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Links 11/15: Alinkxander Hamilton

Probably demonstrates something about psychology: I had no idea until this week that I had two very different mental images stored of the White House: they turn out to be its north vs. south facades. Did everyone else already realize this?

CRISPR may be tested on humans to cure rare form of blindness in 2017. I didn’t realize that it could potentially be put in a virus and used on adults. That’s…something.

This month in credentialism: Alabama’s Teacher of the Year resigns after being told she does not have the proper qualifications to teach.

That time all of the whales in the world sued George Bush.

Mark Zuckerberg accidentally signs wrong document, leading to lawsuit and trip down corporate governance rabbit hole. I continue to think corporate governance is probably one of the most important issues in the modern world, which is completely ignored by everyone (including me) because it’s super boring.

Lottery ticket sellers win the lottery much more often than chance. But how exactly do they cheat? (read comments)

Many interesting reviews of Houellebecq’s Submission, with some of the best concentrating on how it’s using Islam to critique the West’s lack of principles rather than critiquing Islam itself. Ross Douthat’s is a good first stop. Somewhat related: “Meet the intellectuals leading France to the right, les nouveaux reactionnaires“.

Speaking of the far-right, some people suggest “new imperialism” as a solution for poverty: instead of having lots of Third World people immigrate to the West to benefit from its institutions, put Western institutions in charge of the Third World. This makes some sense, but I’ve never heard these people carry it to its logical conclusion: since the Third Worlders don’t seem to be up for it, why not at least put Switzerland or Denmark in charge of America?

A homepage for lowering Bay Area rents.

Noah Smith: isn’t it kind of a coincidence that China’s services sector is taking off right when their industrial sector is collapsing? And to exactly the degree necessary to maintain near-7% growth? Maybe it’s all just crooked accounting.

Some people from rationalist-adjacent group Clearer Thinking are working on fact-checking 2.0.

Rejecting the gender binary: a vector space operation

Relevant to some recent SSC posts: The myth that Bernie Sanders’ supporters are overwhelmingly male is not borne out by the numbers. Lots of demographic claims seem to be better interpreted as weird pseudo-moralistic fables than as factual assertions.

The people who vote decide nothing. The people who count the votes also decide nothing. The people who decide in what year the election gets held decide quite a lot.

Last month I linked a piece about “the only way” to respond to a teacher’s demand to show your work on a math test. It turns out there is a second acceptable way.

The Golden Giraffes are apparently some kind of Internet blogging award and contain a couple good pieces from rationalist and rationalist-adjacent blogs including David Chapman, Aceso Under Glass, and Jaibot, plus me, plus some otherwise cool people like Venkatesh Rao, David Benatar, David Deutsch, and Scott Adams. Take a look and vote if you find one you like.

Greg Cochran is always a mind trip. This time he uses math and evolutionary biology to show why a lot of seemingly non-infectious diseases “have to” be caused by pathogens. Would love to hear some other biologists’ opinions.

Paying repeat criminals to stop committing crimes: it seems to work, but what about the message it’s sending?

People who perform insane self-experiments with weird drugs are my tribe, so here’s a guy who says he reversed aging with This One Weird Peptide. You know you can trust him because he publishes his results as a poorly formatted .txt file.

GiveWell: The Lack Of Controversy Over Well-Targeted Aid. A lot of people worry that aid makes things worse or supports murderous despots, but most people agree that the sort of aid GiveWell and other effective altruist organizations promote does not have those problems.

Hitler 2: This Time It’s A Clothing Store.

More on Hanson’s Hypothesis for health care: the Amish consume very little of it yet are just as healthy as everyone else. Obvious confounders include everything else the Amish do.

Sierra Leone is officially Ebola-free, meaning the big Ebola outbreak from last year has been contained to a handful of cases in Guinea.

The new startup trying to sell celebrity meat may or may not be serious, but now that they mention it it’s an obvious corollary of vat-grown meat technology and it’s sure to happen eventually. Weird.

A lot of the people I went to high school with are doing interesting things now. Michael Bernstein, whom I can vouch for as super-bright in the tenth grade, is now a Stanford professor working on social computing and has published The Handbook of Collective Intelligence on how groups make decisions.

Path Dependence In European Development is the seemingly innocuous title of a paper purporting to show that European countries whose royal families had a higher percent male children during the age of monarchy are more prosperous today, supposedly because they had more heirs and so suffered fewer economically destructive wars of succession. It’s very carefully done and even includes an answer to my immediate objection (ie don’t richer people have more sons?). But it contradicts so much else, like the study showing American bombing of Vietnam has already been economically-adjusted away that it’s hard for me to credit too much.

The history of Nazi board games: “Jews Out! was not an official Nazi propaganda effort but an unsuccessful commercial product; the game was criticized by an SS journal that felt it trivialized anti-Semitic policies.” Does it count as horseshoe theory when the Nazis are worried about trivializing anti-Semitism?

I think I somehow made it this far without linking to David Severa’s really thorough dialogue presenting different arguments for and against increased immigration/open borders, so I hereby correct that omission and highly recommend it.

Study finds gender bias in how people interpret claims that studies find gender bias. Also, holy frick, how did I not already know about that second graph?

Speaking of things that are something, Polygenic Risk For Alcohol Dependence Associates With Alcohol Consumption, Cognitive Function, And Social Deprivation. The main point being mentioned here is that the reason people in poor areas are more alcoholic might not be because poverty is depressing and makes one turn to drink, it might be entirely genetic. But I’m not sure I get the posited mechanism; is alcohol such a big deal that it in itself makes people live in poor areas? Or is it all the correlations with other traits? Are these because of mutational load, coincidence, or something else? Anyway, my big take-home lesson from this study is that people now understand some polygenic traits well enough that we can start doing genetically-informed social science with them. That’s big.

Related: The Genetics Of High Intelligence. Short version: it’s additive and polygenic all the way down, and there’s no “special sauce” to unusually high intelligence aside from doing very well in the lottery of genes that determine the normal intelligence range. I’m not sure how this relates to claims about substantial IQ boosts from genes like torsion dystonia. Some discussion of this over at Gwern’s G+, but I don’t understand some of his conclusions – for example, why does this suggest against Cochran’s mutational load theory?

@CultureShipName on Twitter.

Yeah, we’re used to priming experiments failing to replicate these days, but Neuroskeptic shows an especially beautiful example with all of the data points graphed out so clearly that you can see exactly what happened. Also, romantic priming is probably not a thing.

Payday loans clearly screw over the poor, but every attempt to do something about them has been stymied by the reasonable question “how exactly does it help to take an option away from poor people while giving them nothing in return?” But the New York Times has a great article up on how the problem is overregulation of lending that makes it impossible for normal banks to give payday-sized loans at normal-bank-prices.

A while ago I linked to a piece about artificial lights indistinguishable from real windows and how they might revolutionize design/architecture. I was curious how those are doing these days so I looked into a bit more: they now exist, are available to consumers, but cost about $60,000 per light; among the customers willing to pay those prices are operating theaters and airports. Hopefully the cost will go down Moore’s-Law-style soon.

New York Times wrote an editorial panning Chris Christie. I love Christie’s response: didn’t read it, too much trouble getting past the paywall.

Police body cameras – good for victims, good for officers: Texas officer’s bodycam proves that professor fabricated her racial profiling claim against police.

A new study not only quantifies political bias in economics, but even kind of suggests a sort of toy method of ‘adjusting’ for it. “The average optimal tax rate reported by economists in our data is 41 percent. Using our model, we can also estimate that these economists as a group are slightly left of center. We can then figure out what optimal top tax rate a hypothetical centrist economist would report: 33 percent.”

Iran goes all soft and inoffensive: “‘Death to America’ does not mean death to the American nation, it means death to the US’ policies and death to arrogance.”

Reaching peak rationalist: prediction markets can help determine which psych studies will replicate, with bonus quote from Robin Hanson.

GMU economist professor and occasional SSC fan Garrett Jones has a new book out: Hive Mind: How Your Nation’s IQ Matters More Than Your Own. I haven’t read it yet, but I hope it will fill the important niche of “less terrible version of Richard Lynn”.

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800 Responses to Links 11/15: Alinkxander Hamilton

  1. Linch says:

    Speaking of misleading/sensationalist graphs, man the first gender bias graph was ESPECIALLY terrible.

  2. Joao Fabiano says:

    I’m honestly interested to know your reasons for calling the results of one of the biggest studies outside natural sciences ever conducted by mankind the “Hanson’s *Hypothesis*” If anything deserves to be called a fact about humans is this one; and that in man the level of maternal affection in childhood is one of the biggest predictors of high income in the adult life.

  3. MC says:

    How’s this for a mechanism on poverty and alcoholism:

    1. Higher IQ populations develop agriculture and other efficient methods of producing alcohol.
    2. Over time, these population develop a resistance to alcoholism, as those who can’t “hold their liquor” are weeded out.
    3. Lower-IQ populations never develop agriculture or industrialization. Thus, no resistance to alcoholism.

    This mechanism may also explain why, once third world countries finally develop modern food cultivation, they can develop worse obesity problems than even the richest countries. (compare Mexico to France).

  4. Douglas Knight says:

    HEY SCOTT !!

    How about you turn comments off for old posts?

    You turned them off originally to avoid spam. And now that they’re on, you’re getting spam again. You turned them on so that people could comment on a single old post. How about you move that discussion to a “page” like your Amazon page, so that you can open comments on it without opening them everywhere? Maybe it’s not easy to covert a blog post into a page, but you could just link to the new page from the old post.

  5. Deiseach says:

    Great, now toast is going to kill us all.

    I promise: one of these days, the only “safe” diet will be raw moss and rainwater.

  6. ChristianKl says:

    A unconditonal basic income is a way to pay the criminals that doesn’t produce bad incentives for them.

    • houseboatonstyx says:

      @ ChristianKl
      “A unconditonal basic income is a way to pay the criminals that doesn’t produce bad incentives for them.”

      Yes, and the UBI could cease if they are convicted of a crime. To prevent abuse of civil asset forfeiture, the agency that saves money could be far separate from the police agency that investigates and arrests.

      • Loquat says:

        @houseboatonstyx

        Do you mean taking away their UBI permanently, even after they’re out of jail? Because that seems like a really good way to lock ex-cons into a permanent criminal underclass.

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          @ Loquat
          “Do you mean taking away their UBI permanently, even after they’re out of jail?”

          No, I did not mean permanently. There are many ways it could be set up, considering jail (food and lodging from the government) vs probation or house arrest. Rather, a temporary cut in UBI to balance what might be gained by a crime.

          • Loquat says:

            @houseboatonstyx

            Ehhhh, I still say taking away the Basic Income, even temporarily, as part of the penalty for crime encourages criminals to keep committing crime for money. People need money to get by, and finding a job with a criminal record is no picnic.

            Also, coming up with conditions that cause you to lose your Unconditional Basic Income both violates the spirit of the first word and seems likely to spend more in bureaucracy and administration than you’d save by not paying criminals for X years after their crime. Because, you know, if everyone gets a guaranteed basic income it’s relatively simple to administer – if you start making it conditional upon things and petty theft gets it suspended for 3 months and carjacking gets it suspended for 1 year and racketeering gets it suspended for… etc etc etc you’re going to need a whole layer of bureaucracy to keep track of all that. If you must have direct financial penalties for crime, simpler to just fine them and leave their BI alone.

            Not to mention, a lot of crime doesn’t actually involve material gain. Domestic abuse, for example, rarely pays the abuser, and since domestic tensions tend to be exacerbated when people are stressed about money cutting an abuser’s income is just going to make things worse.

  7. Deiseach says:

    Re: the thing we are not permitted to comment upon – I foresee a happy future of annoying even more people and getting in worse fights with strangers on the Internet, if I can work out a way around “What do you mean I can’t reply to these thirty different posts within the same five minutes?” restriction 🙂

  8. onyomi says:

    I don’t claim to have a good understanding of the motivations of terrorists in general, or of the recent terrorist in Paris, in particular, but this seems kind of plausible:

    https://www.facebook.com/boingboing/photos/a.10151118038581179.438569.27479046178/10153230982686179/?type=3

    • Stefan Drinic says:

      Suppose it is true, which it may well be, what difference does that make?

      • onyomi says:

        Well, it is true that one can hardly allow oneself to be killed just to avoid giving bad people the overreaction they want, but in terms of rhetoric, at least, it might make a difference: try to avoid making statements and taking actions which play into the “clash of civilizations” idea, since that may actually legitimize the terrorists in the eyes of the sorts of people they aim to recruit.

        That said, it’s also kind of hard not to do this, since I also think it’s a bit ridiculous to just pretend like adherents of every religion are equally likely, in the 21st c. to commit these sorts of acts. Obviously radical Islam is a much bigger problem than say, the Westboro Baptist Church (yes, I saw Stephen King comparing the two on Twitter), but part of the solution may be to pressure the moderate Muslims to be less tolerant of the radicals in their midst. The “clash of civilizations” narrative may run counter to this goal, since many moderate Muslims may sympathize with the radicals of their own faith if the only other option is embracing libertine secularism.

        If we could cultivate the walled garden which lets in nice Muslims (and presumably kicks out not-nice Christians and atheists, to be fair), maybe the radicals would get less traction among their own people.

        • Stefan Drinic says:

          Eh.. I don’t think the whole ‘clash of civilisations’ thing is particularly useful in any context. I wouldn’t want to have caused Russian civilians to radicalise towards communism or German ones towards fascism. ‘Don’t dehumanise people’ seems like a fairly good norm to keep in mind in general.

          • onyomi says:

            Well, you say that like it’s obvious, but the short-medium term reaction to the attacks in Paris will almost certainly be increased support for anti-immigrant and hawkish policies both in Europe and the US, as well as added support for the “clash of civilizations” narrative.

            My point is that it may not be just *our* right wingish, nationalistic, hawkish politicians who benefit from the “clash of civilizations” rhetoric, but their extremist leaders as well.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            I feel a little odd for having commented as I have, if only because this isn’t too profound or outlandish an observance. It’s true, of course, but my first instinct was more ‘okay, so where is this going’ rather than ‘woaaaah of course!’

    • keranih says:

      Hmmm. What other examples have we seen of people doing things not because they thought the thing needed doing, but because over-reaction from the opposing side would strengthen their own standing on their own side?

      (Asking seriously – the example I can think of is Gandhi collecting a pinch of salt, but I’m sure there have been other provocation actions. I just can’t think of any involving murder.)

      • Hamas are pretty famous for rocket attacks intended to provoke a response that will kill their own civilians. Allegedly. But I guess you were looking for an example *other* than terrorists, and without the “allegedly” bit. 🙂

      • NN says:

        If you want to limit it to things involving murder, then Joseph Stack, the guy who crashed an airplane into an IRS building in 2010, was trying to do pretty much exactly this according to his manifesto.

        If we open it up to actions besides murder, then in addition to Ghandi this was pretty much the entire playbook of Marin Luther King Jr. and co. The goal of most of the early Civil Rights protests and marches was to provoke over-reactions from the opposing side, preferably in front of news cameras. For example, Birmingham was targeted specifically because of Bull Connor’s reputation, after a previous campaign in Albany, Georgia failed because the police chief there was smart enough to contain the protests with minimal brutality. I’ve heard that a very similar strategy is used by certain Neo-Nazi groups, who hold peaceful marches with the deliberate intention to provoke an overreaction that might get them more recruits.

        • Tibor says:

          I heard a similar comment in case of dissidents in the former Czechoslovakia. The communist regime made a mistake by persecuting and imprisoning them. Nothing would destroy their reputation more than being invited to Prague to receive some bogus medals from the head of the communist party or something. But I don’t think this is exactly isomorphic to the situation with the Islamists today.

      • The Nybbler says:

        This is a standard protestor modus operandi — e.g. try to get the police to arrest or even attack.

        • onyomi says:

          But do you think it applies here? I think it very well may, though it is a kind of shocking extreme version of the “incite visible retaliation in order to galvanize your own people to the cause” strategy which I don’t think most Americans, at least, are aware terrorists might be engaging in.

      • g says:

        It’s not far from what is sometimes alleged to be the strategy of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church. Go along to a funeral or similar event. Protest as offensively as possible, while staying strictly within the law. Sometimes someone will get angry enough to hit you or spit on you or something of the kind. Then you sue them. A *lot* of the Phelpses are lawyers. I’ve seen it claimed that this is WBC’s main source of income.

    • Linch says:

      It’s hard for me to decide whether this is deliberate, or just the fault of good ol’ Moloch again.

      • AlexanderRM says:

        I’d guess it’s more like a memetic effect than deliberate (see “the toxoplasma of rage”, but in this case the principle is so well-known Scott took it as a given).

        The obvious other example of someone doing something like what Al-Qaeda and ISIL do is when the US invades or bombs foreign countries “to stop terrorism”. I highly doubt the people doing this are deliberately intending to provoke terrorism- certainly the common voters don’t, and I doubt politicians are consciously that much smarter, sadly. I would guess ISIL and Al-Qaeda leadership are the same way: They consciously genuinely expect terrorism to make Western countries stop intervening and think the reason they keep intervening is because they haven’t done enough terrorism. Likewise with Israel vs. Hamas.

        In other words, Hanlon’s Razor applies. Especially in this case where “stupidity” only means “as intelligent as the average person or even somewhat more”.

        • Bruce Beegle says:

          I would guess ISIL and Al-Qaeda leadership are the same way: They consciously genuinely expect terrorism to make Western countries stop intervening

          On the contrary. The plan is for western nations to massively react, oppressing Muslims and draining western economies.

  9. Michael vassar says:

    My foreign policy has always been war againat and unconditional surrender to Denmark.

    Yes, of course China’s service sector accounting is bogus. Of course ours is too.

    There are many better reasons to be skeptical of aid helping the third world poor. Try mentally replacing ‘third world poor’ with ‘US Poor with no property rights’. Nets still look good, but giving directly doesn’t, under those assumptions.

  10. So I know maybe I should wait for the Open Thread but these recent brutal, messed-up attacks on Paris got me thinking some of the broader issues involved, and I ended up writing about why We Shouldn’t ‘Balance’ Security and Freedom, We Should Find Ways to Make Them Compatible. I’d appreciate any thoughts or feedback you have, as I’m no expert in this area and mainly want to provide some ideas to potentially help others with more expertise in their thoughts on the topic.

    • Creutzer says:

      Please don’t write “hundreds of civilians” when the death toll is most likely ≤ 200.

      • Please check – I said injured+killed, which as I understand is >200.

        • Creutzer says:

          Sorry, I overlooked the injured. So that makes roughly 300, as far as I read, which… my linguistic intuition says is a borderline case of “hundreds”, in the same way that three people is a borderline case of “several people”. I’m still inclined to say it’s unnecessarily sensationalist.

        • Sidetrack: Does anyone know how badly someone has to be hurt to be counted as injured?

          • keranih says:

            I don’t know what defintions the press is using. In the most precisice terms, I would think the distinction would be between mortality, morbidity, and heath, so that all those who died (which may include some heart attacks or killed by police action) would be “killed”, all those injuried (including those who fell on the curb whilst fleeing and broke their wrists, as well as those who were struck by police fire) would be “injuried” and all others “healthy”.

            In the immediate aftermath, all those who were treated by first responders might be called “injured” – or the term might be limited to those who had to be transported to a higher level of care, as an immediate “stop bleeding, stabilize the wrenched knee” was too much. In the days and months to come, we are likely to see mental health services provided to those who had no emergent physical injury but still suffered harm.

            If it sounds like I don’t have a solid answer, it’s because there isn’t one. All rates of injury are limited by measurement of both harm (ie, diagnosis) and time (ie, in hospital now? Seeking medical care in the next two days? In the next two weeks? For a broken cervical vertebrae or a broken heart?) which can be very subjective. One of the better examples is the on-going disagreement over how many people “died as a result of Hurricane Katrina”.

            Applying rationalist methods to everyday life is a common and under-reported cause of non-gender-related baldness.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            Tl;dr on similar questions: “As the DM says to the player, How Are You Going to Find Out?”

            I should make up a name for this principle, but I think the first question here is ‘What are the limitations of the sources of information to X at that time?’

            Is it a list from the paramedics of the ones they treated on site? From the ER for the ones they kept to treat?
            From the ambulance drivers or the local mortuaries who took the obviously dead?

            It’s reasonable for all these to give hasty estimates and the press to accept them as ‘on first report’. For anyone to sort out which injuries came from shrapnel and which from falling off a curb … is a question for much later.

    • Sastan says:

      There is no way to maintain an open and free society and have any hope of stopping all terrorist attacks. That’s the whole point of terrorism, to exploit the strengths of the modern west to hurt it. You can do it in dictatorships, but it tends not to work as well, because they have far more leeway in security measures, and can control the media, so limiting the exposure.

      The only partial answer is distributed defense. If our military, police and intelligence agencies cannot stop all attacks (and it is manifestly apparent they cannot), the means of response must be spread as widely as possible. Israel, the country with the best experience in these matters, has done just this. Many professions, such as schoolteachers and busdrivers, are required by law to be armed, and specially trained to respond to attacks. This does not stop attacks, but it does limit the damage they can do. Target rich environments become rare.

      To use a metaphor, the answer is not to multiply sheepdogs, but to sharpen the sheep’s teeth.

      • I’m not sure dictatorships have as much success stopping terrorism as you suggest, because while they don’t have to pull their punches, dictatorships can generate more armed resistance than they put down, some of which will unfortunately be terrorist in nature. A free society can take advantage of this if it is admirable enough to get the people on-side in the struggle, and I argue that this can be more effectively done if security and civic/political systems (eg. political freedom) are designed to not threaten eachother as much. That’s what I think might be part of our current problem, people are too focused on more of one or the other and so aren’t thinking about making them compatible. I list a couple of suggestions I feel might help in this regard.

        Like you say it only works when regular people are willing participants in the efforts, and though I’m not so weapons focused, I don’t exactly disagree and you may notice I argue for citizen involvement in the article.

        • Also, dictatorships have some of the effects of terrorism– a constant level of fear of being seriously hurt or killed– so that even if dictatorships prevent terrorist attacks, a dictatorship is not a net win. Governments can do more damage in their territory than outside agents can.

        • Nornagest says:

          Dictators have occasionally been known to step down when intractable political resistance appears — see for example Ferdinand Marcos or Hosni Mubarak — but once it comes to armed revolt, it’s very uncommon for a revolution to be successful against one without outside military assistance, and that’s not the kind of thing you want to count on.

          I also don’t see any strong evidence that the strength of internal resistance is proportional, in any kind of predictable way, to the degree of oppression going on.

      • unsafeideas says:

        Large terrorist groups originated in comfy mostly free democratic middle class are pretty much non-existent phenomenon. Chaotic fight-for-who-will-be-dictator and it-is-shitty-anyway and we-have-dictator-we-hate countries seem to produce them way more often.

        If dictatorships would be successful in suppressing terrorist groups, this flock of terrorist would be out of existence years ago. They were not spawn in USA or Western Europe. It got large in significantly less free countries.

        • Sastan says:

          This is untrue, my friend.

          Safe, comfy, mostly free middle class people are EXACTLY who become terrorists. The underclass may provide some cannon fodder, and the marginalized may launch lone wolf hits, but terrorist organizations are exactly a middle-to-upper class, educated, comfortable phenomenon.

          Look at terrorist networks. They are studded with doctors, lawyers, seminarians, engineers. The idea that terrorists are poor and disenfranchised is a lame and ludicrous attempt to bring marxist critique to bear on a fundamentally religious phenomenon. Terrorists do not commit terror because they are poor, they commit it because they are not in charge.

          • Pku says:

            Assuming that’s true, it still supports what unsafeideas was saying. These people start in harsh dictatorial regimes, not democratic ones. You’re arguing that this is independent of socioeconomic status, but that just reinforces the idea that it’s due to the government (if it was dependent on socioeconomic status, you could argue that the reason terrorist movements don’t start in western countries is just that they’re richer.)

          • Protagoras says:

            You’re kind of right, right except for the “free.” You don’t see huge numbers of comfortable middle-class Americans becoming terrorists (though the rare examples get lots of press), nor do you even see a lot of comfortable middle class Turks adopting that lifestyle (lest you think it’s religion that makes the difference). The comfortable middle class people who become terrorists were usually living under oppressive governments (or at least governments that treated them as outsiders). Though it’s true that they have not particularly been the ones being especially oppressed, and you are perhaps right that it’s because they thought they should be the ones in charge.

          • unsafeideas says:

            1.) Marxists you mention themselves came from fundamentally non-democratic country – Russia. And they were persecuted in that Russia by the state. They were middle class students, but they were not free nor had much experience with what it is like to push your ideas in a free environment.

            Moreover, they were essentially forced into their own paranoid echo chamber of like minded cells under constant threat of imprisonment. Also, Russia overall was bad country to live in at that time – fully in the “it-is-shitty-anyway” category. The country itself was not comfy unless you was very rich.

            2.) Middle class we talk about is not comfy and free in a sense I am comfy and free. And I live in one of less comfy, more corrupt and probably even less free country. Sure, poor need too much effort to survive and do not have enough education to run network.

            Neither doctors nor lawyers nor seminarians nor engineers living in dictatorships are free. That is pretty much what dictatorship is. It is not safe to live in dictatorship, especially when you have dangerous political ideas.

            Same goes for those living in chaotic “we are violently settling up who gonna be dictator”. They are not really free nor safe – the very act of having opinion puts them in danger.

            3.) I personally risk very little by having political opinions or ambitions. So does most people in the West. We risk being mocked or maybe media campaign or something like that against us. That is what free is. We complain about SJWs at universities, but those SJWs are after our jobs at worst – they wont arrest or torture us.

            Middle class living in dictatorship plays entirely different ball game when they have opinions.

            5.) There is no significant network of American or Italian or German terrorists – all comfy essentially free countries. Not even Polish terrorists or Switzerland of Finnish terrorists.

            There are terrorists from Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Palestine – neither is free neither is democratic. Moreover, Afghanistan and Palestine are pretty much polar opposites of comfy. Their local dictatorships seem to make crappy jobs of stopping terrorism.

          • stargirl says:

            People in the USA are definitely not “free.” The USA locks up a higher fraction of its population than any nation on Earth. The USA has as many people in jail for drug violations as many countries have people in jail for all crimes.

          • keranih says:

            @ Stargirl

            People in the USA are definitely not “free.”

            This is not a comment for the far right justification of a links post. I invite you to post it – with what justification you can muster – at the next open thread.

          • They are especially and particularly studded with Engineers

          • Jiro says:

            he USA has as many people in jail for drug violations as many countries have people in jail for all crimes.

            The US has as many people in jail for littering as many countries have people in jail for all crimes. Also, the US has as many people who watched Firefly as many countries have people who watch any TV show.

          • stargirl says:

            @Jiro

            The usa locks up about five times as the OECD average. About 22% of prisoners were convicted of drug crimes. This suggests that the USA has a higher fraction of its population in jail for drug crimes than many country’s fraction of prisoners for all crimes.

      • Anon says:

        I agree with you about distributed defense. Decentralizing defense and the responsibility for defense would be a positive thing. However, prevention is better than response. For a community to prevent crime and attacks it would have to screen people and even prohibit people from entering.

        I’ve read some very creative ideas in this regard. For example, require people to have “crime insurance”. No crime insurance, then sorry, you are not allowed in the community/city. If you commit a crime, the insurance pays the victim. Sort of like a modern version of ostracism.

        • Sastan says:

          I have a different idea. Unlimited sponsored immigration.

          You want to enter a country, you need to get someone to sponsor you. Any adult citizen can sponsor.

          Should any sponsored person commit a minor infraction, they and the sponsor split the sentence. If it’s $500 fine, each pays $250. If it’s six months in jail, each does three. If the sponsored person commits a felony, they are immediately deported, and the sponsor serves the entire sentence. If they commit a capital crime, both are executed.

          I think this concept solves several problems with current and proposed integrative policy. It provides for the people of a nation to be big-hearted to refugees. It provides for businesses to get needed labor. It incentivizes entrants to behave, and allows pro-immigration citizens to have some skin in the game.

          • Jiro says:

            Doesn’t work because of risk aversion. Would you sponsor someone you believe has even a 1/50 chance of doing a crime that gives them 3 months in jail, thus costing you your job, marriage, and children?

          • Anthony says:

            Jiro – that’s a feature, not a bug.

            The major bug is that it would encourage extended family line immigration, which we shouldn’t encourage.

          • NN says:

            Other problems I can think of:

            What if the sponsor is a career criminal looking to bring in new partners or gang members from abroad, who has already accepted the risk of prison, and who might have the resources to disappear if it comes to that?

            What if the sponsor is the sort of terrorist who isn’t afraid to die?

            What if the sponsor is terminally ill, and will die before any of the above consequences could be imposed on them?

          • Sastan says:

            Doesn’t work because of risk aversion? That’s the whole point of it. If you really want immigration, put your neck out a bit, accept some risk.

            The problem we have now is that wealthy gits can advocate increased immigration so they can have cheap lawn care, or look good to their book club, and offload the externalities onto their poorer countrymen. I propose to offer them the ability to put their money (and lives) where their mouth is.

      • Tibor says:

        David Friedman mentioned this sci-fi/alternative history novel once whose name I keep forgetting. The story (spanning over several books) is roughly as follows:

        There is a totalitarian dictatorship which starts somewhere in southern Africa in the 19th century (I think). Unlike Hitler, they are smart enough to move slowly and over the course of the next century they conquer all of Africa, then take an advantage of WW2 (which still happens) to roll over Europe and most of Asia. Eventually, what is left is basically some countries in the Americas and the British commonwealth. This country is totalitarian and cannot possibly compete with the free world in terms of technology and wealth. What it can do is terrorism. Given their totalitarian regime, organizing frequent terrorist attacks is not a difficulty and one does not need good tech to do that. By launching multiple terrorist attacks they scare the people in the rest of the world who demand more and more security…which not only costs more and more freedom but ultimately also brings them down to the level of this dictatorship in terms of technology and wealth (everything is being heavily regulated and monitored now and so progress slows down). At that point the dictatorship is ready to start a conventional war and eventually conquers the world.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Sounds like S.M. Stirling’s Draka series.

          The Draka, however, were evil but neither crazy nor stupid; in fact, they were largely the geniuses they claimed to be. The current batch of real-life terrorists seem to be mostly evil, crazy, and stupid; the most dangerous of them aren’t the latter.

          He also wrote (with David Drake) a novel called _The Chosen_ which is basically the same thing, only with the Draka analogs losing.

          • Tibor says:

            I think that the leaders of IS are crazy but not stupid. Of course I am not suggesting that the IS or islamists in general are capable of conquering the world. But they are perhaps capable of turning our society into a much less free and developed using the methods employed by Draka.

            On the other hand, and I don’t want this to sound like I am trivializing what happened recently, I am actually quite surprised that there are not that many terrorist attacks in Europe. All it takes is a guy smart enough to use public key encryption (to coordinate with someone in, say, Syria) and dedicated enough to sacrifice himself. You don’t even need weapons, any special training or planning. Take a car and ride onto a tram station platform at the full speed while there are enough people waiting there. Hit small towns and villages – there are fewer forces that can stop you fast there (most Europeans, save for the Swiss, are not well-armed) and also there would be this chilling effect of “nowhere is safe”. The fact that I can come up with this in 2 minutes and that it is not happening either means that the secret services do a much better job than we think, or more likely (and even more comfortingly), the IS and similar groups really do not have the capacity and enough dedicated followers to launch such a full blown terror.

          • Nornagest says:

            I am actually quite surprised that there are not that many terrorist attacks in Europe. All it takes is [stuff]

            Half the time, when an obvious tactic comes up in war games that doesn’t happen in real life, the reason it doesn’t is that the underlying model’s bad — often but not always because it ignores details of communications, command, or logistics. The other half of the time, you could do it in real life, but you don’t want to because the game’s scoring system abstracts something important away.

            We aren’t wargaming here, strictly speaking, but I’d be willing to bet that one or the other would take care of your surprise.

          • Tibor says:

            Nornagest: Quite possible, I am no military strategist. Maybe killing a few people at a time by a car is not that scary? Or maybe communication is the real problem. You may use public key encryption, but your partner has to know that you are someone they actually want to talk to – not a secret service agent. That is hard to verify unless you first meet in person…and that is both more complicated and easier for the secret service to monitor.

          • Anthony says:

            @Tibor – and dedicated enough to sacrifice himself

            This is the main problem that ISIS or similar terrorist groups face. This is where existing states have an advantage. People will be more willing to sign up for their state’s army because the chance of surviving an army engagement is much better than surviving a terrorist action, and because there’s a strong sense of defending one’s own. And most countries’ wars of conquest have better odds of success than ISIS’s.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Tibor
            All it takes is a guy smart enough to use public key encryption (to coordinate with someone in, say, Syria) and dedicated enough to sacrifice himself. You don’t even need weapons, any special training or planning. Take a car and ride onto a tram station platform at the full speed while there are enough people waiting there. Hit small towns and villages – there are fewer forces that can stop you fast there (most Europeans, save for the Swiss, are not well-armed) and also there would be this chilling effect of “nowhere is safe”. The fact that I can come up with this in 2 minutes and that it is not happening either means that the secret services do a much better job than we think, or more likely (and even more comfortingly), the IS and similar groups really do not have the capacity and enough dedicated followers to launch such a full blown terror.

            Unless ‘full blown terror’ means that a great number of targets need to be hit on the same day (rather than, say, throughout the same week), I’m not sure IS needs any of those things except enough followers in the target country who are willing to take some risk and hope to escape in the confusion — probably less risk than in an armed robbery. The concept of “If you love IS, get ready and wait” can be spread publicly; then the first strike is the signal for the others. If the strikes trickle on over a week or two, that may be more frightening.

            So as you say, the fact that it isn’t happening, indicates lack of followers.

        • I was describing the Draka books. They are well written but I don’t like them, because they do too convincing a job of describing a society that is both ugly and successful.

          On the other hand I did like Stirling’s _Peshawar Lances_, which is quite a lot of fun–among other things a sort of pastiche of bits from various parts of the world’s literature. A much happier book.

          • Tibor says:

            …and you like Orwell 🙂

            But I grant that 1984 is in some points quite unrealistic (while depressingly on spot in others), particularly in the passage where he explains the economics of the regime. Still, it is a depressing read if there is any.

          • I don’t like 1984. What I like about Orwell is mostly the letters and essays.

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          @ Tibor
          “dedicated enough to sacrifice himself. You don’t even need weapons, any special training or planning. Take a car and”

          Actually, with the right choice of target you could have a good chance of escaping in the confusion, or a quite good chance if you are uphill from the target and jump out before the car reaches the target.

    • keranih says:

      For what its worth, I myself react negatively to the term “innocent civilians”. They were civilians, full stop, and their innocence irrelevant in the laws of modern war.

      (In the same way, on September 11 the attack on the WTC was a war crime, but attacking either the Pentagon or the White House was not, in and of itself. Using civilian airliners (with their passengers) was a war crime, along with other actions.)

      This leads to one of the tension sources I would prefer to see more attention paid to – the difference between acts of war and criminal actions. In war, killing other humans (and breaking their stuff) is largely justified under conditions of proof that are completely unacceptable in a peace-time court of law. We-as-western-society have since (and even before) the Treaty of Westphalia attempted to narrow the acceptable limits of the “field of war” so as to put most of the world and most of the population under the rules of the criminal (and civil) courts, rather than under the far looser rules of warfare.

      This has led to the current situation, where under the rules of war, wealthy populous nations will nearly always defeat poorer, smaller nations who do not have the same resources. This tempts smaller groups to attempt to change the rules, so that more and more war has to be conducted under the rules of the criminal court – unless one doesn’t care about the rule of the court, only physical survival. This leads to asymmetrical warfare, where One has physical resources that the Other one literally does not possess, and Other side has tactical options which One determined are too costly in terms of political and cultural blow-back downsides.

      The options chosen by various sides (and its never either/or, it is a spectrum, which I think you are getting at in your graphs/essay) are generally highly rational results of consideration, and not picked at random.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        No, it is not the laws of war that lead to asymmetrical warfare. As written, they are game-theoretically stable. They are mutual disarmament between powerful states. But if the weak side violates them, the powerful state is not required to continue to comply.

        • keranih says:

          @ Douglas Knight

          They are mutual disarmament between powerful states.

          *Exactly.* Between relatively well matched forces, they are excellent at channelizing the damage of armed disagreement into mutually-agreed-upon “least valuable” areas. (Property damage > people damage; military > religious, etc.)

          But if the weak side violates them, the powerful state is not required to continue to comply.

          By the laws of war, no, they’re not. However, most of the time, most of the Western nations continue to apply the standards to conflicts with illegal combatants, non-signatories, etc.

          @ Sastan –

          But if the other side ignores and violates them, we should not be bound by them. That is rank idiocy. [snip] There is no reason whatsoever for us to have to follow those rules in combating them.

          Eh. I think there are sound arguments for taking the high road and holding to the highest of standards. While one is never going to get everyone to agree that decision X was correct, the more restraint one shows, the more bystanders and allies one can bring onto ones side. In playing the long game, these things matter.

          There is a counter argument that needs to be taken into account – that swift over-reaction teaches the lesson “don’t fuck with us AT ALL” which also has its virtues. However, I think it’s unreasonable to expect the USA to be able to project “don’t screw with us EVA” on a consistent basis.

          And terrorist organizations are the means whereby weaker nations undertake their foreign policy aims when they cannot through direct means. It is long past time to bring those costs home to them.

          …the danger of this is that failing definitive, court of law level proof, the international community tends to over-react to this sort of thing. And in a world where tit-for-tat is a game grown-up nations play, too, it opens the possibility for other nations to assume that the US is doing something underhanded and then nation A feels justified to shoot at our cruise ships when a rebel group attacks one of their army bases.

          (Yes, the main lesson here might be for the USA to not meddle, but that’s not exactly in our nature. We want to make money off doing business in other countries, at a bare minimum.)

      • Sastan says:

        Hey, as a former soldier, I am fine with opponents ignoring the various conventions, they’re mostly stupid anyway. But if the other side ignores and violates them, we should not be bound by them. That is rank idiocy.

        ISIS is not a signatory to the Geneva convention, and if it were, it is blatantly violating those accords. There is no reason whatsoever for us to have to follow those rules in combating them.

        And terrorist organizations are the means whereby weaker nations undertake their foreign policy aims when they cannot through direct means. It is long past time to bring those costs home to them. If Hezbollah does something, hold Iran responsible. If ISIS does something, hold the Saudis responsible. If Hamas does something, hold Jeremy Corbyn responsible.

        • unsafeideas says:

          What you suggests is what was being done for almost two decades. With the exception of Saudis, Saudis have full support pretty much no matter how violent they are.

          Both Afghanistan and Iraq war were pretty much this and both countries are now the best gift anyone ever could give to ISIS army – with former Iraqi army men filling high rank positions in ISIS ranks.

          On another note, when you hold Corbyn responsible for Hamas, should you hold Israeli government supporters similarly responsible for what settlers do and army acts? What you demand in that particular conflict is pretty much opposition of what you complain about in conventions – you demand one side to be non-violent and perfect citizens while the other is fine to do whatever it wants.

          • Sastan says:

            I was joking about Corbyn. Do keep up! 😛

            Corbyn doesn’t call the shots, he’s a terrorist toady. If anything, I’d hold Hamas responsible for him, hence the joke.

      • Ok cheers for the feedback!

    • AlexanderRM says:

      My immediate reaction to any statement about “make these two things compatible” is the exact reverse of yours, that we explicitly ought to say “balance”: You can’t optimize for two variables at once, and my experience is that when people say things like “achieving” or “reconciling” their goals, in practice this means they ignore any downsides of a given choice and pretend they don’t exist. (mostly I’ve seen this with liberals talking about the environment in relation to the poor- either it’s “humans” destroying the environment, or poor people being oppressed by “the state”, keeping them from exercising their customary land rights or w/e.)

      However, upon reading your essay you admit some “necessary tension” and it sounds like you’ve seen a lot of the reverse, i.e. people saying we need to “balance” two things and completely ignoring that there might be net gains to be made, and both our instincts were overcompensating for a specific issue.

      What we really need is a short term that implies “there will necessarily be conflict between these two and we need to balance that, but we should also look for ways to improve both”- something like “optimize”, but that term gives the same weird “adding numbers together” vibe that makes a lot of normal people dislike Utilitarianism.

  11. Michael Terry says:

    > This makes some sense, but I’ve never heard these people carry it to its logical conclusion: since the Third Worlders don’t seem to be up for it, why not at least put Switzerland or Denmark in charge of America?

    Is that the logical conclusion? Maybe the logical conclusion is having Switzerland ruled by one of the districts of the US that is ethnically homogenous, richer, and better run than Switzerland or Denmark.

    • I would have thought “ethnically diverse but lacking in ethnic tension” would be a better indication of good governance. For much the same reasons that a high GDP country lacking in natural resources is more impressive than a high GDP country high in natural resources.

      So Hawaii running the rest of the US it is.

  12. Not that the White House having two different facades is all that scary, but….

    “The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.”

    — H.P. Lovecraft

  13. Collun says:

    Can someone describe the concept of safe spaces for me? Or is there a link to an article about them?

    I was thinking about the idea of safe spaces, and I got stuck on this: do men and women’s restrooms constitute safe spaces? Are they spiritually “like” safe spaces? Or would they be governed by an entirely different principle?

    • A safe space is one where you can choose how much your sympathetic nervous system (fight, flight, freeze, or fawn) gets activated.

      Unfortunately “safe space” doesn’t specify who it’s safe for.

      Good question about the bathrooms.

    • Loquat says:

      This seems to be a decent explanation of the general concept: http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Safe_space

      Note that the page acknowledges potential problems, some of which also occur with public restrooms, such as women-only spaces having a problem with a severely disabled woman who can’t function without her male attendant.

      • houseboatonstyx says:

        @ Loquat

        Plumbing being a limited resource, on the central issue I’d suggest that the building administrator assign a comfortable room to be used 24/7 by a private club, for which the members can make their own rules. Or several rooms for several clubs, as the original group splits.

    • Stezinech says:

      Good article overall, but it’s kind of asking the wrong question. The question shouldn’t be: do people with humanities college degrees earn more than people with high school degrees? The question should be: what’s the return-on-investment of a humanities degree?

      The graph in this article shows that it can be zero or even negative for some arts/humanities degrees, a situation that is much less common for STEM and business degrees:

      http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2015/03/daily-chart-2

      • This is a fight about the stereotype, and the stereotype isn’t that a humanities degree isn’t the best possible investment, it’s that a humanities degree means you’ll be asking “Do you want fries with that?”.

        Still, I wish the article had taken a look at the opportunity cost of getting an advanced degree.

        • gbdub says:

          But it doesn’t really fight that – it says you’ll have a job, but not what kind. Maybe not “do you want fries with that” but quite possibly, “Hey you, make sure to ask if the customer wants fries!” It notes that people with a terminal bachelor’s in humanities earn a median $50k salary vs. $57k for all bachelor’s holders. The article downplays this, but it’s obviously a pretty big difference, especially when the difference between humanities and no degree is only $15k. (In other words, getting a humanities degree nets you $15k, but switching to a non-humanities major gets you >$7k extra)

    • SUT says:

      There’s no randomized control trial for an 18 year old choosing humanities vs. STEM major.

      The key would be to control for the student’s [family] connections to an entry level position post-graduation. So most immigrants of east asian / indian families that run a figurative dry cleaners, who have no connections, will usually send their kids into stem. On the other end of the spectrum, if you have family in local gov’t, in a union, in an office job that hires interns on “critical thinking”, the student is generally free to major in anything, regardless of it’s value in the market. The mean for humanities salary has to be inflated by this confounding factor.

      To put it in the RCT verbiage: the value of “the treatment” [stem degree] won’t fully show up when it’s more likely to be administered to sicker patients.

  14. BBA says:

    On the “Death to America” note – Khrushchev’s infamous “We will bury you!” line was meant as something more like “we’ll be around when you’re dead”, but the connotation was lost in translation.

    • stillnotking says:

      I’ve heard the colloquial Russian translation is more like “We will dance on your grave,” i.e. not quite as threatening as the literal translation, but still definitely hostile.

  15. Another Regular says:

    (“Anonymous Regular Reader” who asked a question in OT30, you have another reply.)

  16. Douglas Knight says:

    The heirs paper proposes a theory of the form A→B→C→D. Usually people propose such complicated theories and cannot measure B and C directly, so they just measure the correlation between A and D. But this paper does measure all of them. So what should it do? It should test all of the arrows separately. Also, it should test whether B screens off A, but of course economists don’t do that.

    But instead they substitute A as a proxy for B, always talking about B and always measuring A. (They do make at least passing mention of the three correlations that do not involve B.)

    A = proportion of male births; B = having no male heirs; C = civil wars; D = future economic state.

    Also, in between B and C are succession crises, but maybe it is reasonable not to measure them because they’re too much of a judgement call. But it seems crazy to me that they use A rather than B.

    Maybe they use A instead of B because A is pure luck, while another contributing factor to B is how many children, which may reflect the state of the marriage, which may reflect the state of state. However, that’s no excuse for not measuring B at all.

  17. Stezinech says:

    Re: less terrible version of Richard Lynn

    Nicholas Wade’s attempt probably won’t enourage future writers. On the other hand, C & H did better with the 10,000 Year Explosion, showing that it’s possible.

  18. J? says:

    Hey guys, saw some comments (http://slatestarscratchpad.tumblr.com/post/133094500976/where-do-you-stand-in-legalised-duelling) on Scott’s Tumblr regarding a return to legalized dueling. I hope they’re presidential musical related, and not part of some larger social movement… It got me thinking about an economics paper from college. I thought I’d go ahead and link it in case anyone is interested.

    Basically, it talks about dueling as a screen for a level of social capital. It’s interesting because it makes some predictions about how dueling would need to become deadlier as the class structure becomes less and less rigid. Which is something you observe as the institution moved from Europe into America. So I guess I’m saying modern day duels would be a bit of a bloodbath. Good for ticket sales I suppose?

    http://www.yale.edu/law/leo/052005/papers/allen.pdf

    • Sastan says:

      I’ve been arguing for a return to duelling for some time. I think we’ve removed so much socially sanctioned violence, it’s leaking out the edges. Anytime you have groups of people together (i.e. society), there is friction. At least among males, being able to deal with this aggression in a prescribed way is healthy for the group.

      A common practice in the Army is to have a “boxing day”, where any two people can sign up to fight a couple rounds in the base gym in front of a crowd. My fellow NCOs and I would, when we had two soldiers who were having a personal issue, sign them up to fight each other. Worked magic. The issue goes away, someone wins, someone loses, everyone sees the result, both men retain the dignity of at least having fought for whatever it was. I fought a number of those myself. It actually made me think afterward, about how much insult was worth a fight.

    • anon says:

      From Gene Wolfe’s Shadow of the Torturer, talking about “monomachy”

      “Whether it is good or evil (as I am inclined to think), it is surely ineradicable in a society such as ours, which must for its own survival hold the military virtues higher than any others, and in which so few of the armed retainers of the state can be spared to police the populace. Yet is it evil?

      Those ages that have outlawed it (and many hundreds have, by my reading) have replaced it largely with murder – and with just such murders, by and large, as monomachy seems designed to prevent: murders resulting from quarrels among families, friends, and acquaintances. In these cases two die instead of one, for the law tracks down the slayer (a person not by disposition a criminal but by chance) and slays him, as though his death would restore his victim’s life. Thus if, say, a thousand legal combats between individuals resulted in a thousand deaths (which is very unlikely, since most such combats do not terminate in death) but prevented five hundred murders, the state would be no worse. Further, the survivor of such a combat is likely to be the individual most suited to defending the state, and also the most suited to engendering healthy children; while there is no survivor of most murders, and the murderer (were he to survive) is likely to be only vicious, and not strong, quick, or intelligent. And yet how readily this practice lends itself to intrigue.”

      The obvious counterargument is that, unlike the Commonwealth in BotNS, our society doesn’t have to optimize itself for war against an endless horde of subhumans led by Ice Cthulhu. The ability to kill people in single combat isn’t nearly as useful to real first world societies as it might have been in the past (or in this case, the fictional future).

      I’m most interested in a rule that would let the challenged party choose which weapon the duel would be fought with (I assume this existed somewhere at some point, if not this is probably why). Obviously the optimal strategy would be for everyone to specialize in an obscure weapon or style of combat that nobody else would ever think to get good at, so you’d have a huge advantage if anyone tried to challenge you.

      • Nornagest says:

        You always have to be careful, reading the Book of the New Sun, about how much of these speeches actually makes sense in the context of the story and how much is just Severian lying to himself (he lies a lot).

        I seem to recall that this particular passage comes up around the time that Severian gets fpnzzrq vagb n pebbxrq qhry gung xvyyf uvz (ur trgf orggre).

        • anon says:

          Severian has a habit of romanticizing everything, even things he knows are wrong or have personally hurt him and the people he cares about. He goes into excruciating detail about how the relationship between torturer and client is one of love and analogous to the relationship between a man and a woman (or is it the other way around?). This is despite the fact that in the first book ur unf gb gbegher uvf jnvsh naq riraghnyyl xvyy ure gb fcner ure shegure ubeebef, juvpu va gur sbhegu obbx vf erirnyrq ol gur Nhgnepu gb unir orra n zvfgnxr be pyrevpny reebe.

          The arguments he makes for the social practices of the Commonwealth (torture, dueling, etc) clearly aren’t always one hundred percent sincere on his part, but they’re reasonably good sociological explanations for why those practices exist in a particular time and place.

          The bit about trial by combat as a test of social value shows up in Accelerando too, where Amber makes roughly the same argument, although it seems a little out of place in a world where everything important is virtual and the ability to inflict violence is something you can just patch into yourself.

      • Chalid says:

        Fairly common custom for the challenged to choose weapons and conditions. Abraham Lincoln did something close to the strategy you describe. When was challenged to a duel, he specified broadswords in a pit divided by a plank, which allowed the very tall Lincoln to capitalize on his reach. Ultimately his opponent backed down at the last moment.

        • anon says:

          How far did people take this? Did short people demand to fight in places with low ceilings? Did people who didn’t weigh very much want to fight on collapsing floors? It seems really easily min/maxed

          • Chalid says:

            My guess is that extreme min-maxing would be seen as dishonorable? The only thing keeping you from simply declining a duel is that people would think you were a coward, and I think they’d mock you just as much if you specified ridiculous conditions.

      • Sastan says:

        Outside the question of whether or not you want to breed duellists, there are a couple advantages I can think of psychologically and morally to a duelling system.

        1: Creates an incentive to civil society.

        2: Encourages physical bravery commensurate with one’s level of offensiveness.

        3: Creates a self-policing sort of low-level libel court.

        4: Discourages self-victimization. This alone could vitiate SJW culture.

        • anon says:

          Since when is creating libel courts an advantage? Society needs less policing of speech, not more.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            I think the idea is that you can replace libel courts with the dueling system, which probably decreases speech policing on net.

          • Nornagest says:

            There are a lot of cultures that have had dueling codes, and they’ve had different thresholds for what was considered serious enough business to necessitate pistols at dawn or whatever, hence different levels of speech policing. It’s hard to say where we’d fall on that scale if we legalized dueling tomorrow; we don’t have the culture we did in 1800.

            We also have a big pseudonymous culture that would have been totally impossible before the Internet. From the perspective of speech norms, it does us little good if you can literally call someone out in person, if a lot of our social interaction takes place in contexts where you can, at most, figuratively call someone out.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Of course, Lincoln’s duel was due to his pseudonymous writing.

          • Nornagest:

            Why do you need the Internet for a pseudonymous culture? People have been publishing under pseudonyms for a long time.

            One of the earliest punitive damage cases, Huckle v. Money, was the result of the British government trying to go after the unknown author of an article criticizing a talk by the king. The author was presumably John Wilkes, the man John Wilkes Booth and Wilkes-Barre PA are named after.

          • I pretty sure if you offend the big violent guy down the road, your speech under this system is going to get policed.

        • stillnotking says:

          Dueling, an incentive to civil society? Can you name one society in history that allowed dueling and was more civil than, say, 21st-century Western Europe?

          Dueling is an adaptation to the absence of civil society. Its sole virtue is being slightly better than blood feuds.

          • Zykrom says:

            Can you name one society that didn’t allow dueling and was more civil than the 21st century Western world?

          • stillnotking says:

            Sure. 21st-century Singapore. 0.2 homicides per 100k, and 84% confidence in the national government. They make even Switzerland look like Deadwood.

            Could also go with Japan at 0.3.

    • nydwracu says:

      The argument for bringing back dueling can be made in one word.

      Gawker.

      • anon says:

        -News outlets start anonymizing their articles in the interest of “uniform tone” (I know the Economist already does this)

        -When challenged, they claim the offending piece was written by a goon hired specifically for duel winning ability

        -Repeat for every corporation, civil society organization, government office, etc.

        • nydwracu says:

          Then don’t let them claim anything. If the guy’s name isn’t on the article, the editor is responsible. If you’re not sure which editor it was, the senior editor is responsible. If you’re not sure who the senior editor is, you challenge Nick Denton. Responsibility flows upward until it hits someone onymous.

          • anon says:

            So give the hired goon the title of editor

            (Or we can just accept that as part of living in the first world, people are going to say things that upset us and we aren’t going to be able to murder them for it, and vice versa)

  19. SextimusSeverus says:

    Did anyone catch the latest Elementary episode? One of the murder suspects is a ” neo-reactionary monarchist” called “Maurice Antonov”. From the transcipt:

    I think we have to tell the FBI.
    Tell them what? That I stole some top secret research?
    Or that we have eliminated one billion Chinese suspects in favor of one neo-reactionary monarchist?
    I wouldn’t phrase it exactly like that, no.
    But Maurice Antonov has two really good motives.
    Only one of which we’re adequately prepared to present.
    So why not just go with that?
    The guy divorced Gail Sarkisian six months ago.
    Ex-husband hates ex-wife– kills her, kills the witnesses.

    • RCF says:

      Hmmm, I thought I posted a comment mentioning his name being suspiciously similar to “Mike Anissimov” last night. Was it deleted? Hopefully reporting that the show referred to him with a certain label isn’t considered a violation of the taboo rule.

      • Agronomous says:

        I also posted about this, on Saturday, but I searched the comments for (and didn’t find) “elementary” first. Proposed explanation: anything referring to the episode (or neo-stuff in general? what’s the taboo?) goes to moderation. This is why I missed SextimusSeverus’s comment (it was stil stuck in moderation) and why I don’t see my comment (it failed moderation).

        Still, I was going crazy refreshing and searching…. maybe some notification that something’s gone to moderation would be helpful.

        • SextimusSeverus says:

          This suggests there is some sort of filter, but it didn’t catch my post, likely because of the hyphen. Maybe your search was case-sensitive and you missed it because of the capital E?

    • Anon. says:

      >Sarkisian

      lmao

    • Neotenymy says:

      They also had an episode where the ‘Existential Threat Research Association’ was involved in the possible murder of an engineer by an unboxed AI. http://lesswrong.com/lw/lb0/tvs_elementary_tackles_friendly_ai_and_xrisk/
      I would not be surprised if someone involved was mining rationalist-associated ideas for episode inspiration, at this point.

      • RCF says:

        Does that count as unboxed? Hadn’t they avoided letting the AI have an internet connection? They didn’t take as extensive precautions as someone really concerned about runaway AI would take, but continuing the metaphor, while it might not have been an airtight box, it definitely was a box.

  20. Eli says:

    Lots of demographic claims seem to be better interpreted as weird pseudo-moralistic fables than as factual assertions.

    I think this statement generalizes to far more than demographic claims.

  21. To arms, and fight this:

    http://www.thecrimson.com/column/the-red-line/article/2014/2/18/academic-freedom-justice/

    “When an academic community observes research promoting or justifying oppression, it should ensure that this research does not continue.”

    If it is not clear – censoring/ending research is the worst kind of censorship, not the least because it could prevent inventing methods to help precisely those people whom it claims to protect (i.e. some sort of a fix for IQ challenged human populations and so on). One could argue it is precisely the researcher who never should be gagged, even if that which is being researched is so bad that somehow it is justified to gag everybody else from talking about it.

    (Well, or maybe just enjoy it as a clear beginning of the end and wonder if China could be Schelling-pointed into establishing a censorship-free university somewhere.)

    • Deiseach says:

      The next time somebody invokes “Galileo!” as Why The Big Bad Church Is So Bad, point them to this.

      I’m sitting here smiling grimly. Though I don’t think China is much hope for censorship-free; I think everywhere you are perfectly free to say whatever you want, as long as you don’t say anything out of line with the official doctrine.

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          @ Anonymous
          Galileo had it coming.
          http://tofspot.blogspot.no/2013/10/the-great-ptolemaic-smackdown-table-of.html

          I loved that series, but I’d like to see a critique of it from the other side.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            Probably indepth information about Italian politics at the time; I’m under the impression he thought he was allowed to write the material, the outside situation changed and he found himself in a situation similar to a dissident in modern China- you have free speech up until the moment the government decides you don’t and they come down hard on you to show to other members of the government that they are still strong.

          • Mary says:

            The Pope asked him to write up the controversy. He did. He included gratuitous insults to the Pope.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            Are you referring to Simpliticus? Because that sounds more like a general insult to people who disagree with him.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Houseboat, what are these “sides”? What, specifically, does TOF say that you would like to see critiqued? I often find people I disagree with citing those posts, but I don’t think it supports them.

          • Deiseach says:

            he thought he was allowed to write the material, the outside situation changed and he found himself in a situation similar to a dissident in modern China

            My understanding was that he was told “Okay, you can write and talk about this as a theory or speculation, but you are not to say it is settled fact”, Galileo says “Sure, no problem!” and then he goes off and talks about it as settled fact.

            So it’s not so much “outside situation changes” as “Only thing you can rely on Galileo to do is constantly self-publicise himself as Greatest Scientific Brain in all of Italy (and probably Europe)”.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            ‘glances at wiki’

            First he was told
            ‘to abstain completely from teaching or defending this doctrine and opinion or from discussing it… to abandon completely… the opinion that the sun stands still at the center of the world and the earth moves, and henceforth not to hold, teach, or defend it in any way whatever, either orally or in writing.

            — The Inquisition’s injunction against Galileo, 1616.’

            Since this was pretty strict he asked for a clarification (from this guy)

            “Bellarmine found no problem with heliocentrism so long as it was treated as a purely hypothetical calculating device and not as a physically real phenomenon, but he did not regard it as permissible to advocate the latter unless it could be conclusively proved through current scientific standards.”

            He was tried in 1633 for violating the 1616 decree (and so exactly what he was ordered became an issue).

            Given that the book managed to get past the censor to get published in the first place, I’m thinking politics, not his attitude was the issue.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Douglas Knight
            Houseboat, what are these “sides”? What, specifically, does TOF say that you would like to see critiqued?

            Douglas, I’ll quote from Samuel Skinner’s comment:
            “Bellarmine found no problem with heliocentrism so long as it was treated as a purely hypothetical calculating device and not as a physically real phenomenon, but he did not regard it as permissible to advocate the latter unless it could be conclusively proved through current scientific standards.”

            I like TOF’s thesis that the Church’s then-current scientific standards were based on long induction from objective facts (the movements of ‘lights in the sky’) and their speculations presented as speculations (Models) — and their quarrel with Galileo was his presenting as proven fact some guess allegedly supported by telescopic views. /oversimplication

            I’d like to hear a case against TOF’s thesis, which, like TOF, distinguishes the method (make long inductions from much verified data and present Models that could explain it) from the particular Model popular then (Crystal Spheres). Aiui, first an unmannerly comet and then the telescopic views of imperfection above the moon, had cracked the Spheres, leaving more attention for the various new models from the old data that were already being composed by non-telescopists like Copernicus and Kepler.

            I’m very disinterested in various object-level claims for and against the Spheres, or various Courts against Bruno et al for various heresies, or detials of Galieo’s personal controversies.

          • Andrew G. says:

            @ houseboatonstyx:

            The reason that Bellarmine did not think it was acceptable to advocate heliocentrism as a physically real fact had nothing to do with any “scientific” standards maintained by the Church—there were no such standards, and even if there were the Church would have no right to enforce them—but rather on the conflict with Scripture: he admits the possibility that should heliocentrism be convincingly demonstrated to be physically real it would be necessary to carefully explain the contradictory passages, but he doesn’t think such a demonstration is possible because Solomon would not have written Ecclesiastes 1:5 had heliocentrism been true.

            This is of course dubious theology even by the standards of the time—and Galileo pointed out in Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina precisely the problem that later occurred: by declaring that Scripture must be read as asserting a particular fact, you seriously undercut your own authority when it turns out not to be the case.

            For a slightly less entertaining but less biased account than Flynn’s, I suggest Fantoli, “The Case Of Galileo: A Closed Question?”. (both Fantoli and translator George Coyne are Jesuits, so this isn’t any kind of anti-Catholic work, but unlike the modern Catholic apologetic set it makes no attempt to whitewash the Church position).

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Houseboat, you seem to make an extremely common error, forgetting that there were two separate trials, 15 years apart. The state of the argument was very different at them. At the first point, Galileo was just putting forward telescopic evidence, while at the second, he was engaging with the whole body of evidence. Also, heliocentrism was not merely “allegedly supported” by telescopic evidence. Everyone agreed that the moons of Jupiter and especially the phases of Venus supported heliocentrism; they rejected the observation, not the inference. And 15 years made a big difference in the acceptance of telescopic observation.

            Early modern science had no systematic method at all, neither Bellarmine nor Galileo. Why, just last week, I ran across a historian of science claiming that they did, and that Galileo failed because he did not understand the method and so phrased his arguments badly. But his claim about the Method was almost the opposite of what you describe. Almost every claim about consistency can be refuted by comparing the two trials.

      • keranih says:

        To be fair, there is a great deal of this sort of nonsense floating about.

        (“A University of Missouri doctoral student plans to continue research for her dissertation on the effects of the state’s recently imposed 72-hour waiting period for abortions, despite a state legislator’s push to block the research, the student told Al Jazeera in an exclusive interview.”)

  22. BD Sixsmith says:

    Many interesting reviews of Houellebecq’s Submission, with some of the best concentrating on how it’s using Islam to critique the West’s lack of principles rather than critiquing Islam itself.

    Houellebecq knows that the critique of Islam does not have to be made. Most Europeans will revolt against the idea of European politics being determined by Islamic social values. Even liberals will – they’ll just maintain that the idea is alarmist. In presenting it as unexceptional, and even seductive, Houellebecq slips through their “bigot” filter and plants the notion deeper in their brains.

  23. glorkvorn says:

    So what happens now with “this one weird peptide”? Can you get a clinical study approved based on some crazy internet guy dosing himself? Or is there a more formal procedure you have to follow?

  24. Steve Sailer says:

    Here’s my review in Taki’s Magazine of Houellebecq’s “Submission:”

    http://takimag.com/article/submission_statement_steve_sailer/print#axzz3rKvMVnrs

    I think a lot of American reviewers are having a hard time picking up that Houellebecq is doing multiple things at once, including not getting himself put on trial once again for criticizing Islam and not getting himself murdered like his friend who was slaughtered at the Charlie Hebdo office. In 2002, the novelist referred to Islam as “the stupidest religion” and was put on trial in France.

  25. Pku says:

    Also re: credentialism: This is the only country (well, of the three I’ve tried) where I had to get a climbing gym to certify me to belay someone. (In Israel and France, they just accepted my word when I said I could). Credentialism/paperwork seems to be a fundamental part of american society (I also associate this with the same thought process that drives republicans to be really really worried that someone might get welfare who doesn’t deserve it, or drives democrats to make everyone file diversity reports. A kind of obsessive worrying that someone might do something wrong and that would be terrible).
    (I’m kinda overdoing it on strawmanning america; flaws aside, I do kinda like it here).

    • OTOH it seems there is such a thing a changing careers in the US while e.g. in Germany and her satellites the employers think you would never be able to learn something your school didn’t specifically train you for. Good trade school education and internships, are generally great things, as the system does not rely strongly on workplace training which benefits the small business who have no capacity to train, but it also means working the same thing your whole life because without gardening trade school education employers don’t believe you could prune plants in a garden (for example). This can be pretty dreadful as young people are not very good at guessing what kind of work they will want to do at 45.

    • gbdub says:

      The climbing gym thing is a different problem, namely the reckless n00b saying “oh yeah, I know what I’m doing!”, promptly falling and breaking his ass, and then suing the gym for failing to protect him from himself. Even if their waiver protects them from liability, it’s still bad press to have anyone get hurt. Much easier to give everyone a quick safety lecture. And really, is it that bad an idea? Sometimes gear can vary from gym to gym and you are actually talking about something that can be super dangerous if screwed up.

      And usually they don’t make you retake it if you’re a repeat customer – at most they’ll keep an eye on you till it’s obvious you know what you’re doing.

      On the other hand, a lot of credentialism (e.g. of beauty parlors, cabs, etc.) is much more clearly about protecting existing interests and or skimming a bit off the top instead of actually protecting anybody.

    • James Picone says:

      The gym I climb at requires people new to the gym to do a brief (~20 mins) belaying course and pay $5 extra for it.

      EDIT: And I’m not American, I’m Australian.

  26. What is the functional difference, if any, between a payday loan and an overdraft? Or do the US regulations the article mention make overdrafts uneconomic too?

    • Vox Imperatoris says:

      A payday loan actually has a reasonable rate of interest if you pay it back as intended within a few weeks.

      An overdraft usually hits you with some kind of “overdraft fee” that’s like $20-30: way more than the interest on a small payday loan.

      • But are the banks obliged to charge those fees?

        (At my bank over here, there’s a $30 establishment fee – once only – plus a $5 per month facility fee. Not all that much compared to 1.5% per day offered by a randomly chosen payday loan company. I’m thinking the situation here is different to the US though.)

        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          If I had to guess, I’d say it’s a matter of the accounts not being profitable for the reasons given in Scott’s link. The regulations, etc. make it impossible for banks to profitably lend small quantities of money to people. The overdraft fee is not primarily a revenue source: it’s to discourage you from doing it.

          • Tom Womack says:

            In the UK the overdraft fee is very much a revenue source for banks – the big four banks all offer free checking accounts, and pay for this by paying negligible interest on the accounts and by charging substantial overdraft fees.

            English law is developing quite a strong principle that companies can’t fine their customers (that is, charges they make to customers for having done things the company didn’t want have to relate to actual costs that the company incurred); in 2007 a case went through that indicated that punitive overdraft fees were illegal, and banks refunded £784 million to customers.

          • Deiseach says:

            all offer free checking accounts, and pay for this by paying negligible interest on the accounts

            Not just the current accounts, deposit accounts are derisory also. Given that the push is on in most branches over here to have people move to online banking, and that banks are curtailing or dropping services every day (the latest move by one of our two big banks was to refuse to handle counter transactions of less than €700)

            I really think part of the reason people have gotten out of the habit of saving, and went all “spend spend spend” during the good times, is because I’ve seen interest rates on the deposit account – which we were traditionally encouraged to have, to develop good habits of prudence and thrift, by seeing interest paid on the money saved – drop from reasonable to stupid levels if you don’t have a hefty sum in the account (my last bank statement paid me something like fractions of cents interest on the couple of thousand I have sitting in an old account) and by seeing loan interest first go much higher than deposit interest and then drop.

            Once ‘cheap’ money from loans came along, and you got no return on savings, of course you were going to borrow and spend in preference to socking it all away and having nothing to show for it, not even a nice deposit nest egg building up with interest, while everyone else was living high on the hog.

          • Tom Womack says:

            My reaction to the low interest rates on checking and deposit accounts has been to keep all my money in the stock market; this has worked out fairly well for me. I’d assumed that that was what the low interest rates were intended to achieve.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ deiseach
            socking it all away and having nothing to show for it, not even a nice deposit nest egg building up with interest, while everyone else was living high on the hog. ”

            If it’s your own money, or you’re not paying (much or any) interest on it, then spending it on better insulation, a more reliable car, preventive health stuff, etc can give a good return.

          • Creutzer says:

            @Tom Womack: That would be weird. The average person doesn’t even really understand what a stock is, doesn’t know what an ETF is, doesn’t have a brokerage account, and is rather scared of the idea of getting one. So I don’t think low interest on checking and savings accounts is likely to move the ordinary saving activity of the average person into stocks.

    • Mary says:

      Overdraft requires a bank account.

  27. re: the poorly formatted txt file, someone probably pasted the text from the admirably formatted: https://www.dropbox.com/s/6upqiodn4r471mw/gdf11.pdf?dl=0 (which he emailed to me – nice guy)

    *now* how credible is he?

  28. J says:

    The four horsemen of gentrification: http://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/the-four-horsemen-of-gentrification

    “I looked, and behold, a green horse, and he who sat on it had a mason jar; and a fedora was his crown, and he went out pickling and to pickle. “

    • Deiseach says:

      Do cereal cafés count as gentrification?

      I think the pair of brothers running this are achingly hip (even though – or because? – they’re from Belfast) and this is a fad, but it does seem a bit harsh to call it “gentrification” (chancing their arm, more like).

  29. J says:

    The logical next step is body cameras for doctors in psych wards.

  30. Sigivald says:

    “Jews Out! was not an official Nazi propaganda effort but an unsuccessful commercial product; the game was criticized by an SS journal that felt it trivialized anti-Semitic policies.”

    I can’t help but think this says something important and insightful about the human condition and the banality of evil, but I can’t quite formulate it.

    If nothing else, it’s that bureaucracy and power structures have the same basic responses no matter what the worldview and problem space, I suppose.

    (“Please take Judenhasse seriously, you amateurs!”)

    • It does. We have a gigantic hindsight bias about them – we know their “final solution” meant horrible mass murder, but it was not obvious back then, not even the Nazi party members, and not even to Hitler. Apparently even Hitler worked somehow hard on becoming more and more evil, he was not originally so – his first idea of a “final solution” was a form of Zionism? And then it got darker and darker and darker. Apparently a lot of Nazi guys back then were originally broadly like how you could imagine a Black Marxist in the US who really dislikes White Capitalists. Then there was the mother of all slippery slopes towards evil. The take away lesson is that the average moral character of Nazis in 1933 was probably not the same as in 1943. Perhaps the less evil ones got pushed aside, more evil ones promoted, and leaders themselves working hard on becoming more evil. It is adverse selection, it was a form of local de-evolution or status signalling arms race towards more and more toughness i.e. evil in this particular case.

      • Echo says:

        Argh, I can’t remember the name, but there was a zionist nationalist organization allied with the proto-nat-soc movements in Germany. “Germany for the Germans, Israel for the Jews!” must have sounded like a pretty good deal to a lot of zionists.

        • NN says:

          From what I’ve read, the Stern Gang, a militant Zionist organization based in Palestine, sent multiple letters to Nazi Germany proposing an alliance: if the Nazis sent the Jews of Europe to Eretz Israel, then the Stern Gang would join WWII on the side of the Axis. The Nazis did not respond. They had previously considered sending the Jews to Palestine but had rejected this plan because they thought it would create instability in the Middle East (turns out they were right). Instead they planned to send the Jews to Madagascar. That proved impossible after the US and UK obtained decisive naval superiority, so they came up with the Final Solution instead.

          • Rose says:

            Read Matthias kuntzel on jihad and nazism. The third Reich’s role in the Middle East was to co-opt the puny Muslim brothers which after a decade had a mere 10k members. Hitler sent eichmann to Cairo to indoctrinate them in making Jew hatred central to their creed, train them in terrorism, give them arms, and try to use the Arabs as weapons against the British, get the Iraq oil fields which were strategic. By wars end the Muslim brothers had a million members, and nazi styl anti-semitism was endemic in the Middle East. Fleeing nazis were invited to Egypt , where they directly trained yassir Arafat. Popular song during war: ” Allah in heaven, hitlr on earth.” It was the nazis, not the Jews, who destabilized the Middle East. Khomeini by the way listened to the third reich radio daily for the many years of the war. This is history that is ignored, but not disputed. The reich kept records of everything.

        • God Damn John Jay says:

          http://listverse.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/malcom_500_500.jpg

          ^ The same thing happened with the Nation of Islam and the American Nazi Party — Strange bedfellows and all of that ^

          ^^ Might not want to open this one at work ^^

      • The Holocaust is so extraordinarily evil that it tends to overshadow the deaths caused by Hitler’s expansionism, but that was pretty evil, too.

        • LtWigglesworth says:

          It had the potential to be even more evil if the invasion of the USSR had gone to plan. Generalplan Ost and the Hunger Plan would sound almost cartoonishly evil, if it weren’t for the fact that they were the actual plans of one of the most advanced nations in the world.

  31. Tragus says:

    The celebrity meat thing reminds me of the old Cracked article on the most fucked-up implications of the Harry Potter world, where they note that the existence of Polyjuice Potion means that any wizard/witch could very easily see/fuck the nude body of anyone else they wanted to.

    • Pku says:

      I suspect they’d come to see it more as an acceptable-ish kink (depending on your personal level of sexual liberality). Though you’d have to have hair from the person you wanted to turn into, which would require either consent or theft… The wizarding world probably takes hair theft very seriously. I can imagine the WW’s Kim Kardashian making a business selling hairs, though.
      That said, polyjuice potion is expensive and hard to make – most people probably couldn’t afford it, so it would be kind of a bourgeois rich-people fetish.

      • g says:

        In HP canon it was made successfully by a second-year student. Admittedly she was an exceptionally bright one, but even so I don’t think anything that can be made by a single 12-year-old operating out of a toilet (so, e.g., no proper lab facilities) can really count as “hard to make” in the sense that’s relevant here.

        Is it made clear just how expensive polyjuice is?

  32. ssica3003 says:

    I knew that about the White House and I’m a Brit 🙂

  33. I’ve cited old imperialism as showing that having Third World people in a regime run by First World people does not cause a disaster … which means bringing “them” over “here” need not turn “here” into “there.”

    • gbdub says:

      Except that the whole point of imperialism was that the 3rd worlders didn’t really get final say in their governance. If you bring “them” over “here”, they get full say in the government unless you want to create a large, officially designated class of pseudocitizens with only partial rights. And, the theory goes, at some point the people from “over there” supported the sort of policies that turned “over there” into the place you’d want to flee, and might repeat the mistake.

      Basically, being able to “rule over” someone across the world doesn’t say much if anything about the plausibility of “ruling with” foreigners in your own backyard.

      • Randy M says:

        Exactly, and given the numbers, unrestricted immigration would turn into, not 3rd world ruled by 1st, but vice versa.
        Whether that is an end goal you desire or are indifferent to depends on how much you disire retribution for colonial sins, I suppose.

        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          I’m far more supportive of open borders than you, but I agree that the analogy is not very persuasive.

          After all, the Arabs did kick the French out of Algeria. And Algeria was not a colony at the time, but an integral part of France.

        • We might have to set a limit of 1.5% of the population each year. That’s more than the alleged refugee crisis in Europe.

          • Anonymous says:

            1.5% immigration per annum is huge.

            I don’t know the exact percentage, but the value I would aim for, in restricting immigration, would be any value that doesn’t cause an ethnicity shift away from the dominance of the primary ethnicity (getting more homogenous is perfectly fine and desired), rounded to the nearest nth place after the dot. Related, similar ethnicities (German vs Austrian, Polish vs Czech, English vs Anglo-American, etc) may be exempt, since they assimilate very easily.

          • JBeshir says:

            @Anonymous

            I think this is impossible in Western countries, because the most common ethnicity within the country has lower birthrates than the others, so with zero immigration you’d still have demographic shift towards other ethnicities.

          • nydwracu says:

            Let’s say your country has ten million people, except we’ll divide by a million so the numbers are smaller. Let’s also say the average lifespan is 80 years, and ignore births and deaths to make the numbers simpler. Where do you end up in a lifetime? You end up with about 33 million people in your country — and since we’re holding everything else steady, 10 million are natives, so 23 million are foreigners, so natives started at 100% of the population and now are less than a third of it.

            Adding births and deaths would make those figures even more skewed in the direction of foreigners, because of differences in age, fertility rate, and age of reproduction: immigrants will be younger than the native average, will have more children than natives (as will their children), and may have children at a younger age than natives (and so may their children). But even disregarding that, with 1.5% immigration, you have population replacement within a lifetime.

            In fact, what you have there is an exponential function: a quantity that grows by a fixed amount in a fixed length of time, in this case 1.5% per year. For exponential functions, you can estimate the doubling time by dividing 70 by the percentage of growth. In this case, the doubling time means the time it would take for there to be as many immigrants as natives if you abstract away from births and deaths: since the native population holds steady, any growth has to be from foreigners. Before that time, natives are in the majority; after that time, foreigners are in the majority. (Remember, this is going to overestimate the time it would take for foreigners to replace natives.)

            The doubling time is less than fifty years. In other words, if all white-majority countries were to adopt your plan, white-majority countries would cease to exist within your lifetime — and since mass population movement is essentially irreversible, there would never be a white-majority country again.

            The greatest shortcoming of the human race is its inability to understand exponential functions. Or maybe you do understand them, and that’s just what you want to see happen.

      • gbdub says:

        I think large scale immigration can work as long as you are mostly importing people who want to be in your country because they are more inclined to be like you than the people who stay home. In that sense, you can be “American” without being from America – after all the USA is supposed to be an ideal, not an ethnicity.

        But it’s a sticky wicket, because it requires simultaneously allowing a lot more immigration while making the standards a lot tougher. People fleeing into your country from war or poverty because it’s convenient to get to (e.g. Mexicans into the US or Syrians into southern Europe) are much less likely to be ideologically compatible with their new host country.

    • Pku says:

      Well, the obvious solution is to make second-class citizenship an official thing. You don’t have to worry about immigrants affecting government or eating up government support programs, and they can come here in whatever numbers they feel like so long as they accept that. Having citizenship be an all-or-nothing thing seems to suffer from all the disadvantages people who oppose minimum wage bring up, without any of the benefits.

      • Vox Imperatoris says:

        I agree, but the usual response by the anti-immigration crowd is that “second-class citizenship” will inherently be a temporary thing.

        Progressive values and/or the incentive to get more voters for your party will lead to one party or another clamoring for giving immigrants “the inalienable right to vote”.

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          What if they get first class after 15 / 20 / n years? That would take some of the popular pressure off.

          • Linch says:

            Erm…how do you think green cards in the US work right now?

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Linch
            Erm…how do you think green cards in the US work right now?”

            Slowly, in the acquisition, and you have to have got in legally to apply, don’t you?

      • LtWigglesworth says:

        Would the second class citizens get some form of a tax break? Something that looks a bit like them not getting entitlements A,B, and C, but geting a tax break of say 75% of what it would have cost the state to provide those entitlements?

        • Anonymous says:

          Take the Amish option. Don’t pay social security contributions, don’t get social security. Works fine for them.

        • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

          I could get behind this. Especially if you make second-class citizenship an option for natives as well.

      • This never worked, because pressure from demonstrations, riots or violence tends to work and they have their way anyway. How do you think decolonialization happened? The problem is that in the “here” a lot of people (liberals) automatically sympathize with the “oppressed” and thus prevent the suppression of such movements.

        I mean, what is the Schelling point between imported workers rioting for full rights, or the US Civil Rights movement or the colonials that makes it more palatable to suppress them in this case? That they signed a contract? And if it was their parents? And if we get sob stories from the media how poverty forced them to sign the contract? You already should know the liberal media would be full of stories of how Aminah had to sign the contract because she had no other way to feed her kids but as a hard working mom now she deserves citizenship etc. The same manipulation is used all the time. Contracts worth as much as constitutions, about the paper they are written on.

        The real Schelling fence is precisely that when you treat a riot with nightsticks, is it “over here” or “over there” – and it is a small one, as it did not prevent the liberal media to write the same sob stories which ended in decolonialization, but at least the territorial instinct is not awoken.

        Putting it differently, in a charter city, you can at least use a non-violent threat, namely that if they don’t behave you pack up and leave. If you import people and they don’t behave only some sort of force can stop them.

    • In itself not – it is having a public opinion that hates segregation and similar stuff that creates the problems. Imagine the US Civil Rights movement all over and race riots and all… the basic story of that – and basically every revolution – is a liberal public opinion prevents the use of decisive force to nip it in the bud and thus it escalates. With colonialism or doing it “there” the relative advantage is that it is less visible to the public. By the public I mean intellectuals etc. Of course information gets around these days faster, still, it is different when the public sees with their own eyes people who look like peaceful demonstrators asking for normal sounding things (this is basic revolutionary tactic, appear defensibly reasonable and slowly escalate things, no Schelling point) get thrown into prison vs. there are just vague news from halfway accross the planet some clashes between police and demonstrators.

      Besides, it is easier to suspend some other country’s laws than your own, see Gitmo.

  34. Odoacer says:

    Regarding the poorly formatted txt file. He injected himself with GDF11, a protein that was claimed to rejuvenate old tissue (originally discovered, IIRC, from parabiosis studies). However, that protein may do the opposite:

    http://www.nature.com/news/young-blood-anti-ageing-mechanism-called-into-question-1.17583

    Glass and his colleagues set out to determine why GDF11 had this apparent effect. First, they tested the antibodies and other reagents that Wagers’ group had used to measure GDF11 levels, and found that these chemicals could not distinguish between myostatin and GDF11. When the Novartis team used a more specific reagent to measure GDF11 levels in the blood of both rats and humans, they found that GDF11 levels actually increased with age — just as levels of myostatin do. That contradicts what Wagers’ group had found.

    Glass’s team next used a combination of chemicals to injure a mouse’s skeletal muscles, and then regularly injected the animal with three times as much GDF11 as Wagers and her team had used. Rather than regenerating the muscle, Glass found, GDF11 seemed to make the damage worse by inhibiting the muscles’ ability to repair themselves. He and his colleagues report their results on 19 May in Cell Metabolism4.

    Glass says that although his group’s results do not explain why parabiosis works, they could help to explain the mechanism behind bimagrumab, an experimental Novartis treatment for muscle weakness and wasting. The drug, which is currently in clinical trials, blocks myostatin — and perhaps GDF11 as well.

  35. I’m delighted by the Zuckerberg/wrong stationery link– it’s like a sitcom with high money stakes.

    Scott, if there’s anything more you want to say about corporate governance as a crucial issue, I’m interested.

    Fetal Alcohol Syndrome might count as a problem which is inheritable but not genetic– people with FAS are impulsive, so women with FAS are more likely to drink when pregnant. Or so I’ve heard– let me know if I’m wrong.

    On the other hand, there might be a genetic susceptibility– genes which increase the damage from in utero exposure to alcohol.

    It’s legal for companies to give stock in exchange for crowdfunding. I think this is huge– that there will be some important new companies as a result. I’m not denying that there will be fraud, people with attractive ideas that don’t make sense, and people with kind of plausible business plans who fail because they didn’t know what they were getting into.

    Parachuting for charities costs much more to the NHS than it raises for charities

    • Harald K says:

      > I think this is huge

      I’ve been following crowdfunding since before Kickstarter, and I think it won’t be huge. At least not in any good way.

      When you buy something for its own sake, you make different judgments than when you buy something in order to make a profit. A kickstarter succeeds, roughly speaking, when people want the product. A “kickbackstarter” would succeed when people think other people want the product. Beliefs about preferences dictate what gets made, instead of preferences directly.

      In that case, where’s the advantage? Isn’t a professional – say, an angel investor or a bank official offering a loan to a startup – at least as good at guessing what people will want to buy?

      I think “the crowd” will do a lot worse than the professionals. People knows their own wants well, but when they think about others’ wants, they mix them up with their own – which is now tainted by the hope of making a profit.

      It’s a common scam trick, well-used by MLMs: use people’s dreams of getting rich motivate people to believe the product is good, will “sell itself” etc. I see already that it’s the dodgier, MLMier part of business that is most excited about equity crowdfunding.

      • “In that case, where’s the advantage? Isn’t a professional – say, an angel investor or a bank official offering a loan to a startup – at least as good at guessing what people will want to buy?”

        On the one hand, people overestimate how common their desires are. On the other hand, angel investors aren’t like most people, so they lack a source of information about what most people want.

        Companies are only allowed to raise a million dollars a year through crowdfunding– not very much for a substantial business– so I’m guessing that some crowdfunding will work mostly as a signal of public interest for larger investors.

        I see at least one obvious business opportunity which might take a good bit of money but which seems like common sense– department stores which sell clothes during the season in which those clothes are worn.

    • Vaniver says:

      I think this is huge– that there will be some important new companies as a result.

      This is… how companies work? I mean, yes, this lowers the frictional cost to starting companies, and makes the joint stock corporation more like it was at its original invention (Dutch parishioners buying partial shares of farmland created by dikes and windmill pumps that could only be afforded if they pooled wealth) than it is now (going public being a huge deal with lots of SEC paperwork and national attention).

      But part of the problem is that it replicates only part of the small-scale stock market; you have national attention (and funds) on local issues. Anyone can see that someone is trying to create a cat cafe in Austin and buy stock in it, but all they know is “cat cafe in Austin” and maybe a brief video of the creators. That’s not much to go to on, and it’s not clear that people who buy with that little info are the sort of people who make good investors (see the Zuckerberg corporate governance issue; litigious and interested shareholders are helpful at keeping companies in line). If it were only local funding, then it seems likely that the investors would have more information about the founders and be able to make a better decision.

      On net, I think it’s a good idea, and in general I approve of lowering friction for investment (receiving and giving). But I don’t think it’s going to be all that useful for unicorns, and I worry that people who look at it expecting there to be make unicorns will be disappointed.

  36. jonathan says:

    “‘Death to America’ does not mean death to the American nation, it means death to the US’ policies and death to arrogance”

    So that’s the Motte…

  37. The people who vote decide nothing. The people who count the votes also decide nothing. The people who decide in what year the election gets held decide quite a lot.

    I don’t think I can discuss the linked article without first giving some background.

    For those who don’t know, I’m technically one of “those who count the votes.” For the last ten years, I’ve been county clerk for the county that includes Ann Arbor, which means I am the county’s chief election official. Moreover, I have been involved in election wonkery, er, discussing issues in election administration, since long before I was elected county clerk.

    You might be surprised that a partisan elected official, such as myself, is in charge of elections. It’s always been done that way — every county clerk and every township clerk in the state is partisan — and Michigan election law assumes there is no such thing as a neutral nonpartisan person. Every critical function requires involvement by people of different political party. Every election worker has to have a partisan identification, and two people of different parties have to work together to, say, assist a disabled voter, open the ballot box, etc., etc. The board of canvassers, which closely examines the conduct of the election and certifies the results, has two Democrats and two Republicans.

    Some states, like Florida, have election supervisors elected on the nonpartisan ballot. That didn’t work out particularly well.

    The fundamental problem is that we have so many elected offices,. Michigan has even more than most states. As a voter in Ann Arbor, I personally get to vote on almost a hundred different seats, including the state board of education, three university boards, community college board, school board, library board, county board, and city council. And there are the judges: Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Circuit Court, Probate Court, District Court, all with multiple seats.

    The actual total of positions, for a voter in the city Ann Arbor, is 97. Off the top of my head, I cannot name all 97 people who are theoretically answerable directly to me, and I’m the county clerk. What chance does an ordinary voter have?

    People look admiringly at easy, fast, efficient, transparent vote counting in some other advanced countries, and ask why we can’t do the same. The answer is that in a parliamentary democracy, you vote for your local MP, and everything else flows from that. It’s very simple to count ballots when there is only one choice to be counted.

    A first step to fixing this would be to stop electing judges (can you imagine deliberately setting things up this way if you were organizing the state from scratch?). But even that is usually shouted down.

    Off-year local elections have been traditional as long as there have been elections. Consolidating elections means overcoming that tradition, which is harder in some places than others.

    Consolidation saves money by holding fewer elections, but it also greatly complicates election administration. For example, here in Michigan, where school district boundaries run riot over the landscape, and don’t correspond to any other civil boundaries, a given election precinct might include pieces of as many as five school districts, so that means managing different ballots for different sets of voters.

    Additionally, adding more and more stuff to the even-year November ballot creates problems with the physical capacity of the ballot itself. If all the stuff on the ballot overflows both sides of one sheet, an additional ballot per voter may be required. That means double the printing cost (with optical scan tabulators, every ballot has to be printed on both sides, even if one side is “blank”), and considerably more effort to manage two ballots per voter in the polling place, more postage to mail ballots to absentees, etc.

    • Now, as to the linked article, which is specifically about electing school boards.

      The parties do have their different views about voting and elections in general, but those things are easily overridden by more specific considerations, as they were here.

      For some years now, we have a Republican legislature which is ideologically opposed to public education. They don’t necessarily want to shut it down, but they strongly favor private schools, charter schools, and home schooling, and disfavor ordinary public schools.

      Now, admittedly, public education in Michigan has a lot to answer for. School funding across different school districts was grossly unfair to students at the low end, and the incomplete “fix” for this created other problems. Detroit is the nation’s worst school district, if achievement scores are any measure. The political environment here was deeply hostile to private schools and home schooling for decades. So I can sympathize, to some extent, with Republican legislators charging down to Lansing, determined to reverse those things.

      Teachers unions in Michigan used to be very bipartisan compared to most labor unions. No surprise, they have soured on Republicans in recent years, and allied more with Democrats.

      Until recently, almost every school board in Michigan was elected in a standalone annual election in the spring. And the school boards (predominantly traditional local conservatives) liked it that way. When the first election consolidation went into effect in 2005, giving school districts a choice to move to November, 93% of them chose to continue holding school-only elections in the spring.

      Democrats and teachers’ unions had little involvement in that. Big urban school districts, like Detroit and Lansing, already held their elections in November.

      When the anti-public-education wing decided to force school elections to even-year November, along with other “reforms” intended to make it harder for school districts to raise taxes, the teachers unions and Democrats instinctively opposed them.

    • Finally, there is a caveat about democracy and participation that is worth noting: races for little-noticed nonpartisan offices on the November ballot don’t tend to work very well.

      In a time of sharply polarized politics, it is a perfectly defensible choice to vote straight Republican or straight Democratic. Both parties’ candidates are nominated in a competitive process and mostly well vetted. If there was some gaping exception, you’d probably have heard about it.

      If you cast a protest vote for candidates of some other party, they are almost guaranteed not to win, so you don’t need to worry about the specifics of their platforms.

      But nonpartisan candidates appear with just their names, and they are usually unknown to 90% or more of the electorate.

      Obviously parties (and newspapers, bloggers, civic orgs, etc.) can make endorsements in nonpartisan races, but that doesn’t work unless the voter remembers who the endorsed candidates were. There are plenty of cases where a party went all-out for a candidate, who then failed to win even in that party’s strongholds.

      You could skip over those offices. But most people aren’t willing to leave a part of their ballot blank.

      Hence, voters end up doing arbitrary things. Like voting for the women. Or voting for the Irish names (surprisingly popular in a not-very-Irish place like Michigan). Or voting for the ones who “sound” familiar, like Richard Simmons or Robert Hall. Or voting for the first one listed on the ballot.

      All of these dumb strategies are obvious from examining election returns from even the most sophisticated and highly educated precincts.

      You could say that voters ought to be paying more attention. But given how many offices and races they’d need to research, that rabbit hole goes very deep.

      If school boards are going to be elected in November of even years, perhaps they should be partisan — as the state board of education already is.

      If an office is obscure, yet needs to be nonpartisan, then electing it in even-year Novembers is the wrong answer.

      • brad says:

        If an office is obscure, yet needs to be nonpartisan, then electing it in even-year Novembers is the wrong answer.

        I think the answer is exactly what you said above, state and local governments have too many elected officials.

      • Randy M says:

        This is an interesting series of comments. I agree that there are rarely compeling reasons to know who many of the less prominent local office candidates are; the elections are more of a safety valve for when someone screws up.

        • One solution for this problem observed in some non-political organizations, such as the mineral collecting hobby, is to have a a group that is self-perpetuating as long as all goes smoothly, but with a mechanism for electing someone not chosen by the incumbents if a significant number of people are unhappy with how things are going.

      • Pku says:

        Out of curiousity, has anyone brought up randomizing the ballot order for each individual ballot to avoid first-on-the-ballot effect? Or is that too technically problematic for the machines?

        • We do have ballot order rotation in Michigan.

          In nonpartisan races and primaries, candidates are listed alphabetically, and the ballot order is systematically shifted by one name in each successive precinct. For example, if four candidates are listed A,B,C,D in Precinct 1, they will be B,C,D,A in Precinct 2, C,D,A,B in Precinct 3, and so on.

          This is how you can tell that ballot-order effects are real. I did some work in a city which had (at the time) 34 precincts. In a low-interest two-candidate judicial race, the candidate earlier in the alphabet carried all 17 odd-numbered precincts, whereas his opponent carried all but one or two of the even-numbered precincts. Voters had so little to go on that ballot order was enough to determine who won each precinct.

          For partisan candidates, on the other hand, ballot order is based on the last election for Secretary of State. For the last several election cycles, that means Republicans are first, Democrats second, Libertarians third.

    • keranih says:

      IIRC, among the things FL does right is have their judges appointed, but the choice to retain each one in office is put before the voters every so often.

      • That system is called the Missouri Plan: appointment followed by retention elections. It originated as a compromise with those who didn’t want to give up electing judges.

    • BBA says:

      Like Michigan, New York requires that all election-related roles be evenly split between the two major parties, defined as the two parties that won the most votes in the last election for governor. We haven’t had a three-way race for governor since that rule was enacted, and I don’t know what the contingency plan is if it happens. (It isn’t unthinkable – there was a three-way race for US Senate in 1970 that James Buckley of the Conservative Party won. Other states have had independent governors since then.)

      Contrast Canada, where federal/provincial/local elections never coincide, and can’t because they’re run by separate bodies (e.g., in Toronto, Elections Canada/Elections Ontario/Toronto City Clerk). As I understand it this is closer to the international norm.

  38. Deiseach says:

    (1) Does anyone in creation think university campus slutwalks have ever done the slightest bit of good?* My nephew’s uni is doing one and I am refraining from posting my opinion on his Facebook because he’s my little nephew and his crazy auntie yelling abuse at strangers on the Internet is not going to help him, his first year in college.

    Though the irony of doing a “wear as much or as little as you like, my clothing is not my consent” walk in Ireland in mid-November pleases me; if the participants don’t want to get pneumonia, they’ll all be wearing winter coats, boots, scarves and gloves and so nobody should be showing any skin likely to get the easily-excited riled up.

    *Fellas who shout comments on the street aren’t doing it because of how much or how little you’re wearing; it’s because you’re vaguely female-shaped and they’re showing off their manliness (God save the mark).

    (2) If I give such good advice, how come my life is such a mess? 🙂 For some unknown reason, people seem to think I give good advice when they ask my opinion. Is everyone I know crazy? (Possibly??)

    • keranih says:

      *I* think slutwalks are crazytalk because they operate off the combination of thought that 1) it’s appropriate for women to attempt to influence the actions of (hetro) men through dress & body language with 2) it’s inappropriate for men’s actions to reflect the influence of women’s actions in dress & body language. Oh, and there’s a bit of the dress and body language of women have no effect on men, but these people are evolution deniers and I pay them no heed.

      Where I find agreement is in cross-cultural miscommunications where person A thinks that they are modestly dressed and avoiding the appearance of inviting sexual attention, and person B thinks that bare ankles and meeting a person’s eyes for two point three seconds counts as the non-verbal equivalent of, oh, the blue-footed booby dance. We-as-society should push for clear non-verbal communication, to the extent that we can, but nonsense like slut walks is the straight girl’s equivalent of bare-assed Gay Pride parades – it’s a celebration, all right. But what it’s celebrating is I have the power and you don’t, nah nanana nah-nah!

      • JBeshir says:

        I don’t think 2 is a charitable interpretation of the norm they’re trying to demonstrate. I think a more charitable interpretation would be “It’s inappropriate for men’s actions to be harassing, regardless of how women’s dress and body language influences them.”.

        Gay pride parades are similar; they demonstrate “It’s inappropriate to react violently or with vitrol to gay people in public, regardless of how their expression influences you to want to.”

        Another similar thing would be the whole “Draw Mohammed mockingly in protest” stuff, which was demonstrating the similar norm “It’s inappropriate for believer’s actions to be violent or threatening, regardless of how others’ expression influences them.”

        These are all are demonstrations of power, in that they’re demonstrating that the norm has power. They do this by showing they can lean on the norm, at scale, and be protected by it, with everyone knowing they were doing it. I’m not sure that it’s innately a bad thing or good thing to be engaging in, but it seems to be part of how humans shake out what collective norms are.

        All of these are pretty reasonable norms. Sometimes you’re expected to not do a bad thing, even if someone else acts in a way that makes you want to, and even if they knew it’d make you want to when they acted that way.

        • keranih says:

          This is a fairly good point, and including “draw Mohammed day” (I might include “flag burning” as an additional touchstone) made your argument stronger for me.

          I would quibble that “It’s inappropriate for men’s actions to be harassing” is…well, the sort of thing that no one would argue with. However, the actions being protested are frequently not “harassment” but “the male half of the mating dance that the female initiated with her dress and body language”. So it’s okay for women to dress provocatively and walk past a guy one hip at a time, but should he turn around and look, or whistle, or tell her that she looks nice, well, he’s harassing her.

          (For those tempted to tell me that women don’t do this, or that they don’t know what they’re doing…please don’t.)

          There is a problem of cross-communication – often cross cultural – where what is intended as “neutral” or “non-sexual” actions on the part of one party is grossly miss read by another, or where a general invitation to “signal to me that you like my looks and I will signal my appreciation of your interest, thus validating you as a potiental mate, but don’t you think FOR ONE SECOND I’m actually considering going home with you” is met with “honey, I think you don’t realize what you’re missing or how much I would rock your world if I had the slightest hint that you were up for it, give me thirty seconds and I will convince you to change your mind”…

          Anyway. That’s a lot of heavy lifting for a shift of the hips, a skirt that stops two inches higher, and a hint of a smile. No wonder people get tripped up over the regional accents all the time.

          I am already growing tedious, and so will stop with the observation that “Draw Mohammed day” is based on the idea that protests and speech should be met with protests and speech, not violence. Gay Pride displays and slutwalks expect to be met with cheers or silence, and do not accept counter displays as legitimate.

        • gbdub says:

          I appreciate your framing of 2 as well, JBeshir. That said, the problem I have with “slutwalks” is that they are aimed at the wrong target and explicitly posit the norm that any advice for young women to take precautions against victimization is ipso facto victim blaming.

          It is absolutely the case that women should not be harassed, and certainly not assaulted, based on what they wear. But a couple points where I diverge from the slutwalkers (heh, new porn parody – “The Slutwalking Dead”):
          a) Let’s not overscope “harassment” – if you dress in a manner that someone else finds attractive and that someone says “damn you’re looking fine, want to grab a drink?”, that’s not harassment, regardless of how unattractive you find the asker, until the asker continues to hound you after getting a clear negative response. Obviously certain caveats of professional ethics etc. apply, and there’s a level of initial proposition that is inherently lewd / offensive enough to be harassment right off, but I would hope we can agree that a polite proposition in an elevator should not warrant pepper spray or a call to the authorities.

          Also, let’s not pretend that “provocative dress” is not a thing – there’s a reason certain clothing emphasizes secondary sexual characteristics, and a reason people would choose to wear that. Operating (politely) within that norm should not be harassment. I don’t think we want to live in a world where dressing “sexy” is not a thing (sometimes you really do want the attention, and it’s nice to have a way to signal that).

          b) Whether or not you SHOULD be able to dress as you please without being targeted is irrelevant to whether you CAN. And the sort of people who would use “her skirt says she was asking for it” as a defense to rape seem the ones least likely to understand the message of a slut walk.

          So basically, I don’t think they are that effective – the people who will take their message seriously already do without the walking. At best they are a rah-rah event of preaching to the choir (but sometimes that can be helpful, or at least feel good).

          • Jiro says:

            I would hope we can agree that a polite proposition in an elevator should not warrant pepper spray or a call to the authorities.

            Umm… http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/events/elevatorgate

          • Nornagest says:

            I recall Elevatorgate being a shitshow all around, but I don’t recall the cops getting involved.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Jiro:

            I take it that is what gbdub is referring to.

          • gbdub says:

            10 imaginary blogobucks to Vox Imperatoris 🙂

          • Anonymous says:

            My interpretation of this issue is that it comes down to differences in what different people want to do. If dressing provocatively, going to nightclubs, getting blind drunk and having one night stands with strangers is something you enjoy doing, someone telling you not to do it in order to mimimize your risk of rape is asking you to give up an activity you like and want to partake in. They are probably doing so because they personally don’t enjoy that activity, so from their perspective it’s not much of an ask.

            I don’t think there is any meaningful definition of ‘victim blaming’ beyond this – suggesting someone avoids becoming victimized by taking actions that they consider unreasonable.

    • > Does anyone in creation think university campus slutwalks have ever done the slightest bit of good?

      1. They made the organizers and supporters feel holy.

      2. They made male onlookers horny.

      3. They made a lot of people point and laugh.

      4. They made very clear exactly which men are undateable gammas – I am afraid, this may include your nephew – which means every other man who was mainly pointing and laughing + openly enjoying the titty show got more dateable. Sort of like this: http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/putin-visibly-amused-by-topless-femen-protest-in-germany-a-893128.html

      That isn’t too bad for some walks. Of course, they achieved nothing about exactly that one thing they purportedly wanted to, but why do you believe they wanted to do? Currently, it is a better prior to assume progs always lie about their goals, first and foremost to themselves, unless there is some strong signal suggesting otherwise like going to this blog or LW or other intelligent places.

      Also, suggest this blog to your nephew: http://thesoulisnotasmithy.blogspot.com

      • Deiseach says:

        How dare you, my handsome charming intelligent nephew is not a gamma! 🙂

        No, he seems to be having a decent social life and has friends and a girlfriend, so he’s way ahead of me on the “socialising like a normal person” curve.

        I’m suppose I’m just old and cranky and inclined to go “this is stupid, why are you doing it, okay I can see why it’d appeal to young people but it’s still stupid”.

        • All right, but really it does not help a mans romantic prospects to participate in these things – if it is an ethics or conscience thing for him them donate money or something but not be seen like this, be seen like Putin enjoying the show, that is giving out far more confident message. Maybe you think 95% of red-pillery is shit, but you cannot deny something like “amused mastery” still tends to be more romantic than “indignant demonstrator with righteous fury”. Sort of a “what would Hemingway do?” thing.

          Come to think of it, it is interesting how basically every attractive male in a movie ever is downplaying ethics in a one. Like Roger Moore as James Bond, of course it is all about good fighting evil, but he is never getting on a high moral horse loudly condemning evil as evil because somehow – I am not sure how, but somehow – that is not romantic. Typically these movie heroes, while knowing they are on the good side, take the fight more as a personal challenge. And this is what a demonstrator cannot.

          And that blog is really super funny while educative.

          • I know a couple of women who have a thing for Longmire. I don’t know how much denouncing evil he does, but their fascination seems to be about his combination of good looks and progressive politics. I think he’s also courageous, but I haven’t watched the show.

          • Sastan says:

            Progressive politics on Longmire? He’s a backwoods country sheriff in Wyoming who drives a truck, hunts, rides a horse and dispenses “his own brand of frontier justice”……It’s about as red-tribe red meat as you can get on TV.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Sastan
            Progressive politics on Longmire? He’s a backwoods country sheriff in Wyoming who drives a truck, hunts

            Definining markers of red tribe, check.

            and dispenses “his own brand of frontier justice”……

            On which side of the cases?

            It’s about as red-tribe red meat as you can get on TV.

      • Outis says:

        > Also, suggest this blog to your nephew: http://thesoulisnotasmithy.blogspot.com

        I couldn’t even get through half a post on that blog. The quality of writing is abysmal. I don’t see why you would recommend that thing to anyone.

    • Sastan says:

      It’s mostly just weirdly misplaced.

      There’s this bizarre myth that women are always “blamed” for being raped because of their dress or whatever, but that doesn’t happen. Sometimes, in a rape case, a woman’s dress can be important, but not because of how she looked. One case I recall relied heavily on a timeline which was scotched because of the woman’s very tight trousers. The defense argument was not that she had been wearing tight trousers, and so had consented to sex, it was that she’d been wearing tight trousers, and getting those off of a nonconsenting person is hard, and can’t be done as quickly as she claimed it had been. Hell, from personal experience, there are trousers it’s damned near impossible to get off of a consenting person.

      But of course, the media narrative was “rapist walks because jury thought she asked for it”.

      Slutwalks are trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist in the countries they hold them in. There are patriarchal rape cultures, where a woman IS blamed for being raped, and indeed can be sentenced to be raped for crimes committed by her male relatives. In these countries, revealing dress IS considered an overwhelming incitement to sex. But somehow, the slutwalkers never parade through Riyadh.

  39. Vorkon says:

    Is the idea that Bernie Sanders’ supporters are mostly male really a widespread myth, that a significant number of people believed? Honestly, I always thought it was just a mad fever-dream conjured up by the person who wrote the “Berniebros” article. (And even that article never tried to argue that Sanders’ supporters are overwhelmingly male, just that there was one person on their Facebook feed that the author really doesn’t like.)

    • Hadlowe says:

      As a cynical person, I think the myth served a useful purpose to serve as fundament for complaints of sexism against Bernie and his supporters.

    • Eli says:

      The myth has been the foundation of attacks from the Clinton campaign that Bernie is, somehow, a racist and a sexist. This shows how divide-and-rule identity politics have become a foundation stone of the way that the neoliberal establishment keeps the Left away from power.

      (OTOH, my Jacobin reading group is maybe 90% male.)

  40. JayMan says:

    Greg Cochran is always a mind trip. This time he uses math and evolutionary biology to show why a lot of seemingly non-infectious diseases “have to” be caused by pathogens. Would love to hear some other biologists’ opinions.

    You sure you want their opinions? They’re generally not worth much.

    I’m glad you’ve discovered this. I’ve been trying to bring this to your attention for some time now.

    But yes, they must be. An example are common allergies.

    Probably demonstrates something about psychology: I had no idea until this week that I had two very different mental images stored of the White House: they turn out to be its north vs. south facades. Did everyone else already realize this?

    Yes. 🙂

    Speaking of the far-right, some people suggest “new imperialism” as a solution for poverty: instead of having lots of Third World people immigrate to the West to benefit from its institutions, put Western institutions in charge of the Third World. This makes some sense, but I’ve never heard these people carry it to its logical conclusion: since the Third Worlders don’t seem to be up for it, why not at least put Switzerland or Denmark in charge of America?

    Well, it didn’t work during colonialism, nor is it working in Iraq or Afghanistan, why would we expect it work elsewhere?

    More on Hanson’s Hypothesis for health care: the Amish consume very little of it yet are just as healthy as everyone else. Obvious confounders include everything else the Amish do.

    Did you know that the Amish are just as obese as other White Americans?

    Perhaps the difference is Amish DNA.

    Path Dependence In European Development is the seemingly innocuous title of a paper purporting to show that European countries whose royal families had a higher percent male children during the age of monarchy are more prosperous today, supposedly because they had more heirs and so suffered fewer economically destructive wars of succession. It’s very carefully done and even includes an answer to my immediate objection (ie don’t richer people have more sons?). But it contradicts so much else, like the study showing American bombing of Vietnam has already been economically-adjusted away that it’s hard for me to credit too much.

    Here’s my answer to that:

    https://twitter.com/JayMan471/statuses/649032464262918144

    People should really see HBD Chick’s stuff, like her recent post on the pre-1945 differences (like 1,000 years before) East and West Germany:

    eastern germany, medieval manorialism, and (yes) the hajnal line | hbd chick

    Anyway, my big take-home lesson from this study is that people now understand some polygenic traits well enough that we can start doing genetically-informed social science with them. That’s big.

    More or less. Don’t put too much faith in these, yet, though.

    Speaking of things that are something, Polygenic Risk For Alcohol Dependence Associates With Alcohol Consumption, Cognitive Function, And Social Deprivation. The main point being mentioned here is that the reason people in poor areas are more alcoholic might not be because poverty is depressing and makes one turn to drink, it might be entirely genetic. But I’m not sure I get the posited mechanism; is alcohol such a big deal that it in itself makes people live in poor areas? Or is it all the correlations with other traits?

    Bingo.

    Are these because of mutational load, coincidence, or something else?

    We don’t know. I’d bet genetic load.

    Related: The Genetics Of High Intelligence. Short version: it’s additive and polygenic all the way down, and there’s no “special sauce” to unusually high intelligence aside from doing very well in the lottery of genes that determine the normal intelligence range.

    Their definition of “high intelligence” was IQ 130+. Smart, but I’m not sure that’s what people are thinking when then say “high intelligence”. I’d like to know what causes IQ 150+. The “fat tails” phenomenon is no doubt caused by genes of outsized effect.

    Oh, did you know that the E (“unshared environment”) component of IQ has no predictive validity? Fascinating, isn’t it:

    https://twitter.com/KirkegaardEmil/statuses/662219828887973889

    It’s worth mentioning that in my own reader survery, a good bit of the respondents claim their heard of me thanks of my comments here. So here I am.

    Let me leave you with this. Genetic explanations should be your first stop in things, for two simple reasons, from my post on Regression to the Mean:

    Clever people might notice that all of HBD is based on just two concepts: behavioral genetics (or again, more broadly, heritability) and the breeder’s equation. Know those two things and most of the rest follows.

    • Randy M says:

      “Did you know that the Amish are just as obese as other White Americans? ”

      I blame pathogens.
      At this point, that’s serious, unless by Amish you include Amish people living in cities eating and working like most other people, which would just be misleading.

    • Odoacer says:

      You sure you want their opinions? They’re generally not worth much.

      Relevant XKCDs:

      http://xkcd.com/1520/

      https://xkcd.com/435/

      • Slaying horsemen of apocalypse… has anyone noticed that one aspect of poverty is almost perfectly solved even worldwide – that part of being cold in winter because not affording clothes, kids not going to school in winter because not affording shoes… this happened even in developed nations 100 years ago and now it is gone. Today the only way a homeless can freeze is too drunk to not put on the 6 coats he probably owns or not going to the million charities that give him 6 coats.

        Apparently the clothing / shoes industry is doing a good job.

        Which field of science is taking the cred for clothing and shoeing the world apparently well?

        • Peter says:

          Well the coats are probably made of synthetics, so chemistry should get the cred. But no-one pays any attention to chemistry – see the first of the XKCD links. (Note: I’m a chemist. I may be biased.)

          • You may be right. I used to wonder about looking at old pics of barefeet children why were shoes expensive, more than hats or pants. I figure it was the leather.

          • moridinamael says:

            But what would the chemists do without all this OIL, hm?

          • Agronomous says:

            TheDividualist wrote:

            …why were shoes expensive, more than hats or pants. I figure it was the leather.

            Nope; it was the specialized labor. In late-1800s rural America, the shoemaker came around about once a year. In addition to paying him, you fed him and gave him a place to sleep while he made shoes for your family, at the rate of about one pair a day. You provided the leather, and the wood for pegs.

            Until their feet stopped growing too fast, your kids wore moccasins (which you could make at home, like pants).

            Hundred-dollar Nikes have nothing on that. My source (Farmer Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder) also relates how some students physically threatened their teacher, who fended them off with a bullwhip. Nothing new under the sun.

  41. namae nanka says:

    They should have done a study of how many people come upon the third view of gender politics when given data that should be fairly obvious in support of it.

    https://slatestarcodex.com/2015/04/15/trouble-walking-down-the-hallway/#comment-198160

  42. Jordan D. says:

    RE: Corporate Governance

    The history of a corporation’s leadership is much like the history of any state’s leadership; exciting primarily in the breach. I personally found my old Business Associations textbook to be pretty readible due to that focus, and I’ll bet somebody’s written a readible ‘best of’ compilation for the Court of Chancery by now.

    Single-majority companies like Facebook are probably not the highest-value studies, though. Struggles between large plurality shareholders and the forming and dissolution of alliances thereof might be better. In terms of pleasurable and interesting reading, I recommend looking up the case and history behind Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Combined Shows v. Ringling, where two divided families were feuding for control of their fathers’ circus (complete with war, prison, massive fires, betrayals and analysis of stockholder responsibilities).

    You might also enjoy Dodge v. Ford Motor Co. on that point!

    Basically, I just find it kind of weird and interesting to watch dedicated entrepeneurs start tiny companies and, during growth, watch as their own corporation picks up responsibilities and duties and leverage until it practically has its own mind. I think that principle, at least, is very applicable to the toy governments people come up with- no matter what your founding principles, within decades your state is likely to look totally different than you’d imagined.

    • brad says:

      >> Dodge v. Ford Motor Co.

      Interesting but way oversold in terms of precedential value. To a first approximation only Delaware law counts in this area. There are second order impacts from federal law (including SEC administrative rules and rulings). It drops off sharply after that.

      • Jordan D. says:

        But it’s a classic! You’ve gotta read the classics.

      • BBA says:

        I don’t think even Michigan follows the Dodge rule anymore. People cite it a lot but if you know anything about modern investing it makes no sense at all – since when does it conflict with a company’s business purposes to reinvest profits instead of paying dividends? Warren Buffett and Steve Jobs never paid dividends and nobody ever sued them!

        The issue was more that Ford acted in bad faith – his obvious motivation was to prevent the Dodge brothers from using their all-but-promised payout to start a competitor, which of course they did as soon as Ford was forced to pay.

        • Jordan D. says:

          I have never seen it cited for anything but the proposition that you can’t blatantly announce that you’re not fulfilling your company goals because you’d rather do something else. It’s generally accepted that if Ford had not admitted what he was doing, he probably would have gotten away with it (in the short term, anyway).

          I suggested it more as a fun case to read on the topic than for any fundamental precedential value.

  43. Vaniver says:

    CRISPR may be tested on humans to cure rare form of blindness in 2017. I didn’t realize that it could potentially be put in a virus and used on adults. That’s…something.

    I’ve already shaken the hand of the man who used a related technology to grant immunity to HIV in adults. Berkeley, NEJM, medscape.

    My understanding is that how successful this is depends heavily on what exactly you’re trying to rebuild; if the gene is determining how your brain is laid out, for example, then gene editing is worthless once the brain is already built. (Imagine a city planner coming up with a great new layout for a city that’s already built; that’s great, but would require tearing everything down.)

    But if you’ve got something that’s part of daily operation, then editing the genome will adapt how those cells work and be effective. (Imagine changing the fuel used by cars in a city to reduce smog.)

  44. Regarding that second graph in the gender bias post you link, have you Paul Graham’s most recently essay on how he looks for bias in the companies Y Combinator chooses to fund? The idea is that if you have a selection process that’s biased against women then the remaining women will tend to outperform men in subsequent contests. With regard to hiring for faculty positions it might be that there’s a bias for women or it might be that there was some previous filter that disproportionately kept out less qualified women more than less qualified men. Generally I’d say that you ought to be very confident in your abilities to pursue academia these days given all the competition and that a women might have to be relatively more competent, on average, to decide to go down that path. Or it could be hiring for diversity. We could resolve that by having people rate a lot of actual applications that have been gender blinded and see if the women applying really are disproportionately qualified.

    • Interesting. This would suggest to me e.g. the tech firms I saw in the UK are biased against Indians and totally not biased against women, in fact, in favor. Because on the whole the Indians were brighter and more motivated than the Angles, while with women, most were okay but some obviously really foggy brains somehow passed the filter too. In fact, the intersection was the most interesting, the Indian women being so much more hard working and high achieving than the Angle women.

      But then again, how do you even measure performance if you are not some gigantic corporation? The very same grandma who was really poor at understanding an error message or even talking in anything but thick Merseyside Scouse, was really good at explaining it to the other grandma on the other end of the line who was the customer and was talking the same way. In small business everybody wears multiple hats…

    • My sister went to Bolt, Berkeley Law School, in the sixties. Women were about ten percent of the class. One year, of the two top students in the three years, five of the six were women.

      Nowadays, I expect about half the students or a little over are women.

    • The Nybbler says:

      This test only catches a certain type of discrimination: setting the bar higher for women than for men. And it can produce false positives (and negatives) if the pool of companies you choose from is biased in the first place (despite what he says in the first sentence).

      For the first problem, consider a selection process that can be modeled as first applying a test which is correlated with likely success, followed by a test which isn’t correlated with likely success (though the selectors think it is). If the first test is unbiased and the second is biased, then measures of success between the two groups of companies (biased against and biased towards) will not differ compared to what they would have been if there had been no bias.

      For the second problem, consider an unbiased selection process which is uncorrelated with success. Bias in the outcomes of the output will reflect the bias of the potentials of the input; any result is possible.

      More unlikely scenarios are also possible. If the female-founder group has a few outstanding companies and a few poor companies plus a normal distribution in between, while the no-female-founder group has only a normal distribution similar to that of the female founder group (or perhaps spread slightly wider), then a competent and unbiased selection process will result in a higher mean success metric for the female-founder group.

      Contrary to what the essay claims, it simply is not possible to reliably detect bias in selection process by looking at only the output of the process and not the applicant pool.

  45. Journalism professor caught lying. Not sure if amused or totally expected. How long before “journalist” becomes an insult?

    • Sastan says:

      It is already and has been for a long time.

      Old Infantry joke, you find yourself in a lift with Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and a reporter. You have a gun with two bullets, what do you do?

      Answer? Shoot the reporter twice and fight the others hand-to-hand.

      • Tatu Ahponen says:

        Considering the Death-to-America discussions, this clearly means that reporters should do whatever they can to avoid murderous infantrymen who might shoot them at any moment.

  46. Orphan Wilde says:

    Doesn’t China’s current economic plan call for a growth to their services, whereas the last one called for a growth to their industry?

    I mean, I don’t discount crooked accounting as a possibility, but this is explicitly what China’s plan was; grow industry, then let industry settle as they grew services and developed into a post-industrial society. The industrial slump isn’t unexpected; it was part of the plan. Insofar as crooked accounting is in play, it was probably in play during the industrial phase; I doubt it plays a role significantly differently today than it did then.

  47. Stan le Knave says:

    Hi all. Very long time lurker here, dipping my toe in.

    I’m very, very excited about the artificial lighting breakthrough, since I seem very susceptible to having my circadian rhythm influenced by indoor lighting and screens.

    I’m currently experimenting with melatonin, which does a great job of getting me to sleep at a reasonable hour, but seems to leave me groggy in the morning. I suspect this may be due to living in a cold, wet, rainy country and it being the middle of winter. Natural light on demand would be a godsend.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Have you tried ordinary lightboxes yet?

      Also, Eliezer and Brienne have been working on some thing where they up the luminance and get better results than with the normal ones, have you been following that?

      • Stan le Knave says:

        I haven’t actually – I’d heard of them being used for SAD but never connected the dots wrt sleep management.

        I was thinking of the natural lights being present in workplaces or schools rather than conceiving of them as a means of treatment. I may look into lightboxes further. Thanks.

  48. Phil says:

    am I allowed to ask what sort of high school you went to?

    public/private? rough socioeconomic makeup of the school (well off/ middle class/ poor)?

    just out of curiosity, if that’s too personal, or you’d just rather not share, feel free to disregard

  49. iajrz says:

    Hello; just wanted to point out that “Third World” countries are those which didn’t participate in the Cold War. It’d be nice to make a distinction when talking about that or talking about the socio-economic status of a country. “People from developing countries” or “people from poor countries” or from “under-developed” countries, if you will, would better fit the meaning you’re trying to convey. Using the correct terms is useful. Subtle distinctions.

    • E. Harding says:

      I thought the third world was where the Cold War was primarily fought. In any case, I still use the terms to connote countries’ developmental status.

    • Of course correct, but the problem is that there is already a huge emotional load attached to it, e.g. people say “Detroit and parts of Paris look like the third world now” and they don’t say “they look like underdeveloped countries”.

      The problem is that “developing country” is an obvious lie, Zimbabwe or Congo aren’t developing, they are falling apart. Underdeveloped simply suggests they are coming slower, but again it is not true. And even poor does not convey the full horror of the violence and corruption and the fact they were richer when they were colonialized, there were roads built now unmaintained etc. We should call them something like collapsing countries or nearly failed states.

      But fighting such widespread lies is hard and reality tends raise its head sideways, by co-opting a neutral and often unrelated term and gradually giving it a different meaning. So, third world came to mean postcolonial hellhole.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I think at this point this is like insisting that “bachelor” means “knight” rather than “unmarried man”. Yes, some words used to have different meanings, but once everyone has switched to a new one, let it go.

  50. Rocket says:

    Postdoc in an ocular gene therapy lab here, so finally I feel like I actually have something useful to say in the comments section.

    CRISPR can indeed be loaded into viruses and delivered to the retina. Editas do not state what their exact target is, but they mention deleting about 1,000 bases from the CEP290 gene. This would suggest very strongly that they intend to excise the very common cryptic-exon mutation.

    Brief summary: Genes are divided into exons and introns. Exons encode proteins via the standard genetic code, three DNA bases encodes one amino acid. Introns are long sections between exons that do not encode proteins, and in fact get edited out of the final RNA transcript that is used as the blueprint to synthesize the protein. The “cryptic exon” mutation in CEP290 creates a false exon sequence in the middle of a long intron – in other words, a sequence that is the cell interprets as marking the start of the next exon. This means that intron sequence that never was meant to encode protein and that should be skipped over is instead read as an exon and translated into protein garbage – a string of random amino acids that are pasted together until the whole mess mercifully reaches a stop codon and quits. Needless to say this renders the resultant CEP290 protein totally nonfunctional if not actively harmful. (See http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1559533/ )

    This is a very good target for CRISPR. The traditional gene therapy approach is just to deliver viruses carrying genes encoding the missing protein. There are a few problems with this, though: The preferred viral vector for delivering genes to the retina is adeno-associated virus (AAV), which has almost all the properties you want for this job. However, as a tradeoff for it being small and versatile and unlikely to provoke the immune system into a fury of cleansing wrath, it can only carry about ~4.6kb of DNA inside. This sequence has to include not just the entire coding sequence of the gene, but also things like promoters that will recruit the necessary cellular apparatus to transcribe the delivered gene into RNA.

    The problem is that 4.6kb isn’t enough to fit the coding sequence of a lot of genes alone, let alone that plus everything else that’s required. And so even when your gene can fit in AAV, usually only a minimal promoter can be delivered alongside it, which is problematic because the promoter controls when and to what extent a gene is expressed, and the minimal promoter you can squeeze into AAV likely won’t have that kind of fine control and will basically just be an “always-on” switch. Depending on what gene you’re delivering this may be tolerable, but it’s not ideal, especially because you are usually only targeting one cell type, but AAV will often infect several. What are the consequences of expressing some photoreceptor cell protein at high levels in retinal ganglion cells? We don’t know, but we’ll be watching your eyes really closely to find out!

    The CRISPR approach avoids all this: The patient already has an almost-perfect CEP290 gene with all the right promoters and enhancers and so on. The deletion of 1,000 bases in the CEP290 intron will eliminate the fake exon and cause protein translation to skip over this intron and continue again at the next real exon, as it should. This means that even if your AAV hits cells you weren’t targeting, it’s fine, because it will only create the CEP290 gene that most people have anyway. It will still have the native promoters and enhancers and won’t suddenly start expressing CEP290 in a cell that doesn’t want it.

    The ability to fix this problem just by deleting DNA is part of why this situation is so uniquely tailor-made for CRISPR – almost all of the time, the problem is a mutation in an exon, so to fix it you would need to not only excise the mutant section of DNA but replace it with the correct sequence. In the case of the CEP290 intron mutation, you can just nuke the fake exon sequence and everything is fine.

    What’s the downside, though? The problem is that no-one is quite sure how accurate CRISPR is at targeting the sequence you want it to. It looks like it’s very accurate, but this isn’t an area where “almost perfect” fills anyone with confidence. The problem is that cells have lots of genes that control the cell cycle – when they should divide versus when they should stay static or even commit suicide.

    There were early problems with gene therapy because viruses were used that integrated the delivered sequence into the host genome. This caused the problem that sometimes the delivered sequence was airdropped into one of these important regulatory genes, breaking it up and obliterating its function. The consequences of a cell suddenly having one of its primary regulatory systems broken in twain by an unexpected gene are unpleasant – at best, it’ll freak out and apoptose. At worst, it’ll go all-out libertarian now that it’s free of regulatory constraint and start dividing uncontrollably. Your therapy literally just gave someone cancer.

    This problem is largely avoided by the use of AAV – one of the features that make it the golden boy of gene therapy right now is that the DNA it delivers never integrates into the host genome, it just floats around on its own. However, it isn’t hard to see that if CRISPR starts editing the host genome, even a small risk that it will edit the wrong place can become worrying. It might hit the right location 99.9% of the time, and on the occasions when it misses, 99.9% of the time it won’t accidentally land in an important regulatory gene. But the problem with cancers is they all start from one cell, and if you’re hitting a million or ten million cells with your therapy the odds could get a bit unpleasant – it really depends on how many nines CRISPR can pack into those accuracy figures.

    • Nombringer says:

      Just replying to signal my appreciation for a good and insightful post.

      • Paul Tiplady says:

        Same here, very useful!

        • Agronomous says:

          +100

          Also, maybe a new norm on SSC comments could be: once someone posts a purely-appreciative comment (roughly: equivalent to +1), all other purely-appreciative comments should be replies to that one? Then anyone who doesn’t care about +1s can just collapse that subthread (with the hide link at the bottom of each comment).

          Is there a “How to Read SSC Comments” tutorial/FAQ someplace? If not, there should be.

    • Tom Womack says:

      Thanks for a useful and informative post.

      I can see there’s a trade-off where you don’t particularly want a risk of giving people cancer in order to cure their blindness.

      What I don’t understand is why the couple of cases of giving someone with no immune system a form of what I thought was reasonably-treatable leukemia were seen as reasons to stop the gene therapy for missing-immune-system. If the side-effects of treatment for something very likely to be horribly fatal are nasty but capable of being dealt with, why do you stop?

      (that is, a treatment for pancreatic cancer which happened to have a fair chance of curing the pancreatic cancer but giving the patient non-Hodgkin lymphoma would still be a glorious breakthrough; chemotherapeutic agents which are themselves carcinogenic are still used, anthracycline agents which damage the heart muscle in normal usage are still used)

      • Rocket says:

        The severity of the disease for the missing-immune-system SCID patients was the reason the treatment trial was permitted in the first place. But yes, given the choice between living in a bubble forever and taking a gamble on treatable leukemia I would definitely go for the latter.

        I think the situation for SCID is a bit more complex than that, however – a lot of cases are treated by bone marrow transplantation or enzyme supplementation rather than gene therapy. I’m not sure what the exact situation now is.

    • tcd says:

      +1. Thanks for the commentary.

    • J? says:

      Thanks for this post.

      So, what would success in this case tell us about the future applicability of gene therapy? Would good results mean we should expect other safe therapies to be developed, or is this enough of a special case that it wouldn’t generalize?

      • Rocket says:

        I think the deletion approach used by this therapy will not be relevant outside of a few very niche cases. However, it’s possible to use CRISPR to do targeted replacement, not just deletion. Something like that, delivered by virus, would be extremely broadly-applicable, although I suspect people will stick with conventional gene therapies for a while until they’re very sure CRISPR won’t cut unwanted parts of the genome.

        For now, though, this treatment is still at an early stage, whereas other viral gene therapies for retinal disease are very advanced and will be coming out of clinical trials in the next year or two if all goes well. (See, e.g. http://ir.sparktx.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=253900&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=2093863 )

        Still, I’d say good results from this would encourage much more development of CRISPR-based therapies, but I’m a little shaky on the exact details of what’s required to get virally-delivered CRISPR to do replacement rather than deletion, and how feasible that is.

    • Slacklawed says:

      Hi Rocket, excuse me for asking, but I wasn’t sure how often I would run across a comment from someone in an ocular gene therapy lab :-).

      I was wondering if you could comment on whether CRISPR could be applied to other retinal disorders, specifically (Incomplete) X-Linked CSNB. From that page it looks like a relevant mutation is here. Since (I think) that would require not just deleting a sequence, that would make it much harder, correct?

      • Rocket says:

        In theory, yes. CACNA1F is a good example of a gene that isn’t such a good fit for current gene therapy. You can see from your second link that the coding sequence (CDS) is just under 6kb long; too big for AAV.

        However, the “deletion” approach used by Editas isn’t too applicable either – I don’t think there are any known cryptic-exon mutations in CACNA1F, so deletion and replacement would be required. This is definitely something that could be done with CRISPR loaded into AAV, but the usual concerns of target-specificity apply. (In fact, they apply to the Editas therapy too, so I’m very curious to see how they intend to handle them)

        Working in the business though, CSNB is considered a less-severe condition compared to things like retinitis pigmentosa and LCA, and so people may be less willing to take a gamble on treatments that might damage the retina than they would in patients where it was going to degenerate anyway. I suspect that people won’t try CRISPR treatments for CSNB until the safety and specificity issues have been ironed out, but that might happen sooner than you think.

        I tried to find a general summary to go along with this reply, but CRISPR technology is very recent and so there’s very little by way of generally-accessible articles about it. The best I can do is http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4022601/ , but I suspect it’ll be a slog if you don’t have a biology degree.

        • Slacklawed says:

          Awesome, thanks for the response.

          For a mutation that is greater than 4.6 kB, could it be split into 2? Just have 50% CRISPR with sequence 1 and 50% with sequence 2? I guess this increases risk of mis-targeting.

          • Rocket says:

            Oops, sorry, I should clarify. Lots of genes are larger than 4.6kb, but very few mutations are. In most cases, disease-causing mutations are a replacement of one DNA base by another, or an insertion or deletion of a small (single-digit) number of bases. Think of it like a paragraph of text with only a single letter changed – CRISPR can deliver a fix just to the small mutant region without needing the whole gene sequence.

            Normal viral gene therapies deliver a whole new gene, complete with promoters and so on, that doesn’t integrate with or interact with the main genome, so it can only deliver genes small enough to fit in AAV.

            CRISPR can target genes of every size, as long as the mutation itself is sufficiently-small, which it almost always will be. But the CRISPR approach may come with constraints of its own – in particular, I’d say it’s very likely that certain CRISPR target sequences are more likely to hit unwanted sites than others. This would be particularly likely if there were multiple regions in the genome that have similar sequences to the target site.

            A second limitation for CRISPR is that it would by nature be less universally-applicable than a viral gene therapy, since it would have to be targeted to a specific mutation rather than a specific gene, and most retinal disease genes have multiple reported mutations that can cause disease. Standard viral gene therapy is “mutation-independent” because it just drops in a full replacement gene, but CRISPR is not, and so you’d need a different CRISPR therapeutic for each mutation.

            I think that this will be the biggest obstacle for CRISPR, since different mutations in the same gene would require completely different CRISPR target sequences and therefore potentially have completely different risks of hitting unwanted targets. Regulatory approval would be a major, major hassle here, particularly since novel mutations are turning up all the time, and so in an ideal world you would want your treatment to just be a generic CRISPR delivery mechanism that you could load with the relevant target and replacement sequence for your patient’s particular mutation. In practice though, a fill-in-the-blank therapeutic like that would require a whole new regulatory structure.

            There are a few ways this problem could be avoided. Editas avoid this issue by focusing on one common mutation in CEP290, and maybe we’ll see a few other CRISPR treatments along those lines that focus on single, common mutations.

            In theory, you could make an arsenal of CRISPR vectors targeted to all the common mutations in a gene, and then just select the appropriate one for each patient, but in practice, the costs of taking each of those through clinical trials individually would be prohibitive, and the size of the market for any single one would be tiny.

            You could make a pool of multiple CRISPR vectors that would target all the common mutations and register that pool as your therapeutic, to avoid doing multiple clinical trials, but the risk of unwanted targets getting hit would be magnified substantially over a single CRISPR vector.

            I think we will be seeing more CRISPR treatments for sure, but whether it becomes a revolution that completely supplants standard gene therapies, or whether it remains a niche option that is only used when the nicer options are unavailable, depends a lot on how bad the unwanted-target effect turns out to be, and whether regulators will accept a “platform” therapeutic designed to be customized to each patient.

            I don’t mean too sound too angry-libertarian here – regulators might not be entirely unreasonable to reject a customizable-target therapeutic, despite its potential, particularly if some CRISPR target sequences cause unwanted-target damage and some don’t, and doubly so if predicting which are which ahead of time is anything less than perfectly-accurate.

  51. Tatu Ahponen says:

    Generally, people don’t move to other countries because of “political, legal, and social institutions”, it’s because of well-paying jobs, reasons of love or because their former home countries are becoming too dangerous for them to live. (These can well be combined – it’s perfectly possible for someone to eagerly want to escape their war-torn country and make judgments on where to move on the basis of where they might be able to obtain jobs, etc.) Now, the institutions, of course, affect these things, but saying that just replicating them piecemeal in some other country would fix the need for migration is, well, silly.

    Also, of course, the problem with imperialism is that the imperialist countries did not do their imperialism to benefit the local populations of the conquered countries but to benefit the motherland. Quite an important point, that one.

    Likewise, if you look at the actual structures of imperialism, one feature was that the governing structures affecting the daily lives of the conquered countries generally remained the same – you were still ruled by the same princes and tribal leaders as before, those leaders just professed fealty to some country in Europe and that country, in turn, would attempt to construct, on top of it all, an administrative network and infrastructure necessary for extracting some resources, getting products on the market and extending military reach. Decolonization often meant that this artificial entity built on top of the historical structures was transferred to an independent state (though without a large part of the old administrative personnel). In India, the process of getting rid of all the principalities and other such entities and building a modern state was not done by the British but by the independent Indian government.

    Incidentally, at least in 2000, the main emigration destination from Nigeria, the country whose institutions Nigerians were voting for with their feet was… uh, Sudan. http://publications.iom.int/system/files/pdf/nigeria_profile_2009.pdf

    • No, it was mostly an idealistic project to help third world people, making money was secondary and usually it was losing money.

      Liberalism wasn’t invented yesterday. Liberal Imperialism was a thing. The very same kind of people who today worry about the third world and donate to mosquito nets wanted to help them back then, just in a more hands-on way. Cromer, who ran Egypt, was basically the same kind of idealist as Obama, manufactured by similar universities.

      It was as Progressive as it gets, the whole thing, the whole ideas, personalities, attitudes, you could basically put Hillary in a time machine and in charge of Rhodesia and they wouldn’t notice the difference. The difference is that there was no shyness about using force and paternalism for their own good, and of course open racism, so basically it was like the brown man must be forced to do / have essentially the same things the white man does voluntarily, go to school, go to hospital, follow the law, build railroad etc.

      Condescending and coercive, but the spirit was unmistakeably the same kind of “let’s help the poor people” spirit as todays worriers about the third world project, just it was called Liberal Imperialism and today it is Liberal Internationalism, so coercion was removed from it and condescension became more hidden. (Still there, of course. The basic liberal idea that when rednecks fondle snakes they are idiots but when haitians sacrifice roosters to the gods that is culture and it is to be respeccted suggests the deeply buried idea that being stupid is normal for everybody but whites.)

      Anyhow:

      http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,866343,00.html

      http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1713275,00.html

      If anything, it was a failure of playing philosopher kings in a liberal fashion. http://www.city-journal.org/html/13_2_oh_to_be.html

      • Nicholas Carter says:

        I suppose the reason I can’t say I agree is because the only colony I know of that the British gave up was India, which they did because India was no longer profitable, not because India had been perfected. The Germans, Spanish, and Portuguese in their turns definitely had mercantilist ambitions.
        I think the thing to remember is that your points are also correct: Imperialism in its century was a bi-partisan good, like commercial space flight or internet services, with no real disagreement between doing it for love and doing it for money.

        • Being a too nice guy and getting defeated counts as giving up if you could have won by hitting hard and I don’t mean it trading cruelty for dominance, it is trading one time swift cruelty that makes it over vs. the lower level ongoing cruelty that ultimately mounted up in casualties and victims. The core problem beyond Progs is the goddam British sporting spirit of equal matches, which prolonged bloodshed.

          I mean, just a thought example. 10 people are getting taken hostage by terrorists. They make demands, do X or we will kill 5 people. What do you do? Me: take their moms / whole family hostage and and say OK you kill 5 we kill 5. This is the perfect tribal logic. This has a very good chance of not getting anyone killed and thus consequentially being very ethical. For a utilitarian, an outcome with nobody killed IS GOOD no matter how nasty it looks. What matters how nasty it IS. And it works because humans are tribal. But can you imagine this? How it would have looked in the press? Progs would have had a field day in denouncing those bad, bad evil guys who would kill an innocent old lady just because his son is a terrorist.

          But not doing this counts as giving up. They were trying to look good, not win, not even work hard on minimalizing human deaths.

          • “Being a too nice guy and getting defeated counts as giving up if you could have won by hitting hard ”

            Won what? If you have an idealistic project, then giving up your ideals is giving up?

          • @TheAncientGeek

            Idealistic goals vs. idealistic methods. Punishment does not imply the lack of caring and love and all that.

          • I think you need to explain a bit more about how you bomb people into niceness. Do not use a loose analogy with interpersonal relationships. in your answer.

          • Nicholas says:

            And when the terrorists kidnap ten more people and say “you kill 5 we kill 10.”? What then, do you just keep upping the stakes until somebody blinks?
            Or when the terrorists say “Fine, the apocalypse is coming in two years anyway; killing my mother merely sends her to paradise.”?

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            You can hold off on dealing with terrorism beyond local prevention altogether and try to make sure the toxoplasma does not spread by being generally kind. This presupposes anger and the desire for revenge do not exist.

            Alternatively, you can retaliate harshly. ‘You kill five we kill ten’ may seem like a bad deal, but given the immense advantage the western world has over any terrorist group, such is a struggle it would win. Even so, this strategy presupposes that all evildoers can be killed.

            Which one is better isn’t very clear to me at all, but the half-assing between both we do certainly doesn’t help much.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            And when the terrorists kidnap ten more people and say “you kill 5 we kill 10.”? What then, do you just keep upping the stakes until somebody blinks?
            Or when the terrorists say “Fine, the apocalypse is coming in two years anyway; killing my mother merely sends her to paradise.”?

            According to the Soviets, you castrate their leader’s brother and mail him the dismembered organ:

            https://www.chroniclesmagazine.org/how-to-deal-with-hostage-takers-soviet-lessons/

          • James Picone says:

            Sure hope the terrorist you’re negotiating with doesn’t escalate that one, too.

      • Kipling’s poem “The White Man’s Burden” was explicitly along the lines described. It was directed to the U.S., urging the Americans to do for the Philippines what Kipling felt the British had been doing for their colonies.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_White_Man's_Burden#Poem

      • Tatu Ahponen says:

        Yes, people had many different motives. It was quite possible for someone to simultaneously advocate “civilizing the savages” and to justify imperialism on the basis of markets and power projection (and various inter-European status games, which were considered something that states would gladly lose money for, at least if the states is what is being referered to). That doesn’t remove the latter two motives by the slightest, though.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I think what I mean by good political and social institutions are “the sorts of institutions that create good jobs and stable war-free environment”.

  52. How does this have no hamilton content?!?

  53. Don’t want to comment on a year old article, but it was linked here, so:

    >The principal-agent problem is at the center of a lot of different things, so it’s really interesting to think of something as humble and unassuming as the joint-stock corporation as having in some sense solved it.

    Why do I have the impression that innovation comes from corporations that are owned by the CEO, like Apple or Google, and the shareholders hiring an employee CEO tends to lead not visionary new products, increasing sales, but to cost-cutting and a longer term downward spiral? Am I wrong here?

    I mean, the trick about making sales is that you don’t think about making sales, you think about pleasing customers. So some dude who has an idea of how to please a group of customers starts a new business, fine. Invests a better mousetrap, starts a business. He is interested in the moustrap, not profitability as such. He is like Ayn Rands civil engineer who does not build houses for the customers sake. He wants to build, and needs customers for financing it.

    But the hired CEO is not a product expert or customer group but a profitability expert. He keeps thinking about profitability. As sales can only be increased basically by magic (not entirely predictable or reliable methods, you need to have creative ideas, it is not a process), but cost cuts have obvious direct benefits. Announce a lay-off and the stock prices goes up. But it has detrimental long-term effects as now everybody not laid off hates the business, feels no loyalty to it, morale is lower and so on.

    I am by no means Objectivist, but I think Rand was hinting at something like this, and was right about this. Hire a CEO, and he wants to build houses for customers for profit. But a real entrepreneur simply loves building houses and just needs customers to finance his passion. And that ends up making building better houses and better long-term profitability, so it is paradoxical.

    There is a principal-agent problem after all, then. If the best business is the work of love of the owner, if Steve Jobs dies and you hire an employee CEO, you could of course find a guy with the same passion and not some profitability expert. But how do you reward and motivate him? The whole point is that the owners reward is OWNING that thing that does the thing loves, and making money is secondary. This cannot really be simulated, so you motivate your employee CEO with a cash bonus and it is really not the same. So he will be more hungry to kill costs and suchlike.

    It is a huge misunderstanding that capitalism as an engine is ran on paying cash to people who do good things. It is ran on the joy of property ownership. I invest work to make my garden pretty not because it is bringing me profits: but merely because it is mine. So, in a way, part of me, part of my identity. I would not invest work to a public owned garden as I don’t identify with it (unless family/tribe owned) and if someone just paid me cash to make his garden pretty is not the same thing really.

    We need a structure where everybody is self-employed yet the corporate style efficiency works. Imagine every employee is a subcontractor in a company. Ignore things like capital or tools. Assume it is a software company and everybody works from home and the owner owns nothing, basically just the intellectual property of the software and the profits he is getting. Assume for the sake of argument that that IP is not a lasting capital, they make tiny phone games that sell for a year and then not and then owning the IP for that one does not worth much. In this structure, the only real asset the owner owns and makes him money is the trust of his subcontractors who accept his coordinating role. The stock price just reflects this. Then he dies and his heirs inherit a bunch of stocks. But the only actually valuable asset is the trust of the subcontractors. Most likely they break up and the stocks become worthless, or – and now comes the trick – they hire some guy who is similarly trusted by the subcontractors, who promptly decides to quit, and every subcontractor quits, and the original stocks the heirs own are now worthless. And the boss and the subcontractors they form the same corporation again under a new name, but in the new one the new coordinator owns it now. So ownership automatically follows leadership. Would this make some sort of a sense?

    • Harald K says:

      Why do I have the impression that innovation comes from corporations that are owned by the CEO, like Apple or Google, and the shareholders hiring an employee CEO tends to lead not visionary new products, increasing sales, but to cost-cutting and a longer term downward spiral? Am I wrong here?

      You may not be entirely wrong. Via twitter I saw a report about the money currently in pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, asset management funds, they estimate it to be more than 60 trillion dollars, nearly same as global GDP.

      Marc Andreessen commented on that, and said

      The $60T question: Are there $60T worth of investable opportunities globally? Not by a long shot.

      If there is such an immense, unsatisfied demand for safe assets, it’s not surprising that investors drive companies towards crippling caution.

      And that’s just pension funds, cautious by mandate. But immensely rich individual investors also have very little reason to take chances. With very modest assumptions, such as diminishing returns on money, risks is something you should take when you’re doing badly, not when you’re already a billionaire. People like Steve Jobs are arguably irrational freaks – immensely rich and privileged and winning the game, yet acting out and playing high like they were desperados from the ghetto.

      Yet in a world full of rich people playing it safe, it also makes sense that the real success stories should be from the small pool of people who were both rich and yet took stupid chances, out of some insatiable need to prove themselves or god knows what. That’s really no reason to celebrate them, any more than we should celebrate poor people who win the lottery.

      • It is an interesting idea to think it is courage, not smarts, but I think courage is a virtue and I think it should be respected. In fact, imagining Steve Jobs as some kind of high-T balls of steel alpha, which never occured to me, I thought he was always just a smart geek, has appeal to me, I can respect that even more. I mean the desperado from the ghetto attitude is such a perfect description of ideal masculinity, it sounds like the title of an action movie with a lots of gunplay and car chases. And it would even explain why the majority of the tech leaders is male, women can be just as smart but often less brave because there is less respect they get for bravery, there is less of this adolescent boy social pressure to show off you aren’t chicken.

    • Maware says:

      The irony is that neither Apple or Google innovate. A good example is the Chromebook. The French company Jolicloud actually predated chrome OS if I recall, and were showing how to put it on laptops. Google just iterated on that idea and had the muscle to make it mainstream.

      Apple just puts their good industrial design on standard ideas. The original Imac wasn’t unique at all: Compaq released similar all in one PCs predating it, and it was a big windows trend. It’s just wow, multicolored inserts. Plenty of MP3 players predated the ipod.

      Usually small companies innovate, big companies just iterate

      • Urstoff says:

        Big companies that have independent research firms that act like small companies (such as Bell Labs or Xerox Labs in their respective heydays) also innovate; Google, Apple, or MS don’t have anything like that, do they?

        • Nornagest says:

          Google and Microsoft both have active research divisions, though they might not be organized much like Bell Labs was. Microsoft in particular is infamous for generating lots of really good research and then failing to leverage it effectively, or at all.

          I don’t know as much about Apple’s internals.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Google Research, like Bell Labs, produced a lot of research that was useful to the company, but not visible to the consumer. Both companies are big consumers of technology. Research on new products has a much worse track record.

            Apple’s corporate statements say that they spend very little money on research. They haven’t had a research division since Jobs returned. Of course, they also spend little on marketing. They seem to be much more effective in all of their spending than their competitors.

      • nydwracu says:

        Plenty of mp3 players predated the iPod, and the iPod stood up terribly compared to them — you need a special program to use the thing, you can’t get files off it once you put them on it, and so on. Earlier mp3 players, at least the ones that I saw, were USB drives with tiny screens and headphone jacks and nothing more.

        But if you have that special program, you can buy music in it, which is great if you don’t want/know how to pirate music, but once you buy music in it, that music is (was) locked into that ecosystem, so you couldn’t put it on one of the USB drives with headphone jacks.

        Apple’s attraction has always been: “we’ll give you something that’s slightly more convenient than the alternative, but once you accept it, you’re locked completely into our system, and you’re too stupid or lazy to care.”

        • brad says:

          But the IPods had tiny rotational hard drives in them instead of flash drives. That made them relatively power hungry, fragile, and prone to skipping but it also meant a much higher capacity than their flash based competitors.

          I vaguely remember that there were other mp3 players with hard drives but for whatever reason none of them took off.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            The hard-drive mp3 players that pre-dated the ipod had much bigger hard drives, thus much bigger devices. Toshiba created a mini hard drive that no one wanted, but Apple thought it would be good in an mp3 player and bought out the whole supply for several years.

          • nydwracu says:

            Right, forgot about that, mine was a Nano — so 8gb instead of 80.

        • Nornagest says:

          A big flaw of that business model is that it doesn’t allow for incremental purchases very well; locking you in to the Apple ecosystem also locks you out if you’re considering a purchase but don’t have the infrastructure it expects.

          I mostly use the PC/Android ecosystem for consumer-level stuff, along with some Linux for development (I have a dual-boot Macbook but I hardly ever use the Mac partition); but I also have an iPad, which I received as a Christmas gift from a more Apple-aligned relative. It makes a pretty good Internet terminal and Kindle substitute, but moving files (above email sizes) on and off it is exceptionally annoying, which cripples its potential to do a lot of the stuff I might be using it for. I don’t think I’ll be buying the iPhone anytime soon, even now that they’ve built a model sized for my freakish gorilla hands.

          • Anthony says:

            locking you in to the Apple ecosystem also locks you out if you’re considering a purchase but don’t have the infrastructure it expects.

            That’s a mistake they didn’t make with the iPod – I used mine with a Windows computer and it worked great.

        • Deiseach says:

          Not so much “you’re too stupid/lazy to care” as that Apple very cleverly designed its marketing round the notion of exclusivity.

          PCs running Windows are for the clods and thickos and mundanes who know nothing about computing past “how to switch it on” (and maybe not even that).

          Macs and Apple are for the cool types who don’t need to be hand-held, know what they’re doing, and can probably program and customise to their heart’s content.

          Or for those who want the aura of that. They also used the idea of sleek and explicit design as a way to signal “good taste, style, cutting-edge” (and probably most importantly “pulling down enough money to afford pricey toys but not crassly boasting about how well-off they are”).

          Think of the “I’m a PC, I’m a Mac” ads – they started off with perhaps not precisely mockery but certainly the idea that the aspirational figure was the guy playing the Mac, and the PC was the slightly dorky, slightly frumpy, slightly stupid and overwhelmed guy in the cheap office outfit of suit coat and trousers who futzed around trying to do more than he could handle with inadequate resources versus the programmer-styled guy (not wearing office wear so not a cubicle drone, better-looking if you consider that handsome, cool and competent in an understated, chill way).

          Macs are for Jez and Quin 🙂

          (For the record: I’m a PC. Frumpy, dumpy, slightly thick and rather overwhelmed, that’s me!)

          • Nornagest says:

            Apple’s marketing is definitely working an aspirational angle, but I think you’ve got the type of aspirational wrong. Macs, and Apple hardware in general, are hostile to customization beyond the level of choosing your desktop background; they’re designed and marketed as systems for people who are too cool and too busy to screw around with configuration (that’s for IT drones and high school computer nerds), and want something that Just Works. They are not marketed as systems for programmers; they’re marketed as systems for creatives and people who want to think of themselves as creative.

            To the target audience of the “I’m a Mac, and I’m a PC” ads, the PC guy would look more like an archetypal programmer — incorrectly, unless we’re talking about older programmers at old-school companies like IBM, but that’s well beside the point. The Mac’s geek-chic aesthetics are intended to be read as something in the hipster spectrum, probably technical-adjacent (DJ or graphic designer, f’rex) but not actually technical.

            (Mac OS X is built on top of a POSIX-compliant kernel and utilities, and is in fact a pretty good system for development and even some light server work. It’s popular among engineers, for that reason among others. But that’s unusual for products in the Apple stable, and has only been true for about a decade anyway.)

    • RE: 60 Trillion in assets. That’s somewhat how money is created. Equity is a form of debt.

      Imagine there are no public companies and everything is investing wisely. Then each company goes public. Now all of a sudden there is a huge amount of assets that appear out of nowhere since the value of each company is now an asset. There is where the $60 Trillion is.

      • Nornagest says:

        Equity and debt are distinctly different things in finance-speak. I’m not an expert here, but my understanding of the difference is that equity gives you a permanent stake in an entity, while debt entitles you only until the debt’s paid off.

  54. Harald K says:

    “how exactly does it help to take an option away from poor people while giving them nothing in return?”

    There is a really obvious answer to this question. What options you have, factor into other people’s expectations, and other people’s expectations matter a lot for your outcomes (and what options they will give you). For instance, a law saying that you have to take any job offered to you in order to qualify for unemployment benefits has rather unfortunate implications in jurisdictions where prostitution is legal.

    To me it seems obvious payday loans make the poor worse off in exactly this manner. Their availability means that other people who make decisions that affect the poor can wash their hands of responsibility. Debt is in general a terrific instrument to push the idea that desperate people deserve their desperation (did you read David Graeber, Scott?).

    • Interestingly, Graeber’s idea is one of the few far-left (he is anarchist and Marxism-sympathizer sort of) economic ideas that are actually solid. Usury was considered unnatural by Aristotle, a huge sin by the church and Chestebelloc explained in modern terms what is wrong with it http://oldthunderbelloc.blogspot.com/2014/01/on-usury.html so if a man wants to be really consistently conservative, oldschool, reactionary, right-wing as I want to do, not picking and choosing like a cafeteria reactionary but really trusting all of old wisdom more than my stupid brain, I have to be against usury, there is no other way. And that really plays difficultly with me otherwise finding free market capitalism an okay idea. And yes, the first 5000 years reads like something like Chesterton could write about the history of usury. (There is of course this distinctly left-wing smell of over-optimism it like suggesting we could return to a gift economy, forgetting it is something tribal, for a society of relatives, not strangers who don’t trust each other and so on, but anyway it is a history book with only hints at the present.)

      I just wish he would call it usury, not debt. Why not signal agreeableness to conservative readers?

      • Randy M says:

        Someone (Irenist?) recently here wrote about usury, in that is was not so much about rates but purpose. Loans for recurring expenses are usuary, loans for production not.
        This makes it easier to swallow, but not much more practical to implement in modern day.
        It is a way one can try to live personally, though, and I resent when people imply one is harming the economy by not being in debt up to his credit limit.

        • Can’t believe I am writing this, but the modern world has Islamic Banking.

          • Randy M says:

            I don’t mean to say the modern world could run this way; that’s an open question. I mean to say that there is a whole lot of people with a vested interest in the current system, not to mention influence, for the idea to ever have hope of gaining traction as a law or custom, even if it cured poverty, and cancer to boot.

        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          @ Randy M:

          Loans for “recurring expenses”, if by that you mean consumption spending, may be immoral if it is done knowingly. It is also stupid and unprofitable.

          If you loan money to someone to buy malt liquor and cigarettes, you’re not going to that money back. If the person had a well-paying job, he could buy malt liquor and cigarettes himself. Where is he going to get the money to pay you for them, plus your “outrageous” interest?

          On the other hand, if due to unexpected expenses you just don’t have the funds to pay for gas this week, a “payday loan” may be just what you need to prevent you from being fired for not showing up. Thus, this is a productive loan that more than makes up for its cost in interest.

          Nevertheless, it is easy to see the basic reason why “payday loans” have such high rates of interest. They are unsecured, and a great many people don’t pay them back. So they must charge the non-deadbeats a rate sufficient to make up for the deadbeats. Of course, it is therefore in the utmost interest of the non-deadbeats to distinguish themselves as much as possible (and of the lenders to help them do so; they don’t want to lend to people who will not pay them back). And I am all for reforms that will make “payday loans” accessible for big banks.

          As for being criticized for harming the economy by not being in debt, that is obviously ridiculous and no one with any understanding of sound economics would think that. Nevertheless, it is a relatively common view in a certain form. The usual error is to think of consumption as somehow constituting wealth, or that the measure of a country’s wealth is how much it consumes. That is completely backwards.

          All economic production is for the eventual purpose of consumption. But wealth is the amount that one could potentially consume, and productivity represents the amount by which one increases the amount that could potentially be consumed. Clearly, then, those people will be wealthiest and most productive (on net) who produce as much as they can and consume as little as they can. In other words, Scrooges. The same applies to an economy: it will grow wealthy insofar as it produces capital goods for future production, rather than on producing consumption goods for the present.

          This is common sense, but it is frequently denied by people who have never read Bastiat. So you get people talking about how a frivolous millionaire’s purchase of a Ferrari nevertheless “helps the economy”. And, of course, the court priests of Keynesianism love to use it as an excuse for government spending of any kind. (These people have read Bastiat, but they think that the economy is somehow permanently in a state of general overproduction, which I don’t think even Keynes himself believed.)

          • Austrian vs. Keynes, Say Law, suppy-side vs. demand-side. I am still on the fence with it, largely because Austrian means Whig and the first Whig was the Devil, so gimme some Old Tory economics, but certainly Keynes and Marx were Whigger so bigger devils, so I lean towards the Austrian explanation, but not fully convinced.

            Perhaps – can you explain export driven boom after WW2? Like how South Korea got prosperous on exporting to rebuilding bombed down Japan? Or Sweden and the USA cashed in on rebuilding bombed down Germany? Surely sometimes finding demand and consumption abroad is helpful? But how? Those poor bombed down countries had no real tangible goods to export in return in the short run as they were focusing on rebuilding, just pieces of paper with DM or Yen written on it. And those were in the short run useless, only later on can they be exchanged for Mercedes and Toyota cars. But the export driven boom was before that! The export boom happened while all they got in return was these pieces of paper!

            A deeper problem is that the customers of economists used to buy explanations for how countries get rich, and from the Great Depression the customers of economists want to buy explanations how unemployment can be low…

          • Randy M says:

            “can you explain export driven boom after WW2?”
            Maybe it was due to a shift from war footing to consumer goods? Also the labor force went from every able bodied man (military) plus all that was needed to run factories, shipping, etc at home, to … I don’t know, presumably somewhat less and also radically different.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “Like how South Korea got prosperous on exporting to rebuilding bombed down Japan? ”

            They are exporting consumer goods and using the money they earn to import capital goods.

            ” Or Sweden and the USA cashed in on rebuilding bombed down Germany? ”

            The US didn’t really cash in on rebuilding Germany; exports as a percentage of American GDP has always been low. I think that is more the 1945-1970 (and the advantage of Germany being bombed out is now everyone buys your cars/machine tools/etc because the Germans can’t match you so your export firms have a higher rate of profit).

        • Irenist says:

          @Randy M:
          I don’t recall writing about usury here (which doesn’t mean I didn’t), but here are some usury links anyway:

          https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/usury-faq-or-money-on-the-pill/

          http://distributism.blogspot.com/search/label/Usury

          Enjoy!

          • Randy M says:

            Yes, I think it was from Zippy that I got the distinction; apologies, all you internet traditional catholics look alike to me.

      • Vox Imperatoris says:

        Belloc’s essay on usury is pure sophistry.

        Currency is, in itself, “unproductive”, but interest is charged upon money that is lent out because, in the context of a growing economy, currency—which represents a claim to a share of that economy—is productive. One can always invest money in some venture or other and produce a certain rate of return. One charges a borrower for the privilege of using one’s money because, in letting him do so, one foregoes the natural rate of return which one could otherwise earn with that money.

        Secondly and obviously, interest is charged not merely upon loans which are profitable but also upon those that are unprofitable because the lender faces a real risk of non-repayment. And if he cared to thoroughly investigate the business in question to determine whether it would be profitable, he would not be a lender but an investor. But if we only had investors and not lenders, the overall supply of capital to business would be heavily restricted and growth would be much slower.

        Also, Islamic banking is a complete fraud. It basically works by the same principles “Christian banking” used in the Middle Ages to hide the fact that it charges interest. For example (in the case of the Christians), lending out money in one currency and demanding repayment in another and at an above-market exchange rate.

        • Chalid says:

          if he cared to thoroughly investigate the business in question to determine whether it would be profitable, he would not be a lender but an investor

          Sorry for the nitpick, but.. what?

          I think you’re confusing the type of investment with the typical scale. Your typical bank lending to an individual starting a small business doesn’t do much research because the sums of money involved aren’t big enough to justify paying someone to do the research. But you can bet that when a corporation launches a $500 million bond issue its finances are very heavily scrutinized by the buyers.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Of course banks buying a huge corporate bond are going to investigate the company to make reasonably certain they will be paid back. You don’t want to lend money to a company which will default.

            Nevertheless, the same essential distinction applies. If you buy $500 million worth of Exxon stock, you must think the company will grow in value. On the other hand, if you buy a $500 million Exxon bond, you need only think that they will be sufficiently sound to repay it on time.

            There is a huge difference in the level of risk you are taking and the level of confidence required about the company’s value.

          • Chalid says:

            Sure, any idiot can see that Exxon is very likely to pay off its debts. But does that mean that lending to it at the prevailing rate of interest is a good idea? That’s at least as hard to figure out as whether its a good idea to buy its stock.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Chalid:

            I don’t mean to imply that it’s in any way trivial for a major bank to decide the most profitable way to invest and manage its money.

            But given that they want to hold money in a bond with a very low degree of risk (and consequently low reward), pretty much any AAA bond (like Exxon) is going to be the same for them. That’s the point of the ratings. They simply tell you how likely the company is to pay you back.

            So, given the fact that you know you want a certain consistent rate of return, it is much easier to tell you exactly what grade of bonds to buy than to tell you what stocks to buy. In fact, the efficient markets hypothesis says that it’s impossible to tell you what stocks to buy.

          • Chalid says:

            Sure, short term bonds from very high quality companies are basically cash equivalents. And if you want a small, safe return, then very high-grade bonds are a good way to go. But there are only a handful of AAA companies (e.g. 3 from S&P) so this is hardly representative of the debt market as a whole.

            I’ll grant that there exist debts for which not a lot of analysis is required. But the same goes for equities. A regulated utility doesn’t take much analysis to understand.

            In general, I have the impression that debt investors do *more* research than equity investors, because in addition to understanding the future cash flows and the like which equity investors have to understand, they also have to understand the company’s capital structure, the timing of cash flows, the fine print on loan covenants, and so on.

        • Maxime Rodinson, in _Islam and Capitalism_, describes one of the legal devices used by Muslims to evade the usury prohibition which was copied by the Christians, retaining its Arabic name.

        • >But if we only had investors and not lenders, the overall supply of capital to business would be heavily restricted and growth would be much slower.

          In this I think “Austrians” have a good argument. Too much capital / growth can totally mean investing in stupid things. It is better if firms have to compete a bit hard for investment, so only good ideas get investment. If there is so much capital sloshing around that any idiot can get investment, well.

          The problem is this ultimately makes real resources wasted on bad projects.

          Same deal as with inflation.

          I have wonderful anecdotal accounts from hyperinflation period of Weimar. Investors basically begged anyone to take their money as it became quickly worthless. So the craziest businesses happened. Three bohemian drunk students who could hardly even be interns at a real magazine start a newpicture magazine – rent a whole office building, hire a dozen people… capital was thrown on them. Two retired generals figure they will export pencils – they know nothing about pencils or exporting but people gotta write, right? Capital got thrown on them. And of course it led to the terribly inefficient use of the real resources this money bought.

          So basically it is better to get capital investment a big tight – to ensure only good ideas get financed enough to be able to use real resources.

          Understand that when someone throws ten millions at an idiotic idea, it is not only his loss. This gets spent e.g. on salaries. If the investment would not be done, those people would work on something better. Those offices were rented for a better purpose. And so on.

      • Alrenous says:

        Aristotle is incorrect on this. Interest is the fact that future money is worth less than present money. It is most natural. Hyperbolic discounting, present value of future consumption, downside risks, etc.

        The problem is that an awful lot of people are not good credit risks. Easily half, maybe a bit less, maybe as much as 90%. They simply aren’t responsible enough. Given access to credit they will harm themselves. In the presence of debtor’s prison and other draconian penalties, they say ‘it can’t happen to me’ due to coarse probability cognition, so the penalties only amplify the inevitable disaster.

        A humane left-wing society would deal with it like this: “No no-credit shaming.” Licenses to take out loans would be strictly constrained. It would perhaps re-target the shaming onto loans not intended to be invested and profited from.

        A humane right-wing society would bring back modified serfdom. The lord would take out loans on behalf of the serfs, if in their judgement it was warranted. Similarly the lord would set the terms of the serf’s repayment and enforce them. Manors would be no larger than 150 to unify legal responsibility with social and personal responsibility. (The opposite of bureaucracy.) (There’s no reason manors still need to be geographically contiguous.) (Exit still applies – serfs need to be allowed to choose their lord.)

        • Randy M says:

          Is someone isn’t rational/disciplined enough to choose whether or not to borrow money, are they rational/disciplined enough to choose an agent to determine that?

          • Alrenous says:

            Unfortunately, they don’t have a choice. Choice of sovereign or leader cannot be outsourced. Ultimate control of the body always resides in the associated brain, and said brain must continuously choose obedience or submission over the alternative.

            Proximate manifestation: if agent choice is coerced, then their life will be run for the benefit of the agent, not themselves, as public choice theory is true. This system is not stable. Even if the plebs aren’t predisposed to rebellion, sooner or later a rabble-rouser will come along and exploit the exploitation to raise a rabble.

        • Nicholas says:

          It’s important to note that, historically, Aristotle lived in an economy that had not grown at all for several decades and in that specific scenario it makes sense to ban interest, because negative growth creates a disinflationary environment in which future money is worth more, not less than current money.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            No, that doesn’t make sense at all.

            First of all, a decrease in economic growth does not cause money to be worth more; it does the opposite! It causes money to be worth less!

            The price of a good is equal to the (nominal) amount spent for it divided by the quantity purchased. (Price = Spending/Quantity) The general price level is equal to aggregate (nominal) spending divided by quantity of goods. (Or, Price = Demand/Supply)

            The price level can go up either because there is more (nominal) spending or fewer goods. Conversely, it can go down either because there is less spending or more goods.

            And as the price level goes up, necessarily the value of a given quantity of money goes down. (It’s two ways of saying the same thing.)

            So, in an environment of fixed total spending (i.e. nominal aggregate demand), wars, famines, and such are inflationary with respect to prices and the value of money! Economic growth is naturally deflationary (but this is not “bad deflation” of the type caused by decreases in nominal spending, mainly because it doesn’t have the same effects on creditors vs. debtors).

            So if you expect economic disaster to come, you should not hoard up money. You should hoard goods! They will be worth more, and the money will be worth less. I think that is coherent with common sense.

            Consequently, there would be no need to discourage people from accumulating money. They would be all too eager to get rid of their money!

            Moreover, would you want to lend out money if you expected economic disaster? Obviously not! The money you will be paid back with in the future will be worth less. Better to keep your money and spend it now on goods to hoard up.

            If the economy is not actually shrinking but simply growing at a lesser rate, all of this still holds but to a lesser degree of severity.

            Also, I must say that your point is illogical on a deeper level because interest is not harmful even in a growing economy with a fixed level of spending. But that’s another question.

          • Alrenous says:

            Future wealth is still worth less than present wealth. If deflation obtains, then you should have negative interest rates. Wealth interest remains positive – if my tagenites costs ten drachma today, and nine drachma a year from now, a negative 5% interest rate still gets me more tagenites in a year than I can get now. In general the market clearing interest rate is the time-preference of the population adjusted by the net debasement rate, and these two numbers are fully independent.

          • Nicholas says:

            Two rebuttals:
            1. I think your formula are sound, but you’re ignoring that one of the big effects of war in the home country is demand destruction. As people become dead or impoverished, their ability to trade falls toward zero. This may balance or even overbalance the destruction of supply, especially considering that not all lost goods are destroyed, just stolen.
            2. Aristotle’s concern is not the outcome of lending at interest to the individual lender, but that in an economy of no growth, the slow accumulation of payment by interest represents an eddy in the regional flow of trade. The producers as a class are not better off, because if they were the economy would be growing. Thus the lenders are taking an increasingly large proportion of a pie that is not growing, and may in fact be shrinking, to the disutility of everyone else. There is nothing for the lenders to spend their money on, because there are no more products than their were before, so as expenses remain constant or shrinking but income grows, they come to dominate the possession of drachma. Which is what Aristotle didn’t want to happen.

      • Irenist says:

        @TheDividualist:
        I’m against usury for much the same reason, except I’m worried about being a cafeteria Catholic rather than a cafeteria [Scott says not to use that word]. You might enjoy the links I offered Randy M just upthread from this comment. To save scrolling, here they are again:

        https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/usury-faq-or-money-on-the-pill/

        http://distributism.blogspot.com/2009/03/its-all-about-usury.html

  55. Ruben says:

    Regarding the high intelligence study by Shakeshaft ea: It’s nice but only a start.
    The idea that the genetics of high IQ might be discontinuous with the normal range is based on its mirror image, intellectually disabled children.
    Sibs of severe ID kids (<3SD) had higher IQ than sibs of mild ID kids (<2SD).
    Now Shakeshaft apply a fancier method than that, but same gist.
    However, in Swedish military data, IQ is given in Stanine (mean of 5, SD of 2). So the highest level (9) conflates +2SD and +3SD. So, if it really was the mirror image result of the ID finding, this study wouldn't be able to tell you since Stanine 9 will be mostly people with +2SD<IQ+3SD.
    They also didn’t show they could replicate the ID finding in that data which is .. not good?

    • gwern says:

      So, if it really was the mirror image result of the ID finding, this study wouldn’t be able to tell you since Stanine 9 will be mostly people with +2SD<IQ+3SD.

      Top 5% is still pretty high, and with their population sample size, they would get a lot of the more extreme in their top 5%, so any large effects should show up, one would think. As well, this is consistent with all the earlier work I know, consistent with the general thrust of all the genomics work on intelligence like the GCTAs, and it’s also consistent with the followup paper I mentioned on G+: “A genome-wide analysis of putative functional and exonic variation associated with extremely high intelligence” http://www.nature.com/mp/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/mp2015108a.html , Spain et al, where they used the SMPY samples again, and if SMPY isn’t smart enough for you, we might as well admit that this question will never be settled by mere available evidence. (The Spain paper is actually more important, IMO, I just found the design of the Shakeshaft paper more interesting and shared that instead.)

      They also didn’t show they could replicate the ID finding in that data which is .. not good?

      “…excluding those with severely disabling physical or psychiatric disorders, and achieved approximately 98% participation…”

      • Ruben says:

        I think you’re not correct that any effect would show up, since the top 5% will always be mostly between 2SD and 3SD and 3SD and up. Aggregation can cancel out your power. You will never be able to show that pro basketballers are taller than semi-pro basketballers if your measurement tape tops out at 1.7m, even if you have a gazillion basketballers.

        I would bet good money that they wouldn’t be able to show the fact that most severe ID is due to de novos but most mild ID is inherited using Stanine scores.

        The military doesn’t test them, but since this is Swedish data, they could (with slightly more effort and clearances) also get the ID diagnoses from the medical system and assign a Stanine value of 1 for those kids. It’s possible, not with the dataset they were cleared for, but with the Swedish population data per se.

        I agree with you that other evidence also points in the additive all the way direction, and most of the more plausible evolutionary genetic theories would predict additive effects at the top too. I just generally think it’s cool when someone tests the prediction of a null effect, something which everybody says shouldn’t happen, which they did, but then again it was kind of set up to fail (not on purpose, that’s just what the data is).

        I love the Spain paper, I love that they’re doing this work. And yes SMPY is smart enough for my tastes! But I have to say that looking at the exome for high IQ doesn’t make that much sense. Does anyone believe geniuses have some special protein and nobody noticed before? Most of the selection since chimps happened outside the exome. And indeed most identified SNPs for normal variation IQ/education are not exonic. So, I’m cautious. It’s great that work like this is happening, really. But loyal opposition is necessary.

        • gwern says:

          You will never be able to show that pro basketballers are taller than semi-pro basketballers if your measurement tape tops out at 1.7m, even if you have a gazillion basketballers.

          You’re not comparing pro to semi-pro, you’re comparing all basketballers to everyone else. Who sometimes have things like Marfan’s syndrome, and probably would have other, less dramatic, mutations or diseases contributing to height, and doubtless tower over their siblings. (What’s that urban legend, 10% of all male Americans over 7 feet will play in the NBA at some point?) Attenuated by measurement error but still there.

          The military doesn’t test them, but since this is Swedish data, they could (with slightly more effort and clearances) also get the ID diagnoses from the medical system and assign a Stanine value of 1 for those kids. It’s possible, not with the dataset they were cleared for, but with the Swedish population data per se.

          Why would they bother when it’s already been confirmed in other work? (It’s also possible that they did, but since it’s such a long paper already, split it out and that’s what that coy Reichenberg manuscript citation is about; they don’t even give a title for it, and I can’t find anything indicating what it’s about, one way or other.)

          Does anyone believe geniuses have some special protein and nobody noticed before?

          I’m not sure what the ‘special mutation for genius’ people think it would be concretely, but sure, why couldn’t it be something like that? Who would have noticed? It’s not like we suck the blood of every Nobelist and grad students spend decades hunting down every last stray anomaly.

          And indeed most identified SNPs for normal variation IQ/education are not exonic.

          For rare variants, you wouldn’t expect the Rietveld hits to show them since the SNP chips aren’t comprehensive, no?

          • Ruben says:

            Why would they bother? To show that a method which has been proven to work with fine-grained measurement also works with coarse measurements. And because replication is great and the backbone of science. But yeah maybe it’s forthcoming.

            It shouldn’t be that difficult to set up a simulation where you mix severe ID kids with mild ID kids in a Stanine and see if any of their methods still pick up the signal. I’d bet 100$, paid to a charity of the winner’s choice, that they don’t (I would have to phrase that more precisely, should you take the bet).

            Maybe you’re thinking about the siblings where there is lots of variation, but I’m thinking of the selection of the geniuses where the true geniuses will be swamped by the very smart kids.

            Regarding Rietveld or Lee: yes, they don’t pick up rare (or at least that’s presently the majority view, see e.g. synthetic vars). But this and the selection argument speak for mostly regulatory DNA. I don’t see a theoretical or empirical argument for exome only that it’s easy to get and a manageable size.

      • science says:

        This came up in a prior thread, but I imagine you’d be one of the best people to ask. What sense can we make of a statement like from the linked study:

        Following genotyping and quality control, the HiQ sample included 1409 individuals selectively sampled from the upper tail of the intelligence distribution and 3253 unselected MTFS controls. A previous study of intelligence in the TIP cohort derived a conversion scale relating SAT scores at age 12 years to the familiar IQ scale (normal distribution with a mean of 100 and s.d. of 15). A previous study of intelligence in the TIP cohort derived a conversion scale relating SAT scores at age 12 years to the familiar IQ scale (normal distribution with a mean of 100 and s.d. of 15).36 Using this conversion factor, the successfully genotyped HiQ cohort has a mean estimated IQ of 176, ranging from 144 to 214 with 93.6 % of the cohort with estimated IQ scores >170 (Figure 1).”

        By my back of the envelope calculations given a mean of 100 and a s.d. of 15 and cohort sizes of 12 year olds that we currently have in the US (~4M) we should expect around 6.4 12 year olds per year with IQ scores > 170 per year. To get 1318 of them you’d need to wait more than two centuries. What gives?

        I know there’s this other childhood IQ thing that isn’t really attempting to be based on 100 and 15 (though it is somewhat deceptively deployed as if it were) but the explicit mention of those numbers leads me to believe that the researchers don’t mean those.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          First of all, the paper previously said that this cohort is top 3/10,000, so that’s what it is. This passage, as explained in the citation, takes SAT scores at age 12 and linearly transform them to have mean 100 and std 15. The top 3/10,000 score 5 sigma above the mean. It’s not a bell curve. The phrase “normal distribution” is in the parenthetical is misleading.

          • science says:

            Thanks for the link. I had read the abstract but hadn’t seen the paper.

            I can’t say I’m terribly impressed with the procedure used in the older paper. It seems unnecessary to their conclusions and so just confusing and ad hoc for no apparent reason. But I’m even less impressed by the fact that the second group of researchers (and their peer reviewers) apparently didn’t understand the first paper and so misrepresented it. That doesn’t directly undermine the newer paper, but it still is rather alarming.

  56. >The main point being mentioned here is that the reason people in poor areas are more alcoholic might not be because poverty is depressing and makes one turn to drink, it might be entirely genetic.

    Poverty is depressing is something sort of an oversimplification. The point is that upper class people who don’t d drink much tend to be really invested in having a lots of hobbies and interests to fill out the time somehow and entertain themselves. And a big social life. So when lawyer John stops working he goes playing squash or goes home and practices on his saxophone or take wifey out to an art gallery or really a lot of things. I assume most people here are roughly of this group and know what I am talking about.

    But when you come home from a factory job it just somehow doesn’t seem okay to e.g. sit down and make some art or play a musical instrument or whatever. And it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are actually poor, your wage could be good. But you have time to fill out, you don’t really see much ways to entertain yourself, perhaps a film, and drinking, socially or just at home is just sort of a default way to do it.

    But it is largely about killing time you don’t really know how to kill in a fun way otherwise.

    This could be depression, after all, if you use a sufficiently hardcore definition of depression, meaning simple anhedonia, not enjoying life, is depression. If you think dysthimia and depression are the same things. But those guys would cuss you out for it, they would say life sucks and then you die, it is doing what you must, not doing what you like.

    But they have time to kill, what they could use to do what they like, and yet they aren’t doing it, just killing time with drinking? Isn’t it contradictory? It is.

    It is actually confusing. I am somewhat in similar shoes myself, just with more controlled drinking habits perhaps, and not factory job, and cannot fully explain.

    Just perhaps one example. Say you live in Cologne. It is Sunday. You leave your apartment because you feel suffocating at home, thinking about your boring accountant job you must work the next day. Your problem isn’t poverty, it is your job and life in general, mostly. Walk the streets. Everything is closed, except some bars and restaurants are open. What are you going to do to cheer up? Just sitting in a bar and downing some beer seems like the only thing to do. It is just the most immediately available way to consume a good feeling. Butbutbut why aren’t you doing something you love? Pursuing your passion? I don’t know. You don’t have any, just expect the world to entertain you. Cannot really put it better. You are a consumer. You want to consume happiness. You expect someone to provide you with happiness you can consume. And the world happily obliges and provides you videogames, movies etc. Also it provides alcohol, drugs and gambling. Ouch. Anyway,most of this upper class pursuing your passion and doing something you love thing is at the root about being some sort of a producer. Different thing. Perhaps expecting to consume happiness is actually a symptom of depression or of addictive personalities, I can only say for a really lot of people on this planet this is just life.

    The point is, the fix it is to somehow get people to find happiness in making or doing things, not consuming things. And the classical European lower class way to do that is small hobby farms, hobby gardens. The factory guy is a hobby peasant at the weekend, this used to work well. I think this kept my grandpa away from the drink and there was really only this two lifestyles, all his coworkers either drank or farmed/gardened. Sounds hippie but I think there could be such a thing as gardening therapy for addiction.

    • I’m wondering if part of what’s going on is high population/high communication so that it feels as though just having a hobby you enjoy isn’t enough. It only counts if you’re doing something spectacular.

    • onyomi says:

      This point feels subjectively right to me: though I’ve never been what I’d call an “alcoholic,” I probably did my heaviest regular drinking (outside of freshman year, before they took the fun away by making it legal) when I lived in Taiwan with a crummy English teaching job and no particular future career plans. I didn’t have a bad life there and I wasn’t really depressed, but I was in a kind of personal and professional limbo, and had a lot of free time. I could imagine if that had continued for years my drinking might have gradually crept up to the point where it could have been considered a serious problem.

    • Does this mean television is preventing alcoholism?

      • Good television could, the kind when you see something exciting, not a cheap who wants to be a stupid millionaire show.

        I suspect at some level something is eating their advertising money. Maybe the internet. So from a profitability angle, as their sales to advertisers drop, they focus on cheap, on cost cuts. Hence crap.

        HBO is a very good example of how TV can be good if viewers actually paying is the business model, not competition for ever decreasing advertisement budgets that just generates toddlers with tiaras and my fat fucking fabulous life.

        To people who think it just, like, your opinion, man: HBO’s business model, viewers pay not advertisers is a far far better predictor of what viewers actually want to watch. Theoretically, advertisers are still interested in having many viewers. Practically, it is a race to the bottom, but in HBO not.

    • Alrenous says:

      Lesson 5 and 3 http://www.informationliberation.com/?id=11375

      >The fifth lesson I teach is intellectual dependency. Good people wait for a teacher to tell them what to do. It is the most important lesson, that we must wait for other people, better trained than ourselves, to make the meanings of our lives. The expert makes all the important choices; only I, the teacher, can determine what you must study, or rather, only the people who pay me can make those decisions which I then enforce.

      >The third lesson I teach kids is indifference. I teach children not to care about anything too much, even though they want to make it appear that they do. How I do this is very subtle. I do it by demanding that they become totally involved in my lessons, jumping up and down in their seats with anticipation, competing vigorously with each other for my favor. It’s heartwarming when they do that; it impresses everyone, even me. When I’m at my best I plan lessons very carefully in order to produce this show of enthusiasm. But when the bell rings I insist that they stop whatever it is that we’ve been working on and proceed quickly to the next work station. They must turn on and off like a light switch. Nothing important is ever finished in my class, nor in any other class I know of.

      They aren’t told which hobby to have, so they default to the most short-term one, so it doesn’t interfere with what they’re going to be told to do next. Due to lesson 3, they will never spontaneously generate a hobby.

      • TrivialGravitas says:

        I never thought I’d find a teacher with a lower opinion of the schooling system than I do. Disturbing read.

        • Alrenous says:

          Like the Alabama teacher Scott linked, Gatto also won teacher of the year and, at least for the first few years he was teaching, did not have legitimate credentials. One time suggests a fluke. Two times suggests…

          • TrivialGravitas says:

            That I have no idea what percentage of teachers are properly credentialed. But that I’d like to find out.

          • keranih says:

            …that teacher credentials are not as essential as the process would make one think?

          • TrivialGravitas says:

            @kernanith possibly. But what if half of teachers are improperly credentialed (yes my view of administrations competence is that bad) yet we only have two uncredentialed teachers of the year?

      • Vox Imperatoris says:

        Great essay! A little crackpotish and anti-globalist in parts, but overall very valuable.

    • Rose says:

      Working class people have a lot of hobbies – just think of the most popular ones in America. Hunting, fishing, gardening, home improvement, cooking, crafts, singing in church, volunteering, sports for kid.

      In the country it is even more. I live in a town of 300 part of the year and the community calendar has events and groups several days a week – sewing, charity fundraising, local history, writing, reading, science and travel lectures, hiking, birding.

    • Latetotheparty says:

      I think poor people drinking after work rather than pursuing passions has to do with not having enough mental energy to spend on pursuing those passions. Drinking is a cheap thrill in terms of the ratio of mental energy invested to hedonic payoff (but with a quick plateau, such that drinking 10 times as much doesn’t make you 10 times happier).

      Rich people usually have jobs that are mentally stimulating and refreshing. Yes, being a CEO is stressful, but it is a different sort of stress. It is stress followed by social validation that you are an awesome, powerful person, so that periodic positive reinforcement compensates for the stress and keeps you mentally motivated. But working a poor person’s job constantly carries with it the subtext of, “You are worthless, you have to take orders from other people all day long, you are the lowest person on your local totem pole, just crawl in your hole and die, please.” Working poor jobs doesn’t just suck because of the low pay.

      For example, working as a part-time adjunct professor, I have a job that is relatively high status (supervisory position with responsibilities over other humans–my students) but relatively low-paying. But I still come out of class feeling mentally refreshed. Whereas I’ve also worked retail jobs that have paid just about the same amount, but the mental feeling clocking out of those is totally different…

      • At a considerable tangent, this reminds me of two works by Kipling, part of the point of which is that the nominally lower person on the totem pole isn’t really lower.

        http://www.bartleby.com/364/342.html

        “For whoever pays the taxes, old Mus’ Hobden owns the land.”

        http://www.readbookonline.net/readOnLine/1980/

      • rose says:

        this is so condescending. blue collar jobs often pay more than yours, and have high status is their own community. if you are poor because you are an immigrant, you can have a high sense of purpose in supporting your family and working your way in America. if you are working poor, you can have pride that you are not a welfare slob, and all sorts of satisfaction in doing your job well, fun with your fellow employees, and knowing you are supporting your family. money does not buy happiness, either does status – people find their own happiness and meaning, and they do it in every class.

        • Mark says:

          I don’t know if you’ve ever been working poor, or done a crappy job, but I think it’s condescending to say that suggesting that people might be drained by doing those jobs is condescending.
          Forgive me, perhaps you are someone who just really enjoys working in a call-center, but it sounds to me like you are saying “Sure… we might not want to do those jobs, but the little people can find meaning in them! Do not suggest that those jobs might be stressful! That is all they have!”
          Anyway, I’m a welfare slob, and I take pride in not being working poor… so your final point is correct.

  57. >since the Third Worlders don’t seem to be up for it

    Sure? http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1713275,00.html

    It is the Cathedral, white liberals who are not up for it – of course educated third world elites tend to be their students so there is that, too. So it is the third world teacher, not the fisherman, who is not up for it.

    Denmark should first fix itself (immigration, crime, non-integration, sexual dysfunction, demographics, idiotic car taxes that harm the environment more than they help it) because while some stats are good, upon a closer look, a lot of things don’t look so good. I actually trust that Germany will fix itself and Denmark, too. Shit is not good in Germany either, but there is a tradition of being really blunt and direct, which will sooner or later lead to people talking openly about the issues and pussyfooting around PC. And when something changes in Germany, it changes in most of Europe.

    Switzerland is clearly a better candidate, extra points for having an extremely long historical experience in managing multi-ethnicity, multi-culturalism, the EU is openly considering them an example to follow on that, there are only two problems. One is that they really dislike butting into other people’s business. The other one is that their historically successful way of managing multi-ethnicity, multi-culturalism is, well. Wiki:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swiss_people#Cultural_history_and_national_identity

    “Localized equivalents of nationalist symbols were also essential to the creation of Swiss civil society. Rather than allowing a centralized federal government to force assimilation to a national ideal, Swiss policy nourished individual characteristics of different regional and language groups throughout the country.”

    What would be that translated to Americanish, I wonder? Ethnic-racial segregation? Confederate flag waving dixie pride? But whatever it would be… stock up on popcorn.

    • Urstoff says:

      Denmark has a big problem with E.D.?

      • Hari Seldon says:

        Haven’t you seen the big public service campaign right now to “Fix the Piks”? I guess you are one of the lucky ones.

    • onyomi says:

      “It is the Cathedral, white liberals who are not up for it – of course educated third world elites tend to be their students so there is that, too. So it is the third world teacher, not the fisherman, who is not up for it.”

      Agree. I was so mad to see how badly the charter cities projects got demagogued by local elites when the local common people were clearly up for it.

    • “Denmark should first fix itself (immigration, crime, ”

      Lemmesse, the Danish murder rate is a quarter of the US rate, and they are in the worldwide bottom 10 for overall crime. What are they supposed to be doing, achieving flat zeros?

  58. Paying repeat criminals: sounds really amoral of course, and a huge incentive to be a first time criminal, but the I could imagine it this way: offer the voluntary choice between your next crimes punished the normal way vs. automatically sentenced to 25 years in the worst prison for stealing a candy bar, oh and you wear a GPS tracker to make you really easy to catch, and those who accept the future intensified sentencing get a form of welfare. Carrot and stick.

    Well, at the very least we could pay criminals to wear a GPS tracker. This is not amoral in itself and in fact it could be offered to anyone, not just criminals.

    (Defining amoral: having a demoralizing psychological effect, wrong message and incentive.)

    • Irenist says:

      Why pay them? Why not just couple the movement to reduce incarceration with a movement to increase GPS tracking? Lower (or no) prison time plus restrictive GPS tracking is an idea that I’ve been intrigued by for a while now.

      • Punishment has multiple functions – disincentive for the subject, disincentive for others, a vengeance-like satisfaction to the victim largely to motivate them against taking vengeance themselves like a Charles Bronson movie, and to send everybody the general message that it is a just world after all in order to prevent everybody from getting demoralized / depressed. So it has to hurt, at some level. But I happen to agree that incarceration is an unusually cruel punishment and something like a public whipping would be far more humane. This obviously sounds ridiculous, but let me explain.

        The problem is that is a classic case of people basing their moral judgements not on actual utility, but either squeamishness or signalling holiness. Lifetime and youth is the most limited resource we have. Taking years of it away, or the whole of it, is seriously cruel. Put a 18 years old man 15 years into life and you took all the joys of youth away. Compared to that, a public whipping is nothing in reduced utility. In a few days the pain goes away, the shame doesn’t but that is actually a proper non-cruel motivator. Or if you don’t want people to weirdly sexualize it into a BDSM event, then private, although public is better at getting the message out. It is from the utilitarian angle far more moral, just of course people are squeamish about it and if you propose it you look like an evil perv. While if you sentence people to life for three brawls and then worry loudly whether they are getting nutritious food or enough books you look very holy because nobody’s body was hurt, merely their life was taken away, but that does not look very bloody. You understand how it is working? It is yet another case of this fscking holiness signalling thing resulting in cruelty.

        On other hand, the really bad thing about incarceration is that it does not work as a motivator precisely because the suffering is distributed over a long time period. I mean, we all know criminality is often a result of high time preference, and we use a punishment suitable for people with low time preferences? A punishment suitable for people with high time preferences would be immediate, short, and excruciatingly painful. This is really elementary.

        For example the same thing with children. Raising kids is all about lowering their time preferences and parents more or less instinctively know to use different punishment with high time preference small kids, like go stare at the corner immediately, but it does not have to be long, in 10 min the lesson is learned, while you don’t do this to teenagers, you just tell them coming home drunk is -50% weekly pocket money for three weeks and they have low enough time preference to care. After the first time surely. Time preference is essentially in punishment, reward and general motivation.

        Thus long and bodily painless incarceration was not invented to actually have an effect on sky high time preferences criminals, but to LOOK like it is something fairly tough for upper class voters with low time preferences who think not being able to go to the theater for 10 years would be terrible. That damn signalling again!

        So absolutely reduce incarceration, even get rid of it, but do bring back the whipping post. Or find something similar but safer and no pervy undertones.

        • Randy M says:

          We had a recent discussion along these lines. This:
          “Thus long and bodily painless incarceration was not invented to actually have an effect on sky high time preferences criminals, but to LOOK like it is something fairly tough for upper class voters with low time preferences who think not being able to go to the theater for 10 years would be terrible. ”
          is a good addition to it, true or not. I think incarceration practically is less about punishment and more about “Get them away from me!”

          • Salem says:

            What’s wrong with “get them away from me”? Admittedly, we normally call it “incapacitation,” but it is one of the stated and legitimate purposes of imprisonment. If Joe Bloggs is prone to go around killing people, he needs to be incapacitated for societal protection, and prison is one way to do that.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Salem:

            There’s nothing wrong with incapacitation, when necessary.

            I think what Randy M is getting at is the “out of sight, out of mind” dynamics here. People just don’t care what happens to prisoners, so long as they don’t have to see it.

            If we cut off a robber’s hands, that’s “shocking and barbaric” (and is likely to prevent him from carrying out robberies effectively), but if we throw him in prison for years and tacitly allow him to be raped and beaten by the other inmates, that’s business as usual.

            Economically speaking, the problem is that we favor the latter kind of punishments even when they deter or incapacitate less effectively. Even setting all moral questions aside, prison is a whole lot more expensive.

          • Randy M says:

            “What’s wrong with “get them away from me”?”
            Nothing; if behavior modification is too difficult or impossible, then it is necessary. I was just noting that incarceration serves less as a disincentive often than as simple segregation of the ciminally inclined. I think people are savvy to this and not just misapplying their own time preferences to criminals, although that does come up in theoretical discussions about how bad prison is compared with corporal punishment.

        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          I agree wholeheartedly and have thought the same thing for a long time.

        • Irenist says:

          The whole segment of the criminal justice reform movement centered on swift, sure punishment over lengthy, but judicially uncertain, punishment, has the same insight. (And indeed, flogging is less cruel than years in prison.)

          I support a switch to swift, sure, small (a few weeks in the clink, flogging, whatever) punishment for, e.g., parole violators. However, I also am concerned about the whole “keep them away from me (and my wife and kids!)” goal currently (somewhat) served by incarceration. But, since I think incarceration is cruel, I’d like to see some sort of house arrest w/GPS monitoring model (with, of course, swift, sure punishment for violations) model arise. What I don’t want to see are either a continuation of incarceration (too cruel) or a pendulum-swing to just emptying all the jails (which would be unsafe for us law-abiding types and our kids).

          • >The whole segment of the criminal justice reform movement centered on swift, sure punishment over lengthy, but judicially uncertain, punishment, has the same insight. (And indeed, flogging is less cruel than years in prison.)

            So they aren’t stereotypical holiness signalling Progs? That’s cool.

            But they are still vulnerable to getting prozzed i.e. infiltrated by signallers who holiness arms-race each other towards the limit value of saying forgive basically every crime and just address the social causes for it (evil capitalism) or just make it a psychological rehabilitation thing, except for violence against women or hate crime in which case: to the lions.

            Is there a strongly rational-rationalist criminal justice reform movement with really strong shields against Progs / getting prozzed? This shit is hard, e.g. you have to assign heaps more prestige to empirical evidence than to looking caring and nice.

        • Outis says:

          Kinda off topic, but it does feel extremely bad to have missed out on all the “joys of youth”. It’s even worse when you can’t even blame it on something like incarceration, because you can’t get any sympathy.

      • Metafilterian says:

        Why not charge them for a gps tracker they can play flappy bird on?

    • Mark Z. says:

      That’s not even remotely how this program works.

      What ONS does is identify the most dangerous criminals in town (about 0.1% of the population), make contact with them, keep an eye on them, and offer to get them into mentoring. One of the incentives they offer for this is a monthly stipend (up to $1000) for participating in the program.

      This offers no incentive to become a first-time criminal. In order to try to get that stipend you’d have to join a gang and be enough of a crazy mofo to attract ONS’s interest. By this time you’ll most likely have been to jail or have been shot at least once. (One of ONS’s contacting methods is to approach you in the hospital and see if you’re interested in not getting shot again.) Then you meet with a mentor and work out a set of life goals, like “get a driver’s license” and “stop doing meth”. Then you get to meet with them again every couple days, tell them everything you did, and piss in a cup. Then, if you satisfy them that you’re making progress toward your goals (and aren’t in jail or dead) you get your $1000. Hey, sign me up!

      It’s a carrot-only program because street crime in Richmond is its own stick.

    • RCF says:

      It does seem like this dovetails once again with UBI: if we give money to criminals to not commit crimes, it’s only fair to give money to non-criminals to not commit crimes, at which now we’ve got UBI.

  59. “Reaching peak rationalist: prediction markets can help determine which psych studies will replicate, with bonus quote from Robin Hanson.”

    Is anyone else worried about the potential for impoverished grad students to manipulate results under the table to get a cut of the winnings?

    • roystgnr says:

      Yes, but I’m also worried about manipulation in prediction markets as a whole. I like the idea of trying them extensively when the stakes are at tempting-to-impoverished-grad-students levels rather than deciding-the-fate-of-nations levels.

  60. Graeme Sutton says:

    My understanding was that “Death to America” was an idiom in persian that was used more like how Americans might say “Fuck Iran”, up to and including persians saying “Death to Me” to express embarrassment or frustration the same way an American might say “Fuck Me”.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      FWIW, here’s some guy on Reddit talking about the history of “Death to ____” in Iran. Long story short he claims that the reason for the continuing “Death to America” chants is basically internal politics — if you try to stop them, you’ll get attacked for not being sufficiently revolutionary.

    • Sastan says:

      You’ll notice how we all gather every day to shout “fuck Iran” for ten minutes straight!

      We don’t?

      It’s just a ploy to keep the people happy? Why would shouting “death to america” keep people happy unless what they wanted was……..death to America?

      This has the same problem with all the other pro-hardline Islamist apologia “oh they don’t really mean what they literally said, that’s just to appease the people”. Well, ok, I buy that, (politicians are politicians) but it assumes that the vast majority of the people want to hear terrible things!

      I tend to take people at their word. If they didn’t mean what they said, they thought it important to look like they meant it. And that’s good enough for me.

      • Mary says:

        After the putsch, Hitler toned down his rhetoric about Jews. So much that the first anti-Semitic measures were greeted by some people saying he didn’t want to do them, he was forced to.

        I read about this in an essay by Chesterton, who pointed out that it hardly mattered: if he was forced, those who supported the measures obviously had the power to force him.

      • Randy M says:

        The charitible assumption would be that the elite in Iran feed the populace a media diet on misleading (if not wholly untrue) libel about the western world and then stoke the rage as a way of redirecting domestic frustration outwards and consolidate their power.

        • Sastan says:

          But that only works if the people already hate the western world.

          I mean, you can propagandize the US about the dangers of Guinea-Bissau all you like, but they will not care. You’d have better luck with Russia………..

      • Tatu Ahponen says:

        Likewise, if I hear someone preparing to debate his or her opponent or compete them in some other way and saying “Yeah, I’m gonna kick their ass! I’m gonna destroy them!” I’m going to assume that they will first target their backside with their boot and then not only kill them but in a way that is sufficiently brutal to count as destruction.

        • Jiro says:

          If they’re a shouting mob and their friends had previously taken their opponents hostage, I probably would assume that’s what they meant.

      • Chalid says:

        The trouble is understanding the context well enough to know what they meant, and how it would be perceived by an audience who you don’t know very well.

        John McCain singing “bomb bomb bomb Iran” might seem really threatening to an Iranian. Is “Death to America” in Persian really worse than “Axis of Evil” in English? etc.

        And of course lots of Iranians talk about peace, cooperation, etc. Sometimes it’s even the same people! If we’re taking them at their word, how do we decide which words to take seriously?

        • Cauê says:

          The trouble is understanding the context well enough to know what they meant, and how it would be perceived by an audience who you don’t know very well.

          Interesting parallels with discussions about “offense is taken, not given”, with different tribal alignments.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            The Iranians need to switch to saying things like “You’re American? You must be really creative and wealthy!” Then they’d be engaging in microaggression and no one would have any trouble figuring out that they hate us.

  61. Dumky says:

    I’m sympathetic to the idea that regulations make regular banks less competitive against payday loans. Banks have more scale and information (about risks), which presumably should lower their interest rates on such loans.
    But it seems payday loans are already very numerous and competitive, even against offerings by credit unions (see [1]). Another indication is payday lenders have much less profits than Starbucks franchises, on average (see [2]).
    So it’s hard to imagine that those bad regulations would cause a large impact.

    [1] http://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/serials/files/regulation/2012/11/v35n3-5.pdf
    [2] https://reason.com/archives/2015/10/26/consumers-need-more-options-not-fewer (citing study from Fordham Journal of Corporate & Financial Law)

  62. MawBTS says:

    Greg Cochran is always a mind trip

    He is indeed! He’s also pretty funny, in a HL Mencken type way. I’ve collected some of his quotes here.

    http://ben-ts.net/haute-ations-7-gregory-cochran-edition/

  63. Anonymous says:

    Not sure if you’re just trying to be super-non-self-promoty, but you didn’t actually link to the Golden Giraffe awards.

    (I voted for you anyway though).

  64. Ghatanathoah says:

    I remember being massively confused in third grade by seeing the pictures of the White House’s two facades. At first I thought that maybe the White House had been remodeled recently, and one facade was the old one. I don’t remember at what point I realized they were two sides of one building.

  65. david says:

    That’s not double-entry bookkeeping, that’s single-entry bookkeeping with itemization. You can calculate the rate of profit with single-entry bookkeeping too. Indeed, many simple SME single-entry bookkeeping systems operate straightforwardly on cost-plus pricing, i.e., the merchant notes the unit cost price of an item, adds a fixed markup, and sells it for that. They start with the rate of profit, not end with it. Safety-stock (s,S) inventory management does the rest – if inventory piles up, they reduce the markup, and vice versa. None of this requires double-entry bookkeeping.

    The unique achievement of double-entry bookkeeping is that it’s much harder to hide the diversion of cash and inventories for personal usage, either by an owner or the employees. These are not tracked in single-entry bookkeeping, which relies on the cash account and inventory account to maintain themselves, as it were. This audit trail is what allows firms to trust people other than immediate family, which is what enables the the survival of corporations beyond the lifespan of their founders and the first generation of heirs.

    • oligopsony says:

      Some quick checks confirm that you’re right and I’m wrong. Super wrong. Will have to do some epistemic housecleaning, danke.

      • david says:

        Oh, um.

        In the interests of clarity – your original post did loosely invoke what is a respectable but (in my opinion) wrong interpretation of the economic history of double-entry accounting. There is a Marx-influenced interpretation of Weber that the method as practiced co-developed with nascent capitalism’s focus on the rate of profit.

        It is true that attempting to calculate the rate of profit of particular products will tend to lead naturally to double-entry bookkeeping (because the value of their inventory has to be monitored), but the reverse is not true (single-entry bookkeeping is entirely compatible with the pursuit of a given rate of profit), and more problematically, more modern scholarship on how the Genoese and Venetians did things appears not to bear out the idea that they had any focus on the rate of profit. The paperwork for monitoring supplier credit and debts alone will drive double-entry bookkeeping.

        The explanation I gave is in the New Institutional tradition, instead emphasizing the role double-entry bookkeeping played in, #1, reducing the role of family trust and increasing the scope for specialization of corporate duties amongst unrelated individuals, and #2, promoting capital accumulation across multiple lifespans. Avner Greif’s influential work places a heavy emphasis on this. This interpretation is itself not without legit dispute, though.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      The unique achievement of double-entry bookkeeping is that it’s much harder to hide the diversion of cash and inventories for personal usage, either by an owner or the employees. These are not tracked in single-entry bookkeeping, which relies on the cash account and inventory account to maintain themselves, as it were. This audit trail is what allows firms to trust people other than immediate family, which is what enables the the survival of corporations beyond the lifespan of their founders and the first generation of heirs.

      Jim makes a similar argument. From “Capitalism and entrepreneurial capitalism”:

      The big difference, the social technologies that caused the big difference, were double entry accounting, which made the joint stock corporation possible, made it possible to separate ownership of capital from enterepreneurship. Investors could put an entrepreneur in charge of their capital, and use double entry accounting to keep an eye on him. This is the foundation of western civilization, which began to soar when Charles the Second cut joint stock corporations loose from strong government oversight.

      This means that owners of capital can employ people smarter than themselves to manage their capital, increasing the effective intelligence applied to production.

  66. Jiro says:

    Speaking of the far-right, some people suggest “new imperialism” as a solution for poverty: instead of having all of the Third World people immigrate to the West to benefit from its institutions, put Western institutions in charge of the Third World. This makes some sense, but I’ve never heard these people carry it to its logical conclusion: since the Third Worlders don’t seem to be up for it, why not at least put Switzerland or Denmark in charge of America?

    I’m not aware of a large number of Americans immigrating to Sweden or Denmark.

  67. Jiro says:

    This month in credentialism: Alabama’s Teacher of the Year resigns after being told she does not have the proper qualifications to teach.

    This is proper. “Allow teachers who have these qualifications” is a much better Schelling point than “Allow teachers who have these qualifications, or who also have an undefinable-in-advance trait that makes it obvious that they are a good teacher, such as a teacher of the year award”.

    • whateverfor says:

      Did you click through to the article? She’s got state certifications for primary through third grade, but she was moved to covering fifth grade, where she has a National certification but not a State certification. Also apparently she didn’t get her first paycheck because they screwed up the direct deposit. It’s a bureaucracy nightmare, not a lowering-the-bar situation.

    • Vox Imperatoris says:

      How about: “stop regulating this and let different localities hire teachers on whatever criteria seem to them most effective”?

      • Urstoff says:

        Please think of the children.

        Aside: I was declined my application to be put on a high-school teacher certification track in a state with a “major teacher shortage” because I didn’t have the right kind of degree; this despite there being subject matter tests you have to pass to show you have the knowledge to teach classes (which I could have passed, but was never give the opportunity). Bureaucracy.

  68. Jacobian says:

    Here’s a quick summary:

    The store name “Hitler 1” was taken by an Iranian start up selling Nazi board games like “Death to all Jews”, by which they mean “death to Jewish policies of not being Shia Muslim”.

    National IQ is driven by genes that are mutated by pathogens, American IQ is driven by Gwern.

    Digit ratio mediates aggressive masculine response to studies linking digit ratio to femininity, but the effect is reversed for women on the other side of the White House.

  69. Izaak Weiss says:

    I have written about the vector space operation idea with regards to sexual orientation, though it’s probably very simple for anyone who has put any real thought into it: https://lalaithion.wordpress.com/2014/10/01/math-and-sexual-identity/

  70. T. Greer says:

    Best read of the month on cultural appropriation/student protests/university identity politics stuff by far:

    http://blogs.swarthmore.edu/burke/blog/2015/11/09/all-saints-day/

    • Magicman says:

      Thanks. I thought that very good. Especially this part.
      “All political ideologies in the contemporary American public sphere, from the most radical to the most reactionary, have a troubling tendency to assume that agreement with their views is the natural state of the mass of people except for a thin sliver of genuinely bad actors, and therefore where a lack of agreement or acceptance holds, it must be because the requisite knowledge has been kept from the masses.”

  71. Yakimi says:

    >since the Third Worlders don’t seem to be up for it, why not at least put Switzerland or Denmark in charge of America?

    Are you sure Third Worlders aren’t up for it?

    ‘Let’s face it: we’re in over our heads. We need the white folks to come back.’

    Bring back the British! Most Jamaicans say they would be better off ruled from London

    Come Back, Colonialism, All Is Forgiven

    Also, I think Mencius Moldbug has suggested putting foreigners like Lee Kuan Yew in charge of America.

    • E. Harding says:

      Mayotte v. Comoros. 🙂 There are no first-world Black-majority countries which were not already first-world at independence.

    • BBA says:

      I’ve long thought that the closest American equivalent to Lee Kuan Yew is Mike Bloomberg.

      • Nebfocus says:

        Agreed. Singapore’s advantage is it’s efficiency. Blatant authoritarianism (while popular among certain groups) isn’t going to fly with most Americans.

        • Maware says:

          I doubt it’s all that efficient. People used to think Japan was an ultra-efficient economic powerhouse, but then the cracks in the wall started to show. There’s probably a lot behind the face of Signapore that will become more evident over time.

  72. Brandon Berg says:

    Switzerland I can see, but why would we put Denmark in charge of America? It’s markedly poorer to than the US economically, probably due to its ridiculously high government spending, and its superior performance in some areas is likely in large part an artifact of demographics.

    Also, while the above may be debatable, the fact that Denmark’s superior governance is debatable at best is kind of the point. Danish governance might help or hurt the US (my money’s on hurt), but a lot of poor countries pretty much have nowhere to go but up.

    • E. Harding says:

      Rule by Denmark wouldn’t be significantly better or worse; it would just be different. And the Danish welfare system for the poor and unemployed would go in the first five years of Danish rule.

      • Harald K says:

        Yeah, knowing Danish attitudes to foreigners, just because they give themselves a generous welfare system doesn’t mean they would give their newly acquired American colony one.

      • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

        With students organizing mass protests because their colleges aren’t hyggelig enough, there’ll never be a better time.

  73. Erebus says:

    Cochran’s idea isn’t particularly revolutionary. Many folks have been thinking along the same lines since bacteria were found to be responsible for stomach ulcers.

    A few interesting cases:
    -A couple of years ago, it was credibly suggested that many instances of chronic back pain may be due to propionibacterium acnes infections, and treatment with antibiotics was indeed very effective. (See also.)

    -It is also quite possible that bacterial pathogens contribute to obesity. In my own opinion, this is more than merely possible — it’s very likely. The summary from the linked paper is worth quoting:
    “This work suggests that the overgrowth of an endotoxin-producing gut bacterium is a contributing factor to, rather than a consequence of, the metabolic deteriorations in its human host. In fact, this strain B29 is probably not the only contributor to human obesity in vivo, and its relative contribution needs to be assessed.”

    …Now, Cochran didn’t mention obesity or back pain, but he did mention atherosclerosis. It has been suggested that the tremendously positive effects of statin treatment may be due not only due to their cholesterol-reducing effect, but also to a general anti-inflammatory and immune-system modulating effect. These effects are strong enough that statins are currently being investigated for the treatment of asthma, multiple sclerosis, the flu, and other diseases.
    …The inflammation statins treat could, in some cases, have a bacterial cause. It’s certainly possible that some cases of atherosclerosis could be infectious in origin — that is, due to an unidentified pathogen which infects cardiovascular systems and results in inflammation and heart disease. But statins are very pharmacologically complex, and the etiology of atherosclerosis is not well understood. It could be something else entirely…

    The problem is that our animal models of chronic inflammation aren’t worth a damn. Many “bacterial origin” theories may be tested, at least in a preliminary fashion, by observing people on long-term antibiotic treatment. That’s where I’d start, anyway. I have no idea whether or not such things have recently been done.

    I think that Cochran’s lithium theory is mistaken, by the way. It’s pretty well known as a GSK3β inhibitor.

    Aside: As I mentioned on the last Chaos Patch, the whole point of CRISPR is genetic treatment in children and adults. Pre-birth situations are typically better handled /w PGD and other screening techniques.

    • Irenist says:

      What probability would commenters here assign to the correctness of Cochran’s proposal that sexual orientation might involve an infectious disease component? On the one hand, the various kin-selection proposals (the “generous gay uncle,” etc.) never seem to work out. OTOH, Cochran’s proposal seems like it would quite understandably upset a lot of people. So I’m curious (because it’s actually intellectually intriguing) but also really nervous about even asking. Still, SSC seems like the sort of place where such a question could be asked dispassionately. So: is it a good hypothesis, or is he just trolling?

      • Vaniver says:

        On the one hand, the various kin-selection proposals (the “generous gay uncle,” etc.) never seem to work out. OTOH, Cochran’s proposal seems like it would quite understandably upset a lot of people.

        I’m gay and can do math. I think Cochran has the most likely current explanation, because of the whole ‘can do math’ thing.

        I’ve seen enough evidence to suggest that sexuality (in men, at least) is in place at time of birth that we’re asking what happens during uterine development. Even if an infection is the ‘primary’ cause, this doesn’t rule out genetic effects (which might confer varying levels of resistance to the infection, rather than causing it directly).

        • g says:

          What’s the evidence that it’s in place at birth rather than merely, say, by age three? (I certainly have no idea how I’d tell whether anything altered my future sexual and/or romantic preferences between birth and age three.)

          • Vaniver says:

            In some documentary, they brought up a longitudinal study where very young infants (I think it was day old, but I’m not sure that makes sense, year-old might be more reasonable) were given the choice between masculine and feminine objects, and ones that chose cross-gender objects were more likely to be gay at follow-up some long time later. But I’m having difficulty finding any more specific details immediately.

            (As I recall, the documentary was on leftist professors in some Scandinavian country who were clashing with LGBT activists because the professors insisted that homosexuality must be a choice, because it being inborn would conflict with their ideology.)

            [There’s more pieces, but that’s the one that comes to mind.]

      • Randy M says:

        “OTOH, Cochran’s proposal seems like it would quite understandably upset a lot of people.”
        How is that a hand relating to correctness?

      • JayMan says:

        What probability would commenters here assign to the correctness of Cochran’s proposal that sexual orientation might involve an infectious disease component?

        Yeah… :p

        I’ve done this, by the way.

        OTOH, Cochran’s proposal seems like it would quite understandably upset a lot of people.

        Why? In the end, the idea of a infectious causation of homosexuality is no worse than any other possible biological cause. The only difference, really, it that it presents the prospective of prevention (vaccine) and perhaps, a cure (much less likely).

        • Randy M says:

          It implies that homosexuality is a deviation from the “pure” (cannot quite say intent or purpose here, but those connotations) in a way that a mere mutation–passed on through hundreds of generations and presumably contributing some level of fitness in porportion to it’s prevelance–would not.
          That’s to the “feels” of it, of course. The fact that one has unchosen maladaptive traits (like my own nearsightedness) doesn’t imply any moral failing of that person, however they arose.

          Personally I think the theory is as likely as any (without knowing much about what evidence this would predict in terms of prevelence, etc.). Brains are complex with lots of ways to sublty change based on chemistry. My confidence that this is possible certainly rises after reading about that cat parasite, toxoplasma gondii or something.
          Has Cochren or anyone come up with a plausible hypothetical on how it would be adaptive or part of the parasite’s lifestyle to influence this behavior change, or is it postulated entirely as a “random” side effect?

          • JayMan says:

            It implies that homosexuality is a deviation from the “pure” (cannot quite say intent or purpose here, but those connotations) in a way that a mere mutation–passed on through hundreds of generations and presumably contributing some level of fitness in porportion to it’s prevelance–would not.

            Autism, schizophrenia, epilepsy, and all manner of things caused by genetic load are just as much deviations from the “pure” form (i.e., what has shown to be tried and true through generations of natural selection). Homosexuality would be no different.

            Has Cochren or anyone come up with a plausible hypothetical on how it would be adaptive or part of the parasite’s lifestyle to influence this behavior change, or is it postulated entirely as a “random” side effect?

            The homosexuality itself is not adaptive for the pathogen. See here:

            Not Final! | West Hunter

          • NN says:

            The homosexuality itself is not adaptive for the pathogen.

            If the homosexuality is a side effect, then what is the primary effect? What is the germ trying to do, exactly, when it messes around with the host’s brain?

          • Jaskologist says:

            Why does it have to be trying to anything? There are plenty of pathogens that outright kill the host.

          • Randy M says:

            Yeah, what it is trying to do might just be to excrete toxic byproducts of digesting some random bits of the host that happen to badly fit some hormone receptor somewhere.

            That said
            “The homosexuality itself is not adaptive for the pathogen. See here:”
            I don’t see the reference after reading the thread. Am I dense?

          • vV_Vv says:

            Has Cochren or anyone come up with a plausible hypothetical on how it would be adaptive or part of the parasite’s lifestyle to influence this behavior change, or is it postulated entirely as a “random” side effect?

            Among all the common sexual acts, anal intercourse where the penetrator is infected has the highest chance of spreading a blood-borne STD. That’s why gay men (“men who have sex with men”) have much higher HIV and hepatitis infection rates than the general population.

            Therefore it seems evolutionary advantageous for a blood-borne STD to make any male it can infect gay.

          • JayMan says:

            @vV_Vv:

            Therefore it seems evolutionary advantageous for a blood-borne STD to make any male it can infect gay.

            I think you need to think a little harder on that one to realize why that makes no sense.

          • vV_Vv says:

            I think you need to think a little harder on that one to realize why that makes no sense.

            Ok, if a parasite turns every single male of a population to exclusive homosexuality, then that population will go exinct and the parasite goes exinct with it or at least loses a population of hosts, but clearly here we are talking about something that is far from infecting everybody or can’t strongly affect the sexual orientation of most hosts it infects.

          • I think the point was that such an effect could only help the STD infect gay men, while making it harder for it to infect straight women. The latter are a larger grouping, so this seems unlikely to present an evolutionary advantage.

          • vV_Vv says:

            I think the point was that such an effect could only help the STD infect gay men, while making it harder for it to infect straight women. The latter are a larger grouping, so this seems unlikely to present an evolutionary advantage.

            But until recently gay men also married and had sex with straight women due to social pressure.

            EDIT:

            Gay men and heterosexual people don’t form disconnected components of the sex relationships graph. If a parassite can spread much faster among gay men (due to their higher promiscuity, the fact that their component of the sex relationships graph is not bipartite and the intrisic high per-intercourse infection risk of anal sex) then it may end up infecting heterosexual even faster than it would if gay men didn’t exist.

      • NN says:

        Personally, I’m not impressed by the gay germ theory, given that Cochran doesn’t actually present any evidence for it beyond saying that other explanations don’t work. Personally, I see a number of reasons to be skeptical of it. For one, how likely is it that a germ or parasite could cause such a dramatic change in human sexual behavior without any visible side effects, when known behavior-altering-germs such as the rabies virus can’t do something as simple as making the host more aggressive without severely damaging the host’s brain?

        I agree with Cochran and other gay germ advocates that the gay gene hypothesis doesn’t seem to work. Leaving aside the evolutionary selection problems, twin studies consistently show low heritability values (20%-35%) for homosexuality. But that doesn’t mean that the only remaining theory is that a germ did it. For example, it could be, for lack of better words, a birth defect: something slips up during fetal development and causes the part of the brain that develops a sexual attraction to the opposite sex to instead develop a sexual attraction to the same sex. Obviously, there would be selection pressures to evolve safeguards against this happening, but the fact that babies are sometimes born with club feet show that these sorts of safeguards aren’t foolproof.

        Also, I suspect that social factors influence human homosexual behavior more than it is politically correct to say nowadays, because I see no other way to explain the apparently much higher incidence of male bisexual/homosexual behavior in some historical societies such as Ancient Greece and 19th century China (where a number of writers reported seeing many brothels staffed by young men that charged higher prices than the brothels staffed by young women) than in modern Western society.

        So while I don’t dismiss this theory out of hand, I don’t think there’s much reason to support it without more evidence.

        • JayMan says:

          For one, how likely is it that a germ or parasite could cause such a dramatic change in human sexual behavior without any visible side effects, when known behavior-altering-germs such as the rabies virus can’t do something as simple as making the host more aggressive without severely damaging the host’s brain?

          I guess you’ve never heard of narcolepsy.

          Or toxoplasmosis.

          Or influenza.

          Or a host of other things…

          But that doesn’t mean that the only remaining theory is that a germ did it. For example, it could be, for lack of better words, a birth defect: something slips up during fetal development and causes the part of the brain that develops a sexual attraction to the opposite sex to instead develop a sexual attraction to the same sex.

          Homosexuality, epigenetics, and zebras | West Hunter

          Of course, this hardly ever results in funny-looking genitalia – you’d think it would, but then natural selection has made that kind of error rare. Of course, it should have made epigenetic leakage that cause low-fitness behaviors like homosexuality equally rare. Which is the problem with this hypothesis: it rests on the assumption that natural selection in humans has been on a mysterious, all-expenses-paid vacation when it comes to mating. They suggest that maybe sexual behavior have changed since the human-chimp split and therefore there just hasn’t been enough time to thoroughly canalize sexual development in humans.

          I guarantee that speech is newer than that. What fraction of people are unable to talk? Gee, being mute is far less frequent than homosexuality, even though speech sure seems more complicated. Why is speechlessness so rare? Speech is damn useful, and natural selection has made failure rare. But it’s not more useful than reproduction its own self.

          Obviously, there would be selection pressures to evolve safeguards against this happening, but the fact that babies are sometimes born with club feet show that these sorts of safeguards aren’t foolproof.

          Do the math, though.

          The prevalence of homosexuality in men is something like 3-5%.

          Also, I suspect that social factors influence human homosexual behavior more than it is politically correct to say nowadays, because I see no other way to explain the apparently much higher incidence of male bisexual/homosexual behavior in some historical societies such as Ancient Greece and 19th century China

          I wasn’t aware that they did epidemiological studies in either of those societies.

          • NN says:

            I guess you’ve never heard of narcolepsy.

            First off, the causes of narcolepsy are far from settled; there are clearly genetic factors, some researchers think it is caused by autoimmune disease, and there is a bit of research linking it to H1N1 infection. Second, the disease that a few studies have linked narcolepsy with is H1N1 influenza, which has visible symptoms. Third, disrupting the sleep cycle isn’t that hard. Lots of chemicals can do it without rewiring the brain at all.

            Or toxoplasmosis.

            Toxoplasmosis has visible symptoms in immunocompromised people. Even in immunocompetent people, it causes cysts in nervous and muscle tissue. So this doesn’t fit the “no visible side effects” criteria.

            Maybe the gay germ does have visible symptoms in immunocompromised individuals and we’ve just never noticed them. But that seems unlikely considering how many gay men are infected with a disease that weakens the immune system.

            Or influenza.

            Influenza has lots of visible symptoms and only minor behavioral changes.

            Of course, this hardly ever results in funny-looking genitalia – you’d think it would, but then natural selection has made that kind of error rare.

            —-

            Do the math, though.

            The prevalence of homosexuality in men is something like 3-5%.

            First, that’s a rather high estimate for the prevalence of male homosexuality. A 2014 NHIS survey found that only 1.8% of American men identified as gay, and another 0.4% identified as bisexual.

            Second, funny-looking genitalia actually isn’t that rare:

            However, from the perspective of other traits influenced by fetal androgen signaling, and in which there is gonad-trait discordance, the high prevalence of homosexuality is not unusual. For example, the prevalence of hypospadias (gonad-trait discordance for urethral length) varies from 0.4% to 1% in newborns, and when including milder cases (ascertained in three years postpartum), its prevalence can be as high as 4% (Boisen et al. 2005). This phenotype is expected to interfere with sperm transfer during copulation, but despite this fitness cost, it persists at substantial frequency. Cryptorchidism (gonad-trait discordance for the position—abdominal versus descended—of the gonads) is associated with reduced fertility and increased rates of testicular cancer. The prevalence of this androgen-influenced trait is 2-9% (Bay et al. 2011).

            Third, I think your argument proves too much. One of the comments in your link says, “The strength of the pathogen theory is that the pathogen can continue an arms race against the host, whereas other factors could not.” But in another comment on this thread, you write that the homosexuality itself isn’t adaptive for the germ. I don’t see how both of these things could simultaneously be true. If homosexuality is a random side effect of some germ, then there is selection pressure on the host species to evolve countermeasures to this effect (in addition to an immune response to the germ itself), but there is no pressure on the germ to evolve counter-countermeasures to keep producing this random side effect that provides it with no benefit whatsoever.

            I wasn’t aware that they did epidemiological studies in either of those societies.

            I shouldn’t have used the word “incidence,” because you’re right that we don’t have any hard data on those societies. Regardless, an awful lot of art, literature, and history from Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, China, Feudal Japan, and a bunch of other cultures would be very hard to explain if only a few percent of men in those societies were interested in sexual relations with other males.

          • Randy M says:

            “gonad-trait discordance for urethral length”
            What on earth does this mean?

          • NN says:

            “gonad-trait discordance for urethral length”
            What on earth does this mean?

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypospadias

          • JayMan says:

            @NN:

            First off all, let me introduce you to a guy:

            http://twitter.com/JayMan471/status/658332346555437057

            Third, disrupting the sleep cycle isn’t that hard. Lots of chemicals can do it without rewiring the brain at all.

            Really, in the specific way with precise damage to the brain like narcolepsy does?

            First off, the causes of narcolepsy are far from settled; there are clearly genetic factors, some researchers think it is caused by autoimmune disease, and there is a bit of research linking it to H1N1 infection.

            Wow, that’s great. Now just keep thinking…

            Influenza has lots of visible symptoms and only minor behavioral changes.

            You sure about that?

            First, that’s a rather high estimate for the prevalence of male homosexuality. A 2014 NHIS survey found that only 1.8% of American

            Even if we go with that number, that’s way too high for something that effectively zeros fitness. Do you not understand Darwinian evolution at all?

            Second, funny-looking genitalia actually isn’t that rare:

            Those numbers are ridiculous. See here.

            Third, I think your argument proves too much. One of the comments in your link says, “The strength of the pathogen theory is that the pathogen can continue an arms race against the host, whereas other factors could not.” But in another comment on this thread, you write that the homosexuality itself isn’t adaptive for the germ. I don’t see how both of these things could simultaneously be true.

            Because you’re not thinking about it.

            Is paralysis adaptive for the polio virus?

            If homosexuality is a random side effect of some germ, then there is selection pressure on the host species to evolve countermeasures to this effect (in addition to an immune response to the germ itself), but there is no pressure on the germ to evolve counter-countermeasures to keep producing this random side effect that provides it with no benefit whatsoever.

            Unless the side effect has something to do with the pathogen’s avenue of attack and defense against such.

            . Regardless, an awful lot of art, literature, and history from Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, China, Feudal Japan, and a bunch of other cultures would be very hard to explain if only a few percent of men in those societies were interested in sexual relations with other males.

            How many people in today’s world are supermodels or NBA legends? Yet our art might make you think they’re much more common.

          • NN says:

            I want to get away from the discussion about infectious diseases changing behavior because I get the feeling that we’re both out of our depth on the subject, but I can’t leave this one alone:

            Influenza has lots of visible symptoms and only minor behavioral changes.

            You sure about that?

            Yes, I am sure that influenza has lots of visible symptoms. I am very familiar with the symptoms of influenza, because I caught the flu when I was 16 and it left me virtually bedridden for 3 days.

            Even if we go with that number, that’s way too high for something that effectively zeros fitness. Do you not understand Darwinian evolution at all?

            Homosexuality does not effectively zero fitness. Even in modern times, lots of gay people get married to members of the opposite sex and have children due to social pressure. This is especially likely to happen in traditional societies, and it seems plausible that it happened in prehistoric hunter-gatherer tribes as well. There is no doubt that homosexuality reduces fitness on average, but we can’t say by how much, at least without some in-depth anthropological research.

            Those numbers are ridiculous. See here.

            Your link is about intersex genitalia, which is a much more specific category than just congenitally abnormal/funny looking genitalia. Wikipedia confirms that hypospadias does indeed affect 1 in 250 boys, or 0.4% of them, and that cryptorchidism does indeed permanently affect about 1% of boys. Both of these conditions negatively impact fertility, and thus fitness, and yet they still occur at a pretty high rate. Considering how much more complex the brain is than the testicles, is a fitness reducing neurological congenital abnormality that occurs at about twice the rate of cryptorchidism really that implausible?

            Or I guess you could argue that unknown germs must be responsible for hypospadias and cryptorchidism too.

            Because you’re not thinking about it.

            Is paralysis adaptive for the polio virus?

            Paralysis occurs in less than one percent of people infected with polio. The rate at which the gay germ causes homosexuality would have to be much higher than that, so if anything paralytic polio is evidence against the gay germ theory.

            Unless the side effect has something to do with the pathogen’s avenue of attack and defense against such.

            Since you brought up polio, let’s compare the hypothetical gay germ with that. The neuromuscular system is large and complex, and there are a lot of ways to damage it. Changing someone’s sexual orientation would require making specific alterations to a specific part of the brain. You are suggesting that the gay germ causes homosexuality at a much greater rate than polio causes paralysis, even though causing homosexuality in the host provides no actual benefit to the germ.

            If evolving countermeasures against homosexuality is really as easy as you claim, then it should be trivial for the host species to evolve countermeasures that prevent the neurological changes that lead to homosexuality without inconveniencing the germ’s activities and reproduction at all. And if the structure of the brain is such that it is hard to evolve effective countermeasures against homosexuality, then doesn’t that undermine the arguments against non-germ theories?

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “Even in modern times, lots of gay people get married to members of the opposite sex and have children due to social pressure. This is especially likely to happen in traditional societies, and it seems plausible that it happened in prehistoric hunter-gatherer tribes as well.”

            Don’t compare modern with past societies. Remember we are talking about cultures where
            -polygamy and the pool of women was limited
            -individuals were expected to pay dowries
            -individuals could only marry within a small group
            etc

            The rate of people who never married is pretty high for Europe during the middle ages. I’m not sure how generalizable it is, but it suggests fitness was nearly zero.

            “There is no doubt that homosexuality reduces fitness on average, but we can’t say by how much, at least without some in-depth anthropological research.”

            Jayman has an entire site devoted to this stuff; the numbers he has are a fifth of the average fertility rate.

            “You are suggesting that the gay germ causes homosexuality at a much greater rate than polio causes paralysis, even though causing homosexuality in the host provides no actual benefit to the germ.”

            I can come up with plenty of just so stories where it is a benefit; since homosexuals are rare, they are incentivized to travel and engage in male only occupations without access to women (like sailors) which makes it spread more efficiently than if it was in a random individual.

            “If evolving countermeasures against homosexuality is really as easy as you claim, then it should be trivial for the host species to evolve countermeasures that prevent the neurological changes that lead to homosexuality without inconveniencing the germ’s activities and reproduction at all.”

            Sure and not everyone will have those defenses; some people will have defective copies, some variants will be weaker.

          • NN says:

            Don’t compare modern with past societies. Remember we are talking about cultures where
            -polygamy and the pool of women was limited
            -individuals were expected to pay dowries
            -individuals could only marry within a small group
            etc

            The rate of people who never married is pretty high for Europe during the middle ages. I’m not sure how generalizable it is, but it suggests fitness was nearly zero.

            I don’t think any of those practices really matter to the big picture. Pretty much all pre-modern societies had strong social incentives to get married and have children. Arranged marriages, dowries, inheritance, marrying into a higher social class, having descendants to take care of you when you get old… Plus there is the simple fact that children are a positive economic asset when you work on a pre-industrial farm, which is why the Amish have so many kids.

            It’s true that not everyone got married, but that doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be good reasons why a gay man might want to marry a beard, have enough heterosexual sex to keep appearances up, and then have some fun on the side with other males. With arranged marriages and the like, plenty of straight people would be getting married to people they weren’t attracted to anyway.

            I can come up with plenty of just so stories where it is a benefit; since homosexuals are rare, they are incentivized to travel and engage in male only occupations without access to women (like sailors) which makes it spread more efficiently than if it was in a random individual.

            If someone can come up with a good explanation for why causing homosexuality would be adaptive for a germ, I would give this theory more consideration. But Jayman seems to be pretty strongly against the idea that homosexuality is an adaptation by the hypothetical germ.

            With your explanation in particular, I’m skeptical of the idea that making the host go and live with a relatively small group of people instead of keep interacting with the larger community would be an effective reproductive strategy for the germ.

            Sure and not everyone will have those defenses; some people will have defective copies, some variants will be weaker.

            And people with weaker defenses will presumably be outbred by those with stronger defenses, because evolution.

          • Probably less fun than thinking about homosexuality, but there’s a level of child abuse which also lowers the odds of having descendants, and that hasn’t been selected out, either.

            Genetic effect on child abuse in macaques

            I know three women whose families (in one case, the mother, in one case both parents, and I’m not sure about the third) went to considerable efforts to convince them that they’re ugly. (I’d say all of them had average or slightly sub-average looks.) None of them have children. What could possibly be going on with the parents?

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “I don’t think any of those practices really matter to the big picture.”

            Up to 10% of the population never marrying in Europe middle ages. It matters a great deal.

            “With your explanation in particular, I’m skeptical of the idea that making the host go and live with a relatively small group of people instead of keep interacting with the larger community would be an effective reproductive strategy for the germ.”

            What are you talking about? Sailors interact with the larger community compared to peasant farmers.

            “And people with weaker defenses will presumably be outbred by those with stronger defenses, because evolution.”

            That doesn’t follow. It leads to lower prevalence, not nonexistence (see Down’s).

    • JayMan says:

      Excellent comment.

  74. BBA says:

    Corporate governance is so boring, Americans are pretty much okay with the fact that the 99.7% of the country that isn’t Delaware has no real say in it.

    • Marc Whipple says:

      While that’s funny, it’s not really accurate any longer. Many large states now allow the formation of LLC and it’s not advantageous to form those in Delaware most of the time.

      It’s really, really amazing how BIG some LLC are. Like, companies you would SURE were big subchapter-C corporations are LLC. This produces even more fun tax distortion.

      Note: I am a corporate attorney who has been doing corporate governance work for many years. I agree that it’s boring… until it’s not. When it’s not, it means that something has gone dreadfully, drastically wrong, and it’s going to be very expensive and very embarassing for someone.

      • BBA says:

        And yet most large LLCs (and most LLC subsidiaries of large companies) are also formed in Delaware, for the simple reason of path dependency.

        The most tangible benefit I’ve seen to Delaware, now that the rest of the country has come around to their model of corporate law, is that their Secretary of State is much more efficient and easier to deal with than other states’.

        • Marc Whipple says:

          Even “path dependency” is a little strong – I’d call it more like “habit” or “tradition.” The IL SOS, for instance, is quite easy to deal with, I’ve never had a lick of trouble with them. I’d never tell an Illinois-based client to form an LLC in Delaware. 🙂

          I do not dispute, by the way, anything you said. I agree with what you said. I just also agree with what I said. 🙂

          • BBA says:

            I’m in New York and the one time I’ve substantially dealt with our SOS they repeatedly rejected documents for insignificant reasons. I’d chalk this up to typical state government incompetence and corruption, but if even Illinois can get its shit together…

          • Marc Whipple says:

            It’s odd, as they are a very large and commercially important state, but I have never dealt with the NY SOS for purposes of entity creation or registration of foreign entities. I am certainly willing to take your word for it. I have dealt with them for registration of promotional sweepstakes (which is handled at the Department of Corporations) and they were as easy to get along with as any other jurisdiction for that purpose. In fact, they were somewhat more forgiving of the occasional minor paperwork error than Florida.

            I’ve dealt with IL, TX, and CA for entity registration purposes as well as about two dozen smaller states, and they were all reasonably reasonable.

  75. Nicholas says:

    The logic behind showing your work:
    Math is a medium of communication. When you put down an equation in simplest terms you are advocating a conclusion. Conclusions require supporting statements or you don’t have an argument. I am not grading your conclusion rightness, I am tracking your argument rightness. Conclusion rightness is a proxy metric.

    • E. Harding says:

      Bingo. I didn’t comment on this earlier because I hated showing my work, too.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I think math is at least two things. Number one, it’s a research program where you want to know why things are true – this is the kind of math where you prove Fermat’s Last Theorem. Number two, it’s a practical discipline where you learn how to calculate numbers that you need – this is the kind where two nickels equals a dime. If you can do the latter kind of math without writing certain steps down, why should you have to?

      • E. Harding says:

        Come on; most Middle and High School math is way more complex than nickels and dimes. Schools have to know what a student’s doing, so that they know he/she is not cheating.

        Also, I hereby summon Cowen’s Second Law, but declare myself too tired to follow up on it.

        • cali says:

          From personal experience, I could do 99% of math in my head until Sophomore/Junior Year in high school.

          Writing down the steps only introduced more points where I’d copy something down incorrectly and get the wrong answer even though I knew what I was doing.

          Unfortunately, showing work was always required, and I ended up significantly worse at mental math since I wrote everything down instead of exercising it.

          • E. Harding says:

            The school system is not entirely composed of those in the 95th or higher percentile of mathematical ability in the U.S.

          • shemtealeaf says:

            Writing down neat and organized work is a skill that has to be developed as well. I have a similar knack for mental math, and I think it allowed me to get away with not really learning how to write out my work in an efficient manner. Now that I’m trying to study multivariate calculus for an actuarial exam, I certainly can’t do the work in my head, and my lack of practice with writing organized steps is coming back to bite me.

          • Setsize says:

            Being able to translate certain thoughts to and from notation is a way to extend a person’s working memory. This is the skill that “showing your work” is meant to develop. Extending working memory by treating paper as swap-space and having a precise notation.

            And it’s a… common pattern that some students who have a larger working memory set than their peers, or are good at diagrammatic visualization, or whatnot, are never quite assigned problems large enough that they ever really get the point of writing intermediate steps down.

            A better response for the student who is getting right answers but not showing work should be to give that student larger and harder problems. But it’s hard to do that in a classroom format where everyone is assigned the same work.

      • Misha says:

        I’m often happy accepting correct answers without work when I grade. (As long as cheating is either not an issue, or not my problem.) But I can’t provide feedback on an incorrect answer with no work.

        I worry that making “no work needed if your answer is right” a policy would provide the wrong incentives. (Providing incentives is one of the benefits of taking a class over self-study.)

        In some cases, this also fails to catch potential mistakes that weren’t a problem in a specific case. For instance, “dividing by x-2 on both sides didn’t hurt this time, but if x=2 were a solution, you wouldn’t have found it.”

        • Murphy says:

          If everything else was treated like math is in elementary school.

          http://i.imgur.com/bs5EYa4.jpg

          I much preferred math in Uni because 1: the teachers are far less likely to be utterly inept and 2: they only expected non trivial steps to be explicitly shown.

          “How did I know that 67+43 is 110 Miss? How did I know that the volume of that 3n*6n*5n shape is 90n^3 Miss? Because I’m not fucking mentally defective. That’s how.”

          All steps involved are trivial. If you want workings give me some questions which are non-trivial.

          If I can look at the questions for a few seconds and be sure of the answers and get all answers correct then your test is entirely trivial.

          If you think I’m cheating put some of your trivial questions on a sheet, put it in front of me and I’ll answer them in front of you where you know I have no answer-key handy.

          I kind of wish I’d been as willing as I am now to tell teachers to go fuck themselves over this shit when I was 7. It would have saved so much time. I was far too polite back then and kind of assumed that everyone could see the answers as obviously as I could.

          Now of course, since I spent some time tutoring education majors, I know that the primary reason that most of them complained was that most of them can’t do even trivial mental arithmetic. They literally can’t see the answers without performing the magical rituals on paper and they don’t really know how anything works.

          On the other hand god bless my math and applied math and physics teachers in later highschool, they all had STEM degrees and knew what steps really were trivial. The applied math teacher was even so good as to help me prove some of the shortcuts I came up with generally correct.

          Simple solution to your problem. Use negative marking but only when the workings aren’t shown.

          Correct answer no matter what: +10

          Incorrect answer with workings: 0 or partial credit.

          Incorrect answer with no workings: -10

          Then the kids who get everything correct without workings get their full marks while those who are unsure or get answers wrong sometimes have an incentive to show workings.

          • Nicholas Carter says:

            How shall I put this…
            No.
            Secondary maths is a communications class. The point is not that you, in your head, intuitively grasp the answer, but that you be able to explain out loud to people who can’t do or haven’t done the math why your answer is correct. Forcing you to show all you work is an attempt to make you explain to me the answer as if I were only as competent at maths as your classmates, to whom (statistically speaking) the math is not trivial at all, and you are just skipping merrily though your explanation assuming that the inferential distance between yourself and the audience is small enough that they can recreate your argument from scratch.
            Tl,Dr: Secondary maths education is aimed at people who will mostly need to communicate math, not use it in solitude. Thus, your ability to use math is judged more like we judge writing an essay than finding a location on a map.

          • Murphy says:

            How shall I put this:
            I hope to god you’re never allowed teach because yours is the attitude that prompted Lockheats lament.

            https://www.maa.org/external_archive/devlin/LockhartsLament.pdf

            If english an SA were treated like math then you wouldn’t be allowed to use words with more than 1 syllable for fear that some dullard reader won’t understand them.

            I’ve never in my life struggled to explain to someone how to solve mathematical problems. Indeed many have said that things make sense when I explain them in contrast to when their math teacher marched them through kack-handed and unexplained rituals to solve problems.

            If you want to test for the ability to explain things then actually test that, insisting that your students first draw a picture of a dog carrying the number over to another number or whatever other stupid shit the National League of Ineptitude have decided is the “in” thing this year doesn’t help anyone do that, it just obscures actual understanding and produces another generation of even more inept teachers.

            “So your students don’t actually do any painting?” I
            asked. “Well, next year they take Pre-Paint-by-Numbers. That prepares them for the main
            Paint-by-Numbers sequence in high school. So they’ll get to use what they’ve learned here and
            apply it to real-life painting situations— dipping the brush into paint, wiping it off, stuff like that.
            Of course we track our students by ability. The really excellent painters— the ones who know
            their colors and brushes backwards and forwards— they get to the actual painting a little sooner,
            and some of them even take the Advanced Placement classes for college credit. But mostly
            we’re just trying to give these kids a good foundation in what painting is all about, so when they
            get out there in the real world and paint their kitchen they don’t make a total mess of it.”
            “Um, these high school classes you mentioned…”
            “You mean Paint-by-Numbers? We’re seeing much higher enrollments lately. I think it’s
            mostly coming from parents wanting to make sure their kid gets into a good college. Nothing
            looks better than Advanced Paint-by-Numbers on a high school transcript.”
            “Why do colleges care if you can fill in numbered regions with the corresponding color?”
            “Oh, well, you know, it shows clear-headed logical thinking. And of course if a student is
            planning to major in one of the visual sciences, like fashion or interior decorating, then it’s really
            a good idea to get your painting requirements out of the way in high school.”
            “I see. And when do students get to paint freely, on a blank canvas?”
            “You sound like one of my professors! They were always going on about expressing
            yourself and your feelings and things like that—really way-out-there abstract stuff. I’ve got a
            degree in Painting myself, but I’ve never really worked much with blank canvasses. I just use
            the Paint-by-Numbers kits supplied by the school board.”

            Sadly, our present system of mathematics education is precisely this kind of nightmare. In
            fact, if I had to design a mechanism for the express purpose of destroying a child’s natural
            curiosity and love of pattern-making, I couldn’t possibly do as good a job as is currently being
            done— I simply wouldn’t have the imagination to come up with the kind of senseless, soul-
            crushing ideas that constitute contemporary mathematics education.

          • Nicholas Carter says:

            You are incorrect.

          • Sometimes doing things the long way can be useful. When I took stats in college for the first half of the course I could just look at the problem, think for 10 seconds, and then give the answer. Then the material got hard enough that I couldn’t do that anymore and I didn’t have the practice at symbol manipulation that everybody else did. But I figured out the problem easily, practiced what I hadn’t been doing for a couple of hours, and then I was fine.

          • “I’ve never in my life struggled to explain to someone how to solve mathematical problems.”

            So you have never coded. Coding is explaining to someone dumb how to solve mathematical problems in the most explicit way possible.

          • Murphy says:

            @TheAncientGeek

            Actually that’s pretty much most of my job.

      • Deiseach says:

        I always assumed that the “show your work” was to check that you were doing it by the Approved Method and not (a) cheating (b) hitting on the right answer by luck (c) doing it by some accursed and damned alternative method like the old way before the bright new method of teaching maths was introduced.

        • tcd says:

          The humorous part in all this is that once you get past the gates of introductory undergrad math courses, (a) cheating (used in the loose sense of the word, “let’s assume we a partial ordering of S for now…” etc.), (b) hitting the right answer by luck, and (c) alternative methods are all fair game.

          Granted you will need to provide the rigorous details at some point, but it was my experience that most problems were first solved intuitively and then constructively after the fact.

      • Gbdub says:

        Showing your work demonstrates that you know / understand the method, so that you can apply it to other more difficult problems. You always practice on the easy stuff and perfect your technique before moving on to the challenging stuff – sure, once you’re advanced you can dispense with some of the technique, but only if you have a solid understanding of why it was there in the first. We do this in every other discipline – E.g. How many lab class “experiments” are generating new science? Approximately none, but demonstrating you can go through the motions is important to doing “real science” later.

        You show your work because the work, not the answer, is the important bit.

      • Nicholas Carter says:

        The presumption is that the most important use of maths is for things like
        Architect A: I think the load bearing column goes over here.
        Architect B: No, I think it goes over there.
        A: Why do you think that?
        B: [Shows his work]
        A: [Either agrees, or shows his own work]
        [Each criticizes the other’s work until a mistake is discovered, and one relents.]
        So the idea behind forcing people to show all their work is that you don’t so much need to be taught how to find the number (“Write down the problem very carefully, then type it into Wolfram Alpha.”) as that you need to be taught how to justify your opinion based on the maths about the GDP of your nation, or crime statistics, or co-morbidity tables, or whatever you and another trained professional are doing where you both did the math and got different answers and now need to come to a consensus on what to do going forward.

        • Murphy says:

          Which is why professionals comparing notes always include things like

          “324+88

          8 plus 4 is 12, carry the 1, 8 plus 2 plus the 1 is 11, carry the one …”

          no no, of course. what kind of professional would ever simply put a line

          324+88 = 412

          Or heaven forbid

          101*365 = 36865

          and leave it at that, ignoring the blindingly trivial steps while only showing the notable calculations.

          No no no, of course nobody professional would ever do such a thing!

          Your reasoning is bad and is the cause of the primary problems in modern math teaching.

          • Nicholas Carter says:

            What happens when the other guy got 101*365 = 36685? Then you say “You got that multiplication wrong.” And he says “I don’t think I did.” and you say “[show your work]* The point is to ingrain the habit of showing work from the very beginning, before Illusions of Transparency can set in, so that you have a sense of what it would mean to show your work at every step down a practical problem. Not that you literally transcribe each step at every level of understanding, but that you have the ability to transcribe each step at the level of resolution you need for your audience to understand you.

            *Well, you probably don’t because you probably take this opportunity for a baseless ad hominem for reasons related to your personal character as revealed above, but a person in general.

          • Tom Womack says:

            The problem is that people are being given math homework which is much too easy for their level of competence, and which has been designed for volume of output and ease of checking by an unskilled TA, not that the math homework asks them to show their working.

            No professional put ‘Results of simulations showing bridge resistance to turbulent wind loads of 1.2x design spec: it didn’t fall down’, even if the bridge was of a design such that its resistance to turbulent wind loads was intrinsically obvious to any competent bridge designer.

            (more fiddly for software engineers, where ‘did it build and run on RHEL5’ probably is adequately answered with ‘yes’ rather than with an attached text file of the output with date stamp and cat /etc/lsb-release unless you have quite pedantic release managers)

          • Murphy says:

            @Nicholas

            Have you ever, ever in your life come across someone capable of higher level math who’s actually unable to break down their reasoning excepting a genuine savant?

            I’ve come across a few teachers who can only add with a calculator because they only ever learned the magical rituals but even there, never have I encountered anyone who can’t easily at least break down the steps that they actually follow to the point where it’s possible to show them where something is going wrong. “Then I type this in and press…”

            With more capable people you just skip down the non-trivial steps to the point where something is going wrong.

            If that’s your reason then it’s addressing a problem that doesn’t exist in the real world.

            Even those teachers, at least you can say, “you pressed an extra button just there when you repeated the calculation” when the flaw is that they’re typing things in wrong.

            @Tom

            in some industries the build log is kept for audit trails. I’ve worked on such build systems though it still amounts to a yes/no.

          • ******* says:

            @Murphy

            Yes, if you’re always around to explain steps you skipped to any confused reader, you can safely skip more.

            The case where it’s important to show your work (and, therefore, to know how to show your work), is when you write a paper that others will read without talking to you. If your audience can’t ask for clarification, you need to make sure you’ve shown everything they need to understand. If they can, it’s still nice to minimize the need for that (without wasting too much time on trivia).

            It’s the same reason we teach computer science students to document their code.

            There are many people in higher math who, while perhaps able to break down their reasoning, fail to do so.

            Also, all of the concrete examples you’ve given are in fact trivial and I wouldn’t expect work to be shown there. What’s “trivial,” however, depends on your audience, not on you. Even if the answer is obvious to you it may not be obvious to your readers and you should write so they understand.

            If your audience is brilliant, sure, feel free to communicate only the trickiest bits. Similarly if they only care about the result.

          • Nicholas says:

            @Murphy.
            Yes. I once watched a psychopharmacology graduate try to explain division to an uneducated but statistically average adult. They couldn’t consciously recall the steps, their brain just output numbers when they saw division problems.
            It’s probably important to note that more than half my math-education experience has been of watching people in finite trying to explain algebra, and knowing what the answer is by rote intuition, but not remembering what mental pieces that process was built from.

          • onyomi says:

            I will jump in here to say that one of the biggest challenges of teaching is teaching to people who don’t intuitively put a lot of pieces together automatically. This is especially difficult because it tends to be people who were “good” at doing x in school (that is, for whom it was intuitively obvious) who end up teaching x later on.

            As someone for whom language and grammar was always super intuitive, I have found it quite a challenge, now that I teach foreign language, to remember that not everyone picks things up as intuitively as me, and that I need to figure out and explain things in detail sometimes.

            I had the reverse experience in most of my math classes throughout high school: I was always being taught by people for whom math was intuitively obvious, but it wasn’t intuitively obvious to me; thus, their explanations assumed too much and didn’t help me.

            That said, I also understand the frustration at being asked to “show your work” all the time, because it seems to assume a uniform way of intuitively grasping concepts which doesn’t exist. I think “full credit if you get the right answer–work shown or no, no credit if wrong answer and no work shown, partial credit if good work shown but wrong answer” does seem a fair system.

          • Murphy says:

            @onyomi

            I’m happy with more brutal: without working with the wrong answer, negative marks.

            Either be consistently correct or be auditable.

          • James Picone says:

            @*******

            Having recently worked on chunks of code that have this commenting style:

            // add one to nA
            nA += 1;

            // set the timer
            SetTimer(foo, bar, baz);

            // allocate memory for pointer
            pSomeObject = new SomeObject_t();

            I’m pretty much in the camp that incompetently-taught commenting style is a cure worse than the disease. The people who do this have been taught to comment everything, sometimes in courses where you quite literally lose marks if you have lines that aren’t commented.

            The analogue in maths education is left for the reader; I consider it a trivial step.

            (Also, if you use systems Hungarian notation in a language with types? Please fuck off and die)

        • Magicman says:

          In practice Architects A & B haven’t learnt much that is practical about loads in architecture school so they both defer to Civil engineer C. At which point she has the same type of discussion with Civil Engineer D. There is presumably a wide variance in required mathematical competency between Architecture schools but if this seems a little snarky I was shocked recently to discover how little maths was required.

    • Julie K says:

      Lately I’ve been helping my son study math, and I find myself saying “Go through all the steps, write more neatly, show your work” and then thinking “you hated when they told you that, what does it matter so long as he got the right answer?”

      • Randy M says:

        If he is coming to you for help, all of that is sound advice for getting help more efficiently. If he knows his stuff and you are just checking it over for your own due dilligence, than that would indeed be irritating.

    • tgb says:

      I disagree. Showing work is more than a justification for the answer. In math it is often possible to prove that the result is correct in a way that sidesteps the question of how to achieve the result. Showing work is not just verifying the answer.

      Say that I ask you for a solution to an unusual differential equation. You hand me that answer, along with the proof that it works. Cool, but solving differential equations is really hard, in general. So how’d you do it?!? If still want to know. In math papers it is dismally common to just write down the answer and a verification without telling how it was determined.

      • TrivialGravitas says:

        I don’t understand how counting change is in any way shape or form comparable to solving a differential equation.

        • Tom Womack says:

          That’s because you have a belief that counting up in convenient units, addition and subtraction are all absolutely the same trivial thing.

          In ‘It cost $13.78; he gave $20.03; the change is $6.25, because the quarter gets you to $14.03 and then obviously you need six dollars more’ the second part is actually an explanation rather than a rephrasing.

  76. Jeremy says:

    >This makes some sense, but I’ve never heard these people carry it to its logical conclusion: since the Third Worlders don’t seem to be up for it, why not at least put Switzerland or Denmark in charge of America?

    “Bernie! Bernie!”

    • E. Harding says:

      Scott Sumner is Switzerland, BTW.

      • Nathan says:

        As far as I can tell, the actual swiss politicians don’t have that much power. By putting the swiss in charge of America you would be failing to replicate the swiss system.

        • BBA says:

          Switzerland is the only republic on earth with neither a President nor a Prime Minister (or equivalent offices to those roles). There’s an indirectly-elected seven-member council that acts as collective head of state and government, with each council member heading a department and the ceremonial presidency rotating among them from year to year.

          I don’t know why there haven’t been any other countries to try this kind of system, but there haven’t.

          • E. Harding says:

            I favor a lower house with members selected from among the public by lottery. It would show the people how terrible true democracy really is.

          • Deiseach says:

            I favor a lower house with members selected from among the public by lottery. It would show the people how terrible true democracy really is.

            “The Napoleon of Notting Hill”, G.K. Chesterton (written in 1904, set in 1984):

            Why take the trouble to number and register and enfranchise all the innumerable John Robinsons, when you can take one John Robinson with the same intellect or lack of intellect as all the rest, and have done with it? The old idealistic republicans used to found democracy on the idea that all men were equally intelligent. Believe me, the sane and enduring democracy is founded on the fact that all men are equally idiotic. Why should we not choose out of them one as much as another? All that we want for Government is a man not criminal and insane, who can rapidly look over some petitions and sign some proclamations. To think what time was wasted in arguing about the House of Lords, Tories saying it ought to be preserved because it was clever, and Radicals saying it ought to be destroyed because it was stupid, and all the time no one saw that it was right because it was stupid, because that chance mob of ordinary men thrown there by accident of blood, were a great democratic protest against the Lower House, against the eternal insolence of the aristocracy of talents. We have established now in England, the thing towards which all systems have dimly groped, the dull popular despotism without illusions. We want one man at the head of our State, not because he is brilliant or virtuous, but because he is one man and not a chattering crowd. To avoid the possible chance of hereditary diseases or such things, we have abandoned hereditary monarchy. The King of England is chosen like a juryman upon an official rotation list. Beyond that the whole system is quietly despotic, and we have not found it raise a murmur.”

            “Do you really mean,” asked the President, incredulously, “that you choose any ordinary man that comes to hand and make him despot…that you trust to the chance of some alphabetical list…”

            “And why not?” cried Barker. “Did not half the historical nations trust to the chance of the eldest sons of eldest sons, and did not half of them get on tolerably well? To have a perfect system is impossible; to have a system is indispensable. All hereditary monarchies were a matter of luck: so are alphabetical monarchies. Can you find a deep philosophical meaning in the difference between the Stuarts and the Hanoverians? Believe me, I will undertake to find a deep philosophical meaning in the contrast between the dark tragedy of the A’s, and the solid success of the B’s.”

            “And you risk it?” asked the other. “Though the man may be a tyrant or a cynic or a criminal?”

            “We risk it,” answered Barker, with a perfect placidity. “Suppose he is a tyrant…he is still a check on a hundred tyrants. Suppose he is a cynic, it is to his interest to govern well. Suppose he is a criminal…by removing poverty and substituting power, we put a check on his criminality. In short, by substituting despotism we have put a total check on one criminal and a partial check on all the rest.”

            The Nicaraguan old gentleman leaned over with a queer expression in his eyes.

            “My church, sir,” he said, “has taught me to respect faith. I do not wish to speak with any disrespect of yours, however fantastic. But do you really mean that you will trust to the ordinary man, the man who may happen to come next, as a good despot?”

            “I do,” said Barker, simply. “He may not be a good man. But he will be a good despot. For when he comes to a mere business routine of government he will endeavour to do ordinary justice. Do we not assume the same thing in a jury?”

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Deiseach:

            I feel like this passage really gets at the heart of what Moldbugism is really all about. (Not that I fully agree with it.)

            “Give us anyone to be our ruler. So long as he is a truly absolute ruler.”

          • Who wouldn't want to be anonymous says:

            @Deiseach

            Your quote seems relevant to current events re: the Lords because (not necessarily @Deiseach) isn’t there some brouhaha brewing recently? Like, didn’t the Commons use the wrong kind of bill to avoid the customary practice in their house in order to pass something. But in so doing, it became subject to approval by the other house, which slapped it down with gusto. The Economist was twisting itself in knots because OMG the unelected wankers actually did something right! But (cue whine) they’re unelected wankers and shouldn’t be meddling with the tyranny of the majority!

            I can’t say as I follow shenanigans in Westminster closely, but seems like a perfect example of what Chesterton is saying.

          • Deiseach says:

            Ah, it’s not to say that Chesterton particularly advocated for the model of government he was using in his fantasy novel: the end of that conversation is as follows:

            The old President smiled.

            “I don’t know,” he said, “that I have any particular objection in detail to your excellent scheme of Government. My only objection is a quite personal one. It is, that if I were asked whether I would belong to it, I should ask first of all, if I was not permitted, as an alternative, to be a toad in a ditch. That is all. You cannot argue with the choice of the soul.”

            “Of the soul,” said Barker, knitting his brows, “I cannot pretend to say anything, but speaking in the interests of the public…”

            Mr. Auberon Quin rose suddenly to his feet.

            “If you’ll excuse me, gentlemen,” he said, “I will step out for a moment into the air.”

            “I’m so sorry, Auberon,” said Lambert, good-naturedly; “do you feel bad?”

            “Not bad exactly,” said Auberon, with self-restraint; “rather good, if anything. Strangely and richly good. The fact is I want to reflect a little on those beautiful words that have just been uttered. ‘Speaking,’ yes, that was the phrase, ‘speaking in the interests of the public.’ One cannot get the honey from such things without being alone for a little.”

            “Is he really off his chump, do you think?” asked Lambert.

            The old President looked after him with queerly vigilant eyes.

            “He is a man, I think,” he said, “who cares for nothing but a joke. He is a dangerous man.”

            Lambert laughed in the act of lifting some macaroni to his mouth.

            “Dangerous!” he said. “You don’t know little Quin, sir!”

            “Every man is dangerous,” said the old man, without moving, “who cares only for one thing. I was once dangerous myself.”

            And with a pleasant smile he finished his coffee and rose, bowing profoundly, passed out into the fog, which had again grown dense and sombre. Three days afterwards they heard that he had died quietly in lodgings in Soho.

            The problem, of course, with putting all power into the hands of anyone and making them a despot, even a randomly chosen despot, is that sometimes they will indeed exercise those powers – and then what happens?

            And that is the rest of the novel, which I recommend you all to read (“The Man Who Was Thursday” will always have first place in my heart, but I’m fond of “The Napoleon of Notting Hill” as well).

          • Deiseach says:

            Okay, I can’t resist slinging some quotes at you.

            The Lord High Provost of the Good and Valiant City of West Kensington wrote a respectful letter to the King, explaining that upon State occasions it would, of course, be his duty to observe what formalities the King thought proper, but that it was really awkward for a decent householder not to be allowed to go out and put a post-card in a pillar-box without being escorted by five heralds, who announced, with formal cries and blasts of a trumpet, that the Lord High Provost desired to catch the post.

            The Lord High Provost of North Kensington, who was a prosperous draper, wrote a curt business note, like a man complaining of a railway company, stating that definite inconvenience had been caused him by the presence of the halberdiers, whom he had to take with him everywhere. When attempting to catch an omnibus to the City, he had found that while room could have been found for himself, the halberdiers had a difficulty in getting into the vehicle – believe him, theirs faithfully.

            The Lord High Provost of Shepherd’s Bush said his wife did not like men hanging round the kitchen.

            The King was always delighted to listen to these grievances, delivering lenient and kingly answers, but as he always insisted, as the absolute sine qua non, that verbal complaints should be presented to him with the fullest pomp of trumpets, plumes, and halberds, only a few resolute spirits were prepared to run the gauntlet of the little boys in the street.

            And

            You have come, my Lord, about Pump Street?”

            “About the city of Notting Hill,” answered Wayne, proudly. “Of which Pump Street is a living and rejoicing part.”

            “Not a very large part,” said Barker, contemptuously.

            “That which is large enough for the rich to covet,” said Wayne, drawing up his head, “is large enough for the poor to defend.”

            The King slapped both his legs, and waved his feet for a second in the air.

            “Every respectable person in Notting Hill,” cut in Buck, with his cold, coarse voice, “is for us and against you. I have plenty of friends in Notting Hill.”

            “Your friends are those who have taken your gold for other men’s hearthstones, my Lord Buck,” said Provost Wayne. “I can well believe they are your friends.”

            “They’ve never sold dirty toys, anyhow,” said Buck, laughing shortly.

            “They’ve sold dirtier things,” said Wayne, calmly; “they have sold themselves.”

            And

            A little while after the King’s accession a small book of poems appeared, called “Hymns of the Hill.” They were not good poems, nor was the book successful, but it attracted a certain amount of attention from one particular school of critics. The King himself, who was a member of the school, reviewed it in his capacity of literary critic to “Straight from the Stables,” a sporting journal. They were known as the Hammock School, because it had been calculated malignantly by an enemy that no less than thirteen of their delicate criticisms had begun with the words, “I read this book in a hammock; half asleep in the sleepy sunlight, I…”; after that there were important differences. Under these conditions they liked everything, but especially everything silly. “Next to authentic goodness in a book,” they said “next to authentic goodness in a book (and that, alas! we never find) we desire a rich badness.” Thus it happened that their praise (as indicating the presence of a rich badness) was not universally sought after, and authors became a little disquieted when they found the eye of the Hammock School fixed upon them with peculiar favour.

          • Maware says:

            The Napoleon of Notting Hill is about how that system produced a ruler who literally thought everything was a joke. He then creates an absurd system of medieval wards simply because he can, and it amuses him. But one young man actually takes him seriously, causing bloody inter-ward warfare and reverting people to a neo-medievalism that ends in the death of pretty much the entire soldiery of Notting Hill, leader included.

            It’s one of Chesterton’s more inhumane works, and Moldbuggians should read it just to show how dangerous any one man in power can be, even when he is passionate about right. Notting Hill won its battle, and for a time its sumptuous culture dominated. But the book ends with the other nations breaking it down because they disobeyed their own leader and tried to become an empire. Chesterton gave us only the heroic, idealized, ballad style of warfare, but even then, everyone you know in the book died in a pointless fight.

          • Oh, Maware, I was so much younger and less responsible when I read and enjoyed _The Napoleon of Notting Hill_. It should still give some pleasure to recreationists.

            Perhaps I should read it again, though I do remember Chesterton saying that it’s blood which makes land sacred.

            And the beginning of the book is probably still true, though the following paragraphs might not be fully consonant with rationalism.

            THE human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children’s games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up. And one of the games to which it is most attached is called, “Keep to-morrow dark,” and which is also named (by the rustics in Shropshire, I have no doubt) “Cheat the Prophet.” The players listen very carefully and respectfully to all that the clever men have to say about what is to happen in the next generation. The players then wait until all the clever men are dead, and bury them nicely. They then go and do something else. That is all. For a race of simple tastes, however, it is great fun.

          • Mary says:

            ” It should still give some pleasure to recreationists.”

            The Return of Don Quixote is even better for that.

  77. Paprika says:

    Re sons of European monarchy vs bombing on Vietnam. I think the answer might be that the sons of European royalty is an exponential advantage and tends to grow with each generation if it’s even a small positive.

    On the other hand, the situation in Vietnam is an average and for exactly the same reasons individual exponential advantages of a few people grow quickly, reach parity with alternate universe non bombed Vietnam and dominate the less advantaged people.

    The difference in perceived outcome is due to focusing on individuals who have an exponential advantage each generation vs the average population where the prosperity of the winners overwhelms everything else. The same phenomenon causes both.

    Think of a pool of individuals that grow randomly but exponentially(or rather like 1-e^{-x}) and how much of the pool they dominate is proportional to how fast they grow. The difference between the things you cite is focusing on individual particles that have a good chance to grow quickly vs looking at average growth starting from different pools.

  78. rose says:

    >iran goes all soft and inoffensive

    Yes, like this news yesterday:
    Reuters – “Iran has stopped dismantling nuclear centrifuges”
    Read more at Reutershttp://www.reuters.com/article/2015/11/10/us-iran-nuclear-deal-idUSKCN0SZ1Z720151110#5rxKwfKUDmvctC0j.99

  79. Toggle says:

    Re: Celebrity meat:

    If you haven’t read the comic book “Transmetropolitan”, you simply must. It has exactly that kind of extreme-culture-shock-but-actually-now-that-I-think-about-it future society. You can spend hours just reading billboards in the background.

  80. Zubon says:

    This is an above-average crop of links and commentary. Good post.

  81. Hera says:

    Regarding the “new imperialism”:

    The bargain that Third World migrants accept when they come to Europe is: You can have safety from violence, reliable electricity, good roads, bureaucrats who don’t demand bribes, a fair judicial system, access to investment capital, and all the other benefits of First World living, in exchange for giving up your right to democratic representation—not for all time, but at least for the foreseeable future.

    This is precisely the bargain that imperialism offered, and in the comfort of your own home! Which is why the next-best policy, assuming “new imperialism” doesn’t get off the ground, is for European countries to refuse to accept any migrants from countries where they had a colonial regime kicked out by force.

    Why shouldn’t Britain say to Nigeria, Zimbabwe, the subcontinent, et al.: Look, chaps, the last time we tried to offer you good government and higher living standards in exchange for some useless old political rights that you really didn’t have much of under your previous regime anyway, you bloody murdered us with guns and bombs! And now you want the same deal, but in our house? Get stuffed!

    • david says:

      Britain did not hold up its end of the bargain in much of British West Africa (failure to deliver non-subsistence living standards) nor in Malaya (failure to defend nonwhite citizens from the Japanese).

      The empire sensibly fled India before the bloodiness of Partition could be foisted upon them, but if the British had remained they’d have failed there too.

    • multiheaded says:

      Open a motherfucking world history book. Why Nations Fail is pretty okay to start out with. I mostly enjoyed it; a little oversimplified/formulaic/doctrinaire, but the overall direction is alright. Late Victorian Holocausts is kind of mandatory too.

      You’ll be cringing at what you’re saying right now, trust me. When I was like 18, I was an edgelord like you and a fan of Western imperialism, but then I got some actual explainations re: why imperialism has been so intensely fucking horrible.

      • One of the famines Davis mentions was aggravated by Brazilian governments keeping would-be migrants out of cities. (In today’s U.S. this is done by zoning laws with the approval of trendy liberals.) That is not capitalism—especially not the kind Julian Simon defended.

        It’s interesting that in Brazil, the capitalists traded with southern Brazil whereas the famine Davis discussed was in northern Brazil. Let’s see. Capitalists can be blamed for trading and also for not trading…

    • JBeshir says:

      Even granting premises, that would be collective punishment of a population (and for decisions made by previous generations, to boot), which is bad.

      That said, the UK does generally say “get stuffed” when it comes to non-EU people who want to immigrate nowadays, probably for the same reasons that most Western countries which don’t share land borders with lower income countries do. The UK had periods of less controlled immigration in the past, but nowadays it requires either being a spouse (with the marrying person having a minimum income), meeting skilled worker entry requirements, or meeting more unusual conditions (e.g. investor visas) for a long lasting right to remain.

      It does allow asylum as an exception, at about 1/30th of total non-EU immigration, and there’s some talk of allowing about 20,000 immigrants as a special case for the Syria crisis over five years, which at 4,000 a year is about 1.5% of current total non-EU immigration, but the Government is resisting pressure to do more. It’s also saying that it will take migrants directly from refugee camps rather than ones already in Europe to avoid perverse incentives.

      The whole “being on the opposite side of Europe and also having a moat” deal makes the UK rather exceptional as regards the Syria crisis; it doesn’t have many people at all just showing up inside it that it has to decide what to do with, it just has pressure from other governments/public to agree to help. The mainland is in a very different situation. In the long-term this may not matter much since intra-EU migration will presumably spread culture around effectively, but it does mean that talk about what policy to take that’s geared towards the mainland isn’t directly applicable to the UK.

      In most respects it already conforms to the principles advocated by Restrictes nowadays in principles; the current topics of disagreement between the mainstream anti-immigration people and Government policy are over whether intra-EU migration is a problem too, exactly what standard of skilled worker to demand, whether asylum should be a thing/should be more restricted, and whether any Syrian refugees should be accepted at all.

      (Current immigration figures from http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/migration1/migration-statistics-quarterly-report/august-2015/stb-msqr-august-2015.html and http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-34171148 for the UK’s Syria crisis stuff)

    • Murphy says:

      Well, most of the EU members have some kind of dark history with some of the others.

      Often being under the control of a power doesn’t translate to good government and higher living standards. Look at some of the history of Ireland, look at many of the outlying areas of Spain under Franco. Often wealth is simply sucked out of the conquered areas, lowering living standards in exchange for very little while local industry is suppressed so that it cannot compete with the controlling powers industry.

      There’s some really interesting economic aspects to the irish potato famine, for one it was an island nation in the middle of some of the worlds richest fishing grounds. Nobody within 10 miles of the coast should have starved yet boats rotted in harbor and the catch decreased during the famine years.

      The reason was that the empires economic policies had prevented the development of salting and canning industries and transport links from coastal towns in Ireland because they might compete with existing concerns in England. Large boats which could go out all year round were thus unable to operate economically so the fishing fleets were mostly small boats which couldn’t operate in inclement weather who’s workers needed to be able to subsist on other food sources whenever bad weather persisted. Combined with the famine the fishing fleets lost large portions of their labor force to starvation during protracted bad weather.

      Meanwhile semi-free market policies when it came to commodities like grain meant that large quantities of food were being exported during a famine which caused generations of resentment.

      Imperialism often utterly fails to give back more than it takes.

      • “Meanwhile semi-free market policies when it came to commodities like grain meant that large quantities of food were being exported during a famine”

        My understanding of the situation was that grain was a relatively expensive crop per calorie, so that exporting grain and importing less expensive crops (maize? I’m going on memory) resulted in less famine, not more.

        • Murphy says:

          You’re assuming they followed through on the second part.

          http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Irish_Potato_Famine_%281845%E2%80%931849%29

          a ship sailing into an Irish port during the famine years with a cargo of grain was “sure to meet six ships sailing out with a similar cargo.”

          One of the most remarkable facts about the famine period is that there was an average monthly export of food from Ireland worth 100,000 Pounds Sterling. Almost throughout the five-year famine, Ireland remained a net exporter of food.

          When Ireland experienced an earlier famine in 1782-1783, ports were closed in order to keep home grown food for domestic consumption. Food prices were immediately reduced within Ireland. The merchants lobbied against such efforts, but their protests were over-ridden. Everyone recognized that the interests of the merchants and the distressed people were irreconcilable

          After all, it’s only peasants dying, the poorest of them at that and ethnic Irish to boot.

          When the people in charge of famine relief say things like this, their priority is not going to be importing maize

          “[The] problem of Irish overpopulation being altogether beyond the power of man, the cure had been supplied by the direct stroke of an all-wise Providence.”

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            I can think of nothing more economically insane than forcing food prices down during a famine, as your source indicates.

            Moreover, it is simply not true that “the interests of the merchants and the distressed people were irreconcilable”, and therefore it is totally unnecessary to close ports to exports of food during a famine. The interests of merchants and starving people are fundamentally in harmony: they are both benefited by a system that causes food to be transported according to its most economically efficient use.

            There were many discriminatory and anti-market policies imposed by the British on Ireland. But allowing the free transportation of food was not one of them.

          • Murphy says:

            @Vox

            They’re in harmony as long as the poor people have money to spend.

            Humans with no money or very little money when there’s an oversupply of labor aren’t entities which the market naturally helps much.

            As soon as they’re out of assets the “most economically efficient use” of food can be to feed it to animals in order to sell valuable meat to aristocrats and the wealthy.

            Which would still work if the poor benefitted greatly from the sale but if the primary person benefiting from the sale is the absentee land owner who’s spending it in whore houses abroad then the starving are SOoL and the market will tend to hurt them more than help them.

          • JBeshir says:

            @Murphy

            That’s a good point.

            I was thinking “only if there’s no richer people buying more food than they need, leading to a sufficient percentage of the supply being used for luxury that there’s not enough left to feed all the poor”, which is what leads to “food is too expensive, people starve” prices until when/if supply adjusts, but was unable to come up with a good reason why there would be large amounts used for luxury.

            Meat production (domestically or overseas) would explain it, though.

            Just like Murphy said, in general there is the problem that given sufficient inequality, economic efficiency will prioritise the luxury of the well-off over the survival of the poor, simply because the well-off will pay more for their luxury than the poor can pay for their survival, and “economically efficient” means distributing things to the people who will pay the most for them.

            Shifting priority from providing luxury to feeding the poor would be a matter of generating an economic inefficiency under such circumstances, so the fact that a policy can only generate economic inefficiencies is not in and of itself enough to condemn it as a solution.

            Countries with differing income levels being in the same market would be a good way to get such a situation, so it makes sense that limiting international trade to split them could be a welfare-improving measure even if it induced economic inefficiencies aside the intended one.

          • Murphy says:

            @JBeshir

            Not just meat, also spirits and beers.

            During the first nine months of “Black ’47” the export of grain-derived alcohol from Ireland to England included the following: 874,170 gallons of porter, 278,658 gallons of Guinness, and 183,392 gallons of whiskey.

            I’m not sure how many tons of grain you need to produce 833,716 litres of whiskey but it’s probably a lot.

          • Nornagest says:

            Google suggests you get about two gallons of ethanol from a bushel of grain, which gives you about four or five gallons of spirits. After some conversions, that gives us somewhere in the neighborhood of 1100 metric tons of grain to make 833,716 liters of whiskey , plus or minus a bit depending on what you’re distilling from.

            That doesn’t sound like a lot at national production scales.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ JBeshir:

            Well, yes, I suppose if the Irish were so economically unproductive that they could not even afford to outbid the foreign rich even on the small quantity of food they need for survival, then economically they would starve. So you are correct that, in the extreme case, it would be in the interest of the domestic poor to stop free trade (and, by the same token, in the interest of the foreign rich to continue it).

            But the main effect of free trade in food is to produce a tendency toward a uniform price of food everywhere. If food prices are exceptionally high in Ireland but normal in England, they won’t stay that way for long. You do not ship food from places where the price is high to places where the price is low.

            And unless there is a global famine, prices will not be uniformly high everywhere.

            Now, since there actually was a terrible famine in Ireland, we know that something went wrong. But I am very skeptical that the cause of Irish starvation was the absolute inability of the Irish to produce anything of economic value. Rather, I would point to the measures imposed upon them restricting their freedom and economic productivity.

        • Deiseach says:

          Maize? You mean “Peel’s Brimstone”? 🙂

          For a start, nobody knew how to cook maize and it was harder than native grains so it was more difficult to mill. The importation programme only ran for a year and the Famine lasted for three. Also, the government was so fearful of interfering with the market and the rights of private property, they had to do this in secret:

          Confronted by widespread crop failure in November 1845, Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel purchased £100,000 worth of maize and cornmeal secretly from America. Baring Brothers initially acted as agents for the Prime Minister. The government hoped that they would not “stifle private enterprise” and that their actions would not act as a disincentive to local relief efforts. Due to weather conditions, the first shipment did not arrive in Ireland until the beginning of February 1846. The initial shipments were of unground dried kernels, but the few Irish mills in operation were not equipped for milling maize. A long and complicated milling process had to be adopted before the meal could be distributed. In addition, before the cornmeal could be consumed, it had to be “very much” cooked again, or eating it could result in severe bowel complaints. Because of its yellow colour, and initial unpopularity, it became known as “Peel’s brimstone”

          Causes and effects of the Famine are very complicated, much more so than a simple crop failure. Why one crop failing had such a catastrophic effect is the real question. The effects that it had on the development of Irish society are also intriguing; here is the textbook we used for Leaving Cert history in my day (one of them, anyway).

      • I’m taking notes on the fishing regulations…

    • Anonymous says:

      “This is precisely the bargain that imperialism offered, and in the comfort of your own home”

      No. The bargain imperialism offers is “have your country managed by people who have no incentive in making it prosper”. It never works particularly well and it wouldn’t work at all in this particular circumstances.

      This is precisely the reason the European Union isn’t working either, btw.

      • Vox Imperatoris says:

        Do democratically elected domestic leaders really have an incentive for making it prosper?

        It seems to me that they really don’t. If they’re still due for another election, they have an incentive for making it appear to prosper and/or blaming factors outside their control for the non-prosperity. But those aren’t always the same thing as causing actual prosperity.

        • Anonymous says:

          “Do democratically elected domestic leaders really have an incentive for making it prosper?”

          Yes. Even if they plan on fleeing the country it’s impractical to also relocate their extended family and friends. Then there’s all the business interests that they and their extended family and friends have in the country. Finally there’s always some mechanism of accountability to their party of affiliation and inside a political party there is always someone up for another election.

          It’s far from ideal (in fact I would call it basically broken) and I would rather prefer mostly direct democracy but it’s still better incentives than those usually found in a colony.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            That’s pretty fair, actually.

            Incentive problems are huge in colonialism or military occupation of any sort.

          • The problem is the tradeoff. The current government has an incentive in favor or prosperity, all else being equal. They also have an incentive to maintain their own power and perks. Those are in conflict.

            Consider exchange controls in India in the early decades of independence. The ability to allocate foreign currency at a price in rupees well below its actual value was an enormous revenue source for the permit raj. Also a large drag on economic development, since it made foreign exchange scarce and allocated it to those with political pull.

      • “it never works particularly well.”

        Per capita income of Hong Kong under British rule passed that of the U.K. , despite Hong Kong being the poorest economy in the world in terms of natural resources. Compare that to what was happening in mainland China under Chinese rule or even in Taiwan under (non-communist) Chinese rule.

        • 1 in 5 people in live in poverty
          The poverty line for a one-person family is HK$3,275 per month
          40% of the Hong Kong population live in subsidised public housing
          100,000 people live in coffin, cage homes and rooftops
          Over 1,000 people are homeless
          Hong Kong has highest income gap between the rich and the poor of any developed economy in the world
          The minimum wage, introduced in 2011, is HK$28 per hour
          There are 650,000 working poor
          300,000 children do not get 3 meals a day
          1 in 3 seniors struggle to meet their basic nutritional needs

          Crammed into wire mesh boxes the size of coffins, these are the penniless people forced to live like animals in one of the world’s richest cities.
          Hong Kong’s forgotten ‘caged dogs’ pay about HK$1,500 a year (£117) to live in a city whose small size and high population pushes the rent on even a tiny flat far out of the reach of its poorest residents.
          The poverty-stricken people keep their clothes and photos of loved ones next to filthy blankets in their cages, which measure 6ft long and between 2 1/2 ft and 3ft wide and are stacked on top of each other.
          Some of them cannot stretch their legs out straight and are forced to sleep curled up in a ball.

          Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2558403/Hong-Kongs-caged-dogs-Poverty-stricken-people-forced-live-like-animals-one-worlds-wealthiest-densely-populated-cities.html#ixzz3rNHX6UXh
          Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

          Hong Kong’s elders are said to be living in one of the poorest conditions among their peers in developed societies around the world. Old people are commonly seen scouring streets looking for cardboard paper and bottles to recycle, often with their backs badly bent. The city does not have a universal retirement system, but eligible seniors can apply for allowances from the government.

          • Tibor says:

            I dunno, I visited Hong Kong and even slept in one of the worse places there (a tiny room in a Pakistani hostel in Kowloon where there were 3 of us sharing two beds…we had another place to stay but the owner made a mistake and booked it twice for the first night…this was the only place available). That room was not where I would want to live, but it was obviously better than living in Pakistan or most parts of China…which is why the people from those places came to HK.

            There is no doubt a huge difference between the rich and the poor there. So is there in China. But relatively to China, everyone is doing better. At the same time, a lot of the people who live there under the worst conditions are exactly immigrants from China (it is not so simple for them to come to HK…I found it quite ironic that we, being foreigners had less trouble crossing the border between Shen-Zhen and HK than the people with PRC passports). And for them this is still preferable to what they had. They also have a good chance for improvement.

            Now, contrary to popular belief, HK government has quite a lot of welfare programs, above all those related to housing (subsidized flats are very common).

            Most of what people cite as inhumane is the result of HK being tiny (and full of mountains…which actually make the city beautiful despite the skyscrapers everywhere) and with a lot of people coming there…which means the housing prices skyrocket. But that is a problem of geography and not of policy. If anything it is an evidence in favour of that policy – if people are still willing to immigrate to HK despite the housing prices (everything else, save for cars, which come with huge taxes again for overcrowding reasons, is actually quite cheap there, I was surprised myself), then HK has to be a pretty good choice for even the poor people there.

            By the way, the mandarin speaking mainland Chinese are not exactly liked by the Hongkongese natives (they see them as a danger and a lever in the hands of Peking).

            I am also a bit skeptical about the elderly being treated bad. The life expectancy in HK (as well as education levels and many other “quality of life” statistics) in HK one of the highest in the world and while a high average income can be caused by a minority of really really rich in a rather poor country, you cannot live up to 1000, so it does not work that way with life expectancy.

            I also noticed that old people in HK (also in Singapore) are treated very differently than they are in Europe. It seemed to me that the people there make much more effort to spend time with their grandparents and help them to live an active life as long as possible. This, along with genes and maybe a healthy diet (although the southern Chinese cuisine is rather greasy, so maybe not) might also explain a part of the high life expectancy.

          • g says:

            If the Daily Mail published a story saying that water is wet, I would check the stuff coming out of my taps in case it had suddenly turned dry.

    • Deiseach says:

      The bureaucrats may not demand bribes, but the politicians in charge of the civil service do – or the next best thing which is soliciting campaign donations, donations for supporting the party, etc. and then awarding the donors in the Honours Lists or granting fat contracts to their friends, colleagues and “I know this businessman as a person of probity and honesty and no brown envelopes exchanged hands (it’s just a complete coincidence I awarded him a licence for a state monopoly after he loaned me £420,000″)*.

      There have been a few too many corruption scandals in my green little island for me to accept the boasting that European nations are all squeaky-clean unlike despotic or corrupt African regimes only interested in enriching themselves.

      *The politician in question, even after being kicked out of his own party, is still getting elected and returned to the Dáíl quite comfortably; a couple of years back when I went to visit my sister, his mug on election posters was plastered all over the border between North Tipperary and South Offaly.

      • CatCube says:

        When I was stationed in Afghanistan, a report came across our desks about a local judge who, in his inaguration speech, said, “I paid a lot of money for this job, and I intend to make it back.” Also, when we had empty shelves in our PX, it turned out that the local police set up a checkpoint 50 meters outside our gate checkpoint and were demanding $100 per truck, so we had a huge lot full of trucks waiting to come on the base.

        It’s not that we don’t have corruption in First-World countries, it’s that we have a norm against it. We at least force corrupt individuals to try to appear honest, so it’ll better approximate justice.

        • Tom Womack says:

          And, because you are the US military and under a rather different set of political influences from Clive of India, the result of the first case was not that a Pashto-speaking American judge was sitting in that judge’s office the next morning with the head of the corrupt judge displayed on a pike outside, and the result of the second case was not that the checkpoint was within three minutes on fire and decorated with the heads of the local policemen running it, and within ten minutes further decorated with the head of their boss.

          • CatCube says:

            I was talking to somebody about the checkpoint outside our gate thing, asking why we didn’t put a stop to it. The answer I got was “It’s their country.”

            This leads into something related to the commentary on the open thread about child rape in Afghanistan. A couple of buddies of mine were discussing the pederasty situation, as one of them was working with a police unit and was cautioned to never let the police be alone with a child. The guy he was talking to asked “How do you unfuck a culture?” I sure don’t know.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            The book Winning the Unwinnable War is a slightly less extreme take on what you are suggesting. It is an Objectivist critique of American foreign policy, essentially saying that the altruistic morality behind “just war theory” is responsible for the self-crippling of America’s military efforts.

            This blog post basically gives the feel for it: https://www.theobjectivestandard.com/issues/2006-winter/no-substitute-for-victory-the-defeat-of-islamic-totalitarianism/

          • You can only succeed or fail relative to a goal. Do the Objectivists have a way of succeeding that preserves the aims of US foreign policy, or are they replacing those goals with other, more achievable ones?

          • nydwracu says:

            This leads into something related to the commentary on the open thread about child rape in Afghanistan. A couple of buddies of mine were discussing the pederasty situation, as one of them was working with a police unit and was cautioned to never let the police be alone with a child. The guy he was talking to asked “How do you unfuck a culture?” I sure don’t know.

            There are two ways that I can think of: either you set up schools and indoctrinate all the children in an unfucked culture or you declare the culture unfucked and kill everyone who doesn’t get with the program. But the first way requires stability and long-term investment and the second way doesn’t look good on camera.

          • For one version of how to “unfuck a culture” from about a century ago:

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_White_Man's_Burden#Poem

  82. E. Harding says:

    “Probably demonstrates something about psychology: I had no idea until this week that I had two very different mental images stored of the White House: they turn out to be its north vs. south facades. Did everyone else already realize this?”

    -I certainly did. I was at the North Lawn of the White House in July 2014. The White House looks quite unimpressive from up close and appears like a typical City Hall, much unlike the Washington Monument, which is unbelievably huge.

    “This makes some sense, but I’ve never heard these people carry it to its logical conclusion: since the Third Worlders don’t seem to be up for it, why not at least put Switzerland or Denmark in charge of America?”

    -How’s living in those places any better than living in the U.S. as it is? And isn’t most of the extra benefits of Switzerland due to its tax-shelter status?

    “Noah Smith: isn’t it kind of a coincidence that China’s services sector is taking off right when their industrial sector is collapsing?”

    -Well, that’s what happens to countries becoming richer: an industrial economy transitions to a modern, service-centered one. Nothing surprising here. The only surprise here is that China seems to be peaking early. It should be peaking later, at the GDP/capita (PPP) level of Belarus or Mexico. But, on the other hand, China is composed of many different provinces, some of which are far richer than Belarus and Mexico. Mexico, BTW, also has great regional inequality.

    “I haven’t read it yet, but I hope it will fill the important niche of “less terrible version of Richard Lynn”.”

    -Awesome zinger.

    “‘Death to America’ does not mean death to the American nation, it means death to the US’ policies and death to arrogance.”

    -Well, obviously. Once you understand that the Iranian characterization of the U.S. as the Great Satan is 100% accurate, you also start to understand the meaning of “Death to America” better.

    “New York Times wrote an editorial panning Chris Christie. I love Christie’s response: didn’t read it, too much trouble getting past the paywall.”

    -Christie is a giant, giant, giant, giant idiot, in that case. Also, a Nazi. I hate Christie’s idiotic response. Script for Scriptish for permanently unblocking the NYT paywall here:
    https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B8ZCCfC0yMSOam1qMldyMjNSSEk/view?usp=sharing
    You can also use Private Browsing.
    Also, Christie’s a Nazi:
    http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/10/christie_on_syria_id_shoot_down_russian_jets_commi.html

    “But it contradicts so much else, like the study showing American bombing of Vietnam has already been economically-adjusted away that it’s hard for me to credit too much.”

    -Regarding economic development: IQ matters. Corruption matters (Chile v. Russia). Communism and Communist legacy matters. War doesn’t matter. Islam probably matters. Institutions matter. Deliberate economic policy meant to promote free markets and economic development matters, but not as much as some may think (Georgia v. Mexico v. Chile v. Belarus v. China v. Estonia). The effect of open trade is dependent on the country’s size, level of development, institutions, and location. The Vietnam study is consistent with “war doesn’t matter”. Compare Vietnam with India.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      But if war doesn’t matter, then why did this study find an effect from monarchies having enough heirs to prevent succession disputes?

      • E. Harding says:

        There are many giant counterpoints to war mattering: Spain&Greece v. Portugal&Turkey. The Axis Powers. The United States v. Canada. El Salvador v. Honduras. Colombia v. Ecuador.

        Maybe the succession disputes had an effect on the outcomes of political settlements and institutions, which, if done wrong, can, indeed, be economically disastrous (cf., Bosnia & Herzegovina, Moldova).

      • Tim C says:

        I think the general academic consensus is that interstate war is generally not relevant (outside of imperial conquest) while civil war is very deleterious, at least in the last few hundred years. General principle is that wars between states mobilize their populations to productive uses, and rebuilding has a clear goal that everyone agrees on (country anti-bellum) so the mobilized resources are easily allocated. This is connects to your “Compound Interest is the Least Powerful Force in the Universe” article – the human capital is still around to be used and institutions still around to use it. Civil wars on the other hand destroy that capacity for mobilization, and change the “vision” of what the country could like, so you get real loss of capacity and wasted years.

        I can find some quant analysis articles I think if people are interested, might take a bit though.

        • E. Harding says:

          “while civil war is very deleterious, at least in the last few hundred years.”

          -No, it’s not, at least, not when someone wins (or is close to it). See my examples. What do you call the Bosnian war and the Moldovan war, BTW?

          Thus, when Assad wins (if the U.S. allows him to and the Syrian army magically manages to rebuild itself in a few years, instead of wearing itself out like it has over the past four), I’m confident Syria will, in a few decades, converge with its 2000-2011 trend.

          • Tim C says:

            It was your examples that I had in mind when making my comment, actually. And I would call the Bosnian and Moldovan wars civil wars, of course! They were the fighting over the spoils of collapsing states, villages and bureaucracies and militaries at war with themselves.

            Of course, no social science theory would state “100% of civil wars are bad”, its just the trend line. But your outcome for Syria is not the experience that say Yemen has had, or less so Lebanon. As well, no one is saying “forever more they will be poor” but civil war makes recovering to the trend line take longer.

          • E. Harding says:

            BTW, your claim regarding Yemen is untrue:

            https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/PGDPUSYEA621NUPN

            Your claim regarding Lebanon is true, but come on, consider how impossible any good political settlement was in that country:

            https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/PGDPUSLBA621NUPN

    • Deiseach says:

      How is it more modern to go to a service-centred economy? My impression was “Bad Old Days – everyone pootles around on little plots of land, weaving in their cottages, working as servants or labourers and general small-scale trading. Then Industrialisation! Now everyone moves to the cities to work in factories and mass industrial production, and Modernity occurs with riches and happiness for all!”

      Aren’t we going back to “getting jobs as housemaids and farm labourers” in a service economy? Is that not regression, where instead of making things, we are all now taking in one another’s washing?

      • Vox Imperatoris says:

        I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily better to move toward a service economy, but I don’t think your picture is entirely accurate.

        In the “bad old days”, the vast majority of human labor was devoted toward producing the means of subsistence: toward farming and the goods and services necessary to allow farmers to work. The nobles with their servants, the cities with their entertainments, and even trading constituted a very small portion of the total economy.

        The Industrial Revolution allowed the means of subsistence to be produced with a lot less labor—and therefore allowed the population to permanently rise above the subsistence level. At a certain point, wealth rises to such a level that people are fairly satisfied in terms of basic material goods and would rather spend money on things like going to sports matches and nice restaurants.

        So we move from an economy where the majority of production is agricultural and focused on subsistence, to one that is industrial and focused on subsistence or something slightly higher, to one that is industrial/digital and focused on luxuries.

        The reason why I wouldn’t say the move to a “service economy” is necessarily good is that a large part of the decline in manufacturing in the most developed countries is due to restrictions on the freedom of immigration. Many people are still short of basic material goods and plenty of manufacturing jobs are still necessary. But when a rich country locks its doors, it will necessarily focus on the jobs in which it has a comparative advantage—which is typically going to be intellectual rather than physical labor, along with those services that cannot be outsourced.

        Hence the fact that a Chinese factory worker may make a pitiful wage, but if she somehow comes to America, she could make several times more as a maid or nanny. A Chinese factory need only pay its workers an amount equal to one they could get elsewhere in China. But an American who wishes to hire a maid must pay her the equivalent of what she could get elsewhere in America—and since the productivity of labor is so much higher in America, that is a lot more.

        • Urstoff says:

          The decline of manufacturing is mostly a decline in the proportion of individuals working in manufacturing as a result of a drastic increase in the productivity of manufacturing processes (perhaps as a result of immigration restrictions). The US makes more goods now than it ever has in history. It just needs fewer people to do so.

          I don’t think it ultimately matters much whether your economy is service or manufacturing focused as long as it is a productive, innovative economy.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Of course, I agree completely.

            In itself, the decline in the proportion of people involved in manufacturing is a good thing, as it represents increases productivity.

            The only question is to what extent the transition to a “post-industrial” economy is the result of economically sound factors and to what extent it is the result of government distortions of the market.

        • Stezinech says:

          That’s a nice summary of service vs. manufacturing economies, thanks.

    • anon says:

      > How’s living in those places any better than living in the U.S. as it is?

      Government functions vastly better at all levels. Basically, think of the difference in efficiency between private companies and government departments in America, and how much better America could be if the government could be as good at getting things done as the best companies.

      > And isn’t most of the extra benefits of Switzerland due to its tax-shelter status?

      No. Tax-shelter status just gives you money, and there’s so many ways to misallocate money that revenue streams that do not depend on the local population are usually a net negative for most states. Most of the extra benefits of Switzerland are due to it’s extremely functional system of direct, small-scale democracy. I don’t know if this system could work in America.

    • dan martin says:

      Hello…. your link to unblock the NYT article does not work…. who is the idjit now

  83. Sparky Z says:

    I didn’t find that explanation of double-entry bookkeeping very enlightening at all. It posits a reason for the “why”, but doesn’t explain or justify the “how”. How does double entry bookkeeping allow you to see the rate of profit in a way that single-entry bookkeeping doesn’t? If you have a single ledger showing your cash inflows and outflows, just add up all the positive numbers, add up all the negative numbers, and divide one by the other to get the rate of profit. Why is that a hard problem? How does double-entry make it any easier? I have the frustrating feeling that something simple but profound is staring me right in the face and I’m completely missing it. Can anybody help me out?

    • Brandon Berg says:

      Okay, now you’re doing double-entry bookkeeping in one column. The real innovation, I think, is that you keep track of credits and debits separately. The most natural way to do that is in two columns, but that’s not strictly necessary.

      • Sparky Z says:

        Wait, so double-entry just means “writing down every transaction that occurs”? I’m pretty sure that’s the bare minimum required in a bookkeeping system. What, then, would be an example of single-entry bookkeeping?

        Also, one of the touted advantages of double-entry bookkeeping is the redundancy that makes arithmetic or transcription errors more likely to be caught. (In fact, before I read Scott’s link, I was under the impression that that was the only real benefit.) The example I provided doesn’t have any redundancy, so how does it count as double-entry bookkeeping?

        • Brandon Berg says:

          Keep in mind that I took one class on accounting ten years ago and forgot most of it. I’m just explaining my interpretation of the article. But I think what he’s saying is that prior to this, people didn’t add up all the expenses and all the revenues and calculate the ratio. They could have, sure. But they didn’t. And their bookkeeping style rejected that.

          Once they figured out that profit margins were a useful thing to know, they started calculating them and switched to a format better suited for doing so.

          Edit: After researching it a bit more, I’m just as confused as you are. I had concretely forgotten about the fact that every debit has an equal and opposite credit. I still think that’s what the author meant, but I’m not sure he was correct.

          Edit 2: Never mind, I just don’t know what I’m talking about. Double-entry doesn’t mean two-column. It’s much more complex than that. It’s called double-entry because each transaction is recorded twice, but there are several accounts, not just revenues and expenses. I’m not even going to try to explain it, but it shouldn’t be hard to find a good explanation on the web.

        • Deiseach says:

          Based on the few book-keeping classes I had as part of my course, and bearing in mind I am useless at anything to do with maths, figures, numbers, etc. what I remember re: double-entry book-keeping is that for every credit, there is a corresponding debit, and for every debit, there is a corresponding credit.

          So if you find yourself with credits and no debits for them, or debits with no credits, something is wonky somewhere. Either you made a mistake in your entries or something is wrong in how you’re running the business.

          Where I really get lost is all the Clever Accountancy Tricks this method permits you to do so you can write off this and draw down that.

    • Vox Imperatoris says:

      Double-entry bookkeeping is not incredibly complicated.

      All it really consists of is writing things down in such a way that: Equity = Assets – Liabilities. Because this is an equation both sides must always be equal, and therefore (just as in algebra) all operations must be done on both sides of the equation.

      For example, let’s rewrite the equation as Assets = Equity + Liabilities, since “assets” is the easiest thing for people to grasp usually. Let’s say we get $100 in cash—an asset. But assets have to equal equity plus liabilities, so we must make a corresponding entry in one of those two categories. Suppose the $100 is a loan—it is then a liability, as we must pay the loan back. Thus, the same $100 is simultaneously an asset and a liability.

      Now suppose the $100 is, instead, a free gift. It will then represent equity, which term really just gets its name from the fact that it is what is required to equate assets and liabilities. When we get the $100, we will then make entries under both assets and equity.

      (I’ve left out “debits” and “credits”, but that’s just a terminological issue about what you call an increase or decrease to an account.)

      Double-entry bookkeeping helps prevent mathematical errors and other mistakes, but I don’t think it is somehow “the secret to modern civilization”. I think that any civilization which developed all the other necessary factors would have easily come up with it, or with some other suitable system.

    • Bryan-san says:

      “If you have a single ledger showing your cash inflows and outflows, just add up all the positive numbers, add up all the negative numbers, and divide one by the other to get the rate of profit. Why is that a hard problem? How does double-entry make it any easier? I have the frustrating feeling that something simple but profound is staring me right in the face and I’m completely missing it. Can anybody help me out?”

      Revenue is more complicated than just “cash you have recieved”. Revenue is an account that measures income you have earned. There are lots of different reasons a company may recieve cash. This is led to the development of Accrual Accounting and the rules and regulations surrounding it.

      Let’s examine a few reasons your company might reveive cash:
      -You sold some products and received money in return for them. This is revenue.
      -One of your owners invested $10,000 cash into the company. This should go to the Owner’s Equity account and not revenue.
      -You recieved money for some products that still haven’t been built or sent to the client yet. This is money recieved but you have yet to ‘earn’ the revenue. In this case, you should be increasing the Unearned Revenue account instead. Unearned Revenue is a liability because it is a future commitment that your company needs to complete in the future.
      -You sold some products but the client you are working for (who is very responsible and always makes their payments on time) is not going to pay you for the products for 6 months. In this case you have done the odd thing of ‘earning’ revenue but not receiving cash! If you wanted to clearly and honestly communicate the situation to an investor you would show your revenue as higher but your cash as not having changed.

      Each of these seperate methods of keeping track of things need to be available in some form to an investor for them to make rational assessments of your company. If you just stick it all into one account labeled “Cash” then they won’t be able to tell the difference between any of them and it will be easy to shift things around to make your company sound much better or profitable than it actually is.

      Note 1: Similar and mirrored situations occur for when you start keeping track of expenses in these situations as well.

      Note 2: I’m not completely certain why double-entry accounting was originally created but it currently assists very heavily in maintaining the long list of accounts needed for accrual accounting.

    • CatCube says:

      Not knowing enough about accounting to pose an intelligent answer, I’ll try to at least ask an intelligent question: Was the double-entry bookkeeping important because it was easier to maintain manually? I was talking to one of our CAD techs, who’s been doing drafting since the ’70s, when it was on the board to today where we’re a fully 3D shop. He said there was a lot of stuff that was easier on the board (I think he said some types of sections and elevation views give CAD packages fits), and stuff that was easier on the computer (an orthographic projection is stupid-simple to put on a sheet with a computer, while manually drawing it was non-trivial, to the point that old drawings only have isometric views to clarify complex geometry.)

      To relate it to the “adding negatives” together and “adding positives together” separately, that seems like it might have been complex and error-prone to do on the fly by hand, where if you had ledgers focusing on each of those it made it much easier to keep track of when you couldn’t just tell a spreadsheet package to filter.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Some particular ways of grouping entries are probably a relic of the manual era, but the name “double-entry” refers to a conceptual change that is just as relevant in the computer era. It refers to the idea that when you trade A for B you should record both A and B. In particular, it says that you should tie inventory into cash accounting. Single-entry bookkeeping is just cash accounting. Double-entry bookkeeping has more information and thus is more difficult. Maybe it was a easier than some previous joint system, and maybe the innovation that distinguishes those systems is irrelevant in the computer era, but no one talks about such a system, so the difference is not what people mean by “double-entry.”

        People often say that the advantage of double-entry bookkeeping is avoiding arithmetic errors. That value is irrelevant with computers, but is really the least of its value.

        One advantage is keeping track of inventory, which is obviously a good idea, but maybe not a conceptual change. An aspect which is a conceptual change is that one should put a dollar value on inventory. More generally, the point is to pay attention to the total value of the enterprise. An example I have seen repeatedly with small businesses is that they sell a year’s services ahead of time and think of this as a sudden burst of profit. It is a burst of cash, but that needs to be balanced against actually providing the service. Recording that future obligation is a conceptual change.

        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          Yes, the concept of keeping track of the business’s total value and not just its cash balance is very important.

        • Bryan-san says:

          There’s a long list of accounts that are handy to keep track of seperately (inventory is a good example, unearned revenue is another) and not all of them tie in to your Cash ledger directly. You may obtain inventory but not have paid for it yet. If you wanted to check inventory while not having an inventory account ledger then you would need to check both Cash and Accounts Payable (AP). At that point you might just want to add an extra ledger where any time Cash or AP gets in relation to inventory you mark it down on your brand new Inventory ledger.

          Going through the steps in my head, I think the double-entry method or some equivalent is what you would end up with as you attempted to add more types of accounts to keep track of all the different financial functions of a company. You could just have a cash, accounts payable, and accounts receivable ledgers with tons of notations on them, but eventually you would want to create an ordered system for those notations and what you would likely end up with is something resembling the double-entry method.

    • Bryan-san says:

      A better explanation for why double-entry bookkeeping is useful (not sure on original reason for creation) is because no change in a company’s finances occurs in a vacuum. Every time your cash goes up or down something else also occured at the exact the same time to make it so. Keeping track of those things is helpful in the long term.

      Were invested in by an owner (increase cash, increase owner’s equity)
      Paid salaries to employees (decrease cash, increase salaries expense)
      Paid rent on buildings (decrease cash, increase rent expense)
      Bought some equipment (decrease cash, increase equipment)
      Borrowed money from the bank (increase cash, increase notes payable)
      You sold a product (increase cash, increase revenue, increase cost of goods sold, decrease inventory)

      Bought some equipment on credit (increase accounts payable, increase equipment)
      Paid the money you owed on that equipment (decrease accounts payable, decrease cash)

      (Note: it would be more appropriate for me to use the terms credit and debit in the above section but that makes it much harder to read for non-accountants so I converted them to increase and decrease. The meanings of debit and credit in terms of increase vs decrease change based on what type of account you’re talking about.)

      This method allows you to easily and quickly answer a host of questions like “how much money have I paid in salaries this year?” and “how much money do I owe to the bank right now?”. It also lets you keep track of revenue seperately from cash (which I explained more in my other post).

      • Vaniver says:

        Double entry accounting is the financial equivalent of Newton’s Third Law of Motion.

        • Bryan-san says:

          Absolutely!

          The whole debits and credits thing just makes it sound confusing when the system is more detailed than complex.

          (Also, Hey Vaniver!)

      • Careless says:

        @Bryan But really, would you call that “civilization-changing” or “massively civilization-enhancing”? Sure, that sounds nice to have, but when you’re saying it’s on the level of the invention of writing, I’m underwhelmed.

    • Ariel Ben-Yehuda says:

      Accounting basically tracks the flow of money over a graph, but it was invented before graphs and negative numbers were well-understood – see https://martin.kleppmann.com/2011/03/07/accounting-for-computer-scientists.html

  84. Odoacer says:

    Regarding the celebrity meat. I’ve only glanced at the company’s website but there are several problems with lab grown meat.

    1) It’ll take quite some time to get enough meat for a sandwich. Muscle stem cells don’t proliferate that fast. And you’ll need a lot to get enough to eat and sell.

    2) Growing from primary cells, there are only so many times you can expand them before they get weird and senescent. Eventually you’ll need to get more source cells, unless you can immortalize them.

    3) If you just use the muscle stem cells you don’t get the other parts of meat, i.e. fat and connective tissue. The meat is also colorless (IIRC, they had to color the “Google Burger” red with beat juice).

    4) It’s crazy expensive, the Google Burger’s price was something like $300,000 (not certain about the price breakdown). But you need to maintain a sterile environment and grow large amounts of it.

    • Andrew G. says:

      The meat thing is of course obvious enough to have appeared in SF:

      Most of you over there will be eating either Stewed Idi Amin or General Pinochet Chilli Con Carne; here in the centre we have a combination of General Stroessner Meat Balls and Richard Nixon Burgers. The rest of you have Ferdinand Marcos Sauté and Shah of Iran Kebabs. There are, in addition, scattered bowls of Fricaséed Kim Il Sung, Boiled General Videla, and Ian Smith in Black Bean Sauce…

      (Iain M. Banks, The State Of The Art)

    • Scott Alexander says:

      The cost has gone down from $300,000 to $11.

      • Carl Shulman says:

        “The cost has gone down from $300,000 to $11.”
        The latter was a speculative forecast, not an actual cost.

    • TD says:

      There are other reasons lab meat should be better in the long run (environmentalism? space?), but as far as the ethical question of reducing the suffering that goes into meat, shouldn’t paying extra for animals that have been anesthetized before killing be the easier near term option?

      • LtWigglesworth says:

        In a way you actually can spend more on meat that comes from animals that were conscious during slaughter, as Halal and Kosher slaughter prevents irreversible stunning of animals during slaughter. In many countries these animals have their throats slit while conscious. (Here in NZ, temporary electrical stunning is used to ensure the animals are unconscious during exsanguination).
        In non-kosher or non-Halal slaughter the animals are typically irreversibly stunned through the use of a captive bolt pistol, they are then bled out. Sometimes electrical stunning or gas stunning is used instead.

        Keeping animals calm during slaughter is really in everyone’s best interest, as it reduces injuries to slaughterhouse workers, reduces bruising and pre-death excitation which reduced meat quality, and assures consumers that their meat is being ethically produced.

      • keranih says:

        as far as the ethical question of reducing the suffering that goes into meat, shouldn’t paying extra for animals that have been anesthetized before killing be the easier near term option?

        I love this question because it proposes a market solution for the problem (solutions that have market assistance tend to work so much better (ie, at all) than those that directly swim against the market) and because it demonstrates how failure to understand a process leads to frankly nonsensical proposals to ‘fix’ the solution. But we don’