THE JOYFUL REDUCTION OF UNCERTAINTY

Open Thread 96.25

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

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651 Responses to Open Thread 96.25

  1. bean says:

    Naval Gazing: Propulsion Part 3. How turbines were made to work well with propellers.

    • gbdub says:

      In the post, you mention that turboelectric propulsion was not suitable for smaller ships. Why was this? I’d think scalability would rather be one of the strengths of that system.

      • Paul Zrimsek says:

        Curious about that too. Perhaps the size of the motors and generators doesn’t scale down much with decreasing horsepower?

        • Nornagest says:

          Doesn’t seem very likely. A 1 HP electric motor fits in the housing for largeish handheld power tools, a 250 HP motor fits between the rear wheels of a Tesla. And diesel submarines, where space is definitely at a premium, use electric motors too. It’d be strange if the scaling factor worked fine for all those applications but not for something cruiser-sized.

          All but submarines use just the motor, not the generator, but an electrical generator is basically just a motor in reverse.

          • bean says:

            Keep in mind that the Tesla has the benefit of a century of technical development over the TE system described here, and the hand tool isn’t specified for a duty cycle of 100%. Submarines were usually fairly slow.

      • bean says:

        As best I understand it (and this whole area is staggeringly poorly documented), the scaling factors on TE were quite strong. So the battleship plants were a little bit worse than contemporary turbines, while the battlecruiser plants were as good, and smaller plants would have been much worse. And small ships are generally more weight-sensitive than large ones, so the drawbacks would have been serious.

        • cassander says:

          There’s a fair comparison, the Buckley class, which were made with TE drives becasue of a shortage of gear cutting equipment, but I know nothing about how they worked out relative to contemporaries.

          • bean says:

            They were pretty successful, but they did have to be lengthened over the original design to incorporate the TE plant. This turned out to be a good thing, and all later DEs kept the stretch. But destroyer escorts were hardly pushing the limits of naval technology, either.

    • veeloxtrox says:

      Chiming in to say, I really enjoy your writing, please keep it up 🙂

      On a different note. Do you have plans to write an article explaining the difference between a battleship, a cruiser, and a destroyer (and maybe fast battleship, dreadnought ect.)? You mention them but I don’t have a solid understanding of what makes them different or what rolls they play in the fleet.

      • bean says:

        Try this. It should cover what you’re asking for. There’s a similar list for modern warships here.

        • veeloxtrox says:

          Overall that looks good. So to sketch my understanding of a hypothetical WWII battle between two equally sized navies. If possible, you use your destroyers you catch their battleships without their destroyers/cruisers and torpedo them. You use your destroyers and cruisers to keep your battleships from being torpedoed. You use mainly your battleships with help from cruisers to shoot their battleships and cruisers.

          That about right?

          • cassander says:

            Most naval battles aren’t two big fleets sailing out to shoot at each other for its own sake. Battles happen because one side is trying to accomplish a specific objective (enforce a blockade, send a convoy somewhere, invade a beach) and the other side is trying to stop them. Most navies have multiple things that they want to achieve, so they never really send their whole fleet out to do something, they send part of it. The essence of naval strategy/operations is really deciding which objectives are most important, which objectives the enemy thinks are most important, and trying to ensure local superiority in as many places (adjusted for importance) as possible. That is, you’re not so much trying to catch their battleships without their escorts but trying to ensure that the battles over your most important objectives are your 4 battleships against their 2 as often as possible.

            The specific tactics depend a great deal on what you’re trying to accomplish.

          • bean says:

            In the very roughest of terms, yes. Torpedoes are rather hit-or-miss, depending on how the situation goes, while big guns are more reliable. What you did with your destroyers was a tactical decision. The US tended to keep them close and use gunfire at night, which turned out to not work so well. Cruisers often substituted for/supplemented battleships.

            Of course, this ignores cassander’s point about naval operations being for a purpose, not just to have a fight, and the critical issue of aircraft, and the somewhat lesser problem of submarines.

          • John Schilling says:

            Naval operations are for a purpose, but it is very common for admirals to notice that all of their purposes would be a lot easier to accomplish if they could just win one big fight to wreck most of the enemy’s ships and leave the terrified survivors cowering in port. If you’ve got admirals on both sides thinking that way, or if admirals on one side think that way and can arrange a massive attack on something the other side has to defend, you can get yourself a very nice Trafalgar or Jutland or War Plan Orange or Midway, where there’s only a fig leaf of any sort of objective beyond “today our fleet will smash the enemy fleet on the high seas”.

          • johan_larson says:

            Japanese naval strategy was particularly focused on the idea of a single decisive battle on the high seas.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kantai_Kessen

          • dndnrsn says:

            @johan_larson

            I’ve wondered if the impulse that led to the “one single battle; win by one decisive stroke” is culturally linked to the way that Japanese martial arts (or, at least, karate and judo) often have as the “best” way to win in competition scoring one full point (eg, ippon in judo). (An unfriendly person might say that Japanese naval strategy in WWII resembles the overly-complicated, requires-your-opponent-to-play-along techniques in some forms of karate, aikido, etc).

            EDIT: And now I recall that one author claims that the “one-point-win” in judo was due to the influence of the military on sporting competition in the pre-war period; I’ve been reorganizing my books and I’ll see if I can find where I read that.

          • John Schilling says:

            I’d be reluctant to attribute Kantai Kessen to kendo, judo, bushido, or any other aspect of Japanese culture or character. Because it was pretty much the mirror image of War Plan Orange, conceived for the same purpose by a bunch of Dead White American Males.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Was War Plan Orange as precise in expecting response xyz from the enemy as some Japanese plans were? If so, drat. My attempt to draw a martial arts parallel seems much less cool.

          • John Schilling says:

            Not so much “response”, because War Plan Orange was drafted by Certified Good Guys who knew that it would be the Inscrutable Orientals who started the war and took the early initiative. But it had some fairly specific expectations for what the Japanese would be doing while the USN went about setting up the decisive battle.

            And, yes, assumed that when Japanese patrols spotted the US Pacific Fleet sailing towards their Combined Fleet, the latter would steam eagerly towards the great and decisive battle to come. The bit where the US Pacific Fleet couldn’t sail towards the Combined Fleet because it was resting on the bottom of Pearl Harbor on the first afternoon of the war, we didn’t really have a plan for that.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Huh. Thanks! My knowledge of the overall strategy in the Pacific is less than in Europe. I thought it was a bit less decisive-battle focused than that.

            I take heart in the fact that while my thesis is incorrect, it’s interesting enough for the humanities. (I was going to go on to compare some imaginary “western way of war” to boxing and wrestling, and then throw a comparison of the USSR in WWII to “wall-on-wall” fistfighting because even though it’s implausible, it gives it tripartite form. Gotta have that intro-thing 1-thing 2-thing 3-conclusion form)

          • cassander says:

            @johan_larson

            The japanese also lost their war. That they were fond of the idea of settling it all at once doesn’t mean it was a good idea. It’s not a bad idea if both sides are relatively evenly matched and on similar power trajectories, but if that’s not the case, then things will get tricky for you, just like it did for the japanese around guadalcanal

          • bean says:

            Because it was pretty much the mirror image of War Plan Orange, conceived for the same purpose by a bunch of Dead White American Males.

            I’m not an expert on US strategy pre-Pearl, but I don’t think it was quite that simplistic. At some point (can’t remember exactly when), US strategy changed from “Go directly to Manila” to realizing that the Philippines couldn’t be held, and planning for a measured advance across the Pacific. Yes, even pre-Pearl. There was some planning for a big battleship showdown, but that was pretty common everywhere, and I certainly don’t think it distorted US thinking anything like the “decisive battle” doctrine did the Japanese.

  2. MatthewCStein says:

    Any interest on having some of your “More than you ever wanted to know” posts turned into a YouTube series? I’ve got some video editing skills, a decent voice, and plenty of free time. I’d like to make those overviews more accessible, but I wouldn’t want to do it without your OK.

    • quaelegit says:

      Poster Jeremiah has been doing an podcast (link in the left sidebar or e.g. item one here). Pointing this out because: a) I’m pretty sure Scott gave permission for his and potentially other podcasts in a comment thread , but I can’t find the specific post right now so asking again is a good idea. b) In case want to contact Jeremiah for advice or to coordinate your efforts (I know he’s done some older posts but I don’t know which ones).

  3. dark orchid says:

    I’ve just seen a book ad for “Lost Connections” by Johann Hari, tagline “uncovering the real causes of depression” (review blurb: “In fact, [depression is] caused by key problems with the way we live today.”). Supposedly the author’s famous for “Chasing the Scream” about the war on drugs and a TED talk “Everything You Think You Know About Addiction Is Wrong”. This is the ad I’m talking about.

    Does anyone here know anything about Hari – specifically is the book likely to be all along the lines of The Truth about Big Pharma, or might it be worth a read even if perhaps not as radical as it sounds?

    • Nornagest says:

      Just from the blurb, I’m extremely skeptical.

      • Ivy says:

        I really enjoyed the interview he did recently on the Joe Rogan podcast, more as psychologically-informed commentary on modern life than about depression per se. Hari’s definitely not a truther, he’s totally on board with antidepressants being moderately effective (very effective for some).

        His most radical point is that depression is better seen as a symptom of some deeper problem in your life (social isolation, job-related stress, etc) than as a chemical imbalance in your brain.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Every psychiatrist I’ve seen thinks he’s an idiot. If he wants to play the “taking on the corrupt establishment” card, fine, but that’s the only card he can play – there’s no way he can get away with “I’m describing a common view that most people would agree with”

      • Levantine says:

        I find it striking:

        1. his “corrupt established order” message is very prominently promoted by the – establishment: he’s featured widely, the book is reviewed widely, a top blurb is provided by none other than Hillary R. Clinton.

        2. ten years ago, in 2008, the establishment (PBS & NatGeo…) produced and promoted a documentary with a very similar message: that one’s health is mainly a function of one’s status in the social hierarchy, independently of the material conditions of living. (“Stress: Portrait of a Killer”)

        I just look at these two & the information you provided, and I’m thinking:
        That’s funny….

    • Tarpitz says:

      Hari was a star columnist for the Guardian and other left wing UK publications at a very young age, before losing those gigs in disgrace over a scandal revolving around (serial) plagiarism and fabrication of quotes. I don’t think he has any regard for the truth, or even a real understanding of what one would look like, and would view any claim he made with extreme suspicion.

      Same goes for Laurie Penny, incidentally, though she’s so far avoided a career-derailing scandal over her penchant for – for example – eye-witness first person accounts of events she was thousands of miles away from.

      • Aapje says:

        Same goes for Laurie Penny, incidentally, though she’s so far avoided a career-derailing scandal over her penchant for – for example – eye-witness first person accounts of events she was thousands of miles away from.

        Milo doesn’t think that Penny deserves to be harried/hari’d.

        Note that I found no accusations that she claims to be an eye-witness when she wasn’t present, but mainly accusations of mistakes due to bad journalism practices (like talking to people without making notes or recording them & then writing down her false recollection of the talk).

        • Tarpitz says:

          I have no idea if such accusations were ever made in public, but I’m pretty confident they’re true. According to mutual acquaintances who would never badmouth her in public because they view her as being an important player for their team, a great deal of her coverage of protests in the early part of this decade was entirely fictional, including instances where she wasn’t in or near the country where they were taking place.

          I no longer knew her by that point, but I did once know her reasonably well, and it’s entirely in character.

    • Deiseach says:

      Supposedly the author’s famous for “Chasing the Scream” about the war on drugs and a TED talk “Everything You Think You Know About Addiction Is Wrong”.

      The name Johann Hari was ringing a faint bell with me, with a negative tone, but I couldn’t think why. Then I hit up Wikipedia and this brought it all back:

      In 2011, Hari was the subject of two scandals involving his conduct as a journalist. First, he was accused of plagiarism following the discovery of his repeated use of quotes from other journalists’ work as if they were the product of his own interviewing. Then, having attracted critics’ attention, he was found to have anonymously edited the Wikipedia pages of some of those critics so as to present them in a negative light. These behaviours resulted in significant damage to Hari’s reputation: he was required to return the prestigious Orwell Prize, which he had won in 2008, and he lost his position as a columnist for The Independent.

      The Wikipedia editing is more than just “did a bit of anonymous editing”; he invented an alter-ego “David Rose”, this ‘David Rose’ (who Hari claimed had nothing to do with him, and if I am remembering correctly ‘Rose’ claimed he had nothing to do with Hari) made edits to various Wikipedia pages praising Hari to the skies and attacking any critics or perceived critics of Hari, and when this all came to light he issued an apology that said “well yes I was a bit naughty BUT look at all the mean things other people said about me and look at all the great stuff I’ve done as a journalist!” This was not received as being extremely sincere 🙂

      So whether you want to write this off as no more than the japes of a high-spirited young(ish) man (he would have been thirty-two at the time of the minor scandals) or if you think this impinges on his credibility, I leave it up to you all to decide.

  4. Collin says:

    Is there an ethical theory out there that’s superior to negative average preference utilitarianism?

    • Said Achmiz says:

      Wouldn’t almost any ethical theory be superior to negative average preference utilitarianism?

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        +1

        To expand on that, utilitarianism is a fraud. It has the appearance of mathematical objectivity and rigor but is in fact totally subjective and arbitrary.

        The typical utilitarian argument doesn’t ever attempt to define utility except in the vaguest terms, does not measure it, and makes no calculations of any kind. Instead the utilitarian simply declares his belief that, if those things were done, his favored conclusion would follow.

        The best utilitarian arguments, such as those using Scott’s beloved quality adjusted life year (QALY) and disability adjusted life year (DALY), are built on foundations of sand. The QALY and DALY both weight relative utility of people with various health conditions by taking surveys in which people are asked questions like how many years of living with a particular condition they would trade for a year of perfect health or how much of a risk of death they would accept for the possibility of curing a condition. Studies such as the European Consortium in Healthcare Outcomes and Cost-Benefit Research (ECHOUTCOME), have found that the assumptions behind these questions are incorrect. Beyond that, both common sense and research on cognitive bias in predicting happiness should tell you that idle speculation by random survey takers is not a good basis for making medical decisions.

        Utilitarianism is, at best, a deeply misguided attempt to wallpaper over uncertainty using shoddy statistics. At worst, it is a crude aping of mathematical reasoning used to justify our basest impulses. It would be better if it had never been developed.

        • Ivy says:

          I am not a utilitarian and don’t endorse it as a personal moral code, but utilitarianism seems like the natural way for us to make collective decisions – treating every person as equally valuable as much as possible.

          Think of Scott’s utilitarian analysis of marijuana legalization. How would you do the cost-benefit analysis other than a utilitarian framework?

          I hadn’t heard about ECHOUTCOME; this makes me less trusting of specific QALY numbers, but my response to this and to your uncertainty critique would be to increase confidence intervals.

          So the QALY of being in prison isn’t 0.5, it’s somewhere between [0.3, 0.8] with 95% certainty. Then we can run the utilitarian analysis with the uncertainty, end up with a super-broad distribution of outcomes, and conclude that the best course of action is to do research to tighten our QALY confidence bounds.

          • Wrong Species says:

            It seems like the more contemporary ethics becomes, the more it becomes concerned with a higher level of decision making. Ethics in Ancient Greece revolved around being a virtuous person, which was very practical for the average person, not so much as a political philosophy. But something like utilitarianism, which seems bizarre and unworkable on the individual level, is more reasonable on a state level. I would much rather the government try to decide policies by what maximizes overall well-being than by trying to promote virtuous government officials. Maybe leaving utilitarianism in its proper place makes it seem less insane.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            How would you do the cost-benefit analysis other than a utilitarian framework?

            I wouldn’t do a cost benefit analysis if I didn’t have any measurable quantities to compare. It is a mistake to do those analyses when you don’t have data which is amenable to them!

            That’s the problem. You’re tempted to use inappropriate methods because utilitarianism makes it sound like a situation of Knightian risk (known, calculable probabilities) when it’s really one of uncertainty.

            I hadn’t heard about ECHOUTCOME; this makes me less trusting of specific QALY numbers, but my response to this and to your uncertainty critique would be to increase confidence intervals.

            So the QALY of being in prison isn’t 0.5, it’s somewhere between [0.3, 0.8] with 95% certainty. Then we can run the utilitarian analysis with the uncertainty, end up with a super-broad distribution of outcomes, and conclude that the best course of action is to do research to tighten our QALY confidence bounds.

            No, the problem is that the assumptions underlying the entire way of calculating the QALY are wrong. The 95% confidence interval isn’t [0.3, 0.8], it’s [0, 1]. The numbers are BS and you should throw them out rather than use them.

            Garbage in; garbage out.

            Again, it’s only the seductiveness of the idea that some magic formula can transmute uncertainty into risk that allows this muddy thinking. Acknowledge that you don’t and can’t calculate the outcome in advance, then either test it empirically or choose based on some other criteria.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @Wrong Species,

            I would much rather the government try to decide policies by what maximizes overall well-being than by trying to promote virtuous government officials.

            Are you thinking about the same governments that I am? Not idealized ones, actually existing governments?

            The range of outcomes you get from trying to “[maximize] overall well-being” starts at starving people eating zoo animals and goes up to millions of people being purged.

            I’m skeptical of governments which rely on the virtue of the ruler as the sole constraint. The most virtuous man is still just a man and not a god. But they don’t have anywhere near as horrifically evil a track record as governments which justify their actions in utilitarian terms.

          • Ivy says:

            I don’t understand how Knightian uncertainty vs risk changes the analysis. Let me strip it down to the simplest example I can think of; tell me if I’ve stripped too far, I don’t want to rig the thought experiment.

            Suppose we have to make the choice to allocate funding between treating two diseases, disease A affecting N people and disease B affecting M people.

            How do you make this decision for arbitary N, M without implicitly estimating a QALY value for the diseases? How does this change if you have risk vs uncertainty about the outcome of either decision?

            What I see is: if there’s significant risk or uncertainty in your estimate, you’re much more likely to decide wrongly. But in the end, whether we have uncertainty or risk, however wide our confidence intervals are, our action or inaction reflects a specific estimate. We should work to make those estimates better, and I agree most of the work here is empirical not theoretical.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Ivy, if you really have no information but a meaningless (as Nabil suggests) QALY value, you’re probably better off picking at random than following the QALY. Your QALY calculation (again assuming it’s not getting at the real thing) is at best random, but at worst is pure systemic bias of some sort which over time would add up to terrible results.

            Doing calculations where the error bars are greater than the range and there are almost certainly “unknown unknowns” of the same order of magnitude as well is futile, and following them is folly.

          • Protagoras says:

            @Wrong Species, Utilitarianism only cares about maximizing outcomes, and endorses whatever is the best strategy for doing that. In individual decision making, actually trying to calculate the outcomes is extremely unlikely to be the best strategy for maximizing them (due to the amount of costly effort required and the likely extreme inaccuracy of whatever you come up with even if you do put in the effort). Trying to make yourself a more virtuous person is almost certainly a better strategy. On the other hand, public policy should probably make some effort to figure out outcomes and take that into account (for one thing, the stakes are higher). It has always seemed to me an advantage to utilitarianism that it gives a principled reason to treat public policy and individual decision making differently, since we do and should do that.

          • Ivy says:

            @ The Nybbler

            I guess the disagreement here is whether QALYs (computed from survey or any other way) contain no signal about human wellbeing. If that’s true, then I agree you might as well pick randomly. But I don’t see how it could be true.

            Doing calculations where the error bars are greater than the range and there are almost certainly “unknown unknowns” of the same order of magnitude as well is futile, and following them is folly.

            Only if there’s a better alternative, which neither you or Nabil have articulated. “picking at random” seems much more foolish, and I’m not sure how “focusing on right action” would play out in my example.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @Ivy,

            I strongly suggest that you read some of Gerd Gigerenzer’s work on “fast and frugal” heuristics.

            In conditions of high uncertainty, simple decision making rules which ignore almost all of the available information will outperform complex statistical models. A good real life example that Gigerenzer cites often is that the “1/N rule” of investment, where you invest equally in all funds you’re considering, consistently delivers better results than any asset allocation algorithm which has ever been designed. The inventor of Modern Portfolio Theory ignores his own model in favor of the 1/N rule when it comes to his own investments.

            My suggestions for policy makers are two-fold. Firstly, ignore complex models or algorithmic methods of decision making. Then, when it comes to actually making decisions, use simple rules like the recognition heuristic or 1/N rule and aim to satisfy targets instead of optimizing for them.

          • Ethics in Ancient Greece revolved around being a virtuous person, which was very practical for the average person, not so much as a political philosophy.

            Higher level decisions making is “what are the goals of our system”, and that only becomes of concern once you have a system. Political systems were constantly breaking down in the ancient world, creating a frequent need for great/strong men to step into the breach and set up something else. Which is why Genghis Khan Virtue is a thing, and a different thing to modest-and-humble Christian virtue

        • Jack Lecter says:

          “It’s easy to,lie with statis, but easier to lie without them.”

          And ‘It’s better to pull numbers out of your ass and use them to calculate an answer, than to pull an answer out of your ass.’

          It feels to me like there’s a certain thing or set of things utilitarians are trying to measure and optimize for. For simple utilitarians, it might be summarized as ‘pleasure’. For complex utilitarians, it’s maybe closerto ‘subjunctive pleasure given perfect knowledge and certain assumptions about reasoning conditions’.

          I agree that a lot of it is insufficiently rigorous, and that a lot of the people who practice it are under-concerned with this problem (and thus arguably acting in bad faith). But to wish it had never been developed at all causes me to suspect your expressed concerns about rigor probably aren’t your true rejection.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            I don’t like it when people are unwilling to admit the limits of their knowledge. That kind of hubris isn’t just ugly but it is also in large part responsible for the horror inflicted on hundreds of millions of people by centrally planned economies in the last century.

            You can’t know the full extent of the consequences of an action before you attempt it, even in principle. It’s a difficult empirical question that needs to be tested and not something that can be solved formally.

            Utilitarianism gives a false sense of certainty that an action’s consequences can be precisely predicted and accounted for. Most other moral systems do not: all systems of classical ethics that I’m aware of specifically warn against judging actions by their consequences, as those are almost entirely outside of the actor’s control. A Stoic or a Taoist can’t fool himself into thinking that he can control everything and everyone around him; a utilitarian can’t help but fall into that trap.

            Focusing on right action, on doing things properly and accepting consequences as they come, isn’t just more psychologically healthy but it prevents the kind of megalomaniacal thinking that characterizes utilitarian “solutions” to societal problems.

          • beleester says:

            So your argument against utilitarianism is that it leads to bad outcomes?

            That’s a very… utilitarian assessment.

          • Said Achmiz says:

            @beleester

            No, that’s a consequentialist assessment. Consequentialism is a superset of utilitarianism; not all consequentialist ethical theories are utilitarian (not by a long shot).

        • Yosarian2 says:

          I really don’t see that as an argument against utilitarianism. Of course there is uncertainty. But you still have to try and make the choice that you think will result in the best possible outcome for people. That’s really all utilitarianism says when you boil it down, that the morality of an act is based on what effects it will have instead of being based on following some set of rules even when they’re obviously not approperate in this scenerio.

          People do underestimate their uncertainty which certainly is a problem, but that’s a problem with our decision making system in general.

          • pontifex says:

            That’s really all utilitarianism says when you boil it down, that the morality of an act is based on what effects it will have instead of being based on following some set of rules even when they’re obviously not approperate in this scenerio.

            Utilitarianism says quite a bit more than that, though. As I understand it, utilitarianism presumes that the happiness of an individual can be quantified as a single number, and that the “goodness” of the current state is some function of all those individual numbers. There is also the implicit assumption that you can somehow rationally get an approximate idea of what those numbers are, and make decisions to maximize them.

    • marshwiggle says:

      Under what axioms?

    • Wrong Species says:

      I just read about it so I probably need to give it more thought but my first thought is: doesn’t it have the same fundamental problem that regular preference utilitarianism has? Let’s say you have two groups of 100 people. In the first one, they’re all the sort of self-actualized beings we generally aspire to be. They are scientists, artists, athletes, among other things who all try to be the best they can be. In group two, they are all slobs who have no higher aspirations than to play video games and take selfies. Assume they have the same level of preference satisfaction(inversely, the same level of preference frustration). So with the same level of preference frustration and the same number of people, they have equal rates of average preference frustration. Intuitively though, doesn’t it seem like group two lead less valuable lives than group one?

      • Yosarian2 says:

        I don’t think that is really a huge problem, because I suspect that most people, if given a choice, would have a preference for being a member of the first group rather than the second group, or at least would prefer to have more members of the first group around. Most people seem to have a preference for knowledge over ignorance, for achievement, ect.

        Plus, I would assume that people in the first group on average are more likely to make the world a better place (if one of those scientists cures cancer that gets us a lot closer to all of our preferences one would think), so giving at least that subset of group 1 more resources to do their thing is also supported by preference utilitarianism.

        You could probably construct a scenerio that eliminates all of that, but honestly, if people in group 1 aren’t making anyone else’s lives better and they’re not achieving some inner state that most people would prefer (if they knew about it) over being a part of group 2, then I start to wonder why exactly we should consider them more valuable. I think all the reasons why group 1 is better than group 2 could be summed up as either “group 1 is a preferable state to be in according to human preferences” or “members of group 1 create more utility for other people”. In fact I think you implied that when you said:

        they’re all the sort of self-actualized beings we generally aspire to be

        If that statement is true then that aspiration is itself a preference that preference utility theory would value.

        • Wrong Species says:

          I don’t think that is really a huge problem, because I suspect that most people, if given a choice, would have a preference for being a member of the first group rather than the second group, or at least would prefer to have more members of the first group around. Most people seem to have a preference for knowledge over ignorance, for achievement, ect.

          I interpreted Collins question to mean does it conflict with our intuitions and I think my argument shows an example of a thought experiment where it goes with the theory but conflicts with our intuitions. Saying that most people agree that it conflicts with our intuitions isn’t really a counterargument to my argument.

          Are there people who don’t have strong preferences for a self-actualized life? Certainly. Most people don’t do anything notable with their lives. They say they do but how much of that is just signaling? Sometimes I think we should do a basic income experiment just to see how many people quit their job and try to be an artist or something and how many people decide to sit around and watch tv all day. Mankind, when given nothing to do, is lazy. It takes effort to flourish and many people aren’t willing to put in the effort.

          Now is the flourishing of an individual reducible down to preferences or good consequences for others? I don’t think so. Take a look at Van Gogh. I think many people would not want to live his life. Yes, he was a good artist but he wasn’t very successful in his time, was severely depressed and ended up killing himself. It’s also fairly debatable about the utility of his life. If he hadn’t lived, would any of us have lower utilities? We wouldn’t even know what we missed. So imagine that Van Gogh decided to not be an artist and ended up with a happier life. I would say that life is less valuable than the one where he became an artist. How do I justify that belief? I can’t, but I think it’s a common intuition.

          • Yosarian2 says:

            What I’m saying is that it doesn’t conflict with those intuitions at all, it works with them and usually gives an answer that makes sense according to them. If most people think being self actualized is better than not being self actualized, then preference utilitarianism means that you should act in a way that results in more people becoming self actualized, all else being equal. “More people should be self actualized creative people” is itself a preference.

            It’s really hard to come up with an example where preference utilitarianism gives you the “wrong” answer, because the fact that you think it’s wrong is itself a preference.

            How do I justify that belief?

            You don’t have to. If you have a preference for.a world with people like Van Gogh over a world that doesn’t that’s already enough to have some moral weight. (Whether it’s enough moral weight to outweigh the suffering Van Gogh went through is an open question but at least preference utilitarianism lets you ask the question.)

          • Wrong Species says:

            You can’t just cancel out someone else’s preferences with your own because they have their own preference that you don’t try to cancel out their preferences. And it doesn’t matter what “everyone” else thinks because in my example, the two groups are separate from each other so there is no one who is trying to override anyone’s preferences.

          • Yosarian2 says:

            What I’m saying is that even in your example, a majority of the people in BOTH groups probably have a preference for a world with more highly actualized people. Even in the group that’s not actualized, you probably have people wishing they were, or at least who abstractly wish more people were, or who want their kids to “do better than they have”. It’s just a state that MOST people probably think is better.

            Like you said, that’s what our instincts say when we hear your question, right? We all immediately have a preference for there to be more people like group 1.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Oh hi virtue ethics.

        • Wrong Species says:

          Eh, there are some parts of virtue ethics I like but it has some strange foundations. The Eudaimonia kind says that not only should you be virtuous, but a virtuous life is always preferable to a non-virtuous life, as in preferring a less virtuous life is irrational. That is completely bonkers. But I’m still studying it, so I can’t really have a good debate about it yet.

          • Deiseach says:

            as in preferring a less virtuous life is irrational. That is completely bonkers.

            Think of it as being fat*. Sure, eating that delicious, empty-calorie laden junk food will gratify your desires right now, but down the line it will lead to health problems that will cause you suffering. To choose suffering is irrational, so be virtuous, eat your raw broccoli and hit the gym instead! 😀

            *As a Person Of Amplitude I can use such similes. You skinnies do it, it’s fat-shaming, you sizeist!

          • Wrong Species says:

            Sure that works for obesity to an extent because of short term vs long term happiness. But look at someone like Genghis Khan. I don’t think anyone would call him a virtuous man. But can you honestly say that the life he led was irrational compared to the life where he is more virtuous yet less successful?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Wrong Species: Nietzsche is kind of famous for biting the bullet and saying Temujin was virtuous in Aristotelian terms. Master morality, etc.
            If you read Pascal’s Wager in his own words, he talks about the difference between pagan virtue ethics that permit men to seek military glory and have sex with lots of women with how the Christian gambles that giving up those two things will pay off many times over.

          • Nick says:

            Genghis Khan required lots of virtues to accomplish what he did. Tvtropes makes this point better than I can. So yes, insofar as Khan was practicing virtues like diligence and courage he was being rational, and insofar as he was practicing vices like genocide he was being irrational. You don’t consider that bonkers, do you?

          • Wrong Species says:

            Genghis Khan was neither just, nor temperate, and the extent that he was wise depends on what you mean by wise. If Genghis Khan was virtuous, then “virtuous” in virtue ethics means something completely different from its common use. If we agree that Genghis Khan was virtuous, then doesn’t that mean virtue ethics just collapses down to some version of egoism?

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @Wrong Species,

            Actually you’re not that far off the mark vis-a-vis egoism.

            If I had my own blog I would write an expanded version of this, because it’s a thought that’s been rolling around in my head for a while, but the implicit egoism of classical virtue ethics is a big part of Nietzsche’s Master / Slave dichotomy.

            Think about the opening of Plato’s Republic. Glaucon argues that because unjust men live well and just men suffer, injustice is better than justice. Socrates explicitly agrees with his premise: if injustice led to the good life, eudaimonia, it would be better than justice! He then explains in excruciating detail why justice is better suited to man’s nature and how it leads to a better life but he never disagrees with that core premise. Virtue in Plato’s world is a tool for self-betterment rather than for the betterment of mankind as a whole.

            It’s only with Judeo-Christian slave morality and it’s ideological descendants that you see the psuedo-altruistic vision of virtue as noble suffering for the good of others. Really this is nothing more than an inversion of classical virtue, which sought first and foremost to escape suffering.

            So Ghengis Khan could easily be, and was viewed by his Mongolian contemporaries as, a virtuous man. He’s an evil man according to Christian morality but then again the fact that he was the one drinking from Christian skulls and not the other way around should tell you something about the merits of the respective conceptions of virtue!

          • Nick says:

            There are other virtues than being just, wise, and temperate. I listed “diligence” and “courage” specifically to preempt this objection…. What you’re really asking for, of course, is whether Genghis Khan is on net virtuous. The answer is no; I listed genocide as one of his vices, for goodness sake.

          • FLWAB says:

            Sure that works for obesity to an extent because of short term vs long term happiness. But look at someone like Genghis Khan. I don’t think anyone would call him a virtuous man. But can you honestly say that the life he led was irrational compared to the life where he is more virtuous yet less successful?

            The problem is deeper than this: how can we say whether Genghis would have been “less successful” if he had been more virtuous unless we already have a metric of success for human beings to judge his life by? Certainly we know that Genghis Khan accomplished a great deal, and enjoyed many pleasures, and great wealth, and immense authority, but are those the right metrics to judge whether his life was a success?

            If we’re going with the idea of Eudaimonia, how do we know if Genghis Khan reached it? Nobody but Genghis himself would know that: was he truly happy? Was he ever vexed by rage, depression, ennui, or sorrow? Epictetus would remind us that Eudaimonia cannot rely on a man’s external circumstances, but his internal character if it is to be real Eudaimonia. If Genghis had lived a perfectly virtuous life he likely would not have conquered as much, drunk as much wine, slept with as many women, or acquired as much wealth, but any Stoic or Epicurean would tell you that those things don’t matter as far as Eudaimonia is concerned.

            Really virtue ethics seems to be tied directly into teleology: if man has a purpose, an ideal way of being, then we can determine whether their life has been a success by comparing his life to the ideal life for a man. But if we have differing ideas on what that ideal life is, what the perfect man looks like, or if we don’t believe such an ideal exists at all, then it is useless to try to judge whether the virtuous are more or less successful than the non-virtuous.

          • Nick says:

            Really virtue ethics seems to be tied directly into teleology: if man has a purpose, an ideal way of being, then we can determine whether their life has been a success by comparing his life to the ideal life for a man. But if we have differing ideas on what that ideal life is, what the perfect man looks like, or if we don’t believe such an ideal exists at all, then it is useless to try to judge whether the virtuous are more or less successful than the non-virtuous.

            Absolutely. Virtue ethics, at least the sort which Le Maistre Chat or Deiseach or I are interested in defending, does presume there’s something like a human nature and that from this (and other considerations of course) we can make judgments about what is good or bad for it and what is right or wrong to do.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @Nick

            My point is that if we base ethics on whether it’s in someone’s best interest, then virtue ethics is either wrong(Genghis Khan example) or collapses down to egoism.

            @Nabil

            Are you really going to commit to the idea that if Hitler had won the war, he would have been virtuous? If AI kills us all to tile the universe with paperclips, is it more virtuous than we are?

            @FLWAB

            We don’t know whether Genghis Khan was happy but we also don’t know that he was unhappy. If someone tells me that he couldn’t have enjoyed his life because he was wrecked with guilt or something, then I would say 1) I don’t believe you, 2) then the whole flourishing thing has become an unfalsfiable tenet of faith rather than something we can have a discussion about.

            Now if we base ethics on teleology instead that’s different but I still think it’s flawed. Let’s say an evil person builds an AI to wipe out humanity but there’s a bug in it that causes it to actually help humanity. Now it was “bad” at doing what it was supposed to do but it was still preferable to the “good” AI. In the same way, I don’t think that the teleology of humans does any good. Maybe if you believed that we were created by a omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent being then it would be compelling but I think we were created by the blind hand of natural selection, which is certainly less compelling.

          • Nick says:

            Let’s say an evil person builds an AI to wipe out humanity but there’s a bug in it that causes it to actually help humanity. Now it was “bad” at doing what it was supposed to do but it was still preferable to the “good” AI.

            Nitpick, since I don’t really want to get into this question: the AI is doing what its supposed to do (I grant you that helping humanity is a good thing), the evil person is just a bad programmer. 😛

            In the same way, I don’t think that the teleology of humans does any good.

            Suppose you really don’t believe our biology and psychology have anything to do with human flourishing. You don’t bother eating well, or seeking companionship, or bathing, or getting enough sunlight, etc. Now, is the end result of that going to be happiness or misery?

          • Wrong Species says:

            I don’t think biology/psychology facts are irrelevant. I just think they are secondary to our values. If evolution personified told me that my purpose was to have as many babies as possible that reached adulthood, I wouldn’t care.

          • FLWAB says:

            We don’t know whether Genghis Khan was happy but we also don’t know that he was unhappy. If someone tells me that he couldn’t have enjoyed his life because he was wrecked with guilt or something, then I would say 1) I don’t believe you, 2) then the whole flourishing thing has become an unfalsfiable tenet of faith rather than something we can have a discussion about.

            I have no idea whether he was wrecked with guilt, but Epictetus wouldn’t have cared about guilt either way: he would have said anyone who relies on external circumstances (such as an immense empire and countless concubines) does not have Eudiamonia: that the external circumstances of a man had nothing to do with whether he has achieved Eudiamonia. A virtuous man, in his view, will have Eudiamonia regardless of whether he is a mighty emperor or a blind beggar because Eudiamonia comes from within, from your character and reason, and not from the circumstances of your life. In the Stoic or Epicurean point of view, to say that Genghis Khan would be happier if he was more virtuous is practically a tautology because Eudiamonia cannot be reached without virtue.

            In regards to teleology you are correct: if we are just blindly shaped by natural forces we have little reason to think we have a purpose, or that there is a right way for a man to be that we can aspire to. The question we have to ask is: what kind of universe do we live in? Does the world around us appear teleological? If it does, do we have compelling reason to dismiss this appearance as an illusion? When I look at the world it seems teleological to me: it seems to me that there is a better or worse way for a man to be, and that it really means something to say that a man who is unjust, cowardly, undisciplined, imprudent, selfish, fickle, and uncaring is worse than a man who is just, brave, temperate, wise, loving, steadfast, and hopeful. It seems to me, by all my experience, to be as true as saying that a strong and healthy tree is better than a stunted and rotting one, or that it is better for dogs to have four legs than three.

            Of course if teleology is real it may very well imply a designer. Or it may be the case that teleology is just an illusion, and this appearance is nothing more than a trick of evolution, a helpful glitch in our psychology that makes it easier to reproduce. But, with all that in mind, it certainly seems to me that teleology does exist and when I apply that idea to my life (that it would be better for me to cultivate virtue than to follow my passions), or I apply it to my observations about the lives of others, the theory seems to hold up. Genghis Khan aside, the people I know that I would consider more virtuous certainly seem better off then the people I know who lack virtue, regardless of their external circumstances.

          • Incurian says:

            Are you really going to commit to the idea that if Hitler had won the war, he would have been virtuous?

            I think in that specific case you can make the argument that if Hitler had been more virtuous he might have actually won the war. Similarly, Genghis’ virtue was not in conquering, but his virtues allowed him to conquer well.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @FLAWB

            That’s exactly what I’m talking about. Saying that a virtuous man will always be happier than a non-virtuous man is straight up bonkers, that only came about through motivated reasoning. External circumstances do matter, even if it’s not everything and virtue doesn’t guarantee happiness(I’m not even sure it’s correlated). The Ancient Greeks didn’t do any kind of scientific process to arrive at that conclusion. They just asserted it. Why should I believe that it’s true?

            If virtue ethics is dependent on God, then you’re going to have a really hard time getting me to go along with it as I long ago rejected the idea and the argument from design isn’t even slightly convincing to me.

          • FLWAB says:

            @Wrong Species

            While it’s true the Greeks didn’t perform a scientific experiment of any kind on what is the best way to achieve the best life, I’m hard pressed to see how they could. These aren’t questions that lend themselves to experiment: you can’t calculate a man’s happiness, nor can you quantify a man’s virtue. If we could we wouldn’t be wondering about how much of either Genghis Khan possessed. And if you can’t quantify it, empirically, then the scientific method isn’t of much use.

            But, of course, happiness does exist, quantifiable or not. The scientific method is not the only legitimate way to learn about the world (see, mathematics, history, ethics, etc), and it is uncharitable to say that the Greek virtue ethicists merely “assert” that external circumstances can’t give Eudaimonia (that is to say, lasting, indestructible happiness and the true teleological end of man). Read the Enchiridion of Epictetus, or Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy and you’ll find they work out long, reasoned, rational arguments for why you can’t rely on external circumstances for happiness, but rather on internal characteristics. You may disagree with their premises or their arguments, or with the arguments themselves, but they certainly aren’t asserted out of nothing, but from observation and rational thought about the world around them. (I’d especially recommend Boethius in this case: this translation is very good, and was written on this very subject. Considering the author was once quite rich and powerful before being thrown in prison and ultimately executed, I’d say he had some claim on having direct observation of the relevant facts).

            Of course if you thoroughly don’t believe in a designer there are very few ways to rationally belief in teleology. That can’t be helped: and if you are more certain there is no God then that there is teleology, well, then so much for virtue ethics. If there is no teleology it seems to me that egoism is the most logical morality to follow: for if man was not meant to be any particular way then the logical thing to due is pursue whatever pleases you personally the most, as effectively as possible. But, though it’s not quantifiable, my own experiences make it seem far more likely that teleology does exists than that it doesn’t: that a selfish or cruel man has something wrong with him, and that virtuous men are people to look up to and emulate.

          • Nick says:

            I don’t think biology/psychology facts are irrelevant. I just think they are secondary to our values. If evolution personified told me that my purpose was to have as many babies as possible that reached adulthood, I wouldn’t care.

            There’s certainly some room for one’s values, and I didn’t mean to imply that evolution is all there is to it. Hmm. I think I was foolish to go about it this way, since I should have started from the beginning talking about practical rationality and what our account of that might look like, and why it’s superior to a theory in which one simply fulfills one’s desires, and then proceeding to discussing the role of a human nature.

            My best recommendation, if you want to understand better where we’re coming from here, and especially since she has the wisdom to treat the topics in the right order, is Philippa Foot’s Natural Goodness. Foot is an atheist and a naturalist, so her theory does not rely on God. But she does rely on Aristotle, Aquinas, and Anscombe* heavily. I’d be happy to write up a chapter by chapter summary of her book for a later thread, since I read it a few months ago and took notes throughout, but I’ll still need to consult it again and probably won’t get to it for a few days at least. I’ll aim for 96.75, if you like.

            *To paraphrase Peter Adamson, your name doesn’t have to start with A to be a virtue ethicist, but it helps.

          • Wrong Species says:

            No measure of happiness is perfect. But the ones we have do point out that higher income, up to a certain amount, generally makes people happier. I trust that much more than a couple of guys thinking they can speak for all of humanity a priori. And even if external circumstances didn’t influence happiness, that doesn’t prove that being virtuous does. And most importantly, it doesn’t prove that virtuous people are always happier than non-virtuous people. That is really the part that is straight up bonkers and completely unjustified.

          • Deiseach says:

            Saying that a virtuous man will always be happier than a non-virtuous man is straight up bonkers, that only came about through motivated reasoning.

            You have to define the meaning you attribute to the word or value “virtue” first. Genghis Khan was not ‘virtuous’ if judged by ‘not causing harm to others’, he was virtuous if judged by ‘possessed martial virtues – courage, self-discipline, military ability, made and carried out plans’ and so on.

            The idea is that the non-virtuous man is slave to his appetites and whims in a way that the virtuous man is not. Think of it in terms of Quark’s speech:

            Let me tell you something about Hew-mons, Nephew. They’re a wonderful, friendly people, as long as their bellies are full and their holosuites are working. But take away their creature comforts, deprive them of food, sleep, sonic showers, put their lives in jeopardy over an extended period of time and those same friendly, intelligent, wonderful people… will become as nasty and as violent as the most bloodthirsty Klingon.

            In Quark’s term, the Federation Humans are not virtuous. They behave well as long as their bellies are full, they are not motivated to right behaviour because they have identified what is good/right/correct and committed to that and live by that even in times of hardship.

            And so the non-virtuous Humans are less happy than a virtuous person would be, since there is always the risk that your comforts will be taken away or that misfortune may strike, and being a slave to your passions means you are pulled here and there by the gusts of emotions and so you plunge into despair or soar to a transient trivial delight with no more control than a bubble blown about by the wind.

            Whereas the virtuous has a clear aim and goal, knows what they value, practices self-control and so is less affected by the strokes of fortune or misfortune equally.

          • FLWAB says:

            @Wrong Species

            To be clear, when I wrote that happiness cannot rely on externals the emphasis should be on the world “rely.” Of course external circumstances can make us happy: Eudaimonia is about how to be happy no matter what your external circumstances are, because we can’t control those circumstances. Virtue ethics doesn’t try to teach how you can become wealthy, popular, healthy, well fed, and have plenty of mates: it tries to teach you how to be deeply happy whether you have those things or you don’t. So that’s why we can say a virtuous man will always be happier than a non-virtuous one, because a virtuous man will only be happy if external circumstances allow, while a virtuous man will be happy no matter the external circumstance. In other words, the question isn’t whether Genghis Khan was happy as an emperor, but whether he would also have been happy as a pauper. After all, the world is full of unexpected layoffs, cancer diagnoses, car accidents, public shaming, muggings, and all the other vicissitudes of fortune. The virtuous man can navigate storms of fortune with his happiness intact, while those without virtue will, like Deiseach said, be blown about by them.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            NB, eudaimonia doesn’t refer to “happiness” in the sense of a subjective feeling of well-being, but to an objective state. The notion that objective reality is more valuable than our subjective perception of it isn’t in fact a bonkers one: for example, I’m guessing most people would consider a man with a genuinely faithful wife to be better-off than a man who’s blissfully unaware of his wife’s cuckoldry, even if, in terms of how subjectively happy they feel, there’s no difference between the two.

            Also NB, people in ancient Greece would generally have had far more experience of fortune’s vicissitudes than modern westerners. With no social security or modern police forces, your chances of losing everything and falling into beggary, or of being murdered or abducted by pirates and sold into slavery, would have been much higher, and even people who didn’t undergo such hardships would have suffered from a variety of diseases which modern medicine would clear up in a heartbeat. Given this, assuming the ancient Greeks of just plain not noticing the importance of external circumstances seems a trifle arrogant.

        • Yosarian2 says:

          I don’t see that as contradictory. Teaching yourself and others “virtue” and getting in the habit if acting in a virtuous way may just be a good way to increase positive utility. If it is, great. If it doesn’t do that, then it was probably wrongheaded anyway.

      • Deiseach says:

        Intuitively though, doesn’t it seem like group two lead less valuable lives than group one?

        Valuable to whom, though? If the fruits of the labours of Group One are going to Group Two who give nothing back, then you can say “Group One lead more valuable lives”.

        If, however, your two groups are self-contained and only affect each other within the group, with no contact between the two groups, then a self-actualised athlete of Group One whose ambition is to run the first two-minute mile is not doing anything more valuable, in terms of satisfying preferences, than someone in Group Two who wants to be the first to score 1 million points on BattleShapeDragon II: The Puddling. The reason Athlete gives for wanting to achieve this record is “It will make me happy”, so too with Gameplayer for achieving their record. One ‘happiness’ is not better than the other, unless you are introducing an external objective measure of comparison where some actions are inherently better, nobler, more virtuous, than others.

    • Aido says:

      You need to provide more constraints here to get the answer you’re looking for.

      In terms of conforming with our intuitions, negative average preference utilitarianism fares the best, at least that I know of. Its shortcoming is it relies so heavily on initial conditions.

      If you were less dedicated to your intuitions and thought the Repugnant Conclusion might not actually be so repugnant (i.e. maybe humans are inefficient configurations of well-being due to our evolutionary history while a “lab-being” might have higher base levels of well-being) then Positive Hedonistic Utilitarianism can remain on the table. Singer is currently a hedonistic utilitarian last I checked, and since the average version makes it permissible to kill less than average well-being beings, I assume he’s of the total flavor.

      • Philosophisticat says:

        The implications of negative average preference utilitarianism (sadistic conclusion, etc. – see my comment later in this thread) are widely considered much worse intuitively than those of other forms of utilitarianism.

      • In terms of conforming with our intuitions, negative average preference utilitarianism fares the bes

        Fares the best out of all moral theories, or out of all utilitarianisms?

    • Anonymous says:

      Natural law-based deontology. (I agree with Said Achmiz.)

      • Yosarian2 says:

        That seems to just ALWAYS come to the wrong conclusion though.

        A lot of deontologists are really “threshold utilitarians”; they are usually dentologists but once a certain threshold of negitive utility caused by a decision is reached they become utilitarians instead. (So in the Kant case of “do you lie to stop an innocent man from being murdered” they can lie because that threshold has been crossed.)

        • Anonymous says:

          That seems to just ALWAYS come to the wrong conclusion though.

          Explain.

          (So in the Kant case of “do you lie to stop an innocent man from being murdered” they can lie because that threshold has been crossed.)

          The answer is, “no, protection of innocent life does not excuse or justify lying”. Failure to live up to this standard is not proof that the standard is wrong.

          • Fahundo says:

            That seems to just ALWAYS come to the wrong conclusion though.

            Explain.

            “no, protection of innocent life does not excuse or justify lying”.

            Hmm.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Fahundo

            Yeah, that’s the confounding bit. By what standard are you even judging an ethical system? If there is some system you can use to judge an ethical system as correct or incorrect, why not just use that instead? Because clearly that higher order system is always able to provide you correct answers to your ethical dilemmas.

          • rlms says:

            Pretty much everyone (whether explicitly or not) compare ethical theories by how well they match intuition (weighted by strength). “You shouldn’t lie even to save an innocent’s life” is highly contra-intuitive to most people. The reasons we don’t just go by intuition are that that goes intuition for most people (most people are at least a bit realist at heart) and — more importantly — because we have differing intuitions. The game is to come up with theories that predict intuitions you share with your opponents and support you when your intuitions differ.

          • Anonymous says:

            @rlms

            Pretty much everyone (whether explicitly or not) compare ethical theories by how well they match intuition (weighted by strength). “You shouldn’t lie even to save an innocent’s life” is highly contra-intuitive to most people.

            Granted, but that is assuming that democratic intuition has substantial use as a moral compass.

          • Randy M says:

            On the other hand (or maybe just making explicit your point) if a moral system doesn’t violate your intuition sometimes, you don’t actually need it.

          • albatross11 says:

            It seems like the useful thing about utilitarianism is that it might give us some traction to think about moral questions for which our intuitions aren’t so useful, like deciding where to spend our medical research dollars or how we should weigh some social change that makes some people better off and others worse off.

            For that application, it’s 100% reasonable to test the answers utilitarianism (or any other moral system) gives you on cases where you think you already have a pretty good answer.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Refusing to lie or promising to always tell the truth isn’t a good basis for an ethical system as it is fairly easy to find yourself in a situation where you have to (functionally) lie. For the often given example of lying to a Nazi while hiding refuges in your house if you had promised those hiding in the house that you wouldn’t give them away you would be forced to either make that a lie, or to lie to the Nazi*.

            *you can find technicalities around this, like refusing to answer the Nazi if you a strict literal interpretation of your words, but you can get around ‘lying’ by doing this in many ways as well.

          • Anonymous says:

            @baconbits9

            Refusing to lie or promising to always tell the truth isn’t a good basis for an ethical system as it is fairly easy to find yourself in a situation where you have to (functionally) lie.

            Unless someone has seized control of your brain and is directing you to lie, you never have to lie. And in case someone did stick electrodes in your brain like that, you are off the hook, as you are not acting out of your own volition, but are merely a puppet for some other (im)moral agent.

            Always telling the truth isn’t open-and-shut moral, by the way. The sin of detraction is literally saying the truth for no good reason. Secrecy may be required, for example due to patient-penitent privilege, so you can’t tell the truth in that case either.

            For the often given example of lying to a Nazi while hiding refuges in your house if you had promised those hiding in the house that you wouldn’t give them away you would be forced to either make that a lie, or to lie to the Nazi*.

            Or kill the Nazi. Killing the Nazis (assuming you have a priori knowledge of their purpose, rather than this being more equivalent of some ICE agents grilling you about the Mexicans in the basement) in this case is legitimate, justified homicide. Lying to the Nazis is not justified, but is understandable, since not everyone has the sheer courage to act morally under severe pressure.

            And let’s not forget that you have gotten into this predicament largely through your own fault – by hiding the refugees, against the apparently legitimate temporal authorities, possibly imperiling your own family in the bargain.

            *you can find technicalities around this, like refusing to answer the Nazi if you a strict literal interpretation of your words, but you can get around ‘lying’ by doing this in many ways as well.

            Wide mental reservation is acceptable in dire circumstances, and isn’t lying.

          • Fahundo says:

            Wait, so homicide can be justifiable in the right circumstances but lying never can?

            Why doesn’t the rule that lying can never be permitted no matter what apply to homicide? And why can’t the justifications that make homicide ok given the right circumstances apply to lying?

          • Anonymous says:

            @Fahundo

            Wait, so homicide can be justifiable in the right circumstances but lying never can?

            Precisely.

            Why doesn’t the rule that lying can never be permitted no matter what apply to homicide? And why can’t the justifications that make homicide ok given the right circumstances apply to lying?

            Why would they be?

          • baconbits9 says:

            Unless someone has seized control of your brain and is directing you to lie, you never have to lie

            Absolutely you can, you can force yourself to lie by making two promises that can’t be kept.

          • Fahundo says:

            Why would they be?

            Consistency? Either the rules are absolute, or there are exceptions. If some rules are absolute, and some rules have exceptions, there must be a reason why those rules are different.

          • baconbits9 says:

            And let’s not forget that you have gotten into this predicament largely through your own fault – by hiding the refugees, against the apparently legitimate temporal authorities,

            Yikes.

            Always telling the truth isn’t open-and-shut moral, by the way. The sin of detraction is literally saying the truth for no good reason. Secrecy may be required, for example due to patient-penitent privilege, so you can’t tell the truth in that case either.

            In other words you no longer have a rule, you have a sematic argument based on the definition of lying.

          • rlms says:

            @Randy M
            Even if it never disagrees with your intuitions, a moral system can be useful to persuade people who differ from you in some but not all of their intuitions. But I think most people at least have some contradictory intuitions, which a system is useful for.

          • Anonymous says:

            Absolutely you can, you can force yourself to lie by making two promises that can’t be kept.

            Don’t make one or both promises. In fact, if you want to be super-safe against this, don’t make promises at all.

            Consistency? Either the rules are absolute, or there are exceptions. If some rules are absolute, and some rules have exceptions, there must be a reason why those rules are different.

            AFAIK, it’s a double-effect thing. You defend yourself, and the assailant’s death results. You don’t intend to kill him, but he has forced you to defend yourself, and his death resulted. Same deal as with medical procedures that cause abortion, but are intended to merely save the mother’s life.

            (Mind you, as I pointed out, the Nazi scenario given is riddled with other problems. Killing them in self-defense and/or defense of your dependents may be the case, or it may not, given much more detail about the situation.)

            Lying, on the other hand, is always wrong because it is evil in itself. You can’t make a double effect argument, since lying is your tool specifically chosen and intended to be used accordingly, whereas self-defense only sometimes leads to killing.

            In other words you no longer have a rule, you have a sematic argument based on the definition of lying.

            How can you even handle the issue of lying, if you don’t know what the definition is?

          • Nick says:

            Starting with the old Nazis knocking at the door example is probably not the best introduction ever to Catholic moral theology. You may want to start with an analysis of the moral act, including all the ways in which one may be wrong (matter, intention, etc), and show why this account is superior, and then we can start applying it to the hard cases.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Don’t make one or both promises. In fact, if you want to be super-safe against this, don’t make promises at all.

            So you have to eliminate other (generally considered) virtuous actions to be able to follow the rule.

            How can you even handle the issue of lying, if you don’t know what the definition is?

            Rules based ethical systems require a precise definition, which generates the semantic issues. You are either on one side of the line or the other and the entire system eventually falls to where and how you draw the line. This is how you end up with “well what about when X happens” being responded to with “well don’t define things by Y, define them by Z and then you can get around concern X” which defeats the purpose (or benefits if you will) of rules based systems.

          • Randy M says:

            So you have to eliminate other (generally considered) virtuous actions to be able to follow the rule.

            Why would making a promise that contradicts or prevents a prior promise ever be considered virtuous? That was the lie, not later when you failed to follow through.

            Even if it never disagrees with your intuitions, a moral system can be useful to persuade people who differ from you in some but not all of their intuitions. But I think most people at least have some contradictory intuitions, which a system is useful for.

            Oh, I come down on the side of humanity not having perfect moral intuitions.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Why would making a promise that contradicts or prevents a prior promise ever be considered virtuous? That was the lie, not later when you failed to follow through.

            1. Promise a persecuted person that you will keep their secret safe, then run into an authority seeking out such people who asks if you know of any such persecuted people hiding. Either break your promise or lie to the authority, the ‘don’t make virtuous promises’ solution doesn’t sound to be a particularly appealing solution.

            2. Any promise might eventually conflict with another promise in an unforeseen way.

          • Anonymous says:

            1. Promise a persecuted person that you will keep their secret safe, then run into an authority seeking out such people who asks if you know of any such persecuted people hiding. Either break your promise or lie to the authority, the ‘don’t make virtuous promises’ solution doesn’t sound to be a particularly appealing solution.

            Or not tell them. “I know, but I’m not going to tell you.” Nevermind that you are probably in the wrong to even make the initial promise in the first place, because you are promising to be disobedient to legit authority.

          • baconbits9 says:

            because you are promising to be disobedient to legit authority.

            What are they legitimate? There are few ethical systems where deference to whoever happens to be in power is a logical outcome.

            Or not tell them. “I know, but I’m not going to tell you.

            That is information that increases the chances of those people being caught.

          • Nick says:

            What are they legitimate? There are few ethical systems where deference to whoever happens to be in power is a logical outcome.

            Come on, it’s clearly defeasible; Anonymous has already admitted that killing Nazis who say they’re going to murder your hidden Jews is fine. He then contrasted this with ICE agents, who, acting as agents of the federal government, are presumably legitimate.

          • Anonymous says:

            What are they legitimate? There are few ethical systems where deference to whoever happens to be in power is a logical outcome.

            Well, you’ve found one! I know of at least three.

            That is information that increases the chances of those people being caught.

            Should have thought about that before promising and/or hiding them. You are trying to have your cake and eat it too. Not everything one wants to do, even with the best of intentions, is moral.

          • Yosarian2 says:

            @Anonymous:

            The answer is, “no, protection of innocent life does not excuse or justify lying”.

            Ok, would you lie to an AI if failing to doing so would both doom the human race to extinction and guarantee that the entire universe would be turned into paperclips forever?

            Is there really NO threshold, no matter how extreme, beyond which the probable consequences of an action become so severe that they should be taken into account when considering the morality of the action?

          • Yosarian2 says:

            On the other hand (or maybe just making explicit your point) if a moral system doesn’t violate your intuition sometimes, you don’t actually need it.

            I think they’re an interplay between intuitions and explict moral theories. On the one hand, I am pretty sure that studying and thinking about utilitarianism has actually changed my moral intuitions in a lot of ways; the way I would instinctively react or feel about something like the Trolley problem is probably very different now then it would have been when I was in college, and I’m much more likely to feel that *not* doing something that would have helped is just as morally wrong as doing something that caused harm then I used to be.

            On the other hand, it does go the other way too. I do think that if your moral theory leads you to a conclusion, but your instintive morality starts throwing up all kinds of red flags that what your system thinks you should do is actually terrible, you should at least hesitate and re-think it. Any logical moral system I’ve ever seen has problems, and if yours says “you have to tell Nazis the truth even if they kill someone” or conversely if it says “you have to take all the world’s recoures and give it to a utility monster” or “you must arrest and torture all heretics until they confess their sins to the Inquisition, for their own good”, your instant reaction is and SHOULD be “well no, of course I’m not going to do that”, and you should pay attention to that reaction. If more people payed attention to those red flags I think some of the worst events in history might have been avoided.

            (And if an explicit moral theory is CONSTANTLY throwing up answers that seem obviously wrong to your intuition and most people’s intuition, then it’s probably time to either modify it or replace it with a better one.)

          • Anonymous says:

            Ok, would you lie to an AI if failing to doing so would both doom the human race to extinction and guarantee that the entire universe would be turned into paperclips forever?

            Is there really NO threshold, no matter how extreme, beyond which the probable consequences of an action become so severe that they should be taken into account when considering the morality of the action?

            No, basically not. I think I read somewhere, paraphrased, that it’s better for everyone to die and the world to be destroyed than for a single lie to be uttered. It sounds like natural law philosophers have predicted Clippy!

          • @Anonymous

            Not all normativity is ethical. The standard that you judge an ethical theory by may be epistemological, etc.

    • sty_silver says:

      I think basing something as fundamental as ethics on something as flimsy as preferences has never and will never make sense. It is obviously sub-optimal since anyone with a bit of creativity can come up with a failure mode in a few seconds. So yes, in my view Valence Utilitarianism is far superior.

    • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

      Is there an ethical theory that could even possibly EVEN TOUCH utilitarianism? Let alone be superior to it. And I’m not talking about total utilitarianism. I’m not talking about average utilitarianism either. Hell, I’m not even talking about time-discounted rules utilitarianism. I’m talking about Roger Chao’s Negative Average Preference Utilitarianism that both avoids the repugnant conclusion and allows people to have children.

      • Anonymous says:

        allows people to have children

        High bar there.

      • Philosophisticat says:

        This view has worse implications than the repugnant conclusion. See my comment below. And many views avoid the repugnant conclusion and allow people to have children – e.g. just about any person-affecting view. Moreover, their implications for WHEN it’s permissible to have children are more plausible.

    • jchrieture says:

      Suggestion (from the on-line Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

      The Capability Approach

      The capability approach is a theoretical framework that entails two core normative claims: first, the claim that the freedom to achieve well-being is of primary moral importance, and second, that freedom to achieve well-being is to be understood in terms of people’s capabilities, that is, their real opportunities to do and be what they have reason to value.

      Capability ethics would seem to be intrinsically well-matched to twenty-first century rationalism and libertarianism, specifically because modern economies increasingly are centered, not upon goods and services, but upon the acquisition and exercise of human capabilities.

      Moreover, in view of this accelerating modern-era sea-change in human economic aspirations, it is unsurprising that modern psychiatric therapies, too, increasingly center upon augmenting the capabilities of patients to live “lives worth living.”

      These considerations are discussed in anti-utilitarian academic journals like Feminist Economics, in anti-utilitarian articles like “Capabilities As Fundamental Entitlements“, by anti-utilitarian philosophers like Martha Nussbaum.

      Therein lies a problem. By virtue of who Martha Nussbaum is (namely, an “uppity” anti-utilitarian feminist), and the things that she says (namely, that social justice concerns properly are central to morality and economics), and places that she says them (namely, in in modernist academic journals and high-profile public critiques of utilitarianism), Martha Nussbaum is a paradigmatic member of a broad-ranging, ever-expanding set of twenty-first century philosophers, economists, and physicians, who reside on the SSC’s implicit (yet none-the-less rigorously enforced) Index Librorum Prohibitorum of “social justice orangutans” … isn’t she?

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        Go away John.

      • Aapje says:

        From Nussbaum’s paper:

        Similarly, Sen criticizes approaches that measure well-being in terms of utility by pointing to the fact that women frequently exhibit “adaptive preferences”, preferences that have adjusted to their second-class status

        Isn’t toxic masculinity a claim that men exhibit “adaptive preferences”? So if the “adaptive preferences” that override the ‘natural preferences’ lower well-being, then male well-being is logically lowered as well, undermining the claim that it is uniquely women who fail to have “full justice” due to their real preferences not being satisfied.

        As such, I would argue that Nussbaum, who endorses Sen’s argument, is not so much a “social justice orangutan” whose philosophy exposes the irrational biases of SSC, but rather, that she is an extremely poor and sexist philosopher, who reasons to conclusions, applying or ignoring SJ ideological constructs when it suits her conclusion.

        • Nornagest says:

          Don’t encourage him.

        • popoorangutan says:

          It’s not easy to name any philosopher, located anywhere on any ideological spectrum, who is more committed than Martha Nussbaum to gender-neutral rationality in its classic Socratic form. In a nutshell, Nussbaum avers:

          If one cannot separate consideration of the logical form of an argument from the consideration of the truth or falsity of its premises, one is unable to think or argue.

          That distinction is fundamental to all reasoned discourse, both male and female.

          If I say: “All women are illogical; W is a woman; therefore W is illogical,” I make a formally valid argument, but it is unsound because its first premise is false.

          If, on the other hand, I argue, “All mothers are women, W is a woman, therefore W is a mother,” I make an invalid inference from true premises.

          Without this distinction there is no room for any reasoned criticism of anything, much less of bias and injustice.

          Hence in regard to the philosophical primacy of rationality, Martha Nussbaum’s strongly held, ardently professed, integrally realized, philosophical principles are entirely SSC-compatible, are they not?

          This is why pro-rationality communities like SSC are ill advised to deprecate strongly rational SJ-orangutans like Martha Nussbaum.

          • Nornagest says:

            You’re not exactly making this hard, John.

          • Aapje says:

            @popoorangutan

            The part that you have quoted is rather beside the point, because I didn’t criticize Nussbaum for rejecting the principles of good philosophy, but rather, for not practicing it. As I have argued, Nussbaum doesn’t in fact critically assess her premises or in this case, the premises of arguments she accepts as true, as is typical in feminist papers, in my experience.

            In the link you give now, we see that Nussbaum is tribal and unprincipled, as well as emblematic of the problematic culture of academic feminism, when she rejects the use of the illogical & irrational in service of feminist philosophy WHILE simultaneously refusing to reject the philosophical works that use the illogical & irrational or to declare that their creators are a blight on her field:

            I am aware that I have been understood by some of my readers to be dividing feminists into “good” and “bad” feminists, and to be declaring some people’s work to be illegitimate. Let me say, then, that I have no desire to impugn the integrity of any feminist philosopher or her work, nor did I do so. It has been very hard to make a place for feminism in academic philosophy.

            She redirects the question of whether these feminist philosophers belong in academia & in her field, and whether their works should be denounced as nonsense, into a question of their integrity, which is entirely beside the point. Many crackpots are quite sincere and still do not deserve to be taken seriously (something I should probably have demonstrated by not writing this comment). By arguing this way, it is Nussbaum who is engaging in sophistry, which in turn undermines her defense of rational philosophy somewhat and her own status as a philosopher who upholds such ideals to a greater extent.

            Her final claim, that feminist academic philosophers should be defended to increase the viability of the field, rather than for their quality, is symptomatic of how much political/activist considerations have become interwoven with and arguable have overwhelmed academic feminism.

            Of course, John, you are a rather terrible philosopher yourself, with your frequent extreme claims that you state as self-evident, even though they are ridiculous. An example is the claim that there is a implicit, but rigorously enforced Index Librorum Prohibitorum. The very fact that I am arguing about Nussbaum here is disproof of that assertion. Will you withdraw your claim?

    • Philosophisticat says:

      Negative average preference utilitarianism is one of the least plausible forms of utilitarianism, which is itself not very plausible.

      It entails particularly brutal forms of the sadistic conclusion – that it can be better to make every existing person worse off, and at the same time to create people who experience nothing but horrible torture for a thousand years, than to create people with excellent lives. It also entails that it would be a very good thing if we had lots of babies and then killed them immediately at birth. And that’s just the beginning.

      These are all worse than the problems of standard utilitarian views, most of which negative average preference utilitarianism still has.

      • Nick says:

        Would you mind explaining the various bad conclusions or pointing us to good discussions of them? I’ve heard of some of these, of course, but I haven’t looked into them. I see the SEP has an article on the repugnant conclusion, for instance, but it doesn’t sound like that’s one you have in mind.

        • Philosophisticat says:

          This is a good summary of the problems facing most views: http://users.ox.ac.uk/~mert2255/papers/population_axiology.pdf

          The original discussion of most of these problems is in Derek Parfit’s magnum opus Reasons and Persons.

          Average views entail that making everyone who exists worse off and adding tortured people can be better than adding happy people, if the happy people you would add are many in number and would be below average. They also entail that if the world contains only people who have the worst imaginable lives, you ought, if you can, add people who have just barely better than the worst imaginable lives. They also entail that whether you ought to have children depends on how many happy aliens there are in faraway parts of the universe.

          The negative average preference view, in addition to all of these, entails that we ought to have many babies and kill them after birth, because they add to the denominator and, on account of their short lives, have very few unsatisfied preferences.

          It’s more or less the consensus view that the problems for average views in general are worse than the problems for pretty much every other competing view, and the only place I’ve ever seen the negative version defended is in the one terrible paper Scott linked to in one of his posts. I think you’d have to try pretty hard to find a worse view.

          • Nick says:

            That article looks great, thanks. I’ll check it out. Reasons and Persons meanwhile is on my list, but it’s super low priority.

        • pontifex says:

          What, you don’t want to Google “the sadistic conclusion”? 🙂

          I don’t want to either, actually… Google has too much dirt on me already.

  5. Matt M says:

    Bay Area People:

    For work related reasons, I’ll soon be spending several nights in downtown SF (near the shiny new SalesForce tower). Does anyone have any restaurant (or other general) recommendations near there? Ideally walking distance, and ideally something closer to the “fast casual/takeout friendly” end of things than the “fancy four star” end of things.

    Also would consider UberEats (or similar) for something particularly good, but not in walking range.

    Any cool sights worth seeing that don’t require me to walk through any sketchy/dangerous areas?

    • hiblick says:

      The Ferry Building marketplace has a good mix of sit-down and take out food, including snacks that you could take back to your hotel. Walk a bit further down toward the Bay Bridge, and you’ll get a great view of the digital light display, as well as the Bay itself.

  6. hiblick says:

    I’ve finally wrapped my head around bayesianism, particularly the rationalist flavour of it as a general cure-all and pick-me-up. I still have some dumb questions about it (and possibly statistics in general), but am also interested in working on some utilities to help me play with it more in everyday life. (Nothing too serious — something like the Finderator, perhaps, but for todo lists).

    Is anyone else interested in exploring this together or answering novice questions on this topic? It feels a bit like I’ve come several years too late for lesswrong to be the place for this kind of introductory group exploration, but on the other hand, I’m unsure which of the new venues — lesserwrong, the SSC Discord channel, the #lesswrong IRC channel — are right for this.

    • kokotajlod@gmail.com says:

      Sure. I’d love to test my ability to answer questions on the topic & plug whatever gaps in my knowledge we might uncover.

      I also have been looking for someone to help me write some apps involving it…

  7. A Definite Beta Guy says:

    Work morale is pretty close to “mutinous.” Our department received lower bonuses and wages than the other departments, and had no promotions while other departments had several. In addition, one employee was busted for continually leaving early, and made a complaint to the effect of “everyone does it,” so now management is watching ALL of us. Our Director made 10 or so walk-throughs Monday.

    There’s a lot of talk about “grade school,” “prison,” and “micromanaging.”

    Right now, out of the 4 people on my team, 3 are looking for new positions.

    Really interested in seeing how this turns out! I’ve never seen low workplace morale turn into an exodus.

    • marshwiggle says:

      I’ve not seen it myself, but my wife once did. Her employer had repeatedly insulted its employees pretty much at every opportunity, and conditions were poor. The employer then implied that conditions were going to worsen. Over a holiday, everyone but management quit. To my wife’s knowledge there was no collusion on that – it’s just that everyone decided to find another job, and the holiday offered time to do that. The business closed, and deservedly so.

    • LadyJane says:

      I’ve been in similar situations. In my experience, when morale gets that low, you’ll usually see a mix of people outright quitting, and people engaging in increasingly unprofessional behavior because they don’t care if they get fired. This results in people getting into heated and often public disputes with co-workers and managers, people slacking off to a point that actively hinders the business, and sometimes even people deliberately sabotaging the business out of spite. Miscommunications also tend to become increasingly frequent, either because people don’t feel comfortable being honest or because they just don’t care to put in the time and effort to communicate well. More ambitious sorts may also see the chaos and confusion as an opportunity to climb the ranks, lying and snitching and playing people off each other to get ahead. Expect a sharp decrease in workplace efficiency and an increased focus on office politics.

    • SamChevre says:

      I once worked in a small team that was assigned a very annoying manager. After bout 6 months, the whole team went into the department head’s office and gave him an ultimatum–we are not willing to work for X; either get us another manager, or…

      X never managed people again until he retired.

      I worked for a several years for a company that was obviously circling the drain; after awhile, we were left with the people who had no options, the people who were too stupid to realize there was a problem, and the people who would take a chance on anything. It was distinctly sub-optimal.

    • johan_larson says:

      Sounds like it’s time to go, if you have any decent options at all.

    • Deiseach says:

      Can I ask why your department took such a hammering? Is it the red-headed stepchild of the company, or is it really the case that people were skiving off and generally not pulling their full weight, or do you think this is an augury of things to come – ‘no promotions’ if other departments got them sounds to me like “thinking of closing the whole department down or otherwise scrapping it, including amalgamating it with another department, moving people into different departments in the same building, or ‘offering’ them jobs in other sites”? (By ‘offering’ I mean a choice of “move five hundred miles away or be fired/made redundant”).

      My experience of “low workplace morale” all comes out of working retail, which is its own circle of hell 🙂

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        Good Q, it’s really coming down from 2 different levels.

        -Compensation and promotion decisions are handed down by the VPs. Wages and promotions? They aren’t that bad. And quite frankly we are over-compensated as is. The promotions, I can’t wrap my head around. There’s word of a possible buy-out, but there’s another group that’s already been partially outsourced that received actual promotions. They might just think we are already too top-heavy, even though we have the least number of managers in our division.

        -Workplace conditions are coming from the Directors. The VPs definitely do not care. I see them practically partying with one of the other departments here. Our Directors have however noticed a few people leaving early practically every single day. They warned one, who complained “Everyone does it” or something to that effect, and are now putting the screws to everyone.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Does everyone do it, or just the person who got busted?

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            A few people do. The person busted was one of the few.

            Most of the slack around here is when people do other stuff on work time. Like, post on SSC.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Good news, one of our directors has tried to improve morale by taking one of the teams out for coffee.

      Problem? It’s the least productive of our teams. Everyone else is now even less happy.

      • quaelegit says:

        This whole story reads to me like one of those really demoralizing sitcoms — I’m chuckling but I’m also feeling bad for everyone involved. Hope your interview yesterday went well and you can find a better situation for yourself at least.

  8. Tatterdemalion says:

    What would be the effect of requiring universities to offer evaluation-only versions of their degrees, where you don’t pay for or receive any form of tuition or support, but only for the marking of exams and (where relevant) coursework, and if you pass you receive the credential the same as anyone else?

    • rahien.din says:

      There would be institutions that would spring up and offer to teach you the content of the test.

      So we kind of already have that in a general sense : standardized tests like the SAT.

      • johan_larson says:

        There would be institutions that would spring up and offer to teach you the content of the test.

        There’s no particular reason it couldn’t be the university itself. They could offer varying degrees of instruction that all lead to the same exam. Elaborate preparation with senior scholars teaching small classes and willing to discuss homework in detail would cost the most. Bulk lectures and feedback from TAs would be cheaper. Just the instructional material and test grading would be cheapest. But everyone, no matter the preparation, would get the same test and, assuming they passed, the same degree.

        I think the larger question for an institution proposing grading-only degrees is who they are trying to serve. If the degrees are cheap, presumably the institution is trying to serve the poor. The problem is that students from poor backgrounds often have spotty academic preparation for college-level studies, and lack a certain cultural savvy about how things are done because they are often the first people in their families to go to college. Because of this, they need a lot of guidance to succeed. The grading-only college would appeal to poor people, but few would complete the course of study. It would be ideal for the penniless genius, of course, but there aren’t a lot of those.

    • Well... says:

      What about when the Final Challenge isn’t a test but a capstone project or thesis or something like that?

      • johan_larson says:

        You pay a fee for the grading of the project or thesis, just as in another course you would have paid a fee to take the final exam.

        • toastengineer says:

          I imagine that would involve hiring a lot more professors; my profs always seemed like they had their hands full just grading projects from the relatively small classes they were teaching; opening that up to literally anyone who wants to try would involve a massive amount of work.

          • johan_larson says:

            Oh, nobody’s proposing this would be free. But it would take less professorial labour to grade the tests of 100 students than it would to lecture to them, answer their questions in office hours, grade their homework, and then grade their tests, so it would be cheaper.

    • christhenottopher says:

      Given that exams only do not signal conscientiousness very well (at least not compared to “will this person work on mostly useless tasks for four years straight?”), then what would likely happen is the value of university degrees would plummet (or if universities could show the difference between exam only and traditional degrees, the exam only degrees would become rapidly worthless in the job market). Degrees are primarily about signaling and exam only degrees simply signal less. Even if you can ensure no cheating, employers would go “Hm, OK maybe the exam student is smart, but I don’t know how hard he’ll work or whether he’s got problems with authority that will make him unmanageable. Better go with the traditional student.”

    • Fossegrimen says:

      That’s pretty much coursera.org if you’re not hung up on credentialism, right? If so, it seems to work fine for quite a bit of the world.

      • David Speyer says:

        Coursera works pretty well for people who seek out Coursera courses voluntarily and complete them. But generally less than 10% of people who enroll in a MOOC complete it and, when San Jose State University forced students to take large math courses as MOOCs, only 25%-50% passed.

        In my ideal world, Tatterdemalion’s thought experiment leads to the majority of students taking courses as usual, but allows students more freedom to set their own pace. What I think it would mean in reality is a big reduction in teaching, with exams only being passed by either extremely diligent students, or by those whose families can afford private tutoring.

    • rlms says:

      You could get some idea by looking the situation with the University of London from 1858-1898, where that more or less happened.

    • bean says:

      I’m not sure this could survive a determined attempt to undermine it. You say “(where relevant) coursework”, but what counts as relevant? Obviously it doesn’t (or shouldn’t) include, say, math homework where you’re going to get the same area of math on the test. And obviously a capstone project course is basically going to look like it does today. But a lot of my engineering classes had medium-sized projects in areas that couldn’t be covered on a test (mostly computer work of various sorts). Do those count as relevant?
      If we let them count, then what’s to stop schools from packaging as much of their coursework as “relevant” as possible to drive up cost and make this less attractive? I don’t see how that’s possible, without a tremendous amount of overhead.
      And then there’s the issue of making sure they don’t get support. Are they going to block any email from the exam-only student to the TA, or something? How do they keep them from slipping into the classroom? How do we make sure schools don’t game the cost of marking tests to make it seem more expensive?

    • FF says:

      Something like what you describe (at least partially) happens in some countries in continental Europe, where university education is less like high school as in the US.
      Classes (except for some degrees like Medicine) are mostly optional, and you can just show up for the final exam. Tuition is cheaper (than the US), and in fact you only pay for the exams. There is the idea that since (most) universities are public, the lectures are a public good, and everyone can just show up and listen even if they are not enrolled.
      (As a matter of fact if you’re bright you just go to interesting classes and show up directly for the final exams for the boring ones, thus saving up a lot of time.)

    • bean says:

      Oh, right. Another problem. AP classes in the US are the basic version of this. It’s possible to take an AP test for a class you don’t have for a fairly low price. I’ve also basically never seen it done. Less than half a dozen students at my large and very good high school took an AP test in a course they weren’t in during the time I was there. (Excluding those cases where people in, say, Honors Civics took AP Government. There was definitely a class, even if it wasn’t the AP version.) Why would this work better?

      • The Nybbler says:

        I did that. But it’s of limited use; AP credits tend not to work for courses in your major, for instance, so my AP Comp Sci B exam helped me not at all, whereas my AP Biology exam was good for a a few elective credits.

      • sierraescape says:

        Why would they take the test and not the class? They’re enrolled in high school anyways and the class itself adds nothing to the cost of the test. This would not be a college version of AP, since people pay for college classes, the credentialism is worth far more, etc.

        • Brad says:

          My high school didn’t offer all the AP classes that I thought I could do well on the test. I ended up taking two AP exams where I didn’t take the class and got a five on both. As it turns out I was in a situation similar to The Nybbler where they weren’t useful to me in college, but maybe they helped me in admission.

        • gbdub says:

          At my HS, they offered classes for both AP Lit. and AP Comp. Most of the smart kids took both, their jr and sr years. I transferred in as a jr, had an extra English credit, and didn’t actually need both classes to graduate, so I just took Lit and the Comp test was so similar that I just sat for both tests and easily got a 5 on the Comp.

          The school didn’t have an AP Physics course (just Bio, where the teacher was a notorious bitch) so a half dozen smart kids who had no need for bio (we all ended up in engineering or math) did it as an “independent study” for a semester which was mostly goofing off but we all managed 4s and 5s.

          The school AP calculus class technically only covered the AB flavor of the exam, but we got through about half the extra material for the BC so the teacher gave all the students who were making A grades an optional study guide for the extra material and encouraged us to take that version. We all got 5s with a little extra studying.

          All of this stuff transferred for me, and ultimately saved me a semester of university. The BC calculus class plus taking advanced calculus for a year at the local CC my sr year of HS got me out of all the calculus prerequisites for engineering, which at UofM were notorious “weeder” classes – huge lecture halls, not super well taught, tough material. As a bonus I was able to get a math minor taking just a couple (literally 2) extra math classes in college.

          Downsides were that some of the English credits just transferred as general elective credits (but partly because engineering didn’t require many English credits), and while it saved me a semester of total classes I ended up with one extra semester with “upper level standing” (I.e. jr level credits) for which the school charged more tuition.

        • bean says:

          Why would they take the test and not the class?

          The class wasn’t offered at the school, or otherwise didn’t fit into their schedule.

  9. Mark V Anderson says:

    I would like to do a series of book reviews of my favorite non-fiction books. I have reviewed all these books on Amazon.com, but these reviews will be written particularly for SSC. I hope to receive questions and comments on these books, encourage others to read them, and create good conversation. Maybe it will encourage others to write up their own favorites.

    The first book is also the most controversial, “The Bell Curve,” by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray. This book can only be reviewed in a CW acceptable thread. Many of heard about this book, but I don’t think too many have read it.

    Most of the book shows how IQ is an important factor in success and failure. It is significantly correlated with education, income, career success, and good citizenship such as voting. It also has a significant negative correlation with crime and family dysfunction. IQ is certainly not the only cause of success and failure – many of the less intelligent succeed in life and don’t become criminals. But it is a significant predictive factor. It is significant even if socio-economic group is factored out. In my opinion, they do a good job of showing that so-called cultural bias is a non-factor in IQ scores. And most of their statistics are taken from government studies, so the accusation that they used biased statistics is certainly untrue.

    The reason this is important is that it shows that testing for IQ can reach predictive results. Testing to find the best candidates for a job or a school is a valid process. Many have claimed that IQ means nothing, but the Bell Curve’s plethora of statistics shows that this is incorrect.

    The most common accusation against this book is that it is racist. The book does show that the average IQ of Blacks is about one standard deviation below that of Whites, so Blacks’ average IQ is 85. Again, this is per government statistics. I think this average difference has now been accepted by all serious intelligence researchers; it isn’t a radical opinion of this book.

    The issue of whether this difference is due to genetics is also discussed, although they are very clear to say that this is a scientific unknown. At one point, they say they are agnostic as to whether any of the Black/White IQ difference is genetic, but I think they are a bit disingenuous in that statement. They later state their belief that it is rather unlikely for the entire difference to be environmental. They base on the studies of Whites on the same environmental state as Blacks, and the fact that these Whites’ IQs are not nearly as low as the Black ones. I do think they understate the differences that only apply to Blacks, particularly the very anti-intellectual Black ghetto culture, which obviously applies to Blacks more than Whites. Also, it could be that racial prejudice also brings down IQ, which does not affect Whites. But of course this does not mean that the Black/White IQ difference is not partly genetic, just that it is more likely to be the case than the authors of this book opine.

    This book was written 25 years ago, so some things have undoubtedly changed. But I think the main impetus of the book is still largely true. And the importance of issues in this book comes up surprisingly often in discussions of US domestic policy.

    • Ivy says:

      I read the book a few months ago and found it really interesting. This seems as good as time as any to ask the SSC commentariat about a couple unresolved questions I had after reading:

      1. IQ predicts positive life outcomes. So does being physically attractive. How do we know that the success of high-IQ people is due to their intrinsic abilities, rather than due to the way society perceives and rewards them? How do we know this isn’t the case for physically attractive people? Sure, we have a clearer causal story for IQ, but do we have any hard evidence?

      As a more extreme example, race predicted life outcomes with near certainty in the antebellum South, but it’s not really evidence for the scientific “usefulness” of race as a variable.

      2. For a particularly promising IQ-gain-in-preschooling study (I can dig up the citation if there’s interest) Murray and Herrnstein hypothesize that “the program’s substantial and enduring gain in IQ has been produced by coaching the children so well on taking intelligence tests that their scores no longer measure intelligence or g very well”.

      Doesn’t this suggest we can’t rely on IQ tests to decide anything of importance in society, because everyone will start “coaching” and IQ and intelligence will become less correlated? Could this have already happened to the SAT?

      • Aapje says:

        How do we know that the success of high-IQ people is due to their intrinsic abilities, rather than due to the way society perceives and rewards them?

        I find your question confusing/confused. If high IQ people get high rewards in part or in full because other people like to be around them & this skill is something that they are born with, then acting in a way that is likable is an intrinsic ability.

        How do we know this isn’t the case for physically attractive people? Sure, we have a clearer causal story for IQ, but do we have any hard evidence?

        Quite a bit of research has been done into this.

        However, there are some caveats:
        – When the data comes from surveys, we would expect this pattern to show up if some people are prone to exaggerate and/or lie about both their physical traits and income
        – There may be confounders, for example, people with better genes may be prettier and smarter on average
        – All the standard social science replication crisis stuff

        Doesn’t this suggest we can’t rely on IQ tests to decide anything of importance in society, because everyone will start “coaching” and IQ and intelligence will become less correlated?

        Part of the Flynn effect may be that we are increasingly teaching to the test.

        You are correct that if this is the case, we cannot trust the results to accurately reflect natural ability, unless everyone is coached the same amount, which seems unlikely.

        The Hawthorne effect seems quite hard to avoid, in general.

        • Ivy says:

          If high IQ people get high rewards in part or in full because other people like to be around them & this skill is something that they are born with, then acting in a way that is likable is an intrinsic ability.

          But the policy prescriptions will be very different! If IQ mostly measures “effectiveness” it makes sense to invest in programs that raise everyone’s IQ at the expense of other traits. If IQ mostly measures “how much people like and respect you” it makes less sense to do that, and more sense to work on social norms that better integrate lower-IQ people.

          By analogy, an intervention that raises everyone’s attractiveness by 5% (e.g. by subsidizing cosmetics) would be a waste. Making attractiveness less socially important seems much more promising.

          • albatross11 says:

            It seems pretty likely that there are advantages to higher intelligence[1] in dealing with reality. For example, there’s a really consistent finding from psychometrics that IQ positively correlates with performance on pretty much every job. All else equal, the mechanic with the 110 IQ is more likely to fix your car than the one with the 95 IQ. Having mechanics get the cars fixed properly, janitors get the room clean, pilots land the plane successfully, doctors figuring out what’s wrong with you and how to treat it more often, etc., are all absolute effects.

            My intuition is that there’s some stuff you just couldn’t do without very smart people. If you want to develop new vaccines or design new aircraft or write a new operating system, you’re going to need some really smart people.

            On the other hand, a lot of our lives are competitive. Being smart will help you be a better doctor regardless of what the competition looks like, but being smarter than most of the people around you will help you get into medical school in the first place.

            [1] All our data come from IQ scores, but what we’re hoping to measure with IQ tests is intelligence.

          • Aapje says:

            @Ivy

            By analogy, an intervention that raises everyone’s attractiveness by 5% (e.g. by subsidizing cosmetics) would be a waste.

            I strongly disagree. People favor dating and being around attractive people for it’s own sake. It’s true that if everyone would be prettier, you wouldn’t rise in the hierarchy, but people would still be more willing to date you, be around you, etc. This is especially beneficial at the bottom tiers, where some people simply offer too little to be viable dating options.

            Similarly, raising everyone’s IQ can mean that everyone can do better jobs, make better decisions, etc. This is beneficial for humanity as a whole and allows more people to get a job. Again, this probably favors the bottom tiers more, as unemployment is higher the less education people have (and getting a good education is correlated strongly with IQ).

      • The Nybbler says:

        One theoretical experiment we could do is to grade IQ-related tests on a curve; give some people the rewards at lower marks than others. We do this. Outcome is better matched to success on the tests than rewards given.

        • Ivy says:

          But I don’t think that distinguishes the two cases. If we did affirmative action for unattractive people, outcome will probably still be better matched to real attractiveness.

      • rahien.din says:

        1. IQ predicts positive life outcomes. So does being physically attractive. How do we know that the success of high-IQ people is due to their intrinsic abilities, rather than due to the way society perceives and rewards them?

        I agree with Aapje. There is no meaningful distinction between “smart people have better lives because they do effective things” and “smart people have better lives because they are rewarded for doing effective things.” If you’re smart, you will do the things that lead to success, which are often the things that are rewarded by society.

        2. For a particularly promising IQ-gain-in-preschooling study (I can dig up the citation if there’s interest) Murray and Herrnstein hypothesize that “the program’s substantial and enduring gain in IQ has been produced by coaching the children so well on taking intelligence tests that their scores no longer measure intelligence or g very well”.

        This is not the only possible interpretation. Maybe in the past, most people did not know how to take IQ tests, and thus, their IQ was not measured accurately. Now that more people know how to take IQ tests, we are measuring IQ more accurately.

        (Cue the person who can demonstrate that this possibility has already been examined?)

      • Anonymous says:

        IQ predicts positive life outcomes. So does being physically attractive.

        Isn’t that the same underlying variable? I forget where I heard it (probably Stefan Molyneux’s channel), but supposedly if you divide people into attractive and unattractive, the attractive group will have a much higher IQ (something to the effect of a standard deviation higher).

        EDIT: Found what looks like the source of this, here.

        • albatross11 says:

          I think this is a consequence of the way that most good things positively correlate. Healthier people (better childhood environment, better genes) will be taller, better looking, and smarter on average, even though there are plenty of tall, good looking dunces and short, ugly geniuses out there.

      • albatross11 says:

        IMO, one interesting question is how much of the advantage of high intelligence is absolute (you’re good at dealing with nature or accomplishing specific tasks) and how much is competitive (you’re better than other people at those tasks, so you win competitions/get better grades/make the discovery first).

        Imagine two countries. Smartistan has an average IQ of 115 (probably like the population of a good but not great university). Dumbistan has an average IQ of 85 (probably like the population of a prison). If you have an IQ of 100, which one would you rather live in?

        Smartistan will probably have better services and be richer–the doctors and engineers will tend to be smarter, the bureaucrats more competent, etc. But you will be at a notable disadvantage relative to everyone else. You’ll tend to get shunted into less desirable jobs because there are so many people who can do the desirable jobs better.

        Dumbistan will probably have worse services and be poorer–the doctors and engineers won’t be as smart, the bureaucrats won’t be as competent. But you’ll be an unusually bright fellow in that society–you’ll be the clever guy at your office that people come to with hard problems.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        @Ivy

        For a particularly promising IQ-gain-in-preschooling study (I can dig up the citation if there’s interest) Murray and Herrnstein hypothesize that “the program’s substantial and enduring gain in IQ has been produced by coaching the children so well on taking intelligence tests that their scores no longer measure intelligence or g very well”.

        Yes I’d like to see a reference if you can find it. I just looked at my copy of The Bell Curve, in Chapter 17 where they talk about the possibility of raising IQ’s. I don’t see anything like you say here. And their analysis included the highly touted Perry Preschool and Abecedarian Project. To me this is an issue of replication. Even if you can show one or two small studies that seem to show significant and enduring increases in IQ, they can’t be held up as models if they can’t be replicated.

        You are correct that being physically attractive correlates with success in life. So does being taller than average, especially for men. If these factors had a higher correlation with success than IQ, then yes we should be using them on a practical basis (although it would be obvious then that one probably wasn’t measuring inherent ability but something else, unlike IQ). But I don’t think these factors do out-perform IQ.

        • Ivy says:

          @Mark

          Yeah it’s in Chapter 17, the exact quote is

          psychologists Charles Locurto and Arthur Jensen have concluded that the program’s substantial and enduring gain in IQ has been produced by coaching the children so well on taking intelligence tests that their scores no longer measure intelligence or g very well.[75]

          where the footnote is

          [75] Jensen 1989; Locurto 1991. The problem of “teaching to the test” recurs in educational interventions. It is based on the test’s being less than a perfect measure of intelligence (or g), so that it is possible to change the score without changing the underlying trait (see further discussion in Jensen 1993a).

          Agreed about the issues of replication, it’s definitely a tentative result – but it does match my priors, and seems like an underrated issue.

          As to physical attractiveness I wasn’t suggesting it out-performs IQ, only that IQ could be like it – correlated with success not for universal reasons but for social ones.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Thanks Ivy. I had to look about 4 times, but there it was in my book.

            Actually Murray and Herrnstein don’t say that teaching to the test changes the score beyond what is truly intelligence. They merely quote other researchers who say that. Maybe you think this quote implies they agree — but I think they are just being complete in their research by including data that doesn’t point to their conclusion. Because if it is true that if teaching to the test increases the score beyond one’s intelligence, that implies the score isn’t so hot after all. Not all of the data in any social science study will point to one conclusion. If you see a study where that occurs, there is a pretty good chance they are cherry picking.

    • albatross11 says:

      The racial IQ differences reported in The Bell Curve were previously well-known. Though I think more recent studies estimate the gap as being a bit narrower–more like 10 points than 15. But the existence of that gap was absolutely known among people in psychology and special education–I remember my parents (both special ed majors in college) having some discussion about it at some point when I was a kid. My impression is that the controversy surrounding that chapter of the book (they only discussed race in one chapter) was because of a lot of people thought these matters should not be discussed in public.

      But the really fascinating thing about reading The Bell Curve was that it let me discover how many talking head shows and book reviews in prestigious media sources are done by people who either haven’t bothered reading the book they’re discussing, or by people who are 100% willing to lie about what politically controversial books say.

      The core of the book was looking at the NLSY results, which gave people more-or-less an IQ test when they were young, and then tracked where they ended up throughout many years of their lives. So they could ask questions like “Among people who graduated high school and had no more school, how does that IQ test they took at 17 relate to their income at age 35?” Or “How does IQ affect the probability you’ll be in prison at some point in the next 20 years.”

      IMO (it’s been some time since I’ve read the book), the important ideas in the book were:

      a. Intelligence as measured by IQ positively correlates with almost everything good in life. Income, life expectancy, marriage, employment. And it negatively correlates with almost everything bad in life–divorce, disability, prison, unemployment. This is all stuff that fell right out of his data, and as far as I know, it’s held up, though there may be other interpretations of the data (like income driving differences in life expectancy, and IQ happening to correlate with both). But this isn’t remotely my field.

      b. Intelligence as measured by IQ is partly heritable and partly environment, but probably not much under your control. Again, I think this is the mainstream view in the field, with the strongest evidence for this coming from twin studies.

      c. US society has gotten really good at recruiting the smartest few percent of people from every walk of life and getting them into college, and often into elite colleges or graduate programs. That’s led to what the authors call “cognitive stratification,” where smart people end up spending their whole adult lives surrounded by other smart people, and where social and economic classes roughly reflect cognitive classes. My impression is that this is a lot more speculative, though it seems plausible. I don’t know how well it’s held up in practice. (Murray’s _Coming Apart_ covers this issue in a lot more detail, but seems like it’s much less a story of cognitive stratification than a story of the lower class losing the norms and social structures that kept them functioning.)

      d. Assuming their model of cognitive stratification is right, their unhappy prediction is what they call “the custodial state.” Basically think of a combination of a very intrusive welfare state with a lot of police around to enforce the dictates of the bureaucrats, or a modern reimagining of an Indian reservation for keeping the underclass from causing problems for the rest of the society. Again, this seems plausible but who knows?

      I think the cognitive stratification idea is worth digging into. I think it’s pretty clear that most really smart people don’t associate with anyone who’s not also pretty smart, and that this leads to some blind spots w.r.t. support for poverty programs that would work better for a person with an IQ of 120 than for a person with an IQ of 80. That seems like a side effect of having the people designing those programs all be smart people who hang around with other smart people all the time. Another version of this is the requirement that every kid pass algebra 2 to graduate high school. This is the sort of requirement that seems sensible when you’re a smart person who spends all their time with smart people, but perhaps not when you know a fair number of people who didn’t go to college because their basic high school classes were already too hard for them. Or consider the assumption that everyone should go to college.

      Further, there’s definitely a phenomenon of assortative mating going on, where smart men and women meet in their (highly IQ segregate) college or at their (highly IQ segregated) workplace, get married, and have kids who get both good genes and a good environment growing up. I don’t know whether that’s important in the grand scheme of things, but it’s clearly happening in some places. (All four of my childrens’ grandparents have graduate degrees, and I don’t think I’m all that unusual in my circle of acquaintance.)

      There’s a lot of discussion in the world about why IQ positively correlates with good things. One plausible explanation is that the world is an IQ test, and people who do well on the fast paper kind of IQ test usually also do well on the slow kind that shows up in life, where you need to understand moderately complex directions for taking your medicine properly or you have to figure out how to negotiate a complicated bureaucratic process to get hired or something. Another is simply that as we’ve gotten more and more credential-happy in our society, IQ matters more because it tracks our ability to pass tests that give us those credentials.

      • AG says:

        One plausible explanation is that the world is an IQ test

        This seems to be an important thing to consider re: the Flynn effect, that society perhaps converged towards favoring what IQ measures, and hence a genetic IQ difference.

        Which is to say, I hypothesize that if you take the most successful people from a society very different from ours, and their IQ won’t be significant, and IQ will no longer correlate with success in said society.

        Has anyone done a study of how the IQ spread looks for Olympic athletes? And then see if it changes depending on sport, or the socioeconomic trends per sport, such as the required financial/time investment, the viability of going full time professional, etc.
        Also do a supplementary study of the IQ of the supporting players: the people who organize events, parents of athletes, coaches, etc. For example, are there cases of parents/coaches who did better at the latter than their own athletic ambitions? Does IQ predict those who succeed at both performance and supporting activities?

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          Which is to say, I hypothesize that if you take the most successful people from a society very different from ours, and their IQ won’t be significant, and IQ will no longer correlate with success in said society.

          It is hard to judge this based on your phrase “very different from ours,” because that doesn’t say in what way it is different. But I would hypothesize that in any society intelligence correlates with success. I suppose if success was based on physical strength or skills, then IQ would not be innately related to the success factors. But there is no reason to suspect that IQ is negatively related to physical strength or skills, and I bet the smarter folks would figure out some way to excel in some way on these non-IQ factors. For one thing, I’ve noticed that leaders even in childhood were usually the smarter kids, when intelligence had no obvious benefit. I cannot imagine a human society where natural leaders would not be more successful than others.

          • BlindKungFuMaster says:

            “But there is no reason to suspect that IQ is negatively related to physical strength …”

            I’ve read that very high testosterone levels correlate negatively with intelligence.

    • a reader says:

      @Ivy:

      How do we know that the success of high-IQ people is due to their intrinsic abilities, rather than due to the way society perceives and rewards them?

      That makes me remember that study debunked by Scott, that said something like the perceived brilliancy needed to work in a field correlated with less women in that field (and Scott proved that “perceived” was not needed there).

      @Mark V Anderson: You omitted to mention an important aspect of the book: that the authors think that the class segregation by IQ that happens currently (the fact that, according to them, in US, almost all high IQ people become wealthy and that most of them are born wealthy) may be potentially dangerous for society. That seemed weird to me when I read it – I would have thought that meritocracy is a positive aspect. Murray treated this subject more in another book, “Coming apart of white America” that I didn’t read – did anybody read it?

      About the black-white IQ gap, I posted this a while ago, in a previous open thread:

      From a “Survey of Expert Opinion on Intelligence and Aptitude Testing” by M. Snyderman and S. Rothman, collected in 1984 (page 141):

      The source of the black-white difference in IQ. This is perhaps the central question in the IQ controversy. Respondents were asked to express their opinion of the role of genetic differences in the black-white IQ differential. Forty-five percent believe the difference to be a product of both genetic and environmental variation, compared to only 15% who feel the difference is entirely due to environmental variation. Twenty-four percent of experts do not believe there are sufficient data to support any reasonable opinion, and 14% did not respond to the question. Eight experts (1%) indicate a belief in an entirely genetic determination.

      From its more recent replication, “2013 survey of expert opinion on intelligence” by H. Rindermann, T. R. Coyle and D. Becker (page 16):

      Sources of U.S. black-white differences in IQ

      0-40% of differences due to genes: 42% of experts
      0% of differences due to genes: (17% of experts)
      [1-40% of differences due to genes: (25% of experts)]
      50% of differences due to genes: 18% of experts
      60-100% of differences due to genes: 39% of experts
      [60-99% of differences due to genes: (34% of experts)]
      100% of differences due to genes: (5% of experts)
      M=47% of differences due to genes (SD=31%)

      (the lines in [] are calculated by myself from the other lines, by simple aritmetic, the others are quoted)

      So, as you can see, not only the debate is really not settled yet, there is no consensus about that subject, but when the scientists are surveyed anonymously, a very different picture emerges than the one media presents us as “the scientific consensus”.

      • albatross11 says:

        a reader:

        Nitpick: I’m almost certain that The Bell Curve doesn’t claim the source of the racial IQ difference is genetic.

        I don’t remember them making quite as strong a statement as you’re making w.r.t. the overlap between smart and rich people, but it’s been many years since I’ve read the book, so I may just be forgetting stuff.

      • dndnrsn says:

        @a reader

        On the subject of stratification by intelligence and meritocracy being a bad thing if actually implemented, The Rise of the Meritocracy by Young is a good book. It was published back in the 50s and is a work of dystopian fiction by an English socialist.

      • a reader says:

        @albatross11:

        Regarding the source of the racial IQ difference, The Bell Curve concludes that:

        ‘If we’ve convinced you that either the environmental or the genetic explanation has won out to the exclusion of the other, we haven’t done a good enough job presenting the evidence for one side of the other. It seems to us highly likely that both genes and the environment have something to do with racial differences.’

        Regarding the segregation into smart & wealthy vs less smart & poorer, Charles Murray has an article, adapted after his next book, “Coming Apart:The State of White America, 1960–2010”, where he insists more on this problem (but I’m quite sure they touched it in The Bell Curve – as I said, I didn’t read Coming Apart):

        http://www.aei.org/publication/belmont-fishtown/

        The result is the elite culture that David Brooks described so memorably in Bobos in Paradise. But if you live in an affluent suburb, an upscale neighborhood of a large city, or in a college town, you do not need to read Brooks to know what I’m talking about. You live in that culture. But it is also possible (depending on the circumstances in which you grew up) that you are no longer familiar with what everywhere else in America is like. The problem is not the lifestyle of the members of America’s new upper class, which in many ways is attractive, but the degree to which the new upper class has become sealed off from the rest of America. […]

        Worst of all, a growing proportion of the people who run the institutions of our country have never known any other culture. They are the children of upper-middle-class parents, have always lived in upper-middle-class neighborhoods and gone to upper-middle-class schools. Many have never worked at a job that caused a body part to hurt at the end of the day, never had a conversation with an evangelical Christian, never seen a factory floor, never had a friend who didn’t have a college degree, never hunted or fished. […]

        When people are making decisions that affect the lives of many other people, the cultural isolation that has grown up around America’s new upper class can be disastrous. […] It is a problem if Yale law professors, or producers of the nightly news, or CEOs of great corporations, or the President’s advisors, cannot empathize with the priorities of truck drivers.

        Blue Tribe vs Red Tribe, as we say here – the two groups became so different that now perceive each other as the outgroup.

        @dndnrsn: I heard about that book but didn’t read it. I found an article by its author, Michael Young. It seems to somewhat converge with what Charles Murray said:

        https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2001/jun/29/comment

        No underclass has ever been left as morally naked as that.

        They have been deprived by educational selection of many of those who would have been their natural leaders, the able spokesmen and spokeswomen from the working class who continued to identify with the class from which they came.

        Except that Young wants “increasing income taxes on the rich” – the conservative Murray probably wouldn’t approve, although he is a supporter of universal basic income.

        • dndnrsn says:

          It’s interesting the degree to which Young’s dystopian fiction – written in response, I think, to a British proposal to introduce or increase streaming in schools – is echoed in what Murray claims has happened among white Americans in the period since Young wrote his book. Especially interesting since they’re, uh, rather different, as you allude to. Plus, Young’s book is shorter than Murray’s, and you won’t be reading a book by the Bell Curve guy, so more socially acceptable.

          Most criticisms of the concept of meritocracy are “it isn’t a meritocracy at all; that’s just what the people on top say” (possibly also saying that meritocracy isn’t possible) or “it’s mistaken to think that you can rank people as better than others; there’s no such thing as merit”. Young’s is what he says in that article: that meritocracy, existing and functioning, is bad for the working classes.

          • Incurian says:

            Compared to what?

          • dndnrsn says:

            The article linked above more or less points out how back in the day, the Labour party had a lot of important men from very humble backgrounds who had gotten into politics through union activities, etc. Young sees/saw this as the working classes having their own representatives, “natural leaders”, whatever.

            If one adopts a conception of intelligence in which genetics is a significant factor, reduced classism, meritocracy, etc “strips out” smart people (and their genes) from the working classes. It’s good for them personally, but if you stratify society by intelligence…

            Young believes that the Labour party of the early to middle 20th century did a better job of actually representing the working classes than the Blairites did. I think this is a pretty safe assessment. He ascribes it to the Labour party of the past being made up in much larger part of people from the working classes, whereas Blair’s New Labour people were far more likely to have gone to the right schools, etc, in a way that in the past was the domain of the Tories.

      • keranih says:

        I have listened to about 3/4 of Coming Apart in the audio version. It isn’t as dry as TBC.

      • hyperboloid says:

        From its more recent replication, “2013 survey of expert opinion on intelligence” by H. Rindermann, T. R. Coyle and D. Becker

        The selective response rates for a survey like that are likely such a large factor as to render it useless as a tool for judging much of anything abut the scientific consensus. According to the link you posted of the 1237 persons queried by Rindermann, Coyle and Becker, only 228 resounded. From what I understand, the field is deeply polarized, with a majority taking the view that group differences in intelligence are largely due to social and cultural factors, and a minority holding the view that they are largely genetic, I suspect that it is obvious which group would be more likely to respond to such a survey.

        I suspect I could conduct a similar survey of prominent scientists on subjects like ESP, and UFOs, that are far more obviously pseudoscience and get similar results; if for no other reason than that the kind of people who believe in such things are much more likely to respond in the first place.

        • a reader says:

          hyperboloid, do you fully realize what you’ve just said?

          You said that by making a survey among researchers in a field that has a large consensus and only a tiny minority who disagrees, the survey will probably show the opposite of the real consensus.

          For example, according to you, if you ask ~ 1000 Egyptology experts (real experts, who publish in peer-reviewed journals) “What contribution had the aliens to the building of the pyramids?”, among the hundreds of experts who will respond, the majority will probably say that the aliens had indeed some contribution (somewhere between 1-100%), only a minority (less than 20%) will say that the aliens were not involved at all – and the average value will be somewhere close to 50% alien contribution!

          • hyperboloid says:

            You said that by making a survey among researchers in a field that has a large consensus and only a tiny minority who disagrees, the survey will probably show the opposite of the real consensus..

            I never said anything about a tiny minority, I have no doubt that the views of people like Arthur Jensen constitute a respectable portion of opinion among experts in psychometrics. What I did say was that a survey with an 18 percent response rate is a very poor measure of the size of that portion.

            The PDF you posted looks like it might of been copied from a set of power point slides, and/or written by someone who’s first language was not English (at least one of the authors is German). Information in the survey report is remarkably poorly organized, and the document abounds with sentence fragments, and odd uses of language that are hard to make clear sense of. Furthermore it is, as we will see, very misleading as to the details of the survey.

            Luckily I dug around on line and found the abstract for the original publication in frontiers in psychology, which provides a far more lucid summery of the methodology.

            A total of 1345 people received an email invitation. An expert was defined as a person who had published on cognitive ability or who had attended intelligence conferences and presented research.

            …We received a total of 265 responses from May 2013 to March 2014, at which time the survey was closed. The response rate was 20% of all invitations. The present article focused on cross-national differences and concerned questions toward the end of the survey. These questions were answered by 71 respondents.

            So rather than an eighteen percent response rate, we actually have a five percent response rate to the relevant questions.

            Participants worked in the fields of psychology (80%), education (8%), biology (5%), economics (3%), sociology (2%), and physical anthropology (2%). 87% had a Ph.D. All were scientists (i.e., no journalists). Sixty seven percent were tenured faculty, 24% non-tenured faculty, and 6% students. Other participants (about 3%) were not categorized or worked in non-academic research institutes.

            The majority of respondents did research on the “nature of intelligence/cognitive abilities.” The percentage of respondents that studied group differences in ability and related topics was 55% for “group differences”;

            …We attempted to increase response rates by using an Internet survey, emailing invitations (and reminders), and announcing the survey at intelligence conferences. Despite these measures, response rates were still low. The low response rates may be attributed to the length of the survey (which took about 40–90 min to complete), self-censorship, or fear of addressing a controversial subject (despite assurances of anonymity). The low response rates may also reflect a paucity of experts on intelligence and international differences in cognitive ability. There may be 20–50 scientists who study international differences in intelligence. Based on this estimate, the number of respondents (71 people) may exceed the number of scientists who study the topic!

            The authors go on to describe content of the survey:

            Experts could assign a percentage to all 15 factors (causes) for each question. Logically, the percentages across all factors should sum to 100%. However, experts did not always rate all factors, and their ratings did not always sum to 100%. To address variation in percentages across participants (and questions), we analyzed only responses from experts who rated at least 5 of 15 factors or whose ratings summed to at least 75%. The sum of the ratings of 5 factors usually explained more than the half of the international differences. In addition, we replaced missing ratings with 0%, and standardized the sum of the ratings (within each question) to 100%. Replacing missing values with a score of 0% was based on the assumption that experts who did not rate a factor judged that factor as having no influence on ability differences.

            The adjustments corrected for biases across raters and questions. For example, the average sum of items (i.e., factors) for the first global question (i.e., causes of cross-national differences) was 440%. With the corrections, the average sum of items for the first global question (and all other questions) was 100%. Without the corrections, the average sum of items for each question would deviate from 100%, and would prevent comparisons across questions..

            So in summation, this is not a study of twelve hundred of the top experts in psychology, biology, and genetics; it is instead a survey of a bit fewer than 71 self selected researchers in a controversial, and marginalized scientific field.

            Unfortunately there simply isn’t a lot of good science on group differences in intelligence. Because the topic is politically controversial, and has been marred for decades by pseudoscience, few competent researchers study the topic, and those who do often have a political agenda.

            This is akin to surveying parapsychologists, and finding that most of them believe in esp.

            In answer to your question about Egyptology; what I would say is that if I survived 1000 archaeologists, and the 50 who bothered to respond to my question about aliens building the pyramids overwhelmingly answered in the affirmative, I’d throw out the results as hopelessly compromised by the lizzardman constant.

      • a reader says:

        Just an example of how the media manipulates the public, painting an extremely different picture of the current scientific opinions about genes and intelligence – sometimes even the exact opposite of the truth:

        From a recent article from the Guardian, from March 2, 2018, “The unwelcome revival of ‘race science’”:

        No one has successfully isolated any genes “for” intelligence at all, and claims in this direction have turned to dust when subjected to peer review. As the Edinburgh University cognitive ageing specialist Prof Ian Deary put it, “It is difficult to name even one gene that is reliably associated with normal intelligence in young, healthy adults.” Intelligence doesn’t come neatly packaged and labelled on any single strand of DNA.

        Ultimately, race science depends on a third claim: that intelligence is highly heritable, and that different IQ averages between population groups have a genetic basis.

        A colleague of that Prof Ian Deary, Stuart Ritchie, Postdoctoral Fellow at @CCACE, Psychology Department, The University of Edinburgh, replies on Twitter:

        Let me fix that for you, Guardian. “…as he put it in 2010, before going on to lead dozens of studies that discovered *many* such genes”.

        An he was right. After a quick look on Google Scholar, that Prof Ian Deary, quoted by the Guardian, appears as coauthor on at least 2 studies that found genes that influence intelligence:

        Genome-wide association studies establish that human intelligence is highly heritable and polygenic

        GWAS of 126,559 Individuals Identifies Genetic Variants Associated with Educational Attainment

        • DavidS says:

          Can you or anyone else cast light on what is meant by this (a response to that tweet you mention)

          “As you’re a psychologist, not an actual geneticist, someone might have to explain this to you: he’s completely correct.

          Intelligence has not been found a SNP-based trait; which is different from whether it’s heritable (it is) or whether this is about race science (it’s not).”

          Suggests I’m just out of my scientific depth but googling doesn’t make clear to me what an SNP based trait is! From the surrounding argument a lot of people seem to be saying for it to be racial it should be a single dramatic gene (as for racial vulnerability to illness) but I’m not clear why that would be as e.g. height is presumably lots of genes and varies by race. Possibly a single mutation is needed if you want changes to be very recent?

          • quanta413 says:

            The response is really really silly. I’ve never heard that terminology before, but I can tell what it means. An SNP is a single nucleotide polymorphism. That means that at some specific position on the genome different people may have a different nucleotide i.e. some have an A others a T or some a C others a G, etc. An SNP-based trait does not literally depend only on that one base, because you can change basically any trait by changing enough bases of the genome somewhere besides at the SNP. The trait would only be SNP based in the sense that all humans are either essentially identical at every other position that affects the trait or are an outlier in the sense of possessing extremely rare mutations.

            You have to parse “It is difficult to name even one gene that is reliably associated with normal intelligence in young, healthy adults.” as “It is difficult to name one gene reliably associated with normal intelligence in young, healthy adults because intelligence is controlled by a very large number of genes, some of which we know“. What Dreary is quoted as saying is extremely misleading to the average person who has no clue about how many (arguably all in a sense) phenotypic traits depend on many parts of the genome. It’s hard to know if that’s Dreary’s fault or the The Guardian’s fault.

            From the surrounding argument a lot of people seem to be saying for it to be racial it should be a single dramatic gene (as for racial vulnerability to illness) but I’m not clear why that would be as e.g. height is presumably lots of genes and varies by race. Possibly a single mutation is needed if you want changes to be very recent?

            Your statements are correct. The answer to your question is that very recent changes could involve many changes in gene frequency due to population bottlenecks, genetic draft, selection at multiple sites, etc. And racial differences are often dependent on multiple genes. Height depends on quite a few genes, yet Bantu people are much taller than neighboring pygmy people. The genes that you find associated with intra-population variance of these two populations also aren’t identical to the full set of genes that explain between population differences.

          • a reader says:

            It’s not prof. Ian Deary’s fault but Guardian journalist Gavin Evans’s fault. The journalist took the quote from an old scientific article from 2010, where Ian Deary was the first of the 3 authors:

            Deary, IJ, Penke, L & Johnson, W 2010, ‘The neuroscience of human intelligence differences’ Nature Reviews Neuroscience, vol 11, pp. 201-211. DOI: 10.1038/nrn2793

            The quote in original (at page 10) was:

            Despite its high heritability, it is, as yet, difficult to name even one genetic locus that is reliably associated with normal-range intelligence in young, healthy adults, though some 300 genes are known to be associated with mental retardation.

            I bold-ed the parts that the journalist conveniently cut out. By the way, that Dr Gavin Evans is not a simple journalist but also a professor of journalism who lectures in research methodology!

            Gavin Evans lectures first year and post-graduate students in journalism at Birkbeck, and over the past decade has also lectured at Birkbeck in critical thinking, media law, online journalism and aspects of media theory. He also supervises MA dissertations at Cardiff University, where he lectures in research methodology, and he is a senior lecturer at the London School of Journalism.

            source: http://www.bbk.ac.uk/culture/staff/associate-lecturers/gavin-evans (via unz.com)

        • The Nybbler says:

          That Guardian article was not very good. That’s not the only quote from a scientist named “Ian” that they misrepresented.

          The American palaeoanthropologist Ian Tattersall, widely acknowledged as one of the world’s leading experts on Cro-Magnons, has said that long before humans left Africa for Asia and Europe, they had already reached the end of the evolutionary line in terms of brain power. “We don’t have the right conditions for any meaningful biological evolution of the species,” he told an interviewer in 2000.

          Here’s the source of the quote. It’s pretty clear he’s talking about present day, not “long before humans left Africa”.

    • keranih says:

      I hope to receive questions and comments on these books, encourage others to read them, and create good conversation. Maybe it will encourage others to write up their own favorites.

      I applaud this notion, and I strongly agree that “The Bell Curve” is best left to CW-allowable threads.

      If I can suggest…for future editions, can you be more clear on what the books covers, what is criticism of the book, what is (relatively) independent fact, and what you think about the book? (If only because that’s atleast four different arguements discussions about the same work.)

      At some point we had a set of “SSC canon” reference list running about – might be useful to have all of them discussed at some length.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        @keranih

        If I can suggest…for future editions, can you be more clear on what the books covers, what is criticism of the book, what is (relatively) independent fact, and what you think about the book? (If only because that’s atleast four different arguements discussions about the same work.)

        Hmm. I thought I did cover those things. Not in detail, because I don’t want the review to get too long. My hope is that the commenters can come up with pertinent questions, and I am still here to discuss further if needed. These reviews probably don’t qualify as effort posts, because I am not spending all that much time on them.

        But I will copy your list of wishes and try to make sure I respond to each one in future reviews. I am already working on the next one.

        • keranih says:

          My apologies for not being clear – I would like for you to *differentiate* between the items on the list (however many you may decide are useful or interesting to include) so that the unfamiliar reader can tell them apart.

    • a reader says:

      For people who want to have an idea what The Bell Curve is about, but don’t have the time to read all > 500 pages, here is a summary made by Charles Murray (one of the authors) by puting together the summaries of all the chapters :

      The Bell Curve Explained

      A quote from the introduction of that summary:

      We spent more than half of the interview discussing what is actually in The Bell Curve as opposed to what people think is in it. Both of us expected our Twitter feeds to light up with nasty reactions after the interview was posted. But the opposite happened. The nasty reactions were far outnumbered by people who said they had always assumed that The Bell Curve was the hateful pseudoscientific mess that the critics had claimed, but had now decided they wanted to give the book a chance. It has been a heartening experience.

      I think that it’s quite unfair that the media presented it as a “white supremacist” book:
      – one of the authors, Richard J. Herrnstein, was a jew
      – the other author, Charles Murray, was married with an Thai woman and had biracial children
      – most of the book isn’t about race
      – the book doesn’t present whites as the superior race – on the contrary, it says that East Asians have higher IQ:

      East Asians (e.g., Chinese, Japanese), whether in America or in Asia, typically earn higher scores on intelligence and achievement tests than white Americans. The precise size of their advantage is unclear; estimates range from just a few to ten points. A more certain difference between the races is that East Asians have higher nonverbal intelligence than whites while being equal, or perhaps slightly lower, in verbal intelligence.

      – about the blacks, the book says that a black and a white with equal IQ have quite similar outcomes:

      After controlling for IQ, larger numbers of blacks than whites graduate from college and enter the professions. On a third important indicator of success, wages, the black-white difference for year-round workers shrinks from several thousand to a few hundred dollars.

  10. chosh says:

    Scott’s Biodeterminist’s guide to parenting here mentions prenatal iodine as boosting IQ in iodine deficient populations by ~12 points. Yet givewell’s intervention report for iodine supplementation here only goes over the benefits for supplementing in children over a period of months to a couple years, with the lower effect size of ~4 IQ points. I know the audience here and EA overlap substantially, does anyone know if I’m missing something, or should we be looking into bumping up iodine supplementation charities on the spectrum of global poverty interventions?

    Context: Givewell currently has two iodine supplementation standout charities doing salt iodization programs, but no top charities. Much of the reason these aren’t top charities seems to be limited track records rather than cost effectiveness.

  11. Jack Lecter says:

    Is Functional Decision Theory self-limiting?

    (As far as I can tell, FDT opis basically justa rebranding of Logical Decision Theory, which was a rebranding of Timeless Decision Theory, somthis question should apply to those as well. Any clarification on differences I’m missing would be appreciated; I admit I haven’t read all the relevant material.)

    Say, I’m about to take option (a) because I hold a (naive) version of CDT. Then I read Cheating Death in Damascus (which I’m currently in the middle of) and realize I’d much rather live in a world where more people take option (b). So I take option (b).

    And then later I realize I only took option (b) because my algorithm had Cheating Death in Damascus as an input, and the vast majority of people in my position won’t even have heard of Causal Decision Theory.

    So the number of people running similar algorithms with similar inputs is… limited to the number of people who read about weird Decision Theory variants online. This isn’t exactly encouraging.

    Does FDT have a way around this?

    and decide

    • sty_silver says:

      I have not heard of logical decision theory, but FDT is not a rebranding of TDT. TDT loses on Counterfactual Mugging; FDT doesn’t, and indeed it wins on every fair problem we know of. FDT is a rebranded and formalized version of Updateless Decision Theory.

      Is your question whether FDT can solve coordination problems with other people who are not FD-theorists themselves? If so, the answer is no. FDT says to fix the output of the mathematical function that determines your decision such that you achieve maximal utility. If other agents are CD-Theorists or don’t even have a coherent algorithm, then the function’s output has no say on their actions, so FDT will just behave like CDT.

      There’s no known general solution for coordination problems if only a small number of people in them have the right decision theory, and I’m pretty sure there is none period.

      If that misses your question then I didn’t understand what you meant.

  12. Scott Alexander says:

    Continuing to seek investment advice – which of these should I go with?

    1. Using a very competent and trustworthy financial planner who has worked with my family for decades and whom everyone in my family recommends

    2. EVERYTHING IN INDEX FUNDS

    3. Some high percent in index funds, and the rest in some zero-knowledge-required attempt at diversification like “Vanguard Diversification Fund #1”

    • Anonymous says:

      All of these sound good to the point of being largely indistinguishable. I’d go with whichever requires least effort, cost and knowledge, probably everything in index funds.

    • LadyJane says:

      If you’re looking for a solid long-term investment and don’t care about slow growth rates, index funds are your best bet. The risks are negligible, they’re easy to understand, and they don’t require much expenditure of time or effort to maintain.

    • Aapje says:

      @Scott Alexander

      Choosing 1 over 2 or 3 only makes sense if the amount you invest is high enough that the advantages of having a planner outweighs the fees. Also, having a big investment capital enables profitable investments (or schemes) that a small investor cannot make & that you cannot profit from if you invest in index funds. Unfortunately, I cannot say how high that amount is, in part because I have no idea how much a planner increases your returns, but also because the advantages of having a planner are not just how much it increases your returns.

      2 is already quite diversified, although stocks have been known to act in unison. However, given your age & the market conditions, it seems unwise to seek more diversity than index funds provide. You can survive a decade-long slump, because you will not retire anytime soon.

      Given that you probably have fairly little money to invest right now, you might want to start with 2. Then once your investment capital has grown substantially and/or you have gotten a huge inheritance, you may want to switch to 1.

      • AKL says:

        It seems to me that the general consensus (fwiw) is that working with a financial planner / advisor might be worth the money precisely when you have a complex financial situation, or a large (multi million dollar?) net worth.

        Such an advisor would help advise you things like structuring your estate to minimize the tax burden on your heirs (only relevant for estates > 10M), or optimizing the timing and structure of equity sales to minimize the realized tax burden, or maybe creating a personal LLC to take advantage of certain tax minimization opportunities. Likely there are more exotic avenues that certain advisors might recommend to certain clients (there was a discussion of using an HSA in a prior thread), but it seems unlikely in your case that the juice is worth the squeeze.

        More broadly, the reality is that most “financial advisors” are actually “VP of Sales for Financial Products,” i.e. not technocrats in their position because of a proven track record of financial performance, but sales guys in the job because they are the type of people that your friends and family really liked. If your entire family strongly recommended a particular radiologist because she was trustworthy and always did a great job, it wouldn’t mean nothing but it probably wouldn’t have anything to do with the way she read an MRI.

        There are lots of cases to be made for why a planner could in theory be critical (loss harvesting! optimal sector allocation! customized risk profiles! access to once in a lifetime opportunities!), but the reality is… that’s not what you’ll get with a 6-figure portfolio.

        If you want to be doubly sure that you’re not making a big mistake by forgoing a financial planner, your better bet is to google “fee only financial advisor bay area” and pay a few hundred dollars for an “expert” opinion. Heck, do it with three different people. If they can convince you that the smarter bet is to work with an advisor because of the nuances of your situation, great! If they can’t, you can be pretty confident you’re not forgoing anything critical going the index fund / target-retirement-date route.

        • Aapje says:

          In my country, advisers are now banned from taking commission from the financial products they sell, so you have to pay them directly, rather than have them sell you overpriced products that they get a kickback from.

      • J Mann says:

        @Aapje

        #2 isn’t diversified against asset class risk, unless you diversify it manually, which takes work. If you dump everything in a US stock market index fund, then you miss out on international growth. Similarly, the conventional wisdom is that people want a certain amount in bonds or other investments as they approach the date when they might want their money, in order to reduce volatility.

        You can diversify by buying some international equity index funds, some bond index funds, and maybe some other stuff like REIT index funds (if there are any), but then you need to think about the percentages.

        At least in the US, people talk about “tax diversification” as well – a blend of different classes of pre-taxed and semi-pre-taxed funds (Roth, simple IRA, possibly tax-preferred investments like muni bonds) so that when you want the money, you can structure your withdrawals to try to navigate whatever the tax structure of 2050 looks like.

    • Robert Liguori says:

      Is your relationship with the planner such that you can call them up and say “Hey, here’s my rough financial situation, I’m thinking about going 90-to-100% in on these index funds, do you see any immediate red flags?” and have an unofficial five-minute conversation? If so, I bet that would help settle your mind.

      If not, 2 and 3 are basically identical, as said, and I have a strong feeling if you don’t have a complex estate (or millions of dollars) that said planner, if he’s as good as his rep, will suggest one of two or three to you.

    • The Nybbler says:

      If your family has gotten rich on equities, go for #1. Otherwise #2; the Vanguard Diversification Fund takes a bunch of managed funds and mixes them together, which seems to me to be providing the effect of an index fund the hard way.

      (For amusement purposes only. Don’t take investment advice from a guy named after a floppy-copying tool)

    • gbdub says:

      A follow up, if I may be so bold as to threadjack a bit – if all I want to do is invest in index funds, what’s the best online brokerage to work with? I mostly just want easy access to my money without a ton of transaction fees on either end, but then again I’ll probably just dump the money in the funds and leave it there barring a major expense I need to pay for. The sums involved would be low five figures.

      • Anon. says:

        Robinhood is probably your best option.

      • J Mann says:

        I just have a direct Vanguard account, but that obviously prevents me from shopping around or diversifying against the possibility that John Bogle steals all my money.

      • Brad says:

        The advantages of ETFs over mutual funds can be overstated. Consider the bid / ask spread in addition to fees.

        • gbdub says:

          Can you expand a bit (or point to where I could find an expansion of) your second sentence? Assume I am a complete n00b on this subject.

          • Brad says:

            Mutual funds are bought and sold directly with the fund, once a day after the market closes on the basis of their net asset value. For a decent modern fund and broker there will no fees involved. On the other hand there generally is a minimum investment amount and the internal fees can be higher than an equivalent ETF, especially if you are in a tier of the product with relatively low minimum investment amounts.

            An ETF trades like a stock on the market all during the trading day. There’s a clever mechanism you don’t need to know the details of which prevents the price from drifting far away from NAV at any given time. Even if you can buy a stock, including an ETF, with no commissions — and there are places that you can do that — you still need to worry about the bid/ask spread. That is to say, at any given time there is are people offering to buy and sell lots of a given stock for a variety of prices. The best offer to buy and best offer to sell are not the same. If they were those two parties would trade and then they’d no longer be the same. The difference between the best offer to buy and the best offer to sell is called the bid/ask spread. In the bad old days it would often be an eighth or a quarter of a dollar, today it is more often a penny or sometimes even less. But in addition to the literal bid/ask spread there’s also complicated mircrostructure effects that can mean you end up with a worse price then what you’d expect based on stock quotes online. The point is that it isn’t as nice and neat as buying a mutual fund, being able to trade all day long is nice but it means having to swim with the sharks. This issue comes up every time you buy and sell, including dividend reinvestment depending on the policies of the fund and/or your brokerage.

            For a worked example let’s take Vanguard’s total US equity fund. It is available as “investor shares” mutual fund, “admiral shares” mutual fund, and ETF (also as institutional shares, but we’ll leave to one side.)

            Investor shares (VTSMX) – mutual fund, minimum purchase $3,000, expense ratio 0.15%

            Admiral shares (VTSAX) – mutual fund, minimum purchase $10,000, expense ratio 0.04%.

            ETF (VTI) – minimum purchase 1 share (currently $138ish), expense ratio 0.04%.

            The ETF seems like a no-brainer if you have less than $10,000 to invest, but what I’m saying is that isn’t necessarily the case given the disadvantages.

            I should note for completeness sake that there’s also tax differences, but that’s really getting into the weeds.

          • gbdub says:

            Thanks! Is there a good way to quantify bid/ask effects vs expense ratios? If I’m reading you right they are likely to be very small on any given transaction, but potentially large if you make a lot of trades. I probably wouldn’t, except as you note for dividend reinvestment.

          • Brad says:

            Unfortunately I don’t have such a resource. Vanguard lists it’s average bid/ask spread over the last 30 days for each of its ETFs here: https://institutional.vanguard.com/VGApp/iip/site/institutional/investments/bidaskspread

            and how they go about doing dividend reinvestment for ETFs here:

            https://investor.vanguard.com/investing/brokerage-dividend-reinvestment

      • Evan Þ says:

        I have a Fidelity account because one got opened automatically when I enrolled in my 401K. They’ve got a lot of zero-fee mutual funds, and I haven’t had any trouble with them.

        • gbdub says:

          That’s a thought too. I can go through my 401k management account and they offer several low or no fee funds that I can put “normal” money in, but sometimes the transaction fees are high, making getting out anything other than large chunks of money cost prohibitive.

          But I could be also be over-extending from my experience selling company ESPP shares, where the per-transaction minimum fees at the company broker were high, making sub-$1k sells unattractive.

          [EDIT]: To be clear here, I’m not attempting to save more tax advantaged money. This is a chunk of cash I want to have more access to than a retirement account, but it’s more than I need to have sitting around in my savings account making a pittance of interest

          • Brad says:

            [EDIT]: To be clear here, I’m not attempting to save more tax advantaged money. This is a chunk of cash I want to have more access to than a retirement account, but it’s more than I need to have sitting around in my savings account making a pittance of interest

            If you are in one of the top tax brackets (say taxable income of $200k for an individual or $400k for married filing jointly) you probably want to look into a tax efficient fund and/or a way to get tax loss harvesting.

            If not, you probably just want to open a taxable account at vanguard or maybe fidelity, and buy a target fund that meets your risk tolerance for this money. (E.g. if you want something very safe buy Target 2010, if you comfortable with more risk Target 2020, etc.)

          • Scott Alexander says:

            Brad, can you explain more about this? I am in a high tax bracket, and if there were some easy way to get money without paying taxes on it obviously that sounds pretty good. Should I assume it’s not that simple?

          • Brad says:

            From betterment (a robo adviser) here’s a good description of tax loss harvesting:

            Tax loss harvesting is the practice of selling a security that has experienced a loss. By realizing, or “harvesting” a loss, investors are able to offset taxes on both gains and income. The sold security is replaced by a similar one, maintaining an optimal asset allocation and expected returns.

            and here’s a long white paper on how they go about doing it:
            https://www.betterment.com/resources/research/tax-loss-harvesting-white-paper/

            Another option is to invest in a fund that has as part of its mandate minimizing taxes. For example, here’s the description of VTCLX from Vanguard’s website:

            As part of Vanguard’s series of tax-managed investments, this fund offers investors exposure to the mid- and large-capitalization segments of the U.S. stock market. Its unique index-oriented approach attempts to track the benchmark, while minimizing taxable gains and dividend income by purchasing index securities that pay lower dividends. One of the fund’s risks is its exposure to the mid-cap segment of the stock market, which tends to be more volatile than the large-cap market. Investors in a higher tax bracket who have an investment time horizon of five years or longer and a high tolerance for risk may wish to consider this fund complementary to a well-balanced portfolio.

            In general TLH is probably better, but you pay more. Betterment charges 0.25% plus the you pay the expense ratio for the underlying funds (wealthfront which also has TLH is similar). VTCLX on the other hand only costs 0.09% (vs 0.04% for the comparable non-tax aware fund).

            Another important tax consideration is which assets are held where. If you a 401k for example, you want to hold tax inefficient assets inside the 401k and tax efficient assets in your taxable account. You can either read up on that yourself https://www.bogleheads.org/wiki/Tax-efficient_fund_placement or the robo advisers will do it for you.

            I’m sure someone will come along to disagree with me, but IMO if you are in a high tax bracket, investing a fair amount of taxable dollars, and don’t have any particular interest in diving into this stuff yourself I think the robo advisers are a good idea.

          • Chalid says:

            I haven’t researched it myself but I’ve been told that for most people the higher fees wipe out any gains from TLH.

            But more importantly you shouldn’t let researching this choice block you or delay you from getting started. Index funds vs robo advisors vs ETFs is ultimately not a very consequential choice – a few hundredths of a percent of your investment a year, maybe, so it is comparable to the expected return of the stock market over a few days. (Not to mention the value of the time you spend deciding)

          • Aapje says:

            @Brad

            So if I understand correctly, it works like this:

            You buy $50k of stock A and $50k of stock B. Near the time where your assets are evaluated for tax purposes, stock A went down in value and B went up, so you have $40k of stock A and $60k of stock B.

            However, the tax man counts the value at which you bought the stock, not the current valuation. So you can take advantage of this by selling stock A and rebuying it right away. Then the tax man thinks that you have $40k of stock A and $50k of stock B, for a total of $90k. However, the real value of stock B is $60k, so you actually have $100k in assets, but $10k of that doesn’t get taxed.

          • Brad says:

            @Aapje
            The government has a wash sale rule that prevents you from doing exactly that. But you can sell A and buy A’ which has characteristics similar to A. That’s especially possible when A and B are funds rather than individual securities.

            @Chalid
            I think that’s true for “most people” but most people aren’t in the highest tax brackets. But I agree with your overall point. Taking this advice is not a terrible idea for anyone:

            If not, you probably just want to open a taxable account at vanguard or maybe fidelity, and buy a target fund that meets your risk tolerance for this money. (E.g. if you want something very safe buy Target 2010, if you comfortable with more risk Target 2020, etc.)

          • baconbits9 says:

            However, the tax man counts the value at which you bought the stock, not the current valuation. So you can take advantage of this by selling stock A and rebuying it right away. Then the tax man thinks that you have $40k of stock A and $50k of stock B, for a total of $90k. However, the real value of stock B is $60k, so you actually have $100k in assets, but $10k of that doesn’t get taxed.

            To be clear though this increases the tax burden when you go to sell your shares of stock B during retirement. If you don’t go through with this you use the losses on A to offset gains on B, when you use those losses in this way when you retire and sell be there are only gains on B and you will be taxed on the $10k that B has appreciated.

            Additionally you are now liable for any gains that A’ makes after you buy 40k worth of it.

            This can work out in your favor in the long run with good planning, but it is not for everyone.

          • Chalid says:

            @brad

            the audience to which this was told was mainly in the top tax bracket. On the other hand it was a couple years ago so maybe things have changed.

    • Anon. says:

      Just go with a target-date fund or one of the robo-advisors (sigfig/betterment/etc). This is one job where humans are quickly on the way out, because they don’t really add any value and are very expensive.

    • J Mann says:

      1. An index fund strategy can’t do tax planning. I’d recommend a few hours every year or two with a reliable adviser who works exclusively on a fee basis, whose outlook is close to yours, and who has good recommendations.

      2. Vanguard Diversification Fund #1 is actually a diversified blend of Vanguard Index Funds. See Vanguard Target Retirement Funds. I use Vanguard Timed funds, and alter the date based on my taste for risk. (So if I feel like more risk, I buy Vanguard 2050, even if I think I will want the money in 2030, and if I feel like less risk, I buy Vanguard 2025 for the same purpose).

    • baconbits9 says:

      The choice between #1 and #2 comes down to which will convince you to leave the investments alone no matter what happens. If hearing the advice from an authority will help you ride out the swings of the markets then pay the small fee to make that happen, if not take the index fund route.

    • Brad says:

      If a substantial chunk of it is taxable money I’d consider a robo advisor. If it’s all tax advantaged retirement money I’d just go with vanguard target 20xx.

      I would only first consider an actual human being if I was looking at investing more than somewhere in the neighborhood of $2MM and in that case I’d want to do a lot more research than just going with my family’s guy. The typical terms for a financial guy are 1% of assets per year. That’s somewhere between 10-20% of your expected return. That’s a really big deal. Even if he is totally honest and trustworthy that doesn’t mean he’s pulling his weight.

      Come to think of it, a final option may be worth it for you—a fee only, by the hour, financial advisor with a fiduciary duty. You can spend a low thousand number of dollars getting all your questions answered by someone without an ulterior motive. Not the we borg here have ulterior motives but you have to sort though the answers. Someone on the last thread wanted you to buy out of the money calls or some such.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        Yeah, this is pretty much what I would suggest. The benefit to a financial adviser is that they might also be able to ask you good questions about your financial goals, which I just cannot do over the internet: are you getting married any time soon? Are you planning an expensive wedding? How much spending money do you need for stuff like restaurants and travel? Do you want kids? Do you want to pay for your kids college educations? Are you planning on buying a house? Do you want to retire early? how much student loan debt do you have? Planning to by a fancy Lincoln Navigator to haul around your brood or are you going to Money Mustache them around in a bike trailer? Are you….

        So on and so forth. Hopefully a financial adviser your family trusts isn’t a complete moron and cares enough to tailor some of your investments for you.

        If you just want to save money for your retirement, and aren’t hitting the max on your tax-advantaged accounts (401k, IRA, HSA if applicable), just throw it into the target-date funds. Things gets different when you start maxing out the funds or have a buttload of money to spend.

    • veeloxtrox says:

      I think it comes to how much time/energy you want to spend and if you care if you get ~1 pp less gain.

      1. This would be the least time/energy. You meet with them one a year, tell them what you want, you send them a check ever month after that.

      2. This might not take a lot of time but the energy both in setting it up, and knowing you are responsible for it might consume more energy. Plus when you want money you cannot just make a phone call and have it show up 3 days later.

      3. The point of index funds is high diversification already so it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

      My advice, if watching the market or having to be mindful of your accounts seems like it would be overly stressful, go with option 1 otherwise option 2 is a great choice.

    • mrjeremyfade says:

      New commenter here.

      There is a circumstance in which options 2 or 3 are a poor choice.

      If you are the kind of person who would have an extreme emotional reaction to a large drop in the market while otherwise being pretty passive with your investments. In this circumstance, some people will sell at when their investments drop in value and then stay away until the markets recover. People I know made this mistake in the 2000-2002 downturn.

      Figuring out how you would handle the ups and downs of investing is probably the most important thing to know. If you can handle it, your options 2 and 3 are both very good.

    • razorsedge says:

      I think this depends on your income and networth. If you can qualify as an accredited investor ( i believe its minimum income of 200k a year for a single person or at least 300k a year for a married couple , or at least 1 million in non primary residential assets but IANAL), then it might be worth it to have a financial advisor. There are a lot of investments outside of just S and P 500 for a more sophisticated investor. There are Real Estate Investment Funds , Litigation Hedge Funds, Private Equity Firms, Venture Capital Firms , Real Estate Private Equity firms.And that is not to mention many of the high growth foreign investments that can be made. All of these pose different risk and reward structures and you will be able to have a portfolio that is better balanced for your goals. However you need a planner whos competent with a wide knowledge of investments, who can structure your portfolio in the manner most suited to your needs.Vanguard funds are great at some level but if you have money that could be put in higher risk investments , or money that needs to be protected against the volatility of the S&P 500, then an advisor might be best. Just shop around a little the family guy might be great but there are others who might have a stronger knowledge of financial products and greater access to get you into the best investment pools. Note: This is my totally unprofessional opinion as a non-financial adviser or fiduciary, just a dude on the internet with some ideas

      • Brad says:

        The reasons those accredited investor rules exist in the first place is because those asset classes present a much higher risk of getting ripped off than assets bought on the public market. Suppose Scott qualifies on the basis of making enough money, does mean he is qualified to read a private REIT offering document and figure out whether or not he is going to get ripped off? I’d argue no. He can outsource that to the financial adviser, but that just moves the problem back one step, how does he evaluate if the financial adviser is a) honest and b) capable of reading a REIT offering document and figuring out whether his client (i.e. Scott) is going to get ripped off.

        Assets traded in high volume, competitive markets are not guaranteed to be soundly priced, you can always end up with shares of Worldcom and Enron. But they are more likely to be fairly priced than low volume, exclusive offerings.

        IMNSHO only actually sophisticated investors should invest in securities that are legally limited to sophisticated investors. It’s one of those look around the table and if you can’t find the mark, you are the mark situations.

        • razorsedge says:

          Well my best advice on that end would be to get an advisor from a top trusted firm , if you have the funds to be worth it to one of those firms. For example if you take your money to the private wealth management division of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney then they are unlikely to be total morons who cant understand an REIT prospectus or the sort to rip you off and push you into shady assets. And while those asset classes are more risky , they are also better for building a diversified portfolio as they might give you the ability to hedge against systemic risk.Many hedge funds are actually focused on reducing beta instead of producing alpha, and other asset classes like a litigation Hedge Fund might be mostly immune to market conditions. IIRC some wealth management firms can also do stuff like hedge your risk for equities investments by also buying derivative swaps on them , to lower the risk.That could be a fantastic hedge against market fluctuations, and might be something Scott is interested in. So my totally unprofessional and non expert advice would be to get a Private Wealth Manager if you qualify to get one from a top tier or at least large and reputable firm. But if its just a dude who kinda manages money for old friends, then ya he might not have the ability to understand and advise Scott on more complex asset classes. Also most REITs and other investment firms arent looking for marks, they are just an alternative class of investments.

          • Chalid says:

            Scott is just a young doctor, so he doesn’t have anywhere near the money needed to justify those sorts of services. And he doesn’t have any special need to reduce his beta.

          • Brad says:

            > the sort to rip you off and push you into shady assets

            Why not? MetLife is in the Fortune 50 and they push whole life insurance policies which are designed from the ground up to rip you off.

            It’s true that MS isn’t likely to put clients into outright scams, though you may want to think about who the customers were for CDO^2 and the like in the housing bubble, but they will absolutely put clients into products with bad risk/reward characteristics after taking into consideration fees.

  13. johan_larson says:

    Quiz time again. This time it’s Bible verses. For each quote below, identify the book of the Bible it’s from.

    1.
    And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said. He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is. Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone.

    2.
    David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

    3.
    As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”

    4.
    The law will go out from Zion,
    the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
    He will judge between the nations
    and will settle disputes for many peoples.
    They will beat their swords into plowshares
    and their spears into pruning hooks.
    Nation will not take up sword against nation,
    nor will they train for war anymore.

    5.
    The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.

    6.
    When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    7.
    The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.”

    8.
    Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

    9.
    Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

    10.
    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

    • dodrian says:

      I’m going to reply with confidence intervals, rot13’d, since that seems to be the thing to do.

      1. 80% Qrhgrebabzl
      2. 90% 1 Fnzhry
      3. 60% Yhxr
      4. 60% Vfnvnu
      5. 90% Znggurj
      6. 95% Ebznaf
      7. 99% Eriryngvba
      8. 99% Znggurj
      9. 99% Trarfvf
      10.99% Wbua

      • dodrian says:

        It looks like I was incorrect one one 60% and one 90% prediction. What does that make my overall result?

        • Aapje says:

          You should have gotten 1.29 predictions wrong, so you may be a little overconfident, although getting 2 wrong is not at all unlikely even if you are correctly dialed in.

    • S_J says:

      in Rot13, with separate confidence intervals about chapters. I’m mildly surprised at how easy it was for most of them.

      I’m also obfuscating numbers by writing them out as words.

      1 (99%) Qrhgrebabzl, (95%) ynfg puncgre bs gur obbx.
      2 (99%) Svefg obbx bs Fnzhry, (85%) fbzrjurer orgjrra puncgre gra naq puncgre svsgrra. Vg’f abg gur svefg zragvba bs Qnivq, ohg vg’f uvf svefg ovt ivpgbel va gur fgbel.
      3. (80%) Tbfcry nppbeqvat gb Znggurj, (95%) juvpurire Tbfcry vg vf, guvf vf va bar bs gur ynfg gjb puncgref. Vg’f abg gur Tbfcry gung unf Crgre naq Wbua ehaavat gb gur gbzo gbtrgure, fb gur natry vf nqqerffvat gur jbzra…gung’f jul V guvax vg vf Znggurj.
      4. (70%) Cebcurpvrf bs Vfnvnu. Guvf bar zvtug or n gevpx dhrfgvba. V guvax Vfnvnu naq nabgure cebcurg obgu jebgr guvf cebcurpl qbja. Ohg nabgure cebcurg jebgr gur erirefr, bs gvzrf bs gebhoyr jura crbcyr jbhyq or gheavat cybjfunerf vagb fjbeqf…
      5. (85%) Tbfcry nppbeqvat gb Wbua. (95%) orgjrra puncgre gjb naq puncgre svir, orsber Wbua gur Oncgvfg oncgvmrf Wrfhf.
      6. (99%) Cnhy’f yrggre gb gur Ebzna puhepu. (99%) Puncgre fvk. V unq gb zrzbevmr gur ynfg irefr bs gung frpgvba nf n puvyq.
      7. (99%) Gur Eriryngvba bs Puevfg gb gur Ncbfgyr Wbua. Jurer ryfr qb lbh trg natryf oybjvat gehzcrgf? (75%) Fbzrjurer nsgre puncgre gjb, ohg orsber puncgre gjryir.
      8. (99%) Gur Npgf bs gur Ncbfgyrf, (99%) Puncgre bar. Guvf vf gur Terng Pbzzvffvba, juvpu vf va Npgf, whfg orsber gur Nfprafvba.
      9. (95%) Gur obbx bs Trarfvf. (85%) Orsber Puncgre Gjragl.
      10. (99%) Gur Tbfcry nppbeqvat gb Wbua. (99%) Puncgre Bar, Irefr Bar.

      • johan_larson says:

        The answers:

        1. Qrhgrebabzl 34
        2. 1 Fnzhry 17
        3. Znex 16
        4. Vfnvnu 2
        5. Yhxr 3
        6. Ebznaf 6
        7. Eriryngvba 11
        8. Znggurj 28
        9. Trarfvf 22
        10. Wbua 1

        My score on this quiz might have been 5/10. There are several quotes I could have placed somewhere in the gospels, but it would have been a one-in-four guess as to which one.

      • S_J says:

        With #4, I think I was right. Guvf vf sebz rvgure Vfnvnu be Zvpnu, naq vf nccneragyl nobhg gur Xvatqbz bs gur Zrffvnu. Wbry cebcurfvrq gung crbcyr jbhyq qb gur bccbfvgr ba n cnegvphyne qnl bs gebhoyr.

        And I was wrong about #3, #5, and #8 . Only one of those three was tagged as (99%), so that is my biggest mistake.

        In my defense about #3, gur Erffheerpgvba fgbevrf ner irel fvzvyne va gur Tbfcryf. Gung fcrpvsvp jbeqvat vf sebz Znex, ohg gur senzvat bs gur fprar vf fvzvyne va Znggurj, Znex, naq Yhxr.

        About #5, Gur vagebqhpgvba bs Wbua gur Oncgvfg vf va nyy sbhe Tbfcryf, ohg bayl Yhxr zragvbaf gung crbcyr gubhtug ur jnf gur Zrffvnu.

        About #8…Guvf bar gbbx zr ol fhecevfr. V jnf vaperqvoyl pbasvqrag vg jnf sebz gur Nfprafvba fprar va Npgf. Gheaf bhg vg jnf sebz gur Tbfcry nppbeqvat gb Znggurj, juvpu vf gur bayl bar gb tvir gur pbzznaq gb oncgvmr jvgu gur Gevavgnevna sbezhyn.

        • SamChevre says:

          About #8–Tbfcry bs Znggurj vf bayl gur bar jvgu “Nyy cbjre vf tvira hagb zr va Urnira naq ba rnegu”–svgf Znggurj’f sbphf ba Wrfhf nf gur shysvyzrag bs gur Wrjvfu Zrffvnu Xvat cebcurpvrf.

    • Brad says:

      V tbg obgu bs gur cnffntrf gung pnzr sebz gur Gbenu, gurl jrer rnfl. V tbg bar bhg bs gjb bs gur cnffntrf sebz Ariv’vz. Gurer jnf abguvat sebz Xrghivz. Bs gur Puevfgvna cnffntrf V bayl tbg bar naq gung jnf zbfgyl qhzo yhpx.

    • Deiseach says:

      You expect me to have the names of the books of the Old and New Testaments memorised? I can tell which are Old Testament, New Testament, and the Epistles of St Paul, but the only one I can name off the top of my head is number ten, because I liked that verse so much I learned it off by heart 🙂 Oh, and number seven because of its distinctive style!

      If we’re going with rot 13 then:

      7. Obbx bs Eriryngvba
      10. Tbfcry bs Wbua

      • keranih says:

        Freaking protesters, always with the memorizing.

        (No, srsly, there’s space for a consideration of different Christian cultures – the Western Protestant tradition of individual Bible study and the corresponding emphasis on universal literacy & translations into local vernacular, compared to the (Roman) Catholic reliance on a school-educated priest tightly integrated to a local community but maintaining strong bonds to central Rome, and which recognized/accepted that a non-trivial fraction of the population was never going to read at a level to grasp most of the Scriptures, even if they *weren’t* in Church Latin.)

        1.Rkbqhf be sernxvat Ahzoref
        2.Xvatf V be Xvatf VV
        3.Bar bs gur aba-Wbua Tbfcryf
        4.Vfnvnu – Puncgre 40? Naq bar bs zl snibevgrf
        5.Bar bs gur Tbfcryf
        6.N AG yrggre, ohg V qba’g guvax bar bs Cnhy’f.
        7. Eriryngvba
        8.Npgf bs gur Ncbfgyrf
        9.Trarfvf pucg 22
        10. Tbfcry bs Wbua Puncgre 1

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          One thing I can say for Protestants is that teaching everyone to read the King James translation really did seem to work. Universal literacy seemed to reach a higher level than the Anglosphere has today.

    • Iain says:

      1. Qrhgrebabzl – abg chggvat n pbasvqrapr vagreiny sbe guvf bar, orpnhfr V tbg vg ol frrvat gur yratgu bs bgure EBG13 nafjref.
      2. V Xvatf – 40%
      3. Znggurj – 40%
      4. Cfnyzf – 99%
      5. Yhxr – 40%
      6. Ebznaf (20%) / fbzr rcvfgyr (95%)
      7. Eriryngvba – 99%
      8. Znex – 40%
      9. Trarfvf – 95%
      10. Wbua – 99%

      Self-commentary via edit: I am an idiot about 4 and should have known better. I fixated on my first instinct and never thought twice. I got lucky on 6. I should have had a slightly higher confidence on 5 (which I got justifiably right, for similar reasons to what S_J says above) than 3 and 7, which were mostly a coinflip.

    • SamChevre says:

      Tried to identify book and where in the book.

      1) Qrhgrebabzl, raq bs gur obbx
      2) Svefg Fnzhry, puncgre gjryir be fb
      3) Znex, raq bs gur obbx
      4) Vfnvnu, yngr va gur obbx, fnzr puncgre nf “gur rnegu funyy or shyy bs gur xabjyrqtr bs gur Ybeq nf gur jngref pbire gur frn” (jebat cynpr va obbx)
      5) Yhxr puncgre sbhe (jebat puncgre–npghnyyl guerr)
      6) Ebznaf, puncgre svir (jebat puncgre–npghnyyl fvk)
      7) Eriryngvba, zvqqyr bs gur obbx
      8) Znggurj, raq bs gur obbx
      9) Trarfvf, puncgre gjragl-svir be fb (npghnyyl gjragl-gjb)
      10) Tbfcry bs Wbua, svefg puncgre, svefg irefr. Va cevapvcvb reng ireohz–lbh jvyy urne vg nsgre rirel RS Znff

      All the books right, three chapters/locations wrong, but only one off very far.

    • veeloxtrox says:

      Trying this without looking at any else’s answers or doing any research (other than spell check). Will post a grade after I complete.

      1. Qrhgrebabzl.
      2. Sbe fher guvf vf va va 1/2 Fnzhry be 1/2 Xvatf. Tbvat gb tb jvgu 2 Fnzhry
      3. Bar bs gur Tbfcryf, sbe fher abg Znex. Tbvat gb tb jvgu Wbua
      4. Vfnvnu. N gvzr V ybbx sbejneq gb.
      5. Yhxr.
      6. Ebznaf. Guvf dhbgr raqf jvgu cebonoyl bar bs gur orfg xabja Ovoyr irefrf (3:23)
      7. Eriryngvba.
      8. Znggurj (Gur Terng Pbzzvffvba)
      9. Trarfvf, gur bayl obbx gung gryyf gur fgbel bs Noenunz’f yvsr.
      10. Wbua, Puncgre 1

      edit: converted to rot13

      Score: 9/10 might be 9.5 out of ten if I get partial credit on number 2.

      This was fun 🙂

    • veeloxtrox says:

      If you don’t want to do this again, I would be glad to do it next open thread.

    • Evan Þ says:

      1. Qrhgrebabzl
      2. Svefg Fnzhry
      3. Tbfcry nppbeqvat gb Znex, puncgre fvkgrra
      4. Vfnvnu
      5. Tbfcry nppbeqvat gb Yhxr, puncgre guerr
      6. Ebznaf, puncgre guerr
      7. Eriryngvba
      8. Tbfcry nppbeqvat gb Yhxr
      9. Trarfvf
      10. Tbfcry nppbeqvat gb Wbua, puncgre bar

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Augh, you ROT13 people are making the Holy Bible sound like it was written by Cthulhu!

  14. DunnoWhatToDo says:

    Does anyone here have schizoid personality disorder? This is something I’ve suspected I had since 2012 (my medical record says I’m suspected of either schizoid/avoidant, same year), I was always uninterested in social relationships (barring my recent escapade..), tendency to isolate, living a lot in my head, fantasies, somewhat cold emotionally, never truly having a sense of self-identity, occasional anhedonia, depersonalization and derealization. It feels like it fit, but I don’t trust myself enough for this. Perhaps everyone gets this to some degree and I’m just overestimating.

    I’ve never quite realized how unusual this is. It.. always felt like the way the world was. The few times I felt disappointed by how my life looked like I never took effort to actually get out of my mental zone (not comfort zone; I’ve dealt with anxiety in the past, but I solved that two years ago). I’ve felt loneliness before, but in some contradictory way I never felt the need to be with people, unless girls were involved, but that’s just hormones.

    Frankly, I’m somewhat tired living like this. But past experiences indicate that whatever I do I never quite get out of my shell. I did try occasionally to be more social, but eventually it all crashes down and I sort of depersonalize it away. It feels like it’s not really me there; it’s some social autopilot taking charge until I’m back home in my room and then I’m feeling like myself again. The only time being social felt genuine was when I was quietly listening to everybody else speak.

    I’m not quite sure what else I can do other than some sort of therapy, but past experience with therapists has been rather bad, admittedly I’ve been rather uncooperative and anxious but there was also their consistent interest in repairing my asociality, and the best example I have of how it felt is like being a girl and being shamelessly groped by someone who’s supposed to help you.

    • BlindKungFuMaster says:

      Disorder symptoms are a bit like horoscopes. Whenever I read them, they seem to fit me perfectly. My most recent thing is that I’m convinced to have some serotonin deficiency. But thanks to your post I can now maybe transition to schizoidism.

      I also like this diagnosis, it’s probably the most accurate.

    • toastengineer says:

      I think I have a little schizoid going on, and I think there was a post a while ago about how Scott thinks he’s got some of that too. I remember a lot of telling therapists “I just don’t feel any benefit from interacting with people.”

      This is from one guy’s single experience, but Phenibut seems to make things noticeably easier. You can get a jar of 250mg caps on Nootropics Depot for 10 bucks, I took four before a big job interview and everyone seemed conspicuously more comfortable being around me. Just don’t mix it with alcohol, is what I’ve been told.

    • maintain says:

      I think I have some schizoid traits.

      I still enjoy sex, but it makes finding sex partners hard.

      Actually, i might as well say: I still enjoy X, but it makes finding partners for doing X hard, where X is moneymaking, sex, hobbies, etc.

      We live in a world where doing anything completely by yourself is difficult, so, yeah…

    • fortaleza84 says:

      I think it’s really difficult to self-diagnose when it comes to mental issues. Pretty much everyone suffers, to a degree, some of the symptoms of just about every mental illness.

    • jeqofire says:

      Yeah, same, + Executive Function Deficit that only seems reduced by sufficiently positive social interaction, because of course it does.

    • mtl1882 says:

      Finally signed up for an account here so I could respond to this. I suspect I have it, though no therapist has ever suggested it. I completely relate to what you are saying. The feeling unreal/depersonalized has become a worsening issue since I got out of school and I’m at my wit’s end. I don’t have the same discomfort with therapists, but they have not been helpful. I can’t get out of my head and I can’t feel real — largely this is because of isolation; I too only feel genuine when listening to others speak, and I live alone, my job is somewhat solitary, and my closest friends moved away. For the first time I regret my tendency to isolate and have an interest in the outside world, but I can’t connect with it. It’s extremely frustrating, and it seems like there’s not a lot of help out there for people with the condition. I’ve always had a reach inner mental life, but now that is starting to fail me. I’ve never been in a romantic relationship, and I can’t explain that to anyone. I just never cared.

      • Aapje says:

        Perhaps you can find a social hobby to give you more social contact?

        • mtl1882 says:

          Yes, that’s what I need, but I can’t decide what to do. I’ve gotten into historical research and have met a few people that way, but they tend to be much older. There aren’t too many activities that appeal to me, as I’m always living in my head. I would like to work on a project with people – that would make it more interesting, but I am not sure what sort of project, and I’m not ideological enough to volunteer for a campaign or something along those lines. I know I’m overcomplicating the issue – the answer is just ‘get out there’ somehow, but I am terrible at it. It seems like everyone in the world manages to find a significant other, no matter what their issues, and yet I find it impossible. I radiate disinterest. I’ve had people show interest in the past, but I felt nothing and didn’t pursue it. Now I can’t meet anyone. As a youngish, fairly attractive woman who gets along with people well (meaning I don’t have much friction with people, not that I’m outgoing), I know I’m making it harder than it needs to be. But I’ve always kept people at arm’s length, because I don’t feel significant enough to assert myself. Only work allows me to feel worthwhile.

          • If you like historical research, you might try the Society for Creative Anachronism. It’s a lot of different things for different people, but one of the things is research–learning things about medieval cooking, for example, to take one of the things I’ve done.

          • Aapje says:

            @mtl1882

            It seems like everyone in the world manages to find a significant other, no matter what their issues, and yet I find it impossible.

            Statistics show that this is not true for quite a few people (and increasingly so).

          • mtl1882 says:

            Thanks I will check out that society!

          • @mtl1882:

            My SCA page

            The SCA site, which you can use to find a local group.

    • You’ve possibly seen this already, but:

      According to the current DSM (DSM-5, APA, 2013), individuals with schizoid personality disorder reportedly do not desire relationships because of deficits in their capacity to relate meaningfully with others whereas individuals with avoidant personality disorder reportedly desire relationships but fear rejection, shame, and humiliation.

      This conception leaves two abnormal, maladaptive sub-types of introversion: schizoid withdrawal and avoidant withdrawal:

      (1) Social withdrawal based on anxious-fearfulness is considered avoidant
      (2) Social withdrawal based on apathy, anhedonia, and indifference as well as a preference for solitude is considered schizoid.

    • Glen Raphael says:

      It feels like a decent fit to me too, but an importantly tricky thing about “personality disorders” is that they only apply to people who are impaired by their disorder. To the extent that you’re basically happy with the way you are – meaning your personality doesn’t cause you substantial stress/unhappiness/pain or prevent you from living what you regard as a reasonable life – it’s not considered a disorder. Officially speaking.

      (I used to date a psychologist, who sometimes called me “avoidant”. 🙂 Though that might have been before this diagnosis was an available option… )

      • Aapje says:

        This is because DSM is therapeutically oriented, which is reasonably useful when you want to use the diagnosis for therapeutic purposes, but less useful for other uses.

        It also makes the diagnoses very subjective, where changes to society that reduce the ability for people with certain traits to fit in, can mean that more people will be diagnosed with a disorder*. This is based on the assumption that society itself is not disordered, which is a questionable axiom.

        * Or the opposite, of course

        • Kevin C. says:

          This is based on the assumption that society itself is not disordered, which is a questionable axiom.

          “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

          –Jiddu Krishnamurti

  15. fortaleza84 says:

    Here’s a geography puzzle I’ve always liked:

    A remote-control drone is launched from the top of the World Trade Center. It flies 200 miles north; then 200 miles west; then 200 miles south; then 200 miles east; then lands. What state did it land in?

    • Iain says:

      Gur Rnegu vf fcurevpny; gur shegure lbh ner sebz gur rdhngbe, gur zber zbivat n svkrq qvfgnapr jvyy punatr lbhe ybatvghqr. V unira’g qbar gur zngu, ohg tvira gung lbh’er nfxvat gur dhrfgvba gur nafjre vf boivbhfyl Arj Wrefrl.

      Edit to add: Nsgre n dhvpx nggrzcg ng gur zngu, V guvax vg zvtug pbzr qbja va gur zvqqyr bs gur Uhqfba Evire, va juvpu pnfr zl nafjre vf “yvdhvq”.

      • Brad says:

        V guvax vg penfurf fbzrjurer va Craaflyinavn, gubhtu vg zvtug penfu fbzrjurer va hcfgngr AL orsber gung.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Depends on what you mean by 200 miles west. If you mean following the parallel, it’s one thing. If you mean facing along the parallel and flying straight, it’s another (you end up in Staten Island, alas).

    • multiheaded says:

      Hades?

  16. Mark says:

    ‘Prussian’ has been writing on the other thread about his fear of Islam, and how Islam might be resistant to liberalisation.

    Got me thinking. I don’t think being a Muslim would be that bad – if all British people just suddenly became Muslim, I think we’d be alright. It’s more the transition that is a worry.
    Seems like most of the social stuff is just going back about a hundred years (not a disaster), some good law and order policies, ban alcohol, no ham (not too bad). Bit of honesty about warfare. Loads of wives. Beards.
    Quranic literalism would be a bit of a problem.

    So, if you’re not too bothered about not being Muslim, at what stage does conversion become a good strategy?
    Could we have a kind of Anglo-Islam? Could the newly converted English have some say over their own destiny as Muslims, or would a locally adapted Islam irritate the rest of the Islamic world more than complete non-Islamicness?

    • Iain says:

      Adapting a religion to a British context? With one of the primary initial changes being your ability to marry more than one wife?

      Are you sure you aren’t just reinventing Anglicanism?

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I haven’t read it, but from I understand this line of thinking is what the (in)famous French novel Submission was about.

      The answer is that a people who are so craven and weak that they would rather humiliate themselves and surrender everything they have to an aggressor in exchange for “peace” will be destroyed. Either all at once or piecemeal over generations. They lack the will to survive and will not propagate themselves into the future.

      • Mark says:

        That isn’t really true though, is it.

        I mean, there have been lots of distinct and still existing peoples who have adopted foreign culture, languages, religions.

        Or actually, maybe the statement is true, but irrelevant to the original point.

        • a reader says:

          South-Eastern Europe was for many centuries under Otoman rule. Most people remained Christians, only the Bosniacs and some of the Albanians became Muslims.

    • dndnrsn says:

      What is the purpose of this strategy? Is the assumption here that Islam is going to “win” one way or another, and if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em?

      Regarding your last point, there are probably duelling historical examples over whether Islam (and Christianity, for that matter) tend to be nastier to heretics or heathens.

      • Mark says:

        Just thinking about the worst case scenario – probably be preferable to have a mass conversion than a civil war.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Is a civil war that likely? I think – I made this reply in Prussian’s thread – that the bad stuff Europe is seeing is more “disaffected young men causing trouble” than anything else. Which is bad, but it’s not limited to Muslim young men – I’d argue that if there actually is a rise in far-right, especially violent, activity in the US, for example, that’s just the white-guy version of the same thing.

          • Mark says:

            I certainly don’t see anything in my daily life to make me think that civil war is imminent.

            But, at the same time, if the population of the country as a whole were 30% Muslim, I’d be seriously worried. I don’t think that the issue of religious difference has been settled.
            It’s currently ignorable, but I’m in no way convinced that will always be the case.

          • Aapje says:

            @Mark

            Pew Forum worked out scenario’s for Europe. In the high migration scenario*, only Sweden would have 30% Muslims.

            Also, the experiences in my country makes me believe that intra-Muslim conflict may be quite a bit more likely than Muslims teaming up against the rest. I think that one should not underestimate how divided Muslims are.

            * Very unlikely, IMO

        • Wrong Species says:

          You could also just enforce border restrictions.

    • John Schilling says:

      Got me thinking. I don’t think being a Muslim would be that bad – if all British people just suddenly became Muslim, I think we’d be alright.

      Does that include the women who want to be something other than a housewife and/or to show their faces in public? Because the sort of Muslim who is willing to kill or die to make sure all of England is Muslim, is fairly particular about what sort of Muslim they want all of England to be. They aren’t going to be satisfied with Moralistic Theraputic Desim plus going to a friendly Mosque once a week and having your wife wear a stylish token headscarf. And the more common sort of westernized Moslem who would be OK with that sort of thing, is an apostate who will be first against the wall come the revolution unless they say “Just kidding! Of course it’s burkas for everyone!”

      The sort of Muslim who is eager to do all this killing and oppressing is fortunately rare in the grand scheme of things, and mostly impotent. But they are the only ones who are asking anyone to surrender to them, so if you’re planning a preemptive surrender in the name of civility or out of fear that this enemy will become overwhelmingly powerful, then it’s important to be clear about who you need to surrender to.

      • Mark says:

        I think that religious difference can lead to sectarian conflict.

        Instead of 30% Muslim vs. 70% non-Muslim, why not have 95% moderate Muslim vs. 5% crazies?

        • Iain says:

          Why not have 70% non-Muslim and 25% moderate Muslim vs 5% crazies?

          • Mark says:

            I suppose it depends on whether “being a Muslim” is a more powerful identity than “being nice to everyone”.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Mark: Of course it is. When has “being nice to everyone, including the outgroup” ever been an authentic identity?

          • Iain says:

            If you need an example of how being a raging asshat can turn your theoretical in-group away from your cause, consider white nationalism.

            Supporting the crazies is to being Muslim as supporting white nationalists is to being white. Yes, they think they are acting on your behalf. Yes, they claim to be the purest form of your identity. No, you absolutely do not want to have anything to do with them. They are embarrassing, and you really wish they would just go away.

        • John Schilling says:

          why not have 95% moderate Muslim vs. 5% crazies?

          Because the 5% crazies are responsible for 95% of the sectarian conflict, and they will keep being responsible for conflict until it’s 95% crazy fundamentalist Muslim. So either you go full-on crazy Muslim, burkas for everyone, or you fight. If you’re going to fight, you might as well fight for (as Iain says) 70% non-Muslim. Because 70% of your people don’t want to be Muslim and because people who aren’t any sort of Muslim are less likely to join the crazies than are the moderate Muslims.

          Trying to surrender to the moderate Muslims is like Poland trying to surrender to Franco because he’s a moderate Fascist not at all like that Hitler fellow.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        @John Schilling: see, that’s my egoistic worry. Being a male Muslim is fine as long as you aren’t in the lowest-status X% who will be incel because polygamy is legal. But life will be horrible for women.
        (My altruistic worry is that Islam is false, and I want those men yo go to Heaven.)

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          (I will now deny that “yo go to Heaven” was a typo. Imagine me being like the Simpsons guy who leans out his window and says “You, join the Navy!” – “Yo, go to Heaven!”)

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I have wondered what would happen if Europeans started converting en masse to Islam, complete with the anti-gay stuff, the misogyny, support for Sharia, etc. What would the feminists do if the cis-white-het patriarchy said “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em?”

        • Kevin C. says:

          Punish those white converts with full force and fury for being anti-gay, misogynist, etc., while still giving a pass to immigrant and immigrant-descended Muslims. If a white European who converted to Wahhabism makes his wife and daughters wear hijabs, then arrest him for “abuse”, lock him up and throw away the key, but continue giving things like Rotherham a pass.

          Because those “brown” Muslims’ illiberalism is not their fault, they’re simply heathens who have not yet been sufficiently exposed and educated in the One True Way that is the Progressive faith. But a white guy who has grown up in the modern West, properly exposed to the True Faith, and thus who should know better, but still actively rejects it in favor of “regressive” illiberalism? He is not a “heathen,” he is an apostate, and apostasy has always been a graver offense than mere unbelief.

          (From what I’ve read of the few white male converts to more “regressive” Islam, this pattern is already starting to emerge.)

          • Baeraad says:

            Because those “brown” Muslims’ illiberalism is not their fault, they’re simply heathens who have not yet been sufficiently exposed and educated in the One True Way that is the Progressive faith. But a white guy who has grown up in the modern West, properly exposed to the True Faith, and thus who should know better, but still actively rejects it in favor of “regressive” illiberalism? He is not a “heathen,” he is an apostate, and apostasy has always been a graver offense than mere unbelief.

            … I’m sure it wasn’t what you meant to do, but you just made me go, “oh. That’s… that’s actually not unreasonable, when you put it like that.” It takes no particular effort for people to stay exactly where they are, so it makes sense to punish or reward them depending on what direction they move in, not for where they happen to have started out.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            That sounds reasonable.

            Although, the feminists don’t go ham on the brown muslims for the reasons you say, and because the brown muslims might behead them. So if the feminists attack the white muslims, while the white muslims might not start beheading, couldn’t they give a wink-wink-nudge-nudge “won’t someone rid me of these meddlesome feminists?” to their new brown brothers for a hand?

            Also Kevin I’m glad you’re not dead.

          • Deiseach says:

            continue giving things like Rotherham a pass

            I can sort of understand how things like Rotherham happen. Several years back (I can’t tell you how far, I don’t remember) there was some kind of story in the British papers about a school nurse who used to wait at the school gates in the morning before classes started with a glass of water and contraceptive pills, to make sure the 16 year girls would not miss taking their birth control.

            She was proudly boasting about this as a marvellous service she was providing, and the papers were more or less uncritically presenting her as really being caring and concerned and going the extra mile.

            Nobody seemed to question (a) why are 16 and younger girls having so much sex, they need to be on constant birth control? (b) if they are mature enough to have sex, then shouldn’t they be mature enough to make sure they take their pills? (c) if you infantalise them to this degree (I know you won’t take your pills so I’ll do it for you and relieve you of all need to think about being sexually active) how in the hell can you say they’re capable of making a mature choice to be sexually active?

            If you’re an immigrant in that society, reading those kinds of stories, aren’t you likely to think “They’ve turned their own children into whores”, and human nature being what it is, it’s not too far a step for some men to think “we might as well take advantage of that”? You don’t need to think Muslim men or Indian/Pakistani men are inherently more sexual and more violent and more rapist than white British men, just that the worst elements of two different cultures congeal into a messy situation where paedophiles can operate with impunity.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Deiseach: When I was a practicing Hindu, I once heard the pro-gay marriage position from some young people “I support white people having that right, since they have no family honor.”

          • toastengineer says:

            … I’m sure it wasn’t what you meant to do, but you just made me go, “oh. That’s… that’s actually not unreasonable, when you put it like that.”

            Well, yeah. Your opponents are reasonable people who heard different arguments first that crystallized different patterns in their brains that they snap incoming data to, not lunatics frothing at the mouth denying reality just ‘cos.

            That reinforced by a subconscious desire not to attack people who will splash acid on your face if you insult them and outgroup vs. fargroup, of course.

    • J Mann says:

      I think the major concern is that we like religious pluralism.

      Any hypothetical strain of Islam that is dynamic enough to convert all of Britain (including the currently strongly committed atheists and non-Muslim religious) probably has enough illiberal qualities that I don’t think I’d like it.

      (I mean, I guess it’s possible that Britain ends up 95% Muslim because it’s just that awesome, but my guess is that most worlds where that happens, it happens through some amount of express or threatened force).

      On top of that, generally when you get a single dominant religious culture, the strictures in place to prevent backsliding become oppressive when viewed from the outside. Most Mormons, for example, seem fairly happy and well adjusted, but when you talk to an ex-Mormon, the faith still has some features that the non-devout don’t appreciate.

    • keranih says:

      One of the defining characteristics of the Islam culture, as defined by Samuel Huntington in his now classic (*) was that not only was Islam violent along external borders with other cultures, but Islam was also excessively violent within the Islamic ‘domain’, and not only nation vs nation but also within nations.

      So even if all else were equal – and even as a traditionally-friendly female I don’t hold Islam to be equal to Christianity, Buddhism, or even secular Westernism – I would still advise against it.

      It is true that not everyone prefers to make a stand, when the option is between dying on your feet or living on your knees. And living to fight another day has its virtues as well.

      (*) The original essay was published more than 25 years ago. God, I feel old.

      • dndnrsn says:

        I remember reading Huntington’s book while I was taking religious studies and being rather unimpressed. It’s not as though Europe hasn’t had some ugly religious conflicts. Even moreso if you couple it with ethnicity (eg the former Yugoslavia, where there was admittedly a Muslim minority). I can’t remember him providing hugely compelling historical arguments. I also think that past a certain point ascribing the actions of states, and especially empires, to religion is harder than ascribing them to using power to try and take advantages.

        • keranih says:

          I don’t think Huntington or anyone else worth listening to has said that the West has not had bloody conflicts. The point was that Islam was markedly moreso – this article, by someone I don’t know, looks at the data and finds it significant.

          I would also argue against assuming that religion = culture, or that one can take up a religion without taking up a degree of the culture associated.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I can’t find an online copy of the book cited to show that, for example, 7% of wars are “religious.” I think it’s a bit harder than that to differentiate a “secular” war from a “religious” war, and dividing religious from secular in that way is something associated primarily with modern Protestantism. Someone a couple thousand years ago in many parts of the world wouldn’t divide the world neatly up into “religious” and “secular” – eg, in many parts of the classical and Hellenistic world, religion was strongly tied up in civic matters.

            I would be most interested in seeing whether they categorize the Thirty Years’ War as religious or secular. I mean, it’s kinda one, kinda the other, eh?

          • From the article you link:

            of the 7% of all historic wars that they designate as primarily religious, 54% of them involved Islam. So according to their analysis, Muslims have been involved in more religious wars than all other historic religions combined (see graph- Islam 3.8% vs. non-Islam 3.2%).

            Unless I’m missing something, the conclusion does not follow from the evidence cited. A war between Muslims and non-Muslims would count both as Muslims involved and non-Muslims involved. So if you added up the percent of wars involving Muslims and the percent involving non-Muslims you would get more than 100%.

            If the point isn’t obvious, consider the following imaginary numbers. 30% of wars are Muslim vs Muslim, 30% are Muslim vs non-Muslim, 40% are non-Muslim vs non-Muslim. It is true both that a majority of wars (60%) involve Muslims and that Muslims have been involved in fewer wars than all other religions combined (60%<70%), not more.

      • hyperboloid says:

        Huntington’s book is frankly one of the worst things ever written on international relations, and for the life of me I can not figure out why it is so popular among some people. In the twentieth century Europeans, the people that gave the world both Stalin and Hitler, were about an order of magnitude more violent than Muslims.

        One might argue that the people of the west were not slaughtering each other over religious differences, but that is simply special pleading at it’s worst.

        • quanta413 says:

          This argument is silly whichever way it goes. Stalin and Hitler may win by # of population massacred because populations have been increasing over time. Their deeds are also much better recorded. But earlier conquerors like Timur or the Ottomans were not shrinking violets in comparison. Neither was Cortez. Or Attila.

        • Deiseach says:

          In the twentieth century Europeans, the people that gave the world both Stalin and Hitler, were about an order of magnitude more violent than Muslims.

          Switch Stalin and Genghis Khan, give Genghis the access to the kind of military equipment, technology (no matter how primitive we might think it today) and the advantages of the progress made in the intervening centuries between the 13th and 20th centuries.

          Do you think he would not have cast his eyes West for new worlds to conquer? That his innate (relative) mildness would have kept him satisfied with the rule of one nation? That he would not have done whatever he felt was needed to attain and keep his power?

          Stalin in the 13th century would have remained Stalin, but with less ability to slaughter as many as he did of his own people. Genghis would have remained Genghis. Personally, I think I slightly prefer Genghis as a totalitarian dictator of an empire, if we must have one, because he was somewhat more balanced in pesonality, but I do not think it was lack of willingness to see the blood flow that makes the 20th century ruler more murderous than the 13th.

    • @Mark

      It’s an interesting premise, but the premise is the stumbling block!

      Seems like most of the social stuff is just going back about a hundred years (not a disaster)

      What the West used to be is an abomination that needs to stay buried. Fundamentalist Christianity doesn’t sound too fun either. I like the nice neutered Christianity with no legal power that’s all about the love of Jesus and all the parables the Bible uses to teach us.

      some good law and order policies,

      That kind of punitive justice probably does work when controlling an overly violent populace, I’ll admit.

      ban alcohol,

      Not acceptable. Hic!

      no ham (not too bad).

      Not too bad! Are you kidding! No bacon either. That’s not right.

      Bit of honesty about warfare.

      I’ll say…

      Loads of wives.

      Sounds great in theory, but in reality some men are going to be left out, and I think these surplus men are why the Middle East is so violent.

      Beards.

      I grow a shitty beard.

      Islam must be stopped, no matter the cost at a rather large cost if necessary. Liberalism must win… forever.

  17. Controls Freak says:

    Epistemic status: treading lightly. (My econ background is a couple courses in undergrad, a lot of MRU, hanging out on economics subreddits, and reading a small quantity of academic books/articles on my own.)

    I’d like to question the claim that Chinese subsidies feeding into the international market always do nothing but help us. The primary claim is that they simply push prices down, which allow us to buy cheaper goods, so that, while the benefits aren’t as visible as the costs to domestic producers, they are greater in magnitude. I’ve believed this for a long time, and I sat down with some time this week to try to spell out a few cases with the intent of really solidifying my knowledge of the effects of foreign subsidies on their own or paired with domestic subsidies/tariffs, and I’m not sure if I’ve changed my mind. I’m not going to go through all these cases in this comment, and instead just focus on what the foreign subsidy does, itself. Obvious call out to DF for criticism is obvious.

    1) Suppose three groups: Country A, Country B, and The World (C) (afterthought: turns out I didn’t really use The World in this comment, but I think it will be important for some follow-on questions). The total quantity of a good supplied follows the equation Stot(P) = sumi(max(Si(P),0)). (The max is in there, because when I was playing around with equations, simple linear assumptions may result in negative quantities supplied at some price levels.) When Country A decides to implement a subsidy, it shifts that country’s supply curve from SA = aA*P+bA to SA = aA*P+bA+C, again making the linear assumption.

    This shift shows up in Stot, but does not appear in SB or DB. Therefore, while it will affect the global price (and we assume that everyone is a price taker), it doesn’t affect the location of Country B’s supply and demand curves.

    2) The interaction of Stot with Dtot is what determines the global price, not the interaction of SB with SA. That is, in shitty MSPaint form, Country B may look like this or this. In the former case, the global price is below the domestic clearing price, and I think this implies that Country B is importing the good – domestic consumers can find it from international suppliers at a price they’re willing to buy, but domestic suppliers are not willing to sell. In the latter case, the global price is above the domestic clearing price, and conversely, I think this implies that Country B is exporting the good – domestic producers can sell it to international customers at a price they’re willing to sell, but domestic consumers are not willing to buy.

    3) Country A subsidizing their production decreases the global price, while according to (1), doesn’t change SB or DB. The fact that it’s a price decrease follows pretty quickly from the fact that it is simply additive in Stot. Again, for now, I want to take this in a vacuum. In the case where the global price was below the domestic clearing price, this makes the situation in Country B look like this, where the red line is the new global price. Region 1 is surplus that used to be captured by suppliers, but which is now captured by consumers (that is, it has only a distributive effect), but Region 2 is magical new surplus paid for by Chinese taxpayers Country A. I haven’t gone back and actually computed things like the ratio of how much this costs them, but Country B doesn’t really care – it’s pure benefit! (Draw the curves on your own for domestic supply in Country B going to zero; it’s still a total benefit.)

    However, in the case where the global price was above that of the domestic clearing price, the situation looks like this. Region 1 still has a distributive effect, moving surplus from domestic producers to domestic consumers (note: 1a was sold to international customers before, but the surplus was still reaped by domestic suppliers). However, Region 2 looks like it’s just lost domestic surplus.

    4) I think it’s likely that when you look at every player’s situation, the subsidy probably costs more than the total surplus reaped by all players (that is, freer trade is still globally optimal, and Country A is probably still throwing money away somewhere). I haven’t yet gone through the details of the subcases to figure out where this shows up in each one. Nevertheless, at this point, I think I can still look at this and say that, in the case where the global price is higher than the domestic clearing price in Country B, a subsidy in Country A can harm the citizens of Country B, relative to free trade. Even though it is true that the consumers in Country B benefit, their benefit is purely a redistribution from Country B’s suppliers, while those suppliers also took an additional loss that disappeared off to somewhere else (or nowhere).

    So, uh, where did I get it wrong? (If I did get this right, then I’m going to revisit the next question: what happens if Country B decides to implement tariffs or subsidies of their own in retaliation? Oh, and where did those gainz go that disappeared from Country B, and what was lost where?)

    Edit: Boo, HTML subscript tags don’t work! My variables are harder to read!

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Yeah, possibly true in some sense. Basically what you are saying is that you have a situation where Country B is a net exporter of solar panels, and now Country A is using its money to erode Country B’s export advantage.

      A better example might be oil, and removing the subsidy. Saudi Arabia has a lot of oil. The United States developing more oil erodes the price premium that Saudi Arabian oil commands.

      My brain is on the fritz, but I think this depends more on industry composition. Saudi Arabia is damaged because the US is taking away what amounts to monopoly power. The solar industry probably is more competitive and resembles something closer to a price-taking industry. Plus in this particular case, I believe we are talking about net imports of solar panels in the US, not a case where the US and China are necessarily competing for market share in, say, Europe.

      • Controls Freak says:

        I hadn’t yet really considered the case where one country is a price maker. I’m still assuming that the price is set by the global intersection of Stot and Dtot. That there is still a loss for Country B in this competitive market is notable to me.

        I’m also really not rushing to talk specifically about solar panels, washing machines, or steel/aluminum, in particular. I really am just trying to sort out some theory in my own head. But I would agree, we’re probably net importers of solar panels, and Chinese subsidies on them is probably going straight into our pockets.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          That might be very well true in certain cases, but these specific cases (including competitive markets) are going to be cases where an individual nation cannot do much to affect its fortunes, so a tariff will not help.

          Like, you want a situation where there is big producer surplus, and little consumer surplus…so inelastic supply, elastic demand (at the relevant margin). An undeveloped nation that discovers oil is a good example. It can produce 1,000,000 barrels of oil no matter what, but the local population has no real unique need for oil and can substitute oil for practically everything else.

          In this case, you are exporting all of your oil. The global supply of oil drops because US starts fracking massively, and now you just lost a big income stream.

          Okay, admittedly that sucks, but imposing a tariff on oil imports isn’t going to help you, because your own nation’s citizens don’t even need it. Say demand is perfectly elastic in the domestic nation at $10/barrel. You can impose a 10% tariff, to $11/barrel. Great. Demand is elastic: the demand for $11 oil is 0, so demand is now 0.

          • Controls Freak says:

            I haven’t finished the details on, “What effects do various possible actions by Country B have,” yet. I wouldn’t be surprised if neither a subsidy or tariff in return are effective, but I just don’t know yet. At this point, I wanted to put it out there to make sure I wasn’t making some mistake in my model already, since it shows a possibility of something that is commonly rejected. I’m hoping to find some time this weekend to work through those scenarios in detail. Hopefully, I’ll be back with conclusions in the next OT!

  18. dndnrsn says:

    @Brad, @Barely matters

    Epistemic status: thinking out loud.

    Something I’ve been thinking about, going back to OT96. I had said:

    This isn’t so much a left or a right wing place, as a place where people are fairly hostile to “identity politics” – in my view, often excessively so, sometimes ludicrously.

    (both of the @’ed people agreed)

    But then I realized – there’s identity politics here (I think “identity politics”, while a bit of a snarl word, isn’t the snarliest one, and seems to fairly well describe the thing). It’s just that it’s identity politics for predominantly-white, predominantly-male, nerd types, who are hostile to the identity politics one finds on, say, left-wing university campuses. And one of the questions right now might not be “so do you idpol or not” or “idpol: like it or hate it” but rather “whose idpol are you OK with?”

    There are people who are against identity politics in all forms. But they’re pretty rare. There are people who think all forms of identity politics, even when they clash, are legitimate. But mostly people like their kind of identity politics, but are either neutral or hostile towards other forms, depending. (Compare: “I’m eccentric, you’re weird, they’re crazy)

    The Republican Party plays a lot of identity politics. It’s identity politics for its base: white people (white men and married white women), probably leaning towards those without university degrees, those not in major urban centres, those who own guns, etc. If a Republican mocks “identity politics” on university campuses, they’re talking about the gender studies crowd, or whatever. They’re not hating on the kind of identity politics they do. The “alt-right” (not really a well-defined thing, but kind of a cluster) can be read in part as the rise of identity politics among young white men (I will eat a sheet of standard-size white printer paper, nothing to wash it down, if young white men aren’t disproportionately present in this grouping). They aren’t traditional Republican base types, or at least don’t seem that way – I get the sense they’ve mostly grown up in what around here we’d call “blue” territory, and they feel disrespected by the identity politics of the campus left crowd. In reaction (they are literally reactionaries) they have come up with identity politics of their own.

    The vibe around here is a gentler, less awful version of that. People who really don’t like (in some cases, fear, and like I said, to a degree that can be absurd) the “hairdye NKVD”, as I sarcastically call them – but whose response is often to try to appeal to objectivity, universalism, whatever (the alt-right does not do this). Still probably playing identity politics. Hard to see how one can’t.

    I’m not really sure where I’m going with this. I suppose if I have a point it’s that most everybody loves identity politics, but usually only for their identity.

    Does this sound remotely cogent?

    • The Nybbler says:

      I’m not really buying the “we’re alike, you and I” villain speech. The identity politics of the SJWs has a lot in common with the identity politics of the white supremacists, but calling all the other stuff “identity politics” is abusing the term. That’s all just “politics”.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        Yeah maybe we need a definition of identity politics. The university politics that I love to hate is where it is stated that certain kinds of identity such as race, gender, sexual preference is so much more important than other factors. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have identities that I find important. I’ve always said that I think everyone needs to think for themselves when it comes to political opinions instead of just following their tribe or some revered leader. Does that mean I am advocating identity politics on behalf of “think for themselvers?” Maybe.

        But I think what is so terrible about the university version isn’t that they are in favor of some kind of identity — it is that they are so certain that their versions of important identities are the ones the rest of us must follow.

        • Nornagest says:

          It took me a while to understand this myself, but Identity Studies thought tends to produce structures that are less full-blown ideologies and more analytical frameworks. They’re so narrowly focused not because their adherents think the thing they’re about is genuinely that important, but because it’s expected that students should be able to consider several of them, selecting the ones that produce the most interesting or surprising results. They are expected to conflict with each other and aren’t thought of as true in a strong sense. It’s almost a game.

          Of course, off-campus activism takes it much more seriously. I’ve been saying for a while that SJ is what happens when this kind of analysis goes off the reservation.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Who’s the villain, though?

        • Viliam says:

          People who promote the narrative that everyone is in a war with everyone who does not share the same traits.

          The opposite are people who believe it’s the behavior that matters, that there are both good and bad people with any gender or color of skin, and that the winning strategy for good people is simply to associate with other good people.

      • lvlln says:

        I agree with this. “Identity politics” doesn’t describe any sort of politics that relates to an identity. That’s basically all politics. It specifically refers to politics where a person’s identity takes peak or near-peak importance. The SJW left & white-supremacist alt-right share this in common: to them, someone’s race, gender, sexual identity, sexual orientation, etc. are such important features of the individual that it justifies treating them differently, giving them greater/lesser privileges & rights, and determining their inherent worth, just on that basis and nothing else. The generic Democrat or Republican will push forward policies which tend to disproportionately benefit members of their identity or disproportionately harm non-members of their identity, but they’ll generally reject differential rights and privileges based entirely on those above-mentioned identity categories.

        This space seems closer to the generic Democrats and Republicans on the axis of identity, even if it tends to favor things that nerdy white guys are for. I don’t think it’s consensus here that anyone who’s not a nerdy white guy needs to be violently silenced or deported or whatever.

        • Aapje says:

          Indeed.

          Identity politics is:
          – Your race/gender/etc primarily determine your experiences and needs
          – It’s just to treat people different by race/gender/etc because the needs differ strongly along those lines
          – Any rational, selfish person of a certain race/gender/etc would make the same political choices
          – So race/gender/etc often maps 1-on-1 to conflicts in politics

          Then the SJ(W) variant wants ‘oppressors’ to make unselfish, sacrificial choices, while wanting the ‘oppressed’ to make selfish choices, to even out the level to which needs are met.

          The alt-right variant favors separation, so all groups can be maximally selfish without hurting each other.

        • dndnrsn says:

          @lvlln

          Hey, we’re cool with nerds of all varieties here! Just no eye contact. It’s rude.

          If I had to come up with a version of that hypothesis I actually 100% believed, I would cut it back to “the alt-right is identity politics for young white men, and people who do identity politics usually only see their identity politics as legitimate.”

          But this place does provide an outlet for people who, regardless of whether or not they do identity politics themselves, have antipathy to a considerable degree (like, beyond “ah, the college kids are at it again”) to identity politics of the campus-left variety or whatever you want to call it. So, not just “generic Democrats or Republicans”.

          • lvlln says:

            If I had to come up with a version of that hypothesis I actually 100% believed, I would cut it back to “the alt-right is identity politics for young white men, and people who do identity politics usually only see their identity politics as legitimate.”

            I think this is actually fairly close to consensus view on what the alt-right is, at least when using a non-loose definition of alt-right instead of the one that includes people like Steven Pinker or Dave Rubin.

            But this place does provide an outlet for people who, regardless of whether or not they do identity politics themselves, have antipathy to a considerable degree (like, beyond “ah, the college kids are at it again”) to identity politics of the campus-left variety or whatever you want to call it. So, not just “generic Democrats or Republicans”.

            Well sure, but I don’t really see how that antipathy is rooted in identity such that it’s accurate to claim that it’s also a sort of identity politics. Perhaps one could argue that it’s rooted in the identity of people who are against identity politics and pro-universality, but that would make it such that there’s no such thing as non-identity politics. And maybe that’s true for some meaning of “identity politics,” but clearly that meaning is different from the “identity politics” that’s used to describe the SJW-left and white supremacist alt-right.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Consider: is it possible that we (SSC “sphere” or whatever) think we’re noble and neutral, when we’re just playing identity politics of our own; we don’t know it, because we’ve fooled ourselves, and we’re good at that, because people in general are? I’m not saying it’s the case, but it’s something we should at least consider to be possible.

          • lvlln says:

            Consider: is it possible that we (SSC “sphere” or whatever) think we’re noble and neutral, when we’re just playing identity politics of our own; we don’t know it, because we’ve fooled ourselves, and we’re good at that, because people in general are? I’m not saying it’s the case, but it’s something we should at least consider to be possible.

            I think we should consider that we may have bad intentions. In fact, the surest sign that someone has bad intentions is that they’re sure that they have good intentions.

            Personally, I feel pretty darn sure that no one in SSC is any more noble or neutral than an idpol type or alt-right white supremacist. I’m absolutely certain that I’m not.

            But that’s a different question from the one of whether we should consider we’re engaging in identity politics. No, we’re not neutral, because no one is. And we might have entirely bad intentions despite having fooled ourselves into believing that we have good intentions. Because people in general are really good at fooling themselves that way.

            But identity politics means something different from just having selfish interests or having bad intentions. Otherwise, anything could be described as engaging in identity politics – which renders the term meaningless. It means explicitly privileging members of certain identity groups over members of other identity groups.

            Describing “fooling oneself into thinking that one is neutral but actually being for one’s own selfish interests” as the same sort of identity politics as “believing that members of certain identity groups deserve more rights/privileges or better treatment purely on the basis of their membership in that identity group” just seems akin to a motte-and-bailey.

          • Nick says:

            Consider: is it possible that we (SSC “sphere” or whatever) think we’re noble and neutral, when we’re just playing identity politics of our own; we don’t know it, because we’ve fooled ourselves, and we’re good at that, because people in general are? I’m not saying it’s the case, but it’s something we should at least consider to be possible.

            I’m willing to grant that there’s something like an SSC identity, and even that it gives a distinctive “flavor” to the politics of many of us: it makes us a bit more libertarian, or a bit more socially progressive, or whatever. But I don’t see how those politics are identitarian. Are we fighting for things that primarily benefit or are important to specifically us? And I’m not asking whether Catholic SSCers are fighting for religious liberty and LGBT SSCers are fighting for LGBT rights and conservative SSCers are fighting for gun rights, because that just collapses into other identities, which I take it you don’t mean. Like, is there some distinctive SSC position or two that we rally around politically? If there aren’t, then how could we be playing identity politics?

            Or are you saying we really do collapse into all those other identities and not one distinctive one, and there’s just a “Catholic lobby” and “gun lobby” and so on here? I guess I could believe the latter, but if it’s true, surely it’s less true here than elsewhere. The former, meanwhile, I don’t see how it’s true at all, unless maybe it’s the whole niceness, community, and civilization thing, and is that really a political doctrine?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @lvlln

            I think this is actually fairly close to consensus view on what the alt-right is, at least when using a non-loose definition of alt-right instead of the one that includes people like Steven Pinker or Dave Rubin.

            (I didn’t look at this hard enough the first time around) Around these parts, maybe. But in a lot of places, “alt-right” includes everyone from Lobster B. Unnameable to neo-Nazis who were already Nazi’ing before there was such a thing as a common Pepe, let alone a rare one. There are plenty of people whose explanation for the alt-right is “the racists are racistier this year” – the alt-right are just the Republicans dialed up a notch or two, is how they see it.

            It means explicitly privileging members of certain identity groups over members of other identity groups.

            This is a from-outside definition of “identity politics” though, isn’t it? People who engage in it generally see what they’re doing as defensive or reparative in nature, rather than actually extending privileges above what the other groups are getting, and they probably call it something else. Is it possible to think you are not privileging one group, when in fact you are privileging them? Presumably such self-deception is possible. In any case, “we do identity politics here too” was the weaker part of my musings.

            @Nick

            Good point. The closest thing I can come to is that there might be a general preference for “ask” over “guess” culture, which does benefit people who are socially awkward. I’m betting that people here tend to be more socially awkward than the median.

          • Nick says:

            Good point. The closest thing I can come to is that there might be a general preference for “ask” over “guess” culture, which does benefit people who are socially awkward. I’m betting that people here tend to be more socially awkward than the median.

            That sounds like a cultural thing, and I bet we could come up with a couple more in that vein. The best one I came up with is the more expansive free speech/”spirit of the first amendment” view some of us hold.

          • lvlln says:

            This is a from-outside definition of “identity politics” though, isn’t it? People who engage in it generally see what they’re doing as defensive or reparative in nature, rather than actually extending privileges above what the other groups are getting, and they probably call it something else. Is it possible to think you are not privileging one group, when in fact you are privileging them? Presumably such self-deception is possible. In any case, “we do identity politics here too” was the weaker part of my musings.

            Well sure, they see that privileging as being reparative in nature, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not privileging. The difference is that idpol says that the way to fix the current uneven playing field is by providing overt privileges to groups of people based entirely on their identity categories, while non idpol says that the way to fix the current uneven playing field is by finding all the ways in which things are uneven and evening them out to the best of our ability.

            It’s very possible for non-idpol to be mistaken on how uneven the playing field is, or to have bad intentions, or to be fooling oneself into believing that one has good intentions even when one has bad intentions. But that’s still not identity politics, because they’re not basing their analysis and corrective proposals on an individual’s identity category being by far the most important factor.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Yeah, you’re probably right.

            “You might be privileging a group while thinking you’re not” has more legs than “you might be playing identity politics without knowing it” if playing it requires consciousness/acknowledgment.

          • lvlln says:

            “You might be privileging a group while thinking you’re not” has more legs than “you might be playing identity politics without knowing it” if playing it requires consciousness/acknowledgment.

            Yes, I think that “You might be privileging a group while thinking you’re not” is a very reasonable position. And it’s something that applies to everyone, just as much to the idpol-types who are pro- overt identity-based reparative discrimination as to the anti-idpol types. The devil is in the details.

            But at a minimum, I think if someone doesn’t seriously consider this a possibility – not just pay it lipservice but really try a genuine effort at inspecting one’s own biases that might be leading them to privileging some groups while thinking they’re not – then one can’t be said to be well-intentioned.

          • Iain says:

            While I agree with the general consensus that the hard version of dndnrsn’s “What if the real identity politics were inside us all along?” theory doesn’t hold water, there is a real symmetry here that I think is worth recognizing.

            The modal SSC argument against identity politics goes something like this: Identity politics has gone overboard. Certainly there are some real racists and sexists out there. but racism and sexism do not have nearly the overwhelming power in society that the identity politics folks want you to think. They have become untethered from reality, jumping on imagined signs of racism or sexism and extrapolating them to be much more significant than they really are. Their justification is thin and unpersuasive, relying on anecdotes and unrepresentative examples. Where’s the hard data?

            And, sure, that’s a very reasonable critique. But it goes both ways. It’s very tempting to find the worst examples from the Other Team, generalize them to everybody who disagrees with you, and write them all off as a bunch of awful maniacs who can’t be reasoned with. It’s very satisfying to portray yourself as a bold crusader against the forces threatening to tear down society. It’s very natural to take a few particularly salient-seeming data points and draw a scary line. These are all very human responses.

            Let’s not forget that we, too, are human.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Iain

            The real identity politics were the friends we made along the way.

          • albatross11 says:

            To my mind, the problem with identity politics is that human brains are evolved to be very susceptible to them. It’s frighteningly easy to get people to agree that it’s okay to do awful things to *them* because they did it to us and they have it coming.

            We have a country full of recent immigrants, where there are big groups from many different religions and regional cultures and races. The US has done really well at unifying people into some kind of cohesive national culture. It would probably be possible to break that–to get everyone to pull back to seeing themselves primarily as their racial/ethnic/religious identity. That would make the US work a whole lot less well.

            Under identity politics, you vote for the crook because at least he’s your crook, not one of those *other* identities’ crooks. You associate with your own kind, and find it uncomfortable to interact with people of other groups. You take the side of your team vs others when there’s a conflict, without much regard to the rights and wrongs of the case. All that breaks stuff that currently works quite well in most of the US.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @albatross11

            But are you talking about “identity politics” or what we just generically call “tribalism”?

            What you’re describing has happened before in American politics, in various forms. In politics everywhere. Part of the reasons my musings above were kinda bad is that I didn’t really define “identity politics.” If it’s a correct term to refer to, say, Tammany Hall? Then a lot of things are identity politics.

          • cassander says:

            @brad

            And going back to the right to far right thing, here is no exception. Anti-Muslim bigotry many not by quite consensus, but it is certainly well within the overton window. It’s in this OT and it sure as heck is in the links thread. How do you square that with “we are just a bunch of anti-idpol folks”?

            Please show me a mainstream US politician on the right who’s displaying “anti-muslim bigotry”.

            Then there’s H B D. A big obsession for at least a plurality. Again, I don’t know how you can square “we are the true heirs to the civil rights movement, we didn’t even see race” with an obsession with average racial differences.

            If 10% of the US could tell you what that acronym means, I’d be shocked. There’s no way that a plurality could. The obsession you speak of doesn’t exist.

          • a reader says:

            @dndnrsn:

            Consider: is it possible that we (SSC “sphere” or whatever) think we’re noble and neutral, when we’re just playing identity politics of our own;

            What is “our own” identity politics? Young white males? Not all people here are male and not all people here are young (and according to the surveys, not all people here are white).

            Maybe nerd identity politics? “Nerd Lives Matter” “It’s OK to Be Nerd”

            I think that nerdiness is the thing that unites us all above all the differences in politics and “identities” and borders.

            @lvlln:

            Personally, I feel pretty darn sure that no one in SSC is any more noble or neutral than an idpol type or alt-right white supremacist.

            There is data from the last survey that contradicts your assertion. About “noble”, many people here seem implied in Effective Altruism, and about “neutral”, the extreme-left and alt-right sympathizers who read SSC are clearly less neutral, more “conflict-theorists” than the other SSC readers – see here:

            http://slatestarcodex.com/2018/01/26/ssc-survey-data-on-models-of-political-conflict/

            But I think that probably even those extreme-left and alt-right sympathizers that read SSC are somewhat less extreme (more moderate) than the typical extreme-leftist SJWs and alt-righters like Tim “Punch-The-Nazis” Chevalier and Richard “Heil-Trump” Spencer.

            Btw, Well’s typology for the alt-right was interesting and insightful, but how could he classify as “grown-up” the man with “Heil Trump!”?

          • Viliam says:

            Yes, we should consider the hypothesis that preferring smart people and civilized dialog makes us just as evil as Nazis…

            …for a fraction of second. Then we should laugh and move to another thought experiment.

            Sure, if you generalize things enough, everything will seem like everything else — after you have generalized away all the differences. It is a cheap rhetorical trick, and we should be smarter than that.

            On a sufficiently abstract level “interest in math” is the same thing as “interest in starting a race or gender war”; both of them can be abstractly described as “interest in something”. But why not go further on the ladder of abstraction and conclude that “maybe we are just as bad as Nazis” and “maybe 2+2=5” are the same thing, because both of them are hypothetical statement? This is the same kind of reasoning, just followed a little further.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I think that you’re half right.

      Scott’s origin story is very relevant because a lot of us have experienced a milder version of the same thing. You’re a nice white liberal atheist, trying to judge people by the content of their character, and then some lunatic starts laying into you for being a sexist racist homophobe. And you’re confused and you figure it’s a one off thing but it just. keeps. happening.

      And then you start to notice that, hey, when did “bro” become a slur? Why are mainstream media articles throwing in gratuitous insults against white people all of a sudden? If anyone directed this much naked hatred against women or black people they’d be run out of town on a rail!

      For me, the real tipping point was Rotherham and Köln. That’s the point where it became clear: they really intend to just wipe us all out. But I could see even just the constant drumbeat of hatred being enough to make people think that white identity politics might be a good idea.

      • Brad says:

        Scott’s origin story is very relevant experienced a milder version of the same thing.

        Yet somehow he recovered while so many of the rest of you didn’t.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          Recovered is an interesting turn of phrase. As though the healthy response to finding out that you’re despised by the “moderate” establishment on both the center-left and center-right is to roll over and show your belly.

          I don’t think Scott is a coward by any means, but he’s charitable to a remarkably self-destructive degree. He’s the guy who gets beaten up and feels bad about whatever he must have done to provoke that poor guy into pummeling him.

          Most people don’t need to be literally traumatized before we start to hate the people attacking us unprovoked.

          • Brad says:

            I think most of us know someone that had a really shitty relationship when there were in their teens or twenties. Maybe she serially cheated on him, or maybe he was extremely controlling, but whatever it was it screws them up for a while. Some people never get over it, they keep on seeing that bad SO around every corner for their rest of their lives. Other people recover.

    • pjs says:

      > I suppose if I have a point it’s that most everybody loves identity politics, but usually only for their identity.

      This sounds wrong, and IMHO almost bizarrely so, unless you are equivocating between what is normally thought of as identity politics versus just any old feeling of group affiliation.

      You seem to be inviting us to flip conditional probabilities fallaciously. The alt-right cluster can be all young white men for all I know, but so what; why is that even part of this argument (and why do you like eating paper?) Likewise, there is (well many stories of, but let’s assume true) weird left-wing identity politics on campus, but this is consistent with a smallish fraction of people on the political left actually caring about it.

      Though in favor of your claim (though I still think it takes a pretty weak concept of identity politics to read anything into it) I puzzle a bit at the (increasing) US habit of labeling people (including oneself) as “Democratic” or “Republican”. Is it common in other democracies for people to identify with a political party to the extent of creating an adjective so that one’s voting habits can be spoken of as being a personal attribute?

    • Brad says:

      Eh. I think maybe I conceded too quickly. If it was only about pink haired types and full throated advocates for reparations then maybe your ludicrously hostile to idpol would be fine. But when the insane vitriol includes Hillary Clinton-esque feminism or Obama’s racial politics, then I don’t think it quite suffices. That just covers too much of the left coalition.

      To flip it around if there was a group that was characterized above all by bitter seething hatred towards people that are pro-life and people that are pro-gun-rights, that group just couldn’t be described as on the American right. It doesn’t really matter if they also happened to have a wide variety of opinions on the appropriate level of taxation. Maybe it wouldn’t be quite accurate to say it was a left to far left space, but it’d be more accurate than anything else.

    • quanta413 says:

      I am unconvinced. Some of the right-wing commenters have an obsession with the hair-dye NKVD. But left wing commenters aren’t some endangered minority here. They’re maybe ~1/4 of the posts. The remaining 3/4 ranges from libertarian to conservative republican to hard alt-right. And that cluster wouldn’t be considered a cohesive group anywhere but here. The open borders types and alt-right types might strangle each other in a different environment.

      No the identity politics here is far more horrifying. It’s about being an unfeeling monster who will appear to calmly debate rational explanations for baby-eating and how many babies you should eat given X moral theory while actually obtaining an intense psychological nourishment from the experience. Of course, there are bombastic outliers in style although it’s important they contribute to the clever and witty standards of the community (hi Deiseach!). But the contrasts help one better appreciate the even more alien vibes.

      …And that’s why you should never, ever tell a loved one about what we do here.

    • Nornagest says:

      I’m not sure I buy this reading. I do agree with a lot of the background you give — you could fairly describe your average country music station as playing identity politics for the Red Tribe, though I’d say a pretty benign version of it, and you could also frame the alt-right in terms of a newer, unrelated, and far more combative version. But that’s as far as you can stretch it. I’m not ready to accept the idea that opposition to campus/Social Justice idpol necessarily means playing your own reactionary identity politics, especially when that opposition is cast in terms of objectivity and universalism and other liberal principles. That’s too reductionist for me; once you’ve gone there, you’re basically saying all that matters is who benefits, and at that point “identity politics” stops being useful as a concept.

      We’ve got some alt-liters here for sure, and I’ve never talked to one whose origin story didn’t start with “I used to believe in equality and tolerance and egalitarianism…”, but that “used to” is very important. I think we ought to distinguish them from the people (also very common) who still believe in all that good stuff and just think the Social Justice crowd don’t.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Suppose that for some reason, some group of people decided that glasses were the tool of the Devil, and everyone who wore them was part of a conspiracy. The op-eds pages were filled with denunciations of glasses-wearers, busineses curried favor by firing any employee who was known to have vision problems, scientists were under pressure to fudge their data to link corrective lenses to various awful diseases, and if you went outside wearing glasses you might get beaten up.

      Suppose some other people complained about this, and said they needed to stop, and this was stupid, and glasses weren’t nearly as evil as anyone was saying, and they would like to be able to go outside wearing glasses without being beaten up.

      Would it be fair to describe these second people as “against glasses-based conflict” or “against politicization of glasses”?

      And would it be fair to just say “Some people are zealots who spend all their time criticizing the nasty evil glasses-wearers. Other people are zealots who spend all their time criticizing the nasty evil mobs who punch glasses-wearers. Both are equal participants in the Glasses Conflict. Anyone who says that maybe we shouldn’t turn everything into a discussion of how evil glasses are, is clearly a pro-glasses zealot, exactly identical to the anti-glasses zealots. Why are all you pro-glasses zealots obsessed with how much you love glasses?”

      If you want to make this argument that being against identity politics is exactly as identity-political as being for identity politics, I feel like the burden of proof is on you to explain why that’s not what’s happening here. I mean, that’s the obvious alternative to what you’re claiming, and you haven’t even acknowledged other people think that.

      I worry this is one of those things that’s impossible to communicate. Kind of like how the Buddhists say that you can’t communicate enlightenment directly, because the listener’s mind will instantly translate it into non-enlightened categories. In the same way, maybe it’s impossible to communicate that not everything always has to be about race war, because the listener will just think “Aha! Just what a Jew would say, to gain advantage in the race war!” I don’t know. Try meditating for twenty years.

      • dndnrsn says:

        So, it’s a half-assed hypothesis. It’s probably not correct.

        However (not really 100% the same thing, but kinda related, I hope), in your example, one side is obviously ridiculous and awful. Maybe people who think they’re for objectivity, universalism, etc are fooling themselves? We’re pretty good at rationalizing our actions and beliefs. It would be impossible that everyone who thinks that they’re the good guy innocent glasses-wearers could be correct, because there are people who believe that who are directly against each other.

        • lvlln says:

          But one side being obviously ridiculous and awful in Scott’s example doesn’t really play into it. First of all, it’s not obvious to me that one side is ridiculous and awful; what if it actually was true that “glasses were the tool of the Devil, and everyone who wore them was part of a conspiracy?” Then the anti-glasses side wouldn’t be ridiculous or awful, at least not obviously so, and they might even be on the right side of history.

          But it still wouldn’t be accurate to call the people “who spend all their time criticizing the nasty evil mobs who punch glasses-wearers” as pro-glasses zealots. Maybe they’re useful ignorant idiots for the evil glasses conspiracy. Unless they’re actually identifying as glasses-wearers and claiming that, yes, wearing glasses is actually really superior and awesome and we should punch people who aren’t, it doesn’t make sense to describe them as engaging in glasses politics just as much as the anti-glasses people.

          Also, an aside, but didn’t some version of this glasses thing happen in Cambodia or Maoist China?

          • dndnrsn says:

            But even if “glasses: tool of Satan?” was an open question, one side is clearly attacking first. Whereas, if you talk to a campus-lefty idpol type, they’re the ones defending themselves. And they usually cite evidence of sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, etc that goes past “some people got fired from their jobs” or “a controversial professor got yelled over.”

            How do you know who actually threw the first punch, is I guess what I’m asking? We’re all humans, and we’re really good at rationalizing to ourselves that our actions are justified – the other guy punched first, and even if we throw the first punch, well, we had to, in order to preempt the surprise attack our enemy was surely planning.

            I don’t know about China, but in Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge took glasses-wearing as being proof that someone was an “intellectual”, or at least that’s the simplified version that’s popularly known.

          • lvlln says:

            But even if “glasses: tool of Satan?” was an open question, one side is clearly attacking first. Whereas, if you talk to a campus-lefty idpol type, they’re the ones defending themselves. And they usually cite evidence of sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, etc that goes past “some people got fired from their jobs” or “a controversial professor got yelled over.”

            Well, no, I don’t think in Scott’s example, one side is clearly attacking first. If glasses really were the tool of Satan, then the anti-glasses zealots would be defending themselves in response to an aggression, just as much as the idpol types are defending themselves in response to an aggression.

            And I disagree that they “usually cite evidence of sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia” at all, much less “that goes past” examples of their aggression. Not unless you’re willing to lower the standard of evidence to such an extent that you could say that Creationists have evidence for their theory of the beginning of the universe. Generally, the concept of seeking evidence is considered a form of “gaslighting” via denying their lived experiences.

            But let’s say that they did provide rock-solid evidence for their claims of rampant sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. that was as undeniable as the evidence for evolution or for anthropogenic global warming. That would still leave open the question of, how do we actually go fix it? And it’s not obvious that identity politics is the way to fix it, and the empirical evidence that it’s the way to fix it seems sorely lacking. Back around 2013-2014 I recall theorizing that it would be a poor way to fix it because it would enable a backlash rooted in the same identity-based thinking, and while I can’t say that my theory is correct, I think the evidence since that is stronger for my theory than the theory that it will work out and truly root out the rampant sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. that hounds every level of our society.

            How do you know who actually threw the first punch, is I guess what I’m asking? We’re all humans, and we’re really good at rationalizing to ourselves that our actions are justified – the other guy punched first, and even if we throw the first punch, well, we had to, in order to preempt the surprise attack our enemy was surely planning.

            I’m not sure how meaningful the question of who threw the first punch is. What actually matters is determining what goal we want and what methods we can use to actually achieve that goal. Sometimes that means punching back even harder, even if you were the one who threw the 1st punch. Other times that means backing off, even if the other guy threw the 1st punch. And everything in between.

            Here, it seems that, regardless of who threw the 1st punch, the response of most people in SSC is not to throw any punches back, but to argue that it’s not good to throw punches, where punches means something like engaging in identity politics to justify bullying and coercion.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Well, no, I don’t think in Scott’s example, one side is clearly attacking first. If glasses really were the tool of Satan, then the anti-glasses zealots would be defending themselves in response to an aggression, just as much as the idpol types are defending themselves in response to an aggression.

            But the attacks are easier to see as reality than the unproven claim that glasses are the tool of Satan. There’s no proof in the hypothetical that the glasses-haters are right; there’s not even any reasons given for why they think that. There is proof that they attack.

            And I disagree that they “usually cite evidence of sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia” at all, much less “that goes past” examples of their aggression. Not unless you’re willing to lower the standard of evidence to such an extent that you could say that Creationists have evidence for their theory of the beginning of the universe. Generally, the concept of seeking evidence is considered a form of “gaslighting” via denying their lived experiences.

            OK, but, 1. I disagree with the notion that asking for evidence is bad, because you can find a “lived experience” to support any notion, no matter how ludicrous. I think a focus on anecdote and narrative over the hardest evidence available is bad epistemology. 2. I think that when you look at the history and the stats and so on, there has clearly been discrimination against certain groups, and I think similar evidence shows that there’s still discrimination going on, less than before, but it still exists.

            I mean, what is the harm done by racists in the past however many years? What is the harm done by obnoxious campus activists?

            But let’s say that they did provide rock-solid evidence for their claims of rampant sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. that was as undeniable as the evidence for evolution or for anthropogenic global warming. That would still leave open the question of, how do we actually go fix it? And it’s not obvious that identity politics is the way to fix it, and the empirical evidence that it’s the way to fix it seems sorely lacking. Back around 2013-2014 I recall theorizing that it would be a poor way to fix it because it would enable a backlash rooted in the same identity-based thinking, and while I can’t say that my theory is correct, I think the evidence since that is stronger for my theory than the theory that it will work out and truly root out the rampant sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. that hounds every level of our society.

            This isn’t really germane to the discussion in this case. I don’t think that identity politics are correct. Things on the right that are unmistakeably identity politics are taken from things that have been tried, and have led to monstrous acts, or that would certainly lead to monstrous acts were they to be tried (eg, making the US into a white ethnostate without just straight up abandoning large parts of the country would, based on historical precedent, involve probably tens of millions of deaths). Things on the left that are unmistakeably, while significantly less awful (unless we’re gonna call revolutionary communism “identity politics”, which I don’t think we can, because revolutionary communism is super materialistic, and identity politics isn’t really), tend to involve ways of seeing the world taken from academia that fail to see the world accurately, fail to understand the world, and fail to understand both the world’s problems and how to fix them. Additionally, they do appear to cause a backlash – which I think is worse than the thing itself (I view, say, campus lefty activists as mostly harmless, probably mostly harming themselves, and at worst obnoxious; the backlash is far more dangerous than they are, I think). So, I’m not arguing in favour of either.

            I’m not sure how meaningful the question of who threw the first punch is. What actually matters is determining what goal we want and what methods we can use to actually achieve that goal. Sometimes that means punching back even harder, even if you were the one who threw the 1st punch. Other times that means backing off, even if the other guy threw the 1st punch. And everything in between.

            Here, it seems that, regardless of who threw the 1st punch, the response of most people in SSC is not to throw any punches back, but to argue that it’s not good to throw punches, where punches means something like engaging in identity politics to justify bullying and coercion.

            A left-wing identity politics practitioner would say that we (defined as predominantly white, predominantly male, probably a tendency to be from the upper quartile or whatever of the socioeconomic spectrum) are disingenously arguing for truce after taking what we want – think of it as unleashing a combo on the other guy then backing off when they’re coming back at you and saying “punching is wrong!”. Meanwhile, a right-wing identity politics practitioner might think that SSC has been duped by the left wing, has some kind of Stockholm/battered wife syndrome thing going on, that this place is somehow full of communists/afraid of upsetting them: see what some alt-right types say about Scott and this place in general.

            But, besides, I’m not saying it’s an important or unimportant question. I’m saying that we, as humans, are good at saying the other guy threw first when it was us, or that someone we wanted to punch anyway looked like he was winding up (so best get off first).

          • lvlln says:

            OK, but, 1. I disagree with the notion that asking for evidence is bad, because you can find a “lived experience” to support any notion, no matter how ludicrous. I think a focus on anecdote and narrative over the hardest evidence available is bad epistemology. 2. I think that when you look at the history and the stats and so on, there has clearly been discrimination against certain groups, and I think similar evidence shows that there’s still discrimination going on, less than before, but it still exists.

            I mean, what is the harm done by racists in the past however many years? What is the harm done by obnoxious campus activists?

            I think the evidence is pretty clear that unfair discrimination against certain minority groups has plagued our society in the past and continues to plague it today, even if to a lesser extent.

            But that’s not the extent of what idpol is claiming. They take these very general statements about society and extrapolate out to specific cases in specific locations and specific people. Like college students claiming that their college is a white supremacist organization where black students can’t possibly be treated fairly. It’s a motte-and-bailey game.

            As for the relative harm between racists and obnoxious campus activists, first of all, that’s a largely meaningless question, because combating one doesn’t preclude combating the other, so it’s not like we have to weigh their harms against the other – we can notice that they’re both hella harmful to different aspects of society and combat both of them.

            But second, it’s a genuinely hard question to answer. On the one hand, slavery, Jim Crow, and things like that have been incredibly harmful, and we all suffer from the legacy of these things to this day, with today’s African Americans suffering the worst from it, at least on average. On the other hand, this analysis rests on associating the racists of today with the racists of yesterday – very few racists today actually have any fault in slavery or Jim Crow. So what we’re looking at are their ideas. And when we look at the idpol ideas – i.e. punishment based on collectivized rather than individual guilt – we can reasonably attribute to them 10s of millions of deaths in the last century.

            But on the other other hand, the racists today tend to hold far more levers of power than college students, but on the other other other hand, the college students aren’t the only idpol folks out there, and idpol is quite openly grabbing hold of more and more levers of power at plenty of our most powerful institutions, with little pushback thanks in large part to people minimizing the issue as a bunch of noisy college students who just want people to be nice to each other.

            So it’s hard to answer either the question of who’s caused more harm in the past or the question of who’s more likely to cause more harm in the future. But what’s clear is that combating idpol doesn’t at all mean allying with the racists, and combating racists doesn’t at all mean allying with idpol.

            A left-wing identity politics practitioner would say that we (defined as predominantly white, predominantly male, probably a tendency to be from the upper quartile or whatever of the socioeconomic spectrum) are disingenously arguing for truce after taking what we want – think of it as unleashing a combo on the other guy then backing off when they’re coming back at you and saying “punching is wrong!”. Meanwhile, a right-wing identity politics practitioner might think that SSC has been duped by the left wing, has some kind of Stockholm/battered wife syndrome thing going on, that this place is somehow full of communists/afraid of upsetting them: see what some alt-right types say about Scott and this place in general.

            It’s getting a bit messy with the metaphor here, but if a left-wing idpol practitioner claimed that, they would be making an unfalsifiable claim. The whole point is that SSC and the mostly nerdy white guys that make up its commentary base don’t practice identity politics, because they don’t identify with each other based on their nerdy white maleness, and they don’t practice overt identity-based coercion. If the claim is that merely by being a bunch of nerdy white guys who strive to survive and thrive on the Earth in the 21st century, the SSC commentariat were practicing nerdy white male identity politics by default, then identity politics ceases to have any meaning.

          • cassander says:

            @dndrsn

            (eg, making the US into a white ethnostate without just straight up abandoning large parts of the country would, based on historical precedent, involve probably tens of millions of deaths)

            The alternative to left wing identity politics isn’t right wing identity politics, it’s neutralism.

            Things on the left that are unmistakeably, while significantly less awful (unless we’re gonna call revolutionary communism “identity politics”, which I don’t think we can, because revolutionary communism is super materialistic, and identity politics isn’t really)

            How on earth is “the proletariat” not a identity?

            >What is the harm done by obnoxious campus activists?

            The entire racial spoils system that they and their allies have built up that encourages identity politics by its existence and which then poisons the entire political discourse by reinforcing sectarian tendencies, for one.

            the backlash is far more dangerous than they are, I think

            What backlash? a few people complaining on the internet isn’t a backlash. It becomes a backlash only when it actually achieves substantial results in the real world, which so far it hasn’t. When AA laws start getting repealed or ICE starts rounding up people for mass deportations, then you have a backlash, but nothing like that is going to happen.

            @lvlln

            But on the other other hand, the racists today tend to hold far more levers of power than college students, but on the other other other hand, the college students aren’t the only idpol folks out there, and idpol is quite openly grabbing hold of more and more levers of power at plenty of our most powerful institutions, with little pushback thanks in large part to people minimizing the issue as a bunch of noisy college students who just want people to be nice to each other.

            For any any remotely objective definition of racism, this is sheer nonsense. The slightest hint of racism can be enough to drive prominent people out of public life in disgrace.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @lvlln

            But that’s not the extent of what idpol is claiming. They take these very general statements about society and extrapolate out to specific cases in specific locations and specific people. Like college students claiming that their college is a white supremacist organization where black students can’t possibly be treated fairly. It’s a motte-and-bailey game.

            As for the relative harm between racists and obnoxious campus activists, first of all, that’s a largely meaningless question, because combating one doesn’t preclude combating the other, so it’s not like we have to weigh their harms against the other – we can notice that they’re both hella harmful to different aspects of society and combat both of them.

            So, I’m not so much making an argument, as stating what those making the argument think. They see what their epistemology and means of understanding the world as the best, and think that what they want to do will fix the problems they see.

            But second, it’s a genuinely hard question to answer. On the one hand, slavery, Jim Crow, and things like that have been incredibly harmful, and we all suffer from the legacy of these things to this day, with today’s African Americans suffering the worst from it, at least on average. On the other hand, this analysis rests on associating the racists of today with the racists of yesterday – very few racists today actually have any fault in slavery or Jim Crow. So what we’re looking at are their ideas. And when we look at the idpol ideas – i.e. punishment based on collectivized rather than individual guilt – we can reasonably attribute to them 10s of millions of deaths in the last century.

            Something you’re saying my musings would do is expand “identity politics” to the point of meaninglessness. I think saying “anything with collective punishment is identity politics” does the same. Identity politics tends to be almost mystical; classical Marxism was very materialistic.

            But on the other other hand, the racists today tend to hold far more levers of power than college students, but on the other other other hand, the college students aren’t the only idpol folks out there, and idpol is quite openly grabbing hold of more and more levers of power at plenty of our most powerful institutions, with little pushback thanks in large part to people minimizing the issue as a bunch of noisy college students who just want people to be nice to each other.

            I think what you see as “idpol grabbing the levers of power” I see as “the powers that be coopting idpol because they need a way to get people to look away from the shell game”. But that’s kind of something we can’t resolve.

            @cassander

            The alternative to left wing identity politics isn’t right wing identity politics, it’s neutralism.

            But there are people right now who want to do that, and who are presenting what they want to do as the alternative. I’m not making a fact claim about what is good or not, aside from saying that if the right wing idpol guys got what they want, it would be pretty bad.

            How on earth is “the proletariat” not a identity?

            This is also stretching “identity politics” crazy wide. By this standard, the Thirty Years War was about identity politics, with “Catholic” identity on one hand and “Protestant” on the other. Classic Marxism was materialistic; identity politics (regardless of its political valence) is almost mystical.

            The entire racial spoils system that they and their allies have built up that encourages identity politics by its existence and which then poisons the entire political discourse by reinforcing sectarian tendencies, for one.

            Stuff like AA or programs that say the government must spend x amount of the budget for y on purchasing from minority-owned businesses or whatever predate the modern campus-left, critical studies-based identity politics shebang by at least a couple decades. And “poisoning the political discourse by reinforcing sectarian tendencies” seems to describe creating a backlash pretty well.

            What backlash? a few people complaining on the internet isn’t a backlash. It becomes a backlash only when it actually achieves substantial results in the real world, which so far it hasn’t. When AA laws start getting repealed or ICE starts rounding up people for mass deportations, then you have a backlash, but nothing like that is going to happen.

            Unless it’s completely illusory, there’s been a significant uptick in right-wing white identity politics groups, or whatever you want to call them. They’re still fairly insignificant, but the overall situation in the US aren’t actually that bad. If there was a real economic crisis – not like, oh no my investments guess I can’t retire, or oh no my kid can’t get a good job, but like hyperinflation, or the Depression – political extremism on all sides will get a huge shot in the arm. What it looks like when shit being really, really bad combining with political extremism can be seen in the early-mid 20th century in Europe. Not pretty.

          • cassander says:

            @cassander

            But there are people right now who want to do that, and who are presenting what they want to do as the alternative. I’m not making a fact claim about what is good or not, aside from saying that if the right wing idpol guys got what they want, it would be pretty bad.

            There are a few thousand people doing that. They are completely powerless and politically irrelevant.

            This is also stretching “identity politics” crazy wide. By this standard, the Thirty Years War was about identity politics, with “Catholic” identity on one hand and “Protestant” on the other. Classic Marxism was materialistic; identity politics (regardless of its political valence) is almost mystical.

            The 30 years war certainly started out that way, and the religious wars in general were absolutely rooted in identity politics. I think claiming identity as some sort of mystical value is a false dichotomy. There are certainly people who think that way, but that there were just as many people romanticising a mystical vision of “the workers” or some such. And there are probably more people who are just thinking “what’s good for people like me is good for me.”

            Stuff like AA or programs that say the government must spend x amount of the budget for y on purchasing from minority-owned businesses or whatever predate the modern campus-left, critical studies-based identity politics shebang by at least a couple decades.

            And? the campus left wants to take all that’s been done in that regard and go much, much further. And those that were campus left a decade ago are actively passing legislation.

            And “poisoning the political discourse by reinforcing sectarian tendencies” seems to describe creating a backlash pretty well.

            “This animal is dangerous, when attacked, it defends it self.”

            Unless it’s completely illusory, there’s been a significant uptick in right-wing white identity politics groups, or whatever you want to call them. They’re still fairly insignificant,

            Not fairly insignificant, completely insignificant. They have no power and are shouted out of polite society whenever they pop their heads up.

            If there was a real economic crisis – not like, oh no my investments guess I can’t retire, or oh no my kid can’t get a good job, but like hyperinflation, or the Depression – political extremism on all sides will get a huge shot in the arm. What it looks like when shit being really, really bad combining with political extremism can be seen in the early-mid 20th century in Europe. Not pretty

            Ok, but that’s true at all times and in all places. ANd if it starts happening, I’ll be right there on the barricades, but it’s not happening now. what is happening now is left identity politics gaining ever more sway. We’re at the point where democratic presidential candidates won’t say “all lives matter”, where affirmative consent rules are being mandated by the state. the identity left is getting their way, little by little, day by day, and that is a problem.

          • Aapje says:

            @lvlln

            But on the other other hand, the racists today tend to hold far more levers of power than college students

            What is you definition of ‘racist’ in this statement? Is it the overt, alt-right racist, or (often accurately) stereotyping groups and then treating people by that stereotype?

            The latter seems to be the main kind of racism by people in power, but it is also something that people are rarely against on principle. Most people seem to consider it very reasonable, as long as it happens to the outgroup & quite unreasonable if it happens to the ingroup.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @cassander

            There are a few thousand people doing that. They are completely powerless and politically irrelevant.

            But there’s more of them than there used to be, all of a sudden.

            The 30 years war certainly started out that way, and the religious wars in general were absolutely rooted in identity politics.

            This is running into the problem with my musings, from the opposite end – if we don’t find something differentiating “identity politics” from “people want bennies for their group”, everything becomes identity politics.

            And? the campus left wants to take all that’s been done in that regard and go much, much further. And those that were campus left a decade ago are actively passing legislation.

            See my comment at the end.

            “This animal is dangerous, when attacked, it defends it self.”

            Everyone thinks they’re defending themselves, though.

            Not fairly insignificant, completely insignificant. They have no power and are shouted out of polite society whenever they pop their heads up.

            See my first comment. This widely hated, insignificant, powerless except when they commit some act of criminal violence group – they seem to have gotten a bunch of converts recently. That’s worrying.

            Ok, but that’s true at all times and in all places. ANd if it starts happening, I’ll be right there on the barricades, but it’s not happening now. what is happening now is left identity politics gaining ever more sway. We’re at the point where democratic presidential candidates won’t say “all lives matter”, where affirmative consent rules are being mandated by the state. the identity left is getting their way, little by little, day by day, and that is a problem.

            I think this is one of the places where what some people see as a group winning, I see it as them getting coopted. Like, mainstream Democrats push this whole thing where slapping a pink, or rainbow as the case may be, coat of paint on top of exploitative capitalism and bad-idea military adventures makes it all A-OK. This isn’t a Clickhole article and I think it kind of represents the zeitgeist.

            Affirmative consent rules at colleges, the tribunals, all that, are being pushed by the wackier end of feminists (eg McKinnon defining “rape” as any sex where a woman “feels violated”) but they’re being embraced by campus admins whose major job is to protect the endowment. Once upon a time the easiest way to make a rape case go away was to pressure the woman to keep silent, now it’s to defenestrate some guy.

            The demands of the campus activists when they run screaming into the president’s office usually come down to putting a pittance compared to the endowment towards stuff that’s gonna bring them jobs in the future.

            None of this is really radical, none of it restructures society in any big way. They’re not really radicals or leftists, they’re just shitty liberals (ie they don’t believe in some important personal freedoms). But while they might, say, shittalk capitalism, they never really propose anything seriously that would threaten it, and it’s the game in town right now.

          • cassander says:

            @dndrsn

            But there’s more of them than there used to be, all of a sudden.

            I’m not at all convinced that that’s true.

            .

            See my first comment. This widely hated, insignificant, powerless except when they commit some act of criminal violence group – they seem to have gotten a bunch of converts recently. That’s worrying.

            What organized violence are you thinking of, exactly?

            I think this is one of the places where what some people see as a group winning, I see it as them getting coopted. Like, mainstream Democrats push this whole thing where slapping a pink, or rainbow as the case may be, coat of paint on top of exploitative capitalism and bad-idea military adventures makes it all A-OK. This isn’t a Clickhole article and I think it kind of represents the zeitgeist.

            That’s how political progress ALWAYS happens. you never get everything you want all at once, you get bits and pieces, one at a time. You can’t call onmly getting part of what you want no success.

            Affirmative consent rules at colleges, the tribunals, all that, are being pushed by the wackier end of feminists (eg McKinnon defining “rape” as any sex where a woman “feels violated”) but they’re being embraced by campus admins whose major job is to protect the endowment. Once upon a time the easiest way to make a rape case go away was to pressure the woman to keep silent, now it’s to defenestrate some guy.

            I agree. I don’t see how you see that as the left not winning.

            The demands of the campus activists when they run screaming into the president’s office usually come down to putting a pittance compared to the endowment towards stuff that’s gonna bring them jobs in the future.

            You seem to be reasoning on the basis that when people leave college they stop having the political attitudes they had in college. This definitely isn’t the case. Gay marriage was a popular idea on campus 20 years ago, today it’s a constitutional right. is it everything the left wanted? no, but that doesn’t mean nothing was achieved.

            None of this is really radical, none of it restructures society in any big way. They’re not really radicals or leftists, they’re just shitty liberals (ie they don’t believe in some important personal freedoms). But while they might, say, shittalk capitalism, they never really propose anything seriously that would threaten it, and it’s the game in town right now.

            Society has been MASSIVELY restructured in the last few decades largely on the basis of these sorts of demands. Just because your pet ideas aren’t getting adopted doesn’t mean this isn’t happening.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I’m not at all convinced that that’s true.

            Well, how would we measure this? All I know is that I’m seeing a lot more of them than I was before, say, 2014 or 2015, and I started seeing them before the mainstream media, etc started talking about them.

            What organized violence are you thinking of, exactly?

            It’s not organized violence. The extreme far-right in the US’ thing is smaller-scale, often lone-wolf violence. A drop in the bucket of US violence overall, as political violence in the US in general is, but I would say they’re probably the majority of political violence in the US. It’s in everyone’s best interests it stays that way. If either the extreme far right or the extreme far left gets to the point of doing organized violence, well, probably by then everything has gone far past the point of no return.

            That’s how political progress ALWAYS happens. you never get everything you want all at once, you get bits and pieces, one at a time. You can’t call onmly getting part of what you want no success.

            But getting coopted isn’t success.

            I agree. I don’t see how you see that as the left not winning.

            What’s “the left”? I’m on the left. I’m probably gonna vote NDP next election provincially and federally, and they’re a bunch of commies by American standards. I think that the tribunals are bad (I favour affirmative consent as a cultural standard, but making it into a rule when there’s not cultural weight behind it is a bad idea). The Atlantic, which is one of the standard bearers of American liberalism, ran a three-piece about how shitty the university tribunals are.

            The demands of the campus activists when they run screaming into the president’s office usually come down to putting a pittance compared to the endowment towards stuff that’s gonna bring them jobs in the future.

            You seem to be reasoning on the basis that when people leave college they stop having the political attitudes they had in college. This definitely isn’t the case. Gay marriage was a popular idea on campus 20 years ago, today it’s a constitutional right. is it everything the left wanted? no, but that doesn’t mean nothing was achieved.

            I went to a left-wing school in Canada, which is generally to the left of the US.

            Society has been MASSIVELY restructured in the last few decades largely on the basis of these sorts of demands. Just because your pet ideas aren’t getting adopted doesn’t mean this isn’t happening.

            What are “my pet ideas”?

            What ways has society been massively restructured? “Them that has, gets” still seems to be the order of the day. The richest people are still disproportionately white, so’s Congress (or parliament up here), etc.

          • albatross11 says:

            dndnrsn:

            There was pretty serious far-left violence in the US in the 50s-70s. This was groups like the Weathermen and Black Panthers. There was also pretty serious far-right violence in a lot of the US in reaction to the civil rights movement for blacks, associated with the KKK. So it seems like the US can actually survive such things, though it would be very bad to have to do so.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Yeah, I read Days of Rage. American radicals were never as violent as European, though. I think the review by, uh, the 451 guy kind of misinterprets the book, though.

          • cassander says:

            @dndnrsn says:

            Well, how would we measure this? All I know is that I’m seeing a lot more of them than I was before, say, 2014 or 2015, and I started seeing them before the mainstream media, etc started talking about them.

            Precisely, you’re seeing the media talk about them, you’re not actually seeing them. Clinton going on about cartoon frogs is not proof of anything. If you actually start seeing them, if you see new organizations spring up dedicated to their ideas or membership in old organizations dramatically increase, then you’re seeing something. Until then, you’re just living in brown scare america, which is to say, the same place we’ve all been living since the early 50s.

            It’s not organized violence. The extreme far-right in the US’ thing is smaller-scale, often lone-wolf violence. A drop in the bucket of US violence overall, as political violence in the US in general is, but I would say they’re probably the majority of political violence in the US.

            Really? when’s the last time someone on the right tried to mow down a bunch of congressmen?

            But getting coopted isn’t success.

            Yes, it is. part of your agenda going mainstream is how you get it accomplished.

            The Atlantic, which is one of the standard bearers of American liberalism, ran a three-piece about how shitty the university tribunals are.

            And in 10 years, they’ll be running pieces about how horribly sexist anything else is. again, you confuse not getting what you want right away with not getting what you want.

            What are “my pet ideas”?

            I don’t know, but everyone has some. I was deliberately vague to avoid saying you held any in particular.

            What ways has society been massively restructured? “Them that has, gets” still seems to be the order of the day. The richest people are still disproportionately white, so’s Congress (or parliament up here), etc.

            gays have a constitutional right to get married, spending on all social programs is up dramatically no matter how you measure, even more of the healthcare system is run by the government, there’s more regulation than ever before, women are serving in combat arms of the army. Taxes are more progressive than ever and we’ve effectively legalized several million illegal immigrants, and the “hard line anti-immigrant” president is proposing a deal that will legalize some, not all, of them, and the speech that used to get applause from democrats is now deplorably racist. These are all very large shifts to the left. the only shift to the right that’s even remotely comparable is gun control. That is a lopsided talley.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Precisely, you’re seeing the media talk about them, you’re not actually seeing them. Clinton going on about cartoon frogs is not proof of anything. If you actually start seeing them, if you see new organizations spring up dedicated to their ideas or membership in old organizations dramatically increase, then you’re seeing something. Until then, you’re just living in brown scare america, which is to say, the same place we’ve all been living since the early 50s.

            I just said I encountered them online before the media, or Clinton, mentioned them.

            Really? when’s the last time someone on the right tried to mow down a bunch of congressmen?

            Not congressmen, sure, just people in general. What shall we count as “far-right-wing violence”?

            Yes, it is. part of your agenda going mainstream is how you get it accomplished.

            There are plenty of left-wing activists who hate going mainstream. Lots of people who object to corporate sponsorship of Pride parades, for example. It’s a victory by some standards, not by others.

            And in 10 years, they’ll be running pieces about how horribly sexist anything else is. again, you confuse not getting what you want right away with not getting what you want.

            But they already run those articles, sometimes. They clearly coexist.

            gays have a constitutional right to get married, spending on all social programs is up dramatically no matter how you measure, even more of the healthcare system is run by the government, there’s more regulation than ever before, women are serving in combat arms of the army. Taxes are more progressive than ever and we’ve effectively legalized several million illegal immigrants, and the “hard line anti-immigrant” president is proposing a deal that will legalize some, not all, of them, and the speech that used to get applause from democrats is now deplorably racist. These are all very large shifts to the left. the only shift to the right that’s even remotely comparable is gun control. That is a lopsided talley.

            We’ve had this discussion before; I’m sure of it. Taxation is far less onerous than it was at some points in the past. A leftist in 1917 wouldn’t be happy with today – socialism is doing kinda badly. If you look at it socially, sure, lot of major victories, and we’ve stopped counting some things as left wing (prohibition lost, and it was kinda a left wing cause – first wave feminism was generally for it).

          • cassander says:

            @dndnrsn says:

            I just said I encountered them online before the media, or Clinton, mentioned them.

            People saying asinine things online does not a social trend make.

            Not congressmen, sure, just people in general. What shall we count as “far-right-wing violence”?

            Violence done for a political purpose with explicit political intent.

            There are plenty of left-wing activists who hate going mainstream. Lots of people who object to corporate sponsorship of Pride parades, for example. It’s a victory by some standards, not by others

            .

            I repeat, you’re confusing not getting everything you want with not getting anything you want.

            But they already run those articles, sometimes. They clearly coexist.

            and which way the trend is blowing is clear.

            We’ve had this discussion before; I’m sure of it. Taxation is far less onerous than it was at some points in the past

            .

            In the US, this is simply false. Taxes are exactly in the same band they’ve been in since the korean war. And they’re more progressive than ever.

            A leftist in 1917 wouldn’t be happy with today – socialism is doing kinda badly.

            the federal government spent less than 5% of GDP in 1917, today it spends 25%. have we hung all the capitalists? No, and that would doubtless disappoint the leftist, but we’ve moved massively in the direction of what he was advocating.

            If you look at it socially, sure, lot of major victories, and we’ve stopped counting some things as left wing (prohibition lost, and it was kinda a left wing cause – first wave feminism was generally for it).

          • Nornagest says:

            And they’re more progressive than ever.

            Depends how you look at it. Top marginal rates are a lot lower than they were in the Sixties or Seventies, but it’s also harder to get around them by supplying company cars or other perks. On balance I’d say the current tax structure’s somewhat flatter than it was in the mid-20th century, but not dramatically so.

          • cassander says:

            @Nornagest says:

            Top marginal rates are pretty meaningless because, as you say, there are many ways around them. The fairest way, I think, is to compare income share and tax share. the top 1/5 paid had ~45% of income in 1979 and paid 55% of taxes. today, they have 50% of income and pay 69% of taxes. that’s all federal taxes, not just income taxes. You can slice smaller groupings if you want, but they all tell similar stories. the share of income held by the rich has grown, but their share of taxes paid has grown as fast or faster

            https://www.cbo.gov/publication/51361

          • dndnrsn says:

            @cassander

            People saying asinine things online does not a social trend make.

            I’m saying that in, what, late 2014 I think it was, I started noticing more stuff that today you’d call “alt-right”, and I thought “huh, I think there’s a backlash brewing here.” I think events since then have borne this out? When Clinton and the media started talking about the alt-right, I think that was a clumsy attempt to make a boogeyman; it might have made a boogeyman, but it also was free publicity.

            Violence done for a political purpose with explicit political intent.

            But this basically limits it to attacks on elected officials, etc, right? A guy with far-right views shooting up a mosque wouldn’t count, would he?

            I repeat, you’re confusing not getting everything you want with not getting anything you want.

            But who got what they want? The people who wanted social liberalism have won. But they were more fringe in the early 20th century than the socialists. The socialists didn’t get what they wanted: capitalists might complain about the taxes, but they’re probably worrying less than they were in 1917 about the noose or the firing squad. The hardcore commies who wanted to seize the means of production were not the same group as the libertines or the suffragettes.

            and which way the trend is blowing is clear.

            Really? Because I think it’s the opposite – there’s been more “backlash-y” articles lately in respectable liberal (not leftist) publications, etc.

            In the US, this is simply false. Taxes are exactly in the same band they’ve been in since the korean war. And they’re more progressive than ever.

            Are we talking about personal o corporate?

            the federal government spent less than 5% of GDP in 1917, today it spends 25%. have we hung all the capitalists? No, and that would doubtless disappoint the leftist, but we’ve moved massively in the direction of what he was advocating.

            We’ve moved in the direction of social democracy. Commies don’t like social democracy – there was a period where the Official Party Line was that it was basically fascism – because they believe that the good is the enemy of the perfect. We haven’t moved massively in the direction of what communists want, we’ve just taxing and spreading around the fruits of the system they hate a little more. They want a difference in kind; all that’s changed is a difference in degree.

          • cassander says:

            @dndnrsn

            But this basically limits it to attacks on elected officials, etc, right? A guy with far-right views shooting up a mosque wouldn’t count, would he?

            It counts if the guy did it for some reason and wasn’t just crazy. But I don’t consider, e.g. Jared Loughner a left wing terrorist just because he shot some people and posted left wing messages on facebook. He was clearly a mentally ill person who just happened to have some left wing views. Ditto (probably) your guy.

            I repeat, you’re confusing not getting everything you want with not getting anything you want.

            The hardcore commies who wanted to seize the means of production were not the same group as the libertines or the suffragettes.

            And the state now controls more of those means than ever before in history, and the trendline is going up. Slowly, but up.

            Are we talking about personal o corporate?

            There’s no meaningful distinction there. Corporations are just groups of people, and corporate taxes are ultimately paid by their shareholders, customers, or employees.

            We’ve moved in the direction of social democracy. Commies don’t like social democracy – there was a period where the Official Party Line was that it was basically fascism – because they believe that the good is the enemy of the perfect. We haven’t moved massively in the direction of what communists want, we’ve just taxing and spreading around the fruits of the system they hate a little more. They want a difference in kind; all that’s changed is a difference in degree

            .

            not a little more, an order of magnitude more. And revolutionary socialists were always a tiny minority even in the socialist movement. there were always far more social democrats, even if they didn’t always use that name.

          • dndnrsn says:

            It counts if the guy did it for some reason and wasn’t just crazy. But I don’t consider, e.g. Jared Loughner a left wing terrorist just because he shot some people and posted left wing messages on facebook. He was clearly a mentally ill person who just happened to have some left wing views. Ditto (probably) your guy.

            The guy who shot Scalise and company had a long history of cops getting domestic abuse-type calls to his house, his marriage was on the rocks, he was unemployed and homeless. Loughner was definitely crazy, but I see about as much evidence that the Scalise shooter was crazy as evidence that the Quebec mosque shooter was crazy – unstable, maybe. But it’s not fair game to say that when a left-winger shoots some people, it’s left-wing political violence; when a right-winger shoots some people, probably a nut.

            I repeat, you’re confusing not getting everything you want with not getting anything you want.

            But who’s this “you”? I’m sure that there were people in 1918 who wanted women’s rights, civil rights, gay rights, sexual liberation, and social democracy but not an end to capitalism. But there were plenty of people on the left who wanted one or two of those things, along with things they didn’t get (the early feminists got the vote; they didn’t get prohibition, which was a feminist cause). There were people who wanted one thing – an end to capitalism – and they haven’t gotten that. The left isn’t monololithic; communism wasn’t just some feinted jab to set up the uppercut of The Current Year.

            And the state now controls more of those means than ever before in history, and the trendline is going up. Slowly, but up.

            What means of production does the state control? In many places the trend has been the opposite: towards privatization of publicly-owned outfits.

            not a little more, an order of magnitude more. And revolutionary socialists were always a tiny minority even in the socialist movement. there were always far more social democrats, even if they didn’t always use that name.

            Revolutionaries were pretty popular a hundred years ago. If the goal of incremental socialism was to get rid of capitalism, that clearly hasn’t worked; I see no reason to think it will work.

          • cassander says:

            @dndrsn

            But it’s not fair game to say that when a left-winger shoots some people, it’s left-wing political violence; when a right-winger shoots some people, probably a nut.

            I agree, which is why I said the opposite of that. Hodgkinson, though, not only has a long history of explicit political activism, but appears to have planned out his attack in a fair bit of detail

            But who’s this “you”? I’m sure that there were people in 1918 who wanted women’s rights, civil rights, gay rights, sexual liberation, and social democracy but not an end to capitalism.

            I repeat, you’re confusing not getting everything you want with not getting anything you want.

            But there were plenty of people on the left who wanted one or two of those things, along with things they didn’t get (the early feminists got the vote; they didn’t get prohibition, which was a feminist cause).

            Well, they DID get prohibition, it was just such a terrible idea that they eventually lost in in an extremely rare reversal for the progressive movement.

            There were people who wanted one thing – an end to capitalism – and they haven’t gotten that. The left isn’t monololithic; communism wasn’t just some feinted jab to set up the uppercut of The Current Year.

            they’ve gotten a substantial degree of that. the country is orders of magnitude less capitalistic than it was.

            What means of production does the state control? In many places the trend has been the opposite: towards privatization of publicly-owned outfits.

            virtually all of education, most of healthcare, much of finance. In other words, huge swathes of the economy. And that’s just what they own directly. what they control indirectly through regulation amounts to even more. Publicly owned companies have been reduced in number, but the state has compensated with increasing regulation, i.e. indirect control. Whatever slight reversal the neo-liberal wave managed (and it certainly was slight relative to what prevailed in 1917, even in the non-anglo countries where it had more impact) that wave has clearly exhausted itself and the trendline has clearly returned to what it was pre-wave. There is no developed country where the state today is controlling less of the economy than it was 20 years ago, with the possible exception of greece.

            .>Revolutionaries were pretty popular a hundred years ago. If the goal of incremental socialism was to get rid of capitalism, that clearly hasn’t worked; I see no reason to think it will work.

            You’ve managed to socialize a minimum of 1/3 of the economy. that’s far from nothing.

          • the country is orders of magnitude less capitalistic than it was.

            You’ve managed to socialize a minimum of 1/3 of the economy.

            2/3>>10^-2

          • cassander says:

            @davidfriedman

            We’ve got from about 3% of GDP controlled by the federal government to about 30%, once you include the cost of federal regulatory compliance. That’s an order, at least. Excuse a little rhetorical flourish.

          • @Cassander:

            1. You said orders of magnitude less capitalist, not more socialist.
            2. State and local spending is government spending as well. Total U.S. government spending has gone from about ten percent to about thirty-five percent, so still not “orders of magnitude” greater.

            I disapprove of the misuse of mathematical language for rhetorical emphasis. The most common example is “exponentially” to mean “large.”

            But “orders of magnitude” also qualifies.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I agree, which is why I said the opposite of that. Hodgkinson, though, not only has a long history of explicit political activism, but appears to have planned out his attack in a fair bit of detail

            The mosque shooter has a history of right-wing political activity, or at least of online posting. If we count both as unstable-but-not-literally-insane (after all, regardless of politics, it’s the unstable people who tend to go on often-suicidal shooting rampages) what can we take from that, other than that the right-winger was actually better at killing people?

            I repeat, you’re confusing not getting everything you want with not getting anything you want.

            And I repeat, you’re assuming a monolithic, single “you”. Flash back to 1918. You’ve got a revolutionary commie and some sort of proto-flapper-girl who wants to be able to have affairs with men without her reputation being ruined, for her gay artist buddies to be left alone, etc. These are different people. The latter won – overwhelmingly. The former lost – not as overwhelmingly as the latter’s victory, but still, most commies today come off sounding like the fans of an MMA fighter who just got absolutely smashed several times in a row, but those losses weren’t fair (“the CIA undermined socialism” maps pretty well to “my guy woulda won if he hadn’t gotten punched in the face repeatedly”; keeping the other guy’s spies from messing you up is part of the game) and he’ll totally win next time.

            Let’s assume (for the purposes of argument) that you are a libertarian. If twenty years from now somehow theocrats had taken control in the US and enforced a harshly social conservative agenda, but had also harshly condemned the pursuit of worldly wealth insofar as it gets in the way of more important things and thrown up stumbling blocks in that direction – would you, our imaginary libertarian, think of this as you not having gotten everything you wanted, but having gotten some of it, because the movement has been “to the right”?

            Well, they DID get prohibition, it was just such a terrible idea that they eventually lost in in an extremely rare reversal for the progressive movement.

            But – I can’t remember who here pointed this out, but big ups to that person – Prohibition has largely been “uncoded” left because it failed. It’s easier to say that Ithaqua shambles westwards if stuff that was left or Progressive or whatever that failed is posthumously coded right, thrown into the “rustic; no political valence” bin, or ignored. For example, nowadays we think of eugenics as a right-wing concept, but plenty of Progressives were for it.

            they’ve gotten a substantial degree of that. the country is orders of magnitude less capitalistic than it was.

            And yet capitalists seem to be pretty happy with the current state of affairs. The guys on top love regulation, because they can deal with regulation better than upstart competitors can. Capitalism is pretty clearly the order of the day. Sure, it’s not laissez-faire, but again, that doesn’t seem to bother the insanely wealthy people who use their money to make more money.

            virtually all of education, most of healthcare, much of finance. In other words, huge swathes of the economy. And that’s just what they own directly. what they control indirectly through regulation amounts to even more. Publicly owned companies have been reduced in number, but the state has compensated with increasing regulation, i.e. indirect control. Whatever slight reversal the neo-liberal wave managed (and it certainly was slight relative to what prevailed in 1917, even in the non-anglo countries where it had more impact) that wave has clearly exhausted itself and the trendline has clearly returned to what it was pre-wave. There is no developed country where the state today is controlling less of the economy than it was 20 years ago, with the possible exception of greece.

            I think you’re conflating “regulating” with “controlling.” There are plenty of private universities in the US – most of the best ones are – and public universities are still fairly autonomous. Health care in the US is regulated, there’s all sorts of government involvement, but even up in Canada it’s public insurance rather than a straight-up government-owned hospital scheme (I think the NHS is more like that?). There’s regulation of finance, but I must have missed the part where the US nationalized all the financial institutions. The government is far more involved in the economy than it was, but that’s not the same thing as the means of production having been seized.

            You’ve managed to socialize a minimum of 1/3 of the economy. that’s far from nothing.

          • cassander says:

            And I repeat, you’re assuming a monolithic, single “you”.

            No, I’m not. I’ve repeatedly and explicitly said that the revolutionary socialists have been disappointed.

            Let’s assume (for the purposes of argument) that you are a libertarian. If twenty years from now somehow theocrats had taken control in the US and enforced a harshly social conservative agenda, but had also harshly condemned the pursuit of worldly wealth insofar as it gets in the way of more important things and thrown up stumbling blocks in that direction – would you, our imaginary libertarian, think of this as you not having gotten everything you wanted, but having gotten some of it, because the movement has been “to the right”?

            If this new theocracy implemented several things, but not all, of what libertarians were calling for, yes.

            But – I can’t remember who here pointed this out, but big ups to that person – Prohibition has largely been “uncoded” left because it failed. It’s easier to say that Ithaqua shambles westwards if stuff that was left or Progressive or whatever that failed is posthumously coded right, thrown into the “rustic; no political valence” bin, or ignored. For example, nowadays we think of eugenics as a right-wing concept, but plenty of Progressives were for it.

            it stopped being left because the left stopped pushing it, not because it failed. Similarly eugenics.

            And yet capitalists seem to be pretty happy with the current state of affairs.

            As a capitalist, I assure you we are not.

            The guys on top love regulation, because they can deal with regulation better than upstart competitors can. Capitalism is pretty clearly the order of the day. Sure, it’s not laissez-faire, but again, that doesn’t seem to bother the insanely wealthy people who use their money to make more money.

            oh please. this is like arguing that because stalin seemed happy with USSR it was clearly an example of successful implementation of socialism. You would never accept that argument, so don’t make the reverse.

            I think you’re conflating “regulating” with “controlling.”

            I conflate them because they should be conflated. if you can tell someone when, where, and how to do a thing, you are controlling them. Not 100%, but substantially, and that matters.

            There are plenty of private universities in the US

            They educate about 15% of students, and are in any case substantially funded by federal loans. And that’s not counting the mass of lower education, which is even more controlled by the state.

            – most of the best ones are – and public universities are still fairly autonomous

            so what? How the state chooses to organize its assets doesn’t change that they are state assets.

            . Health care in the US is regulated, there’s all sorts of government involvement, but even up in Canada it’s public insurance rather than a straight-up government-owned hospital scheme (I think the NHS is more like that?).

            I’m not sure what you think this proves.

            There’s regulation of finance, but I must have missed the part where the US nationalized all the financial institutions. The government is far more involved in the economy than it was, but that’s not the same thing as the means of production having been seized.

            You missed the 2008 crisis? Since then, the USG guarantees virtually all of the mortgage debt in the country. That’s on top of backing most of the banks in the country, and running its own retirement system in SS, while directly and actively manipulating financial prices through the federal reserve.

          • dndnrsn says:

            No, I’m not. I’ve repeatedly and explicitly said that the revolutionary socialists have been disappointed.

            If they got nothing they wanted, and the social liberals (or whatever you want to call them) have gotten a lot of what they wanted – not as much as they wanted in some ways, more than they were asking for in 1918 in others – I think that means that there’s more “resolution” needed than just sort of saying “the left” got some things it wanted, not other things.

            If this new theocracy implemented several things, but not all, of what libertarians were calling for, yes.

            And it would be incorrect to say “the right” got some things it wanted, but not everything, right?

            it stopped being left because the left stopped pushing it, not because it failed. Similarly eugenics.

            But it’s been de-coded or re-coded retrospectively. Prohibition gets told as the story of this wacky attempt to ban alcohol for reasons, and I think that it’s relatively uncommon to know that eugenics was often a left-wing-coded thing – most people would guess right wing because Nazis.

            As a capitalist, I assure you we are not.

            What’s a capitalist? Is it someone who really likes capitalism, or is it someone who engages in capitalism? How much capitalism do they have to be involved in? I apologize for being vague; I meant, the guys on top of the capitalist system (a few women too!) – they seem happy. The leaders of capitalism are doing fine. Sure, they pay more taxes than they would under laissez-faire, but there’s far more spoils for those who capture government, as they tend to have done.

            oh please. this is like arguing that because stalin seemed happy with USSR it was clearly an example of successful implementation of socialism. You would never accept that argument, so don’t make the reverse.

            I’m not saying it’s successful capitalism. It’s not, not by far. However, the top dog capitalists are happy – they’re not afraid they’re about to get shot in a basement.

            I conflate them because they should be conflated. if you can tell someone when, where, and how to do a thing, you are controlling them. Not 100%, but substantially, and that matters.

            They educate about 15% of students, and are in any case substantially funded by federal loans. And that’s not counting the mass of lower education, which is even more controlled by the state.

            so what? How the state chooses to organize its assets doesn’t change that they are state assets.

            All of these meet the same problem – they’re not the state running the means of production. The workers haven’t seized anything. The government has gotten increasingly tangled up in providing various goods and services, often in the most ass-backwards way possible. But it’s light years ahead from what the revolutionaries wanted. “You didn’t get the thing you wanted, but here’s this completely different and worse thing!”

            I’m not sure what you think this proves.

            Well, they aren’t really state-run, or state-owned.

            You missed the 2008 crisis? Since then, the USG guarantees virtually all of the mortgage debt in the country. That’s on top of backing most of the banks in the country, and running its own retirement system in SS, while directly and actively manipulating financial prices through the federal reserve.

            This is half-assed attempts to prop a system up, though, not controlling or owning the system. The banks are still owned by private citizens who make money, sometimes considerable amounts, except now they get the government helping them out too. This might piss off a laissez-faire lover, but it’s not gonna please a revolutionary socialist, and the people who have a lot to lose in a socialist revolution – the bankers – often seem to like it.

          • cassander says:

            @dndnrsn says:

            If they got nothing they wanted, and the social liberals (or whatever you want to call them) have gotten a lot of what they wanted – not as much as they wanted in some ways, more than they were asking for in 1918 in others – I think that means that there’s more “resolution” needed than just sort of saying “the left” got some things it wanted, not other things.

            95% of the left got major, massive gains. the other 5 percent got major massive gains, just not in the way that they wanted. And your conclusion is…..no one got anything.

            And it would be incorrect to say “the right” got some things it wanted, but not everything, right?

            That would be perfectly correct to say.

            But it’s been de-coded or re-coded retrospectively. Prohibition gets told as the story of this wacky attempt to ban alcohol for reasons, and I think that it’s relatively uncommon to know that eugenics was often a left-wing-coded thing – most people would guess right wing because Nazis.

            I agree that the progressives have used their power to cover up their history (often, frankly, without consciously trying) is true but I fail to see how it’s irrelevant.

            What’s a capitalist? Is it someone who really likes capitalism, or is it someone who engages in capitalism?

            in this context, the former.

            I’m not saying it’s successful capitalism. It’s not, not by far. However, the top dog capitalists are happy – they’re not afraid they’re about to get shot in a basement.

            And the top socialists were happy in the USSR, and after 1956 or so, not particularly worried about getting shot. What of it? How is this at all germane? The top people in any system benefit greatly from it. that’s what it means to be on top!

            >All of these meet the same problem – they’re not the state running the means of production.

            Yes, they are. They outright own 85% of it, more like 90% if you include k-12. Literal outright state ownership. and they exert massive indirect control over the rest.

            For the last time, please stop insisting “didn’t get everything” is the same as “got nothing.”

            Well, they aren’t really state-run, or state-owned.

            They are quite literally both of those things.

          • dndnrsn says:

            95% of the left got major, massive gains. the other 5 percent got major massive gains, just not in the way that they wanted. And your conclusion is…..no one got anything.

            Around a hundred years ago, I’d wager that a lot more than 5% of left-wingers were socialists of some variety – even the incrementalist socialists didn’t get what they want. I disagree with you that government interference, support, etc is tantamount to public ownership.

            And I have not concluded no one got anything. I’ve been perfectly clear, here and elsewhere, that “social liberalism” or whatever you want to call it – feminism, sexual liberation, gay rights, civil rights, etc – has had a really good century. The social democrats, who seem to care less about who owns the means of production, and more about building a social welfare system, have done pretty well, although not as well – they suffer reverses more often. But we were talking about the commies, weren’t we?

            That would be perfectly correct to say.

            I don’t think so; I think that when two different elements of a “wing” of politics – after all, left/right is a rather lazy division, and often doesn’t express reality very well – have significantly differing objectives, it’s not a win for the ones who didn’t get what they want that the others did.

            I agree that the progressives have used their power to cover up their history (often, frankly, without consciously trying) is true but I fail to see how it’s irrelevant.

            That seems to be a… I think that runs in the face of the general maxim that incompetence is more powerful than malice. No cover-up job was needed, because the victories of social liberalism meant that “anything fun” got coded as left (except shooting guns) and Nazi Germany meant that eugenics got coded as far-right retroactively.

            in this context, the former.

            Well, laissez-faire capitalists aren’t happy, then. I’d note, though, that the Venn diagram of “people who want laissez-faire capitalism” and “people who are really really rich thanks to capitalism” don’t show a great deal of overlap – most of the latter are pleased as punch with the current setup.

            And the top socialists were happy in the USSR, and after 1956 or so, not particularly worried about getting shot. What of it? How is this at all germane? The top people in any system benefit greatly from it. that’s what it means to be on top!

            If the people on top of a system think things are going great, either they face no threat, or they’re wrong. The people on top of the Soviet system in 1956 were presumably happier than the people on top of the Soviet system in 1989. Socialists actually getting what they want would be pretty inimical to the people on top of the capitalist system – the “bosses” or whatever – getting what they want. If the latter are getting what they want, the former can’t be.

            Yes, they are. They outright own 85% of it, more like 90% if you include k-12. Literal outright state ownership. and they exert massive indirect control over the rest.

            Schools are the means of production? I never attended a school that produced any pig iron.

            For the last time, please stop insisting “didn’t get everything” is the same as “got nothing.”

            I have not insisted that. See above.

            They are quite literally both of those things.

            No, they’re state-insured.

          • cassander says:

            @dndnrsn says:

            Around a hundred years ago, I’d wager that a lot more than 5% of left-wingers were socialists of some variety – even the incrementalist socialists didn’t get what they want.

            of some variety, yes. Not revolutionary socialists though. and hte non-revolutionary variety has gotten huge amounts of what they want.

            I disagree with you that government interference, support, etc is tantamount to public ownership.

            Then you’re simply denying reality. the US government effectively decides who gets a mortgage in this country. 98% of mortgages comply with the rules laid down by fannie and freddie, and if you don’t comply with those rules you don’t get a loan. That the government doesn’t literally own the banks is irrelevant, they control the market.

            I don’t think so; I think that when two different elements of a “wing” of politics – after all, left/right is a rather lazy division, and often doesn’t express reality very well – have significantly differing objectives, it’s not a win for the ones who didn’t get what they want that the others did.

            for the 20th century at least, disagreements on the left have been more about degree than kind.

            That seems to be a… I think that runs in the face of the general maxim that incompetence is more powerful than malice. No cover-up job was needed, because the victories of social liberalism meant that “anything fun” got coded as left (except shooting guns) and Nazi Germany meant that eugenics got coded as far-right retroactively.

            I said explicitly that they often did this unconsciously. I still don’t see how it’s relevant.

            Well, laissez-faire capitalists aren’t happy, then. I’d note, though, that the Venn diagram of “people who want laissez-faire capitalism” and “people who are really really rich thanks to capitalism” don’t show a great deal of overlap – most of the latter are pleased as punch with the current setup.

            Ok. So what? I’m not trying to be snarky, I legitimately don’t understand what your point is here.

            Schools are the means of production? I never attended a school that produced any pig iron.

            In a service economy, absolutely. The commanding heights have shifted. 100 years ago, controlling steel meant you control the economy, today it’s medicine, finance, and education that are most influential.

            No, they’re state-insured.

            For schools, definitely not. As we’ve established, the state outright owns 90% of them. For medicine, the state basically sets prices in both the US and Canada. If you decide what can be sold, by whom, and for how much, the fact that the doctors are independent contractors within those rules is largely irrelevant. Finance, substantial parts of it anyway, are just as locked down, and the state has its own huge retirement programs. Your argument is like saying the general doesn’t really control his army because the privates are free to decide which enemy to shoot at in any given minute.

          • dndnrsn says:

            of some variety, yes. Not revolutionary socialists though. and hte non-revolutionary variety has gotten huge amounts of what they want.

            The incrementalists have done better than the revolutionaries, but I still think the social democrats have done a lot better than either, and they’re not really leftists. Social fascism, after all.

            Then you’re simply denying reality. the US government effectively decides who gets a mortgage in this country. 98% of mortgages comply with the rules laid down by fannie and freddie, and if you don’t comply with those rules you don’t get a loan. That the government doesn’t literally own the banks is irrelevant, they control the market.

            I’ll grant that the control is to a significant degree, but who reaps the benefits, ultimately?

            for the 20th century at least, disagreements on the left have been more about degree than kind.

            I don’t think I agree with that. “Liberal” is a favoured commie snarl word. “Liberals get the bullet too” after all. I’m a left-liberal, a pinko by most standards, a social democrat. I can safely say I think that the past track record of socialist revolution doesn’t speak well for the future chances of socialist revolution working as promised. I want a society in which people are insulated from stuff that’s not their fault and the average joe can have a decent standard of living and some dignity. That’s different from someone who has fantasies of seeing the world changed in kind, not degree.

            I said explicitly that they often did this unconsciously. I still don’t see how it’s relevant.

            Well, it shows that Zul-Che-Quon doesn’t always swim left – if he(???) did, Prohibition would have won.

            Ok. So what? I’m not trying to be snarky, I legitimately don’t understand what your point is here.

            If the people on the top of the heap in the business world are getting what they want, it follows the socialists aren’t.

            In a service economy, absolutely. The commanding heights have shifted. 100 years ago, controlling steel meant you control the economy, today it’s medicine, finance, and education that are most influential.

            For schools, definitely not. As we’ve established, the state outright owns 90% of them. For medicine, the state basically sets prices in both the US and Canada. If you decide what can be sold, by whom, and for how much, the fact that the doctors are independent contractors within those rules is largely irrelevant. Finance, substantial parts of it anyway, are just as locked down, and the state has its own huge retirement programs. Your argument is like saying the general doesn’t really control his army because the privates are free to decide which enemy to shoot at in any given minute.

            OK, granted. My pig iron comments are being snarky. But is the way the government is involved in those industries what a real socialist would want to see?

          • cassander says:

            dndnrsn says:

            The incrementalists have done better than the revolutionaries, but I still think the social democrats have done a lot better than either, and they’re not really leftists. Social fascism, after all.

            if you definition of socialist excludes social democrats you’re unfairly defining the term.

            I’ll grant that the control is to a significant degree, but who reaps the benefits, ultimately?

            That’s irrelevant to the question at hand.

            I want a society in which people are insulated from stuff that’s not their fault and the average joe can have a decent standard of living and some dignity. That’s different from someone who has fantasies of seeing the world changed in kind, not degree.

            the people advocating revolution think that revolution is the only way to achieve this goal. You can disagree, but that disagreement is tactical and strategic, not over the desired egalitarian end state.

            Well, it shows that Zul-Che-Quon doesn’t always swim left – if he(???) did, Prohibition would have won.

            Prohibition did win, until cthulhu lost interest in it.

            If the people on the top of the heap in the business world are getting what they want, it follows the socialists aren’t.

            that doesn’t follow at all.

            OK, granted. My pig iron comments are being snarky. But is the way the government is involved in those industries what a real socialist would want to see?

            it literally owns and operates them, or completely displaces the natural market by setting prices for them, and socialists have spend decades fighting for and establishing these institutions. it’s your world, we’re just living in it.

          • I’ll grant that the control is to a significant degree, but who reaps the benefits, ultimately?

            If the people on the top of the heap in the business world are getting what they want, it follows the socialists aren’t.

            I picked out those two bits of your post because I think they reflect what is, from my standpoint, fundamentally wrong with your approach.

            You seem to be defining “capitalism” as “a system where the capitalists do well for themselves” and “socialism” as “a system that produces the outcomes socialists want.” But that’s wrong. “Capitalism,” in the ordinary economic sense of a free market economy, isn’t a system whose purpose is to enrich capitalists. It doesn’t have a purpose. But the purpose of the people who argue for it is to make people in general better off. As you may know, Adam Smith, generally regarded as a major intellectual figure in capitalism, argued for judging a society by how well the mass of the population, which for him meant the working class, was doing.

            And similarly the other way around. If we take the standard economic definition of “socialism” as government ownership and control of the means of production, it’s still socialism even if the actual outcome is the opposite of what socialists want.

            It’s an important point because people are too inclined to argue outcomes rather than institutions, simply assuming that the institutions they support will produce the outcomes that their advocates want.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @cassander

            if you definition of socialist excludes social democrats you’re unfairly defining the term.

            Social democrats started off as incremental socialists, but they made their peace with capitalism fairly quickly, when it turned out that actual existing socialism was not very chill.

            That’s irrelevant to the question at hand.

            I don’t think so. The socialists wanted control for a reason – it was about who reaps the benefits, who’s in charge, etc. We don’t have a dictatorship of the proletariat, or a transitional state.

            the people advocating revolution think that revolution is the only way to achieve this goal. You can disagree, but that disagreement is tactical and strategic, not over the desired egalitarian end state.

            “Some people are really rich, but everyone who plays by the rules has enough” is a state of affairs that would piss off a lot of leftists. Liberals are mostly fine with that.

            Prohibition did win, until cthulhu lost interest in it.

            Or, it turns out everyone likes booze. Nothing has been able to get people to give up booze. Prohibition couldn’t, a non-negligible amount of observant Mormons drink, there’s a large population of Muslims who follow the dietary restrictions except on alcohol… Prohibition was one of the major failures on the part of left-wing puritans

            that doesn’t follow at all.

            How not? Socialism was promoted by socialists with the aim to level society and make life better for the workers, presumably at the expense of the bosses; they didn’t want the proletariat to own the means of production for the hell of it.

            it literally owns and operates them, or completely displaces the natural market by setting prices for them, and socialists have spend decades fighting for and establishing these institutions. it’s your world, we’re just living in it.

            My world? I rather dislike the current regulatory system; it’s a series of mediocre hacks and politics-driven programs thrown together as awkwardly as possible. It’s AD&D 2nd edition but in real life.

            @DavidFriedman

            You seem to be defining “capitalism” as “a system where the capitalists do well for themselves” and “socialism” as “a system that produces the outcomes socialists want.” But that’s wrong. “Capitalism,” in the ordinary economic sense of a free market economy, isn’t a system whose purpose is to enrich capitalists. It doesn’t have a purpose. But the purpose of the people who argue for it is to make people in general better off. As you may know, Adam Smith, generally regarded as a major intellectual figure in capitalism, argued for judging a society by how well the mass of the population, which for him meant the working class, was doing.

            By way of analogy – what is an “aristocracy?” The original meaning of the term is more or less “rule of the best” – but most aristocrats as we know them would be hostile to the idea that society should figure out who’s best and put them in charge. Capitalism in its purest form might produce the best overall outcomes for everyone – but the people who are on top of our system, call them “bosses” if “capitalists” confuses it (I will acknowledge I was being vague) – would fight tooth and nail to prevent the system as it exists not from becoming more capitalistic in an abstract sense. Let’s say the ancaps are 100% right, for the purposes of argument, and would produce a system where it would be easier for the little guy to compete with the established big dogs in whatever field. The big dogs don’t want that. The system right now might not be pleasing to the ideological capitalists. But it’s not pleasing to the socialists either.

            Meanwhile, the ideological capitalists – the ancaps, or whatever – promote capitalism because they feel it will produce good outcomes, one way or another. I have never encountered someone of that kind who said “well, it may turn out to be a nightmarish dystopia, but still, we must act in a way pleasing to The Market.”

            And similarly the other way around. If we take the standard economic definition of “socialism” as government ownership and control of the means of production, it’s still socialism even if the actual outcome is the opposite of what socialists want.

            If the purest socialism possible, what the socialists really want, came about, and turned out to actually suck, it would still be socialism. But people supported it because they thought it would produce the outcome they wanted.

            It’s an important point because people are too inclined to argue outcomes rather than institutions, simply assuming that the institutions they support will produce the outcomes that their advocates want.

            This is true. People also have a tendency to keep trying. I’ll give ancaps this – it hasn’t really been tried that hard, so even if I think the proponents are wrong, which I do, they’re not in the same ballpark as commies insisting that, no, this time they’ve figured it out, there won’t be any mass graves full of dissidents or foreign officers or old party comrades or military reformers, and only a dumb liberal would doubt that. Or sometimes they just go straight up denialist. But people support institutions because they think those institutions will produce the outcome they want (or in the case of ancaps, lack of institutions?)

          • But people support institutions because they think those institutions will produce the outcome they want

            Correct.

            But if, when the institutions you support are instantiated and fail to produce the outcome you want you conclude that since it didn’t produce equality it wasn’t really socialism, you are defining away the evidence that socialism doesn’t work.

            So socialism and capitalism should be defined in terms of institutions, leaving the question of whether they produce the outcomes that make one favor them to be determined by evidence and/or theory.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @DavidFriedman

            96.25 is off the front page, but if I remember I’ll try to put something in 97 when it’s around. Because I’m not sure that the “truer” answer to “did they get what they want?” is “they got the institution they wanted, but it wasn’t the outcome they wanted”, or “they got the outcome they wanted, but not the institution” or any gradation of either.

      • J Mann says:

        Not directly apposite, but too good not to quote. William F. Buckley:

        To say that the CIA and the KGB engage in similar practices is the equivalent of saying that the man who pushes an old lady into the path of a hurtling bus is not to be distinguished from the man who pushes an old lady out of the path of a hurtling bus: on the grounds that, after all, in both cases someone is pushing old ladies around.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Again, it’s… Replacing something messy, like Cold War intrigue, with something obvious is cheating. There are plenty of people who would say the CIA pushed them in front of a bus, and some of them would be right. Buckley worked for the CIA, didn’t he? I’m sure some guy who worked for the KGB said the exact same thing, just reversed.

          • quanta413 says:

            I hate to defend the CIA, but they probably aren’t as bad as the KGB would have been if the KGB had been as powerful as the CIA. You really don’t want either one fucking up your country, but if I had to pick one to be in my country with a budget of $X and Y personnel, I’d pick the CIA.

          • dndnrsn says:

            They might be better in kind, but that’s not the same as “push old lady, vs save old lady” – it’s more like, how far away is the bus and how fast is it going before you shove her in front of it?

          • quanta413 says:

            Oh, I agree. It’s a matter of degree. How many old ladies are they going to shove in front of buses to accomplish their goals? But I’d still prefer the CIA to the KGB. Although obviously neither would be a far better option. It’s not due to anything inherent in either organization per se (I don’t want to figure out who has agents better at torture interrogation for example), but due to differences in the political cultures that constrain them.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I don’t know whether I’d prefer being a foreigner in a non-aligned country where the KGB is mostly interfering with things or where the CIA is mostly interfering with things, but I do know I’d rather be a dissident in the US at any time during the cold war than in the USSR; ditto for any other combination of countries. The worst excesses of, say, COINTELPRO were pretty small potatoes compared to their commie equivalents.

          • J Mann says:

            Well, I quoted it mostly for its elegance, but . . .

            I understand Buckley’s point not to be that the acts committed by the CIA and KGB were necessarily different in kind or magnitude (although IMHO they were) but that you can’t judge them without also looking at their ends.

            So if the CIA overthrew democratic regimes and assassinated people to prevent the spread of world communism, that’s bad, but if the KGB overthrew democratic regimes and assassinated people to promote the spread of world communism, that’s worse.

            (Note: one could argue with the idea that preventing communism’s spread is better than promoting it, of couse, but that’s a different discussion – Buckley’s point is that if all you do is say “both agencies overthrew and assassinated,” you haven’t yet engaged Buckley’s argument).

          • Brad says:

            The quote immediately made my think of trolley problems. The CIA pushed the old lady in front of the bus to (arguably) keep the world safe for capitalism, democracy, and baseball while the KGB pushed an old lady in front of the bus to (arguably) bring about the worldwide worker’s paradise. We can argue about which of those goals is more noble and whether or not pushing the old lady was actually likely to accomplish them, but analogizing the CIA’s actions to pushing an old lady out of the way of an oncoming bush let’s them off the hook way too easily for the very real victims that they harmed.

          • J Mann says:

            Sure, you can have that argument (that the pushing did a lot of damage and wasn’t necessary, or that it didn’t actually prevent the collision, or that it was desirable that this old lady be hit by the bus, since she is Elizabeth Taylor in that one episode of Star Trek).

            Buckley isn’t saying that the CIA’s actions are identical to pushing old ladies (after all, in the analogy, the KGB’s actions are also compared to pushing old ladies), only that his supposed debate opponents are ignoring the ends. in their comparison.

    • John Schilling says:

      There are people who are against identity politics in all forms. But they’re pretty rare. There are people who think all forms of identity politics, even when they clash, are legitimate. But mostly people like their kind of identity politics, but are either neutral or hostile towards other forms, depending.

      I think you need to be very careful here to distinguish between people who like identity politics, and people who consider identity politics to be a legitimate and useful tool. Liking identity politics is I think fairly rare outside the left or the hard right. Identity politics is still politics, and most people don’t like politics. Don’t want to see their identity as being under the sort of attack that needs a political defense.

      Seeing identity politics as a useful tool is more common. But, twenty years ago, identity politics wasn’t a legitimate tool for white people as such, and it was dubiously legitimate for groups that were mostly white and not obviously unjustly oppressed. Now, identity politics is seen as a necessary tool for just about everyone.

      The Republican Party plays a lot of identity politics. It’s identity politics for its base: white people (white men and married white women),

      I think this is a mistake. The Republican Party’s identity politics is for “non-hyphenated Americans”, and that’s not the same thing as “white people” even if, for historic reasons, most of them are white. But telling them, “You are white people, and white people are not allowed to have identity politics, Bad, Bad White People!”, is unlikely to result in a nuanced discussion of the difference between American and White Person identity.

      Sometimes it does. We get some of those people here, and are IMO better for it. More often it just generates a defensive reaction, and making people defend their identity politics never ends well.

      • dndnrsn says:

        With the caveat that a) it could be nonsense anyway and b) I really should have tried to define “identity politics”, I don’t really know I need to defend my OP. But something you say here brings something up.

        In the US at least there was a period where the most approved position was colourblindness. That’s not the case any more. There might have been a swing towards colourblindness or an attempt at it, then back towards identity politics, with some groups getting on board the train earlier than others. If my thesis is correct that, say, the alt-right is identity politics for young white men: that’s a prospective passenger the people already on the identity politics on the train want on the train, and a lot of people who aren’t on the train don’t like much either, for various reasons.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Yes, the alt-right rejects color-blindness, but that’s a tiny, tiny minority. The Republican party, conservative America, is and always has been all about “I don’t care what color ya are, black, white, green or purple, can ya get the job done?” I know the left has an answer to that, that color blindness is no good because of structural issues, historical discrimination, etc. But your typical Republican really just wishes race didn’t exist, nobody noticed it, and everybody would shut the hell up about it.

          And before anybody says “well that’s just what a racist would say!” I can prove I’m not racist: not only do I have black friends, but I have my ticket stub from Black Panther. So I’m double not-racist.

          • Brad says:

            Has always been? How can you even write that with a straight face?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Because the Republican party was anti-slavery, Lincoln freed the slaves, Fredrick Douglas and Harriet Tubman were Republicans, and more Republicans voted for the Civil Rights Act than Democrats?

            Republicans have always been for colorblindness. This whole “the parties flipped!” thing is nonsense. Democrats were pro-white, anti-black racists when it got them political power, but once the culture shifted they became the anti-white, pro-black racists they are today. The Republicans didn’t change. They were against anti-black discrimination before the 60s, and they were against pro-black discrimination after the 60s (affirmative action).

          • Brad says:

            Leave the Republicans aside, you also wrote “conservative America”. Was the deep south circa 1960 a bunch of radical liberals?

            How about this guy:
            http://citizen.education/wp-content/uploads/egerton-010-communists.jpg

            Clearly a left winger?

          • dndnrsn says:

            Colourblindness was a left-wing desired norm before it was the right-wing desired norm. Some people on the left have moved on to something else they want. Left-wing people past a certain age are still prone to saying things like “there’s only one race: the HUMAN race” and so forth. It was a very Woke opinion in 1975.

            The degree to which colourblindness was actual policy and not wishful thinking or, to left-wing identity politics advocates, a smokescreen, is questionable.

            EDIT: Not that identity politics right now are necessarily held in earnest by everyone who holds them. Plenty of campus activists whose demands are geared towards setting up jobs for them and theirs down the line. Plenty of white people who decry racism using identity politics rather than colourblindness terminology, but still cross the street at night to avoid black guys, just like the ones who said they were colourblind did. Self-deception is the best form of deception.

        • Randy M says:

          If my thesis is correct that, say, the alt-right is identity politics for young white men: that’s a prospective passenger the people already on the identity politics [on the] train want on the train

          Are you saying that the SJW left want whites to organize as a group? They want them to become a specifically self-aware faction?
          I do not believe this to be true.
          I believe they want them to play the role of the whipping boy. They should have an identity as white people but do so in order to give power/resources to the other groups whom (the theory goes) have suffered under the society that white people designed. Identity, yes, politics–attempting to wield influence–no.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Yes, and I’ve always thought this was such a horrific miscalculation on the part of the SocJus left. Whites spent decades installing color blindness in their children, their culture, their institutions. Then the SJ left starts with the “no, color blindness is wrong! You have to be aware of your whiteness, and hate yourself for it!” The awareness does not necessarily lead to self-hatred. It can really go the other way, and go quite badly for it.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Randy M

            Should have been “don’t want on the train” – the second part of the sentence is written as though that was the first part.

            If you are a left-wing identity politics subscriber, you think that white identity politics, or male identity politics – you won’t identify it as identity politics, or you won’t identify it as a version of what you’re doing, because what you’re doing is good and what they’re doing/did is bad – has a really, really bad history. And, they do kind of have a point: white people organized as white people acting as white people for the interests of white people over non-white people have, in the US, done a lot more harm to other people than any number of gender studies majors scream-crying at some professor who said that hormones exist.

            @Conrad Honcho

            The degree to which colour blindness was actually installed is debatable. A left-wing idpol person would say that it was just a smokescreen. They kind of have a point, but I think incompetence explains more than malice: people wanted to be colourblind, but being colourblind is harder in practice than in theory. I think that, in reality, colourblindness as an attempted policy didn’t really work. Maybe if it had been given more time, more effort, etc, but “that thing that failed would have worked if we’d just tried harder” is a pretty lame argument.

            Modern identity politics begins in, what, late 80s, early to mid 90s, mostly? And it takes the form of saying “there was supposed to be equality, you told us you were trying for equality, but I don’t see any equality hereabouts.”

            Semi-related, someone on Tumblr pointed out that you can read the alt-right as being, at least in part, an unforeseen side-effect of trying to get white people to be aware of their whiteness. The left-wing identity politics types wanted white people to be aware and fix it, but some people got aware and decided, hey, they like their whiteness. Maybe there’s something to this?

          • Randy M says:

            Should have been “don’t want on the train

            Okay, that makes sense.

            Semi-related, someone on Tumblr pointed out that you can read the alt-right as being, at least in part, an unforeseen side-effect of trying to get white people to be aware of their whiteness.

            Yeah that seems–wait, are you doing that thing where you use “whiteness” as a reference to unfair advantages possessed by certain Americans by virtue of skin color rather than cultural and genetic traits that tend to be expressed among European descended groups in America?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Randy M

            People on the left who use the word tend to mean the former (and are often kinda vague about what exactly it means; sometimes it goes into semi-parody “asking questions about what’s bad is an example of badness” territory). People on the right who celebrate it tend to mean the latter. The equivocation is intended: what the Tumblr user whose name I can’t remember was trying to say, I think, was that trying to get people to think about the former meant they thought about the latter.

            There’s actually a bit from this article that I think hits upon this:

            This summer, I spent an hour on the phone with Richard Spencer. It was an exchange that left me feeling physically sickened. Toward the end of the interview, he said one thing that I still think about often. He referred to the all-encompassing sense of white power so many liberals now also attribute to whiteness as a profound opportunity. “This is the photographic negative of a white supremacist,” he told me gleefully. “This is why I’m actually very confident, because maybe those leftists will be the easiest ones to flip.”

          • Randy M says:

            In that case, I’ll finish my sentence–that seems reasonably true in many cases.

          • albatross11 says:

            Conrad: +1

            There are a lot of activists and writers who benefit from pushing the idea of a great moral and political struggle with straight white men (and maybe married white women) on one side, and all the colors of the rainbow on the other side. This is a good way to get attention or clicks in some contexts. But the danger is that a lot of straight white men will start taking that rhetoric seriously. At this point, my prediction is that in another decade, we will see a mainstream version of white identity politics that’s just a little short of being as overt as, say, the NAACP. And that will be a genuine disaster for the country.

          • Viliam says:

            “This is why I’m actually very confident, because maybe those leftists will be the easiest ones to flip.”

            I have no doubt that if shit hits the fan, most of the vocal SJWs will overnight become [whatever will be the new power], and continue yelling abuse from behind a different barricade.

            Some of them will miss the train, and those will be the first against the wall, but c’est la vie.

            And the nerds will be hated by the new regime, too.

          • Alphonse says:

            @Albatross,

            I would strongly prefer a race neutral society, and I agree that the rise of a self-conscious white interest group could be harmful for much of American society.

            I always wonder though, how likely is that to be a genuine disaster for white people in America?

            I’m white. Almost every institution of higher education where I have gained admission and every professional job which I have succeeded at earning has required me to clear a hurdle of explicit racial preferences favoring other people over me based on my skin color. Proposals to expressly reserve even more slots for people other than straight-white-males aren’t exactly rare in my current environment.

            Sure, I’d prefer a system where we didn’t even ask about race on graduate school and job applications, but it remains non-obvious to me why I should be particularly peeved that some other people who share my skin color have decided they also dislike being racially discriminated against.

    • dndnrsn says:

      I’m just gonna bulk reply so I don’t have to repeat myself a whole bunch.

      @The Nybbler/@Mark V Anderson/@pjs

      If we’re defining identity politics as “politics based on identity” and we’re loose with what “identity” means, yeah, that’s different from defining it as “politics using a certain critical studies-type approach.”

      @Nornagest

      Well, it does come out of social studies academia, and out of the campus environment. It starts with a set of analytical tools, and then people start being more gung ho about it. Or maybe ideas mutate once they leave the containment zone of universities.

      @Brad

      That’s a good point. Some people here are excessively hostile, maybe a few ludicrously, towards pretty mild feminism, say.

      @quanta413

      I should have included more context from the last thread. If we ranked them on “more to less hostile to campus activists” scale or something… I suppose my point was that maybe we’re trying to map left to right to that and there might be value in just considering that.

      @Nornagest

      This isn’t really a hypothesis I’m wedded to. But if there’s a place to put my half-assed musings, it’s the internet.

      Overall I’d guess – this is gut feeling – that the alt-right are mostly not a version of “country music Red Tribe idpol” that’s more extreme – based on the demographics and (as you point out) “origin stories”, compared to “Republican, Average, Standard Issue”, they’re runaways/castoffs from centre-to-middle left wing politics. I would bet (not a big bet though) that the average alt-right person’s parents are more likely to vote D than R.

      • quanta413 says:

        I should have included more context from the last thread. If we ranked them on “more to less hostile to campus activists” scale or something…

        This strikes me as more true, but I think it ties into my comment that we are weirdos here. To elaborate, weirdos with a particular manner of engaging that clashes pretty badly with activist types. And weirdos who are are pretty likely to be in one of the few spaces where there are quite a few of those activist types and they have any power.

        I would bet (not a big bet though) that the average alt-right person’s parents are more likely to vote D than R.

        I would be very surprised if this was true.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Well, certainly, we’re weirdoes here. I’m not sure if that’s a nicer or less nice way than the other way of putting it.

          With regard to the alt-right, if I’m right, and alt-right people are “blue tribe heretics” – wouldn’t that mean that it’s likely their parents vote D (or Liberal/NDP, or whatever?) They’re reacting against their surroundings; people from different surroundings have their own preexisting right-wing politics.

          • quanta413 says:

            I think you’re probably wrong that most alt-right people are “blue tribe heretics”. Most of the alt-right does not strike me as being Boldmug. But I don’t have a lot of proof for this suspicion. It’s just my prior that without numerical evidence, I should assume alt-right people are roughly evenly sampled from white people. And white people were roughly evenly split between Democrats and Republicans 25 years ago (more relevant to your thesis) but now lean heavily Republican (less relevant but still relevant) http://www.people-press.org/2016/09/13/2-party-affiliation-among-voters-1992-2016/.

            So my guess would be that their parents would be roughly equally likely to have voted either way 25 years ago, but now are significantly more likely to vote Republican. Because the parents shifted towards Republicans over time themselves.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Let’s taboo “blue tribe” and “red tribe”. They were originally kind of more-serious sounding terms for “latte liberal” and “good ol’ boy”. For example: I am a Blue Triber: I’ve got an education, I live in the city, I have some knowledge of the rules of how you’re supposed to drink wine or whatever, I have a bit of a taste for opera. But my friend who’s a Conservative (there may be others!) is also blue tribe, for the same reasons. I don’t know how his parents vote.

            Maybe less now that it’s gotten better known, but at least in the past, the alt-right seemed to be, first, reacting against stuff you’d only come up against if you’d spent some time on a university campus (and not, like, Bob Jones or whatever – but let’s remember that campuses tend to be in D-voting urban areas even in red states, don’t they?), and, second, taking gleeful joy in being transgressive. You’re not transgressive against stuff that isn’t the norm in the circles you’re in, right? White people lean heavily Republican, but there’s still no shortage of white people who vote Democrat.

          • quanta413 says:

            Americans are in enough contact with people on the other side of politics from them that they have plenty of opportunities to engage in being transgressive against stuff that’s not the norm for them in real life. Especially since a lot of the transgression happens on the internet.

            Regardless of how you slice white people into groups, I think that the assumption should be that alt-right people are roughly an even sample of white people until you have numerical evidence (survey or party affiliation of the parents of many prominent alt-right leaders). So then it comes down to how you slice white Americans into Red and Blue tribe. The dichotomy maps a continuous variable into a binary, so depending on where you set the cutoff, you can change the outcome (in terms of words used to describe). Some cutoffs are more defensible than others though.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Well, what do we know about the membership of the alt-right, or what guesses can we make?

            -disproportionately white. This one’s a gimme.
            -disproportionately male. Also a gimme.

            This alone would make me guess Republican.

            However, I’d guess they are a bit more likely to have a university education. That doesn’t make it likely a given white man is a Democrat, because most college-educated white men still vote Republican, but it makes him more likely to vote Democrat than a guy without a degree.

            I’ll walk back what I said about parents voting D vs R, but I’d point out that someone can have Republican parents and still be “blue tribe”. My friend who votes conservative – he’s blue tribe. Blue tribe isn’t just shorthand for “democrat” or “white democrat”. I doubt very many alt-right people are tobaccy-chewin’ good-ole-boys.

            We could also look at some people considered to be “alt-right” but that’s got huge selection issues.

          • quanta413 says:

            @dndnrsn

            I agree with this assessment. D not more likely than R (very likely the reverse). But blue tribe may be more likely than red. Or maybe “blue-er” than the average white person.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @quanta413

            I’d note that the original blue/red split kinda ignores everyone who isn’t white or super-assimilated. “Latte liberal” is coded very white, as is “good ole boy.” Whites lean Republican, but do they lean Red? Presumably there are white people who are neither blue nor red.

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            I remember at least on person arguing that many black Americans are red tribe.

          • John Schilling says:

            I think it would be more accurate to say that there is a distinct and substantial Black Tribe that is neither Red nor Blue but which inherits a great deal of its culture from long association with rural white Southerners who would later go on to become central members of Red Tribe.

            There are also black people who are full-on Red Tribe, but I think less common than Blue Tribe or Black Tribe.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I’m honestly not much of a fan of the red/blue tribes thing. It easily gets used as shorthand for right/left, only covers white people well, and doesn’t even really cover all white people.

          • Nornagest says:

            I think it’s capturing something real, but incomplete. There’s a cosmopolitan culture in the US, and there’s a local culture in the US (several, actually), and they’re different cultures and I want to have a way of talking about that. But the red/blue framing makes it perniciously easy to map that all onto politics, and that’s not really what’s going on. We might as well be talking about South Park‘s White Trash Redneck Conservative and Aging Hippie Liberal Douche.

            No one’s come up with a really good taxonomy of American cultures yet, though.

    • cassander says:

      The Republican Party plays a lot of identity politics. It’s identity politics for its base: white people (white men and married white women), probably leaning towards those without university degrees, those not in major urban centres, those who own guns, etc.

      This assertion is common and is not completely wrong, at least incredibly misleading. The democrats get up and campaign on rewarding people on the basis of their race, full stop. Republicans do not get up and campaign for preferential hiring of “real ‘muricans”, mass subsidies for fans of country music, or set asides for gun owners. The democrats openly do these things for their constituents, in ways explicitly connected to identity.

      Now, you can claim that the republican constituency is the people that benefit from the status quo in such a way that by advocating identify neutral politics they’re actively helping people of certain identities. And that’s fine, but that means you’re flat out admitting that they’re advocating identify neutral politics! If you want to claim that the republicans are practicing identity politics, show me them actually championing distribution of awards on the basis of identity in a way that isn’t entirely superficial. This dog whistle nonsense is crap in a world where their rivals walk around hitting dogs with sticks to get their message across.

    • Barely matters says:

      I’m out in the field again, and without much internet it looks like I’m late to the party.

      I wrote a long response, which seemed to post alright (It was tame by CW standards, and I don’t think I used any controversial words that would have tripped the filter), but then disappeared when I edited for spelling and punctuation.

      So for now I’ll have to fall back on 90% agreeing with what everyone else has responded with. The other 10% was mostly surprise at the lack of a concrete definition of identity politics throughout the responses, when I had presumed that is was accepted that what distinguishes identity politics from regular politics is “Privileging the identity of the speaker as more important the the content of the speech”.

  19. johan_larson says:

    Charles Stross, the science fiction writer, is brainstorming technothriller plots about Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous inventor of BitCoin and block-chain.

    http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2018/02/the-nakamoto-variations.html

  20. Kevin C. says:

    How does one find or figure out one’s positive traits? Because in our last meeting, my therapist tasked me with finding good things about myself, and I’m having serious trouble figuring out any.

    I’m not fishing for compliments, I’m looking for advice on how to find anything about myself I can actually like.

    • johan_larson says:

      Look for areas where you have accomplished your goals. Better yet, look for areas where you have repeatedly and consistently accomplished your goals. You might want to give yourself credit for almost accomplishing goals, if the goals strike you as ambitious.

      • Kevin C. says:

        There are no such areas.

        • lvlln says:

          This comment seems self-contradictory. It seems to me that for you to have written this comment, you set a tiny goal for yourself to “post a response to johan_larson.” Then you typed “There are no such areas.” into the text box, then clicked “Post Comment,” thus accomplishing your goal.

          And more generally, I’ve seen you post a comment on SSC a bunch of times. It seems to me, that each time, you couldn’t have possibly done this without at least accomplishing the goal of posting a comment on SSC.

          Maybe you actually had a different goal in mind and failed in accomplishing that, and the comment that got posted on SSC is due to that failure rather than success. E.g. maybe you wanted to write something else, something more meaningful or longer or whatever in your comment. That would just be an overly strict definition of “goal,” though. Every goal can be divided into sub-goals, to as tiny an increment as can be conceived of by the human mind. That doesn’t make any of those sub-goals any less goals.

          E.g. if one’s goal were to make a post on SSC, a sub-goal of that might be turning on one’s computer, and a sub-goal of that might be looking at one’s computer, and a sub-goal of that might be going into the same room as one’s computer, and a sub-goal of that might be remembering which room one’s computer is. Maybe one might fail at the ultimate goal of making a post on SSC, but if one accomplishes any one of those things (or even a tinier increment I hadn’t thought of), that one cannot accurately claim not to have accomplished some goal of theirs.

        • Nick says:

          Coming at this from a different angle than lvlln: didn’t you graduate from Caltech with a degree in Physics? I think I remember this coming up at one point. I’m confident saying that’s something laudable you accomplished, and it’s far more ambitious than most of the degrees we hand out nowadays, to say the least. So do you think that qualifies as a genuine accomplishment? If not, why not?

          • Kevin C. says:

            Yes, but I haven’t done anything with that degree. The only thing it’s ever gotten me is the dreaded o-word: “overqualified.”

          • Wrong Species says:

            Just because you haven’t done anything with it doesn’t mean it’s not an accomplishment. What percent of the population do you think could have done it? Your therapist is asking for accomplishments, not accomplishments without qualifications.

          • Nick says:

            It’s also worth considering that, if you do turn your life around, that degree will almost certainly be an asset rather than the dead weight or liability it currently is. So it’s one worth keeping in mind, even if it’s not amounting to anything just yet.

            A lot of skills and abilities fall into this category. You’re not currently doing anything with your writing skills, but again, if you’re ever in a better position you will be able to leverage those. The physics degree too implies you’re well above average at problem solving and general math skills as well. Recognizing that the use of these is contingent on better life circumstances (I won’t speak specifically, I don’t remember what prevents you from working) rather than useless full stop is pretty important in my opinion.

          • Iain says:

            You had a goal: to get a physics degree.

            You accomplished that goal: you got a physics degree.

            Cool. We have identified an area in which you accomplished your goals.

            “But I didn’t do anything with it!” you protest. So what? This is an exercise in finding goals which you have accomplished, not in finding reasons to dismiss those accomplishments as insufficient.

            We already know that you don’t think of yourself as a success. Nobody expects you to change your mind about that overnight. What we are asking is that you recognize that your failures do not erase your successes. You got a physics degree. That is a success. It counts. It doesn’t stop counting just because you are unsatisfied with what happened afterwards.

          • Randy M says:

            It doesn’t stop counting just because you are unsatisfied with what happened afterwards.

            For sure; any success could be discounted this way.
            “Yeah, we beat Nazi Germany, but it left the Soviets with a lot of influence in Eastern Europe.”

          • Viliam says:

            Yes, but I haven’t done anything with that degree.

            So you dismiss your chain of successes merely because it currently has a last step?

            (Do you think that other people’s chains of successes are infinite?)

    • maintain says:

      You read SSC. I don’t know you, but you’re already cooler than most people, as far as I care.

      • Kevin C. says:

        You read SSC.

        Not a virtue.

        More specifically, because mere reading anything is not a virtue, unless it turns into action. And spewing out words into the virtual ether is not “action.”

        • Well... says:

          Consider the set “all humans” and compare that set to the set “literate humans”. You’re in a pretty elite group!

        • Brad says:

          You’re pretty clearly impressed with your own moral intuition / reasoning capabilities.

          • Kevin C. says:

            Except “moral intuition / reasoning” is only praiseworthy to the extent it leads to virtuous action/living. What matters isn’t knowing the right thing, it’s doing the right thing.

          • Brad says:

            You can only assert that so confidently because you are so obviously impressed with your own moral intuition / reasoning capabilities. Otherwise you’d be far more tentative about it.

            Morally praiseworthy or not, it’s abundantly clear that you think you are good at it and you think it is important to get those questions right. Again, otherwise you wouldn’t be so passionate about your conclusions.

            I personally don’t think you are very good at it, given the bizarre to-me conclusion you’ve drawn, but the task at hand isn’t for me to come up with things I think are your positive traits, it’s to identify what you yourself think are your positive traits. Your posts reveal your pride in your moral intuition / reasoning ability even if you wish do deny that’s anything to proud of.

          • Mark says:

            Not sure about that, Brad.

            I compulsively play Candy Crush, and I’m really good at it, but it’s still a bad habit.

    • jchrieture says:

      Here is a “bootstrap” strategy that is 100% certain-to-work (in the near-term anyway): Read and reflect upon the Isaac Bashevis Singer story “A piece of advice,” which is about a person whose psychological situation is (perhaps) similar to yours. Then affirm to your therapist “I am the sort of person who reads and reflects upon stories like Isaac Bashevis Singer’s ‘A piece of advice’.”

    • Mark says:

      Start from scratch. Achieve something this month and like that about yourself.

      Recommendation – work on unconditional self acceptance and then like the fact that you managed it.

      • Kevin C. says:

        One should not be “unconditionally accepting” of anything, particularly oneself.

        And as for achieving something, I cannot think of anything that would both
        1. be an achievement worth liking
        2. be possible for me to accomplish.

        • keranih says:

          One should not be “unconditionally accepting” of anything, particularly oneself.

          Ok, I can buy that. So…given the givens (under the conditions and circumstances that you have gone through, given the mistakes you’ve made and the setbacks (environmental and malicious) that you’ve experienced) –

          under *those* conditions, be accepting of what you’ve got. Be accepting of what you are, and where you are now.

          By accepting I mean both “don’t hate & despise it” and “understand” – because the first eats up a lot of energy you have better uses for, and failing the second, you’re not going to find your way to someplace else.

          And as for achieving something, I cannot think of anything that would both
          1. be an achievement worth liking
          2. be possible for me to accomplish.

          Dude. Srysly. Setting your sights too high, and possibly for a long time as well. Everyone says “a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step” not because a single step is super hot stuff in and of itself, or because a single step is somehow equivalent to a thousand miles. (pro tip – it is NOT). But a single step is indeed *something*, and if you haven’t taken a single step in the last ten days, and today you did, well, that’s not nuthin’. That’s something to recognize as a start, as a foundation for the next step.

          If you’ve got something hanging over you, something that you know you have to do, but can’t even think about without getting all stressed – try breaking it down to steps. Like, you have to register for classes, which means going to a place you don’t know and filling out forms. Break it down. Break it down into simple, *simple* steps.

          Type in the name of the place into the google machine, wait for the page to load. Ok, done for the day. Knock off and go read a book.

          Next day, repeat and actually look at the pages. Pick the webpage that’s probably the one you want. Good job. Maybe time for a nap.

          Day three – repeat, open the webpage, find the contacts page. You don’t even have to go so far as actually writing down the phone number – that’s tomorrow’s job.

          So, you keep going and eventually you’ve called the place and confirmed that it’s that place and then you’ve called back and asked for hours and then called back and gotten a good address. And eventually you’ve figured out how to get there and you go and get right back on the bus and then go back and actually go in and ask if this is the right place…

          And yes it sound *so stupid* – but hey – lookit, you’re actually at the place, standing in line, and twenty days ago you were completely, totally, absolutely NOT. And now you are.

          People may mock and say that going to place xzy isn’t any great shakes…but what do they know? They are making unconditional judgements. You know your conditions. You know you just went through a long slog just to be standing in the line. You know the conditions. And under the conditions, you did ok.

          You don’t have to LOVE that accomplishment, or marry it, or get a medal for it, or frame it on the wall. It doesn’t have to mean everything to you. But it’s perfectly fine to like it a little. Maybe nod at it in the hallway.

          • Kevin C. says:

            Ok, I can buy that. So…given the givens (under the conditions and circumstances that you have gone through, given the mistakes you’ve made and the setbacks (environmental and malicious) that you’ve experienced) –

            under *those* conditions, be accepting of what you’ve got. Be accepting of what you are, and where you are now.

            What do those conditions have to do with whether I’m acceptable or not? Why can’t I “take those into account” and still find myself unacceptable?

            failing the second, you’re not going to find your way to someplace else.

            What about nonexistence as a “someplace else”?

            If you’ve got something hanging over you, something that you know you have to do, but can’t even think about without getting all stressed – try breaking it down to steps. Like, you have to register for classes, which means going to a place you don’t know and filling out forms. Break it down. Break it down into simple, *simple* steps.

            I cannot think of anything along these lines.

            You know you just went through a long slog just to be standing in the line. You know the conditions. And under the conditions, you did ok.

            And that “long slog” is irrelevant. A 50% on a test is an F, whether you slacked off or you “did your best”; the obstacles you overcame are irrelevant to your grade. Whatever “the conditions you were under,” your grade — and its consequences — remain the same. Failure is failure whether you tried your absolute best or not (and the same applies to moral failure).

          • Mark says:

            You choose those criteria. You are the examiner. It’s failing a test where you set the questions.

            If you’re not used to exercising your mental choice muscles in a direction that is useful, or makes you happy, then try exercising them.

            If there is absolutely nothing you can do that is possible or that you could like then your criteria are too harsh and absolutely not useful to you or anyone else Change them.

            So, in my (absolutely non-expert) opinion while one shouldn’t unconditionally accept themselves, you almost certainly should, as an exercise to transition to a healthier set of conditions.

          • Deiseach says:

            So, in my (absolutely non-expert) opinion while one shouldn’t unconditionally accept themselves, you almost certainly should, as an exercise to transition to a healthier set of conditions.

            I have been, and frequently still am, at or around the general latitude where Kevin C. finds himself psychologically, and the problem is this:

            Once you have gone “Well, okay, objectively I am a worthless, useless, heap of shit parasite” and accepted that, where do you go from there? How do you go from there?

            Because everything that is vaguely therapeutic or counselling-wise sounds like the same old platitudes that have no bearing on your reality, no real suggestions about where to get out of the mud, and the kind of rote boilerplate ‘I’m Okay, You’re Okay’ 70s self-help nonsense that therapists are supposed to churn out (they can’t realistically tell a client “wow, you are fucked up” because what if the client then goes out after the session and throws themself off a bridge?)

            When you don’t have options because no, genuinely, you don’t have talents or abilities or good qualities or are too old/in poor health to do the “spruce yourself up, go out and meet people socially, leave your job for a better one, get that promotion and pay raise” kind of CBT advice – how do you “transition to a healthier set of conditions”?

            See, I do think that, contra Johann Hari, depression does have a ‘chemical imbalance’ element to it (even if we don’t well understand/understand at all what neurotransmitters are involved or how it all works) so that medication can help pull you out of that slough of despond. Not a magic fix-it cure-all, but a help.

            But when you have people genuinely trying to help you saying “just go look for the help that’s out there” – yeah, well, I’ve done that. And whatever it may be in your neck of the woods, it seems that unless I literally do slash my wrists or throw myself off a bridge, my doctor will not consider me ‘properly’ having suicidal ideation or being depressed. No blood, no drugs is the message I got when I did go looking for help (the counselling session was a joke – turns out not even a psychotherapist or counsellor as such, she was a social worker with a counselling qualification, which to me is like going to a garage with your car engine on fire, asking for the mechanic, and getting a piano tuner who’s done a three-week course on using a socket wrench so it’s the same thing, right?)

            And if I ever do go the “slit your wrists” route, I am not going to arse around with the “take six aspirin, call the ambulance and say you overdosed” cry for help bollocks. I have a kind of plan where I have legitimate medication for a physical condition that will kill me in overdose (you can find anything out on the Internet, somebody successfully killed themselves with this method, there was a study and everything!)

            So if I get so bad I really do overdose, I will kill myself, no “cry for help” messing about.

            That leaves me right now clinging on with nothing as support from the Irish mental health services to try and keep going, except sometimes by the vagaries of brain chemicals I don’t feel that bad (not actively wanting to throw myself off bridges), and not even the quasi-cynical advice to ‘make a fake suicide attempt, they have to treat you then’ will get me anywhere because if I get desperate enough to do it, it won’t be a fake attempt.

            So while I do see that, from the side of the people giving advice, Kevin sounds like he’s determined to wallow in self-imposed misery and not make any move to get himself out of it when there are clear (to your view) paths out of this, I can honestly understand where Kevin is coming from.

            Because, getting back to where we started, all the advice is predicated on “this is the depression talking, you do have advantages, you do have useful qualities that people will pay good money for to employ you” being the situation, which let me tell you, is Job’s comforters stuff when you know you really don’t and have the lifetime experience of struggle, rejection and failure to back that up.

            Good luck, Kevin C. (luck is all we have left, shitty as our luck usually is!)

          • Deiseach says:

            If there is absolutely nothing you can do that is possible or that you could like then your criteria are too harsh and absolutely not useful to you or anyone else Change them.

            I’ll remind you of that the next time there’s a discussion on here about the lazy bums who aren’t willing to live on rice and beans 24/7, work three jobs, and move six hundred miles away at the drop of a hat to get a minimum wage there should be no such thing as a minimum wage job 🙂 “No, no, your criteria are too harsh!”

            The criteria may be harsh, but they’re baked into society right now: by the age of X, you should be a productive adult (not a burden on society and sucking up tax-payer dollars), with a career (not a scrappy history of bouncing from temporary job to temporary job), probably have gone to college (because despite all we say about signalling, we still judge on the basis of “have you a STEM qualification which means you are intelligent, hard-working and will be a producer not a moocher”), have a level of promotions/pay rises/bonuses (and not be stuck in low-wage/entry level/junior level positions), be socially involved and outgoing (have friends, possibly a relationship, not be the weird loner who can’t talk to people or doesn’t go out to have fun) and in general have successfully navigated and achieved the milestones of adult life.

            And when you haven’t done any of that, it’s hard not to feel like a failure because, objectively speaking, you are a failure (not suffering mental retardation or gross physical disabilities but of average intelligence/health but you don’t have a decent job? then you must be one of those high-time preference, highly-impulsive, lazy, entitled, destined to be poor and low-class because of your lack of grit people!)

            I love you guys and wouldn’t change you, but some of the discussions on here don’t help with the “welp, should just fling myself into the harbour” feelings.

          • Aapje says:

            And when you haven’t done any of that, it’s hard not to feel like a failure because, objectively speaking, you are a failure

            Merely by societal standards, which are not entirely rational or maximally attuned to human happiness. Also, one has an moral obligation to oneself and to other people, but not to the societal standards in themselves (as they are a means to an end, but not the end themselves). So you can reject them and define your own standards, to some extent.

            This is especially true if you recognize that the societal standards are based on the average person, so they are not necessarily applicable to outliers.

            Ultimately, the societal standards define a standard of perfection that almost no one can reach anyway, so even those who achieve the things you list, often face feelings of inadequacy and failure & have to accept stopping short of perfection.

            Those who fall short more, have this more, but it is a difference of degree, not of kind*.

            * Usually

            I love you guys and wouldn’t change you, but some of the discussions on here don’t help with the “welp, should just fling myself into the harbour” feelings.

            Assuming that you are talking about what I think you are talking about, do you think that more typical men would respect your needs & boundaries more and/or be more attuned to what you need?

            I would also argue that people who have these discussions generally recognize the morally problematic elements, but also recognize that other people are already doing these things and especially, often demand those things. So then the option that maximizes human happiness may be to play along to such an extent that the desired outcome is reached, for others as well as oneself, while avoiding causing unnecessary harm as much as possible.

            Those who are not aware of the downsides/risks of their dangerous strategies or even that they are employing dangerous strategies, may unintentionally be doing much more damage. Their statements may be more palatable from a feminist perspective, but their behavior may not comport with their speech.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Mark

            You choose those criteria.

            Only in the same sense that I “choose” General Relativity as my model of gravity. Moral realism is true, moral laws exist in reality in the same way laws of chemistry or geology exist.

            If there is absolutely nothing you can do that is possible or that you could like then your criteria are too harsh

            The former doesn’t imply the latter. Why can’t the Moral Laws of the Universe be “harsh” enough that some human beings are literally incapable of following them? (After all, doesn’t Christianity hold that every human is born deserving, as a matter of Cosmic Justice, eternal torment as the proper punishment for his or her wickedness, and are saved only by a mercy that can never be earned or deserved?)

            Change them.

            “General Relativity is too sad; change your theory of gravitation.”

            @Deiseach

            Thank you.

            @Aapje

            Merely by societal standards, which are not entirely rational or maximally attuned to human happiness.

            What does “human happiness” have to do with being moral, and performing one’s duties? Arete and “happiness” are very different things. (And aren’t most Confucian virtues, like xiào “filial piety/subordination” more about achieving harmony than happiness?)

            Also, one has an moral obligation to oneself and to other people, but not to the societal standards in themselves

            Yes, societal standards may not be correct (in fact, they almost certainly aren’t for most societies)…

            So you can reject them and define your own standards, to some extent.

            …but objective moral standards do exist “out there.” And you can no more “define your own standards” than you can “define your own laws of chemical bonding.”

            So then the option that maximizes human happiness may be to play along to such an extent that the desired outcome is reached

            Again, consequentialism is false, and “maximizing human happiness” is a very, very different thing than maximizing virtue.

          • Mark says:

            @Kevin C

            I don’t understand what you are saying.

            If it’s impossible for you to follow the moral law, in what sense is thinking about them relevant?

            It sounds more like Russell’s teapot than relativity, to me.

            I will be punished and I will suffer because I am incapable of following the moral law.
            OK – that punishment takes what form? It’s just you who is feeling this way, right? So there are other ignorant saps who are going to be punished the same way, but still feel kind of fine now?

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Mark

            If it’s impossible for you to follow the moral law, in what sense is thinking about them relevant?

            Because if it is impossible for me to be good, then my existence is evil, and evil is to be fought — a single path remains to end that evil and expunge the dishonor.

            Are you not familiar with a single work of Japanese Tragedy? Because the entire genre is about the moral obligations of duty clashing with one’s ability/circumstances/feelings of one’s heart/conflicting other moral duty. And the answer to resolve this conflict is always the same: seppuku.

          • Mark says:

            Righty-ho.

            What are the good things?

            Are you sure you aren’t just drawn to that kind of romantic world-view because it gives you the raging mind horn?

            I mean, I can see the appeal, but I don’t really see any reason to think that Japanese Samurai cracked some fundamental code of ethical behaviour.

            Wasn’t it more just something that developed because of the social situation they lived in, as warriors?

          • Nick says:

            Mark (and others), drawing on what you said, I think the most important thing we can do for Kevin here is convince him intellectually that a morality where some people can’t follow it and are better off dead is just incorrect. We’ve danced around the subject a few times before but never really argued it out, so I don’t even know what leads you to believe it, Kevin. To be honest, I expect that depression or something is contributing to low self worth too, perhaps to a much greater extent, but changing your intellectual outlook on these things still helps. On the other hand, if you convince us that what you believe is better—it’s unlikely, but humor me—you’ll have more people like your reactionary Catholic friend whom you respect. Either way it’s worth a shot, if nothing else.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            to add on to above

            Only in the same sense that I “choose” General Relativity as my model of gravity. Moral realism is true, moral laws exist in reality in the same way laws of chemistry or geology exist.

            You must know that this is a deeply flawed statement. Your moral laws are your opinion. What about a moral law which says that suicide is always wrong, and ten times more wrong than any other act or combination of acts weighed against it? (Yes, the moral law performs a ten-times multiplication after all acts to be weighed against it are weighed; if you add on more, you have to re-calculate. Suck it!) I mean, what’s more or less legitimate about that?

          • Nick says:

            I appreciate the help, but you must know that

            Your moral laws are your opinion.

            is itself a deeply flawed statement. If moral realism is true (and Kevin, and several other people on here, maintain it is!) then no, it’s not just a matter of opinion.

          • Mark says:

            On the other hand, if you convince us that what you believe is better—it’s unlikely, but humor me—you’ll have more people like your reactionary Catholic friend whom you respect.

            I agree with this – if Kevin has knowledge of an ethical Einstein and an objectively true ethics, I want him to teach me.
            I don’t know exactly what the ‘good’ is in Kevin’s system, but maybe convincing other people to raise children within your ethical system is almost as good as having those children yourself?

            On the other hand, if he doesn’t have that, I’d like him to admit that there is an element of personal choice to the aspects of his beliefs he focuses on, and that changing this might help him.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            If moral realism is true

            is an opinion, so thank you very much but I’m not budging

            maybe I should say more, like, “opinion-based”, but you get the point.

    • Orpheus says:

      What about your brutal realism and willingness to face-up to the cold hard facts?

    • Baeraad says:

      I’ve asked myself that a lot. And these days, I kiiiiiiiiind of like myself, even if that feeling is fragile and prone to fleeing the moment things go wrong, but I’m not sure I can explain how I got there.

      I guess the first question is, what qualities do you think are likable? What do you value in others? Because chances are, you display at least some of those qualities yourself.

      For what it’s worth, I think that the fact that you’re even asking the question shows humility and integrity. Those are positive qualities in my book.

      • Kevin C. says:

        I guess the first question is, what qualities do you think are likable? What do you value in others?

        Well, probably the most virtuous person I know would be my Reactionary Catholic friend — who is also smart, has neurological issues too, and who also has a visible physical handicap necessitating a prosthesis — and has done more for the survival and perpetuation of our people and values than anyone else we’re acquainted with: he has five kids and counting.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      You’ve demonstrated on SSC that you’re top-tier in literacy. You’re curious, you research, you read and comprehend exceptionally well, and are then able to coherently express yourself. That is a rare gift.

      I don’t know how creative you are, but even if you’re not, you could excel in technical writing or teaching.

      • Kevin C. says:

        I don’t know how creative you are, but even if you’re not, you could excel in technical writing or teaching.

        Per creativity, this has come up with discussions of my miserable attempts at creative writing (because all the other creative endeavors run up against my motor deficits — for example, I couldn’t tie my own shoes until I was in Junior High or so.)

        As for technical writing, what can I write except reguritation of what I’ve read elsewhere? What can I say that other people haven’t already said better? And as for teacher, I used to do tutoring. At the present (in Alaska’s current terrible economy) the job markets for both that and teachers totally suck.

        • bean says:

          As for technical writing, what can I write except reguritation of what I’ve read elsewhere? What can I say that other people haven’t already said better?

          Technical writing is, at core, the art of turning a giant pile of assorted paperwork into a coherent document that the customer can use. Do not underrate the value of this process. I used to do this for airplanes. I’d get a whole bunch of stuff from engineering, mostly only poorly arranged, and in some cases not well thought out. It was my job to find the important bits, get them to fill in the holes, and put it into a form that an airline could use to keep the plane flying. I didn’t really like it, but it was important work.

          For that matter, this is basically what I do at Naval Gazing. I’ve had exactly one idea that I would say is original in the year I’ve been doing it. One. It certainly wasn’t my most popular post, either. Everything I do there consists of taking a bunch of ideas I got from books, doing some synthesis to get a conclusion, and putting it into a form that people can use. Yes, if they want to get the full details, Norman Friedman said it better than I could, but Norman Friedman writes big, imposing books. My stuff comes in bite-size chunks that normal people can read over breakfast and get something out of.

          • Iain says:

            Out of curiosity, what was your novel naval notion?

          • bean says:

            The idea that the turret/barbette divide commonly talked about in reference books doesn’t really exist, or at least stopped having any meaning after about 1895. I’m slowly working on a revised version of the post, but it’s the sort of thing I really have to be in the mood to do.
            (It should be pointed out that readers here deserve a lot of the credit for pushing me to look deeper into the issue.)

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          As for technical writing, what can I write except reguritation of what I’ve read elsewhere?

          What bean said.

          You’re typical-minding. What’s easy for you to compile and process is not easy for others.

          I got somewhat famous in the photography industry in the 2000s, both because of my artistic ability and because digital photography was just becoming a thing and as an electrical engineer I understood it extremely well. When industry noticed me and started sponsoring me for speaking tours I was terrified that I would get up on stage and tell people how I created and processed my images and people would just stare at me with contempt and at the end boo and throw tomatoes because “No shit asshole this is all completely obvious!!! Everybody knows everything you just said and you’re a fraud and we want our money back!!! Also die.” And instead just the opposite happened. I was saying stuff that was completely obvious to me and then people couldn’t shut up about how amazing it was, or they never thought of doing it like that, or they’d never had it explained so well, etc. I had falsely assumed that because I understood something, so did everybody else.

          Being able to take a body of facts, derive insights, compile everything in an understandable way and communicate it to non-experts is an uncommon and valuable skill. It’s also sort of why we’re all here on SSC, because our illustrious host does this so well across such a broad range of topics.

          • Nick says:

            Being able to take a body of facts, derive insights, compile everything in an understandable way and communicate it to non-experts is an uncommon and valuable skill.

            Indeed. I think I’ve mentioned it before, but I spend a long time writing and rewriting and editing my posts sometimes. Even the short ones. It’s really hard for me to get what I’m saying across, especially because I try to be very precise, and that’s hampering. I really respect the people who can pull so many well put together posts seemingly out of thin air and in no time.

        • Aapje says:

          @Kevin C.

          Per creativity, this has come up with discussions of my miserable attempts at creative writing

          My impression is that people found your writing promising, not miserable. The criticism was intended to get you to polish your writing, not to get you to abandon it.

          In general, you seem to have a tendency to dismiss your abilities. You also seem to have a tendency to think things through deeply, to your detriment, because you identify many possible problems and your anxiety then makes you worry about them, to the point of non-action.

          This is why lvlln suggests going for small goals, where there are only small risks, so you will not sabotage yourself as much.

        • Orpheus says:

          Per creativity, this has come up with discussions of my miserable attempts at creative writing

          Correct me if I am wrong, but didn’t you start writing only recently (i.e. within the last year)? Surely expecting to be immediately good at something you just started doing is unreasonable? Mastering the writers craft takes years (also there is your reason not to kill yourself: to see how good of a writer you can become).

      • quaelegit says:

        A few OTs ago Kevin C and some others discussed some of his fiction writing (which I believe was Lovecraft-inspired or -related). I didn’t read it because horror is NOT my thing but it got some positive response. (to anyone curious; scroll up in the thread for link to the actual link to Kevin’s writing. A lot of the response were negative in a constructive cristicism sense but the impression I got overall was that the critiques enjoyed reading it and thought it shows promise)

        • Tarhalindur says:

          Looking at that sample… Kevin, I think you could get published *now* if you found a suitable venue – probably a publisher targeting a niche market with more people on the autism spectrum than usual, like science fiction magazines were in the interwar period or dime-novel scifi was in the 1950’s. You’d want an editor, of course, but it’s the rare creator who doesn’t (“got too big for their editors and their work suffered for it” is a common enough criticism of certain authors and filmmakers for a reason). Cthulhu Mythos fandom seems to have come back in a big way in the last decade or so and you’ve got not-quite-the-same-but-close-enough tone, you might nose around and see if there’s anyone paying for Mythos-style stories.

          If nothing else, the “make a blog for my writing and link to it in a few places; if I get enough of a fanbase to support myself then great, otherwise it’s still something to do” plan is still open and to my understanding still has fairly low startup costs – compare both webcomics and web serials.

    • PedroS says:

      You are honest and you have the ability to self-criticize (although this last ability is taken to an unhealth extreme). That is more than I would be able to say about 95 % of the people I know. I think you shoul feel proud of that, regardless of feeling that you are (or not) responsible for having those personality traits.
      Your politics are completely different from what I would recommend (with the reliance on a benevolent “tyrant” and the strict adherence to relatively fixed social roles) but from what I could gather you hold those ideas out of genuine concern for the well-being of your commonwealth/tribe/group/etc rather than by scapegoating external groups. That motivation is something I respect and that you should hold as some sort of satisfaction.

      PS: I know you think that in your ideal polity there would be no room for someone like you, but I disagree: providing help/structure to mal-adjusted people (due to illness, disability,etc.) can become a positive focal point for a community, and being able to tell one another that “our tribe is the kind of society where we take care of our own” provides social cohesion. In a Confucian society, mal-adjusted people are probably even vital to provide immediate opportunities to develop “ren” and “yi”

      • Kevin C. says:

        You are honest and you have the ability to self-criticize

        Except I can’t seem to turn that self-criticism into actual improvement in virtue.

        That motivation is something I respect and that you should hold as some sort of satisfaction.

        Except motivation is meaningless if it doesn’t resolve into action. “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” and all that.

        • Iain says:

          Except I can’t seem to turn that self-criticism into actual improvement in virtue.

          That is two goals. Goal #1: Engage in honest self-criticism. Goal #2: Fix your problems.

          Many people never even get past #1. Vanishingly few people ever really complete #2. You have accomplished the first goal. You are allowed to take pride in that, even as you wish to make more progress on the second.

          Except motivation is meaningless if it doesn’t resolve into action. “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” and all that.

          Kant famously argues the exact opposite: the only thing in the entire universe that is an unqualified good is a good will. Any other virtue can be twisted and used for bad ends, or should sometimes be avoided (“courage may be laid aside if it requires injustice”), but the earnest desire to do what is right is always good.

          • Kevin C. says:

            “Kant famously argues…”

            And I disagree with most of Kant, so appealing to him to support a position is likely to make me grade the position lower.

        • FLWAB says:

          Except I can’t seem to turn that self-criticism into actual improvement in virtue.

          Kevin, I don’t know you at all: I’m pretty new to SSC. But what you’re saying resonates with me. I know I am not a virtuous man: and no matter how much I know it, or think about it, or recognize it, it does not ever seem to translate into actual change.

          It seems to me that your problem is a very Christian one: that is to say, you know you are a sinner (ie, you are not as you should be) and you recognize that you are helpless to change by your own power. When I read what you’ve written here in this thread, I can’t help but think of Paul, in his letter to the Romans:

          I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate, I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

          So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

    • Kevin C. says:

      Also, per all the “just change your values” (up-end your sense of right and wrong, start believing that what’s evil is actually good) folks, do none of you remember Less Wrong’s “murder-pill-Gandhi” example, or talk about self-modifying to be happy about hydrogen? Asking an entity to modify their values (and especially their terminal values), on the grounds that they’ll be better able to meet those new values, doesn’t work if said runs counter to the entity’s present vales (becoming murder-Gandhi runs counter to present-pacifist-Gandhi’s values, so he won’t take the pill). Why can’t you apply that same understanding to me?

      • Nick says:

        I hope you don’t mean me by this remark. But if you do, I respond with the Litany of Gendlin.

        • Kevin C. says:

          I don’t see how that’s a counter-argument.

          • Nick says:

            You likened having an argument where I convince you some part of your quasi-Confucian morals is wrong to Gandhi taking the murder pill (provided I was right and the above was aimed in part at me, anyway). But I don’t buy that, because I’m simply persuading you what’s truer, and that’s something you also care about. In other words, you shouldn’t liken a convincing argument to a murder pill in the first place, because the truth just can’t harm you the way murder pills can. The Litany of Gendlin’s all about that.

            A better analogy to the murder pill I think is changing one’s habits, dispositions, etc in ways one doesn’t agree with. There you’re introducing misfit between what you believe and what you’re inclined to do. You’d be right to object if e.g. we were telling you to go around telling yourself everything is great and nothing is wrong, as if you can habituate yourself into optimistic thinking. But that‘s absolutely not what I’m suggesting.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Nick

            because I’m simply persuading you what’s truer

            No, you’re trying to “persuade” me of what’s less true. My moral views are truer than yours, and you are trying to convince me to embrace falsehoods.

          • Jiro says:

            No, you’re trying to “persuade” me of what’s less true.

            In an ideal situation, you would only be convinced by true arguments. Trying to convince you of something false may be a bad thing to do, but you don’t need to worry about it being effective. Only if it’s true would the argument work.

            Of course, if you’re not perfectly capable of determining truth, he might convince you of something false, but then, if you’re not perfectly capable of determining truth, you may already believe something false for which he can convince you otherwise.

      • Orpheus says:

        Some times people change their minds.

        • Kevin C. says:

          Yes, but only some of those times have they changed their minds with good reason to do so. If a person changes their mind on X in response to nothing more than someone saying “you should change your mind on X” and that’s it… well, what does all the “rationality” and Bayesianism around here say about that?

      • Aapje says:

        @Kevin C.

        You don’t have to change your values that much.

        You believe that having and raising children with your beliefs is the most important good. You believe that you can’t do that. Then what is achieved by feeling bad about what you cannot do? Feeling bad won’t help you achieve it. There is nothing in your moral code that should require you to feel bad.

        You can believe that this self-flagellation is useless and merely creates suffering, without having to stop believing that having and raising children with your beliefs is the most important good.

        Surely there are things that you can work to achieve that are not as good according to your moral code as having and raising children with your beliefs, but better than if they are not being done.

        You seem to believe that these things don’t outweigh the burden you place on society and that you should commit suicide. However, clearly you haven’t done so. So why not accept that you cannot do so and that nothing is achieved by feeling bad about it? Accept it as a given that you will keep living and make decisions with that assumption.

        So again, you don’t have to change your moral code here either, but instead accept what you cannot do and start looking at what you can do without feeling bad that it is insufficient. Nothing is achieved by feeling bad about what you cannot do. Feeling bad won’t help you achieve it. There is nothing in your moral code that should require you to feel bad.

        Furthermore, I have heard many successful people say that their success was unexpected and that they achieved far more than they thought possible. You don’t have to change your moral code to accept that you may underestimate your chances to achieve success. Surely you are judging your chances with your mind, which you know is not objective, because you are depressed. So why trust it?

        Putting a low probability on your estimates of success being correct doesn’t require changing your moral code, does it?

        • Kevin C. says:

          There is nothing in your moral code that should require you to feel bad.

          One should feel bad when one does wickedness, and failing to do one’s duty is wicked.

          You can believe that this self-flagellation is useless and merely creates suffering

          Yes, but what does usefulness or creation of suffering have to do with whether it’s right or wrong?

          Surely there are things that you can work to achieve that are not as good according to your moral code as having and raising children with your beliefs, but better than if they are not being done.

          Sure, and I’m incapable at all of those, too.

          You seem to believe that these things don’t outweigh the burden you place on society and that you should commit suicide. However, clearly you haven’t done so.

          Yet. So, perhaps I should get on with it. (I think I’ve got the “corpse disposal costs” issue mostly worked out.)

          There is nothing in your moral code that should require you to feel bad.

          Except the point I made above. One should feel bad for being wicked, and failure to do one’s duty is definitionally wicked. Duty is that which, morally, one must do, with no possible exception. You do it, or else you’re evil, period, zero excuses; and “it’s impossible” is an excuse.

          • Mark says:

            Dude… I think that would be a bad thing to do.
            Lots of people want to help you.

            Anyway, this is my evidence for the ‘change your mind’ advice, which might be difficult to achieve, but I don’t think requires you to be evil.

            When you submitted your writing on the other thread, your reaction was extreme. You instantly took feedback and turned it into a story of how you could never achieve anything.
            Note, I’m not taking issue with the feedback making you feel bad. I’m saying that you seemed to place too much weight on that rather marginal piece of evidence.

            And, that seems to be a consistent theme of your posts here. Jumping to a very negative conclusion that doesn’t really seem to be objectively necessary.

            So, that’s what I’m going on.

            You’re depressed. Being depressed can affect how you interpret evidence. Nothing to do with terminal values. It’s possible that taking a bit of a hiatus from evidence analysis would help you better assess evidence in the long run.

            It’s a possibility.

            I don’t know if any of that was useful to you. Probably not.
            But, my thoughts and prayers are with you.

            I wonder if you’ve shared this stuff with your therapist? Anyone else? It might be worth a try

          • hyperboloid says:

            @Kevin C.

            Duty is that which, morally, one must do, with no possible exception.

            This is nonsense. It is not possible to have a duty to do something that one is incapable of doing. It would be ridiculous to say that I have a duty to end the Syrian civil war, or cure cancer, or end world hunger, because no matter how motivated I was, there is no reason to think that I could do these things.

            Similarly to say that a person with a severe disability (let’s say a bed ridden quadriplegic, or a person with severe mental retardation) has a duty to support themselves independently is absurd.

            There are two kinds of personal failings, practical, and moral. Practical failings have to do with material circumstance, the limitations of your wealth, your education, the health of your body and mind, and even your “god given” natural talents like intelligence. Moral failings have to do with the set of your innermost motivational states; that is to say your moral character.

            While I acknowledge that, due to our limited understanding of the inner workings of the human brain, in the case of mental illness it can be hard to sort these two things out. Nevertheless, you suffer from schizophrenia, a debilitating organic disease of the brain. To the extent that this limits your ability to make a useful contribution to society, you are not morally responsible for your lack of achievement.

            There are of course people who are simply bums, those who leach off of the welfare state; and do nothing with their lives despite the fact that they could if they were properly motivated. But If what you say is true, and nothing you could choose to do would change your circumstances, then you are not one of these people, and not morally at fault.

            Of course when it comes to summing up the failings of real people, the division is not so much binary as it is a continuous spectrum. I have noticed that, while there are people at either end of this continuum there are many more mixed cases. Some people are pure victims of circumstance, and others are fully at fault for their own failings. Nevertheless, it is far more common to find people who’s lives have been disrupted by factors outside of their control, and who have internalized a sense of helplessness, and developed habits that have lead them to failure.

            Kevin, I suspect it is the case that if you stopped blaming yourself for those things you have no power to change, you could focus on those areas where you can make difference, and affect some improvement in your life.

      • Mark says:

        So, you’re establishing a Schelling fence around any change of thinking in order to avoid becoming a murder Ghandi.

        Could you show me your workings, please.

  21. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Inspired by talk in the links thread about men who make themselves off-putting caricatures of old timey gentlemen: how would it come across if a black Briton tried to live as an Edwardian gentleman? Say he was born there to affluent immigrant parents, drives an antique car, his only idea of casualwear is removing the jacket of a lounge suit, definitely a Catholic or high Church Anglican espousing conservative views… maybe even wears a waxed mustache?

  22. Tarhalindur says:

    A thought experiment I’ve been mulling over for a while:

    Take a participant in an iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma. He knows his choice and the outcome he experiences. He does not explicitly know whether his opponent chose cooperate or defect; more importantly, in this particular variant of the Dilemma he does not know the exact payout matrix. Instead, he has been given an explanation of what cooperate-cooperate looks like by other players in the game; in addition, he has played cooperate in the past and seen outcomes that look like what cooperate-cooperate is supposed to look like. (If you want to put a face with this experiment, imagine an ancient Egyptian farmer who plants his seeds in the spring and pays a tax to the priests every year so that the Nile floods on schedule and the locusts don’t come.) He once again plays cooperate in the current round of the Dilemma, and this time his expected cooperate-cooperate outcome does not occur. (To go back to our ancient Egyptian peasant, the flood didn’t come, or it flooded too much, or the locusts came, and the crop is ruined.)

    What can he conclude?

    The most obvious answer is that this time one or more of the other participants in the game played defect. The countermove in this case will vary depending on the participant’s strategy, but to a first approximation should look something like tit-for-tat defection The other possibility is that everyone is still playing cooperate and the participant has a bad model of the payout matrix, either because of misunderstanding the other participants or because the other participants also misunderstand the payout matrix.

    I’m still working through the implications; a few that come to mind:
    1) If this thought experiment does a good job of modeling reality, then I’d expect that in practice the tit-for-tat defection would appear as a call for justice.
    2) There’s a reason I used the example of an Egyptian peasant above. Consider: His harvest has failed, and he is facing starvation – which quite possibly means death and . That means that either other players in the game are playing defect or the payoff for playing cooperate is not high enough for him to survive on. Both of those incentives push towards playing defect – if another player is defecting then he should defect to deny the cooperate/defect payoff (even if he’s not in a payoff matrix where cooperate/defect is worse for the cooperator than defect/defect is for both defectors – the only situation where this doesn’t hold is where cooperate-defect has a higher payout for the cooperator than defect/defect), if all players are cooperating then cooperate-cooperate is not enough to survive and his only hope to survive and keep playing the game is to defect and hope other players play cooperate.

    Thoughts? (And in the not-unlikely event that I’m reinventing the wheel, links?)

    • Deiseach says:

      I think that the Egyptian peasant is a bad example because whether he co-operates (pays the taxes) or defects, that will not affect how the Nile does or does not flood.

      However, if everyone concludes they should defect (and hope others co-operate in their stead) that may have an effect in that if the priesthood collapses, no-one will be able to read/maintain the Nilometers and the knock-on effects on the administration (unable to forecast the timing and extent of the inundation, hence the likelihood of a good or bad harvest, fix the rates of taxation, decide if the grain stores need to be opened, etc) would have a very bad effect on social stability and governance.

      So even if this year it is a bad season (the Nile does not flood enough or floods too much), it is to the benefit of the peasant to co-operate since defecting (and the risk of everyone defecting) has too many downsides and no upside: defecting will not force the god Hapi to arrive at the right time with the right amount of inundation next year, but it could harm the ability of the state to maintain and distribute the grain stores as public dole, or provide the work in the off-season of working on the pyramids (the workmen would have been fed as part of their payment for this work). I’m not saying “nobody ever starved in Egpyt even in a bad season”, but wrecking the system by defecting was a game not worth the candle, even for the hypothetical peasant who would keep back some or all of his taxes by doing so.

    • Steven J says:

      “… in this particular variant of the Dilemma he does not know the exact payout matrix.”

      The case where outcome are only imperfect signals of the actions taken by the other players has been extensively studied in the economic literature, most often in the context of cartels (cooperate is charging the cartel price; defect is secretly undercut the price; and participants can’t tell if their own weak sales are the result of secret undercutting or just a period of low demand).
      I don’t have time to give a complete summary, but the basic conclusions are:
      1. There are lots of different equilibria.
      2. (Under some conditions) there exists a cooperative equilibria where nobody ever unilaterally plays defect, but the cooperative agreement calls for a period where everyone (or a subset of the players) plays defect for a limited period of time whenever the observed outcome is bad. This is necessary to provide players the incentive to not defect. So when outcomes are bad, people punish, even though they correctly believe that nobody defected.

      Key papers:
      Green and Porter (1984), “Noncooperative Collusion under Imperfect Price Information” Econometrica 52(1): 87-110: Started this line of inquiry.
      Porter (1983), “A Study of Cartel Stability: The Joint Executive Committee 1880-1886” Bell Journal of Economics 14(2) 301-314: Application to 19th century US railroad cartel.
      Abru, Pearce, and Staccehtti (1986): “Optimal Cartel Equilibria with Imperfect Monitoring” Journal of Economic Theory 39(1) 251-269: Found the optimal punishment scheme, that enforces collusion with the lowest possible expected punishments.
      Abru, Pearce, and Staccehtti (1990), “Towards a Theory of Discounted Repeated Games with Imperfect Monitoring,” Econometrica 58(5) 1041-1063: Starts the process of generalizing the model to beyond examples that are close analogues to price collusion.
      Fudenberg, Levine, and Maskin (1994) “The Folk Theorem with Imperfect Public Information,” Econometrica 62(5) 997-1039: The fully general model that outlines when cooperation is possible, and finds the lowest-cost punishment scheme in the general case.

      Lots more papers on the subject, but this is enough to get you started.
      Warning: Some of these papers are very technical.

    • Iain says:

      A couple things:

      1. Mutual cooperation is the good outcome in the Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma. In the one-shot version, it is always rational to defect. The final round of an iterated game is equivalent to a one-shot version, so as you get closer to the potential end of the game, it is more rational to defect. David Axelrod called this the “shadow of the future”. When the shadow of the future is long, and you expect the game to continue, you are incentivized to cooperate. When the shadow of the future is short — say, because you will die if you don’t maximize your payout on the next iteration — then it is rational to defect.

      2. I don’t know of any analysis of the Prisoner’s Dilemma with unknown payouts, but it has been analyzed with noise — that is, each player has a small chance of accidentally playing the opposite of what they intended. This paper finds that a slightly modified version of Tit for Tat is still dominant.

    • albatross11 says:

      I know people have played with variants of the iterated prisoner’s dilema where there’s noise added (the term I remember is “blurry eye, shaky hand”). I think this was in Nowak’s _Evolutionary Dynamics_ (which I very much recommend), but I may be misremembering. I lent my copy to a friend quite awhile ago and can’t look it up now….

  23. onyomi says:

    Assuming you don’t inherently find it deeply satisfying, is recycling worth it? (Question left intentionally vague to allow for various interpretations of e.g. “worth it,” though I will stipulate I’m not interested in actual money you can make through can deposits, etc.)

    • The Nybbler says:

      For aluminum cans, almost certainly. (I’ve heard that most gets used in the steel industry rather than in new aluminum products, but that still counts). For paper, almost certainly not; the product gets weaker every time you recycle it and taking it apart takes considerable energy. I’m not up on the state of plastic recycling, but my guess is usually not. For glass, I’d guess not because of contamination issues, but there’s fairly little post-consumer glass nowadays.

      • Randy M says:

        Paper also seems rather uniquely easy to biodegrade (in the class of man made products, anyway).

      • quaelegit says:

        Coincidentally, Eltargrim (who IIRC is a glass scientist) wrote about the savings of glass recycling in response to my similar question about a month ago: http://slatestarcodex.com/2018/01/14/ot93-giant-threadwood/#comment-589382 Their answer was that the energy savings are small but noticeable, and the CO2 savings are larger.

      • Eltargrim says:

        quaelegit already linked my previous post on glass (thanks for that!), but I’d just like to touch a bit on the contamination. Contamination by the contents of the bottles is basically a non-issue; the amount will be too low to have an effect, and the high temperatures involved in melting will almost certainly decompose any contaminants into volatile forms. Furthermore, glass is very easy to clean.

        The glass property that is perhaps the most sensitive to changes in composition is colour. There are more than a few different ways of colouring glass, but perhaps the most common is the production of amber beer bottles through the addition of iron, carbon, and sulfur, all in small amounts.

        As long as you’re recycling in kind (ie adding clear glass scrap to clear, coloured to coloured), small variations in composition are unlikely to have a dramatic effect on properties. There are a few notable exceptions (eg anything containing cobalt), but coloured glass is very easy to recognize and hence remove from the recycling stream.

        This is primarily concerned with container glass, but AFAIK container glass is by far the most recycled type of glass.

        EDIT: Looks like some applications (eg fibreglass) are more sensitive to organic contamination than others. Regardless, the basic advantages to recycling glass are clear; the question is whether the savings in production justify the costs of processing.

        • quaelegit says:

          By the way, thank you for your answer that I linked above. I’ve found all of your glass posts really interesting and informative 🙂

          • Eltargrim says:

            You’re welcome! It seems like 90% of the posts about glass on the internet have to do with whether or not it flows; it’s rather nice to talk about other parts of it for a change.

    • Well... says:

      I met and talked with a guy from my local solid waste management company and I went from being “it’s BS, it all winds up in the same place anyway” to a habitual recycler.

      Obviously the guy I talked to has his biases, but as I understand it the issue is this: if you don’t recycle waste it goes to a landfill. Landfills are nearly impossible to build because A) the costs of the landfill itself are huge and B) nobody wants one in their backyard, which means political and legal costs are huge too. This means once your city has a landfill, you should fill it as efficiently as possible only with stuff that absolutely can’t go anywhere else.

      IIRC, when you recycle stuff it goes to a facility where it’s sorted and sometimes cleaned. Some of it probably then goes back to the landfill, but most of it (plastic, paper/cardboard, and metal) is processed for reuse. (This might have been 50% PR stunt, but my local facility even had a place where electronics could be dropped off and were then fixed up and sold dirt cheap to teachers who used them in their classrooms.)

      You’re already paying for this, the only extra effort it requires is placing your recyclable waste in a separate container and dragging that container out to the curb on a designated day.

      • Aapje says:

        China has a ban on importing certain kinds of waste since January 1st, including plastic. There is a lack of processing capacity in Europe, so quite a bit of plastic is being burned, rather than recycled.

        I don’t know whether the US has enough processing capacity, they may have the same issue.

  24. onyomi says:

    I suspect I won’t receive huge pushback here on this point, but Trump apparently announced plans for a tariff on steel and besides a general drop in the Dow, there was an immediate drop in value of companies that use a lot of steel, like Boeing and GM. At the same time, there was an unsurprising spike in the value of US steel companies.

    I don’t think the mission of US trade policy should be to maximize the value of the stock market at all costs, and I understand the appeal of the protectionist case, given that my family would probably still own a steel foundry if not for foreign competition, but don’t we see here, unusually clearly, the way so many government policies simply give to one group at the expense of another, usually larger group within the same country? Sure, US Steel will be able to hire more people. But will they hire more people than Boeing and GM lay off? And of course there’s the very diffuse cost of everything using steel becoming a little more expensive for all Americans.

    • Deiseach says:

      And of course there’s the very diffuse cost of everything using steel becoming a little more expensive for all Americans.

      Agreed, but I think it also shows the fragility and vulnerability of a globalist market world; should the supply of cheap foreign steel dry up or slow down, those same companies would be equally at risk. Disguising their dependence by having it ‘out of sight, out of mind’ doesn’t do any favours in the long run. After all, one of the arguments for the global market and outsourcing is “now the poor in America whose manufacturing jobs have moved overseas can have cheap smartphones made abroad”, if your smartphones stop being cheap because the necessary elements become expensive or there’s a shortage, what is the benefit?

      I’m not saying that the tariffs are a good idea, but I do think it’s good to have it out in the open where the material goods that underpin the consumer society actually come from, because that must have an effect on how you plan economic policy. If (to take a very exaggerated example which I have no idea is true or not) the blunt reason for “We need to suck up to the Chinese so we can’t tell them stop torturing dissidents because we are dependent on their steel and they can wreck our economy”, then the public should know that, and should know the reasons why “but that’s okay and it’s a good thing to have cheap Chinese steel even for that trade-off”.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      There’s a more important issue that you’re not considering: military readiness.

      We will fight a war with China sooner or later. I don’t particularly like the idea but realistically I don’t see a way around it in the long run. And when that war happens, we’re going to have a hard time buying the steel we need from the people we’re fighting.

      The US needs to maintain the ability to produce any strategically valuable resource in sufficient quantities to support the military during a war, or at least have them produced by nations that we have military bases in. We can’t count on buying them from potential enemies or from countries which are vulnerable to foreign invasion.

      Even if that means taking an economic hit it’s still probably worth it to make sure we’re not at a military disadvantage.

      • IrishDude says:

        China is the 11th largest provider of foreign steel to the U.S., with the four largest providers being Canada, Brazil, South Korea, and Mexico (source). Given this, the argument for steel tariffs on the basis of military readiness is pretty weak.

        Also, imposing tariffs invites tit-for-tat retaliatory tariffs, and both those actions weaken our domestic economy and heighten tensions with the rest of the world. It’s better that goods cross borders than soldiers.

      • quaelegit says:

        As Irishdude said, the military justification (against China) doesn’t make sense at all for steel because the U.S. only gets about 1/40th of its imported steel from China. If we were worried about war against a coalition Canada, Russia, and Mexico, then I’d be really worried.

        Aluminum is perhaps a stronger case: China is the second largest import source (we get a bit less than half as much aluminum from China as from Canada; China is the source of about 15% of our imported aluminum.

        Another thought — in the case of open warfare, trade patterns change a lot. In WWII, the Axis cut off Britain’s majority pre-war sources of iron ore (Sweden and North Africa) so they had to import a lot more (and more expensive) processed steel and iron from the US. I have no idea how a China-US war would actually affect trade patterns, but it seems to me that the larger military affect of these tariffs would be how they will affect our military development and readiness so that we can defend our trade routes and maintain sea control/sea denial like bean talked about in his naval strategy post.

    • IrishDude says:

      Speaking of how the negative impact of tariffs hits larger groups, the aluminum tariff will hit any people drinking beer from cans, a group of consumers probably larger than those impacted by the steel tariffs.

      • The Nybbler says:

        The incentives for politicians are the other way: something with diffuse losses but concentrated benefits helps politicians, because they can point to the big win while the small losses are small. So if washing machine tariffs help out GE and Maytag and produce a few thousand jobs (or can credibly claim to) while a few million consumers have to pay 20% extra for a washer (or worse, buy a GE — never buy GE when water is involved), that’s a political win for the tariff.

        Steel and aluminum tariffs have concentrated losses as well as diffuse, though; it’s relatively concentrated US industry which uses imported metal. Helping US Steel and Alcoa at the expense of Detroit (and GE and Maytag, for that matter) seems like a definite political mixed bag, even before the consumer effects.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Yeah, solar panels and washing machines were pretty small. Putting tariffs on steel is like poking yourself in the eye with a sharp stick.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I could be okay with opposing tariffs if we either did away with worker protection and environmental laws in the US, or instead of tariffs required some sort of reciprocal worker and environmental regulations in the countries from which we import. Instead we get all compassionate, regulate our own industries to death, and then outsource our production to countries that don’t do those things.

      You can’t have your cake and eat it too. If you regulate our industries, knowing full-well that will increase prices but do it anyway because “it’s the right thing to do,” you can’t then cry when tariffs are enacted ensuring the prices will go up because industry is unable to dodge the regulations by moving overseas.

      • onyomi says:

        But I am here talking about the effect on other industries within the US: Boeing, GM, etc. It’s not like we’re helping our workers and industry at the expense of China and our taxpayers. It seems more like we’re helping one group of our workers at the expense of China, our taxpayers, and another, probably larger, group of our own workers and industry.

        • Deiseach says:

          Don’t worry, all the laid-off automobile and plane workers will get jobs in the booming steel plants! 🙂

          (Isn’t this the anti-Luddite argument about technological unemployment and how new industries always pop up to replace the old ones that have been shut down by Progress?)

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      I think what we’ve discovered is that the usual suspects will oppose anything Trump does and raise nary a peep when not-Trump does something. The US already imposes substantial tariffs on Chinese steel, and Vietnamese steel, because China was shipping steel to Vietnam for “processing” to skirt US tariffs.

      This is an internationally discussed issue and may other nations are discussing or on board with slapping additional tariffs on China for anti-dumping.

      The discussion to me pattern-matches to “Trump did something, therefore it is evil.” Something like critical mass has been achieved in the political left to use this as an avenue of attack.

      Objectively, yeah, this isn’t the strategy to do it. If you think a nation is engaging in unfair trade practices, you should probably address it multi-laterally, and not just slap on universal tariffs with no discussions. But that’s not going to be Trump’s style, and that it is not Trump’s style is part of the reason why Trump got elected in the first place.

      EDIT: Also, while I don’t think the economics are irrelevant, if all of your allies are whining about China dumping steel (and they are), you cannot simply ignore their concerns. Any administration would have continued imposing tariffs on Chinese steel, even if not THIS particular tariff on ALL steel.

      • Brad says:

        I think what we’ve discovered is that the usual suspects will oppose anything Trump does and raise nary a peep when not-Trump does something.

        Objectively, yeah, this isn’t the strategy to do it. If you think a nation is engaging in unfair trade practices, you should probably address it multi-laterally, and not just slap on universal tariffs with no discussions. But that’s not going to be Trump’s style, and