Links 6/16: Linkandescence

Maybe you knew that Maoist China got really obsessed with mangos for a while. But did you know that it reached the point where “when one dentist in a small village compared a mango to a sweet potato, he was put on trial for malicious slander and executed”?

Preliminary study suggests that genes that are disproportionately expressed in autism are also disproportionately expressed in men. Possibly a good time to review the male brain theory of autism.

People who lost weight on The Biggest Loser mostly gained it back afterwards and ended up with even worse metabolisms. Possibly related to permanent changes from obesity and yo-yo dieting, but we should also take into account allegations that the contestants were given illegal drugs.

This blog previously linked a Wikipedia article about a radar detector detector detector detector, but Rational Conspiracy did the research and believes it to be a hoax. The radar detection hierarchy likely ends with radar detector detector detectors. Mea culpa.

Some anecdotal evidence has previously suggested that online ads for vegetarianism could convert implausible numbers of people into vegetarians. Effective animal charity Mercy for Animals has done a more formal study and finds complicated and inconsistent results depending on how they define success. People apparently become more interested in vegetarianism, but there’s not much sign of a change in meat consumption itself.

New really interesting blog dissecting bad papers in the social sciences:

AskReddit: What is the most surprising mathematical fact you know?. The fractions 1/7, 2/7, 3/7 etc all share the same sequence but start at different places: 1/7 = 0.142857…, 3/7 = 0.428571…, 2/7 = 0.285714, and so on.

Giving scientific papers “badges” for transparent practices allowing outside analysis and replication increases compliance with such practices.

Guardian: “For nearly a year, Richard Rosenfeld’s research on crime trends has been used to debunk the existence of a ‘Ferguson effect’, a suggested link between protests over police killings of black Americans and an increase in crime and murder. Now, the St Louis criminologist says, a deeper analysis of the increase in homicides in 2015 has convinced him that ‘some version’ of the Ferguson effect may be real.”. I’m going to count this as a success for my 44th prediction for 2016.

Jerry Coyne continues beating up on media presentations of epigenetics.

A man who had no problems running thirty miles with no previous training and who later ran fifty marathons in fifty days may have some kind of mutation in his lactate metabolism.

Venezuela is collapsing, with the New York Times describing it as “uncharted territory” for a semi-developed country to be so deep in economic disaster that its hospitals, schools, power plants, and basic services are simply shutting down. So it’s a good time to reflect on the media’s previous glowing Venezuela stories. In 2013, Salon praised “Hugo Chavez’ Economic Miracle, saying that “[Chavez’s] full-throated advocacy of socialism and redistributionism at once represented a fundamental critique of neoliberal economics, and also delivered some indisputably positive results” (h/t Ciphergoth). And the Guardian wrote that “Sorry, Venezuela Haters: This Economy Is Not The Greece Of Latin America. Prediction is hard, and I was willing to forgive eg the pundits who were wrong about the Trump nomination. But I am less willing to forgive here, because the thesis of these articles wasn’t just that they were right, but that the only reason everyone else didn’t admit they were right was neoliberalism and bad intentions. Psychologizing other people instead of arguing with them should take a really high burden of proof, and Salon and Guardian didn’t meet it. Muggeridge, thou should be living at this hour…

Related: we all like to make fun of Salon, but Politico asks: no, seriously, what is wrong with Salon? They argue that it used to have great journalism, but that the pressures of trying to make money online forced them to fire journalists and increase demands from existing employees until the only way its writers could possibly keep up with the quantities expected of them was by throwing quality out the window. Key quote: “The low point arrived when my editor G-chatted me with the observation that our traffic figures were lagging that day and ordered me to ‘publish something within the hour,’’ Andrew Leonard, who left Salon in 2014, recalled in a post. ‘Which, translated into my new reality, meant ‘Go troll Twitter for something to get mad about — Uber, or Mark Zuckerberg, or Tea Party Republicans — and then produce a rant about it.’ I performed my duty, but not without thinking, ‘Is this what 25 years as a dedicated reporter have led to?’ That’s when it dawned on me: I was no longer inventing the future. I was a victim of it. So I quit my job to keep my sanity.”

Twitter: Questions Wolfram Alpha Can’t Answer, along with some it can. “Duration of the next time window during which the fraction of cats getting closer to Voyager 1 is between 0.2 and 0.8”, “Year that the ulnae of all living humans could first encircle Saturn’s equator, if laid end to end”.

Schizophrenia expert E. Fuller Torrey reviews Robert Whitaker’s contrarian mental health book Anatomy of an Epidemic. I was hoping someone of Torrey’s caliber would do this. Also a really interesting piece on schizophrenia in and of itself.

Neerav Kingsland, CEO of various educational groups, reviews my review of teacher-related research and emphasizes his belief that school-level factors are more important than teacher-level ones. And Education Realist offers a more pessimistic take.

But related: Adam Smith Institute’s roundup of how going to a better school doesn’t make you more successful (see especially paragraph starting with “luck is certainly a huge factor”). And a study finds that attending an elite school in Britain has few positive later-life effects, at least for men. That means either elite schools don’t have better teachers (really?) or that there’s a discrepancy between this and the Chetty study that needs to be resolved.

How come none of my Berkeley friends ever told me about the Berkeley Mystery Walls, a series of mysterious East San Francisco Bay structures that seem to predate the Spanish colonization and have inspired wild theories about pre-Columbian American settlement by the Mongols? [EDIT: proposed explanation]

How much do historians know about whether King Charles the Bald was actually bald or not?

The underwhelmingness of practice effects – “Overall, deliberate practice accounted for 18% of the variance in sports performance. However, the contribution differed depending on skill level. Most important, deliberate practice accounted for only 1% of the varaince in performance among elite-level performers…another major finding was that athletes who reached a high level of skill did not begin their sport earlier in childhood than lower skill athletes.” Maybe that 1% finding is partly ceiling effects – at the Olympic level, everybody’s practicing the same (high) amount. Does anyone know of any studies that contradict this?

Yet another Swedish lottery study finds that wealth itself (as opposed to the factors that cause wealth) has no independent impact on mortality, adult health care utilization, child scholastic performance, drug use, etc. “Our estimates allow us to rule out effects on 10-year mortality one sixth as large as the cross-sectional wealth-mortality gradient”

Maaaaaybe related, hard to tell – socioeconomic status has no relationship to hair cortisol level, which complicates theories about how many body systems are affected by “the stress of poverty” since we might expect hair cortisol level to be an indicator of biological stress levels.

17th-century philosopher William Molyneux formulated what’s now called Molyneux’s Problem: “If a man born blind could feel differences between shapes such as spheres and cubes, could he, if given the ability to see (but now without recourse to touch) distinguish those objects by sight alone, in reference to the tactile schemata he already possessed?”. Thanks to modern science we can now perform the experiment, and the answer is: no.

A group including James Heckman does a really detailed analysis of the effects of years of education. I can’t follow along and I’m suspicious of any model that gets too complicated, but I think their conclusion is that everybody benefits (in terms of earnings) by graduating high-school, but only high-ability people benefit from graduating college.

Have you seen Ostagram and related sites yet, where an AI given two pictures can redraw the first picture in the style of the second? It’s really impressive. And if you want, you can get it done yourself for free at, although there’s an 18 hour wait for your completed pictures.

Louisiana governor signs bill making offenses against police count as “hate crimes”.

Soviet jokes on Reddit. Pretty good. Most depressing is: “Q: Don’t the Constitutions of the USA and USSR both guarantee freedom of speech? A: Yes, but the Constitution of the USA also guarantees freedom after the speech” – not because of what it says about Russia but because it’s basically just the “freedom from speech does not guarantee freedom from consequences” argument that so many people love in a non-joke way here in America.

Everybody knows China is a big late 20th/21st century success story, but did you know India’s GDP per capita has tripled in the past 25 years? Noah Smith has more statistics.

Vipul Naik wants you to take a survey on your Wikipedia use.

Reddit AMAs with: Paul Niehaus of GiveDirectly on their basic income study, and Robin Hanson on Age of Em.

I agree with this article saying the recent study linking cell phones to brain cancer is hard to believe and that we should hold off judgment for now.

Dalai Lama warns that “too many” refugees are going to Europe and that “Germany cannot afford to become an Arab country”. I guess the Dalai Lama’s political views are a lot harder to predict than I would have expected.

John Horgan gave a really ill-conceived talk at a skeptics’ convention last month saying that instead of focusing on boring topics like Bigfoot and homeopathy, skeptics should focus on debunking the really dangerous ideas like [consensus scientific beliefs that John Horgan does not agree with]. Since then a whole host of scientists have pointed out that John Horgan doesn’t actually understand their scientific fields and is wrong when he talks about them, of which a decent roundup would include Steve Pinker on war and Neurologica on various things. And since Horgan also believes the anti-psychiatry book Anatomy of an Epidemic, have I mentioned that schizophrenia expert E. Fuller Torrey wrote a really neat review?

Emergence of Individuality In Genetically Identical Mice (h/t Paige Harden). Apparent biological differences in genetically identical individuals caused by “factors unfolding or emerging during development”. Maybe a good time to reread Non-Shared Environment Doesn’t Just Mean Schools And Peers.

Futurist Madsen Pirie has been called “Britain’s Nostradamus” for accurately predicting various British elections, Schwarzenegger’s California victory, and various other things. He’s just called the 2016 POTUS elections for Donald Trump.

A study two years ago argued that the US was an “oligarchy” because rich people were more likely to get their way than average citizens (I wrote about it here). But Vox now has a good article about why that study may not be true.

Putin offers free land for foreigners in Russia’s Far East. If you can get enough people over there, the government will even pay to hook up infrastructure. If you’ve ever wanted your own town, this could be your chance.

Probably not real, but A+ for effort to this method of dealing with speed traps.

Vox: Congressional Democrats who get elected on rainy days become more conservative. This sort of makes sense. Fewer voters come to the polls on rainy days, conservatives are usually more committed voters than liberals, so rainy days favor conservatives, mean that Democrats get elected by lower margins, and make Democrats feel like they have less of a mandate to pursue liberal policies. But it also sort of doesn’t make sense – political scientists have known this for years, so shouldn’t Democrats adjust for it? Not sure if this is a mystery beyond just that Congressional Democrats aren’t experts in obscure political science studies.

The war on free speech on social media, “I see” edition.

US cancer deaths down 26% since 1990 (graphs, paper)

Congratulations to SSC reader Stuart Ritchie, who got his book on IQ featured in a Vox article last month.

Bryan Caplan wins almost all his bets, even though many are against smart people like Tyler Cowen. Scott Sumner on the phenomenon and Caplan himself on how he does it.

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951 Responses to Links 6/16: Linkandescence

  1. Grim says:

    Here is a bunch of gender related studies and information I thought you might find useful:

    Men who enter a female-dominated major are significantly more likely to
    switch majors than their male peers in other majors. By contrast, women in
    male-dominated fields are not more likely to switch fields compared to
    their female peers in other fields. The results are robust to
    supplementary analyses that include alternative specifications of the
    independent and dependent variables. The implications of our findings for
    the maintenance of gendered occupational segregation are discussed.

    She also has quite active, good and very civil discussions on her FB wall.
    She is the one I have come across that is best at communicating in a way
    that both men and women like.

    Capital punishment only for men in Belarus:

    Margaret Gordon (University of Washington) told the Blade’s writers “There
    was some pressure – at least I felt pressure – to have rape be as
    prevalent as possible. I’m a pretty strong feminist, but one of the things
    I was fighting was that the really avid feminists were trying to get me to
    say that things were worse than they really are.”

    According to the Sentencing Project, as of 2010 an estimated 5.9 million
    Americans are denied the right to vote because of a felony conviction, a
    number equivalent to 2.5% of the U.S. voting-age population and a sharp
    increase from the 1.2 million people affected by felony disenfranchisement
    in 1976.”

    Wikipedia estimates about 151.4 million men in the United States (2009)
    A 2006 U. S. Department of Justice document indicates that 89% of those
    convicted of violent felonies were male:
    “Overall, 91% of violent felons in the 75 largest counties were male,
    ranging from 89% of those convicted of felony assault to 99% of convicted
    So, taking everything in one stride here which has its flaws, that makes
    for 5.369 million men who don’t have the right to vote. That’s 3.5% of the
    male population. In contrast, we have 531,000 women who can’t vote,
    because of the felony voting laws. Since Wikipedia indicates about 158.6
    million women (2009), that makes for .33% of the female population that
    can’t vote because of felony voting laws. So, the ratio of men who can’t
    vote to women who can’t vote is about 10 men to every 1 woman.
    The above numbers are by no means the best possible estimates, since I’m
    not taking numbers from the same years and they are a bit out of date.
    However, to some extent they probably underestimate things here, because
    citizens voting rights can also get restricted for misdemeanors:
    “In 48 states (all but Maine and Vermont) and in the District of Columbia,
    citizens lose the right to vote upon conviction of a felony; in at least a
    handful of states, the right is also lost upon conviction of a misdemeanor
    [emphasis added].”
    I think this proposed amendment might help with respect to voting rights
    for all citizens (note that the text here does NOT say anything about
    voter ID laws)
    It would be interesting to see what the breakdown by sex is in other
    countries with felony voting laws, such as the United Kingdom.

    According to a national survey conducted by Chinese child care portal, nearly 70 percent of female respondents from the Province of
    Guizhou admitted to verbally or physically abusing their partner. Some
    also admitted to giving their partners the silent treatment. By
    comparison, 52 percent of male respondents admitted to similar behavior,
    which also included scolding, humiliation, and marital rape.

    A certain amount of rethinking about even bonobo sexual aggression is
    going on. Lynn Saxon is leading the charge, although that may be an
    excessively violent description of her work 🙂
    Quote: ” So, what are bonobos actually doing?
    The real bonobo turns out to be an ape rather different from the one
    currently being portrayed in the media. The image of the bonobo we are
    currently being fed is one of constant friendly sexual contacts leading to
    a chilled-out, caring, sharing society: the ultimate make love, not war
    species. Very cute.
    It turns out, though, that while sex (in terms of some sort of genital
    contact) does help avoid most serious physical aggression, it is often not
    friendly. For example, Takayoshi Kano, who led the early research at the
    Wamba research sites, writes that when males approach each other it is not
    with friendly intentions but the male’s intention is one of dominance, and
    the prevailing mood is hostile. Most male sexual contact is in the context
    of aggression: the attacking male “may spring on a male, who, cut off from
    escape, is grovelling and screaming, and the attacker will mount or
    rump-rub the victim. Or the attacker may confront his victim, suddenly
    facing the victim’s buttocks and demanding mounting or rump-rubbing.”
    We would call this kind of behaviour in humans sexual assault, but in
    bonobos we call it making love!
    Forced sex is not what we have been led to believe occurs in bonobos, yet
    this kind of forced mounting of males occurs, Kano says, frequently. And
    though Kano did not see forced heterosexual sex, this too has occasionally
    been seen by other researchers. What’s more, ‘bending over’ (adult males
    are not much interested in face-to-face sex) is a common response from
    either sex towards an aggressive adult male. It is not friendly, casual,
    chilled-out sex leading to lower levels of violence; it is agitated,
    aggressively displaying males being calmed, willingly or not, by others.
    It’s not that ordinary soliciting of sex does not occur, but sex during
    times of social stress and anxiety accounts for most bonobo sex. And when
    it comes to bonobo heterosexual sex, it is the young, adolescent,
    low-status females who are involved in most of that sex, and precisely
    because they are low-status. Add to this that much of the bonobo sexual
    behaviour smorgasbord we hear about, such as fellatio and kissing, is
    almost exclusively the behaviour of sexual immatures, and bonobo sexual
    behaviour becomes less and less a reflection of our own.
    Whether homosexual sex, heterosexual sex, sex between adults and
    immatures, competition, aggression, or female status, we are long overdue
    the facts and figures on what the bonobos are actually doing. This is what
    The Naked Bonobo provides.”

  2. Jazi Zilber says:

    The Schizophrenia review of Whitaker is sorely lacking

    He doesn’t treat many of those claims of Whitaker that are harder to make fun of.

    Whitaker main claim is that over the longer term we have hardly any studies supporting antipsychotics. And some studies show non drug takers having much better long term outcomes.

    Conveniently (or by error) those issues were ignores altogether.

    Besides, I haven’t understood Whitaker the way the review cites him. For me, he was misinterpreted.

    Outside its relation to Whitaker, it is a good piece

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree. I haven’t read Anatomy of an Epidemic, but I did read Mad in America. The review doesn’t mention some other topics discussed, like the original development of atypical neuroleptics as a form of “chemical lobotomy,” or how newer neuroleptics were only required to be shown to be no more hazardous than the previous batch, and that was done by comparing a single large dose of the old drugs to smaller, spaced doses of the new ones.

      Some of the points made in the review also seem kind of weak. For example:

      1) “Many of these individuals are found in public shelters, sleeping under bridges, in jails, and in prisons. If Whitaker had spent more time in these settings observing the outcome of this natural experiment, instead of delivering lectures on his vision of the impending antipsychotic apocalypse, he would have written a very different book.”

      Whitaker described and recommended programs that treated these people (without drugs) in stable and supportive environments, e.g. mentioning the way Quaker communities handled mental illness. Of course people suffering schizophrenia while in jail or homeless are going to have a bad time. Comparing the outcomes between drugs and no drugs + jail/homelessness doesn’t even begin to resolve the issue for people who have a healthy environment and reliable caretaker, and aren’t sure whether they should take drugs on top of that.

      2) “The reason why his book is weakest in discussing this period is because literally millions of individuals with schizophrenia were not treated with drugs, as he now advocates. The outcome of this lack of treatment was not pretty, as he is aware.”

      Same as with jails/homelessness, a huge portion of Mad in America (the one I’ve read) goes to describing how abominable 19th century mental illness “treatments” were. It’s not surprising that those were not effective alternative treatments.

      3) “Most revealing and remarkable, however, is the fact that more than 40 years after this treatment program began, there are almost no publications describing its results and nobody in Finland or elsewhere has tried to replicate it.”

      This is interesting, but Torrey doesn’t really give an explanation for it either. You’d think that a study showing 79% first-episode patients asymptomatic would warrant discussion. Were there flaws in it? Was the outcome other than presented? Was it killed by big pharma and groupthink within the profession? Without explaining why the research was apparently abandoned, it doesn’t really support Torrey’s thesis anymore than Whitaker’s.

      Overall it’s an informative review and good to find out more about the flaws in Whitaker’s arguments, but it doesn’t seem to completely invalidate his narrative either. I think most interested laypeople would really like to know where to draw the line when considering overprescription of psychiatric medication + dangerous tradeoffs of anti-psychotics. In the most severe cases and with nothing else to try it’s easy to make an argument for the drugs, but it’s harder when it’s e.g. a family member coming down with a moderate case and with other potential (non-drug) options available as an alternative.

    • Paul Torek says:

      Similar reaction here. The one critique of Whitaker that I do agree with is the self-selection problem. Of course, those who voluntarily quit taking their meds are going to be doing well. Whitaker underestimates how important this is. But…

      In addition, the inclusion criteria for diagnosing schizophrenia was very broad for these studies; for example, a patient could meet criteria for schizophrenia with a combination of “severe excitement” and “overwhelming fear” without having any delusions, hallucinations or thought disorder (Sartorius et al. 1986). Even more worrisome was the fact that a significant number of subjects in the developing countries were referred to the study by religious or traditional healers. All of us who have worked psychiatrically in developing countries have seen many acutely excited individuals with acute reactive psychosis, most of whom get well. This is the most probable explanation for the WHO findings.

      The same “very broad” criteria were applied in developed countries, so I don’t see a problem there. And Torrey’s response seems to admit the discrepancy: in the developing world there are often acute crises which are quickly resolved. That seems like something to be investigated, not dismissed.


      An example is his claim that in the 1970s “Loren Mosher was ousted from the NIMH for having run his Soteria experiment” (p. 304), […] Mosher did not view schizophrenia as a brain disease, a view that put him increasingly at odds with both NIMH and the vast majority of researchers.

      Oh great, so Whitaker’s censorship explanation isn’t true, but rather a different kind of censorship was going on. That’s so comforting.

  3. onyomi says:

    Overuse of opiods

    As a libertarian whom only benzos helped at a certain point in life, and who was able to get off them pretty easily, I am totally of the “let the patient decide what he really needs” and “fears of addiction are often overblown” school (though I am also of the “we are way overmedicated in general” school).

    Yet this does seem a major problem, especially in places like where I live: frankly lots of poor whites. They are addicted to meth and legal painkillers–the latter to such a degree that local medical practices take all kinds of precautions to make sure you aren’t just there to say anything you need to get a fix, at the same time as some of the local practitioners, I’m pretty sure, are close to being fronts which put a rubber stamp on people’s longstanding pain Rx.

    I guess what bothers me most about it is how it seems like a total admission of defeat in the guise of a treatment. Opiod pain killers pretty much never treat an underlying problem, so far as I’m aware; they only make it more bearable. This may be a good idea in such cases as “you are dying of cancer and there’s not much we can do but make you comfortable” or “you just were in a car accident or had a major operation and you really don’t want to be feeling all the pain you’d be in right now,” but it seems a terrible idea in cases of chronic pain, which, generally are linked to chronic bad habits.

    If, like most of the poor white people in this area, for example, you are obese and have a lifestyle, like, say, truck driver, or unemployed and watching tv all day, then the reason for your horrific back pain is, of course, that lifestyle. But getting them to change that lifestyle seems impossible. And I’m not really comfortable saying “okay, we have to treat these people like children and refuse to let them have their opiods until they lose weight,” but I’m also not comfortable just prescribing the opiods and shrugging our collective shoulders, or even declaring victory.

    Of course, I’m not a medical practitioner either, so I don’t have the inside view of someone like Scott, but this seems like a pretty serious issue–not so much the opiods specifically, actually, but the avoidable chronic pain so many people are right now covering up with them.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      “you are obese and have a lifestyle, like, say, truck driver,”

      I think this phrase shows the danger inherent in at least one of the ways you want to approach this. This is, essentially, just-world hypothesis. You want the problem to be their moral failings.

      “You are a truck driver, what were you thinking getting obese” seems a cruel attitude to me. Here is someone gainfully employed in a job that needs doing that will present some pretty clear obstacles to eating and excercising in a manner that avoids weight gain. Weight gain is also highly correlated with aging, so what worked in your 20s may not work in your 40s.

      Now, that’s the easy thing for me to pick off, but I think it’s illustrative of how the “moral failing” approach is itself a kind of moral failing.

      I don’t know the answer to opioid abuse, but I think it will require community effort. I don’t think it will be solved by simply letting each individual addict succeed or fail at recovery.

      Or you can just accept that these people have not created adequate support networks for themselves and conclude that they have no right to burden you or others. I think that is consistent with your principles. It’s just a hard pill to swallow.

      I mean, to a large extent they don’t have a right. I just think that broader society works better when we nonetheless accept it as our responsibility.

      • onyomi says:

        “You want the problem to be their moral failings.”

        I didn’t say that.

        I’m aware that maybe they have no better job options besides truck driver.

        I’m aware that maybe not being obese would be incredibly difficult for them considering their dietary options, exercise options, life stresses, support networks, age, etc.

        I’m not trying to make this about a moral failing on the part of those in chronic pain to either just get better habits or suck it up and deal with the pain.

        I’m just saying that right now, it seems like the problem of chronic pain is quite epidemic (not sure if worse than in decades past, though I have a subjective sense it is), and opiods may quite literally be the “opiates” of the chronically pained masses. They may make unavoidable chronic pain more bearable, but making chronic pain bearable could also mean reducing the incentive to address the underlying issues, be they on individual, group or society-wide levels.

        In some ways, I think chronic pain:opiates::ADHD:Ritalin

        That is, giving concentration-enhancing meds may reduce the incentive to address, whether on individual, community, or society-wide levels the issue of why so many children seem to be unable to concentrate on the sort of tasks we give them (may be major problem with style of schooling or other factors).

        And, analogously, prescribing a lot of opiods may reduce, on the individual, community, and society-wide levels, the motivation to address what’s making everyone suffer chronic pain.

        • Teal says:

          I think you are missing the point. Where is the evidence that chronic pain is generally caused by bad habits? That looks like motivated reasoning to me.

          • onyomi says:

            First and foremost, many of the most common forms of chronic pain, such as low back pain and knee pain, are strongly correlated with obesity, and obesity can be treated with lifestyle change, though admittedly doing so is extremely difficult for many.

            Besides the obesity, much of chronic pain is related to muscle weakness and tightness. This can be addressed, again, with lifestyle: physical therapy, better posture, etc.

            Many chronic pain conditions are also largely inflammatory in nature. Water-only fasting has tremendous efficacy at reducing inflammation, as, to a much lesser extent, does a vegan diet. Problem is water-only fasting is miserable.

          • Teal says:

            Re: obesity
            How strongly? And which one is the cause and which one is the effect?

            “Besides the obesity, much of chronic pain is related to muscle weakness and tightness.”
            This needs citing.

            As for your diet and physiology theories you continue to run way ahead of the evidence in the same way the popular press always does on nutrition stuff. Read the actual papers, see what the scientists list as their specific findings and how they caveat them. Make claims that are backed up by evidence, not by the PR office of universities or even the puffery of an conclusions section.

          • onyomi says:

            I’m not writing an academic paper.

            Do you disagree with the notion that if I took people suffering chronic pain and put them in a low-stress spa environment to be attended upon by a team of physical therapists, masseurs, nutritionists, and personal trainers, that I could greatly reduce the subjective pain of a majority of subjects without drugs, if only for the duration of the spa stay?

          • onyomi says:

            But since you insist on tiresome nitpicking of things which can be easily proven by google, if not common sense and life experience:


          • Teal says:

            I’m unaware of the distribution of etiologies of chronic pain sufferers. I’d imagine some could benefit from such a regime but I have nowhere near your confidence in the generality of such a solution. At least in the absence of, you know, evidence.

            This is supposed to be a rationalist space. And despite Yudkowsky unfortunate early bad examples, that means relying on evidence rather than intuition.

            Did you read beyond the abstract? Frankly research by googe and skim doesn’t cut it.

          • onyomi says:

            More like I don’t feel like devoting a lot of time researching a question for which common sense and personal experience already provide a very clear answer.

            I was thinking of going for a walk this evening to relax, but I’m thinking I better not because the evidence isn’t all in.

          • onyomi says:

            “This is supposed to be a rationalist space.”

            Where does it say that?

            And if “rationalist” means “interesting topics will be constantly derailed by nitpicking demands for footnotes,” then I’m glad this “space” seems to be somewhat different from LW.

          • Teal says:

            Look if you want to hate poor people especially if they are fat poor people, that’s your choice. If you want to go on fad diets, again your choice. Want to believe weird new age-y things about human physiology and justify them with just-so stories about the plains of Africa — no law against that.

            But if you expect to not get any pushback when you spin out grandiose theories with little back them up besides your “common sense and personal experience” well I think maybe you should try email instead. Or maybe just reciting in front of a mirror.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ onyomi
            if I took people suffering chronic pain and put them in a low-stress spa environment to be attended upon by a team of physical therapists, masseurs, nutritionists, and personal trainers, that I could greatly reduce the subjective pain of a majority of subjects without drugs, if only for the duration of the spa stay?

            Sign me up (at your expense)! In reality, hardly any of those truck drivers would put up with that.

            So, what are the realistic options? Tighten up on prescriptions, charge more — which in fact will leave them hurting. (The ‘will never happen perfect’ being the enemy of the good.)

            Here’s an example of Something Must Be Done — even when the Something=Stop allowing what is relieving the hurt now.

          • onyomi says:


            “Sign me up (at your expense)! In reality, hardly any of those truck drivers would put up with that.

            So, what are the realistic options? Tighten up on prescriptions, charge more…”

            Well maybe the fact that many truck drivers wouldn’t do this even if someone else were paying speaks to a culture which says men, especially, ought not to waste time and energy taking care of themselves.

            I did suggest that the opiates mask the problem and therefore do, potentially, also blunt the incentive to do something about it, but it also seems cruel and unjust to therefore make them unavailable–both because I’m not in favor of drug restrictions in the first place, and because of all the short-term suffering it would entail.

            Ideally, the underlying problems would be addressed somehow and then the need for them would taper off. This would mean more than just telling people to exercise and quit smoking and eat better, of course; it would mean somehow making the conditions more conducive to making the right decisions, which is a harder problem.

            Makes me think of “society is fixed, biology is mutable.”

            Of course, society is not totally fixed, but it’s hard. We might say “biology is easy (to temporarily alter with a pill),” “behavior is harder,” and “creating a society which encourages good behavior harder still.”

            To some extent being financially well-off and educated helps, so it’s possible a rising economic tide might lift all ships, but I’m not sure that is the key point. There are poorer societies with more health-promoting habits.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          That’s all fair.

          Perhaps I read to much into this, but I also recall my impressions of prior statements you have made about fitness and weight loss.

          Is it really wrong of me to read this:

          not so much the opiods specifically, actually, but the avoidable chronic pain so many people are right now covering up with them.

          and think that the “avoidable” there is to some extent accusatory?

          Because what I would say is that, at a population level, having a number of people in that situation is not avoidable. We can work to minimize the numbers and be more effective in treatment (and I certainly don’t think more opioids is the answer), but we are going to have a good number of these people in the population.

          • onyomi says:

            By “avoidable,” I just mean there’s nothing biologically or physically inevitable about the pain. Like if you took most of the people suffering chronic pain and gave them a low-stress spa environment with a team of physical therapists, personal trainers, nutritionists, massage therapists, etc. all working on them then I’m confident you could greatly decrease the pain of most patients without drugs. Of course, it would probably come back if they returned to their old lifestyle, but that fact itself proves it is at least partially lifestyle-based.

            Of course, providing everyone with the kind of lifestyle which makes good choices about posture, diet, exercise, sleep, etc. easy to make is a very hard problem on many levels. A much harder problem than just giving them a drug. And that’s why we give the drug.

            I don’t absolve the individual of all responsibility, but I don’t absolve the community, either. It may technically be under the control of each individual what to put in his mouth, but there are also circumstances which make it much easier or harder to make the right choice, and if society is consistently creating situations which make it incredibly difficult to make good choices, then that, itself, is a societal problem.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Well, I agree with all of those things.

            Although, I think saying the pain is avoidable and referencing lifestyle may be doing too much work. Many of these things are brought on by injury. Nonetheless, I get where you are coming from.

            I can’t really square it with a belief in AnCap, but perhaps that is a failure of imagination on my part.

          • onyomi says:

            As far as Ancap is concerned, the belief that government solutions to big societal problems requiring coordination are illegitimate or, on net, produce bad results, does not imply that there are no good solutions.

            I’m not saying I have a good solution, but part of the point of ancap is that large numbers of voluntary interactions among individuals often result in institutions and solutions which no one individual working alone or in a small group would likely have imagined.

          • Deiseach says:

            onyomi, what about people doing hard physical labour which is going to have later in life effects on their musculoskeletal systems and chronic pain?

            It seems a little accusatory to say they had avoidable chronic pain and caused their own problems.

            And yes, a spa stay with all the support you say would help – but the pain would come back when they stopped getting the massage and PT and relaxation environment, and this would happen whether or not they were obese or normal weight.

            Unless the poor are going to be provided with access to physical therapists and masseurs as part of medical treatment for chronic pain then the best that can be done is prescribe opiods which I agree is not ideal at all and which does cover up the underlying causes.

            Your point seems to be, however, that many of these people caused their own underlying causes by being fat and unhealthy lifestyles and so it is their fault. But that is not the case for all cases, and as I said, even obese people can have problems that do not come from obesity (but rather may in fact cause the obesity, like PCOS).

            And if someone develops an addiction to opiods because they are poor, possibly now unemployed, living in a depressed area of the country and have few options or supports? How do you address those underlying conditions?

          • onyomi says:

            Again, I’m not trying to assign moral blame to people in pain by use of the word “avoidable.” I mean avoidable in physical, biological sense, not in a practical sense.

            And I’m also not laying all the blame on obesity, though I think it’s definitely a part of it (as a matter of physics, weighing 300 lbs puts more stress on your knee joints than weighing 150 lbs). I think there are lots of different factors, and to some extent, identifying all of them exactly is not really my point.

            My point is that something is causing all this chronic pain, and I don’t think all or even most of it is genetic destiny or accident (that is, there are probably some people with a genetic disorder dooming them to a life of pain and probably some people who were in a car accident so horrific they are doomed to a life of pain, but I think they are very much in the minority, especially when you consider that even the pain of really bad injuries and disabilities can usually be at least somewhat ameliorated through physical therapy, etc.).

            The point is, regardless of what exactly is causing the pain, in 99% of cases it’s not just malfunctioning opiod receptors. It’s something else which the opiates are masking but not addressing. It may, in a few cases, be something current medical technology and lifestyle intervention can’t address at all, but, again, I really don’t think that’s a majority of non-hospice cases.

            There may be certain jobs which, if you do them long enough, almost always result in chronic pain. Ideally those would be done by robots in the future, or we’d find a way for people to do them differently–example, could certain physical labor jobs be done with different tools or more ergonomically?

            And as I said below, addressing the underlying conditions leading to poor health choices (and I would classify taking a job which results in chronic pain as a poor health choice, even if it’s a mostly unavoidable life choice) is a much harder problem, but I do worry the high use of opiates blunts the urge to address it.

            It may be similar to the argument that welfare programs really exist to keep the large population of underemployed or even unemployable from just outright revolting. That may be good, short term, but it might also prevent addressing the question of why these people are unemployable (though maybe society always produces a certain proportion of people with no motivation and/or marketable skills). That is, part of the opium of the masses are literal opiates.

            And again, I’m not saying “ban opiates and make everybody so miserable they find other solutions.” I am saying that I think doctors seem to just accept, in far too many cases, that certain patients will simply need to use opiates forever.

        • Leit says:

          maybe they have no better job options besides truck driver

          Ever actually driven a truck? An FH-480 may not be top of the line, but it’s reasonably spacious, has a comfortable, large driver’s seat with independent air suspension, has climate control and offers a hell of a view. The Globetrotter cab’s an old design, but it handles reasonably, sleeps decently and it’s not nearly as noisy as you’d think given the engine on the thing.

          If we’re talking about blue collar jobs, you could do a hell of a lot worse.

    • onyomi says:

      Somewhat related:

      This article makes the case that the press’s salivating over stories of celebrity addiction causes celebrity’s to hide their problems and delay or avoid seeking medical treatment.

    • Deiseach says:

      There’s also chronic pain from something like arthritis, which may be hereditary. And even obese people can suffer chronic pain from conditions that are not their fault, and doctors taking the “I won’t treat you until you lose weight” approach only make it worse because the person is still in pain, the underlying condition is not being treated and is probably going to get worse, and the person is likely to try and self-medicate either by overdosing on over-the-counter pain medication, alcohol, or buying prescription drugs illegally.

      Certainly if you’re very overweight, the strain on your joints won’t help the pain. On the other hand, if you can’t exercise because you’re in such pain, that’s a chicken-and-egg problem: diet alone won’t lose the weight.

      • onyomi says:

        I’m not trying to assign moral blame nor blame everything on obesity. See above.

        I would, however, disagree with the contention that diet alone can’t address obesity. It can, though it’s not ideal.

        Also, there are very few people who can’t do any form of exercise. Swimming, for example, is much gentler for many people.

  4. The Nybbler says:

    It’s been days and no one has mentioned the Axiom of Choice’s equivalence with Banach-Tarski paradox?

    The Axiom of Choice says that for any set of nonempty sets, there exists a “choice function” which maps a set to an element of that set.

    The Banach-Tarski paradox says that you can decompose a ball into a (finite!) number of disjoint subsets, which can then be put back together into two identical copies of the ball. If the Axiom of Choice is true, so is the Banach-Tarski paradox. If the Axiom of Choice is not true, a number of important things can’t be proven.

    One version of the fortune file states this as “An interesting anagram of BANACH TARSKI is BANACH TARSKI BANACH TARSKI”

    • Alex Zavoluk says:

      I don’t believe B-T is equivalent to AC; I’ve never seen a proof that BT implies choice, only the other way around.

      • The Nybbler says:

        You’re right, AC implies BT but BT doesn’t imply AC; I thought it did. However, that doesn’t make it less weird.

    • Nita says:

      Yeah, but don’t the subsets have such a weird shape that their measure is undefined? [x] -> [???] -> [2x] is less weird than [x] -> [2x] would be.

      Besides, it’s not like it can be applied to real-world, physical balls — it only works on math balls, and those are odd anyway 🙂

  5. David says:

    This blog previously linked a Wikipedia article about a radar detector detector detector detector, but Rational Conspiracy did the research and believes it to be a hoax. The radar detection hierarchy likely ends with radar detector detector detectors. Mea culpa.

    Doesn’t that mean that in failing to detect a radar detector detector detector detector, Rational Conspiracy acted, in this case, as a radar detector detector detector detector detector?

    Note also that by pointing this out I am acting as a radar detector detector detector detector detector detector.

    • William Newman says:

      If I tell you to desist, can I be a detector detector detector detector detector detector defector director?

  6. Just a Memer says:

    Authors of texts, do you manage to read your own texts? What do you think and feel while doing that?

    • Eggoeggo says:

      Mostly unbearable shame.

    • onyomi says:

      I sometimes find it surprising how external to me my own writing feels after a few years. Sometimes I even read something I forgot I wrote and think, “hey, that’s a good idea!” There is usually a mixture of pleasant surprise that old-me wasn’t as dumb, in some ways, as I thought he was, and unpleasant surprise that old me was dumber, in some ways, than I thought he was.

      Though sometimes the feeling is reversed: reading something dumb I wrote a long time ago makes me feel like I must have since improved, and vice-versa.

      • Mark says:

        I’m reminded of Henry James remarking that he thought of one of his prior books as “the work of quite another person than myself, at this date – that of a rich (so much rather than a poor) relation, say, who hasn’t cast me off in my trouble, but still suffers me to claim a shy fourth cousinship.”

      • Jill says:

        Yes, I often feel those ways about my writing too. When one writes a lot, and changes a fair amount, it’s an amazing experience sometimes to go back in time and read. Like a time machine, kind of.

    • Mostly I enjoy rereading things I wrote in the past. Occasionally I conclude that I was wrong or overstated my argument.

    • Deiseach says:

      Very, very rarely it’s “Oh, did I write that? It’s rather good!”

      Mostly it’s “Oh God, did I write that? What was I thinking?”

      Sometimes in the editing stage it’s “Yeah, no, this is not working, I’ll have to scrap that and do it over again (dammit)”.

    • Randy M says:

      A rather mixed reaction, some cringing, some enjoying. Which I take to mean that I’ve improved over time, or at least that my tastes have stopped changing.

  7. HeelBearCub says:

    Jonathan Chait on the illiberal left and supression of speech.

    Suppose that Trump’s election could be prevented by breaking up his speeches and intimidating his supporters. Such a “victory” would actually constitute the blow to democracy it purports to stop, eroding the long-standing norm that elections should be settled at the ballot box rather than through street fighting.

    • Matt M says:

      This is exactly why comparing Trump to Hitler (and calling him a fascist, which to most people is a synonym for “Hitler-like”) is incredibly dangerous.

      Because the amount of people who would, without a second thought, resort to physical violence and undemocratic means to “stop Hitler” is a lot higher than the intellectuals making this comparison might think it is.

      No one will admit to this publicly, but in my mind, saying that someone is like Hitler is an implicit endorsement of using physical violence to stop them, unless you make it VERY clear in the immediate next sentence that you think Hitler might have been stopped/prevented/defeated through peaceful means. The vast majority of the public believes that not only was violence necessary to stop Hitler, but that the main problem is that we didn’t resort to violence quickly enough…

      • Nita says:

        I agree with your overall point, but…

        In the Hitler analogy, the American people are the German people. And if fewer Germans had supported Hitler, there might have been no need for so much violence in the first place. So, the folks making the Hitler analogy might be thinking, “please resist the temptation to give him more power,” not “kill him!”

        • Matt M says:

          This is fair.

          I wonder if the average columnist for the New York Times is counting on the American people making this nuanced distinction.

          I think if the average American hears “Hitler is coming and only you can stop him” they immediately jump to “Hitler is properly stopped with bombs and guns” rather than “Well the Germans themselves might have stopped him in 1930 if only they voted for the social democrats instead.”

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M.

            Under what category, in your mind, should his proposals be categorized?

            Is it OK to to refer to them as authoritarian? If it’s not OK, do you agree that many of his proposals are authoritarian? If so, why don’t you think it is OK to call them that?

          • Matt M says:

            I think most of his policies are actually a continuation of current policy, just phrased in a far more blunt and direct manner, absent the typical political correctness and obfuscation of politics.

            I’m actually rooting for Trump (although I don’t vote for myself). I don’t he will actually do much of anything different from the status quo. But he DOES throw the curtain back and show us just how ugly and nasty the entire enterprise is. He’s showing us how the sausage is made – some may rather not know, but I find it fascinating.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M:
            Refusing all entry to the U.S. to almost 1/4 of the world’s population merely because of their nominative religion is a continuation of current US policy? Threatening to pull CNNs FCC license because he doesn’t like what they say is normal? Threatening to investigate Amazon because he doesn’t like what the Washington Post says is normal? Saying he won’t actually pay all the debts of the U.S. (since retracted) is normal?

            He says what a lot of people say, but not what people who have a legitimate shot at running the government say. He is espousing policies, to the extent that they are coherent, which are wayyyyy outside normal or current.

          • Matt M says:

            Right now we refuse entry to a lot of people based on the fact that we don’t like the rulers of the particular plot of land they were born on. Is that more legitimate than refusing entry based on religion? I’m not so sure.

            I think I recall some Democratic politicians threatening to “investigate” Fox News. Calls to bring back the fairness doctrine were certainly a direct response to conservative talk radio hosts saying things that certain people didn’t want to be said. And let’s not forget Congress charging oil companies under RICO for the crime of “denying” climate change…

            Plenty of free market economists (particularly Austrian school) would tell you that an outright default on treasury bonds is preferable to the current solution (using inflation to pay them back in dollars that are worth less). The biggest functional difference is that in a default, the people who were dumb enough to loan the government money suffer 100% of the loss; whereas with inflation, the entire dollar-using public loses.

            Most of his proposals SOUND ridiculous, but if you think long and hard about what the current status quo actually is, they start to lose some of their edge.

          • Matt M says:

            “He says what a lot of people say, but not what people who have a legitimate shot at running the government say. ”

            Weird. I thought we were supposed to have a government “of the people.”

            Turns out that those of us who have been saying all along that the government is not representative – that we are the subjects of a separate “political class” of which the common folk are not included – may have been onto something after all…

            Yet again, Trump is pulling back the curtain. The elites in government and media are starting to awkwardly admit that the system isn’t as representative as we’ve been told. That “things the common folk believe” are not acceptable for a “serious politician” to believe.

            This is a good thing – even a close finish by Trump will do a lot to shake people’s faith in a system that lies to them and defrauds them on a constant basis.

          • Nita says:

            Huh? It’s good that politicians try to be more diplomatic, sober and restrained than the average person.

            Would politics becoming more like Tumblr or Twitter, where folks ‘tell it like it is’ and get into huge fights, really be an improvement?

          • Anonymous says:

            Huh? It’s good that politicians try to be more diplomatic, sober and restrained than the average person.

            Except that’s not what goes on.

            What goes on is that politicians follow the Harvard consensus – which in many instances is hostile, agitated and unhinged.

          • Matt M says:

            “It’s good that politicians try to be more diplomatic, sober and restrained than the average person.”

            This is a personal value judgment that I’m not certain is correct.

            Especially while concurrently insisting that the government is totally representative of the average person.

            People inherently recognize this is not the case, and assume something is up. Perhaps it’s true that the “serious politician” red tribe leaders (McCain, Romney, etc.) are representative of actual red tribe people, just “more restrained” or whatever. But we’ve reached the point where the actual red tribe people don’t believe that anymore.

            Edit: Not trying to single-out the red tribe for this. A similar thing is taking place in the blue tribe, where Hillary’s is either “an experienced and calculated politician” or “owned by wall street” depending on your particular perspective…

            Is it better to put a fancy civilized coat of paint on an inherently aggressive and uncivilized process? I think that’s certainly up for debate…

          • Anonymous says:

            I’m not sure what “totally representative” means and whether it is something we should actually aspire to. Should we wish that roughly half of Congressmen had an IQ <= 100? That .44% (i.e. 2) be untreated schizophrenics?

          • Matt M says:

            And that’s fine – so long as you’re honest about it.

            In other words, that would be a government of the smart people, by the smart people, for the stupid people.

            I’m not here to have a debate on the best form of government – I’m merely requesting that we be honest about what is going on here. If you think that the unwashed masses are properly ruled by their intellectual, social, and cultural betters, please just say so.

            This is our current state of affairs, and it’s what Trump is exposing, and the ruling class isn’t too fond of it one bit.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            No, it is government by lawyers, of lawyers for non lawyers.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M:
            Is it really controversial in your mind that elections should favor the best in a particular cohort? Yes, you can answer “best at what”, but at that point you are already admitting that voters both evaluate on, and are swayed by, competence in some dimension.

            It’s not “random lottery”, it’s an election.

          • Matt M says:


            My point is that somewhere along the way, in a search for ever increasing “competence,” the anointed leaders lost whatever claim of “representation” they might once have had.

            If “competence” means “crouching every statement in politically correct terms,” then that is culturally incompatible with current red tribe thinking. To them, Trump’s anti-Muslim comments are a far greater indication of his tribal affiliation than his support for universal healthcare is. Might it be possible for someone to truly represent the interests of the working-class red tribe while being less combative than Trump? Maybe – but the working class red tribe has been fed that line over and over again and they’re pretty damn sick of it – they are the equivalent of a street gang that has been compromised by undercover cops so many times – they now demand new recruits murder someone as an initiation rite – not necessarily because they have someone who needs murdering – but solely because it’s something an undercover cop would NEVER do.

            The Jeb Bushes of the world are no longer “the most competent among the group of people who represent the red tribe.” They no longer represent the red tribe at all. Trump does (or at least, he talks like he does – which is probably enough)

          • Anonymous says:

            Representativeness in the sense you describe has never been a part of American political philosophy. The aspect of natural aristocracy elitism you apparently don’t like has been there from the very beginning. There was, maybe, a little bit of wavering on this unbroken tradition during the mid 20th century as embodied in Mr Smith Goes to Washington, but even there it wasn’t some random drunken farmer, it was noblest local farmer.

            It’s fine not to like it, but don’t act like it is some sort of dishonesty or hypocracy.

          • Matt M says:

            “The aspect of natural aristocracy elitism you apparently don’t like has been there from the very beginning. ”

            Of course it has. And Trump is exposing it. And this is his cardinal sin in the eyes of many.

            It has always been there, but it has always been largely hidden from the public view. It is not covered in public schools or in our cultural memes. Like I said, Trump is pulling back the curtain.

          • Anonymous says:

            It’s not hidden from anyone and it is taught in public schools. It’s right out in the open in, for example, the federalist papers. If Trump supporters didn’t pay attention in high school that’s their own fault, not evidence of a conspiracy.

          • Matt M says:

            You were assigned the original text of the federalist papers in high school? Must have been nice.

            I was assigned Howard Zinn.

          • Anonymous says:

            Zinn’s works have a *lot* of problems, but I don’t think anyone can accuse him of hiding a conspiracy of political and economic elites to dominate American politics. That’s his entire schtick.

          • Anonymous says:

            Zinn’s works have a *lot* of problems, but I don’t think anyone can accuse him of hiding a conspiracy of political and economic elites to dominate American politics. That’s his entire schtick.

            There are a lot of ways to hide a conspiracy – one of the most effective one is to use your power to indoctrinate everyone that some other conspiracy controls everything.

            Zinn’s work doesn’t exactly make the role of people like Zinn clear. Nor can it explain the existence of Muggeridge – intellectuals conspiring to suppress the horrific truth about communism? Does not compute.

          • Lime Green Anonymous says:

            Other anonymous:
            This begins to look like a gish-gallop. Whether or not Zinn is part of entirely different conspiracy of silence vis-a-vis Stalinist Russia(!) doesn’t have anything to do with whether there is a conspiracy of silence to cover up the fact that the American political system doesn’t and was never intended to select for legislators that are representative in the statistical sense. There is no conspiracy of silence on that issue — different people spin it different ways (Hamilton thought it was a good thing, Zinn thinks it’s a bad thing) but the underlying facts are clear to anyone that even vaguely paid attention in high school.

            Inasmuch as Trump supporters think that Congress is “supposed” to have the same proportional amount of stupid people as the population at large, their ignorance is their own fault. Not media elites or politicians or textbook authors or teachers.

          • John Schilling says:

            Inasmuch as Trump supporters think that Congress is “supposed” to have the same proportional amount of stupid people as the population at large

            Trump supporters, of course, do not believe this. Trump supporters mostly believe themselves to be modestly smart but honest, and would prefer to be represented in Congress by people who are somewhat smarter than they but still honest. Trump supporters believe that the problems with Congress are entirely due to very clever but dishonest politicians convincing all the stupid gullible people to vote for them and so leaving the smart-but-honest unrepresented in government.

            You can pretty much substitute any other politician, political party or philosophy, for “Trump” there.

          • Lime Green Anonymous says:

            That’s a fine sentiment John, but seems to directly disagrees with what Matt M has been saying. Especially the part about “somewhat smarter”.

            At least as I read him Matt M: 1) objects to Congress not being representative in the statistical sense, 2) thinks there is a conspiracy of silence about same, 3) believes Trump is unmasking this conspiracy, and 4) this, at least in large part, explains his popularity.

            Do you read Matt M otherwise, or simply disagree with him?

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            “Should we wish that roughly half of Congressmen had an IQ <= 100?"

            I'd like to try and get it down to a quarter or less, but I suppose you've got to walk before you can run (ba-da-bump).

          • HeelBearCub says:

            What Lime Green said.

            If anything, I’m guessing the average Trump supporter thinks Trump is a certified business genius, and that he will use that genius to improve the government. Heck, one of his go to’s is asserting that the average politician, government official, or policy is stupid/dumb, etc.

            All of this seems to directly contradict Matt Ms assertions.

            Of course, Trump may also be claiming that the secret ruling elite have been hiding their eliteness from the masses and screwing them. And that he is simultaneously of the masses and elite. Whether any of that is coherent does not seem to matter.

          • Matt M says:

            I don’t think Congress has to be directly representative via IQ.

            I do think that, contra to what HBC said above, the notion of a politician “saying things that regular people may say, but that NO SERIOUS CANDIDATE has ever said!” should not be particularly controversial – and the fact that there are apparently things that half the country says/believes that go wholly ignored by the entirety of the body politic is probably different from how the average person believes the system is supposed to function.

            And this is what Trump is exposing. That “ban Muslim immigration” is NOT, in fact, some wacko fringe opinion. Nor is “build a wall” or “bomb the families of terrorists.” These are mainstream opinions held by tens (if not hundreds) of millions of Americans.

            It is fine to disagree with those opinions, but you should probably engage them and explain why you disagree – not just dismiss them as “well someone who says this has obviously disqualified themself and can’t be a serious candidate.”

            If you refuse to take the opinions of half the country seriously – then a Trump presidency is exactly what you deserve.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M:
            If half the country thinks that motor oil needs to be changed ever 3000 miles, does that make it true? Much as I don’t want direct democracy when deciding what is needed to maintain a car, I don’t want direct democracy in politics either. Generally, there are are very good arguments for representative democracy.

            In addition, what we have evidence of right now is that a plurality of Republican primary voters agree with Trump, not that half the country

          • Lime Green Anonymous says:

            Even with the clarification I still disagree with conspiracy to suppress how things actually work.

            Since the before the founding of the country men have sit around and bullshitting about how we ought to do this or that crazy thing. But by and large with the underlying understanding that they weren’t deciding national policy there in the bar, didn’t bear the burden and responsibility of making these decisions, and hadn’t really thought through how everything would work. They *wanted* politicians that had the same values as them but were more serious, knowledgeable, and thoughtful.

            When tensions were high in the middle east 30, 40 years ago everyone knew including the millions of people saying it that man-on-the-street chest thumping about how we should nuke mecca wasn’t a serious thing that serious people thought we should actually do. It was just bullshitting.

            Now to a certain extent that’s eroded. Increasingly everyone thinks he’s an expert at everything, that every thought that pops out of his head is pure gold, and if only he were king of the world things would be perfect. Entry level hires can’t understand why they aren’t setting company policy after six months, and think their genius is being unfairly suppressed. Narcissism is the value of the age.

            A lot of people want a stand-in for themselves as President instead of a stand-in for someone they respect and admire, because they are their own heroes.

            So things change, fine, now maybe we’ll have a President for the reality TV age, but there was never any conspiracy to lie about how things worked. How the system worked was right out there in the open. If you look at history and you can’t understand how they could have picked those politicians, well maybe you don’t understand the voters of that era as well as you think you do.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @Lime Green Anonymous,

            I wasn’t alive back then, so if you were I can’t comment exactly.

            But from the old blue-collar folks I’ve talked to / am related to, I’d doubt that people back then were any less serious about that stuff than they are now. I know folks who to this day are pissed off that we never dropped the bomb on Hanoi or successfully killed Castro.

            I’d say the difference is more in the ongoing democratization of the media, particularly the news media, thanks to the internet. Bloggers, even those with widely read blogs, are typically Just Some Guy TM. They aren’t trying to be Walter Cronkite, and it’s obvious that anyone with an opinion and some free time could join them as an equal. The media establishment is crumbling, and the remnants have too little cachet left to control the discourse the way they used to.

          • Eggoeggo says:

            “I was assigned Howard Zinn”
            And here come the flashbacks. Bloody criminal to indoctrinate children like that.

            So congressional representatives aren’t supposed to be demographically representative?
            Sorry, apparently I’d been misled by all the talk about mandating 50% women in congress, because demographics.

          • Anonymous says:

            Sorry, apparently I’d been misled by all the talk about mandating 50% women in congress, because demographics.

            There’s no serious talk of that because it would require a constitutional amendment and those are really really hard to pass.

            You are a terrible poster and should feel bad about yourself.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            There are countries that mandate a certain number of women on the ballot; while it is unlikely to happen in the US, people have certainly brought it up here.


            “Party lists are required to alternate between men and women, and in the single-member districts, men are required to run with a female alternate, and vice versa. At least 50% of the deputies from single-member districts are required to be women.”

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ reddish Anonymous
            There’s no serious talk of [mandating 50% women in congress] because it would require a constitutional amendment and those are really really hard to pass.

            Some pretty strong customs can arise without a national constitutional amendment, though. State constitutional amendments are much easier.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Yelling “Fire” in a crowded theater still carries risks, even when there actually is a fire. However, that does not mean one should not inform the crowd of the fire.

        It seems to me there are two potential objections wrapped in your post. One objection is that the accusations are not true. I don’t think this reasonably holds water, as their certainly is plenty of smoke in the Trump theater. I think it’s right to point out all of the ways in which Trump’s actual proposals match those of various authoritarian dictators of the 20th century, Hitler being one of them.

        The other objection is that we should be efficacious in our actions, and merely yelling “Hitler” is not particularly efficacious. I agree with that, but it seems a mugs game to try and stop anyone in the crowd from yelling. Rather, one needs to try to stop the bad actions that result from the yelling, as these are the actual problem.

        • Matt M says:

          I disagree with your last sentence.

          For the record, IF someone believes Trump really truly is likely to be as bad as Hitler, then I really have no particular problem with those same people advocating for violence against Trump and his supporters (much like how, if there really IS a fire, you are correct to yell, even if some people get hurt in the stampede out the door).

          My issue is with those who call Trump Hitler, then try to pretend that they totally disapprove of this violence. “Sure I may have said that electing this guy will lead to millions of deaths, but I take great offense towards the implication that I endorse someone having eggs thrown at them!!!” Such hypocritical pundits are having their cake and eating it too. They are yelling fire, then scolding the people in the theater for not calmly exiting in an orderly fashion.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            But, if I think Trump is proposing authoritarian policies, and I say it and compare it to various 20th century dictators including Hitler, you can’t hold me responsible for someone else in the crowd yelling “Hitler” in a panic. Nor does getting into an argument about whether Trump is “literally Hitler” do much either.

            Because Trump really is proposing authoritarian policies based on identity. And they really are a bad idea.

            When people are counter-demagoguery and advocating violence or engaging in it, that is what you have to speak up against.

          • Matt M says:

            I think when someone makes a Hitler comparison, they do so with the full understanding that large portions of the populace believe that using violence is justified to stop Hitler.

            Part of the reason you include Hitler in your “list of various dictators” is for added rhetorical effect. Dropping the “h-bomb” has a cultural significance that is beyond Mao or Mussolini or Pinochet or Pol Pot or whoever (whether this should be so or not is a different argument for a different time). But that rhetorical effect comes with a trade off. You are invoking Hitler for the specific reason of getting people to listen to you and take you seriously – but then you get surprised when people listen TOO closely and take you TOO seriously (such that they start beating up people who you have likened to the 1930s brownshirts).

            If you plan on alerting theater patrons to a fire, but don’t want to see them stampeding about the place, then it’s very important that you notify them in a calm and cool manner, and that you instruct them on what is and what is not an appropriate method for exiting the building.

            But that’s not what I’m seeing from journalists. I’m seeing them stand up and yell “FIRE FIRE FIRE EVERYONE OUT” then, when the aftermath is an unruly stampede, they disavow all responsibility by saying “Well I didn’t TELL them to stampede, I expected they would get in a single file line and proceed slowly through the exits.”

          • Jill says:

            When someone makes a Trump/Hitler comparison, one thing they may be expressing is the fear that Trump is like Hitler. They certainly have some things in common. But if Trump were like Hitler, he’d be like Hitler at the stage where his expressions of racism, so far, were comparatively mild. This is not the stage where it necessarily would have made sense to murder Hitler, if only because it was unclear what Hitler was like as of yet. And because one could easily mistake milder racism and thuggery for more serious racism and thuggery.

            And even if someone does believe Trump is like Hitler, that doesn’t mean anyone should be violent toward him or his supporters. At this point, Trump has no power over the government. So at this point, it would be better to just not elect him, rather than to stoop to his level by being violent oneself and role modeling violence to others. That’s certainly not constructive behavior, at this point.

            One could even make the case that encouraging violence would add to Trump’s electability by making violence into just an everyday part of our nation’s experience, thus making Trump just naturally fit as the person who represents us best.

          • “Because Trump really is proposing authoritarian policies based on identity. ”

            So perhaps you should compare him to FDR?

            To be fair, I don’t think he has proposed putting all Muslims in concentration camps.

          • “Dropping the “h-bomb” has a cultural significance that is beyond Mao or Mussolini or Pinochet or Pol Pot or whoever ”

            True and interesting. The distinction makes sense for Mussolini and Pinochet, but Mao killed a lot more people than Hitler did and Pol Pot killed a much larger fraction of the people he ruled.

            Is the reason that Mao and Pol Pot were both thought of as on the left, and there is no enemy to the left? So even if one recognizes that they were bad guys, they weren’t really bad bad guys.

          • Matt M says:


            Much like Nita above, I think your point here is technically correct, but potentially irrelevant.

            I’m not sure that the average American media consumer is that educated about 1930s Germany, and even if they technically “know” all that, it’s probably not at the front of their mind when reading an article that’s screaming “HITLER HITLER HITLER” at them.

            And most of the pieces I’ve seen that link Trump to fascism or nazism don’t provide the nuanced level of detail that you just did, nor do they explicitly denounce violence against Trump and his supporters. Even after recent events, most of the disavowals of violence against Trump supporters are heavily crouched in equivalence (“both sides need to tone down the violence”) or even victim-blaming (“this is what Trump’s rhetoric leads to”)

            My point is only this – people need to be VERY careful with Hitler comparisons, because of the unique space Hitler occupies in our collective cultural conscience. He occupies the space of the greatest imaginable evil – the thing that must be stopped regardless of consequence. If you invoke that comparison without doing so very carefully, you really shouldn’t be shocked that some people might answer it with physical violence.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Freidman:
            That is so beneath you.

            By all rights, as a Libertarian, you should be in full throated rally against Trump. But no. Gotta get your digs against the left. Hurr hurr hurr.

            It was wrong when FDR locked the Japanese citizens up. Does that make any of the shit Trump is calling for, which has has been way outside the Overton Window for some time before this election cycle, somehow OK?

            You’d think people would want to find common ground with me on this. Here I am calling out actions from people on my side.

          • Anonymous says:

            Maybe it’s because the US went to total war with Hitler but was allied with Mao, so the full force of jingoism was unleashed on Hitler.

            Nah, must be because Mao is “of the left”.

          • “It was wrong when FDR locked the Japanese citizens up. Does that make any of the shit Trump is calling for, which has has been way outside the Overton Window for some time before this election cycle, somehow OK?”

            No. But the fact that FDR did that means that the things Trump is proposing are not as far outside of previous political practice as people would like to believe. Presidents have been doing objectionable things for a very long time. How people react depends less on how authoritarian they are than on which tribe they appear to be authoritarian in support of.

            At the moment, I think the least bad outcome we have any reasonable hope of getting would be Hilary plus a Republican House and Senate. Bernie plus a Republican House and Senate would probably be better, both because he is much better on foreign policy and because he is a less competent politician and so likely to do less damage. But I don’t think that a serious possibility at this point.

            Trump might be better than that, because we don’t know what his policies would be–pretty clearly what he says is designed to be whatever he thinks will get him votes. But he might be much worse, because if he is elected he will have a Republican house and Senate and I don’t trust Republican legislators to block bad policies by a Republican president. That includes not only policies that increase executive power but also center left policies–which Trump is capable of proposing if he thinks they would be politically popular.

          • “Maybe it’s because the US went to total war with Hitler but was allied with Mao”

            Maybe. But the US was in a long cold war with Stalin (and, for much of it, with Mao) and his name doesn’t carry the same punch either.

          • NN says:

            Maybe. But the US was in a long cold war with Stalin (and, for much of it, with Mao) and his name doesn’t carry the same punch either.

            The US was only in a cold war with Stalin for about 6 years before he died. Before that, the US had been allied with Stalin for 5 years. Also, in the case of both Stalin and Mao, irrefutable evidence of their worst atrocities wasn’t publicized until long after their deaths, whereas most Nazi death camps were liberated while Hitler was still in power.

            Also, with Mao, there’s the fact that the state that he founded still exists, is one of the most powerful countries in the world, has the power to suppress criticism of itself within its own borders and to a lesser degree even outside of them (see the 2012 Red Dawn remake being reedited to change the villains from Chinese to North Korean), and naturally isn’t too fond of “excessive” criticism of its founder.

            Though it is worth noting that Hitler didn’t really become the ultimate symbol of evil that he is now until sometime in the 1970s, for complicated reasons (at least in American culture; I imagine that it was a different story for Europeans and Israelis). I recommend Peter Novick’s book, The Holocaust in American Life, if you want to learn more on this subject.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            Thanks for the link. I’ll try to read the book.

          • “Doesn’t mean I’m thrilled about Trump, but I expect him to be mildly less awful than Hillary, possibly even less Hawkish.”

            Quite possible. But if Trump gets elected he will have a Republican house and senate. There’s a reasonable chance for Hilary getting elected but not having control of either, let alone both, which would limit the amount of damage she could do.

          • onyomi says:

            (The quote is from a comment I deleted because it was a bit more polemical than I wanted to get into at the time, basically saying I’m not thrilled about Trump, but don’t think being a libertarian commits me to preferring the alternative).

            @David Friedman

            Do you take it as a given that gridlock is almost always better?

            (This is a serious question among libertarians, I believe: do you want to get the closest thing to a libertarian elected and hope they enact libertarian-ish policies, or is the best you can hope for that the government be divided and therefore do less damage? Considering the track record of the past two Republican presidents, the latter may be it?)

            (And there are also the “worse is better” libertarians who want to elect the most tyrannical person possible to speed up our eventual realization that government doesn’t work; I can’t get on board with that).

          • @Onyomi:

            Gridlock is worse than movement in the right direction, better than movement in the wrong direction. Before it became clear that Trump was going to get the nomination, there was some reasonable hope of movement in the right direction, most obviously with Rand Paul but with others as well.

            There is still some hope–we don’t know what Trump’s real views are, so it’s possible that the bad parts are all demagoguery intended to get the nomination and he will turn out to be a good guy. But I don’t think the odds of that are very good.

            And an unscrupulous center-left demagogue with control of both houses of congress could do a lot of damage.

          • Matt M says:


            Is there any particular evidence that partisan control of executive + legislative branch really results in extreme outcomes?

            Republicans had it under Bush and accomplished basically nothing (nothing that wouldn’t have also been accomplished if Democrats had control of one or the other at least). Democrats had it under Obama and accomplished relatively little (at least, not nearly as much as their supporters had hoped). The one big thing they got was Obamacare and even that required a lot of dealing to get some congressional GOP support and a ridiculous Supreme Court ass-pull of a justification.

          • The Nybbler says:

            “Some damage” might not be a bad thing. Depends on how the damage is distributed. Currently the government is moving slowly but inexorably towards ever-higher taxation and regulation. Under Hillary Clinton, that trend will continue, whether quickly or slowly.

            Under Trump… well, who the hell knows? He might try to run the government as his personal fiefdom and end up with complete gridlock. He might try to implement his “build a wall” proposal and waste all his effort on that, doing little. He might implement his law-and-order ideas and make things much worse. He might manage to get some regulation and taxation rolled back, making things slightly better. Or something else.

            I prefer Trump to Hillary mostly because I’m not a conservative; I have a bias to the devil we don’t know. Well, that, and the wailing from the other side of the culture war will be music to my ears, but I admit that’s petty.

          • RCF says:

            “Even after recent events, most of the disavowals of violence against Trump supporters are heavily crouched in equivalence”

            The term is “couched”.

          • RCF says:

            @David Friedman

            “Before it became clear that Trump was going to get the nomination, there was some reasonable hope of movement in the right direction, most obviously with Rand Paul but with others as well.”

            Was his support of his father not evidence of serious character issues?

        • RCF says:

          “One objection is that the accusations are not true. I don’t think this reasonably holds water, as their certainly is plenty of smoke in the Trump theater.”

          That is just plain absurd. There is absolutely no basis for saying that Trump’s proposed policies come even close to Hitler’s, and it’s just plain political mudslinging to assert otherwise.

          • John Schilling says:

            There is absolutely no basis for saying that Trump’s proposed policies come even close to Hitler’s

            Finish that thought before moving on, please. Hitler’s actual policies, or Hitler’s proposed policies?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Hitler’s 1920 “25 points’


            Trump looks like he could support #5, #6, #9, #23 (partial). You maybe could make a case for #7 and a partial of #8, but I think that’s pushing it.

            Hillary would likely support #5, #15, #20, #21, #23 (partial). Maybe #20 is debatable, but it takes a village…

          • Interesting 25 points. I occasionally see arguments about whether the Nazis were actually socialists, as the party name suggests. Judging by this, back in 1920 they were offering a generally left wing (and nationalist) picture of themselves to the public.

          • TD says:

            @Nazis being left wing

            I think it’s dubious to judge left or right on means, or policies, since these only exist to service some ends in mind. If you are categorizing ideologies (and not outcomes) what matters is the philosophical content and the justifications for actions. What matters is the overall framework the policies sit within.

            You can have a right wing justification for a welfare state, just as you can have a left wing justification for a welfare state. What is ideological is the justification, because policies are not ideologies. Ideologies disavow certain policies (the individualist right wing couldn’t accept a welfare state), because certain means cannot support certain ends. However, policies themselves do not dictate ideology (support for an extensive welfare state does not indicate a left wing orientation on its own), because people can believe in different “facts”, and so two philosophies with totally different ends can converge on similar means even if reality will have something to say about that when you try to those means into practice.

            Left wing: “Inequality is rising! The poor are dying in the streets! Our human compassion must speak to a need for some kind of restitution for the poor and the weak! Societies with high inequality are unstable!”

            (illiberal) Right wing: “Our race is rising! The Jewish financial powers have made us weak, but now we must become strong and overwhelm this inherently inferior enemy. Every citizen is a soldier and the roles of citizen and soldier are inseparable! Surely, therefore, as each soldier has his rations to remain fighting fit, there must be some kind of basic standard of life in our new reich! The whole is only as strong as its parts, and the whole is the strongest nation the world has ever seen!”

            Hitler is not left wing because he supported some social programs, and Stalin is not right wing because he banned homosexual conduct and revived patriotism. Hitler is right wing because he was always working from a standpoint that inequality is beneficent and that one tradition and tribe had superior quality to another, and should rise above the others. Stalin is left wing because he wanted to destroy class by creating economic equality through common ownership of the means of production and that traditions were simply part of the superstructure that would be swept away as we transitioned to higher and higher levels of socialism. Whatever methods they used to fulfill their desires might overlap, but that doesn’t show a fundamental ideological similarity between Hitler and Stalin, it just shows that reality only allows certain means to actually function, and if you build a totalitarian state there is a convergence in the general kinds of policies you have to engage in to keep it together.

            Hitler was a nationalist because he believed his race was inherently the bestest in the whole wide world, and he was a “socialist”, to service the needs of his race. Stalin was a socialist because he believed that a classless society should be achieved, and he was a “nationalist” to service the protection of socialism. The primary goal of one is based on the concept of a specific tradition or kind or person having greater quality than others, and so he’s a rightist. The primary goal of the other is based on the concept of ending that struggle for superiority by creating class equality (and thereby destroying class), and so he’s a leftist. They both converged on “national socialism”, because reality doesn’t allow the two to be delinked so easily.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            That is a really excellent post.

            The only thing I will add is that “populist” or “nativist” are not things that are inherently right or left.

          • Matt M says:


            I agree with your first couple paragraphs, but I’m not sure your characterization of Hitler and Stalin is totally correct.

            Where, exactly, do you draw the line? Hitler is right because he wanted “his nation to be superior” but his endgame was that the entire world would be his nation. Within his nation, he wanted things to be more or less equal, did he not?

            Stalin also wanted the whole world to be more or less equal – but not until it had undergone communist revolution and all the capitalists were dead. In the meantime, methinks he wouldn’t have been particularly troubled by poverty or famines in capitalist states (except to the extent that he could use these conditions to bring about communist revolutions).

            What they wanted was the same thing – a society where everyone agreed or conformed with their particular philosophy – and were more or less equal.

            I don’t want to use right/left here, but there’s an obvious school of philosophy missing from this equation so far – which would be the libertarian/objectivist/classical liberal/whatever school of thought which says: “Inequality will still exist in the ideal society, and that’s okay.” That inequality is a natural and inescapable feature of the division of labor, which itself is mandatory for an advanced and highly developed society.

            This is the individualist thought pattern, contrasted with the collectivist thought pattern. Hitler and Stalin were both clearly collectivists. I believe this is the justification for saying they are both “left.”

          • onyomi says:

            “Hitler is right because he wanted “his nation to be superior” but his endgame was that the entire world would be his nation. Within his nation, he wanted things to be more or less equal, did he not?”

            I don’t think so. 1. I don’t think Hitler realistically ever expected to conquer the whole world. 2. I think to the extent he did, he envisioned a world of racial and ethnic hierarchy. Basically the Christian, Aryan Germans ruling Europe and the Japanese ruling Asia.

          • Matt M says:

            That’s quite possible and a fair point, but at the end of the day, I still think that the difference in philosophy between Ayn Rand and Hitler OR Stalin is significantly larger than the difference between Hitler and Stalin themselves.

            If the best difference you can find is “One wanted to conquer the whole world, the other was content with 1/3 of it” I’m not sure that’s a relevant point on which to try and categorize…

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M:
            What does Ayn Rand have to do with this?

            Libertarian doesn’t really fit neatly on the left/right axis.

          • Matt M says:

            My point is that if your axis is only designed to differentiate between different levels of totalitarians – perhaps it isn’t a particularly useful axis (particularly in a country where the amount of people who aren’t totalitarians is non-trivial).

            Individualism vs collectivism is already used as an axis by many, and, in my opinion, is more useful to us than what TD is proposing.

          • TD says:

            As regards the position of libertarianism on this scale:

            Position: Focus
            Right: Quality (subjectively)
            Left: Equality
            Libertarian: Autonomy
            Anti-Libertarians/Totalitarians: Unity

            Left-libertarians: Equality and Autonomy (if people are unequal then no one can exercise free choice)
            Right-libertarians: Quality and Autonomy (freeing people to choose creates great men who benefit all)
            Right-totalitarians: Quality and Unity (people must become one with their group so as to preserve their qualities and struggle with other competing groups to become a superior race/tribe/religion/etc)
            Left-totalitarians: Equality and Unity (people must become one with humanity so as to end struggle)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M:
            The point was to try and rebut arguments that “Hitler was a leftist”, not come up with a universal theory of left and right.

  8. fireant says:

    I think that the article about the Dalai Lama does a bit of a disservice to accurately representing his opinion. It references the original interview from a german newspaper. From the context of the quote there, which was said inside an “on the other hand” clause, it seems more like he was weighing different arguments: Note, for example, that he also said there is a responsibility to help refugees. [I welcome confirmation or disagreement from other german speakers, so that the rest of you do not have to rely on my claims only.]
    In the next answer, he also addresses hate against Muslims.

    • Creutzer says:

      I’ve just translated the whole paragraph:

      When we look into the face of every single refugee, especially children and women, we feel their suffering. A person who is better off is responsible for helping them. On the other hand, they’ve become too many. Europe – Germany, for example – can’t become an arabic country. Germany is Germany. It’s so many that it’s difficult in practice. Morally, too, I think these refugees ought to be accepted only temporarily. The goal should be for them to return and help to rebuild their own countries.

      He comes down squarely on the anti-immigration side. The idea of accepting refugees temporarily is, of course, utterly ridiculous, but that’s probably as far as he could go without losing face. Buddhists are, after all, supposed to be compassionate and all that.

      • ad says:

        Because, as we all know, refugees are not people trying to avoid a temporary problem. They are migrants intent on permanantly moving to another country.

        You should not complain about my saying that, as you implied it yourself first.

        • The Nybbler says:

          I’m sure they’ll move right back as soon as there is peace and good government in their Middle Eastern home countries.

          Seriously, is there any reason to think most of them will move back? There’s good reasons to believe they won’t, one being that the problems are likely to continue for a long time, and another being that even if ISIS is defeated and some sort of stable government is installed, Europe is still going to be a better place than the remains of their country.

          • NN says:

            A number of refugees themselves claim differently.

            Regardless, empirically, refugee repatriation is absolutely a thing that happens. In the last 13 years, about 4 million Afghan refugees have been repatriated, even though few people would claim that Afghanistan has anything resembling “peace” or “good government.”

          • Jill says:

            NN, good point. I think even fewer people would claim that Afghanistan has anything resembling “peace” or “good government.”

            Look at how everyone and their brother and sister has all gone to Syria and all these people are fighting one another there, and have killed, maimed and destroyed the homes of a a large percentage of the population.

            In this article there is a colored chart of all the parties fighting one another. This is absurd. Who could live under these conditions. People in Syria and outside of it all need to be thinking about how to bring peace, or at least a minimum amount of stability, to the place. Who could live under such conditions?


          • Nita says:


            Oh God, what a terrible choice of data presentation in that ‘chart’ 🙁

            They should’ve made a matrix/table, like in that more general “who hates who in the Middle East” thing a while ago.

            Edit: Ah, here it is.

          • Eggoeggo says:

            NN: note that they were repatriated from Pakistan, not London. I suspect that somewhat changes how we should interpret the evidence.

        • Creutzer says:

          Accepting refugees temporarily would would involve setting a condition and time-frame for when you’re going to throw them out. Good luck making that work, politically and practically, if they don’t want to go back. That’s why I call it ridiculous. If they go back of their own accord, very well, but then there isn’t really a meaningful sense in which your acceptance of them was only temporary.

          Apart from that, yes, I do, indeed, not expect large numbers of refugees who have gone through the trouble of moving to western and northern Europe to go back to their home countries, and the fact that people return to Afghanistan from Pakistan does not change my expectation much. That there are refugees in Lebanon who don’t want to go to Europe and then don’t do it is neither here nor there. (Data from NN’s post above, which I nonetheless appreciate as a contribution.)

      • fireant says:

        Ah, thanks! 🙂

      • Tibor says:

        I am not sure why it is ridiculous. A refugee should at least in theory be someone fleeing his country because of an immediate problem there (political persecution, war). If that problem ceases to exist, I don’t see why one should prolong his asylum status. He can then either try to immigrate in a regular way like everyone else or come back to his once again safe home country.

        The reason I am personally rather opposed to the current asylum policy in Europe (mostly Germany) is that it in fact tends to hurt the serious proposals for open borders. The same way the people tend to equate bailing out too-big-to-fail corporations with capitalism, they will tend to equate welfare immigration trough the asylum backdoor with open borders and in the end you come up with a much more restricted immigration policies in general (David Friedman’s more optimistic view on this is that instead the high welfare state costs might lead to a decreasing support of the welfare state, but given the political trends in Europe I think it is more likely that people will turn against free immigration rather than against the welfare state).

        Making it clear that asylum is granted temporarily and conditionally only and that anyone who wants to immigrate indefinitely has to do so in an ordinary way – that is to say without getting any welfare payments from the state – shows the voters the distinction between immigration and asylum (currently, at least in Germany, asylum is treated basically just as “immigration from Africa and the middle east”, in practice if not in theory) and you would probably see a decline in the popularity of the outright anti-immigration and nationalist parties.

        If something like that does not happen, the next Austrian chancellor will very likely be Heinz-Christian Strache (even now they only lost the presidency by 0,3% and the chancellor is way more important in Austria) and the next French president Marine Le Pen. Denmark, the Netherlands, Hungary or Finland the same kind of politicians will also keep getting stronger (in Denmark and probably even more in Hungary they already have a very strong say nowadays). All of these politicians are clearly not just against asylum seekers but outright against immigration and foreigners in general. And at least Le Pen is also very protectionist in her economic policies which is another bad thing (although French politicians are generally very socialist and even when they try not to be they have to face a massive opposition from various protesters, so I am afraid that France is going to end up like Greece one way or another…which is particularly bad as it is the biggest country in Europe and second biggest in population).

  9. suntzuanime says:

    Comments I tried to make on this post earlier were silently disappearing, I thought I had been banned. What gives?

    • onyomi says:

      Had the same problem.

    • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

      Perhaps you were banned, and then, in his great magnanimity, Scott decided to unban you.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      How long did the comments last before disappearing? I haven’t noticed it recently, but I have multiple times seen the recent 10 minutes with of comments vanish. Multiple comments on different threads. That sure sounds unintentional.

      • onyomi says:

        In my case they never seemed to appear. Yet when I tried again to post the same thing, it did result in the “you’ve already posted that” message.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          FWIW, when I post a duplicate comment with a banned word (which thus doesn’t appear, either time), I don’t get that message.

          Added: I think that means you encountered the automated spam filter, rather than manual banning.

  10. Ilya Shpitser says:

    I remember being very surprised Lowenheim-Skolem theorem was true, when I first learned about it.

    A lot of set theory/model theory stuff is super weird, actually. Maybe I just haven’t done enough logic to get used to it… Everyone knows Goedel’s results, to the point of cliche, but they are super weird.

    • Anatoly says:

      Agreed on the Lowenhelm-Skolem, but I eventually convinced myself that its being true highlights a deficiency of first-order logic more than reveals a deep truth about “what is”, whatever that is.

      The PCP theorem on the other hand… that seems incredibly astonishing.

      • Ilya Shpitser says:

        Yes, I agree. I don’t find L-S that weird anymore, because I have a better intuition about why FOL is so weak.

  11. Cord Shirt says:

    Dumb question: in the studies which identified the “known ASD risk genes” they used, what was the sex ratio in the neurotypical data set(s) vs. the sex ratio in the ASD data set(s)? In the small studies which compared “autism brains” and “region-matched control brains,” were the control brains also sex-matched?

    “Politico asks: no, seriously, what is wrong with Salon?”

    See also Trust Me, I’m Lying, which argues that the incentives on online journalism are similar to those which produced “yellow journalism” back in the day.

  12. TSC says:

    So it’s a good time to reflect on the media’s previous glowing Venezuela stories.


    But I am less willing to forgive here, because the thesis of these articles wasn’t just that they were right, but that the only reason everyone else didn’t admit they were right was neoliberalism and bad intentions. Psychologizing other people instead of arguing with them should take a really high burden of proof, and Salon and Guardian didn’t meet it.

    It’s a bit more complicated than “Guardian”, though I cannot speak for Salon. Mark Weisbrot, the author of the article linked, can only be described as a serial Chavista. Might want to see the other pieces he’s written for The Guardian. And, for that matter, everything else he’s written.

    And here’s a short stub that no doubt can be well filled in with a significant chunk of his 183 articles.

    I share your desire to reflect upon certain glowing Venezuela stories. Going beyond the thesis of their articles being wrong, they have persistently deflected criticism with falsehoods and advocated the very policies that have contributed towards bringing persistent suffering to Venezuela’s populace. I want to more comprehensively document this, so that nobody in the future can ever say “but X never supported that”. Of course, with the current state of Venezuela, many of these articles are highly embarrassing. Some like Mark Weisbrot have spent significant portions of their academic and journalistic work supporting the policies of Chavez and Maduro, and will probably never be able to get away from that. Others have occasionally dabbled in it, something they might now regret.

    Perhaps this regret is related to a certain article going missing? One “Socialism’s critics look at Venezuela and say, ‘We told you so’. But they are wrong” from February 2014. My, what a horribly embarrassing title that is now. It’s hard to say the cause of this disappearance. At the very least, other articles by the same author, for the same section of the same website, even published during the same month, are all intact.


    Really is similar to cases like Walther Duranthy, although that particular escapade is somewhat more significant than bad journalism on Venezuela.

  13. ad says:

    And a study finds that attending an elite school in Britain has few positive later-life effects, at least for men.

    That is a bit misleading. In the 1950s British children sat an exam when they were 11, called the 11-plus. Those with the best scores went to grammer schools, which the article calls “elite schools”; the rest went to technical schools or secondary modern schools. Within each school, the best students in each subject usually went into the top set, less able students into a lower set. So a student who just scraped into a grammer school would mostly be in the lower sets at that school, and a student who just missed out would be mostly in the top sets at a secondary modern school.

    So the “elite schools” the article talks about were NOT “schools that were very good at teaching”. They were schools for elite students. They were schools that specialised in students who were very good at being taught.

    If you want to find out how good a school was, you should compare the scores its students scored at their 11-plus, with the CSE or O-level grades they got when they left the school. If their grades when they left the school were better than you would expect, given their 11-plus results, that would suggest it was a school that was good at teaching. And THEN you could see if attending a good school improved the life outcomes of the people who attended it.

    All this study tells us is that it made little difference to moderately able students whether they went into the bottom of a school for able students, or the top of a school for indifferent ones. It cannot tell us anything about the effects of the quality of the schools teaching. It is absurd to assume that because the students who went to a school were of above-average ability, the teachers it hired must also have been above average.

  14. TD says:

    I started looking into the Venezeulan issue about a month ago because I remembered some of the positive coverage from before. Most mainstream articles on Venezuela have always been negative, including mainstream “left wing” publications like the Guardian; here are a few neutral to positive exceptions (excluding all the obvious far-left publications of an explicitly socialist bent)

    Hugo Chavez and his Bolivarian revolution – MotherJones
    The lies being told about Hugo Chavez – theindependent
    The world according to Chavez – theGuardian
    Ken Livingstone: ‘Why I’m helping Hugo’ – theGuardian
    Oliver Stone: ‘The truth about Hugo Chavez’ – theGuardian
    Misreporting Venezuela’s economy – theGuardian
    Sean Penn: Journalists who call Hugo Chavez a dictator should be jailed – theGuardian
    Why the US demonizes Venezuela’s democracy – theGuardian
    Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez – Hated by the rich, loved by the poor – huffingtonpost
    Hugo Chavez proves you can lead a progressive, popular government that says no to neoliberalism – theindependent
    Hugo Chavez was a democrat not a dictator, and showed a progressive alternative to neoliberalism is both possible and popular – theindependent

    • TSC says:

      You’ve linked two articles by Mark Weisbrot, who is exceptional prolific on Chavez. Far more than the short sampling here.

      You’ve also linked two articles by Owen Jones. Not so prolific, although one of the articles he’s written for the Independent has mysteriously disappeared from the website.

      And then there’s one article by Ken Livingstone.

      I wonder what could link those three names and Venezuela together? One Venezuela Solidarity Campaign would do the trick.

  15. The ultrarunner guy you mention, Dean Karnazes, is a notorious bullshitter. In actual races against other actual humans, his performances are decent but not spectacular ( But he has a propensity for extraordinary achievement when no one is watching or verifying his performances. He’s an 88th percentile ultrarunner with a knack for self promotion, nothing more.

    The metric that almost certainly corresponds with extraordinary performance in extreme endurance races is VO2 Max – and the extraordinary values of many of the best athletes in the sport, Kilian Jornet, and Matt Carpenter have, unlike Karnazes’ lactate threshold, actually been verified.

    • Econopunk says:

      I’m glad I saw at least one comment doubting the Karnazes story. My question was going to be: If this guy can seemingly “run forever,” why doesn’t he run marathons at a competitive level? Sure, some people’s body’s are more fit for marathons and some more for ultramarathons, but why is that? Why is it that a person who specializes in ultramarathons can’t compete at the Olympic level in marathons? Is it perhaps because… they get *gasp* tired when they try to run at that fast of a pace? (I’m assuming that an ultramarathoner is physically capable of running at an Olympic marathon pace for some amount of time no matter how short, as opposed to an elite middle or short distance pace, since it’s very believable that a super-lean ultramarathoner is physically unable to reach the speeds of a Bolt or even Rudisha for even one second.)

      but in his entire life he has never experienced any form of muscle burn or cramp, even during runs exceeding 100 miles. It means his only limits are in the mind.

      Yeah, but at what pace is he running? As far as I know, when you get tired from running fast for too long, it’s lactic acid. If you’re an elite athlete, and probably any level of ultramarathoner, you’re running aerobically, i.e. you’re not running fast enough that lactic acid is piling up. What makes you elite at that level is that your aerobic running speed is higher than others.

      low sweat rate

      Weird. I thought a low sweat rate usually ceteris parabus means your body is less able to deal with heat than bodies with a high sweat rate.

      Anyway, yeah, if he or other ultramarathoners or any elite athlete does have genetic mutations, that’d be interesting. But everything else about him is starting to sound like clickbaiting and PR.

    • Tsnom Eroc says:

      Oh wow. I remember reading an article in Mens Health magazine profiling Karnazes. He isn’t mentioned in the entire article!

      He somehow marketed himself as a one in a billion genetic fluke, when there’s plenty of examples of people doing the same thing but way better.

      • onyomi says:

        Interesting how, with the exception of the Greek guy, most of the top competitors are Japanese.

        Competitive eating and ultramarathons. Any other sports weirdly dominated by the Japanese? (other than, you know, Kendo, etc.)

        • vjl110 says:

          Note, those are all ‘road’ or ‘track’ records, while nearly all ultramarathon races in the US will be on trails.

  16. onyomi says:

    Is there really any substantive, clear difference between “capitalism” as its opponents used to, and sometimes still do use* the word, and “neoliberalism” as it is used* today? To me it feels like just a newer, more sophisticated-sounding term for the same thing, given that capitalism has largely been proven successful by history?

    *And when I mean how it’s used, it seems, in both cases, while people could give you some technical definition, it is actually used to mean something like “profit-is-everything-ism.”

    I think I have heard it described before as something akin to “crony capitalism”–i. e. not implying that all capitalism is bad, but that a certain kind of capitalism is bad, but that seems to be the motte–i. e. how people describe it when challenged; the bailey feels more like “anything I can blame on greed and the profit motive”?

    Also, signs you’re reading something written by Blue Tribe: it uses the words “full-throated” and “critique.”

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I think this is too simplistic an approach.

      Neoliberal seems to me to be mostly used in critique. Not many would or do describes themselves as neoliberal. As a critique, I think it’s fair to say that it is a critique only of capitalism that is unregulated and unmitigated, not any/all capitalism.

      Since you are anarcho-libertarian, I think you tend to see anything that is at all regulated as “not capitalism.” That might be why you are reading the term as you do.

      And because conversations on these things always occur on the margin, most of the conversation will be around whether a particular regulation should loosened/eliminated or tightened/implemented. But the key to understanding whether a critique of “neoliberal” is actually fairly applied is whether the desire for loosening or eliminating a particular regulation is motivated more by concerns about the effectiveness of an individual regulation or an over-arching ideology that regulation is always or near always counter-productive.

      An example of an accusation of neoliberal that I think would be unfair would be those leveled at guys like Mathew Yglesias who point out how restrictive zoning laws adversely affect the poor and can actually hurt the character of a city in the long run.

      • Wrong Species says:

        “But the key to understanding whether a critique of “neoliberal” is actually fairly applied is whether the desire for loosening or eliminating a particular regulation is motivated more by concerns about the effectiveness of an individual regulation or an over-arching ideology that regulation is always or near always counter-productive.”

        We already have a word for people who think all regulation is counterproductive. It’s “libertarian”.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Libertarians typically believe in a number of other things besides the deregulation of industry and reduction of government services. Reagan and Thatcher are fairly described as neoliberal but certainly didn’t support the types of personal freedoms that are typical of libertarian thought. Decriminalizing drugs and prostitution, reduction of military spending, etc. none of these are typical of the neoliberal and are very consistent with libertarian thought.

        • Frog Do says:

          No, no, you’re mistaking libertarians for people who believe that not only regulation, but forms all social organization are fundamentally illegitimate. We call them Marxists.

      • TD says:

        Neoliberal came from the left, didn’t it, and was not a self-applied label (similar to SJW coming from the right decades later)? IIRC it had a lot to do with the outrage over Pinochet’s regime.

        • Frog Do says:

          I always thought it had more to do with Clinton the First’s move towards the center in the 90s, in a similar way a lot of far right critiques began to embrace neoconservativism with Bush the Second’s move to the center in his election. Of course I am speaking of the mainstreaming of these terms, as both had existed way earlier.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Reagan and Thatcher were both transformative chief executives. By transformative, I mean they fundamentally shifted the Overton Window of the politically acceptable. The political calculus was that you weren’t going to be elected by promising broad new large social programs, not without paying homage to things like deficit reduction, etc.

            Yes, neoliberal was applied to centrist Democrats who came after Reagan/Bush I, but that wasn’t the origin of the term. Democrats really did react by moving in a more centrist direction. Some of this was a fight to not lose the existing Southern coalition too quickly.

            Populist programs that were popular in the South when they started in the 30s had become much less popular by the 80s, when those populist programs became linked to unpopular things like Brown v. Board and the Civil Right Act.

            None of this is fast and hard, but rather it tries to throw a blanket over broad political trends, each one moving in a slightly different direction.

          • Frog Do says:

            Yes, this is what I meant by both of these terms existing way earlier.

          • onyomi says:

            Yeah, Reagan, Thatcher, and to some extent, Milton Friedman and the Chicago School as their intellectual underpinning, are kind of the original “neoliberal” bogeymen so far as the academic books on the subject I’ve seen are concerned.

          • Luke the CIA stooge says:

            As far as I can tell neoliberalism IS Milton Friedman, absolutely everything Friedman was a proponent of is considered core neoliberalism. Friedman described himself as a Liberal in the classical sense and disparaged the american “liberals” for not actually believing in anything Smith, Bentham, Locke, Mill, Ricardo or any of the founding fathers argued for and instead where socialist light (welfare state, hyper regulation, corporatism). “Neoliberalism” is the term the socialist leaning left “liberals” uses to talk about actual liberalism without admitting that they’re not liberals themselves

          • Anonymous says:

            I’m guessing you aren’t a big fan of Phil Ochs, Luke.

        • InferentialDistance says:

          similar to SJW coming from the right decades later

          SJW was a self-applied label back when “social justice” was “feeding the homeless” and “letting women be ordained ministers”. At least, that’s what the self-described Social Justice Warriors at the Anglican church I attended ~15 years ago were all about. My understanding was that SJW gained a pejorative connotation when progressives became zealots and started pushing for goals more objectionable than “feed the homeless” and adopting tactics less ethical than “angry letters to the clergy about sexism”.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I think Social Justice Activist was a more common self-appellation. But I could be wrong.

          • TD says:

            Religious social justice (esp Catholic) was a totally different deal altogether, involving different people. Go far back enough in the tradition and people we’d identify as right wing are using the term “social justice” (Charles Edward Coughlin). Social justice as a term has had a long running association with Catholicism.

            What I mean is that the intersectional feminists did not call themselves “social justice warriors” until liberals and right wingers dubbed them that… or at least that’s what the intersectionalists told me.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I believe the current “social justice warrior” is not directly derived from the earlier “social justice warrior”

            Here’s a use of the earlier term from before the pejorative version became popular:


            The first I saw of the pejorative was Will Shetterly’s blog about Racefail. Shetterly says he got it from tumblr. The Washington Post attributes it to the ants in a headline (and thus the article is unlinkable here), but the actual article (and Google Trends) clearly puts it prior to that.

        • Tatu Ahponen says:

          At least according to this, the first use of “neoliberalism” was indeed a self-description.

          • But a self description by a different group of people than the ones the term is now applied to. Reagan and Thatcher were not “Atari Democrats.”

      • onyomi says:

        Seems like an anti-concept used to smuggle in the priors of those who use it. Like, the definition of “neoliberalism” is “capitalism, which makes the poor poorer and everybody miserable.”

      • Brandon Berg says:

        As a critique, I think it’s fair to say that it is a critique only of capitalism that is unregulated and unmitigated, not any/all capitalism.

        This is not at all how it’s used in practice. Yes, that’s the image leftists try to invoke when they use the term, but they frequently apply it to anything and anyone that can even very loosely be described as capitalistic. For example, I frequently see the Clintons described as neoliberals, and even hear about how Scandinavia has been ruined by neoliberalism. You really have to go very far left, right up to the edge of outright socialism, to avoid being labeled as a neoliberal.

        • Matt M says:

          Even Scandinavia might not been the extreme example. Isn’t the current regime in Venezuela blaming all their problems on capitalist saboteurs?

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @Brandon Berg:
          One, just because you can find some people using a term doesn’t mean it’s typical. (I think I’m supposed to say “non-typical fallacy” here.)

          Two, critiques can be directional. To the extent that removal of a regulation is caused by an impulse to remove or re-examine regulations in general, it’s fair to argue that the removal was prompted by “neoliberalism”.

          But that isn’t an argument in favor of the removal of the market. It’s still an argument in favor of keeping existing regulations on the market in place.

          The people who opposed Clinton’s various reforms were not, centrally, arguing for Communism. They weren’t even arguing for the government to forcibly take over GE or Exxon, or the mines or even all utilities.

          In what way can we plausibly describe those against the changes in Scandanavia as wanting to eliminate the market?

          Edit: and note, I’m broadly in favor of what Bill Clinton did in his presidency, so it’s not that I necessarily think all of those critiques hold water.

    • Anon says:

      Based on how I’ve seen “neoliberalism” used, it seems to be the left’s version of “cultural marxism”.

      • onyomi says:

        It is like that in being a kind of catch-all for “everything we hate,” often used pretty uncritically. SJW also comes to mind. No one actually calls themselves that, do they?

        • Sniffnoy says:

          Some do, but as best I can tell it’s a deliberate attempt at “reclaiming” it.

          Edit: See also upthread, where some people discuss an earlier self-applied use that doesn’t seem to be historically continuous with the current one.

        • Eggoeggo says:

          SJW also comes to mind. No one actually calls themselves that, do they?

          Do you just never look at twitter or tumblr? I can’t blame you, but you should if you want to make claims about it.

  17. Urstoff says:

    I would think the ceiling effect obvious for elite athletes: everyone practices all the time, so the differences are either in talent, some super secret special way of practicing, or (in Steph Curry’s case) both.

    However, for some sports, coaching and development seem to make more of a difference than in other sports. In the NFL, ending up on an incompetent team can sink your career, whereas that is not the case in the NBA.

    • Matt M says:

      I’m not sure this is necessarily a “coaching and development” thing as much as it is a “contract stipulations and freedom of movement” thing.

      I’m not familiar with the details of either league – but it could simply be that NFL rules make it harder for good players to escape bad teams than NBA rules do. I do know that NBA rules have a “maximum salary” (individual, not team) and most other leagues do not – meaning that for elite-level players (who would be offered the maximum salary by literally every team), the decision of where to play is based on non-monetary factors (one of which is likely “the ability to play with good teammates for a well run organization”)

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Median NFL careers are much shorter than other sports, but initial contracts are the same length. So, it is harder to escape a bad team in the NFL.

        But salary cap is definitely a thing in the NFL. Guaranteed contracts, however, are not (well, less so). That also means that it’s easier to retain better players and stay under the cap.

        • Matt M says:

          To be very clear – my point was that in the NBA, there is a team salary cap AND an individual salary cap. In other words, there are like 10+ guys in the league who will make just as much money as LeBron James, not because they are just as good as him, but because teams aren’t allowed to pay LeBron any more than that.

          I believe the situation in the NFL (and NHL) is that you have a team cap, but if you choose to spend 90% of it on one guy, you have the ability to do so if you think it’s worth it.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Ah, yes, I see I did miss your point the first time around. Thank you for the clarification.

            I think the rules of each sport play a big part here. Every player in the basketball court is under the same set of rules, whereas in football, baseball and hockey, the rules differ for different positions, or the conditions imposed by the rules require different things from the different positions.

            That means that a max cap for salary in the other sports wouldn’t have much of an effect on most positions. In the NFL it would really just be a max QB cap, for example.

            That, and their only being five players on a side in basketball, means any one player can have a much greater effect. If I’m a QB and want to control my outcome, I have to go to a pre-built team. Line, RBs, receivers, defense, special teams… If I’m Lebron, I need one or two other guys, and that core has an effect on close to 100% of plays, offense and defense.

          • Matt M says:

            Right, and I agree with all that – but my point is that by imposing an individual max, the league has essentially eliminated the monetary incentive from its very best players – so the decision of where you would like to play will depend exclusively on non-monetary factors.

            Non-monetary factors play a role in other sports as well, surely, but at the very least, a very bad team in an undesirable media market has the OPTION of telling a great player “we will pay you more than anyone else,” an option that is simply not available in the NBA (at least for the elite-level players).

          • HeelBearCub says:

            But that cap only applies to the very best, so it’s not clear what that has do with Urstoff’s contention that being on a bad NFL team can sink your career.

            It’s far more likely that individual excellence can be developed and rewarded by the game of basketball, whereas as as in the NFL you float much more with your team. Running behind a bad line can dramatically shorten the career of a RB.

            And it’s not as if you don’t see all the QBs in the league making about the same amount of money. And the highest paid QBs typically make their teams the best teams. So I’m not.seeing evidence that teams are hurting QBS development by trapping them by paying them too much money.

            Plus, wouldn’t all of this mostly apply to rookies anyway, who are being given scale contracts?

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            It’s far more likely that individual excellence can be developed and rewarded by the game of basketball, whereas as as in the NFL you float much more with your team. Running behind a bad line can dramatically shorten the career of a RB.

            It’s basically this. Nowadays less than before, but the individual impact of a single player in Basketball is much larger than in the NFL in particular, and plenty of other team sports in general.

            Hell, last season proved you don’t even need a decent QB to win the Bowl.

      • CatCube says:

        I think that part of it is that football is less forgiving of lack of teamwork. Even the biggest superstar quarterback still requires good protection or he’ll have a lot of sacks, and decent wide receivers to make touchdowns.

        Not to say that basketball doesn’t require a heavy level of teamwork, just that a single person can take a rebound, move it across the court, and score much more easily than a single person can move the ball in football.

  18. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Dalai Lama warns that “too many” refugees are going to Europe and that “Germany cannot afford to become an Arab country”.

    The Dalai Lama is a wise man. As a Catholic, I hope the next Pope is even wiser.

  19. Pigdog says:

    Here is Ericsson on Macnamara’s recent meta-analysis (deliberate practice). He has also responded to a prior 2014 meta-analysis. Maybe a good place to get a handle on the state of that debate, I still find the issue confusing.

  20. biztheclown says:

    Has this community ever read the book, The Imprinted Brain? It seems to provide a pretty compelling answer to the Male autism question.

  21. suntzuanime says:

    More elite schools have better teachers, but are more aligned with elite feminist attitudes, causing them to spend relatively more of their efforts on girls, leaving it a wash for the boys but a benefit for the girls?

    Hypotheses like “elite schools are bunk” don’t address what I think is the most interesting part of the study, the difference in effect based on gender.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Aren’t most English private boarding schools single-sex?

      • InferentialDistance says:

        Replace “more of their efforts on girls” with “adhere to the teaching practices that empirically benefit girls more than boys” and it still works.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I don’t know enough about how teaching methods have changed overall, let alone in private British boarding schools, to really be able to say much about this.

          Does anybody have knowledge on the subject?

      • phisheep says:

        I’m not sure about now, but in the 1960s (relevant for this study) I’m pretty sure *all* of them were. There was some fuss sometime in the early ’70s when one started to admit girls into the sixth form.

    • Murphy says:

      Elon Musk has access to no special information on the matter.

      There are various experiments proposed by physicists to spot if we’re in certain types of simulation and so far none of them have come up positive.

      Until then I’ll class it with various other similar thesist arguments.

    • Tsnom Eroc says:

      Meh, I say its also a probably.

      Its not to say we can’t have an inpact on the simulation itself!

      And is there *really* a significant difference between this and whatever “reality” is?

  22. Dahlen says:

    Hey, is it alright if I post some motley random facts from Wikipedia in the comments section of the links post? Apparently people can do so on the subreddit, but I’ve deleted my accounts and am not gonna get a fourth one just for that. Anyway, here goes.

    There’s apparently a Catholic patron saint of television. And to think that here the Orthodox Church has only just recently and reluctantly started to embrace this devil’s technology…

    An awkwardly-named county subdivision in England. It’s distracting to try to read through this article while keeping in mind the intended meaning of the word.

    Historically the Rapes formed the basis of local government in Sussex.

    […] the Sussex Rapes, like the Kentish Lathes, go back to the dawn of English history when their main function would have been to provide food rents and military manpower to the king.

    Each rape was split into several hundreds.

    An Egyptian pharaoh who seemed to be named so just to spite modern-day Western dyslexics.

    How to get Roman noblewomen to #OccupyCapitolineHill

    In case you wanted to know the name of that state of being halfway between wakefulness and sleep, now you have a word for it. In my case it seems to manifest through: senseless jumping from one thought to a completely unrelated one; recalling the dreams of the previous night; a bad case of the Tetris effect when feverish. (One time I studied exponential functions before going to bed with a fever. Spent the whole night switching denominators and numerators in my sleep. Not fun.) How is it like for you?

    There’s a legal maxim that says: hard cases make bad law. First thing I thought of, the rationalist hobby of devising contrived edge cases to figure out ethics.

    For those interested in socioeconomic class: here’s an exhaustive list of sub-sub-sub-classes that gets used as a marketing tool.

    For a long time, the Harry Potter fandom insisted that Snape Castle was fanon, and that everybody’s favourite greaseball of a potions master lived in a hovel in Spinner’s End. Now we know the truth: it’s canon.

    The name for the phenomenon whereby a word stops being meaningful and instead gets read as a meaningless jumble of letters if you repeat it too many times. There’s a neurological explanation of it, too.

    On how it used to be more complicated than mere “yes” and “no”.

    Priest with the world record for the most honorary degrees (150), had a very impressive political (advisory) career and served in a lot of public offices, also holds world record for the fastest a civilian has ever flown. I didn’t even know that the US government had much use for Catholic clergy. Pretty impressive dude overall.

    • Urstoff says:

      Remembering how to spell “pharaoh” is hard enough.

    • smocc says:

      Telegu, as I understand it (barely at all), has at least three forms of yes/no.

      అవును / కాదు — avunu / kaadu — Yes as in correct / no, wrong, incorrect
      ఉన్నారు / లేదు — unnaru / ledu — Is there / is not there
      వస్తున్నారు / రాదు — vastunnāru / raadu — Is coming/ is not coming

      For example, I might say “Naaku English raadu”: “English is not coming for me” for “I don’t speak English.” If someone is not home you would say “atanu ledu” “he is not there.”

      Some of the above forms are verbs that get conjugated, and some are sort of suffixed on to other words to negate them. (“Baagundi”-“good” + “ledu” = “baaledu”-“not good”).

      And this isn’t all: lots of verbs come in negative pairs “kaavali”-“i want”, “vaddu”-“not want” instead of being negated by a generic “not”.

      As someone who only studied Romance languages in high school becoming familiar with Telegu was a shocking lesson on how foreign languages can be. You can’t get by on simply translating phrases in your head.

    • No problem with cool wikipedia links. I’ve just posted about one of them.

    • erenold says:

      I obviously cannot speak for the entire, global, legal profession, but the ‘hard cases make bad law’ thing is not something we generally believe IRL.

      The maxim has a seductive, intuitive logic to it – of course judges would make shitty rules to protect the orphans from being thrown out! – but the thing is, the system isn’t meant to throw orphans out. Not without some extremely pressing countervailing interest, in which case, we’re not making bad law at all. Any system that does so routinely is, in fact, inherently a broken one. So when we have a tearjerker of a situation where the rule says one thing but every human instinct says another – chances are, it’s not an instance of hard cases making bad law, it’s an instance of hard cases finding bad law. (Come to think of it, this is precisely the logic behind edge cases in ethics.)

      In Re Vanderwell’s Trusts (No 2), Lord Denning put it far more eloquently than I did above:

      Mr Balcombe realised that the claim of the executors here had no merit whatsoever. He started off by reminding us that “hard cases make bad law.” He repeated it time after time. He treated it as if it was an ultimate truth. But it is a maxim which is quite misleading. It should be deleted from our vocabulary. It comes to this: “Unjust decisions make good law”: whereas they do nothing of the kind. Every unjust decision is a reproach to the law or to the judge who administers it. If the law should be in danger of doing injustice, then equity should be called in to remedy it. Equity was introduced to mitigate the rigour of the law. But in the present case it has been prayed in aid to do injustice on a large scale – to defeat the intentions of a dead man – to deprive his children of the benefits he provided for them – and to expose his estate to the payment of tax of over £600,000. I am glad to find that we can overcome this most unjust result. The dividends for the second period were properly paid to the trustee company for the benefit of the children’s settlement. There is no equity in Mr Vandervell or his executors seeking to recover them.

      I would be interested to hear if my learned friends from other legal systems, American, civil-law, or otherwise, differ on this point.

      • brad says:

        The maxim has a seductive, intuitive logic to it – of course judges would make shitty rules to protect the orphans from being thrown out! – but the thing is, the system isn’t meant to throw orphans out. Not without some extremely pressing countervailing interest, in which case, we’re not making bad law at all. Any system that does so routinely is, in fact, inherently a broken one. So when we have a tearjerker of a situation where the rule says one thing but every human instinct says another – chances are, it’s not an instance of hard cases making bad law, it’s an instance of hard cases finding bad law.

        Take Hynes v. New York Central Railroad Company where Cardozo held that property owners owe a duty of care to trespassers. I’d say that this is a bad result. Despite the fact that poor little kids get electrocuted. And after it not only did landowners owe a duty to poor little kids trespassing on their land but also malicious adults.

        I also think there’s another sense of the phrase “hard cases make bad law”. That’s that complicated, fact bound cases end up being difficult to deploy as precedent and often are abused via cherry picking.

        • erenold says:

          I’m not familiar with American law, but let me try to predict a few things about this case just from the parties and your comment:

          1. Some kids were making a habit of trespassing onto railway property.
          2. It was known to the railway company that these trespasses were occurring.
          3. It was also known that this was an extremely dangerous thing to do – in this case, because of the risk of electrocution.
          4. Nothing was done and the risk ultimately eventuated. The kids’ estate sued and won.

          All I can say then is that some form of general duty towards the trespasser under these circumstances doesn’t… strike me as overly oppressive. In Britain, for instance, this duty has been recognized both statutorily and at common law.

          Where it all goes wrong, it seems to me, is where this duty gets extended beyond this narrow scope, and expressly where the trespasser’s act is not quite so innocent – e.g. a burglar climbing through a window and falling on a knife I believe is the paradigmatic case, and a genuinely stupid one.

          But that doesn’t change the original train-kid-electrocuted scenario from being good law. It just means that when subsequent cases fleshed out the scope of this duty, they did so in a bad way.

          Of course, you’re right and I’m sure there are many examples out there of judges being moved by the respective attractiveness of the parties. It just strikes me that the converse is true far more often than the other way around. Far too often, judges seem to apply the black-letter rule instead of being more flexible with equity. Or worse, applying a genuinely bad rule in a situation to produce a hard result, without stopping to consider the actual merits of the rule.

          Your second usage of the maxim raises a good point I hadn’t encountered before. Thank you.

          • keranih says:

            Where it all goes wrong, it seems to me, is where this duty gets extended beyond this narrow scope, and expressly where the trespasser’s act is not quite so innocent – e.g. a burglar climbing through a window and falling on a knife I believe is the paradigmatic case, and a genuinely stupid one.

            The one I heard was the burglar falling into an uncovered well. Only he was going *to* the house, and not away, so as far as the court was concerned, he was as innocent as the kids trespassing on the railroad.

            The problem is that failure to rigorously defend ones property against trespassers (ie, people walking along walking paths) means that one has no grounds to complain of people going off the path and falling off the unmarked cliff. Or going out of the woods where there are blackberries to pick to the river, and falling in and drowning trying to cross. Because a reasonable person should assume that a trespasser – given leave or ignored in one part of the property – would of course wander all over.

            Animal protection laws have largely done away with suits dealing with teasing livestock, but still a homeowner is at risk if someone trespasses into their fenced yard and gets bitten.

            This is why we can’t have nice things.

          • erenold says:

            When it comes to burglars, I should imagine the relevant question is whether the plaintiff was injured qua burglar or whether he was injured qua “someone passing through the property in an otherwise legitimate way”. Meaning, if it was just dumb luck that the risk eventuated to the burglar and not the property-owner’s friend coming over for a visit later, that makes such decisions a lot more palatable. Not so if the burglar was only injured because he was somewhere he shouldn’t have been in the first place, e.g., slipping and falling on a knife in the property-owner’s bedroom.

            Nonetheless, I sincerely hope the burglar-plaintiff had his damages significantly slashed (or reduced to a nominal sum) in the context of the situation? That seems like the legally and morally right decision – yes, the property-owner had a duty, yes the property-owner breached it, but fuck this guy anyway.

          • RCF says:

            “The problem is that failure to rigorously defend ones property against trespassers (ie, people walking along walking paths)”

            There are two possible interpretations of this:

            1. You are asserting that the phrase “people walking along walking paths” is synonymous with “trespassers”.

            2. You are ruthlessly eliminating redundancy, and thus the error correction properties, from the English language (not only are you using a foreign phrase, and not only are you abbreviating that phrase, but you aren’t even marking it as an abbreviation with periods (i.e. “i.e.” rather than “ie”), as is standard in English), and then not bothering to learn the correct meaning of the terms you are using.

          • CatCube says:


            I think that keranih’s comment was stating that a landowner might not mind a “trespasser” who is only transiting their property by taking a walk along trails, but can’t permit that because then they have to secure a ravine deep in the woods under the theory that since they don’t make a habit of prosecuting anybody who trespasses they are responsible for every swinging dick who crosses their lawn.

          • RCF says:

            Presumably, that interpretation would mean that “e.g.” was meant rather than “ie”.

          • CatCube says:

            Oh, no! Somebody forgot the difference between “id est” and “exempla gratia!”

          • RCF says:

            Post reported.

          • RCF says:

            Is blatant incivility now allowed on this blog? If it is, okay, but I’d like to know about it. I really feel like Scott has been extremely deficient in communicating a clear consistent standard.

          • Anonymous says:

            Pretentious incivility is still incivility. See, e.g.

          • RCF says:


    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      “Historically the Rapes formed the basis of local government in Sussex.”

      “the Sussex Rapes, like the Kentish Lathes, go back to the dawn of English history when their main function would have been to provide food rents and military manpower to the king.[5] The rapes may also derive from the system of fortifications devised by Alfred the Great in the late ninth century to defeat the Vikings.”

      “Each rape was split into several hundreds.”

      “It has been suggested that the term in fact comes from the old French raper, meaning to seize or take by force.” Women, be on your guard against that old French raper.

      “The origin of the Rapes is not known. It is possible that the rapes represent the shires of the ancient kingdom of Sussex, especially as in the 12th century they had sheriffs of their own.”

      “It is possible that these divisions might be rapes as four of them (taking Burpham as equivalent to neighbouring Arundel) had the same centres as later rapes. If this is the case then the rapes must have been completely reorganised in the next century and a half. Since the system of fortifications introduced by Alfred the Great extended into Surrey and Wessex as well, but neither of these regions have rapes or any similar sub-divisions.”

      “It is also possible that the ‘rape of Arundel’ that is twice mentioned in the Domesday Book was the later rape of Arundel and not the whole ‘rape of Earl Roger (of Montgomery)’, which included the later rape of Chichester. The Normans are not likely to have created rapes and then to have at once thrown two of them into one. The existence of the rapes before the Norman Conquest provides the most natural explanation of the fact that the two later rapes of Chichester and Arundel are represented in the Domesday Book of the single ‘rape of Earl Roger’, William the Conqueror’s most important grantee in Sussex. William might of course have created five rapes only…”

      “At the time of the Norman Conquest there were four rapes: Arundel, Lewes, Pevensey and Hastings. Arundel and Bramber replaced Burpham and Steyning as Rapal centres.”

      “By the time of the Domesday Book, William the Conqueror had created the rape of Bramber as an afterthought…”

      “Although the origin and original purpose of the Rapes is not known, their function after 1066 is clear. With its own lord and sheriff, each Rape was an administrative and fiscal unit.”

      “Under the Normans each traditional rape was now centred on a castle.”

      “Each rape had a single sheriff and ran as a strip…”

      “each also held lands in the rapes of others.”

      “The rapal courts continued to meet and stewards for the Rapes were recorded into the 18th century.”
      “By 1894 most administrative functions of the Rapes had ended.”

      Who knew medieval Sussex was such a dystopia?

      • InferentialDistance says:

        Just look at these fields of rape! (safe for work)

        • keranih says:

          I thought that the region took its name from the plant (or the many small seeds) but apparently the plant came to the Angles after the district. TIL.

      • Tangent says:

        My hometown is in the Rape of Pevensey. Funnily enough we don’t use these subdivisions much these days. Interesting to see this come up on SSC though!

      • Loquat says:

        According to a potentially-apocryphal student paper that’s been floating around the internet, things only got worse with the Industrial Revolution – Cyrus McCormick, you see, invented a mechanical raper that could do the work of a hundred men!

      • TheAncientGeek says:

        Only a twitten would think that.

      • Luke the CIA stooge says:

        Don’t forget Tisdale “The Land of Rape and Honey”

  23. Luke the CIA stooge says:

    Sorry Scott you kinda dropped the ball on the India one.
    India tripling since the 90s is actually awful growth for a third world country and really a testament to how disfunctional their economy remains.

    By way of reference CANADA has seen it’s economy increase by a factor of 2.5 since the nineties from $20k per capita to $50k (and Canada is a developed economy on the leading edge of development (little low hanging fruit)) so for India to go from $400 in 96 to $1500 in 2013 (a little between a multiple of 3 and 4) despite having the vast international capital markets and technology to lean on is really pitiable. It demands explanation.

    Why haven’t they grown more?
    Is anyone here an India watcher that would know?

    • Jill says:

      It’s totally amazing that India has grown as much as it has. They still have huge numbers of people in abject poverty, living in garbage. And there are plenty of bureaucratic barriers to doing business there. Just for a business traveler to get a visa to get in there can take days longer than it takes for many surrounding countries.

      They are a very mixed and uneven country. It’s like you put an impoverished superstitious Third World country in a giant blender, added a highly educated First World country, and then turned the blender on, mixing them together crazily.

      They have some great training in engineering and technology at some of their universities, which is why U.S. tech companies are full of Indians on H1_B visas.

      They used to be one of the places to go to with medical tourism. But they are going to be crossed off people’s lists for that now.

      India hospital transfusions infect thousands with HIV

      Monkeys protect Indian government officials
      Rhesus monkeys invade Indian government buildings at night. Now the government has tasked langur monkeys with shooing their simian rivals away.

      A fascinating place to visit in a disorienting but mind expanding way. But it can also be dangerous. And it’s far from ideal for modern business people from other countries to invest in or to do business in– except for huge companies that can afford to spend a lot of money and time analyzing and understanding the unusual economic and cultural and political environment.

      Perhaps in the future the First World part of the country will keep expanding. There is a lot there. They just need to bring the Third World part of it into the 19th or 20th century– and eventually into the 21st.

      • onyomi says:

        From what I’ve read about India, the biggest obstacles are too many layers of bureaucracy, most of it corrupt, along with too many layers of regulation, most of it a sop to some local interest or other.

        India also strikes me as perhaps an extreme example of the reverse case of the direction we’ve gone in now. We talked in an OT not too long ago about how maybe the near-total abjurement of personal connection stuff in US business could be a net negative. One sees the opposite case in, for example, China, where you must take your potential business partner out to dinner many times to forge a personal connection before you feel you can trust one another.

        My impression is that, in India, getting any business started is a byzantine process of buttering up and greasing the palms of a great many people at many levels. Thus, people without money and/or connections are just shut out of most of the entrepreneurial opportunities a modernizing economy should offer.

        Though I’m generally very pro-decentralization, if I were ever going to agree with Vox Imperatoris about the desirability of some pro-market central authority sweeping away a bunch of petty, local tyrants, India might be the place.

        • Jill says:

          “about the desirability of some pro-market central authority sweeping away a bunch of petty, local tyrants, India might be the place.”


        • Psmith says:

          some pro-market central authority sweeping away a bunch of petty, local tyrants, India might be the place.

          I’m told it was tried there, with some success.

        • Nornagest says:

          I were ever going to agree with Vox Imperatoris about the desirability of some pro-market central authority sweeping away a bunch of petty, local tyrants, India might be the place.

          The first place that comes to mind is San Francisco. Not that I have a grudge or anything…

        • Aneesh Mulye says:

          That is actually happening, though in bursts, since 1991. The current government is one such burst, and I expect it to accelerate from this point on, at least during this government’s remaining tenure.

      • Nornagest says:

        They are a very mixed and uneven country. It’s like you put an impoverished superstitious Third World country in a giant blender, added a highly educated First World country, and then turned the blender on, mixing them together crazily.

        I’ve never been to India, but I’ve spent a lot of time in the Philippines, and that describes it pretty well. There are shopping malls and colleges and hospitals that look exactly like what you’d find in Los Angeles, literally across the street from slums with no running water made of cinder blocks, tarps, and corrugated metal. And my Brazilian friends say similar stuff about that country.

        I think to a large extent that’s just how developing countries develop: inequality that’s almost unbelievably sharp to Western eyes, slowly evening out as the rising tide lifts all boats (if you’re conservative or libertarian) or the country grows wealthy enough to fund support programs (if you’re liberal). Though there’s a lot of folks of Pinoy extraction in the American tech industry, too, so I can’t rule out some shared circumstances with India.

        • meyerkev248 says:

          I will say that whatever other problems India has, I’ve never been paged at 3AM because “A gang fight took out the fiber to our datacenter with a stray bullet, it’ll be about 4 hours until we’re back up because they need to get armed guards for the fiber people”. I have in Brazil.

          Admittedly, that’s comparing “Major cities where a major cloud provider was willing to put datacenters” which is not the same as “The hellhole that is rural”, but it’s still an interesting data point.

          /And they totally have other problems.

          • The Nybbler says:

            To be fair, I’ve heard of stray bullets taking out fiber lines in the US.

          • Anonytech says:

            Algar Telecomm doesn’t count, their fiber is extremely poorly terminated into their buildings. Christ, they have windows in their gennie rooms.

      • I agree, on the whole, with Jill’s description of India. Is she struck, as I am, by the fact that a country whose government has been officially socialist for as long as it has existed ends up looking like a socialist stereotype of capitalism–a small minority relatively well off people (I was told that a central area in Delhi has the highest property values in the world) and a mass of desperately poor people?

        She might be interested in The Beautiful Tree, a book about low cost private schools in poor countries, where “low cost” typically means one to ten dollars a month. India had a very large number of them, because the free public schools were the sort of schools where, on a random day, two out of seven teachers showed up.

        They now have a law to promote education–by making low cost private schools effectively illegal (they have to meet requirements, I think including teachers’ salaries, which cost more than poor people can pay).

    • Samuel Skinner says:

      Why haven’t they grown more?

      Recommendation- The Power of Productivity.

      For a quicker answer- India’s economy and political system is insanely dysfunctional. Like “the electrical system runs at 1% the efficiency of the rest of the world” or “laws restrict maximum amount of land people own so people have to own land through subterfuge so legal ownership of a lot of land is contested and building is insanely difficult”.

    • meyerkev248 says:

      How much of it is fertility?

      And by that, I mean that they’re spending time trying to deal with the extra 300 Million people (or 25% of the population) they just added.

      Per-capita includes capita.

      Heck, that’s most of the reason I’m fairly bearish on Africa. There’s going to be 4 times as many of them, so if the economy octuples, standards of living double.

  24. Jill says:

    Is it at all surprising that the Dalai Lama doesn’t think open borders make sense, where a country takes in so many millions of immigrants that it is no longer the country that originally took them in. Pretty much common sense I would say.

    The immigration debate has gotten pretty extreme. Either you have borders open to everyone or else you build a wall around your country. There is very little discussion of the possibilities in between. Marco Rubio came up with an immigration plan, and the other Republicans tarred and feathered him for it– and they didn’t come up with an alternate plan either.

    • Matt M says:

      Existing policy (in the U.S. for certain, and I would imagine in most other countries as well) occupies the “possibilities in between.”

      We currently have a very complex and difficult to navigate system for legal immigration – but it is possible to accomplish if you’re patient/good at navigating red tape/well connected.

      We also have a system where supposedly several million illegal immigrants are here, travel back and forth regularly, and stay for long periods of time – while simultaneously having and enforcing a wide variety of physical borders. Lots of people ARE in fact denied entry, and deportations under Obama have been as high as they’ve ever been.

      The current state of affairs seems to, in fact, be the “happy medium” that everyone supposedly wants (which may be why Republican voters are particularly outraged against a candidate who takes comes up with no plan – they see it as an endorsement of the current state – which they dislike).

      • Wrong Species says:

        I think the problem is the difference between legal and illegal immigration. Open borders advocates see all of the official legal issues to immigration and decry it as inhumane and overly restrictive. Restrictionists see all of the illegal immigrants living in sanctuary cities and are outraged that the laws being flaunted. If there was more consistency between legal and illegal immigration one side would probably be happier about the status quo.

        • Jill says:

          The problem is, in our system politicians just use immigration as something to rail about to get votes. So no one comes up with a better system for dealing with legal immigration, a path to citizenship, and illegal immigration.

          Marco Rubio tried it and his fellow Congress members tarred and feathered him for it.

          What’s most important about an issue is usually how it is used in our society and government and economy. Systemic issues about it, rather than looking at the issue by itself.

          In American politics, railing against illegal immigration gets you votes, as a Congress member. And doing nothing about it at all once you are elected, gets you donations from employers who hire illegal immigrants, have them live in substandard housing or tents or something with no running water, and pay them substandard wages.

          And allowing lots of H1-B visas for foreign nationals whom employers can hire instead of Americans but pay lower wages to, gets Congress members donations from these employers too.

          There are other issues like that too– where given the way our system is, the big rewards for Congress members, and presidents too– can be gotten by railing against something to get votes and then doing nothing to change it. Because not changing it gets you donations from those who benefit from the current system.

        • Tsnom Eroc says:

          I view it as pretty absurd that restrictions to immigration is inhumane. It seems to boil down to “Living in America is much much better then living in (insert X 2nd-3rd world country) so we should let everyone in”…which has the very obvious catastrophic long term effects along with the “1 billion possible refugees across the globe” problem, with the very very obvious issue of “Will America just start resembling a 3rd world country?”

          Why not just argue to increase foreign aid to X percentage of the GDP?

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            Because foreign aid tends not to work? Giving more money to countries marked by corruption is a money put.

            Also the government tends to use it to reward allies, and get other countries to buy American goods; the incentives ‘improves peoples’ lives’ are much weaker than the market to the point that they are sometimes indistinguishable from chance.

          • Tsnom Eroc says:

            “Because foreign aid tends not to work?”

            What about the Marshall plan and the aid to Japan after WW2? Or the investment into malaria nets in todays world? Or numerous global vaccination programs funded by the Gates?

            Some types of foreign aid have failed miserably, and some have greatly succeeded. There’s enough variables in there that “Tends to” is almost a meaningless statement, in and of itself.

          • Matt M says:

            There’s also a libertarian property rights argument to be made that is more concerned with the rights of the property owner than the rights of the immigrant.

            Basically – what right does the state have to tell me that I can’t host/hire/rent to certain people who have committed no crime other than not being born within certain geographic coordinates?

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            The former was to pay for rebuilding (and so isn’t useful for developing countries), the latter is private (and a lot of private aid is bad; those are specifically programs that learnt from the common mistakes).

          • John Schilling says:

            Basically – what right does the state have to tell me that I can’t host/hire/rent to certain people who have committed no crime other than not being born within certain geographic coordinates?

            Can you get them to your private property without e.g. driving on the state’s roads?

            If you want to make pedantic arguments on absolute property rights, that gets you the right, if you can afford beachfront property or a private airport, to host as many immigrants as you want on your own property, 24/7. Were it practical to enforce such a thing you’d probably find people across the political spectrum happy to let you do so, but mostly out of anticipatory schadenfreude.

            But really, when you say “I can’t host”, you mean “I can’t decide that we will host”.

          • onyomi says:

            And again the roads are used to trap the citizenry in theoretically limitless obligation to the state.

          • “Why not just argue to increase foreign aid to X percentage of the GDP?”

            Aside from the problems with using foreign aid to improve things in poor countries, foreign aid costs us–every dollar they get is a dollar we have to give. Immigration benefits us. As long as the immigrants are self-supporting rather than free riding on the welfare system, the standard arguments for free trade imply that the people already here are on net better off due to immigration, not worse off, although obviously “net better off” is consistent with some people losing.

          • On the “very obvious long term effects” argument …

            What is your view of the previous experiment along these lines? The U.S. had open immigration until the late 19th century, open immigration except for some restrictions on oriental immigration until the 1920’s. Did it have obviously terrible long term effects?

          • Matt M says:

            John Schilling,

            You can debate the merits of the property rights argument if you wish.

            I was merely responding to Tsnom’s question of “why can’t we substitute open borders with foreign aid?”

            The fact of the matter is that there exists an argument for open borders that is completely and totally independent of the question regarding “how do we make life better for poor people in other countries.” You may not LIKE that argument, but it is certainly there.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Coordination type problems do trap us together, right?

          • onyomi says:

            There is no reason roads couldn’t be built privately, however.

            Also, absent the state, there is no reason why needing to coordinate with your neighbors to deal with problem x should entitle them to control how you use your property with respect to purpose y.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            In some perfect utopia, where all property was private before the first travel occurred, yes.

            In the actual world we live in? Not really.

            I recall reading (I can’t remember where) that some freakishly large percentage of highways in the U.S. lie on top of old salt lick trails. Take that with a grain of salt, obviously.

            But the history of travel shows us that it occurs organically in the commons, and only then are improvements made.

            In addition, even in the utopia, there is the issue of the kind of power a few owners of roads would have over the broad populace. And before you talk competition, remember that geography is a bitch of a thing to deal with. We don’t live on a spherical cow, so to speak.

          • CatCube says:


            That’s unlikely to be true of any road [constructed]* since about the 1940s, and almost certainly not true of any road currently listed as a US highway. Paved roads often used to be laid down on old wagon trails, which often followed natural lines of drift. However, doing so nowadays would expose the engineer and State DOT to substantial liability, because the alignment of old wagon trails don’t meet current engineering standards–accident rates would be immense. I grew up on a road that was an old wagon trail that was paved (my dad also grew up on it, and remembers it being paved). One of the connecting roads, which used to be the major road in the area before the state highway was put in, had a nasty compound curve. That thing used to catch me off guard sometimes, as a local. Stuff like that is no longer legal–and that compound curve was finally removed a few years ago when they reopened an old mine concentrator and the mining company upgraded the road for their trucks hauling run-of-mine ore.

            The scene in Pixar’s Cars that always made me want to throw my remote through the screen is one where Sally said “roads used to move with the land.” Yeah, and that’s why they had alignment features that locals used to call things like “Deadman’s Curve” or “Murder Hill.” They then finish this scene overlooking a new highway that does a baseline cut through a series of spurs. I’ve always wondered if that was something an art major spun out of his skull, or if it’s from an actual vertical alignment that Pixar found somewhere. If it is, that engineer ought to be required to explain himself.

            Edit: I forgot about a good illustration of changes in road standards. When I was stationed at Fort Leonard Wood, I got to see an area where the old “salt lick” road, the old Route 66, and the current I-44 all run near each other. It’s here on Google Maps:,-92.0632944,15z/data=!5m1!1e4

            The oldest road would have been “Teardrop Road” which originally met up with “Trophy Lane”, but was interrupted by the construction of I-44. Route 66 (now County Road Z) was built in the early stages of WWII, because the old road was a hazard to large trucks. The approximate center of the map is the Hooker Cut, which I recall hearing was the deepest road cut through rock at the time of its construction. Here’s a link to a Street View:,-92.0601559,3a,75y,272.55h,69.47t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1sY_KoZjIMlffQKnyr88i_lw!2e0!!7i13312!8i6656!5m1!1e4 Notice the narrow lanes, lack of shoulder, and if you go a little ways out of the cut, a curb right at the edge of the lane. That was considered an “ultra modern” highway at the time of construction.

            *clarified that I mean roads constructed since the ’40s. There’s plenty of them still around, but they’re not US highways.

          • HeelBearCub says:


            All true as far as it goes, but it doesn’t change my point. First, removing the compound curve of a highway is different than ignoring mountain passes or how wide a river is at various points, etc. And even if you can (at negligible cost) ignore the geography of the roadbed, geography still affects where you want the road to go (from/to).

            The larger point, that you can’t just assume private road ownership into existence, isn’t changed at all.

          • onyomi says:

            Sure, there would be a lot of logistical difficulty in trying to shift the US to private road ownership. That doesn’t mean it’s logically impossible or historically unprecedented.

            My point is that the government and judiciary have clearly abused the fact that people currently can’t easily avoid using public roads as an excuse to intrude into all facets of life.

          • Jiro says:

            what right does the state have to tell me that I can’t host/hire/rent to certain people who have committed no crime other than not being born within certain geographic coordinates?

            1) they don’t use social services
            2) they don’t commit any crimes
            3) they can’t vote or dilute the votes of existing residents
            4) laws that are enforced against people who deal with citizens are also enforced against people who deal with them (regardless of whether those laws are otherwise good ideas), such as minimum wage laws and job safety laws

            then sure, I’m fine with you hiring or renting to such people.

            We both know, however, that that is completely infeasible.

          • onyomi says:

            “1) they don’t use social services…”

            All this is very well covered by the Michael Huemer video I linked not long ago.

            Specifically, this is not a good reason to restrict immigration:

            A: “Hi, I’d like to come into this part of the continent to buy land and work and trade.”
            B: “Sorry, can’t let you do that.”
            A: “Why not?”
            B: “See, I have a policy of giving free stuff to anyone who comes into this part of the continent. I also give everyone who lives in this part of the continent a say in how I run my life. If you start living and doing business in this part of the continent, I’ll have to give you free gifts and a say in how I run my life. I don’t want to give you those things, so you can’t come here.”

          • Matt M says:


            On a related note – it looks like the Swiss “basic income” program is very unpopular and nearing certain defeat.

            A BBC article I read on the subject notes that one of the primary objections is “if we do this we’d have to crack down on immigration because more people would want to come here, and we want to be an open society that welcomes refugees, therefore we must keep our entitlements at a reasonable level.”

            Sort of the reverse of what you’re pointing out.

          • Matt M says:

            then sure, I’m fine with you hiring or renting to such people.”

            1) Why do I have to get your permission to do these things?

            2) Do you demand these conditions of existing citizens who have children? Why or why not?

            Why does happening to be born on one side of an imaginary line on a map entitle you to extra rights?

          • John Schilling says:

            And again the roads are used to trap the citizenry in theoretically limitless obligation to the state.


          • Wrong Species says:


            Theoretically, you’re right. But that’s simply not how politics works. Jim Crow laws are still fresh on American minds. Any attempt to treat immigrants as “second class citizens” is simply not going to be considered acceptable. I would be perfectly willing to have open borders with all of the stipulations that Jiro mentioned but that’s impossible. So there is a choice between letting in everyone who wants to and giving away benefits(maybe not directly to the immigrants themselves but their kids will be entitled to it) or keeping borders closed to most. Germany is showing the limits of the former.

          • Jiro says:

            B:“See, I have a policy of giving free stuff to anyone who comes into this part of the continent. I also give everyone who lives in this part of the continent a say in how I run my life. If you start living and doing business in this part of the continent, I’ll have to give you free gifts and a say in how I run my life. I don’t want to give you those things, so you can’t come here”

            A: So allow me in without doing that.

            B: When I said that “I” have that policy, that’s a simplification. In fact, other people in the area have this policy, and my ability to influence them on these things is much less than my ability to influence them to let you in the country.

          • Jiro says:

            1) Why do I have to get your permission to do these things?

            I have no power to force you.

            If you’re asking why I think it would be morally required to get my permission, that is because those things affect me.

            2) Do you demand these conditions of existing citizens who have children? Why or why not?

            I consider the relation of the citizens to the country to be something like ownership. Citizens, as part owners, can transfer their ownership to whoever they want without needing my permission.

            If you are asking if I think citizens could abuse the system, then yes. For instance, I don’t want citizens to commit crimes any more than I want immigrants to commit crimes, and I recognize cases where citizens unfairly take advantage of social services, such as FLDS who rely on government benefits to be able to practice polygamy.

          • Teal says:

            If I own a third share of a house as a tenant-in-common with two other owners, I can only transfer a total of a one third share. And once I’ve transferred it, I know longer have it. I don’t think the analogy fit very well.

          • Theo Jones says:

            @Wrong Species
            There are reasons why excessively limiting the political and economic rights of the immigrant population is likely to be a bad idea if there is a large immigrant population that go beyond history. At the least, it will encourage politicians to favor services that can be provided directly to the native population, instead of widely beneficial public goods.

            My solution would be to tie eligibility for government benefits to a waiting time (ie. no benefits until five years of residency) but not to make non-eligibility permanent.

  25. Tyrrell McAllister says:

    “A man […] ran fifty marathons in fifty days.”

    Pshaw. I’ll bet he cheated by running multiple marathons on some days so that he could rest on others.

  26. bean says:

    The version of the Soviet free speech joke I’ve heard goes like this:
    Q: Do we have freedom of speech in the Soviet Union like they do in America?
    A: In principle, yes. In America, you can stand in front of the White House and shout “Down with Reagan” and you will not be arrested. Likewise, in the Soviet Union, you can stand in Red Square and shout “Down with Reagan” and you will not be arrested.

    It doesn’t make nearly the political point the other one does, but I think it’s funnier.

  27. caryatis says:

    The Torrey review is not of Mad in America, it’s of Anatomy of an Epidemic, also by Whitaker but more focused on schizophrenia.

  28. expjpi says:

    Does someone have a link to the original paper on male genes and autism?

  29. Jaskologist says:

    Sanders has at last weighed in on Venezuela.

    • Jill says:

      He probably hasn’t had time to read up on the situation and thoroughly understand it.

      And I can’t see why a person who is in favor bringing a few socialist sorts of policies to an overall capitalist society, should be expected to make some case that every instance of socialism at any place and at any time, always worked perfectly.

      No one expects neo-liberal laissez-faire capitalist folks to have to defend every capitalist society on earth as having been perfect. In fact, neo-liberal laissez-faire capitalists don’t even feel the need to make a case that what they are doing here and now works in the least. They are allowed to stick to their religiously believed ideology, and to steer clear of actual facts, such as what the crony capitalism of the military industrial complex has done to the U.S.

      Turning the U.S. into Venezuela is not what Bernie is about. So it’s totally reasonable for him to focus on what he is proposing for the U.S. and why he expects THAT to work.

      • Luke the CIA stooge says:

        No one expects neo-liberal laissez-faire capitalist folks to have to defend every capitalist society on earth as having been perfect

        So young. So naive.
        Every socialist, left winger and social commentator holds absolutely EVERYTHING against neoliberal capitalism. If an African child stubs his toe it’s the fault of neoliberal capitalism. If a drought happens and a warlord steals the disaster relief food it’s the fault of neoliberal capitalism. If teenage girls take to anal sex it’s the result if neoliberal capitalism. If teenage pregnancies are up its the result of neoliberal capitalism. If women put off having kids into their forties it’s the result of neoliberal capitalism. If people have.trouble finding dates it’s because neoliberalism has turned dating into a market where people can’t compete. If people don’t call their parents as often as they should it’s because neoliberal values have weakened the bonds of family.
        If anything bad happens in the world neoliberal capitalism will be blame for it and if it happens in space it’s because Elon Musk gave into neoliberal ideology.

        But if socialist policies cause their country to collapse with very obvious and demonstrable policy to impact to consequence to economic and social failure mechanisms, “it’s oh that’d not a fair comparison”, “that wasn’t their intent”, and, “we wouldn’t do that if we ran America with socialist policies”.

        Spoke how socialism always gets the benefit of the doubt and “oh we mean well” is good enough, but capitalists have to fight tooth and nail to convince anyone that anything they say has any good intention behind it.
        And yet capitalism is still winning.

        It’s almost as if one is counter intuitive but amazing, and the other is intuitive but awful

        • onyomi says:

          In academia, this is no exaggeration. Everything from why your department chair is an asshole to why the donors have stupid priorities can be blamed on neoliberalism.

          • Jill says:

            Perhaps academia is different.

            I hear one obvious lie after another from the Far Right Free marketeers, including magic asterisk federal budgets that don’t add up at all, from people like Paul Ryan. And most of the mainstream media doesn’t question it at all– even those parts of the mainstream media that are not Right Wing echo chambers– as many of them are.

          • onyomi says:

            I’m not sure what this has to do with neoliberalism?

          • Luke the CIA stooge says:

            Academia, sociology, anthropology, social theory, literary theory, continental philosophy ect. Is full of people who speak of neoliberalism he way previous generation spoke of the devil: ever present in the back of peoples minds, sowing misery into the world and leading the weak non MA holding masses astray. It’s especially hilarious because these “scholars” who will spend years reading impenetrable post-modern philosophy and social criticism will never read the basic text of neoliberalism (“Capitalism and freedom”) despite the fact that it’s 140 pages of the most readable prose ever written on the subject.

          • Eggoeggo says:

            >I hear one obvious lie after another from the Far Right Free marketeers

            protip: if you’re going to capitalize the name of the Evil Enemy Conspiracy Group, you should capitalize every word in the name.
            Otherwise it looks like you’re talking about a group trying to market “far right-free” products.

          • “I hear one obvious lie after another from the Far Right Free marketeers”

            Could you give us an actual example? You hint at something from “people like” Ryan but don’t actually point at anything Ryan said or explain why it’s an obvious lie.

      • I assume he’s at least following the news in a general way because it could come up as part of his campaign.

        The economic failures caused by communist governments are not a new, surprising thing which require creative thought to understand.

        I’ve heard he’s said that he wants the US to be more like the Scandinavian countries, but I’d like to know whether he understands how market-based their economies are.

        • Jill says:

          Yes, I am sure he does. He has said in interviews that he just wants to add a few socialistic type policies to our overall capitalist system. He is not trying to turn the U.S. into a totally socialistic economy.

          • keranih says:

            he just wants to add a few socialistic type policies to our overall capitalist system. He is not trying to turn the U.S. into a totally socialistic economy.

            A gene sequence here and there is one thing, but when you’ve cut off the ears and the tail and slapped a set of horns and a fish fin on it, it’s not a jackrabbit any more.

        • Anonymous says:

          I’ve heard he’s said that he wants the US to be more like the Scandinavian countries, but I’d like to know whether he understands how market-based their economies are.

          Speaking as a Scandi, I’d especially like to know if he realizes how US-obsessed our culture is and how desperately Sweden at least has been hurling itself in the direction of America politically since the fall of the Soviet Union. (Not related exactly, we just happened to realize around that same time how much it sucked to have no products, no entertainment, no choices, and the telephone company owning all of the nation’s telephone handsets.)

          With a few exceptions, my generation hates the so-called (and aptly named) “DDR Sweden” system of the past. Even the left-wing half does!

          • erenold says:

            That’s actually very interesting.

            May I ask what the few exceptions are? For Swedes, what things about their more social-democratic past work better as opposed to the more capitalist present?

          • Anonymous says:

            The (literal, actual, not-hyperbole) Communists (they hand out an annual Lenin Prize and shit, they’re not kidding around), and the Feminist Party politruks. Both groups like the idea of authoritarian top-down social control and severe curtailing of the personal freedoms.

            (The Feminist Party floated a serious proposal — their only concrete policy, as I recall — during the last election of putting “gender commissars” (again, not hyperbole; that’s the closest I can get to a decent translation of their term) on all levels of public administration and academia, to reeducate and prevent wrongthink.)

            Fortunately, the communists did very badly in the election and the Feminist Party didn’t even get into parliament. So the rest of us don’t have to put up with that shit in the corridors of power, but we still have to listen to a lot of very American-like wailing about wrongthink from a tiny but vocal and disproportionately powerful minority. Basically, anything the Danes say about Swedes on this point can be assumed to be 100% true, at least of the media clique.

            Edit to clarify: when I said with a few exceptions, I didn’t mean a few policy exceptions, I meant with the exception of a few people. These people are generally considered somewhere between annoying and dangerously deranged by everyone else.

          • erenold says:

            Damn, that’s pretty crazy. Thanks for the informative reply!

          • The Nybbler says:

            Wait, “American-like”? Here in the US many of us thought the gender-wailing originated in Sweden.

          • Anonymous says:

            Wait, “American-like”? Here in the US many of us thought the gender-wailing originated in Sweden.

            As far as I know the origin is some sort of unholy transatlantic symbiosis; there aren’t nearly as many influential Swedish writers on the topic as there are American, or at least anglophone, ones — our own local kooks mostly cite Butler, Irigaray and such. The only crazy pseudoscience we invented entirely by ourselves is racial biology (similarly invested with its own academic institutions with great pride and fanfare; how we’re going to defund this new crop without a war is anybody’s guess, though).

            As for why I wrote that specifically, though, I’ve noticed a lot of more ideologically-central European commenters here saying things like “it’s not nearly as bad here in Europe as it seems to be in the States”, so I thought that would just be the most effective way of conveying what the social climate here is like.

          • “Wait, “American-like”? Here in the US many of us thought the gender-wailing originated in Sweden.”

            “French letters” = “English devices.”

        • Devilbunny says:

          I can’t speak for Senator Sanders, but I will point out that my wife and I had the pleasure of visiting his home state last year. We stayed in Stowe for one night, and we ate dinner at Harrison’s (great place, do recommend). The wait for a table was an hour (on a Thursday night, in late summer, in a town that’s a winter resort, which ought to tell you just how good it is), so we ate at the bar. The bartender was in constant motion the entire hour and a half we were there. We were rapt, to be honest.

          If you live in a society in which such an extraordinary level of effort is common among people who work in jobs that are traditionally lower-middle-class, it is not hard to imagine that socialism (or even straight-up communism) would work. I’ve not gotten such good service even at bars I’ve patronized for years, with bartenders I knew by name, in the South. (All involved in all situations were white, so no question of racial animus applies.) And this is generally consistent with the views I see expressed: garden-variety liberals really do, deep in their hearts, think that most everyone will bust their butts all the time regardless of the incentives, and garden-variety conservatives really do, deep in their hearts, think that most everyone will do as little as possible to get by.

          I have mentioned before, in other fora, that most of my liberal friends from college came from places where government mostly worked, and that most of the conservatives came from places where it mostly didn’t. The former truly can’t imagine that some local governments are completely incompetent, and the latter can’t imagine that they are completely capable.

      • Salem says:

        He probably hasn’t had time to read up on the situation and thoroughly understand it.

        Jill you are a treasure.

      • erenold says:

        It strikes me that having an answer to this kind of comparative-economics question should be very high on his list of things to do, so if he genuinely hasn’t gotten round to formulating one, that’s quite a big problem in itself. It’s the most obvious question to ask.

        “But Senator, can you explain why the places that try the things you suggest generally seem to regret them? How do you explain the failures of socialism in, e.g., Venezuela, and what factors do you believe apply which would prevent America suffering a similar fate?”

        “Right now I’m running for US President and what occurs in other countries doesn’t interest me” is about as reassuring as “right now I’m driving off this cliff and what happened to the nineteen other guys who also drove off this cliff doesn’t interest me.”

        • Jill says:

          You’re the one who decided that Sanders wants to turn the U.S. into Venezuela. Sanders never said that. So why should he humor you by pretending to be who you say he is?

          He has said that he wants to use some policies that have been used in Scandinavia, so you can ask him about that if you want.

          Socialism is not the same as Communism. Socialism is not the same as wanting to use a few socialist type policies.

          • erenold says:

            I made no such decision (and I don’t remember asserting that he intended to turn the US into Venezuela in the first place? I’m pretty sure he doesn’t, actually.) He calls himself a socialist. There is a philosophical coherence between his policies and policies generally understood to be socialist, including, inter alia, those imposed in Venezuela. The comparison is obvious and unavoidable. It is reasonable for me to want to know how he intends to avoid a similar outcome. What does he understand to have caused their situation? What does he intend to do differently?

            Stating that I can only compare him to examples which would make him look good strikes me as an attempt to have one’s cake and eat it too. I call myself somewhat of a libertarian, as a shorthand. I am generally socially liberal and somewhat economically conservative. It would be nice if I was only compared to Edmund Burke, but if I’m compared to Ron Paul, or the guy who took off his clothes at the Libertarian convention, then I have to roll with the punches, and I have to be ready to explain how I’m not like them. It goes with the territory.

          • Anonymous says:

            He calls himself a democratic socialist, which despite the unfortunate name is only loosely connected to socialism.

            It’s a bit like when people try to connect socialism to the Nazis because they were the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. Or when people try to make some sort of connection between turn of the century Progressives and modern leftists.

          • onyomi says:

            If what Bernie believes in is very different from what was tried and what has failed in Venezuela, then why doesn’t he just explain the difference?

            Moreover, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if many, if not most of those who tried to claim “socialism” was working out great in Venezuela just a few years ago would not then have seen a big difference between that socialism and the “democratic socialism” many of them would probably profess to believe in now.

            In other words, before it fails, it’s “see, socialism works!” After it fails, it’s “that was totally different from the type of socialism I’m in favor of.”

          • Skivverus says:

            Something something soundbite politics, something something cognitive dissonance. How much of each, well, I haven’t checked yet.

          • “Socialism is not the same as wanting to use a few socialist type policies.”

            Agreed. But the reason Sanders is described as a socialist isn’t because he, like all other American politicians, wants to use a few socialist type policies.

            It’s because he labels himself as a socialist, and has been doing so for a long time. You seem to be ignoring that fact.

          • “He calls himself a democratic socialist, which despite the unfortunate name is only loosely connected to socialism.”

            That might be true if he called himself a social democrat. “Democratic socialist” means someone in favor of both socialism and democracy. Chavez qualifies–there were still elections under his rule.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Oh, so we’re only talking about democratic socialism. Should we instead be asking Sanders about the countries Americans have applied that label to, then?

            The new government of Cambodia may have to resort to strong measures against a few to gain democratic socialism for all Cambodians. And we support the United Front in the pursuit of its presently stated goals.

            The Harvard Crimson, writing in support of the Khmer Rouge, 1975.

          • erenold says:

            The various posters giving very good substantive answers to the substantive question of how Sanders-democ-socialism varies from socialism are ignoring the fact that this is primarily a procedural point, which is that Sanders didn’t even think the question was worth his time to answer at all.

            How can that possibly be acceptable? Let’s say Trump didn’t back out of the debate last week. Or let’s say Sanders succeeds in overturning Clinton’s delegate lead in California + superdelegates. Is that comparison not going to be the very first point Donald Trump makes to him?

            And let’s say there is a super cogent, super convincing rebuttal to make, and let’s say Sanders makes it. He points out Scandinavia, he describes Venezuela’s one-commodity economy, he very carefully distinguishes the two philosophies. Great.

            Then why the hell didn’t he just give that answer in the first place?

            Either he has a good answer, or he doesn’t. I really, really doubt the American public is going to buy “right now I’m running for US President” when – not if – that question comes up in November.

          • MichaelT says:

            But Venezuela is a really good demonstration of the problems that come with Sanders’ policies. Promising lavish public benefits can work for a time as long as government revenue continues to grow at a good pace (which is Venezuela’s problem) and the population continues to grow at a healthy pace (which is Scandinavia’s main problem). At that point you need to either print money, which Venezuela tried, or pair down benefits, which although Bernie will never admit to is what most of Scandinavia is currently doing.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Eh, I don’t like Sanders, but “look at Venezuela” is as useless an argument as “look at Somalia!!!!!” that comes from the other side when trying to trip up a politician.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Really, this is just more proof of how bad ambush journalism has gotten. How could a socialist candidate have possibly anticipated a question about Venezuela during an interview on Univision?

          • Urstoff says:

            Why? Venezuela intentionally pursued socialist policies. Somalia is just a failed state.

          • Skivverus says:

            @Urstoff Somalia is/was used as a shorthand counterexample when arguing with anarchists, in similar fashion to how Venezuela is used as a counterexample when arguing with socialists.
            Don’t think Somalia makes the news quite so much lately, though. How are things doing over there these days?

          • TD says:

            “Look at Somalia” (properly contextualized) isn’t as bad an argument against anarcho-capitalism as anarcho-capitalists think it is, so the comparatively milder comparison between Sanders and Venezuelan policies isn’t really so out of order, especially taking things he’s already said about food lines into account.

            People rightly want him to clarify his position, and to see whether he understands the difference between Scandinavian style “socialism” (welfare capitalism), and the “socialism” that has been practiced in a few South American countries, you know, since he’s brandishing the label “socialism” about. Political literacy is not unimportant. I sure as hell want to know what Trump thinks about different kinds of nationalism, and where he draws various lines on that issue.

          • Mary says:

            “Somalia is just a failed state.”

            Somalia is just a failed socialist state.

            And one in which life has improved by many measures — such as infant mortality — since the state failed.

            Nothing is better than socialism! Literally.

          • Mary says:

            ” Somalia is/was used as a shorthand counterexample when arguing with anarchists, ”

            Also with anyone anywhere who thinks any regulations at all should be removed.

            Really. I have actually read with my own eyes people who think that removing anything is the equivalent of demanding anarchy.

          • TD says:

            Islamic warlordism might not be better than socialism, just saying.

          • ““Look at Somalia” (properly contextualized) isn’t as bad an argument against anarcho-capitalism as anarcho-capitalists think it is”

            If “Somalia” means the traditional stateless institutions of northern Somalia aka Somaliland as described by Lewis, then it’s an argument for anarcho-capitalism, since they seem to have worked a good deal better than the state institutions that replaced them when the British and Italians pulled out. If it means the chaos around Mogadishu, it isn’t an argument against anarcho-capitalism, it’s an argument against the U.S. and its allies trying to impose a government on a largely stateless society and doing it mostly with troops provided by that society’s traditional enemy.

            For details see:


            (a bit out of date but relevant)

          • Mary says:

            “Islamic warlordism might not be better than socialism, just saying.”

            But then, it’s not nothing.

      • “And I can’t see why a person who is in favor bringing a few socialist sorts of policies to an overall capitalist society”

        Practically all U.S. politicians are in favor of a few socialist policies, such as public schools. Sanders chooses to describe himself as a socialist, which ought to mean more than that.

    • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

      Sanders has described Chavez as a communist dictator before. So credit where credit is due.

      • He described him as that less than a year ago, while running for the Democratic nomination, in response to criticism by the Clinton campaign.

        • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

          But that was at a time when the Sanders campaign was still a quixotic effort to get publicity for his ideas, with no reason to engage in the sort of CYA you get from campaigns with winning chances. “Dead communist dictator” seems harsher than political expediency requires in any case, especially the personal attack on Chavez (the fallback position among the True Believers seems to be that he had the right idea but Maduro screwed it up).

          A better reason to discount Sanders’ words might be that Venezuela had become an obvious failure at that point.

  30. Anthony says:

    Scott, I’m reading an essay by Isaiah Berlin entitled “The Hedgehog and the Fox.” It’s about Leo Tolstoy’s (exceedingly skeptical) view of “historical science”, and it includes a savagely ironic quotation from War and Peace which sounded so much like you that I must copy it here:

    Louis XIV was a very proud and self-confident man; he had such and such mistresses and such and such ministers and he ruled France badly. His descendants were weak men and they too ruled France badly. And they had such and such favorites and such and such mistresses. Moreover, certain men wrote some books at that time. At the end of the eighteenth century there were a couple of dozen men in Paris who began to talk about all men being free and equal. This caused people all over France to begin to slash at and drown one another. They killed the king and many other people. At that time there was in France a man of genius- Napoleon. He conquered everybody everywhere- that is, he killed many people because he was a great genius. And for some reason he went to kill Africans, and killed them so well and was so cunning and wise that when he returned to France he ordered everybody to obey him, and they all obeyed him. Having become an Emperor he again went out to kill people in Italy, Austria, and Prussia. And there too he killed a great many. In Russia there was an Emperor, Alexander, who decided to restore order in Europe and therefore fought against Napoleon. In 1807 he suddenly made friends with him, but in 1811 they again quarreled and again began killing many people. Napoleon led six hundred thousand men into Russia and captured Moscow; then he suddenly ran away from Moscow, and the Emperor Alexander, helped by the advice of Stein and others, united Europe to arm against the disturber of its peace. All Napoleon’s allies suddenly became his enemies and their forces advanced against the fresh forces he raised. The Allies defeated Napoleon, entered Paris, forced Napoleon to abdicate, and sent him to the island of Elba, not depriving him of the title of Emperor and showing him every respect, though five years before and one year later they all regarded him as an outlaw and a brigand. Then Louis XVIII, who till then had been the laughingstock both of the French and the Allies, began to reign. And Napoleon, shedding tears before his Old Guards, renounced the throne and went into exile. Then the skillful statesmen and diplomatists (especially Talleyrand, who managed to sit down in a particular chair before anyone else and thereby extended the frontiers of France) talked in Vienna and by these conversations made the nations happy or unhappy. Suddenly the diplomatists and monarchs nearly quarreled and were on the point of again ordering their armies to kill one another, but just then Napoleon arrived in France with a battalion, and the French, who had been hating him, immediately all submitted to him. But the Allied monarchs were angry at this and went to fight the French once more. And they defeated the genius Napoleon and, suddenly recognizing him as a brigand, sent him to the island of St. Helena. And the exile, separated from the beloved France so dear to his heart, died a lingering death on that rock and bequeathed his great deeds to posterity. But in Europe a reaction occurred and the sovereigns once again all began to oppress their subjects.

    • Deiseach says:

      Napoleon led six hundred thousand men into Russia and captured Moscow; then he suddenly ran away from Moscow, and the Emperor Alexander, helped by the advice of Stein and others, united Europe to arm against the disturber of its peace.

      That part reminds me of the song The Bonny Bunch of Roses (in various versions, here’s one):

      ‘He took six hundred thousand men and kings likewise to bear his train;
      He was so well provided-for that he could sweep the world for gain.
      But when he came to Moscow he was overpowered by sleet and snow
      And with Moscow all a-blazing he lost the bonny bunch of roses-o.’

  31. kaninchen says:

    My favourite bit of maths: proof by colouring.
    As an introductory problem, imagine a chessboard with two diagonally-opposite squares removed. You also have 31 dominoes, each of which covers two adjacent squares. Can you cover the board with these?

    The answer is that you can’t because each domino has to cover one white and one black square, but the board with the two corners removed has 32 of one colour and 30 of the other. Diagram.

    A similar problem: you have a 10×10 board and 25 4×1 tiles. Can you cover the board? Answer.

    Another one: prove that an 8×9 board cannot be covered by 12 6×1 tiles. (Proof)

    These questions are taken from here, there are a bunch more there as well.

  32. Tsnom Eroc says:

    >Biggest Loser Drugged

    I doubt the guys were daft enough to explicitely give them drugs (amphetamines) like that. It was probably a yohimbe + caffiene appetite suppressant

    …and reading the arcticle, I was right!

    >I feel like we got raped, too.

    No. She knew what she was doing, losing weight for media fame and willingly taking the drugs they gave her. Its still all sketchy.

    • anonymous says:

      I don’t know, some people are pretty gullible, especially if they’re desperate, -which I imagine someone would have to be even to put themselves through that (this is the program about shouting at fat people, right?) for the money.

      Did they get paid a lot?

    • RCF says:

      That was remarkably insensitive to victims of rape. Okay, coercing someone into doing something is problematic, but a distinction between reluctant consent and no consent at all should be made. The article also says “The contestants were forced to shower together with no curtains or barriers of any kind.” Again, thre’s a difference between coercing someone into doing something and forcing them. (And the literal wording implies that all the contestants showered together’ presumably they were separated by gender.)

      Still, the premise of the show is rather disturbing: if overweight people are optimizing for most weight lost, rather than health, it’s rather predictable that they will lose more weight than is optimal weight-wise. Having a competition to lose weight is just asking for trouble.

  33. The Nybbler says:

    Do we have any mainstream-ish articles blaming the Venezuelan situation on US policies yet?

    • sabril says:

      I’m not very familiar with the situation, but it occurs to me the Iran nuclear deal probably dealt a heavy blow to the Venezuelan economy. I doubt you will see the Left making this argument, however.

    • Anon says:

      Ancient Aliens is going to have a field day with that…

    • tgb says:

      Very neat, especially since I had just recently read about his scarab brooch they mention at the end:

      “In 2006, an Austrian astrochemist proposed that an unusual yellowish gem, shaped as a scarab in King Tut’s burial necklace, is actually glass formed in the heat of a meteorite crashing into sand.”

      You start to wonder how he died so young with all the high-level magic equipment he had.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        You start to wonder how he died so young with all the high-level magic equipment he had.

        Ah, but he might have died even younger without it…

        • John Schilling says:

          The guy totally misread the Challenge Rating of Aten. A tenth-level Pharaoh isn’t supposed to be taking on actual gods even with a +5 dagger and an Amulet of Protection from Evil.

    • Nornagest says:

      That’s a beautiful knife.

    • TheAncientGeek says:

      Cf the Javanese Kris:, ‘A bladesmith makes the blade in layers of different iron ores and meteorite nickel.’.

    • houseboatonstyxb says:

      @ onyomi
      King Tut’s dagger made of meteor.

      I keep reading this as ‘dagger made of metaphor’, which suggests either Charles Williams (the Inkling one) or Larry Niven.

  34. Anonymous says:

    Forgive me if I’m repeating an already stated point here, I didn’t see it in the comments but I skimmed those:

    Yet another Swedish lottery study finds that wealth itself (as opposed to the factors that cause wealth) has no independent impact on mortality, adult health care utilization, child scholastic performance, drug use, etc.

    Speaking as a Swede (in all of the citizen, ethnic, and grew up there senses), let me point out that this study shows that wealth itself has no independent impact on mortality etc. in one of the most extensive welfare states in the world where moreover, until the mid-’90s private options for dealing with many of the above were illegal, so that any study of adults would necessarily trap largely people who grew up in a DDR-type system. I’d hesitate to generalize these conclusions to Texas.

  35. tgb says:

    Can anyone answer the request “approximate sum of the digits of n! using Stirling’s formula” that Wolfram|Alpha couldn’t? It doesn’t seem likely, since 1,000,000 and 999,999 have radically digit sums but differ only by 1 part in a million. So the best I could do is approximate the total number of digits in n! and then assume they’re all 4.5, or really to give an upper bound of 9*(number of digits).

    While using non-Stirling’s you could get slightly better: there’s always a string of 0’s at the end of n! for large n and you could count those to lower the upper bound somewhat. For example, there’s always at least floor(n/5) of them.

    I guess the request wasn’t for a good approximation.

  36. John Ohno says:

    I think you misunderstand or misrepresent Horgan’s position. (Or, alternately, I have misunderstood it in a way that makes it far more palatable!) My understanding of it was that Horgan sees the skeptic community as focusing significantly more effort on demolishing the dregs of belief in what are essentially skepticism success stories from thirty years ago than on attempting to think critically in a general sense — i.e., spending a lot of time congratulating themselves on not believing in bigfoot in a world where hardly anyone believes in bigfoot instead of trying to figure out which things they already believe that they shouldn’t.

    Horgan’s list of examples didn’t seem like it was intended as a list of things he would specifically like debunked, so much as a list of examples of things wherein he thought expert disagreement was far more common than disagreement in the skeptic community (i.e., cases where skeptics should be more skeptical and pay more attention to what experts are saying, or else risk becoming skeptics-in-name-only as part of a club for people who think it’s really impressive not to believe in bigfoot).

    Now, maybe I interpreted Horgan in this way because I’ve been saying the same things for a decade — perhaps he actually *did* mean that he wanted skeptics to focus on the very specific dubious ideas he referenced. That hardly matters, except in the context of Horgan’s ego: we probably *should* be focusing skepticism on more hard targets than soft targets (as this blog does); in other words, interpreting Horgan’s talk with the assumption of good faith and competence gets the skeptic community farther than interpreting it in the way you have.

    • Deiseach says:

      Since then a whole host of scientists have pointed out that John Horgan doesn’t actually understand their scientific fields and is wrong when he talks about them

      I am slightly amused by this, as having read Horgan’s article, I think that it may well be he doesn’t understand in-depth the areas he mentions (he is a journalist after all, not a scientist) but that reaction mainly appears – to me at least – to be a lot of offended “Hey! We’re legit! Why don’t you go after the woo-merchants and leave us Serious Scientific Types alone?”defensiveness, which is exactly the problem Horgan mentions.

      Everyone is prepared to laugh at believers in a flat earth. I believe in Transubstantiation and I’ll laugh at them. Easy targets are no good. I note Neurologica’s more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger response about “The result was a string of cherry picked strawmen” (goodness, it’s a good thing skeptics and freethinkers never do that when taking on religion or the like, isn’t it?)

      But that’s Horgan’s point. Skeptics are going after the low-hanging fruit. If they’re offended and uncomfortable about Horgan not giving them a rah-rah speech about “Yeah! Bash those psychic hotlines and creationist museums!”, then he’s doing the job they need done. Turn their own examination on themselves and see if they’re just the tiniest bit smug, self-righteous, or comfortable in “I don’t have to investigate this for myself, all my like-minded cohort tell me it’s nonsense, so I know it’s nonsense”.

      • Jiro says:

        If you believe in transsubstantiation, I don’t think you get to complain that skeptics who take on religion are using cherry-picked strawmen. Complaining about strawmen basically means saying “real religious beliefs are a lot more sensible than the easily criticized one you picked”, and if transsubstantiation is your standard for real religious beliefs, that… isn’t so.

        • Deiseach says:

          Jiro, my point there is mocking easy targets is, well, easy. There’s nothing special in being sceptical (or even skeptical) about mediums when ten year old me was learning her catechism to avoid mediums and fortune-tellers.

          I wasn’t going for the religion angle, I was saying that there are a lot of easy marks out there, and the complaint that “John Horgan cherry-picked strawmen!” is not necessarily a refutation of his critque: that skeptics rehash the same old arguments about targets that have been acknowledged to have been beaten, instead of examining new targets closer to home.

          Sure, there are still people who believe in psychics and crystal healing and Bigfoot, but they are not in a position to do anyone any harm (apart from the con-artists who squeeze money out of vulnerable people for pretending to put them in touch with their deceased loved ones and advise them by forecasting the future, and that’s what the law is there for – to prosecute fraud).

          I picked transubstantiation as my example because that’s something even other Christians think is crazy or erroneous (see Martin Luther), and if someone holding such wacky beliefs agrees with you that the belief you are pointing and mocking at is indeed risible, then that battle has already been won. You’re going for the soft target and not picking fresh angles of inquiry.

          And the skeptic’s refutation of transubstantiation often boils down to “yeah, but if we put the consecrated wine through a mass spectrometer, there would be no measurable resemblance to human blood and no measurable difference from ordinary wine!*” which is not at all the belief of Catholics (and presumably the Orthodox): the accidents remain the same, the substance is changed.

          When you’ve got the Raelians on your side running DNA tests on (allegedly) consecrated hosts to demonstrate “Nope, no human DNA here!”, then I think “you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas” applies.

          *Can I remember who suggested this approach? No I cannot, and this is what happens when you’ve read more than your tiny memory can hold all the details.

          • Jiro says:

            Transsubstantiation is an easy target. If skeptics are not attacking transsubstantiation, then they’re not cherry picking easy targets.

            (And the refutation of transsubstantiation is really “accident and substance are incoherent concepts. Also, while transsubstantiation according to the textbooks can’t be detected by DNA testing, transsubstantiation as understood by most believers could be, and I refuse to no-true-Scotsman those believers.”)

          • keranih says:

            My favorite Catholic-joke-told-by-non-Catholics is about the poor Southern Baptist who left the woods and moved to the suburbs and ended up in a Catholic culdesac. After many months of hanging out with them, he decides to convert. In January(*) after the end of deer season, they have a ceremony at the church and he is sprinkled with holy water and the priest says: “You were born a Baptist and raised a Baptist and now you are a Catholic.”

            So now he’s Catholic like all his neighbors and all is well. Except they are constantly correcting him on breaking the rules. He wants to stand up and say things in Mass. He ‘borrows’ flasks of holy water and wants to get some bacon grease consecrated as anointing oil. They tell him he can’t do Baptist stuff any more, he’s a Catholic now.

            It all comes to a head on a Friday in early April, when the guy has a gill going and the tantalizing smell of steak is running across the neighborhood. Everyone is outraged, because it is Lent, so no red meat, and they summon the priest. He comes striding into the back yard with his black suit and collar and a rosary clenched (**) in his fist…

            …just as the guy is standing over the grill, sprinking holy water on the steak, and saying, “You was born a deer, you was raised a deer, and now you is a catfish.”

            (Badump dum. I’ll be here all week.)

            (*) Everyone who’s Catholic knows why this is wrong – people are admitted into the faith at a ceremony a week before Easter, barring v. special circumstances. It makes for a hellishly long mass and unless you’re one of the new initiates or of their family, it can be very hard to drudge up care.

            (**) It’s not a magic device, it’s just a counting string. Don’t get me started on Boondock Saints.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            And the refutation of transsubstantiation is really “accident and substance are incoherent concepts.

            By all means, feel free to point out the incoherency.

            Also, while transsubstantiation according to the textbooks can’t be detected by DNA testing, transsubstantiation as understood by most believers could be, and I refuse to no-true-Scotsman those believers.

            So if it turned out that the majority of self-described evolutionists thought that evolution entails that a monkey once gave birth to a human being, would pointing out the ridiculousness of this belief serve to undermine the theory of evolution?

          • Jiro says:

            If “creature with less than X percent of these genes” counts as a monkey and “creature with at least X percent of these genes” counts as a human, it follows that according to evolution, a monkey gave birth to a human, for the same reason that there is a pile of sand that is not a heap which, if you add one grain of sand, becomes a heap.

            Even if you pick an actual false belief, such as “some creatures are ‘more highly evolved'”, there’s the question of why I would want to criticize layman-evolution rather than book-evolution. If I’m criticizing it for the purpose of arguing against scientists, I’d better pick book-evolution. But I’m not criticizing religion for the purpose of arguing against theologians.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            So why the hell should I care about what some hypothetical guy thinks who’s ignorant about what the actual doctrine of transubstantiation entails? You can go on all you like about how not-transubstantiation-but-sometimes-mistaken-for-it is silly and wrong, but that doesn’t prove anything about transubstantiation itself.

            Plus, you’re just illustrating Horgan’s point about sceptics spending all their time going after low-hanging fruit here — weak-manning opposing views is an excellent example of going after low-hanging fruit in order to avoid seriously challenging your own preconceptions.

            And incidentally, if you’re going to pull the “But transubstantiation as understood by most believers could be detected by a DNA test!” card, perhaps you’d like to offer some actual evidence that most believers do in fact believe that consecrated wafers ought to contain detectable human DNA.

          • Deiseach says:

            Jiro, if the Raelians decided they were going to disprove that Moses received the Torah from God on Mount Sinai by going to a synagogue, stealing a Torah scroll, and setting it on fire – “and if it burns, that proves it’s not divinely produced!” – and then mentioned that they know it involves stealing a Torah scroll, and some people think stealing is a bit naughty, but for some unfathomable reason (probably the irrational prejudices of blind believers) if you ask a synagogue to give your their Torah so you can burn it – for scientific experiment purposes only! – they won’t do so, so they’ve satisified themselves it’s ethically okay:

            I think even the most Orthodox are likely to say

            (a) “Whether the scroll burns or not has nothing to do with what you think you are disproving”

            (b) “Guys, worrying about is stealing naughty is the least important point here!”

            I think most skeptics would agree the Raelians are full of woo. When you have even the Raelians agreeing with you that “belief X” is dumb, then you are going after soft targets and might as well congratulate yourself on not believing that Paddington was a real bear really from Peru.

          • RCF says:

            “By all means, feel free to point out the incoherency.”

            The burden is on believers to explain how it is coherent.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            The burden is on believers to explain how it is coherent.

            The burden is on the person making the claim — which, in this case, is Jiro.

          • Jiro says:

            Whether the scroll burns or not has nothing to do with what you think you are disproving

            Neither well-educated Jews nor average Jews understand “the Torah is divine” to mean that it can’t be burned. Many average Catholics understand transsubstantiation to mean that the host turns into flesh in a way that could in theory be measured.

          • Andrew G. says:

            Just look at the ludicrous claims that are made for “eucharistic miracle” hosts – not sure if anyone’s claimed human DNA, but the latest one (in Poland) has been claimed to be human heart muscle.

            (Conveniently ignored is the fact that the church didn’t like the report they got from the first lab they sent it to for analysis, and that the second lab’s sample is suspect. The reporting on that aspect is all in Polish, though.)

          • RCF says:

            @The original Mr. X

            “The burden is on the person making the claim — which, in this case, is Jiro.”

            No, Catholics are the one making a claim, and they are the ones with the burden. Just because you can frame the situation to make it seem like Jiro is the one making the claim, that doesn’t mean that Jiro is the one with the burden of proof. The burden of proof generally attaches to the person making a positive claim, not the one making a negative one.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Andrew, the point of Eucharistic miracle hosts (to Roman Catholics) is that they’re special miracles beyond the miracle that (supposedly) happens to every host. If you analyzed a true Eucharistic miracle, you would observe true human flesh and blood; if you analyzed another consecrated host, you’d only observe bread. So, Eucharistic miracles aren’t relevant to a debate about transubstantiation.

            But your claim about the supposed miracle in Poland failing the first lab’s tests intrigues me. I’m a Protestant, and I hadn’t given any credence to Eucharistic miracles, but the published results on that incident looked convincing assuming I could trust their tests. (Which could be a big assumption, as Scott’s taught us.) Have you found any source in English? Or even if not, could you link something in Polish?

          • Andrew G. says:

            My knowledge of Polish is nil, but Google Translate has its uses.


            I have not found any English reporting at all which quotes the relevant details.

            See also:


            which quotes some relevant details regarding the sampling procedure (if I’m reading the slightly dodgy translation right, the first lab came to the church to take their own samples, and found nothing relevant, while the second was supplied with a sample by the cardiologist (hmm!) on the church’s investigation committee).

      • Scott Alexander says:

        I agree that regular science needs to be analyzed “skeptically”, but I don’t think the skeptical movement is at all the right people to do that, because the only game they know is taking things that they have been pre-informed are stupid, then mocking them for being stupid. If they got into analyzing regular science, they’d probably just go to whatever the most controversial or unpopular regular scientific field was and mock it for being stupid without really understanding it. Can you imagine the average person from Freethought Blogs saying “I went into this paper expecting it would be pseudoscience, but after really carefully retracing all the statistical steps I think it’s strange, unpalatable, but true”?

        I think of Bigfoot as a useful containment mechanism for these people.

        • Steve Reilly says:

          What’s funny is that PZ Myers from Freethough Blogs was a big supporter of the Horgan’s speech. This was right around the top that Myers was blogging about how he’d just attended some UFO conference with talks on the British version of a Roswell crash and a lengthy speech about Vikings who left runes in Minnesota in the eleventh century. Which seemed about as low-hanging a fruit as you could get.

        • rttf says:

          @Scott Alexander

          As someone who used to be very into skepticism a few years ago and completely agree with your criticism, I still feel the need to point out that the Freethought Blogs are not well regarded in the skeptical movement (to put it mildly) and PZ Myers is pretty much universally hated outside his very narrow fanbase.

          • Eggoeggo says:

            Oh, is that true? That’s really good to hear. At one point I’d gotten the impression that type had taken over all the conferences, and were systematically “uninviting” everyone outside of their clique.

          • rttf says:


            I should probably add that my information is somewhat out of date. In retrospect it’s not unlikely that that type has gained a better foothold since the time I stopped following.

          • RCF says:

            Yeah, I think of them typifying SJW more than skepticism. They do wrap themselves in the label (“Skepticon”, “Skepchick”), but they are in many ways deeply anti-skeptical; for instance, Greta Christina once wrote an article with a bunch of lies about the Trayvon Martin case, then informed her readers that anyone who expressed any skepticism about her claims would be banned, and it seems to be treated as completely proven over there that Michael Shermer is a rapist.

          • TD says:

            “then informed her readers that anyone who expressed any skepticism about her claims would be banned”

            I’m sure she didn’t phrase it quite like that, but I see.

          • The Nybbler says:



            “If you have anything at all to say about this that even remotely hints at implying that what George Zimmerman did was remotely defensible, or that this verdict was anything short of grotesque… do not comment in my blog. Now, or ever. Do not read my blog. Do not follow me on Facebook or Twitter. Do not attend my talks. Do not buy my books. Get the fuck out of my life, now. Thank you.”

            So yeah, she didn’t express it quite like that. She expressed it far more strongly. This is typical anti-rationalism from that side of the culture war.

          • Eggoeggo says:

            You have to wonder if they even realize how insane that kind of histrionic language sounds. I guess that’s what happens when you get enough retweeters going “SO BRAVE!!” at that style of writing.

      • InferentialDistance says:

        Going after harder targets means a much higher probability of being wrong. It’s also encouraging laypeople to make disparaging comments in regards to difficult fields. Yudkowsky on Quantum Mechanics is not exactly the kind of behavior I want to promote.

        I mean, Scott’s analyses on certain topics, such as racism in the justice system or marijuana, is about as close to skepticism on hard subjects as you can get. And not everyone has both the smarts, time, and willingness to devote so much of said time, to doing that kind of stuff.

        Really, I’d just like the broader skeptic movement to learn a little epistemic humility. But I want everyone to learn a little epistemic humility. A little epistemic humility is a wonderful thing! But not a lot, or else you get solipsism

        • Deiseach says:

          But if skepticism is only to be applied to easy, as distinct from difficult, fields, then is there any use in encouraging lay people to be skeptical or to be free thinkers? The response of the scientists while valid does seem to rely on the creation or entrenchment of a professional grade of skeptic, who can then by virtue of their scientific/professional/”trust us smart people” understanding disseminate to the lay person what targets are or are not stupid and to be mocked, which does not get us very much further in “developing a sense of willingness to question beliefs and assumptions in the general public”.

          • InferentialDistance says:

            It is not that skepticism is only to be applied to easy fields, but that healthy skepticism on difficult fields is epistemic humility, not mockery. If you had the evidence to justify the mockery, the field wouldn’t be difficult.

            More specifically, mockery is only justified on questions so obvious that getting them wrong requires extraordinary incompetence. And even then it should be measured carefully to avoid needless cruelty.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          A little epistemic humility is a wonderful thing! But not a lot, or else you get solipsism…

          Or Cartesianism… 😉

    • shemtealeaf says:

      I’m not sure Bigfoot is the best example, because very few people believe in Bigfoot, and it’s a topic that matters very little either way.

      I think of the prototypical skeptic spending more time railing against things like religion and shady alternative medicine. Those are things that are widely believed and have significant real-world effects.

    • Urstoff says:

      What’s always annoyed me is that the skeptic community always seems to be more about self-congratulation than persuasion. After all, they’re definitely not following the practices for most effective persuasion recommended by psychology (hint: calling other people frauds, dupes, or stupid is not effective). Congrats, you don’t believe in bigfoot or homeopathy. Now do something hard: persuade those who do, or focus on more difficult intellectual.

      • urpriest says:

        Their best work is more about investigation than either, really.

        I used to read the Skeptical Inquirer pretty regularly, and the best articles were always the direct investigations. Some guy goes to a village where there are rumors of a poltergeist, hangs around, and manages to catch a kid throwing stuff when none of the adults are watching. Someone claims they have a bigfoot sample, and a lab takes it apart and figures out where it actually came from. There’s a big study on the effectiveness of astrology, and while it looks like there’s some effect at first it turns out to be due to the fact that when people don’t remember their spouse’s birthday on the census they substitute their own.

        This is something that’s interesting, that’s worth doing, and that Skeptics are good at. Persuasion is a sideline, self-congratulation a casualty. The most important question is never why a hoax is wrong, but how it managed to look right.

        Those who claim that Skeptics should focus on irrationality in general (both Horgan and people within the movement like Neurologica) are forgetting that the rest of the world already wants to avoid irrationality. Skeptics are unique because they know how pseudoscience operates, not because they’re more rational than everyone else.

        • RCF says:

          “the rest of the world already wants to avoid irrationality”

          No, they don’t.

          • Nicholas says:

            The rest of the world has conveniently defined a set of priors such that they are never acting irrationally, and you should to.

          • RCF says:

            I suppose it might be possible to model them as such, but I don’t think that’s how they view their worldview. For instance, a believer in the vaccine-autism link would probably say “There’s so much evidence for the link that once is forced to accept the conclusion”, not “I start with such a massive prior for the link that even the slightest evidence was enough to convince me”.

            We have the term “steelmanning”; should there be a term when Person A bends over backwards to find an explanation for Person B’s behavior that makes sense within Person A’s worldview and/or values, but Person B would reject that explanation?

          • Nicholas says:

            I mean that an antivaxxer would tell you “Not being an antivaxxer is just irrational.” People do not consider their own values irrational, and thus push for more rationality in the world around them, because obviously the correct measure of world rationality is what percentage of the world agrees with them.

  37. Megafire says:

    AskReddit: What is the most surprising mathematical fact you know?. The fractions 1/7, 2/7, 3/7 etc all share the same sequence but start at different places: 1/7 = 0.142857…, 3/7 = 0.428571…, 2/7 = 0.285714, and so on.

    This is exactly why 7 has been my favourite number for several years now.

    • Murphy says:


      Factually it’s incorrect. People have been able to read images out of the visual cortexes of cats.

      Though I think that was also posted in the last thread and someone did the hard work of going through it line by line and pointing to every bungle, error and inaccuracy.

      it’s poorly informed wordplay by someone who knows little about computers or neurology and a waste of time.

      • Acedia says:

        Thank you! I knew if I posted it here I’d get feedback on its accuracy. You don’t happen to have a link to the other critique, do you? I searched the last couple of open threads and can’t find it.

      • Peter says:

        There’s maybe a hint of a point there, various things in that article have been said better by people making serious points about AI or psychology or neurology or philosophy, but…

        The title of the article is “The empty brain”, and soon goes on to say “The human brain isn’t really empty, of course.”. Every single shocking claim in that article should be read the same way – as some ridiculous piece of hyperbole where the article has taken some small kernel of truth and stretched beyond all recognition.

        Suppose I went back in time to the medieval period and tried claiming, “there’s no water anywhere”. People would think I was an idiot at best and point to lakes and the sea etc. and say “what’s that”, I’d say, “tell me what water is”, they’d say, “well, it’s one of the four elements, duh, ask any alchemist” and I’d say, “there’s none of the four elements off in that lake, there’s something in there, but it’s a compound of two elements, so it can’t be what you call ‘water'” (this all assumes I’d get that far without being burned at the stake first). That’s about the level of argumentation in that article.

    • Urstoff says:

      Turns out that cognitive science circa 1975 is not 100% correct. Someone stop the presses.

      The short of it is you can’t have cognitive science without representations. You can probably have it without explicit, discrete symbolic representations, but that is not exhaustive of the possible types of representations.

    • Aegeus says:

      It takes quite a while before he actually gets around to describing how a brain works (if it’s not a computer, what is it?), but his basic assertion is “Your brain doesn’t store a perfect copy of an image, instead it reconstructs that image in a complex, poorly-understood process.”

      Which is true, as far as it goes. The Illustrated Guide to Law recently did a really nice series on how our memories work, and how that affects things like eyewitness testimony.

      But saying that it’s not “storing information” sounds like splitting hairs. The information is definitely there, because you can reproduce it. It’s just stored in a very lossy and hard-to-decode format, which is tangled up with a lot of other bits of information. His argument is sort of like looking at the JPEG file format and saying “It’s not storing information, it’s storing a series of cosine functions that allow you to reconstruct the image.”

      I think a better lesson to take is “Information can be encoded in really obscure ways” or “You can store information by storing how to recover it.” Sometimes a tiny mathematical formula can have the entire Mandelbrot Set stored in it. And sometimes an impenetrable tangle of neurons can somehow have all your memories of grandma inside it.

      Anyway, it’s definitely not correct to conclude “And therefore, we can’t run a brain on a computer” from that. Neural nets are a thing in AI research, and it would be fair to say that AlphaGo’s neural net “stores information” on how to win a Go game, even though it’s stored in such an obscure manner that, as with a human brain, you can’t point to any part of it and say “That neuron stores knowledge about opening joseki.”

  38. keranih says:

    Effective animal charity Mercy for Animals

    What is the grounds for the description “effective” here?

  39. Kevin C. says:

    Another link on “Mao’s mangoes”.

  40. Jack Sorensen says:

    The divide-by-7 thing isn’t that surprising when you think about doing long division. Finding decimal places while doing division consists of taking the remainder from the last step, bringing down a 0 and dividing into the number so attained (with the result being the next digit in the decimal expansion), finding the remainder, and repeat.

    For divisor < 10, a given digit will always be followed in the same way, by a certain specific digit. For example when dividing by 7 and writing out the decimal expansion, a 1 will always be followed by a 4.

    To see why, let the denominator be n, and let the ith decimal digit be d_i. To find d_i you divide n into the remainder from the last step, call this r_(i-1), multiplied by 10 (bringing down a 0 == multiplying by 10).

    Since n 10. For example, in the expansion for 1/49, the remainder can be 31 or 32, and then the next digit will be 6, but the next remainder will be different, so the sequence won’t continue the same way. Because of this the expansion for 1/49 has the sequence …63265… with 6 followed by a 3, then later by a 5.

    But if n < 10, then increasing the remainder by 1 has to change the next digit.

    This means that a certain digit in the decimal expansion for x/n will always be followed by a certain digit: i.e., if d_i == d_j, then it follows r_i == r_j, and therefore d_(i+1) == d_(j+1) (since those only depend on r_i and r_j, respectively, and n).

    So, when n = 7, in the decimal expansion, a 1 has to be followed by a 4, and the 4 must be followed by a 2, etc.

    The other question is why they're all on the same sequence at all. The above shows that if x/7 and y/7's decimal expansions both contain a 1, they must thereafter be the same, but they might just have totally disjoint sequences. One could be .142857… and the other could be .369… . If they never meet, they needn't coincide. An example of this is 1/3 vs 2/3.

    I think the answer has to do with the fact that the repeating decimal for 1/7 is maximally long – it has 6 digits, and for x/n, the repeating decimal must have length <n. In particular it means that when doing the long division, each possible remainder 1 through 6 appears once while going through once cycle of the repeating decimal (once one remainder appears twice, the sequence will repeat). In so doing, it takes all possible values for a digit in a decimal expansion for x/7. Any other y/7 has to have a remainder that's the same at some point, thus one digit the same, thus the same sequence of digits.

    Final question is why the repeating decimal for 7 is maximally long. It's not clear to me there's some deep reason for this. But for me intuitively, a number with a long repeating decimal is a really irrational number, and 7 seems like an unwieldy number that would do that sort of thing.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      This has all already been said briefly elsewhere in the thread, but I’ll state it here explicitly.

      What’s going on here is that 10 is a primitive root (or generator) modulo the prime 7. Assume b and n are relatively prime, so that 1/n is purely periodic when written in base b. Then in general, the period of 1/n, written in base b, is equal to the order of b modulo n. That is to say, it’s the smallest k such that b^k=1 (mod n). (This is guaranteed to exist so long as b and n are relatively prime.)

      Why is this the same as the period? Well, a periodic representation in base b is some integral multiple of — well, let’s say for concreteness that the period is 4. Then it’s some integral multiple of .000100010001… (in base b); and of course this holds more generally, there’s obviously nothing special about 4. So let’s say the period is k. Well, then this number is equal to 1/(b^k-1). So if we want to write 1/n as a repeating decimal in base b, with period k, then we’re saying 1/n = m/(b^k-1) for some whole number m, i.e., n divides b^k-1. So the smallest period is the smallest k for which n divides b^k-1, i.e., it’s the order of b modulo n.

      So that explains the bit about the period — 10 has an order of 6, modulo 7. What about the “different starting points” bit?

      The order of b mod n isn’t just how long it takes b^k to reach 1 mod n; it’s actually the number of different values that b^k takes on mod n. When b^k takes on all possible values mod n that are relatively prime to n, we say that b is a generator, or a primitive root, mod n. We denote the number of these by φ(n); so to say that b is a generator mod n is the same as to say that its order mod n is φ(n), i.e., as large as possible. (Obviously, when n is prime, φ(n)=n-1.)

      (Note that there’s not a primitive root for every modulus! Famously, there’s a primitive root for every prime modulus, but those aren’t the only ones. In general, there’s a primitive root mod n if and only if n is one of 1, 2, 4, an odd prime power, or twice an odd prime power. I guess actually 1 is an odd prime power, so you could leave out 1 and 2.)

      So anyway. Say we want n and b such that 1/n, 2/n, …, (n-1)/n, written in base b, are all going to be the same cyclic string except starting at different points. This is going to happen precisely when n is prime and b is a generator mod n (and the latter happens when 1/n is “as long as possible” when written in base b). We’re going to want n to be prime because otherwise 1/n, 2/n, …, (n-1)/n aren’t even going to all have the same denominator when written in lowest terms, and that’s going to be a problem. Now, since we’re looking at n-1 different fractions, the period of 1/n had better be at least (and hence exactly) n-1, since the period gives you the number of different possible starting points. If you don’t have n-1 different starting points, you can’t get n-1 different fractions by picking different starting points.

      How about the converse, that if it’s a generator then in fact the m/n are indeed all shifts of 1/n? Well, if b is a generator mod n, and you have some m/n, then since b is a generator, there’s some k such that b^k = m (mod n). But that means that m/n and b^k/n have the same fractional part. And the latter is just 1/n shifted left by k places. So indeed it’s the same thing.

      (To go into more detail about the problem if n isn’t prime, if n isn’t prime, then for any m dividing n, you’ll get 1/m apearing in your list, and that’s going to be a problem, because if b has order φ(n) mod n, well, its order mod m is going to be less than φ(n), and so the period isn’t even going to be the same. Unless n=2m and m is odd, but you can pick m so that’s not the case.)

      So yeah — ultimately this just comes down to 10 having order 6 mod 7; 10 being a generator mod 7. It’s also a generator mod 19, 23, 29, and 47, for a few more examples; and of course one can easily come up with more in other bases as well.

      There’s actually a famous conjecture of Artin stating that if b is any integer which is neither -1 nor a perfect square, there are infinitely many primes for which b is a primitive root. So if true, there would necessarily be infinitely many primes you could take above. However, this conjecture has never been proven for even a single particular value of b, despite a bunch of nonconstructive work showing that it must be true for a great many values of b (we just don’t know which ones).

  41. LPSP says:

    About Democratic electee’s conservatism and rainy days: It strikes me that democratic candidates who are themselves acceptably conservative in politics to be elected by a conservative-heavy base, are thus more likely to be elected on rainy days as the voterbase is more conservative. So naturally those candidates will be more conservative in office. The rainy day is selecting for them.

  42. Harry says:

    “A study finds that attending an elite school in Britain has few positive later-life effects, at least for men. That means either elite schools don’t have better teachers (really?) or that there’s a discrepancy between this and the Chetty study that needs to be resolved.”

    I think I can explain the discrepancy. In Britain we have two kinds of ‘elite’ school. We have (1) grammar schools – which have almost entirely been phased out, but still exist in some areas. These only accept students who pass a test, but the education is free. Then we have (2) private schools (also known confusingly as public schools). These will only accept students whose parents can pay the school a very large amount of money.

    Grammar schools receive exactly the same funding as ‘normal’ high schools, and cannot pay teachers especially well, so do not attract top teaching talent. In some cases, they actually receive less funding, because normal high schools are seen as more badly needing the money in order to deal with more problematic students.

    By contrast, private schools are rich and pay their teachers extremely well. This is where the best teachers gravitate.

    I can believe that grammar-school students, selected by ability, might not do much better than their high-school peers. But privately-educated students do much better. 71% of judges, 62% of senior army officers, and 43% of journalists in Britain were privately educated (even though the privately-educated constitute only 7% of the overall population).

    Draw your own conclusions, I suppose, but I think this explains the confusion here.

    • Salem says:

      But public schools aren’t just rich, they’re incredibly selective. You aren’t getting into Winchester or St. Paul’s just because daddy’s got money. The fact that privately-educated students do much better may just be a selection effect, not a treatment effect.

      Plus, private schools can and do expel troublemakers. State schools find this extremely difficult. To the extent the better performance is a treatment effect, it may not have anything to do with the quality of teaching, but just be a reflection of a less violent environment.

      • Harry says:

        Yeah, as soon as I posted that, I realized that I’d missed this out! It’s a crucial point that I was stupid not to mention – most private schools do select their pupils on ability, often using exactly the same test as grammar schools use. They also give scholarships to exceptionally bright students who couldn’t afford to go otherwise.

        However, there is a difference still. Private schools and grammar schools both select using the Common Entrance Examination, which is very easy to coach a child for (especially when you can afford a private tutor). I’d argue that any parent who can afford a private school can easily afford to train even a very unintelligent child to pass the entrance exam.

        (You mentioned Winchester, which is a special case – it selects using a unique exam that is apparently much harder.)

        To me, all this seems evidence for what Michael Watts says below – success in later life is not usually attributable to the school.

        • Deiseach says:

          To me, all this seems evidence for what Michael Watts says below – success in later life is not usually attributable to the school.

          The thing is networking and attending with pupils from the same background whose parents will either know your parents or move in similar circles.

          The bright scholarship kid may get into the school on merit, but they won’t have the same “Tarquin is doing an internship in Bungle, Bungle and Shiftless Merchant Bankers because they’re clients of Max’s company who send them tickets for Glyndebourne every year” connections.

          That’s the kind of thing that means Joseph and Tarquin went to St Cake’s together but Joseph is not earning an equivalent salary in an equivalent high-level job years later, so to an outsider observer plainly the standard of education makes no difference.

          I think that’s where Scott is interpreting the study, which if we’re talking purely about “the standard of teaching has little or nothing to do with it” is right enough (though not everything, because there is an expectation of academic excellence in those schools). On the other hand, the Conservative government of the UK is stuffed with ex-public school types, and that didn’t just happen by accident.

          In Cameron’s old cabinet, 45% of MPs had attended a private school at some point in their life, while 58% had gone to Oxbridge. To put this into context, 7% of the general population have been to a fee-paying school.

          Of the 32 members allowed to attend cabinet meetings now, just over half have been educated at an independent school at some point in their life.

          The proportion that have attended Oxbridge is down slightly on the previous cabinet – 50% of the new cabinet have attended either Oxford or Cambridge university, compared with 58% of the previous line-up. Another 34% of the new cabinet went to a Russell Group university (excluding Oxford and Cambridge).

          The “Independent” has nice coloured pie charts and all! 🙂

        • James A. says:

          Private schools and grammar schools both select using the Common Entrance Examination, which is very easy to coach a child for

          Do you have evidence for these coaching claims?

        • phisheep says:

          I believe that now the few remaining grammar schools may use Common Entrance. But in the 1960s things were quite different. The private schools used Common Entrance or their own examinations, Grammar schools used the nationwide 11-plus. The former was more like a school test, the latter was basically and old-fashioned IQ test.

    • Michael Watts says:

      Well, the fact that English public school students do much better in later life than non-public-school-students doesn’t mean that any of that success is attributable to the school. This is studied in the US by comparing e.g. people who were accepted to Harvard but didn’t matriculate to people who graduated, and seeing very little effect of the school. Harvard graduates as a class have much better later lives than non-Harvard-graduates, which tells us nothing about whether attending Harvard benefited those graduates.

      • Wency says:

        My experience is that it’s much easier to convert a Harvard or similarly elite education into an elite entry-level position in i-banking or management consulting, which are probably still the best two starting points for someone interested in a non-entrepreneurial career in business. The benefits of beginning your career at this level are real. The door to joining, say, a top-tier private equity firm is mostly closed to you if you don’t begin your career as an analyst at a top investment bank.

        At schools a step down from the top Ivies (which would include the lesser Ivies), those positions are possible but harder to attain, or at least were when I was a student.

        At schools 2+ tiers lower than the top Ivies, they’re almost impossible to attain. The firms simply aren’t interested in trying to screen students from those schools.

        In other words, perhaps for many career paths, a Harvard education doesn’t make much difference compared to schools 1-2 tiers down. But there are definitely areas where it makes a decisive difference, particularly for a first job out of school. And a first job out of school can easily set the tone for the rest of your career.

        • Anonymous says:

          I mostly agree, but an MBA from a very top school can act as a reset button and allow you a second bite at the apple.

          • Wency says:

            I think that’s roughly true — e.g., a post-MBA banking associate may see some doors re-opened, though I’ve heard conflicting stories on the subject from private equity specifically. The elite private equity people whom I’ve interacted with all had roughly the exact same resume, best I can tell.

            Also having a strong resume — both educational and professional — tends to be helpful in getting into that top MBA program, though I know MBA programs also like to have a certain proportion of students with bizarre resumes.

      • lemmy caution says:

        The results of the Kruger study are different from what was reported in the press. You make more money (“Men who attended the most competitive colleges earn 23 percent more than men who attended very competitive colleges, other variables in the equation being equal.”) if you go to a school that is more selective:

        Go to Harvard if you get in.

    • kaninchen says:

      Grammar schools do, I believe, have an advantage over comprehensives in obtaining teachers. They can’t pay more, sure, but they offer a much more pleasant teaching environment. Teaching in a grammar school you have pupils who are less disruptive, more interested in the stuff they’re learning, and less likely to require you to cover the same material repeatedly.

      (I haven’t looked at the empirical literature, but anecdotally:
      -I went to a grammar school, and and there were perhaps two bad teachers in the whole school. My brother and friends at comprehensives had much higher rates of duff teachers than that.
      -My mother trained as a teacher, and quit after a few years because she “liked the teaching, hated the child-minding and mob control.” Part of her teacher training was done at a grammar school, which she thoroughly enjoyed).

  43. Vokasak says:

    Futurist Madsen Pirie has been called “Britain’s Nostradamus” for accurately predicting various British elections, Schwarzenegger’s California victory, and various other things. He’s just called the 2016 POTUS elections for Donald Trump.

    In general I’ve always been unimpressed by people like this, and it seems like their magic predictive power always falls apart under scrutiny. But this does remind me of the Kim Carrier Curse, in which a professional StarCraft commentator managed to bungle nearly every prediction he made in a decade-long career. Being wrong 100% of the time is nearly as hard as being right 100% of the time (at least in issues like these where you’re picking a winner out of 2-4 potential winners), but in my mind has the added bonus of being much more interesting of a story.

  44. Thursday says:

    Dalai Lama warns that “too many” refugees are going to Europe and that “Germany cannot afford to become an Arab country”. I guess the Dalai Lama’s political views are a lot harder to predict than I would have expected.

    Perhaps you need to watch this classic comedy video.

    Also, apparently there is a strain of traditional anti-Islamic sentiment in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. I’d take that source with a grain of salt, but worth looking into.

    The attempt to overwhelm his country with Chinese immigrants probably has something to do with it too.

  45. phisheep says:

    “attending an elite school in Britain has few positive later-life effects, at least for men”

    This study seems to me rather flawed in muddling up state grammar schools with elite schools, particularly as Aberdeen at the time had three private (in UK-speak “public”) schools – at least two of which in the 1960s were open only to boys (both have since become co-ed, and one has returned to the public (state) sector). At one point in the paper the private schools are lumped in with “non-elite”, presumably on the grounds they did not select pupils by the state examinations – at another point they are excluded from the sample altogether.

    The thing about private schools over here (and unlike private schools in, say, France) is that they are highly selective. They take (a) through their own examinations and interviews the smartest kids for scholarships or remitted fees (b) the stupidest kids from rich parents who failed to get into grammar schools and (c) anyone else who can pay. So their pupils end up skewed towards both extremes, probably more towards the top end. Also, they take *all* the best teachers of both sexes because of higher wages, better benefits (including in the 1960s fee remittance for the children of teachers). So the presence of private schools in a town shears off the top layer of teachers, and the top end of – predominantly male – pupils.

    That probably entirely explains why the paper found as it did for life outcomes for males and females.

    You’d get more reliable results by running two studies, one in a town with a very heavy both-sex private school presence (like Bedford which has four, two for each sex), and one in a town which has no private schools at all (like Cwmbran in South Wales). I would expect the distinctions between “elite” and not-elite to show up much more sharply in the latter than in the former.

    • suntzuanime says:

      Looking at the methodology of the paper it seems like they screened off those sort of selection effects by exploiting a natural experiment: people who just managed to get in vs. people who just failed. So there shouldn’t be an effect of skimming the cream since the cream isn’t in the study to begin with.

      • phisheep says:

        That would cover off the cream-skimming effect for pupils, yes. But not the cream-skimming effect for teachers nor (potentially) that for available life outcomes, both of which will be affected by the presence of private schools.

  46. Hackworth says:

    Sorry for lack of insight, but I have to say I am thoroughly blown away by Ostagram.

  47. LPSP says:

    As for fractions of 7: I doubt I’m the first to notice this, but the first two digits are 14, which reads 14 or 2*7. Next are 28, so 4*7. Next comes 57, which is 56+1 and 56 is 8*7. The plus 1 may be accounted for by another, deeper trend. Briefly looking at 1/7 in more detail, the sequence 142857 seems to repeat.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      The +1 is from double .57

      14.2857 doubled is
      28.5714 doubled is
      57.1428 doubled

      EDIT: It also worked shifted by 1, if you assume the digits keep on repeating

      42.8571 doubled is
      85.7142 doubled is
      71.4285 (mod 100)

  48. LPSP says:

    The moment chinese peasants started reverently worshipping mangoes, developing all sorts of protocols, rituals and procedures centred around the mundane tropical fruit, purely because of their slim and accidental association with Mao – that was the point people should’ve realised Communism’s promises were red herrings.

    • dinofs says:

      I don’t really see how it contradicts any of “Communism’s promises” for some peasants to hold on to religious behavior less than 20 years after the Revolution in a place as far from what Marx had in mind as China in 1968. Unless your point is just about Chinese Communism, in which case I’m pretty sure that jig was up for a lot of people by then, at least judging by the direction China started to take just a few years later.

      • LPSP says:

        People had very unrealistic expectations of the power a communist social change could wield over people’s behaviour. As reasonable people, the pair of us can see that it wouldn’t work now, but at the time it was harder to tell. That mango thing tho, wow. There were people in the US claiming Communism was THE superior system (B. Sanders as an example) long after that. I guess it wasn’t well known, but still, boy howdy.

        • Yakimi says:

          People had very unrealistic expectations of the power a communist social change could wield over people’s behaviour.

          Yes. It’s worth remembering the promises of communism were not just limited to raising living standards. It promised to create an entirely new way of being human. Here’s Trotsky describing what communism would accomplish:

          It is difficult to predict the extent of self-government which the man of the future may reach or the heights to which he may carry his technique. Social construction and psycho-physical self-education will become two aspects of one and the same process. All the arts – literature, drama, painting, music and architecture will lend this process beautiful form. More correctly, the shell in which the cultural construction and self-education of Communist man will be enclosed, will develop all the vital elements of contemporary art to the highest point. Man will become immeasurably stronger, wiser and subtler; his body will become more harmonized, his movements more rhythmic, his voice more musical. The forms of life will become dynamically dramatic. The average human type will rise to the heights of an Aristotle, a Goethe, or a Marx. And above this ridge new peaks will rise.

          • Dahlen says:

            Funny, that bolded part doesn’t sound particularly egalitarian. Looks like at least in the early 20th century it wasn’t taboo for the left to admit that.

          • TD says:

            Progressive liberalism and Marxism aren’t the same thing. Their entire premises are different (which is something hard rightists miss), so a modern leftist probably doesn’t believe anything like that at all. It’s unfair to imply that.

            Classical Marxism was only strictly egalitarian in the sense of class. The main principle behind Marxism is the class struggle, and since Marxism fancies itself a materialist philosophy in which the means of production AKA the base is dominant over culture/the superstructure, any change in human equality is said to be dependent on a change in our relation to the means of production.

            Progressive ideology is explicitly based on equality in all senses, which is why they developed intersectionalism. The funny thing is that progressivism has basically pwned Marxism and a lot of rightists don’t realize it, because they see it as the other way around, with Marxism as the shadowy force in the background controlling everything. Modern Marxists are very different to their classical counterparts in that they contradict their own ideology of the primacy of class struggle in favor of bending the knee to the progressive idea of intersectionalism. As soon as the New Left appeared, and Freudo-Marxism became a big thing, they were already corrupted. Sometimes you see some Marxists fighting back and declaring intersectionalism to be “idpol”, but this is something you’d miss if you insisted on a strict historical continuity between Marxism and Progressivism.

        • meyerkev248 says:

          So I really, really hate to defend Chinese Communism, because it was fairly hellish, but signalling spirals are not new to China.

          The Bow of the King of Chu (by, admittedly, one of those who shall not be named).

          Short version:
          * King of Chu loses his bow, after trying to find it for several hours, decides he wants to go home and bang a concubine because screw this, I’m the King, I can just get another bow.
          * King says: “Stop looking for it. A Man of Chu lost his bow. A Man of Chu will find it. No need to search for it.”
          * Confucius says: ‘The King of Chu is a humane king, but he’s still half-way. He could have said “a man lost his bow, a man will find it”. Why specify “A man of Chu”?’
          * Daoists say: “Why mention people at all?” That’s right. A bow was lost. A bow was found. It doesn’t need to be a man of Chu. It doesn’t need to be a man at all. It can be a snake, or a frog. Or a tree. We are all part of nature, maaan. Want some more weed?

          Quoting TFA: “This is explicitly recorded as the Confucians being more 公, more public minded than the King, and the Daoists being more public minded than the Confucians. If this is not a virtue signaling spiral, I don’t know what is. And again, this was going on 2200 years ago.”

          It certainly seems to have been less wide-spread (ie: When it’s pure virtue signalling, only philosophers do it. When not doing it gets you killed, the peasants in the fields do it too), but yeah no, this is not new.

        • dinofs says:

          I get that, I just don’t see how the fact that peasants didn’t immediately become superpeople within one generation of the Revolution means that Communism wouldn’t eventually have benefits. I imagine that if you visit China now it’s a much less superstitious place than it was in 1968 or 1949. Not to mention again that Maoism was very very different from what Marx had in mind. I don’t see how the mango thing makes it less tenable to think that *a form* of communism is superior to capitalism — it’s not like your average Sanders-type Marxist was saying the U.S. should go the Mao route, especially not after the 60s.

          (Not a Marxist by any means, but probably more sympathetic to it than most SSC commenters.)

          • Jason K. says:

            Communism operates on a faulty understanding of how motivation works. As a result, it will always fail at any scale of significance.

      • Deiseach says:

        The “mango thing” is not peasant superstition, at least not wholly. It’s the very sensible idea that the person in charge is fairly much an ultimate dictator and that anything that smacks of disrespect towards him will have bad repercussions for you (and possibly even your family).

        So the level above you in the political organisation demonstrates its unimpeachable loyalty by writing articles of praise about Mao and his donation of mangoes? Then you go one better by not doing anything so crass as eating the donated mango, you preserve it as an example for the workers to live by.

        And the level below you go one better by not doing anything so disloyal and suspect as disposing of the donated mango (because someone very zealous could construe that as symbolising you want to overthrow Mao, which will get you in a lot of trouble) so you consume the relic and take its virtues – and by extension the virtues of the donor – into yourself.

        And you certainly don’t then forget all about the stirring example of the donated mangoes, after all that outpouring of effort and demonstrations of loyalty, because that too could be construed in your disfavour. So you make replicas and treat them with very careful ceremony to prove your continuing appreciation, gratitude and fealty.

        And so you preserve your neck, because you are peasants and folk-memory tells you the kinds of things that happen to people who disrespect – or can be interpreted by their enemies as showing disrespect – to the Emperor, not alone in his person but in the symbols representing him.

        And not just in Mao’s time, but today:

        Patnaree Chankij’s home on the outskirts of Bangkok is a cramped, three-room house in which the 40-year-old widow lives with two of her children, and where she often does other people’s laundry to make ends meet. At other times she works as a casual cleaner in apartments and offices.

        As in other houses in Thailand, there are portraits of King Bhumibol Adulyadej on the walls. Patnaree considers herself a loyal citizen, and says she has never said anything negative about the royal family.

        But earlier this month she was detained by the police and charged with lèse-majesté, insulting the monarchy, one of the most serious charges in the Thai criminal code. It carries a penalty of three to 15 years on each count and its use has escalated after the military coup two years ago.

        So what did Patnaree do to get charged? According to her lawyer, the only evidence the police have produced is an exchange on Facebook between her and a political activist, in which she responded to comments the police say are defamatory with the Thai word “ja”, which translates as “I see”, or “ok”.

        The police say she should have condemned the comments.

        Patnaree does not believe she has been charged over anything she said or wrote. She believes it is because of her son, Sirawith (which translates as New) Seritiwat.
        He is a political science student at Thammasat University, but over the past two years he has also emerged as the best-known face of student dissent against military rule.

        • dinofs says:

          Okay, I think I see the point a little better now. I still take issue with the idea that you couldn’t eventually change people’s behaviors; anything within one lifetime of the Revolution seems like it shouldn’t really count in terms of remaking the human being. Look at the French Revolution: the quest to remake man in the image of Reason ended up producing similarly horrible persecutions and signaling spirals as in Maoist China. Old rules get thrown out the window –> desperate tribalism to survive until you find out what the new ones are. But that doesn’t mean the French Revolution didn’t eventually lead to a real change in how people acted, and probably for the better.

          Not that I think Maoism or Marxism were ever the way to go in terms of improving humanity. But to smugly dismiss them both because they failed to fix people’s behavior in one generation seems unfair.

        • Anatoly says:

          >It’s the very sensible idea that the person in charge is fairly much an ultimate dictator and that anything that smacks of disrespect towards him will have bad repercussions for you (and possibly even your family).

          That’s exactly right. Here’s the extended version of the dentist episode, from the article on the cult of mango:

          Dr. Han was the much respected dentist in the community who had fitted the grandfather’s false teeth. Apparently, upon seeing the mango, Dr. Han remarked that is was nothing special and looked just like a sweet potato. His frankness was called blasphemy; he was arrested as a counterrevolutionary. He was soon tried and, to the dismay of the village, found guilty, paraded through the streets on the back of a truck as an example to the masses, taken to the edge of town, and executed with one shot to the head. His three sons were sent down to the countryside and his wife, reeling from the tragedy and bereft of family, soon died. The author recalls the profound effect the incident had on the town. Everyone became extremely cautious, unwilling to express any thoughts on anything having to do with Mao Zedong.

          Alfreda Murck, Golden Mangoes: The Life Cycle of a Cultural Revolution Symbol, The Archives of Asian Art, 2007.

          (Incidentally, the reference for the story is given as:
          “Wang Youqin, “Yayi Han Guangdi zhi si (The death of Dentist Han Guangdi),” web posting, 15 September 2005.”
          and I was not able to confirm it further than that)

  49. The original Mr. X says:

    Soviet jokes on Reddit. Pretty good. Most depressing is: “Q: Don’t the Constitutions of the USA and USSR both guarantee freedom of speech? A: Yes, but the Constitution of the USA also guarantees freedom after the speech”

    “Dark humour is like food. Not everybody gets it.” — Joseph Stalin

  50. MawBTS says:

    People are accusing Caplan of “bum-hunting” – only betting against crackpot viewpoints that he knows are wrong. Like a boxer building a perfect record by beating up 10 year olds.

    Is there any truth to this? I haven’t looked in detail at his bets or who he made them with. Nor do I recognise many of the names, Cowen excluded.

    • Frog Do says:

      His betting strategy is looking for people claiming there are going to be historic shocks to some system. Since predicting shocks is a fool’s game, he be correct the vast majority of the time. He will also hedge his bets to insure he comes out ahead regardless. It’s an excellent betting strategy that has more to do with the limitations of prediction than anything else.

    • Urstoff says:

      I think that’s part of the explanation. What’s interesting about most of the bets is that he finds smart people to make dumb bets against him. If anything, Caplan’s bets are a nice way to expose the overconfidence of experts (Caplan’s basic belief that seems to motivate most of his bets is that things get better, slowly, over time).

    • onyomi says:

      Well, apparently he’s bet (at 2:1) that HRC won’t be the next POTUS. That’s hardly the consensus view, though at 2:1, he’s basically just saying that those who rate her chances at 70+% are overconfident, as I think they are.

      Though this raises the question: is there a good way to score yourself if you are betting that the consensus view isn’t necessarily wrong, but only that it’s overconfident? Like, say HRC had 70% chance of victory on prediction markets the day he made the bet, but only 40% on election day. Yet she still ekes out a victory.

      In such a case Caplan would probably have been right that his opponent was overconfident, though he’d still have to pay up, and would therefore probably have to put that in the loss column.

      (This also seems to imply that if a good record is your only goal, betting against highly unlikely things at long odds is the best way; to some extent Caplan does this by betting against people predicting things like “Ron Paul victory in 2008,” though I don’t think all his bets are this lopsided.)

      • shemtealeaf says:

        You can avoid that by betting at odds, and then reporting a net monetary gain, rather than just a win-loss record. If I can repeatedly get 10:1 odds on things that I think have a 25% chance of happening, I’m going to make a lot of money even though I lose most of the time.

        • gwern says:

          You will need to make a lot of bets if you’re going to be willing to make longshot bets and want to impress people with your total winnings, though, and given how hard even Caplan finds it to set up these bets, you’d probably just be better off using something like Prediction Book and then reporting log scores.

      • CatCube says:

        One way that’s handled is betting a spread. I.e., bet that HRC will win by 10% or whatever. If she only beats Trump by 9%, you win the bet.

    • eccdogg says:

      Yes, there is truth to it and Caplan pretty much admits it in his post.

      He waits for someone to say something very unlikely at way too high of a probability.

      He then calls them on it and challenges them to a bet.

      The person is usually too overconfident or too prideful to back down so they then enter a bad bet. I have been watching Caplan bet for a while and I can’t think of a bet he took that I would not have been on the same side as. I often thought his counterparties made very bad bets when they made them.

      But that is not really a slam on Caplan since one of the things he says is that betting is a tax on bullshit. So he is finding bullshiters and making them pay the tax on their bullshit.

      • eccdogg says:

        I think I interpreted bum hunting more broadly than is correct. If bum hunting means “picking off inexperienced newbies who happen to bet”, I don’t think that is what Caplan is doing. He is betting against folks who have a lot of knowledge about the subject at hand and are plenty sophisticated.

        If bum hunting is going after the random sports fan looking to bet, what Caplan is doing is closer to betting against the sports pundit or sports announcer. They know plenty but way overestimate how much confidence they should put in their analysis.

        It mainly betting against the inside view.

        • Phil says:

          Think about the bet offered here, he’s basically trying to goad a Trumps supporter into betting something on the order of 30 percentage points off the publicly available price

          He’s also leveraging but his professional reputation and the low stakes nature of these bets, to drive up his betting record (I think Cowen would have thought a lot harder about that bet if thousands or millions of dollars had been on the line (I don’t think he lost on the underlying idea, more on the public accounting of that idea))


          In a vacuum that wouldn’t really bother me, but while I think Caplan’s blog is smart and full of interesting ideas, I don’t think it’s especially free of BS

          He is good at keeping his BS to things that can’t be nailed down to a specific number, and tend to be entirely hypothetically, since nobody’s actually trying to put his ideas into practice

          • Matt M says:

            Agree with Phil.

            In high school I had a mild obsession with sports betting (not in an irresponsible way, never bet anything I couldn’t afford to lose, more as a hobby than a money-making scheme).

            One of the side effects was that I was always very familiar with the public “betting lines” in a way that the average person was not. A result of that was that I could approach my friends, who were casual sports fans not that familiar with gambling markets, with bets where I got a much better “price” than the betting market. In other words, if the vegas line was “Cowboys -10” I could probably offer a friend “Cowboys -13” and they would take it – which is a good bet for me assuming I believe the vegas price is efficient.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Does he usually bet against free marketeers? If he does, you think they’d have the sense to check the betting websites to see what the bookies (who set odds for a living) and the market have come up with.

      Betting on unlikely outcomes with long odds generally doesn’t work in sports. So I can’t imagine it would work better in, say, elections, which have far more “moving parts” than a sports match does.

      • Deiseach says:

        Betting on unlikely outcomes with long odds generally doesn’t work in sports.

        If he could demonstrate he bet on Leicester City to win the league, then I’d be impressed 🙂

        This says the 5,000 to 1 odds were artificially inflated and the Foxes should only have been 2,000 to 1 or even 1,000 to 1 to do it. Oh well, that’s a different story, then!

    • suntzuanime says:

      That’s not an accusation, that’s the whole point. If you want your betting record to demonstrate your superior judgment skills, you should bet against viewpoints you know are wrong, rather than viewpoints that could go either way.

      • Watercressed says:

        And as everyone knows, people who run shell games have the best judgement skills in the whole world.

  51. grendelkhan says:

    In 2013, Salon praised “Hugo Chavez’ Economic Miracle, saying that “[Chavez’s] full-throated advocacy of socialism and redistributionism at once represented a fundamental critique of neoliberal economics, and also delivered some indisputably positive results” (h/t Ciphergoth).

    I fully admit that I didn’t follow much about Venezuela at the time, but I was under the impression that the criticisms of Venezuela at the time were “social programs lead to chaos and burning” and “this is the success that the US was so afraid of that they murdered Allende”, not “their entire economy is built on oil prices; if those collapse, so does the nation”. Also, the thing about most of their electrical power coming from a single plant. I think I’d have taken that sort of criticism more seriously.

    Then again, this is politics. Unless I’d made a significant effort, I wasn’t going to find substantive pieces. (Vox: “Venezuela’s single point of failure, explained”? Unlikely, and I suppose that says something.)

    • keranih says:

      In my memory, it was pretty well acknowledged that their economy was built on oil – but, so was Norway’s. And Saudi Arabia. Both of which are still going concerns, despite the crash.

      What was not as well articulated was the seed-corn eating that was going on, in terms of using all oil revenue – not just profit but also the maintenance and machinery replacements costs – to support the social programs. It was also not well articulated how the social programs and government policy stifled small business and made everyone dependent on the handouts.

      And having said all that – Latin American developed nations are not like Western developed nations – they resemble the Mid East in corruption and cronyism, just without as much tribal values. Even if Chavez had been replaced early on, it is not clear that the country would have been more free and very likely the average person would not have been any wealthier than it was when he died. And probably less wealthy, because of the seedcorn still in the banks/sunk back into oil rigs, instead of given out to the Chavez-favored groups. (It wouldn’t have crashed as bad, but that was a counter-factual until just now.)

      • Dru-Zod says:

        The Norwegians and Saudis have prepared rainy day funds for when the oil business fails them. Norway’s is something like $800 billion set aside, while the Saudis are planning to keep $2 trillion in the kitty.

        The Venezuelans refused to think that far ahead.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Semi-related question: Is there a good way to google for things before a certain date? Say that in this case I want to search National Review for any articles they wrote about Venezuela before 2010.

      My memory is that most right-wing sites were warning that Chavez would lead to disaster ever since he came into office, but I don’t know how to back that up, since search results are dominated by more recent reporting.

      • brad says:

        After you do your search and get your results they’ll be a link called “Search tools” on the bar with All, News, Maps, etc. Click that and they’ll be a pull down labeled “Any time”. At the bottom of the list is a “Custom range …” option.

      • roystgnr says:

        Do a search, then click on “Search Tools”, “Any Time”, “Custom Range”, enter the date (e.g. 12/31/2009) in the “To” box, and hit “Go”.

        It’s not infallible so double-check dates by hand, but it’s a good starting point.

        • roystgnr says:

          You definitely have to double-check algorithmically-determined dates. For instance, the comment dates above suggest that “brad” hit submit 10 minutes ago and I’m an idiot who didn’t think to refresh the page before commenting, but that’s probably just a bug.

          • Er, that’s a bug in WordPress, this blog system, not in Google Search’s date detection. So the behavior you saw has no bearing on whether it’s necessary to double-check Google.

            The problem probably has to do with caching, not with algorithmically determining dates. It could be a fixable bug, or it could simply be an explicit trade-off between showing up-to-date content and saving work for the web server so the site doesn’t crash from the load of all the users visiting it.

    • TD says:

      It wasn’t just oil though. Chavez was propping up the bolivar with a ridiculous exchange rate against the dollar. At this level, no one wanted to buy bolivars, so the government had a shortage of foreign currency, meaning that importers couldn’t get dollars easily. Instead, black markets cropped up for dollars, allowing the importation of foreign goods. Chavez then looked at this and concluded that businesses were price gouging (because he was applying the official rate), and started shutting them down. Maduro continued all of this. At some point, either of the two put in direct price controls too.

      Even with the oil, the issue wasn’t just that the country was funding its programs from oil, the issue was that the country had performed expropriations of private oil companies, leading to a decline in foreign investment. However, things seemed okay because Chavez was able to paper over this with the oil revenue.

      Compare to the “Nordic countries”, and while they (Norway in particular) do use some oil revenue to fund social programs, their basic economy is a lot more free in terms of property rights and the price system (to the extent that the conservative Heritage foundation once rated Sweden high in economic freedom). Essentially, the argument isn’t “taxing for welfare = bad”, it’s “fucking about with supply and demand, applying fixed exchanged rates and price controls, and engaging in large scale expropriations of private property = bad”.

      • Daniel Keys says:

        You don’t say.

        Now, CEPR did fail to emphasize this point years earlier. But overall – looking at the information I have from them – they don’t seem to have emphasized any statements about the economy of Venezuela. Mostly they made pronouncements such as, “Venezuela is not Colombia, where journalists have to flee the country in fear of their lives when the President denounces them.” (By contrast, they say a great deal about the successful economic policies of Argentina.)

  52. Laurent Bossavit says:

    A faster alternative to, also free:

  53. lymn says:

    The fractions 1/7, 2/7, 3/7 etc all share the same sequence but start at different places: 1/7 = 0.142857…, 3/7 = 0.428571…, 2/7 = 0.285714, and so on.

    This is like the most trivial property of modular arithmetic. The deep mysteries of basic long division…

    • Houshalter says:

      I find it interesting because I didn’t expect it to be true. It doesn’t happen for other numbers, it’s very weird.

    • Anonymous says:

      I apologize if I misunderstood, but you seem to be saying that it should always happen – and as the other comment says, it doesn’t. For example, 1/3 = .333…, 2/3 = .666…, and they obviously can’t be rearranged.

      It boils down to a somewhat deeper fact – namely, that 10 is a generator mod 7. When we say that the fractions i/n are “rearrangements” of each other, we are saying two things: 1) That n is prime (as otherwise, you get a fraction with a smaller denominator, which will not be a rearrangement), and 2) That all the fractions i/n can be reached by taking the fractional part of 10^j/n.

      Rephrasing that last part, that’s equivalent to saying that 10 is a generator of the multiplicative group Z/nZ. For example, for 7: 10 is 3, and 3^2 = 9 = 2, 3^3 = 27 = 6, 3^4 = 81 = 4, 3^5 = 243 = 5, 3^6 = 729 = 1, all of which are different, so 3 is a generator.

      We can then find other examples: 10 is a generator mod 17, and it will get you that all are rearrangements. Or you can do it in other bases: 2 is a generator mod 5, so the fractions i/5 will be rearrangements mod 2 (1/5 = 0.001100110011…, 2/5 = 0.01100110011…, 3/5 = 0.100110011…, 4/5 = 0.110011001100…)

    • Murphy says:

      If anyone is looking for one I’ve created an ubuntu VM with the software and dependencies installed. I’ve been playing around with it since yesterday.

      I’m planning to dig into the implementation and play around with it a little.

      It does take a hell of a lot of CPU horsepower. Running on a desktop with access to 6 cores without GPU acceleration it’s taking hours to complete on individual images.

      • Murphy says:

        The dependencies are surprisingly hard to get working right, I killed 2 VM’s (pretty unusual for installing stuff to do this much damage) trying to get them to install correctly before I found a combination that would work.

      • Lambert says:

        What architecture?

        • Murphy says:

          Ubuntu VM running on an intel i7-4790

          For some larger images I’ve needed to give it about 20GB of memory but 8 is enough for most images.

          • Lambert says:

            Any chance you’d be willing/able to upload the VM, preferably in a format readable in Virtualbox (.ova seems to be the usual standard, AFAICT)?

      • ulucs says:

        So my dream of getting it run on phones is pretty dead unless I can pull out some mathematical optimization magic 🙁

        • Lambert says:

          Unless you use my bu the cloud.

          • ulucs says:

            The main idea was to port the model so that no internet connection nor a web interface was needed.

        • Murphy says:

          I’m sure it could technically run on a phone.. eventually.

          You could also run it with really low numbers of itterations and limit the size heavily to limit memory use.

          Though at that point it’s basically just a slightly fancy filter.

  54. Ben says:

    I’ve noticed you have gotten more conservative over the last couple years. Are you aware of it?

    • grendelkhan says:

      People keep claiming Scott for one side or the other. Depending on who you ask, he’s gone full reactionary and full SJW.

      … that said, I’m surprised at this year’s bet that the Ferguson effect is real, and that migration into Europe is a Bad Idea. (The Grey Tribe is generally pro-open-borders, right?)

      • MawBTS says:

        … that said, I’m surprised at this year’s bet that the Ferguson effect is real, and that migration into Europe is a Bad Idea. (The Grey Tribe is generally pro-open-borders, right?)

        When’s Scott said that migration into Europe is a bad idea? Or expressed any strong opinion on the topic at all?

        He’s just reporting what the Dalai Lama thinks.

        • Creutzer says:

          Grendelkhan is probably referring to prediction 42: “Mainstream European position at year’s end is taking migrants was bad idea: 60%”

          Which, of course, is not an endorsement of that expected position.

          • grendelkhan says:

            Aargh; you’re right. I have to remember to switch gears when I come here; everyone else I see saying that migrants into Europe will be generally bad tends to follow it up with “the accumulated filth of all their burned cars and sex riots will foam up about their waists and all the liberals and progressives will look up and shout ‘Save us!’… and I’ll whisper ‘no.'” But this isn’t that sort of place.

            Still, it’s a pretty mushy prediction; generally right-leaning people believe that immigration is a bad idea, and generally left-leaning people believe that it’s a good idea. It smells like an expression of that underlying belief more than a contingent empirical prediction. I think that’s where I was coming from.

          • Creutzer says:

            I think I can make this more precise: If you’re pro-immigration (convenient shorthand expression in this context), you can believe that other people will become anti-immigration, but you have to believe that they will do so for no good reason. Expecting people to believe something for no good reason requires some justification in a way that expecting them to come to see something you think is true anyway does not. Hence expecting Europeans to become anti-immigration suggests that you’re probably inclined towards that position yourself.

      • I think migration into Europe is a bad idea because the US is the nation of immigrants.

      • “The Grey Tribe is generally pro-open-borders, right?”

        But with some reservations for open borders in welfare states, which might attract people to collect transfers instead of producing.

        • meyerkev248 says:

          Especially when, as based on their paychecks, they’re a lot more likely to be the producers asked to pay for a rising population of takers demanding an increasing standard of transfer-based living than the takers.

        • keranih says:

          @ David

          How do they feel about HB1 visas?

          • I think the typical libertarian position would be open borders but new immigrants are not eligible for welfare. I would add that they should get a tax reduction on the grounds that they aren’t eligible for one of the benefits their taxes pay for.

            Given the present situation, it’s hard to see why a libertarian would object to people coming on a visa that is only available to someone with a job.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Grouchier libertarians would just eliminate welfare and thus the problem of immigrants moving here for it.

            The problem with H-1Bs (and I’m speaking here as an interested party, not a libertarian) is they’re used to depress the tech job market by bringing in mediocre people at low pay. This has destroyed a lot of the consulting business for programmers, and also a lot of programming jobs done by in-house programmers. The visa workers can’t do anything about their pay because they don’t dare rock the boat until they get their green card; if they do, they could get fired and have to go home.

            There are supposedly safeguards against this, requiring H-1B workers to be paid the prevailing wage; they don’t work for several reasons, including that titles aren’t standardized, and that there are so many H-1Bs in some tech jobs that they set the prevailing wage.

            To make things more confusing, there are other H-1B workers who are more what the program is billed as, people who really _are_ very good and are working in regular positions alongside Americans making similar wages.

            Ideally, we’d keep that second set and not the first set. I’d have a visa which was fully transferrable once the employee was here; if the employee leaves for a better job a week after applying, that’s tough luck for the employer . And I’d have a reasonable grace period where the visa worker could stay and find a new job after losing theirs for any reason.

        • Alrenous says:

          The grey tribe is blithely ignorant of responsibility in this case.

          Someone needs to be responsible for the effects the immigrant in question results in. In other words they need a sponsor. Simplest way: the immigrant isn’t taxed, but the sponsor has to pay all welfare costs out of pocket. Similarly if the immigrant commits a crime, the sponsor is charged.

          Internalize the externalities and the market will balance immigration for you. Don’t, and someone will always find a way to extract rents by having society pay those externalities for them.

          • Anonymous says:

            There’s something called an affidavit of support for certain types of immigrants. In it the sponsor agrees to be responsible for any means tested public benefit the immigrant receives. It is enforceable by any level of government that provides such benefits.

            I’ve never heard of any case of a government suing to enforce the order (it can also be enforced by the immigrant in cases of divorce and that does sometimes happen). I can’t understand why not. Sanctuary cities, sure, but why not Arizona or something? What about during the GWB administration? Why is this provision seemingly completely unenforced?

            If anyone is familiar with such a case, I’d appreciate a pointer.

          • Matt M says:

            Perhaps the immigrants most likely to abuse the welfare system are not the ones commonly admitted via affidavit’s of support?

          • Nicholas says:

            1. It’s used fairly often. A friend of mine is currently frustrated, for example, that marrying her Canadian boyfriend won’t get him citizenship, because she doesn’t have the resources to support the affidavit.
            2. The trouble is that most affidavits are signed for family immigrations, and few people would refuse to take as much responsibility as possible for a member of their direct nuclear family, even if it was a transparently bad idea.

          • Anonymous says:

            Re# 1
            Yes, the CIS enforces the income requirements on the front end but AFAICT no government ever sues to enforce it on the back end (which is why you should have no qualms about acting as a joint sponsor for your friend’s boyfriend).

            Re# 2
            If the argument is that it would somehow be unfair to enforce the contract because it was coerced I’d expect that to be compelling to some governments but not all of them.

            @Matt M
            Most family based permanent resident petitions require them, which constitute a majority of all green cards issued every year. In particular, they are required for parents of US citizens over the age of 21, an immediate relative category, among which the use of means tested services viz. Medicaid, is endemic.

          • Nicholas says:

            My argument is that it won’t work because there’s no feedback I can think of that 1. You would actually see the government do, and 2. Would be severe enough to persuade more than a modest fraction of individuals to abandon their nuclear family members. It’s not the kind of loyalty that responds to fines.

          • Anonymous says:

            Nicholas, I think maybe you misunderstand what I’m saying. I don’t expect local governments enforcing affidavits of support to “fix” anything in a larger sense. I do expect it would generate some money for e.g. hospitals that are losing money treating people for free that ought to be someone else’s financial responsible (viz. the signers of the affidavits of support). Though this isn’t some gigantic benefit it is a benefit, and so I can’t understand why no one is out there capturing it.

      • TD says:

        “and that migration into Europe is a Bad Idea.”

        Migration from certain places, and mass migration in general. I think it’s a position you can come to easily if you support a basic income guarantee, which I think Scott tentatively does. I’ve come round to this position from libertarianism into this sort of extreme third way/radical centrist (free markets + basic income + border control) position for similar reasons.

        “(The Grey Tribe is generally pro-open-borders, right?)”

        Yes, but I think the grey tribe can adapt to an argument that’s nuanced enough to be selective about immigration. Top tier University degree software engineers from India are great, random masses from Afghanistan, Somalia, and whereveristan not so much.

        • Tibor says:

          Top tier University degree software engineers from India are great, random masses from Afghanistan, Somalia, and whereveristan not so much.

          This is more or less the immigration policy of Switzerland or of Singapore. While better than many other immigration policies, I still think it is not quite the best in that it relies on the state to decide which are the “needed jobs”. Yes, it generally tends to be the case that more skilled people, especially in technical fields are in demand whereas unskilled labour is not. But if an illiterate sheep herder from Afghanistan can support himself in Switzerland by some means (either by getting a job somewhere or setting up his own business…selling sheep cheese for example) which do not include him living off the welfare payments then I don’t see why he should not be allowed to do so. I have a certain sympathy for the people who fear mass immigration and great cultural changes in Europe. If I believed that open borders sans welfare state (or access to welfare after a period of several years only) would lead to a major demographic change in Europe (something along the lines of the demographic change in the Americas after the colonization), then I would be much less supportive of that idea. But I am pretty sure the sky does not fall in this case and that the kind of immigration you get under the no welfare or postponed welfare and open borders regime is almost entirely beneficial to everyone. You might get people from Somalia or Afghanistan but you get different people than those who would come for welfare benefits (or perhaps even the same but with different incentives). You might get a certain demographic change but you won’t see a lot of ghettos with crime and violence which gradually turn the country into a new Somalia or whatever. While I think that culture is important and it makes no sense to point out to a success of one group of immigrants to draw conclusions about any group of immigrants, I also believe that incentives trump culture and also that culture varies within countries and nations (I will probably have more in common with an Indian programmer than with a Czech factory worker for example) and by setting up the incentives the right way (by making people come for better opportunities not for welfare), you will get the immigrants of the “right” culture, regardless of where they come from.

          One reason to limit or ban low skilled immigration is sort of a welfare/protectionism for the low skilled people in your own country. I think this is exactly the reason behind the Swiss policy. However, I think that rather than “protecting Swiss jobs”, the actual effect is moving the Swiss factories to China and India, so it does not really work.

          That said, I’d still rather have the rather clearly defined Swiss immigration policy than the ad hoc and concept free immigration policy of Germany. I like the Czech system with welfare delayed by 5 years and conditioned on having had a job in that period the most although I would get rid of any further restrictions (such as working visas…although I am not sure how hard it is to get one, maybe it is just a formality), the delayed access to welfare (especially since it is still less attractive than welfare in the neighbouring Germany or in the Nordic countries) is enough I think to keep the undesirable immigration away while retaining all the benefits (both the the locals and to the immigrants) of the open borders.

      • Nicholas says:

        The Grey Tribe’s aggregate position on borders has shifted somewhat, both as the tribe makes feeble inroads into other social classes and also as the bottom rung of the founding tribe sees itself slowly pushed out of the magic circle in America.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’ve noticed you have gotten more conservative over the last couple years. Are you aware of it?

      I think you’re wrong.

      What has happened is that Scott banned a lot of people rightwards of Dr. Friedman (if I may use him as a Schelling point of fairly inoffensive, history-based socially conservative libertarianism). Previously, you’d see the occasional Death Eater or adjacent make a comment in line with that throughsphere, then have not just the left-wingers, but the more moderate right-wingers object to that most strenuously.

      Nowadays, Death Eaters are few and far between, which sort of makes it look more conservative because the moderate right-wingers are debating the left-wingers, and there’s a lot more moderate right-wingers than there ever were Death Eaters. It went from “everybody piles on the far-right” to “righties and lefties arguing with each other a lot”.

      (Or did you mean “Scott, personally” with that “you”?)

      • Tibor says:

        David Friedman is socially conservative? I had no idea 🙂

        Also, I would say that you can hardly get more “right-wing”, at least on the capitalism-socialism scale, than David.

        Also, I have no idea who “death eaters” might be.

        • Nornagest says:

          Also, I have no idea who “death eaters” might be.

          Followers of the Dark Lord, Mencius Moldbug. It’s a bit of an injoke ’round these parts: the standard name for the group is automatically spam-filtered because Scott was sick of arguments about them, so they became the Ideology-That-Must-Not-Be-Named, and things proceeded from there as you’d expect from a forum full of Harry Potter nerds.

          • Dahlen says:

            As a TES nerd, I much prefer calling them “worshipers of Molag Bal“. The Elder Scrolls series does a better job than most at distinguishing between nuances of evil, and the Daedric Prince of domination sounds just like their kind of guy. I mean, they certainly wouldn’t sacrifice at the shrine of the duplicitous, genderqueer Boethiah.

            Besides, I’m kind of partial to Voldemort despite the whole villainy thing, and don’t like seeing his name besmirched like that. *cue Bellatrix’s crazy shrieking in the Hall of Prophecies in book 5*

        • I think that for most people, long term monogamous marriage is a better strategy than polyamory, open marriage, or non-marriage with lots of casual sex. In some contexts that counts as socially conservative.

          • Tibor says:

            Hmm, that makes perhaps 95% of the population (of any country) socially conservative, rendering the term rather useless.

            On a slight tangent – for me, a socially liberal person is someone who not does tell other people what kind of a lifestyle they should live as opposed to what probably should be called a socially authoritative person. From my perspective there is not much of a difference between someone telling me that I cannot be a transsexual because it is against God/nature/etc. and someone who tells me I have to like transsexuals because otherwise I am homophobic/intolerant/etc.. Similarly with other issues such as being a stay at home mom or focusing on career instead of children (they are women, such as my PhD advisor who manage to raise 3 kids and have a very successful career, but I guess that it is pretty hard and probably even harder outside of the academia), whether I can go shopping on Sunday (this is not really an issue in the US I guess, but it is in Germany for example…I’ve got used to it, it is not such a big issue, but in principle I still do not like it) whether I can run a smoking bar or not and so on. Both groups of people, one of whom would be called “socially liberal” and the other “socially conservative”, try to tell me what kind of a lifestyle I should have and what exactly they propose is not as important to me that the fact that they try to force me to change the way I live, either through legislation or media campaigns. The same way, I would dislike a group which tries to impose my lifestyle on other people.

    • Leonard says:

      Actually Scott has increasing been blogging on rainy days.

      • Randy M says:

        You would expect the opposite, since rain makes people depressed, and he would have more workload on those days.
        But it’s likely* that the increased patient flow spurs his creativity.

        *In as much as anything based on a chain of silly premises is likely, of course.

        • Tracy W says:

          Maybe the more depressed people don’t manage to make it to their appointments so he has more free time.

    • Query says:

      Are you sure it’s not you who’s gotten more progressive instead?

  55. Ilya Shpitser says:

    “The fractions 1/7, 2/7, 3/7 etc all share the same sequence but start at different places: 1/7 = 0.142857…, 3/7 = 0.428571…, 2/7 = 0.285714, and so on.”

    Related to the mighty Enneagram for folks who follow pseudomystical mumbo-jumbo.

  56. lurkers guide says:

    A surprising mathematical fact: Chaitin’s incompleteness theorem.

    • Vitor says:

      You beat me to the punch. Chaitin’s incompleteness theorem is basically a constructive proof of Gödel’s first incompleteness theorem (and a far easier way to get to this result than the original proof by Gödel) using modern tools such as kolmogorov complexity and the obvious-in-retrospect idea that computer programs and mathematical proofs are kind of the same thing.

  57. Steve Sailer says:

    “And a study finds that attending an elite school in Britain has few positive later-life effects, at least for men.”

    My impression from studying the lives of famous English writers is that they benefited quite a lot from going to school together. Consider the famous cohort of writers who graduated from Eton in 1920-22: George Orwell, Anthony Powell, Henry Green, Cyril Connolly, Harold Acton, and Ian Fleming. Were they that individually talented? Or did it help to know each other?

    • Steve Sailer says:

      From Evelyn Waugh’s “Decline and Fall” on the advantages of being an old boy of England’s “public” [i.e., private] schools:

      “Is it quite easy to get another job after—after you’ve been in the soup?” asked Paul.

      “Not at first, it isn’t, but there are ways. Besides, you see, I’m a public school man. That means everything. There’s a blessed equity in the English social system,” said Grimes, “that ensures the public school man against starvation. One goes through four or five years of perfect hell at an age when life is bound to be hell anyway, and after that the social system never lets one down.

      “Not that I stood four or five years of it, mind; I left soon after my sixteenth birthday. But my housemaster was a public school man. He knew the system. “Grimes,” he said, “I can’t keep you in the House after what has happened. I have the other boys to consider. But I don’t want to be too hard on you. I want you to start again.” So he sat down there and then and wrote me a letter of recommendation to any future employer, a corking good letter, too. I’ve got it still. It’s been very useful at one time or another. That’s the public school system all over. They may kick you out, but they never let you down.

      “… You’re too young to have been in the war, I suppose? Those were the days, old boy. We shan’t see the like of them again. I don’t suppose I was really sober for more than a few hours for the whole of that war. Then I got into the soup again, pretty badly that time. Happened over in France. They said, ‘Now, Grimes, you’ve got to behave like a gentleman. We don’t want a court-martial in this regiment. We’re going to leave you alone for half an hour. There’s your revolver. You know what to do. Goodbye, old man,’ they said quite affectionately.

      “Well, I sat there for some time looking at that revolver. I put it up to my head twice, but each time I brought it down again. ‘Public school men don’t end like this,’ I said to myself. … There wasn’t much whisky left when they came back, and, what with that and the strain of the situation, I could only laugh when they came in. Silly thing to do, but they looked so surprised, seeing me there alive and drunk.

      “‘The man’s a cad,’ said the colonel, but even then I couldn’t stop laughing, so they put me under arrest and called a court-martial.

      “‘God bless my soul,’ he said, ‘if it isn’t Grimes of Podger’s! What’s all this nonsense about a court-martial?’ So I told him. ‘H’m,’ he said, ‘pretty bad. Still it’s out of the question to shoot an old Harrovian. I’ll see what I can do about it.’

      And next day I was sent to Ireland on a pretty cushy job connected with postal service. That saw me out as far as the war was concerned. You can’t get into the soup in Ireland, do what you like. I don’t know if all this bores you?”

      “Not at all,” said Paul. “I think it’s most encouraging.”

      “I’ve been in the soup pretty often since then, but never quite so badly. Someone always turns up and says, ‘I can’t see a public school man down and out. Let me put you on your feet again.’ I should think,” said Grimes, “I’ve been put on my feet more often than any living man.”

      • Jill says:

        Well, maybe this is ancient history by now. It would seem that the value of networking with the kind of people who attend public schools would be different from one generation to another, and from one country to another etc. Some private school folks are valuable to network with, because they’re going somewhere constructive in life. Others are trust fund babies who do nothing particularly constructive at all, either in their work or for their friends.

    • Tracy W says:

      Maybe too rare to show up in the scientific study. What you list is only 3 years worth, it could well be a brief convergence of events (including maybe the loss of many a bit more experienced writers in WWI) turned those young men into popular writers, but that’s not replicable by Eton in any reliable way.

  58. Steve Sailer says:

    “I agree with this article saying the recent study linking cell phones to brain cancer is hard to believe and that we should hold off judgment for now.”

    People have been worried about cell phones and brain cancer for a long time, so if there is a sizable correlation I would have to imagine it would have shown up by now.

    I can recall the death 23 years ago by brain cancer of financier Reginald F. Lewis (December 7, 1942 – January 19, 1993), the first black guy to make the Forbes 400. It was speculated at the time in the press that his constant cell phone use had given him brain cancer. So people have been worriedly looking for evidence linking cell phones and brain cancer for a long time. My impression of worrying about this over the years is that surprisingly little evidence has since turned up.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Yeah, that’s one reason I’m so skeptical – other studies have looked and not found it.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        Cell phones and brain cancer are not the kind of topic that wouldn’t get attention. The media usually does a good job of catering to the concerns of what I call the “frequent flier” audience: e.g., airliner crashes are well covered, in part because people who fly a lot consume a lot of higher end media and are desirable targets for advertisers.

        Frequent fliers got cell phones a long time ago (e.g., I got my first cellphone in late 1991 when I had to start flying frequently to Walmart’s headquarters) and we immediately started worrying about our new miracle toys giving us brain tumors.

      • Jack V says:

        And as someone else pointed out, brains are one of the _least_ cancer-prone parts of the body, so if there IS a problem, a hands-free kit would make it worse not better, unless you hold the phone away from your body.

        • onyomi says:

          I actually worry more about another pair of organs near which it rests during the much greater time it’s not in use. Of course, it’s not transmitting at the time, but I mean, I have a data plan and it is doing something? I don’t worry enough to do much different, but I have thought about it.

          • Cliff says:

            I believe there is good science that in fact you do not want to leave it in your pocket all day. I always put it on my desk.

          • Anonymous says:

            I thought that was only for men and the concern was heat not microwaves.

        • Cord Shirt says:

          “Worse” in the sense of whether you get cancer at all, yes.

          “Worse” in the sense of whether, if you do develop cancer, you can afford to lose or cut into the body part that has it…

  59. Steve Sailer says:

    “Most important, deliberate practice accounted for only 1% of the variance in performance among elite-level performers”

    There was probably more variance in the past. Most sports are maniacally competitive these days, but in the past it was rarer to practice hard.

    For example, it appears that before Ben Hogan in the 1940s, it was unknown for professional golfers to practice hitting golf balls for a couple of hours per day as well as playing 18 holes. Up until Hogan, most star golfers were also more or less professional gamblers who spent much of their time at the card table rather than the driving range.

    Bobby Jones, the top golfer of the 1920s and a celebrated gentleman amateur, had so much free time that he picked up a master’s degree from Harvard in English Literature because he liked English literature. Then he went to law school, passing the bar after only 3 semesters, all while dominating the U.S. and British Opens.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Supplementary strength and conditioning was also feeble to nonexistent: supposedly, into the middle 20th century, the common opinion among football coaches was that lifting weights wasn’t helpful. There are still a few sports where lifting weights to get strong is regarded as borderline cheating.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        Baseball pitcher Nolan Ryan took up weightlifting in 1973 with great success. It took him about 3-4 years of superstardom to persuade a single one of his teammates, Brian Downing, to do it too.

        The great shortstop Honus Wagner lifted dumbbells over a century ago, but most baseball players never lifted anything heavier during the offseason than a jug of corn liquor.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Relevant link.

          I’m thinking that probably bodybuilding getting briefly quite popular in, what, the early 60s to late 70s or early 80s is part of the reason it was the 70s that weights started to get more common across sports.

    • anonymous says:

      my pet theory on this is in large part a ritual which inculcates and directly promotes certain kinds of improvements,


      can increase one’s immersion in a discipline

      can provide an always available challenge to anticipate -to which one’s mind/body must rise

      can “be a placebo” (not a fan of the term due to its potentially negative associations -like someone is being fooled). Perhaps “psychological anchor” is a better term for what I mean.

      in the case of exercise, can improve one’s metabolism.



      -rather than having some mysterious improvement-essence

      and therefore that these things are fundamentally possible to achieve without practice, which becomes no less of a tool for it, but might be less “powerful” than the dedication and powers-of-direction of the best (as in skill) practicioners of something. (depending partially on the nature of the activity).

      If a person can inculcate growth and attunement in in themselves, (in relation to a particular discipline, in this case) through habit, insight, dedication, whatever it is- that would be an ability that lent itself well to getting very good at that thing, and which would reduce the relative payoff of practice as a primary means of improvement.

    • Neanderthal From Mordor says:

      Until the 90’s professional snooker players would smoke and drink beer during games.

    • Loquat says:

      Also relevant: Stephen Jay Gould’s argument in his book Full House that batting averages over .400 were no longer to be found in major league baseball because everyone was being trained to play better. Hitting .400, after all, isn’t a measure of the batter’s ability in a vacuum, it’s a measure of how the batter’s ability stacks up against all the pitchers he’s facing, and in Ye Olden Days the average major league pitcher didn’t get nearly as much practice and skilled coaching as his modern equivalent does.

  60. Sniffnoy says:

    You want surprising math facts? Here’s one regarding infinite graphs. Any graph with no 4-cycles, no matter how infinitely large it may be, can be countably colored.

    (The real theorem is actually stronger than this, but this is a nice statement for sheer surprise value. 🙂 )

  61. Mark Grant says:

    Not sure I’m sold on the Molyneux problem result. Maybe those particular people couldn’t distinguish the cube from the sphere, but I take the problem to be whether a “perfect reasoner” (under some suitable definition of that term) could do it.

    • Nicholas says:

      The empirical spoke turns out to be that blind people can’t be perfect reasoners about sight at t0. The effect of being blind on the parts of the brain used to process sight is that, from a vision processing perspective, a recently-sighted person is brain damaged for the first several months of vision. The cognitive toolbox for reasoning using sight is malformed in a way that prevents use.

  62. Sniffnoy says:

    The 1/7-in-base-10 phenomenon occurs more generally for 1/n in base b whenever b is a primitive root modulo n.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      And each two digits is double the preceding two.


  63. Montfort says:

    Maybe your Berkeley friends believe the San Jose Mercury news.

    It turns out, they’re not much of a mystery, according to Beverly Ortiz, cultural services coordinator with the East Bay Regional Park District. “We just call them rock walls,” she says. Analysis places them in the early American era, when European settlers are said to have built the walls using the labor of marginalized groups, such as Chinese and Native American laborers.

    The walls were used mainly to clear land of scattered rocks to facilitate the movement of grazing livestock, such as cattle, and, at times, to guide the movement of the animals or to corral them. So take off your tinfoil hats: Even though the walls don’t, in fact, have otherworldly origins, they provide snapshots of an interesting time in our history.

    The wikipedia entry seems to be primarily based on an article posted to the “Atlantis Mysteries” yahoo group. The AM article is also a bit more down to earth than I expected:

    There is a less far-fetched possibility that the walls were built using the cheap and abundant Chinese labor left in California at the end of the Gold Rush. Thousands of Chinese workers had been imported to work in the gold fields, and later to complete the Transcontinental Railroad. Some long-time residents maintain that Asian workers built the walls, although no direct evidence supports this view…

    and later:

    One of the most clear and sober bits of evidence comes from the papers of Weller Curtner, descendant of Henry Curtner, a rancher who owned 2000 acres near Mission San Jose and leased land to tenant farmers in the 1870’s. The younger Curtner wrote:

    “At the corner of Weller and Calaveras Road there was an Amish family by the name of Matthews… Those were the people that built the stone walls that you find along the top of the ridges. In the fall when the crops were off they would go out with stone boats made out of a couple willow trees…. They cleared the land and built the fence at the same time… same as they did in New England.”

    [edit: put an extra “the” in the yahoo group name]

    • Deiseach says:

      when European settlers are said to have built the walls using the labor of marginalized groups, such as Chinese and Native American laborers

      Because of course European farmers would never sully their own hands with manual labour, they look about and find a marginalised group to exploit instead. Though I am impressed that in a mere two paragraphs of material, the paper managed to get in the ritual genuflection of abasement about White Privilege.

      Irish drystone wall – not built by Chinese or Native Americans, unless we cunning White Devils managed to import an oppressed group or two to do our hard work for us.

      Okay, having got that off my chest – the photo of the wall in that article reminds me of local stone walls round here, which is probably not surprising given that there are only so many ways to construct a dry-stone wall. They look like what the article surmises – what you do when you’ve cleared a field of rocks, have a pile of rocks left, and need to do something with the damn things. Easiest thing is to build a wall in situ as this makes sure you don’t leave the rocks to be redistributed through the field and so have to clear them out all over again and lets you neatly divide up your fields in whatever size you want.

      Those walls are your basic “pile up the rocks” version, but dry stone walling is an art as well as a trade and you can get really impressive work if it’s done well.

      • Dain says:

        Wow, did they really just throw that bit in about marginal laborers for the hell of it, assuming it to be true?

        • meyerkev248 says:

          In fairness… if it was built by the Spanish, they were most definitely using Native Americans who they were busily converting to Christianity.

          I’m just saying. Visit any of the missions and it’s all “And here’s the graves of the Indians X and Y, baptized as A and B in year Z”.

          It sounds like the priests also worked fairly hard, but just math means they were using Native American Labor for everything.

          • Nornagest says:

            Depends where you’re talking about. The missions themselves were populated mostly by Native American converts, but I get the impression that the sparse Spanish (later Mexican) presence outside the mission towns was mostly migrants from the south, right up until the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.

            The missions were deathtraps, is the thing. Not through any deliberate policy; the Spanish were happy to use native converts as near-slaves but they preferred them alive. But precolonial California was a pretty primitive place, forager rather than agricultural (unlike Mexico or the inland Southwest), low population densities, not much trade or travel. So its natives were incredibly vulnerable to disease, and they hadn’t already been exposed like some of the more cosmopolitan cultures in the Americas had at that point: the mission project was supposed to form the nucleus of a new, Spanish-speaking, Catholic population in California, but it didn’t really work out that way.

            I’ve seen those grave markers too, and most of them died really young.

          • Deiseach says:

            If the walls were built by the Spanish, which nobody knows for sure.

            But do we really need a reminder that “Chinese and Native Americans were marginalised groups”? I mean, does the “San Jose Mercury” routinely print “Barack Obama is the first African-American – a group who were introduced to the United States as slaves – president”? Are the people of San Jose so blighted with historical amnesia they need to be reminded in every article “African-Americans were slaves once”? If not, whence the “marginalised groups” bit?

            The natural flow of that sentence is “using Chinese and Native American labour” or “built by Chinese and Native American labourers”. The “marginalised groups” bit seems like White Liberal Guilt boilerplate that is stuck in on autopilot, to demonstrate the bona fides of the writers (yes, we are totally not down with exploitation, we want to emphasise that when mentioning non-native labour, even historical non-native labour that everyone learns in history class was exploitative and bad, though we admit we get a bit tangled when we’re talking about native labourers as the labour and non-native non-labourers using the native labourers as labour instead).

      • Such walls are common New Hampshire and Vermont for the same reason.

      • BBA says:

        If you can’t have any darker-skinned laborers to force to do the same kind of work you did in Europe, why even bother crossing the ocean to begin with? It’s the American Dream.

        • Evan Þ says:

          Perhaps to gain religious liberty and a chance to establish your own vision of the Just Society?

          Or perhaps because there’re lower taxes in America, no chance of being drafted to fight far-off wars for your king, and a lot more and better land on which to work the same kind of work you did in Europe?

  64. Sniffnoy says:

    Regarding the R4D, to repeat what I’ve said elsewhere:

    Eliezer Yudkowsky has talked about “Yudkowsky’s Law”, that all practical infinite recursions are actually at most 3 levels deep. The R4D, if it existed, would appear to be a counterexample. Of course, arguably the R3D is a counterexample — radar is itself a form of detection, so even an R3D is a detector detector detector detector detector.

    But Alyssa’s 5th reason is an interesting one, and I think could be a reason why Yudkowsky’s Law so often works (though depending on how you count, you may have to replace 3 with 4). There is one easy class of counterexamples to “Yudkowsky’s Law”, and that’s arms races — biological ones, in particular, can get really hairy. And yet sometimes, as with the radart detectors, they stop after a few steps.

    I think essentially what’s going on here is what you might call “Sirlin’s Law. Basically, we can distinguish between two patterns of arms races. Say Player A can attack with option A0, and player B develops technology B0 to counter it; then A develops A1 to counter B0; then B develops B1 to counter A0 and A1; and so forth. (So, in the next step, A develops A2 to counter B0 and B1; then B develops B2 to counter A0, A1, and A2…) Each newly developed technology is a strict improvement on the previous one; this arms race will continue indefinitely.

    But the other pattern is, A has attack option A0; B develops B0 to counter it; A has A1 to counter B0; and then in the next step, B develops B1, which just counters A1. So here the pattern is one not of strict improvements, but of specifically-targeted counters. Then A has no need to develop A2, because A0 can be used as a counter to B1. The recursion cuts off at two options for each side. So this is a way that an “arms race” can happen, but still obey a (perhaps slightly modified) Yudkowsky’s Law.

    I’m not sure whether that is exactly what is going on with Alyssa’s 5th reason, but it certainly seems very similar.

    • Vitor says:

      Huh, Sirlin’s book Playing to Win influenced me quite a bit back in the day, cool to see it mentioned here.

      Sirlin’s Law does seem to explain the phenomenon at least in part: It explains why the pattern would be finite (under the assumption that you can only counter finitely many things simultaneously), but it doesn’t explain the specific number 3 or 4.

      For instance, if there is an evolutionary arms race between two species, there will be generational overlap or a certain lag for a mutation to take hold:

      – A has A0

      – B has B0 to counter A0

      – A develops A1 to counter B0, but now has a mix of A0 and A1 because A1 doesn’t propagate instantly to the whole population.

      – B develops B1 to counter A1 (mix of B0 and B1).

      – A cannot go back to A0, since this is still being countered, as opposed to a genuinely new A2. in the meantime A0 dies out (it was still partially countered by the not yet extinct B0).

      – B goes to a mix of B1 and B2.

      – A0 is viable again, so now we can go to an (A2, A0) mix, then (B2, B0), (A0, A1), and the pattern starts looping.

      I imagine that if we model this in a population that continuously adapts to the mix of genes in the opposing population (I imagine infinite populations where we keep track only of the ratios of genes, not simulating individuals directly), we would get quite complex patterns with long and irregular cycles, specially if some mutations were stronger counters than others.

    • Anatoly says:

      I don’t _understand_ the 5th reason. It says: “R3D is useful when you have an RD, because it allows you to distinguish between R, for which you apply RD, and R2D, for which you need to shut off RD in case it’s illegal. But R3D is useless without RD, so it’s easier and equally useful to simply detect the original RD”.

      But isn’t the whole point of R3D to make it difficult for me to detect the original RD? If the R3D worked as advertised and caused you to turn off (or never turn on) your RD, how will I detect your RD? If I had an R4D, I could infer you (likely) had an RD from your use of R3D, even though your RD were undetectable. So I don’t see how the argument refutes the hypothetical usefulness of an R4D.

      • Sniffnoy says:

        Hm, I think you’re right, actually! Note that this all relies on the assumption that the R(n+1)D can detect the RnD before the RnD detects the R(n-1)D. Without that assumption, the R3D doesn’t make sense; and with that assumption, the R4D does seem to make sense, as you say.

    • James Picone says:

      FWIW in the field of electronic warfare, I’ve heard people talk about countermeasures [CM] (flares, etc. to decoy missiles), counter-countermeasures [CCM] (missile algorithms to try and pick out aircraft from flares, etc.), and counter-counter-countermeasures [CCCM], but never any more than that.

  65. onyomi says:

    Related to weird additions to your car: what’s the deal with those intensely, piercingly bright headlights some people have, and why are they legal? They seem extremely dangerous to me.

    • E. Harding says:

      High-beam headlights are illegal to turn on when within 500 feet of another vehicle in my state.

      • onyomi says:

        I don’t mean high beams. These are headlights with a bluish tint; I think maybe called “xenon” something? This is there normal brightness; not the high beams.

        • Steve Sailer says:

          The idea is that you can “outrun” ordinary headlights if you are driving superfast, so you need superstrong headlights that project further down the road. They send the message, “I’m not currently going 150 mph, but I could be.”

        • Anonymous says:

          Usually when you see those and they’re annoying it’s a conversion kit that has been improperly installed (xenon/hid headlights need different reflectors, optics, &c), in which case it is illegal in most places.

        • bluto says:

          They’re high intensity discharge (HID) lights, which are similar to stadium lights, movie lights, and grow lights (because they’re nearly as efficient in lumens/watt to LED, but much less costly for high wattage systems). Outside of luxury cars, they’re frequently done with conversion kits, which just convert regular bulbs to HID, even though doing it properly requires other changes to the reflector and lens that most home conversions don’t include.

          Depending on the bulbs they can leak considerable amounts of UV which is invisible but can be uncomfortable to look at for a short period of time (closer to looking at bright sunlight).

  66. Steve Sailer says:

    “Related: we all like to make fun of Salon, but Politico asks: no, seriously, what is wrong with Salon? They argue that it used to have great journalism, but that the pressures of trying to make money online forced them to fire journalists and increase demands from existing employees until the only way its writers could possibly keep up with the quantities expected of them was by throwing quality out the window.”

    It’s real hard for quality online journalism to get enough money to pay off. Ads just don’t look all that good onscreen compared to in slick paper magazines like Vanity Fair and New Yorker. On the rare occasions when I buy the Los Angeles Times on paper, I am fascinated by how much more attractive the ads are than at the website.

    The only online periodical model that seems to work is having a rich guy pay us pixel-stained digital journalist wretches in return for the pleasures, such as they are, of being the owner or benefactor.

    Thus, Salon has been funded by two Silicon Valley rich guys, Hambrecht and Warnock. Slate was funded by Bill Gates for many years. I write for two rich guys. Carlos Slim bailed out the New York Times in 2009. The Washington Post has revived since Jeff Bezos bought it, and so forth.

    • anon says:

      So do you see patronage (either traditional or Patreon-style donation based) as the long-run business model for journalism (say in the next 10-20 years)? Or will something like micropayments actually work eventually?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Who’s the other rich guy you write for besides Unz?

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s real hard for quality online journalism to get enough money to pay off.

      Let’s hope Wesearchr changes that!

    • Julie K says:

      Salon “used to have great journalism, but that the pressures of trying to make money online forced them to [etc.]”

      Aha, a real-life example of the Marxist theory that cut-throat competition will send everything down the tubes.

      • Jill says:

        I don’t know about everything, but it is certainly true of journalism which is darn near extinct by now.

        • Steve Sailer says:

          Journalism is okay, but it’s economically harder for individual journalists since there is more competition due to fewer barriers to entry and because advertising online isn’t very effective.

          You used to have lucrative newspapers in every city, each with a near monopoly on local classified advertising. Magazines could rely both on subscriptions and on lavish ad spending for high quality ads. That meant that being on staff at a newspaper or a magazine tended to pay okay.

      • anonymous says:

        Oh, was it Marx who invented that idea?

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        I’m still unconvinced that journalism wasn’t always terrible and we just didn’t as many tools to find out as we now.

        It might be that now it’s a different kind of terrible.

        • Urstoff says:

          I’m very skeptical of any argument stating that X was better in the past. I need a lot of concrete evidence as a counterbalance to rampant nostalgia and memory biases.

        • Nornagest says:

          I’d be willing to believe that the fact-checking was always this bad, but journalism hasn’t been this overtly biased in my lifetime. What passes for mainstream news now is taking a line like I used to see from Rush Limbaugh, just with the ideological commitments reversed.

          • Civilis says:

            It may just be that before the internet we weren’t able to effectively fact-check or publicize the results of fact checking. If the only news sources you have present one set of facts, it’s easy to fall victim to the Gell-Mann amnesia effect.

            Dan Rather seemed the model of a respectable centrist news personality up until he made the mistake of not adequately vetting his sources and their evidence on a massive too-good-to-be-true story (giving him the benefit of the doubt that it was a mistake). Afterwards, hints that he was biased all along that had been overlooked started falling out of the woodwork.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            I’d be willing to believe that the fact-checking was always this bad, but journalism hasn’t been this overtly biased in my lifetime. What passes for mainstream news now is taking a line like I used to see from Rush Limbaugh, just with the ideological commitments reversed.

            That might well be the case, but then you’d have to argue that everything is terrible nowadays.

          • onyomi says:

            What if the difference now is just that people wear their bias on their sleeves rather than trying to hide it behind a veneer of journalistic objectivity?

            For better or for worse, it seems like the consensus position now is that bias of one kind must be balanced out by bias of another (Fox News’ “Fair and Balanced” slogan seems like a joke when everyone knows they have a right wing bias, but it arguably works in the sense of “we provide a counterbalanace to all the left-wing media.”)

            Not sure if this is symptomatic of the more general trend whereby historical bias against one group must now be addressed through bias in favor of that group. “Just be fair to everyone” seems a better standard.

            Yet, given that I’m not sure there is such a thing as pure objectivity in political reporting (what does or doesn’t seem reasonable all depends on your starting point), maybe this is better than pretending to be objective when such a thing is not even possible?

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ onyomi
            given that I’m not sure there is such a thing as pure objectivity in political reporting […] maybe this is better than pretending to be objective when such a thing is not even possible?

            This has been worrying me ever since 2000. Huntley/Brinkley seem refreshingly cool and sane in hindsight, but really they probably were being unfair in small ways — with no open indication of it. Now at least we know which side each newscaster is leaning toward, and where to find the other side.

        • Anonymous says:

          I’m still unconvinced that journalism wasn’t always terrible

          Stay unconvinced. Referents: Yellow journalism; Muggeridge. (Scott’s review of Muggeridge’s autobiography neatly explains the latter, I daresay)

        • Samedi says:

          It has always been terrible. You need only look at newspaper articles from the 18th and 19th century. Maybe there was a brief moment in the mid 20th century when journalists like Murrow tried to elevate the standard, but now it is reverting back to the mean. And the mean is yellow journalism. Plus the Internet appears to have brought back yellow journalism with a vengeance.

          • Matt M says:

            Murrow isn’t as clean as everyone likes to believe. A lot of his anti-McCarthy stuff was incredibly one sided (which is not to say that McCarthy was in the right, but merely that Murrow made absolutely zero attempt to look at the other point of view).

      • Vegemeister says:

        I prefer the less general explanation that association with advertising will send anything down the tubes.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          The solution is to pay for things explicitly with dollars.

          It’s hardly an iron-clad defense, because you can get dollars + ads, but it gives the people who want quality some place to flee to.

    • Error says:

      I used to read Salon back before they went insane — and before I mostly dropped out of following politics. It’s kind of depressing.

    • anon says:

      On the rare occasions when I buy paper magazines, I am disgusted by ~50% ads-to-articles ratio, and what makes it worse is most of those ads are pretending to be articles and half of articles are reprints of press releases.
      Strongest buyers remorse, every time.

  67. Mr. Breakfast says:

    … accurately pretending various British elections, Schwarzenegger’s California victory, and various other things.

  68. Weirdest math fact I know:

    You can compute digits of pi in hexadecimal without computing the preceding digits.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      This doesn’t seem to be on Wikipedia at the moment, but note that the problem that the aricle mentions, that the given “algorithm” is not necessarily an actual algorithm due to the possibility of FFFFF…, was later fixed by Chee Yap.

    • Vitor says:

      That’s interesting. Note though that the computational effort does get higher for digits further out. If that hadn’t been the case, I would have been really surprised.

      • I’ve assumed you hit a point where it’s cheaper to use a more conventional method to get more digits, but I don’t really know.

        • Anonymous says:

          If you just want one digit, BPP is the fastest method. If you want all the digits up to that point traditional methods are faster. The further out you go, the larger the gap. The amount of work to compute the n-th digit via BPP rises with n, but the amount of work in a traditional method to compute the n-th digit already knowing the preceding digit also grows with n.

    • It gets to me a little that this is from 1995, and I haven’t heard another math fact which is nearly as weird since.

      Am I being reasonable? Or are math facts which can be understood by someone with only a casual interest in mathematics really rare?

      • SJ says:

        The distinction between countably infinite and uncountably infinite was weird…at first.

        I’ve tried to explain it to non-math-savvy people, but it is both counter-intuitive and a little weird.

        1. There are exactly as many Positive integers as there are Integers.
        (There exists a mapping from Positive Integers to Integers that is both One-to-One and Onto. For every Positive Integer, the mapping points to exactly one member of the set of Integers. Thus, the two sets have the same cardinality–even though both are infinitely large.)

        2. There are exactly as many Rational Numbers as Integers. Even though Rational Numbers are made up of ratios of Integers.
        (As above: there exists a mapping from Integers to Rationals that is One-to-One and Onto. Thus, the two sets have the same cardinality, even though both are infinitely large.)

        3. There are infinitely more members of the set of Real Numbers than there are members of the set of Rational Numbers.

        Georg Cantor arrived at this by trying to map every Rational number to a Real number. He discovered that if he had a hypothetical list of all Real Numbers, ordered according to the Rational Numbers that they mapped to, he could then construct Real values that were not on that list.
        Indeed, the diagonalization process to construct new Real Numbers (not on the list) could produce infinitely-many such numbers.
        Thus, the Real Numbers are uncountably infinite.

        4. Some infinities are larger than others.

        Item (4) was the part that seemed weird to me.

        It doesn’t seem weird now…perhaps I’ve gotten used to it.

    • EyeballFrog says:

      I don’t know if this counts as a math fact, but I always found it really weird that 1 mile = ln 5 kilometers to within 0.01%.

  69. E. Harding says:

    The marathon article is from 2013. Why link to it so late?

    Also, Venezuela’s various disasters really only began with Maduro.

    The Salon article is interesting, but ad-supported sites are dying.

    “but did you know India’s GDP per capita has tripled in the past 25 years?”

    -I’m pretty sure everyone knew that. And tripling is unimpressive for a country so poor.

    “I guess the Dalai Lama’s political views are a lot harder to predict than I would have expected.”

    -Why should a Tibetan Buddhist be an advocate of mass Muslim migration?

    “Futurist Madsen Pirie has been called “Britain’s Nostradamus” for accurately pretending various British elections,”

    -What about Cafe’s Carl Diggler?

    “This sort of makes sense.”

    -I ask again: is this just an artifact of the U.S. South being rainier?

    “are against smart people like Tyler Cowen”

    -How many times do I have to say this? “Well read” does not translate to “smart”. I’ve seen no evidence Cowen is extraordinarily intelligent, rather than simply extraordinarily diligent.

    • Samuel Skinner says:

      “Also, Venezuela’s various disasters really only began with Maduro.”

      Because the price of oil dropped and Chavez’s ‘lets spend the money that was supposed to be used on maintaining the wells’ decisions finely caught up with them.

      • E. Harding says:

        Nope; the problems began almost immediately after Maduro took office, well before the oil price collapse. Memories, people. This stuff wasn’t that long ago.

        • mdv59 says:

          So is it your belief that if Chavez had lived the Venezuelan economy would still be humming along in spite of oil dropping below $30 per barrel?

          It’s interesting that Venezuala’s Oil Production declined significantly while Chavez was president from 1999-2013, in spite of the fact world consumption was growing for much of that time. But I’m sure he would have turned it around once the oil glut hit.

          • Nicholas says:

            Based on the most readily available graphs, there’s a good possibly that Venezuela had exhausted their most productive oil reserves, and that everything that came after was financial chicanery to conceal this fact. If this were the case, Venezuelan production declines are both worse than reported, and also pretty much irreversible and unavoidable.

        • keranih says:

          This is actually not an uncommon pattern for discovering mismanagement and/or embezzlement – the business appears to be running just fine, until the long time office manager/CFO falls ill or takes an unexpected retirement, and when someone else takes over their duties, finds all the diversions, false invoices, and so forth.

          • Mary says:

            This is why many companies enforce vacation, and accountants look with gimlet gazes on those who never take it.

        • James James says:

          Venezuela has had shortages of food and toilet paper long before Chavez died. These things were easily predicted by anyone with knowledge of the Soviet Union.

          • Luke the CIA stooge says:

            I’m constantly amazed at people who still think price controls can do anything except create a shortage/collapse of demand(if pegged high). It’s the kind of econ101 stuff that you can explain on the back of a napkin.
            The will full ignorance is just stunning.

            Does anyone know if someone’s done a psychological look into the just price fallacy?
            It seems there needs to be an evolutionary explanation of some kind as I can’t think of any other mechanism that could make people behave so irrationally so consistently in the face of basic logic and evidence.

            I don’t know maybe it’s a weird interaction of the care and fairness foundations of morality?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            It’s really shocking just how brazen Chavez was. A lot of things he did, if I read about them on Twitter, I would assume was just someone making up worst-case things. But he really did things that were obviously wrong in the 1980s on Communist Russia. He really was a cartoon version of a Communist.

            The longest-term thing Chavez did that screwed up the economy that didn’t really get found out for a while was mismanagement of oil resources. You really do need domain experts in there to manage them to get all the oil out in the long term. But they did stupid things that got short-term gains but ruined the oil fields.

          • “Does anyone know if someone’s done a psychological look into the just price fallacy?
            It seems there needs to be an evolutionary explanation of some kind ”


    • Cliff says:

      Are you joking? Cowen was a child prodigy and Harvard PhD at the age of 25. You can’t tell he’s smart by reading his posts?

      • E. Harding says:

        I see absolutely nothing particularly smart in his posts. One needs only an IQ in the low 120s to get into Harvard -lower, if one has more diligence. And nobody has doubted Tyler’s extraordinary diligence and drive to be well-read.

        Cowen is generally overrated. Sumner, Sailer, and Caplan (who regularly post smart insights) aren’t overrated. Our host is roughly properly rated.

        • Frog Do says:

          Sumner and Caplan are definitely overrated, Cowen is still underrated; because IQ is overrated and well-readness is underrated.

        • Deiseach says:

          One needs only an IQ in the low 120s to get into Harvard – lower, if one has more diligence.

          To quote “Legally Blonde”

          Warner Huntington III: You got into Harvard Law?
          Elle: What? Like it’s hard?

        • Cliff says:

          We’re not talking about Harvard undergrad, we are talking about the Harvard econ PhD program. He was the youngest ever state chess champion in the state of New Jersey. I guess you will just dismiss everything as “diligence”(grit?) but it’s ridiculous.

          • E. Harding says:

            “In the Scientific American article that links to my blog, there’s a link to a study correlating chess skill with IQ. The correlation with general intelligence is 0.35 (see table 1), which is not a weak correlation, but not a strong one either.”


          • Wrong Species says:

            @E Harding

            What would you consider evidence in either direction on whether Cowen is smart? Saying “he doesn’t seem particularly smart” isn’t very helpful.

          • E. Harding says:

            @Wrong Species

            -Oh, the usual. Test scores, unusually good insights, praise from fellow economists that’s actually based on something.

        • Urstoff says:

          Don’t know how to judge whether someone is overrated (although I think Arnold Kling is very underrated), but Tyler is definitely smart. You need only listen to Conversations with Tyler to see that. Whether he’s insightful or interesting is much more idiosyncratic to the reader.

      • Anonymous says:

        This guy has a serious ax to grind on the subject. He’s been banned at MR for months but still trolls the comment section with his dumb one liners about Trump and links to his anti-MR website. Seriously, some kind of weird obsession.

        • Urstoff says:

          MR has a bunch of weird obsessives in the comments that have almost completely driven out good discourse.

      • Tsnom Eroc says:

        >At the age of 25

        Enter college a year young. Start the PHD very quickly after graduation. Congrats, PHD at 25.

        • Slow Learner says:

          Start a Master’s course aged 18. Graduate aged 22 (usual, in the UK, if you neither take a gap year nor fuck up).
          Apply to a PhD and start it that same year (not universal, but common).
          Finish it in 3 years (legitimately hard, but more a function of hard work and a bit of luck than intelligence).
          I expect most fresh-minted PhDs to be in the range 25-27, and if they’re any older I wonder what’s slowed them up.

  70. Tom Hunt says:

    I feel like the Molyneux Problem result is kind of trivial, in that the reason that the formerly-blind person couldn’t distinguish a sphere from a cube is just that they can’t distinguish much of anything at all. It would seem more true to the spirit of the question to ask whether they could distinguish sphere from a cube after they’d adjusted enough to move around and manipulate objects via sight at all, but a big part of the process of doing that is probably touching things while watching yourself to get back-feedback, so it might contaminate the experiment.

    Still, interesting.

    • roystgnr says:

      I’m kind of annoyed that they only tested on abstract shape pairs. (and that their paper only seems to have a figure showing 1 out of the 20 pairs they tested?!) It would be very interesting to try with objects (human faces?) for which humans might more plausibly have innate image-recognition capabilities. Could they distinguish a long-haired vs. a short-haired person? I would say “of course they could!” but I’d probably have said that about a cube vs. a sphere too, and now I’m not nearly so confident.

  71. Sniffnoy says:

    More interesting links recently that you may have seen already but whatever:

    Could a neuroscientist understand a microprocessor? — in the spirit of “Can a biologist fix a radio?”, applies standard neuroscience techniques to attempt to understand the MOS 6502 and doesn’t get very far. Indeed, it has a hard time distinguishing it from a brain, even though we know they work very differently.

    The GRIM test — a useful and very simple test when checking whether a paper may have faked its data, or had something else go wrong: Are the given means compatible with the given sample sizes and granularity of the data? E.g., if you sample 20 people’s age in years — where ages, as usual, are rounded down to a whole number of years — the average age in years had better be an integral multiple of 1/20 (or a roundeed version of such). This seems to catch a surprising amount of stuff (not all of it exactly errors, but things that were underexplained at least). Of course, if it becomes standard, fakers will account for it, but even so…

  72. Earthly Knight says:

    Soviet jokes on Reddit. Pretty good. Most depressing is: “Q: Don’t the Constitutions of the USA and USSR both guarantee freedom of speech? A: Yes, but the Constitution of the USA also guarantees freedom after the speech” – not because of what it says about Russia but because it’s basically just the “freedom from speech does not guarantee freedom from consequences” argument that so many people love in a non-joke way here in America.

    This is kind of unfair. I think most people who say things like “freedom of speech does not guarantee freedom from consequences” mean that invoking freedom of speech doesn’t (and shouldn’t) insulate you from social and economic consequences like insults, ostracism, or losing your job. They’re not saying it would be totally cool with them if the government started throwing dissenters in the gulag. At least, I hope not.

    • Anonymous says:

      The original version on freedom of speech only protected against prior restraints, not after the fact punishment of e.g. seditious libel. And it was improvement over the alternative. That said, I agree that the modern version is a still further improvement.

      • John Schilling says:

        Pretty sure the original version did protect against after-the-fact punishment of e.g. being thrown in the dungeon for saying that the King is a Fink. There is a line somewhere, but prior restraint isn’t it.

        • Anonymous says:

          In this, and the other instances which we have lately considered, where blasphemous, immoral, treasonable, schismatical, seditious, or scandalous libels are punished by the English law, some with a greater, others with a less degree of severity; the liberty of the press, properly understood, is by no means infringed or violated. The liberty of the press is indeed essential to the nature of a free state: but this consists in laying no previous restraints upon publications, and not in freedom from censure for criminal matter when published. Every freeman has an undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public: to forbid this, is to destroy the freedom of the press: but if he publishes what is improper, mischievous, or illegal, he must take the consequence of his own temerity.

          Blackstone, William. Commentaries on the Laws of England, vol. 4.

          • My memory is that Milton’s Areopagitica, often represented as a defense of freedom of the press, takes essentially the same position as Blackstone.

          • RCF says:

            Literally read, the only restriction this places on freedom of speech is allowing laws against a subset of libel. Of course, once the government is allowed to define what constitutes “libel”, the term tends to become quite broad, and not limited to actually false claims, but taking him at his word, that’s quite different from “no protection other than against prior restraint”. And when JS said “original freedom of speech”, it’s reasonable to think it means “freedom of speech in the US’ First Amendment”.

          • Anonymous says:

            I’m not how you get that reading — literal or otherwise — the first sentence superficially mentions treason and blasphemy.

            As for the First Amendment, early jurists including Supreme Court justices were highly influenced by Blackstone. It was their go-to reference. It also worth noting that Sedition Act was enacted by many of the same people that voted for the First Amendment and never made it before the Supreme Court (it was repealed before Marbury).

          • Evan Þ says:

            On the other hand, note that the Sedition Act was highly controversial (to say the least) in its day, its repeal was a major campaign issue for the victorious Republicans, and Jefferson called it “a nullity as absolute and palpable as if Congress had ordered us to fall down and worship a golden image.”

          • RCF says:

            “I’m not how you get that reading — literal or otherwise — the first sentence superficially mentions treason and blasphemy.”

            Again, taken literally, the first sentence discusses treason and blasphemy as subsets of libel; it discusses treasonous libel, not bare treason.

          • Anonymous says:

            At 18th century common law truth wasn’t a defense to seditious libel. There’s pointing out technicalities and then there’s being a pedantic ass.

          • John Schilling says:

            It seems to me that this would make “freedom of the press”, literally worse than useless.

            In the Bad Old Days of Tyranny, you contemplate publishing “The King is a Fink”, and either ask the censor’s permission (in which case he says no and you don’t publish) or you publish without permission (in which case you get thrown in jail)

            In the Glorious New Era of the Free Press, you contemplate publishing “The King is a Fink”, and either understand that the censor will disapprove (in which case you don’ publish) or you go ahead and publish anyway (in which case you get thrown in jail as “the consequence of your own temerity”).

            Except that, with explicit censorship, it is at least possible that you can dial down your statement to the point where the censor will approve it, and publish safely. Under Blackstone’s version of “freedom of the press”, every edition that isn’t 100% pablum places the editor at risk of imprisonment.

            Did Blackstone ever explain why he thought this “freedom of the press” thing was a good idea?

          • Anonymous says:

            Here’s the full chapter, unfortunately with the original spelling:

            Though he doesn’t say so, I believe the answer to the dilemma you pose is that Blackstone had more faith in the court system than he did in the executive officials even though both, at least technically, were mere creatures of the King in Parliment.

          • RCF says:

            If you had expressed your disagreement politely, I would have explained how I don’t think it is valid. Since you are being rude, I don’t think that continuing to have a discussion with you is worthwhile, especially since you are posting anonymously. I’ve reported your post, and I find anonymous posters posting insults to be quite in opposition to the concept of a walled garden.

          • John Schilling says:

            Though he doesn’t say so, I believe the answer to the dilemma you pose is that Blackstone had more faith in the court system than he did in the executive officials

            Ah, so the value of Blackstonian freedom of the press is entirely in which branch of government gets to throw you in jail after you’ve said that the king is a fink. Gotcha.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            unfortunately with the original spelling

            Aaaaaaaa if they’re going to tranſcribe the typeface using the long s, which looks a bit like an f (except without the croſs mark, or a ſmall croſs mark only on the left), they can at leaſt do us the courteſy of not making it look exactly like an f.

          • Outis says:

            I can’t believe that Yale can’t tell an ſ from an f.

          • DES3264 says:

            The Blackstone system has the advantage of not setting up an Office of the Censor which will, in the nature of government agencies, go looking for things to do even when no one is calling the king a fink.

          • John Schilling says:

            Judges may not go looking for things to do, but there has never been any shortage of people coming to the Judiciary with things for them to do. Including, particularly in England, pestering them with rather expansive definitions of libel and slander which have gone unpunished and must be set right.

    • Theo Jones says:

      I don’t think it is unfair considering how many times I’ve seen that one liner used in cases that involve state or institutional consequences. A few days ago I had a conversation with someone on FB over the Gawker M