OT108: Opangolin Thread

This is the bi-weekly visible open thread (there are also hidden open threads twice a week you can reach through the Open Thread tab on the top of the page). Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit or the SSC Discord server. Also:

1. Comments of the week are everything by sclmlw on cancer research (see eg this thread) and Cerastes on why we should make humans cold-blooded.

2. Since the Meetup Times And Places thread was posted, meetups have been added in Moscow, Columbus, Sacramento, Berkeley, San Jose (CA), and Portland (OR). Details have been changed for Boston, St. Louis and Wellington. If you’re in any of those cities and interested in attending, please go back and check the new information.

3. I’m interested in reports from meetups that have already happened. In fact, if you organized a meetup, please keep track of how many people attended, since I might survey people on that later.

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1,196 Responses to OT108: Opangolin Thread

  1. The Nybbler says:

    The ’80s were way ahead of you on the cold-blooded thing.

  2. tanagrabeast says:

    As there was no formally approved treatment for aging, Alan Roost did what everyone did, and got himself deliberately misdiagnosed for a related condition.

    In the fraud offices of FamilyCross Health, the Grim Reaper poured himself a cup of coffee and sat down at his desk.

    I’ve been on a writing binge lately, so I’ve turned my old passive Twitter account into a daily flash fiction and humor outlet, Fics and Quips. The above is today’s post.

    (I’m shamelessly self-promoting here just once in hopes of attracting a handful of first followers in my target audience. From there, I would rather grow or die on merit, via likes and retweets. I strive for high quality/filler ratio; by keeping months of potential posts in the queue and writing more each week than I’ll ever share, I make sure I can always choose from my best. Thanks!)

    • RavenclawPrefect says:

      This looks interesting; followed! If people have heard of @ASmallFiction, this reminded me of their style and I’d expect enjoyment of one to correlate well with that of the other.

      • tanagrabeast says:

        Thanks! And nice catch — I was very much inspired by @ASmallFiction. My tonal concept is ASF meets SSC.

        I don’t know that any other crowd could get my jokes half as reliably, and I like to dip into some pretty hard sci-fi.

  3. Jeremiah says:

    Salt Lake City Meetup went great. We had 11 people there. Going forward our plan is to meet on the second Saturday of the month, every other month at 3 PM. So the next meet up is 10/13 (then 12/8 and so on)

    If anyone isn’t on the list and wants more info email me at wearenotsaved [at] gmail

    • Rm says:

      Kyiv meetup went ok: six people out of expected five, + two later said they’d like to come next time & one person from another city (Kharkiv) joined the on-line group. Everybody gathered almost on time. We introduced ourselves, chatted a bit, sounded out common interests, planned to pool books etc. Next time we’ll have be a presentation of “The Sefish Gene”, a discussion of “in what areas in your experience does novelty fade slower than expected”, a little competitive game based on Fermi questions & an “art craft” project that I hope to use later to amuse some kids (and to give the meetup people something like stim toys). you

      It wasn’t entirely comfortable because it was a bit hot and stuffy, and people seemed to be a bit intimidated of occupying a corner of a bookshop. Still, we scheduled a meetup in two weeks.

      • ragaxus says:

        “a little competitive game based on Fermi questions” — Lodden Thinks?

        • Rm says:

          I’ll have to read on it later, maybe we’ll do it. But I realize that “competitive” is not exactly what I want, for now. I’ll try to explain, but it likely won’t make sense (am tired).

          What I have in mind is rather, we’ll play 5 FQ (from the site, everybody will calculate their “distance” (the difference between the true FA and their FA) and announce it. (I myself will be just a mod.) This way we shall have “a feeling” of who was more or less accurate.

          Then, every player will be assigned a number (I…VI). I will go to and get a string of these numbers, then ask ten more questions, but this time, before saying anything aloud, they show their answers to me, and I write them down. This way we shall know who will have updated, and who won’t.

          Then, I will call out the answer given by the player whose number has been “preordained” by the random string. People will have a minute more to decide whether their guess was more or less accurate, given the new information, and then they call out their answers, which get graded.

          In the end, one prize goes to the person who has the least “distance”, and one prize goes to the person who made the most “lucky” updates. (Prizes will be small chocolates, preferably heart-shaped.)

          I don’t know if it makes sense. At least we shall try it out. I will write it up on LW, in a personal post.

          What do you think? Are there any improvements that you can offer?

  4. Scott Alexander says:

    Poll: What do people think of recurring things in the Open Threads, like Johan Larson’s “your mission…” games or dndnrsn’s Biblical criticism series?

    Good? Bad? Take up too much screen real estate? Screen real estate is a meaningless concept and this is pointlessly lashing out at people who do a service by starting interesting discussion?

    Does anyone have a better way of handling this?

    • yodelyak says:

      It’d be nice to have the “hide” button at the top of long comments. As it is right now, it takes several seconds to scroll to the bottom of long posts to click to hide it. I’ve several times noticed myself becoming annoyed. (I’m probably on a somewhat short fuse for a person in my mid-thirties, but I bet most people younger than me are on short fuses also.) I really appreciate people who, implicitly recognizing this, make a small parent thread and then nest the full comment underneath it.

      I like the presence of the “mission” threads and the math puzzle threads. They’re especially likely to be free of sniping, trolling, cwing, and etc.

      • deffi says:

        This userscript may or may not be useful.

      • dndnrsn says:

        As someone who writes effort posts, and has grudgingly had to accept that there are some benighted people who don’t think Biblical scholarship is the most interesting thing ever, having the hide button on the top seems like the best solution. I habitually collapse threads about subjects I don’t care about/can’t understand and having the button at the top would make that more convenient.

        EDIT: The recurring threads, effort post threads, etc tend in general to be CW-free. I was half-expecting my Biblical scholarship stuff to attract CW-type argument, but what debate/discussion there has been is placid and not CW-related. I think that things like this are good, because it can’t be all CW all the time.

      • James says:

        Might be nice if there were a way to collapse a whole three from one of its child/grandchild posts down it, too. Clicking the parent up arrow a few times to get to the top then clicking hide is a tiny bit unwieldy.

        Edit: shoulda looked at deffi’s link before moaning. Thanks, deffi!

      • veeloxtrox says:

        +1 A second hide button in the top right would be great

    • Brad says:

      So long as it stays contained under a single parent post I have no problem even if I don’t have any interest at all in the actual topic.

    • Toby Bartels says:

      I assumed that this is why you have these open threads in the first place! I don't read most of these, but they don't bother me any. But yodelyak's idea about the hide button is a good one regardless.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:


    • DeWitt says:

      Good. Hide button at the top of posts might be nice, but it’s not that big a deal.

    • BlindKungFuMaster says:

      If these threads are small, they are unlikely to bother anybody. If they are large, they obviously appeal to a lot of people. Hard to come up with a rationale for shutting them down, I would think.

      I personally don’t often read them, but I think it’s good they exist.

    • bean says:

      I think they’re very good things. Reliable, high-quality discussions are excellent, and they tend to be low-CW, which is always good. Moving the hide button to the top is not a bad idea, but I definitely fall into “screen real estate doesn’t matter”.
      But at the same time, I’m the originator of recurring things in open threads, so I might be biased.

    • James says:

      I tend to find recurring games slightly irritating, but am happy to just collapse them since other people seems to like them.

      Effortposts like the biblical criticism stuff seem like a different thing, somehow—I’m not interested in them, either, but I’m glad that effortposts happen here.

      Screen real estate is not a meaningless concept. Though it would become a lot more expendable if collapsed threads stayed that way, for instance.

    • Shion Arita says:

      I don’t mind them per se, but what I think we REALLY need is a ‘hide everything except top level comments’ feature.

      • SamChevre says:

        That would be a massively helpful feature. In most open thread, there are two discussion I’m interested, three I’m not–and every time I reload, I have to re-hide all the uninteresting things.

        • helloo says:

          Also, not sure if it’s an issue with my browser, but shouldn’t comments just stay hidden rather than reverting every reload/post?

    • Incurian says:

      Good. I’m also in favor of more CW-free open threads.

    • Nornagest says:

      I like ’em. Some of them aren’t interesting, but as far as conserving screen real estate goes, that ship sailed about the time open threads started growing past ~200 posts.

      Agree with Yodelyak that relocating the hide button might be useful.

    • Matt M says:

      Some good, some bad, but all quite easy to ignore if they don’t interest me, so I don’t see that any particular action is necessary here.

    • Enkidum says:

      I like them, and find them easy to hide.

    • marshwiggle says:

      Good. I’d like to 3rd or 4th or whatever the idea that more high quality stuff is a good dilution of the CW stuff we often get.

    • Eltargrim says:

      Another vote in favour of the current recurring content. Haven’t read a word of dndnrsn’s recent posts (no offense), but they cause me no trouble. +1 to having the hide button at the top of the post. +1 to having an additional CW-free thread in the cycle.

    • Fossegrimen says:

      I enjoy the effort posts that I read and lament the fact that I don’t have time to hang around here enough to read them all. I’m even falling behind on Naval Gazing.

      Speaking of effort posts; I suspect that my hangup on exercise, metabolism, diet etc matches beans hangup on battleships pretty good, and I could write a series that would essentially answer Scotts request for a weight-management guideline. I’ve been holding off on that because I won’t have time to hang around in the following debate. Post-and-run effort posting seems simply impolite. Do you guys want such a series anyway?

      • dndnrsn says:

        That would be interesting, although it does seem like the sort of thing that would result in debate. Maybe appoint a second?

      • yodelyak says:

        An exercise post is likely to be timeless content–you can write it this week, and then post it in a week, when you have a little time to respond to comments. So, whatever you thought was the amount of time you could budget in a week to writing posts, if you cut the frequency of your posts in half, you should be able to put about as much time to responding to comments as you do to drafting posts.

      • fion says:

        +1 for post-and-run

      • bean says:

        I’d rather we have the content than not, and would encourage you to post even if you only get back once in a while. There were a couple of Naval Gazings posted when I didn’t have time for more than an occasional one-line response, and they went reasonably well. That said, I think that yodelyak’s suggestion of basically writing them with one week’s time, then posting them and using the time the next week for debate is a good one if that works.

      • arlie says:

        I’m not interested in weight management per se. Maintaining health and fitness do interest me, but one of my minor frustrations is that much of the content labelled as about health/fitness turns out to be only about weight loss, and too much of the rest is about being a not-quite-competive athlete.

        Now what would interest me would be a series on improving from wherever you are, and/or preserving more fitness as one ages, that wasn’t all about weight.

        It also seems to me that there are a lot of partisans of various diets and exercise programs, who seem almost as commited as (other?) culture warriors. You might get more debate than you’d expect.

        A data driven, research-oriented discussion of these topics would be fascinating, and would tend to need updating occassionally as new research appeared.

    • pontifex says:

      Good. I look forward to some of the recurring things.

      I actually prefer scrolling to hitting “expand” buttons all the time. But maybe my preference isn’t typical.

    • Perico says:

      I like them, but I also think that moving around the Hide button would make things easier.

    • Plumber says:

      I like those threads, but a hide button at the top seems like a good idea.

      Even better would be a “Go to end” button that takes you to the latest post without having to scroll through the previous ones.

    • fion says:

      I mostly ignore them but I’m glad they exist. I agree with all the other people that say a top hide button or a top “go to start of next top-level comment” button would be great.

    • rahien.din says:

      I’m in favor of them. SSC is like one of the old salons, a semi-self-curated congregation devoted to intellectual discussion of myriad topics. It’s really cool that we have the biblical-scholar-guy and the music-theory-guy and the battleships-history-and-aesthetics-guy and the your-mission-should-you-choose-to-accept-it guy, etc.

      The thing you want to avoid is turning SSC into a platform, rather than a club. I would dislike it if the OT’s turned into a collection of piggyback blogs and columns. But, I would dislike it even more if the OT’s turned into a recurring rehash of the same stalemated topics. The effortposts at least won’t go stale in that same way, and furthermore, they redemonstrate how deep and broad are this community’s intellectual pursuits.

      Moreover, bean as my witness, to the extent that these recurring posts turn into established features, they can successfully transition into independent projects. That, too, is a success.

      I agree that the hide button needs to be at the top of the post, but that’s not simply related to long effortposts of this kind.

      • bean says:

        Well said. I agree 100% with this. But in terms of being a platform instead of a club, I think we have a pretty good balance. Besides Naval Gazing, we only have Johan doing a post every thread, and dndnrsn doing his biblical stuff every few weeks. And there’s a good mix of people asking random questions, one-off effortposts, and other stuff which makes these delightful.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          we only have Johan doing a post every thread

          Multiple times each thread, which is what likely has a great deal to do with this being brought to the fore.

          • johan_larson says:

            The Your Mission threads are usually one per OT, although I have doubled up a few times, and I sometimes start threads about other stuff too, like the one about the BLAT store in this OT.

          • bean says:

            I checked OT 107.75 as an example. Johan made 5 top-level posts. The first was a classic “your mission”, the next one an interesting history item, the third a competition vaguely in the line of “your mission” but not in that framework, the fourth a current-affairs item, and the last another “your mission”, but about a somewhat more concrete topic than usual. Nobody replied to that one.

            I guess I’m not seeing a specific problem/solution here. All of them except the first “your mission” are fairly generic posts of the sort that make up a lot of the content of the OTs (the second “your mission” was on asteroid surveillance, and could easily have been asked in a different format). Somebody wants to know about something, and asks a question, or shares a fact they just found out. Or just has a good conversation starter. I’ll agree that Johan is very prolific, and it might be a good idea for him to limit himself to, say, no more than three topics in an OT or keep out of the top 10 entirely, but his stuff is high enough quality I certainly want him to stay around.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I didn’t say I had a problem with it, I was merely noting that classifying it as “one per OT” is incorrect. As you note, it was 3 “mission” format posts in one OT topic, not one.

            As to why I think it may have prompted the inquiry, it’s because it is noticeable and slightly out of step with the normal flow of the comments section. A second more important reason is that that asking a “weird mission question” is low effort. “Effort Posts”, tautologically, require a great deal of effort. It’s the kind of thing that can overwhelm any comments section. I think low effort posts have to be kept below a certain threshold, or almost any comment section goes to hell.

            Personally, I don’t care for them, but I don’t begrudge anyone who does. I just click hide and move on. Although, I suppose that, like all slightly inconvenient things, each tiny irritation can add up.

          • bean says:

            A second more important reason is that that asking a “weird mission question” is low effort. “Effort Posts”, tautologically, require a great deal of effort. It’s the kind of thing that can overwhelm any comments section. I think low effort posts have to be kept below a certain threshold, or almost any comment section goes to hell.

            The ultimate in low effort posts is “Have you heard about $latest outrage$ by $opposing tribe$? How dare they!” Obviously, thinking up “your mission”s is a lot less work than, say, writing a couple thousand words a week on naval matters, but coming up with ones that routinely draw interest and aren’t just stupid isn’t trivial either. And one of the reasons I’m so strongly in favor of this kind of stuff is that, on the days I’m a little bit too annoyed with you or Brad over the latest CW thing, I find myself in a friendly discussion with you of how best to get large quantities of yak’s milk on the moon or whatever the day’s challenge is.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I think you completely misread my posts here. Possibly I should have made clear in the first one that I’m not bothered by the posts.

          • bean says:


            I didn’t. Some of this is threads of thought from earlier that latched onto a convenient post. Some of it is that I do think we have a disagreement over the good/bad of posts like johan’s, and I was defending things that don’t actively make matters worse, and provide buffer around controversial issues.

    • gbdub says:

      The only one that bugged me a little was the recurring trivia thread, because it resulted in a big block of rot13 that definitely wasn’t “interesting discussion” (since it was just people giving their guesses or saying “I got X out of y”).

      Maybe make a norm that recurring posters (who are “established” enough that people will come to the thread looking for their content) wait a day to post on new open threads? That way they are still able to post but they aren’t taking up valuable top of the thread real estate, giving new topics time and space to get started.

      • bean says:

        Maybe make a norm that recurring posters (who are “established” enough that people will come to the thread looking for their content) wait a day to post on new open threads? That way they are still able to post but they aren’t taking up valuable top of the thread real estate, giving new topics time and space to get started.

        That’s not a bad idea, although I see several issues with this implementation. The biggest one is when the clock starts. Scott is rather irregular in posting OTs, and while I’d be onboard with an agreement not to post Naval Gazing announcements until Thursday, that might still put me at the top occasionally. But I also don’t want to have to wait forever. It might be easier to simply wait until there’s a certain number of top-level posts in the thread. Say, agree to keep Naval Gazing, Your Mission, and Biblical Scholarship out of the top 6 or 10.
        The other issue is how we handle irregular posts by established posters. Let’s say I decided to write up my experience switching from concerta to modafinil (which isn’t a bad idea, actually) and post it in an OT. Am I obligated to respect the delay in posting it? On one hand, it’s a lot more likely to get read than the same post at the same point in the thread by a new poster, so not getting a top spot isn’t likely to be as destructive to discussion. On the other, it has no connection to my usual work, and might well be of interest to people who don’t follow me because I’m just “the battleship guy”.

        • gbdub says:

          I don’t mind your announcements near the top because they are just announcements. I might have minded when you had full length effort posts, if they were every thread and always at or near the first post (but I enjoyed yours so I’m not the best person to ask).

          Irregular posts by frequent posters are fine wherever. The point would be to reserve the top for a variety of fresh content / new topics, rather than have the top of thread be dominated by the same recurring conversation for several threads in a row.

          And I agree it would be better if the open threads were on a more regular schedule. I thought Scott offered someone money to make that happen?

          • bean says:

            I had thought of the short announcement/long post distinction, but I think we’d be best served by making all recurring posts play under the same rules. If nothing else, I have in the past spawned fairly substantial discussion threads with those (although they’re pretty rare these days).

            In terms of time/heading, I don’t think we need to go for a full day. In this thread (which I know is a bit busier than usual because it’s a whole-number), we got to 10 at 1:11 after the first post went up. We crossed 20 in under 4 hours. The current total is 33, and we’re less than 24 hours in. That makes me think that we’d be better served by a numerical limit than a time one, particularly with the chaotic release schedule.

            Edit: It might also be a good idea to try to apply the same rule to CW topics. Not necessarily “no CW discussion at all” in the top 10, but at least try to avoid CW-heavy posts in the top 10.

      • j1000000 says:

        I loved the trivia but definitely agree that there should be a norm of not just replying with scores/rot 13 answers. Commentary on the questions/subject would obviously be fine.

      • SamChevre says:

        I really like this idea, with the “not in the top 10” distinction. I like the idea of that being customary both for recurring features, and for culture-war topics.

        Other-topic posts by regular recurring posters (bean on mood-managing drugs), and sporadic effort-posts, do not in my opinion need a limit. I find that posts with an effort-post early on tend to have better discussions.

      • actinide meta says:

        valuable top of the thread real estate

        Maybe the comments should be sorted the opposite way?

    • j1000000 says:

      Very in favor of them. I’m always impressed by how people around here are smart and knowledgeable in such a wide variety of ways beyond the political and culture war-y, and these are the best and most consistent way to bring out that knowledge.

    • helloo says:

      Support the Hide button on top and also to make the Hide button active if you’re not logged in.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        I fixed the problem with the Hide button. It’s now active even if you’re not logged in.

    • dark orchid says:

      I really like them – well, the biblical one anyway. Something I’d like would be an “index” post of the ancestor posts of a series across different threads whenever one of these series gets big enough, so I can see if I’ve missed any instalments.

      • bean says:

        He’s done that at least once. And there’s a poorly-maintained effort post index floating around, although I don’t have the link to hand right now.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Good, but if you’re worried, I could throw up some low-effort political bait to balance things out.

    • christianschwalbach says:

      Im admittedly not a fan. For the most part, open threads are , to me, a place to go further with ideas presented initially in Scott’s posts , and of course other similar thoughts by readers that grow the discourse. The “games” as I like to call them are entertaining, but not why I come to SSC

      • bean says:

        I was wondering if we’d ever get someone who said they didn’t like them. At last, someone has done so!

        • gbdub says:

          Hey, I was trying to be nice. Too nice I guess. I really didn’t care for the trivia, and how it clogged up the top level of seemingly every open thread for awhile there, and stopped just sort of openly complaining about it on multiple occasions.

          Also, thinking about it more, I’m probably being too kind to your posts because I like them. More objectively, I think you’re getting to the point where Naval Gazing is enough of its own thing that any reader who is interested in it knows where to find you. Maybe get Scott to put you on the blogroll, and you would only post occasionally when you’ve got a big new feature, instead of plugging every post here? Up to Scott of course.

          (and of course this would only apply to naval gazing, not your other contributions as a general commenter here).

          • bean says:

            I’ve actually been thinking along similar lines. One of the metrics I used to defend those posts was that I was getting substantial commenting here, but it’s been a couple months since I got enough comments here to be worth the minor hassle of editing my post there to mirror them. I’ll probably ask again about people actually using it next OT.

  5. bean says:

    Naval Gazing looks at the Falklands War again, this time covering the approach of the carrier group and the defenders.

  6. jsdenain says:

    I’m a math major, I’m interested in neuro: I’d love to apply math to neuroscience! Different kinds of math can be used in different subfields of neuroscience: ML, statistics, information theory, computational geometry are unsurprising, but also graph theory (connectomics), riemannian geometry (via perceptual manifolds among other things), contact geometry (which I understand nothing about, but it pops up as a mathematical model of V1’s columnar structure), topology (Topological Data Analysis), and even algebraic geometry (say , again I did not read this article)! At this rate, category theoretical neuroscience should become a thing anytime soon (cf applied CT’s emergence in recent years).

    Now I’d be glad if beautiful math turned out to be the perfect way to achieve important breakthroughs in neuroscience. But I’d be very depressed if I had to delude myself into believing that what I was working on was valuable and useful in addition to being formally entertaining (I am not accusing anyone specifically of doing this, but I suspect it has to happen). I have trouble forming an opinion on these different uses of math: for example I see some brilliant people embracing network science or TDA, but I also come across skepticism regarding a few central concepts (e.g. ).

    Here’s what I’m asking: insiders, do you have any specific caveats? Apart from the usual suspects, which areas of math do you feel are still underrated and will become major tools in the future? Any reasons to be skeptical of the unreasonable effectiveness of sophisticated mathematics in neuro as opposed to in physics?

    • BlindKungFuMaster says:

      I’m not an expert, but I studied maths and I do follow neuroscience a litte, so I’ve come across a few grand mathematical theories of the brain. To me they never seemed to amount to much. Too high level, too abstract. I think an understanding of the brain has to be build up from an understanding of low level circuitry and that seems to be an empirical endeavour. If the nitty-gritty details are abstracted away you are left with some description that doesn’t amount to much understanding.

      A bit like if an alien would try to understand a bunch of pictures from normal human life. Sure, it would be able to describe the relationship of pixels with some high level mathematical theory, but the real content is only accessible by building a hierarchical model of the patterns contained in the data.

      Also, maths theories of the brain seem to have a strong element of “look at my 11-dimensional, fractal, free energy formulation of the critical brain” going, which might not reflect well on other practitioners of the field. As a recovering pure mathematician myself, I would recommend to not neglect the parts of maths that are already used in neuroscience and other empirical sciences right now, like stats, diff. equations etc.

    • quanta413 says:

      I double majored in physics and mathematics as an undergraduate and in graduate school do biophysics research so I’m not totally clueless on this topic. But I’m also not a neuroscientist so I could be off.

      I’d say math is much, much more useful in biology than the average biologist probably thinks, but biology doesn’t advance nearly as easily from new math as physics does.

      My recommendation is to study neuroscience in and of itself with a strong focus on making sure you understand the experimental limits in play as well. In biology, we’re often forced to measure closely related systems or proxies for the system we’re really interested in or our measurement technique has a lot of inference issues to deal with etc. And since unlike particle physics, we’re not packing known models with parameters good to over 10 digits of precision or forming large collaborations doing really expensive heavily vetted work to the tune of a billion dollars for a single project there are a lot of issues.

      Make sure you also understand well-tested mathematical models in the field as well. This tends to be a lot less efficient than it could be compared to learning math or physics because biologists do not have a well-settled pedagogy for how to mix biology and mathematics. I don’t know exactly how it goes in neuroscience, but just in general that’s been my impression of the other biological fields I know.

      If you try taking some advanced mathematics and using it to model something in neuroscience that looks sort of similar, you’re very unlikely to accomplish something useful for neuroscience although you may do some sweet math. (A) Your model will be much more wrong than mathematical models used in most of physics and (B) You are probably not smart enough even if it theoretically could work out. There’s nothing wrong with you as far as (B) goes; I’m not smart enough either and no one else apparently has been yet.

    • rahien.din says:

      From the opposite vector : I am a neurologist (more specifically, an epileptologist) with an interest in mathematics.

      There are a lot of promising avenues! I was recently at a conference where someone presented a fascinating graph-theoretic approach to modeling seizure generation, and they are by no means the only group applying graph theory to epilepsy.

      The trick is that basic-science neurology will have to catch up to math. We know an awful lot about seizures, but, there is a vastly-larger amount that we have yet to figure out. Broad acceptance of the abnormal-network pathophysiology of epilepsy has only been achieved within the past 10-15 years, we have just gotten the idea that glia and interneurons play important roles in epilepsy, and we are only beginning to understand how seizures are regulated by very long interictal cycles. There is not a consensus as to how even to categorize and describe the various types of seizures and epilepsies!

      So, at least in my chosen subfield, we have much left to explore before we can really begin to apply these precise tools.

    • aesthesia says:

      I do research in applied topology, and this is a problem that I run into a lot. A lot of what we do is work of the formally entertaining but not particularly useful sort. That’s how a lot of translational work from pure math to applied fields ends up. But I think that’s how a lot of scientific research ends up being in general.

      What it seems like you want to do is learn the math that will be the future of neuroscience so that you can do neuroscience work with it. It’s hard to predict what fields of mathematics will be useful in neuroscience. On the other hand, for a number of the fields you listed, you don’t need a lot of depth in order to be useful in applications. For instance, you can learn enough about topological data analysis to know what sorts of things it might be able to do in a few weeks of study, assuming reasonable mathematical background. (If you’ve taken enough algebraic topology, cut that down to a few days.) I’ve seen a few bits of TDA-influenced research in neuroscience that are very well motivated and seem illuminating. But I’ve also seen a lot that seems like they just dumped a data set into an algorithm and it spit out a paper.

      I think the task of applying math to neuroscience will be much easier from the perspective of a neuroscientist who knows enough about math to understand which tools might be useful in a given situation than it will be from the perspective of a mathematician who has one specialized hammer to attack all neuroscience problems.

  7. deffi says:

    So when reading the comments on SSC (in particular the open threads), I often find myself wanting to skip an entire subthread that has taken a direction that I am not interested in.

    This often involves a lot of scrolling (in particular on handheld devices) and a good chance to accidently miss the end of the subthread, also scrolling past the next one.

    Fortunately, the Gods of Web Technologies have endowed us with userscripts, which make it fairly easy to add the relevant navigation buttons. Here’s my attempt:

    • lazydragonboy says:

      Is it possible to use/download this on an android phone?

      • deffi says:

        Yes, I use it with Firefox on Android (with Greasemonkey as userscript manager). Not sure if userscripts can be used with other Android browsers, though.

        • lazydragonboy says:

          I think I may be insufficiently knowledgable about tech to use this. It gave me some code and I had no idea what to do.

          • deffi says:

            You will need a userscript manager, which is an add-on for your browser. The userscript manager will recognize the file as a userscript (by its extension, .user.js) and offer to install it instead of displaying it.

            If no userscript manager is available for your browser, I’m not sure whether it is possible to install userscripts at all.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      What is the difference between your buttons and the existing ones that do the same thing? Did you not notice them, next to the reply link? or perhaps you using an ad-blocker that blocks the github script that supplies them?

      • deffi says:

        I have to admit that I never noticed the existing buttons before seeing them mentioned in this open thread – I guess they had been blocked by my mental clutter filter.

        So I guess the main difference is that my buttons are more conveniently located and larger, which makes them easier to hit – in particular on handheld devices.

        Also, the mechanism is slightly different – the “hide” button hides the subthread while my “skip” button scrolls past the subthread. Each mechanisms has its advantages and disadvantages – notably, when skipping multiple threads using my buttons, the skip button will always be in the same position on the screen.

    • Martin says:

      Very handy, thanks!

  8. lazydragonboy says:

    Is there a meaningful difference between a Nazi and a white nationalist?

    Background: I discovered a few days ago that facebook friend of mine seems to have switched over from being left fringe to right fringe over the course of the past five years since I last interacted with her IRL, and I went down a whole rabbit hole looking at her facebook. I had previously thought it important to differentiate between Nazi-ism and White Nationalism because Nazi-ism was a historical ideology with philosophical underpinnings that aren’t necessarily essential to being a White Supremecist (or White Nationalist. Are these terms meaningfully different?), but looking through her posts and her facebook friends’ posts, I began to question that assumption.

    • John Schilling says:

      “White nationalist” is still a useful description with a reasonably well understood definition, and doesn’t immediately short-circuit an otherwise productive debate.

      • infinull says:

        I was gonna go in more depth, but that’s basically the problem.

        I know Godwin himself said it was okay to violate Godwin’s Law with regard to the alt-right in general, but ultimately “Nazi” is a more subjective, less concrete and also more derogatory term (it’s often used as an expletive, “fascist” has similar problems); whereas White Supremacist is simply descriptive, and any derogatory connotation comes from the fact that the ideology of White Supremacy is abhorrent and not because of the memetic quality of the word “Nazi”

        I’m not sure the distinction between White Supremacy and White Nationalism is terribly useful.

        White Supremacists seem to use White Nationalism as a motte and bailey to cynically defend White Nationalism.

        Also the word “Nationalist” is connotative with the word “Nazi”

        • lazydragonboy says:

          Ok. Followup: do these groups commonly self identify as different groups? Like would a White Nationalists clarify “No, I am a White Nationalist not a nazi I believe x y z” ? Looking at her facebook friends’ posts it seemed like there was a lot of bleed over between alt-right, white supremacist, and white nationalist content. Like, she did have two nonwhite friends who seemed to post alt-right stuff (who I presume are not White Supremecists), but the Venn Diagram seems like three very bunched up circles.

          • Fossegrimen says:

            Are you sure that the appearance of the venn diagram is not because all the circles are far from your normal experience? Distinguishing nuance at a distance is not easy.

          • Ketil says:

            Worthless evidence: the white nationalist main character in “Betrayed” makes it clear that he doesn’t want any truck with nazis, whom his father(?) fought against, and who clearly are opposed to Truth, Justice and The American Way.

            I expect the different groups think of themselves as very different (after all, groups tend to emphasize their differences). People on the left often lump everything together, and the terms are mainly used to signal group membership, rather than having any particular meaning. One possible set of (simplistic) definitions could be:

            White nationalism – races are better off living separately, or at least maintaining their own identity and culture (when this opinion is held by white person, there’s also black nationalism, and probably others).
            White supremacy – whites are better than others, either with WN or with whites having the right to subdue others.
            Fascism – authoritarian, collectivist philosophy with some economic (but little political) freedom
            Nazism – fascism plus WS (or at least WN)

            In theory, you could be a libertarian white nationalist, but not a libertarian nazi. Or you could be a fascist but believe in equal rights for all citizens.

          • Matt M says:

            I think both Nazis and white nationalists are sufficiently committed to the “never punch right” strategy, as well as lacking any sort of pretense about caring what sort of labels the mainstream puts on them, to not bother correcting people who might make an incorrect distinction in this regard.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think the term “Nazi” is almost always used for its emotional impact, rather than as an actual descriptive term. So you call your opponents Nazis to demonize them, or someone trying to show how hardcore and out-there he is calls himself a Nazi. I mean, if you meet someone who wants to invade Mexico and Canada and throw out or murder all the nonwhites in the new “greater America,” yeah, call that dude a Nazi. But that’s never the way it seems to be used in practice.

            A white guy who dislikes nonwhites is a bigot, but hardly any bigots are Nazis–for example, hardly any express any desire to mass-murder their least favorite ethnic groups. Similarly, a white guy who’s convinced that whites are superior to nonwhites is going to have to do some intellectual contortions to deal with Jewish[1] and Asian test scores, but he’s probably not actually planning to sent anyone to a death camp.

            I think a bit of historical perspective helps, here. Probably the mainstream view of the world in 1918 in the Anglosphere (and most or all of Europe) was something we’d currently call white supremacist. And their ideas led to some really ugly policies, sometimes with massive body counts (colonialism and associated wars). But those guys weren’t remotely Nazis.

            I’ve also seen people who self-identify as both libertarian and white-nationalist online. This seems internally consistent–you could imagine a white ethnostate that was run on libertarian laws, assuming you can have a more-or-less libertarian state with immigration laws.

            [1] Assuming he doesn’t class Jews as whites–most of those folks think of Jews as separate, for what I suspect are mostly historical reasons.

          • brmic says:

            So, by your count, all those card carrying members of the actual Nazi party back then shouldn’t be called Nazis unless they’re also full on pro war and genocide? Do they have to act towards that goal or are opinions sufficient?

          • Thomas Jørgensen says:

            Distinguishing is an exercise without point. Consider: Do you make a distinction between Trotskyists, Maoists and Stalinists, or are they all just “Dirty commies that will bring about piles of skulls if they have their way”?

            No? That is fair. Because it is an accurate prediction. In the same way it is an accurate prediction that the radical right would end up killing people based on their skin color if they got the power to do so. So call them all Nazis, its fair.

          • albatross11 says:

            I don’t object to calling someone a Nazi if they’re wearing a swastika armband or call themselves Nazis. I have a big problem with the very common tendency in political arguments to call random people Nazis for (say) being run-of-the-mill racists, or not liking Muslims, or not liking gays, or refusing to call trans or nonbinary people by their preferred pronoun, or whatever.

            It’s like if you want to call Stalinists and Maoists and Trotskyites all Commies, I can see why, but I’d like to somehow avoid the situation where Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez get called Commies. That’s because I think the label gets in the way of clear thinking, in both cases.

          • Matt says:

            After 1944 there were thousands of Americans actively killing Nazis thoughout Europe. They were a demographic slice of America, of all colors and creeds. Many of those exact red-blooded Nazi-killing American good old boys finished the war, came back to the US, and enforced Jim Crow throughout the South.

            So… many of them were segregationists, white supremacists, etc.

            But not Nazis, right?

          • cassander says:

            @Thomas Jørgensen

            No? That is fair. Because it is an accurate prediction. In the same way it is an accurate prediction that the radical right would end up killing people based on their skin color if they got the power to do so. So call them all Nazis, its fair.

            The fair comparison isn’t calling Stalinists, Maoists, and Trotskyites as commies who will make a pile of skulls, but calling left wing social democrats like bernie sanders a communist.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Are we talking about “Nazi” as in historical national socialism, or as in neo-Nazis? The former, as a historical phenomenon, is separate from white nationalism. In the latter case, the difference between self-proclaimed neo-Nazis and self-proclaimed white nationalists seems to be pretty minor at most.

      • lazydragonboy says:

        As I wrote below in response to DeWitt, if someone does due dilligance to emulate historical Nazi-ism, I might just call them a Nazi. But yeah, at least in the sampling I got from my fb friend’s fb friends (which could, obviously, be totally unrepresentative), they seem like they might be a homogenous group of people.

        Then again, it could be like with Leninists, Trotskyists, and Stalinists where they look similar from outside the group but once they get powerful enough for breathing room the differences rather than the similarities in their ideologies become more important to how they view one another.

        As a side note on whether to call a group of people who self identify as Nazis but weren’t 20th Century German Nazis, there was the German American Nazi movement in the US that was disavowed by Nazi Germany but seems pretty Nazi to me. FDR and Laguardia, it seems, also thought it was pretty Nazi.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Well, what characterizes their FB posting?

          It’s kind of difficult to define national socialism (or, more generally, fascism) because as a movement the cart followed the horse – unlike, say, Marxism, where there was all sorts of theorizing prior to actually getting any sort of power in any way, the German national socialists and the Italian fascists often came up with their ideological writing, etc, concurrent with seeking power, attempting to seize power, or seizing power, and sometimes after, even. There were plenty of elements that got jettisoned – the anti-capitalist elements in both fascist movements got largely removed, as in both cases they reached power due to conservatives essentially bringing them in, hoping they could use them to head off communism. The ideology was often rather incoherent, and there was generally an elevation of action over theorizing.

          • lazydragonboy says:

            Well, unfortunately the woman in question either blocked me or was tempbanned since I made this post so I can’t easily check. Of her posts I remember a lot of anti-semitic memes, some posts defending people dressing up as nazis at punk shows and asking for help defending the practice in a punk fb group, a post about on an article about powerlifting’s nazi problem saying she loved powerlifting nazis, some anti-israel posts, some anti-black posts, a imagr macro about how we owe animals a good lifr and a clean death if we are eatijg them with her appanded comment that this was “NS as fuck”, (curiously) a repostig of a black woman’s facebook post saying women are naturally submissive if they are treated right, some anti muslim stuff, much less anti christian stuff, a lot of posts of messenger exchanges of a guy who invited her onto his (presumably nazi—he used the word volk) podcast but then turned out to just want to have sex with her and then began harassing her when that didn’t work out, a post saying an article on “how to eat out a pre-op trans-sexual” should be titled “how to blow a dude”, a post proposing that many men who complain women aren’t submissive might simply not be dominant enough, some posts complaining about being tempbanned (presumably after arguing for nazi outfits in that punk group; the timing looked that way) and a post defending herself from accusations of being a race traitor(presumably because of her three nonwhite facebook friends) saying she wasn’t going to abandon people whom she had existing ties to so long as those people accepted her being a nazi and pointing out that the historical nazis were able to kill so many jews because they cooperated with other races.

            Of her friends’ posts I remember a lot of gun posts, more anti-semitic memes, more anti-black memes, a lot of pro-Alex Jones memes, a lot of profile overlays of “it’s okay to be white” and “it’s okay to be anti-war”, a lot of pro-trump memes, a lot of that 4chan frog (especially as profile pictures), a lot of anti-feminist/anti-trans/pro-female submissiveness stuff, a lot of swasticas, some anti muslim stuff (and occasionally anti-other religion stuff I think, though that may have been only her), and nobody having any nonwhite friends.Interesting sidenote: none of these people seemed to be Jordan Peterson fans.

          • mdet says:

            It’s kind of difficult to define national socialism (or, more generally, fascism) because as a movement the cart followed the horse

            The awkward moment when we can’t say what we want about the tenets of national socialism because it’s not really an ethos.

          • Matt M says:

            The awkward moment when we can’t say what we want about the tenets of national socialism because it’s not really an ethos.

            My next protest sign will be: “Are these the Nazis, dude?”

    • DeWitt says:

      Is there a meaningful difference between a Nazi and a white nationalist?

      Yes, and this holds even more true once you leave the US.

      • lazydragonboy says:

        Ok. That seems like a useful rubric. That was actually something I used to bring up when I made the case for delineating: stuff like the Golden Dawn in Greece. Could you give me some foreign groups who would fit the category Nazi but not White Nationalist or White Nationalist but not Nazi? I recall reading about Arab Nazis around the time Israel got started, but I don’t know anything contemporary.

        • DeWitt says:

          Most any of the far right movements in Europe, if you do go far enough into the right, would count as some manner of Nazi rather than white nationalist. White nationalism is a very American phenomenon, where most white people either don’t know the extent of their ancestry or are some mix of five ethnicities. Europe doesn’t only have many more people of ‘pure’ descent, whatever that is, it has many more white people nearby people consider enemies, I.E., far right people in the UK get upset over eastern European immigrants, Greek far right folks will yell at Germans, Hungarian far right people… Yell at most anyone, to the point that white natonalist doesn’t really hold up.

    • Brad says:

      I think Nazi is best left as a historical term. I suppose for some groups that go all in on Nazi imagery neo-Nazi is apt, but in that case the neo ought to be retained rather than routinely dropped. And it should be applied only where swastikas, Nazi salutes, Heil Hitler, etc. are present not every random skinhead group that occasionally says nice things about the Nazis. Most of these groups are more influenced by an indigenous American tradition dating back to at least the aftermath of the Civil War than anything to do with Germany.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        And it should be applied only where swastikas, Nazi salutes, Heil Hitler, etc. are present not every random skinhead group that occasionally says nice things about the Nazis.

        I think 1488 is more popular as a signalling device than you may be giving credit.

        • lazydragonboy says:

          Curiously “it’s okay to be white” and “It’s okay to be anti-war” as facebook overlays are a good indicator of whether someone will also post a lot of White Supremecist/antisemitic/pro-nazi material.

          • mdet says:

            “It’s okay to be anti-war”?

          • lazydragonboy says:

            Surprisingly, yeah. One guy eveb had both overlayed. Sort of thing if I hadn’t got locked out of the community I would really want to ask about.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            I assume it’s a reference to Syria; I think the online far-right are very pro-Assad, and tend to characterize any attempt to intervene there as “starting WWIII” and the like. I think wars in the Middle East are often regarded as being fought “for Israel”, which may explain part of the connection.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Many WNs think the 88 is stopping them from 14ing, though, and want to disavow/distance themselves from 88.

          This was a more defensible position before Charlottesville. Spencer was trying to rebrand WN as “alt-right” in order to get away from KKK/Nazi stuff, so you would think the first rule of alt-right would be “no Nazis, no KKK” but I guess PR is hard. It’s more difficult to take such people at face value now.

          • The Nybbler says:

            If you don’t want to be associated with the ’88, you can’t be doing Roman salutes as Spencer’s crew is wont to do.

            For some reason it’s really hard to separate white nationalism from antisemitism. The Teutonic-Zionist alliance is apparently broken forever.

          • Matt M says:

            Also, the whole entire point of UTR was “stop punching right.”

            As far as I can tell, a whole lot of the more hardcore white nationalist crowd hates Spencer because he is, in fact, still trying to “play the game” and does seem to possess some modicum of concern for how he is regarded in the mainstream media.

            Whereas, most people who would openly identify as Nazi or WN are quite well beyond caring about that sort of thing…

        • Silverlock says:

          OK, color me confused. 1488?

          • Nornagest says:

            I think HBC is wrong and this is not well-known as a signaling device outside neo-Nazi prison gangs and circles that’re Very Concerned About White Supremacy, along with weirdos like me that read about this stuff for fun, but it’s a neo-Nazi shibboleth.

            88 is a substitution code – H is the 8th letter of the alphabet, so 88 == HH == “Hail Hitler”. (You also see 18 == AH == “Adolf Hitler” sometimes.) 14 is shorthand for the “Fourteen Words”, a slogan that I can’t remember verbatim but approximates something like “we must protect the future of our race”.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I wasn’t saying it was particularly popular outside of neo-Nazi circles (plus the chans, for trolling purposes if nothing else). Just that using 1488 as a signaling device is more popular than Swastikas, etc, and more acceptable to people who are Nazi-curious.

            I’m also thinking that the subset of White Supremacists who stand against both the non-White and the Nazis is small. So when you see White Supremacists online, the chance that they haven’t absorbed the neo-Nazi message seems small to me.

            But I don’t hang out on the Daily Stormer nor do I track Richard Spencer all that well. I do know that Spencer has tried to clean up the image of White Supremacy but somehow managed to be filmed accepting the Nazi salute from theoretical White Supremacists. I’ll just say that this doesn’t conflict with my priors.

          • John Schilling says:

            Just that using 1488 as a signaling device is more popular than Swastikas, etc, and more acceptable to people who are Nazi-curious.

            More acceptable, yes, but less accessible. The merely Nazi-curious won’t recognize 1488 signalling if they see it; they might have wandered across the concept at some point but you have to go a long way beyond “curious” before you start doing numerological analyses of anything that might be a dog whistle.

            But if this is true, it should be testable and measurable. Any ideas how to do that properly?

      • lazydragonboy says:

        She and many of her facebook friends call themselves Nazis. They share nazi facebook memes and talk about things that are or are not “NS”. It occurs to me though that they obsessively hate jews, which doesn’t strike me as essential to being a White Supremecist.

        • Brad says:

          Not to put too fine a point on it, but there are no Nazi Facebook memes because Facebook didn’t exist when the Nazi party did. I can call myself a Roman Patrician but it doesn’t mean everyone else needs to or should consider me one.

          If their ideology is focused on Jews rather than Blacks (or Muslims or Hispanics), then neo-Nazi is probably fair. I don’t see how anyone that’s lived their whole life in America, as of 2018 could accurately be described as a plain old Nazi.

          • johan_larson says:

            If a modern-day American calls himself a Nazi, shouldn’t we do so too? The American Nazi Party is right over there:


          • Brad says:

            Again, what if I called myself the Emperor?

            I guess because we consider Nazi a pejorative you’re more willing to grant it to whoever wants to claim it, but I still think that there are downsides to acquiescence.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Given that the actual, historical Nazi party has been gone for a half-century, it’s that all that clear to me that the “neo” part can’t always be implied when you hear “Nazi”.

            There are many people who are obsessed with “race purity” who hate many of the same people that the historical Nazis did and consciously evoke Nazi imagery and symbolism. The most efficient appellation is going to stick.

          • Bugmaster says:

            I agree, but then, how many members does that “American Nazi Party” actually have ? 2 ? 10 ? Maybe as many as 100 ?

          • lazydragonboy says:

            @Brad I see where your coming from, but if I take that reasoning further than there can’t be Christiam Facebook memes because Facebook didn’t exist when Christ did—and I can’t be Buddhist because I wasn’t alive when the Buddha was.

            I think we may be running into that ship paradox. When to say the ship is new and when to say the ship is the old ship with some parts changed is subjective, but I think I lean towards HealBearCub’s stance of using the closest label that sticks (I hope I am correctly interpreting him here).

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Well with the Nazis it wasn’t a ship that was slowly refitted over time, like most(?) but especially US political parties, but one that was set on fire and then some kooky cosplayers jackasses half a world away built a new ship that, at best, includes a couple prominently-displayed pieces of wreckage (of questionable provenance, to boot) and gave it the same name.

          • albatross11 says:

            The weird thing is, the Nazis of 1940 were scary bastards in charge of the arguably most powerful/most advanced nation in Europe. Modern neo-Nazis, at least in the US, are powerless nutcases anywhere except in a prison (where white supremacist gangs are a serious matter[1]). Nobody takes them or their policy ideas seriously, and they’re nowhere near power. They’re used as a kind of bogeyman and everyone to the right of Chairman Mao is labeled as a Nazi by their opponents, but the actual Nazis here and now have zero power and zero prospects to get it[2].

            [1] Mass-incarceration pays off for mankind once again.

            [2] Though to be fair, the real Adolph Hitler was a zero with zero prospects to get power on a couple occasions, too, so it’s not like this is a guarantee that such people will never gain power. But it’s sure not the way to bet.

          • Brad says:

            I realize that I’m not going to be able to do anything about it one way or the other. I’m not delusional.

            That said it’s my opinion that there’s more to nazism (for worse, not better) than race purity obsessions and on the other hand plain old American racism is plenty evil enough, we don’t need to search for foreign referents to express our disgust.

      • BBA says:

        During the ’30s, the KKK and their ilk were strongly anti-Nazi. They were almost as rabidly anti-Catholic as they were rabidly racist, already didn’t trust Germans because of the Great War, and the Nazis having begun in Catholic areas of Germany just made them doubly suspect.

        Nowadays in America Catholics and Protestants are allies, most intra-white ethnic distinctions have become irrelevant, and the local scum look back to the Nazis and think, hey, they hated all the same people we do. So there’s a modern fusion between these ethnonationalist movements, even though historically they were at odds.

        • lazydragonboy says:

          This…makes a lot of sense. This makes a whole, whole bunch of sense. This fits with my general sense that if the White Might wing gained power it would fragment into different interest groups.

    • Nornagest says:

      Despite your misgivings, I think I’m still on board with the distinction you’ve given:

      Nazi-ism was a historical ideology with philosophical underpinnings that aren’t necessarily essential to being a White Supremecist (or White Nationalist […])

      That’s an important distinction! It’s a lot like the difference between calling yourself socialist and calling yourself Marxist. You might dislike socialism, you might disagree with it, you might have very good reasons to push back against it, but the fact is that only one subset of it is popularly known for producing a giant mountain of skulls, and it’s not really fair to tar them all with the same brush.

      Now, a lot of erstwhile Marxists are just in it for shock value and aren’t actually shooting for recognizably Marxist goals, but if someone insists on identifying as one I think it’s fair to treat them as one. Same goes for (neo-)Nazis.

      (A lot of white nationalists will swear up and down that they aren’t white supremacists, too, but unlike above I don’t think that’s a worthwhile distinction — if you want ethnic cleansing, quibbling over whether you believe in some kind of abstract superiority doesn’t buy us much.)

      • lazydragonboy says:

        Yeah. Thanks for this—especially the White Nationalist/White Supremecist bit; that was a good delineation.

        I guess I can look at historical nazi-ism and see that it was not a monolithic movement (it was almost very accepting of male homosexuality for example), but that makes me think that if someone identifies as a (neo)nazi and attempts to emulate historical nazi figures then it is reasonable to call them a nazi.

        After all, I identify as Buddhist; I attempt to emulate historical Buddhist figures; and if someone said to me “you’re not really Buddhist because Buddhism was a historical philosphy that was present in fifth century BCE india”, I would probably laugh at them.

        • dndnrsn says:

          National socialism wasn’t accepting of male homosexuality. There was a place for it in the SA early on, but the supposedly-rife homosexuality, along with general debauchery, got used against them. In the SS (which defined itself as sober and professional versus the beer-hall brawlers of the SA) Himmler made repeated attempts to purge homosexuality, and homosexuals were not treated well by the regime, to say the least.

          • lazydragonboy says:

            Yeah it was the SA I was referring to. My supposition was that if Röhm had won the power struggle, they might have been more tolerant of male homosexuality. In retrospect maybe not. Maybe they would have been more like thr Catholic Church and remained intolerant despite many members beint homosexual.

    • Lambert says:

      Nazism also involves things like a certain conception of gender roles, militarism, autocracy, opposition to organised religion, certain economic policies etc.
      Nazis were also more Germanic supremacists than White supremacists. They were just as racist against the Slavs as against Africans.

      • lazydragonboy says:

        Huuuuuuh. That seems consistent with what I saw. Maybe I stumbled into a Nazi clique and there are separate White Nationalist cliques and they don’t hang out with each other? Or maybe I didn’t look into it enough and if I did enough poking around I would see that some of her friends are White Nationalist, some are Nazi, and some straddle both camps.

    • belvarine says:

      Stop discussing labels and start discussing policy proposals.

      • lazydragonboy says:

        What do you mean?

      • Nick says:

        I would rather not discuss white nationalist or Nazi policy proposals, thanks.

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          The policy proposals should be the labels. Everything else is presentation, which is often a function of the tastes and technology of the day.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          It’s at least plausible that belvarine wants to discuss policy proposals for opposing Nazis, white nationalists, and white supremacists.

        • gbdub says:

          I read it as “differentiate them by their policy proposals, not by what label you can affix to them (or what label they assign themselves)”, not as a request for an argument in favor of their policies.

          • albatross11 says:

            We should start by understanding someone’s beliefs, and *then* apply a label, rather than starting with a label they or someone else has applied and then trying to infer policy positions.

          • lazydragonboy says:

            Yeah. I am kinda curious about this with the woman in questioj. Like I said in the original post, when I knew her she was left–fringe, and I can kinda see how the transformatioj would happen, but I woild like to know what her veliefs are, what her peers’ beliefs are, and what the different perspectives are within her community.

            There are three problems:
            1) I don’t really know how to broach the subject without giving offense and thus triggering defensiveness.
            2) When I knew her she didn’t think or communicate clearly and I don’t expect that has improved.
            3) I get sort of a delayed horror after looking into this when I realize that these are real people and they believe what they believe.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I get sort of a delayed horror after looking into this when I realize that these are real people and they believe what they believe.

            I’m not sure exactly what it says about me, but this is always a little surprising to me. I literally can’t remember a time that I didn’t know that the capacity of fellow humans to be horrible was nothing surprising and indeed relatively common place. Humans, indeed frequently the same humans, can also be incredibly awesome.

          • albatross11 says:

            It’s not at all unusual for:

            a. Some commonly-held set of beliefs to be genuinely awful.

            b. Those beliefs to be held and put into practice by otherwise perfectly decent, even admirable, people.

            Observing this in your own society is sometimes hard, thanks to having grown up in your own society and so not seeing the monstrous bits in it as monstrous. But reading stuff written 100+ years ago by otherwise admirable and impressive and decent people is a good way to have it snap into focus. Watch as an otherwise deep and insightful thinker tosses off a bit of casual anti-Semitism, or as a wonderful writer with genuine empathy for his nonwhite characters writes colonialism-justifying propaganda, or as a favorable character in a novel written in the early 1800s goes off to his extensive West Indies sugar plantations to set things aright.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            But reading stuff written 100+ years ago by otherwise admirable and impressive and decent people is a good way to have it snap into focus.

            This, very much. Even just knowing a little history will do it. You don’t even have to read the original thoughts.

          • Nick says:

            To be clear, folks, I wasn’t being serious with my post. I know gbdub’s probably right; the epigrammatic nature of belvarine’s post just lends itself to this amusing interpretation.

            Maybe I should stick to puns.

          • lazydragonboy says:

            Ok. Side question: good history books to read, preferably available on audible?

            Regarding emotionally processing others appalling beliefs and intentions, I’m oretty good with that intellectually understanding that people harbor intense hatred toward one another—at times I am even comfortable emotionally recognizing. But more often I intellectually recognize it, become very interested this specimin of an unusual person/community with a maladaptive worldview—and then over the next few hours or days have a slow burn horror of this is what it feels like to believe those thingd . At times I remain open and aware of what the other groups are experiencing while I interact with them and this doesn’t happen, but often I intellectualize and it does.

        • Plumber says:


          It’s enough for me to know that the Nazi’s hated (and killed) my grandmothers family who didn’t escape Europe, and that the white supremacists hate my sons because of who their mother is, I don’t really feel a need to discover what ideas seperate the factions just as it’s enough to know that the Khmer Rouge would kill me for living in a city and wearing glasses, I just want them powerless.

          • albatross11 says:


            Okay, but those are very different sorts of beliefs. If Alice wants to murder you and your whole family, while Bob dislikes your kids on principle and will probably refuse to hire them or associate with them, both are indeed bad people and not at all people you want getting power. But they’re also extremely different *levels* of bad.

            Also, since those terms are all routinely weaponized in political debates, it’s useful to have some kind of actual definition for them. A bunch of people have called Charles Murray a Nazi, for example–and while you may agree or disagree with his ideas, there’s no way he’s a Nazi by any kind of sensible definition. Similarly, rhetoric about “systems of white supremacy” works best on people who don’t actually have a clear definition of what that would look like.

          • DeWitt says:

            If Alice wants to murder you and your whole family, while Bob dislikes your kids on principle and will probably refuse to hire them or associate with them, both are indeed bad people and not at all people you want getting power. But they’re also extremely different *levels* of bad.

            Real world history has this one example among many that’s kind of famous where Bob is what Alice looked like not even a decade ago, so don’t blame people for being a little sensitive to all this.

          • albatross11 says:

            Every horrible regime ever has had people who were kinda nasty/distasteful but not obviously monstrous, who morphed into excellent torturers or prison-camp guards or whatever. It’s still worth distinguishing between the generically nasty/distasteful people and the ones actually calling for mass-murder or ethnic cleansing or whatever.

    • I don’t think the two categories are particularly close. Most of the people the Nazis wanted to kill were white. And a white nationalist could have almost any views on economic or political systems.

      • David Shaffer says:


      • lazydragonboy says:

        Yeah, that was actually what made me question my views the most. By that I mean that this was core to my reasoning that delineation was important, and then I did a facebook dive of a whole bunch of people who identified as some mix of White Nationalist, White Supremecist, Nazi (I respect quibbles on whether this is legit, but they don’t use the prefix “neo”), or Alt-Right and it sure looks like in a practical sociological are-these-basically-the-same-tribe sense there is incredible overlap. Like it seems like my effete philosophical theory might just not usefully map to reality.

        • John Schilling says:

          The enemy of my enemy is my friend. In the contemporary United States, white nationalists have very few friends and many enemies. Nazis have even fewer friends and more enemies, and now that Communism is Mostly Dead, their enemies list strongly overlaps that of the white nationalists.

          Since the white nationalists are going to be accused of being Nazis no matter what, and that accusation will stick no matter what, there’s not much reason for them to turn away any actual Nazis who want to hang out with them.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Yeah, but if the White Nationalists also hate those who are Jewish, you start to wonder what the practical difference is.

    • nameless1 says:

      The exact same difference as between a Nazi and, say, Flemish nationalist, as the Flemish are a subset of white people. In my mind “white nationalist” usually means “white American nationalist” and white white supremacists exist, the media tends to overblow it. They are usually white separatists, wanting some kind of a secession.

    • Jon Gunnarsson says:

      The Nazis weren’t white nationalists. Most of the people killed by the Nazis were Slavs (who are obviously white) and Ashkenazi Jews (who are white, although many white nationalists would dispute that). So from the perspective of a reasonable white nationalist, the Nazis are about as terrible as it gets.

      Unfortunately, many white nationalists are fairly low on the reasonableness spectrum, so in practice you get quite a bit of crossover between white nationalists and neo-Nazis.

      • albatross11 says:

        Similarly, Nazis are usually the go-to exemplar of the evils of eugenics, but they did their level best to wipe out the highest-performing population in Europe.

    • MartMart says:

      Sort of related:
      It’s not that uncommon to see people transition from one extreme directly to its opposite extreme skipping over any of the central territory. It’s not even that uncommon to find people who occupy this weird in between area where you can’t nail down if they are extremist left or extremist right, but they are certainly extremist something.
      I think this makes sense from a meme infection point of view. Some people are just particularly vulnerable to the extremism sort of infection.

      Meanwhile, there is a somewhat different phenomenon. Suppose there is some issue that isn’t currently central to the culture wars. Each side is more likely to lean towards a different position, but since it isn’t on the front pages, you generally find most people position to be only slightly to their side of center. Then something happens to push the issue to the front center of the culture war, and the same people who held largely centralist position feverishly dart to the extremes.
      Which again, makes sense from a meme infection point of view.
      Does that change anything to start thinking of despicable people as being simply infected by a mental virus that makes them despicable?

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Some people are just particularly vulnerable to the extremism sort of infection.

        I agree with this as a mechanism.

        As to the short distance from left to right extremism, this is so commonplace an observation that there is an actual name for it: Horseshoe Theory.

      • onyomi says:

        Then something happens to push the issue to the front center of the culture war, and the same people who held largely centralist position feverishly dart to the extremes.

        I think it was Steven Kaas who tweeted something to the effect:

        “If we concede 2+2=4 next thing they’ll tell us it’s 3, so better to take a firm stand at 5.”

    • rm0 says:

      I’ll be a dissenting voice here: they’re pretty much the same thing, and should be treated the same way. Furthermore, I would lump the alt-right into the same category. I would argue that being a WN means, at the very least, not disagreeing with Nazi beliefs. For evidence, we can look to Charlottesville last year, at the allegedly alt-right (not even WN!) Unite the Right rally, and the outright Nazi symbolism either celebrated by the masses, or just tacitly accepted. (It was mostly the former category)

      There’s a video here by youtuber Sean that I’ll be drawing from. It’s 53 minutes long, so don’t feel obligated to watch it, but if you’re someone who thinks Nazis don’t exist in any real force, or that the alt-right is very different than neo-naziism, if you want to see the alt-right as it is, or just haven’t seen how bad things are, I would highly recommend it.

      The rally was rife with overt and slightly less overt national socialist imagery. (27:30) There were black suns, Identity Europa flags, norse runes, crusader imagery, the chanting “Blood and Soil”, talking about building the ovens, swastika flags (Which nobody seemed to have a problem with! At most rallies that are not filled with nazis, people would take these down! They would take them from the people who are holding them, and maybe burn them!), nazi salutes, the symbol of Vanguard America, the flag of the US National Socialist Movement, a banner for the daily stormer, iron crosses, the “kekistan” flag, and more.

      This whole group was composed of nazis and nazi sympathizers. The “identitarians”, “white nationalists”, etc hold the same beliefs by other names. Sometimes, they pull a “Hey! Godwin’s law! We’re not Nazis! I don’t even have a swastika!” but that shouldn’t fool anyone.

      There were plenty of very, very overt nazi showings. (42:15) In front of a banner for the Daily Stormer reading “End JEWISH Control Over America NOW”, a man yells to the crowd “Did Hitler do anything wrong?” to which they enthusiastically respond “NO!. A minute later, he announces “the first precept of the true alt-right”: “gas the [k-slur]s, race war now!” which people repeat and cheer for. One person asks “who brought the ovens?” Others shout “sieg heil!”.

      Here’s a quote from 43:37:

      I’d like to note the complete lack of dissent in this clip. Everybody present joins in and applauds, people shout “Sieg Heil”. They’re all, to a man, completely onboard with this happening. Not one person attempts to break ranks, and that’s how it goes. Outward facing, the rally attendees will talk about free speech, say they’re nonviolent, they disavow Nazism, they’ll claim there aren’t any more Nazis, even, but inside they’re chanting Nazi slogans and wearing Nazi iconography and waving Nazi flags, praising Hitler talking about gassing Jewish people, throwing Hitler salutes and shouting “Sieg Heil”. These people here are neo-nazis, I think we can all agree, but does this mean that all the people at the rally were there for neo-nazis? Opinions are divided but the answer is yes. Or, you know, is that fair? I don’t know. In my opinion if you’re willing to walk under a Nazi flag with a bunch of Nazis and make no effort to disagree with them or counter the things they say, then you’re a Nazi. If I went to a Liverpool match wearing a Liverpool kit, and stood singing “you’ll never walk alone” with all the other Liverpool supporters under a big LFC banner it would be reasonable to assume I was a supporter of Liverpool Football Club, but oh no I could say “you know I’m not really a Liverpool supporter in my mind I just really look like one, do all the same things they do.” You know, give me a break. We know what these people are. Anyone who wasn’t a Nazi would have turned and left the first time they saw a swastika flag.

      Sure, maybe they call themselves something different. Maybe they even nominally disavow David Duke! But come on, guys. When prominent people in your community are wearing nazi-coded symbols and saying nazi-coded keywords (a sibling comment mentioned 1488 – I can vouch for it being relatively common) and talking about nazi ideas, I think it’s fair to call them Nazis. Doing otherwise plays into their hand by legitimizing their opinions.

      Here’s another quote from an 11 minute video (8:31):

      What the alt-right does is shout “you just call everyone you don’t like nazi” while their people are giving interviews wearing Nazi paraphernalia. They even argue that calling dudes marching to the tune of “Jews will not replace us”. Nazis is somehow anti-semitic meanwhile they asked to be called identitarian x’ and race realists. They want to stigmatize words that conjure images of white fascism which, again, they very explicitly support, and replace them with words that conjure images of clean-cut philosophy majors.

      In summary, I’m fine with treating the alt-right, white nationalists, and neo-nazis the same way. Their views are very ideologically close, and while it may, technically, be possible to hold some WN but no Nazi beliefs, in practice, the venn diagram of who’s a part of these groups is almost a circle. Saying, “ah, this person isn’t a nazi, they just want ethnic cleansing and a white ethnostate!” isn’t meaningful. It sounds cliche, but drawing these distinctions is what they want. They want to mainstream their views through the co-opting of language and the shifting of the overton window. (Watch the video if you can, it’s worth it.) Saying they’re a nazi immediately proclaims “we, as a society, have decided your views are reprehensible, so shut your nazi piehole and go back to whining on the internet about how the (((globalists))) control the world. You are not worth listening to and not worth debating.” I think it’s important to do this.

      Small edit: I just started watching this video by thoughtslime and it seems relevant. (1:15-2:42)

      • Bugmaster says:

        Personally, I feel uncomfortable when modern alt-right ultra-conservatives are referred to as “Nazis”. I have family members who managed to survive the actual WWII Nazis; and applying the same label to modern edgy protesters cheapens the label. The historical WWII Nazis were actually pretty bad, you know ?

        When prominent people in your community are wearing nazi-coded symbols and saying nazi-coded keywords

        This is where I start getting worried, because there’s no clear algorithm for deciding what “nazi-coded” means. If I see a guy goose-stepping down the street with a swastika flag, then sure, obviously he’s a Nazi — but then, there’s no “coding” going on, he’s broadcasting his allegiance verbatim. As far as I understand, the argument for “nazi-coding” is that Nazis wised up to the fact that such behaviour would get them assaulted and/or arrested, so now they’re trying to hide in plain sight. But the problem is, if the Nazis are so good at hiding that anyone around you could potentially be a Nazi, then you pretty much have a license to punch anyone you want. This type of thinking leads to people dressing up in quasi-uniforms, hiding their faces behind masks, and walking out on the street en masse to beat up anyone who dares oppose them in any way, shape, or form — according to the principle that might makes right. Based on prior experience, we know that this is how really unpleasant historical events usually start.

      • Thegnskald says:

        The fundamental problem with your argument is the intersection of “We aren’t going to listen to you” and “We are going to shut you up.” The fundamental strategic blunder of censorship aside, you spent a lot of time listening to a group, in order to make a comprehensive argument about who they are.

        Listening to somebody is a prerequisite to a good-faith argument that they shouldn’t be given a platform.

        Which is to say – your argument is fine to a point, and that point is when we have listened to somebody enough to be able to reasonably conclude they are X. Your argument, however, steps past this, painting a much wider swathe of society, and saying we shouldn’t listen to them, we should just dismiss them out of hand.

        Again, setting aside the strategic blunder here (if you don’t distinguish between X and Y, Y has zero social incentive not to be X or to ally with X – if I am going to be treated like a Nazi, I might as well ally with them, since it can only improve my bargaining position), your case falls apart at that last crucial leap of logic. You don’t demonstrate that they are all equivalent, you just say they are, and then demand nobody listen when they say they aren’t.

        Apply that to any other group and you’ll start to see the problem. This is the same kind of extremist thinking that gets people into these groups in the first place.

        • Thegnskald says:

          Setting aside that train of logic, there is another fundamental issue: Self-identification.

          What principle says that we should respect self-identification when it comes to sex/gender, but not political party? I assume you are on favor of trans rights, and find it offensive when people deliberately use different pronouns. What makes this different? Because you, personally, happen to value the information you convey with your own word choice?

          • AG says:

            The argument is that sex/gender is inherent, loyalty is not. Or else spies are innocent if they say so.

          • Thegnskald says:


            Is your support for people’s pronoun choices contingent on it being biological?

            What if it is a cultural artefact? And if it is cultural, how does that not apply to the far right?

            “This person meets my personal criteria for being a member of group X in spite of explicit disavowal of membership” is pretty much the issue in question.

            But hey, you are fine with that. And since that, to me, is the important qualifier of being a Nazi – insistence that other people are part of some group which is less morally relevant – I am going to declare that you are a Nazi. You fit the criteria I have defined, and you haven’t met my personal metric for proving you aren’t a Nazi, by attacking other people who group people into morally distinct groups. If you did that, I’d elevate you to the ranks of cryptofascist, since you are at least doing a decent job of pretending.

            Of course, this is exactly how decent human beings should behave.

          • lazydragonboy says:

            Woah. That went a bit harsh kinda quick there. Why so intense all of a sudden?

          • Thegnskald says:

            lazydragonboy –

            Shouldn’t it be harsh?

            We are talking about labeling somebody as a monster beyond worth of redemption. Why should that be something that is done with a light heart and easy tone?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Nazis are beyond redemption? Is that being claimed?

            If so, I dispute it.

          • Thegnskald says:

            HBC –

            Poetic exaggeration intended to convey the severity of the accusation, not to convey a literal truth about redemption that a religion that revolves around redemption doesn’t even have a consistent answer for.

            The point is, “Nazi” is not an accusation of garden-variety evil, it is “Wears literal skull-and-crossbones and participated in the systemic torture and murder of millions” evil.

          • AG says:

            My support for pronoun choices is contingent on it being low stakes. A person’s pronouns do not serve as a predictor of if they will be violent towards someone.

            In contrast, it is important to be able to identify people whose ideological beliefs are a very high predictor of them hurting someone. It is important to diagnose certain mental states, regardless of their self-identification of their own mental state.

            This is not a debate on Every Kind of Label. Precision of sub-groups matter. Gender/sex is in one sub-group, Nazi is in another.

            I’m not sure where all these supposed harsh implications are that you pulled out of my original comment, because they’re rather off topic. Acertaining loyalty matters more than acertaining gender because loyalty predicts actions, gender does not. Ideologies that try to claim that there must be loyalty to sex/gender are bad.

            More relevantly to the OP, as such there may be categories of white nationalist/supremacist that, in conjunction with other factors, are predicting of low stakes. I agree that such people should not be conflated with Nazis.
            (This is also time context dependent. In a world where for whatever reason, Naziism becomes culturally dominant, and there are a lot of lip-service Nazis, then the label is no longer predictive, and it becomes lower stakes. Other labels gain the urgency of accuracy instead.)

          • Thegnskald says:

            AG –

            It is insufficient to simply declare that the stakes are low, so people should go along with it. Importance is subjective.

            Likewise, what exactly are the stakes in calling someone a right-wing extremist, as opposed to a Nazi? Well, I already know part of the problem: “extremist” used to mean all the things you want “Nazi” to mean, except then we started applying it to boring people with weird views instead of applying it to actual extremists, and now it doesn’t mean anything. Hint hint.

            Which gets into the next problem: The vast majority of the people falling under the umbrella of “Nazi” here are… boring people with weird views. If this were actually a problem, we wouldn’t still be using the example of a crazy guy who ran a car into a crowd last year – we would be talking about this year’s crazies. The label isn’t communicating the urgent information you claim it does, and not only does it fail to communicate it now, expanding it’s usage makes it even less useful to this purpose.

            Most white supremacists are just, well, losers, for whom the choice of ideology doesn’t cost them anything socially because they don’t have anything to lose, socially. It is better regarded as a cult than an ideological movement, preying on the weak of mind and socially vulnerable in exchange for a sense of community and belonging they literally cannot get somewhere else. That is the proper framework for understanding what is going on here.

            You aren’t going to fix a problem largely created and propagated by social isolation by ostrasizing the participants. And you aren’t going to reform or redeem them by giving them no escape route.

          • Matt M says:

            preying on the weak of mind and socially vulnerable in exchange for a sense of community and belonging they literally cannot get somewhere else

            I thought this was the entire point of having Juggalos?

      • lazydragonboy says:

        I watched both videos. They were good. Thanks for the recommendation!

    • Nootropic cormorant says:

      Political positions don’t come from elaborations of basic axioms, they are built through accumulation of memes, narratives and arguments. The extreme right spans several clines, but there is heavy osmosis and memes very much circulate freely. Internet plays a huge part in this, as it allows not only easier transmission of ideas across groups active today, but also easier access to past thinkers and narratives.

      Here are some reoccuring memes whose adoption may vary by group:
      1. Nations are meaningful:
      – Society needs a strong glue.
      – Race is biologically meaningful.
      – Other ethnic groups are already acting selfishly.
      – Nations can live indefinitely while individuals die.
      2. Modernity is bad:
      – Democracy and Egalitarianism are bad.
      – Rationalism and Materialism are bad.
      – Hedonism is bad.
      3. Conflict is fundamental:
      – Being strong is indispensable.
      – Empathy leads to disaster.
      – Intellectualism leads to weakness.
      – Politics is all conflict theory.

      This is only an abstract sketch, the actual memeplex contains many details like symbols, interpretations of historical events, arguments and counter-counterarguments and arbitrary allegiances and antipathies to various entities, sometimes long gone.

      I would say that one cline runs from those who mostly adopt only the ideas from the first group to those who incorporate heavily from the second two, corresponding to a White Nationalist – Nazi gradient. The former are usually not very ideologically informed, although ideology does suffuse them, while the latter are more intellectually oriented (but not necessarily more intelligent) and are more likely to emulate historical predecessors.

      I should also stress that it is not just holding some of the above opinions that makes one a member of the Far Right (many are found in other ideologies), but rather the fact that they are plugged into this network which exchanges memes that are then adopted with far less critical distance than would normally be applied.

      • Aapje says:

        I don’t understand your categorizations. For example, how is the belief that there are biological racial differences a nationalist belief?

        • Nootropic cormorant says:

          Nations are commonly founded on ethnic groups, which may share common genetic descent. There are also strains of “civic nationalism” that downplay racial aspects. They are commonly also informed by “racialist” memes, but don’t think ethnic strife is worth it.

          (I am from Europe, so we might mean slightly different things when speaking of “nation” or “race”)

          Also by “Race is biologically meaningful.” I mean not only a simple statement that some of the genetic variance is between and not within races, but a whole family of claims and judgements that straddle the is-ought line, some reasonable and some completely phantasmagorical.

          This includes ideas of racial superiority and inferiority, of inherent racism (so that high social trust requires genetic homogeneity), of miscegenation causing outbreeding depression, defunct racial science (Nordic, Alpinid, Mediterran), eugenics, fantastical origin stories (Hungarians are space aliens), different peoples possessing different “racial souls” that demand different societies and many other memes.

          It is fascinating that while some of these apply exclusively to expounder’s (sometimes extremely narrrow) ingroup at the expense of others, they are freely exchanged among these groups globally and adopted to their specific situation, producing paradoxes such as Polish skinheads promoting Aryan supremacy, often with the idea that it Poles and not Germans that are the purest Aryans.

          • Aapje says:

            Nations are commonly founded on ethnic groups, which may share common genetic descent.

            I think that you are arguing in a rather deceptive way here, by equating ethnicity with genetic descent (and by implying that genetic descent matches up with race). Race and ethnicity are not at all the same thing and you can’t just switch one out for the other in an argument and posit that the claims about ethnicity are also true for race.

            I would guess that the reason for you doing this is because you have significant misconceptions about nationalism, nations and ethnicity. It’s obvious that the citizens of a nation tend to be an ethnic group, because this is almost a tautology given the definition of ethnicity: “An ethnic group, or an ethnicity, is a category of people who identify with each other based on similarities such as common ancestry, language, history, society, culture or nation.”

            It is not necessary for nations to be founded on ethnicity for them to end up with a shared ethnicity, because living in a nation creates ethnicity. For example, the border between East and West Germany ended up where it was mainly because of how fast the Western and Russian armies advanced. The resulting arbitrary split created differences in shared history, society, language and culture between people of the resulting nations. You can see East and West Germany on a map that shows voting patterns today, almost 30 years after reunification.

            Many (European) nations have experienced extensive immigration where the migrants eventually adopted (and/or changed) the culture, major shared history, the language, etc of the nation they migrated to and thereby accepted the ethnicity of that nation and were accepted as ethnic members of that nation.

            Many national borders follow natural defenses, as the ability to defend a nation from conquerors used to be a major factor in getting to have one. The result was that citizenship was rather arbitrary for many. If you lived on one side of the Oder, you became German, if you lived on the other side, Polish.

            Furthermore, many nations were cobbled together from smaller (proto-)nations, with their own ethnicity. This often resulted in identifiable groups within countries with their own shared (sub-)ethnicity. I have family within my country that speak a different language (and they are not immigrants).

            So the idea that nations were founded on ethnicity is nonsense. The idea that nations consist (nearly) exclusively of the descendants of those who founded it is nonsense. The idea that ethnicity is always linked to and/or can be equated with race is nonsense. Etc.

            Without (most of) these false beliefs, your reasoning falls apart and slanders nationalism as something that is very often was not. This is why I don’t engage many of your arguments, because from my perspective the premises are nonsensical.

            It seems to me that the conflation of nationalism with racism is quite common among quite a few globalists, many of whom seem to see nationalism as a fall from paradise, rather than what it actually was: a way to create more globalist societies from tribal ones.

            I think that many globalists are making the same mistake as communists: misperceiving an imperfect solution that helps achieve their ideals compared to the natural state of the world, as an oppressive system that prevents their ideals from being realized. And so they destroy what they do not understand (or try to cobble together a greater nation, like the EU, without creating enough ethnicity to support this), unleashing chaos.

            TL;DR version: you can say that nations are meaningful and society needs a strong glue, without any racism whatsoever.

          • Nootropic cormorant says:

            Cool, but what I thought I was doing was describing the worldview of self-professed nazis and their ilk.

            As concerns my personal views, I broadly agree that nations are created through shared history, that they can be extremely arbitrary and that they can be useful; but I am also wary of a popular view promulgated by postcolonial studies that nations are completely “imagined communities”, invented in the 19th century with no real basis in pre-modern identities or descent.

            As I’ve said above “it is not just holding some of the above opinions that makes one a member of the Far Right (many are found in other ideologies)”, I am of course aware that national liberation has been a force of progress for most of its history, but at the same time you cannot deny that Nationalism is a fundamental tenet of “fascistic” ideology. (although I consider ideology to be only an epiphenomenon of the entity that is Far Right)

          • Aapje says:

            Nations need cultural compatibility, ingroup solidarity and such. The solidarity with others in the nation has to be large enough that it isn’t overridden by other solidarities.

            This is nontrivial in situations where people are not blank slates with no history, which actually is always present in practice. For example, in Europe, the different languages automatically reduce cultural cross-pollination between many groups. These languages developed for certain groups because of historical reasons, which makes it harder to create a shared culture that doesn’t match these historical groupings.

            So if one wants Europe, Belgium, Spain, Canada, USA, etc to operate as a stable community with ingroup solidarity, it’s generally necessary to artificially strengthen the ingroup solidarity at that level and weaken other solidarities.

            With modern wealth, education and hedonism, a subset of the population commonly called globalists find their solidarity both beyond the nation and at a smaller level than the nation (and even both at the same time, as subsets of nations connect with subsets of other nations).

            Then there is another subset that is not as learned, traveled, fluent in the lingua franca and such; who are much more communitarian and have local solidarity, not global.

            This creates a problem because many things are linked to land and/or distance. What your neighbor does almost always impacts you more than what someone on the other side of the world does. So the globalists and localists can only partially segregate themselves from each other (although they try). If nothing else, participating in the same elections brings this conflict to the front.

            This is broadly recognized as a problem, not just by the far right. The antifa/SJW solution is to force the localists to conform to globalist culture, while the far right tries to do the opposite. Many more moderate people think that they can achieve the same result more kindly, by persuasion, ignoring that solidarity is much more emotional than rational (which doesn’t mean that the emotions are not fed by real issues).

            The persuasion often fails to work because the people asking for the other side to adopt to accommodate them, often fail to themselves accommodate the other side to such an extent that there is a feeling of quid-pro-quo. This lack of accommodation is often not intentional, but comes from a lack of shared culture/beliefs/circumstances/habits/etc.

            The city dweller cannot imagine how anyone would ever want to own a gun except for nefarious reasons, while for many in rural areas, a gun is a tool that is extremely useful in their lives. A city person who has a rat problem calls an extermination company or complains to the local government. The farmer brings out his .22 rifle and solves his own problem. Each fails to appreciate how their own solution makes sense for their circumstances, but not those of the other group.

            I am of course aware that national liberation has been a force of progress for most of its history, but at the same time you cannot deny that Nationalism is a fundamental tenet of “fascistic” ideology.

            By definition, white nationalists connect their ingroup with the nation, but I don’t see why this is fundamental to far right beliefs in general.

            Here again you are making these questionable equivocations, by equating fascism with the far right.

          • Nootropic cormorant says:

            What I was attempting to do was answer the question of “to what extent is there a difference between White Nationalism and (Neo-)Nazism” sociologically, through a meta-ideological view that considers ideas and narratives as arbitrary units of memetic transmission to argue that White Nationalist form a cline with National Socialists.

            Your reaction was to assert that there is nothing arbitrary about your view on the importance of nations, which you continue to describe in great detail, and assert that the implied idea of you sharing some ideas with racist is slander.

            This is of course a natural reaction to an implication that one’s beliefs could be “mere” social constructs and not naturally occuring inductions on the structure of reality. Your using of “by definition” and ”
            fundamental to” also shows that you are for some reason unwilling to discuss the only point I am really interested in making here: that ideologies don’t proceed naturally from definitions but exist as ever-changing clusters of memes.

            Before you accuse me of post-modernist relativism, let me point out that I do not preclude that these memes can vary in truthfulness, utility or have logical relations among each other; nor do I claim that minimizing ideological infection is desirable or even possible.

            I only insist that we can consider these memes without appraising these traits (i.e. without engaging in them) and that only in this way can we gain insight into the ideological landscape.

            Without this we will not understand common shifts in ideological ‘fundamentals’ common among individuals and groups or how unrelated ideas can cluster together with no obvious logical relation, and we will ascribe all such phenomena to people simply being too stupid or cynical for their own ideologies.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            that ideologies don’t proceed naturally from definitions but exist as ever-changing clusters of memes.

            Signal boosting this idea.

            The failure of the rationalist community to come to grips with this strikes me as both predictable and utterly mystifying at the same time.

          • Nornagest says:

            I think a lot of rationalists model ideologies as behaving like fitness functions for machine learning software, with well-defined inputs and terminal values. They don’t, of course.

            That’s probably why rationalists are so incredibly bad at PR, too.

  9. S_J says:

    Tangential to a discussion about U.S. Immigration policy that generated a lot of heat in the last fractional OpenThread…

    I recently saw a story in CNN which tried to explain the sequence of legal decisions, federal laws, and Dept-of-Justice decisions which led to the shocking images of children separated from parents into other detention facilities.

    The story includes a court case from 1997, and a law passed in 2008. It includes a discussion of similaraites and differences with GW-Bush-era, and Obama-era policies.

    One small thing about the article: the upswing in families crossing the border together is tracked with data from 2012, 2014, and then 2018… However, no numbers are given for children held by the Office of Refugee Resettlement during those years. I would like to see better data for that.

    It appears that the Federal system is in a grind: there are large number of famliies [1] crossing the border, more than was typical under earlier Presidents. Policies and systems for dealing with that problem were barely noticeable when the number was small. They are much more noticeable now.

    There is a court decision (and supporting law) against imprisoning the children with the parents, but there is no easy way to give the children a “least restrictive” option…and whatever community they have is a community that has no reason to trust the officers of the United States Government.

    [1] If a Federal Officer finds a 30-something-year-old couple with a handful of teenage girls, and the couple claims that they are all memers of his family…how do they prove the relationship?
    If the couple is actually ferrying young women to their new pimps, how would that be distinguished from a scenario which is a real family traveling together?

    Shouldn’t the officials have some way of trying to figure out whether to separate pseudo-families and keep real-families together, rather than simply treat all such apparent-family-groups in the same way?

    • Evan Þ says:

      Would it be legal to keep real-families together while detaining them?

      (Whether or not that’s the case, I think it should be.)

      • HeelBearCub says:

        No longer than 30 days, as decided by a lawsuit brought against the Obama administration, as it involves detaining the children.

        Which doesn’t mean you can’t do something like electronically monitor the parents.

    • Matt M says:

      Your last point about pseudo-families and human trafficking is key, and seems to be largely ignored by most of the clickbait controversy-building media outlets. One man’s “breaking up families” is another man’s “rescuing human trafficking victims.”

      There’s been a news article going around right-wing social media indicating a bunch of “Abolish ICE” protestors in Oakland actively protesting a sting that supposedly saved multiple young girls who were being sold into prostitution. I haven’t verified, but that sort of thing does happen and needs to be addressed somehow.

      • John Schilling says:

        One man’s “breaking up families” is another man’s “rescuing human trafficking victims.”

        And any time I hear the phrase, “human trafficking”, I know someone is trying to con thing. There is a motte out there somewhere, and the people trying to storm it are doing righteous good work, but it’s rarely newsworthy when there’s this great big bailey full of people trying to further marginalize sex workers and now justify breaking up actual families.

        In the rare case where someone actually does try to engage in sex trafficking by way of bogus asylum claims, which is right up there with robbing donut shops next door to police stations in terms of Stupid Criminal Trick, if our border patrol agents can’t sort that out with an interview and an occasional DNA test, our border security is done for.

      • belvarine says:

        It’s frankly absurd and borderline bad faith to suggest that Abolish ICE protestors are opposed to rescuing innocent victims of sex slavery. Trump’s zero tolerance policy isn’t necessary to enforce human trafficking laws and the costs far outweigh the benefits.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          It’s more “look how confused these people are” than bad faith. All of the “Abolish ICE!” protests/rhetoric came about after the child separation brouhaha, even though ICE has nothing to do with that policy. ICE does internal deportations, but it’s Border Patrol who detains groups of people crossing the border and then hands the children over to Health and Human Services.

        • Matt M says:

          I am NOT suggesting that opposition to ICE = opposition to rescuing victims of child-rape.

          I AM suggestion that opposition to ICE = opposition to ICE even in rare cases where ICE is preventing child rape.

          Because that seems to have been a thing that did, actually happen. Now we can justify it in many ways. We can suspect that the charges in that particular incident were overblown. We can claim the protestors had no idea what was going on (although surely the responsibility for knowing what you’re actually protesting lies with the protestor). We can claim that they protested 500 raids and this was the only one where ICE was actually doing something decent so it wasn’t statistically representative, etc.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            rare cases

            See this distinction is crucial, but the example is being given as the central example, as if it is the motivation.

            I really don’t want to get into a conversation about Q, but something something quacks like a duck.

    • JDG1980 says:

      If a Federal Officer finds a 30-something-year-old couple with a handful of teenage girls, and the couple claims that they are all memers of his family…how do they prove the relationship?

      DNA testing seems like the obvious solution here.

      • Mark Atwood says:

        “They’re adopted.”

        followed soon by
        “How dare you not honor blended families and the family styles of other cultures, you literal piece of trash! ICE hates families!”

        • toastengineer says:

          Then ask for adoption paperwork.

          I don’t think the lefties would mount a serious defense of people taking checks to “adopt” thirty kids and immigrate with them. They aren’t THAT gullible.

          • Matt M says:

            The left believes that it’s a horrendous burden for even poor Americans to obtain a single government-issue ID. There’s no chance they’re going to support a demand that illegal immigrants be carrying valid adoption paperwork.

          • AG says:

            This is a mis-characterization of the opposition to poll station ID checks. The left opposes the reality of how all such policies have been enforced, not the theory of it.

            In other consequentialism, asking for adoption paperwork only leads to an uptick in the market for falsifying paperwork.

        • MartMart says:

          When the government wants to verify the validity of a marriage and have reasons to be suspicious, they separate the couple and interview them separately. It’s not a perfect method, but it works most of the time.
          I don’t see why something very similar could work on families, related or adopted. If they are a front for trafficking, their stories are likely to diverge pretty quickly.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Reasonable, with two caveats.

            If you only have one adult and pre-verbal children, it doesn’t work.

            And you need honest people doing the interviews so that small differences in answers aren’t considered evidence of not being a family.

          • MartMart says:

            I wouldn’t think there would be much demand in preverbal children for smuggling, and if I’m wrong, please don’t tell me.

            Yes, virtually every scheme will rely on honest enforcement.

            There is this thing that I’ve been thinking about. Anytime you have rules, you have to have enforcers. Enforcers tend to really want a rule that says “also, anything we say is against the rules, is against the rules”, or even “the rule is to do whatever we say”. That’s understandable because there will always going to be someone who is going to go about breaking the intent but not letter of the rules in a “I’m not touching you” sort of way.
            Exactly how successful the enforces are at establishing their “anything we don’t approve of is not allowed” rule depends largely on how much power those who are having to follow the rules have on the overall system. Police and prosecutors in civil society are more restricted than their equivalent in the military. School code of conducts tend to get more and more “just do what they tell you” the younger the students get.
            This isn’t a bad thing, although it can be under some circumstances. It’s practically inevitable.
            One population that has very little input over the system that regulates it are immigrants. Therefor, immigration officials tend to have a whole lot of “also, we can reject people for reasons we don’t have to explain” sort of rules, that were designed to be applied with some discretion.
            That becomes a real problem should the people who really want to limit immigration in almost all its forms get to be in charge of the system.

      • albatross11 says:

        My understanding is that they’ve taken DNA samples, and that in nearly all cases, there’s not really a lot of question about whether the kids are theirs. I’m sure somewhere, there’s a coyote who got caught with ten 16-year-olds crossing the border to work and claimed to be their dad in some kind of Hail Mary play to get away without jail time, but that’s not remotely the normal situation.

      • Deiseach says:

        DNA testing seems like the obvious solution here.

        And five minutes after it’s announced that the border guards are going to DNA test, the first lawyers will gallop up claiming it’s assault and unconstitutional and I don’t know what else to prevent it happening. Anything that smacks of not taking the bare word of the people illegally crossing the border is going to be called racism and terrorism and every bad word you like.

        • albatross11 says:

          They’ve taken DNA tests of the detainees and their kids. And from what I’ve heard, getting those detainees any legal representation at all is not so easy–they sure as hell don’t have money to pay for it, and a lot of them are from very poor and backward parts of Guatemala / El Salvador / Honduras and don’t even speak Spanish, but rather some local Indian language.

          • Deiseach says:

            I’m surprised the protesting lobby haven’t jumped on this already; after all, if the people can’t even speak a mutually comprehensible language, how can they possibly give consent for a DNA sample to be taken from them and their children?

            All I can find online is law about paternity tests and court-orders for the same, but that little does seem to indicate that you can refuse such (even if it will run the risk of you being held in contempt of court).

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      [1] If a Federal Officer finds a 30-something-year-old couple with a handful of teenage girls, and the couple claims that they are all memers of his family…how do they prove the relationship?

      Oh no, it’s a 4chan family! Make sure they all have the same surname and frog picture on their passports?

    • HeelBearCub says:

      As to not create another parent thread, I’m going to put this thought here.

      For those who are making the claim that immigrants are doing something illegal, therefore (whatever bad things) are justified …

      The Trump administrations actions have been ruled to be illegal, and the children were ordered returned to their parents roughly immediately.
      a) I think this pretty much invalidates the “but they are illegal” argument in terms of justifying this particular action.
      b) If you object to the various protests being performed against the administration (which are exceedingly mild), I think you are fairly hoist on your own petard.

      • S_J says:

        Some time after I posted this, I realized that:

        1. Trump acts as if everything is about him. Interestingly, so do his opponents…

        2. G.W. Bush, Obama, and Trump are all part of the history outlined in that article. Interestingly, CNN didn’t care to point out the court case where Trump was told to stop something. It’s possible that the court case is under appeal, or it has a narrower impact than most people wish.

        3. The CNN article was pretty good on background. It jogged my memory a little bit; I finally found a different news article from 2014. It appears that some of the photos from that article were shared widely as if this was a new Trump-administration practice. The article is about children separate from parents by officials of the Obama administration; it is also about efforts to build a better facility to handle those children.
        I scanned the CNN article pretty closely, and I can’t find any reference to this practice. I had hoped to find some numbers distinguishing the number of children treated this way during the Obama-administration actions from the number of children treated this way during the Trump-administration. I was unable to find anything to use, but I note this to underline that both the supporters of Trump and the opponents of Trump are wrong: it is not all about Trump.

        4. The best I could do, from the CNN article, was to infer that some unstated event led to an increase in families crossing the border clandestinely during the years 2012-to-2018. My best guess is that the unstated event was the Obama administration effort to give Permanent Legal Residence and/or Citizenship to Dreamers. (That is, children born outside of the U.S., but who spent most of their life inside the U.S.) Apparently, more than a few families thought that being inside the U.S. with their children before that policy was fully implemented would make it easy for them to take advantage of that policy.

        U.S. law has held, since sometime in the 1960s, that the number of immigrants coming into the United States can be capped at a maximum number per-year from every country in the world. The on-the-ground fact is that this number is much smaller than the number of people from Mexico (and other countries in Central America) who desire to work inside the U.S.

        My assumption is that people crossing the border clandestinely are usually getting help from someone in the crossing. There are known to be organizations that smuggle contraband across the border. (Contraband like narcotics from outside of the U.S., and possibly weapons from inside the U.S.) Apparently, this immigration situation increases the business for such smugglers, and makes it harder for the government of Mexico to help the U.S. Government curtail such smuggling. I think it is a bad thing if U.S. Government decreases the stability of the government of Mexico…but apparently, this problem has not been noticed inside the U.S. for most of my lifetime. Despite numerous other internal-political disputes about U.S. international policy.

        The people who desire to work inside the U.S., and are unable to get official permission to do so, will often live in legal-gray-zone communities. They will work for cash, or work under an assumed name/ID, for businesses that have lots of seasonal surges in labor. These businesses are apparently amenable to a work force that is temporary, speaks another language, and is afraid to interact with the cops too much.

        Arguments that these practices should be curtailed usually come down to:
        A. These people do jobs that Americans don’t want to do. (Conversely, they steal jobs from poor/minorities who are already citizens of the United States.)
        B. These people don’t break many other laws. (Conversely, if crimes happen in their communities, they don’t wish to bring those crimes to the attention of police.)
        C. The law shouldn’t hurt people who just want a chance to work. (Conversely…why do we have laws about max-number-of-immigrants and requirements-of-ID for the W-4 form at work, if someone can cross the border from Mexico and can avoid most such rules?)

        • HeelBearCub says:

          I think you may have a misunderstanding of some of the things that are going on here which is confusing your analysis.

          Lets start with #3. In 2014 there was a surge in unaccompanied minors. These are minors who crossed the border and were not in the company of their parents. Spikes in the flow of anything cause normal systems to be overcome, which is why you see the system as a whole being stressed in novel ways (and a resultant amount of publicity).

          However, your statement that these were children separated from the parents by the Obama administration is incorrect. These were actually unaccompanied minors.

          We also saw, roughly coincident, a surge of family crossing. The Obama administration did not separate the children from their parents, but did seek to detain the children and parents together. This was challenged in court, and the result was a ruling that the children could not be detained, therefore the Obama administration released these families, pending the resolution of their court cases (with either community supervision or electronic monitoring).

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        The Trump administrations actions have been ruled to be illegal, and the children were ordered returned to their parents roughly immediately.

        Do you have a source? I thought the situation was “solved” by Trump signing an EO saying the children would be held with the parents and no rulings or orders have taken place.

        And I think this order is in violation of the Flores decision. Which isn’t exactly “illegal” because that’s not a law, just a settlement.

        It’s all very messy, but my understanding was this:

        1) According to the Flores settlement, children can only be detained for a short while in the least restrictive conditions possible and must be released to relatives/guardians as soon as possible. Caveat: this settlement was about unaccompanied minors, and may or may not apply to families. I don’t think we actually know what you’re supposed to do with families.

        2) If you’re going to detain the adults while their (almost certainly bogus) asylum claims are adjudicated what do you do with the children? By Flores (maybe?), you can’t hold them in the restrictive centers you’re holding the adults, so they were placed with Health and Human Services until relatives or foster care in the US could be found, and then released to them.

        3) People got really mad about this, “taking children from their parents,” so Trump signed an EO saying to hold the family together.

        4) This may be in violation of Flores, but as I said, that was specific to unaccompanied minors, and the status of accompanied minors is maybe in limbo. But no court has ruled anything on the policies under Trump pre-EO or post-EO.

        It’s odd, but I think the only way now to get a ruling would be to sue in order to separate the children from detained parents.

        It’s all very messy and I wish people would stop dragging children through a desert to illegally enter the country because I don’t think there’s a solution to this problem that makes everyone happy.

        • Paul Zrimsek says:

          The only legal ruling on the subject that I know about is an injunction issued by a district judge in San Diego, which should not be mistaken for a final ruling on the merits. There’s obviously a consistency problem here for anyone who wants to argue both that illegals should be subject to such draconian measures because The Law, and that the Administration should defy the court’s injunction; but I don’t recall seeing anyone take the latter position here.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          this settlement was about unaccompanied minors, and may or may not apply to families.

          It’s my understanding that the Obama administration already attempted to detain families together with children and this was overruled under Flores.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I found the ruling. It looks like the court decided that Flores does apply to both accompanied and unaccompanied minors, so scratch out the parts of my post where I wonder if accompanied minors are in limbo.

            I think this means the post-EO system of family detention is probably in violation of the Flores settlement. I’m not sure if that means “illegal,” as that’s just a settlement, and not a law passed by our legislature, but if they want the family detention system to stop, they’re going to have to sue and then we’re right back to family separation again.

            Treat them like every other child who is sadly caught up in their parents’ criminal activities: we prosecute the parent and the child is put in temporary government custody until care with relatives or a foster family can be found. The only answer seems to be “please stop dragging children through a desert filled with cartel drug runners while you commit a crime.”

          • Brad says:

            Treat them like every other child who is sadly caught up in their parents’ criminal activities: we prosecute the parent and the child is put in temporary government custody until care with relatives or a foster family can be found.

            Except that in most cases, we don’t prosecute the parent. Most federal crimes are not pursued. Choices are, and must be, made.

            You are begging the question.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            “Most federal crimes are not pursued.”

            What do you mean by that? Do you mean people are arrested in the act of committing the federal crime and then released without prosecution? Because in this case we’re talking about a situation where the perpetrators are caught in the act by the appropriate authorities.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            we prosecute the parent and the child is put in temporary government custody

            You seem to be lumping together arrest, pre-trial detainment, and post-trial incarceration in this statement.

            What we don’t do is say, “We are going to separate everyone accused of this crime from their children before they are convicted.” Not when they crime isn’t some form child endangerment. And we most especially don’t do it when the crimes are low level misdemeanors. And most extra especially don’t make it de facto permanent.

          • Matt M says:

            Except that in most cases, we don’t prosecute the parent. Most federal crimes are not pursued. Choices are, and must be, made.

            Am I going crazy here or is this not, yet another, implicit call for open borders and zero restrictions on immigration?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I could be wrong about this, but I don’t think there’s much difference in the way children are separated from illegal border crossers as they would be in any other circumstance where a child is brought along for a crime. It just doesn’t happen very often with other crimes.

            With regards to time of detainment, if you’re stealing a bicycle and have brought your kid along, and the cops arrest you for theft, do they not hand your kid over to CPS, who then finds a place for the kid with relatives or with a foster family? How is this different?

            With regards to child endangerment, I think dragging children through the desert that also has lots of very bad people doing other illegal things qualifies. If I brought my child into the desert where lots of drug cartels were operating so I could steal a bike and were caught in the act, should the cops not take my kid? If they do take my kid because I’m putting him in a dangerous situation while I’m committing a crime, how mad would you be?

            And I completely agree the separation should not be permanent, they should all be deported as quickly as possible.

            You say you’re not for open borders, so what should we do instead with people who violate our closed borders with children in tow? If it’s “catch and release,” doesn’t that just mean de facto open borders if you bring a kid? And doesn’t that incentivize people to bring kids with them on the dangerous journey?

            If we’re not going to have “open borders if you take a kid,” then something has to be done with the kids while the parents are running through their bogus asylum claim. We can either 1) separate them from the parents and put them in the care or relatives or foster families (pre-EO situation) or 2) detain the family together (post-EO situation). I don’t think there are any other options.

            Where kids, crime and government intersect are difficult situations to suss out.

          • Brad says:

            @Matt M

            Am I going crazy here or is this not, yet another, implicit call for open borders and zero restrictions on immigration?

            If those are the only two choices, it must be the former. I hope you have good medical insurance.

          • Brad says:

            What do you mean by that? Do you mean people are arrested in the act of committing the federal crime and then released without prosecution? Because in this case we’re talking about a situation where the perpetrators are caught in the act by the appropriate authorities.

            People aren’t just magically “caught” by “appropriate authorities”. Priorities are set and personnel are hired and deployed. There are choices being made about what crimes to try to catch in the first place, if caught to pursue criminal charges as opposed to other remedies, and to seek custody while pursuing charges.

            For the majority of federal crimes committed, different choices have been made. You can certainly try to justify those disparate choices but you ought not to pretend they don’t exist.

          • Matt M says:

            If those are the only two choices, it must be the former. I hope you have good medical insurance.

            I’ve been uninsured for the past two months. Promise not to snitch on me?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Conrad Honcho:

            I could be wrong about this, but I don’t think there’s much difference in the way children are separated from illegal border crossers as they would be in any other circumstance where a child is brought along for a crime.

            Compare it to speeding. And the maximum sentence for illegal entry is 6 months, which is similar to the maximum punishments for certain levels of speeding. Almost no one is punished this way, for illegal crossing or speeding.

            Now, compare it to speeding, but imagine someone said that they were separating parents from their children to deter speeding. Imagine that Mom’s in mini-vans who were caught speeding would, under a new “zero tolerance” policy, be automatically arrested and their children sent to a “shelter” 2000 miles away without even establishing the identity of either, nor ensuring an easy way of re-connecting the two. It doesn’t even really sound plausible for an Onion article, does it?

            As to some of the other things, let me quote myself from a previous thread:

            Broadly speaking, our immigration process is in a state of brokenness. As one example, it takes far too long to resolve immigration cases. As another, we (as a unitary nation) don’t actually want to stop illegal immigration, as if we did we would have pursued employers as well the migrants themselves, which has mostly been non-existent. Nor have we been willing to acknowledge that wealth disparities among nations can’t waved away by mere laws. De facto, the unitary nation has been comfortable with illegal immigration.

            Now, I get that you think you want us to not be comfortable with illegal immigration. But, that still doesn’t justify what actions are being taken. They aren’t being forced into this, they are choosing to do it, and it is quite wrong.

          • Thegnskald says:

            I think that, for the kind fo speeding that could get you six months, having a child in the backseat wouldn’t result in the government going “Well, we can’t separate you from your child”.

            Just to keep our parallel situations straight.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I mean, if you’re speeding fast enough to warrant a six month jail sentence for it, and you’re doing it with your kid in the car…yes it’s okay to remove the child from your custody? I’m not sure this is a good analogy.[1]

            I agree the immigration system is broken but I don’t think there’s anything particularly awful with regards to the family separation issue in most cases. I don’t think the “2000 miles away” thing happens very often, but I’m sure cases like that exist. We’re doing the best we can with a bad situation that’s created by the people choosing to dangerously cross the border illegally with their kids and then claim asylum instead of accepting immediate deportation. And this is almost certainly done in a fraudulent manner to abuse the due process we give asylum seekers.

            What I would really like is for congress to do as Trump asks, and change the laws. One proposal I like is establishing a way people can claim asylum in the US while still in Mexico. I don’t see any reason you must be in US territory to claim asylum. If we did that, we could continue catch and release, but make it “catch and release in Mexico.” If you’re caught crossing the border illegally, you can either not claim asylum and be deported immediately to Mexico, or you can claim asylum, and be immediately deported to Mexico with an appointment for an asylum hearing later at a US facility in Mexico. What do you think of this idea? Now nobody’s getting separated from their families and we’re still giving asylum seekers due process.

            Oh, and yes I’m also 100% behind going after employers for illegal hiring, something like nationwide e-Verify, etc.

            [1] Also, I’m already falling down to the “illegal immigration is like bike theft” analogy that Iain is so fond of, but now we’re going down to “illegal immigration is like speeding” which is usually just a ticket and “on your way.” I get that you want me to be comfortable with illegal immigration, but how far down the crime analogy scale are we going to fall here? Illegal immigration is a misdemeanor for a first offense and a felony after that, so I don’t think a comparison with something that ranges from ticket to misdemeanor is more apt than something like bike theft that goes from misdemeanor to felony (if you stole a really expensive bike? Or lots of bikes?)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            After trial, conviction, and sentencing, you’d be separated by reason of being in prison.

            Making a blanket policy that anything that could result in that much jail time is subject to immediate, indefinite imprisonment, and describing that as a deterrent? I don’t think so.

          • Randy M says:

            After trial, conviction, and sentencing, you’d be separated by reason of being in prison.

            And in the meantime, you may have a series of meetings with cps.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I’ve been uninsured for the past two months. Promise not to snitch on me?

            That depends: do you have kids?

          • Brad says:

            Illegal immigration is a misdemeanor for a first offense and a felony after that, so I don’t think a comparison with something that ranges from ticket to misdemeanor is more apt than something like bike theft that goes from misdemeanor to felony (if you stole a really expensive bike? Or lots of bikes?)

            In NY state reckless driving is a misdemeanor and reckless driving as a matter of case law can be a sufficient factual predicate for felony reckless endangerment.

            As for larceny, petit larceny is a misdemeanor and grand larceny in the fourth degree, an E felony, has a threshold of $1000. I’ve never owned a $1000 bike, but as I understand it you don’t exactly need to be Lance Armstrong to hit that level.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Hey, if we’re discussing better enforcement against employers, at least 5 states currently demand all employers e-verify everyone. What has been the result of this?

            I know I’ve asked this before but I don’t think I got a response, from either side. On paper, at least, some states are willing to force employers to comply, but what’s the real world result? Does it work? Is it as weakly enforced as other immigration laws?

            I don’t know the answers, and it seems like a significant gap in our set of facts if we’re debating this.

            Edit Lol, California has banned municipalities from requiring E-Verify.

          • There is a problem with the speeding ticket/illegal immigration analogy.

            If you get a speeding ticket, the cops don’t lock you up or demand bail, because they know your name and address, have your driver’s license, and if you don’t pay the ticket or show up in court they can impose costs on you larger than the amount of the ticket. So they turn you loose and wait for you to pay the fine.

            If you are caught crossing the border illegally and they turn you loose, on the other hand, you vanish—what you planned to do if they didn’t catch you. So the equivalent of the way we handle tickets really doesn’t work in that context.

            As it happens I am in favor of open borders, with some other legal changes to eliminate some of the obvious problems. But I do think that people objecting to the policy of separating children from parents arrested for illegal immigration are ignoring the problem that leads to that result, and haven’t offered an alternative short of open borders.

            Conrad has offered an alternative, with regard to asylum seekers. That still leaves the problem in any context where the authorities believe someone is an illegal immigrant and he denies it–what are they to do with him and his kid between arrest and trial?

      • Randy M says:

        I’m going to back this up. When Erik Garner was killed for selling loosies, we pointed out that this is a price of having enforcement of laws, and laws for people’s own good need to justify themselves with consideration for the potential use of force in their… enforcement.
        Having laws is a way of society establishing and preserving standards of behavior, and “the law” in and of itself deserves some respect because otherwise other laws that are important may be ignored. (Moral hazard argument).
        However, this consideration only goes so far. Believing harsh measures are merited in enforcing a law without consideration of the merits of the law is an extreme and probably ill considered position (nevermind if it is left extreme or right extreme). Suffering caused by the enforcement of a law should be cause to reflect if we want that law and what purpose it serves, rather than shrugged off because lawbreakers deserve to be punished, full stop.
        So I’m sympathetic to the critique raised by HBC that “It’s not about immigration, it’s about breaking the law” is stupid. But reversed stupidity isn’t genius, and I think immigration restrictions can be defended on their own merits honestly.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          But reversed stupidity isn’t genius, and I think immigration restrictions can be defended on their own merits honestly.

          Just to be clear, I’m not trying to make an argument for open borders. I don’t believe open borders is workable in today’s day and age ( I supposed I could be persuaded otherwise, but I don’t think it’s likely).

          I do think that the current immigration system is also “unworkable”, for a variety of reasons, but that’s a different conversation.

      • Jiro says:

        For those who are making the claim that immigrants are doing something illegal, therefore (whatever bad things) are justified …

        The Trump administrations actions have been ruled to be illegal

        This argument proves too much, unless you’re going to openly advocate for open borders

        • HeelBearCub says:


          1. This person murdered someone therefore torturing them to death is justified.

          2 . No. torturing them to death is illegal. If you torture them to death you will also be guilty of criminal action.

          #2 does not imply that I am in favor of “free murder”.

  10. corticalcircuitry says:

    The Boulder meetup was great. 11 people showed up, had some fun conversations. Planning to host meetups on a regular basis.

    • Darcey Riley says:

      Seconding this; the Boulder meetup was indeed great! 🙂 Thank you again corticalcircuitry for hosting! I’m looking forward to the next one.

  11. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    Replying to johan_larson on OT90:

    I’ve been thinking about various hobbies, and how they vary in price. Just to pin a target to the barn door, let’s pick $1 per day. What can you do for $1 per day?

    Reading novels fits within that budget. Assuming you want to read one book per week, C$7 per week won’t let you buy a new novel every week, even at paperback prices. But you should be able to make it work by supplementing with used books and library use.

    The cheapest Amazon Kindle is $80. So if your Kindle can last at least 3 months without getting lost, stolen, or broken, then the cost per day amortized over the life of Kindle drops below $1. With a Kindle, you can read all the public domain books you want for free from Project Gutenberg, Standard Ebooks, and Feedbooks (and also, depending on where you live and how much you respect copyright law, Project Gutenberg Australia, Roy Glashan’s Library, Project Gutenberg Canada, and Faded Page), on top of modern books that have been released under copyright terms allowing anyone to distribute free digital copies, such as the Baen CDs, the works of Cory Doctorow, and Peter Watt’s backlist. If you don’t have internet, you can go the library; book files are small, and a monthly library trip should suffice to keep you supplied. Granted, you could do the same thing for free by simply installing Sumatra PDF instead (assuming you already have a computer), but reading on a computer screen is a pain; the Kindle offers a reading experience which is competitive with real books.

  12. Atlas says:

    Anyone know of any good takes on Mad Max: Fury Road?

    • James says:

      the good take on Fury Road is that it’s great. What more do you need to know?

      • Atlas says:

        I thought so myself, but I always appreciate intelligent and perceptive commentary on the themes, symbolism, context, et cetera, of a work of art.

        • Bugmaster says:

          Well, as with any work of fiction, you can discuss its themes, symbolism, etc. ad infinitum — regardless of whether any of that stuff is actually present in the work. I think that the most interesting aspect of Fury Road is that it’s a pure, unadulterated tour de force. It’s a really cool accomplishment in terms of aesthetics, pacing, and tension. There’s no need to also treat it as some sort of a philosophy textbook; and, in fact, doing so would detract from its accomplishments.

    • johan_larson says:

      Movies with Mikey is a good series, and includes an episode about Mad Max: Fury Road.

      • James says:

        For my money, the most feminist/progressive* thing about that movie is how Max and Furiosa don’t kiss or fall in love at the end—they just share a nod of mutual respect and part ways. The climactic kiss is the boring cliche that action movies would lead us to expect, and I really like how Fury Road avoids it completely.

        I like it partly for not suggesting that male and female leads must automatically fall in love after their adventure—I’m not very often one to talk about objectification, but I think there is a trace of it in this crappy trope, or of ‘treating women as prizes to be won’, or whatever. But primarily I just like it as a strike against hoary, crappy old cliches and bad storytelling.

        *using—rarely for SSC!—a positive sense of ‘progressive’ here!

        • Matt M says:


          Curiously enough, they released a Mad Max videogame around the same time as Fury Road came out, that was based in the Mad Max universe but not based on Fury Road specifically.

          Without getting into too many spoilers… the game notably did not avoid horrible love story cliches…

        • jonshea says:

          This is a great take. Thank you for sharing it.

    • Shmooper says:

      Have you read the comic books? There’s some good stuff in there. It’s not a take exactly, but it’s pretty great.
      Then there’s the whiny man child take that got popular when the movie released. How dare you have a female lead who takes up significant screen time? I couldn’t believe myself when they were accusing the directors of making a ‘feminist’ movie.Like bro, did you watch the same movie I did?

      • James says:

        I think those people are right about it being a feminist movie but wrong about it being a bad thing. And I say this as someone who is constantly distressed by otherwise-fine Hollywood stuff being distorted by its leftie, progressive, identity-politics-y slant. For me it’s a rare example of a work of art that clearly comes from an extremely strong position without being spoiled by that. I’ve thought about it a lot and I don’t really know how he pulled it off—what the difference is that keeps it from being spoiled, like other movies/shows, by its overt messaging. (Thoughts, anyone? I’d love to know.)

        But I think it’s pretty clearly feminist. It’s set in a literal patriarchy, descended from our own, where the entire world has been wrecked by the rapacity and aggression of men. (“Who killed the world!?”)

      • The Nybbler says:

        What are you on about? _Fury Road_ was promoted as a feminist movie.

        As far as I can tell, most of the “whiny man child take” was in fact manufactured by the film’s boosters. The rest of it consisted of one whiny article from ReturnOfKings.

        • Aapje says:

          The marketing did work. They got a lot of free advertising on pro-feminists websites who loved this opportunity to bash on MRAs (while ignoring that ReturnOfKings is not an MRA website).

          • James says:

            See also the apparently-mediocre Ghostbusters.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Ghostbusters 2016 was even worse, as the trailers were terrible. “If those trailers were the best they could do, the movie must really suck” was my impression. As I recall, Fury Road’s trailers were violent people doing violent things, so pretty much what you’re looking for in a Mad Max movie.

            Yep, just spot-checked a Fury Road trailer — buggy chases, with vehicles flipping over and explosions.

      • gbdub says:

        I agree that the themes of the movie were feminist, but in a not-derailing way. A good example of how you can have a strong message without beating anyone over the head with it. Even when it involves fairly simple good/evil distinctions and a cartoonish villain.

        Some of this is a bit chicken and egg – there were some dumb feminist takes too (“Why wasn’t it called Furiosa Road? PATRIARCHY, obviously”) and it’s sometimes hard to tell who was reacting to who (and sometimes nobody is actually reacting to the actual movie).

    • nestorr says:
      tons of fanart and fanfiction and fury road related stuff

    • Lillian says:

      This is not really a take on the movie, but rather a thought exercise relating to it: What if Immortan Joe, chose me to be one of his wives?

      Now the seemingly obvious answer to this question is simply that Cheedo is replaced with Lillian and the plot otherwise remains identical. It would be so simple and easy were it not for the fact that i’m infertile, and what’s more i’m infertile in a way that would be noticed after a couple of months at most. This is a problem, because as much as it sucks to be the wife of an unattractive, violent, abusive man, it’s still much better than the scrabbling, desperate existence of the proles at the base of the Citadel. Since being infertile is a disqualifier for being in being Joe’s harem, they’ll send me back downstairs as soon as they find out, and i really don’t want to go back downstairs. So what do?

      Well since it’s basically inevitable that they will find out before long, i have little to lose by taking the initiative and coming clean to Immortan Joe, telling him directly and honestly that i’m infertile and can’t bear his children. However while i have his attention, i can make him an offer and show that i can still be of use to him. His son Rictus Erectus, though possessed of a boyish mind has a man’s body and presumably a man’s appetites as well. Rictus may benefit from having a woman at his side who would always be available to satisfy him. A strong and healthy woman who will never become inconveniently burdened with child, who can keep an eye on him when Joe is occupied with important matters, and most importantly one who is intelligent enough to understand that all power in the Citadel flows from Joe, that everyone’s life, safety, and prosperity are solely dependent on him, and as a consequence of that understanding will be and remain utterly loyal. To fill that role, i present myself.

      Will the dread sovereign of the Citadel go for it? Well the odds aren’t great, aside from my delivery, much is going to depend on factors outside my control. However, it’s the best move i have on hand, and i’m definitely getting sent downstairs anyway if i don’t try it, so i might as well. If he does goes for it though? Well, while i would not in any sense be free, being with Rictus does mean not being locked up in the vault. Moreover his intellectually gifted brother Corpus Colossus might very well enjoy having another intelligent person around with whom to converse. Indeed it’s possible that with time i might be able to parley my judgement and intellect into a small measure of influence. Really the greatest risk is Rictus Erectus himself. While laying with such an exquisitely well chiselled specimen of manhood is not exactly the most odious of duties, his lack of maturity could very well result in his hurting or even killing me, whether accidentally or maliciously. He must be handled with exceedingly great care. If i do manage to handle him however, i may very buy myself the best life afforded to any woman in the region.

      If all this goes well (a big if, mind), it actually open up an interesting possibility. Should one of Joe’s wives succeed in bearing him his perfect heir, then i could very delicately put it to him that perhaps they are not the ones best suited to raising the child. After all their loyalty to him is questionable at best, since they are ungrateful and don’t appreciate all he does for them. Perhaps then, it would be wise the boy to be raised by a woman whose loyalties he is more certain of, preferably one with the intellect and cunning to properly sharpen the boy’s mind. Not that i would suggest myself for this, far from it, this must be Immortan Joe’s decision. All i’m doing by suggesting it is looking after his interests, not my own. But should he in his great wisdom see that i am the best choice? Then i would have no complaints about my future as the Queen Mother of the Wasteland.

      I would have only just started laying the groundwork for this plan when the events of Fury Road happen. Pretty much exactly the same too, since Furiosa should be smart enough to realize that she could not take me with them. Not just because i would be much harder to retrieve without being noticed, but because by then i’d be sufficiently aligned with Immortan Joe as to immediately betray them all to him. This means that unlike damn near everyone else in the Citadel, i would not be having a good day at the end of the movie. Instead, along with Corpus Colossus, i’d be a remnant of the old regime desperately trying to bargain a position in the new one and precious little to do it with. Fortunately, the wives should still be at least somewhat sympathetic towards me given our similar circumstances, so i may be able to retain an advisory position with the new leaders. Not as good as my prior plans, but good enough given the circumstances.

      • James says:

        No comment other than that I love the insanity of how carefully worked out this is.

        • Lillian says:

          It is thoughts like this that occupy many of the spare moments of my mind, so they do tend to get rather carefully worked out. Similarly, i often times try to roleplay things in videogames to a much greater extend than the games allow me. For example in Skyrim my ultimate goal was to found a new empire with my character as its first Empress. After all Tiber Septim was a Dragonborn too, but where he used the Numidium to conquer Tamriel, i would call upon the might of the resurrected dragons. The game of course gave me no option to actually do this, but i would still play out in my head all the various moves and counter-moves as i built up my powerbase. Naturally i supported the Stormcloaks, not because i wanted Skyrim’s independence, indeed Skyrim was to become my first province by way of a political marriage with its High King Ulfric, but because i had to dismantle the old empire to make way for my new one.

          • Thegnskald says:

            The opening move can’t be Skyrim; that would unite The Empire and the Summerset Isles against you. The opening move has to be against either the empire itself, or the Thalmor of the Summerset Isles. The latter is the better choice; declare yourself Goddess of Dragons, and have your dragons kill any Altmer noble who refuses to acknowledge your divinity. Then sweep up the Bosmer, which should be comparatively simple.

            Once the elves are subdued, offer an alliance to Skyrim in return for aid in a punitive war on the Mede Empire for its failure to defend proper respect for your brother-god, Talos.


            Ulfric, of course, will need to be killed by cowardly imperial assassins, to clear the way for a ruler who is more willing to listen to wise counsel from a divinity.

            The reason for the Summerset Isles is that you can only be present and directing one battlefront; even if your personal forces win every battle, you can still lose the war if your other front goes badly enough that your allies start deserting you.

          • Lillian says:

            The opening move has to be in Skyrim because Skyrim is the place that has all the dragons, and where being a Dragonborn gives me semi-divine status. If the opening moves are elsewhere, then i won’t have Dragonborn powers, or allied dragons, or an army of fanatical followers who believe me to be an emissary/incarnation of Talos Stormcrown. It is not possible to obtain these things without getting deeply involved in the affairs of Skyrim, and if i’m going to get stuck in, it’s going to be on the side that advances my long term interests, which means the Stormcloaks.

            As for the idea of launching an attack directly on the Summerset Isles, that’s logistically impossible. There is no plausible way to get a conquering army from Skyrim to the Summerset Isles. While i could probably get myself, some dragons, and a small picked force there, it would have to be for a swift decapitation strike, not an attempt conquer and subdue the lot of them. There is the potential for great dividends from such a strike, since the Thalmor leadership is not easily replaced, but i could just as easily lose my entire force. We are talking about attacking a powerful cabal of wizards in their fastness deep inside completely unfamiliar and thoroughly hostile territory. The whole thing strikes me as very foolish, even with the aid of dragons.

            Also Ulfric doesn’t need to be assassinated, he has already demonstrated a willingness to be reasonable and listen to the Dragonborn’s counsel. Not only can you convince him to agree to come to the table with the Imperials in order to pause the civil war while the Alduin situation is dealt with, but even if you negotiate a deal that favours the Imperials he will abide by it. Given his behaviour in the game, i am reasonably certain that i can get Ulfric on board with my project, so there is no need to replace him. In fact, i probably don’t even need to marry him, opening up the possibility for a political marriage with some other factional leader. Useful for acquiring land, men, and legitimacy.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Pardon, opening political moves. Effectively, leave the empire and Skyrim in civil war, but gather all non-political power you can – you want the Thalmor preparing to commit their forces to Skyrim, and ideally they are sailing that way when you land your flying forces behind them. By the time they get news they are needed where they left, it should be too late.

            And you aren’t conquering the Summerset Isles – that is thinking like a mortal – you are smiting heretics. The major advantage of dragons is negated the moment you commit to open warfare – they are a mobile ambush platform. Perfect for public assas-cough-smitings.

            Ulfric has already demonstrated a willingness to overthrow somebody he disagrees with. He can’t be trusted. The fact that he is willing to work with his enemies when their interests align with his own makes him more dangerous, not less.

          • Lillian says:

            What makes you think the Thalmor are going to commit any amount of forces to Skyrim? Their goal is to prolong the civil war for as long as possible, because this weakens the Empire. To that end they are quietly funnelling supplies to the Stormcloaks, because the Stormcloaks are the disadvantaged party. Presumably they intend to cut off those supplies as soon as the Stormcloaks start winning, in order to preserve the balance of power and drag out the conflict. However at no point do they show even the slightest inclination or plan to actually commit troops to help either side. You are planning based on what you’d like the Thalmor to do, rather than on what they are likely to do.

            And i realize that the dragons make for a fearsome raiding force, i did suggest that they could be used for a decapitation strike against the Thalmor. The problem is that they are not an invincible raiding force. They can be killed, i know because i have killed them, and i have killed them using means as mundane as bow and arrows. You are suggesting that if i go to the Summerset Isles i can just trapaise around killing everyone i want with impunity, but that’s not how it works. Going there means facing the full might of the Aldmeri Dominion, since they are not going to just stand there and take it. We are not just talking about easily avoidable armies either, but powerful wizards and ancient magical workings. What’s more they don’t need to defeat the dragons to win, they only need kill the Dragonborn, and they only have to get lucky once. With a clear and specific target a dragon deep strike against the Thalmor is doable but extremely risky, without one it’s courting utter disaster.

            Additionally in order to have an Empire i must eventually conquer and occupy territory, and in order to do that i need boots on the ground. Dragons are simply far too capricious and few in number to be suitable for the role. Sooner or later i must have an army, and my best shot to getting a loyal one is to intervene in Skyrim’s civil war and make use of their religion to my advantage. This means that i want to end the war as quickly as possible in order to minimize casualties.

            In short, being the Dragonborn and having a force of allied dragons is a gigantic force multiplier, but it’s not an “i win” button. It’s still going to be absolutely necessary to cultivate allies and raise armies. Merely attempting to terrorize everyone into submission with dragonfire is a sure way to lose.

      • xXxanonxXx says:

        You’re a terrifying woman. Also, you need to pitch this to George Miller as a spin-off series. I’d buy every season on blu-ray.

        • Lillian says:

          Heh, thank you. It does occur to me that there are very few characters quite like this in popular fiction. You do have your Cersei Lannisters, but they are invariably depicted as inherently unlikeable, incompetent, and self-defeating. There is also the femme fatale archetype, but she is usually an independent operator rather than a woman trying to make the best of a difficult situation.

          This is i think a pity, because women being forced to rely on their feminine whiles to get ahead or even just survive has been a common state of affairs for much of human history. Yet the culture still insists on depicting this as fundamentally wrong in a way that a man using his cunning and strength of arms to do the same isn’t. If we can write a man like Bronn, an amoral unchilvarious mercenary, as a likeable character, then surely we could do the same with a woman like Cersei, and yet by and large we do not.

          • Aapje says:


            Your example is a little strange since Game of Thrones seems to have manipulative female characters that are fairly likeable:

            Olenna Tyrell
            Margaery Tyrell

            There is also a manipulative man in Littlefinger. He is portrayed as fairly competent, but nevertheless very unlikable for his manipulations.

          • Lillian says:

            Olenna is an old matriarch and Melisandre is a mystic, neither of them quite fit the template i’m talking about, though Melisandre certainly has aspects of it. Margaery does fit though, and i do like her a lot. Unfortunately she doesn’t get that much screen time, and ultimately her plans rather spectacularly blow up in her face.

            As for manipulative men, Littlefinger, Tywin, Tyrion, and Varys are all so to some extent or another, with varying degrees of sympathy.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Manipulation is regarded as evil, so it is aesopical to portray it as a doomed endeavor.

            It isn’t hard to see why it is regarded as evil – considering the distinction between good and evil violence, evil violence includes (but is not limited to) that which attempts to force people to do what you want.

            Manipulation is, within a moral framework, more proximal to “evil” than “good”, and is significantly harder to portray in a sympathetic light; in order to achieve this, it is necessary that everybody being manipulated is also evil (generally with a single exception, who is generally a good person who meets a bad end as a result of that manipulation, to drive home that Manipulation Is Bad).

            The more typical presentation of feminine wiles is thus necessarily passive within the framework of fiction; the prototypical example of showcasing it is the unwilling bride who makes impossible demands to stall for time.

            There isn’t a self-defensive version of manipulation, however; it is inherently an offensive art, and it’s most effective tools (the not-too-bright) are difficult to render less sympathetic than the individual manipulating them.

          • Aapje says:


            In the GoT universe, almost everyone has major plans blow up in their face. So if you use that as a major criterion, even the characters that are generally considered to be written the most likable are shown as incompetent (Tyrion, Arya, John Snow, Davos, Jaime, Brienne, etc). In general, I would say that GoT is extremely cynical, punishing love, ideals, faith, loyalty and things like that (heck, even cynicism is punished, which is metacynical).

            Bronn is perhaps the only exception, as he doesn’t fail spectacularly in some way, but that is probably by virtue of him being the most cynical person in GoT. He has no ambitions beyond the most base & carnal and doesn’t try to do anything he isn’t good at.

            The closer female equivalent to Bronn in GoT is not Cersei, but Shae, IMO. Just like Bronn, she is a survivor who exploited a single skill smartly, but who recognized her limitations. However, Shae stopped being cynical and started believing in true love. She felt betrayed by Tyrion when he wouldn’t commit to her and took revenge against him. So of course, she then had to be punished according to the GoT rules.

            Anyway, I really think that you are trying to fit a narrative that you already believed onto piece of culture that doesn’t support your argument very well.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            A bit of a sidetrack, but Heinlein apparently thought women were manipulative, and a benevolent manipulative women was a very good thing indeed.

            The ideal type gets people around her to do the right thing while convincing them it’s their own idea. Eventually, they may notice the general pattern and respect her for it. See Hilda in Number of the Beast (she was choosing the captains of the Gay Deceiver before she was elected), Mary in The Puppet Masters, Phyllis in Beyond This Horizon, and Star in Glory Road.

          • Lillian says:

            @Aapje: When i said that Margaery’s plans blew up in her face, i don’t mean that she has suffered setbacks. Every character should suffer setbacks, it’s what keeps the narrative interesting. I mean is that she was consumed in a gigantic paroxysm of green fire and will no longer be gracing us with her presence.

            In any case yes Game of Thrones is perhaps not the best example. The reason i picked it because i have some particular hangups with respect to Cersei Lannister in specific. She takes up large amounts of screentime and yet spends much of it being incompetent, ineffective, and self-defeating. While she manages to get some victories in out of sheer rabid viciousness, overall she doesn’t come off as someone who is ultimately good at what she does.

            It isn’t even that she doesn’t win either, Danaerys wins all the time and she comes off as pretty incompetent as well. Meanwhile both Tywin and Littlefinger lose, and indeed bring about their own downfalls, and yet they both come off as very competent. It would be fine if Cersei wasn’t such a central character, but she is and it’s just not fun to spend so much time watching her continually fail to be half as smart as she thinks she is. Especially because on top of that we have to watch Sansa and Danaerys also being constantly full of fail.

          • AG says:

            Haven’t we seen an uptick in liked manipulative women? For starters, the recent Ocean’s 8, and the tradition of admired women grifters before that, back to Irene Adler, or Lupin the 3rd’s Fujiko Mine (the Fujiko Mine anime is overtly about the theme of her being reviled for the traits she’s embraced to survive and thrive). The raving over Black Widow in The Avengers was in how well she could manipulate, with her introductory scene, and being able to get one over the God of Mischief himself. Honestly, those are traits I’ve missed in her subsequent appearances. River Song, and now Missy.

            More notably, the trend in prestige TV tends to have fan favorite women who are also ruthlessly climbing the corporate ladder, where physical prowess is reduced as the means of ascension. Mad Men, Scandal, Halt and Catch Fire, Claws, etc.

          • gbdub says:

            Uhh, SPOILERS, obviously…

            Dany was trying for awhile to be a “manipulative woman” / best of a tough situation but it blew up really early and she became ruthless conquering queen.

            She was, after she got used to the idea (and got sexy time lessons), quite willing to be Drogo’s loyal consort, and he was quite devoted to her. They were on track to conquer the Dothraki (Drogo’s goal) and then Westeros (Dany’s) until Drogo died.

            Margaery, as you noted, is a perfect example. She’s ultimately just as manipulative as Cersei, but understood you win more with honey than vinegar. Even to the point where she comes off as fundamentally good. Also she wasn’t hung up on boning her brother so she (would have) kept her king consort happy. She gets hosed not once but 3 times – Renly dies, Joffrey dies (Joffrey was a dick but he would have stood up to his mother, and Margaery knew it), then got stuck with Tommen who was more susceptible to high minded religion than booty. She was never naïve, but ran out of smart allies and then got blowed up real good.

    • AG says:

      The Editing of Mad Max Fury Road (aka “Mad Max Center Framed”)

      Non-dialogue planting and payoff in Mad Max Fury Road

      Regardless of the CW analyses of the film, it holds up on the strength of how its aesthetics tell the story.

      • semioldguy says:

        I second that second link, was going to post it myself. Many of her other movie analysis stuff is good and/or entertaining as well, even when they are movies I haven’t seen.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      I liked Matt Collville not on themes or symbolism, but on the technical details and the complementary role of practical and digital effects.

      Only George Miller could have directed this. In fact only post 2011 George Miller could have directed this. Only someone who’d done Babe: Pig In the City, Happy Feet, and Happy Feet 2 could have directed Fury Road.

      George Miller is the director George Lucas was trying to be with the prequels. The difference? George Miller spent years working on CGI kids movies with tons of post-production. So when cameras finally, finally, rolled on Fury Road he knew exactly what CG could do, and how to use it.

      [On the other hand, that sounds like a prediction that Valerian would be a good movie.]

      • AG says:

        Thanks for this link, great read.

      • James says:

        Yeah, this is a nice read, thanks.

      • Nornagest says:

        Valerian should have been a good movie. The Fifth Element was the best adaptation of European SF comics that’s ever been put to screen, and twenty years later we had the special effects technology to do even better. But Luc Besson must have gotten profoundly high when he was doing the casting, or gotten so entranced with the idea of putting Laurelei in skimpy holographic raver-wear that he forgot she shouldn’t look like a teenaged raver.

    • pontifex says:

      I really disliked Mad Max: Fury Road.

      The protagonist of the story is clearly Imperator Furiosa. She sets everything in motion by stealing the truck and the princesses at the beginning. All of the important decisions are made by her, and she has a huge amount of screen time. But her motivations are really unclear. She is a commander with a lot of privileges, and has spent nearly her entire life in this society. Yet she chooses to go renegade. Why?

      Sure, slavery is bad, and stuff, and we can fill in our own early 21st-century morality. But what’s Furiosa’s story? Is there an underground movement to end slavery? Who’s in it? What are their beliefs? And for that matter, who is Furiosa really? Does she have any regrets in life? Does she have any hobbies or any friends?

      This stuff is basic exposition. Filmmaking 101. And we get almost none of it. Instead we get an emotionless female protagonist. She kind of reminds me of Rey from that Star Wars movie. I honestly can’t remember her facial expression changing at any time in the movie– I’m sure there must be one, if you single-step through the movie or something, but I can’t recall it.

      Max is the title character, but he’s a minor character at best. Max at least gets a backstory– a dead wife and kids. But it’s a forgettable one, and the movie only spends a minute or two on it. Really any random Joe could have been captured by the War Boys at the beginning and given the filmmakers the opportunity to show off the Big Bad’s cool lair. Max is not a very heroic or likeable character, either. He spends most of the movie chained up. When he finally does get free, he wants to abandon the women Furiosa is trying to save. Max isn’t a hero. He’s not even an antihero. He’s just… an unremarkable guy with a minor part in this movie. Boring.

      The villains in the movie get a lot more character development than the good guys. Immortan Joe shows a lot of emotion when one of his wives almost dies. The weird religious cult gets a lot of screen time. The motivations of the bad guys are clear.

      The last half of the movie just felt really contrived. OK, the promised land which Furiosa was driving towards doesn’t exist. That’s pretty strange — you would think she would have at least scouted the area she was going to before trying to pull off this plan. Or paid someone to go look. It’s a sad ending for the story, but… wait, there’s a bag of seeds? Which is the magic McGuffin that will Save Civilization? OK, nobody mentioned that before, but I guess let’s go with it. And now we’re going to drive all the way back to the starting location? This… is going to be another hour of Folsom Street Parade, isn’t it? Honestly, the ending was so contrived, they could have just written “and then an anvil fell on the bad guy. The end” and it would have made more sense.

      I know a bunch of people liked this movie for the CGI. But if you want over-the-top, non-stop CGI ultraviolence, you should just watch Hardcore Henry or Crank instead. Those movies have something this one doesn’t– creativity and a sense of playfulness.

      • James says:

        re: Furiosa’s motivation and backstory:

        Maybe. But one thing I loved about the film was how well it did that thing that I think all good sci-fi does—hinting at, without spelling out, lots of stuff going on beyond the frame of the story being told. (What’s with that creepy shot of stiltwalkers in the night, for instance? It implies a whole ecosystem, not connected to the core story at all, and yet doesn’t really explain anything about it, nor linger on it long enough to bore us.) Lots of its worldbuilding is handled like this and I’m very impressed by it.

        So in that vein I think I’m happy for Furiosa’s motivation to remain a little foggy and for the story to start in media res, after she’s put the plan into action. It seems safe to assume she’s motivated in part by some kind of womanly solidarity, and I don’t really need it spelled out any more than that. Maybe it could be fleshed out a little more, but I prefer the way it was to being hit over the head with it, which is what I’m scared ‘more exposition’ cashes out as here. (I react badly to being hit over the head with things.)

        No comment on the contrived second half—you might be right.

        Hardcore Henry looks like fun.

        • cassander says:

          I’ve often described good worldbuilding as the moments that make you think “ooh, I want to hear THAT story” and Fury Road was absolutely full of them.

      • AG says:

        So you prefer telling over showing? All of your questions are answered in the text, through what happens and what is seen. It’s basic Text Interpretation 101. And most people would say Filmmaking 101 is “show not tell.”

        Is there an underground movement to end slavery? Who’s in it? What are their beliefs?
        There isn’t one. The Vuvalini separated from the society, they didn’t stick around to try and change things.

        And for that matter, who is Furiosa really? Does she have any regrets in life? Does she have any hobbies or any friends?
        Furiosa is someone who was good at what she did, so she rose through the ranks. She didn’t have enough qualms about what she was supporting to stop doing it for a long time. However, she did become friends with the Vuvalini before they left, so evidently she did have some sympathies with their beliefs (belief that Joe was doing wrong, and that there was a Green Place somewhere out there). She started having regrets about not going with them, and built up a rapport with the Wives, until the combination of her regrets and sympathies became enough for her to defect against Joe, leading to the events of the film.

        I honestly can’t remember her facial expression changing at any time in the movie
        I’ll admit the acting in this film across the board wasn’t quite my thing, but Furiosa is as much a stoic as Max. She’s had a rough life and had to hide her feelings to survive. So the one moment of catharsis is when she finally had hopes of getting away from just surviving, by reaching the Green Place, only to be told that, no, it’s going to be more of the same wasteland. And so Furiosa screams out her frustrations. Then she tamps it back down, because that’s what she has to do to survive. The Wives will be the emotions she can’t express, until she can find/make a place where she can be safe.
        Max starts in a feral place, and then regains his stoic nature as he escapes captivity and decides to help Furiosa. He becomes less emotional over the course of the film, as he will not be sticking around to help rebuild that society. So he takes on the emotionless survivor’s silence that Furiosa had as he leaves, while Furiosa is finally in a place where she can begin to open up. The Matt Colville post that Douglas Knight linked does a good job about Max’s arc in this film. But it’s true, he is not really the protagonist or hero of the film.

        The last half of the movie just felt really contrived.
        “Refugees try to get to mythical Peaceful Place but they don’t know quite where it is” is a classic plot that has been used time and time again, probably most famously in The Land Before Time. Fury Road is deconstructing that trope, instead advocating for revolution. Fix Omelas, not walk away.
        And Joe’s end is about completing Nux’s redemption arc, that people can change. They don’t have to purge everyone in Joe’s society. There is hope for the people.
        The seeds are symbolism. They won’t save civilization, we already knew that Joe’s place had plant life. First, the seeds represent the hope of The Green Place, but after that dream is revealed to be a false one, the seeds represent the hopes of a new society, linked to the babies within the Wives that will grow up without Joe’s influence.

        • pontifex says:

          So you prefer telling over showing?

          The movie doesn’t show or tell. The motivations of the characters are never explained. If the scriptwriter doesn’t care enough to give them backstories and personalities, why should we care about them?

          Star Wars began with a text crawl explaining what the galactic empire was, why it was bad, and why I should care (among other things). It could probably have been done better by showing, not telling, but you have to get in the exposition somehow. If Star Wars had begun with 45 minutes of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader swordfighting, why should I have cared about the fight?

          All of your questions are answered in the text, through what happens and what is seen. It’s basic Text Interpretation 101.

          Of course we can always mentally make stuff up in our heads to explain whatever happens. I could also stare at the wall for 2 hours and make up stories about how the paint chip is a unicorn being hunted by the foul scratch on the baseboard. It would probably be more entertaining than half of the tedious 30 minute CGI fight scenes movies always include these days. But I watch movies and read books so that I can listen to the stories other people tell. Those stories should include some characters which I have a reason to care about.

          • AG says:

            The motivations of the characters are never explained. If the scriptwriter doesn’t care enough to give them backstories and personalities, why should we care about them?

            The motivations, backstories, and personalities are all there in the movie. I could literally show you scenes in the movie that answer all of your questions. Every bit of my answers was in the text. You’ve just chosen not to actually see what was in the movie because, apparently, it didn’t say them directly to you in captions.

            Why should anyone enjoy a James Bond movie? He doesn’t really have a backstory. He doesn’t even really have a personality. What story do James Bond movies tell? Or perhaps even more so, why do people love the Mission Impossible movies? Ethan Hunt has even less of a character than James Bond, who already has less personal stakes than Furiosa. What is King Arthur’s personality, and does his backstory even matter in most of his tales? Why do we care about him? What is Clint Eastwood’s No-Name cowboy’s backstory or personality in his trio of famous films, and why do we care about him?

            Star Wars doesn’t need the text crawl. You can start with that iconic shot of a giant spaceship firing on a smaller one, get to Leia shit-talking Vader’s Empire, while Vader calls her a Rebel, and have everything that was in the crawl.

          • James says:

            Yeah, at the risk of taking too adversarial a tone, the idea of Star-Wars-text-crawl as Good Cinema Storytelling, the kind of thing Fury Road needs more of, appals me. The lack of that kind of thing is exactly what I like in and probably most films I love.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I recommend How Fiction Works even though I read less than half of it and got bogged down in detailed analysis of unspeakably boring fiction.

            Still, it’s a history of the idea of literary fiction (of course the idea of literary fiction has a history! it didn’t fall from the sky onto the innocent human race[1]). The idea of literary fiction seems to have something to do with Flaubert, and there’s plenty of classic fiction which doesn’t meet literary standards. For example, you don’t have to have character development. Ahab can be a perfectly good fascinating monomaniac. For that matter, I’m not sure that Ishmael changed during the course of the book. Did he?

            And literary description is written from the point of view of a purposeless eye and mind wandering over the landscape. Jane Austen didn’t have a lot of description and didn’t need it.

            [1]One valuable thing I’ve learned from intellectuals is that everything has a history.

          • pontifex says:

            Why should anyone enjoy a James Bond movie? He doesn’t really have a backstory. He doesn’t even really have a personality.

            James Bond does have a personality. He is chivalrous to women, although he is also a notorious womanizer. We learn what his favorite drinks are, how he interacts with his boss, and so on. He’s not a particularly deep or interesting character, but he is a memorable character.

            Bond’s motivations are usually pretty easy to follow. He’s a secret agent who gets a mission, which he tries to carry out. We know what the mission is because they talk about it at some point in the movie. We care about the mission being accomplished because the movie explains the consequences if it isn’t — the bad guy destroys Fort Knox, or takes over the world, or whatever.

            Now, don’t get me wrong. James Bond isn’t Shakespeare. The movies get samey after a while. But at least there is some setup and some personality. A reason to care, at least a little bit (but not too much– I doubt many people ever cried during a Bond movie).

            What is King Arthur’s personality, and does his backstory even matter in most of his tales? Why do we care about him?

            The only reason to care about King Arthur is his backstory as the rightful (and righteous) king of England. If he’s just another random warlord somewhere then why should we care? It’s just another medieval LARP. Boring.

            What is Clint Eastwood’s No-Name cowboy’s backstory or personality in his trio of famous films, and why do we care about him?

            He’s a bounty hunter. A big part of For a Few Dollars more is the conflict between the two proud bounty hunters. Also the revenge subplot (which I won’t talk about, because spoilers.) The movies are all about these characters, and that’s why we care.

            Yeah, at the risk of taking too adversarial a tone, the idea of Star-Wars-text-crawl as Good Cinema Storytelling, the kind of thing Fury Road needs more of, appals me. The lack of that kind of thing is exactly what I like in and probably most films I love.

            Cinema is storytelling. The story can be told through text, or through flashbacks, or through scenes that we see firsthand, or sometimes through references to common cultural artifacts. But it has to be told.

            My point in bringing up Star Wars isn’t that a text crawl is a great idea (it’s not) but that exposition is important and necessary.

            A video of a kid playing Frogger for 180 minutes might keep small children occupied for an hour or two with the moving images on the screen, but it’s not cinema. There’s no story, no characters, no reason to care about the images on the screen. And unfortunately, the same can be said for Fury Road.

          • AG says:

            And how is this description of Bond any more or less than Furiosa’s characterization? She’s a touch woman who has loyalty to the Wives, a friendship with the Vuvalini, and a dislike of the way Joe is running things. Her motive is to get away from Joe’s society of violence, which from goes from running away from it to changing it by force. She doesn’t want the Wives to continue getting raped by Joe, or for their children to be raised by him.

            Or let’s try this: A no-name cowboy grows up in a society where it’s kill or be killed. He befriends a group of women who are being raped by a local gang boss, and when they get pregnant and decide that they need to leave, he helps them escape. After learning that the place they want to escape to has been destroyed, thanks to a friend’s urging he decides to take the gang boss down instead.
            In what world does this story not have motivation or personality?

            The exposition is, again, all in the movie. It boggles my mind how much of the actual text you’ve ignored to make this claim about a lack of characterization. It’s one thing to say characterization has been done ineffectively, and another to say it’s not there at all.
            Like, what exposition could possibly have been added to Fury Road to make it better, and how should it have been delivered?

          • John Schilling says:

            She’s a tough woman who has loyalty to the Wives, a friendship with the Vuvalini, and a dislike of the way Joe is running things. Her motive is to get away from Joe’s society of violence,

            OK, but the way most people deal with not liking the way [X] is running things and wanting to get away from [X]’s society, is to not take a job as [X]’s most trusted lieutenant in the first place. If your story starts with someone’s trusted lieutenant suddenly betraying them, that’s up there with “wait, so this Clark Kent fellow can leap tall buildings in a single bound?” as something you’re probably going to want to explain to your audience sooner or later rather than simply demanding they accept as part of the character’s essence. And [X] is the Bad Guy, obviously the protagonist is going to defect, is basically never satisfying in that regard.

            See also FN-2187 aka “Finn”. And not James Bond, because the reason an Englisman with a talent for violence and deception would join MI-6 and follow M’s instructions as to which of England’s enemies need killing, don’t actually need to be explained. That leaves you with a relatively bland character, but not an incongruously arbitrary one.

          • HeelBearCub says:


            Trusted lieutenants betraying their leader for [reasons] is a pretty reliably stock plot point, isn’t it?

          • Matt M says:

            Trusted lieutenants betraying their leader for [reasons] is a pretty reliably stock plot point, isn’t it?

            Yes, but typically the reason for their betrayal is to seize power for themself, which falls under the “doesn’t need to be explained,” category.

          • John Schilling says:

            For [reasons], yes, with a pretty good understanding of what those reasons are. For no apparent reason, not so much and rarely well received. And “because [X] is obviously evil”, isn’t a reason if the only evils are the ones [X] was openly doing all along.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Yes, but typically the reason for their betrayal is to seize power for themself

            There are a number of reasons. This is only one of them (and actually think it’s less common, but that’s just my gut).

            – There’s the “You aren’t worthy of your position” betrayal, wherein the lieutenant installs the “true king” onto the throne. Jamie Lannister is a kind of example.
            – There’s the “I’ve come to my senses” betrayal wherein the hero is saved by the lieutenant (Star Wars, ROTJ).
            – There’s the “I do what I need to survive” betrayal, where the lieutenant betrays the leader before they can be killed. “Road to Perdition” is something like a version of this.
            – There’s the “I’ve got a back story” version, like “Into the Badlands”.
            – etc.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Theory: The original script had her do the heel-face-turn on-screen, as a result of some intervention by Mad Max – possibly after he hijacked the transport (and possibly originally the transport was for the women, not fuel, and this was changed – alternatively, they weren’t in the original at all) This was removed from the final version, and had her perform it off-screen, prior to the start of the film, to make her a hero in her own right instead of Max’s dragon-turned-sidekick.

            I see the argument that an on-screen heel face turn would be more satisfying, provide a deeper moral meaning to her betrayal, and produce a story about redemption for her (a redemption Max can’t actually share, hence his leaving.). But … It is still a good movie, and the fact that it could have been a better movie shouldn’t really detract from that.

          • John Schilling says:

            Theory: The original script had her do the heel-face-turn on-screen, as a result of some intervention by Mad Max – possibly after he hijacked the transport (and possibly originally the transport was for the women, not fuel, and this was changed

            The change would have to have been made before the start of filming, I think, to leave room for Max to have real agency at that phase of the story. But it’s plausible.

            And there’s certainly material for a proper heel-face turn in one of Joe’s field commanders coming to grips with the sex-slavery side of his operation. Hmm. Max tries to rescue the Brides on his way out of the citadel, getting as far as the War Rig before Furiosa stops him. And is persuaded to cover for and then join his rescue, cue the chase sequences more or less as filmed.

            And then someone decides that doesn’t have quite enough screen time devoted to car chases, so just cut straight to Furiosa going rogue with a truckload of Brides, and splice in the lamest, quickest possible side plot to bring Mad Max into play by the third act.

            Yeah, I can definitely see them doing that. Turning a good movie, into a movie with good action scenes. Meh.

          • gbdub says:

            I never read Furiosa as “loyal lieutenant making a heel-face turn”, I read her as “woman with a plan of her own all along, and becoming a trusted lieutenant was step 1 of that long game plan”.

            After all, her entire plan, since she has no effective allies, hinges on her position commanding enough loyalty to get her, the Brides, and the War Rig as far as the valley of spiky dirt bikes. The film shows that she has no War Boy allies – her second in command gives her a “WTF, lady, where we going?”, she says “shut up, secret plan”, and he buys it. Great way to “show, don’t tell” that she is very trusted, but also very alone.

          • mdet says:

            Ethan Hunt has even less of a character than James Bond

            “First up, James Bond or Ethan Hunt?”
            “That’s easy. It’s James Bond. Ethan Hunt? He’s barely a character”

            (video use your exact jumping off point to delve into how Ethan Hunt’s character has changed over the course of the franchise)

            The idea of literary fiction seems to have something to do with Flaubert, and there’s plenty of classic fiction which doesn’t meet literary standards. For example, you don’t have to have character development. Ahab can be a perfectly good fascinating monomaniac. For that matter, I’m not sure that Ishmael changed during the course of the book. Did he?

            Another topic one of my youtube subscribes recently covered. Just Write argues that characters without character arcs work really well in stories where the character manages to change the world around them, or manages to remain who they are as their circumstances change over time. Ahab would probably fall in the latter category, as someone who sticks to an obsessive commitment far longer than he really should.

          • Lillian says:

            And there’s certainly material for a proper heel-face turn in one of Joe’s field commanders coming to grips with the sex-slavery side of his operation. Hmm. Max tries to rescue the Brides on his way out of the Citadel, getting as far as the War Rig before Furiosa stops him. And is persuaded to cover for and then join his rescue, cue the chase sequences more or less as filmed.

            No that’s terrible, Max doesn’t go out of his way to help other people until circumstances force him to. He would only rescue the wives on his way out the citadel if it directly improved his chances of escaping, and i think he’s smart enough to see that taking a tyrant’s treasures is not a clever way to do that.

            Also Furiosa doesn’t need a proper heel-face turn, her character if well developed enough as is, there’s no need to spend more time on it.

            I never read Furiosa as “loyal lieutenant making a heel-face turn”, I read her as “woman with a plan of her own all along, and becoming a trusted lieutenant was step 1 of that long game plan”.

            When asked directly by Max what her motivation is, Furiosa says “Redemption”. Furiosa was never loyal, she hates her job, it’s just that it’s the only thing she’s good at and she doesn’t think she deserves better, even though she’s long past the point where she could have escaped. That is until Joe’s wives her a chance to do a good deed, which finally allows her to feel that she deserves to go back home.

        • gbdub says:

          People liked Fury Road precisely because it didn’t use a lot of CGI or Michael Bay WTF jump cuts. It was well choreographed and smartly shot. And almost all practical effects, except for the sandstorm.

          Honestly I’m not sure I can take seriously complaints about the film that cite “overuse of CGI” as a problem.

          • Nornagest says:

            That overstates it a bit. There was plenty of CGI, but it was mostly used for backgrounds — the Citadel and a lot of the cliffs were CG, for example. All the cars and fighting and most of the explosions were practical effects, including the big tanker explosion towards the end — there’s unedited footage floating around the Internet somewhere.

          • pontifex says:

            CGI isn’t the problem. Bad writing is the problem.

            Watch Eastern Promises if you want an example of a good action scene. It’s short– just a minute or two– and it is brutal. And you won’t fall asleep during it, like in a comic book movie.

          • mdet says:

            And as for the lack of creativity or playfulness, they literally have a character whose only role is playing an electric-guitar-slash-flamethrower while swinging from a trapeze mounted on a giant pile of speakers, mounted on a truck. That’s amazing. They have the motorcycles leaping over the truck to drop bombs on it, or all they guys precariously swaying from poles with chainsaws to get a hack at the truck, or Max having to spit gasoline directly into the engine to speed up the truck. That’s all pretty creative and inventive action setpieces to me.

            And I second everyone else saying that there was plenty of story in Fury Road, but it was 100% a “show don’t tell” movie. Like in the Movies with Mikey video Johan linked above — there’s a whole mini-story where Max loses his shoe, steals a shoe from Sympathetic Warboy, then when Sympathetic Warboy starts to join the team, Max kills a guy and steals another shoe so that he can return Warboy’s, and you can see in his smile and his actions that this built a mutual respect between them without anyone saying “That was so kind, I guess I respect you now and will work alongside you from here on out”.Most of the movie is that way, with characters getting developed through the nuances of their actions rather than through conversations. It’s easy to miss if you’re half paying attention, but I think that goes to show how much thought the creators DID put into the storytelling.

      • Jon S says:

        CGI ultraviolence does 0 for me, and I thought Mad Max is the worst movie I’ve seen in at least 5 years. I was a little drunk at the time, but it felt like there was basically no plot. May as well have been a clipshow of violent chase scenes from other movies.

        • beleester says:

          While the movie is indeed, in broad strokes, a 90-minute car chase, I disagree that there was no plot. The movie still has proper character arcs, a proper beginning, climax, and resolution, and it’s not actually non-stop violence – it still takes time to have quiet character moments and change things up.

          The genius of the movie is that they justify having the quiet character moments without technically stopping the car chase, because the car chase involves a giant war truck that’s big enough to give the main characters a private moment when they need it.

      • Lillian says:

        The protagonist of the story is clearly Imperator Furiosa. She sets everything in motion by stealing the truck and the princesses at the beginning. All of the important decisions are made by her, and she has a huge amount of screen time. But her motivations are really unclear. She is a commander with a lot of privileges, and has spent nearly her entire life in this society. Yet she chooses to go renegade. Why?

        Sure, slavery is bad, and stuff, and we can fill in our own early 21st-century morality. But what’s Furiosa’s story? Is there an underground movement to end slavery? Who’s in it? What are their beliefs? And for that matter, who is Furiosa really? Does she have any regrets in life? Does she have any hobbies or any friends?

        Fursiosa was a Vuvalini tribeswoman who was kidnapped from the Green Place as a child. In order to survive she took up a career as a warrior, and proved herself to be very good at it to the point that she climbed up the ranks to become one of Immortan Joe’s Imperators. Though she doesn’t like the society she’s part of, and with the rank she has attained she could easily escape it at any time, Furiosa has done so many terrible things over the course of getting there that she doesn’t feel that she deserves to have a better life or a return home. That is until the opportunity to rescue Joe’s wives and take them to the Green Place gives her a chance at redemption, a way to make-up for all the awful things she’s done. That is what spurs her to finally go for it.

        This is all in the movie, most of it explicitly stated in the dialogue of the scene where they meet the Vuvalini. Maybe try paying more attention next time?

        • Lillian says:

          Max is the title character, but he’s a minor character at best. Max at least gets a backstory– a dead wife and kids. But it’s a forgettable one, and the movie only spends a minute or two on it. Really any random Joe could have been captured by the War Boys at the beginning and given the filmmakers the opportunity to show off the Big Bad’s cool lair. Max is not a very heroic or likeable character, either. He spends most of the movie chained up. When he finally does get free, he wants to abandon the women Furiosa is trying to save. Max isn’t a hero. He’s not even an antihero. He’s just… an unremarkable guy with a minor part in this movie. Boring.

          In Fury Road Max gets 63 lines of dialogue, which gives him second place after Furiosa’s 80 lines. Pretty sure he is also in second place for screen time. That gives him a good claim to being the movie’s co-protagonist, and at the very least makes him a major character. Also, don’t watch any of the other Mad Max movies, you won’t like them. In The Road Warrior, Max gets around 40 lines of dialogue, has no backstory at all, and is if anything even less heroic.

          • gbdub says:

            Also, it’s Max that convinces Furiosa to turn back and fight Joe for the Citadel rather than make a probably doomed journey to try and find another “green place”. And it’s Max (and Nux, who was literally along for the ride with Max) who provide just enough muscle to tip the scales in favor of Furiosa. So it’s silly to say he’s not a key character.

            He’s exactly the sort of Yojimbo / Man With No Name / quiet stranger / Sheriff Bart who rides into town, brings justice, and then rides off into the sunset type that Mad Max always was. If you don’t like the trope, fine, but Mad Max is a version of an archetype and it’s silly to act like his comparative lack of lines and protagonism is a uniquely bad choice on the part of Miller.

    • John Schilling says:

      Great action scenes. Mediocre story. Negligible character development except for the villains. No good reason to have “Mad Max” in the title or the character list, and thus evidence that Hollywood has lost the knack and/or confidence for originality. But they’ve got marketing down pat.

      • AG says:

        I don’t get your “No good reason to have “Mad Max” in the title or the character list, and thus evidence that Hollywood” claim. The original creator of Mad Max is the one with all of the creative control, and he’s the one who decided on the discontinuity of Max’s characterization, and that Fury Road was going to be a Mad Max film instead of an original. And that’s his prerogative, because he’s the original creator of Mad Max.

        • John Schilling says:

          OK, let me rephrase that: No good reason except moar moneyz to have “Mad Max” in the title or the character list. And I will assert with very high confidence that the original creator’s decision to make this a “Mad Max” film was driven primarily by financial considerations.

          • AG says:

            Because if he didn’t call it a Mad Max film, the worldbuilding and aesthetics would have everyone in the audience calling it “secretly a Mad Max film”?

            So he’s writing AU fanfic of his own work. Why not?

            Or should Yudkowsky have called it “Evans-Verres and the Methods of Rationality”?

      • Nornagest says:

        That applies to Beyond Thunderdome a lot more than to Fury Road, I think. Fury Road is basically the long chase scene from Road Warrior padded out to ninety minutes, with better props, a bigger cast, and more post-apocalyptic insanity, but (a) it’s hard to get more Max Max than that one scene, and (b) I’d probably still enjoy it if it was padded out to four hours. Max is a flat character, but he’s a flat character in every movie but the first, so who cares?

        The only Mad Max part of Thunderdome, on the other hand, is the actual Thunderdome scene, and that comes in the first twenty minutes. The meat of the movie is the lost tribe of teenagers, which didn’t even need to be post-apocalyptic, and the tone’s all wrong.

        • John Schilling says:

          Thunderdome, for all of its faults, has a very recognizable Max Rockatansky in almost every scene. Even if they’d had to recast Mel Gibson, the script was clearly written around the same Max we’d been seeing all along.

          Fury Road, is about Furiosa, has a broken Max shoehorned in to secure financing and increase the box-office gross. It would have been a better movie without him, if we assume Hollywood could have made it without him.

          • Nornagest says:

            Okay, Tom Hardy could have handled Max better, though I still think he’s as much Max Rockatansky as Roger Moore was James Bond. But I don’t get “Fury Road is about Furiosa” as a criticism. Sure, Fury Road is a movie about Furiosa and Immortan Joe. But Road Warrior is a movie about Lord Humongous’s feud with the oil refinery, and Thunderdome is two-thirds of a movie about a Lord of the Flies-meets-Blue Lagoon society of cargo-cult kids and one-third of a movie about Tina Turner in a chainmail dress. Even the original Mad Max is arguably driven more by Goose and Toecutter’s gang than by Max and his wife and kid, and that’s the one where he’s by far the closest to the plot.

            Max has always been a Yojimbo type, and I’m fine with that.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Okay, Tom Hardy could have handled Max better, though I still think he’s as much Max Rockatansky as Roger Moore was James Bond.

            I keep wanting to simplify the pronunciation of that surname to “Rocksteady”, but then he’d be an anthropomorphic rhinoceros instead of Mel Gibson OR Tom Hardy.

          • Lillian says:

            Just want to echo Nornagest’s points here. Fury Road is very similar to The Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome in that Max is a very shallow character who unwillingly gets caught up in other people’s affairs, eventually comes around to saving the day, and then moves on.

            The thing that makes Fury Road different is not Max himself, he is pretty much identical to his other appearances, but rather the presence of Furiosa, who serves as a co-protagonist and foil to him. It seems to me then that whether fans of The Road Warrior will like Fury Road is ultimately going to depend on whether they see Furiosa’s presence as enhancing or diminishing Max’s character. If it’s the former, as is the case for me, then Max will is going to feel more developed than he did in the prior two movies. If it’s the latter though, then Max has so little character to begin with that it’s going to wind up feeling like he’s barely even there.

          • mdet says:

            I feel the opposite way about Max. One of the things I really liked about Fury Road was that it wasn’t the protagonist’s story. “You might be the main character, but the world doesn’t revolve around you. Other people are the heroes of their own stories, and sometimes your job is just to help them along.” was a great theme in my opinion because real life is exactly like this, but fiction rarely is.

            Note: I haven’t seen any of the other Mad Maxes, but have Road Warrior in my movie rental wishlist

          • Lillian says:

            You will probably like Road Warrior, it’s very much on that theme.

    • mdet says:

      Video that hasn’t been linked yet: Just Write on how Fury Road skipped the scripting and screenwriting step, and the entire movie was made with storyboards. They basically had a graphic novel instead of a script, which worked really well for this movie because it had minimal dialogue and told the story entirely through actions and character / set design. “This movie is not a series of conversations interrupted by fistfights. It’s fistfights, gunfights, and car chases that function as conversations.” Fury Road might be the most “show-don’t-tell” movie of all time.

      It also helped keep the action coherent, because unlike lesser action movies which might film a bunch of random takes from a bunch of different angles and piece it all back together in the editing room, a good action movie knows shot-for-shot how they want the action to go beforehand, so that they can get exactly what they need instead of ending up with a choppy, poorly edited mess. (This part isn’t in the Just Write video, and I don’t remember who pointed it out. It sounds like something from a Rossatron video, but Rossatron’s vid on Fury Road doesn’t actually make this point)

  13. Le Maistre Chat says:

    A pangolin is a ________ wearing scale armor.
    Which adorable mammal goes in the blank?

  14. dndnrsn says:

    Board game thread: what’s your favourite board game right now?

    I’m gonna say Pandemic. It plays quickly without feeling “thin” and that it is a cooperative game significantly reduces the chance of someone being a gloater, sore loser, etc. The different roles you can have interact and ensure that there’s a decent amount of deployability. The rules are easy enough to explain that a first-time player won’t be confused.

    EDIT: How in the world did this just post as not a new post, above older posts? Is something wacky going on?

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Defenders of the Realm is basically Pandemic with fantasy miniatures instead of disease cubes. I have a group that really enjoys it; however we usually role-play instead if we get more than three of us in the room.

    • davidweber2 says:

      It depends on the occasion:

      If I’m with 2-4 other mathematically inclined people, I have difficulty playing anything other than Hanabi. Cooperative game where you don’t get to see your hand, and everyone else has to use limited resources to communicate. Very high on the complexity of gameplay to complexity of rules ratio, nearing Go levels.

      Captain Sonar is probably my favorite 6-8 player game. Real time team battleship! Pits the group into two teams, and the various roles have different difficulty levels, making it pretty newbie friendly despite the frenetic pacing.

      If I want to engine build, probably terraforming mars, because the flavor works so well into the mechanics.

      • helloo says:

        Is Hanabi that complex? I found that after a couple plays, the clues become basically A) play this B) discard this C) 5. And it generally not to difficult to differentiate between them. Maybe your group always changes what strategy they use, but as a cooperative game, consistency is often more useful even if not optimal.
        There’s some additional strategy as when there’s only a few tiles left as you can get a better sense of what your hand contains, but by definition, the games mostly over at that point.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          It’s been a couple years since I played so I don’t remember specifics, but I remember you can do some neat things with negative information and layering clues. One important thing to grok when learning Hanabi is that when you get, e.g. a “this one is a 5” clue is that it also tells you “the other 4 cards are NOT 5s”. Especially when you factor in the context of the game state you can get a decent amount of clever clues as a result. It does require a solid chunk of being on the same wavelength, though.

          There’ll be a good share of A, B, & C, of course, but IME the game does a good job of making the game pretty much incompleteable using *only* those clues. 1-for-1 clue-discard cycles only serve to stall and burn cards so are a good way to survive to the end but yield a poor score (sometimes a stall is strategically called for, so there’s some depth even to this).

          Damnation, now I need to find a group to play this with again.

        • Jon S says:

          Hanabi can be played at various successively-complex levels. If you’re only playing with 5 suits, it’s too easy and you can win even with pretty inefficient clue-giving. Adding in the rainbow suit (usually played with 1 of each rank) requires much deeper skill/coordination. Direct clues of type B are pretty inefficient, but once in a while necessary.

          Some people play Hanabi as a memory game. It’s much deeper as a logic game, and when I play we always let people ask for information that they’ve forgotten.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            when I play we always let people ask for information that they’ve forgotten

            Ditto. It’s also fair game to ask someone what they currently know about their hand before giving a clue.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          Hanabi done well eventually has all players agreeing on a convention for handling the pieces in your position. For instance, you’re encouraged to order them from first drawn to last, to put gaps between pieces according to how much you’ve been told about them, etc. This can be either a fascinating study on how such conventions develop, or a road to dull straitjacketing of game strategy, depending on your proclivities.

        • davidweber2 says:

          Maybe not as extreme as Go, but I’m not sure I know too many games that actually achieve anywhere near that ratio, so it’s the best comparison I can think of.

          Are you playing with rainbows as their own suite that are hard to clue for? I find that any group I play with has a difficult time of finishing that to completion. Also, discard clues are completely unnecessary; just have a convention about discard order, and anything that hasn’t been protected gets chucked. We also have a “default play” position towards the top of the stack to avoid ambiguous clues.

          As for changing strategy/convention, it’s usually done by between games, when it’s not game breaking.

          An example of a more complicated play: Let’s say it’s A’s turn. B has just drawn a multi-color one, and C has the multi-color 2. All you need to do is tell C to play the 2. B sees your clue, realizes C can’t play right now, and thus concludes they must have the 1. There’s a couple of variants on this play due to changing player order, tiles present, etc. But the primary point is that clues along the lines of the blue-eyed islanders puzzle are totally possible and useful.

          • helloo says:

            You think Hanabi is as strategic as Chess then? That is generally the next step down. I guess the next steps down would be Reversi, then checkers, connect four, tic-tac-toe.

            People I’ve played with haven’t been as… empathetic or “blue-eyed islanders” solver types to get those hints with any regularity.
            Many are risk-averse enough that they need the discard hints or simply never discard until no hints are available. EVEN if there’s a convention regarding discard order/time limit.
            Overthinking generally means they are stuck rather than the possibility of them formulating a clever plan.

            Possibly just haven’t played this with the right kinds of people.

          • davidweber2 says:

            So I was talking about the ratio of rules complexity to difficulty. Even though chess is a much more strategic game, it also has a much more complicated set of rules, so I would say Hanabi balances as a higher ratio. Though of course it’s subjective w/out more rigorously defined notions of complexity and strategic difficulty.

    • James C says:

      Probably Terraforming Mars as the most satisfying engine building game I’ve played in a very long time. It’s pretty heavy though so for sub hour games I’m enjoying Imhotep as a great little worker placement game where your workers are blocks and you’re building real pyramids with them.

    • Machine Interface says:

      Ballancing between Twilight Struggle and Scythe.

      Twilight Struggle is a card-driven game that can be described as “the cold war in a box” – two players representing the US and the Soviet Union try to gain influence on the board though more or less violent means, counter their opponent, advance in the space race, all while trying to avoid starting a nuclear war. Extremely confrontational, extremely tense, and pretty deep – think chess meets poker, basically.

      Scythe is a mid-weight eurogame with 4X-ish type mechanism – eXplore, eXploit, eXpend, eXterminate – except with the exterminate part toned down to very soft and occasional confrontation. Absolutely gorgeous production, set in central european country in an alternative 1920s inspired by the Polish-Soviet war, with mechs instead of tanks.

      Runner ups: Raiders of the North Sea, Rising Sun, the King is Dead, Viticulture, Russian Railroads.

      • andrewflicker says:

        After my own heart, here! TS is me and my wife’s favorite two-player game, and I’m still trying to talk more friends into playing against one of us.

        Scythe is also great, with a group, and I adore the art style. It does suffer a little from a lack of replayability, due to the way optimal choices sort of “write themselves”, I think, but I’m probably overemphasizing that minor flaw in an otherwise great game.

    • smocc says:

      RoboRally is my favorite board game of all time. My wife got me the newest edition for my birthday, so we’ve been playing a lot of it. My 4-year-old can actually enjoys playing and can piece together a five-move turn with a little bit of help, and he loves the robots and lasers.

    • John Schilling says:

      I’m gonna say Pandemic. It plays quickly without feeling “thin” and that it is a cooperative game significantly reduces the chance of someone being a gloater, sore loser, etc.

      After role-playing our way through to a legendary victory in Pandemic: Legacy in 2016 (all of 2016, one month per month), I’m pretty much done with Pandemic for the forseeable future. But it was, truly, legendary.

      These days, having a lot of fun with Scythe every other week. See machine interface’s description, in particular about production values (and one of our group got the kickstarter version, which is even better in that regard).

    • Plumber says:

      30 to 40 years after I first played them my favorites are still Dungeon! , Risk, and Castle Risk.

      Good times.

      • wb says:

        I played Scotland Yard this week for the first time in 30 years and was pleasantly surprised, because, unlike you, I think that games have come a long way in that time.

    • Eltargrim says:

      I enjoy Pandemic and recommend it to rookies, but it has the particular failure mode of shared-knowledge cooperative games: an experienced player can end up “playing” the other players. I play a *lot* of Pandemic on my phone, and need to consciously dial myself back to make sure I’m not running roughshod over the other players.

      I think at the moment, Betrayal at House on the Hill is up there. A fair amount of variance, different gameplay loops within a game, because the traitor is decided late I find that there are rarely hard feelings, and it being procedural means that I don’t fall into habits (I’ve played a *lot* of Pandemic). With the unknown motivations of the traitor, and that there’s a real person implementing them, I find that each player’s opinion matters more — the optimal play is less obvious.

      EDIT: I typeset this using a couple of TeX macros out of force of habit; I’m tickled pink that they processed.

      • yodelyak says:

        I quite like Betrayal at the House on Haunted Hill. The cooperative-explorers-turn-adversarial dynamic is quite fun. It isn’t particularly susceptible to advanced strategies or careful calculations, with the benefits and costs that come with that.

        I had some good success dealing with the shared-knowledge cooperative game problem in Pandemic by simply requiring the less experienced players to not communicate what they have. The experts could still offer overall suggestions for what to focus on, but that way at least the player’s own move belonged to the player again.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        Another peeve I had about Pandemic when it first came out was how difficulty varied in inverse proportion to the number of players, in a way that does not appear intended. With four players, it’s a really tough struggle to get those cures before the deck runs out. With two players, you’re sloughing cards left and right, and the bottleneck is how quickly you can traverse the map to synthesize the cure that’s already put together for you. It was enough to make me uninclined to play again, even after expansions came out (which, FAIK, fixed this problem).

        That said, I played Legacy Season 1, and enjoyed it enough that I’ll likely play Season 2 when we manage to get the group back together.

        • Doctor Mist says:

          Season 2 is definitely fabulous. I was worried it might be mostly a rehash of the mechanisms we had seen in Season 1, but it was not, and the twists in the story were breathtaking.

          Looking forward to Season 3 (next year! sob) and hoping they can figure out how to extend it even further.

        • davidweber2 says:

          Second Doctor Mist, Season 2 is a different game that is also amazing.

    • Cariyaga says:

      Definitely Sentinels of the Multiverse. Great cooperative card game to play with friends. It’s available on Tabletop Simulator as well.

      • beleester says:

        I’ve played it on the computer (and I can definitely recommend it there), but I feel like there would be too much bookkeeping if I tried to play it on the tabletop. So much of the game is how the different hero powers interact with each other – you make one attack, another power buffs its damage, an ongoing power triggers, one of the villain’s ongoing cards triggers in response, and so on, and so on. And a lot depends on exact wording – whether it says “All non-hero targets” or “All targets” and so on. I can’t imagine trying to keep track of all that by hand.

    • benwave says:

      My answer is 1830: Railroads and Robber Barons. 4-8 hour game about trading shares in railway companies in which the only element of chance is the player initial seating order. It’s not for everybody but man is it good! : )

    • fion says:

      I’ve probably got more enjoyment out of the Game of Thrones board game than any other. It’s kind of like Diplomacy, but with far more rules and a lot more going on. Means it has less diplomacy than Diplomacy, but it still has enough for me, and I enjoy all the bells and whistles.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        It has a few solid advantages over Diplomacy as an in-person game. Notably, bounded game length and a (usual) lack of player elimination. I’ve also noticed more fluid alliances, too, but YMMV for both games. My speculation is that this is because you can Support without precommitting where or to whom, a la Walder “Late Lord” Frey.

        It’s a heavier game but the GoT license buys enough player interest to get people to try it out. New players in Diplomacy generally either don’t know what they’re in for or are masochistic enough to play despite Diplomacy (in)famously being “the game of hurt feelings and ruined friendships”.

        Long-turn Diplomacy is still best for proper Diplomacy, but I agree that GoT is quite good for a quick fix and some extra moving parts to keep it fresh.

    • Tinman says:

      Currently, it’d be High Frontier. It’s a solar system travel and colonisation game where you have to slap together a rocket from theoretical future technology patents and use them to survey and industrialize planets and asteroids around the solar system using in-situ-resource-utilisation. Any game whose manual’s latter half is entirely taken up by in-depth scientific descriptions of all its individual systems is a winner in my books, no matter how much it tries to obscure its own mechanics through scattered and rather thick explanations. Its map of Hohmann transfers and Lagrangians is also quite cute.

      But I’ll always have a fondness for Galaxy Trucker, with its cynical corporate styled manual and frenetic shipbuilding rife with problems and unwanted explosions.

      • James C says:

        I love High Frontier. I hate playing it, but I love the game. It has hands down my favourite board of any game.

        • Tinman says:

          Playing it isn’t so bad when you have a semblance of what you are supposed to do. Believe me, I had to watch a few videos to even understand the entire point of the game. The manual and its three completely separate yet still included game revisions didn’t help me in that matter at all.

          I should write a quick’n’dirty guide and explanation to playing High Frontier, including the most prevalent “solitaire” singleplayer version.

          • James C says:

            I’d definitely read it. Though, tbh I’ve played probably a dozen games now and I feel that I at least understand the beast even if I’m not very good at it.

            My main problem is less the impenetrability of the rules but just how slow and hostile the game can be. Building your first mission can take a full hour and it can all be wiped out by a single bad roll. There’s probably a streamlined version of High Frontier I’d love as the actual rocket building and travel mechanics are my favorite part, but the economic engine sucks and I haven’t found a good way of housing ruling around them.

        • John Schilling says:

          High Frontier is frustrating; most of it is very, very good, but some parts are very broken – almost to the point of unplayability. And with each of the three successive editions, they’ve fixed some but not all of the broken stuff while adding baroque cruft that is a mix of very good and newly broken.

          I have, of course, tinkered about trying to house-rule an all-good version, but I haven’t had time to do it right. The economic system, yes, needs work.

          One thing I do insist on is eliminating “freighters” as discrete maneuvering pieces; I am trying to model them as technologies just like rovers and ISRU plants and their supports – and including fixed infrastructure like mass drivers. To build a factory or settlement or whatnot, you need not just the rover+ISRU and their supports, but also a “freighter” that can reach one of your existing facilities. Once constructed, the new facility is integrated into a transportation network, and it is assumed that the NPC running this can anticipate your player-managed 4X needs well enough to make basically anything anywhere in your network, appear anywhere else in your network as a single standard action.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Having a lot of fun with Star Wars: Rebellion and the Rise of the Empire expansion.

      I’m not huge on board games, so it could just be I like it because Star Wars.

    • Jon S says:

      I’ve only played Pandemic twice but I did not enjoy it. I am clearly in the minority among my boardgaming peers, but I don’t consider it a multiplayer game at all, let a lone a cooperative game. The group can share all of their information and make all of their decisions together – it’s a one player game that has convinced gamers to collaborate on it in groups.

      In my opinion, Hanabi is everything that a cooperative game should be. Though obviously not everyone wants their games to be logic puzzles.

      My all-time favorite game is Agricola by a significant margin. Lately I’ve also been enjoying Terra Mystica (also on the logic-puzzle side of games), and two-player Dominion (particularly playing online, especially back on the Isotropic website) is always great.

    • hls2003 says:

      I’ve recently gotten into Eldritch Horror (the base game – there are apparently half a dozen expansions). It takes a long time to set up, which is a pain, but the gameplay is surprisingly fast-paced once you get everything in its proper place. I enjoy the atmospherics and there is excellent replayability even without getting to the expansions. I have had enough fun that I am considering the expansions even before exhausting the original.

    • EchoChaos says:

      Definitely Gaia Project.

      It’s Terra Mystica with a lot of the rougher parts filed off and a board that changes every time. It’s our most common game night play.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      I have several favorites, depending on the group dynamics. For co-op, I’d recommend Flash Point over Pandemic. For a quick two-player game, Star Realms (try the app on your phone to get a sense of it). For a tightly tuned asymmetric (one vs. many) game that’s also pretty quick to set up, try Beneath Nexus.

      For that usual epic multi-player competitive experience, I strongly recommend Terraforming Mars and Scythe. I’m a huge TM nerd who owns all three expansions so far, and I’m dying to get and play the campaign expansion to the latter.

      My personal favorite is Clank! In! Space!. I describe it as a deck builder combined with a dungeon crawl / heist. It plays on a modular customizable board simulating the main baddie’s spaceship, and is chock full of humorous SF references in the cards.

      These are a few among dozens of board games I could recommend. Fortunately, enough of our DC SSC meetup crowd is into board games that we even have a few pure gaming meetups on the side.

    • AG says:

      I have a unique situation where we play board games during the hour-lunch break, which in practice means we can only play games that complete in 30 mins or less (since we eat first). Games that zip by at 10-15 mins are every better, since we can do two rounds.
      So far, the favorite has been Kingdomino.

    • ing says:

      My group plays Azul every game night. It’s our new thing, after Splendor and (briefly) Century Spice Road.
      We’ve burned out on Pandemic but we now play Pandemic Iberia.

      Gloomhaven, too.

    • Placid Platypus says:

      I recently got in to Not Alone, and am looking forward to getting more opportunities to play it. It’s an asymmetrical bluffing game where most of the players are explorers crashed on an alien planet, and one plays as the creature hunting them. Each round the Survivors each secretly choose what location to go to, and the Creature chooses where to try to catch them. Each location gives different benefits if the Survivors can get there safely, which the Survivors use to try to keep from getting caught long enough to win before the Creature wins by catching them enough times.

      The gameplay is really fun, and all the mechanics do a good job being simple and elegant while also connecting really flavorfully to what they represent.

    • helloo says:

      Surprised there aren’t more fans of word games like Codenames or WereWords. Or do those not really count as board games?

      • Machine Interface says:

        They do, but board game enthusiats tend to see those as filler games – they’re not bad games by any means, but they’re not going to be the meat of your game night, unless it’s a specific group of people that enjoy party games specifically or one of the games you’ve mentionned even more specifically – but those tend to not see themselves as “gamer” nor identify with the larger board-gaming culture.

      • hls2003 says:

        Codenames is a lot of fun. My family enjoys it just as a standard group party game; for “game night” usage, my buddies and I usually wager on the outcomes. Adds some spice and trash talk (backed up by cash).

      • AG says:

        I think it’s that the games listed here as favorites have enough “depth” to develop strategy/tactics and a universal meta-game, whereas word games pretty much come down to who you’re playing with. Though I quite liked Time’s Up! the few times I played that.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      My family/friends generally do not play a lot of board games. We typically play non-board party games like Saboteour or Secret Hitler or Love Letters.

      For board games, we like Pandemic, and especially Tsuro.

      I enjoy Clue with MY family, but no one else particularly enjoys it. My Mom and I typically write down every single guess and extrapolate based on that, which most people don’t want to do.

      • Nick says:

        I’m a fan of Tsuro, although it’s not very strategically deep in my experience. I have to wonder whether the game is still enjoyable or even gets more interesting at larger board sizes.

        • Randy M says:

          Yeah, it’s more fun with more players; with 2-3 you can spend most of it alone, perhaps laying traps but not really interacting otherwise.

        • beleester says:

          Tsuro definitely gets more fun with more people causing chaos.

          I also recommend Tsuro of the Seas, which introduces dragon tiles which move around and destroy tiles and ships as they move. While there’s a risk of getting screwed over by a dragon suddenly moving into your path, you can work around it.
          And since they remove tiles, instead of the board slowly and inexorably filling up, the paths on the board can shift unexpectedly.

    • Thegnskald says:

      DiceForge is a refreshing game suggestive of a deeper set of mechanics. Simple, relatively quick. There is a single horribly broken mechanic (the x3 multiplier), but the game comes with a replacement mechanic. I am looking forward to seeing what they do with the core mechanic that the game revolves around – rebuildable dice – as I see some very interesting possibilities in it.

      But London Dread is probably my current favorite.

  15. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I’m thinking about taking coq10. Any recommendations for brand and dosage? Other supplements to go with it?

    Also, have people found Consumer Lab to be worth the money?

    • christianschwalbach says:

      Ive taken it, never noticed a huge effect or a difference between brands. I focus more on getting high quality B Vitamins in my system now, esp. in regards to B12

    • sunnydestroy says:

      For more mass market brands, I’d go with NOW Foods brand in general. They have a really great testing program, in house labs, and verified methods that is absolutely essential in the supplement world. Suppliers push out synths that could have mistakes or have leftover reagents in them–happens all the time–so you need to have testing capabilities for every batch and 3rd party checks in place too.

      For a more boutique brand, I’d go with Nootropics Depot’s specialized COQSOL-CF coenzyme q10 capsules with a higher level of bioavailibility than regular coq10. This coq10 includes a couple extras to enhance its function. ND has the most transparent and best testing program/QA I’ve come across for any supplier so I trust them the most for supplements.

  16. johan_larson says:

    Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to raise the fertility rate of your country to the replacement level of 2.1 children per woman.

    • James Miller says:

      Change the norm so that most middle and upper class women have children before going to college. Overall, holding constant the number of kids they have, they spend the same amount of time in the workplace, but now they take time off to have and raise kids starting around 18 rather then at age 27-35. We could do this by letting young families get government backed loans to help finance families, and by giving admission preferences in colleges to mothers.

      • Brad says:

        This may seem a little bit off topic, but how much credit to you give to federal, state, and local governments for changing norms around smoking? Can you think of anything else of equal or greater cultural significance where you’d give U.S. government entities most or all the credit?

        • Murali says:

          Who else would I have to give credit for. The government did require anti-smoking messages in primary school health education textbooks as well as various posters etc. Its not like parents from a smoking culture somehow instilled a non-smoking culture in their kids did they?

          • Christophe Biocca says:

            The same parents that found out they’d been poisoning themselves for decades?

            I’m sure I’m not the only person whose family members (parents and one grandparent) entirely stopped smoking right around the time their first kid was born to avoid second hand smoke + giving us a bad example.

            Now that still requires people to know how awfully bad smoking is in the first place, but that part (the research and communication aimed at adults) is where I’d give credit, rather than the ham-handed attempts aimed at kids.

            Otherwise you end up having to explain how the even more aggressive anti-drug messages in schools couldn’t get cannabis usage below cigarette usage.

          • Murali says:

            I’m from Singapore. Cannabis usage is lower than Cigarette usage.

            Most of the smokers I know didn’t stop smoking just because they had kids. I’ve only personally known two people who’ve seriously tried to quit smoking. One took to vaping and the other took to gum. Both are academics. You may not be the only person whose family members stopped smoking because of children or something, but I’m willing to bet that this is pretty rare population-wide.

          • Christophe Biocca says:

            Ok, I know nothing about the Singapore situation and how they dealt with tobacco. I know you can get executed for having 500g of cannabis leaves on you, so it’s a pretty different dynamic. For Canada though:

            The report, from the Propel Centre for Population Health at the University of Waterloo, found that 2 per cent of Canadian students from Grade 7 to 12 smoke marijuana every day, while 1.8 per cent smoke tobacco daily.

            And this is before legalization, which is pretty impressive, considering many 12th graders can legally buy cigarettes.

            You can estimate how many people quit smoking (in general, not just because of kids) by looking for decreases in usage relative to the death rate.

            Shitty CDC graph (, but the table shows that the pre-90s rate in smoker decrease is pretty high (0.67% per year average, compared to a death rate of 0.8% annually), so it’s not just dead smokers being replaced by better-educated-in-primary-school nonsmoking young adults (I mean it technically could be but that’d assume a not-very-realistic age breakdown of smoking habits).

            Wikipedia has a shitty citation for there being 47 million ex-smokers vs 46 million active smokers, so people willfully quitting is too big a factor to ignore here.

          • MartMart says:

            Hollywood. Seriously, I think not representing cigarettes as cool in movies and tv has done more to drop smoking than all the health warning and taxes

        • mtl1882 says:

          It’s hard for me to understand how we were able to crack down so hard on smoking. There are few things in this world we hammered home to this extent. The warning labels alone would not be tolerated on almost anything else. And it was something people of all social groups enjoyed regularly and were often addicted to – it wasn’t an easy thing or abstract issue to address.

          I give the government tons of credit, but I do feel like society deserves credit for tolerating it. Not at all because I object to it, but because we usually don’t seem to like to hear hard truths from the government, mess with social norms, or go after big businesses like that. I don’t know much about the history of activism in this area, but it certainly happened pretty quickly after the effects were known. And we made it shameful and expensive fairly quickly, which usually provokes a lot of resistance.

          I am also amazed at its effectiveness. I’ve never been a smoker, but I’m not stupid enough to dismiss addiction. It’s hard to quit. My dad’s parents quit late in life upon realizing the harms – my grandfather refused to wear a seatbelt most of his life, so he wasn’t generally compliant. But he stopped. My mom’s mother struggled to do so, but once I was born, she quit. And she had very high anxiety, so that seems like it would be really tough. I suppose smoking was so widespread that a lot of people were not truly addicted, even if they had some physical dependency, and so there were a lot of people who could kind of take it or leave it. And I think it was fairly intuitive for people that inhaling smoke was not good for you, whereas other warnings may seem silly. That being said, my dad’s parents smoked despite a son with severe asthma, and my mom’s mom despite having a son with only one lung. They didn’t make a connection between smoke and the exacerbation of breathing difficulties.

          Whoever deserves the credit, I think overall it has improved countless lives.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            I don’t think people DID overcome their addiction, for the most part. It’s just that between the time that the war on smoking kicked off and the it mostly completed successfully, most of the hold-out died of old age or illness.

            That is, in the areas where the war on smoking HAS been successful. I live in a rural town in the midwest, and I work at a casino that allows smoking, and I can tell you that the practice is still alive and well out here.

        • arlie says:

          Very little. My experience is that major employers went from more than tolerating smoking, to banning it in the workplace, almost overnight, and they all did it at once. Being addicted to cigarettes led to standing outdoors in winter, shivering, getting your fix as fast as possible. Lots and lots of people found that extremely unpleasant, and quit.

          It’s possible there was government influence on the employers – but I blame their facilities departments colluding on removing a perk in order to save money. Much the same as the more recent fad for Facebook style open offices, except there the savings involves using less space per worker. Other reasons are given – demonstrably inaccurate in the open office case – most likely accurate re smoking. But that’s what it looks like to me, based on living through the transition.

        • quanta413 says:

          My impression (which could be totally wrong since I’ve never read even the slightest history of the topic, just puff pieces) is that the campaign against smoking is behind vaccines and sewers as a great triumph for public health but not behind much else.

          And bizarrely this was managed without an amendment outright banning smoking like when some U.S. citizens tried to get rid of alcohol.

          It might be worth taking another shot at cutting alcohol consumption by treating it like the government treats smoking. Pictures of livers with cirrhosis on all bottles of alcohol, etc. I like alcohol and I don’t think the the circumstances are right but I probably wouldn’t have thought it’d work for tobacco either, and the benefits would be really big.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The thing about tobacco which made it easier to socially discredit than drinking is that it stinks. Literally. Smoke smells bad, butts smell bad, smokers smell bad, any area used by smokers smells bad. And gets covered by sticky (and stinky) yellow film as well. Alcohol doesn’t have that, except for people who abuse it in already-taboo ways.

          • Jiro says:

            Alcohol is unhealthy when abused. Cigarettes are unhealthy when used as directed.

      • Evan Þ says:

        I think, even if that were possible, it’d have other undesirable effects. Women who’re having children at age 18 would have to be having them either with four-years-older men, or with men their own age who’re going off to college and thus probably not available for childcare and emotional support. If the former, there’d be huge imbalances in the relationship; if the latter, both parents would have four years less emotional maturity, leading to less stable relationships.

        Also, I don’t think having a toddler or even preschooler at home is conducive to good studying.

        • arlie says:

          When I was in college, I speculated about a related problem: women’s fertility is at their best at a time when having children is sure to derail any career they may want to have. My solution at the time was an alternate culture, where children are raised by their grandparents. Young women have babies, hand them to their own mothers (possibly after spending some time nursing them), and then are completely out of the family thing until the first of their daughters presents them with a child.

          That’s more suitable for sci fi than as a reasonable direction for e.g. North Americans to move. Which worked fine for me, because sci fi was what I was interested in at the time 😉

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I’ve thought about a milder version– children are mostly raised by their grandparents, but the parents are more like junior parents or elder siblings.

          • Evan Þ says:

            I’d be interested in a sci-fi story set in that culture!

            I don’t think most real-life women would be interested in living there, though. @Nancy Lebovitz’s milder version sounds more plausible to me, and also bears some similarity to the patriarchy discussion in the last open thread.

          • johan_larson says:

            If you live in extended families, with kids and parents and grandparents under one roof, it works just fine to have the parents out working while the grandparents do the day-to-day childcare.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Unless the grandparents die, which they are much more likely to have done.

            And that’s not counting health issues. Kids are tiring. I’m convinced that the reason people in their early twenties are well adapted to staying up all night is because babies require it.

      • Christophe Biocca says:

        Combining this suggestion with Bryan Caplan’s “The Case against Education”:

        – Stop subsidizing any education after grade 11.
        – Normalize grade skipping as the thing smarter kids do to not get bored (instead of AP/extracurriculars).
        – Pay parents for each year skipped once the student graduates, a substantial fraction of the cost that was not spent on the extra years of schooling.
        – Make this information visible on the diploma (+/- N years). To the extent that employers used higher-ed degrees as a filter for intelligence/conscientiousness/conformity, this can replace it.

        If Caplan’s right about the contribution of signaling to the education premium this gives smart but non-academically-inclined children a way to permanently enter the workforce at age 16-18, skipping tertiary education entirely. No starting debt load and a longer time horizon for their career means that the (pecuniary and opportunity) cost of having children would be lower, so we’d expect some uptick in fertility rates. Being socialized with older kids and years spent at work instead of school might also speed up emotional maturity (which might make people more likely to have kids?).

        • Brad says:

          I like this idea. I don’t think we need to push the average mother’s age at first birth down to 18. Just moving it back to 25 for the distinct subcultures where it is currently beyond 30 should be sufficient to bring the overall rate to replacement.

          If worse comes to worse and it doesn’t change the fertility rate, shaving four to seven or more years of wasteful signaling for our brightest citizens can’t help but have other positive impacts.

        • AG says:

          My guess is that this results in a rat-race of schools softballing the grading for many kids to inflate the numbers, and rich parents bribes the schools to let their kids skip grades without acing the tests…exactly what is happening now.

          • cryptoshill says:

            @AG – Replicating all the problems of our modern school systems, but doing it with 4 or 8 less wasted years is still a win.

      • albatross11 says:

        James Miller:

        I think this might work if we could do it, but changing the norm is a lot harder than changing a few government loan policies.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        I do not think this works unless you change how “college” operates. I cannot imagine trying to go back to school even part-time with kids and a career, let alone full-time.

        If we can hand-wave norms, we should hand-wave college as something only losers do: going to college is a strong signal that you are a lazy idiot that couldn’t rise by your own merits, like an honest electrician/janitor/book-keeper/etc. A signal of low, rather than high, quality.

        “Obviously high quality workers are willing to work hard for low wages and take advantage of the ample free education employers are willing to pay for. Only a low-quality worker would spend his OWN money to try to make himself look smarter. “

        • albatross11 says:

          I can see a couple ways to do this, which would not require too many dictatorial powers or anything:

          a. Establish a mommy-track at college, designed to work well with the demands on a young mother. That is, lighter class load, free daycare during school hours, more schedule flexibility, etc.

          The goal here is to make it workable for a woman to get pregnant and have a kid while in college, without wrecking her education. If I were going to try to actually implement this somewhere, I’d try a college with a fairly religious student body. (Maybe BYU?)

          b. Push toward more online classes with highly-flexible schedules–so the young mother can do her classwork while her parents or husband/boyfriend/baby daddy are watching the kid. In general, the more flexibility is available, the better this will work w.r.t. the need for a young mom to be watching her baby, nursing, caring for a sick kid, etc.

          c. Support for young married students. You can imagine a university having family-friendly dorms, for example. That plus some good daycare and a free student clinic that can handle sick kids would be a big benefit. (Again, you can imagine this working well at a university with a pretty religious student body and outlook.)

          • David Speyer says:

            All of these are good ideas. In addition (and in the tradition of using massive force in perhaps inappropriate ways, as in the “your mission threads”) what if we made mothers a socially and legally protected class for employment? What if Buzzfeed was running stories about how only 10% of women at Silicon Valley firms have children (and Scott was writing exposes about how the number is even lower in advertising), and HR departments counseled companies to hire some mothers to protect against class action suits?

          • ana53294 says:

            In Russia, pregnant women are a protected category. I have heard stories of a factory announcing downsizing and then lots of women getting pregnant. As there are 18 months of parental leave at 40 % of the salary and 18 more months of unpaid leave, mothers cannot be fired or downsized during the 36 months after that period.

            This does lead to all kinds of perverse incentives, so I am not sure it’s a good idea (and I have to note that this doesn’t help Russian fertility much, anyway).

          • Frangible Waterbird says:

            Nonono, it should be Caltech!
            Just imagine… Caltech – except with babies*!!!

            Also, what do people think about the effect of people just like, regularly seeing babies around a campus?
            Hangin’. with their moms ‘n dads.
            Who are your friends.
            (I actually could sorta see it going either way.)

            * You can’t un-see!

        • AG says:

          This seems to tradeoff against the industries that actually want college education: the research fields. So you’d have to pair this with encouraging more specialized classes before college. Kids getting sorted into STEM vs. humanities tracks in middle school and such, in order to render college irrelevant. Undergraduate research is shifted to high school level, and college undergrads are doing master’s/doctorate level research.

          Hrm. I would not oppose the abolishing of post-grad.

    • The Nybbler says:

      My country is the US.

      I think a ban on all effective forms of birth control (latex condoms, the pill, IUDs, Norplant, etc) would do it, but I don’t have any way of accomplishing that; that genie is NOT going back in the bottle. Selective immigration from high-fertility countries would work for a long time; this is basically fertility-shredding but it’s a large world.

      One issue is we’re stuck in a positive feedback loop. As people have less children, we invest more effort in them. Which makes them more expensive (in both money and time). Which makes people have less children. But if I knew how to break that I’d deserve a Nobel Prize. Make me dictator and I could pull down some of the laws involved — no more prosecution/lawsuits if your children get hurt because you’re not supervising them super-closely, great reductions in regulations for childcare providers, loosened restrictions on teen labor, etc. But I couldn’t fight the social forces behind those laws.

      So, fertility-shredding by selective immigration of high-fertility people it is.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      My country is the US (1.84 children/woman). I start by annexing Mexico with its 112 million citizens and 2.21 children/woman.

    • DeWitt says:

      I move to Rwanda and join the military, upon which the Dutch state will revoke my passport and my country now has an above-replacement fertility.

      • Evan Þ says:

        +1 for innovative solutions.

        • A1987dM says:

          My first thought was “move to Ireland, stay there five years, apply for citizenship”, but from johan_larson’s link it looks like it’s below 2.1 too.

      • johan_larson says:

        Or make your country a really terrible place, an impoverished and war-torn land run by steely-eyed kleptocrats, just like a lot of high-birth-rate countries in the world today. Then hope like hell the arrow of causality points the right way.

        • DeWitt says:

          War-torn isn’t really the issue anymore, but being impoverished doesn’t seem to help Eastern Europe one whit.

        • a reader says:

          Serbia: war-torn, 1.62 children per woman
          Ukraine: war-torn, 1.557 children per woman
          Romania: run by kleptocrats, 1.54 children per woman
          Moldova: even poorer, 1.23 children per woman
          (second lowest fertility in the world, after Taiwan)


          • christianschwalbach says:

            Those nations all had (save perhaps Moldova) a semi recent past of better economic prospects, at least when communism was actually working for them, plus the effects of communist family planning being ingrained in the culture, and you have the stage set for a lower fertility rate. Perhaps also being somewhat close to the more prosperous nations of Western Europe has a bleed off effect? Vs. say African and Asian nations that are surrounded by countries also in the same situation as they are

      • BBA says:

        Well in that case, I consider myself a citizen of the world, so…

    • Evan Þ says:

      @Scott, why is the timestamp on johan_larson’s parent comment pushed into the future so it’s always at the bottom of the thread?

    • James C says:

      Let’s just invest heavily into artificial wombs, then we don’t need to worry about the social/political angle and instead just grow as many children as we want.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I think you’ll find that the real bottleneck is willingness to raise children. The personal costs of pregnancy and labor are substantial, but I bet they aren’t definitive.

        • James C says:

          Ah, but growing more babies artificially is something the government can do at a whim, rather than messing around with nasty and controversial social engineering plans.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Admittedly, the original challenge was about increasing the birth rate, not about getting more adults.

    • Anatoly says:

      Mission accomplished! (Israel)

    • BlindKungFuMaster says:

      Introduce hefty university fees (not currently existing in my country), but make university free for parents. Also, introduce free daycare (financed by the university fees).

      You could also make the size of pensions dependent on the number of kids. That would re-introduce an old incentive to have more kids. And it would make sense, as at least in my country, these are the people who are actually paying the pensions.

      • Perico says:

        The university fee idea would probably work better if we make it scale with number of kids: Get a large discount on the first child, and make it so every subsequent child still gives a benefit up to 6-7. And make it retroactive: If someone doesn’t manage to get married before university, we definitely want to encourage them to have as many kids as possible, so give them a refund.

      • AG says:

        Only if those fees are % of tuition-funding income rather than lump sum, or in practice this just means rich people attend university with no kids, at which point they will pressure the board with even more money to drop the policy so they don’t have to mingle with the poors.

    • johan_larson says:

      Maybe it’s time to reconsider the model of two parents working and the kids in daycare. Perhaps we should reconsider the job of homemaker, by making it more attractive. This might be done by providing proper pensions for people who spend their lives raising children, keeping house, and caring for elderly relatives. All of that is work too. Presumably most people signing up for this would be women, but if men want to do it, I see no reason they couldn’t.

      Alternately, re-institute the draft. All thirty-year-olds serve two years, unless they are raising at least two children.

    • shakeddown says:

      Ban pets, so that people can stop artificially satisfying their childbearing instinct.

    • ana53294 says:

      Spain has a fertility rate of 1.34, so you would need to do something radical to get it to 2. I would start by giving all Sahrawi refugees Spanish citizenship. This wouldn’t increase the fertility rate that much (although they have 4 kids per woman, there doesn’t seem to be more than a half million of them, vs. Spain’s 46 million). Anyways, this would correct a historical wrong, and maybe help a bit.

      The reasons why the fertility is so low in Spain are mainly economic. In Spain, women don’t have children until they are married, have a stable job and own their house (at least have a mortgage). So you would have to make sure all these things happen earlier.

      The reasons for late marriages are mainly the lack of stable jobs and difficulty in acquiring a house. So I would massively deregulate the housing market in Spain (Spain is #123 in the speed of getting a building permit according to the World Bank). The objective is to have a massive amount of housing built, and the market prices of housing to go way down.

      After and during the recession, Spanish housing prices did not go down as they did in America. In the US, repossesed houses went for sale – so prices had to go down, sometimes massively, so banks could get liquidity. In Spain, banks preferred to have real estate on their books, and pretend that the value of their assets covers their liabilities. This was allowed to maintain stability of the banking system – although the EU is now forcing Spanish banks to get rid of housing, so they acquire liquidity. Banks mostly prefer to sell their housing stocks to the international so-called scavenger funds – because those funds can buy all the houses at once at a massive discount, making the process of getting rid of the housing easier for the banks. This unfortunately does not lower market prices for new families.

      So I would make a rule where repossesed housing has to be brought to an auction within 30 days of reposession by the bank. Each separate unit of housing has to be brought separately to the market (no lumping of massive blocks of apartments so only investment funds like BlackRock can buy them; each apartment has to be sold separately, so families can get this discount; of course, funds can still outbid them, but then the banks get more liquidity, so credit becomes easier, win-win). Auctions would be publicly announced and retail investors should be allowed to participate.

      Also, deregulate the job market a bit more. Deregulate business creation – Spain is #86 at starting a business. Deregulate most licensing requirements – taxis, etc.

      • Tenacious D says:

        Does the fertility rate vary much between different regions in Spain?

        • Perico says:

          Kind of – it ranges between 1% and 1.5%. Before checking the data, my intuition was that fertility in the country would correlate negatively with poverty and unemployment, but that doesn’t seem to be the case:
          Fertility by region:

          Unemployment by region:

          Surprisingly, the regions with the worst unemployment rates have average-looking (for Spain) fertility rates. The region with the worst fertility rate has decent (again, for Spain) unemployment. And the places with the best fertility are generally the richer regions, but also include some of the poorer ones. So I can’t find any clear pattern.

          I would expect migration to be a huge confounder, as a lot of young people (myself included) have moved abroad in the last decade.

          • ana53294 says:

            Well, Murcia is poor, but Catalonia and Navarre are rich. Navarre is also very religious.

            And, out of the regions with below average fecundity, only the Balearic Islands have a GDP per capita that is higher than the average in Spain.

            I don’t know why Murcia stands out.

            EDIT: yes, emigration will change those figures. I expect fertility to lower more, because of the big quantity of young people who had to leave. An improvement in the economy (and cheap, affordable housing) may make some of the people who moved abroad come back.

          • Tenacious D says:

            So I can’t find any clear pattern.

            I don’t see one either, but thanks for the data.

      • BlindKungFuMaster says:

        My impression of Spain was that people build houses and worry about permits later. Maybe that wasn’t as typical as I thought.

        • ana53294 says:

          Eh, no. Not typical at all. Corruption is more typical, but you still wouldn’t build a house without a permit.

          In fact, in can get you in a lot of trouble. In Spain, even houses that were built more than sixty years ago on the coastline can be torn down, because they break urbanistic rules about coast land use (we have a very restrictive law on the use of coastal land).

    • SamChevre says:

      I’ll difficulty-boost this: without increasing the proportion of children that do not live with the same two parents at 3 months and age 16.

      My solution: change the tax and benefit system as follows.
      1) For any means-tested benefit, the single highest earner’s income is excluded up to the household median income in calculating availability of benefits.
      2) Second incomes for households above 2x the household median are taxed punitively-say a 15% surcharges–to pay for the above benefits.

      The goal of the above is to make 2-income families worse off relative to one-income families, while making 2-parent families better off relative to single-parent families.

      To boost the impact, get rid of anti-discrimination law related to gender, pregnancy and marital status. And allow people to apply for debt forgiveness for college loans based on their own income–if they have no personal income, they can get their loans forgiven over 20 years, with the cost split between their college and the government.

      The goal here is to make home-making as a career relatively more attractive.

      • arlie says:

        I don’t think this incentivizes home-making as a career. It simply punishes many of the alternatives. Humans being what they are, they’ll find workarounds. I expect the law of unintended consequences to show up here.

        In the US today, it’s bloody hard for most households to live on a single income. I don’t anticipate employers paying more, or providing more security than they presently do. (Having two incomes also helps when one of you gets laid off – normal and somewhat random in the gig-economy.)

        Folks living on two below-twice-median incomes aren’t affected by the change, unless your tax changes are designed to be revenue neutral, which you didn’t specify.Folks living on two below-median incomes *might* be able to replace one of their incomes with means tested benefits – but probably not, unless it’s very low indeed.

        People with two very high incomes will collude with their employers to avoid taxes. I’d expect to find deals that misassign income to the already higher earning spouse. Some of them will probably even be legal.

        A few folks who actually wanted to have a single income family may find this makes it possible. Even if they do, there’s no incentive for them to have (more) children.

        Lots of women who don’t want to be homemakers, and do want to marry, strongly consider emigrating. A few decide to take on a ne’er do well low income toy boy or toy girl, who otherwise might have preferred to marry someone with more similar abilities/values to their own.

        A few entrepreneurs get their start as pseudo-homemakers, taking no income whatsoever and living on their higher earning spouse. Ditto for a few ultimately successful artists. They probably don’t have kids, since they have two full time jobs, one of which simply doesn’t pay.

        Talking of not paying, a lot of women who don’t want to be homemakers become full time volunteers, contributing less to their households than when they were working. When conflicts develop, they threaten to move out and get a job.

        Interesting living arrangements develop, such as not-legally-married bed partners living next door to each other, in residences that just happen to have connecting doors, and not really enough space in either residence 😉 With or without children. Many of these residences are badly converted single family homes.

    • Plumber says:

      My country is the Sam Francisco Bay Area, and the fastest way I think to raise the fertility rate would be to provide subsidized housing for parents, startimg woth new parents, something like University Village link text in quality and lica

      • Plumber says:

        To expand on the answer, speaking as a non-college educated American adult, the biggest impediment to having more children is the cost of housing in my area, so attractive subsidized family sized housing would indeed incentivise larger families, also anything that makes the non-collegiate majority more hopeful about their economic prospects is likely to engender more births, so marked preferences for entrance into trades apprenticeship programs of median income trades (electricians, plumbers, et cetera) for parents will be an incentive for more births.

        Changing people with no children into parents is harder than encouraging people from one and two children households to have more children, and the way to do that is by giving them larger homes and hope.

        It’s no accident that the U.S. birthrate dropped after the 2008 economic crash and hasn’t recovered, while at the same time the percentage of 20 something Americans trying to get a college diploma has never been higher (certainly higher than in my youth), young people simply don’t see options beyond college as allowing them to avoid being among those of those living in tents on the sidewalks, vacant lots, and near the highways (which I see more and more of every month in Berkeley, Oakland, and San Francisco).

        Taxing away more above median incomes so they don’t bid up housing so much, allowing the non-college educated majority to afford family sized housing that doesn’t require crippling commutes could help.

        Discouraging industries that require college for many of their available jobs may also help, the big thing is to reduce the “college premium” which likely will increase birthrates, but paradoxically making college cheaper may help, as my mother gave birth to me at 21 when she was a college student (and reports that when she carried me to her child psychology class the professor objected to my presence), she felt more free to do that because rent was cheaper relative to wages, and college was free in California back then, so debt and less worry about being demoted to the “mommy track” back then (also more women were just assumed to be about to be mothers and they just wasn’t the opportunities to be promoted if they delayed children anyway).

        If I remember correctly the highest median hourly wage for non-farm, non-supervisor men was in February of 1973 (adjusted for inflation, just before the oil embargo, and the end of the draft), so it was simply easier for working class families to live on one income.

        The U.S. birthrate is at 1.87 (so not that far from the 2.1 asked for in the question) but it’s lower in high cost areas like San Francisco, as women wait longer to have their first child:

        link text

        If you want to quickly increase birthrates in the U.S.A., instead of restoring a mid 20th century economy, it would probably be quicker to just fast track immigration of 20-something couples from high birthrate countries, you could also guarantee citizenship to foreigners who marry and have children with Americans, and restoring 1970’s style “Aid to Families with Dependent Children” welfare will likely increase birthrates as well.

        • baconbits9 says:

          If housing prices are a major issue then why did the fertility rate drop during the great recession and not rebound? Housing prices dropped plenty and only recently reached their previous highs (and I believe is still down in real terms).

          • AG says:

            Housing prices dropped, but so did wages and jobs. Few people had the savings to make the down payment, or make enough to pay the mortgage, even at the lower prices.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Wages are up ~3% total since 2006 and total compensation up about 7%, UE has been down below 5% for almost 3 years which is well below the average since 1970 and is currently at an 18 year low. Labor force participation rate is one metric that is down and hasn’t rebounded, but overall median household income is at all-time highs (inflation adjusted which includes housing metrics).

          • Randy M says:

            Anyone know of a place to find a graph of income/debt? Total consumer debt looks to be more or less stable since ’08, much higher than 2003-2006.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Anyone know of a place to find a graph of income/debt? Total consumer debt looks to be more or less stable since ’08, much higher than 2003-2006.

            I think the per capita debt graph in your link is more valuable than the raw debt graph. I also can’t tell if he is using real or nominal dollars, but these numbers look suspiciously like nominal.

            On the other hand you should include government debt with consumer debt to get a better picture.

          • Randy M says:

            On the other hand you should include government debt with consumer debt to get a better picture.

            A better picture of why individuals can’t afford houses during their most fertile years? Tax burden, sure, but that isn’t necessarily tied to gov’t debt.

          • AG says:

            My guess is that the stats don’t account for geographic distribution? The cheap housing is in places with un-exciting job prospects, while compensation is up in places where compensation is nonetheless lagging behind the increasing cost-of-living.
            For example, increased non-wage compensation eating into the money that would have gone into savings for a down payment in previous generations, and then increase rents further reducing savings ability. It’s been noted that many young people in the Bay Area have gone over the tipping point where the savings rate from frugality is so miniscule that reaching a down payment quantity would be decades in the future, so they don’t bother and just treat themselves on a regular basis. (I question this narrative, but it is one that exists.)

            It does seem that there is a slow rebound on millenial home ownership now, but that was my explanation for why fertility rates would drop during the recession.
            I’d be curious if we saw the same occur with The Great Depression, and what differences in housing policy might account for that.

          • Plumber says:

            I don’t know where you live, but where I live (a 15 mile drive from my job in San Francisco), after a slight dip in house prices, and a lot of unemployment in 2009, housing prices exceeded the 2008 highs by 2012 and have been climbing ever since, comparable houses on my block have recently sold for twice what we paid for our house in 2011, meanwhile I see dozens of the ever increasing tents of the homeless visible all along my commute, which wasn’t the case before 2012

          • John Schilling says:

            …but where I live (a 15 mile drive from my job in San Francisco),

            Where you live, is a giant flaming example to the rest of the nation in how not to do human fertility, and is in fact not how the rest of the nation does human fertility. Including the bit where San Francisco says “screw affordable housing; only the breeders care about that, so long as we’ve got lots of cool jobs and cool stuff for singles and DINKs they’ll pay $3000/month for a room in a shared apartment”.

            The rest of the United States really, genuinely doesn’t do things like they do where you live, and step one of any reasonable plan for human reproduction is increasingly “Don’t live in San Francisco”.

          • Plumber says:

            John Schilling says:
            August 14, 2018 at 2:52 pm

            ….but where I live (a 15 mile drive from my job in San Francisco….

            “Where you live, is a giant flaming example to the rest of the nation in how not to do human fertility, and is in fact not how the rest of the nation does human fertility. Including the bit where San Francisco says “screw affordable housing; only the breeders care about that, so long as we’ve got lots of cool jobs and cool stuff for singles and DINKs they’ll pay $3000/month for a room in a shared apartment”.

            The rest of the United States really, genuinely doesn’t do things like they do where you live, and step one of any reasonable plan for human reproduction is increasingly “Don’t live in San Francisco”.

            @John Schilling,

            Yeah that’s easy to infer when I see that

            San Francisco has the oldest average age of first-time mothers in the U.S.A.,

            as well as the

            highest rents in the world,

            and since the

            percentage of Americans who are mothers is the lowest it’s been in 25 years,

            the price of housing relative to wages is increasing,

            it seems easy to see the link (and that the rest of the U.S.A. is becoming more like S.F., come visit and see the future! Bring your wallet but not your car).

          • baconbits9 says:

            A better picture of why individuals can’t afford houses during their most fertile years? Tax burden, sure, but that isn’t necessarily tied to gov’t debt.

            Government spending can boost GDP and personal income levels according to several popular economic theories, affordability is generally debt to income so ignoring shifts in gov debt would be to misunderstand a portion of the equation. Also total debt load is important for understanding long term risks and resilience for country level economies which can impact both spending and earnings.

          • Plumber says:

            Wages are up ~3% total since 2006 and total compensation up about 7%, UE has been down below 5% for almost 3 years which is well below the average since 1970 and is currently at an 18 year low. Labor force participation rate is one metric that is down and hasn’t rebounded, but overall median household income is at all-time highs (inflation adjusted which includes housing metrics)


            Adjusted for inflation the price of housing has increased far more than wages.

            As have the prices for education and medical care for over a couple of generations.

            “The Great Recession” only briefly lowered housing prices in the high crime areas near me or lastingly in places like Stockton, California that are far from where the jobs are (San Jose, San Francisco).

            I’m grateful for that brief downturn, otherwise there’s no way that my family could have lived in a house (we certainly couldn’t buy one now!) and it’s extremely unlikely that we would have had our two-year-old son, but even during the depths of the recession (2009 to 2011), even as a union plumber working overtime earning a more than median wage I could not afford to buy a house equivalent to the one my parents bought in the early 1970’s, when they were odd job doing hippies.

    • arlie says:

      Thee are two general ways to aproach this. One is to reduce opportunities for women to be educated, or to survive as anything but housewives/mothers. The other is to make it easier for women/people to have children and still have other things they personally want.

      Related to this is the question of who you want producing the children. If you don’t care, then bring in immigrants from wherever you can find that has the highest birthrate available. Incentivize your own poor people to have tons of kids. Give them a “baby bonus” that more than supports the child. Give them a no questions asked larger than needed welfare increase that lasts e.g. till the child reaches reproductive age. Make education free, so they’ll expect their children to have propects of living better than the parents.

      I say specifically to incentivize the poor, because it’s cheaper. If I’m living below the poverty line, and having a baby will get me subsidized to e.g. just at the poverty line, I’ll be happy, and it’s relatively cheap. If I’m part of a dual income couple each making $200K, then its going to cost a lot more to provide for the child in the style we’ll wish to do so. (Full time individual care taker, private school, Harvard/Yale/Stanford, etc. etc.) But give us anything less than that, and either our lifestyle drops drastically, or we neglect the child by our own standards. Basically, you probably can’t afford to pay us enough – or you can get 10 poor children for the price of one of ours.

      Note also that the level of incentives needed will vary. If someone really wants a child, and regrets that they just can’t make it work financially, then all you need to do is make it possible, and convince them you won’t take back the subsidy right after they have the baby. If someone doesn’t like children, and takes a traditionally male attitude towards child rearing (someone else should do it) then you may not be able to ever pay them enough.

      Note also that part of the “subsidy” is the amount of assistance – and its reliability – they can expect to receive from other household members. Babies are a lot of work, especially if it’s on top of other economic activity, and not many US families can currently afford to have a non-employed adult member.

    • WashedOut says:

      Australia – the home of novel ideas that probably won’t work

      Make Motherhood Great Again – A campaign to promote the heroism and sacrifice of motherhood as an inspirational ideal, and to re-establish the sacred dyad of mother and child.

      Some very rough notes:
      -Need to solve the Childish Men Problem, get young men to want to accept more responsibility in their early 20’s
      -Need more heroes/idols for young women to look up to, celebrating femininity and maternal virtues
      -Adopt a bunch of economic reforms that makes home-making financially viable
      -Something something less exposure to porn for young men something something

      • baconbits9 says:

        Make Motherhood Great Again – A campaign to promote the heroism and sacrifice of motherhood as an inspirational ideal, and to re-establish the sacred dyad of mother and child.

        We already basically have this, one issue is that a single kid gets you into the club, which ends up being all a bunch of people have. I think roughly half of all women have either 0 or 1 child in their lifetimes (some projection there) and almost 75% have 0, 1 or 2 kids. I don’t think you get very far trying to make motherhood sound wonderful, once people have a kid they reap most of the status benefits and will find out it isn’t all roses either.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Just for the hell of it, subsidize telecommuting or give a significant tax break for it, especially full time telecommuting.

      This is partly to free up time, but it’s also to make it so people don’t have to move for their work. If people can continue to live near their families and friends, there would be more shared child care.

    • idontknow131647093 says:

      1. Eliminate all subsidies for higher education. Create an exit-test for high school akin to the Bar Exam, but with publicly reported scores.
      2. Eliminate all subsidies for elder care. Greatly reduce public pension systems
      3. Kill off zoning regulations to expand housing.

      I have now done many things. First I have drastically reduced the two biggest costs for young people, housing and education. Second I have signaled that if you get old the government is literally going to let you die in the streets if you are penniless; better invest in those kiddies. Third my publicly available test score and re-assertion of the high school as a place of importance (where people generally cannot be anonymous unlike in college) will result in a higher-trust society because people know everyone in their high school, and it will, for 90%+ of people be the last place they can form friends and a peer group.

    • nameless1 says:

      This is not a good mission. You can make the poorest people reproduce mostly by just monetary incentives, but you do not get a very high IQ generation out of it. The key would be making high IQ women reproduce.

      • albatross11 says:


        That’s a different challenge, though.

        The obvious place to try to create incentives for more kids from the government is with either benefits or taxes. So here are some ideas:

        a. Make your income tax rate scale down with the square of the number of kids you have, so that a family with lots of kids could expect to pay very little in taxes.

        b. Provide universal pre-K–it’s not really going to raise the kids’ IQ or keep them out of prison, but it will make it a lot cheaper to have kids if preschool/daycare turns out to be free.

        c. Extend the school year to 12 months, with all break time (including summer) optional, but still with supervision of kids provided. Make aftercare and precare free, so parents with jobs can get free care for their kids during work hours.

        d. Give women an extra boost on graduate work/tenure for having kids.

        e. Decrease student loan debt by some sizeable chunk per child you have–if you want to tie this to some social engineering goals, you can make only people who graduated with a degree and are married eligible for this benefit.

        f. Pursue policies that lead to affordable family formation (Steve Sailer’s term). Good schools, safe neighborhoods, affordable houses–bend civil rights/civil liberties goals and local rule/zoning around the goal of making sure the schools are good and the neighborhoods safe and the houses affordable.

        I’m not sure this would work, but it’s the sort of thing that you could imagine helping some.

        • Deiseach says:

          The trouble is that you have to look at the attitudes that are on display by some people who are proud to be child-free, that children are just not worth the bother. You can dangle all the economic carrots you like in front of their noses, but the kind of person who makes jokes about “not having a kid means I can sleep in on Saturday” is going to weigh up “some extra money versus having to be a damn adult and put a small screaming human’s needs first before my own” will choose the “no money, can stay in bed till one p.m.” option instead. Yeah, yeah: just jokes, just kidding, but the fact that she thinks this is a topic for humour that will be acceptable and won’t be condemned is indicative of the general mood – yeah, kids are kind of a drag, aren’t they?

          • albatross11 says:


            No policy change is going to convince the hardcore “don’t want a kid ever” people to have kids, and that’s a good thing–raising kids is damned hard work, and it’s unlikely you’ll be a great parent if you never wanted kids in the first place.

            What we can reasonably expect to do with this kind of policy (assuming arguendo that it’s what we actually want to do) is:

            a. Get a few people who were going to have 2 kids to have 3-4 kids instead.

            b. Get people to have their kids a little earlier, which decreases the chances that they’ll end up not in a position to have kids when they hit the end of their fertility period. (As an extreme example, a woman who dies of cancer at 39 and planned to wait to have kids till she turned 40 never has a child; convincing her to have a child at 25 instead means that kid gets born.)

            c. Convince people who were right on the fence[1] to go ahead and have a kid or two.

            The US isn’t all that far below replacement TFR anyway (I think 2.1 or so is replacement), so it’s not like we’re facing an intractable goal–just getting a smallish fraction of women to go ahead and have an extra kid sometime in their lives will be enough.

            [1] I don’t know how many such people there are, but there must be some.

      • Plumber says:

        “This is not a good mission. You can make the poorest people reproduce mostly by just monetary incentives, but you do not get a very high IQ generation out of it. The key would be making high IQ women reproduce”


        That’s easy!

        Greatly expand the H1B visa program (or something similar), while allowing those with those visas ro switch employers.

        Institute a “Work Aptitude Test” (or whatever bogus label you can think of) to qualify for the visa that just happens to correlate with IQ tests, alow those workers to bring their spouses and allow them to stay when they have “anchor babies”.

        Yeah their kids will likely “regress to the mean” but you’re still likely to get higher IQ people born in the U.S.A.that way.

        Meanwhile jail Americans who hire immigrants who haven’t passed the “Work Aptitude Test’, find those Americans by rewarding those immigrants who report the Americans who hired them.

        Since income often correlates with IQ provide no additional social welfare benefits to low income folks who have more kids, meanwhile greatly increase the tax deductions of having children for high income Americans.

        • Plumber says:

          It occurs to me that my suggestions to dissuade folks with lower IQ’s from having children will likely further lower the IQ of those who do have children because the stress of increased poverty tends to lower IQ.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        The trick here is facilitate trade between possible future children and their potential parents. Higher-income children will be able to offer their parents more money, and this is probably a good-enough proxy for IQ.

        A basic form of the scheme:
        When you give birth to a child, you get a claim to some fixed percentage of their tax payments. But you’re required to sell that claim to an accredited financial institution before your child’s first birthday (or maybe before birth, or w/e… the point is, early), in exchange for cash up front. (If you don’t require this, wealthy parents are likely to consider it shameful to ‘sell their child’s future’. Also adverse selection). The accredited institutions are private-sector profit-maximizing entities.

        Working out all the details is probably a book-length project, and framing it in a way that would make it politically acceptable isn’t something I’ll even pretend to attempt. But I actually do think the core idea is sound.

        • Viliam says:

          If we want to incentivize the production of productive citizens, the best option is to make the incentive proportional to the child’s future income, and the second best option is to make it proportional to the parent’s income and hope that whatever caused it is hereditary.

          The first option is less attractive for older parents — they may be too old when the child starts making money. The second option is less attractive for younger parents — they didn’t have enough time to make enough money. One possible way is to optimize for the young parents; other possible way is to optimize for both (providing two kinds of incentives).

          Incentive for young people to become parents: receive 10% of your child’s tax. Have five kids, wait twenty years, and you can retire. Works best for people with long-term thinking, which is good. (Note: The 10% would be split among both parents, in case they divorce.)

          Incentive for older people to become parents: after your child is born, you get back 5% of all tax you ever paid; also, your tax rate will be reduced by 5% for the rest of your life (this is so that the rule will not incentivize people to have kids later rather than sooner). For the following kids, the fraction could decrease, e.g. 5%, 4%, 3%, 2%, 1%, 0%.

    • Perico says:

      As long as we only care about winning the game and not actually getting more children – how about hacking the statistic? In that case, we could make it so that any women without plans to marry and have children are automatically considered to be legally male. Or an even more hardcore option: citizens are legally male by default, and only become legally female once they are pregnant.

      Another way to technically achieve the goal would be to grant automatic citizenship to any married couple that shows up, provided they are in an appropriate age range, she’s pregnant, and they don’t already have other children. If we want to get extra-dystopian, threaten to kick them out if they don’t meet certain fertility targets every few years.

      • Deiseach says:

        In that case, we could make it so that any women without plans to marry and have children are automatically considered to be legally male.

        To which I say BRING IT ON. You do not want me reproducing my genes, bud! And what, you never heard of the Albanian sworn virgins? At the risk of sounding like John Sidles, truly there is nothing new under the sun!


        Is it any surprise five to ten years of “having a baby at your age is the total end and ruin of your life” dinned into them means that women are not popping out sprogs the moment they turn eighteen?

        • Bugmaster says:

          Well, as long as we’re switching from rules-hacking to practical concerns… Is raising the fertility rate a). a good idea in general, and b). still a good idea if it comes at the expense of the future well-being of the children thus conceived ? Very few 18-year-olds can adequately raise a child, both in terms of financing the child’s development, and in terms of providing moral/educational/etc. support.

          On the other hand, if you happen to be the kind of girl who wants to get a formal education (and then a decent career), then giving birth at 18 really could ruin your future goals. Note that I said “if”; plenty of women don’t want that; still, which state of affairs should we encourage ? Increased fertility rate, or increased average scientific/technical/economic literacy among the population ?

          • johan_larson says:

            Is raising the fertility rate a). a good idea in general, and b). still a good idea if it comes at the expense of the future well-being of the children thus conceived ?

            The problem with a fertility rate below replacement level is that you get an inverted population pyramid, with lots of old people who have to be supported by a relatively small number of young working people. This is really hard on the young.

            You can cover for this to some extent by immigration, but the more of that you do, the less effective cultural assimilation of the newcomers will be, and the more the culture is going to change in the direction of the newcomers’ original cultures. I expect many people are OK with a bit of that, but few are OK with a lot of it.

          • Bugmaster says:

            I think that technological advances help offset at least some of these problems. In the past, a young person working alone could feed himself, plus maybe his wife and child. With modern farming methods, he can feed a small village.

          • Deiseach says:

            Increased fertility rate, or increased average scientific/technical/economic literacy among the population ?

            That is your problem, is it not? Have a literate population that year-on-year is declining because nobody is having kids because it’s too expensive in time, money, and convenience, leaving the replacement births to be the illiterate poorer parents who don’t have flashy careers that require working sixty to eighty hour weeks for ten years to get anywhere, or decide you really do need to have more babies from the upper middle class and so reduce the number of ‘went to college for four years and then spent fifteen years getting to the point in my career where I could afford to hire a full-time nanny to look after the baby’ mothers?

            I’m also going to ask what about the population explosion worry that was certainly quoted in the 70s as to why people were choosing to be child-free or have only one/two children instead of three/four like their parents’ generation. Is that still applicable or not?

          • albatross11 says:


            It also matters a lot what the source population’s default culture looks like. If it’s not so dissimilar from current US culture (UK) or at least more-or-less compatible (Mexico), then it’s probably less of a big deal than if it’s wildly different (China) or deeply incompatible (Afghanistan).

          • Bugmaster says:

            Why do we “need to have more babies from the upper middle class”, or any class for that matter ? I understand about the replacement birth rate, but what is your desired population density ?

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Deiseach, it would be interesting to have a propaganda campaign about how to have children relatively young without giving up on your dreams. There are women who manage that, and perhaps they could create a curriculum.

          • Deiseach says:

            Nancy, I think it would be interesting but very difficult. There’s a lot of congratulation about the reduction in teen pregnancies; turning that around to say “well sex ed classes should maybe also say that having a baby when you’re eighteen is not the end of the world” is going to take as much effort as the turning circle of a supercarrier oil tanker and maybe not be as successful.

          • bean says:

            supercarrier oil tanker

            And now I’m seeing something that looks like the bastard lovechild of Nimitz and Seawise Giant.

          • Deiseach says:

            And now I’m seeing something that looks like the bastard lovechild of Nimitz and Seawise Giant.

            And this is what happens when your brain is trying to think “what name of big floaty thing?” Yes, obviously I meant supertanker 🙂

            Even less excuse for this since years ago I made the acquaintance of someone who worked on a supertanker!

          • Bugmaster says:

            I still maintain that having a child at 18 is a very bad idea. People at 18 do not have the maturity, stability, and most of all income to properly raise a child. Yes, obviously some of them will manage it just fine, but I’m speaking about the mean, not the outliers.

            You might argue, “in the past, people were having children at 18 and they were just fine, something something moral decay”, but our current society is quite different from that of our agrarian ancestors. You might argue, “well then, society should go back to an agrarian lifestyle anyway”, but that’s a separate topic.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I still maintain that having a child at 18 is a very bad idea. People at 18 do not have the maturity, stability, and most of all income to properly raise a child.

            I see no reason an 18 year old (or at least a fair proportion of them) should not have the maturity to raise a child. We have not evolved to mature slower since the Industrial Revolution. In 1970, about 38% of first births were under age 20… in the United States.

          • Bugmaster says:

            @The Nybbler:
            I think part of the reason is that formal education takes longer. Yes yes, I know, cost disease and whatnot, but the fact is that nowadays we have more to learn. Our ancestors did not need to use linear algebra in their daily work; we often do.

            That said, maturity aside, it is the financial concerns that are IMO the most pressing. Children are expensive, especially when you consider the fact that one (or, ideally, both) of the parents would have to quit or suspend their job in order to fully dedicate themselves to raising the child. Where is the money going to come from ? Most people don’t have rich relatives…

          • DeWitt says:

            nowadays we have more to learn.

            Not immediately clear to me this is true. We have more to learn nowadays that isn’t so easily taught in situ, while you can dump a kid on a farm from the age they can walk and watch them learn, but not clear to me that we have more to learn than our ancestors.

            Children are expensive, especially when you consider the fact that one (or, ideally, both) of the parents would have to quit or suspend their job in order to fully dedicate themselves to raising the child.

            I think the idea that a child needs to have at least one parent around at all times and that things will go very very wrong if they don’t is one modernism that likely causes more damage than it does good.

          • Bugmaster says:


            but not clear to me that we have more to learn than our ancestors.

            You think linear algebra is exactly as easy as arithmetic ?

            I think the idea that a child needs to have at least one parent around at all times and that things will go very very wrong if they don’t is one modernism

            Well, firstly, the newborn child needs its mother around for quite a while, because that’s where breast milk comes from. Yes, artificial substitutes do exist, but research indicates they are still not as good. During that period, having the father at home could be helpful as well, because the child demands 24/7 care (besides just feeding), and people do need to sleep sometimes. Things get easier as children get older, but still, studies indicate that parental care is one of the deciding factors (though not the only one, of course) that affects the child’s future prospects.

          • DeWitt says:

            You think linear algebra is exactly as easy as arithmetic ?

            Not ten percent of people in any country end up learning linear algebra. It’s not clear to me that modern jobs require more knowledge than the ins and outs of subsistence farming.

            Well, firstly, the newborn child needs its mother around for quite a while, because that’s where breast milk comes from. Yes, artificial substitutes do exist, but research indicates they are still not as good. During that period, having the father at home could be helpful as well, because the child demands 24/7 care (besides just feeding), and people do need to sleep sometimes. Things get easier as children get older, but still, studies indicate that parental care is one of the deciding factors (though not the only one, of course) that affects the child’s future prospects.

            Yeah, I admit to being no expert on the matter of childrearing and just what might be more or less beneficial. I do know that more oldtimey sorts of labour didn’t require separation of parent and child the way work does now; it may be beneficial to further allow people to work from home. Ideally, we’d have ways that people’s work environments would be more child friendly in and of themselves, but I don’t see that going over well in a free market environment.

          • March says:

            Breastfeeding babies do need their mothers around for a while. If you want to avoid formula altogether, depending on the reason, you need at least a year of breastfeeding per child. (If the reason is something like water or food insecurity, you need more. If the reason is ‘benefits’, you don’t necessarily need more.)

            But that does not mean they need their mothers around 100% of the time, let alone that mothers and babies need to stay home by themselves all the time.

            Babies can eat expressed breast milk (though pumping is a tremendous hassle), so mothers can do other stuff. Babies don’t nurse all day long, so mothers can do other stuff. Babies nurse more quickly and less frequently as they go up in age (from 20 mins every 2 hours as newborns to 5 mins two or three times per day at a year), so mothers can do other stuff. Everything else but breastfeeding can be done by someone else.

            And just in case you’re thinking ‘but we WANT mothers to be the only people doing that, we don’t WANT them to do other stuff’ – as primary caregivers and household managers in large families, mothers will have to do plenty of other stuff even if they don’t work for pay. And if people want big families to come back in fashion, communities (and the stuff that needs doing for that) will also come back in fashion.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            My new co-worker just mentioned the term “standard deviation” and our management team nearly flayed him as some sort of witch, if that gives you any indication of the sort of mathematical knowledge that’s used on a daily basis for us normal people. Our manager took him aside and said in no uncertain terms that he should never use that term ever again, nor anything like it.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Beta –
            Because it is mathematical, or because they thought it referred to something else (standard social deviancy?)?


            Although, mathematically, it is a mysterious way of referring to “expected distance from an expected value”. Whenever I need to explain what it is and why it is important, I compare it to the formula for calculating distance in a two dimensional system, which turns it from “mysterious magic number” into something average people can sort of comprehend.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Because it is mathematical, or because they thought it referred to something else (standard social deviancy?)?

            The former, people do not like math beyond the simplest algebra. TBF, my co-worker was using the term incorrectly, but we were talking to an industrial engineer about variances between financial numbers and industrial engineering numbers and how to reconcile them, so the concept of a standard deviation wasn’t entirely unwarranted. We wouldn’t update a financial number to reflect an engineering number if the engineering number was within 1 or 2 standard deviations of the financial number, because we don’t need that level of precision in our factory and it takes a lot of effort to update a number.

            But we don’t look at standard deviations, we look at “wow, this report says we need to update 400 numbers, let’s decide a tolerance so we only have to update 200 numbers.”

            Honestly a lot of our work right now is around building out and correcting some of the simplest processes. Like, we do inventory counts, and post a correcting inventory entry. On Monday, you see that your inventory is 10,000, but SAP says 20,000. You post -10,000 to correct. That needs to go against entries from LAST week, not the CURRENT week, unless our factory has a time-travelling production team

          • John Schilling says:

            but not clear to me that we have more to learn than our ancestors.

            You think linear algebra is exactly as easy as arithmetic ?

            What does this have to do with being an eighteen-year-old mother? Or father?

            The things a parent needs to know to successfully care for an infant, are things we should expect just about everything to know by the time they graduate high school. And I’m not clear on when you ever need to know linear algebra to be a successful parent.

            Unless the argument is, 1. you need a secure middle-class income to be a successful parent and, 2. the only way to get a secure middle-class income is with a STEM career which, 3. requires linear algebra and 4. you can’t start raising babies until you’ve finished establishing yourself in your career. In which case, false, false, false, and false.

          • Bugmaster says:

            @John Schilling:

            The things a parent needs to know to successfully care for an infant, are things we should expect just about everything to know by the time they graduate high school.

            Which is what, exactly ?

            Unless the argument is, 1. you need a secure middle-class income to be a successful parent and

            Correct, sort of. You need to be able to provide everything the child needs, and to make sure someone (probably you) spends enough time with the child to make sure it grows up properly. There are ways to accomplish this without having a decent income, but they are exceedingly rare. Money makes the world go round.

            2. the only way to get a secure middle-class income is with a STEM career which

            Not the only way, of course, just one of the most common and easily accessible ones.

            3. requires linear algebra

            Oh, come on, you know that was just an example. I could’ve just as easily said “calculus” or “organic chemistry”. I picked linear algebra as an example because it’s one of the most common requirements among STEM fields, not because it is necessary and sufficient to enter a STEM career.

            4. you can’t start raising babies until you’ve finished establishing yourself in your career.

            You can, you just shouldn’t. Unless you’ve got some alternative source of income; or unless you plan to outsource child-rearing completely to someone else. These are edge cases, IMO.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Which is what, exactly ?

            Feed it, change it, play with it, don’t shake it.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Re: establishing yourself
            You can continue to improve your career with no obvious end. You go from temp to staff. Then you go from staff to senior. Then you can from senior to manager. Then you go from manager to director. Then….
            I’m in my early 30s and I have a bunch of friends that delayed child-birth in order to work on their careers. They are all succesful, but they are still growing in their careers. There is no obvious endpoint where they can say they have had enough. They can theoretically continue to grow into their 50s and 60s, which will obviously mean they will never have children.

            Assuming no recession, a typical college graduate could have a few years of work experience by 26 or 27. You can then take off some time and hopefully reintroduce yourself into the workforce at 35 or 36. You will have lost earnings, but you should still have some marketable skills.

            Re: middle class and STEM
            I obviously can’t speak for everyone, but a lot of my friends are paid for skills that aren’t obviously STEM-intensive. The managers at my office all make in the six figures, but their skills do not include high-level mathematics. Mostly they just majored in GSD (Getting Shit Done). A lot my friends with high-paying jobs were not particularly good in their quant classes in school (and I should know because I went to school with them). They have jobs that do not involve a lot of math….say financial analyst, brand manager, etc. These jobs pay reaosnably well but do not require advanced math.
            They do require some advanced computer skills, as long as your “advanced computer skills” means “Excel spreadsheet manipulation” and not database warehousing or whatever.

          • John Schilling says:

            Feed it, change it, play with it, don’t shake it.

            Or, linking to my post crossthread, mostly the stuff any teenager should have learned from their babysitting jobs, plus a few details that are at worst a phone call to (grand)mom away.

            And the material resources that are needed for this, are entirely within reach of a young couple that are still in the process of establishing their career(s). As long as you don’t insist on the absurd standard of a high-school dropout with a single minimum-wage job should be able to support a wife and 2.3 children at above the poverty level, this should not be a showstopper.

          • Bugmaster says:

            Feed it, change it, play with it, don’t shake it.

            That’s great in the beginning, but what about discipline training, potty training, proper diet, communication, the basics of reading, and a million other things that all snap into focus as the child grows up ?

          • Matt M says:

            Hasn’t science basically proven that none of that really matters very much at all?

          • baconbits9 says:

            That’s great in the beginning, but what about discipline training, potty training, proper diet, communication, the basics of reading, and a million other things that all snap into focus as the child grows up

            You literally have years to figure that stuff out. Perhaps proper diet is one that you reallllly want to get right away but having your kids potty trained at 4 or 5 instead of 2 isn’t going to harm the kid much unless you become an asshole due to irritation of changing 3 years worth of extra diapers. Even the diet one has a ton of wiggle room.

            Also why would a 30 year old with no experience with kids have any idea on how to do that stuff? I certainly didn’t when I had kids at 34, but as long as you do the “feed, change, play, don’t shake” you have time to work through the other stuff.

          • albatross11 says:


            Isn’t it remarkable how many kids seem to have been raised in the past, and to be raised today in poor countries, with young and not-very-educated patents, and still the kids turn out pretty well?

          • Bugmaster says:


            Isn’t it remarkable how many kids seem to have been raised in the past…

            I don’t know, is it ? What is the infant mortality rate in the past, and in developed countries, compared to the modern Western world ? What is the relationship between a young person’s earning potential, and basic literacy, numeracy, and education level ? If you control for genetics, do children with 8 siblings do better in life than those with 1 or 2 ?

          • Bugmaster says:


            but as long as you do the “feed, change, play, don’t shake” you have time to work through the other stuff

            Time is money, but money also buys you time. That’s one of the reasons why you need a good income: so you can afford to take time off work to figure all that stuff out (in addition to supplies, babysitters, medical expenses, and all the other things you’ll need, of course).

          • albatross11 says:

            I think the cause for the fall in infant mortality is pretty clear and well-known. It doesn’t involve requiring parents to be college-educated and established in their careers, it just requires proper water supplies, sanitation, nutrition, and vaccination, and that’s all stuff we have known how to do for a very long time.

      • Bugmaster says:

        In that case, we could make it so that any women without plans to marry and have children are automatically considered to be legally male.

        Props for exploiting the rules, but how does this raise the fertility rate statistic ?

        On the other hand, if you’re willing to be extra-dystopian, why not forcibly harvest eggs and sperm from your citizens ? This way, you could just IVF your way to victory. Cloning would be even better, but it doesn’t quite work yet, so IVF would have to do.

        • Perico says:

          Fertility rate is measured in children born/woman. I’m trying to inflate the statistic by reducing the denominator, removing women that don’t contribute to fertility.

          And yeah, the ‘dystopian’ option is pretty mild, considering the ideas that come up around here. Should have just labeled it as ‘slightly less nice’.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Note that you may also need to conscript women to carry the embryos to term.

          • Bugmaster says:

            You may not have to conscript too hard — some women volunteer to be surrogate mothers even in our current world, so financial incentives may suffice. That said, if you’re going the evil dictator route, conscription is always an option.

          • Deiseach says:

            Given the thriving trade in using Third World women as surrogates for rich Westerners, let’s go full Ultimate Dictator and say we permit practically unlimited immigration – of women willing to be surrogate mothers. Harvest the ova of the intelligent, college-educated women who can’t afford to take time out to have kids or else their career progression will collapse, fertilise them with carefully selected donor sperm, implant them in the surrogates, and away you go with a booming birth rate of high(er) IQ babies.

            We may as well farm out the caretaking to the immigrant women as well; those who have undergone (let us say) five surrogate pregnancies can now be baby-farmers or if that’s too raw a term, wet nurses/foster mothers in the tradition of the upper classes sending the kid off to the country to be nursed, weaned, and raised to early childhood in the healthy air of the countryside before being taken back to the birth family.

    • March says:

      Tie citizenship to parenthood: you only get to vote (+ whatever other personal citizenship benefits sweeten that deal) if you, individually, can prove that you’ve been the at-home caretaker of your baby for a full year during its first 16 months of life. (Adoption counts, for those who can’t have their own kids, I’m fine with people wanting to split into 2 half-year stints for 2 kids.) Enough people may want that third kid to just go for it to bring up the average to 2.2. People tend to say that ‘beyond two, it doesn’t really matter anyway’ – they’ll already have had to sort out work/daycare/sick leave/education decisions/savings and lifestyle – so if not enough people want a third, there are probably easy ways to incentivize it.

      That should shake up society enough to make people want to have kids early, having staying at home be an expectation would perhaps help re-institute the ‘village’ idea (many experienced child caretakers of all sexes around, less of an expectation of solitary mom + baby in a house while mom’s brain slowly drains out of her ears, less focus on sacrificing lifestyle/community for a single career), and the fact that EVERYONE’s expected to do that will do away with some mommy tracking/hesitancy to hire women.

      • Matt M says:

        Over half the population already doesn’t bother to vote, with virtually no restrictions or requirements at all.

        I feel like we have a lot of these “How do you incentivize X” discussions and a lot of people say “Tie it to voting” and I just don’t get it. In real life, a whole lot of people simply don’t care about voting. At all. It’s not nearly the incentive you guys seem to think it is…

        • March says:

          Hence ‘whatever other citizenship benefits.’ Tie it to being allowed to go to college, to buy a house, to move out of town, to have your own bank account – there’s gotta be some benefit of being a citizen of a country that people would be willing to do something for.

      • MartMart says:

        I remember reading that some societies didn’t consider people full adults until they had families of their own.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I’e seen complaints from people (probably mostly Americans) that their parents didn’t consider them adults until they had children.

          I don’t think it’s “some societies”.

        • March says:

          Something like that is very common. Still usually segregated in ‘woman does kid stuff, men does societal stuff.’ Let’s try ‘doing kid stuff is what GIVES you societal status’ for a change.

    • MartMart says:

      Assuming the country is wealthy, and you wanted to encourage the wealthiest to have more offspring, placing a hard limit on max inheritance might help. Do you want to keep the company you built in the family and not cut up and sold of? Better have lots of kids.

      Although I doubt there are enough wealthy people to have much of an effect on overall fertility rates.

      If I can skip over complicated mechanisms by saying “change the norm”, the change the norm where it becomes normal for you people to have children that will be raised entirely by their biological parents (and at the same time, a bit not normal to raise children who are your own, instead of grandkids)

    • AG says:

      Man, so many edgy trad “make more women stay at home” proposals. Boring.
      Spike the water supply with hormone of choice to make men docile. Revoke maternity leave requirements and replace them with paternity leave benefits. Complete research into artificial wombs and as Bugmaster jokes above, IVF our way to victory. Subsidize retired adults who take part in low-cost-to-free childcare.

      (Kudos the proposals that emphasize a gender-neutral approach to who is the homemaker.)

      • Bugmaster says:

        Complete research into artificial wombs.

        What do you mean, “complete” ? Had anyone even begun such research ?

      • The Nybbler says:

        Spike the water supply with hormone of choice to make men docile.

        This seems likely to have the opposite effect.

        • albatross11 says:

          1 Ban abortion.

          2 Spike the water supply with some medicine that interacts with birth control pills in a way that makes them ineffective.

          3 Profit. (Or at least have a big spike of babies till people figure out what’s going on.)

        • AG says:

          Making men docile leads to more of them to stay at home to take care of the kids, whereas we don’t know that feminizing women further will have as significant an effect. So it’s a greater increase in homemakers by the numbers.

          Remember, we’re IVF-ing our way to victory, so libido is no longer an issue. They just have to want kids, not sex.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Ah, I see; I thought making men docile and IVFing were separate suggestions, not all part of a whole.

      • idontknow131647093 says:

        Pray tell, who will be earning the income to pay for these children?

        • AG says:

          The gender-neutral effect of a decreased workforce results in high demand for the people left. Alternatively, as some other proposals have noted, community childrearing becomes its own market.

          And yeah this probably needs UBI too. Surely the “rich rewards that children bring” is enough to justify the expenditure, right? Kids over economy.
          plus once this surplus of kids grows up we can turn the tables on “one child” China in cheap goods production

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            But the best (correlative) evidence we have is that welfare policies decrease fertility. In addition the correlative evidence that feminizing men (lower T levels and sperm counts) also decreases their desire to have children (or that the lack of children causes them to have a reduced T/Sperm count).

            It seems to me your policy is actually just, “what we are doing now, but more” which is what is reducing fertility.

          • AG says:

            What kind of welfare policies? Aren’t most of them means-tested, which incentivizes more working that parenting?

            There’s a broader context behind those correlations driving the lowering of kids as a priority, and the need to accrue wealth (for survival or for status) is a huge part of that. Making the population more docile reduces the societal pressure on those fronts, which allows parenting to become a more desirable thing again.

            A lower sperm count is not going to make there be such a sperm:egg ratio that mass-IVFing is no longer an option. The act of sex will not be the bottleneck for child-count.

    • Bugmaster says:

      How much budget do I have, and what kind of coercive powers can I wield ? If I am a nigh-omnipotent dictator with infinite resources, then instituting death penalty for contraceptive use (as well as abortion, obviously); combined with free child care and financial incentives for mothers; should easily do the trick… But then, if I’m some sort of a godlike being, then I could just snap my virtual fingers and set the fertility rate to whatever value I want. On the other hand, if I’m a random peasant eking out a living through subsistence farming, I probably can’t accomplish much (besides personal survival).

      So, where would I hypothetically fall on this spectrum ?

      • Deiseach says:

        If I am a nigh-omnipotent dictator with infinite resources, then instituting death penalty for contraceptive use (as well as abortion, obviously); combined with free child care and financial incentives for mothers; should easily do the trick…

        Romania under Ceaușescu tried something along those lines, didn’t go very well – yes, it made the population boom but the country was in such a deprived state that many of those extra children ended up in orphanages which were genuine horror shows.

        To make it work, you have to have an economy sufficiently robust that (a) a single wage-earner can indeed be the breadwinner for a family of six (two parents and four children) (b) the children can be given adequate medical attention from birth, education, etc. (c) you are not at the same time pursuing stupid policies which are going to revert your nation to a state of utter chaos.

    • EchoChaos says:

      Whew, this really depends on a LOT of assumptions.

      For example, the easiest and fastest way for my country (United States) to do it is to annex Nigeria. That would immediately bump our combined birth rate over 2.1, plus the baby boom in both places due to the nasty little war.

      If we want to restrict it to the 50 states, then the next best way is mass immigration from Africa. No other continent has the birth rate they do, and immigrants tend to have an initial high fertility generation before they start regressing towards the mean. Done in less than a generation.

      However, if we want the native population to exceed that birth rate, that’s when we have to start having large societal changes (as if conquest and mass immigration aren’t). We need women to be engaged in the process, so the obvious tactic is government sponsorship of the religious movement most likely to have large numbers of children, the Quiver-full movement. While certainly not every woman would have 18 kids, a strong push in schools for that religion would cause many marginal women to have 1 more child and many others to marry. Should take 1-2 generations of government support to move above replacement.

    • sclmlw says:


      Given that any sub-population within the nation reproduces at a rate that is greater than or equal to 2.1 children, all other sub-populations will eventually cease to matter.

      The real question is: how do you increase the rate of the specific sub-populations you wish to be represented in the nation in the future. The answer to that is probably a strongly-held culture that’s passed down inter-generationally. So … probably religious groups. In that case, you’re looking at a future dominated possibly by Amish, Catholics, and Mormons.

      It’s also possible that high birthrate sub-populations continue to see defections from their ranks, such that they feed low birthrate sub-populations indefinitely. That may cause a yo-yo effect, where we see periods of high versus low birthrate and either worry about overpopulation or underpopulation by turns on internet discussions.

      • albatross11 says:

        For subgroups, we should probably think in terms of the fraction that boils off[0] vs the fraction that enters/returns. As far as I know, the high-fertility groups in the US are Mormons, Catholics, Amish, and Orthodox Jews.

        Mormons and Catholics go looking for converts[1]; Orthodox Jews and (as far as I know) Amish don’t. I’m not sure what would have to happen for an outsider to join the Amish, or how often it happens. (SamChevre would know, maybe he’ll comment?) And while Jews don’t look for converts, conversions *sometimes* happen.

        Also, among American Jews, I think Orthodox Jews are high-fertility, whereas Reform/Conservative Jews are low-fertility (roughly reflecting their social class among American whites). So probably you’d want to consider how often someone raised Reform/Conservative or even non-observant joins an Orthodox community. (I really have no idea how common this is or how it works.) I would expect that the inflow/outflow of Orthodox Jews is probably mostly with Reform/Conservative or to people who are non-observant but still think of themselves as Jews.

        [0] Greg Cochran likes to point out that “boiling off” can have a big effect over time on an endogamous group (one that almost never marries outside the group). That doesn’t apply to Catholics or Mormons, but it does to Orthodox Jews and Amish. Over time, if 10% of your members leave every generation, you’d expect the remaining part of your population to become increasingly adapted to the religion and its lifestyle and culture. If there’s no inflow, then in terms of evolution, the 10% who leave every generation look exactly like it would if that 10% died off before reproducing every generation.

        [1] And also for fallen-away members who want to return. My wife and I teach a baptism class in our parish. My impression is that a lot of people fall away from the Church in their early 20s and then come back when they get married or have a kid–probably largely because they’d like to raise their kid with some values other than those provided by American media culture. There are several couples who I don’t think I ever saw in Mass before they went through our class, but who are now regulars.

    • baconbits9 says:

      I think that virtually everyone has taken the wrong track here. Countries with extended maternity leave acts don’t tend to have above replacement level birth rates, and if it was the monetary cost you would see the lower economic classes having fewer kids not the middle and upper.

      The first step is to find a way to diminish or entirely shut up the people who spout off about motherhood being the hardest and or most rewarding thing in the world. Talking about it being difficult has the natural effect of causing women to push it back until they feel ready which in turn makes it actually harder for two reasons. First is that parenthood does result in a loss of sleep, and a fair number of challenges. You know when I was much more able to function just grabbing a few hours of sleep a night? When I was younger. You know when I had more energy to keep up with my kids? When I was younger. Starting younger makes the first kids easier, and makes the post 30 kids easier as well since now you have a ton of experience and know better how to get the kid to sleep through the night or even just to do the whole diaper change and put the kid back down without fully waking up yourself. Secondly tons of people have experience with small children as teenagers and into their early 20s. Younger siblings, cousins, perhaps nephews and nieces, babysitting, having kids closer to that age means you have more functional experience, plus your parents are closer to their experiences with kids and their advice is going to be better informed.

      The flip side is people who talk about how special it is to be a mother, most women don’t feel completely fulfilled by having a single baby and taking care of it. When they compare their experiences with one child to the supposed reward of having a baby it seems fairly natural that they would look elsewhere for fulfillment. The combination of anticipation from high expectations plus putting it off for years until they are ‘ready’ leads to a lot of disappointment.

      Next you want to address the support and advice that new mothers get. You need to drown out the mothers with 1-2 kids, holding down a career and writing advice columns for the NYT. They are inevitably either ridiculously productive and energetic and unable to emulate for most or misleading people about how their life really goes (either they have way more help, make way more money, or have worse behaved kids or something). If you want advice on parenting you should be turning to home schooling parents with 6 kids, you know PRACTICAL EXPERTS. People who literally have as many hours parenting in by 35 as many ‘experts’ will get in their whole lives. A little back of the envelope calculation tells me that even though my sister started having kids 8 months before I did I have about 5,000 more hours experience than she does being an active parent. If I home school through high school with 2 kids (our 3rd is on the way so it will be even starker)vs her 2 kids by the time my daughter is 18 you will be looking at 15,000-25,000 extra hours depending on how intensely we home school. That will be like 10 extra years of experience with a company, but I bet because homeschooling is fringe you will find people who would prefer her advice on parenting at the end of that period to mine.

      This, I think, would be a major point to raising (slowly) the birth rate. People like their kids the most when they are well behaved, and getting your kids to behave takes some skill. The sooner you can get your kids to act in a way that makes you like spending time with them (and also allows you to feel comfortable doing stuff either with them or without them) the more likely you are to have that 2nd and then 3rd kid. The more that people feel sleeping badly is a badge of honor as a parent the less likely they are to have more kids, how many people got their boy scout badges and then went back and earned the same one twice after all?

      • AG says:

        Sounds like the real solution is to genetically engineer all babies to be easy-peasy to raise.

        Parental sleep is an issue? Baby that sleeps on their schedule.
        Soothing crying is stressful? Chill baby that doesn’t get upset over as many things.
        Misbehavior is annoying? Chill kids that do as they’re told.
        It solves troublesome adults in the next generation, too!

        Hrm. Maybe the solution is The Matrix, instead…

        • baconbits9 says:

          Fake answer: That second generation would look horrible though.

          Semi real answer: The people who want kids that easy already get dogs and forgo them.

          Real answer: The sad fact is that most kids will sleep well if you do really basic stuff with them. 90% of parental issues can be solved by making sure the kid sleep, eat and are active at the right levels, none of which is rocket science for otherwise healthy kids.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Real answer: The sad fact is that most kids will sleep well if you do really basic stuff with them.

            Can you elaborate? I have zero personal experience, but everything I’ve heard on the subject from every other source says that it’s really, really hard.

            EDIT: I see your explanation downthread. I guess I have heard a couple parents talking about “you sleep when the baby does.” I got the impression it’s still not really easy, though.

          • March says:

            ‘Sleep when the baby sleeps’ can be hard for two reasons, as far as I know.

            First, you are a crappy napper. That happens, though I’ve never met a crappy napper who doesn’t suddenly turn into an OK napper if they’re tired enough (or skip their morning coffee). Also, faking a nap (lying down with your eyes closed) is almost as restful as taking a nap. Sure, if you have a baby who sometimes takes long naps and sometimes takes short naps, you might end up with some 10-min naps yourself, but I find that even those are better than no naps.

            Second, you prioritize other things instead of sleeping when the baby sleeps. If that’s fun stuff for yourself like reading a book, fair enough. (Brains need feeding too! Sometimes intellectual stimulation or connecting with the wider world is more important.) If that’s chores, I’d say you’re making a mistake. It’s very much possible to do chores when baby’s awake; they don’t need 100% focused attention.

            Source: parent of a 1-year-old who loooooves sleeping when baby sleeps.

          • baconbits9 says:

            To clarify a little- the first few months are going to rough on someone sleep wise, infants need to be fed at night for a while and there is no real getting around this. They steadily grow out of it though, waking less frequently and at some point you will theoretically be able to stop nursing back to sleep (I say theoretically because I know women who nurse their 2 year olds to sleep at night and whenever they wake up in the middle of the night, this is a terrible strategy IMO).

            everything I’ve heard on the subject from every other source says that it’s really, really hard.

            Sleep issues are recursive. It can be very difficult once you have a child who is not sleeping well for an extended period to get them to sleep well as they will either be making up for that during the day or will be sleep deprived and poorly behaved because of that.

            It is also more difficult with two working parents (or for single parents, duh) as you can’t separate the labor well or one person is perpetually put upon to get up with the kid at night, has to go to work all day and is going to be not so focused on working through the issues at night and will just do whatever to get them back down as quickly as they can.

            So yes, it can be difficult to get kids to sleep well, but I think the majority of the issues are in the arrangement of people’s lives and not some intrinsic value of small children.

    • Frangible Waterbird says:

      I want to suggest we find a way to reduce anxiety about parenthood across the board.
      So I ask y’all: HOW?

      Like… I would love to hear…
      Can you think of a time someone dramatically reduced your anxiety about parenting?
      Can you think of a time you might have done that for someone else?
      Bonus points for stories where someone posting on SlateStarCodex did this for you!

      (I know I’m a nobody who has no track record with this community, so here’s hoping at least one person really likes the question!)

      • baconbits9 says:

        I had a moment of clarity when my first was about 6 months old, I thought “how the hell did my mom handle 6 kids?”, it took less than 5 mins to realize I must be doing things wrong and there had to be an easier and maybe even easy way to be a parent.

        • Frangible Waterbird says:

          Then what happened?
          Did you start to change what you were doing like crazy?
          Start changing bit-by-bit, but a whole lot more chill than before?
          Begin an extended period of research?
          Something else?

          (also, gonna note that if someone is skimming and reads, “I had a moment of clarity when I was 6 months old,” it is amusing.)

          • baconbits9 says:

            I accepted the proposition that you can’t let the kid run your life, you don’t put the baby down when it acts like it wants a nap you put the baby down when you decide it is time for it to sleep. This one action fixed roughly half of the issues we were having, it turns out that kids aren’t so good at anything (duh) and by the time they are acting significantly tired it is to late. They won’t go to sleep easily on their own (at a young age) like that, this extended to other (dumb) things. Like eating, you don’t wait until the baby is crying to feed them, you get an idea of when they need to feed and then do it (this is more important as a stay at home dad as you don’t have the option to feed them almost instantaneously). When they get older you don’t wait until they are tearing around the house to get them some activity.

            There were some other things, one was that I stopped (for a short time) drinking coffee right when I got up. I found that bad nights of sleep for my son meant that he usually took an early nap. If I held off on the coffee I could take a nap on those days with him (and those are some high leverage hours of sleep) and then drink some when I woke up and the day was fine.

          • Frangible Waterbird says:

            Yesss… to young kids not being so good at anything.
            When our firstborn was an infant and would get sleepy/overtired, my husband would jokingly narrate for him, “Why can’t I operate my hands / arms / legs / eyes?!?! Why aren’t they doing what I expect them to do? Can’t… target.. objects…”

            Yeaahhhhh… discovering that you really can make things happen a certain way when you’re a parent, can exert your influence waaay more than you’d imagined… is AMAZING, and does make you want to run around and tell everyone you know who is a parent or who could be a parent someday.
            Admittedly, some of those things you’ve mentioned I should be shoring up my weaknesses in… getting the jump on the kiddoes when they need to get some activity, for example. So, thanks.

            I find myself unsympathetic to you b/c of the, “it took less than 5 mins to realize” part.

            I bet a lot of other people, when they asked the question “How do people handle raising 6 kids when I am going crazy trying to survive caring for one infant?” came to a different conclusion for straightforward reasons.

            For example, maybe they just assumed the answer was “badly.”
            Like… maybe they didn’t know that a parent being awesome at raising 6 kids was A THING. (You were able to see that up close and know that your mom was For Real Awesome. Presumably not perfect, but awesome.)

            Or, or… they tried child-training-ish stuff briefly, but they didn’t know their child had something medical exacerbating the situation… so things went very badly, and they threw out the baby w/ the bathwater. (to use an unfortunate metaphor; here the baby is an idea.)

            sort of like… these things are good and valuable, and yet the race is not always to the swift, etc. …nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to all.

            Oh, I like the mention of self-regulating RE coffee. Yeah, that could well be a key!

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I’m assuming that if there are six children, some of the child care gets delegated to the older children.

          • Frangible Waterbird says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz, that is reasonable and forward-looking.

            In certain situations interacting with little kids outside the home, my kids are slam-dunk more effective than I am.

            Like… when I have outraged a small child by being willing to (oh noes!) thwart said child’s will (!) or withhold some momentary desire…
            …that child will often quickly move to punishing me by avoiding me.

            BUT after a short time of this, I can whisper to one of my kids to go over and comfort / encourage / initiate play with said pouting-child…
            …and the kiddo is almost always able to accept that kindness!

            Most 2-4 year-olds I’ve used this on do not catch on to this good cop / bad cop routine!

          • baconbits9 says:

            I’m assuming that if there are six children, some of the child care gets delegated to the older children.

            Sure, also school for many people. But my mother was a little more extreme, we moved countries (to a place with no family of friends for her) when the oldest was 10 and the youngest was 3 months and she managed to get her master’s degree while her oldest was still in high school. That helped the realization process for me, if she could handle that situation then clearly I should be able to handle one small child.

            I find myself unsympathetic to you b/c of the, “it took less than 5 mins to realize” part.

            Would it help if I explained that the realization was along the liens of “wow you are pathetic, one kid is breaking you”?

            I am sympathetic with parents, I know that we get in our own way an awful lot, I think that ends up being the heart of the issue if you have healthy or mostly healthy kids. Going back to one of my earlier statements- if you want to learn how to raise you children better you need to look to people who are doing it so well that they feel they can handle a bunch more of them. Stop idolizing people who wear their exhaustion, stress, and their kids particular needs as a mark of being a dedicated parent.

            Or to put it more nicely.

            Parenting isn’t hard because parenting is intrinsically hard, parenting is hard because you are a novice making mistakes.

          • Frangible Waterbird says:

            Would it help if I explained that the realization was along the lines of “wow you are pathetic, one kid is breaking you”?

            Yes, that SUPER-helps!

            Sure, also school for many people. But my mother was a little more extreme, we moved countries (to a place with no family of friends for her) when the oldest was 10 and the youngest was 3 months and she managed to get her master’s degree while her oldest was still in high school. That helped the realization process for me, if she could handle that situation then clearly I should be able to handle one small child.

            That’s exciting to hear!

        • Deiseach says:

          The first one is the hardest because you have no experience and don’t know what you’re doing so every little thing is a crisis, the second one you’re more relaxed, and the third and fourth are “ah heck, they’re fine, they’re not on fire are they?” 🙂

          • baconbits9 says:

            Why the hell did I bother writing all of this when you are going to nail it in one sentence?

          • albatross11 says:


            A lot of parenting got easier after the first kid, when I realized they were hardy enough to survive the normal range of minor mishaps and falls and eating of bugs and such that small children sometimes do.

          • Viliam says:

            The first one is the hardest because you have no experience and don’t know what you’re doing so every little thing is a crisis, the second one you’re more relaxed

            Having two kids now, I can confirm how with the second one everything is easier and less stressful. (The difficulty only comes from having two kids instead of one.) I already knew how to hold the baby, how to put on the diaper… been there, done that, it’s just doing the same things again. Oh, and we have all the stuff, like clothing and toys. Hopefully, a year or two later the kids will play together and let the parents relax.

      • Plumber says:

        “Can you think of a time someone dramatically reduced your anxiety about parenting”

        Oh that’s easy.

        Thanks to a well-timed layoff, the 2008 stimulus package thar provides extended Unemployment Insurance, and a cheap rent controlled apartment in Oakland, I was able to stay home with my son for a year, which helped tremendously.

    • ing says:

      I think the main cost of having children is free time. It takes soo much time to raise a child.

      If I wanted to increase the fertility rate, I would improve availability of child care. The thing we call “school” would be renamed to its correct function, “child care”, and it would be free, and it would be available 24/7 starting at birth. If you want to sleep at night, or do fun things during your day, you can drop your kid off at child care as long as you want. We could raise taxes to pay for it. Perhaps the tax burden could fall more heavily on people who don’t have children.

      I don’t actually want to do this, because I think the world has too many people in it already. Global warming scales with population count. I think we should instead consider ways to tolerate population reduction — for example, increasing the retirement age.

      • baconbits9 says:

        If I wanted to increase the fertility rate, I would improve availability of child care. The thing we call “school” would be renamed to its correct function, “child care”, and it would be free, and it would be available 24/7 starting at birth. If you want to sleep at night, or do fun things during your day, you can drop your kid off at child care as long as you want. We could raise taxes to pay for it. Perhaps the tax burden could fall more heavily on people who don’t have children

        Fertility rates have been dropping as universal schooling has been expanding in developed countries. If anything this would probably dampen fertility rates.

        • idontknow131647093 says:


          I think these sorts of proposals have things backwards. Welfare and fertility are inversely correlated.

          • AG says:

            More of a hill, right? First-world nations may have passed the peak, but the global population has increased with uplift for a while by reducing infant mortality. Who’s to say there isn’t another inversion point by changing the economic model again for the first world?

            Capitalism increased wealth via increased productivity, but now additional productivity is getting eked out via decreased free time, so “welfare” as generated by capitalism no longer correlates with the things that promote fertility.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            Not welfare as in being well off, the social redistributive policies like food stamps ad cash welfare that are colloquially altogether referred to as “welfare”.

            I’ll agree that the increased QOL and reduced infant mortality have contributed somewhat to lowering the reproductive rate, but I don’t think that those things have driven modern societies to the sub-replacement levels we currently see. IMO that is a result of social engineering via things like education subsidies, increased costs of housing, breakup of communities, government caring for the elderly, etc.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think the main thing that happened to fertility is that we got effective birth control. Now, as soon as people have enough wealth, freedom, and education to realize that birth control is available, fertility drops.

            Sex is fun, but kids are an expensive pain in the ass[1]. When the only way to have regular sex with a healthy person of the opposite sex was to have a few kids, most married couples had kids. When it became possible to have regular sex without having kids, the number of kids fell off. There is no way we’re going back on that, either.

            So the thing determining fertility now is the decision about whether and when to have kids. And that’s where a lot of practical details of modern life (lots of schooling and starter jobs before you end up financially stable, routinely coming out of college with a bunch of debt, etc.) create incentives to delay having kids, or just never to have them. The US already has a pretty pro-natalist culture, so changing behavior by moving those incentives a bit isn’t an impossible goal–I’m not sure how you’d do it someplace like Singapore or Russia.

            That’s the place where I imagine the incentives could be changed toward higher fertility, if we somehow decided that was our goal. People of childbearing age decide not to have kids because of the costs to their education, career, quality of life, and pocketbook, so try to make policies that decrease those costs. The goal is just to encourage some couples who would have had two kids in their lives to go ahead and have three, by decreasing the cost of having an extra kid. I don’t think it would be so hard to establish a common cultural pattern of people marrying and having a kid while they were in college, and then heading off to start their adult lives from there. (I’m not sure that would work out better than what is common now, but I’m also not sure it would work out any worse than what we have now.) That would pretty directly lead to a higher fertility overall, since you’d have lots of couples starting their families a few years early.

            Making that work probably depends mainly on affordable housing, decent jobs, and good schools being available to people who can’t afford to buy into an ultra-expensive suburb, and who weren’t born into the top 1% of intelligence and work-ethic.

            [1] Worth every bit of the hassle, but there’s no denying either the “expensive” or the “pain in the ass” part, at least at times.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            One method of raising the birth rate would be to wait. I believe we’re undergoing genetic and memetic selection for the desire to have children.

    • John Schilling says:

      One that I haven’t seen mentioned: Reintroduce babysitting as a respectable job for average teenage girls(*). Which hasn’t entirely vanished, but does seem to have been deprecated in recent decades thanks to helicopter parenting and various moral panics. And that is inimical to human reproduction. In small part because having the flexibility to hire a local teenager on a word-of-mouth recommendation, as opposed to more formal child-care arrangements, reduces the opportunity cost of being a parent. Formal child care is good for “school ends at 3:00 every day, mom gets home from work at 5:00”, not nearly so good for “mom and dad both need a date night now, who can cover?”.

      In much larger part because babysitting is how adolescents learn that, yes, they can be confident in their ability to care for young children and that, really, caring for young children can actually be fun and rewarding in its own right. That, I think, goes a long way towards young adults deciding to have children as young adults rather than postpone it until some mythical future when they are “ready”.

      * And boys; I did a bit in my day. But the reproductive payoff will be larger with young women.

      • baconbits9 says:

        As a semi related point: Modern parents, specifically 2 income families, outsource a lot of the best parts of parenting and get stuck with a lot of the grind. If you drop your kids off at day care you do the “get them up, feed them, clothe them, get them out the door on time” followed by “pick them up, feed them, put them to bed” every day, along with all the laundry, shopping etc and miss out on a lot of the “look how cute they are playing together. They just learned something new, just got all the way across the monkey bars for the first time.” Having a babysitter who will feed, wash and put your kids down to bed for you (and if they do a moderately good job on the dishes great!) means you have traded what is often the most tiring part of your day for a relaxing part which is great (unless date night turns into fight about everything we have been holding in night, which can happen).

        Along those lines I find picnic dinners to be the best. Sliced bread, cheese, tomoatoes and some fruit = easy, cheap, quick cleanup and the kids only have to sit still for 5 mins. A nice private garden, a playground with shade or whatever means you can take it easy while spending time together, you kids get all the activity they want and you don’t have to spend $200 going ‘out’. We meet my in-laws 2-3 times a month for a picnic and it really has been a big improvement.

    • Randy M says:

      Having as many children as able ourselves.
      As was discussed upthread, being attentive to emotional & physical needs and establishing habits and routines to curtail the worst behaviors.
      Showing delight and joy in those children.
      Being forgiving of other people’s children’s moderate disruption and understanding of their problems.
      Offering help & advice to prospective or new parents.

      It’s not actually going to change the numbers much, but it’s a strategy we can employ despite having next to zero political/social power. (If I were to engage with the hypothetical on a policy level, I’d complain about time and money commitments of the expected 4-8 years of higher education during the time humans are most fertile and energetic, but that’s been covered).

    • Anonymous says:

      Many decent suggestions already.

      My preferred method, assuming non-omnipotence, would be to start dismantling the Prussian-model education system and repealing non-discrimination by sex. Concurrently, I’d start repealing and/or altering any laws that aren’t consistent with the Catholic faith, and get the Church authorities officially on board to run the culturo-social matters in conjunction with the State.

      The end goal of the educational ministrations would be that the average person should not be taught anything more than they need to know on public dime – basic literacy and numeracy, mostly. This should be attainable with no more than a year of schooling, tops. The Church and private individuals (especially parents) and institutions are expected to pick up anything else. (This is a roundabout way to remove as many females as possible from schools as soon as possible – simply banning female education, while more direct, would be more likely to get me toppled.)

      Removing anti-sexist legislation would make it much easier for employers to favour males in employment, for pragmatic reasons that should be obvious, and make more women have to land and keep a husband for sustenance. (Simply banning female employment would be simpler, but probably not effective or safe.)

      The rejiggering of law to meet with Catholic standards and the involvement of the Church in steering cultural matters should accomplish from both ends the renormalization of traditional mores. Abortion would be outlawed completely (it’s presently only mostly illegal), marital debt would be formally reintroduced (presently illegal), contraception would likely also be banned (presently legal), fornication and adultery would be criminalized, the State would simply recognize sacramental marriages (rather than have its own separate system) and divorce outside of annulments would be impossible.

      This should result in increased fertility in the long term.

      • a reader says:

        And what if Pope Francisc himself criticizes what you do? For such a program, probably Islam would be better than Catholicism – it resembles Houellebecq’s Submission. (a dystopia [spoiler] where France elects a Muslim president who transforms French society and life to conform to sharia [end spoiler]).

        • Anonymous says:

          And what if Pope Francisc himself criticizes what you do?

          What exactly would the Holy Father criticize here? Giving the Church back a lot of the educational authority it once wielded? Forbidding that which is already forbidden by Canon Law, the Cathechism, and the Decalogue? Upholding the Church’s longstanding teaching on the proper place of women, the purposes and terms of marriage?

          If he were to do any such thing, then he’d be undermining his own authority, and giving rise to yet more clamor that he’s a heretic. The local episcopacy would be extremely cross, at the very least, and likely uncooperative to implement any objections of that nature against my rule. I, personally, would ignore him and wait for him to die and be replaced.

          For such a program, probably Islam would be better than Catholicism – it resembles Houellebecq’s Submission.

          I would have been shot by Catholic guerillas within a week.

      • Deiseach says:

        This is a roundabout way to remove as many females as possible from schools as soon as possible

        I think there’s a queue of female saints, from the popular Mediaeval imagery of St Anne teaching the Virgin Mary to read down to our own day, who would like a quiet word with you about this (don’t mess with Ss. Scholastica and Catherine of Alexandria to start with).

        • Anonymous says:

          1. I don’t care about the odd saint or genius. Rewriting public policy to meet their idiosyncracies is at best expensive, at worst horribly counterproductive and devastating to the lower classes. The point is that Jane Doe should not be pressured to get any more education that is good for her.

          2. I didn’t even propose not teaching literacy and numeracy to women. They can have that just like the pleb men, who also don’t need overeducation (albeit they suffer less fertility loss from that than women do).

  17. Dave92F1 says:

    Boston meetup went great – I counted 20 people at once (probably the total was more – people came & left). Just hanging around, talking. (I was not an organizer – for those who were there, I was the old guy.)

    The venue (Starbucks) was kind of noisy and I think management wasn’t delighted with us (we were blocking the way to the toilets and not buying a lot of stuff).

    Nobody collected email addresses, but there’s a mailing list at!forum/ssc-boston.

    But it was great fun. Maybe next time we can do it someplace quieter?

    (Thanks to the organizers!!)

  18. Tenacious D says:

    Let’s talk about cheese. Do you have any favourites to recommend? Have you ever tried making it?
    I generally favour hard English- and Dutch-style cheeses (although I also really enjoy some goat cheeses). Some recommendations are Snowdonia’s wax-encased cheddar (they have one that’s infused with whisky which gives it a really interesting complexity) and Oude Rotterdamsche.
    Tortillons, which I’ve only seen in Eastern Canada, are a very tasty snack. These are fresh curds that have been stretched/twisted and then soaked in brine.

    • Brad says:

      I tried kunik this last winter and it’s a great dessert cheese. Goes well with a tawny port.

    • ana53294 says:

      I find halloumi cheese fascinating – because it has to be cooked before you eat it, and it has a very unique texture.

      Also, Norwegian brown cheese is great – it’s made with caramelized milk, so it’s sweet and salty at the same time. It kinda tastes like salted caramel.

      • Tenacious D says:

        made with caramelized milk


        • ana53294 says:

          Correction; it is caramelized milk mixed with whey. I only remembered that it is really tasty.

          Unfortunately, it is impossible to find in any supermarket. It seems to be a Norwegian specialty.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Gjetost cheese seems to be pretty available in the US, and I think it’s the sort of cheese you’re describing.

            It’s the only non-processed cheese I detest and I know someone for whom it’s the only cheese he likes, so it may be something of an outlier among cheeses.


          • FLWAB says:

            Traditionally Gjetost was made almost entirely from whey, and the process to make it is very different from traditional cheeses. If i recall correctly the whey was cooked slowly over several days in a big pot, until the sugars in the whey had caramelized and the whole mass solidified enough. Norway has a shortage of good farm and pastureland, but lots of forests so Gjetost was an culinary adaptation: fuel for the long cooking process was cheap, and milk was dear.

            Since it is not made from curds, it is understandable why it’s flavor and texture is so remarkably different than most cheeses.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I’ve only found a few Snowdonia cheeses around here– their Black Bomber (cheddar in black wax) is excellent.

      Prima Donna is an Italian cheese I like a lot– it’s half way between parmesan and Swiss.

      Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge is by a man who went from not knowing why anyone would care a lot about how something tastes to running the cheese department at the Rainbow Cooperative to learning a lot about cheese.

      He’s got a punk background, a respect for excellence, and a strong mistrust of pretension.

      This book will introduce you to a lot about cheese.

      Belgioioso Ground Asiago is the only mass-produced cheese he recommends, and I’ve found it’s a very good inexpensive parmesan-type cheese.

    • marshwiggle says:

      Favorite cheese: Proper mozzarella.

      Have I tried making it? Only ricotta, which is easy and requires no special inputs or equipment.

      Lastly, I may be making a mistake letting my wife read this thread. She may want to each each cheese mentioned now…

    • fion says:


    • Aapje says:

      Frisian Clove Cheese. Low-fat Gouda-style cheese with cumin and cloves. The cumin and cloves create a very nice taste.

    • AnarchyDice says:

      The sharpest and most aged cheddars are always good. I also like nicely aged asiagos and Wischego (Manchego but from Wisconsin) with a lot of umami. I can’t think of any specific ones, but the more aged the better.

    • rahien.din says:

      Cypress Grove’s “Midnight Moon” is right up your alley. A hard aged goats-milk cheese, produced in Holland for a Californian cheesemaker. Nutty and salty, with a smooth paste flecked with little protein crystals – basically a buttery goat Gouda. We order a big chunk of this cheese for special occasions.

      You might also like their soft goat “Humboldt Fog.”

    • liskantope says:

      Blue, blue, blue. I enjoy gorgonzola piccante, which is popular where I live now, and I’m also fond of Castello blue. As a guilty pleasure (guilty because indulging in a cross between two classic cheeses sort of undermines the cheese snobbery I identify myself with) I get cambozola (camembert crossed with gorgonzola) from time to time.

    • dodrian says:

      My favorite is a blue stilton – since moving from England to ruralish Texas I am no longer afforded the luxury of having a favorite producer – I’ll take any stilton I can find (as well as any other proper English cheeses that fit in my budget). The best stilton I ever had was a cheese course at a restaurant where it was served scooped from the wheel with a spoon.

      I enjoy introducing my American friends to wensleydale with cranberries, it’s usually something new for them but fits their palate well.

      With cheese I mainly enjoy trying new ones. There’s so much out there!

    • Bugmaster says:

      I like sheep cheese in general, and hard sheep cheese specifically. Goat cheese is good too, but some of it tends to be too salty for me.

      Oh, and I absolutely detest blue cheese. That’s right. Fight me, fungus lovers !!!111!

      • dodrian says:

        I will fight you. It sounds like you don’t appreciate good culture

      • AG says:

        speaking of fungus, I never eat the rind on brie anymore

        begone, funky tastes

      • Winter Shaker says:

        I like sheep cheese in general, and hard sheep cheese specifically

        Have you tried Zamorano? It’s not always easy to get hold of, but it’s my favourite hard sheep cheese.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        What would I fight you about? More blue cheese for me!

        However, a friend has anecdotal observation– the people he knows who are allergic to penicillin are revolted by blue cheese. Anyone have more anecdotes on the subject?

    • proyas says:

      I tried limburger cheese for the first time a few months ago, and it was great. I kept it simple by exactly following this recipe:

      ‘The classic way to serve Limburger is on rye bread with sliced red onion and brown horseradish mustard or sweet-hot mustard.’

      • Deiseach says:

        Alas, it appears I shall never know, even in phantasy by the strivings of imagination, the rare delights of such a cheese because clicking on the link brought me to this stern message:

        Wisconsin Cheeseman is based in the State of Wisconsin in the United States of America and operates solely in the United States. We do not market, sell, or deliver products outside the United States. This Website is for use only by persons located in the United States.

        Wisconsin Cheeseman makes no claims that the Website or any of its content is accessible or appropriate outside of the United States. Access to the Website may not be legal by certain persons or in certain countries.

        If you have any questions, please contact Customer Service at 1-800-837-0252.

        Truly it must be the ambrosia of the gods, and they guard its secrets jealously lest lesser mortals outside the blesséd happy land of Wisconsin should trespass upon their demense and by guile and deception bereave them as Heracles plundered the Hesperides of their golden charge by base trickery played upon Atlas!

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I’m hoping there are cheese distributors who sell American cheeses in the British Isles.

        • proyas says:

          Ha ha! That digital rebel yell is especially funny since limburger cheese originated in Germany.

    • smocc says:

      This comic captures my feelings about cheese well.

    • I’m fond of Gjetost.

  19. Old_onion says:

    Congratulations Scott,
    It looks like you were cited by the National Review again.

    • imoimo says:

      This is the first time I’ve read an article at National Review and I didn’t hate it (though it didn’t add much onto Scott’s article). Can I get some opinions on NR?

      • Reasoner says:

        I could reasonably be accused of being a right-wing moderate. NR seems to do a decent job of arguing for positions I agree with in a way that doesn’t strike me as excessively tribal. Not my favorite publication though; I would probably rate the Atlantic, the Economist, and the Financial Times higher (but maybe just on the basis of greater familiarity?)

        This chart seems to like them OK:

        • yodelyak says:

          Seconded that NR is right-ward and aspires to being reasonable/high-brow in a way that tends to make it moderate.

          +1 to both the Atlantic and the Economist as top notch. Dunno re: the FT.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Is it safe to come back to The Economist yet? I dropped them after 2016 due to the US section being consumed by TDS

            Edit: In fairness it was probably at a tolerable level for the print edition, especially compared to their peers, but I almost-exclusively used Economist Audio which really enhanced the obnoxiousness of everything being about Trump

          • gbdub says:

            Same question as Gobbobobble, but for the Atlantic?

            Actually I find myself there fairly often, the writing quality tends to be good and they cover interesting topics, but they’ve always had a streak of battier left mixed in. Right now one of their top stories is about how swim cap designers are contributing to structural racism by not selling caps that keep African American women’s hairstyles sufficiently dry. It is darkly hinted that there is a connection between this and black children being 5.5x as likely to drown.

          • dndnrsn says:

            My complaint about The Atlantic is that they have Frum there, who is aghast at what has happened to his conservatism, and at how uncouth Trump is. He just does not get that stuff like the war he propagandized for is one of the major reasons the Republican base rebelled against the traditional leadership. He also does not seem to get that as bad as Trump is, so far he has significantly less blood on his hands than Frum’s patrons do, and probably less blood than From himself.

            I think that’s way worse than the occasional injection of silly idpol left stuff. The Atlantic is generally a good mouthpiece for the American centre-left, and is generally able to extend some charity to people who aren’t intellectual fellow-travellers. That they’ve got a guy who is arguably a really low-level war criminal waxing outraged about how bad the thugs who have taken over his precious, innocent conservatism is? Eyeehhhh…

          • albatross11 says:


            Connor Friedersdorf writes for the Atlantic, and seems to me to be a critic of the SJW movement who engages honestly with them. He strikes me as somewhere between moderate Republican and libertarian, but definitely isn’t a cheerleader for the right, either the Bush/neocon types or the current Trump types.

          • dndnrsn says:

            And now he’s done an article saying… democratic socialism would hurt women and minorities. Conor Friedersdorf… with a salvo against the brocialists? Astonishing!

            I thought he was a boring mainstream democrat, maybe a little too sympathetic to the Hated Enemy?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I’m pretty sure Conor Friedersdorf has always been right of center and libertarian leaning.

            Now the Trump presidency is scrambling some people out of the right wing coalition, so I guess he could be considered “left” now, but only in the sense that Frum, Navaro, etc are.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I’d always interpreted his shtick as “guys, I’m vaguely centre-left just like you are, and we need to stop scaring away people who are slightly to my right” but I will admit that this is largely “he’s writing for a magazine that is vaguely centre-left” and so he therefore must be vaguely centre-left until I learn otherwise.

          • Deiseach says:

            And now he’s done an article saying… democratic socialism would hurt women and minorities.

            Well, that’s interesting: any mention in it of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, woman, minority and member of the Democratic Socialists of America, and all over the place recently as a Shining Great Hope for the Democrats? Granted, it’s the usual suspects pinning their hopes on yet another Shining Great Hope, but it seems as if democratic socialism hasn’t hurt this minority woman any too much!

          • dndnrsn says:

            His argument, as far as I can tell, is that capitalist markets provide a way for minorities to get what they want, as long as they have money. Conversely, popular control over production would hurt minorities.

      • nameless1 says:

        You wasn’t paying attention lately. Now they have things like an openly gay writer advocating that conservatives should accept trans people. They moved into the center in the recent years.

      • Yakimi says:

        Open any copy and you’ll find advertisements for cruises and mobile scooters. It’s a publication by and for obsequious and geriatric boomers who want to relive the confident unity of post-war, pre-Vietnam America. A complete nonentity, in my opinion.

      • christianschwalbach says:

        Its op eds by editorial board can come off as tribal in a way . They may pay lip service to being centrist and attempting to understand differing views, but I have never finished one of those articles without running into an “all Bernie Sanders, etc… policies are terrible” quip. Sanders, like all public policy promoters has good and bad ideas, so NR isnt nearly centrist enough for me

        • gbdub says:

          I mean, they are fiscally conservative and uneasy with populism. Exactly what of Bernie’s proposals do you expect them to like?

          NR is establishment Republicanism with an intellectual streak. It’s for blue tribe Republicans, basically. There’s an article on there today arguing against the Never Trumpers that considers the lessons of the Ptolemists fading in the face of the Copernicans and casually slips in some legal Latin while also “lamenting” the “low tone” that Trump has brought. Readers of the Atlantic and National Review have a lot more in common outside of politics than NR fans have with Rush Limbaugh listeners.

      • FLWAB says:

        I like their writing but I avoid the site because for years it has terrible ads that would significantly slow down my browsing speed. My (fairly old) smartphone would take ages to load an article, and then the whole thing would crash because of some auto-playing video ad. I think things have gotten better lately but I still avoid the site because of it.

      • mdet says:

        I regularly go to The Corner, which is the blog section of National Review, and look for David French, Jonah Goldberg, and Rammesh Ponnuru especially. I think they’re pretty charitable and accessible for someone coming from the center-left. I go to the Atlantic for Friedersdorf specifically. He was the first person to convince me that I could learn something by listening to people to my Right and extending them charity.

        • imoimo says:

          That’s now on my reading list, thanks!

          P.S. Having weird issues using the back button on mobile at that link for some reason.

    • historiaekatharsium says:

      Our family has pretty complete collections of early 20th century children’s books, including for example Baum’s Oz books, Lofting’s Doctor Dolittle books, and Lang’s Coloured Fairy books.

      The literalist definition of “racism” that is advocated by National Review would require that we pass over in silence passages like this one, from the Preface to Lang’s The Brown Fairy Book (1904)

      The stories in this Fairy Book come from all over the world … [as] told by Mrs. Lang, who does not tell them as they are told by all sorts of outlandish natives, but makes them up in the hope white people will like them, skipping the pieces that they will not like.

      One century and more later, isn’t it still true today, that cultural institutions like National Review still are promulgating Fairy Tales about racism that denialistically “skip the pieces that white people will not like”?

      In contrast, an appreciation of the Coloured Fairy books that is a nuanced, universalist, feminist, non-culture-warring, and culturally and cognitively homological — here “homological” is used in Colin McLarty’s sense, see above — is Sarindar Dhaliwal’s warmly humane art-installation the green fair storybook (2009); this work is especially commended to SSC readers as an antidote to the denialist fulminations of National Review.

      Also, especially for children and the young-at-heart, Lara Shigahara — already celebrated for her song Cube Land and game Rakuen — has just announced the coming release of her latest project (together with the renowned animator slamacow)  … a video show called (provocatively?) Farmer In The Sky. Holy Heinlein, here happens homological heresy! 🙂

      • Peffern says:

        I finally caught one of these before I read all the way through it!

        “Go away, John”

        • James says:

          Congrats! How does it feel to join the club?

        • Kestrellius says:

          Could I get an explanation as to who this guy is and why everyone is telling him to go away? I feel like I’ve missed something. Is this somebody who was banned, or somesuch?

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Repeatedly. The original ban was under the handle John Sidles and who knows how many alts (or suspected alts) have been banned since. The ban is unique in that it wasn’t for any particular offense against the 3 Gates, but for pernicious Time Cube-style lojicks that are the perfect nerd-sniping material for SSC.

          • Lambert says:

            Is he not IP-bannable?

  20. Freddie deBoer says:

    why come latitude and longitude use two different systems? Like longitude lines all meet at the poles whereas latitude lines are concentric circles that never meet. I mean obviously there’s a North and South Pole, right. But you could have a concentric ring system and still have the poles as long as the biggest circle runs through both. And conversely you could establish arbitrary East and West poles and have the whole lines that meet dealie. Why not use one system?