"Talks a good game about freedom when out of power, but once he’s in – bam! Everyone's enslaved in the human-flourishing mines."

Links 11/15: Linksgiving

Owl species of the week: the Powerful Owl.

You may have heard the theory that the famous God-reaching-toward-Adam picture in the Sistine Chapel actually encodes an anatomically correct image of the human brain. But did you know that another Sistine Chapel image, The Separation of Light from Darkness, might contain a detailed diagram of the medulla? Apparently the whole Sistine Chapel ceiling was just one big disguised anatomy textbook, or something.

A random guy who put up a website of fake facts about James Buchanan and then followed it to see who cited them and how far they went.

The statistics behind why Antigua & Barbuda (population 90,000) can have a better soccer team than China (population 1.3 billion), and how this applies to other measures of national differences and success.

GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz acting out a scene from The Princess Bride and actually being pretty good at it.

I previously said some nice things about ASAN and the neurodiversity movement, but Slate has published a couple of exposes on them that might force me to take that back. A big part of their argument is that we don’t need cures because autistic people, even supposedly nonverbal autistic people, prove to be intelligent and self-reliant when given proper accomodations. But by “proper accomodations” they usually mean Facilitated Communication, and this is actually pseudoscience that works on about the same principles as the Ouija Board. Related: ASAN New York doubles down on supporting Facilitated Communication.

From the Department of Living In The Future: Dubai Firefighters To Get Jetpacks For Fighting Skyscraper Fires.

A while back I pointed out some polls suggesting that white people’s opinion of police improved after the Ferguson shooting, apparently as a kind of backlash-to-the-backlash effect. Possibly related: favorability ratings of Muslims rise after every big Islamic terrorist attack.

In the 1980s Democrats and Republicans both supported Israel about the same amount. Over the next thirty years, Republican support for Israel shot way, way up. Why did that happen, and will it politicize Israel enough to start making the Democrats dislike it?

Chutzpah: Wired writes an article on a $100,000 nano-sapphire razor mocking its ridiculous cost and saying that “It’s all so depressing…if Zafirro sells a single one of these, the world will be a worse place.” Zafirro’s now got it on Kickstarter, with an “as seen on Wired” advertisement.

Lots of continuing discussion about Garrett Jones’ new IQ-of-nations book Hive Mind. Open borders supporter Robin Hanson says that “I must admit to now being more nervous about allowing more impatient and stupid immigrants, though as Bryan Caplan points out, that still allows for taking on billions of smart immigrants. But even if I’m now mildly more reluctant to take on certain kinds of immigrants, I’ll blame that mainly on our poor governance institutions, which give too much weight to the stupid and the impatient.” Bryan Caplan says that given some common assumptions about discount rate, open borders is still an obviously good policy. Jones answers that given Bryan’s assumptions about discount rates, open borders would still be an obviously good idea even if it set off a thousand-year dark age. You can see the full debate between them here (warning: video).

David Friedman on legal systems very different from ours.

Did you know: according to the Star Wars Extended Universe, Jar Jar Binks’ father is named George R. Binks, and he attempted suicide because of how annoying his son was.

The Ku Klux Klan had little measurable impact on society in terms of any variables being different in areas with high vs. low Klan participation. What it did have was – seriously – a really sweet business selling overpriced robes, such that it might best be viewed as “rather than a terrorist organization, a social organization built through a wildly successful pyramid scheme fueled by an army of highly-incentivized sales agents selling hatred, religious intolerance, and fraternity in a time and place where there was tremendous demand.”

Giving one party or the other unified control of a US state government has surprisingly little effect – for example, increasing (or decreasing) welfare payments about $2 per month per recipient, and switching the political climate of a state an amount only “one-twentieth the size of the typical difference between states”

Uber for flu shots is actually just regular Uber.

The H-1B visa lottery seems to be gamed by a few big companies that spam the government with applications. A new company is trying to counter-game the system by helping current H-1B holders transfer to new companies, leaving the big companies that got them their visas wailing and gnashing their teeth.

Psilocybin makes brain regions more connected. To some degree this is cool. To another, I’m starting to worry that every time neuroscientists are asked to explain something they flip a coin, and if it lands heads they say “this increases connections between brain regions” and if it lands tails they say “this decreases connections between brain regions”.

The time a legion of 40,000 Czechoslovakians went to fight in Russia, then were blocked by World War I and the Russian Revolution from crossing back into Czechoslovakia. One of them remembered that the world was round, and so began a three year, 20,000 mile journey to bring the entire legion around the world.

People are much more likely to identify as nonwhite when given affirmative action incentives to do so. Also: theory of a correlation between campus affirmative action and the latest round of campus protests (not just “affirmative action means more minorities and so more protests by minorities”, more interesting than that)

From the Department Of Things That Are Obvious In Retrospect: nutrition study finds that different people have widely varying metabolic responses to the same foods.

12th century Bologna looks like some kind of vision of a 22nd century supermetropolis thanks to its up-to-180 really tall towers.

Despite their growing demographic disadvantage, Republicans are likely to maintain Congressional and state-level power in the US for the next few decades.

Police civil asset forfeitures exceed all burglaries in 2014.

People talk a lot about restoring monarchy these days, but nobody ever mentions what rule of succession we should use. The genetics community comes through and proves that optimal royal succession moves from parent to opposite-sex child.

Why are scientists finding fungi in the brains of Alzheimers patients (but not healthy controls)? The Economist also comments. I don’t know much about this, but I would think if it were straight-out caused by fungus, someone would have noticed that people treated with antifungals had their Alzheimers go away / stop progressing. Other possibility – Alzheimers is a disruption to the brain’s immune system (it is) and this makes it harder for it to get rid of fungi.

French organization demands a law that imams must obtain a license certifying them to be liberal and tolerant before preaching. So far, so racist – except that the organization involved is actually France’s largest Muslim group, and this seems less about Islamophobia than about regulatory capture and attempts at monopolizing a religious ‘market’ – guess who they hope would be giving out the licenses.

Pokemon or Big Data?

H/T Stephen Guyenet: this chart is a pretty damning one-image rebuttal to people who think sugar is responsible for the obesity epidemic.

Vox: Wait a second, why are we all so sure that constant front-runner Donald Trump will suddenly crash and burn just before the election for no apparent reason?

Sam Harris really doesn’t like Salon, and as per his story Salon lied about editing one of his interviews.

Another good example of how reporters have lots of degrees in freedom when deciding how to report studies: recent research finds that women with lots of tattoos have higher self-esteem – and four times as many suicide attempts.

Time to take the 2015 Effective Altruism Survey – your participation is welcome even if you do not identify as an effective altruist.

Scott Sumner has a new book out, The Midas Paradox, which despite having a perfect title for an airport thriller in fact is about how issues with the gold market help explain the Great Depression. Tyler Cowen reviews and calls it “a very good book, one of the best on the economics of the Great Depression ever written.”

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607 Responses to Links 11/15: Linksgiving

  1. Luke G says:

    Shades of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ten_Thousand_(Greek_mercenaries) in that story of the Czech legion. Amazing story.

    • The father of a high school friend of mine fought on the losing side of the Russian Civil War as a teenager, walked out through China, ended up as a University of Chicago professor.

    • Unaussprechlichen says:

      The city where I lived has a monument commemorating the Reds who fought them. It was probably the only major military engagement in that area.
      So I kinda knew of them since childhood, but it never crossed my mind to wonder what the hell were Czechoslovaks doing in Siberia.

    • John Schilling says:

      And Xenophon’s band basically just marched home. The reddit version, at least in the top comments, is about the same but reality is lots more fun. In particular, fifty thousand people didn’t “manage to get a train somewhere along the way”; in order to move that many people over that great a distance they had to take over the Trans-Siberian Railroad. The trains, the rails, the depots, the towns the depots were in, the city of Vladivostok, and the surrounding countryside just to be safe. Which they could do because they were a large disciplined military force with a single mission, and the Russians didn’t have much along those lines in 1918.

      Nor did they just “get on a boat [once they hit the Pacific ocean]”, because nobody much wanted to give them a boat. Large groups of armed men coming out of the Russian Revolution and hanging around in your country while you see if the next country along will take them? Nope. But people were willing to quietly ship them guns and ammunition, on the grounds that Czechoslovakian nationalists were less objectionable than anyone else vying for control of Russia and made for a useful buffer. Only when the Bolshevik victory was inevitable, and the nation of Czechoslovakia properly founded to accept them back home, were they offered a ride home. And a new job as the national army of Czechoslovakia, and very rapid efficient transport from Vladivostok to Prague to make sure they didn’t get up to their old habits along the way.

      IIRC, this means that the Czechoslovakian Army managed to conquer most of Russia (by land area under minimal de facto control), before the nation of Czechoslovakia technically existed. In your face, Napoleon and Hitler.

      From what I’ve heard, they are remembered favorably in the region. A Czech-American colleague of mine traveled the TSR a few years back and reported a significant Czech and Slovak cultural presence (restaurants, etc) and a generally warm welcome when he made his heritage known.

      • Brian Donohue says:

        Great stuff, John. You’d think with that kind of founding story, the nation might have endured.

    • Alsadius says:

      Yup, the comparison to Xenophon is fairly common.

    • Siger von Brabant says:

      I’m surprised people never heard about the Czech Legion since they were involved in the first and only American military intervention on Russian soil.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polar_Bear_Expedition

      The U.S. President Woodrow Wilson sent the Polar Bear Expedition to Russia in response to requests from the governments of Great Britain and France to join the Allied Intervention in North Russia (also known as the North Russia Campaign). The British and French had three objectives for this intervention

      1.preventing Allied war material stockpiles in Archangelsk (originally intended for the recently collapsed Eastern Front) from falling into German or Bolshevik hands
      2.mounting an offensive to rescue the Czech Legion, which was stranded along the Trans-Siberian Railroad
      3.resurrecting the Eastern Front by defeating the Red Army with the assistance of the Czech Legion and an expanded anti-Bolshevik force drawn from the local citizenry – and in the process stopping the spread of communism and of the Bolshevik cause in Russia.

    • RCF says:

      “One of them remembered that the world was round”

      The fact that the Earth is a sphere wasn’t really relevant.

  2. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    I am doing depressingly well at that guessing game. Every name I recognize is a Pokemon, and every name I don’t recognize can be safely assumed to be Big Data.

  3. anon says:

    “People talk a lot about restoring monarchy these days, but nobody ever mentions what rule of succession we should use. The genetics community comes through and proves that optimal royal succession moves from parent to opposite-sex child.”

    Mod it into CKII

    • Stefan Drinic says:

      Juuuuuuust go elective. Easy as pie.

    • Zubon says:

      I know it is a standard way of introducing a joke, but I am vaguely concerned that “people talk a lot about restoring monarchy” is an actual skewed view of reality someone might acquire after spending enough time in obscure corners of the internet.

      • Curle says:

        It is a way of giving social proof to the idea that democracy has failed. Journalists use this device all the time to rationalize introducing a topic they want to promote; new ‘concerns’ are introduced, people are talking more, realizing more, questioning more, coming to conclusions, etc. . . . These people are all part of the journalist’s small social circle, but no matter . . .

      • Marc Whipple says:

        People do talk a lot about it. Not a lot of PEOPLE talk about it and not a lot of people listen to them, but the ones who do, talk about it a lot.

    • Susebron says:

      Galle, the creator of the excellent Crisis of the Confederation mod is thinking about doing just that. If anyone can manage it, he can.

      (It’s unfortunately not possible to see the post unless you have a Paradox forum account with CK2 registered on it. However, it’s just Galle saying that he wants to figure out how to add it, so you’re not missing much if you can’t see it.)

      • Galle says:

        Pretty much. I think it would be an interesting fit with CK2 and definitely appropriate for COTC. “Optimized monarchy” is just such a perfectly bizarre blend of past and future that I could totally see someone from Avalon or a vanity state trying it.

        The main issue, from a programming standpoint, is how to track who uses “alternate gender succession” without having an actual gender law for it. Once you can do that, you just have the title switch to Agnatic if it has a female holder and Enatic if it has a male one.

        • God Damn John Jay says:

          Please tell me if I am being an idiot, but why would “track who uses ‘alternate gender succession’ without having an actual gender law for it. ” be necessary, unless this is one of those cases where the interface refuses to expose certain variables to the user (Why hello there Unity!)?

          (I’m not trying to play a passive aggressive Socratic discourse thing, obviously you know your stuff, I am just wondering why this of all things is a challenge)

          • Galle says:

            Obviously I’m VERY late in replying to this, but I somehow missed it the first time.

            CK2 is very moddable, but the number, names, and effects of succession laws are all hard-coded. You can never have more than seven gender succession laws: enatic, enatic-cognatic, absolute cognatic, agnatic-cognatic, and agnatic. Their effects are hardcoded, and a title can only have one at a time.

            I can’t add a new “alternating genders” succession law – that effect can only be achieved by repeatedly swapping between the agnatic and enatic laws. But I also have to find a way to tell the difference between alternating genders and titles that just happen to be agnatic or enatic at the moment.

            The current plan is to just make it impossible for titles to be genuinely agnatic or enatic, rename both succession laws to “alternating gender”, and have them automatically flip when necessary.

  4. E. Harding says:

    “intellectual where Trump is instinctual”

    -Here I apply my favorite test, and first test I use to screen Presidential candidates: who supports the U.S. shooting down Russian planes in Syria if those Russian planes continue doing what they’re already doing? It’s not Trump.

    “Tyler Cowen reviews and calls it “a very good book, one of the best on the economics of the Great Depression ever written.””

    -I wouldn’t expect anything less from Sumner.

    “which despite having a perfect title for an airport thriller in fact is about how issues with the gold market help explain the Great Depression.”

    -So, it’s an airport thriller?

    And have you seen his recent post on Wenzhou people?

    http://www.themoneyillusion.com/?p=31316

    The Sumner-Unz Review connections are getting deeper, just as I desire. Sumner still thinks naively on race half the time, which is not good.

    Truly, my favorite public intellectuals on the Internet are two Scotts and one Steve.

    “People talk a lot about restoring monarchy these days, but nobody ever mentions what rule of succession we should use.”

    -Monarchy shouldn’t be hereditary: just look at the House of Windsor and the House of Kim. The House of Assad seems to be doing fine in maintaining capability to rule, though.

    “answers that given Bryan’s assumptions about discount rates, open borders would still be an obviously good idea even if it set off a thousand-year dark age.”

    -This is a huge part of the debate over what policymakers should do about Global Warming. See Bob Murphy’s posts on the Institute for Energy Research website on this, which are quite informative. Note I don’t consider Murphy very reliable.

    “Combining these sources with data from the 1920 and 1930 U.S. Censuses, we find that individuals who joined the Klan were better educated and more likely to hold professional jobs than the typical American.”

    -Whaaa? I didn’t know that! Scott, you didn’t mention this in your description. It’s certainly more interesting than anything you actually put in it.
    More of this reporter degree of freedom from the last post, I guess.

    Also, is BLM the new KKK in being pretty much the same thing as described in that NBER abstract?

    “In the 1980s Democrats and Republicans both supported Israel about the same amount. Over the next thirty years, Republican support for Israel shot way, way up. Why did that happen, and will it politicize Israel enough to start making the Democrats dislike it?”

    -Similar with the Confederate flag:
    http://www.gallup.com/poll/184040/democrats-views-confederate-flag-increasingly-negative.aspx

    Also, speaking of dark ages:

    http://scholars-stage.blogspot.com/2015/06/the-extraordinary-thing-about-wwii-is.html

    Also, for Buchanan:

    http://www.explainxkcd.com/wiki/index.php/978:_Citogenesis

    • Emile says:

      > And have you seen his recent post on Wenzhou people?
      >
      > http://www.themoneyillusion.com/?p=31316

      Interesting!

      The Wenzhou form a fairly large community here in Paris, and I have some in my family. Interestingly, although the historical stereotype is that in China the Wenzhou were the source of a disproportionate numbers of bureaucrats succeeding at the imperial exams, in France they tend to avoid formal education in favour of running small businesses.

      • onyomi says:

        Wenzhou is definitely known for producing small business entrepreneurs in China as well. That, and Christians.

        To get un-pc, I’ve heard of Wenzhou people described as “the Jews of China” (and of Chinese described as “the Jews of Asia,” in reference to their consistently-richer-than-surrounding-populations diaspora).

        Again, un-pc, but in Europe you had the phenomenon of Jews being willing to do types of banking (“usury”) that others wouldn’t. Seems like this might mildly cause them to select for mathematical and/or analytical ability in choosing partners.

        And the interesting thing is that the people of Wenzhou also have a kind of clannish, outsider status as did European Jews, traditionally. Maybe being a relatively insulated population–preferentially mating with your own and/or being discriminated against by the wider population–also allows certain traits to flourish more obviously and strongly.

        In the debate on immigration link, Hanson cites the history of a population’s engagement with farming as a predictor of success. Maybe the history of a population’s engagement with banking/commerce/non-in-kind transactions also predicts an even higher level of success?

        That SAT thing he described, btw, reminded of theories of “stages” of civilization, where, if you look at say, the Aztec of 700 years ago, they look remarkably similar to the Egyptians of 4500 years ago, right down to building pyramids. Almost like at a certain stage of development you just get an urge to build a ziggurat. If this is true, it seems to speak somewhat against a genetic basis, since presumably any population might eventually reach any level (maybe the Egyptians got to level x 4000 years before the Aztecs due to the Nile making farming so relatively easy, and or the simple fact of there having been humans there earlier), yet it also seems strongly deterministic: like, if your country doesn’t have the kind of culture which develops as a result of thousands of years of farming (or hundreds of years of banking), then you’re just not going to do as well as those who do (though arguably your children might if you move to a place where they effectively grow up in the culture with thousands of years of cultural memory of farming, etc.)

        • Mary says:

          Middlemen minorities. Thomas Sowell has some interesting stuff on them.

        • Nornagest says:

          It doesn’t always give you pyramids, but the Aztecs — probably many of the other Mesoamerican civilizations too given the climate, but I’m not as sure about them — practiced a form of irrigation-intensive agriculture strongly reminiscent of the Egyptians. Similar models show up in a lot of places and tend to lead to highly centralized empires (probably because of coordination issues and economies of scale) with powerful priestly castes (probably because of the need for good calendar-keeping) and a lot of monumental architecture.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Parallel development of civilizations is a fascinating issue. Both the blank slate and the genetic model fit the data poorly. Either way, you would expect dense human populations that evolved independently from forager bands to have adapted to living in dense food-producing groups in very different ways. Instead we find dense populations separated for 12+ millenia with no food-producing common ancestors independently developing such similar institutions as a priest class worshiping a pantheon of gods in monumental buildings.

          It looks like we’re all one race with an innate nature. The weird part is that Darwinism would not predict our species having innate behaviors for an environment other than the ancestral forager one. This looks more like an Aristotelian nature.

          • James Picone says:

            The weird part is that Darwinism would not predict our species having innate behaviors for an environment other than the ancestral forager one.

            Why not? Adaptations can have consistent failure modes when presented with something that is outside their design space.

            We wouldn’t expect well-honed, close-to-optimal behaviours for the non-ancestral environment, but I’m not sure “Build large pyramids” is one of those.

        • Careless says:

          Maybe being a relatively insulated population–preferentially mating with your own and/or being discriminated against by the wider population–also allows certain traits to flourish more obviously and strongly.

          Definitely true speaking about genetics.

    • Tibor says:

      Who is the madman that supports a direct military conflict between the US and Russia?

      • Timothy says:

        Rubio.

        • Tibor says:

          Funny, I do not observe the US politics much, but from about 1 article I read about the candidates, he struck me as perhaps the second most reasonable presidential candidate after Rand Paul. But of course, one article about some 10 or so people cannot cover much 🙂

    • E. Harding says:

      Also, guys, I am sad to say I have been probably banned from commenting on Marginal Revolution, for reasons unclear.

      • ed says:

        Perhaps it’s your habit of posting replies which consist of a single word — that being a homophobic epithet.

        Just sayin’

        • E. Harding says:

          I said to Cowen I’d stop that. He doesn’t seem to be listening. He’s banning nearly all my constructive comments, as well.

          And I consider homophobic epithets to fall under the general scope of “foul language”. Not a bannable offense, but a real one nevertheless.

          And Cowen hasn’t banned mulp or rayward. Or even Ray Lopez.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        You should change your name to John Wesley.

    • Careless says:

      How did you manage to become banned at MR when even PA is tolerated?

  5. Tom Hunt says:

    The obvious question about that sugar graph: what exactly is defined as ‘sugar’? Does it include HFCS? Naturally-occurring fructose/lactose/whatever? It would be very strange to me if “sugar” defined as I instinctively think of it (basically “any added calorific sweetener”) had actually fallen that dramatically since 2000; the only plausible scenario I can come up with is that a whole lot of the slack has been taken up by artificial no-calorie sweeteners. (Diet soft drinks? What percent of the total sugar intake is soft drinks, and what percent of soft drinks are diet? Did that change enormously around 2000?)

    • Loquat says:

      That was my question, too – what exactly is counted, and not counted, as sugar?

      • Stezinech says:

        The graph is highly truncated to 1980. If you extend it out, you can see that the dip after 2000 is only a small reversal of the overall trend.

        Maybe the decrease in sugar intake has not yet had a chance to impact obesity rates? Or, people are reducing sugar but increasing calories in other ways (the diet-soda-paradox).

        FWI: The statistics are taking into account other added sugars like HFCS, see Stephan Guyenet’s blog post

        • andy says:

          There is also interplay between sugar, fat and physical activity. If you lower physical activity more then you lower your sugar consumption, you will still gain weight.

          You get fat from both fat and sugar and the drop on sugar may just mean you are replacing it with fat. In which case you are just changing the cause of fatness instead of solving the fatness.

          • Steve says:

            It seems unlikely, but isn’t it possible that the drop is the result of one large group basically cutting out sugar completely, while another smaller group (that largely overlaps with the obese group) continues eating sugar or even slightly increases their sugar intake? I’m also curious how obesity correlates with age (I assume you’re more likely to be obese at 60 than at 20), so an older population should be a little more obese.

          • andy says:

            @Steve Yeah. Also, the graph shows “how many obese people are there”, but does not take “how much obese they are” into account. It is super possible that there were weight movements within groups.

            It is also possible that people who cut off sugar were already in the non-obese group to begin with, so even as they lost the weight, they did not change this graphs.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Extending graphs for context is generally good, but this doesn’t actually make much of a difference. Sure, there was a massive increase 1820-1920, but so what? Sugar was basically flat 1920-1980, but if obesity was also flat in that period, it’s OK to ignore it. (If obesity actually started going up in 1970, that would be relevant, but you graph doesn’t address that.) Also, I think that your graph contradicts the first graph, claiming a small decline in sugar.

    • Setsize says:

      Rule of thumb for plots. If a chart plots two lines on incommensurate y-axes, and the lines could be replaced by straight lines without changing the message of the chart, the chart is meaningless and should be disregarded. (This is just a restatement of the fact that any two straight lines are 100% correlated.)

      Some people extend this into a general principle that dual y-axes should always be avoided. I don’t; there are definitely cases where incommensurate axes are useful; it’s just that whenever you see a dual-y-axis chart you should be aware that there are two reporter degrees of freedom lurking there, so whatever point the graph makes should be a point that is robust to changes in scale and offset.

      (A timeseries also has two more rDOF; when does the timeseries start and end?)

      Here’s it’s pretty clear that the two Y-scales are chosen to make the lines on the left half overlap. So the left half of the chart is meaningless. What do we learn from the right half of the graph alone?

      • Matt says:

        I agree, I remade the chart with zero-based axis. I find it unimpressive.

        https://plot.ly/~MJ656434/8/us-sugar-vs-obesity/

        Discussion also on r/slatestarcodex

        • Setsize says:

          Uh, no, like I said the problem is the overlapping y-axes in incommensurate units, not that they don’t start at zero.

          You’ll find very few infovis professionals who would endorse “y-axes in line charts ahould start at zero” as being a useful rule. It’s bar charts and filled area charts that are supposed to start at zero, and used for quantities whose zero is naturally meaningful.

          Line charts on the other hand are well suited to show relative changes. A nonzero lower limit is perfectly normal, and like others have pointed out, there’s no a priori justification for equating “zero sugar intake” with “zero percent obesity.”

          The conservative thing to do with this data would be to put the two lines in separate panels.

      • RCF says:

        “(This is just a restatement of the fact that any two straight lines are 100% correlated.)”

        That’s not true. If they are going in opposite directions, then they are -100% correlated. And if one is constant, then correlation is undefined.

    • Sniffy says:

      Another question: what makes us assume that sugar consumption has remained evenly distributed? It’s certainly possible that some critical mass of public awareness was reached in the late 90s, and *some* people significantly cut their sugar consumption while others didn’t (or continued to increase).

      For me personally that’s actually quite accurate. About that time I stopped drinking 2 or 3 sodas a day. But not everyone did.

  6. I’m surprised Harris agreed to do that Salon interview at all, after all of the inflammatory and often dishonest pieces they’ve published about him. Among those are a number of articles by CJ Werleman, who has been found to be a frequent and unapologetic plagiarist. Salon still hasn’t removed his articles―as far as I know, not even those that contain plagiarized material.

    • Deiseach says:

      That Sam Harris/Salon spat is giving me very enjoyable “a plague on both your houses” feelings 🙂

      For a smart guy, Harris was pretty dumb in assuming his two conditions would mean his critical words about Salon would be published in the final article:

      1) I would get final approval of all the words attributed to me;
      2) I could say whatever I wanted about Salon.

      Nothing there about “3) Salon would have to print/publish the parts where I said they were a steaming dungheap of honourless iniquity or else they couldn’t run the interview at all”.

      Salon can, from that, say with perfect honesty that of what they did publish they only printed what he said the way he said it as per condition 1. So they left out all his pissing and moaning about Salon? So what? Is he saying that they put words into his mouth or misrepresented what he said in the speech they did publish? No?

      Then gotcha, Mr Harris.

      And really, anybody over the age of twelve who hasn’t figured out that celeb interviews are all about selling something (the media whether print, online or TV/radio want to sell advertising space by attracting readers/viewers/listeners with “Exclusive interview with C.L. Ebb, tells all about new romance/philosophical theory”, the celeb is peddling a book, doing the obligatory marketing for their new movie/TV show, or keeping their face in the public view) and instead mistakes a journalist sitting down with you as your own personal biographer needs to get a clue.

      • Technically Not Anonymous says:

        Salon outright lied, though. They said this, which is obviously false: “[Harris’s] remarks were edited merely for clarity and length. No substantive changes were made to the text beyond those considerations.”

        Of course, I wouldn’t expect them to do otherwise. They’re a political opinion site with an agenda to push, not a publication with journalistic integrity. But that doesn’t mean it’s not shitty.

        • Skef says:

          This does seem damning if it’s true, but the trick is finding where Salon said that. It’s not obvious on the Salon page either today or in the wayback machine for Wednesday. Both those versions (which may not be different) do say “This was mostly an email correspondence, not a traditional interview, so remarks were edited throughout.” Searches on Harris’s exact quote seem to just lead back to his page.

          Any luck finding it?

          N.B.: Salon is mostly garbage

        • Deiseach says:

          Having looked at Harris’ version of what he said, with the snipped out bits being replaced and in red text, Salon didn’t edit out that much. One of the bits snipped, as he recounts, was the name of his book “Waking Up”.

          Well, gosh. That’s obvious bias right there!

          I stand by my opinion that you take it as a rule of thumb: every media outlet, be it print, television, online or radio, is going to edit your stuff into what they think is catchy. Either they cut out the bits they consider blather or they shape the interview to a preconceived storyline, but they are not going to go “And here is an exact transcript of every word X said for eighty minutes”.

          • Dain says:

            I found it a bit much in Harris’s account of it all to expect Salon to put up with two beefy paragraphs talking shit about the site. What’d he expect the editor to do?

            “[Harris’s] remarks were edited merely for clarity and length.”

            Editing for length has to start somewhere. Big shocker it settled on the portion of the interview badmouthing the publication hosting it.

          • RCF says:

            I don’t find it unthinkable that a media outlet would publish criticism of itself, and if they are not willing to do so, then they shouldn’t say that they will publish it.

          • switchnode says:

            As Cliff already informed you below, “Waking Up” is a link on Harris’ page, not a deletion. As Harris clearly states in the beginning of the article, the deletions are marked in blue (not red). Please get your facts straight.

          • RCF says:

            @switchnode

            You really should say who your post is directed at.

          • blockcaster says:

            [edit: I thought I had refreshed this page more recently than 13 hours ago, but I guess I was wrong!]

            The red words are just hyperlinks; the part Salon edited out is in blue.

            And surely if Salon explicitly claimed not to have edited for anything but ‘clarity and length’, their (allegedly) doing so can’t just be brushed aside as standard journalistic practice.

      • RCF says:

        “I can say whatever I want” clearly means “Whatever I say will be published”. There is no other reasonable interpretation.

      • You seem to be trying to defend Salon’s behavior. I admit that I’m biased in favor of Harris, but I really don’t understand why. Yes, perhaps under an entirely literal, legalistic reading of the agreement, they could be said to have satisfied their end of the agreement. And yes, Harris was naïve if he really expected honesty from such a disreputable publication.

        So what? In my eyes that still makes Harris the victim of Salon’s unscrupulous behavior.

        • Deiseach says:

          Oh come on. I don’t like Salon any better than I like Harris, but to claim unscrupulous behaviour merely because it didn’t print every word he said, mainly his criticism?

          Suppose I wrote a piece about Harris being the greatest tosser in the history of uninformed loudmouths and sent it off to his website. Is he obligated to publish it?

          I can say whatever I want. That does not mean everything I say is going to be published, even on here. Salon did not promise him to publish every word he said. Had they done so, then criticism about being unscrupulous would be justified. As it was, he got right of editorial veto, which is a lot more damaging in the long run to journalistic integrity: a lot of celebs and organisations demand exactly this, e.g. film studios giving ‘exclusive’ interviews and access in return for you publishing exactly what they want said the way they want it said. This means things like your film critic giving an honest assessment of how the movie stinks gets spiked.

          Harris demanding right of veto over what he said is a lot worse for journalism than “I told you they were lousy, and as proof, they didn’t print me calling them lousy”.

          Suppose in the middle of his interview he’d said something like “I think the solution to radical Islam is to straight out drop a nuclear bomb on Saudi Arabia” or the like. And then he demanded the magazine leave that out or else they couldn’t publish the rest of the interview.

          Should a publication concede to such a demand or not? Are they doing reporting in the public interest if they agree to such control over final edit?

          If Harris had said such a thing, and Salon had published it as it stood without any demanded changes, don’t you think he’d be complaining equally about them? How dare they print something that might be interpreted to put him in a bad light!

          But if he says something that can put the magazine in a bad light, then it should be published as is, no changes, no editing, no omission.

          • gattsuru says:

            If you said something out of the blue, I don’t think there’s an obligation to publish it. If you said something after significant negotiations about what you’ll accept in an interview, things are a little different. Salon can almost certainly get away with what they’re doing, but from an ethical standpoint the editorial behavior here, if Mr. Harris is telling the truth, is not great.

            Indeed, the other changes don’t make Salon look better. I put the two texts into a compare tool, removed some formatting differences specific to the Salon version, and then read through the difference. Some are, in fairness, technical changes related to grammar or presentation, Harris’ rather butchered style, and their editor did catch one typo (a the/all transposition)/ On the other hand, they added a few typos (“no group” into “not group”, removing a few words that belonged).

            But many of the changes are far less understandable as either clarity or brevity. Periods are turned into a question mark. “Endemic” becomes “manifestly endemic”, “bigotry” becomes “racism” (despite the former being a more accurate quote of someone else), and most indefensibly, “moron” becomes “religious imbecile”.

            In more than one case, someone changed an interview /question/, which goes from strange to outright unethical, whether it be Harris or Illing or an editor that did it.

            Those last two bits are more reasonable if Mr. Harris had final review, but this does not speak of an editing process concerned with word-length. Nor do the portions they left in.

            ((My opinion on both Harris and Salon can best be summed up as X Delanda Est, for what it’s worth.))

          • Magicman says:

            This seems a strange counter factual. If Harris had said “the solution to radical Islam is to straight out drop a nuclear bomb on Saudi Arabia” Salon would have been wetting itself with excitement, since according to Salon Sam Harris is an evil racist. If this had of happened then he would have had no right to demand changes.
            The equivalent of Salon’s actions would be if Harris had posted an account of the interview with any questions critical of himself removed. This would make a better counter factual but it would rely, as does yours, on the as yet unproven assumption that Harris is as hypocritical as Salon.

    • Deiseach says:

      I note one of the things Mr Harris complains of, when reproducing the interview with text in red which is what was snipped out of his Salon interview, is that they didn’t include the title of his book “Waking Up” in what was, on the whole, a compliment masquerading as a question (“You think so deeply about this stuff unlike the rest of your fellow atheists”). They simply said “your book” not “your book, Waking Up”.

      Oh, the barbarity! 🙂

    • chaosmage says:

      Harris and Salon are having a beef – they quarrel with each other in public and entirely accidentally that attracts readers to both of them.

      Harris does this a lot. Besides the whole religious-vs-atheist debate business, he went vs Daniel Dennett on free will, vs Bruce Schneier on airport screenings, vs Noam Chomsky on counter terrorism. With Salon, he’s finally found an opponent that enjoys fighting him, and I imagine they’ll drag this out for a long time.

  7. Sugar Graph:

    “Sugar” has been replaced with “high fructose corn syrup” in a lot of foods, but HFCS still breaks down to sugar once you eat it.

    Don’t get me started on that time I was enthusiastically reassured that the yogurt I was being served had “no sugar.” Sure, it had “evaporated cane juice” instead. Not fun for a hypoglycemic. 🙁

    • Deiseach says:

      When you seriously start dieting and try and cut back on fat (because we all know fat is the enemy, right?) it is amazing how much ‘healthy’ foods are loaded with sugar or sweeteners.

      Stay far away from anything labelled as “low-fat” (well, except skimmed milk) because it is packed to the gills with sugar/sugar substitutes.

      I really do think what triggered my Type II diabetes was when I started eating more “healthily”. Eat more fruit, right? Fruit is healthy! And drink whole not-from-concentrate fruit juice and smoothies instead of those sodas and tea with milk and sugar!

      Yeah. Found out a bit too late fruit, especially in juice form, is full of fruit sugars, which are probably worse for you than glucose. And was very surprised to be told by the diabetes specialist nurse to avoid olive oil (as in the famous ‘healthy Mediterranean diet we should all use olive oil’) as that was bad for triglycerides; use rapeseed oil or something else instead.

    • Skef says:

      It would be more accurate (but still not completely accurate) to say that sugar breaks down into HFCS once you eat it.

    • RCF says:

      I would consider “sugar” to include as simple carbohydrates, such as glucose, sucrose, and fructose. I don’t know of any rigorous definition that excludes fructose.

      Translations for drink packaging:

      No high fructose corn syrup added = beet sugar, or other non-HFCS sugar
      No sugar added = artificial sweetener
      Juice cocktail = some juice mixed in with sweetened water

  8. Acedia says:

    How many people here, when you’re a passenger in a vehicle, imagine a sword or sawblade or laser coming out of the side of the vehicle cutting everything as you go past it?

    This was discussed recently on another forum I read. It turned out to be incredibly common, and everybody was astonished to find out that they weren’t the only person that does it.

    • Sure, but not since I was a kid. More often I imagine I’m leaping from telephone pole to telephone pole.

      • FeepingCreature says:

        Wow.

        Okay, we need to put this in next year’s LW survey.

      • switchnode says:

        I had an animal—sort of a Platonic ideal of coyote—running alongside, keeping pace with the vehicle and parkouring over obstacles. This discussion has come up once or twice and several people have usually said something similar, but this is the first I’ve heard of the sawblade version. The idea is quite alien to me.

      • Echo says:

        Yep. On long car rides (anything over 20 minutes to a little kid), I’d always imagine a character jumping between irregular objects and cars to run alongside without touching the ground.
        Probably a bit of a screensaver for your brain, like finding shapes in clouds or constellations. Keeps the eyes watching your surroundings and noticing patterns, which is good when your boring kid chore is “sit in the field and make sure wolves don’t eat all the sheep”.

    • Was that other forum imgur?

    • keranih says:

      Yes. I’m not surprised that other people did it – I was one of several siblings and I seem to recall us talking about it at one time. We were of an age where we could grasp the concept of “silly harmless kid things” – like thinking that something you dreamed doing, you had actually done – and put it in that category.

      And now, remembering and typing this up – One of my sisters had recently gotten a talking to, regarding praying for her grammar school class rival to get chickenpox and be miserable, and she made sure that the rest of us understood that she had never been *praying* for all the trees and houses and cows and such to be cut away, just *imagining* it. We all agree that imagining was perfectly okay, and idly wishing was probably all right, but formally asking for bad things to happen was Where Trouble Came In.

      And I still don’t know just how old we were – 4 to 7, ish, I think?

    • Linch says:

      Sure, but not since I was a kid, and I remembered it as more Platonic–like a perfect plane splitting X thing in half (or also fractions), extending almost forever.

      I’m mildly surprised that it’s such a common occurrence though.

    • Zykrom says:

      Wow, I completely forgot I used to do this all the time.

    • I still do this when bored. How novel to hear that it’s so common.

    • Max says:

      Wow, that’s a surprisingly specific thing for everyone (including me) to do.

    • I just fantasize about being able to teleport between places that have the same name.

      • As do I. And imagine someone writing a fantasy novel with that feature.

        • Murph says:

          Sounds very Munchkinable.

          “As the king of sealand I now declare this room to be officially named ‘fort knox inner vault 12’ ”

          “I now declare it to be officially named ‘international space station crew habitation module’ “

    • Murph says:

      I remember imagining this as a kid.

      Also being carried along on edge of a stormwall .

    • Luke Somers says:

      I’ve got someone running alongside doing running and jumping tricks. Occasionally it involves cutting things, but that’s not the focus, and they’re not attached to the car.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Say it was a chainsaw and I was going at 40 MPH and the people on the sidewalk are standing still.

      Would it cut people’s legs fast enough for the slicing to happen such that their legs suddenly get sheared, and then people scream in pain?

      Or would the chainsaw push them over faster than the blade can cut?

      • NN says:

        I would bet money on “push them over faster than the blade can cut,” because 40 mph is about 59 feet per second, and I doubt that chainsaws can cut much flesh, let alone bone, in 1/120th of a second.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          “Push” is not the word I would use to describe that interaction.

        • Marc Whipple says:

          You are correct. Any time you see a chainsaw cutting anything thicker than a relatively small branch in a continuous motion, you are seeing movie chainsaws. Real chainsaws cannot do that.

          Which is sad, because Ash cutting off Deadite heads at a blow is a pretty awesome thing.

          • John Schilling says:

            Real chainsaws cannot do that

            Not yet they can’t. But you’ve given me an idea for a Kickstarter project…

      • Zykrom says:

        You can’t really slash with a chainsaw.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        As NN said (and Zykrom is alluding to), the interaction of a giant chain saw bar at, say mid shin height, with the legs in question is going to look essentially the same regardless of whether the blade is moving or not.

        It won’t “push them down”, rather, it would snap the legs, and tend to tumble up and over the chain saw blade. There would be a great deal of cutting, but it wouldn’t have much to do with the rotation of the chain, but rather come from the edge of the chain and bar striking with so much force.

        I imagine that some people would get “stuck” on the bar, the break happening fast enough to let lower part wrap underneath, and then you might get some cutting from the chain. That would tend to look like a drag and then cut through, I would think.

        In practice, the chain would tend to become untracked and bind very fast anyway. They aren’t designed for impact. But I’m guessing you are assuming an “indestructable” chain saw.

        Why am I thinking about this?

      • Zykrom says:

        Moral signaling time: when I imagine doing this I always make the laser go up so it doesn’t hit people, I’m disgusted by all you people.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      When I was in 8th grade we moved to Europe for a year, and I got my first taste of traveling by train on a frequent basis. All that year I pictured myself on a BMX bike pulled along at the speed of the train doing completely awesome tricks (mostly ramping off of roofs or hills and doing flips).

  9. Is the racial admissions preference thing testable? Can we compare protest frequency at colleges with racial admissions preferences to those without, or something?

    • Emily says:

      If you wanted to look at very selective colleges without these preferences, your best bet might be public universities in states which outlawed them. However, you’d want to make sure they hadn’t introduced some other set of policies that has a similar effect. Also, if the racial/ethnic composition of the student body changed dramatically and there was less undermatching, it would be difficult to figure out which of those was driving changes in outcomes. Also, students in a state that has eliminated racial preferences for their group might feel on edge or attacked for that reason.

      I do not think that there is a school which is like Yale except without preferences. Caltech, for instance, is not really like Yale.

      Another problem is the difficulty of getting information on the magnitude of preferences by school.

      Maybe looking at this internationally would be more fruitful. Or looking at which students get involved in these movements on campus and what they say about how they perceive their academic abilities relative to their peers.

      • keranih says:

        At a higher education university I attended (not an Ivy, but second tier, and a public university) the long term goal of the university was to have the student population match the state, in ethnic terms. The suggestion that the student population should match the state in terms of religion was dismissed as a bridge too far, and frankly un-needed. I never did get a good answer to how the school proposed to reduce its Asian-American population in a just manner.

        For that school, quotas were overtly rejected, and in place of them, the departments had set a policy of “second look” – when an applicant of an “under-represented minority” (African American, Native American, Hispanic) was removed from the “keep” pile of applicants, that application went to a select committee to be sure that nothing had been overlooked that might prevent that application from being approved. I have no idea how one could quantify this approach.

        • RCF says:

          Of course, if you have some goal, and you keep evaluating candidates until you reach that goal, it’s disingenuous to claim you don’t have a quota system.

          As for quantifying this effect, obviously (given access to university records) you can look at stuff like GPA and SAT of admitted and rejected students of different races. Although I guess you might have a two tiered system: white people compete against each on the basis of GPA and SAT, while minorities compete against each other on more subjective measurements.

      • Anonymous says:

        From the Department of Doing Things That Aren’t Perfect But Are Doable, we could use the standard, really simple measure – SAT scores. They’re still reasonably good at predicting success in college, and a major indicator used by proponents of mismatch theory is the gap between SAT scores of different groups. You have to make some choices (do we just lump races together; can we actually identify which students were admitted with racial preference?), but you can at least measure something.

        You could use overall SAT scores (or SAT scores of the bulk of students with no preferences) as some indication of the quality of the institution (it’s probably impossible to ever give rigor to a very subjective idea of “this school is like that school”), and if you don’t have access to which students were admitted with preferences (they like to keep their methods opaque), just use a racial gap in scores as the independent variable for how much mismatch may be going on.

        In fact, I think it’s probably more difficult to get a measure of the dependent variable here (participation in protest movements, number of protests, or whatever). Personally, I don’t think this is likely to be a significant factor. I think the activities aren’t as student-driven as some people think. There are certain departments in race/gender studies that have really been subsumed by faculty who think their job is to foster a political movement. It also captures a few other sociology-related departments here and there (Native American studies tend to go this way; Israel studies kind of splits into two camps). I’m not sure we could get a good measure on this, but we could at least get some kind of measure on the influence of mismatch theory.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          That’s a perfectly reasonable operationalization. But I don’t think the numbers are available.

          • Emily says:

            I’ve been thinking more about what is available and I have a couple of ideas:
            1. At the school level, IPEDS has information about graduation rates and majors by race. Schools which have bigger racial gaps in graduatio

          • Emily says:

            I’ve been thinking more about what is available. At the school level, IPEDS has information about graduation rates and majors by race. Schools which have bigger racial differences in these probably also have bigger differences in the entering credentials across groups. There is also information about public vs. private, size, selectivity, etc. Compare schools in the news for activism with their peers in terms of institution type/size/selectivity on the major/graduation rate variables.

            Edit: boo for accidentally commenting before finishing and not being able to delete it.

          • RCF says:

            There is an edit feature.

    • andy says:

      I would be curious to know whether colleges who are looking for “leadership qualities” in admission process or “wish to change the world” and other related slogans in admission essay get more protests then colleges who focus more on academic results (e.g. Yale vs Caltech).

      E.g. the different rates of protests and politicization may be the result of selection process. If you favor/reward students that protested something at high school or seeked to lead things, you are bound to end up with more radical students who see protesting as something they need to do.

  10. jeorgun says:

    Do you mean Antigua and Barbuda?

  11. Sebastian H says:

    The nutrition study is exactly what lots of layman say: that diets seem to work for some people but not others. When can we use the test to develop good diets for ourselves?

    • Deiseach says:

      I am now imagining someone whose blood glucose levels escalate after eating bananas but not cookies getting hauled over the coals by their doctor and being disbelieved when they protest they have stopped eating all the junk and are eating healthy foods instead.

      How many people have been dismissed by medical personnel as liars or noncompliant because of results like this? Mrs Smith is not really trying to control her diabetes, look at her last Hb1AC test result, she must be snacking on junk instead of five a day fruit and veg!

      Though to be fair, dietitians do tell diabetics to stay away from bananas, so they must be known as a food that will spike your blood sugar 🙂

      • Nicholas says:

        My dieticians advice was that the only difference between fruit and candy is that fruit has less sugar per serving than candy, but that I basically shouldn’t be eating either. I remember a study connecting obesity with dishonesty in health reporting, but BtMoOS.

    • Kevin says:

      The development of such an accurate algorithm was one of the most interesting parts of that paper. Unfortunately, for the moment it would seem to require a biology lab to get some of the necessary data:

      In order to better understand the relationship between the measured glucose levels and the unique physiologies and lifestyles of their study’s participants, the teams collected an extremely diverse set of information from each participant. Study participants kept diaries of their physical activity, food intake, and sleep using a smartphone application. This information was then complimented with comprehensive profiles that researchers collected from each study participant, including food frequency, lifestyle, medical background, anthropometric measures (body measurements, such as height, hip circumference), full panel blood tests results, and single stool sample results used for microbiota profiling.

      This seems ripe for a followup GWAS or some similar genetic investigation.

    • Doctor Mist says:

      Regarding the nutrition study, I was interested to notice one point:

      The researchers found that in her case, eating tomatoes resulted in an “unhealthy” blood sugar spike, as the woman ate tomatoes frequently over the course of the week long monitoring period, this “healthy” habit may have been undermining her health.

      The rationalization of the Shangri-La diet includes the claim that your body learns that a flavor is associated with calories, and starts to nudge up your setpoint when you experience that flavor again, this being allegedly a sign that you are in a time of plenty (like you’ve just killed a mastodon or something) so it makes sense to eat more. This article doesn’t say whether the tomato woman was eating lots of tomatoes the week of the study because she usually ate lots of tomatoes, but it seems plausible (given that she seemed to have their healthfulness as a motive).

      I wonder if this might be part of the mechanism behind the setpoint thing.

      (N.B. I’ve been unable to make the Shangri-La diet do anything for me personally, so I believe in it only because I have seen lots of testimonials. But perhaps this is just another instance of different diets working for different people.)

  12. Sebastian H says:

    The affirmative action post is fascinating. It suggests that many students are correctly seeing that members of their race are systematically doing worse, but they don’t see that it is the ‘positive’ system that has hurt them.

    • Anonymous says:

      In general, I think educational systems form a really massive blind spot for proponents of critical theory. The whole idea is destabilizing structures and power systems… but academia and the general culture of intellectualism is a massive structure! It clearly confers power, wealth, and increased opportunity to those who are willing to participate in it. It’s incredibly hierarchical (faculty under deans under chancellors under presidents under regents… or however your particular university is structured). There are solid arguments that education systems reinforce systemic inequalities based on race/gender. There are even people who are literally incapable of participating in the norm and who will never receive benefits from society for participating in the norm of intellectualism.

      It seems pretty reasonable that critical theorists should be solidly anti-intellectualism and anti-educational systems. The cynical interpretation is that these structures are where they have found their home and their power. I’d love to be wrong on this and to hear an explanation, but as much as I’ve looked, I’ve never seen a critical analysis of educational systems.

      • Curle says:

        The entire function of critical theory is to rationalize finding a home in academia for a like minded cadre of folks who enjoy criticizing the same targets. If critical theory were anything other than special pleading university style you’d have seen critical spoils theory, critical egalitarian theory, critical therapy theory and critical tenure theory by now.

      • multiheaded says:

        You have never read a single paragraph written by critical theorists like Marcuse or Adorno. (To name the two absolute most proeminent ones.) That much is clear.

        • Dain says:

          Curious. You may be correct, but critical theorist Paul Piccone (RIP), whom I’ve read, would seem to back up what the above commenters are saying. The ushering in of a new class of academy-aligned bureaucrats who stand to materially gain from their rhetoric comprised no small chunk of his criticism of the ’68ers.

          More on Piccone:

          http://bit.ly/1IquUFT

        • Echo says:

          What a useful comment. Could you be bothered to follow up with a single paragraph or more from a critical theorist to support dismissing his claim?

        • Anonymous says:

          Interestingly, they didn’t make it into the reading lists for the feminist/queer theory classes that I’ve taken (these lists are not constructed by me). I’ve looked them up on SEP, and the article on Marcuse starts with:

          During the late 1970s through the 1990s Marcuse’s popularity began to wane as he was eclipsed by second and third generation critical theorists, postmodernism, Rawlsian liberalism, and his former colleagues Theodor Adorno and Walter Benjamin.

          …so that might be part of it. I’ll continue to read up on them, but do you have anything specific that I should pay attention to? Maybe you could point out a reason why, say, Marcuse is particularly relevant to a discussion that is pretty obviously dealing with later-generational critical theorists?

      • 27chaos says:

        Friere is good, although his words get twisted.

      • cassander says:

        >November 28, 2015 at 9:50 am ~new~
        In general, I think educational systems form a really massive blind spot for proponents of critical theory. The whole idea is destabilizing structures and power systems… but academia and the general culture of intellectualism is a massive structure! It clearly confers power, wealth, and increased opportunity to those who are willing to participate in it. It’s incredibly hierarchical (faculty under deans under chancellors under presidents under regents… or however your particular university is structured). There are solid arguments that education systems reinforce systemic inequalities based on race/gender. There are even people who are literally incapable of participating in the norm and who will never receive benefits from society for participating in the norm of intellectualism.

        Good! This is the first step down the road to abandoning the political left, realizing that destroying hierarchies never results in egalitarianism because people never stop being primates. Step two is realizing the not only is hierarchy not bad, it’s essential for civilisation. Step 3 is killing your dad and embracing the dark side…..

        • MichaelM says:

          Or you could just accept that hierarchies are essential for civilization but are still bad, a necessary evil, thus becoming something a little more like a normal libertarian, instead of your weird cult.

    • RCF says:

      Systemically, not systematically. Their false belief that they are systematically doing worse is part of the problem.

  13. RollyPollyStreet says:

    On the sugar graph.

    Is that only taking into account table sugar? That seems like it could easily be attributed to the rise of “replacement sugars” such as high fructose corn syrup. Also the rise in “healthy” sweeteners like honey and agave which though they are perceived by certain aspects of the public to be better for you than table sugar break down into essentially the same thing. Some things like agave have a much higher fructose content than table sugar which “might” be slightly better as fructose tastes significantly sweeter so you need less of it. But there are also good arguments that high fructose content is actually worse for you as it has been hypothesized to lead to insulin resistance and high triglyceride levels.

    • Nornagest says:

      That was my first thought too, but I don’t think it flies. The inflection point seems to lie somewhere around 2000, and HFCS became popular much earlier than that; I believe American soft drinks started using it in place of sugar sometime in the Eighties. Actually I suspect that sugar consumption’s been rising relative to HFCS in recent years, although both are probably down on their peaks.

      • Anthony says:

        Coke switched from sugar to HFCS during the New Coke fiasco. “Classic Coke” was identical to the original Coke, except for HFCS instead of sugar.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Actually, Coke switched to 50/50 in 1980 and to 100% HFCS six months before the 1985 introduction of New Coke. (Well, technically, they merely allowed that amount of substitution, while requiring 100% HFCS in New Coke and Coke Classic. I haven’t seen any numbers of what actually happened, other than a vague “almost all major bottlers” switched before New Coke. It’s easy to believe that the adoption was slow in 1980, because it required a new ingredient, but surely the 1984 switch was immediate.)

          • Anthony says:

            I recall seeing cans of original Coke that were still around when Classic Coke came around with sugar instead of corn syrup on their ingredient labels, but Classic Coke (which later became just Coke) always had corn syrup. So at least in the Bay Area, there was a lot of made-with-sugar Coke up until the introduction of New Coke.

  14. Nombre says:

    An interesting post about intellectual generosity (and an interesting blog, especially the longer pieces).

    • Anon. says:

      Eh. To interpret an argument in positive light there must be an argument in the first place. The social justice project is fundamentally anti-rationalistic and anti-empirical, favoring some sort of anecdote/quasi-religious revelation pastiche instead (“lived experience”, etc).

      As this LW thread points out, there is no common ground when it comes to people who completely disagree about how we gain knowledge: http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/kmk/open_thread_july_28_august_3_2014/b5vj (“I felt like not only did I hold a different position to the rest of those present, but we had entirely different background assumptions about how one makes a case for said position. There was a near-Kuhnian incommensurability between us.”) Make sure to check out pianoforte611’s comment.

      • Tim C says:

        I think that argument is very much a form of a selective demand for rigor; One can see university protesters who are throwing tantrums and pretty correctly conclude that they reject reason, but if you look at the average activist in almost any cause from anarchists to vegans and they are equally emotionally motivated. Most people don’t use logic to determine action or values. There are plenty of serious “social justice” thinkers who have developed rigorous theories, done empirical research – and sure, sometimes you will challenge them and dig through layers of arguments and find that its hollow at the core, but that same thing happens to libertarian economists or AI-risk proponents. Its simply once again “people have biases”, the sturgeon’s law of ideas.

        Most “social justice” ideas are comparatively simple social science concepts, that have been discussed by many thinkers. I think to prove your case, you would have to point to some idea that equates to the “faith above reason” of some religions, and point it in a serious context (i.e. not a facebook post). Furthermore, I think you would need to show that there is much more of these ideas in SJ than other social science fields to show it to be ‘fundamentally’ flawed compared to other concepts, since every field has a bad idea floating around.

        Of course, you could reject all social science as fundamentally flawed, which is not indefensible by any means but then makes the flaws of social justice not very special and not worth calling out singularly.

        • Tom Hunt says:

          I don’t particularly object to levying the same charge against all activists from anarchists to vegans. Activism in general seems to innately invite this failure. But that doesn’t mean it’s a problem to indict social justice specifically for that failure; it just means that social justice is what’s making a lot of noise and trouble lately, and so inviting criticism. It’s equally fallacious to say that you aren’t allowed to criticize anything unless you make sure you’re equally criticizing everything else that deserves criticism. (And that very tactic is often used as a way of shutting down any discussion that criticizes some speaker’s pet cause.)

          Similarly, it would be entirely reasonable to reject all social science as fundamentally (empirically) flawed, and then use that position to focus a criticism on the intellectual basis of social justice, which is as previously noted the thing that’s causing all the noise and trouble lately. It is very much worth calling out singularly as the most immediately damaging aspect of the whole flawed edifice.

          • Tim C says:

            Its certainly fair to level that claim against all activists, and I sortof agree that we should (its one of activisms real problems). However, that means there is no reason to say the “social justice project is fundamentally anti-rationalistic and anti-empirical”; its activism that is anti-empircal, not social justice ideas. I imagine you judge your own ideas by its best thinkers, not by its most shallow supporters, so social justice should have the same charity extended to it.

            On the second point, I totally agree – i was simply assuming from tone/context that Anon did not think that, given they didnt say anything such as “social justice is just another branch of social science thats fundamentally flawed” or some such. I think that kind of phrasing would better communicate the idea, but eh, words are wind along with our interpretations so if I learn that was the original intent I am simply happy we increased our mutual understanding 🙂

          • Rose says:

            Re pay for dangerous work.

            Google “how much do crab gishermen earn in one year.” CNN says 100k

            I visited the Jonas fra king gas field – guys with a hs education earn six figures. They live in dorms for six week shifts if I’m remembering correctly. No women.

        • Anon. says:

          Anarchists perhaps, but vegans tend to be very clear in their argumentation. Start with some sort of utilitarianism + say that animals are to be included in the utilitarian calculus, eating meat -> more animals are tortured -> eating meat is bad, yo. If someone comes along and says “I’m not a utilitarian” I don’t think vegans tend to throw a tantrum.

          I’m not aware of any social justice ideas that are supported by rigorous theories and empirical data. Could you name some examples?

          As for the anti-rationalist, anti-empiricism, etc. aspects of SJ, let’s look at of the most prominent memes: the gender pay gap.

          First of all it’s a classic motte and bailey situation (“women are paid differently for different work” vs “women are paid differently for the same work”).

          Second, there is virtually complete consensus among labor economists that there is no gap. There’s a mountain of empirical evidence on the topic.

          Third there is no reason to expect that there would be a gap at all: we live in a cutt-throat capitalist society in which the #1 cost (by far) for businesses is payroll. If there were a pay gap, corporations would hire only women and would quickly bid up their wages to parity.

          Fourth, SJ people do not react very well if you try to explain any of this to them. They certainly would never try to look up the data by themselves; as an article of faith it’s not under debate.

          And frankly this is one of the least ridiculous ideas in SJ…it has the positive trait of being empirically testable!

          • Theo Jones says:

            Second, there is virtually complete consensus among labor economists that there is no gap. There’s a mountain of empirical evidence on the topic.
            Not quite. There is consensus that the effect of discrimination is substantially less than 30% and any attempt to take the full 70% pay-gap ratio as a rate of discrimination is severely misinterpreting that data. There is still the salary gap, but it has many causes. However, economists dispute still what the true discrimination driven gap is. See the following
            https://www.stlouisfed.org/Publications/Regional-Economist/October-2011/Gender-Wage-Gap-May-Be-Much-Smaller-Than-Most-Think

          • Dain says:

            When you also consider that men more often pay with their lives – or at least their limbs – in the workplace, that gap truly dwindles if not tilts the other way.

            http://www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/cfoi/cfch0004.pdf

          • Protagoras says:

            The high fatality rates are confined in a narrow range of jobs; it’s not true that male jobs generally are especially dangerous, there are just a small number of very dangerous jobs that are almost completely male-dominated. And I believe those jobs are not in fact especially well paid; it seems very unlikely that they are contributing much to the pay gap.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            A lot of the dangerous jobs are very high-paying in the context of the qualifications they require. That probably distorts the numbers more than might be apparent from the absolute number of them. A crab fisherman can make six figures and the only qualifications are “probably won’t murder crewmates” and “willing to do ungodly hard work for days or weeks at a go.” There probably aren’t a lot of female-dominated jobs with the same pay and qualification ranges.

          • Chalid says:

            A crab fisherman doesn’t make anything like six figures unless they own the boat, in which case they’re really making money from their capital and not their labor.

          • Urstoff says:

            Seemed like some of the crew members on Deadliest Catch would make that much if they had a competent captain and worked both crab seasons. Many of them do normal fishing in the summer, too. Six-figures may not be the normal, but it doesn’t seem at all out of the question.

          • Chalid says:

            Seems like there are a lot of *wildly* conflicting sources on crab fisherman pay; I see everything from $100k to $20k or even less.

            Not willing to invest too much in this but some sources suggest that average pay is rather low but some people get very lucky every year (and some people get unlucky and earn zero). This sounds plausible to me.

        • Curle says:

          “Most “social justice” ideas are comparatively simple social science concepts.”

          Assuming that social science suggests a search for general principles applicable across a variety of platforms rigorously tested against competing theories, what social justice idea meets this test? After all, the critics of social justice point to popularisers like Boas and accuse them of neglecting, intentionally, to test their own theories opting instead to focus their energies on recruiting followers, creating memes and attacking alternate explanations.

        • Echo says:

          Most of the social sciences don’t embrace mindless activism as their primary… “militant arm”.
          You don’t have to “call out” (ugh) all the social sciences, as long as historians aren’t raising mobs to blackmail universities into… uh, firing any professor who questions the department’s dogma about Richard II’s suppression of the Lords Appellant.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          I think you’re setting up a false equivalence here. Granted arguendo that all activists are liable to letting their emotions run away with them, I don’t notice twittermobs of anarchists or vegans, or pro-lifers or tea-partiers or student conservatives or… well, any other group, really, trying to get random people fired for expressing the wrong opinions, or to amend university codes of conduct to prevent said opinions from being expressed. At the present moment, almost all the examples of this sort of behaviour come from the social justice movement, so I think it’s quite reasonable to wonder what exactly it is that makes social justice so much more toxic than other movements.

          • Science says:

            Perhaps you are only searching under the streetlight?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            In what sense?

          • Joycelyn Elders is my go-to example for when people say “No, what happened to Eich is a good thing, because people like us will always be in control!”

            It’s all about which group is in ascendancy at a given time, of course. I strongly suspect you could go back a few decades and find people explicitly fired for being feminist. But since we have the Internet and multiple overlapping groups seeking to call each other out for hypocrisy right now, we see a lot of “Person X was fired for holding this position!” stories that fit a particular agenda.

            That’s my guess. I welcome people digging into actual historical hiring and firing records to see if feminism is uniquely bad compared to, e.g., McCarthyism. (I strongly suspect it isn’t.)

          • John Schilling says:

            Jocelyn Elders was a politician who lost her job for political commentary made on the job and contrary to her employer’s policy. That’s pretty much a necessary condition for political jobs across the spectrum – if President Bernie Sanders appoints a secretary of commerce who then starts giving official speeches extolling the virtues of laissez-faire capitalism, they are going to be an ex-secretary. For a counterexample to Eich, you need someone who was fired for things they did on their own time, on their own dime, in an arena other than their organization’s core business.

          • Mmm. I think we’ll have to agree to disagree on what counts as political. In any case, I think the point is strengthened overall by the difference; Elders was fired for doing her actual job in a way that was politically inconvenient. The point is the social justice movement has no monopoly on people getting fired for terrible reasons; the fact that this particular person was fired under different circumstances doesn’t change the underlying point.

            Of course, I only know about her because I’m old and I remember when her firing was topical. Again, my theory is that pre-widespread-Internet, social media, and designated teams combing the fact space for examples to support their team, there will be a lot less easy-to-find examples of this behavior, but not because there was any less of it in the past.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            Jocelyn Elders was fired (I remember it: I’m old too) for doing her actual job in a way her actual boss did not actually want it done. The fact that he didn’t want it done that way for political reasons is irrelevant because he was a politician: hence, it was reasonable for him to judge the actions of his subordinates according to their political implications. Any Cabinet-level subordinate who does not understand and accept this is far, far too stupid and/or impractical to be a Cabinet-level subordinate. So arguably she was fired not only for insubordination, but for incompetence. (Comments about why Elders was made SG in the first place left out to avoid an irrelevant argument.)

            This is why I find the comparison unconvincing. 🙁

            I tend to agree that SJW are far and away the worst offenders in using ideological disputes as justification for trying to get people fired and/or socially sanctioned in ways unrelated to their actual conduct or duties. They are not the only offenders and some of the other offenses are admittedly egregious. But if you get in their crosshairs, you are much more likely to suffer for it, and more likely to suffer more, than with any other large socially-acceptable group.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I don’t think anybody’s saying that SJW-ism is uniquely bad in that no other movement on history did comparable things, but that no other movement today is doing comparable things. Going back to something twenty or more years ago to find non-SJWs getting people fired kind of implicitly concedes this latter point, even if we assume that the Jocelyn Elders case and McCarthyism are relevantly similar to the treatment meted out to Brendan Eich or Sir Tim Hunt.

          • MichaelM says:

            I think anyone who has ever been fired for failing a drug test while sober probably falls into this category. Or anyone fired in the past for being outed as homosexual after making a good effort to keep that hidden from the workplace.

            The point to be made is that the kind of social pressure and punishment mechanisms the modern SJ movement is using are very old and have, up til now, mostly been used by various incarnations of social conservativism. What’s changed is that social conservativism, in its multiple personalities, is no longer very powerful at all in a lot of places and social justice groups are taking their place as moral guardians. Just of a different set of morals.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The po-life movement has plenty of actual mobs dispensing condemnation face-to-face with the people they condemn. The pro-life movement has been quite effective at reducing the available avenues for obtaining abortion. The recent legislative gains in a majority of states serve as a proof.

            It’s interesting that they were included as an example of “no twitter mobs”. In a twitter war between pro-life and pro-choice, pro-choice seems likely to win. Out in the physical world the pro-life movement is the one making gains.

          • Anonymous says:

            Out in the physical world the pro-life movement is the one making gains.

            No surprise there. If opinion on infanticide is influenced by genetics, then in the present circumstances, there’s a strong selection effect against genes which make it likely to hold a pro-choice opinion.

          • Anonymous says:

            At this point you may as well be talking about dilithium crystals. You are just spiting science-y sounding nonsense. Enough with the idiotic armchair evolution theories.

          • Mary says:

            80% of children vote like their parents. Whatever the cause, something so obviously favorable as letting your children live is going to be selected for.

          • Jiro says:

            I think anyone who has ever been fired for failing a drug test while sober probably falls into this category. Or anyone fired in the past for being outed as homosexual after making a good effort to keep that hidden from the workplace.

            Those aren’t comparable because they don’t involve the employer responding to outside pressure. First of all, in many of those cases, no outside party reported the employee at all, let alone reported him with the intent of getting him fired. Second, even when someone did report the employee, it wasn’t a mob; that is, it wasn’t a group of people who used its size to force the employer to fire the person whether he personally wanted to or not.

          • Protagoras says:

            I seem to recall the research indicating that there was very little correlation between whether someone said they were pro-life or pro-choice and whether they had an abortion.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            The po-life movement has plenty of actual mobs dispensing condemnation face-to-face with the people they condemn.

            So how many people have been fired for expressing support for Planned Parenthood?

          • Chalid says:

            The fringes of any movement, SJ included, has tactics that are especially suited to its ideology, position, and demographics. Insisting that another movement’s abuses aren’t as bad because they’re not as bad along the particular axes that SJ is worst is very myopic.

            For example, AFAIK SJ has never led to anything resembling Friday’s Planned Parenthood shooting but you should not use that fact alone in isolation to conclude that the pro-life right is way more toxic than SJ. The bad parts of social movements are just differently toxic.

          • Mary says:

            “I seem to recall the research indicating that there was very little correlation between whether someone said they were pro-life or pro-choice and whether they had an abortion.”

            Yup, it’s selecting for acts, not words.

          • rose says:

            > I don’t notice twittermobs of anarchists or vegans, or pro-lifers or tea-partiers or student conservatives or… well, any other group, really, trying to get random people fired for expressing the wrong opinions, or to amend university codes of conduct to prevent said opinions from being expressed. At the present moment, almost all the examples of this sort of behaviour come from the social justice movement, so I think it’s quite reasonable to wonder what exactly it is that makes social justice so much more toxic…

            your question seems very fruitful.

            Paul Sperry at the NY Post has a pretty concrete answer – they are not a spontaneous uprising, but a well organized and funded leftist political movement. we are seeing alinskyite tactics in action, instigated and funded by our commander in chief, who did not teach courses at U of Chicago on the US Constitution, but on Alinsky and onrace.

            http://nypost.com/2015/11/14/how-obama-is-bankrolling-a-non-stop-protest-against-invented-outrage/
            The senseless protests we’re seeing break out on the campuses of the University of Missouri, Yale and other colleges, as well as on bridges and highway overpasses and outside police stations, are precisely the kind of thing Obama was trained to organize while attending leftist agitation schools founded by Chicago communist Saul Alinsky. He learned to a fare-thee-well how to “rub raw the sores of discontent.”
            These irritating, self-absorbed, belligerent brats will “hands-up, don’t shoot” themselves into every cobwebbed corner of society.
            Now Obama is returning the favor of his Alinsky masters, training and cloning an army of social justice bullies to carry on his revolution to “fundamentally transform America.” He’s doing it mainly through a little-known but well-funded group called Organizing for Action, or OFA, which will outlast his administration.
            OFA, formerly Obama for America, has trained more than 10,000 leftist organizers, who, in turn, are training more than 2 million youths in Alinsky street tactics.
            The leftist group, which recently registered as a 501c4 nonprofit eligible for unlimited contributions, holds regular “organizing summits” on college campuses.
            Through social media, they mobilize flash mobs against “biased cops,” “climate-change deniers,” “Wall Street predators” and “gun extremists.” They hold rallies against conservative foes of gay marriage, LGBT rights, abortion and amnesty for illegal immigrants.
            Modal TriggerSupporters raise their fists in solidarity during a rally on Nov. 4 on the University of Missouri campus in Columbia, Mo.Photo: AP
            In addition, Obama has trained hundreds of thousands of junior agitators through AmeriCorps, a Clinton youth program he’s dramatically expanded, and through My Brother’s Keeper, the “racial justice” initiative he launched in the wake of the 2012 death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin. My Brother’s Keeper agitates for “school discipline reform” — that is, touchy-feely alternatives to suspensions and expulsions — and other measures to “improve outcomes for boys and young men of color.”

          • The original Mr. X says:

            For example, AFAIK SJ has never led to anything resembling Friday’s Planned Parenthood shooting but you should not use that fact alone in isolation to conclude that the pro-life right is way more toxic than SJ. The bad parts of social movements are just differently toxic.

            There was that guy who tried to shoot up the Family Research Council headquarters a couple of years ago. In general, though, I’m sceptical of using such “lone wolf” attacks as evidence for a movement’s toxicity, simply because so many of the people carrying out these attacks seem to be disturbed individuals anyway, for reasons which have nothing to do with the cause they’re identifying with. The recent examples of hatemobs, OTOH, all seem to have been composed mainly of intelligent, articulate and well-off individuals, and I’d say it’s generally much more worrying to see large numbers of such people turn toxic than to see the same thing happen to a few maladjusted lunatics.

          • Jaskologist says:

            It is bad form to try to smear groups by associating them with actual lone wolves who are crazy in the sense of “barely coherent schizophrenic.” Those people’s brains are not working, and others cannot be held accountable for their actions.

          • Chalid says:

            There is a lot of low-grade violence directed at Planned Parenthoods (broken windows, stink bombs, arson of varying degrees of severity, etc) in addition to the mobs of people harassing women getting pap smears and the like. SJ surely includes mentally ill people too but they act out in different ways and I very much doubt it is pure chance. Perhaps I should not have brought up that recent specific example though – I had just been reading about it before coming here so it was on my mind.

            Anyway, the point is that if you narrowly focus on the worst things people do in the name of a particular movement/ideology and make those your metric, you will of course conveniently find that that movement does the worst things!

          • anonymous says:

            “My group is overwhelmingly made up of good, decent people. If there are a few bad apples, well they are probably mentally ill or trolls and aren’t even part of the group to begin with. Your group, on the other hand, is mostly evil people doing evil things for the sheer joy of it. How rude of you to elide this important difference!”

      • Winter Shaker says:

        Well my favourite thing about that whole thread was the commenter who wanted a name for a made-up illness and came up with the wonderful ‘bogosthenia’. I hope that catches on.

    • Schraub accuses Haidt of being uncharitable to college students in the same way that the students are uncharitable to those they accuse of having committed “microagressions” and whatnot, despite Haidt’s frequent criticism of that behavior. I don’t think this equivocation is fair. Haidt isn’t optimally charitable, but neither is he harassing individuals or calling for students to be expelled if they won’t respect free speech. That would be a better comparison for the behavior Haidt criticizes. For example, from the very article Schraub links to:

      The student interpreted Dean Spellman’s email in the least generous way possible: she was offended by dean Spellman’s use of the word “mold,” and she posted the email on Facebook. The response was explosive. Protests, hunger strikers, demands for mandatory faculty sensitivity training, and demands that dean Spellman apologize and resign. Which she did.

      You can watch students taunting Dean Spellman here. The section beginning at 41 minutes is particularly cruel — a member of the crowd condemns Dean Spellman for “falling asleep” during the inquisition, when it is clear from the rest of the video that the poor woman was only closing her eyes because she was struggling to hold back her tears.

      When has Haidt’s writing ever approached anything like that?

      • rose says:

        Mitch Lindgren says:

        November 28, 2015 at 11:19 pm

        >Schraub accuses Haidt of being uncharitable to college students in the same way that the students are uncharitable to those they accuse of having committed “microagressions” and whatnot, despite Haidt’s frequent criticism of that behavior. I don’t think this equivocation is fair.

        I believe it is a key tactic of the left to accuse their opponents of their own faults. it often works very well. I don’t think it is misguided projection, because it crops up over and over. for example, the left is obsessed with racial categorizing, and support racial quotas. they accuse their opponents of racism for saying that race doesn’t matter, people should be judged by their actions. but it’s idiotic to get into an argument where you’re saying, ‘I’m not uncharitable, you are.’ or ‘I’m not lying, you are.” (hands up don’t shoot) or ‘I’m not racist, you are.” so the labels stick.

      • rose says:

        >Schraub accuses Haidt of being uncharitable to college students in the same way that the students are uncharitable to those they accuse of having committed “microagressions” and whatnot, despite Haidt’s frequent criticism of that behavior. I don’t think this equivocation is fair.

        I believe it is a key tactic of the left to accuse their opponents of their own faults. it often works very well. I don’t think it is misguided projection, because it crops up over and over. for example, the left is obsessed with racial categorizing, and support racial quotas. they accuse their opponents of racism for saying that race doesn’t matter, people should be judged by their actions. but it’s idiotic to get into an argument where you’re saying, ‘I’m not uncharitable, you are.’ or ‘I’m not lying, you are.” (hands up don’t shoot) or ‘I’m not racist, you are.” so the tactic works.

  15. The “optimal” monarchy succession seems to be at odds with Fisher’s principle, that parents should invest equally in their sons and daughters. Bestowing the succession is obviously a kind of investment, so there shouldn’t be a purely genetic reason to favour one sex over the other.

    • Jeff Kaufman says:

      Haven’t read the article, but Fisher’s is about optionality for the parent’s genetic survival, while I suspect the authors were concerned with the country’s success.

      • RCF says:

        Of course, succession by inheritance wasn’t about ruling ability being inherited, it was about it being a good schelling point. That’s also why it was oldest son; as son as the first child is born, the succession is determined.

    • Zakharov says:

      The “optimal monarcy” succession principle was about genetic similarity between ruler and heir; Fisher’s Principle is about mating prospects. It would apply if royal heirs were only to marry other royal heirs, but that’s not the case.

      • Zakharov says:

        Incidentally, the best succession system for maximizing genetic similarity would be the Ptolemaic system.

        • And for maximizing competence of rulers there is much to be said for the Ottoman system, although it is expensive. Heir choice by fratricide. When the Sultan dies, all interested sons, and perhaps a brother or two if any are still around, fight it out.

          Selects for the heir best at winning a civil war cum power struggle, which isn’t a bad proxy for best at running an aggressively expansionist polity.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            A number of African countries do this, with the parts of the brothers being played by generals instead. It doesn’t seem to work out very well in the modern world.

          • suntzuanime says:

            It’s possible that an ability to win bloody civil wars doesn’t select for the kind of abilities that are helpful in the modern world. Perhaps it would be better to have your successors picked by the US government, to select for ability to keep on the good side of the US government.

          • Scott Alexander says:

            Also suggests for the nastiest and most backstabby.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            Perhaps it would be better to have your successors picked by the US government, to select for ability to keep on the good side of the US government.

            How well did this turn out to go in Iraq again?

          • Scott Alexander says:

            Oooh, we could have the successor chosen by the population, to maximize the chance of staying on the good side of the populace! That would be the best kind of monarchy!

          • Echo says:

            Any candidate that would be strongly supported by the majority of the population would probably not have the best interests of population minorities at heart.
            This suggests that we should take the winners and losers of every popular election, throw them in a pit of hungry timber wolves, and choose elected officials by lot from the remaining population.

          • andy says:

            You are not maximazing the competence in ruling the country. You are maximazing the competence in killing brothers and winning civil war.

            The best skilled general can still be quite crappy in managing economy or international relationships.

          • Tibor says:

            Scott: I think that if you define the reason of the state as “conquer and expand the power of the ruling dynasty”, which is more or less how it was defined back then (if not perhaps not officially) backstabbing and nasty are positive traits.

            By the way, the current monarchs in Europe (in the countries where they still have them), despite not being chosen by the people, have generally much higher approval rating than any politicians. However, it is most likely because they have virtually zero actual power and are basically glorified country mascots now. Also, electing a dictator for life by a subset of the people was not such as an uncommon government mechanism in the past.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Depending on how long the civil war goes on for, you might end up wasting so many resources on determining the succession that the country is left vulnerable to attack by outside foes.

          • The negative externalities of regular civil war are very considereable.

          • “I think that if you define the reason of the state as “conquer and expand the power of the ruling dynasty”, which is more or less how it was defined back then (if not perhaps not officially) backstabbing and nasty are positive traits.”

            If someone tells me that monarchy is the best system, I think i have a right to interpret that as meaning best for me, not best for the monarch.

          • Jon Gunnarsson says:

            @Tibor:
            I don’t think your explanation for the popularity of monarchy works. The few European monarchs who still wield considerable power (e.g. the Prince of Liechtenstein) are also very popular.

          • Tibor says:

            Jon Gunnarsson: Does he? I had no idea. I thought all the monarchs in Europe had at most as much power as presidents in Parliamentary democracies (in Europe), i.e. being mostly ceremonial figures. This is interesting. But how much power does he have exactly? I doubt it is anything close to the power of the prime minister or even a minister, or is it?

          • John Schilling says:

            Per wikipedia, “The Prince of Liechtenstein has broad powers, which include the appointment of judges, the dismissal of ministers or government, veto power, and the calling of referenda. ” Seems fairly presidential, actually. There is an escape clause in that the Prince cannot veto a referendum to abolish the monarchy.

            These powers were actually expanded by popular vote, 64%-36%, in 2003. A parallel vote to restrict the powers of the crown failed 83%-17%. So, yeah, the man and the institution seem to be fairly popular.

            There are also a fair number of European monarchies where the crown has various royal prerogatives that have not in fact been exercised in a century or so but plausibly might be in the event of a constitutional crisis paralyzing the parliamentary system. The appointment of Harold MacMillan over Rab Butler as prime minister of the United Kingdom might be considered a borderline case of this, and doesn’t seem to have hurt Elizabeth II’s popularity.

    • Mary says:

      Louis XVI’s daughter survived the French Revolution. Succession is a mixed bag for genetic success.

      One also notes that males are better suited to take advantage of the better reproductive opportunities afforded by succeeding to the throne.

  16. Bill Murdock says:

    Ugh. Scott Sumner. His quest for a position at the Fed gains momentum. Gotta slam gold (by creating false narratives and pretending government policy errors are instead the natural landscape of a gold standard) and promote funny money!

    • Anon says:

      That’s a pretty strong claim. Why do you think this is what’s happening?

      • Nathan says:

        At a guess, Bill Murdock is an advocate of Austrian economics, which advocates a strict gold standard. They have long standing disagreements with market monetarists like Sumner.

        • Deiseach says:

          This little disagreement over the gold standard reminds me of the dinner party in this clip 🙂

          • Bill Murdock says:

            It may seem like a “little disagreement” to the layperson. I assure you it is not. And it involves you and your wealth and autonomy directly, even if you don’t understand it. Funny clip, tho.

        • Bill Murdock says:

          Nope. AE doesn’t “advocate a strict gold standard.”

      • Bill Murdock says:

        I’m not sure to what you’re referring. Why do government economists (or aspiring ones) slam gold? Because it constrains the State (and protects the property rights of “the people”).

        This is not in dispute, btw. The literature is all about how it constrains the government from inflating [sic for taking your wealth via counterfeiting – which of course is legal because it’s technically not “counter” their “fiat”).

        Sumner is angling for a job at the Fed, and job #1 at the Fed is to prevent sound money, aka money chosen freely on the market by the contracting parties.

        • Nathan says:

          The reason why constraining the central bank from devaluing the currency is considered a bad thing (within certain parameters) is because said devaluation is how you prevent mass unemployment.

          Personally I’m fine with the government inflating away a bit of my wealth if it keeps me in a job.

          • Bill Murdock says:

            *slow clap*

            Also, the reason why muggers take your money is to stimulate AD, thus growing the economy!

            Personally I’m fine with the muggers mugging away a bit of my wealth if it keeps me in a job.

        • Stefan Drinic says:

          Just as I find a huge amount of historians really would do well to brush up on their economics, I sometimes think economists could do well to look at past societies. How exactly do proponents of the gold standards explain Ming China’s (enormous) economic downturn?

          • Chalid says:

            I don’t think there are many economists who are pro-gold standard. There’s massive overrepresentation of that position on the internet.

          • John Schilling says:

            Even proponents of the gold standard do not claim it to be a panacea against all types of economic trouble. However, in the case of Ming Dynasty China, they might note that Ming Dynasty China didn’t use a gold standard at all. Silver bullion was circulated informally in times and places where foreign trade was common, but the IIRC currency of the empire was always fiat money in paper and bronze. I’m not sure what you are getting at there.

    • E. Harding says:

      Did you read his book? If not, do not comment on it.

      And at no point does Sumner pretend the Great Depression was “the natural landscape of a gold standard”. You’re making stuff up.

      • Bill Murdock says:

        I totally said that! You got me! But seriously, if you haven’t read what I wrote, don’t comment on it. 😉

  17. Nathan says:

    Has anyone read Sumner’s book yet and if so, how readable is it vs his blog? He successfully converted me from Keynesianism to Market Monetarism so I’m interested to read what he has to say on the subject, but on the other hand reading him sometimes feels like hacking through a jungle of economese with a pocketknife.

  18. paddybrown says:

    Another wrinkle I would suggest on preferential college admissions: approval-seekers attract bullies who withhold approval. If you want me around so much you’re prepared to lower your standards to have me, then I (if I’m a bully) will be as demanding as I can get away with, knowing that you will indulge my demands to keep me around rather than tell me to fuck off. It’s how abusive relationships work.

    • Sastan says:

      “Ooh yes daddy! Now spit on me and call me a racist!”

      I like the imagery, and I suspect there’s more than one insipid college denizen for whom it is true, but probably doesn’t explain the wider phenomenon.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Can someone give me the most convincing critique of Sumner’s views they know of? I don’t know anything much about macroeconomics, but have never seen anyone even give an argument against his perspective on it. I expect this is because I’m looking in the wrong place, but it does end up meaning I trust Sumner completely and assume everything he says on macro is correct, which I probably shouldn’t.

  20. RNG says:

    “People talk a lot about restoring monarchy these days, but nobody ever mentions what rule of succession we should use.”

    Adoption.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nerva–Antonine_dynasty

    “From the study of this history we may also learn how a good government is to be established; for while all the emperors who succeeded to the throne by birth, except Titus, were bad, all were good who succeeded by adoption, as in the case of the five from Nerva to Marcus. But as soon as the empire fell once more to the heirs by birth, its ruin recommenced.”
    – Niccolò Machiavelli

    • Stefan Drinic says:

      The papacy still does this, and their little organisation seems to be doing fairly well after some time close to two millenia later.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      Actually I’d argue that the Empire’s ruin was more to do with it not being hereditary enough. At least with a hereditary monarchy, it’s generally quite clear who the legitimate ruler is; under the Roman system, anybody capable of scraping together enough troops could “persuade” the Emperor to adopt him as heir, with predictable results: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crisis_of_the_Third_Century

  21. Neanderthal From Mordor says:

    One survey question asks basically 2 different things:

    “Could you be described as “an Effective Altruist”?
    Please answer “Yes” if you are broadly in agreement with the core ideas associated with Effective Altruism
    Please answer “No” if you’re not familiar with Effective Altruism,
    Yes
    No
    No answer”

    The answers are wrong because you can be both familiar and in disagreement with EA. Is not like finding out about EA makes you automatically in agreement with it. Note that I edited down the quote for brevity.

    • Creutzer says:

      You’re reading the “if” as an “if and only if”, which is presumably not intended.

    • Deiseach says:

      Taken the survey, hope I haven’t messed it up with my answers.

      But hey, what is this anti-other primate species prejudice in evidence?

      “No, I’m a chimpanzee banging on a keyboard” will get your answers discounted!

      For shame, EA Survey, for shame! And you talk about animal rights! What about the rights of non-human primates to participate without being shamed or mocked, hmm? Was it for nothing that Mr Sidles recommended Jane Goodall and Frans de Waal? And now, should some Goodall manqué or ‘teaching sign language to Koko’ human have provided access to a computer to their non-human primate colleague and friend this input is dismissed by you as “banging on a keyboard”?

      Tsk, tsk! Such rampant speciesism and pro-human bigotry on show is not what I expect from vegans and animal rights campaigners! 🙂

      • jaimeastorga2000 says:

        But hey, what is this anti-other primate species prejudice in evidence?

        “No, I’m a chimpanzee banging on a keyboard” will get your answers discounted!

        For shame, EA Survey, for shame! And you talk about animal rights!

        No, no, EAs are utilitarian. They talk about animal suffering, not animal rights.

        Also, the last time I took that survey I randomly ended up with an Effective Altruist Profile.

        • Deiseach says:

          But if animals can be considered to be suffering and consciously aware of that suffering and harmed by that suffering, particularly domesticated/farmed animals, then they surely have rights not to be caused suffering, and those rights flow from their personhood.

          Or are you determined to be on the wrong side of history, when in the shining future not alone non-human animal personhood but non-organic entity personhood is recognised? Is this not the Dred Scott decision de nos jours?

          • Nornagest says:

            You’re getting your ethical theories confused. Utilitarianism doesn’t recognize “rights”; it states that ethical choices are those that cause the least total suffering (or preference dissatisfaction, etc.). Sometimes this entails causing suffering in order to prevent more, as in the famous trolley problem; a theory of rights wouldn’t allow for that.

            There’s a bit of a wrinkle in that variants of utilitarianism exist where you’re trying to follow the rules that lead to the least total suffering, but calling these rules “rights” is still misleading.

            All this doesn’t stop anyone from promoting a confused mixture of utilitarianism and entitlement reasoning, of course, because anyone who doesn’t fancy themselves an ethical philosopher could generally care less about keeping that sort of thing consistent.

          • Urstoff says:

            Natural rights, no, but plenty of utilitarians embrace the concept of a legal right (as a means to maximizing utility, of course). Maybe EAs don’t, though, I haven’t read much by them.

    • Montfort says:

      That was probably the question most in need of improvement. Just switching the order of those clauses (If you’re not familiar… answer “no”) would make it flow better.
      They should also consider separating those of us who are merely sympathetic to the EA cause & reasoning from those who are actually EA and identify as such. I suspect the former group is large enough to drag down their charity contribution figures considerably.

      I was impressed they included moral-error-theorist and noncognitivist options this time, though.

  22. Murphy says:

    Re: Trump and the US presidential election.

    These are the odds the bookies are giving:

    http://www.paddypower.com/bet/other-politics/us-politics/Winner-2016-US-Presidential-Election-4146711.html

    Clinton 4/5

    Rubio 7/2

    Trump 7/1

    Sanders 9/1

    Cruz 14/1

    Bush 18/1

    If you’re certain Trump has less than a 1 in 7 chance of being the next president? then you can make a little cash off it.

    • Dude Man says:

      That’s not how betting with bookies works.

      First, odds are not probabilities. Odds are ratios between failures and successes while probabilities are the ratios between successes and total chances. So if the odds of something occurring are 7:1, then the probability of it occurring is 1/8.

      Second, bookies generally won’t let you take the other side of the bet (i.e. you can bet on Trump winning but not on him losing). This is because the odds they give are less favorable to the bettor than the actual odds that the event occurs. This discrepancy is how bookies make their money on these sorts of bets.

      EDIT: I don’t know if it is possible to bet against Trump on betting markets, since I don’t know a lot about how those work.

      • Marc Whipple says:

        At the very least, they won’t take the other side of the bet at the same odds or anywhere close to them, for obvious reasons.

      • Malcolm says:

        Betfair have Trump at 10.5 – 12 just now, ie. you can bet for him at a price of 10.5, or lay a bet somebody else wishes to make at a price of 12. The spread looks tighter than it really is because there’s commission to pay on winnings, but (assuming you’re not a frequent user entitled to lower commission) this comes out roughly to 10 – 12.6.

        Betfair use decimal odds, so there’s no need to add 1 to everything, the 1 has been pre-added. The implied odds are 1 in 10 (10%) and 1 in 12.6 (8%). Meaning there’s value in the market if you place his chance outside of this 8-10% range.

        If you’re certain he cannot win, there’s profit to be made. If you sweep the market, you can get around £3000 on, betting against people wanting to back at 12, 12.5 and 13. Your projected return on investment would be around 8%.

        I’d advise against it. Unlikely things do sometimes happen. The value of your investment could very much go down as well as up, and if you value your bets based on the mathematical modelling technique of “Nah, that’s really unlikely bro, p=0” then your actual profits are unlikely to match your projections.

      • RCF says:

        I suppose if you’re convinced that Trump will lose, you could bet on everyone else. But you’d have to get a vig lower than 12%. The vig for the site linked to above is around 23%, which strikes me as rather high.

  23. Richard says:

    The link to racial preferences leading to a mismatch effect came up in the comments in the last open thread(might’ve been where Scott saw it, of course). Commenter walpolo linked to this brief amicus curiae filed in Fisher v. University of Texas that calls some major doubt upon the main research that’s been used to support the idea of mismatch theory. Haven’t examined its claims in depth (and much of it seems to just be pointing at the many other papers that have examined this subject), but seems like a relevant counterpoint.

    Edit: I’m now realizing that this doesn’t really contradict the claim made in the original linked piece, which runs along the lines of “Students who enter a higher-tier school due to racial preferences struggle more at those schools, notice their peers and friends struggling as well, and protest against falsely imagined causes of this struggle as a result”. This argues more against the claim that “Students who enter a higher-tier school due to racial preferences end up worse off throughout their lives as a result.” These are two different claims, and it’s very plausible for the first to be true even if the latter is false. Still think it’s worth mentioning, since the article and those who make similar claims frequently straddle the line between claiming the first and the second, and the second appears far less defensible.

    • walpolo says:

      > I’m now realizing that this doesn’t really contradict the claim made in the original linked piece, which runs along the lines of “Students who enter a higher-tier school due to racial preferences struggle more at those schools, notice their peers and friends struggling as well, and protest against falsely imagined causes of this struggle as a result”.

      The results summarized on p. 14 of the amicus curiae do look like they have some relevance to that issue, insofar as higher graduation rates are a sign that student’s aren’t struggling academically:

      See, e.g., Sigal Alon & Marta Tienda,
      Assessing the “Mismatch” Hypothesis: Differences in
      College Graduation Rates by Institutional Selectivity,
      78 Soc. Educ. 294, 309 (2005) (“Minority students’
      likelihood of graduation increases as the selectivity of
      the institution attended rises.”);

      Mary J. Fischer & Douglas S. Massey,
      The Effects of Affirmative Action in Higher
      Education, 36 Soc. Sci. Res. 531, 544 (2007) (“If
      anything[,] minority students who benefited from
      affirmative action earned higher grades and left
      school at lower rates than others, and they expressed
      neither greater nor less satisfaction with college life
      in general.”);

      Thomas J. Kane, Racial and Ethnic
      Preferences in College Admissions, 59 Ohio St. L.J.
      971, 991 (1998) (“[E]ven if a student’s characteristics
      are held constant, attendance at a more selective
      institution is associated with higher earnings and
      higher college completion rates for minority students
      as well as white and other non-Hispanic students.”);

      BUT, I don’t see anything in the brief that refutes the claim that affirmative-action students end up giving up on difficult majors as a result of mismatch. They mention that thesis as part of Sander’s research, but don’t specifically answer it, although they suggest that the evidence of causation is insufficient on p. 11-12.

      • Outis says:

        > Minority students’ likelihood of graduation increases as the selectivity of the institution attended rises.

        This is consistent with the cascade effect: the top-level colleges skim the top of the black candidates, then the next level gets the next best students, and so on. The selectivity of the institution is not a good proxy for the level of mismatch.

        • Pku says:

          I’d guess more selective institutions have higher graduation rated anyway though. Does this effect last when adjusting for those?

      • Mary says:

        “Minority students’ likelihood of graduation increases as the selectivity of the institution attended rises.”

        The problem is

        “Students’ likelihood of graduation increases as the selectivity of the institution attended rises.”

        is also true.

        How much of that is the institution, not the race?

  24. Tibor says:

    This is the second time in a few weeks that I’ve heard/read the word “racist” being used in way that has absolutely nothing to do with racism (the first time it was about the idea that catholics don’t have such a strong “work morale” as an explanation for relatively better economic outcomes of protestant countries). Even if the majority of muslims are arabs, Islam is a religion not a race or not even an ethnicity.

    • keranih says:

      While on the surface I agree that no, if you’re anti-Catholic, anti-Muslim, or anti-atheist, or anti-religion in general, in the reflexive, bigoted, assiging-worst-characteristics-of-a-group’s-worst-members-to-every-individual-prejudicily that most of us(*) use for ‘racism’, that’s not entirely accurate.

      However, I think using the term like this has some use. Religion has a high overlap with racial background, and even higher for national background, although as the evangelical faiths (Christianity, Islam, atheism and Buddhism) overtake and convert members of the non-evangelical faiths, this effect is slowly fading. Religion has historically been used as part of defining “us, from here” as separate from “them, from there”. I am not sure if xenophobia is a better term to describe all of the various things ‘like’ racism – I feel like more specific terms for the different sorts of flavors would help society better point at specific behaviors and work on ways to mitigate them.

      (*) I put no truck in the modern leftist CRT theory that racism (or sexism, or whatever) can only be applied by [memberof/group in power] against [memberof/group not in power]. That’s an uncharitable and self-serving definition that is too often used to justify personal animosity and abuse.

    • Curle says:

      The problem, of course, is imagining that the word racism has any fixed meaning at all. If a words meaning is derived from usage, then ‘racism’ means alternatively 1) a person who favors genocide for people of a certain race (historic geographic population), the original definition; 2) a person who fails to endorse any social policy that would tend to reallocate resources from high performing races to low performing races, especially where the lower performing race is a minority; 3) a person who rejects the proposition that but for the intervention of malignant social forces constructed by higher performing majorities lower performing minorities would be competitive in endeavors such as academia, commerce, crime avoidance, savings, etc. at a level equal with higher performing majorities; 4) a person who accepts as plausible if not compelling the idea that performance differentials between races are most likely caused by heritable differences; and 4) a person who believes that all people are ethnocentric but that some tribes are encouraged in their ethnocentrism by the ruling class while others are condemned by the same ruling class.

      • Tibor says:

        I am a bit confused now…I think I replied to your comments at some length but I do not see my comment now. Either Scott deleted it (although I don’t see why he would) or I am an idiot and either deleted it by mistake myself or never actually posted sent…

        I am just posting this to make sure I did not break any rules I did not know about in which case it would make little sense to retype it.

      • Outis says:

        > 1) a person who favors genocide for people of a certain race (historic geographic population), the original definition

        That’s not the original definition at all. The original definition is the belief that some races are superior to others.

        • Curle says:

          Look up racist at Dictionary.com
          1932 as a noun, 1938 as an adjective, from race (n.2); racism is first attested 1936 (from French racisme, 1935), originally in the context of Nazi theories.

          I believe the theories alluded to were genocidal (from earlier reading). But I could be wrong.

          • Outis says:

            Yes, you are wrong. Racist theories predated nazism, had proponents outside of Germany, and did not contemplate genocide. The Nazis themselves were not (or were not known to be, which amounts to the same in this context) genocidal in 1936. They were not even genocidal in the context of antisemitism, let alone racism in general. The Madagascar plan was proposed in 1940.

          • Mary says:

            ” Racist theories predated nazism, had proponents outside of Germany, and did not contemplate genocide. ”

            But were they called racist?

          • The first use of “racism” in English seems to be in 1902 by Richard Henry Pratt:

            “Association of races and classes is necessary to destroy racism and classism.”

            But I gather the word exists earlier in French.

    • wait a minute says:

      From a liberal perspective, regulating speech to be liberal and tolerant within Islam appears to violate the “non-discrimination” rule, and not to trigger the “hate speech” switch, which would be the expected reaction to radical conservative ideas in general.

    • Brett says:

      The majority of Muslims aren’t Arab. ~60% of Muslims are Asian, only about 20% are Middle-Eastern or North African.

      You have to go down to the eighth-most populous Muslim country before you get to an Arab one (Egypt). Non-Arab countries with larger Muslim populations: Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Iran, and Turkey.

      • suntzuanime says:

        The relevant number is not the fraction of Muslims which are Arab in the world, but the fraction of Muslims which are ethnically non-French in France. Anything else is a laughable appeal to Incredibly Specific Racism.

        • Tibor says:

          I don’t think so. I doubt this is actually racism in the sense of people being hostile to Arabs per se. I think it really has to do more with Islam than with Arabs. Sikhs are usually Indians and look distinct from Arabs. But because of some superficial similarities in clothing, some people often mistake them for Muslims and harass them based on that, i.e. because they look to them like Muslims not Arabs. At the same time, there are Christian Arabs, such as many from the Lebanese diaspora who are not viewed the same insofar as people recognize that they are not Muslim.

          So no, I do no think it is racism and I think that racism has in many cases become a universal word for “the bad thing”, whatever it is, and it is better to actually name the specifics than to call random things racist and insist that it somehow is vaguely related to race after all. Not for “language purity” or anything, but because talking about something concrete can start a discussion, calling something racist usually ends it.

          By the way, I think the whole idea is (of course, the article suggests that it is also about power struggles within the muslim community) really stupid and would either have no effect in the intended direction or lead to there being more fundamentalists rather than fewer. But that is beside my point.

      • Creutzer says:

        In the context of France, though, Muslim is basically Arab.

        • I would have thought that a lot of the Muslims in France would be Berbers. Possibly Arabicized Berbers–Arabic speakers of Berber ancestry.

          • JE says:

            Generally “Arab” gets used about native Arabic speakers. The Arab conquests spread language a lot more than it did genes. By such a narrow definition Syrians probably aren’t Arabs either.

        • birdboy2000 says:

          Doesn’t France also have a lot of immigrants from the Muslim parts of West Africa?

          • HlynkaCG says:

            They do but at least half of them are Christian and already speak French which which has helped smooth relations.

  25. “I must admit to now being more nervous about allowing more impatient and stupid immigrants, though as Bryan Caplan points out, that still allows for taking on billions of smart immigrants. But even if I’m now mildly more reluctant to take on certain kinds of immigrants, I’ll blame that mainly on our poor governance institutions, which give too much weight to the stupid and the impatient.”

    wow I’m kinda surprised he used the phrase stupid immigrants. The problem is the immigration debate has been dominated by politics, overshadowing economics. The solution may be to stop or restrict immigration from countries or demographics where there is likely to be a net economic drain.

    • Zakharov says:

      Immigration (at least the legal sort) is controlled at the level of individual people; why restrict based on average desirability of demographics when you can just select the most desirable individuals?

      • Curle says:

        Regression to the mean in offspring and further down the line. If you start with a person from a population with a higher average mean you would, in theory, maintain a high average mean over time. However, if entrants are selected for extremely high IQ, it would stand to reason that the family has a higher overall mean that can be continued going forward in the new country. A sensible policy might be selecting smart people from comparatively high IQ countries and really smart people from lower IQ countries.

        • Anon says:

          An IQ test at the border would be extremely good policy, but is also politically untenable. If a country that a lot of people want to live in were to grant full citizenship based on IQ, this strikes me as a very good use of ideological comparative advantage.

          • science says:

            Once you start using IQ tests for just about anything, but certainly for something as high stakes as permission to immigrate from the third world to the first, they will cease strongly correlating with g.

            There’s nothing magical about those exams that make them ungamable, there’s just been little incentive to do so heretofore. Where that’s not the case (e.g. NYC kindergarten admission) they are already being gamed.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            @science: The SAT and the ACT work pretty well despite decades of being used for university admissions and an entire industry dedicated to gaming them. Sure, a prep book and a tutor might let you gain 200 points on the SAT, but not 1000 points, and if everyone does it then it’s a wash.

          • science says:

            Are you sure? Are there a series of studies that show the correlation between the SAT and g as being stable over decades? My impression is that we do not (but I may well be wrong).

            Also, not everyone preps for the SAT. I didn’t. I don’t imagine all would be immigrants would have the wherewithal to prep for an IQ test.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            Many high-IQ societies accept certain standardized test scores as proof of admissibility. Some of them have stopped accepting SAT scores, for the precise reason that they (more precisely, the professional psychologists/psychometricians they hire to evaluate these things) feel that more recent versions are no longer sufficiently correlated with g.

          • Deiseach says:

            If a country that a lot of people want to live in were to grant full citizenship based on IQ

            So what do you do with all your existing citizens who don’t make the IQ cut-off point? 🙂

          • RCF says:

            “I don’t imagine all would be immigrants would have the wherewithal to prep for an IQ test.”

            And I would expect whether someone has the wherewithal to correlate with g.

          • Science says:

            At that point you may as well just sell visas to the highest bidder.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            You cannot prep for a properly designed IQ test.

            This doesn’t necessarily diminish your argument in practical terms, but I felt compelled to say it. 🙂

          • Cliff says:

            The evidence is that good IQ tests and even the SAT essentially cannot be gamed. There are good studies on this. SAT test prep helps very little, certainly not 200 points. Average gain through substantial test prep as I recall is like 30 points.

          • Emily says:

            There has never been an incentive for gaming IQ tests as big as legal residency in the United States. Test-takers will photograph questions and/or get debriefed afterward. Other test-takers will then memorize questions and answers. They will pay others to take the test for them. Everything that is happening in terms of SAT cheating in Asia will happen, but orders of magnitude worse. There are ways to combat some of these issues, maybe.

          • science says:

            @Marc Whipple

            You cannot prep for a properly designed IQ test.

            This doesn’t necessarily diminish your argument in practical terms, but I felt compelled to say it. 🙂

            I think the causation arrow is backwards there. Once a test can be prepped for it is no longer a good IQ test. If it were possible to design a permanently ungamable test the two would be equivalent. But I don’t believe it is (at least not without unreasonably stretching the definition of test and/or imagining far future technology).

            @Cliff
            If you have a reference handy, I’d be interested to see it.

            FWIW, I’m not sure average gain is the right measure for prep resistance.

          • Tibor says:

            IQ correlates with a lot of positive things, but not all successful (i.e. able to provide for themselves and their families without extra help from the state) people have a high IQ. Testing people for IQ is perhaps a better proxy than prefering some countries over others but it still is not ideal. At the same time, people who can make false passports can also make false IQ statements.

            I think a more elegant and sensible solution is to let pretty much anyone in your country while simultaneously providing zero welfare benefits (ideally, from my libertarian viewpoint, for anyone, realistically, for recent immigrants similar to how it is done in the Czech law for example). Whoever is skilled enough to look after himself will do so. Those who are not are not likely to come to the country in the first place and if they do, they are not likely to stay for long. And in reality, when there are many other countries that do give welfare to recent immigrants, this policy works even better (for the country that does not).

          • Marc Whipple says:

            Until relatively recently, immigrants to the US had to certify that they had a means of support and that they would not go on welfare. I have a friend who immigrated from Germany in the 1960’s and he recalls the process quite clearly.

        • Alex says:

          I’m a little curious to know if (1) the LSAT (which remains accepted by MENSA) is less affected by prepping than the SAT, or (2) whether MENSA is just paying more attention to the SAT and has realized it can be gamed but is not paying the same attention to the LSAT, or (3) whether they just don’t want to accept such a common test as the SAT because that looks more “elite.”

          • Marc Whipple says:

            I never asked about the LSAT, but I can tell you that the reason at least one of the societies doesn’t take newer SAT is that the psychometrician decided that it was no longer reliable for that purpose. I suppose they really could have been worried about the coarse commoners who now routinely take the SAT, but it seems unlikely to me.

            The gains claimed by LSAT prep courses, discounted for hyperbole, don’t impress me. However, I admit freely I’ve done no research more extensive than looking at claimed gains in their marketing materials.

    • Randy M says:

      ” which give too much weight to the stupid and the impatient”
      In other words, democracy or open borders, pick one.

  26. Jeremy says:

    The Salon dispute seems more multisided than “They misleadingly edited an interview”.

    It was a long interview about his views on Islam, and they removed a single section where he spent a couple of paragraphs to insult salon’s journalism, including personally insulting other writers at salon. Whether this criticism was necessary is another question, but given the context, it doesn’t seem like removing this relatively small section is that unreasonable.

    (I do know that they said it was just edited for briefness)

    • Montfort says:

      I believe Sam Harris’s issue with this interview in particular is that he made it a specific condition of his participation that he could “could say whatever [he] wanted about Salon.” I suppose it’s possible this condition was fulfilled in word if not in spirit, depending on whether the actual negotiation specified it would see print, but it still seems a little unprincipled.

      I mean, I expect Harris knew they’d cut it, and Salon knew he’d tell everyone what they cut anyway – Harris doesn’t even seem upset, just satisfied that his model of salon is correct.

      • Deiseach says:

        A media interview is not a biography. The journalist or interviewer is not your friend, they’re there to do a job for their work under the rules, slant or culture of the organisation they work for.

        It’s amazing how many smart people don’t seem to recognise this. If Harris genuinely believed Salon was going to print paragraphs of “here’s why your magazine is shitty”, I’ve got a bridge I’d like to sell him.

        I think he expected and wanted them to cut stuff so he could do his “See? I told you they were shitty!” fulfilled-expectations piece.

        Salon acted, so far as I can see, in accord with his conditions. He’s not arguing they changed or invented anything he said or is alleged to have said in what they did publish (so that’s condition 1) and he was allowed to bitch about Salon to the reporter (so that’s condition 2).

        However, there was no condition 3 – you have to publish every word of what I said, including where I say Salon is crap, or I’m using my veto to pull the entire piece.

        • Montfort says:

          I see you are in violent agreement with me. I will note that it is also entirely possible that Harris reproduced his interview terms in an informal way on his blog, and that the actual agreement was that comments he made about Salon would be published.

          Either way, it is justified to present it as evidence of somewhere between “the usual amount of editorial dishonesty” and “somewhat above average editorial dishonesty,” on Salon’s part, depending. Not exactly the shocking expose of the week, but Harris has his grudges.

          • Deiseach says:

            “Violent agreement”? That’s a lovely phrase 🙂

            See, there is legitimate doubt here as to what was promised, and we get a “he says, they say” version. Harris asked for, and supposedly got, agreement that he could say anything he liked about Salon no matter how critical.

            Now, perhaps he assumed that this would be part of the published article. But unless he had it nailed down in black-and-white that “everything in this interview, including my criticism of Salon, gets published” then he can’t really say they broke their word.

            No entity in the world is going to voluntarily publish criticism of themselves when they’re a commercial organisation or otherwise dependent on good will.

            Let’s say (grabbing the Effective Altruists as an example because the survey link brings them to mind) that a charity hoping to benefit by attracting EA donors (let’s call them NetMore) do an interview with somebody big in the EA world (let’s call him Seeter Pinger).

            Are they really going to publish the bits where Doctor Pinger says “Yeah, NetMore does a lot of fundraising for its stated cause, but unfortunately from what I’ve heard 52% of monies raised goes to paying off the credit card bills of its founder, Joe E. Rollinginit, for his champagne lifestyle, so if you’re thinking of donating to NetMore, your money will probably be paying off his last visit to a strip club and not for malaria pillows, or at least that’s the gossip around town”?

            That would be extraordinarily honest of them, but it wouldn’t do much to attract donations! Well, it might attract donations from those who feel the hard-working danseuses in gentlemen’s clubs deserve more support 🙂

          • RCF says:

            “No entity in the world is going to voluntarily publish criticism of themselves when they’re a commercial organisation or otherwise dependent on good will.”

            I really don’t think that’s true. ABC News certainly isn’t going to refuse to report on criticism of Disney. Didn’t Fox air Trump’s criticism of Megan Kelley?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Years and years ago, when newspapers were a thing, I made a point of reading the letters to the editor, and they frequently were bitching about the paper’s journalistic bias.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I am more concerned about the part where Salon explicitly says “We did not edit his words (except for clarity)”, when they totally edited his words.

      • Jeremy says:

        “Harris’s remarks were edited merely for clarity and length. No substantive changes were made to the text beyond those considerations.”

        I can’t tell if you’re making your point by omitting…. nevermind…

        I mean, honestly to me the thing that seems dishonest is how much they left in. The fact that they edited out that section for length doesn’t seem that suspect to me. The fact that it was the only section they edited for length makes it seem suspect though/

    • suntzuanime says:

      Things which are not unreasonable in and of themselves become unreasonable when you do them after promising not to and receiving a valuable consideration for that promise, and then lie and publicly claim you had not done them. Nobody thinks removing the section was a priori unreasonable, they think that promise-breaking and lies are worthy of more than a dismissive parenthetical.

  27. Curle says:

    From the link to the pseudoscience of FC “[t]he “science” of FC not only continues to do damage but is actually gaining ground. It is being used in public schools throughout the country through the infiltration of FC advocates into public positions.”

    Isn’t this the way these therapeutic philosophies masking as science work their way into the general society, through government institutions? I can’t help but think of the present enthusiasm behind using government institutions to ‘educate’ people regarding the dubious notion that males by thinking they are really females might, in any significant sense, really be females. Find a condition and propagandize it as a social problem. Demand a social response. Start inserting accommodations into the public sphere including and especially the schools.

    Should we now start accepting anorexia? After all, Karen Carpenter seems to have really believed she was fat.

    • Ghatanathoah says:

      >any significant sense, really be females

      Isn’t there evidence that there’s at least one significant sense where they are? Namely that transgender brains often resemble the brains of the gender they identify with, rather than the one that they don’t. (and by “brains of the gender they identify with” I of course mean, the typical brains of the gender they identify with) Since your brain is who you really are and your body is a just a big fleshy mech that it pilots, I think that they may really females in the most significant sense of all.

      And even if we assume you are right, for the sake of the argument, it seems like the best way to help those people. If some sadistic alien implanted a machine into some guy’s brain that made him feel horrifically depressed unless you referred to him as “she” I think that referring to him as “she” would definitely be the right thing to do. I don’t see how it’s any different if it’s a quirk of internal chemistry instead of a sadistic alien.

      • Mary says:

        IF.

        Even operating on these people doesn’t seem to help them.

      • Jiro says:

        If some sadistic alien implanted a machine into some guy’s brain that made him feel horrifically depressed unless you referred to him as “she” I think that referring to him as “she” would definitely be the right thing to do.

        This reasoning implies “if someone artificially creates a utility monster, you should feed it”.

        • Nornagest says:

          We — or at least I — don’t generally object to the utility monster because it has strong preferences, we object to the utility monster because those preferences involve eating people.

          I have any number of objections to activist proposals that would place unbounded responsibilities on people for dubious reasons, especially if they’re gameable, but this seems pretty bounded to me.

          (Mary’s objection seems toothier, if true. I don’t have the data to make a call there.)

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        While there is good evidence that the set “humans with opposite sex typical brains” exist, they may be only a subset of the Western “transgender” set, with the other subset being straight men who have been socially conditioned to believe that a straight man is an evil thing to be.

        This is probably not an issue for, say, transgender Iranians.

        • NN says:

          This is probably not an issue for, say, transgender Iranians.

          Though I’ve heard rumors that some of the people who receive sex change operations in Iran are gay men trying to escape persecution.

  28. keranih says:

    Many times the link-fests are not particularly interesting to me – although I have not ever looked over a link post that didn’t include atleast a couple intriguing links, and a few more that were much more interesting on investigation.

    This one today is pretty full of links I find worth reading up on.

    Over the next thirty years, Republican support for Israel shot way, way up. Why did that happen, and will it politicize Israel enough to start making the Democrats dislike it?

    Republican support happened because the Israelis were a functioning democracy in a world region with precious few of them, because they didn’t engage in bigoted hate fests on the UN floor, and because Americans love an underdog, and even more so when the underdog appears virtuous. Plus they are pro-military, European descent, and religious, which maps well onto something that looks Republican-ish. Finally, the Jewish nature of the nation and the historical status as the Holy Land affords Israeli a special status for some evangelical Christian groups.

    Democrat support waned because the Israelis are militaristic, use up military foreign aid, and can be mapped as colonialist occupying powers against the Palestinians. When the conflict is (artificially) shrunk down to “Israel vs the Palestinians” rather than the “Israel vs the whole Arab/Muslim world” the Israelis look like the bad guys. Plus, the European heritage of the Israelis, the Jewish heritage of the Israelis, and the (self-reliant, self-sourced) wealth of the Israelis all works against them in terms of the intersectionality-focused leftist wing of the Democrats. Finally, a number of African-Americans are frothing racists towards Jews. For the Euro-centric Democrats, the anti-Israel feeling finds common cause with the general anti-Semitic feeling there.

    This has been a growing thing since the 1990’s – in the mid 90’s I visited Israel with a more leftist friend. The Israelis were a polygot, multi-ethnic group focused on selling me as much stuff as I could carry. The Palestinians were unwelcoming and blew up a bus that I had ridden on the night before. My more leftist friend took the capitalism more personally than the bomb.

    I suspect the change in political party sediment toward Israel is at least in part due to the end of the Cold War, when Soviet support for (some) Arab nations faded away (Iran had a long history of rhetoric aimed at the US, the USSR and Israel on an equal opportunity basis) and it became easier to support Arab/Muslim nations without being anti-American. Also – Israel doesn’t put sanctions on groups or countries that have truck with Arab nations – the Arab boycott of Israel extends to forbidding business with companies that do business with companies that do business with companies that do business with Israel.

    The anti-Israel feeling is already strong and growing in the left wing of the Democrat party, and finds a great deal of common ground with BLM/etc in academia. The formal name for the anti-Israel group is the BSD movement – boycott, sanction, and divestment. Internationally, the most recent success of anti-Israeli groups has been to force labeling of certain goods as being produced by West-Bank companies as being made in settlements – even though the EU doesn’t do this for any other contested or occupied territory.

    • Anonymous says:

      I suspect the change in political party sentiment toward Israel is at least in part due to the end of the Cold War, when Soviet support … faded away and … it became easier to support Arab/Muslim nations without being anti-American.

      Really? I find this hard to believe. Maybe for the very centrist Democrats—but didn’t the left wing spend pretty much the entire 60s and 70s being totally sympathetic to Communist regimes? If anything, the pendulum has swung the other way on that one since the end of the USSR. The explanations given in the article seem far more plausible.

      • keranih says:

        but didn’t the left wing spend pretty much the entire 60s and 70s being totally sympathetic to Communist regimes?

        I think this rather overstates the case for left-of-center-but-not-extremist Democrats. While there were pockets of people who were very sympathetic to communist ideals, I think that “totally sympathetic” is inaccurate.

        (There are those on the right who would say otherwise, but I think they’re not correct.)

        • Anonymous says:

          Sorry, I meant “totally sympathetic” conversationally rather than literally—’oh, I’m totally sympathetic to the plight of the Cambodian people’. The point that voicing such support would not have had real social cost, I think, stands.

    • JE says:

      This assumes that democrats have been moving towards the Palestinian side, but that doesn’t seem to be true. Rather the graph showed a slow increase in democratic support for Israel but a rapid increase in republican support.

      • walpolo says:

        Yeah, read the article.

      • keranih says:

        the graph showed a slow increase in democratic support for Israel but a rapid increase in republican support

        Emmm. For one, I’d rather have had data that extended further to the left. But on the graph as given, it doesn’t so much show a “slow increase in democratic support” as it does a “slight decline in democratic support.”

        Or are we not looking at the same graph?

        • JE says:

          The one that starts with at 47%, has a biggish peak then falls to 37%, slowly increases to around 50% and has a small dip to 48% at the end.

          • keranih says:

            Ah, right – misread the start. (Although as Anon below says, that’s 1% point. Hard to put much stock in that.)

            I find it more interesting how the “non-affiliated” has shifted – one could read that as either “generally tracked with D’s, so the R’s are outliers” or “has sharply split from D’s and also increased, so the stable D’s are the outliers”.

            Time will tell.

        • Anonymous says:

          47% in ’88, 48% in ’15, noise in between. Or did you mean the decline in the last year alone? I’m doubtful it’s significant.

    • anonymous says:

      Republican support happened because the Israelis were a functioning democracy in a world region with precious few of them, because they didn’t engage in bigoted hate fests on the UN floor, and because Americans love an underdog, and even more so when the underdog appears virtuous. Plus they are pro-military, European descent, and religious, which maps well onto something that looks Republican-ish. Finally, the Jewish nature of the nation and the historical status as the Holy Land affords Israeli a special status for some evangelical Christian groups.

      None of this explains the transition over time. All of these things about Israel were at least as true prior to 1988 and some more so (i.e. underdog-ness was strongest in 1948 and only got less so). The link’s explanation of a change in the Republicans is far more compelling — specifically the dual rise of evangelical protestants and foreign policy neo-conservatives as dominant powers in the Republican coalition.

      As a Jewish Zionist this support is welcomed to a certain extent, but also makes me nervous. US Republicans encourage the fantasies of the right wing portion of Israeli voters that think they can have it all. That is: complete control over all the territory between the Mediterranean and the Jordan, with Jews living in all the choices bits, but at the same time the Palestinians never being allowed to vote in the Knesset (some dream of expulsion), without Israel eventually being considered on the world stage as South Africa was. Regardless of whether you think it is reasonable or unreasonable, moral or immoral, it’s an untenable outcome. Something is going to have to give, and almost 50 years later the clock is ticking.

      • keranih says:

        specifically the dual rise of evangelical protestants and foreign policy neo-conservatives as dominant powers in the Republican coalition

        Except that has always been there, too – these are not really new things for the GOP. (Where I will allow a shift is that these people left the Democrats, and (mostly) went to the GOP.) I’m less impressed with this Vox explainer than I am of most Vox pieces, and that’s saying a bit.

        (It’s not as bad as the bridge-to-gaza thing, but still.)

        FWIW – I am leery of the USA getting as invested in other nations as we are in Israel. While I am all for promoting democracies over the available options, I really wish there were functional Arab democracies that we could promote as well, so that it was more clear to all involved (including Israel) that the support was for the system and not the ethnic group.

        As it stands, “a pox on all your houses” is impractical, and Yasser Arafat destroyed the last rational two state agreement. I agree that the current situation won’t go on for forever, but “the clock has been ticking” since 1948 – not 1967.

        • anonymous says:

          These groups always existed but they weren’t dominant forces in Republican politics until relatively recently.

          For example, isolationist paleo-consveratism was still a respectable, mainstream Republican position into the 90s. Today, Pat Buchanan is all but forgotten.

        • Anonymous says:

          When you claim that ‘these are not new things for the GOP’, you’re arguing against conventional wisdom and you need to back it up. The Moral Majority was politically prominent in the late 80s in a way that evangelicals had not been since the Populist Great Awakening; they had consistent establishment support during the Bush II years (and among GOP candidates since). Foreign policy interventionism got a boost with Reagan ending détente and Bush after 9/11.

          If you have some argument over the subtleties of the timing, or you think that mainline Dems have specifically, recently, become anti-Israel, that might be plausible. But you’d have to have a really convincing explanation to claim that those medium-term trends… weren’t.

          • nonymous says:

            “The Moral Majority was politically prominent in the late 80s in a way that evangelicals had not been since the Populist Great Awakening; they had consistent establishment support during the Bush II years (and among GOP candidates since)”.

            “The trick never ages; the illusion never wears off. Vote to stop abortion; receive a rollback in capital gains taxes. Vote to make our country strong again; receive deindustrialization. Vote to screw those politically correct college professors; receive electricity deregulation. Vote to get government off our backs; receive conglomeration and monopoly everywhere from media to meatpacking. Vote to stand tall against terrorists; receive Social Security privatization. Vote to strike a blow against elitism; receive a social order in which wealth is more concentrated than ever before in our lifetimes, in which workers have been stripped of power and CEOs are rewarded in a manner beyond imagining.”
            ― Thomas Frank

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            ? You do realize the Republicans didn’t have both houses until Clinton?

      • Regardless of whether you think it is reasonable or unreasonable, moral or immoral, it’s an untenable outcome. Something is going to have to give, and almost 50 years later the clock is ticking.

        Er, why are we so sure that it’s untenable? In terms of military power and social willingness, it seems quite possible for Israel. The only aspect which isn’t directly under Israel’s control is the opinion of the international community, and I don’t think that Israel has to hold out very long before the disapproval of internationalist progressives no longer matters.

        • anonymous says:

          I disagree with the premise that soon “the disapproval of internationalist progressives [will] no longer matter”.

          • JE says:

            I don’t think he means that internationalist progressives will stop mattering, but rather that their opposition would be short lived. Like how few people want to roll back the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians from Israel or to return Israel to the Palestinian people.

          • keranih says:

            Well, there aren’t a great number of folks pushing for Jews to be able to return to Iran, Iraq, or the rest of the Arab world, either.

          • Eli says:

            Hmm…

            The longer Da3esh is a thing, the less support people have for Arab and Muslim causes generally, including (by now, at last) on the Left.

          • NN says:

            Hmm…

            The longer Da3esh is a thing, the less support people have for Arab and Muslim causes generally, including (by now, at last) on the Left.

            I don’t see how that follows. Muslim groups and governments, including long time Israel foes Iran and Hezbollah, have done far more to fight Daesh/ISIS/ISIL than Israel has. Daesh isn’t exactly on great terms with Hamas either.

          • Jon Gunnarsson says:

            @NN:
            Whether or not that’s fair, many outsiders will look at ISIS and see Muslims doing bad things in the name of Islam, which reflects badly on Muslims in general.

        • Nicholas says:

          The argument: Basically if the whole Iran-Russia-Syria-China continues, it won’t be tenable for the US to project power or sell arms to Israel. And without US material support, Israel is going to have to compromise.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            Why do you think this will make it impossible for the US to support Israel or project power?

          • John Schilling says:

            Basically if the whole Iran-Russia-Syria-China continues

            There’s a word missing there. If the word was meant to be “alliance” or “axis”, it’s good that it’s missing because no such thing exists.

          • Nicholas says:

            I guess “contest” is the best word. The idea is that if those rising powers’ proxies butt heads with Israel (Syria is one of the proxies, not one of the rising powers’) then the choice will be to escalate a conflict that on the object means very little, or tell Israel to play nice.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        “Regardless of whether you think it is reasonable or unreasonable, moral or immoral, it’s an untenable outcome. Something is going to have to give, and almost 50 years later the clock is ticking.”

        Yeah, can somebody explain to me what Netanyahu et al’s end game is? Is their hope that they can make enough settlements that they can cram all the Palestinians into one or two cities and then grant independence to those while keeping everywhere else? Or do they just hope they can preserve the status quo forever and it will never come back to bite them?

        • Y. Ilan says:

          Continue the status quo, continue building settlements, and then possibly annex Area C. In the long term, possible expulsion; but nobody talks about that. I also believe that many on the right here see an economic turn to the East (China, India) as ultimately beneficial. This is already happening.

          As I see it, we need to stop the military aid, which is a double-edged sword; it makes only 1% of our GDP, while making us politically reliant on the US and preventing us from developing and selling better alternatives. We need to stop playing the client state. Anyways, with the burgeoning Jewish demography here and the smart and resilient economy, Israel should not be afraid to do what is best for itself even if it requires some harsh decision making.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            If you stop taking the military aid, you will lose quite a bit of support in the US. If you think that is less important that the (quite valid) reasons you give for stopping, fine and dandy. I might even agree with you. But giving it up will have more costs than just building your own stuff.

          • Scott Alexander says:

            Expulsion? Of all the Palestinians? To where? How?

            Also, burgeoning Jewish demography? From what I’ve heard, the Arab:Jewish ratio is only increasing with time

          • Y. Ilan says:

            Yes, burgeoning Jewish demography. The Demographic Doomsday Scenario, clinged to by people like Haaretz readers and (shudder) Mondoweiss, is a fear-based, unrealistic projection. Less alarmist projections, not based on Palestinian lies but on actual trends, see a Jewish majority. See Yoram Ettinger and others.

            http://www.theettingerreport.com/Demographic-Scare/Reality-based-vs–Palestinian-based-Demography.aspx

            http://www.inss.org.il/uploadImages/systemFiles/adkan17_3ENG%20(3)_Michael.pdf

            When it comes to expulsion, there is always Jordan and the Sinai. I wouldn’t want to see it come to that, but who knows how the situation will look like in several decades.

          • Ben Dov says:

            discards the feasibility of significant waves of Aliyah (Jewish immigration), which have occurred – in defiance of the demographic establishment – every 20 years since the 1930s.

            Are we calling the Russian Orthodox influx Jewish immigration now? What’s next, is the government going to discover that the Filipino workers are the lost tribes? Or maybe bring in millions of Latin Americans by claiming they are descendents of the maranos?

          • Y. Ilan says:

            “Russian Orthodox influx” is a misnomer. Yes, some Russians who came here in the 90’s weren’t Jewish, and used fake documents to escape Russia. But even these non-Jews are generally Zionist to the core, much like the Druze are. Anyways, the majority of said Soviet Aliyah was Jewish, and the majority of Russians here are Jewish.

          • Ben Dov says:

            Forget those traveling on fake documents*, the far larger problem was and is a definition of “Jewish” that prior to 1970 had only ever been adopted by the National Socialists of Germany. The spouse of the grandchild of a Jew — that’s your Jewish majority?

            And as for them being staunch Zionists, they are the kind of lunatics we don’t need. Along with the the national religious, they make up the bulk of the far right.

            *Though the organized crime involvement started then and never ended.

          • Y. Ilan says:

            Broad definition of Judaism notwithstanding, the Jewish majority is based on a combination of birthrates and aliyah, and not only on the Soviet Aliyah that you find so problematic. As I see it, as long as these broadly-defined Jews assimilate into mainstream Israeli Jewish society (and they have and are assimilated, like many before them), then there is no problem.

          • Ben Dov says:

            The waves of immigration have assimilated the country, not the other way around. The Israel of the 1950s is long gone.

          • “Expulsion? Of all the Palestinians? To where? How?”

            Israel pays an African country to give citizenship to lots of Palestinians.

        • Steven says:

          Hmm? The problem is not that Netanyahu, et. al. don’t have a strategy with an end game. It’s that nobody has a strategy with an end game.

          Negotiations were revealed to be a total farce back at Camp David in 2000; the Palestinian leadership rejected Barak’s offer as unacceptable, refused to propose any changes, and wasn’t even willing to put a counter-offer on the table. You can’t negotiate a two-state solution if the other side literally won’t negotiate. Then Arafat went out and started the Second Intifada.

          Since then the only idea anybody has had for resolving the situation was unilateral disengagement — giving the Palestinians a state without negotiating one. That got tested in Gaza and resulted in the disaster of a Hamas Ordenstaat; nobody’s stupid enough to try it on the West Bank.

          Since then, nobody in Israel has had any idea what to do except preserve the status quo. Other than abandoning Israel or massacring Palestinians, there’s nothing else to do.

          • anonymous says:

            Gaza isn’t, and couldn’t plausibly ever be, an economically viable state. Unilateral disengagement could well work better in the West Bank.

            That said, given the parameters that I’d guess such disengagement would take — a definition of Jerusalem that reaches from Ramallah to Bethlehem and a good part of the way to Jericho too, the Ariel and Kedumim “fingers”, a permanent presence along the Jordan River, plus various security buffers and most of the water resources — I don’t imagine the chances would be very good.

          • keranih says:

            If the leadership of Gaza had been able to control Gaza, they could have sucked down donations from across the Arab and Islamic world, and demonstrated just exactly how horrific Israeli occupation was – *see, here, we have made the desert bloom, and if we had not been struggling under the evil oppression of the Jews, we could have accomplished so much more!*

            But a) humans and b) Arabic humans and c) PLA – all of that pretty much meant that the locals looted the viable resources of Gaza down to the gravel, and pissed off even the (post-Arab Spring) Egyptians.

            It’s not right that people don’t have the opportunity to govern their own lives. But when “govern my own life = kill my neighbors” I can’t really blame the neighbors for taking steps to limit my freedom of expression.

          • Nicholas says:

            Gaza is about the third of the size of Indianapolis, with over twice the population.Israel controls every entrance into Gaza by land sea and air except one, and blockaded all of them since 2007. I don’t think it’s even possible to send aid to Gaza. I don’t think you could build a functioning country under those conditions.

          • Y. Ilan says:

            Gaza was not blockaded after the diengagement of 2005, but as you said in 2007. If the Gazan population and leadership were not hellbent on self-destructive behaviour, Gaza could’ve easily been a success story.

          • Nicholas says:

            I don’t think that Hamas could have done anything after 2003 to make “win a peaceful election and get invaded by Israel less than 24 hours later” anything but self-destructive. Maybe “don’t start an on and off war with your neighbor in the 90’s” but by 2005 the die is pretty much cast.
            (Because remember, Hamas isn’t running the country in 2006, they’re an opposition party.)

        • Eli says:

          Yeah, can somebody explain to me what Netanyahu et al’s end game is?

          There is no “et al”. A lot of the former members of Likud have split off over the past 15 years and gone to the Kadima or Kulanu parties. Netanyahu’s Likud, and Netanyahu personally, simply don’t have an end game: the goal is to keep winning elections, keep winning the Prime Minister’s mansion, and keep getting state money to spend on ice-cream and maids.

          He just plays at nationalism to cover up for being a corrupt, self-serving neoliberal.

        • Magicman says:

          Settlement growth under Netanyahu (this time) has been slower than under any government since 1995. Moreover the growth in settlements is largely due to two factors. Firstly new buildings within already existing settlement blocs and secondly very high fertility rates within certain settlements.
          As to his overall plan I would agree with Eli* think Netanyahu is just interested in staying in power. He is pretty happy with the status quo.
          * If you subtract the mood affiliation label that here signifies disapproval.
          http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.680304

        • dmose says:

          “Or do they just hope they can preserve the status quo forever and it will never come back to bite them?”

          I hate to be aggressive like this, but why didn’t it occur to you to ask a question like that about the Palestinians? They’re not entirely helpless to affect what’s going on, you know.

          The treating of Israelis as the only ones with agency and morality, while the Palestinians are an inanimate designated-victim object which might as well not even exist, is a weird and common blind spot in these discussions.

          • keranih says:

            The treating of Israelis as the only ones with agency and morality, while the Palestinians are an inanimate designated-victim object which might as well not even exist

            While I agree with the distastefulness of this exercise (and I note that it happens elsewhere, wrt other social conflicts, and the alleged helpless innocence of all individuals of minority/oppressed groups was actually something discussed – with some heat and no good resolution – between me and my liberal fellow tourist to Israel, decades past) – I don’t think it’s entirely illogical.

            The use of civilian shields, hidden rocket launching sites, falsified video and suicide bombings of civilian targets are a symptom of the Palestinian resistance using all or nearly all the tools at their disposal to achieve a “win”.

            On the contrary, Israel has been relatively far more constrained in the use of the military firepower that it owns. Israel could be firebombing the West Bank – it is not, but not because it is not within Israel’s capability.

            The Palestinians have the capability to make Israel miserable, but without the help of the rest of the Arab Middle East, they can not destroy Israel. There is less practical need to call for restraint, because the Palestinians are relatively helpless and their actions of far less consequence. Or so it might be argued.

            I hold that this dismissal of the need for judgement on Palestinian actions is immoral in its dehumanization of grown people who are their own actors, but I do keep running into people who claim that physical weakness, low social stature, and/or a number of other causes render people blameless for the offence and harm that comes from their actions.

          • Anonymous says:

            The use of civilian shields, hidden rocket launching sites, falsified video and suicide bombings of civilian targets are a symptom of the Palestinian resistance using all or nearly all the tools at their disposal to achieve a “win”.

            They have another way, which would also grant them moral high ground: outbreeding the Jews. If they simply stop rebelling constantly against their Israeli overlords, and follow the example of the Amish, they’d overtake their hosts in a few generations.

          • NN says:

            They have another way, which would also grant them moral high ground: outbreeding the Jews. If they simply stop rebelling constantly against their Israeli overlords, and follow the example of the Amish, they’d overtake their hosts in a few generations.

            They are already are outbreeding the Jews according to some projections, albeit at a slow pace (the estimates that I’ve seen show the area of British Mandate Palestine having a Muslim majority of about 53 percent in 2035). Also, the Amish have so many kids because they deliberately live a lifestyle similar to pre-industrial farmers, and the Palestinians don’t have enough land to do that on a large scale. The Amish have had to establish new settlements across the US to support their growing population.

            In any case, I don’t see how even decisively winning the demographic battle would practically accomplish anything, because Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank (excluding those residents of East Jerusalem who have the option of obtaining Israeli citizenship) can’t vote in Israeli elections. The only practical effect would be to make Areas B + C of the West Bank and especially Gaza even more crowded and miserable.

          • Anonymous says:

            Also, the Amish have so many kids because they deliberately live a lifestyle similar to pre-industrial farmers, and the Palestinians don’t have enough land to do that on a large scale. The Amish have had to establish new settlements across the US as their population increases.

            The Amish are hardly pre-industrial. They often make use of non-disruptive technology, like tractors.

            In any case, I don’t see how even decisively winning the demographic battle would practically accomplish anything, because Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank (excluding those residents of East Jerusalem who have the option of obtaining Israeli citizenship) can’t vote in Israeli elections.

            Before their first revolt in 1947-48, they were not confined to these places. Their plan should, indeed, be the abolition of the Palestinian autonomy, and reintegration of the territories into Israel, so they can better infiltrate their competition. Trying to attack now is premature at best.

          • NN says:

            The Amish are hardly pre-industrial. They often make use of non-disruptive technology, like tractors.

            That’s why I said they live a lifestyle similar to pre-industrial farmers. The rules vary between congregations, but like you say, they tend to only adopt technology that will not disrupt this lifestyle, for example by allowing tractors but requiring them to be pulled by horses instead of moving under their own power.

            The practical effect is that like pre-industrial farms, Amish farms require large amounts of manual labor per acre compared to modern farms. This provides strong incentives to have large families, because children become useful and even profitable workers at a relatively young age. The loss of these incentives as a population urbanizes and raising a child becomes more expensive is one of the primary reasons that economic development decreases fertility rates (after an initial boost to population growth from the introduction of modern medicine and other things that reduce infant mortality).

            This, btw, is why I don’t think the Amish’s current rate of population growth will be sustained over the long term. Amish communities will not be able to outbid big agribusiness companies for the best farmland, so eventually they are going to run out of land.

            Before their first revolt in 1947-48, they were not confined to these places. Their plan should, indeed, be the abolition of the Palestinian autonomy, and reintegration of the territories into Israel, so they can better infiltrate their competition. Trying to attack now is premature at best.

            From what I know about Israeli politics, trying to integrate the parts of the occupied territories with large numbers of Palestinians into Israel would be seen as an attack.

          • Two points on the Amish:

            1. The restrictions of the Ordnung are by congregation not settlement. Some settlements consist of congregations all of which have similar rules, some don’t.

            2. I believe it is already the case that only a minority of Amish make their living primarily by farming. I don’t think the population growth rate has slowed.

          • NN says:

            1. The restrictions of the Ordnung are by congregation not settlement. Some settlements consist of congregations all of which have similar rules, some don’t.

            Right, my mistake.

            2. I believe it is already the case that only a minority of Amish make their living primarily by farming. I don’t think the population growth rate has slowed.

            I’ll have to do some more research on this, but a few points:

            First, unless you have statistics that show otherwise I wouldn’t be so sure that population growth rates have stayed the same. The current statistics that I’ve looked at indicate that average Old Order Amish fertility rates are already lower than the average fertility rates of some African countries.

            Second, similar incentives apply to non-agricultural pre-industrial jobs. For example, a carpenter will benefit from having young apprentices around. But these trades will probably also eventually run into scaling problems, since the market for things like hand-made boots and chairs is only so large.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Amish communities will not be able to outbid big agribusiness companies for the best farmland, so eventually they are going to run out of land.

            On the contrary, Amish make more profit per acre and thus should win bidding wars. Big agribusiness produces more gross revenue per acre, but that’s irrelevant. Amish agriculture depends on skilled labor, which is what Amish communities produce, whereas big agribusiness is designed to use a lot of capital to minimize the required skilled labor so that it can scale quickly. And scale quickly is what it has done, but that doesn’t mean it will dominate its niche forever. It is an r-selected strategy.

          • NN says:

            On the contrary, Amish make more profit per acre and thus should win bidding wars. Big agribusiness produces more gross revenue per acre, but that’s irrelevant. Amish agriculture depends on skilled labor, which is what Amish communities produce, whereas big agribusiness is designed to use a lot of capital to minimize the required skilled labor so that it can scale quickly. And scale quickly is what it has done, but that doesn’t mean it will dominate its niche forever. It is an r-selected strategy.

            Can I see the math on that? Because I have a hard time seeing how it would work out that way, considering the Amish’s much lower worker:land area ratio, even with the low expenses of an Amish lifestyle. After all, the entire reason that people migrated into cities by the millions during the Industrial Revolution was that buying farm machinery was more cost effective than hiring more farm workers, and farm machinery has only gotten more efficient since then.

          • dmose says:

            @NN

            “They are already are outbreeding the Jews according to some projections, albeit at a slow pace”

            FYI, the projections which show that tend to be entirely reliant on the word of the Palestinian Authority, which has a very strong motivation to make their demographics look as good as possible in order to create additional pressure on the Israelis (“you’d better make a deal now or else they’ll outnumber you in territory under your control.”)

        • rose says:

          what our liberal media calls settlements are mostly parts of Jerusalem or suburbs of Jerusalem. it’s not just Bibi or rightists in Israel – no one expects those areas to be given over to an anti-Semitic, judenrein, terror supporting regime.

          second, the whole idea of a Palestinian state on the west bank and gaza is bogus. it is not a viable geographic or cultural entity to be an independent state. it only exists as a welfare state supported by the UN (your tax dollars) and EU and terrorist largesse.

          as far as mainting the status quo. when the alternatives are worse, you stay with the status quo and hope something shifts. like the cold war containment. it worked better than outright war or capitulation.

          since there are no Palestinian groups strong enough to assert a peaceful coexistence policy in the face of their homicidal comrades, Israel has no choice but status and self defense.

    • sweeneyrod says:

      “I suspect the change in political party sediment toward Israel is at least in part due to the end of the Cold War, when Soviet support for (some) Arab nations faded away (Iran had a long history of rhetoric aimed at the US, the USSR and Israel on an equal opportunity basis) and it became easier to support Arab/Muslim nations without being anti-American.”

      I have an opposite theory, as an answer to the question of why the right supports Israel and the left supports Palestine.

      After all, Israel has gender equality in its army, the gay capital of the world, and pretty much the only successful modern socialist communes I know of. It wouldn’t look out of place in Scandinavia. Palestine has a theocracy that imposes the death penalty for homosexuality, and an atrocious record on women’s rights. So why does the left favour it over Israel?

      Another question. The various Islamist groups in the headlines, (ISIS, Al Qaida etc.) have one thing in common. They hate the West, but they also hate Shia Muslims (such as those who rule Iran and Syria). Ultimately, their ideology stems from Saudi Wahhabism. So why is it that all their terrorist operations outside the Middle East have been against Western countries (who are loosely allied with the Saudis) rather than Russia (who are allied with the Shias they want to exterminate)?

      I think the answer is Cold War propaganda. The Western left still hasn’t realised that the USSR is gone. Back when any decent left-winger had to hope that they would win the Cold War, they also had to support whoever they backed in proxy wars, and oppose the American candidate. In this case, the habit of supporting Palestine has persisted, even though it has no purpose. Similarly, for ISIS and friends, old Russian support for Palestine trumps new Russian support for Iran and Assad.

      • JE says:

        This makes one huge, and in my opinion unwarranted, assumption: That people choose a side to support by weighting the overall virtue of both sides and choosing the most virtious. The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is not about women or about gays. If you remove that assumption there’s no reason you can’t wish fervently that the Palestinians would adopt Israel’s stance on gay rights while still believing that in the conflict with Israel the Palestinians are right and Israel are wrong.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        People in ISIS are too young to remember the Cold War.

        ISIS isn’t choosing between attacking Russia and France. ISIS isn’t attacking anyone. It is performing terrorism as a recruiting tool. Bringing violence to the fairly peaceful Muslims of France is a useful recruiting tool, while Chechnya is a pretty violent place and doesn’t need encouragement. Also, terrorism in Chechnya is also much more dangerous.

        So what if Saudi is allied with America? Bin Laden claimed that his top goal was to expel US forces from Saudi.

        • sweeneyrod says:

          I’m too young to remember 9/11, but it still has an effect on my political beliefs.

          I would dispute that “ISIS isn’t attacking anyone.” I also don’t see how “bringing violence to the fairly peaceful Muslims of France is a useful recruiting tool”.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            Violence is useful for attracting young men who see no real prospects in their lives.

            I agree with you about the attacking part though. Even if you can’t hope to actually win, attacking somebody for political purposes is still attacking them.

      • Tatu Ahponen says:

        “After all, Israel has gender equality in its army, the gay capital of the world, and pretty much the only successful modern socialist communes I know of. It wouldn’t look out of place in Scandinavia. Palestine has a theocracy that imposes the death penalty for homosexuality, and an atrocious record on women’s rights. So why does the left favour it over Israel?”

        How many homosexuals does a country need, exactly, to be allowed to conduct a permanent military occupation of another nation?

        “Another question. The various Islamist groups in the headlines, (ISIS, Al Qaida etc.) have one thing in common. They hate the West, but they also hate Shia Muslims (such as those who rule Iran and Syria). Ultimately, their ideology stems from Saudi Wahhabism. So why is it that all their terrorist operations outside the Middle East have been against Western countries (who are loosely allied with the Saudis) rather than Russia (who are allied with the Shias they want to exterminate)?”

        Daesh is fighting Russia directly in the Caucasus. http://www.arabstoday.net/en/home/also-in-the-news/russias-caucasus-islamists-pledge-allegiance-to-daesh

        • sweeneyrod says:

          “How many homosexuals does a country need, exactly, to be allowed to conduct a permanent military occupation of another nation?”

          My point is that it is strange that Israel has good internal policies (from a left-wing perspective) but faces far more disapproval in terms of calls for boycotts etc. than China does for the occupation of Tibet, despite the fact that China has far worse internal policies by anyone’s standards.

          The jihadists in the Caucasus formed independently of ISIS, as far as I can tell. They would still exist without ISIS, the only difference is that they wouldn’t have made that pledge of allegiance. I get the impression that jihadists in the Middle East hate America much more than Russia, and are hence more inclined to bomb Washington rather than Moscow.

          • Tatu Ahponen says:

            Well, apart from the fact that “Free Tibet” has been a stereotypical left-wing cause (especially a celebrity cause) for a long time, there’s the fact that, first of all, Israel might be predicted to be more receptive towards criticism and activism regarding its occupation than China (both due to its wish to be seen as a ‘Western’ country and due to its system being more democratic than China’s) and, second, due to the fact that there haven’t been any particular incidents in Tibet recently to get attention (at least one’s that have made it to media).

            Also, there haven’t been any Daesh assaults in mainland USA, have there? In fact, what other terrorist strikes than Paris just recently has Daesh conducted in the West? They didn’t take responsibility for Charlie Hebdo shootings – that was Al Qaeda in Yemen.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            Free Tibet is a stereotypical left-wing cause, but no-one actually seems to care about it. I’ve never seen any Free Tibet marches, or heard left-wing politicians condemn China for their occupation of Tibet. There is no motion to boycott Chinese academics, and no edgy teenagers changed their profile pictures to the Tibetan flag after the Paris attacks because what about all the people suffering there?

            Although there haven’t been any ISIS attacks in the USA that I’m aware of, this is because terrorist attacks are thankfully very rare events in Western countries. However, I think that the low probability of an attack in the US or the UK is still higher than the probability of an attack in Russia, and I think that the small amount of data so far supports that. They didn’t take responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo shootings, but one of the gunmen involved has since pledged allegiance to ISIS (and for the purposes of my theory I’m grouping Al Qaida and ISIS together, since they are both anti-Western Sunni groups).

          • NN says:

            One factor, at least in America, might be that the US doesn’t provide China with billions of dollars of military aid every year. And if you respond to that by asking “what about Saudi Arabia or Egypt?” well, this image has been making the rounds on Twitter lately, and there was quite a bit of discussion about US military aid to Egypt back around the time of the Revolution. I particularly remember a photo of a tear gas canister with “Made in the USA” written on it causing quite a bit of a stir.

            Another factor is that there are some significant differences between the Palestinian territories and Tibet. For one thing, the people of Tibet are all full Chinese citizens. That doesn’t give them a whole lot of rights in a dictatorship like China, but it does mean that Tibetans can use any infrastructure improvements that the Chinese government builds for its own citizens, and that they don’t have to worry about roadblocks and checkpoints, at least not any more than other Chinese. Compared to the situation in Tibet, the Israeli occupation is both more obviously unequal and has more resemblance to historical European colonial regimes. When you consider how much of the world has lived under that sort of colonialism at one point, it’s no wonder that they would take special notice of situations that resemble that.

            With regards to ISIS and Russia: ISIS has attacked Russia, or at the very least wants the world to think that they did. Yes, this happened in the Middle East instead of inside Russia itself, but ISIS has still claimed responsibility for the deaths of 224 Russian citizens. ISIS has also recently made a video devoted entirely to threatening attacks on Russia. So I don’t think it’s fair to say that ISIS is ignoring Russia in favor of attacking the West.

            As for why jihadists in general have focused more on the West than on Russia, I think the simple answer is that until very recently the West, especially the US, has intervened much more often in the Middle East than Russia has. Russia didn’t overthrow Iran’s democratically elected government, lead a coalition to push Iraq out of Kuwait, support Israel for decades, or deploy troops to Saudi Arabia. Also, it would be a mistake to assume that jihadists like the Saudi regime. Saudi Arabia may have similar policies in many areas (beheading, corporal punishment, forced veiling of women, destruction of historical sites, etc.), but ISIS considers the Saudi government to be apostates just like every other Muslim government besides their own.

          • Jiro says:

            there was quite a bit of discussion about US military aid to Egypt back around the time of the Revolution

            “Quite a bit” is a relative term. Nowhere near as much, and nowhere near as often, and in response to specific events, not a constant presence at that level.

          • Here’s a difference: China is much to big and wealthy for Western disapproval to make a diffrence–what are you going to do, start world war III? But Israel is sustained by the West. US liberals are funding it through their taxes. The potential for leverage is much, much greater.

          • John Schilling says:

            Total US foreign aid to Israel is about one percent of Israel’s GDP. The claim that Israel is “sustained” by the West is I think a gross exaggeration, and what leverage we can purchase at that level is far short of a veto over anything Israel considers vital to its national security, cultural identity, or manifest destiny (to the extent that they believe in such a thing).

          • Nornagest says:

            One percent of GDP is the difference between France’s military and Mexico’s military (France has a higher per-capita GDP, but they’re pretty close in total), or between Japan’s military and nothing. It’s not trivial.

            That said, Israel probably could afford to do without. Its total military expenditure is five and a half times that, according to the CIA.

          • John Schilling says:

            If a nation facing an existential military threat suffers a 1% reduction in GDP, the result is not going to be massive cuts in the defense budget. Even if that’s where the reduction is caused, other assets will be reallocated to cover the gap. Maybe Israel reduces its housing and community services budget by ~30%, or its social-welfare spending by ~15%, or a ~4% tax hike would about cover the whole thing, but military spending wouldn’t change much. The social and economic costs would, of course, be blamed on the Americans.

            From the other direction, America’s foreign assistance to Israel is no longer for the purpose of enhancing Israel’s military strength. It is for avoiding negative signaling by breaking an established tradition and quasi-commitment, and for ensuring that Israel’s military has a strong buy-American policy, and if along the way it gives us a little influence over Israel’s policy we need to keep in mind how little that influence is.

          • NN says:

            It is pretty hard to argue that Israel is seriously facing an existential military threat nowadays, since it has peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan and Syria and Iraq are in ruins. That pretty much only leaves Hamas, Iran and Hezbollah as significant external threats, and the latter two are currently busy fighting ISIS and Syrian rebels. Recently, the most serious threat to Israeli security has been lone wolf attackers wielding knives, which isn’t the sort of problem that can be solved with multi-million dollar military equipment.

            But I still think John Schilling’s prediction is likely to be accurate regardless, given the positions and rhetoric of the current Israeli government.

          • anonymous says:

            The issue isn’t military aid, I’m not sure why people love to bring that up.

            The issue is direct and indirect trade sanctions. Especially from Europe. The other issue which despite perhaps being boring to war geeks, is very relevant to many people is that most people don’t want to live in a country that is considered a pariah. This probably isn’t an issue for the knitted yamaka set living in unauthorized trailer settlements much less the Haradi in the kollels, but many Israelis don’t like being viewed as monsters whenever they leave the country.

            As I said elsewhere in this thread, Israel’s US Christian “friends” are really doing it no favors. What are they going to do when Europe puts in trade sanctions? Go on the internet and call the Europeans Nazis, that’s a given, but are they going to make up the missing economic activity?

          • John Schilling says:

            …many Israelis don’t like being viewed as monsters whenever they leave the country

            No, that’s very interesting to us “war geeks”. Demographic change is often of great military interest.

            In this case, the dynamic you note means that the long-term effect of anti-Israeli sanctions and PR campaigns you suggest is that the Israelis who continue to live in Israel will be increasingly the hard-liners, the ultra-orthodox, the generally militaristic, and the ones who feel they have no choice. These are the ones who will end up with control of Israeli foreign and domestic policy, the IDF, and the hundred or so nuclear missiles.

            The moderates and liberals, the ones who might be persuaded to accept the Palestinians as neighbors, they can also be persuaded to move out of Israel and become Americans. Probably not Europeans, of course. The military consequences of this are left as an exercise to the student.

        • Marc Whipple says:

          Here is a hypothetical question:

          Suppose that by some miracle, tomorrow Palestine became an independent state, with access to reasonable avenues of international commerce, borders respected by the state of Israel, and a democratically elected government created through free and fair elections. I grant you this is impossible, but please indulge me. If this were to happen:

          1) Do you think that Palestine would act decisively to end large-scale terrorist attacks against the citizens of Israel originating within its borders, or would it allow them to continue?

          2) If the nation-state of Palestine were to allow large-scale terrorist attacks against the citizens of Israel to be launched from within its borders, do you think Israel would be justified in considering that an act of war and taking steps to defend itself, up to and including invasion of strategic areas of Palestine?

          3) If your answers to #1 and #2 are “No it would not” and “Yes it would” respectively, please distinguish, if possible, that state of affairs from the current one, which you imply is unjustified military occupation.

          4) If your answer to #2 is “No it would not,” please explain why not.

          Also, if you could answer the following question as well, I would be grateful:

          5) Do you think that Israel has motivations other than promoting its own internal security for occupying and/or controlling (access to) areas currently at least in theory under the authority of the Palestinian proto-governments? If so, what are those motivations

          For purposes of this question, please disregard areas where Israeli citizens have established unlawful settlements. I concede that Israel, if it acts to protect such settlements, is not acting to promote its own internal security.

          • Tatu Ahponen says:

            “Yes” to questions 1, 2 and 5. Regarding question 5, the answer would be ‘striving towards some sort of a situation where Israel is able to annex West Bank without causing an international crisis or having to accept the Palestinian inhabitants of West Bank as citizens’, even if it does not currently have a decent plan how to do this. At the minimum, it is rather clear that Israeli government is currently working with a perspective where the settlements will be expanded, as that is a clear Likud policy.

          • JE says:

            1) Probably depends on the terms of that peace.

            2) Like one it depends on the peace. If the terms are unjust then no military action would be justified until a more just peace has been attempted.

            5) Expansion. Permanently taking as much land from the Palestinians as possible.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            @Tatu Ahponen:

            Thank you.

            Is it your opinion that the current proto-governments of Palestine allow terror attacks against the citizens of Israel to originate from within their borders because they are not able to stop it, not because they agree with the aims of the terrorists or because it is the will of their constituents? (If the last, do you believe the will of the citizenry would change if my hypothetical were to come to pass?)

          • Marc Whipple says:

            @JE:

            Who defines whether the peace is “just?” The government of Palestine and/or a majority of its voters? The international community? Khaled Mashal?

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @Tatu and JE

            If the Israeli government are trying to take as much Palestinian land as possible, why do they seem to be going about that very inefficiently? If I was trying to invade a country, I wouldn’t provide its citizens with electricity and medical treatment.

          • JE says:

            @Marc: When it comes to who I give the moral high ground to I decide what is just.

            @sweeneyrod: What makes it inefficient they’re taking more every year. Reliably. And why wouldn’t you. The only result would be more resistance with more international support and what would you gain?

          • Jiro says:

            The reasons it isn’t those things are related to the reasons it is a terrorism threat. Democracy is not a single parameter you can tweak in your model independently of everything else.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @JE

            I can’t find any evidence either way regarding your claim that Israel is taking more land every year. However, I can find evidence that that claim is irrelevant. The absolute amount of land they are taking through settlements is very small – the biggest land grab in 30 years is apparently 1000 acres. This amounts to 0.06% of total Palestinian land. At this rate, Palestine will disappear entirely in 1500 years.

          • JE says:

            When I say more every year I mean that the amount taken is constantly increasing, not that the rate at which its taken is accelerating. And I’m not sure the size of individual settlements is an important measure, rather than the frequency with which they’re created.

          • Eli says:

            1) No.

            2) Yes.

            3) The Palestinians would be participating in the world as moral agents, and reaping the consequences of their own freely-chosen actions when we relentlessly slaughter them. Their economy would probably also be larger and they’d be happier. Oh, and Israel could use them as leverage to extract formal peace treaties from several other countries on our borders and finally start civilian-izing our society more thoroughly.

            5) Who doesn’t want more land?

        • dmose says:

          “How many homosexuals does a country need, exactly, to be allowed to conduct a permanent military occupation of another nation?”

          Depends. Did the other nation launch several failed wars of extermination and then follow up rejection of peace deals with extensive war crimes, as the Palestinians have?

          • JE says:

            I’ve never been persuaded that the Palestinians sought extermination rather than ethnic cleansing of the Jews. Since ethnic cleansing was just as much the goal of the zionists, and to keep the Palestinians ethnically cleansed is a priemier goal of Israel to this day, that gives them no moral high ground. And Israel is no stranger to war crimes either, neither before or after the Oslo accord.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @JE
            In what sense is Israel no stranger to war crimes. I concede that they probably occupy lower moral ground than e.g. Sweden, but the US and UK have done much more harm in Iraq than Israel have in Palestine in terms of absolute civilian deaths, and civilians killed per combatant killed. Furthermore, they have much shakier justification for their actions – the Iraq war is infamous for having a dubious basis, whereas I think that most people would agree that if Israel carried out fewer military operations, more of their civilians would be killed (at least in the short term).

          • NN says:

            @sweeneyrod

            I think you’ll find that the vast majority of people who oppose Israel’s military actions also oppose US military actions like the Iraq War and the drone war in Pakistan. Certainly the Iraq War drew more and much larger protests from the American left than anything Israel has ever done.

          • dmose says:

            “Since ethnic cleansing was just as much the goal of the zionists”

            [citation needed]

            “and to keep the Palestinians ethnically cleansed is a priemier goal of Israel to this day”

            [citation needed]

            “And Israel is no stranger to war crimes either, neither before or after the Oslo accord.”

            [citation needed]

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @NN

            Yes, but no-one seems to be proposing that the US or UK be dissolved, or pay reparations to Iraqis whose homes have been destroyed (apart from this guy).

          • LeeEsq says:

            JE, why is a Jew-free Palestine or Middle East morally acceptable to many people but an Arab free Israel is evil, racist, and apartheid. Its not like 650,000 Jews magically appeared in Israel/Palestine in 1948. Many of them were born there or immigrated there as refugees fleeing persecution. There were 25,000 Jews in Israel/Palestine when the First Aliyah started in 1880.

            One thing that the Pro-Palestinian side never explained to me is why the Christians and Muslims of Palestine count as indigenous and therefore have the right to self-determination when the Jews do not. It seems to me that if national movements in Europe or MENA are going to reject the Jews as citizens and immigrant receiving countries are going to deny Jews access than we Jews have a right to make a place for ourselves in the world.

    • BBA says:

      The Chomskyite far left has always opposed Israel, but their numbers have always been tiny and this is one issue that they’ve had very little influence on. Even today, the furthest-left figure in mainstream American politics, Bernie Sanders, is staunchly pro-Israel.

      To the limited extent that the broader left is beginning to turn against Israel, I think it’s because Israel looks like a classic European colonial power: a group of lighter-skinned people with superior firepower moving in to impose their will on the darker-skinned native population. The argument that Israel is “more civilized” is seen as racist – isn’t that what the British said about “savages” like Gandhi?

    • nydwracu says:

      Finally, a number of African-Americans are frothing racists towards Jews.

      Including some of their political leaders, but after the Hymietown incident, the preſtigious ones learned to keep that quiet.

      …or maybe they started using euphemisms, like ‘white’. But maybe not. Who knows.

    • Nicholas says:

      But if you look at the chart, Democrats’ support for Israel isn’t changed. Republicans have just stopped criticising Israel all together, when it used to be a position that cut across party lines.

    • Eli says:

      Plus they are pro-military, European descent, and religious, which maps well onto something that looks Republican-ish.

      That isn’t even true.

      ~52% of Israeli Jews are of Mizrahi descent, and 41.4% of the Israeli Jewish population explicitly self-identifies as secular. 15% of the population are atheist, and 37% are agnostic.

      Oh, and basically nobody in Israel except for edgy university students believes in “free markets” of any kind.

      We don’t look “Republican-ish”.

      • BBA says:

        It’s not true, but Americans think it’s true, and that’s what counts. 50-odd years later and people still think “Exodus” was a documentary and all Israelis look like Paul Newman.

        Less jocularly, Ashkenazim dominate the political and cultural classes of Israel and thus foreign perceptions of the country. Combine this with American Jews being overwhelmingly Ashkenazim and you can see how the misconception arises.

      • LeeEsq says:

        The average Likud member is probably further to the Left on economic and social issues than the average Democratic party member or even Labour Party members from Tony Blair’s faction. Their ideological father Vladimir Jabotinsky was more favorable to capitalism and private property than the Labor Zionists but he believed that the Jewish state should have an active welfare state providing healthcare, food, housing, etc. to it’s residents.

  29. Zubon says:

    There is a perfect “Baptists and bootleggers” joke to be made about that imam story, but I can’t quite reach it this morning.

  30. Deiseach says:

    This Headline Is Not As Scary As You Hoped of the day: global warming will make Irish summers hotter!

    Average temperatures will rise and summer days will be as much as 2.6C warmer by the middle of this century unless there is concerted action to address climate change.

    Nearly 3 degrees Celcius rise – that should be a cause for concern, correct? Well, probably but I imagine the response of most Irish people will be “Yippee!”

    Bear in mind that temperatures averaged out for the year in Ireland run around 50 degrees Fahrenheit which is 10 degrees Celcius.

    Over a period from 1971-2000, our highest summertime temperature was around 20 degrees Celcius (68 degrees Fahrenheit). Now, inland it gets warmer, but most of us will stoically bear the prospect that in July it might rise as scorchingly hot as 23 degrees Celcius (just a little over 73 degrees Fahrenheit) without fainting at the idea of oh no, however will we bear this raging heat?

    Particularly when we’re accustomed to seeing on the nightly news weather warnings for continental Europe routinely in the high 30s and up to 40 degrees Celcius (86-104 Fahrenheit) for summertime. And this year, my brother who was working just outside London was sweltering in their mini-summer heatwave while back home it was – you guessed it – cloudy, overcast, grey and humid with occasional showers.

    Now, it sometimes has gotten up to really hot temperatures here. I remember the heatwave of 1976; according to Met Éireann it got as high as 32.5 degrees Celcius (90.5 degrees Fahrenheit) one day inland. (That thing about in your childhood the summers were hotter? That was really so in the 70s; we got a couple of years of hot, dry weather to the point we had drought warnings!)

    But this is really exceptional. So, as I said, the idea that we might get hot summers is not something that is going to cause widespread determination that Something Must Be Done Now. On the other hand, if the warning on global climate change was “It will rain ten or more months of the year in Ireland instead of eight or more”, then we might get worried 🙂

    Though you may (or may not) be heartened to hear the Vatican is in support of the cause.

    • Loquat says:

      On the other hand, if melting icecaps disrupt the Gulf Stream, you could actually see a few degrees of cooling even as the planetary average warms up.

    • James Picone says:

      Shifts in the mean of the distribution can have large effects on the tails.

      Once-in-a-year hot days in Europe have gotten about four times more common over the last umpteen years, according to Tamino. The heatwave you’re talking about is more likely to occur now than it was back then; we’ll see more weather like that, then we would have without the warming.

  31. Alex Z says:

    Couldn’t the sugar graph be explained by a subset of the US population substantially reducing their sugar intake while another group does not? I live in SF, capital of health nuts where sugar-free everything is available. But on my recent trip to Minnesota for instance, I saw no evidence of people caring about their sugar intake in the same way.

  32. Alphaceph says:

    > French organization demands a law that imams must obtain a license certifying them to be liberal and tolerant before preaching.

    This is a genius idea – maybe they will do to Islam what the Church of England did for protestantism in the UK – make it boring and crucially prevent memetic evolution that comes from freedom of religion.

    • You realize that you are echoing David Hume’s argument in favor of an established church?

      • Scott Alexander says:

        How does that survive eg Saudi Arabia having a state church but still being pretty fanatical?

        • sweeneyrod says:

          Saudi Arabia might be an outlier due to its wealth from oil. Until the oil runs out, it can govern pretty much how it wants and things will be okay. Once the oil runs out, I doubt that the fanatical government will survive long.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            It will be interesting to see which can survive the collapse of oil prices or the loss of oil revenues due to depletion better, overextended democratic socialism or overextended religious fanaticism.

            Since one of those two states implies a reasonable probability of radical technological process, I think that if you just look at what I said, democratic socialism has a way better chance, but in any given end state outside the Singularity, I’m not sure it’s as clear.

            (In case I skipped too many steps: democratic socialism is already adapted for radical technological progress and would likely survive it well. Religious fanaticism, not so much.)

          • multiheaded says:

            for the millionth time, “social democracy” =/= “democratic socialism”

          • Marc Whipple says:

            No, no it is not. You are quite correct.

        • Nornagest says:

          Saudi Arabia is (and resource economies in general are) super weird. It works less like a nation-state and more like a cyberpunk megacorporation with less rubber and leather.

      • Alphaceph says:

        No, but I realise this idea is around and about.

    • Tibor says:

      Or maybe you get a combination of radical Imams answering whatever is required of them to get a certification (no effect, except of needless expensive bureaucracy), marginally non-radical Imams radicalizing (because now his religion and therefore he is already subject to double standards which usually makes people angry), which is a negative effect and some radical Imams who do not feel like lying to the certifiers preaching “undercover” (a mixed effect, they would reach fewer people, but they can now say things like “look at how the evil western society treats us” and actually have some factual evidence, making them more persuasive). Incidentally, I think the same story works for neonazis in Europe. They are denied freedom of speech which makes them feel victimized which makes them band together. There is an appeal to being the “underdog fighting injustice”, especially for the kind of people who are likely to be attracted to militant radicals, be they islamists, neonazis or antifa.

      • Alphaceph says:

        Why didn’t all of that stuff happen to the Church of England? I suppose you could look back on all of the religious persecution that happened over history in Britain, but at some point it stabilised. Christians in the UK are very well behaved overall. Is there a reproducible mechanism here?

        • Tibor says:

          You mean with Catholics? Well, IRA layed down their weapons only some 10 (give or take a few years) years ago. I mean, it was catholicism mixed with Irish separatism and it was not quite comparable to the islamists in terms of violence. My guess would be different cultures. The vast majority of islamists are arabs whose culture is very different from that of the Irish.

          Also, at the time the Church of England founded, there were measures implemented to root out Catholicism for good in most parts of the country (basically, people were killed). This is not much different from the recatolization in Bohemia or Bavaria (possibly some other parts of the HRE as well) where all the protestants had to leave or face prosecution. Or the banishing of Moors and Jews from Spain. If you implemented such measures against islam in Europe today (I am by no means suggesting that one should do that), i.e. banishing anyone who might be a muslim from the country, you would probably stabilize the situation as well…at the cost of hurting millions of innocent people, allowing witch hunts, abandoning freedom of religion and so on 🙂

  33. gwern says:

    Among all the owls in the world, the powerful owl is the ninth longest from bill-to-tail, the tenth heaviest and the eighth longest winged.

    I feel deceived: that doesn’t sound very powerful at all!

    • I dunno, there’s a lot of owls in the world. For one singular owl to be in the top ten of all of them sounds pretty powerful to me!

      (Yes, I can imagine that it’s just using imprecise language and talking about a species and that ornithologists, in truth, don’t actually stage the Owl Olympics every four years, but I know what side my heart is on.)

  34. Greame says:

    On the theory of a correlation, surely an easy way of test this should be to look at legacy admissions. Even if we assume high inheritance for intelligence, we should be able to see some pattern, particularly if we account for that intelligence using grades.

  35. Douglas Knight says:

    someone would have noticed

    Does this theory of scientific progress explain the past?

    Isn’t it like saying: if ulcers were caused by bacteria, someone would have noticed? Well, it’s true. A dozen people published papers on it,* over the course of decades. And surely many more noticed but didn’t publish. But publications aren’t magic; no one noticed the papers. No one noticed the pattern, no one tried to test them.

    The Alzheimer phenomenon is more difficult to notice: Halting progression is harder to notice than relief of symptoms; Antifungals are administered less often than antibiotics; There may be difficulty crossing the blood-brain barrier.

    * Added: well, maybe only a half-dozen published papers on antibiotics curing ulcers and to get a dozen you have to include people who figured it out before antibiotics and produced much more thorough results by isolating the bacteria.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Antibiotics do not cure ulcers. You need the right combination of two antibiotics plus a proton pump inhibitor to touch h. pylori, so we had a zillion examples of people being treated with every antibiotic in the book, or combinations of antibiotics, and until they got it right there wasn’t a good track record of success. It’s possible that the same is true for Alzheimers-fungus for some reason, but that’s a strong claim.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Maybe all the papers were wrong, but they weren’t debunked, they were ignored. But the papers weren’t wrong. There were people with good track records.

    • sov says:

      When the study was originally posted on ycomb, it got me thinking.

      I actually did a research report on caspofungin when I was a lowely medical chemistry undergraduate student and indeed, most antifungals don’t cross the BBB in any significant amount, a la:

      ketoconzaole: no
      fluconazole: yes (good!)
      voriconazole: yes (medium)
      itraconazole: sorta, but strong efflux observed (P-gp) (bad)
      terbinafine: no
      nystatin: no
      amphoteracin-B: no
      caspofungin: no

      NB: I didn’t look up to see if caspofungin, amphoteracin-B or nystatin cross the BBB–but based on molecule size, I’d be VERY surprised.

      Now, we know antifungals tend to be a bit selective about the type of fungal infections they are good at. Some of the bigger IV antifungals tends to be good at most things, but fall flat at crossing the BBB (caspofungin, amphoterrible, errr, amphoteracin-B). Seems like all we need to do is see if there are any commonly prescribed antifungals that cross the BBB and see if they handle the fungal candida-tes (sorry) that the paper indicates.

      Now, I may be missing a few (I’m no longer in the medicinal chemistry field), but it seems that our best shot at seeing if antifungals have a dose-dependent relation to Alzheimer’s Disease is fluconazole. It actually is pretty good at crossing the BBB and doesn’t even efflux at crazy rates like itraconazole. So far, so good.

      Next step appears to be to unsure that fluconazole works well against the CNS fungus observed in the study (Candida glabrata). Unfortunately, azole class antifungals are hot trash at resolving C. glabrata infections… which makes this result all the more interesting!

      We need to find a non-azole antifungal drug that can cross the BBB.
      Polyenes? Like Ampho-B, too large to pass BBB.
      Allylamines? Topical except terbinafine, which doesn’t cross BBB (too hydrophobic?).
      Echinocandins? A la caspofungin, way too large to pass the BBB.
      Griseofulvin? No BBB activity AFAIK.
      Tavaborole? Topical.
      Flucytosine? Bingo. It crosses the BBB no problem AND is an effective treatment for C. glabrata.

      The next step might be comparing long-term rates of AD in flucytosine trial patients with similar oral antifungals we know to not cross the BBB in cases of systemic fungal infections. At any rate, it’s an interesting result that is quite plausible.

  36. Alexp says:

    I hear about the mismatch affect for black and hispanic students in ivy league colleges a lot, but I’m not sure I buy that a top 10 school is that much more competitive academically than a 30-50 school.

    • keranih says:

      The lower tiers show more of a geographic effect, both because they’re not as famous/attractive as the Ivies, and secondly because so more of them are public schools who have dramatically lower prices for in-state students. This smaller pools also serves to make them less competitive.

      (And then there is the actual rankings if you wanted to check.)

      (edit because evidently I am having a hard time deciding if I’m here or on reddit)

      • Will S. says:

        How does a non-sortable alphabetical listing of colleges and their test scores help anyone determine anything? That link has no ranking of anything.

        Anyway, here are actual rankingsby SAT score, albeit unsourced. It would be interesting to calculate the correlation between SAT and ACT score, but just looking at the list the SAT scores seem to me more of a somewhat-but-not-totally-arbitrary filter than some deeply meaningful number.

        • keranih says:

          You’re right, I should have called that “actual average scores” rather than “rankings.”

          ACT vs SAT has more to do with the region that students are drawn from (although that means less than it used to.)

          This Forbes article suggests that average scores means less than one might think, as athletes, etc tend to drag down the scores. I would be interested in the difference between legacy admissions and athletic admissions, myself.

          • Anonymous says:

            Median would probably be far enough into the class to sample from the admitted solely for academics and the 75th percentile (reported for most schools) certainly would. The 75th percentile I’d expect to be a good proxy for the best students a school could attract without the use of merit aid.

          • Chalid says:

            No. Not many people are admitted solely for academics. At a real top school, your median student was close to the top of the scale academically (good-to-excellent SATs and almost all As, in the top few people in their class) and had a record of excellence in at least one major extracurricular activity (which may or may not be academically oriented), more likely two.

            I think it is simply not possible to get into HYPS with perfect grades and SATs and nothing else. (Possible exceptions for high schools that are known to be “special” in some way.)

          • Anonymous says:

            Maybe solely for academics was the wrong phrase. Top schools are also looking for things those who had great performance in math olympiads, published a poem, or were hacky sack world champion. Personally, I see nothing with that, the idea that the *only* valid indicators are grades and SATs is a very shallow notion of merit.

            Anyway, my reference to 75th percentile SATs was that at that point you are mostly no longer looking at people who bypass the ordinary admissions process because they are a recruited athlete, or their parent’s donated a library, or they are an URM, or they otherwise come from a strongly disadvantaged or unusual background. It’s a measure of the necessary (but not sufficient) SAT scores for the broad backbone of the matriculating class.

      • Alexp says:

        They have higher SAT scores. I would never dispute that. But are the actual classes harder?

        On one hand, academics might be harder at elite schools simply because classmates are slightly smarter (on average)

        On the other hand, elite schools tend to have more generous grading curves, and are more gentle on students that miss deadlines or have other issues.

  37. Troy says:

    Interesting link on the Muslim favorability rise in France/U.S. after Charlie Hebdo/9-11. A possible (perhaps partial) explanation is that people got less honest with reporters in the face of politically correct media pressure. It would be interesting to correlate responses with Lee Jussim’s political correctness scale: http://rutgersscholar.rutgers.edu/volume04/walkjuss/walkjuss.htm

  38. Pseudoperson Randomian says:

    Can someone explain the H1B system to me?

    I thought it was to fill in the gaps and bring in skilled workers from another country (that is, the best of the country) – a net good.

    I also understand that this works correctly in the case of doctors. Everything else is totally confusing. Spamming? Companies? Exceptions? Whaaa?

    • Marc Whipple says:

      Your impression of the purpose and designed function of the H1B Visa is completely correct.

      However, the problem arises, particularly in the tech industry, in that before a company can hire an H1B worker they are required to certify that they tried to find a qualified American and were unable to do so. This certification process is both highly gameable and very poorly monitored, with predictable results.

    • brad says:

      It’s not possible describe the entire program in a blog comment, but the main things to know about the H1B program are:
      1) it is considered a *temporary* visa, not a permanent one, with the usual rule being that one can get the visa for 3 years renewable once.
      2) However, while most temporary visas (such as a tourist B-2 visa) require as a condition of issuance that the applicant demonstrate non-immigrant intent, the H1B allows for dual intent (along with a handful of others).
      3) The program is supposed to be for workers in “specialty occupations” which generally means jobs that require a bachelor’s degree or higher.
      4) H1B petitions do not require the employer to show that they couldn’t hire a USC or PR for the position, but they do require the employer to jump through a number of hoops designed to show that issuing the visa will not adversely affect US workers — perhaps most importantly that they will be paying at least the “prevailing wage”.
      5) There is a cap on the number of H1Bs that can be issued in any one year, broken up into one category for everyone generally, and another for those holding master’s degrees or higher from US universities (plus some odds and ends). In recent years these caps have been reached before the beginning of the visa year necessitating a lottery to decide which petitions would be granted.
      6) Several large business process / IT outsourcing companies (pejoratively: body shops) are by far the largest employers of H1B visa holders. Many of these companies are based in or have strong ties to Indians, and Indian nationals are the largest group of H1B visa recipients. These companies are widely accused of a variety of violations of the letter and spirit of the law. The spamming accusation in particular is that they put in many more petitions than even they could use knowing that only some will make it past the lottery (and having the entry fee refunded for those that don’t make it) in order to achieve their target numbers every year.

      • Marc Whipple says:

        I hasten to respond that #4 above is a more accurate representation of the requirements than mine (and not even that much longer, darn it.) The idea is to arrive at an outcome where American workers who will work for a “prevailing wage” are not replaced by H1B workers who will work for the same or less, so it kindasorta collapses to what I said. But to the extent I oversimplifed and thus overspoke, I apologize.

        To the extent that the system does not arrive at that outcome and that that is significantly due to misuse of the system/inadequate enforcement, I maintain my assertion. 🙁

        • brad says:

          It is easy to get confused because the EB-3 (and some EB-2s) visa, which is many ways is the permanent (green card) equivalent, does require that the petitioner show there is a shortage of US workers (labor certification vs labor condition application).

  39. Trevor W says:

    Case where a patient seemed to have Alzheimer’s, was treated with antifungal and improved, and was retroactively rediagnosed with meningitis: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15505372

  40. Anomaly UK says:

    “People talk a lot about restoring monarchy these days, but nobody ever mentions what rule of succession we should use.” — a statement which, as they say, is demonstrably not true (unless “these days” means since I stopped really blogging properly)

    I have talked about it a few times, http://anomalyuk.blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/queens-and-kings.html and http://anomalyuk-realtime.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/notes-ahead-of-discussion-of-elective.html

  41. John Schilling says:

    Regarding optimal hereditary succession, one wrinkle might the the theory that high-risk high-reward genes tend to favor the Y chromosome on the grounds that males have more reproductive potential on the high end. The first king is pretty obviously a superlative individual, on account of he founded a kingdom[*], and you’d like to try and hang on to that. If you’re doing strict hereditary succession that’s obviously risky, but real monarchies tend to have some sort of quality-control mechanism that lets them skip the last king’s firstborn son if he’s an obvious loser. Get that right, and it might be preferable (from a good-government standpoint, if not a fairness standpoint) to favor male heirs.

    The math on that will be tricky, and depend on controversial assumptions.

    [*] I’m drawing a blank, but have any successful monarchies been founded by women?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      The theory that high-risk-high-reward genes would go on the y-chromosome makes some sense, but I thought that the y chromosome was very small, mostly contained genes related to being male, and couldn’t have anything too important since anything on it is absent in half the population. Do you have any evidence there are actually important high-risk-high-reward genes on it?

      • John Schilling says:

        Important for more than sex selection, yes. Also here and here. There’s an evolutionarily stable cluster of non-sex-selection genes on primate Y chromosomes, and to some extent on mamallian Y chromosomes in general. Most of them overlap with X-chromosome genes so there’s nothing that females are completely left out of, but the distribution is different and they’ve steadfastly resisted the trend that all the non-sex stuff migrates to the X chromosome. So presumably these are genes that have a distinct effect on male reproductive viability even if they aren’t necessary to make one male.

        Beyond that, everyone’s crystal ball is murky because the non-sex Y-chromosome genes are mostly the type that regulate the expression of other genes rather than coding for single proteins. Tricky to deconvolve. It’s a plausible theory that they are disproportionately high-risk high-reward stuff, and I know I’ve seen that proposed elsewhere, but far from proven.

        If there’s a monarchist genetics research institute out there, they might want to tackle this one 🙂

      • Douglas Knight says:

        There is a way to test the Y chromosome theory that several people suggest every time it comes up, which is to compare to mammals with Y to birds, which have the opposite sex determination system. Moreover, Nita found a study that does this and concludes that it is the Y chromosome. I don’t believe it.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          Just to make sure I understand this: is it saying that males do have greater variability, but that this is a coincidence and not linked to things like “as the sex that doesn’t get pregnant, males have an evolutionary need for a higher-variance strategy” since there are other species where females have the heterogametishness and greater variability?

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Right, it claims that female birds have larger variance, and thus concludes that sex difference in variance is an accident of the mechanism of sex determination and not the result of selection. (More precisely, that the amount due to selection is smaller than the amount due to the chromosomal mechanism, averaged across species.)

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Is it horribly unethical that now I want to see us uplift parrots to study what kind of sexism sapient birds would have?

          • Loquat says:

            Technically, that would only tell you what kind of sexism sapient parrots would have, and it would be heavily influenced by the reproductive behavior of that specific species of parrot. African Grays, for example, form monogamous breeding pairs where the female incubates the eggs for a month while the male brings her food. I’d expect to see very different forms of sexism among, say, Emperor Penguins (male incubates egg, male and female take turns raising chick and foraging at sea) or among chickens (live in hierarchical flocks but do not form pairs, one rooster may live with multiple hens).

      • Daniel Speyer says:

        Given the general way genes work, it seems very likely that the actual genes are elsewhere and the Y chromosome contains transcription factors or siRNAs that activate them. Since those switches are going to be needed anyway (just to make anatomy work) there’s no selective pressure to put them on the Y chromosome, and individual proteins get reused all over the place.

  42. John Schilling says:

    why are we all so sure that constant front-runner Donald Trump will suddenly crash and burn just before the election for no apparent reason?

    Possibly because it’s normal for the front-runner a year before the election to crash and burn about the time people start actually casting votes.

    November 28, 2011, the republican front runner was Newt Gingrich at 23.8%.

    November 28, 2007, Hillary Clinton had 42.2% to Obama’s 23.0%; Rudy Guliani had 27.8% to McCain’s 12.8%.

    November 2003, Howard Dean had 14% to John Kerry’s 7%.

    November 1999, yes, Gore polled at 58% and Bush at 63%

    November 1995, I can’t find data but interpolating from October and December polls puts Bob Dole and Colin Powell roughly tied at 25%. And Perot had a good deal of support that mostly vanished over the following year as well.

    There’s an interesting discussion to be had for the reasons behind this. But the Vox article barely notices this trend, which makes it barely worth noticing IMO.

    • ShemTealeaf says:

      Newt Gingrich was a narrow front runner for about a month and a half. He was only clearly ahead of Romney for a week or two. He was never ahead of Romney in New Hampshire, and he had the lead in Iowa for less than a month.

      Clinton decidedly did not crash and burn; she lost about as narrowly as you can possibly lose. Furthermore, Obama was not that far behind in late 2007, and he was polling well in Iowa and New Hampshire.

      Giuliani is the closest that I can find to a consistent front runner crashing and burning. As far as I can tell, that was largely due to the fact that, despite leading national polls, he never polled well in Iowa and New Hampshire, and was relying on winning Florida. When he lost those first two states, his polling numbers tanked, both nationally and in Florida, and he never recovered. To be fair, he was already losing ground to Huckabee prior to that, but it was those early losses that moved a bunch of his support to McCain

      Trump has been a front runner for almost five months, most of that time by a fairly large margin. He’s only been briefly challenged by Carson during that time, with none of the ‘establishment’ candidates even coming close. He’s also been a consistent front runner in all the early primary states (Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada), with the brief exception of a challenge by Carson in Iowa. The fact that Trump’s support has been so consistent and also translates to strong support in early primary states seems to indicate that he’s not just a ‘flavor of the week’ and he’s not likely to tank as a result of early losses. When we combine that with the fact that Rubio, the favored establishment candidate, doesn’t have an obvious path to victory and can’t even maintain a consistent second place in his home state, Trump starts to look like a more plausible nominee.

      Of course, if Trump starts actually winning primaries, we might see some shenanigans from the RNC to prevent him from getting the nomination, so it’s hard to be confident in any sort of prediction.

      • stillnotking says:

        I’m skeptical of the GOP establishment’s actual ability to torpedo Trump, at least by doing anything other than they are currently doing, i.e. talking shit about him and having their media mouthpieces do the same. Both parties have become exceedingly democratic in their nomination process, de facto if not de jure; while it might be possible for Republican party elders to force the nomination of an ABT candidate at the convention, against the majority of the elected delegates, the political cost to them would be immense. Redstate would *never* let go of it.

        That said, I’m inclined to think that a lot of Trump’s support is shallow — essentially protest votes — and will evaporate as the GOP base begins to think tactically about beating Clinton.

        • Marc Whipple says:

          Thinking tactically about beating Clinton produces a vote for Trump. None of the other frontrunners has a snowball’s chance in the Sahara of beating her.

          • John Schilling says:

            In head-to-head polling, Trump is the only major GOP candidate who loses to Clinton by a statistically significant margin – 43% to 48%. Everybody else is statistically tied, Trump is the only probably general-election loser in the bunch.

            (Sanders, FWIW, is tied with all plausible GOP candidates except Carson, who has a 48-42 lead over him. Go figure)

            Opinion polls at this early stage have little predictive power, but what evidence do you have to support your opposing claim?

          • Marc Whipple says:

            @ John Schilling: I do not have any evidence, I hasten to admit, in the form of current polling numbers etc.

            I base my opinion on the fact that all the other R candidates will conduct conventional R campaigns, which will enable Hillary to use them for scare tactics while not particularly energizing their bases. She will have better luck getting out her vote with them than they will have getting out theirs with her. Trump would be novel enough that R voters, who are very tired of being lied to (*Pirate Cat voice* “Unlike D voters, who seems to enjoy it.”) might actually turn out in sufficient numbers to win the general election.

          • stillnotking says:

            I think any plausible Republican candidate has an excellent chance of beating Clinton. It’s the GOP’s turn, she’s not a very skilled campaigner (losing the nomination to Obama in ’08 was like the Lakers losing to Duke), she will strongly motivate Republican turnout, and her closet has more skeletons than a level 1 dungeon crawl. The Democrats, many of whom expect to walk this one in, will be in for a nasty surprise next year, IMO.

            The inevitable relentless drumbeat of Whitewater-Benghazi-Emailgate attack ads, no doubt already being produced by various 501(c)(4)s, would finish a better politician than Clinton.

            (Edit: This kinda sounds like gloating; it’s not. Although I am no great fan of Clinton personally, I have voted Democratic in almost every election of my adult life.)

  43. Pku says:

    The chinese soccer article also explains why we would expect to see a gender pay gap in tech: if only 20% of people with programming talent are women, that implies the median for women is left of the median for men, which means that the further right on the bell curve you go, the bigger the difference should be.
    (Of course, in practice this gets confounded as hell in both directions by both affirmative action and personal job preferences like women preferring to work less, which don’t necessarily correlate with talent).

    • andy says:

      If only 20% of people with programming talent are women, I would expect to be 20% of programmers to be women and have the same salary then males.

      Also, slightly off-topic, everytime I hear those startups praise long term crunch and people sleeping under the table five hours before coding again, I see a company that does not reward actual productivity at all. Sleep deprived codes produce crap. In particular, the crunch with 80 hours long week (and no weekends in game companies) is not effective, they get chaotic, error prone and productivity is down. They still do it, because panic, emotions, signaling and because they want to see themselves as heroes no matter how irrational it is.

      How long you spend in work and how much you produce are two different things. I would expect meritocracy to favor higher daily productivity over longer hours. As it is now, companies seem to favor employee who spends a lot of time in work with a lot of it being essentially hanging around over one who produce same or more and fulfills his communication needs out of work.

      While it is mostly result of a world with incomplete information, it makes me doubt that the same people make meritocratic instead of signaling based decisions in other areas – and gender is a signal in many peoples minds.

      • God Damn John Jay says:

        Do you work in game programming?

        If you don’t mind me asking, how did you break in?

        • Eli says:

          If you don’t mind me asking, how did you break in?

          With a lock-pick, through the window.

          • Ben Parry says:

            Perhaps off-topic: A university lecturer once encouraged us to get into the industry “any way possible”. His suggested example involved pretending to be a plumber to get into the building and then bum-rushing a senior person’s office.
            Needless to say, he hadn’t had great success himself.

      • Pku says:

        If we make the assumptions that a) anyone with above some programming level X becomes a programmer, everyone below it doesn’t, b) programming talent is distributed on a bell curve and c) programming talent is what determines salary, then if women are only 20% of all programmers it’s either because the centre of their bell curve is lower or because they have lower variance, and by accelerating decay at the wings of the bell curve you expect that, even conditioning on being >=C, women will be closer to C than men and hence make less money, as in the Chinese soccer explanation. Given these assumptions the math follows, which may be counterintuitive until you sit down and actually do the math.
        In practice, all three of these assumptions are pretty questionable.You can partly get around them by replacing “talent” with an aggregate of other factors (conscientiousness, cs induction when young, etc.) that contribute equally to both likelihood of getting into programming and how much you’ll get paid once you’re in there – once you factor everything in I’d expect the final results to be something bell-curvy, but the math only holds to the degree that the two variables correlate, which may not actually be that high.
        That said (and this is the part where I’m overextrapolating), it does explain why despite the overwhelming pressure on pushing and promoting women in STEM, there isn’t a large pro-women pay gap in STEM, which is what I’d expect (I can think of several other partial explanations, like what you mentioned, but they all have flaws – I suspect the reality is a muddle of all of them).

        • Suppose the reason for fewer women in programming isn’t the distribution of ability but the distribution of preferences and alternative options. Perhaps a lot of women want to be wives and stay at home moms. Perhaps they want something else that most men either don’t want or can’t get.

          Then the result reverses. The better a woman is at programming, the stronger incentive to become a programmer instead of one of her alternatives. So the distribution of programming talents among women programmers will be biased towards the high end, which should result in higher average wages.

          • Tibor says:

            This is really not about programming, but I think it is still related. I know a girl who is a construction engineer. She told me it is unlikely for her as a woman to get very high in her line of work. Not because of discrimination on the side of her bosses, not because women were less talented or interested in doing that job (in fact, for some reasons, in engineering, most female graduates seem to be in construction…I don’t know why).

            The reason is pretty simple – in order to reach the higher positions one has to start low. That, at one point, includes dealing with builders on the construction site and telling them what to do. And your average builder is simply not likely to listen to a woman, or not nearly as much as he is likely to listen to a man. Therefore, women are usually either not put to that position at all or are less successful than their male colleagues through no fault of their own or any kind of discrimination on the part of the company management.

          • SUT says:

            Interesting points. To reiterate: Even in high skill jobs, e.g. programming, it’s the alternatives (or lack thereof) which set the market price for talent.

            This was brought up by Gladwell in Outliers when discussing how jews came to dominate the leveraged buyout industry- the more prestigous jobs (pre-1980’s) simply weren’t available to them.

            Anecdotally, the best programmers I know also seem to lack alternatives in a profession or personal life.

          • Pku says:

            It does if its binary, but not necessarily if, say, “desire to be a stay-at-home mom” is also distributed on a bell curve – you might get a lot of women who almost, but not quite, chose staying home over programming, which might mean they program, but in a way that gives them as much time at home as possible, or program halfheartedly, both of which would put them somewhere inbetween the extremes of stay-at-home mom and professional. In practice I guess there is at least something of a cutoff, but there’s also a lot more than one factor, and a bunch of factors with independentish cutoffish behavior should aggregate to look like a bell curve by the CLT. (There are a couple of ways you can model this, and I’ve assumed that “desire to program” affects job performance and desire to get into the job equally, all of which are only partly true, but it still seems like it should have a minor effect – I think the actual pay difference is something like 4%, which is about what I would expect from this by eyeballing it).

    • Anonymous says:

      My pet theory that I think could explain some of the gender difference in tech is one of culture – but acting the other way than is usually considered, pushing boys into tech who might not otherwise be interested, rather than excluding girls who are interested. Specifically, if more boys than girls are inclined to be nerds, which seems to be true, and if nerds have a tendency to be more comfortable interacting with people through a computer rather than face-to-face in comparison to non-nerds, which also seems true, then more boys than girls will end up spending a lot of time using computers in their spare time. And if spending a lot of time using computers sometimes sparks an interest in learning more about computers, as seems entirely plausible, then computer science and similar courses will tend to skew male – to a greater extent than they perhaps already would due to other factors: anti-female bias, ability, innate preferences, or whatever.

      Thinking about the crossover between what people study in college and what they are passionate about, it seems to me that a far greater proportion of computer science students are passionate about computers than, say, biology students are passionate about biology, or math students are passionate about math. Technology is a hobby in a way that most other academic subjects aren’t.

      • Pku says:

        Biology or History I agree, but math students generally seem pretty obsessed with math (at least where I went) – it’s a really hard major without the corresponding expected job opportunities, so only the really passionate people go there. (OTOH, we had a famously difficult math major, this may be different in places where you can major in math without having to do the really hard courses).

        • Tibor says:

          I would say that math majors actually have one of the best job opportunities (measured by unemployment and wages), pretty much on par with programmers. Most math majors (who don’t stay in the academia) end up working for banks, insurance companies or consultation firms, doing probability and/or statistics…this includes people who study algebra. What these companies look for are people who can learn things fast and come up with original solutions and the particular major is not that important. It is still advantageous to pick something related to statistics/numerics/probability/cryptography over something “esoteric” such as abstract algebra if you plan to work in the private sector, but it does not make that much of a difference.

  44. Howie says:

    Hi Scott,

    What’s the most convincing evidence you’ve seen that FC is pseudoscience? Do you know if there’s a review or metaanalysis anywhere? I’m following a lot of the links from the Slate story but it’s taking same time because none of them is clearly identified as the knock down argument.

    I don’t have a strong take one way or another but I read a memoir by a parent of an autistic kid a while back (http://www.ralphsavarese.com/reasonable-people/about-fc/) that claimed that there were some problems with the studies discrediting FC and gave some anecdotes that naively seemed pretty compelling.

    Thanks!
    Howie

    • Howie says:

      I haven’t had a chance to read it yet but the article that Slate refers to as “A comprehensive 2014 article confirm[ing[ that little new evidence has emerged to support FC even as more has stacked up against it” is titled “The persistence of fad interventions in the face of negative scientific evidence: Facilitated communication for autism as a case example” and isn’t in a journal I know so it’s hard to vet at a glance.

    • Howie says:

      For anybody interested, so far the most prominent recent cites arguing that FC is pseudoscience seems to be:

      *Schlosser RW1, Balandin S, Hemsley B, Iacono T, Probst P, von Tetzchner S. “Facilitated communication and authorship: a systematic review.” Augment Altern Commun. 2014 Dec;30(4):359-68. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25384895

      *Articles in this special issue on FC in Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities. http://rps.sagepub.com/content/39/3.toc

    • Howie says:

      This looks like a prototypical example of the pro-FC view. http://rps.sagepub.com/content/39/3/189.full.pdf+html

    • lunatic says:

      Edit: this is responding to your top level comment and the first reply, all references to links are to those two.

      Couple of thoughts from someone disinclined to believe that FC does what its proponents claim. First, and most importantly, given the soaring prose that FC users are so commonly quoted as having produced, they should easily be able to pass simple authorship tests. The fact that they mostly do not suggests that something pretty fishy is going on. Stress and nerves could cost you a few points on a big exam, but they’re not going to take you from college level writing ability to being completely incommunicative. Perhaps autistic people experience acutely disabling stress in conditions similar to those found in a controlled experiment (though not in other typically stressful environments like public speech), but I consider it unlikely.

      Also, the fact that these failures happen in the majority of cases tested (at least, according to “The Persistence…” article you linked, as well as this one by Stubblefield http://dsq-sds.org/article/view/1729/1777) contradicts the claim that this is just “a few bad eggs” practising the technique badly.

      Second, I have seen many teachers employ many forms of facilitation and creative interpretation to inflate the apparent capabilities of students who in reality have very little ability to speak, read or write in English; in fact, I would say it is the norm rather than the exception. Thus I have no problem believing that this is a thing people do.

      Third, and this holds no water in a serious argument, but I find many of the publicised writings of FC users somewhat suspect The mental model that informs FC practice appears to be something like “these are people with rich intellectual internal universes that they cannot communicate due to lack of control over their bodies”, while the writings produced by FC users very often have themes of “FC has freed me from my internal prison.”

      Finally, I don’t find very much compelling in the article you link. Some hints about things that might be compelling, sure, but given quite a lot of evidence indicating that FC (usually) does not to involve the user communicating, along with the astonishingly radical results being claimed, vague hints don’t cut the mustard.

      • Howie says:

        Thanks! I should’ve been clearer that I read the Savarese book about five years ago so wouldn’t be at all surprised if I was misinterpreting it. I’m still figuring out what my view is after reading some of the evidence but, fwiw, the article I linked to at 9:09 is more substantive than the Savarese link. Linking to that one again here: http://rps.sagepub.com/content/39/3/189.full.pdf+html

        • lunatic says:

          If you’re still checking, would you mind pointing out what you found compelling about that article? I didn’t find it so, but maybe I read it too quickly.

  45. Linch says:

    “Scott Sumner has a new book out, The Midas Paradox, which despite having a perfect title for an airport thriller in fact is about how issues with the gold market help explain the Great Depression.”–wait, isn’t it common knowledge that fiat currency stabilizes business cycle variation? I mean, “business cycles” are synonymous with “black magic” to most economists, but I thought that the mercantilist “race to the bottom”during the Depression-era was one of the relatively few things we’re pretty sure about.

    • Cliff says:

      “isn’t it common knowledge that fiat currency stabilizes business cycle variation?”
      How does that have anything to do with the Great Depression, which occurred without fiat currency? Isn’t what you are saying completely consistent with Sumner?

      ““business cycles” are synonymous with “black magic” to most economists”
      Wherever did you get that idea?

      “I thought that the mercantilist “race to the bottom”during the Depression-era was one of the relatively few things we’re pretty sure about.”
      Again what does this have to do with Sumner?

      • Linch says:

        “How does that have anything to do with the Great Depression, which occurred without fiat currency?” If X stabilizes Y, then not X means Y has more variation, all else being equal.

        “Isn’t what you are saying completely consistent with Sumner?” Yes?

        “Wherever did you get that idea?” Took a class on business cycles, helped my professor research a book on it. Macroeconomic theory gets updated after every single recession, so…

        “Again what does this have to do with Sumner?” I’m saying that Sumner’s writing is pretty standard and mainstream in the canon, not revolutionary and surprising like Scott suggested.

    • sourcreamus says:

      Sumner is not saying that the Great Depression was a larger than average business cycle, but that monetary policy 95% created the Great Depression.
      I am not sure what you mean by “mercantilist race to the bottom” means but Sumner is positing a theory of monetary causation and a mechanism for that causation.

  46. GCBill says:

    I was expecting the Pokémon vs. Big Data quiz to be challenging, but I scored 100%. Meh.

  47. Sniffnoy says:

    The Reddit link about the Czechoslovakians doesn’t actualy work; it uses an anchor for the comment rather than an actual link to the comment. The link you meant to post is this one.

    That said, it seems the comment you really mean to highlight is the reply to that comment, not the one you linked to. If you want to link to a particular comment, but also need to show ones above it, that’s what Reddit’s context option is for, like so. Here I’ve linked to Georgy_K_Zhukov’s long comment, but I’ve added “?context=2” to the URL, so it also shows the 2 comments above it.

  48. Luke Muehlhauser says:

    I did hilariously badly on ‘Big Data or Pokemon’ — I think close to chance.

    • Zykrom says:

      I got 53%, but I can at least tell myself that the Big Data founders might have been trying to make their companies sound like pokemon on purpose.

  49. Sniffnoy says:

    Also the Bryan Caplan link regarding his model is accidentally a duplicate of the Garrett Jones tweet link. I don’t know what the link was supposed to be.

    Edit: I’m guessing it was supposed to be this?

  50. Kevin says:

    A few links to add:

    The Doomsday Invention

    Nominally a profile of Nick Bostrom; actually a thorough and (surprisingly) balanced overview of the idea of artificial intelligence as existential risk.

    The program was by no means superintelligent. But Bostrom’s book essentially asks: What if it were? Assume that it has a broad ability to consider problems and that it has access to the Internet. It could read and acquire general knowledge and communicate with people seamlessly online. It could conduct experiments, either virtually or by tinkering with networked infrastructure. Given even the most benign objective—to win a game—such a system, Bostrom argues, might develop “instrumental goals”: gather resources, or invent technology, or take steps to insure that it cannot be turned off, in the process paying as much heed to human life as humans do to ants.

    The Gene Hackers

    Truly incredible progress is being made with CRISPR.

    We entered a small exam room with a commanding view of Cambridge. I watched as a technician placed a Cas9 mouse in a harness inside a biological safety cabinet. Then, peering through a Leica microscope, she used a fine capillary needle to inject a single cell into the mouse’s tail.

    “And now we have our model,” Platt said, explaining that the mouse had just received an injection that carried three probes, each of which was programmed to carry a mutation that scientists believe is associated with lung cancer. “The cells will carry as many mutations as we want to study. That really is a revolutionary development.”

    “In the past, this would have taken the field a decade, and would have required a consortium,” Platt said. “With CRISPR, it took me four months to do it by myself.” In September, Zhang published a report, in the journal Cell, describing yet another CRISPR protein, called Cpf1, that is smaller and easier to program than Cas9.

    • Doctor Mist says:

      An interesting bit from the article on Bostrom:

      “In fairy tales, you have genies who grant wishes,” Bostrom said. “Almost universally, the moral of those is that if you are not extremely careful what you wish for, then what seems like it should be a great blessing turns out to be a curse.”

      That there is this bit of folk wisdom is, of course, not an adequate reason to be worried about superintelligence. But it spurred me to wonder: Where does that bit of folk wisdom come from? It’s not like we ever actually encountered wish-granting genies. Why does this story strike such a chord? What is the real-world danger that it is trying to teach us to avoid?

      • Nornagest says:

        The genie twist strikes me as a pretty conventional literary quibble, which are very common and don’t occur exclusively in the context of wishes; they also show up a lot in stories about prophecies and oracles (where you’re not dealing with an agent, but rather with a semi-personified or unpersonified Fate), or even about dealings between agents of roughly equal power.

        About half the time (including most of the genie stories), it seems to be meant as lesson on hubris, as when Macbeth learns he won’t lose his crown until Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane. The rest of the time, it’s usually a device meant to impress us with the character’s cleverness, as in the episode where Loki bets his head against some uppity dwarves, loses, and then points out that the deal didn’t include any part of his neck.

        • Doctor Mist says:

          That’s not bad. The attraction of the quibble sounds like it falls out almost directly as an aspect of problem-solving, so that’s fine. The warning against hubris raises the question “What’s wrong with hubris?” but I guess the answer is that it’s pro-survival to be modest in your goals rather than bet everything on boxcars. Tales that highlight a character’s cleverness in outthinking the genie aren’t the sort of tale I’m thinking of.

          I still feel like there’s some part of the story I’m missing, though. The danger of a genie isn’t always that he finds a way to misconstrue you; sometimes it’s that getting what you want isn’t actually net good. But what use is that lesson? Does it just reconcile you to not always getting what you want?

          • Troy says:

            The danger of a genie isn’t always that he finds a way to misconstrue you; sometimes it’s that getting what you want isn’t actually net good. But what use is that lesson? Does it just reconcile you to not always getting what you want?

            The lesson is that we are often wrong about the things that will make us happy. See also the Paradox of hedonism: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradox_of_hedonism

          • Nornagest says:

            “What’s wrong with hubris?” […] is that it’s pro-survival to be modest in your goals rather than bet everything on boxcars.

            Also that you’ll probably end up dealing with agents who’re smarter or more experienced or have a lot more eyes on the problem than you at some point, and it behooves you to be cautious in your dealings with them. You can cheat an honest man, but it’s harder.

      • John Schilling says:

        This is one of the issues I noted when reading the Thousand and One Night’s Tale (Burton Translation). In the original, or as close as a translation can get, the djinn generally play things straight.

        They do tend to be powerful, malevolent and dangerous. Releasing one from a bottle is as likely to get you killed on account of he’s been nursing a grudge against all humanity for locking him in a bottle for three thousand years, as to earn you any wishes. For that matter, the tale only happens because the first genie we meet is complicit in the unprovoked rape of Shahryar and his brother.

        But if they do make bargains or offer wishes, they tend to honor them with non-capricious literalism. When, for example, Aladdin asks to be “placed on the surface of the Earth”, he finds himself right outside the cave in which he was entombed, not stuck in a desert thousands of miles away, and he receives generally good service from both the ring and lamp. If you find that your sudden genie-granted wealth comes with a wealth of scheming new enemies, it’s because that’s what naturally happens when you show up with great wealth and no apparent power to safeguard it, not because the genie stirred them up against you.

        So, yeah, where did that bit come from? I don’t think it’s in the Koran, though it might be in the Hadith. AFIK most of the secular genie tales came through the 1k+1NT at some point, and Burton is regarded as a faithful translator. Did he miss something, or did I, or is this a subsequent Western addition or did it come via a completely different path?

        • ” For that matter, the tale only happens because the first genie we meet is complicit in the unprovoked rape of Shahryar and his brother.”???

          The first Djinn we encounter in the story is carrying a woman in a series of containers when he comes to land. He lets her out, goes to sleep with his head on her lap. She spots Shayryar and Shah Zaman up in a tree and insists on their making love to her. I suppose you could say she is raping them, since she threatens to rouse the Djinn against them if they don’t cooperate, but the Djinn isn’t complicit–he’s asleep, and she is being unfaithful to him.

          I can’t figure out what you are referring to.

      • Jiro says:

        Why does this story strike such a chord? What is the real-world danger that it is trying to teach us to avoid?

        It’s not about real-world dangers, it’s sour grapes. Because wish-granting genies don’t exist in real life, stories about how bad genies are are sort of like stories about how bad immortality is–people want to convince themselves that something they can’t have is really a bad thing.

  51. luca turin says:

    SO TRUE (and I am a neuroscientist).

    “Every time neuroscientists are asked to explain something they flip a coin, and if it lands heads they say “this increases connections between brain regions” and if it lands tails they say “this decreases connections between brain regions”.”

  52. Jiro says:

    The statistics behind why Antigua & Barbuda (population 90,000) can have a better soccer team than China (population 1.3 billion), and how this applies to other measures of national differences and success.

    On the other hand, if you look at Miss America winners, you’ll find that they tend to be from the most populous states. If you apply the same theory, then “state affinity for Miss America pageants” must be *extremely* uniform–more uniform than seems realistic.

    • If, in analogy to the soccer argument, the reason only 20% of the people with programming talent are women is that the distribution of talent has a lower mean for women than for men, and if the shape of the distribution is the same for both, then many fewer than 20% of the very good programmers will be women, in which case you would expect the average wage of female programmers to be lower than that of male.

    • Miss America winners are analogous to tennis champions, not soccer teams–it’s an individual competition.

    • Devilbunny says:

      Larger states have larger organizations sponsoring their candidates, and so are able to groom contestants over a period of years. They provide cosmetic surgery, personal trainers, talent coaches, living funds, etc., enabling their preferred contestants to be much more successful than naturally attractive young women who happen to dress up a few weekends a year and have some singing ability.

      • Jiro says:

        Yes, and I’m comparing them with soccer, and larger countries have equivalents of those things for soccer as well.

  53. Re fake facts: Buchanan web site is reminiscent of H.L. Mencken’s fake first-bathtub-in-the-White House hoax: http://hoaxes.org/archive/permalink/the_history_of_the_bathtub

  54. Tom Scharf says:

    “Despite their growing demographic disadvantage, Republicans are likely to maintain Congressional and state-level power in the US for the next few decades”

    I think the “demographics is destiny” argument is becoming dogmatic. Can the left actually continue to successfully herd all its cats over the long term? I don’t think it will be that hard to peel off certain demographics if the left becomes overtly hostile to Israel (mentioned in this post) or they continue to assume Asians will ignore being actively discriminated against as examples of the internal conflicts they face going forward. Our party is going to out breed your party seems like a silly theory to hang your hat on.

    As minorities become more integrated and successful, are they more likely to switch parties? I have not thought of this in depth but will only state that many voters vote for their pocketbook instead of voting with people who happen to share their physical characteristics.

    The left would be unwise to assume that the right will maintain a static platform if it became noncompetitive. Both parties are after power more than anything after all. It seems more likely that a near balance of power will continue to exist and the parties will morph their platform to suit their interests.

    If the right happened to win the next presidential election (an increasingly unlikely event as far as I can tell lately…) the political power map is a complete utter disaster for the left. Long term predictions are foolhardy in politics I think, see 2008. Personally I prefer gridlock, less damage is done that way.

    • stillnotking says:

      America’s extreme version of a two-party system seems to have a high degree of stability, at least enough to prevent one party’s long-term domination of national politics (excepting truly catastrophic events like the Civil War). I agree this probably has a lot to do with the credibility of defection threats acting to keep the parties’ platforms in dynamic equilibrium.

      Anecdotally, for as long as I can remember, doomsayers on both sides have been issuing dire warnings of the other guys’ imminent takeover; one cannot help but be suspicious of their biases and their motives. I knew conservatives in the early ’90s who were legitimately convinced the Democrats were building re-education camps.

  55. Alex says:

    Real jetpacks. So the movie Kick-Ass did not sell out on realism with that detail after all.

  56. Alex says:

    On Hive Mind, Noah Smith has a post that has made a very casual observer of this debate, or me, yawn at this whole national IQ thing. Also, I don’t get the point of Robin Hanson saying he’s “mildly” less in favor of open borders now. What are we supposed to take away from that? What was his position to begin with?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      See my comment on Noah’s post. Also, we would expect nations to matter more than states since states have low control over their own governance and institutions.

      • Vaniver says:

        Also note that Noah edited his post in response to your comment, in what looks to me like agreement with your point.

        I’m not sure he’s doing the margin correctly, though–there are restriction of range issues when comparing US states (they range from 94 to 104) and so increasing Ohio’s average IQ by 18 points would move it from 102 to 120, at which point linear extrapolation seems ludicrous. That’s a shift of almost twice the sample range!

  57. Lei says:

    Your comments on the neurodiversity movement (which coincidentally goes far beyond solely the work of ASAN to encompass many other activists, organizations and individuals) are a HUGE misrepresentation of what those of us who embrace the neurodiversity paradigm actually believe. First of all intelligence has no bearing on whether or not individuals deserve dignity, respect and their full and complete civil rights. Technically, I have a very low IQ and I need a lot of help and support. My intelligence has absolutely no bearing on the fact that I deserve the same rights as anyone else. Intelligence is a social construct and most neurodiversity activists do not value intelligence as some sort of magical ticket to being worthy of dignity.

    Secondly, most neurodiversity activists believe in a thing called interdependence. None of us, disabled or not, Autistic or not live a completely independent life. We all need support. The fact that I might need MORE support does not mean that my life is not worth living. It does not mean that my life has less value. All forms of diversity are vital to the human race and this includes neurodiversity. Quit trying to make disabled people “prove” their worth based on your standards of what is normal, what is good and what you think matters.

    Lastly, FC is a completely valid form of communication. Many FC users can eventually be independent typers. Many Autistic FC users have various and complex needs that include living in a body that does not always cooperate with our brains. FC is SUPPORT. It helps to FACILITATE and if you can tell an Autistic person what to say from your mind rays transferred from a hand on the shoulder or supporting an elbow, then you are some sort of magical being/telepathic alien/X-Men. Because supporting someone while they type is not speaking for them. It is allowing them to speak for themselves by facilitating and accommodating them. How much time have you spent with actual FC users before completely dismissing them?

    And nowhere in my entire life as an Autistic person or in any of my experience as a neurodiversity activist has anyone ever said that FC is the only support people need to live interdependently, to be valuable or to “prove” anything about their worth as humans. It is a tool that is invaluable for many who have long been denied their voice. Please presume competence from Disabled people.

    • Marc Whipple says:

      The primary concern doesn’t seem to be that the facilitators are feeding lines to the communicators, it seems to be that in extreme cases they are just making shit up when they allege that the communicator issued a particular communication. “Steadying someone’s hand” while they type is one thing. The part of FC which is controversial is somewhat more involved.

      If you’re familiar with Huckleberry Finn, I might analogize to the way that the Lost Dauphin “interpreted” the nonsense sounds made by the Duke of Bilgewater, who was impersonating someone with severe communication problems. This included, rather hilariously, his putting words in the Duke’s mouth which were actively contrary to what the Duke actually wanted him to say, to the Duke’s extreme frustration. It wouldn’t be so hilarious, though it would be far more frustrating, if that were occurring in real life.

    • Scott’s whole point is that FC cannot be presumed to work. The people who have looked into it were not impressed with what they found, so they warned the world, and Scott shared their warning. You have failed to acknowledge the problems that they pointed out. You merely declare that “FC is a completely valid form of communication” without providing any evidence, and you righteously declare that “intelligence has no bearing on whether or not individuals deserve dignity, respect and their full and complete civil rights” even though Scott NEVER argued otherwise!

      Do you have anything productive to bring to this discussion?

    • Nil says:

      Some mixed thoughts here:

      I’m not sure Scott having doubts about ASAN (and stronger doubts about the forms of FC described in his links) means that he thinks intelligence has a bearing on “whether or not individuals deserve dignity, respect and their full and complete civil rights”.

      At the most extreme, his doubts are very correct, and supposedly nonverbal autistic people do not prove to be intelligence and self-reliant. …Who cares, they are still people. (This is why the schelling point of “is a human, therefore human rights” is important.)

      More likely, not all supposedly nonverbal autistic people can become intelligence and self-reliant, and so, for a minority, a cure might be useful (so long, as always, the drawbacks do not outweigh the benefits).

      On the topic of Facilitated Communication:

      It seems to me from the links provided that Scott is working from a very narrow view of FC – more of a “hand guiding your hand to press keys” or “showing likely word choices” that are a very easy recipe for abuse. This is much narrower than “supporting your elbow”, or what is described here:

      “FC, or supported typing, is a form of augmentative or alternative communication (AAC), in which people with communication challenges or limitations point to or type their messages. FC involves both a person who needs support or facilitation to communicate and a communication partner. The communication partner provides support in a variety of ways. The communication partner might provide emotional support to encourage communication or might help the person to focus on the keyboard, array of pictures, letters, or words throughout the communicative interaction. Communication partners also might provide physical support to stabilize the person’s movement, inhibit impulsive typing, or to encourage the initiation of typing or pointing. When providing physical support, the facilitator should never lead the person to type or point.” – http://rps.sagepub.com/content/39/3/189.full.pdf+html (Thanks Howie)

      Assuming a narrow definition of FC, it does seem extremely susceptible to abuse – dangerously so, in fact. I would distrust anything written by a single occasion of FC that is not replicated by another FC helper who is completely isolated from the situation in question.

      Assuming a wide definition of FC, it seems… obviously very helpful? Getting help is helpful. Some narrower areas might be susceptible to abuse, but that becomes a question of abuse, not a question of FC in general.

      With that distinction in mind, it would appear that how Scott should feel about ASAN and neurodiversity is partly dependent on what ASAN means by supporting FC. If they mean “if you have someone guessing what words people want to express, all people can be demonstrably intelligent and become self-reliant”, that is very different than, “With encouragement, stabilization, and help focusing, all people can be demonstrably intelligent and become self-reliant.”

      Ah, if only ASAN has plenty of easily accessible spokespeople to clarify their positions… oh wait they do.

      Hey Scott, go talk to ASAN directly.

      (And again, it should be emphasized that being “demonstrably intelligent and become self-reliant” is not a requirement for being human or having human rights, just a variable relevant for the potential utility (or lack of utility) of a cure.)

      • Douglas Knight says:

        There are examples of FC in the form of supporting an elbow that has had pretty damning test results. As Scott said, think Ouija Board.

      • lunatic says:

        As I understand it, FC is not (usually?) subject to the obvious abuse of consciously steering the user’s hand around the keyboard. The suggestion is that on the part of facilitators it is a largely unconscious ideomotor effect, and that through training facilitators and users become very adept at communicating correct motions through subtle gestures (think clever hans, the mathematical horse). This is how many facilitators can be quite convinced that what they are producing is genuine communication.

        Without evidence supporting it, the above certainly appears to me to be a speculative proposition. Well designed studies are quite conclusive on who is the author of messages produced by FC, however (it is the facilitator).

        Regarding learning to self-type, none of the pro-FC linked articles make a compelling case that FC users learn to type with higher probability or in less time than similar non-FC users. Some of the contra articles mention that self-typists usually appear to type in a very different register when typing independently than when facilitated – independent typing is usually about immediate needs (hungry), while FC is often the far more intellectual “free the imprisoned” type stuff.

        • Murphy says:

          What I don’t understand is why there is controversy over this.

          It’s like people claiming wifi gives them headaches.

          This should be trivial to test even at the individual level.

          *Camera rolling*

          *facilitator leaves room*

          *investigator enters*

          *subject is shown some piece of information which the facilitator does not have*

          *investigator leaves*

          *facilitator facilitates communication from subject about the piece of information*

          Repeat a few times to account for being correct by chance.

          If they cannot communicate that there was a dog in the room or that they were shown the colour green or that the music to “I feel like chicken tonight” was played etc etc then it’s pretty open and shut that communication is not being facilitated.

          Should not a trivial test like this solve 99% of the argument in most cases?

        • Murphy says:

          What I don’t understand is why there is controversy over this?

          It’s like people claiming wifi gives them headaches.

          This should be trivial to test even at the individual level.

          Camera rolling

          facilitator leaves room

          Investigator enters

          subject is shown some piece of information which the facilitator does not have

          Investigator leaves

          facilitator facilitates communication from subject about the piece of information

          Repeat a few times to account for being correct by chance.

          If they cannot communicate that there was a dog in the room or that they were shown the colour green or that the music to “I feel like chicken tonight” was played etc etc then it’s pretty open and shut that communication is not being facilitated.

          Should not a trivial test like this solve 99% of the argument in most cases?

        • Murph says:

          I don’t get whey there needs to be controversy around this. Why not simply test it?

          This is like people who claim wifi gives them headaches. For gods sake, just blind it and test it.

          To verify whether any facilitated communication is happening at all:

          You need a subject, experimenter, facilitator and a camera.

          Step 1: Camera rolling

          Step 2: Facilitator leaves room.

          Step 3: Experimenter enters room.

          Step 4: Subject is given some piece of information, shown the color green, shown a dog, played some particular type of music. Whatever.

          Step 5: Experimenter leaves room.

          Step 6: Facilitator enters room.

          Step 7: Facilitator facilitates communication to describe what the Subject saw, heard, sensed, was told or experienced.

          Repeat a few times to verify accuracy.

          Assuming the above is positive then move on to the next test.

          To verify whether the Subject is frustrated with the facilitator for sometimes ignoring their wishes and fabricating messages.

          Subject is given 2 words or pieces of information, for example dog for yes, cat for no with the facilitator absent so they don’t know which is which.

          Subject is asked a question like “does the this lovely facilitator make up answers from you sometimes” and asked to answer either cat or dog.

          Repeat a few times to verify.

          How is this controversial? Just do the test. No more controversy.

          Should not a trivial test like this solve 99% of the argument in most cases?
          A test that could be done with minimal resources, prep or training.

          You either get noise or coherent answers. Problem solved.

          Total cost: Obtaining a camera for a few hours and 3 peoples time for a few hours.

          • Carl Shulman says:

            @Murphy

            “How is this controversial? Just do the test. No more controversy.

            Should not a trivial test like this solve 99% of the argument in most cases?
            A test that could be done with minimal resources, prep or training.

            You either get noise or coherent answers. Problem solved.”

            That kind of blinded ‘message passing’ test has been done many times. Facilitated communication fails such tests, which is why assisted communication and psychology professional bodies reject it.

            FC advocates claim that people who can supposedly write lengthy essays, exams, and speeches invariably wilt under the pressure of blinded testing so that they can’t pass simple messages, and that such testing is unethical (violating a principle of believing people are capable of communication regardless of the evidence).

            You could say the same thing about dowsing, but the complete failure of dowsers under objective testing conditions hasn’t convinced dowsers to give up. Even the dowsers who tried out for the Randi Prize (uniformly failing profoundly) still remained convinced dowsing was real and they ‘had a bad day.’

          • Carl Shulman says:

            See in the Frontline documentary, starting at 26:00.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CzCGux7qD1c

          • Murphy says:

            Right, I posted a comment asking why they don’t simply do the trivial test to prove that it works. one person replied insisting that it was all far far too complex then they deleted my comment after one of the facilitators turned up and acted insulted at the very idea of testing anything.

            Seems one of the facilitators for ASAN is getting nervous that people will figure out they’re putting words in someone elses mouth and making up the messages.

  58. onyomi says:

    Anecdata, I know, but I started to feel Trump had a non-trivial chance of becoming the nominee when I heard the following story from a friend:

    Standing in line at the grocery, man says to me, “so, do you think he can do it?” “Do what?” “be president–Trump, I mean.” “Oh, hmm, I don’t know.” “I think he can do it.”

    Reminds me of one of those “I knew it was time to get out when my taxi driver started asking me for stock tips” moments: like, if you get to the point where “Joe Sixpack” can say “do you think he can do it,” seemingly without needing to specify “Trump” and “win the presidency,” it seems to indicate that the idea of him winning the presidency has permeated the public consciousness to a significant degree. And when it comes to elections, which are basically popularity contests… self-fulfilling prophecy, wanting to be part of a winning team, etc.

    • Your “wanting to be part of the winning team” observation is especially disturbing, since “being a winner” is Trump’s shtick, and he’s good at it.

      I’m most worried about a major economic downturn or terrorist attack happening between now and November. Either one would be a huge boost for Trump, and both are rather likely. Trump works hard to appeal to the angry populist vote, and that voting bloc is gaining strength.

    • nonymous says:

      Thank you. This is the second-hand tale of a fleeting comment by a passing stranger I’ve been waiting for.

  59. Rose says:

    Climate and Human Civilization over the last 18,000 years, updated
    By Andy May
    A link I think you’ll find engrossing.
    http://andymaypetrophysicist.com

    This is an updated timeline of climatic events and human history for the last 18,000 years. The original timeline was posted in 2013. The updated full size (Ansi E size or 34×44 inches) Adobe Reader version 8 PDF can be downloaded here or by clicking on Figure 1. It prints pretty well on 11×17 inch paper and very well on 17×22 inch paper or larger. To see the timeline in full resolution or to print it, you must download it. It is not copyrighted, but please acknowledge the author if you use it.

  60. ilkarnal says:

    I would think if it were straight-out caused by fungus, someone would have noticed that people treated with antifungals had their Alzheimers go away / stop progressing.

    Do most antifungals easily cross the blood-brain barrier? I thought brain infections were generally really difficult to deal with because of it.

    • Deiseach says:

      Are people with Alzheimers commonly treated with antifungals? I would think it would require the particular combination of “patient exhibits symptoms of Alzheimers” + “patient is given antifungals for some reason” + “patient’s symptoms of both fungal infection and Alzheimers improved”, which can’t be very common.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Some do. I think fluconazole does.

  61. Murphy says:

    Ok, this has happened before but some of my posts appear to be getting black-holed.

    When I tried to reply to this
    http://slatestarcodex.com/2015/11/28/links-1115-linksgiving/#comment-272309

    I got redirected to this link
    http://slatestarcodex.com/2015/11/28/links-1115-linksgiving/#comment-272329

    But no post appeared.

    This has happened in other SSC threads. Any ideas?

  62. Murphy says:

    Ok, I have no idea why but some of my posts appear to be silently failing to appear. Just under some threads.

  63. Murph says:

    Ok, I have no idea why but some of my posts appear to be silently failing to appear. Just under some threads.

    Even this post wouldn’t appear under the name “Murphy” (this is my third attempt to post this question)

    Technical glitch or some weird unannounced shadowban?

    • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

      >or some weird unannounced shadowban?
      Come on, we can’t possibly have gone that far deep into Reign of Terror mode.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’ve encountered the same issue. Simply changing name/email works.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Whenever this happens, it’s always because you posted a comment with lots of links, the spam filter thought it was spam, and then it classified you as a spammer forevermore. I’ve informed it that you aren’t and you should be able to post as usual now. If it happens again in the future, changing username and login usually works.

      • Murph says:

        Hmm. I’m guessing the paddypower link is likely to have got me weighted into the spam category being a link to a gambling/gaming website.

  64. Urstoff says:

    The far left already hates Israel: http://chronicle.com/blogs/ticker/anthropology-association-moves-forward-on-boycott-of-israeli-academic-institutions/106864

    It’s just a matter of how much of that filters down into mainstream Democrats.

  65. Zykrom says:

    Thought experiment: imagine you can give a poll to all US citizens above the age of 16. The poll must be multiple choice and have 2-4 options.

    What question could you ask to get the strongest possible consensus? Apparently “does the earth go around the sun” only gets like a 20/80 spit or something, can you do better than that?

    • stillnotking says:

      “Are you a better than average person?”

      • Troy says:

        Yes, tapping into self-serving bias is a good bet. According to David Myers’ Social Psychology, in a College Entrance Examination Board survey of 829,000 high school seniors, 0% rated themselves below average in “ability to get along with others”; and 60% rated themselves as in the top 10%

    • Jiro says:

      Every question will get a certain number of trolls just waiting to mess up your poll results, leading to a minimum. Aside from that, something like “are you human” would do, or maybe “have you watched television in the past year” (which is probably less likely to get trolls because lying about it is less amusing; and if you’re not asking Amish, the genuine ‘no’s will be very few.)

      • Nornagest says:

        Negative. I am a meat popsicle.

        I don’t think the TV question would work, though. Just about everyone has watched at least a little TV, but the question might be parsed as “have you used a dedicated TV appliance” (which would miss the Netflix crowd) or “have you followed a TV show” (which would miss a lot of casual viewers).

    • John Schilling says:

      The nations of the Earth are ruled by

      A – human beings
      B – lizards
      C – hippopotami

      This should get you about 95% consensus. The remaining 5% is what Scott calls the “lizardman constant”, the fraction of respondents to any poll who will misunderstand or screw with the pollster.

    • brad says:

      In a Gallup survey 89% of adult Americans answered that married men or women having affairs is morally wrong, 8% that it is morally acceptable and 1% each for depends on situation (not given as an option) and no opinion. Just browsing around I couldn’t find anything higher than that for all US adults.

      However from Pew I saw a report that 98% of Jewish Israelis had an unfavorable opinion of ISIS, 2% answered didn’t know, and 0% had a favorable view. For Arab Israelis (i.e. not including the territories) it was 91/4/5 for a total weighted unfavorable rate of 97%.

    • Troy says:

      “Are blacks genetically inferior to whites?: Yes or No?”

      You’ll probably get a 5/95 split or so.

  66. Russ R. says:

    Re: the “damning one-image rebuttal” sugar chart.

    There’s nothing damning about the chart at all. It shows that average daily sugar intake in Americans has declined from ~110g to ~95g.

    According to the WHO, recommended daily sugar intake should be no more than 50g (10% of calories) http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2015/sugar-guideline/en/

    So now that Americans have reduced their sugar intake from ~2.2x to ~1.9x the recommended upper limit, why would anyone expect obesity rates to decline?

    • Urstoff says:

      Why would sugar intake relate to the increase of the obesity rate rather than the absolute value of the rate itself?

  67. magicman says:

    Scot and anyone else.
    i thought you might be interested in this new paper. Meta analysis of studies on the mediation of heritability by social class in various countries by Timothy Bates & Eliot Tucker-Drob. The study finds an effect in the US but not Australia, UK, Netherlands etc. I had a brief look at the paper and it seems pretty good stats wise. Apologies if anyone else has already posted this

    Important new meta-analysis! Social class affects heritability of IQ, *but* only in the US:
    https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B3c4TxciNeJZUE9kQ2NMSnBmVGs/view?usp=sharing

  68. onyomi says:

    http://lithub.com/are-we-different-people-in-different-languages/

    Enjoyed this a lot; one thing it didn’t go into quite as much, though, is my sense that certain mental habits are encoded into different languages because of their different histories: Japanese and Korean, for example, include far more subtle gradations for the indication of status, respect, humility, etc. than any other languages I know, and I find that even I am forced to pay more attention to such dynamics when speaking them.

    But the hardest part to understand is that you speaking your native language is not the “real” you any more than you speaking another language, as you’ve inherited whatever biases in thought that particular language predisposes you to (having one word for blue and green, for example).

    • Pku says:

      I know what you mean – I grew up bilingual, and every time I switch language after using the other exclusively for a while it feels like I’m finally returning to the real me. (I also tend to be way more cautious and polite in english, because it brings out my canadian side).

  69. Sean McCarthy says:

    I think the piece about hereditary correlation is measuring the wrong thing. The premise is that the starting monarch has good genes which you prefer over the genes of their spouse. But then in the next generation, they forget about that distinction and treat the genes of the new monarch as all equally valuable, even though some of them were considered better than others in the previous step of reasoning.

    Let’s distill it down to the essentials – all the chromosomes except X and Y behave boringly with respect to gender and no claims are made about them varying. And let’s boil down the size difference between X and Y to X=size 2, Y=size 1, for simplicity.

    The claim then becomes:
    Father and daughter share 2/3 of father – 2/4 of daughter
    Father and son share 1/3 of father – 1/3 of son
    Mother and son share 2/4 of mother – 2/3 of son
    Mother and daughter share 2/4 of mother – 2/4 of daughter

    So yeah, in a greedy sense of only looking at the 2 generations, the opposite sex children have the most in common with the parent, proportionally. (Note that in an absolute sense, it’s just that daughters have the most total genetic material in common with both parents, because they have more in total since X is bigger.)

    But I don’t think people who want a hereditary monarchy want a greedy algorithm like that. I think their assumption would be that there are some good genes and we want to dilute them as little as possible. So let’s also look at grandparents:

    Male -> female -> male results in, first, a daughter who is half royal half other. The grandson is then either 2/3 royal or 0/3 royal, averaging 1/3 royal.

    Female -> male -> female results in, first, a son who is 2/3 royal and 1/3 other. The granddaughter is then 1/2 royal.

    In this system of switching back and forth between genders, every female-male transition has a 50% chance of losing the royal X chromosome. The royal genes get more and more dilute.

    Contrast to a male-only hereditary monarchy, and you’re keeping 1/3 of the royal genome around *forever*. I think it’s hard to start with the premise that the royal genes should be preferred to genes they marry into, and NOT conclude that a male hereditary monarchy is best at preserving those “good” genes. In fact I’m sure many people have made this argument before. (By the way, in case it’s not clear, I do NOT accept that premise.)

    The piece was interesting, looking at a single generation, but doesn’t seem to have the logical significance that was (somewhat jokingly) claimed.

    (Closing note: remember that we were doing a simplification, and the X chromosome is not 2/3 of the genome, and the Y chromosome is not 1/3 of the genome. Adjust your mental model accordingly on the way out!)

  70. divalent says:

    “People are much *more likely* to identify as nonwhite when given affirmative action incentives to do so. ”

    Hmmm, the paper is behind a firewall, but the abstract seems to directly contradict your summary. “We find that … multiracial individuals who face *an incentive* to identify under affirmative action are about 30% LESS LIKELY to identify with their minority group. In contrast, multiracial individuals who face a *disincentive* to identify under affirmative action are roughly 20% MORE LIKELY to identify with their minority group …”

    Which makes it a more interesting observation. Or am I reading it incorrectly?

    • Nornagest says:

      You’re missing “after a state bans affirmative action” and “once affirmative action is banned”; the abstract’s numbers describe the case where students are not given affirmative action incentives. In other words, people get more willing to ID as an AA-disadvantaged group after AA is discontinued, and less willing to ID as an advantaged group. Which I suppose doesn’t directly prove that the converse is true, but it would sure be weird if discontinuing AA had effects that didn’t mirror those of instituting it.

      Don’t have time to read the full text today, but I found an un-paywalled version here.

  71. divalent says:

    “… recent research finds that women with lots of tattoos have higher self-esteem – and four times as many suicide attempts.”

    The article is not exactly clear about this, but they imply that the suicide attempts were before getting tattoos (or before getting many tattoos). And that the tattoos might somehow be their way or “reclaiming” something (it got a bit fuzzy there; as an alternative to suicide, or dealing with the issues that lead them to attempt suicide?). IOW, women with lots of tattoos may not *subsequently* have more suicide attempts. If so, then it is consistant with them having higher self-esteem.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I don’t think it was fuzzy at all. It was stated explicitly that the suicide attempts predated the tattoos and a further hypothesis was that the tattoos were procured as a response to both the suicide attempt and the broader issues that led to it.

  72. Bugmaster says:

    (sorry, posted this in the wrong thread before)

    Ok, I know this is a stupid and/or ignorant question, but can someone explain the gold standard to me ? How is it different from fiat currency, which is AFAIK kind of what we have now ?

    Let’s say that Shaun and Cindy live on a tropical island. Shaun raises sheep, which provide food and wool; and Cindy grows corn, which Shaun needs in order to feed his sheep. They could always just barter between them, but there are lots of other people on the island with goods to trade, so they all use gold as currency.

    The economy on the island is fairly stable — until, one day, a guy named Gary discovers a gold deposit and builds a mine to exploit it. Over a few months, he digs up a whole bunch of gold; enough gold, in fact, to double the amount of gold currently in circulation on the island.

    So, what happens ? Are sheep and corn and other things now worth twice as many GP? If so, isn’t that the same thing as saying that gold is worth twice as little ? If so, how is 1 GP different from $1 ? On the other hand, perhaps sheep and corn are still worth the same amount, but Gary is now super-rich, and can afford to buy most of the island. This seems somewhat counter-productive, since Gary didn’t really produce anything super-useful (true, gold does have some intrinsic value, but not nearly as much as steel or even sheep). But, if we go with this model, then we have a different problem:

    Let’s say that Gary had not struck it rich yet, but meanwhile, Shaun wants to expand his sheep business. He needs to buy a new pasture from Larry the Landlord. Larry is more than happy to sell, but the problem is, land is expensive, and Shaun does not have enough physical GP to seal the deal. He does have tons of sheep, but Larry doesn’t want any, he wants currency. So, now what ? Does Shaun just write “IOU: 100,000 GP” on a piece of paper ? Does he pay it off over a period of time ? If so, once again we will eventually end up back at paper money and central banking and so on. On the other hand, maybe the deal does not go though at all — but this seems like a highly sub-optimal situation. All of the parties are ready and willing to produce more wealth, but no one can do anything because they are missing some physical tokens of exchange without any significant intrinsic value.

    So, what am I missing ? I’m sure the answer is “a lot”, but still…

    • Samuel Skinner says:

      The gold standard is a fiat currency not under the control of the government; that is why proponents like it. As you point out it depends on the actual supply of gold (and is bad if you actually need gold for things), but it prevents the government using inflation as a tool.

      • Bugmaster says:

        Preventing the government from doing bad things is a very admirable goal, but I don’t think it works in this case.

        Let’s say there’s no government on the island; or, at least, let’s say that the local government does not govern money. So, who decides how much a GP is worth ? What happens when Gary digs up that gold, or when Shaun expands his business beyond what the physical gold supply will allow ? What if Shaun wants to take out a loan in order to build his new farm — who gives him the loan ?

        The usual answer to this is, “let’s all use Bitcoin”, but this only solves the problem of tracking the amount of money that everyone has; it does not address any of the problems above (as far as I can tell, anyway). Another common answer is, “the free market decides everything”, but without the specifics, this is not very informative.

        • Marc Whipple says:

          While direct government imposition of price controls is not uncommon, it usually ends disastrously (and it ALWAYS produces shortages.) Even in fiat currency regimes, what the currency is actually “worth” is usually determined by the market in a reasonably dynamic way. Whether the currency is gold-backed or fiat, how many farms a unit of it will buy is still up to the free market to determine.

        • John Schilling says:

          Let’s say there’s no government on the island … So, who decides how much a GP is worth ?

          The negotiation between Shaun, who really really likes to have sex, and Cindy, who won’t give it up unless he puts a (gold) ring on it.

          OK, that specific matrimonial custom postdates the monetary use of gold. The point is, gold has utilitarian value as well as monetary, and the two are bound together. Initially, when nobody trusts your self-appointed banker, it’s the utilitarian value of gold (or silver, or tobacco or cattle) that sets the value and allows you to bootstrap a new currency.

          One downside of commodity-based currencies is that the utilitarian price or value of the commodity can then be jerked around by changes in its monetary value. That’s less of a problem when the utilitarian value is ornamental in nature, because much of that is relative and positional. If the price of food-cattle is doubled because of increased demand for money-cattle, that’s a more absolute problem.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’d be interested to know whether beef is more or less common as a food in societies that use cattle as status markers or de-facto currency. I can imagine scenarios where either was true; either you don’t eat your money (unless it’s old anyway, or you’re trying to manage your herds by eating the worst bulls or the calves you can’t support), or eating beef itself becomes a status thing. I know that religious offerings of cattle are very common in cultures like that, probably for similar reasons.

          • keranih says:

            I’d be interested to know whether beef is more or less common as a food in societies that use cattle as status markers or de-facto currency.

            The amount of beef eaten is difficult to quantify due to complicating factors like the general extreme poverty of rural people in these cultures (vs the gross wealth of, say, the king of Swaziland, or vs villagers in some Swiss cantons who still own “a” cow which is run in the village herd but are otherwise “normal” Western suburbanites.

            My own experience with a cattle culture in central Africa is as follows (please note, I speak as an outsider relating a combination of what I observed, what the rural locals told me, and what educated people of that culture working with the locals said.

            Firstly, the cattle culture used cows side by side with typical ‘modern’ currency. Cattle were mostly to be thought of as a ‘bank’ reserve that would be subject to normal natural “interest” increase. (As well as to random thievery.) This was a savings bond or an IRA – not a checking account. One would exert oneself to meet day to day expenses without dipping into the cattle herd. (Or even the goat herd, which was seen as a faster-growing account, as goats would have two kids in five months (vs one calf in nine) and were more resistant to drought.)

            Secondly, cows were the most favored currency for marriages. The guys would talk about ‘women cows’ and ‘land cows’ (or ‘college cows’) – the cows designated for (eventual) trade for a wife, vs the cows to be sold for capital needs. I could never figure out what exactly was the difference, but in each herd the individual animals had specific purposes. Another wrinkle was that an older family member would be expected to ‘loan’ cows to a younger family member for marriage. These would go to the wife’s family (in some of them they were to be transferred to the wife herself, but the people I knew didn’t do that) and the newly married man would be expected to pay back the marriage cows eventually. Note that these were “make up the edges” cows – if a man was wooing an 80-cow woman and had only ten in his herd, he could go on wishing.

            (It was expected that the sons and nephews of rich men would pay lots for a wife. No one would stomach the loss of face to marry a fifty-cow woman for only forty head, but if grandma and the aunties didn’t like you, that fifty cow woman could wind up costing you seventy head and three dozen goats for sweetener.)

            (The sons of a rich man’s daughter could expect to also be able to draw on grandpa’s herd, too – generally through third parties. It was complicated. People kept arguing over how it was supposed to be done vs how it was actually done, and bringing up examples and counter examples, and I kept loosing track.)

            Finally – and this is most significant to the question asked – using cattle for capital in a society that put social value on the number of animals could have, over decades, a truely devastating effect on the national herd.

            No one ever said that the fifty cows for the agreed on bride price had to be fifty *fat* cows. A man with twelve walking racks of bones was more wealthy than a man with nine animals in good condition. (In part because these were tough cows, and if the man with skinny cows could get them to pasture, they would fatten up pretty quick.) Plus, one didn’t sell cows until one *had* to have the money. After which you’d be down a cow. So why not sell the fattest one and get the most money? (Instead of maybe having to sell *two* ENTIRE cows.) (Which is what everyone did – sold the fat one, not the two skinny poorly doing ones.)

            In the case of an area with regular wet and dry times (which this was) the fattest cows would be the fastest growing calves of that season. Which would have been the first born, from cows that had recovered the fastest from the last year’s dry. The ones, in other words, that one should really have wanted to keep.

            Now, one says, why on earth would people have gotten into this kind of a downward cycle? Why didn’t they adopt “better” husbandry methods. To which I don’t really have an answer, but…

            1) Nomadic/transhuman patterns of livestock don’t always translate well to more sedentary patterns.

            2) Keeping large numbers of animals when one is expecting to loose a large number every dry kinda makes sense. “I lost fifty cows last year – if I only have forty at the end of the wet this year, I’m doomed.”

            3) Previous wars and unrest and the addition of ak47s to a culture that had previously conducted cow stealing with spears meant a lot of the older men were no longer about to teach the young men the finer points of the old ways.

            4) *You* try to convince people to buy bright citrus orange sedans, instead of blue or grey or burgundy. Some things ain’t really thinking things.

            There are some published sources on the African cattle cultures, but my copies are packed up at this time. If people want I can try to find names & authors.

    • Marc Whipple says:

      No, you’ve got a pretty good handle on it and on the basic objection to it.

      Basically, when somebody talks about a gold standard in this context, what they want is some objective limit on how much currency the government can create. While gold is the traditional base for such limits – the government can’t print more money than it has gold to redeem at a fixed exchange rate – it has been silver and many other things (tobacco was used as currency in American colonial times.) What they are really trying to do is prevent inflation, which they view as a worse problem than deflation caused by the failure to expand the currency supply either to reflect increased productivity or to ease a “tight” money situation. Note that this doesn’t actually prevent the government from inflating the currency, but they can’t do it without changing the redemption ratio (FDR did this as part of the Great Gold Grab) which can’t be hidden or done surreptitiously the way creating fiat currency can.

      Note also that if this is what they really want, as opposed to just having some sort of weird gold fetish, it doesn’t have to be commodity-backed at all. The government could create a currency like Bitcoin and use that, and it would satisfy many “gold standard” types. If you want an example of how this could be done, Google “Plan Moldbug.” (Totally worth it, if only to read the science-fictional example provided, which includes the immortal phrase, “… and with them went the evil secret of the kittendrive.”)

      • Anthony says:

        The main difference between Bitcoin-like currencies and gold is that gold can’t be counterfeited. Also, at least in this day and age, there’s so much existing gold that new discoveries of gold (or new techniques to go through that tailings pile one more time) aren’t likely to cause a rapid increase in the supply, but the existence of profitable mines means there’s a slow, steady increase in the supply.

        I’m not sure why the increase in the gold supply is considered to naturally equal the increase in overall economic production over time, though many gold advocates seem to imply that it will.

        • Marc Whipple says:

          I submit to you that with modern technology it is no harder to counterfeit gold than it is to counterfeit Bitcoins.

          In any event, in neither case would the currency necessarily be direct exchange of its backing commodity – paper money backed by commodities is centuries old. It’s no harder to counterfeit a gold certificate than it is to counterfeit its Bitcoin-backed equivalent.

          • onyomi says:

            What is interesting also about bitcoin is that a non-counterfeit-able, easily transferable medium of exchange seems to offer its own intrinsic value (as a facilitator of trades), even though the bitcoin itself, unlike gold or silver, has no use other than facilitating exchange. Reminds me of a story I heard about a culture which used ownership claims for immobile, useless rocks as a medium of exchange: though throughout most of history people have chosen things which both are non-counterfeit-able, easily transferable, etc. and also having some other value outside the facilitating trade value, it seems like the latter alone may be enough, especially if it is unusually convenient, which bitcoin is.

            Gold and silver may be portable, durable, non-counterfeitable, etc. but bitcoin trumps them in ease of use, by far (and potential for anonymity–hence the association with drugs, etc.)

          • Nornagest says:

            Probably rai stones, the currency of the island of Yap in Micronesia.

            There’s an interesting parallel between the oral tradition that the wiki article describes and the Bitcoin algorithm’s blockchain.

        • John Schilling says:

          I’m not sure why the increase in the gold supply is considered to naturally equal the increase in overall economic production over time,

          An increase in economic production means an increase in capital and labor available to gold-mining activities. Also, the economic growth likely involved a technological element which could be applied to gold production. So the trends are generally aligned. There’s also the bit where economic gold is fungible with ornamental gold – if supply and demand get out of whack in a deflationary way, it starts making sense to melt down gold jewelry to make coins, or vice versa.

          All this tends to keep things somewhat stable, unless you happen to, say, discover a continent where the entire geological endowment of gold is just lying around either unmined or collected in weakly-defended temples. Or your gold miners manage to wake a Balrog. Oops.

      • Bugmaster says:

        (re-posting my comment, minus the link, I think it was filtered)

        I must confess, most of Moldbug’s writings go right over my head. However, I think I have identified a relatively clear problem:

        One: the net value of all financial assets must be in some way related to the amount of money available to buy them. It looks a little weird that Urf has 100T in financial assets but only 2T in cash. It would look even weirder if Urf had only 2B, 2M, or 2,000 sols

        This only “looks weird” if you assume that “Sols” have some sort of an intrinsic value; but, according to Moldbug’s scenario, they do not. They are just worthless disks of compressed kitten-exhaust. Let’s say that Shaun’s sheep farm is worth 1 Sol, and there are only 2 Sols in existence on the island; does this mean that he could only ever build 2 farms ? What happens when he wants to build a third ? There’s no law of physics stopping him; so we either have to say, “ok, Sols are now worth 2/3 of what they used to”, or “let’s all agree that Shaun possesses 3 Sols worth of assets even though there are only 2 Sols on the island”. I don’t see another viable option — but perhaps Moldbug does, and I am missing it ?

        • Marc Whipple says:

          The simple answer is that he means it looks weird only in that one expects the net value of an economy to be a “big” number.

          As far as your objection, the simple answer to that is that as the size of an economy increases, if the amount of currency does not increase, the economy will experience price deflation. People who like gold standards consider this highly desirable, as it distributes the value of the increased productivity to everyone in proportion to their current holdings of currency and/or income. If the government increases the amount of currency in proportion to the increased production, it has essentially appropriated the value of the production. (This the subject of a Keynes quote dearly beloved of sound-money advocates: “By this means government may secretly and unobserved, confiscate the wealth of the people, and not one man in a million will detect the theft.”)

          If we could only spend Sols, or Fedbits, as units, that could present a logistical problem. However, they are infinitely divisible, especially if we simply use them as backing and not as direct units of exchange.

          • Bugmaster says:

            I fear I am one of those millions of people who does not “detect the theft”. Of course, I do understand that, if the government were to print a bunch of new money and give it to itself, then it would effectively be stealing wealth from its citizens (some of whom actually work for the government, mind you). But then, doesn’t Gary the gold-miner kind of do the same thing when he digs up all that new gold ? Presumably, Betty the Bitcoin-miner could do the same thing, couldn’t she ?

            But if we assume that the government — or whoever is in charge of banking — is at least somewhat accountable and honest (a stretch, I know, but still), what is the difference between saying “1 GP is now worth twice as much”, and saying “The total number of GPs that exist is now twice as big” ?

          • Marc Whipple says:

            You have detected the theft admirably: you are just having a little trouble with the question of why Betty or Gary can’t steal the same way.

            The answer is that neither Betty nor Gary can create currency. They have to go to a certain amount of work to get it. The value of the currency will be directly related to how hard it is to get. Gold usually has to be mined, which historically was a lot of work and not a quick process. When large quantities of gold enter a gold-standard economy quickly, it produces inflation and is just as damaging as similar influxes of fiat currency in a fiat-currency economy, although as has been pointed out at least you still have the gold which is at least somewhat intrinsically useful.

            Similarly, if the entire supply of Bitcoins has not yet been “mined,” somebody could build a much more powerful computer and/or discover a way to mine them faster than everybody else, which would produce a similar result. However, ultimately there are only so many Bitcoins. Once we hit the limit, no further inflation is possible. With Fedbits, I would assume there would be no “mining” required, the Fed would simply create them all and swap them for fiat currency, using Fedbits exclusively thereafter.

    • onyomi says:

      The difference between a commodity money (like gold or a gold-backed currency) and a fiat currency (like pretty much all state-issued currencies today) is that in the former case, the value is ultimately tied back to some inherent use value of the commodity: in the case of gold, for making jewelry, transistors, fillings, or whatever. You could also use rice as currency, or even have a rice-backed currency, too; so long as rice as some additional, intrinsic use (eating) outside of its use as a medium of exchange, it would count as a commodity money.

      Fiat currencies are based on pure confidence in the productive power of a population and the state’s power to tax that production. At the more immediate level, you value 1 dollar to the degree one dollar has recently enabled you to buy goods and services you want. The fact that there’s no “inherent” value to the paper or numbers themselves doesn’t matter. But at a more abstract level, you value a dollar to the extent you trust the American people’s ability to produce goods and services other people want, and in the US government’s ability to tax that production. So, if there are 5 trillion dollars in existence, then each dollar is, in some sense, a bidding power equal to one 5 trillionth of all the goods and services produced or held by Americans.

      The big problem here, as should be obvious, is that this relies on the government not to simply dilute away the value of everyone else’s claims on these goods and services by issuing a huge quantity of these promises to the government itself and/or those with connections. The power to print the money under a fiat currency regime is essentially, an unlimited ability to tax the population, because if, for example, there are 5 trillion dollars currently held throughout the world, but I have the power to issue new dollars, then I can make everyone else’s dollars essentially worthless in the blink of an eye by issuing one sextillion dollars to myself. Confidence that the government won’t do this (which is not always warranted: see Weimar Germany, Argentina, Zimbabwe, etc.) is also part of what gives fiat currency its value.

      The gold standard is basically a way to restrain the government/currency issuer: if every dollar has to be backed up by a certain amount of gold then there is no risk of the above, though there is a small risk that a gold-filled asteroid will hit the world and mess up the supply (happened to Europe when discovered the new world gold and silver).

      Those who are against it basically want the government to have the flexibility to tinker with the money supply more freely, since they think it can ameliorate downturns, etc.

      • A number of points:

        1: So far as I know, the inflation due to the influx of gold from the New World is the fastest gold standard inflation that has occurred. The average inflation rate was 1 to 1.5%/year—about six-fold over the entire period. A serious hyperinflation can manage that in a few weeks.

        2. The basic argument for a commodity standard is:

        A. A very important feature of money is that it has predictable value over time, since it is used to make contracts for future performance. Stable value is even better.

        B. It is not generally in the interest of the government issuing fiat money to act in a way that makes its value over time stable, or even predictable, for a number of different reasons.

        What prevents the issuer of a commodity money from arbitrarily changing its value is that he is contractually obliged to deliver the commodity on demand. In a fractional reserve gold system, the amount of gold doesn’t determine the amount of money, but the value of gold does determine the value of money. If my one ounce gold certificate is worth less than an ounce of gold I go to the issuer and demand an ounce of gold. People doing that reduces the supply of gold certificates, and keeps doing so until the value of the certificate equals the value of the gold.

        It’s true that the value of gold can be affected by the monetary system. If banks manage to issue money with a low reserve ratio, less gold is tied up in bank reserves, more is available for non-monetary purposes, so the market value of gold goes down. But even for gold that is unlikely to change things very much.

        A better commodity system would be a commodity bundle, in which if you bring in a million Friedman dollars I am obliged to give you four ounces of gold, a hundred bushels of grade X wheat, two hundred pounds of grade Y steel, …. . Total monetary demand for those things is tiny relative to non-monetary demand, and although technological change might have a significant effect on the value of one item in the bundle, each item is only a small part of the value of the bundle. Market equilibrium gives a price level at which the whole bundle is worth a million Friedman dollars.

    • John Schilling says:

      The answer to your specific question is, sheep and corn and whatnot wind up costing twice as many GP, but in the interim Shaun can buy up a big chunk of the island’s stuff.

      The difference between this and a fiat currency is that in the gold-standard version Shaun has to actually mine as much gold as already exists in the entire economy to produce 100% inflation, whereas with a fiat currency the government can produce 900% inflation by just typing an extra ‘0’ into the right spreadsheet. In the real world, gold is valuable and portable enough that it will be quickly shipped to or from anyplace where there’s an arbitrage profit to be made, so the economy that matters is the global one and not the island one. And gold is a very durable good; the human race has been mining the stuff for five thousand years or so and hanging on to almost all of it. There’s no way anybody is going to double the accumulated supply in one year. This may be why gold and silver endure as plausible bases for a currency whereas e.g. tobacco-based or cattle-based currencies tend to be local historic relics.

      It is possible for supply fluctuations to produce unwanted inflation or deflation of a gold-backed currency. But there are fairly hard physical limits on how big those fluctuations can be. If you are confident that your central bankers will always do the right thing with their change-the-money-supply-at-a-keystroke power, it’s bad that they don’t have that power (well, see below) under a gold standard. If you think they might not do the right thing, bankers making bad fiduciary decisions can wreak far more havoc in far less time than any plausible assortment of gold miners.

      And, as you note, people will find it expedient to use “IOU 100,000 GP” pieces of paper in lieu of actual gold. There’s an interesting economic lesson embedded in “Ivanhoe” to that effect, when a Jewish merchant offers up his contribution to King Richard’s ransom. But it only works to the extent that the IOUs are trusted – meaning enough physical gold has to exist in the system to satisfy any plausible demand this side of the economic apocalypse (maybe 5% of the total money supply), and the enforcement mechanism has to be of the form where the IOU-writer goes broke before the IOU-holder loses a single GP. So long as those are satisfied, the flow of gold into and out of the vaults will serve as a useful barometer of confidence in the system. If confidence fails, or if the gold physically runs out, you get the economic apocalypse – but you’d probably have had a fiat-money apocalypse earlier still and with the gold standard you still have the actual gold coins as useful currency.

      Again, if you trust your bankers, you’re limiting their scope of action by requiring they back their paper with credible promises to physical gold. If you think they might screw up big time, the gold standard again limits their scope of action – and in this context, ensures that they are the first ones to go broke if they screw up, whereas fiat-money bankers can stay one step ahead of everyone else right to the very end.

      • Bugmaster says:

        First of all, just for clarity: it was Gary who was digging up all the gold; Shaun is the guy who wants to expand his sheep farm. And, of course, Alex is the guy in charge of naming children for Added Alliterative Appeal 🙂

        That said:

        In the real world, gold is valuable and portable enough that it will be quickly shipped to or from anyplace where there’s an arbitrage profit to be made

        I don’t think this is true. Gold is a physical artifact, and, as such, it is incredibly slow and vulnerable to theft or simple misfortune (e.g. sinking to the bottom of the ocean). I don’t think Bitcoin is a panacea that its proponents claim it to be, but at least it can be teleported from place to place at very little cost. I could probably make a billion Bitcoin trades in the time it takes you to ship your metric ton of Gold from London to New York.

        Anyway, your main argument seems to be, “we need to dramatically slow down the rate at which the value of money can be changed by unscrupulous agents” (my apologies if I misunderstood your point). But tying the money supply to a physical artifact doesn’t really do that; if the government can type an extra “0” into a spreadsheet, so can a private banker. You say that the solution to this is to require bankers to have 5% (or so) of their assets in physical gold, but I don’t think it works.

        Firstly, whoever is doing all this requiring can simply require them to never type any extra zeroes; this is a simpler solution that does not obligate people to run around with little scales and whatnot. Secondly, if the total amount of gold on Earth is fixed, then you will inevitably run into a ceiling at some point — where the economy is ready to expand, but all the physical gold has been dug up already, so now you have stagnation for no good reason. I am talking in global terms, but of course this could also happen locally (admittedly, Bitcoin would probably mitigate this problem somewhat).

        • MichaelM says:

          It actually doesn’t even take unscrupulous agents. It just takes central planners who don’t know enough to know the right thing to do. Read the Fed minutes that have been released from the time of the peak of the financial crisis: At a time when the US was very near to experiencing outright deflation, the Fed’s governors were worried about INFLATION and made monetary policy to match their worries. At a time when the market was desperately signalling for loose money the Fed followed tight money. It was only months later they realized their mistake and started trying to pursue an expansionary policy — in the midst of totally seized financial markets and an extremely skittish money using public.

        • John Schilling says:

          I could probably make a billion Bitcoin trades in the time it takes you to ship your metric ton of Gold from London to New York.

          So what? Whether you do a billion Bitcoin trades between London and New York in a day, or only one in gold, the end result is that the total amount of goods and services to be bought with money is almost unchanged and the total amount of money is almost unchanged, so the price of goods and services, in BC or GP, is almost unchanged.

          The absolute requirement is for the currency to be transportable faster than the supply of goods and services can change by more than a few percent. That’s pretty much always been the case. Anything faster than that, marginally increases efficiency and reduces arbitrage costs, but those are small enough to begin with. Means currency speculators have a tool to fight for bigger slices of that marginally-diminished pie, but traders in slow commodities barely notice.

          As for gold being difficult and dangerous to transport, not by enough to matter. Empirically, gold has always flowed to where it was needed, and fairly quickly. Even silver, bulkier still. As I noted a few open threads ago, the currency of choice in colonial New York was the Spanish silver dollar, because New York didn’t have mines and all the pirates of the Carribean couldn’t stop that trade. The primary currency of Viking-age Sweden was the silver dirham, to the extent that the largest known hoard of early Islamic coinage is in Gotland – and consider the trade route required for that one. Money flows where it needs to be, even precious-metal money.

          At the other extreme,

          Firstly, whoever is doing all this requiring can simply require them to never type any extra zeroes

          In the fiat-money case, what constitutes an “extra zero”? All the zeros are extra, and so is the first ‘1’. Every unit of currency that exists, in any format, is the result of someone saying “I think there should be more currency – make it so”. And that someone usually faces an intense short-term incentive to guess high, but will be the last one to go broke if they make the wrong decision in the long run.

          Do not underestimate the miracle of social engineering, of institutional design, that has made this work as well as it has of late.

          The gold standard (or silver or any other suitable commodity), for all its faults, does not require miracles. It is physically impossible to add arbitrary zeroes to the base currency. And zeroes added to the fractional-reserve notes are limited not merely by law but by the empirically observed behavior of people trading banknotes for bullion – because they like the shiny, because they don’t trust the banks, because they are doing business with people who don’t trust the banks, because they have industrial need of gold, whatever – and the requirement that the banker who screws this one up be the first to go broke rather than the last.

          This is not arbitrary, and it is not mysterious. If, every time you print a new run of gold certificates, ten percent come back in the hands of people saying “I’d rather have the gold from your vault”, that’s a really good sign that you’re printing too many gold certificates. Fiat money has different, mostly weaker, signals and enforcement mechanisms.

          As for the ceiling of gold on Earth – approximately twenty trillion tons. I’m not holding my breath, and in any event we’ll run out of terrestrial gold about the time we run out of terrestrial raw materials to build stuff to buy with the gold. This is one key area where the gold standard has a huge advantage over Bitcoin.

        • Marc Whipple says:

          This:

          Do not underestimate the miracle of social engineering, of institutional design, that has made this work as well as it has of late.

          Cannot be overstated. The past hundred years or so, despite the world wars, has been a time of unprecedented social cohesion and respect for the rule of law. It is almost unimaginable how different the world we take for granted is than all the years before it, and not just from a technology point of view.

    • MichaelM says:

      There are several different kinds of gold standards (rather, there are tons and tons of different kinds, but the ones generally taught about in specialty classes are three):

      1. Gold coin standard, where gold coins or close substitutes for gold coins circulate as cash.
      2. Gold bullion standard, where gold bullion is the primary means of settlement between (central) banks that emit or use a legal tender paper currency.
      3. Gold exchange standard, where gold bullion OR the paper notes of a particular set of banks are the primary means of settlement between (central) banks that emit or use legal tender paper currencies.

      The gold coin standard is what most people think of as ‘the’ gold standard. It reached its peak as an international monetary standard in the late 19th century, disappearing in the financial (among other) horrors of World War I. The gold exchange standard is what followed World War I as an international monetary system, where central banks in countries with paper fiat regimes or gold bullion standards held gold, pounds, or dollars as reserves they exchanged with other central banks. This is the system that helped to transmit the monetary contraction of the Great Depression around the world.

      What they had in common is really that some unit of gold was the primary unit of account that debt contracts, asset portfolios, and other nominal value counts were made in. The adoption of a gold bullion standard in 1920’s Great Britain, for example, also represented the resumption of payments in gold on UK public debt. This denomination of public debt in gold is actually one of the attractive things about a gold standard from the perspective of a government: The reputation for stability that gold has makes you debt relatively attractive, provided your commitment to payment in gold is credible, meaning you usually have to pay a lower interest rate.

      Assuming you’re more referring to the gold coin standard, even that contains a lot of possible variations. For example: Who produces the coins? Do these producers charge any fee for their coining services? For example, Amsterdam in the 17th century offered free coining, where bringing your bullion to the relevant mint was all you needed to do to get it coined.

      This ends up being important when you start talking about fluctuations in the gold supply. The real difference between paper currency and gold coins is that gold coins are more expensive to produce. Situations like Gary’s in your example are rare (if you allow for figurative license) to non-existent (literally doubling the supply of gold in a very short time period) and most of the time the total gold production in a year is a tiny fraction of the total supply of gold. Beyond that, the expense of coining is another regulatory mechanism that can act to limit the supply of actual gold coins. While they didn’t deal in gold coins, (illegal, but tolerated) private minters in 18th century Britain did a wonderful job of providing silver and copper (usually token, meaning they were valued by their face rather than their metal content, kept at that value by being redeemable in full bodied gold or silver) coins when the Royal Mint kind of ignored that it had a job to do for most of the century.

      Oh, also, on the subject of Gary, it’s deeply important to drop the idea of ‘intrinsic value’ as quickly as you can. From the point of view of economic analysis, value is subjective. Nothing is intrinsically valuable, things are simply useful for subjective purposes and thus gain value in our eyes because of that utility. This is something you’ll find across schools of economic thought, including all the ones that agree gold standards are a bad idea.

      More specifically, yes, gold is subject to the same laws of supply and demand as other forms of currency. Its value can fluctuate as demand or supply go up and down (which is, by the way, a central character in Scott Sumner’s book spoken about above). It just happens that two things are true historically:

      1. Gold’s supply doesn’t tend to vary that drastically over short periods of time. Even major gold rushes like those that happened in the middle of the 19th century only tend to contribute small fractions to the over all supply.

      2. Gold’s demand doesn’t tend to vary that drastically over short periods of time — except in certain, specific, special cases. This here is the real rub that most economists have with gold standards, not any issues with supply. The relatively constant, fairly predictable supply is actually one of gold’s main virtues as a monetary standard. The problem is when you start talking about those certain, specific, special cases where its demand can be very unstable.

      It turns that a consequence of major financial panic is that people will engage in a responsive major rush for liquidity: Risk preferences plummet and people want to hold assets that will be very saleable at the same or higher default-probability adjusted prices (that is, risk weighted NPV) in the future as they can be bought for now. This drives up the demand for currency, which is the most liquid asset, very high, which under a gold standard means a sudden jump in the demand to hold gold. The price of gold jumps concurrently and you get all the nasty effects of debt deflation — as debt contracts denominated in gold suddenly impose a much heavier burden on debtors –, real wage jumps — as wages are sticky downward, any decrease in prices generally (which is what an increase in the price of money is) represents an increase in real wages and thus a decline in quantity of labor demanded –, and other results of deflation.

      The proper response to a sudden increase in the demand to hold money is to increase the supply of money to match and keep the price either stable or slowly, steadily declining (depending on the specific school of macroeconomic thought), which isn’t possible in an economy where the commodity that money is made of is relatively supply constrained. This is where the gold standard goes wrong, according to most mainstream economists, although you’ll find a lot of arguing from proponents of some kind of gold standard that financial panic and flights to liquidity are the result of a system which departs from a gold standard in some way. In general, though, mainstream economists suggest some level of centralized control over the money supply to allow the financial system to ‘breath’ and adjust under the constraints of financial panic.

      Now, as it turns out, it’s debatable whether you need a central bank to actually perform this monetary adjustment operation. As you note, debt contracts are more than capable of being written out when there isn’t actually enough money in the hands of the debtor to cover the principle of the contract. It’s not entirely clear that commercial paper of the sort these kind of simple debt contracts represent inevitably leads down the road to central banking. Systems have existed in the past where banks supplied paper currency redeemable in gold coin that were perfectly stable and even evolved mechanisms to cope with sudden increases in the demand for liquidity. Relatively few of them had central banks imposed for reasons of stability and those that did usually had some kind systematic flaw in their regulatory design that turned out to be fatal.

      For example, the National Banking System in the US had a severe deflationary bias and extreme fragility at the level of the individual bank because of two constraints on how banks were required to conduct business:

      1. Bank notes could only be issued when backed 100% by US government Treasury bonds. This meant that — in addition to the heightened transactions costs involved in acquiring bonds, transporting them to the Comptroller of the Currency’s local office, depositing them, getting your notes printed, and only then lending them out — the money supply in the US at the time varied, not with the demand to hold money, but with the supply of Federal debt instruments. At the time, the US was actually engaged in paying down the immense debt acquired during the Civil War, which meant this important direct determinant of the money supply was actually [i]declining[/i], which dragged down the actual money supply with it (and left it utterly incapable of responding to changes in the demand to hold paper currency).

      2. Most states and the Federal government prevented banks from having more than one branch office. This meant that there was no such thing as taking advantage of economies of scale, of building robustness by diversifying loan portfolios, or even of offering note redemption services very far from the location they were first emitted. This has obvious problems when you start talking about a sudden, localized downturn. In a banking system with national branching, a crop failure in one area is not going to be a significant threat to the most systemically important banks. In the US system, however, a crop failure could bankrupt the local bank, which usually kept a significant part of its reserves deposited with a major regional bank in some nearby city, which did likewise with money center banks in New York or Chicago. When the local bank fails, that yanks its deposit from the major regional bank, weaking its financial position, which it rebuilds by yanking its own deposit from the money center bank in New York or Chicago.

      That’s why you can read about more than 10,000 banks failing in the US during the Great Depression when not one did in Canada, which had national branching.

      The pre-Fed US monetary system really was just as horrible and as in need of reform as its sometimes said to be, it’s just that it wasn’t in that shape because of the lack of a central bank.

      So you can have a gold standard where paper money circulates and makes up the majority of the money supply. The only thing necessary to keep it a gold standard is that this paper money is redeemable on demand for gold coins. Such a system has existed in many places in the past and been very successful in those places. It can be and has been more or less self-regulating, without any input from a central bank managing the money supply, and no tendency to evolve towards a private monopoly stand-in for a central bank.

      Now, whether adopting some kind of gold standard today would be a good idea is an entirely different question. The entire set of institutions, cultural expectations, social mores and behaviors, and other important parts of a successful gold standard as a monetary system are very long gone. Moving back to a gold standard from modern society would be a long, painful process, and one that probably really isn’t entirely necessary.

    • Chalid says:

      Note that gold standard advocates tend to have an extreme distrust of government and/or believe in an imminent economic collapse. If you can put yourself in that mindset then the idea of limiting the government’s control over the money supply may seem more appealing.

  73. Phil Goetz says:

    Re. the theory that affirmative action causes minority students to be placed in higher-ranked schools, where they’re more likely to fail: This assumes that higher-ranked schools require better scholastics to get equivalent grades. I’ve attended 5 different colleges and universities, from Johns Hopkins to community college. I found no correlation between difficulty of the material and institution rank. If there was any consistent correlation, it was that professors at lower-ranked institutions were often better teachers, while professors at higher-ranked institutions often saw teaching as secondary to their other work.

    According to http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/rankings/highest-grad-rate , ivy-league and other elite colleges have the highest graduation rates of all colleges, which suggests they’re easier, not harder, than lower-ranked colleges.