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OT41: Having Your Mind Involuntarily Thread

This is the bi-weekly open thread. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. Also:

1. In the spirit of discussing class differences, here are the 36 best quotes from Davos 2016.

2. Vitalik Buterin expands on my fake side effects article by discovering eHealthMe’s support group for “people who have Death on Xolair”. Related: “We study 33,751 people who have side effects while taking Viagra from FDA and social media. Among them, 983 have Death.”

3. Comments of the week include: Sarah on the order of Siamese twin phrases, John Schilling on that star with the unexplained dimming, Sniffnoy on class (someone once asked if there was anything that couldn’t be related to a David Chapman post; if so, today is not the day we find it), Joyously on Trump’s class, Michael W on Indian perceptions of Hitler, and Ptoliporthos on why ‘research parasitism’ can be a real problem.

4. More meetups: London, maybe Sydney?.

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1,480 Responses to OT41: Having Your Mind Involuntarily Thread

  1. Bakkot says:

    (test comment, please ignore, will delete shortly)

  2. anon says:

    The number of comments in these threads is getting fucking ridiculous.

  3. Mark says:

    Wouldn’t the idea that sexual selection is important be the perfect memetic weapon?

    It’s a fantastic way to convince your enemies to do things that undermine their fitness.
    Or even just to make people do whatever stupid shit you can think up. (It’s all social standing and the chicks dig it, never-mind that the reasoning is entirely circular – shhh now… women hate thinking, go and shoot that guy for me.)

    • Mark says:

      That’s a good point.

      I mean, it’s fairly obvious that the most important factor in determining how long people will survive is the level of technological advancement and coordination of the society they live in. [And, incidentally, given a certain level of advancement, the main avenues of natural selection are violence from others (or their cars) and demoralization.]
      So, if you wanted to convince an enemy to weaken themselves, you would have to (1) convince them not to work so hard on technological advancement (2) seek to undermine social coordination.

      I don’t think its any coincidence that most of the pick-up guys were former engineers/ scientists, and it’s certainly no coincidence that the manosphere is populated by people who view society as deeply divided.

      We’re under memetic attack.

    • Loquat says:

      You’d have to make sure to convince the women too, though, not just the men – if you try to tell a guy that women love (insert self-destructive behavior here), but the kind of women he’s trying to attract demonstrably disapprove of it, he’s probably going to find that out pretty quickly and stop.

      • Mark says:

        I don’t think so.
        I think that the men who have sex with the most women are the ones who want to have sex with the most women. Where there is a will there is a way. Proximity less important now with invention of internet.
        Even if you spend your time doing something bad… say playing video games… something that women disapprove of, women will still have sex with you.
        So, the trick is, you say something like “Yeah, of course women say they don’t like you playing video games, but secretly they love it! That is exactly why they are having sex with you! After all [ insert bullshit evolutionary psychology here… I don’t know… playing video games demonstrates the manual dexterity that was vital for tool making in the neolithic…?]
        So then you’ve got a bunch of guys spending all their time playing video games, convinced that playing video games makes them hot stuff, and convinced that anyone saying anything to the contrary simply proves them right.

        • Loquat says:

          But if those guys demonstrably get laid a lot less than other guys just like them who don’t play video games, that’s proof against their hypothesis. (And if they are indeed spending ALL their time playing video games, not doing athletics or earning money, LOLOLOL at the idea that they’ll be getting a lot of sex.) PUAs get an audience because their techniques have been proven to get users more sex, at least with a certain subset of women.

          Also, video games are a bad example because they’re fun in and of themselves, so lots of guys will want to play regardless of whether or not it affects their sex lives. To really use sexual selection as a memetic weapon, you have to be able to convince people to do something that they don’t enjoy enough to do for its own sake – and that means it has to bring them demonstrable success with the opposite sex.

          • Mark says:

            It’s quite a rare person whose evidence isn’t dictated by their beliefs.

            I think that video games are a great example – doing exercise is fun in-and-of itself too… as is being cool… but a society in which these things are the major focus, is not strong.
            Personally, I can’t see any good reason why smoking should attract the opposite sex (except that someone wanted to sell cigarettes) – but the funny thing is that you *make* these things true if you’re sufficiently skilled at manipulation.

        • onyomi says:

          “I think that the men who have sex with the most women are the ones who want to have sex with the most women.”

          I feel like this fact goes overlooked a lot in discussions of sexual dynamics, game, etc. Regardless of how you look, how much money you make, etc. trying really hard to have sex with a lot of women is probably the number one factor that determines whether a man has sex with a lot of women.

          I think there is an erroneous assumption that, because men are naturally more inclined to the “lots of low investment mates rather than one or two high investment mates” strategy, that therefore, what all men, really want, deep down, is to have sex with lots of women. On the one hand, most men, if they could have a lot of consequence-free sex with a lot of women without any effort, probably would. On the other, that does not mean that this isn’t more or less important to different men.

          On some level, for example, there is a part of me that would like to have sex with a lot of women. But that part of me is very much in conflict with and quite heavily suppressed by a number of other factors including my desire not to mess up my relationship with my fiancee, the fact that I already have as much sex as I really want to with my fiancee, the fact that, even if my fiancee were really, really okay with me pursuing other women I would not really have the time or energy to do so anyway, etc. etc.

          In my early twenties I was more interested in having sex with lots of women and put a fair amount of effort into that. And I had sex with a lot more different women then than I do now (when I only have sex with one woman). Was I more attractive or suave then? I don’t think so. In fact, I think the reverse is true. I now make more money and am more experienced and together and less awkward than I was then. The difference is that I’m not, currently, putting forth a lot of effort to have sex with a lot of women.

          There are probably a few very unattractive men who have to put forth a tremendous effort just to find one person who wants to have sex with them. There are also a very few lucky men like Brad Pitt or Tiger Woods who basically have to exert willpower not to have sex with a ton of women. But for the vast majority in the middle, it seems the effort and desire are probably the biggest factor, more than looks, wealth, “game,” etc.

          (People might say “well, but when I started game, suddenly I started having sex with a lot more women!” but this is confounded by the fact that attempting to practice “game” is itself a way of putting lots of effort into sleeping with lots of women, which, as said before, is the determining factor).

          • Publius Varinius says:

            Countries might say “well, but when we started using rockets instead of airplanes, suddenly we started putting more satellites into orbit”, but this is confounded by the fact that using rockets is itself a way of putting lots of efforts into getting satellites to orbit.

          • onyomi says:

            My point is that what matters might simply be the effort, not the nature of the effort.

          • nyccine says:

            I don’t know anyone who says “before Game, I spent years not even talking to women! Thanks to Game, I’m sleeping with a new girl every weekend!” Perhaps they exist, but by and large, I’m only familiar with people who say “I struck out all the time, girls wouldn’t even acknowledge my existence, but when I started putting to use the things I learned in PUA bootcamps, I’ve become insanely successful at picking up women.”

            Even if they did, though, that still kind of proves the point, doesn’t it?

  4. Anthony says:

    I just saw a reference to a Vice article (https://broadly.vice.com/en_us/article/for-women-in-tech-sexual-harassment-is-part-of-the-job) whose lede claims that “New data shows that 60 percent of women in Silicon Valley have experienced sexual harassment.” They provide a link (thank God) to the “study” in question. It is available at http://elephantinthevalley.com/.

    I thought you might be interested in this because the “study” is not in fact a study. There is no paper. There are no controls. The study is in fact a survey, conducted primarily (from what I can see) by female employees / executives at investment firms in the Bay Area. Who did they ask? Nobody knows. Their friends? Their acquaintances? The website is now open to anonymous contributions, each of which will surely drive up the “percentage of women in tech” who have experienced discrimination.

    I’m pretty upset right now, because I work in tech, and this is an issue which I want to know the truth about. When I heard that there was a study on this particular subject, I thought, “Thank god! I no longer have to just rely on anecdotes!” I wanted to read the paper and see what’d come of it. Come to find that, as is too often the case, the entire enterprise was BS.

    Anyways. Enjoy.

    • Odoacer says:

      On a tangential note. Why is the media so focused on tech firms and harassment and diversity*? Many prestigious media organizations write often about it, e.g. NYT, The Atlantic, etc. Why don’t they focus on other industries as much, or hell, on themselves? Just glancing at the Atlantic’s contributors, makes it seem not very diverse.

      *They usually ignore Asians when they talk about diversity.

      • Nornagest says:

        Because nerds.

      • brad says:

        GOOG and AAPL are vying for the number one largest company by market capitalization in the US. MSFT is 3. FB and AMZN are in the top ten.

        You could argue that market capitalization isn’t the only or best way to measure the importance of a company but it is certainly one valid way of measuring. The tech industry isn’t some scrappy little side show anymore, it’s a major major part of US life. Media scrutiny is entirely expected and appropriate.

        • Odoacer says:

          I don’t think there’s a good correlation between media scrutiny of a company and market capitalization. E.g. Exxon Mobile and Berkshire Hathaway, and Johnson and Johnson are some of the biggest companies in the world and I’ve rarely seen media stories focused on them, particularly the last two.*

          Also, many of the stories are focused on generic Silicon Valley tech culture, they often don’t name individual companies. I’m willing to bet that most companies in SV don’t have anywhere near the market cap rankings that Google and Apple do.

          There seem to be trends on what media stories are about when it comes to particular companies or industries. E.g, most stories about Walmart are about low wages and welfare, Monsanto and GMOs and patents, etc. . Why is the tech industry focused on wrt sexual harassment and diversity, why aren’t other industries (with the exception of finance and frat culture) focused on that too? Are all other industries wonderfully diverse and harassment-free?

          *When it’s focused on Exxon Mobile it tends to be about pollution or energy concerns, not diversity or sexual harassment.

          EDIT: Cargil, America’s largest private company and hugely involved in food production (it alone is responsible for 25% of all grain exports and 22% of the US meat market) barely gets a peep in many news sources. It also operates all around the world.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            There seem to be trends on what media stories are about when it comes to particular companies or industries. E.g, most stories about Walmart are about low wages and welfare. Why is the tech industry focused on wrt sexual harassment and diversity, why aren’t other industries (with the exception of finance and frat culture) focused on that too? Are all other industries wonderfully diverse and harassment-free?

            Yeah, it’s a fashion. You do what everyone else is being successful doing.

            One guy wants to bring back isometric, story-based RPGs? Everybody wants to bring back isometric, story-based RPGs!

            Some TV shows are really successful with long-form storytelling? Everybody wants to do long-form storytelling!

            Somebody’s making money writing about sexual harassment in Silicon Valley? Everybody wants to write about sexual harassment in Silicon Valley!

      • Urstoff says:

        Because they’re high status, just like STEM. Hence everyone being concerned about women going into STEM, but not men going into early childhood education.

        • Jiro says:

          I think this is the paradox where “high status” means low status. Someone who’s actually high status can’t be affected by such accusations.

      • BBA says:

        Because people in the media write what they know, and write what the people they know know. This is a concern to youngish white-collar people in San Francisco and NYC, so the youngish white-collar people in San Francisco and NYC who dominate certain media outlets write about it a lot.

        For another example I’ve noticed a LOT of stories about how awful it is that young freelance writers are pushed into doing unpaid work for “exposure”, which is a much more relevant topic inside a newsroom than outside.

  5. onyomi says:

    Someone on my facebook just posted a rant about how Uber exploits its workers and engages in evil price gouging.

    Really? Hasn’t Uber kind of like, won this debate? Speaking of which, isn’t libertarianism just Uber for everything? Why isn’t everyone a libertarian now? The complaints about Uber seem to be mostly “this is way too efficient and affordable for people in the old system to keep doing what they were doing!”

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      Most of the kind of people who rant about oppression on Facebook don’t actually know any cabbies. I think that explains why they can think cab companies quite literally exploiting drivers with their medallion oligopoly is fairer than drivers competing directly for customers.

      To be entirely fair, I do know a handful of drivers in upstate NY who inherited medallions in their cities from before they became million dollar commodities and can drive their own cabs. Even if the system as a whole is evil, I would hate to see those guys lose such huge amounts of money as it comes down.

    • brad says:

      In the early days Uber played fast and loose with insurance in a hear-no-evil see-no-evil type fashion. That seems to be either going or gone. That was my biggest objection to them. Otherwise they seem mostly fine. I’m not thrilled that they seem to violate certain parts labor law with impunity (i.e. the independent contractor rules)–even if the laws are bad, I think the most likely outcome is a special exception for uber rather than getting them repealed or overturned. That’s not a particularly great outcome. But that’s a fairly minor point as far as I’m concerned.

      I don’t think you can extrapolate to uber is good, uber for everything is good. Take for example AirBnB which is often grouped in with uber as part of the deceptively named “sharing economy”. In that case there are a lot more problems than just insurance. I find them to be immoral as well as criminal and a scourge. I think the world, or at least NYC, would be a better place if they never existed.

      • Error says:

        I’m curious what your issue with AirBnB is (I’ve never used them, but have considered it).

        • brad says:

          Here in NYC, the majority of AirBnB units for rent are from shady guys that rent apartments in rental buildings with fake names or third party cutouts or the like, list them on AirBnB in violation of both their leases and city law, fill them with tourists that make a ton of noise, throw up in staircases, leave garbage in hallways, etc. It’s very difficult to evict them and when they do they just move on to the next victim building. Sometimes it isn’t a rental building but a condo building, but it’s the same sort of thing.

          I don’t care about the risks to AirBnB customers (on either side of the transaction) on the contrary I consider them at best complicit, but the damage to third parties (i.e. me). It is the same old story of making money by uncompensated externalities with a side dish of burning collective social trust through dishonesty and abusing institutions.

          • onyomi says:

            “making money by uncompensated externalities with a side dish of burning collective social trust through dishonesty and abusing institutions.”

            I think that’s just the NYC rental market in general.

      • Anthony says:

        To the extent that Uber is violating independent-contractor rules, those rules are stupid. Working in construction, I’ve seen pretty much every single condition Uber imposes on its drivers being imposed on subcontractors by general contractors, and those would apply where the subcontractor is an individual. In fact, Uber offers its drivers more independence and flexibility than many construction subcontracts.

  6. Deiseach says:

    Wondering how or why the media refer to candidates, topics or other subjects by certain labels?

    There are style guides which make recommendations as to what an article should say when referring to all manner of things, including politics and religion.

    And even in the much-vaunted neutral American (as against European-style open advocacy) journalism, there are still subtle word-choices that show which side the journalist and/or the paper leans towards:

    Turning to moral and sexual conflicts, the Stylebook from The Religion Guy’s former Associated Press colleagues has this stumble (unless it’s been corrected in the latest edition): “Use anti-abortion instead of pro-life and abortion rights instead of pro-abortion or pro-choice.”

    My take: “Anti” sounds negative while “rights” is positive for Americans. Better for journalists to use parallel terms that leaders on the two sides accept as their labels, “pro-life” vs. “pro-choice,” admitting that the latter skirts what action is being chosen. Meanwhile, conservatives borrow that helpful “choice” slogan when it comes to schools.

    • “Pro-life” and “pro-choice” are the standard pair of labels in neutral commentary on the abortion issue. The Associated Press is severely out of step if some other rule is still in effect.

      Indeed, I’m firmly pro-choice myself, and I use “pro-life” for the other side. In general, it is courteous and respectful to use the names or labels that people have chosen for themselves, rather than come up with a more negative term.

  7. Dan King says:

    Honestly, how so many supposedly smart people can say 36 really stupid things is beyond me.

  8. Alex says:

    Has anyone thought about existential risk from economic stagnation? Suppose the world just reaches a point where people’s ability to discern actions that improve society is always outmatched by rot. How would we know that a slowdown in growth was temporary (or inevitable) or was an existential risk?

    This seems important because many other existential risks seem possible to mitigate by reducing economic growth. (Example?) But you have to balance that against the existential risk of stagnation. If we don’t know anything about stagnation risk, then how can we reach conclusions?

    • Jane Jacobs wrote about permanent economic stagnation as existential risk, although the word she chose was “nightmare”. See: Cities and the Wealth of Nations.

    • Vaniver says:

      In what way does stagnation directly lead to the nonexistance of humans?

      Indirect ways don’t count–if stagnation means we don’t have the resources to fight off a pandemic disease, pandemic disease is the actual x-risk.

      • Marc Whipple says:

        It doesn’t, but unless stagnation also leads to ZPG, increasing population and no gain in productivity or resources makes any number of extinction events more and more likely.

        • John Schilling says:

          Exponential growth in material wealth or population cannot be sustained at significant levels on a timescale corresponding even to recorded history, never mind species lifespan. 1% growth for 6000 years gives on the order of 10^36 human beings, or 10^38 kg of manflesh, which is coincidentally about the mass of every star within 6000 light-years.

          Inability to achieve a long-term average ZPG is an x-risk with or without economic stagnation. But this is true for every other species, and it has been true for humanity for most of its existence, and hasn’t been a problem for any of them. Well, not an x-risk problem. I’m not terribly worried that humanity will become extinct because of the excessive number of living humans.

      • Alex says:

        I was thinking of existential risk the way Nick Bostrom defined it, which includes human extinction, but it also includes humanity failing to reach its potential, or stagnation in a sub-optimal state or equilibrium. If we have reached our full potential, so stagnation is inevitable, then there’s no need to worry about that.

      • roystgnr says:

        Stagnation doesn’t lead to the nonexistence of humans, but it may lead to the nonexistence of humans-off-Earth, or of transhumans, or of whatever future projects might require a few sextillion humans or smarter-than-humans as prerequisites. “Permanent stagnation” is Bostrom’s second of four existential risk classes.

        Actually, I take that back – *serious* stagnation does lead to the nonexistence of humans, eventually. It might take a billion years, when the sun heats up too much and we still haven’t found other options, or ten million years, when an unchanging environment selects for instinct over intelligence and devolves us into something less than human.

  9. onyomi says:

    https://niskanencenter.org/blog/news/the-collapse-of-rand-paul-and-the-libertarian-moment-that-never-was/

    A bit of sobering post-Rand analysis:

    “The secret of Trump’s appeal to Paul’s base is that a large segment of the “Ron Paul Revolution” leavened its libertarianism with a pony keg of crazy. Birthers, 9/11 Truthers, a wide assortment of conspiracy theorists (many of whom believe the Federal Reserve to be a modern manifestation of the Illuminati), and naked racists rivaled the number of reasonably sober libertarian-ish voters…”

    Even as a huge Ron Paul fan, I have to admit this is the case.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      @onyomi:
      That’s interesting that you would admit to it. Based on the long conversation we had (wherein your position was, roughly, that the cause of freedom from tyranny would have been best served if the Southern states had been allowed to secede), I would have thought you would have been “state’s rights” Ron Paul guy.

      IOW, I wouldn’t have thought you could admit that Ron Paul drew a lot of his support from the white-power types.

      • Nornagest says:

        What’s to admit to? To use your example, there’s nothing unsavory about being in favor of — to drop some connotational loading — devolution of powers to the state and local levels on grounds of decentralization of power, Constitutional originalism, the laboratories-of-democracy idea, or any number of other motivations, while acknowledging that the same goal might be attractive to less savory characters for their own reasons.

        That’s just the nature of politics. In polite company we pretend that no one under our tent is motivated by hate, self-interest, or plain craziness, but in reality there are going to be a bunch of those guys hanging around the back of the crowd no matter what coalition we happen to be talking about. Left, right, libertarian, Green, rationalist, whatever.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @Nornagest:
          Ron Paul designed his arguments to appeal to racists and John Birch type conspiracy theorists, which is why he got so much support from them.

          State’s rights isn’t really a libertarian appeal or solution. Individual rights is the actual libertarian position. Still, some true libertarians back the state’s rights formulation, and even convince themselves that it isn’t building a coalition with racists and social conservatives who want the state to be free to have a heavy hand.

          Trying to get people like that to admit to that the coalition exists runs frequently into a wall of denial and cognitive dissonance

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Trying to get people like that to admit to that the coalition exists runs frequently into a wall of denial and cognitive dissonance

            I absolutely agree that this coalition exists, and as I posted below, I think that Ron Paul is one of the “bad guys” with libertarians as the “dupes”.

            But the reason people deny it is that usually comes in the form of an obvious attempt at guilt-by-association. It’s exactly the same as how conservatives keep pointing out how Progressives like Margaret Sanger supported eugenics. They often run into a “wall of denial and cognitive dissonance” because the conservatives’ clear goal is to tar modern-day progressives with the same brush.

            It’s just easier to say “No, she didn’t!” than “Yeah, but she was wrong and that position has no necessary connection to the rest of her positions, which we support.”

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Vox:
            If Margaret Sanger was running for President, or even just “President” of Planned Parenthood today, and was making either overt or covert nods to supporting eugenics, it would be absolutely and completely relevant.

            So, I don’t see how Ron Paul’s messages aren’t relevant. He, and his positions, have been very popular in the current libertarian movement

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ HeelBearCub:

            The point is not that you can’t legitimately attack these people. The point is that the non-racist libertarians correctly feel a large number of these attacks are intended to paint them as racist, too.

            Perhaps Sanger wasn’t the best example. Just the first one that came to mind. (It’s comparable to Barry Goldwater, though, who is often brought up in these kinds of debates. And he didn’t support racism at all, unlike Sanger’s support for eugenics.)

            A better example is with feminism. There are crazy feminists who think all male-female sex is rape, since women can’t consent under the patriarchy. And in some sense, reasonable feminists are “fellow travellers” with these people on many issues.

            But when anti-feminists harp on and on about these crazy feminists, the reasonable feminists get the impression that they are being tarred as crazy, too. And they don’t exactly enjoy being constantly forced to give public denunciations, any more than non-extremist Muslims like to be forced to denounce ISIS. Being forced to denounce crazy-feminism is insulting in itself because it suggests that it is reasonable to think that you agree with them, and that the presumption is on you to rebut it.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Vox:
            Sure that’s fair. I still think state’s rights is a huge dodge, though. It doesn’t do anything to accomplish Libertarian goals.

            But, in any case, if someone says that they are a feminist and that Lorena Bobbit was completely in the right and John should have never gotten his dick back, you don’t expect them to denounce “Stop the Patriarchy” as nut jobs.

            In crude (and hopefully funny) terms, that’s sort of the reaction I was having to onyomi.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ HeelBearCub:

            Sure that’s fair. I still think state’s rights is a huge dodge, though. It doesn’t do anything to accomplish Libertarian goals.

            You’ve got one-hundred percent (or at least ninety percent) agreement from me on this one. But I can see how other non-racist libertarians could disagree and for honest reasons.

            I myself used to be much more sympathetic to the standard revisionist argument that Lincoln was a horrible tyrant, that the Civil War was a matter of a centralized federal government vs. states’ rights, etc.

            One thing this argument ignores is that the southern states were very much in favor of strong federal powers when they were in charge in the 1850s, including a very strong fugitive slave law and federal protection of the right to carry slaves into free territory against the “abuses” of local governments who wanted to free them. Not to mention that, in the “Cornerstone Speech” and other public documents, the Confederate leaders openly expressed their hostility to the principles upon which the American government was founded. And the Civil War was just fucking not about tariffs; I can say I that I definitely never bought that one.

            And even so, it’s not exactly cut-and-dried that—granted the Confederacy was completely unjustified in seceding—Lincoln’s policy of refusing to let them go was better in the long run. A lot of people died in the Civil War, and Reconstruction didn’t exactly work. At least not once the North got tired of it and adopted a policy of “cut and run” in the Compromise of 1877.

            I am also sympathetic to Timothy Sandefur’s hypothesis that much of libertarian antipathy toward the Civil War is due to a mindset of analogizing it to Vietnam. (And Sandefur adores Lincoln and supports him entirely.)

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            A bit of a nitpick, but

            “One thing this argument ignores is that the southern states were very much in favor of strong federal powers when they were in charge in the 1850s, including a very strong fugitive slave law and federal protection of the right to carry slaves into free territory against the “abuses” of local governments who wanted to free them.”

            The fugitive slave law was guaranteed in the constitution. They instituted a new one as a compromise measure in 1850 because the previous one (1793) was no longer was working- it depended on local juries cooperating. The South was acting on the idea that this was something given to them in the constitution and viewed it as the north living up to its end of a bargain, not an extension of state power.

            (for those unclear why this was such a big deal, remember that slaves don’t have legal rights so they no longer got jury trials, there were free black living in the north, photographic id and the like didn’t exist and black people covers anyone with a drop of black blood)

            The right to carry slaves into any territory is a simple extension of the right to property and yes, this runs into the issue that common law and precedent go in the opposite direction.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Samuel Skinner:

            The fugitive slave law was guaranteed in the constitution. They instituted a new one as a compromise measure in 1850 because the previous one (1793) was no longer was working- it depended on local juries cooperating. The South was acting on the idea that this was something given to them in the constitution and viewed it as the north living up to its end of a bargain, not an extension of state power.

            Yes, but northern states were trying to engage in nullification and interposition. Indeed, it was working in many places, rendering the fugitive slave law unenforceable there. (Which proves that these aren’t always bad things.) And the south wanted to respond by doing the equivalent of Eisenhower sending the National Guard to Little Rock.

            The right to carry slaves into any territory is a simple extension of the right to property and yes, this runs into the issue that common law and precedent go in the opposite direction.

            It is a simple extension of the right to property—given that slaves are property like any other (which was not clear as a matter of precedent).

            But the argument that the federal courts should protect property rights from abuse by the states is equivalent to arguments that the federal courts should protect the right to contract (as in Lochner), the right to equal protection under the law (as in Brown), or the right to privacy (as in Roe and Lawrence) from abridgment by the states. Now, I’m in favor of all those.

            But they are contrary to the concept of unlimited “states’ rights”.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “But they are contrary to the concept of unlimited “states’ rights”.”

            I think they used the term differently then. If you take the constitution as a promise between states, then the north failing to live up to its end of the bargain is infringing on your state’s rights. It is however wholly different from how people view state’s rights now and I’m not sure if I’m just over fitting Southerner’s arguments.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Samuel Skinner:

            I see what you’re saying. Yeah, I was not using states’ rights that way. I was interpreting it more as “the sovereign power of states over affairs within their borders”, not “the right of states to make the federal government force other states to live up their end of the bargain”.

            In the fugitive slave law debate, the North was wanting more state sovereignty and to keep the federal government out. While the South was wanting to have the federal government step in and prevent “injustices” and violations of rights carried out by Northern states. You’re right that the South saw these “injustices” as violation of their states’ rights.

            However, the Dred Scott decision was not at all a matter of states’ rights. It protected the individual right to own slaves (not mentioned in the Constitution), to be enforced by the federal government against violation by the states.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Vox
            conservatives keep pointing out how Progressives like Margaret Sanger supported eugenics.

            Someday remind me to mention that the usage of the term ‘eugenics’ may have changed somehow sometime. I see a lot of posters talking about ways to get/force smart women to have more children, but neither they nor their opponents call it ‘eugenics’.

            / not up for a long discussion of it now, though /

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            We are rational enough to recognize The Worst Argument in the World and avoid talking about it when it applies to our favorite past-time: breeding the Kwisatz Haderach.

          • I’ve asked people why they think a state is the right size for a government, and they never have an answer.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Nancy:
            “State” isn’t a size? “State” isn’t even a reliable description of the kind of political unit?

            Basically I’m not sure what question you are asking.

          • “State” in the sense of an American state– the size varies quite a bit, but they’re all smaller than the federal government. I assume that when someone favors states’ rights, they have a vague idea of size in mind.

          • John Schilling says:

            I’ve asked people why they think a state is the right size for a government, and they never have an answer.

            Well, the average population of a sovereign nation today is 38 million, which is about the size of a large US state.

            Of the twelve nations with a population of over 100 million, I believe only the United States, Brazil, and Japan have not in the post-WWII era had armed separatist movements that killed at least ten thousand people in attempts to create what probably would have been viable nations about the size of US states. And on the other side, I am not aware of any successful post-WWII attempt at creating a nation of over 100 million people by fusing together smaller polities (the EU is certainly an attempt at such, but a creaky one).

            And at the other end, the list of nations under five million in population seems to be mostly failed states, kleptocracies, and junior members of strong regional blocs.

    • Vox Imperatoris says:

      The thing is, Ron Paul is himself one of those people. He’s not really a libertarian—at the very least not your Cato Institute kind of libertarian. As Sandefur puts it:

      In all of these cases, his tactic appears to be the same: use legitimate arguments about state’s rights to cloak a hostility to civil rights for homosexuals, the right to an abortion, religious freedom and other essential liberties. This is typical Doughface Libertarianism of the Lew Rockwell variety: the view that the federal government should leave states free to deprive us of our freedom. What Tom Palmer calls “the Fever Swamp” is to Ron Paul what the briar patch was to Brer Rabbit. Serious libertarians should blush at the mention of his name.

      • The use of the term “doughface” in this context is just delicious.

      • onyomi says:

        I want to say about Lew Rockwell and the like, as well as the rather bizarre claim that Ron Paul is not a “real” libertarian:

        This reminds me of “Atheism Plus,” which, if I understand correctly, was a weird push to basically expand the definition of atheism to include a whole bunch of other beliefs, like rationalism, feminism, anti-racism, etc. etc. Of course, the case one might make for such a move is that these other views follow logically or necessarily from atheism… in the mind of whoever came up with the idea. But the reality, of course, is that atheism just means you don’t believe in a god or gods. You could not believe in god because you believed the universe floated on the surface of a banana and that banana physics are such as to preclude existence of a god. You would still be an atheist.

        Put a little less extremely, I am highly suspicious of any movement to create a more “thick” version of some school of thought–a so-called package deal. This seems only to encourage bad thinking, and is, moreover, just plain rude to people who follow the definitional tenets of a philosophy but who don’t follow someone’s particular, idiosyncratic extrapolation of such.

        Ron Paul is a libertarian. He’s also pro-life. “But libertarians are in favor of individual liberty so how can be against abortion?!” someone might cry. But of course, libertarians are not in favor of murder, so if you view abortion as murder then there’s no incompatibility. If you don’t view abortion as murder then you should be a pro-choice libertarian. The non-libertarian view would be “I’m against abortion because I think the state should control reproductive options.”

        Gary North believes in a limited government and also happens to the think that the form that government should take is a Christian theocracy. He’s also a libertarian. Ayn Rand believed in a limited government and no god. Also a libertarian. Lew Rockwell believes in limited or no government and also happens to be kind of racist and paranoid. Also a libertarian. Hell, even a slave owner could have been a libertarian. Non-coercion, individual freedom and self-determination are core tenets of libertarianism, but if you define black people as property and not people, then you are not contradicting yourself. The theoretical slave-holding libertarian’s mistake is not in not being a “real” libertarian, but in his definition of who counts as a person. And that is precisely my take on the Civil War: we can say that the South was right on the question of political self-determination but wrong on the question of who should count as a “real” person or independent moral agent.

        I’m not saying libertarians can’t do any policing of their own ranks. I am saying we should resist the temptation to smuggle in our own ideas about issues which are really unrelated. And this may in fact mean we have to police against anyone who wants to claim: “libertarianism=non-coercion+lizard people.”

        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          Hell, even a slave owner could have been a libertarian. Individual freedom and self-determination are core tenets of libertarianism, but if you define black people as property and not people, then you are not contradicting yourself.

          You’re not contradicting yourself, but you’re not a fucking libertarian!

          • onyomi says:

            Why not? As I understand it libertarianism is defined simply as a political philosophy valuing individual autonomy, small or limited government and avoidance of coercion. I don’t see anything in there about “oh, and you believe all races are equal moral agents.”

            If I said I believe in limited government, individual freedom, and non-coercion… oh and that the sky is green and earthquakes are caused by giant catfish… then would I suddenly not be a libertarian?

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            You don’t have to believe all races are equal moral agents. You do however have to believe all people have equal legal/political rights. Dump that and you aren’t a libertarian because ‘different political rights based on heredity’ is serfdom, the caste system and the like. What separates that from monarchy with the king having all the rights or feudalism with the nobility having all the rights?

          • onyomi says:

            This is a good point, and also raises what I think is the interesting question of whether or not it’s logically possible to have a libertarian monarchy. Let’s imagine, for example, that we have an absolute monarchy, but the monarch happens to believe that extremely low taxes and light regulation and respect for property rights are the way to go. In a way I think we have to call that a libertarian monarchy.

            Ironically, the ethics by which I derive my own libertarianism would preclude a libertarian monarchy because I am a libertarian first on deontological grounds and utilitarian grounds second. And my ethics say that wearing a special hat or being born a particular race or caste do not imbue you with special rights.

            But there are other libertarians who are libertarians first and foremost for utilitarian/practical reasons: they don’t think non-libertarianism is inherently evil, just that it so happens libertarianism works better. They would say that if having a king who believes in low taxes produces the best results then that’s the best way to go. I think David Friedman is more of this type. Further, whereas my ethical view implies anarcho-capitalism, many other libertarians are “minarchists” believing a small government is defensible or necessary. I think Gary Johnson falls into this category. Am I going to say that David Freeman and Gary Johnson are not “real” libertarians? Of course not.

            Similarly, if you had some plausible justification for your low-tax, low-regulation, property right-respecting king–say divine right theory or something–then I don’t think it would be correct for me to say this king is not a “real” libertarian. It is even conceivable that a libertarian king would provide/impose a more libertarian system for/on his subjects than they themselves would arrive at under anarchy. We can’t say the king and his system aren’t “really” libertarian. Instead, the right mode of attack in this case would be to attack divine right theory.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            Enlightened Despotism? Sure that is a thing, but that is only restricting subjects political rights. Their legal rights are the same; if they aren’t guaranteed legal rights, the monarch could simply seize their property at any time which doesn’t mesh with libertarianism. There needs to be a check on power because philosopher-king doesn’t translate effectively into the real world.

          • Jaskologist says:

            A libertarian has to believe all people have equals rights, sure, but why couldn’t they just play with the definition of “people” to exclude certain races? Personhood is a terribly thorny issue, and it’s not like we claim that libertarians are obligated to be pro-life.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            Because if you can deny rights to people because they are black, the government will simply declare anyone it wants to eliminate is black. And they don’t need to prove it because only whites get rights. Anything that involves people losing rights to become nonpeople that is decided by the government is not a system where you have rights.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            I was in a rush when I typed my first comment in response to this thread, but let me elaborate.

            There is basically a spectrum here. On the one hand, we could say everyone is a libertarian who wants to call himself one. And at the other extreme, we could say that no one is a real libertarian except that guy who’s right about every application of libertarian principles to every issue. And maybe he doesn’t exist, so there are no real libertarians, only “aspiring libertarians”.

            Now, I think we’ve got to use the term in a sensible way, which is somewhere in the middle. We have to define the essential features of libertarianism and say that if you agree with those, you’re a real libertarian, but if you don’t, you’re not.

            And I think one essential feature of libertarianism is the belief that no one class of people is naturally entitled to own or rule over any other.

            I hate to keep using black people as an example, so let’s change it to the Swiss. It is possible to believe, as Jaskologist says, that the Swiss are not really “people” but in fact are a subhuman race that properly has no rights. And therefore you would think that it is right and proper for actual humans to own or rule over the Swiss.

            However, I would say that if you thought this, you would not really be a libertarian. Since the Swiss in fact are people, you do not in fact believe that no one class of people is entitled to own or rule over any other. If you somehow came to this belief honestly, you would be entitled to think of yourself as a libertarian, but you would not really be one, and everyone else would be free to reject you as a real libertarian. Because as far as everyone else is concerned, the term “people” refers not to what you subjectively think of as people, but, you know, actual people. It’s a matter of the content of your beliefs, not the form in which you express them.

            ***

            All of this is basically the same as the fascinatingly senseless debate between “Open Objectivism” vs. “Closed Objectivism” (with which I unfortunately have a lot of experience). The “closed system” people (who are ridiculous, in my opinion) say that if you don’t believe everything Ayn Rand believed on every issue, you’re not entitled to call yourself an Objectivist because then we’d have chaos and everyone who read Atlas Shrugged and got an idea from it would be calling himself one, and this would somehow dilute the message. Some of them say that no living person can validly call himself an Objectivist, only a “student of Objectivism”.

            The “open system” people say, no, this is a false dichotomy. There are certain essential features of Objectivism, viz. belief in objective reality, reason, egoism, and capitalism, and if you reject these you’re not an Objectivist, but if you want to revise some of Rand’s theories you may well be. But if you come out for altruism, you’re not an Objectivist, not even if you say “the way I choose to use words, ‘egoism’ means ‘altruism'”.

          • Jiro says:

            Instead of either blacks or Swiss, change it to fetuses. By this reasoning, a pro-lifer could equally say that someone who is pro-choice is not really a libertarian because although you came to this belief honestly and subjectively don’t think of fetuses as people, you’re wrong. (Or a vegetarian who thinks that animals count as 1/10 of a person….)

            Since the Swiss in fact are people, you do not in fact believe that….

            You’re basically saying that a disagreement over facts disqualifies you from being a libertarian, then trying to limit this by saying it only applies to disagreements on facts when the other person is wrong. Of course, limiting it that way doesn’t limit it much at all; everyone thinks their opponents are wrong.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            This is a good point, and also raises what I think is the interesting question of whether or not it’s logically possible to have a libertarian monarchy. Let’s imagine, for example, that we have an absolute monarchy, but the monarch happens to believe that extremely low taxes and light regulation and respect for property rights are the way to go. In a way I think we have to call that a libertarian monarchy.

            The-Political-School-Of-Thought-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named actually argues that a secure monarch has an incentive to be fairly libertarian, because libertarian policies are the policies that most promote growth. Maybe not perfectly libertarian, but probably closer to that than the world of molasses which democracy leads to. The argument was most famously advanced in the fable of Fnargl.

          • Anonymous says:

            Fix your second link.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            I think my very favorite quote (though it rotates 🙂 ) from The-One-Who-Should-Not-Be-Named is:

            “A sufficiently authoritarian government would not try to control what its subjects think, because it would have no reason to care what they think.”

            Cue comments about invincible robot armies, etc.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Jiro:

            Instead of either blacks or Swiss, change it to fetuses. By this reasoning, a pro-lifer could equally say that someone who is pro-choice is not really a libertarian because although you came to this belief honestly and subjectively don’t think of fetuses as people, you’re wrong. (Or a vegetarian who thinks that animals count as 1/10 of a person….)

            Yes, they could, and that sounds absolutely fair to me.

            You’re basically saying that a disagreement over facts disqualifies you from being a libertarian, then trying to limit this by saying it only applies to disagreements on facts when the other person is wrong. Of course, limiting it that way doesn’t limit it much at all; everyone thinks their opponents are wrong.

            In this case, whether pro-choicers are libertarians depends upon whether fetuses are “people” in the relevant sense. There’s just no getting around the fact that this question has to be answered.

            I mean it basically comes down to: is it possible to mistakenly think that you are a libertarian? Is there some objective fact of the matter, or are you one merely if you think you’re one? I say that yes, you can be mistaken. If abortion is murder, it is by far the biggest violation of rights in our time, and those who support it could not properly be termed supporters of human liberty.

            There is, of course, a sense in which you’re a “subjective libertarian” if you think you’re supporting human liberty. But in that case, communists are libertarians because they believe capitalism is actually a system of unfreedom, and we can only have true freedom when a dictatorship of the proletariat abolishes these chains.

            So do communists hate freedom? They don’t hate what they think freedom is. But in terms of what freedom actually is, yes, they hate it.

          • null says:

            What does “what freedom actually means” refer to? What is your definition of freedom?

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ null:

            What does “what freedom actually means” refer to? What is your definition of freedom?

            The ability to live, to act in one’s rightful sphere, and to dispose of one’s rightful property without being hindered by physical compulsion by the state or private individuals. With the precise explication of “rightful sphere” and “rightful property” being a very complex question that is the whole concern of political philosophy and impossible to deduce in one step from some little aphorism.

            Communism is opposed to freedom because it imposes a totalitarian system of compulsion that deprives people of their rightful property and consequently infringes upon their rightful sphere of action and quite often takes away their lives. Now, of course, communists don’t think it does this. And if they were right about what constitutes rightful property and one’s rightful sphere of action, then communism would be a pro-freedom philosophy.

    • BBA says:

      Lee Atwater strikes again.

      A lot of people on the left see this quote as a smoking gun that libertarianism is just disguised racism, but that’s not what Atwater was saying. He was a campaign strategist, not a political theorist, saying that racism is no longer considered legitimate, but libertarianism is, and there are still a lot of racist voters who can be attracted with libertarian rhetoric and a sprinkling of wink-wink-nudge-nudge.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        @BBA:
        But it tells you that your prior probability of racism for people espousing libertarian philosophy should be higher. And as the article onyomi linked to points out, the true libertarians are quite small in number. The Ron Paul revolution wasn’t made up of mostly true believers.

    • onyomi says:

      Collapsing my response to a bunch of different points into one post:

      I am in favor of secession and states’ rights, but for me that is not a code word for racism. It’s based on my belief in the right not to participate in a political organization one doesn’t want to participate in and the historical fact that decentralized, local powers tend to work better and are less likely to result in tyranny (compare Singapore, Hong Kong, Monaco, Renaissance Italian City States to the USSR and PRC…). I know that governors and mayors can be just as corrupt and incompetent as presidents, but their incompetence does less damage and they face more competition for citizens; as with everything else, the best way to insure governments don’t suck is to make them compete, which decentralization of power does.

      Ron Paul is a libertarian. If he’s hiding anything it’s that he’s an anarchocapitalist. I’ve listened to him speak a lot and I never heard him make any arguments which sounded “designed” to appeal to conspiracy theorists and/or racists. It’s just that, because of some of the issues he touched on which no one else did (our own foreign policy creating terrorists who hate us; the federal reserve, for example), he became a bit of a lightning rod for a certain segment of crazies (9/11 Truthers, “States Rights”-as-code-for-racism people, etc. etc.)

      Also, Ron Paul has made more new libertarians than anyone since Ayn Rand, so there’s absolutely no way he is a net negative for the libertarian movement.

      If there was a mistake it might have been Paul Sr’s failure to distance himself from the conspiracy theory segment. But it’s very understandable: when you have a nascent movement that seems like it may have some momentum are you going to start saying “get out here–we don’t want people with your weird beliefs messing up our movement!”? After all, you might even get some of the crazies to come around to more reasonable views (in reality, probably not, seems to be the disappointing result). So he played that game where you don’t actually come out and say “no, no, no, 9/11 wasn’t an inside job!” You don’t actually say anything to support the crazies, but you don’t say anything to intentionally scare them off, either.

      They see a wink and nudge where there is none and assume Ron Paul is their guy. Ron Paul, for his part, doesn’t say “I’m not winking and nudging!” Now most of these people see winking and nudging coming from Trump and not Rand, meaning that Rand’s attempt to go more mainstream, which was intended to give him the best of both worlds, seems instead to have given him neither (that said, to look on the bright side, Rand may have succeeded in injecting more libertarianish ideas into the mainstream at the same time as he allowed the crazies to move on to Trump; since libertarians want libertarianism to become more “respectable” and don’t want it associated with lizard people, this may be a long-term positive).

      Still not sure whether that was a mistake, but there’s no denying in retrospect that Paul Sr’s failure to distance himself from the crazies did create the illusion of more popular support for libertarianism than really existed. On the left, Occupy Wall Street’s failure to denounce the left-wing crazies which gravitated toward them may have created a similar illusion that there was a strong appetite for major overhaul of the financial system.

      Of course, some of my own views would be viewed as “kooky” by the political mainstream, but at least my support of Ron and Rand Paul was not of the sort which just evaporated when someone with big, orange hair came along saying something kookier.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Ok, so a question for the Rand fans: what were the major policy differences between him and Cruz or Rubio?

        From my perspective, they all seem pretty close on issues that matter to me. I can see preferring one to the others, but it doesn’t really seem like a defeat as long as the actual winner is one of that trio.

        • brad says:

          Not much a Rand fan, so take it for what it is worth, but I think the biggest difference is in foreign policy. Rand is pretty strictly non-interventionist. That’s a big Paul family tradition. Ted Cruz on the other hand said “we will utterly destroy ISIS. We will carpet bomb them into oblivion. I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark, but we’re going to find out.” I can’t find quite as good a quote for Rubio, but it’s pretty clear what’s going on with this one: “I disagree with voices in my own party who argue we should not engage at all. Who warn we should heed the words of John Quincy Adams not to go ‘abroad, in search of monsters to destroy,'” said Rubio. “I disagree, because all around us we see the human face of America’s influence in the world.”

          • Nathan says:

            Cruz is actually *relatively* non interventionist. That quote sounds dramatic, but it’s actually a way of saying “We’re going to continue the current strategy against ISIS and not commit ground troops” while making sure no one can present it as “weak”. Rubio speaks more reasonably on foreign policy but he’s actually *much* more hawkish.

        • Troy says:

          I agree with brad. Rubio is 100% neoconservative interventionist. Although he’s embraced the hawkish rhetoric, Cruz isn’t actually as interventionist as most of the Republican party, but he’s still moreso than Paul.

      • Vox Imperatoris says:

        I am in favor of secession and states’ rights, but for me that is not a code word for racism. It’s based on my belief in the right not to participate in a political organization one doesn’t want to participate in and the historical fact that decentralized, local powers tend to work better and are less likely to result in tyranny (compare Singapore, Hong Kong, Monaco, Renaissance Italian City States to the USSR and PRC…). I know that governors and mayors can be just as corrupt and incompetent as presidents, but their incompetence does less damage and they face more competition for citizens; as with everything else, the best way to insure governments don’t suck is to make them compete, which decentralization of power does.

        I think you would like Timothy Sandefur’s essay “How Libertarians Ought to Think about the U.S. Civil War”.

        First of all, it is just not true that states had the legal right to secede unilaterally under the Constitution, and Sandefur spends a good deal of time refuting that. But of course, it doesn’t matter if they had the legal right to secede if they were engaged in a legitimate act of revolution. There is a right to revolution that supersedes all positive state-made law, a right to overthrow the government or secede from it in the name of protecting individual rights. But the Confederacy certainly wasn’t rebelling to protect individual rights; they were doing so to protect slavery.

        Moreover, the president has a legal duty to enforce the law and uphold the Constitution. so not only did the Confederacy have no moral or legal right to rebel, the president had a legal duty to stop them. At best, you can argue that the high cost of the Civil War gave the president a moral right to engage in civil disobedience and refuse to enforce the Constitution—but this is not the usual argument made (and Sandefur does not endorse it).

        But I take it that you are talking about secession and states’ rights more in the abstract, as generally preferable.

        In that vein, the Renaissance Italian city states are a terrible example for your case, as they were constantly convulsed by the kind of “faction” that the American Founders decried. As were the city states of Ancient Greece.

        I’m not denying that there have been oppressive, evil empires. But I think the right to secede has to be taken on a case-by-case basis. All large states are not created equal.

        In the actual record of the United States, for instance, the state governments have been far more oppressive of liberty than the federal government, and the more usual function of the federal government has been to lessen their abuses. If you look at the history of slavery, segregation, religious liberty, economic liberty (particularly in the era when the Supreme Court struck down many state laws restricting the right to contract), the liberty of the Chinese and other immigrants, women’s liberty, sexual liberty, the right to privacy, the right to a fair trial, and so on, the federal government—especially the courts—has often stopped worse abuses by the states. It has not been perfect by any means, but it has done a lot to stop local tyranny and prejudices. And when it has oppressed liberty, it’s usually been once the state governments have already been doing the job (see the Chinese Exclusion Act and the New Deal economic intervention).

        Or, for instance, look at the European Union. Yes, there are perhaps some excessive bureaucratic regulations, but these are hardly worse (if at all) than the ones imposed by the individual national governments. And the main function of it, which it has actually achieved, has been to promote free trade and free movement across European borders.

        I am not arguing for centralized control of everything. You have to distinguish between a centralized system and a federal system. The functions of government ought to be as decentralized and as close to the people as possible. But the main virtue of a federal system, when the federal government has limited and defined powers, is that rights can be protected at the federal level from abuse at the local level. In essence, you carry out the powers of government locally but have a higher level of government to watch over those levels—and restrict as much as possible the domains in which it itself exercises power.

        Obviously, the powers of the federal government have grown over time, vastly beyond the bounds of the Constitution. But I don’t think this is due to some inevitable process. I think they have done so because people have been convinced by arguments that it ought to do so. And I am hardly sure that, under the influence of those same ideas, growth in the power of state governments over people’s lives would have been any better, if the Union had been dissolved.

        Not to mention that a federal government prevents conflicts among local governments, which is extremely common if you look at the history of Europe or Latin America.

        You talk about freedom of movement (which is hugely important, I agree), but federal governments are one of the major things that guarantee that there is freedom of movement. Do you think it is likely that, if the Union had been abolished, the North would have been keen to let the Great Migration of black people to Northern cities happen?

        Or look to the example of the European Union: really, one of the main forces behind anti-EU feeling is belief in their “liberty”, on the basis of “states’ rights”, to keep Poles and Romanians out of their country.

        • Tibor says:

          I disagree about the EU. There are undeniably things about it that are good – the Schengen zone and the no tariff zone. And yes, without the EU many countries would abandon those. However, some would not and some would possibly go the opposite direction – more economic liberalization. Germany probably would, France probably would not. Now for a country such as Switzerland, joining the EU would make things clearly worse all-round. They are already limited members of Schengen (you still need work visas in Switzerland as an EU national and Romanians, Bulgarians and Croatians have even more restrictive conditions than the rest) and they have zero tariffs with the EU and probably lower tariffs with the rest of the world than the EU.

          Also the EU is very problematic in the way it us run. People vote in the national elections for parties, then a coalition forms based on those elections and chooses the government. That government then appoints the EU commissars and the EU president who have the real power. That is several degrees of separation from the voters. Democracy is a quite a crude tool to keep the government in check, especially in populous countries but this is another level. Then there are the europarliament elections few people actually vote in and the europarliament does not really have all that much power anyway.

          The argument is not that a federation is always inferior to independent states but that it tends to be because of competition. The people in those states which are run badly and which see their neighbours prosper will want the same and if not, then they can at least emigrate. Also, a vote in a small country is worth much more than a vote in a big one (in the national elections)

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Now for a country such as Switzerland, joining the EU would make things clearly worse all-round. They are already limited members of Schengen (you still need work visas in Switzerland as an EU national and Romanians, Bulgarians and Croatians have even more restrictive conditions than the rest) and they have zero tariffs with the EU and probably lower tariffs with the rest of the world than the EU.

            Yes, the EU is a mixture of good and bad. There is no reason a country which is already doing better on its own should be forced to join it. (And if someone wants to secede from the EU or the US to set up libertopia, I would be for it.)

            And moreover, the system of international law and treaties is just like a very weak form of federalism. If a country is part of the WTO and raises a tariff in violation of agreements, they get sanctions imposed on them. Similar concerns apply to things like the International Criminal Court. This is a limitation on “sovereignty” or “states’ rights” to do anything they please at the whim of the majority.

            Also the EU is very problematic in the way it us run. People vote in the national elections for parties, then a coalition forms based on those elections and chooses the government. That government then appoints the EU commissars and the EU president who have the real power. That is several degrees of separation from the voters. Democracy is a quite a crude tool to keep the government in check, especially in populous countries but this is another level. Then there are the europarliament elections few people actually vote in and the europarliament does not really have all that much power anyway.

            I’m not saying a system should be totally undemocratic, but it is certainly not true that “the more democratic, the better”. I doubt the EU would be better run if it were more democratic. Or, for instance, by far the most liberty-friendly branch of the U.S. government is the judiciary, which is the least democratic.

            Democracy is good insofar as there should be some mechanism to overturn things without war. But direct mob rule isn’t good.

            The argument is not that a federation is always inferior to independent states but that it tends to be because of competition. The people in those states which are run badly and which see their neighbours prosper will want the same and if not, then they can at least emigrate. Also, a vote in a small country is worth much more than a vote in a big one (in the national elections)

            How can they emigrate if the other countries won’t let them immigrate?

            Are the Syrians better off being an independent state than being part of France and therefore the EU? Tell it to the people trying to keep out the Syrian refugees. And of course the actual refugees are a small fraction of those who would really prefer not to live in Syria.

            And even if a country does have open borders—which very few countries have with one another—there’s still far more hassle involved in moving to another country than moving to another state. For instance, it’s generally fairly easy for Americans to move to Canada as a legal matter, but it’s still a lot more hassle to move from Alabama to Canada than from Alabama to New Hampshire.

            ***

            And this point is almost unfair, but: consider the record of Europe (and Latin America) in regard to liberty and war in the 19th and 20th centuries versus that of the United States. And consider what would have happened to Western Europe in the latter half of the 20th century if the United States had not been there to provide a countervailing force to the Soviet Union.

          • Tibor says:

            @Vox:

            The problem with undemocratic state-like entities is that while they might work well for a while, if something goes bad you are missing even the crude tools of democracy. Your argument seems to me like “an enlightened dictator is better than democracy” and I agree fully. The problem is that I don’t see anything that would force for example the EU behave to behave like an enlightened dictator or at least a slightly enlightened bureaucrat who still outperforms the mob. In particular cases and particular laws this might as well be true. But in general such top-down structures do not work when the measures go too much against the will of the people. I think that the EU helps Le Pen gain popularity more than anything else. If you force something that people don’t like, eventually there will be a point when they don’t like that enough to vote in someone like Le Pen. And she will do more than just get rid of what the people did not want, cause more damage than what you prevented and you have to start from square one with the liberalization effort. I think it is the same with the attempts to set up something akin to western style of government in places like Afghanistan or Somalia. It does not work in the long term (well, it does not work in the short term there either) and while you might have some success at first, eventually it turns ugly.

            Let me reiterate – I would be all hands down for a libertarian(ish) dictator who abolishes a lot of laws, reduces taxes, gets rid of welfare, opens borders, legalizes drugs etc. But I would only support him if I thought that he has a solid means of staying in power and that I have a reason for him to stay reliably libertarian. If the first were not true, he could be overthrown by a communist revolution a few months after coming to power, if the other he could himself become closer to the communists quite soon (and by the way, the EU is quite socialist in a lot of ways, for example its agricultural quotas).

            At the same time I am pretty convinced that economic liberalism is the best for pretty much everyone and that if you give the individual voters more power (by making the number of citizens under a government smaller which is best achieved by making the geographical area under that government smaller) and by making the number of jurisdictions higher (by doing the same) and thus fostering competition, the countries will eventually converge towards something quite liberal. And if that happens it will be a natural progression as opposed to a top-down approach and hence it will be much more stable.

            International contracts – I think there is a clear distinction there. A country can “secede” from being a part of the WTO for example. A state cannot secede from the United States and it seems really difficult to secede from Spain for example (but hopefully Catalonia will make it eventually). Basically an unquestioned right to secede is all that it comes down to. You are saying that it is something undesirable (if I understand it correctly) because the upper structure can be more liberal than the one that wants to secede. I am saying that while that might be true, it is by and large better to have a practical mechanism for letting them go and let them figure it out on their own instead of letting the steam build up and then exploding. It will never be ideal as long as 100% of the population of a region does not want to secede from the larger country. But save for anarcho-capitalism (which I believe might work, might not, I would definitely like it to work and I think in most ways it probably would) you will always have that.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Tibor:

            Overall, you make good points, and I don’t want to give the impression that I fundamentally disagree with you.

            The problem with undemocratic state-like entities is that while they might work well for a while, if something goes bad you are missing even the crude tools of democracy. Your argument seems to me like “an enlightened dictator is better than democracy” and I agree fully. The problem is that I don’t see anything that would force for example the EU behave to behave like an enlightened dictator or at least a slightly enlightened bureaucrat who still outperforms the mob.

            I probably do have a bias or predilection toward the “enlightened dictator” side of things, but I don’t think it’s just that. What would cause the bureaucrats to behave better than the mob? I think the kinds of things that Bryan Caplan points to in The Myth of the Rational Voter.

            The “elite” are more informed. The more informed tend to be more correct. They are not always right, and their power ought to be limited as much as possible, but if the power is going to be given to someone, it’s better to give it to them than to the average guy on the street. For example, economists even when they lean left, don’t tend to support extreme interventionism, or at least have a much better idea of the limits.

            One of the major things that Caplan points out is that people are not primarily driven, politically, by any crude idea of their material self-interest. They tend to do things because they think those things are correct. People are driven by ideology, and if you believe that there is such a thing as objective truth about ideology and a tendency toward the progression of it, the elite will be pushed in the right direction.

            For instance, take the court system. What drives the judges to actually decide the law on the merits instead of doing what they want to do arbitrarily? Well, you have to argue that what you want to do is what the law actually is. And it’s harder to do this if you’re wrong. It’s harder to convince yourself; it’s harder to convince other people. It’s not impossible (God knows), but it creates a real check on unlimited judicial power. So while the judiciary often upholds abuses of government power which are desired by the majority (unfortunately), they quite often put definite limits on those abuses.

            Take the case of John Roberts upholding the individual mandate in Obamacare. For one, many people suspect that the real reason he did so was due to democratic pressure to protect the “legitimacy” of the Court. But he wanted to uphold the individual mandate, and the government argued that this was allowed under the Commerce Clause in an unlimited sort of way. Roberts upheld it, but not under the Commerce Clause; he upheld it as a tax (which was dishonest; it wasn’t a tax). And in upholding it as a tax, he wrote that if the penalty for violating the individual mandate were too high, after a certain point it would no longer be a tax but an unconstitutional fine. So we got a bad result but a much better result than the executive wanted.

            Another thing Caplan points out is that, if you look at what the median American voter actually wants and compare it to what he have now due to the power and influence of elites, what we have is much better than the alternative.

            In particular cases and particular laws this might as well be true. But in general such top-down structures do not work when the measures go too much against the will of the people. I think that the EU helps Le Pen gain popularity more than anything else. If you force something that people don’t like, eventually there will be a point when they don’t like that enough to vote in someone like Le Pen. And she will do more than just get rid of what the people did not want, cause more damage than what you prevented and you have to start from square one with the liberalization effort. I think it is the same with the attempts to set up something akin to western style of government in places like Afghanistan or Somalia. It does not work in the long term (well, it does not work in the short term there either) and while you might have some success at first, eventually it turns ugly.

            This is a fair point, and I think the strongest point. It’s basically the “blowback” argument.

            However, I think you have to take it case-by-case. It’s possible that nation-building is not a good idea in Somalia (given the lack of will to stick to it), but “nation-building” by having the federal government stop segregation in Alabama was a good idea.

            The EU can’t let its reach exceed its grasp; if it isn’t prepared to stop Le Pen from doing X, then it shouldn’t tell her she can’t do X.

            Nevertheless, I think you can compare it again to Alabama. Having the federal government go in did rile people up and got them to vote for George Wallace (“segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!”). However, I am not at all sure that segregation would have ended faster with better feelings on all sides if the federal government had not gone in and riled people up.

            At the same time I am pretty convinced that economic liberalism is the best for pretty much everyone and that if you give the individual voters more power (by making the number of citizens under a government smaller which is best achieved by making the geographical area under that government smaller) and by making the number of jurisdictions higher (by doing the same) and thus fostering competition, the countries will eventually converge towards something quite liberal. And if that happens it will be a natural progression as opposed to a top-down approach and hence it will be much more stable.

            I think economic liberalism is best for everyone, but the individual voter does not know it. The average voter is systematically biased against the policies that promote his own interest in this regard. Bryan Caplan’s work is to argue how and why this is so.

            I think competition among governments is good. But I’m not sure that competition for citizens is something that “just happens” from the bottom up. Not when people are very much against freedom of movement across borders.

            International contracts – I think there is a clear distinction there. A country can “secede” from being a part of the WTO for example. A state cannot secede from the United States and it seems really difficult to secede from Spain for example (but hopefully Catalonia will make it eventually). Basically an unquestioned right to secede is all that it comes down to. You are saying that it is something undesirable (if I understand it correctly) because the upper structure can be more liberal than the one that wants to secede. I am saying that while that might be true, it is by and large better to have a practical mechanism for letting them go and let them figure it out on their own instead of letting the steam build up and then exploding.

            I am by no means saying that an unquestioned legal right to secede is never a good idea. I am not even totally convinced (unlike Sandefur) that the North shouldn’t have let the South go even though they didn’t have a right to secede.

            But when you talk about the WTO, sure you can “secede”—but not without consequences. And when global economies become more interdependent, the consequences might be too high to bear. It doesn’t really matter if you have a legal right to secede if it means you’re going to be hit with retaliatory barriers that will destroy your economy.

            Also, you don’t have the right to “secede” from much of international law. For instance, fundamental human rights laws have been held to be universally binding and irrevocable: even if you withdraw from the UN and repudiate all international treaties, you can’t commit genocide. And even customary international law has been held to be “once you’re in, you’re in for life”: if you object to a custom in the process of its formation, you’re good, but if you don’t object and later want to opt out, you can’t. (I mean you can’t legally; you can if no one will stop you. But nations are limited by more than naked force.)

            But save for anarcho-capitalism (which I believe might work, might not, I would definitely like it to work and I think in most ways it probably would) you will always have that.

            Maybe anarcho-capitalism can work. I would hope so.

            But the big question is: how do we get from here to there? And I don’t think it will happen by giving all power to sovereign local governments.

            The most plausible way I can see something vaguely like it is if international law becomes much more powerful and guarantees people freedom of movement and freedom to be tried in the jurisdiction of one’s choice. At that point, sovereignty might be much less tied to the land and more tied to some kind of genuine “social contract” that you sign with the government you want to represent you. No “government” could try to hold you against your will because it would be sanctioned by all the others.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Very relevant: Don Boudreaux on whether he and Caplan are “elitists”:

            My utter mystification at being accused, in the comments section of this post, of viewing ordinary people with contempt causes me to ask: What could possibly give an obviously intelligent person that notion?

            I think I have the answer – one that goes further than do the two comments that I there posted in reply. The answer is that I am very critical of the opinions that most non-economists (and many economists) express about economics and economic matters. It’s true that I do hold in very low regard – in, indeed, contempt – the “economics” expressed by many non-economists and by the politicians and pundits who cater to economic ignorance. But this fact does not mean that I regard these people to be stupid or unable individually to tend properly and prudently to each of their own individual affairs. I criticize such people in the same way that, I’m sure, an experienced engineer would criticize people who, seeking a way to allow motorists to get back and forth across the Mississippi river, propose to build a bridge made only of cotton candy. And just as the engineer would no doubt amplify the volume of his protests if the clamoring for such a cotton-candy bridge grew loud and began to display a real prospect for being taken seriously, I amplify the volume of my protests when similarly fanciful and unscientific notions – such as making us wealthier with tariffs – grow loud and display a real prospect for being taken seriously.

            It is ungenerous – or, certainly, erroneous – to accuse someone who is an expert in X of thinking that those who know nothing of X, yet who express opinions about X, are contemptible. These expressed opinions about X are typically mistaken, and in many cases even contemptible. Further, they become a public nuisance when politicians secure power by professing to share these mistaken opinions. It is, therefore, appropriate for someone who knows better to explain that those opinions are flawed. And if those opinions continue to be stubbornly held in ways that threaten to generate outcomes quite the opposite of the outcomes expected by those who profess those mistaken opinions, it is appropriate for a knowledgeable person to amplify his or her reasons for rejecting those opinions.

            But, surely, just as no one would think the engineer to be arrogant or haughty if he continues to explain why a cotton-candy bridge will not support automobile traffic, no one should think the economist to be arrogant or haughty if he continues to explain why, say, tariffs do not create jobs or raise wages generally, or why the minimum wage will reduce low-skilled workers’ employment options. Yet no more should it be inferred from the economist’s protests that he views ordinary people with contempt than it should be inferred from the engineer’s protest that he views ordinary people with contempt.

            I have utter contempt for the political opinions of the average person and only a somewhat better estimate of the opinions of elites. But in their own lives, I think people are qualified to handle their own affairs.

            So I think that the powers of government ought to be limited as far as possible because no one is really good at wielding it. But at the same time, the powers that do exist should not be left to the mob to do whatever they want.

            Nothing could be worse than to confuse the wisdom of the people in their individual capacities with the wisdom of the people as a collective.

            I don’t want anyone to have the power to tell me what religion I can follow. But if my right to religious liberty has to be protected by some government, I’d rather have it in the hands of elites in Washington—drawn from across the whole country—than my neighbors in Alabama.

          • On the issue of libertarian support for state’s rights …

            The obvious argument for it is that migration between states is relatively easy, so you get a Thibaut mechanism—states compete for tax payers by trying to provide a more attractive environment. A second argument is that you get more diversity of law and regulation, which generates information—if one state does something, others can see if it does or doesn’t work and respond accordingly. That’s part of the mechanism that has worked in China, at least by the account in the Coase and Wang book.

            A third argument is that, while democracy is unlikely to work well anywhere, it works less badly in smaller polities.

            Vox Imp is arguing that without the federal government you have no guarantee of free migration among states or even peace between states. But American libertarians who like states’ rights are not arguing for independent states, they are arguing for a federal system with much less decided at the center, much more decided at the state level. That, I gather, is what Canada currently has. It doesn’t imply leaving states free to block migration from other states or to make war on each other.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ David Friedman:

            Vox Imp is arguing that without the federal government you have no guarantee of free migration among states or even peace between states. But American libertarians who like states’ rights are not arguing for independent states, they are arguing for a federal system with much less decided at the center, much more decided at the state level. That, I gather, is what Canada currently has. It doesn’t imply leaving states free to block migration from other states or to make war on each other.

            You are exactly right that there are two separate issues being considered here: secession vs. extreme decentralization.

            And I think even the issue of decentralization can be broken up into decentralization of the carrying out of the legitimate functions of government vs. decentralization of the protection of rights.

            We can have laboratories of democracy, but (to use a quote I don’t remember the origins of) laboratories are not allowed to experiment on human subjects without their consent.

            I see no reason why we can’t have 50 different police systems which can engage in experiments on how to police efficiently. But it also seems to me that if any of those police departments, say, decide to experiment with beating information out of prisoners, they ought to be stopped by the federal government. And the federal government can tell police departments what they can’t do—violate rights—without trying to micromanage them and tell them every little detail of what they must do.

            Freedom of movement is a good check on the most extreme abuses of government. But most people are pretty attached to where they live, and the threshold of “abuses great enough to make me abandon my home” is pretty damn high. It is quite plausible to me that a central government with the power to check local governments can prevent more of these abuses than freedom of movement alone.

            For instance, few people are going to move to another state solely because their state bans abortion. You can always drive to another state, right? That doesn’t mean that states ought necessarily to be able to get away with this, or that we will have better outcomes if they do.

            If you squint at it right, it looks like the federal government is deciding the position on abortion for the whole country. But that’s not actually what Roe v. Wade does. It actually says: “regulate abortion however you like, and indeed you have wide latitude after the first trimester. Whatever you do, though, you can’t just ban it in the first trimester.”

            Or, to take another case, the Supreme Court ruled that the Progressives couldn’t just ban private schooling or homeschooling. They don’t have to do charter schools or vouchers or whatever; they can run public schools. But they can’t tell people: either send your kid to public school or GTFO. (And if that’s dubious, it’s only because the constitutionality of public schooling is itself dubious. I think it violates the establishment clause.)

            I think the sphere of government action should be very limited, and within those limits I think state governments should run all or almost all the functions. But when the state governments step outside those bounds, I think the federal government should strike their laws down.

            I don’t really want to give the federal executive or legislature more power. But I am definitely okay with giving the judiciary more power. Or having it use more “judicial engagement”, to use the new terminology.

            You talk about “Earl Warren in a white hat” but shit, I liked him okay in a black hat, too. Pretty much the only bad thing the courts can do is refuse to strike down bad laws passed and enforced by the other branches. So no matter how bad they are, you’re not any worse than you would have been anyway.

          • Tibor says:

            @Vox: I don’t know about Alabama but let’s have a look (I apologize for bringing the country up so often, but I can’t help it, it seems genuinely well-run as far as contemporary countries go) at Switzerland. The interesting thing is that people routinely vote there in referendums against ideas like high taxes for the rich or introducing a minimum wage. The one point where they diverge from liberalism is immigration, there the Swiss rules are pretty strict. On the other hand, about 23% of the population are foreigners who reside and work there. That is above any other European country as far as I know. These strict immigration laws are basically protectionist laws for the Swiss working class (it is much easier to get a working visa for a more qualified position). So are Swiss somehow naturally more liberal than other Europeans (and pretty much everyone around the world)? Maybe a bit, the country was basically founded by people who did not take kindly to being ruled by others and who were good enough at fighting that nobody would dare attack them (the mountains helped too). But I attribute the comparatively outstanding liberalism of Switzerland mainly to two factors:
            1. The competition inside of the Swiss confederacy (which is however a de facto federation). There are 26 cantons in the tiny Switzerland. Switzerland’s area is 41 000 square kilometers, USA’s (which only has twice as many “cantons”) is 9 857 000 square kilometers, i.e. you could fit Switzerland into the US about 200 times. The population of the US is about 320 million, Switzerland’s is 8 million. So you have on average less than 310 000 people per canton and 6,4 million per US state. Both have a more or less equal amount of power within their respective federations, but the power of one vote in an average Swiss canton is about 20 times as big as one vote in the US (and I am counting the 23% foreigners into the population, so it is actually even more). So you have a much more concentrated interest which makes obtaining relevant information and making an informed vote much more likely and you also have a bunch of cantons that might (and do) have different rules and which are an hour of driving by car away, often even less than that, which creates a strong incentive (or much stronger than in say France) to govern the canton well because otherwise you might find out that a lot of people (and companies) move to a neighbouring canton instead.
            2. The concordance system and direct democracy. The concordance system more or less means that the Swiss executive branch (which consists of 9 councillors on an equal standing, one always has a representative role for a year but otherwise does not have extra power) has to come to an uniform agreement before they take any action. This makes Swiss politics quite slow, but that is IMO an important feature, not a bug. This system is not really a law, but it is explained by the fact that due to the direct democracy mechanism, a sufficiently disagreeing opposition could block and sabotage laws almost indefinitely. People can legislate new laws or abolish old laws directly through referendums, i.e. they get to vote directly on particular issues which again makes their interests more concentrated and provides a larger incentive to get informed.

            Of course, even if you somehow magically established the Swiss system everywhere else, it would not work as well because people are not used to it. But if you can get there incrementally, I think it would work pretty well. Sometimes you have strange things in Switzerland though. There was one canton, I forgot which one, where women were not allowed to vote until something like mid 1990s and even then it was only decided by the federal court that this is not within the canton’s rights. But at the same time, I doubt the women in that canton cared about it all that much. If all it takes to change this is to move 50 km to another canton (from which you can visit anyone at home on a 30 minute notice) and you don’t want that, then it probably is not as important for you.

            Essentially, the problem I have with a centralized government is that is like putting all your money in one stock. You might be lucky and put your money into the next Google. Or you may put it into Nokia, it looks good at first but then it crashes. If you spread it out, you are less likely to get everything but also less likely to lose everything. And given the way governments work and tend to expand and given how big governments are harder to control than small governments (in terms of population) the chances are that you are buying Nokia.

            I don’t consider democracy a value in itself but it is an instrument that can work under certain conditions and on right scales reasonably well and I don’t see any better mechanisms to keep the power of the state at bay otherwise. Constitutions are subject to interpretations as are other holy texts and where there is political will, there even the most bizarre interpretations are possible.

            I guess that you might get some weird things the more local you go with power, like the canton which did not allow women to vote (in the canton elections) or maybe Alabama could become a xenophobic segregationist state. These things average out on the national level. But I am not sure they are all that bad after all. Provided that Alabama does not build an iron curtain around its borders to keep its citizens in, those dissatisfied with those rules can move to neighbouring states (again, this works better if the states are geographically much smaller than the US states). And then, if there is a community of dedicated segregationists who stay there, well, I don’t see why they should not be allowed to have their segregationist community. I would not visit, let alone move there but who am I to tell them how they should live? I also imagine you’d get such communities in anarcho-capitalism, although I would also expect most people not to live like this, as I would not expect most states to turn into such places.

            The international contracts seem to have an interesting feature – in order for them to work, you need an almost uniform consensus. Laws that almost everyone can agree on actually tend to be quite liberal.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Tibor:

            I like Switzerland. They have a federal system, which I also like. I am not saying that they have a moral obligation to join the European Union, or that we should have one big world government. Maybe ideally, but in the real world, no.

            I suspect that Switzerland’s small government has a lot more to do with its requirements for unanimity, its non-unitary executive (very important!), and its ideological traditions than its direct democracy as such.

            And then, if there is a community of dedicated segregationists who stay there, well, I don’t see why they should not be allowed to have their segregationist community. I would not visit, let alone move there but who am I to tell them how they should live?

            When I talk about segregation, I am talking about Jim Crow, state-enforced segregation. Black people were allowed to leave Alabama while this was going on. It wasn’t illegal. It’s just that uprooting and moving yourself is not and will never be a trivial thing. And while there were closer jurisdictions, they ended up having to move much further away to get away from it. After all, it didn’t do them much good to move to Mississippi or Georgia.

            The “who am I to judge?” argument—in the context of violation of rights by force—was parodied by Abraham Lincoln as the principle “That if any one man, choose to enslave another, no third man shall be allowed to object.”

            I might respond in more detail later to some of your other points.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            I also just want to say that the freedom of movement argument (though not entirely invalid) reminds me a lot of the old refrain: “If you don’t like the government, move to Somalia.” Or the anti-liberal version: “If you don’t like it, move to Canada.”

            The proper response (to the Canada one, anyway) is: if it gets bad enough, then I will move to Canada. But you don’t have the right to force me out of my home by passing laws that violate my rights.

          • Tibor says:

            @Vox: Yeah, I got that you were not saying that Switzerland should join the EU. My point was that Swiss-style government structure seems to lead to the desired results, i.e. more liberalism in a lot of areas. Switzerland is also multicultural and even multilingual although the different cultures and languages are mostly separated by different cantons (but there are also “mixed” cantons and cities). Also, arguably the French, German and Italian Swiss are perhaps culturally closer to each other than blacks and whites are in the US, so maybe Jim Crow would not be entirely impossible in some cantons of an alternative American Switzerland.

            Generally, I think that you have some good points. It is good to have an international structure which limits the power of the local governments (in any way as far as I am concerned). It is bad to have such a structure when it merely transfers that power to a more centralized level. It is also easier to keep a a multinational organization in checn when it is a more or less automated system which is unanimously agreed upon and has clearly stated and automatically enacted sanctions – much like the WTO membership. As long as centralization is done this way – by specifying which powers are simply taken from the governments and dissolved in acid – then I am all for centralization. But then the correct strategy seems not the bureaucratic monstrosity which the EU has become but a series of multilateral international contracts. One about the abolition of tariffs, one about free movement of labour and so on.

            The question is whether the mechanism can be trusted to actually punish any “heavy-hitters” who break the rules. But that is an even bigger problem with the current EU in which there is a room for political maneuvering so that Germany or France can get away with stuff smaller countries could not (so for example the no bailout rules were completely ignored in case of Greece). It seems like WTO sanctions are more reliable because there is less politicking involved.

          • @David

            ” A second argument is that you get more diversity of law and regulation, which generates information—if one state does something, others can see if it does or doesn’t work and respond accordingly”

            There’s also plenty of information avabilable from the 199 countries in the world, if you can bear to make use of it.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            States within the US are probably subject to far fewer (but still a lot!) confounders than countries around the world.

        • Psmith says:

          Thanks for the Sandefur link, very illuminating.

          The Lochner-era Supreme Court is a really interesting example, too.

        • onyomi says:

          Roderick Long on dangers of centralization and the claim that a bigger central government may be good for imposing liberal values on backwards localities:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aolEZ9kHuw8

        • @Vox Imp:

          You seem to be taking it for granted that if the federal government gets to define rights and impose its definition on the states, the rights it imposes will be better than what the states would have done on their own. Why?

          For a counter-example obvious from a libertarian standpoint, consider fair employment and fair housing legislation. That says that people have a right not to be discriminated against in certain ways. That implies that people do not have the right of freedom of association. It prevents a state from defending the right of freedom of association.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Again, you have to distinguish between the federal judiciary on the one hand, and the federal executive and legislature on the other. All the judiciary can do is strike down laws. They can’t make laws. So the worst they can do is uphold what the other branches already passed.

            I think the federal government should not and as far as the Constitution is concerned does not have jurisdiction over housing and employment regulations.

            The way these laws work is that the federal legislature passes a bill saying that you are not allowed to discriminate in housing or employment. And rather than striking it down, the federal courts uphold it. This may be legally incorrect and harmful: but it’s not as if some “activist judges” on their own somehow put this into effect. Your right not to be discriminated against comes from statute.

            I am not advocating federal control over everything, with micromanagement by Washington. I think the federal executive and legislature should have very limited powers and shouldn’t be allowed to set one employment law for the entire country. But if a state government passes an employment law which violates rights—such as preventing people from working for less than a certain wage—then the courts ought to strike it down.

            I understand your argument here: if the federal government has the physical power to enforce such a decision, then they have the physical power to enforce the dictates of an unrestrained legislature, too. Sure, that’s correct. But this is true if you have a federal government physically powerful enough to do anything.

            And it’s not good when you have a weak central government. Weak government is not the same as small government. Russia had a very weak central government in the 90s, and it led to massive economic chaos, the development of petty fiefdoms everywhere, the proliferation of organized crime, and incredible corruption and hyperinflation since the government couldn’t fund itself except by illegal deals and the printing press. Most Russians considered (and consider it to this day) worse than life under the Soviet Union, and by objective measures they were right. (Subjectively, I guess there was a certain “Wild West” freedom in it.) You of course have a much more sophisticated view of anarchy, but this kind of thing is what the average person thinks of by “anarchy”, and they don’t like it much.

            But anyway, that’s a tangent. Maybe we can get rid of the federal government altogether and just have the states be independent states. That would be better than a federal government without the power to do the job it’s supposed to do. You were the one who wanted to talk about decentralization as opposed to secession, however.

            My point is: if the federal government has enough physical power to defend the country, to protect freedom of movement, or to whatever minimal job you think a federal government should do, then it also has the physical power to enforce Obamacare and anti-discrimination law against the will of people in any given state. That’s the inevitable story with physical power. If you don’t like it, the only other option is no federal government, not one just strong enough to do good things but too weak to do bad things—such a beast cannot exist.

            You seem to be taking it for granted that if the federal government gets to define rights and impose its definition on the states, the rights it imposes will be better than what the states would have done on their own. Why?

            This is just my judgment from the historical record of the United States. The worst abuses of rights tend to be sectional. Especially in terms of abuses which it is possible to do anything about: obviously, if the whole country shares the same prejudice, you’re screwed anyway.

            Overall, I see far more and far worse cases of states trying to do something oppressive but being stopped by the conscience of the rest of the country than I see of states trying to move more toward freedom but being held back by the federal government. I’m not saying the latter don’t exist, but they’re far more minor. And even there it’s more often a question of state governments fighting for their retained privileges than actually fighting for the rights of their citizens.

            I don’t exactly consider Jim Crow and the national minimum drinking age to be equivalent evils. The War on Drugs would be a good example if the federal government weren’t currently allowing legalized recreation marijuana in two states.

            To put this in more a grand-historical way, since we start off from a low position where liberty and equal rights are limited and extend only to a few, and the direction we want to go in is where they are extensive and extended to everyone, it is more likely to me that holdouts will be bastions of local prejudice than bastions of liberty holding out against tyrannical reaction. Or to look at it another way, if there is objective truth in the sphere of ideas and people can learn from one another, it is more likely (if we are not allowed to consider anything else) that the views of a larger number of people drawn from a wide area are correct than the views of a smaller number of people from a narrow area. (Obviously, intellectual progress is only possible if sometimes individuals and small groups are right and the majority is wrong. But contrarians are more often wrong than right.)

            This is not a guarantee or an inevitable dialectical law of history. It is certainly possible to be the correct holdouts fighting the noble rearguard battle against world-enveloping tyranny, and libertarians are familiar with this because they have done a lot of it in the 20th century.

            But despite that, I think the principle of “no one group of people is ever allowed to interfere with what another group of people are doing to one another” is more likely to lead to harm than good. I would like to be able to secede and create my own Galt’s Gulch, sure. But if any gang of people were allowed to secede in an area where they formed the majority, and if no one would interfere with what they planned to do to the minority, I don’t think the results would be good.

            Not without a system—which may possibly be a very decentralized system that has no “executive” at all to enforce its decisions—of effectively applying physical coercion to these governments to keep them in line.

            In a real sense, we already have a system of “competitive dictatorship” where the government can do anything it wants but you can choose what government to live under. It’s the international system of anarchy. Most countries don’t actually keep you from leaving. It’s just that other countries aren’t necessarily any better and aren’t necessarily going to let you in.

          • ” It prevents a state from defending the right of freedom of association.”

            Only it doesn’t because

            “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)

            ..however it does prevent the thing it is supposed to prevent, discrimination, which some people *call* freedom of associatiion.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        @onyomi:
        Fair enough. For what it’s worth, I never meant to say that I thought your support for libertarian principles was coded support for racism. If it came across that way, I apologize. I did think you might deny that many of Ron Paul’s supporters were racists and that many people who support state’s rights are doing so because they think the whole 60s civil rights movement was wrong not in tactic but in objective.

        I’m surprised that you think Ron Paul did not make purposeful alliances with various white power, neo-confederate, John Birch, etc. groups and supporters. If I gave you evidence of such would that cause you to update? Or do you think you are already familiar with that evidence?

        • onyomi says:

          If it’s the newsletter thing I’d rather see something spoken or written by Ron Paul himself (as opposed to written, most likely, by Lew Rockwell for a magazine to which Ron Paul attached his name) in the last 30 years, ideally something he said or wrote during his 2008 or 2012 campaigns, which are most relevant to the question of whether he actually intended to attract the racists and conspiracy theorists or simply failed to denounce them.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            Even from my own libertarian-leaning Red Tribe perspective, “Ron Paul was not a writer of hate literature, merely a publisher of hate literature” doesn’t seem like much of a defense.

          • onyomi says:

            I think the fact that these were published almost 40 years ago and he has since repeatedly tried to distance himself from them has got to count for something. Saying “you let something racist be published in your name 40 years ago from which you have repeatedly tried to distance yourself” is very different from saying “you recently said things intended to attract racists to your movement.”

            You can make an argument that Ron Paul was okay with attracting racists to libertarianism in the 70s even if he didn’t carefully read everything that was getting published under his name. That doesn’t mean he was still trying to attract them in 2008 and 2012. I never saw him say or write anything during that time period which could be interpreted as such. Maybe he didn’t do enough to denounce the old, socially conservative, sometimes racist-ish branch of libertarianism, but that’s not the same as saying he was trying to win racists and conspiracy theorists to his cause.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            How about this address by Ron Paul to the John Birch Society from 2013 (I think).

            That’s not failing to repudiate. It’s not even just winking. It’s outright saying that the John Birch Society has the right of it.

          • onyomi says:

            I listened to that whole clip and didn’t hear him say anything racist or to suggest any support for any conspiracy theories. He said a few nice things about the John Birch Society, but that’s only polite when giving a speech at the John Birch Society.

            I don’t know much about the history of the John Birch Society, but based on their own website, the wikipedia page, and other, similar sources of public info (that is, how they wish to present themselves) they are just anti-communist, anti-globalist, pro-constitution, etc. They don’t strike me as particularly crazy. I do see some links to other videos of people talking about the Illuminati or whatever at the JBS, but that merely means that at least some of their membership are interested in such things.

            And I don’t think anything that even smacks of global elites planning stuff in secret is automatically crazy–think about Bohemian Grove and, indeed, even Davos. Elites do meet and plan, but I’m just a very big believer in “don’t attribute to malice what is adequately explained by stupidity,” and “don’t attribute to a vast conspiracy what is adequately explained by a complex set of bad institutional incentives.”

            So the question is, should Ron Paul have rejected an offer to speak at the John Birch Society just because they have also allowed someone to talk about the Illuminati there? I think that if you have some ideology or viewpoint you want to disseminate you should talk to anyone who’s willing to listen, within reason.

            I will admit, however, that libertarians, who tend to pride themselves on being principled, rational thinkers, have probably underestimated the degree to which the seeming groundswell of support for libertarianism around 2012 was founded on weird, dumb, confused, or paranoid reasoning rather than a sober evaluation of the moral and practical case for libertarian philosophy. That said, I think any level-headed Republican or Democrat, could he peer into the hearts of his fellow red or blue tribe members, would be shocked at how many people are voting with him for completely stupid reasons.

          • BBA says:

            Paul’s 2008 endorsement of Chuck Baldwin and the theocratic Constitution Party really soured me on him.

            Granted, as a non-Christian I’m naturally opposed to Christian theocracy, and at the time I was souring on libertarianism in general, for reasons I don’t really care to get into right now.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            The very first link on the John Birch Societies issues page is about Agenda 21 and how it is the UNs “plan to establish control over all human activity.”

          • onyomi says:

            I saw that and it looked kind of conspiracy-ish to me. So I looked up Agenda 21, which I had never heard of, on Wikipedia. It seems to be pretty much what they say it is, no? Like, it’s not a secret, but a real document published by the UN detailing plans for the future of the world. Like the UN in general, I doubt it has or will accomplish much. But it is a real thing, as globalism is a real thing. Ask Woodrow Wilson. Saying Woodrow Wilson wanted globalism isn’t a conspiracy, it’s just a well-known fact. The JBS claims to be anti-globalism, so it follows they should be anti-UN and anti-UN plans.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            Research the history of the John Birch Society. Buckley. Fluoride. They are the original paranoid style conspiracy theorists.

          • onyomi says:

            HBC: out of curiosity, do you have any opinion on the Southern Poverty Law Center?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            That feels like an attempt at a distraction? But since you asked I know only a little about SPLC. They seem to have been a necessary organization. The farther we get from entrenched, systematic racism, the less necessary they probably get.

            I also know that it is a bete-noire for some on the right. If you are trying to claim that I should view SPLC and JBS equally, I’m open to the argument, but remember that JBS was cast out of the good graces of the conservative coalition because they espoused ideas that were unmoored from reality.

          • onyomi says:

            Yes, as you guess, I’m implying that the feelings people on the left and right have about the SPLC may be roughly similar to the feelings they have about the JBS, but reversed.

            To me, though it sounds like they may have once had a history fighting for some good causes, the SPLC is a completely unmoored from reality, hate-filled, almost bizarre leftist fringe group. But the impression I get from the many blue tribers who post their links on facebook, etc. is that, from their perspective, SPLC is an organization, which, while it might be a little radical or go overboard from time to time, basically has its heart in the right place and is overall a force for good.

            It seems to me that red tribers, myself included, are going to be inclined toward a similar level of leniency when judging the JBS. Plus, the fact that they got denounced by William F Buckley and National Review is practically a badge of honor nowadays. I mean, if I were a libertarian politician and I were asked to give a talk at this place, I’d go. I might expect to encounter a few weirdos babbling about the illuminati, but I’d imagine I might be able to do some good, and I also certainly wouldn’t reject any donations from them. And I feel like most leftist politicians would feel the same about SPLC.

            To me, SPLC is just as crazy, on the other side, as JBS is on our side, so when blue tribers start denouncing them for transforming from a group that fights hate groups into a hate group themselves, I will start denouncing JBS for feeding into paranoia that the government is out to get us…

          • Marc Whipple says:

            @onyomi:

            My view on the SPLC v. the JBS is that the SPLC is crazy partisan, whereas the JBS is just crazy.

            I find the SPLC slightly more reliable than the JBS, but only because they still have enough non-crazy to realize there are lines they can’t cross. Within those lines they are just as predictably ridiculous as the JBS.

            Or, to put it another way: the JBS are a bunch of conspiracy theorists. The SPLC is an actual conspiracy. (Not a particularly good or secret one.)

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            What exactly is supposed to be so bad about the SPLC?

            Is there someone whom they list as an extremist or a “hate group” who you think is not deserving of that title? That’s my main awareness of them anyway: they expose racists and conspiracy theorists on the extreme “right”.

            Looking over their legal case docket, they mainly appear to be engaged in civil rights legislation, much of which I agree with, such as suing the government for its discriminatory treatment of minorities. And the parts that I don’t necessarily agree with (such as trying to sue companies for discrimination against the transgender) make sense given the established law of the land: given that there are protections for race, sex, national origin and many other things, protection for transgender status would seem to follow unless the law is simply being prejudiced against the transgender.

            At one point, I had a very negative first impression of them because I’d heard they’d listed the Mises Institute as a “hate group”. But this is not true. They don’t list them as a hate group, although they have had some (in my opinion, well justified) negative coverage of some of the individuals associated with it. For those unfamiliar, the Mises Institute is a libertarian economics group, but it’s full of neo-Confederates and led by Lew Rockwell.

            The groups they list as “hate groups” are groups like the KKK, the Council of Conservative Citizens, and so on. Overall, I think their categories of “extremist groups” are pretty reasonable; they have them sorted by ideology here.

            Some of them sound a bit iffy until you realize what they’re talking about, like “Radical Traditional Catholicism”. They’re not talking about folks who want the Latin Mass back. They’re talking about sedevacantists who think the pope is a heretic and who reject any form of tolerance for other religions, and the SPLC mainly attacks them for their anti-Semitism, as they hold that the Jews are the “perpetual enemies of Christ”.

            They even include a list of black separatist groups (Nation of Islam type stuff) in their categories of extremist hate groups.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I don’t think of the SPLC as crazy conspiracy theorists, I think of them as dishonest demagogues. They do the standard thing where they claim to be about fighting hate, but really only care about hate that comes from the right (and define “hate” very very broadly when looking to the right).

            If they applied their own standards evenly, they would have to designate themselves as a hate group, since the FRC shooter was carrying around a map of targets they produced. When last I checked, that shooting didn’t even merit an entry in their database, while offensive graffiti did.

            A more analogous group on the left might be LaRouche, or the various conspiracy theories that thrive in black communities, like how the CIA created AIDS.

          • onyomi says:

            “My view on the SPLC v. the JBS is that the SPLC is crazy partisan, whereas the JBS is just crazy.”

            I see them as both crazy in parallel ways: JBS was laboring under the assumption that communists were hiding behind every rock and bush and therefore saw saw communists everywhere, even where they didn’t exist. SPLC is laboring under the assumption that racism and misogyny are everywhere and therefore finds racism and misogyny everywhere it looks.

            Only difference is JBS seems to have gotten a little less crazy over time, whereas the opposite is true of SPLC.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Vox, here is the first hit for Mises on the SPLC site. It is in a list of 18 organizations, only 3 of which have the official “hate group” asterisk, although putting “hate” in the URL is pretty suggestive. I don’t see how you can deny that SPLC labels LvMI “extremist.”

          • onyomi says:

            “The groups they list as “hate groups” are groups like the KKK, the Council of Conservative Citizens, and so on. Overall, I think their categories of “extremist groups” are pretty reasonable; they have them sorted by ideology here.”

            They only list the most obvious examples on the website, though I am pleasantly surprised that they at least list a couple of extremist black groups as well.

            I read a magazine they put out while waiting in a doctor’s office once: their definition of “hate group” was very, very expansive. Things like “Promise Keepers,” and, indeed, the Mises Institute (which is very plumbline libertarian and mostly dedicated to Austrian economics), fell under “hate group.” As with their renunciation of Charles Murray, they don’t distinguish between persons and groups genuinely fueled by hate and bigotry and persons and groups which simply espouse a different perspective on race, gender, religion, politics, than they do.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            Much like the chinese cardiologist problem, I feel like if you want to do the forest/trees thing for many/most organizations, its probably possible.

            But I don’t see that you can ignore the difference between the SPLC and JBS. SPLC looks for bias against race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc. and documents what they find, without making top-level sweeping pronouncements.

            JBS says that “The UN is at the hub of a global network working to submerge the independence of all nations in a world government controlled by the elites” and that they have a plan to “establish control over all human activity”. Those aren’t in the same ballpark.

            Look at the video attached the Agenda 21 page.

            “Agenda 21 is slowly transforming our country from a free and prosperous land of opportunity to a United Nations oblast in which every aspect of our lives is categorized and reorganized to please UN central planners”

            Add in the manner in which it delivered, and the fact that is literally the top thing on their issues page, and the picture is not of a organization that has a from grasp on the realities of the world.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            The Politician documents the findings of JBS in far greater detail than SPLC ever has.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Jaskologist:

            I don’t think of the SPLC as crazy conspiracy theorists, I think of them as dishonest demagogues. They do the standard thing where they claim to be about fighting hate, but really only care about hate that comes from the right (and define “hate” very very broadly when looking to the right).

            Yes, their main focus is on hate that comes from the right. But I don’t think one can validly deduce from that there is something dishonest here, or that they approve of…I don’t know…the Weathermen? ISIS (are they even “left”)? The FRC shooter?

            It’s no different from an organization that is dedicated to fighting malaria but doesn’t say anything about AIDS. They do so because they think malaria is the bigger problem, or at least the problem they want to focus on. Not because they approve of AIDS.

            And do they really define “hate” that broadly?

            If they applied their own standards evenly, they would have to designate themselves as a hate group, since the FRC shooter was carrying around a map of targets they produced. When last I checked, that shooting didn’t even merit an entry in their database, while offensive graffiti did.

            You know that is not a fair criticism. They did not produce a map of “targets” wanting or expecting anyone to use it for violence.

            Now in some sense, I guess the people at the SPLC “hate” members of the far right, including those at the Family Research Council whose whole job is to spin semi-respectable justifications for discrimination against gays and lesbians. But obviously what they are condemning is unjustified and senseless hatred of innocent people. Not that you can’t condemn Fred Phelps or someone like that.

            @ Douglas Knight:

            Vox, here is the first hit for Mises on the SPLC site. It is in a list of 18 organizations, only 3 of which have the official “hate group” asterisk, although putting “hate” in the URL is pretty suggestive. I don’t see how you can deny that SPLC labels LvMI “extremist.”

            They are not listed as a hate group, as you point out. However, they list them as one of “An array of right-wing foundations and think tanks [that] support efforts to make bigoted and discredited ideas respectable.” And that is one-hundred percent correct of a lot of the material put out by the Mises Institute. They do put out good stuff, too, and there I obviously disagree with the SPLC.

            But there is plenty of baseless, conspiratorial historical revisionism (such as the theory that FDR allowed Pearl Harbor to happen), whitewashing of the Confederacy, and just plain racism. The place was the main bastion of the 90s effort to unify “paleolibertarians” and “paleoconservatives” which produced the infamous Ron Paul newsletters discussed elsewhere in this thread.

            @ Psmith:

            To me it seems appropriate to list Charles Murray on a site like that, since he is one of the main sources contributing a veneer of respectability to a newfound resurgence of “scientific racism”. Especially since, in their view and in the opinion of many others, he is a dishonest peddler of pseudoscience. I am no expert on this area of science, but given that they think he’s wrong, dishonest, and the respectable face of racism, I can absolutely understand why they would list him.

          • Psmith says:

            Vox, this seems to tie into the earlier discussion of “what facts must you accept?” Given sufficiently weird falsehoods, we can plausibly infer other falsehoods from them, yes. But it’s just silly to ignore the object level entirely. If the SPLC types believe that Charles Murray is a purveyor of of racist pseudoscience who wishes to grind the faces of the poor, it may be perfectly reasonable for them to classify Charles Murray as whatever the individual equivalent of a hate group is. But their belief that CM is a purveyor etc etc is false–and is so thoroughly false (the man wrote a book advocating basic income!) that it can plausibly be attributed to out-and-out kookiness rather than honest error.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            @Psmith:

            To put your point more pithily: The SPLC believes in the existence of hate facts, or acts as if it did. That makes them crazy partisan at best and crazy at worst.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Psmith:

            I don’t agree with the SPLC’s whole worldview. In general, I think they vastly exaggerate the danger posed by “far right” extremist groups. And this promotes a climate of paranoia.

            If the SPLC types believe that Charles Murray is a purveyor of of racist pseudoscience who wishes to grind the faces of the poor, it may be perfectly reasonable for them to classify Charles Murray as whatever the individual equivalent of a hate group is. But their belief that CM is a purveyor etc etc is false–and is so thoroughly false (the man wrote a book advocating basic income!) that it can plausibly be attributed to out-and-out kookiness rather than honest error.

            Charles Murray is undoubtedly a purveyor of racist science. Whether it’s pseduoscience or whether it proves racist beliefs to be correct is a question I do not have the expertise to judge, but a large number of people think it is. It’s not a crazy view.

            Now, yes, that article is a hit piece on Charles Murray, not a “fair and balanced” presentation of the best case for and against him. But if you’re trying to say the SPLC is a crazy fringe group for writing that style of article, you’re being very selective. You don’t have to look too far for conservative hit pieces on left-wingers.

            One area where the article is unfair, as you point out, is that they try to conflate two different racist views: that we should let the lesser races be outcompeted and die, or that we should paternalistically take care of them but also keep them in line. And they try to somehow argue that Murray holds both views at the same time. When in fact, he seems to hold the second, paternalistic, view.

            @ Marc Whipple:

            To put your point more pithily: The SPLC believes in the existence of hate facts, or acts as if it did. That makes them crazy partisan at best and crazy at worst.

            It is obviously possible to selectively present facts—with an air of supposed objective neutrality—in order to advance a false narrative.

            For instance, you may be familiar with the selective presentation of facts about the Industrial Revolution to advance the view that it was a time of terrible misery caused by capitalism, and that the cure was socialistic intervention by the government.

            The people at SPLC believe something similar about the facts put forward by Charles Murray. And I’m not sure they’re wrong.

            Of course, as I said above, they are also selectively presenting facts about Murray himself to make him seem worse than he is. I am not saying the SPLC is an exemplar of perfectly objective reporting. The original discussion was whether they were just like the John Birch Society, and they are not.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Marc Whipple:
            SPLC only has one entry for Charles Murrary (which was already been linked above.)

            He is listed as an extremist, and the word “hate” doesn’t appear on the page. It’s reasonable to argue that the phrase “racist pseudoscience and misleading statistics” at the top of his bio is wrong. But, since they do make an argument for why his work should be considered to be based on pseudo-science, it does not seem to be warranted to accuse them of saying there are “hate facts”.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            @Vox Imperatoris:

            Charles Murray is undoubtedly a purveyor of racist science

            And I see the SPLC is not the only one that believes in hate facts.

            Inferential distance, let me show you it!

            I am not sure, to be honest, and I apologize if I should know, what your educational and experiential background is. I do not mean to cast aspersions, especially if you have significant scientific training. But in my mind at least, to a real Sco… I mean, scientist, the term “racist science” is semantically null. If it is racist, it is not science. If it is science, it cannot be racist.

            Science may support the preferences and assertions of people with racist beliefs, or it may not. (Usually it does not: sometimes it does.) Science may even be undertaken with the express purpose of supporting the preferences and assertions of people with racist beliefs*. But the resulting science is the science, the resulting facts are the facts. The Universe does not care about ought, it only cares about is.

            And before you start, let me unreservedly acknowledge that facts are subject to interpretation. “It’s easy to understand why Americans are so unconcerned about poor people: most of them look just like black people.” Et cetera. I do not dispute that. But the facts, again, are the facts. When you have people openly saying that certain things should not be studied, not because they are not true but because if they are true it would cause offense and pain, we have gone far beyond disputed interpretation.

            *For an interesting example of such an endeavor in another field, consider the findings of the Meese Commission versus its actual recommendations to the government. The findings were science: the recommendations were bigoted claptrap. The two had nothing to do with each other.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            HBC, they don’t call Murray a Hate Group because he isn’t a group. Instead they call him a “White Nationalist.”

            And, no, they don’t make an argument at all. They merely say that his sources are evil. At least The Politician makes an argument.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Marc Whipple:

            I am not sure, to be honest, and I apologize if I should know, what your educational and experiential background is. I do not mean to cast aspersions, especially if you have significant scientific training. But in my mind at least, to a real Sco… I mean, scientist, the term “racist science” is semantically null. If it is racist, it is not science. If it is science, it cannot be racist.

            Science may support the preferences and assertions of people with racist beliefs, or it may not. (Usually it does not: sometimes it does.) Science may even be undertaken with the express purpose of supporting the preferences and assertions of people with racist beliefs*. But the resulting science is the science, the resulting facts are the facts. The Universe does not care about ought, it only cares about is.

            There are, I suppose, at least three definitions of “racism”.

            One is, to quote the Merriam-Webster dictionary: “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” That is not a value judgment (I mean, yes it is, but not in the sense you mean. In the strict sense, it is a value judgment to believe that one drug works better than another to cure a disease). But if you believe it, you’re a racist by this very common usage.

            Another is (in my own words), “discrimination or preference of any kind of the basis of race.” In this sense, affirmative action is racist.

            A third is, “discrimination or violence on the basis of unjustified racial prejudice”.

            Now, the third view of racism implies that racism is wrong by definition. Whatever’s true can’t be racist because it’s justified.

            But it seems to me that the SPLC are calling Murray racist in the first sense as well as the third sense. That is, they are accusing him of believing as a matter of fact that the black race is genetically inferior to the white race. They also think he believes this because of unjustified racist bias.

            It is obviously conceivable that racism in the first sense could be true as a descriptive statement. And if Murray is right, it is true. If racism is true, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the correct policy towards lesser races is extermination or subjugation.

            But for the SPLC, the main thing that offends them is Murray’s belief that some races are genetically inferior, and that this is the explanation of a wide number of social problems. I don’t get the impression that they care very much about what his view on what to do about this is. He is famous primarily for his views on these descriptive facts, not the value judgments.

            As for them calling Murray a “White Nationalist”, that is obviously unfair. However, the logical explanation is that they have a certain number of “tags” for different “hate ideologies”, and the best fit for him is “white nationalist” because those are the extremist circles where his ideas have the most influence.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            @Vox Imperatoris:

            Applying Definition #1 to Murray in the context of the SPLC’s activities and goals is a wonderful example of The Worst Argument In the World, or something very like it. While I will not dispute it, I give it short shrift. In fact, in my eyes its shrift is so short as to escape detection by modern science. 🙂

            Again, inferential distance. I understand what you are saying: I am unable to make myself believe that it is particularly important or relevant to what I am saying. The SPLC, if pressed, would undoubtedly say that their mission is to fight Type 3 racism. A scholar of linguistics might call someone who studied Type 1 hypotheses (and note that even your Definition#1 says the, whereas I’m guessing that Murray would say a) a racist in good faith. When the SPLC does it, they are not acting in good faith: they are making The Worst Argument In the World.

          • brad says:

            @Marc Whipple
            FWIW this “hate facts” phrase strikes me as the kind of smug, snarky alt-right zinger that’s only useful for preaching to the choir and turns everyone else off. The first page of google results for it does nothing to dispel that impression.

            Not trying to police your language, if that’s what you were going for so be it.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Douglas Knight:
            Here is how SPLC defines the ideological bucket they have put Murray in: “White nationalist groups espouse white supremacist or white separatist ideologies, often focusing on the alleged inferiority of nonwhites.”

            Murray focuses on the inferiority of non-whites and the superiority of whites, yes? He also advocates separation, (Social Apartheid) from “dysgenic” groups, yes?

            Look, I understand that people round here don’t like “bingo” words like “racist” and “white supremacist”. And Murray actually seems to be arguing for something that hails from even farther back, the idea that there is a criminal class destined to be that way from birth which needs to be somehow removed from the population. Vegemite may really be a product of the permanent criminal underclass, but otherwise Australia doesn’t to bear this idea out.

            It all hinges on whether Murray is using actual science or pseudo-science though. Do people actually think that “The professional consensus is that the United States has experienced dysgenic pressures throughout either most of the century (the optimists) or all of the century (the pessimists).”?

          • Douglas Knight says:

            HBC, you are the one who brought up bingo words. You said that SPLC didn’t call Murray a Hater. Now that I point out what bingo word they did use, you say that you aren’t interested in bingo words.

            ━━━━━━━━━

            If all you know about Charles Murray is from hit pieces, then SPLC sure sounds accurate.

            Does he believe in people destined to be an underclass? No, his early book Losing Ground argues the opposite. (And Human Accomplishment argues against people born to be geniuses.) Does he advocate separatism? No, his recent book Coming Apart argues the opposite.

            He can hardly advocate separation from dysgenic populations when he finds, in the continuation of your quote, that all populations to be dysgenic.

            If you believe SPLC’s lies that Charles Murray advocates “Social Apartheid,” that he has reversed course and advocated the custodial state that he has long predicted as the result of the welfare state, read the article they quote.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            @brad:

            I appreciate your concern. You’re right, it’s a snarky thing to say. If I offended anyone, I apologize.

            That being said, I stand by the underlying concept: facts cannot be insolent, nor can they be prejudiced. They are what they are.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Marc Whipple:

            Again, inferential distance. I understand what you are saying: I am unable to make myself believe that it is particularly important or relevant to what I am saying. The SPLC, if pressed, would undoubtedly say that their mission is to fight Type 3 racism. A scholar of linguistics might call someone who studied Type 1 hypotheses (and note that even your Definition#1 says the, whereas I’m guessing that Murray would say a) a racist in good faith. When the SPLC does it, they are not acting in good faith: they are making The Worst Argument In the World.

            Think of it this way: imagine that someone was going around telling blatant lies about the Soviet Union, that they were really far more prosperous than the U.S., that the purges were a myth, that there were no shortages, etc. And he backed all of these assertions up with cherrypicked facts and convincing fabrications.

            These are just descriptive facts, right? The guy’s not advocating Communism. He’s just saying that as a matter of fact it’s a superior system.

            But you can obviously see how, given that this guy is wrong, he is at least as dangerous a promoter of Communism as someone who goes around giving long rants about “capitalist pig-dogs” without any factual substance. The reason is that the belief that Communism objectively is a superior system is (or, well, was) a major driver of support for Communism.

            In the way the SPLC sees things, yes, their goal is to fight Type 3 racism. But a major driver of Type 3 racism is false belief in Type 1 racism. So you can hardly isolate them from one another.

            There is an obvious danger in this, right? What if Type 1 racism actually is true after all? Then they weren’t so wise in demonizing people who spread it.

            But then the SPLC’s opinion on how to treat minorities—insofar as it has any connection to what they believe to be the facts—is likely to need changing. It’s not exactly obvious that racial minorities ought to be treated the same way regardless of whether Type 1 racism is true. The whole SPLC worldview on what Type 3 racism is and how to fight it is premised upon Type 1 racism’s being false.

            And the same of course applies to the first example: what if the Soviet apologist is right after all? Opposition to Communism is based in large degree on the factual premise that it doesn’t work.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            @Vox Imperatoris:

            And he backed all of these assertions up with cherrypicked facts and convincing fabrications. […] These are just descriptive facts, right?

            Whoa. Whoa, whoa, whoa. You lost me right there. No, those are not just descriptive facts. Those are fabrications. Or, if you prefer, lies.

            I read the rest of your post, but the conflation of those things put me right back on the other side of the inferential gap. And here’s why: because the way that people who don’t want to believe in unpleasant facts react to them is to allege that they cannot possibly be true, and do their damnedest to find mistakes (or actual fabrications) produced by the person presenting the unpleasant facts and use them to discredit the unpleasant facts. And where are we then?

            Right back to The Worst Argument In the World.

            To the SLPC they are not making The Worst Argument in the World because they do not believe that Type 1 racism can ever be valid. They aren’t fighting Type 1 to help stop Type 3: they don’t make a distinction in the first place. But that is not science-based argument: that is dogmatic argument.

            I already conceded that if you use Definition #1 Murray is a racist. I am likewise willing to concede that if you insert convincing fabrications, you are not doing science. But what it feels like to me when you introduce these things which, to me, are totally irrelevant to what I am arguing about, is that you are not arguing in good faith. I presume that you are, but it’s difficult to have a productive dialogue when each of us just keeps pulling out the other person’s definition and substituting our own.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Douglas Knight:
            “HBC, you are the one who brought up bingo words. You said that SPLC didn’t call Murray a Hater.”

            Huh? I was responding to Marc Whipple’s assertion that SPLC was accusing Murray of “hate facts”. To a certain point, I was merely insisting that the bingo words used be the ones actually used by SPLC (while acknowledging that people here don’t like any bingo words.

            As to the supposedly existing dysgenic pressures, Murray seems pretty clear that they apply to the “underclass” and not the “elite”. He specifically uses the word underclass and distinguishes it from the rest of the population.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            One thing that’s interesting about Charles Murray is his tendency to “flip the script” on progressives. It is a fundamental progressive belief that things like crime, poverty, and drug abuse are caused by social factors out of the control of individuals, and therefore those individuals aren’t really morally responsible for what they do. It’s “there but for the grace of God go I”.

            Now, Murray believes the same thing but with genetic factors instead of social factors. However, a curious thing is that many believers in the genetic superiority of one group moralize this. Like, they try to somehow make it an accomplishment of white people that they are genetically superior. Hence “white pride”. Where Murray seems to confuse progressives like those at the SPLC is that he doesn’t believe in “white pride” or anything like that. In his view (quite sensibly, given his premises), it’s not lesser races’ fault that they are lesser, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

            For instance, take this quote on laziness:

            Try to imagine a GOP presidential candidate saying in front of the cameras, “One reason that we still have poverty in the United States is that a lot of poor people are born lazy.” You cannot imagine it because that kind of thing cannot be said. And yet this unimaginable statement merely implies that when we know the complete genetic story, it will turn out that the population below the poverty line in the United States has a configuration of the relevant genetic makeup that is significantly different from the configuration of the population above the poverty line. This is not unimaginable. It is almost certainly true.

            See, most people implicitly believe in free will and hold that laziness is a moral flaw. You have a choice about whether to be lazy, and therefore it’s just if you’re punished for being lazy. Murray doesn’t accept this. It’s not poor people’s fault that they are lazy; it’s a matter of genetics. We shouldn’t blame them for it; we should accept it and treat it like a medical disease.

            So in a sense, you might except people like Murray to be allied with the progressives on societal determinism, with it being a gentlemanly internal disagreement on what are the exact causes of this determinism.

            But curiously, the social-economic determinists end up allied with the believers in free will because they share a common premise more relevant to politics: that it is possible for those who constitute the underclass to no longer be an underclass if only the right steps are taken. For one side, it’s individual responsibility; for the other, it’s government intervention.

            However, the genetic determinists end up being the hated enemies of both because they believe that, essentially, little can be done to change society, as the deterministic factors are immutable, at least during one person’s lifespan.

            But as Douglas Knight points out, Murray isn’t one-hundred percent faithful to this because to a large extent he’s also a cultural determinist. If we teach the poor better cultural values, this can help them deal compensate for their genetic inferiority. Yet progressives still dislike this intensely for a couple of reasons: a) they see it as victim-blaming, since the conventional view is that people are responsible for the cultural values they hold, making “black people have a culture of laziness” little better than “black people are poor because they choose to be lazy”; but perhaps more importantly b) the proposed cultural changes move in the exact opposite direction from what progressives think to be the way to make society less oppressive of the poor, and c) they see the cultural arguments rightly or wrongly as just a “code” for racial arguments, making “black people have a culture of laziness” a secret code for “black people are genetically lazy”.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Marc Whipple:

            Whoa. Whoa, whoa, whoa. You lost me right there. No, those are not just descriptive facts. Those are fabrications. Or, if you prefer, lies.

            …they are purported to be be descriptive facts. Obviously, the SPLC thinks that Murray’s conclusions are fabrications and lies.

            I read the rest of your post, but the conflation of those things put me right back on the other side of the inferential gap. And here’s why: because the way that people who don’t want to believe in unpleasant facts react to them is to allege that they cannot possibly be true, and do their damnedest to find mistakes (or actual fabrications) produced by the person presenting the unpleasant facts and use them to discredit the unpleasant facts. And where are we then?

            Yes, and that’s what progressives think conservatives (and libertarians) are doing. Ever heard the phrase “reality-based community”?

            To the SLPC they are not making The Worst Argument in the World because they do not believe that Type 1 racism can ever be valid. They aren’t fighting Type 1 to help stop Type 3: they don’t make a distinction in the first place. But that is not science-based argument: that is dogmatic argument.

            I think you need to put yourself in their shoes. Do you really think that they believe the falsity of Type 1 racist is a literal dogma? Of course not: they think the falsity of it is an obvious empirical fact, proven wrong by long historical experience and in particular the discrediting of eugenics after the defeat of Hitler in WWII, with modern genetics showing that “race” is a social construct.

            And there are progressives on their little message boards right now talking about how belief in laissez-faire capitalism is “market fundamentalism” based on nothing more than dogmatic faith in some mystical “invisible hand”. How only the most deluded fanatic could ignore the obvious exploitation of workers in sweatshops in the “Gilded Age” or in the developing world today, and the fact that these things are cured every time pro-union legislation and labor laws are passed. Or could ignore the massive destruction of jobs and cultures wrought by globalization.

            I’m not saying there is no objective truth of the matter one way or the other. I am saying that the question of whether Charles Murray ought to be condemned by the SPLC depends on whether he is right. Or at the very least, whether he is a liar.

            ***

            Perhaps I can reformulate one important point of the Communism example that I don’t think came out.

            Is it not the case that there are some empirical facts which you hold to be so obvious and important that hearing the denial of them makes you very angry?

            If so, you can sympathize.

            If not, you are either very fortunate or very unfortunate, but I don’t know which.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            As to the supposedly existing dysgenic pressures, Murray seems pretty clear that they apply to the “underclass” and not the “elite”. He specifically uses the word underclass and distinguishes it from the rest of the population.

            I have no idea where you getting that from. It certainly has no resemblance to what Murray says, but neither do I see it in SPLC’s lies, either.

            Even if were true that the classes are entirely genetically determined (which Murray argues against over many books), that is a completely separate issue from eu/dysgenics, which is genetic change. Whether one class is getting smarter or dumber is quite independent of whether another is, and both are independent of the relative growth of the classes.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I would like to note that I correctly predicted that the introduction of SPLC would serve as a distraction. We have ceased discussing Ron Paul, the John Birch Society and whether Ron Paul intentionally courts the conspiracy minded. We are completely focused on whether SPLC are (snark) “merely crappy” or “completely evil”. (/snark)

            Does anyone want to make the case that SPLCs opinions on, say, Murray are equivalent to the John Birch Societies opinions on Agenda 21?

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ HeelBearCub:

            The answer is yes, Ron Paul courts those people, but I think the discussion is played out.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            proven wrong by long historical experience and in particular the discrediting of eugenics after the defeat of Hitler in WWII

            Exactly, might makes right.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Douglas Knight:

            As an alternative explanation, there is the view of Abraham Lincoln (a view shared by many progressives) that “right makes might”. Nazi Germany was based on a false and destructive view of human nature, and the madness of it led to its own downfall. And only after that downfall could people really see with full clarity how mad it was. (Much like the fall of the Soviet Union.)

            But sure, I think progressives’ confidence that Type 1 racism is categorically false is less than one-hundred percent warranted. Along with the vast majority of people’s beliefs about subjects in which they are not experts.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Vox:
            onyomi asked for a specific recent example of Ron Paul courting the people I was talking about, I gave it to him. He said he didn’t know much about JBS but Agenda 21 “seemed real”. That was 2 posts about JBS. And then we have a long, long string about SPLC.

            Maybe I should take it as a victory, but man, is it annoying when one provides the asked for thing and the answer is “Hey, look over there!”

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Vox, that history is fabricated (another example of might makes right). Eugenics kept going for 25 years after the war and was only tainted by the Hitler association near or after defeat.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Douglas Knight:

            Vox, that history is fabricated (another example of might makes right). Eugenics kept going for 25 years after the war and was only tainted by the Hitler association near or after defeat.

            Do you think that the shame of engaging in a practice made infamous by the Nazis was not a major reason why it was stopped?

            The fact that it was tainted by the Hitler connection after his defeat was precisely my point: “here’s your works!” (To use my ironic favorite political cartoon from another time period.) That is, once revealed in all their enormity, the horrors of Nazism showed people the horrendous consequences of the full logical progression of eugenics.

            (The point of that cartoon is that the French Revolution discredited Enlightenment rationalism and liberalism. I think unjustifiedly, since the actual abuses of the French revolution were carried out by irrationalist, illiberal, Rousseauian Jacobins who were not at all similar to people like Tom Paine.)

          • onyomi says:

            “Maybe I should take it as a victory, but man, is it annoying when one provides the asked for thing and the answer is “Hey, look over there!” ”

            It was not a distraction. It was my way of illustrating why people like Ron Paul and, indeed, even myself, may be more charitable to an organization like the JBS than would be a blue tribe member like yourself. The point is, to the extent blue tribe members are charitable about a crazy organization like SPLC, red tribe members are charitable about JBS. What looks “totally nuts” from the other side may just look “a little extreme” to the other side. I’ll certainly admit the history of the JBS is weirder than I originally knew, but based on their superficial self-presentation they didn’t seem so bad to me, as, I imagine, the SPLC doesn’t seem so bad to most blue tribers.

            Even if I accept that JBS is a bunch of crazy conspiracy theorists then all this proves is that Ron Paul did not distance himself from crazy conspiracy theorists. That is what I conceded in the first place. But you said he was saying things intended to court racists and conspiracy theorists. I didn’t see Ron Paul saying any such thing. He merely gave a talk at the JBS, as you would probably give a talk at the SPLC if invited. He said, “hey, thanks for inviting me here to the JBS–you guys really do great work–now let me tell you about how much young people love liberty…” He didn’t say “and boy let me tell you about how the UN is trying to take over the world,” and he certainly didn’t say anything racist.

            If it seems like I’m fighting too hard on this point, it’s because I watched Ron Paul speak many, many times in the ’08 and ’12 campaigns and all I ever heard him say were good things about the value of liberty, the dangers of an interventionist foreign policy, the problem of federal reserve monetary policy wiping out people’s savings, and so on. To basically smear his legacy by saying he’s not a “real libertarian” or that he was intentionally courting racists is quite offensive to me.

            I will totally concede that the 2008 and 2012 Ron Paul movement (as in, not the people he was necessarily out to attract, but the people whom he did, in fact attract) consisted of a greater proportion of weirdos than I originally thought. That was the point of the original post, and I guess showing him talking to JBS adds to it in that sense, as does JBS having a weirder history than I first knew, but I do kind of resent the implication that I was intentionally trying to distract from the issue at hand by my example of the SPLC: it was a completely relevant example intended to to illustrate a point about how different groups appear differently to people on different parts of the political map.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Vox, we can’t discuss causality until we agree on facts. I claimed that your beliefs about facts are wrong and you didn’t notice, but just repeated them.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            In 2011, Ron Paul introduced a bill that would have required that every single bar of gold that the US Treasury holds be manually assayed. Each bar. Every single one. Not a representative sample, backed up by other measures. Not a third party audit of the already existing audits. A hand assay of every single bar.

            The embracing of JBS, which is not accidental or one time, I don’t believe, is just one part of a broad pattern.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Douglas Knight:

            Vox, we can’t discuss causality until we agree on facts. I claimed that your beliefs about facts are wrong and you didn’t notice, but just repeated them.

            I am confused. What incorrect facts did I repeat?

            Were you trying to say that eugenics was only tainted by association with Hitler near or after the defeat of eugenics? I thought you meant near or after the defeat of Hitler.

            If you meant the first case, I’m not sure I agree with your assertion. You’re saying that not until 1970 was eugenics tainted by the Hitler association?

            If you meant the second case, that’s the one I responded to.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Yes, near the defeat of eugenics. Of course I know that you don’t agree, that’s the whole point.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Douglas Knight:

            Okay, well, you see how it was ambiguous.

            Anyway, do you have an argument or evidence that this is some kind of false revisionist history?

            Because I am no expert on this issue, but I took a university course on bioethics and the history thereof (and the changes in standards for consent in medicine and medical research are very closely tied in to the issue of eugenics, since eugenics typically consists of sterilizations performed without consent and/or knowledge), but the Nuremberg Code was emphasized as being very influential. Not in a direct legal way, but as an important factor in making people realize “Hey, uh, if we tried the Nazis for doing this shit, maybe we shouldn’t be doing it ourselves.”

            The changes weren’t immediate, but it became a lot harder to defend it as truth, justice, and the American way.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            The Nuremberg Code is about human experimentation, not eugenics.

            There were no trials for sterilization, only for euthanasia. The Doctors’ Trial was for torture, involuntaray human experimentation, and mass murder. I think it focused on killing foreigners in death camps, especially of the mentally ill and disabled. Aktion T4, euthanasia of Germans in hospitals, was more the subject of German trials (which largely resulted in acquittals or pardons because of the coercion by those in the Doctors’ Trial).

            You spent a whole semester with bioethicists and didn’t conclude that their insinuations are negative evidence?

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Douglas Knight:

            I didn’t say or imply that there were trials for sterilization. What was being done in Nazi Germany was obviously far worse than what went on in America.

            But the principle that was used against the Nazis—that you cannot perform medical experiments on human beings without their consent—was broadened to include medical procedures of any kind, which invalidates forced sterilization. That is the connection. It’s not a direct connection, but it was an influence.

            And the Nuremburg Code is just a specific example I know of. As I understand it, there were many other ways in which Nazism tarnished the image of eugenics. Maybe I am wrong, but so far you haven’t pointed to anything to the contrary.

            You spent a whole semester with bioethicists and didn’t conclude that their insinuations are negative evidence?

            I’m not sure what that’s supposed to mean. I found my professor (a relatively well-known guy but not a superstar bioethicist) to be pretty reasonable, although I didn’t agree with him on everything.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ onyomi:

            If it seems like I’m fighting too hard on this point, it’s because I watched Ron Paul speak many, many times in the ’08 and ’12 campaigns and all I ever heard him say were good things about the value of liberty, the dangers of an interventionist foreign policy, the problem of federal reserve monetary policy wiping out people’s savings, and so on. To basically smear his legacy by saying he’s not a “real libertarian” or that he was intentionally courting racists is quite offensive to me.

            The thing is, Ron Paul’s message is carefully crafted to appeal to two audiences: “mainstream” libertarians, and what I’ll charitably call “paleoconservatives”. He does not say outright racist things, and he mostly refrains even from saying conspiratorial things on national TV. The libertarian level is the surface, respectable level, and the paleoconservative level is the undercurrent.

            There are basically two ways to interpret him on this. One is that really he a libertarian, but he finds it necessary to appeal to these paleoconservatives in order to get elected. The other is that his real sympathies lie with the paleoconservatives, but he couches it in talk about liberty in order to be respectable outside his home district. I can see how one would think (and indeed at once time I thought) that he is the first alternative. But I think the facts point toward the view that he is the second.

            Now what do I mean by “paleoconservatism”? I mean the views of the kinds of people who Murray Rothbard deliberately courted, who are influential at the Mises Institute, and the Ron Paul’s own friends like Gary North.

            North is the most illustrative example because he’s the most extreme (I don’t think Paul is as extreme as him). He is an outright supporter of Christian Dominionism, i.e. Biblical theocracy. He thinks we should basically have the Taliban in America and bring back the Mosaic law in its full brutal force. North uses the language of liberty—and I’m sure thinks of himself as supporting liberty—but what he wants is to exploit libertarianism to weaken the federal government so that local communities can have the “freedom” to impose theocracy without interference.

            When Ron Paul complains about “activist judges” interfering with states’ rights, or says that the rights protected in the Bill of Rights are not enforceable against the states, or complains about the separation of church and state being a myth, maybe there’s something that libertarians can vaguely like about this (I don’t know what it is, though). But the main purpose is to signal: “Hey, I think that the state governments should have been allowed to continue enforcing Jim Crow, that local majorities should be allowed to cram their religion down everyone’s throats, and that in all the states ought to be able to preserve their status as white and Christian and promote ‘traditional values’.”

            The paleoconservatives’ desire is not to make government smaller; it is to shrink the power of the federal government in order to expand the latitude of the state governments.

            It is a cardinal belief of all these paleoconservatives that Lincoln was an evil tyrant, that the Confederacy had the right to secede, that the Civil War was about tariffs, that it wasn’t any of the North’s business to interfere with slavery, and so on. Ron Paul has endorsed all of these beliefs quite openly (for instance, in an interview on Bill Maher’s program).

            Paul also shares these paleoconservatives’ open cultural relativism and the belief that not only shouldn’t we forcibly intervene abroad to protect rights (which libertarians may support), we can’t even judge them or condemn the abuses of liberty abroad. Paul is a consistent apologist for regimes like Iran and Russia. It is not a coincidence that he and his sympathizers are often interviewed on networks like Russia Today: that place loves to find every anti-American kook it can to make Russia look better.

            This is not helped by his tendency to endorse conspiratorial views of American history, both in regard to domestic and foreign policy. Another one of Ron Paul’s good friends, Andrew Napolitano, who also has “mainstream” libertarian appeal, backs him on these conspiracy theories, not to mention the anti-Lincoln, pro-Confederate stuff.

            It’s one thing, and quite unjustified, to say you’re a member of a group just because you spoke to them once. But when you share many of a group’s core positions, you speak to them all the time, and you’re personally friends with a large number of them, it is safe to say that—at the very least—you are courting them. And you are probably one yourself.

            More than anything else, there is a basic philosophical difference between the paleoconservatives and the other two main branches of the “libertarian coalition”, and Timothy Sandefur explains it better than I can:

            But there are basically three kinds of libertarians. I enjoy coming up with derisive names for the group of which I’m critical, and the group of which Paul is a member—I call them Doughface Libertarians, for instance, after an early nineteenth century expression. (Northern Democrats who supported southern slaveowners were called “Doughfaces,” and said to be “northern men with southern principles.”) I think an accurate term for them is paleo-conservatives. But we might call them Rothbardians after the economist Murray Rothbard who can figure, more or less, as the spiritual head of this group. The group of which I am a member is largely—though certainly not entirely—grouped around the philosopher Ayn Rand. Rand never called herself a libertarian, and to this day a large portion of Rand’s followers refuse to call themselves that, because of the Rothbardian element within the libertarian community. The third group tends to focus around, let us say, Milton Friedman. VodkaPundit, some years ago, called them “sensible shoes libertarians.”

            The Rothbardians are largely grouped around the Mises Institute and the blog Lew Rockwell.com.* One of their most distinctive features is their belief in secession and their (quite frequent) argument that the south was in the right in the Civil War. Members of this group have published books arguing that Abraham Lincoln was the cause of the nation’s collapse into welfare state-ism, and that secession is an essential right. (For an explanation of why they are wrong on these issues, see here, here, and here, among other things.)

            Their belief in “states’ rights” was reflected on Ron Paul’s argument that Texas was in the right in the Lawrence v. Texas case—that is, that state governments have the right to police the private sexual conduct of consenting adults. In a similar vein, they tend to be extremely non-interventionist in foreign policy. They are so extreme on this matter sometimes that they say truly outlandish things, such as the recent post taking at face value Iran’s “explanation” of its recent confrontation with U.S. Navy vessels in the Persian Gulf.

            Not long before he died, Murray Rothbard called for an alliance with paleo-conservatives—what the Rothbardians call “the Old Right,” meaning the elements that in the 1930s and 40s opposed the rise of the New Deal. Naturally, there were many elements in this coalition who are quite unsavory: racists, theocrats, and so forth. What unites these guys is their often highly emotionalistic hostility to government. Rothbard, for example, infamously cheered the victory of communism in Vietnam because, he said, it was pleasant to watch “the death of a state” (i.e., non-communist Vietnam).

            In my article, “How Libertarians Ought to Think About The U.S. Civil War,” I argue that the Vietnam experience was essential to the Rothbardian element of the libertarian community. They learned two lessons from that experience: that war is never, ever worth it no matter what, and/or that societies have a right to choose their forms of government without interference by others. Thus “if the Vietnamese want to be communists, it’s none of our business,” and “we shouldn’t force democracy on people.” This is why they think the south was right in the Civil War: slavery may have been an awful thing, but it was none of the north’s business to do anything about it. Obviously, the same goes for the Iraq War, or just about any other American intervention overseas.

            As I’ve argued before, the core of the Rothbardian viewpoint is moral and cultural relativism, that is to say, subjectivism. Morality is whatever a society says it is, and therefore we have no right to go outside of our society and “enforce” our views (such as freedom) on others.

            The Objectivists—those who draw their understanding from the works of Ayn Rand—believe on the contrary in a universal human nature, natural moral laws, and therefore, in a universal right and wrong. That doesn’t mean that we favor military adventurism necessarily, but it does mean that no foreign dictator, and no southern state, has a right to oppress people, and if we choose to stop them we have that right in the same way that we have the right to shoot a rapist we see raping a woman in a back alley. We argue that freedom cannot be “forced” on people: it is oppression that is “forced” on people. Since no state can claim a right to enslave people, the south cannot have been engaged in a legitimate act of revolution during the Civil War, and the mullahs do not have a right to force women to wear the veil, and so forth. (Again, this does not mean we have a duty to come to the aid of the oppressed; just the right to do so.) Likewise, contra Ron Paul, we believe that no state ever has the right to use force on people who are engaged in private, adult, consensual sexual activity—or the right to censor me, or to take away a woman’s right to an abortion (again contra Paul). We believe judicial independence is essential to ensuring that a free society remains free, rather than a collection of bullies who enforce their will on us through majority vote.

            The “sensible shoes” libertarians tend to focus mostly on policy arguments. Many in this group overlap with the Objectivists, or hold views entirely consistent with ours. Virginia Postrel, for example. Many hold conventional popular moral views and have not delved much into the more abstract controversies on this head. Many others are purely consequentialists—that is, they believe that morality simply cannot be the subject of disciplined inquiry, and that all that a libertarian can talk about is practical reasoning. In other words, they can’t argue that liberty is morally right; they can only argue about how as a practical matter free social and economic networks are organized. I have argued that if consistently followed, this practice will lead them to default on the responsibility of moral judgment, and ultimately they fall into the cultural relativism of the Rothbardians.

            I have argued in many posts that libertarianism properly understood must be based on an objective, universal morality. (Naturally I think that, being an Objectivist.) And I have argued that the Rothbardians are better classified as paleo-conservatives, like Russell Kirk, Robert Weaver, or Robert Nisbet, (or today’s Robert Bork) who argue that morality is a social phenomenon only.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            And last quote on this, but more on the nature of the philosophical difference and what should be done:

            I suspect the reason [for Ron Paul’s popularity] is primarily that libertarians are so desperate for someone who articulates their message—a message grounded in common sense and rigorous theory, but which is regarded as too extreme to be taken seriously by the media and “mainstream” commentators. For someone to talk openly about limited government is such an enormous relief that many of us are willing to embrace him instantly, without due diligence. This is something that has embarrassed the LP often enough as to destroy its credibility completely. So perhaps that is the first lesson: to paraphrase Jefferson, let’s not bite at the bait until we’re sure there’s no hook beneath it. As a fringe group—face it, we’re a fringe group in this world—we are particularly vulnerable to being taken advantage of by con men who count on our intense idealism and secret hopes, like the freshman girl whom the senior asks to the prom.

            Second, we need to face up to the serious conflict within our ranks, between the neo-Confederates at the Mises Institute on one hand, and what James Kirchik calls “the urbane libertarians who staff the Cato Institute or the libertines at Reason magazine” on the other. Many libertarians, myself included, have criticized the orthodox Objectivists for refusing to have anything to do with libertarians (let alone the LP), on the grounds that political alliances can include different philosophical backgrounds. I still think that’s true, but the Objectivists are also right that such an alliance is bound to have big fissures in it—fissures that may very well destroy your chances of accomplishing your goals. All politics is, to some degree, a big tent, but if you make that tent too big, you are bound to include some crazy-ass people in there, who will ultimately destroy your movement and your credibility.

            I would like to see the libertarian community as a body repudiate the Lew Rockwellers entirely. They are not libertarians, they are paleo-conservatives who do not share our primary concern with individual liberty and constitutionalism. Ultimately they lack a grounded perspective on what liberty means and why it is important. Their moral and cultural relativism, their traditionalism and their alliances (both intellectual and strategic) with southern-style paleo-cons have misled them in many ways. They are stasists; we are dynamists. We are a variety of liberal, they are old-fashioned conservatives who believe in “popular sovereignty,” oppose judicial independence, think states should be free to violate individual liberty without federal intervention, and that foreign dictators should be able to tyrannize without hearing complaints from the United States. These guys are the creationists of the libertarian movement, and we would all be much better off slamming the doors on them entirely.

            Unfortunately, the down side to that is that they are a very large part of the contemporary libertarian community—so large that this is probably not possible as a practical matter. Given that reality we ought to at least make it a point to be as honest as possible about these two camps and as clear as possible about who belongs in which. We should prevail upon our leading intellectuals to make their positions clear on these matters and, if they take the wrong side, we should make our judgments as clear as possible.

            Consider, for example, Walter Williams. Dr. Williams is highly regarded in the libertarian community, and rightly so—he’s an effective and powerful voice for economic liberty, not to mention a lot of fun when he guest hosts for Rush. But Dr. Williams has unfortunately flirted with the neo-Confederates to such a degree that he even wrote the foreword to DiLorenzo’s ridiculous Lincoln book. He should be prevailed upon to distance himself from that crowd, and if he refuses to do so, others in the community should make it a point to condemn him for it whenever possible.

            I think we must face the fact that the libertarian community does include many racists and other unsavory characters who see in our message of limited government an opportunity to act on their creepy impulses—people whose own hostility to the state is rooted not in a love of individual freedom and human initiative as ours is, but in an opposition to modernity, secularism, equality, urban life and bourgeois values. We must make it clear that they aren’t welcome in our big tent. You don’t have to be an Objectivist (or a Christian or a whatever), but you do have to believe at least in the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.

            I think that last paragraph is really important and correct.

          • onyomi says:

            There are many problems with this kind of libertarianism which seeks to impose individual rights and freedom on everyone from above by means of some bigger, more cosmopolitan, frankly imperial state which defends individuals against local tyrannies.

            1. It’s very unlikely to happen or maintain itself: given human nature and ever-present temptation for politicians to enrich special interests at the expense of the masses and for masses to buy into promises of stuff paid for by other people, as well as diseconomies of scale, etc. etc. it’s just very unlikely that we’re going to elect a libertarian president with a libertarian congress who implements such a system and thereby protects us from all the parochial tyrannies of the states and localities. By far the greatest cost and curtailment of liberty the average US citizen today endures emanates first from the federal government, then from the state government, and finally the local government.

            2. I believe in objective morality, and I think this brand of libertarianism is not morally defensible–certainly not more than any other kind of government. The ethical reason why I support libertarianism in the first place is that I think I belong to me and you belong to you. Also, I don’t think voting for somebody or giving them a special title gives them the right to do things other people can’t do. Therefore, if my neighbors all agree to create a neighborhood in which no woman is allowed in without a veil, I have no moral right to stop them from doing that (assuming the women are all there by choice and have also agreed to this state of affairs).

            As David Friedman has pointed out many times, there are two sides to libertarianism: the question of whether you should have a government at all/how the a system of governance should come into being and 2, the question of which specific laws and policies people should be made to live by. It is entirely conceivable, for example, that, at a small scale, a group of people would all unanimously agree to live in a community where no drugs and alcohol are allowed. A polity with a sufficiently libertarian policy bent might actually say that no such community is allowed. But I don’t see how any such polity has a right to tell a group of consenting adults how to live, even if their choice of how to live does not maximize individual freedom.

            I’m sure Ron Paul supports the brand of libertarianism which says that, if you want to live in a weird religious community with a bunch of strict rules then that’s your prerogative: just don’t try to force that system on anybody else.

            This isn’t necessarily moral relativism: as I said, I believe in objective morality. I also think there is such a thing as a cultural practice which is inherently superior or inferior to another. But I also believe it is objectively wrong to use force, violence, coercion, etc. in any case but self defense or very dire need. Assuming they aren’t bothering me, I am not endangered by my neighbors having a weird religious commune, so I’m not justified to use force to stop them living like that. And, of course, while there may be some inherently superior cultural practices, there are a very wide range of what I’d consider equally good cultural practices which may simply work better for different personalities: some people like living a life of austerity in a monastery and praying 5 times a day. Who am I to tell them they’re wrong?

            To me, libertarian policies tend to be good, but the manner in which they are arrived at and enforced is even more important. I think an anarcho-capitalist world will tend toward libertarianish policies because those are the ones I predict individuals will be willing to pay to have enforced. A libertarianish system arrived at as a result of absolute cultural respect for the autonomy and freedom of choice and association of the individual is a much more ethically defensible and potentially sustainable, just system than one which is imposed by some sort of enlightened libertarian despot.

            As regards the Civil War: I hate talking about the Civil War because if you say anything to imply the South might have been right about any aspect of anything then someone will somehow end up implying that you think slavery is not so bad (not that you would, but you know what I mean).

            So let’s take the more inoffensive case of Scotland’s recent, unsuccessful initiative to secede from the UK: to my mind, Scotland was seceding in order to instate more illiberal, unlibertarian policies. Yet I wish they had succeeded and was very glad, at least, that they made the attempt and there was absolutely no question of the UK trying to stop them if they had. Moreover, even if the UK hadn’t agreed in advance to some particular terms, there is no question in my mind that the Scots had the right to secede and that the UK would have been wrong to try to stop them with military force. And, of course, the US was created by seceding from the British Empire and I’m pretty sure nearly all Americans think that was just…

            So, isn’t this unfair to those Scots who won’t like the new, more illiberal policies forced on them by their new, smaller government? The solution isn’t less secession but more: if Scotland can secede from the UK, then, logically, any localities, or even any individuals who don’t like the new Scottish regime can secede from that, and so on, until, in a Nozickian thought experiment kind of way, no person is involuntarily forced to participate in any unchosen level of political organization.

            And, of course, the smaller “nations” get, the more competition there is among them and the easier it is to move if any local government becomes tyrannical. The places which are badly run will soon empty out until and unless they start implementing rules which citizens like.

          • Protagoras says:

            In the past, I regarded the SPLC as a reputable organization, but I’d never looked into it too closely and I heard enough occasional criticism to not be completely certain. But this thread has convinced me I was right in the first place, mostly due to the criticisms of SPLC; they strike me as exceptionally weak tea, and if that’s the best the critics can come up with, it makes me suspect that there just isn’t much there to criticize.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ onyomi:

            it’s just very unlikely that we’re going to elect a libertarian president with a libertarian congress who implements such a system and thereby protects us from all the parochial tyrannies of the states and localities.

            I don’t think we will elect a libertarian president, either. Nor libertarian governors and mayors.

            Moreover, as I have said repeatedly, I am not arguing for a strong president and congress that will run everything from Washington. I am arguing for an engaged federal judiciary that will strike down violations of rights by state governments.

            By far the greatest cost and curtailment of liberty the average US citizen today endures emanates first from the federal government, then from the state government, and finally the local government.

            That’s just not true, though. I’ll give you taxes (though state and local taxes are often pretty steep).

            But the vast majority of laws that restrict people’s economic and personal freedom are imposed at the state and local level, such as licensing laws, business cartels, drug laws (far more people are imprisoned at the state level in the War on Drugs), mass incarceration and excessive criminalization in general, business regulations of every kind, government interference in education, the most restrictive labor laws, the most restrictive laws cracking down on illegal immigrants, the seizure of property through eminent domain for private use, and so on. And of course until quite recently discriminatory laws against gays and lesbians.

            I’m not saying the federal government is all sunshine and rainbows. But the average person has his liberty more restricted by state governments.

            You also can’t act as if, had we no federal government and simply 50 independent states, the state governments would be the size they are today. No, they would assume the same functions. Except with 50 sets of borders and no one to protect such things as the right to a lawyer, the right to free speech, the right not to engage in compulsory prayer, the right to privacy, the right to own a gun, and every other right that’s ever been enforced by the federal judiciary against the states.

            Therefore, if my neighbors all agree to create a neighborhood in which no woman is allowed in without a veil, I have no moral right to stop them from doing that (assuming the women are all there by choice and have also agreed to this state of affairs).

            That’s quite an assumption. “Popular sovereignty” and the right of local communities to “rule themselves” does mean that every person as an individual gets to decide what he does. No, it means the majority gets to vote on what everyone’s going to have to do.

            I have no objection if you want to create some little voluntary commune where no woman can enter without a veil, if it’s private property. You can already do that. I have an objection when 51% (or 91%) of the people decide to have their little Taliban, enforce it on the rest, and no one else is supposed to be able to do anything about it.

            You’re begging the question if you’re just going to assume it’s voluntary. The whole case I am making is that a federal government is an important thing keeping it voluntary—by striking down uses of state power that violate rights.

            (Not that I think the veil example is the most likely sort of thing, but it’s your example.)

            It is entirely conceivable, for example, that, at a small scale, a group of people would all unanimously agree to live in a community where no drugs and alcohol are allowed. A polity with a sufficiently libertarian policy bent might actually say that no such community is allowed. But I don’t see how any such polity has a right to tell a group of consenting adults how to live, even if their choice of how to live does not maximize individual freedom.

            You can already do this, if it’s all truly voluntary and on private property. Moreover, it’s one thing to decide you’re not going to allow drugs and alcohol, and that anyone who uses them is no longer allowed in your little commune. It’s quite another to decide you’re going to send anyone who drinks to prison or stone adulterers—but it’s okay because they signed up for it.

            The fact that someone might be stupid enough to agree to live by sharia law, doesn’t give some pretended government the right to enforce it on him by violence against his will when he properly tries to back out of it.

            More importantly, what about children raised in such restrictive communities? They didn’t consent to it.

            There is an enormous difference between allowing individuals to rule themselves and allowing communities to “rule themselves”: i.e. for the strong to have their way with the weak without anyone else allowed to interfere.

            I’m sure Ron Paul supports the brand of libertarianism which says that, if you want to live in a weird religious community with a bunch of strict rules then that’s your prerogative: just don’t try to force that system on anybody else.

            But these people do force such systems on other people. And when they do, anyone else has a right to stop them.

            But I also believe it is objectively wrong to use force, violence, coercion, etc. in any case but self defense or very dire need. Assuming they aren’t bothering me, I am not endangered by my neighbors having a weird religious commune, so I’m not justified to use force to stop them living like that. And, of course, while there may be some inherently superior cultural practices, there are a very wide range of what I’d consider equally good cultural practices which may simply work better for different personalities: some people like living a life of austerity in a monastery and praying 5 times a day. Who am I to tell them they’re wrong?

            Seriously, this is bizarre. No one is saying that you don’t have the right to live in a monastery if you so choose. What I’m saying is that 51% of the people don’t have the right to tax the rest to build a monastery.

            To me, libertarian policies tend to be good, but the manner in which they are arrived at and enforced is even more important. I think an anarcho-capitalist world will tend toward libertarianish policies because those are the ones I predict individuals will be willing to pay to have enforced. A libertarianish system arrived at as a result of absolute cultural respect for the autonomy and freedom of choice and association of the individual is a much more ethically defensible and potentially sustainable, just system than one which is imposed by some sort of enlightened libertarian despot.

            What exactly are you imagining a “libertarian despot” to be? New law: “smoke weed erryday” or die? Or, I don’t know, you have to memorize Atlas Shrugged and absolutely no one is allowed to give to charity? I’m not saying anyone should be stopped from doing anything voluntary.

            Now, I can imagine some things that have been called “imposing one’s values on others”. Such as in a little place called the South, where they had this wonderful voluntary system in which people of one race agreed to work their whole lives for no pay, in return for the beneficent guidance of their white masters. But these damn Yankees came through and told them how they had to live their lives. Alright, I’ll stop being sarcastic. The entire problem with this little system is that it was not voluntary. In fighting for the “freedom to govern themselves”, the Confederacy were fighting for “the (literally absolute) right of white people to govern black people, without the black people’s consent.”

            That is the enormous difference between collective self-determination and individual liberty.

            It’s one thing if you want to argue that using retaliatory force to stop abuses of liberty doesn’t work in the long run, that it creates “blowback”, and that tragically it’s better to let abuses like slavery or Indian widow-burning occur than to intervene and stop them. But you’re not even arguing that. Every example in your post suggests that everything local actually is voluntary—and therefore there could obviously be no justification for interfering besides some misplaced desire to tell other consenting adults how to live.

            I’m not saying that a federal government is better than perfect anarcho-capitalism. I am saying that just because we abolish the federal government, doesn’t mean we will have anarcho-capitalism. We would even have more liberty but, in my judgment, rather less.

            Edit: responding to some points you added in…

            So let’s take the more inoffensive case of Scotland’s recent, unsuccessful initiative to secede from the UK: to my mind, Scotland was seceding in order to instate more illiberal, unlibertarian policies. Yet I wish they had succeeded and was very glad, at least, that they made the attempt and there was absolutely no question of the UK trying to stop them if they had. Moreover, even if the UK hadn’t agreed in advance to some particular terms, there is no question in my mind that the Scots had the right to secede and that the UK would have been wrong to try to stop them with military force. And, of course, the US was created by seceding from the British Empire and I’m pretty sure nearly all Americans think that was just…

            They did not have the legal right to secede unilaterally. And as you point out, their whole purpose was to create a less free government, so they didn’t have any sort of legitimate right to revolution, either. No random gang of thugs has the right to secede in order to impose thuggery on everyone else. (I mean, the Scottish government is not that bad, but that’s the principle you’re endorsing.)

            And yes, the U.S. government was created by secession—in an act of legitimate revolution to create a more free government. I am not against secession always and everywhere. I am against it when it is not justified.

            So, isn’t this unfair to those Scots who won’t like the new, more illiberal policies forced on them by their new, smaller government? The solution isn’t less secession but more: if Scotland can secede from the UK, then, logically, any localities, or even any individuals who don’t like the new Scottish regime can secede from that, and so on, until, in a Nozickian thought experiment kind of way, no person is involuntarily forced to participate in any unchosen level of political organization.

            I would not be against this if it could…work that way.

            If you let a less liberal government secede from a more liberal government, what exactly makes you think the less liberal government will be inclined to let people secede from it? Sure, I would be in favor of God granting man the absolute power to secede from any government. But in that case, it would be easier to let him send down angels to run the government.

            1. Scottish secession
            2. ???
            3. Anarcho-capitalism

            And, of course, the smaller “nations” get, the more competition there is among them and the easier it is to move if any local government becomes tyrannical. The places which are badly run will soon empty out until and unless they start implementing rules which citizens like.

            People do not follow the ideal gas law. I wish they could. But for one, people are rightfully attached to where they live and have the right not to be run out.

            Much more importantly, though, why haven’t the bad places already emptied out in the world today? It’s not primarily because they aren’t allowed to leave or find it too expensive to leave. It’s because other places won’t let them in.

            Just because you have global Balkanization does not mean you have global libertarianism or competition among countries for citizens. How hard is the U.S. competing for Mexicans? Not to mention that it leaves them weak and vulnerable before the potential enemies who are not going to Balkanize.

          • onyomi says:

            @Protagoras

            http://harpers.org/blog/2007/11/the-southern-poverty-business-model/
            https://harpers.org/blog/2010/03/hate-immigration-and-the-southern-poverty-law-center/

            A more accurate title for the “Southern Poverty Law Center” would be the “Scaring Rich Northern Liberals into Buying us Bigger Houses Center.”

          • onyomi says:

            @Vox
            “I have an objection when 51% (or 91%) of the people decide to have their little Taliban, enforce it on the rest, and no one else is supposed to be able to do anything about it.”

            I object to that too. Which is why I’m an anarcho-capitalist. I think every individual has the right to secede from any level of political organization the y don’t want to be a part of. And Ron Paul agrees with that because, as you say, he’s a Rothbardian anarchist at heart.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ onyomi:

            I object to that too. Which is why I’m an anarcho-capitalist. I think every individual has the right to secede from any level of political organization the y don’t want to be a part of. And Ron Paul agrees with that because, as you say, he’s a Rothbardian anarchist at heart.

            I’m not necessarily an anarcho-capitalist because I am not at all certain that it would work. But if it does work, I support it.

            However, that does not mean that states’ rights and secession of governments from other governments is actually a viable path toward anarcho-capitalism. To go back to the case of the Confederacy, so the North lets them secede. Then what? The black people secede from the white people? I don’t think so.

            The fact that we (perhaps) ideally ought to let any individual secede from any government, does not mean that in practice, we ought to allow any coercive government to secede from a less bad government.

            ***

            And again, if the question is whether we should have the current system or David Friedman’s ideal, we should have David Friedman’s ideal. But if David Friedman’s ideal is not on the table anytime soon, we’ve got to look at our actual options.

            “No, no, no, we don’t need any of this. Let’s just enact libertopia!” “Enact libertopia? Why didn’t I think of that? Make it so!”

          • onyomi says:

            “To go back to the case of the Confederacy…”

            Let’s not. But to go back to the idea of an independent Scotland: once Scotland has seceded from the UK, what’s keeping any particular region of Scotland which is unhappy with the new Scottish state from seceding and forming an even smaller state? It would be awfully and transparently hypocritical of the new state, recently formed through secession, to prevent some subunit from seceding?

            “The fact that we (perhaps) ideally ought to let any individual secede from any government, does not mean that in practice, we ought to allow any coercive government to secede from a less bad government.”

            I don’t see how it can be otherwise. You seem to agree that, in principle at least, any individual should be free to secede from any government. If any individual can secede, then it seems rather strange and untenable to yet maintain that a group of individuals could not secede, nor would it be possible for a group of individuals to secede in order to oppress some minority within that group (because it’s already been determined that anyone who’s feeling oppressed can secede to form an even smaller group).

            In reality, I’m pretty sure the ideal level of political organization is greater than 1 for nearly everyone but the unabomber, but that I also am not okay, ethically and practically, with forcing anyone to be part of a polity they don’t want to be a part of. The way to arrive at this state of affairs is to allow states to secede from countries, districts from states, cities from districts, neighborhoods from cities, and so on until everyone has decided that the costs of more secession outweigh the benefits of abiding by the decisions of some group.

            If you say “individuals can secede, but groups of individuals, i.e. cities and states cannot secede as a group (though I assume you’d be okay if the group secession was unanimous?)” then we seem, ironically, to be no better off than we are now, with each person having exactly two options: “live alone or in a very small group on a flotilla in the middle of the ocean” or “abide by all the city, state, and federal laws which apply to this whole territory I find myself in.” The fact that Seasteading is even an idea shows how desperate people have become–they are actually willing to try option A.

            You say that groups of people can go do their own thing on private land right now, but that is just not true. If me and my friends buy a big plot of land somewhere in the US and decide to live on it without leaving or trading with the outside (which we shouldn’t have to limit ourselves to doing in order to be able to use our own property as we see fit, but to take the extreme example), we would still have to abide by all federal, state, and local laws that apply. If we wanted to trade using dollars we would still have to pay taxes. If we tried to mint our own currency we’d eventually get arrested.

            By not allowing group secession you foreclose the natural development of a system in which people voluntarily work out their own ideal levels of political organization, and, paradoxically, end up little better off than we are now.

            If you will at least allow unanimous group secession–that is, if me and my friends can all agree that we are going to buy a plot of land and live on it together and that once we do that the laws of the US don’t apply to us while we’re there, then that would certainly be better. But, in practice, what I think should happen, and what would, in fact, happen if secession were to become a more common occurrence, is for new states to decide at their founding on the terms of their own potential dissolution–a kind of political organization pre-nup.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ onyomi:

            Let’s not. But to go back to the idea of an independent Scotland: once Scotland has seceded from the UK, what’s keeping any particular region of Scotland which is unhappy with the new Scottish state from seceding and forming an even smaller state? It would be awfully and transparently hypocritical of the new state, recently formed through secession, to prevent some subunit from seceding?

            Are you seriously trying to tell me that, because the SNP supports secession in the case of themselves, then they’re obviously going to support secession in the case of some group of libertarians in one neighborhood of some podunk village?

            Because if so, that’s your basic error. The people who support secession now support it on the basis of some Wilsonian idea of the “self-determination of nations”. Of nations. Not of ten libertarians in their backyard.

            When the Scottish government secedes, those libertarians are now under the dominion of the Scottish government, and they are not any closer to anarcho-capitalism. The Scottish government is just as jealous of its power as the British government, and it’s not going to let any group break away from it on a whim.

            And to them, this is not “transparently hypocritical” because the Scots are a “real nation” with thousands of years of history, and that little group of libertarians are not.

            I don’t see how it can be otherwise. You seem to agree that, in principle at least, any individual should be free to secede from any government. If any individual can secede, then it seems rather strange and untenable to yet maintain that a group of individuals could not secede, nor would it be possible for a group of individuals to secede in order to oppress some minority within that group (because it’s already been determined that anyone who’s feeling oppressed can secede to form an even smaller group).

            Yes, if any individual can secede, it implies that any group can secede. But it does go the other way around: the principle that certain large groups can secede does not imply that any individual can secede. And neither the Confederacy or the SNP (two very morally different examples, of course) supported the principle that any individual can secede.

            Supporting real-world secessionist groups means supporting the folks who think that their nation, or their people is “free” to secede and enact laws to “govern themselves”, which in reality means laws for the majority to govern the minority.

            Just because it’s “already been determined” by you in principle that the right to secede goes all the way down, doesn’t mean that if you support secessionist groups, you are closer to that outcome.

            In reality, I’m pretty sure the ideal level of political organization is greater than 1 for nearly everyone but the unabomber, but that I also am not okay, ethically and practically, with forcing anyone to be part of a polity they don’t want to be a part of. The way to arrive at this state of affairs is to allow states to secede from countries, districts from states, cities from districts, neighborhoods from cities, and so on until everyone has decided that the costs of more secession outweigh the benefits of abiding by the decisions of some group.

            For one, this in itself is oppressive. If any polity has the right to make whatever laws it wants to govern the majority, but it’s fine because everyone can leave, that might be okay if consent to join that polity were actually unanimous. But that isn’t how governments work in reality. They control a specific area and govern everyone in that area, whether they like it or not.

            Even if I had the right to secede from America, it wouldn’t do me any damn good. The government would just blockade my house, and I would quickly find that “the costs of secession” did not outweigh the “benefits of abiding by the decisions of some group”.

            You say that groups of people can go do their own thing on private land right now, but that is just not true. If me and my friends buy a big plot of land somewhere in the US and decide to live on it without leaving or trading with the outside (which we shouldn’t have to limit ourselves to doing in order to be able to use our own property as we see fit, but to take the extreme example), we would still have to abide by all federal, state, and local laws that apply. If we wanted to trade using dollars we would still have to pay taxes. If we tried to mint our own currency we’d eventually get arrested.

            Yes, the federal government does violate your rights, and you can’t voluntarily get out of that. Correct. Unfortunate.

            But what you were saying is that local groups ought to be able to enact laws that “restrict rights”, so long as it’s voluntary, such as making all women wear a veil. And I said you can already do that, if it’s voluntary. But local communities can’t decide by majority vote that “we’re a Christian nation, so let’s make everyone support the teaching of Christianity in the public schools.”

            By not allowing group secession you foreclose the natural development of a system in which people voluntarily work out their own ideal levels of political organization, and, paradoxically, end up little better off than we are now.

            I understand that you support group secession because it’s the “natural progression” to complete destruction of the coercive power of the state.

            The problem is that it isn’t. There are many reasons that people support secession, besides the genuinely libertarian reasons. There are the Wilsonian reasons, the neo-Confederate reasons, the racist reasons, the “popular sovereignty” reasons, the cultural relativist reasons, and so on. And these people far outnumber the libertarians.

            This is the “Ron Paul problem” that started this whole discussion: the pro-secession wing of libertarianism is full of unsavory people who don’t actually support libertarianism but hate the federal government for other reasons. Or who see libertarianism as a means of bringing them closer to their coercive ideal.

            For instance, as I already mentioned, Gary North. He thinks of himself as a libertarian, I guess. But he is a literal theocrat. And supporting a system where a group is free to stone adulterers and murder apostates without anyone else being to step in because maybe at the time of its creation it was “voluntary”, is not any form of libertarianism. That’s just arguing for my “liberty” to oppress you.

            ***

            Also, on the question of whether I think people have the right to secede.

            I think people have the right to revolution against any government which is restricting their rights, so long as their intent to create a more free society. You do not have the right to overthrow a more free government to create a less free government.

            If anarcho-capitalism is actually a workable system, then it means that there is no legitimate purpose of government (at least in the usual sense of the term; the whole anarcho-capitalist “network” is in a real sense a very decentralized government, since you effectively have no choice but to agree to be bound by its polycentric laws). Therefore, all government coercion is unnecessary, and it cannot be justified by right. And you always have the right to revolution against even a minimal night-watchman state.

            On the other hand, suppose that anarcho-capitalism does not work. That it devolves into warlordism or local mafias, etc, or that it makes people too weak against foreign invasion, or even (it’s a conceivable case, though I don’t think it likely) that it can’t deal with problems like global warming. In that case, there would be a legitimate need for a night-watchman state to protect life, liberty, and property. And secession from or treason against this state would be impermissible, since it is objectively necessary.

            Consent has nothing to do with it. As I’m sure you’re implicitly aware, the theory of government based on consent of the governed is fatally flawed. There are two alternatives: either there is such a thing as “collective consent”, in which case our current government is legitimate because the “the people” elected it. Or else there is only individual consent, in which case government is inherently impossible and we have anarchy.

            If government is justified on any basis, this justification necessarily would have to be a justification on a basis independent of consent, because the whole nature of government lies in its power to make you do things without your consent.

          • onyomi says:

            “Supporting real-world secessionist groups means supporting the folks who think that their nation, or their people is “free” to secede and enact laws to “govern themselves”, which in reality means laws for the majority to govern the minority.”

            I agree that, right now, “good” secession is still very much hamstrung by notions about “a people,” “a nation,” or what have you (the same sort of notion that leads the PRC to claim that they should rule Taiwan–because they say they represent “the Chinese people” or that Taiwan has “always” been a part of China).

            But I think considering the case of why China desperately wants to stop Tibet, Xinjiang, and other regions from seceding, as it continues to insist that Taiwan is technically part of China, is instructive. Tibet and Xinjiang are not premium real estate. They do have some mineral wealth and may have some strategic value, but not that many culturally Chinese people actually live there and they are kind of vast wastelands. But I think the reason for persistently holding on to regions that superficially seem like more trouble than they are worth is deeper: if the Tibetans can secede and the Uyghurs can secede, or we even recognize the Taiwanese, then what’s to stop the Hakka from seceding next? The Cantonese? The Wu speakers?

            Nation states intuitively and/or consciously recognize that allowing secession of any kind for any reason undermines the foundations of their nation’s legitimacy (and all governments as they currently exist are in danger of being deligitimized since they are ethically illegitimate). Even if they never foresee such an outcome, Scotland seceding would make it easier for Wales to secede–even for Quebec to secede. Initially people may continue to rely on notions of “a people,” but I think this would get weaker and weaker as more and more people would find they can call themselves “a people” if they really want to.

            In the case of the US, I previously had a debate here on SSC with some people; don’t recall if you were involved, about the question of whether the US federal government would oppose the secession of say, Texas, with armed force in the way they once opposed the Confederacy. My very strong intuition is no–I don’t think Americans have nearly as much of a regional identity today, and they also are a lot wimpier about honor and all that nonsense, to say nothing of the lack of a super-divisive ethical question like slavery.

            Or, if you won’t grant me that the US wouldn’t use military force to oppose the secession of Alaska, or Texas or California, then at least grant me that Texas does have a better chance of peacefully seceding than would a very small group of ranchers in the middle of Oregon, say. And Texas+Arizona+New Mexico+Nevada as a unit, if all their legislatures had a supermajority or something, would have an even better chance at successful secession than just Texas. In other words, given the current state of affairs, a large region within a nation has a better chance of successfully seceding than a small region, a state a better chance than a city, and a city a better chance than a neighborhood or individual.

            And each secession makes the next one easier to imagine and harder to oppose because there is a precedent. Say Texas successfully secedes and the residents of Austin and the surrounding area find the government of Texas oppressive. Can they secede from Texas? Maybe. I think they have a much better chance after Texas has seceded from the US than before. Maybe a whole region of Central Texas has to secede before Austin can secede from that region if its residents so choose. Or maybe part of Texas bordering the remaining US votes to secede from the new country of Texas in order to rejoin the US. Also conceivable and, while superficially a vote of confidence in the US government, actually also undermines US federal sovereignty since it emphasizes the mutability of that political unit.

            Yes, the idea of natural “nations” and “peoples” with some natural right to govern “themselves” must be undermined for libertarianism to flourish. And nations states know intuitively or consciously that allowing secession is a big threat, arguably the biggest threat to that foundation of legitimacy. As with free speech, there is nothing at all contradictory about saying “I don’t agree with your reasons for seceding, but I’ll fight to the death for your right to do it.”

            That is why I think that (within reason) we should strategically support secession almost anywhere and for almost any reason (arguably not any reason; to try to think of something as bad as the Confederacy’s defense of slavery yet which might still happen today, we could imagine some small nation seceding in order that they could continue their practice of mandatory female circumcision or something–but I think that sort of extremely bad case would constitute a very, very small minority of attempts to secede in the world today; plus, the more secession becomes a trend the easier it will be for women to escape from that one awful nation since there are likely ten better neighbors).

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Which never happened

            Look it up.

          • Mark Whipple, possibly quoting Charles Murray:

            “It’s easy to understand why Americans are so unconcerned about poor people: most of them look just like black people.”

            No. The majority of poor people in the US are white. (Probably. I’m not sure where undocumented aliens fit into this.)

            Black people are disproportionately poor, but not the majority of poor people. in fact, in the spirit of [citation offered], the proportion of white people (non-Hispanic) who are poor is 10.1% (19.7 million) and the proportion of black people is 26.2% (10.8 million).

        • nyccine says:

          …but remember that JBS was cast out of the good graces of the conservative coalition because they espoused ideas that were unmoored from reality…

          But that get’s the chronology completely backwards – JBS didn’t start off with a bunch of nutters ranting about flouride, that happened after Buckley succeeded in convincing the mainstream right of the time that the Society was too aggressive and would necessarily turn to fascism, at which point conformist tendencies set in and even those otherwise sympathetic to the organization refused to have anything to do with it, leaving it as nothing but a shell of its former self.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @nyccine:
            Robert Welch believed that Dwight Eisenhower was a conscious communist agent. Buckley denounced JBS as “far removed from common sense”.

            I believe JBS was looking for, and seeing, communist plots everywhere back in the 50s before Buckley denounced them. I think their downfall started when a Chicago writer named Jack Mabley published excerpts from “The Politician” a pseudo-secret short book/long letter that attempted to persuade people that Eisenhower was working as a communist agent. This was something that had been sent to Buckley by Welch as well, I believe.

            Not sure if you have sourcing for an alternate view?

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Right, The Politician is the founding document of JBS, distributed at the first meeting.

          • nyccine says:

            @HeelBearCub:

            Robert Welch believed that Dwight Eisenhower was a conscious communist agent.

            My understanding is that The Politician is a rather long-winded rant about what Welch saw as complete weakness in Eisenhower in dealing with Communists, which broaches the idea of Eisenhower being an active Communist but ultimately settled on him being a useful idiot. Although it’s always possible that’s just cover for his true beliefs.

            Accusing the Birch society of paranoia concerning Communist infiltration out to have been put to bed with the release of previously classified documents after the fall of the Soviet Union.

            But this isn’t really relevant anyway, since I was responding to your comment to Onyomi to “…research the history of the John Birch Society. Buckley. Fluoride. …” JBS wasn’t the Jim Jones Bunch, as I recall, and precisely how bat-shit insane Robert Welch was or was not doesn’t address my point that the Birch Society had some movers and shakers in the conservative movement of the time until, Buckley, the prototype for the modern cuckservative, had them excommunicated from polite society.

            Also, the Birch society claims that their objection to flouride is that it’s an unConstitutional interference in the public’s right to determine how to live their lives, but I’m sure comedies like Dr. Strangelove are a more accurate portrayal of the typical Bircher’s beliefs in the matter.

            @Vox Imperatoris:

            And do they really define “hate” that broadly?

            Don’t do shit like this, especially not when any curious party can just go right to the SPLC’s website and see for themselves what they consider a “hate group” – no, it is not just groups like the KKK, it is literally everyone who disagrees with their worldview. There is no room for arguments over whether homosexuals should be able to enter into marriage, or whether abortion can be considered murder, or whether people have a right to refuse to promote message that their faith finds unconscionable, as far as the SLPC is concerned if you aren’t on “the right side of history,” so to speak, you’re a bigoted POS.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ nyccine:

            Exactly what do you think you’re accomplishing / signifying by using the term “cuckservative”? Except discrediting yourself.

            Don’t do shit like this, especially not when any curious party can just go right to the SPLC’s website and see for themselves what they consider a “hate group” – no, it is not just groups like the KKK, it is literally everyone who disagrees with their worldview. There is no room for arguments over whether homosexuals should be able to enter into marriage, or whether abortion can be considered murder, or whether people have a right to refuse to promote message that their faith finds unconscionable, as far as the SLPC is concerned if you aren’t on “the right side of history,” so to speak, you’re a bigoted POS.

            The SPLC does not denounce everyone who disagrees with their worldview as a hate group. They denounce the ones among them which are…hate groups.

            The anti-gay groups with the SPLC denounces as hate groups are not simply those who disapprove of homosexuality—like the Catholic Church or something—but organizations that are dedicated to smearing, defaming, and spreading fear about homosexuals, accusing them of being pedophiles, arguing for restrictions on their rights, and even calling for their death in the case of some. They are not denouncing groups that “just want to have a conversation”.

            I’m not sure why these groups are any better than the groups that once campaigned against interracial marriage and did so by spreading lies, fear, and hatred against racial minorities.

            The SPLC does not condemn anti-abortion organizations as “hate groups”, with the exception of fundamentalist Christian sects that it condemns for other reasons (like the anti-Semitic sedevacantists). They do believe—correctly—that anti-abortion laws are a severe restriction on women’s rights and fight against them.

            Nor have they condemned anyone as a hate group for arguing that people have the right to “refuse to promote a message that their faith finds unconscionable”.

          • Echo says:

            He’s making fun of you. Are you somehow missing that?

          • nyccine says:

            @ Vox:
            “The anti-gay groups with the SPLC denounces as hate groups are not simply those who disapprove of homosexuality…”
            Bullshit. Liberty Council isn’t there because they conduct beatdowns on gays in the Tenderloin, they’re on the list because they think homosexuality is disgusting behavior, and say as such. SPLC openly states that the reason they’re on the list because they opposed gay marriage and expanding hate crime laws beyond historical norms. You are lying through your teeth on this one.

            “The SPLC does not condemn anti-abortion organizations as “hate groups”, with the exception of fundamentalist Christian sects that it condemns for other reasons (like the anti-Semitic sedevacantists). They do believe—correctly—that anti-abortion laws are a severe restriction on women’s rights and fight against them.

            Thank you for proving my point. You’re going to define any opposition to your world-view as “hate-speech” and thus declare the argument over. I guess I shouldn’t have even wasted my time.

        • Psmith says:

          “Or maybe part of Texas bordering the remaining US votes to secede from the new country of Texas in order to rejoin the US.”

          This is how West Virginia began, incidentally.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Even though it makes no political sense, I wonder how many Ron Paul supporters are now in the Bernie Sanders coalition. They seem to me like the same group, even though they shouldn’t be.

      • BBA says:

        They both want to end foreign wars and legalize pot. There are a lot of people for whom those are the only issues that matter, never mind that the two candidates have nothing else in common.

        • onyomi says:

          I don’t use any drugs or smoke pot myself, but I do care about the drug war because of the disproportionately negative impact it has on American black communities and Central American countries.

          The war issue is an especially difficult one because one can make a case that it is the single most important issue because it is not only a huge waste of money, it also directly results in death, both American and foreign. What’s more, it’s an area on which the president can have a relatively direct impact, meaning that having a president who’s good on foreign policy could make up for a lot in my opinion (which is why, despite being conservative/libertarian myself, I’m very glad Obama beat super-hawk McCain).

          But I’m also not sure it can make up for everything; I pretty much disagree with Sanders on everything else, and, of course, the Supreme Court justices he’d pick would be atrocious. Though I’d still rather have him as president than Hillary because Hillary is a big government hawk, whereas at least Bernie is a big government dove who speaks his mind. I will still probably vote for the Republican nominee over Hillary or Bernie, though I do worry that Marco Rubio might be George Bush Jr in a sexy new Cuban facade.

          • anon says:

            Why do you think he would pick particularly bad supreme court justices? I haven’t seen anything from him about this point.

            (Edit: Note that he will be constrained by a Republican-controlled congress in his judicial nominees. The best he’ll be able to hope for is someone competent and ideologically semi-neutral.)

          • onyomi says:

            I could be wrong, but I just assume that, given his democratic socialist stance on domestic issues, he is not the sort of person who would want the “will of the people” thwarted by a bunch of originalist judges.

          • BBA says:

            Yes, well, most people don’t have a coherent all-encompassing political philosophy. They care about their pet issues, or which candidate they find personally appealing, and that’s it.

          • nyccine says:

            @anon:
            Judicial appointments these days don’t get filibustered, that’s just not the way things happen, and fears of pushback if his nominees are too ideological are unfounded. “Advice and Consent” has given way to “Elections have consequences” and nowadays it’s taken as a given that it’s the President’s prerogative to fill a vacancy with whomever he chooses, unless he’s putting forward someone clearly unqualified, like when Bush tried to put forward Harriet Myers.

            A President Sanders, in a position to nominate a Supreme Court justice, is going to have to do something crazy like a pick a lawblogger, or current law student, in order to not get his nominee through.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            @anon:

            Sanders is on record saying that a promise to repeal Citizens United is a mandatory qualification for a nomination from him.

            This is wrong on multiple levels and gives me what I consider reasonable grounds to believe that his nominees would be awful.

      • I was just at a Young Americans for Liberty meeting, at which one of the other speakers was Congressman Rohrabacher, whom I knew forty some years ago in the libertarian movement of the time. He now considers himself a conservative/libertarian.

        He mentioned that Bernie Sanders was a friend of his, that while they disagreed on lots of issues he thought Sanders was an honest man, in contrast to most candidates.

        • BBA says:

          I can believe that. It’s reported that Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia are close friends, though you’d never know it from their work on the Court.

  10. Vox Imperatoris says:

    I have to say, I love this painting featured on Scott’s tumblr, “Truth Coming out of Her Well to Shame Mankind”, by Jean-Léon Gérôme. I wasn’t familiar with him by name, but I definitely recognize a lot of his work. He confirms my heuristic that good painters are featured in Latin textbooks. 😉

    Seriously, though, I love the paintings of the Academic artists like William-Adolphe Bouguereau, as well as close predecessors like Jacques-Louis David.

    These were the people who died popular and famous when Van Gogh was unknown and derided. And rightly so! It was a better artistic time.

    In terms of technical skill, I think Bouguereau is the best painter of all time, or close to it. Though thematically, he was a little too focused on naked women, without any real symbolism.

    • Nornagest says:

      It’s a good painting, but not as good a painting as “Truth Coming out of Her Well to Shame Mankind” is a title.

    • Anthony says:

      Vox Imp – In terms of technical skill, I think Bouguereau is the best painter of all time, or close to it. Though thematically, he was a little too focused on naked women, without any real symbolism.

      We just don’t remember any of the old symbolism. There was plenty.

  11. Mark says:

    I don’t think that people aspire to change class, any more than most people aspire to change nationality. I’m happy speaking with my (upper) lower class accent, and doing whatever the hell it is that I do that snobs might look down upon.

    Also, I don’t know if it’s just because I come from the skilled working class/low level clever-dick level, but I actually feel like me and my people are in every way better than all of you other people who aren’t in with us. If you owe your position to your skill and knowledge, and what you actually *do*, accents aside, I consider you to be one of us. If you owe your position to anything else, you are a joke.
    I mean, in order for status to work, doesn’t somebody actually have to give a shit? The upper lowers do not give a shit.

    • Sastan says:

      Some people do aspire. Some do not. Those who do not rationalize this decision, just as the strivers justify theirs.

      Not to say some justifications aren’t better than others!

    • Adam Casey says:

      I’m a grammar school kid*, so my whole life has been an attempt to seem higher class than I was born. So I’d say this isn’t universal.

      *US translation: got into a good school based on exam results not money

    • I’m from a long line of failed social climbers.

  12. Ialdabaoth says:

    Did Michael Church just wipe his entire blog?

    • John Schilling says:

      Looks like everything but the comment thread at the “About” page is gone, which would suggest he quickly wiped the archives and left the shell in place for possible future blogging.

      The obvious candidate when a blog goes suddenly dark is that a lot of hostile traffic, either hateful commentary or straight-up DOS attack, is coming at it. Or, the blogger’s real-world employer said “knock it off or you’re fired”. Any of which in turn suggest something controversial was said on the blog, or about it. Obviously we can’t see what was said on the blog recently. Google doesn’t seem to be showing any recent controversies around his name. And I certainly hope it wasn’t sparked by discussion of his old essay here.

    • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

      No: the E1s just wiped Michael Church’s blog. BWA-ha-ha-ha-ha!

    • John Schilling says:

      OK, curioser and curioser.

      Backstory: Church was apparently a major contributor to Quora until being banned last September – allegedly by demand from a key investor, though that’s Church speaking. This was apparently a big deal in Quora, sparking fears of an employee and/or user exodus, though that seems to have been averted. He discussed much of this on his now-deleted blog.

      Fast Forward: The wayback machine has a snapshot of Church’s blog from this morning (Feb 3), showing nothing more recent than a post from January 16 about how glad he’s going to be when the next dotcom crash comes. But the snapshot from January 26 has posts through the 22nd, in that case about a piece of fiction he is writing. And Google has a cached copy from February 1st, with a 31 January post specifically discussing an attempt by Quora to unban and re-recruit him and including both their offer and his counteroffer. Also a post from the 27th discussing at length his grievances with Paul Graham,who may or may not be the investor who got him banned from Quora.

      So, sometime between January 31 and this morning, something prompts Church and/or WordPress to delete all of Church’s recent posts but leave the rest, and then after this morning Church/Wordpress deleted all the content except for the “About” comment thread. If it was WordPress acting directly they’d probably have scrubbed everything and there wouldn’t be a blog any more.

      I’m guessing Quora and/or Graham started getting legal about what Church was saying about them. So depending on where Church classifies Paul Graham, “Cerebal Paul Z” might be on to something…

      No links, because why draw E1 fire on SSC? 🙂 You all know how to use Google and Wayback.

  13. cl says:

    What happened to the book discussion? weren’t we supposed to read the supernova story?

  14. Hugh Charles says:

    Long time reader, first time commenter here.

    One of my recurring features on this blog is Scott’s grappling with the empirical evidence on complex and controversial issues — i.e. racial elements of police violence, gun control, illegal immigration & crime.

    One issue that I would love to see Scott tackle is campaign finance reform. There seems to be a good deal of empirical work there but it seems like an area that could definitely benefit from a high-level sorting out. While the issue is extremely salient in public discourse (think Bernie, Trump, Larry Lessig), I have not really seen any of the sides approach this issue in a careful empirical way, as compared to the careless Voxsplaining-type analysis that you sometimes see out there.

    • Adam Casey says:

      I’ve not seen many people who seem to care about the empirics of the question. Most people seem interested simply in the principle of the thing or in arguments about factions.

      It would be interesting to actually read a bit about what campaign finance looks like. But I doubt there’s much room for “this guy claims X<<Y and cites a study that says XY, and the first study sucks, so the second seems more likely.” Simply because people don’t tent to make factual claims about it.

      • Hugh Charles says:

        I’m not sure I agree. It seems to me that the inquiry should go something like this:

        1. Does campaign spending actually influence electoral outcomes (and to what extent)?

        [As far as I can tell there’s a good amount of empirics on this]

        If the answer yes, then that gives a lot of credence to the Sanders/Lessig/Citizens United dissenters’ argument about the appearance of corruption. A next step could be to try to understand who actually contributes and what those contributors are trying to achieve — ideological results or material favors.

        If no, that leads to several follow-ups:
        a) Even if spending is ineffective, do politicians believe that its effective?
        b) If politicians realize that spending is ineffective, why do they spend so much effort soliciting donations?
        c) Is the inquiry complete? I.e. are there other factors to consider in figuring out whether campaign donations create an quid-pro-quo relationship?

        • Deiseach says:

          I think campaign spending is more like advertising budgets – you’re not quite sure if it works or not, and if it works how it works, but you know if you don’t do it you will lose out.

          There’s the “spending on the actual cost of running a campaign” which includes salaries for the staff and printing up election posters and paying the rent, utilities, etc. Then there’s the “spending on buying influence and running attack ads” which I presume is the part about corruption.

          I know there have been examples on this side of the water of donors running with the hares and hunting with the hounds, making sure to donate to both party X and party Y, or donating to party X when it’s in the ascendant and then switching to party Y when X is waning or unpopular. The quid pro quo is possibly slightly easier to see in the UK, where there’s an accepted and cynical tradition of “bung enough money to the party in power over a reasonable period and you’ll get your knighthood/peerage in one of the Honours lists”, though that doesn’t always work – some people have thrown money at the Tories and not got the gong they thought they deserved.

          I’m certain that there is an expectation on the part of donors that, at the very least, “We would prefer party Z to form the next government because they’re business-friendly”. I don’t see that putting a lid on this type of donation much helps the “Sanders/Lessig/Citizens United dissenters” type opponents as the shoe fits just as much on their foot: plainly, to run a modern election campaign, you need a good war chest. And organisations that promote Save The Endangered Underwater Coral Weevil would like a government/administration where there are tough environmental laws which do get enforced, so they want to support a party or candidate likely to share their interests.

          If nobody can give large donations, then groups that are pro-(enter progressive cause of your choice) can’t give large donations to favoured candidates either, and that means both they and their preferred candidates will have to rely on the wistful hope that the great unwashed public really care passionately about the Endangered Underwater Coral Weevil and will vote for a candidate likely to hold that cause dear to their heart, with no helping prompting on the part of groups pushing said candidate or paying towards that candidate’s election campaign.

          Here in Ireland for the same-sex marriage referendum, the “yes” vote side got large sums donated to various LGBT activist groups by Chuck Feeney’s Atlantic Philanthropies. Coverage of foreign donations (which, by the way, are forbidden under Irish law) reported on donations from US groups to the “No” vote side but conveniently were unaware of the “Yes” side getting funding, or at least believed their claim that “He didn’t donate to this, he just gave money to various groups that coincidentally support this”.

          What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If conservative groups or donors can’t back candidates, then progressive groups can’t do likewise, and I think there are too many loopholes for really determined groups to get around limits on donations, plus the necessity of sourcing large funding to support the parties, to put this genie back in the bottle.

        • Hugh Charles says:

          Advertising is a pretty good analogy. As far as I can tell, though, advertising is generally believed to work at least sometimes. So from the standpoint of a corporate executive, devoting some portion of your budget to ads make sense.

          Is campaign spending thought to be similarly effective? If yes, then donating to candidates similarly makes sense. If no, then it seems like a waste of money. I guess a good way to reframe it for the audience of this blog would be: from an effective altruism standpoint, does it make sense to donate money (tons and tons of money if you have it) to a candidate that you think is advancing some absolutely critical cause?

        • Anthony says:

          Question 1, the answer is yes. What’s more interesting is the correlation. We know it’s not 1.0, or even that close, but is it more or less than 0.5? What confounding factors do you control for?

          The next question, assuming that corruption is the main worry, is to what extent do campaign contributions affect policy-making? And that’s harder to tell.

          In a broad ideological sense, the answer is probably “not much” – nobody is going to flip from pro-life to pro-abortion, or vice versa, for money; similarly, gun control, and several other hot-button ideological issues. Ideological campaign funders are interested in electing people who already agree with them, not swaying moderates or converting opponents.

          However, there are lots of little technical details in various laws which have no real ideological valence, and often not even much empirical support for or against. This is where campaign funding can be important. One example I encountered many years ago: plastic pipe. Using plastic pipe for in-house plumbing is controversial, because it’s much easier to install than metal pipe, and the material is cheaper. This is a direct threat to union plumbers (and even non-union plumbers), as it doesn’t take much specialized knowledge to install it adequately. It *is* less durable, but people manage to f*** up their copper or galvanized pipes through misuse and accident, too. There are claims that the adhesive used on plastic pipe leaches out toxic materials, but that’s disputed, and solder isn’t perfect, either. So if you want the local plumbers’ union to support your campaign for City Council, you have to promise to keep plastic pipe out of the Building Code. And why shouldn’t you? It keeps a few well-paying jobs in town, and it avoids some potentially (but unproven) bad effects. And nobody will notice nor care that people with old lead pipes can’t afford to replumb their houses, because the water company will always add the right chemicals to the water to keep the lead from leaching out.

          So what needs examining is how campaign contributions (and organized support by volunteers) turns into policy decisions where there isn’t really a good visible public-interest reason to decide one way or the other.

          Oh – California has an interesting variation on this. Various transit improvement and park bond measures are pay-to-play. An organizing group starts working on a bond measure (which has to be approved by the voters). Every group has to contribute so much money or promise so many petition signatures for each million dollars its pet project will require. If your group can’t pony up, your project’s chances go to very near zero for the next four to six years, while the appropriate agencies buy and build the projects that did make it into the bond measure.

        • One question worth asking is the effect of campaign spending on the reelection of incumbents. An incumbent, unless he has done something that really offends the voters, starts with a big advantage. He has lots of free publicity and lots of opportunities to do favors for people with other people’s money. Incumbents are usually reelected.

          I’ve seen the claim that in order to have a chance of defeating an incumbent, the challenger needs to outspend him two to one. I don’t know if it’s true, but it would be an interesting dimension of the question to explore.
          I

          • Sastan says:

            Well, one could always ask Eric Cantor. Or Jeb Bush right now.

            My read is that money matters a lot less than people think. Money in politics just isn’t enough to override ideology, media pressure and the random pitfalls and chance of an election. Trump has spent very little, but without the Paris and San Bernadino attacks, I think he’d be out of the race. The question is who can take advantage of whatever happens in the real world and position themselves in a way that appeals to people, then get the media to put their name out there. You don’t need money for that, although that is the “easy” way to do it.

    • Urstoff says:

      That seems like an area in which the direction of causality would be incredibly difficult to determine, although I don’t know what the typical empirical methodologies are.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      For a very minimal preliminary discussion of some of these issues, see https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/04/19/plutocracy-isnt-about-money/ .

    • I’m a longtime political practitioner. I have spent almost 20 years as an elected official, and my record as a candidate in contested primaries and elections is 6-2. I have run for state legislature and city council, but experienced success only at the county level.

      I always say that the independent role of money in electoral politics is enormously overrated.

      It is not generally possible to buy an election. Shoestring campaigns often beat well-funded campaigns. That doesn’t usually happen, because political donors are attracted to likely success.

      If you’re a good candidate for an elected post, under the overall circumstances of the times, your views, your skills, the electorate, the opposition, etc., then there are donors who want to give you money, probably enough to make the race. All you have to do is ask for it.

      When two opposing candidates both have at least a threshold amount of resources, enough to put on a plausible campaign, additional money on one side hardly affects the outcome at all.

      (Sure, there are a few caveats to that. Multiple competing candidates can raise the threshold of plausibility, and in a drawn-out process, the dollar amount of fundraising can be an important signal to voters and other political actors. Those factors apply to the presidential primaries, but almost never in a one-on-one general election.)

      The problem is that the outcome of a contested election is inherently uncertain. Anxiety about this uncertainty is a major motivator of all the political actors. Therefore, a tremendous amount of effort is expended to reduce the uncertainty and assuage the anxiety. That effort costs money — money which primarily serves the needs of the candidate and the inner circle.

      My rule of thumb is, the more money a campaign has, the higher the percentage that is wasted. In an effective shoestring campaign, the team has to work much harder and without pay, recruiting volunteers, working in cheap but awkward spaces, and putting limited resources into voter contact. A well-funded campaign has lots of paid staff, high-end catering, a spacious and attractive headquarters, none of which affect the likelihood of winning. When a campaign has too much money, there is a lot of useless polling, to calm everyone’s anxiety, and offer the illusion of knowing what’s going on.

      It’s more fun and less work to run a well-funded campaign than a shoestring campaign, especially for the candidate. Hence, the big-money political donors are largely subsidizing the comfort of the candidate, not so much changing the odds of winning.

      And that is often the point. It is much cheaper to buy a politician than buy an election. Or, to put it more politely, to buy access to a politician, so that your policy arguments are taken seriously, your recommendations of appointees are given a respectful hearing, etc.

      Of course, that’s not the only reason people give money to political campaigns. It could be part of fighting for a cause, or against one. It can make a person feel virtuous and public-spirited, contributing to the political life of the community. It makes the donor an unofficial member of a candidate’s coterie, fostering a sense of belonging, without having to spend any effort stuffing envelopes or making phone calls to uninterested strangers. Even if you don’t have any self-interested goals, people like to be seen as important and well-connected. Give $500 to a campaign, and other candidates will come courting you.

      (And every campaign needs at least some money. I’m running for re-election this year myself, as county clerk, and I will be seeking donations of money to support that effort.)

      I don’t like the Citizens United decision, but I think its real-world impact will be much less than what many people fear.

      • “I don’t like the Citizens United decision, but I think its real-world impact will be much less than what many people fear.”

        At a tangent … . What a lot of people miss about that decision, in some cases I think deliberately, is that it didn’t change the ability of rich people to spend their own money supporting a candidate or legislation. What it changed was the ability of organizations, such as firms or labor unions, to do so. And even that, I believe, merely restored the situation that had existed a few years earlier, before the legislation restricting such expenditure came in.

        And thanks for the interesting inside view of the political process. It sounds like an application of Parkinson’s second law: Expenditure rises to meet or exceed income.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          It is striking that same the people whose first response to Citizens United was to summarize it as “corporations are now people” now point to individual spending claiming it as the consequence.

          But often the de facto rules have no resemblance to the written law. If Citizens United did not grant individuals rights, can you point to individuals exercising those rights before the case? (Actually, you must concede that it granted one right to individuals: the ability to obscure their identity behind SuperPACs. Perhaps that had many consequences.)

          • FJ says:

            You’re looking for examples of private individuals engaged in political advertising prior to 2010? I assume Common Sense and The Federalist Papers don’t count? Or, for that matter, 90% of all election-season letters to the editor?

        • Jaskologist says:

          Remember, Citizens United was literally about whether or not a non-profit was allowed to criticize Hillary Clinton.

          I can see why she opposes it so strongly, but not why others jumped on that bandwagon.

      • “Or, to put it more politely, to buy access to a politician, so that your policy arguments are taken seriously, your recommendations of appointees are given a respectful hearing, etc.”

        That looks like quite a major loophole in your overall argument…ie, you’re not spending money to put a person i power, you are spending money to put policies in place.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Kestenbaum doesn’t seem to be saying that money doesn’t buy politicians, so to speak, but that the impact of Citizen’s United on the system is perhaps overestimated.

        • That looks like quite a major loophole in your overall argument

          I must not have explained it clearly enough. What I said is that “the independent role of money in electoral politics is enormously overrated.”

          (1) In general, you can’t buy an election.

          (2) Successful candidates tend to have well-funded campaigns, because the people who donate money are motivated to give to winners, and they usually have a good idea who the winners are likely to be.

          (3) If a candidate loses by a significant margin, it was almost certainly not simply because the campaign didn’t spend enough money. Lack of sufficient money in a campaign is generally a symptom of more fundamental problems.

          There are other things that can be done with money, and I laid those out explicitly. That does not contradict my point at all.

  15. onyomi says:

    Somewhat related, for me, to Indians’ view that Hitler wasn’t so bad, is the view I’ve encountered among Chinese and Russians that Mao and Stalin, respectively, weren’t so bad. Basically, if you give people a sense of unity and national pride and strength and stuff like that people are very willing to overlook 50 million deaths or so.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      There’s also the fact that, with Mao at least, his face is still on all of the money and the CCP still officially sings his praises. If you’re from the mainland not liking Mao would be like hating George Washington.

      • onyomi says:

        If it were common knowledge that George Washington instituted policies that directly led to the death of tens of millions…

        • Adam Casey says:

          So the standard left-wing version of american history then? =p

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          I’m not sure whether that’s actually common knowledge in the PRC.

          As a Sinologist (I think?) you probably know better than I do, but the impression that I got from my Chinese friends is that they don’t know much about their history more than a generation back and don’t care to. My ex only seemed to know about the Tiananmen Square massacre because her dad survived it and ended up on a party blacklist because of it.

          • Chalid says:

            My (limited) experience is similar to yours; Chinese people don’t seem to have any clue anything bad happened under Mao or at Tiananmen Square.

          • onyomi says:

            Chalid: that’s definitely not the case. They know but are reluctant to talk much about it.

            That said, as Dr Dealgood says, there is a steep generational dropping off: older people remember the Cultural Revolution and Great Leap Forward, for example, but for younger people they are already very vague in the way say, the Korea and Vietnam Wars are for young Americans today.

            Of course, the Chinese get a rosier picture of Mao in school than we do, but especially with the internet, information is now freely available. That said, I don’t think most young Chinese have a lot of love or hatred for Mao; rather, he’s just some guy who appears on kitschy old stuff and money who probably did some bad things but also did some good things and who cares, so to speak (the average Chinese is also much more cynical about and disinterested in politics than the average American).

            I don’t have nearly as much experience with Russia as with the PRC, but I do remember being even more surprised, during my one visit there, to hear people speak with some respect and fondness about Stalin; Stalin doesn’t even get that “founder halo” Mao gets, which presumably would be reserved for Lenin.

            Overall, my impression of both Russia and the PRC (again, much more extensive with PRC) is that having had horrific famine, purges, genocide, war, etc. a few decades ago leaves less of an obvious imprint on cultures and attitudes than one might expect. Of course, the people I talk to are the ones who survived and their descendants…

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ onyomi:

            I don’t have nearly as much experience with Russia as with the PRC, but I do remember being even more surprised, during my one visit there, to hear people speak with some respect and fondness about Stalin; Stalin doesn’t even get that “founder halo” Mao gets, which presumably would be reserved for Lenin.

            I get the impression that Russians feel about Stalin approximately the way American (conservatives) feel about Columbus:

            1: “Rah rah rah! Let’s celebrate Columbus Day and stick it to those liberals who are obsessed with ‘white guilt’.”
            2: “But Columbus was evil!”
            1: “Without him, our country wouldn’t be here today; why you gotta diss him?”
            2: “Are you saying you agree with his enslavement of Native Americans?”
            1: “Yeah, he did some bad things, but it was a different time. In fact, you’re making me uncomfortable; let’s talk about something else.”

            Just look at this Ayn Rand Institute article on Columbus:

            More than a century ago, America celebrated the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s voyage of discovery by hosting an enormous world’s fair on the shores of Lake Michigan. This “World’s Columbian Exposition” featured statues of the great explorer, replicas of his three ships, and commemorative stamps and coins. Because Columbus Day was a patriotic holiday — it marked the opening chapter in American history — the newly written Pledge of Allegiance was first recited in schools on October 12, 1892.

            Nowadays, however, an embarrassed, guilty silence descends on the nation each Columbus Day. We’ve been taught that Columbus opened the way for rapacious European settlers to unleash a stream of horrors on a virgin continent: slavery, racism, warfare, epidemic, and the cruel oppression of Indians.

            This modern view of Columbus represents an unjust attack upon both our country and the civilization that made it possible. Western civilization did not originate slavery, racism, warfare, or disease — but with America as its exemplar, that civilization created the antidotes. How? By means of a set of core ideas that set Western civilization apart from all others: reason and individualism.

            See, they don’t deny any of the bad things that Columbus did. The whole thing just argues that, in a more important sense, he paved the way for and stood for good things.

            And that’s just what a lot of Russians think about Stalin: he did a lot of bad things, but he stood for modernization, industrialization, and fighting back against fascism! Why do you have to be so damn negative? I bet you hate Russia.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            Columbus is much, much easier for people to diss though, and on the flipside, receives much less actual veneration. In the Russian view of history Stalin is the person who guided the Soviet Union through the Great Patriottic war, which is a much bigger deal in Russia than possibly anywhere else in the world.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            Of course, the people I talk to are the ones who survived and their descendants…

            Actually, on reflection that might be closer to the mark than it seems at first glance.

            Every mainland Chinese person I know has had an urban hukou, and from a municipality-level city at that, or come from Hong Kong. That is, they were from areas which fared relatively well under Mao or were never under him to begin with. Even if their parents or grandparents were born elsewhere they grew up in places that didn’t really have any particular reason not to buy into Mao’s cult of personality.

            Has anyone here talked to a genuinely rural Chinese person, or even one from a more minor city? Their political opinions might very be different, if well guarded.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Stefan Drinic:

            True.

            Also, Volgograd keeps wanting to change its name back to Stalingrad for approximately the same reason that so many people keep protesting the removal of Confederate memorials.

          • Chalid says:

            @onyomi Makes sense. The people I have talked to are all younger (not old enough to have been aware of events in 1989)

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            Volgograd’s people want to change their name back? That’s actually really funny; there are many well-known Soviet jokes of people from Leningrad wishing they could live in St Petersburg once more.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Stefan Drinic:

            Volgograd’s people want to change their name back? That’s actually really funny; there are many well-known Soviet jokes of people from Leningrad wishing they could live in St Petersburg once more.

            I know those jokes.

            Funnily enough, St. Petersburg is to this day the capital of the “Leningrad Oblast”. After the fall of the Soviet Union, they had elections in both the city and the oblast (province) to change the name back to St. Petersburg (or Санкт-Петербург, which is actually a Dutch name because Peter the Great was obsessed with The Netherlands in the same way that some people are obsessed with Japan).

            The city voted to change the name back, but the oblast did not. So St. Petersburg is the capital of Leningrad.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Vox

            I wonder how many people still think Columbus was the only person who thought the world was round, and set off to prove it? Yay bold enlightened modern science and the American Way.

            In fact, aiui, all educated people knew it was round, and also believed (correctly) that it was too big to sail around because no ship of the time could carry enough supplies.

            Columbus was lucky there was a rich continent where he could re-supply to go home. He was unlucky that the Ithmus of Panama kept him from sailing on to the East Indies and coming home saying Nya Nya.

            I think we should rename it Queen Isabella Day, or, Fund Crackpot Research Day. (Why did she, anyway?)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I’ve been wondering if Columbus was more the “tech startup” guy of his day. He needed VC money, so he tells them he is going to to get to India which will lead to “explosive, exponential growth!”

            But really he just wanted to see what was out there. He figures there has to be a worthwhile market for his “Three Ships Explorer” product if he just goes far enough west.

            Once he finds something he has to call it “India” no matter where it is.

          • John Schilling says:

            Volgograd’s people want to change their name back? That’s actually really funny

            St. Petersburg has centuries of history under that name.

            Volgograd, is “the city on the Volga”, except that it’s not the only or even the largest such. Whee, there’s a name to inspire civic pride. Or else it’s “The City of the Man of Steel”, against which the Armies of the Forces of Darkness broke and fell. Hell, I kind of want the name changed back, and I live on the far side of the planet and even greater cultural and political divides. Just not in a way that Putin’s crowd can exploit, if that’s possible.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ John Schilling:

            Volgograd was called “Tsaritsyn” for five-hundred years before the name got changed. And that’s obviously unpalatable for other reasons.

            Of course, St. Petersburg was also briefly called “Petrograd”, but that was done during WWI under the Russian Empire itself as a way to get rid of the Germanic name and make it Slavic. For the same reason that the British royal family changed their name from “Saxe-Coburg-Gotha” to “Windsor”.

          • Max says:

            I known quite a few Chinese people (from china , not chinese americans) and they all know about Mao and deaths. Though none of them quite sure exactly how many there were – numbers go from several millions to tens of millions. To be fair I dont know exactly how many died due to Stalin purges . And I am Russian with keen interest in this subject- our stats vary from several millions to low tens of millions

            Also Lenin(and Gorbachev) are pretty much universally despised nowdays in Russia because their actions destroyed great country .While Mao gets credit for rebuilding nation. Stalin ironically gets credit for industrialization and winning ww2, even though technically he killed a few orders of magnitude more people than Lenin.

          • Tibor says:

            @Max: Gorbachev is despited despite him being one of the biggest contributors to the end of communism in Europe? That’s surprising. He (along with Garry Kasparov) is one of the few contemporary (and widely known) Russians who have a good reputation in the Czech media. I get that many Russians love the grandeur of feeling like an imperial superpower but I thought that most people were still against communism and would rather live in the current non-communist (even if not exactly free) Russia than in the communist Soviet Empire. The country is freaking huge even as it is now 🙂

          • Marc Whipple says:

            @Tibor:

            I had a Russian roommate (Physics grad student from Russia) in the early nineties. He hated Gorbachev with a passion and, exactly as Max says, it was because he blamed him for destroying the country. We never discussed Lenin, so I don’t know his views on that.

            He was a big fan of Yeltsin and if I had to guess, I’d say he’s probably okay with Putin now, though I’m sure he lives in the US somewhere.

          • The Three Body Problem was a best-seller in China– that’s why it was published in the US. The book has a vividly negative section about the Cultural Revolution. I suppose it’s possible that many Chinese people read it as a fictional dystopia.

            I’ve seen a theory that Columbus knew there was something besides open ocean between Europe and Asia because there were Basque fishermen catching cod. I’m not sure whether this is reasonable.

          • John Schilling says:

            I’ve seen a theory that Columbus knew there was something besides open ocean between Europe and Asia because there were Basque fishermen catching cod.

            Or because he had been first mate on a voyage to Iceland, where you could probably still hear stories about the New World and maybe from people who had been there (the Vinland settlements had been abandoned 400+ years before, but Norsemen were making timber-harvesting runs to Nova Scotia for centuries after that and possibly into the early 15th century).

          • bean says:

            @John
            The problem I have with that theory is that Columbus never believed he’d found a new continent. He always maintained he’d found the way to India. If he’d known what he was doing, and used the line about India to con the Spanish into paying for it, then I could believe it. But that’s not what happened.

    • nil says:

      The fact that they’re both viewed as beating back the Axis powers (undeservedly in Mao’s case, but fairly reasonably in Stalin’s) also goes a long way.

      • Stefan Drinic says:

        Fairly? You mean nigh-on singlehandedly, right?

        • nil says:

          The Russian people’s vastly disproportionate contribution isn’t debatable; Stalin’s is.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Yes, there’s a very good argument that Stalin’s purges and other policies left the Red Army woefully unprepared for war—let alone the suggestions that he trusted Hitler way too much.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            Oh, that’s much more fair, but then people have a way of not remembering their history in such ways. It was not a reformed and very well-trained army that conquered Persia, Alexander got named a military genius instead; it was not the transition from professional to drafted armies and France being early in such a regard that beat half the other powers of its time, no, Napoleon must have been freakishly good at warfare and that’s all that mattered. Stalin belongs in such a list of people, too.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            Nitpick- the purges are overrated? Misrated? From CruelDwarf paradox forum (warning, long)

            Reference:
            The following number of command personnel of the Red Army was dismissed annually over the past five years (from 1934 to 25 October 1939):

            In 1934, 6596 people were dismissed, 5.9% of the regular staffing , of which:

            a) for drunkenness and moral degradaton – 1513
            b) due to illness, disability, the death and so on. – 4604
            c) arrested and convicted – 479
            Total – 6596

            In 1935, 8560 people were dismissed, 7.2% of the regular staffing, of which:
            a) political and moral reasons, the service discrepancy, by own volution, and so forth. – 6719
            b) sickness and death – 1492
            c) convicted – 349
            Total – 8560

            n 1936, 4918 people were dismissed, 3.9% of the regular staffing, of which:
            a) for drunkenness, political and moral inconsistency – 1942
            b) due to illness, disability and death – 1937
            c) for political reasons (expulsion from the Party) – 782 [49]
            d) as the arrested and convicted – 257
            Total – 4918

            In 1937 18,658 people were dismissed, 13.6% of the regular staffing, of which:
            a) for political reasons (expulsion from the party, the relationship with the enemies of the people) – 11,104
            b) arrested – 4474
            c) for drunkenness and moral degradation – 1139
            d) due to illness, disability, the death – 1941
            Total – 18,658

            In 1938 16,362 people were dismissed, 11.3% of the regular staffing, of which:
            a) for political reasons – are excluded from the CPSU (b) according to the directive of the Central Committee of the CPSU (b) as people subject to dismissal from the Red Army for their relations with the conspirators – 3580
            b) foreigners (Latvians – 717 Poles – in 1099, the Germans – 620 Estonians – 312 Koreans, Lithuanians and others), people who were born abroad and associated with it, were dismiised according to the directive of the People’s Commissar for Defense from 06.24.1938 № 200 / N – 4138.
            c) arrested – 5032
            d) for drunkenness, embezzlement, theft, moral degradation – 2671
            e) due to illness, disability or death – 941
            Total – 16,362

            In 1939 before november, 25 1691 people were dismissed, 0.6% of the regular staffing, of which:
            a) for political reasons (expulsion from the party, the relationship with the plotters) – 277
            b) arrested – 67
            c) for drunkenness and moral degradation – 197
            d) due to illness, disability – 725
            e) because of death – 425

            The total number of the dismissed in 6 years is 56,785. Total number of the dismissed in 1937 and 1938 – 35 020 people. Reasons:

            a) the natural reasons (Death or dismissed due to illness, disability, drunkards, and others.) – 6692, or 19.1%; [50]
            b) arrested – 9506, or 27.2%;
            c) dismissed for political reasons (excluded from the CPSU (b) according to the directive of the Central Committee of the CPSU (b) – 14,684 or 41.9%;
            d) foreigners who have been dismissed by the People’s Commissar of Defense Directive – 4138 people or 11.8%.

            Thus 7718 people were dismissed by the directive of the Central Committee of the CPSU (b) and the People’s Commissar of Defence Directive in 1938. Or 41% of the total number of the people dismissed in 1938.

            Along with cleaning the army of the hostile elements some of the command personnel was dismissed by unjustified reasons. 6650 people returned in the Red Army after the restoration of the party membership and the proof of the unjust dismissal. They are mostly captains, seniour lieutenants, lieutenants and other equal ranks, about 62% of the restored personell.

            The dismissed were replaced in their positions by proven reserve cadre of 8154 people. 2572 people with one year training, from the reserve of political personnel – 4,000 people. This covers all positions opened. Dismissal for 1939 comes from mostly natural reasons and from cleaning the army of drunks, as the People’s Commissar of Defense issued an order on December 28, 1938 which requires ruthlessly cast them out from the Red Army.

            Thus the army was significantly cleaned during these two years from politically hostile elements, drunks and foreigners who do not inspire confidence about their loyalities. As a result, we have a much more robust political and moral condition. The rise of the discipline, the rapid promotion of the cadre, rise in military ranks, as well as salary increases have raised the interest and the confidence of the command cadre and led to high political enthusiasm in the Red Army, as was shown by the historic victories at Lake Khasan and Khalkhin Gol river. Government has awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union to 96 people and 23,728 people recieved other decorations and medals for their distinguished service in these conflicts.

            Chief of the 6th Department Colonel (Shiryaev)
            October 20, 1939

            Source: Russian State Military Archive (РГВА), fund 37837б, inventory 19, case 87, pages 42-52.



            Information on the number of people restored to service is also in archives and is a part of the inquiry about the number of the dismissed command and political cadre in the 1935-1939 period. Which was signed by the head of the Command and Leadership Directorate of the Red Army Shchadenko (Source: RSMA. Fund 37837. Inventory 18. Case 890. Pages 4-7).

            4544 people who were dismissed in 1937 were restored to service in 1938-39.
            6008 people who were dismissed in 1938 were restored to service in 1939.
            152 people who were dismissed in 1939 were restored to service up to Aprill 11 of 1940 (the date of report)

          • Tibor says:

            @Stefan:

            Put Crassus at the head of Alexander’s army and a possibly even better trained army performs much much worse, possibly gets crushed by the Persians.

            Stalin was definitely a smart guy (also a complete sociopath and maybe even a psychopath) and a good politician (as in good at acquiring and using power for his own benefit). He managed to use his political skill quite brilliantly to secure a half of Europe for himself. But if his goal had been above all the liberation of Russia (or even Europe as a whole) from the Nazi occupation at the minimal cost, he would have done a really bad job.

          • Tibor says:

            @Samuel: And you think that the official reports would say something like “had to go/be executed because did not like Stalin enough or because Stalin was afraid of his rising popularity”? The official Soviet reports are about as reliable as the “elections” and their “results” were in the communist-bloc.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Samuel Skinner

            I think it’s staggeringly naïve of you to take those numbers at face value. After all, “suiciding” political dissidents or having them labeled mentally incompetent and committed was pretty much the Bolshevik’s SOP. As Tibor asked above, Did you honestly expect to find “did not like Stalin enough” under the official reasons for discharge?

            Even if we do take them at face value, those numbers aren’t exactly comforting. Relieving “only” 11% of your command staff and 2% of your total strength for cause isn’t something you should bragging about. It does not indicate a healthy command climate.

            Of course if you really want to do a proper job of debunking the “myth” of Stalin’s purges you need to include the numbers from WWII and immediate post-war period.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            @Samuel Skinner:

            Stalin’s largest purge happened after the German invasion of 1941, which is well after your data ends counting. I’m not terribly knowledgeable on this subject at all, but I think using 1939 as a cutoff point is disingenuous.

            @Tibor:

            What point are you trying to make? That sometimes bad tactical choices do matter? Carrhae was a humiliating defeat, but then Crassus wasn’t fighting the Persians(Parthians at that point) on even terms nor in a pitched battle. We’re talking about the person who refused an Armenian offer of aid of more than a ten thousand soldiers, assuming he’d have a breezy campaign, only for him to allow his army to get shot to pieces uselessly whilst on the march. Alexander was no fool, but the tactics used in his campaigns have been almost criminally overrated by Greek writers after his death glorifying his deeds.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            Tibor
            “And you think that the official reports would say something like “had to go/be executed because did not like Stalin enough or because Stalin was afraid of his rising popularity”? ”

            You mean where they torture you until you admit to being a traitor, sign a confession and then the NKVD shoots you? That’s political crimes. This isn’t Nazi Germany where they need to look for dirt to blacken your name- if the NKVD wants you dead, you are an enemy of the people.

            “The official Soviet reports are about as reliable as the “elections” and their “results” were in the communist-bloc.”

            Exactly why would an internal military document covering staff levels be unreliable? It is from the Soviet archives- who exactly do you think they would be lying to?

            Stefan
            “Stalin’s largest purge happened after the German invasion of 1941, which is well after your data ends counting. I’m not terribly knowledgeable on this subject at all, but I think using 1939 as a cutoff point is disingenuous.”

            You sure about that? The 36-38 purge isn’t called The Great Purge for nothing.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            I have no numbers on hand, but I seem to remember correctly at least that 1941 was a bad time to be a Soviet officer in the west:

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purge_of_the_Red_Army_in_1941

            It may not match up in size to what happened earlier, but ending the data at 1939 seems a little strange regardless.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            I hadn’t heard of those until you mentioned it (and I looked it up immediately and saw what you saw; I couldn’t find good sources). The descriptions make it sound like a departure from the usual amount of arrests and executions, but the numbers listed (a couple hundred executed) are pretty small compared to the trend.

            The ending date is 1939 because 1936-1938 is The Great Purge which people blame for poor Russian performance. If you are interested in more details here
            https://forum.paradoxplaza.com/forum/index.php?threads/pogrom-of-the-commanders-the-factual-results-of-the-repressions-against-red-army-leadership.872308/

          • Tibor says:

            @Stefan: My point is that killing many of your best generals and distributing automatic weapons above all to the military police is pretty much Crassus level stupidity (or would be, if Stalin’s goal had actually been defeating the Nazis at the minimal cost to the Russian/Soviet population and not securing and expanding his own power).

          • Tibor says:

            @Samuel: They would be lying to the soldiers who have access to the files and who they would not want to start thinking along the lines of “hmm, that many guys get killed or jailed because Stalin did not like them…what if Stalin decides he does not like me? I better help organize a coup or something before it is too late”. They would perhaps torture you until you pleaded guilty but they would omit the torture in the records. And yes, every insider with half a brain probably knew about it but every citizen in communist countries knew the elections were cooked (and that he’d better make sure he chooses the communist party anyway because he might get in trouble otherwise – for example in Czechoslovakia during communism you could officially vote in a booth so that nobody sees your vote but if you went there they would note you down and keep an eye on you, everyone knew that).

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            Tibor
            ” My point is that killing many of your best generals”

            The purges were over politics so I’m not seeing why it would select and only kill competent people.

            “They would be lying to the soldiers who have access to the files ”

            These are from the Soviet achieves. You know, the stuff only the KGB had access to.

            “hmm, that many guys get killed or jailed because Stalin did not like them…what if Stalin decides he does not like me? I better help organize a coup or something before it is too late”

            They can see that just by looking at the military org tables. This was not a big secret. The total number of military officers arrested/purged during the great purge and the number claimed is nearly the same
            (Stalin destroyed the best of the command cadre. He shot, dismissed or exiled about 30,000 officers.
            Lev Trotsky, march 13 of 1939.)

            “They would perhaps torture you until you pleaded guilty but they would omit the torture in the records.”

            Correct. If they wanted guilty people for political crimes, they would find guilty people for political crimes. Unlike the Nazis they didn’t need to charge you with another crime- smearing you with counter-revolutionary treason was how you got rid of people.

          • hlynkacg says:

            The purges were over politics so I’m not seeing why it would select and only kill competent people

            Selection bias, a competant officer is more of a “threat” than an incompetant one.

            These are from the Soviet achieves. You know, the stuff only the KGB had access to.

            And?

            He shot, dismissed or exiled about 30,000 officers.
            – Lev Trotsky

            Well yes, that’s the whole point. Everyone on active duty at the time would have known at least one guy who was eliminated, probably several. I don’t think you appreciate just how damaging that level of turnover can be to things like institutional trust.

  16. Deiseach says:

    Re: Indian perceptions of Hitler, I am currently bingewatching a ton of mythological Hindi TV series on Youtube, and one thing in the dialogue is that there are frequent references to “These Aryan lands”, “our Aryan people”, “Aryan kings” etc., as well as swastikas all over the place.

    From a Western viewpoint, this raises uncomfortable associations (I have to keep reminding myself Hitler stole the symbol from the East and turned it to his own purposes). But if all an average Indian knows about Hitler is that he liked Aryans and swastikas, there are completely different associations involved.

    • onyomi says:

      Well, it’s funny, “Aryan” does refer to a specific group of ancient people who migrated into Northern India and brought the language that became Sanskrit. So many Indians, especially Northern Indians, would consider themselves “Aryan,” even though we in the US now think it means something like “lily white Nazi.”

      I should note that I have also encountered the weird SS thing in Taiwan. I thought it was just like “we here in Taiwan are too far removed from WWII to know or care what this means, but Hugo Boss sure could design a logo.” But I wonder also if it isn’t the proximity to South Asia.

      • Tibor says:

        I saw a Chinese guy in Hong Kong (well, specifically on the border with the PRC special administrative zone of Shenzhen at the visa bureau but anyway) with a swastika tattoo on his shin (he was wearing shorts). I don’t know which way it was oriented, probably not the Nazi direction (I never remember which is which), but he could still possibly get into trouble with some less knowledgeable police officers in Europe since (openly visible) Nazi swastika tattoos are illegal in all European countries as far as I know.

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          I’m almost certain that the “Nazi direction” thing is an urban legend. If you look at South / East Asian or Native American art you can see swastikas facing either direction, because it’s not particularly important to the sun-cross symbolism which way it’s facing. The Nazi’s picked an orientation and stuck with it but they represent twelve years out of millennia of different cultures playing with the design.

          Speaking of, there are good odds the guy was using it as a good luck symbol.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            It’s definitely a myth. They go either way.

            For instance, I went to a Tibetan-style temple in China, and some swastikas were facing the “Nazi direction”, as far as I can recall.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            Many years ago my company rented a lodge owned by the Cook County Forest Preserve for a holiday party. It had been built in the nineteen-teens, IIRC, and had a Native American decorative motif. There were swastikas outlined in tiles in the floor and walls of one room. They pointed both directions, again IIRC.

        • DavidS says:

          “Nazi swastika tattoos are illegal in all European countries as far as I know.”

          Really? Don’t think they are here in the UK, and I’d be surprised if most European countries had legislated. Germany has anti-Nazi speech laws and I imagine it would ban tattoos too. But not aware of any such law here, unless there’s a court precedent of reading some much more general law about ‘causing a public disturbance’ or somesuch to cover offensive tattoos.

          • Tibor says:

            Maybe this is me wrongly generalizing from German and Czech laws to the whole EU again…Also, I tried some googling and it was not exactly true. If you have that on you, they won’t put you in jail or anything. But the tattoo saloons are not allowed to tattoo these symbols in the Czech republic. At least if the tattoo website which had an article about it,and where the picture I linked to is from, is correct. The German anti-Nazi symbolics laws are even stricter so that Swastikas get routinely removed from WW2 themed computer games designated for the German market. I’ve always found it stupid, even the tattoos. When the idiots want to permanently label themselves as such, why stop them? It can even be useful 🙂 Also, I don’t even know what the first three symbols mean.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @Tibor,

            The first is a sun cross, symbolically means the same as a swastika or sun wheel. The KKK used it for a while over here.

            Not sure about the second and third though. Found them, they’re versions of the Odal rune. Means heritage or estate, pronounced “o” or “oe,” used by the Nazis / neonazis and some neopagans.

            Also surprised to see that the Wolfsangel isn’t on there, I thought they had banned that one too.

  17. bean says:

    On a recent trip to Alaska, I ran across the best airplane name I’ve ever seen, and decided to share it due to Scott’s fondness for puns.
    Link.

  18. John Hamilton says:

    Back in February 2014, Scott wrote, “[Coding boot]camps have helped a bunch of friends of mine, some of whom were having serious life crises related to unemployability, find really good stable high-paying jobs. When I was terrified I was going to miss a medical career, the knowledge that these bootcamps existed and so I would have good options other than drone labor or going back to college for four years was incredibly reassuring. Some of these bootcamps are taking groups not traditionally associated with computer programming and who might not do four year CS degrees – women, for example – and specifically recruiting them to be in the field. The alternative to these bootcamps is four years studying CS in college costing > $100,000 in future debt, with associated bureaucracy issues that many low-functioning people can’t navigate. These bootcamps replaced them with two months of very intense practical training with a near-guaranteed future job at the end of it, and have very much saved some of my friends’ futures. On my more cynical days they are nearly the only form of education in the Western world that I would unreservedly declare are non-horrible.”

    Basically, I went the pre-medical school route, and I can’t get in. (My science GPA–3.0–is too low.) I graduated with a degree in philosophy, so I don’t really have any employable skills. I did reasonably well on the MCAT (33), with a Verbal Reasoning score of 12. Thus I have some degree of intelligence, but I am somewhat unconscientious. (I think I’ve figured out a workable solution to this problem via an adderall prescription.) I wonder if coding might be a possible path for me; maybe I could attend one of these coding bootcamps”. Does anyone have any good recommendations for specific coding bootcamps? Is this a reasonable path?

    • Anonymous says:

      If you have any previous exposure to coding and you found it not awful and maybe even interesting, it is a good path, especially if you have no other qualifications.

    • One basic issue is that people talk about programming as if it was one field. It isn’t. In the narrowest, strictest sense, it is just formulating instructions to do a thing in a very precise way. Teaching the computer, that idiot genius, to do stuff. Teaching a machine that has a too literal mind, right?

      WHAT one formulates is the big deal, because nonprogrammers writing too detailed specifications for programmers is a cost, which is better saved.

      Some examples:

      – So for example someone writing device drivers should have good knowledge of hardware, even electric engineering

      – If you want to program a module to Oracle Financials, be an accountant basically

      – Web development and mobile app development, which is certainly a hot sexy field today, relies a lot on knowing standards, like how a HTTP protocol works

      If they don’t specify it, I would assume it is the last one. What I would recommend looking into if they teach all the relevant standards.

      Programmers should be smart, and lazy enough to dislike doing repetitive work and rather invent clever ways to automate them. Sounds like a fit.

      I think a certain visual imagination also helps. Like seeing a variable as a box, you put some data in it, take it out later, and so on. There are multiple programming styles but people usually start with imperative and that is better seen visually, like a loop is like a little industrial machine, processing an array of data that is put into one by one, like an industrial machine would process a bucket of oranges one by one, and throw out rotten ones, which is an if condition, and squeeze the healthy ones into another bucket, which can be seen as some sort of aggregation and so on…

      But programming is at the root just precise instruction writing, something like translation work, and automating stuff that way, and the crucial career issue is how much of an expert they are in that stuff they are automating.

      I mean, I know a lot of people won’t agree with it, but the most succesful programmers I know DON’T identify as programmers. They identify as, say, the experts of medical diagnosis, so they can write the software for diagnostical machinery. They could win a debate against good doctors on what is the best way to do certain kinds of diagnosis. The Oracle Financials type programmers, the best ones, wrestle with Big Four auditors and tell them yes this algorithm is compliant with the law and so on.

      Of course there are many superstars of the Linus Torvalds type identifying as programmers but this is not really that accurate. Linus is an operating system design expert in reality. I mean, his ability of being able to translate that to precise-talk, to code, is not the most important one.

      So, learn something else that you can automate! And if the boot camp is any good it teaches some kinds of something else, like web standards. This blogging software here automates the generation of HTML, so whoever wrote it must know not only programmign well, but HTML itself.

      But in the longer run, set yourself apart by learning other stuff to automate. Any kid can automate HTML generation these days… so don’t just refer to yourself as a coder.

  19. BBA says:

    Is Ted Cruz a natural-born citizen? If not, he is constitutionally ineligible for the Presidency.

    Here’s what I thought: The term “natural-born citizen” is not defined in the Constitution. Common legal usage in the 18th century (e.g. Blackstone) is that there are two classes of citizens – the natural-born and the naturalized. In other words, a natural-born citizen is a citizen at birth. Under this standard Cruz clearly qualifies – his mother was a citizen who had lived in the US for more than one year prior to his birth in Canada, so 8 USC 1401 makes him a citizen.

    Apparently there’s a Supreme Court decision to the contrary. This is frankly, an absurd result – does the natural born citizen clause incorporate the 14th Amendment, written eight decades later? Or does it depend on the common law definition of citizenship? In that case, John McCain’s eligibility (born in the Canal Zone to a naval officer stationed there) depends on whether the “common law” includes the Statute de natis ultra mare, enacted in 1350, and if not, on what the law was in England before 1350.

    This is crying out for a constitutional amendment, but there’s no way 2/3 of Congress and 3/4 of state legislatures go out of their way to help Ted Cruz, so it’ll have to wait until someone likable is affected by this issue.

    (And for the record, Obama is eligible under any interpretation of the law. Born in the State of Hawaii = citizen under the 14th Amendment. Duh.)

    • Vox Imperatoris says:

      Rogers v. Bellei does not apply to Ted Cruz.

      Bellei was a natural-born citizen, but he was deprived of his citizenship because he didn’t reside in the U.S. for the specified length of time. And this was okay because he was not “born or naturalized in the United States”.

      Cruz was a citizen at birth (by dint of Congressional law), so he is a natural-born citizen. And no one is proposing to take away his citizenship.

    • Evan Þ says:

      I don’t see how Rogers v. Bellei could be decisive. In that decision, the Court ruled that Bellei – born in the same circumstances as Cruz – didn’t have a Fourteenth Amendment right to citizenship and therefore could lose it by not living in the United States for a certain length of time (as the law then in force required.) However, they never touched on whether he counted as a “natural-born citizen.” On the contrary, they said he was “presumptively a citizen” while a minor, though never naturalized.

      Mightn’t it be reasonable to deem that people who are citizens, but never naturalized, are natural-born citizens? More specifically, couldn’t we so deem people who are citizens due to the circumstances of their birth, thanks to Act of Congress?

    • John Schilling says:

      I believe, upon a cursory reading, that Mikhail inaccurately reports Rogers v. Bellei.

      The dissenting justices in that case describe Bellei as being a “naturalized citizen”, so as to conjure an IMO ridiculously contrived claim that this naturalization occurred in the United States and so place him under the Aegis of the 14th amendment. But another term for “dissenting justices” is “losers”; their words are not law.

      I may have missed something, but nowhere do I find the majority (whose words are law) describing Bellei as being “naturalized”. They do refer to other cases in which other plaintiffs were or were not naturalized under various circumstances; I’m not going to track all of them down. W/re Bellei, they concern themselves strictly with the two questions that would guarantee him 14th-amendment life citizenship: Was he born in the United States, and was he naturalized in the United States. They find the answer to these questions both to be “no”, thus the 14th amendment does not apply, thus there is no guarantee that whatever sort of citizenship Bellei had enjoyed cannot be limited by statute.

      Logically, if there are only “natural born citizens” and “naturalized citizens”, there are four possible types of citizen:
      A – natural born in the USA
      B – naturalized in the USA
      C – natural born outside the USA
      D – naturalized outside the USA

      The majority in Rogers v. Bellei ruled only that, first, Bellei isn’t a type A or type B citizen and, second, that non-A/B citizens can be stripped of their citizenship by statute because the 14th amendment language covers only A/B. Nowhere can I find anything in the majority ruling to distinguish between type C and type D citizens.

      Bellei does mean that Cruz could theoretically be stripped of his natural-born citizenship by statute, which seems counterintuitive but the law can be that way sometimes. Since Cruz has complied with all of the existing citizenship laws and we’ve got a thing about ex post facto ones, I think he’s pretty safe from that.

      • BBA says:

        Yeah, I think this is the right reading. Bellei was conditionally a citizen by virtue of a statute adopted under the Naturalization Clause (as are Cruz and McCain, unconditionally), which is not the same as being naturalized. The case discusses the law as being part of the “uniform rule of naturalization” but distinct from the naturalization process. Had Bellei satisfied the conditions he would have been a natural-born citizen and thus eligible to the presidency. A bit odd, but not nearly as odd as reading an anachronistic cross-reference or a dependency on 14th-century English law into the Constitution, so I’ll take it.

    • Adam Casey says:

      The fact that is is a Natural Born Citizen is a fairly straightforward matter of common law.

      Sadly straightforward matters of common law don’t seem to matter much to either the electorate or to the supreme court when there’s a political question at stake.

    • brad says:

      I read a whole bunch about this back in the McCain election. The best reading of “natural born citizen” is a citizen, as of right, from the moment of birth. The distinction between jus solis under the constitution and citizenship via statute is an anachronism because the former is only guaranteed by the fourteenth amendment, not the core constitution. Likewise the distinction between defeasible (or conditional) and indefeasible citizenship is irrelevant because at ratification all citizenship was potentially defeasible.

      Under this reading Cruz has no problem (nor of course does Obama) but John McCain is in a very dicey situation. Resolving it requires some very tricky retroactive statutory analysis. That said, there’s a better than 50/50 chance it is a non-justiciable “political question”.

      • FJ says:

        I don’t understand why McCain would be in more trouble than Cruz. McCain had citizenship at birth by the same mechanism that Cruz did: each was born to a woman who was a U.S. citizen at the time. McCain had two other routes to citizenship-at-birth: his father was also a U.S. citizen at the time, and he was born on territory that was “under the jurisdiction” of the United States. Cruz cannot claim either of the last two criteria; only the first (born of American woman) is available to him. But since it’s equally available to McCain, it makes no sense to argue that McCain’s eligibility is somehow dicier than Cruz’s.

        ETA: I don’t think there’s any retroactivity concern with McCain, either; he’s a lot older than Cruz, but the first statute granting citizenship to children of American women born abroad was enacted in 1790. McCain’s birth was after that date.

        • brad says:

          The relevant statute governing non-14th amendment citizenship, Revised Statutes § 1993, first passed in 1855 and last modified before McCain’s birth in 1934, said “[a]ny child hereafter born out of the limits and jurisdiction of the United States, whose father or mother or both at the time of the birth of such child is a citizen of the United States.”

          The problem is that the Panama Canal Zone was outside the limits of the United States but not outside its jurisdiction. The Fourteenth Amendment on the other hand was unavailing because per the Insular Cases and various treaties and declarations, the PCZ was not “the United States” for 14th amendment purposes. Rather it had the same status as the Philippines prior to 1946. Under this reading, as of when he was born, McCain was not a US Citizen because he fell into a perhaps unintentional hole. In 1937 Congress recognized this problem and passed a statute that granted those born in the PCZ to at least one USC parent citizenship. Thus McCain was certainly a citizen by his first birthday, but that is too late for him to have been a natural born citizen. This argument is fully laid out in this law review article: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1157621

          The best counterargument I’ve seen is that “limits and jurisdiction of the United States” is a unitary term of art that refers to the ‘United States proper’ rather than a two prong phrase that can be satisfied in one part but not the other. Therefore there’s no loophole. That argument is fully laid out in this law review article: http://repository.law.umich.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1085&context=mlr_fi

          By the time Cruz was born the law had changed, and in any event Canada is outside the “limits and jurisdiction of the United States” by any reading of that phrase.

          • BBA says:

            It’s also possible that Gonzalez v. Williams, which established the status of people born in the insular territories as non-citizen nationals, didn’t apply to the Canal Zone. The circumstances were too different from the Spanish-American War conquests: the Canal Zone was leased, not conquered, and there was a negligible existing population whose status was to be addressed.

            And, of course, it wouldn’t make any sense for someone born in an insular territory to US citizen parents to not be a citizen, when they’d have US citizenship if born in a foreign country.

          • FJ says:

            @brad: Thanks for that explanation. Having read the papers you linked, I think Chin by far comes away with the weaker argument. His paper reads like exactly the sort of statutory analysis that gets judges to laugh and say, “No, but seriously what’s your argument.”

            I think the clearest way to understand Chin’s argument is that it is back-to-front: he has to argue that the statute is unambiguously anti-McCain, because if the statute is ambiguous, Congressional intent controls and there’s no reason to think Congress intended that result. But his argument that the statute is unambiguous is not terribly persuasive: the State Department at the time had a different interpretation, and his textual analysis is little more than “if Congress meant ‘or,’ it knows how to use ‘or.'” Which, sure, but statutes are not parsed word-by-word. The 1934 revisions are parsed in light of the existing statutory language and existing caselaw, and there’s no reason (as Professor Sachs argues) to read the 1934 amendment as unambiguously repudiating prior practice. Even a strict textualist like Thomas would agree that a legislative amendment has to be read in light of the pre-existing law. I don’t think Chin really tries to grapple with any except the most naive arguments against his position, to the detriment of his paper. But I routinely turn out to be wrong on the law, so YMMV.

        • sweeneyrod says:

          “McCain’s birth was after that date.”
          [Citation needed]

  20. David T. MacMillan, MD, FACS says:

    I know that it is late in the game, but i will nevertheless make this effort:

    http://abcnews.go.com/US/13-year-allegedly-killed-va-tech-students-stabbed/story?id=36665148

    I am a 65 y/o retired general surgeon, living in a small southwestern virginia college town. in this town, there has been a lot of tragedy. in my life as a surgeon, i have seen a lot of tragedy.

    but i just can’t get my head around this one. i know there is not enough information out there to fully evaluate what happened, but for the past several days, i have been contemplating what might have happened, and i just can’t see any sequence that fits.

    it doesn’t compute…

    can anyone help me?

    • Loquat says:

      Repeat of Leopold and Loeb, trying to demonstrate their superiority by getting away with murder, maybe? The superficial details are pretty similar – Leopold and Loeb were 19 and 18, and their victim was a 14-year-old who’d known Loeb for years.

      • David T. MacMillan, MD, FACS says:

        from the VERY little that is leaking out about this story, it seems that you are pretty much correct.

        i guess i still can’t get my head around the concept of how it is that 2 such normal appearing human beings can get this far in life without revealing to others their total lack of a moral compass.

    • bluto says:

      When the story first broke, I had presumed it was a mismatch between her care needs and their ability to provide post-transplant care and they paniced when she died. Now I have no idea.

  21. Error says:

    Someone in the previous thread mentioned this (mis)quote from pjeby: “A nerd is someone who thinks it’s wrong to make a good first impression.”

    I’m trying to find the source and I can’t. Does someone else remember the source or the context?

  22. JDG1980 says:

    So, about the Iowa caucuses.

    The result on the Democratic side wasn’t much of a surprise: the polls predicted Hillary and Bernie in a virtual tie, and that’s what happened. What is shocking is the Republican results. Not the fact that Cruz won; historically, evangelicals have a good ground game and tend to do well in Iowa, and Cruz is the favorite candidate of the Religious Right. Beating Trump 27%-24% wasn’t outside the bounds of probability. But how the hell did Rubio win 23 percent of the vote? None of the polls indicated anything of the sort. Nor is Rubio the kind of candidate who inspires a core of die-hard supporters like, say, Ron Paul in 2012. Could we be looking at fraud in the counting process? This outcome is just too unlikely, and too convenient to the Republican establishment.

    Back to the Democratic side, one thing I hear a lot is that even if Sanders wins in New Hampshire, he’ll lose in most other states because Hillary Clinton has strong support from African-Americans and they are a major part of the Democratic Party base. But what doesn’t get discussed is whether they actually vote in primaries. We know that African-Americans tend to have lower turnout in off-year elections, because this is true of all poor and low-information voters and African-Americans tend disproportionately to be poor and low-information. Do African-Americans usually show up in primaries? Or are primaries more likely to be decided by affluent SWPL Democrats?

    • Jaskologist says:

      I think it’s time we stopped treating polls as reliable. They’ve been garbage for several cycles now (not just in the US), and I smell a rat when they say one thing for the whole season and then reverse themselves with a late “surge” once we finally get close to an election where we can check their results.

      Apparently the delegate vote between Hillary and Sanders came down to a coin toss six times, and Hillary won all 6. Between that and her luck at cattle futures, I think it’s clear that she’s hacked the RNG of our universe. Also, the fact that a coin toss is used at all lends support to the guys upthread who say our system is bizarre.

      Sanders is toast. He had some of his highest favorables in Iowa, and he was only able to pull off a tie. Clinton is popping open the champagne bottle even now.

      • Brad says:

        Sanders never had a shot. Short of Hillary having a heart attack or being indicted she’s going to be the nominee.

        The thing I wonder is whether she’ll be a stronger or weaker candidate in the general for having had at least the appearance of having won a non-trivial nomination fight.

        • Marc Whipple says:

          I would bet even money that neither of those two things (unless the heart attack were extremely debilitating) would prevent this eventuality.

          The first one would probably boost her standing in the polls. “Don’t discriminate against people for medical reasons!”

        • stillnotking says:

          And if Sanders were nominated, he’d lose the general election in a landslide. Anyone who thinks an atheist, socialist Jew from Brooklyn has a shot at winning Ohio or Pennsylvania has never lived in those states. Hell, has never *visited* those states. Possibly has never seen *pictures* of those states. (Hint: People of Walmart.)

          It would be McGovern all over again. Only worse, because McGovern had some “Prairie Populist” cred.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            >And if Sanders were nominated, he’d lose the general election in a landslide.

            Even against The Donald?

          • Marc Whipple says:

            I think that you have a pretty strong case there, but the lure of free stuff and sticking it to rich people is a powerful one indeed. I’d be surprised, but I wouldn’t be shocked, if it overcame such trifling matters as a penchant for socialism (“it’s not like he’s a Commie”) and paradoxical religious attributes.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            @WHTA:

            I suspect that Trump v. Sanders would provoke a similar reaction from the Universe as a Red Sox v. Cubs World Series: “Okay, that’s it. Everybody out of the pool. We’re aborting this sim and restarting it with more realistic parameters.”

          • stillnotking says:

            Trump would make mincemeat of Sanders. To continue the analogy, a lot of McGovern primary voters were siphoned off by George Wallace, which seems like the weirdest crossover appeal in history until you realize they were both tapping the same vein of inchoate anti-establishment anger. Trump is way, way better at it, plus he has the advantage of not being an atheist socialist Jew from Brooklyn.

            The thing about inchoate anti-establishment anger is that it tends to evaporate when strategic realities become impossible to ignore; this has always been Trump’s (and Sanders’) doomsday clock. I will be extremely surprised if either of them gets their party’s nomination, although a third-party spoiler run isn’t out of the question.

          • Held in Escrow says:

            In a Trump vs Sanders final election I think we can look forward to President Bloomberg in January

          • Anthony says:

            Held in Escrow, in your scenario (which I’ve seen elsewhere), Bloomberg is pronounced /dʒɑn ændərsən/.

        • Jaskologist says:

          For those of us who like following the horse race, there was always that whisper of doubt in the back of our mind: could Sanders pull it off? Sure, they say Hillary is inevitable, but they said that before Obama beat her, too, and her negatives are legion.

          After Iowa, the whisper is gone. The answer is “No.”

          • onyomi says:

            I don’t know. For those who follow the horse race, this seems like a loss for Bernie. For those of us who have been paying no attention to the Democratic primary, it feels like a bit of a surprise: Sanders is not supposed to even come close to beating Hillary is the conventional wisdom. And yet here, in the very first primary (admittedly one where he has huge advantages relative to most of the important states), we see him a statistical dead heat with Hillary.

            To me, and possibly to the “not following polls but reads the occasional headline” segment which constitutes the majority of the voting public, this makes him feel less like a protest candidate who never had a chance of winning and more like an underdog. Considering he apparently got like 90% of the under-30 vote, this could mean renewed energy for him.

            I mean, I still think it’s Hillary’s to lose, but I feel like the horse race-watchers who are spinning this as a big win for Hillary are not adequately taking these optics into account.

          • Jaskologist says:

            That’s a good point.

            To me, I think the closeness shows two things: the weakness of Hillary as a candidate, and that she is still not weak enough for Sanders to win.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            She is like the Bob Ewell of politics. “Fine, we’ll vote off this nutjob for you, but don’t expect us to take you in with open arms.”

          • stillnotking says:

            Hillary is a terrible campaigner, as she’s proven time and again. She also has a closet full of skeletons, and is only tepidly supported by most of her own party, while being hated by the other. As long as the Republicans retain their collective sanity and don’t nominate Trump, they will probably win this year. I’d put Cruz at 65-35 and Rubio at 70-30 against her in the general.

            I really hope it’s Rubio. The thought of President Cruz… yuck. The guy is just so damn obnoxious, besides being one of the few evangelical candidates ever who seems like he actually believes that crap.

          • brad says:

            there was always that whisper of doubt in the back of our mind

            Fair enough. But I never saw any good answer to the black voter firewall. Bernie does terribly among black voters and that’s barely budged.

            Interestingly that lack of movement provides some evidence that Scott’s original analysis (roughly: weird fringe movements don’t tend to attack black supporters) was incorrect.

          • keranih says:

            I’m with @onyomi –

            I expected Hillary to win by much more. My impression is that much of the electorate thinks that Sanders is a nutty professor that isn’t widely liked/respected. The headlines of tying Hillary in Iowa and beating her soundly in NH are going to change that.

            Timed with the right headlines about the careless spread of state secrets and military intelligence, and this could hurt her very badly, as people start seriously discussing their options.

            (Data Anecdote point: two progressive/liberal friends from deep blue backgrounds have committed to Daffy-Duck write-in votes if Clinton is the D candidate (and Trump is not on the ballot) and one is ambivalent about voting for Rubio over Clinton. This is not something I expected to hear this year.)

          • Pku says:

            My super-blue friends were kinda the reverse – they were going to vote for Bernie as a protest vote, but now that they think he has a chance of getting the nomination they switched to Hilary, since they think she’s more likely to win the election.

          • TheNybbler says:

            I expected Cruz to win; the caucuses tend to attract the especially interested in politics, because it’s not just about going in and casting a vote, and that’s the exact opposite of Trump’s disaffected base.

            I didn’t expect Sanders to do as well as he did, but I think it’s the same process at work; Sanders is popular among those who like politics for its own sake.

          • onyomi says:

            “they were going to vote for Bernie as a protest vote, but now that they think he has a chance of getting the nomination they switched to Hilary, since they think she’s more likely to win the election.”

            Good point. This is my impression as well, and is one of many reasons Hillary will win the nomination. And, of course, the hardcore will also turn out to vote for the “not-Republican.” But I do question whether Hillary can get people to turn out in a general to vote for Hillary rather than merely against the Republicans. I’m skeptical.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            “But I do question whether Hillary can get people to turn out in a general to vote for Hillary rather than merely against the Republicans.”

            Perhaps those of us who are old enough to remember peace and prosperity, and assuming we can vote by mail instead of having to ride our wheelchairs to a caucus.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I think we can all agree that there’s a lot to like about a return to the Clinton era: the RFRA, DOMA, DADT, and the occasional incineration of right-wing heretics.

            But, as Sanders points out, this was also an era of free trade and NAFTA. Is that really what we want?

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Jaskologist:

            But, as Sanders points out, this was also an era of free trade and NAFTA. Is that really what we want?

            That was the best part! Well, that and welfare reform.

            Also, yes the Clinton era was pretty good, but the thing that made conservatives hate Hillary was Hillarycare, which was one of the main things that sparked the Contract with America and the Republican Revolution of 1994. And Bill didn’t exactly roll over easily; there was a long political fight.

            Even if the Republicans still control both houses of Congress (and even so, they’re probably not going to have 60 senators, especially if Hillary wins), I’m not sure Hillary will be as amenable.

          • Anthony says:

            onyomi – “But I do question whether Hillary can get people to turn out in a general to vote for Hillary rather than merely against the Republicans. I’m skeptical.”

            Thing is, it doesn’t matter. As long as Clinton can actually get people to turn out, it doesn’t matter if they’re voting for her, or against Rubio/Cruz/Trumpertantrum. The ballot just says “pick one”, and unless all those anti-Republican voters do something silly like vote for NaderBloomberg, their votes mean exactly as much as those who vote for Clinton because they really, really like her.

          • onyomi says:

            It does matter because if Hillary can’t get people to show up to vote for her, then she has to rely on people showing up to vote against the Republican. And this is a major reason why Rubio may be a better strategic choice: Democrats don’t hate him as much as they hate Trump and Cruz, so they won’t show up just to vote against him.

      • Julian says:

        Caucus polling is historically very difficult to get accurate because of how a caucus is conducted
        Iowa especially
        Primary polling is inaccurate

        But general election polling is pretty accurate for what it is.

        There are problems with polling. But to throw it out seems dumb. Even if it was just blatant guessing at results what is the harm?

    • onyomi says:

      I don’t know–I think it’s most shocking how little of the vote so-called “establishment” candidates managed to garner, even considering that it’s Iowa: if you add up Rubio, Bush, Christie, and Kasich–pretty much all the “establishment” candidates–you get no more than about 30%. That means that 70% of the vote is going to people who, 4 or 8 years ago, would have been considered longshot insurgents.

      Recall that when Rubio first came on the scene he was a young, promising, relatively far-right “Tea Party” conservative. He was part of that new generation, but his differentiation from the previous mainstream has been obscured by the rise of the more radical Cruz and wild card Trump. This mean, assuming the nomination will go to Rubio, Cruz, or Trump, that there is almost no chance of the nomination going to anyone who would have been considered acceptable by the party which nominated McCain and Romney. And if, for the sake of simplicity, we assume Rubio, Cruz, and Trump each have a 33% chance, it means a 66% chance of someone winning who is still totally unacceptable to the establishment even now. That’s a pretty big change.

      And to the extent that Rubio now represents the mainstream, he, plus all the other mainstream candidates can still barely keep pace with Trump and Cruz, both of whom are WAY outside the old mainstream. This is an interesting election. Thank god. If it had ended up as Jeb v. Hillary I think I would have lost any vestige of patience or interest I had with the US political process.

      • Vox Imperatoris says:

        I’m hoping that Ted Cruz wins the nomination. And that doesn’t seem too unlikely: he’s favored in the predictions markets by a high margin. (edit: no he’s not; looked at the wrong data).

        Rand Paul was definitely my favorite candidate, but he’s been effectively out of the race for a long time. Ted Cruz comes second, though. What I dislike about him is his heavy emphasis on pandering to the religious right, though in terms of actual positions (e.g. on abortion), he’s not much worse even than Rand Paul, let alone the other candidates. And, of course, I strongly disagree with him on immigration.

        What do I like about him? Well, as Vox.com nicely explains, he appeals to conservative ideologues, over compromising “pragmatists” who are willing to sell out their political principles in the name of “going along to get along”. And I am definitely an ideologue. That’s why the rest of the Republican establishment hates him: when he says he won’t vote to raise the debt limit, he means it, and he’s willing to engage in political brinksmanship over it.

        The Republican-aligned business cronies likewise hate him because they know that when he says he supports a free market, he means it (or, well, at least means it much more than most establishment Republicans), and he’s for capitalism even when that means being against “big business”.

        In his victory speech for Iowa, he explicitly invokes both the kind of message that Ronald Reagan stood for and brings up the idea of another “Reagan coalition”:

        Tonight is a victory for millions of Americans, who have shouldered the burden of seven years of Washington deals run amok. Tonight is a victory for every American who’s watched in display as career politicians in Washington in both parties refuse to listen and too often fail to keep their commitments to the people. Tonight is a victory for every American who understands that after we survive eight long years of the Obama presidency, that no one personality can right the wrongs done by Washington. The millions who understand that it is a commitment to the constitution to our shared insistence that we rise and return to a higher standard, the very standard that gave birth to the greatest nation that the world has ever known. To the revolutionary understanding that all men and all women are created equal. That our rights do not come from the Democratic Party or the Republican party or even from the Tea Party. Our rights come from our creator.

        And the federal government’s role, the federal government’s responsibility is to defend those fundamental rights, to defend us. And while Americans will continue to suffer under a president who has set an agenda who is causing millions to hurt across this country I want to remind you of the promise of scripture. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. Iowa has proclaimed to the world, morning is coming. Morning is coming. From day one this campaign has been a movement. For millions of Americans to organize, to rally, to come together. Whatever Washington says, they cannot keep the people down, and tonight is a testament to the people’s commitments to their yearnings to get back to our core commitments, free market principles. The Judeo-Christian values that built this great nation.

        […]

        Do you want to know what scares the Washington cartel? [Crowd: “You!”] Actually, not remotely. I don’t scare them in the tiniest bit. What scares them is you. What scares them is that old Reagan coalition is coming back together, of conservatives. We’re seeing conservatives and evangelicals and libertarian and Reagan Democrats all coming together as one and that terrifies Washington, D.C.

        I don’t know if there are actually any “Reagan Democrats” supporting Cruz, but I like his message of being against both the Republican and the Democratic establishment. It’s pretty true to the Tea Party spirit that got him elected in the first place.

        On the whole, my best-case scenario for Cruz is that he will be the same kind of mixed case as Reagan: a powerful voice for small-government, free-market principles, but also tying that in strongly with Evangelical Christianity in a way that makes the former more successful in the short term but undermines them in the long run. He’s also, by all appearances, much worse on immigration than Reagan. But at the same time, he’s much better on the War on Drugs (for instance, he’s in favor of removing the federal law on marijuana and leaving it to the states).

        • onyomi says:

          Ted Cruz is my second choice after Rand Paul as well, but the predictions I’m looking at have him at only 13% right now, to Rubio’s 54% and Trump’s 26%.

          http://predictwise.com/

          Yesterday was good for him, no doubt, but it seems he still has a high hill to climb. One hidden strength he may have is that I imagine, if Trump dropped out, far more of his voters would go to Cruz than to Rubio. But Trump seems like he’s in it for the long haul unless he starts racking up a series of embarrassing losses (though considering his whole salespitch is what a winner he is, he may be more vulnerable to that than most).

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            You’re right, he’s not favored at all.

            I either looked at the wrong data or somehow mixed up Cruz’s odds with Rubio’s. It’s Rubio who’s favored highly, at 54% to Trump’s 26% (and Cruz’s 13%).

            I didn’t talk about Rubio before. I don’t think he’s that bad. He’s like the Mitt Romney of this election, though: most popular with the establishment, given that they’ve switched to him after the failure of Bush III. However, he is better on immigration (but has backtracked at lot).

            Immigration is a major area where establishment business interests come up against conservative ideology. The Tea Party line is to deport all illegal immigrants. But that’s impossible, incredibly inhumane, and also terrible for the economy. Business is not in favor of employer verification of immigration status—rightly so, because it deputizes them as the enforcement wing of the Border Patrol, adding fixed costs and making it impossible to employ illegal immigrants as economic efficiency would dictate. And here, I’m therefore more sympathetic to Rubio, who I think is more likely to “cave in” to practicality.

            I don’t think Cruz would really deport them all, either, but he’s more likely to have a harder line.

            On the other hand, I don’t think Rubio is quite as much the establishment candidate as someone like Romney. I am prepared to be pleasantly surprised by him, but I’m not expecting that much.

          • Tibor says:

            One thing I find annoying about Rubio is that he wants to throw the US relationships with Cuba back where they were before 2015…just because his parents are Cuban emigrants and have a beef with Castro. I mean the regime on Cuba is bad, but so far the restrictions have only lead to worse conditions to the people there thus making them easier to control by the regime (people who are well-off are much harder to control than people who are poor and dependent on the government). Then again, I imagine that since he himself comes from Latin America (well, his parents but anyway), he is unlikely to be overly against Latin American immigration to the US unlike the other two likely Rep. candidates.

        • Adam Casey says:

          At the very least you have to admire the stones of a guy who can go to Iowa, say “I want to cut ethanol subsidies”, and still win.

          • I was tempted to put up a blog post on that (before he won), with the title “One Cheer for Cruz.”

            It’s especially striking given Gore’s admission that part of the reason he supported biofuels, which he now thinks was a mistake, was that he was running for president and concerned about Iowa.

    • ReluctantEngineer says:

      Rubio’s success isn’t surprising. Late polls had him with 17% of the vote, with a ~3% margin of error. A little bit of tactical voting by supporters of other establishment candidates would be more than enough to get him to 23%.

      My (metaphorical) money is on him to win the nomination.

      • Gbdub says:

        This was my reaction too, after an initial shock – did Rubio really “steal” that many votes from Cruz and Trump, or are we just finally seeing all of the supporters of “not Trump or Cruz” line up behind one candidate (which has been overdue for awhile. Seriously Jeb, give it up already).

    • John Schilling says:

      I had the opposite reaction – the Clinton/Sanders tie was somewhat surprising for the same reason that Trump giving up ground to Rubio wasn’t.

      Opinion polls are generally poor indicators of actual voting patterns where “protest” candidates are concerned, because the incentives are different for talking to pollsters and actually voting. People really don’t like to “throw their vote away” by voting for a candidate who “can’t win”. And in the American system, that includes a candidate who maybe can win the primary but not the general election. On the other hand, saying that you are going with the protest, and even half-believing it a week before the election, serves every goal of protesting.

      And on the other other hand, where there is a real chance that the protest candidate can win the general election, a lot of their support will come from people who are at least a little embarrassed to admit they are one of those protester types. So the same polls that overpredict the can’t-win protest vote will underpredict the actually-winning protest vote.

      In this campaign, Sanders and Trump are the protest candidates that most people understand are not going to actually take up residence in the Oval Office in 2017. Cruz is borderline. Rubio is the GOP candidate most likely to actually win the general election. So people talk Trump, they want to believe in President Trump, and they especially want the GOP to believe that they believe in President Trump so that the GOP will give them an electable Trumpoid next time around, but bottom line they don’t want to cast a de facto vote for Hillary Clinton so they defect to the guy who can win. This is not surprising.

      That the various biases canceled to give Sanders almost exactly the support he polled at, in spite of his having no real chance as the campaign progresses, was at least modestly surprising to me.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        @John Schilling:
        First off it’s Iowa. Iowa isn’t very predictive, historically.

        Trump appeals to less active (from a voting perspective) members of the GOP coalition. Cruz is trying to appeal to the most active part of the coalition (social conservative evangelical).

        Clinton has set up as a centrist. This is not novel for the Democratic Party so she is not going to get any particular enthusiasm from this position. Sanders has set up to appeal to the most reliable Democratic primary voters (liberal activists, primarily white).

        Now I’m not positive in that analysis, but I do not think you can compare Sanders and Trump from a “protest vote” perspective for this reason.

        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          Yes, I think the biggest parallels are between Sanders and Cruz, not between Sanders and Trump. Both of them want to draw their parties back to focus on their guiding ideologies.

          Rubio is being positioned as the Clinton alternative: “pragmatic”, etc.

          Trump doesn’t have any Democratic parallels in this election, but he does have a great many similarities to Ross Perot, who drew voters from both the Republicans and the Democrats (and won 20% of the vote, don’t forget).

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Yeah, Trump and Perot have a yuuugge number of similarities. Perot ran as more of a technocrat, but basically the same message and appeal. If there is a single sound bite to sum up Perot it is “Giant sucking sound”.

            Clinton and Jeb!/Rubio/Christie/Romney’s-reanimated-campaign-corpse are the establishment candidates. It’s just that GOP base has not been an establishment friendly base since Reagan completed the transition to the modern GOP coalition. Yeah, the establishment guy usually wins, but the base is less and less satisfied by it.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ HeelBearCub:

            Clinton and Jeb!/Rubio/Christie/Romney’s-reanimated-campaign-corpse are the establishment candidates. It’s just that GOP base has not been an establishment friendly base since Reagan completed the transition to the modern GOP coalition. Yeah, the establishment guy usually wins, but the base is less and less satisfied by it.

            Absolutely.

            Again, I have to go back to one of my favorite non-scholarly articles on the political process, Vox.com’s “Why Republicans and Democrats Don’t Understand Each Other”:

            4) Policymaking has a liberal bias

            “There is a good reason for this asymmetry,” write Grossmann and Hopkins. “Democrats and liberals are more likely to focus on policymaking because any change that occurs is much more likely to be liberal than conservative. New policies usually expand the scope of government responsibility, funding, or regulation. There are occasional conservative policy successes as well, but they are less frequent and are usually accompanied by expansion of government responsibility in other areas.”

            The chart above codes significant policy changes by whether they expand or contract the “scope of government regulation, funding, or responsibility.” Policy changes turned out to be more than three times as likely to expand the scope of government than to contract it. This is often true even when Republicans are signing the laws.

            President George W. Bush is a good example. He passed a series of tax cuts which conservatives mostly liked. But his other major domestic accomplishments — No Child Left Behind and Medicare Part D — sharply expanded the role of the federal government in education and health care, and today they’re used as evidence that Bush wasn’t really a conservative president.

            The cleanest way to shrink the size of government is to repeal laws and regulations. But it doesn’t happen very often. In the American political system, Grossmann says, “it’s hard to pass anything, but it’s particularly hard to repeal a law that already exists.” Systematic analyses show it’s rare for laws to be repealed wholesale. “That creates perpetual disappointment among the Republican base,” Grossmann continues. “They correctly perceive that their party does not succeed in enacting their professed ideology.”

            As such, gridlock is often the best small-government conservatives can hope for. And so they’re more comfortable with it than Democrats.

            That’s it right there: they correctly perceive that their party does not succeed in enacting their professed ideology. They say they’re going to repeal and abolish, but they almost never do.

            And this is compounded by a factor that the article also discusses: the median voters is a “conservative” and favors “small government” when you ask him questions about ideology as a broad concept. But on the specific programs, he’s more often with the Democrats and “big government”: he doesn’t want to privatize, let alone abolish Social Security or Medicare, or abolish the EPA or the Department of Education (as Reagan promised), etc.

        • John Schilling says:

          First off it’s Iowa. Iowa isn’t very predictive, historically.

          But we aren’t talking about Iowa being predictive of anything – at least I’m not, and I don’t think the OP was. We’re talking about why polls, specifically polls of Iowa voters, were not predictive of Iowa.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            That is a fair point.

            I think I was going for “if you are going to stick to your guns in a protest vote, Iowa is the place to do it”. We see weird results from Iowa all the time, this is just the one more.

            Also, the nature of the caucus, sort of a non-instant second choice run-off system, means that a)if your candidate is doing poorly you will switch, leading to the win-by-a-lot, lose-by-a-lot dynamic you were expecting. Buuuuuuttttt, if it really is a two way race, that really is super-close, you won’t see it. The Dem primary really is a two-way primary for the first time in quite a while. Even in 2008 I don’t think Edwards had dropped out yet.

          • John Schilling says:

            Except that the Republicans shifted their caucus rules to “just count the secret ballots like any other election” after the clever way resulted in a Ron Paul sweep in 2012. Still makes a difference that it’s a caucus rather than a primary in that you have to show up, listen to your neighbors speak about their favorite candidate, and either speak in favor of your own or let the opposition campaign unopposed for any swing voters in the room. But there’s no opportunity for tactical voting, for going protest in the first round and then shifting to the safe candidate in the second.

            The Democrats still do things that way, and maybe it means Sanders picked up all the O’Malley votes, or maybe Hillary got them. But then, the seven coin-tossers were more important than the O’Malley supporters in the Democratic caucuses.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:
            I thought Ron Paul exploited the process for picking delegates (which happened after the actual caucus). So a loss turned into a victory over time. I’m not saying that they didn’t go to secret ballot (I don’t know) but I’m fairly sure Paul lost on election night.

        • onyomi says:

          “Trump appeals to less active (from a voting perspective) members of the GOP coalition. Cruz is trying to appeal to the most active part of the coalition (social conservative evangelical).”

          Something interesting about this: people were watching the weather on the theory that good weather (and, therefore, presumably, a big turnout) would be good for Trump, since his voters are less “serious,” whereas bad weather and/or low turnout would be good for Cruz.

          The turnout was unusually high and Cruz still won. Not exactly sure what this means–might he have done even better had there been a blizzard? I wonder if the biggest beneficiary of the high turnout wasn’t actually Rubio: people who might have stayed home during a blizzard, but if they had to pick, basically wanted “not Trump.”

          • John Schilling says:

            I suspect it means that, at least in Iowa, there was a significant segment of the electorate for whom neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night would stay them from voting Against Donald Trump.

            That, also, is something traditional polls (“who are you going to vote for“) aren’t all that great at measuring. Particularly in a caucus system where you can show up undecided about which not-Trump you are going to vote for and get a feel for where the other not-Trump voters stand.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            It will be interesting to see going forward how this works out. Primaries are turnout affairs, which is why conventional wisdom is that you can’t win a full primary contest schedule without a ground game. Trump has no ground game to speak of.

            But the Iowa Caucuses are small enough, with weird rules, that ground game is even more important. I’m not sure what the exit polls are showing, but the biggest has to be not just how many people turned out, but who turned out. If first time primary voters did not rise, and “old hands” we’re bigger drivers of the higher turnout, then Trump may have scared people to the polls, rather than inspired them.

          • onyomi says:

            I’m going to go out on a limb and say that, if I had to bet money on just one person for next POTUS, it would now be Rubio (followed by Hillary, and Trump and Cruz tied for a distant third). Considering there is a much better chance of the Republican nominee being not-Rubio than the Democratic nominee being not-Hillary, I guess this commits me to a fairly high degree of confidence that Rubio will win a general. Maybe more than is justified, but I just felt a very strong hunch.

            Before Monday I’d have bet on Hillary, followed by Trump, because she looked stronger before Bernie basically tied with her, because Trump looked more likely to be her opponent (and I rate him as more likely to lose to her in a general) and stronger when he still had that magical “winner” aura, and because, the more I think about it, the more I think Rubio has a certain charisma factor and smooth public speaking style which Bill Clinton, Obama, and to a lesser extent, Bush Jr had, and which Hillary, Trump, Romney, McCain, Kerry, and Cruz lack (Cruz is a great speaker but a less charismatic, more divisive figure overall; Trump is obviously very charismatic to a certain segment of the electorate, but I don’t think it’s enough to win him a general).

            As for why, assuming a Clinton-Rubio election, I give an edge to Rubio (other than my own preference for Rubio, which shouldn’t color my judgment of what will happen, but which probably does): I think Clinton is a weak candidate with some baggage and much less charisma than her husband; Rubio probably wins Florida; Democrats have held the white house for 8 years, etc. etc.

            Also, most of my friends and acquaintances are blue tribe and I notice a tremendous lack of enthusiasm for Hillary. They will vote for her, but only because she’s seen as much superior to a Republican and they assume Bernie can’t win. I think blue tribe hates Trump and Cruz enough to turn out just to vote for “not-Trump” or “not-Cruz,” but I think a lot of them probably don’t hate or feel anything about Rubio enough to turn out just for “not-Rubio.” So, if it’s Rubio-Clinton, Clinton is going to need people to turn out to vote for her, rather than against Rubio, and I think she’s too uninteresting a candidate to inspire that.

            I’d much prefer Rand Paul or Ted Cruz, but I’d much rather Marco Rubio than Hillary or Trump or Jeb!, so I am okay with this.

          • Per exit polls, Trump won around 30% of first-time caucus goers, so a big turnout definitely improved his chances above what they would have been. http://www.cbsnews.com/elections/2016/primaries/republican/iowa/exit/
            However, there are a lot of Republicans, semi-loyal to the party, educated, who infrequently vote, who really don’t like Trump, and turned out to vote the hell against him (and defend the party).

            Trump still might pull off the nomination. He drove a LOT of turnout among some pretty infrequent voters, and that’s no small feat. I am not sure as many states feel as strongly about Not-Trump as Iowa does.

          • Nathan says:

            I like Rubio, but I dunno where all this bullishness for his chances comes from. He lost in Iowa, he’s likely to lose in NH, and how does SC not become a Trump-Cruz showdown? It looks to me that the traditional pattern of winning 2 out of IA, NH, and SC puts you on a pretty strong path towards the nomination.

            Okay, he can possibly cement his position as last establishment candidate standing and get a mountain of money… but surely the lesson of Jeb, Guiliani, etc, is that the power of cash is limited.

            Anything’s possible, but I can’t see him being more likely than the two guys that out polled him in IA and very well might in NH too.

          • onyomi says:

            “I like Rubio, but I dunno where all this bullishness for his chances comes from.”

            Well, for one thing, the more mainstreamish Republicans and big donors have to realize soon, if they haven’t already, that Rubio is now their only hope for a remotely “respectable” candidate. Trump and Cruz are not only more likely to lose than Rubio, they are more likely to lose ignominiously, spectacularly, ridiculously.

            I have a Trump supporter Facebook friend who is convinced that the GOP establishment literally wants to lose to Hillary so they can keep railing against someone without having to actually do anything. I wouldn’t go that far, but I do think they care about the party’s image, and I think they think a Cruz or Trump run (even, arguably, a Trump presidency) would damage their brand. So I think they’d be willing to do a lot to ensure it’s not Cruz or Trump, even if it means lining up behind a guy who wasn’t their original choice.

            Of course, the establishment and the higher ups and the donors don’t decide everything, but if you’re already doing as reasonably well as Rubio, I think it can easily put you over the top, especially when the other options have such low favorable ratings among primary voters and especially general election voters. While he may not be everyone’s top choice, most polls show people have a positive-ish impression of Rubio and few people hate him. So people aren’t going to come out to vote against him. The diehards will turn out to vote for Trump and Cruz, but I just doubt either of them will amass enough diehards. Put another way, Rubio may not be everybody’s first choice, but he’s everybody’s second or third choice, and the first choices are too heavily divided.

            One scenario which makes plausible to me a Trump or Cruz victory, at least in the nomination race, is if one of them drops out–more likely Trump, I’d imagine, as I just don’t see Cruz dropping out till the bitter end (Trump obviously has a yuuge ego that might prevent him dropping out as well, but if he continues to underperform in a few early states he might lose his momentum and “winner” aura and decide it isn’t worth it to him–unlike Cruz, he probably has more fun things to do).

            In such a scenario (Trump underperforms and drops out well before the actual convention), I can imagine a good enough chunk of former Trump and Carson voters going to Cruz that Cruz might win. I’m still skeptical even in such a case though: a lot of Trump voters seem like they might just stay home if Trump isn’t on the ballot. Trump has a weird, unique, different appeal and his support may not be easily transferable. It might work better the other way around, but that requires Cruz dropping out, which I don’t imagine happening, if only due to his personality.

            So, in all likelihood, we’re stuck in a three-way race with Cruz and Trump dividing up all the protest, evangelical, and strongly ideological voters and Rubio basically taking everybody else by default. This looks like a good place for Rubio to be in, especially once Jeb!, Kasich, and Christie suspend their campaigns.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Losing SC, NH, and Iowa aren’t relevant, tbh. States later in the process are winner-take-all or winner-take-most…say, California, Illinois, Texas, New York, etc.
            Rubio is in a strong position to win a lot of delegates in WTA contests among moderates, especially in bluer states. Yeah, Rubio is “losing” New Hampshire, but when you add up the vote shares of Jeb!, Christie, and Kasich, he’s in the clear lead. He’d also be ahead, slightly, in South Carolina.
            If this were a three-man race, Rubio would probably take New Hampshire, and be competitive in South Carolina.
            Once March 15th rolls around, the other Establishment candidates will be out, and it will be a three-man race, heading into a lot of blue-r states that are not Trump or Cruz friendly. And they are WTA or WTM, so Rubio is going to grab the lion’s share of delegates.

          • John Schilling says:

            @Nathan: What do you believe Rubio “lost” in Iowa? Nobody campaigns in Iowa because the twenty-six delegates at stake are worth the bother – particularly when those delegates are proportionately assigned. Cruz “won” by one delegate in essentially a rounding error, Clinton by two on a series of literal coin tosses (well, they always said money decided elections…)

            People campaign in Iowa because it offers them the chance to persuade most people in Not Iowa to believe that they will become the nominee – which tends to be a self-fulfilling prophecy in a world where most people dislike “wasting their vote” on a losing candidate and where the media gives free advertising to the “inevitable” winner. And according to e.g. the prediction markets, Marco Rubio did in fact cause most people in Not Iowa to believe that he will be the 2016 Republican nominee. Mission accomplished.

            The path by which actual votes and delegates will tend to line up in Rubio’s favor is more or less as oyomi has laid out, but it mostly follows from people believing that he’s the only one who can win and represent their interests. The ~5% Ron Paul vote is going to rapidly divide itself between Rubio and Trump, the ~10% Everybody Else vote is going to go almost entirely Rubio, and at least some of the “I’m with Trump because he’s the inevitable one” is going to defect to Rubio. Cruz will probably get most of the Carson voters, but that still puts Rubio ahead of Cruz everyplace that isn’t strongly evangelical. The party elite, the donors, and the endorsements will start lining up behind Rubio, which gives him the edge in advertising and local organization. Then come the thousands of delegates to be awarded in states that are mostly winner-take-all and not heavily evangelical, and you think Cruz’s one extra delegate from Iowa is going to give him the win?

            Rubio is not inevitable; he can still lose if he screws up or his luck fails in a big way. But, for now, the nomination is his to lose.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ John Schilling:

            The ~5% Ron Paul vote is going to rapidly divide itself between Rubio and Trump

            What makes you say this? They seem equally if not more likely to go for Cruz, i.e. “Mr. Government Shutdown”.

            I’m not saying Rubio can’t or won’t win the nomination, but I think as onyomi said that Cruz picks up the “strongly ideological” group, including the people who would have been for Rand Paul if he had a chance.

            “His to lose” makes it sound like Rubio has a high chance of getting the nomination. But according to the prediction markets, it’s a coin flip between Rubio and non-Rubio.

          • John Schilling says:

            There is no “strongly ideological” group to line up behind one candidate, because strong ideology is inherently polarizing. Cruz is the evangelical ideologue, Paul is as close as the Republican party is going to get to a rationalist ideologue and noticeably “soft” on issues like abortion, immigration, drugs, and LGBT rights. I doubt there is much crossover in their support within the party.

            Edit: Polling indicates that only 8% of Rand Paul voters prefer Cruz as their second choice, compared to 12% for Trump and 11% for Rubio. Of the others, 16% favor lesser evangelical candidates, 30% other mainstream republicans.

            And any Republican who is going to cynically, tactically vote for the candidate most likely to result in a government shutdown is going to cross over and support Bernie Sanders, on the grounds that Bernie + Republican House = No Budget.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ John Schilling:

            Paul is as close as the Republican party is going to get to a rationalist ideologue and noticeably “soft” on issues like abortion, immigration, drugs, and LGBT rights. I doubt there is much crossover in their support within the party.

            Paul is not really “soft” on abortion. He’s pro-life and favors banning abortion at the federal level with a constitutional amendment. (Not that this is a realistic possibility.)

            On immigration, he’s stuck to the standard line about “secure the border first” and has opposed “amnesty” and a “path to citizenship”.

            On drugs, yes, he’s come out against the War on Drugs and said it should be a state-level issue. But then Cruz has also said marijuana should be left to the states. And Paul hasn’t been dumb enough to come out and say cocaine or heroin should be left to the states, nor would he be likely to support such a thing if he magically became president.

            On LGBT rights, eh, sort of. He’s said it should be left to the states, and/or that the government should “get out of the marriage business” altogether.

            As for “crossover support”, I mean, I don’t like Cruz, but anecdotally both onyomi and I have said that he’s our second choice after Paul. I’m not sure that is so uncommon.

            The Republican party is a coalition between evangelicals supporting social conservatism, proponents of economic freedom and small government, and pragmatic establishment types. Cruz supports both social conservatism and small government, with a hostility toward the establishment.

            It’s similar to how Reagan combined the Moral Majority with a focus on economic freedom, and a hostility toward Nixonian-Kissingerian establishment pragmatism.

            When Cruz stands up and says we’ve got to do everything possible to fight Obamacare even if it means shutting down the government, he’s trying to capture the spirit of Reagan saying that peaceful coexistence with the Soviet Union is impossible, and we’ve got to have victory. We can’t be “pragmatic” and accept them; we’ve got to recognize that they are an “Evil Empire” and make sure they’re eliminated. (Of course, Cruz is far less charismatic and likeable than Reagan.)

            There were people like Ayn Rand who hated Reagan because he linked capitalism with evangelical religious values. Ed Clark and David Koch ran against Reagan for similar reasons. But there were also a lot of people—probably more people—who didn’t sign on to the religious message but liked the small government, moralistic message.

            There are a lot of people out there who are maybe religious but not super religious and find the antics of crazy evangelicals silly, but who are willing to put up with it to fight Obamacare and high taxes. That was the whole original Tea Party movement: to unite the small government people and the evangelicals in their common cause, which is an antipathy toward Obama and the whole establishment.

          • The Anonymouse says:

            I’m a pretty establishment guy, so it would seem Rubio would be my natural candidate, but it seems like discussion of the Republican natural bases (evangelicals, libertarian-ish, and establishment) misses one of the key appeals of Cruz.

            Cruz (and Bernie) have the non-negligible advantage that they are the two guys in the room that appear to actually believe what they say they believe. Bernie might be a crotchety old man, and left of mainstream-left, but he comes across refreshingly straightforward. So too with Cruz: he might be arrogant, or difficult, or a jerk, but he effectively conveys the courage of his convictions. Next up would be Trump, and who the hell knows what he believes in other than himself, but he gets voters by appearing to “tell it like it is” in a vague outragey way.

            As has been mentioned in many other contexts, I’ll believe you mean what you say when you act like you believe what you say.

            Contrast this with Rubio, who appears to me like a young, handsome muppet (but also your typical politician), and Clinton, who is still tarred by the same charge that stuck to Bill; viz, we’ll find out what she believes the next time a poll tells her what to believe.

            Cruz is also interesting re: the likability issue. By all accounts I’ve seen (in truth, probably those most actively promoted by the media), he’s a pretty abrasive, difficult guy. But I’m not sure I care. Likability is hugely important for getting elected, but less so for actually governing. Rubio is likable enough (or, appears to have been packaged that way). Bernie has a quirky charm that seems to be working far better than expected. A certain subset of people seem to find Trump’s brashness appealing. And Clinton, well, to steal from Deiseach, her likability falls somewhere between wet-cardboard guy and watching-paint-dry guy. I’m just not sure I care a whit about likability after, say, noon on January 20th.

          • brad says:

            The president is a strange mix of very powerful and not very powerful at all. One of the reasons for the latter is that while cabinet secretaries and people further down the chain work for him and can often technically be fired, in actual practice there’s a lot of convincing, cajoling, and inspiring that goes into getting the departments to actual enact his agenda. Also there’s Congressional relations, state relations, and foreign relations. Now granted success in leadership, diplomacy and the like aren’t exactly the same as likability, but they are surely related.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ The Anonymouse:

            Cruz (and Bernie) have the non-negligible advantage that they are the two guys in the room that appear to actually believe what they say they believe. […] So too with Cruz: he might be arrogant, or difficult, or a jerk, but he effectively conveys the courage of his convictions.

            I agree that this is a big advantage, but is it actually true of Cruz?

            First of all, there is the general suspicion that Cruz is too smart to actually believe some of the things he says he believes.

            But more than that, he has a pronounced tendency toward “posturing” on every little “culture war” outrage-of-the-day. I mean, so do most other politicians, but that’s why people don’t trust them and find them insincere. In other words, he is definitely a student of the “tell me what I want to hear” approach over the “tell it like it is” approach, and this can come off as very phoney.

            I suppose it’s not so much that he doesn’t believe his own ideology, but he acts much more outraged about each little issue that any real person possibly could be. Like, he probably doesn’t really believe that “creeping sharia law” is an “enormous problem” in the U.S., even though I’m sure he’s against sharia law.

          • The Anonymouse says:

            @Vox Imperatoris

            I can kind of see that, but it still strikes me as a bit strange. That is, if the working hypothesis is that he’s too smart to believe all the things he says he believes–which could make sense; for all his personality faults, you don’t get to clerk for Rehnquist by being a dummy–it seems odd that he would choose these particular issues to posture about.

            And by that I mean, the demographic he supposedly postures so as to appeal to just isn’t that big. A politician seeking maximum aggrandizement via posturing would seemingly choose centrist, broadly-agreeable positions so as to maximize the votes gained by posturing. (Clinton springs to mind.) But no one has ever called Cruz either centrist or broadly-agreeable.

            My heuristic is that if you’re a very very smart person in politics, and you nonetheless take an out-of-mainstream position on something, the simplest explanation is that you genuinely believe in that position. Everyone pushes toward the fringes in the primaries and collapses toward the center in the general, sure. But I can’t think of anyone in recent memory who started as far left or right as Cruz has, and actually become a centrist after the primaries.

            tl;dr: Cruz is probably too smart and too far to the right not to believe in the things he says he believes, for better or worse.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @The Anonymouse:
            Cruz has run as someone who is uncompromising. That appears to be one of his strongest appeals. Uncompromising and principled are not the same things, even though they may seem to be.

            William Saletan is only one writer, and maybe he has some bias that is coloring his conclusions, but he has assembled a fair amount of evidence that mostly Ted Cruz wants to win legislative battles, or claim he won them, calling him “[maybe] the most spectacular liar ever to run for president.”

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ The Anonymouse:

            And by that I mean, the demographic he supposedly postures so as to appeal to just isn’t that big. A politician seeking maximum aggrandizement via posturing would seemingly choose centrist, broadly-agreeable positions so as to maximize the votes gained by posturing. (Clinton springs to mind.) But no one has ever called Cruz either centrist or broadly-agreeable.

            But if he took centrist, broadly-agreeble positions, he would be like Jeb Bush and wouldn’t be popular or inspire any enthusiasm.

            Reagan was very far-right, especially at his time, and he campaigned as even more far-right than he governed. People were legitimately terrified that he would launch nuclear war on the Soviet Union—including the Soviet leadership!

            Cruz is hoping that by taking a relatively extreme position, he will motivate people and find that silent majority waiting to “take back America”. That real Americans are tired of Washington bureaucrats overtaxing and overspending, and they’re ready to send someone to restore the Constitution and the Judeo-Christian values it was allegedly founded upon.

            So I think he believes sincerely in that basic strategy.

            However, I also think that he’s not averse to helping public opinion along the way by carefully cultivating xenophobia, vilification of his opponents, and bombastic religious language in a ways that he is smart enough to recognize are less than one-hundred percent accurate. I think he sincerely believes that this tactic will work. But I don’t know that he sincerely believes everything that he says.

            He’s also very careful (because he’s smart) to phrase things in a way that are not wrong but are misleading and irrelevant but useful to him. For instance, in the aftermath of the Planned Parenthood shooting, he said:

            “You know, every time you have some sort of violent crime or mass killing, you can almost see the media salivating, hoping, hoping desperately that the murderer happens to be a Republican, so they can use it to try to paint their political enemies. Now listen, here’s the simple and undeniable fact. The overwhelming majority of violent criminals are Democrats. The media doesn’t report that.”

            Now that is almost certainly true, even though Politifact disgracefully rated it as “mostly false”.

            But of course it’s completely irrelevant to the point. “The media” paints Republicans as potential users of terrorism to advance their political ends. But the majority of criminals, despite being Democrats, don’t commit crimes to advance the goals of the Democratic Party—unless you really believe that the Democratic Party is a secret conspiracy to reduce us all to barbarism and lawlessness, and Cruz is smart enough to know that’s not the case.

            In other words, he’s a demagogue, like most politicians. And I think voters can see that. You can see when you’re being played even when you agree with the player and his goals. Maybe not every voter sees it on any given issue, but if someone does it on every issue, you don’t have to be too smart to pick up on it.

            As for the others:

            – Rubio: phoney; he’s the man in the suit to represent the party
            – Clinton: completely phoney; all her positions are a matter of political convenience
            – Trump: undoubtedly a flip-flopper but sincere in his lack of principles
            – Sanders: sincere in his basic message but engages in similar demagoguery to Cruz—”open borders is a Koch brothers idea”—but I think he believes his own rhetoric more.

            So when I say that I don’t think Cruz comes off as completely sincere, I don’t think that places him far behind everyone else, except possibly Sanders, but I honestly haven’t followed Sanders’ rhetoric that closely. (Nor Cruz’s, except for a few articles I’ve read.) And I guess Trump, in his own way, since he’s a demagogue but doesn’t try to hide it.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ HeelBearCub:

            Cruz has run as someone who is uncompromising. That appears to be one of his strongest appeals. Uncompromising and principled are not the same things, even though they may seem to be.

            Well, I think he is “principled” in the sense that he really does believe in his broad ideology. I don’t think he’s just in it for “unlimited powah”. But he is also sleazy and self-aggrandizing, willing to do “whatever is necessary” to get into a position where he can put his ideology into practice.

            When you’re carefully phrasing your answers to every question in such a way that you can always show that you were on the side of the victors, it doesn’t come off as honest, candid, or sincere. You just want to shake him and tell him to put down the facade to tell you what he really thinks.

            In contrast, that’s why Reagan was so enduringly popular. He really did come off as sincere, even to his opponents. They thought he was a lunatic or an ignoramus, but not a liar.

            Take the relatively famous incident where Reagan was paraphrased as saying, “If you’ve seen one redwood tree, you’ve seen them all.” Now, his campaign did play the politician game of objecting that he had been misquoted. But his actual words were almost exactly the same: “I think, too, that we’ve got to recognize that where the preservation of a natural resource like the redwoods is concerned, that there is a common sense limit. I mean, if you’ve looked at a hundred thousand acres or so of trees — you know, a tree is a tree, how many more do you need to look at?”

            Nevertheless, he largely came off as sincere:

            Conservationists would have been even more frightened had they realized how perfectly this vacuous comment expressed Reagan’s opinion. The conventional view of Reagan’s statement — often misstated as “If you’ve seen one redwood, you’ve seen them all” — was that he had used artless language while pandering to an industry for campaign support. But the wood producers were already in Reagan’s corner, and his well-financed campaign was not in need of their contributions. Reagan had said what he believed.

            Why he believed what he said, however, remains a mystery. Reagan, who was often attuned to nature, was strangely insensitive to the magnificence of the redwoods, long recognized as natural wonders of the world … Reagan was reluctant even to acknowledge the grandeur of the trees. Of one of the oldest and loveliest groves of redwoods, he said (on 15 March 1967), “I saw them; there is nothing beautiful about them, just that they are a little higher than the others.”

            Reagan had a stubborn streak … and his statements in part reflected his unwillingness to be pushed around by environmental groups.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Vox:
            Is Cruz fully committed to preventing legalization of immigrants? Or was he for legalization before he was against it? Which is the position that he is broadly committed to?

            Does Ted Cruz think that it would be good thing if the debt-ceiling was not raised? Is he ideologically committed to it?

            I’m not saying he is not an ideologically minded candidate. But there are plenty of ideologically minded candidates who aren’t loathed by their Congressional colleagues. I have a sense that, hyperbolically, there has never been a deal that Cruz didn’t immediately look for ways to defect from for personal gain (as he defines it).

            Maybe that amounts to the same thing. But I wouldn’t call it principled.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ HeelBearCub:

            Is Cruz fully committed to preventing legalization of immigrants? Or was he for legalization before he was against it? Which is the position that he is broadly committed to?

            I think he is against letting illegal immigrants become citizens, and in his ideal fantasy world he’d deport them all, but he is willing to grant them permanent residency as part of an immigration reform / “border security” package.

            That seems to be consistent with his stated positions. At the same time, he is perfectly willing to spin anyone who supports similar measures as in favor of “amnesty” if they don’t phrase things exactly the way he likes.

            Does Ted Cruz think that it would be good thing if the debt-ceiling was not raised? Is he ideologically committed to it?

            Again, in his ideal world, I think he would not raise it and cut all spending immediately to be in line with it.

            But I think he is willing to use it as a bargaining chip to get dramatic spending cuts, as he says in one of the news articles quoted on his website:

            “The debt ceiling historically has been among the best leverage that Congress has to rein in the executive,” Mr. Cruz, Texas Republican, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

            “Since 1978, we’ve raised the debt ceiling 55 times. A majority of those times — 28 times — Congress has attached very specific and stringent requirements,” he said. “Many of the most significant spending restraints — things like Gramm-Rudman, things like sequestration — came through the debt ceiling. So the president’s demand to jack up the nation’s credit card, with no limits, no constraints, it’s not reasonable to me.”

            I think you’ve got to separate the individual policies from his larger goals.

            I guess I think of him as something like Trotsky. Trotsky was definitely “principled” in that he was a die-hard proponent of communism and was not prepared to settle for anything less than complete victory. But he was also an avid proponent of using every dirty trick in the book to win. He had a real cause he fought for, but he was not “honorable”.

            Or, to use a fictional example, I think Cruz is more Stannis Baratheon than Ned Stark. Stannis believes that his cause is just and that he really is the best king for Westeros, or at least the right king. But he’s also willing to use very underhanded means to become king. In a sense, Stannis is “principled”, but not if that is taken to mean that he is honorable and candid in everything he does.

          • Tibor says:

            By the way, do you think that Latin Americans would more likely vote for Clinton (because they are more likely to vote Democrats) or Rubio (because his parents are from Latin America)? He seems to be hostile towards Cuba(n government) but the Cubans who matter in the elections are those who emigrated and they seem to share his hard-line attitude towards their former country.

          • brad says:

            Cubans in the US have a different voting pattern than almost all other Hispanics. In part, because they are people who were fleeing Castro and so were very strong cold warriors and in part because they have special, much easier immigration rules (basically if your foot touches US soil and you are Cuban you can stay). So unlike every other Hispanic group, Cubans tend to vote Republican. This is changing a little bit with the latter generations, younger Cubans, both more recent immigrants and the descendants of the older immigrants are trending towards the democrats. They are also more likely to support better relations with Cuba.

            Anyway, none of that really answers whether or not non-Cuban Hispanic voters would be more likely to vote for Rubio than generic Republican (say Bush) out of ethnic solidarity. Frankly I don’t know. My sense is that even if there is some shift it won’t be enough to change the overall direction — Hillary would still get the majority. But in a close election even a small shift could be important.

          • onyomi says:

            “Likability is hugely important for getting elected, but less so for actually governing.”

            This, imo, is one of Cruz’s best qualities, and an area in which he may even be superior to Rand: his seeming total lack of regard for the regard in which his fellow politicians hold him. Lots of politicians claim they want to fight the DC establishment on behalf of their constituents, but when push comes to shove, how many of them will actually let the government shut down sooner than vote for something their constituents don’t want? The very reason why Cruz is so hated is why I like him: because I don’t like most politicians and I don’t like the political status quo, so anyone who acts very intransigent in the face of those things is okay in my book.

            Of course, the mainstream wisdom is that you have to have friends and allies and be willing to compromise to “get things done,” but the problem is that the current window of what can be done in Washington without making enemies is way too narrow. A president has the power to reset the terms of such debates and set the tone in a way a senator does not.

            That said, I think Rubio has a better chance of beating Hillary than Cruz, so as to who is the better nominee, strategically speaking, I’m not so sure. I lean toward Rubio, though I’d much rather see Cruz as president. Unfortunately, the gossip is that they hate each other, so I guess I can’t have a Cruz-Rubio ticket. If Rubio doesn’t win the nomination, however, he seems the obvious choice of running mate for almost anyone (who doesn’t hate him).

          • Anthony says:

            Tibor –

            By the way, do you think that Latin Americans would more likely vote for Clinton (because they are more likely to vote Democrats) or Rubio (because his parents are from Latin America)?

            Rubio (or Cruz) will not draw any significantly greater number of Hispanic voters than would any non-Hispanic Republican candidate not named Donald Trump. Latin Americans don’t like each other that way. Cubans might be more likely to vote for the Republican candidate if it’s Cruz or Rubio, but most of them were already voting for the Republican candidate, and those who have more thoroughly assimilated will vote for whichever party they see serving them best, whether that means Clinton, Sanders, Cruz, Rubio, Trump, etc.

            Trump is something of a wild card, because many Mexican (and working-class white) voters will vote for the most masculine-seeming candidate. For example, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. So if Trump becomes the nominee and doesn’t melt down on TV, he will get more Hispanic votes than any other Republican candidate might, even Cruz and Rubio.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ onyomi:

            This, imo, is one of Cruz’s best qualities, and an area in which he may even be superior to Rand: his seeming total lack of regard for the regard in which his fellow politicians hold him. Lots of politicians claim they want to fight the DC establishment on behalf of their constituents, but when push comes to shove, how many of them will actually let the government shut down sooner than vote for something their constituents don’t want? The very reason why Cruz is so hated is why I like him: because I don’t like most politicians and I don’t like the political status quo, so anyone who acts very intransigent in the face of those things is okay in my book.

            Exactly. This is also the main thing I like about him.

            It’s “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. I hate the Washington establishment. They hate Ted Cruz. I therefore am okay with Ted Cruz. (They hate Trump, too, but Trump’s even worse than they are.)

            Ted Cruz is completely against a certain spirit of cooperation that has a long history in Washington, where politicians give vicious speeches against one another, but behind the scenes they’re friends. But when Cruz has political enemies, they’re his enemies in real life, too.

            Now the left loves “bipartisanship” and this attitude of “go along to get along” because it ultimately results in their getting what they want. When everyone gets along, they decide to “do something”. And that something is almost always to expand the power of government and erode the Constitution. It’s exactly like that Vox.com article I quoted: “policymaking has a liberal bias”.

            (Under Bill Clinton, you might be tempted to say it was different, but spending was only cut after a Republican resurgence, vicious fights, and a government shutdown.)

            Also, you’re definitely right about Rand Paul. He’s very buddy-buddy with the establishment Republicans, despite their disagreements on policy. And his tendency to compromise with the right in an anti-libertarian way have, in my opinion, undermined his attempts to reach out to Democrats on issues like the Drug War.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Anthony:
            “So if Trump becomes the nominee and doesn’t melt down on TV, he will get more Hispanic votes than any other Republican candidate might, even Cruz and Rubio.”

            I think this is wildly off. Hispanics, broadly, are apoplectic at Trump specifically (and the GOP in general.) Hard to see how he washes off his earlier statements about Mexicans, etc.

            @Vox:
            “I think he is against letting illegal immigrants become citizens, and in his ideal fantasy world he’d deport them all, but he is willing to grant them permanent residency as part of an immigration reform / “border security” package.”

            But that is not what he is claiming now. Now he is claiming he only ever said that so he could kill the immigration bill. So, I’m not sure it is consistent with his current stated position.

            In any case, he seems nakedly Machiavellian to me. I honestly don’t know what he really believes, but I think if he is a true believer of anything it’s the evangelical positions. Maybe. And that is only because his Dad is super hard core on that front. Not that it necessarily indicates anything about true belief.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ HeelBearCub:

            I think he didn’t exactly like everything with the immigration bill, but he was basically okay with either killing it, or—if he couldn’t kill it—passing it with his amendment.

            But I’m hardly disputing that he has been duplicitous and Machiavellian on this issue and others.

            Nevertheless, I think he’s doing it for what he believes to be the greater good, to advance the principles that he holds. (That doesn’t mean I think he actually is serving the greater good by doing this.)

          • onyomi says:

            Are there any Ned Starks in politics today? What has Ted Cruz done, more than the average congressman or senator to be compared to “number one dad”? Not that I don’t think he’s calculating in what he says and does–but so are nearly all successful politicians.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ onyomi:

            It’s a matter of degree. Cruz does this more (or at least is more competent about it) than many other politicians.

            For instance, see Rand Paul’s comments in the debate on how Cruz pisses off all the other Republican candidates by saying that they’re for “amnesty” when they all support broadly similar policies:

            “What is particularly insulting, though, is that he is the king of saying, ‘Oh, you’re for amnesty. Everybody’s for amnesty except for Ted Cruz.’ But it’s a falseness,” Paul said. “And that’s an authenticity problem — that everybody he knows is not as perfect as him, because we’re all for amnesty.”

            All politicians definitely do this, though. That’s why people don’t like them.

            And when I say Cruz is like Stannis, I mean that as a semi-compliment. After all, many politicians are more like Petyr Baelish.

    • houseboatonstyx says:

      @ Jaskologist

      http://www.cnn.com/2016/02/02/politics/hillary-clinton-coin-flip-iowa-bernie-sanders/
      No, Hillary Clinton did not win Iowa because of a coin flip
      [….]
      So in the seven coin flips that the Iowa Democratic Party has a record of, Sanders won six of them.

      These seven recorded coin flips accounted for more than half of the 1,681 precincts.

  23. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/29/us/drug-shortages-forcing-hard-decisions-on-rationing-treatments.html?smid=nytcore-ipad-share&smprod=nytcore-ipad

    A description of serious shortages of a lot of prescription meds, and the difficulties doctors have with deciding who gets what.

    Are things really that bad? If so, do people have explanations of what’s going on? I prefer explanations based on specific knowledge, but I’ll settle for theory and hypothesis.

    https://www.facebook.com/nancy.lebovitz/posts/10205795789916415

    • keranih says:

      @ Nancy Lebovitz –

      Contrary to what you indicated in your fb post, when I read the article, the reason was explained.

      Many drugs are made by only one manufacturer, so production or safety problems at a single plant can have big effects. For another company to begin making the products and getting them approved by regulators requires the right combination of manufacturing capabilities and economic incentives.

      What we are seeing is the systemic cost of centralized control of manufacturing & production priorities. We have built a system based on high regulatory requirements for safety and quality, with negligible room for prioritizing cost and innovation. As a result, we have large companies who can produce large quantities (due to scale) of products at a narrow band of high quality, and we lack a secondary (and tertiary) layer of lesser quality produced faster and/or cheaper. Additionally, because we’ve had third party payments for so long, clinicians are trained to only provide one level of medicine, regardless of the cost, instead of learning to present a series of options cost/likely outcome to the patient, and have that person decide what they want.

      While one might protest that telling a patient that the quality of their care depends on how much they can afford to pay, not doing so perpetuates the myth that one can have anything, regardless of cost. Everything has upsides and downsides.

      This is the downside we chose when we “picked” the health care system we have. I’m not sure which is worse – that we never actually chose this (because it grew on its own, instead of being formally created), or that the people who did the choosing along the way were never formally appointed to make those decisions for everyone.

      • Thank you for checking.

        • keranih says:

          @ Nancy –

          Check out this article on the 2007-2010 rabies vaccine shortage. At the same time that this was going on, India and China had “plenty” of vaccine – but this was produced by domestic nationalized plants under a cheaper process that had a high(er) level of severe side effects. (And India loses a tremendous number of people annually to rabies, so calling their supply “plenty” is a kinda ‘depends on your point of view’ thing.)

          I strongly suspect that the shortages in US hospitals are rarely, if ever, at the “omg we have two patients and only enough medicine for one, the other will DIE” point. Instead, physicians are facing scrutiny when they attempt to treat with medications that used to be plentiful, and strongly encouraged to use more plentiful alternatives. I’d welcome input from someone currently working in those situations.

  24. Ice cream and class: to my Euro mind this is about *age* not class!

    At 9, “yes please”, because you don’t want an earful from mom.

    At 16, “yeah”, because fuck you, parents.

    At 22, “yeah”, because you are just used to it now.

    At 30, “yes please”, because now you are showing an example to your kids or trying to get a promotion.

    In other words, you adopt classier habits in the periods of your life when you care about your or your kids social mobility, and adopt edgier lower class habits when you don’t or want to signal not-giving-a-damn.

  25. Still class (I know it would belong to that thread, but more chance of getting it read here):

    Try expanding the models geographically. It is obvious that rural Alabama is far more Labor class than SF, but it is more interesting if you expand it internationally.

    The reason Western Europe is to the left of the US and US liberals tend to like it is that Labor class almost disappeared from the picture. There is hardly an equivalent of wrestling, destruction derbies and other redneck hobbies. It disappeared especially obviously in Scandinavia and that is why the are the most Progressive, in France even the occasionally visible rural conservatives (La France Profonde) come accross as educated and classy. Strangely, Holland preserved a small element of it: gabber / hardcore techno culture, where the dress code is tracksuits. Soccer is all that is left of a Labor culture of Western Europe, but that got a class elevation makeover in the later decades.

    While Eastern Europe is very strongly Labor class, which tops out at Putin signalling Labor class values even stronger than Trump.

    Now Southern Europe is a place I don’t understand. I am entirely unable to put Italians into class categories and I spent plenty of time there. Everybody seems classy in a certain old sense, pretty clothes and accessories, yet not in this Prog sense. I go to a smaller town’s discotheque, music club, the place looks like a palace covered with marble and other richy stuff, women wear elegant clothes, and then they just sit around and don’t dance and the music doesn’t have a dancy, pumpy beat anyway just some Ramazotti type vocals. I just don’t understand the culture, like, at all.

    IMHO most of Labor culture can be reduced to testosterone and basically the old-time ideas of masculinity, while higher classes look increasingly unisex and gender-neutral. See this: http://www.thoseshirts.com/ as examples of Labor being fed up with elites. This is one part of the story. (Labor class female culture is about being pretty and / or motherhood but overally it is far less visible, it is a feature of Labor culture that gender cultural visibility is inequal.) Upper class neutering partially ideology driven but the point is, if boys and girls grew up spending their time learning and studying instead of wrestling each other in the mud / putting up make-up before a mirror and dream of becoming divas they will more or less automatically end up more neutered, more unisex. Civilization is neutering, suggesting that if it culminates in a transhuman singularity, it will disappear. I am not looking forward to that.

    • onyomi says:

      It is a very interesting theory that many of the cultural/political differences between the US and Western Europe, as well as Coastal America’s love of Europe and Middle America’s disdain for Europe see to be explicable by appeal to the disappearance of Western Europe’s labor class. Question is, where did they go?

      • sweeneyrod says:

        I don’t think the labor class (in the sense of rednecks) has disappeared in the UK, rather it never existed, because there isn’t enough space for any significant amount of people to be far away from a major city. Other possible factors are that the upper labor class often aspire to middle class (to slip between terminology), and a bigger welfare system fuses the lower labor class with the underclass.

        • If you drop the requirement for religiosity and rurality, then the equivalent of the redneck is White Van Man — working-class, conservative, clannish, fiercely patritotic , from an honor culture.

          • And that is one phrase never used by UK politicians. They talk about Essex Man, Mondeo Man, Worcester Woman – this is more of a middle-class-ish centrist constituency, politically undecided, and voting for personal interests, typically, once owning their house or having a small business, switching from Labour to Tory. Generally they are seen to be not having any particular characteristics beyond self-interest.

            My point is how irrelevant or unimportant the White Van Man Vote appears to be. And how his culture is invisible except when mentioned negatively.

          • Tom Richards says:

            I think that’s just about the peculiarities of the UK electoral system. White van man probably isn’t a large enough part of the population in the seats which actually decide elections: he probably lives in a suburban Tory stronghold (in the South) or in dyed-in-the-wool Labour territory (in the North).

      • Not the labor class disappeared, there is still a lot of German industrial capacity – it is labor class culture and the visibility of labor class culture. Like, entertainment. It’s just football and beer and some gambling, nothing more these days.

      • tinduck says:

        I don’t know where they are now, but something like 1/3 of the population of Norway left the country from around 1840-1930. They mostly ended up in the midwestern United States.

        I imagine those migrations had significant impact on the population today.

        • I’m officially stupid. Damn! I should have thought of that the very fact of the US having a redneck culture and Europe not so much is precisely because the redneck types were disproportionately likely to move from Europe to the US (or AU etc.), because owning your farm is better than working for some landlord or in a factory.

          Shit, this is a glaring omission. Not just by me, Europeans overally don’t study and don’t discuss how emigration changed us. There are probably totally important stuff there. Like, class culture. This needs to be looked into ASAP.

          • Anonymous says:

            This is similar to what Clark noted about the effects of Jizya taxation in the Middle East. There, non-Muslims steadily became more elite, wealthy and high-IQ, because everyone who couldn’t pay up had the choice of emigration, conversion or death. The Muslims basically got the worst quality people due to this policy.

          • To expand on that a little …

            The tax on non-Muslim peoples of the book is a head tax–a fixed amount per year. The religious tax that Muslims are required to pay to support various worthy causes—not exactly a tax in our sense, since they can choose to spend money on those causes themselves rather than giving it to some authority to spend for them—is more like an income tax, depending in a somewhat complicated way on earnings of various sorts.

            So if your income is high, it’s better to be a non-Muslim, if your income is low it’s better to be a Muslim.

            I believe that is a correct account of the traditional religious rules–perhaps someone who knows more of the relevant details can correct it.

          • Anonymous says:

            @David Friedman

            To that, I’d add that apostasy from Islam is punished by death, which creates a certain incentive structure here.

            Per Clark’s book, IIRC, Jizya is traditionally set into three tiers – amount X for the poor, amount 2X for the middle, and amount 4X for the rich. The middle and the rich, with a much larger discretionary income, are in an easier position to pay than the poor, even if they have to pay more.

        • Anonymous says:

          According to official Norwegian language textbooks, a lot of them came back after they saw what American culture was doing to their kids.

          • LOOOL. Which aspect of American culture?

          • Anonymous says:

            Det mangler folk i mange bransjer, og nå trenger Norge arbeidskraft fra andre land. For noen generasjoner siden var det nordmenn som reiste ut for å søke arbeid, særlig til Amerika. I løpet av hundre år (1825-1925) var det ca. 800 000 nordmenn som emigrerte, de fleste til Nord-Amerika.
            Emigrantene hadde store forventninger før de reiste, og noen fant seg fort til rette og fikk et bedre liv. Mange ble imidlertid skuffet og lengtet hjem. Språket var et stort problem, og noen lærte det aldri. Dessuten var det vanskelig å få gode jobber, særlig hvis man ikke kunne engelsk. De som var religiøse, følte også at moralen i det nye landet var for dårlig. Det ble blant annet diskutert om ungdommen skulle få lov til å danse når de kom sammen. Her er noen utdrag av brev fra dem som angret på at de reiste:
            – Jeg trodde at når jeg kom hit, så skulle alt bli bra, men slik gikk det ikke.
            – De ler av oss fordi vi ikke kan språket, og det gjør vondt.
            – Jeg var nødt til å ta jobb som tallerkenvasker. Det er ikke lett å få kontorjobb.
            – Vi hadde helt andre tanker om dette landet. Det er ikke sant det som ble fortalt.
            – Her er mye falskhet. Mange blir lurt.
            – Jeg tror jeg må gjøre som deg og reise hjem og gifte meg. Pikene her er ikke bra piker, de har ingen ære. Du må gi meg adressen til en riktig fin pike.

            The teacher filled in some of this (particularly about the coming back, which their wiki indicates to be 1/4th of those who went after 1880), but just from the text:
            – Loosening of morals, especially felt by those who are religious.
            – Dishonorable (loose?) women.
            – Rampant dishonesty (fraud?).
            – Kids allowed to dance together at gatherings.

            They also hated being ridiculed for not knowing English, and many never learned, but that’s a general problem with immigrants.

          • Tibor says:

            Are you Norwegian or have you just heard about it? I don’t have big illusions about Norway (there seems to be a very strong force in the society there to be conformist and support the government whatever it says) but this seems like Russian-style propaganda and I have doubts the text books would be that specific anyway (unless they indeed wanted to hammer the idea of “backwards and regressive USA” into the students’ heads).

          • Anonymous says:

            Does it matter who I am?

            The quote is from the intermediate textbook for adults. Page 112.

            I agree that it is propaganda, but it’s a propaganda saying that Norway was a backward, religiously conservative land, and they did the same things upon immigrating to USA as immigrants to Norway do now to Norway, so shut up you hypocrite and welcome those migrants.

          • tinduck says:

            Interesting. Norwegian’s Americans were very geographically isolated from other member’s of society. We generally lived on Homesteads in the Dakotas.

            Isolation generally created it’s own problems, notably Alcoholism. But for the most part, we were more interested in leaving the Dakotas than ever going back to Norway. I’ll leave you with a Gene Amdahl quote.

            AMDAHL: I didn’t really have that as an ideal in mind, but I did know I wanted to be in California.

            NORBERG: How did you come to that?

            AMDAHL: Well, anyone who is born and raised in South Dakota gets to the point where they recognize sooner or
            later that getting to California is having one foot in heaven. [laugh]

          • Tibor says:

            @Anonymous: It does not matter. What I meant by “are you Norwegian” was more or less “do you have a credible source of information on that or did you read it online somewhere” 🙂 Sorry if it rubbed you the wrong way.

          • Thanks, interesting! Also interesting how quickly Norway changed. If for example one uses gays as a canary in the coalmine of social liberalism, it was forbidden until 1972, legalized in that year and already in 1981 discrimination and hate speech against gays banned, first country in the world, so in a mere 9 years the law took completely the other side. So it suggests the 1970’s were a period of really rapid change.

            But it still does not explain what changed it.

            I found this: https://www.quora.com/How-was-it-like-to-live-in-Norway-during-the-1970s

            The author mentions moralism, which was probably religious, and yet the strong influence of Marxism-Leninism.

            I have a more general model that suggests that religious sentiment, no matter how conservative, can very quickly move over into far-left or very liberal sentiment, because the same kind of virtue-signalling. So you can signal Christian virtue by hating gays, or you can quickly move to signalling liberal virtue by hating those who hate gays. But it is very similar. Stable, enduring conservatisms are not based on too much religion, rather economic interest or patriotism or something similar, a down-to-earth pragmatic approach, like in Ancient Rome. So this could be one explanation.

            “On the more cultural side, extreme interpretation of Marxism dominated. Marxist-Leninism or Maoism. It was actually more akin to the various religious sects which existed everywhere; pietist and moralist. ”

            Aha. Not far from my model.

          • keranih says:

            The ‘returnees’ from my lot were much smaller than that, and most of the people who attempted to come over and were refused, were turned back due to tb or other infectious disease.

            Not saying that some people didn’t take one look at the flat wastelands of the shortgrass prairie and run as fast back to the mountains and fjords as they could, but that most were leaving really bad economic conditions, which pretty much persisted until the US found oil in the North Sea.

          • A pattern I’m pretty sure I’ve seen asserted for some immigrant groups, perhaps Italians in particular, was that someone would come over, make what was, by home standards, quite a lot of money, then go back to the home country to retire. A quarter of immigrants eventually going back doesn’t sound inconsistent with my memory of what I’ve read.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Tibor

            No offense taken. I just have my reasons to post anonymously.

    • Stefan Drinic says:

      If we(or France, or Scandinavia..) don’t have a labor class, who votes for all the right wingers? The votes such parties get in most any country moves well up into the double digits in most places.

      Southern Europe I agree on though, I’ll have to do some thinking about that. It is a place where on the one hand a labor-signaling person like Berlusconi can cheerfully rule with much approval for a long time whilst also having movements like Podemos getting popular elsewhere. It appears very strange, yes.

      • Tibor says:

        I don’t think that right-wingers in Europe get votes mostly from the working class voters. It is the various social democratic parties that have traditionally been working class parties. Who votes Tories in the UK, Republicans in France or CDU/CSU in Germany? Middle-class. Now, all of these parties (maybe except for the Tories) have recently shifted much more to the left while the social democratic parties have abandoned their working class roots and made their programmes more Green Party like (sort of upper class leftist). Those two things opened a lot of political space for parties like Le Pen’s FN in France or AfD in Germany (who, I believe, actually used to be a right-liberal party with Bernd Lucke, but have shifted quite a lot to the very conservative side after Frauke Petry took over). They get votes from both the working class and parts of the righ-wing middle class (they are also no “right-wingers” in any meaningful sense – FN’s economic policies are very socialist and protectionist for example). I don’t know much about Nordic countries but I expect that there will be a similar story with the Folkeparti in Denmark and the Swedish Democrats in I forgot which country. At least in Germany (and Austria) this is also fostered by long years of either official “great coalitions” (that is a coalition rule of the CDU/CSU and the Social Democrats) or generally converging politics of the two main parties.

        Meanwhile, Spain has a huge unemployment rate, especially among young people, which is caused above all by the insane socialist labour laws (huge benefits for employees, if you want to fire someone you have to pay him several months of wages and so on) which make employers very hesitant to hire anyone. But apparently, the leftists like Podemos can attract the attention of the many unemployed* young Spaniards whom they promise jobs and punishment of the greedy bankers who, of course, are those really to blame (basically Podemos are something like Bernie Sanders). By the way “podemos” means “we can” in Spanish. I don’t know much about Italy, I’ve never understood how Berlusconi can get elected despite his countless scandals either. But it seems like Italians like a macho guy.

        * I was told by some Spaniards that the unemployment rate is not as bad as it looks on paper – there are many people who work illegally in Spain nowadays, because that is the only way the employers are willing to risk employing someone they might have to sack after a few months and paying for it as well as avoiding paying the myriad of other benefits and fees they have to with legal employees.

        The post-communist countries are also special. Actually, I only know the country I am myself from, i.e. the Czech republic, well enough to say something about it. The specific thing (and I imagine that this is the case of other post-communist EU countries as well) is that at least until recently, to vote for the left-wing was considered something working class, any “decent member of the middle classes” would vote the right-wing or at least not admit in public that he votes the social democrats (almost nobody at all would admit voting the communists…also mostly people over 60 vote for them and their voting base keeps getting older), so you have your “labour class vote” but it does not go to a right-wing party but to a left-wing one. As I mentioned before, this has been generally the case in Europe for the most part – the welfare state is mostly supported by the working class and the state employees. There has been some shifts lately though and this includes the Czech politics as well, although with some delay, caused by the communist past and a period after that in which everything left-wing was not considered “worthy of an educated society”. This also lead to the left-wing becoming more conservative in social issues than the right-wing (I mean maistream right-wing). Today the Social democrats have partly moved to a more “middle class euro-left” party (although not as much as the German SPD for example, not yet anyway) and the mainstream right-wing is also trying to look progressive and cool to attract the young voters. At least that is my take on things, I am not entirely sure how accurate my understanding of the current political shifts is.

        To summarize (and oversimplify a bit)- there is a labour class or working class in Europe, but it votes for social welfare, “taxing the rich” AND social conservativeness. The middle class is a mix of what would be middle class Democrat leftists in the US and “centre-right” Republicans. This seems to be true of pretty much all countries in the EU. I will not find a large group of of people who’d actually like to seriously cut taxes and the scope of the state anywhere in the EU (or Europe in general with the notable exception of Switzerland). Of course, most establishment Republicans don’t want that in the US either but I guess that a sizable minority of their voters do.

        • Stefan Drinic says:

          You can tell me the PVV or Front National or the True Finns aren’t ‘real’ right wingers because they’re not actually into rightist economic policy all you want, but that’s hardly the point I was making. TheDividualist’s post implied Europe somehow lacked a labor class of its own, and I simply wanted to point out that the mere voting statistics argue against that strongly: everywhere Pegida or UKIP rears its head, you can evidently see there very much is a labor class.

          Whether or not they’re rightist like so or not isn’t something I’m terribly interested in.

          • Tibor says:

            But it is an important distinction from the US point of view and the original question. The reason the US right-wingers might look at Europe with disdain is because Europe is not capitalist enough, the left-wingers like it for the same reasons (although both also imagine Europe to be much less capitalist than it is, or rather they imagine all countries in Europe to be like France). The original question was whether that might have something to do with the presence or absence of the labour class. You correctly pointed out that the labour class is present but I wanted to clarify that the difference is probably due to the different voting patterns of the labour class – they used to vote (still partly do) the social democratic parties and now they partly vote the so called right-wing populist parties (who are often socially conservative social democrats, UKIP is a notable exception, they seem quite capitalist, but the UK also seems closer in this to the US than the continent is)

  26. About class: I’d rather put this into this newer thread:

    Class is IMHO BOTH adaptation-execution and fitness maximization: you do it because it used to be useful for mating, but also because it still is. (Thanks to Eric Raymond for the idea that interesting human behaviors are generally **overdetermined**, so don’t stop at the first suitable explanation!) Men do it to be able to mate at all, and with a pretty one, women do it in order to make high-status man marry them, not just an affair.

    Now my Evil Plan to uproot the Prog Culture of Goodness and introduce a terrible era of far-rightery (or, well, at least to turn back the clock a bit) is based on the idea that these two got out of synch. At least for men. You can signal Davos type goodness-and-caring class, but it is still the selfish muscular guy on the motorbike getting the girl. And as for women, signalling Prog feminism usually works against a man offering a ring, a pretty feminist can be a good short term girlfriend if you put with her stuff for her looks but too dangerous for a wife. Doesn’t mean men want stupid wives, but usually smart-but-not-feminist is a winning strategy. But I think this change will come from men.

    So basically you can play the Prog class game as a man, it gets you status but this status is rather useless for mating. Or you can say fuck it, be a well paid smart blue collar (stuff like dangerous work in oil refineries) or the kind of white-collar job where you don’t need to watch your tongue much, work out, ride a motorbike, box, live a manly and fun life, be full of un-PC opinions and still score far better with women.

    In short, I am betting on that sex is so powerful, it could break anything. I am betting on a revolt of men who are doing everything right, and even gaining status nicely, but are still undersexed and badly sexed.

    The weak spot of my plan is economics. Ultimately, Prog elites could arrange things so that some college educated equal opportunity officer is paid much more than now and the smart welder licenced to work in dangerous flammable environments, or the generic office software dev is paid much less than now. And this would work badly, if you gotta take the bus to work and someone else rides a Ferrari to work, THIS kind of status would not work that well sexually, not even necessarily because women care that much, but because men care much, it is difficult for a man to be confident and not feel embarrassed and small in a situation like this, so he would lose his Game, his confident edge. But if this comes to happen, you essentially have a Soviet type nomenclature. And you know how that ends.

    • onyomi says:

      Re. the sexual disadvantages of embracing progressive ideology, I’m not sure I see it, at least not in the gentry circles where it would be a problem: in my experience the pot-smoking, long-haired male members of the Campus Democrats got a lot more action than the Alex P Keaton types who populated the Young Republicans, though partially just because there were a lot fewer women in the latter. But that counts! Women are attracted to men who seem like compassionate, giving caretakers. What better way to signal this without actually doing anything than to embrace progressive and/or Marxist economics?

      • The Alex P Keaton type is highly conformist,which is probably something common in the moderate-right. Here in Europe the moderate-right tend to be the most boring guys ever, and I think it is the same. The sheer boredom of most Republican candidates who aren’t Trump is probably worse, sexually, than Sanders, who is a gamma but his ideas may at least look like something bold. This comes across as petty and fearful i.e. not very masculine, while the pot-smoking hippie is able to signal some amount of courage, boldness, bravely bucking social standards and so on. This is fake: they actually are of the highest status and their standards are the real ones, but fake signals can work, too. This was the idea behind the 1968 type rebelliousness: to impress girls by boldly challenging their fathers values, so showing that they don’t have a lower status than their dad. The young buck locking horns with the old buck is the most basic sexual competition strategy and it works, too. However please factor in that most adult, post-college liberals are highly conformist office drones and not that different from the moderate-right boringness, they aren’t bold radicals in Che tees, they are simply conformist to Prog norms and parrot what everybody else is saying. Look at Davos.

        My point is, forget moderate-right Keaton type boring Republicans, they aren’t going to upset the Prog establishment, they are part of it. Thing about more radical right guys who are not afraid of being called racist, sexist or homophobic. Bad guys on motorbikes. Roosh. PUAs. Captain Capitalism and his “Asshole Consulting”. Vox Day.

        I mean, if you want to signal boldness and courage, and that certainly tends to work with women, go far-left or far-right, it cannot be done close to the middle. The far-left kind work better previously as they were in reality far less suppressed than the far-right by the establishment, the problem is you cannot be a Che type anymore. Che was homophobic, racist etc. because he was a masculine man with strong opinions. These days on the far-left you gotta roll with the Tumblr trans fats and be very sure you don’t give offense by misgendering anyone and basically I think that is emasculating and is not going to work with girls, because it isn’t really bold. You see, the far-left radical looks bold as long as he looks like putting a lot of energy in fighting the establishment or any random enemy, right? But today they cannot exert that energy purely outward, they gotta put a lot of energy inward, i.e. basically watching their tongues, braking themselves if they would do anything inappropriate, they cannot call someone a retard because that is ableist and so on, so these days they are tying up themselves, braking themselves, and that does not look that bold.

    • stillnotking says:

      Male attractiveness seems (empirically) to be distributed about evenly among all social classes. While it’s true that some women go for the “downtown guy” as Billy Joel put it, that’s essentially a fetish. Super-progressive guys in the Gentry class get laid just fine, as long as they are attractive in the universal ways (facially symmetric, high-status, dependable, charming, funny, etc.). Note also that women from the Gentry class rarely marry downward, even if they might mess around a little.

      Weird example: I’m a big fan of the TV show Gilmore Girls. (Major spoilers follow!) Through the series, Rory, the younger of the titular Girls and the daughter of a Gentry escapee from the Elite, has three main love interests who correspond very closely to the three classes Scott mentioned. Of the three, the one who’s most obviously positioned as her OTP is Jess, who — while a bit of a “bad boy” as a teenager in the early seasons — eventually becomes a recognizable avatar of the Gentry class, an urban, politically liberal, published author and founding member of an artists’ commune. Dean, her first boyfriend, is tall and hunky but Labor to the bone (he starts out as a bag boy and ends up as a construction worker); Rory eventually realizes the two of them have little in common, after cheating on him with Jess! Logan, the Elite bachelor, represents a potential return to her mother’s forsaken life of privilege, but Rory (in the series finale) spurns him too, in favor of striking out on her own, as her mother did. The Jess romance is the only one left unresolved, and the creator has strongly hinted he will be Rory’s “final” boyfriend in the upcoming Netflix revival.

      It’s just one show, but it’s interesting because: a) it’s very explicitly concerned with social class throughout; and b) it’s written from women’s POV. Suffice to say that male attractiveness is a whole lot more complicated than you’re making it out.

      • I am familiar with the series, as my wife watches it. It’s romantic fantasy for women. Has about as much to do with reality as fantasy for men e.g. Bruce Lee kicking down everybody. Seriously, we all know not to take male fantasy too seriously, life isn’t blasting guns and roundhouse kicks, why take romantic fem fantasy seriously then? Because it looks more down to earth, real life than all that unrealistic action in male fantasy? Fem fantasy is more realistic about events, stuff done, but highly unrealistic about emotions. Men want fantasy-action, women fantasy-emotions. At least GG has a highly ironic tone, in order to suggest not taking it seriously.

        The way I remember the series, her Labor class boyfriend is something sort of a nice-guy while her rich-guy boyfriend, the one who makes them jump down from some structure, is strong masculine, something sort of an athlete, and has bad-boy Game a bit, although fem fantasy never shows too much of that, it is something usually hidden because it is supposed to stay subconscious.

        In reality, Labor class is rarely such a nice guy. They have a tough life. They become tough. An upper-class bad-boy is fairly rare, because of a sheltered life, although athletics, sports can change that. But can you imagine that athlete boy watching his tongue not to misgender a trans fat from Tumblr? These guys necessarily pushed out to the Trumpish non-PC right, even if they like to signal holiness through supporting environentalism or something I think their essentially masculinity cannot stand SJWery. And it is mutual, no matter how hard they try, being a manly man is automatically a shut-up-your-opinion-is-invalid for them.

      • tinduck says:

        Jess in the beginning is just a bad dude. He’s a high school dropout who works at Walmart. He’s manipulative, aggressive, and has no regard for others people’s feelings.

        I understand that he mellows out quite a bit. He’s handles Logan much better than he ever did Dean. Now, I agree with you that I think Rory will end up with Jess. But if she’s sees Dean shirtless in a 1967 Chevrolet Impala, sorry there’s no chance for Jess.

    • Dahlen says:

      Would you eat your hat if it turned out that Red Pill types are not what women prefer after all?

      You people always take that as some sort of axiom of human sexuality, but it doesn’t square at all with my anecdata. What I’ve seen again and again have been stereotypical alpha men who lost, and lost hard, to beta nerds who looked like Legolas and liked to recite poetry. Those were the ones causing catfights — and, I mean, under a certain perspective this makes sense biologically.

      Honestly, it seems to me that this is just an excuse to go on to do whatever you felt like doing in the first place, selfish things like pursuing power and pleasure, and then rationalize it by saying that that’s what gets you women. Because, according to some pants-on-head retarded theory, they would be masochistic enough to actively prefer what’s worst for them in a relationship.

      But you know what, go on living the Red Pill alpha bad boy fantasy. That’s one less credible competitor for the rest of us to worry about.

      • Vox Imperatoris says:

        See, I think some women are attracted to the Red Pill stuff.

        The question is: do you want to be in a relationship with those women?

        Like, the whole “pickup artist” thing is all about cruising around in bars and clubs to pick up sluts, so that you can have one-night stands with them. And they act like every man really would like to do this but is bad at it. However, I don’t think that’s true at all. I think there are some men who want to do it but are bad at it, but there are a lot of others who just don’t want to do it.

        • Anonymous says:

          *Some* red pill stuff is generic good advice for men, like giving appearance of confidence, persistence in keeping up attempts, etc., but you’re right that the PUA-specific stuff is not suited for the desires of most men. Most, I think, would be perfectly happy to have an arranged marriage with a woman they can at least tolerate long-term.

        • Look up “married game”, Athol Kay, MMSL. Totally different life.

          About he cruising stuff, that for example Roosh and Captain Capitalism recommends: it is based on the idea that Western women and the rules are so horribly feminist that you don’t want a long-term with them.

          I honestly don’t know. European women here don’t seem too bad to me but I am almost 40, I haven no idea how the 20 year olds are. I have heard the Erasmus is a fuck-fest, guaranteed cheating, but it is a rumor. But do pick up some signals that female entitlement in the US could be indeed rather big. For example divorce laws in the US are far more man-hostile than ours. Imputed income instead of real? Paying not only for the kids, but also to the ex-wife? Here in many countries it is just 20% of real actual income per kid, that’s it, or something similar, nobody gives you shit for the crime of being unemployed like in the US if you have to pay child support, and nothing to the ex-wife except splitting commonly acquired property, and parental gifts are even exempt, if your dad buys you two a house it stays yours after divorce. With US type laws I’d be far more scared of marriage.

          • Anonymous says:

            But do pick up some signals that female entitlement in the US could be indeed rather big. For example divorce laws in the US are far more man-hostile than ours.

            I’m not sure that U.S. divorce laws tell you anything about U.S. women (who didn’t make the laws after all, and often don’t agree with them (yes, even feminists)).

      • TheNybbler says:

        I think “look like Legolas” is a confounding factor. Those of us who look more like Gimli are at a distinct disadvantage.

        IME, having an bad-boy “edge” is definitely attractive to many women. It can be offputting even to the same women, but both attractive and repulsive beats “beneath notice” any day of the week. In the beast’s terminology, an edge can move you from Omega to Sigma.

        • I am extremely grateful to my ancestors for being tall. I see even very obese women on Tinder saying they would not date a short man. It must be really hard on them. Such an unfair disadvantage.

          And yes, it is because being taller than the other is a dominant vibe. This is evidence right there.

          The current research is inconclusive about this, but it seems boys should not do weight lifting before they finished growing as it may retard the growth. I don’t understand it: it generates human growth hormone. May be some other factor. Anyway, parents, remember this.

          • Tibor says:

            I think this is largely true. I have colleague who’s something like 160cm, I would not want to be in his shoes. I think women are usually ok with men who are taller than them or at least as tall, at least in the case of tall women, my ex-girlfriend was 180cm, same as me, and this is also exactly the average Czech male height. But I could tell she would have been happier if I were taller.

            Then again, while they may not be entirely against dating women taller than them, are also not entirely comfortable with the idea. I know that I felt weird when my ex wore high heels (she almost never did though) and was suddenly 5-10 cm taller than me. Then again, even if she were naturally 10 cm taller than me it would not have been a reason for me not to date her (it would have possibly been a reason for her not to date me) So really tall women have it more difficult as well, although it is probably worse for men to be short than for women to be tall.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            Of course you don’t want to be in his shoes. They’re probably way too small!

            *ba dum tish*

            Seriously… yes, being tall is, you should pardon the expression, a huge part of being attractive for men. I am only indifferently handsome at best but I am reasonably tall (6’1″ in my sock feet) and once I got past the idea that women were actively repulsed by me I found that it seemed to be a pretty big (again, please pardon the expression) plus.

            You often meet men who like petite women,* as in they find it attractive as a general property, but it seems like you very rarely meet women who like short men ditto.

            *Spare me the immaturity theories, please.

          • Tibor says:

            @Marc: I think it is spelled “bada bum tish” 🙂

            Anyway, I don’t know any men who would be particularly turned off by short women, or tall women and there are men who prefer one or the other (although the general rule is that they don’t want the woman to be much taller than them…but those women are not likely to be interested in them anyway unless they are 2 metres tall or more and there are almost no men around who are taller than them).

        • Dahlen says:

          I think “look like Legolas” is a confounding factor. Those of us who look more like Gimli are at a distinct disadvantage.

          This is so true and important, I almost mentioned it, but eventually decided against going off on that tangent (discussion of the different types of male physical beauty is probably worth its own separate post). The reason I chose to say “elfin” rather than just “handsome” is that there is a certain view of male attractiveness (one that favours bulging muscles and other very pronounced secondary sex characteristics) that would disagree that Legolas lookalikes even are handsome, or that this facet of attractiveness (“pretty” faces, nice hair etc.) matters to women at all.

      • Yes, I would eat my hat. You see, I appreciate that certain folks on my side my be generating bullshit. The human capability for self-delusion and rationalization is huge and we are not exempt. But you see, I think people are less likely to do this about important stuff in their personal lives that can have big rewards and big failures. And being actually good at picking up hot women is such a huge reward that I’d expect people to try hard to get it right. Little room for delusion: it works or doesn’t.

        I mean, for example, people get fat when they don’t care, but when people care and put a lot of effort into figuring out nutrition, and is a whole subculture debating whether peanuts are okay, then you would expect them to be in actually good shape, to succeed at it, and not be fat?

        So I would expect any subculture putting a lot of effort into womanizing or manizing to get it right: if there are any alternative, how to put it, poetry geek PUA subcultures who similarly put a lot of effort into it I’d like to know about because they too are probably getting a few things right. Because at the end of the day it works or doesn’t, not that much room for delusion.

        It’s important to not oversimplify “alpha stuff”. For example, In the A-team series Mr. T (even the name suggests) have always been a symbol of masculinity and yet I thought he is probably not too attractive to women. He is more like what a little boy thinks admirable men are like, right? However in Titanic DiCaprio is a good example of my idea of “alpha” – bold and confident, behaves as if he owned the ship.

        So it is not about being some threatening bully – although even that is preferable to a whipped dog. It is above all signalling courage, boldness – and yes, in some particular circumstances specific ways of being a nerdy poet can be a good way to do that. I assume this is some very high IQ circles. Not the hairdresser girls at the bar.

        If you look at swashbuckler movies, Depp and Bloom as pirates, they come accross as kind of feminine, metro, wearing eyeliner – but they do it in a way that signals boldness, and that is why I think they are a very good example of being “alpha” and most women I know love those movies.

        One difficulty in debating human behavior with folks from this Rationalist subculture is that basically everybody you know guys, everybody in your circles has sky high IQ and that tends to suppress natural instincts. If you want to study human instincts, study the stupid! Study soldiers, not officers. I mean, for example, Rationalists are well known to be sexually rather “weird”, all kinds of stuff, poly, asexuality, trans. Why? Because you run on IQ not instincts, because your basic simple mating, reproduction instincts are suppressed by IQ. So your anecdata is not that useful. (And that is why I am even trying to hack my brain into simulating stupid, so that I am more in harmony with my own natural instincts.)

        For example, I’d bet your beta poetry nerds are not too bad at dancing. That is excellent at signalling boldness, most men can’t dance largely because they don’t dare to dance, they are self-conscious about it. And there are studies that women estimate men’s T levels by their dancing. So for example ballroom dancing is mega-“alpha”.

        >Honestly, it seems to me that this is just an excuse to go on to do whatever you felt like doing in the first place, selfish things like pursuing power and pleasure,

        This is horribly wrong. Most of the Red Pill culture is ex-nice-guys who are angry because doing favors to girls bought them nothing. OK this is not as genuinely nice as doing favors without expecting anything in return, it is calculating, but still a niceish strategy. Putting it differently, ex-cowards. Selfishness takes courage! And there is a lot of talk about how to develop inner game, courage, not giving a fuck, so that you get the courage to be selfish. Because they used to be the guys who are pathethically afraid of others having bad opinions of them, like not nice enough, who always pandered to others. So no, they absolutely DON’T like to be selfish and Machiavellian, their ideal world would be that of the life of Indian programmer who gets arranged-married to a girl whose mother pushes it because the programmer earns good money and he does not need to be attractive to the girl, the girl is rather submissive and doesn’t divorce, and therefore the programmer can be as beta and cowardly and pandering as he wants to, he can afford to be coward, he can afford to cry, show weakness, and still he can bang his wife, they want that kind of life. (Maybe it is not how Indian programmers live: then just consider it a fantasy! Irrelevant now whether it is actually possible somewhere. The relevant is that this is what they would like.) But instead most of them found themselves in the hyper-competitive sexual marketplace of US / first-world college campuses (campi?) where the jocks have harems.

      • Deiseach says:

        Well, don’t ask me What Women Want, because I haven’t a clue, but I do suspect that the kind of men who want to ” cruis(e) around in bars and clubs to pick up sluts, so that (they) can have one-night stands with them” are attractive to some women, who just want to find a guy for a one-night stand and don’t want anything long-term.

        The impression I’m getting from some of this advice is that it’s all about “tricking” women into having sex with you, as though there is some huge level of difficulty to be overcome and maybe there is, but I do think that women who go to pick-up joints go there for the exact same reason that men do: to find a hot partner for a night’s fun. They’re not looking for love and romance and long-term relationship, they just want the shift (and a bit more if both click).

        So I really don’t understand that there’s any reason to have a note of triumph about being the “alpha male bad-boy with the harem”, because you’re on the same level as the “sluts” and they think about you as you think about them: pretty to bang but nothing else.

        • Anonymous says:

          >this advice is that it’s all about “tricking” women into having sex with you, as though there is some huge level of difficulty to be overcome and maybe there is

          Red pill in the PUA flavor is about,
          a) presenting a facade of greater attractiveness than you naturally possess,
          b) overcoming the western male monogamous adaptation (from “relationship -> sex”, to “sex -> maybe relationship”), ie. becoming an unashamed cad.

          Per Roosh’s book, you not so much convince an unwilling woman to have sex, but convince her to have sex with you for a cheaper investment from yourself.

        • Tibor says:

          Exactly what I think. A friend of mine is friends with his gym trainer and he kind of admires him for his supposed ability with women. I had the misfortune of traveling with this guy (I wanted to go with that friend and he asked me if this guy could join us as well) around Asia for three weeks 2 years ago. He was not exactly a pick-up artist in the sense of doing all the “theory” but he was otherwise exactly what they envision as “alpha-male”. I remember that we met a pair of French girls on one occasion in the Philippines and when this guy (and my friend as well) left those girls asked me where I knew him form…because according to them us two were entirely different (which was true) and they wondered how I could have been friends with someone like that. It was quite obvious that they were not impressed by him at all. They were both pretty but neither seemed like exactly the kind of women that are after these types. At the same time, the kind of women who do like these guys are not exactly those I (and my friend probably neither) would be interested in either. Needless to say, I wished him to forgot his papers somewhere and get locked up in jail somewhere for a week or something so I could get rid of him. This actually almost happened in Singapore where they have pretty strict border control and where this idiot put “Singapore” on the line “place of stay in Singapore” in the form we had to fill in to be allowed to the country. The officer sent him back to fill it properly and he had to call us (we were already on the other side) to tell him the address of our hotel because he did not remember it. The form also said “Death to drug traffickers” so one could tell they take it seriously :).

  27. Davos quotes:

    There is something I would like everybody to the left of me (so, mostly everybody) to think a bit about. In the 20th century politics was highly ideological, people joined parties, read manifestos and whatnot. Now it seems much of politics is largely reduced to “being a good person”. Like, if people march for gay rights or anti-rape sometimes they do have some bits of ideological motive left, like the principle of equality, equal respect or consideration (read this PDF, really do: http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1261&context=fss_papers ), but the general mood is more like “let’s not be an asshole to people of group X”. So ideology got largely replaced by “generic goodness”. And similarly, violating a feminist-inspired code of conduct at a Silicon Valley company is no longer put as an ideological disagreement but is frames as being an ass, so again, ideologically generated taboos are no longer framed so, but more like generic bad behavior. Now, my explanation for this process is that Progressive principles amongst educated people had such a total victory that now ideological debates are almost over. (With the only possible exception is purely economic conservatism/libertarianism, which is the only socially acceptable form of dissent, basically a loyal opposition. You cannot say you don’t want your taxes to support your own ethny or race only, you can only say you just don’t want to pay much high-ish taxes in general.) And if any worldview wins, of course everything it approves of becomes Lawful Good and what it opposes becomes Chaotic Evil. My first question: any other possible explanations? For example, the Post-Modern turn against rational, objective truth, which boosted the importance of feelings?

    The second thing I would like to consider is that while status-signalling, holiness-signalling has ALWAYS been part of human psychology, this Culture of Generic Goodness is an especially fertile ground for this? That it easily becomes an arms race now?

    The third thing is: if these Davos folks rule the world, and that is not too inaccurate to say, they are certainly highly powerful and influential, it seems basically this sort of thing runs the world right now, right?

    The fourth thing is, the problems with this are rather obvious? Consider the “there is no feminism after Cologne”. We had Prog elites, feminists organizing Slut Walks and telling men it is not womens fault if they get raped. Suddenly when it is non-Westerners do it, we get Prog elites all over Europe telling women to be more cautious because those guys are not used to seeing women in miniskirts. This an incredible about-face, and has neither a rational nor even an ideological explanation because you cannot derive this from a principle of equality or Rawls or even from Judith Butler. I think it derives from this Culture of Generic Goodness which underlines the whole victimhood olympics. The only reason victimhood olympics works is because this Goodness Culture, because it puts such a huge premium on signalling compassion with anyone, even utter strangers, that anyone who can at least slightly plausibly made looking like a victim is basically untouchable because it would make you look mean and nasty and that is a status loss in this culture.

    And now the big question is, even if you don’t want to run out as far towards the right as I do, how would you hack / fix these obvious faults? I mean, I get it that to many of you, consequentualists, knowing the basic human habit to fall into arms races, when it is about signalling goodness it is one of the best possible outcomes. But it has the obvious glaring problem of being too defenseless, too trusting, suicidial, not pointing out problems when they are connected with people who are untouchable because they look like victims and so on. To put it succintly, you are raising & letting in Utility Monsters, and violent ones at that.

    • Some Troll's Legitimate Discussion Alt says:

      The “generic niceness” was always the real thing. It is the truck that actually pushes against the ground, entombed invisibly deep within the ideological parade float. It being more naked than usual now hasn’t changed the nature of the forces at work much.

      Any democratic country contains a series of social groups variously cooperating, competing, and politely ignoring each other as they try to carry on existing.

      Those groups can be categorized as either haves or have-nots. A have group has access to power, wealth, social respect, etc. They’re full blown members of the nation and have a lot of influence on the direction it’s going to go. Have-nots are the opposite. People don’t socially value or respect them, they don’t hold political offices, they don’t have a lot of money. Have-nor groups still have influence over the nation as a whole, but it’s much smaller and only really relevant when aligned with friendly have groups.

      The Haves can then be subdivided into Left and Right. If a group’s political consensus favors more have-nots in, that’s the Left. If they don’t want to let anyone in, or even want to kick someone out, that’s the Right.

      There are lots of different things to have opinions about and a group’s consensus can absolutely be Right on one topic but Left on another, for example racial minorities opposing gay marriage. A group may even be atomized enough that it doesn’t have a consensus, its members scattering to Right and Left randomly on nearly every topic.

      What matters is what every does have a consensus about. It is an inerrant fact that *everyone* wants their own group to be a Have group.

      Consider what that means for the fight between the Left and Right. In the absence of that self interest, you might expect them to be roughly evenly matched. Why shouldn’t they be? Everyone’s opinion of everyone else is determined by their own past, and there are plenty of different pasts to go around. There ought to be a swingy little tug of war moving the country Left and Right a couple of degrees to either side of some equilibrium or other.

      The invincible triumphant march of the Left that we actually see is due to the self interest.

      When the Left and Right fight about letting more have-nots in, the Left has reinforcements in the form of the proposed new haves and the Right stands alone. Every incremental step of the havification process strengthens the Left because the scraps of mobey/political power/social respect their allied have-nots are fighting for are also the weapons this fight is fought with. Conversly, preventing an incrimental step in the havification process doesn’t do anything for the Right. They gain no new allies or resources. All they get is a little time before fighting that fight again and again and again until they lose and retreat to the next one.

      The Right trying to kick a have group out is even more fruitless. They will lose any members of the targeted group they had and that group will use all the have privileges which are already in their hands in a bitter fight to the death to stay haves. This in addition to the regular Left which was already roughly on even ground with the Right before the Right expelled a bunchanged of its own people. Going up against a force which is now larger than yours plus a bloc of utter fanatics, many of whom know all your tricks, is not a winning strategy.

      This force bears many names, usually Cthulhu and Elua around here, but that’s all it is. Being nice to some have-nots and helping them become haves, thereby conscripting them.

      • >The “generic niceness” was always the real thing.

        Nah, remember when every French intellectual and many Americans were Soviet lovers. That was something else, the Soviet stuff was openly aggressive and non-nice in a kill-the-kulaks way.

        • Some Troll's Legitimate Discussion Alt says:

          Less democratic states express this less clearly, but even so, the soviets were promising, and to an extent delivering, have-status to a great many more people. That’s the key thing, bringing effectivly limitless reinforcements to every fight from outside the tent.

          Examining people’s beliefs is adding noise to the system. May as well ask a single electron it’s views on the amperage.

      • This process changed around 1968. The New Left shedded its working-class cred, started caring about upper-class stuff like sexual liberation, and began forming a culture that from an education perspective, was becoming more and more elite, to the extent that now a plumber doesn’t understand half the vocab of a feminist. Any group of people where a word like intersectionalism can be a slogan is educationally elite.

        This began slowly alienating the working class, especially whites and males. This is a highly international process, I remember UK workers complaining about Blair being too posh etc.

        Of course, there is the issue that sex i.e. feminism could potentially mobilize more voters than class, at least 50% of them, and with changing fertility and immigration race is a bigger and bigger voter finder tool.

        So right now the big question is whether working class women and working class men of color get alienated by the too-posh educational style of the New Left, and vote for right-wing populists, Trump types, who seem to speak the language of the common folk, or vote with their (perceived) racial or gender interests.

        Beyond the educational elitism, I think generic niceness does not sit that well with the working class either. Those who have few privileges tend to guard them so that something differentiates them from others. Having a little have and that is all that differentiates one from the have-nots, it is crucially important that the have-nots should not get a little have either or else the little haves will lose their status advantage and basically become the new underclass because nobody is under them anymore.

        This gradual alienation of the working class from the left is more or less a fact, here in Europe the white working class districts tend to vote for the Le Pen types, and I think in the US Trump is their guy, the big question is that in the big picture this matters or not. Gender, race, and welfare could easily outweigh a white working class that is shrinking anyway by outsourcing and automatization.

      • “Every incremental step of the havification process strengthens the Left because”.

        Unless there’s churn at the other end.. .established former-minority communities discovering their inner conservative.

        • hlynkacg says:

          Strictly anecdotal I know, but I do get the sense that this is happening.

          I know a fair number of socially conservative blacks who grew up in the south and then either joined the Army, or got a scholarship to a mid tier college. They end up with a decidedly “red tribe” social circle because that is where their battle-buddies, school-mates, co-workers, and fellow churchgoers come from.

          Their red tribe neighbors welcome them as natural allies. While the blue tribe vocally condemns them as dupes, “uncle toms”, and “race traitors”. When the time comes to pick a side they naturally go “red”.

          This is where folks like Tim Scott, Mia Love, and Ben Carson come from.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Yeah, the race-based attacks on people like Clarence Thomas or Thomas Sowell are extremely nasty. I’m not trying to say “this proves the left are the real secret racists!”, but it’s something that has to be kept in mind.

          • Vaniver says:

            @Vox I don’t get what about the left’s racism would strike anyone as secret.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Don’t all worldviews tend to present their version of good as “generic good”? This is hardly a feature of those you call “progs”. The term “progressive” gets confusing because in current use it is both a replacement term for “liberal” (which became a bit of an insult in US political discourse, and and 10 or so years ago, as I remember, mainstream Democrats started calling themselves “progressives”) and a descriptive (self-identifying?) term for left-wingers who tend to be kind of hostile to those they call “liberals”. The difference seems to be, in large part, that “progs” attack the idea of equality of opportunity, valuing equality of outcome instead: it is not rare to see the idea of equality of opportunity attacked as deceptive, etc.

      I would say that the defining feature of their version of goodness is that it’s relative – whether something is good or bad, and how good or bad, is dependent on who does it and who they do it to. There’s a complicated system of (contradictory, vague, from different sources) rules to figure this out, to figure out who is punching in what direction in a given situation. While this could be seen as standard tribalism – when the ref calls a foul on the other team, yay, when the ref calls foul on our team, boo – it cuts across tribal lines: there’s a lot of overlap between German women and the “feminist tribe”, probably a lot less between “feminist tribe” and the guys who committed the robberies and sexual assaults in Cologne, and yet…

      1. Possible other explanation, or related: these ideas come out of universities, and universities are cushioned places populated disproportionately by cushioned people. The level of social dysfunction that can happen at a university is much less than the level that can happen in society in general, so they pay less attention to how their ideology might cause or enable social dysfunction. This seems to occur across the political spectrum.

      2. I don’t know if it’s the specific culture – I think it has as much to do with media as anything else. Virtue-signalling to a large audience is easier, and assessing the degree to which people approve or disapprove is easier.

      3. I think the reason the Davos set are on board with this is that it is ultimately not radical. Today’s left-wing activists are, while they will call themselves radicals, and have disdain for “reformism” and so on, making ultimately reformist demands, for the most part. Less impunity for police officers is not disbanding the police, more black professors is not demolishing the educational hierarchy, more female CEOs is not dismantling capitalism, getting rid of luxury taxes on tampons isn’t disputing the ability of the government to levy taxes, etc.

      4. People are really good at dealing with cognitive dissonance, I guess. As a left-winger, I find myself dismayed to see other left-wingers (from pundits to friends on Facebook) tolerating or condemning behaviour based on who does it – eg, had NYE in Cologne seen drunken PEGIDA hooligans robbing and groping women from the Middle East and North Africa, my Facebook feed would have probably been about nothing else for days; in reality, the only condemnation I saw was from one of the few right-wingers I know, and he got attacked for it; I saw another left-winger post an article about how bad it is to scapegoat for the attacks that read like an NRA press release the day after a spree shooting.

      I think one big factor here is a weird form of cultural supremacism with a side of typical mind fallacy popular among left-wing, middle class, educated, acceptable-in-polite-company “enlightened moderns” – that is, they imagine that everyone already is, or wants to be, like them; they don’t understand how someone from a different culture or subculture might have radically different values – they promote multiculturalism but don’t see cultures as much beyond window dressing. It’s sort of an End of History scenario: deep down, everyone wants to, and inevitably will, become cosmopolitan and so on. Ironically, it belittles other cultures far more than xenophobes on the right do: “they will come around to our way of doing things, which is infinitely superior” is more insulting to whoever “they” are than “they are different from us and will remain different”.

      5. I suppose that a way to deal with this would be to try to counter that “everyone wants to be like us” notion, and the very notion that “good [ie, our side] always wins”.

      Addendum: while the discussion here has been mostly about groups, this all functions on an individual level. It is not hard to consider the example of an abusive person who is adept at setting it up so whatever they do to other people looks like “punching up”, and who gets away with it because other people assume everyone must be nice like they are.

      • While liberalism and leftism are different ideologies, my point is that ideologies are no longer important, at least all I hear today is getting ever hysterical about racism/sexism/and so on. This signalling arms race is basically louder than those voices on the left or liberals who still care about ideology. This is what I call progressive or Prog.

        Look at this thread: http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2016/01/31/i-cant-take-no-more/

        Can you tell what kind of ideology they have, left or liberal? No, but who cares? They aren’t even feminists in the deepest sense, just people who think non-feminism is low status and embarrassing, and thus loudly signalling that they are distancing themselves from it, besides, it surely feels good to be “better” than Dawkins.

        It is behavior and personality, not ideology.

        Whether it is true of other ideologies, well, it depends on what ideology dominates the elites. What gets the most status. Yes, sometimes it is something right-wing. The dominant ideology of 1914 Europe was nationalism, so this kind of signalling: http://www.hschamberlain.net/kriegsaufsaetze/hassgesang.html and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gott_strafe_England

        Or in the US perhaps not so long ago if some small town was totally dominated by religious conservatives and isolated from generic liberal culture, I suppose they had similar arms races about who loves Jesus the most.

        Also signalling arms races are not always that crazy, usually, what helps in keeping things in control is having multiple status ladders. An old-time gentleman signalled wealth, education, virtue, and masculinity. Now it all reduces to virtue of this type i.e. never say anything offensive and tear everybody apart who does etc. I mean, Mel Gibson, once he made his remarks none of his other talents and achievements saved him.

        • dndnrsn says:

          But isn’t it normal for any ideology to turn itself into a code of morals or rules for proper behaviour or whatever?

          I also think you’re overestimating the prevalence of a certain sort of left-wing thought/behaviour. It’s definitely strong on university campuses, parts of the internet, etc. But it’s hardly true that signalling “prog virtue” is the only form of status, or anybody who doesn’t gets destroyed. The sort of university activist-Tumblr-clickbait feminist website thing you are describing only has power in and around its own domain.

          I think you are seeing from the right something that seen from the left looks very different: the classic “left wing circular firing squad”. Campus activists can hound a university administrator who puts one foot out of place into resignation – but they have far less ability to harm people actually on the right.

          I think what is exceptional here is that the signalling is just especially self-undermining, because of internal contradictions.

    • Anonymous says:

      We had Prog elites, feminists organizing Slut Walks and telling men it is not womens fault if they get raped. Suddenly when it is non-Westerners do it, we get Prog elites all over Europe telling women to be more cautious because those guys are not used to seeing women in miniskirts.

      Can you provide a link? Because I haven’t seen anything like this (though I have not been following the Cologne story closely).

      Alternatively: Could this be outgroup homogeneity bias at work?

      • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

        >Can you provide a link? Because I haven’t seen anything like this

        I’ve definitely seen it, cannot provide links right now, but I’ll try to get some later

        >Alternatively: Could this be outgroup homogeneity bias at work?

        To me, it most certainly is. I’ve never seen anyone non-(american feminist) say the “teach men not to rape” thing seriously (though I might be subject to the same problem you are with Cologne), Merkel and pals (the ones that have been advocating caution), though somewhat proggy (of course, this is always a relative measure) and probably eliteish, probably don’t fall into the “american feminists” group.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Then there is this smartphone video made by an attendee at a town meeting in Germany. One gathers from the video (English subtitles) that there is a Muslim migrant camp in or on the edge of town. The townspeople want to know what the mayor is going to do to ensure the safety of schoolchildren, especially girls, who walk near the camp on the way to and from school. There were events recently that caused real concerns among families.

        The mayor’s answer? “Don’t provoke them and don’t walk in these areas.”

        Needless to say, this does not go down well with the town’s families.

        • Anonymous says:

          OK, that is the small-town mayor’s response. And the issue was children harassing children. I’m not sure what point you think the video is making.

          • Loquat says:

            “Children harassing children”? What do you think they’re complaining about, refugee kids shooting spitballs?

            The grandfather talking at the start of the linked video specifically says he’s concerned about what will happen in the summer, when the girls wear less clothing, and towards the end of the video someone calls the refugees “perverts” and the subtitles include a note specifying that sexual harassment is what’s being referred to. People tend to get outraged when their young daughters get sexually harassed and possibly assaulted, regardless of whether the perpetrators are over or under 18.

      • dndnrsn says:

        You’ve got stuff like the mayor of Cologne and the “arm’s length” comment. I think, however, that TheDividualist is blurring the lines between “prog elites” (surely Cologne’s mayor, being a left-winger and in a position of authority, counts) and “feminists”.

        Feminist sites and authors immediately attacked her for saying that. I haven’t seen any victim-blaming from them. However, their criticism of the mayor was rather more dramatic than their condemnation of the Cologne assaults in the first place.

        It’s more a case of ignoring it/minimizing it ,when it is the kind of story they would ordinarily be all over (I mean, here we have a bunch of men acting in pretty much the manner those wicked fratboys are supposed to, getting drunk and deciding they are entitled to do whatever to women) because condemning the Cologne sex attack would be inconvenient in various ways – I don’t think somebody writing for Jezebel wants to be on the same side as someone writing for Breitbart, let alone TakiMag.

        • Good point, I may have outgroup uniformity bias or whatever it is called. However – which way the world is going is coming from a mixture of opinions, of different people. So a generic Prog direction, as a mixture, is a mixture of the opinion of feminists and e.g. the opinion of the mayor of Cologne.

        • dndnrsn says:

          All “prog* elites” are feminists, and a lot of feminists are “progs”, but most feminists aren’t elites, of whatever variety – most people period aren’t elites.

          The SlutWalks, as I remember, were actually grassroots, at least to begin.

          I think most “on the ground” feminists – from random people on Twitter to columnists, “recreational” or “professional” feminists as opposed to tycoons or politicians who are or say they are feminists – are dissatisfied with the way that, for instance, the mayor of Cologne has dealt with this. But they are caught in a bind, because seriously condemning the stuff in Cologne beyond the most generic way puts them in the same corner as people with Tumblr accounts that have “EVROPA” in them.

          Additionally, I think they are hamstrung to some extent by the fact that a lot of campaigns against things like domestic abuse, sexual assault, child abuse, street harassment, etc treat these things as equal-opportunity offences – when in reality neither perpetrators nor victims are evenly distributed throughout the population.

          *I’m putting it in scare quotes because I’m not of the political persuasion where “prog” is an insult, and it’s also kind of confusing because Neil Peart is nowhere to be seen, but I can’t think of a way to describe the “progressives-who-aren’t-liberals-by-another-name” that isn’t monstrously clunky.

    • ChetC3 says:

      As someone who is well to your left, I’m insulted that you would assume I must be even more naive than you appear to be. I am under no illusion that my political allies of convenience are anything else. I don’t put much stock in the professed beliefs of European political leaders, nor do I see them as “on my side” except in a very relative sense. I’m on the left not because I see their fanatics and political opportunists as especially virtuous, but because I find the right so abhorrent that I have no practical alternative.

  28. Elias says:

    I have an economics question.

    Since the depression, the stock market has grown 2-3 times as rapidly as our GDP. Can this continue indefinitely, if so, would we eventually see a stock market 1000 times as large as our GDP?

    I suspect I’m making some sort of mistake, because this isn’t making sense to me at the moment…

    • Chalid says:

      I got really nerd-sniped by this exact issue a long while ago…

      I think the key is to distinguish between the growth of the total market capitalization of the stock market and the growth rate of a hypothetical dollar invested in the stock market.

      The first quantity obviously can’t exceed GDP growth forever; stock values come from corporate earnings which are a component of GDP, so it’s unreasonable to think of total stock market capitalization reaching 1000x GDP (as you realize). Indeed, historically, market cap/GDP bounces up and down over time.

      But when you hear things like “the stock market has grown 2-3 times as rapidly as our GDP” this is generally referring to the growth rate of a hypothetical dollar invested in the stock market. The key point is that this is not the same as market cap growth, due to dividend payments. A company that issues a dividend reduces its market cap but does not reduce your investments’ growth rate.

      So I think the relationship that must hold in the very long term, assuming corporations are a constant fraction of the economy, looks something like:

      stock market growth rate = real GDP growth rate + inflation rate + dividends/GDP

      And quantitatively dividends/GDP has historically been a few percent, which fits nicely.

      • Brian Donohue says:

        Good point about how a portion of earnings each year is consumed rather than reinvested.

        Another point is that the stockmarket only reflects the value of “publicly traded” companies. Private companies, including most small businesses, aren’t included.

        I think that the US has a higher proportion of publicly-traded companies than, say, Germany, and the proportion probably increased during the 20th century.

        Ultimately, the stock market is a component of “accumulated wealth” (along with land, buildings, art works, all the other stuff we think of as wealth.)

        GDP is more of an income statement measure. As a country becomes richer over time, we should expect an increase in the ratio of wealth to income.

        • Chalid says:

          Ultimately, the stock market is a component of “accumulated wealth” (along with land, buildings, art works, all the other stuff we think of as wealth.)

          GDP is more of an income statement measure. As a country becomes richer over time, we should expect an increase in the ratio of wealth to income.

          I don’t think this is right, or at least it’s not applicable to the stock market. The value of stocks is tied closely to the income the companies involved are expected to produce, so stock market “wealth” and corporate incomes can’t diverge too much.

          • Brian Donohue says:

            Sure, but the ability to generate income is based on invested capital, which is the wealth.

            You can look at a company’s “book value” (value of original capital investment plus retained historical earnings) as an “historical cost” or “accounting” value of a company that doesn’t consider income-producing ability at all, or the “market value” which basically adjusts for the market’s view of the ability of the invested capital to produce a stream of future income, but either way companies are quite properly thought of as organized accumulations of wealth.

          • Chalid says:

            But that’s no reason that the ratio of company wealth to company income should keep rising over time. And no such trend exists for that ratio historically.

          • Brian Donohue says:

            What you say is true for an individual company. We’re talking about an economy here.

            Imagine a poor country, with almost no accumulated wealth. They still have GDP. Maybe the ratio of wealth/GDP is close to zero.

            Now imagine an advanced economy, like the US. Wealth is many multiples of GDP.

            There’s a lot of room for wealth to grow at a faster clip than GDP between A and B.

            Not indefinitely sustainable, but, as you note some income is consumed rather than reinvested as well, and as I noted, over time an increasing proportion of the wealth of an economy may reside inside publicy-traded companies, so… Bob’s your uncle.

          • Chalid says:

            OK. So I think we agree that if we’re talking about the stock market of the US or other advanced economies, you should not necessarily expect the ratio of stock market value to GDP to rise going forward.

            I’m not sure I agree with everything you’re saying about the poor to rich transition – even the poorest countries have plenty of wealth in land and natural resources and housing and “human capital” and the like, though it may not be properly valued or easily traded.

            But I’d agree with you that certainly the total wealth *held by corporations* is going to increase much faster than GDP during the transition from an undeveloped to an advanced economy.

    • Julian says:

      I am assuming you are referring to the GDP of the US only. With that in mind there are a couple things that come to mind:

      1) GDP =/= Stock market at all, they are not directly related. Most people are not employed by public companies for example and when a company’s stock goes up it may have nothing to do with actual money being earned.
      2) There are foreign companies listed on US exchanges and US companies do business outside of the US. So your measure of GDP may not be inclusive enough.
      3) The stock market is taking into account expected (predicted/guessed at) growth rates of company earnings in the future. People are making bets of what they think will happen in the future to that company. And that future could be in a billion years: common financial models usually use perpetuity function to calculate terminal value of companies (the rationality of that is for another time). And in theory this could be taking into account the potential GDP of other planets, if you believe that people like elon musk want to colonize mars or something.

  29. What if the French miracle of not getting fat is amongst others based on undercooked, chewy meat, as taking longer to chew makes people feel full quicker and it also takes longer to digest it? The comparison of the rubbery ducks served in French restaurants compared to the huge fried schnitzels hammered butter-soft in Mitteleuropa is especially glaring. Similarly, the American Diet seems to be based on not really using your teeth. Burgers are almost literally pre-chewed for you.

    (And it is not the “Mediterrean Diet”, Normandy is far less Mediterrean than Spain, yet Spain has high obesity stats. Similarly, this is one of Portugal’s national dishes, notice the large serving size and that everything on the plate is calorie-dense: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Feijoada_%C3%A0_transmontada.jpg IMHO just because Sicilians or Greeks eat fairly healthy, don’t over-hype the whole of Southern Europe in this.)

    • dndnrsn says:

      There was an Atlantic article – itself quite bad, as a lot of writing about nutrition tends to be; the article is scattered and swings from “calories aren’t the deal” to “here are ways people might be getting more or fewer calories than they think” – but it includes the tidbit that cooking food – including meat – means more calories can be gotten from it.

      Food that is easier to eat is definitely easier to overeat, as well.

      http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/01/what-does-a-calorie-measure/427089/

  30. Greg Pandatshang says:

    This didn’t quite seem to take when I posted it OT on the predictions thread, so I’ll try it here. Hopefully, this will prove to be the right home for it.

    I’ve read S.A.’s article Scientific Freud (https://slatestarcodex.com/2013/09/19/scientific-freud/). The thing that I never understand about studies that compare different styles of psychotherapy is … do these treatments all cost roughly the same amount of money on average? Certainly, it’s impossible to imagine that anything called psychoanalysis could fail to break the bank (unless your analyst is a student, who is presumably studying so they can someday charge somebody else full price). But, if we are limiting the dicsussion to the relatively stripped-down psychodynamic therapy vs. CBT … and let’s assume that practitioners are charging the same fee per session … is the course of the average psychodynamic treatment going to require roughly the same number of sessions as CBT treatment?

    If not, then any study which finds that the therapeutic results of two styles of treatment are about the same is actually showing that whichever one is quicker is in fact providing the same service for much less money, no?

    Here’s the background of my question: for years, I have considered making a career change to become a psychotherapist. I am deeply attracted to the psychodynamic approach. Freud is the coolest. I have little interest in being a CBT practitioner. However, I remain deeply uncertain that psychodynamic therapists actually reliably provide a service to their clients at a reasonable price. I’m ambivalent about whether my own therapy has been very productive (I’ve certainly enjoyed it), even though I am (as evinced by the fact that I’ve considered a career in mental health) more psychologically-minded than average. Even if I’m convinced that most clients are deriving substantial benefit, if I’m charging them twice what they could be paying, that’s not a job I really want to do. It might end up being unsustainable to attract clients and, moreover, it’s just plain unethical if I’m aware that’s what I’m doing.

    These concerns are a drag for me because they mean that I will probably not undertake the considerable challenge of changing careers to become a therapist, and therefore will most likely continue with my boring office job indefinitely.

    P.S. to any of my office coworkers who somehow end up reading this: I love you guys; you’re the best. But surely you are also aware that our job is boring and contributes nothing to society.

  31. Glen Raphael says:

    Regarding “research parasitism” the latest climateaudit post illustrates the reverse problem: if there’s no requirement to archive, it’s easy to bias data in a way that can’t be verified in a timely manner by anybody outside the tribe.

    For instance, researchers who collect things like tree cores and ice cores can tell any story they want with it by after-the-fact selectively choosing to use some of their collected data to form, say, a nice publishable hockey-stick-shaped chart. Then wait to publish the unused data until literally on their deathbed so nobody else can get a look at it.

  32. sabril says:

    By my reckoning, at least about 25-30% of the Davos 36 are overweight or obese. Of those, about half look like they have serious weight problems, i.e. they look like their extra fat poses a serious risk to their health.

    Probably this is roughly consistent with the overall rates of obesity in the developed world.

    Perhaps they should pay more attention to the elephant in the room, so to speak.

    • anonymous says:

      Do you even lift, plutocrat?

    • onyomi says:

      Interesting. I was thinking these people looked thinner than average. But then, I live in middle America.

      Yet it reminds me of the “bikeshed” or “triviality” problem Fullmeta mentions here:

      https://slatestarcodex.com/2016/01/31/ot41-having-your-mind-thread/#comment-318440

      I feel like all the biggest health problems in the developed world could be solved with exercise and diet (another example of “biology is easy, society is hard”–if you could get the benefits of exercise and diet from a pill, everyone would be taking it and heart disease would be pretty much gone).

      I feel like the biggest social problems in the developed world could be eliminated if we just started having intact families (again, easier said than done, and, unlike diet and exercise, no longer pc). On the level of individual psychology, it reminds me of when you do the dishes in order to avoid the big, important project that is due tomorrow.

      But we never really talk much about these things because they’re hard to deal with, not sexy, not pc. It’s like the guy looking for the key he dropped in the darkness under the light because he can see better in the light. Or better, the aforementioned bikeshed. And this is another reason I hate things like Davos–it’s all about grandstanding to score points and saying “women should stop having babies with irresponsible men!” is not good grandstanding.

      Of course, third world problems are different, especially in the health arena, but if we were worried about addressing that we’d see some quotes about mosquito nets, etc. instead of “an internet of women” and a “minister of the future.”

  33. Too Late says:

    OK, I’m sorta new here and I’ve been wanting to ask this for a while: what is the gray tribe?

    I’m guessing libertarians? Liberals who are not also SJWs?

    Thanks.

    • Nornagest says:

      Nerd-culture natives. From here.

      None of Scott’s tribes have a perfect correlation with politics, but especially not that one; Scott cites “libertarian politics” as a trait of the tribe but I don’t think that’s any more universal among them than, say, calling the Superbowl “sportsball”. They’re probably more likely to lean libertarian than their peers, though, and also more likely to embrace technical solutions to social issues.

      (It should go without saying, but apparently doesn’t, that the portraits Scott gives of all three tribes are as ridiculously stereotypical as it’s possible to be outside of an editorial cartoon. Libertarian-Dawkins-paleo-Soylent-Uber-filk guy isn’t the typical Gray, he’s the ur-Gray, the Grayest of the Grays.)

    • null says:

      The gray tribe is people who are in/affiliated with/align with tech/nerd culture (in a broad sense) and their political and cultural makeup follows from that.

    • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

      > But are either of them into computers? Do they like scifi? Call football sportsball? Are they Dawkins style atheists? Do they drink soylent? Do they like to throw around the word othoganal in ordinary conversation?

      According to this post from the other thread, libertarians that are also kind of dicks.

      • Samuel Skinner says:

        It was part of an attempt to show the Koch brothers weren’t libertarians.

        My personal definition? Look to the 19th century.

        If you identify with the single ladies up in New England writing petitions to end slavery
        Blue Tribe
        If you identify with the pioneer settlers
        Red Tribe
        If you identify with Jules Verne
        Grey Tribe

        • brad says:

          It was part of an attempt to show the Koch brothers weren’t libertarians.

          An attempt to show that they weren’t grey tribe. Don’t want to read to much into a typo but this is sort of perfect for the point I was trying to make.

          Subthread in question: https://slatestarcodex.com/2016/01/30/staying-classy/#comment-316549

        • JDG1980 says:

          This seems an odd way of looking at American political culture in the 19th Century. You’ve included abolitionists but left off slaveholders and their supporters, and oddly characterized the Gray Tribe by a rather superficial cultural marker.

          I’d classify 19th-century America as follows:
          Blue Tribe: Most of the elites and gentry of New England. The 19th-century Blue Tribe is characterized by a belief in the moral perfectability of mankind, and a corresponding belief that national political action can do away with evils such as slavery, excessive drinking, and the oppression of women.
          Red Tribe: Most white Southerners, at least outside Appalachia. The 19th-century Red Tribe believes in order, hierarchy, and tradition. Slavery is seen as a positive good, part of the natural order of things.
          Grey Tribe: Those who believe in Progress with a capital P. The 19th-century Grey Tribe is much larger and more powerful than its 21st-century counterpart, as the world has not yet known the horrors of the Great War. The Gray Tribe includes industrialists, settlers, and freethinkers. Robert G. Ingersoll, though not the most famous 19th-century Gray Triber, is perhaps the most representative.

          • keranih says:

            @ JDG1980

            I think you are missing the point of self-identification vs that of correlations made by other people.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            @ brad
            Gah. I don’t know why I wrote that. Apologies.

            @JD
            Because the only other examples for Grey tribe I can think of off the top of my head is King Camp Gillette and ‘lets build a utopian city powered by SCIENCE’. Maybe positivists is better?

            Also I don’t identify red tribe with slavery because it isn’t; I can imagine people who were against slavery because it would edge out the small farmer being totally red tribe. Associating the red tribe purely with reaction is wrong. Same with the blue tribe being purely elite; the ladies church group that sent petition to the US Senate (and triggered the one of the largest political crisis’s in American history over free speech as the government tried to shut down talk of abolition) were totally blue tribe and in no way, shape or form elite.

          • Deiseach says:

            You think settlers and the “off to California in the morning” during the gold rush types were Grey Tribe rather than Red Tribe? I’d say that, given their backgrounds, a lot of them were Red Tribe. Many of them just wanted their own farm or ranch from the vast untapped new wilderness and weren’t too concerned with founding Utopia with ever-greater STEAM POWER amongst the prairies.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Map is not territory seems to apply here.

            Grey/blue/red tribe is a crude map drawn on a napkin of the sociological here and now. Trying to make it work for 1840s America is going to end just kind of humorous.

            For one thing, grey/blue/red is incomplete, as it doesn’t include a large chunk of the urban poor. But if blue/red captured anything essential it’s urbane/rural. Grey? Might not have existed before the Internet, as it seems like Scott has identified a certain disaffected diaspora that is mostly non-geographic.

            But I’m not sure what grey tribe really actually is anyway.

          • nil says:

            “But I’m not sure what grey tribe really actually is anyway.”

            It’s a small subsegment of the blue tribe with some dissident politics.

            Which is incoherent if you think of these groups as being organized by ideology, but I think that’s a mistake. They’re cultural groups (personally I’d go so far as to call them nations) with cultural affinities and values that strongly encourage particular ideologies, but those tendencies can be overridden by class (like Samuel Skinner’s small farmers) or by personal experience and intellectualization (greys).

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Deiseach

            As for “STEAM POWER amongst the prairies”, Kipling and Twain were sure enthusiastic about something.

            For the geographical, here’s fictional evidence:

            East is east and west is west
            And the wrong one I have chose
            Let’s go where I’ll keep on wearin’
            Those frills and flowers and buttons and bows
            Rings and things and buttons and bows

            Don’t bury me in this prairie
            Take me where the cement grows
            Let’s move down to some big town
            Where they love a gal by the cut of her clothes
            And I’ll stand out in buttons and bows

            I’ll love you in buckskin
            Or skirts that I’ve homespun
            But I’ll love you longer, stronger where
            Your friends don’t tote a gun

          • Deiseach says:

            houseboatonstyx, that lyric is not necessarily about progress with a capital P enthusiasm, it’s about the subset of people who have always wanted to leave the farm for the bright lights of the big city. “How you gonna keep ’em down on the farm, after they’ve seen Paree?”

            The singer wants the Good Life of fancy clothes and jewellery and leisure, not to live somewhere she has to spin her own cloth and her man carries a gun. It’s just as likely (even more likely) that moving to the city means she’ll end up working as a shop girl or a seamstress in a garment factory rather than some endeavour all to do with proto-Gray Tribe values of enlightenment through technology 🙂

      • Max says:

        I like Dawkins , but I am not atheist…

        Also I do wonder how many people like to work out here. So far the infoproc blog is only one of this intellectual sphere which talks about UFC/Combat sports

  34. Evan Þ says:

    Do we have any readers from Iowa? If so, are you planning to be at the caucuses tonight?

  35. Dr Dealgood says:

    This is sort of the wrong thread for this, probably should go in the last one, but I would like to propose that we stop using Church’s extremely confusing class names.

    Moldbug’s classifications were already a bit confusing, although at least I could be reasonably sure that when a [forbidden acronym] uses the terms he’s probably not referring to actual Indian castes. Blue tribe and Red tribe were clever imo, although they immediately fell apart because of the party color affiliations confusing other people. But the labor / gentry / elite thing is 100% high-grade nonsense to me: I literally cannot parse it on the first run, because gentry does not sound like petite bourgeoisie as much as English country gentlemen. All jargon is confusing at first but this seems unnecessarily so.

    Blue collar worker and white collar worker convey >90% of the meaning of Church’s labor and gentry, with the added benefit of being actual terms people use and cutting things a lot more cleanly. Technically small business owners aren’t workers as such but you can’t honestly say that an independent plumber and a private practice doctor aren’t respectively blue and white collar in terms of culture. If you want to lop off Church’s elites into their own group separate from white collar workers you could extend the clothing metaphor into Suits, another existing term which conveys the same meaning in a less confusing manner, or just call them the 1%.

    • Urstoff says:

      It all seems to be reductive nonsense to me. Even blue collar / white collar doesn’t seem to apply that much any more, because so much of the blue collar population is being shifted into the white collar workforce.

      Is it so hard to accept that people are complex amalgamations of overlapping identities and allegiances?

      • Dr Dealgood says:

        Yes, evidently.

        To be fair, the distinction between hourly wage manual laborers (skilled or unskilled) and college educated salaried professionals is a real one that is reflected in the culture. Music, food, non-work clothing, politics, even their religions to an extent are different. Of course blue collar workers are generally getting starved out and replaced but that isn’t really making them less relevant nationally, as Trump and Sanders are demonstrating.

        • Tom Richards says:

          I don’t know about over there, but in London you can walk into an awful lot of call centers, bars, shops and so on and find a great many people with undergraduate degrees who are culturally white collar working for very low hourly wages alongside people with no degrees and often very different culture. In manual jobs it’s rarer, but still far from unheard-of.

          • Nornagest says:

            Service-industry work doesn’t seem to have evolved clear class markers yet. If someone tells you they’re a barista, that doesn’t tell you whether they come from a working-class or middle-class or upper-middle-class background; all it reliably tells you is that they’re young and probably don’t have a technical degree.

            If someone says they’re a factory worker, on the other hand, you can make a very strong guess about their class background — even though the factory worker is probably making more money.

          • Anthony says:

            Tom Richards – but I’ll bet the reasons people dislike their jobs are different by class origin. In the Bay Area, we have that, too, though there are more people from culturally white-collar backgrounds, and many of those low-paying jobs are filled by people who dropped out of college, often because of the expense of college.

    • >Blue collar worker and white collar worker convey >90% of the meaning of Church’s labor and gentry

      Used to, in 1950, when the blue collar was much bigger than the white. But you see since far more people go to college, and get generally lower quality education, and many of them from blue collar families, and on the other hand college grads are not guaranteed a knowledge job anyway, often just slaving away in cubicle type jobs, customer phone support from scripts, which are white collar theoretically, but this lower while collar is in many ways the new blue. I am often surprised by the more and more “common” habits of guys wearing ties, like getting blind drunk, playing console games and going to football matches.

      On the other hand, it was the dumbest blue collar jobs that got automated or outsourced, more and more blues are rather intelligent and well paid fellas doing sensitive stuff like repairs in an environment where a spark could lead to explosion, or operating expensive equipment, or even programming CNC machines, and they acquired more middle class habits.

  36. Jake Argent says:

    Well, I’ve just seen this and had to come here. Let’s hope the OT didn’t accumulate so many posts that this one goes unnoticed!

    Guess The Correlation: The Game

    This is a game about, well, guessing the correlation coefficient (Pearson’s r) from a scatter plot. (Scatter graph?)

    I’ve had one go, with mean error 0.08. Will see how a second run goes.

    Edit: Second run had me doing really poorly with mean error 0.19 and losing all 3 lives in 5 attempts 🙁

    2nd Edit: My first run was my best run so far… I’m somewhat saddened. Guess I’ll try again tomorrow.

    • piercedmind says:

      I’m pleased to announce that I have decided to abandon all education concerning statistics in order to play this game for an indefinite amount of time, and would recommend everybody to do the same.

      Great find, thanks.

    • rubberduck says:

      I seem to be good at this, mean error of 0.03. Also this is more addicting than it has any right to be.

    • Max says:

      This is very educational, thank you. Since I do not have much experiences looking at scatter plots it helped me calibrate myself a bit.

  37. Adam Casey says:

    Question for election nerds: Why does the US seem to be bad at literally counting ballots compared to other places?

    I look at something like this article from 538 and read the phrase “so final results can be verified in a matter of days, rather than weeks.”

    Iowa has a tiny population, and isn’t that large, smaller than the UK at any rate. A caucus has far lower turnout than a full election which makes the task easier, and there is only one election on caucus day. Why then can the UK have a full general election and have the official final result declared the following day after all recounts are finished?

    Is this just a policy preference that the US chooses to spend less than the UK on election infrastructure? Or is the lower population density more of a problem (even in a place like Iowa which is hardly Alaska) than I expect? Anyone got any thoughts?

    • HeelBearCub says:

      @Adam Casey:
      There are a number of factors that go into the question, but I am going to start out by answering for the Iowa Caucuses (and not the broad electoral question).

      Caucuses aren’t elections, per se (and in Iowa, they don’t even actually determine the conventional delegates). The people who show up tonight will debate the relative merits of the candidates in relatively small local gatherings, and at the end of the night people actually “vote with their feet” (IIRC) by moving to their candidates chosen corner. There aren’t any paper ballots, it isn’t secret, and it is not intended to be. Then someone counts up the votes and phones them in (at a guess, could be electronic these days). That will become an unofficial total. Then certified paper results will be physically brought to the state organization and reconciled with the electronically submitted results.

      • Adam Casey says:

        Sure, the caucus process is strange. But I was thinking more in terms of how long that final step takes. Once all votes are cast and all the voters have gone home, what is it that takes the time from that moment to the official result?

        Literally couriering a bit of paper from one end of the state to another does not take several days. So what’s the extra work?

        • HeelBearCub says:

          There are 1700+ plus individual precincts.

          If it works anything like the elections I was involved with (I worked for 5 years at a State Board of Election), each one of those precincts will need to send in the paper, and all of the results on it will need to be verified. Frequently there are other matters at hand, and not just the one statewide contest. It looks like in Iowa there are delegate elections as well as, perhaps, other party business.

          Each of those needs to be properly signed by the local officials, and probably notarized. If there exist discrepancies with the informal results on election night they will need to be documented and verified. That is likely to go through individual county boards and then up to the state. Not until every single precinct in every single county has dotted every “i” and crossed every “t” will the election be officially certified by the State Board who will convene, vote, and sign the official results in the presence of a notary.

          Some of this just the hyper-local, heterogeneous nature of US Government. But some of it is that you may not even be aware of the result becoming official in the UK or what that process is. It only really ever comes in to play in elections that are very, very close.

          • Adam Casey says:

            >Some of this just the hyper-local, heterogeneous nature of US Government.

            Yeah, I think that’s something I keep struggling to get my head around. The UK is fantastically centralised by international standards.

            Thanks. I hadn’t realised just how extreme that was.

            > you may not even be aware of the result becoming official in the UK or what that process is.

            Oh no we’re very aware of the result becoming official in the UK. Each district has a returning officer who announces the final result publicly (the exciting ones are televised). That announcement is final unless a court voids the election in that district entirely and orders a by-election (but that is exceptionally rare).

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Adam Casey:
            Do you guys even have primaries in the UK? I was under the impression that people go to vote for their party appointed rep and that was it. You vote party, not person.

            Whereas a typical ballot in the US, if the State and National contests are aligned will contain something like 10 to 20 different contests to vote for.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            @HBC:

            Not to mention local or state referenda, judge retention ballots (which aren’t technically contests,) and all the other manifold weirdness that can be on a US ballot form. 🙂

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Marc Whipple:
            Yeah, I think this is the big driver. With him saying everything is hand-counted below, I have to think there are few questions on the ballot, perhaps merely just one.

          • Adam Casey says:

            @HBD

            Yes indeed, in a UK general election there is typically a single election happening. Sometimes county and parish council elections happen at the same time. But 4 contests at once would be very unusual.

            That’s another factor I always forget, the US elects *vastly* more public officials. Thanks for reminding me. =)

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @HeelBearCub

            No, we don’t have primaries. You don’t have control over who is the candidate for a particular party for your area – that is chosen by the party. Most people vote for a specific party, but the individual MP also comes into it: independent candidates can win through charisma. For me, the story of Dan Jarvis finding “his Nottingham origins put off some Barnsley voters who remembered the fact that Nottinghamshire miners did not join the 1984–85 miners’ strike, although he had been 12 at the time” is quintessential British politics. (For reference, Barnsley and Nottingham are 60 miles apart).

      • Brian Donohue says:

        I just heard today that the Republican caucus does proceed by secret ballot.

        Don’t know if it’s true, but I suspect the “open declaration” approach may introduce an interesting element of group coercion into the process.

        • BBA says:

          The party has overhauled the caucus rules since 2012, when Santorum won the caucus-night vote by the slimmest possible margin over Romney, but after being filtered through the county and state conventions Ron Paul ended up with most of the delegates. Now the delegations will be allocated based directly on the caucus votes.

    • stillnotking says:

      Caucuses are run by amateurs, tend to have weird methods of voting and vote counting (Iowa’s Democratic caucus involves people registering support by physically walking to different sides of the room IIRC), and have strong cultural traditions that resist updating.

      It’s a strange and cumbersome way to pick a party’s nominee for the most powerful office in the land, but the party leadership can’t intervene or they risk alienating the caucus goers — who, remember, are only a small fraction of registered voters. They’re selected for being fiddly, self-important political junkies.

      • Adam Casey says:

        I’m not sure that “resisting updating” is the problem. Doing things the way they’ve been done for years seems like a very good feature from a security pov. But if it’s the way it’s been done in that town, and the next town over is totally different … well that’s terrible.

    • Mary says:

      First is that the United States doesn’t run elections. States do. Even the presidential election is technically a vote for our state’s electors.

      • Adam Casey says:

        Sure, so that means that we should see high variance, some states should be much *more* efficient than the UK. But unless I’m just not noticing something that doesn’t seem to happen.

        • keranih says:

          There are differences in how fast and low-drama states report their findings, but that’s obscured by the differences in sizes and political party control. An efficient and smooth working state that has multiple tightly contested is not going to be much different in time than an inefficient state with few contested elections.

    • brad says:

      HBC has the specific answer. The more generic reasons are: extreme decentralization, volunteerism, and lots of redundancy to try to prevent shenanigans.

      Each tiny little area has its own ad hoc group of volunteers (disproportionately octogenarians) that run things in idiosyncratic ways which vary a lot from place to place and every step has to be either repeated by or at least done in the presence of a representative of each party.

      • Adam Casey says:

        hmm, that seems like a good explanation of a failure mode. If steps have to be repeated and lots of errors and inconsistencies rectified because counting isn’t run centrally that would add a lot of time.

        I suppose this is an advantage to the UK system I hadn’t noticed. Each constituency (electoral district) has a single counting room when all ballot boxes are collected together so they can be processed in a single uniform way.

        Thanks, that explains a lot. =)

        • John Schilling says:

          So, if I want to rig a UK election I just have to figure out one clever ballot-box-stuffing scheme and implement it in one central location? Preferably by getting myself appointed Official Head Ballot-Counting Guy for the district?

          • Adam Casey says:

            You mean you “just” need to place officially stamped ballots into boxes that are being watched constantly by both the media and dozens of representatives from all candidates? Yeah, good luck with that.

            Much much easier to just install dodgy code into an electronic counting machine.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Adam Casey:
            How are the ballots counted in the UK? I presume electronically?

            If so, the issue is that a manual recount can catch the fraud, if it ordered. The only issue with electronic counting of ballots is when their is no ability to manually recount ballots. I was never in favor of the “electronic touch screen” voting systems for the simple reason that they erode confidence in the electoral process for just this reason.

            @John Schilling:
            Ballot security is always an issue, but so long as voter rolls are tracked and tallied separately, it’s fairly easily detectable.

          • John Schilling says:

            The Iowa Caucuses don’t use electronic voting machines. If they did, we could give you the official results at the end of the nigh