed, hence what you wrote was false.

            Here is what that study – not my “claim” – found:

            1. 52% of Muslims in the UK want homosexuality criminalised.

            2. 100% of Muslims in the UK think homosexuality is morally unacceptable.

            See the distinction?

            I do. You apparently did not, since your claim was “want to see it outlawed.”

            I’m not the one who won’t even accurately read what you wrote.

        • Prussian says:

          Tarpitz, Friedman, dnd, here’s perhaps the most basic reason why I am really skeptical of Islam liberalizing. What is the bare minimum that Islam needs to do to be accepted as part of liberal, universal civilization? I’ve hemmed and hawed about it, and I finally came up with these two as the bare minimum:

          1. No killing of people for criticizing Islam.
          2. No killing of people leaving the faith.

          That’s it. No killy-killy. If I wanted to stretch it a bit, I’d add that Islam needs to do what other societies have done and come to terms with its yucky bits. In the same way Brits have had to face the atrocities of the Empire, & Americans have had to take a hard look at slavery, Islam would need to face the reality of the past. But as I say, this is an extra.

          The problem is that Islam has to resist even that bare minimum – or perish. What happens if this becomes universally accepted across the muslim world? Well, people start speaking out, and then speaking out further, and ten years later, Islam becomes a footnote in history. The whole enterprise would just implode. I think any Muslim who starts seriously questioning his faith won’t “liberalize” but go all the way to apostasy. It’s very difficult to be just a little bit heretical.

          In a weird way, this fragility makes it way more dangerous. To take the Nazi parallel, the reason Hitler was so insane was that he thought this was the last chance for the Aryan race to survive before it was polluted and bred out of existence. When people feel like they have nothing to lose, they are capable of anything, no matter how suicidal.

          • Galle says:

            It’s interesting that you say this…

            That’s it. No killy-killy. If I wanted to stretch it a bit, I’d add that Islam needs to do what other societies have done and come to terms with its yucky bits. In the same way Brits have had to face the atrocities of the Empire, & Americans have had to take a hard look at slavery, Islam would need to face the reality of the past. But as I say, this is an extra.

            …because the consensus among the Blue Tribe and their equivalents elsewhere is that Brits haven’t faced the atrocities of the Empire, and Americans haven’t taken a hard look at slavery, and their failure to do these things is directly responsible for many of our current problems.

            The reason the argument that Islam should be condemned for being uniquely illiberal generally isn’t taken seriously is because the people who advance it are almost always themselves illiberal.

            I don’t think it’s controversial to say that, in American politics, the Red Tribe generally advances the belief that Islam is uniquely illiberal, while the Blue Tribe generally advances the belief that it is not. I also don’t think it’s controversial to say that the Blue Tribe is more liberal than the Red Tribe. Indeed, the Red Tribe takes pride in just how thoroughly liberal it isn’t. The net effect of this is that the Borderers are trying to convince the Quaker and Puritans that savage barbarians who have no respect for Quaker and Puritan values have no place in our society, and the Quakers and Puritans are trying to figure out if there’s any possible way to explain the critical flaw in this argument politely.

            Now, obviously, this isn’t so clear-cut in every country, but the general trend seems to be universal – the people who claim that Islam should be excluded from our society because it is anti-liberal are themselves anti-liberal. Hypocrisy doesn’t invalidate an argument, of course, but hypocrisy on this level makes it difficult to take the argument seriously. If someone is telling me that gay people do not deserve equal rights, and then five minutes later that same person is trying to tell me that Muslims are evil because they discriminate against gay people, how am I supposed to do anything but laugh at him?

          • The Nybbler says:

            …because the consensus among the Blue Tribe and their equivalents elsewhere is that Brits haven’t faced the atrocities of the Empire, and Americans haven’t taken a hard look at slavery, and their failure to do these things is directly responsible for many of our current problems.

            I don’t know about the British, but in the American case there was a war, a country torn asunder, and an occupation of one half of the country by another. Not only did America take a hard look at slavery, it washed out the institution with blood.

            I don’t think it’s controversial to say that, in American politics, the Red Tribe generally advances the belief that Islam is uniquely illiberal, while the Blue Tribe generally advances the belief that it is not. I also don’t think it’s controversial to say that the Blue Tribe is more liberal than the Red Tribe.

            I think “liberal” and “illiberal” have two different meanings in those statements.

          • Galle says:

            I don’t know about the British, but in the American case there was a war, a country torn asunder, and an occupation of one half of the country by another. Not only did America take a hard look at slavery, it washed out the institution with blood.

            I thought it was obvious that we were talking about the legacy of slavery, not slavery itself. Americans today still look for ways to deny responsibility for slavery instead of just buckling down and forgiving themselves for it.

            I think “liberal” and “illiberal” have two different meanings in those statements.

            Setting an incredibly tempting snide remark aside, I don’t think they do. People don’t claim that Islam is uniquely illiberal because of its views on taxes or the market economy, they claim that Islam is uniquely illiberal because of its views on social issues. In all cases, the Islamic view on social issues is closer to the views of the people who criticize Islam as uniquely illiberal than it is to the views of those who do not.

          • Prussian says:

            @Galle

            If someone is telling me that gay people do not deserve equal rights, and then five minutes later that same person is trying to tell me that Muslims are evil because they discriminate against gay people, how am I supposed to do anything but laugh at him?

            When you say red tribers don’t think “gay people deserve equal rights”, you mean they don’t support gay marriage. That is not at all the line Islamic hardliners take (n.b.: many red-tribers do support gay marriage). I’ll quote Bruce Bawer’s While Europe Slept:

            “The main reason I’d been glad to leave America was Protestant fundamentalism. But Europe, I eventually saw, was falling prey to an even more alarming fundamentalism whose leaders made their American Protestant counterparts look like amateurs. Falwell was an unsavory creep, but he didn’t issue fatwas. James Dobson’s parenting advice was appalling, but he wasn’t telling people to murder their daughters. American liberals had been fighting the Religious Right for decades; Western Europeans had yet to even acknowledge that they had a Religious Right. How could they ignore it? Certainly as a gay man, I couldn’t close my eyes to this grim reality. Pat Robertson just wanted to deny me marriage; the imams wanted to drop a wall on me. I wasn’t fond of the hypocritical conservative-Christian line about hating the sin and loving the sinner, but it was preferable to the forthright fundamentalist Muslim view that homosexuals merited death.

            If you don’t see that difference, you don’t see that difference. So I’ll just leave it there.

            ( Let me also note that from where I’m sitting, the Blue Tribe in the US has been getting more and more crazily authoritarian, while the Red Tribe has been trending liberal – for crying out loud, the main campaigner for the current Republican President is a flaming gay jew who ran a rally in full drag. Similarly if this issue is hypocrisy, how are red tribers not supposed to laugh at those screaming that anyone against gay marriage is a monster, and then sucking up to those who’d have gays killed? But that’s a digression.)

            because the consensus among the Blue Tribe and their equivalents elsewhere is that Brits haven’t faced the atrocities of the Empire, and Americans haven’t taken a hard look at slavery, and their failure to do these things is directly responsible for many of our current problems.

            That may be the consensus among the Blue Tribe, but I submit it is poorly reasoned. Here’s the views on slavery held by the two US tribes:

            Red: Slavery was bad, but we shouldn’t keep talking about it (and anyway, the ultimate Red Triber, Lincoln, ended it)
            Blue Tribe: Slavery was bad, and we should keep talking about it (and Lincoln was basically a Blue Triber).

            Now find me the mainstream prepared to admit that Islamic slavery was bad – the 20 million taken from Africa and the millions taken from Europe. Heck, find me those who are willing to condemn the Islamic practice of slavery today, in places like Libya, the Sudan etc.

            Same thing with Imperialism. Find me the mainstream Islamic body, anything like an Islamic Blue Tribe, that’s willing to say that Islamic Imperialism was a bad thing. Who are willing to face things like Tamerlane’s blitzkrieg on India, or any of the rest. Good luck with that.

            Finally…

            …same person is trying to tell me that Muslims are evil…

            Straw Man. I’ll have to quote myself here:

            The claim isn’t that clear majorities of Muslims in the West want to reduce us to the level of Islamic theocracy. The claim is that significant numbers – double digit percentages – of Muslims are in favour of Islamic totalitarianism and the remaining Muslim community does next to nothing to stop them, and just whines whenever Infidels speak up against this. The lunatics are running the show in the Ummah. I’m German and trust me: thanks to the Islamophiles I cited at the start of this piece, we know perfectly well how easy a bunch of crazies can end up running the show. The Nazis only ever got 33% of the 1933 vote.

          • Prussian says:

            I really don’t think, Galle, that you understand just what is meant by illiberalism in this case. Islamic fanatics don’t want to “acknowledge the judeo-christian roots of society”; they want explicitly theocratic law. They don’t want ‘equal time’ for creationism, they want evolution outlawed and punishable by death. They don’t want ‘a seat at the political table’ for the religious; they see democracy itself as heresy.

            If you want a Christian equivalent to this, you’ll never find it in America. You need to look at movements like the Ustaca and the Legion of the Archangel Michael. I sometimes wonder whether Americans have trouble understand this is because Americans have never faced real religious fanaticism.

          • Aapje says:

            @Galle

            I don’t believe that maximizing liberalism is desirable. For example, I believe that excluding a sociopathic murder from society (by putting him in prison or a treatment facility) is desirable over giving him or her the opportunity to murder more people, even though the latter is more liberal.

            I think that most people realize this and try to find a balance, where they prefer liberalism, but reject it in cases where they perceive the costs to be too high.

            So your attempt to convince people by merely calling them illiberal seems doomed unless you also manage to convince them that the cost of liberalism with regard to Islam is not too high.

            As for slavery/colonialism*, my strong impression is that what anti-racists tend to demand is that people admit that the same sentiments that led to slavery still persist and result in an extremely high level of systemic racism and/or persistent disadvantage. Then they demand that people adopt their solutions to these perceived problems. Rejecting either is then seen as being in denial about slavery/colonialism.

            However, the anti-racists are not in fact able to prove that the extremely high level of systemic racism that they claim are present, do in fact exist. They often point to inequality of outcome, asserting that the entire disparity is caused by systemic racism, but they ignore that there may be other causes than systemic racism for inequality of outcome. In fact, the scientific evidence suggests that those other causes are a major factor. So then their assertions are faith, rather than fact.

            Similarly, they cannot prove that their solutions will work and the scientific evidence suggests that many of their solutions probably won’t achieve what they claim. So again, their assertions about the solutions they suggest seems faith, rather than fact.

            When a demand to ‘take responsibility for slavery’ in practice means a demand to reject fact and adopt faith, I reject that demand, as well as the dishonest way by which something unreasonable is presented in a deceptive way, that makes it look far more reasonable.

            * European anti-racists put more emphasis on colonialism, since they can’t blame domestic slavery for systemic racism, so they had to come up with another just so story.

          • So is the framing “who is the baddest of the bad” or “who should I believe” ?

            If you are a liberal, you are going to reject both full strength and lite illiberalism. So you are not going to get on board with anti-islamism unless it is thoroughly cleansed of illiberal elements.

          • Galle says:

            ( Let me also note that from where I’m sitting, the Blue Tribe in the US has been getting more and more crazily authoritarian, while the Red Tribe has been trending liberal – for crying out loud, the main campaigner for the current Republican President is a flaming gay jew who ran a rally in full drag. Similarly if this issue is hypocrisy, how are red tribers not supposed to laugh at those screaming that anyone against gay marriage is a monster, and then sucking up to those who’d have gays killed? But that’s a digression.)

            My impression is that the Red Tribe has started signalling liberalism more, but has actually become much more authoritarian. Trump holds up a rainbow flag and all of a sudden the Red Tribe starts shouting about how he’s the most pro-LGBT president ever, even though all the actual actions he’s taken that affect LGBT rights have been firmly anti-LGBT. It’s empty signalling and nothing more.

            From where I’m sitting, the current greatest threat to the universal culture is the return of fascism in the contemporary right. Islam, which has little to no political power anyway, is a minor issue at best. And most of the people telling me that Islam is the greatest threat to the universal culture are either fascists or enablers of fascism, and are trying to use the idea that Islam is a threat to justify fascist policies. I think my skepticism is understandable.

            Now find me the mainstream prepared to admit that Islamic slavery was bad – the 20 million taken from Africa and the millions taken from Europe. Heck, find me those who are willing to condemn the Islamic practice of slavery today, in places like Libya, the Sudan etc.

            Same thing with Imperialism. Find me the mainstream Islamic body, anything like an Islamic Blue Tribe, that’s willing to say that Islamic Imperialism was a bad thing. Who are willing to face things like Tamerlane’s blitzkrieg on India, or any of the rest. Good luck with that.

            Obviously, I don’t know enough about the Muslim community to prove this one way or the other, so I’ll concede this particular point.

            I really don’t think, Galle, that you understand just what is meant by illiberalism in this case. Islamic fanatics don’t want to “acknowledge the judeo-christian roots of society”; they want explicitly theocratic law. They don’t want ‘equal time’ for creationism, they want evolution outlawed and punishable by death. They don’t want ‘a seat at the political table’ for the religious; they see democracy itself as heresy.

            Christian fanatics also don’t want to acknowledge the Judeo-Christian roots of society, but rather want explicitly theocratic law. They also don’t want equal time for creationism, but rather want evolution outlawed and punishable by death. They also don’t want a seat at the political table for the religious, but see democracy itself as heresy. You are mistaking their carefully negotiated political compromises, calculated based on what they think they can get away with, for their actual goals.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Galle

            The sense in which Red Tribe claims that Islam is uniquely illiberal is authoritarianism vs freedom; it is not uncontroversial that Red Tribe is more illiberal in this sense. The sense it which Red Tribe is uncontroversially less liberal than Blue Tribe is “liberal vs. conservative”. These are not the same.

            As for forgiving ourselves for slavery… No American today is responsible for slavery, nor did any American today live under American chattel slavery. There is nothing to forgive.

          • Dominion theology (also known as dominionism) is a group of Christian political ideologies that seek to institute a nation governed by Christians based on their personal understandings of biblical law. Extents of rule and ways of achieving governing authority are varied. For example, dominion theology can include theonomy, but does not necessarily involve advocating Mosaic law as the basis of government. The label is applied primarily toward groups of Christians in the United States.

          • Iain says:

            Addendum to TheAncientGeekAKA1Z: Dominionists are, to be sure, an unrepresentative subset of Christianity in America. You should not trust anybody who tries to convince you that all (or most, or even many) Christians in America secretly yearn to abolish the separation of church and state.

            The same is true of Islam. The crazy fanatics are a small minority, who get disproportionate attention because they are an easy boogieman. CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, is one of the largest Muslim organizations in America. Take a look at their “Vision, Mission, and Core Principles” page. Take a look at the “About” page for the US Council of Muslim Organizations, or their press releases. You will note a distinct lack of “killy-killy”.

          • Galle says:

            The sense in which Red Tribe claims that Islam is uniquely illiberal is authoritarianism vs freedom; it is not uncontroversial that Red Tribe is more illiberal in this sense. The sense it which Red Tribe is uncontroversially less liberal than Blue Tribe is “liberal vs. conservative”. These are not the same.

            I think this is an overly vague way to talk about the issue. Let’s try to pin this down.

            When the Red Tribe accuses Islam of being uniquely illiberal, they generally make the follow arguments:

            – Muslims execute gay people.
            – Muslims treat women as subhuman.
            – Muslims execute followers of other religions.
            – Muslims enforce theocratic religious laws.

            And so on and so on. Notably, they do not accuse Muslims of having any particular preferred economic policies. The accusations are all focused on social concerns, or what some people might call “identity politics”.

            So when the Red Tribe accuses Muslims of being illiberal, they’re specifically saying that Muslims are too far right on the axis of social liberalism versus social conservatism, not any other axis. And it is an uncontroversial fact that the Blue Tribe is more liberal than the Red Tribe on this particular axis.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Galle, you’re just playing games here, trying to define a line on which you can put Red Tribe, Blue Tribe, and Muslims such that Muslims are closer to Red than Blue. And you can certainly do that, but it doesn’t really demonstrate anything.

          • Galle says:

            Galle, you’re just playing games here, trying to define a line on which you can put Red Tribe, Blue Tribe, and Muslims such that Muslims are closer to Red than Blue. And you can certainly do that, but it doesn’t really demonstrate anything.

            Alright, maybe this has gotten confused. I’ll try to put this all in context.

            I’m responding to a common argument, of the following form:

            – Premise 1: People who are socially illiberal should be excluded from our society.
            – Premise 2: Muslims are socially illiberal.
            – Therefore, Muslims should be excluded from our society.

            This argument is very commonly made by the Red Tribe and their equivalents elsewhere, and it is very commonly rejected by the Blue Tribe and theirequivalents elsewhere. What I want to do is explain why this argument is commonly rejected, in the hopes that Red Tribers will either stop using it or improve it so that it’s actually compelling to Blue Tribers.

            From a Blue perspective, this argument is really an argument over Premise 1 – the question of whether we should exclude people who are socially illiberal from society. The typical Blue Tribe answer to this question is “It’s very tempting, but no.” This is a question the Blue Tribe has to ask itself frequently, because it routinely interacts with the Red Tribe, which it considers to be socially illiberal.

            So, from a Blue perspective, if we accept Premise 1, and therefore the argument as a whole, then we can also make this argument:

            – Premise 1: People who are socially illiberal should be excluded from our society.
            – Premise 2: The Red Tribe is socially illiberal.
            – Therefore, the Red Tribe should be excluded from our society.

            This argument is rejected by most Blue Tribers because Premise 1 is rejected by most Blue Tribers, but the general point is that as far as the Blue Tribe is concerned, Premise 1 is equivalent to “the Red Tribe should be excluded from our society”. There is no way to argue that Muslims are too socially illiberal to be included in our society without arguing the same thing about the Red Tribe.

            If a Blue Triber were making this argument, I’d consider them to be merely mistaken. But when a Red Triber makes this argument, I have to assume that there’s a certain lack of self-awareness involved.

            You seem to be arguing that I’ve chosen social liberalism as the axis to examine arbitrarily. I haven’t. I’ve chosen it because it’s the axis that the argument actually uses.

            To put all this another way – the argument that I’m trying to rebut is, “Islam is intolerant, so therefore, we should not tolerate Islam.” I think this argument is untrue on its own merits, but the problem I’m demonstrating here is that if we accept the argument’s premises, then it also logically follows that because the Red Tribe is intolerant, we should not tolerate the Red Tribe. We can either have a principle of tolerating intolerance or a principle of not doing that, but we cannot have a principle of tolerating one group’s intolerance but not another’s.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            I wanted to add to what Aapje said…

            Standard Conservatives possess a greater fear of the unknown. This simultaneously makes them suspicious of what they perceive of as extreme sexual licentiousness but also suspicious of foreign tribes that implement in their own societies a version of sexual restraint that they consider savage or excessive.

            A historical example of this might be how the british empire ended the practice of ritual sacrifice of widows in India. Victorian era views on sexuality were far more restrictive back then than now yet they did not react to Indian marital practices by complementing them on keeping their women in check.

            Asking why conservatives don’t celebrate the harassment of gays ignores the fact that most traditional views of the world at any given point in time are calibrated to a particular comfort zone rather than an attempt to maximize adherence to some abstract principle.

            Only people who become so disparaging of the modern world would ironically or ironically celebrate sharia law as natural [or divine] punishment for liberal decadence.

          • Prussian says:

            Galle, Friedman, dnd,

            I’ll respond in more detail later. Just let me note that I know all these counter-arguments, and you’ll find that they have been addressed here.

            To the argument that Islam isn’t that big or powerful or such a threat: there are thirteen Islamic countries that would execute me for being an atheist. There have been five islamic genocides in my lifetime alone. Vast resources are put at its disposal. Calling it weak is, I submit, misplaced.

            Dominionist Christianity is a red herring. I can’t even find numbers on the amount of Christians who, e.g., support the death penalty for apostasy. But all the evidence is that hundreds of millions of Muslims do support strict Sharia.

            Re: the danger of the rise of fascism, well, I think you’ll see that I agree with you on that, and say so in 1.25 there. But what is fueling the rise of this fascism? To quote myself, again:

            I have warned about this over, and over, and over again, and I will keep doing so: when liberal secularists abandon the field when it comes to Islam, it doesn’t mean that everyone sits down, holds hands and sings Kumbaya. It means that people turn to those forces that actually have the guts to stand up to the jihad.

            Please though understand the following. I hate these conclusions. I wish more than anything to be proven wrong. Heck, the reason I have so much data is 10 years of trying to prove myself wrong. You think I like that there is a movement so widespread that is utterly inimical to everything I hold dear? You think I like to face the hideous possibility of a terror-war in Europe? But the world isn’t what we want it to be.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Prussian

            OK, looking over that link (I’d probably seen it before long ago):

            1. It’s a bit of a low blow to bring the Nazis into it; there were groups that they didn’t consider racially inferior who collaborated with them. There were some Muslims in those groups. They’d probably have praised Islam to the skies if it had meant more recruits for high-numbered Waffen SS divisions as the war went worse and worse for Germany. I think that accounts for the first two. And Hitler didn’t necessarily actually know anything about Islam; his monologues to people around him weren’t necessarily based in reality. Didn’t he also think Karl May novels described reality?

            2. I don’t really see a rebuttal to what I posted. 0.5 is directed at people comparing it to, say, Catholic immigration. I don’t think my objection is in the same ballpark, really.

          • John Schilling says:

            – Premise 1: People who are socially illiberal should be excluded from our society.
            – Premise 2: The Red Tribe is socially illiberal.
            – Therefore, the Red Tribe should be excluded from our society.

            This argument is rejected by most Blue Tribers because Premise 1 is rejected by most Blue Tribers,

            And yet when e.g. the concept was mooted of Texas seceding if Hillary was elected, I seem to recall a great deal of Blue Tribe reacting with amused enthusiasm.

            Tempered by the fact that it couldn’t actually happen, of course. There is a fundamental asymmetry in that expelling Red Tribe Americans is far outside the Overton Window in a way that excluding Muslim immigrants isn’t. So there can’t be an apples-to-apples comparison of Red vs Blue Tribe’s willingness to exclude the illiberal.

            But we can look at how Blue Tribe deals with various oranges, like cheering the notion of Texas secession or punching “nazis” or no-platforming conservative speakers, and I’m going to be very skeptical of your claim that Blue Tribe has rejected the idea of casting the illiberal out of society.

            That leaves, I think, two plausible explanations for the relative tolerance of Blue Tribe for Muslim immigrants. I think it’s an element of both, and I think that Blue Tribe is right on both counts.

            First, they may believe that Muslim immigrants are more liberal, or at least less illiberal, than Red Tribe. That’s clearly not the case for e.g. the Pakistani community in Rotherham, but Blue Tribe doesn’t meet immigrants in the bad neighborhoods of industrial cities. They meet Muslim immigrants on e.g. college campuses, and those Muslims are pretty much by definition more cosmopolitan than most of Red Tribe. And they are mostly practicing Islam Lite, not Wahabbi fundamentalism.

            Second, Islam is the enemy of their enemy, and as such their friend. Red Tribe is the outgroup, Islam is part of the fargroup, and this particular fargroup is a useful ally in the battle against the hated Red Tribe.

            As I said, I think Blue Tribe is right on both counts. The Rotherham and ISIS-wannabe Muslims are the 5% crazies, and the end result of 95% not-crazy Muslim immigration will probably be something akin to Hispanic communities in the US than to the imagined no-go zones of Europe. Culturally conservative but politically allied with Blue Tribe’s political parties. I’m not sure this will be the outcome, but it’s the way to bet.

            And along the way, they’ll definitely be useful allies in the fight against Red Tribe. What could matter more than that?

          • Prussian says:

            @dnd, the only reason for that low blow is that people keep doing this thing where they assert that the only reason people could possibly be against Islam & Muslim immigration is that we’re racist and bigoted. If it’s fair to lump people like me in with those who are anti-Islamic only as a way of being anti-Immigrant, then it is absolutely fair to lump the other side in with the most prominent and powerful Islamophiles of the last century.

            @Schilling

            The Rotherham and ISIS-wannabe Muslims are the 5% crazies, and the end result of 95% not-crazy Muslim immigration will probably be something akin to Hispanic communities in the US than to the imagined no-go zones of Europe. Culturally conservative but politically allied with Blue Tribe’s political parties. I’m not sure this will be the outcome, but it’s the way to bet.

            I wish, I wish, I wish that were the case. I would love this to be nothing more than the friction there is with US Hispanic immigration.

            But there is no evidence of this. Please, please, please read some of the evidence against this – the evidence is that the number of Muslims who are not ‘conservative’ – most are – but explicitly fascist and totalitarian is way higher. More than enough to be the dominant force in society.

            The parallel is with racism in the Deep South. Only a Tiny Minority of Extremist Racists lynched blacks – the Vast Majority of Moderate Racists didn’t. That’s not the point – they created and permitted an atmosphere where lynching was okay.

          • Prussian says:

            @Iain I think you’ll find that CAIR is in support of HAMAS & praises suicide-murderers, the Muslim Council of Britain was lead by people saying “Death is too good for Rushdie” and so on. All of that is covered in my piece

          • Iain says:

            I strongly encourage anybody who is trying to evaluate the credibility of Prussian’s claims to check out his sources on CAIR: specifically, “anti-cair-net.org“. (Firefox refused to display the page for me, warning about “a network protocol violation that cannot be repaired”, but I managed to get it to load in Chrome.) It is the quintessential conspiracy website, complete with website design fresh from 1998 and the conviction that any accusation can seem damning if you put it in italics and underline it. It’s a pile of guilt-by-association and misleading selective quotations. If you would not accept a case for Scott being a white nationalist because he has previously linked to Moldbug, you should not take this nonsense seriously either.

            Here, for reference, is CAIR’s response.

          • Prussian says:

            I invite anyone here buying @Iain’s claims to look at the frothing, far-right conspiratorial group, the Anti-Defamation League, which is quite clear on CAIR. I then invite you to look at Nihad Awad’s wiki page, where his support for HAMAS is well attested. You can also find that the MCB’s line on Rushdie in the Guardian.

            Now please reflect that this is the kind of bad faith and dishonesty I have to deal with all the time.

          • Galle says:

            To the argument that Islam isn’t that big or powerful or such a threat: there are thirteen Islamic countries that would execute me for being an atheist. There have been five islamic genocides in my lifetime alone. Vast resources are put at its disposal. Calling it weak is, I submit, misplaced.

            And all of those countries working together wouldn’t be able to win a war against the United States alone.

            You seem to be conflating the “Islamic world” – that is, majority Muslim or Muslim-dominated countries – with the global Muslim community. I think this is a mistake. If Muslim immigration to Europe is a threat, then it is a different threat entirely from ISIS and needs to be evaluated separately.

            Tempered by the fact that it couldn’t actually happen, of course. There is a fundamental asymmetry in that expelling Red Tribe Americans is far outside the Overton Window in a way that excluding Muslim immigrants isn’t. So there can’t be an apples-to-apples comparison of Red vs Blue Tribe’s willingness to exclude the illiberal.

            But we can look at how Blue Tribe deals with various oranges, like cheering the notion of Texas secession or punching “nazis” or no-platforming conservative speakers, and I’m going to be very skeptical of your claim that Blue Tribe has rejected the idea of casting the illiberal out of society.

            I consider the fact that expelling Red Tribe Americans is far outside the Overton Window to be evidence that the Blue Tribe rejects expelling the illiberal from society.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Prussian

            the only reason for that low blow is that people keep doing this thing where they assert that the only reason people could possibly be against Islam & Muslim immigration is that we’re racist and bigoted. If it’s fair to lump people like me in with those who are anti-Islamic only as a way of being anti-Immigrant, then it is absolutely fair to lump the other side in with the most prominent and powerful Islamophiles of the last century.

            I think it’s hardly fair to call them Islamophiles. They don’t appear to have treated West Asian Muslims very well. They were trying to get the help of other Muslims, so they talked them up. If someone starts kissing your ass because they want to borrow your car, is that evidence they really think you’re a great guy?

            Regardless, that doesn’t touch the bulk of my objection – which is that part of the problem is a bad tendency within Islam fed by the Saudis, the CIA, etc, and part of the problem is general anomie among young men in the West in general.

            As long as we’re talking about Nazis, they prove pretty well that disaffected young-ish men are bad news. A good deal fit the general description of either guys who had been just a little to young to fight in the war, maybe got involved in paramilitary stuff after that, and couldn’t really find lasting career success in the crappy economy of the early 20s (eg Himmler) or guys who had been officers or noncoms in the war and then after that ended up in various precarious jobs in the crappy economy of the early 20s, which they experienced as a major step down from being a lieutenant or sergeant or whatever (several of Himmler’s top underlings fit this mold).

          • Prussian says:

            I am going to insist on calling them Islamophiles – the Nazis were notoriously unsentimental. Their admiration for Islamic ruthlessness and cruelty was genuine. As, indeed, is the admiration for the Nazis seen in so much of Islam’s heartland today.

            Regardless, that doesn’t touch the bulk of my objection – which is that part of the problem is a bad tendency within Islam fed by the Saudis, the CIA, etc, and part of the problem is general anomie among young men in the West in genera

            You’re pushing at an open door with me when it comes to the view that the Saudis, the CIA etc. have made things worse.

            But I won’t pass letting Islam off the hook here. Objection number 1: Islamic jihad has existed long before either Saudi Arabia or the CIA. Objection 2: Neither the Saudis nor the CIA invented the core texts of Islam; they merely stressed the,. Objection 3: this “anomie” doesn’t seem to inspire murderous jihad in any other immigrant to the West. Objection 4: Western “Anomie” certainly doesn’t explain, e.g., the slaughter first of Infidels and then of Black Africans in Darfur.

            As regards your views on Islamic doctrine, here I have to ask that you just read a decent book on the subject, say, Ibn Warraq’s Why I Am Not A Muslim, or Andrew Bostrom’s The Legacy of Jihad. I had another long section on this in the F.A.Q, but I was persuaded to cut it as being the main one that might get my head on a death list.

            @Galle,

            If Muslim immigration to Europe is a threat, then it is a different threat entirely from ISIS and needs to be evaluated separately.

            I think you’ll find that this is addressed in the piece.

            As regards this…

            Christian fanatics also…

            Okay, let’s put that to the sign test. I’ll carry the anti-Christian sign, you carry the anti-Islam sign. Or if you prefer, I’ll run a “Everyone Draw Christ” day and you can run a “Everyone Draw Muhammad” day. Ask Molly Norris how well that works.
            Or I’ll offer to sponsor a production of Life of Brian or The Book of Mormon and you can do something equivalent for Islam. Or I’ll do a Christ cartoon contest, and you can do a Mohammed cartoon contest. Or I’ll organise a well publicised display of Piss Christ, and you need to do the same with a Koran.

            You already know what’d happen. I’ll be fine, you’ll likely be killed, and the tolerant Blue Tribe will say you deserved it.

          • mdet says:

            I’m not going to weigh in on whether Islam as a whole is capable of liberalizing, but as a Blue Triber I’d like to corroborate John Schilling’s account:

            Blue Tribe doesn’t meet immigrants in the bad neighborhoods of industrial cities. They meet Muslim immigrants on e.g. college campuses, and those Muslims are pretty much by definition more cosmopolitan than most of Red Tribe. And they are mostly practicing Islam Lite, not Wahabbi fundamentalism.

            It’s not hypocrisy that causes the Blue Tribe to celebrate Muslims yet call Red Tribers backwards. We/They are sincere, and making reasonable conclusions given our/their personal experience. (And given that Red Tribers probably aren’t meeting Muslim immigrants in the bad neighborhoods of industrial cities either, its easy to dismiss their complaints).

          • Prussian says:

            @mdet,

            Speaking as someone who’s not part of the US tribal system, I have to say that that is what bothers me most about US Blue Tribers – that they recognise no sin other than being Red. You can be guilty of the worst things, but as long as you’re not, gasp, a Red Triber, the Blues will find a way to defend you and support you. But if you’re a Red Triber, you are damned forever.

            Look at Galle here:

            Trump holds up a rainbow flag and all of a sudden the Red Tribe starts shouting about how he’s the most pro-LGBT president ever, even though all the actual actions he’s taken that affect LGBT rights have been firmly anti-LGBT. It’s empty signalling and nothing more.

            This is the standard Blue Triber line that I have grown truly sick of: Oh if the Red Tribe is doing the right thing, it doesn’t count, because they’re only doing it opportunistically, and if the Blue Tribe is doing the bad thing, that doesn’t count, because they are doing it for the right reasons.

            First of all, even if someone is doing the right thing for opportunistic reasons, that does tend to lead to them doing it for the right reasons. Witness Lincoln, Touissant L’Overture etc. As to the second part, I really don’t care why someone is taking the side of people who kill gays, I only care that they do. I don’t care why when I, say, talk about Yezidi rights I get a respectful hearing from your Red Tribe while the Blue Tribe doesn’t want to hear. I only care that that is the reality of it.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Prussian

            I am going to insist on calling them Islamophiles – the Nazis were notoriously unsentimental. Their admiration for Islamic ruthlessness and cruelty was genuine. As, indeed, is the admiration for the Nazis seen in so much of Islam’s heartland today.

            The Nazi leadership included some people with significant sentimental streaks – not the way it’s used today, but the way “sentimental” used to be used, a less cuddly version of the word. You’re assuming they were honest. They were Nazis and politicians; neither group is known for a dedication to the truth.

            But I won’t pass letting Islam off the hook here. Objection number 1: Islamic jihad has existed long before either Saudi Arabia or the CIA.

            OK, sure. But before stuff got increasingly messed up today, parts of the world that are now pretty harshly conservative were increasingly cosmopolitan, and there was no particular reason to think that trend would change. If it’s something inherent to Islam, why weren’t they harshly conservative in the 60s?

            Objection 2: Neither the Saudis nor the CIA invented the core texts of Islam; they merely stressed the,.

            Yeah, there’s some messed up stuff in there. There’s also some messed up stuff in the Bible. A society ruled by a strict interpretation of parts of the Hebrew Bible would be pretty harshly conservative. A society ruled by the New Testament would be less harshly conservative but still pretty dang conservative by today’s standards. The three are religious texts from a much harsher time than today, and their rules are correspondingly harsh. (And, the NT is harsh by today’s standards – we don’t throw gay people out of the community as much as we used to)

            Objection 3: this “anomie” doesn’t seem to inspire murderous jihad in any other immigrant to the West.

            I did say that there was, in radical Sunni terrorism, a more violent “script” for young men suffering anomie, etc, if they’re Muslims. However, that radical Sunni terrorism, at least in its current form, is a pretty new thing. It’s really only a few decades old.

            Objection 4: Western “Anomie” certainly doesn’t explain, e.g., the slaughter first of Infidels and then of Black Africans in Darfur.

            Religious and sectarian war aren’t a Muslim invention.

            As regards your views on Islamic doctrine, here I have to ask that you just read a decent book on the subject, say, Ibn Warraq’s Why I Am Not A Muslim, or Andrew Bostrom’s The Legacy of Jihad. I had another long section on this in the F.A.Q, but I was persuaded to cut it as being the main one that might get my head on a death list.

            I went to university for religious studies. What struck me about Islam is that, honestly, among the Abrahamic faiths, it’s pretty damn normal. Christians from most any age but this own are maniacs by today’s standards. Most victims of violence by Muslims are other Muslims; it’s as much a bunch of civil wars as it is a terrorist campaign. The western tendency to try to separate “political” from “religious” means that observers who don’t have a religious-scholarship background miss a lot.

            The Muslim world is in a messed up place right now, sure. “Worldwide Islam” insofar as that’s a thing needs to liberalize a lot. But this isn’t something preordained by some element within Islam.

          • Prussian says:

            Again, all of this is addressed at some length in the piece.

            If it’s something inherent to Islam, why weren’t they harshly conservative in the 60s

            Good question. But they were harshly tyrannical in the 1860s, the 1760s, the 1660s, the 1560s… First of all, Islam suffered a crippling setback with the destruction of the Caliphate, and the Islamic world had been under severe pressure to modernise, ‘westernize’. But since the West doesn’t really believe in those principles anymore, there has been a reversion. And, yes, the Saudis are a big part of that – emphasising the original teachings of Islam. It’s part of their selling point.

            You make my case for me with the point about the wickedness in the old testament etc. Christianity didn’t “reform” because of its texts, it reformed due to outside skeptical pressure. And it took centuries. There isn’t a similar timescale available in the case of Islam. Also: we’ve had real horrors occur in the name of a religion founded by a pacifist. What the hell do you expect from a religion founded by a warlord?

            [All of this is in my piece]

            Not to mention that for doctrinal reasons, Islam is uniquely resistant to any change or reinterpretation – it’s whole Selling Point is that it’s the Final Revelation, uncorrupted. While Christians teach the word’s of Christ as related by someone else (Mark, Matthew etc.) the central claim of Islam is that the Koran is the unexpurgated, literal world of God. If they start to question that, what’s left? That’s why I think there isn’t

            However, that radical Sunni terrorism, at least in its current form, is a pretty new thing. It’s really only a few decades old.

            Muhammad: I have been made victorious with terror. Literally the foundational texts. The reason that Muslim states don’t wage jihad through conventional war is simply the fact they’d be wiped from existence by the far more powerful Infidel states like China and America.

            Again, this is getting away from the point. Again, all of this is covered in my piece.

            Religious and sectarian war aren’t a Muslim invention.

            Racism and anti-Semtism werent the invented by the Nazis. What’s your point?

            I did say that there was, in radical Sunni terrorism, a more violent “script” for young men suffering anomie

            So you admit it’s the texts.

            Most victims of violence by Muslims are other Muslims; it’s as much a bunch of civil wars as it is a terrorist campaign. The western tendency to try to separate “political” from “religious” means that observers who don’t have a religious-scholarship background miss a lot.

            .

            So you concede that in Islam, politics and religion are intertwined, and it is inherently theocratic.

            Again, I literally made this point about Muslim on Muslim violence in my piece (have you read it?). So? Stalin killed more Communists than anyone. If you read Dickens’ notes on the Confederacy, you find tons of stories about easy hatred, duels etc.

            Cruelty and hatred just don’t work. They always rebound on their practitioners. Islam’s doctrines of hatred of the Infidel are the main reason the Islamic world is such a mess.

            We’re agreed that Islam needs to liberalize. Good. What I’m saying is that that is unlikely for a number of reasons, doctrinal (the fanatical nature of Islam, the claim to final revelation status means that questioners are likely to just go the distance and become Infidels) and historic (we don’t have centuries to wait anymore).

            If you’ll read my piece you’ll see that arguments exactly like yours were being made in 1954, and they didn’t pan out them. We’re out of time.

          • mdet says:

            @Prussian

            I’m not sure hypocrisy is a Blue Tribe exclusive trait, but I understand your critique. Still, I don’t think the LGBT line you quoted was the best example. I think it’s perfectly fair to say that Donald Trump tweeting that trans people should be barred from service in the military “in any capacity” (not even the Corps of Engineers? not even the Coast Guard? not even the US Army Dental Command?) outweighs the fact that he invited Caitlyn Jenner to visit Trump Tower once. The latter is a symbolic gesture towards one individual, but the former is an actual policy change that would affect thousands.

            Edit:

            While Christians teach the word’s of Christ as related by someone else (Mark, Matthew etc.) the central claim of Islam is that the Koran is the unexpurgated, literal world of God.

            Christians also teach that the Bible is 100% the literal word of God, even if God’s revelation was transcribed by men named Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. I don’t think this fact disproves your larger point.

          • Prussian says:

            Actually, @ dnd, I think I can identify points of agreement here:

            1. We agree that Islam currently is hideously illiberal
            2. We both agree that Islam needs to liberalise.

            My point is simply that liberalisation cannot happen without honest criticism. And the problem is that honest criticism is difficult because Muslim fanatics will kill you for it.

            So my concern is that, if current trends continue and Islam isn’t subjected to harsh and radical criticism, Europe is at best headed towards something like the Irish Troubles, just all over the continent, and at worst, complete and total disaster as the continent slides into war and fascism.

          • the central claim of Islam is that the Koran is the unexpurgated, literal world of God.

            But figuring out what it means is a human project. The four Sunni schools of law are mutually orthodox–because they all recognize that their interpretation of the law might be mistaken.

            And Islam has in fact changed a good deal over the centuries. The Ottomans had Sultanic law (the Kanun) in addition to religious law, and in some cases inconsistent with it. In addition to the Sunni/Shia split there was a big philosophical split between the Mutazilites and the Asharites a little over a thousand years ago. A very common pattern is for a religiously enthusiastic movement, such as the Almoravides or Almohades, to rise, take power, and then gradually soften.

            I think the big difference between Islam and Christianity, from that standpoint, is that over the past couple of centuries Christian populations have taken their own religion less and less seriously–the process Orwell described as sawing off the branch we were sitting on.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Prussian

            But you’ve gone from saying there’s something wrong inherently with Islam, to saying that there’s something wrong right now with Islam. Which, I mean, is what I’m saying: there’s been a surge in Sunni radicalism of a militant form (back in the 50s, they weren’t especially militant) but it’s not due to anything present in the Quran that’s not present in the Bible.

            Good question. But they were harshly tyrannical in the 1860s, the 1760s, the 1660s, the 1560s… First of all, Islam suffered a crippling setback with the destruction of the Caliphate, and the Islamic world had been under severe pressure to modernise, ‘westernize’. But since the West doesn’t really believe in those principles anymore, there has been a reversion. And, yes, the Saudis are a big part of that – emphasising the original teachings of Islam. It’s part of their selling point.

            You make my case for me with the point about the wickedness in the old testament etc. Christianity didn’t “reform” because of its texts, it reformed due to outside skeptical pressure. And it took centuries. There isn’t a similar timescale available in the case of Islam. Also: we’ve had real horrors occur in the name of a religion founded by a pacifist. What the hell do you expect from a religion founded by a warlord?

            Outside skeptical pressure? More inside. A lot of the early critical scholars were clergy or had ties to the clergy. As for pacifism – the Hebrew Bible isn’t that pacifist, and some forms of Christianity are pretty big on it.

            Not to mention that for doctrinal reasons, Islam is uniquely resistant to any change or reinterpretation – it’s whole Selling Point is that it’s the Final Revelation, uncorrupted. While Christians teach the word’s of Christ as related by someone else (Mark, Matthew etc.) the central claim of Islam is that the Koran is the unexpurgated, literal world of God. If they start to question that, what’s left? That’s why I think there isn’t

            You’d be surprised what some Christians teach. The notion that the Bible is the literal, unexpurgated word of God is less popular than it once was, but it still exists.

            Muhammad: I have been made victorious with terror. Literally the foundational texts. The reason that Muslim states don’t wage jihad through conventional war is simply the fact they’d be wiped from existence by the far more powerful Infidel states like China and America.

            Religious texts tend to contradict themselves. If critical scholarship on Islam comes about, I expect it will show that the Quran has a similar editorial history to the Hebrew Bible or the New Testament.

            Racism and anti-Semtism werent the invented by the Nazis. What’s your point?

            That you keep talking about how bad they are for religious and sectarian war, and, uh, I can’t think of anything the Muslims are doing right now that’s as bad as the Thirty Years’ War?

            So you admit it’s the texts.

            No, I don’t. It’s the script: some textual stuff, some extra-textual doctrinal stuff, some interpretation. Before fairly recently, for example, suicide bombing wasn’t a Muslim thing: modern suicide bombing was, I think, associated with the Tamil Tigers. Then, some Muslim militants started adopting it (it’s basically a poor man’s guided bomb) and found all sorts of stuff in the religion to justify it. However, if that stuff was there all along, why did they only start doing it fairly recently? If you hand me a Bible, I can find you passages to support war, and passages to support peace. It’s called prooftexting. You can do it with a Quran too.

            So you concede that in Islam, politics and religion are intertwined, and it is inherently theocratic.

            You really like putting words in other people’s mouths, don’t you? No, I’m saying that the division one sees in the modern Christian/post-Christian world is the odd man out: in most places, at most times, it is hard to divide religious and secular matters. In the classical and Hellenistic Mediterranean, when Christianity was arising, observing religious festivals was linked to politics. Worshipping the god(s) locally revered was kind of like standing for the anthem, only moreso. Christians weren’t persecuted for being Christians, they were persecuted for refusing to follow traditional religious rights, which were civic in nature. The same is true of Catholicism, and to a lesser extent Protestantism, during large parts of European history. Hindu nationalism is pretty big in India right now. Islam isn’t the odd man out. We are.

            Again, I literally made this point about Muslim on Muslim violence in my piece (have you read it?). So? Stalin killed more Communists than anyone. If you read Dickens’ notes on the Confederacy, you find tons of stories about easy hatred, duels etc.

            I have read your piece. I found it a better standard than most pieces of its kind, but it still seems uninformed by the insights you’d get from studying religion as a historical phenomenon over space and time, instead of looking at Islam now. There were points where the Muslim world had its shit together more than the Christian world. Perhaps there were Muslims looking at Christians and saying “there is something inherently wrong with these unwashed barbarians and their heathen religion” – but they were wrong, and I think people looking at the problems in the Muslim world now and saying the same things before.

            Cruelty and hatred just don’t work. They always rebound on their practitioners. Islam’s doctrines of hatred of the Infidel are the main reason the Islamic world is such a mess.

            Well, there’s also the legacy of the collapse of the Ottoman empire, the legacy of foreign colonialism (by Europe, and by the Ottoman empire), the legacy of Cold War powers messing things around to try and secure resources and undermine their rivals, the recent choice of the US and a few other countries to go to war in the Middle East, the destabilization of North Africa a little more recently by a similar group…

            We’re agreed that Islam needs to liberalize. Good. What I’m saying is that that is unlikely for a number of reasons, doctrinal (the fanatical nature of Islam, the claim to final revelation status means that questioners are likely to just go the distance and become Infidels) and historic (we don’t have centuries to wait anymore).

            The last point is the only one I think is accurate. Europeans in the 17th century etc could be left to fight it out. There was no prospect of them getting nukes or whatever. But the first two points I think are completely wrong: fanaticism comes and goes, and each of the Abrahamic religions believes itself to be the final word: otherwise, Jews would accept Jesus and Christians would accept Mohammed.

            My point is simply that liberalisation cannot happen without honest criticism. And the problem is that honest criticism is difficult because Muslim fanatics will kill you for it.

            The same thing was true in Christianity, then critical scholarship of the scriptures – it becomes a little harder to be a fanatic when, oh, turns out the people we thought wrote that at a given time actually didn’t, and it’s from a different time, and these bits were added later, etc etc – became OK. The last execution in England for blasphemy was in the late 17th century; the last punishment for blaspheming Christianity in England took place in the early 20th century.

            So my concern is that, if current trends continue and Islam isn’t subjected to harsh and radical criticism, Europe is at best headed towards something like the Irish Troubles, just all over the continent, and at worst, complete and total disaster as the continent slides into war and fascism.

            The Muslims I went to school with – loosey-goosey Muslims to match the loosey-goosey Christians and loosey-goosey Jews and the handful of loosey-goosey Hindus and Buddhists – would presumably love that. But they’re not gonna sign on for the typical anti-Muslim stuff. What led to Christianity liberalizing was internal scholarly debate, not external polemic.

          • zzzzort says:

            But they were harshly tyrannical in the 1860s, the 1760s, the 1660s, the 1560s…

            I’d much rather have been a christian living in al andalus than a muslim living in castille. Or a christian living in ottoman constantinople than a muslim living in vienna. Or a hindu living under the mughals than a muslim living under a rajput (or in many parts of modern india for that matter). While the 30 years war was leading catholics and protestants to depopulate swathes of present day germany, christians and jews in the ottoman empire had freedom to worship and independence from islamic law. Which is to say, there’s a whole lot of historical contingency. The fact that the majority of the muslim world was ruled by a few empires, which happened to collapse (with british help) at about the same time means that any hypothesis of religious exceptionalism will have a large political confounder.

          • Prussian says:

            @dnd, I’m having trouble accepting that you’ve read and engaged with my post because all, literally all, of these points have been addressed exhaustively in it.

            Which isn’t hard because it’s always the same five or six arguments. There’s the argument Christians did bad things too! Or It’s all because of colonialism/Western meddling (presumably the same way that the Holocaust was all due to Versailles and Churchill’s intransigence, the oppression of black Americans was due to the Great Northern War of Aggress, the communist atrocities were the result of, pick one, the cold war, Tsarism etc. There’s the argument the Muslims I’ve met seem decent, and the Tiny Minority of Extremists argument and the It’s all in the context and the interpretation of the texts argument, and the Golden Age of Islam argument. And, er, that’s kinda it. The same handful of arguments that have been made for the last sixty years, or in some cases, for centuries.

            What’s worse is that most of these arguments are totally pointless. Let’s say the fanaticism and cruelty of the Muslim world is only down to the CIA/Cold War/whatever. Who cares? Does that suddenly stop the slaughter of the Yezidi, or end the slave markets in Libya? It’s like arguing about the cause of global warming – even if it’s 100% natural the planet is still getting warmer and that’s a big problem.

            I can’t think of anything the Muslims are doing right now that’s as bad as the Thirty Years’ War?

            Really? Really? The slaughter of the Yezidi? The genocide in East Timor? The massacre of blacks in Darfur? The murder of two million infidels in the Sudan? Have you ever looked at any of these? One image I will never, ever forget is from The Devil Came On Horseback, about the Darfur genocide – the sight of bodies that had been lashed together with wire and then burned alive with petrol.

            It’s even worse than this, because you are comparing ancient Christianity with modern day Islam. The horrors of Islam’s long history of imperialism are ignored – when Tamerlane brought Islam to India, he killed about 5% of the then global population. During five centuries of Mughal rule, they killed eighty million Hindus, which is impressive considering the original population was barely over two hundred million. And that’s just one of these cases – the jihad against the Buddhists? The Armenian genocide? The genocide of the Christians in the Balkans? The ethnocide of the Christians of the Middle East and North Africa? Entire books can and have been written on this subject.

            I think that we’ve gotten as far as we can here – all I can suggest is that you reread How To Actually Change Your Mind and consider that I write none of this is lightly, but as a result of ten years of looking into this subject.

            @zzz, DavidFriedman, the argument that life was tolerant underneath the rules of Islam is, how shall I phrase it, bollocks. @zzz if you think that the Mughals were tolerant of Hindus, you don’t know that a term of honour for a Mughal ruler was “killer of lakhs” where a “lakh” is 100,000 Hindus. As regards the treatment of Jews and Christians – the Peoples of the Book – it was a level of oppression that exceeded that of Segregationist America. No Infidels testimony was considered in a court of law against a Muslim, there was no right to preach beliefs, no right to repair any building of worship or to build any new one, a requirement to move aside if a Muslim wished to sit where you were sitting, to wear special identifying clothing – here’s the Pact of Umar that lays out much of what the dhimmi endured.

            And even if this were not the case, who’d you rather live as? A Muslim in the West, or an Infidel anywhere in the Muslim world?

            Can we all get real? Do you really think that things will just continue as they are if nothing is done? Or is it more likely that with increased influx of Muslims into the Infidel world, there’ll be ever more terrorism, ever more attacks on Infidels, ever great encroachment on human rights – until, finally, what always happens, happens:

            There’s a historic cycle of Islam’s jihad that should give everyone the screaming heebie-jeebies. The jihad builds and builds, growing ever bolder and committing worse and worse atrocities. However, in doing so, the jihadis teach the same tactics of cruelty and fanaticism to the infidels. Then, finally, they push their luck that little bit too far and the infidels hit back hard.
            […]
            So, to those who accuse me of whipping up hatred against Muslims – I am trying to save their sorry lives.

          • Prussian says:

            One passing point about the concept of the “Word of God”. Here’s what I’m getting at: in Islam, the Koran isn’t equivalent to the Bible, but equivalent to Christ. It is the uncreated, the Word itself. That’s such a mainstream view you can find it in the extremely islamophile and utterly mainstream Islam: A Very Short Introduction.

            That’s where I see the massive problem. I can see a Christian questioning the Bible and still believing in Christ, but in what sense is a Christian who questions Christ still a Christian? I fear that the same thing holds: that a Muslim who starts to question the doctrinal roots of Jihad will be questioning the Koran – and so won’t become a liberal or a moderate Muslim, but an apostate.

            Going through all this, I feel like Eliezer Yudkowsky talking about AI risk: this isn’t about whether this fits in with this or that moral narrative, or historical theory or whether it feels right or wrong. It’s about what emerges from the empirical study of the facts, drawn from the texts, from the present day and from history. You know those books I keep citing, like Bostrom’s Legacy of Jihad or Bat Ye’or’s works on dhimmitude? You know what makes them so devastating? What they consist of is a learned summary of the situation at the start, and then masses and masses of primary sources. That’s why no one has ever tried to argue or write against them, because they can’t. It’s not possible to see the same pattern play out over and over across the centuries without coming to that conclusion.

          • What happens if this [neither apostasy nor criticism of the religion treated as capital offenses] becomes universally accepted across the muslim world? Well, people start speaking out, and then speaking out further, and ten years later, Islam becomes a footnote in history.

            It was true for Christianity in the U.S. more than two hundred years ago and the U.S. is currently one of the most Christian of the developed countries. Why do you assume that Islam is so much more fragile?

            Whether apostasy should be treated as a capital offense is an open question in Islamic legal theory. The dominant view is that it should be, but some scholars argue that that’s a misreading of rules that applied in the early period when apostasy was, as a practical matter, treason, since the Muslim community was fighting for its survival against hostile opponents.

            I don’t know what the basis would be for claiming that criticism of Islam is a criminal offense. Criticism of versions of Islam by supporters of other versions has, of course, been common throughout the history.

          • the argument that life was tolerant underneath the rules of Islam is, how shall I phrase it, bollocks.

            Compare the treatment of Jews in Muslim Spain to the treatment of Jews and Muslims later in Christian Spain–expulsion or forced conversion. Consider that there were large populations of Christians and Jews in the Muslim world, functioning mainly under Jewish and Christian law. There were few Muslims tolerated under Christian rule–the only important exceptions that occur to me were Norman ruled southern Italy and the Crusader Kingdoms. Jews were sometimes tolerated, sometime expelled.

            here’s the Pact of Umar that lays out much of what the dhimmi endured.

            Those rules, dubiously associated with Umar but certainly believed in by many medieval Muslims, take it for granted that Christians and Jews are entitled to live and practice their religion in Muslim ruled territories, although with a variety of restrictions. Compare that to the treatment of both groups in medieval Christian societies.

          • in Islam, the Koran isn’t equivalent to the Bible, but equivalent to Christ. It is the uncreated, the Word itself.

            Whether the Koran was create or uncreated was a central element in the philosophical dispute between the Mutazilite and Asharite factions.

          • Prussian says:

            @DavidFriedman,

            Why do you assume that Islam is so much more fragile?

            For reasons spelt out in great depth in my piece that you haven’t read that is the result of over 10 years of reading up on the subject, and thinking about the subject, and researching the subject – which, before you ask, did indeed involve many conversations with Muslims including Imams and Sheikhs. If you are curious, go read the thing. If you are genuinely curious, I can give you a reading list of texts. But if you have only time for the 30 second summary: for the exact reason that Trump cannot listen to any criticism of himself – because if he starts to admit that he’s not the greatest, the best etc. the whole thing falls apart.

          • dndnrsn says:

            For someone who prefaces his whole article – which, yes, I have read, and I have heard of those things; I’m not some idiot ingenue who just wandered in; the Thirty Years War reduced German population by about a third or more which seems pretty bad – with a whole “I didn’t want to write this, I don’t want to believe this, but the truth led me here” spiel it’s kinda odd that you seem so dedicated to playing hole-in-the-bucket with everyone who brings up objections, especially when you’re strawmanning them aggressively and ignoring every objection you can’t map to a straw man.

            The 17th century isn’t “ancient Christianity” and it’s pretty rich you’re telling me to read an article about how to change my mind. Your ten years of research gave you this? OK, yeah, well, maybe the best part of a decade I spent getting a couple degrees in religious studies could possibly mean I know a teensy little bit about religion and its history?

            The fact that someone could read your article and disagree with it really doesn’t seem to sit right with you. You’re putting words in my mouth, strawmanning my objections (and consider that just because people have been making the same argument for a while doesn’t make those arguments wrong?), ignoring the objections you can’t strawman, and showing an ignorance of 100 or 200 level religious scholarship to boot – it’s not a secret that tying politics and religion together is a human norm and exceptions are the weird part; but everyone who starts talking about how Islam does this and that’s scary and unique proves they haven’t cracked a textbook. And you do the “oh well I guess we won’t get anywhere” shtick to cap it all off. This doesn’t seem like someone who wants to be be proven wrong, or to change their mind.

            If you were really desperate to not believe what you believe, as in your intro:

            For the last twelve years I have been following the subject of Islam and Jihad, and I hate every last minute that I have lost on this subject. I would like nothing more than to be utterly wrong about this subject, and have spent a great deal of the last twelve years trying to prove myself wrong.

            then even if everything I and several others here were saying was 100% nonsense, you’d have an incentive to believe it. You’d leap at the opportunity to say what I’m saying, which is “there’s some pretty messed up stuff in Islam right now, and there are really ugly periods in its history, but it’s not inherent, we can see the historical processes that led to the messed up stuff, we can see similar patterns in Christianity that went away, etc etc etc” – but you’re not behaving like someone who wants to be proven wrong.

            EDIT: I used to believe that Islam was scary in and of itself, then I went to university, got into religious studies, and saw that when you stacked up Islam and Christianity next to each other historically, they were similar enough that if you described them to an alien the alien would figure you were describing two somewhat different versions of the same thing. I managed to change my mind quite successfully. Don’t assume that because I haven’t changed my mind to what you want it to change to, that I don’t know how to change my mind.

          • Prussian says:

            even if everything I and several others here were saying was 100% nonsense, you’d have an incentive to believe it.

            I might wish a cancer diagnosis to be wrong; that doesn’t mean I’m going to start listening to faith healers.

            One example: you ask what could be as bad as the thirty years war today. I bring up some horrors being perpetrated today and you don’t even blink, don’t even consider saying Okay, I can see that that’s some pretty bad stuff, and I can see how you’d get where you are from looking at it… No, you just skip past that. So, sorry, I’m not buying your line that you’ve considered my arguments and found them wanting; I think you’ve found them discomforting and decided not to consider them.

            I’m going to pass over the aggressive line you take towards me, and focus on the key point here: even your counter-hypothesis admits the most important points of my case. Let’s say I agreed completely with this:

            “there’s some pretty messed up stuff in Islam right now, and there are really ugly periods in its history, but it’s not inherent, we can see the historical processes that led to the messed up stuff, we can see similar patterns in Christianity that went away, etc etc etc”

            Okay, so Islam has some ‘pretty messed up stuff now’ – slavery, genocide, white-hot fanaticism, the murder of blasphemers and apostates, the denial of rights of religious minorities etc. etc. There are really ugly bits in its history – more of the same. Christianity passed through a similar patterns – so we need to wait until Islam has half destroyed itself in a thirty years war updated with 21st century weapons and been subject to severe criticism and critique that brings its teachings in line with modernity.

            But, hey, it’s not innate! It’s from historical processes!

            Who cares? That’s cataclysmic all on its own.

            Notice how this thread got started? I was saying that Muslim influx into Europe meant that freedom of speech was being replaced with a situation where you can be murdered for criticising the religion. Notice, please, that no one even bothers to argue against that now – it’s just the reasons (islamic doctrine vs. historic processes etc.) that are being debated. Again, who cares?

            And what conceivable difference does this make in practice? You agree that Islam needs to liberalise, you agree that criticism is fundamental to that process, and you agree that that’s tricky because Muslim fanatics will kill those speaking out.

            Your only response is that Christians did bad things like that in the past. So goddamn what? How does that change the situation we face today?

            I’ve brought this point up at least four times in this thread already. You didn’t respond then and I doubt you’ll respond now.

            The only real difference is that I take the view that because of certain important differences in doctrine and history – and, yes, that means the historical process, that Islam doesn’t have centuries to reach an accommodation with modernity – Islam is more likely to implode than to liberalise.

            And that is a massive problem because it means that Muslim fanatics have nothing to lose.

            I try to find points of agreement, and when I can’t I try to let things lie. If you found that insulting, I’m sorry’ that was my only intention.

          • Prussian writes:

            I then invite you to look at Nihad Awad’s wiki page, where his support for HAMAS is well attested.

            As best I can tell, the closest thing to support for that on the Wiki page is:

            In a March 1994 speech at Barry University, future CAIR Executive Director Awad said in response to an audience question about the various humanitarian efforts in the Palestinian Occupied Territories, “I am in support of the Hamas movement more than the PLO… there are some [Hamas] radicals, we are not interested in those people.”[3][4] The statement was made before Hamas carried out its first suicide bombing and was designated a terrorist organization by the United States government.

            So twenty-four years ago, before CAIR was founded and before Hamas had engaged in terrorism, Awad said he preferred Hamas to the PLO.

          • I asked:

            Why do you assume that Islam is so much more fragile?

            Prussian replied:

            For reasons spelt out in great depth in my piece that you haven’t read that is the result of over 10 years of reading up on the subject, and thinking about the subject,

            Two responses:

            1. To your substantive claim

            If, as you claimed,

            What happens if this [neither apostasy nor criticism of the religion treated as capital offenses] becomes universally accepted across the muslim world? Well, people start speaking out, and then speaking out further, and ten years later, Islam becomes a footnote in history.

            Then Muslims in the U.S., where neither apostasy nor criticism of Islam is treated as a capital offense, should all have abandoned Islam by now. How does the fact that apostasy is still treated as a capital offense somewhere far away prevent that? Similarly for Muslims in India, who have been there for quite a long time under non-Muslim rule.

            2. To why I read only the beginning of your long post elsewhere.

            In the course of this thread, you have demonstrated that you are either deliberately dishonest or have serious difficulty distinguishing truth from falsity. You wrote:

            As regards stats, well, 52% of British Muslims want to see homosexuality criminalized, 100% want to see it outlawed.

            I pointed out evidence that the second part was false. You responded by claiming that other people could not read what you had written. In support of that you asserted evidence that 100% think homosexuality is morally unacceptable, ignoring the fact that what you wrote was “outlawed.” You also objected that other people would not follow up on your sources. A while later you discovered that your 100% unacceptable wasn’t in the source you claimed but in a different source.

            Later, you pointed at Wiki as evidence that the head of CAIR supported Hamas. What the Wiki piece actually said was that twenty-four years ago, before CAIR was founded and before Hamas became a terrorist organization, Awad said he preferred it to the PLO.

            I concluded that, in order to learn anything useful about the issues from what you wrote, I would have to read it on the assumption that claims you made were quite likely to be false, hence each of them had to be checked. I have more productive uses for my time.

            Short version: If you want reasonable people to spend time reading what you write you have to act in a way that demonstrates that what you write is likely to be worth reading. You don’t.

          • Prussian says:

            @DavidFriedman,

            Let me translate this:

            “He expressed support for the KKK before any lynchings”
            or
            “He expressed support for the NPD [that’s the German nazi party] but that was before there was any link between them and terrorism”

            But, once again, this is only a small part of the evidence against CAIR, as listed by people like the Anti-Defamation League. Let me guess, you couldn’t be bothered to read that link either.

            Since this has degenerated to the point of insults, and you accuse me of dishonesty, well, look in the mirror. Yes, in the course of a long line of responses, I mistyped “outlawed” instead of “unacceptable”. I acknowledged that and made the correction. However, you…

            You don’t read any of the evidence against your own case and you bring precious little evidence to the table, and you utterly distort any argument on the other side. I mean look at this:

            Then Muslims in the U.S., where neither apostasy nor criticism of Islam is treated as a capital offense, should all have abandoned Islam by now.

            You know perfectly well that my point isn’t that it is everywhere enshrined in law, but that Muslim fanatics will kill for blasphemy and apostasy. And, yeah, such attacks have happened in the US. But you quietly ignore that.

            So I’ll happily make the following offer to you & anyone: if I’m so wrong, it’ll be easy. If I’m so dishonest, you’ll be easily able to show it. So write a quick rebuttal showing where I’m wrong in the article, and I promise I’ll link to that rebuttal right at the top, and encourage anyone reading it to read those rebuttals first.

            But you won’t do that. You won’t do that because while you pompously assert:

            I have more productive uses for my time.

            That hasn’t stopped you from answering for days in this thread. So I know the real reason: you’re afraid that you won’t actually have any arguments. Well, I can sympathise – this truth sucks. But I am fed up with being insulted for trying my level best here.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I might wish a cancer diagnosis to be wrong; that doesn’t mean I’m going to start listening to faith healers.

            But what if your cancer diagnosis was a false positive?

            One example: you ask what could be as bad as the thirty years war today. I bring up some horrors being perpetrated today and you don’t even blink, don’t even consider saying Okay, I can see that that’s some pretty bad stuff, and I can see how you’d get where you are from looking at it… No, you just skip past that. So, sorry, I’m not buying your line that you’ve considered my arguments and found them wanting; I think you’ve found them discomforting and decided not to consider them.

            I think they’re about as bad; how you cut it depends on all sorts of other factors. Humans have never had much of a lack of reasons to behave badly towards each other. But the fact that you can point out situations where pretty much any group behaves badly, shows that you have to have a really high standard of proof to say “this group is extra-bad” especially when you seem to be saying it’s uniquely so.

            I also think you’re misjudging your audience. I’m not here because I want to believe what’s most convenient to me; what’s most convenient to me would be just repeating everything those in my immediate sphere believe, which is different from the vibe you get around here (although there are sacred cows and groupthink here too, so.)

            Okay, so Islam has some ‘pretty messed up stuff now’ – slavery, genocide, white-hot fanaticism, the murder of blasphemers and apostates, the denial of rights of religious minorities etc. etc. There are really ugly bits in its history – more of the same. Christianity passed through a similar patterns – so we need to wait until Islam has half destroyed itself in a thirty years war updated with 21st century weapons and been subject to severe criticism and critique that brings its teachings in line with modernity.

            Presumably, the question is “how can we get Islam through that quicker and more peacefully” – internal critique is more effective than external. People who aren’t Muslims need to find a way to enable the liberal, loosey-goosey Muslims. Doing stuff that will enable a siege mentality is the opposite of what will work.

            But, hey, it’s not innate! It’s from historical processes!

            Who cares? That’s cataclysmic all on its own.

            Notice how this thread got started? I was saying that Muslim influx into Europe meant that freedom of speech was being replaced with a situation where you can be murdered for criticising the religion. Notice, please, that no one even bothers to argue against that now – it’s just the reasons (islamic doctrine vs. historic processes etc.) that are being debated. Again, who cares?

            I’m just here objecting to the idea that there’s some inherent thing to Islam that isn’t there in some other religions. My area of focus in university was Christianity, and I was kind of bored by how similar Islam was when I covered it. The degree to which the authorities and general political culture in Europe are unwilling to protect freedom of speech is troubling, but that’s a problem that goes past Islam.

            And what conceivable difference does this make in practice? You agree that Islam needs to liberalise, you agree that criticism is fundamental to that process, and you agree that that’s tricky because Muslim fanatics will kill those speaking out.
            Your only response is that Christians did bad things like that in the past. So goddamn what? How does that change the situation we face today?

            If you’re arguing there’s something inherent in Islam, it absolutely matters, and it changes the situation today, because “dealing with something inherently bad” is a fundamentally different situation from “dealing with something fixable.”

            I’ve brought this point up at least four times in this thread already. You didn’t respond then and I doubt you’ll respond now.

            Because it’s irrelevant to the question of whether there’s something wrong with Islam inherently and uniquely. A lot of the things you seem to think are unique to Islam aren’t unique to Islam, or aren’t inherent, or both.

            The only real difference is that I take the view that because of certain important differences in doctrine and history – and, yes, that means the historical process, that Islam doesn’t have centuries to reach an accommodation with modernity – Islam is more likely to implode than to liberalise.

            And that is a massive problem because it means that Muslim fanatics have nothing to lose.

            Less doctrine and history, and more technology. If the Thirty Years’ War happened today, everywhere would be getting floods of starving German peasants. And there’s nukes. Etc. But stuff that puts the more moderate Muslims – not “moderate Muslims” like my buddies who think giving up booze for Ramadan makes them OK with the almighty, but people who are moderate by the standards of Muslims worldwide; ie, flamingly conservative by Western standards, but not violent maniacs – in a siege mentality puts them closer to the fanatics who have nothing to lose.

            I try to find points of agreement, and when I can’t I try to let things lie. If you found that insulting, I’m sorry’ that was my only intention.

            It’s not that I find it insulting. It’s that I think you’re missing some things that are not really about Islam but are about religious scholarship in general.

          • Prussian writes:

            Yes, in the course of a long line of responses, I mistyped “outlawed” instead of “unacceptable”. I acknowledged that and made the correction. However, you…

            Do you interpret your statement that started out “some people won’t even accurately read what I’ve written” as “I acknowledge that and made the correction”?

            To acknowledge that you made a mistake you do so by saying that you made a mistake, not by saying that other people won’t accurately read what you wrote.

            Let me translate this:
            “He expressed support for the KKK before any lynchings”

            If someone said that he supported the KKK more than he supported some other organization, twenty-four years ago before any lynchings and not since then, saying that his support for the KKK is well attested and using that as evidence about an organization he now heads which didn’t exist then would be misleading at best. Especially if the context of what he said was in response to a question about the KKK’s humanitarian activities.

            You know perfectly well that my point isn’t that it is everywhere enshrined in law, but that Muslim fanatics will kill for blasphemy and apostasy. And, yeah, such attacks have happened in the US.

            Is it your claim that if an American Muslim renounces Islam he can expect to be killed? There is an organization called “Ex-Muslims of North America.” They give public talks. How many of them have been killed so far?

            It it your claim that if an American, Muslim or otherwise, criticizes Islam he can expect to be killed? You have been criticizing Islam—anyone shot at you recently?

            So far as my using my time to criticize you, I have a strong distaste for dishonest or illogical arguments, especially here where the standards are usually higher than elsewhere online. Pointing out that you are saying things that are not true is a useful use of my time.

            I did not, incidentally, assert that you were dishonest. That’s one possible explanation of your behavior. The other is that you have serious difficulty distinguishing what you see from what you want to see, distinguishing truth from falsehood.

          • Prussian says:

            @David Friedman, I fully acknowledge the typo – when it was pointed out. Go and read back, you’ll find exactly that.

            Know what’s really funny about my “claim”? If you’d bothered to read my piece, you’d have found the claim in its correct form. That’s the kind of thing that intellectual honest will get you.

            But then you cite the existence of the Ex-Muslims of North America as proof that apostates aren’t persecuted or murdered in the US… Well, I know for a fact the sort of reception you’d get from them. Here’s Sarah Haider:

            “I know ex-Muslims who have no contact with their family at all – either for fear of physical abuse or retribution, or because the family have shunned them.”

            But here’s the bit where you decide to argue that this isn’t the same as a death sentence invariably – the same way that blacks weren’t invariably lynched in the South -, the same way that I could link the HAMAS Charter, and you’d ignore that, the same way you can’t be bothered to read the rest of the stuff on CAIR, or any of the many sources I’ve piled up. Your entire argument is “Ha, ha, you made a typo, therefore there’s no problem with the 52% of British Muslims who want homosexuality criminalised, the 34% who support violence against blasphemy etc. Sorry, being pompous doesn’t cover for being intellectually lazy and dishonest. I’m done with this exchange.

            Oh, and as to your question whether I feel worried about attack, there is a good reason I write with a pseudonym. There’s also a reason that I had to cut out my discussion of Islamic doctrine and its prophet in the piece, because my family begged me to do so.

          • Prussian says:

            @dnd,

            Okay, I’ll leave the discussion of Islamic doctrine and practice to the suggestion that you take a closer look at it, especially if your studies were focused on Christianity. If you have a moment, Lee Harris’ The Suicide Of Reason is one of the sharpest books I’ve ever read. Well worth a few hours.

            One thing I’d like to clear up is what you mean by internal vs external criticism. I maintain that external criticism is necessary because that is how Christianity became liberalised. It was the relentless pressure from the Enlightenment (external) that provided the impetus for Christians to come up with ways to reinterpret their texts in a way that was more in line with modernity. Does that seem a fair assessment to you?

          • I fully acknowledge the typo – when it was pointed out. Go and read back, you’ll find exactly that.

            I went back. Perhaps I missed something, but what I found is what I quoted–you complaining that other people were misreading you and then giving the revised version of your claim. If there was another post, one in which you apologized for making a typo that I missed, by all means quote it. I have searched the thread for “typo” and “100%” and failed to find anything that fits your description.

            But here’s the bit where you decide to argue that this isn’t the same as a death sentence invariably

            The piece you link to gives no examples of someone being killed for apostasy in the U.S. Zero. It describes some people getting a lot of pressure from their parents. That’s very much like the account one sees of problems that the children of fundamentalist Christian parents sometimes have. Or, for that matter, children who come out as gay.

            There is a very large difference between that and your claim.

            Your entire argument is “Ha, ha, you made a typo

            No. My argument is that you made a false statement and, when it was pointed out, you first accused those who pointed out that it was false of misreading you and then corrected it. You then claimed that a Wiki page supported your view on CAIR when what it actually said failed to support it.

            At that point I concluded that you were either deliberately dishonest or unable to distinguish what a source said from what you wanted it to say, hence that the fact you said something was not a reason to believe it was true. I concluded that reading a long essay by you and checking every factual claim in it was more work than it was likely to be worth.

            therefore there’s no problem with the 52% of British Muslims who want homosexuality criminalised, the 34% who support violence against blasphemy etc.

            Sodomy was a capital offense in England well into the 19th century and a criminal offense until 1967 (in Scotland until 1980). In the U.S. it was criminal everywhere until 1962, in some states until 2003. The fact that 52% of British Muslims want it criminalized is not in the least shocking.

            That a substantial minority of British Muslims think blasphemy should be punished is also not shocking. In England, the common law offenses of blasphemy and blasphemous libel were not abolished until 2008. The last U.S. conviction for blasphemy was in 1928.

          • Prussian says:

            Actually, @dnd, let’s make this symmetrical. I’ve been kicking suggested books your way; kick a few my way as well. I’m currently reading a lot of Christian apologia as an attempt to steelman Christianity, so I think this would fit right in.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Prussian

            Okay, I’ll leave the discussion of Islamic doctrine and practice to the suggestion that you take a closer look at it, especially if your studies were focused on Christianity. If you have a moment, Lee Harris’ The Suicide Of Reason is one of the sharpest books I’ve ever read. Well worth a few hours.

            It’s not that I doubt that there’s plenty of dicey stuff in Muslim scriptures, traditions, doctrines, whatever. My point is more that there’s plenty of parallel, historically, elsewhere. Islam isn’t uniquely scary or whatever. Now, right now, the situation has less wiggle room than there was back when Christianity was shaking itself out. But that’s not really because of Islam in and of itself.

            One thing I’d like to clear up is what you mean by internal vs external criticism. I maintain that external criticism is necessary because that is how Christianity became liberalised. It was the relentless pressure from the Enlightenment (external) that provided the impetus for Christians to come up with ways to reinterpret their texts in a way that was more in line with modernity. Does that seem a fair assessment to you?

            The various enlightenment critics were not entirely outsiders – few of them were raised as atheists, agnostics, deists, etc. They were almost certainly better versed in the Bible than most believing Christians are today. They occupied a position different from non-Muslims criticizing Islam. To some extent, they occupied a position different from ex-Muslims, also – while the latter get the Muslim context, etc, they’re easily read as pandering to non-Muslims.

            The enlightenment was certainly key in Christianity liberalizing. However, as much as reinterpretation is an issue, reinterpreting things wasn’t new. The study of the Bible’s composition was, I think, equally important – knowing how the sausages were made, so to speak, changed the way a lot of people saw the Bible. A lot of liberal Christianity really depends on being able to say “actually, these weren’t the literal words spoken by Jesus” and various things along those lines. However, this is what I studied, so my version of it is going to probably lionize the critical scholars a bit more than necessary.

            I’ve been kicking suggested books your way; kick a few my way as well. I’m currently reading a lot of Christian apologia as an attempt to steelman Christianity, so I think this would fit right in.

            Bart Ehrman’s early Christian writings textbook (The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings) is extremely good, and I think it puts a lot of things into focus – primarily, the explanation of how religion and politics were tied together in the ancient world puts in perspective that we (“we” being Westerners who divide the world into secular and religious) are the weird ones. He was a fundamentalist initially, which makes his perspective interesting. It’s one of the few textbooks I’d actually recommend as a book. Plus, it’s easy to find, and if you want to buy a copy students are constantly selling their used copies. I also used John Collins’ Introduction to the Hebrew Bible for, obviously, the Hebrew Bible bits of what I was studying. Not as great as Ehrman’s book, but I think it does a very good job of balancing its various tasks (it’s dealing with a lot more material than Ehrman’s book is). Toss in a good study bible by a reputable publisher in the NRSV version – the NRSV tends to scare away fundie types. I used the New Oxford Annotated version with the apocrypha.

            For histories of Christianity after, say, the second century, I’d just see what the closest good university uses for whatever their “introduction to world Christianity” or whatever course. Then mine that for references to get to the sources it uses so you can read about whenever/wherever in more depth: I’m usually disappointed with books that try to cover the whole world and 2000 years of Christianity. I’d also see what they’re using for a history of India – not about Christianity, but it puts a lot in perspective especially with regard to Islam.

          • Prussian says:

            It’s not that I doubt that there’s plenty of dicey stuff in Muslim scriptures, traditions, doctrines, whatever.

            Not quite what I was getting at. Not wishing to get back into the weeds here, but I’m thinking of structural aspects. If I had to pick one it’s that Christianity starts as apolitical – “My kingdom is not of this world” – and makes its accommodation with worldly power, only later becoming powerful. Islam began as a political project, whether you accept the canonical version of its beginnings, or, what is seeming more likely, the idea that Islam began properly in the ninth century. The book to read here is In The Shadow Of The Sword by Tom Holland. Again, Harris is really good on that.

            Speaking of another Harris, ironically, our discussion of how technology is changing the game – and not in a good way – was a subject of Sam Harris’ podcast.

            Speaking of books – thanks for those references. That’s another stack of thick books to add to my reading list 🙂 Have you read any of the Pope Benedict’s works on Christ? They look interesting.

            I think I’ve recommended all the books I can think of – I’d just again mention Andrew Bostom’s books, The Legacy of Jihad, The Legacy of Islamic Antisemtism and Sharia vs Freedom. He’s one of the half dozen or so essential authors to absorb on this subject.

            N.B.: If you can recommend any authors specifically arguing against my case on Islam, I’d be very interested. I could only really find Doug Saunders, and he’s a shoddy arguer.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Not quite what I was getting at. Not wishing to get back into the weeds here, but I’m thinking of structural aspects. If I had to pick one it’s that Christianity starts as apolitical – “My kingdom is not of this world” – and makes its accommodation with worldly power, only later becoming powerful. Islam began as a political project, whether you accept the canonical version of its beginnings, or, what is seeming more likely, the idea that Islam began properly in the ninth century. The book to read here is In The Shadow Of The Sword by Tom Holland. Again, Harris is really good on that.

            Check out Ehrman’s book – Jewish apocalypticism at the time Jesus was around (most scholars agree he was an apocalypticist) and therefore early Christian apocalypticism is a bit different from the later Christian apocalypticism. It’s a bit much to go into, but it would still be understood as political by people at the time – including, say, Roman governors. Not political like “let’s try to take over the world here and now”, maybe more anti-political, but I wouldn’t say it would have been understood as apolitical.

            Speaking of books – thanks for those references. That’s another stack of thick books to add to my reading list 🙂 Have you read any of the Pope Benedict’s works on Christ? They look interesting.

            Honestly, modern theology isn’t my bag. My interest back when I was in school was critical study of the texts and the weird-but-extremely-cool story of how a minor Jewish peasant religious leader, executed by an imperial occupier, came to be the central figure of what would go on to become one of the world’s major religions. 1st, 2nd century.

            N.B.: If you can recommend any authors specifically arguing against my case on Islam, I’d be very interested. I could only really find Doug Saunders, and he’s a shoddy arguer.

            Isn’t Saunders mostly writing in a Canadian context? European and Canadian (North American, really) experiences of Muslim immigration are extremely different. People who appeal to one to discuss the other are being either ignorant or disingenous – they’re not really comparable.

      • You may disagree with his views on immigration, but then you don’t live in a country which has a de-facto death penalty for blasphemy and is slowly decriminalizing rape

        I live in the UK too, and I didn’t exactly recognise it form the description.

        • Prussian says:

          I’m sure you’ve arranged your affairs to carefully not notice anything about, say, the serial rape in Rotherham, the plight of Yezidi refugees etc.

          • I also didn’t notice the no-go zone in Birmingham. You need facts that are factual, and you are not going to get them from right-wing US sources, They have a record of being insanely, surreally inaccurate.

            Rotherham

            FYI, someone mentions the fact that no-one mentions Rotherham at least once a week round here.

          • Prussian says:

            You don’t look at the facts present and you don’t engage honestly with what little you do read. As I said, I’m done.

          • Do you have sources that are European and are not far right?

          • Prussian says:

            Proving neatly that you haven’t read any of the sources I listed.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            … Rotherham …

            What *I* keep noticing, especially from Blues, is that when Rotherham is brought up, nobody wants to talk about how the local government, local law enforcement, and local child protective services actively covered it up until forced not to, and nobody wants to address why they did.

            You all are going on and on about “will Islam liberalize” and “you are just a hateful bigot islamophobe” and none of you will touch that particular topic. That particular topic is the real problem, the real embarrassment, and the real threat to civilization.

            So have at it, someone. I dare you. I dare you again. Steelman that!

          • Prussian says:

            @Mark,

            Well, it’s painfully obvious why they didn’t. They were scared of being called racist and islamophobe and the rest of this crap. They were more worried about political retaliation from Muslims than about the girls.

            That’s what I mean when I say that rape is being decriminalized in the UK/.

          • Brad says:

            Rotherham is a fourth tier city in a country across the ocean and your referencing something that happened there ending half a dozen years ago.

            There’s a weird tendency on the conservative side of online debates to get obsessed with incidents or stories and never let go for years and years. Waco and Benghazi are two other examples.

            People aren’t scared to debate you. You’re just tiresome.

          • Matt M says:

            I might be with you on Rotherham and Benghazi, but Waco is very much still worth debating, given that the conservative position on it is “The government slaughtered some 100 or so people, including women and children, for no valid reason, then patted itself on the back for doing so.”

            If that’s even plausibly true, it deserves to not be forgotten.

            I mean, the left still talks about Kent State as if it was just yesterday, and that’s an order of magnitude less serious than Waco is, and happened 50 years ago…

          • Protagoras says:

            @Matt M, If Waco had happened a year earlier, when Bush Sr. was still president, you’d see plenty of liberal outrage about it, and conservatives would never mention it. Since it happened during the Clinton presidency, it’s liberals who don’t like to talk about it, but I assure you I know plenty of liberals who don’t approve of how the FBI and ATF handled that situation. It’s really unfortunate that it is like that, as it shouldn’t be a partisan issue (unless you believe, as seems very unlikely to me, that nothing similar could have happened under a Republican administration), but everything seems to end up that way in politics.

          • Brad says:

            Do people talk about Kent State as something we should draw some lessons from today? Or mention it as evidence of anything today?

            If it’s Kent State, that happened, it’s not quite the same thing as Waco and the right.

          • Prussian says:

            Rotherham is a fourth tier city in a country across the ocean and your referencing something that happened there ending half a dozen years ago.

            Except that it didn’t – “grooming” gangs are still in operation. This is hardly the only UK town where such Muslim rape gangs operate. And it isn’t confined to the UK, or even just ‘grooming’ gangs. Mass sexual assault on New Years? The ritual gang rape in France, known as “les tournantes”?

            This is what you get when you let Islam into your society.

          • Brad says:

            I live near a large concentration of Bengali Muslims that have been in the neighborhood since the 1970s. There’s a mosque across the street. We have no problems.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        1. Blaspheme Islam.

        2. Get sent to prisons full of Muslim gangs.

        3. Mysteriously die in jail with no details provided.

        Just sayin’, watch what you say about Islam in the UK. If it’s sufficiently unflattering to Allah or his Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) you may wind up dead, and no one in the UK government will care because you got what you deserved, blasphemer. Sounds like a de-facto death penalty for blasphemy to me.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Exactly this.
          When I threw off my parents’s Christianity as a teenager, I identified progressives with the Enlightenment. It was fairly trivial for the likes of Voltaire to conclude that, if Christianity was false, so was Islam. Intellectuals were supposed to be open-minded enough to examine whether atheism, deism, or one of the other world religions was true (it became something of a cliche in the late 18th century to treat Confucianism as true – Samuel Johnson complained about intellectuals treating Chinese as happily ruled by philosopher-kings and Africans as completely bad).
          Yeah, no. Ever since they gave up on the Soviet Union, the Left has followed Foucault in preferring Islam to all other religions. A pox on them for that, and on their right-of-center fellow travelers. I’ll never vote for anyone who isn’t at least as skeptical of Islam as Donald Trump.

          • Prussian says:

            That is pretty much my intellectual evolution, right there.

          • the Left has followed Foucault in preferring Islam to all other religions.

            What, even Buddhism? How many of the left have taken the Shahada? You really need to think about what you are saying.

          • azhdahak says:

            It’s not that leftists are lining up to convert to Islam. Some do convert, but the bigger problem is that no one takes it seriously — it’s seen as exotic foreign kitsch, like Joe Monolingual-Fourth-Generation’s Catholicism but cooler because not from whiteyland. It’s not seen as a worldview that people sincerely believe in and act in accordance with.

        • jumpinjacksplash says:

          I’m not saying for a moment that the UK has USA-style free speech, but you’d have to say something relatively extreme about Islam, either to a Muslim or through a megaphone, to even get prosecuted, and it would be pretty extreme to get a prison sentence even then. It does happen, but it happens rarely enough to be newsworthy when it does.

          • Matt M says:

            A british man was once arrested for a karaoke performance of “Kung Fu Fighting”

          • rlms says:

            I’d much rather live in a country where the police once arrested someone due to a bogus racial abuse charge* than one where they choked someone to death for possibly selling loose cigarettes.

            *Although I don’t think this is a good example of the British police being silly regarding free speech anyway

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I’d much rather live in a country where the police once arrested someone due to a bogus racial abuse charge* than one where they choked someone to death for possibly selling loose cigarettes.

            I would prefer the opposite, because it’s entirely possible I say things that might get me arrested in the UK on a daily basis (and post some of those things to this website!) but my chance of encountering police while selling looseys is zero.

          • rlms says:

            Some people care about others.

          • Prussian says:

            May I be the hopeless Utopian here and dream of a country where people aren’t arrested for signing pop songs and also are not choked to death for stealing a pack of cigarettes?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Do you care about fellow countrymen imprisoned for their speech?

          • Prussian says:

            I just said that I did.

        • spkaca says:

          From that last link:
          an independent investigation was under way
          And nothing is ever heard again about it. One might assume the authorities are very uninterested in finding out what happened.
          a de-facto death penalty for blasphemy
          They didn’t kill him. They just put him in a place where he might die easily.

          • Iain says:

            The investigation is ongoing:

            A pre-inquest review into his death in Horfield Prison is set to be heard in April, the Bristol Post understands, with a full inquest at the end of the year.

            (Also, if “one guy dies in prison” is our new standard for a de-facto death penalty, then wow, do I have some bad news for you. Nudist? Death penalty!)

    • – Pro-Brexit
      – Pro-free trade
      – Against Britain getting involved in Syria
      – Anti-immigration
      – Skeptical of global warming
      – Opposed to gay marriage

      – In favour of welfare cuts.

      I don’t think political realities will allow him to turn the UK into some white-only, Christian-only place, but they will allow him to implement stiff that makes ATOS, UC , and the bedroom tax look like the milk of human kindness.

      • Prussian says:

        I don’t think political realities will allow him to turn the UK into some white-only, Christian-only

        Straw man. As I said, not a trace of honest engagement.

      • spkaca says:

        I don’t think political realities will allow him to turn the UK into some white-only, Christian-only place
        Do you assume that is what he wants? If so, you are not taking issue with the actual man but with your caricature of what a conservative politician must be.

        • Do you assume that is what he wants? If

          Quite possibly not. The real mystery is what ThePrussian wants, since he is much more inclined to complain about being misunderstood than offer explanations.

          Maybe he really is happy with the human umbrella’s offer of

          1. No more muslim immigration.

          2. Do nothing about existing muslims….

          3. …except halfway agree with them about the gays.

  27. John Schilling says:

    Regarding the Google Lunar X-Prize, the critical factor in its demise was I believe the lack of a viable launch option. At the time the prize was announced, SpaceX was offering the Falcon 1 small launch vehicle for something like $6 million per launch, and without years of paperwork and planning. That’s not out of reach of someone trying for a $20 million prize, though even at that level it does mean an uncomfortable fraction of the total effort is “try to raise funding to buy a big rocket” and an uncomfortable fraction of the risk is “hope five years of your life doesn’t blow up on someone else’s rocket over which you have no control”.

    But Falcon 1 was discontinued in 2009, and from that point until now there hasn’t really been a space launch vehicle available for less than $20 million unless you have a government doing you favors. A number of rockets have been under development to fill that niche, and the previously-cited Electron was the first to make it to orbit, but too late for Google’s patience given that the original deadline had been pushed back six years already.

    The other option would have been to fly as a secondary payload on someone else’s launch, say a communications satellite going to a geostationary transfer orbit. I looked into that myself when I briefly considered trying to organize a bid, and I believe a few of the other teams did likewise, but the secondary payload opportunities are pretty tight on mass (160 kg absolute limit in the case I was looking at) and perhaps more importantly, rather paranoid about having someone else’s amateur-built high-energy propulsion system bolted right next to their paying customer’s half-billion-dollar communications satellite.

    • bean says:

      So it’s Elon Musk’s fault? Cool. I can live with that.

      Re the Electron, were you as werided out as I was about the electrical pump system? I’ve seen some of the math, but it still sounds wrong.

      And why am I not surprised that you looked at putting together a team for the prize?

      • John Schilling says:

        On the one hand, Elon did kind of sort of promise to sell cheap Falcon 1 rides to GLXP contestants. On the other hand, keeping a unique rocket in production costs serious money, and was orthogonal to Elon’s long-term goals, and AFIK none of the contestants were actually buying or even ordering Falcons in 2008-2009. And he only kind of sort of promised the cheap Falcon 1 rides, so I’m not going to fault him for losing patience earlier than Google did.

        As for the Electron, it’s weird but, in hindsight, in a why-didn-I-think-of-that sort of way. Consider pressure-fed rockets. Those are kind of marginal for orbital launch, but were used in e.g. the upper stage of the Delta II. In a pressure-fed rocket, all the energy to push the propellant into the engine comes from compressed gas. In Electron, all the energy to push the propellant into the engine comes from a lithium-polymer(?) battery. If you need a lot of energy but you don’t want to deal with the hassles of a combustion engine(*), what’s your go-to answer? A tank of compressed gas, or a really good battery?

        There are cars that run on compressed air, but they are not operationally useful, whereas battery-powered cars, very much are.

        * OK, the rocket itself is a combustion engine, but a second combustion engine just to run the fuel pump for the first combustion engine starts getting tricky.

        • Electric pumps have advantages in simplicity and having rapid and precise throttling. The former is what Rocket Lab is looking for but I wonder if the later could be really useful in the future for people trying to, e.g., land fairly heavy vehicles on the Moon’s surface.

        • gbdub says:

          My gut sense is that electric pumps probably trade well against small combustion-driven turbopumps for the relatively small engines on Electron (only 5,400 lbf at sea level). They are highly energy-efficient, for one, and mechanically much simpler. And they will work much better than pressure fed engines in this thrust level.

          But as you get bigger the weight penalty is going to be huge – the pump motors are 50HP each, two per engine, 9 engines on S1 – so I doubt Rocket Labs will be able to scale up much without going the traditional route. Combustion driven turbopumps are more complex, but they are more scalable and have the advantage of running on fuel you already have a big tank of. And you can use the turbopump exhaust for useful stuff if you want to buy back some efficiency.

  28. cmurdock says:

    This is what Tasmanian sounded like.

  29. rahien.din says:

    Rylander describes a burglar who started punding, and could not stop, even though he was suffering from an increasing apprehension of being caught.”

    Wait what? Does meth turn you into a vampire?

  30. rlms says:

    Man somehow unaware Jacob Rees-Mogg is a massive bellend

    The most interesting part of the the original article was the the JRM quote “you alleviate poverty by trickle-down economics” — the first time I’ve seen an advocate for it call it such.

    • albertborrow says:

      I thought trickle-down economics was the common term? It’s what they used in my high-school and college classes in the United States, anyway.

      • baconbits9 says:

        Trickle down economics was the political term used by the opposition to deride the tax breaks.

      • It’s what they used in my high-school and college classes in the United States, anyway.

        Were “they” arguing in favor of it or describing it as a bad argument used by other people?

        As best I can tell, it originated with people attributing it to their opponents and is usually used that way. If you wanted to argue in favor of the idea you would surely choose a word other than “trickle”

    • Iain says:

      The Trump administration has used it occasionally. See here, for example.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      I was suspicious that maybe they’d made it up, but it is from here at 2:17.

  31. Douglas Knight says:

    Related to a discussion from a while ago: update in the field of sexual-orientation-detecting neural networks replicates that they are clearly more accurate than humans in using faces to guess whether or not people are gay. Their claim that, given five images, they can detect gay men with 91% accuracy seems unbelievable; waiting to hear further research.

    This is, in fact, the same paper, now published, previously causing a media storm as a preprint. 91% AOC for men using 5 images was the original claim.

  32. jimrandomh says:

    From the low-fat vs low-carb study:

    In the HLF vs HLC diets, respectively, the mean 12-month macronutrient distributions were 48% vs 30% for carbohydrates, 29% vs 45% for fat, and 21% vs 23% for protein.

    Meanwhile on the Wikipedia page for low-carbohydrate diet:

    The term “low-carbohydrate diet” is generally applied to diets that restrict carbohydrates to less than 20% of caloric intake

    So they botched it; either they weren’t instructing participants to actually follow a low-carbohydrate diet, or the participants didn’t comply.

    • Anon. says:

      Is there a reason to believe there’s a threshold effect at 20%?

      • Cheese says:

        At 20% as a number? Not necessarily.

        But yeah there’s a vague level at which you might expect ketogenesis to become a significant factor. Your problem is going to be ‘is that real world feasible’ though. IMHO it would border on a no on both taste, time and cost grounds.

        Also they were actually interested in looking at genetic profile effects to, so in many respects it’s actually a good thing that they didn’t kick the low carb people onto a ketogenic diet because that might very well have eliminated any chance they had of teasing out subtle genetic effects in the normal diet range.

        So really I think this criticism is a touch lazy and unwarranted. It’s useful data.

    • Cheese says:

      Yeah that rankled me a touch as well.

      However, a lot of your consideration in designing these studies has to be ‘what is actually realistic, palatable and (extending to post study external validity) realistic for joe bloggs to do’. Indeed, from the study:

      “Then individuals slowly added fats or carbohydrates back to their diets in increments of 5 to 15 g/d per week until they reached the lowest level of intake they believed could be maintained indefinitely”

      There are merits to this approach over the standard ‘we delivered pre-formed meal packs containing X amount of calories’. It’s perhaps less rigorous in terms of teasing out an actual biological difference, but it is most likely superior in deciding ‘is this an actual public health measure that will be a useful message to put out’. Which has been a pretty specific failing of nutrition science over the years.

      So botched it? Nah not at all. Would love to see someone take down a bit further though.

  33. Zeno says:

    Correction:

    Related: congratulations to Trinity College in Connecticut, the first US college to break the $70,000/year tuition barrier. $100K or bust!

    Trinity College is not actually the first US college to break the $70k barrier, it is the first Connecticut college to do so. Here is NYU for example . Also, it should be noted that the $70,000 price is not tutition, but total cost including room, board, and other fees.

  34. m1el says:

    > Also, am I just pattern-matching, or do a suspicious number of unrelated languages use some version of “mina” to mean “me”?

    I *think* there are several languages that use some version of “mi” / “mina” to mean “my” / “mine”.

    For example, in Russian the word for “me” is “я” [ya] or old form “азъ” [az]. “mine” is “мой” [moy] (one of three gendered forms; they all use the same root).

    As a counter-example, in Japanese “me” has many forms all without any relation to “mina”, and “mine” is constructed from “me” using particle “の” [no] as a possession indicator. And “皆” [minna] means “everyone”.

    • vV_Vv says:

      I *think* there are several languages that use some version of “mi” / “mina” to mean “my” / “mine”.

      It’s common to Indo-European languages, which include English and Russian but not Japanese.

      As for Palawa kani, the similarity of the first-person personal pronoun to the Indo-European pronouns seems accidental, since the other pronouns don’t match.

      • azhdahak says:

        First-person pronouns in m- and second-person pronouns in t- are common in Eurasia — they appear in Indo-European, Uralic, Turkic, Mongolic, Tungusic, Yukaghir, Chukotko-Kamchatkan, Eskimo-Aleut, and (with palatalization) Nivkh.

        But Turkic originally had b- in the first-person pronoun, and this became -n before a following nasal, such as the nasal in all oblique forms of the first-person pronoun — and Mongolic and Tungusic all show this same b-/m- alternation, so they probably borrowed the first-person pronoun from Turkic.

        My guess is that at least one of Indo-Uralic and Uralo-Yukaghir will eventually be demonstrated, but that Turkic, Mongolic, and Tungusic aren’t related to Indo-European, Uralic, Yukaghir, or each other. (Also, Burushaski is probably related to Northeast Caucasian and probably unrelated to Basque, there are probably Australian languages that are related to Dravidian, and Proto-Sino-Tibetan probably looked a hell of a lot less like the classical ST languages than everyone thinks but that’s where the streetlight is.)

    • b_jonas says:

      See also http://wals.info/chapter/137 and http://wals.info/chapter/136 about pronouns in various languages, with a large collection of data with citations about many languages.

  35. Brett says:

    In the vein of that Marginal Revolution link on driverless trucks, there’s this interesting piece from Virginia Postrel at Bloomberg about the use of labor-saving technology in cotton harvesting, and why it took decades to fully implement. It was a similar kind of story, about having to get tons of things changed and right so that the machines could be cost-effectively used.

    Unfortunately, the lives of many of the cotton pickers didn’t turn out well from it (not that they had great lives to begin with).

    I wonder if the same story is at work in textiles. Textiles are so labor-intensive that they were some of the first industries to get outsourced, then outsourced again. That should make them a prime target for additional labor-saving machinery, but instead progress seems rather slow beyond the labor-saving machinery that’s been developed over the past 200+ years.

    • Murphy says:

      Most of the textile production cycle was automated but it hit a bit of a wall once additional automation would require modeling the exact elasticity and other properties of cloth in combination with fine manipulation of the cloth. Though in a few more years we might see that hurdle crossed.

      • Doesntliketocomment says:

        I remember not very long ago seeing attempts at cloth-folding robots. It is a surprisingly hard task.

    • Deiseach says:

      Textiles are so labor-intensive that they were some of the first industries to get outsourced, then outsourced again. That should make them a prime target for additional labor-saving machinery

      I really should look this up but I’m going on very vague memories that after the Industrial Revolution, it was cheaper to import cotton, weave cloth in the Manchester mills, and sell that cloth in India (paisley patterns being an Anglicisation of Indian patterned cloth) than what had previously happened which was importing Indian-woven cloth. I think (again, not sure) that this had a bad effect on the Indian textile trade (imported machine-woven cloth was cheaper than small scale hand-weavers could compete with, so not alone did it hit the export trade, it hit the home market for native goods) but don’t quote me on that.

  36. onyomi says:

    Interestingly, Reddit’s “one weird trick to cure tinnitus” is also a Chinese qigong (Daoist/Chinese Yoga) technique called “ringing clear the heavenly drum,” the purpose of which was never entirely clear to me (not saying the purpose IS a tinnitus cure, just noting that more than one group of people have found this seemingly random act beneficial somehow).

    • Tarhalindur says:

      Huh. I’ve been suspicious for a while that magic and spirituality in general falls under the metis category; qigong definitely falls in that category, so this looks like another data point for that hypothesis. That’s not to say that there’s no bullshit involved in magic/spirituality, quite the opposite – that’s par for the course with metis even before you get bullshit artists involved, and at least in the West you’ve got quite a few centuries of avoiding getting burned at the stake on top of that. There might be another factor giving the occult a higher bullshit factor on top of that – from what I’ve looked at, some of the occult seems to be a metis version of psy-ops, which would imply a higher-than-usual risk of outright disinformation.

      (Another example of the hypothesis: From what I can tell, the traditional occult concept of the astral plane and memetics are pointing towards the same elephant.)

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Anyone with tinnitus give this a shot? I’ve tried twice today and nothing.

      Possibly relevant: my tinnitus is the result of idiopathic sudden sensorineural hearing loss. Based on the explanation, I would not have expected this to work, but several people in the reddit thread said it DID work for them, curiosity demanded I experiment on myself.

      • Nornagest says:

        Tried it, no luck.

        My tinnitus is probably thanks to trauma — a few years ago I lost an eardrum to a sparring match. It grew back over a few weeks, but my hearing’s only back to about 90% on that side, and the tinnitus developed a few months later.

      • Pablo Stafforini says:

        It works for me. But it took me a while to learn how to do it properly. I’ve found tapping with my index and middle fingers together, at a speed of ~10 taps per second (five taps with each hand), to be most effective. The longer I do it for, the longer the silence lasts afterwards, though a minimum of maybe 100 taps is needed for there to be any silence at all.

        Note that this technique was discussed in an earlier open thread.

  37. grendelkhan says:

    Hey, thank you for mentioning SB 827! I’ve been writing a series of nearly-weekly posts on it over on the subreddit (see here, here, here, here), and if you live in California and are interested in these issues, please call your state Senator! (Especially if you live in the southern part of Silicon Valley; the Senator there, Jim Beall, is the head of the Housing and Transportation committee.)

    There’s a widget which will auto-call your Senator and connect you to them at:

    https://cayimby.org/call/

    If you’d like to try and move the needle on the issue, make the call and send the link around!

    (If you need boo-outgroup motivation, read about this “historic” laundromat; if you’d like some interesting quantitative details, here’s a good post on those.)

  38. RC-cola-and-a-moon-pie says:

    Rees-Mogg participated in an entertaining interview with the character Ali G on the latter’s eponymous television show, I believe (if I have the right Rees-Mogg). It’s still available on YouTube for those who haven’t seen it.

    • Douglas Knight says:
    • Tarpitz says:

      It is.

      What struck me watching the clip for the first time since it aired is that the two men were born only a couple of years apart in the same part of London (probably the same hospital), both attended leading private schools and went on to Oxford and Cambridge respectively to read history, both of them taking 2:1s.

      It might as well be Newsnight.

  39. Well... says:

    Sort of wonder if closer examination would reveal [Hamilkin] to consist entirely of eight very vocal twelve-year olds, three schizophrenics, several thousand trolls pretending to believe it for the lolz, and a bunch of writers exaggerating it for clicks

    Never heard of Hamilkin before today, but there are other groups I wonder this about.

    • Aapje says:

      SSCkin here. I identify as David Friedman.

      • Well... says:

        I don’t know if we’ve talked about this here before, but seriously, what do people here think of furries and otherkin?

        • Nornagest says:

          Furries have a weird hobby, no question, but judging from those I’ve met the fandom’s no more irrational on average than, say, Trekkies. I’ve never met any otherkin.

        • johan_larson says:

          Let me check the “that’s weird” box. I mean, on the one hand I firmly believe in civility even when dealing with people I strongly disagree with, and I also believe in the right of people to live their lives as they choose. But on the other gripping hand, if you insist that you are something you very clearly are not, in more than metaphorical terms, I don’t see why you have a claim on me for more than grudging tolerance.

          • Nornagest says:

            Eh, I think that aspect of the fandom’s been exaggerated. No doubt there are a few people out there who genuinely think they’ve got the spirit of a blue-furred bipedal wolf in raver pants or whatever, but I’ve never met one, and I’ve run into a lot of furries. Most of them just like funny animals.

            That’s not to say that the fandom doesn’t have some weird habits, but you could say the same for SF fans, Burners, or rationalists.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I got mixed up with some furries on the internet when I was 14. Weirdly enough, all but two were girls, and they didn’t take their fursona as anything more than some sort of metaphor. At most it was a Jungian aspect (one of the guys had a panther who was a talking libido, and one girl seemed to use her dinosaur as a persona to distance her human self from getting hit on).

          • Aapje says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            What does a talking libido say? Sexually explicit statements?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Aapje: Yes.

        • cassander says:

          That depends entirely on whether or not they are demanding I treat them differently than other people because of whatever status they are claiming. And “treat them differently” includes using unusual terms of address.

        • Aapje says:

          @Well…

          Furries generally seem to just like dressing up as animals, with some having a fetish for people dressed up like that; but they generally don’t seem believe that they are animals, so it’s not in the same category as trans or -kin.

          I also don’t particularly care as long as they fur around with consenting furries.

          Otherkin can be linked to autism, as some people with autism feel inhuman and thus can feel kinship with fictional entities that are more akin to them than actual humans (or that allow them to project their own traits onto the fictional entity).

          It might also be caused by overactive imagination, excessive spirituality and/or mental illness.

          Whether it is generally a healthy coping mechanism that makes it easier to cope with reality or something that does the opposite, is not something I can answer.

        • John Schilling says:

          I’m solidly with XKCD on furries. Otherkin, OTOH, are wrong on the facts in ways that I’m not going to indulge. But if I’m not sure which side of the furry/otherkin border they fall, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

        • Bugmaster says:

          Personally I’m not even convinced that sincere adherents of either lifestyle even exist; at least, not in any significant numbers. Sure, there may be a few true believers as per the Lizardman’s Constant, but the rest appear to be trolls. I could be persuaded that Furries at least are to some extent real (seeing as they hold conventions and trash hotels and such), but I’m highly skeptical of Otherkin.

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah, I think these are the “weird” versions of the dynamic we discussed above with neo-nazis and satanists. Just that rather than solving for “what can I do to offend people most” they’re solving for “what can I do to weird people out most?”

        • Protagoras says:

          The furries I know are just some more weird people alongside the countless other weird people I know. I don’t know any otherkin.

  40. vV_Vv says:

    New meta-analysis: no evidence mindfulness works for anything. I suspect this is true the way it’s commonly practiced and studied (“if you’re feeling down, listen to this mindfulness tape for five minutes a day!”), less true for more becoming-a-Buddhist-monk-level stuff.

    The point of becoming a monk is setting yourself apart from the ordinary life that common people live, with all its stressors, and instead join a highly structured, collectivized enviornment. Whether you meditate about Jhānas or pray to Jesus probably doesn’t make much difference, its the monastic life that does.

  41. Kevin Carlson says:

    From the last few paragraphs of the Buddhists are terrified of death paper:

    None of the participants we studied were long-term meditators…

    Er, what? Did they recruit a bunch of brand new monks who know the doctrinally correct answers about no-self but haven’t actually meditated before?

  42. Harry Maurice Johnston says:

    My immediate reaction to the pro-housing bill is to worry that the water supply might not always be able to keep up with the increase in housing; does it address this issue at all? Or is there some other reason why it isn’t actually likely to be a problem?

    (Granted that there doesn’t seem to be an inherent shortage, the water still needs to be piped from where it is found to where it is needed, treated, and distributed, and increasing the total capacity of a given town or city takes time and money. On the face of it, if it comes down to a race between local government building new capacity and property developers using it up, well, local government is always going to be outnumbered, not to mention outfunded.)

    • poipoipoi says:

      My basic response to this is that all the *outflow* from the Bay Area and California in general has been going to Reno, Vegas, and Phoenix, places that make the California water and energy (Ye gods, the A/C) question look simple.

      • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

        I’m not sure of the relevance? Presumably Reno, Vegas, and Phoenix have all been able to use zoning to limit the rate at which the population could grow to a manageable level – or didn’t need to, if the inflow was low enough or there was already plenty of slack. Is there some relationship I’m not seeing between the recent outflow rate and the maximum possible growth rate if zoning restrictions were removed?

    • tg56 says:

      Water’s pretty much a non-issue for this. People in dense housing just don’t use very much water. To the extent that, say, apartment buildings replace single family houses on landscaped 1/2 acre / acre lots in silicon valley it may actually reduce water consumption… Landscaping uses a lot of water.

      But even ignoring that, say 1,000,000 people are added in apartment buildings near transit as a result of this bill (feels quite a success for it). 50 gallons / per person / per day is pretty reasonable estimate of what people in modern built (efficient fixtures, no leaks etc.) apartment buildings without significant landscaping in CA use. That works out to only ~56,000 acre feet per a year not accounting for any displaced landscaping usage. 10’s of millions of acre feet flow through the CA water system each year for agricultural and residential use. It’s literally a rounding error. The bay area (the most housing short area) has significantly more slack than that in it’s water system thanks to recent conservation efforts, growth in recycled water usage and the fairly recent development of ground water resources / banking (done mostly as a hedge against earthquake triggered supply disruptions).

      • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

        I’m more concerned about the capacity of the treatment plants and the reticulation in individual cities and/or towns than that of California as a whole, so I’m not sure that the total amount of existing infrastructure (including agricultural) is the most relevant figure.

        Still, if the Bay Area already has enough spare capacity to cope with as many new buildings as the proposed legislation would allow (or at least some reasonable fraction thereof) then there’s probably no problem. Thanks.

    • Thomas Jørgensen says:

      California is on the coast, and thanks to really ridiculous cross-subsidy schemes to provide farmers with water at below cost urban California is already paying prices for water which are comfortably above the cost of desalination. In other words, the demand for water can increase more or less without limit and as long as you break ground on enough desalination facilities and nuclear power plants / desert solar / whatever, it can be met with no need to raise prices.

      • johan_larson says:

        The obvious solution would seem to be giving the farmers ownership of their water allocations, but make them transferable independent of the land. The farmers make money, and the cities have a way of getting the water they need. You can make a lot more money growing computer programmers and reality-TV starlets than you can growing lettuce, so the cities would consistently outbid agricultural uses.

        Or is there some problem with this that I am missing?

        • Thomas Jørgensen says:

          It would make it blatantly obvious that the water allocations are a grant of money from the government. – Which would be politically unsustainable from a number of directions, including the self-image of the farmers in question.

          Also, it would not serve the purpose of keeping California agriculture going.

          A whole lot of first world policy which is deeply heretical against free markets comes down to governments being extremely opposed to net food imports, and willing to twist the market into a pretzel to avoid it.

          I expect that what will happen eventually is that the cities will move to desalination just to not have to deal with both high costs and rationing on top of that, and the fallout from that will be that the farmers get stuck with a cost of water which at least pays the maintenance costs on the extant water infrastructure.

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            It would make it blatantly obvious that the water allocations are a grant of money from the government.

            Isn’t the water allocation part of what the farmers paid for when they bought the land?

          • Nornagest says:

            Water infrastructure in the western US is fantastically complicated, but my understanding is that buying land generally gives you the right to draw groundwater, i.e. from a well, but not to water from agricultural irrigation systems, which must be purchased. The prices paid for it are much lower than what city-dwellers pay for municipal water, but the degree to which that’s a subsidy is debatable — it isn’t treated, therefore isn’t potable, and it’s usually distributed through ditches that’re far simpler than city plumbing systems. Last-mile distribution is often left up to end users.

          • Brad says:

            That’s true but incomplete. What’s being paid for is the infrastructure to distribute the water. But western system of water law includes the right to withdraw a certain amount of water from a certain surface water source as a property right that passes with the land. These rights are established by the owner of a parcel of land withdrawing a certain amount of water in a given year and that amount of water every year thereafter. The seniority of a claim is based on the date that the withdrawals started. A more senior claim gets fulfilled in full before a more junior claim gets any water at all. Not using all of your allocation risks it being invalidated. The water rights are in theory transferable but in practice there are a number of doctrines that make it very difficult to transfer them.

            If you view the water as a renewable asset otherwise owned by the state then you can see the western water right system as “giving away” something very valuable every year. Or you can view the initial allocation as having given away something very valuable back then (akin to the homesteading giveaway).

            However you look at it though, today the water rights are considered rights with the meaning of the just compensation clause of the Constitution and modifications of the rules subject states governments to serious litigation risks.

      • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

        Oh, is the water supply privatized? I suppose it would be, now that I think of it. That would certainly make it easier for it to keep up.

  43. tvt35cwm says:

    The Marginal Revolution piece about the difficulties of automation reminds me that back when we had unions, there was this thing called the “work to rule”.

    If management annoyed the union somewhat, but there were no grounds for a strike, the union would call a “work to rule”.

    A couple of weeks of employees doing exactly what was specified in their job descriptions was normally enough to make management give in.

    AIs, of course, will do nothing but “work to rule”.

    • Murphy says:

      AI don’t refuse to work with non-union-members filling in the gaps.

      AI can be patched far more easily than union negotiated contracts can be changed.

  44. ragnarrahl says:

    Robinson’s intent was for public food to improve the provision of food benefits.
    Trump’s intent is to make receiving food benefits less pleasant.
    I rather doubt this is too difficult a plan for the government to achieve its goal with.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I think Trump’s intent is to cut out food stamp trading abuse, not just to make something slightly unpleasant for people for no reason. Or is Trump no longer the Devil and now merely Phil, the Prince of Insufficient Light?

      • Juxtapository says:

        Stated and implicit intents (and desired outcomes) can, of course, be different. I take it that ragnarrahl doesn’t *just* think Trump is doing it to be nasty- there are undoubtedly long-term considerations. Making food benefits harder to get does the following things; reduces taxes spent on them (so government saves money- to go elsewhere, or “give back”), discourages use in the future (so this change can justify future reductionary changes), and satisfies a section of his voting base who think *both* that such trading abuse is rife, and that food benefits are too luxurious anyway. Any, or all, of these things could be true.

        Of course, you’ve got to take a fairly conflict-theorist-y stance in order to afford this line of reasoning credence. You may or may not be inclined in that direction wrt to Trump and the current Republican administration. But nothing there is a fundamentally unreasonable diagnosis of such a move, and one doesn’t have to think that Trump or the Republicans are pure evil in order to support such a diagnosis.

      • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

        This reminds me of a discussion from way back … it puzzles me that many people, in response to the (inevitable) existence of fraud in any particular welfare system, seem to immediately want to shut said system down or at least make sweeping changes. (To provide context here, my reaction is to ask how much fraud there is, and when it turns out to be a very small fraction of the total cost, well, by all means catch as many of those cheating the system as you reasonably can, but once you’ve done that, meh.)

        The naive interpretation, which I’d probably have believed twenty or thirty years ago, is that the fraud is just providing an excuse for them to shut down the system – or make it less pleasant, I guess. But that really doesn’t seem to be the case.

        I’m guessing this disconnect is mostly thrive-vs-survive, i.e., an instinctive reaction on their part to criminal behaviour that I concede would be appropriate in Scott’s Zombie Apocalypse, vs. a more laid-back attitude on my part that I hope they would concede would be appropriate in Scott’s Futuristic Utopia.

        Any other thoughts? I doubt it’s quite that simple; nothing ever is. 🙂

        • The Nybbler says:

          My impression of welfare fraud is that it is ubiquitous and systemic. That not only are most of those on “disability” either not actually disabled or disabled only due to drug abuse, but that a large part of the profession of social work is to figure out ways to help the lazy and the addicted get government money. That food stamp fraud (converting food stamps to cash to use for other uses, then getting food aid from other sources) is similarly ubiquitous. And that no one in the system has any interest in stopping any of this.

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            The obvious solution to people converting food stamps to cash, is to just give them cash in the first place. TOO obvious, perhaps. 🙂

          • The Nybbler says:

            At least theoretically, food stamps are for people who can’t afford food. So if they’re converting food stamps to cash and getting the food some other way…. why not just not give them anything? Seems just as obvious.

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            Because not everybody has access to these mysterious “other sources” and you don’t actually want to let people starve? (Besides, if someone wants to give food away to people who already get food stamps / money, well, that’s their business, isn’t it?)

          • The Nybbler says:

            Because not everybody has access to these mysterious “other sources” and you don’t actually want to let people starve?

            The other sources are things like charity food banks and food pantries, they’re not mysterious. And your second question answers why you don’t give them cash; because if you do they might spend it on something other than food, then come back to you for more, complaining they’re starving. (or more likely they won’t, but their advocates will)

            (Besides, if someone wants to give food away to people who already get food stamps / money, well, that’s their business, isn’t it?)

            Because the whole point of taking money from Peter and using it to buy food for Paul is to keep Paul from starving. If Paul can feed himself without it, why put Peter out?

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            And your second question answers why you don’t give them cash; because if you do they might spend it on something other than food, then come back to you for more

            In practice, that doesn’t seem to be a problem. I don’t know how many nations other than the US do the “food stamp” thing rather than just trying to make sure everyone has enough money to get by, but those that don’t seem to cope, somehow.

            If Paul can feed himself without it, why put Peter out?

            But Paul can’t feed himself; Patrick is feeding him, for whatever reason. Not the same thing at all, IMO, and I’m not sure Patrick is as gullible as you seem to think.

            But on the other hand I wonder whether that’s really the problem in the first place. Are you sure people aren’t just selling their excess? If you’re entitled to $X of food stamps per week, and only need to spend $Y on food, you’re going to feel pretty hard done by, irrational as that may or may not be. The temptation to sell the excess off would be pretty strong, so it wouldn’t be nearly as surprising (to me) if this happened fairly often; your scenario sounds much less likely to be common – not that I’m particularly confident about that, I’m pretty much just thinking aloud here.

            To strike a positive note, though: given that the people selling their food stamps is perceived as a problem (regardless of to what extent it actually is) then Trump’s idea makes a little more sense to me than it did yesterday.

          • Iain says:

            To put some numbers to it: the USDA estimates that about 1% of food stamps are sold (as of 2006-2008), down from about 4% in 1993.

            “Ubiquitous” might not be the most apt description.

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            Taking a step back after having gotten sidetracked: that actually sounds more like a conflict-theory position; the industrious vs. the lazy, perhaps?

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Iain

            I don’t believe the USDA estimates. I have family who work with populations that get these benefits, and at least anecdotally everybody does it.

          • Lillian says:

            Hey i didn’t sell my food stamps when i was on them, and neither has anyone else i’ve known who was taking them. Though what some did was pool their food purchases with their housemates’, which allowed them to buy in bulk and thereby make the money go further.

            In exchange for the contribution to the household food budget, the housemates made available non-food necessities like soap, shampoo, toothspaste, toilet paper, etc. This is technically fraud, but i don’t think living like an unwashed hobo is very helpful in getting anyone off the dole.

          • zzzzort says:

            In exchange for the contribution to the household food budget, the housemates made available non-food necessities like soap, shampoo, toothspaste, toilet paper, etc. This is technically fraud

            I’ve also committed this sort of food stamp fraud, if from the other end. A friend who had lost his job and was living in his truck would crash on our couch, take a shower, do laundry, … In thanks he’d buy a tub of Ben and Jerries every now and then. In one way this was someone on food stamps buying unhealthy luxury food for someone else’s consumption, but in another way this was a much more efficient system than him getting government services. In the end he ended up getting a well paying job that he wouldn’t have been able to get if he’d gone back to live with his parents, so on results I’d take this system.

          • CatCube says:

            When I worked in a grocery store, right at the tail end of physical food stamp coupons, the most common version of misuse we saw was taking advantage of the fact that you could get cash change for the coupons. So a parent would structure their purchase in four transactions: 1) Buy all of the food that the food stamps are permitted to be used for 2) Give one child a $5 or $10 food stamp and a candy bar, which they would get cash change for 3) Give another child a $5 or $10 food stamp and a candy bar and get the cash change 4) Buy beer or cigarettes with the change.

            I don’t know what current forms of misuse take, now that they use a card.

          • Lillian says:

            In the end he ended up getting a well paying job that he wouldn’t have been able to get if he’d gone back to live with his parents, so on results I’d take this system.

            Like i said, being an unwashed hobo is not conductive to getting off food stamps. You could say this is the free market routing around some of the inefficiencies of the government program. On the whole, this is the kind of fraud that i think everyone is better off tolerating.

            I don’t know what current forms of misuse take, now that they use a card.

            Well there’s the harmless sort of fraud i described above, which presumably also occurred when the food stamps were literal stamps. Then there’s a more harmful variant wherein someone comes up to you at the market and offers to pay for your groceries with the EBT in exchange for cash. The going rate is apparently $3 worth of groceries for every $2 in cash. Or so i’ve heard, it’s not like i’ve accepted any such offer or anything, that would be wrong.

          • Brad says:

            I don’t believe the USDA estimates. I have family who work with populations that get these benefits, and at least anecdotally everybody does it.

            They probably aren’t 100% accurate but I’ll sure as heck take em over a hostile extrapolation from second hand anecdotes.

  45. Harry Maurice Johnston says:

    It wasn’t clear to me from the article – is this new Amazon company actually going to be providing healthcare themselves, or just healthcare insurance? Will they actually be hiring doctors and nurses and building hospitals?

    • ragnarrahl says:

      The “actually hire doctors” one is my impression.
      I’m not sure there would even be an article otherwise.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Here is the press release. It doesn’t say anything.

      It has been rumored for months that Amazon wants to get into the PBM business, which seems closer to their existing businesses.

      • Deiseach says:

        The initial focus of the new company will be on technology solutions that will provide U.S. employees and their families with simplified, high-quality and transparent healthcare at a reasonable cost.

        That sounds more like the “don’t make a doctor’s appointment when you’ve got a twinge or a cough, ring up one of these helplines instead where a call centre worker trained healthcare professional will triage your problem (and tell you to get some rest, take some paracetamol, and make sure you have plenty of fluids)” kind of ‘technology solution to health problems’.

        I can’t see Amazon setting up its own hospitals, I would have expected some kind of “a gaggle of us have so much money we can set up our own health insurance co-operative” but the mention of technological solutions does make me think they’re going to go for the ‘dial-a-nursesolution instead which will please nobody.

      • Gossage Vardebedian says:

        They aren’t even sure yet exactly what they’re going to do, and the runway will be very long. Warren Buffett was on CNBC a couple days ago saying that he hoped to have a CEO by the end of the year. They’re going to take a good, long look at the whole system and try to find some things to do. Possibly around using/maintaining walk-in clinics, helplines, and the old standby, negotiation. Many people close to the HC industry don’t feel it’ll come to much in the end, but it’s good they’re going to try.

        As far as Amazon getting into the PBM business, that’s mostly investor-fed guesswork and hysteria. Amazon tends to engender a lot of that in the investment community. The problem is, PBM margins are low, and trending lower. Amazon could surely compete in that market if they wanted to – logistically they are already set up to do it – but to what end? Historically, they have looked for markets where there were high margins, and sections of the supply chain where there were inefficiencies, and set out to dominate them. They can have PBMs but it won’t be a big winner for them.

  46. The Big Red Scary says:

    About Navalny and snow-removal. I saw that link at Marginal Revolution some days ago. This seems to be an example of an inside joke being taken too seriously by outsiders. I work in Moscow and live in a small town outside Moscow. Although we have had especially heavy snowfall this month, removal has been adequate and timely, as always (even on the unpaved country road where I live). What is plausible is that the kind of guys who remove snow are the kind of guys who really hate Navalny and might be showing a little more enthusiasm than usual in attacking a snowbank with Navalny’s name.

  47. shakeddown says:

    Legend has it if the pirates get all six kilograms they summon Dr. Sir Francis Drake.

    • Nornagest says:

      Sounds like the plot to a Nicholas Cage movie.

      • [Thing] says:

        I feel like any plausible movie plot would sound like the plot to a Nicholas Cage movie. If anything, calling it a “Nicholas Cage” movie plot would make it sound more plausible in marginal cases. (You say conjunction fallacy? I say inoculation against the availability heuristic leading one to only compare it to the plots of movies whose very existence doesn’t defy the premise that there is any sort of intelligible order or reason governing the movie industry!)

        Which makes it altogether appropriate in this case, so I guess I’m just agreeing with you.

  48. This seems new and surprising and seems to require an explanation, maybe in terms of outgroup-fargroup dynamics

    Or they just want to be, you know, entertaining.

  49. The Big Red Scary says:

    Is anyone out there willing to steelman open borders?

    I mean real open borders, not just limitless visas for skilled workers. I read some of Bryan Caplan’s popularizations, but found his style of argumentation unconvincing. In particular, he didn’t seem to give much serious attention to trade-offs. (An uncharitable and funny summary of Caplan’s view from a commenter on West Hunter: if Martians invaded, Caplan would say it increased GDP.)

    There are a few points in particular that I’d like to see clarified.

    1) What exactly do open borders advocates think will be optimized by opening borders? Average global human welfare? Average welfare of those moving to a new country? Average welfare of people already living in the host country?

    2) Do open borders advocates think that simply opening borders will produce the desired improvements, or do they foresee the need for related changes in labor regulation and welfare benefits? (I think Caplan wants that anyway. What about other advocates?)

    3) Are open border advocates concerned about further stratification of the host society into an unhappy equilibrium consisting of “winners” and “losers”, but feel that for some average there will be a net benefit, or do they argue that in the long run open borders will lead to some happy equilibrium?

    • rahien.din says:

      I’m interested in what other people have to say. Haven’t thought about it enough to offer any real steelman. Moreover, I can’t. A steelman must be constructed by an invested opponent. I’m not exactly invested, and if anything, I lean proponent.

      But as far as I can tell, nations must exert effort to close borders. So while border closure is the status quo, it isn’t precisely the natural human state. Any such effort – no matter how entrenched – must be open to justification. In my mind, the moderate question is not “Should we open our borders?” but rather “To what degree should we continue to close our borders?”

      This question is interesting to me because I think of humanity as a resource for itself, and human welfare is maximized to the degree that we allow our best and brightest to flourish. My intuition is that adherence to Parfit’s mere addition paradox is buried somewhere in border closure. My answer thereto has always been that humanity’s problems are only ever solved by humanity, and restricting the flow of ideas can only restrict available solutions, so addition of groups is beneficial in the long term because it maximizes available solutions.

      Availability of solutions is our most valuable resource. To the extent that we confine our most valuable resource to locations where it can not be utilized (or is only utilized on problems that have already been solved), we harm ourselves as a species. If border closure is just a sorting procedure, and if that procedure currently results in (on the balance) harmful confinement of the resource, then we should change the procedure.

      Granted : changing such an important, entrenched, and complex procedure would be difficult, and should be undertaken slowly. But, it still strikes me as a worthy goal.

      As for your 3, if we desire stability and solvency, I think Holmström’s theorem suggests that there will always be winners and losers. If we’re willing to tolerate some unharvested surplus (or, inefficiency), we could make things more fair, but I don’t think humans will ever be able to resist that temptation.

      • The Big Red Scary says:

        Thanks.

        Human welfare is maximized to the degree that we allow our best and brightest to flourish

        Sure. But on the face of it this might just be an argument in favor of more visas for highly qualified workers. I myself am a (admittedly self-interested) proponent of this, having worked most of my life abroad.

        My intuition is that adherence to Parfit’s mere addition paradox is buried somewhere in border closure.

        Do you mean that people are afraid that in the limit, everywhere will become little better than the Central African Republic (to take Wikipedia’s last place for human development index)? This is very unlikely. But what seems possible is not only that the mean living standard in rich countries goes down significantly, which is not so concerning in and of itself, but also that this leads to social strife, both in rich countries to which poorer move for work, as well as in poorer countries to which richer people move to live on the cheap.

        What I’d like to see is an honest attempt to argue that despite the likely risk of social strife and the possible risk of deterioration of institutions, open borders are still a good idea, on the whole.

        Thanks for the link about Holmstr”om’s theorem. I didn’t know about that.

        • rahien.din says:

          Sure. But on the face of it this might just be an argument in favor of more visas for highly qualified workers.

          I’m not really arguing for any particular policy. To be honest, it might be that the policy you describe is the correct one. Or it might be that our selection procedure should actually be more restrictive. Or maybe we should just stop having borders altogether. I don’t know?

          I’m advocating for a principle, whereby we can ask the question “To what degree should we continue to close our borders?”

          What I’d like to see is an honest attempt to argue that despite the likely risk of social strife and the possible risk of deterioration of institutions, open borders are still a good idea, on the whole.

          To start, this is just an expected-value problem. On one side, the justifiable expectation that opening borders further may lead to social strife and/or institutional deterioration. On the other side, the expectation that we could encounter a problem or set of problems whose solution(s) could only be discovered within a large set of possible solutions. While we can’t predict the future, we do know that maximizing (or maintaining) available possibilities is a very powerful way to navigate problem-space. This is something we know first-hand from AI research. Flexibility is not just a resource, it is the resource. If we want to navigate problem-space as surely and as quickly as possible, maximize the number of minds available for work.

          Thus, it seems to me that social and institutional stability have costs. To the degree that they limit our societal flexibility and/or prematurely truncate our available solutions, they increase the risk that we will encounter a problem unable to be solved within available time. It could follow, then, that some instability is the exact desired outcome of open borders, so long as the unstable situation can be steered toward a beneficial outcome. (I would agree that instability permits both wise and unwise societal reactions, and if we increase instability and end up worse off, then increasing instability was a bad decision.)

          In this case, our axes are not “social and institutional instability” vs “degree of border openness,” but instead “social and institutional instability” vs “wisdom of societal reaction.” The [unstable, wise] quadrant has the greatest capacity for solution-finding and is preferred, the [stable, wise] and [stable, unwise] quadrants are a tenable second tier, and the [unstable, unwise] quadrant will proceed immediately into disaster.

          This strikes me as a key distinction between liberal and conservative social viewpoints. Liberals believe that society will have wise reactions, and thus seek a greater degree of diversity/instability/inclusion. Conservatives believe that society will have unwise reactions, and thus resist a greater degree of diversity/instability/inclusion.

          So here’s a true steelman for you : maybe we shouldn’t open our borders, because the resultant [unstable, unwise] society’s capacity for successfully navigating instability would be really poor, and thus the desired outcomes wouldn’t truly available to us.

          Thanks for the link about Holmstr”om’s theorem.

          Thanks! It’s one of my favorites.

          Edit : used the correct brackets this time

    • Aapje says:

      @The Big Red Scary

      Paging David Friedman, who should be able to answer this..

      He and I seem to agree that significant welfare is not compatible with open borders.

    • Guy in TN says:

      1) What exactly do open borders advocates think will be optimized by opening borders? Average global human welfare?

      Yes, the goal is to increase the well-being of humanity. But this has to be measured in a way that takes into consideration the diminishing marginal utility of wealth. For example, increasing a person’s wealth from $1 to $100 saves them from starvation (and thus greatly increases this person’s well-being), while someone’s income dropping from $60,000 to $30,000 does not send them into starvation (and thus has a small well-being effect, relatively speaking).

      Do open borders advocates think that simply opening borders will produce the desired improvements, or do they foresee the need for related changes in labor regulation and welfare benefits?

      Open borders would require increased welfare spending, in countries that had a net-increase in migration, to accommodate for having larger populations. Having a larger population would also increase the GDP, which would make increasing spending easier.

      It is important to emphasize that the term “open borders” refers to the free movement of people, not necessarily to the free movement of wealth and industry, so concerns about race-to-the-bottom effects for labor and environmental regulations can still be addressed.

      Are open border advocates concerned about further stratification of the host society into an unhappy equilibrium consisting of “winners” and “losers”, but feel that for some average there will be a net benefit, or do they argue that in the long run open borders will lead to some happy equilibrium?

      Who were your sixteen great-great grandparents, and where did they each come from? In 120 years, telling immigrants from non-immigrants will be increasingly difficult.

      The short-term social stratification is real, but probably insignificant in terms of utility loss. Do the people of North Dakota resent all the immigrants from other U.S. states, who come there for the high-paying oil jobs? Maybe, but what tangible harm has this resentment caused? Compared to the economic gains gained from inter-state migration, it seems trivial.

      • The Big Red Scary says:

        Thanks.

        Increasing a person’s wealth from $1 to $100 saves them from starvation (and thus greatly increases this person’s well-being), while someone’s income dropping from $60,000 to $30,000 does not send them into starvation (and thus has a small well-being effect, relatively speaking).

        Sure. So what do you consider a reasonable threshhold or desirable equilibrium? And why are open borders an effective way to achieve that, as opposed to or in addition to a serious effort at promoting economic development in poor countries?

        Having a larger population would also increase the GDP, which would make increasing spending easier.

        rahien.din up above introduced me to Holmstr”om’s theorem, and I think it’s correct that probably you’ll be able to balance the budget and settle into a Nash equilibrium. The question is then how bad will be the Pareto inefficiency. But again, ultimately, I’d like to see an argument that the risk of social strife is outweighed by the benefits.

        Who were your sixteen great-great grandparents, and where did they each come from? In 120 years, telling immigrants from non-immigrants will be increasingly difficult.

        For what it’s worth, I’ll answer the rhetorical question: with high probability (based on both family history and DNA tests) they were Northern European peasants and Eastern European Jews. This is relevant, since almost all of my neighbors and colleagues at work have similar backgrounds.

        Of course it becomes “increasingly difficult” to tell one subpopulation from another, presuming that there in interbreeding and common socialization. But how difficult? A few examples in which it is not at all difficult, even after hundreds to thousands of years: African Americans in the wider US population, Chinese and Hmong in South East Asia, Caucasians in Russia, Armenians in the Middle East, the Roma in Eastern Europe. In each of these cases, there is a lack of assimilation into the surrounding society (for a variety of reasons) and sometimes it gets very ugly. Maybe the risk is worth it on the whole, but this is not obvious and needs a strong argument.

        Do the people of North Dakota resent all the immigrants from other U.S. states, who come there for the high-paying oil jobs? Maybe, but what tangible harm has this resentment caused?

        Having worked abroad for many years (in four very different countries), I can say that in my experience the kind of resentment directed at you when coming from a different country is incomparably greater than that directed at you when moving between US states (I’ve lived in four very different US states).

    • Speaking as an open borders advocate:

      1. I think open borders should be combined with legal changes that make immigrating in order to live on welfare impractical. New immigrants can’t collect welfare, but have their tax rate lowered a little to reflect the fact that some of what taxes pay for isn’t available to them.

      2. I also think that citizenship, in particular the franchise, should not be instantly available–in part because if it is point 1 may not be possible. Giving people the vote and access to welfare after a decade or so should work–by that time people who have come and supported themselves successfully should be “us” rather than “them” in the relevant sense.

      3. Conditional on those, I expect that open borders would benefit both the present inhabitants of the country and the world.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Doesn’t point 1 put industrious immigrants at an advantage compared to their equally-industrious citizen counterparts who have to pay full taxes for a system they are not likely to benefit from?

      • The Big Red Scary says:

        Conditional on those, I expect that open borders would benefit both the present inhabitants of the country and the world.

        Would you direct me to what you consider the most persuasive argument for this?

        The best I’ve seen so far is that many people are stuck in low-productivity traps and that if they could move freely, they would not only be better able to take care of themselves, but also of others. I find this pretty obvious for people who are capable of doing work not yet easily automizable. But I don’t see how people moving around to drive down the wages of robots is more efficient than investing in development in underdeveloped countries. Should we expect it to be so?

    • Kevin C. says:

      Per your points 2 and 3 in particular, you might find this article from open borders advocate Nathan Smith interesting: How Would a Billion Immigrants Change the American Polity?

      Certain American ideals would die of their own increasing impracticality, e.g., “equality of opportunity,” the social safety net, one person, one vote, or non-discrimination in employment. Americans might continue to feel that these ideals were right long after they had ceased to be practiced, as the Romans seemed to feel that Rome ought to be governed by its Senate long after real governance had passed to the emperors. I don’t see how public schools could adapt to a far larger and more diverse student body. I think there would have to be a transition to some sort of vouchers combined with individual and/or community responsibility for education, e.g., the government pressures the Chinese neighborhoods to set up Chinese schools. Jefferson’s cry that “all men are created equal,” which today is sometimes mistaken, almost, for an enforceable policy rule, would retreat until wasn’t even an aspiration, but only a dream.

      I have advocated legalizing and de-stigmatizing private discrimination against immigrants, but even if it remained illegal, I think private discrimination would be widely practiced, simply because statistical discrimination is efficient, and in the more complex and dynamic economy of an open-borders America those efficiencies would be more worth capturing than ever. Many natives would retreat into gated communities, not so much from fear of crime as simply from love of the familiar.

      We would see some modern latifundia, worked not by slaves this time but by voluntary immigrants, but working for pay rates that would strike native-born Americans as a form of slave labor. Meanwhile, we would li