More Links For November 2014

Today’s thing which affects weight gain and is neither eating less or exercising more: exposure to ultraviolet radiation (warning: in mice). And it seems to work independently of Vitamin D, which has some relevance to the many studies showing sunlight has all sorts of good effects which just taking a Vitamin D pill can’t replicate.

Ross Douthat: how worried should we be about the decline in cults? I mean, there’s an obvious good side, ie fewer cults, but does it say something broader about a loss of creativity and nonconformity?

You probably all know about the phrase “turtles all the way down”, so I’m just posting this here as a reminder to myself to use its history and etymology next time I need an example of memetic evolution from a mildly amusing precursor to a nearly perfect version that goes viral.

A study confirms that global inequality is decreasing, an effect powered primarily by people in rapidly-developing countries growing closer to their developed counterparts. But before you celebrate too much, remember that at some point most countries will have caught up with each other and then global inequality will be driven by within-developed-country factors, which are pretty much all tending towards increasing gaps.

The kind of car they drive in Raikoth.

Things that exist: a Disney sitcom about a dog with a blog called Dog With A Blog.

Things I didn’t know: along with their infamous attempts to cast doubt on climate change, the Koch brothers also support gay marriage, cuts to the military, and the American Civil Liberties Union. It is nice that they are working to build a better society, but it would be even nicer if we could be sure we’d still have a planet to put it on.

Two genes have been found to have a significant association with violent crime, with an odds ratio as high as thirteen times the violent crime of the general population (!). The particular gene was already pretty well-known and has been discussed to death, but this acted as confirmation and gave an especially impressive picture of effect size. Since someone will bring up differing frequency in different ethnic groups, here’s a non-terrible discussion of that particular angle. Interestingly, there have already been court cases in which defendants have used a positive test for their gene to “excuse” their crime and decrease their sentence. The philosophical implications of this are confusing and probably too long to get into in a links post.

I always knew “anchorite” was something vaguely like a hermit, but I don’t realize how, uh, metal it was until I read Wikipedia’s anchorite article. After having the rites for the dead said over them by a priest, anchorites would entomb themselves in a tiny cell, with only a tiny opening through which food and water could be passed, and remain there without leaving for the rest of their natural lives, possibly decades (Ozy asks: “Can you have books? I think I would be okay with that if I got books”).

Sardinia is asking to be taken over by the Swiss, on the grounds that the Swiss seem better at running things than the Italians. Aside from the fact that it’s not going to happen, this sounds like a hugely important innovation in governance, adding a third prong to the ideas of competitive governance which so far consist mostly of charter cities and vague motions at running nations like corporations. It seems to keep the best features of colonialism (having corrupt areas with no history of effective self-government ruled by extremely competent foreigners) while throwing away the worst (because presumably if you invite the Swiss in, your association with them is voluntary and you can kick them out if they don’t do a good job). Add something where the Swiss get to keep 10% of whatever they add to Sardinia’s GDP and you’ve got a business model. Cowen memorably describes it as “competitive federalism on a world scale”. I hope the next US election includes a “forget politicians, just let the Swiss run America and see what happens” option.

Read Montague and team try to predict political orientation from fMRI correlates of disgust response. Not even anything obviously political, just how your brain reacts when you see a picture of a dead body. Now, I’m not super knowledgeable about ROC curves, but if I’m reading this right, they got 98 – 99% accuracy. Can that be right? Is this just one of those overfitting things where they’re doing machine learning on too little data and can explain anything they want? Or does some kind of neural disgust wiring explain almost all of politics? Somebody help me out here.

We know genetics causes 50% to 80% of variability in IQ. But no one’s ever been able to find a gene that explains more than a fraction of a percent of that. Is everything extremely rare mutations? Or is there some kind of very bad paradigm failure going on here? A study from 2013 that I just noticed finds that, no, common and easily testable genetic markers explain at least 50% (and probably more) of heritable IQ variance. That means we’re not likely to get some kind of huge breakthrough and we’ve just got to tediously go through each of a couple thousand genes and catalog the tiny contribution made by each and how they interact.

Speaking of IQ, Dalliard’s article Is Psychometric g A Myth? starts by accurately noticing that “as an online discussion about IQ or general intelligence grows longer, the probability of someone linking to statistician Cosma Shalizi’s essay g, a Statistical Myth approaches 1″ and goes on to try to refute the article. I had trouble understanding Shalizi’s original, but found Dalliard’s sketch of Shalizi much easier – which means either that he’s a vastly better writer or that he’s strawmanning him to something simpler and less compelling. I am pretty confident that Dalliard successfully refutes Shalizi’s argument as he understands and portrays it, but I’ll have to reread the original to make sure he gets the argument itself right.

I said last month that Leah Libresco won Halloween, but that might have been premature. Ben Hoffman dressed up as the book Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies

I will always link my ingroup: Artificial Intelligence – Machine Versus Man. Good profile of MIRI (though see Luke’s clarifications) and some other people involved in the same line of work. Some of whom are more clueful than others – Peter Diamandis is quoted as saying: “Why would machines bother to harm us when we are as interesting to them as the bacteria in the soil outside in the backyard?”, which comes off as less reassuring than he probably intended given that as I write this a dirt field outside my office is being paved over to build a new parking lot (with the consequences for its soil bacteria best left unstated). Much more interesting: Larry Page is reading Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies. That might be the best AI risk-related news I’ve heard all year.

The Left learns how to play the “take an old party platform, see how it has changed, and use it to show that modern society has drifted in the wrong direction” game. And they’re doing a pretty convincing job. Compare section 3.5 here.

Media antics: CNN reports that a certain candidate “won 52-47 among women”, which he did. Salon states that this is racist, because the candidate lost among the subgroup of black women, so to say he won among women means that you’re claiming “women of color are some separate entity, some mysterious other, some bizarre demographic of not-women.” Has now turned into giant flame war, see eg Salon Writer Condemns Arithmetic As Racist, which seems like about the correct angle. Maybe we’ll get lucky and it’ll turn out to be that Salon parody site people keep confusing with the real thing?

Trouble At The Kool-Aid Point. Originally written about women in women-hostile fields, it compares harassment to the “Kool Aid Point” in consumer brands where a brand which is too successful starts to inspire backlash (eg “If you use Apple, you’re a sheep”). I think the idea is that women can do okay in these fields if they don’t stick out, but once they gain some measure of fame people start harassing them under the cover of trying to be the person bravely pointing out how undeserved their popularity is. Most of the commentary I’ve been reading has gone beyond the original gendered presentation to discuss how this happens to anyone popular. My personal go-to example would be that as soon as HPMOR became popular, it inspired all of these hate blogs and hate forums attacking it and Eliezer personally under the guise of “righting the wrong” of it being more successful than it “deserved”.

After the mid-term elections is as a good time as any to review the arguments that Obama is basically a Republican. Alternately, maybe the Obama administration has pursued a surprisingly conservative defense policy because the President has a lot less power than the “second government” of diplomats, military brass, and various levels of advisors.

First rationalist to get elected to a state legislature starts a blog for her constituents, name-drops Less Wrong and the sequences. What was I saying about always linking my ingroup? But I feel kind of bad because she’s getting more attention from rationalists than her actual constituents, so maybe don’t bother her too much.

Prisoner’s Dilemma tested among actual prisoners, find that they cooperate much better than the general population. I’m not too surprised. They’re in an environment where they feel like an oppressed group defined in contrast to a much larger group, and that tends to build cohesion (see: norms against ‘snitching’). I can’t access original paper to see if the study was anonymized, but if not that’s another factor – I’d hate to be the guy who defected against my cellmate.

Vox: Give the Democrats some credit for America’s economy recovering much quicker than any other developed nation, plunging unemployment, decreasing household debt, and other generally-ignored indicators of economic health.

Related: Asian-Americans are voting more Republican. This should probably be a bigger story for the Republicans than it is. First, the conventional wisdom is that Republicans are doomed because immigration will alter the future demographic makeup of the US in favor of minorities, who heavily lean Democrat. But Asian-Americans are one of the fastest increasing minorities, so if GOP can capture Asians while Dems capture blacks and Hispanics, they can stand their ground a little better. Second, the Democratic talking point will always be “GOP is the party of racist white people, Democrats are the party of vibrant diversity”, but if the Republicans can get a minority on their side, it will start looking like both parties are multiracial coalitions of different groups. That will confound the Democratic narrative and maybe it would force everybody to think about race and politics in a slightly more sophisticated way.

Related: the biggest lesson of the midterm elections is that unprincipled destructive obstructionism works.

Very related: Nick Land’s electoral strategy would be for the Republicans (or, I guess, the Democrats if they wanted to try) to try to get as much power as possible except the Presidency. Then use their power to obstruct things and ruin the country. The public will blame the (opposite party) President, allowing your party to gather even more power. Then rinse and repeat in a vicious cycle, gradually chipping off Presidential powers so that you control everything. The only downside is that you have to ruin the country for it to work. One may debate how much of a difference this represents from business as usual

Group selectionism has long been considered pretty dead in the evolutionary biology community. But I was recently clued in to a couple-year-old flare-up of the old debate. Biology titan E. O. Wilson published a paper The Evolution of Eusociality claiming that eusociality – the extreme form of cooperation found among insect colonies like ants and bees – could not have evolved through kin selection (as previously believed) but must have evolved through group selection (ie colonies where everyone cooperates beat colonies that don’t). The theory was met with very strong (and sometimes unnecessarily personal) opposition from other important biologists including Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne, although Coyne seems to unexpectedly admit the main point that kin selection can’t produce eusociality, which was news to me. Here’s another biologist who gives a good overview of the entire debate. Of interest to me because of the importance I place on this same process in human affairs; people will always be irresistably incentivized to defect, but this is held in check by a counter-incentive to form cooperative communities that spread by group selection.

Stuart Armstrong on explanations for unemployment. Most people familiar with economics know that in theory unemployment shouldn’t exist, since an oversupply of workers should lower salaries until the supply exactly matches demand. But it’s worth remembering how important this process is. If the employment market cleared, then every abled person could have a job in their field, the need for the social safety net would go way down, and people would be able to leave toxic workplace environments knowing there would always be another job they could go into. As such, “why does the employment market fail to clear, in defiance of classical economics?” becomes an important question.

If you’ve read the story of MsScribe, you already know how Internet harrassment + sock puppets + social justice can be a toxic combination. A science fiction author is found to secretly be the same person as a blogger called RequiresHate who uses social justice rhetoric and out-of-context quotes to rile up mobs, send them to harass and threaten competing writers, and damage their careers. She has since given a very partial apology, but her supporters have defended her by saying that it’s racist for white people to police people of color in how they respond to racism – meaning probably there will be no consequences and the same sort of thing will continue. I worry that this sort of thing seems to happen in any community that reaches more than a certain percent social justice people, and it’s one reason I get so paranoid about social justice memes entering communities I care about.

Leah Libresco was one of the first people to link to my old LiveJournal and so helped me get my start in blogging. She’s also put me in touch with some of the best parts of the Catholic blogosphere, given me a place to stay when I visited DC, and sung the part of Cerune in my version of “Philosopher Kripke”. So of course I will advertise her new book on Catholic prayer for her, even though it’s probably not quite targeted at the SSC demographic. Its website describes it as “cobbling together a creole as best I could, building up my understanding of spiritual life using the tools and analogies that I already had…using the way that subroutines are nested safely in bigger tasks in computer programming as I tried to figure out how to wrap the Liturgy of the Hours around my hectic, day-to-day life…relying on my understanding of cognitive biases like the sunk cost fallacy when I tried to figure out what made it hard to go to Confession.” So okay. Maybe kind of targeted at the SSC demographic.

But if you’re so irredeemably evil as to be beyond any hope of divine salvation, don’t worry: Nick Land also has a book out.

302 thoughts on “More Links For November 2014

  1. Michael Dickens

    After looking at the article on the Abbott vs. Davis vote, I was actually most surprised to see that Davis won 93% of the black vote. That seems extraordinarily high. I did some Googling to try to find a good explanation, but I couldn’t find anything. Does anyone have any idea about this?

    1. Anonymous

      In a typical Texas gubernatorial election, about 15% of blacks vote R. So this time half the black Rs voted D. Is that extraordinary? There was an equivalent swing in the opposite direction not so long ago: 27% of blacks voted for Bush’s 1998 reelection. wikipedia has numbers going back to 1994.

  2. Jos


    I’m not sure how much of your Koch note was tongue and cheek, but I frequently feel motte and baileyed by proponents of strong intervention in the climate. I’d love to read your thoughts sometime on (1) what facts do you feel have iron clad consensus; (2) how do you think we should debate the remainder of relevant facts; (3) what responses to climate seem nigh-indisputably obvious to you and which are in debate; and/or (4) are there any arguments in favor of carbon rationing that don’t also indicate we should be massively reasearching geoengineering.

    (I mean, if we’re willing to risk the lives that will be lost if we slow economic growth because there’s a risk of catastrophic climate change, and if our best estimate is that the risk of catastrophe won’t be reduced much by any feasible carbon rationing, then shouldn’t we at least be researching geoengineering as if our lives depended on it?)

    1. Samuel Skinner

      Not Scott, but

      ” (1) what facts do you feel have iron clad consensus;”

      -The temperature pattern (up until 50s, drop until 70s, up until late 90s, stable) is fundamentally accurate
      -CO2, methane and water vapor are greenhouse gases
      -humans are producing more CO2, methane and other greenhouse gases than are being absorbed so the overall amount in the atmosphere is increasing (well, CO2, methane drops out rapidly)
      -this is having a positive effect on the temperature

      That is it. The temperature range is disputed, the effects of the change is disputed and feedback effects are disputed. That is perfectly normal, but it means if you standard is “iron clad” you won’t be counting them.

      “(2) how do you think we should debate the remainder of relevant facts;”

      China is almost at the point it produces more CO2 than the US and EU. With India kicking into gear, domestic effects will be increasingly marginal (more so in smaller countries).

      The focus should be on making some sort of technology to reduce emissions that is adoptable by China and India as a replacement to coal power plants; something along the lines of economically worthwhile solar cells or just straight up subsidizing their domestic nuclear power programs.

      “(3) what responses to climate seem nigh-indisputably obvious to you and which are in debate;”

      If there are tipping points then nearly every reduction has a benefit associated with it, if there aren’t then the marginal cost of most policies is too high. So most policies make sense in the former, but no latter case.

      “(4) are there any arguments in favor of carbon rationing that don’t also indicate we should be massively reasearching geoengineering. ”

      Sort of; if you believe the climate can radically change states then geoengineering could possibly cause such a shift; if you think only gradual change is possible, then there is no risk to geoengineering.

      “(I mean, if we’re willing to risk the lives that will be lost if we slow economic growth because there’s a risk of catastrophic climate change, and if our best estimate is that the risk of catastrophe won’t be reduced much by any feasible carbon rationing, then shouldn’t we at least be researching geoengineering as if our lives depended on it?)”

      Sort of; unlike other options geoengineering inherently has a political issue. Namely if you change the climate, people are going to blame you if they get the bad end of the stick (and someone will be getting the bad end).

      1. Anthony

        You’ve completely missed the question of “How bad is it really if the temperature goes up?” There’s very little “iron-clad consensus” on that, either. There are some benefits to small increases in temperature, and not all the harms are as certain as they’re usually made out to be.

      2. Samuel Skinner

        I’m assuming there are transition costs to changing temperature (not really unreasonable) and that they are likely to swamp out any benefits to a warmer world because global warming is a continuing process (namely the climate will continue to change and you will have to continue to adapt as long as the system is at disequilibrium).

        Of course this doesn’t apply if negative feedback increases overtime, there is a saturation level for CO2 or climate can radically shift (in which case you don’t have to pay continuing transition costs).

        Also an increase in temperature doesn’t have to be bad in order to get people to oppose global warming; while having a different climate might be better, sea level rises are pretty much a net loss. I don’t know how much of an impact that will have; it could be negligible or drown out any of the other effects. I mean the temperature has been pretty stable and the two things that come to mind are “Chinese pollution” and “energy used to change phase state of water from solid to liquid”.

        On the plus side I’ve always wanted to see what Antarctica and Greenland looked like.

        1. Jos

          Thanks Samuel and Anthony. That’s my assumption too. I was mostly curious about why Scott implies that the Kochs are beyond the pale, but that led to general curiousity about how he approaches climate overall.

          My largely uninformed take overlaps yours – that the best reasonable estimate is that we are going to see a moderate increase in temperature no matter what we do on carbon rationing, and that this increase might be net neutral, net negative, or net positive to the human race as a whole, but will severely affect people whose homes or climates are rendered less habitible or uninhabitable.

          On top of that, there’s a small but unknown chance that human activity on the present course might be the difference between catastrophic failure, up to and including the collapse of civilization, and a mere increase in temperature. Carbon rationing would reduce this chance by a smaller and also unknown amount, and would also reduce our chances of innovating out of this and other unforeseen problems by small but unknown amounts.

          Given those assumptions, it seems obvious to me, FWIW, that we should be researching geoengineering like our grandchildrens’ lives depended on it. If we really believe that maybe we’re headed for catastrophe no matter what carbon targets we agree to, then shouldn’t we be trying to avoid that?

  3. Zubon

    Read Montague and team try to predict political orientation from fMRI correlates of disgust response. Not even anything obviously political, just how your brain reacts when you see a picture of a dead body. Now, I’m not super knowledgeable about ROC curves, but if I’m reading this right, they got 98 – 99% accuracy. Can that be right? Is this just one of those overfitting things where they’re doing machine learning on too little data and can explain anything they want? Or does some kind of neural disgust wiring explain almost all of politics? Somebody help me out here.

    I have statistical training but am also not an ROC expert. There are a few large grains of salt:

    1. The predictive effectiveness is within the training data. That is, within the 83 test subjects, after using them to derive a fitted formula, applying that fitted formula back on the 83 correctly classifies them. This is not an especially interesting result.

    2. “Out-of-sample prediction using the split half approach” starts on page 20 of the supplemental information. That is where they apply the same procedure to half the data and see how well it applies to the other half, which is a more interesting result. The best number they could get there was 52%. They are changing terminology there (so I could be misunderstanding) and not using the same measures (suspicious), so I am not clear if they are claiming “slightly better than chance” or “explains 52% of the variation.” Because it is buried in page 20 of the supplemental material, I tend to suspect the worst.

    3. Adjusting for data mining would be important here. They are quite open about having run the calculation all sorts of ways and gotten different results, so many that it would take me a long while to sift through them to see if one is a better number than the other. The biggest numbers are highlighted individually, then some of the others are presented in a big clump. Again, suspicious. Note, for example, that 52% in the supplemental information is followed by an explanation that they get 40-52% if they group the test subjects differently, meaning 52% was the highest number they could get; it could be surprising if the direction of analysis was “this sorting method is the best one, and look it gives us the best number,” rather than “this sorting method gives us the best number, therefore it is the best method.” But full kudos for including enough numbers to let me raise this suspicion coherently.

    4. Standard critique about small, potentially non-representative samples, especially given that the big discussion is about applying the method within the training group rather than seeing how well it predicts a rather different group. The test subjects were significantly younger than the average American, leading one to wonder, “Did you round up a group of students again?” American university students are not a representative sample of the population.

    5. With any fMRI study, I always remember the dead salmon study. “Across the 130,000 voxels in a typical fMRI volume the probability of a false positive is almost certain,” the authors explain, so they did a standard fMRI analysis on a dead salmon, producing statistically significant results. My first point was that you should re-test your data using something other than the training group; my last point is that you should re-test your data using a dead fish, and if your result still holds, there is something wrong with your result.

  4. Anonymous

    The “Obama is a Republican” meme is pretty silly. Yes, in terms of drugs and drones he comes across a lot like Bush, granted. But would Bush have ever passed Obamacare? Can you even dream of a world where Bush issues a threat to some tin-pot dictator and doesn’t even try to follow through?

    Also, while I’ll certainly agree that Washington is well-obstructed these days, I’ll disagree that it’s unprincipled(“We don’t like that law, and we don’t want it to pass” is certainly principled), destructive(most of those laws are pretty dumb, if only because most laws are pretty dumb, and even the oh-so-dreadful shutdown doesn’t seem to have made any difference to anyone), or that it works(Harry Reid has been roughly as obstructive as the Republicans, and one would hardly say it worked for him).

    1. Matthew

      The shutdown had limited, but real consequences.

      Had the Republicans not blinked over the debt ceiling, however, the consequences would have been unpredictable and probably severe.

      1. Dain

        For those working IN government, absolutely. Unless they were working for the TSA.

        I recall stories of public parks and businesses located within them being unnecessarily shut down, presumably for reasons of protocol. Not that this matters to the guy trying to go fishing, who doesn’t require three park rangers anywhere within a five-mile radius.

        Such stories were great for media hype. “Look what the Republicans did!”

        1. Patrick

          The shutdown really, really, REALLY sucked for those of us who’s jobs involve courts. Cases just kept backing up. Fortunately, my libertarian friends assure me that everything I and everyone I know do for a living is probably pointless, so what do I know.

      2. Anonymous

        Thing is, nobody’s stupid enough to actually push the country into too bad a situation, because voters won’t like it. (They’ll talk about doing so, but a basic understanding of game theory says that’s a smart thing to do)

        An occasional shutdown isn’t perfect, but it’s survivable.

  5. Miranda

    >Read Montague and team try to predict political orientation from fMRI correlates of disgust response. Not even anything obviously political, just how your brain reacts when you see a picture of a dead body.

    Um…disgust is *fra from* my first reaction to a dead human body. I had a conversation recently, actually, where I told the anecdote of how in university I used to nick one of those sterile urine sample containers from work and use it as the perfect instant coffee container to carry around in my backpack. Everyone was like “ewww!” and someone said I must be waaaaaay on the Blue Tribe end of the spectrum.

    …But I’m not sure that’s actually true; I think maybe my disgust responses are just to different things? I’m okay with almost all bodily fluids by necessity (with a minor exception for “anything that comes out of lungs”) and my main association with sterile sample containers is the “sterile” part, not the “urine” part, so if anything it feels *less* gross to put my coffee there than to put it in a non-sterile spice container, which would be glass and might break and make a gross coffee mess in my backpack.

    I’ve got a pretty strong disgust response to spoiled food, though–it’s taken me weeks to throw something out from my fridge in the past, because I couldn’t summon up the willpower to touch it. So I think maybe my disgust response has just adapted, based on the things that I actually think might be harmful to me? (Also, the other day I got really grossed out by the fact that my patient’s endotracheal tube had been there for like 16 days and ohgod that is disgusting that’s like 16 days of accumulated stuff that comes out of lungs all over the inside of it…now I’m trying to generally *not* think about this fact.)

    1. Nornagest

      I think I’m more disgusted by the “instant coffee” part of that anecdote than the “urine sample container” part.

  6. Jaskologist

    Things I didn’t know: along with their infamous attempts to cast doubt on climate change, the Koch brothers also support gay marriage, cuts to the military, and the American Civil Liberties Union.

    I feel like I’ve beaten up on you too much in this thread already. Last time, promise.*

    You seriously need to add Instapundit or some vaguely Red (he’s probably more Grey) news source to your feeds. You should already know about this, especially given how often you use Koch as the prototypical Great Money Satan.

    You’re never going to escape tribalism by thinking about it; you need to actually step outside of your tribe. Reading NRX stuff doesn’t exactly count; exposing yourself to the radical super-fringe of the other side is more a way to inoculate yourself against that side than to take it seriously.

    Parting thought: this makes a good case for Republicans *not* changing their tune on gay marriage. The Kochs are precisely the fiscally-conservative, socially-liberal types that I’ve seem many Blues claim they would love. They get nothing but venom for it, because they are still on the Wrong Side.

    Dick Cheney was pro-gay marriage, too, and long before Obama flipped.

    * Offer not valid in subsequent posts.

    1. AnonBosch

      The Kochs are precisely the fiscally-conservative, socially-liberal types that I’ve seem many Blues claim they would love. They get nothing but venom for it, because they are still on the Wrong Side.

      That’s because they are on a Side. The Kochs don’t just support issues, they support candidates. And where they support candidates, they have made it clear that they view (small-L) libertarianism as a youthful indiscretion.

      For instance, the only record I can find of the Kochs supporting gay marriage is the POLITICO interview with David. As best I can tell, they have not opened their ample wallets to any marriage equality PACs. (I welcome correction if my own recollection plus the first few pages of the first few Google strings that came to mind proves inadequate.) Same with their position on military spending reductions. I feel reasonably confident in asserting that Americans for Prosperity has not spent even a hundredth of its resources opposing foreign interventionism as it did Obamacare (but again, welcome correction if I am mistaken.)

      Conversely, they will gladly donate to any number of Team Red candidates who will espouse any number of socially conservative, pro-military positions because they oppose Obamacare or support an N% cut in the marginal tax rate. On the think tank side, the closest they get is support of libertarian think tanks like Reason and Cato, who produce some socially liberal, pro-peace literature, but they also support a number of other generally conservative think tanks (Heritage, ALEC, etc.) and Reason and Cato have their own issues with being overly deferential to Team Red affiliations.

      With the exception of their large and laudable donation to the ACLU in opposition to the PATRIOT Act, this philosophy underlies most of their political contributions.

    2. blacktrance

      The Kochs are precisely the fiscally-conservative, socially-liberal types that I’ve seem many Blues claim they would love.

      Blues love people who agree with them more than they love people who disagree with them – while you’re fighting a strong enemy tribe, you want to encourage defection from the enemy tribe even though you don’t want the defectors in your tribe. When archetypal conservatism was strong, progressives encouraged dissent in the ranks of the right. Now, archetypal conservatism seems to be less powerful because social conservatism seems to be declining, so progressives have turned the heat on to the fiscally-conservative socially-liberal types, because now they’re the strong enemy.

      This leaves open the question of why progressives were encouraging fiscally-conservative socially-liberal people to defect, as opposed to socially-conservative economically-progressive people. I think there are two reasons for that. First, libertarian-ish people are less likely to view issues as sacred, and are therefore less likely to be single-issue voters. The communitarian might say, “The Democrats are right about economics and foreign policy, but they’re not pro-life, and that trumps everything”. Second, I think progressives view fiscal conservatism as either misguided or selfish, but understandable, while they see social conservatism as restriction and destructiveness for no reason.

    3. Scott Alexander Post author

      I currently interpret myself as too conservative, and am trying to read more liberal sites to catch up.

      1. Samuel Skinner

        Are we talking socially, economically or tribally? Because socially you are liberal cosmopolitan (no creationism, acceptance of gays, contempt of religion), economically you are left sympathizing (you think that equality and a social safety net are things that are inherently good and worth looking into while conservatives think they are either impossible or destroy work incentives and so not worth going for) and politically you don’t seem to be cheer leading for the Republicans (or for that matter the Democrats).

        The only really conservative thing you have is hatred for SJW and feminists, but you can always be a leftist who has contempt for petty bourgeoisie attempts at reform and fights over scraps as distracting from the true issue of the economic superstructure.

        We will just replace “petty bourgeoisie” with status seekers and “economic superstructure” with cool future toys. It isn’t a really good metaphor, but I was trying to convey the exact feeling of contempt that would mark you as a leftist (as right wingers have different feelings of contempt towards SJW and feminists).

      2. jaimeastorga2000

        I currently interpret myself as too conservative, and am trying to read more liberal sites to catch up.

        Er… how can a man say he is too conservative? Or too liberal for that matter? That seems like kinda like saying “I believe falsely that…”

        1. Auroch

          If I ever make a pronounceable conlang (my current project is a sign language), there will be a verb meaning ‘to believe falsely’ and the 1st-sing-pres congjugation will sound almost exactly like ‘significant’.

          Also, I know several people who justifiably claim to believe things falsely. Largely religious things; they’re fully aware that logically they have no basis for believing it, but continue to do so. At least one of these is emphatically not believing in belief.

        2. Scott Alexander Post author

          I mean that I notice tiny flashes of positive affect when I see conservative things and tiny flashes of negative affect when I see liberal things. I expect that if you did an IAT on me right now that somehow managed to avoid showing anything specific (ie no particular conservative politicians) I would associate good words slightly more easily with conservativism than with liberalism, etc.

          I expect this translates into being more likely to believe and pass on conservative than liberal things, and I’m trying to bring myself back to neutrality.

    4. Bugmaster

      The reason I personally see the Koch brothers as harmful is not because of any specific issue or candidate that they promote; but because they are building (and actively using) a highly efficient mechanism that translates money directly into public policy. I would feel that way even if they supported 100% of issues I support, and 0% of issues I oppose.

      IMO, the Koch brothers are similar to the ideal NR philosopher-tyrant in this regard. Sure, for now, the tyrant may be using his unlimited and completely unchecked power for good. But what happens tomorrow when he dies, or when his wastrel son takes the throne ?

  7. Anonymous

    On the mice thing – I was just watching QI, and they talked about how rats have the opposite reaction to sunlight than we humans do, becoming more depressed in the summer. Makes me think it might be even less wise than it first appears to take a rodent’s exposure to UV and assume it will predict something for humans.

  8. Julia

    That prisoner’s dilemma experiment was done in a German women’s prison, which may not be what we think of when we hear “prison.” But all prisons are closed communities where people know each other and status matters a lot. The undergraduates in the study may expect they are playing a single game, but actual prisoners are always playing the iterated game. A guy I work with is refusing to testify against a codefendant, at the cost of years of his own freedom, because there’s too great a chance that the other guy would arrange for retaliation against him or his family if he defected.

  9. Matthew

    The amount of comments arguing over the significance of the Asian vote in 2014 is just mind-boggling to me. Consider what people were writing in 2012. As far as long-term trends go, the term for a shift in one election is “statistical noise” until more evidence is in.

    Also, as a parent of appropriately-aged children, I’ve actually been exposed to “Dog with a Blog,” and lemme tell ya, it’s one of the stronger shows on Disney or Nickelodeon at the moment. That isn’t entirely an endorsement of DWAB, but watch an episode of, say, Henry Danger, and you won’t need to be a reactionary to despair for our civilization.

      1. Jaskologist

        Exit polls should be taken with a bigger grain of salt. It’s not like the regular polls haver performed very well; why trust exits any more?

        What’s funny is I remember most of the same things being said in reverse by republicans back in 06. Obstructionism had won! The way to victory is undermine, undermine, undermine!

        In 2000, Evangelicals were going to take over the country; demographics compelled it, and Bush proved it. In 2008, the country was locked on a secular path and the Republicans would be out in the wilderness for at least a generation; demographics compelled it. I wonder what will be inevitable in 2016?

        1. Matthew

          I think, if you read my grandparent comment, we are in violent agreement about over-extrapolating trends.

  10. HlynkaCG

    As a token “Red Tribe” lurker I take issue with your characterization of the GOP’s behavior.

    Early on, a rash of scandals involving the ATF, IRS, VA, DoJ, etc… called the professionalism and impartiality of the civil service into question. When combined with the GOP’s fractured state in the wake of Bush’s departure and some truly tone-deaf comments on the part of prominent democrats (Emmanual’s “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste” is a prime example) rank-and-file conservatives were left with little reason or inclination to trust or cooperate with the new administration.

    The Democratic party’s response to this was essentially “we don’t need your cooperation. We control both Congress and the Presidency”. Their response to the recent midterms has been to double-down, “do what we want (pass immigration reform) or we will do it ourselves (via executive order)”. Put your self in the GOP’s shoes for a moment and ask, what are my incentives to cooperate?

    Frankly I would have expected you to realize what was happening quicker than most. When faced with a prisoner’s dilemma where your fellow player has no interest in cooperation you’d have to be an idiot or a martyr not to defect (or in this case “Obstruct”) and hope that the next batch of Dems to be elected will be more amicable to negotiation than the current batch.

    1. Luke Somers

      > Their response to the recent midterms has been to double-down, “do what we want (pass immigration reform) or we will do it ourselves (via executive order)”. Put your self in the GOP’s shoes for a moment and ask, what are my incentives to cooperate?

      This is an odd view of the situation that doesn’t line up with what I see from where I’m standing. Don’t Republicans want and need to do immigration reform too? They have a bunch of changes they want to make.

      Also, the president has said his executive orders would be superseded by congressional action.

      How the heck does that work out the way you’re describing it, then?

      1. Anthony

        “Immigration Reform” means, to an American politician, some sort of legalization of illegal aliens. Everything else is trivia. Republican politicians are under pressure from business interests to do this, and under pressure from their constituents not to.

      2. HlynkaCG

        As Anthony said, “Immigration Reform” in this case is in reference to either full or partial amnesty for illegal immigrants. Republicans are under a lot of pressure to pass this from Democrats, who want the additional votes, and from Businesses who want the cheap labor.

        This puts rank-and-file conservative politicians in a bit of a bind. The potential cost of cooperating (see pissing off constituents) is high, while the benefit is minimal. (If the Dems are going to enact amnesty regardless, why not let them take the heat for it?)

  11. RCF

    With how frequently people bring up paralipsis around here, I’m glad to see a comment thread without it coming up.

  12. nydwracu

    Second, the Democratic talking point will always be “GOP is the party of racist white people, Democrats are the party of vibrant diversity”, but if the Republicans can get a minority on their side, it will start looking like both parties are multiracial coalitions of different groups.

    Didn’t happen with Cubans.

    …who are moving to the left. The Democrats are probably banking on Asians doing the same thing, though that’s somewhat less likely than a near-total Cuban shift.

    1. Patrick

      Cubans are probably moving left in large part due to conservative hostility to hispanic immigration and conservative inability to express that hostility without sounding like it’s cover for hostility to hispanic people… so… data point in favor of the democratic talking point?

      1. BenSix

        I suspect it’s because the first generation immigrants are dying off and their kids are growing up. If one person was raised in Cuba and the other in Miami they are liable to care about different things.

          1. Patrick

            Yeah, that they “care about different things.” That’s not a salient difference that explains why one group tends to support democrats rather than republicans, that’s the fact that one group tends to support democrats rather than republicans. Without more it explains nothing.

            “Why do women in most demographic groups tend to vote democratic at higher rates than comparable groups of men?”

            “Because they have different genders and care about different things.”

            “Thanks for your wisdom.”

          2. BenSix

            It explains something: why one group supported the Republicans while the other has no such cause to. This is important as it illuminates how much less one can trust support based on contemporary grievances than traditional loyalties.

            But you are right: it doesn’t explain why they go on to choose the Democrats. Mea culpa.

          3. RCF


            No, the salient difference was “one person was raised in Cuba and the other in Miami”. That they care about different things was presented as a consequence of that difference.

          4. Patrick

            There is a difference between explaining why two groups are non-identical, and explaining why two groups behave the way that they do.

    2. houseboatonstyx

      Second, the Democratic talking point will always be “GOP is the party of racist white people, Democrats are the party of vibrant diversity”

      That’s more likely if parsed as “All racist white people are Republicans; all vibrant diverse people attend Democratic parties.”

      ( Insert most, some, not all, sometimes, etc as needed. )

  13. Emile

    So just like Ebola became politicized, topics like the General Intelligence Factor, or Climate Change can become politicized enough that any criticism of them will be cheered by people who don’t understand any of the underlying maths …

  14. potatoe

    “My personal go-to example would be that as soon as HPMOR became popular, it inspired all of these hate blogs and hate forums attacking it and Eliezer personally under the guise of “righting the wrong” of it being more successful than it “deserved”.”

    What? That’s not what I’ve seen these blogs doing. They aren’t complaining that HPMOR is more popular than their pet Harry Potter fanfiction. They are having a good time at the expense of dumb, awful trash, the same way people have mockblogs for Harlequin romance novels.

    1. Susebron

      [full disclosure: read and enjoyed HPMoR. I did, however, think that some of it was a bit preachy.]

      And there’s absolutely no way that previously disliking something could slant your opinion on the people who also dislike it. It’s not like Scott wrote a whole series of posts on exactly that topic.

      If you already dislike something, you’ll tend to view the critics more favorably. If you like that thing, you’ll tend to dislike the critics. I haven’t looked at much of the HPMOR hatedom, but from the little I’ve seen, a significant portion appears to be criticizing the popularity.

  15. mylittleeconomy

    There are a few flaws in the summary of explanations for unemployment and a number of things I wish to point out:

    Classical explanations for unemployment have nothing to do with revealed preference. Revealed preference is a neoclassical theory or doctrine developed to solve a problem in welfare economics, not unemployment. By definition people who do not want to work are not unemployed. People who do not want to work are not a labor resource that can fail to be employed by a firm.

    There are differences between explanations for “natural” unemployment, “artificial” unemployment,” and “business cycle” unemployment. “Natural” unemployment refers to the sort of unemployment that would exist in any healthy economy, and the classical writers were as able as any to identify the existence of these frictions that impede the tatonnement, if we want to take the Walrasian perspective, which of course we do. Modern economics has significantly improved on these efforts by analyzing e.g. the role of information costs and transaction costs in producing unemployment.

    “Artificial” unemployment would be unemployment created by government policy and other types of interventions in the normal process of a market economy. Price floors, union activity, licenses and so forth. The classical economists were very sharp on the cruelties that can result from these interventions.

    “Business cycle” unemployment would refer to the unemployment that results from a business cycle. Here the classical economists were not very successful. Malthus’s cogent explanation of the relationship between a business cycle, the essential difference between a barter economy that is always obedient to Say’s Law and a monetary economy that must balance the nominal and the real, and what we now call aggregate demand was ultimately clouded by the classical perception that money should be a “veil” in equilibrium. The Keynesian contribution is to show that equilibrium may be an equilibrium of high unemployment and low output. The monetarist contribution, which the author unfortunately seems to conflate with the Keynesian contribution, is to show that the Keynesians were essentially wrong in their understanding of consumption, expectations, inflation…the idea of a “Keynesian/monetarist” explanation of anything is rather bizarre.

    “Frictions” are a rather confused concept and not so easy to use successfully as it may seem. The similarity to physics is only passing. In very simple general equilibrium models everything happens instantaneously simply because there is nothing in the model that could force events to happen through time. “Frictions” explains why when one is hungry and has the money to buy food it does not materialize instantly on one’s plate. The concept is not really built to address unemployment. There is a sense in which this “gap” between your desires and the reality of your empty pantry represents an inefficiency, and there is a sense in which it does not. Generally the question of “available” yet “unused” resources is a difficult one. If it is available, why is it not used? This question and the surrounding problems is my specialty if anything can be said to be. To simply give an “answer” of sorts without explanation, I would advise caution before attributing anything beyond the natural rate of unemployment as due to frictions, and even that concession to the natural rate is as much a matter of convenience as anything else. Or to put it another way, discussing “frictions” as an explanation of unemployment without reference to the price level strikes me as begging the question.

    Irrationality is not as far as I know used by economists to explain unemployment except perhaps as a synonym for the residual. The Keynesians attributed sticky wages to “money illusion.” Whether the marginal worker may be considered “irrational” for being unfamiliar with the work of Irving Fisher strikes me as a semantic question. There are also explanations for sticky nominal wages based in information. The preference employers seem to have for firing some employees rather than lowering wages across the board is not irrational, and may be a function of signaling to the remaining workers their value and security. Alternatively workers may rational quit rather than take a wage cut and seek work elsewhere at what they believe to be their market rate, being rationally unaware of the state of aggregate demand see e.g. Armen Alchian “Information Costs.” Preferences for the welfare of others and for status are not irrational in the economics framework.

    Princess Yellen’s short paper on efficiency wages and unemployment may be of some interest:

    Neither the separate and distinct Keynesian nor monetarist schools of economics are based on “seeming trivial observation that the salaries of workers are the means by which they buy products, and that the sale of these products are the income of the firms that employ people.” Such an observation is very old and played a role in e.g. the discredited “underconsumptionist” theories of unemployment. I suppose if one had to attribute a single observation to define both distinct schools it would be “output falls and rises with aggregate demand” or something to that effect.

    Neither monetarists nor Keynesians believe in a “cyclical” business cycle. Real Business Cycle Theory is the “cyclical” business cycle theory; RBC theory is not a business cycle theory. Keynes may have believed in a business cycle, Hicks and Hansen I cannot say, but if a business cycle is implied by Keynesian theory it is the errors of Keynesian theory. Now all Keynesians are New Classical theorists and have become New Keynesians and believe in a business cycle, but they are not Keyensians they are RBC theorists. What was once said of Keynesianism may be said of monetarism: “we are all monetarists now,” and that is why we are not monetarists, which is not analogous to Keynesianism. Monetarists believe the business cycle is caused by collapses in the money supply and have no reason to think such slumps are or must be particularly cyclical.

    Austrian Business Cycle Theory is not mentioned, this is a shame. ABCT is now considered discredited after the efforts of e.g. Fisher as well as Knight in his famous controversy with Hayek, but the Austrian work was instrumental in promoting the development of e.g. Hicks, Wicksell, and Sraffian economics, perhaps Fisher as well (and then where would monetarism be?); the models associated with Bob Lucas are sometimes called “New Austrian.”

    It may be said that the competition of different business cycle theories is the competition of different theories of expectations.

    There are some errors of reasoning e.g. “First of all, classical explanations. Most of them seem off, for the same two reasons: being unemployed is very painful for most of the population, and most people care more about their relative position (are they as well off as their peers?) than about their absolute position. This means that if some intervention gradually reduces everyone’s salaries by 50%, then most people will still be willing to work. Thus there seems to be little explanatory power in classical explanations that assume that people won’t work because the salary is too low.” In fact if all income is cut in half then prices will fall by 50% and everything is unchanged hence the money illusion hence money as a veil etc. On an individual level a cut in salary will lead to an equal cut in productivity. Someone who produces and earns $10 an hour and is forced to take a pay cut to $5/hr will produce only $5/hr; if their reservation wage > $5/hr they will be unemployed.

    It is not such a bad article, but the self-taught “personal and idiosyncratic” foundation is obvious.

  16. FullMeta_Rationalist

    Certain politicians name-dropping certain blogs is my favorite thing. Considering moving to New Hampshire (kappa).

    Also, I noticed several commenters name-dropped SSC.

  17. Luis Pedro Coelho

    “A study confirms that global inequality is decreasing, an effect powered primarily by people in rapidly-developing countries growing closer to their developed counterparts. But before you celebrate too much, remember that at some point most countries will have caught up with each other and then global inequality will be driven by within-developed-country factors, which are pretty much all tending towards increasing gaps.”

    Or the natural equalization effects of free markets will then work mainly on the within-country factors as it will no longer be possible for the poor to undercut them on wages.

    (But I will celebrate when the world runs out of poor people, yes).

    1. Scott Alexander Post author

      That’s a very encouraging thought. But it hasn’t really happened even in fields that aren’t vulnerable to third-world undercutting. For example, First World fast food workers seem to be a textbook example of people getting shafted by increasing inequality, but they’re not competing against Third Worlders (except insofar as Third World poverty encourages immigrants to move to the First World and compete with them, which doesn’t seem to be much of an effect).

      1. mushroom

        Employers in one area of low-skill labor compete for labor with employers in other low-skill areas.

        Without neccesarily supporting this claim, the idea is (roughly) that the wages of fast food workers were depressed when the United State lost low-skill manufacturing jobs, because workers can transition back and forth between fast-food work and low-skill manufacturing work.

        EDIT: Is there any reason to provide an email address when commenting?

      2. Tarrou

        They may not compete directly, but the employer competition for fast food is not only fast food, but any other entry-level, low skill positions. Many of these are outsourced. With the death of manufacturing as an outlet for the low-skilled worker, this eliminates the primary mechanism for workers to transition from what was originally a “teenager” job to a career. This keeps more people in the jobs which increases demand for the jobs (there are always more young people coming up) which drives down demand for workers and decreases the upward pressure on wages from inflation.

      3. Auroch

        From personal (thankfully brief) experience working in fast food (well, Dunkin Donuts), there was a significant share of immigrant employees.

  18. Eric Hamell

    I’m quite skeptical of the claim that cults are in decline, for which no data are given in the article to which you link. As a member of the International Cultic Studies Association (and a political cult survivor myself), I regularly see news about abusive, high-control groups. They’re forming all the time, and every few months a new person or two was coming to the local meetings with concerns about a loved one’s group involvement, which usually appeared warranted. (The meetings were suspended a few months ago because we’d lost the meeting place we’d been using.)

    It may be that cult leaders have gotten more sophisticated in the way they recruit and present to the public, so that they don’t trigger the mental associations with the word *cult* that people formed in an earlier era.

  19. Scuadamour

    Father of a kid here. “Dog with a Blog” is an interesting concept, but that’s the beginning and end of all cleverness associated with this show. It’s more kid mindrot with canned laughter, like pretty much all the live-action shows on Disney.

    The animated shows on Disney are much better and general. And the gem among these, in my opinion, is Gravity Falls. The heroes are twin brother and sister (okay, I admit, not promising so far) from the California Bay Area who are sent to a small town in Oregon. And from there, it turns into something like the X-files, or Twin Peaks.

  20. Nancy Lebovitz

    I’ve read a fair amount of the discussion about RH/BS, and I’ve seen some trends. They’ve come to realize that violent language has a high cost, and I expect there’s at least going to be a lot of push-back against violent language, and probably a consensus to not use it.

    There’s advocacy of buying books written by the authors who’ve been attacked, and I think this will happen.

    There’s also some consideration of flaws in social justice ideology which made the community vulnerable to a sociopath, but I don’t think they’ve gone deep enough– they’re looking at how much they’ve permitted attacks, but not at how divisive they are in general. On the other hand, this is a hard problem, and it’s only become salient to most of them quite recently, or at least it’s only become relatively safe to discuss it in public recently.

    There’s been discussion of RH’s disproportionate number of attacks on writers who are young women of color, but I wonder if this is tending to leave out the tremendous number of attacks on writers and other people who weren’t in those categories.

    Just to add complexity, it’s possible that BS is quite a good writer. How that’s going to play out in a community that does a lot of boycotting on political and emotional grounds, I have no idea.

  21. Ilya Shpitser

    By the way, I find it interesting that when pressed, g proponents retreat to [a wide body of empirical findings supporting g], rather than a linear algebra argument for g. I would love if someone presented a clear overview of these empirical findings readable by a psychometrics outsider. What I am worried about is that a list of possible explanations consistent with what is known is still extremely large.

    I find the algebra argument for g extremely unconvincing. If true, it would basically imply causal discovery is easy and fun!

    Independently of content, I really really did not like the tone of that link.

  22. Sam

    Irredeemably off-topic, sorry!

    Scott, how do you organise your ideas for essays? Do they spring fully-formed from your forehead? Do you write down little fragments of ideas then stitch bits and pieces together into a coherent whole? What tools/software do you use in the process?

    I’ve been experimenting with writing down all my little idea-lets for the past week or so—not necessarily for blogging or writing essays, just as a way of refining and clarifying my thinking beyond the seven-things-at-once mental limit, and not forgetting any useful or interesting things I come to. Preliminary conclusions are that a) I have a lot of half-baked ideas and b) I need some systematic way of organising them; the current best plan is a local Mediawiki installation (!), but I’m really curious about how other people deal with external thought management.

    1. Scott Alexander Post author

      I don’t write anything down, make outlines, or use any software. The most I might do is jot down a sentence-summary of something I’m thinking to make sure I don’t forget about it completely. Usually I have an idea, I let it stew for a while, then I try writing it. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, I delete it and try again.

      I’m pretty sure this method is not universally superior.

  23. Mai La Dreapta

    A minor optimistic point on the RequiresHate thing is that in the SFF writers forum where I participate, there has been 100% condemnation of RH and her defenders, even from the SJ folks (who are numerous in the forum). Whether this actually trickles out to the broader community or has any repercussions on SJ in SFF remains to be scene.

  24. Peter

    Winning the female vote: TLDR summary, winning Texas is very much A Thing, winning among women is less so, because electoral college.

    You can say that Romney won Texas, and this means something: electoral college votes, where winner takes all. The people in Austin who I’m guessing mostly voted for Obama… that might have mattered if Texas were a swing state, but no.

    There’s another winner-takes-all level: the individual. I walk into a ballot box, intending to vote LibDem or Green in a council election, I see a name I recognise on the ballot paper, that’s enough to swing my vote. Internally I’m pretty divided, but at an individual level, winner takes all – that slight swing gets amplified to a whole votesworth of difference, and the official stats make no mention of my inner indecision or my support for my runner-up party.

    Of course, women aren’t a district, there’s no winner-takes-all there. Nor white women, nor black women, nor any other sort of women. If your candidate is unpopular in Texas, and you make your candidate a bit less unpopular in Texas, but not enough to cross the magic 50% line, it doesn’t help at all. If your candidate is unpopular among women, you make your candidate a bit less unpopular among women, but not enough to cross the magic 50% line – that could swing the election, under some circumstances.

    A while back I looked at the 2012 election numbers, broken down by various demographics, and if you like to make seemingly-contradictory semi-meaningful statements, then you could say “White women voted for Romney”, and “If it wasn’t for white women voting Obama, Romney would have won”. The last one… I’m comparing with a counterfactual in which the votes among white women split the same way as among white men.

      1. Ken Arromdee

        The su3su2su1 one gets to chapter 77. It’s just formatted with chapter 1 at the top and chapter 77 at the bottom.

    1. AR+

      I also like reading hate blogs because sometimes they’re persuasive. I may be weird in this regard, but I sometimes actually feel like I’m the guy from this Onion article. Being informed that something I like is actually terrible rarely stops me from continuing to read it, but does save me the embarrassment of recommending it to others as being good in any but a very niche sense.

    2. Yxoque

      The hateblogs might be limited, but the hate you can encounter online is pretty real. Most people who think Yudkowsky doesn’t deserve as much success don’t feel the need to write more than just a snide comment on reddit.

  25. Nestor

    Venezuela has essentially done this “Let the country be run by foreigners” experiment with the Cubans, AFAIK. Cuba is economically dependent on Venezuelan oil subsidies, but in some strange brainworm-from-futurama fashion they have managed to infiltrate all major power structures, healthcare, the oil industry, military, etc.

  26. Ilya Shpitser

    Re: metafilter link: it’s interesting that just as poor hygiene makes a community susceptible to parasites, poor epistemic hygiene makes a community susceptible to sociopaths. If true, this would imply a much stronger argument in favor of hygiene (e.g. one most communities should follow, not just those crazy rationalists, whose beliefs I can positively correlate to _all sorts_ of icky things!)

  27. ShardPhoenix

    Re the Asian-American voters thing, while the explanations given in the comments so far make sense to me, bear in mind that turnout was low, so this may only be some subgroup (the aforementioned shopkeepers?) being prompted to turn out in favour of the Republicans rather than a large change by the majority.

  28. AnonBosch

    Global warming, in my experience, is a uniquely powerful mind-killer within politics. I know lots of people who are otherwise open-minded and reasonable on lots of issues who will absolutely lard their brains with the most ridiculous, conspiratorial memes while refusing to engage with anything approaching a critical analysis of primary literature. You can see this even on the mainstream side, where people such as Cook and Lewandowsky are now more or less explicitly trying to develop and refine mind-killers of their own, to varying success.

    I think this has to do with the fact that it’s a uniquely complex issue that touches on lots of different disciplines. This allows lots of otherwise intelligent people, such as engineers, economists, etc., to wade in confidently and overestimate their ability to take stock of an incredibly broad field. It ends up being a series of flytraps for the smart but irrational.

    And with so many different papers and avenues of reading to pursue, it’s very easy to pick and choose your references. The parallel ecosystems of secondary sources (largely concentrated around WUWT and SkepSci, respectively) will gladly help you along in your quest for confirmation bias by highlighting the “right” research.

    1. Lambert

      It’s interesting that I can read that comment and not be able to tell whether the author is a skeptic or a believer.

      1. Susebron

        I hope that’s intentional. It’s a good way to prevent mindkilling from getting in the way of that comment itself.

        1. AnonBosch

          It was. I’m not neutral or agnostic about the science itself, but when it comes to how stupid the debate is, that’s easy to be neutral about, because there is basically no place where both sides can acquire information and engage in exchange and debate with the other side without having to constantly explain and re-explain the most basic low-level points on their end while fending off drive-by trolls spewing political derails from the predominating ecosystem.

          Curry’s blog (ClimateEtc) started out as an attempt to live up to this ideal, but as she’s skewed more skeptical over the years the environment there has become just as mindkilling as WUWT and she is disinterested in moderating to any extent beyond keeping out the absolute loony skydragon fringe.

      1. Eric Hamell

        It depends on how it’s used. When it’s an excuse — everyone’s biased, so there’s nothing I can do about my own bias — then you’re right. But not so if it’s advising one’s co-thinkers of the need to police their own bias rather than conveniently assume that’s only a problem for the other side.

  29. Liskantope

    I never really considered it before, but the fact that Asian-Americans are voting more Republican doesn’t really come as a surprise to me. For instance, some Asian cultures, such as the Chinese, to my very limited knowledge seem more socially conservative. But apart from that, I have the impression that the more left-wing policies which aim to correct racial injustice are much more geared towards the needs of African-Americans and Hispanic people, who tend to be economically underprivileged while Asian-Americans are doing well in that respect.

    I have an Asian friend who posted an article on Facebook condemning Ed Hernandez’s recent proposed affirmative action bill in California. The issue is that, while this bill would boost the acceptance rate of most racial minorities at UC, it would put a cap on the number of Asian-Americans being accepted, as it currently is disproportionately high. I don’t have the link to the article now, and don’t particularly feel like hunting it down, but the writer of the article went out of their way to point out that Ed Hernandez is a Democrat, and (most outrageously, IMO) even to compare him to the Democrat George Wallace fifty years ago! This is the only political thing I’ve ever seen that friend post about. If many Asians and Asian-Americans are following the associations suggested by articles like that, then that could also be contributing to a shift in support to the Republican party.

    It will indeed be interesting to witness the evolution of our political conversation about race, especially as it relates to economic inequality (where Asians seem to constitute an exception to the usual correlations).

  30. Vaniver

    Second, the Democratic talking point will always be “GOP is the party of racist white people, Democrats are the party of vibrant diversity”, but if the Republicans can get a minority on their side, it will start looking like both parties are multiracial coalitions of different groups. That will confound the Democratic narrative and maybe it would force everybody to think about race and politics in a slightly more sophisticated way.

    I think what’s actually gone on here is that Asians have realized that whether or not they’re a “minority” to the Democrats depends on what the Democrats are trying to prove, and most of the time their interests are naturally aligned with whites rather than other ethnic groups. This is decade’s point in another thread that Asians are being whitewashed.

    Whites hate affirmative action because it’s unfair and it hurts them; affirmative action hurts Asians even more. Are there non-Asian democrats who oppose affirmative action?

    It also seems that Asians are law-and-order types, and are disproportionally represented among the small-time shopkeepers that mobs love to ruin. (It appears the owner of the convenience store Brown shoplifted from was a Patel, the story of Koreans and the LA riots is worth remembering, and so on.) It would not surprise me at all if the massive publicity Ferguson received ended up swinging some Asians to the Republicans, because they realized that the Democrats will always sympathize with the black mob over the Asian shopkeepers, regardless of the facts on the ground.

    So what happens if the Republicans become the party of the Eurasians and the Democrats become the party of the non-Eurasians? I suspect this will be an election-winning strategy for the Republicans, and it will also be clearer that the Democrats are the party of misery and the Republicans are the party of happiness. (This is a recurring Steve Sailer claim, probably best explained here.)

    I’m more interested, though, in what it would do for the Republican identity. If you look at the military, there used to be a lot of Southern white pride that has mostly been stamped out to stop it from causing problems with racial integration. It’s been replaced, though, with Christian pride- which has its own problems. If the Republicans become the natural home for Asian-Americans, will the Christian identity be set aside as well and replaced with some sort of secular neo-Victorianism that values propriety for the sake of propriety?

    1. Eli

      Whites hate affirmative action because it’s unfair and it hurts them; affirmative action hurts Asians even more. Are there non-Asian democrats who oppose affirmative action?

      Well, there is me. I oppose race-based affirmative action on grounds that systemic racial issues are better addressed through class-based policies, since race-based antiracism policies have traditionally just advantaged the privileged economic minority among the racial minority.

      1. Vaniver

        Sorry, I was unclear; by Democrats I didn’t mean “Democratic voters” but “Democratic politicians.”

    2. suntzuanime

      IIRC a slim majority of Asian-Americans are actually Christian, it’s not clear that a minority of a minority of the party would actually change the culture of Republicans that much. After all, a strong majority of blacks and Hispanics are Christian, and that hasn’t done much to stop the Democrats’ strident secularism.

      1. Mai La Dreapta

        Was going to say the same thing. At least where I came from, there were an awful lot of Korean and Chinese Protestant churches, far more than there were Buddhist temples. Indians and Japanese, OTOH, tended to be de facto secular, though the Indians often maintained some residual practice of Hinduism or Islam.

        I have heard, anecdotally, that at Harvard the Christian student union is over 50% Asian, while the Buddhist student union is 100% white.

        1. Ashley Yakeley

          Christianity and Buddhism are universalist religions (as is Islam): they believe their religion is for everyone everywhere. By contrast, Hinduism and Shinto are by and large bound up with their particular cultures and places.

          1. Mai La Dreapta

            Nonetheless, Christianity is still dominated by the populations of Europe and its colonial holdings, and Buddhism by the populations of East Asia. The anecdote about Harvard is mostly meant to point out that the Ivy League is weird.

        2. Char Aznable

          In my experience it’s mainland Chinese that tend to be the religious ones. I have a lot of Hong Konger friends and some of them have loose feelings about a god they’re generally non-religious or or technically part of the suite of Chinese not-particularly-godly-but-still-considered-a-religion religions.

          Taiwanese (who I always feel the need to explicitly separate from “Chinese”) take after the Japanese in generally being Buddhist or non-religious.

      2. RCF

        The Democrats have been rather inconsistent with respect to secularism. They left “God” out of their platform once, but they reversed course as soon as people made a fuss about it. Democratic politicians routinely inject religion wherever they can.

        1. Liskantope

          I agree. Being religious is part of the general established cultural norm in America. Republicans proudly portray themselves as God-fearing, while Democrats usually try to defensively appear religious as well.

    3. Tarrou

      A small note on the military, from my days in the Infantry.

      The “christian pride” thing is officers only. The vast, overwhelming, ~98% of enlisted soldiers either don’t care about religion, are active atheists, or are such bad religionists as to be unrecognizable. The only reason anyone ever went to chapel is that it was the only way to get out of four hours of training on a Sunday in Basic.

      In racial terms, the Army is instructive. Asians are actually underrepresented (and they’re a pretty small minority to start with). Blacks are overrepresented, but only in non-combat roles. Rural whites and hispanics are both overrepresented heavily, most heavily in combat arms. Urban whites are a hilariously tiny slice. A large portion of the hispanics are not native english speakers and hail from PR, Mexico and the Philippines.

      1. Randy M

        Wait, you are implying that active atheists are better represented among enlisted men than recognizable members of a religion? Or was your comment simply poorly constructed so as to suggest such?

        1. Anonymous

          Former infantryman myself, I think what he meant was that most enlisted guys are either agnostic or atrociously lapsed Christians. That certainly matches my own experience. We had platoon prayers before missions that the two or three resident atheists didnt participate in, but pretty much no one went to church or moderated their weekend behavior. It does seem to change a bit with age, senior NCOs and married guys with kids often come back to the church.

          1. The Anonymouse

            Another former infantryman here. Anonymous’s characterization matches my experience as well.

          2. Eggo

            Wow, were they trying to make a point about atheists and foxholes? Or does that rule only kick in when the shelling does?

            In all seriousness though, I’d love to see how the culture works there, in comparison to religious traditions in, say, the old Royal Navy.

        2. Tarrou

          Depends on what you classify as “recognizable”, I suppose. If you check dog tags, I suspect you’d find a whole ton of christians, and maybe five percent atheists. If you check church on Sunday outside of training, you’d find a whole lot less than five percent. What there is certainly not is any sort of “christian pride” among the enlisted. No one is more ridiculed on the religious spectrum than the true believer. The anonymous commenters below are also correct. Keep in mind that soldiers are testosterone-jacked seventeen-to-twenty-five year olds. Enlisted military culture can be honestly boiled down to fighting, alcohol and fornication. Not a mix that tends to correlate highly with religious devotion.

          1. Anthony

            Enlisted military culture can be honestly boiled down to fighting, alcohol and fornication.

            In the Royal Navy, they called that “Rum, sodomy, and the lash.”

    4. Dude Man

      So what happens if the Republicans become the party of the Eurasians and the Democrats become the party of the non-Eurasians? I suspect this will be an election-winning strategy for the Republicans, and it will also be clearer that the Democrats are the party of misery and the Republicans are the party of happiness. (This is a recurring Steve Sailer claim, probably best explained here.)

      I have a question about your link. If the Democrats rally those at the margins who are bitter towards the more fortunate, why do 60% of married Jewish men vote for Democrats? You’re talking about a segment of the population that not only displays the virtues Steve is looking for, but is also disproportionately wealthier than the population at large.

      Also, if the media is powerful, how did the fringe get a hold of it (assuming the media is left leaning, which Sailer does assume)?

  31. Ben Kuhn

    I’m pretty sure their reported AUC is a typo. If you look at the histogram, there’s no way the mean of that thing is 0.98, when a nontrivial proportion of the AUCs are less than 0.5 (which is what a random predictor would score).

    If it’s not a typo, then based on reading their supplemental info PDF, I only see a couple methodological issues for computing the AUC:
    – they restricted their analysis to the top and bottom terciles (e.g. the most conservative and most liberal people in the study), i.e., they excluded the “difficult” cases.
    – It’s possible that they still overfit slightly, because the sample they reported the AUC on was the same sample that they tuned the lambda parameter on. But since that’s just a single parameter (it controls the strength of regularization–basically, how low your prior is that an individual voxel will predict political affiliation well), I would be surprised if had a very large effect on their results.

    All that said, I think the general thrust of the study is not super implausible: there could be fairly strong causation in the opposite direction (politics -> neural activation). You say “does some kind of neural disgust wiring explain almost all of politics”, but “explain” in the colloquial sense connotes the “neural activation -> politics” direction of causation, whereas in the technical sense it doesn’t.

    Anyway, I commented on the Cell article asking if it was a typo. Will report back if I hear back.

    1. Baby Beluga

      Ben–I tried to read that paper, but I got lost, and it sounds like you understood it better than I did, so I’m asking you: what’s an AUC? (Is it an “Area Under Curve”? If so, what curve are they talking about?)

      Also, if I tried to predict people’s political affiliation based on reactions to pictures of corpses alone, what fraction would I get right? That’s definitely what I care about. Is that what a “98% AUC” means?


    2. Paul Torek

      The figure which actually shows an ROC curve of bottom-line interest, as far as I can see, is 4B. The authors say

      The mean AUC of the ROC curve using the single-stimulus presentation was 0.845 (SD = 0.009; Figure 4B).

      Which looks about right. I prefer to look at a few points on the curve, to get a feel for it. For example if you are willing to tolerate 20% false positives you can get about 60% of the true cases identified. I guess that is averaged over identifying “conservatives” (tertile) and “liberals” being the two variants of “positive” cases.

      1. ADifferentAnonymous

        Single-stimulus means you only look at the response to one image, right? So multiple-stimulus would be probably be more accurate to some degree–it could be the .98 number. Two totally independent images would get you very close to that, if that helps calibrate intuition. EDIT: on rereading, nothing suggests that the .98 number is from multiple images. I have no idea what that number is.

        Ben: they say in the description of figure 3B that the mean of the histogram is 0.757. Are we sure that figure 3B is what we think it is? I can’t tell what it’s plotting the AUC of.

  32. Joseph Hertzlinger

    There’s a good reason for the decline of one species of cult. In the 1970s, there were many cults in the US based on South Asian religions. Then real South Asians came over here and turned out to be too sensible for would-be cult joiners.

    1. BenSix

      I think it was someone in the comments here who pointed out that years ago eccentrics often had to run away from home to find community. Now they go onto the Internet. There are lots of people on UFO, raw vegan, survivalist and One Direction fora who would have been fresh meat for the cults of bygone days.

  33. decade

    Re: Asians voting Republican.

    Second, the Democratic talking point will always be “GOP is the party of racist white people, Democrats are the party of vibrant diversity”, but if the Republicans can get a minority on their side, it will start looking like both parties are multiracial coalitions of different groups. That will confound the Democratic narrative and maybe it would force everybody to think about race and politics in a slightly more sophisticated way.

    I was reading the last line of that paragraph, and I was definitely expecting you to go “Just kidding! Of course it won’t. Democrats will whitewash Asians and claim that the only ‘real’ minorities are the ones who vote Democrat.”

    The seed that plants this expectation in my mind is the discussion of diversity in tech. Namely, there’s very little credit given (as far as I can tell) for the tech industry having so many Asians that they may actually be over-represented compared to the demographic baseline. “Reports by Apple, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and eBay show that seven of the tech sector’s largest companies are largely white and male,” it reads, despite the companies have a median 30% Asian employees.

    See other stories with the same undercurrent here, here, here, and here.

      1. haishan

        People on both Team Red and Team Blue have a tendency to conveniently forget just how mutable the definition of “white people” has been.

        1. Emile

          I don’t think Asians have much of a chance of being called “white” the way Italians, Irishmen and Jews are (except in a very general sense like we’ve been seeing, by not mentioning them, but that’s different).

      2. Rob Bensinger

        Jews are partway through this process. It would be very interesting and startling if east Asians lapped Jews (or if east Asians lapped people from the Middle East and India) in perception-as-white. It doesn’t fit the pattern of ‘groups get assimilated into “white” in the U.S. in proportion to their visible (incl. cultural) similarity to the English, with a moderate delay added for how disruptive/politicized their immigration is’.

        It seems more likely to me that east Asians will get ignored, rather than seen as ‘white’ — basically, they’ll play the role contemporary Native Americans do, but on a larger scale. Native Americans aren’t white; they’re invisible. They’re non-white without being salient examples of such. There are nearly three times as many Native Americans in the U.S. as there are Arab Americans, and Arab Americans are much more closely related to the English, yet Arab Americans are much more salient examples of ‘non-white people in the U.S.’ The perception of programmers as white has more to do with east Asians failing to fall into the convenient available narratives (/ inflammatory news stories) than with them coming to be perceived as white.

        (… Or something? I’m confused about how this happens. Israel/Palestine, ant queen regents, and Dunham are all examples where traditionally Blue groups break rank and mess up the ordinary Red v. Blue story. Yet those are cases where going counter-narrative and complicating the alliances seems to have added fuel to the fire, rather than dampening it.)

        1. Ryan

          My take on how we truly conceive “white” in the US:

          So conversation I’ve had with my parents a couple times “Oh is that your Indian friend?” “His parents are Indian, he’s an American.” My sister’s best friend in high school, family from the East Indies I think, once said, “Yeah I’m basically white.”

          Or take the local game store where I play Magic the Gathering. It’s a pretty diverse crowd if you ignore the lack of women and just look at ethnicity. But if you put any of them behind a curtain and had them explain their opinion on whether Treasure Cruise needed to be banned in Modern, any listener would think “white dude, really, really super nerdy white dude.”

          It’s the same reason why Ray Parker can go on ESPN and say Robert Griffin the 3rd is a cornball brother, not one of “us,” and have it make such perfect sense to everyone that they immediately know how offended they have to feel and start condemning him.

          Then we can have pretty reasonable ideas like “red, blue and gray” are subsets of white people so broadly defined and not get hung up on say there being lots of Indian computer programers in the gray tribe.

          1. Nornagest

            When we start taking nerdy subcultures into account, this gets weird quick. The biggest weeaboo I know is a black dude from Brooklyn. The second biggest weeaboo I know is second-generation Chinese-American. I’m loath to draw any firm conclusions from a sample this small, but I suspect this might be due to the subculture propagating primarily through the Internet, where physical ethnicity cues are largely invisible and linguistic ones are greatly diminished.

            Of course, some Internet subcultures do play up ethnicity just as hard as they can — but that’s a matter of conscious signaling, where it used to be almost totally unconscious.

    1. Scott Alexander Post author

      Agreed that this is how it would play out, but one assumes Republicans would fight it in the obvious way and that it would at least shift the balance of power a little and be slightly embarrassing.

      1. Chris Stucchio

        Likely not – if you look at how this is playing out in tech circles, the embarrassment goes basically nowhere. You just get accused of racism and the media ignores the point.

        Mood affiliation and tribalism then drags along a lot of people. And recognize that tech (and STEM academia) probably has a vastly proportion of thinking people than other fields – the rest of society will be far worse.

        Don’t ignore the power that the media has to simply ignore inconvenient arguments.

      2. Zubon

        So far, it seems more of “has already played out” than “how it would play out,” but Californians would know more of that than I would. Affirmative action debates in education seem more clued in that promoting black and Hispanic students’ attendance necessarily involves reducing Asians’, although the rhetoric often elides that. The Google link above is the story that immediately came to mind when “too white” really meant “too Asian.”

        If the Japanese can be “honorary Aryans” as far back as WWII, east Asians should be fully whitewashed soon. Referencing the above question of sub-group arithmetic, Asia is a really big place, and Asian-American groups do not have uniform outcomes.

        1. RCF

          “Affirmative action debates in education seem more clued in that promoting black and Hispanic students’ attendance necessarily involves reducing Asians’, although the rhetoric often elides that.”

          AA proponents often aren’t even willing to admit that it involves reducing the number of white people admitted.

      3. pylon shadow

        A lot of people on the left despise identity politics.

        See Adolph Reed:

        or Walter Benn Michaels

        Calling SJW’s leftists when they’re simply anti-racists and feminists makes it easy to ignore any and all critiques of economic power and what Erich Fromm called the “marketing character orientation.”

        Everyone here seems really intent on pretending we don’t live in a society wholly dominated by business interests. It’s like a 1969 Rotary Subcommittee on the Hippie Peril.

      4. Dain

        @scott alexander

        Of course official Republican ideology – more secure the higher up the SES and media prestige – is about color-blindness. So they’d be hesitant to play up racial diversity in the first place. It’s not in their DNA, so to speak.

        They could highlight it and then be accused of being disingenuous, which they’d kinda be.

      5. grendelkhan

        Are you sure? This was supposed to happen with Hispanic people, but it didn’t. Pandering on immigration is usually blamed.

        In the 2012 election, LGB voters were +54 Democratic, even more than in 2008 (+43 Democratic). Similarly, the advantage with Hispanic voters has gone from +36 Democratic in 2008 to +44 Democratic in 2012. (All this despite the election being closer in 2012 than in 2008.)

        The advantage with Asian voters has tracked the advantage with Hispanic voters over the last two elections. Or, in other words, Asians were more Democratic in 2012 than LGB people were in 2008.

        Asians also vote more Republic in midterms. If the Democrats don’t carry the Asian vote in 2016, I’ll be quite surprised. Anyone up for a bet?

    2. Joseph Hertzlinger

      Left-wing bulshytt is rendered easier by existence of ambiguous groups. If a group can be classified as white or non-white at will, it’s possible to have things both ways. If someone who is Jewish/Chinese/Irish/whoever disagrees with the Enlightened Ones, that can be attributed to being white. When similar people agree with the Enlightened Ones, they have the absolute moral authority that comes from being underprivileged or, at least, having an underprivileged great great grandparent.

    3. Deiseach

      But how many of the various Asian ethnicities are up in the boardrooms, are the public faces as C.E.O. and founders?

      I see the same thing in public service/civil service work (and remember, back in The Good Old Days there was the marriage ban up till the late 70s, i.e. when a woman civil servant married, she compulsorily had to quit her job). Our last housing department monthly meeting was 100% female but go above a certain grade, and the bosses are about 90% male.

      I wonder if the same applies in the tech world: go above a certain management level, and suddenly it’s all white male?

      1. Sam

        Isn’t age a huge confounder here—upper managers are on average older than the managees? Suppose that you’re only promoted to upper management after 40 years in lower-level positions: then your upper management demographics reflect 1970s hiring demographics, as well as discriminatory winnowing in the years since.

        Obviously that’s a hugely simplified model of role distribution within organisations, but I would be much more surprised to find that a model without some sort of age-promotion mechanism performs better than a similarly sophisticated model with an age factor.

        You really need a cohort study to prove the existence of a glass ceiling, not present-day snapshot percentages at each level.

        EDIT: And the corollary here is that, when a significant change has occurred (e.g., immigration changing demographics, abolishment of discriminatory practices), management demographics will still take a while to change and become representative (or fail to).

      2. Randy M

        Wait, are you asking for minorities to be promoted to “founder”? Isn’t that a touch Orwellian?

        1. suntzuanime

          I think the concern is more possible racism in what entrepreneurs get funded by investors, see e.g. Paul Graham saying it’s a bad idea to invest in a startup whose founders have strong accents.

          Hard mode: structural racism robs minorities of the tools they need to even consider going into entrepreneurship, so we must fight to change society until founders’ demographics reflect the demographics of (tech companies? silicon valley? the US? the world? not sure what the relevant comparison population is.)

        2. Deiseach

          No, I was asking if the tech field is so dominated by various Asian ethnic groups, then how many of the founders of tech companies are Asian versus how many lower-level (anything below upper management) employees are Asian?

          Reasons for this can vary from “Asian graduates are encouraged by parents to go into a good steady job rather than take the risk of starting and failing in a business” to “They can’t get the investment” and I have no idea what the reasons may be.

          I was certainly not saying “If Jake Chan worked for BigCorp Inc when it was just three men and a dog, then he should retrospectively be promoted to ‘founder’ even though he was simply a paid employee hired by the real founders.” I have no idea how you took that from what I was asking.

          1. Anthony

            While Asians aren’t nearly as heavily represented at the C-level in Silicon Valley as at the engineer level, there *are* a lot of C-level Asians in Silicon Valley; probably enough to count as over-represented if you use the U.S. percentage for Asians instead of the California percentage.

    4. Jaskologist

      I remember reading an article blaming Eliot Rodgers’ shooting on white privilege. He was half-asian. That and the “tech is white” articles bummed me out for my own happa children; they’re going to branded as evil regardless.

      Recall also that George Zimmerman was branded a “white Hispanic.”

      1. Rob Bensinger

        White Hispanic is a real thing. The U.S. Census Bureau understands ‘race’ and ‘Hispanicness’ (i.e., Spanish descent) as two different axes, each of which it’s interested in.

          1. Rob Bensinger

            I didn’t take it that Jaskologist was objecting to calling Rodgers or Zimmerman “white” on the grounds that white people don’t exist. He was saying they’re noncentral examples (and maybe that they don’t meet his intuitive definition?), but get cited as “white” because they can pass (and/or because it serves an agenda/narrative). If you’re trying to pivot to a new topic, I’ll need more to go on.

            I was responding that the term “white Hispanic”, at least in the U.S., doesn’t have to be a sneaky attempt to expand the concept in an ad-hoc way; it can just be a reflection of the terminology used by government agencies.

            This is also why “non-Hispanic whites” is a term.

    5. Anthony

      Democrats will whitewash Asians and claim that the only ‘real’ minorities are the ones who vote Democrat.

      I suspect that you have the causality somewhat backwards. Asians are, by comparison to northwest Europeans, pretty ethnically self-aware. And they’ve noticed that when the Democrats come knocking at the doors of Silicon Valley to say “you don’t have enough minorities working for you” that the Democrats are ignoring Asians.

      As Asians realize that as far as the Democrats are concerned, they’re white, they start voting for the party of white people.

    6. Sarah

      I’m sympathetic to the theory that the most important race dichotomy is not white/nonwhite but black/nonblack.

      In America, to be Asian or Hispanic (or various other ethnic groups) means to be a descendant of foreigners. That’s low-status, but it becomes less of a big deal the more time has passed and the more you assimilate.

      To be black means to be a descendant of *slaves*. [or easily mistaken for one.] That’s a lot more low-status, and it never goes away.

        1. Sarah

          I don’t know why not in principle, but in practice anti-black prejudice doesn’t seem to have disappeared over time.

          I mean, the Athenians had three classes of people, citizens, foreigners, and slaves, in that order of rank. People naturally mistrust strangers. But a slave (in every society I know that has had slavery, including ours) is the descendant of either a criminal or someone conquered/captured in war; that is, either a villain, or a member of a contemptibly weak people. It’s a bigger deal. We’re all foreigners, from someone’s perspective; we’re *not* all slaves from someone’s perspective.

          1. Jaskologist

            I don’t think the American view of status really tracks that closely to the Athenian. Descending from slaves isn’t seen as a moral failing; descending from slave-owners is.

            The Black American experience is indeed unique, and I can see a plausible case for AA-type programs to help them, since the group was, indeed, terribly oppressed by the US.

            This case falls apart when you start trying to do the same thing for Hispanics, though. Hispanics were not historically and systematically oppressed in the US; they were just the guys who moved in next door. Once they get AA, it’s hard to claim it as anything other than a racial spoils system, and screw that.

          2. Nancy Lebovitz

            My impression is that white American prejudice against black people is more about associating black people with crime and irresponsibility than about black people being descendants of slaves. However, I’m a Northerner, so I may be missing some nuances.

            Specifically, there’s a species of racism which assumes that African Americans are inferior to Africans because those who were slaves were possible to catch and/or the loss of cultural continuity caused serious damage.

            Also, the belief that black people are basically inferior (even unto the idea that smooth hair indicates a more civilized/professional attitude) is plausibly a result of beliefs that justified slavery.

  34. Joseph Hertzlinger

    The political ideology measurement in “Nonpolitical Images Evoke Neural Predictors of Political Ideology” was based on the Wilson–Patterson scale. In the WP measurement, experimental subjects are asked their opinions of “obedience” and “small government.” If obedience is considered right-wing … obedience to whom?

    There are other topics in the WP questionnaire in which the political lineup changes from decade to decade. Is “globalization” left wing this week? Is “school standards” a conservative slogan this week?

    I won’t more than mention that a sample size of 83 is more than a bit dubious.

    1. Tarrou

      This is true, there is a ton of literature about “ideology” in which the questionnaire to determine the variable is basically constructed from a Huffpo charicature of what drives the political ideals of the right. This is a problem with the vast left-wing echo chamber of academia. It’s not that academics consciously slant things, it’s that they have literally never met a real, intelligent opponent and construct research so that “Right-wing” is just defines as slavish deference to authority and rampant racism!

      Of course, when one delves deeper, one finds that leftists defer to authority just as much, but they have different authorities. Conservatives defer to business and military leaders (broadly speaking), Liberals to environmentalists, NGOs, government officials that aren’t military or law enforcement. And they’re just as likely to be bigoted against certain groups of people and discriminate against them.

      1. pylon shadow

        Business and military leaders = authorities
        Enviromentalists and NGOs = authorities

        Authorities are persons or groups with the power to enforce rules or give orders.

        Like Blackwater and the Humane Society.

      2. Ryan

        The other problem I see is with only using one potential source of disgust. A better summary of the findings would be something like “people who lean right on the NOLAN chart tend to be disgusted by dead bodies.”

        So what are the people on the left disgusted by smart guy? Or are we just going to assume nothing disgusts them because dead bodies don’t?

  35. Mary

    I always knew “anchorite” was something vaguely like a hermit, but I don’t realize how, uh, metal it was until I read Wikipedia’s anchorite article. After having the rites for the dead said over them by a priest, anchorites would entomb themselves in a tiny cell, with only a tiny opening through which food and water could be passed, and remain there without leaving for the rest of their natural lives, possibly decades (Ozy asks: “Can you have books? I think I would be okay with that if I got books”).

    In the middle of a town. Normally by the church.

    You could have visitors. You often did. Probably the most famous anchorite, Julian of Norwich, was so famed for her counsel for her visitors that the church authorities packed Margery Kempe off to her, in hopes she could calm her crackpot behavior when they were unable.

      1. Deiseach

        From a website about the first rule in a form of English for women who wanted to become anchoresses/anchorites, the Ancrene Wisse:

        What drew so many women to the anchorhold? One answer may be that, in a strange sense, many anchorites withdrew from the world only to find themselves squarely in the center of village life. We can perhaps glimpse this obliquely in a list of prohibited activities for anchoresses in Part Eight of the AW. There, the AW author advises anchoresses not to keep valuables in their anchorholds (8.89-92), run a school (8.162-65), or send, receive or write letters (8.166). Further, in Part Two, the author warns his readers that the anchorhold should never become a source of news or gossip (2.486-88). These prohibitions offer a tantalizing glimpse into some of the social functions of the typical anchoress in her village setting. At least some anchorholds, it seems, became the center of town life, acting as sort of bank, post office, school house, shop, and newspaper – services which today are provided mainly by public and quasi-public institutions. The AW author, of course, advises against these activities mainly because they draw the heart of the anchoress outside her anchorhold, but that they must be prohibited points to the fact that many anchorites became something like spiritual celebrities – they became the focus for the communal religious life of the village.

        …The anchorhold described in Part Two could have had two or three rooms:
        Talk to no one through the church-window, but show honor to it for the holy sacrament that you see through it, and use the house-window for your women (i.e., servants) and for the others, the parlor. (2.259-61)
        At the core of the anchorhold was of course the recluse’s cell: it had three windows as well as a private altar, a bed, and a crucifix (see 1.348-49, 2.183-85, and 1.31 respectively). The church window commanded a view of the high altar in the church and must have been on the ground floor if it was possible to talk through it (in the Chester-le-Street anchorhold, where the church window looked out from the upper room, this would have been patently impossible). The “house” window looked into the servants’ quarters (clearly a separate room) and was perhaps large enough to pass through food or a chamber pot. The “parlor” window, through which the anchoress spoke to visitors, faced either outside to the church courtyard or perhaps into a small room. The parlor window was to be the smallest of the three, since it provided dangerous contact with the outside world (see 2.16-17).

        The Wikipedia page on Julian of Norwich is fairly good (subject to the usual caveats); whoever wrote up the bit about Julian’s view on sin gets it wrong, though (there’s a difference between felix culpa and “we must sin so that grace will be more abounding”, a view condemned as far back as St. Paul in his Epistles) and I was nearly rolling on the floor laughing about the Evangelical preacher who considers Julian was a Protestant who would have been down with Marty Luther 🙂

      2. Mary

        For that you would probably want to be a hermit in a monastic community.

        Not a solitary hermit. Was reading up on a modern day diocesean hermit (one under the authority of a bishop, not an order), and she ran errands in the morning (though she had to be home to her hermitage by noon) and received visitors in the afternoon (though they could not stay over night).

        But in a community there would be other people to do that kind of work.

    1. Jaskologist

      You want some really metal guys? Check out the stylites, who climbed onto pillars and just lived there from then on. Simeon is the prototypical case, but he inspired hundreds of imitators. Alypius did this on hard mode, standing upright for some fifty years on top of his pillar.

      (Note: while the first ones were trying to get away from people, it doesn’t sound like they succeeded; crowds flocked to them.)

  36. haishan

    I was reading that Dalliard article just the other night, as chance would have it. I think, if there’s a point where he strawmans Shalizi, it’s this:

    It is [Shalizi’s] conviction that correlations between cognitive tests are best explained in terms of the so-called sampling model.

    I’m not sure that this is actually what Shalizi believes. He seems to use the sampling model as an example to prove the general point that the positive manifold condition on a number of tests tells us very little about the underlying causal structure. But even after Dalliard attributes this belief to Shalizi, and then goes about trying to marshal evidence against the model, in the end he can’t do much better than saying “well, even if this model is true, people still have differing abilities that we can measure by our batteries of tests, so let’s just agree to distill it down to a single factor and call it ‘general intelligence.'” I’m actually pretty sympathetic to this “ordinary language” argument; I sort of doubt that Shalizi would be.

    1. Vilhelm S

      Well, Shalizi certainly *says* something like “oh, there could be any number of models explaining the same results, lets just for example take something like the sampling model”. But this argument would be more convincing if he would show more than one alternative model. According to Dalliard, intelligence researchers also quickly thought of the sampling model, and then studied it more closely and concluded that it doesn’t work while the general factor model works. If there are exactly two models that people have thought of to explain the data, and one of them doesn’t work, then that makes the “oh, there could be any number of reasons for this data” stance a lot weaker…

      1. haishan

        Well, he does namedrop van der Maas’ mutualism model, without saying much about it. And it ought to be fairly clear that there are a large number of different causal structures that would produce similar results in exploratory factor analyses — in fact, the entire mathematical point of the post is that exploratory factor analysis tells you nothing, or almost nothing, about causal structure. Since causal inference is what Shalizi does, I’ll trust him on this point, even given his biases.

        Dalliard seems to do a pretty good job of demolishing many other parts of Shalizi’s argument, but I don’t think either of them really believe that it’s a binary choice between a single-factor model and a sampling model. There are other possibilities, some explored, some not.

    2. Chris Stucchio

      Yes, he’s missing the actual flaw with Shalizi’s thinking here.

      The flaw in Shalizi’s thinking is that Shalizi describes any aggregate quantity as a “statistical myth”. If he fairly applied this criteria to other scientific fields, then a huge number of important variables would be a statistical myth: pressure, temperature, climate, weather, supply, demand, and any other quantity which is merely an aggregate of individual variables.

      “Climate change is a statistical myth” – because climate is merely a spatial and temporal average, it’s a statistical myth. The only real variables are the temperature in Delhi on Nov 9, the temperature in NY on Nov 8, etc. (Yes, this example is deliberately chosen to mood affiliate in the opposite way to Shalizi.)

      1. Will

        The obvious difference here is that pressure is an aggregate of the same causal factor (momenta) over many particles- because momentum is conserved, this is a logical choice of intensive quantity. Same with temperature.

        Shalizi’s argument is that IQ is doing the equivalent of aggregating particle momenta AND particle energy and calling it the Hotness Quotient or something like that.

        1. Chris Stucchio

          I have no idea how you pull a dimensional critique out of shalizis article. Could you explain?

          Most aggregates, BTW, do not satisfy a conservation law (climate, demand, supply, etc).

          1. Will

            I’m not making a dimensional critique, I’m saying some aggregates make causal sense, some aggregates don’t make causal sense. Aggregation isn’t something thats automatically justified.

            Aggregating temperature in eV with rotational kinetic energy of the macro object and calling it “thermal spin” would be silly.

            There is an obvious physical reason the pressure aggregate makes causal sense (the conservation laws).

            There is an obvious physical reason climate makes sense (its essentially mean-field approximation of weather, so all the justifications for mean-field carry).

            Near as I can tell, Shalizi’s argument is that IQ as an aggregate is not justified, not that ALL aggregates aren’t justified.

  37. Nathan

    Group selection isn’t dead, it’s just called multi-level selection now and is much more nuanced. Check out Samir Okasha’s book “Evolution and the Levels of Selection”.

    1. US

      I’ll second the recommendation – Okasha’s book is really a great book on the topic.

      If you can’t spare the time to read the book, he’s incidentally also given a good one-hour lecture/talk on some of the ideas covered in the book which is available on youtube here.

  38. Anonymous

    Terry Pratchett’s Turtle is A’Tuin, while Stephen King’s Turtle is Maturin.
    Is it just me, or are those awfully close?

    Great A’Tuin first appeared in the Color of Magic (1983). Maturin probably appeared first in It (1986).

    1. Matt C

      Maturin very likely comes from Patrick O’Brian’s Stephen Maturin.

      Not sure why King picked that name, but I doubt he did it accidentally or was unaware of the reference. It’s not a common name.

      Possibly it was picked for the rhyme with A’Tuin, but I could easily believe it was coincidence or unconscious association.

  39. haishan

    I dunno. If you’re looking at election results among a bunch of subgroups of women, and then you throw those out and only report the result among all women, that seems to me to be the very definition of marginalization.

    (I hope terrible puns are allowed in these comments.)

    1. David Barry

      If you hadn’t added that parenthetical remark at the end, I would have skipped over this comment without blinking…. Amazing work. Minutes later I still have a big stupid grin on my face.

    2. BenSix

      The different demographics among women have such different concerns that portraying them as a bloc makes little sense. Kutner does it herself, expressing disbelief over their failure to support a pro choice candidate. Over a third of Texan women support new restrictions on abortion laws.

      1. Mary

        Indeed, abortion restrictions are more popular with women than with men.

        Those who are surprised by this should remember that Playboy has always been a major funder of organizations that fight them.

    3. RCF

      I’m not sure what the pun is supposed to be. If you want a bad pun, wouldn’t killing a group of people, taking their body fat, and hydrogenating it to make a butter substitute be the very definition of margarinization?

  40. Rob Bensinger

    This link round-up is quite possibly too good.

    “Of interest to me because of the importance I place on this same process in human affairs; people will always be irresistably incentivized to defect, but this is held in check by a counter-incentive to form cooperative communities that spread by group selection.”

    Good place to cite Stephen Pinker’s criticism of group selection. He only devotes a couple of paragraphs to eusociality, but he focuses more of his wrath on the use of “group selection” as a loose designation for ‘any cultural or genetic change resulting from the relative ability of groups to perpetuate themselves’.

    The comments thread (feat. Dennett, Coyne, Haidt, Tooby, D.S. Wilson, Dawkins, many others) is also a good case study in the topics you’ve been talking about lately: motte/bailey and victory-by-association. (Well-antidoting?) As Pinker puts it at the bottom of the page: “Group selection has become a scientific dust bunny, a hairy blob in which anything having to do with ‘groups’ clings to anything having to do with ‘selection.’ The problem with scientific dust bunnies is not just that they sow confusion; as Tooby notes, the apparent plausibility of one restricted version of ‘group selection’ often bleeds outwards to a motley collection of other, long-discredited versions.”

    1. RCF

      Much of group selection seems to be a combination of teleology-based thinking, and a close relative of The Worst Argument in the World and eargreyish; the argument is that groups with altruistic members with do better than groups with selfish individuals, therefore altruistic individuals do better. While this may seem like a valid argument on casual reading, perhaps that fallacious nature of it is more evident if we replace “groups” with “astrological signs”. If we rank all the astrological signs by how much their members help other members of that sign, then one of them is going to come out on top, just due to random fluctuations. And members of that sign will, on average, probably do better than the other signs. But that doesn’t mean that helping other people with your sign is a wining evolutionary strategy.

      1. Susebron

        I don’t really know anything about group selection, but if people within a certain group tend to reproduce with one another, and the children of members of that group are generally part of that group, wouldn’t it be genetically useful to help that group? Astrological signs don’t really work as an analogy, because the group can’t have the same genes.

        1. Samuel Skinner

          The problem is free riding. If you don’t have a way to deal with that, the elements you mentioned aren’t enough to insure group selection; members will simply exploit altruistic ones.

          1. 27chaos

            Susebron, I recommend you read the literature by actual professionals. Yudkowsky’s citations are a few decades out of date; group selection returned to mainstream popularity a while ago. The fact most people here dislike the idea is probably just attributable to Yudkowsky’s influence, I’d urge you to look at opinions outside this sphere before coming to any conclusions on this issue.

          2. S

            Actually, Robert Boyd and Bill Richardson have shown with mathematical models that if you have populations of cooperators, defectors, and spiteful punishers (people who punish defectors and thereby deter them from defecting at some cost to themselves but a benefit to the group) and the benefits to cooperation / costs of punishment are sufficient then we can have individually irrational pro-social behavior survive over the long term. How much we think this matters in the real world is of course a different question, but there’s nothing theoretically wrong with Scott’s basic idea.

  41. gattsuru

    A science fiction author is found to secretly be the same person as a blogger called RequiresHate who uses social justice rhetoric and out-of-context quotes to rile up mobs, send them to harass and threaten competing writers, and damage their careers… I worry that this sort of thing seems to happen in any community that reaches more than a certain percent social justice people

    Social justice has some very obvious flags it waves against its enemies, but the American left and rights has its DINOs and RINOs respectively, it’s not hard to find Richard Dawkins or the Catholics making increasingly bizarre accusations, I can point to gun advocates accusing folk of going Zumbo, and even the LessWrong forums have had small-scale examples mixed with karma bombing or allegations of karma-bombing.

    It may not be present in every single community — about the best thing I can say for neoreactionaries as a group is that they actually do seem cautious about kicking out folk for being ‘entryists’, which actually surprised me — but the overwhelming majority over a certain size pretty inevitably start doing it. There’s probably a cancer/auto-immune disorder metaphor here, but I’m hard-pressed to tell which is more accurate.

    The RequiresHate stuff is pretty ugly, even by the standards of modern social justice, but it’s not even the worst I’ve seen there (compare Kynn/keeva/Duck Call Lass of the Heartbreak and Heroines charlie foxtrot) nor the top ten for generally terribly discourse, tribalism, and excuse-making.

    I don’t mean to overstate this, but it’s important to remember /how/ common this sort of thing is. If you contextualize it as something that the social justice community does in some very specific ways, you’ll be very good at blocking that exact sort of behavior and then be broadsided once it happens from someone else. If you contextualize it as something that the Other does in certain ways, you’ll be very good at detecting that behavior and in the exact moment make yourself that slight bit worse as avoiding the same tactics.

    1. suntzuanime

      Yeah, powerful ideologies do nasty things because they can get away with it; social justice is not especially inherently bad, just currently powerful.

      It’s a little disappointing since a lot of social justice ideals are about preventing the powerful from doing nasty things just because they can get away with it, but once your cause becomes a cult your ideals don’t mean much. See also

      1. Ken Arromdee

        I would suspect it’s more common among the social justice crowd simply because they are much more tied to the idea that their opponent is evil and must be stopped at all costs, and to overthrowing the existing order.

        I’d think that the same reasons that result in occupy protestors resorting to a lot more illegal activity than tea party protestors would lead to their Internet cousins resorting to a lot more trickery.

        1. suntzuanime

          Are tea partiers really that much less tied to the idea that their opponent is evil and must be stopped? Obama’s been called the Antichrist before, I dunno how much more “must be stopped” than that you can get.

          1. Deiseach

            Can I ask something, as a foreigner who knows nothing about American politics apart from you have two parties, the Republicans and the Democrats?

            I quite often see “Tea Partiers” or “the Tea Party” used as meaning or implying or as a blanket term for “all or most of Republicans”, even though from what I can tell, they’re a minority and every political party anywhere has extreme wings; in Britain, Labour kicked out Militant Tendency and the Tories shed their extremist support to UKIP and here in Ireland when Labour and Democratic Left amalgamated, despite DL being the smaller party (and a splinter group of another party), it eventually managed to get its people into control and take over. The rough equivalent of our “Tea Party” split off from its parent party and formed its own (Progressive Democrats) which eventually imploded, though there seems to be another type of this same tendency in the making nowadays.

            The only difference I see, then, is that in America your fringe elements don’t splinter off and form their own parties since third parties and independent candidates seem to have no hope at all of getting anywhere in national elections.

            That being so, is the conflation of “Tea Partiers” with “all Republicans” a case of “Our side is so obviously right that anyone of plain common sense can see it, therefore our opponents must be evil or stupid or both?” and the Republicans are being hit with “You see? We told you that this is what they are really like!” when it comes to the Tea Party?

            What I mean is: if the Tea Party really is the true face of the Republican Party, then they wouldn’t exist in the same way (more as something like The Primrose League) and its leadership would be drawn from the party grandees, a kind of Carlton Club.

            Note: When it comes to politicians, I believe they’re all venal. The same with Obama, about whom I knew nothing, but some of the enthusiasm upon his first election appeared to me excessive; the “Lightbringer” thing where he was going to Save The World made me go “He’s a politician. Moreover, a Chicago politician. He’s an ordinary human being of average venality, he’s not interested in overthrowing the system but in making it work for him.”

          2. Tarrou

            No, Tea Partiers were a hugely older group than Occupy. All sorts of bad behavior drops precipitously with age. You put ten thousand teenagers together in a park for a week, and some wierd, illegal shit is going down, no matter the ideology. You put ten thousand grandmothers and bourgeois business-owners in a place, and it will wind up better than before they arrived.

          3. Ken Arromdee

            Claiming that Obama is evil is different from claiming that ordinary people of the left are evil, and this is about attacks on relatively ordinary people. Obama doesn’t participate in online forums, so believing that Obama specifically is evil won’t lead to this kind of attack.

            (I’d also suggest that even Obama was called evil a lot less than Bush was, although some of it may be because of fear of being seen as racist.)

          4. Patrick

            Deiseach- You need to understand the American primary system to get what’s going on.

            Americans hold primaries before they hold actual elections. These primaries select the candidates that the party will run in the general election. Only party members can vote in primaries*. Further, primaries tend to have lower voter turnout than general elections, and turnout is generally highest among the most committed party faithful.

            The tea party has been dynamite in Republican primaries. They’ve successfully challenged a number of incumbent candidates and replaced them with their own nominees. And once those nominees are the official Republican nominees, they receive the support of the full Republican electorate, because what else can they do- vote Democratic?

            Further, there are a lot of races where the Tea Party hasn’t primaried candidates, but where they have credibly threatened to do so unless they’re catered to.

            The result is that even though the Tea Party is a minority, because American politics subdivides groups of people, they are a sufficiently powerful interest group that they can affect primaries, which in turn affect general elections. So you can generally expect any candidate with (R) by their name to bend over backwards for Tea Party concerns, for at least the foreseeable future.

            American politics is LOADED with “winner-take-all” systems that then steamroll into other “winner-take-all” systems. This makes it remarkably easy for small extremist groups to control political outcomes in ways that would be literally impossible in another electoral system.

            *Technically, in some states anyone can vote in a party’s primary. So democrats could all go vote for the republican primary, either by just showing up, or by registering as republicans. In practice, this doesn’t happen because its a pain in the ass. Tea Partiers have been claiming that it happens all the time and that this is why they don’t have even more primary success, but their claims are probably just the usual conspiracy mongering that defines them.

          5. Hari Seldon

            Deiseach, the Tea Party is a very loosely defined, loosely structured political movement. You will find extremists in that group, but mostly you will find people who believe that the US Federal Government has expanded far outside its proper scope and needs to be reined in. Solutions and alternatives touted beyond that general goal vary so wildly as to make the coalition meaningless.

            When the term “Tea Partiers” or even worse “Tea Baggers” is invoked in political discussions it is a surefire sign that whatever follows is pure, unadulterated tribalistic drivel. It is the American Left’s version of the Right’s “Politician X is a Commie / Socialist.”

            As an American who has lived in Europe, I understand your confusion. The perspective given in the media is that there are a few good reasonable people on the coasts, but the rest of the country consists of subhuman, mouth breathing, warmongering, racists.

            Unless you make a special effort to seek out conservative media.

            In that case, the nation is filled with good-hearted, common sense, country folk who are just trying to live their lives while surrounded by these hateful, godless hypocrites on the left.

            Neither side is even remotely as bad or stupid as they are painted by the opposing side.

            I don’t even know where to send you for a fair assessment of US politics. When tribalism rears its ugly head even on SSC, you know it is pretty much all pervasive.

          6. Will

            @Ken – probably depends on where you live. In the midwest, I hear a lot of Obama is evil, as well as a tremendous amount of openly racist attacks on Obama (i.e. the people saying things wouldn’t say “I’m not racist” they’d say “of course I’m racist!”)

          7. Matthew

            My observation is that Tea Partiers and tea-sympathetic fellow travelers differ from other Republicans not by ideological degree but by procedural extremism. That is to say, the tea faction considers any compromise on anything ever to be an act of betrayal, even if it gets some conservative priorities in exchange for some liberal ones. Whereas other Republicans might be quite conservative, but generally aren’t opposed to politics being politics as it’s traditionally been conceived.

          8. Anonymous


            I think it is important to note here that “procedural extremism” and accepting no compromise ever is in fact the only rational strategy when faced with a ratchet.

          9. Luke Somers

            If you’re faced with a ratchet, you won’t actually be offered compromise, so what relevance does that have?

          10. jaimeastorga2000

            If you’re faced with a ratchet, you won’t actually be offered compromise, so what relevance does that have?

            On the contrary. If you are faced with a ratchet, you will be offered lots of compromises. In due time the compromises become the status-quo, a new dispute arises, and a new compromise is offered. Since the ratchet prevents movement in one direction, things inevitably move in the other direction, compromise by compromise.

          11. Nornagest

            @jaime — That seems to imply that one side is entirely concerned with maintaining the status quo and has no positive goals of its own. (Otherwise a compromise can be expected to trade gains in one area for losses in another.) That’s certainly what’s in the background of the words “liberal” and “conservative”, and the NRx guys use the Cthulhu analogy to capture a version of it, but I’m not so sure that it’s a good description of what’s happening on the ground.

          12. Luke Somers

            Your ‘ratchet’ has to give something up each time or it’s not actually a compromise. ‘Give me only one cookie instead of two cookies’ isn’t a compromise.

      2. Ken Arromdee

        To add, if you follow the link, someone else points out that in SJ communities there are beliefs that

        “1) Oppressed people deserve to vent their rage online. They’ve been oppressed, and it’s not their job to explain things nicely to their oppressors or worry about what privileged people will think.

        2) Privileged people have no right to question this venting. That’s tone policing, and that’s silencing.

        3) Privileged people should just listen to more-oppressed people when they talk about their personal experience. In fact, they have a responsibility to listen to what more-oppressed people say so they learn what not to say in the future, and any discomfort they feel with what they hear can easily be due to the discomfort of facing their bigotry.”

        It’s obvious how this can lead to SJ being more prone to this simply because of the nature of SJ, not just because it’s a powerful ideology.

        1. suntzuanime

          Except that social rules that privilege a certain class of people are nothing unique to social justice. Those rules are a reaction to privileges given by past ideologies, and that they act to create a new privileged group is disappointing but not uniquely awful.

          1. Ken Arromdee

            It’s unique because only social justice allows you to exclude people (or force people to exclude themselves) on the grounds that they are oppressors. The range of things you are permitted to do to oppressors, up to and including silencing them completely, is far greater than the range of things you are permitted to do in most other online places to people not privileged by social rules.

          2. gattsuru

            Ken Arromdee, American politics has a popular story of men being brushed with pine tar and coated with downy feathers for being aligned with the wrong powerful group.

            Social justice is worse than average, but it’s not some unique abomination.

          3. Gattsuru

            If you want an online example, look to either side of the American gun control debate as shown online: the right to bear arms and freedom from fear are heavily coached in terms of oppression (exemplified in the Koch/Bloomberg axis), the acceptable actions include things considered monstrous by outsiders, and the other side can be readily dehumanized and ignored by the very act of their identification.

            And it’s not just an Americanism, unfortunately; look at online debate about the Quebec question, or regarding Spain’s possible breakup.

          4. suntzuanime

            I dunno why the category is “bad political behavior online” rather than “bad political behavior”. The internet’s only really been mainstream for a decade or so, which limits the number of examples you can draw and makes SJ seem more unique than it is.

          5. gattsuru

            You’d think gun control advocates would be really, really cautious about terms couched in violent rhetoric, about advocacy of violent crime, and about illegal actions, right? The gleeful advocacy of theft from third parties is probably my personal go-to, but hoping someone else’s kids get shot and die is a perennial favorite and Joe Huffman has an endless supply of what he’s named “Markley’s Law” statements.

            And while gun advocates are ‘my tribe’ or at least closer to my viewpoint, I’m not going to pretend they’re an entire group of perfect little angels. I’ve seen people try to excuse a range safety officer whose negligence got a nine-year-old killed, because it’d be horrible to admit bad folk on ‘our side’. I’ve seen far too many target silhouettes, posted online with bullet holes, made to look far too much like an individual person, excused because of course The Politician is bad and powerful. All in a situation where dissent /must/ mean you’re part of the Bad Side invading. And that’s before we get to the internal squabbles like the Hunters versus Self Defense shooters.

            I mean, we’re in the world where the Innocence Project — a group defined by their desire to free men wrongly convicted men from jail — use a laundry list of abusive if not illegal tactics to have an innocent man thrown in jail for a decade and a half. They claimed to be police officers and barged into a man’s home with weapons and badges, showed video of an actor pretending to be an eyewitness, and coordinated with the defense attorney to encourage a guilty plea. I’d be hard-pressed to come up with a better parody of abusive police power, and this was supposed to be the good guys fighting exactly that sorta thing!

            But they had the Right Cause, a deadline, and knew all about the Oppressor’s methods.

          6. Ken Arromdee

            The point is that the norms of the SJ side lead to shutting down discussion a lot more than the norms of the non-SJ side. I am *specifically* talking about discussions.

            For gun control, the non-SJ side would be associated with gun rights and the SJ side with gun control. Your examples are either on the SJ side, or aimed at people who are not part of the discussion. Having a silhouette of a politician with bullet holes isn’t nice, but the politician isn’t on your forum and isn’t debating you face to face, and nobody who’s actually participating in the discussion would get intimidated by that. And I’ve never heard of people refusing to participate in a web forum because of the possibility that someone on the law-and-order side would lie to raid their house.

          7. gattsuru

            Having a silhouette of a politician with bullet holes isn’t nice, but the politician isn’t on your forum and isn’t debating you face to face, and nobody who’s actually participating in the discussion would get intimidated by that.

            To clarify, my point is more that folk take dislike of such thing as ipso facto allegiance to the other side, and shut the conversation down — at best by blacklist, and more often by considering it trolling and escalating up to an eventual ban from there.

            You’re right in it being less common outside of SJW space, but I think you’re underestimating how easy it is to try and drive out folk from other areas.

            And I’ve never heard of people refusing to participate in a web forum because of the possibility that someone on the law-and-order side would lie to raid their house.

            SWATing is an actual tactic of concern for people doing YouTube reviews of video games (and not even in an SJW context: there’s a hilarious-in-the-most-morbid-way-possible video of an online FPS tournament being interrupted by a police raid right as the game announces “counterterrorists win”). It’s certainly not limited to such a field.

            This isn’t the most common tactic — the daily war more often involves trying to get web hosts to shut down someone’s blog, or raising drama accusing someone of being horrible on other sites — but it happens.

      3. Jaskologist

        Yes and no. All governments perform attrocities, but communist governments do much worse attrocities on a larger scale. Human depravity bedevils everything, but some ideologies magnify it more than others.

        1. Illuminati Initiate

          I know you were using it as an example, but in the example: by “others”, do you mean modern liberal democracies specifically, or most other types of governments in general (possibly excluding fascism). Because if its the former you could have an argument (though others would argue that the relevant factors are something else, like “created in violent revolution”, or elements of Leninism/Maoism specifically). But if its the latter I’m not so sure about that and would like to see the data.

        2. Luke Somers

          You seem (if I follow comment structure correctly) to be equating social justice with communism.

          They don’t seem equal to me.

          1. Jaskologist

            It was simply an example. It is valid to point out that any group of sufficient size/power will contain bad people doing bad things, so it is wrong to simply point to indict the entire group based on having found some Bad People in it. However, some groups really do empower Badness more than others, so we can’t immediately dismiss criticisms as “well, everybody has some bad apples.”

      4. pylon shadow

        How do you think the power of SJW’s on the internet matches up against TNC’s (transnational corporations) in real life? Does one have more power than the other?

    2. RCF

      Other groups engage in bullying, but not all of them have the same access to superweapons as SJWs do.

    3. Hanfeizi

      “about the best thing I can say for neoreactionaries as a group is that they actually do seem cautious about kicking out folk for being ‘entryists’, which actually surprised me”

      When people are heretics mostly for the sake of being heretics, it’s hard to fault your brothers for being heretics as well.

  42. Sniffnoy

    If we’re talking about cults, this seems a good time to link to Gwern’s LW post on the subject, in which he says that cults were never actually a serious problem.

  43. Wulfrickson

    Evan Charney wrote an editorial criticizing genome-wide complex trait analysis, the method used in the Plomin et al. IQ study that you mention. (The Plomin study in particular is Charney’s footnote 8.) My knowledge of genetics isn’t great and I think Charney is in the minority here, but his points seem at least plausible to me.

    1. gwern

      Plausible, but wrong. He says that there are no hits for the missing heritability, which was wrong in 2013 and even more wrong now; he argues that population stratification is a problem, but doesn’t show this aside from a very vague but extremely confident declaration that throwing out the first 7 components or whatever is ‘wholly inadequate’ (which his 3 references seem rather inadquate for); he contradicts himself when convenient (for example, he criticizes GCTA for turning in lower estimates of heritability, writing “Thus far, GCTA studies appear to have proven critics of the twin study methodology right, yielding significantly lower heritability estimates”; yet, this is entirely predictable because the GCTAs are based on SNPs which can only capture a part of the genome and typically only look at the additive contributions, and he’s well aware of both points, since he *also* writes later ‘all GCTA estimates are derived from looking only at SNPs, but SNPs are only one form of genetic polymorphism. There are numerous other kinds of prevalent genetic variations, including copy number variations, multiple copies of segments of genes, whole genes, and even whole chromosomes.’ – look dude, you can’t have it both ways! either SNPs only capture part of genetic variation and so lower heritability estimates are normal & expected, or they capture all the heritability and you’re on the other horn of the dilemma); misstates technical details (eg he writes “GCTA assumes “additive genetic variance,””; no, it’s more like, ‘GCTA only looks at the subset of genetic variance which is additive’; this is the difference between a technique which is based on a blatantly false assumption & is entirely worthless, and a technique which is good & valid on some things but not for others), offers a good example of letting the perfect be the enemy of better (“There is no rational scientific reason to assume that SNPs are the only relevant, or even the “most important” form of genetic variation (other than the fact that SNP data is easiest to obtain). The simplistic model of additive genetic variance upon which GCTA relies (and which assumes no epistasis and no gene x environment interactions) is out of touch with current understanding of the complex, multifactorial nature of most human traits that have a genetic component.”), and offers sage sounding yet scientifically sterile councils of despair (“we must turn away from an excessive and offtimes exclusive focus upon genetic polymorphisms and take a more holistic approach, one in which disease and health are seen as attributes of plastic, adaptive organisms functioning within particular environments.” – yeah, I’m sure that research program will work *real* well. We need to think more holistically! Quick, maybe if we toss in some more buzzwords like ‘epigenetics’ and ‘gene-environment interactions’, it’ll get us more funding.)

  44. suntzuanime

    I guess I should have been prepared for it after seeing you use a politics-brained term like “climate denial”, but do you really think the Republicans are ruining the country? You linked earlier in this post to a suggestion that the economy has been exceeding expectations, all praise the Democrats no thanks to the Republicans, and the biggest national political problems I can see are executive-branch things like an endless series of profitless wars and sinister spy agency overreach. (I’m not blaming the Democrats here especially, the Republicans do those things while in power too, but blaming the Republicans would be ridiculous.)

    And it seems like even if you buy the Democrats’ story about how great Democratic policies are, all Republican obstructionism is doing is slowing down our path to utopia, not actively wrecking the country. And to the extent that Republican obstructionism is about denying bipartisanship to things like Obamacare, all it’s doing is forcing the Democrats to take credit for the utopia they make.

    1. Scott Alexander Post author

      I was referring to “legislators” more than “Republicans” in particular. I don’t think they’re actively ruining it, just…making minimal effort to prevent it from being ruined?

      Maybe I’ll edit around that part.

      1. The Anonymouse

        This was something I was wondering about as well. Unless you believe that Congress is some sort of benevolent omnicompetent force that would actually have well thought-through, real-world-workable solutions if only it weren’t for that pesky opposition, what’s so bad about obstructionism?

        As far as I can tell, Congress is just as likely to screw up everything it touches as it is to actually solve problems. From that perspective, bring on the gridlock. (I don’t care which tribe is doing it.)

        Put another way, don’t just do something, sit there!

        1. Jaskologist

          Obstructionism is when the other guys don’t do what we want to do.

          Therefore, when the Republicans didn’t vote for the stimulus, that was obstruction, even though it passed. When the same happened with obamacare, that was also obstructionism. When they continued to oppose it and keep it unpopular, that’s severe obstructionism.

          By contrast, when the Democrats refused to pass a budget, even while they had a supermajority, that’s not obstruction. Nor will it be obstruction when Obama vetoes whatever bills the new congress sends him.

          See? It’s simple.

        2. Deiseach

          See Frank Herbert’s early stories about the Bureau of Sabotage where, in the future, bureaucracy becomes so efficient they need to set up a ‘red tape’ counter-agency to bring back the kind of clutter, obstruction and delays they used to have:

          In Herbert’s fiction, sometime in the far future, government becomes terrifyingly efficient. Red tape no longer exists: laws are conceived of, passed, funded, and executed within hours, rather than months. The bureaucratic machinery becomes a juggernaut, rolling over human concerns and welfare with terrible speed, jerking the universe of sentients one way, then another, threatening to destroy everything in a fit of spastic reactions.

        1. Ray

          Do you have more details for this? At first glance it seems really implausible. Nick Land’s strategy involves controlling congress while explicitly avoiding taking the whitehouse, which the democrats only did from 1931-1933.

          1. cassander

            After the 32 election, Hoover worked in vain to try to make some joint policies with FDR, who refused (the president wasn’t sworn in until march back then, so the lame duck period was longer). Depending on who you ask, either Hoover was trying to bind FDR to his policies, or FDR was deliberately letting things get worse in order to strengthen his hand.

      2. Tarrou

        The idea that one party refusing to go against its stated principles and simply rubber-stamp the opposition’s goals, bills and policies is “obstruction” is deeply dishonest and flies in the face of the entire structure of our government.

        Separation of powers is supposed to force these groups into conflict, to weed out the worst ideas. When the Dems blame the Reps for failing to vote for things they never supported, perhaps they might ask themselves why their policies got not one vote from the other side? Well, the obvious answer is that those evil Reps are so over-the-top that they won’t agree to anything. Except funding, military cuts, the Syria bombing that never happened ( a good thing IMO, but there were more Reps on the president’s side than Dems on that issue.). Then realize that there hasn’t been a single Democratic vote cast in either house of congress for the President’s budgets, not even when they had a supermajority. Maybe it’s not (just) those evil Reps after all.

        1. Andrew

          It’s not just “failure to vote for” the things. It’s failure even to allow votes to occur.

          There’s also a deeper sense in which the Republicans can be said to be obstructionist: they want to prevent the people (i.e., the voters) from being able to make the decisions. For example, the people want public healthcare in some form. The GOP wants to prevent the people from wanting that, true; but they also want to prevent it from happening regardless of whether they succeed on influencing public opinion.

          Also, you write, “why their policies got not one vote from the other side? Well, the obvious answer is that those evil Reps are so over-the-top that they won’t agree to anything”

          I don’t think that’s the obvious answer, nor do I think it’s correct. The answer is that the Republicans are coordinated. They have assembled themselves into a single collective bargaining agent. The Democrat proposals get not one single vote, for the same reason that a worker union does not accept one single firing without cause. It’s just game theory.

          1. Samuel Skinner

            “For example, the people want public healthcare in some form. ”

            The public also wants lower taxes and an increase in services. Most of the publics desires are contradictory. Complaining about the Republicans ignoring the will of the people by not offering more services is like complaining that Democrats are ignoring the will of the people by not reducing taxes.

            ” The answer is that the Republicans are coordinated. They have assembled themselves into a single collective bargaining agent. ”

            That is pretty impressive considering this hasn’t happened any time previously in American history because representatives in congress are pretty much immune to party pressure given their sole concern is their constituents (and they have an incredibly high incumbency rate).

            Of course the true irony is that the Republicans are being accused of being a European style party; presumably copying European social and political systems is okay unless conservatives do that.

          2. Char Aznable

            The Republicans aren’t a coordinated entity though. The Tea Party faction and the regular Republican faction has pretty differing views on plenty of things. They both disagreed with a lot of what the Democratic party wanted to do but that’s not the same as being an ideologically cohesive unit.

          3. Andrew

            Of course, the whole reason political parties exist is to coordinate collective action. So it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise to see them do that.

            But what the GOP has done recently is coordinate obstruction by obtaining complete unity in procedural votes. These aren’t votes on legislation, of course. They’re votes that prevent other votes.

            Consider this quote:

            Asked what the House was doing, Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California and a Boehner loyalist, said: “You really have to call Cruz, I’m not even joking about that. That’s really what you have to do, because he’s the one that set up the strategy, he’s the one that got us into this mess, and so we’ve got to know what the next move is.”

            Or this quote:

            Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), whose influence has grown in the wake of Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts, is puzzled over comments made by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid about her intentions to strike a bipartisan health care deal.

            Speaking with reporters in the Capitol Wednesday, Snowe said she has yet to speak with Reid regarding his critical comments in The New York Times last week. In the article, the Nevada Democrat is critical of the bipartisan talks that failed in the Senate over health care, and Reid says of Snowe: “As I look back it was a waste of time dealing with her because she had no intention of ever working anything out.”

            “I don’t even know why he would be critical,” Snowe said Wednesday. “No good deed goes unpunished, they say.”

            Snowe, perhaps the most moderate Republican in the Senate, is the most likely defector to help advance the Democrats’ agenda, and the White House has been wooing her for months to keep her in the fold. And now that Brown has given the GOP a filibuster-sustaining 41st vote, the Democrats will need at least one Republican to reach the 60 votes needed to advance legislation.

            Some senators said Wednesday that Reid’s comments may poison the well with Snowe, but she said she looks “forward not backward.”

            “I can’t account for why he said what he said,” Snowe said. “I keep working moving forward on all the issues that matter.”

            (In case you don’t know, by the way, Snowe did not “defect” in the end on the ACA cloture vote. All GOP members voted against allowing a vote on the ACA.)

            Of course there are separate things going on in the house and senate. I really would like to cite all kinds of examples but I’d have to look them up and spend a lot of time on it.

            This kind of stuff unfortunately is really obscure to most people, and I’m only barely more informed than them. For example at least I know the Democratic supermajority in the Senate lasted less than two months (ending with the death of Ted Kennedy). But right here in this forum you see somebody claiming otherwise and nobody correcting it. And they’re saying that the budget failed to pass during the supermajority; but was a budget even available to vote on during those two months? The supermajority was July-August, and budgets are passed in April right? The budget is proposed April 1 and passed by April 15? So in other words there was no budget to pass during the supermajority, but it’s obscure enough to lie about.

            I’m even lying right now because you don’t need a supermajority in the Senate to pass a budget. It can’t be filibustered. Or can it? Does it depend on how it comes to be proposed? Do you know? Do you trust me?

            Point being it’s a world of lies out there, some of which are very much coordinated and publicized.


            I’ll reply to one other thing. Samuel Skinner says:

            “Complaining about the Republicans ignoring the will of the people by not offering more services is like complaining that Democrats are ignoring the will of the people by not reducing taxes”

            I’m not saying that the GOP is ignoring the will of the people by not “offering more services.” I’m saying that they’re ignoring the will of the people by turning the Senate into a body where 60 votes is necessary to pass anything.

            If the Democrats turned the Senate into a body that required 60 votes to pass anything, in order to oppose tax cuts that were popularly desired, then I’d say the same thing.

            But that didn’t actually happen. Neither part. Not only did the Democrats not engage in that kind of obstruction (not in recent history anyway — they did start a civil war once); Democrats in general do not oppose popular tax cuts. For example the Democrats kept Bush’s tax cuts for everybody making less than $400k.

          4. Jaskologist


            Budgets cannot be filibustered.

            However, if you control the Senate, you can block budgets by simply never allowing them to come up for a vote.

            The House has passed a budget every year Republicans have controlled it.* Reid has simply tabled these, countering with nothing at all. Thus, all government funding has come about through Continuing Resolutions. But, since these are inherently last-minute, any time an impasse is reached, it becomes a crisis. This was a deliberate strategy, as Democrats wagered that Republicans would take the blame for any resulting shutdown. They weren’t wrong, but I guess they weren’t right enough either.

            Here’s the final proof: Democrats controlled both houses of congress going into the 2010 elections. The House simply chose not to pass a budget at all. Republicans had nothing to do with this; they couldn’t have even if they wanted to.

            * Well, since 2010, at least. I don’t want to claim knowledge of political maneuverings in the 1907 Congress.

    2. Eli

      do you really think the Republicans are ruining the country?

      Since their stated ideological goals are more-or-less to institute policies better-designed for a deeply inegalitarian resource-extraction economy (and in fact, they receive their financial support mostly from magnate families, especially in resource extraction industries and Wall Street) rather than a post-industrial services-and-professions economy (which is what the Democrats support, being paid by Hollywood, academia, Wall Street, and the tech sector)… and since the latter corresponds more closely to a real-world plan for a prosperous, though not egalitarian, society….

      Yes, yes they are ruining the country. They are trying to turn America into Kazakhstan, to the point where even the neoliberal capitalist par excellence at the International Monetary Fund are telling them to change course.

      None of this should be a controversial statement, as oftentimes the simple answer IS IN FACT the true answer, and you REALLY DO find out about the world by looking at it.

      Stop letting your meta-contrarian brains do your seeing and use your First Sight.

      1. suntzuanime

        My point, if you’d bothered to read it, is that they aren’t implementing much of their stated policy. Don’t let that get in the way of your political screed though!

      2. Tarrou

        Ahh yes, the old “My opponents are actually comic-book supervillains!” bit. How nice to see that the commenters here are not immune to Breitbart-Kos disease.

        1. Andrew

          There was no comic-book supervillain in there. Just ordinary human greed. The powerful people running things for their own benefit. Same as every society in history.

          You don’t really need to get into comic books to find supervillainy. How about slave owners? How about the political movement to sustain slavery? Are those comic book supervillains? They sure did exist though, maybe fiction imitates life.

          Now we certainly don’t allow slavery these days, but do you think that the protection of contemporary fortunes based on stock ownership is something fundamentally different, on a human psychological level, from the protection of fortunes based on slave ownership?

          Of course it’s all very human and noble because when the powerful lose power, they’re losing what they’ve come to consider themselves deserving! So you see it’s quite devastating. At the least we could compromise, have some kind of “alimony for the rich,” or to think of it the opposite way, “compensated emancipation” for the poor (where you compensate the rich, for enduring the emancipation of the poor).

          The point is that they have to keep getting what they’ve been getting, because they’ve been getting it, and they really don’t want to lose it. But the question I can’t answer is: is that a supervillain or not?

      3. Deiseach

        It seems to me, if you are pinning your hopes on a “post-industrial services and professions economy” utopia, you will need to do something in America to pay your service workers a reasonable wage, so that it is not necessary to extract tips from customers to make up a living wage.

        Or do you mean that in the future, everyone will be a Hollywood movie star, not waiting tables?

      4. Scott

        If your goal is to actually do what’s best for the country, the optimal strategy is to say whatever gets you elected, and then ignore it once you are and implement real policies. (Paying enough lip service to your promises to keep you in office, of course.)

        Not that this is the case for all our elected officials, but you should never judge someone off their platform rather than their actions.

        1. houseboatonstyx

          No platform survives collision with reality. But it shows which direction the candidate is trying to go.

        2. Doug S.

          If your goal is to actually do what’s best for the country, the optimal strategy is to say whatever gets you elected, and then ignore it once you are and implement real policies. (Paying enough lip service to your promises to keep you in office, of course.)

          I think this was FDR’s campaign strategy against Hoover, whom he criticized for having the federal government do too much to fight the Depression, then did the most dramatic post-election flip-flop in American history…

          1. Douglas Knight

            Probably your textbook said that FDR condemned and dramatically expanded many specific policies of Hoover, not government action in general. For example, I’d always heard that FDR condemned Hoover’s deficit spending, but I’d never before looked at the platform, which I now see proposes to replace deficit spending by bonds.

          2. Douglas Knight

            Right, the point is that the flip-flop isn’t post-election.

            I should have said “replace deficit spending by … bonds” for clarity.

    3. Kzickas

      That assumes that the US faces a completly static situation and that the ability to react is worthless. If it’s necessary to react to changing situations obstructionism is directly harmful.

      1. drethelin

        Unless people are prone to overreacting in the moment to things like 9/11, in which case obstructionism would be a very much needed brake to counteract media and public opinion stomping on the gas.

      2. cassander

        It is often said that the two things congress does best are “nothing” and “overreacting”. of the two the later is usually much more harmful.

    4. Whateverfor

      (Disclaimer: Trying to determine which political party is “better” or “worse” by looking at a particular bad action/strategy is not a good idea. You can still analyze these strategies to predict later actions.)

      The “principled obstruction” argument would be a lot more reasonable if it wasn’t for the debt ceiling/government shutdown fiascos. Thankfully the Republicans actually took some heat for those, so the incentives aren’t that bad.

      Part of the problem is that there are really two separate obstructionist movements right now, a “Strategic” one exemplified by McConnell in the Senate, and a “Signalling Virtue through lack of Compromise” that exists more in the House. The latter annoy me personally because compromising with opponents and synthesizing a relatively consistent agenda from wildly divergent voter preferences is a big part of a congressman’s actual job. Only the first is driven by structural factors in the government though, so things aren’t as inevitably bad as they might seem.

    5. Jaskologist

      I’m so old, I remember when the Neoreactionary view that things were in decline was obviously, empirically wrong. Now, not only is America being ruined, but Democracy is apparently structured to incentivize the destruction of the country! All it took to turn Scott into a neoreactionary was a big Republican win.

      Maybe thinking about tribalism doesn’t help free you from it after all.

      1. Randy M

        I was amused that as I was browsing that section I saw “Tribal Warfare II” advertised on my facebook feed.

    6. Princess Stargirl

      I think using “climate denial” is pretty rude. Denial implies the people know there is climate change and are intentionally lying. In general using terms for a group that no one uses to describe themselves is a bad red flag. So for example anyone calling people “cultural Marxists” is also probably not being very fair. (though just using Marxist could be fine, some people describe themselves are Marxists). “Neo-liberal” is on thin ice but a few people like Scott Sumner seem to use it as a good thing? But mostly neo-liberal is an insult imo.

      1. Matthew

        I don’t think neo-liberal is in the same category as “cultural marxist” or “climate denier.” It’s increasingly used as a term of abuse now, but in the 1990s, people would actually identify this way.

        1. Princess Stargirl

          You are probably right. I am likely just too young to remember this. (I was alive in the 90s but not following politics).

        2. Eric Hamell

          You’re forgetting that *denial* is often used in a psychological sense, meaning a motivated refusal to consciously acknowledge what the evidence tells you. It’s easy to interpret non-acceptance of anthropogenic climate change as motivated by a fear of having to give up a fossil-fueled (or, especially, fossil profits-fueled) lifestyle.

      2. Harald K

        “Denial implies the people know there is climate change and are intentionally lying.”

        No, when we say someone is “in denial”, we do not mean they are lying, exactly. We mean that they are strenuously avoiding a conclusion that seems unavoidable. They may believe their own statement to various degrees.

        Now for the basis for calling people climate deniers in particular, I urge you to read Merchants of Doubt by Eric Conway and Naomi Oreskes. They are science historians, and they document the work of a small cadre of fanatical anti-communist scientists (Seitz, Singer, Nierenberg and Jastrow) through about 30 years. On just about every scientific issue, (health effects of smoking, acid rain, health effects of asbestos, ozone depletion, climate change), those people were on the wrong side of the facts, and on the side of big business.

        Actually, I think that strenuously avoiding a conclusion that seems unavoidable isn’t even always wrong. I like to use the meteor as an example. A meteor is heading towards earth, from the best evidence you have it is sure to hit. There is nothing mankind can do to stop it, and it’s sure to wipe out all life on earth with the possible exception of the simplest life forms. What do you do?

        If you keep living your life as if there would be a tomorrow, you’re engaging in motivated reasoning, and a form of it that is defensible, in my opinion.

        I believe, from reading that book and following those very people for some 10 years myself, that they were so fanatically anti-communist/anti-socialist, that they decided preemptively that if this problem only has a “communist” solution, then we might as well have no solution. We might as well loudly pronounce that global warming isn’t real, because if communism is the only solution to it, then we’re doomed anyway.

        But do they really believe that? Or is this a form of ideological tying yourself to the mast, playing chicken with the climate to try to win as many ideological concessions as possible?

        If you, like me, believe that there is some degree of hope, that the solutions aren’t as “communist” as all that, then you can fairly characterise these positions as denial either way.

        1. Tarrou

          I’ll bite. To the degree that some scientists or people in general may oppose consensus (and there’s just an all sorts of unscientific term) for political reasons, this may more hing on the policy response than the actual science.

          I read a study some time back from the Cultural Cognition Project at Yale (a recommended read for anyone) concerning this. The motivated reasoning for political reasons is equal across the ideological spectrum, but is reversible with policy prescription. For instance, if you tell a conservative that global warming is real, so he should support a carbon tax and the expanded power of the EPA, he discredits the research. If you tell a liberal that global warming is real, so he should support increased nuclear power construction, he does the same. The difference is that academia is overwhelmingly liberal, so their policy prescriptions are almost always from that side of the aisle. It’s just the way they think.

          Motivated reasoning will always work this way. Partisan political hacks will always use science to justify their positions and ignore science which runs counter to their policy preference. This problem is exacerbated when the team that does science takes a political stand. Every time I discuss climate change and get a “TEH SCIENCE IS SETTLED!!!!”, I ask if it’s also settled about gun control (thirty years of inconclusive or negative results). Somehow, that debate is never over in the scientific community.

          Me? I’ll accept someone’s belief in the science if they are willing to accept the opposing side’s policy prescription for it. Otherwise, it’s just a political dodge. The oldest of all fallacies, the appeal to authority.

          1. Harald K

            There are differences in good faith dissent. I have seen complaints that nuclear is trading one environment problem for another (not correct, IMO), and complaints that nuclear has overpromised and underdelivered for 50 years despite billions in “dual use-technology” money from defense budgets, that competing power options never got (a more weighty argument if you ask me). I have met none on the left who started denying the reality or seriousness of climate change when nuclear power was suggested as a solution.

            But on the right, you see people denying really basic physics. You see wink-wink nudge-nudge arguments towards the sun, volcano emissions, cosmic rays, blaming the melting polar caps on undersea volcanoes etc. Stuff that would be really easy to debunk with very basic physics considerations, when they are rigorously articulated. Yet these argument are revived again and again, like in evolution debates.

            Maybe somewhere there is a good-faith skeptic who never touched these arguments. But I don’t know who that would be. They act as if we are at war, and any means (including dirty arguments that “work”) are permissible. The enemy is still communism, basically.

            You say you’ll accept someone’s belief in the science if they accept the opposing side’s policy prescription for it? Well, if that case is nuclear, there are tons of prominent environmentalists who consider it part of the mitigation package (though not the silver bullet some proponents paint it as ), and probably the majority of climatologists. Most notably James Hansen has been clear that he supports nuclear power.

          2. AnonBosch

            The good-faith skeptics are lukewarmers, not deniers. They have been more or less shoved into Team Black by default, though, because Team Green is disinclined to concede anything and revising estimates down, even in the face of compelling evidence, seems too much like a concession.

            And yes, Hansen and lots of other climate scientists are very pro-nuclear. They’re also WG1 guys, not WG3. The IPCC’s mitigation authors give nuclear very short shrift compared to the bleeding-edge renewables.

          3. Tarrou

            Perhaps you can link me to the policy platform of the Blues which encourages nuclear reactor building?

            Once more, this is about the interplay between the scientific community, the public, and the political partisans. For partisans, the policy prescription influences their criticism of the science. Therefore, scientists rolling into policy disputes can only hurt pure science in the long run. This is like the teacher’s unions. Whether or not you agree with them, stapling yourself politically to one side leaves you wide open to revenge when the other side wins an election. They have nothing to lose by alienating a totally partisan group. This is why the NRA backs Harry Reid.

          4. grendelkhan

            Tarrou: Perhaps you can link me to the policy platform of the Blues which encourages nuclear reactor building?

            Does a State of the Union address count? “But to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. And that means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country.” (It seems to have stalled after the Fukushima disaster.

            In the mid-1990s, the Integral Fast Reactor shutdown was a Blue-vs-Blue affair, with Richard Durbin on one side, and John Kerry on the other. So that seems at least somewhat emblematic. (The former ranks, at least currently, as the more liberal, which seems to indicate additional Blueness.)

  45. suntzuanime

    Citing planks from the Republican platform that were there before the Republicans and Democrats switched places is totally disingenuous. You may as well say African-Americans should be voting for them as the party that freed the slaves.

      1. Samuel Skinner

        The Republicans were essentially a sectional party at creation and remained that way after the civil war- Democrats were tarred with the association with traitors so the Republicans essentially controlled the North and the Democrats the South.

        At the turn of the century progressives became and important wing within the party before being disillusioned by Taft and then Wilson.

        Even afterwards the progressive wing was still strong; a large percentage of republicans voted for the civil rights act then democrats.

        1. noahluck

          The Civil Rights Act voting records for Republicans and Democrats is a good historical example of Simpson’s paradox. Republicans voted in favor of the CRA at a higher rate than did Democrats. So if you only know what party a politician was, you’ll see a correlation with CRA support. Yet it’s simultaneously true that Republicans from the South voted in favor of the CRA at a lower rate than did Democrats from the South, and that Republicans not from the South also voted in favor of the CRA at a a lower rate than did Democrats not from the South. So if you know where a politician was from, then also knowing the party would result in the opposite direction corrolation compared to when you only knew the party. Weird, huh?

          The effect happened because there’s a major effect found on a different dimension. Members of Congress from the South voted 94% against the CRA, but the more numerous members of Congress not from the South voted 90% for the CRA. That’s a huge swing in support levels! By contrast, the split by party was that 80% of Republicans voted for the CRA and 63% of Democrats did — a much smaller effect.

          IMO, we get a better sense of what was going on if we remember that, in that time period, the Democratic party was way bigger but internally split into Northern and Southern factions that had little in common. The Civil Rights Act was part of the North/South struggle, not really a partisan struggle.

    1. Douglas Knight

      When do you date the switch?

      It seems to me to be drawn out over decades. A simple measure are the two third party campaigns by Democrats, in 1948 and 1964. This is from halfway in between, which would seem to be well into the switch.

      1. suntzuanime

        If you’re cherrypicking positions to make a disingenuous political point, halfway through the switch is halfway not through the switch, which is plenty to cherrypick from.

      2. Liskantope

        I think there were several steps to the switch, including one in the early 30’s (in response to FDR’s “New Deal” politics), and one in the 60’s when the Democrats took the helm in the civil rights movement. A few aspects of the party platforms may have remained the same, such as Republican support for the advancement of certain types of big businesses. (I think Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president, endorsed this for the railroad business).

        1. Samuel Skinner

          Railroad support wasn’t necessarily big business in 1860; the issue was that a lot of people wanted to build a transcontinental railroad, but whoever there was an issue of who got to have it; the first route would be a massive benefit to the states it went through and there was the option for a northern or southern route.

          Needless to say the Northern route was the one constructed.

      3. Cyan

        It doesn’t really make sense to talk about a “switch” before the inception of the Southern strategy. Prior to that, Southern racists were losing their place in and influence over the Democratic party but had not yet found a home in the GOP.

      4. Andrew

        The best way to date it is to look at the Dixiecrats and the career of Strom Thurmond:

        Strom Thurmond left the Democratic Party in 1948 to join the Dixiecrat Party as its presidential candidate. He joined the GOP in 1964, but in the time between (after the Dixiecrat Party was dissolved) he was in a strange circumstance as a Democrat:

        At the recommendation of Governor James Byrnes, Thurmond campaigned on the pledge that if he won, he would resign in 1956 to force a primary election which could be contested. At the time, South Carolina was a one-party state. For all intents and purposes, the Democratic primary was the real contest for most state races from the local level all the way to the U. S. Senate. The Republican Party, which attracted the support of most of the state’s black voters, had a voice in choosing the Republican presidential nominee, but was all but powerless at the state level.

        Thurmond won overwhelmingly, becoming the first person to be elected to the U.S. Senate as a write-in candidate against ballot-listed opponents. In 1956, Thurmond resigned to run in the party primary, which he won. Afterward, he was repeatedly elected to the US Senate by state voters until his retirement 46 years later, despite his mid-career party switch from Democrat to Republican in 1964.

    2. HlynkaCG

      There’s a joke that goes something like; Republicans try to paint Democrats as being stupid or naive and Democrats try to paint Republicans as being 19th (and early 20th) century Democrats.

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