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Links 2/16: N-Acetyl Selink

Famous books rewritten in the style of Donald Trump: Lord Of The Rings, Atlas Shrugged

Confucianism is newly popular in China after bouncing back from its Cultural Revolution-era ban. The government hopes to build up the philosophy as some kind of principled alternative to Western liberalism, although for now it still seems kind of forced. Bonus for people with too many stereotypes about the conformist East: one of the leaders of the Confucian revival decided to make his point by going around in old Confucian-style robes.

Eliezer Yudkowsky thinks AlphaGo’s victory is a pretty big sign.

Relevant to our interests: a new study on guns and homicide continues to find a correlation; goes part of the way to eliminating a reverse-causation hypothesis.

George R. R. Martin’s continent of Westeros is just Britain and an inverted Ireland mashed together.

After I complained about weighted blankets costing too much, Kate very kindly found one that only costs $90.

Can we really kill all mosquitos in the world to eliminate malaria? Obviously there are some risks here, but risks have to be weighed against benefits – if we don’t do it, mosquito-borne diseases keep killing one million people each year. Related: general staring in awe at the possibilities of CRISPR. Related: can gene drives mitigate wild animal suffering? Of course Brian Tomasik weighs in.

Y Combinator is interested in basic income.

A lot of talk recently on the persistency of ancestry-adjusted economic success – that is, the peoples who were doing more agriculture thousands of years ago are more modernized and prosperous today. Here’s Brian Caplan (with some extra recommendations) and Dietrich Vollrath, and an NBER paper on AfricaGarett Jones has also been talking about this a lot. “You can control your country’s future ancestors!” is the new motto for immigration skepticism.

China Channel is a Firefox add-on that puts you behind the Great Firewall of China. Useful for journalists and developers who want to know how (and if) Chinese people will view their site; interesting for other people who want to know what Chinese Internet users have to go through every day. Warning: you may be authentically kicked off various websites or the whole Internet and not be able to browse normally again until you turn this off.

“Shockingly” successful new treatment for Lou Gehrig’s disease in mice. Compound already has some medical uses and so might be prescribable off-label (though talk to a real neurologist first before you believe this).

If you ever wanted to know what Louis XIV, Mark Antony, and James Maxwell would look like if they were pretty anime girls, now you have moehistory dot tumblr dot com.

Plomin et al on Discontinuity in the genetic and environmental causes of the intellectual disability spectrum. Severely disabled people have specific disorders not related to normal intellectual variation; mildly disabled people just got the short end of the stick in the ordinary genetic lottery.

The Netherlands is training attack eagles to solve their drone problem. Next step: train attack pterodactyls to solve their eagle problem.

Redditors recollect the best Cards Against Humanity plays ever.

Spotted Toad discusses a paper about genetic confounds to value-added teacher pay. If I understand it right (uncertain; it’s pretty complicated) your genes affect not only how much you’ve already learned, but how much you will learn in each particular year. So if we paid teachers based on how much their students’ test scores improve, we might just be rewarding teachers who get genetically-lucky children. Also, the study doesn’t really make a big deal of this and I don’t trust myself to have definitely understood this correctly, but it looks like they might have calculated what percent of variation in test scores (corrected for past test scores) is due to the school environment and found it to be 4%? That would be…something.

Man hacks a bunch of drones together to create a functioning hoverboard, flies it over a lake, is slain by Dutch attack eagles.

A few years ago, some libertarians said they would move to New Hampshire if 20,000 other libertarians also agreed to move to New Hampshire. The theory was that New Hampshire was small and already pretty libertarian, and 20,000 people is a lot of people, so they would have a lot of influence to affect the state and build the sort of libertarian community they wanted. Now they’ve finally gotten their 20,000 and the move will be beginning soon. Needless to say this is a pretty creative way of doing activism. I generally support people branching off into legally isolated communities in order to let everyone achieve their goals simultaneously – but if I were a non-libertarian New Hampshirite right now I would be pretty upset.

The Brain Preservation Foundation’s $25,000 Small Mammal Brain Preservation Prize has been won by a team who demonstrated “near perfect, long-term structural preservation of an intact mammalian brain” with obvious positive implications for cryonics. Next step is the conceptually similar Large Mammal Prize, which is offering $25,000 for a perfectly preserved pig brain – just in case any of you happen to have one lying around.

This week in accurate animal names: the alien head fish. This week in inaccurate animal names: the mountain chicken.

Impressive recent progress in US internet speed.

“Other people don’t use Twitter the way you do”: one random tweet selected from the website per click.

On the one hand, my theory of a vast conspiracy to replace success-based-on-merit with success-based-on-college-admissions plus college-admissions-based-on a-fuzzy-system-which-in-the-end-will-reduce-to-social-class-and-conformity was overly paranoid and politicized. On the other hand, this article.

Related: New study suggests that rise in college tuitions pretty much entirely from effects of increased subsidization. Ben Southwood’s commentary links my Tulip Subsidies post.

If Clinton wins the primary, will Sanders backers be too bitter to support her in the general? I’m betting ‘no’, but an interesting question and a parable on the dangers of being too quick to insult your opponents.

Study: Low resting heart rate is associated with violence in late adolescence. This isn’t the first time people have found this, either. My totally non-serious troll theory is that this is why stimulants decrease adolescent violence.

This week in academic intolerance: Christian college kicks out professor who says Christians and Muslims worship the same god. I didn’t even know that was up for debate!

Another top doctor in another top medical journal blasts the state of nutrition science – this time it’s cardiologist Steven Nissen in Annals of Internal Medicine. Obligatory denunciation of Ancel Keys is of course included. The Washington Post has a really good post-mortem with a survey of the arguments and counterarguments. Possible summary: “Everyone agrees nutrition science is hard, but nutrition scientists are trying their best, and maybe you could lay off them for a while and also stop reporting every single preliminary result of theirs on the front page of the newspaper”.

The effect of culture: German families who watched West German as opposed to East German TV had fewer children, maybe because the West German shows promoted a culture of smaller family sizes. I freely admit I would not have predicted this and will have to adjust a lot of my beliefs.

All you people who say you’re tolerant of everybody whether they’re white or black or purple, now is your time to shine.

Tyler Cowen’s unemployment bet with Bryan Caplan.

The US is finally starting to win Math Olympiads, and all it had to do was get a couple of bright kids out of the normal school system and into places that could cultivate their talents. With a shout-out to SPARC, which is (was?) affiliated by CFAR and MIRI.

Raptors (the birds, not the dinosaur) may be deliberately spreading fire. Next step: arm pterodactyls with AK-47s to solve the fire-wielding raptor problem.

Study: the more vengeful your god, the more cooperative your society.

Study: over the past decade, the black incarceration rate has gone way down.

This week in overly generic place names: Humansville, Missouri and Hart’s Location, New Hampshire.

This week in things that don’t replicate: some of the advantages of bilingualism. Bonus for suggested adversarial collaboration, malus for the adversary saying “no way”.

Can classical conditioning of the immune system partly replace normal immunosuppressant drugs?!

New study challenges the idea that Native Americans drink more, finds in self-report survey that Native Americans drink at the same rate (and the same amount) as various other groups. But as usual, read the r/science comments, and remember that hospital records, which are a lot more trustworthy than self-report surveys, treat Native Americans for alcohol-related complaints at four times the usual rate. I continue to be wary of self-report drug use surveys.

Old and boring: Markov chains. New and exciting: neural nets trained to predict texts. From Strunk & White: “The most useful kind of paragraph is the Possessive Jesus Of Composition And Publication. The Possessive Jesus Of Composition And Publication is a paragraph of two independent legs in which the reader will probably find a series of three thousand or more emphatic statements…this sentence cannot help himself by substituting a semicolon for a comma. Instead, the sentence will always do well to examine his brother the paragraph and to write twenty ideas that are related to the paragraphs. In spring summer or winter sentences should be avoided.”

More anti-bullying programs that seem to work.

The newest study on benzodiazepines says they do not in fact raise dementia risk. Take this alongside the latest studies on cannabis not in fact affecting IQ, and maybe we should be a little more careful with correlational drug side effect research.

Speaking of careful drug side effect research! Previous correlational studies have failed to really show any problems with light drinking in pregnancy, but might have been confounded by mostly healthy people drinking more. A new study (excellent summary by Vox here) uses “Mendelian randomization” – that is, it compares people with genes that predispose them to drink more versus people with genes that predispose them to drink less. Since genes are upstream from everything else, it’s harder to confound those than actual drinking habits (I was originally concerned about them finding inter-population differences, but they seem to have controlled appropriately). The new methodology finds that light drinking does indeed harm babies, and the CDC has updated its guidelines to suggest that any women who might be pregnant, even without knowing it, should avoid drinking.

Public Policy Polling’s new South Carolina report will tell you which candidates’ supporters are predominantly male versus female, or older vs. younger. It will also tell you less frequently polled questions, like which kind of barbeque sauce they like, who they think should have won the Civil War, and whether or not interning the Japanese during World War II was a good idea. Note that only Republicans got the fun questions, so the Very Liberal category has miniscule sample size and shouldn’t be taken seriously.

Many chapters of the Koran began with mysterious combinations of letters. Theories include impenetrable divine secrets vs. the initials of the scribes who first recorded them.

A secret government AI called SKYNET is malfunctioning and sending its heavily armed robots to kill innocent people. This is not a drill.

This week’s best-titled physics blog post: The Universe Has A High (But Not Infinite) Sleep Number.

The American Enterprise Institute has determined that the average person would only get an extra $70/year if we stopped paying CEOs ridiculous salaries and gave it to the workers instead. Unfortunately, this is the American Enterprise Institute being very tricky. A commenter on r/economics points out the problems, re-does the analysis, and finds that the per capita bonus would actually be as high as $406/year. Still not going to single-handedly solve poverty, but starting to look a little more attractive.

You’ve probably already read the commentary on Scalia’s death, but did you know that there was a play about him and an opera about his friendship with Ruth Bader Ginsburg? Or that he helped push Obama to nominate (the very liberal) Elena Kagan to the Court?

Noah Smith: Some new evidence suggests, contra economic theory, that free trade with China has cost jobs without necessarily replacing them elsewhere. David Friedman, any thoughts?

Educational psychology’s omnipresent superstar theory of “grit” claims that success depends not on any innate ability but on a (teachable) passion for sticking to hard work in the face of difficulties. Now it’s been tested (abstract, news article), and…”grit” accounts for 0.5% of variation in academic achievement (compared to 40% for intelligence). To add insult to injury, “grit” turns out to be pretty much identical to plain old Conscientiousness, which like everything else is about half heritable and half non-shared environment. I assume the grit research community has sworn to diligently keep pushing on in the face of this hardship. Also, would somebody please use this methodology for growth mindset?

When the Chinese bureaucrats who invented the Three Represents, the Four Olds, and the Eight Honors get bored and stop taking pride in their work, you get the propaganda campaign in favor of the Two Whatevers.

For fans of HPMoR or Japanese light novels: Eliezer Yudkowsky has a new novella, A Girl Corrupted by the Internet is the Summoned Hero?! (sample of first few chapters available here)

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1,469 Responses to Links 2/16: N-Acetyl Selink

  1. Hollyluja says:

    German TV: East Germans had better sex and awesome child care . Why not have more kids?

  2. Hollyluja says:

    RE: College subsidies

    Rortybomb commenting on 2009 NBER paper on the Earned Income Tax Credit vs the Negative Income Tax

    “ So while each dollar spent on grants to students reduces final tuition costs less than one for one, each dollar spent on subsidies to public institutions reduces tuition costs by more.”

    The privatization debate so often assumes that a dollar given in voucher form is the same as a dollar spent directly on buying the service, but it isn’t true.

    If we must subsidize a good or service through the government, it is always more efficient to provide it directly – or just step out of the market entirely and just give people money with no strings.

    This applies to housing, labor, health care, and education

  3. Jiro, I’ve been googling a little, and child abuse is worse among the Amish than I thought, though it’s sufficiently hard to get information about prevalence of child abuse among Amish and non-Amsih families for me to feel sure that it’s worse in Amish families.

    • Samuel Skinner says:

      Non-Amish isn’t the correct metric for comparison. I think rural Americans is the correct reference frame.

    • Anonymous says:

      What’s “abuse”?

    • Samuel Skinner says:

      Given the context, they are probably referring to child sex abuse. I think that is the type of abuse that freaks people here out.

      • In context, it might also mean things like spanking or other forms of corporal punishment.

      • Dr Dealgood says:

        That’s what I would have guessed but then again we had people upthread saying that telling a gay son that God disapproves of homosexuality or not preparing him for a STEM career is abusive. So it’s not clear whether we’re talking about rapes and beatings as in Vox’s story or just not being maximally SWPL.

        That said, I would prefer to see what Nancy meant rather than putting words in her mouth. She’s generally reasonable.

        • I thought what I meant was obvious, but oh well typical mind…

          I meant rape and severe corporal punishment.

          http://abcnews.go.com/2020/story?id=316371&page=1

          http://fourhourworkweek.com/2008/07/15/escaping-the-amish-part-1/

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            Ok thanks for the links.

            And don’t worry about it, in any normal context it would have been clear what you meant. It’s just that other posters have been a bit ambiguous as to what definition of abuse we’re working from.

          • Matt C says:

            Thanks for the links, Nancy.

        • Jiro says:

          “Not preparing” and “hindering” aren’t the same thing.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            So you think that Amish children are born with foundational knowledge of calculus, mechanics, chemistry, etc but that their parents write over it all with passages of the Martyrs’ Mirror?

            Take it from me here: the level of education you need on Day 1 at an engineering school is not by any means a default state. Normal public school coursework will not prepare you for it. If that’s the standard for hindering, every parent whose kids aren’t in high end private or specialized high schools is guilty.

            An eighth grade education plus a strong work ethic is more than enough for most service sector or manufacturing jobs. Illegal immigration has demonstrated that. The only way that looks like ‘not having options’ is to set the bar for survival in the English world at upper middle-class professions.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “The only way that looks like ‘not having options’ is to set the bar for survival in the English world at upper middle-class professions.”

            It is possible Jiro wants to have as many competent upper middle class professionals to exist as possible. Having more doctors, scientists, engineers, researchers and the like certainly makes the world better and if your goals are things like ‘keep people from dying’, ‘explore space’, ‘solve environmental/population issues’, ‘experience new things’, then increasing the number of people in those categories helps you meet their goals.

          • John Schilling says:

            Having more doctors, scientists, engineers, researchers and the like certainly makes the world better and if your goals are things like … ‘explore space’

            If you’ve got five really enthusiastic experts at the art and science of spaceship design pestering the one guy who knows how to run the lathe, having more scientists and engineers will not help you achieve the goal of ‘exploring space’. Most of the people I know in the spaceship-building business have a harder time finding skilled machinists than they do formally-educated engineers.

            The Amish, in addition to being superb farmers, seem to make fine machinists.

          • Jiro says:

            It is possible Jiro wants to have as many competent upper middle class professionals to exist as possible.

            You are still confusing “not preparing” and “hindering”.

            I want children who would normally have the option to become upper middle class professionals to not have that option intentionally taken away by parents. Removing such options from your children deliberately is wrong. It is wrong because it wrongs the children, not because it makes it harder to meet some quota.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            I want children who would normally have the option to become upper middle class professionals to not have that option intentionally taken away by parents.

            (Emphasis added, obviously)

            This is the point that I was trying to address in my comment. The state of nature is not that all children will grow up into white collar workers, with any deviation from that path attributable to outside influence. Engineers are not the default.

            Most people, the vast majority in fact, do not “normally have the option” to become upper middle class period. It’s an unreasonable benchmark.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            Dealgood, saying “it is rare so it doesn’t matter if they lose out” seems a bit… off. Breaking a few eggs to make a better omelet is bad. We can say that it is a necessary evil, but that doesn’t make it less bad.

          • Whatever decisions parents make about how to rear their children are going to limit the available options—we can’t all learn everything. Consider all the people who, at the expense and with the encouragement of their parents, went to liberal arts colleges, majored in English or history, and ended up after graduation waiting tables.

            The Amish rear their children in a way that prepares them for a substantial number of possible careers, including the ones that the parents think most likely to give their children a good life. It’s not at all clear that they end up worse educated than the average graduate of a conventional public high school.

          • John Schilling says:

            Removing such options from your children deliberately is wrong. It is wrong because it wrongs the children, not because it makes it harder to meet some quota.

            So it is morally wrong for parents to let their children sleep past 4:00 AM, because that takes away(*) the option of becoming a dairy farmer? Or is it just some particular set of options that parents must prepare their children for, and if so how do you define the options that are so privileged?

            * in the sense of requiring a difficult period of remedial preparation as an adult, but that’s really the standard here.

          • Jiro says:

            1) Learning to get up at 4 AM is orders of magnitude easier than going from an 8th grade education with little exposure to science or technology, to an engineer. Yes, learning to get up at 4 AM is difficult and takes more than fifteen minutes, but not all difficult things that take more than fifteen minutes are the same. This is the second time you’ve tried to imply that getting up at 4 AM and becoming an engineer are similar levels of difficulty, and that’s nonsense.

            2) If you were afraid that your child wanted to learn farming, and you instituted a rule that your child had to be asleep at 4 AM to prevent him from learning farmlng, and you had no reason to do this other than “farming is evil”, that would be wrong too. But of course that’s never going to happen.

            3) I’m not a relativist on the subject of religion. As far as I am concerned, Amish beliefs that derive from religion are wrong (and that includes rationalization of religious beliefs using non-religious excuses). And raising your children in a way drastically affected by such beliefs is wrong too.

          • Jiro says:

            Whatever decisions parents make about how to rear their children are going to limit the available options—we can’t all learn everything.

            Yes, but there are degrees of limiting. If those parents had not only encouraged their children to major in English or history, but also would shun their children for majoring in anything else, and made sure there was never a computer, phone, or car in the house in order to keep them from qualifying for another major, then they would be bad parents too.

          • “and made sure there was never a computer, phone, or car in the house in order to keep them from qualifying for another major”

            Except that that isn’t the reason there is never a computer, phone, or care in the house.

            A better analogy would be if the parents could have moved to New York so that their kid could try to enroll in the Bronx school of science but didn’t, because they didn’t want to live in New York. There are things the parents could do that would make it easier for their child to become an engineer, but they have reasons not to do them that have nothing to do with their child.

  4. TrivialGravitas and other did a good job of pointing out many of the same probable flaws in the guns-and-homicides study I would have if I hadn’t gotten here late. (Though I probably wouldn’t have caught the one about Scotch-Irish ancestry in the Mountain West being a probable confounder.)

    There are two general points that I think need to be made here. One is that the jiggery-pokery in this study – choice of misleading proxies for firearms ownership, in particular – is all too typical. It’s becoming generally known now that there is a lot of non-replicability and outright process fraud in psychology and sociology. Take it from someone who has studied the gun-control literature: if you are a bystander or anti-2A type, your worst imaginings are far short of the truth. Even gun-culture types who know the gun-control literature is rife with politicized fraud (if only because they’ve studied the Bellesisles scandal and its sequelae) are not paranoid enough to keep up. See my post A Brief History of Firearms Policy Fraud for links and discussion.

    Another is that in this particular case I’m getting a whiff of plain stupidity rather than malice (which is refreshingly unusual, actually). Anybody who actually knows anything about the gun culture would know, for example, that hunting licenses are an extremely poor proxy for gun ownership levels in any state with major cities. Most of the U.S.’s population is urban or suburban; the gun culture there doesn’t do hunting licenses and is more organized around self-defense and home defense. I leave the resulting distortion in their conclusions as an easy exercise for the reader.

    A good general rule is not to trust firearms policy studies that use proxies for gun ownership at all. I’ve actually never seen one where the results weren’t GIGO.

  5. Deiseach says:

    Forget the Great Filter, it’s our age that makes us special.

    The answer to Fermi’s “Where is everybody?” seems to be “They haven’t been born yet”.

    We are one of the first life-bearing planets in the universe, and since we’ve not yet begun extra-solar colonisation, then it’s very unlikely there are any more advanced civilisations out there zooming around in their flying saucers.

    • John Schilling says:

      They haven’t been born yet

      Yet, or ever – there’s no strong reason to assume that the evolution of intelligent life is anything more than a once-in-a-universe rarity, if that.

      But, once per universe or a billion times per galaxy, someone has to be first. If you are invited to a party and arrive to an empty room, the parsimonious explanations are that nobody else is coming or that you are the first, not that the other guests are carefully hidden. The parsimonious explanation of Fermi’s paradox is that we are the first.

      • nil says:

        Walk a mile through the woods and you probably won’t see a deer–and almost certainly won’t see any cougars.

        • John Schilling says:

          We can see halfway to the edge of the universe and the dawn of time and we don’t see anything that looks like a technological civilization that’s even a measly million or so years ahead of us. KIC 8462852 is the best we’ve got in that line, and it’s probably just dust. Our view is hazy enough that it wouldn’t be terribly difficult for anyone to hide from us if they wanted, or were just naturally reclusive, but everybody going into hiding?

          • nil says:

            All true, but the probably of everyone hiding, while very low, doesn’t strike me as particularly less likely than “we’re the very first.”

            I think the best guess is a combination of factors. We’re not the very first, but we’re relatively early on. Everybody doesn’t hide out of fear, but a lot do. The odds against intelligent life evolving aren’t astronomically low, but it is pretty rare. Not one Great Filter, just a lot of Pretty Good Ones.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ John Schilling
            “We can see halfway to the edge of the universe and the dawn of time and we don’t see anything that looks like a technological civilization that’s even a measly million or so years ahead of us.”

            If someone Out There is doing a probe looking for tall ships as evidence of civilization, they won’t find many on Earth.

          • onyomi says:

            Does this assume that any civilization much more advanced than us would do things to their planet or star that would be visible to us from extremely far away? Nothing we have thus far done would make Earth an obvious candidate for intelligent life as seen from 1 million light years away by a civilization with viewing technology equivalent to our own?

          • John Schilling says:

            Nothing we have thus far done would make Earth an obvious candidate for intelligent life as seen from 1 million light years away by a civilization with viewing technology equivalent to our own?

            Human civilization is presently visible out to ~50 light-years thanks to our more powerful military radars; I believe those won’t fade below the noise floor until ~100 light-years, but I’d have to double-check that.

            Hence my discussion of civilizations “a measly million years ahead of us”. And that’s not a million years of hypothetical superduperultrascientific advances, either. A thousand years of perfecting everything we presently have a plausible idea how to do, and then a million years of doing it on an exponentially increasing industrial scale, would lead to a Dysonized galaxy. That would be visible halfway across universe. And if there’s any dispute over whether Dysonizing a galaxy is a thing that ought to be done, the side with the Nicoll-Dyson beams will probably win but even if they lose it will be in a way that is even more spectacularly visible than a hundred billion Dyson shells.

          • onyomi says:

            “Human civilization is presently visible out to ~50 light-years thanks to our more powerful military radars; I believe those won’t fade below the noise floor until ~100 light-years, but I’d have to double-check that.”

            Isn’t that not very far on a cosmic scale? Given the size of the universe, couldn’t it just be that nothing we’ve done thus far is very noteworthy or noticeable unless you happen to be our very close neighbor? Of course, that doesn’t explain why no one else seems to have done something more noticeable like build a Dyson sphere or what have you (or at least, not early enough for the light from such to have reached us). I guess I’m saying that, to me, at least the case for us being early or rare is more convincing based on our inability to see anything else, rather than anybody else’s failure, thus far, to notice us.

          • John Schilling says:

            “Thus far”, yes.

            The presumption that alien civilizations roughly mimic the size and technological civilization of whatever present or future human civilization goes looking for / stumbles across them, is pervasive. In science fiction, in the SETI community, in science generally. It is also silly. Look for ancient, vast, and powerful alien civilizations, or look for literal pond scum. Anything in between is transitory, and freakishly unlikely to coexist on a cosmic timescale.

          • TrivialGravitas says:

            The problem is that you are seeing back to the dawn of time. Terrestrial planets only form around metal rich stars (in theory at least) and the farther back in time you go the fewer of those there were (there still aren’t many, about 2% of the milky way). There’s just no room for multi billion year old galactic empires. If we want to find extragalactic civilization we’re confined to local cluster at best.

          • gbdub says:

            We can see halfway to the edge of the universe – but we’ve only been observing for a thin slice of time at each location. Is there a civilization 1000 light years away that died out 1100 years ago? We’ll never know it. Is that civilization on exactly the same level as us? We won’t know for another 900 years unless we get superluminal travel between now and then.

            Let’s ballpark and say the Milky Way has been “inhabitable” by intelligent species for 10 billion years. Even if there have been a thousand civilizations that were “detectable” for a span of a million years each, there’s still only a 1 in 10 chance we coexist with one of them. Time is definitely a critical factor that needs to be considered.

            The energy output of a civilization anywhere outside our galaxy (or even outside the local stellar neighborhood) would have to be massive for us to observe it. Why would it ever be – who would waste that much energy? Heck in 100 years we may be a lot less detectable than we are now – our crude systems blasting EM energy into the ether in every direction are pretty inefficient – improved technology could replace pure power with more targeted systems (e.g. we’re moving toward laser communication with satellites, which uses less total power and spreads out more slowly, making it less likely to be detected). Really, our only hope for detecting far off civilizations with current tech is that they either build stellar scale structures or blast insane amounts of obviously unnatural energy in random directions. Why do we assume advanced intelligent life would do either?

            It’s possible for us to be really really rare but not alone. It’s also possible for intelligent life to be really common, but so far undetected, even if they aren’t making any effort to hide. None of this really requires a great filter other than distance, time, and energy.

        • Maware says:

          You can’t hide traces of a technological civilization. Not a living one. A single deer can hide, yeah. Can New York City hide itself from the rest of the world?

      • anonymous says:

        Under the assumption that life and civilization are likely to evolve, us being the first has an extremely low prior.

        Therefore, unless everyone is carefully hidden, life and civilization must be unlikely to evolve, therefore there must be a great filter at some point.

        • John Schilling says:

          Expressing this in terms of a “filter” carries the prejudice that intelligent life is supposed to be common and that something must actively oppose it for it to be rare.

          It would be a strange geology that talked incessantly of native aluminum nuggets and the “great oxidation filter” that makes them unheard of on Earth.

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          @ anonymous

          There’s another place you could look for that Filter….

          I wish there were room for a gravatar of Lucy saying to Charlie Brown: “They would have contacted me.”

          • anonymous says:

            Sorry, I don’t understand?

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ anonymouse

            One version of Fermi’s Paradox is something like: “If aliens exist, they would have contacted us by now.”

            One place for a filter is, maybe they aren’t interested in us. “Maybe they are hiding” sounds silly — like they knew about us and cared enough to hide. But perhaps more likely, they would neither know nor care.

        • onyomi says:

          “us being the first has an extremely low prior.”

          Can we even say that? Since our sample size is 1, how can we say anything about where we are likely to fall on an ordinal scale of appearance of civilizations? The only thing we know is that thus far we’ve not been contacted, but assuming our timing is a factor it could just as well be because we are late as because we are early.

          What’s more, while the probability that we are 1st and the probability we are 17th seem to be roughly equal, there must be some maximum conceivable number of intelligent civilizations to have appeared in the universe. That is, us being 1st is more likely than us being the 10 trillionth, since it’s likely there aren’t 10 trillion civilizations, but we know there is at least 1. Thus, of all the possible places we could appear in an ordinal sequence, 1st is actually the most likely, though probably not much more likely than 984th.

        • @anonymous, not necessarily “unlikely to evolve”, full stop. “Unlikely to evolve less than 14 billion years after the big bang” should do the trick, it seems to me. Whether “it usually takes a lot longer” counts as a filter I don’t know. It certainly isn’t the sort of filter people usually seem to talk about.

          (The Cambrian Explosion took a suspiciously long time to happen, so that’s my personal top choice for a filter of this sort. But we don’t seem to know very much about it, so perhaps I’m falling for a “god of the gaps”-style fallacy.)

          Also, if it is true that any civilization that evolves will inevitably colonize the galaxy in a relatively short time, then there will only ever be one civilization and it will be the first. If there is only ever going to be one civilization, then the odds of it being us are 100%, via the anthropic principle.

          (For simplicity, I’m assuming that the probability of a civilization surviving long enough to do so is either 100% or very close to zero. I don’t think this changes the outcome, it just makes talking about it easier.)

          If you accept that, the question isn’t “why are humans the first” but “why did it take 14 billion years” which doesn’t seem nearly so unlikely, particularly if you make some reasonable-seeming assumptions about the habitability of the early universe.

          There is another possible approach, you could attempt to estimate the odds of the first civilization developing on a solar system as relatively young as ours is and show that they are implausibly low. But I’m not sure we have enough information to do this in a meaningful way. The outcome seems likely to vary wildly depending on your assumptions.

          • onyomi says:

            Have there been any studies or speculation about why the Cambrian Explosion took so long? Intuitively, it seems like the transition from no life at all to monocellular life would be a lower probability event than the transition from monocellular life to multicellular life, but since monocellular seems to have developed in relatively short order once the Earth stopped being incredibly hot, it seems like it is the other way around?

            And this does seem to have the depressing implication that there may be countless planets with bacteria, but very, very few with life of much interest to us (not that space bacteria wouldn’t be cool on some level, I’m sure).

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            Life is 3.8/4.1
            -Oxygen atmosphere 2.4
            Eukaryote 1.6/2.1 (mitochondria and foundation of multicellular life)
            Modern group 1.2
            Cambrain is .5

            I think the big stopper is simply getting bigger cells- all the organelles have to evolve first and each step is hard.

          • @onyomi, assuming for the moment that my uneducated guess happens to be correct, it doesn’t seem necessarily impossible that a fairly large number of other Cambrian Explosion equivalents could have taken place in the last 500+ million years (not an insignificant fraction of the age of the universe, after all).

            So probably no other civilizations (unless it’s much harder to colonize the galaxy than is usually assumed) but perhaps a reasonable number of well-developed ecosystems.

            As for speculation as to the cause, see the Wikipedia article. There’s lots. I haven’t studied any of it in any great depth.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            I recommend Nick Lane’s The Vital Question: Energy, Evolution, and the Origins of Complex Life. I liked his book on mitochondria a while back, but this one is even better. Every complex organism on earth traces back to the same eukaryote, which apparently had practically all of the mechanisms eukaryotes have today: mitochondria, nucleus, chromosomes with telomeres, sexual reproduction, and on and on; and the explosion into plants, animals, fungi, etc apparently happened almost right away. What’s going on? Lane says that we’ve been distracted by DNA and the question of how information began, but we’ve neglected questions of energy, environment, and metabolism, and that paying attention to this side of things is crucial to
            understanding.

  6. Alexander Mackenzie says:

    Re: Ancestry-adjusted economic success: Most of the really solid evidence is correlation with technology circa 1500, not thousands of years ago- as noted, if it went back to when agriculture started we’d see Syrians being far more successful than Europeans (granted, a lot of populations have been replaced by farmers, so maybe the ancestors of Europeans were doing agriculture earlier than Europe).

    To me, the ~1500 tech level correlation seems extremely clear, and also quite compatible with for example development theory*, moreso than something like a genetic explanation. For that matter, it could technically fit with exploitation theory- people with less advanced weaponry and support stuff (and/or noncombat tech that just made them seem more civilized) got exploited less hard, although there remain other holes in that theory.
    I suppose a sort of cultural explanation still makes sense, although I’d prefer to phrase it somewhat differently, like “adaptation to technology”, since I’d generally guess they developed over the past few centuries, to distinguish them from explanations of more identity-style cultural traits (like language or religion).

    One weird thing about it is that it seems to be a fairly specific date, around 1400-1500ish. Go back to 1200 and to my knowledge Europe was a backwater compared to much of Eurasia or at best on par with it; on the other hand, to my knowledge there’s no particular visible effect on wealth of when European explorers/colonists brought technologies to one’s ancestors, which had started even by ~1444 with Cape Verde. My guess is that the latter effect might exist but just be hard to notice and swamped by other factors- it probably took awhile even after colonization to adopt European tech (especially for African slaves or the like), very little of the Old World was colonized until the 1800s, and the effect could easily exist in New World natives and wouldn’t be obvious from just GDP per country statistics.

    *Pretty standard idea: countries with more capital earn back more, plus varous things- education, roads, stable government- help economic development and are also easier to get with economic development, so countries can have drastically different wealth without dramatic differences in the genetics, the cuture, *or* unchangeable external factors like geography. This is clearly true to some extent looking at how ex. East Asian countries didn’t *instantly* modernize, but on the other hand other countries have modernized much more slowly than they did. Still, it’s at least a significant factor.

    • anonymous says:

      I don’t think that 1200’s Europe was a relative backwater. I think it was a backwater in the 700’s, not in the 1200’s.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gothic_architecture
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blast_furnace#Medieval_Europe
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carta_Pisana
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glasses#Invention_of_eyeglasses

      Circa 1300, Dante references mechanical clocks, twice.

      Then, as a horologe that calleth us
      (…)
      Wherein one part the other draws and urges,
      Ting! ting! resounding with so sweet a note,

      Elsewhere (more clearly):

      And as the wheels in works of horologes
      Revolve so that the first to the beholder
      Motionless seems, and the last one to fly,

      • AlexanderRM says:

        I think “Europe circa 1200 was a relative backwater or at best on par with other parts of Eurasia” is a fairly accurate statement, from what I know, although it might be misleading to/misunderstood by people who have misconceptions about the “dark ages” (in particular the idea that it was *less* advanced than it was in Greek or Roman times, which is clearly false).

        It might have been clearer to say something like “Europe was a relative backwater until around the 1200s”- emphasizing that’s when it stopped being a backwater. It seems pretty clear that sometime in that century was the approximate point when European technological development started picking up steam, although obviously there’s no sharp date that can be pointed to, as with many things in history.

        I should also stress “relative backwater”- we’re comparing Europe to other societies in Eurasia(and North Africa), mainly India, China and the Middle East (also I’m mostly talking about northern and western Europe- northwestern Europe being the most wealthy in the present day). Obviously Europe was making progress and had been continuously since the arrival of agriculture, and even originated a few inventions, but most of the progress was from the arrival of technology from elsewhere. If one wrote a history of China and didn’t mention Europeans much, you’d find that in the 1700s China was making progress faster than it ever had before, with some Chinese inventors even making new inventions of their own and in the late 1800s it was making progress at an *incredibly* fast rate, faster than any society pin history prior to 1800. The same is true of almost any state or civilization during that time.

        (also I should mention distinguishing rate of change with level, but since I’m measuring *relative* tech level to other Eurasian societies of the time, the point at which it got ahead of them is at least related to the point when it started originating more and more inventions)

    • anonymous says:

      So, I think that the upwards trend in European development began a lot earlier than the 1400’s.

      It was a slow, simmering, gradual development that took centuries and then it blossomed in the age of sail.

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

      Also of interest (from Wikipedia of course) (not that much earlier than the 1400’s, but still interesting):

      “Cultural and costume historians agree that the mid-14th century marks the emergence of recognizable “fashion” in Europe. From this century onwards Western fashion changed at a pace quite unknown to other civilizations, whether ancient or contemporary.”

  7. Mary says:

    “The effect of culture: German families who watched West German as opposed to East German TV had fewer children, maybe because the West German shows promoted a culture of smaller family sizes. I freely admit I would not have predicted this and will have to adjust a lot of my beliefs.”

    I recently heard a woman describing the effect of the high percentage of Mormons on the non-Mormons in her area. There are a lot of coffee shops, which are unusually popular among non-Mormons. On the other hand, the non-Mormon birth rate is higher than in the rest of the country, which she attributes to such factors as the way things are set up on the assumption that a couple may be shepherding six children and you have to handle that, and the way little old Mormon ladies will smile on you, compliment your sweet toddlers, talk about how nice it is to have families about, and ask you when you intend to have your next.

  8. Jordan D. says:

    Given the number of people who have called their networks ‘Skynet’ as an hilarious joke, I would posit that the probability that the AI which destroys human civilization is called ‘Skynet’ have massively, massively increased as a result of the Terminator movies.

    That’s not really irony or anything, but it makes me feel sort of tingly in my soul.

  9. If a Chinese bureaucrat wears Confucian robes, I’d like to see a US politician wearing a three-cornered hat.

  10. Vox Imperatoris says:

    Timothy Sandefur has a pretty good article on Scalia in the Daily Caller: “Conservatives: Don’t Panic About The Supreme Court!”

    He explains that Scalia has often upheld the liberties conservatives and libertarians want to protect, but there are other areas where he has shown excessive deference to the state and federal governments, in violation of the Constitution. And thus while a liberal replacement would be undesirable, it would not be the end of the world. There are some areas where a liberal justice would be better and many more areas where they would at least not be worse.

    • Urstoff says:

      That’s true of all the justices; the court doesn’t really have anybody resembling a libertarian, and almost certainly won’t once Scalia’s replacement is appointed. It’s be nice to have a judge who thought that Lawrence, Heller, and Citizens United were all decided correctly but that Kelo was not, but those are probably few and far between.

      • Psmith says:

        Three out of four ain’t bad, and I doubt Scalia’s replacement will measure up.

        • Urstoff says:

          well those were just the ones that came to mind (I think libertarians could go either way on Obergefell). Doubtless there are lots of Scalia et al. decisions that are not remotely libertarian.

          • Psmith says:

            Sure, but I still expect Scalia’s replacement to be a significant net loss for liberty, barring the Republicans stonewalling until they can name and somehow confirm Mike Lee or some crazy cloudcuckooland scenario where Obama names Ted Cruz to the court in order to set up Trump to win the nomination and lose the general. (And even then, there’s the other elderly justices….).

            I also agree with Vox that Clarence Thomas is pretty based, but that still leaves the Supremes at 4-4. Really, Sandefur’s article feels a bit like reflexive contrarianism. Our Side has lost an ally, he’s unlikely to be replaced anytime soon, and it is reasonable to worry about that insofar as it is reasonable to worry about any political development. Even though somebody might mistake you for one of those icky, uncool conservatives if you do.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Psmith:

            Well, the same guy says the Republicans should block whoever Obama nominates. It’s just a reminder that the sky is not falling.

      • Vox Imperatoris says:

        Certainly, it’s true of all the justices.

        However, I think Clarence Thomas is consistently better than Scalia in this regard. He gets no respect, of course, but he is not actually just a clone of Scalia. He is much more favorable to the idea of extensive unenumerated individual rights. For instance, see his opinions in McDonald v. Chicago and in Raich, as compared to Scalia’s.

        In particular, he supports the original and intended, pro-liberty interpretation of the “privileges or immunities” clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which protects all natural rights, enumerated and unenumerated, against infringement by state governments.

        • nil says:

          Well said. For all his vaunted originalism, Scalia pretty studiously ignored the 9th Amendment and the common law tradition it came out of… and the liberal line that Thomas was some kind of unthinking follower of Scalia is unjustified, and arguably tinged with racism (certainly, were the ideologies reversed, a lot of people would call it much more than tinged)

          • TrivialGravitas says:

            I think it’s just flat out weird that liberals do that. Some of Thomas’s dissents from Scalia are excellent way to bash Thomas.

            Wait, I thought it was weird, now I realize that that would require admitting Scalia wasn’t all bad.

      • There are two or three possible Obama appointments I can think of who are arguably in some sense libertarian. Cass Sunstein and Larry Lessig and (less likely for Obama to pick) Richard Posner. None of them is close to being a hard core ideological libertarian, but all of them have more libertarian sympathies than the average judge.

        If the Republicans win the election and get to appoint a Justice, Mike McConnell is a serious believing Christian, a leading expert on church/state law, with generally libertarian sympathies. Probably less controversial than any of the others I named, but not someone I can imagine Obama proposing.

        • BBA says:

          Janice Rogers Brown of the DC Circuit is probably the strongest economic libertarian on the federal bench right now – she’s endorsed returning to Lochner which no other judge I know of has done.

          I’ve seen a number of my fellow leftists say “the next justice should be a Black woman!” I don’t think any of them would be pleased at a Brown appointment.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            I think Bush considered her for the Supreme Court, but ended up putting her on the DC Circuit. It’s a shame because she’s way better than Alito or Roberts.

  11. Deiseach says:

    The American election campaigning appears to be going off on some interesting tangents: Trump versus the Pope ? 🙂

    Phil Pullella, Reuters: Good evening, Your Holiness. Today you spoke very eloquently on the problems of immigrants. On the other side of the border, meanwhile, there’s an already rough election campaign. One of the candidates for the White House, the Republican Donald Trump, in a recent interview said that you are a political man and added that maybe you’re a pawn, a tool of the Mexican government on the political issue of immigration. He has said that, if elected, he wants to build a 2,500km wall along the border; he wants to deport 11 million illegal immigrants, thus separating families, etc. I’d like to ask, then, above all what you think of these accusations against you and if an American Catholic can vote for a person of this kind.

    Pope Francis: Well, thank God he said I’m political, because Aristotle defines the human person as “animal politicus” (“political animal”): at least I’m human! And that I’m a pawn… meh, maybe, I don’t know – I leave that to your judgment, that of the people. And then, a person who thinks only of making walls, wherever they might be, and not of building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel. Then, what you told me, what I would advise, to vote for or not: I’m not getting into that. I only say: if he says these things, this man is not Christian. It needs to be seen that he has said these things. And for this I give the benefit of the doubt.

    And of course Trump’s camp made a classy reply:

    If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS, which as everyone knows is ISIS’s ultimate trophy, I can promise you that the Pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been President because this would not have happened. ISIS would have been eradicated unlike what is happening now with our all talk, no action politicians.

    The Mexican government and its leadership has made many disparaging remarks about me to the Pope, because they want to continue to rip off the United States, both on trade and at the border, and they understand I am totally wise to them. The Pope only heard one side of the story – he didn’t see the crime, the drug trafficking and the negative economic impact the current policies have on the United States. He doesn’t see how Mexican leadership is outsmarting President Obama and our leadership in every aspect of negotiation.

    For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful. I am proud to be a Christian and as President I will not allow Christianity to be consistently attacked and weakened, unlike what is happening now, with our current President. No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man’s religion or faith. They are using the Pope as a pawn and they should be ashamed of themselves for doing so, especially when so many lives are involved and when illegal immigration is so rampant.

    I did hear some of this on news headlines and my immediate reaction to the “You’re gonna be sorry when ISIS bomb you out of it” was “Displaying your ignorance here, sonny; we’ve long had experience with the likes of this. The name Diocletian ringing any bells? Why do you think the Swiss Guard are in a place of honour as the Papal Guard – “Its first, and most significant, hostile engagement was on 6 May 1527, when 147 of the 189 Guards, including their commander, died fighting the troops of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in the stand of the Swiss Guard during the Sack of Rome in order to allow Clement VII to escape through the Passetto di Borgo, escorted by the other 40 guards”? The Papacy has seen off Napoleon, and Donald, you’re no Napoleon”.

    It remains to be seen what influence, if any, this kerfuffle will have on potential voters; I wonder if any of them will have much the same instinctive reaction as I did, that some jumped-up, ignorant modern thinks he is the first secular power in history to threaten/cajole the papacy with “we’ll protect you from the big bad wolves”. Get in line, Donald, you’re nowhere near as impressive as Attila the Hun.

    Also, uhhhh – “No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man’s religion or faith”? If a religious leader can’t make a judgement on praxis, who can? I mean, in the quote from his camp, he’s questioning the “religion or faith” of Obama (allowing Christianity to be consistently attacked and weakened; Obama is Christian, having been baptised as an adult at Trinity United Church of Christ)! 🙂

    • Anonymous says:

      >It remains to be seen what influence, if any, this kerfuffle will have on potential voters

      Seems unlikely to be any. American Catholics are Americans first, and Catholics second, and most, I’m told, already vote Democrat anyway.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        White Catholics in America tend to split almost evenly among D and R.

      • Vaniver says:

        My Catholic coworker brought this up. “If the Pope keeps this up, people will dislike him for attacking Trump!”
        “But [Name], you’ve been telling me for a year that you don’t like this Pope because of his leftism. It’s not like this is the first thing you’ve disagreed with him on, and it’s not like any leftist Catholics are going to jump to Trump’s defense.”

      • Mary says:

        The Democrats have managed to lose the Catholic vote.

        Ironically enough, the year they pulled that off they were running Kerry, a Catholic.

    • Nita says:

      For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful.

      Uh, wait. Isn’t rendering such religious judgments precisely what religious leaders are for?

      • DavidS says:

        I think for a religious leader to say ‘building a wall is unchristian’ is clearly what you’d expect. But to say ‘anyone who’s said this isn’t a Christian’… not really sure what this means in this context, my knowledge of Catholicism is too thin. Isn’t a good and consistent Christian? Because that would apply to everyone. Isn’t saved? Because I thought there was an idea that no-one but God could know that for an individual.

        • Deiseach says:

          I am finding the American historical ignorance on show here very interesting. Probably because in your country, anything over fifty years old is an antique. This insistence on the literal “Vatican City has walls around it” and “why doesn’t the Pope tear down the walls” from not alone the comments on here but from other media/political blogs online is fascinating to me as a European.

          We have remnants of 12th century city walls around my town. Plainly what our council should do is call in the bulldozers and knock them down, right? Otherwise, our commitment to taking in refugees and migrants is “open borders for thee but not for me”. Mm-hmmm. So when are you guys going to knock down the Lincoln Memorial and build social housing complex on it instead? I mean, what for you have this useless empty walled building on site when you could be housing the homeless there?

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            Look, you can slice it any way you want but the issue here is that if you want to illegally cross into Vatican territory the Swiss Guard will riddle your body with bullets. Because they take their job of keeping unauthorized people out very very seriously, as well they should.

            I don’t mind the Pope posturing and preaching, that’s most of his job after all. But blatant hypocrisy, particularly when it’s obvious that his position is to benefit his own followers at our expense, is just sickening.

          • Adam says:

            He lives in basically a huge museum, yes with restricted access because it’s a couple of buildings and a courtyard. I don’t think his position is we need to tear down the fence around the White House and let in anyone who wants to spend the night, nor would he have the Swiss Guard patrolling and shooting up anyone who crosses the entire American border if he was in charge of it. If you think he’s wrong, fine, he’s wrong, but he’s not a hypocrite because his 100-acre 1500 year-old city with a thousand people in it has a fence. This is ridiculous.

      • Vaniver says:

        So, Trump is supposedly a Presbyterian, and as such does not see himself as within the Pope’s jurisdiction.

        (That is, this is actually the right theological position for Trump, whose religion holds that individuals have direct access to God, instead of having to go through a credentialed gatekeeper. But it’s likely that he guessed and got lucky. This is a guy who got stumped on his favorite Bible verse!)

        • Jaskologist says:

          It’s a shame, because Trump is normally a pretty good troller, but his religious ignorance gets in the way.

          The easy target is the Vatican City wall.

          The more advanced move would have been to bring up Nehemiah.

    • brad says:

      Thanks for tracking down the full context. It softens it quite a bit over the headlines that read “Pope: Donald Trump Not Christian”.

      “[A] person who thinks only of making walls, wherever they might be, and not of building bridge, is not Christian. … It needs to be seen that he has said these things. And for this I give the benefit of the doubt.

      is a lot different, than the soundbite version.

      • Deiseach says:

        As GetReligion (which is a site that covers religion journalism, having a lot of former ‘godbeat’ pros with experience as working journalists on its team, and which looks at how religion is covered in the media and where misunderstandings crop up) pointed out, there’s a difference between saying someone is not a Christian and someone’s behaviour is not Christian.

    • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

      I think the standard objection to the Pope’s statement is that the Vatican is, indeed, walled.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Not only is it walled, immigration is restricted.

        Fun anecdote: yours truly has been denied immigration into the Vatican.

        The wife and I were taking a Roman Holiday, and visiting all the usual sites. Our wanderings naturally brought us to the enormous wall around Vatican City. As we walked around it, we came to a large opening in the wall where a street ran through.

        I seized the opportunity, put on my best dopey tourist face, and started meandering up the street.

        The Swiss Guard stationed there took one look at me and just shook his head. We turned around and went back to Rome. So much for open borders.

      • Deiseach says:

        From official website:

        Vatican City State was founded following the signing of the Lateran Pacts between the Holy See and Italy on February 11th 1929. These were ratified on June 7th 1929. Its nature as a sovereign State distinct from the Holy See is universally recognized under international law.

        Vatican City covers a territory of 0.44 square kilometres, that is 44 hectares (roughly 100 acres). It is partly surrounded by walls and stretches into St Peter’s Square as far as a strip of travertine stone that corresponds with the furthest end of the colonnade. This marks the boundary of the State and the edge of the Square which is normally open to everyone. Even though it is part of Vatican City, the Square is usually patrolled by members of the Italian Police Force.

        There are five entrances to Vatican City, each of them guarded by the Pontifical Swiss Guards and by the Gendarmes Corps of Vatican City State. The entrance to the Vatican Museums is on Viale Vaticano, not far from Piazza del Risorgimento.

        Because Vatican City is so small, several Departments and offices belonging to the Holy See are situated in buildings around Rome (in Piazza Pio XII, Via della Conciliazione, Piazza San Calisto, Piazza della Cancelleria and in Piazza di Spagna). According to the Lateran Treaty, these buildings enjoy the same status, recognized by international law, as embassies and foreign diplomatic missions abroad.

        The areas occupied by these buildings are commonly known as “extraterritorial”.

        The population of Vatican City is about 800 people, of whom over 450 have Vatican citizenship, while the rest have permission to reside there, either temporarily or permanently, without the benefit of citizenship.

        About half of the Vatican’s citizens do not live inside Vatican City. Because of their occupations (mostly as diplomatic personnel), they live in different countries around the world. The conferral or loss of citizenship, authorization to live inside Vatican City and formalities for entering the territory, are governed by special regulations issued according to the Lateran Treaty.

        Trump and/or his campaign office are ignorant if they think ISIS is the first (a) military, quasi-military, or terrorist threat (b) Muslim threat the Vatican/the papacy has ever faced, and somehow it has managed to survive without the help of The Donald to rush in and save it.

        But indeed, he’s not the first forward-thinking sort to demand that the Church take one side or another in politics and if it won’t, then there should be consequences; H.G. Wells wanted to bomb Rome in retaliation for the Blitz, apparently under the impression that the Vatican was the government of Rome as well.

        • Deiseach says:

          (cont.)

          Ah, yes: Mussolini, the Pope – what’s the difference?

          Mr. H. G. Wells, in a remarkable article in the “Sunday Dispatch” asks: “Why don’t we bomb Rome?”

          “Every common-sense person in the world must be asking this question,” Mr. Wells continues. “Three facts stand out. First, raiders have bombed Buckingham Palace, St. Paul’s, and Lambeth Palace, and have shattered valuable stained glass in Parliament and Westminster. Secondly, the Italians confess that they shared in these feats. Thirdly, Rome is within easy range of the British Fleet and the Naval Air Arm, and it would be the most practicable thing in the world to treat St. Peter’s, the Vatican, the Duce, and King Victor Emmanuel to an enlarged version of this mischief which is being inflicted with impunity on London.

          “Rome would not be destroyed any more than London is being destroyed. It will take 40 years at the present rate to destroy London; but I cannot see why Roman citizens, who perhaps do not possess our vulgar Cockney spunk, should not spend a few thoughtful hours underground. It would be so educational for them.

          “In common with Catholics, who so strongly are entrenched in the British Foreign Office, and our former High Church Secretary for Foreign Affairs. Lord Halifax, I understand that our Italian and Roman Catholic friends want to see a wholly Catholic world, just as people like myself want to see a wholly liberal world.

          “The early Christian Church was a great emancipatory movement among the poor and humble. It faced lions in the name of truth. The modern liberal is completely at one with the Catholic there. He may differ from you in his ideas of truth, but he fights for your secular freedom as much as his own.

          “Very well, what is the trouble between us?” Advocates of totalitarian warfare threaten to wreck the world. Clearly, here is a police problem world-wide in its magnitude. Here is an occasion when the Catholic, the Protestant, and the Free Thinker, sinking all minor differences, should stand side by side, Just as all would if they lived to a village invaded by a homicidal lunatic.”

          “Surely we want to end air-war blitzkriegs for evermore, and this is where we find the general policy and behaviour of the Vatican and our Anglo-Catholic and Catholic British Foreign Office and the Catholic generals and politicians of Vichy France so amazing and perplexing.

          “Instead of facing these blitzkrieg criminals sternly and unambiguously, they betray a disposition to come to terms with them, to appease them, and to use them merely to secure an advantage over that free world of Liberalism which should be their natural ally.

          “The present conflict is assuming a definitely triangular aspect. First, there is the Vatican and Anglo-Catholic policy of the restoration of Christendom, apparently at any cost to human dignity. Secondly, at another angle, there is Modernist Liberalism, seeking to recover, maintain, and extend the mighty progress of the 19th Century. Thirdly, there
          is the totalitarian doctrine of pride, blood, and iron – the world for the violent.
          “The plain fact is that official Catholics seem disposed to deal with bullies, which an enlightened Democracy is not prepared to do.

          “I find myself asking how far free-living Catholics of the great Democracies – in the fullest enjoyment of their citizenship and the exercises of their faith – are disposed to lend themselves to this monstrous, ungenerous, ungracious attempt to deal in a hurry with modern Liberalism.

          “It may look like an opportunity to an eager bigot. To me it looks like murder and suicide. It is because I am convinced that mankind’s supreme necessity is to end for ever the possibility of another blitzkrieg that I appeal to you to drop this idea of some peculiar sacredness about Rome, justifying its present immunity, its right to strike and not be stricken.

          “Rome has become an Ally of our enemies. I am sorry, but those who cut must expect to be slashed.”

        • gbdub says:

          “But indeed, he’s not the first forward-thinking sort to demand that the Church take one side or another in politics and if it won’t, then there should be consequences”

          This seems a bit unfair, for a couple reasons. First, the Donald was responding to the Pope, not the other way around. The Pope decided to jump into this on his own. Also, you seem to be taking Trump’s statement as a threat, when it really isn’t. Saying “you are misguided, and you’ll be sorry when I’m saying I told you so” is a lot different from “take my side or I will attack you”.

    • keranih says:

      This episode is extremely frustrating, and serves as a very good example of why soundbites suck.

      The answer that the Pope gave was quite effective and nuanced, I think, and should have been taken as an advisement to the anti-Trump listeners (does he *really* say those things? Or is he building walls *and* bridges?) to the Trump camp (take care in your speaking to how people take your words! and the reporter wasn’t born yesterday, sonny, quit trying to rope me into something outside my jurisdiction.

      None of the news outlets I’ve heard or read have reported on this accurately, imo.

      As for the charge that the Pope is being unwise – there is a wide trend for people to be decried when they give advice on challenges that they themselves do not face – the single celebrate priest to the married couple, the rich person to the poor beggar, the older woman with a career to the young high school senior, the man to the pregnant woman considering an abortion, the young healthy person to the old sickly person.

      There is no mass of unwashed clamoring to enter the Vatican and stay there. There is no social pressure on the Vatican to admit such a crowd. The established physical boundaries and property rights of the Vatican are not challenged. Chan Merckle is far better positioned to “lead by example” in this than is the Pope.

      That the current walls built around the Vatican were put in place following a sack by Muslims only makes the whole thing more absurd.

      • Anon says:

        Also note that when the Vatican did take in a family of refugees, those refugees were Melkite Greek Catholics. Source and source.

        So not only is the Pope not willing to accept Muslims into his city-state, he also isn’t willing to accept more than one or two refugee families of any religion.

        • Deiseach says:

          Anon, how do you know that the pope is “not willing”? Would Muslims naturally think of asking for refuge from a Christian church first? What’s been forgotten is that ancient Christian communities in the Middle East are under attack and have been deliberately targeted for extermination.

          The US administration, despite lobbying, has decided not to make any particular exemptions or exceptions for people in fear of their lives, and indeed the system is unintentionally tilted against Christian refugees.

          Meanwhile, Christian centres that are older than Islam are being deliberately and intentionally destroyed.

          There’s enough sectarianism to go round without looking for bigotry, anon.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Anon, how do you know that the pope is “not willing”?

            Come on. Obviously, the Pope is not willing to let an unlimited number of Muslim refugees into the Vatican. They don’t ask because they are sure the answer would be “no”.

            If he were willing to do such a thing, the obligation would be on him to speak up. Because they have no reason to expect that he would.

            Now, I am not saying that the Pope has an obligation to let in an unlimited number (or any number) of refugees into the Vatican. The Vatican is a very different sort of place from a regular country.

          • Deiseach says:

            Me: “ISIS are deliberately massacring the native and ancient Christian populations of the Middle East in an act of ethnic cleansing”

            You: “The Pope isn’t taking in enough Muslims! Because plainly he’s a sectarian bigot!”

            I think the phrase “talking past one another” applies here.

          • Anon says:

            I feel pretty certain that he is not willing to allow Muslims to live in the Vatican because if he were willing, he would almost certainly have chosen a Muslim refugee family (seeing as how they make up the vast majority of the refugees currently fleeing towards Europe).

            The fact that he chose a Christian family instead makes it likely that he picked them specifically because they are Christian. I doubt he was choosing at random while being perfectly willing to take in a Muslim family, and yet just so happened to choose a Christian family instead despite the statistical unlikelihood of that outcome.

            I am not saying this out of bigotry, I am saying it because it seems highly likely to be true. If he wanted to demonstrate his willingness to let Muslims into the Vatican, he could have simply let Muslims into the Vatican. But he didn’t.

            Note that I actually think he made the right call in choosing to let Christian refugees in, because they are more likely than Muslims to be genuine refugees (due to the Christian genocides occurring in the Middle East right now) rather than economic migrants. I just think that making this choice and then criticizing Europe and America for not wanting to take in unlimited numbers of Muslim (or even Christian) refugees is extremely hypocritical. He himself definitely isn’t willing to accept unlimited numbers of even Christian refugees, or else the Vatican would currently have more than one or two refugee families.

            And yes, I do think refugees, including Muslim ones, would be willing to go to the Vatican if they felt that they would be allowed to do so and if they felt that they would be given shelter, food, etc. They seem willing to shelter inside Christian churches in European nations, so I see no reason to think they’d turn down accommodation in the Vatican if it were offered to them.

            I just don’t think it has been offered. Surely you can understand why some people would react negatively to a statement that reduces to “Open borders for thee but not for me.”

      • Deiseach says:

        Media coverage likes to break down religion to politics. Particularly US media, when it’s covering things like “Candidate in election says this, that or the other”. They don’t judge “what is the doctrine of this faith on this matter”, they look at it from the secular angle of “conservative or liberal? Democrat or Republican? progressive or old-fashioned?”

        So they like “Conservative right-wing pope X versus liberal left-leaning pope Y”, without remembering that the Church takes positions that annoy both right and left based not on politics but on theology and dogma. If you don’t think the Roman Catholic Church annoys the right-wing, just have a look at any reaction when a pope says making money is not the prime end of human existence – oh noes, attacking capitalism? (which they may not actually be doing, but that’s how it’s read) – this is the most evilest thing in the world! Or being charitable, it’s just that this pope is too stupid to understand economics and doesn’t realise that American free-market capitalism is the bestest and highest human aim ever 🙂

        • “it’s just that this pope is too stupid to understand economics”

          It doesn’t require him to be stupid. Most people don’t understand economics, just as most people don’t understand physics, or evolutionary biology, or game theory.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        effective…
        None of the news outlets I’ve heard or read have reported on this accurately, imo.

        So, not actually effective.

  12. George Quinn says:

    I’m sorry, I’m not quite sure how Gene Drives work and I’d like an explanation from anyone who’d be so kind. It doesn’t have to be simple, just accessible. Still, this whole resistant-to-Malaria Mosquitos deal seems like the kind of thing that would fuck up an ecosystem a few years down the line in a way that nobody saw coming. Especially the bit about the red eyes. Thoughts?

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      Remember when Richard Dawkins was a renowned evolutionary biologist and not a full-time atheist missionary? The thing he is best known for in his field was pushing the gene-centered view of evolution, or to use the snappier book-title version Selfish Genes, where the unit of selection is the gene rather than the organism. Rather than the old view of whole organisms competing to reproduce, we now see evolution as genes competing to replicate themselves. Which means that you can see intragenomic conflict where a particular gene or genes evolve to ensure that all or most descendants will carry that mutant allele. And this can occur even if the allele imposes a fitness cost on the organism as a whole.

      There are a lot of ways that this can happen in nature. Homing endonucleases are the ones I find most interesting because they contain an enzyme which specifically damages the other allele of the same gene, forcing the organism to copy it over onto both chromosomes using homologous recombination. Others involve killing embryos which don’t carry the resistance to a particular maternal toxin, changing the ratio of whether the allele’s chromosome ends up in an egg cell or a non-reproductive polar body, etc. Regardless, these sorts of alleles can sweep through a population extremely quickly because all or virtually all of the offspring will carry it: this can go so far as the allele reaching fixation, that is, where the entire population carries that allele.

      The idea of gene drives is to harness that as a tool to “drive” an allele we want through an entire target population. For example, if you found an allele which made female mosquitoes less likely to bite humans you could add a sequence containing a novel homing endonuclease to that allele, use CRISPR to create transgenic mosquitoes with said allele, and release them into the wild. You would rapidly see the number of mosquito bites go down as more and more females avoided feeding on humans. You could also do the same with an allele which made e.g. the mosquito only produce viable male offspring, which would sweep through and eventually collapse the population.

      The big problem with gene drives is that you can’t put the genie back in the bottle. It’s a fire-and-forget system and if there was a problem we would only know about it after it was too late to fix it. Maybe an allele we don’t like hitchhikes along with the one we’re driving. Or maybe the drive agent spreads to other species through horizontal transfer and becomes a gene parasite. Or even just that the allele we choose didn’t have the anticipated effect. That’s why scientists who are serious about gene drives want to test them on isolated islands before actually using them in the wild.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        The current proposals are generally not to simply copy gene drive from nature, but to embed CRISPR in the genome so that a heterozygote edits is own genome to become homozygous. So it is a precise edit, not biasing meiosis and thus there is no danger of an unrelated allele coming along for the ride. And they have demonstrated similar techniques to change things after the fact, setting up another CRISPR to delete the old payload, so it’s not completely irreversible.

  13. Oliver Cromwell says:

    “The US is finally starting to win Math Olympiads, and all it had to do was get a couple of bright kids out of the normal school system and into places that could cultivate their talents.”

    How does this hypothesis stand up against the alternative that the US has had a lot more kids of ultra high IQ H1B immigrants around since 1990?

    I notice all the pictures in the Atlantic article carefully exclude East Asians as well as the standard exclusion of whites, but how about looking at the names of the US winning teams?

    E.g. 2015:

    Ryan Alweiss
    Michael Kural
    Allen Liu
    Yang Liu
    Shyam Narayanan
    David Stoner

    http://www.maa.org/sites/default/files/images/AMC/imo/imo2015.jpg

    Before 1990 typically all the names are white, with occasionally one asian name – https://www.imo-official.org/country_individual_r.aspx?code=USA

    The US has benefited a lot from having more Lius about, at this level much out of proportion to their share of the population. Its ultra-smart fraction (140+) might be twice as large as it was in 1990. Something to correct for.

    • Nadja says:

      Interesting point!

    • For an extreme example in a different field, consider Eugene Volokh, an immigrant of a different ethnicity, who graduated from UCLA at fifteen–and, a year earlier, was making a good income as a programmer while a student.

      Currently Eugene and his brother Sasha run The Volokh Conspiracy, a high profile legal blog with a generally conservative/libertarian orientation.

  14. Anonymous says:

    @Vox Imp

    I hate the Amish. I am not joking. They are sincerely an evil, backwards society with an enormous number of abuses going on within their membership.

    Explain!

    • Sastan says:

      Since he denies any benefit of separate societies, he is incapable of registering any benefits which accrue from them. My folks live in amish country, and I judge the amish by those I know. They do have their own fanatical schismatic streak, like every other religious group. But the people themselves? They are almost perfectly uniformly honest, kind, humble and extraordinarily charitable. I’d go so far as to say they are the perfect neighbors. I have never, in twenty years experience with them, heard or seen one so much as HINT at a malicious thought, even in jest. Quite simply the nicest people you will ever meet.

      “Judge ye a tree by its fruits”, the book says!

      • Morkyz says:

        lmao, nice one. I actually grew up in Amish country myself, and I have to agree they are fine people in general. Still, the SoCon right fetishizes them too much.

      • Maware says:

        Given that people are incredibly shocked when the average quiet, unassuming neighbor is one day arrested for selling drugs, or shoots up a school, I think the average American is a horrible at understanding what his neighbor is actually like. Of course they seem quiet and nice, as this is their outward face. But you don’t see the inward face unless they let you.

    • Nita says:

      Well, I’m not Vox, and I don’t hate the Amish. But while we’re waiting for Vox to wake up…

      1. If you are born into an Amish community, your chances of becoming a mathematician or a doctor, or an engineer, or a violinist, or — well, you get the idea — are very low, even if you’re naturally suited to such an occupation and would find it far more fulfilling than Amish life.

      This is because the education the children receive is intentionally limited to a very basic level, and those who wish to learn more must be willing to sacrifice everything they have (close ties to family and friends, belonging to their church and community).

      2. The Amish are pacifists and prefer to deal with problems inside the community using social pressure (instead of, say, involving the police). This preference is not bad in itself, but has been exploited by abusers who “repent”, are granted forgiveness, and go on to inflict more abuse. Additionally, this vulnerability is made worse by the strong social norms of respecting your elders and “not making a fuss”.

      On the basis of these two facts, one might argue that the policies of Amish communities deprive some of their children of safety and/or the opportunity to flourish.

      • Vox Imperatoris says:

        Yes, basically what you said.

        I support the values of modernity. The Amish are a backwards, primitive cult, hardly better than a bunch of savages who want to live in the jungle. I’m not saying they don’t have the right to do so, but I’m also not saying I approve, nor that they have an unlimited right to indoctrinate and to get away with the abuses that come along with subjugating women and having a society dominated by tribal elders.

        Long quote, but Timothy Sandefur says it better than I would:

        There are some libertarians who argue that libertarianism has no conception of the good life; that it is neutral with regard to values and simply draws boundaries around individual choices, but makes no claims about how individuals ought to live.

        I have long considered this view so silly and insubstantial (albeit common) that I haven’t bothered to discuss it much, but it’s now entered my neighborhood of the blogosphere, so a few observations may be warranted. It is, certainly, the single leading handicap of libertarianism in public debate.

        First, it is ludicrous to suggest that any politics can exist without a basis in some conception of the good. Every attempt to create a “value free” politics fails, usually by showing that at bottom there is some normative conception about how people ought to live. Today’s law and economics scholars, for example, adhere to what they consider a scientifically value-neutral conception of political society, advancing “efficiency” rather than anything like goodness or whathaveyou. But when you look closer, it turns out they are smuggling in a conception of the good: that is, they assume that an increase in “social wealth” is a goal to be pursued through political means. Thus efficiency is a good thing because it promotes the increase of social wealth. Or take Mises, than whom nobody has more rigorously eschewed moralism…and yet who wrote that “Everything that serves to preserve the social order is moral; everything that is detrimental to it is immoral.” (A horrifying assertion, by the way). Or take Todd Seavey’s argument, which smuggles in a conception of the good: namely, that it is good for individuals to have the freedom to make free choices within the realm of their moral vision–to join whatever cult or following they wish. That it is bad, in other words, to be deprived of that freedom. This conception of autonomy is a conception of the good life, whether you like it or not.

        If it were possible to construct a politics that really was entirely devoid of pronouncements about what is good or bad for human life (which it is not), what good would it do? It is often said that if there were some ether or quitnessence that really could not be measured in any way by physical processes, it would have absolutely no relevance to us because it would not be interacting in any way with the world. Likewise, a politics that really was value-neutral would have nothing to say to us as human beings, and would be pointless. What’s more, it would be vulnerable to any claims about the good life, no matter how weak, since it is a vision of the good life that all human beings need.

        You cannot have a politics of liberty that avoids the issue of what it means to lead a good life, and I will point to one example of this. Note that Mr. Seavey’s blog post begins with a photograph of the Amish. Well, there is a reason that the Amish are a religious minority living in a free society, and not the other way around: there is a reason that the Amish never developed a philosophy of classical liberalism. You cannot have an open society without open people, without open individuals. You cannot hope to have a tolerant society without the idea that tolerance serves human needs and is good for human beings.

        It was the great achievement of the classical liberals, not that they threw up their hands at the question of the good life, but that they rightly understood that the good life requires freedom. Yes, of course that included a wide realm of autonomy in making moral choices, but such autonomy is the farthest thing from true moral agnosticism. On the contrary, it was the very idea of natural rights–that there are pre-political principles of right and wrong which the state itself must obey in its dealings with us–that was the greatest discovery of the 17th century Whigs who gave birth to libertarianism. It is certainly true that “the great danger for humankind, whether from the Taliban or the communists, has always been the totalizing impulse to turn all social complaints into justifications for political action.” But what libertarians discovered was not that these “social complaints” are somehow meaningless or matters of mere personal taste–but that it was the “totalizing impulse” that had to be restrained. Why? Because under that impulse, the good life is not possible.

        One final note for clarity. A common fallacy in this area is treating individual rights as primary moral principles. When one conceives of libertarianism as making no claims about the good life, one tends to fall into arguing that respecting individual rights is the whole content of morality in the libertarian vision. One comes to the same silly conclusion as the Wiccans: “harm none, do as you will.” Of course, this can give the individual no idea as to how to actually behave, and Den Uyl and Rasmussen have recently demolished it. Their work is highly recommended on this point. Individual rights must be understood within a philosophical hierarchy: they exist to serve an end, but they are not the whole of morality, nor do they substitute for questions about morality. They exist because the pursuit of the good life requires that we abide by certain principles in our treatment of others and that they abide by certain principles in their treatment of us. Individual rights serve human flourishing. And that is why some cultures–those which reject human flourishing as an end to be pursued–have no respect for individual rights. And that is why libertarians cannot be moral relativists.

        • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

          Sometimes I think “This Vox dude sure seems like too sensitive and feelsy a guy to be an Objectivist”, but then you wite posts like this one.

          This is not criticism, by the way.

          • Nita says:

            Huh? That comment is feelsy enough — after all, it does contain a healthy dose of pathos. (Not criticism, either.)

        • Matt C says:

          > I’m not saying they don’t have the right to do so, but I’m also not saying I approve, nor that they have an unlimited right to indoctrinate and to get away with the abuses that come along with subjugating women and having a society dominated by tribal elders.

          What would you change, if you could impose whatever reforms you liked?

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            > > having a society dominated by tribal elders.

            > What would you change, if you could impose whatever reforms you liked?

            51/49%

          • Matt C says:

            I wasn’t able to unpack this.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            He’s saying that he wants the elders in charge to be proportional to the population, so 51% female and 49% male. Although if we’re interpreting elder literally presumably more women than that since they tend to live longer.

            houseboatonstyx should be glad to know that the Amish already make most decisions via direct democracy, with both women and men voting, although like all traditional Christian sects their bishops are exclusively male.

          • Matt C says:

            Thanks, that makes sense.

          • “houseboatonstyx should be glad to know that the Amish already make most decisions via direct democracy, with both women and men voting”

            Are there any decisions made by majority vote? I thought the usual rule was unanimity, presumably with some social pressure on holdouts.

            In the election of a bishop, there is only one voter, and He is traditionally viewed as male.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Dr Dealgood
            He’s saying that he wants the elders in charge to be proportional to the population, so 51% female and 49% male.

            Yep. 49% elders / 51% eldrices.

          • Nita says:

            eldrices

            Let’s not assist Christianity in turning the perfectly gender-neutral “elder” into a male-only word.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            It was clearly a typo, what they meant was: 49% elder (dragons) / 51% eldrazis

      • “The Amish are a backwards, primitive cult, hardly better than a bunch of savages who want to live in the jungle.”

        On the contrary. The Amish are, arguably, the people who are most adapted to modernity.

        Different technologies have different effects on social structures. Most of us ignore that issue, since there isn’t a whole lot we can do about it, even if a particular technology has effects we don’t like.

        The Amish don’t ignore it. Each congregation decides on rules for its members on what technologies they are or are not permitted to use while still remaining members of that congregation. Some of it is custom, but not all that much—they in fact use quite a lot of modern technology.

        Their social structure depends on strong local social bonds, on interacting primarily with other members of their congregation and any affiliated congregations nearby—a congregation being generally twenty-five to forty households. That, among other things, provides a mechanism for producing local public goods.

        They believe, plausibly enough, that having a telephone in the house undermines that structure, since it makes interaction with people farther away easy and routine. So the Ordnung generally forbids telephones in the house, while, for many congregations, permitting a telephone outside the house shared by several households for emergency calls and other less frequent uses.

        They believe, plausibly enough, that easy access to automobiles undermines that social structure for the same reason. So the Ordnung generally prohibits the ownership of automobiles. It doesn’t prohibit riding in them, and Amish quite commonly use hired automobiles or buses when needed.

        I prefer the kind of society I live in. But, judged by revealed preference, theirs seems to work pretty well. Amish are free to observe and interact with the non-Amish world, and do. But they lose only ten to twenty percent at each generation, meaning that most of them prefer the Amish life.

        I’m not sure, by the way, where you get the subjugation of women from. Changes in the Ordnung require the unanimous assent of members of the congregation, male and female. And an Amish congregation is the nearest thing in the real world to a society based on social contract, since the Ordnung is only binding on someone after he, as an adult, has chosen to swear to it. The Amish originated as anabaptists, people who didn’t believe that babies could be bound by contracts.

        If they are backwards and primitive, how are they so successful?

        @Nita:

        “This is because the education the children receive is intentionally limited to a very basic level, and those who wish to learn more must be willing to sacrifice everything they have (close ties to family and friends, belonging to their church and community).”

        I don’t believe the Ordnung of most congregations has any restriction on learning to play the violin or do mathematics. The education Amish get, mostly in their own schools and at home, seems to be sufficient to produce people who do a good job of running farms and starting small businesses—not to mention being fluent in at least two languages. It’s only if they want to pursue a career that requires formal education that there are likely to be problems.

        • jaimeastorga2000 says:

          On the contrary. The Amish are, arguably, the people who are most adapted to modernity.

          I agree with most of your comment, but I’d like note that the Amish are utterly dependent on the American and Canadian governments for physical protection, both because of their pacifism and because of their rejection of advanced industrial technologies. They are thus only well adapted to the extremely specific circumstances of the Pax Americana.

          I think the Mormons are a better example of a group that has adapted well to modernity in the general sense. They are economically and militarily competitive, they are good at breeding, and they pull it all off while being dispersed over a wide geographical area. Truly, their social structures are worth studying.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Then the Amishman asked: “How many of you have a TV?”

          Most, if not all, the passengers raised their hands.

          “How many of you believe your children would be better off without TV?”

          Most, if not all, the passengers raised their hands.

          “How many of you, knowing this, will get rid of your TV when you go home?”

          No hands were raised.

          “That’s the difference between the Amish and others,” the man concluded.

          (source)

          • Elissa says:

            Well, on the other hand, Amish kids are largely unvaccinated, and they get badly burned much more often than other kids (and I’m sure die in motor vehicle accidents much less frequently, but clearly good for kids or not isn’t the only heuristic in play here).

          • John Schilling says:

            Well, on the other hand, Amish kids are largely unvaccinated

            That appears to not be the case. 68-85% of Amish children appear to have been vaccinated. Lower than the 90-95% national average, but not “largely unvaccinated”.

          • The Amish combine modern medicine with traditional birth rates, which is why their populations doubles about every twenty years, despite losing ten or twenty percent of each generation to exit.

            Which, incidentally, suggests how fast a phyloprogenitive gene would spread, if one turned up.

          • Jiro says:

            That’s a trick question. Asking isomeone if they think their child would be better off without TV elicits an answer based on a specific idea of “better” that is not really a literal claim that it would be better, and doesn’t consider “brings pleasure to the viewer” as a factor in making something better.

          • Elissa says:

            Yeah I’m not sure nitpicking the meaning of “largely” really changes my point, but the 85% is for any of their children receiving any vaccinations at all. That translated into 68% of the actual kids receiving any vaccines at all, and presumably a much smaller percentage are fully immunized. So we can go with “largely underimmunized” if you want.

          • John Schilling says:

            @Elissa: The study I linked to does not provide all of the information I would like, but what it does provide you appear to have misread. The 68% figure is not the fraction of Amish children who have been vaccinated, it is the fraction of Amish families which have vaccinated all of their children. An additional 17% of Amish families have vaccinated some of their children. The fraction of Amish children who have been vaccinated is thus somewhere between 68% and 85%, but the exact value is unknowable from that study.

            The study also doesn’t ask which vaccines have been administered. I would expect that if an Amish parent takes their child to a (non-Amish) doctor and asks for or accepts vaccination, they will likely get the usual comprehensive suite appropriate for the child’s age. If the Amish are carefully picking exactly one vaccine each for their children, I saw no evidence of that.

            But if anyone can find better statistics on this, that might be helpful.

          • Elissa says:

            Yeah what I’m saying is the number you’re citing is for “all kids have 1 vaccine” which is not the same at all as “fully immunized” because there is more than 1 vaccine kids are supposed to get. The actual paper cites another study which found that “Among the Amish in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, investigators found that only 16% of children aged 6 months to 5 years were fully immunized.”

            As far as “exactly 1 vaccine,” kids are supposed to get multiple doses at multiple different visits. If the parents just accepted the Hep B vaccine at birth, that’s not getting the job done.

          • John Schilling says:

            So where is your evidence that the vaccinations being given to the majority of Amish children are inadequate? You are the one who raised the issue and made a strong assertion; if the best evidence I can find falls short of conclusive disproof of your claim, the best evidence you have presented is your own unsupported statement. Are you a pediatrician, or Amish, or in any other way an expert in this field?

          • Elissa says:

            …oh my god this is a very pointless argument, my original comment could be completely the same except for “largely underimmunized” (which is entirely supported by the source you yourself cited) instead of “largely unvaccinated” and the point stands. And I am not an expert, but I am a medical student at OSU and I have done rotations at Nationwide Children’s which serves much of Northeast Ohio, so I do have some first-hand experience with this. I would like to stop having this conversation now before I become more rude in Scott’s comment section.

          • ” The fraction of Amish children who have been vaccinated is thus somewhere between 68% and 85%, but the exact value is unknowable from that study.”

            You don’t even know that, because different families have different numbers of kids.

        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          I don’t doubt that the Amish have been ingenious at determining just how to interact with technology in order to preserve their society. The problem is the kind of society they wish to preserve: a society of absolute, Law-of-Jante conformism. Whose whole purpose, moreover, is to “assist” people in achieving an impossible goal founded upon a false cosmological conception.

          I prefer the kind of society I live in. But, judged by revealed preference, theirs seems to work pretty well. Amish are free to observe and interact with the non-Amish world, and do. But they lose only ten to twenty percent at each generation, meaning that most of them prefer the Amish life.

          They choose it on the basis of false information. Not only a false idea of the alternatives open to them (yes, they do “observe” the outside world, but they are encouraged to emphasize its worst, most mindlessly hedonistic and destructive aspects), but also a false idea of the eternal reward toward which their hardships in this life are aimed.

          If I thought the only choice were between the Amish lifestyle and some kind of aimless hippie existence, I would be tempted toward the Amish. But those aren’t the only alternatives. A life of individual purpose and achievements is also possible.

          Moreover, if I thought the Amish lifestyle were the way to avoid eternal damnation, I would certainly choose it. I would, of course, choose any finite level of hardship in this life if I thought I would gain it back infinitely in the form of otherworldly happiness. The Bible itself is very clear that those who follows its teachings do not maximize their earthly happiness:

          But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation. Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep.

          It does not follow from the fact that, because the Amish choose that lifestyle, they are doing what’s best for them. They may indeed be maximizing expected utility. But if one’s expectations are seriously off-base, that may not at all be the same thing as maximizing actual utility.

          And yes, the Amish accede to the demand of their society voluntarily. But they do so under the influence of the most tremendous social pressure—and social pressure directed toward an evil end, since it is a false end. The most “savage” part of it is precisely that “their whole existence is public”, under the rule of the village.

          I’m not sure, by the way, where you get the subjugation of women from. Changes in the Ordnung require the unanimous assent of members of the congregation, male and female.

          The traditional type of marriage in which women had no property rights and were effectively under the dictatorship of their husbands could not be conducted without the woman’s consent. That doesn’t mean that women were actually equals, or that they were not subjugated, or that this consent was not produced by the influence of strong and untoward social pressures.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I’m actually more confused now about what you find evil about the Amish. Above you indicated that you don’t consider freedom a terminal value, so I’m assuming it’s not that the Amish are more socially repressed. This comment makes it sound you mostly object to them being religious. Is there some other metric you think they’re failing on?

          • Mary says:

            The evil? They disagree with Vox.

            “They choose it on the basis of false information. ”

            Obviously they don’t think it’s false. They think Vox’s information is false.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Jaskologist:

            I don’t consider anything a terminal value except happiness itself.

            However I do consider independence, autonomy, the freedom to exercise one’s rational faculty and act according to it, etc. a very important constitutive part of happiness. That is precisely why I don’t endorse the “freedom” to submit oneself to some kind of tyrannical authority (with the extreme case being the slavery contract).

            That’s not because I “don’t like freedom”. Rather, it’s because that represents the alienation of one’s freedom.

            So yes, the social repression and enforced conformity of the Amish is a major part of my dislike for their culture.

            I do, of course, object to their being religious. But I don’t consider being “religious” in the way most Americans are religious a very serious problem. The problem is that the Amish do take it seriously, and they have an effective system of social pressure meant to shape people into a mold of life that is not suited to the needs of the human being as a rational, individual, this-worldly being.

            If the Amish conception of human nature and the universe were correct, then they would have a good system and a good culture. But as it is…

            The morality is good if it is founded on a true estimate of the consequences of human actions. But if it is founded on a false theology, it is founded on a false estimate of the consequences of human actions; and the circumstance that it is supported by the theology to which it refers is an argument against, and not in favour of, that theology.

            @ Mary:

            To the extent that they honestly think it’s true, they are not immoral or to blame. To that extent, they are victims of an ideology which has evil consequences.

            If it turned out that they were right and I wrong, then my ideology would be evil, but I would not be immoral or to blame because I am (in my estimation) honestly convinced that it is correct. Obviously, no one else can confirm without personal knowledge of me whether I am honest or not.

            Therefore, neither do I make disparaging comments about the personal character of individual Amish people. When I say I don’t like the Amish, I mean that I don’t like the Amish way of life. Not that I have ill will toward them as individuals. If I had ill will toward them as individuals, I would approve of their system, since I think it is harmful toward them.

            I certainly don’t think it is, in any significant way, harmful toward me. It would be if it became popular, but this is highly unlikely because it is so contrary to human nature.

          • Jaskologist says:

            So, if studies show that Amish are on average happier than non-Amish Americans, would you concede that they are not evil, and a probably better than us?

            (Not a leading question. I don’t have studies in hand, but I know which way I’d bet.)

          • Mary says:

            “I hate the Amish. I am not joking.”

            and

            “To the extent that they honestly think it’s true, they are not immoral or to blame. To that extent, they are victims of an ideology which has evil consequences.”

            So do you think they are dishonest or hate them because they are victims who are not immoral or to blame?

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Jaskologist:

            If I were convinced that the Amish lifestyle actually made people happier, yes.

            But I don’t know how studies would measure that. It is an extremely difficult thing to measure in general. For instance, suppose you ask them to rate on a scale of 1-10 how satisfied they are with life. How do you answer that question if, for instance, you’re pretty miserable right now, but expect things to all be worth it because you’re going to enjoy an eternal reward in heaven?

            And in a larger sense, on the one hand, yes, an expectation of amelioration makes present troubles easier to bear.

            On the other hand, maybe your belief in the eternal reward makes you take on more burdens than you otherwise would.

            Do you agree that Christianity often tells people to do things that are painful now but which will be rewarded in the life to come? Or do you believe that Christianity counsels a course identical to that pursued by the man who wants only earthly happiness and cares nothing for the supernatural? You can’t have it both ways.

            @ Mary:

            I spoke imprecisely before. I later clarified this by saying that I hate the Amish way of life, not that I bear ill will towards them as individuals.

            I think to some degree they are responsible for their own choices, but to a larger extent (in most cases) victims. And to the extent that they are to blame, it is the same kind of blame that one has for a drug addict or an alcoholic who mainly harms himself. The reaction is contempt and a desire that he shape up so that he can stop wasting his potential.

            It’s not the reaction one has toward a murderer, or someone else who harms other people, which is a desire to make him suffer as his victims for what he has done. Though that is my reaction toward e.g. the rapists in the story I linked and the people who covered it up.

            ***

            For that matter, both of you ought to think they are far more evil than I think, since they are heretics who are perverting the Word of God. That’s the part I don’t get.

            For instance, they deny infants and even quite old children the rite of baptism, putting the ones who die in serious danger of eternal damnation in hell.

          • “If I were convinced that the Amish lifestyle actually made people happier, yes.

            But I don’t know how studies would measure that. ”

            There is an approach popular with economists. It’s called revealed preference.

            Not perfect, since people can make mistakes, but probably better than the guess of a not terribly well informed outside observer.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ David Friedman:

            As I pointed out, this approach does not work if the preferences of the Amish are contingent on a fact which is not true.

            Does anyone suppose that the Amish would prefer to live that way if they thought their religion false?

            To give another example, suppose I tell you that I am going to jump off the Empire State building because I believe I will bounce off the ground and fly up into air, and it will be a really exhilarating experience. Is it reasonable for you to say, “Well, I guess I can’t tell any better than you whether that’s really going to maximize your happiness”? My preference is not to hit the ground and die; my preference is to bounce into the air and have a great time.

            This is almost as silly as denying that there is such a thing as weakness of will or mental illness.

          • Anonymous says:

            That is precisely why I don’t endorse the “freedom” to submit oneself to some kind of tyrannical authority (with the extreme case being the slavery contract).

            Tyrant!

          • Mary says:

            I spoke imprecisely before. I later clarified this by saying that I hate the Amish way of life, not that I bear ill will towards them as individuals.

            I think you mean “inaccurately” not “imprecisely.”

            I think to some degree they are responsible for their own choices, but to a larger extent (in most cases) victims. And to the extent that they are to blame, it is the same kind of blame that one has for a drug addict or an alcoholic who mainly harms himself.

            Are you sure you want to disown hating them? ‘Cause this oozing contempt is the very opposite of an improvement. It’s positively dehumanizing.

          • “Does anyone suppose that the Amish would prefer to live that way if they thought their religion false?”

            My impression is that what holds people into the community isn’t the fear of going to hell but the belief that it’s a superior style of life. It probably wouldn’t work without the religion, but I don’t think it’s a matter of “we’re having a terrible life on Earth but will be repaid in heaven.”

            More “by obeying the dictates of our religion we have a better life on Earth than our non-Amish neighbors, which is one piece of evidence that our religion is true.”

            To put it differently, their picture of English society (i.e. us) isn’t “they are all having a great time but just wait.” It’s more “they are wasting their lives keeping up with the Joneses.” A good deal of overlap with conventional left wing critiques of “consumer society.”

          • “aimless hippie existence”

            I don’t think you were trying to generalize about all hippies, but this reminds me that I could check an impression that hippies split into two paths– burnout and hippy craftsman, which depended on whether the individual had enough conscientiousness and sense of self-preservation to build a functional life. For those who know more about hippies than I do, what sorts of things tended to actually happen?

            Well, actually, three paths– I assume some rejoined (or joined, in the case of children of hippies) mainstream society.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Mary:

            I think you mean “inaccurately” not “imprecisely.”

            If I say, “I hate the Mongols”, does that necessarily mean I hate every Mongol man, woman, and child as an individual? No, it’s vague. It could mean that, or it could mean that I hate the Mongol culture and their savage conquests.

            Are you sure you want to disown hating them? ‘Cause this oozing contempt is the very opposite of an improvement. It’s positively dehumanizing.

            Nope, contempt is the attitude I want to convey.

            I don’t think it’s dehumanizing; I think it’s rather the opposite. It means I look down on them for wasting their human potential, which they could still regain.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Speaking of “aimless hippie existence”, a fascinating essay by Molly Sechrest: “Atlas Shrugged in Haight-Ashbury“.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Vox – “But I don’t know how studies would measure that. It is an extremely difficult thing to measure in general. ”

            …And yet you are sufficiently certain of your own assessment that you feel your hatred of their voluntarily-chosen way of life is justified?

            “Does anyone suppose that the Amish would prefer to live that way if they thought their religion false?”

            …Having abandoned Christianity due to a belief that it was making my life miserable, I returned to it when I discovered that my life without it was miserable anyway, and that returning to it made it less so. As you noted, being able to write off present pain by appeal to the hereafter does actually make present pain more manageable. You can call that religion as a crutch if you like, but in my experience worldview shapes how pain can reach and effect one to a considerable degree.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ FacelessCraven:

            Yes, because I think ethical questions like this are to be decided by philosophical reasoning, not asking people to rate their satisfaction with life on a scale of 1-10.

            As I quoted above, there are two very different kinds of reasons for people to support a free society.

            One is the view based on ignorance: I don’t know how people ought to live, so I’m just going to let them do whatever they want by default, “a liberty for every man to do what he lists”.

            The other is the view based on knowledge: I know how people ought to live, and one requirement for their flourishing is individual autonomy, so I’m going to make sure we have a society that supports people in their attempt to pursue happiness as individuals, free from coercion and excessive social pressure and control.

            I don’t think the view based on ignorance actually works to support a free society: if you don’t know how people ought to live, how can you know that they’re not better off under the collective rule of the village? The view based on ignorance implies every kind of moral agnosticism and relativism. To repeat the central part of the quote:

            It was the great achievement of the classical liberals, not that they threw up their hands at the question of the good life, but that they rightly understood that the good life requires freedom. Yes, of course that included a wide realm of autonomy in making moral choices, but such autonomy is the farthest thing from true moral agnosticism. On the contrary, it was the very idea of natural rights–that there are pre-political principles of right and wrong which the state itself must obey in its dealings with us–that was the greatest discovery of the 17th century Whigs who gave birth to libertarianism. It is certainly true that “the great danger for humankind, whether from the Taliban or the communists, has always been the totalizing impulse to turn all social complaints into justifications for political action.” But what libertarians discovered was not that these “social complaints” are somehow meaningless or matters of mere personal taste–but that it was the “totalizing impulse” that had to be restrained. Why? Because under that impulse, the good life is not possible.

            @ David Friedman:

            I think, in addition to considering the attrition rate from the Amish society, which at 10-20% is fairly high considering the tremendous social pressure to stay, you ought to consider the conversion rate into it.

            Which is almost zero.

            I think that says at least as much about the desirability of it to people who have been exposed to other alternatives and haven’t been pressured to conform to it from birth.

            On the other hand, consider the conversion rate to broadly individualistic ways of life and Enlightenment values.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            I think, in addition to considering the attrition rate from the Amish society, which at 10-20% is fairly high considering the tremendous social pressure to stay, you ought to consider the conversion rate into it.

            Which is almost zero.

            I think that says at least as much about the desirability of it to people who have been exposed to other alternatives and haven’t been pressured to conform to it from birth.

            That is extraordinarily disingenuous.

            The reason that the conversion rate to the Amish is nearly zero… is because they don’t any of the people who want to join them in. It’s not like they’re out there hustling for new recruits and everyone is turning their noses up: there is a stream of “Seekers” trying to get in at any given time, with almost all of them being turned away. Mennonites are a classic ethno-religious group like Jews: conversion is technically possible but really you do have to be born into it for the most part.

            (That said, Mennonite missionaries apparently are doing quite well in Africa and Asia. Their Central / South American branches are to the best of my knowledge still ethnically German, just looking for cheaper farmland abroad. Neither fact is particularly relevant but they’re both interesting.)

            On the other hand, consider the conversion rate to broadly individualistic ways of life and Enlightenment values.

            And look how well it works out for them: a few more generations of Enlightenment values and the West won’t exist to hold values of any kind. Even the immigrants being brought in to replace us are starting to see their fertility rates plummet towards the negatives. And the more “benefits” said values give you as an individual, in terms of education and wealth, the less likely you are to have children.

            Meanwhile, even the crappier low-retention rate Plain People sects like the Black Bumper Mennonites (named after their use of automobiles) can nearly double their populations within two decades. Given that they’ve been at the epicenter of liberalism for centuries and can still maintain exponential growth, it’s possible they’ll be the only Europeans to actually ride out the Enlightenment.

          • Anonymous says:

            I think, in addition to considering the attrition rate from the Amish society, which at 10-20% is fairly high considering the tremendous social pressure to stay, you ought to consider the conversion rate into it.

            Defection rates used to be much higher than they are now. My theory on that is that the Amish have not changed, but the outside world has, which made staying Amish a better option than previously.

          • Dr. Dealgood: “Mennonites are a classic ethno-religious group like Jews: conversion is technically possible but really you do have to be born into it for the most part.”

            Conversion to Judaism is quite possible, but the details are complicated by variation between different groups of Jews, and it’s more complicated in Israel where it’s also political. My impression is that it can take a couple or three years, but I await further information.

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

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @Nancy,

            Yes, you can in fact convert to Judaism. But as you point out it’s not easy and it’s very rare. That’s the exactly the comparison I was drawing:

            ~98% of Jews were born into the religion, with one in fifty being converts.
            ~99.8% of traditional Anabaptists were raised in the communities they eventually be baptized into, with one in five hundred coming from the outside world.

            It’s not a perfect analogy, given the order of magnitude difference, but otherwise it works. Different sects of Jews and traditional Anabaptists have their own requirements to join, both communities are thought of as being ethnic or cultural groups as much as religions, and neither proselytizes to any great extent.

          • I would call 2% rare rather than very rare.

            I’m not sure how important the difference is, but I’ve seen all too many people say (even in the era when Sammy Davis Junior was a famous convert to Judaism) that conversion to Judaism is impossible.

            I suppose conversion to Judaism looks very rare and hard compared to the Protestants who say just come up and be baptized, and only moderately challenging compared to Anabaptists, the Amish, or Zoroastrians.

            Conversion to Catholicism is a big deal, and it sounds like it’s roughly as much work as converting to Judaism if you ignore circumcision.

            Just so you know what argument you’re in, even though I never exactly believed in Judaism as a religion, I’m protective of Judaism because I’m nervous about anti-Semites. If I hear anything that sounds like “Jews, the aliens among us”, I’m likely to push back.

          • Jiro says:

            Defection rates used to be much higher than they are now. My theory on that is that the Amish have not changed, but the outside world has, which made staying Amish a better option than previously.

            Another theory is that the switching and transaction costs are much greater. If you have to go to college to survive in society, if you have to drive a car, if you have to use a computer, escaping the Amish is going to be much harder.

          • Deiseach says:

            So your basic objection is “They live in a fashion I personally would find intolerable”.

            If they are wasting their human potential, what about every commune, group, movement and bunch of people who decide to live outside of the rat-race of Western industrialised society? Are they all wasting their human potential (“why did you give up your job as a software engineer to raise chickens”)? Should the hypothetical software engineer who gave up the high-paying job in Silicon Valley because they were utterly miserable be forced back into it, because it is a waste of their expensive university education and their skills and experience, when any idiot can raise chickens?

            Are you going to demand every single family and household in the USA produce kids that go on to university and end up with a degree in a STEM subject by law, or else they will be subject to legal and social penalties?

            Because you are saying that your main objection is the crushing and stifling pressure the Amish exert on their members, but your idea of a good society seems equally as stifling – everyone can do what they like as long as it meets with your approval as to what a citizen of the industrial society should do.

          • ” If you have to go to college to survive in society, if you have to drive a car, if you have to use a computer, escaping the Amish is going to be much harder.”

            Quite a lot of Amish succeed in starting small businesses, despite not having gone to college. Lots of Amish work in other ways that non-Amish also work, such as construction.

            Arguably, being home schooled in how to run a farm is better preparation for many careers than a conventional education.

            Some children of Amish learn to drive before the point at which they become Amish and are obligated to follow their congregation’s ordnung. Both driving and using a computer are things you can learn as an adult.

            I learned to use a computer as an adult. My daughter, age 25, is currently learning to drive.

          • Mary says:

            “If I say, “I hate the Mongols”, does that necessarily mean I hate every Mongol man, woman, and child as an individual? No, it’s vague.”

            If you clarified that you only hate some Mongols or some Amish, then you would have a claim to have actually spoken imprecisely.

            What you actually said was,

            “I spoke imprecisely before. I later clarified this by saying that I hate the Amish way of life, not that I bear ill will towards them as individuals.”

            Which means not that you did not draw subtle enough distinctions but that your original statement — “I hate the Amish. I am not joking.” — did not in fact talk about the target of your hatred.

            Nope, contempt is the attitude I want to convey.

            Well, DUH. That is why I didn’t ask whether you mention to convey contempt but whether your conveying it was prudent.

            I don’t think it’s dehumanizing; I think it’s rather the opposite. It means I look down on them for wasting their human potential, which they could still regain.

            How on earth can they be wasting their human potential when they are victims?

          • Mary says:

            “To give another example, suppose I tell you that I am going to jump off the Empire State building because I believe I will bounce off the ground and fly up into air, and it will be a really exhilarating experience. Is it reasonable for you to say, “Well, I guess I can’t tell any better than you whether that’s really going to maximize your happiness”? ”

            My oh my. You compare people who are living contented and prosperous lives by any objective measure with a lethal delusion?

          • Mary says:

            I know how people ought to live, and one requirement for their flourishing is individual autonomy, so I’m going to make sure we have a society that supports people in their attempt to pursue happiness as individuals, free from coercion and excessive social pressure and control.

            This would be considerably more plausible if you showed the slightest scintilla of respect for the individual autonomy of the Amish.

            Or if “society” did not consist of individuals whom you are going to have to coerce, or at least put under enormous social pressure and control, to force them to “support” other individuals. Which, life being what is is, is going cut into their ability to pursue happiness as individuals.

          • Jiro says:

            Should the hypothetical software engineer who gave up the high-paying job in Silicon Valley because they were utterly miserable be forced back into it,

            Raising chickens as your own choice is fine. Raising chickens as a consequence of false beliefs is pitiful (Your hypothetical doesn’t include any false beliefs, but you’re comparing it to the Amish, who do). Bringing up your children so the only job they are qualified for is raising chickens (or one of a tiny set including raising chickens) is despicable.

            This is equally true for being an engineer as for raising chickens, but raising a child so he’s only qualified for engineering pretty much never happens.

            (With the usual disclaimer: that assumes you have a reasonable choice. If you don’t, it sucks, but it’s not your fault.)

          • “Raising chickens as a consequence of false beliefs is pitiful ”

            What false beliefs do you believe underly the Amish life pattern?

            I’ve never seen anything suggesting that Amish believe what they are doing will get them into heaven, and wouldn’t be worth doing otherwise. If you read Amish criticisms of the English lifestyle, they aren’t “they are going to go to hell” but more nearly “they have miserable lives focused on unimportant things like competitive consumption.”

            The Amish view seems to come down to:

            “Our pattern of life is good.”

            Where “good” is some mixture of “is virtuous,” a normative claim, and “results in people having satisfying lives,” a positive claim. The positive claim seems consistent with the evidence, and in order to show the normative claim is false you need some way of proving what normative claims are true, which runs into Hume’s is/ought problem.

            So far as the idea that the Amish are reared to be only able to raise chickens, or something analogous, I don’t see how you can support it given the substantial range of different ways in which Amish make a living.

          • Jiro says:

            nto heaven, and wouldn’t be worth doing otherwise. If you read Amish criticisms of the English lifestyle, they aren’t “they are going to go to hell” but more nearly “they have miserable lives focused on unimportant things like competitive consumption.”

            “I believe their lives are miserable because Jesus told me so” is every bit a religious belief as “I believe they are going to Hell”.

            The positive claim seems consistent with the evidence

            The positive claim shows one of the problems with measuring utility by happiness. Studies show that people’s happiness often returns to a set level regardless of good or bad things happening to them.

            We cah look at revealed preferences here. It’s a lot easier for people in normal society to go live like Amish (regardless of whether they join an existing Amish community) than for Amish to live like people from normal society. But they don’t.

            I don’t see how you can support it given the substantial range of different ways in which Amish make a living.

            The range of ways the Amish make a living is substantial compared to zero or one, but not substantial compared to non-Amish society.

          • Jiro says:

            Quite a lot of Amish succeed in starting small businesses, despite not having gone to college. Lots of Amish work in other ways that non-Amish also work, such as construction.

            As I pointed out before, “all A are B” and “most B are not A” are not inconsistent statements.

            You’re trying to rebut the claim that Amish can’t do most non-Amish jobs by pointing out that all Amish do non-Amish jobs. This is fallacious.

          • Matt C says:

            If Amish have a 10% – 20% defection rate, that’s enough to actually get an idea of why people leave the society and how much trouble they have making their way in the world. Has anybody looked at this?

            Myself, I wouldn’t assume an 18 year old ex Amish is much worse off in terms of useful skills and habits than an average grad from a average public high school. Maybe, but I’m inclined to doubt it. I think it was this same post where the other guy was talking about how his co-workers couldn’t do basic division.

          • ““I believe their lives are miserable because Jesus told me so” is every bit a religious belief as “I believe they are going to Hell”.”

            I conjecture that you haven’t actually read anything Amish write on the subject.

            “I believe their lives are miserable because I observe them and they don’t seem to have nearly as good lives as we do, and my conclusion is supported by quite a lot of critical writing about the evils of modern life coming from non-Amish sources” would be closer to what they actually say.

            So far as non-Amish adopting an Amish lifestyle, I think you underestimate the difficulties. You can’t do it by yourself. You have to put together a group of at least 25 families, all of them willing to make and most to maintain a lifetime commitment. You have to work out a set of institutions that works. It helps if you all learn a second language as well as English, to create a symbolic link separating you from the rest of the society you are embedded in.

          • “You’re trying to rebut the claim that Amish can’t do most non-Amish jobs ”

            I am not. As I think I already pointed out, most people cannot do (are poorly prepared for) most jobs.

            I am trying to rebut the claim that there are so few non-Amish jobs that Amish can do as to create a serious barrier to exit from the Amish lifestyle. If the hypothetical exiting individual has his choice among 10% of the jobs available in the outside world, that still provides him lots of options.

            We know that Amish are adequately prepared for farming, starting small businesses, and construction work, because quite a lot of Amish do those things. I expect one could make a considerably longer list. The fact that they are not adequately prepared to be engineers or physics professors isn’t a serious barrier to exit.

          • onyomi says:

            I’m going to indulge in a bit of Bulverism and observe that the hatred some people seem to feel towards the Amish is out of proportion to the stated reasons for that hatred. Feels a little like trying to convince oneself: “I am an investment banker with a posh apartment, a hot wife, a ferrari, and season tickets to the met yet I still have to see my psychiatrist once a week; these weird, backward farmers with their ridiculous beliefs aren’t even allowed to wear shiny buttons and yet they report higher life satisfaction than me and my friends? Well, they can’t really be happy…”

          • Nita says:

            Amish men are dominate in the culture and that girls are taught they should be submissive to the men (and boys) from the time they can understand the concept. Most Amish do not educate their children about sex, so girls can easily fall prey to sexual abuse. They often have no reference to know what is happening to them, even as the abuse takes place. And to make matters worse, the usual avenues for getting help are not available to Amish children. Very often abuses are first noticed and reported by schoolteachers in mainstream society, but even that avenue is blocked for most Amish children who attend their own parochial schools.

            Even if people in the community know of abuse, they will usually not intervene on behalf of the children, because they do not want to be seen as meddling in other families’ everyday lives.

            (source)

          • “If Amish have a 10% – 20% defection rate, that’s enough to actually get an idea of why people leave the society and how much trouble they have making their way in the world.”

            According to what I’ve read, Amish who defect from relatively high (i.e. moderate) congregations tend to join the Mennonites or other Amish-like groups. Amish who defect from low (i.e. extreme) congregations tend to go much farther from where they started, socially speaking.

            But I’m afraid I can’t offer more details than that.

          • brad says:

            I’m going to indulge in a bit of Bulverism and observe that the hatred some people seem to feel towards the Amish is out of proportion to the stated reasons for that hatred.

            The big puzzle isn’t the content of opinions about the Amish, it’s that so many here have them in the first place. Other than on SSC I’ve never seen or heard anyone express much of an opinion about the Amish at all. Good or bad.

            I gather the origin of the phenomenon is some corner of the philosophy that must not be named has decided to hold them up as paragons of all that’s good and pure and right?

          • “Studies show that people’s happiness often returns to a set level regardless of good or bad things happening to them.”

            I thought that turned out to be not very well supported– small study, exaggerated in the press. Anyone remember the link?

          • NN says:

            “Studies show that people’s happiness often returns to a set level regardless of good or bad things happening to them.”

            I thought that turned out to be not very well supported– small study, exaggerated in the press. Anyone remember the link?

            Here.

          • Jiro says:

            “I believe their lives are miserable because I observe them and they don’t seem to have nearly as good lives as we do, and my conclusion is supported by quite a lot of critical writing about the evils of modern life coming from non-Amish sources” would be closer to what they actually say.

            Wikipedia seems to disagree with you about whether Amish life is related to religion. (I know it can be inaccurate, but I doubt this is a subject prone to Wikipedia inaccuracy.)

            Though of course serious religious believers generally claim that non-religious sources support their religious beliefs.

            brad:

            The big puzzle isn’t the content of opinions about the Amish, it’s that so many here have them in the first place.

            Amish practices superficially pattern-match to things that the larger culture is taught to respect and which may actually be applause lights. They’re humble, kind, religious, hard-working, nonviolent, etc. It would be rare for someone not used to rational criticism to criticise such people. Who can be against someone who’s humble, regardless of how he treats his gay son in private? And shunning isn’t violent.

            NN:

            Here.

            Most of those seem to be slow adaptation, not non-adaptation. I also suspect that sour grapes is a lot easier for the Amish–not many unemployed people say “well, being employed isn’t that great, I don’t need a job anyway” and not many people whose parents die say “well, who needs living parents anyway”.

          • Jiro says:

            I am trying to rebut the claim that there are so few non-Amish jobs that Amish can do as to create a serious barrier to exit from the Amish lifestyle.

            There are several, related, claims here.

            — Children raised Amish have fewer options than children raised non-Amish, if they do leave. (This is a criticism of the Amish’s treatment of children, not a statement about why they leave.)

            — Having fewer options upon leaving makes it difficult to leave.

            — Having fewer options upon leaving decreases the benefit to an Amish from leaving

          • onyomi says:

            “I gather the origin of the phenomenon is some corner of the philosophy that must not be named has decided to hold them up as paragons of all that’s good and pure and right”

            I don’t think so. Scott himself is interested in the “archipelago” idea of countless breakaway communities–a kind of Nozickian utopia, arguably–and many of his commenters, myself included, share that interest, as well as an interest in alternative modes of social organization. Also, I think David Friedman has made a particular study of them because of their decentralized legal system of sorts (Ordnung).

          • John Schilling says:

            I gather the origin of the phenomenon is some corner of the philosophy that must not be named has decided to hold them up as paragons of all that’s good and pure and right?

            As onyomi notes, the Amish are an example of a successful breakaway community. Probably the most obvious example of such in contemporary Western civilization. That’s interesting, and often relevant.

            We are talking about the Amish here today because when someone mentioned them in passing, Vox Imp responded with literal, explicit, persistent hatred expressed in terms rarely used here for communists, SJWs, or actual Nazis. And a few others seem inclined to back him up on that, but really, if you insist on treating people as generally inoffensive as the Amish as the greatest evil in the land, you’re going to get pushback.

            If you mistake this as a bunch of Death Eaters holding up the Amish as icons of social perfection, I think you have completely missed the point.

          • “Also, I think David Friedman has made a particular study of them because of their decentralized legal system of sorts (Ordnung).”

            That’s one of the interesting things about them, but the reason I studied them was that I’m working on a book on legal systems very different from ours, growing out of a seminar I taught for some years on that topic. The Amish and the Gypsies are examples of very different legal systems that function within the modern world. Jewish and Muslim law are also still around in some form, but I’m more interested in how they worked in the past.

          • “Wikipedia seems to disagree with you about whether Amish life is related to religion.”

            The argument isn’t about whether their life is related to religion but about what the reasons are that make them see their life as superior to the lives of the English. I don’t see anything in the Wikipedia article implying that they think they are sacrificing happiness on Earth in order to get happiness in heaven, or even in order to do God’s will.

            Obviously their view of what behavior is admirable is affected by their religion. But, as I pointed out in another response, whether to you or another poster I don’t remember, unless you have some way of showing what normative views are true it’s hard to find a basis for considering theirs false.

          • Thank you very much. I’ve saved the link to pinboard.

          • Jiro, is there any way to tell whether Amish children are at much more risk of being abused than non-Amish children?

          • Jaskologist says:

            @Vox Imperatoris

            Yes, of course Christianity sometimes tells people to make choices which do not pay off in this life. But on balance, I think it encourages choices which do lead to healthier, happier lives this side of eternity (and I have studies to back that up). Most of this can be summed up as pushing people towards being more low time preference.

            That balance can change depending on the level of persecution a Christian faces in their society, but the Amish are several centuries removed from any serious persecution. There’s no martyrdom cutting their lives short. So currently they live long, healthy lives with high reproductive success and what I’d wager is a high level of happiness, if we could find a way to measure that.

            If they are wrong about the eternal benefits in the way you think they are, they will never find it out, so there’s no big let-down to offset their present happiness. So what’s the down-side?

          • Nita says:

            My impression is that what holds people into the community isn’t the fear of going to hell but the belief that it’s a superior style of life.

            So, does everyone here actually live a life of mindless hedonism, stuck in an endless race to keep up with the Joneses? Are you disconnected from your family and secretly miserable?

            If the picture of the outside world presented to Amish children is inaccurate, their choice to stay does not seem so free after all.

            Here’s a quote from Scott’s Archipelago idea:

            And although there is no perfect, elegant solution here, the practical solution is that UniGov enforces some pretty strict laws on child-rearing, and every child, no matter what other education they receive, also has to receive a class taught by a UniGov representative in which they learn about the other communities in the Archipelago, receive a basic non-brainwashed view of the world, and are given directions to their nearest UniGov representative who they can give their opt-out request to.

          • Anonymous says:

            If the picture of the outside world presented to Amish children is inaccurate, their choice to stay does not seem so free after all.

            My impression is that you’d only switch one indoctrinator for another.

          • “does everyone here actually live a life of mindless hedonism, stuck in an endless race to keep up with the Joneses?”

            I don’t. Criticisms along those lines are pretty common in the non-Amish world, but I think considerably exaggerated.

            But I’m not sure that the Amish perception of the English is more distorted than the perception some here seem to have of the Amish.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @John Schilling

            Look on the bright side, if any Communists, SJWs, or actual Nazis do show up they’ll be able to say “at least we aren’t Amish”.

          • brad says:

            @onyomi

            I don’t think so. Scott himself is interested in the “archipelago” idea of countless breakaway communities …

            I stand corrected.

          • Jiro says:

            But I’m not sure that the Amish perception of the English is more distorted than the perception some here seem to have of the Amish.

            The Amish don’t disapprove of outsiders’ lifestyle because they rationally analyzed information about the outside and concluded they don’t like it. They disapprove of outsiders’ lifestyle because God tells them that the outsiders’ lifestyle is bad, and their “nonreligious” reasons for why the outside is bad consist of interpreting everything to be consistent with their religion. It’s like creationists claiming that science supports creation, except that it’s easier to make a biased interpretation sound plausible when they’re biased about something that has subjective elements.

          • Jiro says:

            Jaskologist:

            If they are wrong about the eternal benefits in the way you think they are, they will never find it out, so there’s no big let-down to offset their present happiness. So what’s the down-side?

            What’s the downside to having your spouse cheat on you, as long as you never find out and your spouse doesn’t bring you any diseases or get pregnant?

            Measuring happiness has problems with blissful ignorance (as well as with wireheading).

            Deseach:

            Are you going to demand every single family and household in the USA produce kids that go on to university and end up with a degree in a STEM subject by law, or else they will be subject to legal and social penalties?

            You are confusing “children should be forced into STEM” and “children should not be deliberately hindered from going into STEM”. Being forced to do something is not the same thing as not being hindered.

            (And I’m talking about extreme levels of hindering. Telling your kid “you might want to consider not becoming an engineer, they work long hours” is one thing. Only giving them an 8th grade education is another.)

            JS:

            but really, if you insist on treating people as generally inoffensive as the Amish as the greatest evil in the land

            That’s what I mean about pattern-matching to applause lights. People automatically treat “inoffensive” and “hard-working” as a sign of a good guy. The level of criticism here seems high only because the level elsewhere is unusually low, and the level elsewhere is unusually low because people who are not into rationalism fall for such superficial traits and descriptions of traits.

            It’s the same reason why anyone who is not Christopher Hitchens thinks of Mother Teresa as a good guy. She’s humble and helps the poor, and those are good things, right?

            Nancy:

            Jiro, is there any way to tell whether Amish children are at much more risk of being abused than non-Amish children?

            It depends on what you mean by abuse. Is there such a thing as punishing a child for being gay in a non-abusive manner?

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            Happiness is just a buzzword when you can’t actually think of any real reasons as to why the lifestyle is good, don’t use it.

          • John Schilling says:

            What, other than happiness, would count as a “real reason as to why the lifestyle is good”?

            Reproductive fitness, the Amish have got in a way that the rest of Western civilization doesn’t. Aside from happiness and reproductive fitness, what constitutes a good lifestyle?

            Wait, wait, I know this one – involves lamentations of women, right? Or skyscraper-building. One of the two. Amish suck at both of those. But seriously, what is the metric you are optimizing for here?

          • Replying to Jiro:

            Nancy:

            “Jiro, is there any way to tell whether Amish children are at much more risk of being abused than non-Amish children?”

            It depends on what you mean by abuse. Is there such a thing as punishing a child for being gay in a non-abusive manner?

            *****

            It’s plausible that all gay children in Amish families are abused, while many in non-Amish families aren’t.

            However, if you look at the risk of abuse for all children, the answer is much less obvious. For example, children in Amish families presumably aren’t subject to extreme poverty. I’m guessing that children in Amish families are less likely to be abused for being fat– and not just because they’re less likely to be fat, but because extreme status-based standards for thinness are (I hope) not in play.

          • Jiro says:

            Nancy: The point that “abused” can mean several things here. It can mean treatment of children that nobody should do, ever, such as locking them in a closet. It can also mean treatment of children that is out of proportion to the wrong they’ve committed. Then whether a punishment is “abuse” depends on what it was a punishment for. Sending a child to bed without dessert is not generally considered abuse. But is it abuse to send a child to bed without dessert because he refuses to admit his same-sex attraction is sinful?

            Also, just looking at the amount of abuse can be misleading. Totalitarian governments often don’t punish lots of people for dissent. They just make it clear what the punishment is, and few people will dissent in the first place. Asking “well, how many people are actually punished for dissent” will be misleadingly low. The same applies to children who are not abused very much because they are being threatened with abuse and know better than to disobey.

            And even if you could overcome those hurdles, it’s inherently hard to find out how many Amish children are abused. The Amish are a closed society. You can’t exactly look at police reports of abuse of Amish children or see how often their neighbors notice children with injuries.

          • “The Amish don’t disapprove of outsiders’ lifestyle because they rationally analyzed information about the outside and concluded they don’t like it. They disapprove of outsiders’ lifestyle because God tells them that the outsiders’ lifestyle is bad”

            You know this how?

            What is your explanation for all the non-Amish, typically on the left, who have a similar view of what they see as a materialistic and consumerist life pattern? There is a song I find particularly irritating about “little houses made of ticky-tack.” I doubt it was written by an Amish.

          • John Schilling says:

            What is your explanation for all the non-Amish, typically on the left, who have a similar view of what they see as a materialistic and consumerist life pattern

            Or for that matter all the devoutly Christian, typically on the right, who cherish material wealth and consumerism as indicators of divine favor?

            Ascetic-Materialistic is a different axis than Atheist-Christian.

          • Jiro says:

            There are many people on the left who would express sentiments about modern society that use similar words to the Amish. There are not many people on the left who would actually mean the same thing that the Amish do. You might occasionally see leftists build communes where television and computers are banned, children are not educated past 8th grade, and only a few manual labor jobs are accepted, but I would hardly say they are common.

            (As for why there are Christians who are okay with consumerism, the answer is that I don’t think their god is the same as the Amish one. Cue other thread….)

          • “There are not many people on the left who would actually mean the same thing that the Amish do. ”

            Again, you know this how?

            My guess is that part of the basis for the Amish view of the English is reading conventional non-Amish criticism of “consumerism” and the like. Another part of it is the correct observation that marriages among the English are much less stable than among the Amish, that family bonds are weaker, that lots of features of the Amish lifestyle that the Amish like are missing or weak.

            They probably exaggerate the faults, as people tend to do when comparing their society to others.

            There are not many on the left who would be as successful as the Amish in rejecting the standard lifestyle, but there are some who try. The fact that the Amish have a working version of an alternative style of life strikes me as a point in their favor.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ David Friedman
            > > “does everyone here actually live a life of mindless hedonism, stuck in an endless race to keep up with the Joneses?”

            > I don’t.

            Er, not to use the p-word, but it’s not just the Joneses who would have to keep up with you, but the Cabots and the Lodges, and God.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            Seconding houseboatonstyx here.

            I’m lucky that I have one genuinely meaningful thing in my life, my research, that gives me a purpose to organize around. Other than that though I’d say mindless hedonism is a good descriptor at present: an active sex life but no significant romantic relationships, guys to smoke or drink with but few real friends, a more-or-less stable financial situation but no community or family to speak of. And of course a high dose of antidepressants, which are much more effective than you would guess from my emo rant.

            I’m still young, and obviously a lot of people have better networks than me for various reasons. But it seems like a rather large slice of the country is in a similar boat as I am but with less money. You’re very lucky to be doing as well as you are, and I’m genuinely glad for you, but it’s not normal to be free of the rat race.

            (Please don’t take this as me telling you to check your privilege and shut up by the way. I mean it more as a reminder that there are a lot of people who actually are alienated in modern society. It’s a cliche but that cliche exists for a reason.)

          • @houseboatonstyx:

            I think part of the point of the “keeping up with the Joneses” idea is that, however well you do, you can always find someone doing better who you have to try to keep up with.

            I have been very fortunate in many ways. But there are people who got tenure at a better school than I did, whose books sold many more copies. I’m never going to get a Nobel prize or, more important, deserve to get one. If I wanted to find people I would have to struggle to catch up with, I could. But choose not to.

            Take it from the other side. By any absolute standard, you too are fantastically privileged. You live in a society where the average real per capita income is twenty to thirty times as high as it was in most of the world through most of history. You can get at almost any book you would want to read at little or zero cost, listen to almost any music you want.

            @Dealgood:

            I can believe that there are people who are alienated and unhappy—I’ve been arguing that the Amish view of the English is exaggerated but not entirely baseless.

            Back to @Houseboat. A true story.

            I was an assistant professor of econ at UCLA and didn’t get tenure. The department chairman commented to me that I was a smart guy and if I just followed the journals and wrote articles about whatever topics were currently hot, I would build the sort of publication record that would get me tenure at someplace like UCLA.

            My response: “I suppose I could. If you were in my position, would you?”

            He: No.

            That would have been my version of keeping up with the Joneses.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ David Friedman

            My Joneses comment sure came out wrong. Got the Lowells and Lodges mixed up too. Sorry.

          • Jiro says:

            Again, you know this how?

            Leftists who say “we’re too consumerist” are common. Leftists who say that and then indicate, either by word or deed, that what they mean is that they disapprove of a similar set of features of modern life to what the Amish disapprove of when they use similar words, are really, really, rare. Denying that and asking “how… you know” something as obvious as water being wet is disingenuous.

          • Jaskologist says:

            @Nita

            So, does everyone here actually live a life of mindless hedonism, stuck in an endless race to keep up with the Joneses? Are you disconnected from your family and secretly miserable?

            Compared to the Amish, I think we all do.

            They have a much thicker idea of family connection than “visit on holidays and hopefully call your parents biweekly.” How many of us have made a special effort to stay within a quick drive of our parents? How many of us decided to pursue a higher paying job (ie: money) instead, even if that was out of state?

            Amish have 6-8 children, so by the numbers they like kids at least twice as much as us. We might protest that we couldn’t possibly afford that many kids, but the Amish are clear proof that we could. There are just other things we would rather spend the money on. Again, materialism over family. I mean, our society outright encourages delaying marriage and childbearing in order to focus on making money (euphemised as “career”) instead.

            I don’t see how we avoid the pretty clear revealed preference here. Compared to the Amish, we are way more materialistic, and way less pro-family.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Jaskologist:

            The question is whether such a policy represents “mindless hedonism” making you “secretly miserable”, not whether there is a difference in family arrangements between normal Americans and the Amish, which I don’t think anyone questions.

          • Nita says:

            @ Jaskologist

            In my experience, most of the parents who have 1-3 children can devote a healthy amount of attention to each, while the parents who have 5 or more often end up having more of a managerial relationship with their kids. So no, I don’t think having 6-8 children is “pro-family”. Pro turning-family-into-small-business, maybe.

            It might be beneficial for a farming community to produce as much low-cost labor as possible, but using children to prop up your chosen lifestyle is not, IMO, all that admirable.

            And all those folks with “careers” aren’t just making money. Many are helping others, and some are even improving things — adding to our collective knowledge, solving problems, inventing new methods, building technologies. The fruits of their labor can persist in the long term and benefit a larger community.

            Learning new things and figuring out better ways is what makes Homo sapiens special. If your ideal is to stick to your ancestors’ customs, no matter what, you might as well encode those customs in your genes and become an ordinary species, like badgers or leaf-cutter ants.

          • John Schilling says:

            @Nita: Parents with 5+ children, typically expect the older children to devote a “healthy amount of attention” to the younger ones in parallel with the parents. This, in my experience(*), results in tighter, stronger families with everyone receiving more familial attention across a broader spectrum of interaction. It also incidentally results in young adults who are better prepared to be parents themselves, even if they chose to limit themselves to 1-2 kids.

            Describing this as “managerial” in a business sense, does not do justice to the large families I have known.

            * Skewed towards Minnesota Norwegian Farmer experience, but with a dose of the Irish-Catholic variety from my sister-in-law’s accounts.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            >In my experience, most of the parents who have 1-3 children can devote a healthy amount of attention to each, while the parents who have 5 or more often end up having more of a managerial relationship with their kids. So no, I don’t think having 6-8 children is “pro-family”. Pro turning-family-into-small-business, maybe.

            I’ll do away with the Red Tribe posturing, but I still agree with Mark that your experience does not match my experience at all.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Mark, why do you mention tenure? Does it play any role in your model?

          • Matt C says:

            Re “secretly miserable”, depression among Americans is rising, and has been rising for several decades now. We’re getting richer, and more leisured, and more depressed.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            Could it just be people being more comfortable to admit it and take drugs for it instead of viewing it as a moral failing?

          • Matt C says:

            From what I remember, there was at least an attempt to compare symptoms to symptoms rather than simply looking for diagnoses of “depression”. Comparing questions like “in the last two years, have you ever cried every day for a week”.

            You could assume that in the past people were consistently hiding the truth, and then got more gradually more forthcoming over the last seventy years, and I wouldn’t completely reject a story along these lines, but it seems awfully convenient to say this explains the entire trend.

            I got this info from Seligman’s Learned Optimism. Unfortunately I don’t remember the exact details and I don’t have a copy to hand.

            I Googled a bit. Here’s a link to the first page of an article from Seligman where he intros what I’m talking about (I remembered the details a little wrong), and he does discuss reasons why these stats might be unreliable (you might need to click Look Inside on the picture of the book cover):

            http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-1-4613-0649-8_1#page-1

            Unfortunately the article is cut off just as he starts talking about differential willingness to report symptoms. You can at least see it is an idea that is addressed. Maybe there’s a non-paygated version of the article out there somewhere, I’m interested to read it myself now.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            Thanks. The reason I’m curious is because I just finished reading The Evil Hours (mildly pop science about PTSD) and looking into trauma appears to have a very short history- I’d imagine “just hold it inside and ignore it” to have been the default.

            That said household sizes are smaller, divorce rates are up/plateaued and number of friends is down. I personally think the high mobility of Americans is a big factor for those (hard to make connections when you are going to another state), but I don’t know enough about the literature (since you could presumably use other countries to test that) to say anything remotely definite.

          • On the question of why Americans might be more depressed/less happy than in the past … .

            The obvious thing to look for is some feature of the culture they are brought up in that has changed significantly. That might be the shift away from free range kids–over protective parents. It might be a shift from teaching that some ideas are true and some false to something more like an “it’s all socially constructed” approach. It might be any of a variety of other such shifts.

            It’s tempting to identify the source of the problem as some cultural change you disapprove of, perhaps a part of Chtulhu swimming left. But there should, in principle, be ways of testing such claims, given how much variation there is in culture across the U.S. or the developed world more broadly.

          • People getting less sleep also might be a cause of depression.

          • Mary says:

            “Parents with 5+ children, typically expect the older children to devote a “healthy amount of attention” to the younger ones in parallel with the parents. ”

            There are parents who expect it in the same sense they expect the sun to rise in the morning — they say they couldn’t stop it if they wanted to.

          • Agronomous says:

            @Mary:

            My oh my. You compare people who are living contented and prosperous lives by any objective measure with a lethal delusion?

            That arguing tactic (“How dare you compare Thing Under Discussion to Bad Thing!”) is bad and you should feel bad stop using it.

      • Jiro says:

        But, judged by revealed preference, theirs seems to work pretty well.

        It “seems to work pretty well” because of switching costs and transaction costs. There’s a huge barrier in the way of any Amish person who wants to join normal society. He can’t do it without losing all his friends, family, and support network, and even learning enough about normal society to be able to make an informed decision about it is hugely expensive. And if he managed to enter normal society anyway, it would be much harder than for a similar non-Amish because the loss of his social network isn’t just a cost on its own, it also makes lots of other things harder.

        • “He can’t do it without losing all his friends, family, and support network, and even learning enough about normal society to be able to make an informed decision about it is hugely expensive.”

          There is nothing to keep someone who leaves from continuing to interact with his friends and family—Amish are free to interact with non-Amish. And “leave” is a bit misleading. The child of Amish isn’t bound by his parents’ congregation’s rules until, as an adult, he swears to be. If he never does so he hasn’t left, he has never joined.

          Why is making an informed decision hugely expensive? He’s living in a society that is mostly non-Amish, free to observe their lives.

          • Jiro says:

            There is nothing to keep someone who leaves from continuing to interact with his friends and family

            If he does so after “joining”, he gets shunned. Doing so before joining is a separate problem because people that age are vulnerable to pressure even if the pressure doesn’t rise to the level of shunning. Furthermore, they still don’t have the background to be able to join society easily–try getting into college and becoming an engineer when you never studied any science, don’t even know how to apply for college, and have no educational or college prep background.

            And “leave” is a bit misleading

            Whether joining outside society counts as “leaving” because the Amish hasn’t taken vows yet is a technicality that bears little resemblance to what most other people intend to communicate when they refer to an Amish as leaving. If you were living among Amish in a role that they expect of you, and later you’re not, that’s leaving.

            Why is making an informed decision hugely expensive? He’s living in a society that is mostly non-Amish, free to observe their lives.

            He can’t participate to a meaningful extent. Yes, I’ve heard of Rumspringa, but it tends to be exaggerated by fans of the Amish a lot and it really isn’t the same as actively being a member of outside society.

          • John Schilling says:

            try getting into college and becoming an engineer when you never studied any science, don’t even know how to apply for college, and have no educational or college prep background.

            Try becoming an engineer even with all of those advantages.

            Or pick a lower bar, because “most of their members can’t grow up to become successful engineers” describes I believe every culture in human history. And if the argument is reduced to “…less likely to become engineers than upper middle class white Americans or Europeans”, whee. Your culture is better than any other at raising children to succeed in your culture and achieve your culture’s preferred metric of success.

            Going back to the class discussion we had a while back, I would guess that an ex-Amish would be much less likely than an average upper-middle-class high school student to reach Church’s ‘G2’ or even ‘G3’ status in contemporary America, but much more likely to reach ‘L1’. And that’s a guess, which could be wrong. But that’s where the discussion needs to be.

          • Jiro says:

            Try becoming an engineer even with all of those advantages.

            I’m pointing out that those are pretty much necessary conditions. Your reply is that they aren’t sufficient conditions. Sufficient and necessary conditions are different things.

            “most of their members can’t grow up to become successful engineers” describes I believe every culture in human history.

            1) Engineers was an example. I don’t mean that they can’t become engineers but are fine on everything else; rather, what I mean is that there are a lot of different things they have a hard time becoming, and the difficulty of becoming an engineer is an illustrative case of that.

            2) There’s a difference between not being able to do something because of external forces and not being able to do it because of the actions of humans. For most of history, cultures where people could become engineers could not exist. Nobody did things that reduced the chance of becoming an engineer (because you can’t reduce something that is at zero anyway). And to the extent that such societies had similar restrictions that affected science in general, I would condemn them too.

            Ther might, of course, be intermediate level societies where it is possible to become an engineer with difficulty, but there are tradeoffs where making it possible for people to become engineers really hurts everyone else. (For instance, imagine a village in Africa which has enough money to educate one person, but if they spent it on educating that person, they would have no food and starve to death). But there are no such tradeoffs for the Amish.

          • John Schilling says:

            1) Engineers was an example. I don’t mean that they can’t become engineers but are fine on everything else; rather, what I mean is that there are a lot of different things they have a hard time becoming, and the difficulty of becoming an engineer is an illustrative case of that.

            I understood that engineers were an example. I was trying to explain why they were a bad example.

            If you want to be more effectively persuasive or even just enlightening, you would be better off with an example that more accurately reflects the median successful life outcome in “English” society, or perhaps a broad range of examples from across the spectrum of success. As is, I see you stacking the deck and I dismiss your claims in favor of either seeking enlightenment elsewhere or ignoring the issue altogether.

            Also, I would guess that the odds of a young ex-Amish man becoming a successful engineer, if he chose that path, are higher than the odds of an ex-urban-nerd becoming a successful rural farmer. Clearly nerd culture is economically crippling and must be eliminated (though, as noted, it will do that all by itself if we wait a few generations).

          • Jiro says:

            If you want to be more effectively persuasive or even just enlightening, you would be better off with an example that more accurately reflects the median successful life outcome in “English” society

            A table of occupations may be found at http://www.bls.gov/news.release/ocwage.t01.htm . Many of those occupations would be practically impossible for a renegade Amish.

            Also, I would guess that the odds of a young ex-Amish man becoming a successful engineer, if he chose that path, are higher than the odds of an ex-urban-nerd becoming a successful rural farmer.

            If parents raised their kids to only be exposed to nerd culture and exerted pressure on the kids to stay in nerd culture, to the point where they could not in practice become farmers regardless of their aptitude for farming, I would object to that too.

            Of course, it would be hard for that to happen. The background needed to be come an engineer includes more things than the background to become a farmer,. so it would be a lot easier for someone raised as an engineer to become a farmer than vice versa. Also, although a city person may not be raised to be around a farm much, there’s again a difference between not being around one because of personal circumstances or tradeoffs, and not being around one because you just think it’s bad for your kids to be around one and are intentionally withholding it for its own sake.

          • John Schilling says:

            A table of occupations may be found at http://www.bls.gov/news.release/ocwage.t01.htm . Many of those occupations would be practically impossible for a renegade Amish.

            And many of those occupations would be practically impossible for any child you might raise. But the essence of your argument now seems to be “I’m right, and here’s a huge data set from which evidence may be extracted proving I am right, go do that”.

            No.

          • Jiro says:

            If those occupations would be impossible for a child I would raise, it would be because of personal circumstances or tradeoffs, not because I intentionally prevented my child from learning enough to go into those occupations and would shun him if he tried.

            There are lots of things which are only blameworthy fif you do them on purpose. If you can’t afford a doctor, or if you could afford one only by not being able to buy food, you can’t treat your sick child, and that sucks, but it’s not really your fault. If you can afford to take your child to the doctor and don’t because you think going to a doctor is evil, you are completely responsible.

          • Deiseach says:

            try getting into college and becoming an engineer when you never studied any science, don’t even know how to apply for college, and have no educational or college prep background

            There’s a lot of people in that situation who are not Amish but are part of “ordinary” society. It’s one thing to say “The Amish are not raising their children to participate in 21st century mainstream American society” (that’s rather the whole point); it’s another to say that they and they alone are the sole exceptions to everyone going on to become a college-educated engineer.

            For crying out loud, we’ve had long discussions in these very comments sections about is it necessary to go to college, is it worth it, is it all just a signalling game, and how you can have a fine and fruitful life without ever darkening the doorstep of an institution of higher learning!

            Now suddenly “not steering your kids on the track for college” is evil? And abusive?

          • “Many of those occupations would be practically impossible for a renegade Amish.”

            The argument isn’t about whether being reared Amish limits your future options–any form of being brought up does that. There are a huge number of ways in which people can manage in the world, and only a small subset are a practical option for most of us.

            The argument is about whether the options are so limited that someone brought up Amish really has no other alternative, hence is locked into the Amish lifestyle.

            That pretty clearly is not the case. Most of the ways in which Amish make a living are ways in which non-Amish also make a living, including agriculture. As land got scarce and expensive in the Lancaster community, an increasing number of Amish switched to running small businesses. There are other communities where many of the Amish work construction. The work habits that make someone good at helping to run a small farm or a large household are also useful in lots of other careers.

            And, for someone who wants to leave the Old Order Amish but not go all the way to modern secular society there are a variety of other groups—Amish offshoots and Mennonites—with less restrictive customs.

          • Jiro says:

            Most of the ways in which Amish make a living are ways in which non-Amish also make a living,

            “All A are B” and “most B are not A” are not inconsistent statements.

            (A = jobs that Amish can do, B=jobs that non-Amish do).

          • Jiro says:

            For crying out loud, we’ve had long discussions in these very comments sections about is it necessary to go to college, is it worth it, is it all just a signalling game, and how you can have a fine and fruitful life without ever darkening the doorstep of an institution of higher learning!

            That means that we as a society would be better off if people didn’t need to go to college (but could still get the jobs they need college for now). It doesn’t mean that an individual would be better off by personally deciding not to go to college.

            Just because the need for signalling is bad doesn’t mean you should stop signalling.

          • ““All A are B” and “most B are not A” are not inconsistent statements.”

            They are not. But if you read the post you are quoting from, you will observe that the argument does not depend on most ways of making a living being open to Amish, only on many ways being.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      It seems like a lot of the anti-Amish arguments here are similar to the more conventional anti-homeschooling arguments you hear from time to time. The idea that it’s indoctrination and unfairly isolates the child from mainstream culture; questions about the quality of education received; the fear that child abuse is less likely to be discovered.

      Is this just me seeing spurious connections or is this an accurate characterization? Is anyone here pro-homeschooling and anti-Amish or vice versa?

      • John Schilling says:

        I think you are exactly right. The Amish are essentially a “homeschooling” culture that is large and cohesive enough to have built actual schools, and visibly successful enough that they can’t be dismissed out of hand. “They” insist on creating children that “we” can’t readily assimilate into our own culture, and since our culture in its present form can’t survive without assimilating other cultures’ children, that can seem intolerable.

        Or maybe it’s genuinely because the critics care about Amish and/or homeschooled children, but my prior for any politicized “…for the
        children!” being sincere is quite low.

        • sweeneyrod says:

          I’m generally against homeschooling, completely due to concern for poorly educated children. I would have no quarrel with someone who successfully homeschooled their child, even if they instilled values I found abhorrent. My problem is the possibility of parents who can’t teach messing up their children’s education. On the other hand, qualified teachers can be equally bad, so I don’t think homeschooling is a massive problem.

          • Anonymous says:

            What do you think kids should be taught?

          • sweeneyrod says:

            Nothing particularly controversial. I’m sure many (most?) homeschooled children turn out fine, but presumably there are some who end up illiterate or innumerate.

          • John Schilling says:

            …but presumably there are some who end up illiterate or innumerate.

            Which of course never ever happens when children go to public schools.

            The case for mandatory formal schooling on the basis of reduced illiteracy or innumeracy, or superior outcomes of any sort, is surprisingly weak.

          • Mary says:

            Homeschoolers regularly do better than public schools. This would imply that the public school ought to be the first consideration.

      • Adam says:

        I think it’s backlash against them being held up as examples of a perfect society more than anything. This is the only arena I’ve ever been in where I’ve seen anyone speak against (or for) the Amish and I would too if you pushed me to give an opinion, as I personally think being intentionally backwards and nearly Luddite is stupid, but I don’t see their existence as any sort of a problem and the few I’ve ever spent time with seemed like nice enough people and they fit in as they needed to fit in. The world still needs farmers and they’re perfectly good at it.

        It’s not nearly the same as homeschooling, where the expectation is that person is almost certainly going to be competing for places in society with others who were not homeschooled, so you better know what you’re doing and not just be keeping them out so you can instill anti-vax, anti-GMO, creationist propaganda, or whatever nonsense you’re teaching that goes against what they’d learn in a real school.

        • BBA says:

          There’s another isolated, insular religious sect worth comparing the Amish to: Hasidic Jews. On sites like FailedMessiah you see harsh criticism from ex-Hasidim about the repressive structures of many Hasidic communities and how they leave their children ill-equipped to deal with life in outside society. Some communities are also known for wielding outsized political influence, often at the expense of neighboring non-Hasidic communities, e.g. the East Ramapo School District controversy.

          Are there any controversies like this about the Amish? I certainly haven’t seen any, but then I haven’t looked too hard.

          • brad says:

            The East Ramapo thing is a very interesting look into how we think about public schools. The fact of the matter is that the budget per pupil even after all the cuts is pretty high for the US (and therefore the world). And the haradi are almost certainly net contributors to gentile education expenses even if all the claims about diverting funds are completely true.

            I’m no doctrinaire libertarian, but I think there’s something very wrong when buying a house means paying unlimited sums for your neighbors’ kids’ educations regardless of said neighbor’s ability to pay. And if you somehow manage to get a majority of the community to vote to hold the line or even reverse the one-way ratchet of above the rate of general inflation spending increases you are a monster.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @brad,

            I don’t like to give this kind of info but I actually have some first hand knowledge of the situation there.

            The Hasidim there aren’t taking any kind of principled stand against taxation, public education or the welfare state. They consume an enormous amount of government services themselves, to the point of outright fraud (Google “Rockland Community College Hasidic” and look at the top result). They’re really just bad neighbors in general: nobody in Rockland county, Jew or gentile, wants to see them move into their town en masse.

            AFAIK the Amish and similar groups have religious objections to taking government money, although I might not be remembering that correctly. I do recall hearing that there was an Amish community in Mexico with some members mixed up in drug smuggling but that’s a different sort of scandal.

          • brad says:

            I’m aware of the welfare fraud (a shanda!) and also that they make bad neighbors. My grandfather left Brooklyn in the mid-50s in no small part because of the haradi.

            I’m not defending whatever fraud or self dealing they may have committed with respect to the school buildings or special education or anything else. In fact I’m not even defending them at all. But the attacks in the national media go well beyond specific incidents of fraud or criminality to things like cancelling the marching band. Those attacks say something about those doing the attacking and those nodding their heads. That’s what’s I was concentrating my comments on.

            Similar comments could be, and sometimes are, made about senior citizens.

          • “AFAIK the Amish and similar groups have religious objections to taking government money”

            In particular, the Amish are not willing to take Social Security money. They have succeeded in getting an exemption from the tax for Amish working in Amish run firms but not, I believe, for Amish working in non-Amish firms.

      • Jiro says:

        I’d probably be considered pro-homeschooling and anti-Amish, but the devil is in the details. Parents should be able to instill their own values in their children, but not to the point where the children are unable to function in much of society. It is clear that normal homeschoolers are motivated either by the sorry state of the public education system, or by religious beliefs that fall short of making their children unable to function. If you believe a specific case of homeschooling involves teaching the kids so many unusual things and leaving out so many things that the child can’t function in much of society, and you could justify that belief, I would oppose it too.

        • Samuel Skinner says:

          Ditto. As long as homeschoolers meet educational standards, they should have the right to educate their kids. While it is something that can (and is) easily abused, being able to opt out of government programs on the grounds you can do better is an option people should have.

          • “As long as homeschoolers meet educational standards, they should have the right to educate their kids.”

            What does “meet educational standards” mean? What standards defined by whom?

            The conventional model assumes that, out of all of human knowledge, there is some subset about the right size to fill K-12 that everyone ought to pretend to learn. That is a wildly implausible assumption.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @David Friedman
            The educational standards for homeschoolers don’t have to be “follow the government curriculum” (indeed, that would be somewhat pointless). But something like “can read reasonably well and solve maths problems of a certain level at ages 11 and 18” strikes me as a fairly reasonable standard.

          • g says:

            David: society and education coevolve. It would indeed be quite a coincidence if there were some society-independent optimal amount of learning that just happened to be the right amount to fit into the K-12 years. But it’s not so implausible that the length of the K-12 years is adapted to the needs of society, or that social institutions have come to depend on the level of education provided by its schools in the K-12 years.

          • onyomi says:

            “can read reasonably well and solve maths problems of a certain level at ages 11 and 18”

            Since we’re talking about how the homeschooler needs to be able to fit in, somehow, with the society at large, or at least be able to enter it later if he or she chooses, it seems like a course in pop culture would probably be more helpful than math.

            When the truant officer comes round to check on your home schooler, just say “we took her to see Katy Perry last week!”

          • Jiro says:

            Becoming an engineer requires learning a certain amount of math and science. It doesn’t require listening to Katy Perry.

          • onyomi says:

            Do you think a child reared in an Amish household would have greater difficulty becoming an engineer or fitting in at a rave?

          • Jiro says:

            Probably greater difficulty becoming an engineer. Besides, I’m more concerned about the category that includes becoming an engineer than the one which includes fitting in at a rave.

          • John Schilling says:

            Becoming an engineer requires learning a certain amount of math and science.

            And becoming a farmer requires learning how to get up at 4:00 AM, among other things that are harder to learn as an adult than math and science. If the Amish can be denounced for failing to prepare their children to become engineers, why shouldn’t the Blue Tribe WEIRDS be denounced for failing to prepare their children to become farmers?

            I actually am an engineer, and the bit where you hold up my profession as the one true benchmark of human achievement against which all cultures should be judged, is getting kind of creepy. Yeah, yeah, it’s an “example”. But you can’t seem to tear yourself away from that one example even when people point out how it weakens your case. I don’t consider people inadequate because they can’t do what I do or teach their children to do what I do.

          • “But something like “can read reasonably well and solve maths problems of a certain level at ages 11 and 18” strikes me as a fairly reasonable standard.”

            It’s a standard that quite a lot of those who go through the conventional system don’t meet.

            I don’t know what level of math problems you are thinking of, but if they go beyond arithmetic, I don’t think the requirement makes any more sense than a variety of unrelated ones you could imagine. There must be a lot of people for whom a basic knowledge of economics or hygiene or nutrition would be more useful than geometry or algebra.

          • Mary says:

            Would you also support that as long as public school kids meet educational standards, the parents have the right to send their kids to public schools?

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @Mary
            I think the correctly analogous question is whether one supports the right of public schools to educate kids (as long as they meet educational standards). Here the obvious answer seems to be yes, and that they should lose that right (funding permitting) if they fail to meet those standards.

          • Jiro says:

            And becoming a farmer requires learning how to get up at 4:00 AM, among other things that are harder to learn as an adult than math and science.

            What? it takes years of classes to learn to get up at 4 AM?

          • Anonymous says:

            What? it takes years of classes to learn to get up at 4 AM?

            Certainly takes practice and will. Not so much if you’ve been doing it ever since you were a child.

        • ” It is clear that normal homeschoolers are motivated either by the sorry state of the public education system, or by religious beliefs that fall short of making their children unable to function.”

          Perhaps we classify as abnormal homeschoolers? We live quite close to a high end private school and could have afforded to send our children to it. I went to a high end private school–and spent most of my time being bored. We thought we could do better for our children and, as best I can tell, we did.

          It isn’t just the public schools, it’s the whole conventional model of K-12 that I have serious reservations about.

          • Jiro says:

            My statement was about homeschool versus public school. It is possible that homeschool versus private school would be chosen for a different reason, and at any rate it does sound unusual.

          • ” It is clear that normal homeschoolers are motivated either by the sorry state of the public education system, or by religious beliefs that fall short of making their children unable to function.”

            That is a statement about what motivates normal home schoolers. Our motivation wasn’t discontent with the public schools, since we had the option of a private school. Hence your statement was not true of us.

            We may not be normal, but my impression is that a fair number of home schoolers prefer homeschooling to both public and private schooling.

          • Nadja says:

            I’m also planning on homeschooling despite having the option of sending my son to good private/public schools. Other homeschoolers whom I follow online are in the same situation (http://larrysanger.org/2014/04/reasons-we-do-not-have-for-homeschooling-and-a-reason-we-do/).

            Speaking of other homeschoolers online, David, what’s the best way to get hold of your writing on the subject? I’ve looked through your blog and found some posts, but was wondering if you had all of your homeschooling/unschooling notes and essays collected in one place somewhere.

            I’m very curious to read more about unschooling. My views on homeschooling have been largely influenced by Larry Sanger, who doesn’t like the idea of unschooling very much. I think I now need to read some unschoolers to get a more balanced view of the subject.

          • @Nadja:

            I don’t have everything I have said about unschooling in one place. You can find most it at:

            http://daviddfriedman.blogspot.com/search?q=unschooling

            and

            http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Machinery_3d_Edition/Unschooling.htm

          • Nadja says:

            Thanks, David!

  15. Jack Noble says:

    A new study (excellent summary by Vox here) uses “Mendelian randomization” – that is, it compares people with genes that predispose them to drink more versus people with genes that predispose them to drink less. Since genes are upstream from everything else, it’s harder to confound those than actual drinking habits (I was originally concerned about them finding inter-population differences, but they seem to have controlled appropriately).

    Re inter-population differences. I see that they excluded non-White mothers but they don’t mention excluding Ashkenazi Jews. That’s a problem since Ashkenazi Jews have a much higher prevalence of genetic intolerance to alcohol. In particular they have a much higher prevalence of ADH1B*2 which if I’m reading the study right is the exact gene they looked at! See http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3812252/ and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12153842.

  16. zozohth says:

    I’ve been thinking about going to a therapist for help with persistent anxiety, pessimism, and difficulty connecting with new acquaintances; nothing that rises to a debilitating level, but it’s very distracting and it keeps me up at night. Is there any evidence that talk therapy would be at all effective in helping me resolve these issues, or am I just as well off sticking with my current self-directed plan of trying (to various levels of success) to meditate, exercise, and eat and sleep better?

    • Agronomous says:

      In case you come back weeks later and read this:

      Yes, go to a talk therapist. I went to one for a few years, and saw some improvement. He finally convinced me to make an appointment with a prescribing psychiatrist to give meds a chance. After the usual multi-week lag, the SSRI started kicking in, making the talk therapy even more effective.

      Basically, don’t go it alone. I did that for a decade and it got me nowhere.

      (But keep exercising, eating well, and sleeping enough! That’s part of what the meds helped me do.)

  17. noge_sako says:

    If there is anything I am surprised about, its that the alphago news isn’t much much larger.

    The approach seems a good deal *smarter* then the chess news, at least that’s how its been advertised.

  18. Muga Sofer says:

    >“Other people don’t use Twitter the way you do”: one random tweet selected from the website per click.

    God damn it, I’m in a College library surrounded by people and I got one that was porn.

    >This week in academic intolerance: Christian college kicks out professor who says Christians and Muslims worship the same god. I didn’t even know that was up for debate!

    Oh, it’s definitely up for debate. The crux of the issue is Trinitarianism.

    The general argument – if someone refers to something that they describe as having different properties to the ones you observe, and they use a different name, but they *say* it’s the thing you’re referring to – are they talking about the same thing as you, or a different thing that they made up?

    This is one of those questions that is most usefully dissolved, but it often isn’t because some schools of Christian theology (especially the ones popular in the US) feel that it’s very important that people worship the right god – i.e. more important than whether they’re doing it the right way.

    >All you people who say you’re tolerant of everybody whether they’re white or black or purple, now is your time to shine.

    They were suspended?! Based on, what, the fact that a poorly-lit photo went viral in the US? That’s appalling.

    >A secret government AI called SKYNET is malfunctioning and sending its heavily armed robots to kill innocent people.

    Why call it that?

    • RDNinja says:

      >The general argument – if someone refers to something that they describe as having different properties to the ones you observe, and they use a different name, but they *say* it’s the thing you’re referring to – are they talking about the same thing as you, or a different thing that they made up?

      Exactly. It’s a problem similar to the Ship of Theseus: how much of the original do you have to replace before it becomes something else?

      If someone describes everything about me, but gets my eye color wrong, is he still describing me? Sure. What if he also gets my hair color wrong, and my address, and number of siblings? Maybe. How many attributes does he have to get wrong about me before I say he’s actually describing someone else (even a fictional someone else)? It’s a fuzzy line, without a clear answer.

      • Vox Imperatoris says:

        Exactly. It’s a problem similar to the Ship of Theseus: how much of the original do you have to replace before it becomes something else?

        I think one issue is that the Ship of Theseus problem is simply a demonstration of the fact that “ships” are not intrinsically existing entities. Whether it’s “the same ship” depends on our criteria, i.e. it depends on what we call it. There are some criteria that are too broad and others that is too narrow, but in the middle there’s a fairly wide area of optionality.

        There are some theories of personal identity (which are really forms of denying intrinsic personal identity) that say similar things about people, such as its being a matter of convention whether you are the same or not the same if you have your personality “wiped”. I don’t hold to those theories, but that would be the answer under them.

        If someone describes everything about me, but gets my eye color wrong, is he still describing me? Sure. What if he also gets my hair color wrong, and my address, and number of siblings? Maybe. How many attributes does he have to get wrong about me before I say he’s actually describing someone else (even a fictional someone else)? It’s a fuzzy line, without a clear answer.

        Here I agree with you.

        Whether or not personal identity is intrinsic or a matter of socially-imposed criteria, this has no specific bearing on the way you have to use words.

        There’s no clear point to tell when you stop referring Francis Bacon and start referring to Roger Bacon or to neither of them.

    • Nornagest says:

      Why call it that?

      Dunno, but the Brits have had their own Skynet program, under that name, for ages. (I believe it’s doing communications, though, not flying drones.)

      My guess is that it’s just a fairly obvious portmanteau that sounds pretty good. Not everyone has seen Terminator, or cares enough about it. And some that have might think it’s funny.

      • John Schilling says:

        Any room with enough nerds to actually set up such a program, has the collective understanding that “Skynet” means above all else “Malevolent AI that kills people”. The UK’s Skynet dates to 1969 and is grandfathered in as Not Evil; the NSA doesn’t have that excuse.

        They may not care. This is a community that can be remarkably tone-deaf and/or deliberately offensive in their symbolism.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I think it is safe to say the NSA is calling it SKYNET specifically for the Terminator reference. The NSA is, after all, full of geeks.

      • BBA says:

        Geeks with the same sick sense of humor as the ones who called a meal substitute, made out of vaguely sinister and unappetizing chemicals, Soylent.

        • Winter Shaker says:

          Still less unappetising-sounding than
          Huel, which, however tasty and nutritious it might be (I haven’t tried it), still sounds like an onomatopoeic representation of the sort of noise you make when you’re trying to throw up.

  19. TheWorst says:

    Wait, when did Kagan become very liberal? Did I miss something in the news?

    • brad says:

      In context, when being compared to Justice Scalia. Liberal and conservative are relative indicators not absolute ones. Thinking of them the other way just leads to confusion.

  20. Oliver Cromwell says:

    CEOs are workers – did you mean to write shareholders?

    Or if not when are we going to stop paying psychiatrists ridiculous salaries and start giving the money to the workers instead. The cleaning ladies at mental institutions could be netting as much as $1,000 more each year.

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree, but to steelman the argument, one could argue that paying them a high, but not outrageous salary, and rewarding them with other kinds of status, would work acceptably well and allow redistribution of the money to more favoured recipients.

    • Murphy says:

      There’s a specific problem re:CEO pay.

      A well intented but bad regulation was added requiring that CEO pay levels be public. The intent was to make sure that shareholders couldn’t be deprived of information about what the people running the company were choosing to pay themselves.

      Unfortunately people are idiots and CEO pay became a status symbol for a company. They didn’t want to signal that they’d hired a worse CEO than their competitor and the simplest way to avoid that was to pay their CEO more than their competitor was paying theirs.

      This led to a feedback loop where CEO pay became completely disconnected from CEO performance ,ability or contribution and ended up more related to the companies PR and advertising budget.

      If it was legally required that hospitals publicly disclose the pay of the senior consultant in each department you’d see the same kind of feedback loop as hospitals tried to signal that they had the best consultants.

      • Anonymous says:

        So, bad for everyone except the CEO’s.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Lots of other institutions have published salaries. Nonprofit presidents have published salaries. In many states, every government employee, including university and hospital staff, has published salaries.

        • Murphy says:

          When everyones pay is public then it waters it down. If you can only see the CEO pay you might assume that a company is willing to pay more to attract talent if they pay the CEO more. If you can see everyone’s pay then you can see if the same company pays it’s programmers and engineers at a sub-par rate.

          Compared to a big PR campaign CEO pay is a relatively cheap signal where paying everyone more isn’t cheap.

        • Murphy says:

          Also not all institutions are trying to signal the same things and not all institutions are subject to the same feedback loops.

          If a charity pays it’s CEO an obscene amount then donors can get more upset about it than shareholders do about CEO pay.

          • BBA says:

            When the then-nonprofit (though not a charity) New York Stock Exchange paid its CEO Dick Grasso a nine-figure deferred compensation package, it was a major scandal, Grasso was fired, and a multi-year court battle over the pay ensued. And within a few years NYSE and all the other stock exchanges converted to for-profit status, ensuring that massive executive pay would never be a scandal again.

            [Full disclosure: I work for a competitor of NYSE.]

        • gbdub says:

          Actually university president (and university sports coach) salaries also seem to be in a positive feedback loop.

          • Who wouldn't want to be anonymous says:

            You mean medical school deans, not presidents.

            /s

          • God Damn John Jay says:

            Crusty old deans

          • Douglas Knight says:

            The fact that so many medical school deans are paid more than university presidents might be evidence that university presidents are not subject to such effect. In particular, they are not egged on by a higher-paid subordinate. (Though maybe they don’t think of the medical school as part of the university, but an entirely different school that shares branding.)

            But I doubt that it’s much evidence that medical school administrators are subject to such games. It would have to overcome the more prosaic (and private) explanation that a medical school administrator negotiating salary has a BATNA of remaining a practicing physician. The administrators are probably not actually the best paid at medical schools, but they are paid entirely and directly by the school and thus show up on filings. The practicing physicians are paid some salary for teaching, but most of their income comes from patients, which might be arranged not to count for these reports.

    • Adam says:

      Scott has advocated for policy changes that would reduce the pay of medical doctors.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Give it to the residents too and I’m sold!

    • Deiseach says:

      By the logic of “it’s good to pay CEOs more money than they can spend, as they invest the surplus and that helps the wider economy”, it would equally be good to pay cleaning ladies more money than they can spend, as they would invest the surplus and that would be good for the economy.

      What I can’t wrap my head around is the attitude that paying those with lower wages even less is good because it encourages them to work harder, but paying those with more money than they can spend even more benefits is not alone good, it’s necessary to get the best.

      If your business depends on good, smart, productive workers, then attracting the best by paying the best wages is a good idea, no? And if it’s a matter of “we have to employ even bad workers to keep unemployment and welfare down, so let us pay low wages”, then what happens when even those low-wage jobs disappear? Because in the name of cutting costs, haven’t you seen things like self-service checkouts at supermarkets? Those mean fewer human workers doing the same work (shelf-stacking, stocktaking, cleaning, etc.) as the former larger number of workers were doing, for the same wages (because the work load goes up but the money for it doesn’t) and so that is a benefit to the business. But where are the unemployed former till operators? What jobs are they doing, when the labour requirement is shrinking? This is a problem being kicked down the road and it will have to be dealt with sometime.

      I understand that a good CEO is vital to the success of a company. I even understand that giving a global workforce a small individual pay increase mounts up to a lot of money when the cumulative amount of pay increase plus withholding taxes etc. is accounted for. I even understand that one CEO getting paid millions in pay, bonuses and benefits is maybe cheaper than paying 100,000 global multinational widget makers on the shop floor an extra thousand a year each.

      But there are a lot of CEOs out there who are just average, or not particularly suited for the business (because experience and success in one field does not necessarily transfer over to another), yet their contracts apparently lock the companies into paying them huge benefits even when they have to be fired (or “decide to spend more time with their families”) – and nobody seems willing to challenge that, possibly because when it’s all the same relatively small group setting salaries who is going to rock the boat? Someone mentioned a court case going on for years to force a company to pay the agreed money to a sacked CEO, and it’s not the only time I’ve heard of this. But imagine a sacked ordinary employee demanding the company honour the contract they signed before being fired – how would that be entertained? I think it would be held up as an example of the kind of greed that makes businesses unproductive and why workers are selfish.

      Employers’ groups are very well aware of the dangers of unions negotiating higher than feasible wages for their members, we’re always getting dire warnings in press releases about the threat to the economy of the demand for wage increases. But employers’ groups – like everyone else – are much more generous to themselves when setting pay levels, and will complain about interference if e.g. the government makes suggestions about pay caps or doing away with benefits.

      Someone like Steve Jobs may well be worth much, much, more to a company than twenty thousand assembly line workers in China when it comes to lop-sided remuneration. But not every boss or manager or board member is Steve Jobs, yet that’s the level of “we need to pay the most to get the best” mindset.

      Again, why is it that the stick is deemed the best motivator for the poor (you can’t improve productivity by paying more but you can by setting levels, cutting hours and threatening the sack if higher rates of productivity aren’t reached for the same money) but the carrot for the better off (you have to pay the going rate or you won’t get the good managers, you need to have excellent stock options, pension pots, etc. or no-one will take the job)? I do think there’s an element there of classism, however disguised.

      • Vox Imperatoris says:

        By the logic of “it’s good to pay CEOs more money than they can spend, as they invest the surplus and that helps the wider economy”, it would equally be good to pay cleaning ladies more money than they can spend, as they would invest the surplus and that would be good for the economy.

        Because this is an absurd strawman. No one is arguing that CEOs should be paid an indefinite additional sum of money because “they would invest it and it would boost the economy”. The argument is that each company—not the government—is the best judge of what salary is appropriate to draw in the quality of CEO they need.

        The argument is that the current level is efficient—maybe not in the sense than an omniscient being couldn’t do better—but in the sense that real-world government compulsion is not going to do better. The argument is not that it would be better for companies to pay CEOs twice or three times as much.

        What I can’t wrap my head around is the attitude that paying those with lower wages even less is good because it encourages them to work harder, but paying those with more money than they can spend even more benefits is not alone good, it’s necessary to get the best.

        This is even more of a strawman. You really need to think more carefully about what the other side is arguing.

        No one—certainly no one who knows what he’s talking about. but I would even say people who don’t know what they’re talking about—is arguing that paying low-skilled workers less makes them “work harder”, and that it is good for this reason.

        The argument is that low-skilled workers should be paid what their labor is worth, as determined by the laws of supply and demand. If workers produce $20/hour of value, they will be paid $20/hour. If they produce $5/hour of value, they will be paid $5/hour.

        Making a law such that you are not allowed to pay less than $20/hour means that anyone whose labor is worth less than that doesn’t get hired.

        If your business depends on good, smart, productive workers, then attracting the best by paying the best wages is a good idea, no?

        No, not necessarily. You want the most cost-effective workers.

        Suppose you have the choice between two bricklayers, one who can lay 10 bricks per hour, and the other who can lay 20 bricks per hour. Which one do you want? The one who can lay 20? Not necessarily: not if the one who can lay 20 demands more than twice the wage.

        Wage competition is how the less skilled and education compete against the more skilled and educated. If all bricklayers had to be paid the same, only the most skilled ones would be hired. But if the less skilled ones are allowed to bargain down their wages and work for less, then there is a place for all of them.

        You don’t want to pay $200/hour to hire superstar workers to stock the shelves at Wal-Mart. Those people are better of being lawyers or something, where their ability can be put to better use. Because while a $200/hour worker may stock shelves faster than a $10/hour worker, he doesn’t stock them 20 times faster.

        And if it’s a matter of “we have to employ even bad workers to keep unemployment and welfare down, so let us pay low wages”, then what happens when even those low-wage jobs disappear? Because in the name of cutting costs, haven’t you seen things like self-service checkouts at supermarkets? Those mean fewer human workers doing the same work (shelf-stacking, stocktaking, cleaning, etc.) as the former larger number of workers were doing, for the same wages (because the work load goes up but the money for it doesn’t) and so that is a benefit to the business. But where are the unemployed former till operators? What jobs are they doing, when the labour requirement is shrinking? This is a problem being kicked down the road and it will have to be dealt with sometime.

        That is the exact fallacy here: there are not a limited number of “jobs”. Not as long as man’s reach exceeds his grasp.

        Automation does not “decrease the number of jobs”; it frees up people from the jobs in which they are currently working, so that they can do something else, which is now more productive.

        If we invented a pill to cure all illnesses, we would have no need for doctors or hospitals or nurses. So their labor would be totally unproductive in that field. But there are many other fields into which those workers could go.

        If there is a relative overproduction in one area (such as might be caused by technological improvement), the same fact that creates this overproduction means that there is a relative underproduction in another area. There can be no long-term, permanent absolute overproduction.

        Employers’ groups are very well aware of the dangers of unions negotiating higher than feasible wages for their members, we’re always getting dire warnings in press releases about the threat to the economy of the demand for wage increases.

        There is nothing wrong with workers negotiating higher wages. And there is nothing wrong with unions, as such.

        The problem is that unions, as they currently exist, have government-backed monopoly powers enabling them to force employers to “negotiate” with them. This is not a real negotiation; it’s a form of blackmail. Because, for instance, unions have the power to strike and then not be permanently replaced by strikebreakers for doing so if they have demanded a wage that is higher than the market-clearing amount.

        This is why employers are so hostile to unions: once you get one “elected” to govern your workplace, you can never get rid of it, and they can make totally arbitrary demands. In the private sector, unions are at least somewhat constrained by the desire not to totally wreck the company and kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. But when they exist, they still make arbitrary and harmful rules like having promotion strictly based on seniority. And in the public sector, they’re even worse.

        Again, why is it that the stick is deemed the best motivator for the poor (you can’t improve productivity by paying more but you can by setting levels, cutting hours and threatening the sack if higher rates of productivity aren’t reached for the same money) but the carrot for the better off (you have to pay the going rate or you won’t get the good managers, you need to have excellent stock options, pension pots, etc. or no-one will take the job)? I do think there’s an element there of classism, however disguised.

        You can often improve productivity among the poor by raising wages. It’s why, for instance, they pay waiters at fancy restaurants more than workers at McDonald’s. The fallacy—what you are confusing this for—is that you can raise economy-wide productivity by setting minimum salaries.

        It’s not a question of the carrot versus the stick. CEOs get fired all the time. Why do they get paid more and have better severance packages? Because workers qualified to run a Fortune 500 company are in lower supply than workers qualified to staff a cash register.

        • Murphy says:

          I think there’s a good parallel between CEO’s and sports stars.

          I’ve trained with Olympic athletes who could run rings around me. They could beat 3 people on my level vs just themselves easily and could usually beat 4.

          In a professional sports team their value is high. Lets imagine that they’re paid 200K per year.

          That does not mean I am worth 50K to a team. I am worth zero in that arena.

          Value vs ability in some arenas is not linear. A football team where each of the players is 10% worse than the league average at the game is one that loses pretty much every match.

          A 10% better CEO can be worth 10 times as much because their effect can be very significant.

          But, I’d still argue that currently CEO pay has been inflated for reasons other than their ability or contribution and has become more about signalling by the company.

          It’s logical for CEO pay to be high but it’s still possible for it to be higher than is justified by their actual ability.

      • “What I can’t wrap my head around is the attitude that paying those with lower wages even less is good because it encourages them to work harder”

        Who made that argument where?

        • Chalid says:

          I suspect there’s some confusion between “giving poor people higher wages” and “giving poor people more money.” To first order, one makes them work harder, the other makes them work less hard.

          • Nornagest says:

            Why would a higher wage make someone work harder, all else equal?

          • Protagoras says:

            Speaking for myself, I have found that when I’m not being paid very much, I tend to have the attitude that my employer is not going to have an easy time finding a better replacement for me at that pay, and also that I don’t feel like working very hard for so little money, so I don’t work very hard. I also have gotten the impression that this is what employers expect from their poorly paid workers, further reducing my concerns that slacking off could lead to me losing the job (since slacking is expected).

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            I agree with Protagoras. It’s not exactly shocking to me that paying people more could make them work harder.

            On the other hand, if paying someone twice as much doesn’t make them work twice as hard, it’s not necessarily cost effective. That is why the fact that Wal-Mart workers would work harder if paid more is not incompatible with the fact that it doesn’t make economic sense to do so.

          • Adam says:

            I’m not sure the modal Walmart worker working harder would even help Walmart. Greeters, cashiers, general floor help that reshelve things spend a lot of the time standing around waiting for something to happen because that’s basically their job and it wouldn’t necessarily help to invent work when there isn’t any.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Adam:

            If every cashier could check people out twice as fast, they would need half the cashiers, even taking time spent waiting around into account.

            It probably would be possible to check people out twice as fast (people can do amazing things!), but it would be extremely grueling work, and people able to do it probably wouldn’t be willing to do it, even for twice what Wal-Mart is currently paying. For one thing, the “cushiness” of your job is effectively part of your wage.

          • Adam says:

            I doubt Walmart would increase revenue by checking people out twice as fast, but who knows, maybe customer throughput is actually a bottleneck for them. I just personally doubt it. Even if it is, though, the biggest factor I’ve ever observed slowing down a line was allowing customers to pay in cash and check, haggle, use coupons, customers thinking they have money in their account but they don’t, etc., not the speed of the cashier or bagger.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Adam:

            There’s a certain degree of delay which customers are willing to tolerate. Wal-Mart hires cashiers until they roughly get things down to this level (that’s why they don’t just have one cashier, or else they really would lose customers).

            If the cashiers moved their lines twice as fast, they’d need half the amount to reach that level of speed.

            You’re right that it may not be realistically possible at all for the cashier to check people out twice as fast because in order to do so (given the fixed delays), they’d have to bag things more than twice as fast. It still may be possible, but it’d be really difficult.

  21. Bryan Hann says:

    Perhaps Trump would advice Mouch that the the FBI had the authority to compel Apple Rearden (i) to research how his metal might be used to make a device that could penetrate terrorist strongholds, (ii) draw up blueprints for such a device, and (iii) provide them with a prototype.

    • gattsuru says:

      I think throwing Project Xylophone into the pastiche would a) be a bit to on-the-nose and b) risk showing that one had actually read the book the full way through, an unacceptable risk.

  22. suntzuanime says:

    I’ve been trying to dissolve the “do Muslims and Christians worship the same god” question like a good little rationalist, and I think I might know where the confusion is arising. From a Protestant point of view, worship is all about faith, a personal connection with God. To say that Muslims worship the same god means that they have faith in God, which means Islam is legitimate, which is obviously a huge outrageous heresy. From a Catholic or Jewish perspective, though, worship is more about stuff you do in service to God. This can include emotional labor like having faith, but it’s less core to the idea, and you certainly aren’t expected to have a personal relationship with Him. So from that perspective it’s a lot easier to say “yeah, they started out trying to worship the same god but then they got led astray and started following a false prophet with the wrong sort of fruits and now their shit’s all fucked up and they’re doing it wrong”.

    • Deiseach says:

      The theology is (speaking from the Catholic viewpoint, and of course there are RadTrad Catholics and “more Catholic than the pope” types who would vehemently disagree) that the Abrahamic religions agree:

      (1) God is real
      (2) God is one
      (3) This God has revealed Himself to us
      (4) This God is the God of Israel (given the Jewish precedence in time; Christianity and Islam – and please remember, Islam is younger even than Christianity – both follow in claiming to be worshipping the Name represented by the Tetragrammaton)

      Where Islam and Judaism agree is that God is one and has no son or co-partners. Christianity is Trinitarian but says that these are not three separate Gods but three Persons in one God. But explaining the Trinity without veering into heresy is tricky 🙂

      From the Catechism:

      The Church and non-Christians

      839 “Those who have not yet received the Gospel are related to the People of God in various ways.”

      The relationship of the Church with the Jewish People.

      When she delves into her own mystery, the Church, the People of God in the New Covenant, discovers her link with the Jewish People, “the first to hear the Word of God.” The Jewish faith, unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to God’s revelation in the Old Covenant. To the Jews “belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ”, “for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.”

      840 And when one considers the future, God’s People of the Old Covenant and the new People of God tend towards similar goals: expectation of the coming (or the return) of the Messiah. But one awaits the return of the Messiah who died and rose from the dead and is recognized as Lord and Son of God; the other awaits the coming of a Messiah, whose features remain hidden till the end of time; and the latter waiting is accompanied by the drama of not knowing or of misunderstanding Christ Jesus.

      841 The Church’s relationship with the Muslims.

      “The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.”

    • Winter Shaker says:

      I think it may be even easier to dissolve than that. Muslims worship a god which is quite similar to the god worshipped by Christians and has a fair bit of backstory in common with it. By comparison, Mormons worship a god which is really very similar to the god worshipped by Catholics, and has a great deal of backstory in common. And Lutherans worship a god which is so similar, and has so much backstory in common with the god worshipped by Methodists, that any distinctions are pretty trivial to anyone who hasn’t succumbed to the narcissism of small differences.

  23. Dan says:

    ”grit” accounts for 0.5% of variation in academic achievement

    The finding is that grit accounts for an additional 0.5% of variation in GCSE exam scores after Conscientiousness and the other 4 Big Five personality factors are already accounted for. The fact that grit and Conscientiousness are very similar is part of what makes this number so low, because the variation that would be accounted for by grit has already been accounted for by Conscientiousness.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Thanks!

    • Vox Imperatoris says:

      That makes a heck of a lot more sense.

    • Anon. says:

      How much is captured by Conscientiousness?

    • Murphy says:

      If they’re so similar that there’s only a 0.5% non-overlap why bother calling it by a different name other than to sell books?

      • Deiseach says:

        Because you need new spin. You have to show you’ve come up with a new concept or at least updated an old idea. ‘Grit’ is the kind of short, modern, slangy name that sounds easy on the ear and makes a great self-help book title. “Conscientiousness” is so old-fashioned, it’s got cobwebs on it, and it sounds like the Bad Old Days when children were seen and not heard and it wasn’t all about Me and My Okayness 🙂

      • Nadja says:

        My understanding is that Duckworth was originally interested in studying self-control and its importance in helping people succeed. However, at some point she looked at her own life and compared herself to people who were more successful than her. She did, in fact, score high on self control, but somehow she hasn’t accomplished as much as others, hasn’t changed the world, hasn’t built anything big. So she was trying to figure out what it was that she was lacking. She came up with grit and started testing her Grit Scale. I don’t think she was aware at the time how similar grit ends up being to Conscientiousness. (I have no strong opinions on how similar they are, BTW. I know very little about this subject. Just addressing the question of how the grit research came about.)

        Edit: actually, now that I think about it, in the light of what grit is supposed to account for, the results of this study make sense. Duckworth was very successful at whatever she did, but she jumped from one subject to another and didn’t stick to any one thing for too long. So grit is supposed to account for self-control and the “sticking to one thing” part. Why would grit matter in exam results in 16 year olds? Obviously, as much as it overlaps with conscientiousness, it matters, because you have to study before you go out and play. But the sticking to one thing part is just not an important predictor of how well you’ll do in school exams. School is all about learning a little bit about multiple subjects.

        • Deiseach says:

          She did, in fact, score high on self control, but somehow she hasn’t accomplished as much as others, hasn’t changed the world, hasn’t built anything big. So she was trying to figure out what it was that she was lacking. She came up with grit and started testing her Grit Scale.

          It’s almost parodic in its Americanness when you put it that way: “Well gosh darn it, why ain’t I President of the United States and a Nobel prize-winner in my field and the world’s foremost baroque harpsichordist and an Olympic gold medal winner in the 100m, 200m and over hurdles as well? What is wrong with me? Don’t I work as hard as the others? Let’s have a look-see here – gee, looks like by comparison with the real can-do kids what I’m lacking in is – grit“.

          Sounds like she needs to ring up the local sand and gravel merchants and order a tipper-truck full of chippings 🙂

          More seriously, it also explains why she “came up with her Grit Scale”; an ambitious, hard-working person who felt she was not achieving as much by comparison with her peers – no wonder she didn’t stick with the old label of “conscientiousness” but invented a new term that could be all her own and marketed to within an inch of its life. Anyone could do work on conscientiousness and be just one more in the field, but as the discoverer of the concept and inventor of The Grit Scale (and I’m sure that’s TM or R or C) – et voilà, her own lab and best-selling book (has she done the rounds of the chat shows with it? I’d be very surprised if not!)

          Winningly personal, insightful, and even life-changing, Grit is a book about what goes through your head when you fall down, and how that—not talent or luck—makes all the difference.

          • Nadja says:

            I don’t think that’s very charitable. Possibly my fault for retelling that story at all. I learned if from the book “How Children Succeed”, and never verified it.

            Also, you have not addressed my edit at all and just went with the assumption that this one study proves that conscientiousness and grit are one and the same. I honestly don’t understand why you’re taking such great joy in making fun of that woman.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Nadja,

            (Btw, sadly I fear one of the keys is in the final word of your last sentence.)

            As a USian, I see quite a difference in the common meanings of ‘conscientiousness’ and ‘grit’. The former focuses on doing what other people have instructed you to do; or at least they will be evaluating the outcome and pleasing them is important (or at least they will be evaluating your ‘conscientiousness’ regardless of the outcome of your work).

            ‘Grlt’ as defined here seems to focus on an attitude we might call ‘pig-headedness’, ‘cussedness’ … determination to ‘fight along this line if it takes all summer’, to be re-energized by opposition. It may lead to going on kicking the Coke machine the harder the more times the boss tells you to stop; or it may lead to ‘I’m going to solve this problem however many new approaches it takes.’

          • Nadja says:

            @ houseboatonstyx

            Yes! Thank you for articulating the distinction.

  24. grendelkhan says:

    On the Mercatus Center’s “What $85 Buys” article, color me unimpressed. They’re just citing Comcast’s advertised pricing in two urban markets, and I’m skeptical that someone buying a standard Comcast package could actually pull twenty SD Netflix streams at once.

    But since I’ve had a devil of a time finding information about trends in dollars-per-actual-megabit of internet costs (the best thing I found was The Cost of Connectivity, and it doesn’t have historical data), I’m just going to have to wave my hands and say that these metrics are yecchy.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      It doesn’t account for price, but Akamai’s quarterly “state of the internet” measures real-life bandwidth in a variety of ways.

  25. Tweeter says:

    RE:Twitter site

    TIL: Most tweets are not in English.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      The third one I got was porn.

      Whether you take this as a warning or an endorsement is up to you.

    • Nornagest says:

      Most of the ones I got were in English, but a lot were in Arabic or some other language that uses the same family of scripts. Which ones did you get?

  26. miglio says:

    >The theory was that New Hampshire was small and already pretty libertarian

    I think the NH primaries blew that idea to shreds.

    • Frog Do says:

      If you translate “libertarian” to “anti-establishment”, the premise makes more sense. And there are libertarian cases to be made for Sanders and Trump.

  27. someguy says:

    I found the Trump / Atlas Shrugged hilarious, it would make a good skit.

  28. Vox Imperatoris says:

    Amazing Russian propaganda poster, found on reddit: https://i.imgur.com/INppnVa.jpg

    Literal translation:

    Smoking kills
    More people than Obama,
    However he kills very many people.

    Don’t smoke.
    It is not necessary to be like Obama.

    • Evan Þ says:

      I wonder what reaction that’d get among Red Tribe Republicans if it was set up here in America…

      • onyomi says:

        Ironically, red tribe Republicans are very big fans of Putin.

        • Frog Do says:

          Really? I thought Red Tribe positions were reflexively anti-Russia because Communism. The pro-Putin people seem to be more alt-right.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            I agree with you.

            I think if you ask the average guy with a pickup truck whether he likes Putin, the answer is going to be “no”.

          • keranih says:

            Eh. “Very big fans” is putting it strongly. “Admire his chutzpa and trolling patterns” – yes. Think he’s making it obvious that he’s outmaneuvering Obama on several fronts, yes.

            Think that making photoshops of Putin riding bears is hysterical, absolutely.

            The impression I get from most is that they agree with McCain – they look at Putin and see KGB, and that is to be fought decisively and with resolve.

          • noge_sako says:

            How could anyone be pro-putin? Well, at least from the limited knowledge I have of.

            It seems like some strange worship of the military-industrial complex and simply appearing “hard” as a ruler.

            Though, that *is* the stereotype of certain right-leaning subtypes of the bunch. You don’t hear much about militaristic gun-toting hippies.

          • Anonymous says:

            How could anyone be pro-putin?

            How could you possibly be anti-Putin? My only objection is that he’s not of my ethny, and part of a polity that is historically at odds with mine (“the enemy has a better, more virtuous general than we do”). I would love for a transethnic Putin clone to be ruling my country.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Anonymous:

            Where the hell did the word “ethny” come from? I have only heard right-identitiarians use it.

            I take it to be an abbreviation for “ethnicity”, but who started it.

            Also, if you think Putin is actually a good ruler for Russia, you’re either an idiot or very misinformed.

          • Anonymous says:

            >Where the hell did the word “ethny” come from? I have only heard right-identitiarians use it.
            >I take it to be an abbreviation for “ethnicity”, but who started it.

            No idea. It seems to mean what you infer. Wikipedia redirects from “ethnies” to “ethnicity”.

            >Also, if you think Putin is actually a good ruler for Russia, you’re either an idiot or very misinformed.

            How about “neither”?

          • Nita says:

            @ Vox Imperatoris

            After a bit of googling, my best guess is that it’s a calque from French or German “ethnie”. The proper English term would be “ethnic group”.

            (According to Google Ngrams, “peak ethny” was in 1981.)

            To me, “ethny” has an unfortunate cutesy flavour, which clashes with the glorious image our ethny-loving friends are trying to craft.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Vox – “Also, if you think Putin is actually a good ruler for Russia, you’re either an idiot or very misinformed.”

            …I’ve tangled with Nita before on this question, but eh.

            Let’s accept upfront that Putin is not a good ruler for Russia. If you could replace him with one of his predecessors, which one would you pick?

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ FacelessCraven:

            The fact that I don’t think Putin is a good leader doesn’t imply that I think his predecessors were better… They were bad in different ways.

            Yeltsin was in some ways better but in other ways a lot worse—on the other hand, a lot of that was due to the situation he found himself in.

            If I had to pick one…I don’t know, Georgy Lvov? 😉

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Vox – “If I had to pick one…I don’t know, Georgy Lvov?”

            …Assuming that was a serious answer, and after a quick trip to wikipedia, would it be fair to say then that you think Putin is the best ruler Russia has had in the last hundred years?

            Perhaps not? perhaps there are other picks you’d take ahead of Putin?

            …I’d like to see Russia not be a basketcase, which puts me at odds with my understanding of US foreign policy post-USSR. My assessment is that Putin has done quite a bit to reverse his country’s slide into irrelevance and inevitable breakup. That’s arguable, of course, since one interpretation of events is that steps taken to reverse that slide will end up accelerating it, but I’m honestly not sure what the better move would have been.

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

            The very idea of Chekism is horrifying and perverse beyond belief, but at some point screaming and gesticulating further seems pointless.

          • Bugmaster says:

            @Vox:

            Also, if you think Putin is actually a good ruler for Russia, you’re either an idiot or very misinformed.

            I think this depends on how you define “good”. It may very well be the case that Russia cannot be effectively governed by anyone except a hardcore dictator. If this is true, then even if some moderately enlightened reformist leader managed to somehow gain power, he would soon find himself besieged at his own dacha — plunging the country into a period of turmoil, political uncertainty, economic ruin, and possibly civil war. The citizens of Russia would, perhaps, be justified in considering that outcome to be less “good” than whatever reign of terror their current dictator is propagating.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ FacelessCraven:

            I think Putin takes more credit for Russia’s improvement since the 90s than he deserves. It’s hard to separate the quality of the leader from the times. I mean, maybe Gorbachev or Krushev or Yeltsin would be better in Putin’s shoes.

            This (the idea that Putin gets too much credit) was the opinion of my (native Russian) professors in political science when I studied abroad in Russia. And from what I know of things, it’s pretty much backed up. Under Yeltsin, despite the corruption, they pushed through a lot of market liberal reforms. But it was also a pretty tumultuous period where the central government barely controlled the country, and also divided government where the President was Yeltsin and in faction but the Duma was controlled by the Communists. There was a lot of chaos.

            Under Putin, things began to resettle after being upset by all these reforms, and because of the reforms Russia experiences economic growth. So it’s a matter of: other people do things, but he gets the credit. Also, much of the growth was due to luck: most people don’t realize how much Russia (and the Soviet Union, in its time) depends on petroleum for its economy.

            But anyway, that’s the reason many Russians like Putin. However, I definitely got the impression (implicitly and explicitly) that the more educated Russians are, the less they like him.

            @ Bugmaster:

            Okay, I agree that Putin is not the shittiest possible leader of Russia. When I say he is bad, I mean that he has done a lot of unnecessary things to make Russia’s situation worse, such as getting sanctions imposed, getting involved in Ukraine, taking further control over the mass media, and solidifying the power of United Russia as a corrupt oligarchy controlled by a strongman.

            I don’t think that, in this respect, he has been fully constrained by the situation such that he couldn’t have been better.

            But yeah, he could be a lot worse.

          • Morkyz says:

            “ethny” was I think coined by frank salter, whose philosophy and followers are probably the best argument against EthNat I’ve ever seen.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            I want to say that, as usual, being excessively snippy here was not productive on my part.

            To be more accurate, I should have said that if you think Putin is good, you are either an idiot, misinformed, or are using the term “good” in a very different sense.

          • Morkyz says:

            I don’t think putin is “good” but I do think that judging him by normal standards of morality is unproductive

            i don;t think you could or should run 2016 russia without being a bit outside western standards, but you could fuck over your country less than putin does

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Vox – “It’s hard to separate the quality of the leader from the times. I mean, maybe Gorbachev or Krushev or Yeltsin would be better in Putin’s shoes.”

            Wasn’t Yeltsin the one who presided over the “privatization”, the Oligarchs, and the breakaway of large chunks of Russian territory? Wasn’t he the one more or less directly responsible for the mess that Putin is currently being lauded for cleaning up?

            …As for the other two, they might indeed be better than Putin; I’ve heard good things about some of the immediate successors to Stalin. On the other hand, I see no reason to think they’d do much different than what Putin has done, because most of Putin’s actions seem rational to me.

            “When I say he is bad, I mean that he has done a lot of unnecessary things to make Russia’s situation worse, such as getting sanctions imposed, getting involved in Ukraine, taking further control over the mass media, and solidifying the power of United Russia as a corrupt oligarchy controlled by a strongman.”

            It doesn’t seem to me that an option ever existed to both avoid sanctions and preserve Russian power in the region. One might argue that Russia has no right to retain power, but right doesn’t seem to have much to do with it; they have power, and they want to retain it rather than letting it erode.

            Getting involved in the Ukraine (and before that, in Georgia) is a straightforward counter to the US policy of encirclement pursued since at least 2000. Again, it may cost Russia in the long-run, but doing nothing could well cost them more.

            As for taking over the media and being a strong-man dictator, it’s not clear to me that Russia has ever had a functional government that didn’t do both since 1917.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ FacelessCraven:

            It doesn’t seem to me that an option ever existed to both avoid sanctions and preserve Russian power in the region. One might argue that Russia has no right to retain power, but right doesn’t seem to have much to do with it; they have power, and they want to retain it rather than letting it erode.

            How does “having power in the region” actually benefit the Russian people? As I see it, it does the opposite of benefit them. Not least insofar as the whole struggle here is to set up some kind of economic bloc separate from the US/EU bloc.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Vox – “How does “having power in the region” actually benefit the Russian people?”

            Presumably the same way that America’s regional power benefits the American people? It seems pretty clear to me that our power and influence as a nation has a fair bit to do with our continued prosperity, and I’m not sure why it would be different for Russia.

            “As I see it, it does the opposite of benefit them. Not least insofar as the whole struggle here is to set up some kind of economic bloc separate from the US/EU bloc.”

            Setting up a separate economic bloc is the play available, given that both the EU and US are pretty clearly hostile to Russian power/prosperity. Now, you could claim that the hostility is due to Russia’s insistence on maintaining regional power, but why should Russia unilaterally abandon what advantages it has in the hope that countries that have been consistently hostile to it for something like the last century will turn friendly once it’s helpless against them?

          • “It seems pretty clear to me that our power and influence as a nation has a fair bit to do with our continued prosperity”

            What makes you think that? Canada is about as prosperous as the U.S., Switzerland somewhat more so. What do we get that increases our prosperity out of being a superpower?

            The obvious effect on our prosperity of maintaining our “power and influence” is to consume a considerably larger share of our national income for the military than most other countries.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @David Friedman – “What makes you think that?”

            I observe that throughout history, “rich” and “powerful” seem often to come as a package deal.

            “Canada is about as prosperous as the U.S, Switzerland somewhat more so. What do we get that increases our prosperity out of being a superpower?”

            Canada enjoyed the benefits of being a superpower via being part of the British empire until fairly recently, and has since enjoyed cordial relations and a near-complete lack of conflict with a superpower who is also their only neighbor. On the other hand, it seems to me that Mexico and several other nations in central and south america might wish they had a little more control over their destiny than they actually received.

            Switzerland has historically kept to a peculiar set of specializations that keep its interests admirably narrow, and enough military power to secure those interests against most conceivable threats. Neither appears to be an option for Russia.

            “The obvious effect on our prosperity of maintaining our “power and influence” is to consume a considerably larger share of our national income for the military than most other countries.”

            Do you think the world would be as peaceful as it is currently without a dominant superpower using its overwhelming military advantage to enforce the peace? Would you be comfortable with the EU, the Russians or the Chinese taking over the job of world policeman? At the risk of seeming a bit xenophobic, I think I’m a lot more comfortable with our country doing business with China when it’s our CBGs off their coast, rather than the reverse.

          • John Schilling says:

            What makes you think that? Canada is about as prosperous as the U.S., Switzerland somewhat more so. What do we get that increases our prosperity out of being a superpower?

            The United States gets a great deal out of free trade on a global scale. Free trade on a global scale exists because there is a maritime superpower that wants it to be so. It isn’t strictly required that this superpower be the United States, but the British Empire is out of that line of work and who else is there?

            Canada, of course, gets the same benefit without the cost of having to maintain a large navy. By treaty they are supposed to maintain a modest navy to work with ours (and others), but they have barely met even half of their treaty obligation in that respect of late. The United Kingdom is at least still pulling its weight.

          • “Do you think the world would be as peaceful as it is currently without a dominant superpower using its overwhelming military advantage to enforce the peace? ”

            I don’t know, but the implication of that line of argument is that practically everyone benefits from U.S. power, not that the U.S. does.

            Power as a cause of wealth makes sense if the power is used to steal stuff and enslave people, but I don’t see the U.S. doing that. Wealth as a cause of power makes more sense, but that’s not what you need for your argument.

            So, again, how does the fact that the U.S. is powerful explain the fact that the U.S. is rich, when a fair number of less powerful nations are comparably rich? Chile is rich by Latin American standards–is that because it’s more powerful than Mexico?

            Think about Hong Kong. About the least powerful place around for a century or so. During which time its per capita real income passed that of the U.K.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @David Friedman – “I don’t know, but the implication of that line of argument is that practically everyone benefits from U.S. power, not that the U.S. does.”

            …I guess my argument would be that while everyone benefits, we benefit more than most. I’d freely admit that I can’t put a clear dollar sign on that benefit, but it seems to me that US dominance has a fair bit to do with us having things like a seat on the UN security council, the dollar as a reserve currency, and an aerospace industry that put people on the moon. I think the dominance has a big, if non-obvious part to do with why we get all those things and other countries don’t.

            “Power as a cause of wealth makes sense if the power is used to steal stuff and enslave people, but I don’t see the U.S. doing that.”

            Perhaps power promotes stability, which promotes wealth?

            “So, again, how does the fact that the U.S. is powerful explain the fact that the U.S. is rich, when a fair number of less powerful nations are comparably rich? Chile is rich by Latin American standards–is that because it’s more powerful than Mexico?”

            …Without having looked at stats, yeah, I’ll take that bet. My prediction would be that Chile is more powerful than Mexico, qualitatively if not quantitatively. I’m expecting a competent military without Mexico’s corruption problems, and either friendly neighbors or victory in any military conflicts versus its’ neighbors.

            “Think about Hong Kong. About the least powerful place around for a century or so. During which time its per capita real income passed that of the U.K.”

            If I remember correctly, Hong Kong grew fantastically wealthy serving as a major port for the global superpower, and was then handed over to the biggest regional power.

            …In any case, Russia isn’t Hong Kong, Switzerland, Chile or Canada. It shares a border with China and a hinterland with the EU, and it’s been the avowed nemesis of the most powerful country in the world for the last half a century. While it’s certainly possible for a country to become rich with limited power or by relying on powerful patrons, neither is an option for Russia. Why should Russia’s leaders believe that their situation would improve if they abandoned all control they have over their situation?

          • @Facelesscraven:

            Past U.S. power has a good deal to do with why we have a seat on the security council. France and the U.K. are currently no more powerful than a fair number of other countries that don’t have seats. But I don’t see how a seat on the security council makes the U.S. richer.

            The dollar is currently a reserve currency, but Switzerland has played a very large role in the world banking system. And having the dollar be a reserve currency, while it gives us a bit of an implied interest free loan, isn’t a significant factor in U.S. prosperity.

            I don’t see that being powerful has anything to do with having an aerospace industry that can put people on the moon. It’s a consequence of being rich, not a cause.

            HK remains much richer than China, despite having no military force that could defend itself against anything China wanted to do to it.

            I agree that being able to make it expensive for people to conquer you is useful, and that Switzerland has done so, but I think your claim was about something more than that. Russia can make conquering it expensive without expanding into Ukraine or throwing its weight around in a variety of other ways.

            Among other things, it still has one of the two big nuclear arsenals in the world.

            So I still don’t see your arguments. People in a country probably enjoy feeling important via their country, but that isn’t prosperity. And people in the Scandinavian countries, or the Czech Republic, or Italy, none of which is a serious military power, nonetheless seem to maintain a high opinion of their own status.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ FacelessCraven:

            Your arguments about the benefits of US power don’t make sense. As David Friedman pointed out, to the extent that America uses its military power to promote free trade, globalization, and whatever it benefits everyone. Including Russians.

            Putin’s trying to increase Russia’s power and oppose it to that of the US therefore works against the interest of Russians, as it is designed for the precise purpose of achieving less free trade and to combat “Americanization”.

            Setting up a separate economic bloc is the play available, given that both the EU and US are pretty clearly hostile to Russian power/prosperity. Now, you could claim that the hostility is due to Russia’s insistence on maintaining regional power, but why should Russia unilaterally abandon what advantages it has in the hope that countries that have been consistently hostile to it for something like the last century will turn friendly once it’s helpless against them?

            What exactly do you think the US or the EU would do to Russia, if they had them at their mercy?

            Now, if you’d go with some kind of Naomi-Klein-type argument that they’d impose disastrous “shock doctrine” free trade and market liberalism, that would be one thing. But elsewhere, you’re arguing that free trade is good.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Vox – “Your arguments about the benefits of US power don’t make sense. As David Friedman pointed out, to the extent that America uses its military power to promote free trade, globalization, and whatever it benefits everyone. Including Russians.”

            So your position is that US foreign and fiscal interests are identical to Russian foreign and fiscal interests? I find that extremely difficult to believe. How does a Georgia and Ukraine beholden to the US and the EU and actively hostile to Russia advance Russia’s interests? If the US had lost most of its military and economic power, would it be in the interest of the American people to allow the rest to decay, to sit passively while Mexico and Canada allied themselves economically and militarily with hostile powers?

            …I honestly do not understand your position. Do you think hostile action between nations other than war is by definition irrational or a figment of the imagination?

            “What exactly do you think the US or the EU would do to Russia, if they had them at their mercy?”

            Choke them out, with a goal of making sure they’ll never be a threat again. Use diplomatic and financial pressure to give the US, EU and their associates economic advantage over Russia. Support US and EU business over Russian business. Pull Russia’s neighbors into economic and military treaties, from which Russia would be excluded. Encircle Russia in military outposts to minimize or eliminate its ability to use force in pursuit of its interests. Generally take a confrontational stance against Russia wherever possible, and use the ensuing conflict as justification for sanctions. Encourage separatist movements within Russia itself, with the long-term goal of breaking it up into smaller, weaker states dependent on the EU/US sphere for economic and military security.

            In short, do whatever possible to accelerate Russia’s slide from superpower to impotent backwater.

            It seems to me that most of the above has been going on in one form or another pretty much since the fall of the USSR. Clearly not all of Russia’s misfortunes are the fault of the scheming west, but it seems clear to me that the EU and US have no interest in allowing Russia to continue as a major player in world affairs, and have been acting accordingly for decades now.

            @David Friedman – “HK remains much richer than China, despite having no military force that could defend itself against anything China wanted to do to it.”

            …And if China decided it didn’t want HK to be richer anymore, HK would stop being richer by tomorrow morning. It seems to me that this is like saying that New York is rich despite it having no defense against the might of the federal government.

            Israel is considerably more prosperous than its neighbors. It is also vastly more powerful than they are. If that power went away, would you expect Israel to continue being prosperous? Without building that power, would Israel have grown as prosperous as it currently is?

            Russia is not like Switzerland; it is already a de facto empire, and its institutions and social structures are set up to function as an empire. It is too large to support itself off banking and chocolates, nor can it ensure its’ own security via small arms and citizen militias. Nor can it rely on a patron for security, like Hong Kong and to a lesser extent the entirety of the western world, since the superpower everyone else relies on considers it an enemy.

            “I agree that being able to make it expensive for people to conquer you is useful, and that Switzerland has done so, but I think your claim was about something more than that. Russia can make conquering it expensive without expanding into Ukraine or throwing its weight around in a variety of other ways.”

            Should we let foreign powers finance secessionist movements inside America? Should we allow hostile foreign powers to make economic and military alliances with our close neighbors? There are a range of harms a nation can suffer short of invasion, and having a sphere of influence helps insulate you from them.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ FacelessCraven:

            …I honestly do not understand your position. Do you think hostile action between nations other than war is by definition irrational or a figment of the imagination?

            I don’t think any two nations’ interests are fundamentally opposed, if that’s what you mean. I think hostile action always involves at least one party being irrational. Quite often both parties. If one party is irrational, then it’s sometimes rational for the other party to use force to oppose it.

            So your position is that US foreign and fiscal interests are identical to Russian foreign and fiscal interests?

            Identical, no. Compatible, yes.

            How does a Georgia and Ukraine beholden to the US and the EU and actively hostile to Russia advance Russia’s interests?

            Having Georgia and Ukraine integrate into the western economic-political block means that they’ll move toward greater political and economic freedom, which makes them more productive, which is good for Russia as a major trading partner of these states. They may also set political examples for Russians to do the same.

            If the US had lost most of its military and economic power, would it be in the interest of the American people to allow the rest to decay, to sit passively while Mexico and Canada allied themselves economically and militarily with hostile powers?

            It depends on why those powers are “hostile”. Is it because they support more political and economic freedom than obtains in the US? Or is it because they want less?

            If it’s the former, it’s in their interest to allow Mexico and Canada to do so. If it’s the latter, it’s not.

            Choke them out, with a goal of making sure they’ll never be a threat again. Use diplomatic and financial pressure to give the US, EU and their associates economic advantage over Russia. Support US and EU business over Russian business. Pull Russia’s neighbors into military treaties, from which Russia would be excluded. Encircle Russia in military outposts to minimize or eliminate its ability to use force in pursuit of its interests. Generally take a confrontational stance against Russia wherever possible, and use the ensuing conflict as justification for sanctions. Encourage separatist movements within Russia itself, with the long-term goal of breaking it up into smaller, weaker states dependent on the EU/US sphere for economic and military security.

            If Russia did not present a threat and did not oppose whatever the US and EU wanted to do, why would they want to do this? Do you think the US and EU just hate Russians and want to destroy them for no reason?

            If the US and EU see their interest as being compatible with Ukrainians and Georgians, such that they can absorb them into their bloc, why can’t they see their interest as compatible with Russians? In the 90s, making Russia part of NATO was seriously proposed. Russian nationalism was one of the major forces against it.

            The interests of France and Germany were long thought to be permanently opposed, but now they have closely integrated in the form of the EU.

            In short, do whatever possible to accelerate Russia’s slide from superpower to impotent backwater.

            It seems to me that most of the above has been going on in one form or another pretty much since the fall of the USSR. Clearly not all of Russia’s misfortunes are the fault of the scheming west, but it seems clear to me that the EU and US have no interest in allowing Russia to continue as a major player in world affairs, and have been acting accordingly for decades now.

            Moreover, you continue to conflate reducing Russia’s political/military power with impoverishing the Russian people. Maybe it’s better for the Russian people not to live in a powerful state. A bipolar system such as we had in the Cold War produces a high likelihood of nuclear war. I mean, the Russian people conflate these two all the time (the Soviet Union was “the great country”), but that doesn’t make you right in joining them.

            ***

            In short, I think the system that the US and EU want to export to the world is basically good for everyone, while the system Putin wants to export is basically bad for everyone. Therefore, I don’t think anyone gains from Putin’s trying to resist them. Resistance just makes things worse.

            In other words, I don’t think it’s all meta-level. Sometimes, one’s country’s ideology is right and the other’s is wrong.

            To the extent that American military power promotes liberal capitalist ideology, it is therefore good for Americans and good for the world. And to the extent that Russian military power promotes authoritarian protectionist ideology, it is bad for Russians and bad for the world.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Vox – “In short, I think the system that the US and EU want to export to the world is basically good for everyone…”

            I am moderately confident that the system the US and EU proclaim is basically good for everyone. I am not at all confident that our leadership actually, seriously intend to export it, as opposed to using it as a convenient wrapper for graft and self-aggrandizement. I am profoundly skeptical that the export can be executed successfully, even with pure intentions.

            “…while the system Putin wants to export is basically bad for everyone.”

            Putin’s system seems arguably better than the pre-Putin situation, and we have a considerable history of proving that no matter how bad a situation may be, we can make it way way worse in the name of freedom and democracy.

            “In other words, I don’t think it’s all meta-level. Sometimes, one’s country’s ideology is right and the other’s is wrong.”

            North Vietnam’s ideology was garbage, but they won their war, always would have, and arguably should have. South Vietnam’s ideology was right, but all it achieved was millions dead for no good effect. Ideology does not make the world go round.

            “To the extent that American military power promotes liberal capitalist ideology, it is therefore good for Americans and good for the world.”

            I do not see much evidence that this is true. Perhaps I’m forgetting all those times post-Korea when the US military swooped in, saved the day, and left a prosperous, peaceful democracy behind. Would you care to name a few?

            “And to the extent that Russian military power promotes authoritarian protectionist ideology, it is bad for Russians and bad for the world.”

            …And again, Russia is doing better under Putin than it was before him. Where was the liberal capitalist ideological magic when the oligarchs were eating the country alive?

            “If Russia did not present a threat and did not oppose whatever the US and EU wanted to do, why would they want to do this? Do you think the US and EU just hate Russians and want to destroy them for no reason?”

            From what I’ve read, they see Russia as a long-term rival and enemy, with interests that naturally conflict with their own. European-Russian conflict goes back something like two centuries, and the last hundred years of that Russia was a serious threat. When the USSR collapsed, the military and foreign-affairs leadership in the US and EU saw an opportunity to break Russia’s power for good, and have been working to that end consistently since then.

          • Anonymous says:

            What exactly do you think the US or the EU would do to Russia, if they had them at their mercy?

            My hypothetical prediction: They would do the same they did to the Austrian Empire – break it up into small parts, so that it would never be a threat again.

            If Russia did not present a threat and did not oppose whatever the US and EU wanted to do, why would they want to do this? Do you think the US and EU just hate Russians and want to destroy them for no reason?

            The trick is to make sure they never become powerful again. Even if they’re powerless now, doesn’t mean they can’t regain power later. Not so much if they’re broken beyond repair.

            In short, I think the system that the US and EU want to export to the world is basically good for everyone, while the system Putin wants to export is basically bad for everyone.

            *I* think US interventions in the last two world wars have broken Europe. Would have been better for us if the yanks stayed home.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ FacelessCraven:

            North Vietnam’s ideology was garbage, but they won their war, always would have, and arguably should have. South Vietnam’s ideology was right, but all it achieved was millions dead for no good effect. Ideology does not make the world go round.

            I wouldn’t say that South Vietnam’s ideology was “right”. They didn’t have any principles to speak of.

            I do not see much evidence that this is true. Perhaps I’m forgetting all those times post-Korea when the US military swooped in, saved the day, and left a prosperous, peaceful democracy behind. Would you care to name a few?

            You’re misinterpreting me. I didn’t say that U.S. military intervention was particularly good at spreading these values, only that, to the extent that it does spread them, it benefits Russians as well.

            But to your point, I would look less at the countries where the U.S. has gotten involved and more at the countries that didn’t get invaded by the Soviets or the Chinese because they had U.S. protection. The U.S. even played a large role in preventing the Soviets from launching a nuclear strike on the Chinese, for that matter.

            Moreover, the fact that American military intervention is often unsuccessful does not mean that it’s a good idea to “stand up to it”. The fact that people “stand up to it” is the cause of its being unsuccessful.

            …And again, Russia is doing better under Putin than it was before him. Where was the liberal capitalist ideological magic when the oligarchs were eating the country alive?

            I think your history is wrong here. Putin has done nothing to “save the country from the oligarchs”. They still exist. It’s just that there is now a new rule for them: if you want to keep your wealth and your freedom, you have to go along with Putin. He is restraining them only in the sense of restraining them as threats to his political power.

            The ones who have been persecuted have certainly not been the most corrupt, but the ones who have pushed for liberal reforms.

            Also, the idea that these “oligarchs” were somehow the cause of Russia’s problems in the 90s is false. If you look at the actual situation at the time, the fact is that Yeltsin and the reformers had a very tenuous hold on political power. Even after Yelsin sent tanks to shell the Russian White House and held a referendum to give himself vastly more powers as president, the Communists remained in control of the Duma, and many of them were hardliners who wanted to roll back everything.

            The choice was essentially between pushing through privatization and market reforms in a corrupt, underhanded way, or not doing it at all and going back to state socialism. In an ideal world, the process of privatization could obviously have been done better. But Russia’s prosperity today is nevertheless the result of the switch to a market-based economy.

            All Putin has done is, having taken power with a majority in the legislature, used these extensive presidential powers (which, by the way, are almost identical to the powers of the French presidency instituted by referendum under De Gaulle) to cement himself as the effective dictator. He hasn’t “reigned in” the “oligarchs” if by that you mean addressing corruption, etc. He’s only reigned in the concept of anyone threatening the position of his gang at the top.

            From what I’ve read, they see Russia as a long-term rival and enemy, with interests that naturally conflict with their own. European-Russian conflict goes back something like two centuries, and the last hundred years of that Russia was a serious threat. When the USSR collapsed, the military and foreign-affairs leadership in the US and EU saw an opportunity to break Russia’s power for good, and have been working to that end consistently since then.

            Again, I don’t see how “breaking” the military power of Russia as the leader of a bloc opposed to the West is harmful to the Russian people.

            How do their interests “naturally conflict”? They don’t, no more than America and Canads’s interests “naturally conflict”.

          • “*I* think US interventions in the last two world wars have broken Europe. Would have been better for us if the yanks stayed home.”

            Arguably, the US intervention in WW1 gave too great a victory, leading to German resentment and the Nazis. Once that had happened, though, do you think the outcome would have been better if the US had stayed out of WW2?

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Vox – “How do their interests “naturally conflict”? They don’t, no more than America and Canads’s interests “naturally conflict”.”

            I’m sold. Now you just need to convince the US and EU leadership.

            [EDIT] – We’re going in circles here. The Russians see the US and EU acting in a hostile manner. The US and EU claim that Russia is dangerous and must be put in its place. From my view of the evidence, the US and EU are in the wrong, as they began working to undermine Russia immediately after the collapse of the USSR. Russia’s actions in the last decade or so have been a response to that undermining, not acts of unprovoked aggression. I agree that Russian, EU and US interests probably do not conflict, but hold that the EU and US leadership irrationally believe they do, and are thus driving the escalating conflict. I want them to stop doing that, as it helps no one.

            “I wouldn’t say that South Vietnam’s ideology was “right”. They didn’t have any principles to speak of.”

            And our leaders do?

            “You’re misinterpreting me. I didn’t say that U.S. military intervention was particularly good at spreading these values, only that, to the extent that it does spread them, it benefits Russians as well.”

            I apologize for the misinterpretation. I agree that positive outcomes of American action are positive. I question whether the positive outcomes are predominant enough to justify American intervention. I do not think they are. Altruism is significantly harder than exploitation, and the former very easily devolves into the latter in the face of setbacks.

            “But to your point, I would look less at the countries where the U.S. has gotten involved and more at the countries that didn’t get invaded by the Soviets or the Chinese because they had U.S. protection.”

            I happen to believe that we were absolutely the good guys in the Cold War, and that our efforts to contain communism were justified. That being said, South America and Southeast Asia are not exactly tripping over themselves to thank us for the “assistance” and “protection” we provided them. And given that American interventionism had a fair hand in the rise of communism in the first place via the world wars…

            “The U.S. even played a large role in preventing the Soviets from launching a nuclear strike on the Chinese, for that matter.”

            Source on this?

            “He is restraining them only in the sense of restraining them as threats to his political power.”

            Assuming everything you wrote is correct, some restraint is better than none, and even an amoral central power is better than mere anarchy. But again, I’m not sure you are correct, and neither apparently are the Russian people. I’m sure you think you’re right and they’re wrong, but why should they (or I) believe you?

            “Again, I don’t see how “breaking” the military power of Russia as the leader of a bloc opposed to the West is harmful to the Russian people.”

            Truly, it is mystifying. Imagine it, foreign people *not wanting to be entirely at the mercy* of an unrestrained, unaccountable superpower! Clinging like fools to their autonomy and self-determination, despite the State Department and Pentagon’s laudable history of sowing peace and prosperity across the globe! Are they mad? Do they hate freedom? Don’t they understand that Free Market Capitalism and Liberal Democracy will sort everything out in the end, that a rosy future awaits them just as soon as they climb into your van and put on the handcuffs?

            @Nancy – My argument would be that American intervention in WWI helped create both Communism and the Nazis, and ending the later at the expense of a second world war AND handing half the globe to the former is not exactly a laudable outcome.
            I freely admit that I have no constructive suggestions for what should have been done differently in WWII, merely that the “victory of the free world” narrative seems to be sweeping an awful lot under the rug.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Nancy Lebovitz:

            I wouldn’t say it was too much of a victory; rather it was not enough. Germany was never defeated on its own soil, furthering the “stab-in-the-back myth” that socialists and Jews undermined the war effort to achieve their revolution.

            The Treaty of Versailles imposed just enough on Germany to really piss them off, without curtailing their military power.

            In any case, there is a strong case that the U.S. should have avoided WWI. (There is a strong case that Britain should have avoided it, too, for that matter.) On the other hand, the Germans did damn near everything in their power to draw America into the war, with unrestricted submarine warfare and the Zimmerman telegram.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ FacelessCraven:

            I apologize for the misinterpretation. I agree that positive outcomes of American action are positive. I question whether the positive outcomes are predominant enough to justify American intervention. I do not think they are. Altruism is significantly harder than exploitation, and the former very easily devolves into the latter in the face of setbacks.

            I don’t know if it’s justified, either.

            But if it’s unjustified, it’s because it provokes and sets up the rise of people like Putin. It seems kind of perverse to me to say, “I support authoritarian nationalist leaders who oppose American hegemony because such hegemony often results in bad outcomes, such as the rise of authoritarian nationalist leaders.”

            Whether it is prudent for the U.S. to be involved in Ukraine is an entirely separate question from whether Putin’s involvement there is beneficial either to Ukrainians or Russians. And actually, the very limited extent to which the U.S. has intervened there seems fairly reasonable to me.

            It’s the difference between saying a) getting involved Vietnam was a bad idea, and b) the North Vietnamese were in the right. Similarly, a) the U.S. should try to stop Putin’s expansion is separate from b) Putin’s expansion is actually benefiting Russia.

          • “*I* think US interventions in the last two world wars have broken Europe. Would have been better for us if the yanks stayed home.”

            An interesting and unconventional viewpoint. Could you expand on it?

            If the U.S. stays out of WWI, is the result an Allied victory, a Central Power victory, or a compromise peace?

            If WWI goes as it did but the U.S. stays out of WWII is the result an allied victory, an Axis victory, or some sort of compromise?

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ FacelessCraven:

            “The U.S. even played a large role in preventing the Soviets from launching a nuclear strike on the Chinese, for that matter.”

            Source on this?

            I forgot about this one. Here is the first article I came across. There are different versions of the story, but the essential point is the same: the Soviet Union asked Nixon if he would remain neutral in the event of a Soviet nuclear first strike on China.

            Nixon said no, he would not, and he would retaliate to any such attack by launching a full nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. This was the beginning of the rapprochement with China under Nixon’s presidency. Of course Nixon’s reason was that he saw the Chinese as a useful ally against the greater Soviet threat.

          • Nita says:

            @ Vox Imperatoris

            Fun fact: the Russian Wikipedia page describes the border incident as a deliberate move by the PRC to attract the attention of the USA. According to this version, Americans had failed to notice China’s previous attempts to establish a warmer relationship, so the PRC decided to use a less subtle signal.

            I don’t think either side would have started a full-scale war over it. But the period of large-scale alliances shifting must have been tense.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Nancy

            Arguably, the US intervention in WW1 gave too great a victory, leading to German resentment and the Nazis. Once that had happened, though, do you think the outcome would have been better if the US had stayed out of WW2?

            I would also say that the US intervention made the Soviets possible, not just the Nazis. Their meddling destroyed the old and stable arrangement of borders and powers, with an arbitrary, new, unstable one. Do you think if the monarchies were not destroyed by USA, they would stand idly by as Russia was being taken over by Communists? I don’t.

            If USA had happened to stay out of WWII, there was a chance of the Allies deciding that they’re beat, and coming to terms with Germany. The US was hardline victory-or-death here. And who knows – maybe if they could secure peace in the west, the Germans could have defeated the Soviet Union, or at least fought it to a draw. I think the Nazi regime would collapse sooner or later, for various reasons, or mellowed out, much like the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation did.

            This wouldn’t be an ideal world, but I’d be willing to bet it would be a better, less-evil world than the one we wound up with.

            @David

            If the U.S. stays out of WWI, is the result an Allied victory, a Central Power victory, or a compromise peace?

            Probably a compromise peace; I’d call chances of any decisive victories by the Allies or the CP to be unlikely. Point is, there probably wouldn’t be a dismantling of Germany and Austria, the Communist revolution would probably not succeed.

            If WWI goes as it did but the U.S. stays out of WWII is the result an allied victory, an Axis victory, or some sort of compromise?

            My best guess?

            Allies and Axis come to terms, in absence of the US pushing for no compromise.

            Japan eventually forces China to agree to some kind of peace, in the absence of a two-front fight sapping their ability to fight. China probably collapses into a civil war between the Nationalists and the Communists anyway, but Korea remains commie-free.

            On the Eastern Front, it’s a toss-up. I expect they’d eventually get tired and declare cease-fire. I think peace in the west would significantly increase the odds of a German victory, though, in the absence of reasons to the contrary.

            @Vox Imp

            If you think that supporting Putin is against the interests of the Russians, but the Russians overwhelmingly think otherwise, are you saying that they don’t know what’s good for them?

          • Anonymous:”I would also say that the US intervention made the Soviets possible, not just the Nazis. Their meddling destroyed the old and stable arrangement of borders and powers, with an arbitrary, new, unstable one. Do you think if the monarchies were not destroyed by USA, they would stand idly by as Russia was being taken over by Communists? I don’t.”

            That’s one hell of an alternate history. What would the European powers need to do to prevent Communism in Russia? Would Russia become contested territory? A client state?

            I’m not saying the European powers couldn’t have prevented a communist Russia, but the range of possibilities is so wide that I find it hard to predict beyond that point, and you might want to consider what happens if the effort to displace communists/restore Romanovs fails.

            A: “If USA had happened to stay out of WWII, there was a chance of the Allies deciding that they’re beat, and coming to terms with Germany. The US was hardline victory-or-death here. And who knows – maybe if they could secure peace in the west, the Germans could have defeated the Soviet Union, or at least fought it to a draw. I think the Nazi regime would collapse sooner or later, for various reasons, or mellowed out, much like the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation did.”

            Do you think Nazis secure in their territory would have killed fewer people than the Soviets? What are you using for a measure of improvement?

            A: “This wouldn’t be an ideal world, but I’d be willing to bet it would be a better, less-evil world than the one we wound up with.”

            I definitely want some detail there.

          • Protagoras says:

            What would have happened without American involvement in WWI is very, very unclear. The German spring offensive of 1918 faltered before there were very many Americans present; it seems likely that it would have stalled even if the Americans hadn’t been there. And at that point the German economy was collapsing. Maybe without the Americans the Allied counter-offensive later in 1918 would also have stalled, but unless that inspired peace negotiations (which of course hadn’t been the pattern of the war up to that point), there seems to be a decent chance that the Allies would just have broken through sometime in 1919 as the German situation continued to deteriorate. And if it had played out that way, there doesn’t seem to be any reason to think the peace terms would have been any better for the central powers.

          • John Schilling says:

            @Anonymous:

            Do you think if the monarchies were not destroyed by USA, they would stand idly by as Russia was being taken over by Communists? I don’t.

            Which monarchies are you referring to?

            The only Great Powers that would really qualify as “monarchies” in 1917 were I think the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires (and maybe Japan and China if we’re looking outside Europe). Germany and the United Kingdoms had monarchs, but they also had parliaments, and if the UK was a monarchy in 1917 then it is a monarchy today and I think that devalues the term beyond use.

            The Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires were so badly damaged by 1917 that their long-term survival was in doubt even without US intervention. Even if we imagine that they would have survived, they would have been in no position to intervene in Russia.

            Germany, if we are counting it as a monarchy, was stuck in a bloody stalemate on the Western front and was busy negotiating a separate peace in the East. Whatever the outcome on the Western front absent US intervention, it leaves Germany a broken and war-weary nation that is not going to eagerly launch an invasion of Russia.

            The UK is not a monarchy that was destroyed by the US, and if we imagine it victorious against Germany without US help, it again is a battered and war-weary nation that isn’t going to be invading Russia.

            The Russian Revolution was well underway before the US even declared war in Europe, much less sent enough troops to make a difference. The theory that there were a bunch of European monarchies standing ready to crush the revolution and save the Tsar seems to me to be nonsensical, as does the theory that the United States destroyed these European monarchies. Perhaps you can help me make sense of it.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Don’t forget that Germany actually smuggled Lenin back into Russia in order to undermine their war efforts.

            Deploying chemical weapons would have been kinder and done less damage.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Anonymous:

            If you think that supporting Putin is against the interests of the Russians, but the Russians overwhelmingly think otherwise, are you saying that they don’t know what’s good for them?

            Of course I don’t think that individual Russians know what is good for the Russian people as a collective.

            This is Bryan Caplan’s whole point with The Myth of the Rational Voter: what knowledge do they have, and what incentive do they have to be right? If you’re wrong about which car to buy, you get a worse car. If you’re wrong about which president is better for the country, you get the same president because your vote is insignificant.

            As Don Boudreaux put it:

            In fact, Bryan and his fellow EconLog bloggers consistently fight against “the American elite” who “view the common American people” with contempt. Those who hold the common American people in contempt are those who believe that government must superintend or direct ordinary people’s decisions – those who, for example, are convinced that ordinary people are too incompetent, too uninformed, too unintelligent, or too uncreative to find better jobs so that the only means of getting these people raises is for government to enact minimum-wage diktats. Bryan and his EconLog colleagues have a long and consistent record of trusting decisions made by individuals and of defending those decisions against officious do-gooders (and opportunistic rent-seekers) who demand that government constrain, override, tax, subsidize, or otherwise alter those decisions.

            What Bryan and his fellow bloggers also point out, however, is that collectively made decisions – including voting – are unreliable both as guides to reveal what people really desire and as a means of deciding on actual courses of action. What Bryan and his fellow bloggers distrust is a particular means of making decisions and not the people who participate in making those decisions. The same person – “ordinary” or elite – who can and should be trusted to make wise decisions for himself or herself when choosing privately and when spending his or her own money is led by the poor incentives of the decision-making structure to make poor decisions when choosing collectively.

            Put differently, by consistently defending freedom and by calling for collective decisions to be as few as possible (so that private decisions are as many as possible), Bryan and his fellow bloggers display their hearty and heartfelt confidence in the ability of ordinary people each to run his or her life as he or she sees fit rather than as how elites fancy those individuals’ lives ought to be run. Those who hold ordinary people in contempt are those who endorse an active role for the state, for it is those people – and not scholars such as Bryan and his fellow EconLog bloggers – who insist that ordinary people must be attended to and herded (and sometimes slaughtered) as if they are sheep rather than left free to lead their lives as each of them chooses. And, it must be added, Bryan and his fellow EconLog bloggers understand also that to treat people like sheep is to attract and energize wolves.

        • Hlynkacg says:

          I think “big fans” is overstating it.

          Do we enjoy watching him take the left down a peg? Yes. Find memes about bear calvary and supervilliany amusing? Certainly.

          Is he still “the Opposition”? Absolutely.

          Edit: ninja’d by Keranih.

          • onyomi says:

            “Is he still “the opposition”? Absolutely.”

            I think this is part of why they respect him. It’s not that they want Putin to tell America what to do, it’s that they want their own, American Putin, which role some now believe Donald Trump can fill. Scary part is they could be right.

          • Gbdub says:

            “Big fans” is still a big stretch though. I voted Republican in both the last two presidential elections, but I’d still vote for Obama over Putin (unless we were in or about to be in a real shooting war…!

            That said, Putin has absolutely schooled Obama on foreign policy, and I suspect Putin understands Obama much better than the reverse.

            I “respect” Putin as a dangerous, skilled adversary with a plan and the will to execute it. But I have zero admiration for his cause or many of his methods.

            I think we’d be better off if Obama had a similar level of respect for him.

          • onyomi says:

            My point is just that, in a few decades, red tribe has gone from (arguably rightly) viewing the Russians as our atheist, socialist arch-nemeses to wishing our leaders could be more like their leader. This is probably more a result of changes in Russia than changes in the US red tribe, but it still strikes me as ironic.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @Onyomi,

            I think you’re underselling how much of this is due to changes here.

            Nobody on the right would feel tempted to trade Reagan in for an American Putin. Nor Eisenhower nor Nixon. And even with their distaste for their policies I think most would still rather have kept FDR Truman and JFK.

            The thing is, all of those men were (at least in the public eye ) Statesmen and they each projected America’s dignity and greatness. They weren’t gods but they were leaders that you could look up to.

            By contrast our current crop of Presidents have been national embarrassments. They show no strength, no discernable talents aside from a sort of low cunning, and are thoroughly despicable human beings.

            Putin is a cartoon character, the caricature of a third world strongman. But even that is beyond what our own politicians have to offer.

          • Psmith says:

            Nor Eisenhower…. I think most would still rather have kept FDR Truman and JFK.

            Not sure about the rest, but Robert Welch got pretty far by calling Eisenhower a Communist (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_W._Welch,_Jr.#Welch.27s_The_Politician and Rick Perlstein’s Before the Storm), and there was plenty of hate for Kennedy (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Wanted_for_treason.jpg, and William Manchester records further examples). Mostly the work of a noisy minority, of course, but there were enough of them to get Goldwater nominated over Rockefeller and William Scranton in 1964 and give two or three states to George Wallace in 1968. Goldwater wasn’t much of a Putin figure, but between him and Wallace…I can see it.

          • HlynkaCG says:

            @ Gdub and Dr. Dealgood
            I consider my self solidly “Red Tribe” and pretty much agree on all counts.

            @ Psmith
            I think that you are committing a serious category error. I’d wager that if you asked a representative sample of Red Tribers their opinion of Dwight D Eisenhower the response would be overwhelmingly positive, and the vast majority would look at you like you had a penis growing out of your forehead if you tried to tell them that he was a communist.

            Further more you seem to be forgetting that fear of communist infiltration isn’t nearly as “paranoid” as it would seem today when A) Communism had racked up a body-count that made the Nazis look lazy. B) Many prominent public figures were openly supportive of this. and C) There were actual communist infiltrators in the mix.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Hlynkacg:

            A) Communism had racked up a body-count that made the Nazis look lazy.

            I’m the last person to defend Communism, but this comparison is not one-hundred percent fair. The major reason that the Nazis did not kill more people than the Communists is that the Communists, with the help of the Western Allies, defeated the Nazis. They allied with Stalin precisely because they figured he was a lesser evil.

            And it isn’t clear that they were wrong in that judgment. The Nazis had a program for outright extermination not only of the Jews but for many of the Slavic peoples they were planning to conquer. And the rest they planned to distribute as slaves to German “soldier peasants” living on fiefdoms in the East.

            Now, the Soviet Union was a tyrannical state. But it’s easy to argue that the Nazi state would have been significantly worse if they hadn’t been stopped.

          • HlynkaCG says:

            @Vox

            I’ll grant that, but at the same time there seems to be a tendency to forget that “the lesser of two evils” when one of those evils is literally Hitler, may still be pretty damn evil.

            Point being, if someone were to remain vocally pro-Nazi after VE day I would expect them to attract a certain amount of negative attention. Especially if there were still sizeable groups of Nazis wandering around inciting revolutions and looking for a rematch.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ HlynkaCG:

            Well, I’ve got your back there.

          • Psmith says:

            @Hlynka, well, I’m not saying anything about present-day opinions broken down by class. But I think my sources show that there was plenty of right-wing desire for an authoritarian, Putin-esque right-wing leader even in the days of supposed well-meaning consensus and serious statesmanship. Hell, quite a bit of the law-and-order support for Nixon in 1968 and 1972 seems compatible with the desire for a Putin of our own. I agree that Eisenhower and Kennedy are sainted now, and even that Eisenhower was mostly well-regarded by the right of his own time, but certainly not entirely. And Kennedy definitely not.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Vox: I agree with you, with the caveat that Nazism didn’t last longer than Marxism-Leninism. From a pure utilitarian perspective, we have no grounds to say that Hitler was worse than Stalin.
            But a Platonist would say that since the Real and the Good are the same, being even more evil is exactly why Nazism self-destructed in 12 years.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Le Maistre Chat:

            This is just the difference between judging which one did the most harm and judging which one was more immoral.

            I mean, tornadoes kill a lot of people, but are tornadoes immoral?

            The book Darkness at Noon has a really great and in-depth discussion of this, calling it the difference between “objective morality” and “subjective good faith”. Ironically, the communists themselves tended to dismiss concerns about “subjective good faith” and focus only on the objective consequences. So by their own standards (as Koestler interprets them, but I think he interprets e.g. Trotsky pretty fairly), the communists were more evil than Hitler.

            In my view, yes, ultimately we care about objective consequences. So if someone runs over a pedestrian accidentally, we can say this is an evil thing, if we mean “evil” in the classical sense of “bad” or “not good” (as in the “problem of evil”).

            But we also have to recognize that human beings act on the basis of subjective intentions, and for that reason it’s not appropriate to treat a cold-blooded murderer and an accidental killer the same way. Punishing the accidental killer doesn’t accomplish anything, if he wasn’t reckless.

            Yet that is the dynamic that Koestler often presents being used by the Communists: if a man orders the use of the wrong type of fetilizer, causing a harvest to fail, it doesn’t matter that he acted in “subjective good faith”. He is “objectively” a saboteur or a “wrecker” and can therefore be charged and executed as such.

            Anyway, I highly recommend the book.

          • “Mostly the work of a noisy minority, of course, but there were enough of them to get Goldwater nominated over Rockefeller and William Scranton in 1964 and give two or three states to George Wallace in 1968. Goldwater wasn’t much of a Putin figure, but between him and Wallace…I can see it.”

            ???

            Support for Goldwater did not depend on people believing that Eisenhower was a communist. And it wasn’t based on his coming across a strongman in any sense, but on his supporting policies that his supporters thought obviously right and, as it turned out, a majority of the voters did not.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ David Friedman:

            Yeah, I thought that comment was kind of mysterious.

            I like Goldwater, but I also can’t help but like the amusing anti-Goldwater slogan: “In your guts, you know he’s nuts.”

            And “In your heart, you know he might.”

            Almost as good as when, as the Watergate scandal was developing, anti-Nixon people got out the old bumper stickers from his re-election campaign saying “Nixon’s the One”.

          • HlynkaCG says:

            @ Psmith:

            In addition to what David Friedman said, the two strongest candidates for “authoritarian, Putin-esque strongman in American politics” are Richard Nixon and FDR, and of those two it is FDR who has enjoyed the greatest amount of success and lasting popularity.

            Classifying the authoritarian impulses as a “right wing” thing strikes me as a bit disingenuous.

          • onyomi says:

            “In your guts, you know he’s nuts.”

            And “In your heart, you know he might.”

            Maybe this is just me having no sense of humor, but those slogans, as well as that whole campaign by LBJ (commercial implying Goldwater will cause nuclear war) actually make me really, really angry. Because they remind me too much of the way Ron Paul was always labeled “a loon,” a “nut,” “a cook,” etc.

            For whatever reason, “cooky,” “nutty,” etc. tends to be one of the slurs that best sticks to libertarianish candidates like Goldwater, and maybe libertarians bring it upon themselves to some extent by not distancing themselves from the infamous John Birch Society types discussed in the previous thread, but it also strikes me as extremely unfair to tar someone as intellectual and clear-sighted as Goldwater or Paul as “nuts,” or “cooky.” It’s a way of saying “this person isn’t even in the Overton window, so please don’t even think about what he’s saying.”

          • Psmith says:

            Support for Goldwater did not depend on people believing that Eisenhower was a communist. And it wasn’t based on his coming across a strongman in any sense, but on his supporting policies that his supporters thought obviously right and, as it turned out, a majority of the voters did not.

            Well, you were there and I wasn’t. But Perlstein says that a lot of Goldwater’s support came from John Birch Society members (including, I recently learned, my paternal grandmother) who worried that the Republican establishment as personified by Rockefeller and Scranton in the 1964 primary was soft on socialism. I’m certainly not saying Goldwater = Putin. For one thing, the Goldwater campaign seems to have tried to work a tricky balancing act in keeping the Birchers at arm’s length rather than wholeheartedly embracing them. And Goldwater himself seems to have expressed a very un-Putin-esque reluctance to campaign hard; in addition to his famous tendency to be impolitically blunt and honest, Perlstein’s book relates several stories of Goldwater missing meetings with party bigwigs in the primaries in order to fly his airplane or mess around with his ham radio. For another thing, Goldwater’s domestic policy stances were, of course, remarkably anti-authoritarian and unlike Putin’s. As I see it, the Goldwater campaign is a counterexample to Dr. Dealgood’s point in that much of his support (according to Perlstein) came from people who were not just opposed to but actually contemptuous of national right-wing leaders for being insufficiently far right, and in that many of these supporters were specifically attracted to Goldwater’s promise of an aggressively anti-Soviet foreign policy. Does that make any more sense?

            Classifying the authoritarian impulses as a “right wing” thing strikes me as a bit disingenuous.

            Yes, and I’m certainly not saying that the impulse is unique to the right wing. I was originally responding to Dr. Dealgood saying that it would have been historically unthinkable for the American right to prefer a Putin-esque figure to various historical presidents. My claim is that in fact historical support for Goldwater’s foreign policy and Wallace’s and Nixon’s domestic policy stances kind of fits the mold.

          • “But Perlstein says that a lot of Goldwater’s support came from John Birch Society members”

            I expect that a lot of JBS members supported Goldwater, but that doesn’t add up to a lot of his support.

            According to Wikipedia, “By March 1961 the society had 60,000 to 100,000 members.” Also, “In 1964 Welch favored Barry Goldwater for the Republican presidential nomination, but the membership split, with two-thirds supporting Goldwater and one-third supporting Richard Nixon, who did not run.” That suggests about 40,000 to 66,000 JBS members supporting Goldwater.

            Goldwater got about 27 million votes in the election.

          • Psmith says:

            I expect that a lot of JBS members supported Goldwater, but that doesn’t add up to a lot of his support.

            This is certainly true of the general election. My impression is that far-right groups were more active during the nomination process. Small but well-organized groups were able to sway the nominations more effectively than the general election, since most state party organizations didn’t hold primaries or caucuses.

        • Morkyz says:

          I remember during the Bush years the lefties I hung out with were always on about how much better Putin was than Bush. Now you see that sentiment all the time on the right, both alt- and mainstream.

    • Vox Imperatoris says:

      I just noticed that there’s technically a grammatical error in that sign, at least as a I understand the rules.

      “Обама” is a man’s name, but in Russian, a man’s name can only end with a consonant. Masculine names that end with an “a” are indeclinable (as are feminine names that end in a consonant, or names of either gender that end in a vowel besides “a”).

      However, the sign declines his name as if it were feminine, in the sentence “Не надо быть похожим на Обаму.” It should really be “похожим на Обама”. (“Похож на” is the Russian idiom for “similar to”.)

      The opposite applies to something like “Джейн Остин” (Jane Austen). You wouldn’t decline her name by the rules applying to men’s names, such as “похожим на Остина”.

      I doubt many people will care about this, but I just thought it was interesting.

      ***

      This also makes it possible to tell between Bill and Hillary in Russian, simply going by the name “Clinton” (Клинтон).

      Билл Клинтон declines like a Russian man’s name. But Хиллари Клинтон does not decline like a Russian woman’s name.

      So if you see Клинтона, Кинтоном, Клинтону, и т. д., you know they’re talking about Bill.

      • Nadja says:

        This is actually very interesting. My Russian is abysmal, so I’m probably wrong, but I thought that Obama’s last name needs to be declined as a feminine noun (whereas his first name needs to be declined as a masculine one.) “похожим на Обама” sounds very unnatural to me, which means zero given how bad I’m at Russian, but then some sources out there seem to confirm it: http://blogs.transparent.com/russian/word-of-the-week-%D0%91%D0%B0%D1%80%D0%B0%D0%BA-%D0%9E%D0%B1%D0%B0%D0%BC%D0%B0-barack-obama/

        [EDIT: whereas what you said about Jane Austen and Hillary Clinton sounds right.]

        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          Hmm…

          Turns out I’m right for the wrong reason.

          Foreign masculine first names that end in an “a” do decline. But foreign surnames that end in a vowel don’t decline. At least according to that source.

          And that makes sense because all Russian male nicknames end in an a/я as if they were feminine. So, for instance, with the Japanese male name Кира, it declines as if it were feminine, just like Дима or Саша.

          I was right about all the other cases: feminine names ending in a consonant don’t decline, nor do names ending in any other vowel.

          Edit: spam filterrrrr!!!! I had to remove the link showing that I’m right for the wrong reason. Search “russian rules for declining foreign family names”.

          • Nadja says:

            Ok, I did some more searching. I think Obama does decline.

            There are many sources, wiktionary being one of them:
            https://en.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/Обама

            But if we have any Russian native speakers here who know the answer and if Obama shouldn’t decline, then let’s go fix wiktionary. =)

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Nadja:

            Okay, I don’t know what to say on this anymore.

            I checked the Russian Wiktionary, but the only “Obama” it lists is the city in Japan.

            I can see how they could have conflicting rules on this, or maybe it’s just not clear how foreign surnames decline. For instance, Дюма (as in Alexandre Dumas) does not decline. Maybe that’s because in French it ends in an s? But in Russian it doesn’t, so that shouldn’t matter.

          • Nadja says:

            @ Vox

            [Edit: Oops, missed Nita’s comment. She’s already explained all of this. Thanks, Nita.]

            Is the wiktionary link I tried to paste in my last comment working?

            As per Wade’s Comprehensive Russian Grammar, as a general rule, foreign last names ending in a stressed -a or -ya don’t decline in Russian. That’s why Dumas wouldn’t be declined. Last names ending in -i, -e, -y, -o usually don’t decline either (as in Goethe, Garibaldi, Zola.)

            The stress is important. Obama is stressed on the penultimate syllable, which – together with the -a ending – make it feel like many ordinary feminine Russian nouns, so it comes very naturally to Russians to decline it the way they do. There is no rule that prevents foreign last names ending in -a, but not stressed on the last syllable, from being declined. Wajda, Zola, Kurosawa also decline (again, as per Wade.)

            Here’s another great discussion of the subject: http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=1202

            (There’s some interesting stuff in the comments, too, especially regarding the history of declension of French names in Russian.)

          • Nadja says:

            Correction to my last comment: the second “Zola” was supposed to be “Goya”. Zola doesn’t decline for the same reasons Dumas doesn’t. “Goya” declines for the same reasons Obama does.

      • Nita says:

        “Обама” is definitely declinable in Russian, because its ending has the same, uh, phonetic shape, as “Sasha”, “Nikita” and other native Russian names. This works for last names as well as first names. (Russian last names that end in -a also exist, but I’m too lazy to find one at the moment.)

        “Дюма” is not declinable because the stress makes the ending completely different (to a Russian ear :)). Although, sometimes people will decline words like that intentionally, to amuse themselves or others.

        Also, a couple of small quibbles with your translation: it’s “although he kills very many people” and “don’t be like Obama” (literally, you’re right, but the actual meaning is closer to “don’t”).

    • Jaskologist says:

      This is hilarious.

  29. MawBTS says:

    When the Chinese bureaucrats who invented the Three Represents, the Four Olds, and the Eight Honors get bored and stop taking pride in their work, you get the propaganda campaign in favor of the Two Whatevers.

    Kim Jong Il defined Three Fools, which were people who smoke, people who don’t like music, and people who don’t know how to use computers.

    Confirmed /r/pcmasterrace user?

  30. sweeneyrod says:

    I don’t think there is much of a connection between new programmes that teach gifted youngsters, and victory in the IMO. IMO teams contain the 6 best mathematicians aged 15-18 (usually) in a country. The level of mathematical ability needed is so high that those who have it will not need any encouraging to get into problem solving.

    • bean says:

      That doesn’t mean they won’t benefit significantly from being placed in a program where that desire is encouraged and trained. It’s common that those kind of kids come from families where the parents, though not dumb, are not familiar with higher math. Learning by reading books and self-study is possible, but it’s usually worse than learning by focused teaching by experts. For that matter, most libraries don’t stock higher math textbooks (or many advanced books on any subject).

      • sweeneyrod says:

        Certainly, future engineers, and even maths professors (maybe the top 1% in ability) likely benefit from these programs. However, I think potential IMO team members (the top 0.00001%) are on so much of a higher level that firstly their ability will be obvious, and secondly that they will do well enough in national competitions to be considered for the IMO without extra resources.

        • bean says:

          Here’s a countervailing thought experiment. You have two identical twins, separated at birth. Both are of exceptional (and identical) mathematical ability. One is adopted by a math professor. The other is adopted by a typical white-collar office worker of some sort. It seems intuitively obvious that the one who is raised by a math professor is going to benefit from a much higher level of access to information about advanced math. It’s not that he’s more likely to go into math in the long run (that’s a given) or even that he’s going to be better in the long run. But if the first kid learns about multivariable calculus at age 8, and the second doesn’t do so until he talks his middle school math teacher out of one of her college textbooks at 11, then the first kid is likely to do better at IMO.
          (In fairness, I don’t know much about how math competitions work. I did competitive geography instead, but I could definitely see this occurring there.)

          • sweeneyrod says:

            I don’t know much about competitive geography, beyond the little someone involved with it told me. However, I get the impression that there is a lower ceiling on essay competitions — the geographer at 0.0001% is much more similar to the one on 0.5% than the mathematicians at the same percentiles. So in your example I that either both twins would get on the IMO team, or neither would. At a lower level, there certainly would be a difference: I could imagine the professor’s son coming 2000th in a national competition, but the other twin not taking part at all, because no-one realises how good they are.

          • Universal Set says:

            The contrast here is not between kids who learn multivariable calculus at 8 and 11. (Also, the median middle school math teacher probably doesn’t have a college textbook on multivariable calculus.) The contrast is going to be between the kid who learns calculus, and more, in elementary/middle school, and the kid who is exceptional in his (or her) small town because he takes *algebra* at 11, and doesn’t really have any other resources beyond the classroom until he takes a couple of community college classes in high school.

            It’s probably completely obvious who I am at this point, but anyway: my parents are well-educated, but I lived in such a small town. I was (basically) the latter kid until my parents took the advice of some friends and sent me to a summer program between middle school and high school, where I learned (among other things) of the existence of the relevant contests, and was able to leverage that experience to attend another summer program the following year, and so on. If my parents hadn’t been wealthy enough, or were otherwise not inclined to send me to these camps once they became aware of them, my story would have been very different — as it was already rather different from most of the other top-level USAMO/IMO caliber students, who had opportunities from an earlier age.

            (As I noted in a comment below, I wasn’t on the IMO team, but did eventually place highly on the USAMO.)

          • bean says:

            I’m not so sure of that. Let’s take this even farther. One twin is raised by a math professor. He has the optimal environment, and learns as fast as humanly possible. The other one is raised by rednecks in rural Appalachia. Neither of his parents is very good at multiplication, and there isn’t a calculus book within 10 miles of him. Even if they’re tied for ‘best mathematician of the decade’, it’s hard to see the latter being tied with the first one in terms of math skills at age 15. He’ll catch up by the time grad school rolls around, but he’s going to be behind because he has to work much harder to get access to information.
            As for numbers, there are approximately 4 million children born in the US each year. The IMO bracket covers 4 years, and 6 members on a team means that IMO gets (approximately) the best 1.5 mathematicians per year, or 1 in 2.66667 million. That’s .000056%, or close to 6 times your estimate of the eliteness of these kids.
            As for geography, it’s hardly essay competitions. It’s like the spelling bee, only instead of having to spell odd words, you have to be able to tell the difference between small European countries. (I’m American. No offense meant to anyone from those places.)

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @Universal Set
            Certainly, knowing of the existence of such contests is a big part of being able to do well on them. But speaking for myself, I don’t think there is anything other than internet resources that helps massively. My best maths competition result was qualifying for the BMO1 (best 1000ish 16-18 year olds). If I’d gone to Eton maybe I’d have got into the BMO2, but I don’t think there’s any way I could have got into the IMO. And from the perspective of someone who has 4 months to prepare for a different very challenging maths exam, I think doing papers (which is a possibility for anyone) will be much more helpful than classes.

          • We have experimental evidence on the equivalent of the mathematical genius brought up in Appalachia. His name was Srinivasa Ramanujan.

            I don’t know how early he demonstrated his ability, but it’s at least possible that not having been trained as a mathematician was an asset, since it meant he approached problems from his own original angle.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ David Friedman:

            Still, he seems very much an outlier to me.

            Perhaps a clearer example is motorsports. If you want to become an F1 driver, you’ve got to start practicing from a young age. If you never get behind the wheel of a car until age 18, you don’t have a chance. Surely there are some people who have the innate talent to be F1 drivers but just don’t get exposed to it early enough.

            I think the story with mathematics is probably not too different. Sure, there may be some people who beat the odds and somehow end up getting into it anyway. But I think there are probably just as many people who would be good at it but don’t get exposed, or don’t get exposed in the right way.

          • God Damn John Jay says:

            I think one of the key aspects of Appalachia as an example is the isolation from the rest of the world. Think of the old cliche of the coal mining community (the examples I can think of are the main characters family in Zoolander and Monty Python, which are both parodies). I have previously speculated that being within a city means better access to schools, social services and jobs.

          • Cord Shirt says:

            @Universal Set:

            I didn’t know about the existence of these contests (I almost certainly wouldn’t have been interested anyway–I’m not the competitive type–but the fact remains, I didn’t know about them).

            I did go to CTY (both sections, but chose “verbal” topics the first two summers). DH got in but his parents went, “Thousands of dollars for summer camp?!? OF COURSE NOT!” and I don’t think they ever even learned what they’d turned down–I know when I met him, *he* sure didn’t know what they’d taken it upon themselves to turn down for him. (And I’ve known some parents who didn’t even sign their kids up for the test.)

            “The contrast is going to be between the kid who learns calculus, and more, in elementary/middle school, and the kid who is exceptional in his (or her) small town because he takes *algebra* at 11, and doesn’t really have any other resources beyond the classroom until he takes a couple of community college classes in high school.”

            …IMX many school systems don’t offer algebra to 6th graders, don’t allow grade-skipping, won’t allow a 6th grader to attend a higher grade for another subject, and taking community college classes in high school is unheard of. I mean, just, FYI.

            …but I guess your assumptions here mean things might be better for Da Kidz than they were for my generation (and the slightly-younger kids I tried to help as a teen). That would be cool if so. 🙂

            @bean, old article touching on your point:

            Subjects included 26 of the highest scorers in the John Hopkins Math Talent Search and 26 with an IQ score above 150….

            A surprisingly remarkable similarity exists between the two samples of cognitively gifted boys, although they were selected a year apart, a continent apart, and on the basis of distinctly different test performances. We expected the math-gifted sample to perform better on the figural and the math/science subtest of the Wallach-Kogan and BIC measures, respectively, and the high-IQ sample to perform significantly better on the verbal and the art/writing subtests. Instead, the differences between the two samples are slight and not statistically significant….

            [A] significantly greater number of the high-IQ boys’ parents were the first generation college graduates in their families than were the math-gifted boys’ parents. This difference is primarily between the mothers of the two samples of boys. It appears that more of the math-gifted boys came from families in which lengthy formal educations are a two-generation practice rather than a first-generation experience as appears to be the case for the parents of the high-IQ group.

          • bean says:

            @David Friedman:
            I wouldn’t put him at IMO level, which is approximately 1 in 2 million in the US. He was probably two or three orders of magnitude beyond that. Remember, this is someone who couldn’t study anything but math.

            @Cord Shirt:
            There has been a fair bit of progress in opening advanced classes to younger students in some places. Admittedly, I went to a district with excellent gifted programs, but most places I have even some familiarity with the school setup would allow really exceptional students to move ahead at least to some degree.

          • Universal Set says:

            @Cord Shirt

            You are right in that it is not standard practice in many places to accelerate students at all, even exceptional ones, at all. It it my impression that this has been getting better over the last ~20 years, though.

            [Personal anecdote follows: I believe I was the first person in my school to ever take algebra before 7th grade, and the number who took algebra in 7th grade was very rarely more than 0 per year (out of about 150 students per grade) until after I passed through. This was accomplished only after constant pressure from my parents. Had my parents been less involved, things would have gone less well.]

            For those following along: opportunities vary immensely by location. If you are lucky enough to live in one of a select few metro areas (Fairfax/Alexandria VA, with TJHSST, and New York, with Stuyvesant, are the most prominent), you can attend a local or regional magnet school with lots of smart kids (including multiple people qualifying for USAMO every year). Similarly if you live in a state with a residential math/science academy (and have parents willing to send you), or if you manage to attend a school like Phillips Exeter. Of course, this is at the high school level, and middle-school (and earlier) opportunities are even more location-limited.

            If you live in a wealthy suburb with good schools, you probably have a math team and access to information about contests, as well as schools willing to let you advance more quickly than your peers. It’s not as good as the previous category, but there’s plenty of opportunity for someone proactive.

            Otherwise, your opportunities range from “they might let you skip some classes or a grade if you are really good and your parents push hard” to “actively harmful”. I’m under the impression that the former of these is most typical, but I could be wrong. The new resources are game-changers for people in situations like these.

          • “There has been a fair bit of progress in opening advanced classes to younger students in some places. ”

            Fifty some years ago, when I was a high school senior, I was able to take a college calculus course. It helped that my high school belonged to the University of Chicago.

          • Adam says:

            @David,

            I was actually able to do that, too, in Whittier, CA (yes, I’m from Richard Nixon’s hometown). We were able to take Calc I and Calc II as offered by Cal State Fullerton. They also had a program through a local community college where high school juniors and seniors could take classes, and I did that for English Composition, but it was only practical in the summer.

          • bean says:

            Another place with an excellent magnet program is St. Louis. Most of the school districts outside of St. Louis City itself will send students to the regional Program for Exceptionally Gifted Students (PEGS), which starts in 1st grade. And if math is the issue, there are some 5th graders who take algebra, although not that many. It’s usually a 6th grade class, taught at the middle school.

        • noge_sako says:

          In-My-Opinion(heh) a simple grounder to think about these things is sports.

          There’s sports/problems where natural talent dominates, such as the 40 meter sprint. I think of these as certain type of word/3D geometry problems. Sure training helps, but this is a highly genetic run. There’s sports where talent dominates after precise training, such as the high-jump and shot-put. I think of certain types of factoring and combinatorics problems. And there’s sports where significant practice helps greatly, though talent obviously clearly matters and makes the most interesting results, such as gymnastics. Actual mathematics research goes into this category, where its difficult to impossible to make any contribution without years of significant training, however the most appealing results come from extreme training and talent in conjunction.

          Occasionally, one find a Putnam fellow in the states who didn’t compete in math contests in high school.

    • Universal Set says:

      I agree that this probably does not have a ton to do with the US winning the IMO last year. In the past 16 years (many of which predate a lot of this explosion in programs), the US has never placed below 6th, and was in the top three 13 times. (The 90s were a little more spotty, but the US has a track record to placing in the top few spots most of the time.)

      However, I think you understate the effect that the programs mentioned in the article have had on even the top performers. The issue is not so much encouragement to get into problem solving, but opportunity to learn and be challenged. Art of Problem Solving, and the many new summer programs, really have changed the landscape. I graduated high school in 2004, and in many ways I, not having access to the opportunities present in select locations (e.g. TJHSST), was very lucky to get to participate in summer programs which challenged me. Now, with AoPS and all the new camps, many more people have this access, starting even earlier than high school, and that means more people who have the opportunity to grow mathematically and perform at the highest level.

      Edit: To assure you that my little personal anecdote has some meaning, I should note that, while I was never on the IMO team for the US, I did place in the top 12 on the USAMO in 2004. I would never have been close to this level if I hadn’t had opportunities, starting in high school, that went beyond what was available in my local area. The top few people are not necessarily *automatically* so; resources and opportunity do count for a lot.

      • noge_sako says:

        A slight issue I have with the contests is that last year, 11 out of 12 top scorers on the USAMO took the AOPS training course.

        The SAT has enough criticism for being “gamed”, but that’s a pretty absurd number far outside chance.

        I don’t want to call “unfair”, more so that top talent across the country isn’t being located properly.

  31. StelliesStudent says:

    RE: Purple-face incident.

    (I hope this post satisfies Scott’s rules regarding race and politics)

    I am a student at Stellenbosch University (in South Africa) where the incident occurred. It’s interesting to see my university mentioned here. Unfortunate that it’s in such a bad light, I suppose. (I am happy to answer questions that would reasonably be known by a random student at the uni, if anyone happens to be interested).

    Not directly related to the above incident, but to give you a rough idea of the political climate here at Stellenbosch (and South African universities in general) as told from my perspective (white male):

    At Stellenbosch in particular, there is a group called ‘Open Stellenbosch’ whose stated aims are to ensure Stellenbosch is open to students of colour. In particular, one of their major causes is to try to have the university provide all tuition in English in addition to / instead of Afrikaans (which, note, is useful only to students of colour who are more fluent in English than Afrikaans). This group is known (at least among my in-group) for their radical and racist views.

    Recently there have been a growing number of student protests. Mainly picking up momentum last year with the #RhodesMustFall movement (to remove the statue of Cecil John Rhodes at UCT), and the #FeesMustFall movement across SA protesting the high cost of university tuition. During that protest, at many universities there was a great deal of vandalism, although it was very minor at Stellenbosch by comparison. At Stellenbosch, a large number of students camped outside one of the administration buildings, preventing staff members from entering (and leaving, I think). The Student Representative Council (SRC) Chairperson and one other member called the police to come clear them from the building. This move was unpopular with many students who were in support of the protest. This month there was a call to have a vote of no confidence in the SRC chair and member. At the student parliament, a subgroup of Open Stellenbosch disrupted the proceedings. One of the members got up on stage and, in his own words, disrupted the meeting because they were ‘outnumbered by the whites’ and so wouldn’t have their vote of no confidence passed. Video on FB here: https://www.facebook.com/319895538134510/videos/337640436360020/?pnref=story
    (“These white people come to vote for Diamond and Mynhardt to remain in the SRC.” “We are not going to vote.” “I am the chairperson now” *Applause*)

    Full (bad quality) video of the student parliament here:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4yiDvPWc-Jc&ab_channel=JonathanWotherspoon

    The parliament took place in a church, hence the cross. The red beret is in support of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), the political party in SA with the third-most votes and who have themselves disrupted parliament on numerous occasions. (not necessarily a bad thing – I pass no judgement on their decision to do so here). See here for reference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qIW0EjaX7hQ&ab_channel=SABCDigitalNews

    For an idea of the general state of the South African government, see the State of the Nation Address here:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o03ylUv1VnM&ab_channel=SABCDigitalNews (note, this does not paint the country in a good light).

    • Evan Þ says:

      “In particular, one of their major causes is to try to have the university provide all tuition in English in addition to / instead of Afrikaans (which, note, is useful only to students of colour who are more fluent in English than Afrikaans). “

      How many such people are there in South Africa? How many of them are students at Stellenbosch, and how many of them are students of color?

      • Leit says:

        The question is not how many such people there are in South Africa, but how many such are in the Western Cape.

        The dominant population group in the Cape is the Cape Coloureds. Yes, very imaginative name, I know. Anyway, they’re pretty much universally Afrikaans-speaking non-whites.

        The Cape province in general has always tended toward Afrikaans, though whites from elsewhere in the country have been moving there over the past few years, including many primarily English-speaking whites from areas like Johannesburg. “Many” being a relative measure, seeing as whites are still a minority in both areas.

        • StelliesStudent says:

          According to Wikipedia:

          -Demographics for the Western Cape-
          49% of the people of the Western Cape described themselves as “Coloured”, while 33% described themselves as “Black African”, 17% as “White”, and 1% as “Indian or Asian”. Afrikaans is the plurality language, spoken as the first language of 50% of the province’s population. IsiXhosa is the first language of 25% of the population, while English is the first language of 20%.
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_Cape#Demographics

          -Demographics for University of Stellenbosch in 2009-
          According to the 2008 language profile of the university, 60% of its students stated Afrikaans as their home language, 32% had English as their home language and 1.6% of students had Xhosa as their home language.

          The language policy is still an ongoing issue for the University, since it is one of the very few tertiary institutions left in South Africa offering tuition in Afrikaans. Due to this, it is held in very high regard by the Afrikaner community, with the university even being considered a central pillar of Afrikaner life.
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stellenbosch_University

          Note that a.f.a.i.k. the North-West University is more Afrikaans than is Stellenbosch (source: my brother who studied there).

    • Anonymous says:

      >I am a student at Stellenbosch University (in South Africa) where the incident occurred.

      I stand corrected.

      • Leit says:

        Suspect you’ve got your incidents crossed over with BassicallyBoss’s thread further up.

        I’m not saying it couldn’t happen in South Africa, but it probably wouldn’t be in the Cape.

  32. Vox Imperatoris says:

    So, does anyone want to bet on whether Republicans in the Senate will have the spine to hold up their commitment to block Obama’s Supreme Court nominations until the election?

    I would say they definitely should do so, but, to quote Timothy Sandefur on this: “I never underestimate Republicans’ willingness to cave.”

    • brad says:

      I think they definitely shouldn’t but will. Seems we are both pessimistic in opposite directions.

    • Frog Do says:

      I say this depends on if a major media controversy “coincidently” happens at the same time or just before the actual nominations process they won’t, if not they will. Do they have the cover to act like elites?

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      I hope you don’t mind that I’m ignoring your actual question (no knowledge, no opinion) in favor of this but:

      When I was younger and deeply immersed in Democratic / Progressive Party (they were on our local ballots too) politics, the big complaint every person on the left had was that our side had no spine. That Democrats would rather eat each other than actually stand their ground and fight the issues, even facing a well organized and fanatical Republican opposition.

      A few years back when I started reading Steve Sailer, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and various libertarians I started seeing the same complaint by right wingers about the Republicans. Almost word for word the same. And the more I looked into it the more it seemed like something even mainstream Republicans felt: hence the Tea Party, the Donald, etc.

      I don’t think each party is caving to the positions of the other, or that one side is delusional, or that this is the result of compromises with which neither side is happy. It seems more like the people on top are just exactly the same people regardless of the letter after their name. That if an Establishment position comes up against a Democratic or Republican position, it will win ninety nine times out of one hundred.

      • Vox Imperatoris says:

        I don’t think each party is caving to the positions of the other, or that one side is delusional, or that this is the result of compromises with which neither side is happy. It seems more like the people on top are just exactly the same people regardless of the letter after their name. That if an Establishment position comes up against a Democratic or Republican position, it will win ninety nine times out of one hundred.

        I’m not exactly sure what you’re saying here.

        I don’t believe in the concept of “the Establishment” as a cabal with a secret, nefarious agenda.

        I do believe in the establishment as, basically, the careerist faction in both parties. I don’t think the two parties’ establishment wings are exactly the same, either. They resemble each other because the main priority of both is getting elected and maintaining a career as a professional politician—and not a backbencher but someone near the top of the heap.

        In college, I knew people in the College Democrats or College Republicans who were like this. They don’t really have opinions; they just know what you’re supposed to think on every issue. And they are very attached to the status quo, never proposing any kind of radical changes.

      • Deiseach says:

        That Democrats would rather eat each other than actually stand their ground and fight the issues, even facing a well organized and fanatical Republican opposition.

        This is probably a universal thing; your most dangerous rivals are those within your own party, not the opposition.

        In my own county there is (or was, has quietened down a bit but still rumbles away under the surface) a vicious intra-party local dispute in one of our national parties where they were clawing out each other’s eyes in an election campaign over which candidate would campaign in what half of the county. Because Candidate A assumed and claimed a certain region as his own natural constituency and wouldn’t tolerate other candidates from his own party campaigning there, there was blue murder when Candidate B (from the same party running to win a seat in the same election and return two candidates to the national parliament for the party) allegedly campaigned in a particular village in Candidate A’s territory. They preferred to stab one another in the back than put up a united front, for fear they’d lose votes to the party ‘rival’.

        It’s pretty much agreed amongst all the parties that certain candidates will campaign in the east of the county, others in the west, and the city belongs to others again 🙂

        • I’m familiar with the same pattern in the ideological rather than political context. Left wingers spend more time fighting each other than fighting right wingers, libertarians devote a lot of energy to arguing with other libertarians, … .

          I think there are two explanations. One is that it is more fun to argue with someone who agrees that you have the fundamentally correct view of the world even if you have some details wrong than with someone who thinks you and all who agree with you are nutcases.

          The other is the idea that a movement has a fixed pool of resources, so if you persuade people to spend them in the ways you mistakenly approve of, they won’t be spent in the ways I correctly approve of.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            I think there are two explanations. One is that it is more fun to argue with someone who agrees that you have the fundamentally correct view of the world even if you have some details wrong than with someone who thinks you and all who agree with you are nutcases.

            It’s not only more fun, it’s more productive.

            You can hardly even have a discussion with someone who fundamentally disagrees with you on everything. And if you can, you just end up rehashing the fundamentals.

            But in debating people who agree with you 95% of the way, you can get into interesting questions you never considered before.

          • noge_sako says:

            A devout catholic may argue with another devout catholic about how a certain principle X does not correspond with principle WYZ, and might *win* that argument within their educational framework.

            But where does he start on principle X when arguing with a devout jain? Or an atheist? Even if principle W and Y are in agreement, it could be with a very different framework. If the closest things to “axioms” are utterly different, where to begin? For a large portion of believes, you simply can’t in any meaningful way.

            And that’s if we are considering simply logical framworks to debate in, and not the more…complicated real life variants of emotion, propaganda, logic, and life experience all rolled into one. Trying to debate an “axiom” in another person can lead to a deadly response, while debating principle M three layers of logic above, its simply an intellectual exercise.

            I think this is a good reason why there are engineering patents and mathematics results from all over the world, while other aspects of intellectual life are quite varied.

          • John Schilling says:

            @Vox: It’s not only more fun, it’s more productive.

            Uncompromising extremists expounding doctrine at the more pragmatic members of their own faction always think they are being productive.

            The reality is that when I am tempted to join the Death Eaters, or worse the Republicans, it is almost always the work of libertarians like yourself. I have learned nothing interesting from engaging with you, only “rehashed the fundamentals”, and I doubt that I am alone in this.

            So I’m not clear on what you are trying to produce here, but I suspect you are failing at it.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ John Schilling:

            The feeling is mutual.

            The reason is because I fundamentally disagree with you. While you call yourself a “libertarian”, our respective political philosophies have nothing essential in common.

            Anyway, I am hardly an “uncompromising extremist” member of the same faction of which you are a member. I try to maintain a balanced mental attitude and an intellectual tolerance toward people who disagree with me. I am a member of a different faction from you.

            It is by engaging with people like you that I become tempted to join the folks at the Ayn Rand Institute and condemn all “libertarians” as intellectually corrupt moral relativists. Yet I actually don’t think so.

          • John Schilling says:

            @Vox: This brings us back to the question of what it is you are trying to “produce” here. If your faction is so exclusive as to categorically reject people like e.g. me, then either it is tiny and impotent and likely to remain so or it is seeking support in places I cannot envision. Who, if not people like me, are you trying to reach with the frequent and lengthy political and philosophical essays that must represent a substantial commitment of your time? Or is this just a private recreation for which we are the audience?

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ John Schilling:

            I have had interesting exchanges with posters like David Friedman, blacktrance, onyomi and several others. And I have had several people, including people who often disagree with me politically like Nita, tell me that I am a valued commenter.

            I mean, other people are free to judge here, but I don’t post for your benefit. And obviously, I don’t post on SSC because I think it is going to change the world. It is a form of recreation.

            Generally, though, I am trying to reach people who broadly agree with the values of the Enlightenment and modernity. In that respect, I think Scott Alexander, for instance, is much closer to me than you are.

            As I have linked before, I basically agree with Timothy Sandefur that there are three types of libertarians: a) the “paleo-conservative” group centered around Lew Rockwell and the later Rothbard, who see the welfare-regulatory state as an outgrowth of the modernity they reject, b) the “radical Whig” type who view themselves as a variety of liberal, in which Objectivists are included, and c) the “sensible shoes” i.e. policy-oriented type.

            I see myself as part of the second group, and I think its values largely overlap with the third. (I think of people like Matt Ridley and Virginia Postrel.) But on all fundamental levels, they are contrary to the values of the first.

          • Nita says:

            @ Vox Imperatoris

            Eh, I’d like to remark that I also consider John Schilling a valued contributor. Most of his comments are some of the best material on SSC — informative, fair, well-reasoned, and often insightful. But occasionally (about 2% of the time?) he gets really annoyed and posts something angry and… not as good.

            Luckily, I have no idea what John’s political views are, or what has caused this particular heated exchange, so you’ll be spared further ‘splaining from me.

          • John Schilling says:

            You’re taking a recreational activity pretty seriously if you insist on dividing people into exclusionary factions. But have at it and enjoy, if that’s your thing.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Nita:

            I think some of the things he has to say are valuable, as well.

            I meant to say that, in the debates over e.g. immigration, I have gotten about as much from his posts as he has apparently gotten from mine.

            That’s not to say that I haven’t gotten anything from his posts on other subjects. Though I don’t know if he has the same opinion about me on other subjects. 🙂

            @ John Schilling:

            The categories are not “categories of libertarian on this website”. They are categories of libertarian in real life.

            Posting on this website is recreation. That doesn’t mean I consider politics as a whole a recreational activity.

    • J Mann says:

      I think it depends mostly on what their constituents think. In that respect, the Senate is not as insulated as the House, so it’s possible that purple state senators get enough pressure to cave.

      Some of that will depend on who Obama picks – whoever it is, I think it’s a safe assumption that they will be Borked, so if Obama is smart, he’ll pick someone with a strong resume from an allied marginalized group, so he can spin this as “Republicans hate .”

    • The Nybbler says:

      Well, if they can bait Obama into making a recess appointment, they’ll hold up. But that’s not going to happen. If Obama is fool enough to make a bad appointment (either obviously politically unsuitable or with an insufficiently-buried skeleton), they’ll manage to run out the clock. But if Obama manages to find someone with no scandals attached and not to the left of Mao, they’ll probably cave.

      • One problem, in the present situation, is that anyone who is intellectually impressive will have taken positions that the opposition can demonize—Posner being the obvious example. So you end up nominating someone who is, or at least has pretended to be, a nebbish—and then have to argue that your nominee is qualified for the top job.

        As a replacement for Scalia.

        • brad says:

          Posner is too old at this point anyway. He’ll go down as his generation’s Learned Hand.

          • BBA says:

            I’ve seen Posner’s name mentioned as a compromise proposal – he’d be appointed in the knowledge that he wouldn’t stay very long and the next President would get to appoint a long-term replacement, but at least there would be a full complement of nine justices in the interim. Former Justice O’Connor has also been mentioned in this context.

            I don’t think it’s particularly likely, and anyway Posner is probably too heterodox to get this Senate’s approval.

    • Vorkon says:

      I could theoretically see them reaching a compromise if Obama is able to find an appointee that is with them on some issues but not on others, such as, say, agreeing with both the Heller and Roe v. Wade decisions. However, between the fact that it’s Obama making the appointment, and the fact that such a Justice is probably a magical unicorn that only exists in my imagination, I don’t see it as very likely.

      Barring something like that, though, I think they can wait him out. The Republicans in Congress may be prone to caving on a lot of issues, but I think caving on this one would be career suicide to any of them, even the ones from purple states, and they know it.

      That said, I agree with what was said in the previous thread, that publicly announcing their intention to block any appointee was a bad tactical move, and precludes even the slight possibility of the sort of magical unicorn appointee I was talking about earlier. However, the sheer fact that they were willing to make such a statement tells me that they all realize just how thoroughly it would ruin their careers if they let the appointee get through, so I think it’s safe to say they won’t.

      • Thomas Jørgensen says:

        It’s a suicidal move, because what Obama will do next is go and dig up the most impressive possible candidate that is also completely anathema to the republican party.
        The republicans are committed to rejection anyway, so he has no reason whatsoever to compromise, and can just go for making the republicans look maximally bad.

        • gbdub says:

          Does the Republicans rejecting someone completely anathema to them actually make them look bad though? I suspect there are a lot of moderates who would be uncomfortable with replacing Scalia with someone far-left, and the reaction might just as well be “Well, no duh, what did Obama think they were going to do with that?” Hell, now that the Dems have made us all aware that Kennedy was appointed late in the Reagan administration, it would be rather awkward for them to ignore that Reagan appointed a moderate after his preferred candidate was rejected.

          Seems to me the smart play would be for Obama to appoint a highly qualified moderate – the Republicans would be tempted to take the deal, which might hurt them with their bases, and would take the issue off the table for the election (where I suspect a Supreme Court vacancy probably helps the Republicans more). If they do reject the moderate nominee, then they do look extreme.

          As an aside, I don’t know where we got this idea that Congress is supposed to merrily go along with the President’s agenda even if it is directly opposed to their own, lest they be labeled “obstructionists”, but it’s one of the more annoying memes of the Obama era.

          • brad says:

            I don’t know that it is possible to pick a Kennedy or an O’Connor. Certainly Reagan didn’t think he was picking moderates when he selected them (though admittedly he knew that Kennedy was to the left of Bork).

            Moderates, at least in recent times, seem to happen when nominees expected to be conservative get lifetime appointments and begin multi-decade process of moving to the left. It’s unrealistic to expect a Democratic President to pick an expected conservative and cross his fingers.

          • Vorkon says:

            Interesting note (to me at least):

            Up until this issue with Scalia’s replacement started, I had no idea that the term “Borked” had a specific origin. I always just assumed it was a fun, onomatopoeia-ish term for when something gets in the way of a plan. The more you know!

            That said, yeah, I don’t think that blocking whoever Obama appoints will hurt the Republicans, at least not nearly as badly as allowing a liberal appointment to go through would hurt them. Anyone who was going to be sold on that narrative has long since bought it, and anyone who was on the fence, even if they accept the overall narrative about Republican obstructionism in general, is well aware that the Democrats would be doing the exact same thing in their position. If they let the appointment through, on the other hand, they know they would have a literal revolt on their hands among their base. (Presumably, this is why they made the announcement in the first place, though I still think it was a terrible strategy; to forestall this revolt before it even begins.)

            Also, yes, appointing a moderate would have been the smart thing for Obama to do… Before they announced they would block anybody, no matter what. That’s a big part of why I think that announcement was a bad move. Right now, Obama has little choice but to make the appointment that will get his own base the most fired up.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            I don’t know where we got this idea that Congress is supposed to merrily go along with the President’s agenda even if it is directly opposed to their own

            I recall Diane Feinstein (D-CA) doing just that for one of Bush II’s appointees. Perhaps it was customary till then, and the contrary policy was just coming into use.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ gbdub:

            As an aside, I don’t know where we got this idea that Congress is supposed to merrily go along with the President’s agenda even if it is directly opposed to their own, lest they be labeled “obstructionists”, but it’s one of the more annoying memes of the Obama era.

            Exactly. If Congress is supposed to go along with the President, why the hell do they even exist?

            The whole point is that if Congress doesn’t want the President to do something in which they have a say, he doesn’t get to do it.

            For instance, if Congress doesn’t want to fund a certain healthcare law, why do they have some kind of obligation to fund it anyway? Just give the President the power of the purse if that’s what you want.

          • One dimension of the situation that I haven’t seen much discussed is that Republicans might be choosing between Obama’s candidate and Hilary’s candidate.

            Suppose Obama proposes a reasonably moderate candidate. Republicans would rather have the conservative candidate that a Republican president would propose, but they would rather have Obama’s moderate than Hilary’s left winger, and blocking a candidate for four years will be harder and more politically expensive than doing it for one year.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ David Friedman
            One dimension of the situation that I haven’t seen much discussed is that Republicans might be choosing between Obama’s candidate and Hilary’s candidate.

            Frying pan vs fire, devil vs deep blue sea. But so far, all they’ve done is threaten. ‘I support X to replace Scalia, vote for me’ may be useful to some Republican candidates starting now, and build up GOP voter lists. But as time goes on, if Hillary does look like winning, they’ll still have a few weeks to approve Obama’s nominee and close that possibility.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ David Friedman:

            If Republicans can force Obama to appoint a moderate, why can’t they force Hillary to do the same?

            Anyway, I simply don’t think the Republicans should approve a liberal justice—as a replacement for Scalia—under any circumstance. It completely tips the balance of the Court. If they have to have eight justices until the Republicans lose the Senate, fine.

          • Jaskologist says:

            As I think over it, I would prefer Hillary’s appointee to Obama’s. I have a hard to picturing her choice being worse, and Clintons aren’t nearly as allergic to compromising with the other side.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            /wwwbbubb/

            Please excuse this old Clintonista while she chokes with hysterical laughter.

            @ Vox Imperatoris
            If Republicans can force Obama to appoint a moderate, why can’t they force Hillary to do the same?

            @ Jaskologist
            As I think over it, I would prefer Hillary’s appointee to Obama’s. I have a hard to picturing her choice being worse, and Clintons aren’t nearly as allergic to compromising with the other side.

            Er, sorry. You’re both quite right. Compromise is what the Clintons were criticized for in the 90s and since. But compared to Obama….

          • onyomi says:

            “If Republicans can force Obama to appoint a moderate, why can’t they force Hillary to do the same?”

            New President Hillary would be in a more politically powerful position than almost lame duck Obama, even assuming the Republicans hold the Senate. New Presidents get a free bucket of good will and political capital which is theirs to spend on things like the ACA. That said, Hillary does strike me as more likely to nominate a moderate than Obama.

          • “If Republicans can force Obama to appoint a moderate, why can’t they force Hillary to do the same?”

            Because the political costs of stalling for one year are lower than for four years. In addition to which, there will be two more senatorial elections before the end of Hilary’s term—eight if she is reelected—and they might lose one of them.

          • John Schilling says:

            I don’t know where we got this idea that Congress is supposed to merrily go along with the President’s agenda even if it is directly opposed to their own

            It doesn’t matter where we got that idea; the matter is that we have it. The general perception in American politics is that the president is The Man and congress’s job is mostly to back his play. That’s why we have 25% of the electorate supporting an outright socialist for president but no viable socialist congressional candidates that I know of, and 15-20% supporting whatever it is we want to call Trump and no noticeable support for a Trumpian “reform” candidates in the House or Senate.

            If the President nominates Supreme Court Justices who aren’t obviously extremists, or proposes budgets that aren’t similarly out of whack, and we end up with an eight-justice court or a persistent government “shutdown”, the voters will blame congress, not the president, and punish the congressional majority party in the next elections. They don’t have to provide an acceptable historical answer to the question of how they got that way, they don’t have to justify themselves or listen to anyone explain why they are doing it wrong.

            Supreme court confirmations are expected to be contentious and take months; having a vacancy come up nine months before a particularly contentious election probably gives the Republicans enough latitude to stall until we get a new president. Trying to stall until 2020 would very likely mean the end of the GOP.

    • houseboatonstyx says:

      @ Vox Imperatoris
      So, does anyone want to bet on whether Republicans in the Senate will have the spine to hold up their commitment to block Obama’s Supreme Court nominations until the election?

      Might depend on things like whether they watch the numbers on how many Democrats are registering to vote as this makes more and more news. They’d be better with Obama’s choice — than Hillary’s.

    • BBA says:

      The previous contentious confirmations have taken 3 to 4 months from nomination to final vote. I’d say it’s certainly possible to stretch one nomination out into the middle of the summer, by which point the press’s focus will be on the presidential election (and we’ll be in the traditional “Thurmond Rule” range). Alternatively, two 4-month nominations, both voted down, would take us practically to the election.

      Now this would have been far more plausible if McConnell hadn’t outright said that he would reject any nominee and it should be up to the next president to decide. Though this does give some extra time to hem and haw about how unprecedented an appointment during an election year is, etc., etc., and push the actual start of Senate hearings out a few weeks.

    • Winter Shaker says:

      If I were Obama, I’d be strongly tempted to say: Okay, Republicans, name your top 10 picks; I will consult some Democrat colleagues and we’ll name our top 10, promise that no one will obstruct whoever is nominated then we roll a D20 to decide.

    • Gudamor says:

      In the event that a SC nomination is blocked until the next president takes office and:

      1. The President is a Republican and Democrats hold the Senate, why would they not continue blocking nominations?

      2. The President is a Democrat and Republicans hold the Senate, why would they not continue blocking nominations?

      • HlynkaCG says:

        Because the nomination presents an opportunity for some quid-pro-quo.

        The question is will the senate display the brains and baraka capitalize on it? Or will they revert to seeking executive approval like a battered spouse?

      • Vox Imperatoris says:

        There’s no reason that they can’t do this. Nothing say the Senate has to approve Presidential nominations, or that there have to be nine justices on the Supreme Court.

        In the end, if the public wants another justice on the Supreme Court, the question is whether Congress or the President convinces the public that their cause is right, and forces the other to cave.

        For instance, with the most recent government shutdown, the media narrative was “Obstructionist Republicans won’t pass a budget.” But they did pass a budget: one Obama wouldn’t sign. The narrative could just as well have been “Obstructionist Obama won’t sign the budget.” So who was to blame for the shutdown? It depends on who is right in that dispute.

        (The thing I don’t understand is that you hardly even hear Republicans pushing that side of the story.)

        But anyway, it’s like political brinksmanship or “chicken”: the thing is to have more will and make the other guy swerve. One way to win at this is if you are less affected by the “collision”. For instance, if you’re driving a monster truck in a game of chicken against a motorcycle, you know the other guy is going to swerve. And if he doesn’t, he’ll die and you’ll barely be affected.

        If the Republicans had balls they would feel less affected by the prospect of a shutdown. But they are too scared of the media narrative painting them as obstructionists, instead of effectively pushing the counter-narrative that Obama is an obstructionist who won’t let the government function at all if he can’t have his healthcare law funded.

        • HlynkaCG says:

          Vox Imperatoris says: The thing I don’t understand is that you hardly even hear Republicans pushing that side of the story.

          I hear it all the time on the ground/local level but it never seems to make it to the national news.

          *Dons tinfoil hat*
          I wonder why that might be…
          *Doffs hat*

          Edit:
          Well that’s disconcerting, the comment I linked too appears to have gone down the memory hole.

          • onyomi says:

            I notice a lot of people suggested Scott make that comment into a post of its own, so maybe that’s what he’s planning to do? I’m not sure what the benefit of … iting it out in the meantime is, but my best guess is he wants to make it more nuanced somehow before everyone starts attributing it to him. It was a good comment, though.

          • Anonymous says:

            @HlynkaCG

            Spandrell has preserved the post on his blog.

            https://bloodyshovel.wordpress.com/2016/02/16/picking-sides/

          • Nita says:

            @ Anonymous

            What a peculiar post.

            Spandrell certainly can’t be trying to do the thing described in the intro — manipulating an “asshole ruler” into rejecting their “good general”. You don’t manipulate someone by announcing outright that you’re interested in depriving them of a valuable resource.

            So, what is he trying to do?

            Trigger Scott’s well-known anxiety? Give his audience the pleasure of fantasizing about “winning” the “war”? Perhaps both?

          • Anonymous says:

            You don’t manipulate someone by announcing outright that you’re interested in depriving them of a valuable resource.

            Why not? It works for Vox Day.

          • Leit says:

            Got a suspicion that he was expecting the typically contrarian comment section to shred holes in it, and realised that it wasn’t helping the cause of progress when the responses were largely split between “pretty much” and “wow, that’s scary but plausible”.

            Or just #thingsiwillregretwriting

          • Seth says:

            @ Leit – I don’t think so. The responses were highly consistent with the “SSC *commentariat* leans right” hypothesis (Internet: This is not a statement that each, every, all, commenters are ultra-right and no, zero, none, commenters are slightly left). Also, it was going to take a large amount of effort, PLUS deep familiarity with the left, to write a considered response. And that’d be a thankless task. But very little effort to say “Right on!”, with the reinforcement of in-group reward.

            But Spandrell’s post strikes me as a strategy likely to backfire, if it does anything at all. It’s declaring that side as trying to provoke the torment of the person they’re trying to influence, which doesn’t seem to me a way to win friends and influence people (to one’s side, rather than away from it).

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            >So, what is he trying to do?

            Gloat. He probably thinks it’s already happening and it’s unlikely to stop.

          • antimule says:

            @Seth

            “””Leit – I don’t think so. The responses were highly consistent with the “SSC *commentariat* leans right” hypothesis (Internet: This is not a statement that each, every, all, commenters are ultra-right and no, zero, none, commenters are slightly left). Also, it was going to take a large amount of effort, PLUS deep familiarity with the left, to write a considered response. And that’d be a thankless task. But very little effort to say “Right on!”, with the reinforcement of in-group reward.
            “””

            Although it certainly appears that SSC leans right, I don’t think you can deduce it from the reaction to that post. I myself am fairly left- I am in favor of bigger minimum wage, more taxes on the rich, free contraception, and (depending on how automation progresses), maybe basic income. I won’t defend those positions here, I am merely pointing out my leftist leanings.

            However, none of that means that I have to support things like creeping credentialism, attacks on nerds or crazier parts of Feminism. And criticism of the crazy left by the sane left is nothing new. Postmodernism is now pretty old in academia – we had old lefties like Alan Sokal slamming the SJWs of their time for saying crap like Newton’s Principia Mathematica being a “rape manual.” New SJW is mostly a crude version of the same thing, and aimed at popular culture.

            And it should be noted that these attacks against silicon valley for being too “bro” are very, very new. As recently as 2012 elections, tech people were widely praised for their part in helping Obama defeat Romney. It used to be the right that was accusing games of promoting violence and anti-social behavior. It is only now, with fragmentation of left into the various camps that techies became “bros” and games became sexist.

            (Having said that, I am not sure if there really is a straightforward connection between credentialsim and SJW-ism. It is probably more complex.)

            And I must also say that the very fact that SSC commentariat leans so right (despite Scott not leaning right at all) is to me the indictment of the left as it exists now. Too many leftists simply ignore anything that is even slightly against the current ideologies and causes. I also see people from the left accusing dissidents of being trolls way too often. As if they can’t conceive of anyone disagreeing with any detail of their ideology. This rush for “safe spaces” is going to be the end of us.

          • Theo Jones says:

            @Anonymous

            That blog post from “bloody shovel” is something else. I made the mistake of reading the comments **hurk**.

            @onyomi
            I think he remove it because it got a lot of attention from people outside of this site, a lot of it from the type of people you don’t want attention from. Also see the note in the open thread where Scott asked people not to mention things posted in an out of the way fashion.

            @Nita
            I think that kind of is “bloody shovel”‘s intent. Or at least to make that comment of scott’s out there enough that it becomes well known.

          • “Although it certainly appears that SSC leans right”

            What does that mean? What is the implicit neutral point you are comparing it to?

            You self-identify as left, so anything less left leans right relative to your view of the truth, just as anything less libertarian than me leans left relative to my view. That obviously isn’t what you mean, but I’m not sure what is.

          • antimule says:

            “What does that mean? What is the implicit neutral point you are comparing it to?”

            I suppose I mean, “leans more right than is average in western (American + European) culture.” It seems strange to find that part of what I wrote controversial, out of everything else written.

            Although, I should have written that SSC *commentariat* leans right, not Scott. Scott is actually as left as I, despite complaining about portions of the left. Too late to correct now.

            What do you think of the rest of my post?

          • Theo Jones says:

            @Antimule @David
            The other way to define how the community “leans” is relative to the population as a whole. My impression on that is
            1. Centrist on economic issues, with large variation between posters. Market friendly, but sympathetic to large scale anti-poverty policy and some economic intervention.
            2. Libertarian on social issues ie. strongly protective of civil liberties, and skeptical towards both left-wing and conservative proposals for wide-scale cosersively enforced social change.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            I notice a lot of people suggested Scott make that comment into a post of its own, so maybe that’s what he’s planning to do? I’m not sure what the benefit of … iting it out in the meantime is, but my best guess is he wants to make it more nuanced somehow before everyone starts attributing it to him.

            I seriously doubt that comment is coming back. On reddit and on tumbr, he explains that he deleted it because it started to go viral.

            Spandrell has preserved the post on his blog.

            https://bloodyshovel.wordpress.com/2016/02/16/picking-sides/

            So has Nick Land.

            http://www.xenosystems.net/quote-note-220/

          • gbdub says:

            “I suppose I mean, “leans more right than is average in western (American + European) culture.” It seems strange to find that part of what I wrote controversial, out of everything else written.”

            I think it’s controversial because I don’t think it is correct – it’s certainly not true of Americans (who make up most of the likely audience). Remember how many creationists there are in the US vs. how many are here? How many social conservatives are actually here? Maybe it’s true the blog is rightish of “all English speaking people in North America and Europe”. But I’m not sure that’s a fair baseline either.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Nita – “Spandrell certainly can’t be trying to do the thing described in the intro — manipulating an “asshole ruler” into rejecting their “good general”. You don’t manipulate someone by announcing outright that you’re interested in depriving them of a valuable resource.”

            …Anon already mentioned Vox Day. It seems to me that both Vox and this Spandrell person see themselves as sufficiently toxic relative to the current mainstream, and Social Justice as sufficiently strident, that they can pretty much do that at will. And even if they’re wrong, the attempt costs *them* nothing, so why not try and see?

          • onyomi says:

            “leans more right than is average in western (American + European) culture.”

            I think whether or not one includes Europe in that calculation is a very decisive factor. If the claim were that the SSC commentariat is to the right of the average US+European view then I’d actually accept that because the average European view is far to the left of the average US view.

            But, while we have a decent representation of Europeans on here (it’s a much more transatlantic commentariat than I encounter almost anywhere else), I’m pretty sure SSC is still majority American by a pretty good margin. By the standards of America, SSC is slightly left-leaning, and Scott himself is significantly left-leaning, especially on social issues.

            Perhaps a fairer metric would be to measure the views of the commentariat not against some arbitrary US and/or European median view, but against the populations which they represent. That is, if SSC is 60% US, 30% European and 10% other (I guess the real figures are on one of the surveys somewhere?), then, in order to be perfectly representative (though it’s arguable whether or not that is desirable), we’d need to weigh the average American view say, double.

          • On the “leans right” question …

            My suspicion is that the perception is relative to an environment, academia plus associated blue cultural areas, that is well to the left of at least the U.S. average. The bubble problem.

            Including Europe is hard, because left/right issues don’t necessarily map across societies. The Scandinavian countries are left of the U.S. in terms of income redistribution, generally right of the U.S. (i.e. more pro-market) in terms of government regulation.

          • null says:

            While the SSC commentariat may lean left relative to average American standards, I would estimate that a majority of the regular commenters are anti-leftist, and an even higher majority of them are anti-thing known as social justice. Also, for reasons, libertarian gets lumped with the right. Coupled with a few far-right commenters, this gives the impression that the commentariat leans right.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ null

            +

    • Some Troll's Legitimate Discussion Alt says:

      I feel like getting one more justice onto to court before the election is probably important enough that some degree of undesirable ideological shifting should be toleradble.

      If the voting results get kicked to a court case again they’ll return a 4-4 deadlock, which is bad juju.

      • Vox Imperatoris says:

        4-4 means they uphold the lower court’s decision. It’s the same as if they didn’t rule.

        This is fine. For instance, if Bush v. Gore had been 4-4, the decision of the Florida Supreme Court (in favor of Gore) would have stood.

        • Some Troll's Legitimate Discussion Alt says:

          In hypothetical perfect compliance with the law world the lower court”s ruling stands, and back in year 2000 real world people probably would have sat down, shut up, and taken it.

          Would they today? Democrats might, but I doubt it. I don’t think there’s even that much chance Republicans would. The highest court in the land failing to give a ruling at all would delegitimize the loss.

  33. Jeff Kaufman says:

    The effect of culture: German families who watched West German as opposed to East German TV had fewer children, maybe because the West German shows promoted a culture of smaller family sizes. I freely admit I would not have predicted this and will have to adjust a lot of my beliefs.

    This isn’t as robust as it looks. Their natural experiment is based on a situation where one administrative region of the GDR (Dresden area) mostly didn’t have western TV reception while the rest of the GDR mostly did: http://imgur.com/m3CRS25

    They do acknowledge that “our empirical identification strategy crucially relies on the assumption that simply living in
    the region around Dresden does not explain fertility behavior (beyond the mere effect of
    Western TV consumption)” and try to address this, but overall this is much more of a correlational study than a random one.

    If someone wanted to work on a smaller granularity than “GDR administrative region” you might get something more randomized based on things like hills blocking signals? Or seeing if it replicated in the northeast.

  34. alexp says:

    First entry I saw on Moe history was Wu Zetian, Empress of the Ming Dynasty

    WTF?

  35. Sigivald says:

    I generally support people branching off into legally isolated communities in order to let everyone achieve their goals simultaneously – but if I were a non-libertarian New Hampshirite right now I would be pretty upset.

    Yeah, probably.

    But on the other hand, a bunch of people promising to influence the State to leave you alone is a pretty low-threat group.

    (Bonus joke content, because that never, ever stops being funny.)

    • cypher says:

      > But on the other hand, a bunch of people promising to influence the State to leave you alone is a pretty low-threat group.

      Compared to Fascists or Stalinists, perhaps, but otherwise that assumes that you agree not only with Libertarian values, but also Libertarian predictions about reality. Many people do not.

      > (Bonus joke content, because that never, ever stops being funny.)

      That joke was never, ever actually funny. Then again, most political images and political cartoons aren’t, or are only funny to those that already agree with them, so take that as you may.

      • Sigivald says:

        Of course it’s only funny to those who already agree with it, absolutely.

        (I still think it’s funny – because “never, ever stops being funny” can and must mean only “to me”.

        I can’t stand mean-spirited political “humor” or attacks on individual politicians, but half-mocking my own side and half-mocking the sort of opposition whose first response is “but how will we have rooooooads?!?” is still funny.

        To me.)

        (On the substantive topic, I still think it’s pretty low-threat, if only because of the size and relative wealth of New Hampshire – and the extreme ease with which one can reject a libertarian minimal or merely-smaller state and go back to a bigger one if one finds it’s sufficiently displeasing when the predictions fail [however they would, if they do].

        I am, of course, thinking more Hayek than Rothbard; a bunch of anarchists is a self-correcting, if horribly messy problem.)

    • Bugmaster says:

      FWIW, I would feel severely threatened if I thought that, tomorrow, my entire state ended up Libertarian. As far as I understand, the Libertarian approach to “leaving you alone” is the elimination of several services that I consider essential, e.g. health care, public education, scientific research, environmental/agricultural/medical oversight, and — depending on the brand of Libertarianism — even public safety and infrastructure maintenance.

      Yes, my taxes will be lower and I will be free to pollute rivers and possibly even shoot people if I wanted to; but the downside is that I, not being a millionaire, would now have to live in a state full of polluted rivers, dodging bullets on my way to work. It’s not an optimal tradeoff.

  36. kp80 says:

    I am taking an online class on machine learning, and building a recurrent neural net that learns to output text one character at a time was the sixth exercise we did. If you stack multiple networks you can even get full sentences that read like gibberish normal sentences. Training them on political speeches can produce some hilarious results.

    To really see the power of recurrent networks, go find the Oxford machine learning course videos on youtube. In lecture 13 the presenter (a guest lecturer from Google Deep Mind) shows off a network that learns to copy the handwriting of samples you give it, and will start outputting whole words of very human-looking writing one letter at a time. Then he shows how he trained the network to output specific strings of text in the handwriting style he chooses, as long as the style is part of the training data. Toward the end he applies the same network to human voice. He gets a network that outputs a voice saying words pretty well, kind of like someone learning English.

    There is also an amazing convolutional neural network that takes two images as input and outputs a single image with the content of the first but the style of the second. You can give it a photo and your favorite painting, and output the photo in the style of the painting. Google image search “Neural Net Artistic Style” to see a bunch of examples with different art styles applied. Or you can see the original paper with some great examples at http://arxiv.org/abs/1508.06576

  37. Alsadius says:

    The gun study I find particularly interesting because in a subtle way it fits pretty well with the political views of a lot of pro-gun types. The tl;dr of the study is that guns make murder more common among people who know you, but not among strangers(which also fits with the suicide data). In other words, more gun ownership makes existing crises more likely to be fatal, but doesn’t step up the number of lethal confrontations with random thugs. For people who have functional, civilized social networks(or who believe they do), this threat seems distant and largely meaningless, while the crime they care about isn’t worse at all. In fact, the sort of crime they care about is made better by increased gun ownership(at least in their minds), because they feel they can better deal with it.

    Why pro-gun advocates look at gun crime as being among strangers and anti-gun advocates think of it as being among friends is left as an exercise for the reader.

    • The Nybbler says:

      It’s a purely correlational study, so it doesn’t show that guns “make” anything; at best it shows that murder is more common among non-strangers with guns than non-strangers without guns.

      > Why pro-gun advocates look at gun crime as being among strangers and anti-gun advocates think of it as being among friends is left as an exercise for the reader.

      I think that’s not true. Pro-gun advocates generally look at gun crime as being largely among criminals acquainted with each other. Anti-gun advocates are more varied; some model crime as a completely random process, whereas others propose a model where those close to the victim “snap” and (if they have a gun) kill.

  38. Tyler W says:

    I don’t find the heart rate vs. violence correlation surprising. Resting Heart rate is largely an indicator of resting metabolic rate. People with poor cellular energy metabolism (e.g. hypothyroidism or old age) have a reduced heart rate. A low metabolism causes impaired function in nearly every way, including reduced intelligence (see symptoms of hypothyroidism – http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypothyroidism/symptoms-causes/dxc-20155382).

    There is disagreement on the mechanism of reduced resting heart rate in athletes, and if it represents improved health. For example, chronic stress from over-training suppresses the metabolic rate, as the liver stops converting T4 to T3 (the primary regulator of energy metabolism) during physical stress or starvation (e.g. euthyroid sick syndrome) to conserve glucose.

    I am disappointed that this (and other similar prospective cohort studies) fail to even discuss the interplay between metabolic rate, age, and stress with heart rate. Could these more violent individuals be people with an untreated metabolic dysfunction, or people living under high physiological stress- e.g. people with euthyroid sick syndrome resulting from a physically demanding lifestyle coupled with inadequate access to food?

  39. Psmith says:

    Zanecchia’s second choice for president is Donald Trump.

    TRUMP/SANDERS 2016

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      Not quite as crazy as it sounds.

      If some weird transporter accident created a Bernie J Trump hybrid with Sander’s labor support and relative sincerity combined with Trump’s personality he would easily be the best candidate on either ticket. Sell nativist pro-union ideas in a language blue collar whites speak and you’ve got a huge untapped demographic available on both sides of the aisle.

      • Gbdub says:

        That used to be the Democratic core. Now it’s up for grabs. Coastal liberals and identity politics activists are the dominating voices of the party, but they need more than that to win the general.

        • Poxie says:

          This is simplistic – though you and Dealgood make good points. The two parties don’t have “cores,” they are coalitions. People will join the coalitions even though they don’t agree with the “dominating voices” that we all pay attention to.

          • gbdub says:

            I don’t know, I think “union-friendly working class whites” really did used to be the largest and strongest group within the Democratic party.

            I understand that both parties are coalitions, but my point was that what was once a large, influential, and reliably Democratic voting bloc is now legitimately considering Sanders and Trump as both having some valid points.

          • Poxie says:

            Gbdub:
            That is more nuanced, certainly, but I still doubt that we can talk about working-class white union members as this formerly-reliable-Democrat bloc that is now up for grabs. The US political situation is way more complex than that.

            Now, if YOU or PEOPLE YOU KNOW are torn between Trump and Sanders, that’s interesting. But this “Reagan Democrats”-style stuff is BS.

      • Vorkon says:

        I’ve been saying from the very beginning of this race that Trump and Sanders are just two sides of the same populist coin. They tap into the same anger among the American people, about the same things, just with one targeted at the blue tribe, with gentler rhetoric, and the other targeted at the red tribe, with harsher rhetoric, and a different Enemy Responsible For All Of Your Problems in either case.

        (Obviously those aren’t the only differences, but to me, at least, the similarities that do exist are striking, despite how different they may appear at first glance.)

        • nil says:

          IMO Trumpism is a result of the absence of Sanderism. It’s the beleaguered white proletariat revolting in every sense of the word because they’re sick of being told to check a privilege which, mostly, only accrued to the white bourgeois. Unfortunately, neither of those classes have recognized themselves in America for a long time, so we got a white bourgeois which saw the obvious benefits of historical and present white supremacy that it enjoyed and loudly assumed that anyone who denied it must be stupid and/or racist, and a white proletariat that saw nothing of the sort and assumed with equal loudness that anyone claiming otherwise was crazy and/or evil.

          If that kind of class analysis hadn’t been anathema for half a century, then the distinction might have been understood and we might have avoided a lot of angry confusion. But instead, here we are. IMO Sanders isn’t the other side of the coin so much as it’s a way too little, way too late effort to prevent it from being cast in the first place.

  40. How sure are we that pterodactyls can kill eagles?

    • Protagoras says:

      Apparently we’re not very sure they can kill them with their own natural weapons, which is why we’re considering arming them with AK-47s. I’m not sure those would be the optimal weapons for air to air combat against fast moving foes, though; I thought they were known for being less accurate at long ranges than some other weapons. That’s not usually a big deal, since combat very, very rarely occurs at ranges long enough for the AK’s accuracy to fall off much, but a fast target could escape to long range fairly quickly (and might be hard to hit at short range anyway because of the speed). So maybe pterodactyls with sniper rifles would be better? Or just use SAM batteries against the eagles, if we want to be really sure. Perhaps nuclear warheads on the SAMs to be extra, extra sure.

      I suppose hunters who hunt birds would have more practical suggestions, but they’d probably be boring.

      • Gbdub says:

        (Flying) birds are universally hunted with shotguns at short range. More instinctive, both eyes open shooting (you need to acquire the target, establish appropriate lead, fire, and follow through). Very, very hard to hit a fast moving target with a single bullet. A sniper rifle would be even worse, since the scope would restrict your field of view too much to track the target.

        So envision a pterodactyl in an Elmer Fudd hat with a double-barreled shotgun.

      • John Schilling says:

        I suppose hunters who hunt birds would have more practical suggestions, but they’d probably be boring.

        Forget practical. I want my pterodactyls armed with flamethrowers. Because dragons.

        • Marc Whipple says:

          Dragons are frequently described as fireproof or at least fire-resistant, for obvious reasons. Or do you mean you want the pterodactyls to LOOK like dragons? In that case, objection withdrawn.

        • Check out the link about raptors (Australian raptors, of course it’s Australia) spreading fire. Fight fire with fire.

          We have been selecting wild animals for intelligence.

        • Vorkon says:

          The entire problem is that the eagles are spreading fire, though. This seems like it would only exacerbate the problem.

  41. TrivialGravitas says:

    Regarding the guns and homicide study, I see two problems (keeping in mind I’m looking at the journo’s coverage not the study). One is the use of hunting licenses to establish gun ownership levels. This would seem to fuck over the data by burying the state that has both one of the highest gun ownership rates and lowest homicide rates. In Utah the number of hunting licenses is far below the number of hunting license applications, you either have to have a lot of money or win a lottery to hunt with a rifle. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if other high gun ownership states have run into similar problems. They should have stuck with just the firearm suicide numbers, or used the number of firearm background checks (caveat, that doesn’t work for I think Kentucky where firearm background checks happen monthly for concealed carry holders).

    The second is that they seem to have looked for only a correlation with firearm homicides and ignored substitution effects. While the data show nonsignificant positice correlations with non firearm homicides this sort of data jiggery makes me extremely suspicious there’s not other issues with the data that are less obvious.

    • Psmith says:

      On a related note, this:

      A qualm: It’s odd to me that, while statistically insignificant individually, all nine of the non-gun results are positive. One might expect higher gun ownership to go with lower non-gun homicide: Guns can’t cause non-gun homicides, but guns can deter attackers with inferior weapons, and as guns become more available, murderers may substitute guns for other weapons. There are, no doubt, also cases where the presence of a gun causes a homicide to occur that wouldn’t have otherwise — raising the key question of whether the good outweighs the bad. But I tend to think these other effects exist, and this study fails to pick up on them.

      combined with some of the analysis that author posted in the comments on our last gun post round these parts, makes me think that studies aren’t adequately controlling for underlying martial rowdiness. Race will get you some of the way, Scott’s “percent southern” measure will get you some of the way, but neither one captures the extent to which the population is descended from Ulster Scots, for instance. And indeed I remember that VerBruggen (in the comments last time around) found that a bunch of mostly white, mostly rural states in the mountain west were driving a lot of the guns/homicide correlation after controlling for the usual covariates. These states have low black populations, and they aren’t southern according to the measure Scott used, but Jayman reliably counts them as contiguous with initial areas of Scotch-Irish settlement. And personal experience suggests much the same; I know a fair number of people whose parents or grandparents migrated to the rural west from the rural south, and you’ll see quite a few pickup trucks with Confederate flag bric-a-brac in Idaho. (Hell, even in California’s farm country.). The theory, then, is that some combination of cultural and genetic factors predispose whites of Scotch-Irish ancestry to like guns and get in fights, which strikes me as pretty plausible.

      • TrivialGravitas says:

        I wonder how much of race gaps in crime can be accounted for by southerness given that damn near 100% of black people in the US are either southerners or descended from people who left the south not many generations ago.

  42. Anonymous says:

    Two things Re: SKYNET

    1) Why are they throwing around numbers for false alarms as if they weren’t right there in the leaked documents?! The only important question here is whether they mean false positive rate or false discovery rate.

    2) Ars Technica is at it again. They might as well have said, “The NSA’s SKYNET program may be launching thousands of nukes!” They’re clearly JAQing off. There is no evidence in any of the slides that this is actually connected to any kill chain or even that this data is being used at all. There aren’t any organizations for fusion of intel, transition organizations, authorities, or any of the things you would need for this to actually be a thing in a kill chain. My best guess is that this is at the stage of purely being an internal research effort. “What can we do with this data and machine learning? Let’s test some things and evaluate them.” In fact, we can be pretty sure that Ars’ insinuation is false, because other documents leaked by the Intercept on the drone program confirmed that all targets must be personally approved by the president. If this big data technique has grown well enough to be usable at all, it’s surely to merely identify possible terrorists – people to investigate.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      This. Ars writes a whole article talking about how many people a given false positive rate would kill, then admits on page three they have no information on how the model is used.

      Personally I’d like to see the link description changed–it’s perpetuating the unsupported implication that being flagged by the model carries an automatic death sentence.

  43. Universal Set says:

    It seems like everyone writing on the Wheaton thing doesn’t really know what they are talking about. Speaking as someone with connections to the Wheaton community, and who teaches at another Christian college, I doubt very much that the real issue is a theological conflict. After all, the majority of the rest of the faculty — including the faculty in theology! — came out in support of Dr. Hawkins. Nor is it, contra the Slacktivist hackjob mentioned upthread, a matter of race, except very incidentally. (Seriously, read Slacktivist for a while and you’ll find out that he says everything he doesn’t like is due to conservative Christians being racist, sexist, or hating poor or gay people.)

    No, I’m pretty sure that the underlying issue here is a matter of PR. You might think this doesn’t make sense; that the *result* of the kerfuffle was a PR disaster that they are now trying to mitigate. And this is true. But it’s also true that the *cause* of it is almost certainly them trying to mitigate a different PR disaster.

    A bit of background for this to make sense: Wheaton has the unenviable position of being (a) a high-profile school, with a (b) theologically conservative Evangelical identity, which is nevertheless (c) not in line with many politically conservative Evangelical leaders.

    In particular, its professors and students are much more politically liberal (though this is relative, of course) than its donor base. This means that the administration wants to keep from getting too much negative attention from e.g. Franklin Graham (I’m not entirely sure what relationship they have with him in particular; Billy Graham was closely associated with the college and they house a lot of stuff about him, including a small museum), for fear of alienating too many conservatives.

    Of course, they also face a lot of scrutiny from the left, especially in academia, who by-and-large *really* don’t like religious schools with actual theological commitments. And they don’t want to alienate them too much either, because this jeopardizes their good standing as an elite liberal arts college with a national reputation.

    You can see where this is going. With social media allowing any statement or action of its professors to be immediately shared with the world, the administration’s PR job is very difficult. They can’t exactly clamp down on professor’s speech formally (except maybe insofar as it contradicts the statement of faith), but things that a professor says could easily be really bad PR for the institution if someone gets outraged about it.

    Which is what happened. As far as I can tell, this is what occurred. Dr. Hawkins’s public facebook post caught the attention of some of the conservative culture warriors, who immediately started creating a huge stink. So the Wheaton administration asked her to take her post down/edit the post/write a disclaimer, and she refused. Not without reason, I should say: soft censorship in service of PR is still censorship. So they made a show of asking her to explain to them how what she said fits with the statement of faith, etc. — something they’ve apparently done before, for similar reasons. (This, by the way, is about the only way this has to do with her being black: in line with the traditions in the Black church in the US, she’s a lot more publicly vocal about things than most of the professors, who seem more inclined to play the PR game and not make waves. Perhaps she also gets more scrutiny from the outside because of her background as well; I don’t know.) At any rate, the theological substance of what she said, while controversial, is not outside the bounds of things other Wheaton professors have said before. She just managed to attract national attention for it.

    She’s understandably mad about this, and things escalate because neither she nor the administration wants to back down (they tried to make a really boneheaded offer involving suspending her tenure), etc. etc. and eventually the only way to end the disaster is something like what happened. Pretty much nobody is happy with the results.

    In summary: Wheaton administration badly mishandles a PR blowup, and creates an even worse one by mistreating a professor in the process. Theology and race are only tangentially involved.

    • The Anonymouse says:

      Thank you. These are the reasons I love SSC.

    • Jaskologist says:

      I did not attend Wheaton, but I have friends who did. My impression when I visited was always of a community deeply concerned with gaining the approval of The World. Your post reads to me like another data point for that impression.

    • eponymous says:

      > After all, the majority of the rest of the faculty — including the faculty in theology! — came out in support of Dr. Hawkins.

      In support of her comment theologically?

      I wouldn’t downplay the theological angle here. I would think that many people had serious misgivings about her statement from a theological perspective. Of course, it’s not clear exactly what she meant.

      And there are two sides to the culture war here — many of her defenders seem motivated by ecumenical or political considerations.

      • Universal Set says:

        I don’t know how many agreed with her statement (though there are at least a few), but my impression is that they felt her statement was not out of the bounds of either orthodoxy or the Wheaton statement of faith, which was the ostensible dispute.

    • Poxie says:

      “(Seriously, read Slacktivist for a while and you’ll find out that he says everything he doesn’t like is due to conservative Christians being racist, sexist, or hating poor or gay people.)”

      This stood out to me in an otherwise informative comment. Fred Clark has other pet peeves, most famously bad fiction writing and bad theology. His years-long critique of the Left Behind novels is probably less than 5% culture-war agitprop.

      (I post this so that anyone reading your excellent comment who is unfamiliar with the Slacktivist oeuvre doesn’t write him off as a SJW or whatever. He’s a very interesting blogger, and the LB posts are pretty awesome as works of literary criticism.)

      • Dr Dealgood says:

        I read the Left Behind MSTing and liked it, but while you’re right that it’s not agitprop his reading is (ill) informed by unconsciously accepting progressive ideas as truth.

        For example, he cannot fathom that Carpathia is the Antichrist and simultaneously sincerely believes in world peace and disarmament. Yet the authors are people who saw the original Peace movements of the cultural revolution firsthand, and were living in a society where many of those ex-hippies currently held significant political power at the time of writing. The first horseman carries arrows without heads after all: conquest through Kulturkampf is perfectly in keeping with the character of the Antichrist.

        That said, I appreciated that he was never really a dick or a demagogue about it.

        Edit: Apparently he’s a dick now? Sorry to hear that…

        • Poxie says:

          I’m not sure which Slacktivist posts you’re talking about w/r/t the pacifist Antichrist. I can’t do a detailed search now, but I am pretty sure he cited Bob Dylan’s song about Satan coming as a man of peace when addressing this. In other words, he was willing to address the concept of Antichrist as “pacifist.”

          But this is forest for the trees stuff. There is no way LaHaye and Jenkins’s picture of how the last battle will play out is remotely plausible, and Fred Clark does everyone a public service in (slowly) trying to get people to throw those books in the trash.

        • Aegeus says:

          >The first horseman carries arrows without heads after all

          No, no he does not. The verse in question:

          “I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.”

          Nothing about arrows, headless or otherwise.

          Now, people point to the fact that the text mentions a bow, but not arrows, as proof that he will conquer through peaceful means, but this strikes me as very ad-hoc. It’s very dubious to take what the text does not say as positive proof of something. The text doesn’t mention a lot of things – is the fact that the text doesn’t mention a bowstring also significant? What about the lack of horseshoes for his horse – perhaps that means the Antichrist will be an environmentalist?

          Second, to make that interpretation work you have to completely skip over the second half of the verse – “he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.” Does that sound like a description of a man who conquers peacefully, through subtle cultural control? Do hippies and SJW’s ride forth as conquerors?

          I would say that L&J started by deciding that the Antichrist would be a peaceful leader and twisted their interpretation of Revelations to fit it, rather than reading Revelations and deciding that a peaceful man was the most natural interpretation.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Aegeus, while I think you’ve got a decent interpretation of that passage, the fact remains that a whole lot of people before L&J were talking about an ostensibly-peaceful Antichrist.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            Haha yeah, this is why second generation atheists shouldn’t do exegesis. Mea culpa.

            That said, it doesn’t make sense to go from white -> red in that way with both of them representing armed conflict. Since when does conquest come before war? The best way that you could spin it is that the conqueror bent on conquest shows up and gathers people with the intention of going to war, then hands it off to the second rider before the actual fighting begins.

            The non-military conquest explanation still seems more plausible to me.

          • Frog Do says:

            Obvious example I’m sure the ancient world never forgot: Alexander the Great. Or any number of succession wars, really.

          • Aegeus says:

            @Evan: Yes, a lot of people have talked about a peaceful Antichrist, but that doesn’t make it good theology. That’s Fred Clark’s whole point – it’s an old right-wing conspiracy about the UN taking over, given a Bible-colored paint job.

          • Evan Þ says:

            And my point’s that you can’t blame L&J for the Bible-colored paint job, and it’s not even clear that they understand how far out it is from the actual text of Revelation. Plus… I see how convenient it’d be for the notion to have started from conspiracy theories about the UN, but I’d be interested in actually tracing through its history.

      • Universal Set says:

        I was perhaps a bit uncharitable to Fred Clark in the parent comment. I actually started reading him some years ago (when he was still on his own site, rather than Patheos) because I liked his Left Behind critiques, and at the time his culture war stuff was much more subdued and well-directed. The non-LB portion of his writing has gotten way worse since the start — at least as of about two years ago when I quit reading him regularly. I’m not sure if SJW is the right term, but certainly he had become extremely nasty towards his ideological opponents on the right, and ready to impute awful motives (of the sort mentioned) to just about anyone conservative.

        I guess I felt kind of betrayed, because I used to see him as a sane, if a bit leftish, voice in Evangelical Protestantism, and then 70%+ of his blog gradually turned into aggressive culture war outrage.

        • TK-421 says:

          I don’t know if I would put it quite that strongly, but his writing does seem to have become more polarized, and it’s similarly part of the reason why I stopped following the blog. A shame, too, as it had a lot of interesting content in it as well — like this post on performative belief, or this one on how rapid a development the evangelical opposition to abortion was. But for me, the overall return on time invested in filtering out the noise crossed into the negative numbers a while back.

          • Poxie says:

            I think it’s pretty clear that Clark’s writing has become more politically polarized.
            I would encourage close readers to think about what external events (in his life, in pop-Xian culture, and so on) might have brought this about.

            I strongly disagree with the hinted-at premise I think I’m hearing from commenters here that it’s because he’s joined the Cathedral. C’mon, people.

          • TK-421 says:

            What’s the Cathedral?

          • Urstoff says:

            Best not to go down that particular rabbit hole.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @TK-421

            The shadowy conspiracy that controls our minds (specifically the left-wing one).

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ TK-421:

            It’s basically the collection of left-leaning academics and people influenced by their worldview.

            But to really understand the context, you will have to look up the writings of Mencius Moldbug. The idea of its being a “distributed conspiracy” to destroy civilization is a central part of his theory.

            You’re probably getting this impression from the other comments, but: I think many of his posts are interesting, but you should take him with an enormous pile of salt.

          • Nornagest says:

            What’s the Cathedral?

            It’s kinda like the Patriarchy, but for right-wingers.

            Less glibly: it’s shorthand for a theoretical self-reinforcing but uncoordinated societal tendency towards atomization, anti-traditionalism, grievance politics, and basically everything right-wingers hate. The mechanisms by which it allegedly propagates itself and gains its appeal are too complicated for this post, but can be summed up as journalism, the academy, and Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment ideals.

            One of the pet theories of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

          • Vorkon says:

            It’s kinda like the Patriarchy, but for right-wingers.

            This is, quite possibly, the best description I’ve ever heard of the concept.

            Edit: Aw, you went and edited the glib version while I was in the middle of posting my glib support of it! I guess in the interest of fairness, I should do the same.

            Basically, I think this is a particularly apt comparison, because they both codify and personify a set of vague, uncoordinated societal trends, both of which are probably not best dealt with by talking about and treating them as if they were a single unified movement.

          • TK-421 says:

            But to really understand the context, you will have to look up the writings of Mencius Moldbug. The idea of its being a “distributed conspiracy” to destroy civilization is a central part of his theory.

            Gotcha. I’m aware of who Moldbug is but I haven’t read any of his stuff in depth… his political leanings are not really my jam. I asked because my first word-association reaction to “the Cathedral” was “and the Bazaar”, which didn’t seem to make sense contextually.

  44. Adam says:

    Yay for Humansville! I drive through there every few months.

  45. Ari Timonen says:

    I hope ALS research gets some new winds. It looks a lot like Alzheimer’s research. Lots of interesting leads but not new results. It is just hard I guess.

  46. eponymous says:

    I wouldn’t say that Wheaton’s actions are a good example of “academic intolerance” of the sort we’re normally concerned about around here.

    Christian colleges have ideological requirements. In fact, this is the reason they exist at all! And all professors at these institutions know that they must abide by them.

    • antimule says:

      ” Christian colleges have ideological requirements. In fact, this is the reason they exist at all! And all professors at these institutions know that they must abide by them. ”

      Yeah, but that makes the whole concept of tenure a sham. They can do as they want, but they don’t get to call what they offer “tenure.”

      • Marc Whipple says:

        I don’t think outright heresy costing you your job at a Christian college is much more of a violation of tenure than calling for the violent armed overthrow of the United States costing you your job at West Point or downgrading students who don’t agree with your premise that it should be permissible for professors to require students to have sex with them in order to pass classes costing you your job at, well, pretty much anyplace. There are some things you just don’t do, not because they are philosophically iffy, but because they threaten the entire structure under which tenure exists in the first place.

        YMMV.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Most remarkable to me is that so many outside the evangelical community think it their right (nay, duty!) to tell evangelicals what their doctrine is supposed to be.

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        It’s worth highlighting this. I’m not an evangelical Christian. I wouldn’t presume to know better than an actual evangelical Christian what she “really” believes, and I don’t even understand people who are not just comfortable doing that, but willing to base public policy on doing it.

    • g says:

      Christian colleges have ideological requirements.

      Yeah, but it’s not at all clear that there was any reason to think “not saying that Christians and Muslims worship the same god” was an ideological requirement at Wheaton, until suddenly it was and someone was losing their job.

      • eponymous says:

        My understanding is that her statement did not directly result in her dismissal. Rather, it prompted the administration to ask her to clarify her views. She then refused to cooperate with this process, and the whole thing blew up into a political firestorm.

        By itself, the statement is ambiguous and could have many innocuous interpretations. However, I can see why it would prompt concern about her beliefs.

        • g says:

          That’s certainly how the Wheaton administration is spinning it. Take a look at Hawkins’s statement:

          The best case scenario for my inclusion back into the Wheaton College community that I love included two years of multilayered, ongoing conversation about the theological implications of my Facebook post actions. For those two years, tenure would be revoked and restoration of tenure an open question. At the conclusion of the meeting, the Provost intoned: “Larycia, if you don’t have a lawyer, you should get one.” I read this as a sign that my efforts at reconciliation had met an impasse […]

          Now, of course she could be lying. But it seems awfully plausible to me that the actual sequence of events was as follows. (1) Hawkins puts on a hijab and says that Christians and Muslims worship the same god. (2) Wheaton challenges Hawkins about this and puts her on administrative leave. (3) Hawkins offers http://drlaryciahawkins.org/2016/01/06/theological-statement-by-dr-hawkins/ of her beliefs, as requested by Wheaton. (4) Wheaton demands a further process of “clarification” that involves (at least) two years with her tenure revoked. (5) Hawkins declines to participate in a process that seems unlikely to end well for her and whose good faith she doubts. (6) Wheaton describes #4 and #5, not actually lying but not telling the whole story, by saying that Hawkins “declined to participate in further dialogue”.

          (Steps 1-3 are agreed by all parties. 4 and 5 are how Hawkins describes what happened next. I see nothing in anything Wheaton’s said to refute them, and Wheaton’s description seems like exactly what you’d expect them to say if 4 and 5 are what really happened.)

          In any case, what triggered the whole kerfuffle — and what Wheaton says was the thing that troubled them — was Hawkins’s statement that Christians and Muslims worship the same god. And the point I was making doesn’t really depend on whether that was on its own enough to get her employment terminated, or whether it was merely enough to get her put on administrative leave and the termination of her employment considered; the fact is that there was no particular reason for anyone to think that saying “Christians and Muslims worship the same god” was dangerous at Wheaton — until, suddenly, someone said it and there was trouble. It was never, e.g., part of their Statement of Faith that Muslims worship a different god; neither was it ever so widely accepted a part of Christian belief that Hawkins should have known that of course affirming that would put her at odds with the college. And, therefore, it is wrong to say

          Christian colleges have ideological requirements. In fact, this is the reason they exist at all! And all professors at these institutions know that they must abide by them.

          as if that means that Hawkins should have known from the outset that saying what she said was liable to get her fired.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            neither was it ever so widely accepted a part of Christian belief that Hawkins should have known that of course affirming that would put her at odds with the college

            No offense, but while it may not be so widely accepted a part of Christian belief generally as to justify that statement, it should not have been a surprise to anyone who’s spent more than fifteen minutes or so around midwestern Evangelicals that they would have a pretty serious issue with it. Not buying that part.

  47. Quite Likely says:

    “Noah Smith: Some new evidence suggests, contra economic theory, that free trade with China has cost jobs without necessarily replacing them elsewhere. David Friedman, any thoughts?”

    People don’t actually think that ‘economic theory’ predicts that free trade will always lead to job gains do they?

    • eponymous says:

      People who know economic theory rarely think in terms of “job gains” at all.

    • Autolykos says:

      At least the lay understanding is that free trade will always lead to economic benefits on both sides. Which is probably true, but “created jobs” is a singularly poor metric for economic improvements.
      A point frequently misunderstood in political debate is that creating more work without also creating more products and more demand for them is actually a bad thing. It only means that more people will waste their time on pointless activities.
      Trade mainly increases efficiency, i.e. the amount of goods generated by a fixed amount of work/capital. If the demand for goods stays the same, you’d expect that to reduce the demand for labor, and thus either reducing work hours, reducing wages, or increasing unemployment.

      It’s mainly a quirk of our economic and social system that we think of “more work” as a good thing. But we don’t need work, we need products and services. And if they can be produced using less work, we should do that. When this leads to social and/or economic problems, it’s usually indicative of broken social systems – and we should fix those instead of artificially keeping people busy. I want to live in a world where each eliminated job is celebrated!

      • g says:

        I want to live in a world where each eliminated job is celebrated!

        First of all, I want to live in a world where eliminating a job doesn’t buy the advantages of more efficient production at the cost of putting the person who used to do it at risk of starvation or homelessness. Then we can get to work on eliminating jobs and celebrating.

        Until that’s done — and I very strongly agree it should be — creating jobs is usually an economic improvement, and any account of economic theory that says it isn’t is failing to engage with an important reality, namely the brokenness of our social systems.

    • ThrustVectoring says:

      “cost jobs” is a bad measure of whether something is an economic improvement. Like, number of jobs is a measure of aggregate demand divided by average productivity: if you increase productivity without improving demand, you’re going to kill some jobs.

      In other words, if you replace forty Chinese workers with six Americans while making the same amount of stuff, you’re going to reduce overall employment, make the world a more efficient place on average, and reap the predicted economic benefits of trade.

  48. Nestor says:

    Uhh, that article about training the immune system makes me think of homeopathy, turns out it’s the immune system that has memory, not the water!

    Mosquitoes, why not cure them instead of exterminating them? They are carriers only after all.

    I use twitter in a very personal way indeed, I follow 13 people one of which is a fictional character and the other a 99 year old who unfortunately passed away last year (RIP Bill Sleeper)

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Indeed, one of the proposals is to use gene drive to make a gene for an anti-malarial drug quickly spread through the population. There’s a really complicated proposal in which the drug is only produced when encountering blood.

      But that doesn’t do anything against Zika. If you kill off the mosquito that carries both Zika and Dengue, that’s two birds with one stone. (Though maybe a malarial mosquito will expand into the vacated niche.) Also, concern about Zika is new, so (1) people want to deal with it now, even though malaria is much worse; and (2) people don’t know so much about it, whereas they know a lot about how mosquitoes defend themselves against malaria.

  49. onyomi says:

    As ridiculous as it sounds from a theological, historical point of view, I bet there are many, many US Christians who either explicitly or subconsciously think of Allah as an entirely different god from their god.

    I think this is because of the pull to turn religions into ethnic markers. For white, conservative Americans, Christianity is not just some religion from the Middle East, it’s the religion of white people–of Europe, of Christmas and Easter, of Constantine and Aquinas, and the Pilgrims and the Pope and the Church of England. It’s a religion for white Europeans. (And this explains the seemingly irrelevant controversy over whether or not Jesus was “white,” with liberals predictably saying he wasn’t, and conservatives predictably coming up with reasons why he was).

    I don’t mean that to sound racist or imply that they’re racist for thinking that. I don’t think they have a problem with Koreans being Christians (if they know that many of them are). I just think they think of it as the religion of “their” ingroup. Muslims, due to recent world events and politics and media coverage, are very much the “outgroup” of conservative, white America. Culturally, ethnically, racially, geographically. Therefore, they worship a different god.

    I think the more educated among the US faithful know this isn’t the case, of course, but I think there’s often a big gulf between religion as the theologians conceive it and religion as it’s actually practiced and intuitively understood by the great majority of the faithful. For the latter, ethnic identity is a big part of it, and, I think, a constant undercurrent pulling in that direction.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Some months back, I attended a service at what turned out to be a very traditional Mennonite church. And by “traditional,” I mean “dressed like Amish in clothes they made themselves,” and “no instruments used during worship.”* I think I can safely assume that they were all ethnically German and that this means something to them in a way far beyond what it does to most of us “German” Americans. They even sang a few songs in German.

      Anyway, I was there to hear a talk by Brother Yun, a prominent Chinese Christian who ultimately had to flee the country due to the persecution he faced there. The other half of the service was about an organization which works to rehabilitate (primarily Yazidi) women who were made into ISIS sex slaves, with which this church had been heavily involved.

      Don’t fall for the left-wing stereotype of bitter clingers. Even the most parochial white Christians in the US are well aware that they have differently colored fellow believers. They are aware of the way Muslims treat their brethren in every country where they have power over them, treatment which ranges from second-class citizenship to extermination. And they are especially aware that they only get to hear about this treatment within their churches; the entire left-wing doesn’t even consider it worthy of mention.

      * Interestingly, they did use a MacBook to project a video at one point in the service. We make odd compromises with modernity.

    • keranih says:

      For white, conservative Americans, Christianity is not just some religion from the Middle East, it’s the religion of white people–of Europe, of Christmas and Easter, of Constantine and Aquinas, and the Pilgrims and the Pope and the Church of England.

      Ehh. I think you’re onto something, but I’m going to insist that you push out your borders just a hair. Every group thinks of their particular cluster of Christianity as ‘the’ true version, and so thinks of God as particularly responsive – and reflective of – them. Hence you get icons and images from across the world which show the Holy Family as having dark skin, or wearing deerhide & tradecloth clothing, or having almond eyes.

      Most of the Christians I know – both Catholic and not – are comfortable in a particular range of religious practices, and services which are still Christian and yet vary too far from their accustomed “sort” seem off. Non-random examples: Mexican-centric masses, vs American Black masses, vs Polish-centric masses in the midwest, vs Scots-descent masses in the Puritan North East – all of these have very different rhythms, emphasis on speed or repetition, participation by the laity, interior decor, etc. Now, two parishes in the same town can be very different, but there are also wide regional variations. The north-of-Boston service starts on the dot of the hour, and runs straight through, no pauses. The Mexican-centric one starts seven minutes after the hour – ish – and allows for a lot of time to greet people around the collection and distribution of the host. The visitor from the African-American church is wondering why no one in the audience is clapping as they sing. There is room for a person from each of these to look at the others and have fairly serious concerns on theological grounds – is there a lack of respect? Is there too much formal ritual and not enough true faith? Is the emphasis on pleasing the people or on obeying God?

      I do think that there is a wide concept of Christianity as a global/universal faith – perhaps more overtly in Catholicism than in Protestantism – with local variations. I think if you asked most people that they would say their own local church home would be the ‘true’ faith, and that the others – including the one across town of the same ethnic makeup – are not quite up to snuff, but still the same sort of thing.

      (And let’s not forget that the reason there were two Catholic churches in the same town was because one was Poles and the other Italian, and all the Irish went up the road to the church in the next town. The ethnic divisions are not new, they just look different this year.)

      Having said all that – I wonder how much ‘Judaeo-Christian’ heritage is seem as joint, vs just Christian, outside of the Northeast where the cultural and population influence of Jews is much, much higher than it is in the rest of the country. And these are all , vs I think a lot has to do with the ritual practice of that religion –

    • Urstoff says:

      Most churches seem far more universalist (in the non-theological sense) than that; holding fundraisers for missionaries or having them come speak at a church is a very regular thing at lots of churches.

    • Randy M says:

      “conservatives predictably coming up with reasons why he was”

      I haven’t ever actually seen an example of this, though I don’t doubt you could produce some I doubt it’s a norm. Or if it is, it is probably because Americans associate Jesus with being Jewish, and the Jews they are more familiar with are those who have mixed with Europeans for a few centuries, rather than those who lived in first century Jerusalem.

    • Frog Do says:

      The easy control group is Africa, where Christains and Muslims live in close contact, and ask them about their beliefs. Or there’s the thousands of years of Christian and Muslim wrestling with the subject. Why do you immediately jump to a racial analysis being the most important factor? I suspect you’re mapping Christian Evangelical to xenophobic American whites on the interior, but Christian Evangelicals are infamous for their support of Israel and missionary work, given the growth of the religion in the third world. I kind of suspect this is just clever Blue Tribe stereotyping of Red Tribe.