OT31: Open Water

This is an experiment to test more frequent open threads. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. Also:

1. Six months ago I posted a therapist recommendation open thread. Since there are some new people here since then, and some people have asked for it, I have briefly reopened comments there. If you want to recommend a therapist in a certain area or are looking for such recommendations, go post them there.

2. I am experimentally tabooing the words “neoreaction”, “neoreactionary”, and “NRx” in this blog’s comments effective immediately. It’s emotionally charged and politicized in a way that I think potential substitutes aren’t. I got my first exposure to far-right ideas from the neoreactionaries and so historically I’ve viewed rightism through their lens and spread that to my readers, but I think that this emphasis was a mistake. Also, nobody agrees on what “neoreactionary” means, least of all self-identified neoreactionaries. If you want to talk about monarchists, call them monarchists. If you want to talk about traditionalists, call them traditionalists. If you want to talk about the far right, call it the far right. If you want to talk about HBD, call it HBD. If you want to talk about Mencius Moldbug, call him Mencius Moldbug. First infraction will be punished with a warning, second with burning eternally in the caldera of the Volcano God.

3. Comment of the week goes jointly to a bunch of people who pointed out that I was ignoring the evolutionary angle on prestige (example). Mistakes were made. SSC regrets the error. I still think that it’s probably not either of the two explanations I argued against there, but all I have to go on is vague intuitions I can’t verbalize, and I should have admitted that.

4. When I post a comment, for a while the page won’t let me scroll and instantly takes me back to the comment I just posted whenever I try. Does anyone else have this problem or know a way to solve it?

5. Last open thread a commenter brought up the link to MIT researcher Todd Rider’s crowdfunding campaign for DRACOs, an experimental therapy that is supposed to treat many or all viruses. I’ve heard good things about these in the past, but it seems strange that this guy has to go to crowdfunding, and it seems stranger that the crowdfunding isn’t even doing very well. I’m thinking of donating but I want more opinions first. Do any knowledgeable people (Sarah? Douglas? Anyone?) have more information or any thoughts on whether or not it’s an effective use of money?

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1,500 Responses to OT31: Open Water

  1. James says:

    “Well, dat de end of April”, Tom said in dismay.

  2. John Schilling says:

    For anyone still interested in the overpriced generic medications problem, the free market seems to have found an answer. A somewhat cumbersome one, but it works.

    Short version, you don’t have to buy pills from a giant pharmaceutical corporation. It’s still technically legal for a properly-licensed pharmacist to make them the old fashioned way, with mortar and pestle and a bottle of high-purity ingredients. There are still a few pharmacists who do that, for patients with idiosyncratic needs. It doesn’t require a $10 million FDA license, so long as you are doing it for one patient at a time using proper ingredients and methods.

    And so a company that manufactures the key ingredient for Daraprim has made it available to such “compounding pharmacists”, for the equivalent of $1/pill.

    So, yeah, if you need the stuff you’ve got to tell your doctor what a “compounding pharmacist” is, and then go find one, and pay a markup over the $1/pill ingredient price to cover the inefficient hand-crafted manufacturing work, but Shkreli doesn’t get his $750/pill and you don’t have to visit bankruptcy court. If it turns out Shkreli does, so much the better.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      So that’s how they did it! I read about that and I was confused about how they’d managed to get licensed to make the drug so quickly!

      • Deiseach says:

        And that is going back to the past for a solution. My little mediaevalist heart is gladdened 🙂

        I mean, that is what pharmacists were in the Old Days; there weren’t giant firms (or indeed any firms at all) making batches of pills and tonics (except for the patent medicine market).

        So a doctor wrote the prescription, the patient brought it to the chemist, and the chemist made it up for them. If they want to close that loophole, they’re going to have to demonstrate that modern pharmacists aren’t trained or qualified to do this, and universities that run four-year degree courses training pharmacists aren’t likely to take that lying down, never mind the professional organisations.

        RE: the comments – it does that to you, too? I thought I was the only one!

        RE: Todd Draper and his crowdfunding – that does look very peculiar, given that in January 2014 it was announced he’d be joining Draper Labs to pursue this. Wild and uninformed speculation as to a possible hypothesis that might account for this off the top of my head: the avenue he was pursuing wasn’t working, the lab asked him to drop it or try something else, he didn’t want to, so he decided to go the crowdfunding route and people what know about this stuff are saying “yeah, that’s a dead end” so it’s not taking off that way either.

        Or I could and probably am completely and totally wrong there.

    • Echo says:

      The raw milk solution, huh? Something tells me we’ll be seeing DEA raids to shut down that “loophole”.

      • John Schilling says:

        I’ll take that bet. The “loophole” has been a deliberate, known, legal, and accepted feature of the American pharmaceutical trade from day one. This is almost the sort of situation it was designed for, except that the expectation was there would be zero big pharmaceutical companies targeting a tiny niche market rather than one. The only thing that has changed is that a very unpopular pharmaceutical company loses that pseudo-monopoly.

        The only person or institution that would benefit from closing that “loophole” now, would be Shkreli and his company. Everybody else, including the feds, would gain nothing but a metric buttload of negative publicity from their aiding and abetting Mr. Burns, er, Shkreli. And no, there’s no way he can sneak them enough money to be worth that and get away with it.

        Also, I’m pretty sure the DEA doesn’t have jurisdiction. This is an FDA thing.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          What are the regulations on the raw ingredients? Can I just buy (or even sell) raw pyrimethamine? If people don’t mind taking it as a powder, is there any reason to go beyond that?

          • John Schilling says:

            For anything that isn’t a Schedule I controlled substance, I think it’s perfectly legal for a private citizen to buy the raw chemical compound and consume it themselves. IANAL, YMMV, obviously.

            If you advertise or offer it to others as a medicine, regulations start to apply. A licensed compounding pharmacist is probably the easiest path from raw chemicals to legal sale-as-a-medicine.

            And if the compound is obviously going to be used as a medication, the manufacturer may decline to sell any of it to J. Random Private Citizen. That’s pretty common even for compounds that aren’t intended for medicines, for lawsuit-avoidance reasons.

          • Erebus says:

            @John Schilling

            I believe that it’s illegal to buy & sell chemicals that are on schedules II – V, as well. It is also illegal to trade in analogs of the chemicals on schedules I-II, but not in analogs of the chemicals in other schedules, which is why adrafinil is de facto legal. Furthermore, it is illegal to trade in certain “restricted” chemicals, which are typically precursors towards the production of scheduled drugs. This poor Scottish bloke was extradited to the USA and sentenced to a few years in prison for selling red phosphorous, which is restricted but not scheduled at all. (!!)

            …All that said, pyrimethamine is neither scheduled nor listed as a restricted chemical, to the best of my knowledge. It should be perfectly legal to sell in raw powder form. “For research purposes”, say.

          • Jiro says:

            Erebus: Reading your own link, the law requires reasonable cause to believe your chemicals will be used to manufacture amphetamines. Considering they found his products in an amphetamine lab, told him about it and that it was illegal, and he continued to sell it anyway, such reasonable cause to believe did exist. Furthermore, he sold the chemicals to the US. Selling something to people in a country, that you know is illegal under that country’s laws, and then expecting to be exempt from those laws is stupid.

          • Erebus says:

            The law only states that it is illegal to manufacture/distribute chemicals which are listed as controlled without first obtaining regulatory approval. Every listed chemical can be used in the manufacture of scheduled drugs, but this is not limited to amphetamines. (Safrole is listed as a precursor to MDMA, for instance.)

            …And the guy was an idiot. But you missed my point entirely: It goes to show that you can get arrested, and be quite severely punished, for selling chemicals that are not scheduled & have zero recreational use in themselves.

            Fortunately, pyrimethamine appears to be completely legal to sell in raw powder form, so have at it.

          • John Schilling says:

            Pragmatically, what matters is whether the company will sell it to you. Aside from a few specifically-listed Compounds of Pure Evil (and yeah, it’s more complicated than just “Schedule I”, my bad), they can if they want to. And even if it isn’t strictly legal, the Feds will probably never know if they do. But they are the ones with the deep pockets, and thus liable to be sued if something really bad happens.

            For chemicals with the mediciney or explodey nature, odds are pretty good that there are very few manufacturers and that they mostly have a policy of not filling POs from random laymen who want small batches. Or small businesses that don’t jump through the right hoops. And if it is controversially mediciney, they may not even want to sell to compounding pharmacists, because who gets sued when Kindly Granny Mistletoe’s Down-Home Country Pharmacy mixes up a batch of Thalidomide for a woman who swore she wasn’t pregnant?

            In this case, the company lawyers presumably did a quick check to verify that there is no IP encumbrance to pyrimethamine, no side effects or off-label uses that are likely to lead to big lawsuits, and obviously no possibility of bad PR for being the company that helps Granny Mistletoe sell affordable pyrimethamine to toxoplasma sufferers.

          • Erebus says:

            What’s to stop somebody from importing it? They make pyrimethamine by the ton in China, and there are thousands of manufacturers and brokers. (That’s no exaggeration.) It’s not illegal to import the raw powder into the USA, either. If it’s shipped properly, with an MSDS, an invoice, and a COA, there’s less than a 1% chance that Customs will intercept the shipment or ask any questions at all. Then all you’d need to do is have the powder analyzed, and that doesn’t cost very much these days.

            In all honesty, I think that selling pyrimethamine would be less risky than selling adrafinil. And just as easy.

          • John Schilling says:

            Thousands of manufacturers is absolutely an exaggeration.

            When you see a web site in China offering to sell Exotic Compound X at a low, low price, there’s a very good chance that the company has never made any X in its existence – but if they get a big enough offer, they’ll look into making some, or maybe see if they can buy it cheap somewhere else and repackage it. Or maybe they’ll just ignore your order because it turns out that stuff is too hard to make. It costs them nothing to put the offer on their web site.

            People have tested this by asking for chemicals that don’t exist, that cannot exist, and getting offers from Chinese companies to sell it to them because, sure, that’s in our catalog, what do you think we are, some sort of inept losers who can’t make exotic chemicals?

            There might be a few places in China that actually do make and sell pyrimethamine of acceptable purity for medical use, but until you’ve got some in hand and tested it in an American lab, it’s far from a sure thing.

          • Erebus says:

            Your mistake lies in assuming that pyrimethamine is exotic. Nothing could be further from the truth.

            For a chemical like pyrimethamine, there are dozens of manufacturers, and thousands of brokers and agents who re-sell it. (There are lots of chemical brokers in China who deal in this sort of thing. China has become the world’s chemical supermarket.)

            I am aware of the fact that some companies — mostly brokers, actually — list chemicals like FOOF online & cannot hope to provide it. But this is a non sequitur — it has absolutely nothing to do with pyrimethamine, which is made in very large quantities, and which is too common and cheap to even bother faking.

          • John Schilling says:

            So now we’re down from claiming thousands of manufacturers to maybe dozens?

          • Erebus says:

            I believe I said “thousands of manufacturers and brokers”. Perhaps I was unclear, but what I meant was that there are thousands of outlets for pyrimethamine in China, when one considers the dozens of manufacturers and the army of brokers and independent middlemen who sell such things for a living. It is by no means a rare or exotic chemical — in fact, it is considerably less rare than adrafinil, which people import themselves from China all the time.

    • James says:

      Wow, that’s awesome!

      I am so excited for all the private solutions to superfluous, authoritarian states. Uber, carseats, EPA MPG requirements, security, Silk Road, etc.

      If anyone is excited like me, I’d recommend Against Security by Molotch and Against Intellectual Monopoly by Boldrin and Levine.

      “Compounding pharmacist” – makes me wanna muddle a beverage!

      • J says:

        A family member recently bought a minivan for their three kids, despite having a perfectly functional 5-seat sedan, because three car seats won’t fit in the back seat, and it’s forbidden to put car seats in the front seat. Also, kids are apparently supposed to use a car seat or booster up until something like age 11. Vans are expensive, and this one has lots of maintenance issues.

        Makes me wonder how much poverty and pollution are caused by this expectation: people buying big cars they can’t afford and wouldn’t otherwise need.

        Apparently the market is responding and there are narrower child seats that pack side-by-side better, but I hear they’re expensive.

        • Tom Davies says:

          There is a good reason for not having child seats in the front, by the way — the child is likely to be injured by an airbag.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            …itself an unintended consequence of hamfisted regulation. There’s a deadly airbag in the front passenger seat because the law requires it and the government decided the right metric to judge the suitability of an airbag was whether it could stop an average adult male.

            Upon noticing that an explosion that strong can decapitate a little kid the regulators could have chosen to make passenger-side airbags optional and left it up to the manufacturer to decide just how strong they need to be if present, thereby leaving it legal to sell cars whose front seat isn’t a deathtrap for little kids.

            But I suppose that’s just crazy talk.

          • Jules.LT says:

            In France, passenger aibags are mandatory as well as *TA-DAAA* having to have an off switch so that you can put a baby seat in the front…
            That it is not so in the US is rather surprising to me.

          • JDG1980 says:

            My car (a 2010 Honda Fit) has some sort of weight sensor in the passenger seat. If you stick something less than the weight of a full-grown adult (say, a large backpack) in the passenger seat, it will detect it and turn on a light saying the passenger airbag is disabled. I assumed this was a required safety feature.

        • Airbags are (were?) also dangerous for short adults, who are mostly women.

        • Mike in Boston says:

          I needed to fit three car seats into a 1995 Toyota Corolla, which is teeny by today’s standards. What worked for me was one Combi Coccoro in the middle with a Diono Radian on either side. These are not cheap car seats, but buying a new vehicle would have been much more money.

          Best post I have seen on the subject is from the wonderfully named Punk Rock Operations Research.

      • Alejandro says:

        Read the first title as “Against Security by Moloch” and was confused for a moment at how much SSC memes had spread.

    • Eric Rall says:

      A decent way to find a local compounding pharmacy is to ask a veterinarian. Most veterinary prescriptions are just human medicines with the dosages adjusted, which you can get filled at any normal pharmacy, but it’s not uncommon to need a dosage or preparation that isn’t mass-produced and can’t reasonably be faked by cutting pills in half, so vets often have a relationship with a compounding pharmacy to fill those prescriptions.

      • Lambert says:

        I hear that pet shops are the easiest place to buy iodine for medical use.

      • Anthony says:

        A veterinarian once told me she bought cancer meds for about 10% what the local hospital was paying. She was using a human-sized dose for a 120-pound dog, so she was buying the *exact same pills* that the local hospital bought. But because she was a veterinarian, and the pills were for a dog instead of a human, she didn’t have to pay the liability markup.

    • keranih says:

      A backgrounder on compounding pharmacies.

      It’s not clear to me that this is an optimal solution. “Mortar and pestle” pharmacies (they don’t really use those anymore) make their drugs in smaller lots (you can see from the link that they are pretty much limited to actual demand, and can not warehouse). (They also can’t sell to other pharmacies, nor to docs to dispense to their patients.)

      This allows for many many more “accidents” involving toxic or non-effective drugs, when X Y and Z are supposed to be combined, but some how B gets swapped with Y. Granted, each accident will have a much smaller scope, as the affected lot will be much smaller, and it’s not like massive manufacturers don’t have screw ups, either. However, in nearly all other industries, the effects of scaling up have been to decrease the impact of accidents on the population as a whole, in part by adding indepth quality control & testing that is cost-prohibitive on the smaller scale operations.

      (Think about the difference between airplane accidents and car accidents.)

      Having said all that – I don’t take those drugs, so I wasn’t directly involved, but I did have faith in our greedy capitalist system for someone to figure out a way to make money off someone else’s over reach. Glad to see I was right.

  3. E. Harding says:

    I shall hereby call it “Yarvin-Land-ism”.

  4. TK-421 says:

    Last open thread a commenter brought up the link to MIT researcher Dr. Todd Rider’s crowdfunding campaign for DRACOs, a promising new therapy that could treat many or all viruses.

    Wait, the same Todd Rider that did his thesis in plasma physics? That’s… quite a jump.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      The fact that he switched from the nuclear engineering department for his masters to the electrical engineering department for his PhD on nuclear fusion is probably a good measure of his political skills and the likely outcome of this crowdfunding project. But, really, that last phrase speaks for itself.

      • DensityDuck says:

        It’s no more suspicious than a rocket scientist deciding to switch from Mechanical Engineering to Chemical Engineering for his PhD on rocket fuel. Nuclear Engineering is probably more closely aligned with running a steam locomotive than anything involving fusion. In particular, if you want experts in magnetics then you’ll find them in the Electrical Engineering department.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          His advisor was in the nuclear engineering department.

          • Luke Somers says:

            Okay, and…?

            I did my PhD work in a lab where some of the candidates were also in the Electrical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering departments.

            This doesn’t sound suspicious.

            Nooow, switching from plasma physics to killing all viruses? THAT sounds suspicious, at first glance. The first ping on the crackpot-o-meter, not the degree history.

      • Nuclear fusion is, in a practical sense, halfway between electrical engineering and and conventional nuclear power. At least if you’re not doing purely inertial containment but most fusion researchers aren’t doing that. I’m not sure why you seem to think that nuclear fusion is evidence of kookhood. Fusion power isn’t energy positive right now but it does work and the scientific consensus is that energy positive reactors are possible in theory.

        • Decius says:

          ‘Conventional fission’ involves roughly zero of the concepts that are held by fusion power generation that are not also involved in steam railroad locomotion.

          • That’s really not true since fission chain reactions involve a heavy nucleus fusing with a neutron and then splitting. And most fusion involves nuclei joinging and then breaking apart as well. The math involved in the decays and energy balances in both cases are fundamentally the same and I believe the math involved in reaction rates has the same basis as well. Engineering-wise they are totally different I’ll grant you but people working on fusion engineering have to come from somewhere and there really isn’t any undergrad major which will prepare you for those engineering challenges.

          • Luke Somers says:

            Okay, so, it’s mid-way between electrical engineering, plasma physics, and designing a steam engine. Point stands?

          • John Schilling says:

            Nobody doing fusion research is working on the “steam engine” part, which leaves precious little in common with the fission guys. Fusion is mostly EE and plasma physics, fission is neutronics and mechanical engineering.

            Though there are “nuclear engineering” departments that cover all of the above; it’s no crazier than “aerospace engineering”.

    • Physicist -> Medical researcher is a more common career path than you might think

      edit: He’s got a bio on the bottom, shows plenty of experience in medical research.

  5. Asterix says:

    Good call on NRx. I never could figure out what that means.

      • Diadem says:

        You link to a post that is literally (in the figurative sense, of course) infinitely long, and does not, as far as I can tell, contain the term. Nor does the FAQ that your link links to.

        I’m guessing the terms means something like “typical talking points”, but that is just a guess and I’ve never been able to find a definition.

    • Does Scott’s ban countenance the use-mention distinction? Does the Volcano God? Shall Asterix get a warning?

    • Montfort says:

      Did you know they have a wiki page now?

      Granted, they don’t seem to have a very good definition, either, but give it time.

      • Echo says:

        Yeah, Vice will quote twitter and the wiki about how evil they are, then wikipedia will cite Vice in return. Credible sourcing and reliable information out of thin air–isn’t the internet amazing?

        • Montfort says:

          Did you read the article? I thought this one was surprisingly positive.

          But yes, the wiki-press-wiki cycle can get distressingly amusing at times.

    • I did, but found the abbreviation counter-intuitive. Native English speakers have weird ways of using the X letter e.g. in BMX bikes the X stands for “cross”. And in Xmas it stands for “Christ”. And there was a whisky brand called Rx because during the Prohibition it was camouflaged as medicine – somehow “Rx” is associated with medicine.

      • suntzuanime says:

        Using Rx for medicine isn’t any weirder than using Pb for lead or Au for gold or etc for and so on.

        • CatCube says:

          IIRC, the “Rx” was actually its own character–kind of like an “R”, but with a cross on the leg. It’s just that “Rx” is the closest you can get with the standard English character set.

      • AlphaGamma says:

        Rx- or, as CatCube says, the Rx character- doesn’t mean “medicine”, it’s an abbreviation of the Latin word “recipe”, meaning “take”. And yes, this is also where we get the word recipe as in instructions for how to prepare food. Both early prescriptions and early recipes always began with an instruction to “take” certain ingredients.

        My favourite x-based abbreviation is xtal…

  6. Chalid says:

    Any rationalist/scientific thoughts on parenting? My goal would be to be happy and to have a happy family, and for the child to be able to be at least middle-class; I don’t highly prioritize instilling a particular set of values except as necessary for happiness.

    Things I see are

    a) genetics and chance largely determine outcomes, parenting doesn’t matter much for outcomes as long as it’s not extremely bad.
    b) avoid lead and cigarettes, and other environmental poisons.
    c) quality of the peer group matters
    d) people stress way too much about rare dangers like kidnapping

    a) implies don’t worry too much. b) and c) support living in an expensive neighborhood and/or sending them to a private school – the more expensive the better – and d) doesn’t really suggest any course of action beyond making sure your friends have some grounding in statistics.

    What am I missing?

    • Since the child will socialize to the peer group, even a relatively good school may be a mistake if you don’t regard current teen culture highly. You might want to consider home schooling or, in my view better, home unschooling. For my thoughts on the subject see:


      • Chalid says:

        That was very interesting. Thank you!

        I did not see any mention of how you thought about promoting their social lives without school. Was this an issue?

        I don’t really have an opinion on current teen culture – my child is 9 months old – but I think that even if I did have a low opinion of it I would want her to be familiar enough with it to be able to navigate it; those teens would ultimately turn into her coworkers a decade later.

        • Teen culture has virtually nothing to do with adult culture in the workplace… or anyplace else, for that matter. In my experience, it didn’t even have any bearing on what I encountered in college.

          • Chalid says:

            Hmm yes that came out wrong. I’d think it would be important for her to have developed social skills; being able to navigate teen culture would indicate success in that.

            But even then I think there’s a body of common cultural knowledge that is helpful – not “teen” culture specifically, but stuff that people generally acquire as teens. To take a trivial example, being able to talk fluently about football is very useful both socially and professionally.

          • I have not found the inability to talk fluently about football (or basketball or baseball) a serious handicap.

          • Basiles says:

            I can talk about football all day and I learned it on my own, being from a country that calls a different sport football (funnily enough, I much prefer American).

        • My daughter’s social life has been almost entirely online, which has both advantages and disadvantages–a couple of her friends, for instance, are Chilean. She went to college, got along well with adults but made almost no friends her own age, possibly due to not being socialized to their culture. Her brother at college got along with fellow gamers, some of whom he still interacts with online.

          I wouldn’t say either had a very active social life–but neither did their parents, and we were not home schooled.

          People who home school often arrange social interaction, either with other home schooled kids or through boy scouts and the like. We occasionally attended a gathering at a local park of home schooling families, but the only benefit was that my son acquired some people to come over once a week for a role playing game that he DM’d. Our daughter attended (with her mother) a weekly early music get together and a weekly renaissance dance get together (we’re in the SCA), which gave her social interaction, but mostly with adults.

          • PSJ says:

            I personally appreciate the ability to have non-traditional social lives, but from an optimization standpoint it seems like it would de facto bar your children from a lot of high-paying careers (finance, consulting, makes getting tenure harder, any board or management positions, anything highly based on interviewing). Traditional social skills still have a lot of economic value if nothing else.

            Although these are also a lot of careers generally dismissed by the rationalist community, so maybe that’s not a problem at all 🙂

          • Linch says:

            Really? Finance and consulting are among the top suggested careers by 80K hours, along with CS and Econ PhDs.

          • LTP says:

            “My daughter’s social life has been almost entirely online, which has both advantages and disadvantages”

            Would do think these are?

            A pro is that she can self-select people like her, and also avoid bullies and incompatible people. Also this would benefit her writing skills.

            Cons would be that she misses out on the suggested psychological benefits of face-to-face community, she doesn’t learn to read body language, probably she gets out of the house less in general, and doesn’t have as much or any opportunity for physical affection, platonic or otherwise. Also, internet friendships tend to be less intimate.

            To be honest, I see this as a net negative of homeschooling (if you attribute it to that), but I’m probably projecting myself onto the situation.

          • PSJ:

            1. I have tenure. In a field in which I have never taken a course for credit in my life. And I have taught (but not gotten tenure) at good schools in another field in which the same is true. Conventional paths may be easier, but one publication in a top journal is a pretty good substitute for the more usual credentials.

            2. I don’t think either of my children wants the sort of career in which you work nine to five in an office as an employee. My daughter is developing a career as an online free lance editor, my son is trying to get his first novel published. While I realize both of those paths have some uncertainty, they strike me as a sensible gamble.

            3. I first encountered a home schooling family back in the sixties. Two boys. One of them currently runs the Federalist Society.

            I suspect that the sort of kid likely to be into social skills can develop them even while home schooled, since there are lots of other contexts to interact with people in. And he may end up with a more functional set of skills as a result of not developing them in the rather odd context of an age segregated population. My daughter, in college, interacted well with adults, including both her professors and her advisor, who happened to be the dean of students. And it’s pretty easy to avoid developing those skills even in a conventional school, as I gather some here can testify.

          • Airgap says:

            I suspect that David’s children were genetically predisposed to being huge nerds like their father, and that homeschooling did not affect this. I’ve met members of the homeschooled who were normal. They were probably born that way.

          • Matt C says:

            Along these lines, we homeschool, and my kids are kind of weird. I’m sure some people who meet my daughter think we warped her with homeschooling, and she would be less odd and less shy if she hadn’t been shut away from the real world.

            However, I have a bit of extra insight, having been weird in ways fairly similar to my daughter. Probably weirder. Sending me to public school didn’t change that, and I don’t think it would for my daughter either.

            Chalid, we have put considerable amount of effort (for a couple of introverts) into getting our kids interacting with other kids. Most of our socialization is with other homeschoolers (a fairly weird group of them). We did 4-H for a few years and our kids interacted with more normal kids there, but never really connected too well.

            I have some real concerns about the lack of street smarts my kids have. We’ve discussed sending them to school for a year to get them some experience with deceptive/charming/malicious people, but we haven’t actually done it and probably won’t do it. They’ll probably take a lump or two as they get out further into the wide world, I just hope not too serious.

          • Cliff says:


            “While I realize both of those paths have some uncertainty, they strike me as a sensible gamble.”

            Really?? This causes me to question your judgment overall

          • Cliff:

            I’ve managed to succeed with a non-conventional career path. I think it likely my children can do the same. So far my daughter has had at least as much work as she wanted. To be fair, she’s been charging a relatively low price for her editing, but that is because she is just starting and needs to get established.

            If my son is unable to get published, he can always go back for a final year at Chicago. But my guess is that it will not prove necessary.

            I am, of course, biased, but I also have more data than you do.

          • I had a friend in grad school at Caltech who was homeschooled… then started college at age 10, and graduate studies in physics at Caltech at age 15. He didn’t seem to have any social problems. He had a few rough edges, but no more than the typical 15 year old.

          • To provide a little anecdotal evidence, in case anyone is curious – hi, test subject here…

            Re – PSJ

            Actually, by what I can tell, I tend to do very well in interviews (at least, the only ones I’ve had, which were college, not professional). If I’m being sensible and rational, I theorize that it’s because I’m socialized to deal with adults much like those interviewing me, rather than to deal with teens, and hence am signaling being a part of their culture as opposed to the teenage one, which tends to make them like me; if I’m a bit more biased, I theorize that it’s because I avoided getting burned out/burned in general by high school, and could therefore talk cheerfully about interesting things without being scared of offending people/having already had my enthusiasm for academics worn away – that I could say with complete honesty that I was disappointed when a class was canceled. (I didn’t; I’m not stupid, and no interviewer would believe that. But I in fact thought so when one of my classes was canceled in my second year of college, and I suspect the same attitude that caused that was visible in the interviews.)

            … certainly people commenting on how I interview usually comment on that specific thing. Apparently most people’s eyes don’t light up when talking about renaissance dancing. I can see that would be a major disadvantage in some social settings, but I’ve never yet found it to be one.

            Re – LTP

            Avoiding bullies is absolutely positively a huge advantage. (See above comments on not getting burned.) Being fluent in written English is also a significant advantage. As a teenager, I felt that being able to interact with people of my maturity, without anyone being able to tell what age I was, was also an advantage – while I was part of realworld adult social communities as a teenager, I was quite clearly junior (not just in how people treated me, a lot of it was how I reacted to them as well) and online communities, where there was no mandatory (or semi-mandatory) age ordering, got around that nicely (and tended to shove me into leadership or leadership-adjacent positions as a result, which I think was very good for me).

            … then again, while the friends I made in my mid-teens varied, most of the friends I made around my very late teens/early twenties turned out to be within a few years of me. They were a set friendgroup I joined, so that may confound it, but since nobody knew anyone else’s age – and most of us were non-conformists who all felt more comfortable with adults than “kids our own ages” – I still find that result very weird.

            I doubt I missed out on much in the way of psychological benefits of face-to-face community while I was living at home, because I had face-to-face community – the SCA contacts my father mentioned. When I lost those I had trouble finding replacements, but that was partially because I was stuck on a college campus and could not drive (I knew there were good communities available and where they were, I just couldn’t get to them). I read body language reasonably as an adult; I don’t remember how I was as a kid. I do get out of the house less in general*, and crushing on online friends does not work very well for obtaining a boyfriend. Especially when the one who reciprocates turns out to live in Chile. So both of those criticisms are spot-on.

            *Though I had harp lessons and volunteering at the local library and riding lessons and stuff, and activities at least half the nights of the week, so I wasn’t entirely stuck at home either.

            And… internet friendships are not less intimate. At least in my experience. Really really are not. They can be less effective – you can’t make someone cookies or go over to help them out when they’re sick – but you absolutely can stay up to three AM sharing secrets and talk about the things you worry about most and be a supportive friend when they need a shoulder to cry on (or the other way around) and and and. Lack of intimate friendships was not an issue. Getting too involved in friendships, such that my homework got done at the last minute because I was spending all my time talking to my friends, was sometimes an issue. >.> (This was in college; homeschooling did not involve homework. College was probably a useful experience – as a job would have been – just to get used to really working.)

            I don’t seem to have trouble connecting to other adults as an adult, besides a certain degree of shyness which, judging from my mother, would probably not be any better and might be significantly worse if I had gone to public school.

            I do lack a good deal of common culture – it mostly shows up in the context of movies/TV shows and music, also occasionally books, rather than football, since none of the social groups I’m part of place a high value on sports, but some of them do expect everyone to have seen Buffy – but it usually hasn’t been an issue; most of my friends seem to classify it under “charming eccentricity” rather than “not-our-tribe marker.” This may be related to online friendships – most groups I’ve been part of are non-homogeneous enough that nobody shared everything, what with members not even necessarily all being from the same country, so it isn’t a major problem. Except, it seems to be true of my real-world groups too, so…?

            On the whole I’m in favor of homeschooling, as is probably clear from my comments. I think there are things I’d do differently with my own kids, but “not homeschool” is probably not one of them.

          • LTP says:

            Interesting response Rebecca (I didn’t even know you posted here!). It sounds like I was projecting my experiences a bit.

            I wonder how much of this has to do with one’s opinion’s on their parents? My parents had good hearts, but I feel like if I had spent most of my waking hours around them most of my psychological issues around socializing would have been even worse given their personalities. Also, I very much fear that if I was homeschooled I would have had no reason to fight my social anxiety and I would have become an agoraphobic shut-in.

            My intuition is that homeschooling only works if you have parents who are educated, financially well-off, and relatively emotionally healthy. Most people don’t have parents who hit all three of those criteria.

            My ideal is very different than current public education, but it would still involve being out of the house 6-8 hours a day, and being around professional educators rather than your parents.

            I’m glad it worked out of you though! I think there are a variety of educational methods that are effective depending on the child and parents and life situation.

          • Well, usually I don’t – see “a certain degree of shyness”. ^^ But I am definitely a lurker, and this seemed worth chiming in for.

            I think a huge amount of it depends on how you get on with your parents. I both liked them and found them very good people to be around – dad you’ve met, and my mom had a tendency to have these surprising insights on moral problems that none of my friends did, for some odd reason that couldn’t be connected to decades of life experience plus actually thinking about these things. (She also had about infinite patience, and the ability to take an interest in a huge variety of subjects, which was incredibly useful.) And both of them thought the way I did. For kids who don’t get on with their parents, homeschooling would probably be a disaster – no argument there.

            As far as psychological stuff… mmm. The thing is, there’s a lot of stuff I think I would have done worse with in an environment where I couldn’t leave. I spent a lot of time as a child avoiding things that scared me (for example, bugs) – but I don’t think that made it worse; as I grew up, I started learning to deal with stuff that scared me, and deciding on my own to do so. Shyness slowly evaporating was part of that, and I think a lot of how it was able to do so was that it never got reinforced. This is purely my own case, mind, and I don’t have any really serious issues, and they would probably be harder to deal with if I did – but at least in my case, mostly being allowed to avoid stuff that scared me left me perfectly capable of growing out of it.

            (That said, I can’t actually know what would have happened if I’d been educated more traditionally. Just that at least for me, my method of education does not seem to have been drastically harmful. ^^)

            And completely agreed on the last paragraph! People are different. That’s one of the nice things about having a diversity of educational methods – people can find one that specifically works for them (or their child).

        • bluto says:

          When I home schooled more than a few years ago, there was an active home school group that would set up field trips, once a week bowling (it was during the day so very inexpensive), and various other social activities. Also, check your state’s rules, the state allowed home schooled students to take any classes they wish wished, and participate in after school sports so long as my family covered all the transportation. So I could play in the jazz band and play sports as desired.

        • T. Greer says:

          I strongly recommend you read Paul Graham’s article “Why Nerds are Unpopular.” http://www.paulgraham.com/nerds.html

          It shows quite well, I think, that teen high school culture is about as far away from normal social relations in adult society as can be imagined. He proposes that the closest analogue to high school social hierarchies is found in prison. And when you read his explanation you will agree with him.

          P.S. If you are worried about them not understanding football, watch football with them.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            That essay is amazing. Thank you for it.

          • Murphy says:

            Luther: A high school…
            …its a lot like prison.
            Bad food, high fences.
            The sex you want, you ain’t getting.
            The sex you getting…
            …you don’t want.
            I seen terrible things.

            Dizzy: Yesterday, an eighty-year-old librarian broke my penis.

            Luther: You win.

          • Chalid says:

            That is interesting and very foreign to my experience. I guess I’ve always been pretty nerdy but all the schools I went to were pretty academically focused and urban – lots of children of immigrants in elementary and middle school, and high school was a magnet school.

            Was I just oblivious? Or do the above (and other traits? which ones?) reduce nerd-hate?

          • I think his essay probes too much..it implies that non US high schools should be much more like US high schools than they are. Brought up multiple times int he comments.

          • onyomi says:

            Great essay. I have long thought that it was very unnatural the way schools put groups of children all roughly the same age together to essentially create their own, cruel, mini society. It is interesting, though, how the author points out it’s not so much their age that is the problem, but the lack of purpose or connection to a bigger world (with the example of adults in prison being at least as cruel and petty and popularity-focused).

            Instead of spending 10,000+ per student, maybe we should go back to the old schoolhouse days with the older students teaching the younger students all in one big room?

          • disciplinaryarbitrage says:

            This was a very good essay, thanks for posting it.

            The funny thing is, though, my middle and high school experiences diverged really strongly from what was described here, and the horror stories so many people relate on the web. I say this having been a stick-thin, pimply-faced kid with questionable hygiene and a paid membership to my high school’s Dungeon’s and Dragons club–I’d have been eminently castable as someone’s nerdy younger brother in a teen movie at the time. And yet I can recall zero incidents of anything that might be called ‘bullying’ happening to me, let alone ongoing campaigns of terror.

            Further yet, the hardened status hierarchies suggested here and everywhere else in American media were much fuzzier than commonly portrayed. My social circles including a patchwork of music and drama kids, smart jocks, slackers, and true nerds, all spanning a pretty big range of apparent status and without the sort of cruel displays of dominance described here and elsewhere. (What isolated bits of horribleness I was privy to mostly seemed focused on intra-group behavior policing among girls.) In and out groups were definitely present, but there seemed to be a generally peaceful coexistence between somewhat-porous groups. Maybe I’m just oblivious, but old friends have affirmed similar experiences and perceptions.

            Murphy mentions a similar experience above but mentions a few mitigating factors (immigrant culture, magnet schools) that might drive better behavior. I went to a big and good-but-not-amazing school in a fairly diverse first-ring suburb, which hardly had the sense of shared purpose or ambition of a more expensive community. So similarly, I’m curious–all the tendencies noted in the article above notwithstanding, what accounts for school cultures that avoid the Lord of the Flies trap?

          • Like Chalid and disciplinaryarbitrage, I find Paul Graham’s essay interesting, but it doesn’t really describe the culture at the secondary school I attended here in England. My school was a comprehensive in a not particularly well-off (though also not particularly deprived) area, not the kind of school whose pupils you’d expect to be particularly focused on academic achievement. But I don’t think a division between nerds and non-nerds existed. Certainly there were people with more nerdy personalities and interests, and to the extent that nerdiness is correlated with low social skills, the nerds were less popular; but it was the social skills that mattered, not the nerdiness. And nerds would associate just as much with non-nerds as other nerds; they didn’t think of themselves as a separate social group, and they didn’t use the term “nerd” (or any equivalent) to describe themselves, nor did other people use it to describe them.

            But there was, I think, a way in which the pupils at my school were divided into two relatively discrete groups, and these two groups did to some extent recognize themselves as separate entities. The division wasn’t absolute, of course, but it was there in a way that the nerd / non-nerd distinction wasn’t. It’s hard to tell exactly what it was based on, because you can’t tell everything about a person’s background by sight, but I suspect it was mostly based on class. Children in the more working-class group tended to have more markedly non-standard accents, sometimes smoked cigarettes or (more rarely) weed, sometimes got pregnant during their school years (if they were girls) and were often “rebels” in class (that was the term people used–they made a show of not taking academic work seriously and were engaged in a constant low-level revolt against the school uniform requirements). Children in the more middle-class group had more standard accents, rarely smoked, never got pregnant, and tended to only get in trouble inadvertently and to regret it when they did rather than considering it as enhancing their covert prestige.

            Both groups thought they were better than the other group, but they didn’t try to enforce their norms on each other. You couldn’t say one group was more “popular” than the other. A nerd who tried to get in with the working-class group might have some problems with people mocking them, but there was no reason why they should do that: they could just hang around with people from the middle-class group, and people from the other group wouldn’t bother them then.

            Most of the pupils in the working-class group didn’t stay on to do further education, so the sixth form had a more uniformly middle-class culture.

            (Appendix for confused Americans: In England, pupils leave secondary school at age 16 or 17, i.e. between the sophomore and junior year of high school in the USA. They can then choose to do what’s called further education, which takes up what Americans would call the junior and senior years of high school and is a requirement for higher education. It is either done at a separate institution called a college, or at a sub-institution within a secondary school called a sixth form. After leaving secondary school, many people stay on at the school’s sixth form, if it has one.)

            (Also, I know I shouldn’t be because people have different experiences, but I’m surprised that there are still people on the Internet who haven’t read that Paul Graham essay.)

          • stillnotking says:

            I think Graham’s experience was an outlier. I went to high school in the late ’80s, not so long after him that it should be vastly different, yet it was. (I only attended public school through the 9th grade, then went to a private boarding school — which was, as one would expect, much better in every way. I’m talking about my public-school experience here.)

            There were social strata, and kids were concerned with popularity. However, the divisions were not as stark as Graham describes. I was definitely a nerd, but I had friends — in some cases, very good friends — who were jocks and cheerleaders. Physical bullying was quite rare, and was considered boorish. (Since this was the American South, being a bully made you a “grit” — a previous generation would’ve called them “white trash”.) The biggest divisions, in fact, were class-related: the smart kids and the popular kids versus the ignorant rednecks. The gap was bridged by the “rebels” or “freaks”, who tended to draw about evenly from both strata… although even among them, there was a noticeable difference between “kids going through a rebellious phase” and “kids who get the shit kicked out of them at home”.

            The quality of the education on offer wasn’t great, but it also wasn’t as dreadful as Graham’s school. Teachers were familiar with the material — the odd football coach excepted — and our school’s Academic Challenge team was pretty good. If it wasn’t the most glamorous of extracurricular activities, it wasn’t a social kiss of death either. Bus trips to academic competitions were notorious for their make-out sessions (I rarely participated, but I did get offers which I was too shy to accept).

          • Ydirbut says:

            stillnotking: That is extremely similar to my experiences at fairly normal highschool in a small city in the South.

          • Bruce Beegle says:

            T. Greer:
            Very nice essay. For several reasons, my time in school wasn’t as bad as Paul Graham’s, but every part of the essay rang true.

          • onyomi says:

            I kind of wish my high school had had more physical bullying. It would have been nicer.

          • Walter says:

            This article strikes me as right on the money. I was a nerd, suffered through high school, things more or less as he describes.

      • nope says:

        Which of you stays home with the kids? And is it possible to home-unschool and still have a career?

        • nope:

          Assuming your question was to me (hard to follow the threading):

          My wife retired early (as an oil geologist) a year or so before we had our first child. I was an academic with a flexible schedule, so could be home quite a lot of the time.

          When the children were little, there had to be an adult around most of the time. When they got to school age, they went for a while to a small and unconventional private school run on unschooling lines. When problems developed with that, we switched to home unschooling.

          I think any career that can be done from home would be consistent with home unschooling–it doesn’t take up a lot of the adult’s time, although it takes some. We could probably have managed if my wife had also been an academic, scheduling so one of us was usually home and, if not, hired a babysitter. But if both of us had nine to five jobs, we would have had to have some sort of regular child care to cover for us.

    • A further implication of (a) is that you shouldn’t take an extended leave from the workforce to raise your child. Hire a nanny, even if it costs most of your paycheck, so you can stay in the workforce. Kids don’t get a huge benefit from a stay-at-home parent, but they do get a large benefit from a big college fund, which you can afford more easily if you don’t have a big gap in your work experience.

      • Chalid says:

        We did this and are very happy with the decision. Aside from the logic you gave, I’d add that you can take so much more joy in a child if you can get breaks from them. At least in the infant stage; can’t speak for anything older.

      • I liked my nannies better than my parents.

        I don’t think my parents appreciated that outcome, but I don’t know what other result they were expecting.

    • Hari Seldon says:

      I think you are pretty spot on. I have several children and I will agree wholeheartedly with a).

      I feel like I was unfairly misled by our culture’s love affair with blank-slatism. You have to accept that your children will very likely share your most and least flattering traits. My kids are very smart, easily do well in school, and seem to have a natural distaste for violence. They are not good at creating close relationships but can be very skilled at manipulating others and putting on a false front. They are prone to compulsive behaviors and anxiety. The teenagers suffer from depression and suicidal thoughts.

      Somehow, I believed that my kids wouldn’t have any of my flaws. However, my two teenagers are practically clones of me. My wife pretty much has no flaws and I have hidden mine from her pretty well. She sees these negative traits in our children and thinks she is doing something wrong. I love my kids and can’t imagine my life without any of them. However, I am not sure I would have had so many if I’d had a realistic conception of how much exactly they would be inheriting from me.

      Not all of them are clones of me and their individual personalities are pretty apparent even before they can talk. Short of extreme measures, I don’t believe you can change that basic algorithm. But the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

      • Winter Shaker says:

        My wife pretty much has no flaws and I have hidden mine from her pretty well.

        I hope that somewhere on someone else’s blog, she’s saying the converse 🙂

        • Linch says:

          Yes, that would be explain the apparent contradiction between a mother that has no flaws and the child inheriting *all* of the father’s. 😛

      • Linch says:

        “You have to accept that your children will very likely share your most and least flattering traits.”

        That has not been my experience. My parents are pretty smart (PhDs and Master’s), but I think it’s reasonable to say that I’m significantly more intelligent than my parents (hurray having enough calories and iodine growing up!). My father is probably somewhere above the 95th percentile for conscientiousness, I’m almost unbelievably lazy/a procrastinator, despite 14+ years of life being shamed by my parents for not working hard enough. (Today, I still consider my lack of conscientiousness my ONE greatest flaw). My parents care immensely about how tasty food is; switching to Soylent was easy for me (except for the cost that I do agonize about). My father has trouble paying more than 10% in tips to waitresses (despite having a wife who worked as one for years); I’m pretty much dead set on improving the world as much as I possibly can. I am also half a foot taller than my father.

        So I think environmental factors play a huge role.

        • Cliff says:

          “So I think environmental factors play a huge role.”

          Not a good conclusion to draw from the proceeding story. Data point of 1 and all.

          • Linch says:

            Well, everybody generalizes from a single data point. I mean, I do it…:P

            But in this case the Foundation guy (from parent comment) didn’t exactly have that many more data points either, and I think your demand for rigor is a tad isolated.

            (Also, in a pedantic sense my claim is literally true. I mentioned IQ and height, and I don’t think anybody could seriously argue that eg. most of the height differential between North and South Koreans can be explained by genetics. So I contend that at least in my case vis a vis. my parents environment is likely to have played a significant role.

            I would also argue that intelligence and height are seen as fairly significant traits by the culture at large. (Though maybe not as important as personality?)

            Of course, the low-hanging fruits are probably already taken by most readers of this blog)

    • Wouter says:

      I assume you’re American or British. Consider teaching your child another language from a young age, preferably a language spoken in a country that has cheap subsidized higher education of decent quality. That way, there are education options other than “pay enormous amounts of money for college”.

      • Chalid says:

        Oh that’s a good one that I was wondering about.

        Seems like there’s some research suggesting knowing multiple languages has cognitive benefits. Unfortunately I’m essentially monolingual so having my kids learn another language would require specialized schooling, and I’m not sure it’s worth the opportunity cost – if I could choose between my kids knowing French vs knowing C and Java (for example) then probably the computer languages are better?

        • Devilbunny says:

          Duolingo will teach you another language for free. I can’t speak with any authority about how good it can actually make you, but it certainly feels like I’m picking up on Spanish. Whereas, unless you’re fairly certain they want to be programmers, there’s little reason I can see to teach both C and Java (says the nonprogrammer who took CS 101-102 in college, taught in C++, it was enough for a basic introduction to CS concepts). Pick one and go with it.

          The bigger problem is finding people to practice with.

          • Daniel Armak says:

            Correction: unless you’re fairly certain you want *to program*, which a lot of non-programmers do, and a lot more would arguably benefit from doing.

            Not that C, C++ or Java are the best / most useful languages to teach non-professionals, OR the best first languages to teach programmers in CS101, but that’s a whole ‘nother discussion…

          • bartlebyshop says:

            Re Duolingo:

            When I was young, I lived in a German speaking country for four years, and got good enough at German I would have been in the native speakers’ literature class if I hadn’t moved back to North America.

            Over the 12 years since, I’ve lost almost all of my ability to speak German spontaneously, but I can still read and write without much trouble. This is where Duolingo struggles, I think. It will enable you to read the newspaper, or a novel that’s been translated from another language. You would probably also be able to do basic things like order in restaurants or tell the doctor in the ER which part of your body hurts and how much! But a casual back and forth, using grammar beyond the stuff that marks you as an obvious learner, isn’t tested much AFAICT. You can tell in English when people are new – they always use simple constructions like “I sing on Wednesday” or “The package will arrive at 5pm” but if they have to produce something with a few tenses – “I’m going to soccer on the weekend, and I would have signed up for Sunday, except then I couldn’t see Game of Thrones” – it’s a struggle.

            It also doesn’t incorporate a lot of material from previous lessons. I find when speaking to someone I suddenly want to use a preterite while I’m talking about science and I panic trying to think of how to make it (or vice-versa I remember the verb but can’t remember if it’s “physiciste” or “physicienne” in French). But on Duolingo, it tends to be the case that the later vocabulary lessons don’t use a lot of the material from the verb conjugation lessons. In the “matching” tasks you sometimes have to remember animal names/”what is the verb for kissing” but it’s rare that they ask you to say something like “The bee would have been eaten by the birds.”

            You also don’t have to write prose. When I was taking German classes we pretty commonly had to read a novel or long article and summarize it in our own words or have a discussion about it. I found this very helpful, but of course it’s quite difficult to replicate with a free app. I also used to (and still do sometimes) watch the news or listen to podcasts because comprehending people who are speaking quickly, the first time, (Duolingo lets you repeat the phrase as often as you need), is an important skill for conversation. It also tends to expose you to a variety of accents, which Duolingo also doesn’t have a lot of for the languages I’ve tried.

            tl;dr I like Duolingo and I’d recommend it to get to the reading/listening to the news level and then you can branch out from there.

          • Devilbunny says:

            @Daniel Armak: I have encountered quite a lot of people who say “learning to code is good”, and yet I have encountered almost zero places where one can learn how to code something practical. I took an entire year of college-level computer science. I am aware that CS is not simply “how to code”, and I did learn a lot of other things, but the fact is that I spent a year learning about it and still couldn’t write anything but a text-based program for Unix.

            Reddit’s dailyprogrammer is similar – lots of algorithms. Algorithms, algorithms everywhere (even though, for the vast majority of situations, you can look up the best algorithm to use and choose from any of a dozen reference implementations), but not even a little bit about how to write a simple calculator app.

          • Who wouldn't want to be Anonymous says:


            You’re complaining about learning arithmetic because you can just use a calculator; after twelve years of math in school you can’t even do a simple conic section!

            Jumping straight into high level programming (which is usually coded as “practical”) without spending significant time on the order of years building fundamentals is like trying to teach calculus in kindergarten. Sure, after a little while you could get the kids to push symbols around and come up with the right answer, but there is basically zero chance they actually understand what they are doing.

            If you are married to “practicality,” you can certainly use a calculator or look up the “right” method to use. But if you do then you will be wondering why so many professional scientists fundamentally misunderstand the statistics they are trying to apply.

            More to the point: programming is algorithms.

            If you want a real life example where programming fundamentals matter consider Elite: Dangerous. It is a spaceflight sim (they sold me at “simulation of the entire galaxy”) where you “jump” between adjacent systems but fly around inside the system. Pretty standard space game stuff. But since the galaxy is freaking huge, getting anywhere requires making insane amounts of jumps, which requires a sophisticated route planner. Traveling and looking at the pretty stars is about 75% of the game, so getting the route planner right is a big deal. (Blowing people up in pseudo-aerodynamic flight model is the other 25%.)

            At launch, they were basically using a reference implementation of a graph search algorithm to plot routes. It was utter, laughably, completely broken. To the point that trying to use it in certain locations (e.g., near the galactic core where there are an insane number of neighbors) would hang the game.

            After getting screamed at for a couple months by paying customers, a programmer sat down after dinner and rewrote the algorithm between episodes on netflix. An order of magnitude improvement of a core function of your £1.5m program in a couple hours is a pretty huge deal.

          • Saint_Fiasco says:

            I spent a year learning about it and still couldn’t write anything but a text-based program for Unix.

            Text-based programs are some of the most useful programs a non-programmer can learn to write.

            You could make a program that checks eBay every day and mails you a list of links to interesting products, where “interesting” is defined by an algorithm that has no user interface at all.

            You can make a program that checks your email and when it sees one with a certain subject line, it opens it and starts downloading the link in the message body. Put that program in your home PC and you can download things from the office without actually using your office’s Internet bandwidth for personal stuff, which is admittedly more of a third-world problem because bandwidth is expensive here.

            Is there anything computer-related you do that can be automated?

          • Chalid says:

            It was just an example, and while it’s easy to think of life paths where knowing a computer language won’t be useful, it’s even easier to think of life paths where knowing Spanish won’t be useful.

            I took Spanish to the AP level and got a 5 on the exam, which probably puts me in the 99.9th percentile of Spanish skill for people who purely learned the language in a “normal” school (and I’d guess way better than Duolingo can do for you), and the only thing it ever did for me was let me watch some terrible TV and eavesdrop on strangers on the bus. And after a few years I couldn’t even do that. I went to Spain a decade after that and couldn’t understand what anyone was saying, and vice versa.

        • brad says:

          Even though they are both called languages I don’t think learning french and a programming language have much in common in terms of indirect cognitive benefits.

          I also agree with devilbunny, that I can’t see much reason for a child born since the millennium to ever learn c and java. Actually that statement works almost as well for c or java. They’ll still be people writing in them circa 2030 but they’ll both be niche languages. If I had a bright child 13-14 years old or older right now that wanted to learn to program I’d probably start with python. Younger than that maybe MIT’s SCRATCH.

          • magicman says:

            Scratch is terrific. I strongly encourage everyone who wants to learn programming (Children and Adults) to begin with it. It depends on the child but i think Scratch to Python is a big leap. I have had success with Processing as an intermediate step. It is very visual which I think is good for keeping children interested and it combines well with simple CS-Real World projects. i made a Arduino/Processing drawing robot with my ten year nephew recently.

    • Deiseach says:

      Even a “good” private school won’t let you avoid “bad” peer-group pressure; look at David Cameron and his pals in the Bullingdon Club: the cream of society (rich and thick), many of them titled, at a prestigious and ancient seat of learning, and half of them turned out to be drug addicts, fraudsters. and *gasp!* Tory politicians 🙂

      How big a family do you intend to have and how much child-rearing will you do? That is, will you be the one taking time off work to take Junior to the doctor, or will it be “Me and the partner/spouse both work full-time, so the kid will be dropped off at childcare between the ages of three months and thirteen”?

      I could be pessimistic and quote the Larkin poem at you, but instead I’ll go for something from the “Alien Nation” TV series (based on the movie of the same name):

      “All you can do is love them, teach them right from wrong, and hope they don’t grow up to be axe-murderers”.


      • Airgap says:

        Yeah, but those blue jackets look sharp. Admit it.

      • Chalid says:

        Two working parents, flexible jobs. Wife is in tech and currently works almost exclusively from home; I have to go to an office, but no particular hours are required and I can work from home on occasion. So there will be a lot of daycare/schooling in the future. Of course, this may change!

        I take your point about the most elite private schools – at the really expensive ones, you’re going to get spoiled rich kids. My own school environment was public schools, which weren’t particularly wealthy, but were full of the children of striving immigrants with a heavy “Tiger Mother” influence; that seems like a good peer group in retrospect.

    • I attended public school, a ghetto public school, a medium-cost private school, and an expensive private school as a kid. I now have kids in public school.

      The ghetto school was obviously bad.

      Expensive private schools are most likely a waste of money. I did not like mine; the kids there were honestly fucked up and degenerate in a lot of ways.

      A decent public school in a decent neighborhood can be very nice; they have access to a lot of resources and programs that many private schools don’t have the scale to match. If you’re stuck in a situation where the local schools suck or your kid isn’t suited to them, then I’d look into a mid-range private school.

      Be wary of 1. Wasting your money and 2. Wasting your kids’ time. For example, if you have several children, it’d probably be cheaper to live in Vail and hobnob with rich kids there than to pay the tuition for all of your kids at a fancy private school. Similarly, if you send your kids to a school with a lot of exceptionally high-scoring kids, then your kids will have to work much harder to stand out than at a school with a more average population.

      Ultimately, relax and try to enjoy the ride.

    • LTP says:

      What evidence is there of ‘a’? I could buy that nurture is overrated, but I can’t imagine there is enough evidence to suggest it doesn’t matter much at all except at the extremely bad side. I can think of a lot of things that, if my parents had done differently, would have significantly improved my life outcomes, and my parents weren’t abusive or neglectful or anything.

    • Tracy W says:

      My advice is:
      1. Never make a threat you are not willing to carry out.
      2. A more general case of (1), be careful to promise only what you know you can deliver.
      3. If you are going to give in, give in quickly so at least you’re not reinforcing persistent whining.

    • phil says:

      I’d like to throw out a book recommendation I really like


      and just say, things that seem obvious to you, aren’t to them

      also the world/circumstances you grew up in is different than the one they’re growing up in (ie their going to have a different perspective than you do)

      good luck

    • pneumatik says:

      Go read the Last Psychiatrist (http://thelastpsychiatrist.com/) in reverse order. Scott used to link to the blog but it hasn’t updated in over a year. The good stuff is a little older; first you’ll have to get through some interesting if maybe questionable ideas about the media and advertising, but the material a little before that can be really good. It discuses family and other interpersonal relationships and realistic personal improvement. You can stop reading when the posts are all about psychiatric drugs.

      I’ve found his relevant advice to be enormously helpful, which is that over time you become what you do and that the best thing you can give your kids is your time. His argument is that you should decide that you want to spend more time with your kids, even if you often feel like you want to spend less time with them. Eventually you will begin enjoying time with them more. An n of 1 is of limited value, but I’ve found success in doing this.

      He also suggests that while you should make an effort to be involved in your kids lives, there’s nothing wrong with backing off when they ask you to. What’s important is for them to realize you support them, not that you are actually around them.

      Unrelated to Last Psychiatrist, praising your kids doesn’t have to cost you anything. I think sometimes parents don’t want to praise their kids because of social dynamics, like if they praise their kids too much they’ll lose too much of their alpha status. But parents can’t lose their alpha status over their kids, so give out lots of praise. It makes the kids happier and better behaved.

      Related, I’ve found I can avoid getting angry at them by remembering that as their parent I will always win all arguments. I don’t have to debate or argue with them any longer than I want to, and shouting to win the argument is completely unnecessary.

      • “Related, I’ve found I can avoid getting angry at them by remembering that as their parent I will always win all arguments. ”

        Only if “win an argument” is defined by who has more power rather than by who is right.

        Why should one get angry at losing an argument?

        • pneumatik says:

          I mean arguments over when they’re going to bed, or if they can have second desserts. Kids (at least my kids) will keep asking for something they can’t have as long as I engage with them on it. I’ve found it’s important to remember that I always win those arguments by virtue of being their parent.

          Factual arguments are very uncommon, but when they happen we just look up the answer.

          • There are arguments that don’t fit either pattern. The kid wants to do something (himself or wants the whole family to do something). The parent’s initial response is negative. The kid offers arguments, reasons why he should be allowed to do it or you should all do it. “I want to do it” isn’t much of an argument, “you said last week we would do it this week” if true is a strong argument, and there are lots of other possible legitimate arguments for his position.

            Also, there are factual arguments for which you can’t just look up the answer.

    • PGD says:

      I think (a) is wrong, and the crude statistical methods used to show it are a massive overreach. That doesn’t mean you should spend all your time worrying, or that you have the power to somehow ‘determine’ them through your behavior. Genetics is obviously critical. But it does mean that you are really important figures in your children’s lives and how you treat them matters. So do the (numerous!) choices you will make that affect what kinds of environments and peers they are exposed to.

      • I expect how you treat your children has a large effect on what relationship they end up having with you. I don’t know how large an effect it has on what sort of people they become.

        • PGD says:

          It seems highly implausible to me that the way children are treated by the central and most important figures early in their lives won’t affect how they treat others as well. There is a mountain of evidence showing that this is true in extreme cases; i.e. parental abuse is correlated with all kinds of personal outcomes. I see no reason to think that this wouldn’t be true for less extreme cases in less extreme ways. But people are complicated and I’m sure it’s not a deterministic relationship — the size, variability, and nature of the effects are certainly open to plenty of question.

          • Tracy W says:

            It seems highly implausible to me that most kids will find treating others like their parents treated them a good idea in later life. The number of adults I can pick up and tuck under my arm is rather limited, and this is true of most people.
            What’s more, a parent typically doesn’t want to treat their kids the way they treat other adults, one has to be a pretty liberal parent to let one’s pre-schoolers drive a car.

          • Tracy:

            I think your picture of how people are treated is too narrow. I can’t pick up most other adults and tuck them under my arm. I can try to be honest with them, take their welfare into account in my decisions, listen seriously to their views and arguments arguments. I can do the same things with my children. Or not.

            There are two fundamental views of children. One is that they are pet animals that can talk. The other is that they are small people who do not yet know very much. I suggest that interacting with them on the latter assumption may produce a different long term outcome than interacting on the former.

          • If moms talked to each other the way they talked to kids— content warning: I cringed watching the video. LJ link because there’s some interesting discussion of children and toy weapons in the comments.

          • Walter says:

            About treating kids like little people who are ignorant vs. pets that talk:

            That’s definitely true, but it isn’t automatically better to do one vs. the other. We were on a hike with some nephews/nieces, and one threw himself down a hill and broke bones because he couldn’t drink his sister’s soda. We thought we were dealing with tiny ignorant person, but there was nothing behind those eyes. Should have used a leash.

          • Pets vs small people:

            Is it possible, in the case you describe, that the problem was a child who had been treated as a pet instead of a person too much?

      • Chalid says:

        Any specifics on what to do that is supported by evidence? From a practical standpoint, “parenting doesn’t matter” and “parenting matters but we have no idea which aspects of parenting are good” lead to the same place.

        To be clear, when I say “don’t worry too much” I’m saying something like “helicopter parenting is unhelpful, and free-range parents aren’t hurting their kids,” and emphatically not saying “ignore them until they turn 18.” A great deal of the point of having kids for us is to have a relationship with them!

    • Elephant says:

      I really don’t understand the appeal of homeschooling / unschooling. I have two very bright kids who go to the local, not particularly affluent or academic but not bad, public school. They’re probably not getting all the stimulation they could use, but they enjoy it, they’re learning things, and they’re definitely learning to interact with a wide spectrum of other people. We spend a lot of time on our own going to the library, playing games, doing things related to math, and so on. It’s rewarding and enjoyable, and isn’t a full time job for my spouse or for me. Is it “optimal” in some obsessive “rationalist” way? Probably not, but I don’t really view having kids as some sort of optimization problem. Do your best, spend some unstructured time with your kids, be open to new experiences, don’t obsess about the “quality of the peer group,” and everyone will be fine.

      • On unschooling (not home schooling, which is often done on the conventional model) …

        To what extent are your kids learning that learning is something you do because people make you do it–good for you but tastes bad, like cod liver oil? That’s part of my reservation about the conventional model.

        One of the things that struck my daughter attending Oberlin was that, when a class was canceled, the other students were happy. Attending class wasn’t the benefit they were there for, it was the price charged them to be there.

        • Luke Somers says:

          Weird. By the time I was in college, a cancelled class (in most classes, anyway) was cause for consternation – ‘how are we going to fit all this material into fewer sessions?’ and we would try to make it up later.

          The exceptions were telling.

          • It was a history class; maybe it would have been different in a more mathematical subject? In practice she removed some of the assigned readings and we went over things more quickly. Unfortunately. I remember the other students’ reactions distinctly, because it bugged me; it’s possible they just liked other classes better, but it was a really good class, so…

            (This was also the college where by the end of the quarter, only about half my music history class was showing up. In their defense it was basically music history for non-music majors and I think it was scheduled at 9 AM. In their not-defense, it was both a serious (actually hard) and a very fun class, and they knew it was going to be at 9 AM when they signed up for it. I don’t know how they did on the test, or whether they managed to get away with it. But the class was definitely smaller by the end, and given the timing I don’t think it was people dropping it.)

            I could tell you other horror stories, but probably shouldn’t. But my general impression of college was that the other students were generally not very enthusiastic about the actual learning.

          • CatCube says:

            @Rebecca Friedman

            Most people are in college to get the diploma, not necessarily to actually learn. If they can get the piece of paper with less effort, they’re cool with that.

            I’m a big believer that our current model of forcing college as the norm is destructive to both the people who like school (book-learning, more generally) and those who don’t. The classes get clogged with people who don’t really want to be there, dragging them down for the people who *do* want to be there. The people who would do much better in a hands-on career spend time screwing around in college rather than learning their career, and are miserable while doing it.

        • Elephant says:

          I agree with most of these comments, especially about most people not having good motivations for going to college. However: I experienced similar things (being dismayed by the attitudes of fellow students), and I was a product of “normal” US public schools. Admittedly N=1 anecdotes abound, but I would guess that one’s interest in learning isn’t particularly aided or dulled by homeschooling vs. regular schooling; this is, as it’s always been, a consequence of general attitudes one picks up.

          • @Elephant:

            You are putting it in terms of home schooling vs regular schooling. Rebecca was home unschooled, which isn’t at all the same thing.

            Being made to study something you have no interest in by your parents might have the same effect—convincing you that learning is something unpleasant that you do because people make you do it—as being made to study it by your teacher. But studying something because you want to learn it or think studying it is fun, which is what happens in unschooling, is unlikely to have that effect.

    • Zippy says:

      Well, you would be remiss if you hadn’t read The Biodeterminist’s Guide to Parenting (purely for entertainment, of course).

    • I would recommend digging into how they measure parenting. My parents bought me the first serious (David Attenborough) books before I went to school. Those books definitely steered me towards an intellectual direction, after that they did not have to do much, I simply demanded books, and they simply bought them. That act of parenting, buying the first books, and then the rest when demanded, may be unmeasurably small, it is not big time investment, and not so much in money either, yet it may be highly important.

      I would rely on common sense. Put good books into arms reach. Perhaps not push reading so much, maybe pushing does not work.

  7. Rock Lobster says:

    I’ve almost never commented here before so please forgive me if I break any rules. Also please be aware that what I’m about to say is not meant in any kind of judgmental or emotionally/morally charged way. It’s more just an observation of something that the modern world does that I think is odd. I’m bringing it up because nobody I’ve talked to about it seems to think it’s an interesting observation but maybe people here will. So here goes:

    So in most developed countries we’ve developed a strong anti-racist ethic in the public consciousness. Obviously there continues to be racism, but to be publicly and vocally racist, or even to just be racist in private and “get caught,” is NOT COOL anymore. I live in the U.S. but you have similar things happening in Western Europe.

    And yet…isn’t the whole concept of the nation-state ultimately a racist construction? Nationalism (not militant nationalism, just the regular kind) is the belief that every “nation,” i.e. ethnic and/or linguistic group, ought to have its own self-governing state, and different nations are unfit to share governing institutions. Multi-national conglomerates like Yugoslavia are not acceptable, and multi-ethnic empires like Austria-Hungary are bad bad bad.

    I realize that as a practical matter this works, and you don’t want to start taking non-dysfunctional countries and start smooshing them together into dysfunctional ones. But at the same time, I don’t see how nationalism is anything but an “acceptable” form of racism, which in all other contexts is considered bad. What’s up with that?

    P.S. I agree that “racist” is often just a word that’s attached to “things I don’t like.” But I’m using it literally and straightforwardly.

    • Pku says:

      I pretty much agree with you, but here’s my steelmanning of the opposition:
      – Having a strong in-group identity is useful for all kind of things (e.g. mormons give more to charity and trust each other more), and nationalism helps with that. There’s relatively little cost (in theory*), since the people you’re discriminating against are generally far away and don’t encounter your nationalism, and have their own, equally-powerful ingroup.
      – You generally want government to be somewhat local (except for issues like global warming), so combining this with nations is somewhat effective.

      * (See Israel/Palestine, ISIS, illegal migrants drowning, etc.)

      • Rock Lobster says:

        All of your points are good ones, and I think that intuitively that’s what’s going on in most people’s heads, but I think those are all “merely” practical considerations rather than principled ones about racism being morally acceptable or not. Most people don’t want to think of themselves as being “racist under the right circumstances.”

        • Megaburst says:

          See: What You Can’t Say. Don’t confuse the mores of the humans who exist in your era and your region with accurate, useful beliefs about the world. Yes, rhetorically speaking accusing people of being “racist” is a powerful cudgel. So?

      • Nombringer says:

        I don’t think that argument is particularly strong; it falls into the same trap I have seen so many discussions on this fall into.

        Essentially all you can argue is:

        “Yes, but it’s net good”

        And yes you can debate if it’s net good or not, but into order to do so you have to have conceded that yes, it is racisim.

        • Airgap says:

          If racism is a net good, why aren’t you racist? Aren’t you a effective altruist?

          Scott, do you think talk therapy will work, or is this likely a case of a formal thought disorder?

          • Nombringer says:

            I’m going to give you the benefit of doubt and assume you misunderstood me.

            1. I’m not an effective altruist.

            Two, I’m talking about an argument that COULD be made. Read the post again.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Look up the open borders movement; some of them take this idea pretty seriously.

      I would argue that nation-states are a crappy way to draw boundaries, but that boundaries ought to exist and nations contain more than zero information. Basically, you want to group people with similar values together so that they can construct communities suitable to pursuing those values. I think it’s meaningful to say Israelis in general have different values than Egyptians, so it’s good that they have two different countries where each can pursue their own thing. I’d prefer countries built around values directly without reference to ethnicity, but while we have to work around the two-dimensional surface of the Earth, I think ethnicity is the closest approximation we’re going to get. One alternative might be start with nation-states, but promote immigration by people who share the state’s guiding values and characteristics in order to help people get sorted into the communities that are right for them.

      If you haven’t already, see my post on Archipelago.

      • Consider seasteading as one approach to Scott’s ideal. Online communities as a replacement for states another.

        • Bugmaster says:

          Online communities are kind of tricky, because, as we have seen time and time again, they are highly vulnerable to two types of attack:

          1). An influx of highly motivated activists who are hell-bent on destroying the community — be it for the Greater Good, or just because they are the kind of people who like to watch the world burn, or whatever.

          2). An attack on the network infrastructure powering the community (perpetrated by the aforementioned activists, governments, or other malicious agents). This includes things like DMCA requests, petitioning ISPs to shut down websites, automated scripts flagging everything pointed by community members as “abuse”, the Great Firewall of $countryName, police raids on data centers, etc.

          Both of these problems can be somewhat mitigated by technology (P2P protocols, zero-knowledge encryption, trust networks, etc.); but unfortunately, any technology that is simple enough for the average user is also not powerful enough to withstand any kind of a serious attack. So, I’m not sure what the solution here is, or even if there is one…

          • John Schilling says:

            3). A meatspace attack, or just a meatspace constraint. An online gay-rights community is not terribly useful in a land without Lawrence v. Texas, nor an online gun-rights community without a Second Amendment.

      • Rock Lobster says:

        On open borders: True, but open borders proponents are very small in number. Your typical Westerner (especially people on the left, ironically,) thinks Scotland should be free to secede from the UK if a majority wants it, that Kurdistan ought to be a de jure country, etc.

        To your second point, I agree that for most people, shared identity boils down to ethnic or national tribalism, rather than shared values or ideology. After all, how many soldiers in a war ever defect to the other side? Very few. “Actually I’ve decided American-style democracy is great and we should work with the Americans” and “Actually I’ve decided communism is great so I’m going to go fight for the Soviets on the Eastern Front” are sentences that were pretty much never said, for example.

        • T. Greer says:

          This is a very modern thing. Mass defections were incredibly common in the pre-modern world–which is why pre-modern military forces were abnormally obsessed with loyalty. See these posts for more on this:

          “ISIS, the Mongols, and the Return of Ancient Challenges”


          Introducing: Asabiyah

          • Echo says:

            “we are not departing into uncharted territory so much as we are returning to lands but recently abandoned.”
            Lovely line.

        • Tibor says:

          How are open borders at odds with the right to secede? One thing is “eveyone can freely live and work in our country without having to obtain a government permit”, another is “we don’t want strangers having a say in what laws we should have”.

          Also, in my experience, the only people who support secession rights universally are libertarians. Everyone else seems to like it in some cases, dislike it in others. People on the left pretty much universally support independence of Palestine or Tibet while being against that of Catalonia.

          • JBeshir says:

            I find this surprising.

            I’ve not talked with many people around it much, but my general attitude has always been that the cost we should assign to interfering with regional self-determination is sufficiently high that unless the secession is going to lead to rampant human rights abuses it should be allowed to go ahead, and I’ve never got the impression that set me apart from the people around me, none of whom are especially libertarian.

            Might be a regional thing.

          • Jiro says:

            If everyone can live and work in your country, how do you keep them from also making laws? Or consuming resources paid for from taxes?

          • Tibor says:

            Jiro: Well, the Czech immigration law says, that within the first 5 years of your stay in the country with a valid working visa you are not eligible for any kind of welfare (as a non-EU national). After that, you can get a permanent stay which entitles you to both welfare benefits and a vote in the local elections and by naturalization you can also become a citizen with full voting rights but that takes longer (I think it is either 10 or 15 years, but I’m not sure). However, you only can get the permanent stay if you have a stable income (and have had one during those 5 years) and a residency*. This makes immigration very undesirable for anyone who would like to immigrate for welfare (and those people can get better welfare payments in Sweden, Norway or Germany anyway with a comparable or even easier immigration process) while it does not limit immigration of those who come for opportunities and work. People who have had a stable job are not ones who are likely to vote for more welfare to be paid from their pockets (perhaps they are even less likely to do so than native born citizens).

            Of course, those people, coming from a different culture, might want to institute some laws that have no costs to them and that have nothing to do with welfare payments once there are sufficiently many of them and you might not like those proposed changes. I think this is much more serious a danger if uneducated people with low chances of assimilation (but eventually with voting rights nevertheless) come to you than if the immigration is mostly of skilled and on average more educated people. As someone pointed out, the “elites” of Brazil and the US are much closer to each other than the average and I would suspect the biggest differences to be at the bottom. Still, if you have a high immigration rate from a particular culture, that culture is likely to influence the country in some ways. For a libertarian, the answer is “and that is another reason to make the state as small as possible, so that people do not get the chance to impose their cultural values on those who do not share them”. For those who believe that the state should have a say in things of culture, this might be more problematic and if you want to preserve a “pure” culture without foreign influence, closed borders might be your best choice.

            * I find the Czech law (suprisingly) good, I would call it perfect after just two “minor” modifications – no visa requirements for anyone and a proportional tax deduction for those who are not yet eligible for welfare. Of course, both of those would be politically dynamite, especially the second one. It would also probably lead to people revoking their citizenship and “immigrating” to the country to avoid welfare payments thus rendering the welfare state impossible…a feature to me, a bug to most. But one which could be easily fixed by making those who used to hold the citizenship be excluded from this tax exempt.

          • Tibor says:

            JBeshir: It might have to do something with the fact that the European left is more sympathetic (in some cases enthusiastic) towards the idea of a unified federal European Union (a horrible idea to me and one that is fortunately less likely than the EU falling apart). If your aim is to put together which is separated, yo do not want even more division as it is easier to unite fewer countries than more.

          • Tatu Ahponen says:

            Huh? Most lefties I know are supportive of Catalonian independence.

          • Tibor says:

            Tatu Ahnponen: Hmm, maybe I have a too small a sample. Or maybe I am only considering a particular part of the left (mostly eurofederalist “moderate” left).

      • blacktrance says:

        I’d prefer countries built around values directly without reference to ethnicity, but while we have to work around the two-dimensional surface of the Earth, I think ethnicity is the closest approximation we’re going to get.

        Ethnicity isn’t much of an approximation for values. Look at the American cultural tribes, for instance – does a white Grey Triber really have that much in common with a white Red Triber? If I had to think of approximations for values, ethnicity would be really low on the list – even splitting people into something like golfers and non-golfers would do better.

        • T. Greer says:

          I assume you have never left America?

          A white red triber and a white blue triber have far more in common than with each other than either does with someone living in Brazil, or Belgium, or Japan. People who have lived in these places recognize this pretty much instantly.

          In any case, the way you are dividing up “ethnicity” may be flawed. Americans are used to describing “white” as an ethnicity, but this seems silly in an international context. What makes a Scottsman and an Englishman a different ethnicity? They are of the same race, live in the same country, and speak the same language. America is divided up into several fairly cohesive cultural regions whose origins lies with the ethnic backgrounds of the original immigrants. Values may vary greatly between whites as such–they vary far less between whites descendants of Scott Irish in Appalachia or white Yankees descended from Puritan stock. Call it cultural, call it genetic, or what have you, but the unusual distribution of values among American whites is what is.

          • blacktrance says:

            I was born outside the US and am of an ethnicity that’s not extremely common here. Nevertheless, I have more in common with the median American than with the median person of my birth ethnicity. But I have even more in common with different foreigners who share my interests and who move in the same circles as me than with the same median American.

            I also remember Haidt writing about how elites in America and Brazil are more similar to each other than to the masses of either country.

          • Linch says:

            My experiences are similar to that of blacktrance, if you want another data point.

      • John Sidles says:

        Scott Alexander says: “Look up the open borders movement; some of them take this idea pretty seriously. … Basically, you want to group people with similar values together.”

        History provides ample reasons to appreciate that “grouping people with similar values together” can be a mighty bad idea.

        A holocaust survivor of my acquaintance, Dr. “S” of “P”, advocated precisely the opposite approach — humorously, and yet personally he did practice it — universal compulsory intermarriage … across all cultures, all races, and all religions.

        It worked well for him … his kids were beautiful.

        But hey, rather than compulsory intermarriage, howzabout a whopping housing / education / healthcare economic credit for intermarriage?

        So much cheaper than bombs, guns, and missiles! So much more humane too. And in the long run, so much more effective.

        Hmmm … open borders universally for intermarried couples and their children … now, *that* would be globally transformative within very few generations!

        • The_Dancing_Judge says:

          its funny how much this story would not surprise anti-semites.

          Jokes aside, preventing the grouping of people with similar values seems to have its biggest cost in reducing trust. (cite to bowling alone guy’s paper). I am pretty certain that trust is extremely important for collective action problems and good governance. The alternative is giant bureaucracies. Late Roman empire/ post WWII US both seem to have a correlation between multi-ethnic populations, and bureaucratic systems to patch declining trust societies.

          (ok idk if this is an appropriate topic, but it does seem to be a good strategy to prevent the formation of large majorities of homogeneous high trust groups if you are a small minority living amongst that group)

        • John Sidles says:

          The_Dancing_Judge says [utterly wrongly] “Preventing the grouping of people with similar values seems to have its biggest cost in reducing trust.”

          What, you ain’t never witnessed the transformational augmentation of trust that comes of having a mixed-religion mixed-nationality mixed-race grandchild?

          Well, just wait awhile … there’s no stronger solvent for even the toughest cases of long-standing racist cognition.

        • Jeffrey Soreff says:

          But hey, rather than compulsory intermarriage, howzabout a whopping housing / education / healthcare economic credit for intermarriage?

          So much cheaper than bombs, guns, and missiles! So much more humane too. And in the long run, so much more effective.

          Oddly, I just saw

          The aristocracy vastly preferred intermarriage to violence as a way of dynastic expansion and consolidation — it didn’t expend the commodity you were trying to gather

          on another blog I read, in


      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Scott, the boundaries ought to be drawn by LANGUAGE. This is especially true if we need government schools to be an advanced culture (or to not violate human rights, if you take the UN as gospel). So you draw a boundary around the English-speakers and the state has them learn Shakespeare, one around the French-speakers and they have to learn Racine and Moliere, one around the German-speakers and they have to learn Goethe… unless the world’s teachers are only going to teach English, the way grammar schools and up once taught only Latin.

        • Tibor says:

          I do not think language is as big an issue as people think today. First, common language as a justification of a common state is a very modern idea and prior to nationalist movements of the 19th century (IMO on net a very bad thing) it never occurred to anyone that it makes sense to divide countries based on language or even nationality.

          At the same time, there are examples of successful multilingual countries. I think there are two (at least most obvious) ways one can go about that. One is the “Swiss” way, another is the “Singaporean” way. Switzerland is a country of 4 languages (even if Romansch is not all that widespread) and even culturally it is not homogeneous (and even the Swiss German dialects are so different from each other that the speakers of one do not understand the speakers of another one well if it is not too close). It is also a country with very strong federalism and independence of cantons. So while everyone is Swiss, a guy from St. Gallen does not have to care much about what a guy from Ticino thinks and vice versa. Even better – if you like the way people in Ticino think (or the climate there), you can always move there and the cantons are small enough (the largest is slightly bigger than Delaware) to keep the costs of moving quite low. And you do have a choice. The French speaking Cantons have by and large higher taxes and more state involvement than the German speaking for example. I do not see why this should not work with other countries and in fact this is what Austrian Empire might have looked like today had the history turned out slightly different ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_of_Greater_Austria ).

          The Singaporean way is a bit different. In Singapore, there are quotas in housing blocks for people of different ethnicities so that say the Malay do not live in isolation from the Chinese. You have a lot of cultural and other stuff organized by the state that emphasises the “Singaporeanness” and unity is the word of the day. At the same time, Singapore is also a 4 language country* but instead of sort of letting each group of people living their own way do diffuse tension like in Switzerland, they try (and are actually quite successful) to come up with a Singaporean identity that covers all the different ethnicities and languages and works as a bound between them. Of course, Singapore, being a tiny city state, cannot really be easily divided the way Switzerland can.

          …and then there is anarcho-capitalism. I like to describe as taking the Swiss system as a function of canton size and looking at the limit in zero. The cantons get progressively smaller until they are infinitesimal in geographical size. Of course, as it is often the case with limits, the result has some new surprising properties as well as possible problems you have to deal with.

          Lastly, there is Estonia (I think) which allows for “electronic citizenship”. I have not read too much about it, so I do not know what it entails exactly, but I think it is worth mentioning it for anyone interested who can then look it up.

          *Which is funny when you are in the SMRT – Singaporean Mass Transit System (but I like the acronym because “smrt” is a word in Czech which literally means death) and before the next station gets announced in all the languages, you are already there.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            “I do not think language is as big an issue as people think today. First, common language as a justification of a common state is a very modern idea and prior to nationalist movements of the 19th century (IMO on net a very bad thing) it never occurred to anyone that it makes sense to divide countries based on language or even nationality.”

            I know that very well. However, pre-modern states (counting the 15-1700s as pre-modern) did not have universal and compulsory education. Now all developed states do and underdeveloped ones are imitating in hopes of achieving economic equality. That’s a serious Chesterton fence. It’s going to take a lot of research to either prove that the older model of education would be at least as good, or to prove some new progressive idea.

            Given the modern model, it just seems fair that Latvian 6-year-olds are taught to read and write Latvian instead of Russian, Tamils Tamil instead of Hindi, and so on. As the latter example hints, this doesn’t preclude the sovereign ruling a multiethnic population, so long as internal boundaries represent autonomous units rather than powerless provinces.

          • Tibor says:

            I think that as far as schooling goes, you can do with powerless provinces. Just modify the system slightly as to allow people to choose the language their children will be taught in (if there are enough kids around to fill a classroom) among the main languages of the country.

            A bigger problem is that in the era of nationalism (we are not as nationalistic today in most places as people were in the 19th century, but we are still quite nationalistic) those provinces will not fancy someone of a different nationality ruling over them and you end up with a lot of tension or outright rebellion. In fact, even a model where it is not “nation A > nation B” but where everything is decided together in a central level is not all that stable.

            Czechoslovakia separated even though the languages of the former country are so close that most of the time one who speaks one can understand the other (save for some regional dialects or people who speak too fast) and still it was not enough.

            Then you have Belgium or UK which have been threatened by separation for some time. But while language plays a role, it is not the most decisive factor. Someone who speaks Schwäbisch is not going to understand someone who speaks Plattdeutsch (true, everyone also speaks Hochdeutsch and most young people don’t even speak the dialects well) and while Germany is a federation, it is nowhere near the level of the US or Switzerland in terms of self rule of the states. Still, you do not get separatism, because everyone considers themselves German first. In Bavaria, you have a slight* amount of separatism, because many Bavarians consider themselves Bavarian first and German second (or even not at all in some cases).

            There is some tension in Italy as well between the north and the south, although this probably has to do more with huge economic differences between north and south rather than nationalism.

            Generally, I think that it is not the language per se, but the national and cultural identity that causes problems in centrally ruled multinational/multicultural states.

            *This would be perhaps stronger if it were not for the CSU, which is also dubbed “the Bavarian party” (although there is an actual party of Bavaria which wants to reinstate independent Bavaria and has a support of about 1-2% of the votes) because it only operates in Bavaria. CSU has won all Bavarian elections save for one since its conception after WW2, often with more than 50% of the votes and is an important player in Bundestag (the federal parliament), being a part of the Union fraction (CDU+CSU) which sort of makes Bavaria more important and gives it more power than other Bundesländer (even if legally, all are the same).

        • DavidS says:

          Do you mean that all the English-speakers in the world should be one nation? Or just that you shouldn’t have countries like India, Canada, Belgium, etc. with multiple languages.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I would say the English-speakers are one nation, not living in a nation-state. Being on separate land masses make multiple English states fairly reasonable, though I honestly find the United States/Canada split incomprehensible (yes, yes, the Revolutionary War, but it’s not like Canada is a royalist utopia).

          • Samuel Skinner says:


            We have 4 defacto and a raft of official (ex colonies mostly). Perhaps we should get China to declare war on US and defend Australia and have Hillary declare the new empire in the Forbidden City.

          • I’m not even sure democrats and republicans are one nation.

          • Deiseach says:

            The notion that all Anglophone nations would be one entity is not a new one; back when the British Empire was probably at its zenith, there were certainly those who thought that the USA and Britain were a natural fit as representing the “Anglo-Saxon peoples” and would come together in one union. Conan Doyle has Sherlock Holmes, in one of his stories, say this to an American client:

            “I am one of those who believe that the folly of a monarch and the blundering of a minister in far-gone years will not prevent our children from being some day citizens of the same world-wide country under a flag which shall be a quartering of the Union Jack with the Stars and Stripes”

            I think Kipling, too, had the same notions. Empire Day was observed in Canada first, and the ‘cult of Empire’, you could say, got most of its support from the likes of Bonar Law, Canadian by birth who became Prime Minister of the U.K. in 1922.

            The idea was that Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and other regions under the parental rule of Britain would, as the Empire/Commonwealth, amalgamate with the U.S. as a sort of junior partner or elder son who would be guided in its youthful exuberance and fledgling power by the older, wiser, more experienced Mother Country.

            With the collapse of Empire, naturally this kind of pretension to global importance fell out of memory.

          • Where does Kipling suggest that the U.S. will be incorporated in the Empire? My impression was that, despite having an American wife, his experiences in Vermont had left him with a somewhat negative view of the country.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            “The notion that all Anglophone nations would be one entity is not a new one … With the collapse of Empire, naturally this kind of pretension to global importance fell out of memory.”

            For no rational cause, but because of an emotional reaction to the British Empire.

        • Daniel Armak says:

          Can I get citizenship in the English country by knowing English really really well, even though I’m an Israeli Jew? Would multilingual people have lots of citizenship offers?

          • With all the talk about linguistic nationalism, I cannot resist the temptation to point people at my first published econ journal article, a theory of the size and shape of nations, which offers an explanation of why linguistic nationalism arose when it did, along with some evidence.


          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            “Can I get citizenship in the English country by knowing English really really well, even though I’m an Israeli Jew? Would multilingual people have lots of citizenship offers?”

            Sure, why not?

          • Airgap says:

            Ooh, ooh! Is it transaction costs?

          • FullMeta_Rationalist says:

            What do the terms A and B stand for in the equation V = A - BT?

            Also, why does “rent (as a major potential revenue source) imply small nations”? Because I can’t seem to think of any reason rents should encourage this. Except for maybe administrative overhead. But this is negligible (as your article points out).

          • FullMeta:

            A and B are constants–I’m assuming that volume of trade declines linearly with tax rate.

            The reason rent leads to small nations is that there is no coordination economy of scale effect, as with trade, and I am assuming net diseconomies of administration. I have to assume that to keep my model from collapsing into a single state.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            So Mr. Friedman, do you think there’s enough data regarding Assyria and Kanesh:
            (As Scott linked awhile back) to make a model?

          • FullMeta_Rationalist says:

            Oh. I was thinking maybe they were abbreviations for jargon that economists implicitly understood. Like maybe A was the “Potential Aggregate Trade Volume” and maybe B was the “Trade Elasticity Coefficient”. I secretly want to name them because I want everything to have names.

            Thanks for clarifying.

        • But I like Goethe better than Shakespeare 🙁

          • Daniel Armak says:

            There’s a well-known effect where people hate the literature that was mandatory in the school they went to 🙂

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Ideally all schoolchildren would get to learn multiple literary languages, but the school system is abysmally inefficient and there’s plausibly an IQ cutoff for that anyway. Sadly.

          • Jon Gunnarsson says:

            Hmm, I’m German and I like Shakespeare better than Goethe.

          • Deiseach says:

            I’m Irish, I had my first exposure to the following between the ages of 12-15 as I ransacked the (literally) dusty bookshelves of the classroom and while Shakespeare was mandatory I love him (probably helps that I read the play first before we had to do it as part of English Curriculum and the dissecting it to its bones for essay topics took place); Dante was never mentioned at all and I love him; Goethe bores me (as I stumbled my unguided way through Sartor Resartus I couldn’t understand Carlyle’s mad, passionate crush on German philosophy and philosophers), and poor harmless Schubert and his lied “The Trout” (which I was exposed to in Music class) can still, to this day, drive me into a frothing homicidal fury when I hear the first trilling bars on the piano.

            All Music class did was turn me completely off German lieder and make me go for the French, which may be linguistic prejudice as well, since I gave up German after the first year as a language I could not get on with and which sounded horrible to me, and stuck to French which to my taste is beautiful 🙂

        • It’s interesting to look at a map of an average African country such as Liberia when considering this sort of proposal.

    • John Schilling says:

      I think you’re confusing race, ethnicity, and culture.

      Race is innate and unchangeable, and even the strongest reasonable HBD advocate would agree that it maps very weakly to anything that affects human performance or ought to affect human interactions. Racism is dumb. It’s factually wrong before it even has a chance to be morally wrong.

      Culture is much more flexible. You can usually change if you don’t like the one you’ve got. And it does strongly affect human performance and human interaction. It’s not dumb to treat cultures differently, or to treat people differently based on their cultural identity; rather, it would be dumb not to.

      Ethnicity is muddled somewhere in the middle.

      And nationalism is much more of an ethnic and cultural thing than it is a race thing. It make sense for a culture of e.g. cosmopolitan WEIRD urbanites to live by different rules than a culture of fundamentalist agrarian Moslems. It makes sense for them to follow different leaders. It makes sense for them to embark on different collective enterprises. To the extent that it makes sense for people to wage wars, it makes sense for them to wage different wars.

      Take racism entirely out of the equation, and it still makes sense for them to live in different nations. Take racism entirely out of the equation, and if you’re a cosmopolitan WEIRD urbanite who happened to be raised in Pakistan it makes sense for you to move to Europe rather than try to make Pakistan a fruitful place for cosmopolitan WIERDos to do their thing.

      Take racism entirely out of the equation, and if you’re signaling Cosmopolitan WIERD you’ll be welcome somewhere in Western Europe. And when you get there, with racism taken entirely out of the equation, it will make sense to have at least a fence between the people you live with now and the people you grew up among.

      • Rock Lobster says:

        I don’t think I agree with that. “Culture” is one of those things that maps onto ethnicity very closely, mostly for path dependency reasons, in my opinion, rather than genetic ones. But try hanging out in respectable circles and saying “I don’t have a problem with _____ PEOPLE, just the bad culture in the ______ community!” If you fill in the blank with, say, “black,” you run a very high risk of being accused of racism. You get much more leeway if you make the exact same comment about countries in the Middle East, say, or countries where FGM is practiced, and so on.

        In practice people use things like religion and culture as identity markers around which they “form sides,” in addition to ethnicity. It’s not like the Protestants and the Catholics in Northern Ireland were literally arguing over religious doctrine during The Troubles. But Protestant tended to come packaged with English/Scottish tribalistic loyalties.

        • John Schilling says:

          If you fill in the blank with, say, “black,” you run a very high risk of being accused of racism

          It is true that you will be accused of racism if you do this. That does not mean that the accusation is correct, or that the original statement is false.

          Much of the confusion comes from the fact that race, culture, ethnicity, and nationality are usually things people inherit from their parents, and so tend to be locally correlated.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          It’s not like the Protestants and the Catholics in Northern Ireland were literally arguing over religious doctrine during The Troubles. But Protestant tended to come packaged with English/Scottish tribalistic loyalties.

          Hence the old joke:

          “Hey you, are you a Protestant or a Catholic?”
          “Neither, actually, I’m an atheist.”
          “OK, but are you a Protestant atheist or a Catholic atheist?”

      • Pku says:

        But that raises the question of why not have, say, a fence between rural Wales and London – the difference there seems to be much greater than the difference between, say, Toronto and Minneapolis.
        There’s this question of what lines to split society along – you want each society to have diverse skills (planets of hats are a bad idea, and it seems like however you divide up countries most of them will need both farmers and architects). What characteristics would you want society to be uniform along? (Ironically, skin colour might be a decent candidate, since need for melanin corresponds pretty well with geography).
        (Also, why do you keep capitalizing (and misspelling?) WIERD? It’s driving me crazy.)

        • John Schilling says:

          Wales and London (well, England) were in fact historically separate nations, for good reason as you note. And the decision to unite them was not uncontroversial. Fortunately for the Welsh, the British Empire eventually mastered the art of incorporating multiple nationalities into a single overarching political sovereignty without destroying their individual distinctions.

          And I capitalize WEIRD because I am using it as an acronym for a cultural cluster, Western Educated Industrialized Rich Democratic, which is a very strong dividing line you’ll want to be keeping in mind if you are making nations. If you include WEIRDs and non-WIERDs in the same nation, you’ll want to use something like federalism to let them sort out into mostly-self-governing provinces.

          I’ve seen the spelling done both ways, but if it’s bothersome there’s no problem sticking with the homonym for just plain weird. Which, globally, WEIRDs are – and will suffer for it if you insist on tearing down the national boundaries that let us do things our way in our nations.

        • Berna says:

          WEIRD (with EI) is an acronym: Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic.

      • John Sidles says:

        John Schilling says [wrongly] “Race is innate and unchangeable.”

        Well, there’s your problem right there!

        With intermarriage and “passing” both becoming ever-more-common, it’s plain that race is biologically plastic and culturally mutable.

        At least, this is true for the increasingly many folks who are creatively enterprising in their courtship, their social relations, their work, and their art.

        A sense of humor helps, definitely!

        • Comment Reader But Not Usually a Poster says:

          I don’t disagree with your conclusion, but what is your evidence that “passing” is becoming more common?

          My impression is that in North America, as the stigma of being non-white (non-english if you go back far enough) weakened, less people bothered to “pass.”

          • John Sidles says:

            Comment Reader But Not Usually a Poster asks [very politely and reasonably]: “What is your evidence that “passing” is becoming more common?”

            One primary reason why passing is more common nowdays is common-sense simple: racial passing is no longer a felony that can send you to prison.

            Got a citation?  Sure! Chapter X “Marriage and other domestic problems” of Charles S. Magnam’s indispensable review The Legal Status of the Negro (1940) describes at-length the immense legal risks that were entailed — until relatively recently — to the practice of “passing”.

            Are these questions easy or settled?  Not in Israel!

          • Comment Reader But Not Usually a Poster says:

            John Sidles states [clearly and succinctly]: “…racial passing is no longer a felony that can send you to prison.”

            We obviously disagree what evidence is. You gave me a reason that it could be happening. Are you suggesting that it stopped being a felony because there was such a demand to pass that they had to change the law? I will do a bit more of my own research when I am at home. I am uncomfortable putting racial questions into a work computer’s google.
            The reason I asked the question in the first place is that saying passing is more common, runs contrary to all reading and experience I have had on the subject. My experience with the issue is that people do not publicly deny a vital part of their self identification unless the upside is disproportionally larger than the downside. To pass racially very often requires a sacrifice of the family and friends that are not willing or able to pass with you. Basically telling them you are ashamed of them. This is not something you do just because you are now allowed to.

          • John Sidles says:

            Comment Reader opines  “I will do a bit more of my own research [on racial identity in-the-law] when I am at home.”

            A once-controversial yet still-readable analysis of racial and class identity — that sharply contrasts legalistic cognition against empathetic cognition — is Mark Twain’s relentlessly transgressive novel The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson (1894).

            Those who finish Huck Finn still doubting Twain’s own racial attitudes should read Following the Equator or Pudd’nhead Wilson, in which Twain excoriates the “one-drop rule” (the American law decreeing that “one drop of negro blood” made a person black):

            “To all intents and purposes Roxy was as white as anybody, but the one sixteenth of her which was black out-voted the other fifteen parts and made her a ‘negro’.”

            When writing in an educated voice, rather than Huck Finn’s, Twain puts the then-respectful term “negro” in scare quotes, questioning the category itself.

            He also paid for the tuition of a young African American who wanted to attend Yale, saying that “he was doing it as his part of the reparation due from every white man to every black man”.

            Pretty much matter what the subject, Mark Twain is a good starting-point for both rational and empathetic cognition, eh Comment Reader?

            Nowadays people laugh, joke, and fib fearlessly about their racial heritage. GOOD! And that’s why it takes artistic works like Twain’s and legal works like Magnam’s to remind us — until very recent decades — the exercise of social choice in regard to racial identity was so hazardous as to be unthinkable.

          • Mary says:

            “One primary reason why passing is more common nowdays is common-sense simple: racial passing is no longer a felony that can send you to prison.”

            Given that we have had demonstrated cases of whites passing as blacks, I think that first of all you need to prove that it is indeed more common.

            And if so, is it under the “one-drop” rule? Because there were long periods in the South where the child of an octaroon and a white was white. (Something drawn upon for the arguments about the Nuremberg Laws of Racial Purity, though in the end they went a little looser.)

          • John Sidles says:

            The remarkably high level of quibbling here on SSC in regard to the evolution of social practices associated to “passing” (in regard to race, gender, class, and nationality) calls to mind Robert Heinlein’s utter rejection of quibbling with respect to the practice of slavery.

            For example, we read in Heinlein’s Kim-remake juvenile novel of class-passing and race-passing Citizen of the Galaxy (1957)

            Wing Marshall Smith  “Some smarmy well-dressed character will venture the opinion that slavery — when it existed — was not so bad, because a huge part of the population is really happier if they don’t have the responsibilities of a free man [sic].”

            Thorby  “One stroke of the lash would change his slimy mind!”

            Is anyone here on SSC assimilating the plain message of Mangum’s “Legal Status of the Negro” (1940) or the highly favorable (yet gently ironical) reviews that Mangum’s work received in prestigious law journals?

            Columbia Law Review

            The customs and mores of a people often find expression in law, and the fact that this book [Mangum’s Legal Status of the Negro, 1940] is primary a legal text should not deter the sociologist from resorting to it frequently as a rich storehouse of material on the day-to-day intercourse in the South, and also as a handbook on the sanctions of subjugation.

            Emphasis by me.

            What can we conclude? … We can conclude even the most vigorous practice of rationality serves SSC readers ill, when serves chiefly to rationalize the quibbling, cherry-picking and willful ignorance of social justice concerns, that Heinlein’s juvenile novels (and Twain’s darkly humorous novels too) so clairvoyantly satirized.

          • Mary says:

            Well, that’s an interesting tangent to go off on.

            May I point out that leading with a work of fiction is not the way to convince people that they are wrong about reality?

          • John Sidles says:

            Mary says: “May I point out that leading with a work of fiction is not the way to convince people that they are wrong about reality?”

            That’s why my comments led-off with plain-as-day non-fiction primary-document works of legal reality

            The Georgia race registration action [of 1940] provides that anyone who makes an intentionally false statement as to his or her race or color in applying for a marriage license is guilty of a felony … In no less than seven states language is employed which may be construed as prohibiting marriages of whites with persons who have a Negro blood, however remote the strain may be. … No action is needed to invalidate the marriage of a white person and a Negro, the union being null and void ab initio.

            Great humanists like Twain, Kipling, Faulkner, and Heinlein (and many more) vividly portray the human passions, tragedies, and deeds of heroism and violence that are associated to these dry, rational, legal sanctions of subordination … as the above-quoted legal scholar Jerome H. Spingarn called them.

            “If they stop us with violence, the movement is dead.

            We are coming.

             —  Justice advocate Diane Nash

            It’s not easy to stop social justice advocates, is it? Equally in fiction and in reality?

            So shall we say anything other than “Good for the inspiring fiction-writers”?  As Abraham Lincoln is said to have said to Harriet Beecher Stowe “So this is the little lady who started this great war!”

        • Jason K. says:

          Depending on the font that you are using, upper case ‘i’ can be practically indistinguishable from a lower case ‘L’. Does that make the letters mutable? Just because two things are close enough that they can be confused doesn’t make the definition ‘plastic’. Go slap down some pyrite on the counter of your local gold dealer and try the argument that the definition of gold is mutable because sometimes pyrite is mistaken for gold. I can mix yellow and red and get orange. Does that mean the colors are plastic? Just because how the categories are defined can be changed and there are edge cases does not mean the underlying bits being categorized don’t exist.

      • >Race is innate and unchangeable,

        A person’s genes are innate, though even they can change a little.

        Race has changed over time and varies from one place to another, as people change their definitions. Is a person who shows some black ancestry black? Or is a person who shows some white ancestry white? Are Jews white?

        Which version of race are you saying is innate and unchangable?

        • John Schilling says:

          The version that an individual person is born with and will have to live with for the rest of their life. If you are born e.g. black, in the usual sense of the word, you are basically never going to be anything but black no matter how much you feel you don’t fit in with and don’t want to be associated with other black people. The name might change if your society does the euphemism treadmill thing. The way your society treats black people might change. The recognition of “black people” as a racial category is exceedingly unlikely to go away over the course of a single lifetime, so you’re going to be stuck with it.

          A small minority will be able to “pass”, if they so wish, but that’s not generally a viable strategy for dealing with racism.

          • John Sidles says:

            John Schilling opines: “If you are born e.g. black, in the usual sense of the word, you are basically never going to be anything but black no matter how much you feel you don’t fit in with and don’t want to be associated with other black people. […] The recognition of “black people” as a racial category is exceedingly unlikely to go away over the course of a single lifetime, so you’re going to be stuck with it.”

            That view is pretty much the same as Charles S. Magnam’s legal survey The Legal Status of the Negro confidently asserted as recently as 1940:

            The proponents of this [social justice activist] view fail to realize that the present temper of the southern white man would not tolerate a policy permitting mixed marriages.

            Any attempt to so change the law would be doomed to failure. In fact such an effort could only have the result of stirring up the racial prejudice of the white man to such fever heat that it would act as a boomerang against the Negros.

            The white man in the south has made up his mind that he wants no intermarriage against the Negro, and nothing is going to change this attitude as yet, if ever. In fact, the state of Mississippi has enacted a criminal stature punishing anyone for publishing, printing, or circulating any literature in favor of or urging interracial marriage or social equality.

            But Charles S. Magnam’s 1940 legal review, despite being solidly grounded in law and reason, turned out to be dead-wrong in the end … didn’t it? Good!

            Mainly because a critical mass of citizens rejected Magnam’s passive path of legalisms and rationality and inaction, and embraced King’s performative path of humanism, empathy, and engagement.

            Do folks nowadays exploit these hard-won gains of social activism for purposes so inconsequentially irrational as comedy and romance?

            Thankfully, yes.

            And are further social justice gains in-progress, around the world, even today? Social justice gains that presently are foci of anger, demagoguery, and even violence? To eventually become wellsprings even of comedy and romance?

            Also, thankfully yes!

    • J says:

      I’ve been arguing lately that the Left is doing a sort of awkward shift from opposing teams to supporting them. Most of my left-leaning friends are uncomfortable with the notion of nationalism, partly I think because it signals “Red Team”, but partly because they associate teams with oppression.

      Some of them even organized a parlor discussion among friends to try to decide if there was any merit to the idea of nationalism, and couldn’t come up with much, so I tried to help steelman it.

      My argument was: imagine you’re the football team that always easily wins the state championship. We expect you to be gracious in victory, especially around the weaker teams, but team spirit is okay at the appropriate times.

      Now imagine you’re the podunk high school that rarely wins. You have a lot more reason to band together and work hard to perform well against your many neighboring competitors.

      So for nationalism, if you’re from a traditionally powerful country, it makes more sense to be gracious and sensitive to how you treat weaker countries. But if you’re a small landlocked nation surrounded by hostile forces, nationalism may well be necessary for survival.

      • Pku says:

        Anecdotally, I’ve been doing something of an awkward shift from opposing teams to supporting them over the last few years, but this has corresponded pretty well with getting somewhat anti-leftist.

      • “But if you’re a small landlocked nation surrounded by hostile forces, nationalism may well be necessary for survival.” Assuming an absence of co-operative solutions, like banding together ina n EU or African Union arrangment.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Yes, modern leftism is turning against nationalism. Congratulations for noticing that you hold beliefs that contradict each other. That’s because some of them are wrong.

      Nation-states were a Schelling point for international borders for ~200 years. But the races involved were generally social constructed by nationalism for sake of nationalism. They would declare a national language, force everyone to speak it, and declare the speakers of that language to be a race. It’s a lot easier to force the capital language on the provinces if they already speak related languages, ideally dialects. That’s why Basques and Bretons were big hold-outs. The Basques still are, but a whole generation of male Bretons were killed in WWI, solving that problem. But even closely related languages can survive, like Catalan.

    • Saul Degraw says:

      That depends. I suppose it could be but I am a pragmatist and also convinced that most people will never accept a government entity larger than the nation-state. I am sympathetic to the open borders argument. I think the U.S. should let in many more refugees. I have yet to see open boarders advocates craft an argument that non-sympathetically inclined people and/or non-woks can get behind.

    • Adam Casey says:

      You can steelman (and I think quite reasonably) Nationhood as a cultural and linguistic grouping not as an ethnic one. “The Jews” come in lots of different ethnic flavours depending on where there were disaporaed to, but we call all the people who do the passover feast part of the Jewish nation regardless of this.

      That being granted it’s utterly reasonable to want only people of your nation to be part of your state. I’d trust someone born and brought up in the culture of Hong Kong to participate in the UK far more effectively than I’d trust a Frenchman, even if the latter are more genetically similar.

      Being ruled by foreigners is bad in a way that isn’t to do with ethnicity. It’s about being ruled by people who don’t share a culture with you. A yankee might think a bible-belter is pretty damn weird, but they trust eachother to both respect key institutions like free commerce and private property. I don’t think there’s the same cultural bedrock of shared assumptions and norms in somewhere more heterogeneous like Europe. And this analysis holds even if the US is a more genetically diverse place than Europe is.

      • unsafeideas says:

        The problem is not just that foreigners who rule over you do not share your culture. Even if they would share the culture, ruling foreigners have different interests then you. It makes perfect sense for them to design rules that benefit them and they have little reason to care whether they harm you.

        If you are ruled by foreigners, they themselves are not subject to rules they are creating for you if they do not want it. That situation is bound to harm you no matter how compatible or same your cultures are.

      • suntzuanime says:

        Since when is the bible-belter going to trust the yankee to respect free commerce and private property? The yankee is in the habit of forcing the bible-belter to bake gay cakes and pay ruinous Obamacare taxes.

    • Yakimi says:

      You are correct to note that there is a contradiction between the fundamentally exclusionary nature of nation-states in which the nation is largely defined by common descent (a race, if you will), and the moral universalism which these states espouse. Mencius Moldbug noted that the open borders people are essentially right to call national borders a case of Apartheid on an international scale, and that it is inconsistent to oppose Apartheid in one country (like South Africa) but not between countries. To believe in the maintenance of national borders, then, is to be believe in the necessity of Apartheid. This contradiction has been resolving in favor of universalist tendencies as of late, resulting in mass immigration and the worship of diversity as states try to erase nations defined by descent.

      The evolution of fascism from progressivism becomes more obvious if you consider it a case of the contradiction resolving entirely in favor of exclusionary nationalism.

      • Matt says:

        Apartheid was about people being subjugated socially and legally *in the same country*. They weren’t living in a neighboring country, under their own culture and with self determination.

        Radically different situations.

        • Apartheid South Africa set up mini-countries (Bantustans) within the bigger country as part of implementing apartheid.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            South African blacks were officially guest workers with voting rights in a Bantustan that they didn’t live in. I don’t think Matt would count that as “self-determination.”

            It is, however, exactly like the generations of Turkish guest workers in Germany. While the same people eventually condemned this and forced Germany to grant them citizenship, they weren’t complaining in the 80s.

        • Anon. says:

          >Radically different situations.


          • Matt says:

            I acknowledge that borders segregate people. I realize this is unfair to individuals born outside of the first world.

            However, there is an inherent social benefit of letting different peoples do their own thing on their own territory. It minimizes conflicts. If it wasn’t for the principle of basically letting other peoples alone, we would be morally obligated to conquer islamic countries and free their women, in the same way they would be obligated to conquer us to stop us from living our immoral lives.

            Suppose a western european country opened it’s borders and was practically overrun by syrian refugees. One of two things would happen: refugees would be forced to live according to western values with are immoral to them or there are enough of them to impose their own values on their host country. How would that not lead to violent conflict?

          • Anonymous says:


            While I agree entirely that there are benefits to allowing people to do their own thing on their own territory, a nation strikes me as much too large a group of people to be able to agree on doing pretty much anything.

            I think an approach that gets much closer to achieving this goal would be strong property rights, freedom of association, freedom of contract, as minimal government as is feasible, and open borders. Refugees can do what they like, on their own property. They can have their Islamic culture, you can have your preferred culture. If anyone’s culture requires demanding everyone else adopts the same culture, then those people are by far the most deserving target of any demands along the lines of “please change your preferences, I find them offensive”.

        • Yakimi says:

          >Apartheid was about people being subjugated socially and legally *in the same country*.

          Pretty moot distinction from a universalist, Rawlsian perspective, and from that of an individual. Speaking as my former progressive self, why should the arbitrary national borders you were randomly born into be the limit of the opportunities you deserve? Why is discrimination and segregation justified when done to “foreigners”? Why should the distinction of being a “foreigner” serve deny any human being the benefits of a First World existence? Why do people have to be segregated into their own countries to enjoy their own cultures? What consolation is “national self-determination” in a time when so many people are eager to flee their own nations for the safety and prosperity of First World countries?

          • John Schilling says:

            A black person living in a nation of just black people, is highly unlikely to live under laws saying that black people can’t go to the best schools, live in the best neighborhoods, hold the best jobs. A black person living in a nation with an apartheid regime very likely will, because that’s the whole point.

            It seems like an individual black person might find this to be a significant difference.

          • Anon. says:

            Except the best schools are in the USA, and US law says they can’t go to the best schools. Even worse, it’s far less likely that they’ll be able to change US law than their own local apartheid laws.

          • John Schilling says:

            The folks at Cambridge and Oxford would like to have a word with you about which nation the best schools are in. And in any event, the best students usually don’t have much trouble crossing the borders to get to the best schools.

            “Nationalism” != “Berlin Wall”. It can, however, mean getting clear of people who would prevent you from building good-enough local schools for students who aren’t going to be traveling halfway around the world for an education.

    • Daniel Armak says:

      The argument for nationalism: different people have different life goals, prefer living in differently organized countries with different culture and religion, and yet that doesn’t mean some of them are objectively wrong and require reeducation. Therefore it’s best for everyone to voluntarily segregate into separate nations, and the ones we’ve got today are mostly homogenous, which is good. When they’re not homogenous enough, if everyone is willing to relocate so that Greens live in one end of the country and Blues in the other, then secession might be to their mutual benefit.

      Inasfar as you’re already heterogenous and integrated, of course you mustn’t discriminate; but integration isn’t necessarily a good thing.

      Saying racism is wrong, in this sense, is the same as saying having political disagreements is wrong, at least when they correlate with race. Suppose there’s a political debate: Christians want the weekly day off to be Sunday, Jews want it to be Saturday, Muslims want Friday, and Discordians want every worker to choose for themselves. No-one is “objectively” right, but everyone wants their religious group to be the political majority and enforce its will on the others. One possible resolution is to voluntarily segregate by religion and make the choice on a state or municipal level.

      Now suppose the Christians are European, the Muslims are Middle Easterners, the Jews are Jews, and the Discordians are recent Mexican immigrants. Suddenly the debate becomes racist. Is it now wrong to segregate? Is it wrong to politically force your preference on the minority? Is there a third way?

      ETA: I’m not arguing for segregation; I’m trying to steelman the argument.

      My example is, of course, a real-world problem; we have it here in Israel. The current solution is that everyone is registered with the state as having a certain ethnicity and religion (which they can’t change at will). Jews have a day off on Saturday, Muslims on Friday, and there aren’t enough Christians to matter, but I think other minorities can choose their own day. The main benefit is that Muslim-run shops get a lot of business from secular Jews on Saturdays.

    • There’s some evidence of the arrow goign in the other direction..groups thinking they are ethnically homegenous (and distinct) because they are politically united.

      And, as a former inhabitant of Belgium..don’t underestimate the importance of language!

    • This is why anti-racists are trying to destroy the concept of the nation-state.

    • Sastan says:

      It’s simpler than all that.

      “Anti-racism” is just code for anti-lower-class-own-racism. Anti-racist sentiments are how middle class people signal to upper class people that they aren’t like those terrible lower class people, who have tribal affilitations and practical problems that won’t let them be quite that stupid. If you’re poor, and the neighborhood is infested with racially segregated violent gangs, you don’t have the luxury of being “anti-racist”. That just signals defection from the only group that will protect you. Hence the success of groups like Nation of Islam and Aryan Nations in the prison system.

      Or, put another way, at some point after a tribe starts the hopscotch on top of Maslows Hierarchy of Needs, the internal factions become more important distinctions than the external ones. There are no threats to Americans, so our internal battles become much more important. Anti-racism is how the wealthy whites can ethnically cleanse the valuable real estate and push the minority problems onto the poorer whites, and gain status while they do it.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        There’s certainly something to the thesis that SJ is a form of classism that Americans have the luxury to indulge in because of a lack of real threats.
        But Switzerland has been safe and rich since before America had a Constitution. Shouldn’t the Swiss have, like, the worst case of Social Justice War?

        • Chalid says:

          They didn’t get universal female suffrage until 1991, so Swiss feminism certainly was not a major force.

      • Berna says:

        >Anti-racism is how the wealthy whites can ethnically cleanse the valuable real estate […]

        I don’t understand this part. How does that work?

        • JDG1980 says:

          He’s probably alluding to Steve Sailer’s argument that a lot of the modern “anti-racist” movement is really about pushing underclass African-Americans out of large cities (where they drive down property values) and into suburbs. This is accomplished by replacing old-style public housing with Section 8 vouchers, and encouraging the recipients of those vouchers to settle in suburban regions. The efforts of the existing suburban residents to enforce middle-class norms of living is a threat to this project, hence the massive demonization of cops in small and mid-size towns like Ferguson for doing police work “too aggressively”.

          • LeeEsq says:

            This seems like just pure projecting. It seems to be just as uncharitable as the opinions many liberals have about libertarianism.

          • LeeEsq says:

            Adding to my original comment, this doesn’t even make sense in regards to St. Louis because St. Louis is not one of the cities that are gentrifying in the United States. There might be some hipster areas but it isn’t New York, Portland, or even Philadelphia by a long stretch.

          • Berna says:

            Thanks for the explanation!

    • eh says:

      May the hammer of Scott fall upon me if my transgressions against the “no race” taboo are unjustified. That said…

      Culture seems to be the basis for modern nationalism. The concept of “race” as ethnoreligiocultural grouping was all the rage early 20th century and before, since the three things were pretty similar. Now, we split the historical concept of “race”[0] into its ethnic, religious, and cultural parts. In other words, there’s a meaningful difference between a cultural nationalist, which is what we usually mean when we say a nationalist and who you might see cheering on a sports team or voting; a religious nationalist, who might be found supporting Israel or Iran, opposing Muslim immigration into Europe, or traveling to fight with ISIS; and an ethnonationalist, who might be found in the identarian movement in Europe, dressed in jackboots with a shaved head at your local neo-Nazi rally, or holding any given position within the ANC in South Africa[1]. The three can be and usually are combined.

      Racism as an -ism would refer to ethnonationalism. Racism as a belief about the state of the world wouldn’t fall into any category. Racism as an act of aggression made on the basis of ethnicity might fit into ethnonationalism, but doesn’t rely on the existence of a nation, and fitting it into that category implies that all ethnonationalists support political violence.

      Counter-examples not only welcome but explicitly begged for.

      [0] Evola’s race of the soul is a good example of an idea that makes no sense if race means the same thing as ethnicity or genetics. The unmentionables talk about thedes a lot, and what someone like Evola or Kipling meant when they talked about race is probably a lot closer to a thede than an ethnic group. Proud lads from Derbyshire stop being proud lads from Derbyshire when they spend three generations in rural New Zealand.

      [1] I’ve tried to list varied examples, not equivalent ones: neo-Nazis are not the same as the ANC in ends or means, Israel and Iran are notable for being quite different, and voting != sportsball.

      • Where does Kipling talk about race?

        In “The White Man’s Burden,” it’s pretty clear that “White Man” is a reference to civilization, not race–consider that in the stories set in Roman Britain the Romans are playing the white man role. You get a similar effect with “An’ for all ‘is dirty ‘ide,/’E was white, clear white, inside/When ‘e went to tend the wounded under fire!”

        • eh says:

          In “The White Man’s Burden,” it’s pretty clear that “White Man” is a reference to civilization, not race

          Which is, in a way, what I mean. Civilisation to Kipling looked European, white, and Christian. I don’t think he drew as great a distinction between Britain the empire, Britain the race, and Britain the culture. For example, “Lesser breeds without the Law” is a fuck-you to Germany, but also links German lineage and German militarism in a way few modern writers would. Race for Kipling and for many others of his era reads as more than genetic.

          • As I pointed out, in the two Roman stories the “white man” civilization is Roman. Judging by the hymn to Mithra, not Christian. I don’t think Kipling was particularly Christian himself–the impression I get is a somewhat vague theism, with more use of Old Testament than new as references in the poetry.

            Technological civilization was European at the time he was writing, although Japan was beginning to come online. But it’s pretty clear from works such as _Kim_ that he didn’t think of all non-Europeans as the sort of people it was the burden of Europeans to bring towards the light.

            Where does Kipling use the term “race?” No examples come immediately to mind. He writes about the English, positively or negatively depending on context, but I can’t think of references that lump together all white European Christians.

          • eh says:

            I may have hallucinated a Kipling poem, since I remember some lines about Sheffield and Derbyshire, the Panama Canal, and “the English race” that don’t appear anywhere, in Kipling’s work or otherwise.

            As such, ignore what I said, and sorry for this whole thing.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            Race for Kipling and for many others of his era reads as more than genetic.

            I think a key here may be what people of that era meant by ‘blood’. It meant what we call ‘DNA’, but its facets included psychological and spiritual qualities, and perhaps some of what Chesterton called ‘instincts’.

            Kipling’s _His Chance in Life_ is … another country.
            www gutenberg org /files/1858/1858-h/1858-h.htm#link2H_4_0010

            Notes, and links to other sources.
            www kiplingsociety.co.uk / rg_hischance1.htm

    • PGD says:

      Favoring your own children over the children of other families is also quite racist but people seem to think there is value in it.

      • John Schilling says:

        If the other families in question are of the same race as your own, how is this racist?

        • Anonymous says:

          Surely all families in the world are in question, since you could in principle choose to help out pretty much any child anywhere if you really wanted to?

          In which case, unless there is only one race in the world, which there isn’t, by helping out your family you’re favoring people of your own race over the other possible families you could have favored, most of them of a different race to yours.

          • John Schilling says:

            And if I start a business, then I become a racist on the day I hire my first employee because I have favored a person of one race over all the other people I could have favored, most of them of different races?

            Or am I only a racist if the person I hire is of my own race?

            You seem to be using the word “racist”, and for that matter “favor”, in a very different manner than I would, and I’m not sure what your version is intended to communicate.

          • Anonymous says:

            “I’m not sure what your version is intended to communicate.”

            To be honest… pedantry.

          • Linch says:

            You could, of course, just bite the consistency bullet and not have children until the cost of saving another’s child comes within an order of magnitude as having your own.

            (Not sure how generalizable this advice is though…)

          • Anonymous says:


            That depends on you caring about other people’s children as much as your own, which I expect almost nobody does, nor can I see any reason to think that anyone should.

          • Deiseach says:

            That only works even theoretically if I am childless and favour children of my siblings/neighbours over children in Africa that I could be helping.

            If I have children of my own, I am obligated to look after them. Unless you recommend I give up my newborn baby

          • Linch says:

            I totally get the argument for why special relationships take priority over global suffering. Totally! Whether it is correct or not is another matter, but I think most people can agree that we do not have a moral obligation to *create* a special relationship.

            So I’m agnostic about whether you should value your child over the lives of 100+ other children, but pretty strongly in the camp of “you should not value an existent child over 100 actual children actually dying.”

        • PGD says:

          By favoring your children you favor those of your genetic lineage over those of another genetic lineage. The biological element of race is all about genetic lineage. By definition your children are the closest people to you racially who exist on earth, except for your parents or siblings. (Not sure if you really can’t see this or are ignoring it for some reason).

      • Zippy says:

        Those who favor family over nonfamily are just a kind of racist with an extremely picky standard of what constitutes the “master race”.

        Steven Kaas

        • Publius Varinius says:

          Everyone is just a kind of racist.

          Those who favor humans over nonhumans are just a kind of racist with a somewhat lax standard of what constitutes the “master race”.

          Those who favor mammals over nonmammals are just a kind of racist with a lax standard of what constitutes the “master race”.

          Those who favor living beings over inorganic matter are just a kind of racist with an extremely lax standard of what constitutes the “master race”.

  8. J says:

    I get the weird scrolling behavior too.

    • onyomi says:

      Me too.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Ditto. I believe it came in with the new theme. Looks like it kind of tries to scroll down to the comment and then bounce around a bit. I bet there’s some javascript you can remove (I’ll check once I post this).

      • Jaskologist says:

        Pretty sure this is the guilty party:

        function SCE_comment_scroll from

        (unminified here).

        Basically, you need to remove the $( ‘.sce-edit-button’ ).on( ‘sce.timer.loaded’, SCE_comment_scroll ); line from that file. I don’t know the details of your deployment; the .min.js file is what actually gets served, but that’s compiled down from the plain .js file, so if you don’t get it out of the original source it may end up reappearing later when you change something else.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          It is a necessary part of the new theme. Since it uses javascript to resize, it messes up the vertical position, requiring the movement to get to the correct place. Solution: go back to the old theme.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Changing the animate call to a once-and-done call might do the trick, then.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Scott is complaining about scrolling at the very beginning. In fact, it is once-and-done.

          • Anon. says:

            It’d be much easier if the commenting worked without the need to reload…wouldn’t lose the new comment styling either.

          • 75th says:

            Scott is complaining about scrolling at the very beginning. In fact, it is once-and-done.

            Could be misinterpreting you here, but if I’m not, then no. The actual SCE_comment_scroll() function animates the scroll action, which is never a good idea and only ever leads to suffering.

  9. Gauge says:

    “I am experimentally tabooing the words “neoreaction”, “neoreactionary”, ”

    Well, that’s really a very neo-neoreactionary positon to take.

  10. Siah Sargus says:

    On the topic of tabooing words…

    You what we should really taboo?


    Seriously, I haven’t seen this suggested anywhere else. I don’t see this word used properly anymore, it’s more of a rhetorical bludgeon that you can drag out pretty much whenever someone is complaining, and it works for pretty much everything, unfortunately. As long as it’s about something someone lacks, you can “call them out” on entitlement, because people are only supposed to be entitled to their rights and the air they breathe, apparently. Imagine if you actually used this entitlement argument in daily life – you’d be an asshole!

    “The food at the cafeteria wasn’t as good today, it was just sandwiches, and there was no hot food.”
    “Stop acting so entitled, you aren’t entitled to hot food, if you wanted hot food you could buy it at a restaurant or make it at home, I hate how entitled you act.”

    “It’s pretty cold out here, do you have a spare coat? I forgot mine.”
    “What, are you entitled to my property now? You should have brought your own!”

    “The Director was rather abrasive and short with me, it’s frustrating to be brushed aside like that.”
    “You aren’t entitled to anyone’s conversation.”

    I know that these two examples seem outlandish, but I’m applying the logic of the word as I see it used online to actual conversations.

    Well, that’s not the only reason I dislike it, or the biggest one. The most important reason I don’t like this word, is because it seems to be used as a rationalization to avoid outgroup empathy.

    So in summary:

    No, poor people/black people aren’t “acting entitled” when they seek charity. No, men don’t believe that they are “entitled to women’s bodies” when they pursue romance. No, Millennials (Eww, so arbitrary. It’s like: You know what people don’t hate each other about yet? Age! Yuck.) are not “entitled and want to have the entire society cater to them” because college debt is hard to deal with and impossible to get rid of.

    • Saul Degraw says:

      Anyword can be abused. I dislike it when the GOP talks about freedom and liberty because I disagree with their narrow definition of both words. The House
      “Freedom” Caucus seems excessively focused on business and property rights instead of wondering about what freedom might mean to someone in a minority. IMO freedom and liberty also include “I am a minority and can fully participate in the civil and economic life of my country without fear of discrimination.” Yet these thoughts don’t seem to enter the heads of the House “Freedom” Caucus.

      But the words should not be banned.

      Yes I also get annoyed at void for over broad or vagueness issues.

      • “IMO freedom and liberty also include “I am a minority and can fully participate in the civil and economic life of my country without fear of discrimination.”

        Your definition isn’t broader, it’s different, since it means I do not have the freedom to decide for myself who I will buy from, sell to, hire, agree to be hired by. You are eliminating what some of us consider freedom in order to get what you consider freedom.

        • Adam Casey says:

          Seconded. Freedom is very broad and very multifaceded. People who oppose you in respecting the key vital things that have underpinned it (free contract, free association) are not “narrow”.

        • JBeshir says:

          My first thought on seeing the grandparent was that freedom, like “fairness”, has many different definitions and many people it can apply to, and not all of those definitions can be satisfied for all of those people at once.

          And thus it was not reasonable to pick the definition of either freedom or fairness that matters most to you personally, and then treat its provision as a bare minimum expectation when discussing policy.

          Which is not to say that you can’t propose universalising one particular definition of either, it just won’t be the one some people want.

          And it’s not to say that you can’t keep a thumb on the scale for a whole bunch of forms of either, even if they conflict on occasion.

          • Cauê says:

            The problem to me comes when a word has earned prestige under one definition (or rather, that concept has earned prestige), and there’s a push to shift the word to a different definition, thereby stealthly assigning the new concept unearned prestige.

            “Freedom” and “democracy” are the ones I see the most. I seem to remember rants by Orwell in this sense, and certainly by Hayek.

            It works in the opposite way, too, in attempts to expand the definitions of [examples that would push against Scott’s policies], thus implying that the things newly referred to by those words deserve similar demonization and punishment as the things those words referred to back when we decided they deserved that level of demonization and punishment.

            Not quite identical, but very related: Scott’s Worst Argument in the World.

          • Cet3 says:

            “Freedom” only became so prestigious by being all things to all people. Pretending it earned its prestige in some golden age when it had a more specific and broadly accepted definition is wishful thinking.

          • Cauê says:

            Many things, sure. All things, no, and not some of the things being pushed.

      • Jeffrey Soreff says:

        If it were named the House Owning Class’s Freedom Caucus would that label it more accurately?

      • Yakimi says:

        Does the House Freedom Caucus support rolling back legal penalties for private acts of discrimination? Do they want to repeal Civil Rights legislation? Or is your point that they don’t support the further erosion of the so-called “freedom” of association, like creating diversity quotas in affluent neighborhoods?

        • nobody says:

          “creating diversity quotas in affluent neighborhoods”

          Is this a thing people advocate? (As opposed to complaining about the lack of diversity in affluent neighborhoods.)

    • Zorgon says:

      The reason why “I lack X and would like to have access to it” is reconstructed as “You feel entitled to X!” is because people who perceive themselves as having control over X do not want to potentially lose that control over X.

      “Entitlement” in its most common usage is pretty much always another way of saying “I/We do not intend to relinquish even an ounce of my/our control over that phenomenon.”

      It’s not even particularly complicated and I’m always a little annoyed when I see otherwise intelligent people fall for it.

      • suntzuanime says:

        I disagree – very frequently “entitled” is a way of saying “I put in my effort and took my lumps to get X, and just handing it to you cheapens my own achievement”. It’s people policing cheating in status games.

        • Zorgon says:

          Our definitions are not particularly incompatible, but I’d suggest that “I put in my lumps to get X” is a post-hoc rationalisation of “I have control of X and I will not relinquish control of it to you.”

          • suntzuanime says:

            In the extremely tortured sense that “I have this status and I don’t want to relinquish the status to you”, sure. In the sense that someone who objects to being robbed has control of their money and does not want to relinquish it to the robber. I’m not sure you can blame them.

          • Loquat says:

            I have to disagree – most of the time I see people calling opponents “entitled”, they do not themselves have the slightest bit of control over X. (I mainly see it in internet comment sections, fwiw – you may be referring more to its usage by politicians and billionaires.)

            When I see it, almost always X falls into 1 of 2 categories:
            1) Reward in a status game, where the speaker may or may not be a participant but either way has no power to affect who gets X or remove X from the category of “reward”. (I play MMOs, and this is EXTREMELY common whenever some player complains that something in the game is too hard or too time-consuming.)
            2) Something that will/would be paid for by someone else, often by some fraction of the speaker’s tax dollars, particularly in cases where the speaker has already paid or is currently paying for their own X and perceives the “entitled” person as being perfectly able to earn their own X if they’d stop being lazy. Example: Hipsters on Food Stamps. Pretty much nobody who gets mad about that thinks they have any control over what food items a stranger buys – they’re mad that strangers who seem perfectly well able to support themselves are instead being supported by tax dollars, AND that a media outlet held this up as acceptable behavior.

        • JBeshir says:

          This is what I’d think of as the central meaning of “entitled”, but the debates involving it extrapolate the idea of earning so far, in such a self-serving fashion, and with such little mention of the basis, that I think tabooing it and requiring a full description of what exactly is wrong is sensible.

  11. MasteringTheClassics says:

    I’m working on establishing a sort of calibration baseline, and my google-fu has failed me – what is the approximate probability that a random 23 year-old male suffers from insanity to the point of not being able to trust his perception of the world?

    I’m not sure the language above gets the question across (LW is practically dedicated to the idea that we can’t trust our perceptions, but we’re not using quite the same definitions) so illustration time: I see a tree out my window, I’ve seen it every time I’ve looked there since I moved here ~18 years ago. I have interacted with the tree, talked with others about the tree, played with others around the tree, etc. The only conceivable way that tree doesn’t exist is that I’ve hallucinated the whole kit-and-caboodle. What is the probability that the tree exists?

    • J says:

      Schizophrenia affects about 1% of the population, and tends to emerge around age 20. So I’d use that as my baseline. If you’re asking because you’re 23 and starting to experience hallucinations, be aware that it’s treatable and much better understood than it used to be, so you’ll probably end up just fine with treatment.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        Almost no schizophrenics would be so bad that they start hallucinating random trees and don’t register even the tiniest amount of evidence that they have schizophrenia.

        • TheFrannest says:

          For years, I thought that the voices I hear are what is colloquially referred to as conscience, inner self, etc. On the other hand, intrusive thoughts turned out to be normal.

        • MasteringTheClassics says:

          Do you have an estimate on what portion of schizophrenics are that bad?

      • MasteringTheClassics says:

        I have no evidence that the tree is anything other than totally real, that’s why I’m using it as a baseline. I am as certain as is practicably possible that the tree exists – what does psychology say the the probability is that I’m still wrong? 1% seems untenably high – it would suggest that I can never be more than 99% certain of anything…

        • MF says:

          Have you ever looked into Bayes’ rule? 1% is your prior for schizophrenia – evidence that you’re not insane should shift your probability that you’re insane below 1%.

          If you’re making an argument that you might be so delusional that you can’t trust your evidence, and so can’t update your probability and need to use a prior (for some reason can trust your prior?), there’s no way 1% of people are so delusional that they form fantasy lands where the evidence they get is completely uncorrelated with reality.

          Either way, you should be capable of being more than 99% certain of some things.

          • MasteringTheClassics says:

            I am indeed making the argument that I might be that delusional. Under those circumstances, what would a reasonable, wholly external prior be? 1% is certainly far too high, but I’m looking for an actual value (to within maybe an order of magnitude).

            I’m working under the assumption that some percentage of what I experience is real, but my delusions are such that any given thing could be wholly fabricated (think Charles in A Beautiful Mind). An external prior wouldn’t be completely ideal (because I could be hallucinating that too) but it would seem to be the best of a bad set of options.

          • Ricardo Cruz says:

            “1% is certainly far too high”

            I know a little of Bayesian inference from my work in machine learning. I don’t think you guys are using it correctly.

            The prior probability you are schizophrenic is without any evidence. If 1% of the population is schizophrenic, then that is your prior, P(S)=1%. If you are male and 50% of the population is male (P(M)), but you are told that 80% of schizophrenics are male (P(M|S)), then your posterior is P(S|M)=P(M|S)*P(S)/P(M)=0.8*0.01/0.5=1.6%.

            I never worked much in Bayesian statistics, but I think this is how you do it.

            Anyhow, MasteringTheClassics, if you actually think you might be suffering from schizophrenia (I remember when I was in my early twenties also thinking the same because I read at the time that’s when it develops :)), you should visit a specialist.

          • MasteringTheClassics says:

            Your math is sound, but unless I’m mistaken a perfect delusion of a tree (including outside confirmation and a long history of physical interaction) is well beyond the bounds of garden-variety schizophrenia (especially given that no one in my immediate family thinks I’m imagining it). I’d have to perfectly hallucinate the following facts:

            I can see the tree
            I can interact with the tree
            I have a long history of seeing and interacting with the tree
            friends and family have interacted with the tree
            No one I’ve asked has suggested the tree isn’t there
            I have no warning signs for Schizophrenia

            I could be wrong, but isn’t that well beyond typical schizophrenia? What’s a good prior probability for that level of delusion?

          • Ricardo Cruz says:

            As I said, I think what you are talking about is the *posterior* probability of being schizophrenic, not the prior. (I am only making a technical point here, mind you…)

            The prior (before) probability is before you know anything about the person. You have no evidence to go with. You only have population data to go by.

            The posterior (after) probability is after you know the person, you have some evidence: he is male, he has delusions, etc, etc.

            I think you guys are using these words wrongly. But I don’t know. I do have a degree in math, but I never studied probability in much detail.

            What I understood to be remarkable about Bayes’ rule is how people often forget to account for the prior probability. Let’s say I tell you that 80% of schizophrenics are male. You know that you are male, so you think it’s very likely you are schizophrenic. Bayes’ rule says hold your horses, do not forget your priors: only 1% of the population is schizophrenic. After you do the calculations, you find that knowing you are male only increases your chances by 0.4 percentage points.

            Likewise, just because you know that P(delusional | schizophrenic)=100% does not mean that the posterior P(schizophrenic | delusional) is 100%. (P(A|B) means probability of A being true, knowing B is true.) That would only be true if only schizophrenics were delusional. Delusion can have many sources, I would think.

            ps: I still do not understand if you are joking or being philosophical here. If you truly feel you suffer from delusion, you should consult a doctor.

          • MasteringTheClassics says:

            I am not joking and I have no information that would lead me to suspect that I have Schizophrenia or any other mental disorder. I am seeking the probability that even in my condition (apparently that of a perfectly neurotypical 23-year-old male) I could still be suffering from major sensory delusions without any evidence of that fact.

            Practically, I’m trying to set something of a calibration baseline (or maybe ceiling is a better term). If, say, 1/10,000,000 people in my demographic experience perfectly, undetectably realistic delusions, then there is a 1/10,000,000 chance that I experience major delusions to the point that I cannot trust any given experience I might have. This would then imply that I can never be more than 99.99999% certain of anything, and there’s my baseline.

            I hear your point on prior vs posterior probabilities, but I’m not sure I understand the details of applying Bayes theorem to life well enough to argue the point. In probabilistic terms I’m seeking P(delusional | apparently neurotypical).

          • Anonymous says:

            If, say, 1/10,000,000 people in my demographic experience perfectly, undetectably realistic delusions, then there is a 1/10,000,000 chance that I experience major delusions to the point that I cannot trust any given experience I might have. This would then imply that I can never be more than 99.99999% certain of anything

            I don’t think this is right. Even if there are people who have undetectable delusions, presumably most of their experiences are veridical. You want the probability that any given experience is a delusion, not the probability that any given person has undetectable delusions.

          • FullMeta_Rationalist says:

            I don’t think this is right. Even if there are people who have undetectable delusions, presumably most of their experiences are veridical. You want the probability that any given experience is a delusion, not the probability that any given person has undetectable delusions.

            Yes. I was (poorly) arguing exactly this in a recent SSC thread (though I can’t find the post). Unfortunately, we can’t use Bayes Rule for this since I can’t even imagine what “measuring the prior” would involve. In the most inconvenient world, I think the problem is insoluble. We don’t have access to noumena, only phenomena.

          • MasteringTheClassics says:

            Solid points, both of you, and the link was excellent. I’ll adjust to taking the figure (which I still don’t have) as a prior, then I can modulate it according to the belief in question.

            The question still stands (though it will be tougher to apply) – What’s the general probability that someone of my demographic is delusional at the necessary level?

        • Daniel Speyer says:

          There’s a term missing there: how likely a schizophrenic is to hallucinate that tree.

          p(tree|seen) = p(tree)p(seen|tree)/p(seen)

          Making up numbers:

          p(tree)=.1 (nothing weird about a tree)
          p(seen|tree)=1 (close enough)
          p(hallucinating)=0.01 (said earlier)
          p(seen|hallucinating)=0.001 (this is a highly atypical thing to hallucinate)


          Note that if the exact same sort of evidence showed the devil in your back yard, the result would be much lower.

          • MasteringTheClassics says:

            The tree is just there as an example – it could be anything. The question is about the probability that I am delusional, not the probability that I hallucinated any given tree.

          • Daniel Speyer says:

            It’s hard to think of what would be strong evidence against being delusional in general. But any given belief can have a credence much higher than your general credence of not being delusional.

          • MasteringTheClassics says:

            I’m not seeking strong evidence against my being delusional in general, I’m seeking the probability (given demographics) that I’m delusional. I may have to break this down by belief after that point, but I’d like the number as a prior I can adjust.

    • 27chaos says:

      Maybe take a picture for us. Make sure there’s only one tree in frame.

      • MasteringTheClassics says:

        That wouldn’t establish anything, it would just add one more point in favor of “this tree exists” and by now the marginal value of another point is negligible. I’m looking for the probability that the whole thing has been in my head.

        (I realize that would include this conversation, but trying to think my way out of that recursion makes my head hurt, so I’m working under the assumption that I live in a real world with real people and asking what the probability is that I’m adding the tree and all the experiences surrounding it.)

        • David N says:

          Paging Dr. Samuel Johnson…

        • Anon. says:

          You could ask us to factor a large number into primes à la “Universal Love, Said the Cactus Person”.

          • MasteringTheClassics says:

            Very well, factor away: 412,023,436,986,659,543,855,531,365,332,575,948,179,811,

            Though I’m not at all certain what it would prove if you succeeded (except that you’re holding out on the mathematical community).

          • Daniel Speyer says:

            Pick a *much smaller* number. One that we can realistic factor, and you can hand-check, but you don’t think you could factor in your head. Maybe 8 digits or so.

          • Magnap says:

            What factoring an 8-digit number would prove is that either you are way better at mental math than you think you are, you are delusional to the point of hallucinating the result of certain multiplications, or we really exist outside of your head.

          • MasteringTheClassics says:

            I’m assuming you exist outside my head, no proof necessary. This whole question is more or less invalidated if you’re hallucinations, so there’s no point in preparing for that contingency.

    • Pku says:

      Another question on the subject: Do the sort of methods used to tell if you’re dreaming (e.g. looking at a digital clock) work for schizophreniacs trying to tell if something is a hallucination?

      • Ydirbut says:

        Wait, how does that tell if you are dreaming?

        • FacelessCraven says:

          The part of your brain that does the dreaming sucks at certain abstractions. clock faces, especially digital ones, are one of them. the usual signal for me is that I hear my alarm clock, shut it off, and the alarm doesn’t stop. last night, it was my mouse not working while I played World of Tanks, to the point that I had to hold it in one hand and slam the left button with the other to fire. A simple one I tried to practice for a while is shoving one finger through the palm of the opposite hand. On the few occasions I thought to try it, it worked.

    • Deiseach says:

      You say you’ve played with others around the tree. Have any of the others walked through the place where the tree appears to be, or otherwise behaved as if a tree wasn’t there?

      If not, then the tree is real.

      If you’re talking about “I’m pretty sure I remember X happening but other people tell me I’m wrong”, then that depends. For years, until I had independent corroboration, a family member was very strongly persuading me that something I remembered had never happened because it couldn’t happen, it wouldn’t have happened like that, etc.

      To the point where I was really doubting “Do I remember this or did I only imagine it?” Until, as I say, I got independent corroboration and then it was “Yes, I’m not crazy after all!”

      If that’s what you mean, I don’t know what can help except for trustworthy outside corroboration or denial, one way or the other.

      • MasteringTheClassics says:

        Assume there I have no evidence that the tree is anything but real, and that this has been corroborated by everyone I’ve asked. I’m approaching this from a least convenient possible world – what’s the probability that the tree doesn’t exist even if every conceivable metric I have access to tells me it does?

        • The problem with your question is that once you drop the assumption that your senses give a reasonably reliable picture of the real world, you no longer have a basis for establishing prior probabilities. You are told that 1% is the schizophrenia rate–but maybe being told that is an illusion too.

          Consider solipsism as the extreme form of the problem. How could you establish any probability for the claim that you are the only consciousness in the world and everything else is an illusion you dreamed up?

          • MasteringTheClassics says:

            I can see this as a problem, but I don’t think it’s fatal. I’m part of a subset of humanity that is apparently neurotypical. The vast majority of this subset is in fact neurotypical, but some small percentage experiences delusions realistic enough that they cannot be disproved from within. Since it is highly probable that I do not experience such delusions it is also highly probable that I can trust the discovered probability figure.

            To illustrate, suppose we lived in a world where the moment someone won the lottery they immediately lost both all memory of having won the lottery and all ability trust their senses. It would still be legitimate in such a society to ask what the probability is that you have won the lottery. The fact that the vast majority of people have not won the lottery leads to the conclusion that it is highly probable you can trust the figure you’re given.

            Or am I making a mistake somewhere?

          • Sebastian says:

            I wonder if the question should be “what probability do you assign to me being delusional, conditional on the hypothesis that I think I’m being truthful about my observations?”

          • “I’m part of a subset of humanity that is apparently neurotypical. The vast majority of this subset is in fact neurotypical, but some small percentage experiences delusions realistic enough that they cannot be disproved from within.”

            How do you know these things?

          • MasteringTheClassics says:

            Sebastian: Close. I’m looking for something more along the lines of “what probability does psychology assign me…” but the gist is correct.

            David: “I’m part of a subset of humanity that is apparently neurotypical.” All evidence available to me points to this being true.

            “The vast majority of this subset is in fact neurotypical” This seemed a reasonable assumption, though I can’t prove it.

            “but some small percentage experiences delusions realistic enough that they cannot be disproved from within.” Again, reasonable assumption.

            Do you actually take issue with any of these, or are you driving at something larger?

            I understand that the truth of all these facts is contingent on my being able to trust my senses (which I’m guessing is your point), but if I can trust my senses then they are entirely reasonable, so the system is internally consistent if nothing else. The recursion gets deceptive quickly, which is why I gave the lottery example.

            More succinctly, I’m assuming that the world as I experience it is the real world, noting that within the real world there are people who assume this and are mistaken (because they have delusions), and asking what percentage of the total population these people represent (so that I can apply this percentage to myself). This is slightly self-contradicting, I realize, but I’m guessing the effect is small enough to be ignored – if everyone asked this question then the vast majority of people would receive the correct answer, so I’ll probably get the correct answer.


          • J says:

            It feels partly like you’re operating in an abstract philosophical space, in which case you have to nail down a lot of assumptions (such as, “am I a brain in a jar?”) before you can start doing math.

            You also seem to be asking about traditional psychotic delusion, but that doesn’t jibe with your example scenario.

            My uneducated intuition of hallucination is that it’s not otherwise perfectly rational people who have an incorrect persistent belief about a thing like a tree, with lots of verifiably consistent but also completely fake evidence. Hallucination is more like a single wrong data point, eg. “I could have sworn a guy with a red shirt was walking past right before we got into that car accident, but nobody else saw it, must have made it up” (which apparently happens pretty often to normal people around sudden events like car crashes, and is one reason eyewitness testimony is considered flaky). Or for a schizophrenic, voices criticizing you, but you’ve checked that nobody else can hear them. Or you might believe the freemasons are out to get you, but you also use a lot of run-on sentences and nobody else can follow your reasoning.

            The other thing your descriptions remind me of is people claiming they’ve had spiritual experiences that prove their religions are true, and that’s in a whole other category of motivated reasoning.

          • MasteringTheClassics says:

            Are sustained delusions really not a thing? That would certainly clear up the question, but I’d like to see a source before I completely buy in. Assuming for the moment that the question isn’t completely invalidated by that…

            This is kind of abstract philosophy space, but I buy Chalmers’ The Matrix as Metaphysics argument that were I a brain in a vat my environment is still real, so I don’t have to derail the hard-skeptic line before continuing.

            Also, keen eye on the religious experience call. Without getting into it too deeply I’ll say this question started out as an attempt to rate my probability that God (Judeo-Christian flavor) exists. It’s about equal to my probability the tree in my front yard exists – hence why I’m trying to pin down the number.

          • From memory: This is reminding me of something Suzette Hadin Elgin wrote about hallucinating when she went off steroids. She saw a government agency set up a command center in her hospital room, and she mentioned that she’d always assumed she would realize that a hallucination was implausible, but when she was hallucinating, the question of plausibility didn’t occur to her.

          • Jiro says:

            I don’t think this is very relevant to religious experience because when people claim to sense God, they don’t normally claim to do so in ways that are as concrete as how we sense trees. You’re not going to say “I sense God, and God is 40 feet tall, has branches that begin 10 feet up from the root, is colored brown and green, and has this little hole where there was a woodpecker eating at him yesterday”. The brain is wired to easily have religious experiences in a way that it’s not wired to experience a random physical object with a set of physical traits.

            Also, you can find plenty of people from religious other than your own and notice that they also claim to “see” or “sense” religious figures in ways that match their religion. You know that they’re seeing things that aren’t there. On the other hand, you can’t find such people who hallucinate trees.

          • MasteringTheClassics says:

            Nancy: That’s exactly why I’m seeking a reasonable probability for this tip of thing occurring to me, though I’m starting to despair of actually getting a concrete answer…

            Jiro: Sensing my deity would be one thing, but my evidence consists of concrete medical miracles produced by the laying on of hands (all medically verified – lupus disappearing (established by blood tests), before-and-after x-rays of a leg growing out, a torn rotator cuff healing perfectly within a week (seen before by MRI, seen after when the surgeon opened up her shoulder for surgery), etc.) My degree is in chemistry – I like evidence for my beliefs, and I have sufficient of it to be as confident of God’s existence as I am about the tree in my yard.

          • Anonymous says:

            If what you are really trying to do is estimate the probability of God’s existence, the probability that you are delusional isn’t the main thing to worry about. Surely persistent long-term undetectable delusions are sufficiently rare that that the more important probabilities are things like
            – the probability that God exists, given that an injury healed rapidly
            – the probability that the initial medical tests were in error, or overestimated the significance of the injury

          • Jiro says:

            Mastering: You specified that other people can see the tree. If your “miracle” was actually similar to the tree, other people would be able to see the miracle.

            Given that you did not say “every doctor and scientist I told about this agrees that it’s a miracle”, other people are *not* able to see the miracle.

          • MasteringTheClassics says:

            Anon: This question was sparked by my efforts to estimate the probability of God’s existence, but it’s become more general. A probability baseline would be useful in contexts other than the existence of God.

            That said, let me note that the probability of all the relevant tests being wrong is low enough that the probability of my experiencing long-term undetectable delusions is a relevant number. I can’t think of any alternative causes of rapid healing that would be sufficiently probable to matter to the calculus, but if you have suggestions please enlighten me.

            Jiro: You’re generalizing a bit too much from my brevity; other people can indeed see these miracles. The only first-hand witness doctor I know the reaction of was the surgeon for the rotator cuff, and he was astounded by the transformation (I can’t speak to the reactions of the other doctors involved)

            That said, I’m not out to convince you of the truth of any of this. I need a baseline probability of long-term undetectable hallucinations in order to calculate my probability for the existence of God, which is based on different observations than your number and will thus be different.

          • Jiro says:

            1) What you described is not the equivalent of seeing a tree outside your window. You can show someone the tree outside your window. You can at best show someone a healing if they were there at the time; you can’t show it to someone later.
            2) As Anonymous pointed out, there are possible sources of bias and error that don’t amount to hallucination, so asking for the probability of hallucination is the wrong question anyway.

          • Mastering:

            Your story is an intriguing one–can you fill it out a little more?

            One question is why you interpret a miraculous cure as evidence for God rather than (say) some magical power of the curer.

            Another is how solid the evidence of the miraculous cure was. Is it possible, for instance, that the doctor dealing with the shoulder had misdiagnosed the initial problem, which was why he was astonished that what he thought was there wasn’t?

            How many such miraculous cures were there and were they all by the same healer?

          • MasteringTheClassics says:

            [note that I’d still like the number]

            Jiro: I’ll grant you that as events rather than things these healings aren’t exactly equivalent to a tree. A better comparison might be my belief I went to church this past Sunday. There are of course other sources of possible error involved, but I don’t think they’re significant enough to lose the hallucination probability in the rounding. Also, it’s not the “wrong question” in any meaningful sense because I’d still want the probability of hallucination even if God is removed from the equation. The train of thought leading to the question started with God, but it applies to other things as well.

            David: Rotator cuff story:

            Subject: A middle-aged to elderly (mid-60s) woman in my church. Regularly sits one row ahead of me.

            The narration of the event is from her. She had torn her rotator cuff (I don’t remember how), confirmed the tear with an MRI, scheduled surgery on the shoulder, and gone in for the surgery. The doctor opened up her shoulder, encountered a pristine rotator cuff (no tear, no scar tissue – perfect), and closed up her shoulder without further operation. She came to church a couple days later with her arm in a sling and reported the matter. She had been praying for healing regularly since the tear.

            I can personally affirm the following facts:

            1) She had contacted church leaders prior to this requesting prayer for a torn rotator cuff.
            2) She entered church that morning with her shoulder in a sling, telling her story to all who would listen.

            The following facts I did not personally confirm, but would be risky to fabricate given hospital records:

            3) She had an MRI, which showed evidence of a rotator cuff tear.
            4) She went to the hospital to have surgery on her rotator cuff.
            5) The surgeon opened her shoulder up but did not perform the surgery.

            For all other facts I have only her word.

            The Lupus Lady:

            Subject: a woman, approximately 30 years of age, at the church I attend while at college.

            The story, told by her to several congregants (with me evesdropping), then later reported by the pastor to the whole church, is as follows: This woman had lupus, had suffered 12 miscarriages over the past several years, was again pregnant, and had requested prayer from the congregation. During the prayer her belly had become hot to the touch and despite the chill in the room she had sweated enough to wring the sweat from her shirt. Following that session no traces of lupus had been found in her system, and her baby was born alive and healthy some weeks later.

            I can personally affirm the following facts:

            1) The woman in question was pregnant and gave birth to a living child.

            The following facts would be difficult to fabricate:

            2) She had had 12 miscarriages
            3) She reported being diagnosed with lupus to the church more than a year prior

            The following facts rely on multiple witnesses:

            4) Her belly became hot to the touch while multiple congregants prayed for her

            For the rest I have only her word

            (relevant fact: diagnosing lupus is difficult and less than certain)

            Many other stories exist, but these should indicate to you the quality of the data I’m dealing with.

            I recognize that this data would not be sufficient to prove anything to a hard-core skeptic, but I personally knows the people involved in these and numerous other miracles (some of which I have been a part of), and I put high credence in their word of mouth. Other, more subjective phenomena also contribute to my belief in the Christian God.

            I interpret these and other cures as evidence for God because my theology preceded the cures – prayers were offered specifically to the Christian God specifically for the cures that occurred. This seems reasonable since any alternative explanation would have to explain both the cures and their coincidence with the prayers.

            Miraculous cures that I have first-hand knowledge of, or second-hand knowledge through someone I personally trust: 8

            The healer has not remained constant.

          • Jiro says:

            A better comparison might be my belief I went to church this past Sunday.

            The chance that you are hallucinating X doesn’t just depend on your chance of having hallucinations, it depends on the base rate of X. If there are a lot of real X’s, the chance that any given instance of X is a hallucination goes down. There are, of course, a lot of known real instances of people going to church.

            (The same is true if you replace “hallucinate” with “misremember” or other reasons why it might not be real.)

            The following facts I did not personally confirm, but would be risky to fabricate given hospital records:

            What is relevant is less the chance of fabrication, and more the chance that you or someone else down the line misunderstood or misremembered something.

            I put high credence in their word of mouth

            Don’t do this.

          • MasteringTheClassics says:

            “The chance that you are hallucinating X doesn’t just depend on your chance of having hallucinations, it depends on the base rate of X. If there are a lot of real X’s, the chance that any given instance of X is a hallucination goes down.”

            Okay, lets make it something less frequent – the probability I went to a Promise Keepers convention 3 summers ago (2012). The number of first- and trusted second-hand references I have to the existence of Promise Keepers conventions is lower than the list of miracles that meet the same standard.

            “What is relevant is less the chance of fabrication, and more the chance that you or someone else down the line misunderstood or misremembered something.”

            The chance of either is low in these instances – not irrelevantly low, but these are significant events for the people involved, and I’m getting it directly from them.

            “‘I put high credence in their word of mouth’

            Don’t do this.”

            These aren’t crackpots, nor are they online, nor are most of them in a position to gain anything. The people I’m trusting the reports of are family members and close friends, any of whom I would trust with my life.

            (P.S. can you point me to a list of the formatting symbols this blog uses?)

          • Jiro says:

            Just because there are as many reports of miracles as there of Promise Keeper meetings doesn’t make them comparable–you don’t compare *number of reports*, you compare *statistical expectation*–that is you have to weigh the number of reports by how trustworthy they are. I don’t for a single moment think that just because you have equal numbers of references to each one they are equally trustworthy.

            These aren’t crackpots, nor are they online, nor are most of them in a position to gain anything.

            That’s the second time you said they’re not in a position to gain anything. It doesn’t matter. People don’t misunderstand and misremember on purpose–it’s not done for gain, or deliberately done at all. You can’t say “I would trust them with my life” and act as though because they’re honest, they also can’t misunderstand or misremember.

          • MasteringTheClassics says:

            “you have to weigh the number of reports by how trustworthy they are.”

            And trustworthiness is determined how?

            As to misunderstanding or misremembering, while I can’t categorically rule out the possibility that everyone involved misunderstood/misremembered every instance in which this occurred, I can say that given my priors that idea is laughable.

            Let’s take a story which I didn’t share before as a case in point: my sister finds a kid with back pain, discovers that one of his legs is about a half-inch shorter than the other, lays her hands on the leg, commands it to grow, and it grows. Kid stands up and, laughing, says he feels lopsided now.

            One possibility is that God is real, Christianity is true, and she just healed his leg.

            The other is that she and the kid somehow misinterpreted the situation and nothing really happened to the kid’s leg.

            I ask you, which of those options would you pick if your prior for miracles being real was already north of 99%?

          • Jiro says:

            And trustworthiness is determined how?

            It’s hard to determine in many cases. But the fact that it’s hard doesn’t help your argument; if you need to do something hard before you can think about hallucination, then you shouldn’t be thinking about hallucination very much.

            I ask you, which of those options would you pick if your prior for miracles being real was already north of 99%?

            Is that a per-case probability (each case claimed to be a miracle has a 99% probability of being a miracle) or is it the probability that miracles exist at all? Under the former definition, I’d think it was a miracle. Under the latter definition it would still depend on base rates; Nigerian princes are real, but there are many fake ones around so if someone sent me an email telling me he is a Nigerian prince I wouldn’t believe it.

            At any rate, my prior for miracles being real is not >99%, and is on a scale with my priors for some other things. If I actually saw such a medical event and could confirm it’s not a hallucination, I still wouldn’t have a reason to prefer “divine miracle” over “trickster demon-created miracle” or “disguised space alien who can regenerate limbs”.

        • Jason K. says:

          It seems like you are trying to prove a negative: How can I prove that the tree isn’t fake? Which can replaced with: How can I prove I am not just a brain in a jar?

          The problem with that kind of question is that the goalposts can be moved indefinitely and therefore can never be conclusively answered. Your best bet is probably to apply Occam’s razor towards the tree and accept the result.

          • MasteringTheClassics says:

            Chalmers suggests in The Matrix as Metaphysics that if i were a brain in a vat the reality I experience could legitimately be thought of a the “real world” so even were I in such as state my question would still stand.

            In point of fact, however, your missing what I’m driving for. I don’t want to be able to prove that the tree isn’t fake, I just want to know what the probability is that it’s fake. It is enormously more probable that the tree exists than that I’m hallucinating it, but what is the probability that I’m hallucinating it?

          • Aegeus says:

            What’s the probability that you’re a brain in a vat?

            If your hallucination to be so durable that it can stand up to any form of inspection you have to hand, it’s not just inserting a couple of trees, it’s inventing an entirely new reality for you. If you cut down the tree and make a bedframe out of it, your hallucination has to filter out whatever your bed is actually made of and invent new sensations for what it feels like to sleep in. If you have a conversation with your neighbors about the tree, it has to fabricate my behavior completely, because I’m not going to hold a conversation about a tree that doesn’t exist. If you get put in a mental hospital for talking about imaginary trees, how does your hallucination explain that? After all, you were just having a normal conversation in your front yard. It’d have to create basically a whole fictional world where that didn’t happen!

            Basically, to meet the demands of your hypothesis, your hallucination has to be as detailed as The Matrix. If you’re willing to consider your brain-in-a-vat simulation as “the real world,” then you should also consider your hallucination to be “the real world.”

        • Deiseach says:

          What are you measuring the existence of the tree against, if it’s “does it Really Exist”?

          Are you proposing the world of perfect forms, where the tree undisputably 100% exists in a higher-level reality? Because if your senses tell you the tree exists, other people tell you the tree exists, you take photos of the tree and the photos come out showing the tree exists – I don’t really know how much further you can take it.

          Sure, you could be a brain in a jar having hallucinations or an emulation being run on a computer and the programmer wrote into your code “see tree outside window”.

          But even so, the fact remains that – for instance – for Hamlet in the reality of the play, his uncle really poisoned his father, Ophelia really drowned, he really dies in the last act. Outside that reality, in Shakespeare’s reality, Hamlet is not ‘real’ and Shakespeare could have had Ophelia live and marry him if he’d wanted that ending.

          So even if you’re stuck in or on a level of reality that is at Hamlet’s level not Shakespeare’s, the tree is as real as you are going to get, whether or not it exists in Shakespeare’s front garden.

          If you’re at the stage of “But how do I trust my senses to be 100% accurate? How can I be absolutely absolutely sure, because I’m discounting what I see and what others see and what mechanical reproduction shows as invalid to what I’m asking?”, then you’re going to have to admit some level of doubt even if it’s only on the 0.000001% scale, because you are not going to get 100% absolute surety with that questioning.

          If you have no reason to question the evidence of your senses (not seriously thinking you might be schizophrenic/delusional, but simply entertaining the possibility that if X can be so deceived they believe what is indisputably false, how can I be sure I’m not also believing false evidence presented by deceived senses) then I’m sorry but the corroboration of other people and inanimate objects not tampered with (a camera that takes a picture of the tree, a chainsaw that cuts it into logs, a hammer that will drive nails into the wood) is about as good certainty as you can get.

          • MasteringTheClassics says:

            I broadly agree – I’m not trying to gain 100% certainty, argue for a brain-in-a-vat scenario, or rework metaphysics. I’m looking at the following chain of reasoning:

            I feel as if I am not delusional
            In this world there are people who are delusional and unaware of it
            ∴I may be delusional and unaware of it

            Then I’m asking what the probability is that I’m part of the group of people who feel normal but are actually delusional, given my demographics. This should have a fairly concrete answer, but I can’t seem to find any research on the average rate of this level of delusion.

  12. Nombre says:

    A question for those who tend to oppose the minimum wage or tend to oppose increasing the minimum wage to $15:

    Some people at a university near me are pushing for a $15 minimum wage on campus. The university has built many new buildings over the past number of years, many of which are completely unnecessary, and the administrative ranks have proliferated, and these administrators are paid huge amounts. It would seem that the university could easily afford the extra wages without making any cutbacks, and if cutbacks had to be made they would be made in useless areas.

    Would you disagree with these activists, provided you accept my premise that the university could readily afford the costs of the higher wage?

    • J says:

      At my university a lot of the student jobs were at least somewhat intended to be a sort of student aid. So I think your argument that the university is not a normal market has merit.

    • onyomi says:

      Being against the minimum wage myself, I will say that there is a big difference between agitating in favor of saying “this particular [university, company…] ought to change its payscale and/or spending priorities for reasons x, y, and z (be it fairness, morale, effciency, or whatever),” and saying “this is the minimum anyone can contract to work for, by law, in this whole county/state/country.”

      • Scott Alexander says:

        [i] and [/i], but with triangle brackets instead of square ones.

      • I agree with Onyomi. The university is, presumably, a private organization, entitled to spend its money as its decision making mechanisms decide. On the whole, I would prefer it to stop wasting money (if, as implied, it is doing so) and reduce tuition, thus improving its core activity, rather than giving out random welfare by paying more than the market price for labor. But I see nothing wrong with people who believe helping local poor workers is more important than building new and unnecessary buildings trying to persuade the university to do so.

    • Jason K. says:

      No. The excess buildings are a symptom of another issue. Universities tend to over build because they get funds from donors that are earmarked for new construction. The donors do this so they can put their name on the building. So all the under utilized buildings are actually a tax the university pays to keep the donors happy.

      • My father used to say that universities produce two products–education and monuments.

      • brad says:

        If the donors only want to donate money to do things that aren’t useful then why appease the donors?

        I think your account is missing the utility function of the senior administrators. That’s the group that is actually in control of most universities (after hand picking boards that are supposed to be supervising them).

        • onyomi says:

          What I find especially weird is this: what increases the value of your own degree more: adding a new stadium to the university, or adding 50 new tenured professors? I mean, I understand sometimes the alumnus is just a big sports fan or whatever, and that most of the biggest donors are already wealthy enough that maybe they don’t care about the value of the degree, but it seems like, if the goal is to increase the prestige of one’s own alma mater, hiring 50 new professors–maybe turning a weak program into a top program or even creating a program of study which previously did not exist–is the vastly superior choice to building the stadium.

          Of course, being a university professor myself I am probably biased, but I think alumni (and, frankly, many students) underestimate the degree to which a university is an institution made up of people, and overestimate the degree to which it is a set of buildings in a particular location (related to this is the notion that your money to build a new stadium will “last,” while the money to fund professors gets “used up,” but honestly, don’t most universities rebuild or renovate their libraries and such every 50 years or so anyway?) but what about making the reputation of the university “last”?

          • brad says:

            The problem from that end is that the reputation of a program the way professors think of it is irrelevant to all but a tiny subset of those with undergraduate degrees from that institution, basically those that want to get Phds.

            The type of reputation that undergraduate degree holders care about — more “uncontacted tribes have heard of Harvard” than “the University of Iowa has a fantastic creative writing program” — is extremely sticky and slow to build up. Even a huge donation might not shift the needle much in the donor’s lifetime.

          • onyomi says:

            That makes sense, though one would imagine some donors would care about the school actually being a good school, as opposed to others simply thinking it is a good school… and really I think there are maybe 20 or 30 schools like Harvard with a very well-establish, sticky positive reputation in the public consciousness… even fewer if you go abroad (where they mostly know Harvard, Yale, MIT, and Stanford). All the rest are competing for the middle territory: the general public does not know, offhand, whether St. Olaf is better than Macalester, so if St. Olaf wants to attract better students, it seems like it would be better served to build up existing programs and create new programs rather than build a new stadium.

          • @Onyomi:

            Funny you should mention St. Olaf. It was the one school that accepted one of our home unschooled children without our having any special connection to it (as in parents and/or grandparents having gone to or taught at the school).

            St Olaf is a not quite top level liberal arts school with a top level music program. Oberlin is a top level but arguably declining liberal arts school with a top level music program. My theory is that it occurred to someone at St Olaf that if they wanted to replace Oberlin they needed good students, and the way to get them was to mine a source of good students that other schools were missing–home schooled students. That’s consistent with our interaction with them–they were the one school that treated being home schooled as a positive rather than a problem.

        • onyomi says:

          Re “administrative bloat,” I have worked at a couple top Ivy League universities and I honestly don’t know what half of all those deans and secretaries do all day, many of them making much, much more than the top professors who make the universities places want to be at in the first place. Bigger universities seem much like a collection of fiefdoms, and you gain points by increasing the size of one’s fiefdom, even if it means adding unnecessary people.

          That said, I am not bothered at all by the guy whom they pay 5 million dollars to because he increases the endowment by 1 billion dollars through smart investing. Give that guy a raise.

          Currently work at a small liberal arts college which practices what I consider to be a good solution: a kind of shared faculty governance wherein faculty themselves vote on major decisions and also themselves shoulder, in turns, many of the burdens that would be shouldered by administrators at other schools. Seems to work pretty well and not be unduely burdensome to the faculty (though it seems like if a faculty would balk at shouldering some administrative burdens then they can’t also balk about ceding control of the university to administrators), though not sure how well it would scale up to a larger university.

          • Jiro says:

            I am not bothered at all by the guy whom they pay 5 million dollars to because he increases the endowment by 1 billion dollars through smart investing. Give that guy a raise.

            That presumably beats the market by a lot. You can’t beat the market by smart investing, except maybe in marginal cases, which that wouldn’t be one of. So there is no such guy, but a lot of people who seem to be that guy because of luck.

          • Chalid says:

            Large university endowments routinely beat the market. Even if you don’t believe in investing skill (I do believe in it), endowments they have several edges that aren’t available to ordinary investor which presumably take skill to take advantage of. For example, they have a much longer time horizon than most investors and they have access to alumni networks for private investments and the like. Also the non-profit tax exemption.

          • Anon. says:

            Jiro: if you examine the performance of the investments of top university endowments you will find that it is totally possible to beat the market by smart investing.

        • Jason K. says:

          They don’t only donate for new buildings. Donors willing to throw that kind of cash simply for something to put their name on are likely to already be providing significant other support. Might help to think of it like a high end Kickstarter backer award.

          • My law school is going to build a new building. It struck me as conspicuous consumption, so I asked someone I know who is an expert in academic fundraising about how practical it was to get people to give money for scholarships instead. His response included:

            “Gifts for brick and mortar are rarely fungible.”

    • James says:

      Look at it from the other direction as well since trades are a two-way street. Think of minimum wage as a minimum skill set. Anyone without $15/hour worth of skills will be unemployed.

      Are the activists worth $15 an hour? If they refused to work for anything less, would some others be willing to exchange their skills/time/services for less?

      The university’s buildings being unnecessary doesn’t really matter, does it?

      • multiheaded says:

        If they refused to work for anything less, would some others be willing to exchange their skills/time/services for less?

        “After God had finished the rattlesnake, the toad and the vampire, he had some awful substance left with which he made a SCAB. A SCAB is a two-legged animal with a corkscrew soul, a water-logged brain and a combination backbone made of jelly and glue. Where others have hearts he carries a tumor of rotten principles. A strikebreaker is a traitor to his God, his country, his family and his class.”

        – Jack London

        (i.e. the argument that some people would be willing to work for less is nothing new, and the historical response to them has been understandably violent)

        • Peter says:

          Indeed, there was a famous incident involving a concrete block being dropped onto a taxi driver carrying a strikebreaker to work a few decades ago. This doesn’t seem to have done the reputation of the strikers any good.

        • multiheaded says:

          (This might be of interest to Scott et al. btw, concluding the same essay:)

          …All the world is a scab, and, with rare exceptions, all the people in it are scabs. The strong, capable workman gets a job and holds it because of his strength and capacity. And he holds it because out of his strength and capacity he gives a better value for his wage than does the weaker and less capable workman. Therefore he is scabbing upon his weaker and less capable brother workman. This is incontrovertible. He is giving more value for the price paid by the employer.

          The superior workman scabs upon the inferior workman because he is so constituted and cannot help it. The one, by fortune of birth and upbringing, is strong and capable; the other, by fortune of birth and upbringing, is not so strong or capable. It is for the same reason that one country scabs upon another. That country which has the good fortune to possess great natural resources, a finer sun and soil, unhampering institutions, and a deft and intelligent labor class and capitalist class, is bound to scab upon a country less fortunately situated. It is the good fortune of the United States that is making her the colossal scab, just as it is the good fortune of one man to be born with a straight back while his brother is born with a hump.

          It is not good to give most for least, not good to be a scab. The word has gained universal opprobrium. On the other hand, to be a non-scab, to give least for most, is universally branded as stingy, selfish, and unchristian-like. So all the world, like the British workman, is ‘twixt the devil and the deep sea. It is treason to one’s fellows to scab, it is treason to God and unchristian-like not to scab.

          Since to give least for most and to give most for least are universally bad, what remains? Equity remains, which is to give like for like, the same for the same, neither more nor less. But this equity, society, as at present constituted, cannot give. It is not in the nature of present-day society for men to give like for like, the same for the same. And as long as men continue to live in this competitive society, struggling tooth and nail with one another for food and shelter (which is to struggle tooth and nail with one another for life), that long will the scab continue to exist. His will to live will force him to exist. He may be flouted and jeered by his brothers, he may be beaten with bricks and clubs by the men who by superior strength and capacity scab upon him as he scabs upon them by longer hours and smaller wages, but through it all he will persist, going them one better, and giving a bit more of most for least than they are giving.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            The options of giving most for most and least for least appear to have gotten lost in the shuffle.

            Just as well, though, that London lacked inclination to tease out the implications of giving the same: it might have brought the Handicapper General onstage before her time.

    • John Schilling says:

      I don’t think the money can be shuffled around as freely as you think it can. University construction, in particular, tends to be funded by endowments or donations that are earmarked specifically for construction. Administration is more fungible in theory, but not necessarily in practice. If, for example, the University has just been told it needs three more Title IX specialists to keep its campus sexual assault policies in conformance, then that’s really not negotiable.

      More generally, whenever you see an argument of the form, “Money is being squandered on [wasteful or harmful thing X]; it should instead be spent on [socially redeeming thing Y]”, understand that the actual result of cutting spending on X is that the money goes to completely different thing Z. There’s lots of people who want that pot of money you’re planning to free up. Some of them socially redeeming, some not, but if you note who had the money in the first place you can expect that the not-socially-redeeming folks are pretty good at getting their hands on free money.

      If you somehow do manage to get control over a chunk of recently-freed-up university funding, increasing the salary of the adjuncts until they are at least earning as much as the janitors might be a fine thing to do with it. Or possibly you could find something better – on the subject of economic flexibility, “give people a raise” offers more freedom of action than “implement a minimum wage”.

    • Chalid says:

      I oppose a $15 minimum wage, and I don’t think your argument works. There’s no reason to think that cutbacks will affect “useless” things first; the “useless” things benefit *somebody* and they exist for a reason.

      Think about government – when there was pressure to cut the budget, was there a rational process to figure out the least necessary programs and eliminate or reform them? Of course not, we got sequestration.

    • James D. Miller says:

      This proves too much. Providing free clowns to rich children would undoubtedly be a better use of money than some of the things that this university near you funds.

    • Cauê says:

      I think the activists are trying to do charity with somebody else’s money, which I don’t find particularly endearing, but I agree with onyomi that there’s a vast difference between this campaign and minimum wage laws.

      • Ricardo Cruz says:

        Yep. The problem with overarching minimum wages is that they do not take into account labor elasticizes through all industries. If they did so in this Uni case, then it may not cause unemployment.

        By the way, here in Portugal, I never saw students being hired to do chores from the staff. The only exception was a couple of student in the IT department. Never in the cafeteria or cleaning or library or administration. I would expect that with higher wages, the administration would be more pressured to hire specialized hired.

    • I’ve swung back and forth a little on this issue. A friend of mine actually made a fairly good argument why minimum wage in certain circumstances isn’t harmful to employment in the way basic supply-demand economics might suggest. Basically, minimum wage jobs, in places like univerisities, exist as a static number of jobs on the periphery of bigger projects. So basically you need X number of cleaners to clean all your buildings, and you’re going to hire the same number even if the cost doubled, because ultimately its not the core of your project but its still kinda neccessary. Conversely, if the cost went to $1/hr, you’re probably not going to hire 10 times as many cleaners. So long as minimum wage jobs are a peripheral part of an economic activity, its safe to boost it without causing job losses. Where its core, such as in a human-labour manufacturing industry, it might reasonably considered to be more harmful to the number of people employed. I don’t know where I stand exacty but I think the issue has more complexity than the main factions credit it with.

      • Ricardo Cruz says:

        “isn’t harmful to employment in the way basic supply-demand economics might suggest”

        What you are saying does not invalidate basic supply-demand. What you are saying is that the demand for labor is inelastic for some cases (in other words, it would be an horizontal line if you draw the curves).

        • Yeah I totally agree. I dont mean it violates the rules, I just mean the common/default assumption that most things are not perfectly inelastic (even over a specific range of prices) might be incorrect in some cases of labour demand.

      • David N says:

        You’re saying the demand for “cleaners” is inelastic relative to some other jobs, and that may be true, but it’s pretty clear that demand for cleaners is not absolutely inelastic when you consider options like: clean less often, invest in cleaning technology, stop using certain buildings, etc. Each option, sorted by drasticity (which should be a word if it isn’t one), becomes more and more viable as the marginal cost of a cleaner’s labor increases.

        • The reason I think perfect inelasticity over a certain range is possible is that, imho, real on-the-ground decisions about cleaners etc. don’t actually work that way. Peripheral activities like cleaners in medium and large businesses aren’t a central part of the budget, and when financial planning goes on people rarely if ever calculate the return per dollar they’ll get from different options for cleaning. It’s more like a director telling HR to hire someone to clean the rooms once a week. So the idea would be that minimum wage enables you to get the cleaners etc. payed more without their work disappearing as a result. Obviously where it is a core business activity this won’t work, but you could selectively look at sectors (we could say univerisities, though I am uncertain) where minimum wage jobs are almost exclusively on the periphery.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        That sounds plausible, although I doubt you’d be able to word minimum wage laws such that they only cover situations where this is the case.

        • Well if the question is whether to apply it in a specific case, like the example of the university, it might be an appropriate response if the evidence was there. But I’d agree as a untargeted legislative response things are different.

    • keranih says:

      Some people at a university near me are pushing for a $15 minimum wage on campus. The university has built many new buildings over the past number of years, many of which are completely unnecessary, and the administrative ranks have proliferated, and these administrators are paid huge amounts. It would seem that the university could easily afford the extra wages without making any cutbacks, and if cutbacks had to be made they would be made in useless areas.

      1) What is your metric for labeling the new buildings as “completely unnecessary”?

      2) Construction of new buildings allows for vacating, remodeling, and upgrading older buildings, many of which are decades behind the times in safety and energy efficency. What is your assessment of the trade-off between higher wages and decreasing pollution?

      3) Needed or not, those buildings are now *built*. That’s a sunk cost. You can’t take that money back and put it into the wage pile.

      4) A not-insignificant amount of university cost comes from taxpayer dollars. Another major source is student tuition. Do you belong to either of those groups? If so, what fraction of an increase in your payment will you be willing to make?

      5) Raising minimum wages above the true market value includes increasing the wages just above the new minimum as well. This ripples into administration wages as well.

      6) Which administration positions of this specific school do you think should have a wage reduction?

  13. The_Dancing_Judge says:

    Please tell me you guys have read this article. Its pure all-the-hot-button-topics-in-western-thought-distilled-into-one-anecdote-nip. I actually can’t believe this was written in the NYT with how many of the left’s sacred cows were gored. I am updating my priors towards the quality of the NYT after this one.


    “she takes issue with the other half of D.J.’s diagnosis: that he’s not just spastic but has a very low I.Q. In 2004, five years before Anna met him, a clinical psychologist named Wayne Tillman, who consults for New Jersey’s Bureau of Guardianship Services, assessed D.J. and found that his impairments precluded any formal testing of intelligence, but that certain facts could be inferred: ‘‘His comprehension seemed to be quite limited,’’ ‘‘his attention span was very short’’ and he ‘‘lacks the cognitive capacity to understand and participate in decisions.’’ D.J. could not even carry out basic, preschool-­level tasks. A few months later, a court made P. and Wesley his legal guardians.

    From the time she met D.J., Anna thought Tillman had it wrong. D.J. might be unable to speak or hold a pencil, but those are motor skills, not mental ones, and their absence didn’t mean his mind was blank. What if D.J. had a private chamber in his head, a place where grown-up thoughts were trapped behind his palsy? Then, of course, he would fail the standard tests of his I.Q. — tests made for people who can answer questions verbally or read and write. What D.J. needed was another way to share his deep intelligence.

    At the request of D.J.’s family, Anna began to work with him, using a controversial method known as ‘‘facilitated communication.’’ Starting with her hand beneath his elbow, she helped him point at pictures, and then at letters, and eventually at the buttons of a Neo, a hand-held keyboard with a built-in screen. With his hand in hers, she helped him type out words after 30 years of silence.

    Wesley and his mother had been thrilled with D.J.’s progress, but now, suddenly, they recoiled. (Neither D.J.’s family nor Anna agreed to be interviewed for this article; all their quotes and recollections are drawn from court records and testimony. P. and Wesley are referred to by a middle initial and a middle name to shield D.J.’s identity, which has not been publicly revealed.) When Wesley told Anna he thought she had taken advantage of his brother, she could not muster a response. At last, with her help, D.J. began typing: ‘‘No one’s been taken advantage of. I’ve been trying to seduce Anna for years, and she resisted valiantly.’’ Then he typed another message, meant for Anna: ‘‘Kiss me.’’ Wesley walked out.”

    • FacelessCraven says:

      Just… trying to read this is physically painful.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I saw it a while back and decided not to link it. It seems to me like an academic who honestly believed in her (terrible) facilitated communication method and made a horrible but honest mistake.

      This also reminds me of one of my least favorite facts about severely disabled people, which is that by law they can’t legally consent. That situation either ends with them being taken advantage of with no way to know whether they consent or not, like here, or them literally never being able to have sex in their entire lives.

      I think there’s way too much genuine pain here for it to be worth politicizing and it probably doesn’t prove anything that anyone wants it to prove.

      • The_Dancing_Judge says:

        “I think there’s way too much genuine pain here for it to be worth politicizing and it probably doesn’t prove anything that anyone wants it to prove.”

        It proves our media can put out good writing that is both poignant and not mind killed (as in, really, truly ambiguous in ways uncomfortable for the morally dominant narrative).

        If you want me to get rid of the link that’s fine.

        • Ydirbut says:

          Forgive me for being dense, but I don’t really see the connection to politics? The only connections I can see are her field of studies and some of the rhetoric that she uses.

        • Cauê says:

          It proves our media can put out good writing that is both poignant and not mind killed (as in, really, truly ambiguous in ways uncomfortable for the morally dominant narrative).

          Daniel Engber is my model of what a journalist should be. Your thoughts are very near exactly what I thought when I read his coverage on the (imaginary) “Cannibal Cop” a few years ago.

          The unfortunate part is that I was impressed enough back then to remember his name afterwards, and was impressed again now before scrolling up and seeing the same name (rather than a new great one), which doesn’t speak so well of the general state of journalism.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          Yeah, okay, maybe this is just me projecting my own ignoble motives for why I would have linked it.

    • Tatu Ahponen says:

      Okay, I am genuinely at loss here which are sacred cows being gored, here.

      • Zorgon says:

        There’s quite a lot of cases of shibboleths being used in non-sympathetic contexts. In particular the numerous references to Stubblefield’s somewhat radical antiracist opinions and to the “lived experiences” language in conjunction with the context… this is not an article that cares much for whether it upsets delicate flowers on Twitter, let’s put it that way.

        I agree with the comments above about it being excellent writing, too. There’s a palpable anger and sadness to it while it remains even-handed. There were a few weasel words here and there but overall it’s probably the best NYT article I’ve read in years.

        • Tatu Ahponen says:

          I went on Twitter and did a search on the article. Among hundreds of retweets, I spotted perhaps one that might be a delicate flower being upset, though maybe not. (Of course, Twitter being Twitter, there might be someone else commenting as well by the time someone reads this.)

          • The_Dancing_Judge says:

            i think the author has helped himself by producing dense longform that doesnt get into…slightly un-pc topics… until the half-way mark. A sort of barrier of entry that selects against the slate-style gotchya article readers.

          • Zorgon says:

            Well, of course not. They’ve not been told they need to be outraged about it yet.

            (I will acknowledge that I’m being spectacularly uncharitable here. My point was more that the article does not perform the usual dances around the maypole where everything bad is carefully allotted to places where it can only be associated with the outgroup.)

    • Jeremy says:

      As a leftist, I I thought this article was enjoyable to read and an important/significant cautionary tale. I don’t really see how “many of the left’s sacred cows were gored”. The things which were “gored” were no more sacred to the left than, say, homeopathy and dowsing.

      I think framing the article in political terms only detracts from the reference.

      I could say a lot more about how the article could easily be seen as aligning “for” or “against” the left, depending on which agenda you were pushing, but my whole point is that there’s no need to make it a political discussion.

      I am surprised at Scott’s saying “I think there’s way too much genuine pain here for it to be worth politicizing and it probably doesn’t prove anything that anyone wants it to prove.”, because it seems like the article does prove something pretty straightforward (which isn’t even political): anti-scientism will make you have wrong beliefs, and that it’s not just an academic issue whether you have wrong beliefs, but they can actually cause a lot of harm.

      And it seems to me that when a horrible accident occurs, the first thing people do is rush to figure out what went wrong and how to prevent it. Nobody suggests that there was too much pain in a plane crash to investigate the cause.

      • dndnrsn says:


        This section, although basically an aside, was heartbreaking to read:

        ‘ Later that afternoon, I met a 20-year-old man named John who had a prominent underbite. John had been assessed as having the mental capacity of a 3-year-old, but using F.C. he could write poetry. His father handed me some printouts of John’s writing (‘‘The place to discover the ember of love is worlds away but so close/in the land of the nonverbal autistic’’), then grabbed John’s finger so we could have a direct exchange. ‘‘Know that we are intelligent,’’ John’s finger typed into the keyboard.

        ‘‘We figured out that he taught himself to read at age 3 by reading a dictionary,’’ his mother said. ‘‘Now he’s a senior in high school.’’

        Wasn’t she worried by the studies showing that F.C. doesn’t work — that the messages aren’t always real?

        ‘‘From a parent’s perspective, who cares about the research?’’ she replied. ‘‘The research will work itself out. In the meantime, I want to talk to my son.’’ ‘

        Beyond anti-scientism, what I took from the article is that wishful thinking can easily be destructive (that is, “what harm could it do” gets bandied around – this is what it can do), and that care, respect, and love are not sanctifying forces.

        I was impressed by how evenhanded the article was. There are many different ways the article could have presented someone within it as the bad guy, someone else as the good guy. That it’s neutral means anyone could potentially see it as taking their side or being against their side.

        Instead, it’s just really, really tragic, in the actual sense of the word.

    • Qetchlijn says:

      This is like a Greek tragedy. It seems pretty clear that Anna Stubblefield believes facilitated communication works. Given that all the evidence indicates that it doesn’t, the consequences seem inevitable. Anna was having an ongoing covert communication with her own subconscious mind; it’s hardly surprising that she felt she had found a person who shared her deepest thoughts. She’s naive, deluded and reckless, but I have no doubt she thought that she had found her soul mate in D.J.

      I find it awful that she could be facing 40 years in prison for this. She certainly doesn’t pass the mens rea test for culpability. I also find it hard to believe that D.J. suffered very much, if at all, from her actions, which we have no reason to think were anything other than considerate and even respectful.

      How do you folks in the US sleep at nights knowing that you’re at the mercy of such a capricious and vindictive justice system?

      • FacelessCraven says:

        “How do you folks in the US sleep at nights knowing that you’re at the mercy of such a capricious and vindictive justice system?”

        If you think this is capricious and vindictive justice… Probably you shouldn’t look too closely at the rest of the US justice system.

        Can we just leave it there? I think I can, at least.

      • brad says:

        I find it awful that she could be facing 40 years in prison for this. She certainly doesn’t pass the mens rea test for culpability.

        She almost certainty did possess the requisite mens rea. The test is ‘knew or should have known’. The ‘should have known’ is a slam dunk, but even under ‘knew’ I think it’s relatively easy. She knew that the law considered D.J. incapable of consenting she just though the law was wrong. That doesn’t negate knowingly.

        I’m not sure that a long sentence is ultimately fair, but it looks to meet all the requirements of due process to me.

      • Kevin C. says:

        “She certainly doesn’t pass the mens rea test for culpability.”

        But mens rea is irrelevant here, much as “I thought she was eighteen, Your Honor,” is not a defense against statutory rape charges. What matters is his consent and ability to consent. If he did not or could not consent, then she is guilty, period, no matter what she thougt or believed.

        Further, I note that this only becomes “capricious and vindictive” when the accused is a woman. And I must ask, would you describe the actions of a man taking advantage of a severely disabled woman as “considerate and even respectful”, and argue that the victim didn’t “suffered very much, if at all” as a mitigating factor?

      • Earthly Knight says:

        I find it awful that she could be facing 40 years in prison for this.

        Quoting only the maximum sentence is a hoary yellow-journalism ploy to sell newspapers. Don’t be fooled, though, there’s basically zero chance that Stubblefield will wind up serving anywhere near 40 years.

  14. DrBeat says:

    So, wait, I’m confused… are we not supposed to talk about neo-Volcano-God-ism? What about Reform Volcanogodism?

    • James Picone says:

      If you’re asking the question I think you’re asking, doesn’t this section:

      If you want to talk about monarchists, call them monarchists. If you want to talk about traditionalists, call them traditionalists. If you want to talk about the far right, call it the far right. If you want to talk about HBD, call it HBD. If you want to talk about Mencius Moldbug, call him Mencius Moldbug.

      answer it? Scott just wants people to be more precise so we don’t have interminable discussions about what the actual position is, I think.

      • Peter says:

        Note: you may want to distinguish between “constitutional monarchist” and “absolute monarchist”. Opinion polls in the UK tend so show majorities in favour of the monarchy; it doesn’t mean they’d want to do away with democracy.

      • DrBeat says:

        I was making a joke wherein I acted as if our comment sections were being consumed by debates about the actual Volcano God.

  15. J says:

    Interesting that you called him “Dr. Todd Rider”. Since going to grad school in STEM I’ve tended not to use “Dr.” as a title when talking about researchers, and I generally associate its use with Facebook posts about people trying to make dubious medical claims sound more legit. So now I actually have a slightly negative connotation with that honorific.

    Am I just weird that way, or do others also use that as a sort of countersignaling?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      *furtively reprints business cards*

      I just thought in this context people might not realize he was a legit guy with experience in the field. I guess it was redundant with “MIT researcher”, though.

      • J says:

        Lol, I think it’s okay for actual doctors in the context of doctoring.

        One of my professors was at Bell Labs in its heyday, and said that the culture varied internally. Sometimes the Ph.D title was useful, other times it was better not to mention it.

        • Who wouldn't want to be Anonymous says:

          Lol, I think it’s okay for actual doctors in the context of doctoring.

          Is this an inappropriate time to mention that “doctor” comes to us via Latin, and means “teacher?”

    • I didn’t title myself with a “Dr.” on my last book (I have a PhD) for fear of triggering this.

      • US says:

        For what it’s worth, I generally consider a ‘written by Dr… X’ or ‘…written by X, PhD’ note/comment on the front page of a book to be the author’s way of telling me (…yelling loudly at me?) that I shouldn’t read the book. This is sort of funny in a way, as I almost exclusively read non-fiction books written by people with advanced degrees..

        I’d imagine not mentioning your degree on the front page of a book might hurt sales a bit (if a ‘written by X, PhD’ note on the front page does not improve sales, why is that front page format so common?), but that there is an associated benefit in the sense that the author does not incur a status loss among people whose opinions s/he actually cares about. Maybe on a related note targeting also improves by leaving out those words (only ‘the people you want to read your book’ will read it).

      • Earthly Knight says:

        This is the right instinct. Whatever you try to put after Dr., the words on the page will always read “Flopsweat McCrank.”

        Scholars work in communities. If you have anything worth saying, the other members of the community who should be your audience will already know your credentials.

    • Adam Casey says:

      When I see an academic referred to as doctor I tend to think “post doc, so probably capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time, but not a professor”. But then I’m a snob so….

    • Deiseach says:

      If it’s an honestly earned title (i.e. you went to university and slogged your way all the way through up to gaining a doctorate) I have no problem with it.

      What drives me nuts is the rich/famous former alumni (or never even went to university) who get honorary awards from toadying institutions hoping for a generous donation in return and then insist their staff and others refer to them as Dr Anthony Moneybags, even though they’re no more entitled to do so than I am.

      Then again, I suppose it’s no worse than the usual trade in buying your way into the Honours List; slip enough donations to party X and you too can be made a knight in the Birthday List! Wikipedia may claim it’s a scandal from the Noughties, but it goes back much earlier than that. Lord Northcliffe (as he became) is supposed to have said when he was plain Alfred Harmsworth “When I want a peerage I shall buy it, like an honest man” (after being offered a title more minor than he considered his due).

      • Tibor says:

        Whenever I go to the graveyard (November 1st mostly – All Saints’ day), I notice the way things have changed in the last 100 years in terms of letting everyone know your titles all the time. Pretty much all the pre-WW2 graves have an academic title there if the deceased had a title and those who do not list their occupation, so you have “Mr. First Last, accountant” and often you even see “Mrs. First Last, wife of an accountant”. This is also more common the further back you go with the Austrian Empire graves being more specific about the station of the deceased than the later ones.

        From today’s perspective it is very weird to mention on the gravestone that your late grandfather was an accountant. I wonder if you have the same in the US (and other countries), I think that central Europe is a bit obsessed with titles even today, even though much much less so than even 30 years go. Still, a neighbour of mine has a “Bc.” before his name on the doorbell, letting everyone know that he has a Bachelor title*. This is actually not common anymore and I have to smile every time I see it. Also, I heard from fellow PhD. students from Ulm that their (rather old though, I think he is 70ish) one professor there wants to be addressed as “Herr Doktor Professor” by undergraduate students in emails, which is just utterly ridiculous.

        I recognize the use of a title if you are a lawyer or a medical doctor and have it on your business card or the doorbell. Here the title means “I am actually a lawyer”. But in pretty much all other cases, it seems like compensating for something to me. It is like if a woman tries to make herself look like the “high society ladies” by putting on a lot of jewelry. The resulting impression is quite opposite.

        *Bachelor means even less here than in the US (or Hong Kong for that matter), since normally, people study 5 years to get a Ms. degree and 3 years to get a Bc. which is not usually considered a “full” degree.

        • Who wouldn't want to be Anonymous says:

          Here was buried
          Thomas Jefferson
          Author of the Declaration of American Independence
          of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom
          & Father of the University of Virginia

          I’m not a Jefferson fan, so grains of salt may apply: It conspicuously fails to mention being President. I have always thought it was obviously because he knew he was a terrible one, not for some sense of modesty.

          Also, in the US, lawyers and titles are an unusual mix. “Esquire” has been traditionally popular but has no meaning. “Doctor,” while technically accurate for the last 50-ish years that the basic law degrees have been a doctorate, is pretty uncommon. Using the actual degree (JD, LLM, JSD, LLD) seems to only happen if it is a double-doctor degree.

          None of which tells you if the person in question has actually passed the bar exam or is licensed to practice in a particular jurisdiction.

    • JuanPeron says:

      Weirdly, I find “Dr. First Last” to be suspicious, but “Dr. Last” to be fine. When using only last names, titles are expected, so we ought to give the right title. When using first and last, titles aren’t required, so it comes off as an attempt to add weight to a claim.

      • Doctor Mist says:

        Yes, this is exactly right in my experience.

        The one counterexample is that when I got a job at a university, my new colleagues extolled the benefits of having your checks printed with the “Dr”, which apparently greased all kinds of paths with the local populace. It was a university town, so I don’t know how typical that is.

    • Urstoff says:

      I use the title of “Master” given that I have a Master’s degree. Is this not the norm?

  16. Jamie_NYC says:

    5. DRACO: I asked the question on Quora (https://www.quora.com/Why-havent-we-heard-anything-recently-about-DRACO-antiviral-drug-and-other-wide-spectrum-anti-viral-medications) back in March 2014 about DRACO, didn’t get any concrete information. Sad to hear that Dr. Rider has to rely on handouts to be able to continue research… Just made a moderate donation. Anyone has an opinion on the prospects of this approach to fighting viral diseases?

    • A friend of mine who is a molecular biology student, whom I consider extremely intelligent and knowledgeable, said it was scientifically sound as far as he knew. He’s not an expert, of course, but for whatever that’s worth, there it is.

      Edit: also, useful information I got from them via Facebook:

      Mitch Lindgren
      Hi, is there a 501c3 associated with DRACOs? I’d like to donate but I can do so much more effectively via a 501c3, because then the donation will be matched by my employer.

      Killing Sickness
      There is. The SENS research foundation has that status and will process the funds. Your donation will be tax deductible.

      • Evan Þ says:

        Are you talking about this SENS? If so, I can’t find any way to direct donations to DRACO; could you be more specific?

        • Jamie_NYC says:

          When you donate through IndieGoGo, the donation actually goes to SENS (there is apparently collaboration between Dr. Rider and Aubrey).

        • I believe that’s the one. They didn’t give me an EIN, but it’s the only one that came up when I searched. When I donate through my employer, there’s an option to add a note where you can specify how the donation should be used. Other channels may have similar options.

    • Hmm, I’ve been thinking that I ought to find a way to fund blue sky medical research and I remember being impressed with DRACO when it came up on Hacker News a while ago. I’m probably going to throw a couple of thousand dollars his way.

      Ok, did it. But since I’m shy I only grabbed the $500 dollar class reward.

      • grendelkhan says:

        Ah, I see you on the donations page. Damn, that’s impressive! One suggestion–if you’re in the United States, see if your employer matches charitable donations, since it’s going through SENS, which is a 501(c)(3) non-profit.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        Any chance you could spring for the $2000, then ask him to come here and answer some questions instead of talking to you on the phone? I was going to do that myself, but given the concerns some people have raised maybe I should wait until after he answers questions to commit to donating that amount. Email me if you want to make this work. scott [at] shireroth [dot] org.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          What concerns? The concern that he hasn’t managed to raise much NIH money? That’s a pretty circular concern, isn’t it?

        • Mark says:

          I emailed the campaign and they said they would be happy to pass any questions on to Dr. Rider.
          Address is info at killingsickness dot com

        • OldCrow says:

          I would be willing to donate a couple hundred dollars to a collective donation to get Dr. Rider to do a public conversation with Scott/AMA with the commentariat, and up to several thousand dollars depending on how that goes.

  17. Saal says:


    I just wanted to share this for those who like some snark with their meditation. I’ve actually found it quite helpful.

  18. I self-censor a lot on the Internet, as I’m sure we all do. There are many reasons for this, but significant among those reasons are the horror stories we’ve all heard about people being publicly shamed and/or having their careers destroyed for holding the wrong opinions or making bad jokes. But is this a rational fear? How frequent are these events, really? Are we in “struck by lightning” territory, or “car crash” territory? I’m not even sure how one would quantify this, since it obviously depends on how controversial the topic is, but it’s something that I spend far too much time thinking about.

    • My wife expressed concerns, years ago, that my online arguing might eventually lead to a brick through our window or something worse. So far it hasn’t happened. I am a little restrained with regard to statements criticizing very widely shared and strong norms, but not at all with regard to people I am arguing with.

      Some of whom do express considerable hostility.

    • John Schilling says:

      It also depends very much on what environment you live and work in. To what extent does your online presence stray into Social Justice territory? Do you extensively use the sorts of social media that readily support outrage-tornadoes, e.g. twitter, tumbler, facebook? Does your real-life social circle include SJWs, or to a lesser extent twenty-something blue tribe members generally? Perhaps most importantly, do you work in academia, or in the “tech” or entertainment industry? If your employer is vulnerable to blue-tribe boycotts, you are even more vulnerable. If you work on an oil rig, probably not so much.

      • Almost all of these things apply to me 😐

      • FacelessCraven says:

        That does explain rather a lot about your seeming belligerence toward the Social Justice set.

        [Edit] – I would be interested in hearing as much of the story as you feel comfortable providing. Perhaps most materially, was being set up within the last year or two, or further back?

      • Yakimi says:

        >Yes, there are in fact SJW hives in the tech space that preemptively plot, plan, and pick targets.

        Does anyone doubt this after what happened to Brendan Eich?

        Recently, a Google employee who blogged under the handle “wasenlightened” (would it be taboo to say that he was a self-described neoreactionary?) shut down his WordPress after his social justice coworkers caught wind of its existence. (He also described how they controlled Google’s internal forums to monitor dissent.) Check out what his peers had to say.



        • FacelessCraven says:

          …and there’s the RationalWiki link, and the derogatory reference to free speech.

          Bingo, I guess?

        • Viliam says:

          So the Google HR is like the Gestapo… because they allow people with different opinions to work at Google!


          Seems like these people have no idea what Gestapo was, or have absolutely no shame comparing their hurt ideological feelings with literal genocide. It is only the rest of the world that have to monitor their words for any signs of microaggressions and other sins.

        • @Viliam: I don’t think that’s quite what he’s saying, although the way I read it doesn’t make much more sense. I believe he’s saying that HR at these companies is like the Gestapo because they know everything about every employee, which he feels is bad. However, given that knowledge, he seems to think that “wasenlightended” should have been fired for his political beliefs, because HR must have known. I don’t really know how you can square those two opinions, but that’s how I read it.

          Disclaimer: I had not heard anything about this whole situation until I read this comment thread.

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          This is… kind of scary. I hadn’t heard of this before either, but by now it looks like “wasenlightened” has been almost entirely scrubbed from the Internet and all we have left are a couple of dead links and triumphant social justice warriors teabagging the corpse.

      • zigzag says:

        Mark you’re a very brave man. Here’s what you gotta do. You gotta watch the internal disputes in the SJ hivemind circles. Figure out which the big powerful factions are and what their big disagreements are. (My impression is they’re often nearly as nasty to each other as they are to outsiders.) Then when they finally come for you, defend yourself using something that one of the big powerful faction leaders said. Take something they said out of context and explain how you’re a big fan of theirs and how it provides support for your position.

        Result? Best case you trigger a bunch of infighting as the person you tried to pin furiously tries to wash their hands of you and everyone starts accusing them of being racist/misogynist/etc. because the things they say are being quoted by the likes of you and providing support for your terrible horrible no good racism/misogyny/etc.

        Hopefully you are getting the general idea here… basically as soon as you get punching bag status, try and see if you can transfer that punching status to a target that really needs it. We know that they’re impenetrable to reason but that doesn’t mean we can’t do other things that are interesting. Think like an aikido practitioner and use their force against them. If necessary you may even need to apologize: “I’m sorry, I now see the error of my ways, I was led astray by the writings of [insert target] who said _”.

        • vV_Vv says:

          I don’t recommend doing this. Some analogies about wrestling with a pig or playing chess with a pigeon come to mind…

        • zigzag says:

          Yeah on reflection I’m less sure. Probably the best strategy is to keep your nose as clean as possible while offering calm, friendly, factual info that counters SJ points. Scott could have done so much more for the cause if it weren’t for a couple of throwaway comments about feminists being worse than voldemort etc.

        • Anonymous says:

          I’m wary about giving advice on the chance that you take it and it turns out to be bad, but I think the people who say apologizing is a bad idea because it only encourages them probably have a point. My plan for if I’m ever outed for not toeing the PC line (not that my views go particularly more extreme than ‘libertarian leaning’) is to defend myself. It would probably require a change in lifestyle, almost akin to coming out of the closet. I imagine opinion on someone who does this gets polarized: some people will hate you, some people will love you. You probably don’t become a villain so much as you become Marmite. One advantage is that you get to argue your views in public, giving you a chance to persuade people in real life, as well as online. One disadvantage is you would have to spend more time defending yourself. Overall I would expect more of your life to involve arguing your views, which I imagine could be a good thing if you like arguing, not if you don’t.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          +1 for the “never apologize” advice. Look at the ongoing affair over Tim Hunt’s shaming. It is exceedingly obvious that his attackers were utterly in the wrong and that they lied to the public to destroy an innocent man. Nevertheless, his apology is being used to defuse criticism of his attackers. The claim is that he admitted his misdeeds, so how bad could their actions really be?

          Don’t apologize. Don’t resign. Fight them on every point and every issue, concede nothing. Any concession works to their script, not yours. Standard self-defense advice replies: hard targets get left alone, food gets eaten. Don’t be food.

          If it comes down to it, make them fire you, and make the rubble bounce on the way out.

        • zigzag says:

          Yes I’m inclined to think “don’t apologize” is generally a good approach. That’s why I think it’s super important to keep your nose clean, so you don’t have anything that you *would* want to apologize for even on deep reflection. Make every statement so thoughtful, true, kind, and necessary that you would stand by it even when you are mobbed. Think Gandhi style civil disobedience.

        • suntzuanime says:

          That doesn’t actually work unless you’re willing to act like a politician and talk only in soundbites that are fractally unobjectionable. Look at what happened to Tim Hunt; he didn’t say anything worth apologizing for, he only said something that could be twisted out of context. If it were only statements that were actually improper on deep reflection that got the superlaser pointed at you, the situation would be a lot less worrisome.

          (Not none worrisome, since mercy is a virtue I’d hate to see perish from the earth, but if you’re going to be merciless I’d at least prefer it to be restricted to evil.)

        • I think it is possible to apologize successfully to SJWs, but it has to be a really abject apology. You probably won’t get it right unless you know the subculture.

        • Orphan Wilde says:

          Nancy –

          …I mean, maybe?

          I’ve never seen it work. It could. You might write a perfectly-worded apology letter that doesn’t accidentally offend anybody who is actively looking for a reason to be offended.

          But if you could, theoretically, apologize in a way that got you out of it, you probably wouldn’t have gotten into it in the first place.

          In practice, you’re probably going to be attacked again because your tear-stained apology accidentally implied that they -took- offense rather than that you -gave- offense.

        • Cord Shirt says:

          (This is a new fake name for Reasons. I don’t mind people who know me from before recognizing my old pseud, just don’t want new people searching my new one to connect me with the old one.)

          I’ve seen it work.



          It’s so abject it’s something I could never post. Ever. About anything. My culture is just not that emotive.

          PS: To lose one parent, Orphan Wilde, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness. Really, now. 😉

        • Orphan Wilde says:

          I’ll dryly observe that the two people involved in that made up, and then both authors told their commenters (without a lot of success) to quit making things worse. The commenters at bossymarmalade continued attacking the author of the linked apology.

          So, in the “This worked out decently between two people” view of things, yes, the apology worked.

          On the “Did this stop the flood of anger and indignation” side of the question? No. Not at all. Instead the author started getting attacked for their commenters’ reactions.

        • Vorkon says:

          @Mark Atwood

          Point of order for clarity’s sake: The person I assume you’re referring to is not called the International Lord of Hate. That’s Larry Correia. The tongue-in-cheek name that Puppy-style folks use for Vox Day is The Supreme Dark Overlord, or something along those lines. (Though he seems to take the title a bit more disturbingly seriously than Larry… >_> )

      • J. McDaniel says:

        I think I may be able to provide some further context, although I’m not sure how much is useful to you.

        I too am concerned about blow-back from expressing controversial opinions. These days I take some care not to attach my real name to statements I make online. The type of comment I might make here, for example, would make me concerned about blow-back from social justice advocates.

        What is strange for me right now is that last week a good friend of mine faced exactly the same type of blow-back, but from the anti-SJ crowd. He is still getting streams of nline abuse and letters demanding he be removed from his job for expressing comments in public that align him with “social justice warriors”.

        Part of that campaign against him was prompted by someone I defended when she was attacked by SJ types earlier this year. She quoted a small part of my friend’s conversation to her fans, and her followers went on the warpath. I know them both.

        I know that does not sound reassuring (double the jeopardy!), but my point here is that I believe the community of people battling each other is often very small on each side. I know or have met some of the most infamous characters on each side. Their rhetoric is primarily aimed at each other and non-combatants have to work much harder than you would otherwise believe to insert themselves into that conversation.

        Random figures are sometimes drawn in, but unless you are connected socially in some way the anger is unlikely to stick. Jon Ronson’s book is in that sense a catalog of those cases.

        My conclusion from what I’ve seen close up is that many political debates online are actually internal battles between motivated individuals within relatively small social circles for the ideological high ground in those circles. If you don’t think it’s true in the social circle you work in, you may be perceiving an exaggerated risk from watching others in this fight. If you do not engage directly with those caught up in these war zones you will be unlikely to be at risk.

        It is extremely exhausting for those of us who are in the middle of this battle. I am probably two hops maximum from Mark, for example, and perhaps count as friends several people who he would see as in “the inside” of the other camp. They are as fearful and/or cautious as him, and assume that his group is working to destroy them. Apart from United States-centered political affiliations, they are almost identical in career path, income level, and a big chunk of other characteristics. I do not know how to deescalate these confrontations. I can only presume along with Mark that it is self-limiting. I believe there is much back-channel conversation between the groups and I hope more self-doubt within them than either can publicly admit.

        • J. McDaniel says:

          I don’t have “a group”. I have no inside view or voice of any of the various anti-SJW groups

          My perception is that you do. For instance, you work with esr and post on his blog. I know most of the people who work with Eric won’t recognize that as a political discriminator, but as Eric’s opinions have become more eccentric over time (or maybe more well known as eccentric over time), it ends up being an affiliation marker, and I don’t think only as an external one. So many communities that are based around someone who regularly makes strange political pronouncements have undergone evaporative cooling to the extent that people contributing to those communities don’t really realize that they’ve ended in a group with a particular political viewpoint.

          The end result is that most of the social justice advocates I know don’t act like they’re a minority opinion, and people who spend a lot of time opposing them don’t realize they’re also in the tiny bubble that takes politics of this kind seriously. Both sides thinks they’re apolitical or middle-of-the-road, and that there’s this other extremist group that is targeting all right-thinking folk.

          The truth is, I think, both sides have ended up being extremely weird to anyone else. You’re right to think it’s strange to meet secretly to discuss what has happened on a mailing list! But the strangeness might not only be on the side of the social justice warriors.

          That weirdness of all parties is also part of what I think drives the outrage engine of this whole internecine battle. To the vast majority of the United States public, if you quoted a selection of what Shanley, or esr, or Moldbug says, they’d quickly decide they were terrible people, even if they agreed with much of what else they said. That’s because everyone involved has sorted themselves into increasingly odd seeming non-mainstream groups.

        • OK, I’m really curious; how was it that it was safer to trade details on how to arrange the meet-up in a crowded cafe than it was to just trade the information directly?

          I mean, I can imagine scenarios, but all of them require that someone’s computer and phone use be regularly monitored. Or was it that the person in question preferred an in-person meetup with no records whatsoever tying them to what was said to any form of electronic communication, no matter how anonymized?

        • Eli says:

          @Mark Atwood, I don’t know about the horology, but I’m pretty sure my team leader at work has all those other skills, as do most of the other higher-ups on our project. The systems programming world isn’t so small as to have only one person with a deep and wide skillset.

        • Cord Shirt says:

          My conclusion from what I’ve seen close up is that many political debates online are actually internal battles between motivated individuals within relatively small social circles for the ideological high ground in those circles…. If you do not engage directly with those caught up in these war zones you will be unlikely to be at risk.

          Right now, on a doll collecting discussion board I’m on, people are arguing about a recent article in American Girl Magazine (run by the doll company, marketed to 9-12-year-old girls). The article is by a girl who was adopted from foster care, and one of her fathers was also in foster care as a kid, so they’ve started a charity to help foster kids. That’s the focus of the article, but it also includes a photo of her family that takes up half a page of the magazine and of course reveals that her adoptive parents are a gay couple.

          The argument began with a self-described Christian saying that she had canceled her subscription to the magazine over this.

          Then came the social pressure on her to change her opinion or at least shut up about it. People who advocated tolerance toward her views as well were told, “This isn’t just an opinion, it’s justifying delegitimizing people for something they didn’t choose!!111!!!” One person announced that the term “practicing homosexual” is “extremely hurtful” and she would accept an apology if the person who’d used it (not the Christian, one of the tolerance advocates) wanted to offer one. This was pretty representative–the social pressure was typically justified though “sensitivity”/ “hurtfulness” concerns.

          I initially wrote something, but decided to wait and contemplate whether to post it, and given the way the discussion proceeded, now I don’t dare to. Here’s part of it:

          I was surprised to learn from the poll on the other thread that I’m older than the plurality of posters here. My guy and I were one of those old-school straight couples who waited for same-sex marriage to be legal before we were willing to get married ourselves. I’ve encountered younger people who don’t understand that either. 😉

          But because I’ve supported same-sex marriage for so long, I can understand how reasonable people could and can have objections to it–because over the years I’ve known many of them.

          I’ll just leave aside the radicals who wanted to smash marriage rather than join it, since they obviously aren’t the ones being discussed here….

          Some people believe or assume that a marriage doesn’t work without two sharply defined, socially supported, complementary roles. These are the people who used to ask of a same-sex couple, “Which is the man and which is the woman?” […] We used to think same-sex marriage would solve that. When people accepted same-sex marriage, we thought, they would have to accept that marriage doesn’t require these two very specific, socially enforced roles. When people stopped wanting to ask, “Which is the man and which is the woman?”, we thought, that would be a sign that they’d stopped thinking “Role Man” and “Role Woman” were necessary…or important…or, even, existed.

          That doesn’t seem to be how it’s turned out, and that makes me sad.

          Today, even a lot of people who do support same-sex marriage will (almost always unthinkingly, not consciously and deliberately) take the attitude that, “Well gay people can work out their own marriages their own way, BUT STRAIGHT PEOPLE ALL HAVE TO FIT INTO THESE SPECIFIC ROLES.” I mean the kids have “improved” the roles…I guess…but dernit, THEY’RE STILL ROLES!!! That’s not what was supposed to happen! 🙁

          I seem to fit your description, J. McDaniel, don’t I? Maybe that’s why a few years ago, before I even realized SJWs had shown up to a fandom of mine (or, FTM, what they even were), I was suddenly attacked and unpersoned by them.

          I have a pretty typical degree of *variety* in my views. That’s enough to make me seem “in the middle” on some of today’s issues…which is enough to get me attacked.

          Frankly…I just want to be able to live normally. Which includes chatting about my ordinary variety of opinions with my friends. And…I can’t. And *in the past, I could*.

          As you can see from the above story, yeah, “both sides do it.” I’d call it “increasing polarization.”

          I keep wanting to quote this at them.

          Sullivan quotes a reader:

          Morality has always been about keeping society on the same page. If you violate the the norms, then you are shamed and ridiculed. The ultimate “victory” of the gay rights movement will be that those discriminating against homosexuals will be ridiculed and isolated as bigots. Ultimately we can only hope that the best values win out, and that we will always find outcasts in society that share our values, should our values violate the norm.

          And replies:

          There you have the illiberal mindset. Morality trumps freedom. Our opponents must be humiliated, ridiculed and “isolated as perverts”. I mean “bigots”, excuse me.

          Orwell wept.

        • RCF says:

          What does being older than the plurality mean?

      • Doubtful says:

        “Yes, there are in fact SJW hives in the tech space that preemptively plot, plan, and pick targets.”

        Please support this assertion of a mustache-twirling level of villainy for its own sake with evidence.

        Additionally, maybe this story of being “set up to fail” and having a “snare” personally laid for you is impossible to support because you avoided it, but I hope you could also support that, or point to other examples where such snares have been set.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          @Doubtful – “Please support this assertion of a mustache-twirling level of villainy for its own sake with evidence.”

          There was a link to a Tumblr discussion of the “mail order brides” conversation from a few weeks back. It didn’t rise to picking targets and punishments, but the trajectory that leads there seemed pretty clear. More generally, ShitRedditSays was such a place until fairly recently, I hear. Others exist, and are not difficult to locate.

          [EDIT] – Via another discussion in this very comment section: https://imgur.com/a/USROb
          …multiple websites dedicated to coordinating harassment of a children’s cartoon fan artist for socially unacceptable art crimes. The artist attempted suicide. This is not an isolated incident; the artist of Gunnerkrig Court went through something similar, I believe. Ditto Scott’s acount of the MsScribe story. Care to retract your skeptical tone?

          “Additionally, maybe this story of being “set up to fail” and having a “snare” personally laid for you is impossible to support because you avoided it, but I hope you could also support that, or point to other examples where such snares have been set.”

          I’ve personally participated in this sort of behavior in multiple contexts before I finally learned that it was always, always a bad idea. If you have questions, ask away.

        • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

          >Demanding a call for references for a personal experience is both rude and pointless.

          Indeed, we should never question a victim’s lived experiences. Listen and Believe and all that.

          Seriously, though, while I understand that getting too in detail does carry risks, you might understand why people are skeptical.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          “Indeed, we should never question a victim’s lived experiences. Listen and Believe and all that.”

          I raise a glass to you, sir(?).

        • Cord Shirt says:

          @FacelessCraven, I would really benefit from an example. Made up is fine, just…a description of what exactly happens with one of these.

          After I was unpersoned, I discovered a couple hate sites targeting me and a couple others. These were public, and didn’t include any planning of “snares.” But they mentioned the existence of private sites as well. Makes me wonder if there were or had been snares…but I can’t imagine what that would look like on the ground, so I’d like to see an example of such a thing.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          @Cord Shirt – “I would really benefit from an example. Made up is fine, just…a description of what exactly happens with one of these.”

          Sure. I mean, there’s not really anything dramatic about it, it’s just normal human tribal politics.

          You’re part of an organization with a bunch of other people. You get to know the other people within the group. Some of them you get along well with, some you don’t. At some point, some sort of conflict happens within the org that pits you and the people you like against the person you don’t like. People don’t like the person already, and have probably been talking to each other about how much they don’t like him, and now that dislike is framed as the person being actually bad for the organization. Pretty quickly, the consensus forms within the group that the org as a whole would be better off without the person who no one in your group likes, and people start looking for ways to make that happen.

          A starting point is that the person becomes the default scapegoat for anything that goes wrong. Grouching about how awful they are and how everything you’re doing would be better off without them serves as a group bonding mechanism. The group starts coordinating behind the scenes to “defend” against the bad person’s ideas in meetings, planning sessions, etc. Essentially, you route actual communication around them, and what they think are the actual meetings become a more or less pre-scripted performance designed to minimize their input and influence. This works even more effectively if you have a spy pretending to be sympathetic to the person and doing similar “pre-planning” with them, and then feeding that information to the group, so you know what they’re planning on proposing and can brainstorm and coordinate objections as a group. The people most opposed to the person can then pretend to be extra-reasonable, and the people who appear the most sympathetic to the person can raise the strongest objections and “persuade” everyone else.

          At some point, everyone wants this other person gone. A simple way to do that is to give them hard tasks and judge everything they do as harshly as possible. Set them up to fail, as it were. This seems analogous to the “snares” mentioned above. How overt it gets depends a lot on how much control you have over the actual projects. The underlying point is that you coordinate as a group to make their experience as bad as possible, hope they leave on their own, and failing that try to assemble a record of poor performance to demonstrate to the wider organization that they should be removed from their position. I was operating in a volunteer context, so we leaned on the former. In a corporate context it should be a lot easier to lean on the latter.

          For obvious reasons, I don’t do stuff like this any more, and am ashamed that I ever did.

        • CatCube says:


          Tom Sidell ended up in the SJW crosshairs? When the fuck did this happen?

          (Obviously, as a right-winger, I don’t keep up on the nonsense on that side of the divide. I might have to up my Patreon contribution)

    • Scott Alexander says:

      So far it’s never happened to me beyond one guy posting weird racist comments under my real name which he somehow found. But I think it depends on how careful you are and what kinds of places you hang out in.

      • It might help that you don’t actually use your real name. I respect that decision, but for various reasons that I haven’t fully crystallized in my head, I don’t want to post pseduonymously. Perhaps that, too, is irrational.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          I’m uncomfortable with pseudonyms too, so I use my first plus middle name. Can you just do that?

        • James Vonder Haar says:

          Well, there’s something to be said for having a large online presence, so people can get a holistic idea of who you are. Imagine if someone doxxed you and the only thing on your google search is your most controversial opinion and argument. If you’ve been posting under your real name for a long time, at least there’s a bunch of other things out there where you presumably look relatively intelligent.

          Personally I post most of my stuff under my real name, using a pseudonym when I venture into other territory. If that pseudonym does get doxxed, at least I’ve got some online presence to cover it.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            I’d usually rather post under my real name as well. But when it’s a site where most of the others are using pseudonyms I start to feel like a guy wearing a suit to a beach party.

          • DrBeat says:

            Large online presence doesn’t help at all. People doxxing you want to believe bad things about you in order to justify the pain they want to cause you. Any information, any context, anything outside of the desired “this person believes bad things and thus it is morally good to cause them harm” is discarded.

        • JBeshir says:

          I post under a name derived from my real name, because I feel that I can safely, and doing so does a very tiny amount to maintain some breadth to the kind of things one can talk about attached to a public identity, in a kind of cooperator way.

          Things are different for different people and it’s a small enough thing that I don’t think it matters, though.

    • Megaburst says:

      The question to ask yourself is if someone tried to publicly same you, would it make for a good story? Would it have a high virality coefficient? If you’re a redneck in Alabama and you say something very racist, that doesn’t make for a good story because everyone knows that Alabama rednecks are very racist. On the other hand imagine a famous person who says something kinda racist. Famous people are interesting, so things they say make for good stories. And if it’s not quite clear how racist the thing is, then you get a controversy where people are for and against.

      • Saul Degraw says:

        Someone tried to same me but I was able to prove they were a doppleganger pretty quickly.

      • Deiseach says:

        everyone knows that Alabama rednecks are very racist

        Yeah, but the problem with that is say you are from small town or rural Alabama (or what equivalent you like). An enemy (and this could simply be someone who you disagreed with over who should be the Party All Night Party candidate) can then blacken your name simply because “Everyone knows crackers are racist and this guy/gal is a cracker so obviously they’re racist/sexist/homophobic”.

        It’s the “Have you stopped beating your wife?” approach; you don’t have black/gay friends? that’s because you’re a racist/homophobe! You do have black/gay friends? You’re still a racist/homophobe because only racists/homophobes say they have black/gay friends!

        • hlynkacg says:

          It’s a classic “Kafka Trap”, protestations of innocence are evidence of guilt because someone who was truly innocent would need no defense.

    • Saul Degraw says:

      The internet is vast and big so for every story about the pillory, I am sure there are many people getting away with just as bad or worse stuff. Both real and imagined and exaggerated.

      FWIW Justine Sacco (of AIDS tweet infamy) seems to have landed in PR at DraftKings.

      Note: I am still convinced that the whole debate and war between tribes Scott said can’t be named and their opponents is largely confined to people who spend too much time on the Internet. I’d bet good money that maybe people vaguely know about Gamergate but most people could not tell you about Redpill, MRAs, PUAs, MM, etc.

      Here is my frequent reminder that people who pay a lot of attention to politics (left, right, and libertarian) are in an extreme minority. People who try and develop their political beliefs into a completely coherent system without any contradiction are even are in an even smaller minority.

      • Seth says:

        A huge issue now is that many potential employers or romantic partners or others will check your social media profiles as part of evaluating you. It’s a big business and a big problem, with wrong or distorted data coming up in such searches. There’s an enormous controversy developing about addressing such search results, under the inaccurate term of “Right to be forgotten”, as it’s really more like “Right to have accurate reputation reporting”. A bunch of ranters describing you as a notorious racist, misogynist, anti-Semite, homophobe, tribal traitor, etc. etc. might be a very small minority – but those are the few things which may be prominent when one is being considered for a job or a date or membership in some organization, etc. And if you get turned down because of haters being believed, you may never know.

        • Dan T. says:

          The rub there is “Just what is accurate reputation reporting about you?” Is it what you believe about yourself, what your critics believe about you, or what you wish people believed about you? I’m reminded of a radio ad I keep hearing locally for some Internet reputation cleansing service that claims to be able to remove negative stuff people are saying about you or your business, so that people instead hear “the truth”… but what if the negative stuff is the truth?

          • The flip side of this is that you might be better off not getting a job or a date with the sort of person who would take hostile accusations as serious evidence against you.

            When I first set up my web page, one question was whether it was risky to include multiple parts of my life in one place. Did I want a potential academic employer to know about my somewhat unusual political position (anarcho-capitalist)? To know that I put substantial effort into researching medieval cooking, not a subject having any obvious connection to my professional work? That my chief athletic activity was medieval combat as a sport?

            My conclusion was that, on the whole, I was better off not being hired by a university that would be reluctant to hire someone with those characteristics. Of course, I might have felt differently if I had been more desperate for employment.

          • DrBeat says:

            The problem is, the group of people that WON’T take hostile accusations as serious evidence against someone is vanishingly small.

            Bullying works. If it didn’t, bullies wouldn’t do it.

          • Seth says:

            Dan T. – The model of truth that’s used is judicial. As in, for example, if someone is sued for libel, and they reply that what they wrote is true, a the court system makes a decision as to whether that is in fact accurate. This model of truth of takes into account implication, insinuation, lying by omission, and so on. It’s entirely possible to sue for libel, and lose the case, by a finding that the supposed libel was actually true. Or inversely, to win the case if the defendant presented accurate facts but in a way to give a dishonest impression. This is a legal meaning, not an oracle. But similarly, though at much lower level, the idea is to have some sort of redress against an inaccurate reputation report.

            David Friedman – “anarcho-capitalist” and “medieval cooking” are orders of magnitude different in potential social impact than say “misogynist” or “racist”. I’ve also found that the theory of cognitive reasoning errors does seem to apply in practice. As in, more people think they are above-average than is mathematically possible. And people think they are better than discounting hostile accusations than they really are.

          • Jiro says:

            The flip side of this is that you might be better off not getting a job or a date with the sort of person who would take hostile accusations as serious evidence against you.

            Unfortunately, hostile accusations *are* serious evidence against you–that is, the fact that you have hostile accusations means, on a Bayseian level, that it is more likely that there is something bad about you than if you didn’t have any hostile accusations. If you avoid people who listen to hostile accusations, you’re basically avoiding all rational people.

            Yes, the hostile accusations against you are false–but someone reading the hostile accusation can’t tell the difference between a false one and a true one and will use a probability that takes into account the number of true ones, which will lead to them shunning you for purely rational reasons.

          • @Jiro:

            I specified “serious evidence.” The fact that someone says bad things about you is evidence, but in itself not much evidence if the someone doesn’t produce evidence in support of his charges. It’s even weaker evidence if you obviously have views that some people object to, the person evaluating you does not object to them, and the bad things said contain signals that those saying them do.

          • DrBeat says:

            …Have you ever met a person?

            Seriousness of accusation is equal to seriousness of evidence in the eyes of a LOT of people. Far more than you can ever avoid. Far more than you can say you would gain nothing by associating with.

          • Jiro says:

            The fact that someone says bad things about you is evidence, but in itself not much evidence

            It only has to be enough evidence that someone can reasonably act based on it. And for many serious charges, a 5% or even 1% chance of the charge being true is plenty. Would you hire someone who only has a 5% chance of being an embezzler, when you have 50 other candidates whose probability of being embezzlers is just the base rate, not 5%? Would you trust your children with someone who has a 5% chance of being a child molester?

          • RCF says:

            @David Friedman

            I take it you have tenure? This seems a bit like saying “If a company isn’t willing to hire black people, it’s probably not the sort of place a black person would want to work at anyway.” I’m also reminded of a reply to “Do you really want to date someone who’s only interested in you for your money?”:

            “I like to have the option.”

            Another issue is the liability of there being accusations against you. If someone is accused of sexual harassment at one job, is hired at another, and is accused of sexual harassment at that job, then the plaintiff can claim that the fact that the company ignored the accusation, even if unfounded, shows negligence.

          • @RCF:

            I have tenure now. But the issue of people responding to my political views and my hobbies was one I considered well before I got it.

    • TheFrannest says:

      For the love of whatever eldritch powers may exist, hide your personal details, even lie about them and keep the lies consistent.

      I thought they’d target me.

      They didn’t. They hunted down people I love. They threatened my mother and they had my then-girlfriend fired and forcibly out-of-closeted to the family and/or friends.

      • Wow, that’s shocking. I’d be interested to hear the story, though I assume you can’t share it without revealing yourself, which I totally understand.

        • TheFrannest says:

          I wasn’t interested in receiving any coverage of the debacle on the internet, I was more interested in frantically going through my emails, looking for account registration confirmation and deleting them or purging them of all the info. I quit being a cracked contributor because i used my real name there. And so on.

          What happened: I am a BDSM enthusiast and I kind of like taking pictures. I made a NSFW tumblr with my then-girflriend where I shared pictures of her in bondage and so on. Face was always obscured, EXIFs were cleared, no real names were used.

          I am also an outspoken critic of radical feminism on the internet. The existence of BDSM is inherently horrifying and vile to any radical feminist that does not lie to herself. Some approve of femdom, but I’m male. The subjugation of a female by a male, physical abuse, elements of coercion and so on leads them to claim that BDSM is patriarchal and rape culture (not in a meme way, like literal terms). And what is to be done when a woman is in an abusive relationship? Some sort of a rescue. So they “rescued” her from my “abusive relationship” by spreading vile lies about me including all the contacts they could possibly find and by spreading the photos of her to any contact of her they could possibly find – that included her workplace, her family and her friends.

          So yeah, she got fired immediately and her ties with her family were severely strained because her family is quite Muslim, no clue as to her friends but it probably doesn’t help ther mental image to know that a polite soft-spoken headscarf-wearing muslim girl gets off on being tied up, flogged and seeing her pictures on the internet.

          I also had razors mailed to me because I was vaguely in support of a certain ant hill, but I was like, hey, free razors.

    • Seth says:

      To determine frequency, maybe we need some sort of collection organization for these events, as is done by everything from car crashes to food poisoning. You can get a rough estimate of “What’s the chance of dying in a crash crash?”, but not “What’s the chance of having your career destroyed by a social media hatestorm?”. Even though the collection data is not perfect, and of course individual chances vary with specific risk-factors, there’s still decent measuring data available for car crashes, but not Internet-wrecks.

      Note that while airplane crashes often make the news, many many people are killed or severely injured every day in car accidents with no notice outside their local community.

      I’ve cut down on my own writing very much due to the problem. My estimation is that the risk is high enough that it’s just not worth it. It’s akin to taking walks through gang-infested neighborhoods. Are you going to get mugged, or murdered, any time you enter such a place? Probably not. But the benefits don’t seem to outweigh the risks.

      • I’ve cut down on my own writing very much due to the problem. My estimation is that the risk is high enough that it’s just not worth it. It’s akin to taking walks through gang-infested neighborhoods. Are you going to get mugged, or murdered, any time you enter such a place? Probably not. But the benefits don’t seem to outweigh the risks.

        I kind of feel this way too, but I’ve sort of got a compulsion to write publicly, albeit not super often. I can’t really explain this.

      • Anonymous says:

        One point that has always bugged me regarding the car crash versus plane crash thing: you have zero influence on your chance of dying in a plane crash beyond frequency of flying. You have some influence on your chance of dying in a car crash: driving sensibly, wearing a seatbelt, avoiding using a phone or other distractions, etc. Even if you’re not the one driving the car, you are in a much better position to evaluate the safety of the driver of a car than the pilot of a plane. I suspect there is also more variance in the safety of drivers than the safety of pilots.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Some airlines are probably safer than others, some times to travel are probably safer than others, etc. But your general point is definitely correct.

        • Jiro says:

          Having influence over the probability isn’t an end in itself; it’s only useful to the extent that it can reduce the value. If the difference in death rates is enough, having influence may just let you change it from “a lot higher chance of death than going the same distance in a plane” to “somewhat higher chance of death than going the same distance in a plane”. This influence is not as useful as just having the lower chance in the plane.

          • Anonymous says:

            Absolutely. But other factors exist beyond likelihood of death. Knowing that you are a safer than average driver might well tip the scales to make driving a better option when you take into account e.g. lower cost, ability to take more luggage, ability to stop off at places on the way, or whatever else you consider an advantage of driving.

          • Knowing that you are a safer than average driver

            How can you know this? I have never been in an accident, but maybe I’ve just been lucky. Furthermore, how much of a difference does it really make? You don’t have control over all of the other people on the road.

            I have an irrational fear of flying myself, but I know that it’s irrational; the odds are so much worse when driving that it can pretty much only win on convenience.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Mitch Lindgren

            Perhaps you would have trouble judging your own ability, but I can certainly tell the difference between a good driver and a bad driver when I’m a passenger in someone’s car.

          • Who wouldn't want to be Anonymous says:


            That is an entirely subjective measure. The question is “to what degree do driving habits that make me look/feel safer actually influence my control of the risk?”

            Answering that question requires access to some pretty heavy duty actuarial tables that I am pretty sure the insurance companies keep as trade secrets. But, anecdotally, my insurance company is way more interested in the safety features of my car than my driving record. My impression is that, aside from driving while drunk, the portion of the risk you can control by driving habits is marginal compared to the uncontrollable risk from everyone else on the road.

    • I think about this a lot, because my Real Name is associated with an industry in which the thought police are pretty powerful (though there has been some pushback lately—not that I expect it to last long or accomplish much). My strategy is: never say anything the least bit controversial on social media or other accounts which are associated with your Real Name. That’s what pseudonyms are for. The Real Name is for tweeting cheerful life updates, blandly-acceptable bromides, and signal-boosting those kinds of things where my interests and values overlap with those of the broader community. Fortunately, this last category is still pretty big, which is why I’m still a part of the community.

      A quick note about Twitter sanity, assuming that Twitter is your thing: use Tweetdeck or some other tool, and set it to filter out retweets. This one weird trick eliminates 75% of the mind-killing SJ garbage that would otherwise clog up my food. Then use the “mute” functionality to get rid of any other topics that become too obnoxious. The fact that I don’t see 90% of the mind-killing posts keeps down the urges to go on rants about it.

      I’ve heard that there is a similar tool called Tumblr Savior which will accomplish the same thing for Tumblr. If you’re using Facebook…. good God, man, why are you using Facebook?

      • suntzuanime says:

        I feel like a better twitter strategy is just to not follow someone if you don’t want to see 90% of what they post.

        • But I do want to see most of what they post. I follow several people who post 90% nice stuff that I want to read, and 10% mind-killed SJ bullshit. It’s the latter subset which I’m trying to reduce the visibility of, not the entire feed. And I am quick with the Unfollow button if it gets to be too much from any one person.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Somehow I confused “90% of the mind-killed stuff in my feed” with “the mind-killed stuff, which makes up 90% of my feed”. I apologize for the misunderstanding.

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          The best twitter strategy is to not be on Twitter. That analogy of going for a stroll through a gang-infested neighborhood — yeah, why exactly would you do that in the first place? For what, cat pictures? You can get cat pictures anywhere.

      • Peter says:

        FBPurity is the Facebook equivalent. But yes, you can set up twitter to block retweets (you can do this account by account, or there are scripts which can just nuke it for everyone), when I tried it Twitter looked almost usable… but then I decided that I didn’t like twitter anyway, quite apart from the vexatious nonsense I didn’t feel like following it.

        One of these days someone with need to work on GetStungByMerelyThousandsOfWasps.

      • Deiseach says:

        The Real Name is for tweeting cheerful life updates, blandly-acceptable bromides, and signal-boosting those kinds of things where my interests and values overlap with those of the broader community

        Exactly. I have Real Name email account for work-related matters and other official purposes (as an aside, you wouldn’t believe the amount of applications we get at my place of work where people supply email addresses along the lines of “bouncy_gal69@yahmail” and you go “Did nobody ever teach you to have a “jsmith@gooloo” address for job applications and the like?”) and two others for hobby/fun/friend interaction purposes.

        I have three different online personae depending who, what, where and why; on here for instance, and elsewhere in certain places I’m Deiseach; other places I use one of my middle names for more serious content; the third is for more hobby/fan stuff.

        I don’t even use my Real Name on my Facebook account! My family know that I’m Fake Name and interact with me accordingly and it saves me the bother of all the friending, likes etc. requests I get.

        I keep my Real Life as far away and unconnected to my Online Life as possible. And I cannot understand why, in the days now where all the Big Beasts are data mining and using analytics and more or less bullying people into linking separate accounts (feck off Google, I am not interested in Circles) that people are not more careful, especially you young’uns who grew up in the PC and Internet age!

        At work we routinely use Facebook for checking up on applicants whose stories are fishy (e.g. “Me and partner suddenly broke up two days after we sent in our application so I’m applying as a single parent in urgent need of housing”, while meanwhile on Facebook it’s “Check out my engagement ring in this photo and we’re booking the honeymoon for the Algarve!”).

        Do you really think both present and prospective employers and others aren’t checking you out online as well?

        • dndnrsn says:

          Your stuff here isn’t serious content?

          • Deiseach says:

            It’s medium-serious. I do give real opinions, but other times I do try (and mostly fail) at being funny or injecting some levity into a discussion.

            The middle name person is mostly discussions about religion, if that’s any help. I did a lot of “Crash Course in Why The Heck Do Catholics Believe That???? For Bewildered But Friendly Post-Evangelical Protestants” posting under that name 🙂

        • I do essentially everything under my real name, and if it has caused problems I haven’t noticed. I did see one Amazon review of a book of mine along the lines of “I had heard that Friedman was some kind of a nutty libertarian, but this is just solid economic analysis of law.”

          There is one downside to Deiseach’s approach. It makes it harder for her to use her online status for real world purposes. People here know her as an intelligent, articulate, interesting poster. It’s not impossible that someone here might have a job that such a person was suited to. While making an offer via the pseudonym wouldn’t be impossible, it would be less convenient. And the hypothetical employer might, not unreasonably, want access to additional information linked to the real name.

          Of course, all of that could be worked out between the parties, but having to do it that way is a cost.

          • Deiseach says:

            People here know her as an intelligent, articulate, interesting poster.

            You see how successfully I have constructed a persona by pruning out the awkward bits of my real-life personality! 🙂

            Thank you very much for your kind words, but Real Life me is very little like the person on here. I can’t interact with people in the flesh. It’s a lot easier to type words on a screen and have a Fake Self that is a kind of Imaginary Friend; I do try to be honest and not completely obscure my opinions, but as recently as yesterday I shot my mouth off about something at work which did trigger a definite “Ooookay – that’s weird, back away slowly” response in the person I was speaking to, so I do a heck of a lot more self-censorship and berating myself about “Why were you so dumb, you stupid bitch?” after the fact in the real world than I do online.

            So – basically, I fail at life! 🙂

        • Viliam says:

          I have Real Name email account for work-related matters and other official purposes … three different online personae depending who, what, where and why

          If I could send a message to myself in the past, it would be to use a system like this. To keep my real name for work, and for blogging about technologies (so that anyone who googles my name sees that I am serious about programming, and that I have absolutely no opinions on politics or religion or anything possibly controversial); some throwaway nicknames for stuff I am not serious about; and to create a new nickname for every area I become sufficiently serious about (e.g. one for the rationalist community). I already use a password manager to remember different passwords for different websites; I could be using it to remember the usernames too, with almost no additional inconvenience.

          Problem is, when I started blogging 15 years ago, I had no idea of how I will feel about it later. There is already 15 years’ worth of potentially controversial comments using my real name all over the internet. Yeah, that’s no excuse to keep adding more! As a temporary solution I am using my first name, until I find a good alias.

          The inconvenient part is that I would have to remember which traits I have assigned to which identities. Because for a sufficiently non-mainstream person, a short list of their hobbies may be enough to identify them uniquely on the whole planet; so they shouldn’t be mentioned in the same account. Sometimes it’s not a problem; but if I would keep commenting on SSC for a sufficiently long time, any of those topics may become relevant in some Open Thread. Or am I now becoming too paranoid about this? The problem is, I have no idea what I will think about this 5 or 10 years later.

          My children will all have mandatory alternative identities, and they will not be allowed to use their own names online until they are 18. Problem is, the internet itself may change. Maybe 15 years later everyone will have one official electronic identity and it will be mandatory to use it on every website. (As a part of the fight against terrorism, or more likely against online harrassment and microaggressions.)

          So, the repeated problem here is: internet changes. I may have a good idea about what is the best system now, but in the future it may be otherwise.

      • Matt says:

        I’m careful to not even link different pseudonymous accounts together.

    • Chalid says:

      I was wondering this too. I have no idea where to get a good unbiased data set, but do keep in mind that this blog’s commentariat is emphatically not such a data set.

    • stargirl says:

      I was doxxed for arguing against the feminist position on rape laws. I argued the rape studies did not prove what they claimed to and that the rate of false accusations was not well understood and might be high. I also argued a number of proposed laws and policies were easy to abuse.

      In addition to being doxxed I was publicly shamed by a large list of my former friends. I also have no data set. But I certainly would not discuss certain ideas under your real name in public.

    • I bet lots of people don’t get promotions or job offers because they have offended a SJW. To the SJW, political incorrectness translates into disgust, which triggers the disease-avoidance response.

    • Kaj Sotala says:

      A counterpoint to the people suggesting you use a pseudonym: the benefit of “my real identity will only be known to those that I reveal it to” that you get from being pseudonymous can also be a disadvantage, since you lose the possibility for serendipity. E.g. both my current relationship, and the one before that, got started because I’ve been open about my real-life identity online.

      E.g. the my last ex was somebody who I met when she walked up to me in a convention, asked whether I was who she thought I was, and upon having that confirmed, said that I was a great person. Then she got shy and fled, but we ended up in a relationship a couple of years later. And my current girlfriend probably wouldn’t have sent me the private message that started things between us, hadn’t she been able to link my online handle to some previous things I’d done in real life.

      There have also been several other incidents where someone ran into me in real life, recognized me from my online presence, and reacted favorably as a result. These were people I’d never met before, so I couldn’t have selectively “lowered” my pseudonymity for them, since I didn’t even know they existed. Of course it’s also possible for you to suffer from such chance encounters, if you have particularly controversial opinions. But if I’ve ever ran into someone in real life who reacted negatively to me because of my online presence, they’ve kept it hidden.

      In general I feel like the benefits I’ve gotten from predominantly using my real name online have been considerable, while I can’t recall a single negative incident that would have followed from that.

      • Jiro says:

        Kaj: What type of things did you do under that real-life online identity, though? You mentioned a convention. In context here this usually means a science fiction convention, which suggests you were talking about science fiction related topics. Like talking about sports but for a different crowd, these are safe topics because they are something that people disagree about, but don’t actually think are important in a real-world sense, so nobody’s going to be shunning or firing you for such talk (except for the occasional employer who just doesn’t trust fans).

        It’s different if you start posting about things that the average person would consider evil or is told are evil, or even things that can be mistaken for them.

        • Kaj Sotala says:

          I discuss a rather wide range of things online, and have e.g. done political blogging back when I was still active at the Finnish Pirate Party, itself a rather controversial movement. (I believe that both my ex and my current gf first became aware of me because of the political stuff.)

          A large fraction of my online activity consists of resharing and commenting on various articles that I find interesting. I’m generally sympathetic to the (sane parts of the) SJW movement and frequently post stuff that they like, but I do also post stuff that tends to go against prevailing dogmas if I think it interesting, and can’t always be bothered to be careful about my wording. I’ve had at least one SJW-ish person block me on social media after I made a comment pointing out that they seemed to be hypocritically condemning “tone arguments” when they were used against feminists but had, in the past, used a similar argument against pick-up artist writing.

          I agree that if you’re talking about sufficiently controversial things, it might be safer to use a pseudonym for those, and I even suspect that I’m personally slightly too incautious about the discussions in which I use my real life identity. But I seemed to be reading into these comments a tone of “you should use a pseudonym for talking about ANYTHING AT ALL online”, which I found weird, especially since nobody seemed to be weighing it against the benefits of not using a pseudonym.

    • vV_Vv says:

      How frequent are these events, really? Are we in “struck by lightning” territory, or “car crash” territory?

      You are asking the wrong question. These examples are not adversarial events. You can control their risk to some extent, but they aren’t caused by somebody trying to punish you for a perceived defection.

      The proper analogy is running a business in a mafia-controlled neighborhood. How frequently does the mafia burn down a somebody’s shop? Probably it doesn’t happen very often. However, if you don’t pay them the protection money, or antagonize them in some other way, it will happen to you.

      Some industries, like academia, IT, journalism, etc., at least in some countries, are SJW-controlled neighborhoods, complete with a protection racket (why do you think companies hire “diversity officers” and bend over backwards to show off how “progressive” they are?) Therefore play it smart and hide behind the cloak of anonymity.

      • Cet3 says:

        That doesn’t work either, though. SJWs (or whoever) aren’t as centralized or coordinated as the mafia is in your analogy. It is a mistake to imagine a controlling intelligence behind the internet mobs.

        • vV_Vv says:

          Criminal gangs aren’t necessarily that much coordinated or centralized, either.

          And the Internet certainly helps coordination without a central authority or a formal organization. Non-SJW example: Gamergate.

          • Cet3 says:

            A protection racket requires at least some centralization. SJWs have even less than that. Less a mafia, more a bunch of guys getting drunk and roaming the street looking for easy targets to beat up.

          • vV_Vv says:

            They do have some centralization. SJWs aren’t just a bunch of anon kids on Tumblr, they have prominent figures (e.g. Amanda Marcotte, Jessica Valenti, Anita Sarkeesian), and lobbies (e.g. Ada Initiative, Geek Feminism, Association for Progressive Communications) plus feminists in key positions in the academia (all gender studies professors), major news outlets and even the UN.

            SJWs don’t have a strictly hierarchical organization. There is no Pope (Mome?) of the SJWs. But there is clearly a loose collection of individuals and organizations which is evidently able to coordinate in order to further their shared interests.

    • sweeneyrod says:

      I was very surprised to see how many people commenting here had been doxxed etc. I understand if people don’t want to share there own story, but I’d be very interested to read any similar stories (i.e. of non-celebrities being doxxed due to expressing certain opinions). I’d be especially interested in links to people discussing planning these kinds of things.

      • Toggle says:

        Be aware that the sample isn’t representative; the nature of the question is such that the people answering it are much more likely to have gotten hit by a two-minutes-hate (and Scott’s known sometimes-kinda-antifeminism will attract such readers to start with), and the people that are simply afraid of being hit are more likely to read it as interested observers. It may help you understand the dynamics of the event, but not its frequency.

      • Luke Somers says:

        I haven’t been, nor do I expect to be, and if I am I don’t expect it to accomplish much.

      • Tibor says:

        Sorry for a stupid question, but what does “to doxx” mean?

        • Nornagest says:

          To recover and publicly post personal information about someone on the Internet — typically stuff like real name, workplace, place of residence, maybe phone number. The etymology goes through “document”.

          It’s considered harmful because it can (and often does) lead to people being harassed, attempts to get them fired or SWAT sent to their doorstep, etc. It also facilitates credible death and rape threats, although I haven’t heard of many cases where that’s lead to an actual crime.

          • RCF says:

            Death and rape threats are real crimes.

          • Nornagest says:

            Yes, and telling someone you’ll punch them in the nose is, legally speaking, a real assault — but I think what I meant should have been clear from context.

            You can read “physical” for that if you want, though.

  19. Pku says:

    I’m curious (as a guy in his twenties with thinning hair) if anyone here has an opinion about hair transplants. Googling just gives either the neutral-to the-point-of-uselessness Official Doctor Positions or the (clearly biased) sites of various transplant clinics who talk about how great it is.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Hair transplants are terrible. Stick with drugs.

      • One drug commonly used for the purpose (I forget its name) is also used to shrink an enlarged prostate. One possible side effect is “reduced libido,” euphemism for impotence.

        • Erebus says:

          Finasteride (sold as “Propecia” and under other names). It inhibits the enzyme which converts testosterone to DHT — but it doesn’t work locally, so, in effect, it’s a universal anti-androgen. Very nasty stuff. I know guys who have never fully recovered from the sexual side effects.

      • Winter Shaker says:

        Hair transplants are terrible. Stick with drugs

        I used to worry about going bald, until I discovered heroin

    • Megaburst says:

      A single study found that massaging your scalp really hard for a period of months can reverse hair loss.

      • Outis says:

        That blog post triggers some snake oil alarms. And the pictures are all from different angles and with different hair lengths or styles. It’s impossible for me to tell if there was any improvement at all.

    • Saul Degraw says:

      Embrace the thinning or shave it.

    • hlynkacg says:

      As a guy in his early thirties with thinning hair I agree with Saul and Mark on this one.

      Keep it short and once it recedes past the mid-line go the full Bruce.

    • Winter Shaker says:

      If our host is more reticent these days about having his photo bandied about the internet, please delete this, but you might enjoy Scott’s Biblical rationale for embracing the shaven-headed look.

      (Though in real life I have not visited a hairdresser in well over a decade, and from an early age sort of always knew that I was deep down a long-haired guy in what I imagine is a similar way to some people realising they are gay long before they get the chance to act on that knowledge – so if I did start to lose it, I’m pretty sure I’d jump on any promising treatment, and therefore cannot fault you for feeling the same)

      • Tibor says:

        I had had long hair for some 10 years before finally deciding to cut it last year also because of hair loss…First I was no longer getting compliments from women (“I envy your hair! Oh, those are wonderful curls!”), then I started disliking the look myself as I was losing hair, I decided to cut it relatively short (not bald…not yet anyway 🙂 ) and I was myself surprised about how good it looked. I also though I was a “long-haired guy”. It is also much more practical to have shorter hair but vain and narcissistic as I am, that was never a sufficient reason to go short 🙂

  20. grendelkhan says:

    More resources on DRACO: Todd Rider’s AMA on Reddit a week and a half ago. Presentation at SENS6. Original PLoS One paper.

    In early 2014, I asked a friend of mine who works as a researcher in a nearby field to evaluate the SENS6 presentation and PLoS One paper. I’m waiting to get his okay (it was semi-private correspondence; I’m being polite), but I’ll post it as a follow-up here if he says yes.

    • grendelkhan says:

      I’ve gotten the okay; this is from the discussion about a year and a half ago:

      Okay, this is a clever application of established biological systems. At its core, this is novel and I have no problem with what they have done. The controls are all present and most of the questions I have about it are answered.

      Both the paper and the presentation are a bit too vague to really appreciate the effectiveness of this antiviral since they do give a EC50 for cells, but there is no evidence of an EC50 for mice. It shows that it is present for up to 11 days, but there is nothing that says that the levels present are high enough to be effective for that time.

      In fact, the author says that it is only effective when injected within 36 hours of infection. This is way too narrow of a time table for most viruses, especially influenza (the flu) and rhinoviruses (the common cold). These have incubation times nearing a week before you see symptoms. The best thing the author can do right now is show that with the onset of symptoms in mice, or whatever model they use, that DRACO can effectively block or significantly reduce the duration of the infection. This is data is a great start to what could be an excellent antiviral. I would hate to see what kind of resistance viruses would create, if they could, against it.

      Overall, I think the science is sound and the data is a great start. The authors need to establish whether they can stop infections post-symptoms, or increase the window of effectiveness as a prophylactic. Additionally, they need to demonstrate that prolonged, low-dose applications of DRACO on serial passaged viruses does not create resistance to the antiviral. In other words, when patients don’t use it properly or correctly, are they just selecting for resistance viruses in their body and making this system less effective? Lastly, they need to find a better way of administering it for whole-organism effectiveness. intra-nasal is great for the flu and viruses that grow in the lungs and throat, but it does nothing for other viruses. Plus, I don’t want to be stabbed in the gut with a needle just because I *might* be exposed to a virus.

      I’ll be glad to talk specifics with you if you have any questions on their work. While I’m not the author, they did a good job laying out their experiments.

    • grendelkhan says:

      And here are some answers to questions I’d had then:

      Let me see if I can answer all of the questions. I’ll let you know if I venture into a very hypothetical or abstract world where hand-waving and “what-if”s rule.

      1) Is it particularly difficult to find viruses that have a long incubation period in mice? Maybe the idea was to show efficacy in preventing infection in the first place?

      Influenza in mice has an onset of symptoms around day 3, so they could easily wait for the symptoms to appear, or day 4 post-infection, to administer the DRACO. This would be more in line with what a clinical setting would do, since we, as humans, don’t tend to know when we are infected with a virus until the symptoms appear. With regards to showing efficacy, they did just that and it was perhaps the point of the mouse trials. Suffice it to say, they would probably have to move to a model such as the rhesus macaque to get a better idea of what would happen in a larger animal.

      One of the problems I have with mouse trials, is that while it will give you a fair idea of how an immune system would react, and if there is potential for a drug to work, there is a compressed time frame since the mice tend to die or get too old for research. One thing the researchers could do is use something such as Hepatitis B/C or even Hauntavirus in mice to establish an infection. If used early enough, I would hypothesize that killing the infected cells would not cause a severe problem for the mice. I’ll wave my hands here and say that a well-established infection of some viruses might not be curable with something like this, however it could help with even infections of HIV if you could get the latently infected cells activated to produce virus.

      2) Are there viruses that don’t use dsRNA for replication? Or am I thinking of this too much like an engineer and not enough like a biologist, where you can’t predict what mechanisms will emerge under selective pressure and history has taught you to be pessimistic?

      As the author stated, almost all viruses produce a dsRNA intermediate, though this is especially true for RNA viruses. DNA viruses only get dsRNA from what’s called convergent transcription. This generally means that in the DNA, there is code for proteins in both the sense (5’-3’) and anti-sense (3’-5’) direction. This is a crafty way of packing more information into a smaller space; by reusing code in reverse the virus can build more functional proteins to help propagate. Under selective pressure, I’m not entirely convinced that they could escape a dsRNA intermediate; however I’m not going to say that they couldn’t. Biology has a strange way of making something out of nothing.

      3) In general, this sounds like a potentially high-impact kind of research, and it doesn’t seem particularly well funded…. Is [mailing the charitable-giving arm of the company to try to drum up support] an obviously stupid idea, a potentially stupid idea, a reasonably good idea, a great idea, or something somewhere in between?

      I wouldn’t call it underfunded. From the paper this is where they get funding:

      National Institutes of Health -New England Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases (AI057159)
      Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Defense Threat Reduction Agency
      Director of Defense Research & Engineering

      I’d say that was fairly well funded. With the premise they can sell an antivirual that is easily administered to soldiers, they will likely be set for money. I’m not sure, since I haven’t seen their webpage or anything, that they are no longer funded. The paper came out in 2011, which isn’t *that* long ago, so it is likely there is still work being done. This kind of stuff, especially after proving it works, can take time. Alternatively, it could have been spun into a spin-off company that will make it using private funding. Just because you haven’t heard from them in a while doesn’t mean it’s not going strong.

      Giving them donations through work, unless it’s reasonably large and can give them a few $100k to $1,000k it is likely best to put the money elsewhere. I’ll look up the actual grant they got when I get home, but I bet it isn’t small.

      (I linked the grant they were working under elsewhere in the thread.)

  21. Luke Muehlhauser says:

    Did Rider apply for NIH funding and fail to get it? If so, I’d really want to learn why the review committee didn’t fund it.

    • FacelessCraven says:

      Yeah, I’m sorta struggling with this concept myself. This is penicillin for viruses, right? How is this man not dead beneath an endless cascade of money-bales?

      • grendelkhan says:

        I had pretty much this exact same discussion almost three years ago. (You can also see me futilely attempting to court a supposed billionaire’s kid.)

        This seems to fall under ‘civilizational incompetence’, but I agree, it’s a lot to swallow. One expects “We can cure the common cold in mice!” to be met with more than just “oh, cool”.

        • Murphy says:

          It’s close-ish to my own area of expertise and I had the same opinion, it sounded good but which you’d want to safety-test the hell out of first.

          I said this in the other thread that Scott linked but I’ll say it again. This seems weird.

          My only hypothesis that this researcher doesn’t want to give up as big a cut of the rights as many funding sources would want and so it taking the crowd funding approach. (after all it’s basically free money with no strings attached.)

          I see nothing on the indiegogo page about who has/would own the rights so i’m guessing it would be almost entirely this Dr Rider and if it panned out that would leave him slightly richer than God.

          Again, I can’t stress enough, 2 million is small money in this kind of context. People around me are getting more for far less interesting work and for far more speculative work.

          Combined with the blackout on information about this something is up. Either results didn’t turn out as hoped and Rider is trying to keep things going or there’s some kind of fight over money and/or patent rights.

          This is exactly the kind of tech that’s getting lots of funding right now so even your argument that this isn’t the sexy area at the moment doesn’t hold water. Organisations are throwing cash at personalised medicine, smart molecules and interventions like this.

          Also I don’t like that he’s selling it as a cure for all viruses, it’s a potential cure for a significant and very important subset of viruses but not all.

          • grendelkhan says:

            According to the AMA thread, MIT owns the patent, though that’s not directly cited.

            Here’s an interview from four years ago; the comments detail a rather sadly glacial attempt to set up actual crowdfunding.

            In any case, if you’re concerned, Andrew Clough has already donated enough to get a Hangout with Dr. Rider, so you could probably have him ask. Or send an email, or comment on the IndieGoGo page.

            It seems unlikely that someone would hold out for four years like this; also, note that they had an NIH grant and then didn’t. It reads like that economics joke, “there can’t be a twenty on the ground; someone would have picked it up by now”.

          • Deiseach says:

            What seems odd is that he apparently (if you read the announcement that way) went to Draper Labs last year precisely to work on this, and now he’s trying to crowdfund it?

            That to me sounds more like it wasn’t working as well as initial results suggested, rather than a fight over “I want a bigger cut of the pie”. If there are potential millions in profit involved, as surely there would be for a viable cure that can go into production, there’s more than enough “you can roll around on a bed covered three inches-deep in hundred dollar bills” for everyone.

          • Murphy says:


            Some random commenter asserted that the patent was owned by MIT so I’m not sure that’s proof so I’m not abandoning my conjecture that there’s some disputes over the rights.

            it could also be a market failure where the guy in charge simply isn’t very good at getting academic funding since you’d expect MIT to be throwing some additional money at this.

            It could be a “twenty on the ground” deal but this isn’t just a 20 on the ground, this is a 20 that’s been paraded past dozens of currency recognition experts.

            I can’t find any replications outside the original lab either.

            Something is definitely weird.

          • Erebus says:

            This is, presumably, the patent:

            There are a few other closely-related ones. (7125839, 8598324) They are all very similar, and they have one important thing in common: MIT is the assignee. This means that MIT, not Dr. Rider, owns the invention. I don’t know what this means for the future of DRACO as a therapeutic, but it bears keeping in mind. (MIT’s role in this is puzzling.)

            It is also worth mentioning that the patent expires on or around Feb 2022.
            …But I don’t know if this is a huge concern. If Dr. Rider manages to optimize a few lead compounds, I reckon that he should be able to find a way to patent them. The new patent(s) would be narrower than the one set to expire in 2022, but would probably be enough for further development and investment.

            Speaking of optimization, the PLoS study was interesting, but seemed extremely preliminary to me. DRACO is a technique — not a particular lead compound — and whatever they tested in that PLoS study seemed like a bit of a blunt tool. The concentrations they used were quite high. (100-200nm in vitro, 2.5mg to mice in vivo — where 2.5mg translates to a roughly 500mg dose in a 75kg human.) This indicates a lack of potency, and definitely indicates a need for further optimization.

            …Anyway, I also think that crowdfunding this thing is very, very odd. Even the full $2M Rider is asking for is just a drop in the bucket — not enough to make the slightest dent in Phase I clinical trials. At $15k raised thus far, this is crashing and burning badly.

          • Matt says:

            He is not trying to do a clinical trial. He is trying to get to the point where companies would fund him. He plainly states he would be doing in vitro experiments with the 2 millions.

          • Mark says:

            Below is the explanation they give for the lack of funding. Does anyone have any reason to think that this isn’t true?
            The only thing I don’t understand is why the NIH stopped funding. Do they only fund proof of concept work?

            “However, before committing any of their own money, those companies want to see that DRACOs have already been shown to be effective against major clinically relevant viruses (such as members of the herpes virus family), not just the proof-of-concept viruses (such as rhinovirus) that were previously funded by NIH. Thus the Valley of Death is the financial and experimental gap between the previously funded NIH proof-of-concept experiments and the threshold for convincing major pharmaceutical companies to advance DRACOs toward human trials.”

          • Murphy says:


            Thanks for that, so it seems all that’s left is my hypothesis that he just kind of sucks at getting in funding, even for interesting work, which isn’t that uncommon in academia.

            Sometimes talented people waste time spinning their wheels because they don’t chase the funding effectively.

            A bunch of my old workmates used to work in pharma research. Pharma companies absolutely do sink a *lot* of money in right from the earliest stages, toxicity could sink something fast but if something worked well in animals then it was already one of the 1/10,000.

            I don’t fully believe in this ” Valley of Death” though I’m willing to believe he believes in it.

          • Linch says:

            I signal-boosted to my social network in as many areas as I could.

            Hopefully we could get a couple more scientists looking at the research more carefully and come up with a consensus on whether this is worth funding.

        • vV_Vv says:

          So the original publication is from 2003, and in these 18 years this thing hasn’t gone anywhere, and the guy is now resorting to e-begging on IndieGoGo, next to thousands pretentious failed artists?

          From the outside view, it doesn’t look good, to use an euphemism.

          • grendelkhan says:

            The first publication was in summer of 2011, in a not-maximally-prestigious journal. Was there a publication before that? I was under the impression that he’d been working on this project since circa 2003, not that it had been published then.

          • vV_Vv says:

            Ok. Still, I’m not positively impressed.

          • Erebus says:

            PLoS is extremely prestigious. It’s the top-tier open-access publisher, and in many respects is a heck of a lot better than Science and Cell. It’s more than a few notches above the vast majority of Springer and Elsevier journals.

            The MIT DRACO patents have a priority date of 2002 — and they’re very complex patents, even by modern biotech/pharma standards, so DRACO probably dates back to 1999-2000 or thereabouts. Stealth mode research, by the looks of it.

            grendelkhan: Thanks for those comments from your friend above. I agree fully with the conclusions he reached. One thing: There’s no EC50 in mice — it would be ED50, and those typically require a lot of experimentation to obtain, which I don’t think would have been warranted, under the circumstances. (It was just a proof of concept, and the version of DRACO they’re testing might not be the same version they want to bring to clinical trials. Presumably, it would be further modified/optimized. Also, mouse experiments are expensive.)

            DRACO is interesting, and it seems credible to me. But it’s also extremely preliminary, and I don’t think that we should fund a Kickstarter campaign for it. That just makes zero sense. I’m also really confused about a couple of things: Where’s MIT in all this, and why aren’t other labs working on DRACO? (The patents aren’t the reason. Those expire in a few years, and, besides, any novel modification to DRACO would potentially be eligible for a new patent.)

          • RCF says:

            2015-2003 = 18?

          • vV_Vv says:

            2015-2003 = 18?

            Mistakes were made.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Have you ever looked at an NIH rejection letter?

    • grendelkhan says:

      Hey, this is something I can actually help with! My friend in the field pointed me to this; it’s the NIH grant which extended from 2013 into early 2015. project 5U54AI057159-10, subproject 5714. It was funded for $172,903 for that period, as part of a larger $9.7 million grant to NIAID for “biodefense and emerging infectious diseases”.

      I’m not sure where to go with these things, but the project was definitely approved at one point, and according to the SENS6 presentation, used the funding to show results against additional viruses. Anyone with more information, please do chime in.

  22. TheFrannest says:

    Interesting fun fact: no argument that mentions [defended group] “daring” to do [something that shouldn’t logically cause controversy] is ever remotely worthwhile. Just discard the whole line of discussion and pray for the sweet release of blissful insanity.

    • Adam Casey says:

      I think the term you’re looking for is Against Bravery Debates.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      The most ridiculous example of this sort of thing I’ve come across was when a Facebook friend of mine posted a status saying “I don’t care how many friends I lose, I support gay marriage!” — even though he was a left-wing arts student, and even though this was in the aftermath of the DOMA case and everybody’s feed was being inundated with rainbows.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        This seems uncharitable.

        I think everyone agrees that the gay marriage debate has undergone a sea change with amazing rapidity. In 2004, gay marriage was seen as a drop dead winning argument for conservatives. Evangelicals have been outspoken about how horrible it is.

        I certainly hold back on posting various things on my Facebook feed because I do not want to antogonize my various religiously inclined relatives.

  23. Gadim says:

    Any right of center publications worth reading?

    • Yakimi says:

      City Journal and the New Criterion are probably the two centers of intellectual American conservatism.

    • hlynkacg says:

      In what context?

      If you’re trying to get a gauge on what the what the “red-tribe” is thinking (in the US / Canada) to I’d point you towards Reason or Instapundit. Whether they are worth reading is a matter of taste.

      • _Reason_ may be closer to grey tribe.

        • Hemid says:

          Its history is definitely grey, and the Reason of today is still rhetorically greyish, but its tribal blueness—simple partisanship—is so strong now, when the rhetoric goes grey it feels dishonest and off, like a politician putting on a local-rubes accent.

        • My impression is that _Reason_ used to be gray with a surprisingly red commentariat, but has moved towards blue.

          • Urstoff says:

            Still seems solidly libertarian to me (is that what grey is?). Look at the Hit and Run blog: a pro-Snowden post, a pro-Ryan and anti-Sanders post, a pro-Uber/anti-Taxi monopoly post, a pro-School voucher post, etc. Reason commentators go on shows on both Foxnews and RT.

          • Urstoff: Grey tribe as used here isn’t exactly libertarian, but reasonably hard core libertarians are more nearly part of the grey tribe than the red or blue.

            Grey tribe people, for instance, are quite likely to be in favor of a guaranteed minimum income (our host is reasonably positive about the idea). That’s more attractive to libertarians than standard paternalist welfare, but I expect most libertarians would still be against it.

          • Urstoff says:

            So grey tribe = Bleeding Heart Libertarians?

          • I think BHL’s are mostly bluegrey.

            I think of grey tribe as Silicon Valley types, quite likely to have libertarian views on many issues but to identify culturally with the left. Scott is an example.

            Grey tribe people are less likely to think positively of Rawls than the BHL’s mostly do, if only because Rawls doesn’t really make a lot of sense–why should one make a decision under uncertainty on the assumption that you are certain to end up with the worst possible outcome, which is what his argument requires? They are more likely to be sympathetic to utilitarianism, which at least feels as though it logically holds together.

            But others here, especially people who don’t self-identify as libertarians, might be able to give you usefully different answers.

          • RCF says:

            @David Friedman

            How does Rawls require that? My understanding is that Rawls argues for maximizing total utility, not maximizing minimum utility.

          • RCF:

            I believe you are mistaken. Rawls argues that society should be structured to maximize the welfare of the worst off member. The argument is that, behind the veil of ignorance, you not only do not know who you will be, you do not have any probability distribution over who you will be.

            Hence, he argues, you will prefer the society for which the worse outcome you could end up with is as good as possible–infinite risk aversion. I have never been able to make any sense of it.

            Harsanyi, writing well before Rawls, followed the obvious line of argument–equal probability of being anyone–and reached the obvious conclusion, which is to prefer the society that maximizes average utility.

        • Simon says:

          I’d call Reason by far the “greyest” out of the mainstream right-of-centre news publications. Certainly closer to that than The Economist or WSJ, though Economist being a British publication probably makes it harder to fit into those factions.

    • Troy says:

      Unz.com, The American Conservative, The Federalist.

      • onyomi says:

        Second The American Conservative. I used to sort of be friends with the editor, and he’s an incredibly thoughtful and well-informed guy.

    • Anon. says:

      Depends on how you define right of center, but The Economist? Obviously grey, not red.

      • anon says:

        The Economist are neoliberals, not genuine libertarians. Their support of Blair and Bush Jr’s foreign military adventures should automatically revoke their grey tribe credentials

        • onyomi says:

          See this is why I like The American Conservative for a genuinely conservative, in a Burkean sense, take on US politics. Most other publications are either libertarian (Reason) or neoconservative/neoliberal. A Burkean conservative in the 21st c. often sounds a lot like a libertarian, and indeed, this editor was an active participant in my university’s college libertarians club, but it is still a distinct viewpoint worth considering.

      • cassander says:

        the economist is way too mainstream to be grey tribe. In fact, it’s almost anti-grey, in that it’s by some odd historical coincidence, it’s managed to perfectly mirror american conventional wisdom. If it has a tribe, it’s the establishment, of “serious people”.

    • Social Matter
      First Things
      The American Conservative. Though really, of all the writers at AmCon I only really read Dreher and Alan Jacobs.

      (I offered links to these in a previous version of the comment, but too many links = spam, evidently.)

    • multiheaded says:

      Like others say, Reason, American Conservative, The Economist.

      The Federalist is a horrible rag that’s seriously worse than Breitbart.

      (http://thefederalist.com/tag/lgbt/ oh wow lol; one would have to be an utterly shameless bottom feeder to exploit such a massively sensitive issue as *detransitioning* and imply that somehow queer activists HATE it. Literally no standards.)

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      I think The American Interest is fairly good. It’s in the style of The American Conservative, and is the main stomping ground of Walter Russell Mead, who first piqued my interest with his book, Special Providence.


      If you’re after more zeitgeist-y faire, there’s always Ann Althouse’s blog. She herself is liberal, but goes out of her way to post things that tend to gore liberal oxen, or construct alternative interpretations to “received liberal wisdom”. (Do be careful in the comments, however. Longstanding tradition of sarcasm; if you read something outlandish, there’s a high chance you’re reading a deliberate test of Poe’s Law.)

  24. Papers Please says:

    Competence and the Evolutionary Origins of Status and Power in Humans

    In this paper I propose an evolutionary model of human status that expands upon an earlier model proposed by Henrich and Gil-White Evolution and Human Behavior,

    • NZ says:

      What do you think of the theory that humans became bipedal because we were able to throw hard and with accuracy? (Think groups of baseball-like throwers, shooing a cheetah off its kill so they could take the meat.) What else would make the treacherous move to bipedalism worth it?

  25. Nick T says:

    Re DRACO: the immune system already has dsRNA detectors (which DRACO is based on) that have effects including apoptosis, that obviously don’t defeat all viruses, so I’d like to know how this is different from those / why it didn’t evolve already (as a protein made from two already-existing domains, it seems way easier to evolve than most therapies) / how it would defeat existing viral resistance mechanisms / why viruses wouldn’t evolve resistance.

    The paper seems to be saying that the difference is that DRACO bypasses most of the apoptosis signaling pathway and so defeats resistance mechanisms that block those signals, which is a partial answer (but the paper also mentions the existence of other resistance mechanisms, like hiding dsRNA, without saying how DRACO gets around them).

    A comment here says “From what I’ve seen and what Dr. Rider told me the amount of dsRNA necessary for the natural Interferon Response is much higher than that necessary for DRACO”, but no further detail.

  26. birdboy2000 says:

    I want to no longer browse websites run by large corporations or people seeking to sell out to large corporations, or at least significantly cut down my time there. I also want to not browse websites run by power-mad tyrants who ban everyone they disagree with.

    My interests are anime, politics, and history, and the only sites I browse these days that do not frustrate the heck out of me are this place and 4chan. (Usenet if you’re willing to be more loose with your definition of “site” but that’s a ghost town too.)

    Where should I hang out?

    • As someone who’s recently left the giant gaming forum/extremely targeted hatchet job site mentioned in the comments a few posts ago, I’ve found solace in a distributed solution; rather than find a single place with a lot of people, I have a dozen or so blogs and mini-forums I check instead. This also makes me a lot more tolerant of tyranny; it’s great to see someone banned on one forum, and keep up conversation with them on another three without any interruption in flow.

    • Arbitrary Greay says:

      On the anime side, the blogging circuit is pretty much your only choice. Fantastic Memes and Chromatic Aberration Everywhere are good places to start, and then wiki-walk through the blogroll and “liked” post links.

  27. Nornagest says:

    Does anyone else have this problem or know a way to solve it?

    Have the problem (on Chrome 34), haven’t found a way to fix it.

    • RCF says:

      The issue seems to be that it takes a while for the browser to reload the page. It displays the new post, but it hasn’t really loaded the page, so it won’t let you view the rest of the page. I also have the issue that nothing happens for a while, so I click “Post Comment” again, and then I get a duplicate post error. It seems a bit inefficient, reloading an entire page just to display the new comments.

  28. Jiro says:

    The fact that someone cannot get funding for a disease treatment from conventional sources is Bayseian evidence that the treatment is ineffective. So crowdfunding it isn’t going to work unless you can get your funding from gullible people.

  29. zslastman says:

    I got noticed as an example yaaaaay.
    I’m really interested to hear those non verbalised thoughts once they’re properly cooked. I think it’s an important and under discussed topic. “Status”, like you say, doesn’t seem seem to just be a biological primitive like ‘hunger’, it seems like the behaviors have a lot of moving parts. I once asked Hanson why he doesn’t bother with that kind of dissection and he said he doesn’t think it’s usually productive, but I have to disagree. For instance, we don’t have ‘avoid sick people’ as a behavioral primitive. We have specific visual and olfactory triggers that hook up to the emotion of ‘disgust’. Knowing that tells you all sorts of things about how to test the theory, how mutable it is, how it might be affected by the new environment, etc etc.

  30. Any other dating sites to try other than okCupid? Or tips on using it? Had zero no luck there.

    • Liskantope says:

      Also, which dating sites are most popular / most likely to be helpful in western Europe, where I live now? There don’t seem to be as many people on Okcupid here (not that I had much success with it when I tried it briefly in America).

      • Anonymous says:

        Aren’t there like a bajillion dating sites, and plenty of regional/national ones for wherever you’re at?