Links 5/16: Linko de Mayo

The Theory Of Deadly Initials proposed that people whose initials spelled out negative words, like D.I.E. or B.A.D., died earlier because of the associated stress. People believed this for years before someone figured out it was all based on bad statistics.

Jamie Brew has become Internet-famous for his predictive text generator that makes hilarious mishmash out of sources like the political debates (“I am in this campaign for the sake of the four largest people in the history of the world, people who should have a lot of healthcare”). But how come he is able to do this so much better than anybody else armed with a Markov chain and a source text? Some kind of shiny new machine learning algorithm? Rationalist Tumblr user @nostalgebraist investigates and bursts all our dreams by finding that nope, it’s mostly done by good old human judgment.

This seems unbelievable to me, so I challenge readers to tell me how to reconcile my perceptions with the data: of all candidates (including Trump), Hillary Clinton has received the most negative media coverage.

You know those Neuro drinks that are on sale everywhere and promise to lift your mood or help you relax or whatever? They’re now paying $500,000 for misleading advertising. Sounds like a pretty fair decision to this psychiatrist.

BMJ: a large study from 1973 found that replacing saturated fat with vegetable oil did not decrease death from coronary disease, but the results sat in a file drawer for forty years. And the New York Times’ popular presentation of same.

Although shared environment has kind of gotten the short end of the stick in recent behavioral genetics studies, it still shows up sometimes in early childhood and in studies done on the most deprived populations. But what percent of that is prenatal versus postnatal environment? Abstract, table of results. Most interesting finding: adopted adults’ IQ is so unrelated to the IQ of their adoptive mother that in some studies the correlation shows up as nonsignificantly negative.

There’s been some past discussion here about Success Academy, a chain of charter schools that has achieved impressive results. Freddie deBoer argues this will never scale because their business model is hiring a tiny number of elite teachers who have just graduated from top colleges for really cheap, luring them with promises of social impact and getting to live in desirable areas. This might work – have the best teachers teach poorer students and those poor students will do well – but it doesn’t scale beyond the tiny number of elite teachers willing to work in those conditions. I find this idea plausible but far from proven – first of all because the schools themselves say it’s their (easily scalable) discipline policies that lead to their success, and because the research on the importance of teacher quality seems mixed.

A while back I posited a utopian online future of automated machine learning filters that prevent you from ever having to see trolls. Now Hugh Hancock makes the case for pessimism by positing a dystopian online future of automated machine learning trolls.

I can’t improve on this title: Reflections On Reasons for Reduced Rates of Replicability.

A while ago I got a bit paranoid about some kind of deliberate conspiracy to prevent working class people from getting jobs painlessly, and how the government used bureaucracy to smite any opportunity that arose outside this system. This probably isn’t going to help my paranoia: San Francisco to require Uber and Lyft drivers to obtain business licenses.

Related: Google, Ford, Uber, Lyft, Volvo, etc, form lobbying group for self-driving cars. I’d forgotten that people could also lobby in favor of things I want!

Classic Programmer Paintings dot tumblr dot com.

Scientific American: Scott Aaronson Answers Every Ridiculously Big Question I Throw At Him. I disagree with John Horgan about a lot, sometimes vehemently, but man can he do a good science interview.

Andrew Gelman dissects a study on airplane inequality. And Asheley Landrum dissects a study on Ted Cruz and bullshit.

Scientist suggests that quantizing inertia would explain flyby anomaly and make the EmDrive not contradict physics. Anyone want to tell me if this is crazy or not? (EDIT: probably crazy)

Marginal Revolution: Regulatory Arbitrage, Rent-Seeking, and the Deal Of The Year. Why did the Real Estate Board of New York give its Ingenious Deal Of The Year Award to somebody who literally destroyed value with a wrecking ball for no economic reason? And what does it say about our society that they were right to do so? An interesting companion piece to some of what I talked about in my review of Art of the Deal.

Correlation of -0.68 between “rule of law” in a country as defined by the World Justice Project, versus road accident deaths per capita in that country. Is this something boring, like better governments making better road systems, or everything about countries always being correlated by development anyway? Or some more fundamental connection between people following the rules while driving and following the rules while governing. I’d say “paging Garett Jones” except that I think I got this link from his Twitter.

Vox: Inequality As Waste. Discusses increasingly costly signaling in terms of houses, weddings, and parties as a multipolar trap in which everybody has to keep up with a small group of increasingly super-rich Joneses.

Study: “About 40% of studies fail to fully report all experimental conditions and about 70% of studies do not report all outcome variables included int he questionnaire. Reported effect sizes are about twice as large as unreported effect sizes and three times more likely to be statistically significant.

Vox’s profile of Mencius Moldbug is a thing that exists. Nick Land praises it as “almost saintly in its attempt to get the phenomenon right”. Ross Douthat responds in the NYT calling reaction potentially “something genuinely new…a vision as strange and motley as reality itself.”

Also in the NYT, this time by Amanda Hess: “Those who try to signal their wokeness by saying ‘woke’ have revealed themselves to be very unwoke indeed.” I am deeply grateful to have a bubble that mostly insulates me from the sort of people for whom this is a problem.

I had a fun time presenting Plomin’s paper Top Ten Replicated Findings From Behavioral Genetics to a room full of psychoanalysts last month, then fielding their increasingly angry and horrified questions. But this group might be more in need of the (partial) antidote, Turkheimer’s Weak Genetic Explanations 20 Years Later, which I endorse as the most pessimistic about genetic explanations it is possible to be while still being 100% intellectually honest.

In the context of recent papers finding the global warming “hiatus” is real after all, David Friedman notes that he has been predicting this for years, and further predicts (if I understand correctly) that the warming trend should return with a vengeance around 2030.

The percent of Americans who identify as environmentalist has gone down from 78% in 1991 to 42% today! I find this really surprising, and indeed, Gallup notes that how Americans actually feel about environmentalist issues has changed much less or not at all. So what’s going on here? One possibility: global warming has so eclipsed all other environmental concerns that the mainstream environmentalist movement has entirely folded into the anti-global-warming movement, which doesn’t have a catchy name or identitarian label. But I wonder if there’s something deeper going on here – something like environmentalism so permeating the culture that normal people stop identifying with it and the term becomes more relegated to an extremist fringe. How might that relate to other political movements?

Speaking of how people self-identify: did you know the average self-identified vegetarian eats one serving of meat per day? Or that 60% of self-identified vegetarians say they’ve eaten meat in the past 24 hours? Related: Rational Conspiracy on cost-effectiveness of vegetarianism.

Rational Conspiracy: whatever you do, don’t subscribe to the Boston Globe.

New n = 9,000 blinded resume study finds no preference for white over black or Hispanic applicants, contradicting previous research. Before you get too excited, I think there’s a lot of previous research this contradicts, so more studies are needed. Also, they signaled black race by using the last names “Washington” or “Jefferson”, instead of previous studies that had used first names like “Jamal” or “DeShawn”. While people convincingly argued that Jamal and DeShawn might be less popular among employers than the average black person, I worry that “Washington” and “Jefferson”, while indeed disproportionately black names, may not be black enough to effectively signal blackness. On the other hand, the Hispanics were “Hernandez” and “Garcia”, you’d think that would have worked.

Related: “implicit racist attitudes” as measured by Implicit Association Tests do not actually predict whether someone will racially discriminate or not, are of questionable meaningfulness.

r/SubRedditSimulator is a subreddit made entirely of bots; each bot generates posts and comments based off of predictive text from a different subreddit. 8th post is by the r/CrazyIdeas bot: “Open a pizzeria that only serves food made by two different parasites fighting for control in our solar system by detonating calculated explosions near the soda fountain…”

Popehat attorney Marc Randazza files a legal brief about Klingon, partly in Klingon, supporting a very Klingon conception of copyright law.

President Obama makes a Red Wedding joke at the White House Press Correspondents Dinner, threatens to have security bar the doors and take out all the Republicans in the room. Funny in context, but I appreciated Pax Dickinson’s commentary – our history of drone strikes on Pakistan is pretty grim, and jokes about killing everybody at a wedding are less funny when the person making them has actually done that before.

Weasel shuts down Large Hadron Collider in the most blatant act of animal aggression against the particle physics community since a bird dropped a baguette into CERN machinery and a conspiracy of raccoons took down Fermilab.

Aptly-named Impossible Foods says it will have a high-tech vegetarian burger as good as the real thing available at select restaurants this July. No word on when it’ll be available direct to consumers.

Did you know: light bulb manufacturers maintained an honest-to-goodness conspiracy to prevent the introduction of longer-lasting bulbs. I would say this should increase our concern about this sort of thing happening today, except the conspiracy lasted barely ten years before other companies managed to undercut them, so maybe it should decrease our concern.

The price of solar power has decreased 50% in 16 months. Maybe. There’s a lot of complicated stuff about subsidized versus unsubsidized power and I’m not sure it’s an apples-to-apples comparison. But there’s some very impressive claim about solar power that’s true. Sometimes it seems like technologies only have two possible modes – stagnant for decades, or doubling every eighteen months.

David Chapman always has posts that are structurally brilliant and revelatory until I sit back and think about them later and realize I don’t know what half the terms in them mean and I am just assuming they are brilliant and revelatory because they are put together in a way which is a superstimulus for formally correct thought. His latest, A Bridge To Meta-Rationality Vs. Civilizational Collapse, is a typically engaging and impressive example of the genre. I really wish I knew more about post-modernism, or that somebody who does would write an engaging and meaningful introduction.

A scuba diver petting a moray eel, with relevant commentary here.

In 1737, William Penn’s children made a (shady, possibly forged or forced) treaty with the Lenape Indians that granted white settlers all territory within thirty-six hours’ walk from the Lehigh River. Then they hired the fastest power-walkers and best surveyors in the colony to cover as much ground as humanly possible within thirty-six hours. The history of the Walking Purchase.

Scott Aaronson and a student find that the 7918th Busy Beaver number is unknowable. This is a fun read even for someone like me who only understands the tiniest fraction of what’s going on. I think it is about a function which proceeds from being finite, knowable, and known to being Godelian and unknowable in an orderly fashion in a finite number of steps (apparently, less than 7918). If I’m understanding this right, my brain hurts.

The French company behind the TGV supertrain has invested 80 million euros in the Hyperloop.

Tow truck owner refuses to tow Bernie Sanders supporter. This is the world you people have built for us.

Oddly prescient Onion from 2012: Shrieking White Hot Sphere Of Pure Rage Early GOP Front-Runner For 2016. Between this and the Long National Nightmare Of Peace And Prosperity article I’m starting to think the Onion employs Nostradamus.

A roundup of everybody who said Trump could never win the nomination so we can laugh at them for being wrong. There’s actually an important rationality lesson here, which is that a person who said Trump had only a 20% chance of winning the nomination (like Nate Silver) may in fact be perfectly virtuous – things with only a twenty percent chance of happening do happen one in every five times. By extension, even a person who said there was only a 0.000001% chance of Trump winning the nomination may be virtuous, although it’s pretty unlikely. I am less contemptuous of anybody who provided a number, and more contemptuous of the sort of people who said “Anyone who thinks Trump might win the nomination is an idiot and shouldn’t be taken seriously”. SSC’s own (rather late) prediction was 60% chance he would be the nominee – an earlier pseudo-prediction was non-numerical and very carefully hedged.

French study shows diversity causes social anomie, but I get kind of suspicious when “social anomie” is treated as a quantified study endpoint. Related: contra usual conventional wisdom, study suggests that ethnic diversity does not decrease support for redistribution, except maybe in special cases involving recent immigrants.

What do actual epigenetics professors and researchers think of the pop epigenetics that always gets cited in the media as the hot new explanation for social phenomena? Jerry Coyne collects some biting responses.

Egypt Independent – “Salah Abdel Sadeq, head of the State Information Service, has blamed the spread of violence and extremism in the Arab world on Tom & Jerry cartoons and video games.” The fun thing about this is that every time another culture blames their problems on the way things are portrayed in the media, it sounds hilarious, but whenever our culture does it people find it totally plausible. Related: Mexican Congresswoman Declares War On Memes

The Open Philanthropy Project has declared that AI risk will be one of their major priorities this year, an important development given both their levels of funding/talent/connections, and their reputation as a gold standard for analysis of what charitable opportunities are important. Especially interesting given that the OPP leader who wrote the report, Holden, was previously one of MIRI’s strongest critics – he notes that “my views on this cause have evolved considerably over time”, though it’s also important to note a lot of his criticisms were MIRI-specific rather than related to the entire field.

Has the more charismatic candidate really won every one of the last thirteen presidential elections?

The theologians say that Hell is the absence of God, marked not by divine abandonment of human souls but by humans who deliberately refuse the salvific power of the Divine. On the one hand, I feel like this is an uncharitable portrayal of nonbelievers, many of whom are not opposed to God but only intellectually unconvinced of His existence. On the other, Haifa Man Seeks Restraining Order Against God

Yet another study showing permanent increase in Openness (and the ominous-sounding “brain entropy”) after LSD use (h/t Emil Kierkegaard)

What does it look like to walk along the ridge of the Matterhorn? (warning: it looks like something that will trigger people who are scared of heights). A less dizzying perspective. Relevant Reddit commentary.

Brad DeLong vs. John Cochrane on the Ease of Doing Business Index.

You know that chart showing how US GDP keeps going up steadily, but after 1973, wages stop going up along with it? Somebody broke it down and figured out why. Some of it is The 1 Percent, but a lot isn’t.

New York bar told it is discriminatory to deny service to pregnant women.

Percent Neanderthal genes in Europeans has been declining over the past 40,000 years in a way consistent with natural selection acting against them.

Ten percent of federal judgeships are currently vacant – study finds that this leads to a thousand fewer incarcerations each year as prosecutors triage which cases they want to bring to trial. Suggested trollish by technically correct spin: Congressional Republicans have done more for the fight against mass incarceration than almost anyone else.

A counterpoint to a recent post on Chinese happiness: Pew asks a very subtly different question and sees vast improvement in all emerging markets including China.

America has 35% fewer police officers per capita than the world average, even though its prison system is much larger. Alex Tabarrok wonders if this suggests a strategy of shifting criminal justice resources from prisons to police, in the hopes that criminals use a rational P(caught)*punishment strategy to determine whether or not to commit a crime and so if we increase catch rate we can shorten sentences.

Artir with a very long and data-intensive argument that there is no technological stagnation. Strongest possible rebuttal I can imagine after this data overflow (unless you can prove the post is cherry-picking indicators, which it doesn’t look like) is that for some reason stagnation is uniquely limited to things that can’t be graphed – progress in how much energy can be stored in a single battery is going as fast as ever, but there are fewer completely new ideas like airplanes. But that might be too close to a god of the gaps argument – people can graph a lot of things.

An argument against denser zoning in San Francisco good enough to get featured on Marginal Revolution???

Why are there billboards across Utah advertising the 9th President of the US, William Henry Harrison?

Is there an evolutionary reason why humans continue to live after they stop being able to reproduce? We still don’t know, but of note, A Simple Offspring-To-Mother Size Ratio Predicts Post-Reproductive Lifespan, suggesting that long life might be a spandrel of the health needed to survive the stress of childbirth.

Is Social Darwinism A Myth? (1, 2). Despite the ubiquitous demands not to be like those nasty social Darwinists who must have dominated 19th century thought or something, there’s very little evidence that people of that era used the term ‘social Darwinism’ or used Darwinian theory to justify their social policies. The whole thing may have been mostly invented by one guy in the 1940s as an attempt to tarnish economists he didn’t like.

Venezuela has come up with a sure-fire solution to its hyperinflation problems which is 100% in keeping with socialist principles.

Can anybody explain whether this image (apparently derived from here?) contradicts or even reverses the narrative that Democrats have stayed pretty normal but Republicans have become much more extreme?

Did iTunes delete all the music on this guy’s hard drive? vs. Apple doesn’t delete all the music on your hard drive unless you do something wrong, which given Apple’s confusing policies and dictatorial business model you inevitably will.

The great thing about ketamine is that it relieves depression near-instantly and much more reliably than ordinary antidepressants. The bad thing about it is that it’s ketamine – a potentially dangerous hallucinogenic drug – and similar but safer compounds don’t seem to have the same effects. Now scientists have found (at least in mice) that it is not ketamine itself but a metabolite of ketamine that treats depression, and the metabolite is relatively safe. Also, the metabolite affects AMPA receptors, not NMDA receptors, which means previous research was looking in the wrong place and now we can look in the right one. Exciting progress!

Thing of Things: Contra Piaget, very young infants probably have object permanence.

The first few paragraphs of this article are standard intra-Christian exhortation boilerplate, but if you can make it through them, the rest is a fascinating and terrifying ethnography of a creepy new charismatic movement.

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1,315 Responses to Links 5/16: Linko de Mayo

  1. TK Texas says:

    First, may I say this blog is orders of magnitude better than others that I regard as very good? How you find all this stuff is beyond me.

    On the point about negative news stories about Hillary, I think it is simply that the Republicans have bloodied the noses of the MSM repeatedly, but Democrats just take it. In addition, I think a portfolio of critical reports against Democratic politicians is an MSM reporter’s price of admission for access to conservative sources. Of course none of these factors apply to the conservative media, so if conservative outlets are included, the “balance” is perpetually against any successful Democratic politician. Last of course is the fact that Hillary has been around a long time, creating endless opportunities for lazy reporters to Google old stories and recycle them.

  2. onyomi says:

    Do you know what I think would be a great feature? If each post had a little button you could press that would make you jump immediately to the post to which it was a response within the nested hierarchy. Obviously this won’t work after the maximum number of nestings has been reached, at which point most people explicitly state what they’re responding to, but it seems it would help in cases when someone responds to something to which there have been many previous responses at different levels. Sometimes it is quite a pain to scroll up long enough and keep your eye on the nesting levels in order to figure out what exactly they are responding to.

  3. Discussion of general principles for programming

    From the comments:

    “Every program is an attempt to capture and automate a decision-making process. If you don’t fully understand the specific process you are working on, nothing else matters.” — dsrtao

    “True — although that comes with the flip-side, that you often (almost always, in my experience) learn along the way that you *didn’t* completely understand that process at the beginning, and need to adjust as you go. *Believing* that you fully understand what you’re doing, and being bull-headed about that, is one of the most common failure modes…” –jducoeur

    • James Picone says:

      Whenever I see stuff like this where everybody emphasises inline commenting, I remember a bunch of the scientist code I’ve seen with this classic commenting style:

      // add 1 to x
      x = x + 1;

      // log the value of x
      Trace(“X is %d”, x);

      I liked this:

      That programming is, at essence, struggling with the finite ability of the human brain to understand things. Most other principles fall out from this.

  4. Deiseach says:

    Our future police force in training.

    They’ve issued a challenge to the Police Service of Northern Ireland, no news if the Nordies have taken it up yet.

  5. grendelkhan says:

    No one seemed to have edited the Wikipedia page on ketamine, so I gave it a shot. If that’s a terrible summary, or if I should change the surrounding paragraphs, please let me know, but this really isn’t my field. (If you don’t feel like editing it yourself, reply here and I’ll see what I can do.) Someone already expanded the article for HNK, so there’s that… maybe there’s something to be added on the page for AMPA receptors, too?

  6. multiheaded says:

    I am disappointed that, header image aside, there are no Airplane! jokes in the airplane inequality post or its comments. Shirley that’s a way to make statistics more enticing.

    • John Schilling says:

      There were, but the jokes didn’t survive translation from the original Jive.

    • Vox Imperatoris says:

      The article is talking about flails.

      Morningstars are something different. They are spiked maces (i.e. clubs) with no chain. The spikes may extend from a cylindrical shape on the end, or the end may be more spherical.

      As far as I know, morningstars were quite real.

      From the Wikipedia article talking about the supposed military flail (which mentions the controversy concerning whether they existed):

      Modern works variously refer to this particular weapon as a “military flail,” “mace-and-chain” or “chain mace,” and sometimes erroneously label them as simply a “mace” or morning star, terms which technically apply only to rigid weapons. Some historians refer to this weapon as a kettenmorgenstern (“chain morning star”) to distinguish it from the rigid weapon.

    • onyomi says:

      Somewhat related, I have heard arguments that flexible Chinese weapons, like the three-section staff, the less traditional two-section staff (i. e. nunchaku Bruce Lee made famous), nine-section whip, and rope dart were never used for anything other than showing off/performance. They certainly wouldn’t have been my first choice in a real battle, though I guess I can see there being some benefit to how concealable the whip and rope dart potentially were, though I’m not sure why you wouldn’t just carry small throwing knives in the latter case.

      Related is the flexible sword in Kalaripayattu, called an urumi, I believe.

      Not saying one couldn’t seriously hurt someone (or oneself) with any of these things, just not sure whether they were ever seriously used.

  7. onyomi says:

    Some links I’ve been meaning to share:

    Why Japanese web design is awful

    Gap between foody culture and what American really eat
    (Remember next time you’re tempted to say Americans tried “low fat” diets and got fatter that what they actually eat consists largely of butter mixed with mayo)

    Are smart people less happy?

    Another reason I Fucking Hate Science: Bill Nye is a huckster

    Something close to my own heart: What does a Russian literature expert look like? Not me, apparently. (As a white guy trying to teach Asian studies I encounter this problem in the supposedly ultra-tolerant academy where, for example, my Jamaican friend who researches 18th c. French Opera is constantly pushed to go into Caribbean and postcolonial studies).

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Even if Allrecipes were representative of America, it’s just a snapshot in time, so it doesn’t tell you about change. Here are some time series. It doesn’t directly address the question of fat (or even calories), but the fall in red meat since 1970 is people following advice. I think it is also true that chicken is leaner than it used to be.

    • James Picone says:

      Are smart people less happy?

      Wild-arse guess: Scaling up offence and defence tends to advantage offence because you only need to get one thing through and defence has to cover everything etc. etc.. So as people get more intelligent, their ability to self-criticise improves faster than their ability to feel like they’re still a good person.

    • anonymous says:

      That Allrecipes article reads as if the author is a member of the Brahmin class discovering the Vaisya for the first time.

  8. Paul Carbone says:

    Related to the weasel story, a personally amusing crackpot theory: Bizarre accidents at particle accelerators, particularly unlikely ones involving small animals, are the result of the accidental destruction of all more-likely timelines if the particle physics lab had continued operating uninterrupted.

    Related crackpot theory: A time machine is theoretically possible, but actually using one destroys the timeline in which it occurs. Thus, the only timeline we can experience will be ones in which increasingly unlikely events occur to prevent the intentional or accidental use of a time machine. In the grim darkness of the far future, this is exploited to create weapons that when activated cause the spontaneous creation of singularities, strangelets, and other exotic particles or events which come into being to destroy the time machine-warhead. Reliability is an issue though, as the weapon can also spontaneously become, say, a vase of petunias.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      See “How Many LHC Failures Is Too Many?” by Eliezer Yudkowsky.

    • voidfraction says:

      > A time machine is theoretically possible, but actually using one destroys the timeline in which it occurs

      My favorite permutation of this, c/o Charles Stross: time machines are possible, but the only stable timeline is one in which they are never invented. Therefore, people will keep using time machines to fuck with the past until, by chance, their interventions change history so much that they are not born in the new timeline. This keeps happening until someone’s changes result in the time machine never being invented, leaving a stable sans-time-machine history littered with the wreckage of the time travelers who stopped time travel from ever being invented. This explains Atlantis, etc.

      • LHN says:

        AKA “Niven’s Law”, from Larry Niven’s “The Theory and Practice of Time Travel” (1971): “If the universe of discourse permits the possibility of time travel and of changing the past, then no time machine will be invented in that universe.”

      • John Brunner did that one first, in the 1969 version of Times Without Number. It’s one of my personal favourites, worth a look if you can find a copy at the local library.

  9. Justin says:

    With regards to the income/productivity gap, the Heritage Foundation has an explanation along similar lines but I think it is a bit better than the one you linked to. The Heritage Foundation keeps its focus on labor compensation specifically, includes the impact of faster depreciation, and I don’t think it makes sense to adjust for the Employment to Population ratio.

  10. mdb says:

    A rather amusing collection of Political Compass-style charts, both apparently serious and obvious parodies.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      I fucking lost it when I got to the anatomical charts.

      • Nornagest says:

        From now on I politically identify as “lower caudal fin”.

        (The idea behind the Nolan cube is actually kinda interesting, though, even if the chart is crap.)

      • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

        Jaime! I missed you during the last Open Thread, since this links thread went up so quickly, but I’ve got the Gods of the Copybook Headings nailed down if’n you want to discuss the memorization of such.

        (Also, I found the Transmission mildly amusing when I first read it, but rereading it for the sci-fi book discussion made it seem a lot more contrived. Plus, I don’t believe minds can be uploaded and transmitted in the first place, which rather reduced the impact of the story, as all those folks were already dead in my view. I look forward to the Cold Equations next OT, though!).

        • jaimeastorga2000 says:

          You are better at this than me. I’ve got most of the poem down, but I still need to memorize the last three stanzas. Memorizing the geological periods was the hardest part; there is nothing logically connecting the Cambrian to the perils of pacifism, for example.

          (I didn’t use to believe in mind uploading, either, until I read the Reductionism sequence and “Staring into the Singularity”, which is incidentally my favorite Yudkowsky article ever. Now I am pretty convinced that it is possible in principle. What is the nature of your objections?)

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            It helps that the poem follows a logical progression:

            The first 4 stanzas introduce the Gods of the Copybook Headings and how we came to turn away from them

            The next 3 (the geological periods) detail the failed promises of the Gods of the Market, in contrast to the Copybook Headings’ warnings.

            The final 3 are on the fall of the Market gods, and the bloody return of the Copybook Headings. I’d advise concentrating on first lines: “then the gods of the market tumbled, their smooth tongued-wizards withdrew,” “as it will be in the future, it was at the dawn of man:”, and “but when all this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins,” as then the rhyme will typically let you get the rest of the stanzas easily.

            (My main objection is that if you systematically destroy a brain and replace it with electronic synapses, I think that you just get at best a copy of a person, not the original individual. Similar to some teleportation schemes that depended on rebuilding people out of the molecules available in the destination – I don’t think it’s the same individual.

            Basically, I see no reason to expect consciousness to be continuous, and I can see no way to prove that it would be so.

            Then again, I am a believing Christian, in contrast to the majority of LWers, so that’s undoubtedly informing my beliefs in this area).

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            I understand the macrostructure of the poem, but its really easy for me to accidentally, for example, say “When the Cambrian measures were forming, we were promised the Fuller Life” because there is no way to know that this is wrong except by memorizing which geological period goes witch which stanza.

            (Ah, the just-a-copy objection. A nondestructive upload ends up with a physical you and a virtual you, while a nondestructive transporter ends up with a you here and a you there, so a lot of people have the intuition that the virtual or distant you is just a copy, and the destructive versions of the above procedures merely happen to kill the original at the same time they create the copy. I think it makes more sense to think of a nondestructive upload or transport as splitting you into two instances which have an equally valid claim to being you, per the relevant Yudkowskyian arguments, and so a destructive upload or transporter merely take a situation in which there is a single local or physical instance of you and create a situation in which there is a single distant or virtual instance of you, which is what we wanted.)

    • Vorkon says:

      The MSPaint-doodled one with the quotes from strawmen in each of the quadrants was pretty good, too. But then, I tend to be easily amused. At least it was equally unfair to everyone!

      But yeah, the anatomical charts definitely took the cake.

  11. Wilj says:

    Chapman writes well, but I would like to add a disclaimer for anyone who goes on to explore more of his site(s): don’t rely on him to interpret Buddhism for you. If anyone’s very interested I could write quite a bit on this, but the gist of it is that he takes an extremely heterodox position, claims it is actually representative, and then argues against it by contrasting his own heterodox interpretation as obviously better.

    It’s interesting, to be sure, and not without value — but it’s not informative for someone not already very familiar with more fair and charitable explanations.

    • mdb says:

      As someone with a mild interest in Buddhism I’d like to hear a bit more but don’t want to ask anyone to exert effort out of proportion with my level of interest. With that in mind, could you give a rough idea of what his heterodoxy is about in a paragraph or two?

    • Troy Rex says:

      That sounds more-or-less fair, although I’ll note that I always got the impression Chapman’s version was heterodox. My bet is that I’ll like it better, but I didn’t get the feeling he was passing it off as the actually orthodox position.

  12. Sniffnoy says:

    So I looked at Chapman’s “Probability theory does not extend logic” and some things aren’t making sense. He claims that probability theory does extend propositional logic, but not predicate logic.

    But if we assume a countable universe, probability will work just as well with universals and existentials as it will with conjunctions and disjunctions. Even without that assumption, well, a universal is essentially an infinite conjunction, and an existential statement is essentially an infinite disjunction. It would be strange that this case should fail.

    His more specific example is: Say, for some x, we gain evidence for “There exist distinct y and y’ with R(x,y)”, and update its probability accordingly; how should we update our probability for “For all x, there exists a unique y with R(x,y)”? Probability theory doesn’t say, he says. But OK — let’s take this to a finite universe with known elements. Now all those universals and existentials can be rewritten as finite conjunctions and disjunctions. And probability theory does handle this case?

    I mean… I don’t think it does. If you have events A and B and you learn C, well, you update P(A) to P(A|C), and you update P(A∩B) to P(A∩B|C)… but the magnitude of the first update doesn’t determine the magnitude in the second. Why should it when the conjunction becomes infinite? I think that Chapman’s claim about a way in which probability theory does not extend predicate logic, is equally a claim about a way in which it does not extend propositional logic. As best I can tell, it extends both equally well.

    • Earthly Knight says:

      “Mathematical logic is the modern, formal version of rationality in the narrow sense, and probability theory is the modern, formal version of empiricism.

      It is sometimes said that probability theory extends mathematical logic from dealing with just “true” and “false” to a continuous scale of uncertainty. Some have said that this is proven by Cox’s Theorem. These are both misunderstandings, as I’ll explain below. In short: logic is capable of expressing complex relationships among different objects, and probability theory is not.

      A more serious corollary misunderstanding is that probability theory is a complete theory of formal rationality; or even of rationality in general; or even of epistemology.

      In fact, logic can do things probability theory can’t. However, despite much hard work, no known formalism completely unifies the two! Even at the mathematical level, the marriage of rationality and empiricism has never been fully consummated.

      Furthermore, probability theory plus logic cannot exhaust rationality—much less add up to a complete epistemology.”

      This is basically gibberish.

      I have no idea why this guy thinks it’s a revelation that probability theory doesn’t dictate how much a universal generalization is confirmed by the observation of one of its instances, This is obviously a job for a confirmation theory.

  13. Deiseach says:

    The first few paragraphs of this article are standard intra-Christian exhortation boilerplate

    Just noticed, and very much appreciate the edit, Scott!

  14. gwern says:

    “Genome-wide association study identifies 74 loci associated with educational attainment”, Okbay et al 2016

    Educational attainment is strongly influenced by social and other environmental factors, but genetic factors are estimated to account for at least 20% of the variation across individuals1. Here we report the results of a genome-wide association study (GWAS) for educational attainment that extends our earlier discovery sample1, 2 of 101,069 individuals to 293,723 individuals, and a replication study in an independent sample of 111,349 individuals from the UK Biobank. We identify 74 genome-wide significant loci associated with the number of years of schooling completed. Single-nucleotide polymorphisms associated with educational attainment are disproportionately found in genomic regions regulating gene expression in the fetal brain. Candidate genes are preferentially expressed in neural tissue, especially during the prenatal period, and enriched for biological pathways involved in neural development. Our findings demonstrate that, even for a behavioural phenotype that is mostly environmentally determined, a well-powered GWAS identifies replicable associated genetic variants that suggest biologically relevant pathways. Because educational attainment is measured in large numbers of individuals, it will continue to be useful as a proxy phenotype in efforts to characterize the genetic influences of related phenotypes, including cognition and neuropsychiatric diseases.

    Aside from, obviously, being super important in finding more intelligence hits, check out extended data figure 9 a. More evidence for balancing selection of intelligence because it’s too developmentally fragile/expensive?

    • Urstoff says:

      And the extensive FAQ for the study:

      The kicker:
      As a group, the 74 SNPs explain 0.43% of the variation in educational attainment across individuals in the sample. Individually, each of the 74 SNPs had an extremely small influence on educational attainment. The variant with the strongest association explained only 0.035% of the variation in educational attainment. Put another way, the difference between people with 0 and 2 copies of this genetic variant predicts (on average) about 9 extra weeks of schooling.

      • gwern says:

        Not sure what you mean by kicker. This is exactly what was predicted early on when candidate-genes failed to replicate, it’s what Rietveld et al 2013 found, and it’s what studies since have found, so it’s no surprise that Okbay et al 2016 also found it (it would be a serious issue if it had instead found large effects). IQ and things IQ affects like schooling are highly polygenic. This has the interesting implication that while it makes selection/editing less profitable in the short run, editing is more profitable in the long run.

  15. In case anyone would like some time off from discussing American politics, the Harper administration censored a lot of Canadian science.

    • Eltargrim says:

      Speaking as a Canadian scientist, although this almost certainly will never have personal repercussions (nobody caaaaaaaaaares about my work) it’s still welcome.

      What’s more pressing is funding. NSERC grants are still underfunded, with more funds going to the Research Chairs programs. CFI continues to focus on big purchases, with a bare pittance for maintenance. While I’m OK with the changes happening to the Post-Graduate Scholarship program (fewer awards tiers), restricting applications for the Postdoctoral Fellowship to once per lifetime is, frankly, insane.

      At this point I barely care about being able to share my research; I’m much more concerned with being able to afford to carry it out!

    • nm. k.m. says:

      I realize I’m a couple of days late to the party, but thanks for the link. This should have been a more major news item.

    • James Picone says:

      Us Australians are much more civilised – we just fire scientists studying politically inconvenient things, even the leading authorities.

  16. Mariani says:

    The word “troll” has undergone a pretty crazy definitional creep. The word actually means someone who assumes the role of someone with provocative/contradictory beliefs in order to get a reaction out of someone else. These days, though, everyone seems to use it as a stand-in for “asshole.”

    The words, with its original meaning, has no synonyms. Why give it a definition that so many other words share?

    • Jill says:

      Not giving “troll” an exact definition can be a big boost for the ego. That way, perhaps anyone who disagrees with you (not you Mariani, can just the general “you”) can be called a troll. Or anyone who disagrees with you but doesn’t want to argue back and forth all day about it, as you may be are eager to do, can be called a troll. Or anyone who is “wrong” because they point out a problem, and that problem did not turn out to be true of everyone or everything in the category 100% of the time (nor did they say it was.) Then you demand that the person apologize and get to feel as right and virtuous and exemplary as Moses holding up the 10 Commandments.

      That way the troll has to be wrong and awful. And the person yelling “Troll” gets to be right and smart and virtuous. And you get to speculate about exactly what kind of awful person they are, about beliefs and habits that you make up and ascribe to the. A big one-upsmanship play.

      There can be cases where the strategies above can’t be carried out. In that case, you just make up something that a person did not say– maybe an exaggeration of what they did say– and argue against that. There is always some nit you can pick or exaggerate into a disagreement where you are “right” and the “troll” is wrong. Don’t ever give up.

      Lots of ego here. What can one expect? It’s the Internet, after all. The surprise is that there are some helpful people also.

    • Nita says:

      No one decided to give the word a certain definition. Assholes called their behavior “trolling” and themselves “trolls”, and eventually it caught on.

      • Mariani says:

        A lot of trolls (my definition) are assholes. Assholes in general are a waaaay bigger category

        Then there’s always “I was only pretending to be retarded” types that call themselves trolls as a refuge

    • Peter says:

      I suppose it’s part of the general tendency of words to degenerate from signifying fairly precise concepts to being mere synonyms for “good thing” and “bad thing”.

      Back in the old days “troll” used to have some bite to it because it gave an idea about in what particular way someone was bad. But people wanted to use that bite even when they weren’t entitled to it, and so more and more people use the word, and by now it’s well on it’s way to being sucked dry.

      C. S. Lewis in _Studies in Words_ has some good examples of this phenomenon. “Verbicide”, he calls it. We can’t stop it, he argues, but at least we can avoid participating it it ourselves.

    • Ruprect says:

      Yeah, I agree. But, I don’t think trolling should just be about a reaction (though there is that) – there has to be some art to it. I like to view it as a way of exposing rubbish. The poison is the cure.

      Anyway, here’s the opening gambit of a nice bit of trolling I did on the feminists a few months ago – what I’m looking for is something that will be irritating or stupid-seeming enough to get people to jump on it, but that can actually be worked into something that makes perfect sense (from their perspective).

      “Until employees are able to sack their employers, policing ‘problematic’ compliments is pure bagatelle (if female intelligence were attractive, would it be problematic to compliment a woman on her quick wits?)
      It’s the power structures that are the problem, not the particular form in which these power imbalances express themselves.”

      They did not like that one bit. Though, of course, if people are being entirely intellectually honest, there is no need for trolling, and you can just play devil’s advocate.

    • My memory of the use of “troll”, going back at least a couple of decades, was that it included being uninterested in actually arguing for the beliefs in question. The prototypical troll made a post likely to provoke responses in a group then left, often to make the same post elsewhere.

      Thus it mixed the “troll under a bridge” image with the “trolling as a form of fishing” image.

      • Mariani says:

        “The prototypical troll made a post likely to provoke responses in a group then left, often to make the same post elsewhere.”

        That’s still 4chan’s definition

      • Traditionally (well, circa 1995) you were supposed to stick around for a bit. At least long enough to post the traditional sign-off: YHBT. YHL. HAND.

    • MugaSofer says:

      >The words, with its original meaning, has no synonyms.

      I’ve seen “false flag” or “agent provocateur” used to mean this, kind of, in a more “culture war”-y way.

      (Personally, I still use the standard meaning of troll.)

  17. Jill says:

    Scott, would you ever consider making multiple consecutive blog posts each time you post?

    E.g. you’ve got around 900 comments here now on this post. If you separated this kind of post into, say 5 posts, with a few subjects per post, then there would only be an average of less than 200 comments on each post, so far. And people who wanted to read comments about e.g. immigration, or post comments about that particular subject, would be able to find what they’re looking for a lot quicker.

    • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

      If you separated this kind of post into, say 5 posts, with a few subjects per post, then there would only be an average of less than 200 comments on each post, so far.

      Ayy lmao

      • Jill says:

        This is the oddest board I’ve visited in a while. I have no idea why you find that funny.

        • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

          The amount of comments expand to fill the available space. If you separated the post, not only would you reduce the potential of cross subject discussion, you’d get 5 bloated comments sections instead of 1 (or, more likely, a bunch of bloated ones and one or two with a more manageable amount of comments).

          • Jill says:

            Possibly. But I don’t think so. At least I think the conveniences of doing it would outweigh the drawbacks We’ll have to agree to disagree on this one.

            Of course, this is an empirical question. If Scott ever decides to try out the method of doing a number of posts, rather than one at a time, for a while, we’ll see what happens.

            Interesting attitude. You are so sure you are right that it seems hilarious if someone has a different opinion than you. Of course, that’s a very common attitude on the Internet, so no big deal. I just didn’t know that you had any opinion on that method of posting, until you said so just now.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            Of course, this is an empirical question. If Scott ever decides to try out the method of doing a number of posts, rather than one at a time, for a while, we’ll see what happens.

            Scott has experimented with how often he holds open threads (monthly versus biweekly versus weekly). Increasing the frequency did not reduce the amount of comments per thread. Whatever Happened To Anonymous is correct.

          • Nita says:

            Jill suggested breaking a link post into multiple simultaneous posts. I don’t think Scott has ever done that.

          • Jill, you haven’t been here long enough to be familiar with the culture, which means you aren’t likely to be able to predict how commenters will react to changes.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            I wonder how close a parallel we have here to that theory about how building more freeways will just lead to additional traffic.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            Interesting attitude. You are so sure you are right that it seems hilarious if someone has a different opinion than you. Of course, that’s a very common attitude on the Internet, so no big deal.

            Very common, indeed. In this very same thread someone actually said “I feel like I’m documenting that the sky is blue and the grass is green” regarding their own perceptions.

            However, your internet mind reading powers have failed you, I do not find it hilarious that someone has a different opinion than me, for all I know, I could be wrong, I just find it funny that someone has your specific opinion. For one, as jaime noted, reducing the time between threads has not reduced their traffic; Nita rightly points out that this is not the same as doing it simultaneously (and indeed, one would not expect that successively reducing the time between threads were to lead us to a commenting singularity), however this current Links post and the previous Open Thread were indeed posted nearly simultaneously (1 day of delay), and if we count their comments together, they’re on track for the most in a single SSC post.
            Further, pointing at the average number is not very helpful, is having one post with 50 comments and one with 950 any better than having a single 1000 one? Due to different levels of interest in different subjects (usually culture war stuff gets the most comments), the distribution of comments is usually pretty lopsided.
            Besides, having so many active threads would be a hassle to manage, and tank the exposure of the links that get randomly assigned to the first one.

            I’m not even opposed to trying it (even if I were, it’s not like I can do anything about it, I’ve been complaining about the Reign of Terror for a while and that hasn’t stopped the heads from rolling), I just don’t think the benefits, if any, will outweight the inconveniences.

        • keranih says:

          This is the oddest board I’ve visited in a while.

          Consider embracing the diversity it represents, instead of trying to change it to match the rest.

          • Jill says:

            I’m aware I can’t change it.

            Diversity? It’s certainly isn’t politically diverse. Is it diverse in other ways?

          • It’s different from other blogs. It adds to the diversity of the blogosphere.

          • keranih says:

            You hear that, Nancy? You and I represent the same political opinions. And Multiheaded. And Vox. And Dieseach. And Protagorous. And all the rest.

          • suntzuanime says:

            We’re way more politically diverse than we are black, which is what “diversity” usually means absent context. But in context the meaning of “diversity” should have been clear – this comments section adds to the brilliant tapestry of broader internet culture, rather than necessarily itself being a brilliant tapestry.

          • Peter says:

            SSC not politically diverse???

            I’ll admit it’s long past it’s glory days; the SSC right seems to be more of a dominant presence here than it used to… and this has been discussed ad nauseam in other threads, so let’s not have that argument again.

            I suppose that if you’re a long way out in one direction, and there’s no-one else here from that direction, then outgroup homogeneity bias can make a bunch of people all look the same.

          • I’d say ssc has moved right quite a bit lately, but it’s a fast change which might mean motion in other directions is reasonably likely.

          • Deiseach says:

            Proud to be associated with Multiheaded in our homogeneous political views – it’s the commonality of our Europeanness, I suppose 🙂

          • Anonymous says:

            It’s certainly isn’t politically diverse.

            Well, it certainly has moved a bit towards the mainstream when Scott began the purges, but it’s nowhere near as bad as you imply. Death Eaters still lurk in the dark corners.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I think the removal of some of the death eaters actually made the commentariat appear to move right; the death eaters provided a foil to be countered.

          • dndnrsn says:

            My impression is that there are way fewer Death Eaters around, but there’s been an increase in libertarian types.

            As far as I can tell, he most underrepresented views here, relative to their overall prevalence in the general population, are mainstream right-wingers (eg, party-line Republicans), followed by mainstream left-wingers.

        • Jill says:

          Nancy, I’m trying to reply to you, but there’s no Reply button on your comment. So I’m replying to someone above your comment. You’re certainly right that I’m unfamiliar with the culture on this board. Quite a mystery to me so far.

          • Nornagest says:

            Click the up-arrow button at the bottom of the post you want to reply to, and reply to the comment it takes you to. That will append to the thread you want.

            It’s a crappy system, yes.

          • This blog only allows limited nesting of comments, so you can get a very long tail of unnested comments. If it’s not clear who you’re replying to in one of those long tails, you can mention their name and/or include the timestamp and/or include a quote.

            This is a pain, but there is no good solution available. That is, I think trn would be better, but it would be work to adapt it to the web and no one has done that.

          • Vorkon says:


            I tend to use a twitter-esque “@person-I’m-replying-to” unless I’m directly quoting, or I’m just making a joke, or it’s otherwise blindingly obvious who I’m replying to.

            (One of the few worthwhile contributions to online discussion ever to come out of twitter, IMHO.)

        • Possibly we find your response funny because a lot of us see it as being odd in strongly positive ways–a place for intelligent and civil discussion among people with a wide range of views, unlike almost all of the rest of online conversations.

          Imagine someone who sits down at a restaurant, takes a few bites, looks up to remark “that’s funny. The food actually tastes good.”

        • Deiseach says:

          It’s funny because when you say:

          If you separated this kind of post into, say 5 posts, with a few subjects per post, then there would only be an average of less than 200 comments on each post, so far.

          It wouldn’t work that way. It really wouldn’t.

          We’re not laughing at you particularly; we’re laughing at the notion that reducing one long post into handy bite-sized convenient pieces would stop any of us from commenting twenty times per chunk (which would give 20 x 5 = 100 comments each) rather than, say, forty times or so on the one long post 🙂

          I know I keep forgetting to comment on something in the usual long posts that struck me if I get sidetracked by getting into a discussion thread on something else; if the long post were broken down into smaller ones, God alone knows the amount of crap I’d churn out!

          • Jill says:

            There’s always the possibility, Deiseach, that the additional posts you would make might be particularly interesting– perhaps even creative breakthroughs. A lot of writers write for a long while before they think of their best material. It often doesn’t come pouring out immediately. It may take a while to arrive at a novel and useful conclusion.

            And it may be the same for others. It’s not necessarily a bad idea to say or write a lot of material. That what famous genius writers do.

          • Scott Alexander says:

            It might not be a bad idea for me to make links about half as long – the problem is that I don’t have time to flesh out and explain the links posts that often and they have to wait until I do.

          • onyomi says:

            I do think the link posts have been getting kind of long lately. Maybe more frequent link posts with fewer links per post. Would also help with the problem where everybody only comments on the one about Donald Trump and ignores the rest.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ onyomi
            I do think the link posts have been getting kind of long lately. Maybe more frequent link posts with fewer links per post.

            Or even simultaneous.

            Would also help with the problem where everybody only comments on the one about Donald Trump and ignores the rest.

            Exactly. This article quickly got more than 1200 comments. For someone most interested in, say, self-driving cars, that’s a lot of comments to skim (or Ctl-F) through.

  18. Jill says:

    This is one of the longest comment sections I’ve ever seen. I don’t know how other people find what they said previously, in all of this. I can’t. Well, I could, but it would take me a very long time.

  19. Daniel says:

    If immigrants were expected to mostly vote for Repubs, do you think Republicans would be more welcoming of immigrants and the Democrats less welcoming? What about the individual voters who comprise each party? It’s my hypothesis that a lot of Republican animosity toward immigrants is because of the long term political implications. Standard media script these days is to constantly mention that “America is becoming diverse” and that “the demographic trends favor the Dems”. Of course the pundits who usually say this can barely conceal their joy, but I imagine the other side resents this a lot. I wonder if a lot of the desire to deport immigrants and restrict immigration is due to this.

    I don’t know what to google to find research on this topic. I think it has surely been studied. If anybody knows of the relevant research, please point me in the right direction.

    I take immigration seriously, but I’m also a Libertarian who normally votes Republican (I actually don’t vote, but if I did…). Being a Libertarian immigrant, I realize I’m in a small minority. It occurred to me that inviting more people with my background will probably be devastating to the limited gov’t ideals I hold. If my theory on R and D motivations is correct, a good compromise is to balance immigration from countries with likely Dem voters with immigration from countries with likely Repub voters. Other than Cubans who fled Castro, I can’t think of another immigrant group that votes Republican. Of course, it would be just as bad from my point of view to let in repubs of the Trump variety.

    • Lysenko says:

      I’ve seen a great many conservatives quote and paraphrase Bertolt Brecht on that exact subject. I think there’s a pretty solid consensus among the anti-immigration right that one of the major goals of immigration policies is “to dissolve the people and elect another”.

    • Nita says:

      Eh, chicken and egg problem. Many immigrants actually seem to be socially conservative (for cultural reasons) and economically liberal (for “American Dream”-ish reasons). But Republicans are loudly anti-welcoming, so they vote for Democrats instead.

      • Anonymous says:

        economically liberal (for “American Dream”-ish reasons)

        This does not seem particularly true for Hispanics, at least. Judging by the economic freedom in Meso- and South America, they seem more in line with democratic socialism than anything else.

        • Nita says:

          I don’t know if you’re right or wrong, but that link is insufficient to support your argument. People who voluntarily leave their native country and move to a more right-wing one are not a random sample of the population.

          • Anonymous says:

            I really doubt the self-selection here is sufficient to override the general attitude of Hispanics in their home countries.

            American attitudes:

            Nearly eight-in-ten Democrats (79%) say it is government’s responsibility to “take care of people who can’t take care of themselves.” That represents a nine-point increase since 2002 (70%) and is the highest percentage of Democrats to express this view since the late 1980s. A narrow majority of Republicans (54%) agree; that marks little change from last year (52%) or that late 1990s.

            Latin American attitudes:

            Despite widespread agreement that the free market is a boon for most people, Latin Americans, regardless of religious affiliation, also agree that it is the responsibility of the government to take care of very poor people who cannot take care of themselves. At least eight-in-ten express this view in each of the countries surveyed, including 97% of adults in the Dominican Republic and Paraguay.

    • Jiro says:

      This link was posted here before in an attempt show that immigrants’ political positions approach those of average Americans, and it takes that spin, but if you look carefully at it, the one part which is broken down by type of immigrant actually shows that Asian immigrants assimilate politically, while Hispanic immigrants do not assimilate and remain Democrats:

      Needless to say, it’s the Hispanic subgroup that is a political football nowadays.

      (And I would imagine it would be even worse if you specifically got figures for Mexicans–“Hispanic” includes Cubans as a subgroup and they’re more likely to be Republican.)

    • dndnrsn says:

      Something interesting in this regard is the difference between the US and Canada: at least anecdotally, the Conservatives in Canada (who are, of course, closer to the centre than the Republicans) do quite well with ethnic minority immigrants.

      Even without looking at the numbers for either country, the difference in the perception is dramatic: in the US, immigration is often presented (with gloom-and-doom on the right and hand-rubbing glee on the left) as something that dooms the Republicans, because immigrants go Democrat. In Canada, much less so.

      • Jiro says:

        Immigrants don’t go Democrat. Mexican immigrants go Democrat.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I saw the link above – which is why I’m focusing on perception, rather than reality (also, lazy). I find myself wondering, then, why the message becomes “immigrants go Democrat” in the popular imagination, rather than “Mexican immigrants go Democrat”.

          • Jiro says:

            Because the only immigrants that anyone is worried about are the Mexican ones (and perhaps the Muslim ones, but there are far fewer of them).

            This is also complicated by the fact that pro-immigration groups like to conflate Mexican immigrants and all immigrants for political reasons.

          • The Nybbler says:

            And the South Asian ones, though that’s a different group that Trump is not pandering to. I don’t know how they tend to vote.

    • Psmith says:

      If immigrants were expected to mostly vote for Repubs, do you think Republicans would be more welcoming of immigrants and the Democrats less welcoming?


      Other than Cubans who fled Castro, I can’t think of another immigrant group that votes Republican.

      White farmers from Zimbabwe and South Africa, although there aren’t that many of them.

    • John Schilling says:

      Other than Cubans who fled Castro, I can’t think of another immigrant group that votes Republican.

      Eastern European immigrants to the United States, at least in my experience, and for the same reason.

    • Mariani says:

      Well, yeah. Just follow the incentives. Democrats want to import more Democratic votes, and Republicans want to restrict the importation of Democratic votes.

      So if we make a simple model out of this, immigration is a positive Democratic feedback loop that will make the Democratic become more and more of the “everyone except white people party” over time. Ross Douthat put it pretty well: “…seen from people who used to be a core Democratic constituency and now aren’t, there is a sense in which modern liberalism looks a little like an ethnic patronage machine in which you have everything from the politics of affirmative action to the politics of immigration reform, which all seem to be designed in certain ways to pursue, woo, and reward minority constituencies, and I don’t think it is necessarily unreasonable for a lot of hard-pressed white working class voters to see that as a trend in which they really are losing out.”

      If there’s a better way to push the Republican Party into becoming the party of of white identity politics, I can’t think of one.

      • Lesser Bull says:

        It’s a win-win, since white nationalism is very low status indeed, almost to the point of being a boogeyman.

      • Daniel says:

        It has been my experience that identity politics is really corrosive to a diverse society as ours. It was pretty jarring, actually, to go to college and see people insert race and gender into approximately 90% of political discussions. Even the university president and faculty were engaging in this. I think most whites who engage in this stuff probably think they’re making life easier for people like me (nonwhite), but I strongly doubt that’s what’s happening. Like you said, you can only exclude the majority from identity politics for a certain period of time before they catch on and want in. Then it’s probably too late, because you’ve lost all credibility among average whites.

        Emotional responses to news also plays a role in this. Imagine if you constantly saw on the news the crime and race statistics. Liberals say, and I agree, that this is quite harmful to society because it makes people more discriminatory towards blacks who are decent people. Why? Because most of us don’t like criminals and if we are constantly told that a much larger portion of the black population is criminal, we will inevitably have a negative emotional response against blacks. Similarly, conservatives and libertarians hear repeatedly that minorities are going to vote democrat and vanquish the republican party as it exists (pre trump) today. I believe this is doing more to increase prejudice and racism than whatever they accuse trump of doing.

        As an extension, Nationalism should actually reduce racial prejudice. If Trump is a Nationalist (not ethnic nationalist), then he would actually be more uniting than the standard liberals of media/academia/gov’t. Let’s see if Trump makes this point. I think he has a good chance in the general if he does.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Yes, Democrats did oppose anti-communist refugees settling in their state.

  20. bluto says:

    Has anyone ever looked at correlations between primary turnout and general turnout?

    I’m not sure primary turnout is a good predictor, but it’s tough not to put incrementally more stock in Adams’ predictions when WV shows a 65% increase in turnout from 2008 for the Republican primary (both with only one candidate still running), but a 35% decline for the Democratic turnout, even though by May of 2008, Obama’s lead was quite substantial, while I don’t believe Sanders had been eliminated prior to today’s contests.

    • DanielD says:

      You might be correct overall, but WV is one of the worst choices to base your theory on. It has a lot of working class whites, and they probably hate Obama’s guts due to the decline of the coal industry (whether or not Obama’s at fault). Furthermore, you I think the 35% decline in Dem turnout has a lot to do with Dems in the state crossing over to vote for Trump. One of the exit polls showed that a plurality of WV Bernie voters said they will vote for Trump if Clinton is nominated. This is likely because WV Dems were marginal dems to begin with and have been drifting away from the Democratic party on economic reasons.

      • E. Harding says:

        Marginal Dems? They voted for Carter in 1980 and Dukakis in 1988!

        Yes, WV is still one of the worst states to base the enthusiasm argument on.

  21. onyomi says:

    Hillary Clinton promises aliens if elected.

    • Anonymous says:

      Come on, that’s not an accurate summary. She “has vowed that barring any threats to national security, she would open up government files on the subject.”

      But as someone who is going to vote for Clinton, I’ll admit that if a politician I didn’t like was quoted as saying things like this I would freely make fun of them for it:

      Asked if she believed in U.F.O.s, Mrs. Clinton said: “I don’t know. I want to see what the information shows.” But she added, “There’s enough stories out there that I don’t think everybody is just sitting in their kitchen making them up.”
      “I think we may have been” visited already, she said in the interview. “We don’t know for sure.”

      • onyomi says:

        Well, I don’t plan to vote for her and I am making fun of her for it.

        • Anonymous says:

          Fair; my only complaint is that you should make fun of her for what she actually said, and she did not promise aliens.

          • onyomi says:

            She subtly implied: “maybe there is some evidence of aliens deep in some government files; elect me and maybe you’ll find out!”

          • Evan Þ says:

            … whereas Trump promises to keep all the aliens out!

            Vote Trump! Keep earth safe!

          • John Schilling says:

            Wall, Schmall. We need a Dome.

            Paid for by the Small Fuzzy Green Things from Alpha Centauri.

          • Nornagest says:

            Didn’t they already release the (negative) results of an Air Force investigation, back in the Seventies?

          • MugaSofer says:

            Whether they’re wearing a red cape or not, they are a threat to this country, our freedom, and our lives.

            Monsters are coming for your families!

          • Vorkon says:

            But if their mother is named “Martha,” then obviously that makes everything okay!

      • God Damn John Jay says:

        Paul Theodore Hellyer, who was the Minister for National Defense in Canada went from believing that aliens might exist, to stating he saw one, to stating that there are multiple species who disaprove of how humanity are treating the environment.

        (Interestingly he is an engineer, which seems to be similar to surgeons in terms of crankdom)

    • Vorkon says:

      I was all ready to barge in here and make a Weekly World News joke, and it turned out the actual article beat me to it… ;_;

  22. ssica3003 says:

    RE: Postmodernism & David Chapman

    I am now motivated to write a postmodern introduction.

    Chapman seems on point to me (although my humanities education in Fine Art did just fine in getting me to what feels like stages 4 & 5, but I’m here and smart so maybe it wasn’t that).

  23. TD says:

    “This seems unbelievable to me, so I challenge readers to tell me how to reconcile my perceptions with the data: of all candidates (including Trump) , Hillary Clinton has received the most negative media coverage.”

    Anecdotally, most of the US liberals (and libertarians!) I know are voting against Donald Trump not for Hillary, so this doesn’t surprise me. She’s very widely disliked among many people who would vote for her, so it’s not surprising to see this reflected in the media. Even the former PAC slogan “Ready for Hillary” smacks of resignation rather than celebration.

    • Jill says:

      True of many folks. There’s a cause-effect relationship there. Hillary’s been bashed constantly for 2 decades. And propaganda works. The constant bashing has affected many– but not all– people’s opinions of her, so lots of people don’t like her. She will win, but only because more people dislike Trump more– not due to media bashing (which is indeed less than with Hillary)– but due to what Trump himself says and does.

      • E. Harding says:

        Hillary’s favorability has experienced a nosedive over the past five years. And, assuming Hillary stays a loser like she was in 2008, and Trump remains a winner, there’s no reason to expect Trump to lose.

        • John Schilling says:

          “assuming […] Trump remains a winner, there’s no reason to expect Trump to lose.”

          Wow. Just, wow.

        • Urstoff says:

          Cites Hilary’s unfavorability as a reason she’ll lose to Trump. recordscratch.txt

          • E. Harding says:

            I’m not citing Hillary’s unfavorability as a reason she’ll lose to Trump. I’m citing her inability to be a winner when faced with a serious opponent, as in 2008, as a reason she’ll lose to Trump.

          • Urstoff says:

            Being a ‘winner’ or a ‘loser’ is only an actual skill in the world of Trumplandia.

          • E. Harding says:

            Well, Trump won the nomination, so we’re officially in Trumplandia.

          • John Schilling says:

            Trump hasn’t actually won the nomination yet, though it is nearly certain he will do so on July 21st. It is almost equally certain that Hillary will win her nomination on July 25th.

            Trump’s window of Winnerish Supremacy seems a bit narrow to be of much predictive value.

          • E. Harding says:

            So, John, you think Trump’s ability to cause his opponents’ unfavorability to soar relies on the specific qualities of the GOP base, the weakness of his Republican primary opponents, or what? Cruz’s net favorability among Republicans was pretty high -and it only started falling when Cruz started going after Trump, and visa versa.

  24. Jill says:

    Interesting how tribal politics is and facts really don’t matter not at all, even to people having extremely long winded “logical” or “rational” or “data-oriented” arguments. At least facts don’t matter enough to change anyone’s mind.

    Has anyone’s mind on this thread ever changed as a result of facts presented by someone else?

    If someone believes something strongly enough, especially if the tribe they identify with does too, there is no limit to the number of ways they can claim that all evidence against it is false, or the number of ways they can nitpick apart every aspect of any studies one cites etc.

    You could say that grass is green and the sky is blue and, if their tribe doesn’t believe that, the person has tons of reasons why it can’t possibly be so.

    There is always a rational, and often detailed and specific, list of reasons why:

    “My tribe good, no matter what they say or do. If what they say or do seems bad, well here is a perfectly logical sounding explanation of why it’s actually good.

    “Your tribe bad, even if they say or do exactly the same things my tribe does. If what they say or do seems good, well here is a perfectly logical sounding explanation of why it’s actually bad.”

    • Leit says:

      I see at least two examples of people updating their priors in this thread, and that’s the people talking about it.

      So yeah; your crusade against the evil right-wingers (cof) has gone exactly as you expected of the Evil Other, who rejected your shoddy evidence for reasons they’ve clearly enumerated and you’ve failed to counter, have failed to see the obvious sense behind your caricatured partisan screeds, and are now making fun of your pearl-clutching.

      You’re just not very convincing. Hell, the only reason that I’m not outright accusing you of being a troll is that charity toward others is pretty ingrained and usually warranted around here.

      • Wrong Species says:

        I usually would agree but I don’t think anyone has ever been this bad before. It would probably be best that we ignore her until she either gives up or learns to make better arguments.

        • hlynkacg says:

          “never been this bad before” is a high bar to clear, and I don’t think she meets it.

          That said, I agree with the general sentiment.

        • Deiseach says:

          No, I hope Jill stays around and interacts with us. As I’ve said, I don’t think she’s malicious, she’s a nice liberal whose instincts are “See? My trusted sources which represent my point of view prove that the bad guys are bad!” and like many’s another person of any political viewpoint, she thinks her guys provide knock-down arguments, the other guys only indulge in propaganda.

          I think the rest of us are a bit more sceptical because we’ve seen how bloody awful most media coverage is of subjects we know about, so when any source throws up dubious figures to prove The Other Guys Are Evil, our instincts are “this is probably baloney because even people who should know better mess up statistics in studies, why would a journalist knocking out an article based on a half-digested press release do any better?”

          • Hlynkacg says:

            I agree.

          • Nornagest says:

            That’s close to my take, too.

          • And mine. Naive, not malicious.

          • Wrong Species says:

            Let’s be honest here. At least part of the reason Jill is so annoying to us is because of her strong left wing beliefs. I don’t think we’re tribal enough that we would welcome any idiotic statement from the right but we would probably be less hostile.

            That said, most of the progressives on here I respect. I would say the vast majority of us(regardless of political orientation) have spent a decent amount of time arguing with people who disagree with us so if we’re going to be ideologues, we’re going to at least know enough not to utterly embarrass ourselves. This might be Jill’s first time having her beliefs confronted by actual people instead of strawmen. So maybe you’re right. If she decides to stick around, we’ll see if she gets better.

          • suntzuanime says:

            I really don’t think it’s a matter of Jill being left-wing, except inasmuch as the argument style of framing any disagreement as stubborn truth denialism is more a sin of the left than the right. It’s just really annoying being at a level 6 in sophisticated meta-level discussion and then someone comes in at level 3 and bitches you out about how close-minded you are for not seeing the obvious truth of this hypothetical person’s basic-ass opinions. Do you really expect we’d react any better to someone coming in with off-the-shelf Fox News talking points?

            (In before “Fox News is left-wing”)

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Wrong Species – “Let’s be honest here. At least part of the reason Jill is so annoying to us is because of her strong left wing beliefs.”

            Nope. I’m waffling on whether they’re sincere or a right-wing troll. I’m uncertain which is a more charitable interpretation; the former seems more charitable to Jill, the latter to the rest of the left-wing posters here, whose opinion I care rather more about.

            There have been (rare) posters who’ve come and gone with a similar posting style with a right wing perspective, and if memory serves I’ve found them equally annoying.

            If they are genuine, I concur on hoping they hang around.

          • keranih says:

            At least part of the reason Jill is so annoying to us is because of her strong left wing beliefs. I don’t think we’re tribal enough that we would welcome any idiotic statement from the right but we would probably be less hostile.

            Eh. I am deeply annoyed because she’s leftwing/insulting rightwingers.

            I am feeling hostile because she barges in here, doesn’t lurk long enough to tell a hawk from a handsaw, and makes generally gross mischaracterizations of the commentariant at large.

            I myself think that if SSC has become more rightwing, it’s only so far as to have an equal balance of presented views. (I await, with bated breath, Scott’s survey for this year.) But even if it turns out that 75% plus of the lot is conservative (which would be some doing, considering the single digits that conservatives were in last year) that still leaves a lot of defectors. Any reasonable reading of the comments should have picked up on that, imo.

            I am leaning 35% chance troll, 65% really, really encapsulated but honest leftie.

            Oh, and young. My god, young. Like, young lady, does your mother know where you are going on the internet young.

          • suntzuanime says:

            A little dishonest to cite stats for conservatives but not include libertarians, who are also generally considered to be right wing. That would be like tallying up the liberals but not including the socialists. IIRC the numbers were something like half left-wing and one third right-wing with a sixth uncommitted. Which doesn’t invalidate your point, but the numbers weren’t as skewed as you’re claiming.

          • keranih says:

            A little dishonest to cite stats for conservatives but not include libertarians, who are also generally considered to be right wing.

            Emmm. Not in my experience. Or – not from my end (middle-ish side?) of the spectrum.

            The socialist vs liberal analogy breaks down when one looks at relative positions on the scale – socialists are further from the center than liberals, but libertarians are more centralist/overlap more with both true liberals and true conservatives.

            At least in the USA, and when we shift further afield, the discussion breaks down because of a lack of common vocabularly.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ keranih
            I myself think that if SSC has become more rightwing, it’s only so far as to have an equal balance of presented views. (I await, with bated breath, Scott’s survey for this year.) But even if it turns out that 75% plus of the lot is conservative (which would be some doing, considering the single digits that conservatives were in last year) that still leaves a lot of defectors. Any reasonable reading of the comments should have picked up on that, imo.

            Regardless of what the members call themselves on a survey, the bulk of the wordage that gets posted here is hostile to liberals/liberal ideas. (Often viciously hostile).

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I think, as someone who finds the commentariat here to be tilted right, that there are two confounding factors.
            1) Scott has identified himself at various times as left of center, but is very concerned with maintaining a a walled-garden of (mostly) true free expression. As such, the commentary is naturally going to tilt right. Someone in the KKK who also believed strongly in the rights of black people to express themselves (and created a space dedicated to that) is going to look hostile to the KKK, even if they are a strong believer in separation of the races and white superiority.
            2) Scott has explicitly identified “SJW” (as inept a term as that is) as his out-group and spoken in fairly vicious terms about that group. It’s relatively free-reign on that left-aligned group.

            I forgot/left out 3)Scott has a special interest in targeting academic papers which engage in faulty/poor science. This tends to be attributed to failings of “the left” in the comments.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @houseboatonstyx – “Regardless of what the members call themselves on a survey, the bulk of the wordage that gets posted here is hostile to liberals/liberal ideas. (Often viciously hostile).”

            I think you’re probably correct. From your impression, how much of that wordage is aimed at Social Justice in particular, as opposed to general liberals/liberalism?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Faceless Craven:
            I think the root level comments tend to target something specific (SJWs, the Academic left, occasionally communists), but as you go deeper in the comment tree, you are more likely to see “the left” used in a pejorative sense or attacked in general, rather than specific, terms.

          • Wrong Species says:

            If someone can link to a time when a commenter was:

            Right wing
            Had the same terrible, smug, holier-than-thou, extremely uncharitable attitude that Jill has
            Received universal(or nearly universal) condemnation from the rest of the commenters

            then I’ll take back my comment.

            Also, I haven’t heard feedback from our progressive commenters here. Do you think that Jill would be as universally condemned if she were right wing?

          • Sniffnoy says:

            I am feeling hostile because she barges in here, doesn’t lurk long enough to tell a hawk from a handsaw, and makes generally gross mischaracterizations of the commentariant at large.

            I was seriously considering just replying to one of her comments with “lurk moar”, but I decided that probably wasn’t the best idea…

          • onyomi says:

            “It’s just really annoying being at a level 6 in sophisticated meta-level discussion and then someone comes in at level 3 and bitches you out about how close-minded you are for not seeing the obvious truth of this hypothetical person’s basic-ass opinions. Do you really expect we’d react any better to someone coming in with off-the-shelf Fox News talking points?”

            That describes it perfectly. And no, I don’t think anyone coming to SSC and offering straight up, un-nuanced Fox News talking points (and that would be the right wing equivalent of what she did) would be treated any more nicely than Jill… which was pretty nicely, by the way! Note Hlynkacg, Nornagest, and David Friedman’s comments.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            Look, let’s be nice to the new posters.

            Remember what happened to LW when new people stopped coming in? If we don’t want SSC’s comment section to look like Discussion we need new blood, and that means teaching them the local lingo not driving them off with torches and pitchforks.

            Besides, we spend so much time jerking ourselves off over capital-N Niceness that it’s a bit jarring to see this kind of reaction.

          • Nita says:

            Right, we’re only rude to people who offend our refined sensibilities by being insufficiently sophisticated. Let’s pat ourselves on the back some more.

            On a slight tangent, what I’ve seen of Fox News did seem a little… over the top. Are all American news channels like that? Is it a cultural thing?

          • suntzuanime says:

            I remember what happened to LW when all the fun people left and got replaced by tedious people, sure. I promise I will never pat myself on the back about being capital-N Nice.

          • Nita, I avoid mainstream news programs (single stories on the web don’t seem to be too bad), but I don’t think it’s like Fox.

            Instead, you get a teaser about something that might be interesting and/or useful. They keep repeating the teaser for what is probably almost an hour but seems like several eternities, and then they tell you what it’s about and it’s nothing of any interest.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Are all American news channels like that?

            A lot of them, yes. The ones that aren’t are the exceptions rather than the rule. Think of them as audio-visual “clickbait”.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            I was seriously considering just replying to one of her comments with “lurk moar”, but I decided that probably wasn’t the best idea…


          • FacelessCraven says:

            @HeelBearCub – “I think the root level comments tend to target something specific (SJWs, the Academic left, occasionally communists), but as you go deeper in the comment tree, you are more likely to see “the left” used in a pejorative sense or attacked in general, rather than specific, terms.”

            The shorter comments seem to be the worse ones, and they seem more or less random to me. The longer a thread goes, though, the more of a chance one appears, and then you get swarming.

          • keranih says:

            Fox News makes me crazy with its style first, its brevity second, and its slant third. They took the brevity of HLN (the proto CNN) and made it a lot more interesting. If you’re going to be stuck in an airport or a bar or at a lab bench/mechanic bay listening to the same clips over and over, Fox is definately a superior option.

            But even NPR has shifted towards a more “show” style – they keep their pieces a *bit* longer – mostly with quotes and interviews – but have also deepened their slant.

            Honestly, BBC still sets the standard for depth in their presentations and span of interest (global – at least, global to mean any place that used to be pink) even though they are the least likely to own their biases. What I saw of Al Jazzera was also impressive in depth, but that only made the slant more obvious on account of I would be waiting for them to at least bring up something, and it would never get mentioned.

          • Nornagest says:

            If someone can link to a time when a [right-wing] commenter [got a similar reception]…

            I’m tempted to say “Jim”, although he was less condescending and more straight-up rude.

          • dndnrsn says:


            I don’t know if an analogy can be drawn. His thing seems to be saying stuff that’s outside the Overton Window – even for most Death Eaters, pretty outside – in an extremely blunt fashion that tends to rudeness.

            We don’t really seem to have any mainstream Republicans of the “Bush-did-nothing-wrong” variety. Although the internet seems to have fewer in general: arguing with people on the internet in the early 2010s, in less weird places than this, there were a lot more “some-kind-of-libertarian-voting-Republican-for-lack-of-better-alternative” types, and a lot fewer “we’re-gonna-find-those-WMDs-just-give-it-TIME” types, than in the mid 2000s. For obvious reasons.

          • Anonymous says:

            If someone can link to a time when a [right-wing] commenter [got a similar reception]…

            That guy who occasionally notes that AI is impossible because souls, here’s a link to some unsophisticated Catholic theology? Short, non-handly name, don’t remember it offhand. Joe?

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Anonymous:

            I know what guy you’re talking about.

            I think his username starts with an “M”.

            Or actually, I think there is a “Joe” with a blue gravatar who has dismissed AI on those grounds.

            And then there’s the other guy who’s a Catholic anti-capitalist and likes to cite Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc. He doesn’t like AI, either. He’s the one whose name starts with an “M” and has a brown gravatar.

          • Joe W. says:

            That guy who occasionally notes that AI is impossible because souls, here’s a link to some unsophisticated Catholic theology? Short, non-handly name, don’t remember it offhand. Joe?

            Or actually, I think there is a “Joe” with a blue gravatar who has dismissed AI on those grounds.

            Just for the record, this isn’t me.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Faceless Craven
            From your impression, how much of that wordage is aimed at Social Justice in particular, as opposed to general liberals/liberalism?

            I might be kind of a test case here. I silently cheer for bashing ‘SJW style’ stuff. But I silently growl at most other insults to leftists or liberal ideas.

            This is (only partly) a matter of style. The latter insults I notice most are sideswipes and/or Bulverism. — Which, hm, Jill’s comments have been mostly free of.

        • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

          I’m breaking my habitual silence to chime in here – I would vastly prefer Jill to stay.

          Sure, she’s a bit naive with how things work around here, but everyone starts somewhere, and I think having the courage to dive right in is to be admired (especially considering I’ve been around for literally years and still haven’t posted as much as she has in just a few days).

          Plus, she’s a fresh voice – I miss the days when left-wingers were going at it hammer and tongs with the libertarians in the comments threads. Now you mostly just get some self-assured statements about SJWs, a few vague condemnations of hte left in general, and apart from anon@gmail drive-bys and the desperate efforts of our outnumbered left-wing remnants there’s not a whole lot of opposition. And I say all this as someone who is perhaps the closest to a stereotypical right-wing Republican here (I don’t think Bush did nothing wrong, but I think he did a damn sight more right than most people give him credit for).

          Jill, pray don’t let a few cranky folks make you feel unwelcome. They’re decent enough sorts once you get to know them.

          • Peter says:

            I think one of the issues is that I think a large part of the SSC left is the part that comes here for the complaints about the capital-S capital-J SJ left. People like me.

            Thing is that arguing with the SSC right can get tiring, and I permanently need to cut down on my amount of arguing on the internet… and slowly, one-by-one, the left-wing remnants decide that certain sub-threads aren’t worth participating in, and that makes the remaining remnants feel even more outnumbered.

            Possibly things like the glory days of SSC can only last a limited amount of time, before the process of self-sorting by ideology takes its toll, and you end up… not exactly with a monoculture, but with something that can superficially resemble one to outsiders.

            I don’t know how to fix this, or whether it even can – or should – be fixed. I mean, I really don’t want to say anything like, “waaaaah, I demand affirmative action for liberals, it’s biased against us out here and I demand you fix the bias”, that would go against more-or-less everything I come here for.

          • Jiro says:

            Sure, she’s a bit naive with how things work around here, but

            Major factual errors that she won’t admit are more than just “a little bit naive with how things work around here”.

    • Glen Raphael says:

      Jill, when you post a link in support of one of your assertions and people point out that the link doesn’t substantiate the claim you’re making, does this give you pause? Do you stop to consider perhaps some of your news sources are lying to you? Or consider that maybe – just maybe – the reason your link was easy to argue against with “a list of reasons” might be because the underlying claim you’re making isn’t true?

      I used to be a bog-standard liberal but became more libertarian-ish over time because as far as I could tell the libertarian side had better arguments. So far, you haven’t done much to dissuade me of that view. It’s great that you’re willing to come here and argue for liberal policy positions but it would be nice if you would actually, you know, argue for them.

      If somebody has a “rational, detailed and specific list of reasons” why they’re more right than you and you have no contrary arguments, shouldn’t we update our priors in the direction of the possibility – however small – that they actually are right?

      • Jill says:

        At some point, when I realize that probably no one on this board has ever changed their mind about anything, in response to facts given by someone else. So I stop responding at that point.

        • Nornagest says:

          No offense, but if you’re basing that on the reception to your arguments, you might have unreasonably high expectations of their persuasiveness.

          This is not a Chick tract. People — here and otherwise — do not throw away foundations of their worldview, opinions they’ve probably been thinking about and refining for years, when they’re shown a few shallow talking points. That doesn’t mean they’re not updating on the information you give them (insofar as you are giving them new information); it just means that actual knockdown arguments are hard to find. Not to be confused with alleged knockdown arguments, which you can’t swing a cat without hitting.

          • Jill says:

            I’ve gotten some interesting back and forth political discussion going on, on other boards. But I can see that won’t happen here. So I will limit the time & energy I’ll spend.

          • keranih says:

            Don’t let the door hit ya where the good lord split ya.

          • @Jill:

            There has been at least one case in the past day where your claim was contradicted by the source you linked to (Koch expenditures). Unless I missed it, you neither admitted making a mistake nor offered an argument to show that you didn’t.

            That looks as though you are the one whose views are not subject to revision on the basis of discovering that the facts you claim are not true. A reason for others to discount your claims.

          • MugaSofer says:

            For what it’s worth, keranih, I think your contributions to this whole thread of discussion have been significantly below the usual standard of this site as well. You’ve been singularly rude and, yes, genuinely dismissive to Jill, to the point where I think it drops below the standards that are allowed here, let alone expected.

            How is “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out” either true, necessary, or kind, for example?

          • keranih says:

            For what it’s worth, keranih, I think your contributions to this whole thread of discussion have been significantly below the usual standard of this site as well.

            Oh, really? Please do expand. Do you mean “this thread responding to Jill’s slander of the commentariant” or “this links post”?

            How is “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out” either true, necessary, or kind, for example?

            It is true because it was a response to Jill’s declaration that she wasn’t going to hang out here anymore.

            It was kind, in that it was not a demand that she leave, regardless if she was leaving or not.

            And it was necessary because it is counterproductive to the health of the commentariant to go running after rude short-sighted, ego-centric and poorly read commentators and beg them to come back and beat up on us-the-commentariant some more.

            I see that there are some who are willing to overlook her gross errors. I think that’s probably praise worthy. What is not, is getting upset over the rest of the commentariant rejecting Jill’s bombastic style, factual errors, and refusal to admit mistakes, on the grounds that Jill is at least a leftist, and will bring balance to to the force the board.

          • MugaSofer says:

            Do you mean “this thread responding to Jill’s slander of the commentariant” or “this links post”?

            Jill’s entire multi-thread posting spree about how The Media Are Rigged that’s spread shotgun-style across this entire thread.

            Ctrl+Fing, you’ve made several replies on the topic, and all but one of them have been dismissive jokes at her expense.

            It is true because it was a response to Jill’s declaration that she wasn’t going to hang out here anymore.

            This is not what “true” means in the context of SSC’s rules, and would appear to include any possible response to anything.

            It was kind, in that it was not a demand that she leave, regardless if she was leaving or not.

            This is not what “kind” means in the context of SSC’s rules. That you could have been ruder doesn’t change the fact that you were rude; in order to qualify as “kind” you have to be exceptionally nice.

            rude short-sighted, ego-centric and poorly read

            See, this is exactly what I’m talking about!

            I think that’s probably praise worthy. What is not, is getting upset over the rest of the commentariant rejecting…

            Oh no, everyone else has been perfectly reasonable to her, as far as I can see.

            Look, I understand being annoyed when a newbie comes in and is naive at you. I’m not sure what your political views are, but I can certainly understand Jill’s views rubbing you the wrong way either way; she’s either treating you as a Faceless Enemy, or defending you inexpertly. Her tone and the quality of her submissions are well below the standard we’ve come to expect here, and I for one hope that she improves; and if she doesn’t, she’ll probably get herself banned fairly quick. Arguing with her is perfectly understandable.

            But c’mon, man, would it kill you to be polite to the new kid?

          • Jiro says:

            This is not what “true” means in the context of SSC’s rules, and would appear to include any possible response to anything.

            What? She said “I’ll do X”, then he replied “fine, so do X”. That isn’t a possible response to anything.

          • Vorkon says:

            I can see the argument being made for true and possibly even necessary (since “necessary,” is, frankly, rather subjective) but I think trying to describe it as “kind” is pushing it.

          • MugaSofer says:

            “True” means “this is supported by a bunch of undeniable facts”. If it meant “this is a response to another comment”, then it would apply to literally any insult.

          • keranih says:


            Lack of kindness I’ll give you – no, I was not being “exceptionally nice” to the person who stormed in, slandered everyone on the board

            – and this is what is really getting at me – seriously, she fucking erases all the liberal highquality thinkers here, and all the myriad different takes everyone has on everything, just so she can dismiss the rightwingers as lockstep unthinking, unreflective morons, and that is just a complete repudiation of what this board and its true, actual diversity means to me (and what I thought it meant to many others) –

            – and repeatedly states things which are not true, and no, I will not be “exceptionally nice” to her. She’s gonna get pushback.

            ‘Mongst my kin, we’d say she needed pushback with a twobyfour, because nothing less was going to slow her down.

            Oh no, everyone else has been perfectly reasonable to her, as far as I can see.

            *grits teeth* Please consider reading further, because I’m just a bit peeved at your jumping on me when multiple others have been far worse.

            And remember that I’m annoyed because she’s slagging on rightwingers/me, but I’m hostile because she’s rude, doesn’t listen, refuses to acknowledge her errors, and says untrue things about the commentariant at large.

            And no, Making Light, despite their insular attitude, doesn’t deserve her.

            Seriously, tell it to her to her face, or she’s not going to get the hint, and she’s going to go on doing this for weeks. Or until she’s banned, and if we go running to Scott to ban her, instead of first speaking to her straight up, that’s an error on our part, imo.

          • Jiro says:

            “True” means “this is supported by a bunch of undeniable facts”. If it meant “this is a response to another comment”, then it would apply to literally any insult.

            It’s an undeniable fact that she implied she was leaving (or at least leaving an uncomfortable conversation). So a comment about her leaving is true.

            It would not literally apply to any insult because most insults aren’t based on the factual content of the other comment. Furthermore, by your definition, “true” would be redundant with “kind”.

          • “It’s an undeniable fact that she implied she was leaving”

            I don’t think so. I read her comment as implying that she was limiting how active she would be here.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          @Jill – “At some point, when I realize that probably no one on this board has ever changed their mind about anything, in response to facts given by someone else. So I stop responding at that point.”

          I’ve gone from being strongly anti-gay-marriage to being fairly strongly pro-gay-marriage. I’ve gone from being strongly anti-abortion to weakly pro-abortion. I’ve gone from supporting isolationism to supporting foreign adventures, back to a stronger isolationist position. In the last two years, I’ve gone from strongly supportive of social justice to strongly opposed, based on a wealth of new evidence that’s recently become available. I voted for Bush, changed my mind and voted for Obama, and the way things are shaping up I’ll probably vote for Trump. Having been a convinced global warming skeptic for more than a decade, I came around to accepting that it was a real thing that was happening thanks to reading discussions and evidence presented on this board, ironically just a month or two before the “Pause” became official.

          What in your life have you changed your mind about, and why?

        • Glen Raphael says:


          At some point, when I realize that probably no one on this board has ever changed their mind about anything, in response to facts given by someone else.

          Since you bring it up: have you changed your mind about the Koch Brothers contributions?

          You claimed the Koch brothers spent $889 million in a single year to influence this election.

          Even your own link did not support this claim, but you didn’t realize this, possibly because you didn’t read it carefully enough to notice it was an early estimate (which turned out to be a 20% overestimate) of what a network of contributors (not just the Kochs) was going to spend over two years (not one). The Politifact article I pointed you to gave the corrected estimate and added in the fact that most of the spending being referred to wasn’t aimed at electioneering.

          Summing all those factors together, if we had to estimate the actual amount being spent just by the Koch Brothers just in one year on candidates and influencing the election results – the amount you thought was $889 million – my own guesstimate would be around $25 million.

          (1) Do you agree that the number you gave – $889 million – was too high by an order of magnitude to reflect what you said it measured?
          (2) Is this difference large enough to matter to your views on this subject?
          (3) If it does matter: in response to this new information, have you changed your mind at all about how much the Koch Brothers (and other Right Wing sources) are influencing the election?

          Do you disagree with the Politifact analysis? Or with mine?

          If you do, please clarify. I would be happy to change my mind in response to new information, but you have to work with me here. If you want to change my mind about something by providing me with facts, they have to actually be facts. Not rhetorical overstatements. Not exaggerated or misleading claims made by people with an axe to grind.

          Politifact is a very left-wing-friendly source. If even THEY judge your claim false, I tend to give them some benefit of the doubt. They can be wrong. And I can be wrong. But I can’t know if I’m wrong if you give up and throw up your hands at the first sign of disagreement.

        • Buckyballas says:

          At some point, when I realize that probably no one on this board has ever changed their mind about anything, in response to facts given by someone else.

          Please consider spending a bit more time on this board before making such a blanket uncharitable assertion. Also please reconsider your use of “no one” and “anything”.


    • J Mann says:

      @Jill – here’s my few cents.

      1) I think people do change their mind about some of their underlying facts. It’s easier to convince someone that unemployment went down instead of up under President X than it is to convince someone that President X’s economic policies were good.

      2) Occasionally, people’s overall viewpoint changes, but that’s a slower process.

      3) On the gripping hand, I approach this discussion pretty selfishly. (a) First, when I update my priors to more accurately match the evidence, I get smarter, so I like fora where people will challenge my preconceptions and take the time to explain themselves to me. (b) I’m also interested in what techniques work to engage other people, so I learn something by explaining myself. (c) If other people get smarter as a result of talking to me, that’s a bonus, but if I had to bet money on convincing any one person of anything, I wouldn’t.

      So I think you should at least address the question honestly when people say you’re wrong on your underlying facts. See if you agree with them, and if so, clarify it. As a result, we’ll all get smarter. If you remain convinced of your ultimate conclusion, that’s fine – you’re right that most of us do.

    • MugaSofer says:

      Jill, you seem to have missed the fact that quite a lot of people here have decidedly left-wing politics and come from a ‘Blue Tribe’ background. Myself, for instance, and our host. Yes, there are many people here from the Red Tribe, but lots of people responding to you have had to rise above their tribal affiliations to criticize you.

      (Not me, though.)

      If you look around, you’ll see – for example – an anon getting chewed out for speaking about trans men in vaguely mocking terms; do you think the people saying that these comments prove “the anon@gmail experiment was a failure” are particularly right-wing?

      The issue is less that people are knee-jerk rejecting your beliefs out of hand – although I’ll note that I think a lot of it is that your borderline-trollish tone is putting people off considering your points as seriously – but that you seem to regard them as so obvious as to regard little justification. This is, not to put too fine a point on it, a particularly tribal way of viewing the world – “a barbarian is one who mistakes the customs of his tribe for the laws of the universe”, and all that.

      Also, of course, as someone who lives in the Blue Tribe, I haven’t a clue what you’re talking about and everything I see is slanted to the left. I don’t live in the US, I live in Ireland, and in fact my intuitions are correct – our media is dominated by a “liberal” coalition to a degree that is undeniable, and in no small part descended from the historical oppression of the Catholic majority. So when I see someone saying the same things who lives in the US, my instinct is that they probably have a point – although, indeed, there’s certainly a strong right-wing branch of the media in the US that doesn’t exist here, I don’t get the impression looking in that it dominates the country.

      You say that this is as obvious as that the sky is blue, but consider – the weather can be very different in different places. I suspect it’s completely obvious to everyone where you are, just as it’s obvious to me, looking outside, that the sky is grey-white and we can expect rain.

  25. Lila says:

    I research epigenetics, and even I thought the criticism of the New Yorker piece was overly pedantic. Mukherjee’s descriptions of epigenetics are far from the worst offenders I’ve seen, and he did hedge about the lack of evidence regarding inter-generational transmission.

    The criticisms of the piece seem to boil down to Mukherjee’s omission of transcription factors. Instead he focused on histones, structural proteins whose modifications correlate with various regulatory states of the genome, in a broad sense. Active vs. poised, regulatory vs. genes vs. “junk”, etc. These modifications can be changed to some extent, which is what Mukherjee focuses on. The actual activation of genes is caused by the binding of proteins called transcription factors, which modify expression at much finer scale. Transcription factor binding is determined by a number of things, including but not limited to histone modifications.

    The distinction between two types of proteins (histones vs. transcription factors) is extremely important for a biochemist but not so much for a layperson. When I tell people that I research how genes are turned on and off, they sometimes are confused: “Genes can be turned on and off?” That should be the takeaway for the layperson reading this article.

    Vox also has a more measured take:

  26. Vilgot says:

    Anyone has access to the IAT paper? Remember writing an essay for school about it four years ago claiming the opposite, so I’m mostly familiar with sources that do support a link. Would like to read in more detail.

  27. 75th says:

    which given Apple’s confusing policies and dictatorial business model you inevitably will.

    Okay, so, a couple of things. Apple’s business model for almost everything is “You give us money, and then you get a thing”. This is, at least, less creepy than a lot of other tech companies, whose business model is “We give you a thing for free, and then we sell your personal information to advertisers”.

    Music is a bit different, because the music is owned by the record labels. Apple can’t sell music in any form without the record labels saying “Yes, we are happy for you to sell music this way”. A decade ago, what this meant is that the songs you bought had DRM that would only allow you to play it on five computers. This wasn’t Apple’s idea, it was the labels’. Steve Jobs posted a famous open letter about how he didn’t want to use DRM, he thought DRM was stupid, but Apple was forced to use it by the labels. Eventually, Apple won this argument, and for several years now, music purchased individually on the iTunes Store is DRM-free.

    Today, streaming complicates this issue. The record labels eventually said “okay” to single DRM-free tracks for 99 cents, but there’s no way they would say “okay” to the entire iTunes library DRM free. So Apple has two parallel things going on, DRMed streaming music and DRM-free purchased/ripped music.

    Which leads to the actual problem here, which is not “Apple’s policies” or them being “dictatorial” in any way, but just simple, innocent, honest poor user-interface design. There’s a dialog box with buttons labeled in a way that if you don’t have a good mental model of exactly what is going on, you’re more likely than usual to click something you don’t want.

    None of this is surprising to Apple fans, who, contrary to what probably everyone reading this believes, are some of Apple’s biggest critics when it comes to problems Apple actually has. Apple people have been complaining about the iTunes application being a complete horror show for years and years now, and this criticism has intensified exponentially since the disastrous introduction of Apple Music last year.

    TL;DR: Scott, you’re ascribing to malice what is way better explained by incompetence.

    • dndnrsn says:

      What’s baffling to me is that for the longest time, Apple was associated with good user interface design, wasn’t it?

      But compared to Spotify – which still has issues – Apple Music is terrible.

      • 75th says:

        Apple still does some of the best UI in tech. But they also do some stinkers, and lots of people think the stinkers are accelerating.

        There are a few possible reasons. One is that Apple is doing so many more things these days than they used to that their developers are spread too thin. Their hiring has not kept up with their ambitions. This might change when they open their massive new headquarters; they reportedly have a problem right now finding the office space in Cupertino to put people. That may be a stretch, though.

        Another issue is that lately, a whole lot more software design authority has been given to Jony Ive, who is a magnificent hardware designer, but isn’t as experienced in software usability. I’ve also seen people say that some guy (can’t remember his name offhand) whose history is in graphic design has been put in charge of UI stuff. And those two fields are not the same.

        Third, a lot of the bad stuff at Apple comes out of Eddy Cue’s Services division. Less of it comes from Craig Federighi’s Software division. iTunes and Apple Music are both under Eddy Cue. BUT, one of the most worrying usability disasters to come out of Apple in the last year is the new Apple TV remote control, and that’s not software at all.

        Which leads to the final possible reason Apple design seems like it’s going downhill, which is that Steve Jobs is dead. He was not a designer, but he was the ultimate editor. He was excellent at saying “This sucks for reasons A through K” and he had the authority to say “We’re not shipping this until you fix it.” Jony Ive is the closest thing to that Apple has now, but he may be focused too much on visual appeal and not enough on usability.

        Again, Apple still does some of the best work in tech. There’s basically nowhere else to turn for people who like tech and have taste[citation needed]. But we’re kind of nervous with all the “one step forward, one step back” we’re seeing from Apple these days.

        • dndnrsn says:

          It’s interesting how over the past 20 or so years, Apple’s reputation has gone from “minority market share, high-quality but overpriced products, snooty userbase” to “ubiquitous, still overpriced but lower quality, userbase that can’t escape the problems”.

          Maybe it’s the death of Jobs, maybe it’s just the nature of such a company getting bigger and more successful?

          I mean, the more I think about it, Apple Music was awful. The interface was monstrously counterintuitive, which was supposed to be Apple’s strong point.

    • Anonymous says:

      Apple’s business model for almost everything is “You give us money, and then you get a thing”.

      This isn’t really the case, though. Sure, they may be responding to industry demands in music DRM… but pretty much their entire business model is build around controlling absolutely every aspect of your device. They control every aspect of rhe hardware; they’re the only ones who can put software on it; they decide what goes into the App Store. When they make dictatorial rulings for their kingdom that reflect a treaty with a neighboring kingdom (music industry), perhaps its not a pure reflection of their own desires… but the king stay the king.

      • 75th says:

        First, the issues you bring up are about their product design philosophy, not their business model. A “business model” is just how a company makes its money, on a high level. Business models are things like “Sell a thing for a profit”; “Sell a thing at a loss and sell its consumables for a profit”; “Give away a thing and make money on advertising”. Apple has different business models in different parts of its business, but the lion’s share of the money comes from selling physical objects for a profit.

        Now, their product design philosophy is just that, a philosophy, and different people can feel differently about it. The thing about product decisions is that everything involves compromises and tradeoffs. Point by point:

        They control every aspect of the hardware

        This has ever been a complaint about Apple. People raised holy hell when the first iPhone came out because you couldn’t replace its battery. Fast forward to today, and the iPhone’s most popular high-end competitors don’t have replaceable batteries, either. The tradeoff is that a built-in battery can be significantly larger than a removable one, which suits the mass market just fine.

        There are decisions in this category that make me feel sad; I think in recent years they’ve been sacrificing Mac upgradeability to save on weight and size to a somewhat excessive extent. But for normal people, those tradeoffs either don’t matter or are net positives.

        they’re the only ones who can put software on it

        True of iPhones, not Macs. The tradeoff here is that on Android, malware is a recurring problem, and on iOS it’s practically non-existent.

        they decide what goes into the App Store.

        I totally agree that App Review does some really, really stupid things sometimes. Rejections for stupid, capricious reasons. And it accepts a lot of junk that it should reject. But then, again, I can be 99.9% confident that I can install whatever I want from the App Store and it won’t screw up my phone. You can’t say the same for Google Play. And App Review sometimes catches issues that make legitimate developers glad they’re there.

        Yes, there are tradeoffs involved in owning Apple products. No, I can’t put arbitrary PCI expansion cards in my Mac or sideload iPhone apps, and yes, sometimes (rarely) that sucks. But there are legitimate reasons to live with those compromises. Developers who care about making software that’s both powerful and usable are almost all on Apple platforms (at least). Apple makes hardware that works. I have never, ever used a trackpad on a PC laptop that did not make me want to throw the computer off a skyscraper; Mac trackpads just work, flawlessly. If I ever have a problem with a new Apple device, I can walk into the nearest Apple Store, say “Hey, my new iPhone has a bad proximity sensor”, and walk out with a brand new iPhone in ten minutes.

        They’re far from perfect. And people who value Apple mostly for their logo do exist. But they’re not a majority, and the attitude that Apple people are all brainwashed dupes should not have as much credence as it does.

        • Anonymous says:

          The fact that dictatorial policies have some nice features does not make them non-dictatorial policies.

          Feel free to try to distinguish the App Store from Apple’s business model. I’m fairly certain that Apple would disagree with you.

  28. Ryan says:

    On Ketamine:

    Every single drug that shows effectiveness for treating/affecting the body should have trials run on its metabolites.

  29. “Correlation of -0.68 between “rule of law” in a country as defined by the World Justice Project, versus road accident deaths per capita in that country. Is this something boring, like better governments making better road systems, or everything about countries always being correlated by development anyway? Or some more fundamental connection between people following the rules while driving and following the rules while governing. I’d say “paging Garett Jones” except that I think I got this link from his Twitter.”

    There is an easy test of this. Calculate the partial correlation where the S (general socioeconomic factor) factor is removed. If two things still correlate strongly, then perhaps there is something about them. One can think of this as the nodes being closer in the nomological network.

    “Emil Kierkegaard”

    I thought we went over this spelling thing once already? 😉

    Maybe you need a mnemonic “kirke” is like the Scottish “kirk” and means church (we do pronounce the e). (The extra e in “kierke” is not pronounced but is no longer found in the spelling of the word.)
    “gaard” means yard and is a cognate of the same word. g’s and y’s look like each other as well, so maybe that will work as a mnemonic.

  30. Jill says:

    Everybody wants to be included in a group or “tribe” of some sort. It’s a natural human need. It is better to find tribes that respect your right to be an individual, rather than ones that expect extreme conformity. And to realize yourself that you have that right to be an individual.

    • Rebecca Friedman says:

      I agree with your comment, though, I suspect from your other comments, not with your intended implications: that’s actually one of the major reasons I’m wary of left-wing causes in general. They tend to want to put me in a box into which I do not, thank you very much, fit. To my memory, I’ve never gotten that from right-wing sources – then again, my bubble is very left-wing-dominated. In general, I suspect pressure varies more by what philosophy is locally dominant than by the explicit tenants of that philosophy, at least when speaking in broad terms like “left wing” and “right wing”.

      • Nita says:

        I suspect pressure varies more by what philosophy is locally dominant than by the explicit [tenets] of that philosophy

        That is a valuable observation. I have experienced slight pressure to, e.g., conform to right-wing-friendly gender norms, and no pressure to do anything left-wing-flavored, which reflects my local social surroundings.

      • Tibor says:

        I was thinking along similar lines recently. I have a friend who, although he does share a lot of my political opinions (he definitely leans libertarian, even though from the left perhaps…he also is interested a lot in encryption and surveillance but that is probably a work-related disease, given what he does), he finds the left in general as more likable than the right. Most of the people I know are like that too (but then again, most of the people I know are related to the academia in one way or another and a lot of them actually are probably left-wingers, although mostly not very radical).

        I have the opposite sentiment and it is not really because I would be particularly conservative. But the feeling I get from the “academic left” is that they do two things I really do not like – they like to tell other people how to live their lives in the sense what they should and should not like and they also like to fit people into categories like race, gender etc. instead of treating everyone as an individual. The very radical conservatives (or socialists who base their socialism on belonging to an ethnicity and who usually get labeled “far right”) seem to do the same, at least to a degree, but they seem to be quite an insignificant minority (particularly where I am from and where religion has basically zero influence on politics), the left seem to be much closer to being the mainstream, so I feel much more threatened by them. The conservatives might have some values I do not share (perhaps even more often than the left-wingers, in social issues), but they usually only demand that they be left alone.

        This is not true of all countries, for example in Poland the conservatives (and the Church) are actively trying to make abortions illegal (even more so than they are in Poland today – which is more or less comparable to Latin American countries), gays are actually persecuted in some countries (as opposed to people who do not like to associate with gays being harassed by left-wing extremists in others). I think I would probably be more sympathetic to the left-wing in a country like Russia, but in most of Europe (or Northern America) it seems to be the left-wing which is trying to force people into boxes and tell them how to live their own lives more than the right-wing.

  31. Two McMillion says:

    So a little while ago I was having a discussion of politics and religion with someone in my tribe. I agreed with most of her conclusions but thought her arguments for them were terrible and started pointing out some of the flaws. Long story short, our discussion ended with this exchange:

    Her: “So what’s the right answer?”

    Me: “Well, you’ll need to think about it and research it and decide for yourself.

    Her: *bursting into tears* “I don’t want to think for myself! Just tell me what’s right and I’ll believe it!”

    I was completely flabbergasted by the response. I know that many people trade intellectual inquiry for the “right” beliefs in practice, but this was the first time I’d ever met someone who was fully aware they were doing it and was okay with it. Heck, she even welcomed it. It still staggers me a little when I think about it. I can’t imagine being in a place where I’d deliberately make that tradeoff.

    Anyone else ever experienced anything like this?

    • Alex Trouble says:

      I know it sounds weird when you write it out, but it definitely is often easier to just accept the “right” view in your tribe than to actually do research. I can testify I experience this feeling a lot, and one thing I try to do is notice when I have those thoughts and hold off on forming any sort of strong opinion until I can put in some effort to thinking about it and researching alternative points of view.

    • Jill says:

      It’s extremely common to do this, though not necessarily to admit what you’re doing and be okay with it.

      Probably people must have mentioned this before but there are lots of authoritarian followers. And there’s a free pdf book on the subject where the brilliant Canadian psychologist Robert Altemeyer shares his research on authoritarian followers.

      I love his book.

      The reason he focuses on authoritarian followers, rather than authoritarian leaders, is that it’s the followers that determine what will happen. To take the extreme example, if Hitler had no followers, he would have been just another homeless guy wandering around in Germany and would have had no significant impact on history whatsoever.

      Most of us have had some kind of dysfunctional “solution” to the stresses of modern life and the difficulty of making decisions. Before we jump to criticize an authoritarian follower, we should realize the problem, and realize that our own solutions at times may have been just as dysfunctional. Many people do compulsive or addictive behaviors to deal with the stress– overeat, over-drink, take drugs, compulsively overuse the Internet or the TV, do the workaholic or rage-aholic thing etc.– in order to run away from the stresses or decisions of life.

      Modern life can be overwhelming for many people– some far more than others.

      And then some people have been severely punished or criticized a lot for making their own decisions, or they’ve been prevented from doing so, and they don’t want to ever take that risk.

      It’s certainly not the most free or mature stance in the world. So if a person is capable of learning to make their own decisions, that’s certainly more healthy.

      • “the brilliant Canadian psychologist Robert Altemeyer”

        So brilliant that he can rig his research, not notice he is doing it, and continue not noticing it when the rigging is pointed out in detail (by me, in our exchanges on my blog).

        • rockroy mountdefort says:

          So brilliant that he can rig his research, not notice he is doing it, and continue not noticing it when the rigging is pointed out in detail

          That’s basically every brilliant person, though

    • Chalid says:

      Doesn’t everyone do that to some extent? Most of us haven’t actually thoroughly researched everything that we have an opinion about. Who has the time?

      • Randy M says:

        Yes, most of time learning something, I don’t go into Scott mode and look up every citation etc., but look to see if this is coherent with the rest of my understanding. Of course, another word for this is bias, so I have to do a sanity check now and then and look for contradictions, etc., but I don’t think a person can plausibly evaluate every facet of any fact that they see. Which is okay if one is gracious in accepting and giving corrections, and willing to live and let live as much as possible.

      • Two McMillion says:

        I think one of the best takeaways of Rationalism is the idea that you should be very clear on what the bounds of your knowledge are and what they are not. Thus, for a given issue you should be as clear as possible on what you know of good evidence for and what you don’t. Most controversial issues don’t come up in daily life; I don’t need to exhaustively support abstract philosophical beliefs to get to work and support myself. All the same, in those cases where abstract philosophical beliefs come under discussion, I strive to be aware of where I know, where I think, and where I am merely suspicious.

        • Walter says:

          YASSS! Knowing what you don’t know is so very important. Lots of people that they know things that they don’t. It’s super dangerous. Note as in “they have a false belief that X is the way it works”, as in “They think that they know (without imagining a particular X) the way it works, and this free floating credibility will attach to whatever seems reasonable.”

      • Jill says:

        We do have a dilemma in modern society in that we live in this huge world with so many people and activities. We ALL end up taking someone else’s word for some things.

        Say we are going to decide what’s true with our own eyes and ears. How are we going to do that? There’s a political issue about Syria. You want to consider that in your choice of presidential and/or Congressional candidate. Have you ever been to Syria? Probably not. So you’re going to end up taking someone(s) word for that, in the end.

        Same thing with analyzing complex factors in the economy. Is more government better or less government better, in some particular sector of the economy? Your different choices of political candidates maybe say different things about this.

        You can read accounts of what’s happened in the past in this area. But if you read about it, it’s likely that the descriptive articles you read will have their own ax to grind. So the author may have a hidden agenda to show that more, or less, government in this area would be ideal. And e it’s hidden, so the author won’t come out and tell you that. You’re going to have to try to figure it out for yourself.

        Many “news sources” lie. And many of them slant the story quite a lot.

        I’m reading a book with a group now called The Evolution of Everything. It’s quite good in many ways– about Bottom Up cultural evolution of morality, language, the economy etc. However, it’s got a very strong Libertarian bias that gets more intense as the book goes on.

        In researching the author, I found that he had been the head of a bank that ended up being bailed out by the British government so it wouldn’t go bankrupt. He violated the code of ethics of the House of Lords, of which he is a member, by politicking the pro case for fracking while failing to reveal a significant investment in fracking. And he and his family are profiting from a coal mine on their property. So, of course, he is against regulation of any of these industries that he profits from or has profited from– regardless of how much they may pollute the environment, or bankrupt the English economy or whatever.

        It’s a lot of trouble to research all this stuff. And sometimes it’s hard to find. Or else the info is not available publicly.

        Of course, propaganda doesn’t work if the author of it divulges their conflicts of interest and bias up front. So they hardly ever do. They just act like their proposed way of doing things is just the very best way for everyone impacted– and describe stacks of evidence for that, while ignoring all evidence that would point the opposite way or evidence that would be inconclusive.

    • Deiseach says:

      From the other side, as it were: sometimes I have noticed the (almost literal) slamming closed of doors in my mind when I’m faced with something I don’t want to think about or which challenges beliefs I don’t want to investigate.

      Sometimes it’s “No. I’ve had this argument fifty-seven times, the fifty-eighth will not change my mind, it’s just going round in circles at this point”. Sometimes it’s “Okay – I really do need to think more about this, don’t I, if I’m having this reaction?”

      If the person burst into tears, that sounds like they’re under a lot of strain on this particular thing, for whatever reason. They may well be tired of trying to argue the pros and cons and just want an answer, any kind of an answer, so they can stop the “round and round and round the mulberry bush we go” carousel in their head and have a rule to guide them.

    • anonymous says:

      Sometimes I’m talking with people, and I don’t feel very tribally connected to them. But I trust them and really, truly, desperately want to be considered a part of the tribe by them and their peers.

      When they tell me there is a tribally-correct answer that they are witholding until I perform actions that I know, from experience, will cost me more than I can afford…it can cause some bad feelings. It sortof feels like they’re mugging me from a position of superior social and intellectual capital.

      It’s not my most virtuous moment, I’ll grant you. But I have thought it. Hope your friend is feeling okay.

    • MugaSofer says:

      Do you personally research every claim in, say, physics? No. You find someone who’s authoritative on the subject, and listen to them. And maybe check some of their claims, or compare them to facts you already know, to see they’re honest.

      It would take more than a human lifetime to build up a single person’s beliefs from scratch experimentally.

      Division of labour, both physical and intellectual, is literally the cornerstone of society – not just ours, but all organized human endeavor. You make this tradeoff constantly.

      Bursting into tears in a political discussion is unusual; I imagine there were personal factors and/or details of the conversation we’re not privy to. She probably felt very harassed, like her beliefs and personal worth were being attacked by someone well-positioned and intelligent. That you were deliberately withholding your own position in what probably felt like a mocking fashion – what, you can’t even figure out what’s true? – probably didn’t help matters.

  32. Ptoliporthos says:

    From Florian Maderspacher’s response to Siddhartha Mukherjee’s New Yorker article on epigenetics:

    Such lopsided reporting, which only confuses readers who aren’t well versed in biology, would certainly not be tolerated in any other realm of public life, such as the arts or politics. Why should it be tolerated in an important domain of science that touches so deeply onto who we are as biological beings?

    Why assume that what the press communicates about the arts and politics is not lopsided? Science reporting is usually terrible, I’ve always assumed that it’s reporting of other disciplines are equally terrible.

    • Deiseach says:

      I’ve always assumed that it’s reporting of other disciplines are equally terrible

      Religion reporting, especially since so many papers are dumping dedicated religion newsdesks and either letting reporters go, switching them to other beats, or having any reporter they can lay hands on cover religion stories, are equally bad.

      The amount of eye-twitching that I do when they attempt to deal with things like the Eucharist, never mind is “Mass” spelled with a capital or small letter, and how is it done? Also, from the Protestant side of things, confusion over the difference between Evangelicals and Fundamentalists, and thinking “fundamentalist” is the same as “Fundamentalist”, and anyone who holds the traditional understanding of their denomination’s doctrines is a “fundamentalist” which is a Bad Thing (e.g. Catholics who think women can’t be ordained are “fundamentalist Catholics” – oh, and while I’m at it, “woman ordained as Catholic priest” stories which are a whole traincrash specialty of their own).

      Yeah. Basically about the only thing to trust in the newspapers as unimpeachably factually correct is the date and masthead 🙂

    • Two McMillion says:

      Sports reporting is usually pretty solid.

    • sweeneyrod says:

      Generally newspaper articles are unbiased and accurate, except if they are on a subject you know a lot about, in which case they are full of mistakes and lies.

      • Two McMillion says:

        “You once read about something called Gell-Mann Amnesia, where physicists notice that everything the mainstream says about physics is laughably wrong but think the rest is okay, doctors notice that everything the mainstream says about medicine is laughably wrong but think the rest is okay, et cetera. You do not have Gell-Mann Amnesia. Everyone is terrible at everything all the time, and it pisses you off.”

  33. Alex Trouble says:

    From the MR post on SF housing:

    “The same goes for Muni. It costs the city far more to serve new housing than the new housing pays. Which means every time the rest of us pay higher fares for Muni, we are in effect subsidizing market-rate housing developers. ”

    I hear this sort of claim often. “Welfare subsidizes Walmart/McDonalds by allowing them to pay lower wages” is another one. One thing I haven’t seen, is any empirical evidence that it’s true. It does fit into basic economic theory, but there are all sorts of other distortions of the unskilled/low wage labor market, including minimum wage and welfare cliffs.

    It also seems like a fully general argument without a clear conclusion. I think it’s supposed to justify more regulations, taxes, and restrictions on “the rich/CEOs/greedy corporations” without any consideration of the impact social welfare programs on the people they’re supposed to help.

    “But as far as I can tell, that evidence doesn’t exist.”

    Rent control is one of the most-agreed upon topics by economists. How MR let this just go by without significant comment is mindboggling. See

    • Vox Imperatoris says:

      I hear this sort of claim often. “Welfare subsidizes Walmart/McDonalds by allowing them to pay lower wages” is another one. One thing I haven’t seen, is any empirical evidence that it’s true. It does fit into basic economic theory, but there are all sorts of other distortions of the unskilled/low wage labor market, including minimum wage and welfare cliffs.

      I’ve debated this several times here, but I don’t agree with this at all. Economic theory would seem to suggest the exact opposite.

      The more people get in welfare, the greater is their income and the less is the marginal utility from each additional dollar they get from working. So welfare, if anything, ought to encourage the poor to work less.

      And there’s certainly no way in which welfare “allows” Wal-Mart or McDonalds to pay a lower wage, unless of course the welfare were literally conditional upon working at those places and not others—which it isn’t. If the wage Wal-Mart pays is $8 an hour and the welfare bumps up the total by $2 an hour, then if you eliminate the welfare, there’s no reason why Wal-Mart would raise its wages to $10 an hour. The workers previously on welfare will just have lower incomes. Indeed, as I said, they ought to work longer hours if anything to make up for the lower pay.

      • Alex Trouble says:

        ” The more people get in welfare, the greater is their income and the less is the marginal utility from each additional dollar they get from working. So welfare, if anything, ought to encourage the poor to work less.”

        Welfare is a subsidy of both non-work, and lower-wage work, since low-wage employees receive it, so it should encourage both unemployment and low-wage work over mid-wage or high-wage work. But, as you point out, there are several possible effects at work which have to be tested empirically.

        edit–also, there’s a difference between changing wages, and changing number of hours worked.

        ” there’s no reason why Wal-Mart would raise its wages to $10 an hour. The workers previously on welfare will just have lower incomes. Indeed, as I said, they ought to work longer hours if anything to make up for the lower pay.”

        On the contrary, there is a reason: the workers need more pay in order to work. Wages are determined by demand of labor (which is unaffected here) and supply, which will change. If, for example, as some claim, you can’t survive on MW, then you won’t bother working at MW, you’ll turn to begging/crime/welfare. So supply goes down and price goes up.

        Also, adding hours requires paying benefits and/or overtime, so sometimes companies won’t let certain workers work 40 hours per week. Again, based on what I’ve heard.

        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          On the contrary, there is a reason: the workers need more pay in order to work. Wages are determined by demand of labor (which is unaffected here) and supply, which will change. If, for example, as some claim, you can’t survive on MW, then you won’t bother working at MW, you’ll turn to begging/crime/welfare. So supply goes down and price goes up.

          If the minimum wage represents minimum subsistence—which is preposterous—then the welfare still isn’t “subsidizing Wal-Mart” or whatever. It’s subsidizing the people who otherwise would be starving or turning to begging or crime.

          Welfare is a subsidy of both non-work, and lower-wage work, since low-wage employees receive it, so it should encourage both unemployment and low-wage work over mid-wage or high-wage work.

          Who has the capacity to do medium- or high-wage work but chooses low-wage work instead? Maybe for “fun” jobs like elderly people sometimes do just to keep active, but not the kind of jobs that people on the left claim are inherently exploitative and demeaning.

          Also, adding hours requires paying benefits and/or overtime, so sometimes companies won’t let certain workers work 40 hours per week. Again, based on what I’ve heard.

          Sure, but this has nothing to do with subsidizing low-wage work.

          • Alex Zavoluk says:

            “Sure, but this has nothing to do with subsidizing low-wage work.”

            That was a response to your claim about people working longer hours.

            edit–posted too soon.

            Note, as my original comment implies, I don’t really believe the argument. But, I think it is more plausible than you are giving you credit for:

            “Who has the capacity to do medium- or high-wage work but chooses low-wage work instead?”

            They won’t do a different kind of work entirely, but they could be willing to work for 8$/hour instead of 12.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            They won’t do a different kind of work entirely, but they could be willing to work for 8$/hour instead of 12.

            It seems like it should be the other way around: the more total income people have, the lower the wages at which they should be willing to work.

            For instance, nobody in America would work for $1 an hour, even if it were legal, since this would only add a small amount to what you can get through food stamps, etc., and nobody wants to trade 40 hours a week for an extra $40 a week on top of what they otherwise have or can get.

            But in Haiti or the equivalent, people will work for $1 an hour because they have so little income and $1 an hour is better than nothing.

            In other words, it’s we’re talking about the “income effect” on the supply of labor. And it’s pretty standard that the income effect causes the supply of labor to slope downward—and that this is counteracted by the substitution effect. In other words, higher wages give people the incentive to work more, but they also give them the means to afford more leisure, which they like to “purchase”.

            But all welfare does is increase workers’ income, not their wages. So it ought to encourage them to work less.

          • Garrett says:

            For instance, nobody in America would work for $1 an hour, even if it were legal

            8-year old me disagrees. Being able to work 10 hours a week at that rate would have exceeded my allowance. Sure, my labor wasn’t worth much, but I could have swept floors on demand or something in a semi-reliable way.

          • Patrick says:

            Minimum wage DOESN’T represent subsistence. The level at which benefits set someone while they’re receiving minimum wage represents a determination of the minimal income a working person needs in our society. This is not at all obscure. Disagree with it if you will, but the argument isn’t baffling or unclear.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Patrick:

            The level at which benefits set someone while they’re receiving minimum wage represents a determination of the minimal income a working person needs in our society. This is not at all obscure. Disagree with it if you will, but the argument isn’t baffling or unclear.

            But…it isn’t the actual minimum income a “working person needs in our society”. That’s the fallacy.

            And even if it did represent such a minimum income, it would not follow that welfare is “subsidizing Wal-Mart”.

        • “If, for example, as some claim, you can’t survive on MW”

          If we were literally talking about wages so low that people starved to death, reducing the supply of labor, the argument would work, but we aren’t. Average real wages in the developed world are about twenty to thirty times what they were through most of history. The current minimum wage is something like an order of magnitude above literal subsistence.

          One could make Ricardo’s version of the Malthusian argument. Children are expensive, so if people are sufficiently poor they have fewer of them—and “sufficiently poor,” as Ricardo points out, isn’t defined by how many calories you need to stay alive but by what level of consumption you consider low enough to be a strong reason not to lower it further by having kids. That would be a much slower process than the usual argument assumes, and one would want evidence on the actual effect of income on birth rates.

    • meyerkev248 says:

      Alternatively, if we’re building several tens of billions of dollars worth of housing that’s worth twice what it costs to build, it seems as though you can solve this via taxes. Split the difference. We’ll STILL end up with more housing.

      Also, of course, if it costs more to add a marginal rider to an existing line than that rider (who is the sort of person who can afford a million-dollar SF condo, remember) pays in taxes, this sort of begs the question of how the city ever afforded to build Muni in the first place or how it keeps it running right now. It would strike me as very, very odd if diseconomies of scale were Muni’s problem in a city that’s 2/3rds single-family housing.

      Because market rate in San Francisco is expensive. Yes, McDonald’s workers don’t pay for themselves, but they don’t live in San Francisco. If people making a quarter-million a year don’t pay for themselves, we’re completely boned.

      • Nornagest says:

        At this point, I pretty much assume that arguments against building housing are entirely emotionally motivated, and that any nominal reasoning could be replaced with duck sounds without loss of content. Literally every time I’ve bothered to chase that reasoning down, it’s turned out to be ignorant of 101-level economics or a blatant lie or both.

  34. Lemminkainen says:

    I think that the article about Social Darwinism is making a map/territory mistake. Sure, the term might not have been used in the period, but people like Herbert Spencer, an incredibly popular late Victorian thinker who used evolutionary concepts to model social relations definitely existed. (His social thinking actually fit into a sort of holistic worldview which explained all kids of phenomena in evolutionary terms, but that aspect of his thinking tends to get forgotten.)

    • Wrong Species says:

      Actually, you can’t even say that Herbert Spencer was a literal Social Darwinist because he used Lamarckian concepts in his ideas. But that’s beside the point. When people say “Social Darwinist” it’s not just the idea that you can use evolutionary concepts to explain society. It’s used in a way that says certain people shouldn’t be having children in order to make our species better. So an “individualist” Social Darwinist would advocate letting the lowest in society die to improve our genetics while a “collectivist” would advocate a more active role by the government. The problem is that Spencer never advocated either.

    • Salem says:

      Herbert Spencer definitely existed.

      Herbert Spencer is the ur-Social Darwinist, in that the term was invented as an insult against him.

      Herbert Spencer definitely had evolutionary thought in his writings – he came up with the phrase “survival of the fittest,” and Darwin cribbed it.

      But Herbert Spencer was not a Social Darwinist, in the sense that people use the term. And as far as I can tell, no-one else was either.

      • nm. k.m. says:

        >But Herbert Spencer was not a Social Darwinist, in the sense that people use the term. And as far as I can tell, no-one else was either.

        Eugenicist policies (forced sterilization and such) surely existed, though, and that’s probably what people think when they hear “Social Darwinism”: When talking about “the survival of the fittest [human population]” in social context, it’s not unreasonable to assume the implied “fittest” were “white race” or equivalent.

        • The Eugenicist policies were pushed by a wide range of people, including the progressives. They were opposed by the Catholic Church and some people we would now classify as libertarians.

          The famous line from Buck v. Bell, “Three generations of imbeciles are enough,” was by Oliver Wendell Holmes, not someone likely to be accused of social Darwinism.

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          @ nm. k.m.

          Literal “survival of the fittest” — or rather, “non-survival of the non-fit” — would scarcely need eugenicist policies to help it along.

    • Vox Imperatoris says:

      So I’ve talked about this issue in a previous thread.

      The first question is: just what is “Social Darwinism” supposed to be, exactly? In theory, it could be any suggestion that Darwinian principles apply to human beings, in which case everyone should be a “Social Darwinist” of some sort.

      But everyone understands Social Darwinism to be something bad; it has a negative connotation. And I think the view that is criticized is something like this: “under laissez-faire, people can, should, and will be left to suffer the consequences of their own bad genes and bad decisions, so that they die and remove themselves from the gene pool, which will improve the quality of the race as the invisible hand selects only the fittest for survival; interference with this natural process would constitute irresponsible dysgenics.” (This would be the classical liberal version of Social Darwinism, as opposed to the fascist/Progressive version where the state takes charge of sterilizing and exterminating undesirables.)

      This supposed idea of Social Darwinism stands in opposition to the idea that some form of aid (whether given by the government or private individuals) to the poor, disabled, drug-addicted, etc. is socially beneficial because it’s capable of reforming them, of helping them reform themselves, or at least of giving them higher-quality lives. Instead, the stereotypical Social Darwinist says that such aid is not only perhaps cost-ineffective or bad when done coercively with taxpayer money; it’s a positive evil in itself because it only encourages the propagation of poverty, infirmity, and vice. What’s ultimately kinder is to let them die and weed themselves out.

      Now the next question is: did anyone in the 19th century actually hold that view? I am no expert on Herbert Spencer, but as far as I can tell he simply didn’t; it’s a myth. He was simply what we would now call a libertarian who opposed government welfare but supported private charity and indeed thought that as society progressed over time, people would would evolve to become more altruistic and less self-centered.

      On the other hand, William Graham Sumner did express certain sentiments that come pretty close to the stereotypical view of Social Darwinism:

      Almost all legislative effort to prevent vice is really protective of vice, because all such legislation saves the vicious man from the penalty of his vice. Nature’s remedies against vice are terrible. She removes the victims without pity. A drunkard in the gutter is just where he ought to be, according to the fitness and tendency of things. Nature has set up on him the process of decline and dissolution by which she removes things which have survived their usefulness. Gambling and other less mentionable vices carry their own penalties with them.

      Now, we never can annihilate a penalty. We can only divert it from the head of the man who has incurred it to the heads of others who have not incurred it. A vast amount of “social reform” consists in just this operation. The consequence is that those who have gone astray, being relieved from Nature’s fierce discipline, go on to worse, and that there is a constantly heavier burden for the others to bear. Who are the others? When we see a drunkard in the gutter we pity him. If a policeman picks him up, we say that society has interfered to save him from perishing. “Society” is a fine word, and it saves us the trouble of thinking. The industrious and sober workman, who is mulcted of a percentage of his day’s wages to pay the policeman, is the one who bears the penalty. But he is the Forgotten Man. He passes by and is never noticed, because he has behaved himself, fulfilled his contracts, and asked for nothing.

      Yet he didn’t emphasize—or even mention, really—the idea that bad behavior like this might have a genetic component. So there’s still a question of whether he’s a Social Darwinist. Also, I took this quote out of context, in which he was just arguing against alcohol prohibition; it was the worst I could make him sound.

      Then has anyone ever held the kind of view I paraphrased above, or is it purely a malicious left-wing caricature of classical liberalism? Well, honestly, it seems to me like some people actually have—but it’s not something very polite to mention in public, so it’s mostly limited to darkly hinting. That’s not of course a very satisfactory answer, and it would be interesting if anyone else is inclined to look through primary sources (preferably among 19th-century liberals) and find a straightforward statement of what I have laid out as the “prototypical” Social Darwinist view people likely have in mind when they criticize it.

      • Randy M says:

        In the sense you describe, social darwinism is basically a more extreme form of what is now called “moral hazard”, or, when parenting, natural consequences. It’s an area where ethics are kind of a muddle of utilitarianism and deontology (so, like most areas of intuitive ethics, I guess) wherein people are trying to balance what will produce the most positive change, versus what can we just not stand by and allow to happen to people–eg, sleep on the streets? starve? have stigma?
        I want to say I’ve seen social darwinism as a label applied to the purely economic realm, something like “You want to let a big business fail? And all those people lose jobs? That’s like social darwinism”, nevermind that there are social safety nets for the individuals involved, etc. But I’m not sure of any examples of someone actually using the term like that.

        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          Yes, moral hazard is a closely related concept here. And I’m certainly not trying to deny that it exists.

          But the “Darwinist” part of Social Darwinism is supposed to be (at least as far as I can tell in the popular imagination) not just that people will learn from the “school of hard knocks” if they aren’t kept isolated from the consequences of their actions. That’s pretty mainstream, especially among conservatives.

          For instance, there’s the quote from economist George Reisman: “In a free market, stupidity of choice is its own punishment, which tends to reduce the amount of it.”

          Rather, the specifically “Darwinist” idea is that they will not learn but die and thereby take themselves out of the gene pool. And that interfering with this would be bad because you’re impeding the method implemented by “nature or nature’s God” to “take out the trash” of society.

          Like I said, it is difficult to find someone who says exactly that in so many words…but at the same time I feel like it’s not a completely foreign idea that nobody ever held.

          I have often seen this idea applied to corporations in the free market. For instance, the first result I found on a Google search for “corporations natural selection”, an article in the Harvard Business Review, applies these biological concepts to corporations, talking about how they die off when they don’t maintain enough fitness to remain competitive.

          That’s the precise problem with things like “too big to fail” that people criticize, right? If badly managed corporations aren’t allowed to “go extinct”, then how will the market maintain efficiency?

      • Deiseach says:

        If a policeman picks him up, we say that society has interfered to save him from perishing.

        Oh, bollocks. The job of the police is not to “save [drunkards] from perishing”; when the cops run a guy in for being drunk, it’s often for also being disorderly, and it’s generally to stop the guy getting into fights, breaking windows, etc. and annoying or endangering the “industrious and sober workman” passing by.

        This is disingenuous and special pleading.

      • Winter Shaker says:

        ‘Mulcted’ is a magnificent old-timey word that I would be happy to see come back into common use 🙂

    • Frog Do says:

      Interesting to compare this to ‘fascism” used as a word. My argument would be that there were fascist writers and philosophers knowingly and self-consciously writing in an attempt to build a fascist tradition. Social Darwinists were not attempting to build any kind of Social Darwinist tradition, so there wasn’t one. Maybe there will be one in the future, and maybe they’ll try to claim the earlier Victorians were a part of that tradition unknowingly, but it will be about as credible as early Christians trying to Christianize especially excellent pagans, or Muslims trying to claim early Christians as merely heterodox Muslims.

  35. Lawrene D'Anna says:

    Who could have possibly predicted that “DeShawn” has different signaling characteristics from “Jefferson”?

  36. Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

    Jerry Coyne linked to this John Oliver episode about p-hacking and other science reporting woes. Which was pretty surprising to me, given that it’s a mainstream TV show.

    • Urstoff says:

      The segments for Last Week Tonight tend to be fairly well researched (relative to other news shows / comedy news shows). They’re obviously still coming from a left perspective ala The Daily Show, but they’re much more coherent and focused than any Daily Show segment was (part of the benefit of being a weekly show, presumably).

  37. Urstoff says:

    What does a progressive educational policy at the school-level look like? Charter schools like Success Academy and Uncommon Schools have clear strategies for success. Whether they work is another matter, but there’s a clearly articulated set of policies there. Besides simply being against charter schools in general, what do progressives think needs to be done at the school-level to improve educational outcomes? Do they agree with some of the methods of these well-known charter schools (very detailed discipline policies, a large focus on teacher training and skill development, etc.) and just want to implement them in (all?) public schools? Or do they think there is some other way to improve schools that charter schools simply aren’t doing?

    I’m asking because it’s really hard for me not to perceive progressive education pundits as being 100% in the pocket of the Teacher’s Union, so I want to see what the actual proposals are. The only progressive education researcher that I am really familiar with is Diane Ravitch, and her blog isn’t exactly a trove of sparkling insights (50% of the posts seem to be news links that negatively implicate charter schools).

    • TomFL says:

      Charter schools hire non-union teachers. This is mostly the start and end of the unions problems with charter schools. A charter school outperforming a “union” school is embarrassing and tends to result in over-reactions that appear tone deaf when other schools in the area are hopelessly failing.

      They do seem to be against change in general though, although there are plenty of magnet schools and such that implement some parts of charter school agendas in public schools. The unions seem to believe that less testing and paying teachers more are part of the answer.

      Teaching is a very honorable profession, and I think you have to work pretty hard to make teachers look bad, but somehow the unions are accomplishing this. Chicago is a pretty extreme example of this.

      Public schools do work in many areas (our public school experience was very good over the last 18 years) and that is largely left out of the discussion. You can’t make a good football team with unskilled players, and that isn’t the coaches fault. It is anathema to “blame the victims” here but this is likely where a lot of the fault lies. In a sane environment this would be the first thing to look at, not the last. So either start working on the home life and valuation of education at home or start shifting the responsibility for parenting to the school system where it is lacking. Not a popular idea.

    • Spotted Toad says:

      I’m moderately pro-charter ( ), but Success Academy is just…unreliable. People I know who have worked for her for multiple years and believe in the model still say Eva Moskowitz actively makes the place a living hell and deliberately pushes people out, which as DeBoer points out is much more practical in a place with NYC, with infinity well-educated young people arriving every year, than in almost anywhere else. As I noted in the link above, she told the group of visitors I was with that her teachers, like other teachers, were racists and that prevented them from engaging in rigorous instruction, within a few minutes of meeting us. Aside from the distastefulness of such remarks, it just makes me think that the person who says them can’t be relied to play by the rules in other respects or encourage a culture that prevents cheating, on tests or in day-to-day school life.

      There are also arguments about the political role of charters in addition to their individual effectiveness. Often they, like value-added measures, are used as bludgeons to threaten regular schools with, for not closing the full racial or economic gap in achievement. If you are reading this blog you probably are in agreement that schools have relatively little to do with the full gap in achievement (even KIPP, which combines the intensity model of Success Academy with a fair amount more transparency and replication, only closes about 0.3 SD of the 1 SD gap), even if there are ways for schools to improve outcomes or at least *provide better services* even so. So a political culture that treats teachers as a bunch of slackers is inaccurate aside from whether or not it is good for schools.

      For what it’s worth, the full force of anti-teacher rhetoric among influential education reformers and allied journalists seems to have abated some in recent years, most likely because the general economy has improved and the disequilibrium of teaching being a relatively attractive job with strong union protections is no longer such a juicy political or economic target.

      • Spotted Toad says:

        In answer to what progressive education types think should be done to improve schools, apart from strengthening unions, I think this guy’s Op-Eds are a pretty fair flavor ( ). Pre-K, more democratic decisionmaking, parent involvement, counseling and support services, reduced teacher turnover, and so on.

        • Jill says:

          Thanks for that article. Good one.

        • Urstoff says:

          Those seem like a bunch of things non-progressive education reformers also agree on (assuming reduced teacher turnover doesn’t mean teacher tenure, and instead means incentivizing quality teachers to stay at the school).

          Unfortunately, it seems like the charter vs. teachers union issue tends to crowd out every other subject when it comes to the public debate over education reform. Plus, it’s also a front for the pro- versus anti-government culture war.

          • Jill says:

            No kidding there. There are plenty of folks who believe that government is always the problem, no matter what. And the article about Norm Ornstein on documents that this belief has been sold to the public as propaganda for a long time.

          • gbdub says:

            “Those seem like a bunch of things non-progressive education reformers also agree on (assuming reduced teacher turnover doesn’t mean teacher tenure, and instead means incentivizing quality teachers to stay at the school).”

            The parenthetical is really the kicker there though, isn’t it? And I’d say a good reason why the battle lines get drawn around the unions.

        • Nebfocus says:

          Should we not study the efficacy of pre-k before spending money we don’t have?

    • Teal says:

      What does a progressive educational policy at the school-level look like?

      Progressive is a highly overloaded term. Do you mean the education specific version (associated with John Dewey)?

      • Urstoff says:

        No, not progressive in the Dewey sense, progressive in the sense that it is promoted by political progressives. Or liberals, or leftists, or whatever. To my eyes, it seems like the only ideas about what to do in actual schools comes from charter/magnet schools (although this might simply be a definition problem: any public school that tries something different may simply get labeled a magnet school).

        This, of course, doesn’t make those ideas coming from the charter schools non-progressive or conservative, or whatever. What I want to know is, that assuming we table the charter school discussion, how should the operation of public schools change according to political progressives?

        • Teal says:

          Keeping in mind this is just one person’s observations, most people I know on the political left don’t have strong opinions about what happens in individual schools. They tend to think that the problem is segregation and the solution is desegregation.

          If pressed, they’d espouse a wide range of educational philosophies without much tie-in to their overall left wing ideas.

          Some teachers I know, or people married to teachers etc., would probably say more money, but even people pretty far to the left roll their eyes at that these days.

          • Urstoff says:

            That sounds about right. I think I probably asked a bad question to begin with. Non-progressives don’t have big ideas about that stuff either. It just seems unfortunate that the focus tends to be more on political/culture war issues than the practice of education itself.

          • Teal says:

            I’m not sure that’s fair. If you buy the segregation critique than what you are saying is that advocates should focus on making sure the schools are more equal rather than pressing their point that separate is inherently unequal.

        • Anonymous says:

          @Urstoff What I want to know is, that assuming we table the charter school discussion, how should the operation of public schools change according to political progressives?

          From the Spiders Georg of progressives (me): fund-the-child, national curriculum standards, a divorce from the ed-school establishment, a renewed appreciation for knowledge (vs. skills), teacher-centered instruction, and effective solutions to disruptive classroom misbehavior. And school choice.

          [Note: All links are approximate.]

    • BBA says:

      Both the unions and the charter school movement contain a few people who actually care about teaching and a whole lot of profiteers. The basic left-wing position is against corporate profiteering and for union profiteering.

  38. eccdogg says:

    “Vegetarian” here who eats seafood about once every other week.

    Personally, I have a bunch of reasons for prefering a plant based diet (health, environmental, moral, economical). Not all meat checks all the boxes for me equally, and in fact some meat probably scores better than say milk or eggs. For instance as far as animal cruelty, it is probably better to be a wild caught fish that swims around in its natural environment before being killed and eaten than a factory farmed egg laying hen. And invertebrates definitely score lower when it comes to my personal concerns.

    At the end of the day I am probably 80% vegan 95% lacto/ovo vegetarian and 100% pescatarian or what ever you want to call it. But that is really hard to explain to someone, so if asked it is much easier to say “I am a vegetarian” and folks generally know what you prefer to eat (I personally try to go out of my way to not identify as anything unless someone ask and try to not make myself a burden in social situations).

    At the end of the day I am optimizing on several fronts, and the goal is to be better not perfect. Its not a religion for me. I imagine this reflects many of the folks who call themselves vegetarians but eat some meat. Similar to say the vegan before 6 approach.

    • Wrong Species says:

      It seems like the study conflates vegetarians who do it for health reason with those who do it for ethical reasons. That makes it a little less interesting than the headline would make it appear:

      “Some research on lapsed vegetarians supports this. Faunalytics (formerly the Humane Research Council) conducted a survey on 11,000 American adults, which found that there are five times as many ex-vegans and vegetarians as there are current ones. About 60 percent of them said that the reason they were vegetarian in the first place was for the health benefits. In this frame, lapsed vegetarians are no more extraordinary than lapsed dieters.”

    • keranih says:

      better to be a wild fish in the ocean than a factory farm chicken in a cage

      Hmmm. Can you go into more detail about how you decided this? Specifically, how did you decide that consuming the eggs a caged layer provided over the course of her life caused more suffering than consuming an equivalent amount of protein from wild caught fish?

      It’d really be good if you could include how you accounted for the bycatch loss and if you specified which fish species you mean, and at what point of depletion of global fish stocks for that species you’d draw the line.

      • eccdogg says:

        Frankly the analysis is not to detailed as I don’t eat that much fish or eggs and the eggs that I do eat I try to get from “free range” sources.

        But here is my thinking. We all have to go some way and it probabiy is going to suck when it happens. To me the question is does the animal in question suffer (at least that is one level of analysis, as I said my choice to limit meat is multifaceted) and how much.

        I assume that animals enjoy doing the things they do naturally and dislike unatural conditions. So a fish in the ocean is living a normal fish life doing the things it has evolved to do for most of its life right up til the time of its death. Not to bad given that it was going to die somehow anyway possibly to another predator. The caged chicken not so much, at least it seems that way to me. It spends a long time in what seem to me to be negative conditions.

        This argument would also apply to hunted Venison vs feedlot cow/pig.

        As far as the math on protien, I really don’t eat animal products for protien. I can get that from plant sources (and I can get B12 from a pill). I eat them for pleasure, taste, covenience, and social reasons. So the question is how much am I willing to trade off the suffering of an animal for my pleasure.

        But really I am just making educated guesses and trying to do the best I can within reason.

        • keranih says:

          I agree that our knowledge of animal’s lives is even more imperfect than our knowledge of the lives of other humans, and that there is a degree of subjectivity in our analysis. But I would challenge you to research futher and guess less.

          For instance…We all have to go some way and it probabiy is going to suck when it happens.

          Actual death in a slaughterhouse for animals sucks much less than death in the wild. Far, far more wild animals die after a linging illness or injury so that they are struggling to breath and move (with pneumonia) and eat, so that they are starving and losing weight, and subject to invasion by parasites. At that point they are caught and eaten by predators. Many times the prey animal is not actually dead before the predator starts to feed on it. Compared to the throat cutting of a chicken or the stunning of cattle, to me a “natural” death involves more suffering.

          This is especially true for wild caught ocean fish, who are hauled up out of the life-supporting water and then thrown into a container (with or without ice) where they slowly suffocate (with other fish piled on top of them, it probably goes faster.)

          Another error to avoid would be to consider the specific animal you are eating, rather than all the animals in that group. For instance, eating wild hunted deer includes the suffering of the specific deer (whose life, granted, is not too bad, not counting last winter’s cold and starving time) who provided that steak, but all the deer who died of malnutrition illness and predators along the way. While the individual chicken (grouped with several others in a cage) is not scratching for food nor attempting to fly, it does have food and water and shelter from heat, rain, and cold, and is protected from most illnesses. Most of the chickens hatched out and intended for layer cages live out their lives laying eggs. The loss for “cageless” birds is higher, and that for pastured poultry higher than that. Most quail/grouse/etc do not survive their first year.

          So to me, a broader and more factual consideration of animal suffering would not be tipped towards the wild/organic/sustainable sources.

          • eccdogg says:

            “Another error to avoid would be to consider the specific animal you are eating, rather than all the animals in that group. For instance, eating wild hunted deer includes the suffering of the specific deer (whose life, granted, is not too bad, not counting last winter’s cold and starving time) who provided that steak, but all the deer who died of malnutrition illness and predators along the way.”

            I am not so sure on this. My decision on whether to eat the deer or not really does not impact the suffering of all the other deer as long as I am not raising deer for slaughter. I am not causing the deer to come into existence, and regardless I assume existence for most deer is positive. In fact given all the nasty ways they may die I might be saving them from some suffering by killing them humanely. (The point is moot to me because I don’t eat venison or other mammals).

            “This is especially true for wild caught ocean fish, who are hauled up out of the life-supporting water and then thrown into a container (with or without ice) where they slowly suffocate (with other fish piled on top of them, it probably goes faster.)”

            This is a fair point, I am not sure how I should weigh a lifetime swimming doing what they were born to do ending in suffocation vs a lifetime in a cage. I think I know personally how I would make that decision.

            Regardless, my original point was not that it is a slam dunk either way, just that it is not clear to me that one is better than the other. They both involve some level of badness so I generally try to limit both.

            The other thing is I simply value the lives of fish less than birds and of birds less than mammals. (and invertebrates less than fish).

          • keranih says:

            My decision on whether to eat the deer or not really does not impact the suffering of all the other deer as long as I am not raising deer for slaughter. I am not causing the deer to come into existence, and regardless I assume existence for most deer is positive.

            Ah, but by promoting conservation efforts to increase greenspaces and the like, you are using tax dollars to manage the size of deer populations. And wildspaces are in balance against other human demands for land.

            (I do agree that most lives are positive, period.)

            I am not sure how I should weigh a lifetime swimming doing what they were born to do ending in suffocation vs a lifetime in a cage.

            Do remember that what most fish are born to do is die early, eaten by other fish. (Or birds. Or dolphins.) Likewise, most birds are born to die at the teeth and claws of predators.

            I think I know personally how I would make that decision.

            …but most humans, if given the choice between roaming the wet wild woods in fear of predators and starvation, choose to live in small boxes off the dirt, eating food that has been provided to them and drinking water from a tap. We generally regard failing to provide shelter, food, and water as inhuman and abusive.

            Chickens are not that much different.

            I am not going to say that there are not downsides to conventional agriculture, but I do hold that the suffering tradeoffs are much more complex than some say.

            The other thing is I simply value the lives of fish less than birds and of birds less than mammals. (and invertebrates less than fish)

            And the lives of field mice and quail – not to mention cabbages, peaches, and wheat plants – less than shrimps and clams?

          • Nita says:

            We generally regard failing to provide shelter, food, and water as inhuman and abusive.

            We also regard keeping someone in a cage and failing to provide the appropriate level of stimulation as inhuman and abusive, even if you caused this someone to come into existence in the first place (e.g., if it’s your own child). Moreover, killing someone just because you’d like to enjoy a delicious meal is also considered wrong, even if you do it painlessly.

            And as long as you’re not keeping someone prisoner, many people regard failing to provide them with anything perfectly fine. “Positive rights are slavery,” after all.

          • keranih says:

            x Moreover, killing someone just because you’d like to enjoy a delicious meal is also considered wrong, even if you do it painlessly.

            So we are in general agreement that the treatment of animals is not held to the same moral standards as the treatment of humans, yes?

            (If we are going to argue otherwise, I’m going to refuse to start with human/pig equivalences, and go straight to human/tick and human/small pox virus equivalences, and demand a rational reason to work our way up to charismatic mega fauna. Just FYI.)

            the appropriate level of stimulation as inhuman and abusive,

            And therein lies the rub. What *is* appropriate level of stimulation to a chicken?

            And ‘cage’ carries with it a great deal of baggage, which is the other half of the rub. We don’t ‘cage’ dogs, we kennel them in a den substitute which actually makes them happier and easier to live with.

            And we confine kids – as well as dogs and other domestic animals – for their own protection in order to keep them from tragic interactions with cars and other modern/ancient hazards. I would argue that keeping food animals confined to better protect them and feed them is not materially different.

            I myself would best prefer a diverse system of food production that allowed consumers to make a variety of choices based on accurate, readily available information on risks, benefits, downsides and postives of all sorts of levels – including ones which we now legislate. For instance, while I think drinking raw milk is incredibly risky for no good advantage, I don’t see why we don’t allow people to do so, provided a) they have been deemed mentally competent to judge the dangers for themselves and b) don’t expect anyone else to pay the hospital bills when they get TB or kidney failure. Same-same with picking wild-harvested or organic food over cheaper and better-for-the-animal conventional food. Or red-purple apples over yellow ones.

          • John Schilling says:

            This is especially true for wild caught ocean fish, who are hauled up out of the life-supporting water and then thrown into a container (with or without ice) where they slowly suffocate (with other fish piled on top of them, it probably goes faster.)

            Sincere question: Do we know whether this is painful or uncomfortable for the fish?

            The equivalent process for humans is known to be about as comfortable and painless a way to die as possible – may take four or five minutes to become Completely Dead(tm), but you’re quite unconscious after ten seconds or so and the few survivors report little pain during those seconds.

            Fish brains could be wired differently, and I don’t know of anybody researching the question. On the other hand, I haven’t looked.

          • bluto says:

            RE: Fish time to die.

            When I worked fished on a friend’s fishing boat, as soon as the caught fish were hauled in, we cut their necks just under their gill flaps and hitting the main artery to the brain, which resulted in the fish bleeding out in a seconds. They did this because it was supposed to improve the flavor of the meat, I didn’t ask if it was the lack of blood or that the fish not stressing.

          • keranih says:

            @ John Schilling

            Sincere question: Do we know whether this is painful or uncomfortable for the fish?

            That is, in general, a great question, and should be asked, imo, every time we decide to mandate something be done (or not done) with livestock. (And imo the question should be is this more painful or uncomfortable than the alternatives? – because all things have downsides.)

            However, the people I have spoken with say that 1) being out of water is very distressing for fish (see: continual flipping to get back to the water) and 2) as inadequate as our testing measures are for noting pain/distress in domestic animals are, we have even worse measures for reliably testing pain & discomfort in lower animals. esp wild ones.

            Having said that, I would like to see the source for “suffocation and/or drowning being of low distress in humans.”

            @ Bluto –

            What were you catching? And how many pounds/person/day? (That sounds like a cool experience.)

          • There’s been some work done on finding out what chickens want by looking at how much trouble they’ll take to get various things. From memory, chickens care more about having an enclosed place for their nests than for a chance to get out of doors.

          • John Schilling says:

            I would like to see the source for “suffocation and/or drowning being of low distress in humans.”

            “Suffocation” is too broad, and drowning can be quite distressing for humans. But it is also pretty much the opposite case of being “hauled up out of the life-supporting water”. Physiologically and psychologically, not being able to breathe because you are surrounded and/or filled with something that blocks the process is quite different from being able to breathe in an environment that doesn’t happen to have any accessible oxygen.

            Geoffrey Landis, among others, describes the latter in some detail. TL,DR, the three cosmonauts who were the only literal “hauled up out of the life-supporting atmosphere and thrown in an [airless] container” victims aren’t around to testify, but the condition of their bodies suggested minimal distress. The one guy to have his spacesuit rupture in a test chamber reported the experience as disconcerting but not painful, and in ten seconds he was out cold. There’s more relevant data from high-altitude aviation and the like, same results.

            Things are painful because they correspond to natural hazards that our ancestors could plausibly escape from, like being too close to a fire. Or, more relevantly, having a python constrict around your chest. Vacuums and the like don’t exist in the natural habitat of humanity, so we never evolved a general warning for “can’t breathe – no oxygen!”, just a specific one for “can’t breathe – something’s blocking the process”.

            With fish, I assume things work differently but I’m not clear on how.

          • Fish are at occasional risk of being out of water– waves, bears, drought– so it’s plausible that they feel distress and try to get back to water.

          • Chalid says:

            My understanding is that what causes distress in humans during suffocation is not lack of oxygen, but buildup of CO2.

            People who work with gases have to be acutely aware of this stuff. Getting a couple lungfuls of air without oxygen can knock you out, and if you’re not in a well-ventilated room you’ll be dead in a couple minutes. Rooms where liquid gases are expected to be used must have fans going in them at all times.

            Back when I was a grad student, someone a few doors down from me committed suicide by blocking the vents and breathing nitrogen. One thing I remember from the mandatory safety courses was a macabre story of someone at an LN2 production facility who walked too close to an open container of LN2. He got a big lungful, fainted, and fell into the liquid.

          • bluto says:

            It was a great experience, it was very, very low key. The boat & business mostly to allow fishing trips to be tax neutral, though we did sell the fish at the end of the day. We were catching mostly lingcod and a few other small bottom fish (we had a halibut line out but didn’t get a bite).

            Commercial lines were allowed multiple hooks per line, and it was an experience to catch multiple fish at once. I believe we caught something like 50-60 pounds per person per day, though it was quite a while ago. We would fill 3 rather large coolers each day.

          • John Schilling says:

            Fish are at occasional risk of being out of water– waves, bears, drought– so it’s plausible that they feel distress and try to get back to water

            Agreed, but the other necessity for an evolutionary advantage is that there be something they can do about it. Lacking e.g. limbs, makes that problematic.

            Maybe “thrash about in intense pain” is a sufficiently effective way of escaping bear jaws as to confer a reproductive advantage, but it isn’t obviously so.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Non-water environments are something a fish could encounter, though, and they do indeed have responses to them.

            The first, being pulled out of water, results in them thrashing about an in attempt to fall back into the water. As it happens, that they can breathe outside as long as they stay wet, so this probably isn’t equivalent to suffocation, inasmuch as fish experience maps to human.

            The one which I believe was referred to originally was being in oxygen-deprived water. Fish detect that, too, and will respond by clinging to the surface of the water and… gasping isn’t quite the right word, but it’s close enough.

            Granted, my experience here is with freshwater fish, who are more likely to encounter land than ocean fish, but I bet the same still applies.

          • I’m pretty sure the thrashing is an effort to locomote with really inadequate tools. Still, it might work if the water is close enough.

          • MugaSofer says:

            >death in a slaughterhouse for animals sucks much less than death in the wild.

            A wild fish killed for food funges against it’s life/death in the wild, not the life/death of another animal in a slaughterhouse, as is fairly evident from the fact that that fish populations are declining because of overfishing, not the inverse. The issue here is that animals in factory farms are constantly tortured every hour of every day of their miserable lives, which is emphatically not true of a wild fish – that is, insofar as factory farming is a uniquely bad thing, the issue is their quality of life, not quality of death.

            It is true that wild animal suffering is a big deal, but it’s also a lot harder to change – all of human civilization working together might be hard-pressed to eliminate wild animal suffering, whereas a minor change in our diets or laws is sufficient to eliminate factory farming.

            Implying that trying to reduce factory farming is “wasted” because we should care more about wild animal suffering is like saying the Against Malaria Foundation is a “waste” because money donated to them isn’t spent on curing death; the return for a marginal dollar spent on those problems is vastly different, because we only know how to do one of them.

          • keranih says:

            @ MugaSofer

            >death in a slaughterhouse for animals sucks much less than death in the wild.

            The issue here is that animals in factory farms are constantly tortured every hour of every day of their miserable lives,

            Not a true statement.

            which is emphatically not true of a wild fish

            Also not true – not if you’re implying that a wild fish is not also experiencing some suffering as it lives and dies.

            whereas a minor change in our diets or laws is sufficient to eliminate factory farming.

            A supposition not supported by fact. Veganism is a major dietary change that would be harmful to a majority of the population and disastrous for a non-trivial fraction. Conventional modern farming – because ‘factory farming’ is a pejorative term without any firm meaning(*) – is built upon layers and centuries of increased efficiencies and responses to consumer preferences across the economy, and no it can not be easily changed, much less eliminated.

            And your analogy to malaria nets – I don’t understand. Can you rephrase?

            (*) “Factory farming” is as useful a term as “pretty” or “ugly” – it means nothing objective about the system’s characteristics. The failure to grasp the spectrum of intensive vs extensive interventions in agriculture (ie, it is not binary) is only one part of this framing error.

          • MugaSofer says:

            Not a true statement.
            What’s not a true statement? That that’s the topic of discussion? That the way animals are treated in the overwhelming majority of modern farms causes them staggering levels of pain and distress, and would unquestionably be considered multiple simultaneous forms of torture if applied to a human? That animals feel?

            Also not true – not if you’re implying that a wild fish is not also experiencing some suffering as it lives and dies.
            Bwuh? How on Earth does that statement imply that?

            I said that most wild fish aren’t being tortured most of the time. Most humans aren’t being tortured most of the time; does that imply that we don’t feel pain?

            Veganism is a major dietary change that would be harmful to a majority of the population and disastrous for a non-trivial fraction.

            Total veganism isn’t required to eliminate the horrors produced by modern farming.

            As for whether it’s a “minor dietary change” – if the entire population adopted any of the many variations on vegetarianism, the market and public support for factory farms would collapse. I think many of these could reasonably be described as “minor”. Total veganism varies in how large a change it is depending on your current diet; for many, it would be a minor change, and others can easily accomplish a reduction in meat consumption in other ways.

            It isn’t hard to reduce your consumption of animal products by a lot. And it would be even easier if economies of scale could be applied.

            ‘factory farming’ is a pejorative term without any firm meaning
            It’s a perfectly clear term that distinguishes between the more extreme forms of modern farming and literally any other kind. You, yourself, clearly had no trouble understanding what was meant by it.

            Yes, it’s moderately perjorative, in the sense that it refers to something that’s actually horrific – and no other sense. Actual factories aren’t horrifying.

            And your analogy to malaria nets – I don’t understand. Can you rephrase?

            Interventions that help alleviate a problem – factory farming, malaria – are not worthless merely because they’re not reshaping the entire universe to suit humanity’s values.

            You argue that there’s no point in preferring wild meat to farmed, because wild animals still die, often painfully. But demanding that any given action save every animal on Earth is absurd, and indeed you don’t provide one that does save them all.

            It’s as absurd as demanding that any given medical intervention also cure aging. Don’t they realize that curing aging is important?

          • Anonymous says:

            The point about wild animals is that for every wild chicken you eat, a couple die from lingering disease or starvation or whatever. A factory farmed chicken may find living in feces unpleasant, but it’s not immediately obvious that 1x living in feces with endless food is worse than 5x living in fear of predators and starving over a week because of broken leg that doesn’t heal.

            Same about animals farm animals being tortured. You immediately say that those conditions would be considered torture for humans, which ignores that cows and chickens are not in fact humans. Pretty sure even a cow is distressed by sitting in enclosed spaces for long periods of time, but let’s not get hyperbolic by invoking the image of endless rows of immobilized humans.

            To me it’s obvious that free range is better than factory, but if I had to naively bet between factory vs wild, I’d bet on factory.

          • Joe W. says:

            Two points.

            First point: what I think a lot of people miss is that, when deciding which animals not to breed and eat, the scale doesn’t run between “breed and eat an animal, giving it a terrible, strongly negative-utility life in the process” as the worst case, and “don’t breed and eat an animal, causing no positive or negative utility change” as the best case. If veganism entails the nonexistence of animals whose lives would have had positive utility, that’s bad, not neutral. Unless you’re going to claim that preventing the existence of a negative-utility life is a good thing, but preventing the existence of a positive-utility life is not a bad thing. In which case you get weird implications, like “given the opportunity, you should prevent the existence of an infinite number of infinitely good lives if doing so also prevents the existence of a single life that is only just barely bad”.

            Second, unrelated point: I think determining the impact of hunting a wild animal is considerably harder than it first appears, because you need to take into account the implications of there being one fewer of that animal out there. Obvious example: reduced competition for other members of the same species in the area.

          • MugaSofer says:

            @anon: There’s no causal connection between a hunter shooting a deer and other deer dying in worse ways, so I don’t see how you could possibly object to it on consequentialist grounds.

            You can argue that animals don’t have moral standing, so it’s OK to torture them, but it’s still torture. I think it’s probably OK to squish bugs, but tearing the legs off a fly still isn’t being nice to the fly. Let’s call a spade a spade.

            @Joe: this is one of those utilitarian edge-cases where things get weird, but yes, most people don’t think we’re obligated to try and create as many somewhat-happy people as we possibly can.

          • Joe W. says:


            One of the big EA causes – existential risk mitigation – is concerned entirely with the existence of future lives. So I think at least some people involved with EA consider the existence or nonexistence of future positive-utility lives to be relevant to their interpretation of utilitarianism.

            I would be moderately surprised if most EA folk would honestly say, in the face of my hypothetical – “Should you prevent the existence of an infinite number of infinitely happy lives if doing so will prevent the existence of one only just barely bad life?” – that yes, you should. I am not that good at predicting which bullets they will bite and which they will build around. But I think that, if you are committed to reconciling utilitarianism and ‘what people generally think’, you will never be finished, there are an endless number of situations in which maximizing utility gives an answer that feels icky.

            Moreover, as I said in the Open Thread, I think trying to do this largely defeats the point of utilitarianism, which is the bit where you get to say, “Your intuitions are mistaken, to find the correct moral choice you have to calculate max utility and ignore what your feelings tell you”.

          • keranih says:

            @ Mugasofer –

            What’s not a true statement?

            It is not a true statement that “that animals in factory farms are constantly tortured every hour of every day of their miserable lives”.

            This is “not true” on several levels, and not just because it relies on several absolutes. It is also not true because the animals are not tortured (by any commonly used definition of the word) and that their lives are not, in total, miserable for those animals, nor is “every single minute” – or even a majority of their time – “miserable”.

            I said that most wild fish aren’t being tortured most of the time. Most humans aren’t being tortured most of the time; does that imply that we don’t feel pain?

            You appear to be hung up on torture. I’d suggest stepping away from this as your lynch pin for morality – there are many things south of torture which should be avoided.

            Total veganism isn’t required to eliminate the horrors produced by modern farming.

            Total veganism is required to prevent meat protein from being restricted to a privileged upper class who can afford to buy food produced by the outdated, inefficient, land-hungry, and animal-neglecting archaic methods used in non-modern farming.

            As for whether it’s a “minor dietary change”

            It’s a major change. Please quit quibbling about this. If it was minor, we wouldn’t be fighting so hard about it.

            It isn’t hard to reduce your consumption of animal products by a lot.

            Just because you found it easy to reduce your consumption of animal products by a lot doesn’t mean it can be easily scaled to the rest of humanity.

            [ “‘factory farming’ is] a perfectly clear term that distinguishes between the more extreme forms of modern farming and literally any other kind. You, yourself, clearly had no trouble understanding what was meant by it.

            Yes, I understand that it means, to you, “that thing I hate” and that you can not provide a more tangible, concrete definition. Moreover, you can’t even define a separation between what is a “factory farm” and what isn’t. “More extreme” means nothing without context, nor does “any other kind” mean anything without specific examples. Extreme in what way? Better suitability for the market? Fewer baby animals dying of disease? More productivity per acre of land not in pristine forest? By all of those measure, hell yes modern ag is “extreme”!

            “Modern farming” encompasses a wide range of choices in management and materials. If some of these choices seem excessively horrific – then define those choices, say *exactly* what is horrific about them, and then approve options (which are out there) which reduce the horror involved. Of course, this means that one would have to understand the pros and cons of all the options, and understand that by making one choice, one wasn’t choosing a perfect solution, but the best of the available options.

            Anti-ag activists have been repeatedly offered this option – and they turn it down. Because they don’t want to hear that choice X was made because choices Z and Y led to more animal death or animal sickness, or that in “non modern farming” net animal suffering was higher than it is today.

            You argue that there’s no point in preferring wild meat to farmed, because wild animals still die, often painfully. But demanding that any given action save every animal on Earth is absurd, and indeed you don’t provide one that does save them all.

            Not what I said. I said that preferring wild meat because it represented less animal suffering was absurd, because wild animals suffer quite a lot more compared to domestic animals. It is the ignorance of the different qualities at play here.

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          @ keranih
          most humans, if given the choice between roaming the wet wild woods in fear of predators and starvation, choose to live in small boxes off the dirt, eating food that has been provided to them and drinking water from a tap.

          Ah, not often that I get an opening to cry, “Anthropomorphist!” And now I’m too sleepy.

          • keranih says:

            Guilty *g*

            My point, I think, stands – animals – including people – like constant supplies of good food and shelter from the elements, and if accustomed to confinement from an early age where they are kept from attack by predators or their own kind, adapt pretty well.

            Humans with our thinky brains do create issues for ourselves. But we are not well selected for domestication on the whole, and I think we often don’t recognize the tremendous changes domestication has visited on the genomes of domestic animals.

  39. Civilis says:

    Why are you so sure “Big Money” is always or even predominantly right wing?

    Why is an article from early 2015, before the election began, the best place to look for how spending has affected the increasingly anomalous 2016 race?

    For that matter, why are you so sure the Koch brothers are solidly right wing? They have expressed disappointment with the Republican field, to the point of throwing the possibility of supporting Hillary. I’d certainly suspect they’ve had to change plans for who they intended to donate to. (

    I’ve always found a good place to go for raw numbers. Their graph for donor stats for the 2016 election is at The Republicans have had a lot more donations this election cycle, likely due to the highly contested primary. What disputes your contention is that the Democrats have taken in a higher percentage of the Top 100 / Top 1% donors than they have with the population at large. Further, both Hillary and Sanders have taken more from donations than Trump (

    • Jill says:

      The top one percent is upper middle class. They are not in the same league as the Koch brothers.

      Of course everyone has taken more donations than Trump. Everyone gives Trump infinite TV time for free.

      >>Why are you so sure “Big Money” is always or >even predominantly right wing?

      Who do you expect big corporate interests to support? Bernie?

      The Kochs like the establishment GOP candidates– except when those are not Right Wing enough for them, as was the case of Cantor vs. Brat.

      The Donald is an outlier case here– very atypical. The Kochs don’t think they can trust him, because he could be a loose cannon. So they may indeed choose a different Right Wing candidate–Hillary, who is where Nixon was politically.

      • Anonymous says:

        The top one percent is upper middle class.

        That’s a nonsense definition pushed by wealthy professional class people looking to hide behind the true middle class in order to avoid tax increases. Shame on Clinton for adopting it. There’s nothing “middle” about earning/owning more than 99 out of 100 of your fellow Americans. No one calls an IQ of 135 an upper middle IQ.

        • Chalid says:

          Did Clinton adopt it? I am skeptical.

          • Anonymous says:

            She said should wouldn’t raise taxes on the “middle class” which she defined as those making less than $250,000 a year. That’s 96 percentile. So not exactly what Jill said, but very close.

          • James Picone says:

            Meanwhile, in Australia’s current electoral campaign, the incumbent party’s tax policy is to (slightly) reduce income taxes on people earning over $80,000 AUD a year, which is slightly larger than mean full-time income, and leave the others the same.

            (that said they’re also planning on changing the rules for superannuation in a way that will only hit very wealthy people, so I can’t complain too much about their tax policy)

        • Daniel says:

          I think we’re confusing income and wealth here. The top 1% individual income earners make >$240k. Top 1% in net worth is $8m. I think many people in the >$240k income bracket are not living much differently than those who made $100k. The reason I believe this is because people who cash out on the stock market to buy a house, for instance, will report all their capital gains in one year. But their net worth will not change. This makes income brackets very variable and taxing people more highly at that level really strikes me as unfair. I know because my parents live in a working class neighborhood and had to make a withdrawal on stock investments pushing them into the top 1%.

          I don’t know the stats, but I’d expect that the people in the top 1% in income changes a lot year to year, but those in the top 1% in wealth doesn’t.

      • Saint Fiasco says:

        >>Who do you expect big corporate interests to support? Bernie?

        I expect someone boring, safe. Conservative, not in the sense of policy or beliefs but in the sense of “more of the same”. Someone like Clinton, to be honest.

      • “The Kochs like the establishment GOP candidates”

        Earlier you were pointing out that libertarians don’t hold the same views as other groups that usually vote Republican. Do you actually know anything about the Kochs? Their foreign policy positions, for example?

      • Civilis says:

        That’s the Top 1% and Top 100 of all donors, not all Americans.

        I’d suspect that most donors in general are in the top percentage of Americans, but where the median of the Top 1% of donors falls is beyond my ability to guess.

        Who do you expect big corporate interests to support? Bernie?

        Yes, actually. I’d suspect more Big Money / Big Business donors go for Bernie than Cruz. I admit Trump is a special case. Bernie’s donors heavily represent the Education, Health, and Law sectors.

        The Kochs like the establishment GOP candidates– except when those are not Right Wing enough for them, as was the case of Cantor vs. Brat.

        The Kochs are libertarian, so I can see a wild card populist with nationalist tendencies and economic policies that are more socialist than libertarian (Trump) and an unabashed social conservative (Cruz) not being among their top choices. Assuming the right is monolithic is a mistake.

        • Chalid says:

          I’d suspect more Big Money / Big Business donors go for Bernie than Cruz. I admit Trump is a special case. Bernie’s donors heavily represent the Education, Health, and Law sectors.

          Health is definitely big business, but not so much education (mostly not business) and law (not really very big).

          • Civilis says:

            The original line was about “Big Money”, which was changed to “big corporate interests”. There’s definitely a matter of different definitions at work here, but I feel reasonably comfortable in considering the NEA as a ‘Big Money’ donor, and likewise lawyers also have a reputation for political contributions.

            I haven’t looked in to who donated to Cruz, mostly because it’s a moot point, but I was basing my opinion on his willingness to stand up against agricultural subsidies in Iowa.

  40. Wrong Species says:

    On the Vox inequality article, check this out:

    “We could abandon the current progressive income tax in favor of a much more steeply progressive consumption tax.”

    I’m used to hearing progressives dismiss consumption taxes as regressive so this a step in the right direction.

    • Urstoff says:

      I never quite understand how the support of progressive taxation fits in with the support for the wide range of sin taxes (alcohol, cigarettes, soda [lol]) and support for state lotteries, as they are clearly very regressive. Is this a case of cognitive dissonance, or is the nanny impulse just much stronger than the concern for fairness?

      • James Picone says:

        I am in favour of sin taxes, state lotteries, and progressive taxation.

        My viewpoint is that the benefits of people drinking less/smoking less outweigh the negatives of them being significantly regressive.

        The case of state lotteries is more that the alternative seems to be non-state lotteries run by the mafia or local equivalent; the state lottery does at least give you the odds it says on the tin, even if it’s a tax on people who can’t do maths.

        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          The mafia had a fairly ingenious system of picking daily winners using a series of publicly-known, unpredictable, and unriggable numbers: they used the last three digits of the published daily balance of the U.S. Treasury.

          Then the Treasury (because of this) started rounding off the balance. So the mafia switched to using the “mutuel numbers”, drawn from the last digit of the win, place, and show betting totals at racetracks. As Wikipedia explains it:

          For example, if the daily handle (takings at the racetrack) was:

          Win $1004.25
          Place $583.56
          Show $27.61

          then the daily number was 437.

          So they had a system that gave you the “odds it says on the tin”.

          Of course, the really relevant alternative to state-run lotteries is not lotteries run by the mafia but legal for-profit lotteries. And while betting on the lottery may be irrational, bettors aren’t so irrational that they prefer worse odds to better ones. If the state lottery spends a certain percentage of the money on education, without a legal monopoly they would be undercut by people who offer the players a better chance of winning and/or a larger jackpot. So there’s good reason to think that the state-run lotteries are actually harming poor people, as compared to the legal alternative.

          • Anonymous says:

            I think even if the lottery paid out exactly as much money as it took in, it would still be a large net harm because of the diminishing marginal utility of money. Reducing the payouts and spending the money on education might actually reduce the net harm, because of that diminishing marginal utility.

            Where I live, the state spends money on aggressively advertising its lottery, which seems like an unalloyed evil.

        • “the state lottery does at least give you the odds it says on the tin, even if it’s a tax on people who can’t do maths.”

          I can’t speak to the current state lotteries, not having looked at them, but my favorite example of dishonest advertising was an ad for a state lottery, I think in New York, that I saw many years ago.

          “Our odds are better than the numbers’ odds. Our numbers are better than their numbers too.”

          The second sentence didn’t mean anything. The first was a flat lie. The small print gave the payoffs, and the house cut was greater than fifty percent which, if I remember correctly, was the house cut on the numbers game at the time.

          Lying about your competition works better when if anyone admits he is the competition in order to sue or rebut you can arrest him.

          In what sense does the numbers game not give you “the odds it says on the tin”?

          • James Picone says:

            I’m not familiar with what the literal mafia actually ran prior to state lotteries; I had the impression that there were a significant number of very rigged games run by a variety of enterprises. Maybe that’s wrong. *shrug*.

            Agreed that that ad is dishonest and terrible.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The numbers games use numbers the mob can not easily control (e.g. less significant digits of stock market indexes); even people willing to place bets with the mob are generally aware enough to realize the mob cheats.

      • meyerkev248 says:

        There’s also my usual “You guys realize that progressive income taxes are really, really progressive, and that this probably overcomes the regressiveness of 6% sales taxes?” response.

        You know why sales taxes are regressive? It’s because last year, my father paid 15% of his income to income and payroll taxes and I paid 35%. So my father paid sales taxes on 85% of his income (minus rent and services), and I paid sales taxes on 65% (also minus rent and services).

        So we tax people a dollar a pack on cigarettes, and I dropped an extra 20% of my income that they didn’t.

        So a whole heck of a lot of individual taxes are regressive, and the overall system is deeply, deeply progressive.

        /And then in practice, because the rich areas have higher sales taxes, it all balances out. I pay 9, he pays 6.

        • Chrysophylax says:

          >So a whole heck of a lot of individual taxes are regressive, and the overall system is deeply, deeply progressive.

          Citation, please. At least in the UK, the impression I got (probably from a uni class that was literally just economic graphs and occasional bullet point summaries) is that the tax system is mildly regressive on balance.

    • brad says:

      Is a progressive consumption tax just basically a progressive income tax with a credit for savings? How are purchases that mix consumption and investment counted (e.g. housing)?

      • Chrysophylax says:

        There’s a very important difference between labour income and investment income. In the standard growth theory models, you *really* don’t want to tax capital, because capital is where your economic growth per capita comes from. (I don’t know of anybody who’s tried to link this stuff to Austrian ideas about malinvestment and to stock markets being in large part giant incestuous scams, but it’s porbably been done. I don’t know whether it says anything strong enough to overturn the prohibition on blocking capital accumulation.)

        Housing is probably done via capital gains and maybe imputed rents, but I’m not a tax lawyer and obviously tax systems vary a lot between countries.

  41. bean says:

    I can see other problems with the air rage paper, above and beyond their poor statistics. First, they divide all aircraft into ‘economy’ and ‘first’, which gives no information as to what the ‘first’ actually looked like. First Class on domestic flights is usually what would be called business class on international (transoceanic) flights, and a big step down from the first class on international flights, which can be really impressive. For that matter, some airlines have three classes on domestic routes, usually first, economy, and economy with more legroom. The paper says that they were using one large international airline’s database, which is why the data is proprietary. However, the data includes flights without a first class section, and all four major North American airlines (United, Delta, American, and Air Canada) don’t operate single-class planes that in their own name. They do have subsidiaries which do regional flights with single-class planes, however. But those planes are smaller and generally fly shorter routes than planes with two classes, and they don’t seem to control at all for the number of passengers when doing their math to prove that first class causes air rage.
    (As an aside, I suspect Air Canada is the airline in question, based on some of the numbers they give.)

    • John Schilling says:

      Also, flight duration. If the single-class seating is only or mostly on subcontracted commuter runs, then the passengers are only putting up with crappy airline service for an hour or so, maybe an hour and a half with boarding and deplaning. Traditional two- or three-class seating is on long-haul flights, which are going to average, what, three or four hours? Maybe more for Air Canada.

      One class of flights averaging 200 pax for 4 hrs, another with 50 pax /1.5 hrs, gee, are we surprised that the former has an order of magnitude more incidents of severe passenger discontent per flight?

      • bean says:

        A good point as well, although they did suggest the incidence of air rage was lower on international flights than on domestic ones. In fairness, if we’re dealing with Air Canada, a lot of those ‘international’ flights are only distinguishable from domestic flights in that you have to get out your passport. That said, I suspect that passenger expectations and profile have a lot to do with the incidence of air rage as well. Long international flights will see different people from domestic/US ones, and that could easily lower the incidence of air rage. It’s also the only other way to explain the difference mid-loading makes. If it’s Air Canada, I think that only happens on their 777-300ERs, which are going to be used exclusively for long-haul routes.

  42. Noah Motion says:

    Thanks for linking to my post. I’m glad you at least liked the title.

  43. onyomi says:

    Re. growing polarization:

    Beyond my point in the OT about how we have to take into account absolute positions rather than just relative movements, my subjective impression is that, recently, the number of people getting more left-wing due to outrage at the stupid, radical Republicans is probably equal to, if not greater than the number of people getting more right-wing.

    That is, the response to constant reports that the other side is getting more radical may be to get more radical yourself, which seems like it leads to some kind of radicalization death spiral.

    • Jill says:

      Something like that may be so. However, it does seem that the Right is getting more extreme than the Left is getting. If both were equally radical, the general election would be Bernie vs. Trump. And we all know that won’t happen.

      The Left going a little more to the Left here won’t even bring them back to Center– from the Right, where the Left actually is now. Hillary in her policies is close to Nixon. And she’s going to be the nominee. So we really have 2 Right Wing candidates now.

      • onyomi says:

        Trump is not nearly as right-wing as Bernie is left-wing. Trump is more anti-establishment than Hillary, which to me says the left is happier with the status quo than the right, because the left picked the “safe” candidate and the right picked the “wild card.”

        And this, in some sense, is the root of it: those who are relatively happy with the status quo can easily accuse those who are not of being “radical.” But if you’re happy with the status quo that tends to indicate you’ve been getting your way.

        • Jill says:

          I can’t speak for people who prefer Hillary. I prefer Bernie.

          It’s possible that the difference between Bernie’s popularity and Trump’s is an effect of the primary system and delegate choosing systems of the Democratic party vs. the system the GOP uses. The systems for choosing the party nominee need to be overhauled in both parties. They are different, but both are dysfunctional.

          I think it’s hard to define establishment conservative vs. radical, and establishment liberal vs. radical.

          Radical should be a depart from the establishment. However, the establishment is not one thing. Each major party is– and has been for a long time– a coalition of various groups that may be fairly different from one another.

          E.g. Libertarians seem to more often vote GOP than Dem, but do they really have a lot in common with military industrial complex people who desire everlasting unnecessary wars, so they can keep feeding at the public trough? And do people who are in the GOP because they want low or no taxes, really similar to people who are in there because they want their religious beliefs about abortion, gay people etc. made into federal law?

          • MugaSofer says:

            “… do they really have a lot in common with …”


            Do radical feminists really have anything in common with the pro-immigration movement? Do LGBTQ+ activists really have anything in common with communists? Does BLM have anything in particular to do with Sex Positivity Means Women’s Health(tm)?

            EDIT: but I don’t think this proves much. Politics is about coalitions; you can be far or near from the center of a coalition, by supporting larger or smaller fractions of it.

      • cassander says:

        Other than gun control, can you name a single position on which the republican party today is left of where it was in, say, 1994? Because I can name many on which it, and the democrats, are to the left.

        • Chalid says:

          Assuming you mean positions where Republicans have moved “right” not “left.” Taxes? Financial regulation? Military adventurism? Campaign finance? Immigration?

          Caveat: I wasn’t paying much attention to politics in the 1990s.

    • Julie K says:

      I think there’s some conservation of tribalism going on. For instance, I recently read that 1/3 to 1/2 of people would be upset if a family member married someone from the other political party, whereas in 1960 only 5% of people would care about that.
      On the other hand, care to estimate how many people in 1960 would be upset about a family member marrying someone of a different race/religion?

  44. Jill says:

    For those who want “evidence” that we are immersed in Right Wing propaganda, I feel like I’m documenting that the sky is blue and the grass is green, but here goes.

    How could we NOT be immersed in Right Wing propaganda and views, with this much money spent, this year only, by this one Right Wing faction, not including the others? How do people think Big Money in politics functions? What does Big Money buy with their money, if not propaganda to get their preferred candidates elected? And it’s not going to be the truth. It’s not going to be “Vote for this one so that the Kochs can control Congress and screw over everyone else.” The truth wouldn’t garner many votes.

    Koch brothers set $889 million budget for 2016

    • DrBeat says:

      This ignores the possibility of left-wing money being funneled into politics. If you can only see right-wing money buying influence, of course you will believe only the right wing is influential.

      It also assumed that money buys political power. It actually doesn’t, no matter how “obvious” it seems. There had been research in the past on it, and the 2012 election proved it, with all of that unprecedented superPAC money going to candidates who crashed and burned. ‘Big Money’ does not decide who gets elected (and isn’t an ideological bloc anyway) — the candidate who is better at getting elected is also better at getting donors to give them money. In 2012, people actually started really trying to buy election in earnest, and found themselves unable to.

      • Wrong Species says:

        Trump really put a nail in the coffin for that idea. All the republican donor money went against him and he still won because he was popular.

        • Jill says:

          Yes, and if Trump gets elected, we will see how he plans to fulfill the promises he’s made, while getting zero help from Congress. Congress makes the laws.

          Americans focus far too much on the presidency. Both Houses of Congress, most state legislatures, and most governorships are GOP dominated. That’s where most of the power to get things done is.

          • Wrong Species says:

            “Corporations are buying the presidency, we have to keep democracy alive!”

            Theory gets disproven.

            “The presidency doesn’t matter. It’s Congress that matters. That hasn’t been disproven yet.”

            By the way, have you seen the dragon in my garage.

      • Jill says:

        People think that is so because they focus on the presidency. Both Houses of Congress, most state governorships, and most state legislatures are GOP dominated, because that’s the way the Kochs and other Big Money folks want it.

        Yes, Dems have the presidency. But Congress makes the laws. There are big limits on what can be done via Executive Order.

        And of course there was the huge well publicized political science study showing that the average American has very little effect on public policy, due to the influence of the very wealthy and their political donations.

        • haishan says:

          Yes, and then there were the many, many criticisms of that study.

          I think the truth is that money matters in politics and policy, but so do a ton of other things, and they offset as often as not. Indeed, the study you cited seems to suggest real but pretty small effects on policy from having a bunch of money; you don’t always get what you want, but you can get what you want like 55% of the time instead of 45%. That’s not nothing, but it’s far from Koch-brother domination of our political life.

          In terms of local elections — I’m not sure exactly how much money they poured into his campaign, but a lot of Silicon Valley billionaires were behind DeRay Mckesson’s bid for the Baltimore mayoralty. He ended up with 2% of the vote. And it arguably says something that smart, rich folks like Michael Bloomberg often consider running for president themselves, rather than using their resources to fund candidates for Congress or state and local offices. (Although I think Bloomberg does have a PAC to give money to pro-gun-control candidates.)

        • Deiseach says:

          Both Houses of Congress, most state governorships, and most state legislatures are GOP dominated, because that’s the way the Kochs and other Big Money folks want it.

          So an African-American Democratic two-term President doesn’t matter a hill of beans.

          On the other hand, were he a white Republican two-term President it would be the sign of Armageddon.

          I see.

      • I’ve seen some research which actually suggested that exogenous money (from independent wealth) gives you a 1% advantage in the polls for every factor of 2 by which you outspend your opponent. So it does have an influence, it’s just pretty small compared to most other things.

    • Hlynkacg says:

      I’m pretty sure this comment was addressed to you

    • Glen Raphael says:


      with this much money spent, this year only, by this one Right Wing faction, not including the others
      Koch brothers set $889 million budget for 2016

      …is a claim Politifact plausibly rated false.

      The total amount being spent is less than that and is the combined total of multiple “Right Wing factions” rather than just one. Most of that smaller total is NOT being spent by the Koch brothers themselves, and only a third of it is aimed at the 2016 election. Also, it’s not for “this year only” your own link said in the link title itself that their overestimate was a spending estimate over two years – it was for 2015 and 2016.

  45. Jill says:

    I wouldn’t say to never listen to anyone again who was wrong about Trump. Trump tapped into some things that U.S. culture is blind and deaf about. All cultures have their limitations. And now some talented people have explained why everyone else was wrong about Trump. So perhaps others will listen and learn. Here are a couple. Scott Adams has great explanations that make sense, although I don’t agree with him the Trump will win the general election.

    Donald Trump will win in a landslide. The mind behind ‘Dilbert’ explains why.

    The political scientist who saw Trump’s rise coming
    Norm Ornstein on why the Republican Party was ripe for a takeover, what the media missed, and whether Trump could win the presidency

    • dndnrsn says:

      As far as I can tell, what Trump has done that has helped him the most (vs what others, especially the media, have done) is take a stance against illegal immigration and immigration by Muslims. His comments about illegal immigrants from Mexico, that at the time some observers described as a campaign-ruining gaffe, appears to be what spurred his candidacy.

      Was it really that hard to spot that there was a market for that? The average Republican voter is probably more restrictionist on immigration, especially illegal immigration, than the Republican leadership, at least on a national level. For some time now, there have been voices at the national level in the Republican party pushing some form of amnesty in the hope of peeling Hispanic voters off from the Democrats.

      The Republican rank and file has different priorities from the Republican leadership. They are to the left of the leadership when it comes to economic matters, and to the right when it comes to immigration. There was an Atlantic article about this. Key quote:

      And yet, within hours of Romney’s defeat, Republican donors, talkers, and officials converged on the maximally self-exculpating explanation. The problem had not been the plan to phase out Medicare for people younger than 55. Or the lack of ideas about how to raise wages. Or the commitment to ending health-insurance coverage for millions of working-age Americans. Or the anthems to wealth creation and entrepreneurship in a country increasingly skeptical of both. No, the problem was the one element of Romney’s message they had never liked anyway: immigration enforcement.

      • Jill says:

        The GOP was railing about immigrants to get their voters riled up, long before the Donald entered the scene. Trump just got more colorful and intense about it, and promised to do something concrete (a wall) about it.

        But I think Scott Adams explanations of Trump’s strategy, in the article I mentioned above, are the best ones. It’s not about facts or issues at all.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Using it to rile people up, while not actually doing anything about it, and having support for some sort of amnesty among the top echelons… Is it surprising that sooner or later a big chunk of the Republican base turned on the national leadership?

          I have no doubt that some of what Adams is saying is correct. Part of Trump’s appeal is definitely tied up in irrational personality factors: he projects strength, he doesn’t back down, etc.

          But by some accounts – usually left-wing ones (eg, What’s the Matter with Kansas? – the Republican leadership has for quite some time gotten votes by making appeals that it could not or would not fulfill. They’ve caught on – but instead of transferring their votes to the Democrats, have chosen to support a right-wing populist.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Correction: “They’ve … their” being the Republican base, or a large chunk of it, not the Republican leadership.

        • “It’s not about facts or issues at all.”

          Which raises the interesting question of what Trump will do if he gets elected. He can, and presumably will, continue demagoguing, but what actual policies will he support? What he says doesn’t tell us.

          And the whole “make a deal” approach gives him quite a lot of wiggle room.

      • Agronomous says:

        The average Republican voter is probably more restrictionist on immigration, especially illegal immigration….

        The average Republican voter wants to restrict lots of illegal things. They’re kind of adorable that way.

  46. Deiseach says:

    The first few paragraphs of this article are standard “We Christians must resist the rot of secularism” boilerplate

    Where do you get that? The article starts off with:

    Christianity is undergoing a paradigm shift of major proportions — a shift from faith to feelings; from fact to fantasy; and from reason to esoteric revelation.

    and then moves into the whole circus of the “signs and wonders” movements. It mentions nothing about secularism and is concerned with the kind of battle that has been going on for a long while between the Charismatic and Pentecostalist movements, the “Properity Gospel” and “Word of Faith/Word of Power” ‘churches’ which mushroomed up, and the more traditional expressions of Christianity.

    From the terminology used, I imagine that particular site is more in the Reformed tradition, so it will naturally be very heavily text-based (the Bible, particularly the Pauline Epistles) and ‘head over heart’ influenced, but this is more an outgrowth of the kind of criticism of things like megachurches, where ‘religion as entertainment’ and copying trends in secular culture (the internal criticism that Christianity copies pop culture but ten years out of date) were used to grow attendance which was seen as the metric of success, plus the ongoing “signs and wonders” strain which has been around for a very long time.

    That article has little to nothing to do with the secular world and is mainly an internal critique.

  47. onyomi says:

    What if what is currently happening to Uber is exactly what has happened to every other industry, only now we’re social media-ed and desperate enough to notice it?

    • Vorkon says:

      That seems likely to me, yeah.

      I’m sort of interested in the whole thing about them leaving Austin, though, but I haven’t really researched that story enough to have a cogent opinion about it yet. This story about them needing business licenses in SF seems pretty much par for the course for an emerging industry, though.

  48. Viliam says:

    The trollbot scenario reminds me of how Russia currently uses poorly-paid people to troll on websites in various countries. The employees receive a list of web forums, and a list of targets and things they are supposed to associate with them. Then they register on the websites and start commenting, all day long. Humans are less efficient than a bot, but more flexible.

    • Deiseach says:

      My God, I could have a career in Russia! Fighting with strangers on the Internet and getting paid for it (as opposed to doing it for free as I currently do?) 🙂

  49. TomFL says:


    “In social sciences, there’s an absolutely massive bias in favor of publishing results that confirm current educated opinion, or that deviate from the consensus in ways that will be seen as quirky or interesting rather than cold or cruel or politically tone-deaf.”

    That’s about as politically correct a way to state the problem as possible. As with many criticisms of “science”, one needs to also examine how the media selection filters work. You need both unbiased science and unbiased reporting to get useful results to the common man. Sometimes both are biased and it becomes a disastrous self-reinforcing feedback effect.

    What we need is more activism in science against biased media reporting?

  50. haishan says:

    Hey, speaking of implicit association tests, there’s a working paper out that claims to find no relationship whatsoever between IAT scores and giving behavior in a dictator game.

    Caveats: there’s no worked-out power analysis in the paper, although the author implies he did one. Also the study participants were mostly black, and it’s plausible you’d see a different result if they were mostly white.

  51. TomFL says:

    People: This is PERCENTAGE of negative stories on Trump, not absolute number. The fact that Vox decided the absolute numbers weren’t worth showing is……regrettable.

    Clinton has definitely gotten her fair share of negative stories, she has plenty of baggage, and the email thing is a complete embarrassment. When you are being investigated for a felony, it’s all negative. Anyone who monitors the NYT, WSJ, WP (especially), knows that it is mostly wall to wall Trump coverage.

    Simple Google count over the past 30 days. Trump = 90M, Clinton = 53M (invariably most stories mention both)

    It’s instructive that the media covers almost everyone negatively by the standards used. If you were to count the number with “very negative” such as explicit name calling, Trump would win here easily.

  52. Deiseach says:

    Freddie deBoer argues this will never scale because their business model is hiring a tiny number of elite teachers who have just graduated from top colleges for really cheap, luring them with promises of social impact and getting to live in desirable areas.

    Good! Because reading Freddie’s post, what would these cocktail-party strivers be doing instead? They’d get a job at a prep school for the posh kids, do a few years’ teaching there, then go on to the more lucrative, less stressful jobs he mentions. If they’re going to abandon teaching anyway, why not make use of them to give “poor brown children” (and the unconscious condescension and classism dripping from that throwaway phrase makes me want to shake him) a leg-up on the educational ladder with the type of elite, high-achieving teacher they would otherwise have not a snowball in hell’s chance of encountering in ordinary schools?

    Also the “fragile young children” bit had me rolling my eyes: Will Nobody Think Of The Children, Freddie? Honestly? You’re a college teacher, how many hours at the coalface with lower-class kids in primary and secondary school did you put in? I fully agree that the emotional and social health of children should be protected and that they shouldn’t be treated as raw materials for the sausage machine, but I also am willing to guess that I’ve had more contact with exactly the type of “fragile young children” from lower socio-economic classes that he plains about in his post than he has had, and I can assure him that if he walked in the door of a classroom in the school where I worked (where we had a lot of kids who came under the Special Educational Needs Act), those fragile blossoms would eat him alive, not to mention the ones on the Early Schooleavers’ Programme who did get “emotional and social health” support and would still make mincemeat of him trying to teach a class.

    • Anthony says:

      I think you’re being unfair to deBoer both on a personal and logical level.

      In the linked post, the motivations of the elite graduates becoming schoolteachers are brought up not to attack those teachers personally, or to impugn their characters. The motivations are brought up because with those motivations come a major problem: high turnover. And deBoer’s argument is that these educational reform movements are inapplicable to the country at large because they will not be able to build up a sustainable cadre of teachers.

      Furthermore, he uses the phrase “poor brown children” ironically, referencing the media trope wherein non-white poor children are taught the values of education, industry, etc… by an old-fashioned disciplinarian with a big heart (“How can I reach these keeeeds?”). He only brings this up because he thinks that many of the new “elite graduate” teachers buy into it, and he thinks they will drop out when confronted with reality. He is mocking the trope, not endorsing it.

      Your eye-rolling over the phrase “fragile young children” is confusing. Yes, it’s true that he teaches college. So what? Are young children less fragile because Frederick deBoer teaches college? I have many friends who teach in inner city schools, and every one of them has told me how demoralizing it is to watch, passive, as their (fragile young) students are subjected to emotional and physical attack by the conditions of poverty. Do you think that’s not a cause of high turnover? I can’t tell because your argument focuses mainly on how badly you imagine Freddy deBoer would do in a classroom. What does Freddy deBoer’s profession have to do with this argument?

      • Deiseach says:

        I don’t get the sense that he’s using “poor brown children” ironically, but rather that he’s using it in exactly the same sense (if not for the same purposes) as those inspirational Hollywood “tough teacher turns failing ghetto school around” movies.

        And the “fragile young children” is condescending twaddle. Don’t start clutching your pearls over Will Nobody Think Of The Children, Freddie, when you’re doing the liberal “these poor folks need a White Saviour to stand up for them” schtick in your post. I eye-rolled over it because the phrase struck me as very damn Broken Blossoms (which I will admit is probably more an artefact of how my brain makes weird connections rather than de Boer’s intentional prose stylings).

        Ordinarily I like de Boer’s writing, but here he misses (and messes up) his point with a tipper truck load of White Liberal Guilt that does feck-all for the disadvantaged kids he champions. As I said- where are these elite young teachers going to teach if not in these schools? They’re not going to go work in Public School InnerCity Hellhole, they’re going to get a cushy gig at a private school teaching the spawn of the wealthy. At least the “poor brown kids/fragile young children” would get the couple of years’ benefit from their expensive qualifications!

        And I’m not necessarily supporting charter schools or private academies – there are a lot of problems with the model. But Freddie really did have a good old-fashioned swooning onto the chaise longue, dab my temples with eau de cologne fit of the vapours in that post which was ultimately unconvincing: don’t let the kinds of ambitious kids I’m teaching go out to teach the poor kids in charter schools, let them stick to – well, what instead? Who are the good replacement teachers for the ordinary non-charter schools and where will they come from? If the best teachers are all planning to drop their career after five or six years to attend cocktail parties and embark on a lucrative career, then the other teachers must be second- or third-rate by comparison and they are the ones going to end up teaching the “fragile young children”.

        I’d have been a lot more convinced if he’d argued the teachers in these academies actually were not all that and a side of chips, but he seems not to be able to do so, which means that they probably are the best qualified (or the ones with the best qualifications, whether or not they are in actuality good teachers) so instead of teaching at HopeChange Charter School for Achieving Minorities, they’ll go work at Mount Pleasantville Academy for Young Gentlepersons instead, and the second-rate and third-rate will go work in Public School Not Enough Funding.

  53. herbert herbertson says:

    I don’t know why the Red Wedding joke was reported as a murder joke. Or, maybe, yeah, I understand that the Red Wedding was a thing where people got murdered, but it was also a thing where people were physically lured to a space controlled by a political enemy and that political enemy used their presence to further his plans.

    That is, in context, the joke was that he was going to lock those GOP senators in the room until they confirmed his SCOTUS appointment, not that he was going to murder them.

    • John Schilling says:

      [The Red Wedding] was also a thing where people were physically lured to a space controlled by a political enemy and that political enemy used their presence to further his plans

      In roughly the same sense that the Holocaust was a thing where people were forced to take a shower by a political enemy to further that enemy’s plans.

      If you don’t understand that the murdery part of the Red Wedding is the only part that really matters, might you at least spare a second thought for the name? Did the wedding in question take place in a red room? Was the bride wearing a red dress? What part of that wedding had anything to do with the color “red”?

      • herbert herbertson says:

        “Of course, in fact, for months now congressional Republicans have been saying there are things I cannot do in my final year. Unfortunately, this dinner was not one of them. (Laughter.) But on everything else, it’s another story. And you know who you are, Republicans. In fact, I think we’ve got Republican Senators Tim Scott and Cory Gardner, they’re in the house, which reminds me, security, bar the doors! (Laughter.) Judge Merrick Garland, come on out, we’re going to do this right here, right now. (Applause.) It’s like “The Red Wedding.” (Laughter.)”

        Yes, of course the main point of the Red Wedding as written in ASOIF is that people got murdered. But I don’t think “Obama wants to murder two low-profile GOP senators” is the more natural reading of that joke.

    • Randy M says:

      The Red Wedding was memorable because major characters were ambushed and slaughtered. That seems the relevant part.

    • Deiseach says:

      that political enemy used their presence to further his plans

      Which he did by murdering his rivals, or such is my understanding.

      I’m not greatly impressed by the Obama dinner thing, mainly I suppose because I see excerpts posed approvingly all over the place about how he absolutely killed with his wittiness and all I’m seeing is rather sour-faced “you won’t have me to kick around anymore!” score-settling.

      • herbert herbertson says:

        Yes, the Red Wedding was about murder. Confirming a SCOTUS pick isn’t.

        • Randy M says:

          Yes, the Red Wedding was about murder.

          “…It’s like “The Red Wedding.”

          Sure, one can use a less prominent feature of a situation to make a joking analogy, but nobody should be surprised when the more prominent feature is then pointed out in a counter-jab.

  54. benwave says:

    Can anyone explain the “wages vs income” part of the median income article to me? I didn’t understand one bit of that. If wages and salary are dropping as a percentage, what is replacing it and what conclusions can be drawn from it?

    • Anonymous says:

      >If wages and salary are dropping as a percentage, what is replacing it and what conclusions can be drawn from it?

      Welfare? Dividends? Self-employment income?

      • benwave says:

        I admit to not knowing how the median white male income is calculated in this study, but I would expect welfare, dividends and self employment income (unless it is under the table income) to be included in that number.

        • Anonymous says:

          So am I – I’m suggesting replacements for salaries/wages. These were what sprang to mind. If a lot of people are on welfare, for example, then I figure average income would fall, since welfare isn’t especially lucrative. Same thing if a lot of people are trying to unsuccessfully engage in their own business, as opposed to earning a stable wage.

    • Fringe benefit income, specifically healthcare benefits. In the US, most people are covered by employer-sponsored healthcare. Over the last several decades, the value of this has grown dramatically, as the price of health-care has grown dramatically.
      Healthcare benefit income is untaxed. So if an employer can give me a $7,000 contribution to my health insurance policy, they’ll do it, because it’s a better deal than giving me $5,000 and Uncle Sam $2,000.

      Fringe benefit taxes are within the Overton Windows of at least some nations. Australia, for instance, has a Fringe Benefit Tax:

      • benwave says:

        I see, so then the conclusion would be that part of workers’ total compensation does not contribute to the median income, and thus part of the divergence between median income and per capita GDP can be explained by that factor?

        • Yes, that’s the explanation the author used. The author also mentioned that household income has changed over time, and I am not sure exactly what this is specific to:

          In 1973, total compensation consisted of 73% of personal income and this dropped to 65% in 2008

          Maybe that’s related to food stamp income, etc. Not sure.

  55. I find it bizarre that people on the left have trended so zealously towards social justice causes, while going a little luke-warm on environmentalism, which to me is the one cause where I think the left is unambiguously on the better side of history (in other areas both sides have points). It’s also a cause with a much sounder philosophical and scientific basis in my opinion. It did occur to me though, that different social groups giving each-other a hard time doesn’t cost elites any money, whereas environmental reforms might do in the short term. Thankfully at least some elites appear to care deeply about the environment too, otherwise I’m fairly certain the media campaigns and weak man arguments against it (given the fringe comes across as sufficiently loony) would crush it completely. On the other hand, without some temperance at some point the social justice thing may backfire horribly in economic ways, so it will be interesting to see if that changes direction at all.

    • Wrong Species says:

      I’m not sure why you think the left is lukewarm toward global warming. Bernie Sanders declared it the number one national security threat. Obama spends plenty of time talking about it. I don’t see any on the left talking about how global warming doesn’t really matter.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        They give the impression of considering it an important issue, but not as much as really pressing issues like transgenderism.

        • Urstoff says:

          Global warming doesn’t fit into the oppressor-oppressed narrative nearly as easily as identity politics.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            On the other hand, global warming fits the “we’re always right and you’re always rubes, because Science” narrative to a one-tailed T.

          • You haven’t heard of the global north vs. the global south?

            That is, whiter (more privileged) countries get the advantage of technological advances while browner countries bear the environmental cost.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nancy: I’ve definitely heard the term “environmental racism.” Which makes me imagine leftists saying “We’re all going to die, and that’s bad because PoC will be disproportionately impacted!”

          • Le Maistre Chat, I’m not going to say you’re entirely wrong.

            There’s a faction of the left which I think feels so secure that they aren’t comfortable advocating for their own interests.

          • BBA says:

            There’s a faction of the left which I think feels so secure that they aren’t comfortable advocating for their own interests.

            Well, you have my feelings on a totally different topic pegged right there. (I won’t go into it now because it’s extremely controversial and we’re already up against the right edge of the page.)

        • Wrong Species says:

          I’m sorry but you are all crazy. The left considers it an incredibly important issue. Look at the way they talk about it. People on the left, feel free to chime in.

          • Chalid says:

            Completely agreed.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Yeah, I’ve never heard of this idea that the left doesn’t consider global warming important. They’re obsessed with it.

            They had rallies when I was in college (a couple of years ago) to get the university to divest from it. They consider opposition to carbon taxes, etc. one of the main markers of “market fundamentalist” denial of reality—nicely lumping together skepticism of the dangers of climate change with denial of evolution.

          • Anonymous says:

            It doesn’t fit the narrative that the great scourge of our age is the social justice warrior colossus which heroes need to go online and vanquish in rhetorical combat.

          • Brad (The Other One) says:

            I was more leftist when I was a wee lad and back then, in middle school, I was convinced that we’d all be extinct in 100 years from global warming.

            Now that’s I’ve matured, I think global warming will ‘merely’ contribute to (further) disease, malnutrition and poverty for the world’s poorest while also aggravating weather patterns that will contribute to the same.

          • Xeno of Citium says:

            Leftist here, global warming is the most important single issue the world has to deal with period. Getting full civil rights for everyone seems like a way easier problem, though – at least the arc of history is on our side. I feel that we might have to hope science can mitigate the damage of global warming rather than expecting politics to prevent most of it – that’s clearly not happening.

            EDIT: I feel it’s the most important issue because it’s 1) Pressing – it’s going to happen within a generation and we’re already feeling the effects, 2) likely irreversible – if we screw this up, we won’t be able to fix it. If the left loses a battle over civil rights, we can try again in a generation. If we destroy the global climate, it’s done. If I thought we’d have a technological means to fix the climate I’d worry a lot less about it.

            There are certainly some social justice aspects to global warming, as in the rest of the thread, but that’s not why I care. It’s essentially selfish – I have to live on this Earth for the rest of my life, I really don’t want us to ruin it.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            I think you are overstating the magnitude of the problem. Global warming won’t ruin the earth. Worst case, some really hot areas can’t be occupied without air conditioning and the sea rises a bit.

          • ” I feel that we might have to hope science can mitigate the damage of global warming rather than expecting politics to prevent most of it”

            Two reasons to prefer mitigation to prevention:

            1. It’s much closer to a private good for those who do it, so much more likely to happen. If Louisiana dikes against sea level rise, most of the benefit goes to people in Louisiana. If it switches from cheap fossil fuel to expensive solar, any benefit from reduced CO2 is shared with the rest of the world.

            2. Warming has good effects as well as bad. Mitigation lets you minimize the bad effects, keep the good.

            “it’s going to happen within a generation and we’re already feeling the effects”

            Dubious, if you mean net bad effects. The latest IPCC report has a table showing estimates of the effects of various degrees of warming. For about three degrees, it’s equivalent to a reduction of world GNP of between zero and three percent. For the change in a generation, even if you accept the estimates they are using (which I think pessimistic for reasons I won’t go into at the moment), the net effect could easily be positive.

            So far the only negative effect both predicted and observed is more very hot summers, and it isn’t clear that the resulting increased mortality outweighs decreased mortality from milder winters. All the rest amounts to “something bad happened which could be due to AGW, so attribute it to AGW,” which ignores the fact that, with or without AGW, bad things happen.

            As the IPCC itself says, normal weather variation is still larger than the effect so far of AGW, making it difficult to attribute any particular event to the latter.

      • I didn’t specifically mention global warming, though I guess with that I feel like ratio of attention/effort to the size of the stated problem is much smaller when compared to effort placed into SJ issues. But other (related) issues, like the fact we could lose some of our closest relative primate species this century (!!!!!), seems to very get little attention, while SJ is fairly embedded in the way even the mainstream media talks now. I still think it’s fair to say luke-warm, even if there is general lip-service or agreement.

        • Wrong Species says:

          If you switched your statement to “non-global warming environmentalism” then I would completely agree. Of course, I’m not sure to what extent that is because global warming has sort of connected with other environmental issues. So before someone might mention animal extinction as a bad thing by itself but now is considered another effect of global warming.

  56. A while back I posited a utopian online future of automated machine learning filters that prevent you from ever having to see trolls.

    Am I the only one that read the filters article as a dystopian article? I thought Scott’s point was to warn people that it may be tempting but it will ultimately a dangerous level of echo chambers. Or maybe that’s just what I thought :-/

    • MugaSofer says:

      Scott is firmly in favour of bubbles, and believes that strong enough bubbles will eventually usher in Utopia (“Archipelago”) and we should do everything we can to hasten them.

      Everything he writes on the topic looks dystopian to me, but he believes it.

      • null says:

        One of the main issues with Archipelago is that moving is never free, even if you’re not moving geographically. The whole system relies on easy transfer between bubbles.

        • Vorkon says:

          More to the point, it relies on there being easy transfer between bubbles AND on it being prohibitively difficult for one bubble to conquer another by force and/or subterfuge. If you could find some way to crack that particular egg, I think it would be a workable theory, but it’s difficult to have one without the other.

  57. Brad (the other one) says:

    I’m wondering what other Christians here think of the counterfeit revival article.

    • Two McMillion says:

      Contrary to every depiction of the work of the Holy Spirit in scripture. Mass hysteria at best, demonic at worst.

      • RDNinja says:

        Essentially, yes. The practices described bear no resemblance to the work of the Holy Spirit as described in scripture. It’s likely a messy combination of mass hysteria, suggestibility, peer pressure, and outright fraud. There might be some demonic influence involved (the description of Rodney Howard-Browne asking for power sounds like it could have been an invitation to possession), but that’s just speculation.

        FWIW, I attended a Vineyard church for 3 years several years ago, and it didn’t resemble that even slightly.

    • Deiseach says:

      It’s certainly a long-running strain within Christianity. The article seems to conflate a few things at the start (the mention of Anglicanism naturally reminds me of the Nine O’Clock Service which was initially spectacularly successful but eventually imploded in the usual kind of scandals).

      The main thrust, though, is the kind of “signs and wonders” strain which is very easily warped into something sinister, and if that report is anyway accurate (allowing for the axe-grinding which is going on), then the thing involved is best called a cult. It’s like messing around with ouija boards – you don’t have to believe that there are spirits out there but when you’re stirring up the depths of the psyche, you never know what is going to come to the surface. Things like the woman ‘stuck to the floor’ sound like hysterical paralysis: a potent mix of heightened expectations, desire for something to happen, seeking after diversions and ‘proof’, fear of standing out by not ‘getting the spirit’, self-hypnosis, bullying and intimidation by the ‘preacher’ involved – and it may be significant he originated in South Africa, as these kinds of “name it and claim it”/Pentecostal-type churches are very prominent in Global South Christianity – and the feverish atmosphere of a crowd of people hyped up and egged on to have extravagant reactions are all you need.

      The local experience of this kind of thing was about thirty years ago when apparitions of the Blessed Virgin (and Christ and Padre Pio) were supposedly happening at a grotto in the locality; people were having all kinds of visions and there were busloads coming down to attend. This was during the hey-day of the moving statues. I don’t believe there were real apparitions going on (and my late father, who had great Marian devotion, wasn’t too convinced either) but at least it was a natural out-welling of folk religion rather than something whipped-up by unscrupulous clerics (sorry, people, no sinister monks or prince-bishops trying to delude the credulous masses involved!)

      It’s nothing new, this kind of event goes back to the kind of alternate Christianities (to use the term beloved of the modern neo-Gnostic scholars) when the great heresies were being fought in the early centuries of Christianity. It breaks out every now and then ever since, from the Reformation onwards (and in the movements preceding the Reformation).

      Some of the people are charlatans and con men, the same kind as would otherwise be spiritualist mediums, channellers, and running psychic hotlines. Some are quasi-sincere. Some are deadly sincere and possibly do the most harm; the charlatans will duck out when the money runs out, but the really sincere ones will wreck lives and minds convinced they are the chosen prophet of God in this time.

      The “signs and wonders”/Pentecostalist strain is also prominent in the history of Christianity, often in tension with the orthodoxy of the day. It’s telling that the guy in the article uses “Pharisaical” as the condemnatory code-word; that’s the “law-bound, rule-bound, in opposition to set free by grace” quarrel all over again 🙂

      In short: the guy is probably a snake oil merchant (though he may have convinced himself he has genuine spiritual powers), can be very destructive psychologically, and should be avoided at all costs.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      The “Prosperity Gospel”/”Power Word: Stun” movement is a heresy. Mass hysteria is pretty succinct: it preys on cognitive biases. Glossalia has nothing to do with the miracle of Pentecost, so the fact that its worship leaders rely on this equivocation, using suggestibility, peer pressure, etc. should be a huge red flag.

      • Xeno of Citium says:

        Now that’s a word I haven’t heard in a while. I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone straight-out call this sort of moment heresy before, but I think I see the point.

        I’m not and I’ve never been a Christian – could you go more into what being a heresy actually means? Does it just mean that it’s a practice counter to the orthodox teachings of the church (and therefore Christians shouldn’t do it), or does it have a deeper theological meaning, like people who participate in it are damned? My knowledge of heresies in the Church mostly centers around the first millennium, and the Church is a lot less fractious and violent these days.

        • In general, heresy consists of being persistently intellectually wrong on key doctrines of the faith. (Obviously there is room for definitional arguments on whether or not these terms apply in any particular case.)

          Persistently (so a brief flirtation with the idea isn’t enough to define some as a heretic), intellectually (so it’s not a matter of feelings or emphasis, but of settled definition), and on key doctrines (so it’s not just a minor agreement).

          It’s not just being wrong; it’s been stubbornly wrong about something important. Now I don’t think just being wrong about something is enough for damnation, but I think that being persistently and stubbornly wrong about God can ultimately send one in a direction other than God-wards.

          • Nita says:

            But aren’t even the major Christian denominations technically heretical from each other’s point of view?

          • In many cases they are, yes. But (say) the Catholics, the Orthodox, and most Protestants can all agree on the Apostles’ Creed. It’s when you get outside that zone that I start worrying about heresy. I find that many groups spend amazing amounts of energy worrying about their local fences with their neighbors, and not so much on all the things they have in common. (Consider different rationalist groups arguing about who is most-rational…)

            (In some cases they’re just schismatic: in agreement on doctrine but not on leadership/organization issues — of course, those can lead over time to changes in doctrine, too.)

    • You might be interested in my comment above, describing my experiences there.

    • Lesser Bull says:

      It doesn’t strike me as some horrible evil, but I see it as probably mostly a psychological/physiological phenomenon. With potential for evil, I guess.

      I could probably also be brought to believe something condescending, like “well, that is how God is forced to interact with low class people.”

      Basically, it is so far removed from my experience that I should and mostly do reserve judgment.

    • SJ says:

      I’ve seen churches that act like that. Go for “The Experience”. Encourage the emotional impact of the big meeting.

      And I’ve seen churches that are open to, and engage in, similar interactions with the Holy Spirit…but also build a firm foundation of teaching and fellowship. Teaching that the important part isn’t the experience, but the Fruit of the Spirit that grows out of communion with God.

      Is the article focusing on the negatives of chasing the spiritual experience, or the negatives of any kind of interaction which is labeled “experience with the Holy Spirit” ?

      • See also Cutting through Spiritual Materialsim, which describes such distractions as wanting unusual experiences, or wanting to have spiritual experiences to talk about them. As I recall, it uses a context of meditation, but there’s no reason why it shouldn’t apply to other paths.

        I think the title is unclear, and “spiritual greed” would be better.

    • sourcreamus says:

      Better a little wildfire than no fire at all.

  58. Jack V says:

    I’m a bit torn on the drinking-while-pregnant thing. On the one hand, avoiding pollutants for developing children is a promising societal intervention. On the other hand, mentioning it even in passing is an excuse for lots of people to just massively and continually dump on people who are pregnant.

    Like, in lots of countries, drinking a small amount while pregnant is perfectly normal, and even if not doing that is *better* “it’s for their own good” is NOT usually a legal or moral defence to “I illegally discriminated against someone”. Bartenders are not doctors, and even doctors should not impose preventative treatment on people against their will except in extreme cases.

    I’m also torn, I think it’s good that other people in your community care about you. But going up to complete strangers and making medical decisions for them is really shitty.

    I’m also curious, did the people enforcing this, ask for doctors notes? Or do they just decide if someone “looks pregnant”, and are they sure that’s not going to discriminate against fat people, or people with ectopic pregnancies, or people who’ve recently given birth or miscarried?

    • Creutzer says:

      You frame it as if it were about the mother. But the other side would probably argue that you’re missing the point and that giving a drink to the mother is to be an accomplice to child abuse.

    • Michael Watts says:

      are they sure that’s not going to discriminate against fat people, or people with ectopic pregnancies

      An ectopic pregnancy is fatal to the woman and must be surgically removed. I can’t make sense of the worry that someone might be discriminating against people with ectopic pregnancies by not serving them drinks. In all likelihood, a woman who is visibly pregnant with an ectopic pregnancy is about to die. She should be in a hospital, not a bar.

      (Some exceptions discussed at )

    • Brad (The Other One) says:

      I’m not torn at all. I can’t look around for five minutes without seeing an anti-smoking advertisement indicating second-hand smoke can harm people and even pets around you; We get get reasonably upset when pollutants in water or air are shown to be linked to birth defects and/or increased cancer rates; I even recall hearing about studies indicating strong links between lead exposure and crime rates 20 years down the road – but we cannot act to prevent exposure to a dangerous substance for the sake of a child because of fear of intruding on a pregnant’s woman’s rights?

      Rights are good, but they end at harm or possible harm to others.

      • Yrro says:

        But what’s your threshold of proof?

        There is no good data that minor amounts of alcohol consumption is damaging to a fetus. We have no idea what the safe level is, so our culture has settled on zero tolerance. Many others have settled on a single drink in a sitting.

        How much proof do we need to ignore someone’s rights for their own child’s good? I’d think it’s more than we have.

        • Randy M says:

          I think it is fair for the law to allow both the mother and the bartender freedom of conscious on the matter.

        • Michael Watts says:

          >We have no idea what the safe level is, so our culture has settled on zero tolerance.

          The reasoning behind the medical recommendation not to drink at all was that we looked for a threshold below which symptoms of fetal alcohol syndrome didn’t occur, and couldn’t find one. This reality coexists with the reality that drinking before you realize you’re pregnant is not considered a moral failure, and that whatever harm you might do to your child thereby will be (a) slight, and (b) impossible to attribute to the alcohol. FAS isn’t a discrete thing.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            As far as I know, Yrro is correct. Do you have a citation for people looking? for FAS being continuous?

          • Michael Watts says:

            For people looking, I’m speaking based on what my mother told me. She is an obstetrician.

            For FAS being continuous, look no farther than the title of the wikipedia page, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.

            Following citations from wikipedia, I find the following in a report from 2015, here: “Mills et al prospectively studied approximately 31 000 pregnancies to determine how much alcohol pregnant women could safely consume and found increased risk of infant growth retardation even when consumption was limited to 1 standard drink daily. [30]”, cited to a paper called “Maternal alcohol consumption and birth weight. How much drinking during pregnancy is safe?” and published in 1984. It goes on:

            The potential for fetal harm increases as maternal alcohol consumption rises.[32,40] Despite methodologic differences, potentially confounding factors, and variable sensitivity among the detection methods applied, these studies support advising that the healthiest choice regarding alcohol use during pregnancy is to abstain.

            It’s a little hard for me to believe that “do you have a citation for people looking” was asked in good faith, since it beggars belief that, once it’s established that alcohol consumption during pregnancy (not a rare circumstance!) causes developmental retardation, people wouldn’t go looking for how much alcohol is necessary to cause the effect. But there you go.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Thanks for the links! I concede that Yrro was incorrect. They have found a threshold: 1 drink/week has better outcomes than abstaining.

        • ScroogeMcDuck says:

          No one has a moral right to force others to do business with them.

    • satanistgoblin says:

      >Like, in lots of countries, drinking a small amount while pregnant is perfectly normal, and even if not doing that is *better* “it’s for their own good” is NOT usually a legal or moral defence to “I illegally discriminated against someone”.

      It should not be illegal. That’s the point. This is preposterous.

      • Deiseach says:

        At the same time, you have people demanding that bars be held accountable for serving people who get into accidents as drunk drivers.

        So there’s pressure for bars to cut off customers and refuse service if they seem like getting drunk from one side, and pressure about it’s our right to get blotto if we want no matter if it might possibly be harmful from the other side.

        Whatever you do, someone is going to be offended and demand There Should Be A Law.

        Is there also any chance that someone might bring a suit against a bar for serving them when they were visibly pregnant if they then go on to have a child with foetal alcohol syndrome? I know it sounds absurd but where lawsuits are concerned, I tend to think somebody will eventually try it.

    • Murphy says:

      there was a very relevant comment on reddit:

      This is not a law. It’s not even a bill. This is like a helpful suggestopinion written by someone who’s job it is to teach people how to not discriminate.

      There’s another city office who’s job it is to issue statements and provide public education about how to avoid liability for harming customers. This department would offer a differing suggestionopinion.

      These are guidelines. There’s no story here – the reporter exaggerated to make the story relevant.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Yes, that is very relevant to Jack: making it illegal to not serve pregnant women doesn’t stop anyone from making it illegal to serve pregnant women.

        But the redditor’s claim that there’s no story is exactly backwards. The (putative) fact that two departments are giving conflicting advice is a very interesting story. The reporter’s claim that NYC has a coherent plan is almost certainly wrong. But that is downplaying the interesting part, not exaggerating it. That they are merely guesses and not settled case law is not reassuring.

    • Corey says:

      I’ve often thought that if “fetal personhood amendments” ever got off the ground then a straightforward combination of that with “illegal to serve alcohol to minors” meant that bars would be unable to serve anyone who appeared to be a woman of childbearing age. Unless maybe they were menstruating, or signed a waiver or something.

      • Murphy says:

        Ireland has explicit fetal personhood and “protection of the unborn” in it’s constitution yet didn’t run into that.

        keep in mind, it’s mostly while something is a political football that you get crap like that.

    • ScroogeMcDuck says:

      It shouldn’t be illegal for a privately owned business to discriminate against anyone for any reason. No one should have a gun to their head telling them who they have to associate or do business with. Least of all bartenders being forced to serve alcohol to pregnant women. That absurdly overzealous interpretation of the 14th amendment tramples all over the 13th amendment.

      • Frank McPike says:

        The laws you’re referring to are not an interpretation of the 14th Amendment, overzealous or otherwise.

      • suntzuanime says:

        Not to mention the 18th amendment…

      • Guy says:

        Antidiscrimination law: upholding the proud institution of slavery since 1954.

      • Murphy says:

        I’d be careful with that for essential services and natural monopolies.

        It’s all well and good if your local coffee shop doesn’t want to serve you but less fun if your hospital declares that they won’t stop the bleeding of “your kind”.

  59. Michael Watts says:

    Correlation of -0.68 between “rule of law” in a country as defined by the World Justice Project, versus road accident deaths per capita in that country. Is this something boring, like better governments making better road systems, or everything about countries always being correlated by development anyway? Or some more fundamental connection between people following the rules while driving and following the rules while governing.

    Well, my first instinct was that it should be the last explanation. On reflection, I'm not so sure.

    If you believe the stereotype of Asian behavior, Chinese people are an obedient, docile bunch. They do not drive that way in China; they drive like total terrifying maniacs. Foreigners new in Shanghai need help to cross the street. To me this looks like support for your middle hypothesis, that road deaths are determined by level of development (as people get used to the roads, they drive more safely).

    “implicit racist attitudes” as measured by Implicit Association Tests do not actually predict whether someone will racially discriminate or not, are of questionable meaningfulness.

    Since you wrote a long piece defending the meaningfulness of implicit association tests, I’d really like to hear more than this drive-by comment. Any chance?

    • “Foreigners new in Shanghai need help to cross the street. ”

      Not my experience in two visits over the past two years.

    • Ilya Shpitser says:

      I heard that road rules cooperation is a proxy for rule of law and in general cooperation in PD situations. One could imagine a population docile due to oppression, but with a defecting norm (leaving China aside as I never lived there, Soviet Union might be a good example).

  60. Daniel says:

    By the standard DW-NOMINATE measurement, the average Republican member of Congress has gotten more than three times as much more right-wing since 1960 than the average Democratic member of Congress has gotten more left-wing.

    In 1916, the median Congressional Democrat and Republican scored about -0.4 and +0.4, where negative means more consistently left-wing and positive more consistently right-wing votes. By 1966, the median members in both parties had moderated, to about -0.25 and +0.25 respectively. Here in 2016, the median Congressional Democrat has gotten more liberal to about -0.4 again, while the median Congressional Republican has gotten more conservative all the way to about +0.8.

    The famous asymmetrical extremism is Republican Congressmen versus Democratic ones. Not Republican voters versus Democratic ones. It’s about the people serving in the House of Representatives, not the people who voted for them. Confusing the two is as bad as confusing “income taxes” for “all taxes.”

    (How do people measure this? Pretty charts and methodology details at Basically you ask the computer to line up everyone in congress in the way that maximally predicts which people vote the same. The best single-number representation of this turns out to match “left-wing to right-wing” pretty well. If you add a second dimension, that used to match “civil rights versus racist” nicely in the days of the 1960s’ pro-segregation Southern Democrats. I don’t believe it still does, though.)

    I personally haven’t seen research saying ordinary voters have gotten asymmetrically more extreme. Honestly it would surprise me if they had, unless you looked at an intense group like “regular campaign donors” or “reliable primary voters”. But the finding that the United States Congressional delegations have gotten much more extreme on the right than on the left is pretty robust.

    Why have the Republicans in Congress moved more right than the Democrats in Congress have left? I don’t think there’s a settled answer on that. I like the suggestion I’ve seen that the Republicans developed an “ideological infrastructure” of think tanks, talk radio, et al in the 1970s-1980s that punished ideological deviations (e.g. with primary challenges) in a way that the Democrats haven’t yet replicated. A complementary suggestion is that the Democrats are inherently more fractious, because as the party of “change” they have different contending groups to attend to, making ideological purity more difficult. (Which can be a feature when it prevents groupthink, or a bug when it makes you susceptible to near-corruption on behalf of one interest group or another.)

    • cassander says:

      DW nominate does not prove what it claims to prove. Imagine the only political issue was the number of buttons on military uniforms. Hardcore republicans want 8, moderates of boh parties 6, and left wing democrats 4. Then there’s an election and a bunch of new super extreme 2 button democrats get elected, while all the 8 button republicans lose. DW nominate would show the republican and democratic parties moving RIGHT, because all the republicans would be clustered around the new furthest right position, 6, while the democrats were spread out over the whole spectrum.

      DW nominate tries some tricks to account for this, but they don’t do it in a way that is sufficient. their method is based on congressional votes and it cannot, by definition, account for movement in the overton window over time.

      • E. Harding says:

        I like the button analogy, but are you sure that’s how it works? And aren’t the politicians in DW-Nominate only allowed to move ideologically at a constant rate? So wouldn’t it take a while for the six-button people to move to the far right?

      • DanielD says:

        Yes, thanks for the analogy. I could sense that something wasn’t right, but didn’t have the mental fortitude to go through the full math.

        So is it fair to think of the dw nominate procedure’s output for Ds and Rs as kind of like skewness (3rd moment) in statistics?

      • Daniel says:

        It’s important, as you note, not to read DW-NOMINATE as a measure of the larger Overton Window of society.

        When incumbent representatives shift views, DW-NOMINATE largely factors it out. The algorithm only sees moves where new representatives differ in their typical left-right ordering from the representatives they replaced.

        Your button example is close, but not correct as given. It all depends on whether the change in button votes comes from reelected officers changing their minds, or from new representatives replacing those officers.

        In the particular case you gave above, since the returning 4-buttoners and 6-buttoners haven’t changed stance, the comparative chart would still show a big move left. 8-buttoners have gone; 2-buttoners have arrived; existing representatives who used to be in the middle of the vote cuts (6-buttoners) are now on the right of the vote cuts. This shows up in DW-NOMINATE as Congress having moved left around them.

        But we could have an alternate example, where nobody got thrown out of office. Let’s say New Scientific Evidence On Button Constriction has made all representatives shift their own views two buttons fewer. That is, the same representatives who had been voting for 4 buttons are now voting for 2 buttons, etc. That would show up as no movement on the chart.

        So you should never use DW-NOMINATE for estimating broad societal moves, like increasing acceptance of gay rights or declining average racism. But it’s quite useful for tracking moves in Congressional representation relative to the larger society.

        (As E. Harding notes, DW-NOMINATE assumes any individual legislator moves at a constant rate through left-right space. This accommodates things like legislators becoming more conservative or more liberal over time.

        The algorithm tries to assign each legislator a starting point and trajectory in left-right (and a second axis) space so as to maximize the likelihood of the model yielding the actually observed data of who votes together or in opposition. If you worked hard at it, you could construct a voting pattern where it was easier to assume the 6-buttoners had moved right than that the Congress had moved left. But in the pattern you presented, the maximum likelihood model is just going to be to correctly identify the 2-buttoners as leftists.)

  61. Alex Richard says:

    Has the more charismatic candidate really won every one of the last thirteen presidential elections?

    No, definitely not. Graham cites absolutely no evidence that the winners of those elections were more charismatic; his assertions about how obviously one candidate or another was obviously more charismatic are non-statistical retrodictions. If Bush had lost in 2000 or 2004, Graham would have written about how Bush’s struggles communicating (e.g. his ‘Bushisms’) showed he was uncharismatic; if Obama had lost in 2008 or 2012, Graham would have written about how the law school professor had failed to connect with the average American.

    We have some fairly strong evidence that the opposite is true. The American National Election Studies has polling data on both candidate ideology and personal qualities; it finds that Graham’s assumptions about which candidate was perceived as better personally than the voters are simply wrong. e.g. Carter, Dole, and Dukakis were higher rated than Reagan, Clinton, and Bush. (see here, pg20) This makes sense, as polling tends to find that personal likeability is not a priority for voters- e.g. even if we restrict ourselves to personal qualities, in 2000 only 2% of people cared the most about the candidates’ likeability.

    It’s of course possible that personal qualities and charisma are different things, and that charisma is a major influence persuading people of your ideology. But at this point this is not just an unsupported retrodiction, it’s one that seems countered by the data we have available.

    • onyomi says:

      I think in most cases it was obvious, on election day, which of the two candidates was the more charismatic. Bush v. Gore is the only ambiguous example I can think of in my lifetime.* Gore was a bit nerdy but still energetic, and, as you say, one could fault W. for some Bushisms, though he certainly wasn’t dull in the way e. g. Dukakis, Dole, Kerry, and Romney were.

      I don’t think if McCain or Romney had beaten Obama we would have interpreted it as someone exciting and dynamic beating someone boring. There would have been other explanations about experience, repudiating Obamacare, or what have you. Personal example: I wanted Obama to lose to Romney and, indeed, thought he might, but I never had any illusions that Romney was a more exciting candidate.

      *And is it a coincidence that the closest election in recent memory also happens to be the one where I have trouble picking an obviously more charismatic candidate?

  62. ThirteenthLetter says:

    Regarding the trollbots story: Unless a breakthrough in AI is posited, this would only work in a large and corporately unregulated space, where the management has neither the ability nor the inclination to look carefully at everyone who joins. A mob of chatbots would be quite noticeable on your average PhPBB board, or even in the comments of a site like this one: they might have a hard time fending off the assault, but everyone is going to know that they are under the equivalent of a denial of service attack.

    Now, that Twitter and the social circles on it could be brought down by unlimited numbers of trollbots, I agree. However, the elimination of one of the world’s largest channels for political propaganda, clickbait journalism, virtue signaling, and angry, uninformed mobs would be a massive boon to humanity, so I say bring on the trollbots and the sooner the better.

  63. Seth says:

    Though I’d hardly rank on a list of notable pundits, I’ll confess a mea culpa about believing Trump could not get the nomination. This was based not on smug liberalism, but nonpartisan cynicism. In the simplest form, the Republican establishment hates Trump, don’t bet against the Republic establishment. Early polls mean nothing. Ben Carson was the Republican frontrunner for a while, where is he now?

    What seems to have happened is like a real-life version of a contrived fictional arena melee group fight. The establishment support fragmented over a large field of candidates, who mostly took each other out. Because they were all vying to be the establishment winner, they all focused on weakening their similar rivals. Trump, as the one non-establishment contender with staying power due to his wealth and name recognition, ended up like the Last Man Standing after the results of the melee, and it was too late to consolidate support against him. Now the establishment has nowhere to go, and they’re stuck with Trump.

    It’s not possible to predict that sort of result from historical polling data. It’s more like a complicated iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma with many players. The Trump opposition is collectively stronger than him at first, but all members want to be the beneficiary of that collective strength, so wind up dissipating it via internal strife.

    The rationality lesson is being overconfident in one’s model when the assumptions underlying it, while usually true, are proving too narrow in a specific context.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      Trump really is popular with Republicans in New York and other northeastern states. Winning 60% in the New York primary was the event that validated him. (He even got 42% in a 3-way race among Manhattan Republicans.)

    • Steve Sailer says:

      The mistake Nate Silver made was not using international election trends in his model. All around the world, immigration policy has been a huge election issue for the last couple of years. There have been all sorts of new developments due to this (mostly on the right, although sometimes on the left, as in Canada).

      • anon says:

        I posted something to this effect on your blog, but you may not have seen it: as far as I know, political scientists are quite skeptical about whether there are valid cross-national electoral inferences to be drawn. I don’t know of any empirical literature on forecasting (say) the conservative party vote share in country X from recent electoral results in countries Y, Z, W; and the political scientists I asked about this didn’t either. It seems like a plausible hypothesis to me, but this might be a genuinely new phenomenon (a social media era phenomenon) in which we can hardly have great confidence with respect to generalizability.

        • Steve Sailer says:

          Perhaps this is all hindsight, but reading the newspapers in the 1970s and 1980s, there were massive global trends, first toward the left in the mid-1970s, then toward the right from, perhaps, the late 1970s leading up to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

          I can remember standing in the rain in March 1983 peering into a newspaper box to read the headline on the critical West German election reject the Soviets’ proposed Nuclear Freeze and thinking: “We’re not going to lose the Cold War.”

        • Aapje says:


          I think that there are clear global trends, but they manifest themselves at different times in different countries, so they aren’t that useful in making predictions.

    • Wrong Species says:

      I also confess to be a Trump dismisser but I wasn’t wrong because he happened to have the good fortune to run in a crowded field.The Trump ceiling theory was disproved when he managed to get over 50% of the vote in some states. I was wrong because nearly everyone underestimated how important stopping illegal immigration was to the typical primary voter and how anti-establishment the people had become. I can’t imagine Trump will win because of his problem with minority voters but I’m not going to make the mistake again of dismissing the possibility as ridiculous.

      • E. Harding says:

        “I can’t imagine Trump will win because of his problem with minority voters”

        -As though Romney had no problems with minority voters and Pennsylvania and Ohio are great bastions of minority voters.

        • Wrong Species says:

          And Romney lost. What’s your point?

          And he can’t rely on rust belt states. He’s going to need to win states like Florida, Colorado, Virginia, and North Carolina. And it’s not exactly like him winning those states can be taken for granted. Trump might win but he can’t rely on white people to help him.

          • E. Harding says:

            Florida is a bastion of minority voters -but…


            Trump doesn’t need Colorado. He does need either Virginia or North Carolina, and, as you know, Southern Whites born in the South have been trending Republican over the last few decades. Boosting Hillary-hatred among them is probably more productive than trying to win over liberal well-off carpetbaggers or southern Blacks.

            “And he can’t rely on rust belt states.”

            -Yes, he can. Ohio and Pennsylvania are rust belt states. He can’t rely on small, disproportionately Mexican states. Romney could have won New Mexico, Florida, Nevada, and Colorado -and he’d still have lost. Are you suggesting Romney seriously go for California? The Mexican vote is far, far less important than the native-born White vote in Presidential races.

            “Trump might win but he can’t rely on white people to help him.”

            -What do you mean by that? Trump isn’t gonna win without appealing to rust belt Whites in Ohio.

            The whole GOP-needs-Mexican-votes-to-win-the-Presidency meme is just a lie. It deserves to die.

          • Wrong Species says:

            You can quote me on this:

            If Trump gets less minority voters than Romney(percentage wise), he’s going to lose. We’ll see who’s right in November.

          • E. Harding says:

            And I say that if Trump loses Luzerne County (90+% Non-Hispanic White), Pennsylvania, he’s going to lose. If he wins it, he will win.

            The GOP does not need a single more non-White vote to win the Presidency.

      • The Nybbler says:

        I expect Trump will do no worse than other GOP candidates among minority voters. Probably a little better. I expect him to actually get a bit of the black working class vote in the northeast.

    • Jill says:

      Scott Adams– the Dilbert cartoon creator– there’s a Wa Po article about him– he has the best explanation by far of why Trump is so popular. Basically he knows to sell himself to people via their emotions. He’s aware that facts, rationality, knowledge etc. do not matter at all. Emotion and identification are the sales tools that work in a presidential election.

      • MugaSofer says:

        I don’t buy Adams’ “Trump is just that good” theory, for the obvious reason everyone is forgetting in this thread: Trump has run before, and failed miserably.

        That’s a big reason no-one took him seriously at first; it looked like a repeat of his previous attempts, in which he ducked out early but got his name in the papers and maybe enhanced his brand a little.

  64. Douglas Knight says:

    the results sat in a file drawer for forty years

    Only 16 years until the publication of the main result. The new publication does various extra analyses that were never published, despite being prespecified, listed here.

  65. mobile says:

    Hillary has the most negative press coverage in the study because the study cherry picked the starting date – January 2015. Trump, Cruz, and Sanders wouldn’t be on anybody’s radar for several months after that.

    • Alejandro says:

      The study is about ratio of negative to positive coverage, so fewer news stories about other candidates is not sufficient explanation.

  66. MicaiahC says:

    I’ll delete this if Scott thinks it’s spam, but I wrote a post on ~tumblr~ talking about What Terrible Security Practices in COMPUTERS can tell you about AI risk.

    The basic gist is that when people designed stuff for the internet age, they basically treated everything they touched as “automatically safe”, instead of taking safety seriously as a priority and this has predictably resulted in large swathes of technology being extremely insecure and prone to exploitation.

    Mostly would like people who know more about crypto/history of the web to correct me or to point me to some more resources to see if my point is sound or just honkin’ crazy.

    • Please don’t delete it, it’s a good point you’re making.

      Computing generally has always been basically a cluster**** of duct tape and temporary fixes. My friend says this goes down even to the hardware level, where registers and other rubbish is strapped onto CPU architectures in a idiotic way to add capacity while retaining backwards compatibility, because basically its impossible to get everyone to rewrite all the software, and because a compatibility layer is too costly to coordinate in a competitive market. Not sure if it could work any different, but the fact that early UNIX stuff was so advanced for its time suggests it might be if you give the best CS academics a bit of time and funding to go nuts.

      I know Linux isn’t BSD, but in what way do you think it’s security model is as bad as Windows?

      For the AI point, I agree that this is correct. I think opposition to this sort of forward thinking is usually because its seen as an annoying distraction to more immediate objectives, The arguments are usually just a smokescreen. Perhaps I’m unfairly attacking motive here, but I think that’s usually how things work.

      Just because I find it so hard to get honest feedback for my blog, I’ll try to provide some – I like your humourous theme, and I found your writing style good, but maybe a bit chaotic. I also found it difficult to get a sense of what your blog theme was (maybe too hidden behind humour?), so didn’t really explore further, even though I liked the article theme quite a bit. That’s pretty normal though, as far as I’ve read in web statistics articles etc, most people come for one article on a blog and leave.

      • TheAncientGeek says:

        It’s only the Intel architecture which is notably messy,

      • MicaiahC says:

        Just because I find it so hard to get honest feedback for my blog, I’ll try to provide some

        Hey, thanks. I guess my blog is mostly “stuff I decide to blog about”. I guess a better way to do this is to have a mostly fun blog and a serious business blog, where things like get posted too.

        I know Linux isn’t BSD, but in what way do you think it’s security model is as bad as Windows?

        Hm, I don’t think it’s as bad as Windows per say, probably should edit the post to make this clear, but I do think that stuff like Permissions and Groups in Unix/Linux seem like a fairly leaky abstraction when it comes to security. I had to set up server on AWS once with Apache and it basically felt like “type in all of these arcane incantations or else the spirit of bruce schneier himself will possess your /usr/bin/ with great vengeance and post your gmail password to 4chan”, which felt fairly brittle; if I didn’t take this seriously beforehand I could easily be making a bunch of mistakes.

        A more succinct summary is that Linux/Unix does not feel Secure By Default, whereas an OS which treated permissions and sandboxing as a primitive, at least I imagine, would be Secure By Default.

        • I’m told that basically “secure by default” = “does nothing useful until you’ve compiled a bunch of stuff from source, entered a 1k decryption key manually, and performed a rain dance to get config files setup”. Or, user-friendly/economic VS secure. Which I guess is your point, we’ve erred too much away from security. Whether it’s a fundamental problem with Linux system architecture, I’m not sure, because I had the impression Linux was kinda BSD with a bunch of stuff preinstalled for ease of use.

          Thanks for reply and article in any case, and keep writing!

      • Anonymous says:

        Why would a compatibility layer be required? That’s what the assembler is for.

        I thought CPU architecture is very decoupled from the programs that run on it.

        • Well I guess its a question of how much fancy stuff you want your assembly code to support with duplication of similar functions for slightly different platforms? Anyway my friend isn’t within earshot so I won’t try defend his view any further.

        • James Picone says:

          A program compiled for one architecture won’t usually run on another CPU architecture unless there’s specific support for backwards compatibility (e.g. 64-bit x86 running 32-bit x86).

          Source code can be written so it can’t be ported to an architecture with different endianness or size of datatypes without someone doing potentially a lot of work. Badly-written networking code can have this problem, for example.

          You have to be writing in C++ or something with similar low-level access that compiles to machine code, but if you’re writing in C# or Java you already have the compatibility layer Citizensearth is talking about – it’s the .net/java runtime.

          • Anonymous says:

            Right, I just find it very surprising that Intel came up with an architecture that they can’t implement because it’s impossible to write a compiler for that architecture that also implements all functions of their old interface. Unless in the CPU world backward compatibility also requires keeping the good performance of older versions.

            So I think the problem was not exactly “the compatibility layer was too costly to write”, and was hoping someone knows what it actually was since it’s a curious case if true.

          • James Picone says:

            If you’re referring to Itanium, badly written code that assumes integers and pointers are the same size and can be freely converted between each other was one problem, other people actually producing stuff for it was the other. Even if you can compile driver X for Itanium, unless the manufacturer of X actually compiles an Itanium version of your driver, you’re screwed. You get nasty network effects because there’s no point in manufacturers putting out Itanium versions of their drivers unless people want to use their stuff on Itanium processors and people don’t want to buy Itanium processors unless there’s driver support. This problem becomes extra vicious because the kind of code most likely to do stupid bit-level pointer hacks is driver code.

            In the case x86 vs x86_64, x86_64 CPUs are specifically backwards compatible with x86 to mostly fix that problem (although as it happens a lot of very old instructions – 8086 era – are /extremely/ slow on modern x86).

            tl;dr: if stuff has to be recompiled, nobody will bother recompiling. If stuff isn’t recompiled, you need explicit backwards compatibility.

    • Murphy says:

      Minor erata:

      Modern Linux has far more relationship with the old unix mainframe systems and multiple users is pretty much an assumption. The average linux box will happily act very much like a mainframe/server.

      For that matter modern windows systems while pretty dire for security again have far more in common with microsofts server software than with windows 95 or 98.

      selinux in particular is an attempt by an NSA team to create a highly secure system. (I assume they have a few subtle back doors though)

      Complexity is the bugger, no matter your initial assumptions.

      Look at qmail vs sendmail.
      Both were written for the internet in an age when people knew there were threats.

      Qmail was written to be simple and secure. Sendmail…. has a config file so complex that there are other programs purely for trying to manage it. The former has very few security holes. The latter has weekly serious security problems.

      The problem with browsers is similar. Complexity. Disable addons, flash, java and javascript and most browsers are pretty solid and fairly resistant to attack but the more features (particularly complex features like turing complete languages in sandboxes) you try to add the more security holes.

      If security is a high priority I can’t remember the last time I heard of an exploit in LYNX with javascript disabled.

      I think this example may be better:

      FTP was written very very early in the days of the internet by a grad student in a few hours. It was written for one server connecting to another in a university. At the time data could only go one way on a socket and so it was designed a certain way.

      Then the internet got big and TCP/IP took off and we could talk 2 directions on a socket. But FTP still existed and had a weird stilted protocol from the pre-TCP-IP days. Without FTP and it’s protocol you wouldn’t need a firewall, you’d just need to configure a router right and you’d be secure. So people had to build expensive firewalls. Now because FTP worked that way other more recent crappy protocols had the freedom to work badly too.

      Now everything has firewalls and the global firewall industry is worth billions.

      because the firewalls exist nobody has to fix the bad protocols.

      it would have taken a good programmer about 2 hours to fix FTP in 1975.

      But the problem is that before TCP/IP existed someone would have needed to guess about the knockon effects of coding ftp to user multiple connections that eventually lead to firewalls in your IP enabled fridge.

      it’s really hard to solve those problems without also spending 10000 hours on problems that never will actually exist.

      Over engineering solutions is a thing: you spend years working on elegant solutions to every problem you can think of but then you’re standing next to your competitor and the customer says “can it sing and dance”and you say “no”(because the complexity was pointless) and your competitor says “absolutely”and they get the sale.

      • Walter says:

        That’s a great link, thanks.

        • MicaiahC says:

          Yeah, agreed about how informative the link was.

          selinux in particular is an attempt by an NSA team to create a highly secure system. (I assume they have a few subtle back doors though)

          I don’t remember where I read this, possibly in the Arrakis OS press release, possibly by some crypto dude like Colin Wright or Thomas Ptarek (sic), but from what I understand the permission system in and of itself is a far cry from an ideal sandboxed OS. The backdoor thing is a part of it, but aside from that the memory used in the OS isn’t as isolated as a more secure OS would be.

          I’m not sure how much of what I’m saying is true, and also it’s possible it’s the standard paranoid security researcher response to always advocate for more certainty in their stack (because their threat model tends to include Nation States)

          The Qmail/sendmail example is very interesting. Gwern has stated that single people have produced relatively secure protocols/implementations alone (Bittorrent, Tor and Bitcoin were the cited examples). …and I see here that Qmail was also written by a single developer. There really is a point about having programs be simple. Thanks!

      • Garrett says:

        I always wondered why FTP was like that. Thanks!

  67. Vorkon says:

    Am I the only one who was disappointed to find out that the link about the New York Bar being told they couldn’t deny service to pregnant women had nothing to do with lawyers?

    • suntzuanime says:

      Does “horrified” count as disappointed?

    • Nita says:

      While being denied entry to bars may not be the first concern of most pregnant women, city officials confirmed they had at least once case pending of a woman who has formally complained precisely of such an incident, although they declined to give details.

      It seems to say that a pregnant woman was prevented from entering a bar, which does seem rather excessive.

      • Deiseach says:

        Until we know further details, we can’t really comment. It could turn out to be the likes of the below:

        Ms A claims she was prevented from entering Bar X because she was pregnant. Ms A neglects to mention she was accompanied by her aggressive boyfriend and the pair of them were engaged in a loud public screaming match and boyfriend threatened to tear the face off the barman, who then refused them admittance.

        I’m probably jaundiced from my dealings with the public as a minor local government bureaucratic minion, but people who go running to their lawyers and the local media generally only give one side of the story and it’s the one most favourable to them, especially when there’s the possibility of a pay-out involved.

        It’s very frustrating when you’re bound by confidentiality, etc. and can’t ring up the local radio station which has just broadcast the heart-rending case of Ms C and the heartless bureaucrats mistreating her to say “Look, the lying baggage is lying and this is the evidence to prove she’s lying” 🙂

  68. Chris Thomas says:

    Regarding the Social Darwinism link, Roderick Long and George H. Smith have both written extensively defending Herber Spencer, probably the most smeared “Social Darwinist” thinker. This is a nice essay if anyone is interested:

    On second thought, it’s a nice essay even if no one is interested.

    • Samuel Skinner says:

      I am!

      • Wrong Species says:

        Seconded, I find it interesting how Spencer got picked as the prototypical social darwinist. His views are pretty standard libertarian but only he gets labelled a social darwinist.

        • Brandon Berg says:

          As a libertarian, I guarantee you that Spencer isn’t the only person on the receiving end of that slur.

    • Chris Thomas says:

      And even though this article appears on, the author is not in the least “paleo”. He’s actually one of the leading exponents of a certain brand of left-libertarianism.

  69. Phil says:

    My area is statistical mechanics, not general relativity, but I’ve taken courses in GR and quantum field theory, and I can tell you that this particular EmDrive theory is trash. It is a fairly straightforward exercise in QFT to compute the radiation pressure associated with Unuh radiation at some acceleration, and this is by many orders of magnitude not sufficient to explain “inertia.”

    Amusingly, since mass is quantized, “inertia” is of course also quantized, but this is not sufficient to explain any magical space propulsion systems.

    It’s worth pointing out here that the business model of the arXiv reporter at the Tech Review seems to be to find some very bad crackpot papers and then report them as thought they were respectable science. Often the articles are exaggerated beyond even the wild claims of their dubious sources, and frequently contain outright lying. There are many examples. I strongly recommend against putting any credence in any of these reports, and frankly Tech Review should be ashamed for publishing them.

    • JuanPeron says:

      Could you confirm a suspicion I’ve had?

      You point out that inertia is quantized because mass is quantized, which is what I suspected when I read the summary. Given that mass, time, and distance are quantized, does that imply that all of their higher-order constructs (momentum, acceleration, etc) are also quantized?

      More broadly, are all properties expressed only in kg, s, and m quantized?

      • Anonymous says:

        Think about it this way: assume that mass, time, and distance could only take integer values. Then any derived unit that involved multiplying, adding or subtracting mass, time, and distance could also only take on integer values and any derived unit that involved those plus division could only take on rational values. There’s no way to add, subtract, multiply, and divide integers and come up with an irrational number.

        • Alex Trouble says:

          Would a value that can take on rational values be considered quantized? You can have distinct values arbitrarily close together.

          • Anonymous says:

            I thought that continuous = reals, but now that you mention it that sounds like a reasonable argument. Guess we’ll have to see if a physicist answers.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            There are serious epistemological issues in proposing a theory where something only takes on rational values.

          • Alex Zavoluk says:

            “There are serious epistemological issues in proposing a theory where something only takes on rational values.”

            Such as? As far as I know you could never measure a value to infinite precision, and therefore couldn’t tell if a physical value was irrational.

          • Anonymous says:

            If angular momentum is quantized, doesn’t that mean it effectively can only take on rational values (or only integer values given the right base unit)?

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Alex, yes, I guess that’s all I mean, that it’s not possible to distinguish between the hypothesis that something takes on rational values. Of course, it depends on the actual hypothesis. Most dynamics for reals don’t make sense for rationals. But what should be our prior on the fine structure constant? Was it right to put an atom of measure at 1/137?

            Anon, angular momentum takes on integral values, which is a quite different situation.

          • Alex Trouble says:

            “Most dynamics for reals don’t make sense for rationals.”

            We already use continuous objects to approximate discrete systems all the time. For example, calculus with smooth functions helps study fluids that are actually made of particles. I would expect a physical quantity that can take rational values to be well-approximated by a real-valued one; for example, if you have a function that’s continuous on rationals, that defines precisely one continuous function on reals.

      • Anonymous says:

        You are starting from bad assumptions. Time isn’t quantized. Distance isn’t quantized. In most cases, momentum isn’t quantized. Acceleration isn’t quantized.

        Many laypeople seem to thing “quantum mechanics means everything is discrete.” It’s not true. Basically the only thing that is quantized is the energy levels of certain systems. For example, the energy levels of electrons in atoms are quantized. (The energies of free electrons outside atoms are not quantized.)

        In particular, there is no indication that time or space are discrete.

        • William Newman says:

          “Basically the only thing that is quantized is the energy levels of certain systems.”

          I agree with your general point that most observables don’t have discreteness that matters experimentally. But besides energy, I think angular momentum deserves to be on the short list of properties for which quantization commonly becomes important.

          • Anonymous says:

            angular momentum deserves to be on the short list of properties for which quantization commonly becomes important.

            Yes, thanks.

        • If time or space isn’t quantized, doesn’t that mean that the universe is keeping track of an infinite amount of information?

          • Anonymous says:

            Yes, in quantum mechanics the universe seems to be keeping track of an infinite amount of information. (Even more information than in classical mechanics, which is why I groan whenever someone suggests that quantum mechanics is a sign that the universe is being simulated using a computationally cheap numerical approximation scheme).

            Actually, QM requires the universe to keep track of an infinite amount of information even if time and space are quantized. QM is formulated in terms of “probability amplitudes.” Probability amplitudes are complex numbers which can vary continuously. So each amplitude requires an infinite amount of information to store exactly.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Most QM involves infinite dimensional vector spaces. I think most people believe that reality is a finite dimensional vector space approximating such an infinite dimensional model, at least locally.* It is true that even in a finite dimensional vector space the amplitudes still contain infinitely much information, but there are senses in which they contain only finitely much information.

            * I think that this finiteness is implied by the cosmological constant plus quantum gravity, but I think it is also expected without a cosmological constant, though maybe that only implies some kind of local finiteness.

          • Jeremy says:

            I don’t believe so. There are physical limits on the amount of information stored in a location. This applies to classical bits and quantum bits. From the Scott Aaronson interview:

            Secondly, one of the most important things we’ve learned about quantum gravity—which emerged from the work of Stephen Hawking and the late Jacob Bekenstein in the 1970s—is that in quantum gravity, unlike in any previous physical theory, the total number of bits (or actually qubits) that can be stored in a bounded region of space is finite rather than infinite. In fact, a black hole is the densest hard disk allowed by the laws of physics, and it stores a “mere” 1069 qubits per square meter of its event horizon!

  70. Steve Sailer says:

    “there’s very little evidence that people of that era used the term ‘social Darwinism’ or used Darwinian theory to justify their social policies.”

    There wasn’t a lot of difference between Darwinism and British classical economics (Smith, Malthus, Ricardo) in apparent social policy implications. So people had lots of highbrow handwaving arguments against, say, Shaftesbury’s proposed act banning employment of chimney sweeps before age 12, both before and after 1859.

  71. Sniffnoy says:

    The “charismatic movement” article is from 1997. Anyone know what’s happened since then?

    • Vorkon says:

      Heh. At first I thought you were talking about the article about charismatic presidents. I was THIS CLOSE to hitting “post” on a snarky comment about how incredibly charismatic presidents Gore, Kerry, McCain, And Romney were, before I realized which article you actually meant. :op

      • Richard Gadsden says:

        Nixon is the counter-example on charisma for Presidents.

        • Nornagest says:

          Conventional wisdom is that charisma got a lot more important in the TV era. Nixon is really no exception to that; he famously got his ass kicked on TV by JFK. But the 1968 elections were a weird race in a weird time, and Nixon faced a divided and indecisive DNC. (Humphrey was no prize, either, and while Wallace had charisma he also had, er, polarizing views.)

          Lincoln had the charisma of a sack of ball bearings. But he was a hell of a writer.

    • Paul says:

      Hi Sniffnoy,

      It has morphed into becoming part of the “mainstream” Charismatic/Pentecostal church movement – the phenomena has become less common / dramatic. Members of charismatic churches would generally look at the events of the mid-90s as a time of ‘revival’/’spiritual refreshing’ when God visited them.


    • In the 1990’s I was at a charismatic church which was heavily involved in everything described in that article. AMA.

      • Brad (The Other One) says:

        I’m very curious. I’ve had my own experiences which have ranged from outrageous & embarrassing to outright creepy. The first church I started visiting semi-regularly on my own initiative in high school was a small congregation similar to the article, but nowhere nearly as a exaggerated. Just glossolalia from the pastor/worship leaders and occasionally someone lying down in an aisle.

        For the latter, I once visited a small house congregation where the female worship leader would kept demanding members of her small house church give “prophecy” or speaking tongues – at which point someone would spontaneously just start talking as though they were God in the first person and/or engaging in glossolalia. This same group would, during their sermon, almost casual remark that they denied the divinity of Christ which probably doesn’t mean much to most readers here but was huge red flag for me.

        What about you?

        • Your experience with the house church sounds slightly more fringe. My church was pretty mainstream for a charismatic church, but what “mainstream” means in charismatic Christianity is not what passes for mainstream everywhere else.

          Rodney Howard Browne, the main character in the linked article, visited my home church. I also attended a youth group which visited the church where the “Toronto Blessing” originated, and my parents visited the church in Brownsville which was the focus of another major revival in the late 90’s. So I had direct participation in all of those things, and some amount of all of these antics were present on a regular basis on my church’s sunday services and my youth group meetings.

          Here’s a quick resume. I have:
          * Spoken in tongues (regularly, frequently, and as a matter of habit)
          * Been “slain in the spirit” (rendered unconscious/immobile by the touch of a charismatic leader)
          * Experience uncontrollable shaking
          * Cried. A lot. Crying during services was so ordinary as to barely merit a mention.
          * Danced under the influence of the Holy Spirit
          * Prayed for other people and had them be “slain in the spirit” at my touch
          * Laughed in the Holy Spirit

          Additionally, I’ve been at meetings where people were drunk in the Spirit, “glued” in the Spirit, claimed miraculous healings, saw visions of angels, were rendered dumb, etc. Basically, any weird Charismatic thing that you can think of, I was there and either saw it or did it.

          So you may be asking yourself what I’m doing here at SSC, and why I’m kissing icons in church every Sunday. Basically, all of this was going on while I was in my late teens, and I was heavily involved with it. I had not a lick of skepticism about the whole thing throughout my teens. However, this had a really distorting influence on my spirituality and psychology. To begin with, my spiritual life was overwhelmingly devoted to the pursuit of extreme experiences. A church meeting in which none of the manifestations mentioned above occurred was regarded as a failure, at least by me, and I gauged my spiritual health by how often and how intensely I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit in this manner. I was, in turn, extremely proud of how “spiritual” I was, and I took myself as an example of what a true Christian should be.

          The culmination of all of these trends was a youth conference that I attended when I was 17, which involved three days of communal fasting and three long, intense meetings per day along the lines described above. At the time, I considered it the greatest experience of my life, and I experience an intense, nearly dissociative euphoria that lasted for weeks afterwards.

          But, unfortunately, once the euphoria wore off my psychology seemed to have been damaged by too much Holy Spirit. To avoid making the story any longer than it already is, I fell into a period of intense depression, including one serious suicidal episode (it wasn’t quite an “attempt”, since my girlfriend talked me out of it when I called her to say goodbye), and months of total alienation. What’s worse is that, given the kind of spirituality that I enjoyed beforehand, I experienced this not just as depression (which is pretty bad), but as a total loss and failure of everything that I understood about myself, God, and religion. My pre-depression self believed that it was not possible for a true Christian to experience what I was experiencing. This crisis nearly ruined me.

          (I even tried being an atheist for a while, but I just couldn’t alieve that there was no God.)

          Eventually it wore off, and I regained the ability to function as a human being. But I left the charismatic world and have never looked back.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Looking back, what do you believe about what you experienced in your teens? Do you still think it was the Holy Spirit, or was it your own psychology, or even demonic influence?

            (I attended an Assemblies of God church for about a month in my late teens, while my parents were looking for a new church. It was about as mainstream as it’s possible to be; I didn’t see anything there that couldn’t have happened at the Southern Baptist church we used to go to. However, my mother used to attend a charismatic church back in the 80’s where they would all would speak in tongues regularly – so I’m not denying it happens.)

          • Brad (The Other One) says:

            I wish I had more interesting questions to ask. But here is one:

            The physiological – or rather, subjective experience of charismatic fervor – the stuff you list in bullet points – how could you describe that state?

            edit: one more thing, may or may not be relevant: but did you hear a “buzzing” during any of these experiences?

          • @Brad

            That’s a difficult question. It depends a lot on what the specific experience was: being slain in the spirit and becoming immobile was different, obviously, from shaking uncontrollably or going into fits of uncontrollable sobbing.

            There was always a significant amount of physiological excitement (not that I thought about it in those terms): elevated heart rate, the feeling of adrenaline in the blood, rapid breathing. Combined with those physical symptoms, there was usually a subjective, emotional quality to the experience which I’d compare to infatuation. I assume that at some point you’ve experienced that really intense infatuation which makes you nearly sick to your stomach and unable to think about anything else; it was a lot like that, but without any specific object to the obsession. Sometimes it felt like being intensely in love with God, but at other times it was just that feeling of intense emotional agitation, unattached to anything.

            For more overt physical symptoms, such as shaking, moaning, or being “drunk in the Spirit”, the comparison to drunkenness was actually quite good, in that it felt like the normal connection between your conscious mind and your body had been disrupted. Your body either wouldn’t react to your mind’s commands, or it would act without your will, as if possessed (*cough*) by an outside force.

            The other memorable aspect was what it felt like after you went home. I was typically tired, but very very happy, like the physiological state right after an orgasm or a strenuous workout.

          • @Evan:

            Depends on the specifics. Some things had surprisingly mundane explanations. Why did people laugh in the Spirit at Rodney Howard Browne? Because he would literally make faces at the audience to make them laugh. Then, given the atmosphere and expectations, the laugher would cascade into uncontrollable hysteria, and Brown would chalk it up to the Holy Ghost and go on from there.

            I think that speaking in tongues is mostly psychological. Paying attention to how charismatics actually go about speaking in tongues, it seems to me to be a way of engaging the brain’s linguistic centers, but disconnected from the lexicon and semantic layers. I basically never heard people using phonemes or syllables structures that would have been illicit in English (other than me — I was a linguistics nerd even then), and that people often had to be explicitly coached in how to start speaking in tongues. This is consistent with a learned, psychological trick. The purpose and effect of speaking in tongues was to induce a “prayerful” meditative state, and it is indeed pretty effective along those lines.

            The weirder and more extreme stuff, though? I know of two possible explanations:
            1) Demons
            2) Something something crowd psychology, an explanation which is functionally equivalent to “demons”.

          • Brad (The Other One) says:

            @Mai La Dreapta

            I’ll just throw in something else, not really a direct response nor a query:

            I once recall seeing, in the context of watching Christian youtube videos warning of ‘new age’ spirituality/deceptions, a clip of film that seemed rather old, maybe from the 80s or older, as many of the men and women had hairstyles that seemed dated. (And can’t find the specific clip I’m thinking of, which might be alright as it was borderline-nsfw). It seemed to ostensibly be demonstrating a large group of western people engaged in some form of kundalini yoga; almost everyone was dressed similarly in t-shirts and shorts, and the people were filmed as they went through various ‘states’, which involved, variously, jumping up and down rhythmically, screaming at the top of their lungs, a blissful state of recovery, among other things.

            The reports of the charismatic church’s antics remind me of this video quite a bit.

          • keranih says:

            @Mai La Dreapta



            I mean, God works in mysterious ways and who sets a seal on the stars and all that…but when I look back at the overt references to the Holy Spirit, I get stuff like small still voice, and when I look for stuff like the most extreme charismatics do, I see my name is legion and herds of pigs running into the sea.

            I am willing to accept that there are things beyond my understanding, but this makes me very uncomfortable.

          • Viliam says:

            @Mai La Dreapta:

            I recommend reading The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, which provides an interesting alternative explanation for your experience.

            The short version is that this is the way brains worked for our ancestors, and it is caused by left and right brain hemispheres working somewhat independently. What you perceive as “you” is simply your dominant hemisphere, and what you perceive as “Holy Spirit” (or maybe “demons”) is your non-dominant hemisphere when it acts independently.

            During the recent millenia there was an evolutionary pressure against this kind of brain functionality; the integration between the hemispheres has increased. The old behavior now mostly manifests in extreme situations (and for schizophrenics also in normal situation), but to some degree it can be learned.

            The author suggests that the Old Testament actually provides a record of how this brain functionality gradually diminished. Deep in the past you had people who literally walked and talked with God (or gods, as in the Illiad). Then the ability was limited to prophets who were respected and obeyed; but gradually people noticed that sometimes different prophets contradict each other in ways that were difficult to rationalize away, so they started testing their predictions and killing the false prophets (and also killing all prophets of the competing religions) which created an evolutionary pressure against them; and then the prophets more or less disappeared and almost no one treats them seriously.

            A somewhat similar situation can be caused by hypnosis, which probably means that the individual hemispheres pay more attention to the hypnotist than to each other.

          • MugaSofer says:

            The descriptions of being able to induce drunkenness, paralysis, visions or hallucinations, and being “‘glued’ in the Holy Spirit” all remind me intensely of descriptions of hypnosis.

            Those all sound eerily like standard stage hypnotist tricks – although they would focus more on the dancing and especially the visions (of things rather different than angels,) and I imagine the atmosphere and experience would be intensely different. (Speaking in tongues, as you note, seems more like something people learn to do on command through practice.)

            Then again, hypnosis is itself a near-liminal experience at times, beloved of frauds and magicians.

      • Anon says:

        During your time at charismatic churches did you ever hear anyone (critic or supporter) bring up scripture relevant to spiritual gifts such as Corinthians 14?

        • bluto says:

          It’s been commonly quoted at every Charismatic Church I’ve attended (and my folks church shopped a lot).

          • Evan Þ says:

            Did any of them actually follow that passage’s instructions (e.g. 1 Corinthians 14:28, “If there be no interpreter, let [someone who’s speaking in tongues] keep silence in the church”?)

          • Randy M says:

            I grew up in an AG church, and when tongues were taught on, that was the instruction, and generally it was followed. Everyone babbles incoherently at once was not seen as a positive sign, either as misusing your gifts or as not a real instance of God’s spirit.

          • bluto says:

            In my experience, all of them did (and there were usually a few older men who would call violations out). Afterward a pastor or worship leader (depending on the timing) would usually read/quote that text.

        • Harkonnendog says:

          Thank you for bringing that up. It led me to learn some stuff.


  72. Wrong Species says:

    On tech stagnation, someone asked “Is there stagnation in technologies related to the service sector?” That’s an interesting question and makes me wonder if service productivity is just inherently harder to do than manufacturing productivity. An interesting post here:

    “For Gordon’s critics, they can be right that individual technologies are still growing quickly, but what they do not account for is that labor may be moving out of those sectors and hence aggregrate growth could still be low. If we could get finer and finer levels of industry data, it is quite possible that what looks like a decline in within-sector growth in 2009/2010 is really just negative across-industry growth at those finer levels of industry. Gordon being wrong about whether specific technologies are improving does not make him wrong about aggregate growth declining.”

    • CaptainNemo says:

      It’d be interesting to see if the long term decline in Western productivity growth (Source) is strongly correlated with a decrease in manufacturing’s share of the economy and an increase in services’.

      It certainly makes intuitive sense that it’s hard to make services more productive, at least without also making them worse. i.e. if your hairdresser has 5 times as many appointments per hour then they’re 5 times more productive… but your haircut probably isn’t as good as you might have been expecting.

  73. BBA says:

    “San Francisco to require Uber and Lyft drivers to obtain business licenses” – well, there’s clearly some kind of business taking place. Uber and Lyft adamantly deny that their drivers are employees or that they operate car services. If you take them at their word, then the drivers are independent contractors, each operating an independent car service and thus each requiring a separate business license. Makes sense to me.

    Unless of course, you’re making the libertarian argument that all business licensing requirements are an infringement of freedom of contract and inherently oppressive, which is a fair enough position to take. In which case you should disregard the first paragraph because it operates under assumptions you reject.

    • Tom Womack says:

      How onerous is the task of getting a business licence, assuming that Lyft’s legal department and process-automation team have devoted a moderate amount of effort to the problem; is it a task that cannot be reduced to ‘fill in _this_ web form at; sign the pack of papers that we will send you in the nine places indicated with post-it notes and return it in the DHL bag provided’, plus one intern to stick post-it notes on packs of papers and one to walk a bag of packs of papers round City Hall weekly?

      • Hlynkacg says:

        How onerous is the task of getting a business license

        That right there is the question. In my own experience it varies wildly even within the state. It wouldn’t surprise me to find out that the Bay Area has some particularly onerous requirements compared to the central valley for instance.

        • Anonymous says:

          It’s an orthogonal issue though. If there’s a longstanding rule that’s onerous, it is not some fresh outrage every time it is applied. In fact, I’d say inconsistency would be even worse than either keeping the rule in place *or* repealing it altogether.

          It’s amazing to me that uber has managed to somehow build a fanboy base that is willing to argue for ad hoc exceptions on its behalf. It’s one thing to be a fanboy for a game console or a cell phone brand, but a taxi service?!?

          • Randy M says:

            It’s a taxi service mixed with an ap. That’s kind of like a game console.

          • LHN says:

            I’d support the ad hoc exception on the theory that once their competitors can’t use it to slow down Uber/Lyft competition, they’ll switch to lobbying against the requirements themselves on fairness grounds. (Where they’re willing to support the status quo while it serves as a barrier to entry.)

            While I don’t use any ride service enough to be a fanboy, on the rare occasions I need a ride I’ll use Uber, where cabs are a strictly desperation move. (I’ll take an hour on the L over a twenty minute cab ride.) Too many experiences with cabs tailgating and otherwise driving in a way that strikes me as dangerous (and is certainly stressful to me) especially with the often inaccessible seatbelts. For the most part Uber drivers in my experience simply don’t drive like that.

            I assume that’s the difference in incentives. For cabs, it’s all about getting there and then getting the next fare (and presumably a lot of passengers tip for speed rather than safety), while Uber drivers are additionally critically dependent on customer ratings.

            (I once gave a driver four stars out of five, which struck me as still a good rating and certainly not a major criticism. I immediately received an email asking what had gone wrong (it had taken enough longer for the car to arrive for pickup than the time estimate that it didn’t strike me as quite five-star perfect), with a human (or apparently so) agent asking how they could resolve my “problem”. That’s… so far outside the realm of my experience with cabs that they hardly seem as if they’re operating in the same realm.)

          • Hlynkacg says:


            That has been my experience as well.

          • Saint Fiasco says:

            Why wouldn’t people feel stronger about a taxi service than they do about game consoles?

            Taxi services are useful, sometimes vital. Not having those gets people killed or mugged.

      • BBA says:

        Here in New York City, Uber is a registered livery service, the cars all have taxi plates and the drivers have to get T&LC driver’s licenses. And it’s still often cheaper than a yellow cab.

        (This may not be a useful comparison. Surprisingly given all the red tape in the city government, NYC doesn’t actually have a general “business license,” just licenses for specific types of businesses.)

    • Guy says:

      I’d argue that Uber and Lyft are properly conceptualized (and structured, if this is not the case; I don’t know their structure) as what they advertise to be: a ride sharing service, not a ride acquiring service. The ideal model would be: a would-be passenger downloads the (free) app, and uses it to request rides as normal. A would be driver downloads or subscribes to a paid version of the app that provides mapping software and allows them to receive requests from potential fares. The driver can set their own price (per mile), and a maximum distance driven. The passenger gives a destination and some maximum price range, and the app includes features for an implicit negotiation, rather than an explicit one. Uber/Lyft have nothing to do with the actual pricing. The driver can, at any time, stop listing themselves as “driving”, and will no longer appear to passengers, with no penalty (except potential lost revenue, of course).

      If you still think the drivers are operating independent businesses in that scenario, ok. But I don’t think that’s a business that should need a license, any more than someone who holds a garage sale needs a license to open a store. As it stands, Given mechanisms like surge pricing, Uber drivers do seem to be employees of Uber at this time, and Uber should therefore be subject to appropriate regulations.

      • Nita says:

        Well, Uber does say things like:

        With Vehicle Financing, Uber takes a large step forward in its endeavour to create entrepreneurs in every section of society. We have now empowered individuals and have created an ecosystem that will enable hundreds of thousands of Indians to become new business owners.

        Here’s to another million entrepreneurs!

        So, according to them, every Uber driver is an entrepreneur running their own taxi business.

        • Guy says:

          Yeah, that’s … not what I think people want them to be. I mean, modern taxi service, great, but a non-taxi ride coordination service would probably be better. I think. Maybe. Anyway, it’s clearly not the case, because Uber makes at all decisions about ride pricing.

      • John Schilling says:

        a ride sharing service, not a ride acquiring service

        “Ride sharing”, to me, implies two or more different people making the same trip for reasons that do not include “this guy is paying me to drive him there”. I have never been under the impression that any Uber driver I have “shared” a ride with, had any motive other than my payment. And I’ve never felt that Uber was trying to advertise anything different.

        If Uber is advertising, “Hey, we’ll hook you up with someone who was going your way anyhow, and you can split the gas money with them”, I strongly believe Uber is lying.

        • keranih says:

          I agree with you on the Uber business model. However, I would strongly support the business model where, for ten minutes preplanning, I can pick up someone going the same way and get paid a bit of gas money. I would make use of this as a passenger, you betcha.

          • John Schilling says:

            I suspect that the probability of finding someone who is genuinely going the same way at the same time is sufficiently low that it wouldn’t be worth my time checking the app. And this is sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy, because if it’s not worth my time checking the app, it’s not worth the would-be driver’s time updating it from their end.

            It is possible that such a model could achieve criticality in e.g. Manhattan or San Francisco; I’m not sufficiently familiar with driving patterns there to say.

          • CaptainNemo says:


            I have no idea if this is used widely enough to regularly be of practical use. I think my girlfriend used it (or an equivalent) in France once though, for a trip to Paris from another city. Which is the kind of trip it’s most likely to be useful for.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            If we were, e.g., evacuating a state and just wanted to get people west as fast as possible, ride shares would be great.

            But I don’t want to hop in three different cars to get to work. If I’m going to be inconvenienced by having to share a ride, then I absolutely need to get dropped right near the door.

  74. Roman Davis says:

    The Philippines had a national election yesterday. They elected a populist who says stupid things and may be implicated with the Davao Death Squads, a very prolific vigilante group. John Oliver calls him the Trump of the East.

    On the other hand, as mayor of Davao, things got a lot safer, so there’s that.

    • Anonymous says:

      On the other hand, as mayor of Davao, things got a lot safer, so there’s that.

      Killing criminals does have an effect of lowering crime.

      • Walter says:

        You’d think that would be obvious, but it’s actually a super contentious point. Dalrymple rails endlessly about how Britain has stopped believing that criminals cause crime.

      • DrBeat says:

        I don’t really think so.

        Well, actually doing that may reduce crime, but nobody who claims to be doing that is actually doing that — they are killing people they dislike, and a regime that kills people it dislikes is generally not all that great about actual policing stuff.

        • Anonymous says:

          Are they actually killing “people they dislike” and not “criminals”? (Yes, yes, they might dislike criminals, but that’s not the point.)

      • Aapje says:

        Killing criminals does have an effect of lowering crime.

        Unless it produces cops/vigilantes that are so used to transgressive behavior that they become criminals themselves.

        And unless these killings are not done based on convictions, but based on ‘guilty until proven innocent,’ resulting in many innocent deaths, whose family then retaliates.

        • Anonymous says:

          Well, whatever they are doing in Davao, it’s working.

          • This is reminding me– with a little luck I’ll find author and title– of a theory of levels of behavior in a book about psychology/dysfunctional families/addiction– that authoritarianism, even fairly harsh authoritarianism– is simply better than letting everyone be destructively impulsive.

    • Brad (The Other One) says:

      >On the other hand, as mayor of Davao, things got a lot safer, so there’s that.

      I’ve heard people dispute this in a number of filipino-centric forums, actually. (this came up, for example:

      >According to the PNP’s [Philippine National Police] Crime Situation for calendar year 2010 to 2015, of the recorded index crimes for the top 15 chartered cities nationwide, Davao City posted the most number of recorded murders at 1,032. It was followed by Quezon City (961) and Cebu City (806). Naga City meanwhile posted the least number of murders at 45 while Makati had 113 incidents.

      >The PNP recorded a total of 6,010 murders for the top 15 chartered cities nationwide for 2010 to 2015. Included in the top 15 chartered cities nationwide are Quezon City, Manila, Cebu, Davao, Cagayan de Oro, Baguio, Zamboanga, Ilolilo, General Santos City, Bacolod, Angeles, Makati, Iligan, Naga and Mandaue.

      >Meanwhile, Davao also ranked second among the 15 chartered cities in terms of recorded rape incidents. From 2010 to 2015, Quezon City recorded the most number of rape cases at 1,122 followed by Davao at 843.

      I’m not sure if they’re including the extrajudicial killings of criminals in these stats or not, however, nor how this compares to previous years – and that’s without remarking on the famously corrupt reputation of Filipino government.

      • Nornagest says:

        Would be more meaningful if it was per capita. Davao City is about 1.4 million people; Quezon City is about 2.8, and Cebu is about 0.9. (Naga has 200,000 people, and Makati half a million.) Of course, that doesn’t make Davao look better.

  75. Eggoeggo says:

    Tumblr Rationalists were mocking people who dislike the FDA the other day, because Stupid Libertarians Want People To Die Eating Lead Paint As Patent Medicine.
    Turns out people mostly just want to be able to buy artificial pancreases (pancreatae?) for their diabetic children, instead of making them in the garage while the FDA sits on developer applications forever..
    Amazing how much a mechanically-minded person can do from home these days, isn’t it? Imagine what kind of products we’d see if people were allowed to collaborate more.

    • drethelin says:

      As someone who would happily see the FDA burned to the ground I’d like to file a complaint as to your portrayal of who was mocking whom and for what.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      pancreases (pancreatae?)


    • Deiseach says:

      And if you read the article, the Amazing Do-It-Yourself Artificial Pancreas is actually an old insulin pump (so, technology that was created, tested and licenced through the Bad Old System) rejigged with some computerisation.

      For mealtimes (the most important time when trying to calculate insulin dosages) it still has to be done manually, i.e. they have to work out the bolus and carry out the injection.

      And sometimes the pump breaks down. For an individual DIY project, that’s not so bad. For a mass-market device that consistently has a failure rate, you’re looking at a load of customers who will complain, return the product and claim refunds, and badmouth your machine (would you buy a car where the chances are that once a month it won’t start?) Maybe you’ll even end up sued if a customer (or customers) has a health problem arising out of “your device didn’t inject the insulin when it should have/gave me too high or too low a dose”.

      Things like that are why developers need to do large-scale testing to work out the bugs before bringing a product to market. I don’t see any evidence that the “FDA are sitting on developer applications forever”, rather that some people are jumping ahead with DIY devices based on already-existing technology (they’re not inventing those insulin pumps themselves).

    • MugaSofer says:

      I … may have bashed the Lead Paint Libertarians a little, but the impression I got was that I was very much in a minority – everything I wrote on the topic was a direct response to someone else, which seems like it would limit the volume. (Although maybe not, if we all ganged up on someone …)

      Stuff like Scott saying “people aren’t dumb enough to feed their kids drain cleaner, so why worry about applying less obviously-lethal medical-seeming substances wrongly?”

      • Jiro says:

        Reading that. I think Scott is distinguishing two different things: whether it should be legal to sell an unapproved drug (FDA) and whether it should be legal to get a drug without a doctor’s prescription (medical monopoly). Scott is phrasing it using the word “you”, which makes this not very clear, but he’s actually only objecting to the first one–he wants doctors to be permitted to prescribe unapproved drugs, he doesn’t want people to be able to buy drugs on their own.

        • MugaSofer says:

          If the medical guilds are preventing people from selling lead paint as a cancer cure, then they’re serving as a makeshift FDA, and all Scott wants is to make the FDA slightly more easygoing. If they aren’t, then somebody needs to.

      • Deiseach says:

        people aren’t dumb enough to feed their kids drain cleaner

        People don’t do it deliberately, but kids still manage to poison themselves. From 2010: “An estimated 267 269 children ≤5 years of age were treated in US emergency departments for household cleaning product-related injuries. ”

        And there was a very recent news story here about detergent capsules will be given bitter flavours to stop young children eating them. Now, I don’t know about you, but I find it tough enough to open the containers of such capsules, yet apparently enough children three years of age and younger can manage it to make it worth the manufacturers’ while to take extra precautions.

        So even with being careful and taking precautions, shit can happen. Getting rid of red tape is good; junking the FDA or other bodies is not so good, unless we’re all going to agree “If you buy this alleged medicine over the Internet and it turns out to explode your liver, you can’t sue anybody because you made the decision to buy and try it of your own free will and you decided you were grown-up enough and smart enough to figure it out yourself”.

        • Leit says:

          Now, I don’t know about you, but I find it tough enough to open the containers of such capsules

          And that’s part of the problem. The lids are such a bloody nuisance and can be so finicky that it’s easier to just leave the damn container open.

          Trivial inconveniences.

  76. Simon Penner says:

    Vox: Inequality As Waste. Discusses increasingly costly signaling in terms of houses, weddings, and parties as a multipolar trap in which everybody has to keep up with a small group of increasingly super-rich Joneses.

    As best I can tell, one of the following is true:

    * Vox is an extremely biased news source, filled with sociopaths who assume everyone else thinks the same way as them

    * I am an abnormally ethical human being.

    Sorry, the idea that people are being systemically impoverished by trying-and-failing to one-up a handful of super-wealthy elites is insanity. Do people across the country really have so much money to spend that they can waste it all like this? Are the poor really so poor because they spend money on bigger houses and shinier cars, instead of food? That’s crazy.

    What’s more likely to me is that the nouveau-riche upper-middle class urbanites who read Vox, a very small percentage of the total US population, believe this. Why, I don’t think I could opine on without violating the tribalism rules here. The naieve millennials who write for Vox, who do not make an upper-middle class salary but think they can upgrade their station through aping culture, frantically take part in this signalling spiral. For them, status means everything, and they typical-mind others until they can seriously believe this article.

    And then, to go on and assert that we need to change the tax code to protect them from themselves? It sure takes some gumption to say that. Writing off the millions of good, hard-working people in this country who are kind and generous like that. People who just want to support a stable family and have a good life. Who have no patience for these kinds of bullshit status and mind games.

    Mr. Frank should swallow his pride, get over his elitism, and spend some time getting to know people in the Midwest. Or talking to some of the poor people in Appalachia. The professional technologist class in SF could teach him a bit about passion over arrogance. He could try actually speaking to the driver the next time he hops into an Uber. He might learn a thing or two, become a better person

    • meyerkev248 says:

      We know that median house values are actually LARGER than mean house values in the big cities full of rich people like SF and NYC, etc. Which if you think about rich people owning mansions makes zero sense. Link

      So at least part of the “People are keeping up with the 1%ers” line has minimal basis in reality. The 1% aren’t getting enormous mansions, they’re getting tiny cubicles and spending the spare cash on fun vacations Because when you can fly to Jiro’s for a month’s rent… I’ve at least thought about it once or twice.

      /Which in fairness, might be leading to the weddings and parties bit.

      • Jiro says:

        I have no intention of renting a house to meyerkev248.

        • meyerkev248 says:

          That’s fine. It’s $5,000/month for a 3/2 within an hour of work these days, which is about the monthly take-home income on base Tier 1 Software engineer salaries to begin with.

          So I couldn’t afford it.

    • Robert Frank is a bright guy and I like his old work incorporating status into the utility function, but he definitely has an axe to grind. For some evidence of how unwilling he is to follow his own logic when it leads to conclusions he doesn’t like, see my extended exchange with him on my blog.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        Frank took some bizarre stands–his stance on medicine quality was flunk-freshman-econ level confused–but I think he was getting at something you didn’t address. I think his thesis, which he never managed to state clearly, is that higher local disparity causes higher expenditures on relative status. Global inequality is bad only insofar as it indicates high average local disparity.

    • Brandon Berg says:

      Right. The idea that most people are competing for status with billionaires through conspicuous consumption is ridiculous, since a) It’s obviously impossible, and b) they have basically no social interaction, so they’re in completely different leagues. People compete with members of their own socioeconomic stratum, like their neighbors and peers, not with the out-of-sight rich.

      A corollary of this is that it can and does happen at all levels of income inequality. This was a common theme in fifties and sixties sitcoms, when income inequality was at its modern-day nadir.

      • To what extent does this get confounded by television and mass media? If people can pick up beauty standards which vanishingly few people they’ve met in person meet, why can’t they pick up social status cues similarly?

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        Some no one else seems able, let me steel-man Frank/Vox on inequality.

        The thesis is roughly that high income disparity around a given income pressures people with that income to signal wealth. Overall income disparity is only relevant as a measure of average local income disparity.

        A corollary of this is that a bimodal society of equally poor serfs and equally rich nobles would not have Frankian signalling problems, though it might have other problems.

        • j r says:

          The thesis is fine, but the resulting suggestions are insane.

          So let’s say that people are, in fact, putting themselves in financial distress, in part, out of a desire to outcompete their neighbors for positional goods like what car they drive and what college sticker they get to put on the back window. OK, now what?

          Frank’s suggestion is to impose consumption taxes to save people from themselves. But how is that a solution? You’ve just taken some money away from people, you haven’t made them want to compete less. It’s not “inequality” causing these people to do this, it’s the deep dark pit of existential despair inhabiting their inner beings. What tax policy is going to change that?

          This is exactly the sort of thing on which The Last Psychiatrist spent five years blogging. There’s nothing natural about it. Status competition is to some extent natural, but most people manage not to bring themselves to financial ruin because of it. Human beings are, mostly, made of sterner stuff.

          • suntzuanime says:

            You don’t impose consumption taxes to save people from themselves, you impose consumption taxes because there is a gigantic flow of water and you may as well stick in a turbine and get some useful work out of it. If you tax positional goods, people can afford less positional goods, and everybody shifts one seat downward, but since they’re positional goods, no one is worse off, and you’ve extracted free money to spend on the presumably useful programs of your government.

          • j r says:


            I get the revenue-raising part of it, but that’s not where my comment is directed. In fact, this is how Frank himself pitches it:

            “5) A simple change in the tax system would eliminate many wasteful spending patterns

            Elk lack the cognitive and communication skills to do anything about their particular positional arms race… The tax system offers a simple, unintrusive way to change our incentives…. There’s another important dimension to the argument: a progressive consumption tax would generate additional revenue…”

            Personally, I would much rather move towards a system that taxes consumption more and labor less and one that incentivizes saving and investment. But that’s no magic bullet for the problem that Frank posits. People committed to this sort of positional competition will always find a way within whatever rules that you set up to try to stop them. In fact, I would argue that by normalizing this sort of behavior an labeling it “natural,” you’re actually going to get more of it, which would only increase the amount of people making ruinous financial decisions in the name of status competition.

          • What do we do about costly status-signalling between governments?

          • ADifferentAnonymous says:

            Frank believes it *is* inequality causing people to do this (or at least, to do it more). Your disagreement is factual.

          • On the issue of burden-free taxation, which is in effect what Frank is claiming, see.

    • Deiseach says:

      People are spending crazy money on big weddings, though. I don’t think it’s keeping up with the super-elite Joneses, I think it’s a combination of the huge “biggest day in your life” expectations and the industry that has grown up around marketing services to weddings. The idea of the perfect fairytale experience.

      I really don’t see why people can’t have small weddings (why not go to a registry office if you’re not planning on having a religious ceremony) and then having a party for their friends and family? The amount of money that can be spent on huge receptions for hundreds of people is silly, but there seems to be no slow-down in the dream industry.

      • Tom Womack says:

        A bit of it, I think, is that it’s both difficult and odd in the modern world to hold a big party for your friends which *isn’t* a wedding. For a wedding, there is an entire industry that arranges the venue and the catering and adds ninety-three kinds of frills of its own invention to it; I’m not at all sure how I’d go about booking a party for a hundred people for my 40th birthday, and I think I’d be considered quite peculiar for doing it. Because it’s quite an imposition on the people who don’t live locally, and society is atomised so not all of the hundred people I’d want to invite live locally.

        At least in part because it’s What Old People Do – I _have_ been to parties-for-a-hundred-people for relatives’ 90th birthdays, though they tend to have family trees on the walls and everyone has a common great^4-grandparent.

        • Nornagest says:

          I’m not at all sure how I’d go about booking a party for a hundred people for my 40th birthday, and I think I’d be considered quite peculiar for doing it.

          Reserve space in a park, or rent a dedicated event space (in the American West, Veterans’ Buildings are usually the right size for this kind of thing; churches often have event spaces too, but they might be harder to talk into this), or buy out a bar or restaurant for the evening. Going with the restaurant has the advantage of solving the food and drink problem; otherwise you’ll also have to hire a catering company. Or, if you have a large house, just host it there. 100 people is a little large for your average home but not totally ridiculous.

          Or you could just talk to a company that does event planning. Most of their business is corporate, but they’ll probably be happy to do private events.

      • Nita says:

        Apparently, some people have big families and a lot of friends. That humble party isn’t going to be cheap.

        Also, aren’t huge, barely-affordable weddings an ancient tradition in many cultures? The rural Catholic folks in my country brag that in the good old times, a proper wedding would last three days, and everyone in the village would be invited.

      • Randy M says:

        We managed to have a nice wedding cheaply about 15 years ago. Held at the church my MiL attended so that didn’t cost much; invitations, cake, & decorations provided as gifts, food done cheaply by friends of my wife’s family in the town.
        I don’t fault families who wish to splurge if they’ve got it; ours didn’t and we didn’t care to take out debt for it either, and I honestly don’t think anyone was disappointed.

        • Lesser Bull says:

          We had the typical Mormon wedding, which was very cheap. A couple of thousand.

          My parents was even cheaper: total cost was the modern day equivalent of around $500 or so.

          My grandparents’ was even cheaper. They put on their Sunday best and drove to the courthouse, the end.

          What we usually say is that y’all have huge weddings because the ceremony itself doesn’t actually mean much when the couple has already been living together and so on. Which means that the ceremony has to be hooplahed to compensate. But this is probably just self-justifying mythology. Dunno.

        • Red Wedding says:

          1. How cheap is cheap? A lot of people claim they had a cheap wedding, so you go to them for advice, and turns out they meant a couple thousand.

          2. Did any of your family or close friends live far away? Did they stay home? Did you pay for them to come? Did they pay their own way even though they didn’t get a lavish party out of it?

          3. How many people came to the wedding? Did anyone mind being left out?

          4. Did you get wedding presents and the like? Did people give large gifts despite you not spending much on them? Did they give no/small gifts and feel awkward doing so?

          • Randy M says:

            I didn’t give a cost because I don’t trust my memory on the matter. I asked my wife, she said $2,000, not counting the aforementioned services-as-gifts. It looks like you put this in the “not cheap” category? It is an order of magnitude less than “average.” Sorry if you feel misled.

            Most people lived within an hour or two.
            There were about 300 there. I don’t think anyone was omitted for cost reasons, but someone may have felt left out. No one said anything since.
            The only social awkwardness was matching up bridesmaids and groomsmen.

            There were a few nice gifts. Many people were college students or recent graduates. Not everyone brought a gift.
            I don’t recall what everyone brought, but, for example, one of our favorite gifts was a somewhat simple comforter/blanket from our friends which I don’t think was very expensive. I don’t know how they felt about it.

            I don’t mind the questions, but I infer a bit that you think we were not considerate of people time and expenses. This is not so, outside of maybe the bridesmaids and groomsmen needing to rent their outfits, which we tried to keep as low cost as possible.

          • Red Wedding says:

            I am asking because I would like to get married, but on a much smaller budget. The average cost is not relevant to me, so I have to ask about the absolute cost, not about whether it was relatively cheap.

            I apologize for the implications. The questions are about problems I run into trying to plan.

            It’s good to learn that people don’t feel obligated to bring gifts. Thank you for the answers.

          • Creutzer says:

            $2,000. […] It is an order of magnitude less than “average.” Sorry if you feel misled.

            Are you saying people spend on average $20,000 on their wedding? This sounds unbelievable.

          • Randy M says:

            Okay! No harm done, I agree that the assertion I made originally is meaningless without numbers. Here’s some thoughts:

            Consider venues that limit the number of guests. A couple of weddings I’ve attended have been at beaches, which had very low limits for attendance (30 in one case). You can tell people who feel left out “We really wanted a wedding at place X, they only allowed X people, but we’d like to see you guys at an informal get together later!”

            You can put something on the invitation like “Your presence and emotional support are all the gifts we are looking for.”

            I’ve never heard of paying for someone else’s travel expense. My brother who moved several states away had a wedding last year. Most of our immediate family attended and bore the costs ourselves. My wife and youngest children couldn’t come. I think that’s an acknowledged part of modern life. Other friends from college who grew up across the country had a wedding back home, then some smaller gatherings in our state to celebrate with friends.

            Invite an alcoholic, so you can’t have an open bar. Okay, joking, but that is a big expense which some guests might expect and a valid excuse for not providing it. We didn’t have alcohol; I don’t recall if that was because the church wouldn’t have allowed it, or family members have had alcoholism problems, or just because we aren’t big drinkers and didn’t realize how ubiquitous it is at social gatherings.

            You could hold the event at, say, 1:00 until 5:00 or so, and keep refreshments to some drinks and appetizers. Some kind of food is obligatory if you have people captive for hours, but some fruit, cheese, punch, and cold cuts or such can go a long way if you aren’t overlapping a mealtime. I might be called out for having no taste for this, but…

            Any cost saving measure can be hand-waved away by saying something like “This is just how she always pictured her wedding.”

          • Randy M says:

            Are you saying people spend on average $20,000 on their wedding? This sounds unbelievable.

            I certainly see reasons why and might have reasons to inflate the number–and lazy journalists might just be quoting those inflated numbers offered by arms of the matrimony-industrial complex–but every site I saw from a quick search posted average figures > $20k.

          • keranih says:

            I agree with @ Randy M – $20k is about what I heard discussed about six years ago.

            I myself feel that a great deal of that cost was on frivolous things, that even the non-frivolous things were over priced, and that the whole matrimony-industrial complex (totally stealing that) puts more emphasis on the day than the life. But, still. $20k.

            Anyway. If you’re going to push back against the “traditional” wedding, do so. A flattering dress for the bride that she is comfortable in, but not a wedding dress. An outdoor venue or church that doesn’t charge a huge rental fee. Ditto for the reception/after party, and consider a pot luck dinner. Do preview the band – but there has to be a cousin willing to sort youtube vids or spotify for $100. Above all else, prevent the mother of the groom and the mother of the bride (the second one esp) from building her dream celebration.

            Keep it simple, keep it short, don’t let people drive drunk. And live long happily together.

          • Lesser Bull says:

            A couple of thousand is cheap. That’s how much ours was.

            We did not pay for guests to attend. We were also quite clear (and our cultural expectation for our community supports this) that we would not be offended if out-of-staters did not come. Family who did come from out of state mostly drove and were put up in the homes of local family. Gifts were mostly pretty small: useful household setting up stuff, since we were both young and had just been living in furnished apartments with roommates to that point.

            One advantage is that for Mormons the actual wedding is free and their is a hardcap on attendees imposed by the church. Mostly you are looking at a max of 50, maybe 100, attendees. So most “wedding” invitations are actually invites to the reception.

          • Chalid says:

            Note that the distribution of wedding costs is skewed, with a *very* long tail. It doesn’t take that many million dollar weddings to drag up the whole average.

    • Chalid says:

      Argh. “Vox” did not write the article. *Robert Frank* wrote the article. He is a 70-year-old professor at Cornell. Please spare the millennial-bashing. “Vox,” like many online media outfits, sometimes publishes provocative opinion pieces that do not represent the staff’s official opinion.

      Anyway, it is absolutely not just upper class people who get into signalling spirals. Don’t you ever encounter non-rich people with expensive clothes?

    • Teal says:

      What’s more likely to me is that the nouveau-riche upper-middle class urbanites who read Vox, a very small percentage of the total US population, believe this.


      Mr. Frank should swallow his pride, get over his elitism, and spend some time getting to know people in the Midwest. Or talking to some of the poor people in Appalachia.

      Careful not to confuse acres for people. All of Appalachia is 25 million people and 7.5 million of that are in a large metro area or adjacent to one. Rural Appalachia is only 2.5 million people, which is about the same as Brooklyn.

      1 in 4 Americans live in the BOS-WAS corridor, Southern California, or the Bay Area.

      The vox authors would be better served by learning about the middle class and poor people that live near where they live than going to Appalachia or Toledo.

  77. There’s at least one obvious way in which a caregivers IQ could negatively impact the children: they’re more likely to be working, and perhaps more likely to be working in fields that tend to take up pretty much all of your focus even when you’re supposedly off-the-clock.

    It would be a pretty big coincidence if this sort of thing just happened to perfectly balance out positive factors, though.

  78. Earthly Knight says:

    A group of raccoons is called a gaze or a nursery. It’s ravens that form a conspiracy.