THE JOYFUL REDUCTION OF UNCERTAINTY

Open Thread 106.75

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

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770 Responses to Open Thread 106.75

  1. robirahman says:

    There’s an SSC meetup in Washington DC this Saturday! 616 E St NW, rooftop lounge, 7pm.

    Email me at robirahman94@gmail.com for more information.

  2. Scott Alexander says:

    Looking for a study I think I recently saw on r/ssc or maybe Twitter – extended general factor of intelligence to animals, compared various mammal and bird species.

  3. johan_larson says:

    Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to propose an isolated location where a new town could be built from scratch for Amazon’s HQ2 project. Explain why your site is a particularly good choice for Amazon.

    • Anonymous says:

      Antarctica. It’s free real estate.

    • Nornagest says:

      Well, let’s see. What does Amazon need that it can’t just build along with the town?

      Connectivity, for one — long-haul fiber is expensive, and Amazon can’t afford much latency between its HQ and the datacenters that actually run their stuff. That rules out much of the Intermountain West and the High Plains, but there are some routes through it. Proximity to a major airport and/or major highways would be handy. Room to expand. Cheap power would be a plus, although that’s less important for an HQ than for a datacenter. Urban amenities nearby but a reasonable cost of living. A relatively scenic location would be good for PR. Friendly employment laws. It probably shouldn’t have weather so harsh that it completely shuts down in the winter. And at least a second-tier university close by to source talent from; two would be better.

      So, I think a good choice would be one of the less developed areas of the Front Range corridor in Colorado, maybe in the vicinity of Castle Rock or Larkspur. The only thing they’re missing off the above list is cheap power, and even there it’s not expensive.

      • johan_larson says:

        Maybe a little chilly in the winter. Also, perhaps a bit more isolation would be useful. The idea here is to provide an alternative to the 20 possibilities that are already under consideration, and they are all pretty big cities. I’m thinking this candidate would be a place a bit away from the world. The places you mention are quite close to Denver.

        • Nornagest says:

          Well, I was thinking that being near an urban center would be one of the things that Amazon’s looking for — their original paper asked for a city of >1 million people. Among other things, a major airport pretty much necessitates a major urban area, and proximity to good universities also rules out anywhere truly remote — along with Texas, central Colorado has some of the only top-100 universities in the States that aren’t on the coasts.

          If you’re asking me to sell you on a town out in the boonies despite those disadvantages, then that’s a pretty tall order. There are some places with unique advantages (the towns around The Dalles, Oregon have access to some very cheap hydro power and also major fiber trunks, for example), but few that outweigh a nonexistent skilled labor market.

          • johan_larson says:

            How about an isolated location, a good university, and good weather? Can we find that?

          • Nornagest says:

            About the best I can do is San Luis Obispo, and its school’s kind of marginal — Cal Poly SLO is generally considered the best of the Cal State schools, but those are a tier below the UCs. I’d also hesitate to put this in CA for business friendliness reasons. Eugene, OR is three hours from Portland and has an okay school, but not one known for computer science.

            The most isolated of the UC schools is either Santa Barbara (about two hours from LA) or Merced (about two hours from San Jose). Santa Barbara is the better of the two. Texas A&M (in College Station, TX) is in a similar situation — probably about as good a school as UCSB, and it’s an hour and a half outside Houston.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            It’s highly debatable whether Eugene has good weather. Oregon law definitely beats California for business though, so long as it’s not an industry that relies on paying minimum wage to make even a razor-thin profit, like food service.

          • Matt M says:

            As someone who has lived in both, I’d take Willamette Valley weather over Southeast Texas weather… and the climate in Eugene isn’t really that different than the climate in Santa Barbara…

          • littskad says:

            How about an isolated location, a good university, and good weather? Can we find that?

            Bloomington, IN? Gainesville, FL? Fayetteville, AR? Athens, GA?

            What counts as good weather?

          • Matt M says:

            Hah, I also lived in Bloomington. Worst weather that’s been named yet. Cold as hell with lots of snow in the winter, hot and humid in the summer.

          • johan_larson says:

            What counts as good weather?

            Negligible chance of truly extreme weather, like hurricanes or tornadoes.

            Never so hot you can’t be outside. Little to no snowfall.

          • littskad says:

            That’s asking for a lot.

            I’ll still say Fayetteville, AR, then.

          • albatross11 says:

            Maybe what you want is such awful weather than people want to stay inside and code rather than go outside and walk around/smell the roses. Maybe Calgary?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Well all the rain in the PNW does mean people grow LOTS of roses.

          • Nornagest says:

            Bloomington, IN?

            An hour from Indianapolis.

            Gainesville, FL?

            An hour from Jacksonville.

            Athens, GA?

            Two hours from Atlanta; this might count.

            Fayetteville, AR?

            Now we’re talking. The nearest major city is Oklahoma City, OK, and that’s three and a half hours away. UARK isn’t particularly known for CS, but I guess that can be solved with some donations.

          • Matt M says:

            Arkansas also has precedent for “can support a huge corporation being headquartered in the middle of nowhere and still be effective!”

          • Iain says:

            Maybe what you want is such awful weather than people want to stay inside and code rather than go outside and walk around/smell the roses. Maybe Calgary?

            Calgary has chinooks. Edmonton is better for consistently cold winters.

        • ManyCookies says:

          Maybe a little chilly in the winter.

          The winter days typically hover around 30-50 degrees and is fairly dry (a huge factor in temp perception), the northeast winters are worse and are still very workable centers.

    • the anonymouse says:

      In the Amazon. For nominative determinism reasons.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      Very northern California, somewhere in the mountains near Shasta. Close to I-5. I’d also accept north of the Oregon border in the same region. Somewhere between Ashland and Weed.

      If you haven’t driven through that corridor, it’s fucking beautiful. Also cheap as hell (…now.) There’s not much settlement there. Why? Because there aren’t waterways or other features that led to city development back in the day. But that doesn’t matter now; there’s certainly enough water access for human habitation, and you’re along I-5 and near (enough) BNSF rail lines to build a city. (You’ll need a decent airport, but that’s just a matter of laying tarmac, and this way you can have the Amazon offices right there.

      Your employees can live in the middle of natural splendor, in a large gap of major habitation (there’s currently not much to speak of between Portland and Sac) which will therefore become an important stopping point and destination, for what is now pennies on the dollar.

      Bonus points: HQ2, if put just north of the border, is now in a sales tax free state, without having to be in the people’s republic of Portland. Probably valuable somehow.

      • Matt M says:

        I’m not sure if this specifically qualifies as “bad weather” or not but a decent amount of that region is currently on fire.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        … yeah. Building around Ashland would be smart. Building just a bit south where you’re under California law would be whizzing it down your leg.

        • Andrew Hunter says:

          As dumb as California is and as much as I’d like to exit-over-voice, you can’t practically do so. (Amazon already has presence in California.)

          • Eric Rall says:

            A lot of the relevant laws aren’t all-or-nothing based on whether or not you have any operations at all in the state. The biggies I’m aware of are employment law and state taxes.

            I think in most case, employment law defaults to the state where the employee works, but it’s common for employment contracts to specify the corporation’s HQ state as the jurisdiction for disputes. And California also has a relatively new law that prohibits the latter from moving juristiction out of California for a California-based employee. I’m not sure how CA employment law compares to OR, though.

            The two big relevant taxes are corporate income tax and personal income tax. Personal income tax raises the cost to the employer of providing their employees with a given after-tax income and depends on each employee’s office location (e.g. I work for a Washington-based corporation in a California office, and I pay California income taxes), and each state claims a prorated portion of the profits a corporation with multistate operations for its corporate income tax (how its prorated depends on the state, but it’s usually either sales in each state or a three-factor formula based on sales, payroll, and real estate). Oregon has relatively high tax rates on corporate and personal income, but their rates are a point or two less than California’s, especially in the higher personal income tax brackets.

      • FLWAB says:

        I nominate Dunsmier, CA as an ideal spot that fits your description. Well known for it’s delicious spring water and…convenient gas stations.

    • johan_larson says:

      How is upstate Nevada? It’s certainly isolated. All those valleys. It would be like living in Switzerland.

      • Wrong Species says:

        The federal government owns almost all the land in Nevada. It would be hard to find a place to put the city.

      • the anonymouse says:

        How is upstate Nevada?

        Elko (and outlying) communities is a pretty nice place to live, albeit with its fortunes (literally) tied rather too close to the price of gold for comfort. (Elko’s economy, in large part, is driven by the presence of two major nearby gold mines.)

        Ely is gorgeous, but there’s not much going on there.

        Battle Mountain has a fireworks shop?

        Winnemucca is okay.

  4. Randy M says:

    I was discussing Nature vs Nurture with my wife last night, and went to see your (Scott’s) old review of Nurture Assumption, only to find out it was originally posted to your previous blog. Any chance of reposting that? (Perhaps with an update if your views/the evidence has changed)

  5. disposablecat says:

    People-with-penises who have had sexual dysfunction as a side effect from SSRIs/SNRIs: have you been able to overcome it by supplementing other drugs, or has it worn off over time, or am I just screwed (or, rather, not screwed…)?

    I just started venlafaxine (Effexor XR) at 75mg and within the first two days of taking it I experienced *extreme* anorgasmia – as in, latency to ejaculation has gone from 2-5min if I’m trying for a quick release before leaving the house in the morning, to 30-40 minutes of *serious effort*. It’s like the nerves on my genitals have all been “capped” at a maxium value cutoff – I can enjoy myself but I can’t push it far enough to get off. Weirdly, I also think it’s actually *increasing* my sex drive while it does this – I notice my brain making way more sexual connections to random things than usual, and I feel substantially hornier.

    This is primarily for generalized anxiety, though there might be some depression thrown in. I would like to get out from under the anxiety (constant stress leading to decision paralysis and poor productivity, emotional breakdowns/freakouts over very minor inconveniences, lashing out at my SO, etc), but if it’s going to effectively make me unable to enjoy sex that’s kind of the devil’s bargain, given how important exercising my (relatively high) sex drive is for me. It’s also way too soon to know if it actually works for anxiety for me, but it’s been a week and this particular set of side effects is driving me nuts.

    I did some research and found that Buspar is often supplemented with SSRIs/SNRIs to counteract sexual symptoms – and that it also treats anxiety on its own. Does anyone have any experience with that?

    • CheshireCat says:

      Can’t point you towards any supplements, but there are lots of antidepressants that do and do not cause sexual dysfunction. Maybe you’d be open to switching? I’ve heard Bupropion (Wellbutrin, NDRI) has a minimum of sexual side effects, & it’s generally pretty popular. I’ve tried both it and Mirtazapine (Remeron, an atypical noradrenergic and serotonergic drug) and found that they had little negative impact on my sexual function. If anything Remeron made orgasms way more pleasurable, which was pretty awesome.

      In my experience Sertraline (Zoloft, SSRI) made orgasms shittier and Vortioxetine (Trintellix, atypical serotonin modulator and stimulator) had no impact but completely obliterated my sleep so it was terrible anyway.

      • disposablecat says:

        Going to have to switch, if this keeps up.

        Remeron sounds interesting, and I seem to recall that Scott’s metastudy rated it highly. Did you find that it worked for its intended purpose?

        • CheshireCat says:

          I have a weird atypical depression (primarily deadened emotions) that so far hasn’t responded in any appreciable way to antidepressants, so I’m not the right person to ask as far as actual antidepressant effects. But I had a decent time taking it. It got me through the most stressful half-year I’ve had in half a decade, (relatively) unscathed.

          In my experience it had 2 major benefits:

          – It was FANTASTIC at helping me sleep, which is the main reason my doc prescribed it over other meds.

          – It made me feel a bit dissociated from everything without dulling my cognition, which made my life-shittiness-tolerance somewhat higher.

          From what you’ve said of your symptoms, the disconnection might be useful, but it’s also unsettling for some people. Life took on a slight sense of unreality, a little disquieting but it didn’t impact my functioning so I wasn’t bothered by it in the short-term.

          Long term I’m not sure I would’ve stuck with it even if it was treating my depression, but it was still by far the most tolerable antidepressant I’ve yet tried. I dunno if it’s particularly indicated for antianxiety, but for me it was like a light coat of armor insulating me from stress. I’d recommend giving it a shot.

          Wellbutrin gives me more energy, concentration and emotional expressiveness, but I think it gave me bad insomnia and slightly increased my irritability initially. If it weren’t for the insomnia it’d be perfect, we’ll just have to see if it sticks around.

          • disposablecat says:

            Thanks for the notes – that’s very helpful, and it does sound like sort of what I’m looking for. I’ve described what I think I need as “the ability to give less of a shit about things” – my stress comes from worry/fear/caring-too-much-about-minor-stupid-bullshit, and what you describe sounds at least palliative for that.

            I could also use the sleep help at this point. The stress has gotten to where I have bizarro dreams bordering on nightmares every single night that feel like they last all night. It’s not very restful at all.

    • WashedOut says:

      People-with-penises

      With 99.5% confidence you mean men. Have the sexuality culture war scales tipped this far, or is the proportion of transgender on SSC just freakishly high so as to justify this phrasing? Are you afraid of offending someone by saying “men”?

      Genuinely bamboozled/curious.

      • Deiseach says:

        Are you afraid of offending someone by saying “men”?

        Some people live their principles. If they’re committed to going around scrupulously asking everyone they meet “what are your pronouns?” even when paying the cashier for their groceries, then they’ll use the correct terminology on every occasion.

        I recently saw a webcomic about this: a person who was joining some kind of older people’s dancing group while being younger themselves, and when the usual “Hi I’m Bob/I’m Jane” introductions were being made, they were psyching themselves up to go “Hi I’m whoever, I use these pronouns, mini-lecture on the whole damn topic follows”.

        It annoyed the heck out of me because it was a weekly dance group not a consciousness raising session, nobody cared the hell about was this person binary, nonbinary or a Martian with three heads, and it just seemed like self-aggrandising “let me make this all about ME”. But hey, some people walk the walk as well as talking the talk.

        • theredsheep says:

          Ah, the Nib. Did you also have an old college friend on FB share it with you, then unfriend you for not being so hard-left as to literally defend Lenin?

        • Andrew Hunter says:

          In Seattle partner dancing classes, the instructors always start with a long overly-enthusiastic speech about how “lead” and “follow” are just parts, and anyone can dance anything, and it’s not a gender binary, and…

          And then all the women dance follow and all the men dance lead, except for a very few people insisting on making a political point. (In one class where the instructor explicitly told us to switch roles every few minutes, multiple partners (female, of course) refused to lead and begged me to let them follow instead.

          (It’s also fun to notice the instructors lose track when describing what we’ll do and use “she” for follows and “he” for leads. A very few of them will catch themselves and stop, and the rest just do it without caring.)

          It’s Havel’s greengrocer all the way down.

          • beleester says:

            Strange. I’ve been to a couple of dance classes in the Midwest, and most did the “rotate partners every X minutes” model, but nobody seemed to have a strong opinion which part they ended up in.

            Personally, I found it really helpful to take the follow part for a while, because then I knew what cues the follower was expecting and I could dance the lead part better.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            The social dances in Boston in the late 1990s that were in my social circles dealt with the issue with the rule “the person who wears the corsage leads”.

            It worked well. Completely decoupled from gender expression, pants vs skirt, did-you-lead-last-week, etc. And you could trade the corsage back and forth over the evening.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            The social dances in Boston in the late 1990s that were in my social circles dealt with the issue with the rule “the person who wears the corsage leads”.

            From context clues and my limited knowledge of boston I’m guessing this was contra? If so, not quite representative. Contra there are matching roles but it essentially doesn’t matter who you are, you do the same stuff. In blues, fusion, zouk, WCS (the dances I like) the roles are hugely distinctive (I would say gendered, and my contention is that the people who won’t say it know it.) As a zouk lead I’m never going to have my head and shoulders manipulated. As a blues follow I’m (almost) never going to spin my partner. Etc.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Most of the folk dance things I do tend to skew female, so the women get good at both lead and follow whereas the men generally don’t, plus for some of the unscripted partner dances, I definitely know some girls who I prefer to dance lead, simply because they are sufficiently better than me at improvising that it’s more fun that way. Plus I try to not let myself forget how the follower steps in Swedish polska work, because there are few enough people doing that that it’s always worth being able to explain/demonstrate it to a new partner.

            I mean, I’m sure there are some people swapping traditional lead/follow roles for overtly political reasons (and for what it’s worth, ‘Larks’ and ‘Ravens’ terminology seems to be cropping up here recently), but some of us are just after a bit of variety as well.

        • Matt says:

          In Alabama partner dancing classes, ladies dance the men’s part often. (Typically, there are more available ladies than there are men so if a woman doesn’t want to sit on her tail, she can lead one of the other ladies who doesn’t have a partner)

          There was a period at one of the studios where I was taking lessons where there was a shortage of ladies in class, though. I danced the lady’s part pretty often in class during that period. Wasn’t any big deal.

      • Cheese says:

        Not to put words in someone’s mouth but the other and most likely option seems to be just normal colloquial use of language.

        Usually that kind of modified address is just a jovial way of addressing colleagues or acquaintances than simply saying ‘men’ or ‘males’. For example, If I was addressing an email or a facebook post to a group of people I knew reasonably well and wanted to ensure it is taken as being of a slightly less serious tone, I might use a similarly modified address. Dear friendos, fellow sufferers, etc.

        • disposablecat says:

          What Cheese said – I was being informal/flippant about it, because I do know that SSC is a larger percentage trans than the general population and while I’m not particularly interested in female sexual dysfunction I didn’t want to a) say “male” and get into an argument over it b) discourage trans people who have penises from possibly providing me with useful information about how they have dealt with the impact of antidepressants on those penises.

          Anywhere else on the internet I would probably have just said “men”.

          • disposablecat says:

            Entertainingly enough, I’m actually the kind of person who sees “my pronouns are (totally normal pronouns)” in email signatures and the like and goes “ugh, fucking virtue signalling identitarians”. I was just being cognizant of the audience here.

          • quanta413 says:

            @disposablecat

            It looks like you misread the audience then. Good try anyways. x)

            I think there are at least as many conservatives here as trans people.

          • honoredb says:

            It is weird to see SCC commenters indignantly correcting a 100%-correct phrasing to a 97%-correct phrasing, on the grounds that it’ll give aid and comfort to the enemy. One of those opposite-of-a-shibboleth things, I guess.

          • Aapje says:

            @honoreddb

            That is questionable, because presumably, transwomen with penises will be using androgen blockers and estrogen, which (often?) cause erectile dysfunction.

            So transwomen who are (also) using antidepressants may find it hard to distinguish between the effects of the antidepressants and the hormones, especially if the one changes the effects of the other. So their advice may generally be unhelpful for a person with manly testosterone levels.

      • mdet says:

        Checked the most recent survey, and SSC is 3.6% non-cis: 0.4% F->M, 1.4% M->F, 1.8% Other.

        With 87% of us cis-men, that means “people with penises” is something like 97% men here. In case anyone was curious.

      • toastengineer says:

        Aww, leave him alone. Those who fight self-righteous douchebags must take caution not to etc etc.

        He *probably* intended it as half-sarcastic, and unnecessarily precise language has always been a source of mild humor in nerd culture circles.

        • Nick says:

          He *probably* intended it as half-sarcastic, and unnecessarily precise language has always been a source of mild humor in nerd culture circles.

          That’s how I took it, too.

          • disposablecat says:

            What Nick and toastengineer said is correct, as I mentioned above.

            I am amused that I got way more responses about my flippant phrasing than about my actual question… 😛

    • Scott Alexander says:

      BuSpar is supposed to work, though I have rarely seen it do so. Wellbutrin works too – not just replacing the SSRI with Wellbutrin, but actually taking Wellbutrin along with it because it has a separate pro-sexual effect. But watch out as it can sometimes make anxiety worse. Some supplements that people have found useful (less tested) include yohimbine and shilajit.

      You can also try taking the antidepressant just after sex, so that you are having sex as far away as possible from your antidepressant dose – this sometimes works a little.

    • Spookykou says:

      The effects of Effexor that I experienced were not exactly the same as what you describe but generally in that direction, they faded while I was still taking it(ultimately it did not work for my depression so I stopped), around 1.5 months into my treatment.

    • BeefSnakStikR says:

      I’ve been on Effexor, but… paragraph 2 suggests you’re putting yourself under a lot of pressure, which can cause sexual dysfunction even without drugs. Have you tried refraining for a while?

      • disposablecat says:

        So, paragraph 2 refers to a couple specific attempts post Effexor, which I carried through on despite the effort because it’s hard to give up once I’m worked up.

        Normally I don’t experience pressure attached to masturbation – the opposite, actually, I use it to distract from/alleviate stress from work and life. Since those times I’ve focused on not getting aroused enough to even try, which sucks because a) I’m missing an important outlet now and b) the drugs seem to make me hornier, as I mentioned.

        Sex with my SO, I do attach some pressure to, and it does sometimes cause issues, but he’s really understanding and caring about it which helps. This is a lot worse than those issues. We haven’t tried anything since the Effexor, due to his work schedule, but it seems like it’d be pretty guaranteed to be frustrating.

        • BeefSnakStikR says:

          which I carried through on despite the effort because it’s hard to give up once I’m worked up.

          I’d definitely suggest stopping after five minutes or so — like I say, even without drugs, constant stimulation will dull sensitivity. (AFAIK this is just plain sensory adaptation and applies to all senses.)

          If you really want to, try again every hour or two, or something.

          So, paragraph 2 refers to a couple specific attempts post Effexor

          By post-effexor. Do you mean after you stopped taking it, or after you started taking it? I’m not sure it makes my advice different though. Don’t expect things to change right after you stop taking it.

          My advice is still to make many brief clustered attempts (as opposed to trying for 45 minutes) and not to try every day.

          Keep gradually increasing the periods between when you try.
          eg. If you can go 5 days without, try 7 days, then 9, etc. Then decrease that window again.

  6. Enkidum says:

    I always get confused: is this the culture-war free OT?

    • Randy M says:

      It’ll say so if so. So no. Go warrior, go!

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      No. If it says “Post about anything you want” in the starting post, culture war is permitted. In fact, I’ve got something along those lines I’ve been waiting to post.

    • Enkidum says:

      OK well with the caveat that I’ve now posted links to my blog twice in a week, which is the sort of thing I’m generally trying to avoid, here is me lamenting the current state of political discourse. The punchline is

      There’s a whole lot wrong with the view of America, and the West in general, as a pure and shining beacon of freedom and justice for the rest of the world. But there’s also a whole lot right about the idea that one of the most powerful and historically unique weapons in the Western arsenal was the relatively free exchange of ideas in an attempt to come to a public consensus about the truth. The current world order is fading, and there is little sign that its replacement will even pay lip service to truth and mutual understanding. Which depresses me a great deal.

      However it’s wrapped up in a partisan left-wing thing about the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez fake video thing that just happened, and I don’t hide my opinions (I’m a big ol leftie), hence the culture war worry.

      • idontknow131647093 says:

        I don’t get the AOC video outrage at all. It was just an old school Daily Show interview on the internet. I mean, even 60 minutes consistently gets called out for deceptive interview edits.

        It wasn’t really funny, but that was because it was poorly done, not because of the attempt.

        • Enkidum says:

          Perhaps I’m misunderstanding, but most of the old school Daily Show interviews I’ve seen were actually interviews of their subjects, if selectively edited. This was making up questions which had nothing to do with the answers being given. Does that not constitute an important difference?

          I didn’t watch that much of the Daily Show, to be fair.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            Daily show would do an hourlong or so interview and cut it to 5 mins. Then what they would do is show Stewart asking a “softball” question and then cut to the interviewee just kind of blinking and staring at the cam, maybe shifting uncomfortably. They would splice answers from different questions to other questions. E.G. “What would you do about climate change.” Followed by Republican Congressman XXX talking about Jesus.

          • Enkidum says:

            Huh I actually didn’t know they did that. Too bad, that’s pretty awful.

    • tayfie says:

      With half a thread, it is the day
      to keep the culture war away.

      (culture war free always ends in “.5”)

    • bean says:

      This Friday, I’ve put together a list of museum ships in the US. See if there’s one near you, and go pay them a visit.

      • Evan Þ says:

        I’m trying to comment on your page, but the captcha refuses to load, so I can’t post.

        Anyway, what I was trying to say was, thanks for the list! I hadn’t realized there were museum ships over in Bremerton; I might go over and see some there.

        • bean says:

          This is exactly the response I hoped to get. I’ve been surprised a couple of times in terms of things I had been near and not known about, and I hoped to spare others the same problem.
          And let me know how it is if you do go. There’s a decent chance I’ll be out that way within the next year.

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        It’s weird going through my RSS reader and seeing a post start with my name.

        (Not complaining, just a fun double take.)

  7. Adam Treat says:

    Topic I’ve had in mind: Compare and contrast the habit of making up Just So stories about Evolution with strain of Constitutional Originalism interpretations.

    • Randy M says:

      Contrast.

      That is, we can usually know what the political thought at the time was, if not of the framers themselves, then other prominent thought leaders.
      A “just-so story” (inasmuch as it is used to prove an idea) is more like straining to apply the original text via, oh, say, penumbras and emanations (example picked because there was diverse agreement here recently about how it really was a top down decision on flimsy grounds) than it is like trying to apply original text to current issues using the plain meaning of the terms as understood at the time.

      Of course, analogies don’t really prove anything anyway.

      • albatross11 says:

        If we don’t want the judges who interpret the law to have the power to just change things willy-nilly (“Today, I’ve decided that the laws against murder don’t *really* apply to red-haired people, so the defendant is not guilty and killing redheads isn’t murder anymore!”), then we need to force the judges to stick with some existing meaning of the law. The best one available sure seems like it’s the understanding the people who wrote and passed the law had of its intent.

        The alternative seems to me to be to allow the judge interpeting the law to just decide that laws against murder don’t apply to redheads, or that the constitution has *always* allowed presidents to have unlimited terms and any silly ideas anyone has about a constitutional amendment term-limiting presidents is simply more of that “original intent” nonsense.

        • mdet says:

          I think this article from Nathan Robinson responds to that idea by basically saying “The law is so complicated and multifaceted that you often make whatever decision you want and retroactively find some kind of precedent or principle to justify it on, so Originalism is a sham”.

          I might be slightly misreading him, and I don’t know enough to find holes in his reasoning. I would say that even if Originalism still doesn’t perfectly protect against “decide whatever you want” rulings, it still seems like a decent safeguard.

          What are the other judicial theories, and what are their claimed advantages to Originalism?

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            I think that is an idea often espoused by people who WANT the law to be complex, because the simple solution is not on their side.

        • cassander says:

          he best one available sure seems like it’s the understanding the people who wrote and passed the law had of its intent.

          laws are written by multiple people, and intent is unknowable. the proper standard is the public meaning (i.e. dictionary, or at least colloquial, definition) of the words as written, not anything as nebulous as understanding or intent.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Is there any reason why public meaning should be less nebulous than understanding or intent?

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            For ‘Rule of law’ to be a thing, ‘public meaning’ has to be what was meant by the wording at the time the law was written. I can easily see a situation where with enough kneading a judge can completely invert the purpose of a law by claiming words today have new meanings.

            Frankly this is why I think that all laws should be written with a statement of intent and of desired objectives. If only to provide a more objective basis on which one can call a law a failure or success.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            For ‘Rule of law’ to be a thing, ‘public meaning’ has to be what was meant by the wording at the time the law was written.

            I assume this is a response to me, in which case I’ll clarify: I’m asking to what extent we should expect that the “public meaning” is well-defined and can be reasonably ascertained.

            I also don’t see why a judge couldn’t just start “kneading” their method of determining public meaning to obtain their preferred result.

            Frankly this is why I think that all laws should be written with a statement of intent and of desired objectives. If only to provide a more objective basis on which one can call a law a failure or success.

            This might help, but I suspect would be pretty toothless in actual practice–the actual statements of meaning and intent would themselves become subject to political compromise, and so bills would likely acquire fairly anodyne statements of meaning and intent in order to be pushed through.

          • cassander says:

            Is there any reason why public meaning should be less nebulous than understanding or intent?

            It’s not entirely unnebulous, but I think it’s less nebulous to ask ask “what did the word X mean in year Y” than “were the members of the committee that thinking X meant when they wrote it?”

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            It’s not entirely unnebulous, but I think it’s less nebulous to ask ask “what did the word X mean in year Y” than “were the members of the committee that thinking X meant when they wrote it?”

            I agree, but I’m not sure it removes enough ambiguity to resolve the sorts of disputes that are actually contentious:

            No one disagrees on the question of “what was the meaning of the words ‘equal’ and ‘protection’ in 1868”; rather they disagree on whether specific examples qualify or not as “denial of equal protection”, which doesn’t really seem like a linguistic issue; it’s a stronger sense of “meaning” that’s at issue, something more like the “usage” than the “dictionary definition”.

            This stronger sense of “meaning” seems much harder to evaluate for a “public meaning”–supposing that there even is a colloquial sense of what sorts of laws would have been considered to violate equal protection in 1868 seems like a non-trivial and contestable assumption.

        • Eugene Dawn says:

          we need to force the judges to stick with some existing meaning of the law. The best one available sure seems like it’s the understanding the people who wrote and passed the law had of its intent.

          Why is this the best one?

          As Cassander points out below, the “understanding of the people who wrote and pass the law” might not even be well-defined: imagine a law that attracts near-majority support, but has to be slightly watered down to pick up some skeptics to finally pass. The group who wrote the law, and a majority of those who passed it would favour a broad reading of the law, but a minority of those who passed it only did so on the understanding that the law would be narrowly read.

          Now, a judge has to decide whether to interpret the law broadly or narrowly: what is the original intent?

          But even that doesn’t exhaust potential problems: what if the ‘intent’ of the original legislators was to encode an important principle in law. At the time of the bill passing, a certain issue was not seen as an instance where the principle applies; now though, we do think the principle applies to this issue. So, the intent of the bill-passers was not to rule on this issue, but was to establish an important principle with applications they didn’t foresee. How do we rule in this case?

          Or what about a case where the prosecution and the defense each rest their case on different laws, each passed with clear intents by two groups of legislators who disagreed with each other?

          Or what about cases where there is no way the original legislators could have foreseen the issue at hand, due to changing technology?

          I’m sympathetic to some form of originalism because it seems like it’s important to try and understand laws in their original contexts, but the idea that there’s an obvious “intent” underlying each law, that the intents underlying all laws are compatible with one another, and that these intents should override all other considerations strikes me as very non-obvious.

          Intent and original meaning can shed light, and should be important components of judging, but I don’t see why they’re obviously “the best”.

          • albatross11 says:

            Most of your examples are places where there’s an ambiguity in the law, or a conflict in the law. I absolutely agree that in such a case, the judge is going to have to do some independent reasoning about what makes sense here. Even there, I’d say the judge should be thinking about what was intended by the people passing the law, as best he or she can.

            However, this is very different from deciding that, say, something that has always been interpreted one way in a couple centuries of legal decisions and passed laws and day-to-day practice has suddenly changed to have an entirely different meaning. Like deciding that the constitution forbids laws against abortion, or requires the recognition of gay marriage, or that the death penalty or anti-sodomy laws are suddenly unconstitutional when they’ve been around and believed to be constitutional by everyone until just now. This is a corruption of the court’s actual role of interpreting the laws, and turns it into a nine-person committee of permanently-appointed people who can just make whatever laws they like.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            However, this is very different from deciding that, say, something that has always been interpreted one way in a couple centuries of legal decisions and passed laws and day-to-day practice has suddenly changed to have an entirely different meaning.

            What if you were convinced that the original intent was in line with your current interpretation, even though it had been interpreted in a different way for centuries in legal decisions, passed laws, and day-to-day practice?

            If those features are important, I don’t see why it shouldn’t be the case that they’re important regardless of intent.

          • Dan L says:

            @albatross11

            However, this is very different from deciding that, say, something that has always been interpreted one way in a couple centuries of legal decisions and passed laws and day-to-day practice has suddenly changed to have an entirely different meaning.

            This is more or less how I see DC v. Heller. How does Originalism prevent going to war with Eastasia?

            More generally, how much should intent depend on context? Do we admit a shifting context and accept a shifting law? It seems the alternative is to accept increasing ambiguity, and “independent reasoning”. Independent of when?

          • Nick says:

            My personal impression from Scalia’s Matter of Interpretation, as an emphatically unqualified non lawyer, is that the toughest disagreements in this area are over passages that might be taken as general principles admitting, not reinterpretation per se, but a broader meaning later than they had before. “The freedom of speech, or of the press” should probably be taken to apply to digital publication as well, even if, strictly speaking, that’s not verbal speech or printed publication; “freedom of speech, or of the press” is a synecdoche for a class in which later forms of communication obviously fall. (It was consequently my impression that the best objections to Scalia’s textualism and originalism were over which passages are general and which specific.) But this is sort of at a tangent to Eugene and albatross’s disagreement.

          • mdet says:

            I agree that forbidding outlawing abortion and requiring the legality of same-sex marriage were way outside the original intent of the Constitution.

            But “The death penalty is a violation of the right to life and freedom from cruel punishments” doesn’t seem like it requires substantially twisting the original interpretation of a right to life or cruel punishments. Did the Founder’s explicitly intend those words to outlaw the death penalty? No, but they didn’t intend “inalienable rights” (admittedly in the Declaration, not the Constitution, but I presume it carries over) to outlaw slavery either, yet I don’t think it requires twisting the intent of those words to say that it should. (We did abolish slavery via amendment rather than court ruling though, so I guess that’s a case for strict Originalism even when the straightforward application of the words ought to be enough.)

          • Dan L says:

            @Nick:

            (It was consequently my impression that the best objections to Scalia’s textualism and originalism were over which passages are general and which specific.)

            Well, yes. Building on that, I have no idea what is supposed to be distinguishing a non-textual originalist ruling that builds on a previously unestablished general principle and straight-up Emanations except a pretense of colonial roleplaying.

            But this is sort of at a tangent to Eugene and albatross’s disagreement.

            Disagree. I don’t think anyone here is willing to commit to the general position that the Court does not have the prerogative to identify and rule on the basis of unenumerated rights*. It should not be surprising that those rights are then sometimes expanded, sometimes limited, beyond what might have been expected by the original authors. That’s not the same as “making whatever laws [the justices] like” – precedent matters.

            *I’ll second the motion downthread to summon Washington’s Ghost.

            @mdet:

            I agree that forbidding outlawing abortion and requiring the legality of same-sex marriage were way outside the original intent of the Constitution.

            14th Amendment is one hell of a thing. It becomes really hard to use intent as a guiding principle when what the authors did was build a framework that was used to build a framework that was used to empower swathes of law. How reverently should we cherish the designs of men who planned for their work to be superseded?

    • Brad says:

      There’s definitely some similarities there. Judges, even brilliant judges, are, well, judges not historians. And it definitely shows. The originalist “masterpieces” are akin to legal briefs, the dig through the available sources looking for things that can plausibly be used to bolster the point being made. There’s no attempt to take a critical eye towards sources, or to justify the extreme reliance on a few privileged ones in particular (e.g. federalist papers), given that the ostensible goal is original public meaning.

      The link to evo psych is that just as originalism isn’t history, but it pretends to be, so to the just-so stories of evo psych and science.

    • quanta413 says:

      Compare: Both theories are based upon looking for some sort of teleological purpose (very loosely speaking) in the past to explain or determine the present.

      Contrast: Unlike Constitutional Originalism, just-so stories about evolution are often empirically testable. It’s usually not easy, and there’s a lot of crap. But there’s a lot of crap in any science. Adaptationist hypothesis and methods have fared pretty well over the years. Just-so stories about evolution aren’t really obviously a priori distinct from the sort of adaptationist hypothesis that naturalists put forward and confirm about animals all the time. Some hypothesis are better and some are worse, but it’s a continuum of badness where being bad doesn’t actually turn something into a just-so story. If a hypothesis is empirically confirmed, it gets canonized as good science. If it’s bad and unpalatable, it becomes a “just-so story” that was clearly a terrible idea and a sign of ridiculous bias on the part of the person who put it forward.

      Constitutional originalism on the other hand is a more of a normative theory.

  8. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    This has been going around lately– an account by a professor who was offered a lot of money to talk about the future of technology. Slightly different version at Medium.

    He was expecting to give a lecture to a good-sized group, but instead he found he was talking to five men who were interested in setting up personal refuges, and had no idea how to keep the loyalty of their guards. Pro-tip: controlling the lock for the food supply isn’t how you get loyalty.

    As might be expected, there’s been some “eat the rich” discussion, though the thread also has some interesting mentions of how loyalty works in various historical cultures.

    I haven’t seen anyone else point out that the article isn’t well verified. We just have one hostile person’s account, though it may well be accurate. We also don’t know whether the rich guys are typical, though I will say that I may have seen that sort of rationalist chilliness before.

    In any case, does it make case to hate people who are trying to escape disaster if you don’t have the resources for escape yourself? So far as I know, it’s governments who stop people from trying to leave, but the general public doesn’t.

    Part of the “eat the rich” theory seems to be that the very rich should spend their resources on trying to prevent disaster. Sometimes the claim seems to be that it would work, sometimes it seems like the rich should be doing that whether it would work or not.

    My impression is that the very rich have plenty for a shelter, and could spend much more than that on amelioration. And that, really, we’re talking about government levels of spending anyway– the personal fortunes of the very rich aren’t in the same class. Have I missed something?

    • Enkidum says:

      I tentatively agree with you, but I do find myself pretty viscerally repulsed by the idea of building society-collapse shelters. I think this says more about me than it does about the shelter-builders, though.

    • albatross11 says:

      Why am I supposed to be outraged by people imagining the end of the world and planning how to survive it?

      The Guardian piece felt like clickbait farming outrage against heartless techbros/hedge fund managers for wanting to build a high-end fallout shelter or something. But if the end-of-the-world hedge fund guy decides to waste his money on a high-tech fallout shelter with a force of rent-a-cops, why the hell should I care? In what way is he making me worse off?

      • johan_larson says:

        To use a metaphor, imagine you are on a ship and you see some of the ship’s officers start wearing survival suits. That’s a bit worrying, isn’t it? What do they know that you the passengers don’t? Also, if they have survival suits and you don’t, their interests and yours aren’t aligned, so they might do something that’s fine for them but really screws you over.

        I don’t think it’s time to start worrying. The very wealthy have always had time and money for weird stuff.

        • keranih says:

          These weren’t ship crew, these were fellow passengers.

          And they were coming to *him* for advice, which gives the impression that they thought that he, in some ways, was better prepped for TEOTWAWKI than they were.

          The key difference is not that one was prepped for the shipwreck and the other wasn’t, the key is that one recognized the preparation gap, and then went and did something about it. The other grasshopper wrote an angry blog post blaming the ants for working hard all summer.

          • beleester says:

            If the ship is sinking, then running for the lifeboats is just good sense. But if you’re all fighting to save the ship, and you decide to stop pumping out water and run for the lifeboats instead, that’s just selfishness. If you launch your lifeboat the instant you’re aboard instead of waiting for others to climb in, that’s selfishness too.

            (And if you write a smug post about how you were the first one to recognize the preparedness gap and everyone should have just grabbed a lifeboat for themselves instead of trying to save the ship, you deserve to be haunted by the angry ghosts of everyone else aboard.)

            Point being, assuming that the end of the world can’t be stopped, and it’s all they can do to bunker up and wait for it to pass, is basically assuming your conclusion. Maybe there are things they could be doing to prevent the end of the world instead. Maybe the ant actually has enough food for the grasshoppers as well. I would be very surprised if a world-spanning disaster reduced neatly down to a “lifeboat ethics” problem like this.

          • albatross11 says:

            beeleester:

            It sounds more like they were considering how to buy a little cheap insurance against civilizational collapse, not ceasing to help man the pumps. You can imagine a moral hazard problem there, but it doesn’t really seem like a serious issue–their lives would clearly be way worse after a collapse of civilization. And most ways that civilization could collapse are probably beyond the powers of a random hedge fund guy or techbro to head off anyway.

            If a couple of these guys do some prepping, I don’t see any way this makes you or me worse off. Is it supposed to make me feel better about starving in the dark if I know you are, too?

          • Nick says:

            But if you’re all fighting to save the ship, and you decide to stop pumping out water and run for the lifeboats instead, that’s just selfishness.

            Well while we’re nitpicking, it’s probably not an either/or. It could be these hypothetical prepper billionaires think, say, there’s a 95% chance of pulling through and a 5% chance of disaster, and what we’re seeing is just the 5% commitment of resources to the contingency plan.

            ETA: Looks like albatross beat me to it.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Only a very small bit of it was about that meeting, the rest was the author pontificating on his own hobbyhorses. The five guys might be what you get when someone ultra-rich gets the prepper mentality. Or they might be entirely fictional, just to add some interest.

      • BlindKungFuMaster says:

        Yeah, disappointing. Now, how do I ensure the loyalty of my guards? I skipped the rest.

        • toastengineer says:

          Pay them and treat them well. Make sure they actually want you to survive, rather than wanting the food in the shed that you have the key to. I doubt any other strategy has any chance long-term. Value alignment again.

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          My guess is you just plain can’t ensure the level of loyalty that money can currently buy you, unless you have the right kind of cult-leader charisma.

          But if you treat/pay your guards well now, and also make sure your compound is well-stocked enough to keep everyone comfortable, you could probably enjoy a first-among-equals status thanks to residual gratitude, as long as you don’t overstep.

          Insofar as you’re actually good at managing a compound, then you could probably remain a leader, not have to do any other jobs, and enjoy a certain amount of extra luxury.

        • helloo says:

          My advise would be to see how previously Kings and heads of state prevented their military heads and armies from coups and such.
          With the understanding that the parts that are monetary or cultural might be lost/warped, but other things such as inspiring validity, loyalty, leadership, and security/stability should still follow.

    • Randy M says:

      Rich people prepping stimulates the economy about as well as rich people buying yachts or throwing fancy parties. And if teotwawki comes, I’d rather rich jerks survive to propagate the species/rebuild civilization than no one does.
      I’m sure a much wider fraction of their fortunes in actually invested into companies that produce value for the average consumer anyway, what’s a bit comparatively wasted on a survival compound somewhere?
      The only objection I can see is if their prepping causes shortages of goods in the here and now, by, say, freeze drying all the potatoes in Idaho or something. Similar to the complaints about biofuels using corn raising the price of tortillas in Mexico, though I don’t know if that was true, I’m pretty doubtful of it happening here.

      Perusing it now, I’m calling BS. People who get rich from investments can surely figure out how to keep their security guards happy in a world of increased scarcity. Provide food and shelter for their families. Encourage camaraderie among the group. Give them a sense of higher purpose (ie, rebuilding civilization).

    • John Schilling says:

      Meh. Rushkoff’s thinkfluencing about how outrageous it is that Tech Money(tm) doesn’t devote itself to the betterment of humanity as defined by Medium-writing thinkfluencers, will be about as ineffectual as his hedge fund execs’ plans for ensuring the loyalty of their guards through the zombie apocalypse. And I’m fine with that.

      The people he actually namechecks, Musk, Bezos, Thiel, Zuckerberg, and those like them, will actually build things that at least some people think are of value, and they won’t all be wrong. And I’m pretty sure that if there is a zombie apocalypse or whatever, Elon Musk won’t be lacking for a loyal security force. The sort of person who needs Rushkoff’s advice on either front, is a fool best soon parted from his money on the grounds that almost anyone else would do something better with it.

    • Lillian says:

      It’s hard to believe that there are in the modern world there are hedge fund managers wealthy enough to be able to afford not just a shelter against the Apocalypse, but a security force to guard it, and yet be so utterly devoid of people skills as to think locks on the food supply and shock collars would be effective means to keep this force loyal.

      The kind of loser who thinks he can control men by treating them like dogs is not going to rise higher than middle management. Yet the author expects me to believe that the highest echelons of hedge funds, the most successful elite, can come up with five such morons? What, does he think people just inherit hedge funds like aristocrats inherit titles, and get to keep the even in the face of manifest and utter incompetence? A man unfit to manage his own secretary is not going to last long as the manager of wealthy people’s money. At this level, most of the job is exuding enough charm and competence that others are willing to trust you to manage their money in the first place! This is tantamount to asking me to believe that a successful used car salesman doesn’t know how to close a deal, it’s practically a contradiction in terms.

      Sorry, but i’m not buying it.

      • John Schilling says:

        …and yet be so utterly devoid of people skills as to think locks on the food supply and shock collars would be effective means to keep this force loyal.

        I read this, if genuine, as their understanding that nothing else will be effective either, once money becomes toilet paper and courts stop working, and they are grasping at straws. And, recognizing the problem, hiring a supposed expert to advise them – if they actually thought the locked food vault would be effective, they’d have saved themselves Rushkoff’s extravagant fee.

        • Lillian says:

          At the point of society’s collapse you’re basically down to the basest of human organizational instinct: Us vs Them. The only thing you can really do is try and tip the scales as much as you can towards your men seeing you as an US rather than a Them. As long as that holds true, you have good odds of not winding up thrown outside your own bunker. Rushkoff’s advice on this point seemed reasonably good. Oh and as long as the men trust your judgement you can probably rely on inertia to stay in charge, and you have a leg up on that if the only thing keeping you all alive is the contingencies you had the foresight to arrange.

          There’s no certainties on any of it though, since the Apocalypse is inherently high variance, you can do everything right and still die horribly.

          • albatross11 says:

            If I were genuinely looking for help with such a problem, I can think of people I’d look to for answers, but none of them would be a professor of media studies and self-proclaimed futurist. But really, I suspect the conference was an ill-organized flop and this was some random overly-drunken bar conversation reported as if it were the Proceedings of the Elders of Hedgefund Techbros.

      • Matt says:

        I’m not buying the story, either. But your objections about the charm required to be a hedge fund manager flies in the face of Christian Bale’s portrayal of Michael Burry in The Big Short.

        Maybe Michael Burry is not actually that big of a jerk, but he himself believes he’s got Aspberger’s. I think the primary requirement to be a hedge fund manager is that you make money for your investors.

        • Lillian says:

          It’s implied that Michael Bury got his clients thanks to his patron, and at any rate his fund is not one of the top ones. Moreover the entire reason Michael Bury shuts down the fund is that despite producing something ridículous like 450% return on investment his clients still don’t trust him and keep questioning his decisions. If anything this reinforces the need for people skills, since even being absurdly successful wasn’t enough.

          • albatross11 says:

            If you are providing a 450% return on investments in any reasonable time frame, the probability that you are legitimately trading to get those returns is some very small epsilon, and the probability that you’re another Madoff is 1- very small epsilon.

          • Matt says:

            I’m not sure we’re disagreeing, or maybe we’re talking past each other. Michael Burry made $100 million running a hedge fund that he shut down because he wasn’t a people-person.

            But $100 million is enough to get him in the room on something like this if he wants to be, right? I mean, he’s not priced out of being one of the guys who might pay for an apocolypse plan, is he?

            Maybe your definition of successful hedge fund manager is ‘manages a hedge fund as for as long as he/she wants’ while mine is ‘walks away with 8 figures’.

            Burry was turning money away at $600 million in investments. He quit to manage only his personal investments, which are in that order of magnitude. Do you really think he couldn’t attract investors today because of his personality?

      • Alexander Turok says:

        “yet be so utterly devoid of people skills as to think locks on the food supply and shock collars would be effective means to keep this force loyal.”

        It’s probably not the best idea, but that type of thinking has worked well for many a dictator over the years. Many of those dictators, like Stalin for example, weren’t born into their positions. They got them by rising up through the ranks. Lots of Bolsheviks thought Stalin would make a great revolutionary and then a great leader of the Soviet government. I could totally see the same thing happening in an American hedge fund.

        In any case, I strongly doubt those guys are being kept up at night because they’re afraid their guards will kick them out of the bunker. They’re just LARPing, like all the celebrities who said they’d move to Canada if Trump won but, to the surprise of nobody, didn’t. They don’t really think it has any chance of happening and wouldn’t be prepared if it did.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      [] things that happened
      [x] things that didn’t happen

  9. albatross11 says:

    Quillette piece by a British guy who had his life wrecked by online mobbing. Note that this is *NOT* anonymous–he names himself and describes his ordeal. FWIW, I know nothing about him or his story other than what’s in this article.

    Of course, there are people who can justify this sort of thing. After all, he’s on the wrong side, and those bastards deserve anything that they get. But the more I see otherwise-normal people cheer this shit, the more I think of the folks who took part in the opening bits of the Cultural Revolution or the Terror in order to win some locally-important points, and ended up in a shallow grave or with their head in a basket a few months later.

    There is probably nobody who can’t be dragged in social media in this way. Almost anyone with a public presence has at least said a few dumb/offensive things, and everyone has said things that can be painstakingly excerpted to turn into offensive things, trusting in context collapse to ensure that 99.99% of the online mob will never check to see whether it’s true. Sometimes, this sort of demonization campaign even leads some crackpot to get violent, as with the unusually stupid crazies who were convinced that that one DC pizza place was some kind of pedophilia parlor, or that all the parents of the children murdered at Sandy Hook were lying as part of some kind of oddball conspiracy.

    • theredsheep says:

      I think this is something of a transitional stage; we haven’t (to use the prevailing phrase here) “developed antibodies” against outrage-peddling. Which isn’t to say it isn’t repulsive, but it’s not like nobody’s talking about it. I’ve read plenty of pieces discussing this problem, and there’s a definite awareness that this is a problem, even if not everybody shares it. But if anyone can fall from grace at any time, the number of people who get burned is going to keep growing–quite rapidly–and after a while panics lose their force. I believe that eventually we’ll acclimate by developing a healthy sense of skepticism, or just becoming apathetic to “how dare this person, click now to ruin the livelihood of some stranger you never met who said something bad in 1995!” Then outrage-peddlers will start to become a class of villain in their own right.

      • pontifex says:

        Can we reverse engineer how the Trump scandal shield works and make it available for the common man? Should we?

        • quanta413 says:

          Na. That’s way too much scandal shield.

          Unfortunately, Trump’s personal behavior (sexual and otherwise) is not that unusual compared to Presidents and other powerful politicians of the past century so a lot of it is probably down to just being powerful. Verbally he’s more vile though, although I’d put that as a secondary concern.

          But maybe somewhere around 1-2% of the Trump scandal shield for everyone would be nice.

        • 10240 says:

          Trump got elected in secret ballot, plus he is a billionaire who doesn’t depend on anyone (other than the electorate to get elected). As an employee, you depend on your boss, who depends on the CEO, who depends on the shareholders. All of those depend on their business partners, and all of these depend on their customers not boycotting them, and all of these need to ensure that they don’t hire a manager who then exposes them to a discrimination or harassment lawsuit, etc. If 20% of people hate you enough to boycott your company unless you get fired, and 80% doesn’t hate you but won’t boycott the company if you get fired, they fire you. A politician who doesn’t have the money to finance his campaign depends on the party structure and other politicians in his party.

          That’s how preference falsification works, and it collapses in secret ballot.

      • Shion Arita says:

        I don’t know about that (it being something that’s necessarily automatically self-correcting), or at least not on a fast enough timescale to be useful. Sure, China, France, and Russia eventually became less like they were over time to varying extents, but in all of the cases a lot of people died before that happened since it was let to kind of go out of control for a long time.. Do I think western civilizations are heading for a Reign of Terror with this stuff?……. Probably not; maybe I’d guess like 5-10% chance but that’s a hell of a lot more likely than I’m comfortable with.

    • kieranpjobrien says:

      From experience,. Toby can be a bit of a prick. And some of his views on eugenics are complex but not racist or ableist so he doesn’t do himself any favours by posting about it on platforms without nuance.

      He didn’t deserve to be on the OFS board but he didn’t deserve to have his schools and so on taken away from him.

      Complicated matter but on balance he deserved much better.

      • Enkidum says:

        Is it really complicated? Like… I’ve only read his article, which is clearly biased, but what were the legitimate complaints of the online hatemob?

      • albatross11 says:

        Just as an aside, I don’t really see why someone’s views on eugenics are likely to be at all relevant to their fitness to evaluate proposed educational policy. I mean, suppose in principle he totally supported some kind of Howard-Foundation-like eugenics involving paying desirable people to have more kids–would that really make him less able to do the job he was appointed to do?

        • Eugene Dawn says:

          True though that may be, that’s not how political appointments work: an open and avowed anti-Semite would not be tolerated as a minister for transportation or whatever on the basis that their hatred of Jews has nothing to do with transportation–for better or worse, it’s a fact of life that some positions are so outrageous that you can’t hold government posts if you openly espouse them. Due to the aftermath of the Nazis, the fall of Jim Crow and apartheid, and decolonization, eugenics is one of those positions.

          • a reader says:

            for better or worse, it’s a fact of life that some positions are so outrageous that you can’t hold government posts if you openly espouse them. Due to the aftermath of the Nazis, […] eugenics is one of those positions.

            Yes, unfortunately – and I think it’s a pity.

            Explicitly model system:
            Eugenics was initially thought as a way to improve mankind.
            But Nazis used eugenics as justification to castrate or kill the disabled – and they also labeled Jews as “inferior” and killed millions of them.

            Experience emotion
            Horror, indignation.

            Reify methaphysical essence
            Eugenics = evil

            Endorse value based on essence
            Toby Young suggested using eugenics to help poor people have smarter children. => HE SUPPORTS EUGENICS! HE IS EVIL!!!!!111

            This is Toby Young’s suggestion about “progressive eugenics”, in his article The Fall of the Meritocracy:

            Hsu believes that within ten years machine learning applied to large genomic datasets will make it possible for parents to screen embryos in vitro and select the most intelligent one to implant. […] these couples wouldn’t be creating a super-human in a laboratory, but choosing the smartest child from the range of all the possible children they could have. Nevertheless, this could have a decisive impact. […]
            My proposal is this: once this technology becomes available, why not offer it free of charge to parents on low incomes with below-average IQs? Provided there is sufficient take-up, it could help to address the problem of flat-lining inter-generational social mobility and serve as a counterweight to the tendency for the meritocratic elite to become a hereditary elite. It might make all the difference when it comes to the long-term sustainability of advanced meritocratic societies.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            My point isn’t that his proposal was bad, my point was it’s not out of the ordinary for a politician who espouses, in his own words, a version of “eugenics” to not get a fair hearing for those ideas. If the idea is a good one, you’re only hurting it by attaching an unpopular label. No one will take “friendly Nazism” or “pro-business Maoism” seriously either, regardless of what the contents of those ideas are.

            I also don’t think “Reify methaphysical essence
            Eugenics = evil”
            is what’s happening–it’s no more “reifying a metaphysical” essence to observe that societies that went whole-hog for eugenics turned into totalitarian racist nightmare-states than it is for someone to observe that societies that have attempted to abolish private property have ended up as nightmare states; that doesn’t mean that such a person proposes that “no private property = evil” at some metaphysical level, it means they’re worried when they hear people promote an idea that they know has been found popular, but has led to terrible consequences.

          • albatross11 says:

            Most societies that did eugenics didn’t turn into totalitarian racist nightmare states. The US, UK, Canada, and most of the Nordic countries had explicit eugenic laws and policies, and didn’t turn into racist nightmare states. I doubt the Nazis would have been any less brutal or nasty without eugenics as a justification–the Holocaust involved trying to mass-murder the highest-performing population in Europe.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The US … didn’t turn into [a] racist nightmare state.

            Ummm, it was pretty explicitly racist already.

          • albatross11 says:

            Sure, but that didn’t have much to do with the eugenics movement. It’s not like anyone needed the arguments of the eugenics guys to think up Jim Crow laws or laws against interracial marriage.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @albatross11:

            But neither does it provide any cover for eugenics, as you seemed to say it did. At the most you can say is that, in a horribly racist society, eugenics fit the existing ethic without sending it into a spiral that led to Hitler level horrors. But it doesn’t insulate you from “eugenics seems horribly racist in a pretty nightmarish way”.

            If you are just trying to say that eugenics doesn’t necessarily lead to a totalitarian state, that Eugene oversold his case, I’ll agree. But I don’t think it really makes a difference to the argument in question.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Most societies that did eugenics didn’t turn into totalitarian racist nightmare states. The US, UK, Canada, and most of the Nordic countries had explicit eugenic laws and policies, and didn’t turn into racist nightmare states

            That’s what my “whole hog” was there for, but I admit I probably phrased it more strongly than I should have; I should have said, countries that adopted eugenics became nightmarish, roughly proportional to how strongly eugenicist they became. And the most salient and available example of a country committing to eugenics is also, not coincidentally, the go-to example of a totalitarian nightmare state.

            Note that this doesn’t affect the original analogy, since many countries practice “socialist” policies without turning into Maoist China–yet it’s hard to deny that the more committed to “abolish private property” a government is, the more nightmarish it becomes.

          • albatross11 says:

            As best I can tell (admittedly, without deeply researching the issue), there is probably no correlation between having coercive eugenics policies and becoming a nightmare state.

            Again, as best I can tell, pretty-much every country in the world in (say) 1920 was quite racist by modern-day standards. But I don’t see any obvious reason to think that the ones that had eugenics policies were more racist than the ones that didn’t.

            Now, everywhere but Nazi Germany, I think eugenics policies ended up meaning forcibly sterilizing people considered unfit to reproduce. This is indeed a pretty awful policy, and I’m glad it’s not done anymore. But I don’t think it actually led to (or flowed from) racism[1], and I don’t think it generally led to a nightmare state.

            [1] Of course, racist people thought that the “lesser races” were the ones that mostly shouldn’t reproduce, but you didn’t need any racial distinctions to forcibly sterilize people with mental illnesses or mental retardation or a family history of petty criminality. Carry Buck was white, for example. Scandanavian countries with very few nonwhites, and US states with very few nonwhites, had eugenics laws.

          • I think the critical distinction is between forcible eugenics and voluntary eugenics. Most people believe in the latter, whether or not they would put it that way–in deciding who to marry, one consideration is what sort of children you expect to result from your choice.

            Toby Young’s proposal results in only slow improvement unless you are willing to produce a lot of embryos for every one that gets used. Heinlein, in an early novel, had a much more powerful version–sorting on sperm and egg separately.

          • albatross11 says:

            Yeah, the coercion is the problem. And that’s a symptom of intrusive state powers, not so much the idea that you’re going to improve the human race by selective breeding.

            I agree that just about everyone does what you’re talking about (at least everyone I know does)–the best way to raise clever children is to marry a clever woman. But I think the goal of eugenics is to improve the whole population, not just your kids. If you somehow implemented a policy wherein high-school dropouts mostly married each other, and people with graduate degrees mostly married each other, that wouldn’t really be a eugenic policy–you’d expect much-dumber and much-smarter kids both to result, but probably not an overall improvement.

            The way I’d imagine some eugenic policy would be convincing people with less desirable heritable traits to have fewer kids on average, and those with more desirable heritable traits to have more kids on average.

            The obvious problem with doing this as government policy is that it requires putting some part of the government in charge of deciding whose traits are desirable/undesirable, and then (in coercive eugenics schemes) giving them the power to enforce that. That’s a hell of a lot of incredibly intrusive, easily-abused power.

            But if you somehow convinced the average person with a graduate degree to have another kid, and the average person who dropped out of high school to have one less, that would have a eugenic effect–you’d expect the average IQ of the society to go up a little bit.

            There are two eugenics-like things that I think are being done extensively now:

            a. Genetic testing before marriage/conception in people or communities with known genetic diseases. If you know you’re a carrier for Tay Sachs, you probably want to be really careful about marrying/having kids with another carrier. If you know you carry the Huntingtons gene, then you may decide to adopt instead of have kids who will each have a 50% chance of getting it.

            b. Abortion of people with deformities or genetic disorders that can be detected prenatally. I think the most common version of this is aborting Downs kids, which doesn’t change the genetic mix of future generations much (few Downs adults reproduce, though Wikipedia says that a woman with Downs who has a child has a 50% chance of having a child with Downs).

            For historical and social reasons, (a) gets basically no outcry at this point, and (b) gets outcry only by pro-lifers.

    • Enkidum says:

      i think most of the commenters here would agree with you, obviously? Jon Ronson wrote a book about this a while back I thought was pretty good.

    • BlindKungFuMaster says:

      In the piece it sounds like he gave them a lot of ammunition, so I’m not sure everybody can be taken down like that.

      I wonder what would have happened if he had just gone on a month long vacation at the beginning of the whole thing. Get off the grid for a couple of weeks, don’t answer emails or calls, come back when the stuff isn’t making headlines anymore and see whether people still push for his resignation with the same fervour.

    • Eugene Dawn says:

      I’m a little annoyed at the fact that he doesn’t actually quote some of the bad things he said, which I think is a bit dishonest: he admits that “My most egregious sin was a tasteless, off-color remark I made while tweeting about a BBC telethon to raise money for starving Africans in 2009”–but doesn’t tell you what the remark was! The reader should have a chance to judge how disqualifying the remark actually was.
      In fact, in response to a woman commenting that she had gone through 5 boxes of Kleenex watching a telethon for starving children, Young replied “Me too, I havn’t wanked so much in ages”. This is, to put it mildly, the sort of thing you should expect politicians to get in trouble for.

      More generally, he came into the public eye not because of his tweets, but because he was being appointed to a new government position: he wasn’t picked up at random for bad tweets; rather, he (properly) came under scrutiny when he was appointed to an important public position.
      This doesn’t mean that everything that happened to him was justified, or that his bad tweets weren’t taken out of context or read unfairly or whatever, but I don’t think he’s a great example of the dangers of online mobbing. He’s not some rando who lost a job because of a bad tweet; he’s a politician who was not appointed to a political position because he joked about jerking off to starving children. That’s…not all that out of the ordinary.

      • theredsheep says:

        Well, why should the wank joke disqualify? Does anyone honestly think he is sexually aroused by starving children? Probably not. From the context you’ve given, it sounds like he was rolling his eyes at a woman who uttered a banal piety (Five damn boxes of Kleenex? Seriously? Were you dehydrated by the end of that?), and decided to shut her down with extravagant vulgarity. It was really tasteless and not particularly funny, but I know I’ve made plenty of tasteless jokes, some of which landed with a thud, and I don’t think this necessarily indicates bad character. Especially not if, as he says, he has been active in charity quite regularly since.

        • Eugene Dawn says:

          Turn it around: imagine he were already in the political position and made a joke like that. What do you think the reaction would be?
          It doesn’t mean he should be “disqualified”, but “politician says something awful and is dragged over the coals for it” isn’t some new social media phenomenon, it’s just basic politics.
          Politicians, like it or not, are held to a higher standard for public utterances and it’s utterly banal that it should become an issue if a gross statement by a politician becomes a liability for them.

          • theredsheep says:

            If he were already in that position, and made the joke just as publicly, it would signal catastrophically poor judgment. If this joke was made almost ten years ago, then the standard for politicians is going to become “find somebody who has never left a visible record of saying something tasteless or controversial, ever, even if his political enemies go dumpster-diving into internet archives to be offended by long-dead incidents.” This would result in a very small pool of candidates, and I suspect they’d mostly be extraordinarily boring and small-minded people. More likely we’ll eventually acclimate to life with the internet and develop something like a sense of perspective, while politicians will learn how to handle these incidents when they do occur (getting out of town until it blows over, and refusing to actually belly-up, both sound like good starters).

          • Brad says:

            At the time he wrote the comment he was 44 and was already had been newspaper columnist, albeit as restaurant critic.

            This isn’t a case of digging into someone’s high school antics.

          • theredsheep says:

            Restaurant critics are necessarily ghosts, at least in America. They don’t let their faces be known for fear of biasing the service. Stupid thing to say, all the same, but quite different from a position of public trust. Has he actually done anything bad?

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            If he were already in that position, and made the joke just as publicly, it would signal catastrophically poor judgment. If this joke was made almost ten years ago, then the standard for politicians is going to become “find somebody who has never left a visible record of saying something tasteless or controversial, ever, even if his political enemies go dumpster-diving into internet archives to be offended by long-dead incidents.”

            Right, but it’s still a much more reasonable standard to hold politicians to than ordinary people–“never leave a visible record of saying something tasteless” is something that politicians aspire to while in office, and you seem to think that’s not unreasonable. As pointed out below, Toby Young was a 46-year old director of a charity when he made a public joke about masturbating to images of starving children. That’s not “youthful shenanigans” or whatever, and I don’t see why it’s not fair game for scandal.
            I do think the poor judgement here rests more on whoever appointed him, either because they didn’t do any research into his past public pronouncements, or because they did and somehow didn’t think a joke like that would be controversial.

            There may be reasons to think the standard as a whole is unfair, but as I say, this a public figure who made public remarks and was in consequence forced to step down from a government position is very different from the usual “public shaming”, and I think makes a poor example of that phenomenon.

            EDIT: I misread something on his Wikipedia, the charity he was director of was founded in 2009, but he wasn’t director then, so I withdraw the claim that he was a charity director at the time of the joke.

          • theredsheep says:

            To clarify, I think it’s bad to make tasteless jokes when in public service because you might give someone the impression that you are speaking for your employer, or otherwise associate them with a sentiment they disagree with. If you make a tasteless joke as a private citizen, you’re … a private citizen making a tasteless joke. Lots of us do it. And most politicians start out as private citizens, the rare exceptions being political dynasties like the Kennedys.

            If he was employed at a charity, that’s a bit grey, but if it was his private Twitter account and he was clearly not speaking in an official capacity, I’d call it a grey area.

            I’d also distinguish this vs. jokes which clearly show underlying bad beliefs. Like I said, I seriously doubt this fellow was actually aroused by the thought of children dying, because that’s not really a common fetish. If he’d made a joke about black people being stupid or criminal, that might indicate a risk of discrimination in office, and thus disqualify him.

          • Brad says:

            It shows bad judgment for any human being, politician or not, to make a joke about masterbating to videos of starving babies in an explicitly public and permanent medium.

            2008 was late enough for a middle aged professional to have been aware of that fact.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            If you make a tasteless joke as a private citizen, you’re … a private citizen making a tasteless joke

            I agree, but it’s not at all uncommon for previous behaviour as a private citizen to be weighed in the balance when under consideration for a public position; the usual justifications are that they are evidence of one’s “judgement” and “character”.
            Whether you think this is reasonable, it is in any case not some new standard, and not one to which the average person will be held, which makes this case not a great example of public shaming.

            If he’d made a joke about black people being stupid or criminal, that might indicate a risk of discrimination in office, and thus disqualify him.

            Another thing he was dinged for was an article in which he appears to denigrate wheelchair ramps and Special Education, and worries about exams being written down to the level of a “functionally illiterate troglodyte with a mental age of six”–very much the sort of attitude that I think is appropriate to consider in a prospective head of the Office for Students.

            Again, it is possible that set against his actual experience in education, these remarks are being unfairly privileged–but “a guy went up for a public service job and was seen to be saying tasteless, awful things–including things relevant to his capacity to perform this job, so he didn’t get the job” is not some new phenomenon of the social media/social justice age.

          • theredsheep says:

            Okay, I’ve read the Spectator article, and it seems like fairly typical, if blunt, conservative anger about institutionalized mandatory mediocrity. If I’m reading this right, it’s nearly identical to the point CS Lewis made in Screwtape Proposes a Toast. Including wheelchair ramps and SE was squicky, and should count as a minus point, but I read the troglodyte remark, in context, as being against students who are merely dumb and/or unmotivated, not intellectually disabled.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            If he’d made a joke about black people being stupid or criminal, that might indicate a risk of discrimination in office, and thus disqualify him.

            He made a joke dismissing dumb kids as “illiterate troglodytes” and that, along with other tasteless jokes, killed his chance to hold an education-related position. That’s not being publicly shamed, that’s absolutely standard politics.

          • Brad says:

            Just as an addition to my prior point:

            High profile shitposting on twitter is a high risk / high reward activity. It can mean you lose employment opportunities but it also can propel you to President of the United States. Caveat loquere.

          • Aapje says:

            @Brad

            So it’s a lose/lose proposition, then?

          • Brad says:

            I doubt the Shitposter in Chief thinks he has lost anything (ever).

          • Aapje says:

            Quote:

            “I loved my previous life. I had so many things going,” Trump told Reuters in an interview. “This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier.”

          • Matt M says:

            Also I feel like the media is constantly reporting on how much business he’s losing at his hotels and how much his net worth keeps falling.

            It seems like he may become the first President in American history to leave the office poorer than when he entered it.

    • fion says:

      It’s depressing, because I really do think he’s a nasty piece of work, and unfit for that particular job. But the hysterical hate-mob that attacked him is absolutely awful, and has been making any argument (including some quite incoherent ones) in favour of sacking him.

      I’ve been reading the Spectator on-and-off for a few years, and I’ve almost always hated his articles. Ironically, all the abuse he’s been getting has resulted in the most positive opinion of him I’ve ever had.

      I’d push back slightly on your “everybody is at risk of this sort of thing”. Sure, I’ve said some stupid things on the internet, and if they were quoted out of context people would be able to hurt me, but I’ve not said anything anywhere near his level of crudeness. (He blames the wine in the article you link to. I don’t drink. Maybe that’s all there is to it.)

      • Mark Atwood says:

        because I really do think he’s a nasty piece of work

        Why?

        What actual evidence do you have that he is a “a nasty piece of work”?

        Anything said by the political or tabloid press, by a thinkpiece writer, by a edutainment tv show, by a talking head, or by a member of a social media hatemob does not count. “He voted for Leave” does not count. “He’s a member of the hated Other Tribe” does not count.

        I’m genuinely curious.

        What have you got that he left out of his article?

        • fion says:

          It’s more of an opinion than a belief, so I can’t ‘provide evidence’ so much as ‘explain why i think that’.

          It’s an opinion I formed by reading his articles in the spectator. He advocates for things that I consider to cause significant harm, sometimes to vulnerable people. And I find his tone to be somewhat callous. He often seems aware when he upsets people and not only doesn’t care but seems to take some pleasure in it.

          I’m sorry I can’t provide quotes to his articles to give examples of what I’m talking about, or go into more detail; I don’t have access to a computer and won’t for a couple of weeks.

          I’m sure he has his good side,as does everyone, but it doesn’t often come across in his writing.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            Maybe this is one of those cases of “two cultures, divided by a common language”.

            To my American ears, using “a nasty piece of work” is how one would describe Jeffrey Dahmer, Charles Manson, or maybe Harvey Weinstein.

            In the US, using “nasty” to describe a person is an adjective that one does generally not use outside of carefully circumscribed social groups, unless one is a wannabe edgelord under the age of 11.

            The word is connotative of “physically dangerous, because infectiously diseased”, and is mean to invoke a physical disgust reaction.

            What does someone from the UK call someone who is *actually* dangerously bad?

          • AG says:

            Disagree with Mark Atwood’s perceptions. “Nasty piece of work” has been used in an almost complimentary fashion, to describe how necessarily ruthless/tough someone has been in order to survive in a cutthroat situation. Wolverine is a heroic nasty piece of work.

            “Girl, you nasty” is a phrase thrown around pretty casually to joke about a friend’s questionable tastes.

    • theredsheep says:

      Somewhat related: I have noticed a trend on FB of random-stranger dogpiles. I don’t know if anyone else runs into this sort of thing; there’s typically a picture of some random dude somewhere, and a lengthy caption about how this dude did something horrible and shameful. Most recently, it was a guy at an airport who supposedly said racist things to the picture-taker’s child. The point of this is to share the post until the person gets recognized by somebody who can hurt him, e.g. an employer. Of course, there’s no proof that the person did the thing he’s accused of, or that the person is not a stock photo and the shocked observer is not some nut who wants attention. But man, do these things get shared quickly. I’ve given up on pointing out that they could, technically, be ruining the lives of perfectly innocent people.

      • Mark Atwood says:

        I’ve been unfriended and blocked for pointing that out.

        I’ve been actively threatened to have it done to me. (I cut them and their associated highly connected social graph completely out of my life, and gave advanced warning to my manager.)

        When I see it being done now, I just block everyone joining in the pile-on, and vow to never have anything to do with anyone who does it. Such people are stupid and dangerous, and I want nothing to do with any of them.

      • Nick says:

        I have noticed a trend on FB of random-stranger dogpiles.

        I don’t know about complete strangers, but the phenomenon of friends of friends of friends of … happening upon a thread and promptly steering it off a cliff was one of the reasons I stopped using Facebook.

        • albatross11 says:

          Yeah, Facebook is one part wonderful opportunity to keep track of friends and relatives I’ve otherwise lost touch with, and nine parts posting angry memes and threatening to excommunicate those who exhibiting insufficient zeal for the cause.

          Though for awhile there, my newsfeed got confused enough to start giving me angry political memes from India instead of from the US. This was actually very restful and pleasant, since I know nothing about Indian politics and have absolutely no dog in that fight.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Heh. “Your anger is restful and pleasant in its irrelevance to me.”
            I feel like sipping a daiquiri on a Mexican beach as the locals yell about politica.

      • Civilis says:

        I think the issue with the social media era is that there’s a small chance that any post you make where you say or do something stupid or you catch someone else saying or doing something stupid can blow up and make the person doing the stupid thing an object of negative attention for the entire world. Further, this attention feeds off of itself. Some people don’t recognize this fact, and some people deliberately exploit this fact.

        Shaming people is useful. Taking Matt’s example in the post below, the person having their dog piss on an airport trash can deserves to be shamed so that it doesn’t happen again. It’s probably an offense that could be solved by writing them a ticket, but that’s not an option. On the other hand, it’s probably not something that deserves being punished by being shamed by the entire world, especially as that can involve pressure on their employer to fire them. But if you decide to shame them, there’s that chance it will blow up.

        • Mark Atwood says:

          there’s a small chance that any post you make … blow up …

          For example: https://gizmodo.com/when-a-stranger-decides-to-destroy-your-life-1827546385

          TLDR: victim skools a meth addicted SJW in a random culture war facebook kerfuffle. Who responds by spending a week and a half researching the victim on the internet, and then makes up a fiction about the victim using her job connections to be a homewrecker for the sexual lulz, and then posts the fiction to some revenge sites, and then promptly forgets about doing it. Another busybody has a hobby of reading revenge sites& IDing the people on social media & then sending the link to the target’s friends and family.

    • Matt says:

      My wife and I were sitting in an airport restaurant watching the various folks walk by. A lady with a little dog on a leash walks to a spot about 40 feet away from us, and she’s acting weird. Just hanging out near the trash can and looking off into the distance. Not at anything, but more AWAY from her dog. I pointed it out to my wife, and we just watch the lady for a bit. The dog sniffs around the trash can, hikes its leg, and urinates on it, leaving a puddle on the floor.

      At this point, I wish I had loudly proclaimed “Hey lady, your dog is pissing on the floor!” but I was so dumbstruck that I did nothing but exchange an incredulous glance with my wife.

      The dog finished its business and the lady immediately led it away, leaving the mess for someone else to clean up. My wife followed her to her gate and told the gate personnel about it, but they didn’t do anything. So she confronted the woman for a little mini public shaming (woman denied it of course, but I think her fellow passengers believed my wife) and then we walked to our gate.

      Later, I wished I had the presence of mind to whip out the phone when I first thought something was going on so I could have videoed the woman and her dog and post it to the internet. After all this, I’m really glad I didn’t. I still wish I had the video so I could show my friends in meatspace, (it’s a good story, and I do have a photo I took at a ‘Seaworld’ type park of some adult male with his bare butt hanging out…) but I’m glad I didn’t have the opportunity to put the video on Facebook or something. Even a tiny, tiny chance that she would be id-ed online and be punished out of proportion to her crime? No thanks.

      • albatross11 says:

        Yeah, the problem is the randomness–99.99% of the time, someone being a public asshole is just one more public asshole on Twitter; 0.01% of the time, they have the whole internet fall on them.

        And really a big part of this is the willingness of employers and such to respond to the twitter storm, rather than saying “yeah, we’ll look over these complaints in a couple months and make a decision when the screaming is over.” The Twitter mob has very little actual power, but can make a lot of noise and get some traditional media attention for a couple weeks until some other outrage displaces it.

        • Nornagest says:

          I’m surprised more companies don’t do what police departments do, say “suspended on pay pending an investigation”, and then sit on the investigation for a couple of months until the screaming dies down. It’d be expensive, but probably not as expensive as hiring a replacement, assuming white-collar jobs.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      Can we all at least agree that Allegra Budenmayer deserved it?

    • phisheep says:

      Oh, it’s Toby Young.

      Obviously didn’t learn the lesson from reading his own book “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People”.

  10. hls2003 says:

    There’s a quasi-reality show called “Naked and Afraid”** that runs, I believe, on Discovery Channel. The premise is a man and a woman set out naked together in the wilderness and asked to survive for 2-3 weeks while being filmed. On the whole, it’s often fun viewing.

    Although the show emphasizes the “naked” part – participants may not have any clothing at all – they are also each given a cloth bag, map, and a single tool item of their choice (firestarter, machete, knife, etc.) For some reason, this has always really bugged me. I can conceive of survival scenarios where a person might be stranded naked in the wilderness (e.g. maritime accident). But I can’t conceive any survival scenario where a person has lost every scrap of clothing, but retained a cloth bag, map, and a useful survival tool. Or I could understand a challenge concept of “our ancestors managed naked, can you?” Yet I can’t see how that comports with having access to advanced technology. Bothers me every time.

    Obviously I’m being pedantic, since the goal is to entertain without killing anybody, and the answer is “there would be no viable show to watch if we didn’t give them these limited advantages.” And in fairness, participants still look really miserable. I recognize this is my own weird pet peeve. And the show’s often not terrible!

    Still, anybody else have shows / movies / books like that, where the internal inconsistency of the setup drives you up a wall?

    **I assume the name and format were intended to be titillating, although I can assure you that there is only “bad naked” to be found (plus blur bars).

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Titillating, yes, but also it’s intended to map to imprinted ideas resulting from dioramas of early man. The few episodes I’ve watched just don’t seem very “real” to me.

      “Alone” on the other hand …

      • hls2003 says:

        I’ve only seen parts of one season of “Alone.” I agree it was better. I liked “Survivorman,” I thought if nothing else his constant failures at hunting were a good corrective to the common misconception of easy meat in the wild.

      • Nornagest says:

        Every diorama like that I’ve seen has been anything but titillating, although I guess that’s probably deliberate.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Yes … but, if you take the concept of the diorama and pitch it to an executive as a reality game show, what do you think one of the big draws will be?

          Put another way, why did you look through every issue in your parents’ copies of National Geographic (novel as this concept may be to the post internet age)? I don’t think you can separate the two.

    • Well... says:

      quasi-reality show

      All reality shows are quasi-reality shows, and that’s putting it generously. Even on the realest-seeming ones, if you were to visit the set you would find action being staged, producers feeding lines to the talent, and editors crafting only the illusion of sequences of events rather than faithfully recreating ones that actually happened. (And that’s before the addition of incidental music, sound effects, and visual effects.)

    • dick says:

      God, that show is aggravating. 95% focused on contrived drama, 5% focus on what they’re actually doing to survive and whether it’s working or not. Sometimes they’ll have a couple who last the whole 21 days, and not once will the shelter they built ever be in camera shot! Much more entertaining to just watch the primitive-technology guy and his many, many imitators.

  11. theredsheep says:

    A continuation of a discussion started in the last OT, which is rapidly sinking down the sidebar: to what extent does Christianity have to be countercultural? Can a society be predominantly Christian without the Faith sacrificing its integrity?

    My position is a strong “no” to the latter, though obviously the answer will vary depending on what denomination one follows (I’m Orthodox). One of the central tenets of the religion is the fallenness of humanity–a lot of the things we want are wrong/disordered–and a certain amount of apathy towards “things of this world.” To give modern examples, a lot of contemporary businesses really depend on sin. Leaving aside obvious things like casinos and brothels, restaurants and bars don’t want moderation and temperance. Social media profits from envy, pride, and wrath. Almost everyone profits from greed, insecurity, and general personal inadequacy. It’s hard to build a business model around contentment, humility, and continence.

    You can argue (as someone I know once did) that society as a whole would be much better off if everybody actually acted Christian, but actually acting Christian is really bloody hard, and if you’re aiming for saturation you’re going to have to lower standards quite a bit. Which is not to say the Church should only accept perfect people–it should accept anyone who sincerely wants to join and puts in any effort–but in any given society I believe the majority will, at any given time, not really be interested in putting in that level of effort, and to make Christianity dominant you’ll need to water things down for that apathetic majority.

    Also, if Christianity becomes a majority, being Christian will naturally start to be advantageous, which will lead to opportunism, which will necessarily lead to loss of integrity since nobody’s really in a position to tell the state of any one individual soul and sort out the saints from the guys who are in it for a job promotion. Christianity had perhaps a 10% share of the “market” when Constantine took over, and almost-total dominance a century later. A lot of those were surely opportunistic or semi-compulsory conversions.

    • Evan Þ says:

      Can a society be predominantly Christian without the Faith sacrificing its integrity?

      In theory, yes: Heaven will be a society, and it will be not just predominantly but universally Christian.

      In practice, then, it’s not a question of “will Christianity work in theory” (yes, it will), or even “is Christianity comfortable for our current human nature” (no, it isn’t); it’s a question of “Can a society, by God’s grace, predominantly follow Christianity to enough of an extent that they will not rend its integrity?” That correctly poses the question as “will God choose to dispense that grace”; or, for non-Christians (and perhaps any Arminians among us), will enough people choose to mortify their sinful nature and follow Christianity?

      And that’s a factual question whose answer I don’t know.

      • theredsheep says:

        This is a very different perspective from my own, and I’m glad you shared it. I take it that you don’t distinguish very strongly between the life to come and this one, in terms of the operation of grace and the redemption of human nature? This is not the case for us.

        • Evan Þ says:

          I’m not sure how to answer that question. On the one hand, there clearly is a very significant difference: the “old man” or (as the NIV aptly paraphrases it) “sinful nature” will be fully removed; we will see God face to face; there will be no more sin. But on the other hand, that’s the culmination of processes already at work in us: we’re daily (by God’s help) putting to death the sinful nature and striving against sin and focusing on seeing more of God. I guess I most often picture Heaven as an extrapolation of those processes sped up by a miracle to reach their asymptotes.

          (If you believe in Purgatory, less of a miracle would be required – though even then there’d be some, since a function will never naturally reach its asymptote even over the millions of years cited in medieval indulgences. Or maybe they aren’t asymptotic functions at all, though they often feel like such.)

          How do you distinguish?

          • theredsheep says:

            Okay, the difference isn’t as stark as I thought, based on what you just wrote there. We believe in theosis, the deification of man, based on 1 Peter’s “partakers of the divine nature,” and theosis can be at least partially achieved in this life. Not that different from what you said just now.

            When you referenced Heaven as a society, I was thinking you didn’t draw a line at all, because pointing out that we will be perfect in the life to come by God’s grace sounds to me like noting that, with divine intervention, we can raise the dead. Sure, it happens, but it’s not something I expect to see a lot of in this life. So, in context, it confused me a bit. But I don’t really understand Calvinism or predestination or what-have-you, so I thought I’d ask. Thanks for clearing that up.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      I believe it’s possible, if now highly improbable, for a hegemonic Church to win the Kulturkampf and that even people who become Christians opportunistically would then participate in grace, even if it does nothing to increase Saints per capita. Basically I don’t think Joseph de Maistre, or T.S. Eliot in his “The Idea of a Christian Society” speech were fundamentally on the wrong track.

      • Evan Þ says:

        In what way would you say they’d participate in grace? I can totally believe, e.g., they wouldn’t steal or worship false gods as often; but I can easily imagine their hearts getting harder from their hypocrisy.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Well for elite opportunists, society’s incentive structures being aligned such that there’s more wealth and status in making, say, Christian animation vs. Rick and Morty would cause artists to meditate on Divine things. I’d guess that the likes of Michelangelo and Raphael are far more likely to be in Heaven than the “great” contemporary artists who are incentivized to think a toilet is a deeply meaningful art installation.
          It’s perhaps empirically testable that average opportunists would have hardened hearts rather than being more open to meditation on Divine things, but I really want to give them the benefit of the doubt.

        • Nick says:

          I can totally believe, e.g., they wouldn’t steal or worship false gods as often; but I can easily imagine their hearts getting harder from their hypocrisy.

          I’ve wondered about this for a long time; have their been actual studies about the rates? Because on the one hand, we’ve heard of someone who opened themselves up to the transformative power of what they’re doing blah blah blah and were converted by it, but on the other hand we’ve also probably heard of someone so turned inured to perfunctory social obligations to attend church or group pray that they could scarcely ever take it seriously. Cultural Christianity can do something for the former, countercultural for the latter, but I’m not sure you can both strategies at once.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Off the top of my head, there could be one denomination institutionalized as the Cultural Default Church, and several others acting counterculturally.

            There’d be other problems, of course, and it’d be very difficult to institutionalize a Cultural Default Church in this day and age.

    • BlindKungFuMaster says:

      I’m not sure your idea of “a christianity that maintains its integrity” has ever existed in any society be it as minority or majority. People are people, they may signal differently, they may deceive themselves in different ways, but underneath there is no change.

      I don’t think people in a tight-knit minority community are any less opportunistic when they adhere to certain rules and dogmas, than people who join up with the majority. Still the same human nature, same motivations.

      To me you seem to be asking whether strict adherence, i.e. a more fundamentalist Christianity is possible as majority religion. (And then you inject your personal bias as to what that means morally). Well, evangelical denominations grow by 5% every year. Worldwide, but also in some western countries like France or Germany. So I can certainly see a fundamentalist Christian future for some societies.

      • theredsheep says:

        What about what I said reflects personal bias? I’d say there’s a fairly broad consensus across denominations as to what constitutes good Christian behavior, and the NT goes into great detail about it. A Calvinist who shakes his head at a Mormon’s gross theological errors can still admire his sobriety, diligence, honesty, generosity, and humility.

        Christianity cannot be perfected in this world any more than any other human institution, but I think it can come a lot closer, or at least avoid certain dangers, as a small, tight-knit group. To some extent this is true of any movement; the bigger the tent gets, the vaguer the marquee outside is going to have to be to fill it. It’s important to seek converts, yes, but you’re not going to maintain that initial energy and purity indefinitely. I think this has historically yielded some boom-and-bust cycles, as a growing church attracts opportunists and shysters, sheds followers disgusted by the resultant corruption and apathy, cleanses itself as a countermeasure, and starts to attract followers again.

        “Fundamentalist” and “evangelical” are two different things, albeit with some overlap, and my own Orthodoxy is neither, so I don’t see what you’re getting at there.

        EDIT: NB I am not claiming that Orthodoxy has a history of purer faith; quite the contrary. There’s nothing like a review of Byzantine history to give one an appreciation of the difficulties of actually building a Christian society.

        • BlindKungFuMaster says:

          The idea that a group of Christians would have more “sobriety, diligence, honesty, generosity, and humility” is what I would call your personal bias. Or the idea that a modern society is build on greed, envy and whatnot, in a way an actually existing Christian society wouldn’t be.

          Maybe I misunderstood your question, I thought you were asking whether faith could make a comeback as a majority thing in modern societies. To me the growth of evangelical denominations is a sign that it could. I just don’t think there would be less greed, envy and so on.

          • theredsheep says:

            No, the original context (which, to be fair, was left out) was of the decline of Christianity in America; somebody mentioned Rod Dreher in the last Open Thread. He worries a lot about Christian decline. My feeling is that Christian America was never all that Christian to begin with, and dispensing with the silly facade is mostly a good thing. We have a long history of watering down the faith, mixing it with weird philosophical or cultural trends, and/or conflating it with patriotism or mere cultural identity. You could say similar things about modern Russia, which has a very different religious tradition. I think it happens everywhere.

            Christians can’t be perfect because we’re still human. But I think we do better as a smaller subset of the population.

          • engleberg says:

            Re: My feeling is that Christian America was never all that Christian to begin with … We have a long history of watering down the faith.

            Americans are church shoppers. Comparison shopping between a thick stew church and a clear soup church is not necessarily watering down your faith. Atheist clergy are a different story, and selecting clergy from people who’ve been indoctrinated into agnosticism or atheism by comparative religion classes instead of people indoctrinated in your faith is institutional suicide.

    • mtl1882 says:

      I agree with you completely.

      Human nature and the world is such that being a “real” Christian will always put you at odds with the dominant culture. I know that’s hard to define, but by real I mean people with a good understanding of what Christianity teaches them to pursue and a sincere desire to try to move in that direction. If there was some sort of weird situation in which real Christians became the majority, it would immediately unravel with the next generation. It’s not about teaching rules, but developing an awareness and attitude about certain things. It’s requires a self-reflection that most people are not really capable of, along with some seemingly but not really counter-intuitive behavior that most have no incentive to grasp.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        If there was some sort of weird situation in which real Christians became the majority, it would immediately unravel with the next generation.

        That appears to be a fairly damning indictment of Christianity. That or God truly is an asshole. Or both.

        • albatross11 says:

          What we’ve seen in Western civilization generally has been a progression–as we resolved most of the really huge cruelties and injustices and horrors of the past (slavery, kids starving to death), we have banked those bits of progress, and kept working on new ones (Jim Crow laws, poverty) and then new ones (casual racism, the draft). And so on.

          IME, being a Christian is partly about never being done–you’ve never gotten so good or so close to Christ that you can just kick back and say “Mission accomplished!” Instead, there’s always more improvement to be made. And that’s what I’d expect from a majority seriously Christian society–over time, people would keep trying to improve, some existing problems would shrink or go away, but we’d always find new ones to work on. We never get to perfection as individuals, and we’ll never get to perfection as a society.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            How does that comport with the idea that a society composed of “real” Christians must “unravel” within a generation?

          • albatross11 says:

            I disagree with the premise. I think continuous progress is possible, and that in fact, it’s possible to have a society of real Christians[1] that remains a society of real Christians. They will never get to a perfect society, but they can make their society continuously better, in much the way that the US has managed to broadly get continuously better from the days of slavery and genocide of the Indians to the present day, where we’ve got plenty wrong with us but we’re still a lot better than we were.

            [1] By which I mean like the other Christians I know–imperfect people trying to do the right thing and sometimes f–king it up in various ways.

  12. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDkhfm6CYjE

    Pretty typical Thiel, and I’m thinking about whether we have an idea shortage.

    Rothbard assumed there were always plenty of ideas (and not explicit, but the ability to judge which ones were good and what it would cost to implement them). This seems dubious, though it might have been more plausible when he was writing. (Book published in 1962, I don’t know how long he took writing it.)

    Big companies with huge cash reserves does suggest that they don’t see good investments.

    • toastengineer says:

      Big companies with huge cash reserves does suggest that they don’t see good investments.

      Mm. It says “we’re in an extremely high-variance transitional period right now so if you don’t like the taste of risk now might not be the time” to me.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Very tentative: I wonder if they aren’t interested merely good profits, they’re holding out for a substantial chance of making great profits.

        Real world smaller example: I gather that a lot of buildings in cities are vacant because the landlords are hoping to win big.

  13. Joseph Greenwood says:

    If you could endow the presidential office of the USA with a magical power, what power would you endow it with? By “endow the office”, I mean that any sitting president would have this power until his terms of presidency end. By “magical power” I mean any ability which could be triggered voluntarily, with no particular respect paid to the laws of physics. Sample powers include being an excellent chef, being able to heal anyone of any injury by willing them to be healed, and omnipotence (modulo logical consistency).

    • Nornagest says:

      Indirect omnipotence. The ability to encode any duly authorized Congressional resolution into the fabric of the universe within the borders of the United States, with the stipulation that if it’s found to be unconstitutional or tending towards tyranny (as determined immediately by a 2/3 majority of an impartial panel consisting of God, Gautama Buddha, and the ghost of George Washington), the President and any Congresspeople that voted for it will spontaneously combust.

      Also, the ability to mentally control bald eagles, just because.

      • Evan Þ says:

        Would “it is physically impossible to obey” also be an exception? Or would that be covered under “it tends toward tyranny”?

        Also, joy, we get to see Ghost!Washington’s opinion of what the Ninth Amendment covers!

        • Nornagest says:

          I’m almost sure that requiring physically impossible things of people would violate the Constitution somehow, but sure, we can add that. I was thinking more along the lines of stuff like “Congress hereby resolves that all American citizens shall henceforth be immortal” or “Congress hereby resolves that Fresno, California shall be relocated to the moon”, though.

      • Joseph Greenwood says:

        I like this! But perhaps you should also include Confucius and Abraham Lincoln on your panel?

        Also, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost don’t get separate votes. So sad. =\

        • Nornagest says:

          For all the good he did, Abraham Lincoln played faster and looser with the Constitution than any other President bar maybe Andrew Jackson. He doesn’t get a vote.

          Confucius is a good thought, but then there’s an even number of panelists, so we’d need to find somebody else too.

          • Joseph Greenwood says:

            I thought Confucius first and “one more prominent American” second. Maybe Hamilton or Jefferson or another founding father? Then again, diluting God’s vote is probably a bad idea.

      • xXxanonxXx says:

        I love this, but wouldn’t it create a moral imperative to conquer the globe? You could eliminate anything from human trafficking to murder with a simple resolution. Combined with gaming the meaning of “within the borders of the United States” it also makes such a campaign feasible.

        • beleester says:

          You wouldn’t need to conquer the world, simply offer annexation to any country who asks. If you’re any good at all at making use of your godlike power, it shouldn’t be hard to get other nations lining up to get a piece of that action.

        • Joseph Greenwood says:

          If it did create a moral imperative to conquer the world, then (by definition) that would not be something to feel guilty about. You hear “conquering the world” and pattern-match to the atrocities of Fascism and Communism, or maybe old style Colonialism, but using literally Godlike power on behalf of your constituents seems like a deeply different question.

    • tayfie says:

      The most obviously useful would be invulnerability. While president, a person can not be harmed by man or nature and is never operating below peak physical condition no matter what duties they must fulfill.

      Imagine how much better a president could do if he never had to worry about being assassinated, if they were never affected by the stress or sleep deprivation of the job.

    • mdet says:

      The ability to visit with the spirits of the Founding Fathers and past presidents, Avatar-style, sounds pretty useful but not world-breaking. Although maybe it wouldn’t be a great idea to have, say, Nixon whispering in your ear all day…

    • Matt M says:

      Some sort of personal pleasure wireheading ability that might tempt them to spend their time maximizing their own pleasure and leaving the rest of us the hell alone.

    • Eric Rall says:

      Papal Infallibility: when the President makes a formal public statement related to the duties of his office (for example, outlining the benefits of a proposed policy in a State of the Union Address), the Holy Spirit protects him against the possibility of error.

      • Evan Þ says:

        I like that. Even if it was as restricted as Papal infallibility, it at least gives the President an option to be believed and implicitly calls into question what he says without invoking that.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      A president with wisdom sounds like a good idea.

      • fion says:

        That’s what I was going to say.

      • nimim.k.m. says:

        This has interesting implications, if we take the “triggered voluntarily” condition literally instead of assuming that they are magically granted wisdom after inauguration.

        How the election platforms and campaigns would look like if it’s known that the president can choose to access magical, objective wisdom and apply it into their decisions and policymaking?

        What is the extent of this wisdom? Will it be so far-ranging that no matter the candidate’s original platform, while in office they will tend to follow policies that are more similar to each other than what they promised and … oh, wait, that sounds eerily familiar. They are granted with the power to summon an aetheric manifestation of Sir Humphrey for consultation? Or rather, the magic is in that they can make him go away by untriggering the power?

    • phi says:

      Probably too overly powerful, but what about access to an oracle that correctly answers yes or no questions? It would primarily grant the ability to make better decisions, though it would also likely create rapid technological progress.

      • Nornagest says:

        One of the examples is “omnipotence”. I wouldn’t be too worried about overly powerful if I were you — or rather, I’d be worried about it for in-universe reasons, not for meta reasons.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      This is not very well thought out, but how about:

      May read the thoughts of any person who is either:

      a. The head of state of a foreign country
      b. Empowered by the head of state of a foreign country to conduct diplomacy, either formally or informally, on behalf of that country or that ruler

    • AG says:

      Before signing any piece of policy (legislative or executive), the president mentally experiences, in an instant, a month of living as the poorest person in the nation, 10 years from that day.
      (A month so that the president can test mobility potential.)

      Expand as necessary the situations in which the president has this experience, so they can’t squirrel out of it by only giving verbal orders to career officials or making unofficial announcements or something.

      • Randy M says:

        This optimizes for never signing anything, not completely eliminating poverty, because the former is possible, while the latter has very little to do with almost anything the president signs.

        • albatross11 says:

          He knows that at the end of his term in office, he will be randomly assigned to some person living in the US. He must make his presidential decisions from behind the veil of ignorance and then live with the consequences.

        • AG says:

          It incentivizes the president influencing legislative policy to not fuck them over during that month. It also incentivizes not signing frivolous policy.

          I’ll admit it doesn’t incentivize the incremental approach, but the way the government is built wouldn’t allow that anyways.

          The election process would prevent every president doing nothing. Such people would get voted out, maybe even impeached, until we get a president who does things again.

      • Matt M says:

        It seems non-obvious to me that Presidential decisionmaking should be maximized to serve the needs of the very poorest. Why should their needs take precedent over anyone else’s?

        • AG says:

          The president is not obligated to remain at the same condition for the entire month. If they can manage to clean themselves up and better their situation during that time, then that indicates that the nation isn’t in that bad of a place.
          Ergo, the policy priority should be on both maximizing lifting the floor and increasing mobility. How does this not benefit everyone else?

    • engleberg says:

      Okay, this isn’t magical, but I’d like to see ex-Presidents automatically serve in the House of Representatives. Way too many flustered clucks occur because Congress has the purse strings and no experience with executive responsibility.

      • BBA says:

        In France ex-presidents serve on the Constitutional Council, which is roughly equivalent to the interesting parts of the US Supreme Court’s role.

      • Deiseach says:

        I’d like to see ex-Presidents automatically serve in the House of Representatives

        I can’t speak about American presidents but putting that in an Irish context (ex-Taoisigh still serving in the Dáil or possibly, by this analogy, the Seanad) OH GOD NO.

        The level of self-importance, of “when I was conducting high-level negotiations with the EU/whatever” and the conflicting “well, when I was in power before/after you and had to clean up the mess you/your party left” fighting between them – no.

        Too much peacocking, not enough public service. They had their time in power, let it go.

        • engleberg says:

          Re: Constitutional Council- if it doesn’t control the purse strings, it’s not what I meant. Might still be a good idea.

          Re: Too much peacocking- sure you’d notice a difference? I don’t know much about Ireland’s legislature.

          Edit- If bragging oldies compete by giving practical advice, that’s a win. If they compete on raw self-importance, that’s a loss.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          I dunno how much peacocking there might be. (The US does have a historical precedent: John Quincy Adams.)

          Alternately, forcing them to serve in the House might have a similar effect to tarring and feathering, only milder and spread out over a longer time. Whether it deflates their egos would be beside the point, to me; the better effect is their deflation in the public eye. Americans seem to put too much importance on the President today, and it might be better to see them in a lower office, still in public view. (Having them work a general store in Podunk wouldn’t have the same effect.)

          • engleberg says:

            +1 Americans seem to put too much importance on the President.

            Re: historical precedent: John Quincy Adams-

            I’d say he was more useful in Congress than he was as President. If being called Congressman instead of Mr President hurts like tarring and feathering, maybe vanity of vanities all is vanity.

  14. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Does anyone here love the CW?


    And if not, do you have another favorite TV channel, or do you just stream?

  15. Controls Freak says:

    Due to things descending into culture war, I’m reconvening some responses from here WRT Carter Page’s FISA documents.

    @idontknow

    “all based on the dossier”

    Jury’s still out on this one. There are a lot of redactions.

    New Yorker/CNN

    This is similar. Like I said, we still don’t know on corroboration, because so much is redacted.

    The dossier itself played absolutely no role in the coordinated intelligence assessment that Russia interfered in our election.

    That’s clearly talking about a different thing, and it’s annoying when everyone seems to persist in intentionally talking past one another. The dossier could be completely irrelevant for the assessment that Russia interfered in the election while being relevant for the probable cause that Carter Page was operating as an agent of a foreign power.

    @Iain

    It is a “pretty good bet” that those bits don’t mention the DNC or Clinton by name because there is a longstanding policy of masking the names of US citizens in this sort of document. It’s the same reason that Trump is consistently referred to as “Candidate #1”. Contra Nunes, there’s nothing at all unusual about not naming Clinton specifically.

    Sigh. We’re definitely in the territory of “being misleading in order to claim that the other guy is being misleading”. I imagine Nunes is distinguishing between [not mentioning funding at all] and [naming Clinton specificially OR referring to funding by something like “Candidate #2”]. You’re trying to bundle them as [not mentioning funding at all OR referring to funding by something like “Candidate #2”] and [naming Clinton specifically].

    Furthermore, once the application established that Steele was hired to find evidence discrediting Trump’s campaign, I don’t see how it’s relevant to know who was paying him. Indeed, as the application notes, Steele didn’t know himself: he was hired through an intermediary.

    This is the “more vague/complicated discussion” I mentioned. The typical example I’ve been using to try to make the point for why someone might care about how this went down is Richard Nixon. Suppose that instead of simply instructing his henchmen to break into DNC headquarters, he trumped up some probable cause to get a warrant to search it. Are you still upset? Suppose he didn’t trump it up himself; he paid someone to trump it up for him. Are you still upset? Suppose he concealed his payment for the trumped up PC via an intermediary. Are you still upset? Do you think any of these situations are meaningfully different than if some political partisan just went off on their own to find damaging information? Obviously, a lot of the detailed facts here aren’t known completely, and various versions of hypothetical fact patterns engage varying vague judgments, but I think it beggars belief to act like we can’t imagine why someone might be concerned about this.

    I think your reading of the footnote is sensible, but I think you’re stretching to get to (d) or (e). While your prediction is possible, honestly, I have no bloody clue what they’re going for in this section. (Frankly, it could go the other direction. Wouldn’t a big bombshell be if that next bit was, “BUT WE CAUGHT PAGE TALKING TO TRUMP ON SUCH AND SUCH A DAY!” Since we’re stretching, it’s just as easy to stretch it in the direction of, “Yes, he denied it and appeared to move away, but he’s lying and here’s why.”) You’d think they’d be better with section titles. Maybe it will all make sense with the redactions removed. Maybe they just included weird and ultimately irrelevant context that is a vestige of where their knowledge was when they wrote it (Sagan knows I’ve seen some weird and irrelevant stuff in warrant applications).

    • Iain says:

      You’re trying to bundle them as [not mentioning funding at all OR referring to funding by something like “Candidate #2”] and [naming Clinton specifically].

      Here’s the relevant part of the Nunes memo:

      a) Neither the initial application in October 2016, nor any of the renewals, disclose or reference the role of the DNC, Clinton campaign, or any party/campaign in funding Steele’s efforts, even though the political origins of the Steele dossier were then known to senior and FBI officials.
      b) The initial FISA application notes Steele was working for a named U.S. person, but does not name Fusion GPS and principal Glenn Simpson, who was paid by a U.S. law firm (Perkins Coie) representing the DNC (even though it was known by DOJ at the time that political actors were involved with the Steele dossier). The application does not mention Steele was ultimately working on behalf of—and paid by—the DNC and Clinton campaign, or that the FBI had separately authorized payment to Steele for the same information.

      The first point is highly misleading, given that the FISA application says: “The FBI speculates that the identified U.S. person was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit Candidate #1’s campaign.” Why should we care that the application didn’t name a specific campaign? The judge knew that the dossier was commissioned for political purposes. Not only that, but the application goes on to explain why Steele should be seen as a reliable source notwithstanding the reason behind it. While that section and the following section are redacted, it’s a pretty clear sign that the FBI was not trying to hide anything from the judge here.

      The second point is even worse. It’s a naked attempt to make masking sound nefarious. I’m not straw-manning Nunes: he complained that the names of Glenn Simpson and Perkins Coie were not included in the application, and he worded his allegation to imply that this omission extended further than referring to them as “an identified US person” and “a US-based law firm”. That is clearly bad faith.

      Do you think any of these situations are meaningfully different than if some political partisan just went off on their own to find damaging information?

      Yes!

      Specifically: all of the sketchiness in your Nixon examples comes from the assumption that the warrant is trumped up. If you want to make a Nixon analogy: pretend that instead of Nixon having his henchmen break into DNC headquarters, the RNC hires a law firm to investigate the DNC. This law firm in turn hires a respected investigator who had previously provided valuable information to the FBI. The investigator investigates. He finds evidence that he thinks is concerning enough to bring to the attention of the FBI of his own volition. With this information in hand, the FBI waits until a specific DNC employee, who has previously come to their attention for sketchy activities, is no longer employed at the DNC. Once he’s left the DNC, the FBI submits a FISA application to wiretap that specific employee. In the application, across more than a page of footnotes, they explain the source of the information, the likely political motivations behind the investigation, and the reasons that the investigator should nevetheless be trusted. The judge, who was appointed by a Democrat and has no reason to rubber-stamp a politically motivated witch hunt, agrees that a wiretap is justified. So do three subsequent judges, when the application comes up for renewal (each time with a longer justification).

      Watergate it isn’t.

      I can imagine being legitimately concerned by a different set of facts, but I don’t think these facts should inspire such concern. It seems to me that the people who are blowing their lids about this are either fooling themselves, or trying to fool others.

      I think your reading of the footnote is sensible, but I think you’re stretching to get to (d) or (e).

      Wait, what? I already admitted that (e) was not explicit in the unredacted text, but (d) — “Clearly, Page is no longer an active participant in the Trump campaign” — is very explicit throughout this section. It makes up most of pages 24-26.

      Also, your alternative explanation is anti-exculpatory: that is, it makes Page look even guiltier than my theory, and ropes the Trump campaign in to boot. If Carter Page and the Trump campaign made a huge show of distancing themselves but then continued holding clandestine meetings, that would make the application stronger, not weaker: “we have reason to believe that Carter Page is conspiring with Russia, and the Trump campaign is lying to cover this up”. (To be clear, I don’t think your alternative is particularly likely.)
      ________________________________________________

      You are trying really hard to push a “both sides are equally bad” narrative. I don’t buy it. Nunes is obviously acting in bad faith — if nothing else, in his complaints about not unmasking Glenn Simpson and Perkins Coie. Where are the equally cynical bad-faith statements from his Democratic counterparts?

      • Controls Freak says:

        The first point is highly misleading, given that the FISA application says: “The FBI speculates that the identified U.S. person was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit Candidate #1’s campaign.” Why should we care that the application didn’t name a specific campaign?

        You shifted from a judgment that it’s factually misleading to a claim about why we should care. These are obviously different things, and the fact that you don’t care doesn’t somehow magically make his statement misleading.

        The judge knew that the dossier was commissioned for political purposes. Not only that, but the application goes on to explain why Steele should be seen as a reliable source notwithstanding the reason behind it. While that section and the following section are redacted, it’s a pretty clear sign that the FBI was not trying to hide anything from the judge here.

        Notwithstanding the later discussion about various related hypos, Nunes is complaining that they’re specifically hiding one thing from the application – funding stemming from an opposing candidate/party. I’m really not sure how you’re still missing this. We can agree they mentioned it was done for political purposes; we can agree that they assessed him as reliable anyway; we should be able to agree that those things are not the same as noting that funding stemmed from an opposing candidate/party.

        The second point is even worse. It’s a naked attempt to make masking sound nefarious.

        Boooooooring. Like I said originally, basically everyone is doing standard partisan stuff here – nakedly attempting to make other people sound nefarious. It’s not bad faith – it’s exactly what you’re doing right now, for example.

        all of the sketchiness in your Nixon examples comes from the assumption that the warrant is trumped up

        That’s what people think the Steele dossier is. And as John notes, this doesn’t require a grand conspiracy. All it requires is that a campaign/party fund and set loose an private investigator who is willing to trump up evidence and public investigators who merely judge it as credible instead of verifying it independently. I want to emphasize again that, due to the level of redaction, we don’t really have a conclusive look at this, so what I’m asking you to do is something akin to qualified immunity analysis – assume the uncertain facts look as bad as possible and acknowledge that there’s a chance that it would be ‘actually bad’. We likely agree that this probably isn’t that bad (as I noted in my original write-up), but you are resistant to even trying to understand the other side.

        “Clearly, Page is no longer an active participant in the Trump campaign” — is very explicit throughout this section. It makes up most of pages 24-26.

        I mean, much of page 24, a small part of 25, and maaaybe a single sentence on page 26. There’s a lot of other stuff in here, too. It’s really not clear that this is meant to be the main thrust of the whole section, which is really required for us to get anywhere in the realm of (e). I’m not saying that (d) isn’t in there at all; I’m saying that driving the main point through (d) on the way to (e) is when things start to get really shaky.

        Also, your alternative explanation is anti-exculpatory

        Obviously. Dude, if you can’t tell, I’m not here just to defend your political enemies. However, you might note that I actually gave two alternative explanations. You completely ignored the other one, because it didn’t allow you to yell, “AND SO MY POLITICAL ENEMIES ARE EVIL!!!” I’m arguing in favor of caution under uncertainty; you seem to have agreed to uncertainty; I’m not sure why you’re so against caution.

        Where are the equally cynical bad-faith statements from his Democratic counterparts?

        Given the bar you’ve created for “bad faith”, the Demo is chock full of them. Given what I think the bar should be for “bad faith”, there aren’t many on either side. Just constant attempts to spin it as pro-their-side and anti-their-enemies as possible.

        Your specific example of what you think is bad faith from Nunes is a true statement. We both think that the way FBI did it has decent reasoning behind it (from a high level concerning general protections of USP in FISA). Nevertheless, it’s utterly absurd to imagine that there are no tradeoffs, and part of the job of the intelligence committees is exploring those tradeoffs. We’ve seen this with both masking and unmasking, and it’s just not patently absurd to be concerned about how political interests can interact with these policies. It would be akin to looking at the Demo, seeing that they defended Strzok/Page on the issue of “orchestrating leaks to the media”, and responding, “They’re obviously operating in bad faith, because we have good reasons why we don’t want the FBI to be leaky.”

  16. Something interesting is happening on the German Left. Leaders from Die Linke (“The Left,” basically the successor to the communist SED party of East Germany) have called for the formation of a new “collective movement” (“Sammelbewegung”) that they have tentatively called “Fairland.” The name is subject to change, and as of yet it is not being pitched as a bona-fide political party that will separately run for office. So far, it sounds like it is intended to be a pressure group or faction within Die Linke to get DL to reconsider its commitment to open borders in favor of some sort of regulated borders.

    I saw this coming a while back after reading this excellent article from Unz.com: “Immigration Divides Europe and the German Left.

    While many on the Left have already started calling Sahra Wagenknecht and the others in this faction “Nazis,” I would not dismiss their ideas so easily. I myself am reserving judgment until I see more of what this “Fairland” initiative has in mind. Here are the things I particularly like so far:

    “the materialist left, not the moral left…Brecht summarised it wonderfully. Grub comes first, then ethics.”

    Precisely. Proletarian internationalism is not some abstract principle of virtue-signaling. It is a strategy borne out of practical incentives. It is based on a recognition that a German worker and a Syrian worker are potentially like two dogs who can either fight each other over a tiny scrap of meat tossed down to them by investors, or tactically unite against investors to get the whole buffet. Working together with a Syrian worker for these practical, instrumental goals does not require that you intrinsically like him/her, does not require that you become more “culturally sensitive” to the Syrian worker except insofar as that is strictly necessary in order to be able to work with him/her, does not require that you “get in touch with your inner Syrian” and try Syrian cuisine, etc. You might even be quite appalled by Syrian refugees, and yet see a benefit in working together with them.

    This only goes so far as that cooperation and aid remains useful for both sides. It is to be expected that German workers (on average wealthier more educated) will currently have more to offer their Syrian comrades than vice-versa. That’s understandable. Someday the Syrian workers may be in a position to return the favor (say, if Germany finds itself in a communist revolution and needs the military and logistical help of Syrian workers).

    But any relationship of comradeship must eventually be a two-way street to a certain extent. If Syrian refugees are currently in a desperate situation and have little to offer German workers except for competing for lower wages, then at the very least it is not too much for German workers to expect that Syrian workers will not go out of their way to make their presence antagonistic. And it might even behoove the Syrian workers to think about how they can work together with German workers to get the whole buffet. When one dog patiently plots to kill the master while the other is wolfing down the entire scrap that has been tossed on the ground, the interaction does not breed (no pun intended) a feeling of comradeship.

    It’s like, if a worker in my labor union gets fired and can’t afford rent, it makes sense to offer him/her a guest bedroom in my house. Someday I may need him/her to return the favor. And eating some of my food in the fridge is to be expected…whereas shitting on the floor or stabbing my cat is not OK.

    It’s like, if a German worker circa-1914 is invading my French province, sure, I’ll keep putting out feelers for a Christmas truce, for a peace, for turning the imperialist war into a Europe-wide class civil war…but I’d also be a dummy to just sit on my gun when I see some of those German workers coming over the top at me.

    (Lenin rightly sneered at some of the anti-war virtue-signalling proclamations made by some of the socialist parties just before WWI. It’s not that Lenin was pro-war. He was the most anti-war of them all. But he rightly understood the practical, material reality that by the time the enemy military is bearing down on you, all of the farsighted, high-minded principles are going to go out the window, so there must be concrete commitments in place to keep things from even getting to that point if fratricidal war between Europe’s workers was to be avoided).

    To what extent are some Syrian refugees being obnoxious guests? To what extent are they impossible to treat as comrades? I don’t know what to believe. Did hundreds of Syrian refugees really commit mass sexual assaults in Cologne in public in broad daylight? It sounds a little bit too much like “Jewish cabals eating Christian babies” or “Cocaine-addled Negroes raping lily-white daughters.” But in this case I’ve heard evidence from too many sources that I trust to just dismiss it. I will remain skeptical by default to these sorts of claims, but I think the Left is going to look foolish if their knee-jerk reaction is always to dismiss these sorts of claims.

    In any case, to the extent that this sort of thing is happening, the real problem with these Syrian refugees is not that they are Syrian. That’s the right-wing way of thinking. The problem is that they are behaving like lumpenproletarians rather than proletarians.

    The Left needs to be intolerant of lumpenproletarian behavior and lifestyles. We are talking about petty (apolitical) criminality and social parasitism. Marx was correct in identifying that these “lumpenproletarians,” though miserable and oppressed by exclusion from the means to life just like proletarians, are politically unreliable allies, prone to reactionary and demagogic politics (which might include both AfD AND radical Islam).

    Marx did not care about oppression in the abstract. Peasants were oppressed too, and yet Marx correctly identified that their class interests were distinct from those of proletarians. Peasants stand to benefit from overthrowing the landlord and comprador bourgeoisie and becoming petty-capitalists. Lumpenproles stand to benefit from more generous welfare and lucrative criminal opportunities like Prohibition and the War on Drugs. Proletarians stand to benefit from socializing control over the means of production and abolishing class distinctions. While tactical alliances are possible with the peasantry, and heck, even progressive capitalists in certain contexts (as Mao and various “United Fronts” have demonstrated), I have yet to see the lumpenproletariat make any meaningful contribution to progressive world-historical change.

    The Left should make a reasonable effort to ensure that nobody feels a strong incentive to be a lumpenproletarian. Basically, end the War on Drugs and offer a job in the army doing public works or other civic-improvement activities for anyone who wants to sign up. But once again, it is a two-way street. After being offered such incentives, if comrades refuse to be proletarians and insist on acting like lumpenproletarians (raping women, or stealing cars from proletarian comrades, or setting fire to cars or other social wealth with no deliberate revolutionary purpose behind it), they get speedy deportation (if they are a refugee) or a stint in the gulag (if they are a citizen), no exceptions…whether they are German or Syrian, Christian or Muslim.

    The Left must be very careful to walk a fine line here. And I’m really not just talking about Germany here, but America too. If the Left keeps its head stuck in the clouds of virtue-signalling, it is going to look very foolish and lose all credibility. If it allows itself to get hijacked and co-opted by the Right into pitting groups of workers against each other, then that’s no good either.

    Edit: Another way of thinking about it is, the Left needs to carefully distinguish between “National Socialism” (a la Hitler) and “Socialism in One Country” (a la Stalin). National Socialism ahistorically vilifies and generalizes about other nationalities, whereas Socialism in One Country recognizes that other countries might not yet be on the same page, but they are in principle on the same team as soon as they come around to the idea of socialism. In other words, Socialism in One Country is socialism that aspires to include all nationalities, but due to practical realities temporarily prioritizes socialism in one country. That may be the situation Germany finds itself in, where it wants to, for example, have higher wages than the rest of the world, but where the rest of the world isn’t on the same page yet.

    Now, I have my gripes with Socialism in One Country, such as how Stalin leaned on the Spanish communists to clamp down on the Spanish Revolution in 1936 (and clamp down on the anarchists especially) so as to not antagonize France and Britain, whom Stalin was courting for a collective security agreement at the time. But I understand the idea behind Socialism in One Country as a practical starting point if the rest of the world simply refuses to join you. And I think it can work, provided that the country or political unit in question is geographically large enough to have access to all needed raw materials internally. If this is not the case, then the country will be too dependent on the world market, and through this need to conduct trade on the world market (and thus conduct production on a basis that is profitable in value terms, rather than beneficial in use-value terms), the country’s economy will be steered by the Law of Value regardless of what the planners and/or society wants to do, and there will be strong pressures to reintroduce capitalism and erode reforms.

    The USSR was a large enough unit to make Socialism in One Country work until worldwide revolution occurred. China is similarly viable, as would be the U.S., and probably the EU too, although probably Germany alone is not a viable candidate for “Socialism in One Country.” Die Linke should ponder this.

    Even so, I tentatively like how Wagenknecht and these “Fairland” factionalists from Die Linke are trying to re-think the Left’s approach to this issue.

    Edit: Here is a good demonstration from Key and Peele of the difference between proletarian and lumpenproletarian perspectives.

    • Matt M says:

      the real problem with these Syrian refugees is not that they are Syrian. That’s the right-wing way of thinking. The problem is that they are behaving like lumpenproletarians rather than proletarians.

      and what if these things happen to be highly correlated?

      • I’ll grant that it is not always obvious if someone is proletarian or lumpenproletarian when they are showing up at a border crossing. Certain documents might help establish their level of education and/or profession and/or criminal record, which would be strong identifiers of their class. If they don’t have documents, then you also won’t know whether they are necessarily Syrian, Libyan, Pakistani, Muslim, Christian, etc. You could say, “Olive-skinned people who are not already legal citizens of Germany are likely to be lumpenproletarians.”

        Pro: A fast algorithm that could potentially process a lot of people in a short period of time.
        Con: Likely to mistake a lot of Middle-Eastern proletarians for lumpenproletarians. (Or are you denying that most Middle-Easterners are law-abiding, socially-productive proletarians, and that it is a minority who are law-breaking, socially-parasitic lumpenproletarians?)

        I don’t see why we necessarily need to re-invent the wheel here. The Soviet Union received approximately 3,000 refugees from the Spanish Civil War after the fascists won. East Germany received refugees from Chile after the 1973 fascist coup. Former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet lived in East Germany for several years. Why can’t modern Germany simply re-implement the strict standards that these countries had?

        Socialist countries like the Soviet Union and the DDR tended to have strict immigration policies to ensure that they received only friendly, class-conscious proletarians and not spies, saboteurs, lumpenproletarian troublemakers, reactionaries (Islamic fundamentalists would certainly have not been allowed in!) It is the same with China, Cuba, North Korea, and Vietnam today (although China is probably the most relaxed of them…but even with them I doubt they are too eager to allow in Turkmen nationalists, or undocumented Turkmen of unknown history and origin! By default, I am sure any undocumented Central Asian migrants are politely shown the door.) People who are old enough to remember the DDR like Sahra Wagenknecht know all about this. To people of her generation, the idea that socialism and open borders go hand-in-hand must seem like the pinnacle of lunacy!

        Edit: Here’s what I would do if I were German immigration Czar. I would demand that refugees prove their political reliability before being granted asylum, which concretely means that they must have documents proving a period of past membership in a political party/organization with broadly progressive and secular principles. These might include:
        *The Syrian/Iraqi Arab-Socialist Ba’ath Party
        *The Syrian Social-Nationalist Party
        *The Syrian National Defense Forces
        *The Syrian/Iraqi Communist Party
        *The PYD/SDF/YPG/YPJ
        *Any Syrian/Iraqi secular liberal parties of which I am not aware***

        Although with the first three of these, with the state of the civil war as it is now, I’d tell the asylum seeker, “Good news comrade! I don’t know if you have heard, but your side is about to win the civil war, so I don’t think you need asylum here anymore.” and offer the asylum seeker a plane ticket back home. I’d offer a temporary tourist visa if they still want to stay for a bit, but nothing more.

        ***Note: Membership in “The FSA” doesn’t count because the FSA has meant anything from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham to Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of Al-Qaeda. And I’d be very suspicious of any self-described “liberal” who thought it was a good idea to form a coalition with such merry bands of headchoppers.

        Edit: My wife is funny. She sees me on the computer and says, “Are you still going on about that Wagonbucket woman you were talking about earlier?”

        • Wrong Species says:

          A strict immigration policy is already conceding most of the issue to the right.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            I mean, this party has already, seemingly conceded to the “right” that there is an inherent flaw in the psychology of Syrians generally, so its not any larger of a concession. They appear to be the same people, just they want, for social reasons, to identify as left not right.

        • Matt M says:

          Why can’t modern Germany simply re-implement the strict standards that these countries had?

          Because due to the fact that undesireable traits do, in fact, tend to correlate with race/nationality, such policies would immediately be denounced as racist.

        • pointenlos says:

          Here’s what I would do if I were German immigration Czar. I would demand that refugees prove their political reliability before being granted asylum, which concretely means that they must have documents …

          Refugees often travelled with what they could carry on foot and on a boat, which was the bare minimum. Documents apart from the most important are often missing.

          Getting duplicates after the fact is rather hard. You may remember that there was a rather violent civil war which not only has a negative effect on people and buildings but also on institutions. And of course a lot of people were fleeing Assad and his state which makes it somewhat difficult to get help from this state.

          Btw: If you weren’t a member of a party like the majority of the world’s population because you weren’t very political or a teenager at the start of the war you’re out of luck in your proposal?

          • There are probably civil society affiliations that would also suffice for testifying to one’s political reliability. I’m not familiar enough with Syrian civil society organizations to give examples of what those would be.

            But yeah, if you’re an anonymous individual showing up on the doorstep of a foreign country with no documents…you could be an escaped convict, you could be an Islamic fundamentalist…who knows? Am I supposed to take your word on everything? Ask yourself: would the Soviet Union have let you in? Would East Germany have let you in? Would China let you in today? Hell no. And this is not a failure of proletarian internationalism; it’s just unfortunately necessary prudence.

            I’m sure there were apolitical people who didn’t care to live under Franco after the Spanish Civil War, but who couldn’t prove their reliability to the Soviet Union (the USSR only admitted some 3,000 refugees, and these were practically all longtime bona-fide Spanish communists). Was the Soviet Union supposed to just let those people in anyways, and not worry about whether they might be undercover fascists out to assassinate some prominent Spanish communists like Republican President Jose Diaz?

            So, what are these apolitical people supposed to do? If they are truly apolitical, there is no reason why they should not be able to get along in life under the Assad government. If your home is in an active warzone, find somewhere else to stay for the meantime. If you want help from other countries for rebuilding, it is going to come with strings attached regardless—either in the form of Russian and Chinese loans, or international aid from communists if you yourself are trying to build socialism (if you are not trying to build socialism, then why would communists help you? They are not bleeding-heart liberals.) Who knows, maybe you can persuade some Silicon Valley billionaire to purchase global virtue-signalling points by making a billion-dollar donation to the reconstruction of Syria.

            Notice that democratic confederalist Kurds (YPG, etc.) are, by and large, not fleeing their country despite difficult conditions and menacing threats. They are fighting for their country—men, women, teenagers. And it is inspiring. International battalions of volunteers are happy to help them fight, rebuild, etc. Because there’s something in it for us communists there. But what’s in it for us to help some anonymous stranger of uncertain provenance and intent showing up at our doorstep? “Human decency,” bah! Once again, we see the difference between the moralizing left and the materialist left.

          • 10240 says:

            Syria is a totalitarian dictatorship. There is no civil society. Every legal political party (pre-war, or in the area controlled by the government) is likely to be a satellite party of the Baath party. Plenty of people are members of the Baath party for practical reasons rather than political views, just like with communist parties in communist countries. There is no way to gauge the views of someone in a country where expressing dissent gets you tortured.

          • Creutzer says:

            Dictatorship, certainly – but is/was Syria really totalitarian?

          • 10240 says:

            Yes. Back in 2011 I read that in Egypt under Mubarak, elections were rigged, but one wouldn’t have been afraid to bash the government even on the street; but in Syria you would have to be extremely careful about dissenting. My impression is that Syria, Iraq under Hussein, Libya under Gaddafi were very hard dictatorships, while other Arab countries are more open (not sure about Saudi).

        • Yakimi says:

          My problem with socialists has long been that they seem utterly incurious as to what a comparative analysis of the actually existing socialist states and advanced capitalist states actually reveals about their respective aims (instead preferring to equivocate socialism with left-liberal desiderata), so it’s honestly refreshing to read your candid admission that the contemporary left-wing obsession with maximizing migration flows is completely ahistorical rather than pretending, as socialists so often do, that it is global capitalism which is uniquely hostile to immigration. (Similarly interesting things could be said about the capitalist and socialist approaches to, say, gay rights, drug prohibition, capital punishment, natalism, military conscription, national duties, etc.)

          You mention East Germany, which is a fascinating example. It’s a little known fact that the socialist leaders of East Germany apparently saw no contradiction in retaining Nazi legislation as the basis for East German migration control.

          The retention of the APVO [Ausländerpolizeiverordnung] on the East German statute books was not simply a formality but served as the basis for everyday dealings between the police and foreigners in the new state. Unlike other policy areas such as administration, political organisation, education and industrial planning, the operations of the HAPM did not require Sovietisation – existing traditions were suited to the needs of the new socialist state. Indeed, the retention of NS [National Socialist] police policy towards foreigners (albeit in a modified version) is an example of legislative and procedural continuity in a police force that in personal and organisational terms represented an almost unique break with the Nazi past.

          (The GDR also sought to ensure that immigration was as transient as possible and was obsessed with preventing binational marriages, restrictions that are all the more remarkable in light of East Germany’s desperate manpower shortage.)

          Call me a dreamer, but I honestly believe that conservatives and socialists would find many useful points of agreement in their mutual traditions if only they would put down their spears and talk. In this respect the Germanies also have much to teach us.

          In the process of forging ‘Vodka-Cola’ relationships, both sides often found they shared a surprising degree of common ideological ground. For example, the Deutschnational Strauss and his wife greatly admired the GDR regime’s Prussian authoritarianism, and especially its reactionary family policy. The GDR effectively repressed three evils which Strauss most abhorred: ‘hashish, pornography, and […] long hair’. Strauss, a notorious anti-Communist (and friend of Pinochet and Apartheid), began to earn the admiration of Honecker and Mittag, and discovered his Weltanschauung to be far closer to theirs than to East Germany’s ‘long haired’ oppositionists. He even went so far as to telephone Honecker to voice his contempt for the ‘crazy’ Krawczyk and his fellow oppositional ‘dreamers’. East German journalists who continued the age-old tradition of attacking Strauss as the epitome of revanchist imperialism, and even those who simply called him an anti-Communist, were called to order.

          In his attitude to oppositionists, Strauss was but an extreme example of a major, and cross-party, section of the FRG ruling class, which saw them as either irrelevant or annoying. For example, Joseph März expressed unconditional sympathy with the GDR authorities for refusing entry visas to ‘Greens and other politicians from the left scene’, and hoped that GDR dissidents would not emigrate, for ‘[w]e already have enough of those Bahros, Biermanns, Krawczyks and Kliers in West Germany’. An FDP leader, Lambsdorff, encouraged East German Church leaders to give oppositionists ‘a good scolding’. Along similar lines, a leading CDU politician, Lothar Späth, told Schalck of his disdain for East German radical ‘clerics [who] pursue the interests of oppositional forces which otherwise have little to do with the church.’ SPD leaders expressed similar thoughts to their East German counterparts.

          Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that Germans like Wagenknecht and Streeck are once again at the forefront of developing a socialism worthy even of right-wing admiration.

          • People often forget that originally it was the Nazis who imitated the KPD’s aesthetics and not the other way around. I can definitely understand how someone like Strauss would have a soft spot for German communist aesthetics. Those aesthetics, in my opinion, have a dignified and ennobling quality to them that one doesn’t see very often anymore.

          • dndnrsn says:

            That video seems to show a great deal of post-1945 imagery; presumably both the Nazis, the KPD prior to the Nazi takeover, and East Germany were all playing to preexisting German military aesthetics, at least in their uniforms etc?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I honestly believe that conservatives and socialists would find many useful points of agreement in their mutual traditions

            One of the easy places to cross from one party to the other is the extreme end. Horseshoe theory is basically valid.

            It’s perhaps telling that you are conflating all conservatives with the tail end. The conservative movements in many countries, having separated from the center are rapidly pulling themselves farther and farther to the end, like an amoeba which has undergone binary fissure.

        • David Speyer says:

          Good news if you live in the US! The US government already spends 18-24 months investigating everyone we grant refugee status to, and refuses to admit anyone with a history of criminal behavior or suspect political groups. Glad to hear you value our process, and I hope you will support raising the refugee cap back to 100K or higher.

          • This is indeed good news, although I would like to clarify something. When you say the U.S. “refuses to admit anyone with a history of criminal behavior or suspect political groups,” walk me through what that process looks like. Does this refer to the eventual decision of whether to grant long-term asylum, or does it mean that the U.S. does not let refugees physically set foot inside the U.S. until they have been put through this investigation process?

            In other words, imagine a refugee shows up at the border. As per your comment, it can take 18-24 months to investigate that refugee. And presumably, if the person is found to be suspicious at the end of that timeframe, the person is deported. But what happens to the refugee in the meantime? Are they released into the U.S. with few strings attached? If so, then is this person flagged for deportation if he/she should ever happen to come to the attention of law enforcement, or is there a concerted effort to track this person down in order to deport him/her? In any case, how is this person to be identified at this point?

            I doubt the Soviet Union would have allowed that. I doubt China would allow that today. I don’t know the details, but I suspect that in these socialist countries, suspicious refugees would be spending time in some sort of detention center for however long it took to investigate them.

    • pointenlos says:

      Some notes from a somewhat leftish german, although I never voted for die Linke not have I ever been a member.

      • I wouldn’t call die Linke just the successor party to the SED. Yes, of course via the PDS that’s correct but that ignores the west german WASG and more importantly: next year the wall has been fallen for over thirty years. In those three decades a lot of people came of age with different leftish positions than just nostalgia. They form the party in many different ways since then.

      • From what we know the about the proposal Fairland:
      a) It is not a faction inside Die Linke, although it comes from a faction, the Lafontaine/Wagenknecht wing.
      b) It is not focussed singularly focussed on refugees, that is just a one point among many other social issues. Anglophone media has since 2015 the habit to see every action and motivation in german politics based on the refugee crisis of 2015. That is a factor, of course, but not the only factor. There are many others.
      c) By its own words the #fairland proposal wants to build a coalition of the german left parties. The reason Merkel is chancellor since 2005 is just not her non-politics politics but also the fragmentation of the german left into three parties, which weakens each of them. So far there doesn’t seem much enthusiasm for #fairland, either in the SPD, the Greens and parts of die Linke. A major reason for that lies with the author, I think: Lafontaine.

      • Speaking of factions: like most parties Die Linke is split into wings which hate each other more than the outgroup. There a more than two wings and also the divisions between east and west and older and younger generations. But in short there is a small cold war between two movements inside die Linke, symbolized by Wagenknecht on the one hand and Kipping on the other. But: the cold war predates the refugee topic by years. In my opinion the refugees became a new front in this war not because of the refugees but because it’s a war. It could have been anything else. (See also the german government “crisis” last month. In words it was about asylum seekers, its motivation on the other hand was posturing for the forthcoming election in Bavaria. It could have been any topic.)

      What makes the #fairland thing somewhat spicy are what differentiates the two wings: The Kipping wing is ideological but is open for coalitions. That would mean weakening the ideology but participating in power. The Lafontaine/Wagenknecht wing is populist but shies away from coalitions. Derogatory: All talk, no responsibility. In this dichotomy the proposal is a small grenade, disturbing the balance. Maybe it’s just another weapon in the cold war. Maybe it’s Lafontaine wanting a legacy after 1999. Maybe it’s just trumpian blustering.

      • From those I met and from what I know lumpenproletariat is the wrong classification for the syrian refugees. Keep in mind that before the civil war Syria had a middle class; it was not the middle ages. The majority of refugees is not lumpenproletarian; keep in mind that the act of seeking refuge needs monetary means and some language skill.
      Btw: the vast majority of convicted criminals in the cologne train station incident were Maghrebi – from Marocco, Algeria and Tunesia – and a majority of them were illegal in Germany. They have somewhat different incentives compared to legetimate asylum seekers and refugees, both with a legal status.

      • I know there is a targeted effort on the net to redefine of Nationalsozialismus as a left ideology, ignoring the actual actions of Nazis. I really hope you mean something different.

      • For international workers solidarity: in a way the european refugee crisis is a crisis of the mediterranean european countries, Greece and Italy and to an extend Spain. Geography is a curse. If nothing has changed all refugees would have arrived and stayed there, putting an undue strain on the border countries. That is the tragedy: the refugee crisis would need intra-european solidarity between the EU countries, lessening the burden for the border countries. Which would need solidarity from northern and eastern european countries. But a comprehensive solution for the mess of the Dublin agreements is not in sight.

      • Thank you, this was very enlightening, especially about the details of the Cologne incident. And my knowledge of internal leftist politics in Germany is obviously incomplete. I may be wishfully reading more into these tea-leaves than is warranted. I’m obviously eager to witness any foreshadowing of a move in the American Left away from “the moralizing left” back towards a more orthodox-Marxist “materialist” left.

        • albatross11 says:

          It always blows my mind how much of the American left seems to be 100% on board with employers firing their employees for having the wrong political views, and with big companies throwing their economic weight around to force states and cities to reverse policies that the companies’ managements dislike.

          • Matt M says:

            Why shouldn’t they be? Their ideology dominates corporate boards. There is little to no risk of this tactic being used against them in kind.

          • CatCube says:

            @Matt M

            Right now. 50 years ago it was otherwise, and in 50 years it might be the right with the whip hand.

          • Deiseach says:

            There is little to no risk of this tactic being used against them in kind.

            Until the formerly considered solidly progressive comrades become, due to the drift of more and more radical social prescriptivism, first of all on the edge of what is acceptable and then on the same side as those filthy conservative repressive bigots.

            See Andrew Sullivan and his run-in with trans rights. Or the whole beginning disapproval of “gay white cis men” as not being truly representative of the glorious rainbow.

            Once they’ve run off or cowed the opposition, they will look around for further evils to be purged, and that only leaves their own side.

          • Matt M says:

            Right now. 50 years ago it was otherwise

            Maybe if the right would have done this sort of thing 50 years ago, they wouldn’t have ceded all of their cultural power to the progressives in the first place?

            The progressives are doing this because they think it will help them retain power. Now, you can say “but maybe it won’t work!” and you may be right. But that’s almost a non-sequitur. They believe it will work. They believe that these tactics make their own domination more likely to continue. And if they’re right, your dire warnings about the tables being turned won’t matter.

          • CatCube says:

            @Matt M

            50 years ago the right did do these things. It used to be relatively uncontroversial to fire a teacher for being gay, for example, because you didn’t want such people to influence the children and make people think that was all right. Up until the ’80s, Christian organizations had a huge influence about what was acceptable to put on TV, especially in kids shows. Anticommunism was such a strong force that they blacklisted people in Hollywood to make a stand against it. The Hays Code was a thing that existed.

            Larger cultural forces eventually overwhelmed this. If there’s a swing to the right, I doubt that the hairdye NKVD will be able to do anything about it. I also don’t see that a swing is out of the question. There were plenty of places in US history where the right was ascendant, and where the left was ascendant. That all of a sudden the left is able to permanently lock in their gains isn’t supported by the available evidence to me. There was an insurgency from the left in Hollywood against the right-leaning industry leaders. Now that the boring old guys running the show are left-wingers, the logical place for the insurgency is from the right.

            If we can hasten that turnaround by acknowledging that we won’t then run around like the Great Terror collecting scalps in vengeance, that’s the best way to proceed.

          • albatross11 says:

            Matt M’s position is apparently held by many people on the left who imagine that this is true, but I think they’re fundamentally wrong, on two fronts:

            a. Corporate boards and such express the currently-in-vogue ideology the way the early Christian church got lots of new members once it became the state religion. Most of those folks aren’t acting on their deep beliefs, but on their expectation about which expressed beliefs will maximize their chances of keeping power. This could change on a dime.

            b. Outside identity politics wokeness, a lot of stuff the left broadly likes is extremely unpopular with the corporate board set. Establishing the norm that companies can and should throw their economic weight around on local laws, especially those unrelated to their actual operations in-state, is not going to work out well for left positions on, say, worker protections, unionization, environmental regulation, etc.

          • Matt M says:

            Most of those folks aren’t acting on their deep beliefs, but on their expectation about which expressed beliefs will maximize their chances of keeping power. This could change on a dime.

            It could, sure, but that doesn’t mean it’s likely. It also could not. Why would anyone assume that the cultural zeitgeist will move back right? Even in an environment where the right holds more political power than it has in a very long time, it still has essentially no cultural power. Republicans (and not just your standard RINOs, but Trump and Trump-sympathetic rightists) hold the presidency, both houses of Congress, the supreme court, a huge majority of state governments, etc.

            And even in that environment, the overall elite culture: media, academia, science, and yes, high levels of business – are all still culturally left. If cultural leftism has survived all of this, what makes you think it’s on the verge of dying anytime soon?

            Establishing the norm that companies can and should throw their economic weight around on local laws, especially those unrelated to their actual operations in-state, is not going to work out well for left positions on, say, worker protections, unionization, environmental regulation, etc.

            Which is why that’s not precisely the norm that’s being established. The norm is that corporations are fine to use their clout and power to oppose right-wing social causes, but not for anything else. Corporations that attempt to lobby for economic gain are still vilified. Look at the outrage Elon Musk faced when some investigative reporter “uncovered” that he committing the shocking sin of donating some irrelevantly small pittance to some GOP PAC.

            The norm being established is not “corporations can and should lobby for whatever they want,” but rather “corporations can and should lobby for leftist social causes and nothing else.”

          • Jaskologist says:

            If cultural leftism has survived all of this, what makes you think it’s on the verge of dying anytime soon?

            Let’s have some perspective here. “All of this” == “both years of this.”

          • Deiseach says:

            If there’s a swing to the right, I doubt that the hairdye NKVD will be able to do anything about it.

            I tend to agree with that, which is why I think they should be much more circumspect about how they use what power they have while they have it. Calling for the enemies of the people to be beheaded often ended up with yourselves in the tumbrils the next day. I have an absolute Robespierre stan* on my Tumblr feed who exculpates darling Max every chance she gets, but the fact remains: for a while, he was probably the most powerful man in France but he too ended up in the embrace of Madame Guillotine. Yet he and his fellow revolutionaries started off with all these marvellous ideas of overthrowing the corrupt old regime and establishing a wonderful new fairyland of equality and liberty. Turned out to be an ocean of blood, but that’s not what they started out expecting.

            People should learn from history.

            *Yes, I am tickled that two hundred and twenty-four years later someone is still MAX NEVER DID NOTHING WRONG EVER HE WAS FRAMED SWEET ANGEL BABY LAMB

        • Mark Atwood says:

          the Cologne incident

          “incident”

        • Aapje says:

          @citizencokane

          Thank you, this was very enlightening, especially about the details of the Cologne incident.

          I would argue that there is a general tendency to undervalue nationalist cultural differences and that the mistake you made in lumping in N-Africans with Syrians is emblematic of that.

          I’ve been paying attention to the nationality in reports of misbehaving asylum-seekers and N-Africans seem to be extremely over-represented relative to how often they they ask for asylum. In fact, there are reports of roaming groups of N-Africans, who move from country to country, getting shelter and food as part of the asylum procedure and then committing many crimes during the procedure. Then they run away before they are locked up and expelled, to do the same in another country.

          In contrast, asylum-seekers from many other countries, including Syria, seem relatively well-behaved. In so far that they commit crimes during the asylum-procedure, this is overwhelmingly against other asylum-seekers (which does not make it right, but which does mean that it doesn’t bother citizens). Dutch citizens living near centers for asylum-seekers seem to generally not have any major complaints, except for when there is a large influx of problematic groups (like the aforementioned roaming groups).

          The reports I’ve read show that the people who have been granted asylum and moved to proper housing are far less criminal than asylum-seekers in asylum centers. They pretty much commit crime as much as native Dutch people with similar incomes (which is still higher than average, as their income is low and low income Dutch natives are considerable more criminal than average).

          However, Muslim migrants in particular are relatively susceptible to commit terrorism, which are very infrequent events relative to how often other crimes are committed, making them nearly invisible in crime statistics, even though their impact is obviously very large. A complicating factor is that this susceptibility seems to exist for a long time, with second and third generation migrants still being susceptible to terrorist propaganda. So if you admit Muslim migrants today, you may face a risk of terrorism for decades.

          The anti-immigration right has a tendency to blame Muslim culture for misbehavior by asylum seekers and other migrants from third world countries, which seems to only be partially correct (mainly for Muslim terrorism). Other types of crime seem to not be correlated with Islam that much, but be caused mainly by poverty and in some cases by national culture.

          After the Cologne attack, I saw several feminists prominently declare that this was not an issue with Muslims or refugees, but with men. So they ignored the evidence about the attackers being mostly from certain nations to assign blame to their outgroup. This was one of the more prominent explanatory narrative that was presented by the left at the time.

          Marx specifically and communists in general also seem to have a strong tendency to ignore nationalist cultural differences, seeing capitalists and the proletariat as groups with the same interests and desires, across national borders. This is somewhat defensive for capitalists, who frequently are very globalist and tend to participate in an international elite culture, but far less so for the (lower and lower middle class) proletariat, who tend to dislike globalism and instead very much like their own national culture as well as feeling far stronger kinship with their countrymen than with foreigners. So economically, they tend to see other (lower and lower middle class) proletarians from their own nation as their ingroup, but those from other countries as the far- or outgroup (the former mainly when they stay in their own country and the latter when they immigrate*).

          * Although (lower and lower middle class) proletarians do seem to respect hard work, so an immigrant group that is extremely hard working can achieve fargroup or even ingroup status.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Why are you lumping all North Africans together? An obvious difference between a Moroccan and a Syrian is that one of them fleeing war and the other isn’t. Maybe that explains their behavior. Do the patterns you see justify lumping Libyans with Moroccans or with Syrians?

          • Aapje says:

            You are correct, I should have said the Maghreb, although perhaps more accurately the Magreb without Libya:

            No other group of foreigners has fallen into disrepute in Germany in recent years as much as young men from Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria. In 2016, only 2.4 percent of asylum seekers came from these North African countries, and yet 11 percent of immigrants suspected of committing a crime are from the Maghreb region. In Cologne, random samples showed that in 2015, more than 40 percent of migrants from the Maghreb committed robbery or theft within the first year of their arrival, says criminal division chief Thomas Schulte, who headed the investigations after the 2015/2016 New Year’s Eve assaults on women in Cologne.

            It seems that Libyans were and are much less likely to (try to) migrate to Europe, so we don’t really know how they would behave if they would have. I don’t know why they are reluctant to migrate to the EU.

          • 10240 says:

            even though their impact is obviously very large.

            Not that large, though: less than 1% of murders in the EU are terrorism. (I made this estimate during the Islamic State years, it’s probably even less now.) Even among murders by Muslims, terrorism is definitely a minority (Muslims are 3.8 of the population of the EU).

            N-Africans seem to be extremely over-represented relative to how often they they ask for asylum.

            Have you checked that these North African criminals are asylum seekers? I think most North African immigrants in Europe are not refugees, and have mostly arrived before the 2015 refugee wave.

          • Aapje says:

            Impact is not just measured in the number of deaths. People mind (others) dying in some ways much more than in other ways. Furthermore, people are generally aware that some causes of death impact them much less than the society-wide statistics might suggest. For example, if you are not a criminal, your chances to get murdered are way, way lower than if you are one.

            Terrorism also doesn’t merely cause deaths, but it causes feelings of terror, hence the name.

            Have you checked that these North African criminals are asylum seekers? I think most North African immigrants in Europe are not refugees, and have mostly arrived before the 2015 refugee wave.

            I don’t see why it is that relevant to the acceptance of migration/refugees/asylum seekers whether the people came in the 2015 wave or before.

            AFAIK, the higher level of criminality is present for all generations that migrated from the Maghreb and not just for the people who migrated themselves, but also the second and third generation. However, for some countries, including Germany, there is the complication that they count the second and third generation as Germans, rather than note whether people have a (recent) migrant background. This greatly complicates analysis of whether integration is going well and to what extent these groups contribute to society and to what extent they burden it (I personally believe that migration tends to result in complications and frictions for many decades after a person migrated, so analyzing it correctly requires following these people and their descendants for a long time). So it is likely that the German statistics from the Spiegel article are merely about first generation migrants.

            The Netherlands favors long term analyses more and is more willing to do these measurements, but it would be nicer to have them for Germany, because they have larger numbers of migrants and could thus have more accurate statistics.

            PS. An asylum seeker is not the same thing as a refugee. Asylum seekers are merely those who ask for asylum, which doesn’t mean that they actually deserve it. Asylum seekers are a mixture of refugees and people who want to migrate for other reasons. In some case, people know very well that they are not considered refugees by the country where they apply for asylum and they have the intent to leave the asylum facility/procedure to reside in the country illegally, to travel on to a country that they like better or for another reason.

          • 10240 says:

            That people are irrational and care more about terrorism much more than other kinds of murder is a problem with those people, not with immigration. There is no reason for terrorism to create more terror than other forms of murder (at least after taking into account an individual’s risk of murder, but I’m pretty sure terrorism is a tiny fraction of the murder risk even for non-criminals); the only reason it does is that the media blows it up. You are technically correct that terrorism has more effects than just deaths, though (in particular, it affects people’s opinion on immigration).

            It doesn’t really matter that they arrived before 2015 (I mentioned that to suggest that they have little to do with the recent immigration wave that stirred up anti-immigrant sentiment in many European countries where it was previously weaker). What matters is if the criminals you talk about are not actually asylum seekers. If the North African criminal : the North African asylum seeker ratio is bigger than the Syrian criminal : Syrian asylum seeker ratio, that doesn’t imply that the crime rate is higher among North Africans if the criminals include non-asylum-seekers, and a smaller proportion of North Africans than Syrians are asylum seekers.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            That people are irrational and care more about terrorism much more than other kinds of murder is a problem with those people, not with immigration.

            The big problem with terrorism isn’t as much the relatively small number of murders from terrorist action, as it is the threat of more, unless the population meets demands it really doesn’t want to meet (convert to another religion, accept an outsider as their new ruler, etc.).

            If someone known to be a lone wolf (such as a cult leader) kills 300 people along with himself somewhere in southwestern Wyoming, it’s a tragedy, but the threat is considered effectively over. If the same person declares allegiance with $overseasPoliticalGroup and does the exact same thing, there’s suddenly much greater reason to suspect $oPG might send someone else later to do it again.*

            That’s why the response to terror is so much more severe. I don’t consider it irrational. What’s weird to me is not factoring in that future threat.

            *That is, after the nation gets over its initial shock at the news that there were 300 people in one place in southwestern Wyoming.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @10240

            Do you have any numbers for the ratio of total to asylum seeker for, say, North Africans vs Syrians? My understanding was that a fair number of the North Africans crossing the Mediterranean currently (as opposed to prior to the collapse of Libya, etc, were claiming asylum also. I also recall seeing German crime stats that suggested Syrians (whose chance of eventually receiving asylum was good) committed crime at the same rate as Germans (not sure if it adjusted for sex, as the refugees have a different ratio from the German population) while North Africans (whose chance of getting asylum was much poorer) committed crime at a noticeably higher rate than the German population.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            That people are irrational and care more about terrorism much more than other kinds of murder is a problem with those people

            I think the broad hysteria over migration is, while predictable, well overblown, but this misstates something about murders committed by migrants in general and terrorism most specifically.

            Say the probability of my being murdered absence a sudden change in the overall risk landscape is P. I take certain actions based on my understanding of that risk landscape and judge my risk to be acceptable. Sudden changes in migration change the risk landscape, I no longer feel confident in my estimate of P, and therefore I justifiably no longer feel comfortable that I have correctly modulated my behavior. I don’t know the new risk landscape.

            Terrorism further heightens this uncomfortableness by targeting people specifically to change their perception of the risk landscape. What felt like the safest behaviors, like showing up at your large office building for a regular work day, no longer feel free of intentional threat. This is by design.

            Of course there is irrationality embedded in these feelings. Judging intentional acts to be in a different class of risk is a common mistake (compare our feelings about traffic accidents vs. other types of risk). Nonetheless, that a changing risk landscape makes us feel uncomfortable and even fearful isn’t actually irrational.

          • 10240 says:

            The big problem with terrorism isn’t as much the relatively small number of murders from terrorist action, as it is the threat of more, unless the population meets demands it really doesn’t want to meet

            We should expect that there will be terrorism in the future, too, but we should expect that there will be conventional murders in the future, too. Terrorism comes with a threat and a demand (which we are obviously not going to meet anyway), conventional murders don’t, but that doesn’t mean that there will suddenly be no more conventional murders from next year.

            My understanding was that a fair number of the North Africans crossing the Mediterranean currently (as opposed to prior to the collapse of Libya, etc, were claiming asylum also.

            Those are mostly black, Sub-Saharan Africans. A while earlier they were perhaps Syrians if that route was easier at the moment than the Balkans route. They are not natives of the North African countries.

            Nonetheless, that a changing risk landscape makes us feel uncomfortable and even fearful isn’t actually irrational.

            It wouldn’t be irrational if there weren’t pretty exact statistics on the murder rate and the number of terrorism deaths. To some extent it’s journalists responsibility that they don’t publicize these numbers more, but anyone can look them up.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Terrorism comes with a threat and a demand (which we are obviously not going to meet anyway), conventional murders don’t, but that doesn’t mean that there will suddenly be no more conventional murders from next year.

            1: It’s not immediately obvious to me that any given population will cave to terrorists. I think it’s rather obvious, by contrast, that there exist populations that do. It consequently looks workable enough to some people that we end up with movements like ISIS, and so it makes sense for people to want to make it look very unworkable.

            2: Conventional murders do keep happening, but the underlying motives are different, and so they warrant different reponses. Conventional murders happen because of domestic disputes, botched muggings, gang warfare, and other causes, all of which are distinctly different from the causes of acts which everyone tends to classify as terrorism (e.g. 9/11, the Murray Building bombing). Causes of conventional murders are typically local individuals. Causes of terrorism are typically organizations, and often cross-jurisdictional or even international. Meaning, they are much more likely to be repeated, and they also aren’t easily countered with conventional law enforcement. The response necessarily has to be greater in degree.

            Raw body count cannot be the only factor determining response. If that’s all we use, then we end up with more and more dead bodies from terrorism until we stop using that as the only factor.

          • 10240 says:

            Ideally we should determine response in such a way that the marginal cost of saving one more life by going after terrorism is the same as by going after conventional murder. It’s quite possible that under this method there would be more terrorism and less conventional murder.

            Originally this thread wasn’t about how to fight terrorism in general, but to what extent terrorism justifies restricting immigration. If, with the present anti-terrorism efforts, terrorism is a very small risk, then it’s not really a reason to do so.

          • albatross11 says:

            If terrorism works at frightening people, so that each death by terrorism makes the country ten times as much worse off as each death by some meth-head seeking his next fix, then it’s not so clear to me that the right response is to say “yes, but that’s because people are irrational, let’s give them what they *should* want” and then ignore their fears. And I’m absolutely sure that this approach is not the path to victory in the next election, which is mostly what our leaders care about.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Ideally we should determine response in such a way that the marginal cost of saving one more life by going after terrorism is the same as by going after conventional murder. It’s quite possible that under this method there would be more terrorism and less conventional murder.

            That might be so. OTOH, it might still be the case that responses to terrorism appear larger, because terrorism potentially threatens greater lives lost. We might mount a high-profile effort to go overseas and stomp on some terrorist camp, versus scores of relatively low-profile local police actions, and still be spending fewer ducats per estimated life saved.

            It may be that no amount of low-profile law enforcement will prevent certain terrorist acts, in certain cases where some amount of immigration enforcement would.

            Also, if you factor in the property damage and overall loss of utility from terrorism, it may warrant a larger response per life lost than conventional murder.

          • 10240 says:

            @albatross11 If we are discussing what we as a country should do, what we should want the government to do, then it’s not enough to just say “the government should do what the people want”; that would be circular reasoning. The government should do what we want, but what should we want? In practice, of course, the government will do more-or-less what people want, and we on this forum won’t have much of an effect on that, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t even discuss what the right policy is.

            When I discuss policy, either I just want to talk about what I think the right policy is, or perhaps I implicitly want to convince people about how to vote. For the former, what other people want is irrelevant. For the latter, you don’t have to say “people want X, so the government should do X, so I vote for a party which will do X”. Your vote is your own. Of course if you don’t consider the matter at hand particularly important, and your opinion on it is unpopular, you may want the party you support overall to adopt a policy different from what you think is right to avoid losing votes.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            Seems to me that lumping terrorism in with gang violence and domestic disputes is fundamentally dishonest. Yes the “Average American” has more to fear from those, but there are no “average Americans” there are just individuals.

            Gangy McGangerson has WAY more to fear from gang violence, and Beaty McBeats his wife way more from domestic violence.

            But what about Normal Normaly? He just takes his train from the burbs to the city to work his job in a a cube or a hospital or a construction site. He has nothing to fear from gang violence or domestic violence. He buys the safest car he can afford (because that is actually what probably going to kill him if he dies young) and now he’s minimized every risk he can personally minimize. If gangs get close to expanding to his suburb he and all the other respectable people will put an end to it and he knows it.

            However, there is nothing he can do to minimize his risk of dying to a terrorist. They might bomb his building, or his train. He can’t stop taking the train or going to his job. He can’t just wear a fireproof vest and battle armor every day.

            So its not comparable at all. Its like taking lung cancer deaths and comparing them to deaths from bee stings, and saying it means allergic people need not have an epipen.

          • 10240 says:

            I don’t know what the murder risk of Normal Normaly is, I suspect that while it’s less than for some high risk groups, terrorism is still a tiny fraction of it. But actually the overall murder risk doesn’t even really matter: what matters is that terrorism risk is very small (it reduces one’s life expectancy by a few hours), so so there is no reason to consider it very important when deciding policy.

            Again, there are plenty of things that may kill you young with a tiny probability that you can’t do anything about, and you don’t worry about them all the time. (Or things such that you could do something to slightly reduce their risk but you probably don’t.)

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            10240,

            First, as an aside, I think you are massively overestimating the murder rate for a middle class suburbanite where the murder is not committed by a family member. The times where those things happen we also become obsessed with that crime, those are called school shootings and serial killers. Terrorism, school shootings, and serial killers are the 3 groups of, “random killings” and people are OBSESSED with them.

            The thing about all those “risks” is they have very positive tradeoffs for Normaly. He needs to drive around to buy things he wants and do things he wants to do. He likes having a pool even though he might drown, he likes drinking a few too many brews. And in all those things, he has personal responsibility and accountability.

            For terrorism, where is Normaly’s payoff for admitting Middle Easterners? We know that diversity lowers social cohesion in communities (regardless of violence levels). Maybe there are benefits for him, but they have never been well articulated, or they may be extremely remote with upfront costs (like the benefit of him not having the 3rd glass of wine).

          • zqed says:

            @10240:

            what matters is that terrorism risk is very small (it reduces one’s life expectancy by a few hours), so so there is no reason to consider it very important when deciding policy.

            I am not convinced about the validity of this kind of argument in any situation, because it does not consider the effect of existing mitigation.

            People were massively unlikely to die of chlorine gas in the WW1 trenches, but that does not make gas masks a stupid investment. If any one side chose to stop issuing gas masks, their chlorine gas casualties would have skyrocketed.

            Similarly, mitigation efforts are increased after terrorist attacks, and the mitigations have to be kept in place (which will cost money). If you stop the mitigation efforts, your casualty rate will increase (so you should expect the cost of the war on terror to be ever-increasing, and very high compared to the QALYs lost to terrorism each year). Thought experiment: imagine that from tomorrow on, airplane security returns to the pre-911 system. How long would it take before the first 5k terrorism casualties? My expectation is less than two weeks.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Thought experiment: imagine that from tomorrow on, airplane security returns to the pre-911 system. How long would it take before the first 5k terrorism casualties? My expectation is less than two weeks.

            On what basis do you say that? If terrorists wanted to attack United States air travel and were otherwise able to, I don’t think TSA – which misses a huge percentage of banned objects in secret tests – would be holding them back.

          • AliceToBob says:

            On what basis do you say that? If terrorists wanted to attack United States air travel and were otherwise able to, I don’t think TSA – which misses a huge percentage of banned objects in secret tests – would be holding them back.

            Maybe his/her phrasing could be improved, but my guess is that “airplane security returns to the pre-911 system” may refer not only to the TSA, but also to the broader security efforts by various agencies (both US and international) that have been undertaken since 9-11 to reduce terrorist threats for travelers.

            Even if we grant that the given example could be refined, I think qzed’s general point about mitigation makes sense.

          • albatross11 says:

            As far as I can tell, post-9/11 airline security is probably not all that much better than pre-9/11 airline security.

            What we do know is that the TSA hasn’t actually stopped any terrorists directly. They may have dissuaded them from trying, but they’ve never announced that they’d caught a terrorist trying to blow up a plane. We’ve had two terrorist attacks on planes since 9/11, and both got through TSA–the shoe bomber and the underwear bomber. I don’t think either one could have brought down the plane, but they might have managed to kill a few passengers if they’d been able to get their bombs to go off.

            To get a terrorist attack with lots of casualties (more than the number of people on the plane), you need to hijack the plane and fly it into a building or something. I think this became enormously harder as of 9/12. Re-enforcing the cockpit doors and having everyone know that if the hijackers get into the cockpit, they’ll kill everyone on board probably accomplished most of the practical improvement in security from hijacking we got post-9/11.

          • 10240 says:

            where is Normaly’s payoff for admitting Middle Easterners?

            Whatever is the reason to let them in in the first place. You can say that there is no reason to let them in anyway, and it’s detrimental to let them in anyway, but in that case the reason not to let them in is that fact, not terrorism. My point is that the terrorism risk is low enough that it’s unlikely to tip over the balance.

            The reason to let them in may be actual, e.g. economic benefit, or altruism, i.e. to save the lives of refugees at a small cost; in the latter case what matters is how the cost compares to the maximum cost we are willing to take. It’s legitimate to say that the maximum cost you are willing to take to save the life of a foreigner is 0, but for many people it isn’t 0.

            For the record, I’m not all that liberal on immigration, I don’t think the way Europe handles asylum seekers is the most effective way to help people, and I’m not addressing here what immigration policy we should have. I just say I don’t think terrorism should affect it as strongly as many people think it should.

            Similarly, mitigation efforts are increased after terrorist attacks, and the mitigations have to be kept in place (which will cost money). If you stop the mitigation efforts, your casualty rate will increase

            I see no reason why the cost of keeping the amount of terrorism at a given level would increase fast. It would require terrorist tactics to be significantly improving, or terrorist organizations growing ever bigger. I’m not convinced either is happening.

            Using planes to destroy buildings was one terrorist innovation, but when we talk about the bombings, shootings and truck rammings that happen in Europe, I don’t see why we would need increasing effort to limit them. And 9/11 was a well-organized effort — restricting immigration doesn’t prevent something like that.

          • rlms says:

            @idontknow131647093

            First, as an aside, I think you are massively overestimating the murder rate for a middle class suburbanite where the murder is not committed by a family member.

            On what basis do you make that claim? According to this, you are 180 times more likely to die from murder in general than terrorism (with foreign-born perpetrators). It seems highly likely to me that considerably more than 0.5% of murders are of middle-class suburbanites caused by e.g. escalated arguments or robberies. The FBI statistics here seem to support that — circumstances of robbery by stranger account for 1.5% of murders (circumstances of burglary/larceny-theft account for a smaller proportion), and argument with acquaintance accounts for 7.7%. But I would welcome any better data (e.g. about distribution of murder victims by class/income).

            For terrorism, where is Normaly’s payoff for admitting Middle Easterners?

            Let’s try to work this out! This article gives us a yearly economic benefit from immigration of around $100 per native-born American (a lower estimate, rounded down). From various sources (this; some other articles; the first link, Wikipedia page for cumulative incidence, and the literal back of an envelope) I estimate yearly risk of death from terrorism as around 10^-8. Using a VSL of $10 million, the yearly terrorism-related cost of immigration would be around $0.1 — three orders of magnitude smaller than the calculated benefit.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            According to this, you are 180 times more likely to die from murder in general than terrorism (with foreign-born perpetrators). It seems highly likely to me that considerably more than 0.5% of murders are of middle-class suburbanites caused by e.g. escalated arguments or robberies. The FBI statistics here seem to support that – circumstances of robbery by stranger account for 1.5% of murders (circumstances of burglary/larceny-theft account for a smaller proportion), and argument with acquaintance accounts for 7.7%.

            Part of the problem with statistics like these is that they’re also a function of how much effort you put into mitigation, and the functions for terrorism and murder are different.

            If I, as Supreme Leader, announce we’re going to halve spending on investigating and prosecuting murders due to escalated domestic disputes, we would expect the number of such murders to go up roughly by the number of cases where people in escalated domestic disputes consider murder but were backing off because they’re afraid of the Supreme Police.

            If I announce we’re going to halve spending on investigating and prosecuting murders from terrorism, we would expect the number of such murders to go up roughly by the number of cases where people consider doing some terrorism but were backing off because they’re afraid of the Supreme Police.

            The former is almost certainly lower than the latter; people in domestic disputes that bad probably aren’t worried about getting caught before they can murder. Would-be terrorists are.

            But I would welcome any better data (e.g. about distribution of murder victims by class/income).

            Point above aside, I would too. Specifically, I’m betting there are risk factors for conventional murder more precise than class or income. Marital status obviously makes all the difference in your chance of being murdered by your spouse, for example. You could also toss in the usual suspects like substance abuse, bankruptcy, clinical depression, et al.

            Here’s the thing: I suspect a lot of people take steps to avoid risk factors for conventional murder. They don’t drink. They don’t do drugs. They file for divorce or flee to another state rather than stick it out with a violent spouse.

            But the only apparent way to avoid terrorism is to not exist, and maybe that’s what drives the visceral response to it.

          • 10240 says:

            Let’s try to work this out! This article gives us a yearly economic benefit from immigration of around $100 per native-born American

            This is just the benefits, not benefits-costs. Also, it should be disaggregated to low-skill and high-skill immigrants — the link mentions both, but it’s unclear if the benefits-costs of low-skill immigrants is positive. If we are talking about Muslim terrorism risk, we should compare to the benefits-costs from Muslim immigrants, or rather, the benefit of admitting Muslim immigrants above admitting more non-Muslim immigrants in their stead; and Muslim immigrants are a small fraction of all immigrants to the US. That said, even taking all this into account, I agree that the terrorism risk is small compared to benefits and other costs.

            people in domestic disputes that bad probably aren’t worried about getting caught before they can murder. Would-be terrorists are.

            Most Islamic terrorism today is suicide terrorism. They aren’t afraid of getting caught. The main way of preventing Islamic terrorism is catching them before they commit their attack. Of course if we decreased law enforcement efforts a lot, non-suicide terrorism would eventually re-emerge. But I’m pretty sure that, at present, the marginal cost of saving a life through anti-terrorism efforts is higher than through efforts against conventional murder.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            me: [P]eople in domestic disputes that bad probably aren’t worried about getting caught before they can murder. Would-be terrorists are.

            10240: Most Islamic terrorism today is suicide terrorism. They aren’t afraid of getting caught. The main way of preventing Islamic terrorism is catching them before they commit their attack.

            Right. That’s what I’m talking about: terrorists are only worried about being caught before they commit their kills.

            But I’m pretty sure that, at present, the marginal cost of saving a life through anti-terrorism efforts is higher than through efforts against conventional murder.

            Aye; this is one of the claims I’m contesting. Is that marginal cost actually higher? It’s not clear to me. Like, genuinely unclear: you might be right, even though I highly suspect you aren’t.

            We’re unlikely to find out, though. Most anti-terrorist activity is probably classified. We only see the public stuff (e.g. TSA), which looks relatively limited and ineffective.

            But another claim I’m contesting (which I’m not sure you’re making) is that what we say we’re spending against an activity also affects how much of that activity we see. If Zorg thinks we’re spending only $1M on anti-terrorism instead of $1B, he might try more stuff. Zorg probably doesn’t sweat TSA, but he might wonder enough about whatever else we might have set up that he second guesses himself a lot more, and spends more of his own time and energy on making sure his mangalores elude detection.

            It’s entirely possible that the US saves a great deal on costs by making a credible claim of resources diverted to anti-terrorism, which increases the marginal benefit of the resources we actually divert.

          • rlms says:

            @Paul Brinkley

            The former is almost certainly lower than the latter; people in domestic disputes that bad probably aren’t worried about getting caught before they can murder.

            I disagree. The proportion of people in the former group who are deterred may be smaller, but the number of people in that group is presumably vastly larger (as domestic murders are much more common than terrorism). But also there are other relevant factors: the proportion of people in both groups who are worried about getting caught after they murder (seems likely to be higher for the former) and increased numbers of murders from repeat offenders who would previously have been locked up (ditto).

            @10240

            This is just the benefits, not benefits-costs

            It’s the net (economic) benefit, assuming it was calculated in the same way as the similar figure in this report from CIS (an anti-immigration think tank). Immigrants provide $437 billion of value in cheaper products/services to natives, but also reduce wages by $402 billion for a surplus of $35 billion, which I then divided by the population of non-immigrants to get ~$100.

          • Aapje says:

            @rlms

            Note that those are just the financial costs and benefits, there are also cultural, social, environmental, etc costs and benefits.

      • BlindKungFuMaster says:

        ” So far there doesn’t seem much enthusiasm for #fairland, either in the SPD, the Greens and parts of die Linke. A major reason for that lies with the author, I think: Lafontaine.”

        For the Greens the problem is rather that they ARE the moralising left. Fairland (tough for me not to insert a “y”) is basically the proposal to drop what makes the Greens the Greens and to start giving a shit about the workers, who are not voting Green anyway.

        The Greens ran on a pro-refugee program that contained gems like “unlimited family reunion” and “automatic citizenship for kids born in Germany”. Which, if implemented, would be a bunch of “right wing conspiracy theories” come true.

        • Wrong Species says:

          It’s interesting that support for birthright citizenship is supported by almost everyone except the far right in the US but only the far left in Germany.

      • ana53294 says:

        For international workers solidarity: in a way the european refugee crisis is a crisis of the mediterranean european countries, Greece and Italy and to an extend Spain. Geography is a curse. If nothing has changed all refugees would have arrived and stayed there, putting an undue strain on the border countries. That is the tragedy: the refugee crisis would need intra-european solidarity between the EU countries, lessening the burden for the border countries.

        Not only does the EU not do that, they insist on making the whole thing more expensive. In Spain, we have a socialist government who chose to accept a ship full of illegal immigrants into Spain (the ship should have gone to Italy; Italy refused; the next port should have been France, and they did not offer). This has brought a lot of immigrants into trying to jump the fence. And they do it in big numbers, the processing centers are collapsed. So the police has this policy of just dragging the ones who are not injured to the other side of the fence, so they don’t have to deal with them. This probably saves tons of resources, but it has been made illegal by the ECHR. After the massive assault on the fence this week, police were caught doing it again, and this has caused a massive outrage.

        For me, the refusal to accept these immigrants by the rich countries, but insisting on quite strict and costly rules of deportation makes them hypocrites. Why don’t they at least pay the border countries for all the legal trouble a proper deportation procedure costs?

        • Aapje says:

          The EU is a federation, where EU laws are generally implemented by EU nations at their own expense. So this effectively means that nations are responsible for securing their borders according to EU guidelines, which impacts some EU nations more than others.

          Similarly, the EU regulations concerning asylum seekers mainly requires every EU nation to register asylum seekers that they encounter and has to put them in an asylum procedure (Dublin agreement). In practice, countries don’t do this.

          99% of refugees that request asylum in The Netherlands have passed through another EU country and should by EU law have been registered by that country and have been entered into the asylum procedure of that country. Yet this obviously didn’t happen.

          In general, this is a problem with the EU. There are laws that nations have agreed upon and there is what nations actually do. These are often different (and the extent to which one can get away with this differs by country). Because this is generally accepted practice, many nations don’t actually feel that they should be held to EU laws.

          So this creates a lot of resentment all around, when some countries insist that others follow the EU laws, while those other nations feel that the laws don’t apply to them.

          For me, the refusal to accept these immigrants by the rich countries, but insisting on quite strict and costly rules of deportation makes them hypocrites. Why don’t they at least pay the border countries for all the legal trouble a proper deportation procedure costs?

          The answer to this question is that the border countries have accepted the obligation to police their border and to register and process asylum seekers. The other countries are mostly not willing change this agreement.

          Is it hypocritical to want others to honor a promise they made?

          • ana53294 says:

            Well, they also made a promise to redistribute some of the refugees, and so far almost nobody has fulfilled their promise (southern countries either; Spain has not filled the promised refugee quota).

            But the thing is, when it comes to other things, nobody is insisting for such consistency. Take, for example, the European Water Framework directive. Spain has maybe 20+ lakes, and monitoring all of them is not too costly. Sweden is a much smaller country with a lot more lakes. They still have the obligation to monitor them all, which they don’t, but they choose to take the most representative lakes and monitor them (so, for interconnecting lakes, they frequently monitor just one). Nobody in Spain does it, because the law technically says to monitor them all, and it is really not worth it to try to skirt it, because we have few lakes. Nobody is insisting that Sweden follow the Directive in its strictest interpretation, because they see Sweden makes an honest effort to monitor most of the lakes, and making them monitor all of the lakes would create an undue burden that they don’t deserve because they really try to monitor all representative lakes.

            This is all very technical, and nobody really cares if Sweden doesn’t go and test every aspect of every lake. But the immigration burden is uneven, and even processing 80% of immigrants and letting the other 20% escape is more costly than it is for the rich countries to process those immigrants, because they only get the 20%. So yes, the Spanish police are not too strict in pursuing the immigrants who march to Germany, and mostly target those who choose to stay in Spain. But they still deal with more immigrants than a country with 15% unemployment can afford.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      “Another way of thinking about it is, the Left needs to carefully distinguish between “National Socialism” (a la Hitler) and “Socialism in One Country” (a la Stalin). National Socialism ahistorically vilifies and generalizes about other nationalities, whereas Socialism in One Country recognizes that other countries might not yet be on the same page, but they are in principle on the same team as soon as they come around to the idea of socialism.”

      I don’t know how endorsed vs. snark this is, but I’m reminded of the difference between laziness vs. biologically-mediated tendency to do less work.

      • idontknow131647093 says:

        Reminds me of this post on Quillette about the Intellectual Dark Web and how they get “outgrouped” by coastal liberals, thus becoming conservative allies.

        https://quillette.com/2018/05/25/groups-groups-idw/

        I’d argue there is an intrinsic connection between the rise of Fascism and Socialism (now far right vs. sjwism) because they are actually very similar, and the fascists only ever become mildly appealing to mainstream people when the socialists appear to have a real chance to take over, and they kind of do a weighing of which is worse.

    • Yakimi says:

      The great German socialist Wolfgang Streeck (who is involved in the movement mentioned above) has been laying the intellectual groundwork for this tendency for years now. I highly recommend his works for his courageous willingness to skewer left-liberal orthodoxies from a staunchly labor-revivalist perspective, which in some ways speaks to the same concerns traditionally found on the Right. Many leftists profess a rejection of liberalism, but Streeck demonstrates how the Left is fatally compromised by what it only ostensibly opposes.

      Whose Side Are We on? Liberalism and Socialism Are Not the Same

      In its move toward universal liberalism, the Left has largely abandoned collectivism – which can exist only as particularism, today predominantly invested in nation-states and national politics – to the radical Right, allowing it to pose as defender of last resort of the national arena of collective interest articulation and binding government. In the 1990s, with left-liberal and increasingly neoliberal individualism riding on the coattails of market expansion, the Left began to define itself as antinationalist – ergo anti-racist, ergo anti-fascist, in effect allowing collectivism to become associated with nationalism, racism, and fascism. As a result, nationalists, racists, and fascists could present themselves as the only remaining allies of those seeking national protection from international markets and corporations. On the Third Way, what had once been left anti-capitalism turned into liberallibertarian pro-capitalism, if not intentionally then by default, by dissociating itself from the politically most effective collectivism, that of the nation-state. As a consequence, collectivism came to be captured by the Right, and in fighting the Right the Left allied itself with neoliberalism – with free trade, free markets, and state-free globalization. Economic prosperity and social protection were to come, no longer from collective action, but from the beneficial effects of free trade made possible by neoliberal national reforms in response to international market conditions and constraints. In the new left-universalist-cosmopolitan frame of mind, borders became anathema, as did localized solidarity – discounting national-state government in favor of liberal-voluntaristic governance by experts, epistemic communities, well-meaning NGOs, and problem-solving, knowledge-processing international conferences.

      Having declared national politics and the nation-state obsolete, and having placed its hopes on global cosmopolitanism as the social solidarity of the future, center-leftism has become indistinguishable from libertarian liberalism, most of all in the United States. The radical Left, for its part, seems to lack the ideological imagination to recognize phenomena like the one-nation Toryism of the post-Brexit British Prime Minister as an invasion of political territory that is by tradition theirs. Instead many on the Left feel a sense of sympathy with what one can call Silicon Valley progressivism: with its universalistic pro-immigration language confusing solidarity with charity, with its billionaire philanthropy, and with its utopian social policy projects such as a guaranteed minimum income for everybody, presumably worldwide. Redefining international relations to make them a vehicle of hightech globalization while re-building social structures into networks of global consumerism, Silicon Valley progressivism needs politics to provide for effective demand in its borderless markets, so that electronic gadgets can be sold to “users” and advertisement space to corporations seeking customers able to pay for their products. There is no underestimating the attraction for much of the former Left, now (neo-)liberal Left, of the Silicon Valley utopia of a borderless global society based on universal civil rights – essentially the right not to be discriminated in free trade on ascriptive criteria – and governed by a stateless lex mercatoria in conjunction with circles of elite experts disposed to protect global universalism from the temptations of particularistic, national, state-organized solidarity.

      • As a result, nationalists, racists, and fascists could present themselves as the only remaining allies of those seeking national protection from international markets and corporations…

        The problem I see here is, I don’t see how an independent Germany, or an independent Britain for that matter, can “protect themselves from international markets and corporations.” They are objectively dependent on the world market for the import of certain key raw materials, and no amount of import-substituting industrialization will change that fact. As geographical entities, they are simply too small to be self-sufficient. The nationalists, racists, and fascists will be no more able to protect Germany from international markets and corporations than the current crop of neoliberals. Nor will Die Linke be able to do much if they take power within Germany alone.

        Being objectively dependent on the world market means that their economies will be objectively constrained by the Law of Value. In order to get the necessary imports, they will have to play the game. They will need foreign exchange, which means they will need to produce exports at a profit in terms of that foreign exchange. And what sort of wages and protections they will be able to afford to pay and still be profitable will not be determined by them, or by the level of surplus of physical use-values that they produce. Instead, it will be determined by competition with the rest of the world market, which will be driving the price of those export products down to the bare minimum—to a level that Germany will not be able to match and still produce at a profit unless it follows suit and cuts wages and protections.

        It doesn’t matter who the leadership is or what their intentions are. As long as Germany is dependent on an external capitalist world market, they will continually run up against this lack of sovereignty. The origin of this lack of sovereignty will continue to be mysterious and will continue to be blamed on this or that politician or bureaucrat or regulation or Globalist conspiracy or George Soros or whatever.

        But it is not predominantly the EU that is preventing them from attaining true sovereignty, but rather the Law of Value. The EU is just a symptom. It is an adaptation to this objective dependence on the Law of Value. It is a way of internalizing the Law of Value into their economy so that they can better play that game that they must currently play.

        Now, on the other hand, a socialist confederation of all of the Nordic countries + Germany might be sufficient to make them no longer dependent on the capitalist world market and thus constrained in their sovereignty by the Law of Value. They’ll have access to oil, nickel, etc.

        Or, there could be a socialist EU with true political and fiscal union. That would definitely work.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Disconnected thoughts:

      1.

      It’s like, if a German worker circa-1914 is invading my French province, sure, I’ll keep putting out feelers for a Christmas truce, for a peace, for turning the imperialist war into a Europe-wide class civil war…but I’d also be a dummy to just sit on my gun when I see some of those German workers coming over the top at me.

      This jumped out at me. The beginning of WWI was a huge disappointment for many socialists. Meanwhile, over the decade after the war, fascists (and to a lesser extent authoritarian right-wingers) used the image of the classes united behind national struggle in WWI as a propaganda tool.

      2. Both German national socialism and “socialism in one country” were big on autarky, weren’t they? Autarky is usually a big red flag; it goes hand in hand with all sorts of bad stuff, even if it isn’t bad itself.

      3. Is it more possible on SSC to say nice things about Stalinism than essjaydoubleyous? Signs point to “yes”.

      • Eric Rall says:

        Autarky is usually a big red flag

        Joke about socialism and red flags left as an exercise to the reader.

        Autarky is usually a big red flag; it goes hand in hand with all sorts of bad stuff, even if it isn’t bad itself.

        Autarky is pretty horrible. At best, it disallows a lot of opportunity for economic growth through specialization and trade. At worst, it’s a self-imposed starvation blockade.

        • dndnrsn says:

          My meaning in saying autarky’s bad is that in a German context it’s probably best associated with a certain plan to become self-sufficient through conquering pretty much everything up to the Urals. Didn’t go well. In a Soviet context, “we must become self-sufficient in xyz” seems to have turned into “comrade, why have you failed to exceed the xyz quota? Sounds like some kind of wrecking!”

      • quanta413 says:

        With respect to 3, Stalinism is just so unpopular and far away despite being obviously much more damaging if successful. Despite being highly unlikely, it’s still more likely some group of SJW’s win, then one of them seizes power like Stalin or things descend into a French Revolution Reign of Terror than that literal Stalinists have any political success.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I think there is an exaggerated startle response here to certain chunks of the left (the Sierra Juliet Whiskies or whatever one wishes to call them) that is rather outsized to the threat posed to people here, to society in general, etc.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      citizencokake, I’ve been following your thoughts about the rational-materialist left with interest and have one big question. Based on the empirics of 20th century revolutions, what should the materialist left do about farm land in the event of its success?

      • I am not an agronomist, so I’m not sure how to answer your question on a technical level. If you are asking about social organization of farm work, then I would say:

        1. Most farm output in the industrialized West is nowadays done by big agribusiness utilizing heavy machinery, industrial fertilizers and pesticides, and genetic engineering on a large scale. It would obviously not be a good idea to split up these highly efficient enterprises into smaller-scale farms (as some silly petty-bourgeois “localvore” environmentalist types would. They romanticize the past and do not fully appreciate the benefits given to us by our highly specialized division of labor and technology). Nor would it be allowable to allow these big farms to remain in the hands of a few shareholders. The question would be whether to make them into cooperative farms or state farms. My preference would be for state farms, but there might be a debate worth having there.

        2. As for smaller farms, I would say that anyone who wants to LARP Stardew Valley or Harvest Moon and be a subsistence farmer should be allowed to retain enough land for that purpose. And I think we in the wealthy West would be able to afford that luxury for the small number of quirky individuals who don’t want their behavior to be regulated by the social division of labor, and who are willing to make the tradeoff of relative poverty and lack of access to the products of society’s division of labor in exchange for freedom from the regulating influence of that division of labor.

        3. However, there may be individuals who do want to participate in the social division of labor and reap its benefits, but on their own exploitative terms—by using hired labor to produce a surplus of use-values to sell as commodities on the market. This we would not allow. If you are going to benefit from the social division of labor, you are going to have to play by its rules. This is no different than under capitalism, where we are constrained by the Law of Value, which is how we currently regulate our division of labor. Except we shall have much better rules for coordinating the social division of labor.

        In any case, any additional land, tools, and labor that would produce a significant surplus of food and raw materials beyond what the farmer would personally consume would be assigned to the cooperative/state farms to employ.

    • Viliam says:

      The Left needs to be intolerant of lumpenproletarian behavior and lifestyles. We are talking about petty (apolitical) criminality and social parasitism. … if comrades refuse to be proletarians and insist on acting like lumpenproletarians (raping women, or stealing cars from proletarian comrades, or setting fire to cars or other social wealth with no deliberate revolutionary purpose behind it), they get speedy deportation (if they are a refugee) or a stint in the gulag (if they are a citizen), no exceptions

      Reminds me of The Gulag Archipelago quote:

      the thieves were our allies in the building of Communism. This was set forth in textbooks on Soviet corrective-labor policy (there were such textbooks, they were published!), in dissertations and scientific essays on camp management, and in the most practical way of all—in the regulations on which the high-ranking camp officials were trained. All this flowed from the One-and-Only True Teaching, which explained all the iridescent life of humanity … in terms of the class struggle and it alone.

      And here is how it was worked out. Professional criminals can in no sense be equated with capitalist elements (i.e., engineers, students, agronomists, and “nuns”), for the latter are steadfastly hostile to the dictatorship of the proletariat, while the former are only (!) politically unstable! (A professional murderer is only politically, unstable!) The lumpenproletanan is not a property owner, and therefore cannot ally himself with the hostile-class elements, but will much more willingly ally himself with the proletariat (you just wait!). That is why in the official terminology of Gulag they are called socially friendly elements. (Tell me who your friends are . . .) That is why the regulations repeated over and over again: Trust the recidivist criminals!

      So, the important thing to integrate the lumpenproletariat into glorious socialist society is to make sure they only rape the politically incorrect women, and steal only food from already starving prisoners in the socialist labor-to-death camps. This will channel their energy into advancing the Revolution.

      • I think your interpretation of that passage is a very uncharitable one. Having higher hopes of rehabilitating and re-integrating petty criminals vs. determined enemies of the regime, or people who would have good reason to be determined enemies of the regime regardless of what they happen to profess at the moment, makes perfect sense to me. Not that the Soviet Union gave up on re-integrating enemy class elements. The 1936 Constitution restored their right to vote. Unfairly arrested Kulaks who had done nothing illegal had access to an appeal process and were restored to their original communities (although not to their original property, obviously!) Former bourgeois specialists and small capitalists were actually given significant authority in the running of new state enterprises…obviously because the Soviet government had no other choice. But it is not as if they had no hopes for achieving a decent life.

        If the only thing you read is Solzhenitsyn or others of his reactionary ilk, you are probably not going to come away with this impression. To say that Solzhenitsyn had an agenda and a motive to exaggerate and outright fabricate stories is an understatement. Try, for example, the following scholarly article from 1955 available on JSTOR, written after a delegation of British lawyers visited the USSR:

        E.L. Johnson, “Some Aspects of the Soviet Legal System,” Soviet Studies, Vol. 6, No. 4 (Apr. 1955), pp. 351-358.

        I will quote some passages from that article on the camps themselves (which follows a dicussion of the Soviet court and appeals process, which was actually not all that different from those of Western institutions). I’m sure people will just dismiss this as a model Potemkin camp meant to be used to fool foreign observers…in which case someone trying to demonstrate the merits of the Soviet Union falls into the same situation as a person suspected of sociopathy who tries to prove that he/she is not a sociopath. “Ah, but that’s just what a sociopath would want you to think!”

        We visited two Corrective Labour Camps, a juvenile Corrective Labour Camp for boys at Iksha, about 50 kilometres from Moscow, and an adult Corrective Labour Camp for men, at Kruchevo, about 60 kilometres from Moscow. At the juvenile Corrective Labour Camp, education is provided for juveniles who have been sentenced by Criminal Courts. School education is compulsory and the syllabus is the same as in ordinary schools. Technical and vocational education is provided in special workshops…

        The main emphasis in the Camp is on education, it being considered that juvenile delinquency is due mainly to a misunderstanding of the conditions, purposes and tasks of life and to an unsatisfactory environment…The Camp is self-supporting, having its own farm, bakery, laundry and bath houses, and there are many different circles and clubs of a cultural and technical nature. In addition, there is a choir and many sports activities, in which the boys are encouraged to participate…

        At Kruchevo, the adult Corrective Labour Camp, the emphasis At Kruchevo, the adult Corrective Labour Camp, the emphasis is also on re-education, in particular by means of vocational training. The prisoners work nine hours a day, i.e. one hour longer than they would outside, but receive wages for their work at 20 per cent less than the standard trade union rates, though a proportion of their wages is deducted to cover the cost of their maintenance at the Camp. Each prisoner has a quota of work allotted to him and remission can be obtained by producing more than the quota. Thus, any day on which more than 100 per cent of the quota is produced counts as 1 and a half days, a day on which more than 120 per cent of the quota is produced counts as three days. The maximum remission is three days for one, but some prisoners overfulfill their quota by much more than 120 per cent, in order to earn more money. Special considerations apply in calculating remission for prisoners who are physically handicapped.

        …Punishments for breaches of discipline are personal reprimands, public reprimands, restriction or loss of the right to send and receive letters and of receiving visits from relatives and, for very serious breaches, solitary confinement for up to five days. Much is done to enable the prisoners to make good defects in their education…Some of the prisoners are studying by means of correspondence courses. Recreational activities are organized by music, drama, photography, radio and chess circles. There is also a brass band and a library, containing Soviet literature, the Russian classics and translated foreign classics. The prisoners work and converse freely with the free workers, including women, from the neighbouring village who work in the Camp…

        The prisoners get three meals a day, in a dining-room which was clean and airy, with pictures on the walls…a typical day’s menu being: breakfast – herrings and potatoes; lunch – cabbage soup, goulash; supper- noodle soup, Russian porridge (kasha) and meat…

        The work in the Camp is mainly the production of light metal objects, such as milk churns, milk cans, metal kitchenware and clock dials, as well as the work to be done in connection with the Camp. Under a recent law, when a long sentence has been imposed, after the expiration of one year’s imprisonment, provided that the prisoner has earned some remission marks, the Camp authorities send his record to the Court which sentenced him and the Court can then order his conditional discharge. If he commits any offence whilst at liberty, before the term of his original sentence has expired, the balance of that sentence will have to be served in addition to any sentence imposed for the second offence. A prisoner conditionally discharged receives an identity card showing his status, which he can exchange for an ordinary identity card at the expiration of the term of his original sentence.

        The general atmosphere in both camps (as far as a foreign observer could judge) was one of serious collaboration between prisoners and staff, and an absence of unnecessary harshness or petty restrictions. The prisoners seemed polite, and there was no suspicion of a cringing attitude towards the staff, but rather one of friendly respect.

        • dndnrsn says:

          It seems like there’s something rather significant that had happened a couple years earlier that might have meant the camps were rather less unpleasant in 1955 than, say, the mid-to-late 30s…

        • Viliam says:

          I think your interpretation of that passage is a very uncharitable one. Having higher hopes of rehabilitating and re-integrating petty criminals vs. determined enemies of the regime, or people who would have good reason to be determined enemies of the regime regardless of what they happen to profess at the moment, makes perfect sense to me.

          This is why it is important to read the whole book. For each individual wrongness, someone sufficiently motivated and creative may find a plausible excuse. But when you get the complete picture… of the wrongness upon wrongness upon wrongness… those excuses all fall apart.

          For example, the people you call “determined enemies of the regime” were in real life more like… a starving teenager who stole an apple from the cooperative garden… a woman who said that she prefers Pushkin as a poet to Mayakovsky… a guy who learned Esperanto… a soldier in WW2 who noticed that German tanks were stronger than Russian ones, and planned a successful attack accordingly, but afterwards someone reported his disloyal remark to the secret police… a member of a cooperative who planted the wheat according to the latest commands of Lysenko, but failed to harvest the promised miraculous crop… a student who refused sexual advances of local low-level Party member… someone who had a foreign classmate two decades ago… or just someone randomly arrested because the local branch of the secret police needed to fill their quota. (There are many stories like this in the book; that is a part of what makes it so long.)

          And there was no “rehabilitation” in the labor camps — that was only a story for the masses, and the credible journalists from the West — only cheap slave labor, which was an important part of the Soviet economy. That’s how those canals and railroads across Siberia got built.

          The 1936 Constitution restored their right to vote.

          Frankly, do you know anything about the real Soviet Union? The “right to vote”, my goodness! What exactly was anyone supposed to do with such right? Go ahead and be a part of the “99.99%” who voted for the Communist Party? Because there was no other political party you were allowed to vote. (This is how it was in the whole Soviet block.)

          Seriously, I have no idea whether you are just uninformed, or trolling, but it’s quite bad either way.

          If the only thing you read is Solzhenitsyn or others of his reactionary ilk, you are probably not going to come away with this impression. To say that Solzhenitsyn had an agenda and a motive to exaggerate and outright fabricate stories is an understatement.

          So, you are going straight for the Big Lie, and saying that everything bad was fabricated, and everyone who remembers it is a liar? That makes you a left-wing equivalent of a Holocaust denier. (“What? The holo-hoax? Of course the Jews have a motive to lie!”)

          The prisoners seemed polite, and there was no suspicion of a cringing attitude towards the staff, but rather one of friendly respect.

          Okay, assuming that you know anything about human nature, how likely it is that “prisoners have friendly respect towards the staff”? People so bad they need to be put behind bars, and yet so polite and friendly…

          …or is it more likely that anyone who isn’t sufficiently “polite and friendly” will get shot after the foreign observers leave. (They didn’t bother to return, let’s say, one year later and check how many people from their first visit are still alive, did they?)

          Sigh.

          I grew up in a socialist country… luckily, outside of Soviet Union, and during the last decades when the regime was already falling apart, and my parents were loyal Communists… so I was spared of the really bad parts. Yet, with half a brain it was obvious how Potemkin villages were constructed left and right, how all those “120% fulfilled plans” in practice meant nothing, how there were always at least two different sets of rules (“what you were officially allowed to do” vs “what you could actually do without getting punished”), how every adult was scared of their own shadow but everyone refused to elaborate on what exactly scared them so much. And people were still punished for the sin of having a grandparent being on the “wrong side of history” half century ago. And when you took a trip abroad, you always had to leave a family member as a hostage at home (for example, my parents once traveled to Cuba, but they were not allowed to take me with them although they wanted to).

          So… what Solzhenitsyn writes, it somehow fits this world I remember. It is a much darker version, but it is a darker version of essentially the same rules.

          Whereas, what you write, sounds like written by someone from a different planet. Or someone whose only experience with Soviet regime consists of reading and listening to propaganda. (Or reading their documents, which — obviously to anyone who had the actual experience — are mostly propaganda, not necessarily related to reality.)

  17. mdet says:

    When I talk about the political spectrum from Left to Right, my mental map / visualization actually puts the Left on my right and the Right on my left. Possible reasons: I’m right handed, and consider the Left to be more of my in-group. Does anyone else have this, or similar? Is the fact that I have a spatial mental map weird to begin with?

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Do you know that this actually comes from an actual left and right in a legislative chamber (specifically revolutionary era France)? Frequently these are described from the point of view of the officer’s podium, but we can see that this is usually inverted in the actual US Congress.

      So, when you watch the State of the Union, you typically see the Democrats as being on the right side of the chamber…

      • mdet says:

        I knew about the revolutionary France origin, I did not know that the US Congress has (informally) assigned seating.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          So, if you know about the origins, when you imagine the “left” do you imagine being in a group with them? And your opponents being in another group?

          • mdet says:

            I’m sort of visualizing a basic 2D political spectrum where “Democrats” and “liberals” are where my right hand is and “Republicans” and “conservatives” are where my left hand is. Like, if I’m having a conversation and I mention the political “far right”, I unthinkingly gesture off to my left, but if I were talking about actual directions I wouldn’t do that. Similar with the “far left” being off to my right.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @mdet:
            Yes, but when gesturing, what mental map are using to make the gesture

            For instance, if your mental map is “I am facing a bunch of people who identify as somewhere on the left to right spectrum and THEY will use their left hand to point to people further left than THEM …. then when YOU point to people on the left, you will need to use the mirror hand to do the pointing.

          • mdet says:

            I’m not thinking that deep into it. In a conversation about “right vs left” directionally, it takes deliberate thought for me to remember “Their right is your left, switch hands”. But swapping the political Right and Left happens even when I’m thinking to myself.

            Like when I read “Cthulhu always swims Left” I mentally picture a kaiju swimming… to the right.

    • Baeraad says:

      Yes, funnily enough. I do that too. And yeah, I’m also right-handed and identify more with the Left.

    • Nick says:

      I used to do the same thing, noticed it, and try not to anymore. I’m left handed and identify more with the right.

    • honoredb says:

      Huh, today I learned I have this too. My guess would’ve been that it’s because I live on the East Coast, so on average the Right is to the West, but I’m also a right-handed Left triber.

    • mtl1882 says:

      I noticed I have this too. My best guess is that I tend to associate the left with progress, so it’s like a timeline moving from left to right. My views aren’t actually that simplistic, but I think the association makes sense.

    • phisheep says:

      I do this too. How strange.

      I wonder if there’s an sort of history of political diagrams showing Conservatives to the left? Something must be driving this.

      • Eric Rall says:

        The origin of “left” and “right” in this context is seating conventions in the legislature of revolutionary France: monarchist and clericalist members would sit on the right side of the chamber , and the pro-revolution members would sit on the left. The tradition got picked up by other legislatures, including the US Congress.

        The US Congress, at least, interprets”left” and “right” as audience-left and audience-right: congressmen in their seats or visitors in the galleries see Democrats on the left and Republicans on the right, but from the “stage” perspective (the bit at the front where the Speaker or Senate President sits facing the body), left and right are reversed. If you’re picturing yourself on the Speaker’s Rostrum (perhaps because the way the State of the Union Address is televised, with the reaction shots of the House chamber filmed from behind the Rostrum), you’d see Republicans on your left and Democrats on your right.

        And I just noticed that Wikipedia has the seating charts backwards: their diagrams show Democrats on stage-left (audience-right) and Republicans on stage-right (audience-left).

        • HeelBearCub says:

          I have a feeling that this has more to do with Democrats and Republicans not having ever changed seating positions, despite their position on the spectrum “reversing”, but I could be wrong.

          Really, the Democratic and Republican coalitions don’t have a history of being extremely ideologically coherent, not in the way we would think of it now.

  18. tayfie says:

    A book I’ve been recently reading pointed out that nicknames are increasingly rare to the point of being a lost art. Sports is a prime example. The early years of baseball seemed to give every moderately famous player a nickname. The book further speculates that this is due to television removing the need for human imagination. You don’t need a nickname to remember someone if you have actually seen them in action.

    While nicknames don’t work as well on a forum where people can choose their own handles, what nickname would you give to some of the people here?

    I’ll go first.

    Scott “The Civil Savant” Alexander.

    • Nornagest says:

      Counterexample: rappers.

    • Joseph Greenwood says:

      “The Civil Savant” seems like a bit of a mouthful. Maybe Scott “Unsung” Alexander?

    • Matt M says:

      The book further speculates that this is due to television removing the need for human imagination. You don’t need a nickname to remember someone if you have actually seen them in action.

      My theory is a bit of a twist on this – but back in the day, sports weren’t necessarily as nationally popular as they are today. Athletes are more highly paid, more closely followed, more heavily scrutinized, more famous, more well known.

      A nickname is really simply a “stage name” that is given to you by others rather than by yourself. But modern athletes don’t really require/benefit from stage names. Their fame is directly proportional to their ability in a sport which is judged very objectively. Compare this to actors or musicians, where “getting famous” is a big deal, and your fame isn’t as clearly tied to your technical skill.

      Modern athletes can obtain fame simply by honing their craft, and then once they have it, their name alone becomes recognizable enough that a fancy nickname is unnecessary.

      • mdet says:

        Wikipedia has a page for basketball nicknames. There are still a number of players with nicknames, although I can’t tell if they’re becoming less common

      • tayfie says:

        Are athletes really more famous and more well known now?

        More highly paid makes sense because sports is better monetized, but I don’t get the sense people look up to professional athletes in the same way. The greater publicity has only seemed to encourage the notion that professional athletes are talented jerks that are only in it for fame and fortune.

        There seem to be much fewer athletes that people think of as social role models.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Athletes are less “famous” now, but more well known, I’d argue.

          Everyone knew who, say, baseball players were in the earlier parts of the 20th century. Fewer teams, fewer sports, fewer forms of entertainment meant that the common knowledge of the most well known athletes was off the charts. Apocryphal or not, the idea that any American soldier in WW2 should be able to name the starting lineup of the Yankees is a common one. I can’t think of anything similar these days.

          Conversely, for those who want to known something about an athlete, there is far more in depth information available literally in the palm of your hand, anytime, day or night.

    • cassander says:

      It always annoyed be that Barack Obama lacked a good presidential nickname. Now Trump lacks one as well. I begin to worry that this might be a pattern.

      • Matt M says:

        Part of it is probably partisan divide. An effective nickname has to be useable by both fans and opponents alike. Difficult to achieve.

      • Nornagest says:

        Did Clinton have a bipartisan one? All I can think of is “Slick Willie”, and that’s, uh…

        • Matt M says:

          I feel like “Slick Willie” (and maybe even “Dubya”) are somewhat bipartisan – in the sense that supporters treat them as colloquialisms to imply they are “men of the people” while opponents also use them as an implication that they are ignorant hicks.

          • cassander says:

            I do wish that “shrub” hadn’t acquired the negative connotation that it did, it was a better name than Dubya.

          • tayfie says:

            I’ve seen “Dubya” used by both supporters and detractors.

            “Slick” was a good adjective for Bill, and seemed fairly neutral. “Willie” was unfortunate since it ended up having too much of a distasteful sexual connotation.

      • tayfie says:

        I haven’t heard a good bipartisan nickname for Obama, which is a shame because he had a very distinct personality that could easily be captured by one.

        Wikipedia suggests “No Drama” Obama, which somewhat fits his presentation as collected and nonthreatening, but I’ve never heard that one in the wild.

        My favorite for Trump is “Teflon Don” which was popular in the primaries and still describes how nothing sticks to him.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          “No Drama” Obama was how was known to his staff. It was a term of endearment, specifically referring to his ability to stay calm and even keel through the most intense moments. I’d say you haven’t heard it because it isn’t neutral.

    • Erusian says:

      Really? I’ve had several nicknames and appellations throughout my life. “Moose” (because I’m big and have a stoic looking face), “Tank” (because of my powerful singing voice), “the Unlucky” (because of the obvious)…

      Most of my friends had nicknames too: Tog (short for ‘The Other Guy’), Kiki (her name was not Kristine), Halo (from the game), X (no idea), Y (his best friend), Z (his girlfriend), K (Y’s girlfriend), Pyro (loved fire/fireworks). Plus my girlfriends: Titita (or just Titi), Nally (not her name), Quer…

      Anyway, my vote for Scott Alexander would be Slate. Alternative: Scott the Starmind. Or… well, I could continue.

    • Well... says:

      I have several dozen nicknames for my wife and each of my kids, for whatever that’s worth.

    • Nick says:

      A few things: there were some folks in my high school who liked giving out nicknames and sticking to them aggressively. A classmate got the unflattering “Tuna”; I got saddled with “Chico,” and a friend with “Larissa.” I don’t think I heard much of this in college, just a lot of last names because fracking everybody was named Nick. And a few online friends still call me by old handles, even though I exclusively use Nick now and we’ve known each other’s full names for years. Lastly, some people like calling me Nicholas as a term of affection, even though it’s not my name—it’s Dominic, dammit—which I think might qualify as a kind of anti-nickname.

    • Mark Atwood says:

      I hate unchosen nicknames.

      This is closely associated with one of my berserk buttons: if I overhear someone making fun of someone’s name or intentionally mangling it to be insulting, I probably will never trust them or like them.

      • Well... says:

        Really? Even if they’re affectionate?

        Chosen nicknames hardly seem like nicknames. Like, if your name is Mark and you prefer Spike so you introduce yourself like “I’m Mark, but I go by Spike”. If people then call you Spike that’s not really a nickname, is it? Not in the sense normally implied anyway, as a name signaling intimacy between the person addressing and the person being addressed…

      • tayfie says:

        Why would you say that?

        When people don’t like a nickname, it encourages others to have fun at their expense by using the name.

        Example:

        The first reply I thought of after reading this was. “Easy, Shark, don’t bite my head off”.

  19. Mark V Anderson says:

    My 11 Myths are here.

    Note that I wrote the Myths in 2011, so the LP vote < 1% was true then.

    Myth #10: That free market proponents believe in no government. Only a small minority of free market advocates are anarchists. Free market anarchists do include members of the Libertarian Party (LP). All members of the LP must sign a pledge to oppose all coercion, which in turn means that any government is verboten. Per Wikipedia, only 115,000 people have ever signed this pledge. Only once has an LP candidate for President received over 1% of the vote. These are examples of the very few people in the United States that advocate no government whatsoever.

    Yet in a Pew Research Center poll, 18% labeled themselves as libertarian (http://people-press.org/2010/09/12/americans-spending-more-time-following-the-news/). Since a major tenet of libertarianism is the advocacy of free markets and limited government, it is clear that a substantial minority of Americans are free market advocates, and desires to decrease the size of government. But few of these people are anarchists, such as those that belong to the Libertarian Party.

    What does it mean to be for free markets but not against government altogether? Most of those for limited government are in favor of a military to protect the country against outside aggressors. They are also for an internal police force to maintain security inside the country, and a court system to rule on disputes and to punish offenders. Also, regulating of business externalities that hurt others (pollution) are thought by most free marketers to be a valid government function. All of these are very difficult functions to maintain without a government, but are necessary for civilization.

    Some free market advocates even support a government safety net for those down on their luck. It is hard to know what percentage of such advocates support a safety net, but there is nothing inherently incompatible with supporting an unrestricted market and also supporting government support for the poor. Also some free marketers support building common infrastructure like roads and railroads on the grounds that the free rider problem prevents such investment by the private market.

    What free market advocates do not support are economic development programs, subsidies for business, regulation of business beyond externalities, or “partnerships” with businesses. The private market works much better unencumbered by government control, and the government works better unencumbered by corrupting influences of rent-seeking businesses.

    • Matt M says:

      What does it mean to be for free markets but not against government altogether?

      A mixture of cowardice and lack of logical consistency.

      • WashedOut says:

        Edgy, but untrue. Seems pretty reasonable to be a laissez-faire minarchist. I remember watching an old interview with Milton Friedman where he basically said that hypothetically being able to buy heroin from a corner-store was bad, but government overreach was worse. Doesn’t strike me as a particularly cowardly position.

        • Matt M says:

          All government action is overreach.

          Being in favor of “mostly” free markets is like being in favor of drinking water that is “mostly” free of deadly poison. It only takes a few drops to spoil the entire supply. Any government interference in the market distorts the entire market.

          • Nick says:

            Just a nitpick: is that really a good analogy, Matt? We can tolerate in small amounts lots of things that are bad in large amounts, and making it purer is no doubt more costly.

            It might be better to say that allowing distortions is one thing, but legislating them in is another. But then the analogy is fluoride, which is a good thing too, isn’t it?

          • Lambert says:

            TO further overuse the analogy, I’d say gov’t regulation is like putting small amounts of chlorine in water.
            Too much will kill you.
            But if you don’t put any in, pathogens (tragedies of the commons, anticompetitive practices etc.) proliferate and kill you.

          • 10240 says:

            Tragedies of the commons, anticompetitive practices are not the best example. Preventing murder, assault, theft is better. Every libertarian agrees that explicit action (government or otherwise) is needed to prevent the latter, but many disagree that it’s needed against the former (and some of those think that the necessary action against the latter is not feasible without government).

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Being in favor of “mostly” free markets is like being in favor of drinking water that is “mostly” free of deadly poison.

            Nick and Lambert have the right answer.

            It is true that “hard” libertarianism is the most consistent position. No coercion is right ever. But that doesn’t mean it is the right position. If one has any values other than NAP, then you run into contradictions. For example:

            1) there will always be folks out there that want to take away your freedom. I think it is highly unlikely individuals voluntarily banding together spontaneously can defend against large scale criminals and their minions. If government fell apart altogether, the result will end up either a centralized dictatorship or decentralized warlords. I prefer our current flawed democracy.

            2) I like to live in a civilized society. It is a good thing that those that cannot support themselves nevertheless survive on welfare. It is possible that private benefactors could support everyone who can’t support themselves, but I think it is likely there would be many who fall through the cracks and essentially die in the streets. Our current welfare system is very flawed but fewer die than would in a private system.

            3) Water pollution and especially air pollution can travel long distances. Even if you have a well functioning voluntary group of local folks that prevent pollution by your local business or crackpot industrialist, how do you stop toxic fumes from blowing 100 miles downwind from a community that cares less about pollution. Or toxic waste 100 miles upriver. Our flawed governments have cleaned up lakes and the air dramatically over several decades ago. Lead is no longer poisoning young people’s brains.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            spontaneously can defend against large scale criminals and their minions.

            What you won’t be able to do is prevent the Romans from coming in and bringing your roads, sanitation, plumbing, etc. But then, horror of horrors, you will actually become Romans.

  20. Garrett says:

    [Trigger warning: murder, rape]

    In a previous Open Thread I’d asked about research involving the psychology around self-sacrifice under non-emergent conditions. I received some great references, but nothing quite on topic. I want to explore a bit more the area I’ve been thinking about.

    Because of my work in EMS and location, I’m very-peripherally connected to the events of the LA Fitness Shooting from some years ago. The TL;DR is that a man who was socially rejected went on a murder spree of women at a fitness facility as a form of revenge.

    The popularity of utilitarianism in these parts has left me with a bit of a conundrum about that event. Using the “book value” of the lives involved, all of those dead would have been better off if one of the women murdered had instead been compelled to be the shooter’s concubine. Of course, that kind of idea leads to revulsion in most people.

    Of course, if we were to support such a system, it would be likely that people would attempt to game it – claim to be willing to murder women unless they got their own concubine. Likewise, there’s the “don’t negotiate with terrorists” principle in that it just leads to more terrorism. So anybody who brought forward such a threat would have to be separated from society in some fashion. This means that people in such frame of mind are unwilling to speak up.

    It seems to me that this sort of detente comes up in life frequently. Why is it that we accept the “help them” solution in some cases (eg. starving children) but not the others (murderer above)? It seems that you can find either mild or severe costs and benefits on either side of the popular result.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Why is it that we accept the “help them” solution in some cases (eg. starving children) but not the others (murderer above)?

      Basically it just depends on how much sympathy people can drum up for the “victim”. And, of course, whether they or some group is willing to drum it up for them. Eliot Rodger was probably a lost cause; the YouTube shooter probably would have done better to get a sob story and a Patreon.

      • Matt M says:

        This. I would also add that the “creepy guy who can’t get girls” profile seems to be unsympathetic because many people seem to view their plight as the outcome of their own personal choices. While few would admit this, I think most people view the socially awkward as people who are choosing to be socially awkward. If someone behaves weirdly in social situations, the assumption is that they are actively choosing to defect against social norms, rather than a more innocent assumption that they just don’t understand the norms or how to comply with them.

        “Be nice to the kid with physical disabilities” is considered a positive value that is endorsed universally. But the underlying premise is that they can’t help how they are, wouldn’t you feel bad if you were them, etc. The socially awkward are largely dismissed as people who can help it, but are choosing not to because they are simply antisocial jerks. Therefore, there is no positive obligation to grant them any form of charity, assistance, or benefit of the doubt whatsoever.

        • hyperboloid says:

          Provided that you’re not physically deformed, if you can’t get laid then it probably is due to in great part to your choices. There are a lot of socially awkward people out there , including plenty of women, who have successful relationships.

          I also find it amusing that many of the people complaining about how unjust it is that hordes of submissive nymphomaniacs aren’t beating down their doors are often libertarians. Dude the market has spoken, it said no.

          • albatross11 says:

            hyperboloid:

            I can’t help noticing that (as Scott pointed out some time ago), basically the *only* people who seem to be offering folks in that category any hope of improvement are the PUA types. This seems pretty fundamentally broken, to me.

          • johan_larson says:

            I wonder if a low-end partner-up service, specializing in sprucing up and matching up the bottom 10% or so of the dating market, would be viable, either as a business, charity, or funded public service. There’s about as many men as women, so for every one of these unmatched men there is an unmatched woman, more or less.

          • WashedOut says:

            johan_larson:

            The business version of that is basically Queer Eye For the Straight Guy.

            funded public service

            Hah. Good luck selling that to the taxpayer.

            There’s about as many men as women, so for every one of these unmatched men there is an unmatched woman, more or less.

            Perhaps, but that doesn’t mean every unmatched woman is going to be satisfied with matching to one of these men. See: hypergamy.

          • David Speyer says:

            Regarding the “one lonely woman for every lonely man”: I’ve been wondering if the problem is age shifting. Anecdotally, I can think of a lot of single women in their sixties, and a lot of single guys in their early twenties. If women tend to date men even a few years older, you could wind up in a situation where the age disparity in individual couples is small but where the unpaired are far apart in age.

          • Matt M says:

            Dude the market has spoken, it said no.

            Indeed. But, to my point, if “the market says no” to someone in regards to employment, or health insurance, the state moves heaven and Earth to compensate that person. They are seen as a victim of the evil market that deserves our compassion and our resources.

            People who are told no in the market of love are mocked and ridiculed. They receive nothing but contempt and derision. How is that consistent?

            I wonder if a low-end partner-up service, specializing in sprucing up and matching up the bottom 10% or so of the dating market, would be viable, either as a business, charity, or funded public service.

            POF already exists, yo. Sure, there are some relatively high-status males with low standards who use it as an easy way to troll for sex, but it’s mostly the literal bottom of the barrel. It’s where *I* started!

          • mdet says:

            It was pointed out to me last time we had this conversation that, at age 25, there are 118 unmarried men for every 100 unmarried women in the US. That means the bottom 15% of men in desirability will be unable to find a (monogamous) partner no matter what. (The fact that men generally marry women slightly younger than themselves probably makes these numbers imperfect.) Whether any given guy is in that bottom 15% is probably mostly their own choices, but the existence of a bottom 15% seems inevitable.

            If “the market says no” to someone in regards to employment, or health insurance, the state moves heaven and Earth to compensate that person. They are seen as a victim of the evil market that deserves our compassion and our resources.

            People who are told no in the market of love are mocked and ridiculed. They receive nothing but contempt and derision. How is that consistent?

            Food, housing, and healthcare are fungible. If you can’t afford those things, I can easily give you cash until you can afford them, or even just give them to you directly. But companionship is hard. It’s not fungible from person to person, and it can’t be bought directly — there are very rich people who are very lonely, and very poor people who still have plenty friends. It really is something you have to earn for yourself. You’re right that it shouldn’t warrant automatic contempt though.

    • Enkidum says:

      Because one of them requires forcing someone with no responsibility for the problem into sex slavery and the other does not?

      Why isn’t preemptively forcing the murderer to live in jail a preferable solution from a utilitarian perspective?

      • Baeraad says:

        Or a middle ground – assign someone to follow the dude around, commiserate with his woes and remind him of his humanity, while firmly vetoing any ideas he voiced that started with “I’ll get a shotgun and…” And possibly call the police if he seemed like he was about to snap in spite of it.

        I mean, it’d take an awful lot of volunteers to cover every potentially maladjusted man in existence, but the sex slavery idea has the same problem and also has the problem of involving sex slavery, so, all other things being equal…

        • Matt M says:

          Indeed. There was a time in my life when I entertained some Eliot Rodger-esque ideas. Fortunately, I had a good female friend whom I respected who was there to tell me “Shut up, you aren’t entitled to anything, make yourself better or stop complaining.”

          A lot of these people are completely and totally isolated. Even ONE good friend telling them no might have saved them.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            The people in the inverted life situation of being pretty and popular often sure act and talk like they are “entitled”.

          • LesHapablap says:

            Mark Atwood,

            Personally, I had a near impossible time getting laid until I attained enough success in life that I actually felt like I deserved it. It is hard for a woman to respect you if you don’t respect yourself. Deserve is maybe not the same thing as entitled, but I don’t think the feminists from ‘Untitled’ make that distinction.

            My guess is that being low status or socially awkward produces an instinctive, visceral disgust from most women (being “creeped out”). The feeling gets explained with complicated blog posts about why nice guys really are awful people.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The feeling gets explained with complicated blog posts about why nice guys really are awful people.

            It’s not nice guys. It’s “nice guys”. “Nice guy” is a reference to a description that said person applies mostly to themself, when that person isn’t really all that nice.

            When it’s not a self appellation, it’s applied in a conversation where someone is being forced to explain why they aren’t attracted to you. “Look, you are a nice guy but I don’t want to date you.” This later usually only happens when the person in question does not have the emotional intelligence required to understand that when someone does not feel romantically or sexually attracted to you, forming a bond is about as likely as trying to bond with a noble gas. It’s called chemistry for a reason.

            Even then, you aren’t a “nice guy”. A “nice guy” is someone who then doesn’t take that “No” as a legitimate answer.

            The fact that people keep mangling the distinction is unfortunate, if predictable.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            @HeelBearCub

            When you make the distinction as nice guys vs. “nice guys”, yes, it makes more sense. It suggests the latter are guys for whom nice is an act; this is generally accepted as the opposite of nice.

            Unfortunately, I suspect there also exist guys who are genuinely nice, don’t get the girl, and should have, by the standards of anyone who was in the vicinity and watched the whole story unfold. But that will practically never happen, since any guy who’s genuinely nice is also not going to draw attention to their not getting the girl.

            Do you think this happens often enough to be a problem? I think it might. If it does, then it’s not only unfair to said genuinely nice guys; it’s also probably motivating more guys on the fence to decide that the effort required to be nice isn’t worthwhile. And I think – well, I don’t think guys deserve female attention whether or not they try to be nice or are just naturally nice or whatever; “deserve” is far from the right word for it – but wouldn’t it be right to encourage women to look for nice guys more often, and to give each one they find a closer look?

            I think that latter sentiment is what’s giving that side of the issue its moral traction.

            ETA: Maybe one possible approach is to publicize more genuinely good guys. The trick would be in doing so without having to have them step forward, since stepping forward isn’t really “nice” (see above). Someone else would have to call them out.

          • Deiseach says:

            The feeling gets explained with complicated blog posts about why nice guys really are awful people.

            No, Nice Guys are the ones who go on about “I’m a Nice Guy, why won’t anyone date me?” Sometimes they are genuinely nice guys who can’t figure out what is holding them back and would benefit from some tactful advice, but often they’re someone who, after ten minutes interacting with them, you can totally understand why nobody wants to be near them.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Paul Brinkley:

            don’t get the girl, and should have

            I think the line of thinking that led to you making this statement is the basic issue. I’m not blaming/criticizing you in particular here. I think this is societal level stuff (along with some stuff that probably falls into evo-psych).

            Take a second, sit with it, unpack it. Do you see what assumptions are built into this short sentence fragment?

            The girl is passive, something which you can “get”, essentially an object. That there is a contest which can be won which rewards the guy with the girl. That somehow this contest was unfair to the guy who “lost”.

            And John Hughes, among others, made a mint turning this into wonderful movies that captures a certain kind of fantastical feeling about being an adolescent. This sentiment is in the water. But it’s a huge dose of fantasy and the rest is a highly distorted picture of reality.

            The common reddit advice is “Step 1, be attractive. Step 2, don’t be unattractive.”

            That’s fine as far as it goes, but I’d say the real advice is “Step 1, make yourself likeable to yourself. Step 2, find people you like. Step 3, among those look for someone who likes you. Step 4, if they aren’t available go back to step 2 (or maybe even step 1).”

          • AliceToBob says:

            don’t get the girl, and should have

            Take a second, sit with it, unpack it. Do you see what assumptions are built into this short sentence fragment?

            The girl is passive, something which you can “get”, essentially an object. That there is a contest which can be won which rewards the guy with the girl. That somehow this contest was unfair to the guy who “lost”.

            That’s strange, when I read “don’t get the girl”, I always understand this to mean the girl rejected the advances of the guy. In other words, far from being passive or an object, the girl is making an active choice to refuse what is on offer.

            I agree that the phrasing is best avoided since it provides certain people an opportunity to espouse the standard feminist straw man that males view females as prizes to be won etc.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @AliceToBob:
            I don’t disagree that the phrase has lots of ways that it can be employed, but if you employ it along with the second highlighted part, I think the connotations lean heavily in the direction I am suggesting.

            Furthermore, the general pool of people that comprise the subject of this discussion are those who aren’t as emotionally intelligent. If you don’t like that phrase, perhaps you like “socially awkward” better. When I was younger, either one described me.

            When you have trouble reading social queues, and are mired in social misery, convenient narratives are seductive. The world is telling you over and over that “getting” the girl is a matter of completing the hero’s quest.

          • LesHapablap says:

            @Paul Brinkley:

            but wouldn’t it be right to encourage women to look for nice guys more often, and to give each one they find a closer look?

            Absolutely not. This would be trying to change human nature and it won’t ever work. It is akin to pressuring men in general to stop paying attention to women’s looks.

            The solution is to teach boys how to be attractive people. I assume most people get that from their parents, my dad did not do much of a job with that. Or maybe other kids were just socially smarter than I was.

            @HeelBearCub

            When you’re young, “getting a girl” isn’t really a contest but it is certainly a challenge. It takes real courage to go up to a girl and ask her out, and whether she says yes or no is hardly random. She is making a judgement about you, so if she says yes then that is genuine positive evidence about your character.

            That experience as an adolescent is not a “highly distorted picture of reality.” It is about as real as it gets.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            @HeelBearCub:

            I think the line of thinking that led to you making this statement [“don’t get the girl, and should have”] is the basic issue. I’m not blaming/criticizing you in particular here. I think this is societal level stuff (along with some stuff that probably falls into evo-psych).

            Take a second, sit with it, unpack it. Do you see what assumptions are built into this short sentence fragment?

            Well, one of the assumptions built into it was one that you just happened to trim away from what I originally said:

            “don’t get the girl, and should have, by the standards of anyone who was in the vicinity and watched the whole story unfold”

            Which, by extension, includes the girl herself. In other words, the girl, for whatever perfectly legitimate reason she might have had, overlooked the effort of the guy to be genuinely nice. (Very plausible reason: the guy flubbed it in some way because he’s socially awkward.) If she’d looked again – ideally with a moment of looking at this from the guy’s POV – she might have noticed, and decided that this was actually the kind of guy she was looking for. (And maybe not, even after that. That’s fine. I’m referring to marginal cases here, if that helps.)

            Another plausible reason: the girl is conditioned to interpret language such as “get the girl” in an uncharitable way, instead of the more normal way of the guy being obligated to make himself desirable in order to have a chance at her affections.

            This was a critical part of my account, and I really wish you had factored it in. Leave it in; now how does it look to you? Your account of John HughesLand was the near-exact opposite of what I had in mind. I meant something much closer to what AliceToBob described.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            @LesHapablap

            Absolutely not. [Encouraging women to look for nice guys more often, and to give each one they find a closer look] would be trying to change human nature and it won’t ever work. It is akin to pressuring men in general to stop paying attention to women’s looks.

            ….huh?? How is this any harder for women to master, than it is for men to master becoming more attractive? One of the precise ways men get taught to become more attractive, is to be nice guys. Furthermore, this was at the behest of the women who had advice to give.

            You seem to be claiming that
            men should change their nature in a way that women should never be expected to do,
            after the men had just done that,
            specifically as women had advised,
            and then reported that women didn’t seem to want that after all.

            If I were in their position, I would’ve felt like I’d been trolled.

            Are you… using a different definition of attractive or something?

          • ana53294 says:

            I think that one of the confusions about nice guys (and I am not talking about “nice” guys, but genuinely nice guys) is that by being nice, they can jump above their level. That’s not how the world works.

            Generally, a handsome jerk will date a beautiful b*tch, and a high income guy will date a high income woman. A nice guy gets a nice girl; she won’t be pretty, but she will be polite, respectful and nice. People who value niceness cultivate that value in themselves and look for it in their partners, and people who value attractiveness improve themselves (go to the gym, undergo surgery, use makeup), and look for it in their partners.

            If a guy happens to be nice, attractive and rich, then he can look for a woman who is nice, attractive and rich.

            Of course, sometimes having a lot of one oneself and valueing something else more, means you can kind of exchange those things (money and attractiveness is the usual pairing, but any other pair can work, as long as both of the partners are getting what they are looking for).

            So nice guys (guys who are polite, who are never rude or abusive even to those who are weak; that means, for example, giving tips in the US) should look for a nice girl who values niceness enough to cultivate this value in herself, not a pretty girl.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Well, one of the assumptions built into it was one that you just happened to trim away from what I originally said:

            “don’t get the girl, and should have, by the standards of anyone who was in the vicinity and watched the whole story unfold”

            I’ll say, I read this and interpreted it the same way as HBC–in particular, “in the vicinity and watched the whole story unfold” sounds like you’re referring to a bystander, not a participant; I don’t usually regard myself as “in the vicinity” of events to which I am a participant, nor would I describe myself as “having watched unfold” an event in which I took part–I would use that language for myself as a spectator.

            Anyway, though, I’m not really sure how it’s possible for the girl to have refused the guy’s advance, but think that she should have accepted “by her own standards”. You say she might have “overlooked the effort of the guy to be genuinely nice”–but this just supposes that her only standard is that she requires a guy to try and be nice; more realistically, her standards will involve “being genuinely convinced that a guy is nice”–compare with: does a guy who wants to date pretty girls violate his standards when he “overlooks the effort of a girl to be pretty”? No: he wants girls who are pretty, not “making an effort to genuinely be pretty”.

            The point I take HBC to be making is that it’s obvious to most people that the gender-reversed situation genuinely sounds unconvincing: everyone can see the flaw in reasoning in a story about who a girl puts on make-up and a flattering dress, but “doesn’t get the guy”, even though guys profess to like pretty girls–and that this is an injustice, since pretty girls should “get the guy”.

            We all understand that even if you like pretty girls, who you judge as pretty can be idiosyncratic; you are under no obligation to defer to a girl’s own self-assessment as pretty; and you can still reject a girl who is genuinely pretty because you’re under no obligation to date someone just because they happen to match one of your criteria. But people seem to have difficulty understanding the converse, with guys and girls switched and “niceness” replacing “prettiness”.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Eugene Dawn makes some excellent points, and I’d say I broadly agree with them.

            I think that the conversation here is too mechanical or transactional, which is a mistake. For instance:

            In other words, the girl, for whatever perfectly legitimate reason she might have had, overlooked the effort of the guy to be genuinely nice.

            It’s like you are describing a manager evaluating the performance of a new hire. “She overlooked, for legitimate reasons, his efforts to actually clean the floor”.

            Look, relationships, generally speaking, rest on communication. Communication is a two way street, and certainly getting better at correctly perceiving others communications is as important as being able to effectively communicate to others. To that extent, accurately perceiving the attempted communication is a skill that we generally want to build in young people, especially romantic communication.

            However, girls (broadly) already receive tons of that kind of skill building. I’m not seeing why there is some specific need for even more gendered training in “listening”.

            To pull this to the slightly more quotidian, it’s not infrequent that a girl will date an asshole. The idea that outcomes for her could have been improved by her not dating that person hold merit. The idea that outcomes would necessarily be improved by her dating someone else who she found unattractive (overall) but who was also (actually, secretly) nice doesn’t hold up.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I’m not really sure how it’s possible for the girl to have refused the guy’s advance, but think that she should have accepted “by her own standards”. You say she might have “overlooked the effort of the guy to be genuinely nice”-but this just supposes that her only standard is that she requires a guy to try and be nice; more realistically, her standards will involve “being genuinely convinced that a guy is nice” […]

            What if you imagined the girl making an honest mistake and simply not catching what the guy was doing at first? Women are human, and they’re not always on the lookout for desirable mates, just as men aren’t always. Imagine two ships passing in the night, one sends a signal, and the other just doesn’t have its antenna up right then. Or it’s up, but the signal is garbled.

            Men and women don’t always speak the same language. Men and women who are socially awkward, especially so.

            The point I take HBC to be making is that it’s obvious to most people that the gender-reversed situation genuinely sounds unconvincing: everyone can see the flaw in reasoning in a story about who a girl puts on make-up and a flattering dress, but “doesn’t get the guy”, even though guys profess to like pretty girls-and that this is an injustice, since pretty girls should “get the guy”.

            Humor me. What is the flaw in reasoning here? Are you telling me you’ve never seen or heard stories about a woman trying to get a man’s attention and failing?

            We all understand […] you are under no obligation to defer to a girl’s own self-assessment as pretty […] But people seem to have difficulty understanding the converse, with guys and girls switched and “niceness” replacing “prettiness”.

            Ah. This sounds like a separate problem. I’m sure there exist incels who don’t get that they can put their offer out and still have it turned down. But I’m also sure there exist guys who aren’t having a problem with this. Rather, they’re looking at the girls on the margin who say “nice” makes the difference, and it turns out it doesn’t. I don’t mean to conflate those with girls in general. And this is separate from the set of women who overlook genuinely nice guys by honest mistake.

            And as far as the latter problem goes, I also hope we’re not conflating the former incels with the latter who look like them (“incels on the margin”, for lack of a better term). Until you mentioned this, I never really thought about this distinction.

          • LesHapablap says:

            Paul Brinkley,

            ….huh?? How is this any harder for women to master, than it is for men to master becoming more attractive? One of the precise ways men get taught to become more attractive, is to be nice guys. Furthermore, this was at the behest of the women who had advice to give.

            You seem to be claiming that
            men should change their nature in a way that women should never be expected to do,
            after the men had just done that,
            specifically as women had advised,
            and then reported that women didn’t seem to want that after all.

            If I were in their position, I would’ve felt like I’d been trolled.

            Are you… using a different definition of attractive or something?

            I’m not just saying it is harder [for women to change who they like than a man to change his nature], I’m saying its impossible for women to master because you are asking them to be attracted to something they aren’t attracted to. For one thing, at some point sexual intercourse needs to occur and that will not work well if the woman is not aroused.

            It’s like telling men that they should be fine dating ugly women because it is immoral that they discriminate based on looks. You are asking human nature to change in a fundamental way.

            To your second point, that women are never expected to change their nature, that is false. Women spend unbelievable amounts of work making themselves look better in order to be more attractive to men. All that time at the gym in order to get a nice butt. Hours and hours every week putting on makeup. Dieting. I’m told they obsess over how to act as well.

            To your third point, that women/society have asked men to be nice and that this is unfair trolling, you are absolutely correct. It is easier for women to know what to work toward to be attractive, in my opinion, whereas men get lots of conflicting advice. This problem seems to be getting worse these days, with children raised in an absurdly coddled and risk-averse way, and I suspect the lower pregnancy rate among teenagers is a result of that immaturity.

            The worst advice for both boys and girls is that your personality or soul is what’s attractive, and superficial things (like looks, money, clothes) shouldn’t or don’t matter. Most people have to put in the work to be attractive! For men mostly that means working hard at difficult things and then accomplishing them to gain status. Sports are good for this but there are many, many other ways.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Look, relationships, generally speaking, rest on communication. Communication is a two way street, and certainly getting better at correctly perceiving others communications is as important as being able to effectively communicate to others.

            Totally agreed there (as my most recent comment hopefully implied).

            However, girls (broadly) already receive tons of that kind of skill building. I’m not seeing why there is some specific need for even more gendered training in “listening”.

            Are you saying boys don’t get tons of training? Maybe not exactly the same, but plenty of their own. Maybe they don’t AFAIK.

            However, guys who complain that they try to be nice and still aren’t getting positive feedback seem to be exactly the ones who are trying extra hard to up their perception game. If that’s true, it’d be a shame to tell them tough luck, and mock them on their way out (as I’ve seen a few people do – thankfully, no one here).

            I don’t think they’re all just trying to abuse the rules set before them, if that makes sense. Or maybe the most vocal ones are, and they’re ruining it for the quieter ones.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            What if you imagined the girl making an honest mistake and simply not catching what the guy was doing at first? Women are human, and they’re not always on the lookout for desirable mates, just as men aren’t always. Imagine two ships passing in the night, one sends a signal, and the other just doesn’t have its antenna up right then. Or it’s up, but the signal is garbled.

            I don’t quite understand this: if it’s not that the guy was rejected, but rather that the girl didn’t catch on that he was making a pass, I’m not sure what this has to do with her “standards”?

            I don’t know that it changes my point, though: imagine a girl who knows a guy is interested in “pretty girls”. She puts on her make-up and her low-cut dress, and goes to flirt with him, but he is oblivious–bystanders notice that she seems pretty, but if he doesn’t bite I don’t think I would characterize this as “he should have, by his own standards”.
            More generally, failing to jump at any opportunity that can be plausibly interpreted as meeting your standards is almost never regarded as a failure to live up to those standards: I might walk past dozens of restaurants I might plausibly enjoy while hungry, and no passers-by or onlookers will think that I “should have” stopped at any one of them, “by my standards”.

            Humor me. What is the flaw in reasoning here? Are you telling me you’ve never seen or heard stories about a woman trying to get a man’s attention and failing?

            The flaw in reasoning is, as I note in the restaurant analogy above, that we do not generally regard it as a failure to live up to one’s standards if one ever passes up an opportunity that can be at all characterized as meeting those standards.
            Obviously many people try and fail to get the attention of members of their preferred sex; the question is, do we characterize such situations by saying that those who fail “should have [succeeded], by the standards of anyone who was in the vicinity and watched the whole story unfold”?
            Specifically, the objection here is to the “should have”–what about an interaction between two prospective romantic partners makes it so that the one “should” accept a romantic relationship? From where does the obligation implied by “should” arise? Your phrasing suggests it arises whenever one person meets the standards of the other, as judged by “anyone who was in the vicinity and watched the whole story unfold”.
            I contend that this is an absurd standard, and we recognize this in almost any other context.

            Rather, they’re looking at the girls on the margin who say “nice” makes the difference, and it turns out it doesn’t. I don’t mean to conflate those with girls in general. And this is separate from the set of women who overlook genuinely nice guys by honest mistake.

            How do they know it doesn’t in general? First of all, does their definition of “nice” match the girl’s? Second, there is a genuine difference between “trying to be nice” and “being nice”–the same as there is a real distinction between “trying to be pretty” and “being pretty”, or “trying to be funny” or “being funny”. In the post I responded to, you specified that the guy made a “genuine effort to be nice”–a woman interested in niceness should not be any more impressed by a “genuine effort to be nice” than a guy interested in prettiness should be impressed by a “genuine effort to be pretty”–in both cases, they want the real article, not a genuine but failed attempt at it. In many cases, a “genuine effort” that comes off as very much effortful only draws attention to the distance from the real thing (funniness is a trait where I find this particularly pronounced).
            Finally, even if “nice” makes the difference, that’s no good if the other traits aren’t there. I might use price as a tiebreaker when deciding between two meals, but that doesn’t mean I’m not practicing what I preach if I consistently skip the cheapest restaurant in town.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Paul Brinkley:

            However, guys who complain that they try to be nice and still aren’t getting positive feedback seem to be exactly the ones who are trying extra hard to up their perception game.

            This is an explicit example of the kind of conflation you are falling into, and it’s why your argument is relatively incoherent. If you really don’t see why this is a conflation, it perhaps explains your confusion.

            Effective communication (and perception of communication) is not the same thing as being nice.

            Small example, holding a door open for the person behind you is being nice.

            Holding the door open for the person behind you because they are a woman is nice layered with something else (could be a variety of things).

            Holding the door open for the woman behind you, because they are a woman, and making a show of it by tipping your hat, on a college campus, while knowing that person is a feminist – that fails both at being nice, effective communication, and effective perception.

            It doesn’t really matter that the person doing so has adopted a personal code of chivalry and is attempting their sincerest to be nice, not from the perspective of the woman in question. The man in question may have satisfied their own code of conduct, which is fine as far as that goes, but then they need to be hanging out with, say, SCA members who appreciate it for what it is.

            And yes, I understand that this example raises hackles, but it’s useful precisely because it is one we are likely to understand.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I don’t know that it changes my point, though: imagine a girl who knows a guy is interested in “pretty girls”. She puts on her make-up and her low-cut dress, and goes to flirt with him, but he is oblivious-bystanders notice that she seems pretty, but if he doesn’t bite I don’t think I would characterize this as “he should have, by his own standards”.

            Alice: “Hi, Bob.”
            Bob (not looking up): “Hey.”
            Alice: “How’re you doing?”
            Bob (glances sideways at Alice, but back down again, preoccupied): “Fine.”
            Alice: “Doing anything this Friday?”
            Bob: “…huh? No. …umm, excuse me…” (leaves)
            (Bob wanders aimlessly for a few seconds, then notices his pal Charlie.)
            Bob: “‘Sup, Charlie?”
            Charlie: “Hey buddy. …What’s wrong?”
            Bob: “Oh, y’know. Just…”
            Charlie: (waits)
            Bob: “…bored, I guess.”
            Charlie: “Yeah? How’s your Friday lookin’?”
            Bob: “…sorta dead, man.”
            Charlie: “That so? I might have something lined up…”
            Bob: “Cool.”
            Charlie: “Then again, why don’t you see if Alice wants to do something? I overheard you two talking…”
            Bob: “Huh?”
            Charlie: (physically turns Bob’s head so he can’t help but focus on Alice)
            Bob: “Oh! …Oh wow.”
            Charlie: “She looks great today, eh?”
            Bob: “…yeah. I guess I never noticed.”
            Charlie: “That’s because she hasn’t tried as hard until now.”
            Bob: “Oh. ….Ohhh…”
            Charlie: “Uh-huh. Go over there and say hello again. And buddy?”
            Bob: “Yeah?”
            Charlie: “Make sure you apologize first.”

            The above made-up dialogue is such textbook romcom fodder that I have to believe you’ve seen it before, and classify it as something else. To wit:

            The flaw in reasoning is, as I note in the restaurant analogy above, that we do not generally regard it as a failure to live up to one’s standards if one ever passes up an opportunity that can be at all characterized as meeting those standards.

            Okay then: what do you call it?

            On to the second problem:

            Paul (me): Rather, [guys trying genuinely to be nice are] looking at the girls on the margin who say “nice” makes the difference, and it turns out it doesn’t.

            Eugene: How do they know it doesn’t in general?

            Technically, they don’t, since they haven’t tried this on some large sample of women like it’s a Gallup poll. But they’re not stupid; they can see that whatever they’re doing isn’t working, and looks unlikely to ever work, and maybe even starts looking like it backfires – like they’re trying to learn to play a musical instrument, and the method they try not only makes a terrible noise, but makes them worry that they’re learning a bad habit they’ll have to unlearn just to get back to square one.

            First of all, does their definition of “nice” match the girl’s?

            Maybe; maybe not. Maybe they found advice from women who literally did their best to address this, and they did their honest best to follow said advice. Maybe the advice was vague, or they’re just flubbing it because they need practice, and some reassurance that that’s all they need, and that they’re not falling into a rut.

            Second, there is a genuine difference between “trying to be nice” and “being nice” […] in both cases, they want the real article, not a genuine but failed attempt at it.

            …hoo boy. Then why do I hear people advise guys to try, when it will never work? Why waste everyone’s time? Why not just tell them they’ll never succeed, because they’re just not nice, trying will never get them there because it’s just trying, sorry for that confusion, hope you can get used to being single?

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            @HeelBearCub

            Holding the door open for the woman behind you, because they are a woman, and making a show of it by tipping your hat, on a college campus, while knowing that person is a feminist – that fails both at being nice, effective communication, and effective perception.

            Presented as above, this is clearly not something a guy trying genuinely be nice would do. Why would you offer it?

          • albatross11 says:

            ISTM that this mostly comes down to the fact that people often can’t or won’t verbalize exactly what they find attractive. And that neither romantic nor sexual attraction runs on some set of rules. (“Ah, she’s got long dark hair, a pretty face, and a nice figure, therefore I shall find her attractive.”)

            Further, when asked what they find attractive, most people are probably affected a lot by either social expectations or self-deception. And essentially all media platforms talking about “what women want” are selling either ideological snake oil or commercial snake oil or some other kind of fantasy.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Presented as above, this is clearly not something a guy trying genuinely be nice would do.

            Ummm, hello? Who do you think we are talking about here? These guys exist. They really think this is what being nice is, and they also think this is what would make them attractive. Partly because they are swallowing hory cliched narratives about relationships.

            Remember you have already assumed that this is someone who can’t actually identify how to be nice.

            In your example above (the girl trying to look pretty) you actually managed to shift the goal posts so far we appear to be in a different time zone. First off, we are back into you thinking that a rom com somehow resembles real life, but past that you made the girl successful at transforming herself. That wasn’t the example we started with.

          • Matt M says:

            I think you’re both way off here. The fedora-tipping door-holder is as much of an unrealistic stereotype as the nerdy girl who combs her hair and takes off her glasses and goes from a 2 to a 10 instantly.

            In real life, the way that a guy intentionally endeavoring to be “nice” usually manifests itself is through inaction. What the media tells men is that being nice to women means not approaching them with romantic intent. And this is why it’s the “nice guy” who inevitably gets friend-zoned. Because he receives some forms of advice that, on their own, are not necessarily bad: Talk to the girl, get to know her, pursue common interests, behave in a polite manner, etc. But he inevitably waits too long to make a move, because making a move isn’t nice behavior.

            What the PUA types teach (and what is universally considered to not be nice behavior) is to increase your level of aggressive interest by like 10000%. Approach. Make romantic intent clear immediately.

            Fedora-tipping is some weird middle ground that is designed, almost intentionally, to fail. It’s making romantic intent obvious without being honest about it, which nobody responds to well at all (similar to the “dating loophole” episode of Seinfeld).

            But I think in the case of most “nice guys” the only thing missing is an honest and confident and quick expression of romantic intent. Which is admittedly a terrifying thing to do if you’re shy or awkward or low status or whatever.

            The nice guy lament is something like “I did everything right! I took my time! I got to know her! We became friends first! I bought her a really thoughtful gift! I walked her to the bus and held her bag! And then, some random jerk just comes up to her at a bar and asks her out and she says yes! Why him and not me?

            And the most obvious explanation is: Because he asked and you didn’t.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M:

            The truth is that the guy who did all of those things almost assuredly had no shot anyway. If you did all that and nothing happened, she wasn’t interested and she wasn’t going to be interested. Plus, that girl knew the guy was interested. Sure, there are some weird edge cases, but most of the time it wasn’t going happen anyway. Maybe asking early on would have gotten you an awkward date, but that’s it.

            As to whether the guy who feels uncomfortable in his own skin and has absorbed some fantastic chivalry as an attractive ethos exists, kids like that certainly existed at some point. I knew some of them. In some ways I was one. Awkward and unsure of myself, having no clue how to fit in, hanging out with the other kids who didn’t know how to fit in. Knowing I was socially unattractive or at least not attractive enough, but not knowing why. Wondering why “nice” didn’t seem to be helpful like I thought it was supposed to be.

            What all of that really was was simply being poorly socially skilled. Slowly I matured out of that.

          • LesHapablap says:

            Matt M is right

            Inaction is a kind of self-sabotage, a half-committed attempt, reeking of fear of failure

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Okay then: what do you call it?

            I don’t have a name for it, because it’s such a banal part of life it seems completely unremarkable. Let’s circle back: this all started because you characterized a possible interaction as follows:

            guy is nice to girl, guy fails to get girl, even though he should have.

            What HBC and I are saying is that this “should have” doesn’t make sense to us: by what standard “should” he have gotten the girl?

            You say, by her standards: she wants a nice guy, he was a nice guy, therefore, she should have accepted his romantic gesture.

            We are saying, no, this is not a standard people are held to in other realms of human affairs. I want Chinese food. I walk by a Chinese restaurant, but don’t go in. Who would say “the restaurant should have received my business by my standards”? I think no one. Even if I want Chinese food, we recognize no obligation on me to patronize any particular Chinese restaurant.

            We’re not saying it’s impossible for a girl to misjudge a guy, or misread his intentions, or to turn down a relationship that would have been good for her; we’re saying that the mere fact of turning down a guy who is nice, when she wants a nice guy, doesn’t mean that any of those things happened.

            But they’re not stupid; they can see that whatever they’re doing isn’t working, and looks unlikely to ever work, and maybe even starts looking like it backfires

            As my previous comment suggests, perhaps what they’re doing doesn’t match the girl’s definition of nice, or maybe they are not as good at acting nice as they think they are–it’s not enough to see that what you’re trying isn’t working to conclude that girls don’t want nice guys, you need to be sure that what you’re trying is actually “being nice” by a girl’s standards.

            Maybe they found advice from women who literally did their best to address this, and they did their honest best to follow said advice. Maybe the advice was vague, or they’re just flubbing it because they need practice, and some reassurance that that’s all they need, and that they’re not falling into a rut.

            Then why do I hear people advise guys to try, when it will never work? Why waste everyone’s time? Why not just tell them they’ll never succeed, because they’re just not nice, trying will never get them there because it’s just trying, sorry for that confusion, hope you can get used to being single?

            These two are related. The point isn’t that you shouldn’t try, or that a guy isn’t doing his best. The point is that “I tried my best to be nice and didn’t work” isn’t evidence that girls don’t like nice guys, since it’s entirely possible that “my best” wasn’t up to a girl’s standard.
            This is obvious if we gender-reverse and use prettiness again: “I tried my best to be pretty, but he wasn’t impressed–guys must not really like pretty girls” has an obvious flaw in reasoning.

            More generally, I think the plight of of socially awkward people who genuinely have trouble effortlessly passing off the cues that others pick up as “niceness” is sympathetic: to some extent I am such a person, and was much moreso in the not-so-distant past. These things do take practice, and can be improved, by at least some people some of the time.

            I’m just saying, in most other realms of human affairs we recognize the distinction between “I’m trying” and “I’m succeeding”. A guy who has difficulty in social situations, but is trying his best certainly doesn’t deserve contempt or anything like that–but equally, he isn’t entitled to have women overlook the gap between his attainment and their preferred level of social grace and start dating him just because he’s made a genuine effort.

          • Aapje says:

            I think that we need to distinguish between individual- and group-level success.

            If a woman is told/taught that men appreciate make-up a lot, she uses make up somewhat competently and yet isn’t liked more by Bob, then she can’t complain. However, if it’s not just Bob, but Jack, Steve, Mark, Matt and Scott are also indifferent, then IMO she can legitimately feel upset about getting bad advice.

            Another issue is cost.

            If Jane is told that men really like Gender studies majors, she spends a lot of time and money getting the degree and she finds it unhelpful to attract men, then she is more justified to feel upset than if she gets the wrong advice to wear a clown’s nose. The latter can be tested at low cost, the former is high cost.

            Another form of cost is opportunity cost.

            There’s also the issue of people presenting multivariate optimization scenario’s as univariate, as well people presenting preferences that are a normal distribution as a linear model.

            If people make Bob believe that women always like nicer men over less nice men, while the reality is that they like a certain level (and kind) of niceness, disliking men that have low niceness, but also men with high niceness, then Bob can fail by being too nice. If he responds to that failure by trying to become even nicer, he fails even more.

            If people tell Bob to optimize income and niceness, but fail to tell him that looks matter a lot as well, he can be turned down for dressing poorly, yet not being aware of this. He is made to believe that only some variables matter (greatly), but the actual truth is different, making him forgo relatively easy changes.

            When these two issues both occur, they make the situation even worse, because Bob will never notice if he hits the niceness sweet spot or that behaving more nicely makes him do worse. After all, because he fails at the looks department, he gets little good feedback. Then if he has gotten into the habit of behaving really nicely and is then given advice to dress better and does so, he’ll fail because now he behaves too nicely/submissively.

            Then when Bob complains about being given an impossible puzzle or draws wrong conclusions because he never got the kind of advice or feedback that let him figure out what women actually want, he is called a misogynist…

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Eugene Dawn:
            I think you are falling into the mistaken argument of conflating niceness and attractiveness (at least in your argument). Being nice can be part of an attractiveness package, but it’s definitely not the same thing. And of course, like atoms or molecules, not everyone is looking for the same thing in a romantic partner.

            @Aapje:
            Bob tries to open a restaurant, and it flops with little to no business. It has tablecloths with candles. The serving staff have been trained to helpful and solicitous. The menu over the counter is bright and cheery and has lots of options with calorie counts.

            If Bob concludes bitterly and angrily that he failed because he has been given an impossible puzzle to solve and customers are giving him the wrong advice, they should be coming into his restaurant as he has lots of things people like, we might conclude that he is a something of a misanthrope.

          • Matt M says:

            The truth is that the guy who did all of those things almost assuredly had no shot anyway. If you did all that and nothing happened, she wasn’t interested and she wasn’t going to be interested. Plus, that girl knew the guy was interested. Sure, there are some weird edge cases, but most of the time it wasn’t going happen anyway. Maybe asking early on would have gotten you an awkward date, but that’s it.

            I strongly disagree. I think there’s a strong societal norm that men have to be the initiators in romantic engagements. While it’s true that in that scenario, the guy did many things to potentially hint at interest, I don’t think it’s fair to say “She knew he was interested” because he failed to do the single most important thing that one can do to show interest – actually ask her out.

            Most reasonably attracted women get hit on all the time. Someone who is around her constantly but never hits on her isn’t signaling interest, they’re signaling a lack of it.

            I keep hearing that these societal norms are starting to change, but I certainly haven’t seen it. I’ve never in my life been approached or asked out first by a woman. Never been kissed first, or taken to the bedroom first. I’ve had to initiate these things literally 100% of the time. And it wasn’t until I accepted that fact that I began to turn things around and actually make progress in this front.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            @HBC

            I think you are falling into the mistaken argument of conflating niceness and attractiveness (at least in your argument).

            I don’t think that’s what I’m doing, but I’m not sure what part of my comment you’re referring to. I brought up prettiness as a completely separate phenomenon from niceness, but one where I hoped the distinction between “judging yourself to have put in the effort to be [quality]” is distinct in an important way from “having [quality]” would be more obvious. If you’re referring to something else though, you can clarify.

            @Aapje
            I mostly agree with everything you say, and just want to state clearly that I have no very strong opinion on what things are actually like on the dating scene, or how likely various scenarios are. I am primarily responding to the discussion between HBC and Paul Brinkley over the “should have gotten the girl” language in an earlier comment–it strikes me as entirely plausible that guys don’t get great dating advice and insofar as this is true, they have a right to be resentful of that fact.

            However, to go back to the original original topic, sometimes that resentment, combined with a stronger sense of the entitlement I think underlies the “should have gotten the girl” sentiment can curdle into a real and ugly misogyny; obviously not every guy who thinks he’s gotten a raw deal on the dating market exhibits this, but I think the “should have gotten the girl”-type sentiment can metastasize into something worse.

            @MattM

            I keep hearing that these societal norms are starting to change, but I certainly haven’t seen it. I’ve never in my life been approached or asked out first by a woman. Never been kissed first, or taken to the bedroom first. I’ve had to initiate these things literally 100% of the time. And it wasn’t until I accepted that fact that I began to turn things around and actually make progress in this front.

            If you don’t mind me asking, how old are you? I know I am a bit of an outlier here, but literally every romantic or sexual experience of mine has been initiated by the woman, except one date that we were mutually set up on by a friend (I am not including sexual encounters once in a relationship).

            It’s true that I’ve almost certainly missed out on opportunities due to being hesitant, and I don’t think a full strategy of hesitancy is one I’d actually recommend to others, but in my experience it doesn’t spell a life of celibacy either. And, to be clear, I am not particularly good looking, or wealthy, or charming, or anything like that. I’m not hideous, and my social skills are a lot better than they used to be, but at least some of my success in attracting female attention is from a younger age when I was much, much more awkward than I am now.

          • Matt M says:

            I’m 32, and didn’t come upon the “If I want anything here, I have to initiate myself” stratagem until like, 27 or so.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Eugene Dawn:

            You say, by her standards: she wants a nice guy, he was a nice guy, therefore, she should have accepted his romantic gesture.

            The implicit argument being accepted here is that “nice” is enough to make you attractive. I agree with the idea that whatever a person’s preferences, they aren’t obliged to accept any advances from anyone who nominally meets them. But merely being nice is hardly ever enough to make you attractive on its own anyway.

            I think perhaps part of the confusion is that there is a trope (now dead, I think), that I associate with 50s era media and media nostalgic for the 50s, wherein a girl will say something like “All I want is to meet a nice guy, is that too much to ask?”

            In that trope, “nice guy” didn’t mean literally merely nice, but a whole package of qualities, an archetype.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            me: [T]his is clearly not something a guy trying genuinely be nice would do.

            HBC: Ummm, hello? Who do you think we are talking about here?

            Hello! Me, in the very first comment I made in this subthread: I suspect there also exist guys who are genuinely nice […] which I (and Deiseach and others) subsequently clarified to include guys who try to be nice but don’t get the message across for understandable reasons, such as that they’re awkward, the girl was preoccupied, etc.

            In your example above (the girl trying to look pretty) you actually managed to shift the goal posts so far we appear to be in a different time zone. First off, we are back into you thinking that a rom com somehow resembles real life, but past that you made the girl successful at transforming herself.

            This is included under understandable reasons. Sometimes the girl tries to look attractive, and would have succeeded, but the guy was dense. How hard can it be to believe that a guy might try to be attractive, and would have succeeded, except that the girl was preoccupied? (Attractive ~= nice, in this context – I think both Eugene and I were conflating it and that was fine because I think we’re both really talking about anything that makes someone more desirable as a mate.)

            Furthermore, with remarks such as “shift the goal posts so far we appear to be in a different time zone”, I’m at the point here where I suspect you simply don’t want to understand the other sides here. But later you say:

            What all of that really was was simply being poorly socially skilled. Slowly I matured out of that.

            Which tells me that you do understand on some level. So one thing I was getting at in my very first comment:

            ETA: Maybe one possible approach is to publicize more genuinely good guys.

            …is that guys trying to be nice, and then getting frustrated and saying so, need more detailed accounts about how other guys “matured out of that”.

            And to repeat, along with that, would be a way of encouraging girls to be more receptive to guys who try to be nice but flub it, on the premise that these are guys are becoming the sort of guys these girls themselves say they want. This does not strike me as unreasonable, let alone some sort of mal-advice based on ignorant conflation.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            @Eugene:

            We are saying, no, this is not a standard people are held to in other realms of human affairs. I want Chinese food. I walk by a Chinese restaurant, but don’t go in. Who would say “the restaurant should have received my business by my standards”? I think no one. Even if I want Chinese food, we recognize no obligation on me to patronize any particular Chinese restaurant.

            Yes, of course not. But I’m not just talking about a one-time walk past a Chinese restaurant. I’m talking about situations where, say, I walk past a Chinese restaurant every day, lamenting how there doesn’t seem to be good Chinese food around. And the owner just happens to overhear this, and puts out a bigger sign, and then some specials, and then pictures of his most attractive menu items, and then a little fan to waft smells from the kitchen, and after two months of him upping his game, I finally say I give up and go into the dive on the other side of the square with stale eggrolls because the owner there decided to call customers inside for a few minutes like a carnival barker.

            Do you, at any point here, think it might be understandable for my friend to slap me in the back of the head and and tell me to pay attention to the first restaurant? This doesn’t really have anything to do with my obligations under any code of ethics. It’s more me – which is to say, anyone – missing out due to sheer obliviousness. If the phrase “failing by their own standards” is all that’s putting you off here, then forget I said it. They’re still worse off, and the proximate cause is still their own inaction.

            Matt M, similarly, is speaking to the apparent injustice of a joint that might not even pass health code getting the business because its owner did something the first owner was told was boorish and unseemly. (And trust me, Matt, I don’t think every girl goes from 2 to 10 just from taking the glasses off; that dialogue was deliberately exaggerated for illustration…)

            The point isn’t that you shouldn’t try, or that a guy isn’t doing his best. The point is that “I tried my best to be nice and didn’t work” isn’t evidence that girls don’t like nice guys, since it’s entirely possible that “my best” wasn’t up to a girl’s standard. This is obvious if we gender-reverse and use prettiness again: “I tried my best to be pretty, but he wasn’t impressed-guys must not really like pretty girls” has an obvious flaw in reasoning.

            I agree with all of that. It’s even relevant sometimes; some guys do indeed infer that girls don’t really dig nice guys. But it also leaves out the point I was making there, which is that another question the guy is asking is whether he’s just intrinsically incapable of being the kind of nice that girls like. That’s also relevant, because if a guy tries and fails and asks how he failed and the response is “trying is not succeeding”, then that guy can be forgiven for inferring that he’ll never succeed, since anything he does differently is, by definition, trying.

            When you say, later: it strikes me as entirely plausible that guys don’t get great dating advice and insofar as this is true, they have a right to be resentful of that fact, you’ve got it. Nail on the head. This is what I think is driving these guys to frustration in this specific case.

            I also think there’s a sense of entitlement in some of them, and I agree that it’s ruinously undue. And I think that there are guys who are bright enough to avoid that sense of entitlement, and are getting treated as if they have it anyway, or are being simply ignored, and that’s especially sad, precisely because the whole system gives them no clear avenue to being seen, without also looking like the former group.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            @HBC

            That was my interpretation of Paul Brinkley’s scenario, so while I agree that point of view is implicit, it’s not because I think that niceness is the whole of attractiveness, but because I was responding to his (presumably deliberately simplistic) scenario. But I agree that the example is absurdly simplistic and leaves out much realistic detail.

            @Paul Brinkley
            I think at this point we basically agree; the only thing I’ll say is that my original comment was trying to make the point that there genuinely are men with that sense of entitlement, and that the trope that a guy “should have gotten the girl” sounds like it buys into that entitlement, which is what HBC was originally reacting to.

            @Matt M
            Huh, we’re basically the same age, so it’s not a generational thing. Interesting.

          • LesHapablap says:

            Paul Brinkley,

            There’s a quality women look for that is much more important than niceness (by whatever definition), and that is having the balls to actually be direct and ask her out. Women don’t want to be with a guy that only sort of wants them, or is scared to talk to them in an honest way.

            Think about how tedious it would be for a woman to start a relationship with someone that is scared to ask for what they want!

          • Matt M says:

            To me, “should have gotten the girl” is not really a statement of entitlement so much as a commentary on typical dating advice.

            Typical dating advice goes “Do X, Y, and Z and you will get the girl.” If that advice is correct, then someone who does X, Y, and Z should, in fact, get the girl. If they don’t get the girl, their complaint is not with the girl necessarily, but with the advice givers.

            To the extent that HBC and those of his ilk are communicating a message of “There is no X, Y, Z. Attraction is complicated and depends on a high variety of variables that differ significantly from person to person such that predictions of success are nearly impossible,” I find that completely and totally reasonable and probably mostly accurate to boot.

            The problem is that young men are absolutely bombarded with messages from all corners of society on a nearly constant basis of “X, Y, and Z will work” rather than the more correct, “X, Y, and Z will slightly increase your odds but the math is still very much against you and you will probably fail 90+% of the time no matter what you do.”

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub

            Lots of people fail at opening restaurants, but my impression is not that the cause is that a huge amount of disinformation is being disseminated about what to do. Also, not succeeding at opening a restaurant doesn’t have the stigma of not succeeding to find a girlfriend.

            @Eugene Dawn

            I agree that failure can lead to actual misogyny. Then again, many a woman also seems to draw misandrist conclusions from romantic interactions. Yet somehow the former seems to generally be seen as a major tragedy and the latter as justified…

            These kind of double standards piss me off.

            @HeelBearCub

            I think perhaps part of the confusion is that there is a trope (now dead, I think), that I associate with 50s era media and media nostalgic for the 50s, wherein a girl will say something like “All I want is to meet a nice guy, is that too much to ask?”

            I don’t think that this is just a trope. I do think that women have a tendency to, like men, play up their socially acceptable preferences, which can easily result in this.

            From the stories I’ve heard, it seems to me that a pretty central case of a ‘nice guy’ is a person who befriends a woman he likes, she then talks to him similarly to how she might talk to her girlfriends, praising his feminine qualities (perhaps including saying that she wishes that her boyfriend has more feminine qualities like him). Her intent is then to communicate at most that she wants her boyfriend to be a bit more feminine, but still very masculine, not to actually be feminine. Or perhaps it’s merely blowing off steam and she still prefers the more masculine behavior in the real world, where you can’t have two conflicting things. Or perhaps she likes a platonic feminine boy friend, but wants a masculine boyfriend.

            In any case, the guy then wrongly concludes that she wants a feminine partner and that he is very suitable (also because her feminine communication style makes her praise her friends and be subtle with any criticism).

            Gendered miscommunication really seems to play a major role here.

            @LesHapablap

            Women don’t want to be with a guy that only sort of wants them, or is scared to talk to them in an honest way.

            Think about how tedious it would be for a woman to start a relationship with someone that is scared to ask for what they want!

            Is this sarcasm?

            Because of course men often are in this exact situation, where they have to deal with women who send vague messages that they only sort of want them, are scared to talk to them honestly and such. How tedious :/

            @Matt M

            If they don’t get the girl, their complaint is not with the girl necessarily, but with the advice givers.

            The complaint can also be with the burdens that are placed on men.

            I think that fundamentally, it’s way easier for women to figure out successful strategies for attracting gender role conforming men AND implementing them, although they probably have less control (because natural looks and age play a bigger role*). A woman who is naturally shy has a way higher chance to be approached than a similarly shy man. In modern culture, it seems to me that a woman can be quite aggressive before it starts working against her. It also seems way easier for a non-demure person to behave more demurely than the other way around.

            * I do think that older women can legitimately complain about society lying to them how significant age is as a factor for women.

          • Baeraad says:

            A lot of these people are completely and totally isolated. Even ONE good friend telling them no might have saved them.

            I think having someone to tell you when you’re drifting further away from the human race is a very important thing, yes.

            It’s something I worry about with myself as I get more and more isolated with age. I don’t think I’d ever do anything violent or illegal, but I can easily see myself turning into some kind of deranged conspiracy theorist who thinks the lizard men are spying on me through my fillings…

        • Randy M says:

          Institutions and prisons are pretty much the scarcity version of such a scenario.
          Trouble is knowing who to put in them in advance of a killing.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Well yes, putting someone in prison in advance of a crime is a very bad solution to the very occasional violent incel. It only makes sense as a better solution than Garrett’s of sexual slavery. Especially since sexual slavery would probably result in more murder, not less. The slaves would have much more incentive to kill the erstwhile incels, and probably others too that forced them to do this. And I somehow doubt these erstwhile incels would be less likely to kill either. I really don’t think the lack of sex was what drove the guy to kill. It was his resentment of being in that situation. I expect he’d find something else to be resentful about even with his designated concubine.

    • albatross11 says:

      I think how much sympathy someone can drum up for getting help from others depends a lot on the possibility that they might be faking their plight.

      Note that in the US, most welfare programs try to make some effort to make sure the recipient really needs them before giving out the benefit–that’s pretty clearly an attempt to make gaming the system harder. Part of the cost comes in checking and enforcing those rules; another part comes in creating poverty traps, where some single mom can’t afford to take a better job, because if she does, she’ll lose eligibility for her subsidized housing and will lose more money than she gains from the bigger paycheck. On the other hand, very few people are offended when, say, some guy missing both legs and one arm from an accident turns out to be getting disability checks–nobody suspects him of gaming the system.

      There’s also a big aspect of how much you sympathize with the person for other reasons. And when someone is extremely unsympathetic toward a potential recipient of aid, they often convince themselves that the potential recipient is less deserving or more likely gaming their sympathy, to justify not helping to themselves.

      • Aapje says:

        But in this case we can be pretty sure that no one in this situation is faking it, right? There is absolutely no incentive to do so.

        Yet sympathy is minimal.

    • John Schilling says:

      It seems to me that this sort of detente comes up in life frequently. Why is it that we accept the “help them” solution in some cases (eg. starving children) but not the others (murderer above)?

      Because the only ethical system that would suggest this “solution” is less than monstrously evil is consequentialism, and only a handful of nerdy intellectuals are actually consequentialists.

      Everyone else uses consequentialist language in ethical debate, because it’s a good way to find common ground with strangers, but they don’t really believe it and if it leads then to something that seems like a monstrous evil, consequentialism goes bye-bye. And while the nerdy intellectuals sometimes miss the fact that all the other people who are using consequentialist language aren’t actually consequentialists, almost all of them have figured out that if they start talking about e.g. turning women into sex slaves because the math says it’s best, normal people start talking about lynching nerdy intellectuals.

      Hence, the distinction. In some cases, the consequentialist solution is consistent with the customary rules, values, virtues, social contracts, and moral intuitions, and we accept it. There’s no rule against giving food to starving children, and most people find it quite virtuous. In other cases, the consequentialist solution is clearly contrary to the customary rules etc, which are pretty big on e.g. not turning women into sex slaves, and even the consequentialists know to shut up about it already.

      Also, by strange coincidence, the latter cases tend to be the ones where if you do all the math, not just the easy parts, you find the moral hazard where people are incentivized to game the system and half the women on the planet are reduced to sexual slavery. And everyone who isn’t a nerdy consequentialist intellectual, knew that these were bad plans without doing any math.

    • Deiseach says:

      Using the “book value” of the lives involved, all of those dead would have been better off if one of the women murdered had instead been compelled to be the shooter’s concubine.

      Who then was given access to powerful poisons which she put in his meals. There you go! One potential murderer who will never become an actual murderer and one person freed from coercion!

      “Doing the math” on such problems can bring you down a long path. Why stop at “force women (or men) to be concubines”, why not go “and/or let the concubine murder the owner without facing consequences afterwards”? Indeed, if we get someone coming in to the Concubine Provision Office threatening to commit mass murder unless they get their own personal concubine, why not pull the lever to open the trapdoor to send them down the chute to the tank full of ravenous piranha, instead of going “yes sir, we will force and compel Sue to be your harlot”? Solves the same problem, doesn’t involve making people into property.

      Besides, I think people who go shoot unrelated others (and then often kill themselves) in order to take revenge for perceived slights are probably likely to go off for any or no reason at all, once they’ve reached the stage where mass murder looks like a good idea. Maybe you prevent the guy shooting up a gym full of women by giving him his own personal sex slave, but what about when he then considers he should have a much better job and a promotion and a raise and get the respect he deserves instead of his current crappy job, so he goes to shoot up his workplace/the public square? How much do you give in? Do we end up crowning the guy Absolute Emperor of the World?

      • Evan Þ says:

        Well, if guys know there’s that trapdoor with piranhas, they’re much less likely to step into that Straw Utilitarian Provisioning System Office. Better to let Sue do it quietly somewhere else. In fact, if we let her quietly poison her unpleasant master, someone might even volunteer for her job.

        But if you start thinking of incentives like that, the whole system falls apart.

        • Deiseach says:

          But if you start thinking of incentives like that, the whole system falls apart.

          I am somewhat amused that a thought experiment can be pushed to “so what if we instituted compulsory concubinage to stop guys shooting up the place?” but when pushed the extra step to “so what if concubines could murder their masters without consequences, problem of shooting up places also solved” it becomes “oh no, that would all fall apart!”

          I really don’t see why classifying certain murders as permissible assassinations is that much different from compulsory concubinage in its effects on society; if you’re going to re-institute slavery (even for a model that is not meant to be applied to the real world) then why not include the slaves’ resort to be free of unwanted bondage?

          • Evan Þ says:

            Well, historically, instituting slavery worked as long as the society kept stamping down on slave uprisings, and no other times. I don’t mean that it worked in any moral sense, utilitarian or Christian or otherwise; I mean that the society stayed stable. But if you let slaves kill their masters without any retaliation – especially concubines, who’re expected to be (ahem) close to their masters at vulnerable times – the system will fall apart. And good riddance to any such system.

            On the other hand, now I’m imagining a more limited program which’s completely out front about this: “Sure, you can have a concubine, as long as you keep her happy. If she isn’t happy, she gets to kill you without any legal problem. Still want a concubine?”

      • Garrett says:

        I agree with you completely from a Natural Rights perspective, but I’m still not convinced from a utilitarian perspective.

    • BBA says:

      You could offer a concubine, and instead give them euthanasia.

    • ana53294 says:

      But I am not sure these murderers would be content with that. There are already fake vaginas and other bodily orifices that can be used. The fact that they insist on real women probably means that they also want the status that comes from having a girlfriend/wife/woman who sleeps with you voluntarily for free. They may also enjoy being abusive to women (being abusive to a robot doesn’t work, because the robot has no feelings). And that status comes from being seen as a man with the right social abilities to attract a woman, where women act as arbiters on who wins this game. And they wouldn’t get this status from a sex doll, however realistic.

      EDIT: after an afternoon diving into the faeces that in Reddit’s Red Pill community (sometimes morbid curiosity gets the best of me), I discovered that that wouldn’t be a solution. A lot of these so-called “incels” are not really celibate. They have a term called “escortcel” to mean those who have sex with excorts only. This is probably quite a good indicator that they are more interested in the social status partnering with a woman above their league brings.

      • Matt M says:

        100% agree.

        It’s not about the physical act of sex, it’s about status. Status comes with being able to voluntarily obtain sex, not with simply having it.

        So, for this scheme to work, you couldn’t drop off an attractive woman at the guy’s door and say “your government assigned sex slave is here, do with her as you will.” You’d have to train her to approach and pretend to legitimately be interested in him, possibly indefinitely.

        I’ve heard it’s possible to pay prostitutes to do this sort of thing for a depressed friend, although the ethics behind that are questionable, to say the least.

      • Evan Þ says:

        Is it about status, or is it about loneliness? I’m inclined to more charitably assume the latter.

        • ana53294 says:

          During my dive into the incel community, I learnt several things. They have a very twisted, mysoginistic view of women. They want the women to be virgins, but they also don’t want to get married and have kids, because once she has sex, she will go and get Chad’s kids, and leave them to pick the bill. They very much don’t want to fulfill the roles of providers (which is the natural role a man plays in societies where women are expect to be virginal, and only have sex after marriage).

          There was a guy who was talking about his arranged marriage to a girl from a very religious family. He was planning on using her dowry on escorts. He was going to get married, but he still considered himself an incel. This is about extreme misoginy; it’s not about wanting companionship. Although some of the misoginy probably does come from loneliness, not all lonely people think like that.

          • albatross11 says:

            Beware the availability heuristic! You’re seeing the subset of that community who post regularly on incel forums, which is probably not a central example of incels in general.

          • ana53294 says:

            Well, but aren’t the murderers regular posters? Although the misoginy and other issues incels have are a problem, we are talking about the murderous ones here. So, wouldn’t regular posters be representative of them?

            Or are murderers not regular posters?

          • Iain says:

            @albatross11:

            You’re just quibbling about definitions. Is the “incel community” defined as everybody who is involuntarily celibate, or as a community of people organized around being an incel?

            Posts in incel forums are not a central example of the former, but they’re a reasonable example of the latter. In context, it is pretty clear that ana53294 was discussing the latter, smaller group. (This is reasonable, given that this smaller group is where most of the murderers seem to come from.)

          • albatross11 says:

            Are SSC posters a central example of the rationalist community?

          • ana53294 says:

            Most people who happen to be involuntarily celibate don’t use the term “incel” for themselves, not anymore. It may have started with a group of people who were normal in every aspect except the celibacy aspect, but it has become what it has become. Incels have taken over the word, the same way when we talk about communist countries, we talk about North Korea and China, and not the dream imaginary utopia that SSC communists imagine.

            A lot of people are involuntarily celibate. You can google “X year old male/female virgin”, and you will have loads of examples of people who are not celibate by choice (if it was by choice, say, a religious vow, they wouldn’t be asking questions and feeling inadequate in internet forums). But they are not incels. They are ordinary people who happen to be celibate, not by choice.

          • Brad says:

            Are SSC posters a central example of the rationalist community?

            Surely the central example is the group-houses-in-SF folks. I’d say SSC posters are rather peripheral.

          • rlms says:

            SSC commenters are middling-central I would say — like Poland for European countries (neither as central as Germany or as peripheral as Ukraine).

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      It seems to me that this sort of detente comes up in life frequently. Why is it that we accept the “help them” solution in some cases (eg. starving children) but not the others (murderer above)? It seems that you can find either mild or severe costs and benefits on either side of the popular result.

      I think your “help them” is doing too much work in this particular case. Starving children might be getting food stamps if in the US, or direct food aid if in Africa, but no one is talking about seizing the means of production and distributing equal shares to each starving child, so that each starving child has sufficient income to meet their own food needs. We’re helping them, but we’re not helping them in that manner.

      We also might not have a direct government program to help socially mal-adjusted men (except we do have school guidance counselors or whatever), but that doesn’t mean there can’t be individuals who support down-on-their-luck men. And just because government isn’t helping, doesn’t mean society isn’t helping.

      Directly forcing women into sex slavery is sort of extreme. If that’s your definition of helping, yeah, we aren’t helping. But if you torture the definition of “help” enough, we’re not really “helping” starving children either.

      Put it another way: we help starving kids by giving them food stamps. We do not force you to adopt a child.

      • Randy M says:

        The post was obviously an reductio ad absurdum against utilitarianism, right? Even rationalists consider desert, or moral hazard, or incentives, or whatever rationale you prefer, to an extent and don’t want to inflict x-1 suffering for x gain if the person getting the pay-off is responsible for the threatened suffering.
        Nevermind that there are ways short of the president appointing a Pimp Czar to help alleviate the genuine suffering that might contribute to this.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          There’s definitely a lot of help that could be feasibly offered, but I’m thinking this is going to revolve around changing social norms, and not government programs. I’d say government could help by getting itself out of the sex worker industry, but I’m not sure that’s even the direction we are moving, let alone the magnitude.

          • Matt M says:

            I’d say government could help by getting itself out of the sex worker industry, but I’m not sure that’s even the direction we are moving, let alone the magnitude.

            It’s not. Per my comment below, the government is doing what the culture demands, which is making the situation worse for these people. Regarding sex work, that entails.

            1. Re-defining all prostitution as “human trafficking” so as to render it morally outrageous among the general public, thereby stalling any momentum towards legalization.

            2. Promoting the feminist-wet-dream “nordic model” wherein men are legally punished for buying sex, but women are not legally punished for selling it, so as to imply that all such exchanges involve a woman being victimized by a man.

          • albatross11 says:

            ObSF: _The Rainbow Cadenza_

          • Deiseach says:

            I’d say government could help by getting itself out of the sex worker industry

            But this entails arguing in the same old circle: do they want sex or do they want relationships?

            If the social stigma is about “not able to get a girlfriend”, then access to prostitutes is not going to help (and may indeed worsen it, as it is now proven that “you have to pay for it, you can’t even get a one-night stand fuck by picking up a drunk slapper in a bar that any idiot can get”).

            I do see a lot of this “just get laid and it’ll solve all your problems” advice not just for incels, and I do wonder how helpful it is. After you’ve had your hour with a prostitute, you’re still going back to your place of residence and your life as it is, and if you have few to no friends/a low-status and/or low paying job/still seem awkward, unattractive and weird, it’s not relieving the problem by much.

            Much of the problem seems to be trying to attain the social status/proven you are now an adult and should be treated as such by having a girlfriend, which has a whole lot of assumptions and judgement around it – as we’ve been discussing with the use of “lazy” – it doesn’t simply mean Larry won’t walk your dog or that he is unreliable, there’s a whole constellation of negative attributes associated with tagging someone as lazy. Similarly, Larry can’t even get a girlfriend isn’t simply Larry can’t find a romantic soulmate, there’s a whole set of assumptions about what kind of guy can’t even get the lowest common denominator of social relationships.

            I’ve never had any boyfriends of any descriptions, and fortunately I don’t care about that, but it definitely has impinged upon other parts of my life; the older you get, the weirder other people do find it that “what, you’ve never had anybody? at all? no exes?” (I can’t count the times it’s been assumed on letters and by officialdom of all kinds that I am Mrs Deiseach, not Ms, I’ve given up trying to correct the local hospital on this as I was beginning to sound like the Dick Emery sketch). As I said, I’m lucky that I don’t give a damn, but I can see someone who does care and does want it getting very twisted up about it, especially as they encounter the automatic assumptions that when invited to things there will be a plus-one, or that they won’t be tagging along as a singleton to both work and social events.

          • Matt M says:

            But this entails arguing in the same old circle: do they want sex or do they want relationships?

            They want status.

            What this means, in a practical sense, is that if Trump tomorrow passed some executive order legalizing prostitution nationwide, it would be of little to no help, because the act would still be seen as a low-status act.

            That said, if cultural change led to a point where prostitution was seen as an acceptable and legitimate way for males to satisfy their sexual urges, just as legitimate as finding a steady monogamous girlfriend, it would be status-neutral (or perhaps even status enhancing) act, and then would grant an additional option to countless suffering males.

            The problem isn’t just that prostitution is illegal. It’s that prostitution is illegal because it’s considered low status. Change the attitude and the legality follows (or simply doesn’t matter – smoking marijuana remained illegal for a long time after it stopped being considered low-status)

          • LesHapablap says:

            Matt M,

            Anyone can go to a prostitute. Not everyone can get a girlfriend. That’s why getting a girlfriend increases status (or reflects good status) and visiting a prostitute does not. In general, accomplishing hard things leads to more status than accomplishing easy things, and there is no way to change that situation by ‘changing attitudes,’ nor would you ever want to. It is a fact of life and a useful one.

          • Matt M says:

            Anyone can go to a prostitute.

            Untrue. Anyone with a certain amount of money can go to a prostitute, and it’s not uncommon for people with poor social skills to still find ways to earn decent incomes, often above-average incomes.

            I think there are many societies, both past and present, in which wealth was correlated with “ability to find female sexual companionship” at a rate of like 0.999. In modern America, it is much less so. If that changed, the entire status game would change.

          • LesHapablap says:

            Matt M,

            I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying. My point was that visiting
            a prostitute will never give as much status as having a woman decide to sleep with you because she likes you.

            That fact isn’t a cultural attitude that is possible to change. “He can’t get a girlfriend so he visits prostitutes” vs. “He can’t go to prostitutes so he has a girlfriend.” The latter is nonsense.

          • Matt M says:

            That fact isn’t a cultural attitude that is possible to change.

            No it isn’t. All status games are cultural constructs. There are no “facts” here, only opinions.

            The notion that one’s social/charismatic ability should grant more status than one’s economic means is entirely an opinion that not only CAN change, but is vastly different among present-day cultures, and even among our own culture throughout the course of time.

            People like Charlie Sheen and Hugh Hefner retained high status despite being engaged in what seems pretty damn near to be prostitution in everything but name. There’s no reason that sort of thinking couldn’t be applied to the common man as well.

          • mdet says:

            Promoting the feminist-wet-dream “nordic model” wherein men are legally punished for buying sex, but women are not legally punished for selling it

            Definitely wouldn’t describe this as a feminist wet-dream. As far as I can tell, feminists are pretty split on prostitution. There are definitely those who want pimps and buyers arrested but not prostitutes themselves, because they’re victims, but I also know feminists who say “Legalize & de-stigmatize all sex work, it’s no different from selling your body as an athlete”.

            People like Charlie Sheen and Hugh Hefner retained high status despite being engaged in what seems pretty damn near to be prostitution in everything but name.

            I think Hefner’s status came from the perception “Sexy women come to him for employment” vs “He has to pay for something he can’t get otherwise”. Not sure if that’s generalizable.

          • Matt M says:

            I also know feminists who say “Legalize & de-stigmatize all sex work, it’s no different from selling your body as an athlete”.

            Eh, these people do exist, but I think they are low in number and even lower in influence. As far as I can tell, they seem to be comprised mostly of current and former sex-workers themselves.

            The “prostitution victimizes women” mindset is much more prevalent at the high-level policy thinktank type feminist organization. And far more dangerous because of how easy it has become for them to set up a “baptists and bootleggers” style alliance with the right-wingers who have always wanted to ban prostitution for being morally yucky anyway.

          • ana53294 says:

            The problem isn’t just that prostitution is illegal. It’s that prostitution is illegal because it’s considered low status. Change the attitude and the legality follows (or simply doesn’t matter – smoking marijuana remained illegal for a long time after it stopped being considered low-status)

            Precisely. Prostitution is legal and regulated in the Netherlands. So as long as the women are not victims of human trafficking, you can own and operate a brothel.

            IIRC, marihuana is not technically legal in the Netherlands; it is decriminalized, but it’s not like you can open a store and sell it; only certain coffeshops can sell it.

            And still, if you talk to Dutch people, or to anybody who has been in Amsterdam*, they will readily admit that they smoked pot, but nobody will admit that they went to the red light district for anything other than looking at the windows.

            Legalizing prostitution, having the women work in legal brothels were they get regular medical checks and they pay taxes, will increase the status of the prostitutes, but not the status of the clients. They won’t risk arrest, but they will still be considered second rate men.

            *I think Amsterdam is overrated as the European Capital of Vice, but a lot of people will assume certain things if you say you went for a trip to Amsterdam.

          • albatross11 says:

            I’m not sure how that works, because (as other people have pointed out), a fair number of high-status people are known to have used prostitutes, including many high-profile actors and such. They don’t seem to lose much status.

            Similarly, if the issue is lack of companionship, or feeling like a loser for not having a girlfriend, it’s hard to see prostitution being much of a solution.

            Though if the issue is lack of companionship, you can kinda imagine something halfway between prostitution and therapy working–people do often get some of their needed sympathetic human contact from psychologists, social workers, physical therapists, doctors, nurses, etc., even though all those people are actually doing their jobs and expect to get paid somehow. I don’t know how you would make that work, but it doesn’t seem obviously impossible to me. Whereas if the problem is the need to gain in status with yourself or others by successfully having a girlfriend, I don’t see any way that you’d get that out of some kind of paid service.

          • LesHapablap says:

            Matt M,

            No it isn’t. All status games are cultural constructs. There are no “facts” here, only opinions.

            The notion that one’s social/charismatic ability should grant more status than one’s economic means is entirely an opinion that not only CAN change, but is vastly different among present-day cultures, and even among our own culture throughout the course of time.

            People like Charlie Sheen and Hugh Hefner retained high status despite being engaged in what seems pretty damn near to be prostitution in everything but name. There’s no reason that sort of thinking couldn’t be applied to the common man as well.

            Status games take a form like “this person is able to do X cool thing.” If 100% of people can do the cool thing, you don’t get any status for it. Or everyone gets status for it, but since everyone’s status is boosted equally, it doesn’t differentiate status between people.

            So you can’t get status for being able to breathe. You can get status for being able to run a marathon, since it takes work and not everyone can do it, and lots of people think its cool. You get even more status for being able to win a marathon, because even fewer people can do that.

            Sex and relationships are cool. That is a fact of being human, not a cultural construct. But if 99% of men are able to get a prostitute, then that ability doesn’t confer much status. If 80% of men can get a girlfriend/wife, then those 80% will get a status boost from that ability which the 20% will not get.

            There is a hypothetical world where prostitutes are expensive and very particular, like the companions in Firefly. In that hypothetical world, yes, being able to see those expensive prostitutes would be a status symbol. Or, a place where seeing prostitutes is seen as dangerous and risky, having the courage/stupidity to engage in that risky behavior could be a status boost in certain circles.

            However, I very much doubt that there is a realistic world in which a man who can’t get a girlfriend, but can get prostitutes, on average has higher status than a man who can get a girlfriend but can’t get prostitutes. If there is, it is not likely to be world that anyone wants to live in.

          • Matt M says:

            There is a hypothetical world where prostitutes are expensive and very particular, like the companions in Firefly.

            It doesn’t even have to be that extreme. It just has to be a world where getting a “regular” girlfriend is seen as easy, but getting a prostitute is seen as difficult.

            Perhaps in a UBI-type society, the amount of women who would be willing to prostitute themselves would fall dramatically, and the reduction in supply would lead to an increase in demand, dramatically raising prices. Perhaps the continued glorification of “slut culture” by feminism will reduce the standards of non-prostitute women such that finding girlfriends is easier.

            I can’t tell you exactly how it will happen, but it’s not wholly infeasible. Even today, I think there are certain men (those who happen to be naturally good looking and charismatic) who might take the position of “Why would anyone pay for a prostitute when it’s just so easy to go to a bar and convince decent looking women to sleep with you?”

            Hell, the PUA position is basically already that. That paying for sex is wholly unnecessary and that if you learn a few basic tricks, it’s much easier to obtain casual sex “for free.” In a world where such tricks worked with 100% success rate and where all men knew and were able to execute them, finding casual sex and/or girlfriends would be trivially easy.

          • LesHapablap says:

            Matt M,

            I see your point, although the now 2% of men who were incels in that case would still have lower status even if they visited prostitutes.

            Another hypothetical world though, would be Aldous Huxley’s Island, in which teenagers are all givenreal sex education using sex surrogates. It still wouldn’t give status to prostitution users, but there’d be very few involuntary celebates.

      • Matt M says:

        And just because government isn’t helping, doesn’t mean society isn’t helping.

        But society isn’t helping. If anything, society is actively trying to make the problem worse by further marginalizing these people and dismissing their pain as just and deserved.

        It would be like if instead of private homeless shelters, you have no shelters, but lots of private “beat up the homeless” gangs that were considered proper and respectable because those filthy homeless are just bad people who are getting what they deserve.

        • Aapje says:

          The messages that are sent to men about what women want are also overwhelmingly counterproductive, increasing the number of people with these problems.

          For some reason it is fine to tell women that male sexuality is not pure and beautiful, yet not to tell men the truth about women.

    • hyperboloid says:

      Of course if were going to be ruthlessly utilitarian about it, we could also just summarily execute every incel. By doing this we would increase net utility far more than we could by instituting sexual slavery. For one thing, no women would have to become concubines against their will. For another, the number of lecherous creeps in the world would be greatly diminished, which I think would make the world an all together more pleasant place.

    • ana53294 says:

      This actually seems to be happening. It seems like in China, Uyghur women are forced to renounce Islam, wear traditional Han clothing, and marry Chinese men to save their families. This is no different from state sanctioned slavery; I highly doubt that these women will get even the meagre protection Chinese women get. The girl in the video definitely seems unhappy; not how a bride should look like on her wedding day.

    • rlms says:

      This seems obviously stupid. Suppose a crackhead murders someone to steal their money for crack. We could compel people to become crackheads’ slaves in order to finance their addictions, but if we can identify potentially murderous crackheads then locking them up seems considerably more reasonable to me.

  21. Wrong Species says:

    It’s probably uncontroversial that science is better at resolving questions than philosophy. Why is that? One idea is simply that it’s the nature of the two. Science(ideally) involves easily verified measurements. Philosophy doesn’t. But that doesn’t necessarily seem right. When someone makes an argument, they aren’t just saying that this is their subjective opinion, otherwise they wouldn’t bother making the argument. They are trying to appeal to some level of objectivity to convince you. And sometimes we do manage to convince other people that we are right solely by logic without relying on any new empirical evidence.

    I think part of the reason why science is so much better for resolving debates is that our senses are just so much better developed than our reasoning ability, with an evolutionary timeline going back hundreds of millions of years rather than, at most, a few million years. But is there a possible evolutionary timeline where an intelligent species developed the other way around, with exceptional logical reasoning skills with poor sensory input? What would that look like? Would they be able to resolve questions relying more on philosophy or would they be at a major disadvantage compared to us?

    • albatross11 says:

      The weird thing is, math is all about pure reasoning. You can sometimes try to construct an example or counterexample to a claim, but you can’t really check things by experiment or observation. And yet, math from the ancient world is still true. People like 2500 years ago knew there was no last prime number and that you couldn’t express the square root of 2 as a ratio of two integers, and they were right and it’s still true.

      And philosophy is about pure reasoning, again with some examples or counterexamples helping you along, but not with a way to check experimentally/observationally to see if your theory is right or wrong. And we can still read and benefit from the philosophy of 2500 years ago, because we still can’t nail much down in that realm.

      My understanding is that observation and experiment were just not considered great ways to understand reality in the mindset of most thinkers before 1400 or so. Eventually, you got people actually thinking about experiments that could show you if you were wrong, and accumulating lots of observations so you could build a useful model, and trying to make predictions and seeing if you were right. But I think there was a really long time during which most intellectual effort was either toward reasoning from abstract principles to learn about reality, or reading the works of ancient authorities to learn about reality.

      • Eugene Dawn says:

        You can sometimes try to construct an example or counterexample to a claim, but you can’t really check things by experiment or observation.

        While this is obviously true, I think it underestimates the extent to which mathematical hypotheses are discovered by “experiment”: calculate the first ten simple examples you can think of, and see if a pattern emerges, then try and prove the pattern.

        Also, mathematicians do use “observational” and “experimental” reasoning, although obviously it is weighted much less strongly than strict proof: see this page for (mathematically) informal arguments for against the Riemann hypothesis. Obviously no mathematician will be convinced by anything other than a proof, but this sort of reasoning plays a real and non-trivial role in the actual practice of mathematics.
        Another example is P vs NP, and the popular argument attributed to Scott Aaronson that “If P = NP, then the world would be a profoundly different place than we usually assume it to be. There would be no special value in “creative leaps,” no fundamental gap between solving a problem and recognizing the solution once it’s found”–this is very much an “observational” form of reasoning. It can’t supplant proof, but it can complement and guide proof.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        And philosophy is about pure reasoning

        I understand why you would make this claim, but I don’t think it’s really true. In addition, the things in philosophy that eventually get shown to be in the realm of pure reasoning tend to bleed off. It used to be that everyone who tried to think about things using reason was a philosopher, but more and more disciplines forked away from it.

        I think we are left with philosophy being mostly concerned with the unfalsifiable, thus debates about p-zombies continue.

    • Baeraad says:

      I don’t know, how would you even build any logical connections without sensory experience? We assume that A=>B only because every single time we see an A, there’s always a B around. If we missed the B even once because we weren’t observant enough, we’d miss the rule as a whole.

      No, I think your alt-humans would have major problems acquiring any data with their dim senses that was precise enough for their powerful logical brains to process. You need to first have a lot to think about before how good you are at thinking becomes an issue.

      • Wrong Species says:

        What about an alt-human species with similar levels of sensory experience but a much improved ability to reason? Maybe they can put aside their bias to a far better extent than we do. Theoretically, would you expect them to be able to resolve more debates through philosophical arguments?

    • Enkidum says:

      is there a possible evolutionary timeline where an intelligent species developed the other way around, with exceptional logical reasoning skills with poor sensory input

      I doubt it?

      So, the standard argument about the evolution of life and intelligence goes like this: life, so far as we can tell, develops super easily given the right conditions. The reason we think this is that there are fossils of micro-organisms in literally the oldest rocks on the planet, which formed shortly after the crust (or something like that, I’m hand-waving over the details cause I don’t really know them but something pretty close to this is true).

      However really, really “intelligent” life, whatever that means, appears to have evolved precisely once, give or take 200,000 years ago. Which suggests that intelligence, from a survival/reproduction perspective, is not terribly worthwhile over evolutionary timescales, under the vast majority of circumstances. A bunch of weird factors had to coincide for it to be useful.

      One of the factors was an exquisitely developed sensory system in Old World primates that (in many respects, and really only for vision) is aimed at generic processing of information, rather than specific processing for specific tasks. I think it’s very under-appreciated among armchair philosophers to this day how much of intelligence is for sensory processing.

      Is it possible for animals with mollusk-level sensory systems to be really smart? I really, really doubt it, at least not from a realistic evolutionary perspective. Intelligence is really, really, really expensive (cf. long childhoods, maternal and infant mortality, not to mention the calories it takes to support a brain the size of ours) and has to provide a very powerful benefit to be worth it. What good would it do a mollusk?

    • Well... says:

      It’s probably uncontroversial that science is better at resolving questions than philosophy

      (Epistemic status: devil’s advocating)

      This is an assumption. First of all, what do you mean by “better”? Science seems to raise 10 questions with every 1 it resolves. Also, science can only really “resolve” a question by disproving a hypothesis over and over again with repeated experiements; since there are an infinite number of hypotheses, once you go through all the effort to disprove one there is always another coming up right behind it that still needs to be disproved.

      Philosophy answers questions just by answering them, and then people line up on the side of this person or that person’s answer depending on what strikes them most favorably. It’s relatively simple compared to science!

      Also, has any philosopher ever died because he acted on his answer to a question? Whereas many scientists have died because they acted on theirs.

      • Gossage Vardebedian says:

        Cue the old joke:

        Dean, to the physics department. “Why do I always have to give you guys so much money, for laboratories and expensive equipment and stuff. Why couldn’t you be like the math department – all they need is money for pencils, paper and waste-paper baskets. Or even better, like the philosophy department. All they need are pencils and paper.”

    • nimim.k.m. says:

      It’s probably uncontroversial that science is better at resolving questions than philosophy

      That is, uh, very ahistorical view on history of science and philosophy.

      Take for example, Francis Bacon and Novum Organum. It was a work of philosophy, yet also helped to the science to be the Science as we know it today. Same goes for the many other philosophers who have engaged in the philosophy of science. I’d say together they have made contributions on the question “how to do science properly”.

      And on to the question whether there has been progress in the realm of philosophy proper:

      When I finally managed bother to read some Socratic dialogues some years back, most striking thing about them in my recollection was how if they were not flat out wrong, they were not … very applicable or not even interesting outside their historical impact. Arguments are full of assumptions about the world, humans and general metaphysics that we do know to be false; significant amount of subject matter involves Greek cultural background that is not relevant to us today. (Also, Socrates keeps engaging in surprising amount of what I’d call sophistry when arguing with his opponents.)

      Consider again as an example Platonic and Aristotlean metaphysics. My understanding of them is probably quite naive, but I believe we can safely conclude that at least on some topics they are arguing about non-issues if you subscribe to any common variation of scientific materialism and its implications (things are things because we as humans identify them as things by giving them names, and “we” are neuronal activity in a biochemical soup; the whole discussion on “essence of things” and “universal forms” does not make sense). Even the positions that do not acknowledge the truth of scientific materialism have evolved in response to it.

      • Ilya Shpitser says:

        +1, philosophy doesn’t look like it resolves anything because it deals in topics that are really hard. The solvable stuff gets spun off, much of empirical science, mathematics, statistics, etc. were such spin offs.

        Causal inference, to the extent that it was founded by anyone, was founded by philosophers (depending on whom you ask, either Bacon or Hume, or both).

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Same goes for the many other philosophers who have engaged in the philosophy of science. I’d say together they have made contributions on the question “how to do science properly”.

        Which other philosophers had an impact on science? Your claim seems extremely overstated to me.

        • nimim.k.m. says:

          Well, Francis Bacon did not get his ideas from nowhere? The roots of the tradition of natural philosophy (the whole philosophical project of trying to come up with a way of looking at the natural world which became “science” as we know it) can be traced back to pre-Socratics. Above I trounced Aristotle’s metaphysics, but it’s called metaphysics because he first wrote a book on “physics”. Getting from there to the current scientific practice was not as obvious path as it seems in retrospect. (Did the Chinese or Japanese develop a similar idea of scientific pursuit independently before contact with Europe became stronger? I don’t know but I think not? Many inventions, yes, but no periodic table?) Ideas are path-dependent. The idea of scientific pursuit was concrete enough that it could be pursued separately from philosophy only maybe after Newton and Boyle?

          And for post-Bacon philosophers … I had Boyle and then much later, Ernst Mach and other logical positivists in mind. Granted, mostly because Mach actually did some scientific work himself. Maybe Popper, because falsificationism comes up every now and then when scientists try to justify what they are doing and why. People in LW-sphere are acutely aware of all the institutional problems in the academia when it comes its role as producer of new knowledge; while those problems are usually approached as a question of incentives, the question “what science is” and “how it should be done”, that is a philosophical question and it, uh, kinda looms in the background in all such discussions?

          I know even less about the “humanist” sphere of thought, and social sciences won’t probably count as a science for the purposes of this discussion anyway.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            OK, under your definition of philosophy, you have to do philosophy to do science. But is that a useful definition of “philosophy”? I didn’t ask about philosophy, I asked about philosophers. Your definition seems very different from “what philosophers do.” Didn’t Bacon,* Boyle, and Mach do their philosophy while doing science? You invoked “philosophers of science” (and I should have emphasized that); did any such people have any effect? (By that standard Comte is a better example than Mach.) I guess you could say that Popper had an effect; but he didn’t affect what scientists do, only what they say to make philosophers stop bugging them.

            * Added: Bacon didn’t do much science himself

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            philosophers of science

            Rethinking, that line of argument was confused and resulted in a thesis that was tangential to the original point being discussed. Yeah, I don’t know if the self-ascribed “philosophers of science” had much effect on science. Mentally I was applying the term to all (natural) philosophers who engaged in what we today call “science” or its precursors. Let me attempt to reformulate an improved iteration of the argument:

            My first core thesis is that development of the idea and practice of science, the accumulated knowledge how to wield rational thought to solve difficult problems and make accurate observations about natural world, is both one of the most successful fruits of the philosophical pursuit and also a non-obvious fruit. The current version of scientific thought provides us many useful explanations about how the universe works, but this is the result after many false starts. Thus engaging in arguments of the sort “science can solve more questions than philosophy” is a bit like cheating, because it ignores lots of important history of why and how science and philosophy came to be.

            Here we have one problem domain, let us denote it by letter A. We have laboriously honed good heuristics how to approach the problems that fall within the scope of A. Then there is the problem domain B, where solutions to problems remain still elusive; one of the reasons why we today distinguish A from B (when many early practitioners were less sure of those differences and often dabbled in both) is that the heuristics that we do have available to us are more applicable to certain kind of problems (A) than others (B).

            Okay, if one wants to put forward a hypotheses that concerns only the differences between those two fields since the 18th century, after they have become detached from each other, then fine. It is true that the machinery for formulating scientific theories and experiments and predictions about the world is more successful in producing testable knowledge about the world than academic philosophy. It is also stating the obvious, because the sciences are the parts of the philosophical inquiry that have developed successful heuristics how to do their thing, and thus an aspiring economics or biology student today can concentrate on studying how to do economics or biology instead of stumbling around in the philosophical darkness.

            (Also, the reason why I still want to mention Bacon and likes of him is that someone needed to come up with the idea that such heuristics could be developed. And Bacon was responding to the ideas presented by the philosophers before him. I would say it was a collaborative effort.)

            My second but related argument is that progress in our understanding of the world has also resolved many questions that were considered as philosophical questions in the past. (Cue the part where I rambled on how surprising amount of Plato makes a boring read if you are not particularly interested in history of philosophical thought.) Is this because of science being better at providing answers to questions than philosophy? I think it makes more sense to view it as a result of science and philosophy being subjects with shared history.

            And why these two points are relevant to this discussion?

            I believe they provide a more coherent and true to actual history view on the reasons why it feels natural to us to state “it is uncontroversial that science is better at resolving questions than philosophy” than OPs speculation about our senses being better than our thinking ability. Which appears to be an idea quite detached from the actual evolution of science: I don’t see how one even should map that idea to the known history of e.g. cosmological models, medicine, or development of chemistry from alchemy.

            Take the Aristotelean explanation why objects fall down when dropped (simply put, because it is in their nature to fall down to place where they belong) which is not as good explanation as the one provided by the modern physics, even though as a baseline human he had probably about as good sensory capabilities as we do today. Seeing things fall down is easy, making observations and then making sense out of them is evidently hard.

            The reason why we understand better than Aristotle what happens when we see a rock fall down is because of mental tools and ways of thinking (that the particular relevant toolbox in this case can largely attributed to Newton; Newton himelf did not appear from thin air) that are available to us today but not to Aristotle.

            (And yes, I argue it is philosophy all along, anyway. Both the practitioners of hard science and academic philosophers who pretend that they live in separate realms do a disservice to the quest of obtaining more precise knowledge on philosophical questions like “is there free will and what is meaning of such concept in the first place”.)

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Yes, it was tangential. I was changing the subject, zeroing in on that particular line. I mainly wanted you to recite your list of philosophers of science. I probably should have just said so. Do you have any medieval examples? Who was Bacon responding to, other than Bacon?

            The method of science does not appear to me to be a slow accretion, but to have sprung into separate existence fairly quickly, say, 1100-1300. Similarly, science was pretty cleanly divorced from philosophy in the Hellenistic world.

      • Wrong Species says:

        If you want to include all of science under the realm of doing philosophy then you are technically right in a meaningless way. I’m clearly talking about philosophy outside of the development of the scientific method and its incorporation in to a given area of thought. Outside of that, can you honestly say with a straight face that philosophers who aren’t doing empirical work have resolved more issues than the scientists who are? My claim was agnostic about the issue of philosophical progress in general. I just made the very underwhelming claim that scientists have resolved more problems. You have a good case if you want to include math but when people speak colloquially, they generally aren’t talking about math when they mention philosophy.

        • nimim.k.m. says:

          See my reply to Douglas above. My updated argument is that viewing modern philosophy and science as things with shared ancestry (under the umbrella of “philosophy before the sciences branched off”) helps to explain why science resolves issues better than the part of philosophy that is not science. The scientific method and the associated mental and cultural machinery are a product of philosophical thought; moreover, the product that is the most useful of them all.

          • Wrong Species says:

            You’re still just being needlessly pedantic. I know that the scientific method didn’t just spring up fully formed from the ground. Obviously people like Bacon had to do the intellectual groundwork. But I didn’t make that claim and it’s pretty obvious if you go by what everyone who isn’t an academic philosopher means when they say philosophy and science. You even seem to agree with me when you said that it was obvious that scientific theories and experiments produce more knowledge than academic philosophy, which is actually a stronger claim than I made. Criticize my speculations but don’t tell me that I don’t know what I’m talking about because I didn’t use your jargon.

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            I sense some unnecessary antagonism, I wish it could be toned down. (I swear my ability to participate successfully in internet discussions on “deep” topics still is not improving / is getting worse over the years.)

            I don’t think I’ve been using any non-standard terminology on purpose, but maybe my interpretation of the history of science and philosophy is non-standard. But to me the whole question sounded intuitively a wrong question to ask, and I’ve been trying to answer why.

            My current explanation is: The successful parts of philosophy often have branched off and progress in science has resolved some questions the were labeled as “philosophy” in the past. This kind of thing happens less today because the fields have become too diverged from each other. Addendum. The academic philosophy as practiced in universities in its current form is much younger than the whole history of philosophy (which goes back to pre-Socratics). And at least to me it was natural and obvious to include the whole of philosophical tradition, not just the part that became clearly delineated only I suppose sometime after Newton, when one talks about “philosophy”, and thus invention of science and scientific inventions appear a natural part of the “progress in philosophy”.End addendum.

            Also, another slightly tangential thought. There’s a difference between “resolving issues / providing answers to questions” (in general, scientific hypothesis can be tested against the reality) and “producing more knowledge”. The performance of the academic philosophy has maybe been lackluster when it comes to providing definite solutions and conclusively answering the old questions, because only way is to persuade your opponents and the audience by arguments alone.

            (For example, I believe the platonist answer to problem of abstract objects as far as I understand it is either obviously true or obviously silly and alien to how human minds works, depending on what kind definition of “existence” one employs while stating that “abstract objects exist”. But the question can not be marked as “solved” as long as there remains a visible amount of holdouts unconvinced of the arguments supporting my view who participate in the academic discourse. According to this paper, platonism have about equal amount of supporters as nominalism.)

            But the philosophy (n.b. modern use of the word) has been able to pose new (sometimes even improved?) questions or new, refined ways to ask the old ones, which is also knowledge, just less clear-cut.

          • Wrong Species says:

            There’s a difference between “resolving issues / providing answers to questions” (in general, scientific hypothesis can be tested against the reality) and “producing more knowledge”.

            This is a perfect example of why I’m being antagonistic. I didn’t make that claim about producing knowledge, I was quoting you. I knew that someone would say something if I talked about knowledge in general which is why I said “resolving issues”, because I figured that it was something noncontroversial to say and wasn’t counting on someone being pedantic about science being philosophy. You don’t even disagree with me, just my terminology. I’m not some college freshman who likes the “I fucking love science” page and thinks that getting high and talking about my hands is profound. You’re just telling me things that I already know.

            I find it very hard to believe that you have never heard anyone ever talk about philosophy and science as separate things. Yes, our modern method of doing science was started by philosophers. But they have diverged enough since then that the vast majority of people don’t think of it as a contradiction to talk about them separately.

            Putting all that aside, you still didn’t answer my question. Yes, parts of philosophy start getting empirical and develop in to their own science and then they get their resolutions. My question is why does it take empirical work to get those resolutions? Why can’t we resolve anything through pure arguments, outside of math? And that’s where I speculate about the “alt-humans”.

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            This is a perfect example of why I’m being antagonistic. I didn’t make that claim about producing knowledge, I was quoting you. I knew that someone would say something if I talked about knowledge in general which is why I said “resolving issues”, because I figured that it was something noncontroversial to say and wasn’t counting on someone being pedantic about science being philosophy. You don’t even disagree with me, just my terminology. I’m not some college freshman who likes the “I fucking love science” page and thinks that getting high and talking about my hands is profound. You’re just telling me things that I already know.

            Uh, I am not even trying to build a model what you know or don’t know personally. And I edited in “Also, another slightly tangential thought” before that paragraph you quoted precisely because it was a tangential thought, worth saying aloud because I thought it was interesting and maybe others would find it interesting too.

            (And concerning the main argument at hand, I’ll try to come up a with a response later today.)

    • tayfie says:

      “Our senses are so much better developed than our reasoning ability”.

      I doubt that makes them more useful. Ancient people probably would have thought it very obvious that the senses were (more) fallible, and I am not sure I disagree. Your senses either fail or filter stuff out all the time. Scientific experiments only really work because people have to think really hard about what experiments to do, what the observations mean, and that’s without the advanced instruments often required.

      The senses just don’t seem as useful because they are completely dependent on external conditions. Your eyes don’t even work that well half the time you are alive and at their best can’t see more than a few miles. Phantom sensations are very common. Logic works anywhere on the planet under any conditions, and in all possible universes that meet very basic assumptions.

      • Wrong Species says:

        Pure logic isn’t very useful on its own either. Think of Descartes trying to prove he has knowledge. He doesn’t get very far in satisfactory manner. I’m asking more about the right combination of the two rather than one or the other.

  22. Le Maistre Chat says:

    I think I almost grok the sides in this civil war. Does anyone else?

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      I currently have no clue, but this is an awesome riddle.

    • sfoil says:

      The only thing that’s not immediately obvious is the US/UK and USSR being on the same side. China’s support of the rebels provides a simple explanation: the Sino-Soviet split and US efforts to drive a wedge between the two major Communist powers. That day, the US decided to back the USSR against the PRC. The UK does whatever the US wants it to.

      Religion easily explains several others (Muslim vs Christian/Catholic), including Israel to some extent. South Africa and Rhodesia are both African states existing for the shelter/benefit of minorities in opposition to the “international community” and majority rule, as is Israel to some extent. I bet the Biafrans are a small, prosperous minority who don’t like being the milchcow/scapegoat for a much larger postcolonial state (looked it up: yep).

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Actually, I would think it more likely that the US fell in line with Mother Britain, which had an interest in its former colony staying the way they left it (to save face?) That this put the US on the same side as one major Communist state would be gravy. But why were the USSR and the Christian monarchy of Ethiopia supporting Muslim dictator Gowron?
        And yes, you nailed it about the prosperous scapegoat Igbo.

        • sfoil says:

          Easy: Ethiopia’s local, they have a pre-existing alliance with Nigeria. Ideally you’d have good relations with whoever borders you, but in reality you probably have a bunch of disputes. So you ally with countries on the other side of your enemy-neighbor instead. Stuff that might cause problems if they were your neighbors, like religion and ideology, don’t matter because they’re not your neighbor.

          • sfoil says:

            Close enough: “Alliance” is an overstatement, but Nigeria supported (diplomatically) Ethiopia’s side against Somalian claims to the Ogaden on the grounds that while colonial-era borders weren’t perfect, they’re better than wars to redraw them: https://sci-hub.tw/https://www.jstor.org/stable/40174065. Wise, since I’m sure the Biafran secession wasn’t a bolt out of the blue.

            Looks like Ethiopia returned the favor.

      • Eric Rall says:

        My guess (going on record before I look up the details) is that this was a case of malcontent Great Power semi-allies (France and China) of the major Superpower blocks defecting from a deal made among their senior partners (US and USSR, respectively). The rest of the Nigerian side of the war looks like non-malcontent allies or clients of the US or USSR.

        For the rest of the Biafran side, the existence of Rhodesia implies the 1960s, which I think was before Israel re-aligned from being a French client to being an American semi-ally, so Israel’s presence is unsurprising. And I know South Africa worked pretty closely with Israel on a lot of issues around that time period as well. I don’t know much about Rhodesia’s relations with the other countries on the list, but they seem like logical “birds of a feather” with South Africa. Come to think of it, the pull might have gone the other direction: South Africa and Rhodesia got involved due to local African issues (along