Links 9/15: Linkua Franca

From the Department of Omens: Why is everyone having weird dreams about Jeremy Corbyn?

Myths and facts about medieval fighting, mostly good for ruining your enjoyment of things: “Spears were the medieval and ancient weapon. Swords are always a secondary or tertiary weapon for warriors, meaning that you would only use your sword if your main weapon was lost/broken/inappropriate. If you are not wearing armour or have no shield, once they commence sword fights end in about 1 second.”

The time Bill Clinton’s haircut caused a national scandal. The time a dispute over hairstyles killed hundreds of thousands of people.

If Avatar: The Last Airbender had a Game of Thrones-style introduction.

Most of the Japanese Parliament, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, are members of Nippon Kaigi, a nationalist organization dedicated to reviving the Japanese Empire, “breaking away from the post-war regime”, and restoring the status of the Emperor as a living god. (h/t Noah Smith)

Chomsky would have a field day with this headline: Jewish Man Dies As Rocks Pelt His Car In East Jerusalem. I think this is one case where the passive voice would actually be less weaselly.

To make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe. Creating a sandwich from scratch, on the other hand, only takes 6 months and $1500.

Emmanuel Nwude was a Union Bank of Nigeria director who made $242 million by pulling the greatest Nigerian scam of all time.

Chinese firm invents large-scale 3D printer that can create ten houses a day for $5000 each. Just what China needs – more housing! Also, printing houses from mud?

Carly Fiorina demands to know what Hillary has done during her 20 years in politics. Democrats step up to the challenge and list a bunch of her greatest accomplishments.

200 proofs that the Earth is flat, in case you need to prove whatever philosophical point might be proven by somebody making a site with 200 proofs that the Earth is flat.

A few weeks ago I mentioned some problems with Chomsky’s Cambodian genocide scholarship. Jim has a whole well-cited list.

Popehat scoops me on something I’ve always thought was a good idea: given that some people want “safe” colleges with trigger warnings on everything, and other people want “free speech” colleges where they are confronted with disquieting new ideas, why aren’t different colleges drifting to one side or the other and letting the market decide?

Otto von Bismarck’s grandson Gottfried von Bismarck also made history books – by dying with “the highest [blood] level of cocaine that [his doctors] had ever seen.”

Troll Research Station in Antarctica.

Did US news deregulation cause the recent increase in political polarization?

Last links post I linked to a rap version of the Iliad. I neglected to mention that the author is trying to rap-ify the whole thing (!!) and has a Patreon account set up to fund the project.

Latest campus free speech problem: threats to expel students who criticize Israel, courtesy of Dianne Feinstein.

Mark Zuckerberg donated $100 million to fix the Newark school system. It mostly failed. Some speculation about why. One example where donations without systemic change didn’t do any good.

Gwern asks any modafinil users reading this to take a survey about their response to the medication for his research. Participants will be entered into a drawing to win extremely predictable prize. Related: is President Obama using modafinil?

Shaven chimps look kind of like a really buff Gollum.

Is Milo Yiannopoulos The Only Responsible Tech Journalist Left On The Planet?, asks Milo Yiannopoulos.

The full chemical name of the protein titin is the longest word in the English language at 189,819 letters. If you want, learn it at home with Mavis Beacon Teaches Titin

Why is China, which has a billion people and lots of money, so terrible at soccer? One interesting theory – the government bans all small gatherings that aren’t pre-approved, putting a big regulatory hassle in the way of people who might otherwise start random back-alley soccer games, and maybe this sort of grassroots-level introduction to the sport is important enough that even throwing money at big gleaming stadiums can’t make up for it. Somebody should study countries that over/under-perform their fundamentals in sports versus countries that over/under-perform their fundamentals in academia/science and see what the correlations are.

1960s: “You can’t fight here, this is the war room!”. 2010s: Brawl breaks out in Japanese Parliament during debate over pacifism

“Good morning, Mr. Machiavelli. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to prevent Cesare Borgia from conquering Florence. You will serve as our official ambassador to his court. You will shadow the Duke-Cardinal as closely as possible, report to us about his character and tactics, and develop a strategy to keep him from adding Tuscany to his expanding kingdom. While at his court, you will need to maintain yourself and your team with grandeur sufficient to make him take us seriously as a political force, but we can’t send you any funds to pay for this, since Borgia has so completely destroyed peace and order in the region that bandits are rampaging through the countryside robbing and murdering all our couriers. This message will self-destruct in a few weeks when your office is inevitably looted and burned, but if you throw it in the fire that will speed things up.” Somebody linked me to Ex Urbe a few weeks back, and now I am passing on the favor. Read the one about the Borgias first, but the whole Machiavelli series is superb.

Does the season in which you were born affect your skill at chess? Also, “a similar pattern has been found with schizophrenia, and the possible link between these two phenomena is discussed.”

Between-populations factors explain 24% genetic differences in height and 8% of genetic differences in BMI across Europe. Now that the only two massively polygenic traits that might vary among national populations have been successfully studied, I look forward to never having to read any further research of this sort ever again.

“Contrary to popular perceptions, today both property and violent crimes (with the exception of homicides) are more widespread in Europe than in the United States”. What caused the ‘Reversal Of Misfortunes’?

There are probably lots of Barack Obama lookalikes making some money as impersonators, but only one who is a Han Chinese man in Guangzhou. Also, holy @#$%, that Chinese guy looks exactly like Barack Obama.

Computational linguistics: where king – man + woman = queen

This creepy Bay Area kidnapping case was so bizarre that the police said it was a hoax until the kidnapper wrote in to complain that this was unfair to the victim. Also: gangs of gentlemen-thieves flying crime-drones.

What did the Chinese think of the most recent Republican primary debate? Apparently “Jeb” sounds like “penis” in Chinese.

People were pretty nasty to Vox when they rejected that article on negative utilitarianism for political/PR reasons. But they have redeemed themselves by publishing The Case Against Equality Of Opportunity and it’s pretty good. I broadly agree with it although I think it requires a much broader rejection of philosophical paradigms and reorganization about how we think of things than could be included even in an article of this length. Also: Vox reinvents the concept of anarcho-tyranny without noticing. Also also: don’t miss Eight times politicians fired actual guns at abstract concepts.

Dutch study shows rampant sexism in scientific community. Dutch establishment promises reforms, says they will push “gender awareness” on everyone involved. Outside observers point out basic statistical error, actual results show no gender bias at all. Original authors say it doesn’t matter and the Dutch scientific community is still sexist because grant review forms use “gendered language” like the word “excellent” which is apparently “male-coded”. Dutch establishment says reform and gender awareness programs are “still a good idea, regardless of the paper’s quality”, and vow to push ahead. Why are we even bothering to do science anymore? Why don’t we just write the only acceptable conclusion on a piece of paper beforehand and save however much it cost to do the study?

Florida Man has finally found a worthy opponent: Puppy Shoots Florida Man. In case that article is too depressing, here is a man with a tiny train full of dogs.

Maybe the most Chinese paragraph ever: “Khorgos, on the border with Kazakhstan, serves as a cautionary example: two years after the go-ahead China has built a city consisting of a number of multi-story shopping centers in the desert. In one of those buildings, for example, there are roughly one hundred shops, each one of them selling exactly the same product: fur coats. By way of contrast, on the Kazak side stands only a yurt and a couple of plastic camels”

If there were some kind of EA bingo card, I think I could win the game just with this sentence: Chris Blattman says that an African program to encourage entrepreneurship with direct cash grants might be the most effective development program in history.

Corporate prediction markets tested at Ford and Google found to be 25% more accurate than traditional expert forecasts.

Tumblr user kontextmachine on the First Servile War.

Noahpinion on Whig history vs. Malthusian history vs. Haan history. Whig history is “We’re doing better because progress is the natural state of the world”. Malthusian history is “We’re doing better because we’re in the boom part of an endless inescapable boom-bust cycle.” Haan history is “We’re doing better but who cares, everything is fundamentally flawed in a way no material progress can fix.

Robin Hanson’s book The Age of Em is available for pre-order, by which I mean “available for gaping at the neat spherical city picture on the cover”.

1,151 thoughts on “Links 9/15: Linkua Franca

  1. Anthony

    OT, or maybe for the next links post: Bryan Caplan identifies the real difference between the left and right.

    What’s my alternative? This:

    1. Leftists are anti-market. On an emotional level, they’re critical of market outcomes. No matter how good market outcomes are, they can’t bear to say, “Markets have done a great job, who could ask for more?”

    2. Rightists are anti-leftist. On an emotional level, they’re critical of leftists. No matter how much they agree with leftists on an issue, they can’t bear to say, “The left is totally right, it would be churlish to criticize them.”

    Yes, this story is uncharitable and simplistic. But clarifying. Communists and moderate Democrats are vastly different, but they have something in common: Free markets get on their nerves. Nazis and moderate Republicans are vastly different, but they too have something in common: Leftists get on their nerves. Within each side, the difference between moderates and extremists is the intensity of their antipathy, not the object of their antipathy.

    1. HeelBearCub

      Caplan seems to say that he is going for a “deduction from first principles”.

      “Rightists are anti-leftist” doesn’t seem to clear that bar. It says nothing about why they are anti-leftist. It’s essentially a circular argument.

  2. flatearth

    Scott I hope youre taking the flat earth movement seriously. Ive been telling you about it for months. It’s worth investigating, you’ll find the truth there.

  3. Shenpen

    Killing each other over hairstyles: 1711-1713 anti-Habsburg fights in Hungary. The two sides were called labanc and kuruc and according to some theories labanc meant long-hair (aristocratic wigs, signalizing loyalty to the king) and kuruc is from German kurz, short-hair. The kuruc were often Protestants – possible relation with Cromwells Roundheads.

    (However it is fair more likely that labanc came from Les Blancs – Habsburg soldiers in white uniform, probably from the French officers training the kurucs. Kuruc could also mean Crusader (german Kreuzer) or it could even be Turkish khuruj (insurgents). )

  4. Kylind

    I know that it’s nitpicking, but Gottfried von Bismarck is the grandson of Otto, Prince von Bismarck who in turn is the grandson of the famous Otto von Bismarck.
    So Gottfried is the great-great-grandson of the Otto that was Chancellor.

  5. iffen

    I was very disappointed with the Myths and Facts about Medieval Fighting. He does not even attempt to explain the sheer, form-fitting armor of the well-proportioned female warriors.

    1. Nornagest

      Obvious fanservice is obvious and therefore not interesting. I wouldn’t spill a lot of ink on how Conan the Barbarian (as drawn by Frank Frazetta, anyway) wears nothing but a loincloth in the frozen north, either.

      1. David Friedman

        Conan is a distant ancestor of the logger lover in the song:

        “The weather it tried to freeze him, it did its very best;
        At a hundred degrees below zero, he buttoned up his vest.”

  6. LPSP

    And to the people taking about “If I’m jewish and use the term jewing, am I now an antisemite/self-hating jew? (snort)” – there are still some lefty buggerwits who would say yes. (I would reply this to specific commentators but I can’t seem to find the option)

    1. brad

      Well let’s put it this way, I grew up in a heavily Jewish area, which also included some migrants from other heavily Jewish areas (such as Israel), I never ever heard the term “jewing” in a joking sense or otherwise until I went to college in the south of the US (an area with few Jews and a history of antisemitism).

      My guess would be that if you are Jewish and use the term you grew up in a mostly non-Jewish culture that was antisemitic to significant extent and absorbed some of that culture. If your connection to Judaism is you think some distant relative on your mother’s side was Jewish, that only adds credence to my hunch.

      1. Whatever Happened To Anonymous

        Yay anecdotes!

        I went to a high school with 40% Jewish population (The rest were spread among catholics, deists, agnostics and atheists, so jews were by far the largest group), “jewing” wouldn’t even register for how mild it is. One guy did get in trouble for writing “Judaism is forbidden” on a desk, turns out the school authorities weren’t in on the joke.

        1. Cauê

          Not sure if relevant, but I want to play too.

          The Brazilian-Portuguese equivalent of “to jew” would be “judiar” (“Jew”=”judeu”), but here it means “to mistreat” (one dictionary explicitly says “to treat someone as the Jews used to be treated”). Looking for it now, I see that Jews are conflicted on whether this should be considered offensive, but that’s not my point.

          My anecdote is: It was a somewhat common word during my childhood, but it took me about 25 years to realize it had anything to do with Jews. It was just a word.

  7. LPSP

    Christ, are people still thinking that about swords and spears? The two melee armaments have literally the same relationship as rifles and pistols possess today.

    In most circumstances, pistols are the more pragmatic and conveniant armament; personal and home defense, lightweight shooting range, police work, agencies, bodyguards and so on. They carry a sort of mysticism and grandeur that they deserve because of gunslingers and the fact that hitting something a good distance away with a small arm quickly really is an accomplishment. But at the end of the day, an individual going into any real, actual conflict, against beast or man, will bring a rifle every single time, and especially if he fights with other men simultaneously. The range, stopping power and formation potential win out every time.

    Will men also bring a pistol as a back-up weapon? Of course. Have officers in squads and teams traditionally brought pistols, given that they couldn’t shoot as they needed to direct the group and a pistol was more conveniant given their more mobile role relative to the whole? Yep, and it looked badass too. What did the real breadwinning? Rifles. Swords and spears are literally identical in their relationship.

    1. Shenpen

      True – and yet 100% wrong.

      If you watch a modern action movie, Mel Gibson as a policeman fighting gangsters, you will see handguns. They are not going to run around in full military gear and shooting M-14s. A light bulletproof west at most, handguns, perhaps SMGs. The whole idea is not to tell a war story but to talk about adventures happening in civilian life, if the life of a policeman can be called broadly civilian. Or GTA games. The idea is to show small-scale “wars” happening amongst random guys in a civilized city, not WW3. Does James Bond run around in a shrapnel vest, Kevlar helmet and with an assault rifle? No – it is a handgun, suit, perhaps a bulletproof vest under it. Shoots the bad guy and then sits back down to his plate of oyster in a classy restaurant.

      And fantasy works the same way! Its goal is not primarily to show huge battles. It is all about the small scale wars of broadly civilian people. Hence the handgun is replaced by the sword, the bulletproof vest with a light chainmail or leather armor, and that’s about it. No full battle gear, no full battle. Usually.

      For example in Dragonlance Chronicles Flint is just a travelling salesman. Tanis his friends is just a traveller, and a hunter.

      True, when it is about real battle, they should be gearing up.

  8. Protest Manager

    “Why are we even bothering to do science anymore? Why don’t we just write the only acceptable conclusion on a piece of paper beforehand and save however much it cost to do the study?”

    Wait, are you complaining about people using dishonesty to advance their agenda? Why? You seemed perfectly comfortable with Chomsky’s use of it in your review of his book. And you’ve in the past made excuses for sleazy race-baiters pushing their agendas with lies (like “Hands up, don’t shoot”). So why stop now?

    This one issue is why I’ll never be a member of the Left: willingness to lie, and willingness to tolerate others’ lies when advancing “the cause” (whichever cause it might be today). If you lie to advance your cause, what you’re doing is publicly admitting is your cause is too worthless to be advanced by the truth. Period. Stop.

    If your cause isn’t worthless, you don’t have to lie, and you don’t have to tolerate others on your side lying.

    When you’re willing to ruthlessly call out all the lying leftists advancing agendas you approve of, then get back to us with complaints about dishonest politicization of science. Until then, while the cause is just, your participation in it is not. Because you have nothing principled to say, you’re just whining about your ox getting gored.

    1. Samuel Skinner

      “Wait, are you complaining about people using dishonesty to advance their agenda? Why?”

      Because niceness and civilization

      “And you’ve in the past made excuses for sleazy race-baiters pushing their agendas with lies (like “Hands up, don’t shoot”).”

      Always link controversial claims.

      “This one issue is why I’ll never be a member of the Left: willingness to lie, and willingness to tolerate others’ lies when advancing “the cause” (whichever cause it might be today). ”

      You mean like creationists? The left is full of liars; so is the right. We should fight lies no matter whose side they are on.

      “When you’re willing to ruthlessly call out all the lying leftists advancing agendas you approve of,”

      See the link above. I don’t think you grasp SSC’s past actions.

      1. Protest Manager

        Anyone who cared about “niceness and civilization” wouldn’t write sympathetic articles about why activists lie to people:

        Or making excuses for Noam Chomsky’s lies about “American Imperialism”.

        A liar is someone who tells something they know, or suspect, is untrue. If you can’t tell the difference between that, and Creationists, who simply disagree with you, you’ve got real problems.

        Yes,every side has liars. The question is what happens when teh liars get caught? What happens when the scum are exposed?

        Bob Packwood and Larry Craig become jokes, because no Republican would protect them. Bill Clinton and Ted Kennedy, OTOH, were / are “liberal lions” because the left has no decency, and no principles.

        1. Protest Manager

          Here, let me tl;dr “The Toxoplasma of Rage”:

          1: Sometime it’s not perfectly free to act in an ethical manner.
          2: Therefore I will cover to, and excuse, any lying or other sleazy behavior by left wing activists, because it’s just too much to expect them to behave ethically when it would cost them.

          Here’s what we on the right do: You get caught lying to “advance the agenda”? You get dumped.

          If someone on the Right had behaved like the Left did with the Duke Lacrosse fake rape, the Rolling Stone fake rape, the Zimmerman shooting, or the Michael Brown shooting, they’d be toast. No one would hire them, no one woudl listen to them, they’d be done.

          Now, what negative things have happened to activists who jumped on the “Hands up, don’t shoot” bandwagon, and who have yet to it was total BS, and they were wrong? How about the Rolling Stone “Jackie” fake rape case? Nothing? Zip?

          And why is that? It’s because you on the Left allow it. Because you don’t say “we are ethical human beings, therefore we will not support or associate with unethical human beings. Therefore will will not support, defend, excuse, or associate with anyone who pushes lies, anyone who refuses to admit error.”

          So you blame “Moloch”, rather than the real cause, which is yourselves.

          So, to tie this back to the original point of the original comment: Yes, it’s bad when people politicize science, lie about the data, and ignore reality while pushing their favorite hobby horses. But someone who shrugs about “Moloch” when activists he agrees with get caught lying, that someone has really no ground for complaining about others doing the same thing, just someplace where he doesn’t approve.

      1. Echo

        When one side lies (or tells half-truths), it’s “called out” on fact-checking sites and broadcast all over the internet and television.
        When the other side lies, exaggerated versions of that lie get reposted to twitter, the tweets are copied to blogs, which are then used as wikipedia citations, which are then credulously repeated as even more ridiculous news stories… all over the internet and television.

        My side tends to tell the truth simply because we could never get away with lying. Of course everything we say is called a lie anyway, but that’s another issue.

        1. HeelBearCub

          Your evidence that “your side” does not lie is that there are fact checking sites that call your side out when you do, in fact, lie.

          I think there is a logical contradiction there somewhere…

          1. David Friedman

            In support of Echo’s point …

            How many people center and left know that Michael Mann falsely claimed to be a Nobel prize winner–among other places in legal filings? That’s not a small falsehood.

            How many even know that Elizabeth Warren, a much more prominent figure, claimed to be a minority law professor on a database used by law schools for finding people to hire, was described as Amerind by universities that hired her, and when questioned said that there was a family tradition that a distant ancestress was a Cherokee.

            That looks like the sort of offense that would make believers in affirmative action regard her as a sinner beyond the pale—instead of treating her as their chosen leader.

            Any comparable cases on the other side–well documented misdeeds by people on the right that almost nobody on the right knows about?

          2. HeelBearCub

            And his purported evidence that the right produces close to zero lies is that there are websites dedicated to debunking lies. That’s like saying there aren’t many urban legends because Snopes exists.

            In addition, it applies just as much to the left as the right. The whole argument is “because I have confirmation bias, my side must be being treated unfairly.”

            @David Friedman:
            Anyone who was paying attention at the time knows that story about Warren. It got ample coverage in every news outlet.

            As near as I can figure out, Mann claimed to have contributed to the work that was awarded the prize, which is true. The IPCC won for work done by many, including Mann.

            What I find interesting here is that your example comes out of a legal case where Steyn’s legal team is trying to defend itself against Mann’s defamation suit. I believe that case is ongoing, but Steyn definitely has lied about Mann, whether or not it rises to level of defamation or not.

            In other words, your example appears to refute the contention that the right is highly unlikely to lie. The fact that it is present in an example you picked seems like it could tell us something about how frequent the behavior is.

          3. David Friedman


            Mann described himself as a Nobel prize winner on his web site and in legal documents–it was only when someone put the question to the people who award the prize that he backed down. Being one of a bunch of people thanked by the IPCC for contributing to the work that got them the peace prize doesn’t make you a Nobel winner, any more than being part of the team that did the research for which someone else got a Nobel does.

            I well remember the lengthy exchanges on a Usenet group where his defenders insisted that of course he was a Nobel prize winning scientist (how various people on his side described him, without any objection from him, although I don’t think he used that phrase).

            My contention isn’t that the right is unlikely to lie—I have no opinion on relative likelihood, and assume that politicians of all sorts often find lying in their interest. My contention is that people on the left are less likely to get called on their lies in a form that people on their side will recognize.

            Go back to Warren. Do you think most people on the left actually know the story, or only know that wicked people attacked her because they said she made some sort of bogus claim? If they do know it, what does it say of a movement that it treats as a heroic figure someone who, from the standpoint of that movement’s declared principles, did the equivalent of stealing pennies from a blind man—fraudulently took advantage of benefits that were supposed to go to others?

          4. David Friedman


            Is there anything in the Franzen book which is as provably true as Mann claiming to be a Nobel prize winner or Warren listing herself as a minority law professor, as discreditable, about as prominent a figure, and of which most people on the right are unaware? One or two examples would be interesting.

          5. HeelBearCub

            @David Friedman:
            “My contention isn’t that the right is unlikely to lie”

            Then why did you claim to be speaking on behalf of Echo’s point? That was Echo’s point, and it made no sense, which is what I pointed out.

          6. David Friedman

            Healbear asks:

            “Then why did you claim to be speaking on behalf of Echo’s point? ”

            I was offering evidence for the first two-thirds of Echo’s post. I think he is correct that, because elite media are dominated by the blue tribe, blue tribe misbehavior is easier to get away with than red tribe misbehavior.

            The evidence I offered was not on who lied how much but on the degree to which blue tribe lies went unrecognized, at least by blue tribe members.

          7. HeelBearCub

            @David Friedman:
            “because elite media are dominated by the blue tribe, blue tribe misbehavior is easier to get away with than red tribe misbehavior … unrecognized, at least by blue tribe members.”

            Well now you are walking back the argument even further, while broadening the base of it. Your claim is now that it only counts if blue tribe members are unaware of it, but any bad behavior counts.

            I honestly didn’t want to get into some sort of dueling listings of bad behaviors, because you know and I know that we can find ample lists of bad behaviors on both sides. “He can’t say that about our guy” is essential doctrine for any turf war. But fine …

            – Bill O’Reilly claimed his show won a Peabody. Was this a lie? How many Republicans remember it?
            – Rush Limbaugh claimed he wasn’t an Oxy addict, but filled prescriptions for 2000 pills in a 6 month period. How many Republicans remember this?
            – David Vitter, current Senator from Louisiana and running for governor admitted frequenting prostitutes and seems to have wanted to be forced to wear diapers. Lets compare that to Anthony Weiner’ s behavior and the resulting treatment.
            – Donald Trump has used the threat of legal action to get at least one person fired from his job for accurately analyzing the financial prospects of one of his casinos. That is, of course, just one example. There are plenty of others for him.

            We could get in this sort of sniping, “No my side is more aggrieved!” argument. I have a feeling it would be pointless because no matter how many examples I pull out of Republicans getting away with bad behavior and still being defended by their tribe, you would still feel that it was right to defend them and therefore it doesn’t count. I mean, hell, the sitting Governor of Texas dispatched the Texas State Guard to monitor USOC training operations in case they were actually planning a military coup, but Republicans were plenty willing to defend that.

          8. Jiro

            The Vitter example is of private, consensual, activity. Weiner involved unwilling recipients. Actually, the Limbaugh example is private too, since Limbaugh isn’t known for being anti-Oxycotin.

          9. Held in Escrow

            That’s not exactly what the Governor of Texas did; he put out what was basically a liaison group which was trained to interface with federal agencies and troops in order to make sure issues didn’t occur (as people have gotten killed on these training exercises before due to miscommunications).

            Overall though, I’m going to try and steelman Friedman here and say his argument is that everyone lies at about the same rate, but Blue lies tend to get less airtime? I don’t know if I agree with that being the case necessarily due to bias if it is the case, rather a lot of your right wing lies tend to be really, really bad lies.

          10. HeelBearCub

            You are, essentially, proving my point.

            @Held In Escrow:
            Here is the
            letter to the State Guard. He doesn’t ask them to be liaisons. He asks them to monitor the operations.

            Sure, you can frame they he just wanted to make sure that communications were adequate. But here he is directly saying it was to calm Texans’ fears about Jade Helm.

            Now, I grant that this is just a pander on the part of Abbott. So, it’s really not an example of bad behavior, per se. But, the pander itself is dangerous.

          11. Held in Escrow

            Look at the second to last paragraph which describes what they’ll actually be doing. Of course it’s all done in a way that looks like it’s KEEP TEXAS STRONG to pander to the crazies, but the actual duties are such as to make sure nobody sees weird armed men walking around and decides that this is their only chance to stop Mexico from invading.

            Basically having the State Guard go out and try to keep things calm wasn’t a bad idea, even if the Governor framed it in such a way as to keep the nutjobs happy

          12. Jiro

            You are, essentially, proving my point.

            Only if you’re being excessively literal, in the way which happens on the Internet too much.

            I presume that your reasoning is that I’m saying that a right-wing lie isn’t that bad, therefore I’m letting the right get away with lies. But the argument isn’t literally that the right can’t easily get away with lies; the argument is that the right can’t easily get away with lies of similar severity that the left can. If the lies aren’t of similar severity, I’m not proving your point.

          13. HeelBearCub

            @Held in Escrow:
            Sure. Maybe. If you are saying they are community liaisons and not liaisons to USOC. Still representative of what has taken hold, but, as I said, not bad behavior.

            I think you just called me stupid, or perhaps just unable to appreciate nuance. I think they are plenty of salient points to be made, but the largest is simply that there are plenty of deontologically minded people in the Republican base who are perfectly willing to call those things wrong, and so wrong that it deserves jail time. You also just ignore the other examples, as if the existence of examples you object to nullifies examples you wouldn’t object to.

            All of which ignores the basic point, which is that (like Chinese Cardiologists), there are lots and lots and lots of Republicans and Democrats, so argument by anecdote is fruitless. We won’t get anywhere. We will just argue about what “crime” was worse.

          14. Jiro

            there are plenty of deontologically minded people in the Republican base who are perfectly willing to call those things wrong, and so wrong that it deserves jail time.

            Whether a large group of people considers act A less severe than act B depends on the cumulative opinion of the group of people, not on individual elements of the group. It is perfectly consistent for 1) some Republicans to consider such acts to be severe and 2) reds in general not to consider them severe, since “the opinion of some Republicans” or even “the opinion of some reds” is not the same thing as “the opinion of reds”.

            (And the original claim was about the media anyway. The media clearly have *not* let reds get away with any of the things you mention.)

            You also just ignore the other examples,

            Ignoring most examples is a necessary strategy as preemptive defense against Gish gallops.

          15. HeelBearCub

            In all seriousness and being completely genuine, I honestly can’t tell if you just want to win debates or have honest conversation. I hope it is the latter, because I don’t think anyone is served by the former.

            The list I produced was in response to this comment from David Friedman “The evidence I offered was not on who lied how much but on the degree to which blue tribe lies went unrecognized, at least by blue tribe members.”

            Friedman switched the argument, not me. He, not me, brought in Elizabeth Warren’s supposed Cherokee heritage, which was broadly covered by the media, as an example.

            The list I produced is not supposed to be a list of things not covered by the media, but rather bad things ignored by red tribe.

            I find it interesting that you further contend that red tribe has only some small minority that argues for deontological based morality. Arguably its strongest power base is conservative, fundamentalist Christians. The libertarian minded wing of the party has become more powerful, but as evidenced by the gay marriage debate, they aren’t actually very powerful within the party.

            Finally, I am specifically arguing against “Gish Gallop” argumentative type. This is why I have repeatedly invoked the point that we will be able to find anecdotes on each side. My finding anecdotes is merely in service of this point, not trying to Gallop the conversation.

            Edit: And I will further note that Friedman specifically asked for examples of bad behavior ignored by Red Tribe.

          16. brad

            If you mean Republican why not say Republican instead of red tribe, a term that’s supposed to refer more broadly to an entire cultural group?

            It seems like the purpose is to just try to pretend you aren’t engaging in partisan squabbling but rather high minded cultural analysis. But if you are just using red tribe as an alias then it is still just partisan squabbling.

          17. Jiro

            The list I produced is not supposed to be a list of things not covered by the media, but rather bad things ignored by red tribe.

            And I responded to it in that context. My response is that your red examples were not of similar severity to blue examples (and that there is an implied “of similar severity” even if the statement doesn’t explicitly say that.)

            (I also pointed out that the original statement was about the media, but that wasn’t the entirety of my response.)

            I find it interesting that you further contend that red tribe has only some small minority that argues for deontological based morality.

            “Red tribe” isn’t a synonym for “Republican” (and the original statement is more accurate when applied to blues and non-blues, not blues and reds, anyway).

            Finally, I am specifically arguing against “Gish Gallop” argumentative type.

            If you provide several examples and then complain that someone isn’t responding to your strongest example, that’s effectively a Gish gallop regardless of your intentions.

          18. HeelBearCub

            Echo originally framed it as “one side/the other side” “my side”. You want to say that means Republican and Democrat? Sure. Republican and Democrat.

            Except Friedman then framed it as “the left” and “the right”. So, I don’t think you can really ding me for continuing in the general vein. And honestly, I don’t think that the argument is that [Strom Thurmond*] was given a fair shake right up until he switched parties. I don’t think conservative libertarians think they get a fair shake from the media either.

            *Strom stands in for the general idea that right-of-center-persons switched from Dem to Republican over the last 50 years.

            Not interested in productive discussion then. Got it.

          19. brad

            HBC, I didn’t mean to call you out specifically, so much as comment on a general trend. I think the notion of separate, mostly non-interacting, subcultures inhabiting overlapping spaces is an interesting one, and I’d rather see it keep its nuanced value.

        2. Cerebral Paul Z.

          “Of course everything we say is called a lie anyway…” actually undermines your point, as it removes the incentive you’d just finished claiming the Right has not to lie. It could even be plausibly supposed that we’d lie more, on the theory that “if we’re going to have the name, we might as well have the game.”

        3. Doctor Mist


          From the preface:

          Thanks to TeamFranken, you can rest assured that almost every fact in this book is correct. Either that, or it’s a joke. If you think you’ve found something that rings untrue, you’ve probably just missed a hilarious joke…

          Maybe you were joking and I’ve just shown I have no sense of humor.

    1. dndnrsn

      The actual study is paywalled, and if the Atlantic article says anything about it I missed it – isn’t NHANES, which appears to be the source for the study, pretty famous for people lowballing the calories they consume, knowingly or not? I find myself wondering if misreporting of calories has increased.

      1. gwern

        The Atlantic provided a link to the abstract, so you could verify it is indeed NHANES:

        Dietary data from 36,377 U.S. adults from the National Health and Nutrition Survey (NHANES) between 1971 and 2008 was used. Physical activity frequency data was only available in 14,419 adults between 1988 and 2006. Generalised linear models were used to examine if the association between total caloric intake, percent dietary macronutrient intake and physical activity with body mass index (BMI) was different over time.

        And as so often, the fulltext can be found in Google Scholar: if you want to look even more closely at it.

      2. onyomi

        I’m sure people tend to lowball the number of calories they consume (and overestimate how many they burn when exercising), but why would they do so more now than 30 years ago? If anything I would think people now have a clearer sense of how many calories are in things and how many calories say, running a mile burns, due to the adding of nutritional info to everything, the rise of calorie counting, etc.

        1. gwern

          If you know that ‘2000 calories’ is the ‘normal’ RDA, but portion sizes keep creeping up… Humans don’t eat absolute amounts, we eat portions; if some researcher, say, hooks up a little hose to our bowl of soup, we’ll eat much more until then we feel full.

        2. Tom Womack

          The major thing I’ve noticed since wearing a Fitbit is that I burn a lot more calories than I thought – nearer 3000 than 2000 a day, though my days contain either ten miles on a bike or (weather and timing permitting) a ten-mile walk.

          But also the mostly-honest food tracking that the Fitbit app encourages indicates that I’m eating more than I thought (or at least reminds me that a whole packet of chocolate biscuits is much more than one meal replacement)

        3. dndnrsn

          In addition to the increasing portion sizes thing, perhaps cultural changes surrounding consumption why over the past few decades give reasons why people might be lowballing calories more. Not sure how much the food culture has changed over the past 3 decades, but a few thoughts:

          1. Maybe more eating of snack foods, which are harder to gauge portion size of, and thus probably easier to overeat. Who checks the back of a bag of chips and counts/measures out how much they’re eating? Even if the portion size hasn’t changed, more consumption of these foods could make a difference.

          2. More eating on the run, while doing things other than just eating, etc. At least anecdotally, it’s become more acceptable (not sure whether since the 80s, or since earlier than that, though) to snack in cars, in public transit, during meetings, and so on. In addition to expanding the % of the day when people might be eating, people eat more when they’re distracted, and might be less likely to remember it later.

          3. More consumption of certain forms of liquid calories, beyond things like increased portion sizes of soda. I’m thinking specifically of frappucino-type coffee drinks and the like – extensive Wikipedia research tells me Starbucks started selling them in the mid-90s, and they seem to be a 90s thing. Plus, although coffee and tea on their own are basically zero-cal, if the serving sizes of those have increased, people adding sugar and milk to them will add more to get to their desired level of sweetness/milkiness. Consumption of liquid calories registers less with the body, and perhaps people are more likely to lowball the calories in the coffee with syrup and whipped cream they had, or omit that every coffee they had was a double-double.

          Additionally to all this, there’s some evidence that the more someone is overweight, the more they lowball the calories they’ve consumed. Given that on average people have gained weight over the past few decades, this could just be people being more overweight and lowballing more.

          Overall, it’s not that I think it’s impossible that factors other than energy balance might be at play, but the lab studies (eg the ones that show gut flora differences in animals) would seem to be the stars here, not studies “in the wild” depending on self-reporting, estimation, etc. Looking at the whole document, it sort of brings those things up as a side note like “hey, here are some possible explanations”. It also, I think, dismisses the problems with surveys like NHANES a bit too easily.

    1. John Sidles

      Paul McHugh/Commentary asserts [bizarrely and without supporting evidence] “He [Dr. Lieberman] closes by quoting Churchill’s proud call as the Allied forces turned the tide of World War II: “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

      Psychiatry, alas, has not reached this happy point. […] No formative principle or principles link the function of the brain to mental disorders, and until such is discerned, psychiatry will remain at the naming and describing level—far from the end of its beginning, contra Lieberman.

      Thesis  McHugh/Commentary’s inexplicable disregard of connectomics wrongly discounts the accelerating “whiggish” capabilities of neuroscience and medicine.

      Fact  We are as far today from the fundamental entropic and informatic limits to connectomic science — at all scales from atomic to organismic — as the genetic scientists of the 1950s were from modern-day ultra-fast genome sequencing.

      Foresight  There is every reason to foresee comparable whiggish acceleration of neuroscience capabilities in coming decades, to the whiggish acceleration of genomic capabilities in past decades.

      Implication  McHugh’s complaints regarding present-day psychiatry are like complaining that no pill cures broken bones — broken bones and minds are structural problems that pills alone can’t fix.

      Conclusion  In neuroscience and medicine, whiggish STEAM capabilities show every evidence of sustaining (even increasing) their past multi-decade acceleration through further decades.

      Hope  Needless to say, this means that young physicians like Scott Alexander can confidently look forward to tremendous whiggish advances in healing capabilities

      Recommended Reading  To understand why the editors and writers of Commentary so consistently deny plain-as-day whiggish medical realities and accelerating whiggish technological capabilities, see Benjamin Balint’s inside account Running Commentary: The Contentious Magazine that Transformed the Jewish Left into the Neoconservative Right (2010).

      Good on `yah, Benjamin Balint, for exposing the shallow roots of neoconservative ideology and the disconnected axons of neoreactive cognition!

      1. John Sidles

        Lol … it’s funny that Commentary’s “The Doctor Isn’t In” article doesn’t allow comments — “commentary” without comments, what the hey? — and funny too that Commentary has (seemingly) purged former staff writer and critic Benjamin Balint from their search engine.

        Commentary  Given that the neoconservatism/neoreaction community commonly suppresses public commentary and rewrites inconvenient history, what are the “neoapologetic” rationalizations for these tendencies?

      2. Lesser Bull

        Next week, join John Sidles on a journey of discovery where he finds that not everything that starts with ‘neo’ is in the same category. It all started when he was given some Neosporin . . .

  9. trustno1

    I find really hard to believe in many of the Medieval Myth Buster guy statements. I have trained Kendo (Japanese fencing) competitively and Aikido for many years. To be clear, I am talking about training 2 hours every weekday for years with an hachi-dan sensei. I have fought against medieval European fencing practitioners (for fun), I do know there are a lot of differences, but I think my points remain. I don’t believe that, in some very practical/physiomechanical aspects, the difference between Japanese and European sword fighting is that much larger than between his (allegedly) historical reconstruction of European sword fighting and European sword fighting.
    What strikes me as the most unreasonable statement is that unarmored fights would be extremely brief. Although one uses an armour in kendo, the point system is almost as if there were no armour. At the highest levels, fights can last a long time without anyone even attempting to strike. In a real-world situation, an incorrect hit against an adversary means you are very likely to be hit, soon dead and that’s it. I would imagine people would tend to take their time in such situations. In fact, even when what is at stake is just one point in an elite championship, the first attempt can take several minutes even though there is a time limit.
    His statement that “even a slightly built person to wield a steel sword for 2 hours solid without feeling tired” is completely unrealistic. Merely holding a 500g bamboo sword for several minutes can be extremely tiring if you are untrained and tense. A very fit, untrained, individual has a really hard time holding a 500g bamboo sword for more than an hour. This is a very trivial empirical fact. Go ahead and try it yourself, grab any long light object available and hold it for half an hour. Lacking such object, try standing with your arm 30% extended for half an hour!
    His statement that the katana is in no way superior to the Europen sword is also obviously false. (For one because is hard for anything not be superior to another thing in any way whatsoever.) The material composition of the katana is better; there is no way around this. There is also some amount of consensus among the specialists I’ve read that the katana is overall better in terms of weight distribution, versatility and agility. Note that not denting after you have cut someone’s hand off is not a very useful feature in a duel, whereas allowing you to cut his hand off before he cuts yours is.
    Finally, I find it weird that he does not provide one single scientific evidence for absolutely anything he states. The videos are merely illustrative and prove nothing. I’ve watched only two of them, and one is known to be nonsense (the one from Lars Andersen).
    It is hard to believe this guy has ever actually trained sword fighting of any kind to make these sort of statements. I have the impression that around 70% of what he said is true (e.g., the obvious statements such as swords being infrequently used), and he just made up the rest according to his imagination.

    1. onyomi

      I think the vast majority of statements which start out “in a real fight… [explosive power and instant reaction are more important than endurance because it’s over fast and you have no time to think][endurance and cunning are more important because it’s a chess game][it always goes to the ground][you would never want to be on the ground][weapon skill is most important][grappling is most important][striking is most important][ability to deal with multiple opponents is most important][ability to run away fast is most important]etc.” are likely to be false in one way or another precisely because it’s the nature of a “real fight” that almost anything can happen.

      It could be in an open space, it could be in an elevator, it could be on a hard, rough surface, it could be on grass, you could be fighting one person or many people, someone might hit you with a chair or stab you in the back, you could be fighting an aggressive or well-trained opponent or a sloppy or extremely cautious opponent, you might be rolling around on the ground or it could all be over with one well-placed punch to the jaw, etc. etc.

      This is one reason I really like Jackie Chan movies, and Rumble in the Bronx in particular: not that it’s the most realistic fighting ever necessarily (and not that I’m so experienced at street combat that I’d know what that looks like anyway), but because it depicts a wide gamut of perfectly conceivable street encounters (with guns being largely and unrealistically absent), and shows Jackie dealing with them in over-the-top yet often creative and plausible ways: like, if you get in a fight in a grocery store, you’re going to use the shopping cart.

      1. Nornagest

        My take on it’s a little different. Every martial art has a different history and a different set of optimizations and pedagogical priorities, and it’s those more than technique that define a style: at the end of the day there’s only so many ways to hit a guy. A hand-to-hand art taught in a region that’s historically used a lot of armor isn’t going to look like one taught in a region that didn’t. An art with civilian self-defense heritage isn’t going to look like one developed for the military, and neither one’s going to look like one that’s developed as a sport.

        So when your instructor says that most fights do such-and-such, or teaches you something that doesn’t make sense to you, think about the implied context there, and make your own decisions regarding how it fits into your life. Or ask someone that knows; armchair reasoning isn’t super reliable in this domain.

        It’s absolutely possible to choose a wrong art for you. But not many of them — at least of the ones that’ve been around for a while, I make no promises regarding McDojos or mall ninjas — are poorly optimized for what they’ve chosen to focus on.

        1. onyomi

          But I think the problem is that most martial arts and martial artists want to play up their applicability to real world situations of all kinds rather than emphasize that they are all products of different contexts and different priorities.

          Let’s say you teach a grappling art which focuses a lot on wrestling on the ground. You could say “well, this art developed in a culture without chairs in which most adult men of a certain class carried swords. To the extent you wanted to do anything hand-to-hand it was because you were forced to leave your sword at the door and are fighting inside on bamboo mats, are trying to disarm your opponent before he gets his sword out and slashes you…” or you could just say “don’t you know 90% of fights go to the ground! This is REAL fighting.”

          Let’s say you teach a striking art with lots of shadow boxing and little emphasis on ground techniques. You could say “our art was developed by itinerant body guards who were protecting caravans from bandits and did nearly all their fighting outside on rocky terrain. Falling down pretty much meant getting stabbed, so they emphasized how to stay on their feet rather than how to wrestle on the ground. Also, sometimes it was necessary to put on a pretty dance show for spare change…” or you could say “don’t you know fighting on the ground is totally unrealistic and dangerous?! This is REAL fighting.”

          1. Nornagest

            As you may have divined, I’m not a big fan of that kind of chest-beating. But it’s not all bull, either. Instructors sometimes make shit up to attract students, but more often they’re saying what their teachers said, and their teachers got it from an oral tradition that goes back in most cases to the art’s initial context.

            Unfortunately not too many instructors have a serious interest in this sort of thing, so you sometimes need to fill in some gaps yourself.

          2. John Schilling

            There may also be a selection bias in that a three-second fight usually makes for a poor spectator sport, and probably isn’t all that entertaining for the participants. So the martial arts that lead to prolonged bouts may get a disproportionate share of attention in otherwise peaceful societies, even if other disciplines would be more tactically efficient if you just want to kill or maim someone before they do the same to you.

            Also, killing and maiming is frowned upon in entertainment. I have only half-jokingly suggested that the list of holds barred in what the teevee says are “no holds barred” UFC/MMA matches would make for a pretty good practical self-defense guide.

          3. alexp

            Meh. Eye gouges, bites, groin punches, and fishhooking are of limited applicability in a fight. The techniques to defend against conventional strikes and grappling moves also defend against those. They’re just more likely to cause injury through accidents.

            No soccer kicks to the head, kicks of knees to the head of grounded opponent or strikes to the back of the head or spine, I’ll grant you. There are some mma techniques that take advantage of those rules, but in general if you’re in a position where your opponent has to worry about not doing that to you, you’ve already lost.

            And if you did have a fighting style incorporating all the illegal mma moves, you’d lose against somebody who didn’t if he was stronger, faster, with better footwork, eye hand coordination, balance and general grappling instincts. And being able to train live against resisting opponents is much more practical when you add a few basic rules to prevent injury, so training in conventional MMA is more likely to develop your strength, speed, footwork, etc.

          4. onyomi

            “Eye gouges, bites, groin punches, and fishhooking are of limited applicability in a fight…”

            Why would that be? Bites and kicks to the groin, in particular, seem quite applicable to me; especially the latter.

            I will agree with you that the superior experience which comes with being able to train in a semi-realistic yet safer manner, as with Judo or MMA, will probably tend to trump willingness to fight dirty in most cases.

        2. TrivialGravitas

          I think this is correct, but it’s all important to note that traditions frequently FORGET these specific origins. For example, the most fights go to the ground thing comes from a study of use of force reports from the LA police. The people who repeat that are pretty much never aware of it, they think its a general street fight thing.

    2. Deiseach

      His statement that the katana is in no way superior to the Europen sword is also obviously false. (For one because is hard for anything not be superior to another thing in any way whatsoever.)

      Oh-ho, let’s take this one easy. The reputation of the katana being superior to “the European sword” (and starting right off the bat, there is no one “European sword”) is a product of the idea that (a) Western martial tradition was all about big beefy guys knocking seven bells out of one another with big blunt lumps of steel (b) it’s Oriental, it’s exotic, it’s in the same tradition as Secret Martial Arts Techniques and Esoteric Wisdom and Hidden Ascended Masters from Lemuria – in other words, a lot of typical Western 70s romanticised cherry-picking of Oriental cultures.

      Is a katana better than a messer than a yataghan than a rapier than an Andrea Ferrara Scottish basket-hilted broadsword is a game we could play all night.

      It depends, is the answer. What sword type is a katana, and what are you comparing it to? Are both swords used primarily as thrusting, as cutting, or as mixed use? What techniques and against what kinds of opponent and armour – yes, no and what period and material?

      Japanese smiths had poor quality iron ore as raw material and developed techniques to compensate. Very elegant, beautiful techniques. But for sheer raw quality, Toledo steel probably has them beat. You may also have heard of a little thing called Damascene steel which gave rise to similar claims about swords made from it as accrued around the katana (e.g. sharp enough to cut a hair falling against the blade).

      As for “overall better in terms of weight distribution, versatility and agility”, we’ll leave that up to the experts to thrash out 🙂

      The major difference between Eastern and Western martial traditions seems to be that surviving Western manuals of arms are all about “how to kill your opponent stone-dead” and so emphasise that type of technique unlike Eastern traditions which evolved to be for performance under strict rules and guidelines and as demonstrations of technical skill.

      The Western equivalents would be the type of sport fencing that evolved out of the code duello or even such highly stylised (and frankly weird) traditions such as German university fencing, the mensur (which produces the famous Heidelberg fencing scar often mentioned in pre-First World War fiction when talking about Prussian aristocrats).

      1. Stefan Drinic

        Are we really not mentioning how katanas go blunt and/or break at the drop of a hat, though? This isn’t too big a deal in a land where no shields and mail/plate armour exist, but I doubt a katana would be very useful on a western battlefield. It’s almost as if people create the tools they need to be locally useful, not universally so.

        1. Deiseach

          This is my totally ignorant and uninformed opinion, but personally I think katana were the evolved form of the sword; the samurai’s weapon, as the rapier was the weapon of the gentleman in the West.

          So as swords in face-to-face duels between equals, sure; as battlefield weapons, not so much – in their past history yes, but not the most recent evolution (after all, 16th century Japan would be, in their culture, on the same level as 16th century Europe and as has been discussed here, pikes, spears, cavalry and the emergence of musketry were the weapons of warfare not individual swords).

          So going blunt/breaking were not the problems needing to be addressed when it was two unarmoured men fighting one another according to a set code of conduct.

          1. Stefan Drinic

            I’m afraid that uninformed seems about right, yes. Not only were katanas used in actual combat just fine, if not as much as archery was by far, they are older than the 16th century. The point where katanas become the actual swords we have now is not quite set in stone, but the 14th century or so seems right. Since Japan went through a goddamn ton of wars since the katana’s invention, I think it’s safe to say they very much were intended as a practical weapon.

          2. Nornagest

            Nah. I’ve seen and held katana from as early as the 14th century, and while they tend to be shorter and lighter than the ones we use today (because the people using them were shorter and lighter), the balance and form factor is otherwise very close. They’re not too far off from earlier Japanese swords, either, or from the Chinese willow-leaf sabers that they evolved from — the main differences are in the mountings rather than the blade.

            That’s not to say that they didn’t adapt to conditions. Katana designed for battle, where you could expect to see a lot of blade contact and armor, are heavier and have a wider, more boat-shaped and less wedge-shaped blade profile than ones designed for what we’d now call everyday carry. (The reputation for fragility that Stefan alludes to, incidentally, comes mostly from the latter.) Different steel too, sometimes, and you sometimes see reinforced tips especially on the shorter companion weapons. There were fashions in blade length and fittings and geometry, too, although I’m not an expert on that — my interest in these things comes mainly from a martial arts angle, so I don’t know a lot about the aesthetics.

          3. John Schilling

            When you say “katana designed for battle”, do you mean Tachi, or were there actual Katanas designed for military combat? My understanding was that the Tachi was the war sword, optimized for armored cavalry combat, and the Katana specifically the “everyday carry” weapon conforming to laws regarding how long a sword a Samurai could carry in peacetime and optimized for a fast draw from the belt.

            Since many early Katanas were made by literally cutting down Tachis, I would assume many Samurai used them as backup military-service weapons, but I am unclear about Katanas designed specifically or primarily for wartime use.

            Well, aside from the vaguely katana-styled swords mass-produced for the Japanese Army in the 20th century, but I assume we aren’t counting those.

          4. Nornagest

            I mean katana designed for combat use, though you’re not wrong. Tachi were specifically military swords, and in earlier periods had the relationship with the katana that you describe, but they gradually fell out of favor; they never totally disappeared, but by the Sengoku period they were rare and mostly worn in ceremonial roles. By that time the word referred mainly to a style of mounting, worn edge-down and suspended from the belt with rings, and most samurai instead used katana mounts even in battle. This necessitated the changes to blade profile that I described, though the weapons in question kept the length and curvature typical of katana to enable a fast draw.

            Shin gunto are their own thing, and they’re terrible weapons (although they’re getting valuable as militaria, which strikes me as a little ghoulish). Their mountings don’t look much like older swords, either — closer to tachi, actually, but kind of bastardized. A lot of family katana were remounted in shin gunto style during WWII, though, and can easily be distinguished from mass-produced blades by looking at the hamon. Or the signature, if you’re willing to disassemble one.

          1. Deiseach

            So what you are telling me is that Japanese swordmaking fossilised at the 14th century and never changed? That a katana is a katana is a katana and there were no similar developments, refinements, specialisations and changes such as between a cavalry sabre, a rapier and the dress sword you would wear when being presented at court?

            One sword, one type, no change whatever the purpose, context or function over two to four centuries? Unlike 19th century officers who may have worn ceremonial swords even into battle but were very unlikely to use them as the primary weapon, a samurai wore the same sword in battle, in the street, and at home, and used it for every purpose? Nobody mounted grand-dad’s heirloom sword on the wall (or in a shrine) as a family relic and instead bought a big hefty battle-grade sword for use when actually fighting?

            I take my leave to doubt that, or else I’m badly misunderstanding what you all are saying.

            Stefan Drinic – I was not saying katana were created during the 16th century, I am aware they are older than that; what I was trying (and plainly failing) to say is that over time the sword must have evolved and changed, as circumstances changed; so that gentlemen in 16th century Europe wore side-weapons both as status markers and as personal arms, and would most certainly have used them to fight with, but these were by no means the same type and style of sword their 14th (or 12th, or 10th) century forebears and ancestors would have used in battle. I was making the assumption that the Japanese, being human, probably had the same hierarchical impulses (samurai being the gentry/lower nobility class which were armigerous, in our terms, and classed as gentlemen and so permitted to bear arms even outside of wartime), inventiveness, creativity, and changeableness as the rest of the world and so they too would probably have differentiated between “functional weapon of war for use on battlefield” and “personal side-arm for civilian use denoting your status as much as its functionality”.

            I picked the 16th century for no particular reason, other than “period when swords were not yet replaced by firearms as primary weapons” and “not yet heavily influenced by Europe” and “Early Modern times with vaguely comparable social customs”.

          2. Deiseach

            Looking up Wikipedia:

            (a) talking about Byzantine lamellar armour: ” It is thought that it was worn to create a more deflective surface to the rider’s armour, thus allowing blades to skim over, rather than strike and pierce.”

            So presumably if blades are glancing off, rather than directly impacting, there is less kinetic force(?) and strain to damage the weapon?

            (b) “Japanese lamellar armours were made from hundreds or even thousands of individual leather (rawhide) and/or iron scales/lamellae known as kozane, that were lacquered and laced together into armour strips.”

            If the armour is lacquered leather rather than iron, then again presumably less resistance than iron. And even iron scales, looking at the armour, when all laced together – you’ve a good chance of cutting the lacing rather than the material of the scales and fabric is still softer than leather or iron.

            European plate, being one piece of metal, is going to put up more resistance of a harder material even if the design of the armour still encourages deflection of incoming blows.

          3. alexp

            Japanese swordmaking was fossilized because the Japanese stopped fighting wars between the end of the Sengoku era and when Commodore Perry showed up.

            The main weapon at the end of the Sengoku Era and the invasions of Korea was the gun. There were more guns in Japan than there were in Europe and the Japanese used more advanced gun tactics than Europeans at the time. After Tokugawa took over, since fighting wars was a thing anymore, samurai went back to swords for aesthetic reasons.

            By the time Perry came, swords wouldn’t be relevant in war anymore.

          4. Stefan Drinic

            Deiseach, I’m not going to take back what I said when what you said was really flat-out wrong to begin with. Katana were no evolved form of the sword that came about because yay dueling; wars were fought with the damn things, and backtracking while sputtering ‘wait no no I’m talking about thooose kind of katanas why can’t you understand this’ is in this case a very aggressive sort of no true scotsman argument. If you want to talk of katanas past 1600, fine, but the things still didn’t start out being made because some aristocrats wanted to duke it out.

            David Friedman: lamellar is easier to cut. Half-swording is a thing, and great importance was placed on it in martial manuals in the west. I have no practical knowledge of eastern martial arts and couldn’t say whether or not the same happens with people studying kendo, but when comparing katanas with straighter swords more suitable for thrusting, I feel safe to say that trying to stab a person with such a sword would not end well.

            Still, I could be very wrong. History is a weird beast.

          5. Nornagest

            So what you are telling me is that Japanese swordmaking fossilised at the 14th century and never changed? That a katana is a katana is a katana and there were no similar developments, refinements, specialisations and changes such as between a cavalry sabre, a rapier and the dress sword you would wear when being presented at court?

            Obviously not; I just got done describing one such development. The style’s development was a lot less dramatic than the arming sword -> cut-and-thrust sword -> rapier -> smallsword etc. sequence that we see in Europe, though; a 14th-century katana takes some familiarity with the art to distinguish from a 19th-century one, especially if it’s in shirasaya rather than fully mounted, whereas any old idiot can tell a 17th-century rapier from a 14th-century arming sword. And in some ways it developed in the opposite direction, as a personal defense weapon that evolved into a utility weapon that you’d often see on battlefields.

            I have no practical knowledge of eastern martial arts and couldn’t say whether or not the same happens with people studying kendo, but when comparing katanas with straighter swords more suitable for thrusting, I feel safe to say that trying to stab a person with such a sword would not end well.

            There’s no half-swording in kendo, or in any other Japanese sword arts that I’m aware of. The use of the thrust varies between styles; some emphasize it a lot and others very little. The curve of a katana is slight enough that you can deliver accurate thrusts with little difficulty, though, if you’ve practiced it.

          6. Deiseach

            the things still didn’t start out being made because some aristocrats wanted to duke it out

            NO sword started off because “some aristocrats wanted to duke it out”* but eventually over time, specialisation and social convention effected changes.

            That is not what I was saying. What I said was maybe the katana as we are familiar with it today was the EVOLVED form of the weapon. You tell me Japanese society was more rigid and less change occurred pre-European contact, then fine, I’ll believe you. Japanese nobility and lower ranks of the gentry walked around the city streets with the equivalent of a broadsword on their hips, when their European peers had refined sword types much more drastically between “battlefield use” and “civilian purposes”.

            I wasn’t trying to walk back anything. I will accept correction by someone who knows more of the topic than I do, but don’t tell me I was trying No True Scotsman or anything of that nature.

            *Or rather, that’s exactly what they wanted but on the battlefield rather than as small-scale duels of honour under a code meant to at least theoretically reduce bloodshed and collateral damage as much as possible.

          7. David Friedman


            I don’t think the distinction between straight swords and curved swords was mainly thrust vs cut. Most European swords were straight through the medieval period and seem to have been used mostly for cutting. Indeed, contrary to the movies, the typical swords in the Islamic world were also straight until fairly late—the Sudanese kaskara is more or less the medieval Arabic broadsword. Curved swords existed early, at least among steppe nomad types, but they don’t become the middle eastern norm until (I’m guessing) sometime like the 14th c. It’s possible that it’s due to Turkish influence.

            The question of why some swords were straight and some curved is an interesting one, and although I have seen various assertions I don’t think I have seen any convincing arguments and evidence to support them.

          8. Stefan Drinic

            David: Whether or not swords were primarily made to be curring ot piercing weapons, the attention given to the half-swording technique I mentioned earlier suggests that being able to stab with a sword was important enough to not curve your swords and make doing so impractical. It’s possible to have a sword with both a straight, sharp slashing edge and a tip sharp enough to pierce the mail joints of armour, but doing so with a curved blade seems much more difficult.

            As for the curved swords and straight swords thing.. I’m stuck between offering culture, cavalry and prevalence of armour as examples, though I have no particularly compelling arguments for doing any of those. ‘No convincing arguments’ seems about right, yes.

            Deiseach: Okay.

          9. John Schilling

            Stefan: There are plenty of straight-bladed swords that were unambiguously intended to be used in combination with a shield, and thus not with any half-sword technique. Some, e.g. the Roman cavalry spatha and most migration-period swords, had rounded tips, the later Viking sword was pointy enough to inflict some injury with a thrust but not a mail-piercing weapon by any means. You cannot assume that because a sword is straight-edged it was intended to be used even in part as a thrusting weapon.

          10. Nornagest

            @Stefan — Little attention seems to have been given to the thrust in the early Middle Ages, when mail was most common, yet those weapons are generally straight (though broad, with little profile taper). On the other hand, the so-called “knife of war” found in some Central and East European longsword manuals bears a passing resemblance to the katana (though it would have been several inches longer, with a cruciform hilt) and seems to have been used much like a straight sword of similar length. It’s most likely a descendant of the falchion, which shares a similar relationship with the one-handed knightly swords of an earlier period.

          11. Stefan Drinic

            History isn’t an easy thing to study, which this thread shows very neatly. Can we at least agree that the style of armor used in a certain place could be a factor in the swords used there? It doesn’t seem like a very outlandish claim to make.

          12. Nornagest

            Can we at least agree that the style of armor used in a certain place could be a factor in the swords used there? It doesn’t seem like a very outlandish claim to make.

            Sure, that’s not controversial — in Europe for example you didn’t see swords like the estoc until armor got good enough that specialized can-openers started looking attractive.

            What I’m arguing against is the tendency to boil this down to simple rules. Some weapons are built toward a very specialized niche and sacrifice everything else to excel in it; this is easily seen in European civilian swords, whose evolution from the 16th to the 19th centuries can be described almost entirely in terms of the fencing tactics that were popular at the time. But many aren’t. And especially military sidearms, which by their role work best when they’re versatile, reflect a balance of many considerations and fashions.

  10. cassander

    If those are the best accomplishments hillary supporters can come up with, she’s in trouble. Most are absurd, here are some of the most absurd.

    >1. Her China speech on women.
    2. Her role in killing Osama bin Laden.
    3. Management of the State Department during which time we saw a 50 percent increase in exports to China, aggressive work on climate (particularly at Copenhagen), and the effort to create and implement the toughest sanctions ever on Iran—helping to lead us to the agreement currently on the table.

    The first of these isn’t an accomplishment, the second had almost nothing to do with her (the only senior administration official against the raid was biden), and the third is absurd. The state department has nothing to do with exports, her “aggressive” climate work achieved nothing, and Iran was sanctioned before she came into office.

    >‘Nearly every foreign policy victory of President Obama’s second term has Secretary Clinton’s fingerprints on it’

    What victories would those be? the triumphs in iraq, libya, and syria?

    >Clinton struck major and consequential diplomatic achievements’

    this person goes on to call the intervention in Libya a great achievement!

    >‘The world is safer and people are more free thanks to Hillary Clinton’

    but again, not, apparently, in any specific sort of way

    >‘Galvanizing the Senate after the tragedy of 9/11’

    >‘A ‘smart power’ diplomacy’

    >‘She helped hold together the Presidency and the country [during impeachment]’

    For these, I have no words….

  11. Deiseach

    Does anyone else think coconut water is disgusting?

    From a young age I’ve never like coconut and have avoided it as far as I can, even in confectionery. But now I’m trying to drink (as well as eat) more healthily, and replace soft drinks with something better, fruit juice is too full of sugar for a diabetic and plain water gets boring.

    So coconut water seems to be the new thing, but I think it’s yucky. I’ve tried it plain, flavoured, different brands, and still yucky.

    Is this just me, or is coconut water genuinely yucky? 🙂

    1. Ever An Anon

      Yup, even when you drink it out of a freshly cut coconut it’s gross. It’s weird because coconuts themselves are delicious.

      Also I had always heard it as coconut milk but never coconut water. Is that an Irish / European thing?

      1. LHN

        Coconut water is the clear liquid inside a coconut. Coconut milk is the white liquid that can be strained out when coconut is shredded.

      2. ydirbut

        Are you eating it from a ripe coconut or an unripe coconut? Because the water from an unripe coconut is much better. (If the flesh is hard, then it is ripe)

    2. Whatever Happened To Anonymous

      >and replace soft drinks with something better, fruit juice is too full of sugar for a diabetic and plain water gets boring.

      Have you tried non-alcoholic bitters?

      1. Deiseach

        Like Campari? Unfortunately, too bitter for my sweet tooth 🙂

        I like tonic water, though, and do drink the low-calorie versions of it (though now, with the dire warnings of how bad sweeteners are for you, I might be better off sticking to the sugar!) That means I am trying the fancy-pants brands and I like them. Except now I’m accumulating all those glass bottles that the fancier brands come in and I’m sure the bottle bank wonders where I’m stashing the gin bottles to go with all these tonics 🙂

    3. onyomi

      I really like coconut water, but I can imagine why it might set off some peoples yuck reflex: namely, it is too reminiscent of a bodily fluid, like sweat or even blood. In fact, I seem to recall reading somewhere that coconut water may, in a pinch, be used in an IV. Basically, it has a mineral composition similar to sweat and other bodily fluids, and so is praised by yogis and other people who sweat a lot as a kind of natural gatorade, but by that same token, as one would be grossed out by drinking sweat, one might be grossed out by drinking coconut water.

      In Japan, they make no bones about the similarity of athletic drinks to sweat:

      (I, personally, like almost everything coconut, though, not a huge fan of the texture of shredded coconut in macaroons, etc. Coconut milk in curry and desserts, however, is great).

    4. Nornagest

      I like coconut water, but it’s not irreplaceable. Its big advantage is that it has a close to optimal electrolyte balance for replacing water lost through sweat, without any need for messing about with usually-vile supplements or oversweetened-and-usually-also-vile sports drinks; but if you don’t work out a lot, and don’t live somewhere hot enough that you sweat a lot without working out, that’s totally irrelevant.

      I used to drink a lot of flavored but unsweetened sparkling water (not tonic water; that’s usually sweetened). That might be a good alternative.

    5. gbdub

      It’s certainly something of an acquired taste. Does seem to be legitimately rehydrating though.

      For non sugary drinks, I have a pitcher that lets me steep flavorings in ice water – fruit and fresh herbs (e.g. strawberry and basil, lemon and mint, etc.) are very nice, and it adds few if any calories. It’s especially nice if you can add fizz with a soda stream or similar device. Adding just a little flavor and texture (via fizz) goes a long way, at least for me.

  12. Deiseach

    Hello and welcome to a very occasional series entitled “And You Wonder Why People Are Creationists??!!?”

    Reason No. 1:

    When you’re pushing evolutionary psychology too goddamn far by postulating “People* want to be raped so they can have better babies!”

    *Yes, “people”, not “women”. Because rape has also been used against men in warfare and other struggles, cf Horus tricking Set into eating lettuce that Horus has spread his sperm on, and then Set gets pregnant. Well, obviously the male Set wanted to have a superior baby via rape-by-deceit, right? Of course! And before you go “That’s mythology, not Real Life!”, there are historical examples which if you really want to dig up, you can bloody well Google them yourself.

    1. Stefan Drinic

      Ah, excellent. I shall now go forth and argue that rape is a good thing through religious manners, if only to ensure this comment section will be even more unreadable. Nobody can be safe!

      1. Deiseach

        No, it’s the evolutionists who are saying (or making statements that can be read as saying) “women want to be raped because rapists are the kind of virile strong men with superior genes that they want for their offspring” and it’s the hide-bound repressed sex-hating religionists who are saying “Dude, people who get raped don’t want to be raped“.

        1. John Schilling

          “The evolutionists” are trying to answer the next question – why don’t women want to be raped? Or more precisely, why do women want to have sex at all, when it seems to be a messy inconvenience at best, and why then do they want to have sex with some people under some conditions but not other people under other conditions.

          Steve Johnson is answering this question poorly, but it’s still an important question.

          1. Mark

            I also have an interesting question.
            Why don’t people want to be fed? If someone forced food into your mouth it would save you energy, so it’s a bit of a mystery that people don’t like it.
            Just-so theorists, GO!

          2. Nita

            why do women want to have sex

            1. Feels good, man.
            2. Babies.
            3. It’s the done thing.

            but not [with some] other people under other conditions

            1. Doesn’t feel good, man.
            2. Sad hungry babies 🙁
            3. It’s not the done thing.

          3. Cauê

            Answering “why do they do it” with “feels good” and “doesn’t feel good” works in psychology, sociology, economics, etc., but not in evolutionary psychology, which is trying to understand “why does it feel good? why in situation X but not Y?”. Also, “why is it the done thing?”

            Mark, rejecting things in your mouth that you didn’t voluntarily put there looks like an obviously useful behavior for all animals. I’d guess there was never evolutionary pressure for adding a conditional clause “unless I know it’s good food, then it’s ok”.

          4. science

            How exactly does evolutionary psychology go about figuring out why? Find the gene that codes for it, knock it out, and then see what happens after a few dozen generations? Or is that too much effort, and making up just-so stories is much more fun?

          5. Mark

            “Mark, rejecting things in your mouth that you didn’t voluntarily put there looks like an obviously useful behavior for all animals. I’d guess there was never evolutionary pressure for adding a conditional clause “unless I know it’s good food, then it’s ok””

            And presumably the same thing holds for vaginas.

          6. Cet3

            Obviously, it’s because you’re a lying egg-thief. In the ancestral environment, it was a reproductive advantage to go around pronouncing your dislike of eggs so you wouldn’t be suspected later when you stole delicious eggs from other members of your tribe.

          7. Deiseach

            Why don’t women want to be raped? Well, goodness me, why don’t men want to be raped? After all, rough sex is still sex, and some men seem to enjoy rough sex and anal sex and engage in it voluntarily with other men!

            Are we really going to go that level of disingenuousness? “Hmm, rape and consensual sex – whatever is the difference? In both cases, it’s penis in vagina!”

          8. Earnest_Peer

            Seriously answering the question of “why don’t women want to be raped”:

            1. Sex is a social behavior among humans, basically more so than a reproductive one. Sex is used to form strong bonds with people you deem worthy of those, so aversion to rape is a countermechanism to rape as social engineering.

            2. Human babies need a ton of resources, and raising them alone is next to impossible. Getting randomly impregnated is a threateningly high cost with basically no upside. Sad hungry babies essentially.

            That should be more than enough.

        2. onyomi

          Isn’t it sort of logically impossible to want to be raped? The very definition of rape implies it’s not wanted.

          1. John Schilling

            The definition of rape implies that it is not consented to, which isn’t the same thing as “not wanted”. People frequently consent to things they don’t want, and sometimes want things they won’t or can’t consent to (e.g. surprise parties).

            That women don’t want to be raped, is not a trivial truth. It requires a bit of thought to conclusively establish – not a lot of thought, mind you, but some. If you want to pin down details about how much women want to not be raped, that will require a bit more work.

          2. onyomi

            That is an important distinction which I, for whatever reason, tend not to consider so much.

            As for purely evolutionary reasons why women wouldn’t want to be raped, aside from the obvious danger and inability to select, on the female side, for any quality other than boldness, there’s also the fact that the most attractive men probably aren’t going to have any trouble getting women to consent to have sex with them. Also, willingness to rape signals a number of other bad things: poor impulse control, lack of planning, lack of empathy, anti-social tendencies…

        3. Stefan Drinic

          But have you not heard, Deiseach? It is woman’s natural position to be subordinate to man, and it has been so since the Lord spoke to his people and had his word recorded for all to study and reflect upon. Surely you do not wish to blaspheme and speak ill of His name, do you?

          In other news, I’m a little disappointed that this comment branch turned into something of a debate anyway, even with two people at the start being silly. Was this really necessary though?

          1. Stefan Drinic

            Nah, we’re good. Wanna run off together and create an abrahamic cult of rape, for the good of the mind of the modern woman? I’m already giddy with anticipation of seeing the feminist half of the internet respond with some kind of outrage, and the odd redpiller or whatever deciding this must mean we’re the best thing since sliced bread.

          2. Leo

            Hearken, O thou of the weird fetish! Is thine heart weary, thy crotch sorrowful, from the jeers of those who say “Thy fetish is bad, and thou shalt feel bad”? Cheerest thou up, O sex freak – for free art thou of those who say “Let us form a political ideology implementing thy fetish in real life”.

    2. Cauê

      I sincerely dislike defending Steve Johnson, but this reading is ridiculously innacurate, as I mentioned in that thread. You are transforming “women have evolutionary incentives to avoid being killed when raped, but also to offer some level of resistance” into “women want to be raped”.

      1. Nita

        I’m afraid you are simply unfamiliar with this novel and insightful branch of neoreactionary thought. The theory is that women are constantly on the lookout to be impregnated by the biggest, baddest guy available, and anything they say about love, rape or anything else is simply a lie employed to pacify their long-term partners and reduce their vigilance.

        1. Cauê

          I think I’m familiar enough with it, but it’s possible I’m not.

          However, your description raises some flags for me. It looks like you’re falling in the common trap of mixing individual motivations with the evolutionary causes of those motivations, or at least mistaking arguments about the latter for arguments about the former.

          (edited to remove suboptimal example)

          1. Nita

            Jim uses his theory to give advice to individuals in relationships with other individuals, e.g.:

            So what do you do if someone smiles at your girl and says hello?

            You drop a possessive hand lightly but firmly over her shoulder, to restrain her from smiling back, saying hello back, giving the guy her phone number and hinting that if he plays his cards right, she might drop her knickers.

            So no, it’s not me who’s mixing things here.

          2. Nita

            It’s the same memeplex.

            If someone explains every societal ill with “capitalist pigs stealing the fruit of workers’ labor”, it’s safe to assume they’re a Marxist communist.

            If someone explains untrained women swinging weapons with less force than untrained men with “putting up only token resistance to avoid social disapproval and weed out totally incompetent rapists is in their genes”, it’s safe to assume they’re from the “cruising for a dicking” school of armchair evopsych.

      2. Deiseach

        Cauê, saying “Women don’t put up a real fight even when threatened with rape because they don’t want to be killed instead” is one thing.

        Plopping a phrase like “evolutionarily correct” into what boils down to “Women are bitches in heat because they’re slaves to their biological programming to reproduce so they’re constantly looking for a Real Manly Man who’ll turn them on and get them hot to trot in order to acquire his Superior Genes, and the best way to show you’re a Real Manly Man is to be violent to them” is not really saving it.

        You tell me what the most innocuous way to understand, out of a comment about beginners learning to use a sword, that men tend to strike too hard and women too gently, that when faced with an armed rapist “(H)er evolutionarily correct strategy is to put up token resistance so that she can disavow responsibility later (also to make sure she doesn’t get stuck with the genes of a totally incompetent rapist) and get the best of both worlds – successful raider / rapist genes (which are better than the genes of the men who failed to protect her) and no social disapproval for willingly having sex with the invaders / raiders.”

        I mean, please explain to me how the first and most pressing idea in a woman’s mind, when she’s facing an armed man intent on raping her, is “Wow, I wanna have his babies”?

        Second seems to be “Okay, I better fight a bit – don’t want to look easy when I end up pregnant and have to try and convince my parents/husband I didn’t want to be fucked by this guy in the first place and also I need to test that he really is as superior genetic stock as he looks – but not too much because (a) I want to fuck him, not drive him away and (b) he might get mad and kill me.”

        I’m not understanding that, I really am not. Invaders who manage to beat the native menfolk show themselves to be the kind of superior genetic stock who will enrich your bloodline and give your offspring better potential, so you want to mate with them. But since the invaders probably won’t stick around to help you raise those offspring, you need to persuade someone else to take on the effort and expense of raising those cuckoos in the nest, so you have to put up a token resistance in order to satisfy the demands of social propriety and allow your cuckolded husband or dishonoured most senior male family member to save face. And this will work because it’s not like ancient societies had abortion, infanticide, exposure of unwanted children, or social expectations that raped women would commit suicide in order to wash away the shame from their family name, so nobody will object to raising the bastard children of rape and taking them in to their own family bloodline.

        And secondly, you don’t want to put up too much resistance because then the potential rapist might decide you are too much trouble and kill you.

        Now, why couldn’t Steve Johnson just have used that second point (you don’t want to put up too much resistance in case the potential rapist gets angry enough to kill you and since women are generally smaller and weaker than men, they can’t reliably depend on being skilled enough to kill the rapist first) instead of dragging in “women are cuckolding bitches in heat who lie about being raped because EVOLUTION”?

        Now, rape-as-genetic-conquest is certainly a thing but that tends to be where the invading force wants to dominate, replace or wipe out the group it is attacking, rather than the native women deciding these Manly Men are better gene-donors than their own weak and defeated men:

        The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR, 1994) also declared rape to be a war crime and a crime against humanity. In 1998, the ICTR became the first international court to find an accused person guilty of rape as a crime of genocide (used to perpetrate genocide). The judgment against a former mayor, Jean-Paul Akayesu, held that rape and sexual assault constituted acts of genocide insofar as they were committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, the Tutsi ethnic group.

        Also, we are talking about rape. Not “Romeo and Juliet star-crossed lovers from warring families”. Not adulterous affairs like Lancelot and Guinevere. Not “We got drunk and carried away and now I’m pregnant and my parents are going to kill me, I have to say I was raped”. Not “he said/she said” disputes about was it consensual.

        We are talking “armed invaders killing, looting and ransacking, and women are part of the spoils of war”. Involuntary, non-consensual, forced by violence, sex.

        That women secretly want because men like that are proving their virility and will father hardy children unlike the weak fathers and brothers and sons and husbands who got slaughtered by the invaders, because it’s the correct reaction required by “evolution” and so it’s bred into female genes and comes out in female instinctual behaviour.

        So do explain to me how this is not insulting and stupid and shitty. I’m not the one who said “willingly having sex with the raiders/invaders”, that was Steve Johnson. I’m not the one who said “best of both worlds”. I’m not the one implying women lie about being raped in order to satisfy their society’s purity codes and get around male resistance to cuckoos in the nest. I’m not the one who postulates that women put up “a token resistance… (also to make sure she doesn’t get stuck with the genes of a totally incompetent rapist)”, that is, women want to make sure the violent strong overbearing man really is stronger and more violent and determined than they are, before they will consent to sex with them – that violence, force and the willingness and readiness to use that against other men and against the women themselves, in other words, turns women on.

        1. Stefan Drinic

          Truth aside, insofar that may be a good thing, this really isn’t the first time an otherwise plausible point is argued in the most brash manner possible because a neoreactionary wanted to feel like the tough guy making everyone in the room gasp and faint.

        2. Tibor

          I think generally for a female in species where parents rear the offspring, the ideal evolutionary strategy is to conceive it with the “alpha male” then convince the male who is most likely to provide for the offspring the best while not diverting the resources elsewhere. The beast strategy for males is to simply have as much offspring as possible while making sure that he is not supporting someone elses offspring. That makes men actually statistically pretty good at recognizing which children are theirs from the way they look (of course, nowhere near perfect but better than women), also a pregnant woman with a dead husband would have a hard time to find a replacement in the past and in fact even today it would make it considerably harder for her so I find the “wanting to be raped” story very implausible. A thing is that most people would probably prefer to be raped than to be killed and if you are alone against a band of armed ruffians who want to rape you, the best thing you can probably do is to close your eyes, do nothing and try to suffer through it somehow (and hope that they don’t kill you anyway). If you end up being pregnant (which is actually not THAT likely most of the time, so waiting for raiders to come and rape you is not a good strategy even to become pregnant), you will try to get rid of the baby (there were ways to have an abortion even in the past), find a man (now, not being pregnant, your value on the dating market has gone up) and then perhaps think about adultery with some lord or something.

          On the other hand, that pattern explains why both women and men should have a desire for adultery (women to get the genes of the alpha male they cannot convince to help with child-rearing, men to spread out their genes as much as they can) and equally for jealousy (women do not want to risk men diverting the resources from their offspring, men do not want to spend resources on offspring that is not their own). This is also why I am a bit skeptical about polyamory working once people start having babies. True, we have gene tests and all this fancy stuff today, but if I had to make a guess I would say that it is the jealousy that is hard-wired, not the “need to be sure my babies are actually mine” or “need to be sure I always have enough resources for my baby” (because that seems to be a much more complex command than “prevent mate from having sex with others, kill, eat, multiply! Repeat until death”).

          1. Deiseach

            It’s an argument for polygamy (the alpha males get access to mates, have the most offspring, and successfully propagate their genes) but not for anything else.

            And even in animal species where the ‘alpha males’ (an exploded concept by now, surely?) do have herds/harems/collections of females, mating with other males still goes on – so that knocks the “females want the alpha males genes” theory on the head.

            “Not wanting to be killed” probably has a lot more to do with lack of successful resistance to rape, as well as women on average being smaller and weaker than men. Pulling in “And this is how evolution works to make women have babies by Alpha Males” is unnecessary.

          2. Tibor

            Deiseach: Note that I have not said anything to the kind of “And this is how evolution works to make women have babies by Alpha Males”.

            Also, an alpha male in the human (or chimp for that matter – I highly recommend Frans de Waal and his “Chimpanzee politics”) society is not the biggest oafish bully around, it is the man with the highest status. It is him who gets the most resources, has the best chances of all males to reproduce (the most) and therefore his offspring can carry the genes of the woman most successfully (which is why it is in her interest to have babies with him). Raiders who go around raping and pillaging are usually cannon fodder, they may be strong, but since we are not gorillas, strength is a secondary “alpha” trait in humans at best and strength (but not BRUTE STRENGTH, now THAT would be something :-P) might be the only thing they excel at.

            I guess this is in fact the major problem with the “women evolutionary speaking, want to be raped” argument whereas the trouble with finding someone to look after the baby is a second order issue.

            Mating with other males does happen sometimes in “harem species”, but the question is how much that is “consensual” and how much it is actually closer to raiders raping the women while the men from the village are away/dead.

        3. Cauê

          Deiseach, I’m not sure how to respond.

          I accused you of misunderstanding and/or misrepresenting what he said, and you answer by continuing to argue against his first comment. I’m not going to defend Steve’s hypothesis as true, because I don’t believe it is, either in his version or yours.

          Nevertheless: you almost certainly are making the mistake I mentioned to Nita (or maybe equivocating for rhetorical effect), of confusing psychological motivations with the evolutionary causes of those motivations, comparable to mocking “evolutionists” for going around thinking people consciously decide to eat sugary foods so they’ll have energy to have and raise children.

          1. Deiseach

            Cauê, I’m not sure how to proceed either.

            “I accused you of misunderstanding and/or misrepresenting what he said, and you answer by continuing to argue against his first comment.”

            What other comment did he make? This is the thing that I am addressing. I don’t know what you are referring to. I ask you to explain to me how that comment is not offensive, ignorant tripe, and you apparently are speaking about some other comment by some other person.

            Steve Johnson – and please, correct me if I’m not getting this right – said it was an evolutionarily correct response for a woman to pretend resistance to a rapist so as to (a) test his fitness to father a child on her (b) avoid social stigma afterwards for having consensual sex

            It is only as an afterthought that he puts in what should have been the kernel of his argument: women do not want to provoke a rapist to kill them by resisting too vigorously, thus making themselves too much trouble and switching the attacker’s focus from rape to murder.

            That would have been a defensible comment on its own. There was no necessity to invoke some supposition that the Magic Evolution Fairy selected women for (a) wanting vigorous genes for their offspring (b) grading the vigour of a potential father’s genes on his violence and willingness to use force and attack her to overcome her resistance (c) lie about being raped in order to avoid the opprobrium of society, an attitude arising from the resentment of the males she cuckolded and would deceive into expending their resources on offspring not their own (also an evolutionary adaptation of the male, in this instance: anti-cuckoldry and punishment of unfaithful mates).

            And all this arising out of a comment about how beginners in a certain martial arts technique tend to swing either too hard (the men) or too soft (the women).

            How or why was it necessary to leap to a conclusion “This is because women would only be facing attackers who want to rape them” (not wild animals, for instance!) “and so they don’t want to be too good at fighting because this would put the guy off having sex with them – oh, and maybe kill them. But mainly the sex. And then lying about it not being willing on their part afterwards, so they can get men to raise their bastards.”

            Why then is it not evolutionarily correct for men to run away in battle? After all, “he who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day” – and to have offspring, which a male killed in battle cannot do!

            Oh well that’s different – evolution intends women to like being dominated and men to like dominating! Yeah…right, and I’m not a fundamentalist Biblical headship of the male believer either. I call bullshit whether you are trying to bend St Paul or Darwin to your proposition that “treat ’em mean and keep ’em keen (because they’re all sluts at heart)” is just How Nature Intended It.

            As to evolutionary arguments, I’m not arguing pro or con those. I am saying that pulling out “Evolution!” as a justification for whatever batshit idea flits through the otherwise empty caverns of the skull is no better than “God did it!”

            I’m going to be over here with St Augustine who says raped women are not willing participants in consensual sex and pregnancy for superior genes.

          2. Nita


            I think the difference is that Cauê classified Steve’s comment as “legit evopsych”, while you and I classified it as “oh-so-edgy redpill spiel camouflaged as evopsych”.

            I don’t see any need to bring in evopsych to explain why someone who is both physically weaker and encouraged to look “delicate and graceful” in day-to-day life might deliver less force on her first try than someone who is both physically stronger and encouraged to look “strong”.

            Now, why “delicate and graceful” women are desirable is a better question for evopsych and/or cultural analysis.

          3. Cauê

            I think the difference is that Cauê classified Steve’s comment as “legit evopsych”, while you and I classified it as “oh-so-edgy redpill spiel camouflaged as evopsych”.

            More like “sincere armchair evopsych”, as “legit” would imply some kind of endorsement.

            Maybe this is the difference, though I’d frame it as me talking about that hypothesis as stated, and you talking about whatever else is out there “in the same memeplex”.

        4. lvlln

          This seems to be based on a really bizarre and, AFAICT, entirely inaccurate reading of Steve Johnson’s post. I don’t see anywhere in his post that states or implies that the women in a situation to be raped by an invader have any sort of conscious thought relating to “I want to have his babies” or “I better put up token resistance,” or in fact, any conscious thought at all.

          His explanation seems to be a “just-so” evo-psych story to explain why women tend to swing less hard than men, which is that women who swung less hard tended to have their genes propagated more than women who swung harder or women who didn’t swing at all, because of the reproductive advantages he claims they gained. By swinging not too hard, they survived more often than women who swung very hard, because they were less likely to be murdered outright. And their genes had a higher chance of propagating than women who didn’t swing at all, because they were less likely to be abandoned by their husbands/communities because they would not have been perceived as being complicit in their rape.

          Like many “just-so” evo-psych stories, I find this one very unconvincing, and that’s even before others poked holes in it with facts like abortion, infanticide, ritual suicide. Not to mention that he stated it in as insensitive manner as possible.

          But it’s important not to distort others’ statements, and there’s nothing in his story that states or implies that women consciously (or unconsciously, for that matter) make plans to put up a token resistance so that they get raped by strong invaders who give her children superior genes that are then raised by her cuckolded husband. All that’s necessary for his “just-so” story is that women tend to swing less hard at a greater rate than men. They don’t need to know or even have any idea why.

          Of course, that very phenomenon is in question too, as it’s entirely based on an anecdotal observation by an individual, not on any actual data. It seems pretty clear to me that Steve Johnson has a chip on his shoulder about using any opportunity possible to spread his beliefs about the evolutionary bases of behaviors of people wrt sex. At least, that’s my conclusion based on the fact that he decided to introduce such a bizarre and unsolicited evo-psych story to a thread about sword swinging, based on an off-hand comment.

          1. Deiseach

            lvlln, I’d certainly like to think he phrased himself clumsily, but the fact that he didn’t reply with further clarification of “That is not what I was saying, what I meant was…” is either (1) my views are beneath his notice (fair enough) or (2) he said exactly what he meant in exactly the way he meant it.

            If women swing weapons with different degrees of force (very forcefully, less forcefully, not at all) because being individuals, levels of bodily strength and reaction to stress differ, then that is not objectionable to surmise; it’s certainly not implying that women are calculating how much resistance they should put up: just enough to persuade their community they weren’t willing to have sex, but not enough to drive off the invader with whom they wish to have sex for the purpose of better babies.

            Even saying that women would choose not to fight back because they don’t want to provoke an aggressive man into killing them is not objectionable.

            But as Steve Johnson put it, it is exactly as you describe: an evolutionary psychology “just-so” story that is nonsense. Why would a successful woman who fought off invaders and defended herself from rape, even killed one, be less reproductively successful than her sister who only half-fought and got raped? The former woman would be praised and would be seen as a desirable mate and would have more opportunity to find a high-status male to bond with and have children by!

            The nasty ideas underpinning the “just-so” story are:

            (1) Women like/are genetically programmed to prefer better bloodstock for fathering their offspring (not so nasty in itself, until we get into the assumptions attached to it)

            (2) Violent, strong, forceful men who are of superior physical strength and use that strength to overcome resistance, both of other males and of females, are better bloodstock

            (3) Which is why women may say they want polite, civilised, sensitive men who treat them as equals but they really want big, strong, ‘treat ’em mean and keep ’em keen’ types who will dominate them both in bed and outside of it

            (4) Why women say they want polite etc. is because they know they have little chance of holding on to the better bloodstock male (who will have his pick of women for sex and so need not be tied down to any one woman) so they need to latch on to an inferior male who will expend effort and resources in supporting the woman and her offspring

            (5) That offspring, since women are conditioned by evolution (see point 1) is very likely to be that of the better bloodstock not the inferior male

            (6) This means girls don’t like boys, girls like cars and money, women are liars, women are constantly on the look-out for better bloodstock and will open their legs for them, so men need to be always on the qui vive because women are lying bitches in heat who will leech off you and pawn off cuckoos in the nest on you

            (7) Hey, don’t blame me for the truth, this is evolution! As we see with why women don’t fight to the full of their strength (e.g.why women beginners cut too softly and male beginners cut too strongly when they’re learning a bladed martial art) – they don’t want to drive off rapists, they want those better bloodstock genes

            (8) Oh and maybe not to be killed, but it’s the superior genes mainly

          2. Steve Johnson

            Deiseach –

            I was trying to go a little easy on you because you’re a good commenter who usually says sensible things but you’re not thinking clearly here.

            In no particular order for the rest of this thread:

            Explaining why women react differently than men in violent circumstances isn’t a “just so” story in any meaningful way. Women have a whole different calculus for lots of things in life that in most circumstances boils down to “stay alive no matter what”. About 80% of all women who have ever lived have left descendants. In broad strokes, women are inherently valuable – the resources needed for reproduction are food, shelter, a fertile womb and breast milk – notice that two of these things don’t exist apart from a woman’s body. Men are not inherently valuable. Men are only valuable for their skills and knowledge. As a result, the presumption should be that absolutely every single observed difference between men and women is genetic since the best plan for successful gene propagation is so radically different for men and women – maybe with some extraordinary evidence you can show that some particular trait or another is culturally influenced but most of the time if you just assume genes, you’ll be right. For Eurasian humans most of the time the plans line up moderately well – form a pair bond with a member of the opposite sex, have children, bestow nutrition, instruction and care on them, help them find mates, repeat. The interesting areas are where these interests diverge.

            Fact of human biology – humans are a concealed ovulation species. Biologically that is massively meaningful. It means women are adapted to a split mating strategy. No amount of hysterical hand wringing will change that. All of your points 1-7 are true. Civilization in large part is an attempt to mitigate negative effects of those points and make it so that people can live together in relative peace. Elsewhere you mentioned that it’s in the interest of any particular man to run from battle – well guess what? Armies are built around the fact that that’s actually true! All sorts of social technologies have been invented to overcome the problems that result from male behavior that benefits the individual at the expense of the group. In this particular example, men who run are shamed as cowards, armies make sure that men build bonds of friendship with the other men in their unit, harsh punishments for desertion are enforced, etc. Women also have anti-social biological tendencies but because of the combination of the inherent value to civilization of women’s bodies and concealed ovulation those anti-social tendencies usually revolve around mating (there are others that don’t – like malicious gossip). Social technology to deal with those tendencies has been developed. Of course, being enlightened 21st century people we don’t see it that way. We see the restrictions on men as universal (no violence in social encounters, frex) while restrictions on women are particular and hence unjust. The truth is that women and men aren’t the same and exhibit different types of anti-social behavior so they need different rules to restrict those types of behavior.

            Specifically regarding the discussion about rape; women have a complex relationship with rape. Obviously their biological interests are served to a large extent by picking their mates hence the distaste for rape. At the same time there are other things going on – women are always on the lookout for better genes and when the tribe is totally defeated, they’re on the lookout for security in the new order. The Illiad and the Old Testament both discuss exactly this – men are put to the sword in a conquest while women are taken as concubines. Concubines leave descendants. Corpses don’t (yes, yes, people die and leave surviving children, everyone knows this, it happens every time someone die – the question is on the margins – living women leave more descendants than women who die during their fertile years). All sorts of unpleasant and uncomfortable facts about the world as it is come up because of this. Women are more likely to conceive when being raped than they are by sex with their regular partner. This could well be because rapists target women who are ovulating, sure. It could also be because women are ever so slightly more inclined to behavior that puts them at risk for rape when they’re at the most fertile part of their cycles. A related fact – women are more likely to orgasm while being raped than in sex with regular partners. Female orgasm is likely related in some way to sperm retention. That looks like an adaptation for picking up rapist genes for her children. (This blurs the line between conquest / raider rape and individual predator rape) Again, this stuff is on the margins but it’s real. Most of the time cooperate / cooperate prevails in games but sometimes players defect if the payoff (of better genes) is high even when the risk is high.

            As far as the “fight hard enough to show you’re trying but not so hard that you get killed’ – studies done in modern times show that women who are rape victims who have visible injuries are treated much better by their regular partners than rape victims who don’t. Right there is a huge piece of evidence in favor of the “fight pretty hard but not hard enough to risk death” strategy. Everyone knows – consciously or not – that women have a dual mating strategy (especially women who freak out when mention of a dual mating strategy is made). When a woman claims to have been raped there will always rightly be a base level of suspicion that she’s trying to get out of the costs of a dual mating strategy. This is unchangeable. Of course women will lie about rape – there’s a lot at stake. The social technology to solve this problem and minimize rapes is mostly condemned by all right thinking people. Result? Both more rapes and more women lying about rape and a huge increase in the hysteria around rape.

            EDIT: Oh, and if you want to talk about “just so” stories – here’s the actual just so story – differences between men and women are the result of “cultural conditioning”. Every movie, television show, commercial and piece of fiction in the last 20 years has women being stronger and smarter than men and just as capable of violence. Somehow women absorb all this media and get the message that they should be weak and dainty to be a proper woman – a message that is present basically nowhere in modern times. There’s a just so story. Women get the exact amount of media exposure to make them think they should be weaker and worse at math then men, therefore it becomes true – even though no one can actually point out this media and when a singular example is produced articles condemning it and the retrograde attitudes it produces outnumber the original 10 to 1.

          3. Doctor Mist

            Steve, Deisach:

            I may regret mixing up in this, but it seems to me part of the disconnect is exemplified by Deisach’s phrases “woman are genetically programmed” or “woman say they want X but really want Y”. Our genes want lots of things, and their control over our behavior is indirect at best. To some extent they have outsmarted themselves by producing brains good enough to produce minds, but for the most part their work is subtle enough to end around the mind and produce behavior they “think” they want without bothering to tweak what our minds think about the whole thing. (Most behaviors developed before there even were minds; a mechanism that required looping the mind into the process would have to be relatively recent and arguably brittle.)

            A mind that is aware of the process can take control, sometimes. I can understand where my love of sugar comes from and its inappropriateness in today’s world, and decide to not eat five donuts a day — if I pay attention. If I don’t, somehow those donuts are gonna end up in my stomach, believe me.

            Now, if (I’m just saying “if” here) there were some advantage to a woman’s genes to combine with those of a raider, in purely genetic terms of successful offspring or offspring’s offspring or whatever, I don’t know what physical mechanism would prevent the development of behaviors like Steve is describing. We can take for granted that if such a mechanism exists, it does not operate by actually changing the female’s actual conscious preferences — or you wouldn’t be having this argument; instead Deisach would be saying, “Well, of course she behaves that way, for the good of her children!” If there is such a mechanism, it therefore alters behavior, maybe ever so slightly, without bothering to inform the mind. (Note also that even a very, very slight alteration in behavior — in general; I’m not talking about this hypothetical — can sometimes pay big dividends over generations in the reproduction stakes. In some sense slightness might be better, if it makes it easier to end around the mind.)

            The mind, if it looks at the data and agrees that they show a genuine tendency to a behavior that runs counter to the mind’s wishes, could learn to apply the same discipline that I have come to apply with respect to donuts. But note that for any behaviors that the genes are pushing contrary to the mind’s carefully considered wishes, the chances of being able to apply this discipline are greatly degraded if the mind rationalizes or denies the behavior, like if I say to myself, “Trust your instincts! If your body wants the donut it must be good for you,” or “I don’t really eat that many donuts; this one won’t hurt”. My guess is that before a hundred years or so ago this was the usual way the mind dealt with such things, as long as the disconnect wasn’t so obvious and egregious that the mind had to invent some exogenous force motivating the behavior.

            Well, blah blah blah. The tiny, tiny point that all of this is in service of is this: Unless I am grossly misjudging him, Steve is not saying that women want to be raped, or that they are liars or hypocrites toward the men they love.

            What he is saying may be either correct or incorrect, but it’s not germane to say, “No, that’s absurd; women don’t secretly want to be raped.” That’s true enough, but not relevant to the discussion.

          4. Doctor Mist

            So hang on a minute – I don’t like eating sugar. So what is going on there?

            Well, you’re just weird. 🙂

          5. Mark

            “About 80% of all women who have ever lived have left descendants.”
            OK… having looked into it, apparently the figure of 80% is pure guess work – genetic studies (of 75 Mongolians, Papua New Guineans, and Khosians) have shown that twice as many females now have female descendants as males have male descendants. This doesn’t appear to me to measure the female descendants of men though? If the raiders come in and wipe out all the men, but keep the women alive, the female and male ancestors of the wiped out tribe still have the same number of genetic descendants – it’s just that there is no easy way to measure the male’s female descendants. In this respect, there should be no difference between male and female strategies?

            “In broad strokes, women are inherently valuable – the resources needed for reproduction are food, shelter, a fertile womb and breast milk – notice that two of these things don’t exist apart from a woman’s body.”
            And two of those things don’t exist outside of a social structure – shouldn’t that mean that social/cultural factors are also incredibly important for behavior?

          6. Mark

            I have another question: why aren’t lions ants?
            Surely you can’t really talk of the “best plan” or an optimal strategy – with evolution we should always be thinking of what is the “good enough” plan.
            Evolution has made us good enough to live – it doesn’t tell us anything further.

          7. Svejk

            Fact of human biology – humans are a concealed ovulation species. Biologically that is massively meaningful. It means women are adapted to a split mating strategy. No amount of hysterical hand wringing will change that.

            It is likely that the LCA of humans and chimps had semi-concealed ovulation, so that both the advertised ovulation of chimpanzees and the concealed ovulation of humans are derived states. The apparently stark difference between the ovulation behaviour of humans and chimps does not necessarily indicate that ovulation signalling underwent greater evolutionary change in the human lineage. It is not even certain that the selection pressures driving concealed ovulation were related to mating strategy (although this is the most likely pressure). It is not certain whether concealed ovulation is an adaptation to increase paternal investment by the actual father (a monogamy sweetener, as it were), or to create paternity confusion, or both. In the case of creating paternity confusion, it is uncertain whether this is to shop for better genes, to shop for genetic diversity, or simply to reduce the chances of infanticide.
            Additionally, in the cultural contexts that predominated for much of human prehistory, where at least a significant plurality, if not an outright majority, of females lived in patrilocal systems surrounded by their husband’s kin, any offspring fathered by unrelated males stood a strong chance of being aborted, exposed, or at the very least denied crucial alloparental care. Any impetus to ‘weakly’ resist rape can be parsimoniously explained by employing a strategy open to females but not males to increase the probability of surviving an attack, rather than executing an adaptation to find better genes (even when we ignore the biomechanical implications of having much poorer upper body strength). Since many cultures disperse females to more distant clans or to potentially powerful allies upon sexual maturity, many females would already have ‘find better/different genes’ checked off on their dance card and might be wary of additional opportunities presented by would-be rapists. For parous women the calculation weighs strongly against acquiescing to rape.
            There may be conditions under which human females succumb to ravishment as an evolutionary strategy, but these conditions are by no means well-defined and a great deal of serious scientific debate surrounds the topic.
            It is not surprising that tacking an evolutionary just-so story implying that women are sometimes amenable to rape onto an aside in a fascinating discussion of weapon mechanics provoked a strong negative response.

      1. Deiseach

        Anonymous, this whole exchange caused me to dig out my nail polish (shade: Berry Fusion) so that today my fingers look as though EMPURPLED IN THE BLOOD OF THOSE WHO OPPOSE ME! 🙂

        I wonder what the evolutionary explanation for that is? What signal am I giving out as regards my willingness to be mated and impregnated by a big, forceful man who will best me in a trial of strength and ravish me and fill my belly with his brood? (I cannot help but feel I’ve read some trashy Science Fantasy with that as the premise, and I don’t mean the Gor novels – which, in the happy days of long-ago, I had the pleasure of giving a good flyting with other participants on a particular fan blog; on my part it involved using Freudian psychology and textual analysis to prove that Tarl Cabot was not alone gay but was a sub who wanted to bottom exclusively – ah, fond memories!)

        Speaking of nail polish: Maybelline Colour Show Berry Fusion – pros: good coverage, vivid colour; cons – chips like a bugger (put on last night, already showing wear this morning)

        1. Samuel Skinner

          “I wonder what the evolutionary explanation for that is?”

          You are secretly a Spartan who believes only strong women can give birth to strong men and others in society view “brutally crushing our enemies beneath our spears” as worthwhile traits in their children?

          1. Deiseach

            Samuel Skinner, it certainly helps to cheer a person up when they put on their nail colour of an EMPRESS Porphyrogennētē APPAREILED IN THE IMPERIAL PURPLE AS SHE GOES FORTH TO VANQUISH THOSE WHO DARE OPPOSE THEMSELVES TO HER 🙂

            I’ve been admiring my own hands for two days now!

          2. Deiseach

            Also, I wouldn’t necessarily brutally crush enemies beneath the spears of my armies; I’m quite prepared to give them every opportunity to prostrate themselves, kiss my foot, and implore my mercy, which I might even be inclined to grant them 🙂

            And if it did come to unfortunately necessary application of terminal solutions, I’d prefer it to be by the likes of thissooooo pretty!

    3. James Picone

      I run into far, far more creationists online than I run into people like Steve Johnson. If you extended the argument to “Shitty just-so evopsych” instead of “Shitty just-so evopsych and misogyny”, it’d be harder to call but I’m pretty sure I still run into more creationists.

      And I’ve never had one bring up evopsych in an argument. It’s either the unsophisticated tornado-in-junkyard stuff or sophisticated/facile Behe/irreducible complexity/loses information stuff.

  13. Yakimi

    Concerning Nippon Kaigi, I would avoid reading too much into the ideological content of this organization. (Reviving the Japanese Empire is not one of its stated aims, by the way.) Among its curiosities is that the most liberal member of the Liberal Democratic Party, former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, is a member of Nippon Kaigi, even though he is not known to be a historical revisionist and he holds positions opposed to its charter, such as ending ministerial visits to Yasukuni Shrine. So, too, is the moderate Sadakazu Tanigaki.

    Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is also a member, and while he is a nationalist of a kind, his strain of Japanese nationalism is idiosyncratically liberal, although foreign observers often sloppily conflate it with the Abe and Ishihara varietes. Shinzō Abe is a member and a nationalist, but one must understand the duality of his nationalism: there is an inward-looking component and an outward-looking component . The former is largely responsible for his reputation abroad as a rabid fascist. The latter, however, is staunchly supportive of Americanism, global democracy, liberal internationalism, etc. Like his grandfather, he may resent the domestic “post-war regime”, but he is a friend to the international “post-war regime”. (In the sixties, far-right activists found themselves in the company of far-left activists when violently demonstrating against his grandfather’s pro-American foreign policy.)

    Personally, I suspect that Nippon Kaigi’s function is more social and symbolic than conspiratorial. Here’s Jun Okumura’s take.

  14. Alex

    Let’s colonize Antarctica…whenever that becomes feasible. In the meantime, let’s think about which technologies might help make it feasible. Or if that’s too strange, let’s think about how to make places like Barro, Alaska, nicer to live in. Or if *that’s* too weird, repeat this process of moderating goals.

    1. Scott Alexander Post author

      */me repeats process of moderating goals, finally ends up taking a short walk outside even though he lives in Michigan*

      1. DrBeat

        You didn’t moderate enough.

        I ended up sticking my head in the freezer long enough to find the ice cream.

      2. E. Harding

        The weather’s excellent, man! I mean, really, September has the finest weather of the year in MI (summer is slightly too hot). It’s not cold, not hot, and there’s a nice, fresh breeze with falling leaves. It’s only gonna get worse from here on out. Let’s hope there’s no snow, like one of those winters in the first half of this decade.

        1. meyerkev248

          September is also the best month for golf.

          In April/May, the superintendents are too busy trying to deal with “OH GOD, THE GRASS WON’T STOP GROWING” and dealing with all the winter damage.

          June/July/August, “OH GOD, THE GRASS IS DYING BECAUSE IT’S HOT”

          But September/October until those first couple frosts…

          My dad’s an assistant Super near Scott, and in the fall, he gets to actually have fun for once. He can control the exact speed of the greens. He can handrake every bunker. He lives for September and October.

    2. Wrong Species

      I feel like you’re trying to make a point about the difficulty of having space stations when we don’t even colonize Antarctica but I’m not sure.

      1. houseboatonstyx

        the difficulty of having space stations when we don’t even colonize Antarctica

        I’m not so sure. Space dangers are constants: vacuum, over-heating…. On earth something is always attacking you, and each time it’s different: windstorm, rainstorm, flood, wildfire, ice storm, drought, tidal wave, earthquake, plague of locusts….

        1. Wrong Species

          That’s like saying growing crops is far more unpredictable in Ohio than the North Pole. Technically true but meaningless.

          I’m too lazy to look it up but I’m guessing that having a base in Antarctica is far cheaper than running the ISS.

          1. houseboatonstyx

            A colony is a (hopefully permanent) self-sustaining community with its own sources of food and other necessities. A base is a temporary outpost where a few specialists are doing special tasks with constant support from home. The ISS is a pilot model for bases in orbit which can lead to structures large enough to use as colonies. Tech is going that way, in conditions that can become useful: too much power, too little weight….

  15. Jacob

    Let me re-phrase the Dutch study results:

    “Of the 10 sub-fields studied, in 8 we found no statistically significant difference in acceptance rates between men and women. In 2 (Medical and Earth/Life sciences), men had statistically significantly higher acceptance rates.”

    If you take p-values at face value, this is still evidence of gender bias (10 trials should find fewer than 1 positive result by chance alone at p < 0.05). The reason they didn’t find a statistically significant difference in many subfields is likely lack of statistical power. The acceptance rate for women in physics was 22.2%, 2 grants were accepted out of 9.

    There are likely other covariates they didn’t/couldn’t include (e.g. university size) due to the small sample size

    1. Anon.

      >There are likely other covariates they didn’t/couldn’t include (e.g. university size) due to the small sample size

      I think it’s important to note that that is no excuse. Model misspecification is game over, no matter the sample size. Misspecified models, even with R^2>.99, can be completely wrong (we’re talking wrong sign on the coefficients). If the sample size is too small for the model, the correct approach is not to trudge ahead anyway. At that point you must put your hands up in the air and give up. Some things are unknowable.

    2. Murphy

      (10 trials should find fewer than 1 positive result by chance alone at p < 0.05).

      No, that’s utterly wrong.

      You’re screwing up the stats here.

      If I roll a 20 sided die 10 times I don’t get to claim statistical significance if it comes up with 1 or even 2 20’s

      There’s a ~60%(59.873693923) chance of seeing no 20’s, the chance of seeing at least one 20 eats up a big chunk of the remaining 40%, the probabilities of seeing *at least 2* 20’s still isn’t less than 0.05 (0.07463479852 probability of getting exactly two 20’s)

      So no, not significant in any way shape or form.

      It is utterly essential to account for multiplicity properly

      Though even that assumes fair dice, it gets worse if it wasn’t just chance that prompted the researchers to exclude the years where women had higher acceptance rates.

  16. Ever An Anon

    Ok, so we’ve got some new communists here. That’s probably past due, since Multiheaded and Oligospony haven’t been around for a while. Trouble is, it’s hard to figure out exactly what form of communism is being advocated which is making discussion go around in circles.

    So, without further ado, a quick poll for all communists socialists Marxists and fellow travelers: which, if any, of the following economic systems do you endorse?

    1. Central Planning: State controls all aspects of the economy directly.
    Example(s): USSR, PRC (pre Deng)
    2. Market Socialism: State sets prices, according to a simulated market, and State- and/or worker-owned firms manage the rest.
    Example(s): Yugoslavia, Hungary
    3a. Socialist Market Economy: Market economy with both State-owned and privately owned firms.
    Example(s): Vietnam (modern-day), PRC (post Deng)
    3b.Social Democracy / Nordic Capitalism: Market economy with firms controled jointly by the State, labor unions and private owners.
    Example(s): Norway, Sweden

    1. Nornagest

      Multiheaded’s still around; they posted a bit in the Comment Sandiego thread. I think they’ve just gotten less enthused about backing Communism in these pages, for whatever reason.

    2. Bugmaster

      I’m not a communist (at least, I don’t think I am), but still:

      I’m confused about point #3a. Doesn’t this describe most Western democracies to some extent ? For example, here in the USA, the State takes over the business of police, firefighting, and other such services; while letting private owners control firms in other markets such as e.g. the food industry (albeit with some amount of regulation).

      1. Samuel Skinner

        He is probably referring to thinks like state owned car, steel, oil and other heavy industry firms. It was done by many countries and was big in developing nations and Europe during the first part of the cold war, but has mostly gone out of style.

      2. Ever An Anon

        The conventional wisdom* is that police / fire services, utilities and the military are natural monopolies. In theory it shouldn’t matter if they are provided by literal monopolists extracting rent or governments levying taxes, since the same (lack of) incentives govern either one.

        That said, 3a and 3b are both types of socialist mixed economies. Most Western economies are in practice distinguished by having larger private sectors and the lack of a Marxist ideological component, but the term mixed economy reasonably applies to them as well.

        *David Friedman disagrees strenuously, but this isn’t about him.

        1. Citizensearth

          I think the idea is that if it’s a natural monopoly, its better that (1) any gouged prices taken from the consumer go into state coffers rather than private purses, and (2) you still have partial democratic control to reign in the worst of the innefficiencies and failings of various kinds. Not ideal but arguably quite a bit better than the alternative. Some libertarians still claim its worse ( I can understand why though I disagree), while the establishment right often seem to reject the concept of natural monopoly itself, which I think is very unwise.

    3. Sylocat

      You actually distinguish between socialism and communism? You’re certainly more charitable than most.

      I’m somewhere around 3a (though I’d be happy with 3b if we specified Basic Income, single payer, and full decriminalization of all victimless crimes).

      1. Ever An Anon

        Well it wouldn’t be very useful to have a poll about beliefs if I didn’t differentiate between then at all.

        Just to clarify, 3a is the economic system of present-day China (Socialist Market Economy is the official translation of the Chinese ‘Shèhuìzhǔyì Shìchǎng Jīngjì’) and Vietnam. So Foxconn et al. are included in that system.

        I actually like the Chinese way of doing things, since while it’s far from my personal ideal it’s also very pragmatic, but I know a lot of people on the left don’t.

      2. Bugmaster

        As far as I understand, in terms of economic theory, “socialism” refers to a system where the State owns and centrally controls all of the “means of production”; yet private property still exists. Thus, the state owns all of the car factories (and the entire supply chain leading to them), but when I buy a car from such a factory, the car is mine.

        By contrast, “communism” refers to the system where the very concept of private property does not exist. The car does not belong to me; it’s a resource that is available to the entire community. Resource allocation is handled either by the state, or by common consensus, or something.

        Of course, that’s all theory; in practice, “communism” means something totally different.

        1. HeelBearCub

          I don’t know that “major means of production” necessarily includes everything in the supply chain. Not every good is produced by the state in socialism. The word “major” actually has meaning in that phrase. And this is the definition of socialism I recall learning 25 years ago.

          But, what then do you call the UK, Sweden, France or Germany of today? Or Brazil? I’m fine with saying they are not socialist states, but I wish people would then stop calling any aspect of social-welfare an element of the socialist state.

    4. multiheaded

      Something like 2 + integrating varied not-for-profit models of resource allocation and production. Like today’s capitalist tech industry integrates open source development.

  17. Lignisse

    …and the Dutch scientific community is still sexist because grant review forms use “gendered language” like the word “excellent” which is apparently “male-coded”.

    Hey, now, I have to throw a flag on this play. You’re suggesting this is absurd and that I should find it absurd because you and I are both native English speakers and we both know that “excellent” isn’t male-coded. (And why the scare quotes?)

    But that’s not relevant, because presumably the grant review forms are written in Dutch and don’t actually use the word “excellent” (if I’m wrong, then okay, ignore the rest of this comment). Instead, they use some other word that’s been translated as “excellent”, and the real question is whether the original word is male-coded.

    Certainly words can be male-coded: Would it be a problem if an employment advertisement said they were looking for a “burly, rugged individual to fit our store image?” What if a grant review process asks “Has the researcher addressed this topic in any of his academic papers? I would say “yes” and “yes”…and there’s a real empirical question here as to whether the word translated as “excellent” is similarly male-coded, and I think we need a Dutch native speaker to answer it, because “being male-coded” isn’t a property that’s preserved under translation.

    (which of course, still leaves the entirely relevant objection about being unwilling to modify conclusions, but this is still a terrible argument to make)

    1. Douglas Knight

      The paper is written in English and all the examples it gives are in English:

      For example, masculine-gendered words included “challenging,” “independent,” and “adventurous,” whereas feminine-gendered words included “responsible,” “organized,” and “thorough.”

      “Excellent” is not on that list and seems to have been added in popular coverage. Those two pieces are almost identical and I wonder if they are both translated from the same Dutch original. The first says “challenging and excellent,” while the second says “severe and excellent.”

    2. Not interested

      Dutch VENI grant forms (those studied) are in English, but can be completed in Dutch. I know because I’ve applied twice.

  18. Wrong Species

    Somewhat off topic but I feel like we’re not seriously talking about the most obvious school reform: Paying kids directly to learn certain skills. I know that some propose paying for good grades but why not go the more direct route?

    1. lmm

      People are already paid for desirable skills. The point is that acquiring them takes years and poor people are almost by definition unable to invest. So you want to pay the kids day-by-day, week-by-week – and what measure of how much they’ve learned do you have on that timescale other than grades?

      1. Wrong Species

        Just a regular test. And if you can get a certain amount of the problems right(lets say 90% right) you pass the test and get paid. The problem with grades is that one mistake messes you up for the whole semester. It’s very demotivating. The grades themselves are only indirectly giving you an award, promising you rewards years in the future. So I’m just proposing we simplify the process.

        I don’t really understand the rest of what your saying. Students aren’t paid for learning math or writing or science. The only reward is a distant, uncertain one. And what does poor people not being able to invest have to do with anything?

        1. Aegeus

          So, you’re saying the problem with paying for grades is that one mistake early on could trash your grade for the year, and thus trash your payment.

          And your proposal is to instead just have a test at the end of the year… where one mistake could trash your payment for the year. I’m not sure what the improvement is there. At least with grades you can pull them back up given enough time.

          Of course, you could resolve this by giving more frequent tests to gauge their progress, but likewise, a pay-for-grades system could measure over shorter periods. Is there really a meaningful difference between “Pay to learn a skill (as measured by a grade on a standardized test)” and “Pay to get a grade on a standardized test”?

          1. Wrong Species

            I was proposing more frequent tests. And yes, you could do a pay for grades over a shorter period of time. The point was instead of also giving grades on projects and homework or participation or whatever, you simply test what they know and if they pass, then they get the money.

            Here’s how I see a typical day:

            Get up, get ready and then go to school. Log on to your account and see what kind of progress you have made recently. So lets say that recently you finished finished linear equations and made X amount of money and decide to work on quadratic equations to make X+10 amount of money. So you start reading the textbook or watch a video or whatever. If you have a problem you can try to find a tutor. Anyways, so you work on that until you get tired of working on it and either switch to something else or go home. Or if you feel you have a good understanding you can go ahead, take the test and make some money that you can use to do whatever you want.

            Obviously it’s not a fully fleshed out idea but I think the general idea would work. There are many advantages to this system I can think of. First, it’s far more efficient. Instead of trying to get every kid on the same level for their age in every subject, the kids can work at their own pace. So a kid who is a genius at math doesn’t have to go at the same pace as the average kid and the less gifted doesn’t feel like he’s falling behind. It has the same advantage as homeschooling in this regard.

            Second, you’re giving the kid a far better incentive to actually learn things. Right now the main incentive to school is getting in to a good college. But first off, if you don’t plan on going to college at all, this means nothing so school is a waste of time. And second, if you don’t want to go to Harvard but still want to go to college all you have to do is be good enough. You don’t really have to know anything beyond what it takes to make decent grades. And if you barely work while making decent grades, not only will you not learn anything, you will also build bad habits that are hard to break.

            Now I’m sure people can think of some downsides and maybe there is some fatal flaw I’m not thinking of(along with some equality issues that I’m not really concerned about). If anyone is interested, I’ll try and think of it more thoroughly, do some research and post a more complete defense in another thread.

          2. gbdub

            One of the obvious downsides of “more frequent tests” is that you end up learning just for the test, not learning anything else, and immediately ejecting the crammed info out of your brain to leave room for the next topic.

            Also I’m not sure how your proposal helps the “less gifted [not] feel like he’s falling behind” since the smarter kids are all finishing more courses and getting more money. Even in the same courses, the less gifted will need to spend more on tutoring etc. to grasp the material. It incentivizes performance, but it will almost certainly increase “inequality”. You may be fine with that, but clearly a lot of people aren’t.

        2. kerani

          The problem with grades is that one mistake messes you up for the whole semester.

          Can you expand on this? I’ve been sitting in classrooms on and off for more than thirty years now, and I’ve never failed a course – much less a single test – on the basis of one mistake.

          1. Saint_Fiasco

            Suppose you are trying to get an A, and do badly on an assignment at the very beginning of the semester.

            It’s like when people are following a strict diet, eat one snack, and then just abandon the diet and eat all the snacks because their small failure demotivates them.

          2. suntzuanime

            That seems like a general problem with… well… everything? If one error causes you to collapse into helplessness, it’s not clear there’s a non-grade solution for working around that.

          3. Saint_Fiasco

            Failing to keep a diet doesn’t turn you into a morbidly obese person, and getting a B instead of an A is not a catastrophe.

            The solution doesn’t have to be drastic, either. Just more immediate feedback helps a lot.

            If your failure hurts a lot in the short term and is irrelevant in the long term, you get the benefits of negative reinforcement without hurting the perfectionists, the obsessives, and the normal kids who happen to have perfectionist/obsessive parents.

    2. DES3264

      Roland Fryer, an economist at Harvard, did some reasonable sounding randomized trials of this and found no measurable effect. I’m pretty sure I’ve also read about real world examples with similar results.

      EDIT I just found this interesting interview with Fryer, where he gives a different summary of his work. According to him, paying for behavior (e.g. “read this book, with a very basic quiz to show you have done so”) gets the desired behavior and gets the hoped for effect (improved scores on reading comprehension exams), but paying directly for the improved scores doesn’t. I don’t see where that is in the paper I linked, but I imagine he knows his results better than I do. But he also says “some incentive programs will work, but they are not going to take a big slice out of the problem.”

  19. ryan

    Popehat scoops me on something I’ve always thought was a good idea: given that some people want “safe” colleges with trigger warnings on everything, and other people want “free speech” colleges where they are confronted with disquieting new ideas, why aren’t different colleges drifting to one side or the other and letting the market decide?

    I think this is a misunderstanding of the relevant motivation. They don’t want “safe” colleges, they want to slay giants. And the completely sanitized college offers not even a windmill to tilt at.

    Does the season in which you were born affect your skill at chess? Also, “a similar pattern has been found with schizophrenia, and the possible link between these two phenomena is discussed.”

    Related: does the time of year your parents conceived you imply anything about your parents?

  20. AlphaGamma

    Is Milo Yiannopoulus The Only Responsible Tech Journalist Left On The Planet?, asks Milo Yiannopolous

    Also, why can nobody spell Greek surnames? There are two separate spellings here, neither of which is the correct one (Yiannopoulos)

    The ending “-opoulos” is possibly the most common in Greece, and means “son of”- Yiannopoulos essentially translates as Johnson. The most common surname in Greece is Papadopoulos, which translates as “son of the priest” (Orthodox priests aren’t celibate).

    “-opoulou” would be the female version, but many Greek women use the male version of their surnames. This is either because they do not want to confuse foreigners by having a different surname from their male relatives, or because they don’t like the implications of having a masculine genitive surname (which they think implies that they are the property of their father or husband).

    1. Nero tol Scaeva

      It’s the great Western tradition of substituting Greek nominative cases with Latin ones.

  21. Chris Conner

    On the Dutch gender bias study, a conspiracy theory occurred to me: researchers do a study and find that it shows no bias. Realizing that a null result is unpublishable, they include an easily-noticed statistical error that makes the study publishable by showing bias. They count on some outside party noting the error and arguing that the data show no bias at all. Lo, someone does exactly that and the correct result ends up getting publicized after all.

    The fact that one of the authors is standing by the paper as published counts as evidence against the factual reality of this conspiracy theory, I suppose, but not against its entertainment value.

  22. Ghatanathoah

    The bad guys from episodes five and six of the original Patlabor series are now running Japan. This can’t end well.

    Seriously, in a lot of anime set in contemporary Japan the main antagonist is some nationalist lunatic who wants to re-militarize the country. Just off the top of my head I can think of Patlabor, Gasaraki, and Iron Man. I always assumed that this kind of villain was a dramatized conspiracy theory, like the Illuminati in American political thrillers. But apparently they’re totally real.

    How long will it be before a ragtag team of heroes with giant robots attack the Diet building?

    1. Echo

      Never, because life isn’t written by student radicals. Just like the US, the rest of the nation is far more sensible and devout than the media monopoly clique.

      1. suntzuanime

        I feel like there are a reasonable number of anime where right-wing/militarist perspectives are given sympathetic treatment. Just this last season there was Gate, in which the Self-Defense Force was the “good guys” despite what essentially amounted to their imperialist invasion of a fantasy world through the titular gate. There’s the surprisingly prolific genre of anime about military hardware reimagined as sexualized schoolgirls, so you can get your gun porn and your regular porn in the same place (aircraft had Strike Witches, rifles had Upotte, naval vessels had Kancolle). I think the best example of the trend though is Zipang, a show where a modern Self-Defense Force cruiser goes back in time to World War 2 and changes the outcome of the war in the Pacific. The US equivalent would be like an adaptation of The Guns of the South airing on HBO, wish fulfillment for people who are like “if only we hadn’t lost at this crucial moment in history”.

        1. DrBeat

          That Zipang thing sounded pretty terrible, so I looked it up on wikipedia, and… it doesn’t sound like wish fulfillment at all?

          The struggle of the crew from a modern, peaceful, and wealthy Japan to resist the nationalistic appeal of defending their country, knowing that in this time it is ruled by a brutal, totalitarian and militaristic government is the central theme of Zipang.

          And then it looks like the main problem they are trying to solve, beyond trying to return to their own time, is that they saved the life of a Japanese commander who might be able to win the war for the IJN, and they have to stop him?

          Doesn’t seem like wish-fulfillment at all to me. Are these inaccurate summaries?

          1. Jiro

            I’ve watched the entire Zipang series. It isn’t wish fulfillment. At worst it can be accused of taking a view of the war that’s too positive because it doesn’t blame the war enough on higher-ups or because it underemphasizes Japanese atrocities (which will happen anyway if you focus a lot on the sea, since civilians live on land). But this is far from “the author is a Japanese militarist who really thinks Japan was better off worshipping the emperor and wishes the Japanese would have won the war”.

          2. anon

            I watched Zipang less than a month ago and the summary is correct. They initially want to be passive observers but can’t resist rescuing people and that eventually gets them entangled in the war as they can’t decide if they should interfere and to what extent.

            You do get some kicks out of everyone going “holy shit that Japanese cruiser is so amazing its Arrow of God (tomahawk missiles and other stuff) is undodgeable and it can destroy carriers with one hit from beyond radar range and it moves so fast you can’t hit it with a full salvo of torpedoes from up close and..”, but that’s about it. It doesn’t really have a clear message on whether the IJN or the SDF are correct, at least not in the anime which is just a partial adaptation.

          3. suntzuanime

            I will admit to reading between the lines a bit, but The Guns of the South was not explicitly pro-Confederate propaganda either, the guys who went back in time to swing the war were explicitly set up as evil racists. That doesn’t mean that a large part of the appeal of the story isn’t to nationalists who want to fantasize about the South winning, even if the story itself is more complex than that. It seems pretty clear to me that the same dynamic is at work in Zipang.

          4. DrBeat

            I think you’re on much shakier ground condemning it then. “It’s built around this horrible message” is very different from “bad people might enjoy it”.

          5. suntzuanime

            I wasn’t trying to condemn it. I’m not really worried about right-wing Japanese nationalism, I think it’s cute more than anything. I don’t feel as though we are in any real danger, at this point, of the Japanese taking revenge for the revenge for Pearl Harbor; from a US geopolitical standpoint a feistier Japan would probably be helpful to balance against China.

            All I wanted to do was expand on jaimeastorga’s point that anime as a whole is not quite the leftist propaganda organ that Ghatanathoah was making it out to be. I realize that there is a default assumption that all decent works are leftist propaganda and saying that something might appeal to right-wingers is akin to calling it evil; I apologize, that was not my intent. I encourage people to watch Zipang, it’s a pretty good show even if you aren’t still salty about your country losing WW2. Upotte is pretty good too, if fanservice isn’t the sort of thing that bothers you. I wouldn’t recommend Strike Witches, Gate, or Kancolle; politics aside, they’re shallow and not very well-written.

          6. Nornagest

            Anime’s had nationalistic overtones for a while. Space Battleship Yamato, one of the earliest major sci-fi series, features the mildly absurd premise of raising the IJN Yamato (a battleship the size of a smallish supercarrier, obsolete before they fired up the boilers and ignominiously sunk by Navy bombers but damned if it wasn’t cool) and retrofitting it into a starship. Now imagine that premise applied to… the Merrimack, let’s say.

            Hayao Miyazaki hated the idea so much that he wrote a wrecked Yamato into his (quite good, by the way) Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind, so it’s not like it’s uncontroversial. But the series went on to influence a long line of descendants — its traces are probably most clearly seen lately in Knights of Sidonia.

          7. Echo

            Sun, at least if they do decide to attack Pearl Harbor again, they’ll have a namesake of the Kaga to do it with… Definitely not an aircraft carrier though.
            (Also Upotte was terrible and ur raifu a shit.)

            Miyazaki… is exactly the kind of eco-communist who gives weeaboo a weird first impression of Japanese culture…

            DrBeat, you might be reading too much into “some people who enjoy things are nationalists.” It doesn’t mean “bad people” to everyone.

          8. Nornagest

            I’ve got a soft spot for Miyazaki, I’ll admit. His politics are nothing like mine, and I find his eco-fatalism mildly appalling, but he has the rare ability to give everyone he writes believable, sympathetic motivations, even if they’re fighting for things that he obviously hates. Almost no one can do that.

            And if you didn’t think Kushana was fantastically badass, you’re a damn fool.

          9. DrBeat

            Nationalism doesn’t mean bad people to everyone… but I think “Imperial Japanese nationalists who wish they’d won WWII” would mean “bad people” to most, even a lot who think nationalism isn’t inherently bad.

          10. Jiro

            Miyazaki also wrote The Wind Rises, which is about how it was a beautiful thing to build the Zero used by Japan during the war. I wonder how Miyazaki would react to a movie that was about how designing the atomic bomb was all about admiration for the beauty of science.

            Also, right-wing in the sense of Japanese nationalism can still be left-wing in the sense that it is anti-Western and anti-US.

          11. Vorkon

            Honestly? I think Miyazaki would love a movie like that.

            As Nornagest said above, “he has the rare ability to give everyone he writes believable, sympathetic motivations, even if they’re fighting for things that he obviously hates.” Miyazaki has always struck me as the sort of person who is willing to find the beauty in, and look for the good side of, everything, even things he believes to be evil. That’s one of the (many) things that makes his work great.

            So yes, as long as the movie really DID focus on admiration for the beauty of science, and didn’t gloss over how dangerous a nuclear bomb could be, I think he would love it.

            This is kind of beside the point, because it doesn’t say anything about Japanese culture as a whole, but as has also been said above, Miyazaki doesn’t necessarily reflect Japanese culture as a whole. He does his own thing.

        2. FacelessCraven

          Mecha Musume is my guiltiest of pleasures. Even guiltier than pastel ponies. And though no one will believe me, it’s not even the porn angle; weapons systems already have a hell of a lot of personality; Mecha Musume just amplifies that. It’s equal parts fascinating and horrifying.

          [EDIT] – Strike witches was crap tho. It appears that most of the mecha musume audience disagrees with me about the disposability of the girl porn part. Oh well, I hear Girls Und Panzer is good.

          1. Aegeus

            GuP is excellent – it’s basically a sports anime where the sport is tank combat. And there’s not a lot of fanservice, either.

            Also, if you like the personality and history of the weapons, Kantai Collection might appeal to you. The overall plot wasn’t that great, but I had endless fun looking up the ships and seeing “Oh, Hibiki was given to the USSR after the war, no wonder she speaks Russian.”

            I’d also recommend Kant-O-Celle Quest, a /tg/ quest that has even more cool bits of history (it brings in the American shipgirls as well), and has much more drama in the plot.

          2. FacelessCraven

            My tanking/warships buddy has been recommending GuP for ages, and he’s currently trying to get me into the actual Kantai Collection game. Not knowing japanese is an obstacle, but apparently not an unmanagable one. And thanks for the Kant-O-celle recommendation, I’ll definately check that out!

    2. Nita

      In the world of Code Geass, nationalists are the good guys, as Japan and much of the rest of the world are occupied by the conquest-happy Holy Britannian Empire, which seems to be based in North America.

      1. Ever An Anon

        Warning: incredibly old spoilers

        The actual Japanese nationalists, that is the JLF and Kyoto Group, are typically shown as obsolete clowns. Aside from Todoh and the Four Holy Swords that is, and they get roped into the Black Knights pretty quickly. Hell, when the Japanese government-in-exile returns as a puppet of the Chinese Federation Zero prefers to help Britannia hold onto Japan.

        The Black Knights are more of an internationalist pro-vague-platitude (Lelouch admits as much) movement than being particularly nationalistic. Which makes sense given Lelouch’s goal of destroying Britannia utterly rather than just freeing a few Elevens.

        You are right that the show had a surprising amount of nuance though. Even though the first season goes out of its way to show Area Eleven as a dystopia, the resistance admits that many things are better than they were in the old Japan. And Suzaku’s approach of doubling-down on collaboration actually seems to achieve a lot more substantive progress for the Japanese than Zero’s terrorism.

        Damn I miss that show.

      2. birdboy2000

        Nationalists appear at first to be the good guys, but acquit themselves very poorly later on, and that’s about all I can say without spoiling it.

      1. Ghatanathoah

        I considered Nishida to be a villain with many redeeming qualities. I think that

        15 year old spoilers

        the failure of his plan to impoverish Japan so that the Japanese people would toughen up was portrayed as a good thing. He did succeed in ending the American grain embargo, which was good, but his ultimate plan seemed like something the creators intended to be seen as bad.

        Kazukiyo, by contrast, was just a flat out bad guy.

  23. fire ant


    That…. flat-earth link… it’s so awful… I, … I think I need to go see a psychiatrist… 😀

      1. fire ant

        Ah, sorry…

        No, in my browser, that line just leaves the comment box and then disappears on the right.

          1. Messed up browser

            Just the sort of response I would expect from a Flat-Earth Denialist 😉

            Thanks I appreciate the offer, but not nessecary. For some reason with my browser it forces all the comments to squish to the left side of the screen and sometimes out of it. I was just hoping it would be one of those common things with some simple fix that I didn’t know about.

  24. Citizensearth

    Regarding the birth time of year correlating with strange stuff, I seem to remember at least one other correlation of this kind being very probably linked by age in a classroom cohort. At 5yo the youngest in a classroom is potentially almost 20% less developed than the oldest, and the differentiation in ability and social role potentially influencing later events in a statistically detectable way (I can imagine people that got beat up in class might be a little more likely to take up chess?). Don’t know if its a possible link here, because the details seem to be behind paywall.

    Regarding crime in Europe vs US, this doesn’t really surprise me if you’re counting the whole of Europe, which is a lot more than Germany and France. This is important if you’re using Eastern European crime to refute the idea that German or Scandanavian law enforcement policy is good. I’m not saying it is or isn’t, but that argument seems like that might be a key driver of interest in the topic. Again I can’t seem to access the study itself to find out what countries are being looked at, which would be interesting. Anyone with access?

    1. LHN

      Do the rates vary more widely than e.g., Minnesota (1.7 murders per 100,000) vs. Louisiana (9.6/100,000)? Should we likewise be talking about the quality of US law enforcement policy as a whole, rather than looking at states or smaller subdivisions to compare with individual EU countries?

      1. Citizensearth

        I’m not familiar enough with statistics of US and my knowledge of EU is based on people from there I’ve talked to. But generally examining a wide variety of the details (eg. states) without obvious selection bias seems like a sensible suggestion if you’re looking to draw political conclusions.

    1. Ahilan Nagendram


      “Now that the only two massively polygenic traits that might vary among national populations have been successfully studied, I look forward to never having to read any further research of this sort ever again.”

      Hah! Good one, Scott.

      But on a serious note, it makes sense that simpler traits like adiposity and height are easier to find alleles for and even get them replicated, as opposed to psychological traits.

      1. Doctor Mist

        @Ahilan Nagendram:

        it makes sense that simpler traits like adiposity and height are easier to find alleles for and even get them replicated, as opposed to psychological traits.

        This accords with my first intuition as well, but is there actually any reason to believe this? Well, okay, I’ll grant you height. But human-scale intelligence (let’s quit beating around the bush and admit this is what we’re talking about) evolved over a much shorter timescale than the mechanisms for weight regulation. It seems to me it would not be tremendously surprising to find that intelligence is controlled by relatively few alleles.

        On the other hand, in the human experience, intelligence may have been subject to much more intense evolutionary pressure than weight regulation ever was even over hundreds of millions of years.

        In the end I am drawn to try and analogize with the now well-known but a priori surprising result that teaching a computer to play chess turned out to be way easier than teaching it to see or balance, because (the koan goes) critters have been doing the former for a few thousand years and the latter for hundreds of millions.

      2. gwern

        But on a serious note, it makes sense that simpler traits like adiposity and height are easier to find alleles

        It’s interesting that you say it ‘makes sense’, when the sample sizes SSGAC has been using to find IQ hits are actually very comparable to the ones used by GIANT* and the obesity people… (The reasons we have had height and obesity hits for a while and IQ only recently are self-explanatory.)

        I think the best paper on what you should expect is probably “The Evolutionary Genetics of Personality” , Penke et al 2007.

        * seriously, that’s the name of the height consortium which has been running those GWASes

  25. David Byron

    I’ve pointed out for years that the concept of “equality of opportunity” implies as a pre-requisite equality of outcome from, as it were, the previous historical event. As far as I can see “equality of opportunity” is a phrase made up by Libertarians to make them sound like they care, or that they support equality, while they continue to support inequality in the real world. It’s a meaningless propaganda term and always has been. Happy to see people recognizing that.

    Obviously equality is possible, for example by implementing communism.

    > there’s also no possible universe in which enough wealth redistribution takes place that future Megan Ellisons start their careers with the same monetary resources as every other 25-year-old.

    Obviously there is. Take all the money from her and give it back to the workers whom the money was stolen from. Why would you let the thieves keep the stolen money?

    > Imagine two families, one headed by two classical musicians, one headed by two computer programmers

    Not a problem to Communism. Pay them the same, if they both do good work. Why would you pay some people more than others if they both do good work?

    This article seems to make a good case for why capitalism cannot fulfill basic moral requirements we look for (namely equality and fairness) in any good social system. It unveils Libertarian pretense to want those moral values and then it argues for being more honest about the failure of capitalism I guess. As a result I am surprised to see some try to agree with some of the points made, however true they are. That’s two trains heading for a crash right there. I wonder how that will work out.

    1. Citizensearth

      You say that “Obviously equality is possible, for example by implementing communism.

      I don’t think this is obvious at all? Can you point to any examples of communism that have achieved equality to the level of say the Scandanavian market-based social democracies, or even most centre-right Western countries, despite all the human cost that was payed?

      As far as I can see “equality of opportunity” is a phrase made up by Libertarians to make them sound like they care, or that they support equality, while they continue to support inequality in the real world.

      I lean towards egalatarianism but I think equality of opportunity has some relation to a meritocracy. Such a system would be optimised to reward a person for efforts and achievement and not their position in society. It’s a way to incentivise socially good behaviour for everybody’s benefit. Sure Randian types don’t care anything for equality, but I think you might be needlessly destroying the middle ground here.

      1. David Byron

        > I don’t think this is obvious at all?

        I’m talking about the two quotes I had from the article which basically said gosh it’s just impossible to make this heiress equal to all the other kids. Yes it is possible. You just take back all the stolen money. So, yes, that’s completely obvious.

        Similarly it is obvious that if you pay computer programmers and musicians the same you solve that other problem.

        > It’s a way to incentivise socially good behaviour for everybody’s benefit

        As I said the dichotomy doesn’t exist. Equality of opportunity implies and is implied by equality of result. The dichotomy is propaganda. It therefore doesn’t matter how much you like it. It is not a thing.

        1. Tibor

          This is how it works in theory. In practise, you either get a ruling class which has all the money taxed this way at its disposal which really twists incentives a lot or you get a complete collapse of economy.

          Communists countries were in reality a caste system. You had a good standing in the Party, you had all the goodies from the west and never had to wait in line to buy razors or toilet paper because the planners made errors in how much would be needed (or decided to sell some of the production to get foreign currency to buy foreign goods legally available only to the top caste). You did not have a good standing in the Party and did not have the right friends, you ended up being significantly materially worse of than the first group. That, even if we set aside the fact that communist countries were not quite successful at producing wealth, because we assume that we only care about relative wealth now, not about absolute wealth. By the way, even in the communist countries, different professions had different wages (soldiers and miners were paid a lot for example).

          Let’s say you have a simple system where you just take the money and redistribute it among everyone until everyone has exactly the same amount of money (so you do not really give any extra power to anyone). Well, why does anyone bother to do something that is considered widely uninteresting but is useful? Say, why would anyone work as an accountant if he can have much more fun working being a musician or simply not working at all? You end up having to plan how many people do what in order for your economy not to collapse entirely and now you are in the planned economy case above.

          The fact that can say “this can be done and then it will work that way” does not mean that it turns out that way in reality. People adapt to the system and to the incentives the system produces. As long as those incentives go against the intended purpose of your system, it will end up as something very different than what you hoped for.

          1. David Byron

            I wont bother to comment on the anti-communism fiction / mythology.

            > why would anyone work as an accountant if he can have much more fun working being a musician or simply not working at all?

            So “accountant” is your concept of a bad job?

          2. Tibor

            Fiction? I was born into such a country for god’s sake. Apparently I lived the first year of my life (thankfully not more) in fiction 🙂

            Accountant is a boring job I can see hardly anyone willing to do if you live in a world where you get the same wealth whether you work as an accountant, as a poet or not at all. However, it is a job that is useful. So the question is how you make people do it? The ideal communist answer was to plan the number of people who study what subject and more or less assign them the job they would be doing…but the state never had that much power even in the communist countries (thankfully, I mean does it not sound like an awful dystopia to you?), so it came up with prices for work instead, they were of course not market prices in any way, but they partly reflected the fact that miners and accountants were needed but undesirable (as an activity) professions. Another thing was that unemployment was illegal, you would go to prison if you did not work and the demand was entirely created by the government. That means you got the job based partly on your qualifications and partly on what kind of friends you had in right places and people would rather study to become an accountant than to have to work as a factory worker. So that is how communism solves the problem in practice, but it is not quite what you had in mind, I believe.

          3. alaska3636

            Thank you, Tibor.

            David Byron is trolling today, methinks. I still can’t help having the desire to “refute” the logical inconsistency of the communist solution; but, it is a one-sided argument. David Byron will be big on rhetoric and small on laying out sound premises with supporting logic. It always goes this way.

            I enjoyed your response, though it will soar over his head so high as to not emit a whistle.

            Also, I am an accountant by trade and a musician by avocation. There is no question which activity is more stimulating. No professional musician “accounts” in his free time…

          4. David Byron


            > I was born into such a country for god’s sake

            Laughing at your appeal to authority / ad hominem. Most people who lived through communism in those formerly communist countries prefer communism. You are allowed to disagree with the majority but you’re not allowed to misrepresent the data.

          5. HlynkaCG

            David Byron says: Most people who lived through communism in those formerly communist countries prefer communism.

            Citation seriously needed.

          6. Tibor

            David Byron: Citation seriously needed inndeed. So the Czech support of the communist party is about 15%. More than I would like, but nowhere near the majority and most of their voters are either people in their 70s voting for them out of nostalgia (the East Germans call it “Ostalgie” as a playword from Ost (East) and Nostalgie) and then there are also a few young communists. In Germany, the West does not vote die Linke (a coalition party of “reformed” east German communists plus some other radical left parties) at all, the highest support they had in former DDR was in Sachsen I think in the last elections and it was about 20% (to me that is alarming but still nowhere even close to majority – also not that they are a coalition party which is not “purely” communist, which probably means it can attract some left-wing voters who would not vote for them otherwise).

            In most other post-communist European countries, the communist party is banned, so it is not clear how many people would vote for them, but most people do not vote other radical left closed to communists there either.

            This is conviction of yours is so strikingly out of reality that I am also beginning to think that this is either trolling or you wear such thick ideological glasses that you simply ignore reality. Either way, although I feel like I need to argue about this every time, I am afraid you are not interested in facts, so I will stop here.

          7. Nita

            The combination of rapid economical liberalization and weak rule of law in the 90s did sour a lot of Russians on the idea of liberal capitalist democracy. Hence the Russian slurs for “democracy” and “privatization” — “дерьмократия” (shitocracy) and “прихватизация” (snatch-it-ization).

            Unfortunately, this has resulted not only in continued support of socialism, but in profound disillusionment with politics in general, and a willingness to sacrifice all sorts of freedoms for the sake of (physical and financial) security.

            Forbes has a couple of nice graphs that illustrate the development of attitudes since the 90s.

          8. TheAncientGeek


            So I am 100% correct in thinking that the USSR would have had better outcomes if it had been restructured on the lines of Nordic social democracy, not the good old US free market?

          9. Cauê

            So I am 100% correct in thinking that the USSR would have had better outcomes if it had been restructured on the lines of Nordic social democracy, not the good old US free market?

            I don’t see how you get this conclusion from what Nita wrote.

          10. Tibor

            Nita: Well, Russia is not the only former communist country and most of them stopped being communist at about the same time, starting from a fully nationalized economy (with some caveats in Jugoslavia which however for the large part suffered from a subsequent ethnic conflict in the 90s), so one can compare them.

            To be fair, the starting points were not really quite the same. Czechoslovakia was one of the ten richest countries in the world before WW2, so even after 40 years of devastation (plus 7 years under the 3rd Reich, plus subsequent deportation of Sudeten Germans which probably hurt the economy quite a bit…among other things) it still started in a better shape both in material terms and “rule of law tradition” terms than Russia, which has been dirt-poor-to-relatively-poor pretty much all of its history and never had anything close to the rule of law either. East Germany had the benefit of being merged with West Germany, so excessive violation of the rule of law was much harder plus they have been and still are subsidized by the former West Germany (and there are still huge differences between say Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Bavaria and generally between the former East and West).

            It seems like the rule of law tradition was actually the main factor in how the countries fared after the fall of the Berlin wall. Baltic countries, despite actually being under direct Soviet rule since Russians annexed them during WW2, emerged relatively well, whereas Russia turned into a failed state turned into a quasi-dictatorship. Ukraine is the same story as Russia and the Middle Eastern post-soviet republics do not seem to do much better either (although I know very little about them). Neither of those countries had a prior tradition of liberal democracy or anything like that.

            Turning Russia into Norway simply would not work because of just that. I do not like the Norwegian socialism (also, it is mainly funded by the oil) very much and there seems to be a pressure in their society to be extremely conformist. However, the country does have a rule of law in the sense that the laws are mostly followed by everyone and there is no ruling class that is assumed to be allowed to do everything they want. In Russia, this is exactly the opposite and always has been. The country went from the nobility more or less owning everyone to the Bolsheviks more or less owning everyone. If anything could work in that situation at all, it would be a Singapore style semi-authoritarian government for a while, followed by subsequent liberalization. But enlightened dictatorships require enlightened dictators and those are short in supply.

            Other post-communist countries had some of those problems too. There were a lot of corruption scandals in the 90s in the Czech republic mostly shady deals during the privatization. There was a coupon privatization where each adult citizen obtained an equal number of coupons from the state with which he could buy stocks in companies state was getting rid of – i.e. most of them – but also peculiar deals where some of the bigger and more interesting companies were sold directly by the government to various people, often at a price well below what the market price would be. Still, all in all, it worked out reasonably well for something that has never been done before and done in a country where the rule of law had meant nothing for 40 years. Maybe if Russia had a coupon privatization as well, it would have been different, but again, I think the way it turned out is a direct consequence of the absence of any history of law > ruler.

            Also, Russia has a lot of natural resources. That sounds like a good thing. But for a country without a strong rule of law it can be a curse. Mining oil is easy, it is just there and you only need to sell it. If you can control the oil in such an oil rich country, you can control the country…and the best way to control the oil is to take over the country first. If you do not have these resources this does not work. You need to let people be innovative and let enterpreneurship flourish at least to some extent. If you have oil, you tap it, bribe enough people with it (start with the poorest) to prevent revolts and keep the rule of the iron fist. The problems start if the oil price drops to half like recently, but if you are smart and put some on the side, you can deal with it with some bruises (Russia), or you risk problems (Venezuela…but even there it does not look like any imminent revolution).

          11. Nita

            Maybe if Russia had a coupon privatization as well

            It did.

            I agree that the lack of traditions of a democratic civil society was a major factor. Modern Russia is young, like the interwar Germany, and has suffered from similar issues — wounded national pride, loss of military dominance, terrible economic situation leading to desperate measures, distrust of democracy, a ruthless autocratic leader, ethnic tensions… We can only hope that it will manage to get out of its current predicament without killing a lot of people.

            (That is, a lot more people than it already has — there were significant casualties in the Chechen Wars.)

          12. Cerebral Paul Z.

            The one thing more optimistic than expecting Russians to turn into Americans overnight would have been expecting Russians to turn into Swedes overnight.

          13. John Schilling

            But the Russians originally were Swedes; shouldn’t they have a head start in turning back?

            Of course, those were different Swedes, and I’m not sure we want to give Putin and company any inappropriate role models here 🙂

          14. Tibor

            Nita: I didn’t know that. Well, then since on paper the way things were done after the fall of communism seem to have been more or less the same as in Czechoslovakia, it only strengthens my conviction that the problem is that Russians are used to there being a Ruler who rules and not laws that everyone follows (of course, this is actually a slightly idealistic picture in every country, the Swiss seem to be the closest to this than anyone else, but some are still rather close and some are very far and Russia is almost as far as one can go in this respect).

            I have a friend who is Russian, although he has lived most of his life in Prague (ever since he was 5 or so, but he still has relatives in Russia he is in contact with…he cannot go to Russia now and not in the next few years or else he’d be drafted) and he told me that in Russia, people see it as an important trait of the leader to be macho. That is also why Putin does all this stuff that makes people from other countries laugh (like the horse riding half naked, finding ancient artifacts on the bottom of the see the first time he dives, being an amazing hockey player and so on). But an average Russian sees that as a sign of strength which is an important quality for a leader. It does not occur to the people that it should be the laws that rule, not the rulers. And of course, if you accept that there is a ruler, it is quite natural to want one that projects strength. Also, he said that people who show wealth and high status get extremely preferential treatment (which he said is in a sharp contrast with an extremely egalitarian Czech society where any sign of luxury is looked at with a combination of envy, suspicion and distaste…which is a more or less true description of an average Czech attitude I would say), so for example they do not have to wait until their number comes up at the doctor’s and things like that. I don’t know how true that is, but I don’t have a reason not to believe him and he is not exactly anti-Russian (it happens sometimes that emigrants project everything bad in their life or the world in general to their native land either to try create a distance between them and it or to deal with some traumas from the past, but I don’t think that is his case). Hard to expect such a society to become anything close to either “modern socialist” or libertarian (which are far away from each other, but in this sense quite close when compared to the sort of quasi-feudal society of Russia). Of course, many Russians are not like that, but the majority probably is.

          15. Nita

            he told me that in Russia, people see it as an important trait of the leader to be macho

            See, this is one the worst consequences of Putin’s rule. People see him pull these ridiculous stunts, and they think “Well, he’s the leader of Russia, so Russians must love leaders like that, in general”. That’s like concluding that the nature of German people compels them to love shouty anti-semites.

            If we look back in history, we see that the only macho leader in the USSR was Stalin, and he felt he had to murder lots of people to stay in power. (While Western journalists were writing: well, Russians are “Asiatic”, it’s in their nature!) The Russian Emperors didn’t wrestle bears in the public square, either.

            It does not occur to the people that it should be the laws that rule, not the rulers.

            Seriously? It does “occur” to them. But if they have a choice between ineffective laws and an effective ruler, they will (rationally) choose the ruler.

            people who show wealth and high status get extremely preferential treatment

            This is called “corruption”.

            Czech society where any sign of luxury is looked at with a combination of envy, suspicion and distaste

            This is how most ordinary Russians view rich show-offs, too. They’re just afraid that without Putin to keep things under control, the rich would be robbing and killing with impunity, instead of only parking in no-parking zones and bribing bureaucrats as they do now.

            And that’s not a completely crazy idea, because in the 90s there were plenty of “successful businessmen” who were clearly gang leaders in Armani jackets. Law-abiding citizens were losing their life savings, while criminals were getting rich running “protection” rackets in the open. Anyone would have been a little disillusioned with the rule of law at that point.

            Of course, now that Putin controls the mainstream press, and has a pet warlord to assassinate overly liberal journalists and politicians, whether he’s actually more effective than the alternative doesn’t matter any more.

          16. Tibor

            Nita: Well, I only wrote what my friend told me. Of course, he is not the speaker of all Russians. He told me that most of people he knows in Russia actually support Putin and that they in fact do so because he gives the impression of being a strong ruler.

            I think I worded it a bit too strongly “does not occur to them” is like saying the people there are idiots. Your explanation seems to be more nuanced – the people don’t believe that in Russia it is possible to have a rule of law…so let’s better have strong ruler who at least keeps some semblance of order than a bunch of oligarchs and crime lords go around completely unchecked. Still it is sad when this fear (if perhaps not entirely ungrounded) is so strong to fuel the extreme nationalism in Russia today. Of course, we do not help it much in Europe and everything Russian is often depicted as horrible and primitive by the media (well at least the Czech media and to some extent German media…I would expect Polish media to be even worse at this)…which makes it easier for the likes of Putin to go with the “everyone is against us, therefore we have to unite against them, freedom is secondary now” spiel.

            By the way, I also have a colleague who is Russian (although she has actually lived in Moscow most of her life) and when I told her I thought that separating Russia to many small countries (perhaps united in a loose confederation or something) would probably help the country a lot (more direct control over the state affairs, less needless centralization), she was horrified by the idea and told me that it is good to make empires. She also told me Ukraine belongs to “them” (as in Russians) and other stuff, so I am pretty sure (or hope at least :)) she is an outlier with these sort of opinions even in Putin’s Russia.

            By the way, you live in Russia? Or what experience do you have with the country?

          17. Nita

            The disillusionment with the rule of law goes beyond “it can’t work here”. It’s more like “it can’t really work anywhere, so the only difference between what we have an what the West has is that we are honest and they lie”.

            Some Russian liberals call it a “reverse cargo cult“.

            (I mean, obviously Western countries do have issues with freedom and the rule of law, but there are degrees of being wrong, just like in science.)

            she was horrified by the idea and told me that it is good to make empires. She also told me Ukraine belongs to “them”

            This is one of the attitudes that Putin & friends actively encourage. I’m not sure how prevalent it is at the moment, but it’s certainly not “beyond the pale” as it would be in modern Germany.

            Of course, even the most imperialistic Russians don’t imagine Russia as an evil conqueror. The idea is that all powerful countries have the same attitude, but the Western ones are shamelessly using lies and fake “niceness” to hide it.

            Plus the usual pro-colonianism — “we were a positive, civilizing influence”, and in case of Ukraine — “they are our little brothers who should stop listening to fascists and rejoin the family”.

            By the way, you live in Russia?

            I am ethnically half-Russian, I visit Russia every couple of years or so, and I live not too far from Russia.

          18. Tibor

            Nita: Your explanation seems to make a lot of sense. Also, this was the vibe I got from talking to her. She referred to Ukrainians mostly as “peasants”, which implies exactly this “colonialist” attitude And of course, if Russia does not make an empire of its own, it will become a colony/vassal of another empire. Even my friend in Prague thinks more or less that the US wants to subjugate Russia to a degree…although he is way less extreme about that. This sort of 19th century attitude brought us the two world wars (the 2nd war was not just a result of Germans still being stuck in that attitude but the allies too – imposing very harsh penalties on the losing Central Powers – well, Germany, really, because the Austrian Empire fell apart – which lead to poverty and frustration in Germany, which are a fertilizer for communists, nazis or just about anyone who promotes the rule of the all-powerful government, whatever they call themselves).

            Then again, regarding the conflict in Ukraine, the story of super awesome current Ukrainian government vs. super evil rebels in the East who are all just Putin’s lackeys anyway is also too black and white although it is the most common narrative in the EU. Separating the country in two would probably be the most reasonable thing to do right now, but the Evil vs. Good narrative prevents that from from happening.

          1. Wrong Species

            I’m increasingly convinced that David Byron is a troll. Maybe we should stop engaging him until he comes up with better arguments.

        2. gbdub

          “…gosh it’s just impossible to make this heiress equal to all the other kids. Yes it is possible. You just take back all the stolen money. So, yes, that’s completely obvious.”

          Money is not the only, and maybe not even the most important, source of inequality. That’s completely obvious.

          “Equality of opportunity implies and is implied by equality of result. The dichotomy is propaganda.”

          This is only true if the inputs are identical. Which people cleary are not, and never can be. That’s completely obvious.

    2. Sastan

      KEK! Because there was so much equality in communist societies!

      Bro, do you even History? I mean, it wasn’t that long ago. There are people you can talk to who were there! Me, for instance.

      1. ryan

        I’ve always wanted to know how what the US calls “social mobility” worked in communist countries. (Or if it happened at all)

    3. E. Harding

      David Byron is half-right, half-wrong. Money is not stolen from workers, it is earned by them. But a communist society really can lead to fairly equitable incomes, even compared with Scandinavia.

      Equality is not a basic moral requirement, David. You’re taking the mindset of the Far Left to its logical conclusion -i.e., way too seriously. I don’t blame you, but I must disagree with you.

    4. Garrett

      To which I say: life isn’t fair.
      At best, you can provide an equality of monetary compensation. However, you cannot provide for less-fungible scarce goods. Penthouse suites downtown. Sexual relations with supermodels. That sort of thing. So you’re still left with a lack of equal outcomes.

  26. Tom Scharf

    I’ve got to say it was a 100% predictable that this academia free speech “Snowflake U” nonsense would be turned around and used against them (per the righteous people will no longer be allowed to attack Israel link!)…and 100% predictable they wouldn’t like it one bit.

    The irony that they don’t get what free speech is all about cannot be understated. To me it is not so much about saying anything you want, but more about the futility of trying to put someone in charge of deciding what is allowable, and the very likely abuse of this authority for political and other gain.

    All one in academia has to ask themselves is: “What if we gave this power to the current duly elected House of Representatives?”. I don’t think they would like the outcome, so it is best not to make that rule.

    This all comes down to people believing their thoughts are the true and righteous ones. I have a hard time separating the baseline thought processes here between academia PC warriors and Islam militants. I suppose I expose my Libertarian leanings with this, but I find it offensive when I am told by anyone what are the correct thoughts. These groups are not so much about limiting free speech as they are about limiting free thought itself.

    It is foolish to believe that preventing racists (or offending speech X) from speaking will lead to ending racist thoughts. Let them speak, it makes them much easier to identify. And that way we don’t have to resort to analyzing micro-aggressions in order to identify the silenced racists, a very error prone task.

    So yes, anything that reeks of thought control is a major trigger for me, and I think I need to be protected from it. Infinite loop…core abort.

    1. JBeshir

      I think something that is important enough to deserve explicit consideration is that “niceness and civilisation” are themselves norms around speech, and we don’t want to throw them out.

      I think an important role of norms around speech is to moderate tribal tensions, by agreeing to a kind of multilateral setting down of arms in the game of ethnic tension ( People form kind of truces, agree that certain things are off limits, and to make it shameful for an individual person to attempt them, because by restricting how bad the conflict is allowed to get everyone is better off.

      The biggest one of these you would probably sympathise with is attempting to illegalise opposing political parties. That’s clearly off limits, and everyone feels less fondly towards someone who campaigns for that happen regardless of which side they’re on, and that norm stops us from descending into a state where whichever party wins makes the other illegal and democracy breaks down. Another big one in the US would probably be advocating outright ignoring of constitutional rights being shameful even where tactically useful.

      Others cater to other concerns. Trying to get people to regard your enemies as lacking moral value is shameful so whoever wins doesn’t treat the losers too horribly, openly denigrating ethnic groups to lower their status for your tactical advantage is shameful so they don’t do the same back and we’re not perpetually gripped by ethnic conflict, and calls for genocide are off limits because everyone would rather we live in a society where the losers don’t all get slaughtered.

      There’s others I think we would really like to have, like using incorrect statistics. If everyone could be persuaded to regard that as shameful enough to deter tactical use of them, it would be a very good thing, I think.

      All of these, including the one where people will dislike you for campaigning to illegalise opposing political parties, are norms that restrict speech.

      I think there’s a good debate to be had over exactly how they should be enforced socially or legally, massively disproportionate public shaming campaigns are not good. I think there’s a huge problem with people not agreeing on what the norms are resulting in people looking like violators to each other. I also think there’s increasing problems with people throwing their hands in the air and rejecting more and more of the standards of decency entirely, or only enforcing them on their enemies which boils down to the same thing.

      But despite all that I think these standards of decency and limits on what we try to make happen to our enemies are good and a force for maintaining a functioning society that isn’t too damaged by conflict, and we should balance them with freedom of speech and fix them where needed rather than throw out all norms on speech entirely over a brief clusterfuck during the early 21st century’s rapid developments.

      1. Tom Scharf

        Don’t confuse free speech with “you are not allowed to try to shame people”. Effectively what my argument here is shaming people for trying to shame people, ha ha. You can associate with nice and civilized people all you want, and exclusively those people if you wish. I draw a line when when you try to impose your “nice and civilized” upon everyone else who may have have totally different ideas of what nice and civilized means.

        Bottom line is I don’t trust what your version of nice and civilized may be. Perhaps I would agree with it.

        I’m not an absolutist. There needs to be society norms. We don’t want to allow pervs to be able to run around in public parks showing all the kids his favorite Hustler pictorials. But what I suggest is that any limits society imposes on everyone should be:

        1. Non-controversial. Say a 75% or 90% agreement required. Voter approved, not administratively approved by a small committee.
        2. Very clear guidelines that do not allow much room for interpretation and prevent selective prosecution.

        The UC guideline seem clearly intended to silence dissent on controversial subjects.

        The UC guidelines have loopholes you can drive a truck through which allows them to be implemented in a very partisan selective way. It cannot possibly have escaped you that these guidelines are being created by left leaning institutions. Are they tolerant of “intolerant right wing views”? That’s a problem. It is not a stretch to see this as an attempt to silence dissenting viewpoints, in fact it is an explicit attempt to do so.

        People should be nice to each other, but it shouldn’t be a law. Nobody had to outlaw the N word, or make rules to throw people out of school if they uttered it. Social pressure did it. That’s OK.

        1. JBeshir

          This seems sensible. I think a problem is that “suppressing free speech” and “being allowed to shame people” are overlapping, though; deciding where you draw the line between “suppressing free speech through status attacks, shunning and blocking people from participating, and calling for others to do the same” and “fair speech that shames people for evil social moves, freely associating with whoever you choose, and making the case to other people that what they did shouldn’t be considered okay” is where most of the trouble lies.

          Both are speech that indirectly results in the suppression of speech, which poses a problem for free speech as a principle. Personally I think speech norms are too strict when people are applying them to the opposite side and too loose when people are applying them to the same side, more or less universally, which is why I think people need to think carefully about exactly what free speech means to them when it comes to speech that discourages speech and be consistent about it between sides.

          As for whether my niceness would be different to yours, I suspect it would be compatible enough for useful common ground. The biggest plausible point of difference is that I think social expectations to consider everyone inside the country as having equal moral value, rather than favouring one’s own tribal groups, when proposing and discussing policy are a big part of how cooperative policy discussions can ever be possible. So I think it should be shameful to propose things which are obviously lopsided in how they value people.

          I’ve not seen the UC guidelines, but it’s plausible to me that they’re committing the usual error of being too fast to consider enemy speech as a violation of norms and too fast to consider their own speech/choice of association actions as justified expression.

    2. nil

      “I’ve got to say it was a 100% predictable that this academia free speech “Snowflake U” nonsense would be turned around and used against them (per the righteous people will no longer be allowed to attack Israel link!)…and 100% predictable they wouldn’t like it one bit.

      The irony that they don’t get what free speech is all about cannot be understated. To me it is not so much about saying anything you want, but more about the futility of trying to put someone in charge of deciding what is allowable, and the very likely abuse of this authority for political and other gain.

      All one in academia has to ask themselves is: “What if we gave this power to the current duly elected House of Representatives?”. I don’t think they would like the outcome, so it is best not to make that rule..”

      That presupposes that true free speech is both possible in an unequal society and existed in a meaningful way before leftists started screwing around with it in the last 5-10 years. Personally, I question both of those prepositions. Particularly in the anglo-american legal system, there are huge transactional/procedural costs to enforcing rights–effectively meaning that one’s rights are largely dependent on one’s access to resources. Probably more importantly, the legal system and government are complete sideshows to the areas where most people spend most of their time (workplace, family, etc), places which lack even formal rights to free speech. Together, these facts make me believe that free speech is mostly a facade or distraction, and that the fundamental reality of what one is allowed to say and do have always been determined by how those statements or actions interact with the values and relative power of various social groups. In that point of view, all the campus thought police have really done is cut out the middlemen, and something like anti-BDS policies is more of the same rather than some kind of hoisted petard.

    3. Scott Alexander Post author

      I understand that “if you ban free speech, one day it will come back to haunt you” and “you can never trust the people in power to be on your side” are the sorts of things we have to say. And I think that on a very long timescale or in a Platonic sense it’s true. But I’ m not sure that it’s actually true, in a practical way. Certain chunks of the political spectrum consistently expect that cracking down on free speech will usually be to their benefit, and they’re usually right. Once in a blue moon their enemies do use the same weapon to land a blow on them, but it’s not like it all balances out. Some people genuinely have more power than others, at least for the short and medium term. I worry that the more we base freedom of speech on an *actual* “other people might retaliate”, as opposed to a Platonic “but how would you like it if other people retaliated”, the more people are going to say “Nope, we’re pretty sure we’ve crushed them enough that they can’t.”

      1. LHN

        Are people that realpolitik-oriented likely to be swayable by Platonic fairness arguments? I’d think the decision that it’s right to suppress the outgroup would precede availing oneself of the power to do so.

      2. Tom Scharf

        Yes, and activists aren’t going to stop when they win a battle. They just move on to the next level, criminalizing speech or whatever.

        I think most people, even on the left, don’t really support this. There is so much paranoia about being labelled as intolerant that they refuse to attempt to herd their own cats, which makes activists believe they have tacit support. Obama spoke out against this craziness and American University just took a stand against it:

        Maybe the best thing is for UC to pass their stringent speech requirements and have it rejected on constitutional grounds, ASAP.

        1. Mary

          And for the people who get caught by it while it’s working its way through the courts?

          Not to mention that the activists then have to find something NEW to make a fuss about. Why, if they didn’t have something to fuss about, they might have to try being good people by more quotidian good deeds, where it takes a lot of money and/or effort even to be as good as everyone else, and doesn’t give you a chance to win moral egoboo by being arrogant bullies.

        2. Nornagest

          Maybe the best thing is for UC to pass their stringent speech requirements and have it rejected on constitutional grounds, ASAP.

          When ideologues from both the major parties hate the courts for judicial activism (only the right calls it that, but complaints about e.g. Citizens United are fundamentally the same thing), it tends to make me think they’re doing something right, but I don’t like relying on the courts as a backstop for freedom-of-speech issues. Or freedom-of-anything-else, for that matter. They’re slow, for one thing, and you can’t expect them to deal sanely with new media.

      3. Wrong Species

        That reminds me of an argument I’ve heard from an Objectivist on why we should oppose slavery. He told me that a slave owner from the 19th century should have opposed slavery because they might be enslaved themselves. It’s one of those things that makes sense if you ignore reality.

        1. 27chaos

          I mean, that sounds pretty Rawlsian to me, and while I’m not really on board with Rawls personally he’s still well respected in general.

        2. Mary

          And as often as you reflect how much power you have over a slave, remember that your master has just as much power over you. “But I have no master,” you say. You are still young; perhaps you will have one. Do you not know at what age Hecuba entered captivity, or Croesus, or the mother of Darius, or Plato, or Diogenes?
          — Seneca

          Of course, for Seneca, it was truly practically, not just theoretically.

      4. Bugmaster

        I agree that, emotionally speaking, the argument is weak. When someone is crushing his enemies, sees them driven before him, and hears the lamentations of their… er… men; then telling him “one day, you to may be crushed” just adds to the delightful chorus of lamentations.

        However, in practical terms, a reversal of this sort happened at least once in our history, during the McCarthy era. You could say, “those who forget history are doomed to repeat it”, but then, that’s just another lamentation…

        1. Tom Scharf

          I wasn’t so much saying that this reversal of fortune was going to convince anyone to stop whatever they are doing to get their short term political gain, but mostly it is an observation that those creating the rules that favor their tribe sometimes are genuinely surprised when the other side makes similar rules under the same constructs.

          Now what is very, very, entertaining is to watch them twist themselves into a “rationalization pretzel” whereby they convince themselves that only their tribe’s rules are legitimate.

      5. God Damn John Jay

        My understanding was that national level politics are largely controlled by the Democrats or their sympathizers, while local level politics are largely controlled by the Republicans or their sympathizers.

        Similarly, various industries are “controlled” by different parties as well, so there is always an incentive not to rock the boat too.

        Finally, there is always the issue that parties flip on issues a *lot*, historically conservatives were vaguely pro-muslim while liberals were vaguely pro-israel but after 9/11 happened that flipped (watching Ayaan Hirsch Ali being stripped of her Doctorate was one of the weirdest moments of contemporary politics)

        1. HeelBearCub

          “My understanding was that national level politics are largely controlled by the Democrats or their sympathizers, while local level politics are largely controlled by the Republicans or their sympathizers.”

          No. Politics has tended to be the local level filtering up. If you vote Republican, you mostly vote straight ticket. Same for Democratic voting.

          The big exception to this was in the US south after the civil rights bill which stayed local Democrat but voted Republican for federal office. And even that has mostly shaken out.

          1. God Damn John Jay

            I meant in terms of demographics, lots of people turn out for presidential elections, but only a few determined people vote for state, so well organized groups like churches and businesses can push their candidates through.

            I have heard this pushed to explain why Clinton and Obama both lost th house (and I assume why Bush, despite being horribly unpopular maintained control). Obama won the house when national level voters showed up, but lost when it came down to people willing to show up for just a house election.

          2. Jaskologist

            Republican voters are more spread out than Democratic voters, which gives them a slight advantage in the House because of how districts are drawn (no doubt further helped by winning control of all those states in a redistricting year). They are also more likely to turn out in general. This does in general give them an advantage in non-presidential election years (people are more likely to turn out to vote for president, and they’ll vote for the other offices while they’re at it), but doesn’t explain what you’re trying to explain.

            Bush wasn’t unpopular in 02 or 04 when his party (unusually) gained seats (he did win the race in 04, after all). He was unpopular in 06/08, and Democrats swept Congress those years. Republicans swept back because Democrats were in turn doing unpopular things.

            Basically, yes, there is an R advantage in off-years and vice-versa, but it’s not the primary driving force.

          3. HeelBearCub

            @God Damn John Jay:
            Yes, those who tend to vote Democratic candidates also are more likely to show up in Presidential years.

            But that doesn’t play out as Fed vs. Local. It plays out as Presidential year vs. other years. It affects US house and US Senate races, many governors’ races and most state house races. Local (municipal elections) may be more likely to be in non-presidentialyears, I’m not sure. They are definitely the only ones regularly held in off-years (odd numbered years, with know Federal elections).

            Wikipedia seems to think that many municipal elections are held to coincide with at least some federal elections.

        2. Mary

          “historically conservatives were vaguely pro-muslim while liberals were vaguely pro-israel ”

          Huh? The mainstay of Israel support in this country has been fundamentalists, who are more likely to say that the existence of Israel is non-negotiable than Jews are.

          1. brad

            That’s true today, but only dates from the mid to late 1970s. The theological basis (dispensationalism) goes back further, but that’s when all the pieces for the modern political position fell into place.

      6. Held in Escrow

        I don’t know about this; I’ve seen several “we must ban the speech to save the speech” people do a 180 after seeing the Tories make proposals about cracking down on speech on Britain. There is the occasional person who understands that you should not call up what you can’t put down; they just need to see their ideological opponents salivating on the end of their leash to use your own weapon against you.

      7. Seth

        Many of these people are not stupid, and have certainly considered the issue of having such a system used against them. They are familiar with the argument. Their response is that they’re going to try make sure (to the extent that that one can), that it won’t happen. There are various ideological and practical strategies employed. My favorite example is here

        Where they have outright written in the code of conduct itself, I’ll just quote:

        Our open source community prioritizes marginalized people’s safety over privileged people’s comfort. We will not act on complaints regarding:

        * ‘Reverse’ -isms, including ‘reverse racism,’ ‘reverse sexism,’ and ‘cisphobia’
        * Reasonable communication of boundaries, such as “leave me alone,” “go away,” or “I’m not discussing this with you”
        * Refusal to explain or debate social justice concepts
        * Communicating in a ‘tone’ you don’t find congenial
        * Criticizing racist, sexist, cissexist, or otherwise oppressive behavior or assumptions

        That’s about as explicit an our-group-ONLY statement as one can get. Say what you will about it in terms of some sort of notional Platonic fairness, they have addressed the matter of having their speech restrictions used by opponents to retaliate.

        1. John Schilling

          Though all of the groups that TODO cites as having adopted their code of conduct, appear to have left out the section you cite. In the case of GitHub at least, after a lengthy discussion focused on that issue.

          1. Mary

            They’ve got the nose in the door. It’s always denounced as crazy first. That Github was seriously considering it shows they are starting to get traction.

        2. Held in Escrow

          There isn’t really a worry about your rules being used against you so long as you are in a situation where you can’t lose control. Effectively the worry isn’t about specific rule X about not arguing if someone calls you a racist, it’s that this weakens the overall structure which the rule fits in (the schelling point) and in a public arena where you don’t control the exact rules you’ll get “no denying Jesus.”

        3. Tom Scharf

          Ha, that is pretty funny.

          It is transparently obvious to EVERYONE this was the intention all along. However it is a difficult task to write a rule set that accomplishes this without explicitly stating the intended unfairness as above.

          A good test of a rule is to invert it and see if it is still fair. “We will not act on complaints regarding racism”, etc.

          I think the most common method to implement intentional unfairness is to allow for a very vague set of consequences that require a lot of judgment calls and making sure the judges are filled up by your tribe. Then the unfairness can be implemented under the table on a one by one basis.

    4. SUT

      My take on SJW prevalence is a little different: it’s a demonstration of power of particular fields of study.

      STEM will tell you “With my course you can build a car”, or “In this class we’re going to learn about the origins of the universe!” Traditional liberal arts will talk about studying the greatest thinkers in history. Even Business courses have something of value: “with this class you can get a well paying job”

      But for almost every American University now carries 5-20% of faculty and departments where the main goal is to criticize others. What does a student of these subjects get besides a sense of righteousness? I would argue that SJW activity is the satisfaction of: 1. antagonizing the enemy, 2. gaining some status and material gain through claims to victimhood.

      Take the Duke Lacrosse case and the Gang of 88 . This group was able to really stick it to a bunch of preppy, mostly white, jocks – the enemy. That’s a solid demonstration of power, as we know colleges’ value athletics, Duke had the #1 program in the country and they still got the school to disband the team. So look at what Academic dept’s signed onto the petition to assume guilt before hearing any evidence, and you’ll see why SJW-y things need to happen on campus, to justify the fields of study that create the theory for Social Justice.

      1. Tibor

        Where do you get that 10-20% number from? I am asking because I was arguing something similar with a friend who got very dismissive about that (about me saying that there is a substantial part of humanities that is just crap) and asked me what I base that on. I realized that I do not have a good answer apart from “common knowledge” and some articles here and there I read about some ridiculous gender science thing somewhere, so I am less sure about it now (not saying that it is not true, or that it is…but I would like some evidence myself now :))

        1. Who wouldn't want to be Anonymous

          One anecdotal possibility would be to pick a representative university, pull up their directory and count the number of professors in all the “SJW-aligned” departments and compare it to the total. Or the number of students enrolled in those departments/programs vs. the whole student body (but those numbers might be harder to come by).

          This of course presupposes that they break it out neatly for you so that you can reasonably infer what they are actually doing just by looking at the title of the department. My bias would say that “Gender Studies” is a sure bet but “Liberal Arts” is unhelpful.

          1. Nornagest

            “Liberal Arts” is a catchall — you can major in it but you won’t find a Department of Liberal Arts on many campuses. It doesn’t have anything to do with political liberalism.

            Pretty much all the humanities and social sciences hew pretty hard to the left, with the major exceptions of economics (which leans centrist to libertarian) and linguistics (which is an applied math department in disguise); but when I was in college, which was a few years ago, the SJW ideology came to full flower only in departments of sociology, political science, and anything with “studies” in its name: community studies, African-American studies, etc. It might have expanded a bit since then.

          2. Who wouldn't want to be Anonymous

            My impression is that Liberal Arts departments exist where the school isn’t big enough to support the administrative overhead of running a bunch of “X Studies” departments independently, such as you might find in a larger school. It isn’t helpful because what falls under the Liberal Arts department (and in particular, how many professors/etc are doing what) is opaque and variable between schools. Some of them actually be doing something useful!

            My point was that in order to sustain SUT claim (and Tibor’s question) that Universities have large portions of “faculty and departments where the main goal is to criticize others,” you need to know with a fair degree of specificity what the professors and departments are doing. Catchall departments are not useful to that aim. You probably need to look at schools that are large enough to not have catchall departments; but they might not be representative of Universities in general so it is anecdotal evidence.

            I probably could have been clearer.

        2. SUT

          According to the linked Wikipedia but lacking a citation is:

          > The department with the highest proportion of signatories was African and African-American Studies (AAAS), with 80%. Just over 72% of the Women’s Studies faculty signed the statement, Cultural Anthropology 60%, Romance Studies 44.8%, Literature 41.7%, English 32.2%, Art & Art History 30.7%, and History 25% … The school has perhaps 700 professors who teach undergrads”

          So ~10% at Duke are publicly pro-SJ.

          Anecdotally, I’d say the easier the class is, and recognized on campus as a gpa-boost, the more likely the prof will present/sneak-in a strong left agenda. There’s a famous Communications “class” at UMass that is the basis for this.

    5. SFG

      It’s one of the reasons, despite not being a libertarian, I like having you guys around. Someone needs to attack government overreach from left and right because, you know, power corrupts.

  27. David Byron

    I’m curious if anyone here actually believes this line:

    “In one of those buildings, for example, there are roughly one hundred shops, each one of them selling exactly the same product: fur coats.”

    So this is a ridiculous situation, and it’s apparently noted precisely because it is so ridiculous and therefore unbelievable. So do people believe it? In discussion in the last open thread it seems as if many here (because they despise Communism with the heat of a thousand suns and go a bit gaga over it) believe a lot of nonsense about Communism. No surprise there, but in particular the fact that China has the best economy in the world means they cannot accept that China is Communist and therefore decide to call it capitalist. At the same time however this sort of goofy made up propaganda story showing how terrible communist practices in China lead to idiotic inefficiencies…. well which is it? Is China communist and here’s an example of how laughably inefficient they are, or is China capitalist and that is the explanation for why they have the best economy in the world? It would seem to be hard to believe both stories. Is China communist or capitalist according to what argument people are making in their own mind?

    1. SanguineVizier

      the fact that China has the best economy in the world

      Citation needed! It is possibly the largest (depending on how the EU is counted), but China ought to have the largest economy given that it has the largest population. China does not have the highest GDP per capita, nor the highest GDP growth rate, it is not the most equal economy, and it does not score particularly well on rankings of economic freedom. By what criterion is China’s economy “the best”?

      1. David Byron

        It’s the largest. Largest means best for capitalists doesn’t it? The claim that the US was number 1 was based on it having the largest economy. Until it didn’t. The Chinese beat you at your own game and so you had to call them capitalists so as not to lose face.

          1. Randy M

            But they’re not his definitions, they’re your definitions, man. So you don’t make any sense!
            Also, I would be surprised if there isn’t undue exaggeration in the referenced account.

          2. David Byron

            Not my definition. It’s the definition that was popularized by capitalists when it showed capitalism winning. Now it shows communism winning.

            Seriously GDP is an idiotic measure because it counts inefficiency as superior to efficiency. If one person pays to dig a hole and another to fill it in that counts double for GDP. So as a measure it inherently scores higher for inefficient (eg market based) systems and lower for efficient (eg centrally planned) systems.

          3. DrBeat

            …Central planning is efficient?

            Are you a right-winger posing as what he thinks the most tedious Communist would act like?

          4. Tracy W

            Bryon: GDP aims to measure value-added across the economy, so outputs minus inputs. So in the case you describe, the hole being dug then refilled only increases GDP if someone is willing to pay more for that service than it costs. (Maybe it’s a comedy routine? Sounds like something Charlie Chaplin might have done.)

            However, for government services, particularly ones like defence which have no private sector equivalent, there’s no such measure of output so the contribution of government to value added (GDP) is defined as total wages (roughly, leaving aside some complications) so if the government hires someone to dig holes and someone else to fill them in then the contribution to GDP is indeed doubled.

            So, contrary to your assertion, GDP inherently scores lower for market-based economies and higher for more government-based economies (assuming a given level of inefficiency.)

    2. alaska3636

      The short answer to your very leading question is: China is a mixed economy. Most economies are mixed economies. “Capitalist” USA has a different mix than “Communist” China.

      Communism and Capitalism are both generally presented as a straw man argument. For my two cents, The Problem of Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth pretty much sounded the intellectual death knell of communism – the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union 50 years later further aiding the strength of the original argument.

      1. LtWigglesworth

        Even the USSR realised that communism had failed. The end aim of Gorbachev’s reforms was something very much like the Nordic model. It might have even managed to hold it together for longer if it hadn’t been for the Hardliner’s coup attempt in 1991 that prevented the signing of the new Union Treaty.

        1. LHN

          The coup struck me as a demonstration of Gorbachev having hit his limits, rather than a cause. He was already deeply unpopular in the USSR, and aside from some admiration in the West his power rested on the fact that he controlled the party, the military, and the KGB. When all three conspired to rebel, it was pretty clear that he was done regardless of whether they won or lost.

    3. TrivialGravitas

      Speaking as somebody who is quite PRO communism calling modern China communist is ridiculous, (calling Maoist China communist is only marginally better, as Mao had fundamentally agrarian rather than industrial ideas about class).

  28. John Sidles

    The “Jim” who is Scott Alexander’s recommended Chomsky reference speaks on gender relations:

    On cuckolding
    It is not really in a woman’s nature to belong to herself.
    Like a dog without a master, it makes her nervous.
    All girls yearn for the gentle but firm touch of ownership.
    Even the hard boiled burned out sluts who can no longer enjoy it
       or experience it yearn for it.

    Intuition hints that good ‘ol “Jim” is a *HUGE* fan of those steamy John Norman novels from the 1960s.

    Conclusion  Noam Chomsky’s scholarly reputation has little to fear from the likes of “Jim”.

      1. John Sidles

        Jim’s critiques of progressive activism are no more dispassionate than his critiques of women (as it seems to me)—by dint of scrupulous cherry-picking, he succeeds in finding nothing to admire in either.

        1. Anonymous

          This doesn’t address the issue that you appear to be committing some sort of fallacy – poisoning the well, genetic fallacy, or maybe simple ad hominem per Randy’s comment below. Hard to tell under all the signalling.

        2. John Sidles

          SSC’s Chomskian fallacy:  Identifying the sternest criticism of US policies in SE Asia (e.g., from Chomsky) with the most lucid criticism of US policies in SE Asia (e.g., from the USMC reading list).

          USMC Commandant-recommended books like Neil Sheehan’s A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam (1988) and LtGen. Herbert R. McMaster’s Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies that Led to Vietnam (1997) are — as it seems to many serving officers, historians, and military strategists — jointly more informative than Chomsky’s entire oeuvre.

          Yet withall, these two military-minded hard-nosed histories, and many others like them — none of them acknowledged or referenced by “Jim”, needless to say! — are notably compatible with the overall Chomskyian worldview.

          As for screw-loose internet warriors named “jim” and their various poorly-sourced (and persistently BDSM-obsessed) polemics … it’s a mystery, to me and many folks, why Slate Star Codex gives “jim” any air-time at all.

          Conclusion  Professional military strategists and Cthulhuian Chomskyites alike aren’t just swimming left … they’re marching left … in close formation!

          1. Ilya Shpitser

            > it’s a mystery, to me and many folks, why Slate Star Codex gives “jim”
            > any air-time at all.

            That’s a good question. There is no upside with “jim,” for Scott.

    1. Randy M

      This will have to go down as the archetypal ad hominem fallacy example.
      Do not evaluate the factual basis of the argument on the dispute in question, instead look for an unrelated post to excerpt, sneer at, and dismiss, then conclude the first argument is thus refuted.
      Unless you were making a meta point about the poor ability of academics at reasoning beyond the superficial?
      Well done.

    2. Nornagest

      I’m not a big Jim fan and I don’t know why Scott bothers reading him; but astonishingly, it’s possible to be an asshole and yet sometimes be right.

        1. Nornagest

          As our gracious host discovered the last time this came up, Chomsky tends to support his worldview with points that are technically true but overinterpreted, and massively misleading or one-sided in context. I’m not going to give him much credit for saying that SE Asia was a shitshow when it’s widely understood to have been a shitshow.

          Now, Jim is at least as partisan as Chomsky is, notably ruder, and almost certainly less smart. But the linked page is aimed mainly at instances of Chomsky glossing over or outright denying Communist atrocities in the region, particularly re: the Khmer Rouge; and Chomsky could easily be culpable in that while still being on point regarding specific criticisms of US conduct.

          So yes, I think Jim’s right here — though I wouldn’t take that to lend much support to his overall worldview. Similarly, Chomsky being right about the strategic hamlets program doesn’t mean I’m going to jump into bed with the anarcho-syndicalists.

          1. John Sidles

            Nornagest, your comment is admirable (as it seems to me), and it called to mind yet another book from the USMC Commandant’s Professional Reading List

            The Old Man’s Trail
               — by Tom Campbell
                  (US Naval Academy Press, 1995)

            “Duan [a Vietcong cadre] talked to them for a long time, leading them skillfully toward the answers he needed to form a plan. He was following a longstanding rule of survival. Whenever an individual or organization threatened his life needlessly through their stupidity, he figured out a way to keep himself from ever getting in their grasp again.”

            This is a lesson that Noam Chomsky and the US military establishment alike have fully assimilated.

            “Jim”, not so much.

          2. Anatoly

            There’s another side to this. Jim’s rebuttal page is really really old. Like 2001 old (check This is before NRx etc. Jim may well have been a saner, smarter person back then.

          3. Richard Gadsden

            It seems perfectly plausible to me that both the USA and the SRV did appalling things and that the USA was worse than the US media portrayed it, while the SRV was worse than Chomsky portrayed it.

        2. Urstoff

          Now you need to edit the linked post to link to this one as “more proof that I’m right” so you can complete the internet argument Möbius strip.

      1. Myrmidon Harbour

        Well, yes, it is possible to be an asshole and yet sometimes be right.

        Or even almost always be right! I have many acquaintances, several bartenders, a few close friends, one almost-ex-father-in-law, and a couple of auto mechanics in my back pocket that I can produce as evidence for that proposition. 🙂

        But you meant “be right” on controversial issues that aren’t areas of expertise (the history of hardcore punk, how boats work, ancient Greek, the internal combustion engine, etc.).

        Me? I would never cite my current mechanic’s (undoubtedly correct) opinions about Donald Trump’s superiority over any of the other declared Republican presidential candidates.

        Not if I wanted to convince any of his other customers (who have, like me, experienced his withering scorn of anyone who doesn’t know what’s wrong with their car before taking it to the shop) to vote for Trump.

        At least not without a big fat quasi-disclaimer: “Ari says he’s voting for Trump because [reasons]. No, hear me out! I know Ari’s a gigantic asshole, but I looked up [reasons], and he’s right!”

        Jim’s like my mechanic, except
        1) he’s got a track record of ridiculous opinions in his supposed areas of expertise
        2) he’s got a track record of using absolutely ridiculous rhetorical strategies, along the lines of “Since Amelia Earheart is the most famous female pilot, and she didn’t manage to complete her flight, women can’t fly planes.”
        2a) Of course, arguments such as these are useful to whack NRX novitiates over the head into anti-Enlightenment – or traumatic brain injury, or whatever.
        3) His identity is (probably) not expertly obscured due to my concerns about alienating a pretty awesome mechanic.

        EDIT: If Jim is obscuring his identity, I hope his true identity is not actually my mechanic’s. 🙁

        1. Steve Johnson

          he’s got a track record of using absolutely ridiculous rhetorical strategies, along the lines of “Since Amelia Earheart is the most famous female pilot, and she didn’t manage to complete her flight, women can’t fly planes.”

          That is far from a ridiculous argument.

          When every nationally known campus rape (with the obvious exception of athletic scholarship “students” who commit rapes – for some reason these cases aren’t what progressives choose to highlight however) is a hoax that says a lot about the magnitude of the problem of campus rape.

          Progressives constantly try to hide ideologically inconvenient truths but they show right through the narrative when they highlight ridiculous cases.

          1. Nornagest

            Perhaps the most famous story about the Battle of Stalingrad, the sniper duel between Vasily Zaytsev and Erwin König, didn’t happen. Should I thereby conclude that Stalingrad didn’t?

            Hoaxes make good press because fiction is better optimized for readability than fact. We needn’t admit a conspiracy to make sense of a lot of hoaxes in the media.

          2. Steve Johnson

            If every single account of the sniper battle between Zaytsev and Konig turned out to be fictional then conclude that that sniper battle didn’t happen. There is zero reason to conclude that the Battle for Stalingrad didn’t happen – there are thousands of reliable reports.

            If every single campus rape story is a hoax, then the campus rape crisis is a hoax. Where are the thousands of credible reports? Every time anyone digs into any of these stories they fall apart.

          3. TheAncientGeek

            “Progressives constantly try to hide ideologically inconvenient truths but they show right through the narrative when they highlight ridiculous cases.”

            Progressives meaning SJW’s or progressives meaning not-reactionary? See everything written by the maintainer of this blog for evidence of a middle way.

          4. Mary

            “When every nationally known campus rape (with the obvious exception of athletic scholarship “students” who commit rapes – for some reason these cases aren’t what progressives choose to highlight however) is a hoax that says a lot about the magnitude of the problem of campus rape.”

            No, it says a lot about nationally known ones. Searching turns up a lot of rapes on campus that got convictions and didn’t get national attention.

            Five seconds reflection brings up the possibility that it’s the very convictions that are the problem — when you want to have hysterics about how the campuses aren’t doing enough, hoaxes are useful because they can’t do anything without manifest injustice (and legal liability), and thus are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

          5. Jiro

            Mary: I think that that proves that it’s the very hysterics (and the desire to accommodate them) that are the problem

        2. Anatoly

          Jim is useful as a reality check on NRXers. I’m sympathetic to many NRX ideas in a contrarian sort of way. But if you read Jim for any length of time, you can’t help noticing that his rabid racism etc. actually genuinely makes him say very stupid things and advance very idiotic arguments. He’s an anti-Moldbug. As long as NRX takes Jim seriously, there’s no reason to take NRX seriously. I keep him in my blog reader to remind me of the fact.

          I stumbled on an NRX blog the other day that kept me interested for a few pages, then the author said something about “based emperor Jim”. Oh, OK, you’re done. If you’re failing *that easily*, if you’re failing on Jim, you’re not worth spending time on. A crude heuristic, perhaps, but I think it works well in practice.

          1. Anonymous

            Jim does have a way of weeding out the pusillanimous. I think that’s his function in the neoreaction ecosystem. If you can’t at least tolerate what Jim says, you have no business being in neoreaction.

          2. John Sidles

            Cool. Neoreactionaries united in neoapology.

            Anonymous’ neo-apology: “Jim does have a way of weeding out the pusillanimous.”

            Yeah, for sure. Like Stalin’s “weeding-out” practices helped to sustain the purity of communist ideology; like Ayn Rand’s writinss helped sustain the purity of capitalist ideology; like Lester Maddox’s, George Wallace’s, and Strom Thurmond’s politics helped to sustain pure racism; and like every single Republican presidential candidate helps to sustain the purity of climate-change denial.

            More examples of neoapology, please!

          3. Anatoly

            Anonymous: shock has its value, but cannot excuse stupidity. Jim is one fused with the other; that NRX venerate him is a high-quality negative signal about NRX.

            Jim will filter out the pusillanimous, but he will also filter out people who are turned off by stupidity.

    3. stuart

      So if I find it objectionable that Chomsky describes holocaust denier Faurisson as “a relatively apolitical liberal of some sort” or that he thinks America is in need of denazification, then I don’t need to bother with the references? Chomsky fans are always complaining about him being unjustly dismissed, but they think it’s totally fine to dismiss his critics in the same way.

      Keep in mind that there mainstream academics do not take his political work or international affairs stuff seriously, which is one reason why characters like Jim are more visible critics. This shouldn’t sooth you.

      1. Nornagest

        Keep in mind that there mainstream academics do not take his political work or international affairs stuff seriously, which is one reason why characters like Jim are more visible critics.

        I wish. I was exposed to Chomsky’s political work through mainstream academics.

        Well, “mainstream” in that they had PhDs and were teaching at a reasonably prestigious school, anyway. It’s entirely possible that they were on the fringes of that particular Overton window and I just rolled low in the outside-my-field professor crapshoot. But I kinda doubt it.

        1. stuart

          I meant academics in those areas (I know that academics from the humanities mainly like his work). But my impression is that you’re not finding Manufacturing Consent cited a lot in top journals on foreign affairs. I might be wrong.

  29. Mary

    ” why aren’t different colleges drifting to one side or the other and letting the market decide?”

    Because virtually all colleges babble about freedom and then don’t face ruinous truth-in-advertising suits when they prove to be liars.

    Witness that FIRE is continually listing private colleges as offenders even though their standards for private schools are whatever the school says they are — that is, if the school announces its standard is that you can’t advocate X, Y, and Z, FIRE is perfectly happy with your punishing students for doing so.

  30. Vulture

    4) Rivers run down to sea-level finding the easiest course, North, South, East, West and all other intermediary directions over the Earth at the same time. If Earth were truly a spinning ball then many of these rivers would be impossibly flowing uphill, for example the Mississippi in its 3000 miles would have to ascend 11 miles before reaching the Gulf of Mexico.

    I mean, if I thought that “spherical earth” meant “spherical earth which is externally acted upon by straight-down gravity”, I would think that was pretty stupid too.

    1. Scott Alexander Post author

      Yeah, that wasn’t their best moment.

      Some of the lines of sight ones don’t have completely obvious explanations (at least to me). Ciphergoth on FB thinks that they’re actually misrepresenting the numbers or maybe just making some of them up.

      1. Peter

        The one about parallax was in some sense one of the best and in another one of the worst. Firstly there’s no such thing as an “inch” of parallax, secondly this was actually a pretty convincing argument for a while, thirdly it’s not convincing now because our telescopes etc. have improved and we can now see parallax for lots of stars – in fact that’s where “parsec” comes from.

        Tycho Brahe had a particularly sophisticated version of the parallax argument – he said, “OK, yes, the stars might be so far away that the parallax is too small to see with current technology. But we can see an apparent size for stars, and if they were so far away that we wouldn’t observe parallax, then they’d all have to be huge, much bigger than the Sun, so the Sun would have to be the only pea in a universe of grapefruits. So apply the Copernican principle…” A few centuries later people learned more about optics, about Airy disks, and how diffraction would ruin any attempt to see how big a star was…

        1. RCF

          The parallax question has nothing to do with the curvature of the Earth, it has to do with whether the Earth orbits the sun. So apparently they’re conflating curvature of the Earth, rotation of the Earth, and revolution of the Earth.

    2. RCF

      And while they claim to have 200 reasons, a lot of them are simply repeating the same arguments over and over again: the Mississippi isn’t curved, the Suez canal isn’t curved, the Nile isn’t curved, blah, blah, blah.

  31. Nero tol Scaeva

    “Apparently “Jeb” sounds like “penis” in Chinese.”

    On the flip side, the Chinese equivalent of the English filler word “uh” sounds like the N-word.

    1. Scott Alexander Post author

      Which one? The only one I heard about started with “Since the dawn of history, in virtually every human society there are some people who are given a great deal and many more people who are given little or nothing,” and made me think back to my old English teacher who told us that none of us were allowed to write essays starting with “since the beginning of time” because it was way overused and we didn’t know what had happened at the beginning of time anyway.

      “Since the beginning of time, people have debated the themes in Romeo and Juliet…”

      1. James

        Almost as good as application letters beginning “For as long as I can remember, I have been passion about X.”

      2. Adam Casey

        “Amongst the things I’ve found out about myself are that, according to one headline, Jeremy Corbyn welcomed the prospect of an asteroid wiping out humanity. Obviously I wouldn’t endorse this policy without getting the support of conference first.”

  32. Deiseach

    Re: hairstyles, the English did not like Irish haircuts and even passes sumptuary laws forbidding them and Irish fashions of clothing; if you want a good laugh, read Edmund Spenser – yes, the poet – frothing at the mouth about the evils of the Irish cloak:

    Irenius: They have another custome from the Scythians, that is the wearing of manteles and longe glebbes, which is a thicke curled bushe of heare, hanginge downe over their eyes, and monstrously disguysinge them, which are both very badd and hurtfull.

    … Eudoxus: Since then the necessitie thereof is so comodious, as ye alegde, that it is insteed of howsinge, Bedding and Clothinge, what reason have you then to wishe so necessary a thinge cast of?

    Irenius: Because the commoditie dothe not countervayle against the discomoditie, for the inconveniences that thereby doe aryse are much more many: for it is a fitt howse for an outlawe, a meet Bedd for a Rebell, and apte Cloke for a theef. First the outlawe being for his many crymes and villainies banished from the townes and howses of honest men, and wandring in wast places, far from danger of Lawe, maketh his mantle his howse, and under it covereth himself from the wrathe of heaven, from the offence of the earth, and from the sight of men. When it raineth it is his penthowse, when it bloweth it is his tente; when it freezeth it is his tabernacle. In Sommer he can weare it loose, in winter he can lappe it close; at all tymes he can use it; never heavie, never combersome. Lykewaise for a Rebell it is as serviceable; for in his warre that he maketh, if at least it deserve the name of warre, when he still flyeth from his foe, and lurketh in the thicke woods and straigt passages, wayting for advantages, it is his Bedd, yea, and almost all his houshold stuffd. For the wood is his howse against all wethers, and his mantle is his cave to sleepe in. Therein he wrappeth himself rounde, and ensconceth himself strongly against the gnattess, which in the Country doe more anoy the naked rebelles, whylst they keepe the woodes, and doe more sharply wound them, then all their enemyes swordes or speares, which can seldome come nigh them; yea, and often tymes their mantle serveth them, when they are nighe driven, being wrapped about their lefte arme insteed of a Target, for it is hard to cut thorough it with a swoord. Besydes it is light to beare, light to throw away, and, being, as they then commonly naked, it is to them all in all. Lastly, for a theef it is so handsome, as it may seeme it was first invented for him; for under yt he can clenly convey any fytt pillage that cometh handsomely in his way, and when he goeth abroad in the night in free-booting, it is his best and surest frend; for lyinge, as they often doe, two or three nights together abroad, to watch for ther booty, with that they can prettyly shroud them selves under a bush or a backe syde, tyll they may conveniently doe their errande: and when all is done, he can in his mantle passe through any towne or Company, being close hooded over his head, as he useth, from knowledg of any to whome he is indaungered. Besydes all this, he, or any man eles that is dysposed to any mischeef or villainie, may under his mantle goe privyly armed without suspicon of any: carry his headpeece, his skene, or pistole if he please, to be alwaies in a readines. Thus necessarye and fytting is a mantle for a Badd man. And surely for a badd huswyfe it is no lesse convenient, for some of them that be wandring women, called of them Mona shut, it is half a Wardrobe, for in Somer ye shall fynd her arayed commonly but in her smocke and mantle; to be more ready for the light services: in Wynter, and in her travill, it is her cloake and safeguard for her lewde exercise. And when she hathe fylled her vessill, under it she can hyde bothe her burden, and her blame; yea, and when her bastard is borne it serves insteed of all her swadling cloutes. And as for all other good women which love to doe but lyttle woorke, howe handsome it is to lie in and sleepe, or to louse themselves in the sunne shine, they that have bene but a whyle in Ireland, can well wytnesse. Sure I am that you will think it very unfitt for good huswyves, to stirre in, or to busy her self about her huswyfry in such sorte as they should. Theis be some of the abuses for which I would thinke it meete to forbidd all mantles.

    1. Nita

      When it raineth it is his penthowse, when it bloweth it is his tente; when it freezeth it is his tabernacle. In Sommer he can weare it loose, in winter he can lappe it close; at all tymes he can use it; never heavie, never combersome.

      And as for all other good women which love to doe but lyttle woorke, howe handsome it is to lie in and sleepe

      Gosh, those Irish cloaks sound fantastic. Where can I get one?

  33. Swami

    The equal opportunity article is just so…. Well wrong. I’ve long noticed that people of a certain political leaning have been intentionally obscuring the difference between privilege and advantage. Privilege is different rules. Advantage is the same rules but an exogenous variable (outside of the rules) which affects outcomes (luck, skill, practice, innate skill, etc). As best I can tell, the author to this article has been so steeped in this privilege/advantage obfuscation that he falls for it (or is so sneaky he hopes his readers do).

    Equal opportunity is about the same rules. It is having rules which are fair — meaning ones which we would agree to before the game starts and thus ignorant of our advantages and disadvantages.

    There are great reasons why we want fair, non-privileged/discriminatory rules. One part of these rules can be that losers are protected from the struggle via certain safety nets. Thus we can get fair and constructive economic, scientific and sport competitions AND a use the productive fruits of the competition to improve all peoples lives. Equal opportunity and improved living standards for all. Oddly this is exactly what liberal societies have achieved over the last 260 years compared to the previous alternatives.

    1. Nita

      It is having rules which are fair — meaning ones which we would agree to before the game starts and thus ignorant of our advantages and disadvantages.

      This is a popular idea, but:

      1. Does it makes sense to talk of “us” before our lives start? Our various qualities are not D&D character stats on a piece of paper we can set aside, they’re an inherent part of our existence.

      2. Games with good rules are fun, but something more than fun can be at stake for some participants of this “game”. So, the metaphor can be misleading.

      One part of these rules can be that losers are protected from the struggle via certain safety nets.

      It can be, sure. Whether it has to be is a matter of contention. Matthews says that what happens to losers matters in itself, not just for the purpose of making the game more effective.

      E.g., suppose someone proved (to your satisfaction) that the lack of safety nets causes more vigorous competition, so we’d get more “productive fruits” if we let some people starve. Would you vote against safety nets then?

      1. keranih

        One part of these rules can be that losers are protected from the struggle via certain safety nets.

        It can be, sure. Whether it has to be is a matter of contention.

        A more pertinant point of contention is, I think, the nature of the safety nets.

        A fire department that responds to all fires (including bankruptees) is a safety net. A soup kitchen and unemployment benefits funded from either the private or the public purse are safety nets. A tax-payer funded daycare center is a safety net. So is a lack of debtors prisons and the use of thugs to collect on credit card loans.

        We are not, by and large, arguing systemic change (as Scott puts it) regarding safety nets, but squabbling over how large, how high and who makes the net.

      2. Peter

        1) Well, if you’re Rawls, then it does. Except that Rawls goes for substantive equality of opportunity (well, as far as is possible given that various semi-specified freedoms will take absolute precedence over said equality), and thinks we’d think that formal equality of opportunity is insufficient. Personally I’m not a Rawls fan, for various reasons, some of which overlap with the point you make. One key personal quality you have is attitude to risk, which really can’t be set aside. You could in principle be temporarily deprived of self-knowledge so you don’t know whether you’re risk-averse or not, but that’s not the same as not being risk-averse.

      3. stargirl

        “E.g., suppose someone proved (to your satisfaction) that the lack of safety nets causes more vigorous competition, so we’d get more “productive fruits” if we let some people starve. Would you vote against safety nets then?”

        In practice, in “Rich” countries, no I would not vote against safety nets. In fact I want more safety nets.

        In theory though it depends on the “productive fruits” and how many people have to starve. It seems at least plausible a poor country might have a choice between spending money on anti-poverty efforts and spending money on economic investment that will take time to mature. In this case the government might be right to let people starve to increase economic production. The details are important, much economic stimulus fails, but in principle the answer to your question might be yes.

      4. Swami

        Thanks for the thought-provoking reply, Nita

        “Does it makes sense to talk of “us” before our lives start?”

        No. That is why I tried to phrase it as what we “would” agree to. We don’t agree to the rules of tennis or markets or science, but we can see the benefit of designing rules which are fair and impartial. My specific definition for “fair” is actually a voluntary interaction which we would choose amongst competing alternatives. I can’t imagine any effective definition of fairness which isn’t procedural in nature. But this may just be lack of imagination.

        “Games with good rules are fun, but something more than fun can be at stake for some participants of this “game”. So, the metaphor can be misleading.”

        Games as in the study of strategic decision making, not as in fun and games.

        “Matthews says that what happens to losers matters in itself, not just for the purpose of making the game more effective.”

        Of course it matters in itself. The “game” we are discussing is rules and conventions of cooperative problem solving in the domain of meeting our needs and desires for goods and services. It is a life and death decision. I am suggesting that it is reasonable for people to choose fair, impartial equality of opportunity rules with effective safety nets. The safety nets can be funded via markets (insurance), or from outside of markets (voluntary aid, government aid). Liberal western societies use a combination of safety nets.

        Effectiveness for markets includes generating the prosperity necessary for high average standards of living (30-100 times annually higher than pre-market economies across life spans twice as long) and the prosperity to fund the safety nets. I agree some people might prefer to choose no safety nets, but I suspect they will have a hard time finding enough people like them to “play with”.

        “Suppose someone proved (to your satisfaction) that the lack of safety nets causes more vigorous competition, so we’d get more “productive fruits” if we let some people starve. Would you vote against safety nets then?”

        Good question. I suspect there are very real tradeoffs with the effectiveness and comfort of safety nets. I happen to believe they are outrageously too comfortable now, thus they incentivize free riding and parasitism. I would recommend they be designed differently though, not necessarily more Spartan. We (those of us in developed “western’ nations using liberal free market democratic institutions) have tons of wealth to fund them. I would not let people starve. And I would not want my great grandchildren to be born to a society which allowed them to starve.

        For the record, free riding and parasitism is a form of exploitation. I am offended that some people choose to exploit others in this way, and I would not voluntarily choose to live in a society which allowed and encouraged free riding or exploitation. To be specific, I would not want my great grandkids to exploit others either, and I would hope society punishes them if they try.

        1. Nita

          I agree some people might prefer to choose no safety nets, but I suspect they will have a hard time finding enough people like them to “play with”.

          In reality, most people are not free to choose who to “play” with, or whether to “play” at all. What rules are fair if participation itself is not voluntary?

          1. Swami

            Actually my reading of history in places with competitive states is that over the long haul this is the dynamic which emerges. There is in effect a constructive competition for better institutions, with fairness, impartiality and general problem solving emerging as some of the dynamic attractors.

            So, on the level of state institutions, I actually think there is a cultural evolutionary dynamic that can pull us toward just such a situation and that this greatly explains modern prosperity. Nothing is inevitable (contra Whig history), just possible.

            On a more practical level, we can choose which community to move to, and which state or province. We can choose who we mate with. We can choose which companies we work for or whether we want to work for one at all (self employment is great). We can choose which companies to shop at, which schools to attend etc etc.

            Choice is all around us, and as we vote with our feet, institutions and individuals respond by trying to attract us as cooperative partners (employees, customers, mates, students, tax payers).

            As such, the ability to choose who to participate is one of the most important and underrated dynamics of the modern era.

          2. Nita

            the ability to choose who to participate is one of the most important and underrated dynamics of the modern era

            It is. But as long as the stick of suffering exists, and quitting the “game” remains extremely costly, institutions and individuals won’t necessarily bother growing carrots to attract people.

            E.g., as 19th century workers were free to choose which factory to work at, match factories would compete to attract them, and offer perks like replacing the toxic white phosphorus with the less toxic red phosphorus, right? But that’s not what happened. The workers’ choice was constrained by the need to survive, and they put up with working conditions that destroyed their health.

    2. Peter

      I think there’s an issue with what this article calls “formal” and “substantive” equality of opportunity. You see “equality of opportunity” and think “formal equality of opportunity”, the author of the article sees the articles and sees “substantive equality of opportunity”.

      1. Swami

        Great link, Peter. I suppose people can define it anyway that want as long as they are communicating clearly with others.

        I would state that if we had two societies side by side, one which operated in such a way that blind, overweight, elderly paraplegics had an equal likelihood of starting for the Golden State Warriors and one which had impartial rules as I defined it, then virtually everyone with any sense would choose to to go with my definition and reject the other. The substantive society would be so dysfunctional as to be comical. Indeed, it’s so obviously dystopian it is simply begging to be a gateway to master planning.

    3. David Byron

      Sloppy logic.

      > Privilege is different rules. Advantage is the same rules but an exogenous variable

      This framing obviously misses out on a third category “same rules with a non-exogenous variable” which of course represents almost all the real world situations. Specifically having a lot more money and power privileges or advantages you in all sorts of situations where the rules are supposed to be the same. Duh.

      > Equal opportunity is about the same rules. It is having rules which are fair — meaning ones which we would agree to before the game starts and thus ignorant of our advantages and disadvantages

      Clearly it involves having equal non-exogenous variables too. But just as clearly if “luck” was an actual thing then before the game starts I am not going to agree to play if I know you have been given a lot more of it than I have. That’s a fixed game whatever you want to call it “advantage” or “privilege” or something else.

      1. Swami


        “This framing obviously misses out on a third category “same rules with a non-exogenous variable” which of course represents almost all the real world situations. Specifically having a lot more money and power privileges or advantages you in all sorts of situations where the rules are supposed to be the same.”

        The variable in question implies other-than-rule-based, thus exogenous TO THE RULES (privilege implies private or partial laws or rules).

        If I play Roger Federer, the same rules apply. Thus he is not privileged. He has the advantage of thousands of hours of extra practice, millions of dollars of coaching, a younger age and better genes. Tennis involves equality of opportunity (formal EO as per the above comment).

        “Clearly it involves having equal non-exogenous variables too. But just as clearly if “luck” was an actual thing then before the game starts I am not going to agree to play if I know you have been given a lot more of it than I have. That’s a fixed game whatever you want to call it “advantage” or “privilege” or something else.”

        You and I are free to not play with people who are genetically advantaged, practiced, lucky or skilled. But considering the game we are discussing is cooperative problem solving via a decentralized system of competitive division of labor and exchange, refusal to play with anyone more advantaged in any way is basically neutering the entire advantage of free enterprise. The results would be catastrophic. It would impoverish us to make that choice. I don’t want to “play” (fly) with pilots that aren’t advantaged via years of practice and training, and who are blessed with lightning fast reflexes and awesome judgment. Do you?

    4. bellisaurius

      It took me a moment, but when I read ‘advantage’ to be the same as comparative advantage (I’m better at X, for whatever reason within the rules), I see your point.

    5. RCF

      What you’ve done is identified a distinction that you think is useful, found two terms that you associate with the two concepts, and then declared that anyone who doesn’t use the words the way you use them to be “wrong”. Sorry, you don’t get to just redefine words.

  34. Luke G

    I actually gave a new lecture on Machiavelli in class this last week based on the Ex Urbe links, and students were enthralled. Great stuff.

  35. Deiseach

    I started reading the story about Mark Zuckerberg and his plans to revitalise the Newark school system, but when I got to the part about him wanting to redraft teachers’ contracts, I fell about the place laughing. Because even with my limited experience working within the Irish educational system, I could have told him:

    Teachers have the best unions anywhere, better than police or nurses or any other group you care to mention. It was only very recently, in the depths of the recession, that the government was able to force through pay cuts for teachers.
    Being fair to teachers, it’s a tough job; I couldn’t stand eight hours a day dealing with 12-18 year olds (much less the even younger ones in primary school).

    But as I said, up until very recently, teachers could get away with pretty much anything. Historical example from the local area: principal of (name withheld) school was convicted and served a prison sentence for gun-running for the IRA and, after his release, went back to his teaching job in the school.

    Because the union had forced the Department of Education to keep his job open for him 🙂

    1. keranih

      I’m rather strongly biased on the subject of unions – in short, I can see a utility for unions of low-skilled, easily replaced workers, who have no differentiated value to their employer (aside from basic human dignity, which the meanest abusive bullying moron – or hydocephalic terminal infant – likewise has.)

      However, for people capable of earning a meaningful certification degree (ie, not a high school diploma in our current ‘social promotion’ climate) it’s both inaccurate and demeaning to assume that they are incapable of assessing the labor market, adjusting their skills to fit their goals, and negotiating a fair compromise with their employer on wages, etc.

      In those situations – with certification, BS degrees, etc – unions only encourage and hasten the rise of rent seeking and gatekeeping. And this is very apparent in school systems. Some examples, which should be long familar to anyone following US school reform:

      – Pay based on seniority, not on performance or skills verified through third parties.
      – Teachers from different populations – ie science teachers and English teachers – paid according to the same wage scale.
      – Failure to encourage third party verification of skills (I give a little leeway for those advocating better verification in lieu of multiple guess tests, but the overwhelming reaction of teachers unions has been to reject *all* testing)
      – A retirement/pay system that rewards remaining in the school system long past the time when the teacher can perform to standards. We should allow people to come in, teach, and then leave when they have found a better way to earn their money, just as we allow in most careers.
      – union rules that legally require protection of non-performing teachers, to the point where it is easier – and cheaper – to “warehouse” poor teachers than it is to go through the firing process

      I have friends and relatives who teach. It is not my field. But it’s also not brain surgery or rocket science.

      1. Nita

        A retirement/pay system that rewards remaining in the school system long past the time when the teacher can perform to standards. We should allow people to come in, teach, and then leave when they have found a better way to earn their money

        Wait, are you saying someone can be simultaneously too old to teach well, and likely to find “a better way to earn their money”?

        1. keranih

          Wait, are you saying someone can be simultaneously too old to teach well, and likely to find “a better way to earn their money”?

          Yes. Specifically – in our age of automation, we have to have people who are very comfortable with technology in the classroom. Secondarily – as with all things funded by the taxpayer, there is a difference between ‘better for the state employee’ and ‘better for society’. Or do you think that a fire department staffed by a majority of 45 year olds and older – because it’s better for them to stay with the pension – is best for the town?

          1. Nita

            Well, you could have just said that teachers who get too old to keep up should be fired and (most likely) live in poverty for a few years. “We should allow people to [..] leave when they have found a better way to earn their money” sounds like an entirely different proposal.

          2. anodognosic

            What Nita said. Also, you’re talking about removing one of the few solid perks of what is otherwise a pretty thankless job. How do you think that might affect prospective teachers’ career choices?

          3. gbdub

            Where do we get the idea that teaching is a “thankless” job? Mostly from teachers complaining about their salary.

            In reality, it’s not a bad gig – their pay may be on the lower end of the scale for people with at least 4 year degrees, but it’s not that low (compare to e.g. medical techs, people with English or social science degrees, social workers, etc…). Certainly much higher than most non-college educated people. Even those comparisons aren’t quite fair to non-teachers, since teachers usually get substantially more time off. They also tend to have excellent benefits and quasi- or actual tenure.

            And “teaching” certainly has much higher social cachet than a lot of similar BS degree jobs. Nobody wants to be against teachers, precisely because they so “thanklessly” work “for the children” (never mind that cozy benefits deals with union approved insurers, tight work rules, tenure, and last-in-first-out rules are almost certainly bad for children). Who’s standing up for WalMart managers or random lab workers?

          4. Randy M

            I think “thankless” here must be interpreted in purely relative financial terms, for it is probably in the top 4 of literally thanked professions (along with firemen, doctors, and soldiers, probably) . Who hasn’t seen a meme of some famous person extolling their n-th grade teacher as instrumental in that person’s success?

            Of course, teachers are also blamed for alot, and abused in certain environments. But individually and as a group they are given more accolades than a factory line worker, bus driver, plumber, accountant, etc.

          5. anodognosic

            Good teaching requires a lot more mental engagement than most other jobs at this level of income. I also suspect they deal with a lot of hassle from parents and kids that probably more than counterbalances the abstract gratitude they get in feelgood movies and political speeches.

            But I don’t want to nitpick too much on the particulars. The main point is that if you remove two of the greatest perks in the profession, stability and pensions, you seriously change the incentive structure and will probably cause shortages.

      2. Murphy

        I am not a professional negotiator, it’s absurd to assume that I could or should be as skilled as a professional negotiator or that I should know as much about the market. You’re throwing division of labor out the window on ideological grounds.

        I have mixed feelings on unions, I’ve seen very good and very bad but I can point to one thing that I think Ireland got right on the subject of unions.

        In Ireland the right to join a union without suffering discrimination is considered a constitutional right, like the right to join a religion in the US.

        Some employers of course hate this.

        You’d think this would be massively pro-union and would make all the problems unions can cause way worse but it doesn’t for one reason: the courts decided that in the same way that the right to free speech includes the right to remain silent and freedom of religion includes the freedom to be an atheist the right to join a union without suffering discrimination also includes the right to not join a union without suffering discrimination.

        The unions of course hate this. But it’s fantastic.

        I worked places with unions, it was entirely my choice if I wanted to join and my pay and rights were the same whether I joined or not. Union dues were very low and when it came time for negotiations the companies professional negotiator negotiated with the unions professional negotiator rather than with a bunch of spotty young people. With the exception of a small number of places which predated a particular court case there’s no such thing as a “union shop”.

        Unions couldn’t abuse people and had to be perceived as good for the employees or they’d risk losing members. It’s remarkable that there appears to be almost nowhere else in the world with a duel protected right to be in or not in a union.

        1. keranih

          No one person has an equal set of skills. None the less, most people with a college degree have the basics of being able to figure out how to negotiate for a better wage. And if they can’t, why do we want them teaching our kids?

          Your description of open shops in Ireland is interesting – we tend to not have that in strong union places in the USA, and most pro-union people feel that a non-closed shop system is a betrayal of union ideals.

          Scott Walker of Wisconsin made enemies all over the country by instituting a rule that unions had to be reevaluated annually by a majority of workers, for example. To my read, this indicates several flaws in our union system, which – if addressed – might make the system valuable enough to keep.

          1. anodognosic

            Why the hell would negotiation skills be a prerequisite for teaching? It’s not only a domain-specific skill that is less common than you might assume, but also indirectly discouraged in some cultures.

          2. Noumenon72

            Knowing the basics of how to negotiate for a better wage is not like knowing how to pick a good retirement plan. You can read up on it with college-level skills and still be totally ineffective. I’m not sure why but at the mid-to-low levels of the economy where I run I have never seen anyone successfully negotiate for more pay. Exit is your only option.

          3. kerani

            @ anodognosic –

            Because they’re working with a pack of kids, who are constantly trying to re-negotiate their way out of all requirements and into all benefits. If the teacher can’t manage something more effective than “I WANT THIS” I can’t see them succeeding in the classroom.

            @ Noumenon72 –

            The lower ends of the economy do have less room for negotiation, because there are more workers for each position. I don’t put school teachers with a BS and a teacher certificate – at a minimum – at “the lower end” of our economy.

        2. nil

          “Unions couldn’t abuse people and had to be perceived as good for the employees or they’d risk losing members. It’s remarkable that there appears to be almost nowhere else in the world with a duel protected right to be in or not in a union.”

          That’s pretty much how it works in American right-to-work states. The problem is that federal law prohibits unions from refusing to negotiate for the non-members in the workplaces where they’ve organized, which means they get free-rode out of viability.

          1. gbdub

            They’d get a lot less free-riding if the workers actually felt they were getting bang for the buck and if less of the bucks went to political advocacy (yes, I know the PAC donations are separate in theory but…)

            The main issues I see with unions in the US are:
            1) We have a lot more access to information, are generally better educated, are more mobile and have fewer people in the sort of “interchangable worker unit” jobs than we used to. All of these make unions less necessary and less appealing.
            2) The unions that HAVE survived are too powerful, to the point where they hurt their industries to mutual damage. E.g. the UAW could probably shut down any automotive supplier if they really wanted to, so they can simply demand concessions from one supplier then move onto the next and say, “they gave us the deal, why won’t you”?
            3) Government worker unions are just terrible. They get into a symbiotic relationship with their favored politicians, and the people footing the bill (unorganized voters) don’t have a seat at the negotiating table. Nobody has a motivation to rein in costs, and no one has a horizon beyond the next election/contract. As a result, many municipalities are flat broke with many more going to be when the pensions hit the fan (which is actually pretty damn bad for the workers too).

            2 and 3 are both indicative of a fundamental flaw, which is that unions work best when there is an adversarial relationship between workers and corporate. Not “adversarial” in the sense of violence, just in the sense that the two groups have some competing interests and roughly equivalent leverage. When all the interests align, and/or one side has all the leverage, things rapidly get out of whack.

          2. nil

            IMO, those are all very distant seconds to the main issue: the principal problem faced by American workers is capital flight to places with cheaper labor, and unions can do absolutely nothing about that problem (besides political lobbying, which is problematic for the reason you mention as well as having nothing to do with the core advantages of unions)

          3. gbdub

            Of course, in the case of UAW, the capital only needs to fly as far as Alabama to get significantly cheaper labor, and that’s part of the problem. They can’t fight globalization, but they probably could have gotten ahead of it if they’d been more forward thinking and willing to compromise. Instead they’re just fighting a losing battle for protectionism. Unfortunately nobody (on either side of the table) wanted to be the first to admit that the days of retiring at 80% pay at 55 (and not bankrupting the golden goose) ended a long time ago.

          4. Murphy

            No, that doesn’t look the same at all. Reading up on it a little that’s got all the union-fucking clauses with none of the protections.

            Taft-Hartley put requirements on the unions re: non members so that even if you were a non member the union even had to represent you in disputes. That’s a very very different beast.

            Hell, in American “right to work” states they can just fire you for trying to organize a union or because they don’t like your face.

            Right-to-work isn’t even vaguely similar.

            It’s 100% of the fuck-the-unions side without anything on the other.

          5. nil

            @Murphey- I interpreted “rights were the same whether I joined or not” as meaning that Ireland had the same sort requirements to work for non-members that Taft-Hartley does. If that interpretation was wrong, you’re correct to regard it as making an enormous difference.

            Also, organizing workers are technically still protected from retaliation in right-to-work states, although the fact that you point out, that they can be fired for almost any other reason, obviously makes that difficult to enforce.

          6. Murphy

            The rule in ireland is related to the employer, not the union.

            Union membership is a protected characteristic like race or sex so paying all union member 10K more than all non-union members would be similar ,legally, to paying one race more for the sake of being that race.

            So if a union negotiates a pay raise for members it can’t be withheld from non-members.

            If there’s a dispute with the company and the union rep sits in with you that’s between you and the union. A non-union member could ask a friend to do the same.

            The union isn’t required to provide any specific service to non-members because they have no relationship with non-members.

            It sounds like in the US they treat the employer and union as some kind of single unit providing a set of benefits.

        3. Salem

          In the UK, you also have a dually protected right to either be, or not be, in a union.

          What is particularly weird about the US case is that only one union is allowed. In other words, if UNISON gets declared to be the official union of your “bargaining unit,” you can’t use Unite as your trade union. You have to join UNISON (or, if you’re in a right-to-work state, you can choose no trade union at all). Giving trade unions a monopoly over workers like that is an obvious giveaway to union leadership at the expense of their membership, but strangely I don’t see many protests about it either on the left or the right.

          1. Murphy

            Thanks for that. You’re correct. I didn’t realise the UK had similar protections for non-membership, I’d only ever seen statements about the right to union membership.

          2. Richard Gadsden

            The UK-specific term is “no closed shop”. And yes, the really nice benefit of the UK way is that there can be multiple unions, and the employer can bargain with them all, or with none, or with some and not others.

            Though if any union can get 50% of those workers electing to vote to do so, then the employer must bargain with them; members of Union A can (and often do) vote in favour of Union B having bargaining rights and cannot be penalised by Union A for doing so.

            The useful result of this, from the worker’s point of view, is competition between unions.

            Note that there still has to be a single bargaining agreement, covering members of all unions and non-union-members alike, but if Union A signs an agreement and Union B goes on strike, then it gets really messy. This tends not to happen, but when it does, then Union A members are crossing a Union B picket-line.

      3. Saul Degraw

        Except the paying teachers more never seems to be on the table. Many states had or are facing teacher shortages for a variety of reasons. Older teachers retiring, turnover, and a lack of young people going into the field these days. Economists tell me that this should lead to raised wages, instead it leads to wacky stunts:

        There is also a cook shortage according to articles I’ve read. The thing that doesn’t seem to be happening is people saying “Maybe if we paid better, more people would go into teaching and cooking?” I think employeers have some sort of psychological barrier against higher pay even if economists say higher pay attracts workers in shortages.

        1. keranih

          Teachers – including the ones I’m related to – are always advocating for more pay – and for more and better non-wage benefits. Which is where the real money issue tends to come in.

          So “more pay/benefits” is always on the table, by my read.

          On the other hand, the taxpayers for an area don’t seem to want (or be able) to raise enough money for the kind of product they best want. This is a perpetual problem through out the world. Reading up on the LV problem shows that the students and families are poor, that the tax base is not there, and that the area is not attractive enough to over ride low wages.

          It does not seem to be a problem that would be solved by “paying teachers more” – and certainly not if teachers are still being paid by seniority, and not ability.

          1. LeeEsq

            More pay or benefits isn’t really on the table if the employers and tax payers aren’t willing to offer it under most or any circumstances. Even if the teacher’s accept merit based pay, the tax payers or private school parents must still be willing to actually pony up the money for the merit based pay.

            The American public school system benefited from the fact that teaching used to be one of the few middle class professions available to women from the late 19th century to the 1960s. You could pay them low because they were expected to quit to be a housewife if they married or didn’t need that much because they were single and presumably living with their parents or some other relatives. Once much of this was no longer true, the struggle began.

          2. gbdub

            Don’t most teachers’ contracts have built in raises and defined-benefit pensions (that also always go up)? It’s not clear that a 30 year experience teacher is actually producing more than a 5 year experience teacher – why should they get paid much more?

            I submit that we simultaneously vastly underpay good teachers, and overpay most teachers. We don’t have enough interests aligned to fix either issue.

            Part of the problem in e.g. Wisconsin was that taxpayers realized that teacher salaries (especially for senior teachers) were actually higher than those for a lot of people paying the taxes. E.g. senior teachers making over $80k

          3. nil

            @gbdub Are you familiar with Education Realist? He’s a basically-conservative quasi-racial realist who has done a lot of digging on some of the things you’re assuming and found the evidence to be lacking (e.g., smarter teachers don’t actually seem to be significantly more effective).

            I spent half of yesterday binging on him, fascinating stuff.

          4. gbdub

            @nil – I didn’t say “smart” (which seems to be where a lot of the discussion I’ve seen elsewhere goes – “how do we attract higher performing students into teaching”). I said “good”. “Good” is certainly hard to define, but I think we all have personal experience of fantastic teachers we remember for a lifetime, and others who probably shouldn’t have been employed at all. The smartest were not necessarily the best.

            So my admittedly mildly snarky point was that we employ a lot of senior teachers at high pay who are not any better than college fresh outs, while paying some great teachers with minimal experience at low-level salaries. Then there’s the whole “rubber room” problem, which probably isn’t as big an impact as the attention it gets, but is indicative of a certain culture.

            It’s tough though because I had this discussion with one of my best teachers (the fact that we had this discussion in a high school writing class was part of what made him a great teacher) and he had mixed feelings on unions. On the one hand he didn’t like the work and seniority rules, on the other he thought he’d have to be much more PC (and in his and our minds, a worse teacher) if he didn’t have solid job security.

            Anyway the Education Realist sounds interesting, thank you for the recommendation.

          5. nil

            @gdub – The distinction between intelligence and skill is well taken, but only leads us to another problem–what’s the metric? Test scores is what we’ve been looking towards, but those are deeply flawed in all kinds of ways. You can just leave it up to the local administrators, but now you’re relying on their untested and unevaluated skills. Probably the best solution if you really need to find an answer, but the known unknowns and the general stink of turtle-stacks make me wonder if the question is ultimately worth spending a lot of time on.

          6. kerani

            @ nil –

            The issue of a decent metric is a valid and important one, as I indicated above. I suggest that we have *something* of a metric now, which leads us to think, almost universally, that the US system is in dire need of getting “better.”

            So I’m not really convinced that anyone actually believes that we “can’t” measure education outcomes – we do, all the time.

            What we don’t have is agreement on using a metric to fire (or promote) people based on the outcomes of that metric. From the sounds of all I have heard from teacher’s unions, the only acceptable metric is “teacher seniority” – which has been the standard since 1921. I suggest that this metric is not getting us what we want, and that maybe we should try another measuring tool.

          7. gbdub

            @kerani – Exactly. I’m not sure what the best metric is, but it definitely isn’t seniority, and that’s the only one most teachers’ unions allow. And since it is really really hard to come up with a best metric – that seems like just the sort of problem decision to distribute and let the market decide.

            As an aside – I’m frequently bothered by teachers’ unions rejection of standardized testing. They have some good points, but when they pair it with “We’re way behind country X in math! We need more money! Here’s a study that proves it!” *presents study based on standardized test scores from country X* it seems a little self serving.

        2. gattsuru

          It’s pretty common to bring up pay scale increases, and indeed part of Zuckerberg’s frustration is that he was trying to put the money toward salaries and the organization made it very difficult to do so quickly or in a way that didn’t move most of the money toward high-seniority teachers. It’s very hard, and in many cases explicitly forbidden by contract, to raise pay only or even primarily for those fields where there are fewest teachers available.

          The other problem — for both teachers and cooks — is that there is not an infinite pot of money in either case. Restaurants have a notoriously low profit margin and return on investment, and the United States already pays more per-student on primary and secondary education than all but a handful of other countries. Trying to pay 200k per teacher-year might not even be financially possible, and it’s certainly not clear why it’d be necessary when many other countries with significantly better outcomes don’t need to pay near that level. This becomes doubly harsh when many of the places with the greatest teacher shortages also have higher costs of living or nonfinancial reasons to avoid them.

          The /really/ deep problem is that the teacher shortage is not the issue. Areas with relative gluts of teachers still aren’t doing well.

          1. Urstoff

            I thought it was a fairly well-accepted finding that teacher pay does not correlate with educational quality (or that increasing teacher pay does not increase educational quality). Of course, maybe that’s just my bias assuming that to be the case about hearing some anecdote about how much DC teachers made or something.

          2. kerani

            @Urstoff –

            teacher pay does not correlate with educational quality

            I would not call this a solid finding. A brief review of the top papers from google shows data all over the place. A recent Rand study agrees with you, while other studies do not.

            It is true that pre-student spending isn’t the defining factor, but it’s not clear what schooling related factors (aside from parental wealth and marriage status) have an impact.

          3. Richard Gadsden

            Cooks seem to be a combination of several things:

            1. It’s a lottery profession, and mid-ranking professionals in lottery professions are underpaid.

            2. Waitstaff wages are a percentage of prices (through the tipping mechanism), so if you raise prices to pay cooks more, then you end up with either very-well-paid waitstaff or with waitstaff overmanning (this explains the super-attentive service in expensive restaurants; they hire more waitstaff to spread the tips around). This means that you can’t decide to spend more on the kitchen and less on waitstaff.

            3. There are lots of people who think of cooking as a minimum-wage or just above job, and this makes it easy to keep the lowest levels staffed with a high-turnover of juniors.

            4. Customers of middling-quality restaurants aren’t as bothered about food quality as restauranteurs think, so won’t pay more for better cooks.

        3. TheAncientGeek

          Employers will also express astonishment that people won’t work for wages they themselves wouldn’t dream of working for. I’ve also heard an employer complain that they were unable to hire highly skilled workers in a recession, because it is not like the less skilled workers who are more likely to lose their jobs. Sorry, libertarians, but most employers are utterly ignorant of economics.

    2. brad

      Teachers have the best unions anywhere, better than police or nurses or any other group you care to mention.

      At least here in the US, I don’t think that’s true. Of the large unions, I think police are probably the strongest. The immediately payable pension (i.e. you can start collecting a pension after 20 years regardless of your age and regardless of whether you continue to work) is a benefit that is limited to the military, police, and sometimes firefighters and it is an extraordinarily valuable benefit. Also as hard as it can be to fire teachers, if a school district gets sued and loses for something a teacher did, there’s at least a decent chance the teacher can be fired. There are lots of police officers out there where cities have paid out on multiple civil rights lawsuits and the officers still have a job. Finally, cops are paid as well as or better than teachers in many cities and yet the job does not require a college degree, whereas teaching increasingly requires a masters.

      If we include smaller unions there are some that have even better deals — west coast longshoremen, Broadway theater crews, and the like but they are tiny and you have to be born into them.

    3. baconbacon

      Teachers in the US at least don’t spend anywhere near 8 hours a day dealing with students. Probably more like 5-5.5 on average and 4 when you count the absurdly long vacations that they get.

  36. James

    I, too, have been steadily working my way through Ex Urbe posts since a stray link there was posted in the comments here a little while ago. I just finished the Machiavelli stuff and agree that it’s great. I’m looking forward to working my way through the rest of them.

  37. James

    I like Milo Yiannopoulos more than I have any good reason to, I think. My blue tribe roots says I shouldn’t like anyone who’s as big a tory as he is, but I find myself charmed by his outrageous fabulousness.

    I’m actually about to bleach my hair, inspired partly by him looking great while debating with feminists on BBC News.

    1. SFG

      He’s an interesting mix of blue tribe identity signifiers (gay, half Jewish) and red tribe opinions. It makes reading him unique, because he sees things other conservatives wouldn’t. Kind of like a reverse Deer Hunting with Jesus.

      1. James

        I think that’s a big part of it. I also think he plays this up deliberately; I saw him claim somewhere that he likes being queer, because it makes blue tribe types assume that he’s ‘one of them’, and thereby disarms them against his conservative arguments. (On me, at least, it appears to have worked.)

    2. Ano

      He reminds me a little of the late Brian Sewell, in that he revels in the combination of outrageous sexual behaviour and a snobby conservative persona. And of course, that he’s also quite funny.

  38. David Friedman

    On the story about increasing polarization … . I have a similar account that I believe I got from Larry Iannacone, an economist specializing in the economics of religion.

    FCC rules used to require stations to have a certain amount of free “public interest” broadcasting, a category that included religious broadcasts. It was dominated by mainline protestant denominations, which were nice and non-controversial. The mainline protestant groups made an effort to keep the fundamentalists off the airwaves, on the grounds that the fundies made them look bad.

    The rules were changed to still require the public interest broadcasting but permit stations to charge for it if someone was willing to pay. The fundamentalists turned out to be much better at using broadcasts to raise money than the mainline protestants, and ended up largely taking over.

    There is an straightforward economic explanation of why the fundamentalists won. A religious radio broadcast is a public good—people get to listen to it, or get the benefit of converting others or making their fellow believers better, whether or not they contribute. God, however, can solve the problem of making it in the interest to contribute by rewarding those who do and punishing those who freeload. The more strongly believers believe in God, the better that works. Fundamentalists believe more strongly than main line protestants.

    Orwell asked how many people believe in Heaven the way they believe in Australia. I would guess a lot more fundies pass that test.

    1. stargirl

      It does not seem that difficult to believe in heaven the way I believe in Australia. The reason I am so confidant in Australia is that everyone I trust agrees it exists. There surely exist many people who only trust people who agree God Exists.

      1. Citizensearth

        The reason I am so confidant in Australia is that everyone I trust agrees it exists.

        This is a cunning paradoxical deception spread by us Australians designed to fool our enemies. You heard Australia exists from us Australians, and, as everyone knows, Australia is entirely peopled with criminals. And as criminals are not to be trusted… clearly Australia does not exist. Or was it people with masks…

    2. God Damn John Jay

      The argument advanced by Krugman was that Conservative establishment spent a lot of money funding “Wingnut Welfare” ensuring that conservative pundits went from moderates in favor of being able to cash in on a number of talk show circuits, speeches and book tours.

      You could make a similar statement about academia, where literature (or linguistic) departments have become obsessed with Marxist readings of text (Friedman probably has a much better handle on this than I do, but I believe this has become a growing issue over time).

      In either case, becoming a political firebrand became a way to market yourself.

  39. David Friedman

    The medieval combat stuff is right in some things, such as weight of swords and armor and the importance of wrestling. But it’s full of generalizations that might apply to some times and places but not others.

    For instance, spears vs swords. There are lots of descriptions of combats in the Icelandic sagas, one on one or small numbers. Spears are typically thrown. Hand to hand combat is mostly swords and axes, occasionally a halberd. The shields mentioned are sufficiently thin to be routinely cut through by weapons. One set of rules for holmgang, judicial combat, permitted each side three shields, assumed to be each in turn destroyed. The point I think he may be missing is that spears are relatively cheap compared to swords, since wood was cheap and iron expensive. That explains why spears are so common, especially in large number combats.

    1. Tibor

      Then again, the Macedonians employed the phalanx probably not for the reasons of it being cheap. The pattern was, as I understand it, that the Macedonians used highly trained and top-notch equipped forces which proved to be a winning strategy against the Persian levée en masse approach to warfare…but I am not 100% sure about the quality of Persian troops. Swordsmen seem to have been only used as an auxiliary force to defend the vulnerable flanks of the phalanx. Ultimately, the more mobile Roman cohorts seem to have been a good strategy against the phalanx, being able to outmaneuver them…but I am not sure why a proper response to the invention of stirrups and subsequent dominance of armoured knights on the battlefield was not countered by a reinvention of the phalanx (I can only think of economic reasons, since the phalanx does not work if you don’t have very well trained soldiers able to march in a tight formation counting hundreds of soldiers and that was perhaps beyond the economic and administrative reach of medieval kingdoms). Still, I cannot imagine fielding swordsmen against armoured cavalry not ending up in a disaster on the side of the footmen.

      A bit unrelated – I never quite understood how it is possible to beat mounted archers if your army does not have them. The Romans had mixed results against the Parthians and the only truly humiliating defeat seems to have been that of Crassus, mostly due to his incompetence as a general. How come the Parthians did not crush them each time? Forests are probably a problem for mass cavalry and high humidity seems to be disastrous for the kind of bows they were using, but these are no big issues in the middle east/Asia Minor where the Romans fought them.

      1. keranih

        A bit unrelated – I never quite understood how it is possible to beat mounted archers if your army does not have them.

        Same way as you defeat an army with tanks or aircraft if your army does not have them – make the advantages of mobile ranged weapons irrelevant.

        In the old days – caltrops, ditches, and walls. In WWII – ditches, tank-killer aircraft and lots of smaller weapons. In the future – space superiority, probably. Or EMPS. Or something else we haven’t thought of yet.

      2. Stefan Drinic

        Essentially, the flaw in your thinking is really that you’re thinking of life as if it were Total War and balance was actually a thing.

        Yes, the Macedonians did in fact start training their phalanxes because it was cheap. It may sound strange at first, but it is well-documented that it is so; even when you think of it, it stands to reason that a man clad in armour, a shield and a spear would require more resources than it would to remove his armour and give him a bigger stick. The quality of Persian troops was fine, and the idea of them being mass levies is a mildly racist historical assumption a lot of people have of people from the east coming in vast hordes; the Persian army consisted of professional soldiers just fine, but it was very poorly led and was up against the combined forces of people who fought each other in some kind of dystopic perpetual war and subsequently got very good at it.

        Similarly, the response to armoured knights kiiiiiind of was a return to phalanxes, and I’m not sure why you’d say otherwise other than you simply not being familiar with this fact. The reason the Flemish and the Swiss managed to gain and retain their independence was at least in part because both these people ended up having well-trained militia who could hold a formation well and so fight off a force of cavalrymen very well. Likewise, to think swordsmen somehow would have an enormous disadvantage against an army of cavalrymen is simply wrong. The advantage of having a mounted army lies in its mobility and shock value more than in it somehow being much better in actual combat than infantrists would be; if mounted armies were powerful, it’s because the sheer sight and sound of a charge would send enough people running that cutting down the subsequent poor formation was easy. An example of this would be Hastings, where repeated cavalry charges against a tight formation were generally ineffective, and where the tide of battle turned only after one flank of the English army broke to give chase, at which point the (obviously mobile) Norman army could cut through the broken formation very easily.

        As for the mounted archer thing.. The problem the Parthians had wasn’t so much defeating the Romans in the field; just as you said, they could do so rather well. The problem is that the Romans were a crafty bunch, set up camp every night before sleeping, and were much better at taking and garrisoning cities than the Parthians were. Having some number of soldiers nobody can ever catch is all well and good when you’re Genghis Khan and everyone in your population can just walk off, but the situation looks very differently when half your lands are suddenly under foreign occupation.

        1. alexp

          The heavy cavalry at Hastings weren’t quite the knights with couched lances charging at a gallop that the Normans would later be famous for. They charged at a trot, threw javelins and fought with swords.

        2. Tibor

          I am aware of the Swiss pikemen, but were these not more a 16thish century thing? They also, being mercenaries, had a lot of time to practise, which seems crucial for the successful use of a phalanx-like formation.

          I find it a bit ridiculous that you would call Persians being levied en masse as a “racist” idea, but let’s pass on that.

          The Greek sources spoke of an army of million men during the Greco-Persian wars. They probably exaggerated quite a bit, but apparently the Persian army was huge compared to the Greek and then Macedonian armies. It would be weird if it were not given the size of the empire. I should look up Persian army in better detail, I guess, but it seems strange to me that Alexander would be able to beat a huge army of professional soldiers with good equipment his relatively small force. My impression of the Persian army is a small number of elite well equipped immortal professionals and a big force of levied more or less unprofessional sparabara troops.

          I am not sure about the Macedonian troops, but a Athenian hoplite had to own quite an expensive (for the time) set of equipment, including armour despite using a spear (albeit not as long as the sarissa). I though the Macedonian phalanx had more or less the same equipment except for a longer spear (and maybe a shield smaller than the hoplon?), but maybe I am wrong.

          I was going to reply to Hasting, but alexp has already written exactly what I was going to 🙂

          1. Stefan Drinic

            The Swiss first managed to beat a well-equipped feudal army in the early 14th century, which is well within medieval times. Look up the battle of Laupen, or really the story of how the Swiss confederacy came to be in the first place.

            I’d apologise for the racist remark, but that’s more of a historical thing than a personal insult. Part of being a historian is not doling out moral judgements too much, but there -is- a very strong tendency in western literature to speak of barbaric peoples from the east trying to overwhelm the west in massive hordes. Regardless of how you feel about this, such a belief came to be through racism(or contributed to it), and I perhaps wrongly assumed you might have judged the Persian armies too quickly.

            Regardless, Alexander’s army wasn’t very small at all. The Persians had more soldiers in all, this is true, but the rub lies in logistical, not numerical issues: after a certain size, supplying an army becomes impossible. Alexander’s army stretched the point where he could still manage to supply his soldiers with food, and the Persians had much the same problem, which meant that in any given battle the Persians had no real numeric advantage. As far as equipment goes, the Persians had their armies equipped quite well, but the issue there was more that the Persian manner of fighting, as well as the weaponry their soldiers were given, simply did not fare well against disciplined formations of pikemen with shields. Aside from even that, I’d like to note that the Persian army was notoriously badly led, with their king fleeing the premises far too hastily a number of times, which would have caused no small amount of disorder. Annnnnd even after taking all these things into consideration, we have to note that the Greeks had been beating the Persians on land pretty consistently for the past century or so; Alexander wasn’t so much a mastermind strategist as much as he was the one to first be able to wage an offensive war against the Persians. Sure enough, the Persians were defeated just as they were earlier.

            As for the Macedonian troops.. Well, it went exactly like I said earlier. Alexander’s father decided to equip his troops with longer spears in part so he could make sure they needn’t wear as much armour. In an old-fashioned hoplite phalanx people would come face-to-face and armour would be very useful, but sarissas are long enough that it became much less necessary, and the extra resources spent on longer pikes was far less than they would on precious cuirasses, helmets and shin plates.

            The Hastings point is fair, I suppose. Whatever else the case might be, disciplined infantry formations didn’t yield to cavalry very quickly, spears or not.

          2. Tibor

            Stefan: Well, I think that the Greeks considered anyone but themselves to be barbarians, including the Macedonians, and so did the Romans, so that is probably where that comes from 🙂

            Otherwise, thanks for the interesting comment.

          3. Richard Gadsden

            Bannockburn, with Scots armed with pikes and forming schiltrons (which were basically phalanxes) was in 1314.

            Pikes, then mixed pike-and-musket, then bayonet-equipped muskets were the core of effective infantry from then until Waterloo five centuries later. Within a century and a half, heavy cavalry had been sidelined; they’d still be useful until the 1870s to destroy a broken army – once you break the line, a cavalry charge is tremendously effective – but infantry were soon able to hold lines against a heavy cavalry charge.

            It’s perhaps worth pointing out why phalanxes declined in the first place. The Roman manipular and cohortal legion: small units of heavy infantry, armed with sword, shield and javelin, who could outmaneuvre the inflexible phalanx and pull open gaps into which the more agile legionaries would pour. Interestingly, no-one really tried that much in the late mediaeval period before the arrival of guns, which could blast a hole into the regular ranks and so offered an alternative approach. I suspect because it required an essentially professional army, and by the time there were really professional militaries, gunpowder had already been invented.

        3. meyerkev248

          Or in other words, to use Total War terms:

          * The way to beat a Horse Archer faction is to walk to their nearest city and fight in a siege. If you send in 3 armies, 2 will get gutted in a field fight trading arrows, and 1 of them will make it and take their only city where they can’t run around in circles, but have to meet you on more or less even terms once you’ve blown a couple of holes in the wall. At which point Principes beat Peasant Levies.

          And since they have bupkis for infantry, they can’t take your city even while your fixed defences are gutting them alive. There’s a reason why Eastern Roman Empire “strategy” in RTW:BI basically boils down to “Bleed them on the fords, then fall back on Constantinople and win repeatedly while outnumbered 6:1”.

          * If they force you into a field battle, bunker down, use your archers as counter-battery fire, and try to trap them when they get close. If there’s a hill and/or forest or some form of “rough terrain”, even better. They’re mobile, but light.

          You might not WIN against a properly handled force, but you can probably bleed them.

          And meanwhile, if your infantry force is still standing when they run out of arrows/patience/stamina, then now their very light, very shiny horse archers either have to retreat and you get to keep walking towards their [Thing that they have to make a stand on], or charge you and you get to use my properly handled um… anything that’s good against light cavalry charges to kill them.

          1. Richard Gadsden

            This is why the Mongols, who weren’t useless at sieges and had decent-quality infantry, competent logistics, and artillery as well as their cavalry, were the terrors of the world.

      3. alexp

        The best way to beat mounted archers was typically foot archers or crossbowmen. Foot archers were generally more accurate and had better range since they could brace themselves against the ground and had a more stable platform. They could use larger bows. Also horse archers were larger targets.

        The Late Roman empire actually used armored horse archers, but they were rare and expensive.

        Also, in the absence of modern communications or coordination, horse archers would often find themselves getting too close to heavy cavalry or in between heavy cavalry and some sort of obstacle, be it a swamp, rocky terrain, or other soldiers. It happened quite a bit in the early Crusades.

        1. Tibor

          The late Empire maybe, but during Crassus’ campaign and the next 200 years or so, Roman army only employed such troops as Auxiliaries, foot archers were not used much either, still they managed to win against the Parthians several times.

          I guess the explanation given by Stefan makes most sense. It has also been said that the most fearsome weapon of the legionary was his shovel 🙂

      4. John Schilling

        Against horse archers, ideally you use foot archers. The bows are more powerful and longer-reaching, but more importantly the horses are much easier targets. Might as well send horse cavalry to charge machine guns.

        If you don’t have enough archers to matter, you use armor, shields, and discipline. Even foot archery is mostly just for harassment against a shield wall, particularly one backed by maille[*]. Horse archers will exhaust their quivers, their stamina, and their patience before they can inflict tactically significant casualties against disciplined heavy foot. Keep marching when you can, be a bit smart about it, and you’ll eventually back the horse archers into a corner where they have to stand and fight. See e.g. Dorylaeum

        The trick is that you have to keep your soldiers from breaking ranks to chase after the horse archers, when the only other thing they can do is stand and be shot at, often bleeding and occasionally watching their comrades dying. Even the Romans couldn’t always manage that level of discipline.

        [*] Which, historically, usually did provide good but not perfect protection against arrows.

      5. Ilya Shpitser

        > but I am not sure why a proper response to the invention of stirrups and subsequent
        > dominance of armoured knights on the battlefield was not countered by a reinvention
        > of the phalanx

        But it was. Swiss pike/halberd formations were feared in Europe. At one point, they even drastically changed the map of Europe (because the last Burgundian duke, Charles the Bold, was supposedly killed by a Swiss halberdier).

        Later, as firearms got better, people started doing pike&shot formations against cavalry, and people used pike formations almost until the american civil war. Phalanx ideas were with us all the way until spears gave way to firearms, e.g. the infantry square.

        1. Tibor

          What about the time between the invention of stirrups and some 15-16th century when Swiss pikemen became a thing?

          1. Stefan Drinic


            The rest of the gap is explained by the time it takes to go from stirrups to actual heavy cavalry, which took its sweet time, and then again the time it took to find out ways to battle such armies.

          2. LHN

            I don’t know what the current state of the research is, but this author who’s experimented with medieval heavy cavalry tactics argues that the stirrup isn’t as critical to charging with a couched lance as historians have thought.

            His basic verdict is that they’re useful for steadiness in melee before and after the impact, and for horse archery– which explains why they developed where they did. But he found the energy of a charge was channeled through the saddle and the rider’s body, and he was able to deliver similar force without fear of being unseated with and without stirrups.

          3. Stefan Drinic

            That might very well explain why cataphracts and Alexander’s companions could be a thing, actually. Huh.

          4. Stefan Drinic

            It was in some areas, and the cons of medieval heavy cavalry remain. When you’re up against a disciplined force of infantrists, charging into their ranks will not do you any good.

          5. Tibor

            Stefan: So you are saying that the medieval heavy cavalry became so dominant mostly because there were no/not enough professional footmen to counter it (at first at least)?

            Then why did some of the knights not become footsoldiers instead? Is it because that requires more training in large groups of people who then also go into battle together, whereas the knights could practise more individually? Or to put it better – that the heavy infantry requires a higher level of organization in order to be any good which was beyond the capabilities of the states of the early-high medieval period?

          6. Nornagest

            Knights actually did fight dismounted pretty often. I’m not an expert in this particular area, but I’d guess they didn’t end up recapitulating hoplite tactics for social more than economic reasons: while the classical Greek citizen classes all lived in the same place, the medieval European warrior aristocracy was spread out all over a mostly rural society and wouldn’t have had the opportunity to train en masse very often.

          7. John Schilling

            Then why did some of the knights not become footsoldiers instead? Is it because that requires more training in large groups of people who then also go into battle together, whereas the knights could practise more individually?

            Knights, while generally quite skilled, were also generally undisciplined as a class. Warriors rather than soldiers, fighting for personal fortune and glory and likely some brand of tribal loyalty that doesn’t extend to the whole of an army. Prone to do damn fool things like chase after horse archers.

            If you have undisciplined fighting men, you are generally better off arranging for the best of them to be highly skilled, well equipped, and mounted on the fastest horses you can find – the strength of such an “army” will be disproportionately in its greatest warriors, so that’s where you focus. With disciplined men, you are better off arranging for consistency in training and equipment and fighting in close formation – here it is the weakest man in the line that will lead to the army breaking and running. But if the army doesn’t break and run, it is nearly unbeatable even against skilled, mounted warriors. Discipline trumps just about everything else in battle.

            As the “middle ages” progressed, armies got generally better at discipline. The better knights started learning to fight dismounted and in close formation, and were nigh-unbeatable when they did. Eventually they were displaced by professional heavy foot, or sometimes well-disciplined conscript heavy foot, with only a small force of cavalry (maybe vestigial knights) for the specialized missions that still required the extra dose of mobility.

          8. Cet3

            I remember reading that European monarchs (off the top of my head, Stephen I and John I of England, and Emperor Otto IV) were paying good money for mercenary pikemen in the 12th and 13th centuries, though I’m sketchy on the details. The mercenaries were hired from Flanders, I think.

      6. Urstoff

        I thought in general ancient archers just weren’t very effective because a shortbow simply can’t do that much damage to a person in armor.

    2. John Schilling

      I would consider the Sagas to be about as reliable a record of Icelandic warfare as I would consider Hollywood movies to be for the modern version. Maybe throw newspapers into the mix. But between the Sagas, the reports of their enemies, archaeology, and recreationist efforts, it’s pretty clear that the Celtic and Germanic tribal societies did favor sword-and-shield combat through about the tenth century. And that they didn’t suffer greatly for this so long as warfare was basically a matter of small-scale raids.

      When they encountered civilized societies whose armies could form a decent shield wall, they started losing battles until they responded in kind. The evolution of the atgeir into the swordstaff, in particular, seems to signify the increasing importance of polearm tactics, but I don’t have much data on the timeline for that.

  40. JonCB

    RE: Medieval Fighting…

    For someone of his stated credentials there seems a lot to be desired about this post. I was going to do a much deeper post but finding the documentation that I would owe this forum while at work is going to be difficult. So just some thoughts, which i can unpack if anyone has an interest.

    Swords: There is almost as much variance in swords as there is in every other weapon available… as such any section that talks about “Swords” is going to have problems. Long swords as purely a knightly weapon is a myth… documentation exists of Archers being required to carry Long Swords as an example.

    Leather Armour: As it is written I have massive problems with this section. I think it’s probably not completely wrong if you’re hugely specific about semantics and period but if your period isn’t “Late medieval” and your semantics aren’t “only leather on all the places” then I think you’ll have a hard time proving “Historically, this does not really exist” since i’m pretty sure I have seen documentation showing otherwise. Off the top of my head… Leather Lamellar and Leather Bracers.

    Maille: This section i’m mostly OK with with two additional points. Firstly, Maille has a funny history of effectiveness with both extremes being commonly documented (and tested in the modern setting). I wouldn’t consider this point settled at all. Secondly, Good maille becomes quite heavy if you’re not wearing it correctly. Anyone who watched the episode where the mythbusters build team tried to do an obstacle course in maille has seen what happens if you don’t belt your mail tightly on your hips.

    Plate: This section is a mixed bag. The information about movement in plate is mostly right although I think it downplays the restrictions a little particularly on mid to low quality plate. Targetting the visor or the joints was FAR from a supernatural thing, it was something people trained for. The wrestling (that was mentioned) changes subtly compared to unarmoured combat because the movement restriction of armour can be used to cripple(e.g. joint locks that will separate shoulders). Fior Di Battaglia(an Italian fighting manual) specialised in this.

    Bows: This seems a little more ad hominem that it should be but i’ve seen plenty of panning of his video source as being basically wrong about any statement it made about historical bow-work. I don’t fundamentally disagree with his points except to suggest that it’s a whole lot more complex than is portrayed here.

  41. DrBeat

    Just summarizing that story as “Milo Yiannopolous says Milo Yiannopolous is the only decent tech journalist left” criminally undercredits it.

    First, he has a point, in that the subject of the story is the UN Women report on “cyberviolence against women”, that other tech journalists were talking about, and somehow none of them noticed that this report was an absolute disasterpiece. So Yiannopolous is asking, very fairly given the context, “How in God’s name am I the first one to be talking about this? Why am I the only one who read it?” The story is less “Yiannopolous reports Yiannopolous is fantastic, wonderful tech journalist with pleasing scent” and more “Yiannopolous reports Yiannopolous is only tech journalist who did not fuck up so badly as to get his penis stuck in a toaster.” If everyone around you has their dick stuck in a toaster, I think you get to say you are the most competent person there.

    Second, reporting it as just “Yiannopolous says Yiannopolous is best tech journalist” tries to act as though his self-conception is the entire story, and not the utter catastrophe that is the “cyber violence against women” report.

    1. Mitch Lindgren

      Well said. I have mixed feelings about Milo, to say the least, but I think you’re correct about his intent here. I also think the article was a little bit tongue-in-cheek, as that’s very much his style.

    2. James

      But I feel like linking to the piece at all is a tacit acknowledgement that it has merit. The jokey summary is just an extra little flourish/aside.

    3. Anatoly

      “How in God’s name am I the first one to be talking about this? Why am I the only one who read it?”

      Maybe because it doesn’t matter? The UN is a vast bureaucracy that produces thousands of meaningless reports every year. Is this one different? why? what’re the real-world consequences of its production?

      1. suntzuanime

        That would be a reasonable position to take if the other outlets did not mention the report at all, but they talked about the report as if it were meaningful and important. If you’re going to be reporting on the issuing of a document and talking about what it means, reading the document seems like basic journalistic due diligence.

      2. Robert Liguori

        I think that there’s a host of people willing to pretend that a terrible meaningless report is both good and meaningful, and only one willing to say otherwise, is pretty newsworthy.

        Of course, I haven’t read the report myself. Has anyone here? Would they like to weigh in?

        1. suntzuanime

          It’s a badly written attempt to push for more censorship in the name of protecting women from cyberviolence, which is recognized as just as lethal as physical violence. It represents a typical European view of freedom of speech, which is to say you’re free to say anything that doesn’t bother anyone. Nothing really surprising except how badly sourced it is, but the media giving it play are definitely trying to push an agenda and deserve to be a little embarrassed.

          1. Artemium

            It is even worse when you compare all the publicity that this report got with some major world issues that should be much important to feminist causes. (like freaking S.Arabia being a member of that same Human Rights committee at UN).

          2. unsafeideas

            Fascinating take, given that Americans tend to be way more sensitive then Europeans lately. Especially when it comes to what supposedly offend supposedly all women. It is American game critics that lately call games misogynists for the crime of breasts being bigger c-cup and it is Americans who get offended the most and then demand this or that person to be fired or removed.

        2. Ever An Anon

          Haven’t read it either, but the the thing has been getting a pretty good kicking online. Some people online with more free time than I have poured over the thing and found some really bizarre bits.

          My favorite is that one of the citations is a link to a file on the writer’s own hard drive, and when the file itself (a pilot study on the use of WhatsApp in India I believe) was dug up its authors explicitly warn people not to generalize from their results in exactly the way the report did. And it’s not like it was a great study to begin with either.

          Another gem is that its definition of violence against women and girls includes “blasphemous libel,” without any explanation of why or how that could be construed as violence or even being particularly directed against women. Maybe insulting the Virgin Mary? Odd thing to put in a VAWG report anyhow.

          1. Brian

            My preferred footnote was the one that described Hasbro as “Hasbro Interactive: Official U.S. distributor of Pokémon (abbreviation for “Pocket Monsters”), the killing game designed for toddlers beginning at 2 and 3 years old; Dungeons and Dragons, the medieval satanic and magic fantasy game; Risk II, a “ruthless quest for world domination”. One of the Hasbro Board members is Paul Wolfowitz, the co-head of George W. Bush’s team of foreign policy advisors.”

            UN, everyone in this room is now dumber for having read your report. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

          2. Nornagest

            That’s the most metal description of Hasbro I’ve ever heard.

            Granted, I haven’t heard a lot of them.

          3. John Schilling

            Hasbro is now also the official distributor of Diplomacy, the game that teaches the values of lying, cheating, treachery, and betrayal. Also a ruthless quest for world domination.

          4. SFG

            E. Harding: yeah, but given that it seems to be started by three brothers, one named Hillel, most likely it was founded as a family firm and I’d expect some carry-over.

            I actually do think Jewish over-representation in media affects policy toward Israel, but Transformers and D&D…sorry, having a hard time feeling the outrage.

          5. BBA

            Hoo boy. The citation to a 15-year-old paper by a LaRouche affiliate is just embarrassing. As batshit conspiracy theories go, LaRoucheism is barely more coherent than Lizard People or Time Cube. And that line about “blasphemous libel” was pretty transparently dropped in there to get a religious-conservative state on the panel to endorse the report.

            Clearly this report was not meant to be read, it was meant to be shoved in people’s faces.

          6. Susebron

            “The objective is not to ‘drive’ perpetrators and predators
            further underground (into the Undernet for instance)”

            According to Google, Undernet is an IRC host, not some sort of secret hidden Internet or whatever. What were they thinking?

          7. Nornagest

            Probably “darknet”. Which just means stuff not indexed by Google and is mostly painfully boring, but some of it does involve black markets and suchlike.

    4. Scott Alexander Post author

      I agree that the piece was good work. Milo decided to frame it that way, and I decided to stick with his framing.

      I am a little worried that it’s kind of silly to attack the piece for having poor references. If it had been given to a different UN staffer, maybe it would have had great references – it’s not like other people haven’t made these same points before. The references have no relation to the fundamental weirdness and philosophical problems with what they’re doing. It’s just a cheap shot – although I agree given that it’s available it’s an okay shot to take.

      1. Ever An Anon

        The sloppiness is revealing though: obvious basic errors not only slipped through whatever review process the UN has for these reports but went completely unremarked by nearly every journalist weighing in on it. Pro or con, nobody actually read it in a critical way.

        That’s the big story, not the UN’s lame apology for censorship.

      2. DrBeat

        The entire report is garbage, but since it is ideologically motivated garbage, defenders of The Ideology will say that it’s right and people who disagree must hate The Ideology and thus be evil.

        Attacking the references exposes the garbage nature of the report in a way that The Ideology cannot deflect by just layering on more of The Ideology.

        Also, what Ever an Anon said.

    5. Error

      If everyone around you has their dick stuck in a toaster, I think you get to say you are the most competent person there.

      …and my fortune file gets a new quote…

    6. anon

      I had never heard of Milo Yiannopolous before reading that article, but Milo Yiannopolous is on my RSS feed now. I can appreciate bold articles where the author is willing to stick his neck out like that, hopefully his content is as reliable as he claims.

      1. Cauê

        I can appreciate bold articles where the author is willing to stick his neck out like that, hopefully his content is as reliable as he claims

        I’ve known of him for a year (insert here the obligatory “I don’t agree with much of what he says, but”). This past year I’ve found his content to be as reliable as you hope for, which didn’t prevent him from being accused of outright lying in maybe five different articles. I found those accusations to be roughly as well sourced as this UN report.

      2. Megafire

        Milo Yiannopolous is an arrogant asshole. This is not a quality unique to him in the field of tech writers, but what is unique about him is that he’s entirely honest and straight-forward about the fact that he’s an arrogant asshole, which is honestly kind of refreshing and one of the main reasons I enjoy reading his work.

        1. 27chaos

          I prefer when people know they are arrogant assholes but recognize that as a flaw in themselves and try to compensate for it. When you know you’re an arrogant asshole but you embrace it, you can travel to crazytown at the speed of light. I think people often give too much credit to other people just for seeming “bold”, exhibit A is Donald Trump. I don’t see remarks such as that as courageous, but rather as an intentional choice to seek out a particular demographic for support, whether in the form of ad revenue or cash. Whether or not Milo ends up on the side of the truth is coincidental to what motivates him, because he’s a jerk.

  42. Nita

    This creepy Bay Area kidnapping case was so bizarre that the police said it was a hoax until the kidnapper wrote in to complain that this was unfair to the victim.

    Ugh, those emails from kidnappers reek of that smarmy tone 4channers take when they’re trying to sound “serious”.

    1. Sniffnoy

      They’re also freaking long-winded. There has to be a news site that’s summarized it well…

      (For instance, this one is mercifully much shorter, but leaves out many of the details that make the case so unusual…)

    2. anon

      It was long-winded, but worth the one-hour read. Better than a lot of fiction I’ve read, and way more interesting due to allegedly being not fiction. It’s my favorite link to come out of these links posts, yet I can’t share it with anybody because its too long to link to friends and expect them to read it.

      I’m confused by the discovery of one of them – I can imagine him suffering enough stress to panic and do something stupid like attempt a repeat shoddy kidnapping, but they stated that they destroyed most of their gear yet the stuff was found in his own home?

      I don’t get what you mean by smarmy tone. To me it read normally, but then I’m a channer so what do I know.

      1. Nita

        I don’t get what you mean by smarmy tone.

        I would like to explain, but that would involve digging for examples of channer-written “serious” texts and retyping from screenshots, both of which are tedious. So, I’ll just describe how it comes across to me: it’s like they’re trying way harder to impress an imaginary audience than to do anything more relevant (e.g., convey information).

        It’s an OK tone for communicating with the Scientology cult, but in more normal contexts it feels out of place.

        1. Zorgon

          Thank you very much. All of the supposed “letters” were ringing some kind of bell in my head and I couldn’t figure out if it was the False Flagging SJWs “Opening Up The Conversation” bell or the Creepy Stalker Obsessed With Victim bell.

  43. nimim. k.m.

    The Vox article correctly points out that equality of opportunity as an ideal utopia would actually be a dystopia. I fail to see how this is supposed to be a novel observation. Likewise, anyone who has paid any serious amount of thought to history of socialism probably see all the problems in implementing it fully. As an example related to the ideal of equal opportunity, there wasn’t to be ability to inherit ones parents’ property in the Soviet Union, at least not any significant amount, and that turned out quite problematic.

    Aldo, the criticism of social mobility statistics seems quite arbitrary:
    “Suppose we’ve actually achieved equality of opportunity, and people from poor backgrounds really do have plenty of chances to make it ahead — but none of them take those chances.”

    I don’t think these statistics are analyzed in the vacuum: quite often they are used to compare different societies. For example, quite often one cites some study shows that there is less social mobility in the US than in some other country. Would we be justified to conclude that it’s likely that there are as good or even better opportunities of social mobility in the US than in that other country, but the people in US are just not taking those opportunities? Not without analyzing what the people in the US and that other country are actually doing with their lives.

    For example, it’s probably quite likely that a study would show people universally want a better life and maybe even are trying to do something for that effect. Maybe the people in the US are doing the wrong things to achieve that (as a potential explanation to assumed social mobility study results mentioned before), but are the opportunities to do the right things real if people don’t know about how to take them? Wouldn’t it be more sensible to conclude that a real opportunity is such that people know it exists? Should we blame the poor of being poor if their ideas about how be less poor are misguided, I hope not.

    In addition, we *also* compare less abstract statistics than the ones based on the income distribution, like how likely it is for a person from a low-income family background to end up with a tertiary degree that enable a high-income profession (law, medical profession, engineering). Of course, research that would e.g. try to determine the real academic capabilities in different social groups and then compare that with the real academic outcomes is *definitely* not easy, and while most of the research supposed to do such a thing referenced in political debates is more or less problematic, I don’t agree that it’s something we shouldn’t even try to research. For genetic and parental and other environmental reasons that couldn’t be negated without totalitarian dystopia, one probably would not expect total social mobility, but it doesn’t make all attempts to measure it pointless.

    I’m also a proponent of basic income and inheritance taxes. If the utopies suck, it doesn’t mean we can’t do a better job in providing better opportunities and raising the basic level of standard of living, or an alternative world without any effort to do something reasonable to alleviate inherit problems in all human societies would somehow be more better or just. The problem is determining which is a reasonable thing and which is not.

    1. Citizensearth

      Interesting comment, but if I could just make one point:

      As an example related to the ideal of equal opportunity, there wasn’t to be ability to inherit ones parents’ property in the Soviet Union, at least not any significant amount, and that turned out quite problematic.

      Call me nuts, but its not clear to me why we’d think of their inheritence tax as the cause of, or even a significant contributor to, their disasterous problems. If they also subsidised cosmetic dentists, should we be wary of that as a potentially murderous policy? (affirming the consequent?)

      Or I may have missed your meaning somehow. Otherwise I think you make some good points.

  44. stuart

    “some problems with Chomsky’s Cambodian genocide scholarship.”

    This seems excessively kind.

    How many instances of dishonesty (much of it obviously deliberate) would it take on Chomsky’s part for you start to doubt the impressiveness of his political output? This is a serious question. His critics claim he does this a lot and are happy to provide examples.

    1. David Byron

      Is Chomsky denial part of the social culture of rationalists? I’m trying to figure out where they are most irrational.

      1. Sastan

        Chomsky is a very intelligent, very partisan, and very crazy man. I have no doubt that if his toast burned in the morning, it would somehow turn out to be the fault of the United States, globalism, capitalism and Henry Kissinger.

        On some occasions, this puts him in perfect synchronicity with the facts, but when it doesn’t, he certainly doesn’t mold his opinions to the facts. Quite the opposite.

          1. Nornagest

            I’m a Chomsky denial denialist, but I don’t think I’m a Chomsky denial denial denialist… unless I lost track of the meta-levels somewhere in there.

          2. Whatever Happened To Anonymous

            Well, it depends of whether you interpret “Chomsky denial denialism” as refusing to acknowledge “Chomsky denialism” as a thing, or as the denial of the denial of Chomsky, that is, acceptance of Chomsky.

          3. Vorkon

            I am a staunch Chomsky denialist. The man they call “Noam Chomsky” is entirely a myth. His existence is nothing more than a piece of propaganda intended to fool gullible fence-sitters toward leftist positions. All those books and essays he was purported to have written? All written anonymously, by people using a well-known pen-name in an attempt to lend credence to their theories. His work is no more real than presents left by Santa Claus, or money left by the tooth fairy.

            The figure known as “Noam Chomsky” was originally based on a mythological creature named “Chompsky,” a gnome from Slavic folklore with who was said to devour bad little children who expressed too many right-wing ideas. Opportunistic leftists coopted this existing myth to create their own boogeyman, a supposedly real-life figure who would prey upon the same fears that once caused right-wing children to shudder in their beds, in fear of being chomped up, and use that primal terror to attempt to influence their behavior as adults.

            Wake up sheeple!!!

          1. Nornagest

            I’m speaking for myself, not for the social culture of rationalists. But if you think Chomsky’s so well-attested that any criticism of him amounts to “denial”, I don’t think you’ll find many fellow travelers here. Even among our far left.

            Needless to say, I also think they’re right to be skeptical. Actually, I think I might be a little more strident than that.

      2. Randy M

        You can’t take random commenter posts here as being representative of any particular subculture (leastwise not while I’ve been posting). If you found Scott’s recent article on Chomsky’s book to be “denialism” I… think you struggle at charity and open-mindedness.

      3. stuart

        I wouldn’t call it denial in Scott’s case. He at least recognises that there might be a problem, unlike Chomsky’s fans. I just wonder how many instances of deliberate dishonesty disqualify you from being taken seriously?

        1. Nornagest

          I don’t think Chomsky was being deliberately dishonest. I think he believed every word he said about the Khmer Rouge and their little buddies, even after the regime fell and genocide memorials started popping up on the killing fields.

          I don’t know if this is better or worse, credibility-wise. At least with a liar you know where you stand. With someone capable of that much rationalization…

          1. David Friedman

            I think Chomsky was deliberately dishonest in his presentation of the evidence–treating Porter and Hildebrand’s book as a serious source. Chomsky isn’t stupid, and the book is transparently Khmer Rouge apologetics.

            But it’s possible that he really believed that there had been no mass killing.

          2. stuart

            I never quite know with Chomsky. He might have believed the there were no mass killings, but when I say deliberate dishonesty I mean his handling of source material. For example, when he writes

            “Space limitations preclude a comprehensive review, but such journals as the Far Eastern Economic Review, the London Economist, the Melbourne Journal of Politics, and others elsewhere, have provided analyses by highly qualified specialists who have studied the full range of evidence available, and who concluded that executions have numbered at most in the thousands…”

            He is referring to a letter to the editor that appeared in the Economist. He knows this, but attributes the view in the letter, Economist. I can’t see how this is not deliberately dishonest. There are plenty of other examples, of course.

    2. Beezus

      More evidence, as if any were needed, of the peculiarly sad, quixotic fate of the “Chomsky truthers” movement, peopled by a uniquely angry and desperate clutch of people. The examples are kind of amazing in how weak they are. What fascinates me about this phenomenon are that the most dedicated haters of Chomsky are on the left – usually, a particular subset of Anarcho-capitalists. Something about their particular brand of irrationality just makes them foam at the mouth over Chomsky. It’s weird.

        1. onyomi

          Most anarcho-capitalists are definitely more right-wingish than left-wingish though they might chafe at the binary. There are some, like Roderick Long, however, who call themselves “left libertarians,” yet who might also describe themselves as anarchocapitalists and love Ayn Rand.

          As discussed in Comment Sandiego, there is a problem with the word “anarchism” that it has a certain connotation due to the likes of Proudhon and the association, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, of the term with radical left wing terrorists.

          Anarcho-capitalism is, in a way, a very American sort of anarchism, I think, because it is not focused on tearing down traditional class systems and land ownership like old-fashioned left-wing anarchism. This latter preoccupation is probably, at root, a remnant of feudalism, and the history of land ownership in the UK.

          To Americans, however, the idea that the common guy needs to tear down society in order that he should not be shut out of the possibility of land ownership, however, is kind of a bizarre non sequitur. Hence, most likely, the American anarchist’s focus on eliminating the state without necessarily radically changing social norms about property ownership, etc.

          As I said in the other thread, though this is a newer “brand” of anarchism, I think it is also at least, if not more deserving of the title, since the etymology means “without rulers,” not “without a system of private property and landed gentry.”

          1. LeeEsq

            According to the works of Eugene Weber and other historians of late 19th century France, there were European anarchists that saw themselves as rightist anarchists. They never really delve that deeply into their beliefs so it is hard to figure out what distinguished themselves from leftist anarchists. From what I could tell they seemed to be aristocrats who believed that getting rid of the state would allow natural social hierarchy to govern but can’t be certain about this.

            Precedents to anarcho-capitalism do exist in 19th century America. There were American anarchist figures that weren’t hostile to land ownership. I think that seeing anarchs-capitalism as existing as a full idea before the 1960s is a bit of an anachronism.

          2. onyomi

            Yeah, I don’t. I think basically David Friedman and Murray Rothbard invented it. But I do still find it a very “American” brand of anarchism, and it is interesting to think about philosophical and cultural precedents which may have lead to it. Arguably even some Native American tribes lived in a relatively anarchic fashion as compared to the Aztecs, Inca, et al

          3. LeeEsq

            Anarcho-capitalism probably appears to be so American because most other anarchists would have argued that the market and capitalism are creatures of the state.

          4. onyomi

            Oh yeah, I tend to forget about him, and should probably read him more. Were you influenced by him when you first wrote Machinery, David, or did you come up with the ideas more independently?

      1. stuart

        This is really, really, not true. Scott’s link is enough to show that’s nonsense. The topic is a big one, effective genocide denial. And Chomsky’s dishonesty runs through the piece. Big topics, deliberate dishonesty in handling source material = weak?

      2. Mitch Lindgren

        How about this article? I don’t see how you can possibly read this and still think it’s “irrationality” from “a uniquely angry and desparate clutch of people” to say that Chomsky was badly wrong about this subject in particular.

  45. Jiro

    You are not going to have competitions between “safe” colleges and “free speech” colleges because the whole reason students feel “unsafe” is that “unsafe” has become a code word that means “do what I say or you’ve committed a Title IX violation and the government will shake you down”. You can’t compete if trying to compete puts you under the foot of the government.

  46. Toggle

    Glad to see you putting in a plug for Ex Urbe! Dr. Palmer has a really excellent and expressive way of teaching people history. I also predict that you (Scott) will get a lot out of her upcoming science fiction series, Terra Ignota, which will be published by Tor starting in May next year. They just did a cover reveal for the first volume, “Too Like the Lightning”, and let you preorder it:

    (Full disclosure: I have a congenial personal history with Dr. Palmer and am not even remotely unbiased. And I contributed a guest post to Ex Urbe once.)

    ((But seriously, read the book if you can.))

    1. Alex Binz

      Ever since I clicked the ‘Ex Urbe’ link, I have been going through her posts like mad. This is some seriously amazing stuff. The Machiavelli series in particular has both one of the clearest formulations of ethics theories *and* one of the clearest summaries of Renaissance Italian politics I’ve ever encountered. The ‘Spot the Saint’ series has given me the shortcuts to identify a whole bunch of really important stuff I never understood before in medieval and Renaissance art. Now for the ‘History of Skepticism’ series.

      Damn, this is fun!

  47. Saul Degraw

    Greenwald and Israel and students getting kicked off campus: Not buying it because of the source. Greenwald is about as biased against Israel as Mondoweiss.

    Now there have certainly been embarassments like what happened to Steve Salaita but there are plenty of examples I can think of where Zionist or at least Jewish students felt intimidated by Palestinian activists who know very little and care to learn very little about Jewish history and the causes of Zionism. My alma mater had to send up an e-mail last year because of heated rhetoric on campus and Jewish students feeling like they were getting a lot of heat and fire.

    1. suntzuanime

      In America, saying you feel “intimidated” or “like you’re getting a lot of heat and fire” is not supposed to be sufficient cause to violate someone else’s right to free speech.

      1. Saul Degraw

        I didn’t say it was but I am not buying Greenwald’s proof that there is a massive action against critics of Israel on college campuses.

        1. suntzuanime

          If anything, the existence of critics of Israel on college campuses lends support to the claim that there is a massive action against them. “How can I be killing you if you’re not all dead yet?”

      2. Citizensearth

        My initial reaction to someone saying they feel intimidated is to try find out if they are *actually* being intimidated or not, rather than just crying “social justice” or “free speech”. We’re losing our common sense judgement and reasonable reactions to people being a**holes and whingers, because we’ve become more interested in some barely applicable abstracts. I wouldn’t want lay apolitical intuition to be deciding national policy or economics, but in this case I think its entirely the appropriate approach.

    2. Held in Escrow

      I was originally really in Salaita’s camp and even followed his twitter for a while, but there were some (now deleted) super anti-Semitic shit that he posted which kind of made me think that Urbana-Champaign may have made the right decision albeit for the wrong reasons.

      That said, I can buy the story about cracking down on anti-Israeli speech. I think it’s godawful and should not be done although when you have Palestinian student groups putting up actual Nazi propaganda I can understand the drive to do something.

    3. HeelBearCub

      Greenwald has, in the past, essentially admitted his reporting is not to be trusted. His theory, as I understand it, is that all people have bias, you can’t get away from it, so you should therefore embrace it and write as an activist. I’m having trouble finding a link to when he wrote it at Salon.

      My sense is that Greenwald doesn’t believe in trying to be objective. He doesn’t want to overcome bias. He thinks his biases are right and correct and all that is good in the world. He writes almost entirely from his id. Greenwald seems like he is roughly the opposite of someone Scott should be linking to favorably.

      Toxoplasma is sort of Greenwald’s thing.

      1. 27chaos

        I have gotten the same impression from Greenwald. At the same time, some of the stories he’s written have been pretty good. I don’t trust him, but he is good for scouting out ideas in a certain story area.

        1. HeelBearCub

          I can’t stand him. Every time I try and read something by him, the intellectual seams seem to show. I perceive him to be lying, rather than mistaken. He essentially says he is willing to lie in support of his chosen causes, so I really don’t know why I would waste time reading him.

          I mean, sure, read him as you would an opposing viewpoint. But the opposing viewpoint he represents isn’t ideological, but methodological. Read him to find out how to spot and combat dishonest discourse.

          I find the level of effort required to wade through something like that to be too much. Much like trying to engage with a troll in an online forum, it just seems unlikely to generate positive results.

          1. 27chaos

            He was the first person I ever read who was severely critical of US foreign policy in the Middle East. I’m probably inclined to give him more credit than he deserves for that.

      2. houseboatonstyx

        [Greenwald’s] theory, as I understand it, is that all people have bias, you can’t get away from it, so you should therefore embrace it and write as an activist.

        That may be a good thing up to a certain level. I’d rather see a writer’s bias admitted and zis side presented fully, so I can read someone on the other side thereby getting both sides. When writers present as impartial, you don’t know which side’s facts they may not be mentioning.

        But that’s just up to a certain level. It is (was?) nice to at the top level have a few newspapers of record whose facts we can trust to be complete and accurate.

        1. HeelBearCub

          Oh, I agree that it’s good to know people’s bias.

          But, Greenwald seems to take this to a level that is more “PR representative for my chosen cause”. That’s different than even an editorial page opinion piece.

  48. Steve Johnson

    Mark Zuckerberg donated $100 million to fix the Newark school system. It mostly failed. Some speculation about why. One example where donations without systemic change didn’t do any good.

    Why is China, which has a billion people and lots of money, so terrible at soccer?

    Genetic differences explain 24% of between-national-populations differences in height and 8% of between-national-populations in BMI across Europe. Now that the only two massively polygenic traits that vary among national populations have been successfully studied, I look forward to never seeing any further research of this sort ever again.

    I somehow suspect there’s a common thread here but I just can’t tease it out.

          1. Michael Watts

            I don’t think so; cultural pressure can make its mark on the whole distribution. One key difference here is that genetic restrictions just happen, while cultural restrictions are (potentially, and commonly) enforced.

            Another difference is related to the absurdity of thinking that a population of a billion can overcome, by sheer numbers, the cultural deficiency of not speaking French. They can’t, and a country of a billion with no cultural interest in soccer is unlikely to produce much in the way of soccer players. (The analogy here is not exact, but I think it’s good enough to be relevant.)

          2. Michael Watts

            I bet you could find a soccer team’s worth of perfectly fluent speakers of French in China.

            This misses the point. They didn’t get that way through random variation that permits people to occasionally know French. The only way to learn French is by being instructed. Without the influence of existing French speakers, no amount of variation will ever result in French.

          3. suntzuanime

            And no matter how much genetic variation, a population of consisting of common earthworms will not produce a competent soccer team. Neither seems true of the Chinese.

            (In theory, French could be reconstructed by random chance, but I will grant you’ll want a lot more than a billion people to do that.)

          4. drethelin

            Cultural or political “deficiency” changes the incentive structure for said tail-people. It’s possible that picking among the Chinese you could assemble a world class soccer team, but that there are not enough incentives to gather these people together as-is. Perhaps there just isn’t enough popular interest to pay potentially world-class athletes to play soccer as opposed to engaging in some other activity.

          5. alexp

            Hence Yao Ming.

            However, it is indicative of the problems with Chinese State sponsored centralized sports development that it never managed to develop anyone like Jeremy Lin. While Jeremy Lin turned out to be nothing more than a flash in the pan, it says something that by far the best ethnically Chinese point guard ever is Taiwanese man who was born and raised in the United States.

            And unlike in basketball, there is not one easily measured physical trait that can predict soccer skill.

          6. Scott Alexander Post author

            The Jeremy Lin thing is why I brought up academics as well. IIRC no Chinese person in China has ever won a Nobel in science. Eight Chinese people outside China have – four born outside China, and four who left China before they became famous. Clearly China is doing something wrong in the sciences, but I don’t know if it’s just “not being as rich and having as much existing infrastructure as the West” or something deeper.

          7. keranih

            @Scott –

            IIRC no Chinese person in China has ever won a Nobel in science. [snip] Clearly China is doing something wrong in the sciences…

            Alternate hypothesis – the Nobel Prize is an award rooted in Western values of [something, maybe individualism? solitary achievement?] that are not expressed in the same way in Chinese culture. Ergo, the number of people acting in a way that would ultimately result in a recognition by the Nobel Prize committee is far lower in China than in parts of the world more heavily emphasized by the West.

            In other words, it’s maybe not the science in China that is lacking, but our metric (ie, whatever the Nobel committee uses) is maybe biased in a way that emphasizes specific Western-type achievement over more general human science achievement.

            Without 40 planets and 10K years to establish a baseline for average human normal, I’m not sure that we could get a good answer.

          8. John Schilling

            This. The scientific Nobels go to no more than three individual human scientists; if a particular scientific community emphasizes group-level efforts and every publication starts with the name of the research institute followed by an author list that reads like the first chapter of the New Testament, that’s not a recipe for Nobels.

            It’s not that we’ll remain wholly ignorant of the names of the top Chinese scientists, but they won’t stick out in our memories in the way that makes them an obvious pick for individual awards.

          9. Whatever Happened To Anonymous

            >In other words, it’s maybe not the science in China that is lacking, but our metric (ie, whatever the Nobel committee uses) is maybe biased in a way that emphasizes specific Western-type achievement over more general human science achievement.

            That’s a fine sounding theory, but you’d have to explain what makes “Chinese science” different than “Western science”, so that there could be a distinction. Preferably some chinese discovery that could’ve won an award if it weren’t for bias.

            EDIT: Ninja’d with part of what I was asking for.

          10. anon

            Could’ve sworn that it was here I read a post about how the Russian scientific community is so isolated from the West that we’re independently rediscovering drugs they made decades ago. Not because of intentional obfuscation but simply because the Russian scientists of the last century didn’t bother translating their stuff in English.

            I would assume the same is happening with Chinese Nobels.

          11. Douglas Knight

            Anon, perhaps you are thinking of this by Scott, about Russian drugs. But it doesn’t have any examples of the drugs being rediscovered in the West. You may be interested in me on abiotic oil.

            In the 50s and 60s, the Soviets did great work on pure math that the West didn’t hear about, but that was more than a language barrier. Part of it was that the Soviets didn’t want it disseminated. Another part was that publication was very politicized. Now that there are lots of Russian academics in the West, the language barrier is largely gone. Same with Chinese. The language barrier is a bigger deal with Japan.

            Moreover, current academics in China do translate their work because Western journals are much more prestigious.

        1. Richard Gadsden

          East Germans cheated, especially in women’s sports.

          … with PEDs, there’s cheating and cheating, but the DDR did the real stuff.

          People will voluntarily take PEDs that increase their risk of being physically disabled at 50 and even their risk of heart attack at 50. Very few non-transmen will voluntarily take androgens. You go pumping large doses of androgens into teenage girls/young women without their consent, and that’s something that I think even those who think that athletes should be allowed to risk their own health with PEDs would oppose.

          China had a period when they used EPO in women’s long-distance running before there was a test. All the women’s long-distance track records are still held by Chinese women from the early nineties.

          State support for using drugs makes it a lot easier for athletes to use them without getting caught.

  49. Steve Johnson

    Outside observers point out basic statistical error, actual results show no gender bias at all. Original authors say it doesn’t matter and the Dutch scientific community is still sexist because grant review forms use “gendered language” like the word “excellent” which is apparently “male-coded”. Dutch establishment says reform and gender awareness programs are “still a good idea, regardless of the paper’s quality”, and vow to push ahead. Why are we even bothering to do science anymore? Why don’t we just write the only acceptable conclusion on a piece of paper beforehand and save however much it cost to do the study?

    But Scott, that’s exactly what we have now.

  50. E. Harding

    Other than work on the START treaty and support for adopted children, none of Hillary’s accomplishments listed are persuasive positives. The Iran sanctions were a net minus (it was the Syrian Civil War that forced Iran into desperation; the Syrian Civil War also had a lot to do with Hillary’s foreign policy, but not in a good way). Iran is not a threat, has no nuclear weapons, will never have nuclear weapons, and has never had any intention to acquire nuclear weapons. Sanctions on Iran were merely a spiteful move to cripple the livelihoods of the Iranian people. Any person who supported them or views them as a great accomplishment is of dubious ethical principles. Also, remember Benghazi. Not the four Americans -those are simply a minuscule fraction of the hundreds upon hundreds of lives that perished in that city since 2011 thanks solely to Obama/Hillary. Had Gaddafi recaptured the city in a few days (which would have happened had not NATO intervened), there would be no Mediterranean migrant crisis and no second Libyan Civil War. Though there’s no question lots of people would have died, there would have been far fewer than actually did. As Secretary of State, Hillary was merely another tentacle of the Great Satan. Under her, the world is a less safe and more militantly Islamistic. The killing of Bin Laden was merely a cruel, deceptive farce. It was only after Bin Laden was killed when militant Islamists started taking territory in Syria, in Iraq (post-Bush), and in Libya.

    Enough nepotism. Trump 2016!

    1. Zebram

      I don’t see anything wrong with nepotism per se. Trump’s company is going to be left to his children, which I have no problem with. It’s his company, after all, not mine. Of course, that is a private company atleast nominally in the ‘free’ market, while government is an involuntary organization.

      1. E. Harding

        Political dynasties are much more powerful and insidious than economic ones. When inherited, wealth trickles down. Political power does not. No matter what Moldbug says, hereditary monarchy is not the way to go.

      1. E. Harding

        This is not a parody. I’ve expressed these views pretty consistently. I also correctly publicly predicted there would be no U.S. attack on Syria in Summer-Fall 2013 because the U.S. doesn’t really want the Syrian government to fall -then it would actually have to build something up. It wants planned chaos. And the Syrian government is weak, so any bombing would put it at risk of falling.

        I also have a conspiracy theory that the U.S. government didn’t really want us to believe Syrian government forces launched those chemical weapons in August 2013, even though they pretty obviously did. They gave evidence for it, but that evidence was so unconvincing, everyone put it in the same bucket as Iraqi WMDs. The conspiracy theory sounds plausible, but is by no means certain.

        But, in any case, the above was a point to establish my credibility and an aside. It wasn’t meant to go this badly off-topic.

        1. CatCube

          I think your statement “It [the USG] wants planned chaos.” confuses “having no political will or good options” with “cunning plan.”

          If the US is ruling the world, then trust me, ruling the world is not as cool as it sounds.

          1. E. Harding

            No political will or no good options is one thing: not kicking Turkey out of NATO, not verbally condemning Turkey and the Turkish people at every opportunity, launching strikes against AQ in Yemen, but doing nothing to prevent it from gaining territory, overthrowing the government of Libya, supporting the ouster of Assad in words, if not in concrete steppes, sanctioning Syria, opposing Russia’s attempts to strengthen and expand the Syrian government’s realm of control, and throwing around fireworks at IS positions while not actually using them to prevent IS expansion (except into Erbil) and pretending something has been accomplished to make the world safer is quite another. This is assuming the U.S. is not giving orders to the Islamic State, which it may well be doing. The U.S. has larger error bars for preferred IS success than Russia has with Novorossiya. Again, the U.S. gov’t wants planned chaos. It is not indecisive. If it was, I’d expect total isolation from the region and its conflicts (no airstrikes!), plus the removal of sanctions on Syria.

            The U.S. does not rule the world. For example, it can only rule Afghanistan using Stalin-level cruelty (which it is not willing to directly commit to), and can never rule Donbass while Putin’s in power, despite the pretensions of a thousand neocons. It also does not rule China.

          2. CatCube

            I was deployed to Kuwait during late 2013-mid 2014. I’m not very high up in the decisionmaking process, but I’m pretty confident in my “indecision” assessment, having had to deal with decisions (or lack thereof).

            Complete disengagement like you’re saying would be a decisive move, as it would be an unambiguous signal of priorities and necessitate breaking alliances of 20 years (Kuwait and KSA, primarily). Muddling on from where they were when ISIS started to pick up steam without making waves, which is what is going on, signals indecision.

            Oh, and “This is assuming the U.S. is not giving orders to the Islamic State, which it may well be doing,”? Hahahahahaha!

          3. Doctor Mist

            “This is assuming the U.S. is not giving orders to the Islamic State, which it may well be doing,”

            Wow. Yeah, I skimmed right over that. That is seriously fringe.

            E. Harding, did you get carried away in your own rhetoric (something I’ve been known to do myself, if truth be told)? Or is that something you really credit as possible?

          4. E. Harding

            Yeah, I’m willing to credit it as possible. It’s more far-fetched than Russia giving orders to Donetsk+Luhansk republics (roughly 99% probability), but it’s not out of the ballpark. I give it 30% probability, at the very least.

            If it really is indecision, it’s still bad. “Assad must go”, but no decisive aid to rebels, or airstrikes on Assad. “IS must go”+airstrikes, but no aid to Assad, or any significant ground coordination with anyone, except with the Syrian Kurds in Kobani/Tell Abyad. I don’t think the President is that stupid. He’s as smart as I am, if not smarter. I suspect planned chaos, not unplanned chaos.

            I don’t mind being seriously fringe when the evidence favors my opinions. Who do you think is more seriously fringe, “kill Erdogan” me or Tom “attack Russian planes” Cotton?

          5. Doctor Mist

            @E. Harding:

            I give it 30% probability, at the very least.

            If you really think the U.S. government could put together a plan like that, carry it out, and keep it a secret, I begin to see, at last, that leftists might be sincere in their (to my mind) insane assertion that a centrally-planned economy makes any sense at all. My mind boggles.

            If it really is indecision, it’s still bad.

            No argument here.

            I don’t remember what you said about Erdogan. Cotton’s suggestion about attacking Russian planes is certainly fringe, but — how shall I say this — it’s one thing to believe a false thing about future consequences, and another thing to believe a false thing about present circumstances.

            Also, I would strongly suspect that Cotton’s remarks are rhetoric, safe to make because he knows there is no chance his proposal would be acted on. You’ll recall, I was willing to give you the same benefit of the doubt, but you only accepted 70% of it. 🙂

          6. E. Harding

            I think a centrally planned economy makes sense; it’s just really inefficient, can hold decent countries back if without proper leadership (e.g., North Korea) and doesn’t really work well at directly satisfying consumer preferences. Also, when a centrally planned economy transitions to capitalism, convergence with the capitalist countries becomes very difficult due to the costs of forming entirely new institutions.

            Is Russia significantly influencing (if not directly controlling) the decisions of Novorossiya secret? Just up the secrecy some levels, and you can have the U.S. secretly controlling IS.

          7. Doctor Mist

            Is Russia significantly influencing (if not directly controlling) the decisions of Novorossiya secret?

            No, not at all.

            Just up the secrecy some levels, and you can have the U.S. secretly controlling IS.

            A lot of levels.

            Not to mention a free press, and an opposition party, and no gulags or polonium poisoning.

            But I have to say, I do consider the requisite secrecy to be the smallest obstacle. As little regard as I have for the people in our current administration, and as wrong-headed as I think their policies are, it bemuses me that apparently I still hold their character in higher regard than you do.

          8. HeelBearCub

            @Doctor Mist:
            Do you have some previous knowledge that E. Harding is left-leaning? Because I don’t read that off him, but you seem to be…

          9. Whatever Happened to Anonymous

            It’s irrelevant whether they are left leaning or not. The point is that if there’s people who think the US governemnt is capable of all the machinations necessary to control IS and keep it a secret, it’s perfectly believable that someone would think a centrally planned economy works.

          10. Doctor Mist


            Do you have some previous knowledge that E. Harding is left-leaning?

            Wow, thank you! Looking back over a number of threads, I cannot see where I got that idea. That removes a bunch of my confusion — I took the idea that America is evil enough to be running ISIS to be more leftist than rightist, but could not reconcile that with the idea that Obama is evil enough to be running ISIS, which seems more rightist than leftist.

            I hereby forgive you for mixing me up with Dr. Beat. 🙂

            Except I don’t know whether I was mixing up E. Harding with somebody else or just dropping him into a frame and then not listening after that. Sigh.

            In future I will try to do better.

          11. Doctor Mist

            @Whatever Happened to Anonymous:

            What you say is true, but the force of the argument is weaker. Yes, for any nonsensical idea you can probably find somebody who espouses it, but that’s sort of not very interesting.

            In contrast, I thought I had teased out something more intriguing. The leftist assertion that the U.S. government could plan the economy effectively could just be wishful thinking or hero worship, but in that case wouldn’t tend to be paired with fears that the U.S. government would do evil things with equal effectiveness. I thought I had detected a leftist mindset that was being applied consistently, with surprising results.

            I was misguided. Never mind.

            (E. Harding, sorry for talking about you behind your back in front of you.)

          12. HeelBearCub

            @Doctor Mist:
            To be fair, there are some things they said that could drop into a “non-interventionist left” framework. I just read the totality of what they are saying as more likely to be “non-interventionist, libertarian right”. I am not even saying that I know what the right odds are to put on E. Harding being on the “right”.

            But, yes, I thought you were reading them as definitely left, and that seemed unwarranted. Thank you for being so gracious about it.

          13. E. Harding

            Not to mention a free press, and an opposition party,

            -Most people in Russia accept the press is generally not free* , but it really doesn’t matter. The Internet is free. Russian TV does a lot more frontline Novorossiya coverage than American, from which you can readily infer the Novorossiya troops are being backed copiously by Russian military equipment&expertise. Pretty much all the news Americans hear about Russia is covered on Russian TV, as well.

            Russia has an opposition party: the Communist party.

            Russia’s gulag days have long been over.


            I think I lean far right, but what do I know? My favorite bloggers are Scott Sumner (who is God), Steve Sailer, and our host, Scott.

            A. Karlin (Russian/British/American HBD/Russia/Social Science blogger) and The Right Stuff (warning: leans Nazi) are also good. I think searching through my blog posts and Disqus comments would help confirm my place on the far right.

            I’m not non-interventionist per se. I was formerly non-interventionist libertarian, but I moved away from both of these in 2011-2013. I supported the French intervention in Mali and would support an intervention in Libya, Iraq, and Syria for the same purpose. I totally oppose the present-day allied interventions in Yemen, Syria, and Iraq, as they either have no real on-the-ground effect or are backing the wrong side, or just add more destruction in the midst of a bad situation, or all three.

            BTW, I supported Obama as opposed to Romney (hack! hack! hack!) in 2012, but I regretted it later, due to the rise of the Islamic State (which only began in 2013).

            “(E. Harding, sorry for talking about you behind your back in front of you.)”

            -Don’t worry about it. But, in any case, if you desire to find out what positions a person holds, look at what he writes.

            BTW, I’m Russian-American, in case you were wondering. Gentile, unlike in Scott’s case, and of more recent immigrant origin, so I make fewer errors about the country than our host.

            “As little regard as I have for the people in our current administration, and as wrong-headed as I think their policies are, it bemuses me that apparently I still hold their character in higher regard than you do.”

            -Again, I believe Obama is smart, about as smart as I am, if not more so. He’s a former constitutional law professor, for goodness’ sake! So if he’s as smart as I am, if not more so, he should see the consequences of his actions. I do. He very, very likely does as well. Hillary, too. As I cannot accept “stupid” or “ignorant” in these situations, I must accept “evil”. Kerry and Trump are a different story, and are probably poor enough thinkers to not to comprehend the whole picture.

          14. Agronomous

            E. Harding wrote:

            A. Karlin (Russian/British/American HBD/Russia/Social Science blogger) and The Right Stuff (warning: leans Nazi) are also good.

            Huh. Whatever.

            Wait: “leans Nazi”? “Leans Nazi”? “LEANS NAZI”?

            Maybe I better check this out….

            AAAAAAAHHHH! Holy crap! It’s like a big site parodying offhand anti-Semitism and racism that never gets to the punch line! They really believe all this crap! And they say it all in such a normal tone of voice! It’s like the nineteenth century called, and they want our minds back!

            It’s like I turned over a rock, and found a giant maggot which is infested by normal-size maggots which are infested by micro-maggots! And the rock was on my pillow!

            I’m going to have to shave my head and go be a shrill SJW for a month just to get this awful crap out of my head! (Quick, give me 10 ccs of income-inequality talking points and the flash for a Ferguson tattoo!)

            Yes, yes, theoretically I’m in favor of Niceness, Community, and Civilization, but what I’m practically in favor of right at this instant is running the fuck away!!!1!!

            TL;DR: Would Not Recommend.

          15. E. Harding

            Agronomous, see, this is what happens when you ignore warnings. I’m normally anti-TW, so the fact I put one there should have been a clue. And I do not renounce my recommendation. I read both Communists and Nazis (both of whom make awesome as well as nonsensical points), both neocons and anti-neocons, both SJWs and Steve Sailer. I don’t read Paul Krugman, though, because I generally find him a hack. Of all them, I consider neocons to be the worst, followed by Krugman. Scott Sumner is probably the best. Noah Smith would be almost as good if he was much, much less blind and deaf (though, sadly, not mute) on the subject of race. This is adjusted for respectability.

            “It’s like the nineteenth century called, and they want our minds back!”

            -Kind of the point, you know? Late 19th century U.S. immigration policy was all about “is it good for the Whites?”. When leftist thinking in establishment media gets so extreme as it does today, there has to be a reaction. At TRS, you see a part of that reaction.

            “I’m going to have to shave my head ”

            -I don’t think that would end in results concordant with your intentions. 🙂

    2. David Friedman

      “Iran is not a threat, has no nuclear weapons, will never have nuclear weapons, and has never had any intention to acquire nuclear weapons.”

      Then why are they willing to bear large costs, economic and political, to build a nuclear industry?

      I’m not arguing that they shouldn’t want nuclear weapons–given their situation, it seems an obvious policy objective if they can manage it. But I can’t see any explanation of their behavior other than trying to get them.

      1. LtWigglesworth

        One theory that I have seen is that a nuclear weapons programme basically acted as leverage in order to bring the US and other nations to the negotiating table re. sanctions.

        I don’t really buy it though. I think that the aim was to get to the point where they had a break-out period of a few months in order to act as a deterrent to Israel and Saudi Arabia (one an undeclared nuclear state, and the other the worlds 3rd largest military spender).

        However I don’t regard a nuclear Iran as a huge threat. We are living with a nuclear North Korea and a nuclear Pakistan. And the government in Tehran seems a lot more stable and sensible than that in Islamabad.

      2. E. Harding

        North Korea got nuclear weapons, at least partly during a famine. Iran could have done the same at and in the same time. The desire of the Iranian leadership to keep some kind of nuclear capability is probably due to three things:

        1. A desire to keep a civilian nuclear program running in case the oil runs out.

        2. National-pride based reasons; to show the Iranian people Iran’s independence from the West.

        3. Having an intention of getting a capability to acquire nuclear weapons is not the same as having any intention of acquiring nuclear weapons. If the Iranian leadership does have an intention of getting the capability to acquire nuclear weapons, it must have this intention due to security fears: the Middle East is a volatile place, and a capability of producing nuclear weapons at least provides better protection from the remote threat of nuclear weapons attacks or massive land invasions by Israel, the U.S., or Pakistan than no such capability. Just like if the U.S. government wants the capability to destroy Tehran, does not mean that it actually wants to destroy Tehran.

        Remember, it takes less to construct a nuclear weapon than to construct a civilian nuclear program.

        1. David Friedman

          “and a capability of producing nuclear weapons at least provides better protection from the remote threat of nuclear weapons attacks or massive land invasions by Israel, the U.S., or Pakistan than no such capability.”

          Having the capability to develop nuclear weapons is much worse protection against a nuclear attack or invasion than having nuclear weapons.

          1. John Schilling

            Having the capability to develop nuclear weapons, but not actually having nuclear weapons, is worse protection than not having the capability to develop nuclear weapons at all. You still have all the enemies you used to have, whom you have to deter or defend against with nothing but the conventional weapons you do have. You now also acquire a new set of enemies that are generally devoted to nuclear nonproliferation and/or specifically worried about what you might get up to if you do acquire nuclear weapons. These new enemies will perceive a narrow window in which they can act to stop you without themselves getting nuked, if they act quickly. And you have to deter or defend against these new enemies with just the conventional weapons you already have.

            If you have the capability to develop weapons and people believe you have actually done so, you are in somewhat better shape. But at that point you’ve already paid about the same material and political cost as if you’d actually developed nukes, your deterrence will collapse if the enemy calls your bluff or if there’s a leak in your security, and you have no defense when deterrence fails.

            Having nuclear weapons, offers substantial security advantages to dictators, rogue states, and besieged regimes everywhere. Being seen to have a nuclear-weapons or dual-use nuclear program that hasn’t actually produced any weapons yet, is a dangerously unstable position that you generally want to pass through as quickly as possible.

          2. NN

            Actually, that’s pretty much exactly the situation that Japan is in. In geopolitical analysis, they’re considered a “de facto” nuclear armed state because they have the capability to create their own nuclear bombs in a few months, should they decide to do so. This seems to have worked out pretty well for them.

      3. John Schilling

        Iran’s nuclear arms program, which at least used to be very real, was motivated by the threat of Iraq. That threat receded but did not vanish after 1991, and came back in a new and more frightening way in 2003 – now the threat was of a pro-western Iraqi regime supported and armed by the United States, sitting on Iran’s border and potentially driven by all the old grudges both Iraq and the US have with Iran.

        In 2004, news of Iran’s rather advanced nuclear program leaks out, perhaps not coincidentally or accidentally, and We Need To Talk. It isn’t clear whether Iran’s intended outcome is, A: Iran has nukes, everybody knows Iran has nukes, so no more attacking Iran, or B: Iran trades its nuclear program for diplomatic concessions in postwar Iraq that prevent the emergence of an American puppet state by e.g. giving the intrinsically pro-Iranian Shiite majority the balance of power in Iraq. During the early negotiations, the Iranians are incentivized to say the same things whichever of these goals they are pursuing. Active progress on Iran’s nuclear program slows dramatically while everyone talks about this, but there are ongoing efforts behind the scene.

        Later in the decade, it becomes clear that there isn’t going to be a strong independent or American puppet regime in Iraq, and the threat of an Iraqi invasion of Iran is about nil. And to the extent that such a threat might exist, it doesn’t take nuclear weapons for Iran to thwart it; running guns to the Iraqi Shiites will suffice. So now they have a nuclear arms program whose original purpose (whether as weapons or as bargaining chips) has evaporated. But they are still suffering sanctions for having the program, and they invested too much in it to walk away. Yes, sunk cost fallacy, but these are human beings we’re talking away.

        So, for most of the last decade, Iran’s strategy has been to try and get something of value out of all this sunk cost, even though we have little of positive value to offer Iran and little we can really threaten them with. It is unclear whether their preferred outcome is a nuclear arsenal (covert if necessary) that they have no present use for but which might be handy against some future threat, or a politically camouflaged kludge of a treaty-of-sort-of-friendship with the United States. Or, if we’re being completists, freedom to pursue their nefarious master plan of destroying Israel with nuclear fire, though that one is exceedingly unlikely. Or, also unlikely, a civilian nuclear power industry for its own sake – though until this is thoroughly settled one way or another they are going to insist on the civilian nuclear power industry as a way to keep nuclear armaments plausibly on the negotiating table.

        At this point, Iran can build nuclear weapons any time it wants, and neither the treaty nor the sanctions we had before the treaty will do much to stop that. So the original poster’s certainty that Iran never will have nuclear weapons, seems unwarranted and could use some justification.