Links 1/16: Shaolink

The McCullough Effect is an optical illusion where after you stare at one picture, another picture looks like it has some different colors. But unlike normal retinal-satiety optical illusions which last a couple of seconds, the McCullough Effect can last hours to months depending on how carefully you prime it. Try it now.

Reddit: What would the person who named walkie-talkies have named other things? Defibrillators are “heartie-starties”; cruise missiles are “zoomie-boomies”. H/t Kaj)

Including ethnic studies classes in secondary school will increase school attendance by 21% and GPA by 1.4 grade points, is apparently by far the best educational intervention ever discovered, and can singlehandedly save the school system. Or possibly there’s a problem with the methodology. The paper’s paywalled, so who knows?

That star with the weird brightness fluctuations that some people thought might be an alien Dyson sphere has even weirder brightness fluctuations than we thought. And cometary clouds have been pretty much ruled out. [EDIT: or maybe not?]

IQ scientist and Intelligence: All That Matters author Stuart Ritchie reviews Garrett Jones’ Hive Mind for Intelligence. Brings up some of the same points as in my review; I feel vindicated! Also: Jones interviewed by AEI.

A lot of people have sent me this article where Carol Dweck says growth mindset is being misused. Certainly we shouldn’t misuse things, but I want to reiterate that my disagreement is prior to any misuse and I still am not sure that even Dweck-approved correctly-used growth mindset is as effective as generally believed.

Stumbling and Mumbling on capitalism vs. markets.

It looks like Greg Cochran no longer believes mutational load is a crucial determinant of IQ. As always, ability to change one’s mind is to be praised and celebrated as a rare but powerful talent. Also canalization.

New study finds that cannabis use does not affect IQ, apparently more authoritative than all the past studies that found it did. Why are cigarettes such an important confounder? Do they cause cognitive issues?

Mike Hearn says that Bitcoin is doomed. Bram Cohen says that Mike Hearn is a whiner who is ragequitting Bitcoin because nobody wanted to let him take it over. The Economist explains the controversy using the phrase “forking hell”. Other people roll up their sleeves and come up with a temporary but mutually agreeable solution to the supposedly Bitcoin-killing problem. We are all helpfully reminded that Bitcoin has been declared doomed 89 times so far, yet continues to exist.

In theory, an infinite number of monkeys could produce the complete works of Shakespeare. In practice, “[we] concluded that monkeys are not random generators“.

Conservatives always say, kind of as preemptive schadenfreude, that nobody would ever hire spoiled student protesters. But this article in the Financial Post is the first time I’ve seen an apparently apolitical, practical-minded discussion in a business context of how to avoid them; it suggests for example searching people’s social media for telltale signs [by employment lawyer; may be self-promotional]. I’m very split; on the one hand I believe in freedom of association and if somebody is clearly going to be trouble you shouldn’t force people to throw out that information and place themselves in a position to depend on that person anyway. On the other hand, I also think that part of meaningful freedom of opinion is that expressing your opinion won’t prevent you from getting a job twenty years down the road. I guess maybe look at the things people do as part of protests (eg if they burn something down or trash buildings) but don’t necessarily judge them for protesting something even if you don’t agree with their position? But I hope this reinforces what I’ve been saying about how getting good meta-level rules about not punishing people for speaking their mind is a common cause of all sides of political debates.

Sort of related: University of Missouri rumored to have declining application rate due to bad publicity from protests last fall.

Fossil words are antiquated words that only survive as part of an expression, like the “eke” in “eke out” or the “beck” in “beck and call”. Related: linguistic Siamese twins are two-word phrases that have to be in a specific order, like “hammer and sickle” or “salt and pepper”.

All-cause mortality over the course of a year rises with proximity to New Years’ Day, which is the deadliest day of the year. Nobody knows why, and it doesn’t seem to have to do with drunk driving, weather, or hospital schedules.

An easy way to fund some kind of important or charitable project you have going on: get a government grant. Related: the government grant process is a terrible confusopoly, which is mostly bad but can be good if you learn to navigate terrible confusopolies and don’t want too many competitors.

The Church Of The Flying Spaghetti Monster has been protesting people being allowed to wear hijabs in drivers license photos by demanding the same “faith-based” right to wear colanders on their head. Unfortunately one of them tried this in Russia and got his comeuppance: he is allowed to drive while wearing a colander on his head, and only while wearing a colander on his head.

Hitler is a rock star in South Asia. Not literally. Literally he’s a retired plumber in Argentina.

Over the past ten years, there’s been an almost 50% increase in deaths due to legal intervention (ie shot by police).

I’ve been saying this for a while, but I’m glad to have backup: pregnant women should supplement with iodine even in developed countries.

More neat methodologies: mental rotation is often used as a proxy for mathematical ability. Boys are usually better at mental rotation than girls, but it’s hard to tell whether this is biological or cultural. But girls who have a male twin get exposed to lots of testosterone in the uterus and probably have more male-like brains. So you might be able to distinguish biological from cultural effects by comparing mental rotation performance of girls who had male vs. female twins.

Related: straight men do better than gay men (and gay women better than straight women) on rotation tasks. Was Turing just a gigantic outlier, or what?

Related: why are gay men shorter than straight men?

While civilized countries debate how many new immigrants to let in, Britain is planning to deport all legal residents who have lived in the UK for more than five years unless they can meet an income threshold which is actually significantly higher than the average UK income. Is there anyone who thinks deporting upper-middle-class people who have been in Britain for decades and have houses and families there is vitally important important to national security? Especially bad because it’s a new law, so these people planned their lives in Britain around people not doing this.

Women whose resume suggests that they’re lesbian get 30% fewer calls for job interviews.

Charter schools in Boston get better test scores than public schools in Boston. Some argue this is because they teach to the test more than public schools do. A new study tries an interesting methodology: see whether these schools have a greater advantage on the higher-stakes, more traditional, more easily-gamed tests that teach-to-the-test schools would be more likely to be teaching to.

Related: state takeovers help failing schools. Public schools in Louisiana outperform voucher schools. I don’t really care that much about takeovers or vouchers, but results like this drag me out of my skepticism and force me to admit there’s some effect of how well schools are run on test scores. Whether that matters for real life applications ten years later is a harder question.

Not as related as it sounds: doubling teacher salary had no effect on any educational parameter in Indonesia. But they just kept all the same teachers and paid them more for no reason, so this doesn’t prove that increasing teacher salaries in the way people usually mean (ie in order to attract better teachers) wouldn’t be a good idea. And a new study does show pay for performance has improved DC’s public schools.

Thank whatever God you believe in that you’re not a junior doctor in the United Kingdom (I was a medical student in Ireland, which was close enough to inspire me to flee across the Atlantic). Proving that it is always good for making things worse, the UK government accuses doctors of killing people by occasionally having days off, but the evidence isn’t enough to support their claim.

Unfortunately-named consequentialist Max Harms has written a sci-fi book about the Singularity, Crystal Society. Haven’t read it yet but people I trust including Brienne Yudkowsky and Kaj Sotala say it’s good. Also: island exploration computer game The Witness (by the author of Braid) is donating 10% of sales to Against Malaria Foundation.

Ultra-premium water is on the rise. I didn’t even know “water sommelier” was a real profession.

Lots of people are warning against the alt-right these days, but needless to say Xenosystems’ warning is a little different. “For the Alt-Right, generally speaking, fascism is basically a great idea; for NRx, fascism is a late-stage leftist aberration made peculiarly toxic by its comparative practicality. There’s no real room for a meeting of minds on this point. From the NRx perspective, the Alt-Right is to be appreciated for helping to clean us up. They’re most welcome to take whoever they can, especially if they shut the door on the way out.”

The Dictionary Of Ancient Magic Words And Spells is a pretty good resource for all of the interesting things our ancestors thought you could do with garbled Latin and a copious supply of newt eyes.

Why does Donald Trump play Phantom of the Opera at all his campaign rallies? Does he just really like Phantom of the Opera? Sort of related: Developing And Testing A Scale To Measure Need For Drama.

The Empirics Of Free Speech (warning: long). What does free speech actually do or not do, according to the evidence? Does it let corporations buy elections? Does it result in heavily biased media? Can people use it to incite violence? Do people actually call “FIRE” in crowded theaters just to laugh as everyone tramples each other? This post will tell you much more than you wanted to know about all of these questions.

I’ve seen this idea floating a few places before under the name “proxy democracy” – a government that’s a direct democracy, but you can delegate your vote to anyone you like, be it a professional senator or just your friend who knows more about politics than you do. Now Google is calling it liquid democracy and testing it for some forms of corporate decision-making.

Jerry Coyne (Why Evolution Is True) reports on a controlled experiment on Facebook – make two otherwise identical Facebook groups, one anti-Palestine and the other anti-Israel. Sure enough, the anti-Palestine one gets banned and the anti-Israel one is left up [though the experiment itself is done by a pro-Israel group I do not trust as much as I trust Coyne]. And Marc Randazza of Popehat says that he’s tried a similar experiment and found that social-justice-branded accounts on Twitter can harass as much as they want up to and including death threats without consequences, but conservative-branded accounts are cracked down upon for slight offenses [though he does not post proof of this experiment]. Overall not likely to convince the not-already-convinced, but matches the anecdotal evidence I hear. Although private companies have the right to monitor their own customers as they see fit, I think FIRE’s philosophy – hold organizations to their stated principles and rules, but criticize them when they fall short or enforce them selectively – is fair. A Facebook that said outright “We’ll ban you for criticizing Palestine, but criticize Israel as much as you want” would have every right to go through with its policies as written – but also might not have too many users.

Studies traditionally show that immigrants do not “steal” native jobs or harm the native economy in any way. The major study to contradict this wisdom was Borjas on the Mariel boatlift of refugees from Cuba, but more recently reanalyses of the data by other economists (or as we now call them, “research parasites”) have cast doubt on that conclusion and the entire field has become an impenetrable quagmire. RealClearPolicy has an excellent and unbiased summary of the debate and of how people are getting such different results.

Philosophers experience silly cognitive biases even on exactly the kinds of problems where they should be most philosophical.

Quantifying Gains In The War On Cancer: ” We estimate that 3-year cancer-related mortality of cancer patients fell 16.7% from 1997 to 2007. Overall, advances in treatment reduced mortality rates by approximately 12.2% while advances in early detection reduced mortality rates by 4.5%.”

The New York Times has a hit piece perfectly nice article on the Center For Applied Rationality, a Less Wrong-affiliated self-help workshop group in Berkeley.

Who would Chinese people vote for in the US presidential election? Spoiler: Donald Trump, but only until somebody tells them what Donald Trump believes.

Related: @DPRK_News (parody North Korean Twitter account actually run by Popehat) covers the Democratic debate.

A pretty comprehensible explanation of what’s going on with Flint’s water. But I worry it might be too quick to exonerate politicians based on them not necessarily making bad water treatment decisions, when the things people are really angry about is them covering it up / not reacting fast enough.

Razib Khan predicts ISIS’ ideology will become more popular.

Dr. David Ludwig debates Dr. Stephan Guyenet on the calorie hypothesis vs. the insulin hypothesis of obesity. They’re both really smart and excellent communicators and this is a great demonstration of the level that this kind of debate should be held it.

This is a really neat new study: The impact of having a father who went to Vietnam. Since whether or not a 1960s American man went to Vietnam was partially determined by the draft lottery, you should be able to factor out all the other reasons someone might or might not go to Vietnam and get what was basically a randomized experiment sending people into war zones. The research finds that the children of people with bad draft numbers (more likely to have gone to Vietnam) make about $200 – $500 less fifty years later than the children of similar people who were less likely to have gone to Vietnam. That doesn’t seem like much, but since only about 10% of the people in the bad-draft-number category actually ended up in Nam and this is the effect that must be driving the average difference, it might be that those children are making $2000 – $5000 less, which actually is a lot (note that this was during a period when very few Americans died in Vietnam, so not much selection effect; the paper also adjusted for all the other reasonable objections I can think of). This is really weird. It’s unclear exactly how the father’s military service hurts the kid, but good guesses would be something like PTSD making the father less effective as a parent, or the father’s military service preventing them from getting as good a job. But that would be a shared environmental effect, which shouldn’t happen, and nongenetic intergenerational transfer of human capital, which also shouldn’t happen! Very interesting.

I’d never heard this before and it sounds fascinating: A Drug To Cure Fear. Apparently you can insta-cure a phobia by taking propranalol (a common drug that blocks some of the bodily effects of emotion) and then exposing yourself to the phobic trigger. Sounds plausible – you’re habituating yourself by “proving” to your brain that it doesn’t scare you – but the drug is so common I’d be surprised nobody noticed before. Anybody with a phobia and access to propranalol want to try this and tell me how it works?

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968 Responses to Links 1/16: Shaolink

  1. akarlin says:

    Conservatives always say, kind of as preemptive schadenfreude, that nobody would ever hire spoiled student protesters. But this article in the Financial Post is the first time I’ve seen an apparently apolitical, practical-minded discussion in a business context of how to avoid them; it suggests for example searching people’s social media for telltale signs. I’m very split…

    The way I see it any employer who goes to the trouble of sifting through your social media and penalizing you for “problematic” opinions/actions is actually doing you a favor. Would you want to work for such a person or organization? This goes both ways, of course, SJW-influenced companies are free not to hire Gamergate supporters too. I don’t see the problem, it’s ultimately just freedom of association.

    The New York Times has a hit piece perfectly nice article on the Center For Applied Rationality, a Less Wrong-affiliated self-help workshop group in Berkeley.

    Link is broken.

    Who would Chinese people vote for in the US presidential election? Spoiler: Donald Trump, but only until somebody tells them what Donald Trump believes.

    Or more precisely until the guy doing this experiment tells them what Donald Trump believes.

    • onyomi says:

      “Would you want to work for such a person or organization?”

      I understand this sentiment and have consoled myself with it after many failed job applications (being rejected by jerks for bad reasons is arguably not as psychologically rough as being rejected by nice people for good reasons), but you seem to be under the impression that young people nowadays have more than one attractive job opportunity.

      • JBeshir says:

        I think this makes a good point.

        I’m relatively pro freedom-of-association for individuals acting in an uncoordinated individual capacity (relative to here, anyway), because I think it’s important that we make sure doing things that are individually useful but damaging to others is disincentivised, people making judgement calls about who they individually like is how we get that in a fairish manner, and under most circumstances politely not having anything to do with a person they don’t like is about the nicest way a person could do that.

        But even given that, I think having a job is a pretty incredibly important kind of association and depriving people of one arbitrarily does way too much harm to people whose competitiveness and capital is limited, who are in general screwed over in lots of ways. And everyone doing that would end badly. Using an organisation or business as a lever for your personal preferred associations is multiplying them up way too much. I think Scott strikes a good balance in suggesting that viewpoint/content neutrality would be virtuous at least.

        • Alex Z says:

          If the labor market is so loose that employers can afford to discriminate based upon past activism, it means another person will get the job. So while it might be bad for the campus activist, it just means advantages are redistributed from one set of people to another. (Others who would otherwise be more disadvantaged) So I’m not sure it’s that bad from a global point of view.

          (I’m also really not confident in the above reasoning.)

          • JuanPeron says:

            I think that reasoning is fine for a single company, but fails if the discrimination is applied at all systematically. Assuming every position attracts X equally qualified candidates, they can all expect to be hired if they go and apply to X companies.

            If, however, you have something on your resume that puts you a tier behind the other people, every single job you apply to will choose one of the other (X-1) candidates. It’s not about a one-time bias, it’s about replacing random advantage with a systematic failure to get hired.

          • Anonymous says:


            I’ve seen this argument before here. The obvious mistake is that you assume – well, first of all that having the characteristic employers dislike makes you so much worse a choice that they would rather not hire you at all. But, more than that, the mistake is in treating all workers as identical and equally valuable, other than this one characteristic.

            In reality, what having [disliked characteristic] does is make you a slightly less valuable candidate. So you will be competing with people who, aside from that characteristic, are slightly worse candidates than you. Similarly, you could say the same about any of them, this time putting aside whatever small negative characteristics they have.

            For your argument to work you need to either argue that all workers are equally valuable, or give a reason why you expect employers to treat a slightly negative characteristic as so bad that it makes this person completely unemployable in any position for any amount of money.

          • Anthony says:

            Juan Peron – if there are N applicants, and N-1 positions, discrimination against entitled assholes student protesters just means that it’s the most obnoxious protester who is the one left standing in the game of employment musical chairs. But no matter how employers decide, someone gets left out. This just improves the odds of someone who will be disruptive in the workplace being the one who gets left out.

            That said, there should be some sort of statute of limitations when the obnoxiousness doesn’t rise to the level of criminality. I haven’t tried to stalk someone’s old facebook posts, but trying to find things posted a while ago, it seems that it’s not easy to see more than a couple of years into someone’s past – that seems fairly reasonable. (Also, if you set your inflammatory/stupid stuff to friends-only, that shows better judgment than making those posts public, which also means the existing systems approximate correct behavior.)

        • John Schilling says:

          I think having a job is a pretty incredibly important kind of association and depriving people of one arbitrarily does way too much harm to people…

          I think there is a fundamental conflict between treating a job as an association and treating a job as property. If you talk about “depriving people” of a job, that’s property-thinking. How does that apply if a job is an association between two parties, and the “deprivation” is that one of them doesn’t want to associate with the other?

          Try reversing this. It is clearly harmful to employers (and to the wealth of the nation) if they are “deprived of” labor because nobody wants to work for them. How do we make sure that doesn’t happen? Or apply to other sorts of associations. Friendship and love are incredibly important kinds of associations and people are clearly harmed if “deprived” of them; what measures ought a society take to ensure that this deprivation does not occur. Or even consider looking just at the employer-employee relationship but assume that the employer is an ordinary person, e.g. a working mother looking to hire a nanny for her son.

          If there’s a general case to be made for compulsory association when one party finds the other odious, or to prevent someone from seeking the information needed to make that determination, that’s something I’d like to see argued. If the proposal is just that one party is a businessman so screw them someone else needs their money more, that’s less interesting.

          • JBeshir says:

            Some differences between typical association, and archetypical employment or business-to-customer transactions, that are reason why they are less bad to have norms on:

            1) You’re making an association decision for multiple, potentially lots of people collectively, vs making an association decision for just yourself. Making decisions with wider scope than yourself routinely brings in expectations of fairness.

            2) You’re associating as-a-professional rather than as-a-person, within your work life and time rather than your home life and time.

            3) You’re associating only distantly, in the manners and ways an employer would be able to expect you to associate, if you worked for someone else. You’re doing business with them, not going drinking with them. If it’d be reasonable for an employer to expect it of an employee, then it’s reasonable for people in general to want it of you.

            4) Typically, we expect depriving someone of an employee or customer to do them less harm than depriving someone of a job or access to a business, because there are usually a lot more people than businesses. Small impact things you get to do whenever you feel like; large impact things you have to be fair and watch your incentives.

            5) Generally, expecting someone to work in the same work environment and be willing to exchange basic work-related information with someone they don’t relate to is less of an imposition than expecting them to be friends or romantic partners with someone they don’t relate to.

            If all it took to make someone have perfect friendship and romantic fulfilment was letting them work in the same work environment as you and provide them with basic information as to what you’re up to, without you having to relate to them personally in any way, it probably would be viewed as mean to put a political test on it.

            6) When there’s lots of readily available alternatives to you, you can do what you want. When there’s few possible, you need to pay some attention to fairness.

            7) As a person judging applicants in HR, you’re a cog in an incorporated non-human entity which has no moral value and no reason to have rights except instrumentally to aid actual humans. We’re not actually applying norms to you- we’re applying them to the entity. The entity will then apply strict policy and procedure to you in turn, but it’d be doing that anyway- all we’re doing is changing exactly what they are. This one only applies to places big enough to have a HR department, so it might be a reason to have different expectations of big organisations to small ones. The Hobby Lobby SCOTUS decision turned on a similar if slightly different concept.

            Some employment is atypical, and doesn’t fit some or all of these; e.g. your example of a hired nanny, and because of that I think it would be reasonable to view someone looking for, e.g. a nanny who shared their (lack of) religion differently than you’d view an employer only hiring employees who shared their (lack of) religion.

            But most employment is really non-central as associations go, in lots of ways that make it reasonable to judge someone for imposing political/religious tests on.

        • Chrysophylax says:

          I think the proper rule is probably to say that you are free to associate with whoever you want, but an organisation can only refuse to associate with people if doing so would cause it to fail in some *explicitly, publically asserted* part of its *core* functions (or if they don’t do their jobs, or embezzle, or any of the other normal reasons).

          In other words, a church can refuse to hire someone as a priest because he’s an atheist, but a company can only refuse to hire him as a programmer if he’s so militant that nobody can get any work done. I’m inclined to say that a religious school couldn’t refuse to hire him as a teacher just because he’s an atheist unless they could show that there was some crucial part of his proposed duties that he couldn’t perform adequately and that couldn’t reasonably be given to some other teacher.

          • Jaskologist says:

            If you’re already constraining the rule such that you won’t even allow a religious school to be religious, I’m not terribly impressed by your “freedom of association.”

          • Murphy says:

            On the other hand, in ireland many state schools are linked to churches (no separation of church and state) and until last month church schools had an exemption from equality legislation such that they could fire teachers for being gay.

            To give you an idea of your employment prospects if you were a teacher and gay in ireland:


          • “but an organisation can only refuse to associate with people if doing so would cause it to fail in some *explicitly, publically asserted* part of its *core* functions”

            At which point some third party is deciding whether the organization’s reasons for its decision are correct. That third party has much weaker incentives to achieve the organization’s functions than the organization does, much worse information about the organization’s situation than the organization has.

            Or in other word, your implicit assumption is regulation by benevolent and omniscient regulators. In a world of regulators with their own objectives and limited information, that’s a much clumsier system than freedom of association.

          • JBeshir says:

            I think there is some line between “churches” and support/political groups, and “regular business which stuck a line about religious/progressive values in a document” at which point it becomes bad to hire/fire for religious or political views, whichever side you’re on.

            I don’t think it is reasonable to say that any organisation which wants to fire atheists is allowed to point at a “religious values” clause and do that, but an organisation which wants to fire evangelical Christians can’t point at a “diversity values” clause and do that. That it’s permissible to fire people for being in gay relationships, but not for campaigning against them. If progressivism is a religion, then fine, it’s a religion- it gets exactly the same association rights, up to exactly the same limits.

            I’m not sure where the line is drawn, and where religious schools fall on that- it might depend on to what extent the faith is actually incorporated in teaching. I would probably reject it for religious hospitals and religious care homes. Mostly I’d like to see the people who actually need the religious exemptions and religious anti-discrimination protections accept consistency as a constraint and come up with some reasonable proposal, rather than “Christians get to do what they want”.

          • Tracy W says:

            an organisation can only refuse to associate with people if doing so would cause it to fail in some *explicitly, publically asserted* part of its *core* functions

            I think the only way this could work is if you allow people to define “fail” and “core functions” incredibly broadly.
            Eg once I worked for a large scientific research organisation at an out-of-the-way location. It had a lot of dangerous stuff and thus hired an on-site nurse to not only treat any accidents but also handle any minor non-work related medical problems plus a doctor came by once a fortnight on contract to save staff time in travelling to appointments. By your logic, either the provision of a nurse and part-time doctor is a core function of a scientific research institute or the nurse and doctor could not be fired no matter how badly they did their jobs, eg even if they posted private medical information about the employees online.

            Or, say your state roading agency has a not-that competent person apply for a job as a project manager. Someone calculates based on past track record that hiring that person will raise the average cost of any roads built by 10%. Not a fail at building roads, but a waste of tax payers money. Does this less-than-competent person have to be hired? Or kept on the job?

            And how does it work in a democracy? I’ve lived in NZ under Labour and National governments, and NZ seems to basically function under either. If I dislike my current government and think another one would do better, must I still vote for the current government as long as NZ fails to turn into a Syria? After all, MPs here are paid.

          • Mary says:

            “I think there is some line between “churches” and support/political groups, and “regular business which stuck a line about religious/progressive values in a document” at which point it becomes bad to hire/fire for religious or political views, whichever side you’re on. ”

            Do you want to be forced to fire people even though you are on the other side of the line?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      “Would you want to work for such a person or organization?”

      Maybe? A lot of great organizations have terrible HR policies, and a lot of them might just be doing it because it’s standard practice. I know a lot of the hospitals I interviewed with searched my online presence first, including the one I work at now which is very nice.

      • Seth says:

        An additional factor is sometimes there’s a legal aspect which takes this out of the realm of pure norms/freedom-of-association analysis, and into much darker territory. There’s two opposite factors where political factions often attempt to affect employment chances:

        1) If the company hires this person, the company is at higher risk of a harassment lawsuit because the candidate will be prone to (racist, sexist, homophobic, etc) behavior, and the social media profile is evidence that will be used to show the company knew or should have known that problem.

        2) If the company hires this person, the company at higher risk of a harassment lawsuit because the candidate will be prone to making frivolous and exaggerated claims of seeing (racist, sexist, homophobic, etc) behavior, and the social media profile should be a warning to the company about that problem.

        Again, this can’t be handled with boilerplate of “there is a right to …. but one shouldn’t ethically …”, as it’s connected to legal liability.

        • Samedi says:

          I think you have identified the key issue: liability. It is understandable that a company would not want to hire someone likely to sue them (SJW type) or get them sued (the prejudiced type). I wonder if it would be possible to research the correlation between social media posts and workplace lawsuits?

        • I knew a guy who had a low-level retail job for a few months. He burst into his boss’ office one day to demand higher pay for all the workers.

          It’s one thing to be a solid, dependable worker by day and a keyboard warrior by night. Quite another to bring your social justice crusade with you to the workplace. Businesses are probably learning from experience which are the sorts of students who become troublesome workers.

      • SUT says:

        “Would you want to work for such a person or organization?”

        Take the idyllic Southern Town of To Kill a Mockingbird: would you want to move there? Sure! Get away from life in the fast lane. But let’s say there are some men who drink in the saloon all afternoon who don’t take kindly to certain people. The point of civil rights has been that you have a right to enjoy the idyllic town, without the suffering threats or harm for being a minority. Even if the bigots were there first as people or as an institution.

        This is the un-noted aspect of this discussion: for ideology affecting hiring the Cathedral is real, it has the sexy jobs, and it supports one side and actively opposes the other. This is why discrimination toward one particular ideology should be more actively investigated and punished just like legacy-jimcrow-police department should face extra scrutiny in their handling of cases of AA.

        And again, it’s not fair to say find another job if you’re GG, just as it’s not fair to tell the people of Ferguson to move if they don’t like their police.

        • John Schilling says:

          What if the bigots running “certain people” out of town is the reason the town is as idyllic as it is? If a certain level of idyllic-ness (idyllicity?) can only be achieved by e.g. excluding a prior the ten percent of the population most likely to be disruptive, even though only one percent actually will be disruptive, then there is a class of idyllic communities that can exist if and only if 9% of the generally peaceable population is excluded from them. Is it necessary to prevent the creation of such communities, or if we happen to find them existing to destroy them?

          • Murphy says:

            Stepping one meta level up, if a certain level of average idyllic-ness across multiple towns can only be achieved by e.g. forcing a prior the ten percent of the towns which would otherwise eject citizens in an attempt to increase their level of idyllic-ness to not do so. Lets imagine that the town would receive +1 idyllic-ness utility point but the 9 towns around it would recieve -1 idyllic-ness utility points each due to a flow of ejected refugees?

            To keep the 10% of towns which would otherwise defect from doing so is it justifiable to occasionally destroy such a community as a warning to others with significant utility loss?

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      Would you want to work for such a person or organization?

      Yes, why would anyone even want to eat bread when cake tastes so much better?

    • multiheaded says:

      Would you want to work for such a person or organization?

      Oh please. There often isn’t a good choice, and the costs in time and effort to even make the attempt are considerable.

    • TrivialGravitas says:

      “Wanting” to work for someone is a level of privilege not everyone has. It won’t hurt the people with a lto of options sure, but given the right conditions (disability, extended unemployment) the number of job offers you get per year after additional discrimination might drop from 1 to 0.

    • Never Work With SJWs says:

      “Would you work for such an organization?”

      I quit my last job because three people on my team who held generally SJW beliefs were toxic assholes. They would turn everything into political arguments, where they would sanctimoniously inform me that I was a terrible person. Every day. For two and a half years.

      My new job has, for largely unrelated reasons, heavily selected for non-SJW (non-political in general) people and you have no idea how much better this is. I credit it for curing me of suicidal depression, for one. Not having to constantly be around toxic assholes.

      If the price of this job is aggressive snooping in peoples’ social media, so be it. I’ve only got one blemish on mine. And my boss’s boss found it as part of my background check. He thought it was hilarious.

      • Nah, SJWs can be fine says:

        For what it’s worth I get along fine with some fairly “social-justicy” people at work and don’t have any problem with them, despite having somewhat conservative/contrarian views (I read moldbug, gamergate-related stuff, john derbyshire, etc. – not that I agree with all of it, but I don’t have an allergic reaction). I have known some people I might describe as “toxic assholes”, but they didn’t seem more SJWy than the population at large.

        Looking for specific examples of people whose view on social justice were related to assholery, I can think of:

        * A goth marxist chick who was lazy as fuck and would complain all the time and refuse to help on anything that wasn’t a direct order from her boss (and if he wasn’t around she would slack off). She would go on angry rants about the evils of society , and treated attempts to get her to help on a project as Exploitation and Structural Oppression
        * A somewhat creepy guy who apparently would hit on girls in ways they didn’t like (or at least, I heard complaints from several of them, who were happy when he was eventually fired), and would talk about alpha males and evolutionary psychology and stuff. He also seemed to have a bit of a victim complex, and was pretty bitter and cynical (he also wasn’t *that* good at his job). *I* found him a bit offsetting and creepy, and I’m not a guy with great social skills either…

        • Never Work With SJWs says:

          When I said “SJW” I should have emphasized the “W”; I’m not against justice. I am scoping my commentary specifically to the toxic ones, the ones who think that the ends (of social justice) justify any and all means that get them there. The ones willing to sacrifice niceness, community, and civilization, if it gets them farther in their preferred direction

          I don’t doubt that non SJ folk can be assholes too, but in my case I think that cultural factors raised p(asshole | SJW) at the place of work.

          Two events that stand out to me, both of which directly factored into my quitting

          * I’ve taken to using the terms “cab” and “Uber” interchangeably. I use ride sharing services and traditional taxies interchangeably, whatever’s more convenient at the time. One day I was talking about taking a car home late at night when I was too drunk to drive, and my coworker tore into me. For AN HOUR. about how I, personally, am evil scum because I took an uber and don’t I know that Uber is evil.

          Why is Uber evil? Quote, “because their CEO is a libertardian”. Good thing my coworker never asked me which tribe has my sympathies.

          * A conversation at a large group lunch one day tangentially involved economics and incentives. I forget the exact context, but I made a comment to the effect that overly harsh punishments are counterproductive, because they make the marginal cost of additional crime low. eg. “If you’re already getting the harshest punishment, there’s no reason to not commit more crimes”. Asshole suddenly turns deeply serious and snaps at me, at a 10 person work lunch, in a crowded restaurant: “So you support rape then?”. To this day I still don’t know how his mind jumped to that but I fucking panicked. It became an HR thing and everything. The worst part was that this guy was very popular in the office relative to me, and I was sincerely afraid that _I_ would get fired over it.

          Do not work with these people. They will grind you down and make you miserable. They will steal your soul and passion and happiness. They will waste your time and distract you from your work. They are toxic actors and bad influences. It is worth your time to actively avoid them

          • That sounds really hard. I’ve found myself needing to constantly self-sensor around new people until I decide I can trust them not to berate me. It’s hard because I’ve got two degrees in economics, and thinking like an economist is deeply unpopular in certain circles.

            When someone expresses an unpopular opinion, even if I disagree with it, I become much more comfortable around them. It’s the ones with only popular opinions (among urban millennials) who mistreat people with opposing opinions.

          • Echo says:

            Self-sensoring isn’t as effective as using passive sensors for detection. Stealthy submarines don’t even turn their active sonar on until its time to fire the torpedoes!

          • I meant “self-censor,” sorry. Wrote that in a hurry, didn’t have time to spell check.

          • Anthony says:

            So as an economist, don’t reply to “Black lives matter” with “That’s not what their revealed preferences indicate” unless you trust your audience a *lot*.

      • Enquiring Mind says:

        I worked around some hard-core SJWs and survived, mainly because they got so embroiled in their own problems that they finally left me alone. They pushed a lot of social engineering concepts, but tended to not follow through after the initial indoctrination (what they called training) sessions.

        Here’s a tip to help survive in that environment is to note that they tend to be quite rule-bound. Make them follow their own rules, and demonstrate why they shouldn’t follow rules from other rational viewpoints.

        • Never Work With SJWs says:

          Essentially my problem was:

          * The entire senior leadership at this company was female, and while they themselves were quite smart and capable, they stood to benefit from the positive PR of encouraging SJ political BS, or at least not saying anything. It proliferated

          * The specific problem coworkers all went to university together, at a university somewhat well known for SJW bullshit. Everyone was at the very least sympathetic to these views, and several of them were actively pushing SJW toxicity

          * Because they all went to college together, they were all long time friends. I wasn’t. They had seniority over me, both socially and at this employer. If I had raised any problem that wasn’t crystal-clear, I would not have the benefit of the doubt.

          • Emile says:

            Eh, sounds like a problem of social cliques and office politics. If you work with a group of people who are friends, went to college together AND have seniority over you, then yeah, disagreeing with them about politics is probably not going to be good for your career. I think the problem is more to that specific bad combination than to social justice.

          • Echo says:

            Yes, but since the Personal Is Political, mentioning you use Uber is now “disagreeing with them about politics”.
            What else is attack-worthy?
            Buying a bottle of water?
            Referring to undocumented persons with a disgusting euphemism that fell of the treadmill of acceptable terms last Tuesday?
            Wearing a coat with the wrong fabric (or god forbid: fur!), or a sinful arrangement of buttons?

          • Never Work With SJWs says:


            > I think the problem is more to that specific bad combination than to social justice.

            That’s why I said emphasis on “warrior”


            > Yes, but since the Personal Is Political, mentioning you use Uber is now “disagreeing with them about politics”.

            This is the special thing that makes SJWs worse than others. They have a well developed and widely supported rhetorical framework that gives them the moral authority to do this whenever they want. Sure, other people are assholes too. Sure, office politics and college cliques suck when you’re bad at them. But when the bully in highschool kicks the shit out of you, everyone understands on some level that this is bad. They just don’t care. The SJWs on the other hand, they have righteous zeal on their side.

    • anon says:

      I want to work for an organization of people capable of leaving their political party at the door. So yeah, an organization filtering out vocal gamergaters, SJWs, etc would be one I want to work with. Less risk for me and less need to keep up with the latest trends in poc.

      So basically what Never Work With SJWs said.

    • JBeshir says:

      I read an interesting case that this was a problem for religious applicants to some grad programmes from The American Conservative a while ago. I think they at the least make a good case that it is a threat to the religious.

      It might be worth glancing over. I guess you could conclude that the best solution is the same as the proposed one for Facebook/Twitter, criticising them for failing to adhere to their own standards, but this still leaves you deciding whether on a personal level you think you’d like to keep on associating with someone where “their own standards” for hiring contains overt political belief tests or whether you’re fine with that once it’s open, which is really the thing in question here.

      • Never Work With SJWs says:

        At the toxic company I mentioned above, I saw them on two occasions explicitly reject an interview candidate because the candidate was Christian. They hedged it in sufficiently politicized language, concerns over “culture fit”, that he might “make some coworkers uncomfortable” (irony: assuming he was hardcore conservative just because he attended a church; he was quite liberal), but they rejected him.

        I also watched a manager who I knew to be religious, lie about it on several occasions and go to weird lengths to avoid identifying his church as a church, and avoid admitting to being conservative. He never said this to me explicitly, but I assume it’s because he knew the social fallout that would happen if people found out.

        The irony that SJWs who spend all weekend playing video games and tumblring would shame a guy who spends all weekend at soup kitchens. I can’t even

    • keranih says:

      I would be interested in how such a rule would be written so that all employers and employees agreed that this meant one could not check social media for mentions of interests in hunting, pictures of women in proactive poses, and/or displays of the confederate flag.

    • g says:

      “Would you want to work for such a person or organization?”

      I agree with everyone who’s taken issue with this, and with what I take to be their general position that the answer is “no, but the alternative of not working at all or working a much nastier or worse-paid job might be worse”.

      It may be helpful to consider anti-discrimination laws. If you aren’t 100% libertarian, you can probably think of a class of people most employers shouldn’t be allowed to refuse to employ (Jews? Episcopalians? Atheists? Black people? Women? Gay people? Straight people?) — but if you’re a member of that class you’d prefer not to work for someone so prejudiced against it that they’d rather not employ anyone in the class. If that doesn’t lead you to the conclusion that employers should be free to say “No Jews”, the parallel argument shouldn’t lead you to the conclusion that they should be free to say “No political protesters”.

      (However, I’m going to guess that actually akarlin is a libertarian or something of the kind and does think employers should be free to refuse to employ straight people or Chinese people or Hindus. My apologies, akarlin, if I’ve guessed wrong.)

      • Tibor says:

        The idea that for some reason a business should not be able to refuse to hire someone based on him belonging to a certain group of people has always baffled me since it is such a widespread belief that even a lot of my friends believe that (and it is the legal reality in most countries). I just don’t understand the point.

        First of all, if the company is smart enough, they can have a “no gays” or “no conservatives” or whatever policy without explicitly stating that. They just don’t take someone because “the other candidates were more interesting to them” or whatever. You cannot really prove that that was not the case unless they were stupid enough to tell you “sorry, no blacks” or something.

        If you recognize their freedom of association to do so, it has two advantages:
        1) You can see who the baddies are (or goodies, depends on who they refuse and what your opinions are) in plain sight, except for those who just follow the same strategy as in the current regime (distriminate based on group belonging but not openly) for PR reasons. All in all you have a net gain.
        2) You actually increase the overall freedom (at no other actual costs). Maybe freedom of association is not a big deal for some people but to me it seems pretty basic. I do not see a big difference between me avoiding association with people from the group X in personal life (which probably everyone agrees is ok, whoever X are, if for no other reason then because you cannot really force people to be friends) and avoiding it in other spheres of life.

        You can object that if everyone except for X decided not to hire X tomorrow or sell them anything or so, then that would be a bad thing, worse than the loss of freedom from forcing them to associate with them. However, if it really were so, then the discriminating group is probably big enough to push through laws that make the discrimination legal…or even enforced in some extreme cases. If this is not the case then there are people willing to hire them – and since the bigoted companies do not want to do so, they benefit because there is a lower competition over these workers. So discriminating comes at a cost even if you are discriminating in secret.

        All in all it seems to me that all the anti-discrimination laws do is that they make people do the discrimination secretly and punish those brave or stupid enough to do it openly…those do not tend to be big employers though. Of course, they also mean more red tape.

        I read an article on the BBC the other day about a woman who was given quite a substantial fine because she (she had a nail salon) posted on facebook that she would not be accepting muslim customers (she said something like “The country has to come first, no more of you muslims, sorry” or something). Now, I for one thing that she is quite stupid but I don’t see why she should be punished for her tastes. I also remember seeing a pub in my home city which said (if I try to kind of transcribe the word to English) no “Gadzhas” which is the Gipsy word for whites (I think it is actually illegal but since it is against the majority population, this was not likely going to be prosecuted). I also find that ok, actually better to be informed than to go their unprepared. This is actually an important point as well. Freedom of association means lower costs of information. If a company won’t hire me because they don’t like libertarians or atheists or whatever and they are allowed to publicly state it then at least some of them will do so. Then I don’t have to waste time going there for an interview. Nowadays, the same company will invite me for a interview and then tell me that they are sorry – wasted time for both parties.

        • Thomas Jørgensen says:

          The laws are based in practicality. Really determined bigots will manage to not hire whichever group they dislike regardless of what the law says. Really determined bigots are also a hell of a lot rarer than people with mild dislikes or general anxieties that they happen to project onto outgroups.
          If it’s legal to discriminate, a hell of a lot of employers in the second group will do so, which has horrible, horrible consequences of the employment prospects of people belonging to any and all minorities.
          It also hurts the businesses discriminating, because they are limiting their talent pool, but not very much, (because at the margin the average best possible candidate out of the whole population will only be very slightly better than the best possible candidate that also happens to fulfill some random additional criteria. like curly hair) and certainly not enough for the invisible hand of the market to cure them of their folly.
          This can be seen to be obviously true by even the most cursory examination of how the world worked in the past, and how it works today in many less progressive nations.
          So the government tells everyone not to pull that shit. Not because they expect hardened bigots to listen, but because they expect Bob McTypical McHumanResource Drone to do so even if he was bullied by a redhead when a child. And it mostly works. Not perfectly, or paygaps wouldn’t exist, but it does work.

          • Tibor says:

            So you are suggesting that the mild bigot is likely to respect the law just because it is the law? Because there are no ways of actually enforcing the law and not respecting it (unless you are an idiot and openly state it) does not come at any significant cost (except for possibly going to have to go through a few more job applications).

            As for past societies – I think that you are missing the fact that those societies were way more uniform and stronger in their bigotry – as I said, if you had say 95% of people being strongly bigoted against the other 5% then you would quite surely end up with laws which actually discriminate the outgroup – as was also the case in the past. The fact that you can have anti-discriminatory laws today is to me quite a strong evidence that you don’t really need them. They maybe might make some sense in an enlightened dictatorship where the population is bigoted but the ruler is enlightened, but not in a democracy.

          • Thomas Jørgensen says:

            Yes. Because people do respect the law just for being the law, and also because circumventing the law without leaving tracks opening you to potential lawsuits involves way more cognitive work than overcoming a mild dislike.
            Water flows downhill, and midlevel bureaucrats will take the easy road, both in the private and the public sector. That’s also, of course, why people with only mild dislikes will carry out what amounts to a draconian policy of persecution in the absence of law telling them not to – when going through 200 job applications, tossing 100 in the circular file unread because they had the wrong hair color *is* the easy path.

          • Tibor says:

            It is true that public institutions which are often subject to various official or non-official racial or sex quotas tend to hire people so that they fill those quotas. But that I think is a separate thing from anti-discrimination laws (even though related of course), also a very negative thing IMO, but let’s keep the focus on the freedom of association.

            I really don’t think it requires too much thought to say “the other candidates were more interesting to us”, which you either cannot attack legally and if you can then you have another negative effect – people will be afraid of those potential lawsuits and try to actually make some effort to avoid potentially problematic job candidates entirely. That way you actually hurt the people you want to protect.

            I have doubts about many people actually respecting the law just because it is the law when the law is entirely unenforceable, against their liking and nobody can even readily see that you broke it (so no reputation costs either).

            As for the difference in skills between an oppressed group and the rest – it is true that they are unlikely to be much better than the rest, but now they are willing to work for the non-bigoted firms for less since the demand for them is also lower. The bigots are forced to hire the other people who cost them more…so the non-bigoted firms get an upper hand here – and eventually, the fewer bigoted firms there are the lower the wage difference (of course, as long as there are no other reasons for the wage difference – for example an Austrian teacher of German is likely to be paid more than an English teacher of German even if their teaching and language skills are the same – there is simply a higher demand for native speakers).

          • John Schilling says:

            If bigots are a minority of the local population, laws against bigotry in hiring will protect against the minor harm of not being allowed to apply for a minority of available jobs – but will obscure the harm associated with applying for a job from a bigot who will have to find a less obvious way to express his unwillingness to work with you.

            If bigots are a majority of the local population, there won’t be laws against bigotry in hiring, but there may well be laws requiring it. That’s massively harmful to the targets of bigotry, who could otherwise keep looking until they found a job offered by one of the non-bigoted minority – who would gain an economic advantage from the expanded labor pool, hence the motive for laws requiring bigotry.

            So, small potential upside, big potential downside. The only way such laws would be a net win is if A: they are certainly not needed or B: they are imposed undemocratically.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Thomas Jørgensen

            It also hurts the businesses discriminating, because they are limiting their talent pool, but not very much, (because at the margin the average best possible candidate out of the whole population will only be very slightly better than the best possible candidate that also happens to fulfill some random additional criteria. like curly hair) and certainly not enough for the invisible hand of the market to cure them of their folly.

            The same is true the other way round. It hurts the employee by limiting their pool of potential employers, but not very much, because the chance that the employer who dislikes curly haired people is also the very best employer to work for is similarly slim.

            And remember that the more employers dislike curly haired people, the greater the gains to be had by employers who don’t care about curly hair by focusing on hiring curly haired people.

          • baconbacon says:

            “This can be seen to be obviously true by even the most cursory examination of how the world worked in the past, and how it works today in many less progressive nations.”

            I am not sure what you mean by this. Certainly in the US there were large wage gains made by groups (including the Irish, Italians and Blacks) prior to such legislation.

          • Nathan says:

            What about regional differences? Say 70% of US whites are not racist but 60% of Mississippi whites are? Would an anti discrimination law imposed on Mississippi by the greater USA be a good idea then?

          • Anonymous says:


            Possibly, but in general I would expect local government to be better than national government.

            Also see my comment here – your point is weakened if you are prepared to entertain the notion that the utility people get, from not interacting with people they don’t like based on characteristics you think they shouldn’t care about, counts just as much as utility anyone gets from anything else.

          • Mary says:

            Except that anti-discrimination laws give people who aren’t hardened bigots, or don’t even have mild dislikes or general anxieties that they happen to project onto outgroups, a motive to discriminate.

            It’s a lot harder to win a lawsuit over failure to hire than it is to win one over failure to promote or other claims of racist treatment in the workplace. Therefore, the most angelically nonracist person in the universe nevertheless knows that a person who is in the protected group is a potential time bomb.

            Under the ADA, unemployment among the disabled has increased.

          • Mary says:

            “Would an anti discrimination law imposed on Mississippi by the greater USA be a good idea then?”

            How are you planning to enforce it?

        • Murphy says:

          Yes, we’ve all heard the “logical” arguments as to how market forces should eliminate racism in hiring, but since various groups actually, in reality faced real, massive problems due to systematic discrimination the question becomes a far more interesting one, ie:

          The logic sounds good but observations of the universe imply that it’s wrong, so what real thing are we missing from the equation?

          • Tibor says:

            What we are missing are the fact that if you have a large enough group of strongly enough bigoted people then they will have their way one way or another – but they have it much easier if they can use laws to pursue their interest. In the past, the discrimination was far from being based on freedom of association only. There were actual laws against gays, jews, blacks, muslims, christians or probably many other groups as well. Now, not always was this in democratic societies, but if you had a society that much bigoted and democratic the result would be the same (after all, post-civil war USA was a democracy and still had a lot of anti-blacks policies). The reason we do not have that today (at least in the Americas, most of Europe and parts of Asia) is not that the laws changed the people but that the people changed their views by themselves. A society where you can democratically push through anti-discrimination laws is one which does not actually need them.

          • Salem says:

            The thing you’re missing from the equation is that the systematic discrimination was normally encoded in law rather than the result of market forces. That’s why they passed, and enforced, all those Jim Crow laws – business owners didn’t want to enforce segregation, politicians did. Remember, the railroad company was on Plessy’s side, i.e. against Jim Crow, in Plessy v Ferguson, precisely because it was costing them money and business.

          • Mary says:

            In South Africa, regions that were legally all white were often minority white.

            Construction firms that were legally required to be all white solved that by having one white employee to handle all contact with the government.

            And that’s where the bigotry was not merely prevalent but encoded in law.

            Remember: prejudice is free but discrimination costs.

          • Mary says:

            I observe, as a related fact, that the Montgomery bus boycott was morally indefensible. The bus company was not enforcing the seating because they were bigots. It was not even enforcing it because it was the law. It was enforcing it because if it did not, the police would conduct random stops and arrest the driver for not enforcing it. And even then it frequently neglected to; Rosa Park made several attempts to get arrested.

            The boycott was therefore punishing the innocent, not the guilty. And it did not — could not — achieve its aim. The law was removed, like every other, through a court case.

          • Nornagest says:

            And [the Montgomery bus boycott] did not — could not — achieve its aim.

            Its aim was to drum up publicity, and given that we’re still talking about it fifty years later I think we can safely say it succeeded.

            I’d agree that it targeted an institution that wasn’t particularly blameworthy in its context, but protest tactics don’t generally aim to punish the guilty.

          • Urstoff says:

            “Its aim was to drum up publicity, and given that we’re still talking about it fifty years later I think we can safely say it succeeded.”

            An early exercise in Raising Awareness!

          • Mary says:

            “Its aim was to drum up publicity,”

            No, its aim was to end the racist seating requirements. Publicity was at best a means, and since it was won through a court case — it wasn’t at best. Talking about it fifty years later, long after the aim was achieved — by other means — is pure waste.

            I also observe that it is morally indefensible to hurt the innocent to drum up publicity.

          • LeeEsq says:

            Salem, that was one company in one type of business. One example of a business trying to fight against segregation doesn’t translate into other fields. Other business people were happy to act on their prejudices against minorities with or without the law behind them like the elite private colleges trying to keep Jewish and other minority enrollment low. An even better example was how many hotels, resorts, and other places of entertainment purposefully excluded Jews during the early and mid-20th century America even though there was no law requiring this. Its why Jewish Americans had to find their own resorts. Restrictive covenants kept Jews out of suburbs between the World Wars on an entirely private basis.

          • “Other business people were happy to act on their prejudices against minorities with or without the law behind them like the elite private colleges trying to keep Jewish and other minority enrollment low. An even better example was how many hotels, resorts, and other places of entertainment purposefully excluded Jews during the early and mid-20th century America ”

            For your second example, my guess is that the business people were acting on the prejudices of their customers, not their own. They believed, probably correctly, that many customers would rather go to a resort that didn’t have Jews in it. And, as your post points out, that simply resulted in the establishment of other resorts which specialized in Jews. I wouldn’t be surprised if, at that point, the preference went in both directions, if a lot of Jews were more comfortable in a resort largely inhabited by Jews.

            My picture of early 20th century Jewish life is largely based on Leo Rosten’s _The Joys of Yiddish_, which is a portrait of that culture masquerading as a dictionary. Pretty clearly, it was a distinct culture, which has only gradually merged into the majority culture. The fact that Ashkenazi immigrants were largely concentrated in certain areas of NY was not, I think, so much a result of discrimination against them as of discrimination by them.

            The case of universities was somewhat different. As best I can tell, they didn’t object to having a few Jewish students—my uncle graduated from Yale in 1924. The problem was that, if they didn’t discriminate in admissions, a large fraction of their class would be Jewish. They were opposed to that—whether from their own prejudice or concern with how that would affect the image of their school with the non-Jewish majority, including potential donors, I’m not sure.

            As you probably know, the solution they came up with, like the solution moderns who want to discriminate in admissions came up with, was “diversity,” in their case geographical diversity. Jewish applicants were mostly from New York, so by favoring applicants from states that were “under represented” in their student body, they could hold down the number of Jewish applicants admitted without explicit discrimination.

          • Mary says:

            “like the elite private colleges trying to keep Jewish and other minority enrollment low.”

            Elite private colleges, owing to their nonprofit status and their endowments, are often insulated from the economic consequences of their actions. These encourages them to act on prejudices that would cost too much for other people.

            Thomas Sowell observed that not a single college had a single black chemistry teacher when hundreds of black chemists worked in industry.

          • Mary says:

            ” The problem was that, if they didn’t discriminate in admissions, a large fraction of their class would be Jewish. ”

            And have they stopped?

            Or have they switched entirely to doing this to Asians?

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Mary:

            I observe, as a related fact, that the Montgomery bus boycott was morally indefensible. The bus company was not enforcing the seating because they were bigots. It was not even enforcing it because it was the law. It was enforcing it because if it did not, the police would conduct random stops and arrest the driver for not enforcing it. And even then it frequently neglected to; Rosa Park made several attempts to get arrested.

            The boycott was therefore punishing the innocent, not the guilty. And it did not — could not — achieve its aim. The law was removed, like every other, through a court case.

            This is absurd.

            If this sort of logic held, collective resistance to injustice and aggression would be impossible.

            For instance, the German soldiers of the Wehrmacht for the most part weren’t serving because they individually had such a strong desire to exterminate the Jews. They were drafted. As were Confederate soldiers fighting for slavery. There were even black soldiers drafted by the Confederacy.

            Was it “morally indefensible” to kill them on the battlefield? Certainly not. Killing them was a matter of collective self-defense and the defense of others. The German and Confederate soldiers did not “deserve to die” (if they did, then it would have been appropriate to have mass executions of them after the respective wars). But they had to be killed, anyway.

            And what of the inevitable killing of civilians in war? The residents of Hiroshima, who by no means all “deserved to die”, were not only located in the vicinity of the Japanese army headquarters; many of them were actively contributing to the war effort by producing war materials in their homes (because they were ordered to do so). Some may in fact argue that bombing them was “morally indefensible”, but I do not think so.

            The Montgomery bus company was complicit in enforcing the immoral law of segregation. Their legitimate options were a) to stop providing bus services, thereby joining the “boycott” themselves, or b) to engage in civil disobedience of their own and refuse to enforce the law. Collaboration was not a legitimate option.

            And that’s really what you’re saying, now that I think about it: that it’s never justified to punish collaborators, because they “had no choice” or “if they didn’t collaborate, someone else would”. Maybe it’s true that someone else would have collaborated with the Nazis if Petain hadn’t agreed to in France. Nevertheless, he was justly punished. If he hadn’t and someone else did, then that person should have been the one punished.

            So I disagree with you on two counts:

            a) Even if the Montgomery bus company had been innocent and opposed to segregation itself, by serving as the enforcement arm of segregation, it was a valid target in the struggle against segregation. Just as comparatively innocent German conscripts were valid targets in the struggle against Hitler.

            b) The bus company’s collaboration with segregation was not, in fact, innocent. They had other reasonable options available to them, such as refusing to provide segregated service or refusing to abide by the law. That actually puts them in a better position than German soldiers, whose only alternative was to be sent to a concentration camp—not a reasonable sacrifice to ask of them.

          • Jiro says:

            If this sort of logic held, collective resistance to injustice and aggression would be impossible.

            The residents of Hiroshima, who by no means all “deserved to die”, … Some may in fact argue that bombing them was “morally indefensible”, but I do not think so.

            The problem with this is that the set of people who support these two actions don’t overlap very much. Sure, you could argue that the Montgomery boycott is okay if you also accept Hiroshima, but not many people do that–the people who support strict measures against racism are also the most likely to think of Hiroshima as a case of horrific US imperialistic atrocities towards non-white people.

          • Mary says:

            “This is absurd.”

            That is absurd. You are talking as if WWII were acceptable EVEN IF we could achieve the same effect by suing the Nazis.

            No, take that back. You are talking as if WWII were acceptable EVEN IF it didn’t stop the Nazis, and we had to sue them to stop it.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Jiro:

            First of all, is this really true? It seems like you’re imagining support for the buy boycott as much less than it is. I mean, most regular conservatives in the country support both the Montgomery bus boycott and the bombing of Hiroshima. Martin Luther King, Jr. is hailed among many conservatives as being the sensible voice of nonviolent resistance, in contrast to people like Malcolm X.

            And as far as I know, both of these issues are not extremely partisan. Most people on the left also support (of course) the bus boycott and the bombing of Hiroshima, though I’m sure the former does skew more left and the latter more right.

            Second, among people contemporary to the bus boycott, sure, conservatives didn’t support it. But the “liberals” of that era who supported the bus boycott also largely supported the bombing of Hiroshima. We’re not talking about “New Left” radicals, here.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            That is absurd. You are talking as if WWII were acceptable EVEN IF we could achieve the same effect by suing the Nazis.

            No, take that back. You are talking as if WWII were acceptable EVEN IF it didn’t stop the Nazis, and we had to sue them to stop it.

            Give me a break.

            Not only did they not know whether the lawsuit would work, the case was filed only after the boycott had already started, and the boycott itself played no small role in galvanizing attitudes against segregation.

            The citizens of Montgomery were not obliged to wait around for an indefinite period of time to see what happened in the courts before they took direct action to challenge the law. And, I might add, doing so in a manner that was perfectly within their legal rights, since the bus company had no right to their patronage.

            It’s one thing to complain about “punishing the innocent” when it’s actually a matter of using force against them. It’s quite another when the only “force” that is being used is choosing not to purchase services from a company that discriminates against you.

            Your example of whether WWII would be acceptable even if the Nazis could have been stopped by a court case is too far from reality to be useful.

            But think about the situation in 1938, with the Munich Agreement. It seemed plausible to many that Hitler could be stopped merely by appeasement. And they didn’t know for sure whether starting WWII would actually work to defeat Hitler. Were they morally obliged to continue appeasing to the maximum degree possible before starting any armed conflict? I don’t think so.

            My main objection, though, is as I said: you are assuming hindsight in the most absurd way and condemning the boycotters for not relying on the court case which they obviously knew would succeed. Moreover, the point of the boycott was not merely to end bus segregation. It was to protest against and “raise awareness” of segregation in all forms. And there was no one court case against segregation as such.

        • I, of course, strongly agree with Tibor on this issue. I’m intrigued by the fact that to some people it seems obvious the freedom of association trumps an individuals “right” to associate with people who don’t want to associate with him—obvious enough so that I have difficulty, in such discussions, refraining from arguing that the other side is in favor of slavery.

          But obviously a lot of other people have the opposite moral intuition, and have it with similar strength. It’s tempting to explain it as “they just haven’t thought through the implications of their position,” but if that were the case at lot more would be convinced by argument than are.

          Which gets me wondering if there might actually be a difference at the genetic level, or if it’s just a matter of what beliefs each side has been brought up with, or …. .

          Clearly an opportunity for some statistical research. A first question might be how much the distribution of intuitions varies over time for a given population. Was there a time in the past where practically everyone shared my and Tibor’s view, or was it only a time when that happened to be the law, most people didn’t think about the question, and most who disagreed with the law didn’t say so? Similarly for the opposite situation.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            Which gets me wondering if there might actually be a difference at the genetic level, or if it’s just a matter of what beliefs each side has been brought up with, or …. .

            I think it’s simpler than that. People are starting from their preferred endpoint and working backwards.

            Someone arguing freedom of association in Alabama in the 1950’s was arguing against Jim Crow. Someone arguing for freedom of association in California in the 1960’s was arguing against Affirmative Action. There are a few highly principled people who would argue for it in both cases, but for the most part the two sides are each trying to turn the wheel so that they wind up on top.

            This is pretty much standard I think. Freedom is a compromise position, I’ll do my thing and you do yours, and as such it’s less and less appealing the more power you have (or want to have).

          • Tibor says:

            To contribute with my datapoint – my mother (being partly Jewish and afraid of the holocaust despite not having lived during that period herself…even though her parents have) would almost definitely not share my views on this (I have not directly discussed this with my parents) and my father might (I am not entirely sure, because he is also for banning smoking in pubs which seems like a variant of the same question to me, however there he seems to acknowledge that he is mostly doing it because it would benefit him rather than out of a principle).

            I think that genetic vs. upbringing might be easy to observe in Germany. The country is genetically very homogeneous but there are considerable political differences between north and south and also east and west. This would suggest that upbringing and culture play a larger role than genetics. The fact that what is considered “good morals” by most people also varies widely over time is also quite some evidence for that. Then again, if there is a genetic pattern as well I would expect the Americans (as in people of the Americas, not necessarily US Americans) and Australians to show some important differences from Europeans based on that…after all, they are the descendants of people who were brave or foolhardy enough to try their luck elsewhere and the rest stayed in Europe.

          • Anonymous says:

            One possibly relevant point, I think, is that (as far as I can tell) many people believe that utility gained through certain kinds of discrimination doesn’t count, or at least counts for less. Therefore, any argument that points out, say, that business owners will only refuse to sell to customers with a certain characteristic when the business owner values not selling to the customer more than the customer values buying from the business owner, will not be convincing to these people, because the desired outcome is not “discrimination happens only when its benefits outweigh its costs”, but “discrimination never ever happens at all”.

            Similarly, you can point out that the laws imposed by the state are almost inevitably going to consist of enforcing the preferences of the majority onto the minority. But when the majority of people are opposed to discrimination, to someone who categorically opposes discrimination, that’s a good thing. It’s not a shame that the few shop owners who really are prepared to bear the cost of not serving immigrants aren’t able to pay to satisfy this preference. It’s exactly the desired effect. That isn’t a preference that people should be allowed to satisfy.

          • Nathan says:


            Or in Australia’s case, criminal enough.

            I think that’s one meaningful difference with the USA. They can say (with some degree of truth) “Our country was founded on FREEDOM!” Us on the other hand… Not so much.

          • Tibor says:

            @Nathan: I was under the impression that most of Australian settlers were actually free people who moved there voluntarily.

          • “utility gained through certain kinds of discrimination doesn’t count”

            The same issue shows up in the economic analysis of law. When designing rules for criminal law, does the utility of the thief for the money he steals count in the sum being maximized? The disutility to the criminal of being punished?

            I’ve long argued, from the standpoint of methodology not morals, that it should count. It’s much more interesting getting your moral conclusions out of the economic analysis—for instance that thieves should be punished—if you don’t put them in at the beginning.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            @Tibor: The state of the evidence is interesting. Historically, Australians considered it shameful to be descended from transported convicts- there were cases of people deliberately destroying the records related to them or their ancestors (in addition to official large-scale destruction of convict records which may or may not have been to hide people’s ancestry).

            More recently, it has become a point of pride to be descended from convicts (especially the First Fleet)- but some people have found this difficult to prove as the relevant records were destroyed!

          • Aapje says:

            The way that the aborigines were treated wasn’t what I would call freedom…

          • Seth says:

            @David Friedman – it is good that, even with difficulty, you are “refraining from arguing that the other side is in favor of slavery.” (emphasis added). Otherwise the very high connection between the regions where literal slavery was in place, and then saw extensive argument that “freedom of association” supported economic discrimination, might cause some extremely negative reactions towards the use of that term. It would not be strictly rational, of course. But one might envision an emotional reaction when the same word is used as grievance justifying economic oppression against, broadly, a group denied basic human rights, by, (again, broadly) overall the power-structure which denied those human rights in the first place.
            (must I take another line to stress the word “broadly” as attempting to concisely convey imprecise but significant associations, and not meaning perfect identification for which no exception can be found? Of course I need to do so, sadly).

            But this is in fact relevant to the question you pose! There was a time that many people were quite passionate that PROPERTY RIGHTS, do you hear me, PROPERTY, was obviously applicable to the situation where one human being could be the literal property of another. That is, same as cattle or carts. They were extremely clear about their belief that those who had a different moral intuition were trying to take away valuable property, and the freedom to own it.

            As this view was empirically heritable to some extent (i.e. those who held it strongly tended to have offspring who held it strongly), perhaps there was a genetic component, some sort of defect of empathy or subclinical sociopathic tendency. But the gene seemed to have been wiped out rather rapidly by a war (granted, that’s not unknown). So while it can’t be proven absolutely, I’d say the evidence points strongly to “nurture” rather than “nature” in this situation. On the other hand, perhaps not. One could argue there’s as great a desire today to literally own slaves, if it were legal. It’s simply not socially acceptable to express the desire openly. I suppose it all eventually comes down the debate over the biological nature of ethics, and what’s mental illness.

          • Dr Dealgood says:


            I would appreciate it if we could avoid bringing mental illness into this, particularly sociopathy/psychopathy. These are both hobby horses of mine: the former cuts off the possibility of reasoned argument and invites psychiatric “solutions” to political disagreement (see Bullverism and Sluggish Schizophrenia respectively), while the latter encourages further confusion about a personality disorder that is already poorly understood.

            Anyway, as I pointed out above, freedom of association has cut both ways. When associating with people of other races was forbidden under Jim Crow the champions of freedom of association were largely progressive. Shortly afterwards when those associations became compulsory the champions of freedom of association were largely conservative. Perhaps in the future we’ll even see another reversal. Regardless, the Friedmans have done an admirable job of standing by it whichever side of the aisle that right found support and I expect them to continue to do so.

          • Mary says:

            “utility gained through certain kinds of discrimination doesn’t count”

            The same issue shows up in the economic analysis of law. When designing rules for criminal law, does the utility of the thief for the money he steals count in the sum being maximized?

            Not exactly. It’s one thing to agree that not to count the utility of things we all agree are so egregious that they need to be prohibited by law. (Yes, including the criminals, as soon as you remove the personal element by asking about it in general.) It’s another thing to decide it on the grounds of — well, what? Because someone decided to call it discrimination? Which would, if you used the exact meaning, literally mean that all distinctions are illegitimate, and if not literally, needs a much sturdier distinction that than. (Especially given disparate impact.)

          • Mary says:

            “When associating with people of other races was forbidden under Jim Crow the champions of freedom of association were largely progressive. ”


            The triumph of Jim Crow in the 1920s was a result of explicit and avowed Progressive policies that openly sneered at the notions of the equality of man as conservative and outdated and proclaimed racial segregation as a positive good, not merely an unfortunate side-effect of freedom. Woodrow Wilson, Progressive, was the guy who segregated the federal workforce.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Mary:

            The triumph of Jim Crow in the 1920s was a result of explicit and avowed Progressive policies that openly sneered at the notions of the equality of man as conservative and outdated and proclaimed racial segregation as a positive good, not merely an unfortunate side-effect of freedom. Woodrow Wilson, Progressive, was the guy who segregated the federal workforce.

            While you’re absolutely right here, you shouldn’t buy into the false narrative that there is some kind of homogeneity between all “conservatives” and “progressives” throughout history, such that modern conservatives “take the blame” for sins of past conservatives, or the same for progressives.

            The actual history of segregation is much more complicated than that. The divisions between left and right weren’t the same either during Reconstruction or in the Progressive Era.

            Also, I take it that Dr Dealgood‘s obvious point was that those opposed to segregation in the Civil Rights Era tended, on average, to be more left-wing. And that is true. Which is precisely why they went directly from banning government discrimination to banning private discrimination: in their view, the public-private distinction is not very important.

            Your reading of him, using the blanket statement of “false”, seems to me very uncharitable.

          • Seth says:

            @Dr Dealgood – Let me clarify that I’m referencing the sort of quandaries you bring up, not advocating one side of them. As in, by “what’s mental illness”, I mean very much what you say, where do we define “psychiatric “solutions” to political disagreement”, by way of David Friedman’s “might actually be a difference at the genetic level”. Is a brutal colonialist empire-builder simply a very bad moral person by choice, or a successful sociopath? (maybe there are different types?). That sort of dilemma comes directly from bringing up a question of “genetic level” basis of beliefs. I think it’s sobering to consider that if someone went around today arguing pro-slavery ideology that was politically mainstream in the pre-Civil War American South (not universally held, but still, pretty respectable and deferred to as an acceptable part of national debate), they would get grief in terms of being accused of pathology.

            That is, to phase it in simplistic form, I’m not trying to insinuate that there’s One True Politics, and everything else is delusion. But if one considers if there’s a genetic level aspect of moral beliefs over freedom, that rapidly gets into some historically complicated territory.

          • Mary says:

            ‘Also, I take it that Dr Dealgood‘s obvious point was that those opposed to segregation in the Civil Rights Era tended, on average, to be more left-wing. ”

            So what? You shouldn’t buy into the false narrative that there is some kind of homogeneity between all “conservatives” and “progressives” throughout history. Why should we ascribe the current day crop with the credit for their predecessor of the Civil Right Era when they get to slough off the blame for the racist abuses of the Progressive Era?

            Besides, they voluntarily choose to affiliate themselves with that era. If someone elects to call himself a Stalinist, we get to talk about the purges even if they happened before his parents were born.

            Furthermore, they are backing segregation again. The demands for “safe space” — which can reach such a pitch that a college professor felt safe to order a man out of public space because of his race — the demands to be taught by black teachers — all of these ought to look familiar. So they are more like the 20s than the 60s nowadays.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Mary:

            So what? You shouldn’t buy into the false narrative that there is some kind of homogeneity between all “conservatives” and “progressives” throughout history. Why should we ascribe the current day crop with the credit for their predecessor of the Civil Right Era when they get to slough off the blame for the racist abuses of the Progressive Era?

            We shouldn’t give them credit for it. I never said that.

            And Dr Dealgood only pointed out that concern for freedom of association has shifted between contemporary-left and contemporary-right when it suits their object-level concerns.

            Besides, they voluntarily choose to affiliate themselves with that era. If someone elects to call himself a Stalinist, we get to talk about the purges even if they happened before his parents were born.

            I have never met someone who calls himself a “progressive” but intends that to mean he supports every element of early 20th-century Progressivism.

            If you call yourself a Stalinist, the way the term is used, it implies that you agree with Stalin’s purges. If you call yourself a progressive, it does not imply that you agree with Woodrow Wilson’s racism. Sorry, but it doesn’t.

            I mean, I’m in support of material, technological, and societal progress. But while I find it unfortunate that a certain group of people have appropriated the term “progressive” to refer to their own policies—which I do not hold to constitute actual progress—I don’t call myself a “progressive” and insist that they are not entitled to use the term. That would just be needlessly confusing.

            And in the same way, I don’t insist that “progressive” can only properly refer to a certain group of beliefs popular in the early 20th century, and that people are misusing the term if they use it otherwise.

          • The liberal/left have always been in favour of Freedom of Association in its original meaning of the right to hold political meetings, etc. The controversial versions of FoA have always been where it is used to mean what discrimination means.

          • Murphy says:

            Some time I’d like to try a poll on here with people ranking various rights according to their intuitions.

            I like freedom of association but I wouldn’t place it at the top of my list vs various other rights.

            I also wonder whether we could somehow quantify it and work out what tradeoffs people are willing to accept: would they trade one Milli-unit of free speech for 100 Milli-units of freedom of association etc

          • Mary says:

            “I mean, I’m in support of material, technological, and societal progress. ”

            Since progress is travel in a good direction — that’s not a distinguishing trait. Everyone on God’s occasionally green earth supports progress, because they think what they support is progress. By definition.

            And in the same way, I don’t insist that “progressive” can only properly refer to a certain group of beliefs popular in the early 20th century, and that people are misusing the term if they use it otherwise.

            At the very least, they are willing to be associated with those beliefs by calling themselves by the same term. If they find segregation and all that so repulsive, they would have found the term repugnant.

        • “The idea that for some reason a business should not be able to refuse to hire someone based on him belonging to a certain group of people has always baffled me since it is such a widespread belief that even a lot of my friends believe that (and it is the legal reality in most countries). I just don’t understand the point.”

          It seems obvious from one point of view that a provately owned business should be able to business with
          whomever they choose. However, it is also obvious to many that people have a right not to be discriminated against.

          “You can object that if everyone except for X decided not to hire X tomorrow or sell them anything or so, then that would be a bad thing, worse than the loss of freedom from forcing them to associate with them”

          If no-one at all wanted to hire X or sell them things, that would be even worse. That’s the hard case.

          “However, if it really were so, then the discriminating group is probably big enough to push through laws that make the discrimination legal…or even enforced in some extreme cases.”

          That doens’t make it moral. People base their politics on their ethics, and people who don’t like discrimination won’t support politics where majorities can excldue minorities.

          “All in all it seems to me that all the anti-discrimination laws do is that they make people do the discrimination secretly and punish those brave or stupid enough to do it openly…those do not tend to be big employers though.”

          They may not be effective at reducing the amount of discrimination to zero.. but what law has ever
          reduced the criminal activity it targets to exactly zero? On the other hand, they are apparently able to address the
          hard case of minority groups being reduced to second-class status by systematic discrimination.

          “Freedom of association means lower costs of information.”

          Freedom of association doesn’t mean the right to discriminate. It means:

          “Freedom of association is the right to join or leave groups of a person’s own choosing, and for the group to take collective action to pursue the interests of members.” (WP)

          (There are, however, people who think that FoA means discrimination. One of them sent me to a wikipedia article entitled “discrimination in the US” in order to prove their claim that the US no longer respects
          FoA. But of course it does, by WP’s own definition, and that of most people other than US right wingers.).

          Whether a group is systematically disciminated against so that they are reduced to second class citizenship
          is a matter of public interest: that is the origin of the conflict with the principle that private employers and businesses should be able to hire or sell to whomever they please, or not.

          I think it is helpful to think in terms of a three-fold division between the fully private, the fully public space, and the semi-private semi-public space. The fully private space is things like friendships and relationships. I haven’t heard anyone so extremely opposed to discrimination that they would support
          laws that people had to have a certain percentage of ethnic minority friens and lovers. Buit if the semi-private space is a genuinely different referecne class, there is no reason anti-discrumination rules should not apply.

      • For what it’s worth, I believe an employer should be allowed to say “no jews” or “no libertarians” or “no short people,” or “no economists,” all of which would exclude me.

        But then, I’m a libertarian. Also an economist. I think decentralized mechanisms driven by individuals acting in their own interest—which includes groups that voluntarily form to coordinate by locally centralized mechanisms—work better than mechanisms that depend on two party interactions being constrained by third parties according to how the third parties think the interacting parties ought to interact.

        • JBeshir says:

          By should be allowed, do you mean just allowed legally, or also allowed morally, in that you wouldn’t think less of someone for doing those things?

          The original thing in favour of meta-level rules about not punishing people for expressing their mind are more about the latter than the former, I think.

          • I meant allowed legally. Whether I thought less of somebody for doing such things, and how much less, would depend on the details.

            Imagine, for example, an employer who was a concentration camp survivor and made a point of not hiring Germans, because hearing voices with German accents made him very uncomfortable. I wouldn’t think less of him for that.

            On the other hand, I would think less of an ordinary modern person who refused to hire modern Germans, all of them born after the end of WWII, because he held them guilty for the misdeeds of a previous generation.

          • JBeshir says:

            Makes sense. I think the interesting debate going on here is not so much what should be given legal force, as what people should view as bad- the argument that people should think it bad (generally) when organisations impose political tests on employment even if those tests agree with their own politics, etc. That’s what I’d be in favour of.

            I mean, there could be a discussion about legal force- I haven’t really thought about it too much- but it’d need a lot of stuff about feasibility, distinction between morality and law, whether a concept of rights should be applied more strictly to law than to moral opinions, etc, to get anywhere, and it probably doesn’t matter as much as the moral question.

          • At a slight tangent …

            If I was looking at social media records to decide whether to hire someone, what I would want to know wouldn’t be what his political views were but how he expressed and defended them (and other views, of course).

            I would want to discriminate in favor of reasonable people, against unreasonable people. There are lots of unreasonable people who happen to agree with my political or religious views, and even some reasonable people who manage to disagree. Exchanges on social media provide quite a lot of information on that subject–information I already try to use in deciding whose posts and comments to read.

        • Patrick says:

          Why? I mean that seriously. It can’t be based on your knowledge or expertise as an economist, obviously. Because both the moral and economic case for “decentralized mechanisms driven by individuals acting in their own interest” is based on a conception of “own interest” that is in conflict with a “no jews” sign. It seems like you’re just declaring that you have some prima facie belief that certain market distortions are better than others. Why is that?

          • I think Tibor has already made a good deal of the argument for me. The amount of damage that can be done to a group by prejudice is an increasing function of how much of the population shares the prejudice. In the decentralized, private property and trade context, the damage is small unless a large majority of the population shares the prejudice, for reasons I think he has sketched. You might notice that Jews went from dirt poor immigrants working in sweat shops to their present status in a period for much of which there were no effective legal bars to prevent discrimination against them–and prejudice against them was widespread.

            On the other hand, if decisions are made at the center through political mechanisms rather than mutual assent market exchange mechanisms, even a large minority can make things very unpleasant for a smaller minority they don’t like, as long as most of the rest of the population doesn’t have strong feelings in either direction.

            So problems for discriminated against minorities are generally worse under the centralized than the decentralized mechanism. That doesn’t mean they are nonexistent under the latter.

            And the economic view of matters is not inconsistent with a “no Jews” sign. In a world where Jews were a different culture and many non-Jews didn’t feel comfortable interacting with them, it was economically rational for some resorts not to admit Jews. Just as it was economically rational for resorts in the Borscht Belt to specialize in serving Jews. There is nothing inherently irrational about members of ethnic or cultural groups sometimes choosing to self-segregate.

            Real story. A few years ago I visited Israel to attend a conference. Passing through the airport, I felt more at home than I normally do in foreign airports–although I don’t speak Hebrew, was not brought up in any strong sense within the culture. There was something about interacting with the people there that signaled “we’re all family, even if distant family.”

            Older story: I was traveling in Europe as a grad student, got into a conversation with a group of people about my age in a youth hostel or similar environment. One of them asked me where I was from, I answered. I asked them, and they gave an implausible set of answers. Then one of them asked to see my passport, which I showed him.

            He then said (approximately, by memory from long ago) “I’m French the same way you are American and he is German and he is Italian.”

            They were all Jewish and thought of that as a more central identity than citizenship. My guess is he wanted to see my passport to check his guess that I was Jewish against my name.

          • Anonymous says:


            This argument seems to rely on a belief that wanting to not interact with people who are members of certain protected groups is a fundamentally wrong preference.

            Personally, I just don’t think that it is. I think there are plenty of perfectly legitimate reasons someone might have this preference. I also think there are plenty of perfectly stupid reasons someone might have this preference, but don’t see a good reason to think of them differently than other preferences people have that I feel are stupid.

            For example, I think that if someone is a little conservative and frightened of the world, and they take comfort in their own familiar culture, then that is completely totally fine and they shouldn’t be required to mix with all the other exciting hip new cultures just because it would be racist not to. Personally, I really like multiculturalism – interacting with people from a wide variety of backgrounds is great and fascinating – but I can understand why someone wouldn’t, and I don’t think their preference for safety and familiarity is any less legitimate a preference than mine.

          • keranih says:

            a belief that wanting to not interact with people who are members of certain protected groups is a fundamentally wrong preference.

            This belief is even more interesting when one looks at the discussion further up thread concerning the legitmacy of rules against racial bigotry based on local percentages of biased people. (Something to the effect of “we should put laws in place where, say, 60% of the local whites are racists, but laws aren’t needed across the whole country, because on average only 5% of the whites are racist”.)

            Laws against inter-racial marriage weren’t a big deal in places with very low numbers of minorities. The Carolinas had rules against whites marrying blacks, but not against whites marrying asians. Califorina’s rules were more significantly aimed at white-asian intermarriage. New York, which had relatively few of either, didn’t have laws against either. (See <a href=""this WP article for an interesting map.)

            My point here is that “people in an area who don’t want social mixing with another group” are going to be a subset of varying size within the larger group, and that homogenous groups are going to be able to keep social mixing down to a dull roar with non-legislative pressure, while heterogenous groups are going to have to resort to legal force. Both ‘racist southern culture’ and ‘tolerant northern culture’ accepted black/white mixing at about the same rate per 100 white people. The population of blacks in the north never got the point where the tolerance of whites was challenged on a wide spread basis.

          • Patrick says:

            Thank you for the response. It confirmed that your view on this is unrelated to your expertise as an economist. But beyond that, I’m afraid most of your response appears to be irrelevant. I didn’t ask about comparing centralized versus non centralized discrimination. I asked about non centralized discrimination versus a legal system that enforces anti discrimination laws.

            Should I take it from your choice to swap in “centralized discrimination” for “a legal system that enforces anti discrimination laws” that you view those as equivalent? That interpretation makes your answer far more responsive.

          • “Should I take it from your choice to swap in “centralized discrimination” for “a legal system that enforces anti discrimination laws” that you view those as equivalent?”

            More precisely, a legal system that enforces anti-discrimination laws is one that has rejected a decentralized rule of freedom of association in favor of a centralized rule of “you may choose and reject associations only if the legal authorities approve of your reasons for doing so.”

            I think my perception of the implications of the two alternatives is in large part a result of being, and thinking like, an economist. The question for an economist is not “what outcomes should we specify that our system produces” but “given a particular system and the logic of individuals acting in their rational self-interest within it, what outcomes will it produce?”

            Hence it isn’t, in this case, “should we have a legal system that enforces anti-discrimination rules” but “should we have the kind of legal system that can enforce anti-discrimination rules, given what outcomes we should expect such a legal system to produce.”

            If the distinction isn’t clear, consider the difference between “should we have an immigration system that prevents ISIS terrorists from migrating to the U.S.” and “should we have an immigration system that could be used to prevent ISIS terrorists from migrating to the U.S.” One question assumes the outcome, the other the institutions.

          • LeeEsq says:

            I’ve had a similar thing happen in Italy. My parents, brother, and I were in a leather shop in Florence. The owner of the store looked at us closely and asked if we were Jewish. We applied in the affirmative and he did to.

      • akarlin says:

        (However, I’m going to guess that actually akarlin is a libertarian or something of the kind and does think employers should be free to refuse to employ straight people or Chinese people or Hindus. My apologies, akarlin, if I’ve guessed wrong.)

        I am not a libertarian.

        I will just say that if somebody doesn’t want to hire me just on account of, say, my Russian ancestry, I would be happy and indeed prefer that to working with someone who is presumably a hardcore Russophobe. Both of us will be far happier that way. And likewise this applies to other categories of people. (If systemic discrimination is found to be a problem via statistical methods, then there can be central intervention to reimburse negatively affected groups, instead of imposing these costs on individuals and businesses).

        But I certainly appreciate there are good counter arguments. Ultimately, I only speak for myself.

        Incidentally, Singapore allows overt discrimination (you see ads for nannies like “No Indians, No PRCs” and so on) and it doesn’t seem to have done them any harm.

        • Tibor says:

          Ditto for Hong Kong. The owner of the hostel we stayed in there put up a sign saying “no Indians or Pakistanis work for us, don’t listen to them if they tell you they are from our hostel”. He used the same warning at His employees were almost exclusively black Africans (and he was a native Hongkonger). When we talked to him, he said that we don’t have to be afraid that the Indians would steal from us but that they would try to cheat us (like pretend that they are from the hostel we booked and charge us the same price for a lower quality hostel…not that there were any actually nice hostels there, it was in the Chungking Mansions).

          I am surprised to see that in SG though. They do a lot to promote a feeling of national unity and such in SG, they have kind-of anti-segregation laws as far as apartement buildings go and generally try hard to make people feel Singaporean first and not Tamil, Chinese, Malaysian, or whatever.

      • “It may be helpful to consider anti-discrimination law— but if you’re a member of that class you’d prefer not to work for someone so prejudiced against it that they’d rather not employ anyone in the class.

        A situation where people are discriminating in different directions, not everyone is discriminating, and plenty of other options are always available in is not the hard case here.

        Perhaps you could allow discrimination without serious the short term…but perhaps anti-discrimination laws in a de facto liberal society are a fence across a slippery slope.

        • If everyone is discriminating in the same direction, then giving a democratic government power to decide who may not or must associate with whom in what ways is not likely to make the discriminated against group better off.

    • Psmith says:

      This kind of thing sure makes me glad I don’t have social media accounts connected to my real name.

    • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

      Torn on this one. Part of me wants to insist on a strong distinction between shunning that’s done with the purpose of punishing and/or deterring the speech, and shunning where the speech is merely a proxy for identifying personal characteristics that the organization legitimately would rather not have on board. But the similarity in the end results is troubling.

    • ryan says:

      This goes both ways, of course, SJW-influenced companies are free not to hire Gamergate supporters too.

      If a job applicant is truly passionate about ethics in video game journalism, I’d imagine many companies wouldn’t want to hire them.

      GGers: Please, please find something, anything else to be passionate about.

      • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

        To be fair to the Gators. “It’s about ethics in videogame journalism” was meant as a response to an accusation of “you’re in this to harrass women”. In reality, GG seems to be pretty much an anti-entryism movement.

      • Maware says:

        We need people to be passionate about ethics, actually. Looking at Metacritic and the reviews of several high profile games, and it’s embarrassing how one-sided many of the big reviewers are. Jonathan Blow’s The Witness is a good example, the average critic rating is a 90, but the actual viewer scores are a lot less at 65. I find that you’re better off not trusting any review on a major or indie release from a news outlet because of score inflation.

        • Samuel Skinner says:

          It is possible that is different tastes and not ethics problems; the disparity between scores occurs often, although rarely to such a degree.

          • Maware says:

            Not sure it is solely taste. There’s way too many positive and high scores for games, with the only sites often willing to rate low being unknown or non-English language sites. MGS V had no negative critic reviews at all. It’s not just games either, Star Wars the Force Awakens has not a single negative review from any critic site on metacritic. Not one.

            I miss the days of EGM or Die Hard Game Fan, where they put 3 or 4 reviewers on a single game.

          • Mary says:

            It is dishonest to habitually hire reviewers whom you know will misinform the audience, because of the mismatch between what they like and what the audience likes. If the disparity occurs often, the questions is how often and how large.

          • Anaxagoras says:

            Mary: Yeah, but what about when the audiences are highly self-selecting? The target audiences of Tyler Perry movies, torture porn, films like God’s Not Dead, or movies aimed at very small children really like them, but if you made everyone go watch them, the average reaction wouldn’t be nearly so positive. It doesn’t seem too feasible to have reviewers who align with the intended audience of all those films.

          • Mary says:

            If you can’t find reviewers who are part of the target audience, or review as if they were, don’t review the work.

          • brad says:

            People may not know whether or not they are the target audience of a particular work. They turn to media outlets they trust to let them know. Perhaps the mismatch isn’t between the target audience of a game and the reviewers, but between the target audience of a review and those that choose to read it.

            If every time you read a New York Times book review and subsequently read the book you find yourself in vehement disagreement, whose fault is it that you continue relying on the New York Times book reviews?

          • Mary says:

            Relying? Who brought up relying? Do you think gamers RELY on the reviewers whom they regard as unethical? (That is, once they have enough information to realize it.)

            Anyway, when a large section of your explicit target audience — such as gamers — objects to your reviews, the problem is YOU, not the people you aim at.

          • brad says:

            If you don’t trust the NYTimes book review section, then why are you reading it and why do you care what it says?

          • John Schilling says:

            Because it used to offer lots of useful reviews before entryists took it over, and it’s still the only game in town? Because the small probability of finding a good review in the degraded Times is greater than the probability of finding a good review on some fly-by-night internet outfit run by people like me but unable to offer the money or audience needed to attract talented writers, and my singular patronage won’t change that?

          • brad says:

            1) I don’t know what entryism is supposed to mean in the context of for-profit media organizations.

            2) If fan reviews are what is being used to point out problems with the professional reviews, then why not just go to the fan reviews? I understand that reading a good review can sometimes be enjoyable in and of itself, but if at bottom you are trying to find something you like and you have mass market taste than crowdsourcing seems like a perfect option that didn’t exist 15-20 years ago.

            I picked the NYTimes book review as the example advisedly. Their taste is about 180 degrees opposite mine. I figured that out more than a decade ago and stopped reading it. I’m certainly not furious that they exist, I’m sure there are people that share their taste and I don’t begrudge them their space. I get book recommendations from friends and from amazon.

            This whole thing continues to seem like a tempest in a teapot, with some glaring blindspots if we take people at their word as to what they are concerned about.

          • It’s possible to read reviews for entertainment.

            A reviewer whose taste is reliably the opposite of yours is just as valuable as a reviewer whose taste matches yours.

          • Held in Escrow says:

            It’s different audiences. Your gaming grognards are of a completely different breed than your game reviewers. It’s like putting interpretive dance together with ballet; there are some small similarities but they’re really completely different. Game reviewers are after money and status. Gamers are after an enjoyable use of their time and money. These goals are pretty much at loggerheads in the same way that someone looking for indie black and white soundless German films is going to be the opposite of someone looking for a good comedy or action film.

            A game reviewer is a lowest type of tech journalist, which is basically the lowest type of journalist. Add on that they’re at game sites as opposed to any “real” media and they’ve got zero status. So they want people to recognize games as “high art” so that they can get status as an art critique, which is a fairly high status journalist. Saying you review books for the NYT is an instant winner at the sort of parties they want to go to, saying you review games is an instant look of pity and perhaps disgust.

            Then you have the money component. Getting people pissed on the internet gets clicks. With the rise of free review aggregators such as Steam or being able to watch some gameplay on Twitch/Youtube there’s almost no reason to go to a Reviewer who doesn’t have a trustworthy reputation behind them. So they instead look for other audiences, generally by doing basic ingroup/outgroup signaling and flame baiting. This gets them clicks and moves the general reviewing outlets to swap to that model instead. Getting posted on /v/ ain’t worth shit, but if Jezebel is retweeting you that’s a lot of both gushing and angry views. Capitalism baby, they follow the money.

            In the case of big cultural media such as Star Wars you’re probably not going to be able to drive clicks with a “eh, it’s okay.” You’ll just be written off. You need to be mad and saying “this shit sucks” to get the angry clicks, which is why you’re going to see a much wider spread.

            I personally found decent places that tend to match up to my taste, and combined with being able to watch hours upon hours of gameplay means I don’t have to deal with reviewers ever again in games. I look at what people who liked books I enjoyed and see what else they liked to get an idea of what to read next. The NYT Book Review is dead to me ever since it gave The Magicians a good review. God I miss EGM though

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Brad – “If you don’t trust the NYTimes book review section, then why are you reading it and why do you care what it says?”

            For what it’s worth, I’ve been a gamer all my life, and I currently make video games for a living. The NYTimes book section is not analogous to the gaming press, modern literature publishing is not analogous to the games industry, and the market for books is not like the gamer market. The games press-industry-gamers triangle is much, much more tight-knit than other industries, and considerably more volatile.

            The gaming press had something of a renaissance a few years back, which coincided roughly with the rise of steam and then Indy gaming. The press led a push to raise the status of gaming as a serious, legitimate medium, and most gamers backed them because they wanted to see their choices validated/were tired of being treated badly by the public at large. At the same time, systemic problems within the industry increased the Press’ influence with that sector. Publisher contracts started gating payment based on metacritic scores, stuff like that.

            The end result was that the press saw themselves as having significant influence over both gamers and the industry. At some point, a large clique within the press realized that they could use their influence over gamers and the industry to try to push their personal political agenda. This worked pretty well until they overplayed their hand by trying to force industry and gamers to conform to their views via threats, at which point a backlash kicked off. Subsequent facts have shown that their influence was largely granted by consent, but at the time this wasn’t obvious to any of the three parties; the Press really did seem to think they had the power to pull off La Revolution, and gamers and the industry weren’t sure they were wrong. Hence the fighting to settle the issue.

            “ethics in games journalism” is shorthand for saying that the press does not get to enforce their preferences over gamers or the industry, which is what they were pretty nakedly attempting to do. If the press wants to gang together to enforce a single viewpoint, we at least can blunt their effectiveness by forcing them to do it publicly, loudly mocking them when they try, and counter-organizing to render their enforcement mechanisms useless.

            [EDIT] – It’s probably worth mentioning that the press clique were actually quite sleazy as well, with a great deal of nepotism and backscratching going on from the indy/gamer view, and a long history of more-or-less ubiquitous corruption from the industry point of view. Added to that, the press has had a long, long, long string of hilarious fuckups, for example with Simcity and Colonial Marines, and both gamers and the industry held the field as a whole in very low regard for a long time. Still, it’s less “I’m deeply concerned about bribery in the Colonial Marines Metacritic rating”, and more “you jackasses aren’t the collective King of Video Games, and claiming you are means you need to be put in your place”.

          • Aapje says:

            Craven, great comment!

      • Emile says:

        If a job applicant is truly passionate about ethics in video game journalism, I’d imagine many companies wouldn’t want to hire them.

        Why? Would that be worse than being passionate about soccer, or about Game of Thrones, or about poodle breeding, or about Indie Rock?

        • Stefan Drinic says:

          It’s lower status is why, just as sure as girls listening to Justin Bieber are lower status than all the people mourning David Bowie’s death. Fortunately for some, millenials will at some point be old people as well, and then we can all yell at our kids for having fun in the wrong manner rather than playing Ocarina of Time like proper people do.

        • God Damn John Jay says:

          Anecdotally, I don’t want to mention hobbies at work, partially out of a kind of ingrained embarrassment about nerdy hobbies, but more-so because of the “you can spend 6 hours on *that* but you can’t focus on *this*” criticisms.

          • A very long time ago, I was feeling somewhat guilty about how much of my time I put into my hobby (SCA). I then happened to discover that several, perhaps all, of the people I was working with (Fels Center at U. PA) had hobbies that they put a lot of time into.

            Which made me feel better about it. Just as the breakup of my first marriage felt less like evidence of failure when I discovered how many of my colleagues had been through similar experiences.

          • Tibor says:

            A possible future where every person can readily spy on anyone else and at any time would probably help erase many anxieties. My guess is that as long as you are not an outright psychopath you are probably more like everyone else around you than you think…I had this anxiety about my PhD in the first few months. I felt like everyone around me was super smart and I was someone who had got there by a combination of dumb luck and pretending something he wasn’t. Then I found out to my surprise that most of the other PhD students felt the same way.

        • Patrick says:

          I can’t recognize sarcasm on the internet, but if this is a serious question- “passionate about ethics in video games journalism” is a reference to the self description of a particular group of people that many others find very obnoxious. Its a self description that a lot of people find very unconvincing. The issue isn’t that companies might not want to hire people who are actually, legitimately passionate about ethics in video game journalism, its that companies might not want to hire people who say they’re passionate about that because its a red flag for something else.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            No, you misunderstood the intent of the post.

            What ryan is saying is that if an applicant was actually, unironically and truthfully passionate about ethics in game journalism, they wouldn’t be very attractive to employers.

            It’s a cute joke that works by subverting expectations: you’d think he’d make a comment about gamergate and the issues with activism and employment, when he’s just making fun of nerds.

            I’m not a fan of internet psychoanalisis, but from your response I’d guess you have strong opinions on the subject.

          • Emile says:

            I’m not being sarcastic. If someone is passionate about either gamergate or actual “ethics in game journalism”, sure, it’s a weirdish hobby, but plenty of people have other weird hobbies too, and I don’t see why that one would be singled out (except if he won’t shut down about it during the interview, but that goes for other weird hobbies at well).

            And I don’t expect actual companies to care that much either, unless it’s for some kind of public-facing position in a domain where that mattered (just like hiring someone who’s really into hunting would be a bad community manager for a vegan granola bar company).

          • brad says:

            All other things being equal I’d think that employers would prefer to avoid anyone active on twitter. If your hobby involves getting involved in massive online flame-fests that’s got a non-trivial chance of blowing up in your employers face.

            Unless it is for a social media marketing position, I suppose. I pray I’m never in a position to be responsible for hiring or managing a social media marketing position.

          • Emile says:

            brad: huh, I have a (low-activity) twitter account, as do quite a few colleagues, and we’re engineers, not social media managers.

            I wouldn’t imagine it being an obstacle for finding work, on the contrary – unless you’re posting profanity or getting into flamewars, but which most people on twitter don’t seem to be doing, and those that do usually don’t use a name easily traceable to their real name.

            Maybe you’re getting your impression of twitter from the ugliest of flamewars?

          • brad says:

            Yeah, I probably overstated that. But consider Justine Sacco. We can debate the rights and wrongs of the situation, but on a practical level, I’m sure IAC wishes they had hired someone else.

    • FJ says:

      I work for an organization that engages in some fairly politically controversial work. Naturally, there is a strong selection bias among employees here: most of us are strong supporters of that work, and the typical employee here has the constellation of political beliefs you would associate with that work. To use an analogy: imagine a pro-choice advocacy group. You would assume the vast majority of employees oppose abortion restrictions, and that a large fraction also favor increasing taxes on the wealthy.

      As for me, I’m in favor of (most of) my employer’s mission, but I don’t happen to share the constellation of beliefs most of my colleagues do. In the analogy, I would be strongly pro-choice Republican who favors lower taxes. I totally understand why my employer might want to screen potential employees for orthodoxy; it wouldn’t make much sense to hire a vocally pro-life person to do pro-choice advocacy, after all. But I am concerned about defining “orthodoxy” too broadly: in the analogy, I am just as pro-choice as my Democratic colleagues, even though we disagree about the intellectually distinct issue of taxes. I don’t want to be purged for dissenting about something that is, frankly, collateral to the matter at hand.

      Then again, my presence here is potentially unpopular among my colleagues. I am not particularly vocal about my beliefs, but I have answered direct questions honestly. I care passionately about our common goal, but some of my colleagues are suspicious. If I stand up in a meeting and say, “I don’t think this is the best way of pursuing our pro-choice agenda,” some might wonder if I really mean that or if I’m just saying that because I’m an evil Republican. But neither can I just walk away: it’s not remotely practical for me to try to start up a firm of pro-choice Republicans, because there are like six of us within a thousand miles of here. If I want to work on behalf of abortion rights, which is what I’ve (hypothetically) dedicated my career to doing, I have to work with these guys no matter how much they might dislike me.

      • Along related lines …

        I teach at a university that has two group ideologies, neither of which I share (Catholicism and soft leftism). When I was interviewing, one of the people I spoke with at length was the number two man in the university, a Jesuit who, I had been told, was sympathetic to liberation theology.

        It was a friendly conversation, I made no attempt to conceal my views though I don’t remember if they came up. My general impression was that he was interested in whether I would be a good person to teach their students, not whether I agreed with him. I was told that he supported hiring me.

        Many years later, the school devoted a week to the subject of sustainability, and asked professors if they would like to give a talk on the subject. I responded by asking if they minded my giving a talk against sustainability. They didn’t, and I gave it.

        I think that set of experiences fits the “if they don’t want you, you shouldn’t want them” line of argument. My hiring without any effort to conceal my views, which I am sure some or all of those involved in the project were to some degree aware of, was evidence that it was the sort of place where disagreeing with the dominant ideologies would probably not be a problem.

        • Tibor says:

          I wonder if this has anything to do with them being catholic. Complicated traditions and rituals notwithstanding, catholics seem to me to be more tolerant to other views than protestants. That is not to say that they won’t oppose them, they will surely be more against abortions than probably any other group. But since Catholicism teaches forgiveness for those who truly regret their sins whereas Protestants say “you sin = you go to hell!” (that is my interpretation and I actually know little about religion and even less about Protestants than about Catholics, so please anybody correct me if I am wrong), it seems to me that Catholics might be more patient with those they disagree with, because preventing sin from happening at all is not as important as it is to show the sinners the light and help them come on their own to the realization that they have sinned and that they should regret that and repent. When I say Catholics, I mean something like “Catholic mindset” and similarly with Protestants (so not necessarily strong believers). I do acknowledge that this is quite a wild speculation.

    • Ptoliporthos says:

      Conservatives always say, kind of as preemptive schadenfreude, that nobody would ever hire spoiled student protesters.

      I always thought it was more an analysis of the business acumen involved in taking on hundreds of thousand in debt for a degree in underwater basket-weaving and a year studying the limits of your high-interest student credit card in some foreign country.

      More of an ant and grasshopper thing than schadenfreude.

    • Deiseach says:

      The New York Times has a hit piece perfectly nice article on the Center For Applied Rationality, a Less Wrong-affiliated self-help workshop group in Berkeley.

      I wouldn’t call it a hit-piece, but then again I’m accustomed to the “anthropologist reporting on the quaint customs amongst the lost Stone Age tribe” vibe when reporters from mainstream media do ‘my time with the people you, our readers, only know as names’ pieces on religious groups or organisations.

      I was mostly going “Oh hey, CFAR! Leah’s old job!” 🙂 From knowing all you nice rationalist types on here I was able to discount the “lemme outta this cult” panic. That probably came from the reporter finding a lot of mud being stirred up in her subconscious from that kind of intensive, immersive, almost meditative experience of self-examination (this is why you are always advised to have a spiritual advisor and not go off doing it yourself when you start engaging in that kind of endeavour).

    • Anonymouse says:

      >any employer who goes to the trouble of sifting through your social media and penalizing you for “problematic” opinions/actions is actually doing you a favor. Would you want to work for such a person or organization?

      Would you want to work for a company that doesn’t care enough about its culture to look at what candidates say publicly? Hiring is one of the most crucial aspects of running a company. A bad hire is one of the most dangerous things that can happen to a company. I wouldn’t want to work for a company that didn’t look at my social media.

  2. anon says:

    Regarding Tabby’s Star and its dimming, you are slightly (a few days) out of date:

  3. Gildor Inglorion says:

    Hi SSC community! I’ve been a fan for awhile but have never commented.

    I have a quick question for the community in general – what are some good nonfiction books you would recommend? I’m interested specifically in game theory, economics, or philosophy.


    • anon says:

      Here are a few from my kindle (* means I haven’t finished or perhaps even yet started it, letters are grades) that I know or have reason to believe are worthwhile. Not intended to be in any way comprehensive. Biased towards the subjects you mentioned.

      *) How China Became Capitalist (Coase [yes, the famous one] and Wang)
      B) Superforecasting (Tetlock)
      B) The Essential Hayek (ed. Boudreaux)
      A) Reflections on Judging (Posner)
      *) The Thing Itself (Munger, essays)
      B) The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels (Epstein)
      *) An Engine, Not a Camera (Mackenzie)
      B) Getting it Wrong (Barnett — on the subject of how hard it is to construct meaningful measures of inflation and/or the monetary base)
      B) Reminiscences of a Stock Operator (Lefevre — timeless classic)
      B) The Great Stagnation & Average is Over (Cowen)
      A) How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia (Hamid — not actually nonfiction, but a great novel written in the form of a self help book, hat tip to Cowen for pointing it out)
      A) The Rent is Too Damn High (Yglesias — makes obvious points, but well written and apparently the points are not a priori obvious to everyone. This book apparently is the most-linked book on Amazon among Hacker News commenters —; make of that what you will — personally I think it’s just a reflection of Bay Area house prices.)

      Some on topics unrelated (or not wholly related) to what you mentioned:

      B) Pot Shards (Gregg — interesting “insider’s view” of the Deep State and foreign policy, by a bit player in the Iran-Contra scandal who went on to become Ambassador to South Korea. If nothing else, will give you a different perspective on North Korea than the cartoonish portrayal in the American media. I only know about this book because it was plugged by Gregg’s nephew, a former MTV video jockey turned conspiratorial podcaster.)
      A) Countdown to Zero Day (Zeiter — very well reported book on Stuxnet and related developments)
      B) The Epic Struggle of the Internet of Things (Sterling — very short but interesting)
      B) Zero to One (Thiel)
      A+) Subtle is the Lord (Pais — outstanding biography of Einstein)
      A+) Huygens & Barrow, Newton & Hook (Arnol’d — like Pais’s book above, this is a masterpiece of science writing)

      • Wrong Species says:

        I second Superforecasting. It’s like a rationalist handbook complete with an easy to understand explanation of Bayesian reasoning.

      • zz says:

        Zero to One is excellent if you’re looking to do a startup, but I can’t see anyone else really deriving any value.

        Best Textbooks on Every Subject has you covered for philosophy and economics. The tl;dr is Melchert’s The Great Conversation for a history of western philosophy and Varian’s Intermediate Microeconomics for microeconomics, provided you have the mathematical prerequisites.

    • Tyler Hansen says:

      Impro, The Inner Game of Tennis, and The Timeless Way of Building.

    • Wrong Species says:

      Some good books that I would consider “grey tribe essentials”:

      The Bell Curve by Charles Murray and Richard J Hernestein
      The Blank Slate by Stephen Pinker
      The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence has Declined by Stephen Pinker
      A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World by Gregory Clark
      Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies by Nick Bostrom
      The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins
      The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathon Haidt

    • drethelin says:

      The Strategy of Conflict is a classic work and very good introduction to a lot of game theory ideas. Liers and Outliers goes into a lot more depth, especially in terms of the societal ramifications of different behaviors in iterated games, as well as the kind of things societies do to change the payout matrix.

    • keranih says:

      There’s a post on this on the SSC reddit, isn’t there?

    • rubberduck says:

      I found “What Intelligence Tests Miss: The Psychology of Rational Thought” by Keith Stanovich to be pretty good, though bits of it get a little dense and technical. It’s basically an in-depth discussion of why being intelligent is no safeguard against being irrational.

      I also liked “Naked Economics” by Charles Wheelan. It’s a well-written introduction to the field if you’re interested in economics but don’t know much about it.

    • Not precisely what you’re looking for but

      Power, Sex, and Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life, about how complex life evolved, cell biology, an important component of aging, and some interesting things about the biological roots of sex.

      The Secret of Our Success, what makes humans so much more successful than other animals, drawing from evolutionary theory, paleontology, and anthropology. I’d been growing unsatisfied with the machievelian intelligence theory and this provided a good replacement.

      The World Until Yesterday, how are people in traditional non-state societies different from us.

      The Origins of Political Order, how did we get from there to here.

      Wars, Guns, and Votes, Democracy in Dangerous Places, a pretty rigorous account of when democracy helps and when it hurts in a country’s development.

      And I would second the recommendations of The Rent is Too Damn High, Superforcasting, and The Strategy of Conflict.

    • Alsadius says:

      Godel, Escher, Bach doesn’t really fall into those categories per se(or any others), but it’s a nerd-lit classic for good reason. Mostly on the effects of complicated self-interacting loops in music, math, art, intelligence, and the book itself.

      For economics, Freakonomics and its sequels are excellent forays into casual economics – no fancy mathematical modelling, just stories of how incentives affect behaviour.

      Another good casual economics book is The Up Side of Down – it’s about how to fail gracefully, and the effects of building a society where doing so is possible.

      I haven’t done a lot of philosophical reading, but the one I’ve enjoyed most in that category was Free Market Fairness – it’s political philosophy, very much in line with my own thinking, that discusses the philosophical case for a more-or-less soft-libertarian system(I’m oversimplifying somewhat, of course). Probably not for everyone, but if you’re into that sort of thing, it was fairly good.

    • akarlin says:

      Unfortunately I’ve only done A-D in any detail (plus everything I’ve reviewed but unfortunately that is not a lot). I plan to fill it out in the next few weeks, though.

    • jf says:

      Seeing Like a State is great, both in the theory it presents and in the examples it uses in support of that theory. Roughly about the state’s power to shape/homogenize human activity and the limits of this power.

      • The funny thing about it is the effort the author puts into making it clear that he isn’t one of those horrid libertarians—while writing a book whose content provides support for libertarian views.

      • phantasmoon says:

        I love Seeing Like a State for how thorough it is, even if it’s occasionally tiresome. I found The Dictator’s Handbook to be a good, complementary read.

    • Linch says:

      Poor Economics is a really good introduction to developmental economics.

      Social and Economic Networks is a very good book on the science of social networks, but it’s far from an easy read. The writer teaches a Coursera course on Game Theory too.

      I really enjoyed Nate Silver’s The Signal and the Noise, though it’s about statistics and not economics proper.

      Will Durant’s The Story of Philosophy is a good introduction to philosophy, but it might be too simple for you.

      For the intersection between economics and philosophy, I will recommend two books: Will MacAskill’s Doing Good Better and Amartya Sen’s Development as Freedom. Will is a really big name in the burgeoning effective altruism sphere. Sen is much more prominent generally (has a Nobel Prize).

      I second Freakonomics and Godel, Escher Bach.

  4. Sharif Olorin says:

    > Anybody with a phobia and access to propranalol want to try this and tell me how it works?

    I’ve tried this just on general principles (phobia of public speaking, I thought it might at least help with stuttering/voice shaking/rapid speech). It didn’t help as far as I could tell, but it was a relatively low dose (40mg) and I’ve only tried it a couple of times thus far. Next time I work up the courage to try again I’ll try 80mg and let you know how it goes.

  5. onyomi says:

    I noticed a long time ago that one could only have a figment of one’s imagination. Or as an Epcot Center mascot. I feel like there probably exists an exponentially larger number of “soft” linguistic Siamese twins because of mental chunking of language (among other things), and that failure to master these is one of the things, along with the more obvious pronunciation and grammar errors, that makes it very hard for non-native speakers of a language to ever perfectly pass as native speakers.

    • Said Achmiz says:

      The word “figment” refers to one of the five types of illusions in Dungeons & Dragons. (The others are pattern, glamer, phantasm, and shadow. Thinking about whether and how this classification matches real-world sources of inaccurate perception may be interesting for the curious or bored.)

    • hrtoll says:

      Here’s a relavant blog post I wrote many years ago:

    • Jiro says:

      Early editions of D&D used a lot of old and weird words and phrases (dweomer, for instance). I never figured out whether it was meant to make it sound like an ancient tome, whether Gary Gygax was just a bad writer, or a combination of these.

      • hellahexi says:

        I always imagined that these–usually having to do with magic–are intended to replicate a field’s jargon. That is, to a peasant, magic is just magic; to someone working in the field, the difference between an abjuration, conjuration, and evocation is an important thing, and technical terminology decreases confusion and facilitates high-level communication.

        • Tibor says:

          Kind of off topic, but I wonder – are there any smart rationalizations of the fact that in most DnD settings magic is quite a commonplace thing, mages are widespread and seem to pursue their craft with a pretty scientific method and yet the world’s technology is stuck somewhere around the 14th century (many anachronisms notwithstanding, but you do not really see any late-18th-and-beyond-century technology)? Or at least something where magic would make sense economically? One thing that always annoyed me a lot in the Baldur’s Gate was that a considerably low-level mage could summon creatures who had money on them and also dropped weapons. There should be quite an inflation in that world. Of course, maybe that is just a “bug” in the game and these things should disappear, but I have yet to see a fantasy where magic is put to an economic use. In those worlds where magic is relatively easy to learn (as in not 3 mages in the realm but hundreds of them), it is a relatively cheap source of energy and labour. There should be magical factories that cheaply mass-produce all that expensive plate mail and whatnot and put the local smithies out of business 🙂

          • hellahexi says:

            There is a broad literature on just what you’re talking about (the “wish economy”), popularized by Frank Trollman (a divisive figure for obscure inside-baseball reasons).

            Googling “wish economy” will do, but the best primer (IMO) is Trollman himself, here. Start at p423, the three economies.

            Actually, start at p1, that whole book is superb.

            tl;dr: Widespread magic makes D&D economics a goat rodeo, so better to just suspend your disbelief and/or extirpate all the wizards.

          • LeeEsq says:

            In my experience in reading fantasy novels, there is usually no smart rationalization on why magic seems limited to non-economic uses. The real reason is that people want their Kings, princesses, and dragons but a world where magic creates 20th century levels of affluence is less interesting. I think very few people want to read about an Andrew Carnegie expy who is also a mage creating a giant economic magic empire.

          • Tibor says:

            @LeeEsq: I would love to read that 😀

            But yeah, sure that is of course the reason, but I think it would be fun to try to figure out how to keep the castles, dragons and magic and make it all still seem plausible at the same time.

          • Along related lines, one thing I liked about _Sheepfarmer’s Daughter_, a fantasy novel by Elizabeth Moon, was that she had thought about the question. At one point a mercenary company that the protagonist is a member of takes a lot of casualties, due, if I remember correctly, to treachery of some sort. The protagonist wakes up, healed by magic. Being a bright lady, it occurs to her to wonder why, if magical healing works so well, there are still doctors around.

            At which point someone explains to her that the unit’s commander was so angry at what had been done to his people that he blew the entire profit from the campaign buying very expensive magical healing for them.

          • Nornagest says:

            This is a nerdy exercise, but summoning implies that they come from somewhere, does it not? Maybe the money and weapons brought in by summoned monsters is balanced out by the money and weapons lost when, say, Ulric the town guard gets summoned through a mystical portal and is never seen again.

            It’s been a long time since I played those games, but I seem to recall that something like that actually happens to your party toward the end of the series.

          • Yrro says:

            My general rule is that fantasy asks “what if?” and science fiction asks “what then?”

            How many layers deep you go with the ramifications of your “what if’s” often determines how “hard” your story feels. Most fantasy books don’t even want to try to do that.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Technology is advanced past the 14th century; it just turns out that magic is a much more effective technology than the mechanistic stuff we’re stuck with, so that’s what they’re advancing. All the effort goes into enchanting swords rather than coming up with better forging techniques (excepting the odd hermit who has spent years perfecting his craft in the fires of Mt Doom, of course).

            It’s the same reason we don’t look around and see all kinds of advanced steam-based technology; electricity works much better.

          • Tibor says:

            @Nornagest: I think that it is usually assumed that you summon something from another plane of being and it is then returned back there after the spell is over or when it would have otherwise been killed. In any case, you could definitely summon fire elementals to boil water for a steam turbine and thus generate electricity 🙂

            @Jaskologist: So if I get it well, they focus on magic because they see progress there and so they do not develop the necessary technology which would allow them to kickstart an industrial revolution. But they do not put magic to any good economic use either. One does not need a steam engine for mass production, a magic engine would be preferable.

            Actually, there is a computer game called Arcanum which toys with the idea of a 19th century industrial revolution plus magic. But for some reason the technology and magic rarely interact (like in the kind of magical powerplant I mentioned).

          • Mary says:

            You might enjoy Operation Chaos by Poul Anderson and Magic, Inc. by Robert A. Heinlein

          • Maware says:

            D & D is an incoherent world though. It started I think more as a way to simulate fantasy battles than a real living world, with the red and blue box and early manuals spending more time on lists of things and battle systems than settings. Other pen and paper rpgs are like that too-Battletech at launch only gave all of one column of lore about each house, and people forget Battlemechs are supposed to be extremely rare and excavated, not made. Car Wars entire initial rules was in a tiny 5×8 pamphlet.

            The worlds only really developed in novels and expansions after, and a lot of things were never dealt with. I think D and D only became a real world with the intro of Greyhawk, for example, and keep in mind D and D has SO many expansions that the world is really unable to be coherent. Ravenloft, Dark Sun, and Spelljammer come to mind.

            Can’t really answer why no economic system because it’s not even a unified setting.

          • Anaxagoras says:

            Daniel Abraham’s Long Price Quartet deals with this. The main form of magic there is summoning and binding incarnations of various concepts. These incarnations, called Andat, have total mastery over their domain, but each new one summoned must be substantially different from any summoned before or else Bad Things happen. Additionally, this magic system has been practiced for a long time, so all the cool Andat have long since been bound and eventually freed, rendering them unsummonable forever more (fortunately, the ancients kept good records, preventing accidents).

            This means that all the incarnations in the present day are of things like “Stone Made Soft” and “Seedless”. Seedless allows his city to be the textile capital of the world, because instantly stripping the seeds from all the cotton makes processing it into fabric much easier. Stone Made Soft powers the top mining city (and could also probably sink continents if necessary). Meanwhile, there’s a bunch of “barbarians” who, not having this magic, have instead had to make do with some primitive advances in containing steam. What threat could they pose to the might of the Andat?

          • Magic is personalized. Wizards (the class of magic-users most into research) can conjure Invisible Servants from the word go, and can progressively remove more and more dependencies on soceity.

            By the time a wizard has reached the point where they can create Fabricate-mills and revolutionize the economy, they’ve long since outgrown any obvious benefit that a mundane economy could provide them.

            This isn’t to say that economic wizards don’t exist, it’s just that their effects are one-offs, and durable only to the lifetime of the wizards themselves.

            Now, there are settings which work with this. The big one is Eberron, which carefully sets up the economy, level ratio, and tweaked new magitech to facilitate 1920s-era noir and pulp adventures, but with swords and dragons.

          • @Tibor:

            In the sequel I’m writing to my _Salamander_, there is mage whose specialty is tempering. She is developing a career as a high end dressmaker, using her ability to modify the characteristics of cloth to dramatic effect.

            Isabel took a last long look at her reflection. The high collar, rigid and bright as burnished gold, framed her face—still beautiful, even if no longer the face of the eighteen year old beauty that Petrus had wooed and wed. Further down the cloth of gold softened almost to a second skin to show the perfection of a figure that had not changed in fifteen years. That, at least, was one blessing that followed from her great misfortune. She spoke without turning.

            “It’s perfect, Dame Alyson. Perfect. And you promise …”

            “I promise Your Majesty that I have made nothing for anyone else for next week’s celebration. I cannot promise that there is no other mage who has thought of turning her skills to such a purpose, but certainly I have never heard of any. The magisters who trained me, being men, could think of no use for my talent save tempering sword blades and carriage springs and such.”

          • B-san says:

            I’d suggest taking a look at the Tippyverse. It’s a D&D 3.5 homebrew setting made by a guy named EmperorTippy. Some of the basic premises of the setting are people replacing transit between cities (and countries) with teleportation circles and replacing most of the agriculture in their societies with self-resetting magical traps that when activated cast a Create Food spell.

          • LeeEsq says:

            A big problem is that a lot magic systems aren’t very well thought out even in long established RPGs or fantasy novels. In many you can’t really tell whether magic is something anybody can do with enough study, practice, and work or whether or not you need some sort of innate skill. You get evidence for both. With AD&D most of the spells seem set for adventurers, plotters, and mad evil magicians intent on becoming a world conquer. There aren’t many spells that would be useful for a wizard-business person who wants to make a lot of money like our proposed magical Andrew Carnegie or a wizard-public servant building infrastructure for his kingdom.

            Jackologist is right on how magic would hinder the development of technology. Why muck around trying to discover artillery when you can just have a wizard cast fireball? Unless magic is significantly rare, expensive, and hereditary than technology is not going to confer any advantage.

          • Mary says:

            “there is usually no smart rationalization on why magic seems limited to non-economic uses. ”

            Same thing in superhero worlds. . . .here’s an interesting analysis of one such failure:

            (Though I recommend Wearing the Cape and its sequels by Marion G. Harmon for those who want an above average treatment.)

          • Jackologist says:


            Factories and assembly lines are not primarily a product of technology, they are a product of capitalism. You need a lot of a little people working on improving their little corner of private property because they expect a personal pay-off. But DnD worlds are usually still operating under a feudalism model. So it’s a political problem, same as in many unmodernised modern-day countries.

          • keranih says:

            @ Anaxagoras –

            Thank you – I was pulling my hair trying to remember the name of the novels/author for that series. (I remembered the Seed spell, which also served as a lesson that anything can be weaponized, but not the title etc)

            One of the more realistic treatments.

          • Mary says:

            I note, BTW, that fantasy steampunk (gaslamp fantasy or romance would be more accurate but probably won’t win) is moving the average tech level up.

            I personally have no trouble with putting trains or clockwork automata in my stories — having published one of each — when it’s appropriate.

          • John Schilling says:

            Factories and assembly lines are not primarily a product of technology, they are a product of capitalism

            In the sense that capitalism was the economic system that happened to prevail at the time and place that factories and assembly lines were invented, sure. But the transition to communism in both Russia and China, IIRC, involved lots of five-year plans to build lots more assembly-line factories.

          • Deiseach says:

            My reverse-version of that is all the people (mostly very young, let me give them that justification) who are enthusiastic about importing Muggle tech into the Harry Potter universe (generally along the lines of writing fic about “imagine Muggle First Years working out spells to allow their smartphones to work” and the likes).

            This interests me not at all and I do wonder why people don’t see this wrecks the world. If you’re going to read fantasy, you do it for a fantasy setting. If you have “just like our world but with a few bells and whistles”, then there is no reason to have (e.g.) Hedwig delivering a letter when you have a smartphone you can email, IM, Skype or what have you your respondent instead.

            I’m sure it’s possibly to write a novel where an economy taking account of magical means of production affects the development of civilisations, but if it’s going to be a thinly-veiled lecture about economics and industrialisation instead of about the magic, then forget it. Same way I don’t read urban fantasy: not my genre.

            Possibly one of the reasons I was not blown away by “Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell”, though I very much wanted to be; an 18th century magic-using world should have been right up my street, but somehow the mix didn’t work for me. This is very much an individual reaction; most people seem to have loved it to bits.

          • Aegeus says:

            I once saw a setting where, in the backstory, someone had done that. Industrialized magic, giant golem factories, the whole nine yards. Then the apocalypse happened, and now all those giant magical industries are crawling with weird monsters or getting picked over by marauding orcs, there’s a lot of magical loot just lying around… and now it looks pretty much like a default D&D setting.

            For a more serious take on this, try Exalted?

          • Jackologist says:

            Sure, the Communists built assembly lines after Capitalists came up with the idea for them to copy. But even then, they did a crappy job of it, turning out lots of poorly made shoes in one size, succeeding in hitting a quota and not much else.

            And what do we find in DnD-type settings? Well, a lot of shirts made of “cloth” or “leather.” Try walking into JC Penny sometime and asking for a “cloth shirt” and see how much that narrows your options down. So perhaps there are centrally-planned factories after all, and that is where vendor trash comes from.

          • LeeEsq says:

            Fantasy novelists tend to have a poor grasp of how the economy, politics, and everyday life worked in the Middle Ages for the most part. Getting too many details right would get in the way of the story. Look at the political systems. Its usually all absolute or feudal monarchy but actual medieval government contained many more representative bodies than most fantasy novels. They weren’t democratic but a wider group had say in politics than most fantasy novels acknowledge.

          • “Fantasy novelists tend to have a poor grasp of how the economy, politics, and everyday life worked in the Middle Ages”

            C.J. Cherryh may be an exception. In one of her books it becomes clear that carts, for transport, are a key military resource. I’m not sure if she knew that one of the things in the Magna Carta is a restriction on the king’s ability to seize carts for that purpose.

            My favorite sf feudal novel is _The Game Beyond_, where the author not only provides a believable account of a future high tech feudal society, she provides a plausible explanation of how it came into existence and follows out the implication that, the circumstances that brought it into existence having changed, the feudal system is now in the process of breaking down.

          • Mary says:

            ” Its usually all absolute or feudal monarchy but actual medieval government contained many more representative bodies than most fantasy novels.”


            Was just imagining a fantasy novel where the hero’s desperate quest to reach the king succeeds — half way though the novel — and the rest is political wrangling trying to persuade people that the threat is real.

            Political wrangling is a legitimate subject of novels, but not appropriate for all. When it’s not appropriate, simplifying government is wise.

          • Tibor says:

            Too many replies to answer all…just some comments from me:

            1) So many books/stories suggestions, a lot of them probably pretty interesting, thanks guys!

            2) There seems to be a point at which a mage is not yet powerful enough to more or less conjure up more or less whatever he wishes and therefore has no incentive to join the economy and already powerful enough to significantly improve production and be able flood the market with his products and his pockets with gold.

            3) The point about the societies being feudal and all the development being fostered by capitalism might be a good point. I think that it was largely gunpowder which allowed it. In a society where there is something even more powerful than an armoured knight which might keep the serfs in their place and which takes a lot of effort time and money to become good at (as was the case of armoured knights), the system might be more rigid. However, then I would expect mages to be much more involved in the hierarchy of feudal society…they are usually depicted as something that sort of stands on the outside.

          • Mary says:

            “There seems to be a point at which a mage is not yet powerful enough to more or less conjure up more or less whatever he wishes and therefore has no incentive to join the economy and already powerful enough to significantly improve production and be able flood the market with his products and his pockets with gold.”

            Depends on how the magic works. Most magic systems were not designed with economics in mind.

          • Anthony says:

            Aegeus – Harry Turtledove wrote “The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump”, which is along the same lines of the story you referred to.

            Larry Correia’s “Grimnoir” novels are set in a WW2-ish earth where magic came in the 1700s or so, and has become somewhat industrialized. (His zombies are terrifying – they’re humans who are cursed to be unable to die. The soul cannot leave the body, no matter how damaged the body. Someone dropped a bomb that made zombies on Berlin at the end of the Great War, and the Berlin Wall was built to keep the zombies *in*.)

      • Said Achmiz says:

        A lot of the jargon and linguistic style is imported from Gygax’s sources of inspiration — the fantasy novels/series from which he drew most of the ideas for D&D (listed, most famously, in Appendix N to the 1st edition Dungeon Master’s Guide).

        Burroughs, Howard, Vance, etc. wrote like this (broadly speaking), and so Gygax did as well.

  6. James says:

    Assuming I’m reading it right, Morkrysz et al are measuring IQ/educational performance of 16-year olds. So their study suggests that cannabis does not produce harmful cognitive effects over the span of a year or two, since I believe most users begin in their early-mid teens. I do not find this very surprising, and expect that if data were collected on this cohort later in life (c.f. Meier et al 2012) we would see cognitive declines in cannabis users.

  7. Sniffnoy says:

    The “or maybe not” link is broken due to a lack of an “http://”.

  8. Re the Mariel boatlift, you may have already seen, but new paper by Autor, Dorn, and Hanson on China’s impact on US unemployment is really big.

    Tyler Cowen says “This is some of the most important work done by economists in the last twenty years.”

    See also Noah Smith and Megan McArdle

    Not sure what to think yet, but seems like will be hugely influential either way.

    • I always sort of assumed that was true but I care about the welfare of Chinese workers more than 1/3 as much as working class Americans so I’ve been perfectly ok with it.

      • thisguy says:

        The main difference is that working class Americans can vote politicians into power to oppose other things you want, while Chinese workers have no other direct influence over changing the direction this country is going. I’m sure that complicates the calculus much more on this issue than simply doing a “care” utility calculation.

        • Why should that matter regarding whether I approve of or oppose trade with China? Are you saying that working class Americans know all the things I like and if I put them out of a job they’d vote against them just to spite me? That seems unlikely. I mean, I expect some of them would vote against free trade but we can let democracy sort that out, I don’t see how it should change my vote.

    • roystgnr says:

      I’m kind of surprised that this is surprising.

      Freer trade is guaranteed (under simplistic assumptions) to be a Kaldor-Hicks improvement. But that doesn’t guarantee it to be a Pareto improvement, because nobody actually enforces Kaldor-Hicks compensation.

      In fact (also under simplistic assumptions), free trade is expected not to be a Pareto improvement: if some Americans are trading low-skilled labor for other Americans’ higher-skilled labor and capital, and we open the market to allow in a little more of the latter but a lot more of the former, then it should be basic supply-and-demand that the price of the former falls. If most of the Americans previously supplying low-skilled labor were actually overqualified then they switch to high-skilled higher-paying jobs and everybody’s happy; if not (spoiler alert: not) then they lose out instead.

      • Free trade is quite unlikely to be a Pareto improvement, as are almost all other changes. But, under the sort of assumptions you mention, it is a Hicks-Kaldor improvement even if you limit yourself to effects on Americans.

        I prefer to refer to Marshal improvements, since I regard Hicks-Kaldor as a way of doing almost the same thing Marshal had done, which he justified on utilitarian grounds, while pretending to justify it on Paretian grounds.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      The arguments over the Mariel boatlift of Cubans to Miami in 1980 get bogged down in technicalities because economists have a strange inability to bring in real world facts, no matter how well known: you can’t compare the economic performance of Miami in 1980-1984 to the economic performance of cities that were similar to Miami in the 1970s with any confidence that the Mariel boatlift was the only difference because 1980-1984 was the peak of Miami’s world famous Cocaine Boom, as depicted in “Scarface,” “Miami Vice,” Glenn Frey’s music video “Smuggler’s Blues,” and the current Netflix series about Pablo Escobar called “Narcos.”

      The whole thing is quite similar to economist Steven “Freakonomics” Levitt coming up with the theory that abortion cut crime because he saw that murder rates in 1997 were lower than in 1985, but didn’t remember the Crack Wars of the in-between era.

      Cocaine is a helluva drug for punching holes in economists’ theories.

      • Mary says:

        He also didn’t notice that you can be aborted only in a limited portion of your life but can commit crimes over decades.

  9. Nadja says:

    Is the Facebook Palestine/Israel thing for real? Can anyone confirm the pages were equally hateful/bad? An Israeli organization performed the experiment, so maybe there was some bias? I really don’t want to believe this story is actually true. Because if it is, it is really scary. Can someone please reassure me?

    Sigh. Reminds me of how I was hoping all the conservative sources were completely making things up when they reported on Muslim migrant/immigrant sexual attacks on women and children throughout Europe. I told myself it couldn’t possibly be true because mainstream media would surely report it. It was just too awful for me to believe. And it was even worse to believe that people would choose to cover these things up.

    So, I would really like a rationalist to tell me that all this double standard, censorship, targeting is blown out of proportion and not really true, or not really as big of a problem as it appears to be. Anyone, please?

    • multiheaded says:

      Targeting *is* blown out of proportion; it’s not hard to google that up. Additionally, well of course, there’s a gang problem, but it’s a “poor jobless angry young men” problem and a cheap excuse not to take migrants; governments should instead just fucking get their shit together and actually become better at dealing with *any* poor jobless young men: re/education, training, quality social work, many things.

      (Like, only a decade ago Glasgow was the murder capital of Europe and it’s pretty white and was pretty lumpenized. And yet over a decade the government managed to cut the murder rate by 2/3rds.)

      p.s.: Zizek on gangs and resentment

      • stillnotking says:

        I don’t know how anyone can read Zizek. I mean I don’t understand how it’s physically possible. My eyes glaze over as soon as he starts doing his little puppet show of demographic groups represented as individual characters with desires and motives. Then he makes it worse by adding deliberate layers of obfuscation. I’d rather track a jackalope through a howling blizzard than try to wring any sense out of anything he’s ever said.

        • TrivialGravitas says:

          Zizek is mostly read by people looking for confirmation they actually are capable of understanding continentals and that they’re right that 99% of continentals are speaking gibberish. In this regard the more confusing he can be while expressing an actual idea rather than profound nonsense the more satisfied his readers are.

          • Urstoff says:

            I’ve tried to be charitable to continental philosophy, given that I’m neck deep in analytic philosophy and so probably predisposed to find it nonsense, but whenever I have someone distill a point from continental philosophy, it resembles nothing of what was actually said by the continental philosopher (same with critical theory). I’m beginning to suspect this is not a personal failing.

          • Protagoras says:

            I haven’t read much recent continental philosophy, but I feel like I am able to understand, for example, Heidegger or Sartre. In the case of Sartre, I feel like I can find analytic philsophers making claims similar to many of his central points (less so with Heidegger, which I consider to be to the credit of analytic philosophy; I tend to think that Heidegger was deliberately obscure in order to conceal how awful he was). Have you read only the recent stuff, or do you find Heidegger and Sartre equally nonsensical?

      • JDG1980 says:

        Additionally, well of course, there’s a gang problem, but it’s a “poor jobless angry young men” problem and a cheap excuse not to take migrants; governments should instead just fucking get their shit together and actually become better at dealing with *any* poor jobless young men: re/education, training, quality social work, many things.

        There’s an old saying that when you’re in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging.

        Dealing with poor, jobless young men in an effective and humane manner is a very difficult political and social problem – even if these young men are your countrymen. Why import more of them when you don’t have to?

        The purpose of a government is to protect and enhance the welfare of its own citizens. Not that of random people elsewhere in the world.

        • Merzbot says:

          >The purpose of a government is to protect and enhance the welfare of its own citizens. Not that of random people elsewhere in the world.

          Well, some people think otherwise.

          • Anonymous says:

            Indeed. The purpose of the government is to achieve the goals of the governors, typically maintaining money and power against the aggressions of other governments and rebels.

    • Will says:

      From looking at their video and the screenshots, the two pages seem absolutely identical: same phrasing and imagery in all posts. Undoubtedly, the anti-Palestinian rhetoric seemed more shocking because certain peoples and issues are “off-limits” in Facebook’s parent culture (“blue” US).

      I wish I could say this is surprising, but it’s human nature. I don’t have any strong feelings one way or the other about the issue, believe it or not — I try to avoid all politics on principle — but this does square with my observations from hanging around the very blue places I do: criticism can only go one way, or the labels come out.

      • JE says:

        Identical claims is an absolutely horrible way to do that. For exemple if we go back to 1990 and there were two two identical facebook groups called “Stop the Iraqi invasion of Quwait” and “Stop the Quwaiti invasion of Iraq” the latter would probably be banned but not the former, without any actual bias taking place.

        • Will says:

          I don’t think that’s actually applicable here — it’s not the same kind of identical, so to speak: that’s mirrored images without a mirrored situation. In the Israal/Palestine experiment, the situation is more ambiguous and the rhetoric used doesn’t rest on a question of fact. (That is, no “stop Palestinian soldiers from patrolling in Israel!” or the like, just “X will suffer our wrath!”.)

          A better example would be a group called “Kill All Kuwaitis” vs one called “Kill All Iraqis”; as in the actual groups used, there’s no issue of objective fact to get in the way: the rhetoric is identical in a way that doesn’t rest on an interpretation of the situation. The only “but Kuwait isn’t invading Iraq”-type objection could be “but Israelis/Palestinians do deserve to die”, which would kind of prove a point in itself.

    • Viliam says:

      I would really like a rationalist to tell me that …

      Is this a test of how many people who self-identify as rationalists actually don’t get the concept of filtering evidence?

      • Nadja says:

        No, actually, believe it or not. =) I’m biased. I want some good arguments that would challenge my beliefs. I could (and do) google opinions from the opposing side, but most opinions out there – on either side – are very poorly reasoned. So I prefer to turn to the rationalist community to keep me honest.

    • xq says:

      Well, N=2 makes for a pretty weak experiment. You can’t really draw strong conclusions out of it.

    • ryan says:

      So I have a theory that Scott has already explained everything that has and will ever happen. So, with regards to the sexual attacks in Europe:

      The German right wing’s outgroup is Muslims. The German left wing’s outgroup is the German right wing. The right wing reaction is damn the Muslims. The left wing reaction was we have to stop the right wing from taking advantage of this. Hence sitting on the story for so long. Maybe nobody would ever notice.

  10. Patrick says:

    The protester piece is written by an employment lawyer (it’s disclosed). He’s getting his practice’s brand out there as the people to go to if there’s ever a concern… playing where the puck is going to be.

    You’re conflicted about the concerns because it’s new. The law is probably conflicted as well, no one has any idea what would happen. Big new market with no real players. Remember, the first commercial internet spam was for law services, it’s not a coincidence lawyers get here first as well.

  11. Douglas Knight says:

    Here are slides from the paper on ethnic studies classes. It uses regression discontinuity analysis. People with grades below 2.0 were encouraged to take the classes, while people with grades above were not. Indeed 15% of those above took it, while 40% of those just below. A 25 point difference. So then they compared the attendance and grades of those just below to those just above. They did better. Then they multiplied how much they did better by 4, because only 25% were differently exposed to the classes.

    This is kind of like how you multiplied the numbers in the draft study by 10 because only 10% of the people with eligible draft numbers actually went to Nam. In both cases it seems to me pretty crazy, rather than looking at the actual results of people who actually took the class or actually went to war. There are definite reasons to look at the (putatively) random cohort, I think that the numbers conditional on actual intervention are more important.

    But at least in the draft study people had a lot less ability to affect the intervention than in the class study, where it was entirely up to the student. It seems like a fucking obvious hypothesis that there is a high correlation between the student being susceptible to the class and choosing to take it. Indeed, although all students below the threshold received equal (I think) encouragement to take the class, there is strong negative correlation between grades and choosing to take the class, showing a high correlation between student decision and variables of interest.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      So you’re saying that only the worst students decided to take the class, which means that their grade improvement could be regression to the mean?

      • Douglas Knight says:

        No, I’m not necessarily objecting to the claim that the study had a positive effect. I’m objecting to the reporting of effect size. Same with the draft paper.

        No, the study design take into account regression to the mean (that’s why regression is in the title of the method). For example, they separately report the effect of the students with grades, so it’s not what I think you’re saying (that I’m saying).

        1. I want to know how well the students that actually took the class did. What if it was the other students who improved? Why aren’t they telling me? Are they hiding something? The effect sizes in the paper are 4x the effect sizes in the slides. If they got them just by multiplying by 4, that is fabrication.

        Even if the effect in the treated population really is the size quoted in the abstract, then that is the real effect size, but it is important to say that it’s just for some students, not all.

        2. I know that it is absurd to say that attendance increased by 20% because attendance was already 85%. Since the average attendance increased 5 points, if the attendance is due to the 35% that took the class, then the students who took the class must be the worst students, to have room to improve that much. (I’m holding GPA fixed at 1.9 and defining student quality by attendance.) Indeed, the point seems to be to appeal to disaffected students, which might be better measured by attendance than grades.

        I think that it is a serious problem that people report large effect sizes for educational interventions. Methods with real results and too small to be acceptable and so are discarded. If this is merely a paper that is exaggerating real results, that’s great.

        • Blake Riley says:

          There might be some technical reason why comparing directly computing the effect size for the enrolled students is bad. Still, it can’t be worse than scaling the effect, which depends on the sub-2.0 population being otherwise homogeneous. Which they know it isn’t! When they discuss possible unobserved heterogenity in the paper, it looks like students that opt out are the relatively more academically strong ones.

          The heterogeneity going in this direction should make us more confident in a positive effect, but it can’t be as large as they claim in the abstract. They could have simply reported the average effects that “attendance jumped by 5.6 percentage points for students at the 2.0 threshold, GPA increased by 0.39 points, and credits earned increased by 6.3 credits” as a lower bound, which is still strikingly large.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’d still be suspicious of those numbers, but they’re not “I’ll bet you anything they’re wrong” implausible.

  12. BBA says:

    Re Flint: Kevin Drum digs deep, finds that lead poisoning rates in Flint were declining sharply before the water crisis and even at the peak of the crisis rates were much lower than in the 1990s.

    EDIT: I don’t mean to diminish the significance of the crisis. One case of lead poisoning is too many.

    • keranih says:

      …but one case of “lead poisoning” might not be enough to justify spending resources to fix.

      (If I’m reading the chart right, percentages of kids w/elevated levels was – at the height of the Flint issue – lower than in 2010. My reaction is not to say “oh this is nothing” but instead to say “oh, good, not a *crisis* crisis, we can take some time to figure this out.)

      Edit: A 538 deep dive into the Flint water crisis. Does more detail than the link SA gave above. (Previously reported from the last thread, along with Douglas Knight’s link at WP.)

  13. I have a double fossil word! Gauntlet.
    Run the gauntlet
    Throw down the gauntlet

    Two different archaic definitions.

  14. Arthur B. says:

    Just throwing it out there, but something to look into for why deaths are rising prior to New Year’s day: tax optimization.

    • BBA says:

      One of the cardinal rules of tax law is “it is always better to die later than sooner.” There are tax advantages to dying just after New Year’s, generally not before unless you know a tax increase is about to go into effect.

      If there’s data from the UK, which uses an April-based tax year, it could prove or disprove this theory easily.

    • Death rates in the U.S. are higher in the winter than the summer, and New Years is close to the middle of the winter. So that would give you some of it.

      • Nathan says:

        For what it’s worth, I’m a funeral worker in the southern hemisphere and our busiest times are in our winter. Mid December to mid January was very very quiet.

        • Tibor says:

          I wonder how this works on the equator. If it is mostly weather-driven then the mortality rate over time in a year should be pretty flat in equatorial countries.

    • Chalid says:

      You’d then expect lower deaths in December, right? Which is not what the plot shows.

      • But people don’t exactly choose when to die though. If there’s some sort of “holding on” happening, people may exert extra effort to live in December. of course, not all of them can will themselves to live to Jan 1 for the tax benefits, so they begin to die off. After Jan 1, they no longer will exert extra effort to keep themselves alive, but that doesn’t mean that they necessarily drop dead once the ball drops. Without actually doing math, it seems plausible to me that this could create a normal distribution of deaths centered around Jan 1.

    • David Wong says:

      This is probably stupid but is it possible that some databases default to 1/1 if no date is filled in, and that some of these are just records where somebody forgot to fill in a date so they just went with the default? It wouldn’t take many of those to skew the numbers.

      • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

        >This is probably stupid but is it possible that some databases default to 1/1 if no date is filled in.

        I thought about this, since it’s definitely something I’ve encountered, but:
        >I’d assume death certificates are mostly accurate, as opposed to more general databases.
        >The effect was more pronounced for people who died in an emergency room, and I’d expect death certificates for those cases to be particularly accurate.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        The CDC is very good at explicitly labeling things unknown. None of their death certificates have unknown month, but some of them do have unknown day of week. (I can’t see day of month.)

    • Anthony says:

      I once read something that old women close to death are fairly likely to survive just past some milestone date – their birthday, their anniversary, Christmas Day, a grandchild’s wedding, etc. I wonder if that effect is part of the New Year’s mortality spike.

  15. sarah says:

    Idiomatic (siamese twin) english word pair ordering is an interesting and fairly well researched topic in linguistics.

    This paper: is a good intro.

    Some general reasons for an ordering preference given in the paper:

    Temporal order “birth and death”
    Hierarchy “president and vice-president”
    Gender “men and women”
    Short before long “law and order”
    Alternating stress “salt and pepper”
    Avoid final stress “intents and purposes”
    Lighter syllables first “mother and child”
    Fewer initial consonants first “sea and ski”
    Shorter vowels first “stress and strain”
    Unvoiced final consonants first “push and pull”
    High vowels first “dribs and drabs”
    Initial sonorous consonants first “wheel and deal”
    Final sonorous consonants last “safe and sane”

    All these effects are more statistical than hard-and-fast rules, and in some cases you can have several principles in conflict.

    Language Log has an interesting article on sex pairs in particular with more paper links.

    • timorl says:

      >Gender “men and women”

      I considered for a while whether this was different in any culture, but then I remembered:
      Gender “ladies and gentlemen”
      This example seems more like “short before long”.

      On the other hand in my language “men” is not shorter than “women” and still is usually mentioned first, except the “ladies and gentlemen” context. For example if there was a poll about something and it recorded the sex of the respondends then the responses of men are usually mentioned first. Generally the gender thing seems to be (as usual) more complicated — men seem to be considered the first/basic/primary sex, but women are supposed to be mentioned first out of courtesy. I would be very interested in comments from someone from a non-western culture about this.

      The last part also suggests that mentioning men before women is not really a good example of a siamese twin word pair, since it appears to determine order in broader contexts than just pairs of words.

      • houseboatonstyx says:

        Fwiw, ‘ladies and gentlemen’ is used (only?) in the vocative: “Ladies and gentlemen, our next act is” … “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, please consider” … “Ladies and gentlemen, you are in melee.”

        “The men and women of the jury considered” would sound normal; “the ladies and gentlemen of the jury” would sound condescending/snide.

        • The Anonymouse says:

          “Ladies and gentlemen, you are in melee.”

          I would very much like to witness the situation in which this exact sentence would be spoken. 🙂

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            That was a great campaign. We also gave the DM a cake inscribed ‘Morituri Te Salutamus’.

      • Emily H. says:

        “Ladies and gentlemen” seems like a prosody thing; in my dialect, at least, “and” often comes out as ən or even just syllabic “n”; so in “Gentlemen and ladies,” the “men and” part comes out as mənən or mən’n, which seems clearly bad; it’s also a stressed syllable followed by three unstressed, which is rhythmically not as nice as the double dactyl of “LADies and GENtlemen.”

        (Admittedly I’m so used to “Ladies and Gentlemen” that I can’t help preferring it out of pure habit, so I may just be making up ad hoc explanations for my own preference.)

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          Rhythm of the whole phrase seems more important than content, or than smaller elements. ‘Nephews and nieces’ would sound plain bad … unless spoken slowly and ponderously while reading a will; in which case, maybe it is gender.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            In fact, at the very beginning of this thread, Sarah gave a link claiming that Brits consistently say “nephews and nieces.”

    • Mary says:

      Gender “men and women”

      Aunts and uncles
      brothers and sisters
      Mothers and fathers
      sons and daughters
      Nieces and nephews

      • nydwracu says:

        1. {ˈæ} n {ˈʌ l}
        2. {ˈʌ ɚ} n {ˈɪ ɚ}
        3. {ˈʌ ɚ} n {ˈɑ ɚ}
        4. {ˈʌ} n {ˈɔ ɚ}
        5. {ˈi ə} n {ˈɛ ˌu}

        1 and 4: prefer alternating stress.
        2, 3, and 4: ʌ first.
        I’m not sure what’s going on with 5 — high vowels first? But that would conflict with ʌ first.

  16. drethelin says:

    with regard to drafted fathers, one thing that I couldn’t tease out from the article was age at becoming a father. Presumably men who get drafted are older on average when they eventually have kids.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Ooooh, interesting!

      (but I don’t think paternal age effects are that big, and if it’s not a genetic effect we’re right back where we started, right?)

    • keranih says:

      There might have been a bimodial distro – in that era, people were marrying and having kids to get deferments (not always successfully.)

    • Ralph says:

      Is it possible that there actually is a selection bias as well? If you had money, connections, an important job, were in grad school, etc., couldn’t you get exempt from the draft?

      I have no evidence for this… Just kind of always assumed it was true.

      • Emile says:

        I also wondered if it was that, but assumed that that’s why the study looked at draft numbers, and not at if people actually went to Vietnam (so that even if you assume the 5% most influential will manage to dodge it, they should be equally distributed in both samples, whereas they wouldn’t in a sample of the people who *actually* went to Vietnam).

    • Emile says:

      Another possibility: some people died in vietnam [citation needed], and there could be a common cause of “surviving Vietnam” and “having less-successful children” (I don’t think it’s likely tho, both because I don’t think enough people died for it to be measurable, but also because I don’t really see what that common factor would be – if anything, I would happen the correlation to go the other way around).

      • John Schilling says:

        Surviving Vietnam correlates with being good at violence and thriving in violent environments. When one is subsequently faced with choosing among peacetime America’s diverse assortment of communities and lifestyles, and more importantly deciding how to go about raising children, one can certainly imagine that a preference for violence might lead to suboptimal parenting.

      • Jonathan Ray says:

        Just brainstorming some potential etiologies of the Vietnam data:

        1. Parasites contracted in Vietnam and spread to the children could lower IQ. e.g. It would be interesting to see the subgroup analysis of those who were drafted into Vietnam vs. those who were drafted into West Germany.
        2. Military service alters a man’s profile with respect to attracting the opposite sex. Perhaps dumber women are more likely to be attracted to soldiers (and we know intelligence is largely X-linked). They ought to control for maternal IQ.
        3. Perhaps military service made all the men more attractive, resulting in a lower average IQ among those of them who became fathers, because the dimmest among them were not as efficiently weeded out of the gene pool by sexual selection. So they ought to control for paternal IQ.
        4. It would be interesting to see if there is any difference in careers, cities of residence, etc. It wouldn’t surprise me if military service that involved meeting a lot of people from all over the US changed the likelihood of moving to various parts of the US, with resulting differences in income.

    • bean says:

      But Vietnam-era drafts were for 2 years, and, IIRC, usually got people at 18. If you’re back stateside at age 20, how much has fatherhood really been delayed?
      Could the effect be partially because of what people with bad draft numbers did to get deferments? I’m speculating wildly here, but I’d expect that the groups with bad draft numbers had higher rates of things like graduate education, which tends to correlate to low numbers of kids. Fewer kids among the high end drops the average of the income of children free of charge. Of course, this doesn’t explain the difference between sons and daughters. Hmm. Back to the drawing board…

    • CatCube says:

      The question I’d have is if they controlled for the distinction between “drafted during the Vietnam era” and “served in Vietnam”. My dad was drafted, but spent his two years at Fort Sill. The Vietnam conflict didn’t have anywhere as many troops stationed there as there were in Europe, as the biggest concern of the generals was still the Red Army coming through the Fulda Gap.

      IIRC, a minority of draftees ended up in Vietnam, rather than somewhere else, but I don’t have time to look up the numbers right now.

      • bean says:

        I think idea was to study the effects of the draft alone, and let the draft provide randomization. It’s a valid point that not everyone who was drafted went to Vietnam (IIRC, something like 2/3rds of those who served in Vietnam were volunteers), but we do have several different effects in play that could explain what’s going on.
        Also, there’s not much basis for assigning all of the reduction in income to the children of those who served, as opposed to the group generally. And WaPo made the mother of all math errors when explaining that.

  17. Wrong Species says:

    The most annoying thing about anarchists is the word games they play. They are by far the most frustrating people to have a debate with because they use their own definitions and pretend that only those definitions are right. It’s too bad, because some of their ideas are worth considering but I’m not going to keep discussing issues with people who insist on going on long digressions on why the Soviet Union was actually capitalist and why capitalism is evil but markets are ok. There is no clear difference between markets and capitalism. They just don’t want to admit that capitalism is not this evil, terrifying monolith but something that can actually do good.

    • TrivialGravitas says:

      It doesn’t sound like its the anarchists that are making up definitions (though after a century of counter communist propaganda that’s not your fault really). Capitalism is a word created for the purpose of describing systems where the people with money (capitalists) have an unfair advantage in determining their share of the productivity generated with that money. Calling the soviet union capitalist is a hell of a stretch, but as an obvious example on a non capitalist market system you could simply pass (and somehow enforce) a law dictating that nobody in a company can make more than 10x what the lowest paid employee makes (hourly). The market isn’t being abolished if you do it that way.

      • HlynkaCG says:

        @ TrivialGravitas
        To be frank, saying that Capitalism is a “system where the people with money (capitalists) have an unfair advantage in determining their share of the productivity” sounds an awful lot like a made-up definition to me. Sort of an economic mirror of the old “racism is prejudice + power” form of equivocation.

        The commonly understood definition of Capitalism, the one that appears in most English-language dictionaries is; “an economic system where allocation of resources is determined by individual private actors (capitalists) independently of the state or labor.” Fairness, or lack there-of, doesn’t even enter into the equation.

        • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

          >To be frank, saying that Capitalism is a “system where the people with money (capitalists) have an unfair advantage in determining their share of the productivity” sounds an awful lot like a made-up definition to me. Sort of an economic mirror of the old “racism is prejudice + power” form of equivocation.

          That’s because Capitalism is a term invented by socialists. It’s pretty much working as intended, I’d think.

          • HlynkaCG says:

            Granted, but it fails to account for the issue of common usage that I mentioned.

            They also tend to be inconstant about applying those definitions to their own policies. IE If the defining trait of “capitalism” is it’s lack of fairness I think it’s fair to argue that a truly Marxist economy would be far more “Capitalist” than the one we have now. 😉

            It’s a Motte & Bailey gambit where the uncharitable definitions are used to describing the opposition’s policies and the charitable ones are used to describe their own.

          • TrivialGravitas says:

            Allowing common usage to override purpose created words only serves to make it impossible to coherently discuss certain subjects. Any word for “A system where the people with money (capitalists) have an unfair advantage in determining their share of the productivity” would be redefined by common usage, making the topic impossible to address.

            The existence of motte and bailey tactics does not actually invalidate the motte. If people are engaged in equivocation call them out on equivocation. If they aren’t equivocating bringing equivocation up is just strawmanning.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            Acceding to the commonplace definition of “capitalism” doesn’t stop anyone from arguing that people with money have an unfair advantage. It only stops them from begging the question.

          • Mary says:

            “It’s pretty much working as intended, I’d think.”

            Hardly. How people think influences how words are used, not vice versa.

            Socialists invented it to mean both “bad thing” and “this system.” Since people didn’t, in fact, think the system bad, it lost the first meaning.

            It’s like “space opera”, which used to be pure insult. Then someone tried to apply it to the genre now known by that name in hopes of smearing the genre. The actual effect was to remove the insulting aspect.

          • HlynkaCG says:

            @ TrivialGravitas:

            I grant that specialized usage and jargon have a place. But if you are going to deviate from the common usage of a word the onus is on you to make that deviation clear, explain why the deviation is necessary, and be consistent about it’s use. (See Adam Casey’s comments below) Anything less reeks of equivocation.

            This particular deviation is problematic because the “unfairness” you seek to attribute to “Capitalism” is actually one of the issues under contention. To a non-Marxist / anarchist it looks like you are trying to use Jargon as an excuse to beg the question.

          • TrivialGravitas says:


            RE begging the question, would amending the definition from ‘unfair’ to ‘unevenly powerful’ be acceptable?

            @Mary: It was never intended to mean ‘this system’, it was intended to mean ‘this specific aspect of this system.’. Thus the lack of relationship between ‘markets’ and ‘capitalism’ in original usage. The redefinition of capitalism serves the purpose (whether intentionally or not) of conflating a specific allegation with the entire system.

          • HlynkaCG says:

            I’d consider that a significant improvement, but it still leaves an uncomfortable amount of wiggle room in just what constitutes “uneven” and just how much of the dictionary (ie common usage) definition is being kept.

            To paraphrase what I said above, if “uneven power” is the primary issue being examined, one could make the argument that Marxism results in economies that are even more “Capitalist” than our current system.

          • TrivialGravitas says:

            How is it ‘more capitalist’ if every employee in a corporation has equal voting share in the company?

          • hlynkacg says:

            Because the class of people who actually control resource allocation ends up being much smaller and having much greater latitude when it come to enforcing/maintaining that control.

          • Mary says:

            It was never intended to mean ‘this system’, it was intended to mean ‘this specific aspect of this system.’

            Of course it was intended. It was intended by enough speakers for such a period of time and such heavy usage that semantic drift occurred.

            Studies In Words by C.S. Lewis is a great book

      • Galle says:

        While that might be true of “capitalism”, the anarchist usage of “state” is definitely extremely unorthodox.

        • By what sort of anarchist. Examples?

          I think of the problem as the definition of a government, given that everything governments do has, in some time and place, been done by arrangements we would not call governments.

          • HlynkaCG says:

            Problem is that the anarchist/libertarian usage of “government” is also rather unorthodox and a lot of those “arrangements we would not call governments” (in common usage) actually are “governments” if the anarchist usage of the term is being strictly applied.

            All-in-all it ends up being terribly confusing.

          • “Problem is that the anarchist/libertarian usage of “government” is also rather unorthodox and a lot of those “arrangements we would not call governments” (in common usage) actually are “governments” if the anarchist usage of the term is being strictly applied. ”

            Are you contrasting the anarchist/libertarian usage to the (non-libertarian, presumably left) anarchist usage or to the ordinary usage?

            I am sure there are left anarchists who would argue that a corporation is really a kind of government, but that isn’t the normal usage.

            My standard example of non-governments doing things we think of as governmental is the Norse armies that ravaged England in the period leading up to Alfred.

            We normally think of invading and conquering as governmental activities. But as best I can tell, those were mostly not national armies but entrepreneurial projects. A leader with a good reputation invited people to come with him to invade England for loot and possibly land.

            Could you expand on your point? What do you think defines a government, what things that I don’t consider governments should I if the “anarchist usage of the term” is strictly implied? And what sort of anarchists are you referring to?

            I’m not sure, rereading your posts, whether you are contrasting two different versions of anarchy or arguing that libertarian anarchists are being inconsistent in their usage.

          • Tibor says:

            Sorry to start another off topic threat here, but I wonder whether you (David) watch the HBO show Vikings and what you think about it. Obviously, the battles are done terribly as are all battles I have ever seen in TV or film except maybe for the very first scene of the HBO series Rome (but other battle scenes are just as bad there). Also if there ever were any shieldmaidens, they were far rarer than in the show. But otherwise I like it a lot and it does not seem to me to be quite accurate as far as TV goes (and due to incomplete historical record, there is always room for some artistic license). You seem to know a lot about Nordic history which is why I ask.

          • @Tibor:

            I don’t watch television at all, so know nothing about that show.

            As best I can tell, women warriors were scarce to nonexistent. I don’t remember any in the family sagas or the Sturlungasaga, although there is at least one, possibly several, in the older and more legendary material.

            There were various media stories a while back about research that supposedly showed about half the vikings to be women. It turned out, if you actually looked at it, that the count was of skeletons in an area, I think in northern England, occupied by Norse invaders, with no implication that the female skeletons were warriors.

          • John Schilling says:

            If I were to compile a list of “Television shows David Friedman might like”, Vikings would probably be at the top of the list in the dramatic fiction category. Might be worth checking out a few early episodes if there’s a time- and cost-efficient way of doing so.

            And I only recall two “shieldmaidens” out of, per IMDB, fifteen credited recurring female characters. One who will accompany raids as a combatant when politically necessary (e.g. her husband’s band includes a treacherous backstabber who needs close watching) but is not primarily a warrior, and one who is really into the warrior thing and whose new husband indulges her right up to the point where she runs hard into the consequences of great martial zeal plus limited upper body strength. I do not think there were any female extras in the battle scenes, to the extent that any were large enough for “extras”, but I wasn’t looking closely for that.

            Presumably most of the more numerous male characters have wives and/or daughters that we just don’t see given the focus of the story.

    • Murphy says:

      Markets are a very different beast to capitalism.

      You can run a market by you could run a perfectly good market by handing out “slate star codex dollars” and then using them to bid on things. There are charities which have dramatically improved efficiency by allowing centres to bid on supplies using budgets of fake or pseudo-money which they get allocated regularly and can save up to spend on things they really need rather than a central authority deciding what everyone will get.

      It works really well. Markets don’t require capitalism though they do fit with it pretty well.

      • Adam Casey says:

        I think any speaker of the English language who has not had their mind warped by arguing too much about angels on pinheads would call that system “capitalist”.

        • Murphy says:

          Then they’d be wrong.

          In the example of the charity the internal “currency” they used wasn’t swappable for US dollars, how much of it an individual had saved for their centre had no connection to ownership of any capital.

          No private ownership required, no profits required, just allocation of resources.

          If you think that’s capitalism then you don’t know what capitalism is.

          • Adam Casey says:

            Was the currency swappable for goods and services? Because if so it was swappable for dollars by the back door, and if not it wasn’t a market. But that’s not quite my point.

            I’m sure there’s a huge important distinction between the ideas you are thinking of. But there is not a huge and important distinction in those words as spoken by normal speakers of english. Using words that normal people know to have certain meanings in ways that violates those expectations isn’t helpful.

          • Tracy W says:

            Count me as another one then who doesn’t know what capitalism is.
            The fact that groups can save up their pseudo-money in the markets you describe sounds to me like ownership of resources.

            But to some extent this is just semantics. You can define capitalism as including these sorts of markets or not. In ordinary language these words are not precisely defined. You can certainly introduce precise definitions for your own purposes, but introducing a precise definition and then criticising someone else as wrong without first establishing they’re using the same definition is not going to grow you intellectually.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “Because if so it was swappable for dollars by the back door, and if not it wasn’t a market.”

            So it operates exactly by all the same rules as the market, but it isn’t a market because?

            “Using words that normal people know to have certain meanings in ways that violates those expectations isn’t helpful.”

            The meanings that google gives for their first hit are totally in line with how he described; capitalism is private profit, market is a place where things are sold. So I have no idea what you are complaining about.

            “The fact that groups can save up their pseudo-money in the markets you describe sounds to me like ownership of resources. ”

            It isn’t. The funny money can simply be eliminated at the end of each round; they do not own it, it is simply a unit for accounting.

            “In ordinary language these words are not precisely defined. ”

            Sure they are. Capitalism is private ownership of goods as opposed to GODLESS SOVIET COMMUNISM which is when the government owns everything.

            The market isn’t clearly defined, but only because it has so many simultaneous meanings.

      • Tracy W says:

        Your description sounds like capitalism to me.

        • Samuel Skinner says:

          It isn’t. Capitalism requires profit and private ownership of capital. His example has zero profit and the capital is owned by the charity not the people who ‘purchase’ it inside the charity.

          • Tracy W says:

            And what do you mean by private ownership and profit? In this case, the people in the charity can save up their money across time and can also take their savings and spend it on other things for their charity.
            How is this conceptually different to, say, the general manager of a large firm being paid a salary and responding to owners but able to control their own budget?

            You can draw distinctions between the two of course. But the distinctions you might draw are not necessarily the ones that everyone else is drawing. I could decide to talk about “owner-capitalism” and “managerial-capitalim” in which the latter group includes both the charity’s market and the salaried general manager of a profit-seeking conventional company. (The distinction has actually already been made and dates back to America post-WWII.)

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “And what do you mean by private ownership and profit?”

            Not the state and the difference between income and expenses. You can google them.

            “In this case, the people in the charity can save up their money across time and can also take their savings and spend it on other things for their charity.”

            Read again. They are bidding for supplies from the central office. It is purely an internal measure- everything belongs to the charity.

            “How is this conceptually different to, say, the general manager of a large firm being paid a salary and responding to owners but able to control their own budget?”

            Because the firm’s budget consists of money. The charity can be using monopoly money.

          • Tracy W says:


            The charity is not the state, so by your definition the ownership is private.
            The most general statement of profit is producing things more valuable than you consume. So, for example Robinson Crusoe, alone on his desert island, should seek out food that produces the most calories relative to calories he has to expend to acquire it (ignoring vitamins, trace minerals, etc.) That’s a form of profit without money. In a charity, we can regard profit as being something like the most good done per donations (converted using some unit.)

            These are not normal definitions of course, what I am doing here is pointing out there is a lot of conceptual similarity between what the charity you describe is doing and the managerial capitalism people were talking about in the 1950s and 60s. Under the 1950s/60s definition of managerial capitalism the manager’s money belongs to the firm.

            On the topic of re-reading, to quote the original description: “can save up to spend on things they really need”, that’s what I’m drawing on in my description of it.

            The issue of whether the charity is using US$ or Japanese yen or monopoly money strikes me as irrelevant for the purposes of this analysis, although it may be very relevant to the US tax department.

          • Echo says:

            That just sounds like capitalism with extra steps!

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “The charity is not the state, so by your definition the ownership is private.”

            — Capitalism requires profit and private ownership of capital.– Me
            ‘And what do you mean by private ownership and profit?’ You

            You are reading what I’ve written, right? Charities are private but that has nothing to do with private ownership OF CAPITAL.

            “The most general statement of profit is producing things more valuable than you consume. ”

            No, because profit has a definition.

            “In a charity, we can regard profit as being something like the most good done per donations (converted using some unit.)”

            No. Effectiveness is not profit. We have a word for that- effectiveness.

            ” Under the 1950s/60s definition of managerial capitalism the manager’s money belongs to the firm. ”

            That has no similarity. At all. There is zero market mechanism.

            “On the topic of re-reading, to quote the original description: “can save up to spend on things they really need”, that’s what I’m drawing on in my description of it.”

            No, you don’t get it at all.
            A, B and C are in the charity.
            There are 40 cats and 40 dogs available. The charity thinks this is what is needed. However A and B need lots of cats so the price of cats goes up to 4 monopoly dollars while the price of dogs is only 1. The charity realizes it needs to buy more cats and the cats go to the individuals who are willing to give up the most dogs in order to have more cats.

            At no point are A, B or C buying cats or dogs. At no point does real money change hands. This is a method to provide information to the charity.

            “The issue of whether the charity is using US$ or Japanese yen or monopoly money strikes me as irrelevant for the purposes of this analysis, although it may be very relevant to the US tax department.”

            You don’t get it. At no point has anything taxable occurred. Handing out real cash to people to play a game of monopoly and then taking it back at the end isn’t taxed.

            “That just sounds like capitalism with extra steps!”

            Capitalism doesn’t have ‘extra steps’. If there isn’t private ownership of capital, it isn’t capitalism.

          • Raph L says:

            @Echo Oh la la, someone’s gonna get laid in college.

    • youzicha says:

      In Marxist theory, capitalism and markets are definitely separate concepts. In this view, the most important thing about the capitalist system is that the workers have no control over the means of production, and certainly in practice in the Soviet union, they still did not control the means of production. (The soviet union is often described as state capitalist. This concept goes at least all the way back to Engels.)

      More generally, I feel your complaint is a bit strange. Suppose I think that markets are good, but capitalism (in the sense that a small capitalist class controls the capital) is bad. And suppose that the person I’m discussing with thinks that there is not clear difference between these two concepts. Isn’t the most important thing then to clarify the difference (go on a long digression, if you will)? How can you have a productive discussion without first making this clear?

      • Adam Casey says:

        “How can you have a productive discussion without first making this clear?”

        By not using words in a sense other than their common meaning. If you want to discuss these two different things that are clearly different to you then use two words that are not synonyms to describe them.

        If you just find-and-replace “capitalist” with “plutonic system” and “market” with “exchange system” the whole discussion becomes much *much* easier. Because I have no idea apriori if China is a “plutonic system”, so you have to justify the claim that it is or isn’t on the definition. I also don’t know apriori if a “plutonic system” also includes welfare spending, so that conclusion has to be explicitly argued.

        Failing to do this can *only* cause confusion.

      • Mary says:

        In Marxist theory, capitalism and markets are definitely separate concepts.

        Marxist theory has been rebutted by the simple issue that every prediction it made has been falsified. (It was Marx and Engels themselves who planted the “scientific” flag, so falsification is the right standard.)

        • Samuel Skinner says:

          They may have been wrong, but that doesn’t mean the framework is to be completely discarded. Freud was wrong, but we still talk about unconscious motivations for instance.

          • Urstoff says:

            What of Marx’s framework is still useful?

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            I’m afraid I can’t say if the correct things Marx said were unique and he tended to over the topic absolute statements, but he did add together
            -social structure is set by economics
            -class and class interests
            -the uniqueness of capitalism and change from previous forms of economic organization

            There is probably more things that sociology has built off of; I just don’t have any interest in looking through Marx and previous 19th century writers.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            The classic joke is: “What was good was not original, and what was original was not good.”

            But sure, I think there are occasional things Marx at least popularized which are useful or at least interesting foils.

            For instance, the idea that religion is the “opiate of the masses”, i.e. that it soothes people’s pains but also pacifies them in a way that makes them uninclined to pursue radical change in this life. Or (this was actually Engels), the concept of “false consciousness”.

            Indirectly, he exposed many of the fallacies of the classical economists in a dramatic way, by following them and showing that their own principles imply that capitalism is a self-destructive system that will inevitably pave the way for socialism.

            And he was on to something with “alienation”. His cure might not be right, but he (and the Marxist tradition following him) brought up a real issue that has to be addressed somehow.

            As Samuel Skinner pointed out, the idea that ideology is a “superstructure” created by material forces of production has been very influential and has good arguments in favor of it—even if I personally don’t sign on to it.

          • “Indirectly, he exposed many of the fallacies of the classical economists in a dramatic way”

            Examples? I can’t think of any fallacies in Ricardo, who was the major theorist.

          • Mary says:

            Of course it means that it is to be completely discarded. You can then, in the junk yard, pry out the possibly usable parts and subject them to test, because the presumption can not be that they are right.

            As for Freud, all that requires is sloppy speech.

          • Mary says:

            “For instance, the idea that religion is the “opiate of the masses”, i.e. that it soothes people’s pains but also pacifies them in a way that makes them uninclined to pursue radical change in this life”

            That begs the question. It assumes that pursuing radical change is the obviously better thing to do.

            The radical changes Marx advocated have a death toll of 100,000,000 and counting. It can’t be obviously better.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “Of course it means that it is to be completely discarded. ”

            Are you sure it was originally Marx? I’m not interested in translating swatches of German sociology work in order to discover if the idea has predecessors. We keep it unless everyone switches over to another term.

            “As for Freud, all that requires is sloppy speech.”

            Doesn’t parse. Isn’t the idea that actions are reflective of vast, unconscious and unrecognized motivations new and useful?

            “That begs the question. It assumes that pursuing radical change is the obviously better thing to do.

            The radical changes Marx advocated have a death toll of 100,000,000 and counting. It can’t be obviously better.”

            Radical change is not the same as using violence to achieve change.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ David Friedman:

            Examples? I can’t think of any fallacies in Ricardo, who was the major theorist.

            The labor theory of value? And in particular, the application of that to the “iron law of wages”?

            Marx was able to argue that wages will always be driven back to subsistence, and that the “surplus value” was being taken by employers through exploitation.

            @ Mary:

            That begs the question. It assumes that pursuing radical change is the obviously better thing to do.

            The radical changes Marx advocated have a death toll of 100,000,000 and counting. It can’t be obviously better.

            Marx’s point is correct whether or not religion is true and change desirable. It’s the opiate of the masses either way: it’s just a “good opiate” if it pacifies people and keeps them from upsetting the status quo because this is correct and what they should do.

            And while Marx’s specific proposed changes may have been worse than the alternative, the point has much broader applicability. For instance, slaves in the antebellum South (and serfs in feudal Europe) were often consoled by Christianity in precisely the same way. It doesn’t matter so much that you are oppressed in this life, since everyone will be equal in heaven. And I take it you don’t think the abolishing of slavery or serfdom was such an evil thing.

            Of course, religion can also have the opposite effect at times, but I think Marx was on to something in that it tends to be more of a conservative force than a force for change.

          • “The labor theory of value? And in particular, the application of that to the “iron law of wages”?”

            Ricardo had the problem of inventing general equilibrium theory without any mathematics beyond arithmetic. He solved it by working with a deliberately simplified model of the economy. In particular, he assumed all goods to be produced with the same mix of labor and capital–and briefly discussed how large a distortion in relative prices that assumption produced.

            Given a uniform labor/capital ratio, a labor theory of value and a capital theory of value are identical–and because he had the Ricardian theory of rent (invented by Malthus and someone else I forget), input cost was input cost on marginal land, so rent wasn’t a cost of production.

            What he had was an input theory of equilibrium price, which was correct.

            For more details see Stigler, “David Ricardo and the 93% Labor Theory of Value.”

            What was mistaken in Ricardo’s version of the iron law? He made it explicit that the long run equilibrium wage would depend on the tastes of the workers.

    • Adam Casey says:

      Agreed. I mean using words in a way that most people don’t *can* be very helpful. Jargon exists for a reason, it can clarify thinking by providing a hook for new concepts.

      But I think the onus should be on the person speaking non-standard English to explain why in this case doing so is necessary. (And yes I’m looking at you {{outgroup}}).

      • PK says:

        I’m not sure you have to be a corner case steeped in esoteric jargon to think that capitalism is specifically related to ownership of capital in a way that markets aren’t necessarily. I mean it’s right there in the name. I’m not saying no one ever says the word “capitalism” when they mean “markets” or vice-versa but if your interlocutor is insisting on a distinction between the two terms it’s pretty intuitive what he’s referring to.

        • Adam Casey says:

          I’m clearly not as smart as you are, because it’s not intuitive to me at all.

          What’s intuitive to me is that if there’s a market people own things and the things they own are property and a fancy word for property is capital.

          I’m sure if you’re smarter than I am there’s an important distinction here, but it’s not actually obvious.

          • Patrick Spens says:

            Capital isn’t a fancy word for property. Capital is private property that is being invested in the means of production. Put simply a house is not capital, but a factory is.

        • Tracy W says:

          But in the linked case the interlocutor is not only insisting on this distinction in words but criticising the original commentator based on the interlocutor’s own distinction.

          For all we know, Danny Finkelstein thinks the success of David Bowie is attributable to capitalism as defined by Stumbling & Mumbling, not markets as defined by SM. Given that S&M doesn’t define what he means by capitalism as distinct to markets, (he mentions “a few monopolies or cartels running much of the economy” as a case of capitalism without markets but doesn’t give a general distinction between what is capitalism and what isn’t) for all we know that’s exactly what Finkelstein would respond: “David Bowie’s success is down to capitalism per se, not markets. If there was a market system without capitalism David Bowie would not have been as successful.”

          • PK says:

            Well I was writing less to defend the linked article, which wasn’t directly discussed in this thread and more to object to the idea that the distinction was an esoteric one used only by anarchists and socialists, which really doesn’t seem to be the case. Maybe I’m mistaken on this: I’m prone to defining words etymologically in a way that may not actually be common, so the specific link between capitalism and the accumulation of capital seems obvious and intuitive.

            The problem with the S&M article, such as it is, is that the semantical argument it leads with is really just a rhetorical device leading to the empirical/value based argument the article is actually interested in. I don’t personally have a problem with this, the empirical/value based argument is more interesting and relevant then endlessly quibbling over what phonetic labels are appropriate for what concepts. But I suppose leading with a complaint about someone allegedly using words to smiggle in ideological concepts as a lead into an ideological argument could be seen as hypocritical if nothing else.

          • Tracy W says:

            The article doesn’t actually make an empirical/value-based argument.

            It asks some rhetorical questions about whether David Bowie would have been a popular museum under some hypothetical “managerial-hierachical capitalist” society which didn’t exist in the 1970s. But obviously one can’t make empirical arguments out of purely hypothetical examples. And asking questions is not the same as an actual argument. I can wander around asking “Does 1+1 really equal 2?” all I like, but that doesn’t mean I’m actually doing mathematics.
            (Note, I’m not claiming that economics is as established as addition, just that one can ask rhetorical questions about *anything*.)

          • I haven’t read the article being discussed. But so far as the meaning of words is concerned, I think of capitalism as a market system in which the means of production are privately owned and controlled, as contrasted to socialism, a system in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state.

            It would still be capitalism, in my sense, if ownership of the means of production was widely distributed. On the other hand, a system in which the means of production were owned and controlled by the state, everyone worked for the state, but consumer goods were distributed via a market would be in some respects a market system but still socialism, not capitalism.

    • Anonymous says:

      To me, capitalism means “an economic system where a class of money-holders drives economic development in order to profit”. This allows to differentiate it from (utopian) communism (where the state bureaucracy drives development, in order to further common welfare), feudalism (where the land owners suppress merchant [capitalist] power), and primitive economies (where money-holders as a class is absent), etc.

    • thisguy says:

      The best way (IMO) to get around this is to play “taboo” and disallow any words that your uncharitable opponent is trying to float a definition to fit their framework. If they really understand the idea they are trying to discuss then they could rephrase what they want without actually using the word; in many cases they are using the word as an abstraction for lack of a base understanding.

    • Generally I’d take Capitalism to mean that the means of production are privately owned and alienable. So if every year the government were to auction off monopolies in the production of every major good that would be an example of Capitalism that wouldn’t be particularly free market. It’s hard to have capitalism without at least some markets existing and it’s hard to have markets without some amount of capitalism cropping out. But the link in degree isn’t perfect and it’s useful to have them as separate concepts.

  18. multiheaded says:

    on the one hand I believe in freedom of association and if somebody is clearly going to be trouble you shouldn’t force people to throw out that information and place themselves in a position to depend on that person anyway

    Okay, so where should the line be drawn, in your opinion? What should be normalized when investigating new hires? All social media stuff ever? Mental health info? School grades? Your ex’s testimony?

    This is absurd. I don’t believe in proceeding from any notion of fairness to employers, because being “fair” to them like this is unsustainable for the working class.

    • drethelin says:

      read literally the next sentence after the one you quote, starting with “on the other hand”

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Companies already investigate social media – I might approve of banning them from doing that, I’m not sure. But given that they investigate social media, what sort of things that they find there should they use as a reason not to employ somebody? I would say criminality and antisocial behavior are good things to be concerned about, political opinions less so.

      • TrivialGravitas says:

        I would argue that its impossible to prevent them from discriminating on things they find that they are actively disallowed from discriminating on the basis of. they might for example find out somebody had a leadership position in a LGBT organization and suddenly be 30% less likely to hire them.

        • Dain says:

          “had a leadership position in a LGBT organization…”

          Where I work at Yahoo, you not only wouldn’t lose points for that, you’d gain them.

          • TrivialGravitas says:

            See the other link about lesbians getting fewer callbacks, the LGBT leadership position is how they tested for that.

          • “Where I work at Yahoo, you not only wouldn’t lose points for that, you’d gain them.”

            From the standpoint of those arguing against employers using information from social media to help them decide who to hire, is that equally objectionable? It’s hard to see any difference in kind between saying “if I find the candidate holds position X, I will be less likely to hire him” and saying “If I find the candidate doesn’t hold position Y I will be less likely to hire him.”

          • JBeshir says:

            I don’t have a strong intuition on the matter- I think there might be differences in degree between favouring an uncommon thing and disfavouring an uncommon thing, and I think I wouldn’t react the same way to a strongly Christian-run organisation favouring people who have shown leadership in faith bodies, as I would to that organisation disfavouring someone who had shown leadership in LGBT bodies.

            I don’t have much of a model of why this intuition is the case, though. I can certainly construct scenarios where this does become pretty bad (consider being, e.g. heavily incentivised to have shown support for the party in Nazi Germany). I would be okay with a consensus that we should view it favourably to look only at the “had a leadership position” bit alone and behave viewpoint neutrally.

      • Viliam says:

        I would say criminality and antisocial behavior are good things to be concerned about, political opinions less so.

        Unfortunately, this creates an incentive to frame our political opponents as criminal and antisocial.

        • voidfraction says:

          “Toxic harasser” appears to be the most common way of doing so, especially when asking why you’re being referred to as a harasser is considered harassment.

      • Because does such a ban sound something even remotely enforcable? Try proving that a HR guy looked you up, not even from the office just from his personal phone, and anyway if you’d try that, I don’t know much about US constitutional law but sounds like something that could be challenged.

        Why do even Rationalists tend to base legislative ideas on “what would be good” instead of “of the kinds of laws that proven to be enforceable and effective, the most useful would be this” ?

        You see, when we talk about “Brahmin Idealism”, this is actually one of the most obvious, demonstrable and perhaps even empirically well researchable cases: an approach to legislation that entirely ignores enforcability and considers it a totally secondary, technical detail, to be worked out by some experts in the police dept, but basically having this optimism that anything is enforcable if you wish it hard enough. That technical questions are secondary to desirables. While a non-idealist will based his desirables on technical possibility and cost. Well, maybe I am exaggerating, it is not such a belief, just a tendency to of enforceability to slip out of the mind, to forget about it, to not always consider it important.

        And if you look at this tendency, this is one interesting “hole” in the Matrix where quasi-religiousness shines through. Obviously, a pragmatic, ideology-free government technician would always think like this: laws of the kind that were proven effective and enforcable on the cheap are my toolbox, let’s find the best tool for the job. While a priest type will always try to ban eating meat on friday (figuratively speaking) because it is not the enforcement but the message, the idea that matters – one does not simply _compromise_ with something sacred, right? My point is, that this desirable laws over pragmatic laws is clearly the legacy of the shining city on the hill type of thinking.

        • Thanks– I’ve been thinking about people assuming that their preferred laws will be costless and have only the desired effects, and you’ve brought it into sharper focus. I see a lot of this from people who want gun control– I’ve asked a few, and the idea that there would be a price for gun control had not occurred to them. However, I see the same problems with immigration control.

          • Anthony says:

            However, I see the same problems with immigration control.

            This is why anti-immigration policy wonks want much stricter employer enforcement. It’s much easier to require that employers collect a little bit of data to prove their employees are legal, and actually audit the damn data, than it is to patrol a couple of thousand km of scrubland.

            Certainly, even with vigorous employer enforcement, there would still be a market for illegal labor – I’ve hired guys at Home Depot I’m pretty certain weren’t legal, and my mother considered hiring someone as a home-care aide for my father, and wouldn’t be worried about his immigration status. But there aren’t nearly as many of those jobs as there are illegal aliens in the U.S., so stricter enforcement on employers would significantly reduce illegal immigration.

            However, only policy wonks talk about that, because Republican politicians don’t like increased regulation on their donors, and the masses don’t want to talk about “half-measures” which won’t fix the problem – they want a wall, and they want it last year. Or the year before they lost their high-paying blue-collar job.

        • TrivialGravitas says:

          Perfectly enforceable no, but there’s a world of difference between some HR people doing it from their phone and it being company policy to always do it.

    • Anonymous says:

      This is absurd. I don’t believe in proceeding from any notion of fairness to employers, because being “fair” to them like this is unsustainable for the working class.

      So what do you propose? Lining them up against the wall and having them all shot for being impediments to Communism? Instituting kapos instead? Immediate wealth confiscation upon becoming an employer?

      • multiheaded says:

        That has not proven very practical in all cases; the combination of known possible pitfalls with active backlash can do big harm… so, as attractive as all of that might sound, not yet. Not yet. (I know people who would reasonably disagree.)

        There are more sophisticated and attractive economic regimes to explore, but as for the boring social-democratic option… treat employers “unfairly” along the lines of what’s tried and true, by backing industry unions and individual workers’ rights against them.

        And pressure countries that would not, to some extent, comply with such a regime. (basically a system of trade and cooperation treaties, but about employees and not about employers)

        • Anonymous says:

          Have you considered the possibility that the counter-productive effects of trying to implement this goal are because the goal is flawed, rather than the means?

          • multiheaded says:

            “Goal” can refer to things from different categories here. Like, a ~goal~ of “make most people’s lives better” is entirely unobjectionable, a ~goal~ of “do things the way people who had red flags historically did things, because that’s a cool color for a flag” is rather pointless/crazy on its own.

        • Mary says:

          “by backing industry unions and individual workers’ rights against them.”

          That is too vague to be enforceable.

    • JBeshir says:

      Thinking about it, I guess if I were to construct a fairness based argument for employer or organisation freedom of association, it’d be something about how people with multiple choices of employer, or in a work environment where their boss takes their feedback closely, can indirectly exercise their individual freedom of association through their boss.

      I’m not entirely sold and it does seem to me to be a lot weaker than the individual case, and in general coordinated disassociation pretty quickly runs into “can’t be fair to everyone at once in all ways” problems, and so sensible to limit in exchange for better fairness to individuals who might be the target of disassociation when needed.

  19. drethelin says:

    the study you link about “lesbians” getting worse resume responses actually seems like it’s tied into your other links to do with activists being disfavored, since the signifier of being a lesbian used in the resume was a leadership role in an LGBT activist organisation.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Yeah, but their control group was another progressive organization. I agree it’s not perfect, but I think their explanation is pretty plausible.

      • Alex Welk says:

        I’d be curious to see this effect drawn out, say with identical resumes with other student organizations say a communist student group, a feminist student group, etc all with varying degrees of progressivism and activism to really tease out the effect. When I read their synopsis it immediately threw up a red flag that student involvement was how they declared a resume as queer or not, when LGBT organizations are often filled with allies who may or may not take up leadership roles.

        Also, I might have missed it, but they chose ‘secretary’ as the role in the other student org but didn’t list what leadership position was taken in the LGBT org, or was it also ‘secretary’? As far as student orgs go, secretaries and other leadership positions vary wildly on how much they actually matter or do, so it may not be a fair comparison to have to orgs that on the surface appear vaguely politically alike and are student orgs. It seemed like the specific colleges the resumes were tailored for could have LGBT student orgs that are known for not doing much, so the secretary position their would mean less on a resume? How would one even begin to quantify that?

      • paper machine says:

        Yeah, but “lesbian LGBT activist” has stereotype connotations that other progressive activists may not.

        I suppose “radical animal rights activist” is almost as bad but who puts that on their resume?

        • JBeshir says:

          This kinda surprises me. I’d have expected it to be a lot milder than other activism; if you’re LGBT there’s surely a decent chance you’ll join up with an LGBT group mostly to find friends who have some common points of reference, whereas the other kinds you only join up for if you’re committed to the politics.

        • keranih says:

          “radical animal rights activist”

          You would be surprised – it also depends on how you tweek it. “Volunteer at local animal shelter to clean kennels” is one thing, “community outreach coordinator for Mercy for Animals” another.

          • Anonymous says:

            Never heard of MfA. I’d say a better example would be PETA, perhaps, because they’re better known and have a certain bad rep.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Think like an employer: what risks am I taking on by hiring this person? Most importantly, can I get rid of them if they suck?

          If you fire the LGBT activist, what do you expect the odds are that you will get slapped with a discrimination suit? They don’t even have to be high for it to be a risk not worth taking.

          Compare and contrast with, say, somebody who was involved in their local College Democrats group. I know which I would consider the safer bet, and IANAD.

          Also keep in mind that if you’re a small business, a single discrimination suit may be enough to sink you, even if you’re found not guilty.

          (Even the PETA guy sounds mostly harmless, although I’d feel differently if I were in an industry that involved animals in some way.)

          • onyomi says:

            This is a good point: even if you are sympathetic to the social justice activist’s cause, social justice activists seem more likely than average to bring some kind of discrimination suit against you if they get fired.

            And this is the flip side of this sort of law in general: though big companies can’t get away with hiring only white men, there is still a subtle incentive for them, and especially smaller companies where no one will notice, to not hire members of “aggrieved” groups, especially if they themselves show signs of being activists in such causes: because if you fire a white guy he can’t bring a suit against you for discrimination.

            Higher risk of being sued increases the cost of employing someone, meaning that to hire an equally qualified black female activist is more expensive, at the margins, than to hire a white guy of uninteresting personal life.

          • Anonymous says:

            Hmm. What kind of activism would actually be a benefit from the viewpoint of an employer? Hardline libertarianism? I imagine the kind of stuff that would make the ex-employee a hypocrite to objecting to being fired, but I have a hard time thinking of examples.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            If you don’t limit employers to businesses, then something with a strong ideological alignment with the organization’s goal.

            Being super cynical, a person involved in activism may be easier to get to “buy into” the “corporate vision” or whatever it’s caled these days.

          • Andrew says:

            Perhaps Calvinists? They can’t change their station anyway.

  20. Cookie Dog says:

    I tried the McCullough Effect, and once I was seeing those colours in the stripes I immediately wondered what zebras would look like. I began a trek into Google Images, in search of a zebra that would trigger the illusion. My initial findings were disappointing, and so I began scrutinising the evenness, white:black ratio, and spacing of countless zebra stripes, growing increasingly uncomfortable with how much I felt like a zebra during mating season.

    Just as I was about to give up, having questioned the life decisions that had thus far led me to this point, I found her- Zebra McCullough, and her amazing technicullough hide. Behold:

    • anon says:

      I was very excited, but Zebra McCullough didn’t do the trick for me. (Admittedly, a few hours had passed since I did the initial training — double checking the original link, I do still see an effect but it’s much fainter than immediately after I trained.)

      • Cookie Dog says:

        It’s very faint. I took a look at the picture again and I had to briefly retrain to see the colours clearly. She’s got horizontal and vertical stripes, though, so you’re able to see both colours.

  21. ediguls says:

    I have access to that paywalled paper. Is anyone interested in knowing what it says?

  22. TrivialGravitas says:

    Thinking about the lesbian resume study, this could be because the LGBT organization is seen as more of a social club than an activist club. I’m inclined to think probably discrimination, but not satisfied. A repeat with a third no leadership position control should be done, if there’s no discrimination the LGBT leadership role should still do at a bare minimum just as well as the no-leadership control.

  23. Douglas Knight says:

    There are a number of sources of counts of people killed by police. The largest number is here a list 1200 news stories of people killed by police in 2015. But it doesn’t cover earlier years. This is a noticeable fraction of all homicides. This suggests that the other sources are terrible undercounts. But if they are systematically biased downward, might their bias change from year to year? I am suspicious of trying to extract trends.

    The best known measure are the BJS reports. It shows a 30% increase over 6 years 2003-2009, but warns that the numbers are not comparable, because different police departments submit numbers in different years.

    The source you link is based on the CDC database of all death certificates. Why is a coroner going to bother to code it as legal intervention, rather than a shooting? Will such a bias change over time? Maybe it increases with familiarity with the current ICD system.

  24. Douglas Knight says:

    Everyone should look at the graph of death rates, peaked at New Years. Especially people who talk about it.

    • The main thing going on in that graph is that cold kills more people than heat–death rates higher in winter than in summer. But there is something else special about New Years. Could some of it be auto accidents from drunk drivers?

      • Tibor says:

        I don’t think that auto accidents are classified as “natural causes”. People also eat a lot during the Christmas time and they eat less healthy. This could increase the number of heart attacks or similar diseases, but I am not sure by how much.

        Also, I don’t know about the US, but in Central Europe the coldest weather actually comes only after the New Year’s Eve and stays till the beginning of March or so (well, now, it is something like 10 degrees Celsius here in the part of Germany I’m in, but that is pretty uncommon and it was minus 10 last week). If the same pattern holds in America as well, one would except the peak to be at the end of January at least if the main driver of deaths were cold. The weather mechanics in Europe is probably very different though, because it is kept warm mostly by the Gulf stream (otherwise it would be way colder than the US, if you look at the map you see that the northern US border is about on the level of Central Europe even though the weather there is more like in Scandinavia).

        • Nornagest says:

          The coldest weather in the inland US — speaking broadly, it’s a big place — is in January through early February. By late February it’s usually slightly warmer, but winter storms aren’t uncommon until mid-March. I’ve seen a blizzard in April but that’s rare.

          • John Schilling says:

            Yes, but April through November is the bulk of the period in which a persons’ health or circumstances may deteriorate to the point where they can no longer tolerate cold weather. Then it is likely to be the first cold snap, rather than the worst, that puts them in the hospital or the grave. I think; not sure about this.

        • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

          That pattern holds in most of the populous parts of the US as well.

        • Tracy W says:

          “When the days begin to lengthen the cold begins to strengthen.”

        • Mary says:

          “Also, I don’t know about the US, but in Central Europe the coldest weather actually comes only after the New Year’s Eve and stays till the beginning of March or so ”

          It’s the same. The driving factor is that while the air is losing less heat and gaining more from the sun every day, it’s still losing more than it’s gaining — bound to go down, and not regionally.

          Absent other factors, of course, so that’s on average.

      • ryan says:


        People who are dying try to hold on and make it through Christmas for the sake of the family.

      • Rachael says:

        They said the effect was stronger in the warm southern states, so it’s probably not the cold. And they said they ruled out accidents (and murder and suicide).

    • Matt C. Wilson says:

      Some random thoughts about the graph:

      I suppose the graph data was produced by eliding the year from each date of death, bucketing all deaths over the 25 year period by month/day alone, and then dividing the total deaths in each bucket by 25? Based on the second graph, the first can’t be graphing total by day over the 25 year period.

      “Averaging” in this way could also explain the absence of an outlier spike on Feb 29, which one would expect to register 1/4 as tall on a totals graph, presuming they divided the Feb 29 total by 7 and not 25.

      Two hypotheses that occurred to me but that seem ruled out are:

      1) If the death certificate is entered with only a year and no month or day, SQL databases may implicitly treat that datum as 1/1/[year] due to the way data cast operations work.

      2) A single massively deadly winter somewhere in the 25 years would inflate the averages over those days for the entire period. Since graph 2 is obviously cyclical though, I’m guessing that didn’t happen or isn’t a sole/major factor.

      Would be nice to get the actual data, with real dates (not months) of death. I couldn’t find it in the referenced CDC WONDER database. (Click “I agree”, under Section 1 choose the Grouping option of “Months”, click “Send” in that section). I was able to produce this month-resolution graph, which is much less compelling. (copied here): imgur copy

      In fact, that graph seems to refute the 2nd graph from the article. There are as many Marches that are as deadly (99, 02, 06, 07, 10, 12) [if not more (05, 08)] as most-lethal-Januaries (00, 01, 03, 04, 09, 11, 13, 14)

      • Matt C. Wilson says:

        Looking at state level data for a couple warmer climate states shows some still present, but reduced, cyclicality.




        Hawaii shows the weakest cyclicality, but it’s also the smallest population wise. Florida shows less than Arizona, but it’s still there, with a few most-lethal-March data points outside the January tendency.

        Based on these, I think I differ on the cold weather hypothesis. Unless it’s less “cold” and more “colder relative to the rest of the year.” I’m more inclined to think the prevalence of colds/flu during winter is a significant contributing factor.

        • Yrro says:

          Cold weather plus increased sociality around the holidays? I know my family spent pretty much the whole of Dember with some bug or another.

        • Anthony says:

          Arizonans (and Floridians) may be less cold-adapted because of the generally high temperatures throughout much of the year. When you’re used to months of 104+ (40C) temperatures, 50 degrees (10C) may be system-shockingly cold.

          (I saw the opposite effect in the late 1980s – a heat wave in which temperatures in San Francisco’s Outer Sunset rose to 86 degrees (30C) for a couple of days, and *several* people died of the heat.

  25. Olivia says:

    I have propanalol and a moderate spider phobia. Where might I get temporary access to spiders near Berkeley? I could also try it with something more mundane and closer to an ugh-field, like phones or job applications or something.

    • Seth says:

      Could you use fake plastic spiders like the kind sold for Halloween decorations? Maybe mechanical toy spiders? If you need to deal with real live spiders, maybe a local zoo will have an exhibit of tarantulas or similar. In the age of the Internet, you can probably order spiders online, but I assume that’s not a good idea.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      Spiders are everywhere; you just have to look.

    • Emile says:

      how ’bout full-screen youtube videos of hairy creepy spiders, seen close-up?

      • Murphy says:

        I’m not sure that would work. I have quite a visceral reaction to live wasps close to me, particularly on me but find nature documentaries about their hives fascinating. A screen filled with crawling wasps produces no uncomfortable feeling.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          if you’ve seen the recent peter jackson remake of King Kong, did any of the giant bug scenes affect you?

          (Content warning: horrifying bugs and vermin and death)

          …For me, both clips are just about unendurable. When I saw the first one originally, I was physically unable to remain in my chair.

          [EDIT] – “Huh, come to think of it, the reaction I remember does seem unreasonably strong. I mean, I like worms and bugs and creepy crawly things and horror in most contexts, was it really all that baJESUS FUCKING CHRIST NO NO NO NO GET IT AWAY FUCK WHY DID I START WATCHING THAT AGAIN!!!”

          • Murphy says:

            Not really.
            From a very young age I always adored the kind of videos with cameras in nests.

            I guess I’m just too used to the screen being ephemeral.

          • Leit says:

            “How bad could it be?”
            *clicks second video*

    • Tibor says:

      What about the Zoo in Oakland?

    • Nornagest says:

      Try the East Bay Vivarium, near 4th Street. They’re mainly about reptiles, but they have plenty of spiders and other assorted arthropods and they’d probably be willing to help you out if you explained what you were doing.

  26. God Damn John Jay says:

    This is an odd medical request, but does anyone here (Scott Alexander?) know about thirst and urinary retention as a result of anxiety?

    I have had bloodwork and a tube with a camera up my urethera and nothing was found wrong, plus I am young and my prostate is fine. I have tried benzos and muscle relaxants to little effect.

  27. Nita says:

    Related: straight men do better than gay men (and gay women better than straight women) on rotation tasks. Was Turing just a gigantic outlier, or what?

    Wow. Now I have to wonder how your mental model of probability distributions works.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      It works just fine, and I’ll thank you not to be so snide.

      Remember that on a trait with a mean and standard deviation, tiny differences in means result in giant differences in the tails. This is one theory for why Jews have a 10 IQ point difference, are only 2% of the population, but make up as much as 50% of various lists of top scientists. The small difference around the means means they’ll be very overrepresented several standard deviations away from the norm.

      Likewise, if there’s an advantage for men over women in some ability linked to mathematics – then we would expect not too much difference in numbers of moderately good women vs. moderately good men, but immense differences around the tails. When you crunch the numbers, it does an okay job predicting the actual results of 50 male Fields Medalists vs. 1 female.

      If the paper’s right that gay men are skewed in the direction of female brains and lesbian women are skewed in the direction of male brains, we would expect gays to have closer to the same distribution of extreme math talent as women. But gays are also only about 2% of the population. Consider that there’s probably no female mathematician of the last century at Turing’s level , yet a gay person got to Turing’s level even though there are only 2% as many gays as there are women. This is surprising enough that probably either the finding about gay brains is wrong, or modeling this as mean vs. standard deviation is wrong, or gay people are a heterogenous category some of whom have this effect and others of whom don’t, or the general practice of using gender differences in mental rotation to predict differences in mathematical ability is wrong. Or Turing was just a mind-bogglingly huge coincidence.

      • Sniffnoy says:

        Consider that there’s probably no female mathematician of the last century at Turing’s level

        You don’t think Noether is (at least) on a level with Turing?

        • Scott Alexander says:

          I probably am not a good person to have an opinion on that. But I doubt there are enough that having one gay mathematician of Turing’s level isn’t surprising under the assumptions.

        • Tibor says:

          Yeah, I was going to mention her. I think this might be Einstein vs. Riemann. I don’t think that Einstein was more brilliant than Riemann (after all, a good deal of his theory is based on Riemann’s work and would not be possible without it which is why I chose those two names), but the chances are that a random person knows Einstein but never heard of Riemann. Turing is not as well known as Einstein but way way more than Noether or even Riemann for that matter. The reasons for that seem to be that while “ordinary people” can at least picture something when told about Turing’s or Einstein’s discoveries, the abstract algebraic theorems of Noether or the Riemannian geometry require a certain knowledge of the topic just to even picture what that might be about at all, even at a level of a gross oversimplification.

          Other than that bit, Scott’s reasoning is good. Even if gay men and women (both straight and gay) have the same distribution then you still have something like 12.5 times more women than gay men and maybe the same number of mathematical geniuses.

          I am actually pretty skeptical about mental turning being a good proxy for intelligence. There is more to intelligence than space orientation (at which men really do seem to be better). I bet that it is correlated with other intellectual skills, but not enough to be a good estimate of overall intelligence or mathematical ability. A good deal of maths does not require such a great space imagination (depends on the field, this is definitely of a greater importance in differential geometry and similar fields) while it does require understanding on a more abstract level (which are typically things that you cannot picture at all or which you can kind of approximate with a 2d drawing for which you do not need a great deal of spatial skills).

          That said, I have not read much about it so maybe it works better than I think.

          • Too Late says:


            I usually agree with you, but I think you are flat wrong about Einstein. First, Einstein’s theories are not based on Riemann’s work. Einstein didn’t mention Riemannian Geometry in either of the 1905 papers on Special Relativity. And General Relativity relies essentially on tensor calculus, not Riemannian Geometry.

            But more importantly, Einstein is the best physicist who’s walked this earth since Newton. The problem is that Einstein is essentially known for Special Relativity and E=mc^2, which seems really easy to most people learning physics. So the first impression physics students get of Einstein is that his fame is disproportionate relative to his contribution.

            But Einstein didn’t stop at SR. He also contributed mightily to Statistical Physics (e.g. Bose-Einstein Condensates), explained the photo-electric effect (for which he got the Nobel Prize), and pretty much single-handedly constructed General Relativity. That last one alone puts him in a category above Noether.

            Less known or accepted, Einstein is one of the founding fathers of Quantum Mechanics. Indeed he is the first one after Plank (who thought it was merely a mathematical artifice) to consider that energy would come in quanta (photons in this case) proportional to frequency and thus explained the photo-electric effect.

            And then in 1907, he again used the same hypothesis to construct the Einstein Model of a solid in order to explain observations about heat capacity. The model was updated later by Debye and is still very relevant today. When Niels Bohr came up with his model of the hydrogen atom in 1913, he was merely adapting that hypothesis to angular momentum.

            Even when Einstein was wrong, it was in a seminal and ultimately enormously productive way. The paper he published in 1935 with Podolsky and Rosen was the starting point for Bell’s inequalities, and as such it identified the most remarkable aspect of QM and the most talked about today.

            But his magum opus is General Relativity. All of physics today can be, directly or indirectly, explicitly or implicitly, in practice or in theory, reduced to exactly two theories: Quantum Field Theory, and General Relativity. And if Special Relativity can seem pretty easy math-wise, I can’t imagine anyone claiming the same of General Relativity.

            That is all.

          • John Schilling says:

            No, that’s not all. You forgot Brownian Motion. Arguably the last great discovery in classical mechanics. For two thousand years people talked about atoms the way we talk about strings – great theory, but no possible instrument could ever see or measure one. For five hundred years, we had the tools to measure atoms, and nobody put it together. It took Einstein to figure out that, by basically just staring at a cup of coffee and applying Newton with the right math, you could measure the size of atoms(*)

            It helps that he worked in an age when there were a lot of simple, elegant bits of physics waiting to be understood by the right mind, but for one mind to pick up so many, in such a short time, in so many different areas of physics, is I think unprecedented.

            * Technically small molecules, but chemists had already figured out the equivalence there.

          • Too Late says:

            @John Schilling

            Yes, Brownian Motion, that’s a famous contribution. I didn’t really forget though: I had mentioned Statistical Physics and considered Brownian Motion to be part of it. Einstein made some major contributions to that field.

            Although I also agree with you that “he worked in an age when there were a lot of simple, elegant bits of physics waiting to be understood by the right mind”, I really wanted to emphasize that not all of Einstein’s contributions were simple. The impression of simplicity is what one gets when studying Special Relativity, but General Relativity (for example) is something else entirely.

      • chaosmage says:

        Woohoo. Tons of free trouble for anyone who studies the sexuality of top mathematicians!

        Maybe balance it out with Chess super-grandmasters. They possess an extreme of a very different facet of “intelligence”, are stereotypically neat confirmed bachelors, and if I may betray my prejudices, a great number of them (though not Carlsen, who is professionally styled and has modeling experience) simply look strikingly gay.

        • I don’t have any data on whether chess super-grandmasters in general tend to be confirmed bachelors or not, but I did a quick check on Wikpedia of the biographies of World Chess Champions since Wilhelm Steinitz, and nearly all of them were married. Just my personal opinion, but none of them looked particularly gay to me. Whether any of them were known for being particularly neat I cannot say.

      • Slow Learner says:

        Mental rotation is trainable.
        As part of a chemistry degree course in the UK, some people I know had their mental rotation abilities tested in their first and fourth year.
        Small sample of ~200, but all improved, and there was no significant sex-based difference in the fourth year test despite men outperforming women in the first-year test. (Sample ~50:50 men:women, too).

        What is training men to be better at mental rotation on average? I don’t know, but it would be interesting to find out.

        • JuanPeron says:

          Two caveats/hesitations on that:

          First, “can be trained away” isn’t necessarily the same as “is exclusively nurture”. There may still be a male edge that can be eroded away with training. In particular, the people you cite were all trained with the same courses – it’s a well-established pattern that if you train people from varying starting points on the same content, you’ll diminish variance across the group. The people performing well at the beginning simply have less to gain from the content.

          That said, we could definitely be seeing some bizarre mediated effect. Young male monkeys like ‘masculine’ toys more than female monkeys do; perhaps childhood play choices train spatial reasoning from a young age?

          Second, I’m curious whether this advantage is at all transferable. I worry that like pretty much all other “brain training”, you can get better at a task but not develop the innate ability that set your initial score. As an example, you can get better at Raven’s matrices, but you haven’t changed your mental skill at pattern recognition – you’ve just invalidated Raven’s Matrices as a test of that skill.

          • Will says:

            Between-gender mental rotation ability disparity also shows up in early childhood (by 7 at least; perhaps earlier, but 7 is the lowest age I’ve seen studied — it’s about as soon as the ability itself really shows up), so if this is the result of some kind of socialization providing training for males, it’s done most of its work awful early. I believe there’s some evidence it’s related to testosterone exposure in the womb, but don’t quote me on that.

        • namae nanka says:

          mean weighted effect sizes for improvement for males were very similar to that of females, with
          a difference of only 0.01. Thus males and females improved about the same amount with
          training. Our findings concur with those of Baenninger and Newcombe (1989) and suggest that
          while males tend to have an advantage in spatial ability, both genders improve equally well with

      • nope says:

        It’s probably the mental rotation assumption that’s wrong. Jews have very bad spacial rotation relative to other groups, which hasn’t held back the many of them that were and are ridiculously good at math. As with many fields with a male/female difference in achievement, the math one is probably a result of of either a) male “things” preference on the “things/people” interest spectrum, b) stronger and more persistent male “leveling up” impulses that give them an advantage in fields that have more cumulative gains (math builds on itself in a way many fields like literature do not), or c) a smaller female standard deviation wrt IQ, leaving fewer at the top for *anything*. My personal biases push me toward a and b, but I wouldn’t be surprised at c either.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          If mental rotation is relevant to high level mathematics, then surely it is relevant to geometry. But women and gays are overrepresented in geometry. I’m not sure about Jews, but it should be easy to find out.

      • DavidS says:

        My grasp of probability is… sketchy, but wouldn’t this depend on something like a normal distribution?

        On the surface at least, it seems possible to me that there might be a sub-group of gay men whose sexuality is somehow linked at the causal level with having ‘more female’ brains (crudely speaking), and would perhaps have a distribution of abilities on rotational tasks similar to women, whereas another group simply don’t have that ‘more female’ tendency at all. So the average difference conceals two separate populations.

        Alternatively, is it possible that the rotational skills are developed through certain interests, and the difference is because a smaller proportion of women and gay men are likely to have those interests, but that this is essentially a binary question and where someone does have that interest they will do on average as well?

        • Will says:

          It’s probably not interests: the disparity is there by early childhood (~7), as I mention above. I read one study suggesting some mysterious testosterone-mediated effect, but they weren’t very sure.

      • Would you expect mental rotation to have any link to the sort of things that mathmaticians do? Using visualizations can be good for practical problem solving but it seems like most of the stuff Turing was good at are all about symbolic manipulation except for that thing with resonating chemical reactions which IIRC was all two dimensional and didn’t involve any rotation.

        And in any event I’d expect that there’s usually more than one way to approach a problem and I would be very careful to generalize from this one mental module to professional success in pretty much any field.

      • JuanPeron says:

        > Gay people are a heterogenous category, some of whom have this effect and others of whom don’t

        This seems like an interesting and plausible suggestion. Homosexuality certainly seems to be multi-cause, and not all of those causes would need to be associated with the masculinity/femininity of the mind. I note that Turing has one older brother, and number of older male siblings is perhaps the strongest predictor for being gay that anyone has found.

        If hormone levels in the womb are one of, but not the only, major influences on homosexuality, we might have a strong start for this theory. Say, a genetic component that doesn’t influence mind-genderedness and an epigenetic component that does.

      • Nita says:

        It’s true that I’m often (too often) snide, but that particular comment was 100% sincere.

        I mean, what do you expect to observe in the tails of a realized normal distribution, if not occasional data points gradually getting sparser? That’s what randomness is all about: even if P(X) is small, X can still happen.

        Let’s say the expected number of gay men at least as good as Turing at maths is T=P(at least as good as Turing at maths|gay man)*P(gay|male)*N. It seems that N is a pretty big number (~ all Western men who have lived to adulthood in the 20th century?). So, given that P(gay|male) is 2%, how small does P(at least as good as Turing at maths|gay) have to be to merit rounding T to 0?

      • Anthony says:

        There are two kinds of math – algebra and geometry. Algebra is “v-loaded” – it uses generally the same neural circuitry as verbal skills and logic. Geometry uses the neural circuitry measured by rotation tasks.

        As I understand it, Turing’s work was primarily algebraic – extending the limits of algebra – which would mean that even if gay men were more like women in the distribution of mathematical ability, he’s not quite such an outlier as would be a female Coxeter or Reimann.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          But women and gays are overrepresented in geometry.

          • Anthony says:

            That’s interesting. I wonder if there’s some greater need for creativity to do well in geometric fields of math?

        • Pku says:

          But that does give us Emmy Noether as a giant algebraic outlier. Though there are a lot more women than gay men, so I guess it’s not that crazy.

      • namae nanka says:

        Within men, the spatial rotation ability seems to have a U shaped curve where the deficient perform poorly compared to the normal and then higher testosterone levels are inversely correlated with spatial rotation performance. So gays might have a more ‘womanly brain’ yet do better and it’s no great mystery why a Turing came to be.

        Besides, maths is a skill to itself like verbal and spatial ability is another. This is an easier distinction than the verbal, perceptual and image rotation which is apparently a better model,

        “Interestingly, though the correlations between the verbal and perceptual and perceptual and image rotation factors were high (0.80 and 0.85), the correlation between the verbal and image rotation factors was much lower, 0.41.”

        There are some interesting results from SMPY regarding spatial ability and its concordance with verbal and maths. Spatial ability in this context probably spans more than image rotation(which is the biggest difference between sexes).

        “There is a growing consensus among leading psy-
        chometricians (Ackerman, 1989; Carroll, 1989;
        Humphreys, 1979; Snow & Lohman, 1989) that intellectual
        abilities are organized around three (not two) primary con-
        tent domains whose communality defines the construct of
        general intelligence: verbal-linguistic, mathematical-
        numerical, and spatial-mechanical. Spatial abilities are es-
        pecially critical for educational-vocational paths such as
        engineering, the physical sciences, architecture, and many
        of the creative arts (Humphreys et al., 1993). Thus, the
        inclusion of spatial-mechanical reasoning abilities is likely
        to cast further light on the precise prevalence of multipo-
        tentiality (as it has been defined in the literature on coun-
        seling gifted individuals)”


        “For example, in
        Project TALENT, over half of participants in the top 1% on the
        Spatial Composite were below the top 3% cut on both the Math-
        ematical and Verbal Composites, and, thus, they would not be
        invited to participate in modern talent searches. Moreover, there is
        reason to believe that the educational needs of spatially talented
        youths are more unmet than those of mathematically or verbally
        talented youths, because the typical middle and high school cur-riculum has many more opportunities for developing mathematical
        and verbal ability than spatial ability (Colangelo et al., 2004;
        Lohman, 2005)”

      • anon says:

        Some say John Nash was gay.

  28. chaosmage says:

    Effektive Altruists are Smartie Hearties.

  29. Glimmervoid says:

    “All-cause mortality over the course of a year rises with proximity to New Years’ Day, which is the deadliest day of the year”

    I think the answer is clear. There is an ancient order of old school druids who preform blood scarifies (made to look like accidents) to bring the spring.

    If my theory holds true, we should see the reverse trend in the southern hemisphere. Anyone have any all-cause mortality numbers for Australia or New Zeeland? I had a look but couldn’t find any.

  30. Benito says:

    Ten mins on the McCullough was nice. I’ll reply when it stops. I did it on Thursday 28th Jan, 10 past 9.

  31. Sniffnoy says:

    Part 1 of the Empirics of Free Speech is worth reading too. Note also that there’s a part 3 still coming.

  32. Emile says:

    I recently ran into yet Another Explanation Of The US Class System: … and found it pretty interesting, better than moldbug’s five classes… that guy looks like he has interesting stuff to say.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Yeah, I’m working on a post on this. The most interesting difference from Moldbug (and my own intuitive system) is that Moldbug places the Brahmins on top, whereas in Church’s system that corresponds to gentry and gentry are well below the elite. I’m not sure what to make of this because the elite are pretty well-hidden compared to everyone else and I don’t know that much about them. I think Church would argue that the Moldbug system is what the elite want us to think, and I’m sure not enough of a scholar of class to have any hope of getting past even marginally good propaganda.

      Also, his E1 is pretty scary and it’s hard to tell whether he totally lost objectivity or whether that class really does exist and is just very good at hiding.

      • Emile says:

        Wouldn’t the Elites be pretty much Moldbug’s Optimates? Moldbug seems to say (I’m going off memory here), that the Optimates used to be the ruling class but got pushed into irrelevance, and Michael O. Church is saying that they’re still here, they just have a superficial Brahmin disguise, but have very different values and behaviors.

        My experience from the corporate world and from my (somewhat elite) university seems to fit Michael’s model better than Moldbug’s (i.e. testosterone-driven “old money” still throw their weight around quite a bit).

        Dunno about E1 tho, it also struck me as a bit machavelian, but it’s hard to tell from my lowly place in life.

        • chaosmage says:

          His Elite should include military and intelligence people. He completely fails to mention them, but I don’t see why.

          • John Schilling says:

            I assume he would include military enlisted on the “Labor” ladder and military officers as “Gentry”, and it’s not a bad fit, but yes, not spelling it out is a major oversight.

          • keranih says:

            I disagree about where he’d put military officers. They better fit as the upper levels of Labor, with some side steps into Gentry at the highest levels and with those of specialized degrees (engineers, doctors, etc.) The key is that the military doesn’t traffic in ideas or education nearly so much as it does in leadership and management of labor class people.

          • John Schilling says:

            True, but I think this is overshadowed by the fact that military officers almost all have four-year college degrees, if they didn’t come from career military families are likely to have what Church calls a “gentry” background, and when they leave the military will likely wind up in “gentry” jobs. When I see military and civilians socializing together, it is usually officer/gentry, and I am guessing that enlisted/labor is fairly common as well. Is there a significant officer/labor social overlap that I am missing?

          • keranih says:

            I hope some of the military members of the commentariat will jump in here, but my experience has been that 1) there is HUGE social and legal pressure within the military to maintain a degree of separation in socialization between officers and enlisted, for their mutual mental welfare, and 2) that while military officers most typically have 4 year degrees (or better) they typically come from a Labor-type background, and their attitudes towards the job matches that of the E4s, in that they are living/breathing this career.

            Again, my largest reasoning rests on the trades vs ideas divide, plus the idea that the Gentry want to control the broader culture.

            Another quibble with the classification scheme – the rural/urban split, or that I have a hard time mapping his scheme onto the non-urban populations I know. I wonder if anyone else feels the same way.

          • brad says:

            I think his E ladder is kind of screwy, but working with it, I can see at least some flag officers as E4s trying for an E3 post-military career. On the other hand at least some officers in direct command, especially at lower levels, fit the L1 narrative of really successful leaders of Ls even if they aren’t allowed to fraternize. In between and to the sides G3 fits, with some G2 for prestigious/cutting edge/intellectual areas of responsibility.

            As for rural areas, I don’t see the problem. At least for underclass through G3 (i.e. underclass, L4-L1, G4-3) I can easily think of people in rural areas that would fit the different slots. Maybe not too many G1s, but there aren’t that many to begin with and given the cultural influencer nature of the beast, clustering in cities shouldn’t be too surprising. On the flip side nothing immediately comes to mind that wouldn’t fit at all. Maybe a very successful “medium” business owner? But that’s not an especially rural problem.

            All in all it’s a pretty good rubric other than the E ladder, and keeping in mind that it may not fully map to some subcultures, even very large ones.

          • Nero tol Scaeva says:

            Military officers might be Gentry, but the highest ranking officers (O-7 and above) are basically Elites.

            A 3 or 4 star general is treated like the CEO of a company: Private limos, lower level officers (LtCols or even colonels!) as secretaries who get their morning coffee… pretty much all of the perks you would imagine the POTUS getting from his staff are what O-7s and above get from their lower-ranking officers.

            This pecking order is even worse in places that have concentrations of generals like the Pentagon (where you would see a colonel being a morning coffee type).

      • hlynkacg says:

        I share your skepticism about his E1, but If even half the allegations against Jeffery Epstein turn out to be true I might have to revise that.

        • Echo says:

          >”This is a disbarrable offense, and they will be disbarred,” Dershowitz said. “They will rue the day they ever made this false charge against me.”

          Massive points for style, wow.

      • Oliver Cromwell says:

        I think Moldbug is closer to the truth than this classification; this classification focusses overly on wealth. When I read, “People complain about “the 1 percent”, but the reality is that most of that top 1.0% are nowhere near controlling positions within society.”, my thought was, “Ah, he’s going to say that the multimillionaire owner of a paperclip company has much less real influence than an NYT staff reporter whose cost of living-adjusted income is barely middle class.”. But actually it’s just boring Marxism: elites means investment banking analysts etc. etc.

        Moldbug’s argument was that society is controlled by military force, not money (ownership of money is dependent on amenable military force, not vice-versa), and that as the US military does not have agency control of military force is possessed by the permanent bureaucracy, which outsources its thinking largely to the universities. The power elite, therefore, is civil servants, professors, authors, journalists. This is a major advance in understanding that fits much more closely with the facts (Goldman Sachs analysts pay taxes to support universities, not vice-versa), over the old Marxist ideas.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          I don’t see much incompatibility between Moldbug and Church. They are interested in different topics, particularly short-term vs long-term influence.

      • Vaniver says:

        Also, his E1 is pretty scary and it’s hard to tell whether he totally lost objectivity or whether that class really does exist and is just very good at hiding.

        Obviously he lost objectivity. If he had been willing to call George Soros an E1, then it would have been uncertain, but anyone who thinks that the Kochs are obviously evil and Soros is obviously not (and evilness determines social strata) has lost objectivity.

        • Chrysophylax says:

          I agree that his failure to name some E1 Americans, to name some policies caused by E1 action and to explain how they caused those policies is a major blow to his credibility.

          However, your argument that he fails to call Soros evil, and does call the Kochs evil, does not prove that his argument about social strata is false. It is not evident that Soros displays the traits that he characterises E1 with, nor that either of us would be able to tell if Soros were a member of certain ultra-elite circles or were excluded.

          I note that he did not say that Soros is obviously not evil and that he stressed that being very rich and evil is not enough to grant E1 membership.

          However, I think that his claims about E1 can probably be dismissed, given his failures noted above; the general tendency to see evil conspiracies where complex amoral processes should be blamed; the lack of any evidence; and his lack of any obvious way of acquiring such evidence, even if he were right about E1.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          @Vaniver – “Obviously he lost objectivity. If he had been willing to call George Soros an E1, then it would have been uncertain, but anyone who thinks that the Kochs are obviously evil and Soros is obviously not (and evilness determines social strata) has lost objectivity.”

          …Did he actually mention the Kochs or Soros? If so, I must have missed it. He specifically mentions that E1 isn’t about a specific level of wealth, so just being a billionaire doesn’t put you there. He also specifically mentions that his idea of E1s aren’t about nationality or politics in an idealist sense, but rather about raw control. While he might actually be biased enough to claim the Kochs fit that pattern, I don’t think they or Soros actually do.

          I’d say there’s about as much evidence for his taxonomy as Moldbug’s, and it leads to diametrically-opposed conclusions. I’d rate that as highly interesting.

        • John Schilling says:

          Koch and Soros are brought up in the comments, with the former specifically an Evil E1 per Church, and the latter as a not-evil E3.

          I think the taxonomy is useful and interesting, but warped by an insistence that the highest class must be Pure Evil and anyone not Pure Evil must be assigned whatever lower class is the least-obviously-wrong fit. Any taxonomy where it is possible for the most powerful man in the world to be two levels below the top and/or in a specifically not-“Elite” hierarchy, has a problem. When the 16th-richest person in the United States, who spends his life doing stereotypically rich-guy upper-class stuff, is defined as an “Elite Servant”, who are we supposed to believe he is serving?

          Also, yes, George Soros is exactly as evil (or not) as the Koch brothers. For exactly the same reason, unless we’re using some silly object-level “Blue/Green Tribes Good, Red/Grey Tribes Evil” thing as the basis for class distinctions.

          • Moebius Street says:

            I think that we can conclude that Soros is more evil, without resorting to any comparison between tribes. His manipulation of the market in GBP currency strikes me as rather evil, and I’m not aware of the Kochs doing anything other than advocacy (and of course managing their business).

      • JuanPeron says:

        This seems like a good place for a general observation: Michael Church is one of the least objective writers I’ve ever seen.

        He’s a genuinely smart guy with a lot of interesting observations. He’s also an aggressively motivated reasoner with a lot of axes to grind, and seems to alternate between “posts about the world” and “posts about his greatness and vague conspiracies”. Whether that’s dark mutterings about Google, rants about how he’s a programmer good enough to reshape the world, or conspiracy theorizing about E1, I’m really hesitant when he starts to discuss things no one else can find evidence for.

        None of this means his E1 doesn’t exist – Sheldon Adelson and his ilk definitely appear to be E1 players. It just means that Church’s opinion on the matter doesn’t really change my expectations about it.

        • Emile says:

          He’s a genuinely smart guy with a lot of interesting observations. He’s also an aggressively motivated reasoner with a lot of axes to grind, and seems to alternate between “posts about the world” and “posts about his greatness and vague conspiracies”. Whether that’s dark mutterings about Google, rants about how he’s a programmer good enough to reshape the world, or conspiracy theorizing about E1, I’m really hesitant when he starts to discuss things no one else can find evidence for.

          Sounds like a pretty accurate description of Moldbug!

        • FJ says:

          Isn’t one of the defining characteristics of E1 that it “doesn’t give a shit about any particular country. They’re fully multinational and view all the world’s political nations as entities to be exploited (like everything else)”? That seems like a hard fit with Adelson, who isn’t exactly indifferent regarding a particular Eastern Mediterranean nation. The Kochs, Soros, and Adelson may be evil, but they are also very interested in policies that have no influence on their own lives or empires. If Church really means E1 to include these folks, then his understanding of that class is fatally flawed.

      • Jason K. says:

        (apparently tabs and multiple consecutive spaces are not allowed)

        In defense of the E1 designation: The personality he describes is exactly what I would expect from people in that position. It is the perfect storm of extreme power without accountability. I am unable to speak with certainty as to whether or not this class even exists. However, a quick application of the 80/20 rule spits out this:

        World Population & class (Using 7 billion starting estimate)

        5600000000______World Poor & Underclass
        44800000________L2 & G4
        8960000_________L1 & G3
        1792000_________G2 & E4
        358400__________G1 & E3

        The E1 & E1+ combined is in the general ballpark of his estimate. Keep in mind his underclass estimate was just for the U.S., not the whole world.

        Applying the 80/20 then to wealth/power gives this:

        ____________________% of Power________% of Pop
        World Poor & Underclass 0.000041%________80.0000%
        1st world L4__________0.000205%________16.0000%
        L2 & G4______________0.005125%________0.6400%
        L1 & G3______________0.025625%________0.1280%
        G2 & E4______________0.128125%________0.0256%
        G1 & E3______________0.640625%________0.0051%

        So while his claim is shy on evidence, it fits the general heuristics on behavior and distribution. Part of the problem of the E1 is that it is inherently difficult to prove as part of being E1 is that you generally not the public face of anything. It would require a lot of digging to prove the existence of E1 as a coherent class, and not just a random selection of individuals that happen to be at the top end of the power/wealth hierarchy.

        • Nornagest says:

          The personality he describes is exactly what I would expect from people in that position.

          That’s exactly what concerns me about the designation. It’s too good a fit to preconceptions — not everybody’s preconceptions, but at least one set of them.

  33. Capitalism and markets:

    >The conflation of capitalism with markets irritates me because I suspect it is a means whereby the right smuggles in support for inequality.

    As for me, I would not smuggle it but say it outright: private property and inequal private property is OK, because it creates stability, structure, cohesion, hierarchy, clear chains of command, decision-making my the intelligent, warfare capability, and is the most enduring, most functional, simplest, anti-fragile systems, far older than capitalism, see e.g. feudalism. It can survive a full civ collapse like the Roman one. It’s a perfect survivor. And I mean, this is how every sensible leader would organize things, by private property, suppose you are Aegon Targaryen conquering the Seven Kingdoms, how to make it something stable? Give baronies and suchlike, property to those loyal to you and an intelligent enough to run it right, how else? If you set up some complicated elected councils running a communist commonwealth, can you be sure of their stability, loyalty, and even cooperation with each other? So I support private property fully.

    I mean, the great insight of the right is that property is the antidote for the bad thing which is called politics. I.e. squabbling and coalitions and partisanship and manouvering and empty promises and smug signals and back-stabbing and the whole disgusting playing the game of thrones thing.

    On other other hand, I am not so sure about unrestricted economic choice on the markets. That originates in Whiggery, and if I oppose political Whiggery, like democracy, should I always support economic Whiggery? I understand the kind of tactical libertarianism that even unrestricted choice is better than choices restricted by righteousness-signalling Progs, but in general, unrestricted choice sounds like something idealistic about everybody always making the best choices both for themselves and for their nation. I think restriction is necessary, just the trick is who restricts whom and how and how much and by what means and and and…

    • Murphy says:

      I’m not sure you’re fully correct re:history.

      Many societies didn’t have much in the way of private ownership of land, some had communities which would shuffle management of land around to different farmers, feudalism in particular was big on private *control* of land but not on private ownership, often everything belonged to the king, even the humans and the king maintained the right to grant it to new people when it was politically viable or advantageous.

      A barony isn’t so different to some forms of communism, you grand control of an area to a Baron or to a Representative Of The Party, they then parcel it out to smaller versions of themselves who split it again and again until you have estates where the peasants are forced to work at sword/gun point.

      If they’re nice people they don’t abuse their positions and don’t massively enrich themselves at the cost of those under them, if they’re horrible people they leech as much as they can out of the area they control.

      The idea of every individual peasant having actual ownership of the land he lives on and works is a fairly recent, bizarre aberration.

      • Anthony says:

        the king maintained the right to grant it to new people when it was politically viable or advantageous.

        This is not historically correct. The medieval European king had very limited power to grant control of land to new people, except as the spoils of war. (Typically after suppressing a revolt by the old land-holder.) In the Ottoman Empire, the Sultan *did* have the right to grant fiefs to new people, and exercised it frequently – quite often a fief was only life tenure and your heirs could be certain they would not inherit. This gives the beys and pashas the incentive to be “horrible people [who] leech as much as they can out of the area they control.”

    • Psmith says:

      This isn’t remotely related to your post, but if you haven’t read G. Gordon Liddy’s “Will”, I think you’d get a huge kick out of it.

    • JuanPeron says:

      I think you’re making a fundamentally different and more honest argument than the people being criticized in that quote. “Inequality is a good way to create aspirations and keep society running” is a credible opinion with discussing, but it’s not what a lot of conservatives are saying when they appeal to the power of the market.

      The “smuggling inequality” behavior seems to me to be a motte and bailey pattern. The motte is something like “markets coordinate much better than other known mechanisms, especially central planners”. The bailey is “therefore 300x pay disparities between CEOs and their employees are the will of the market and shouldn’t be modified in any way”.

      Basically, markets are an excellent system for coordinating incentives and desires within some framework. Late-stage capitalism is one system of incentives, which need not be optimal or even sensible. Using market coordination to defend a system shot through with regulatory capture and ugly externalities isn’t a particularly honest argument: we could have market coordination within wildly different incentive structures.

      • Patrick says:

        The really obnoxious thing is that “markets only work right under the right conditions” is something we’ve known since Adam Smith. And it’s taught in business school.

        Google porter forces, or commodity hell.

        A significant amount of time and energy in the business world is dedicated to trying to make sure you don’t end up in a situation where markets actually work like conservatives advertise.

  34. JBeshir says:

    I had been thinking of picking up The Witness; it’s pretty awesome that they’re donating revenue to the AMF. I jsut picked it up now; this is a direct link to the store page (since there isn’t one in the linked blog post) for anyone else looking for it.

    There’s also an individual setting for a charity to donate to at purchase time; I’m not sure what the effect of this is, so to be safe I made sure to set that to the AMF as well.

    • fireant says:

      You can also buy straight from their homepage via a widget from the humble store. I should note, that 10% of all games on the Humble store go to charity, so I am not sure who makes the deficit (compared to Steam and Playstation, where it costs the same) – Humble or the developer’s company, but I would guess it is shared…? On the other hand, I have read that Blow donated a significant amount of Braid’s revenue to charity, so it seems imaginable that that will also happen with some more of his income from The Witness.

      Independently of this, I have been playing the game for the last two days and find it very impressive. It heavily rewards curiosity and paying attention to things, and is packed very densely with meaning and just delighting little things. Also, it is really easy to spoil, sometimes with a single picture or a short sentence, so be careful.

  35. Oliver Cromwell says:

    “Not as related as it sounds: doubling teacher salary had no effect on any educational parameter in Indonesia. But they just kept all the same teachers and paid them more for no reason, so this doesn’t prove that increasing teacher salaries in the way people usually mean (ie in order to attract better teachers) wouldn’t be a good idea.”

    To be fair the populations who want to double teacher pay and would be OK with firing a lot of teachers probably have near-zero overlap.

  36. Martin says:

    > Swedish TV accidentally puts subtitles from Kids Channel on a political debate

    Not true, unfortunately. Some viewer just turned on a kids’ channel teletext subtitle during the debate, which is apparently a thing you can do (I don’t have a TV myself, and I don’t know exactly how this works, but lots of reliable sources say that these were not subtitles that were broadcast to everybody).

    • youzicha says:

      There is a newspaper article here which gives the background. Apparently, they guy who originally posted the screenshot to twitter was not claiming that the TV-broadcast was incorrect. Rather, he had a problem where his TV-set was malfunctioning and showing the wrong teletext subtitles, and was asking his twitter followers if they knew how to fix it.

  37. Chalid Astrakein says:

    On the study about height differences between gay and straight men:

    I can’t access the full paper, but the abstract seems to contradict itself. It says:

    “Studies that have used mostly self-reported height have found that gynephilic men and androphilic women are shorter than androphilic men and gynephilic women”, e.g. gay men are TALLER than straight men.

    But then they find:

    “Androphilic men were shorter, on average, than gynephilic men. “, e.g. the reverse.

    And conclude:

    “[…] the findings suggest that previous studies using self-reported height found part of a true objective height difference between androphilic and gynephilic men.”

    I am not convinced. But from personal experience I would be leaning towards ‘Gays are shorter’, if any. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

    Anyone can access the paper or clarify?

    • I suspect the Abstract contains a typo. The text of the Introduction states:
      “Sexual orientation is correlated with height across several
      studies. Specifically, it has been found that androphilic men
      and androphilic women are shorter, on average, than gynephilic
      men and gynephilic women, respectively”

      They go on to note that most of these studies have used self-reported height, and that the aim of their study was to compare both self-reported and objective height. In their results they found objective height differences among men (specifically gay men were shorter than straight men, but bisexuals did not significantly differ from either of the other two groups) but not among women.

      • Deiseach says:

        androphilic men and androphilic women are shorter, on average, than gynephilic men and gynephilic women, respectively

        But do the taller women who like women like tall women or short women?

  38. Salem says:

    Is there anyone who thinks deporting upper-middle-class people who have been in Britain for decades and have houses and families there is vitally important important to national security?

    Firstly, people who have been in Britain for decades aren’t affected by this. They have Indefinite Leave To Remain (or citizenship). This is about who gets to stay in the UK for decades. And now the government has said that if you want to stay here on a semi-permanent basis, you need to prove that you’re earning £35k.

    Secondly, the justification isn’t national security, it’s making sure that only people who are making a net contribution to our society should get to stay here (hence why workers in areas where there are deemed to be “shortages” are exempt from the income threshold). As such, setting the threshold significantly above the average seems entirely appropriate, both because of the way the tax structure works, and because of life-cycle effects (i.e. migrants are coming here in their peak earning years, but the average income includes pensioners etc).

    Finally, maybe this is one of those “divided-by-a-common-language” things, but people earning under £35k a year are definitely not upper-middle-class, at least as far as the term is used in the UK. No-one is saying we should be deporting doctors or financiers (both areas where immigrants and second-generation immigrants are massively overrepresented). Speaking as a second-generation immigrant myself, I think this is an excellent measure, that will help get us the beneficial effects of immigration without the negative ones.

    • So the point is – they arrived to the UK fully knowing that it is a temporary permit now and their eligibility will be re-evaluated after 5 years, by criteria that may perhaps change. I think that is fair enough.

      >Secondly, the justification isn’t national security, it’s making sure that only people who are making a net contribution to our society should get to stay here

      That is unfortunately not true and quite frankly this not being true is the current biggest problem of the UK and Europe. This is only true for people who were admitted specifically because their work was wanted. However, there are millions and millions on an asylum-seeking or family-reunification basis over here, quite often fraudulent, and quite often not making a net contribution. And I don’t have any stats but this class of immigrants seems far bigger than the class who was filtered and admitted for productivity. I mean, when I look at the really brutal parts of London, Paris or Sweden, I really really cannot believe these people were are filtered for productivity and being able to do a seeked-after job. I think it is those other stuff mostly.

      And that is bad. Very bad. A purely working-based immigration policy, like that of Singapore, would be okay. It could even on the whole improve the culture, work ethics or genetic IQ, I don’t know, I think whites have better averages but browns larger numbers so one could probably find a million 110+ IQ Indians willing to immigrate. So that could work. But the “bleeding heart”, altruistic asylum-fraud-industry and marry-your-daughter-to-a-second-cousin-so-that-he-can-come-over industry selects millions of immigrants primarily for their ability and willingness to game the system and this is terrible, this is going to break the UK and Europe.

      We need a Singapore logic immigration policy: no compassion whatsoever, only people who are truly needed, useful.

      • multiheaded says:

        I have an alternative suggestion for you, but voicing it would get me (not unreasonably) permabanned.

        • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

          Surely, a similar, non-banworthy result could be achieved by using vague words, generalizations and metaphors.

          Come on, multi, apply yourself.

          • multiheaded says:

            Not feeling on top of my game, but oh well…

            Dear @TheDividualist, please take all necessary steps so as to shortly arrive at an intense and prolonged state of vicarously physically enjoying your own company.

            There, how does that sound?

          • Oliver Cromwell says:

            Can also just say nothing. “I’d insult you REAL HARD if teacher wasn’t looking!” isn’t worth the bandwidth.

          • Not sure if intended, but while insults in themselves don’t bother me, the unsatisfied curiosity to find out exactly what aspect of my comment pissed you of does hurt a bit. So in a way, you managed to punish me, by tickling and not satisfying my curiosity.

            I shouldn’t be disclosing this because it incentivizes doing it more, but I just find the the whole situation oddly comical.

            And now going to get a drink, thanks for the suggestion.

          • Patrick Spens says:


            gonna guess it’s the bit where your proposed policy leads to them being trapped somewhere which a high probability of being beaten to death in a gutter.

          • Anonymous says:

            I think he’s overstating the risk of that. Anyone have actual stats on the queer homicide rate in Russia?

        • Anonymous says:

          Then why even mention it?

        • jaimeastorga2000 says:

          Smile, Dividualist; you’re on Tumblr.

      • Simon says:

        What “brutal parts of London”? I do not recognize this as a meaningful description of any of my city.

    • JBeshir says:

      A bit of information to consider for any discussions of this:

      At present, you need to be making at least £18,600 a year (more if you have children) to be able to give a married partner a right to remain, for applications made after 2012, justified on the basis of needing to demonstrate that you have sufficient income to support them and not be a burden on the state. They must also be able to speak English to a minimal standard. There’s some other routes, if you can prove that you’re unable to go to where they are and stay with them there instead. This is, admittedly, a recent rule, but people should update on it.

      Immigration already involves a lot more rules for filtering than the typical debate gives it credit for in many places.

      Edit: The origin of the new £35k rule probably has to do with the Conservative government pledge to reduce immigration to below 100,000, and them having failed to do anything even close to that for a long time and feeling under pressure.

      Such a pledge would require really big compromises to actually meet- it’d probably mean leaving the EU, and then also doing some of sharply limiting skilled immigration, sharply limiting spousal visas (which is a good way to get skilled people to *emigrate*), maybe refusing asylum to all but the most clear-cut and proven and sending a lot of people back to pretty crappy times. The immigration debate doesn’t really talk about any of these tradeoffs.

      The Conservatives don’t want to deal with the economic or electoral (less cynically, moral) consequences of these things and so have so far simply not tried very hard. This is probably an attempt to show they’re still ‘serious’ about immigration. At the cost of deporting perfectly skilled people who are making £25,000/yr and hanging threat of deportation over a lot of people.

      • Oliver Cromwell says:

        Bear in mind however that that rule was also imposed by the present government. It is a reaction to what was and to some extent still is a real problem; that problem was not invented by immigration opponents in ignorance of this rule.

        I am not sure that that is what you were saying, but just to be clear.

        edit: This post was made before your edit.

        edit2: [wrong]You’ve misinterpreted the rule. You have to prove you have 18.6k GBP, not that you earn that much each year.[/wrong]

        This is also rather looser than you have stated:

        “18 or over and you’ve spent less than 20 years in the UK, but you’d find it hard to live in another country, eg because you have no friends or relationships there”

        I am not sure how the Home Office could prove you have friends in a different country. In any case a bit different from an exemption in case you are “unable” to live there; lots of people move to countries where they don’t know anyone for work. This of course is law originated by the Strasbourg Court, not Parliament.

        • JBeshir says:

          Yeah, you have a good point; I realised that I’d not mentioned that and edited it in to be clearer.

          Edit: I think you’re mistaken about the income vs savings bit; it is £18.6k gross income per year, plus £3,800 for first child and £2,4000 for each additional child according to the financial requirements PDF it links for additional detail.

          Section 7 does say that you can count some of savings towards it if you have savings over £16,000 though; it specifies the formula as ([savings] – £16,000) / 2.5, purportedly on the basis that apparently £16k in savings makes you non-eligible for benefits and 2.5 years is the time before some further application has to be made. It has a little table which says that £62,500 in savings is enough to need no income.

          Edit 2: That looser bit isn’t for applying as a partner, it’s for applying as someone who has had a “private life in the UK”, potentially unlawfully, for a sufficiently long time. It does sound fairly loose, especially compared to the other ways of qualifying under that section, like having lived in the UK for more than half your life or over 20 years.

          I’m trying to find full details for it. I’d note that they don’t have to prove anything- you have to prove yourself to them, to their satisfaction.

          • Oliver Cromwell says:

            You’re correct about the income/savings part; I had heard about the savings route but not the income route, and didn’t know they could be traded against one another. Thanks for pointing that out.

            edit: Well, how do you prove you don’t have friends? It’s possible they take this very literally and basically reject everyone who applies on these grounds, but I suspect not, as that would open the way for more lawsuits. Not totally sure though.

          • JBeshir says:

            Okay, looks like section 8.2.3 and of this document provides expanded versions of the criteria for the 10-year private life route.

            It’s fuzzy enough it would very much depend on the immigration officials involved, but if they actually follow it in a commonsensical manner, the things they look at are whether you’ve spent any significant time in the original country, whether you’ve mostly lived in a diaspora community, whether there’s any family there, and whether you speak or could learn (?) any language there, and combine it cumulatively.

            Probably the *best* way to know how loose it is would be to look for statistics on how often it’s used; it’s written like it’s a hard-to-qualify-for exceptional circumstances thing where you have to argue for the exceptional circumstances against a strong (and repeated, in the criteria) assumption of lack of them, but it’s fuzzy enough that plausibly immigration officials who wanted to could fail to adhere to the spirit of it and enforce it very loosely if they wanted.

      • Anonymous says:

        Then there’s the issue of corruption in the immigration-permit-granting authorities. In the Scandinavian countries, for example, much of the staff of these institutions is first-generation immigrants themselves (I suppose it makes some some sense – they can mediate between natives and applicants, themselves having gone through the process). Understandably, they might have a conflict of interest. Is it that way in the UK too?

        • JBeshir says:

          I don’t know. We’ve been under a Conservative government for over five years at this point and I think they’d certainly have *liked* to reduce immigration by rejecting marginal applicants and tightening enforcement if slack, but maybe they couldn’t?

          Immigration people are thought of as quite mean, but they probably would be anyway.

          • Salem says:

            But we haven’t been under a Conservative government for over five years. Until last May we had a coalition with the Lib Dems, who are see-no-evil on immigration. That changes things.

      • Anonymous says:

        The Conservatives don’t want to deal with the economic or electoral (less cynically, moral) consequences of these things and so have so far simply not tried very hard.

        On similar lines, I noticed that their new enormous minimum wage applies only to people over the age of 25 – i.e. it bypasses the majority of those it would have a negative impact on. Presumably the Conservatives want the left-wing credibility that comes with the concept of Raising The Minimum Wage, but without having to suffer the negative consequences of actually implementing it.

    • Nick says:

      I have a general question on the policy. People’s incomes change over the years. As an Accountant, searching for UK Accountant salaries online, it appears that many Accountant jobs pay both above & below £35k. If I were to move to the UK (from the USA), I may have a period where I am making >£35k, but then may have a stretch where I am not. Do I then get deported if 5 years after arrival occurs during a stretch where my income is <£35k annualized?

      • Salem says:

        If you want to know detailed questions like that, I suggest you ask in a specialized forum.

        But if you’re a half-way decent accountant, and you’ve been working here for 5 years, you should be making comfortably over 35k. Besides which, if you don’t think you’ll be making £35k after five years experience, I don’t think it’s in your interests to stay. Sadly, this is an expensive place to live. £35k ~= $50k, and you will live far worse in England on £35k a year than in non-coastal America on $50k a year (which I assume is very doable for an accountant in the US, given that the median US income is $52k).

    • sweeneyrod says:

      You wouldn’t call those earning £35k upper-middle-class? What would you call them?

      • Salem says:

        In normal British usage, upper-middle-class refers to successful professionals – both halves being important. So a lawyer for one of the Magic Circle firms is upper-middle-class, whereas someone struggling on Legal Aid work is not – but nor is a plumber, no matter how much he makes. We’re talking about doctors, lawyers, management consultants, finance professionals, etc.

        £35k is a graduate starting salary at the good firms in those fields. Unless you are just starting out (at which point your social class is mostly inherited), then if you are making £35k a year, you are not upper-middle-class – you aren’t even close. What kind of house in London can you afford on £35k a year? How can you even think about sending your kids to independent schools? You aren’t even in the higher rate tax band, which is the traditional mark of doing all right for yourself. People earning that sort of money in their good earning years are either in the lower rungs of the middle class, or somewhere in the working class, depending on the nature of their occupation. Upper middle class probably starts somewhere around £100k a year.

        • Brad says:

          Things aren’t so cut and dry in the U.S. Everyone wants to be middle class so the definition tends to vary a lot based on who’s talking.

          For those that primarily have an income based definition, if it is necessary to stretch the definition to include oneself you’ll hear all kinds of caveats or justifications, Viz. but I live in Manhattan, I have six kids, or a lot of med school debt (different ones for those trying to squeeze in a low number).

          It also has a political dimension because politicians like to promise not to raise taxes on the middle class. In that context, Hillary Clinton set the upper limit at $250k/year for a family.

          On the other hand, there’s a school of thought that likes to keep things simple, the fourth quintile is the UMC by definition, the second LMC, 2-4 the whole middle class.

        • sweeneyrod says:

          Yes, I’d agree that £35k certainly isn’t upper-middle-class in London. The thresholds vary a lot depending on what location you’re talking about. I was basing my definition on where I live up North, where house prices are less than half of what they are in London. The most sensible way to look at is probably with percentiles, but equally distanced quantiles won’t work, because the upper class is so small (for instance, if you have 5 quintiles of working class, lower-middle, middle-middle, upper-middle, and upper, you end up saying that a post-tax income of £31k makes you upper class (which it obviously doesn’t)).

          • John Schilling says:

            Part of what “upper middle class” means is that you don’t have to live in some provincial locale but can hang out with the other UMC types in the cool, cosmopolitan cities – and if you do choose to live in the boonies, it is because you get to be a very big fish in that small pond, which I suspect £35k doesn’t buy in your Northern location.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @John Schilling My Northern location is still the third biggest city in the UK, so not a particularly small pond in UK terms. £35k would certainly be on the lower end of upper-middle-class, but I would place it either there or on the upper end of middle-middle-class. Someone earning £35k certainly isn’t a typical member of the lower-middle-class or working class.

            Going by house prices, my hypothetical £35k income is worth about £70k in London, which is certainly enough to be classed as upper-middle-class.

      • John Schilling says:

        In the United States, “upper middle class” typically means $100,000+ per year, though it varies a bit with location and circumstance. I’ve seen values as low as $75K for a single adult, but even that comes to £50K in British terms.

        £35K, to the extent that money alone defines class, would be just plain “middle class” in the United States. Would it truly be regarded as “upper middle class” in the UK?

        • JBeshir says:

          I think there’s a distinct trend in which more or less everyone considers themselves middle class, so upper middle class is what they think of themselves if they get a lot more money than they started with, and lower middle class if they get a lot less, modified a bit by how it compares to their friends.

          I think anywhere between your figures and Salem’s sounds plausible (less outside of London, more in London, London is very expensive), but I wouldn’t be surprised by anyone who had had their income go up describing their new income as “upper middle class” unless they were starting really low.

        • Vaniver says:

          I believe £35K is very similar to Scott’s current salary.

  39. LW_Reader says:

    Eliezer and Brienne are married?! Wow, I must have been living under a rock somewhere on Mars. Whatever happened to Erin?

    • philh says:

      I don’t know about Erin. But (I might have some details wrong) Eliezer and Brienne got secretly married some years ago for tax reasons, but didn’t think they were emotionally ready to be publicly married. Then more recently (I’d guess in the past year), Eliezer asked on facebook, “what is your probability estimate that Brienne and I are currently married?” They let people debate the question for a while, and then Brienne changed her facebook name to Brienne Yudkowsky, and that was how they announced it.

  40. Anon. says:

    On Capitalism vs Markets: the most important market of all, by far, is the market _for capital_. Yes the price mechanism is an incredible information aggregation and transmission mechanism and so on and so forth, but without free markets for capital it’s not that useful. Price signals are only useful if you can allocate capital in response to them. Crony capitalism has an inefficient/corrupt market for capital, “market socialism” does away with it completely.

    • Not only those two, feudalism and other fixed allocations had no market for capital as it was fixed, and actually in IMHO most poor countries outside the first world there is so little trust that you can get a loan only against collateral, like a house, so no investment market exists in the VC sense. It would be interesting to find out what are the richest countries of this type, i.e. no venture capital, because it would give some hint of an actual data about how much difference capital markets make in e.g. per capita GDP.

  41. Oliver Cromwell says:

    “While civilized countries debate how many new immigrants to let in, Britain is planning to deport all legal residents who have lived in the UK for more than five years unless they can meet an income threshold which is actually significantly higher than the average UK income. Is there anyone who thinks deporting upper-middle-class people who have been in Britain for decades and have houses and families there is vitally important important to national security? Especially bad because it’s a new law, so these people planned their lives in Britain around people not doing this.”

    Yes. Although I would have set the minimum threshold a bit lower, this is the real world and you can’t have everything. It’s far preferable to the virtue signaling competition being undertaken by currently-civilised countries like Sweden, Germany, and to some extent even the US to set the lowest *maximum* threshold for immigrant quality.

    Ultimately the world is big enough and contains enough poor people that the UK can quite easily say “upper middle class only” and still meet any reasonable quota of immigrants it might possibly want. The UK could certainly do even better by making it easier for those people to come, but keeping out the dross, and even the mediocre, is just good policy.

  42. jon-nyc says:

    Re the sons of draft lottery ‘winners’. Could it be that the the father ended up more fatalistic or pessimistic after seeing his number called (even if he didn’t ultimately go), which affected the way his kids related to the world around them? That could help explain a larger effect on first born sons. And seems consistent with a small overall effect (that is, small if attributed to the whole group, not just those who went to Viet Nam)

  43. Murphy says:

    I have access to the paper and I took a look, my notes bellow:

    At first I thought it was trialing an intervention but no, what they did was look at numbers after the fact where some schools have changed things around without any controls, without randomization etc.

    Outcome measures were not prespecified.

    So right off the bat our certainty in the results drops massively.

    “We rely on a “fuzzy” regression discontinuity design based on the fact that several schools assigned students with eighth-grade
    GPAs below a threshold to take the course in ninth grade. Our results indicate that assignment to this
    course increased ninth-grade student attendance by 21 percentage points, GPA by 1.4 grade points,
    and credits earned by 23.”

    “Specifically, we use a regression discontinuity (RD) design, which
    can provide causal inferences that are “as good as random assignment””

    First, it was not a randomized controlled trial.

    Participation was based on volunteering or being enrolled if your grades were too low. Students could opt in our out at will. So big self-selection bias.

    They used some other bizarre method which they only describle with a vomit of unexplained symbols which they claim is as good but is apparently too complex to explain properly.

    Very very loosely, they show that in a set of schools where teachers have all just had a big meeting about the problem of minority students performing poorly, where the administration has created a committee (the Ethnic Studies Curriculum Collective) to deal with it and made it clear to teachers that minority students grades must improve….. then there’s a small bump in the grades of under-performing minority students.

    You may guess that I’m far from convinced that the intervention they’re attributing it to actually caused the change in grades.

    They’ve got a bunch of bizarre graphs which don’t make much sense(and I’m normally quite comfortable reading these kinds of papers) but appear to be designed/chosen to make the effect look larger.

    As for their method of analysis….
    In programming people sometimes say that there’s 2 ways to write code, make it so complex that there’s no obvious flaws or make it so simple that there’s obviously no flaws.
    Most really good research papers are based on simple methods, for this paper, all I can say is that I can’t see many obvious flaws, but not in a good way.

    Though apparently their method relies on students not systematically doing anything to self selectively push themselves over a GPA of 2 if they’re slightly bellow 2.

    They also “validate” their method by comparing to schools that haven’t just had a big meeting about the problem of minority students performing poorly and haven’t just made it clear to teachers that minority students grades must improve and conclude that since those schools didn’t have the same little jump in the results of borderline minority students then their method must be good.

    There was a grand total of 4 teachers involved in teaching all these students this course. Make of that what you will.

    They excluded students with a close to perfect GPA, ie the students who could only go down and reported no data on their demographics.

    They excluded 27 “students with extremely low eighth grade GPAs” with no real explanation as to why or reports of what it would have looked like had they been included.

    Now this is where it gets weird, they then called the remainder a final “intent-to-treat” (ITT) sample.


    anyway, rant over, 60% of the remainder were actually Asian, 23% Hispanic and 6% Black.
    They didn’t get improvement in the Asian group, only in the small hispanic and black catagories.
    They’re using white students as their “baseline” so everyone is being compared to the 11% of white students in the program.

    I’m getting an eye twitch because they keep using “intent to treat” in their text, it’s like cargo-cult-science, repeat the words and hope that people believe that you’re using them correctly.

    Finally their results tables and graphs are almost un-readable and I honestly can’t see what’s supposed to be the columns for non-intervention. They just seem to have a lot of random numbers floating around with asterix’s to say they’re significant.

    • Blake Riley says:

      Sure, it’s not an RCT, but regression-discontinuity is an established method for estimating causal effects using observational data. Their “vomit of unexplained symbols which they claim is as good but is apparently too complex to explain properly” is left unexplained because this is standard for anyone familiar with empirical economics.

      The authors address self-selection effects. If we thought the good students were taking the course (because they’re smarter or just more conforming), then restricting the sample to people who didn’t take the course, we should see worse results below the 2.0 threshold. In fact, when they look at this, the reverse is true. Those below the threshold that opted out actually did relatively better.

      From my vantage point, the level of complexity isn’t obfuscatory. It’s fairly simple for an audience of economists. Without fisking the paper, the methodology seems mostly solid. The one point that’s fishy is scaling up the average effect size. They find attendance “jumped by 5.6 percentage points for students at the 2.0 threshold, GPA increased by 0.39 points, and credits earned increased by 6.3 credits” on average whether or not students took the course. Since they later note the students that didn’t take the course look better, the higher average could be driven by worse-conditional-on-gpa students getting pulled up rather the effect size being massive.

      • Murphy says:

        yes… actually coming back to that, normally if the people who don’t receive your intervention actually improve more than the people who did receive it… well if it had been an RCT that would be pretty devastating but since this isn’t they simply conclude that the people who opted out are have unobserved traits that cause the better outcomes.

        They addressed self-selection? They talked about it for a few sentences, sure, but they in no way shape or form made it stop being a massive problem.

        They also kept talking about how they’d done things like compare teachers performance in other classes and I don’t know if that low a standard is the norm in economics but when you see anything like that in a clinical paper you know the author couldn’t think of a way to get rid of the problem or only realized when it was too late and so offered up a little non-answer to it in the hope that people would think it meant they’d “addressed” the problem.

        it’s like when researchers have 2 groups and show that for one a change from baseline is significant (p=0.04) but for the control it isn’t (p=0.06) and thus conclude that the intervention had a significant effect. It sets off all kinds of warning signals.

        • Blake Riley says:

          They address self-selection in the section called “Treatment Heterogeneity” on pages 21-23. To clarify, it’s not that the non-treatment group did better than the treatment group (though they might have). It’s that the positive result probably isn’t due to self-selection because the non-treatment group just below the 2.0 threshold did better than the non-treatment group just above the threshold. That suggests people that were enrolled and opted out are better students on average than those that were enrolled and stayed in.

          They also find that the treatment group just below the 2.0 threshold did better than the treatment group just above the threshold. That suggests taking the class because you were auto-enrolled has better effects than if you’d take the class regardless.

          The comparison with other schools isn’t fishing or playing funny tricks with a p-value threshold for significance, it’s a robustness check. The result is based only on schools with ethnic studies classes and depends on it being essentially random that a student is just above or just under a 2.0 gpa. The comparison with other schools is a test of that assumption, not the result itself. It’s like doing an fMRI study with live people and then doing the same study with a corpse. You better hope you don’t get significant results from a corpse (unlike that salmon in a fMRI study a while back).

  44. Matt says:

    “Related: straight men do better than gay men (and gay women better than straight women) on rotation tasks. Was Turing just a gigantic outlier, or what?”
    This sentence makes me sad. First, its articulation with the previous paragraph propagates two myths: that homosexuality is linked to a lack of testosterone, and more generally that gay men are closer to women than straight men.
    Finally, suppose that people are gay when they have bad mental rotation OR when have blond hair. You’ll find the result found in this study. But a talented mathematician who happens to be gay would not be a giant outlier.

  45. Max Harms says:

    Crystal Society is also available for free on the web at
    (I’m the author.)

  46. Matt says:

    I’ve hear the term “liquid democracy” years ago. It’s not Google coming up with it just now.

  47. wysinwyg says:

    Why are cigarettes such an important confounder? Do they cause cognitive issues?

    Smoking is like having a microdose of aderall in your system all the time. I wouldn’t be surprised if it gives a boost of ~5 IQ points on average.

    I just quit a few weeks ago. When I was smoking I could usually do a pretty good job of guessing how long it had been since I’d looked at a clock, or how long I’d been performing a particular task. Now I have no idea. I have trouble remembering small things like closing windows before I go to bed even if someone reminds me. I have tons more trouble concentrating on pretty much anything.

    Interestingly, I don’t seem to procrastinate quite as badly.

    • OldCrow says:

      You don’t procrastinate as much? Damn, time to reevaluate quitting.

    • The Anonymouse says:

      When you quit smoking and saw these effects, did you quit nicotine, or quit smoking? That is, did you get rid of nicotine altogether, or did you replace your nicotine delivery system (transition to dip/vape/gum)?

      I have, umm, a friend who would really like to know.

      • anodognosic says:

        Not sure if relevant, but I’ve never been a smoker (although secondhand in recent years) and I use nicotine gum as a nootropic/stimulant on occasion. It works great for energy and concentration, and for me has fewer side effects than caffeine.

  48. Anon. says:

    >We’ve known for nearly a century that body weight is under primary biological control over the long-term.

    If this were true then we would expect obesity rates to be fairly stable across time and geography, no? What am I missing?

  49. Orphan Wilde says:

    Re: Protests –

    There appears to be some conflation between political opinions, and the willingness to join protests. One of these groups holds an opinion which may or may not agree with your own – and the other has shown a propensity to upset the status quo and failed the basic test that universities used to provide (whether or not somebody was willing to sit down, shut up, and put up with nonsense for a few years to achieve their personal goals) for businesses.

    Moreover, free speech is not, and should not, be speech free of consequences, and the conflation between the absence of responsibility and liberty is a constant issue for those who claim to espouse liberty, but wish to remove all gravity and meaning from choices (and thus, eliminate choice and thus freedom in any meaningful sense). Freedom is only meaningful or tenable when coupled with responsibility.

    As for deaths clustering on New Years – I’d hazard a guess that a significant part of that is people who struggled to stay alive for one more Christmas with their families ceasing to put forward the effort of fighting for every day once they made it.

  50. Having previously reading Mike Hearn’s Bitcoin article, I was curious to Bram Cohen’s response. I was rather disappointed. If you want to claim that the other side is just a bunch of popular rhetoric that doesn’t stand scrutiny to the detailed technical arguments, you should really have more detailed technical arguments and less rhetoric. All Cohen has are two nitpicks which barely have any effect on the argument Hearn was actually making. And frankly, it would take some amazing technical argument to justify censoring a competing platform. (There do exist arguments to defend against such an accusion, for instance, “We didn’t do that at all! The other side is just making things up.” or “We don’t want discussion on this because it goes against our very reasonable forum policy, which as you can see was consistently applied in all of these other analogous cases.”. However, both of these are essentially political arguments, not technical arguments.)

    • Samedi says:

      It looks to me like there is a Bitcoin civil war in progress over various issues like control of the source code and block size. Even if you are not especially interested in Bitcoin this civil war is interesting from a governance standpoint. Can something as important as money (a lot of money) be managed without a single governing body? There appear to be many, conflicting interests in the Bitcoin ecosystem and I am curious to see how it all works out.

      • I see political issues in Bitcoin as interesting because Bitcoin is a novel kind of technological/political construct. Typically the decision-making in an institution is lead by a person or a small group of people. There is a problem with this, that these people might not be trustworthy, which leads to the usual sorts of politics. One solution, instead of being lead by a human being, is having a pre-determined algorithm which makes all the decisions. Democracy can be thought to be an example of this, where the algorithm is counting votes. While the purpose of voting is to aggregate the opinions of many people to make decisions, the idea with cryptocurrencies is that the fundamental principles behind money are so simple that there are no complicated decisions that need to be made.

        The next issue is how to enforce that the rules of this algorithm are being followed, and that’s where the real complexity of Bitcoin lies. The solution here is to come up with a complicated algorithm which attempts to guarantee that when you follow this algorithm, everyone you interact will be following the same algorithm. This only works if the algorithm only makes reference to things internal to itself, so the next problem is how to ensure the algorithm has external validity. Bitcoin has two solutions to this: proof-of-work and the hope that over time the algorithm will become socially recognized and so bitcoins will have value. The second is particularly important since that’s what’s distinguishing Bitcoin from every other possible algorithm.

        The problem is that although Bitcoin is gradually getting socially accepted, what’s being accepted is not Bitcoin-the-algorithm, but Bitcoin-the-brand. Bitcoin-the-algorithm is constantly changing from changes by Core developers and still getting recognized as Bitcoin-the-brand. So we are back to institutions run by people with the politicking that entails. The recent controversy is making it clear that this is a problem.

        The natural ultimate solution is to create a finalized Bitcoin algorithm which will never change, and have social recognition that’s truely based on an algorithm. But then the algorithm must be completely future-proof, which Bitcoin is definitely not right now, and I don’t think any altcoins are either.

  51. Urstoff says:

    I’ve read a few articles this past week on market socialism, and the details are still hazy. First, I assume that private property and money as a medium of exchange are parts of market socialism (how can you have well-functioning markets without either?). So it’s more about who owns(?) the “means of production”. The complaint and motivation behind market socialism is that under capitalism, you have the owners of capital and you have the employees, and rarely are the two the same. I’m not quite sure what’s really wrong with that (after all, most of the owners of capital these days are normal individuals via their 401k’s and whatever investments they tend to have through those), but let’s put that aside. So all (most?) businesses under market socialism are “employee owned” or “employee cooperatives”. This is where it gets hazy. Does a company have shares that it gives to every new employee? Thus hiring an employee means fewer shares (or a smaller percentage of ownership) for all the other employees? Are compensation structures set “democratically”? Does each company have it’s own constitution whereby certain decisions (e.g., the decision to restructure compensation) require more votes than other decisions? Do compensations differ across jobs? Surely they must, as there would naturally be competition for employees. Is all of this mandated by law? That is, it wouldn’t be legal for me to hire someone without giving them shares and democratic power within the company even if both of us wanted to?

    If any of this is remotely accurate, it just sounds like there will be an enormous underground economy where people are paid for services and labor without being granted ownership in a company, and that companies will be extremely skittish of hiring people that they think would be bad at voting within the company. Plus, getting capital to start a company would be very difficult, as you couldn’t have IPO’s or venture capitalists or institutional investors.

    Can anyone clarify what market socialism would look like in practice? Am I way off here?

    • Also, cooperatives exist, but they’re pretty rare. It seems to me as though coops would have the advantage of preventing extreme stupidity at the top, but there must be some disadvantages to make coops so rare.

      is it coordination problems among the workers? People who are so used to being employees that they’d rather not do executive work? Difficulty with raising capital because banks don’t like coops? Something I haven’t thought of?

  52. OldCrow says:

    I’m sorry, it’s ‘really weird’ that kids whose fathers went to Vietnam were affected?

    Look, this is anecdotal and the people I tend to be close to are definitely at the extreme end of the spectrum for abusive childhoods but – of all the people I know whose fathers beat the shit out of them or otherwise abused them, only one didn’t have PTSD as a result of combat. The only exception is a psychopathic child rapist.

    It’s necessary to confirm theories like this with an objective methodology, yes. But if you think it’s really weird then you need to reevaluate how much exposure to child abuse you’ve managed to avoid.

    • Helldalgo says:

      I have also known many, many children at the extreme end of abuse (directly working with ~fifty over the course of seven years, personally interacting with many, many more). When I knew the details of their case, it was rare for the parent to NOT have PTSD.

      Now, there might be genetic/environmental impacts beyond that. In other words, parents with PTSD might have PTSD because of their own abuse, and the tendency towards abuse was somehow genetic or exacerbated by the PTSD and environment.

      I have also known many people with PTSD who were not abusive, so this is not an excuse to stigmatize the condition.

      • OldCrow says:

        Absolutely, and I’m glad to hear this confirmed by someone whose experience has been broader than mine. My mother has PTSD (the psychopathic child rapist being my grandfather), and while objectively her parenting was less than stellar I would be furious if anyone called her abusive. But it’s very obvious to me how PTSD can turn parents to violence.

        I realize that I should be glad that most people I know don’t find that obvious, but it still gets on my nerves. I certainly don’t think Scott had any ill intent. But it is important to be aware of this stuff, and it’s especially important for a mental health professional.

    • Blake Riley says:

      It is. I’m guessing you accessed that through a university or government IP.

      • E. Harding says:

        Possibly foreign IP. NBER allows unlimited access in most countries.

        • Urstoff says:

          NBER has always been gated, even to those in the US.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            >NBER has always been gated, even to those in the US.

            I assume they mean, most countries other than the US. For whatever it’s worth, I’m not in the US and I can see it.

          • Urstoff says:

            Oh, I see now. Reading comprehension++

            Kind of a strange policy to only gate the US, but I assume NBER has thought about revenue maximizing strategies (if that’s their goal) more than me.

            Edit: guess they gate first-world countries, but not developing or “transitioning” countries.

  53. Orphan Wilde says:

    Other topic: For those who use e-cigs and are interested in the MAOI found in traditional tobacco, “WTA” e-juice (sold by a couple of vendors) may or may not be what you’re looking for. I just ordered some, and will report on my findings.

  54. Samedi says:

    In the UK deportation topic, Scott mentions “upper-middle-class people”. I think he is using the term “class” to indicate a person’s income level. It is unfortunate that class is now commonly used to indicate income rather than social status. Social class is a strong indicator in many statistics, probably stronger than race or region. I think we are missing a key factor in social statistics by ignoring it. For example, in Scott’s otherwise excellent post “Guns And States”, I would like to have seen the correlation between gun violence and social class. If you controlled for social class would the rates between blacks and whites actually differ, and would they still differ by region?

    I wonder why social class isn’t commonly part of these kinds of statistics. Is there a taboo in the US about mentioning class? Or perhaps it’s too difficult to measure?

    • John Schilling says:

      Is there a taboo in the US about mentioning class?

      Kind of, though I’d call it a bias rather than a taboo. The United States really likes to believe that “class” is a thing we left behind with those stuffy Europeans when we all got on the boat. When that’s obviously not possible, when we are forced to look at the real differences between the truly rich, the truly poor, and everyone else, this bias leads us to assume that this is purely an economic matter.

      Further confounding this is the bit where the unique economic circumstances of post-WWII America allowed us to sort of (i.e. in economic terms only, and barely) merge the non-professional wage-earning “working class” into the traditionally much smaller “middle class”, and pretending that the latter did or ought to encompass anyone who wasn’t truly rich or truly poor. That fiction, or maybe forced and subsidized reality, is breaking down in a sometimes ugly way. But from a US-centric terminological standpoint, “upper middle class” means what “middle class” meant a hundred years ago, “lower middle class” means what “working class” meant a hundred years ago, and “middle class” means we are closing our eyes, covering our ears, and humming real loud trying to pretend the distinction doesn’t exist.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      There are a few obstacles that make it difficult to talk about.

      Obviously there’s the fact that a lot of people don’t acknowledge class as existing in America, since it gestures against the American Dream either way you slice it: if elites have their positions mainly through natural ability then hard work is less important, doubly so if their positions are mainly due to nepotism. Nobody wants to think that they’re shut out of advancement or that they didn’t earn their positions.

      More importantly in my mind though is that we have a number of regional and ethnic cultures with their own class structures. A Southern Gentleman, a Boston Brahmin and a Jewish Princess aren’t all in the same social class by any stretch. So talking about class on a national level doesn’t make much sense without bringing in those other issues anyway.

    • Brad says:

      It’s a part of the national ethos that we don’t have social classes in the U.S. It isn’t true, but it still makes it difficult to talk about. On top of that, the markers of social class vary strongly by region. A Bostonian might be able to make a good class judgment just by listening to another Bostonian, but put him in Charleston and he’ll have very little clue.

      The closest thing to controlling for class on studies I’ve seen is a factor for whether or not the subject’s parents went to college.

    • Murphy says:

      How do you measure class if not by income?

      I mean practically speaking since many communities have their own classes. Is an Indian untouchable with 10 million bucks in the bank lower class in America?

      How about if he’s living in a predominantly Indian area?

      Is someone who’s technically a european Earl but lives on food stamps in new york upper or lower class?

      • Vaniver says:

        How do you measure class if not by income?

        Other people’s opinions? Invites to parties? Coalition politics is more than vote-counting!

        • Murphy says:

          I meant practically for any kind of useful analysis.

          pointing back to the untouchable with 10 million bucks in the bank. is it his immediate social circle who’s opinion counts? The average of people living within 1 mile of him? 100 miles?

      • Kaj Sotala says:

        As Vaniver suggested, “how you’re treated by other people” works. From Siderea’s recent post:

        It is a common confusion – or intellectual dodge – to conflate social class with economic class. But what what differentiates, say, the middle class from the working class is not mere wealth or earning power; as we all know, a plumber (presumed working class) may make much more money than a professor (presumed professional).

        To use myself as an illustration: I make very little money, so I am heir to the misfortunes that disproportionately impact the impecunious – the almost-certain forthcoming hike in T fares looms large in my anxieties right now – but I am a professional with an advanced degree and possession of the shibboleths of the professional class. I didn’t stop being in the social class I had been in when I dropped to a much lower economic class. The privileges I lost were only those attendant to economic might; I retained the privileges of social position.

        So, for instance, if I don’t like the medical care I get from the doctors my state-subsidized health plan (thanks, Mitt!) gives me access to, I can’t just whip out my checkbook and buy myself care from a better reputed specialist. Being poor might yet shorten my lifespan, as it curtails my access to care. But on the other hand, if I present with a serious booboo to just about any doctor, I will have narcotic pain relief offered me with no questions asked, because someone of my social class is not suspected of being one of those naughty “med-seeking” addicts. The decision of whether or not to trust me with a prescription for percoset is not made on the basis of the MassHealth card in my pocket marking me one of the precariat, but my hair style, my sense of fashion, my (lack of) make-up, my accent, my vocabulary, my body language, my (apparent) girth, my profession (which, note, doctors often ask as part of intake), and all the other things which locate me in a social class to observers that know the code. Contrariwise, a patient of mine – who is a white woman of almost my age – who is covered with tattoos, speaks with an Eastie accent, is over 200lbs, and wears spandex and bling and heavy make-up, gets screamed at by an ER nurse for med-seeking when she hadn’t asked for medication at all, and just wanted an x-ray for an old bone-break she was frighted she had reinjured in a fall.

      • keranih says:

        How do you measure class if not by income?

        By what – and how many – words are used to answer the question, “Would you like some ice cream?”

        This question – what is social rank if not income – is a part of why “American” class is different than class in Europe and elsewhere. Income is malleable to a degree that social standing is not, and due to the long standing concept that “anyone” can improve their financial situation (+/- the remains of Calvinism) plus the acknowledged difficulty in making others change their social opinion, many people in the US have disregarded the social metric in favor of the financial one.

        Why stick to the rules where you always fail if you can switch to rules where you have the chance to win?

        And of course, people being who they are, we can’t get rid of the social metric, not completely – because it’s hardwired in.

        But America has put a lot of effort into pretending that where you came from and who your family was does not matter, and to a certain degree it is true.

        • Soumynona says:

          How do you measure class if not by income?

          By what – and how many – words are used to answer the question, “Would you like some ice cream?”

          Could you give example answers to the question with explanations what class they would indicate?

          • keranih says:

            It’s killing me now that I’m not finding the ref on line – I suspect it was from the late 1990’s.

            Anyway, an example, from poor white trash to upper crust.

            “Yes, please.”
            “Oh, thank you, yes, I would like some, please.”
            “Oh, how thoughtful of you! But, no, thank you.”

            IIRC, it was part of some job interview hints.

          • DavidS says:

            This might be a result of the fact that I’m from the more clearly class-infested UK, but your ‘white trash to upper crust’ reads wrongly to me because it’s one-way, getting more formal/polite.

            The UK tradition (with some truth to it I think) would probably see that sort of “Oh, how thoughtful of you! But, no, thank you.” as very much a middle class thing. Actually upper class people are rather less polite.

          • keranih says:

            @ DavidS –

            That’s interesting, and actually maps to other class markers (lower-income to middle class use more bling/material identifiers of excess money, while the most wealthy eschew such vulgar displays.)

            (Because no one who counts in their social group is going to confuse them with a truely poor person, but they might get confused with a middle class person.)

            I wonder if the ice cream scale is artificially truncated by the ‘job interview’ setting. Also – in the American South, politeness is over emphasized compared to other areas.

          • Anonymaus says:

            What DavidS describes is also here:

            the different vocabularies often can appear quite counter-intuitive: the middle classes prefer “fancy” or fashionable words, even neologisms and often euphemisms, in attempts to make themselves sound more refined (“posher than posh”), while the upper classes in many cases stick to the same plain and traditional words that the working classes also use, as, conscious of their status, they have no need to make themselves sound more refined.

            (Wikipedia: U and non-U English)

          • Creutzer says:

            For what it’s worth, my non-UK European class intuitions go the same way, by the way: At the upper end, things decline in formality and use of politeness strategies again.

          • God Damn John Jay says:

            That seems kind of silly, if the person is offering you ice cream, presumably they are going to have some themselves so they are going to be eating their ice cream while you sit there like some kind of an asshole.

          • @ God Damn John Jay
            I can’t eat icecream, but people keep offering it to me anyway.

          • alexp says:

            I’m pretty sure most of the financiers and management consultants I know would answer either “sure, thanks” or “I’m good, but thanks” to that question. I know that’s not the absolute upper crust, but it’s pretty high up there.

            Maybe it’s just a millenial thing?

          • Derelict says:

            I tried the ice cream thing with myself, and got, for “yes” and “no” respectively:

            “Yeah, sure, why not.”
            “No, I’m good, thanks.”

            I guess I’m smack dab in the middle of the class ladder in that regard.

        • Murphy says:

          Again, you’re pointing vaguely at a rotating 10 dimensional space and screaming “don’t you get it, you just go UP! IT’S SIMPLE! YOU JUST GO UP! DON’T YOU GET WHAT UP IS?”

          “high class” in one state is low class in another, high class on one road is low class on another, high class in one house can be low class next door.

          In my old job speaking fast and confidently was high class. A mile away in my new job speaking slowly without making absolute assertions is high class.

          How do you measure social class in a manner that 1: is meaningful across a wide area and across a large number of groups and 2: is actually usable in any kind of analysis.

          • keranih says:

            Emmm. You’re asking two different things, I think.

            Yes, I agree, “class” is a difficult thing to quantify from the outside, and probably includes things that aren’t visible to the people on the inside, because water, man.

            However, *that it is not easily quantified* doesn’t mean that it’s *not there* nor that it has no effect.

            Income =/= wealth, and neither = social standing. If you’re looking for a simple, reproducible way to measure this, I just gave you one. If you want a way to measure this without individual one-on-one interviews, sorry, don’t have that.

            If you find one, do let us know.

      • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

        Resource networks.

        • Murphy says:

          Right, how do you measure those in a meaningful way keeping in mind that they likely have little to do with facebook friend list size?

          Is a rich-kid who’s been “cut off” my his parents lower class? How about someone with a wide extended family nearby where they’re all fairly poor but their total resources far outstrip the parents of the “rich kid” above?

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            >Right, how do you measure those in a meaningful way keeping in mind that they likely have little to do with facebook friend list size?

            Hell if I know, I’m not the one trying to make a Grand Unifying Theory of American Class Divisions.

            >Is a rich-kid who’s been “cut off” by his parents lower class?

            Probably? I mean, if he still has friends and extended family.

            >How about someone with a wide extended family nearby where they’re all fairly poor but their total resources far outstrip the parents of the “rich kid” above

            Unless you’re talking strictly about money, or find a way to voltron resources, there’s qualitative differences between many of them. If all of your network is “lower class”, even if it’s big, it’s really unlikely they’ll, for example, “know a guy” in X or Y place that can provide you with X or Y service/benefit/assistance.

          • Samedi says:

            Guessing far outside my expertise, how about textual analysis of speech patterns and word choice? Something like a more complicated version of the ice cream question mentioned above.

            Income is not a factor, though is probably a correlate. “rich kid” is not a social class designator. If a child was raised in an old patrician family (presumably upper class and wealthy) and then found herself impoverished, would she cease being upper class? No. The converse also being true.

    • Kaj Sotala says:

      Siderea had a recent essay (which also linked to three-ladder social class essay, which is how I assume it’s started popping up in these circles now) that claimed that social class is very much taboo in the US. (I’m not American, so I wouldn’t really know.)

      It has long been commented (e.g. Fussell, Class) that discussing class is basically taboo in American culture: but, specifically, the class which it is taboo to discuss is social class. This presents a problem for Americans because social class is a real phenomenon, an important phenomenon around which huge amounts of American policy, politics, and culture organizes. It’s the elephant in the American living room.

      Social class is taboo to discuss, but economic class is not, and that presents an obvious “solution”: Americans conflate social and economic class so they can talk about social class under the guise of talking about economic class. […]

      To say these things is at once to point out the obvious and stray into dangerous territory. To say “social classes are cultures” is nicely abstract and bloodless, but concrete beating visceral implications are just under the skin of it.

      In the US, we have a rule: to describe a person as “lower class” is an insult; less obviously, to describe them as “upper class” is as well. To describe something as “lower class” or “upper class” is to denigrate it, and to attribute a “lower class” or “upper class” thing to some one is to denigrate them. It is the designation “middle class”, alone, which is virtuous – a fact which explains in a nutshell why, famously, all Americans arrogate the term to themselves. There is no neutral language for discussing social classes in the US, save our economic euphemisms. All the explicit terms we might use for them are electric with valence; all words are compliments or insults (or both).

      There are people who have offered specific observations about these classes as cultures before, and they are mostly humorists – e.g. Fussell’s Class, Foxworthy’s “Redneck” shtick – trading on the Fool’s privilege to speak the unforgivable with impunity in the face of the King.

      For me to ascribe a custom or moral value to a class – for me to even describe class in terms of having customs or moral values, in the abstract – is dangerously close to – or, depending on whom you ask, entirely over the line of – disparaging people for not having the right culture. We are not even permitted to acknowledge these cultural differences exist.

      • Emile says:

        One aspect that I feel is missing there is race – I feel Americans talk & feel about race the way Europeans (maybe just Brits?) talk & feel about class…

        This whole identify thing of class and ethnicity and religion and culture and profession and income is a huge mess…

        Siderea had a recent essay (which also linked to three-ladder social class essay, which is how I assume it’s started popping up in these circles now)

        I got the link from ialdabaoth on Facebook … but he may have got it from there.

        • brad says:

          I recently binged watched a British TV series, Black Mirror, and I had the distinct feeling several times that I was missing some context. That I was supposed to be inferring something about a particular character because of their name, or how they dressed, spoke, ect. and I just wasn’t getting it.

        • Tibor says:

          I am Czech and I feel that what is described as an “American” view of class is quite typical to Czechs as well…or at least part of the society. There is this former minister and a presidential candidate Schwarzenberg who managed to charm some people (among other things) with coming from a noble family and theoretically having the Fürst title (theoretically since no noble titles have officially been recognized in the country since the beginning of Czechoslovakia in 1918…but of course one can still call himself that). But most people are actually pretty egalitarian in terms of the social class and insofar as the term class is used, it always means income only. It is also not too strange to see a plumber be a friend with an academic for example. Maybe this is a legacy of communism which was theoretically classless (well, it was not very classy, badadum-tssh!) but in fact consisted of the privileged communist ruling class and the rest – so on one hand people stopped thinking in the class distinctions or only in terms of “us” the people and “them” the ruling class. I know from the old prewar films that this was definitely not the case in pre-war Czechoslovakia where the class distinctions were pretty apparent (maybe like in the UK today, or maybe like in the UK in the 30s). Also the graves from that period. When I go to the graveyard I always notice that the older (prewar or even imperial, but those are quite rare) gravestones mention the occupation of the deceased. So you read that this guy was a locomotive engineer and that guy was an accountant and this woman was a wife of a gymnasium (grammar school) professor.

          Partially, it might still be present though – like my neighbour (in my hometown) who has “Bc. so and so” on his doorbell, which I find kind of stupid. There have also been scandals with politicians having false doctorates in both Czech republic and Germany in the past 10 years (although I would say that the class distinction in Germany also is bigger than in the Czech republic and there are also still noble families who legally hold their titles in Germany), which I guess has never happened in the US.

      • Maware says:

        Fussell’s Class is a devastating book, even though it’s dated to the 80’s. it’s not humor at all, but is one of the best explanations of the US class system I’ve ever seen.

        • Desertopa says:

          In some of the particulars, I think it’s become rather dated (and it acknowledges itself that many of the markers it describes would have been quite different thirty years before it was published.) One of the things that particularly sticks out in my memory is the discussion of programmers, who were members of an existing profession in the 80’s, but one which carried very different class markers thirty years ago compared to today.

  55. Dan T. says:

    I think you mean an infinite number of monkeys, not moneys, though with it immediately following an item regarding a Bitcoin fork, who knows?

  56. Helldalgo says:

    I will happily work on the propranolol thing next time I get a refill! I have a few phobias (walking outside at night, spiders) that I’ve been hoping to condition myself to anyways, and they’re low-risk enough that I’d feel okay with exposure therapy.

    Propranolol has generally been a life-saver. I have a prescription for anxiety attacks.

  57. Deiseach says:

    In more “SCIENCE! reverses the past ten years’ worth of nutritional advice”, along with your glass of red wine and half a bar of dark chocolate, now add a plate of chips to your dinner time meal plan 🙂

    Throw away your George Foreman Grill, forget about chomping them raw – deep-frying or sautéeing your vegetables is the way to go! At least, if you’ve deep-fried the veggies in extra virgin olive oil, that is.

    • Randy M says:

      I thought Olive Oil was extra bad to fry in, because it decomposes at lower temperatures, making carcinogens or something?

      • Deiseach says:

        That was probably last week’s SCIENCE!

        We’ve moved on to this week’s SCIENCE! now.

        Next week we’ll learn that we should be dumping the vegetables in the bin and drinking the hot oil directly because SCIENCE!


  58. Arceris says:

    Regarding the Vietnam argument… many people seem to be latching onto PTSD. However I think there could be another potential cause. Agent Orange was a herbacide used extensively in the Vietnam war. The AO used was contaminated with Dioxin (TCDD – 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzodioxin). Dioxin is extremely toxic, even in small amounts, is teratogenic, and can cause heritable (germline) genetic damage.

    Essentially, it slips between the genetic bases on DNA strands (intercalation). Since it’s hydrophobic, but has a polar core, it REALLY likes being in DNA. Exposure to AO in Vietnam would almost guarantee a touch of dioxin. Even if the dioxin dose was under that necessary to cause acute (or even chronic) problems in an adult, it could cause genetic damage that the adult passes along to children.

    Also, the usual thing that saves males from passing along genetic damage (the fact that sperm are disposed of on a routine basis), wouldn’t necessarily operate here. The Dioxin could just as easily damage the progenitor cells.

    I’m not saying that it’s not PTSD, but given how powerful dioxin is, I don’t think it can be ruled out.

  59. Deiseach says:

    Re: the Financial Post article, the kind of people who are very much likely to be the professional agitators the article is worried about are, based on my limited experience, inclined to go into student politics with an eye on national politics and so are unlikely to be going for the office jobs mentioned. My go-to example in an Irish context for this would be Ivana Bacik who, after public notoriety doing the student agitation gig, went on to national politics, a law degree, a career in academia, and the kind of dependably right-on “if you want to sue for progressive rights, here’s my number” career that I imagine would best be represented by the ACLU for American comparison purposes. She did not apply for a job in the accountancy department of Biggs Sprockets plc after university, and her modern-day counterparts are more likely to follow her career trajectory.

    The ordinary graduates who are going to apply to work for the Filthy Banks And/Or Multinationals will have done a bit of student protesting in their time (because marching downtown to protest outside government offices meant they could skip that day’s lectures and also slope off early to the pub) and will have shed any radicalism that interferes with getting a decent-paying job to start them off on the career ladder.

    I’m also surprised, to be honest, about the recommendations in the article because I would have thought most companies already had something like that in place, e.g. probationary periods – the jobs I’ve got that have been Real Respectable Proper Jobs always started with something like a three-month temporary contract so they could assess if you were likely or not to screw up really badly, and if you hadn’t burned the place down by the end of that period, you were then permanent. Codes of conduct, escalating verbal then written warnings, etc. are also par for the course.

    Then again, I’m not a university graduate and wouldn’t have been slotting into Big Job After Degree that seems to be the kind envisioned in the piece. Or is Europe (or at least Ireland and the UK) that different from America?

    • Patrick says:

      Lawyers like to self promote. One really common way they do is by writing articles like these. The articles follow a common style.

      1. Mention an issue of present day social interest among your target audience.

      2 Connect it to your field of expertise and suggest that it shows the importance of being on top of the legal issues you work with.

      3. Give generic advice that’s generally applicable to all situations.

      4. Reference your CV.

      That’s all that’s going on here. The author knows that his target audience is likely conservative and probably doesn’t like student protesters. He knows they’ll be likely to click this article. The advice inside is generic and everyone already knows it. But it gets his name out there.

      • Deiseach says:

        Sounds like a great way to churn out articles 🙂

        “The increasing prevalence of articles in popular science supplements shows the worrying increase in cephalopod-related incidents in zoos, research laboratories, and supervillain underwater volcano lairs.

        This trend will only increase as the current generation of cephalopods mature and escape from their holding tanks, and the question too few companies and businesses ask themselves today is this: is our HR department geared up to deal with a highly-intelligent creature with exquisite manual dexterity and a proven track record in escapology when it applies for work under the new diversity regulations?

        A worthwhile exercise is to construct a simple checklist of the most vital features in dealing with possibly-alien marine creatures educated by observation of their scientific captors to at least PhD levels and see if your organisation is compliant with them. You may be surprised and even shocked by what you find!

        Rupert Trouserpress is a senior partner at Messrs. Sue, Grabbit & Runne, a long-established firm of solicitors with extensive experience in employment law.”

    • Tibor says:

      I see this as a big problem with politicians in general. It seems to me that the vast majority of the people willing to go to politics are exactly this sort of people (not necessarily always having SJWish values, but they do tend to see the world very differently from other people). I’ve always looked suspicious on anyone involved in things like the “student senate” and whatnot, to me it just does not seem natural to be interested in such things 🙂 They also tend to be “students” who spend 7 years before they get their Ms. degree (which is usually what everyone gets, few people stop at Bc. at least in continental Europe) and they seem to care more about the politicking than about their actual studies.

      I like the Swiss system where the MPs are not paid and therefore have to also have a regular job (they do not meet that often, which I also think is a good thing, so it is feasible for them). Then you have politicians that stay in the reality which tends to not be the case in most other countries where the usual pattern the one you describe – study (usually law), while studying join a local party organization -> get a job working for your party -> eventually rise up in the party hierarchy and a get a good position on the candidate list -> get elected to a local government and eventually the country parliament (or something equivalent). All that without any interaction with the “real world” out there.

  60. onyomi says:

    Two points on this article by Barack Obama advocating reduction in use of solitary confinement (I think it should just be abolished):

    1. I feel like, as a society, the US (and probably other places I don’t know as well) has started to recognize that psychological damage can be just as, if not more, well, damaging, than physical punishments. I mean, I would much rather be subjected to regular beatings than be put in solitary confinement, or to suffer 20 strokes of a cane in lieu of a 3-year prison sentence. One might say, “why be nice to criminals,” but if we assume criminals usually have some form of mental problem, punishing them in ways which are bound to exacerbate those problems before releasing them on society seems not a good idea (of course, hanging out with other prisoners creates a whole other set of problems…).

    But my point is I think this recognition doesn’t go nearly far enough. There is some recognition recently that bullying without actual punching and kicking can be just as bad, if not worse, but beyond that it moves into the realm of “oh, kids nowadays are so spoiled and entitled and overly sensitive.” I can sympathize with that latter sentiment too, because I do think it’s ridiculous for people to claim to suffer mental distress as a result of inviting a speaker to campus whom they disagree with, but I also think there’s probably a ways to go in other respects. And maybe in some cases that actually means being a little more okay with mild physical violence, bad as that may sound? Get rid of solitary confinement and bring back caning? Start hitting the bullies with rulers again? I just feel like we’ve moved into this bloodless space where even the slightest physical violence is disallowed, but the cruelest psychological warfare still moves under the radar.

    2. This is the kind of thing which occasionally makes me rethink my general policy of not voting for Democrats and/or always hoping they’ll fail. I mean, as much as I am anti-government, pro-capitalism, pro-gun, anti-welfare, etc. etc., I just feel like a Republican president would never, ever write this article. That is, to add power to a stereotype which exists about the red tribe (of which I am sort of a member), Republicans politicians tend to be, for lack of a better word, mean. Their commitment to law and order and traditional values, all of which I can kind of get on board with, also means that they are just not going to pursue any issue which might be perceived as being “nice” to criminals. It’s not that they all necessarily favor solitary confinement, it’s just that this isn’t the sort of issue they’d ever bring up (unless they were Rand Paul, maybe, but he’s really more grey tribe and is, far and away, my top choice for next president, though that looks like it probably won’t be an option).

    I feel like the GOP needs to follow Rand’s (and Obama’s) lead in this and stop being… well, hardasses. They have that latter reputation among the younger generation and not without good reason. I understand it’s hard to seem all nice and touchy feely and empathetic when you’re advocating cuts to welfare programs, but I think it’s possible. And I think the key may be to start in unambiguous places like this, or torture (sadly some GOP primary voters will probably even punish you for coming out against torture, though… maybe we have to wait till they die).

    • Something I see in American culture (not all Americans, but enough to make a difference) is an absolute terror of being too nice to (the wrong?) people– it’s not just there in conservatives, it’s also a driving force in the toxic part of SJW. And it’s a self-amplifying problem.

    • onyomi says:

      One other point in favor of caning over short prison sentences for more minor offences: criminals are notoriously high time preference. Though to most of us non-criminals a 3-year prison sentence seems like a bigger deterrent to stealing than 20 strokes of the cane, to the criminally-inclined, the immediacy of the physical pain might be a better disincentive, to say nothing of the money saved relative to feeding and housing the person for 3 years…

      • John Schilling says:

        I’d like to see some evidence that the “criminally inclined” actually do fear twenty strokes with a cane more than they do three years in prison. The unsupported claim seems to be infantilizing the criminal class, or worse dehumanizing them. “They” are cowardly and stupid, incapable of thinking of the future and cowering in fear from a strong hand with a whip, really little better than animals, etc.

        • keranih says:

          The HOPE project in Hawaii has demonstrated that they fear a two hour stint in jail (applied immediately and consistently) than four years in prison (applied inconsistently and at some point in the possible future.)

          At least, they react more strongly to the first than the second. I think it has far less to do with the actual severity of the punishment than the recognition that it WILL be applied – or that it won’t be.

          • John Schilling says:

            Yes, certainty and immediacy of punishment are critical and need to be controlled for in any comparison. But unless we’re selectively suspending due process of law, the caning won’t be certain or immediate at the time the criminal is deciding to hold up a liquor store or whatever.

        • onyomi says:

          I would also like to see such evidence. I’m not claiming that it would provide a better deterrent; just suggesting it might be worth looking into or considering.

          As for infantilizing or dehumanizing them: I’m okay with stereotyping the sort of person who would rob someone at gun point for a few dollars out of a cash register as probably not having the best long-term planning skills.

          Also, I’m not necessarily saying it should only apply to this kind of “low class” thug. Enron-type criminals might also fear the cane more than their cushy white-collar prisons, and I certainly would be okay with caning them if it proves a better deterrent, though I think, on average, such people might have slightly lower time preference than the person who holds up the liquor store, albeit maybe still higher than average.

          • John Schilling says:

            I’m okay with stereotyping the sort of person who would rob someone at gun point for a few dollars out of a cash register as probably not having the best long-term planning skills.

            Are you OK with being wrong on the facts? Because your plan not only fails but is worse than useless if it turns out that ordinary common criminals are men of physical courage living in a culture where they get a status boost from taking a caning and being seen on the streets walking tall and proud the next day.

            Generally speaking, stereotypes which reduce to “my enemies are stupid cowards”, should be presumed false until proven otherwise. And if you are entering into physical combat, a grand strategy based on “our enemies are stupid cowards” should be seen as an indication that you need to dodge the draft, defect, desert, whatever it takes to find a nice neutral country to sit out the war in.

          • onyomi says:

            “Are you OK with being wrong on the facts?”

            I feel like you are being almost willfully uncharitable. I clearly said I would be interested in data on the subject and am not suggesting that we should just change the laws based on my hunches. It was just a suggestion about something that might be more effective in some cases. Singapore seems like a pretty nice place to live, for example.

            Also, it’s worth noting that if caning is merely equally effective (or, arguably, even slightly less effective) as a deterrent, it is still a superior option because it’s cheaper and may be less unpleasant and/or psychologically damaging for the criminal him/herself.

            If, for example, 3 years in prison and 30 lashes is equally scary to a would-be criminal, then the 30 lashes may still be preferable because it’s cheaper and doesn’t make the criminal spend the next 3 years hanging out with other criminals. Of course, this neglects the “keeping them off the streets” element, which is something else to take into consideration, of course.

            “stereotypes which reduce to ‘my enemies are stupid cowards’…”

            Is this addressed to me? I didn’t say anything even close to that.

          • John Schilling says:

            OK, perhaps that was a little strong and I apologize. Explicitly wanting the facts is a rare and positive thing, and should be encouraged.

            But, “I am OK with stereotyping…”, when you don’t yet have the facts to justify the stereotype, is a dangerous path to tread.

            And as for “my enemies are stupid cowards”, you were fairly explicit in suggesting that criminals are not capable of long-term planning and would be dissuaded from what would otherwise be a major part of their identity by the threat of transient pain. The former, I think, can be reasonably simplified to “stupid” and the latter to “cowardly”.

          • onyomi says:

            “would be dissuaded from what would otherwise be a major part of their identity”

            Well, I feel like once “being a criminal” is a major part of your identity, then society pretty much has to either keep you behind bars indefinitely or else put you through some kind of extensive therapy and rehabilitation program (which I guess would be ideal, but probably very difficult and expensive to implement in practice, and with doubtful results).

            But if, when you’re young and stupid, you get caned a few times rather than sent to a place full of older, more hardened criminals, the probability of you being “scared straight” rather than going on to think of criminality as part of your identity seems greater.