Post-Partisanship Is Hyper-Partisanship

I.

A few years ago, I wrote:

I want to avoid a very easy trap, which is saying that ingroups vs. outgroups are about how different you are, or how hostile you are. I don’t think that’s quite right.

Compare the Nazis to the German Jews and to the Japanese. The Nazis were very similar to the German Jews: they looked the same, spoke the same language, came from a similar culture. The Nazis were totally different from the Japanese: different race, different language, vast cultural gap. But the Nazis and Japanese mostly got along pretty well. Heck, the Nazis were actually moderately positively disposed to the Chinese, even when they were technically at war. Meanwhile, the conflict between the Nazis and the German Jews – some of whom didn’t even realize they were anything other than German until they checked their grandparents’ birth certificate – is the stuff of history and nightmares. Any theory of outgroupishness that naively assumes the Nazis’ natural outgroup is Japanese or Chinese people will be totally inadequate.

So what makes an outgroup? Proximity plus small differences. If you want to know who someone in former Yugoslavia hates, don’t look at the Indonesians or the Zulus or the Tibetans or anyone else distant and exotic. Find the Yugoslavian ethnicity that lives closely intermingled with them and is most conspicuously similar to them, and chances are you’ll find the one who they have eight hundred years of seething hatred toward.

I didn’t coin a silly term for the relationship of the Yugoslavs and the Tibetans, but let’s use “fargroup” in order to remind us of the Near/Far distinction. We think of groups close to us in Near Mode, judging them on their merits as useful allies or dangerous enemies. We think of more distant groups in Far Mode – usually, we exoticize them. Sometimes it’s positive exoticization of the Noble Savage variety (understood so broadly that our treatment of Tibetans counts as an example of the trope). Other times it’s negative exoticization, treating them as cartoonish stereotypes of evil who are more funny or fascinating than repulsive. Take Genghis Khan – objectively he was one of the most evil people of all time, killing millions of victims, but since we think of him in Far Mode he becomes fascinating or even perversely admirable – “wow, that was one impressively bloodthirsty warlord”.

(this jars when other cultures do it to people we consider Near-Mode evil – for example India’s Hitler-themed clothing store, romance movies, and their use of Mein Kampf as a business advice book. It’s a bit strange, but not objectively stranger than us having a comedy movie about Kim Jong-un)

Fargroups aren’t always people who are literally distant from us. It seems more like it’s people who don’t threaten us, or aren’t in competition with us, or don’t get involved in the conflicts we care about, or something like that. There’s a Scientologist Church just a couple of miles from my house, and I recognize that Scientologists do some pretty horrible things, but none of them affect me, or people close to me, or values that I have a personal connection with, so I’m still more likely to find them cartoonishly funny, Kim Jong-un style, than I am to feel angry or afraid of them.

We exoticize fargroups, but we can also use them as props in our own local conflicts. For example, a lot of the time I hear about ISIS, it’s in contexts like the Democrats being weak on ISIS or Trump playing into ISIS’ hands, or how our immigration policy makes us easy prey for ISIS, or fundamentalist Christians are no different from ISIS, or something like that. We use sympathetic fargroups the same way. The Tibetans aren’t just wise and noble, they’re a foil to our overly materialist society, or an example of how religion can be based on reason instead of faith, or whatever. This is all as the theory would predict. The GOP view the Democrats as more of an outgroup and ISIS as more of a fargroup. It’s harder for them to have genuine outrage at ISIS for beheading a bunch of people, than for them to have outrage at the Democrats for not mentioning the beheading. Even in cases where they seem angry at ISIS in a non-Democrat related way, I would argue that a lot of it can be traced back to appreciating the way ISIS proves various domestic points, like “Muslims are scary” or “the barbarism vs. civilization axis is important”.

II.

Last month I asked on Tumblr:

I remember that when I was young and the Internet was young, people online were debating religion vs. atheism ALL THE TIME. It felt inescapable. Whatever else you were trying to discuss, eventually it would turn into a religion vs. atheism debate. Whenever it came up, people would sigh and say “Oh no, not another religion vs. atheism debate”.

I remember spending a lot of time at talk.origins and infidels.org because religious people kept attacking me and I wanted to be able to rebut their points. And I remember a lot of people who seemed to genuinely believe that religion was like the #1 problem in the world, maybe even the only problem in the world because it was the root cause of all of the others.

I haven’t seen an online religion vs. atheism debate in years now. Occasionally somebody criticizes Richard Dawkins or something, but it’s always a tone argument and practically never about the nitty-gritty of Biblical contradictions or whatever. Now social justice vs. anti-social-justice seems to have totally taken over as the Annoying Thing Everybody On The Internet Has To Debate.

Has anybody else noticed this? Is it just me, or maybe a function of the places I hang out / used to hang out?

I got a lot of responses. Other people confirmed this was a real phenomenon and that they remember it the same way. The consensus explanation was that there was a moment in the 90s and early Bush administration when evangelical Christianity seemed to have a lot of political power, and secularists felt really threatened by it. This caused a lot of fear and arguments. Then everyone mostly agreed Bush was terrible, studies came out showing religion was on the decline, evangelicalism became so politically irrelevant that even the Republicans started nominating Mormons and Donald Trump, and people stopped caring so much.

Now I see atheists sharing things like this:

Not only have they stopped caring that much about religion, but they’re willing to adopt progressive religious people as role models and generally share stories that portray religious people in a positive light. Pope Francis gets to be the same sort of Socially Approved Benevolent Wise Person as the Dalai Lama.

I think once Christianity stopped seeming threatening, Christians went from being an outgroup to being a fargroup, and were exoticized has having the same sort of vague inoffensive wisdom as Buddhists.

I saw something that seemed very similar during my time interacting with movement atheists. There was a split between people who were raised in fundamentalist families and very traumatized about it and who viewed Christianity as an outgroup, versus people who were raised in agnostic families and pretty live-and-let-live and who viewed Christianity as an fargroup. I know it seems weird to say that movement atheists living in a majority-Christian country treated a religion they interacted with every day the same way the Yugoslavs treated Tibetans, and sure, they would make fun of them, but that was exactly it – they found religion funny – and even in the process of lightly mocking them they tried to avoid stepping on too many toes. The fundie-raised atheists would propose something really combative and offensive, and the secular-raised atheists would say “Oh, come on, we don’t want to be jerks about this, Christians are basically nice people who are just a bit deluded”. To the fundie-raised atheists it was real, it was a hot war, these people were monsters; to the secular-raised atheists, religious people were just kind of wacky in a problematic way, like the North Koreans, and nobody in America lives their life in a state of constant rage about how evil North Korea is.

And I think as the threat of movement fundamentalism declined, there was a shift among atheists from more emotional hostility to more of a live-and-let-live kind of attitude.

(and then movement atheism started tearing itself apart even more viciously than it was already. I don’t know if this was a coincidence and I’m still curious whether conservation of tribalism is a real phenomenon.)

III.

From Facebook the other day:

All good reasons. But I’ve been seeing more and more people lately saying things like this. There have always been primary elections, and there have always been intra-Left disagreements, but the level of Bernie vs. Hillary drama at the Democratic Convention this week seems to be something new. Ehrenreich-style leftists focus on critiquing Hillary instead of Trump – either within or outside of the context of supporting the Sanders campaign. And on the other side, Hillary-supporting liberals go after Sanders and his supporters instead of Trump – Freddie deBoer has written frequently (some would say incessantly) about this.

The right, of course, has its own conflicts between Trump partisans and Trump opponents, culminating in Cruz’s non-endorsement. Also relevant: the alt-right’s favorite slur of “cuck” is short for “cuckservative” – an insult not for leftists but for conservatives who they think are doing conservativism badly.

People are talking more and more about partisan bubbles. People dividing into political tribes, and cutting off contact with people on the other side. Cultural, geographic, and social differences isolate people so completely that for example my Facebook feed tends about 95% liberal; I’m sure there are other people out there with the opposite problem. I think that as bubbleification increases, the other party becomes less and less of an outgroup and more and more of a fargroup.

Republicans still “threaten” me in the sense of being able to enact policies that harm me. And people less privileged than I am face even more threats – a person dependent on food stamps has a lot to fear from Republican victories. But Republicans aren’t taking over my social circle or screaming in my face. In a purely social context they start to seem more like cartoonish and distant figures of evil, rather than neighbors and coworkers. The average Trump voter no longer seems like an uncanny-valley version of me; they seem like some strange inhabitant of a far-off land with incomprehensible values, just like ISIS.

I have yet to meet anybody in person (other than my patients) who supports Donald Trump. On the other hand, I’ve met a bunch of people on both sides with strong feelings about Bernie vs. Hillary. The Bernie vs. Hillary conflict is real to me in a way that the Hillary vs. Trump conflict isn’t. It has the potential to split my friend group. There are social advantages for me of taking either side, and I could reasonably take either side without people looking at me like I went to work stark naked. This is the kind of socially relevant conflict that produces ingroups and outgroups in a way that America vs. ISIS never will.

My guess is that this sort of thing is only going to become more common. Partisanism is going to give way to hyperpartisanism, where people hate other factions of their own party with the same venom they previously reserved for their opponents across the aisle.

At the same time, old outgroup hatreds will take on a different character. Even If You Don’t Like Donald Trump, You Should Understand The Pain Of His Poor White Supporters. And I Know Why Poor Whites Chant Trump, Trump, Trump. And Millions Of Ordinary Americans Support Donald Trump; Here’s Why. And The Incredible Crushing Despair Of The White Working Class. I’m not saying these articles are typical; for every one of these articles there are ten “Trump Voters Are Xenophobic Trailer Trash” pieces. I’m saying that it’s weird that they’re happening at all.

Same thing with Brexit. Yes, the usual xenophobic trailer trash articles. But also: In This Brexit Vote, The Poor Turned On An Elite Who Ignored Them. And Brexit Voters Are Not Thick Or Racist, Just Poor. And Outraged Elites Should Listen To Fed-Up Brexit Supporters.

(and of course this blog has been pushing a similar line for reasons that are probably not completely ahistorical or divorced from general trends)

People are starting to treat Trump voters and Brexit voters as interesting and worthy of respect, which means they’re not really an outgroup any more. Talking about how poor they are and how sympathetic we should be and how we need to be more educated in order to understand what they’re going through all sound like instances of fargroup exoticization to me.

I predict (50% probability) that the progressives most carefully bubbled and separated from any actual threat from Republicans – which disproportionately includes politicians, journalists, and other opinion-makers – will start treating the Trump-voting classes more like Tibetans. I predict when they talk about specific bad Republicans like Trump, they’ll focus more on the ways they are funny and cartoonish (far too easy with Trump, but maybe the next guy will be a better test) instead of the ways they’re threatening. I predict that conflicts within the progressive movement will be increasingly vicious and increasingly likely to use poor whites as a political football (“the other side is bigoted against poor whites!”). I predict this will happen much more if the Democrats win the election than if they lose it; it’s always easier to be gracious toward a vanquished opponent.

(I’m of course 100% guilty of all of this myself)

(Yeah, this is a change in predictions since Right Is The New Left, which talked about something similar but reached a kind of different conclusion)

I’m not sure how things will go on the Republican side. I haven’t seen the same signs of rapprochement from them – but then Republicans have never shown the same tendency to sympathize with poor exotic fargroups that Democrats do. But I also don’t know as many Republicans and maybe if this were happening I would miss it.

845 thoughts on “Post-Partisanship Is Hyper-Partisanship

  1. donnie

    I’m not sure how things will go on the Republican side. I haven’t seen the same signs of rapprochement from them – but then Republicans have never shown the same tendency to sympathize with poor exotic fargroups that Democrats do. But I also don’t know as many Republicans and maybe if this were happening I would miss it.

    Scott, I think this Vanity Fair article, published this morning, is a good summary of the phenomenon you describe manifesting itself among the Republican Party.

  2. Doctor Mist

    Regarding the atheism vs religion debates, my take would be this: Atheism is generally a left-wing thing since the right-wing so long ago made common cause with the fundamental Christians. Over the past couple of decades, though, some prominent atheists, like Christopher Hitchens, have observed (correctly) that as religions go, fundamental Islam is way more abhorrent than fundamental Christianity. But this causes cognitive dissonance with other parts of the left-wing worldview, like support for Palestine. So atheism stopped being a reliable signal, and therefore stopped being so loudly espoused.

    A disciplined atheist would disparage Christianity and Islam alike. But these days politics is everyone’s most significant bit.

    1. donnie

      I think if more ‘Blue Tribe’ people saw the followers of organized religion as their outgroup we’d see more atheists and agnostics speaking out against the savagery of fundamental Islam. But as Scott points out, organized religion doesn’t feel like the same kind of threat that it once did to the Blue Tribe in America. Organized religion in the West is becoming defanged, adapting to the modern Blue Tribe vision of a multicultural, multireligious society (see the Catholic Church under Pope Francis as exhibit A). Today, the perceived outgroup of this multicultural, multireligious society is primarily those who seek to get rid of it out of fear and/or ignorance. Thus, from this perspective, the appropriate Blue Tribe response to an Islamic terror attack is to reassert the importance of religious tolerance, to highlight commonalities between everyday moderate Muslims and ourselves, to create a broad category of “peaceful religion” and cast jihadists outside it.

  3. goocy

    I just realized what’s wrong with my social life. I don’t have an ingroup, and I don’t know any outgroups. It’s all fargroups to me. For example, these are all thoughs I had:

    “Oh, soccer fans! How quaint! I wonder how you decide which team you cheer for?”

    “The Brexit thing is weird. What do the brits think happens to a society that stops believing in experts and scientists?”

    “Doesn’t the German government realize they’re bullying the whole EU with their policy?”

    It’s not that I have too little social commitment. I just don’t like associating with any particular ingroup.

    Thanks for explaining the normal state of other people to me! I still wonder if I’m not secretly an alien…

  4. Dog Ronjo

    Scott, love you, but you’re talking about things you don’t know about.

    >“the alt-right’s favorite slur of “cuck” is short for “cuckservative”

    Cuck is short for cuckold. It’s almost exclusively used against non-conservatives. That’s why, when applied to conservatives, it needed a new special name.

  5. Outis

    Two partial counterpoints to the near-far thesis.

    1) Ideologies seem to get tainted by historical crimes and failures in a measure roughly proportional to their distance from the culturally dominant left. For instance, consider the death and suffering caused by Fascism, Communism and Liberalism. Fascism is completely tainted by it, the death and suffering are considered inherent characteristics of it. Communism is not, the death and suffering are considered accidental. And in the case of Liberalism, they are pretty much completely forgotten; even if you bring up the violence of the French Revolution, the Reign of Terror, the wars to take over the world, the association simply doesn’t stick.

    It seems to me that the near-far thesis, if it applies on the ideological space, would predict Communism to get tainted more than Fascism, but the opposite is true. Similarly, if it applied in terms of actual threat, you should see Communists and Liberals fearing each other more than Fascism, yet that doesn’t happen either.
    And also, the Red Tribe may put a different emphasis on things, but by and large they follow the mainstream Blue Tribe pattern here.

    2) It seems to me that the mechanism of near-far threat should, at some point, cause the elite to move its focus back on the poor at home, and to soften its support for immigration. For the local elite, domestic inequality is much worse than global inequality, since it makes the environment you live in much less safe and pleasant (consider all the South-American countries where the children of rich people are frequently kidnapped, you have to live behind walls, cities are full of no-go zones, etc.). It affects your quality of life much more than global inequality does. And when it gets really bad, the local poor can storm your palaces, while the global poor cannot.

    Yet we haven’t seen the elite focus on the near threat yet. Is it just because it’s not yet threatening enough? Will they switch at some point?

    1. Lumifer

      You’re forgetting WW2. Who was on which side is very imporant in determining the degree to which an ideology is “tainted by historical crimes and failures”.

        1. Lumifer

          We’re talking ideologies, not countries. West Germany, after all, became a bona fide member of the West pretty quickly.

          1. Agronomous

            The Communists seem to have avoided the taint of cooperating with the Nazis. Even among the half of Americans who know we fought alongside the USSR against Nazi Germany, I’d guess only about 10% remember that both of them ganged up on Poland at the start of World War II.

  6. Luke Somers

    Odd. I am able to approach Bernie vs Hillary calmly, but either vs Trump gives me an adrenaline rush.

  7. an anonymous user

    Isn’t that the only way to avoid being banned, though? Making good comments?

    If only the comments policy had information on what was and wasn’t acceptable, instead of being a link to a book review.

    1. Jiro

      You can avoid being banned by making only good comments. Making some good comments and some bad comments shouldn’t let you avoid being banned.

      That leads to double standards where if you are liked, you get to abuse others with significantly fewer effects than if you’re not.

  8. Agronomous

    Scott,

    You’re going to post that picture of a Roman Catholic signboard and not let D3is34ch comment on it?

    That’s just wrong. Lift the ban: 6/14 – 7/29.

      1. Publius Varinius

        It’s a great idea and a utilitarian idea. If someone writes good comments, we can afford to give her some slack. Jupiter and the ox, and all that.

        Lift the ban.

        1. Jiro

          It creates bad incentives for commentors who already write good comments but don’t already abuse the rules.

          1. Publius Varinius

            That’s a fair point. In fact, to be more precise, I’m advocating “giving some slack”, as opposed never banning people who write good comments but abuse the rules.

      2. Agronomous

        That’s not what I’m saying, Jiro. I think a two-week ban would have been impossible to argue against. I think a four-week ban is what most of us expected.

        It’s been six weeks. How long does it take before “indefinite” is functionally equivalent to “permanent”?

        1. Jiro

          I wouldn’t be opposed to rescinding the ban, as long as it’s a rule applied to everyone and not some special treatment given because we like Deseach. But almost every call for ending the ban is “Deseach was a beloved and valuable poster, so the ban should end.” That I oppose.

    1. Outis

      I think this is counter-productive. Scott wants to maximize the psychological impact of the ban; he needs people to fear his arbitrary power. If you shut up about it, he might magnanimously let D back in at some point. But as long as there is a campaign about it, revoking the ban would be seen as yielding to protestors, which he definitely doesn’t want to be.

      1. Agronomous

        I don’t think that’s what’s going on, because if it were, Scott would have foreseen the situation and given the ban a definite end at the outset.

        With J. Random Blogger, I wouldn’t trust my line of reasoning, especially with regard to the foresight part. But come on: this is Scott. You think he hasn’t seen the not-wanting-to-be-seen-to-cave power-struggle dynamic in a dozen patients by now (parent or child)?

        Just in case you’re right, though: Bring Back Jim! We demand Jim! Rescind the Jim ban! Also Barabbas if it’s not too much trouble!

  9. Maware

    The religion thing happened mostly because argumentation went from the actual claims of the religion and good faith, to religious people being forced to defend their non-bigot status and the conflict being defined over lifestyle issues like homosexuality and abortion. Combine that with increasingly nasty rhetoric from the left (the abuse thrown at the conservative pundit Maggie Gallagher is an example) and the pro religious side became weary and started focusing more and more on sheltering tactics like homeschooling.

    If you combine this sheltering withdrawal with the ever increasing “big sort” of leftists into cultural-urban-technological, you find its pretty easy for them to make religious people a fargroup. However, that status will disintegrate in a second as soon as the fargroup does anything at all-look what happened to North Carolina with all the leftist companies suddenly re-outgrouping their enemy and moving to destroy them.

    To be honest, I really worry about this. The easiest way for people to harm others is by exoticizing them and pointing to the exotic caricature as the reason why they take away liberties. After all, you’re really banning Those Extremist Christians in the fargroup, even though the legislation hits your one closeted Christian coworker too. It was a mistake he got targeted, but you have to defend against the Extremists, right?

  10. Ryan

    For me, a lot of this breaks down into whether you can have a truly tight-knit community that is legitimately open to outsiders. The universal culture has a lot of pros, but one con I see is a lack of deep, long-lasting interpersonal bonds of the kind that are present in more traditional cultures. So I see the present culture wars as a battle between differing views over whether it is worth giving up this kind community for the benefits of a free and open society.

  11. lifetilt

    Yeah this post is right on the money. I was just thinking about how enraged the #bernieorbust people got me and how I’m not nearly as mad at the Trump people anymore. Then it dawned on me that my outgroup had changed. It bothers me that it took me so long to realize it.

  12. Forge the Sky

    Apolitical data point:

    I grew up in a conservative Christian church. Women weren’t allowed to wear pants, sometimes elders would show up at your house to make sure you didn’t have a TV to corrupt your mind. My father remembers being hit and grounded by his mother when he snuck away one night to watch the moon landing through a neighbor’s window. Christmas trees were pagan influences, Christmas lights were a secular invention designed to ‘create light to distract people from the darkness’ since they lacked the light of Christ.

    (The younger generation still plays lip service to this but takes it much less seriously. The progression reminds me remarkably of Scott’s description of subcultures being subsumed into the superculture.)

    In school, we had Bible classes devoted to talking about how ridiculous Roman Catholic doctrine was. We hero-worshiped Martin Luther and John Calvin, and instead of Halloween we had Reformation Day and sang songs about the 95 thesis. I remember older teachers telling us mocking stories of interactions (I’m pretty sure exaggerated or imagined) that they had with Catholic priests where they’d ‘catch them in the lie’ by offering to put the Host under a microscope to see if there were human cells in it.

    It was a big deal to them.

    We children were bored by it and didn’t take it seriously after a certain age. WE cared about the Heritage vs the 1st Reformed. I mean, not me personally, my parents were kinda moving away from all this stuff at the time. But my classmates? Big deal.

    We had students from both churches in the school. The schism had happened about 30 years earlier, and families that had been friends Weren’t Speaking even then because of What Rev. X Had Said about the relevance of Lord’s Day 36.c of the Heidelberg Catechism.

    Also, we’d heard that they played the piano during church, instead of a pipe organ like they did in Heaven.

    All this Catholic noise with their magic priests and weird blood-rituals was just a strange, faraway story. We’d befriend Catholic kids out of school and regard them as being a cultural oddity, and just wouldn’t talk about religion cause then we’d be duty-bound to Show Them The Word Of God like we were taught.

    Fun times. I have stories. lol.

    Re: OP. The internet changed far more than we could have guessed it would. Now we only need to talk to people who 95% or greater agree with us. But the monkey-brain, it gets a bit edgey when there’s no enemies around. Because then they must be hiding.

    1. Nornagest

      It’s an old joke, but:

      Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, “Don’t do it!”
      He said, “Nobody loves me.”
      I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?”
      He said, “Yes.”
      I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?”
      He said, “A Christian.”
      I said, “Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?”
      He said, “Protestant.”
      I said, “Me, too! What franchise?”
      He said, “Baptist.”
      I said, “Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?”
      He said, “Northern Baptist.”
      I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?”
      He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.”
      I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?”
      He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.”
      I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?”
      He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.”
      I said, “Die, heretic!” And I pushed him over.

      – Emo Philips

      1. onyomi

        There is a version of this for libertarianism. One would think libertarians weren’t common enough yet to start viewing all non-libertarians as a fargroup, but with the internet, all things are possible…

  13. Anonymous

    I don’t think it’s an accident that Jill is the exact same person she complains about in these comments, to excellent precision. Irrational, ignorant of facts, and driven by fear of/anger at a boogeyman (except in this case it’s fear of/anger at Blue Tribe boogeyman Trump instead of Red Tribe boogeyman __).

    1. Anonymous

      Building on this, I’d like to address what I think is an interesting facet of this community that, for all its laudable self-awareness in identifying ingroup/outgroup dynamics, still finds the time to be clever in astoundingly stupid ways. I’ve been browsing SSC for a few years now and there’s a pattern here.

      By the metric being used I come from an upper middle class white family that was culturally Blue Tribe, was college educated, and stressed college education. I am college educated. My parents are evangelical Christians whose parents were Catholics. I’m an atheist. My parents are still Christians but have mellowed out in their old age.

      There is a very Western European aspect of rejecting the clannishness inherent in tribal conflicts like this for an incrementally more libertarian (for lack of a better word) outlook. This is why they have been so successful, and I know Scott knows what I’m talking about. I don’t think it needs to be spelled out why it wouldn’t be out of the realm of sanity for someone who doesn’t match Jill’s stereotype of the redneck prole Trump voter to end up throwing their lot in with Trump. Or maybe it does and I’m giving people too much credit: I read someone in this comment thread calling Hillary a “technocrat”. In which bizarro world?

      If one is looking for a foil of the monkey-politicking populist demon brain that people like Jill see in Trump rally attendees, one need only look at the response Hillary gets as she does a xenomorph impression before a crowd of people who actually believe she cares about abstract vagaries like feminism or diversity. This is a democracy problem.

      1. Agronomous

        clever in astoundingly stupid ways

        Sounds like a good SSC Comments Section Official Motto.

        Since you bring up Jill, and I have no idea what you’re trying to say in the rest of your comment (maybe “projection exists”?), here are my thoughts on the Jill Question:

        Jill First Edition was… unique. I pretty quickly came to a modus vivendi: read her stuff when I found it entertaining, skip it (and subthreads) when I didn’t. Snark when I absolutely couldn’t help it. My mantra was, “This is somebody else’s problem; let’s say HeelBearCub’s.”

        Jill Second Edition writes comments about stuff she knows about, and makes interesting points. Not, perhaps, about things as nerdy as usual around here, but interesting.

        Since the DM is somewhat inconsistent, our campaign switches back and forth between 1st Edition and 2nd Edition rules at random (even in the same Open Thread). So sometimes I miss my saving throw against eye-rolling when I didn’t expect to. But I think things have, overall, improved a great deal, and if I were just wandering into World of Greytalk now, I wouldn’t think anything was seriously amiss.

        I mean, aside from all the Anonymouses. They’re like frickin’ bugbears: impossible to hunt down every last one.

    2. Zombielicious

      Trust me, you have far more irrational, ignorant comments directed at liberal/leftist boogeymen than you do at Trump or the Red Tribe. If it seems otherwise it’s only due to the ideological homogeneity of the place, reinforced by the fact that most people of alternate worldviews probably get fed up and leave really fast. The problem is the people making those types of comments usually get encouraged rather than have new threads started by anonymous cowards specifically to attack them and their drivel…

      1. Anonymous

        “Trust me, you have far more irrational, ignorant comments directed at liberal/leftist boogeymen than you do at Trump or the Red Tribe”

        Which ones are those again?

      2. Lumifer

        Is that so once you exclude that rather schizophrenic person who goes by the name of Anonymous?

        1. Zombielicious

          Some actually seem to believe it, and I worry the others aren’t actually anonymous randoms coming out of nowhere, but regular users who know that what they’re posting is incendiary drivel, so switch to hiding behind the anonymous label while they do it.

          1. Anonymous

            “the others aren’t actually anonymous randoms coming out of nowhere, but regular users who know that what they’re posting is incendiary drivel, so switch to hiding behind the anonymous label while they do it.”

            That seems to be a pretty irrational, ignorant comment, based on some kind of fear/anger of the Other.

          2. FacelessCraven

            @Anonymous – “That seems to be a pretty irrational, ignorant comment, based on some kind of fear/anger of the Other.”

            Maybe so, but it’s one I’ve experienced as well from the other side.

          3. Lumifer

            I’m sure that happens, but I have no idea of the ratio of temporary anons to actual drive-by snipings.

            But since I don’t expect people to actually work at hiding their IP address, Scott might find out, should he be interested enough.

  14. Concerned Citizen

    Why have atheism debates seemingly disappeared? I think maybe some of it has to do with the Atheism-Plus movement, which tried to spin the atheist movement (such as it is) into being more focused on SJW infighting; and also probably the same thing as happens to anti-war protesters, who seem to mysteriously disappear when Democrats are the ones waging the wars, only to suddenly reappear once there’s a Republican president. Not to imply I think the anti-war left are disingenuous; maybe a few are, but I think it’s more likely they just get ignored by the media when they become inconvenient.

    1. Mariani

      You’re right. The most common permutation of media bias is selective coverage. It’s probably not even conscious, but “holy shit Bush civilian deaths” sounds more newsworthy to your average journalist, who leans left, than “holy shit Obama civilian deaths.”

      1. Scott Alexander Post author

        Well, Bush also killed about a hundred times more civilians than Obama, so that might have contributed.

        1. E. Harding

          Scott, I can’t believe you’d make such a shockingly ignorant comment. Even if you don’t count the Syrian War (Obama’s fault, in large part certainly intentional, the rest almost certainly), Yemeni War (certainly intentional) and Mali War (also Obama’s fault, probably unintentional), you still have the Drone War and Afghan War. The First and Second Libyan Civil Wars resulted in very few civilian deaths by NATO airstrike, but the ground battles were and still are fierce.

          All in all, I estimate Bush killed far fewer civilians than Obama when you count indirect deaths (I count the Libyan, Syrian, Mali, Afghan, Drone, and Yemeni wars).

          1. FacelessCraven

            Indirect deaths count less than direct ones, precisely because they’re indirect.

          2. John Schilling

            Scott, I can’t believe you’d make such a shockingly ignorant comment.

            Scott’s comment was true and informative, for any normal usage of the word “killed”. Yours doesn’t, and so isn’t.

          3. Agronomous

            you still have the Drone War

            At least he picked the right side on that one. I’d be terrified if we were up against the whole Drone Army.

    2. Luke Somers

      I think it was Kitzmiller vs Dover BoE that did it. We won the school wars effectively enough that the rest was mopping up (there is always mopping up, of course).

  15. Leon Kennedy

    Take Genghis Khan – objectively he was one of the most evil people of all time, killing millions of victims, but since we think of him in Far Mode he becomes fascinating or even perversely admirable – “wow, that was one impressively bloodthirsty warlord”.

    Well, ACTually

  16. KP

    >the alt-right’s favorite slur of “cuck” is short for “cuckservative”

    I believe this is false. I saw ‘cuck’ becoming extremely popular before I had ever seen cuckservative said. Mostly promoted by 4chan and then later similar locations (/r/the_donald, etc), like many things of its kind. It’s interesting still the enormous influence 4chan has on culture.

  17. Anonymous, but not that anonymous

    There have always been primary elections, and there have always been intra-Left disagreements, but the level of Bernie vs. Hillary drama at the Democratic Convention this week seems to be something new.

    Your perspective seems to be distorted.

    1. BBA

      The 1924 DNC broke into fistfights between the pro-Klan and anti-Klan factions of the party, and lasted two weeks and 103 ballots before finally nominating somebody.

      1. Anonymous, but not that anonymous

        Yeah. Conventions were especially wild in the pre-WWII era.

        Scott’s statement sounds like he just started tuning into conventions in the Obama years – even 2004 had its moments of drama (Kucinich’s anti-war rally, leftist anarchist groups burning Kerry in effigy, and I’m only ignoring Screamin’ Dean because Scott is singling out the conventions themselves rather than the primary run-ups), though it certainly pales in comparison to the glory days of fistfights and death threats.

  18. Nuclear Lab Rat

    Isn’t saying

    I predict (50% probability)

    the same as saying “I don’t know which one of these two possibilities will occur”?

    1. Nornagest

      Not when the possibility in question comes from a large space of possibilities, which this one does. In a situation like that, 50% probability can actually be quite a strong weighting in favor of it.

      If I think that the coin I flip is 50% likely to come up heads, that’s not very impressive. If I think that the lottery ticket I just bought is 50% likely to be a winner…

    2. Saint Fiasco

      Depends on how likely other people think the possibilities are.

      For example, if most people are 80% certain of some possibility, saying you predict that (or the opposite) with 50% probability is meaningful, because it says “that remote possibility is not really remote and should be paid more attention to, and taken into account in your future plans”.

      1. Harry Johnston

        I suspect that this had a lot to do with the Brexit result. It was (I’m told) popularly believed that Leave had no chance, so lots of people voted Leave as a protest without really wanting it to happen, and no doubt lots of those in the Remain camp didn’t bother to vote because it didn’t seem necessary.

        (This may well be wishful thinking on my part.)

          1. SilasLock

            If it’s true, though, then it’s an example of how voting systems as they are now can distort people’s preferences.

            Anyone have any idea how to avoid this pitfall? There’s got to be some tweak we could make to traditional voting so that no one casts votes to signal their beliefs.

  19. cassander

    >the average Trump voter no longer seems like an uncanny-valley version of me; they seem like some strange inhabitant of a far-off land with incomprehensible values, just like ISIS.

    Should trump win, this feeling will vanish instantaneously.

  20. Glimmervoid

    Interesting. Reading this post brought me strongly to mind of religious schisms. At times, Christianity focused on an external enemy. At others, it ripped itself apart. Do you think this is a similar thing?

    1. Jill

      I guess some movements are so aggressive and competitive that if they don’t have a good external enemy, they’ll turn that on themselves.

  21. Anonymous

    I saw something that seemed very similar during my time interacting with movement atheists. There was a split between people who were raised in fundamentalist families and very traumatized about it and who viewed Christianity as an outgroup, versus people who were raised in agnostic families and pretty live-and-let-live and who viewed Christianity as an fargroup. I know it seems weird to say that movement atheists living in a majority-Christian country treated a religion they interacted with every day the same way the Yugoslavs treated Tibetans, and sure, they would make fun of them, but that was exactly it – they found religion funny – and even in the process of lightly mocking them they tried to avoid stepping on too many toes. The fundie-raised atheists would propose something really combative and offensive, and the secular-raised atheists would say “Oh, come on, we don’t want to be jerks about this, Christians are basically nice people who are just a bit deluded”. To the fundie-raised atheists it was real, it was a hot war, these people were monsters; to the secular-raised atheists, religious people were just kind of wacky in a problematic way, like the North Koreans, and nobody in America lives their life in a state of constant rage about how evil North Korea is.

    This goes a long way to explain why the comment section here is so over the top towards the blue tribe and left wing. There are a lot more ex-leftists than born into it conservatives.

  22. Orphan Wilde

    You miss a substantial part of what is happening here:

    The Democrats betrayed their base. There’s no other way to spin this; the party elites deliberately attacked one candidate, and deliberately propped up another. (I’d guess this was all arranged in 2008 to get Clinton to comply with Obama’s nomination.)

    The Republicans, in the same election, facing the same problem, allowed it to happen, or rather fought it honestly. And when they lost, they allowed their base to make the decision for them, even though the elites strongly disagreed with it.

    The Democrats’ sudden fondness for the Republicans isn’t a signal about how they define their in-group and out-group. It’s a signal that a substantial part of the Democratic base is opening a line of escape; after years of hatred, they’re going “Maybe the Republicans aren’t so bad.” They’re considering casting off and mooring in the Republican camp, where, they perceive, they can actually make a difference in what the party does.

    And the Republicans know it. They’re not paying homage to Sanders because he’s not part of their out-group; they’re paying homage because he’s the future of the Republican party.

    1. Jill

      Time will tell. But I would be very very surprised to see many Bernie supporters voting for Trump and I know a lot of them. Some are going for Hillary, others for Jill Stein or another 3rd party candidate. I know no one who’ll vote for Trump.

      Both parties have betrayed their base many times. In this particular presidential nomination contest, depending on how you look at it, especially if you are Red tribe, you could say the Dems did worse.

      But if Trump gets elected, I have a feeling that the GOP establishment is going to find a way to “make a deal” with Trump to get everything they want. What a candidate promises, and what they’ll deliver, are 2 different things. And Trump cares only about himself, which should be obvious already. But if it sin’t obvious now, it will be if he gets elected.

      1. JDG1980

        Both parties have betrayed their base many times. In this particular presidential nomination contest, depending on how you look at it, especially if you are Red tribe, you could say the Dems did worse

        But if Trump gets elected, I have a feeling that the GOP establishment is going to find a way to “make a deal” with Trump to get everything they want. What a candidate promises, and what they’ll deliver, are 2 different things. And Trump cares only about himself, which should be obvious already. But if it sin’t obvious now, it will be if he gets elected.

        The problem here is that you’re comparing something the Democratic Party actually did with something you think that Republicans might do in the future.

        Also, while there’s a lot of cynicism around campaign promises and it’s sometimes justified, the truth is that Presidents are a lot more likely to actually try to carry out at least their major campaign themes than most people think. (They may, of course, be blocked by Congress, the courts, or other structural factors.)

        In Trump’s case, it’s reasonable enough to think that he doesn’t have strong views on many issues (abortion, for instance) and would allow the party establishment to fill that vacuum. But on other issues, he’s been consistent for several decades and appears to be a true believer. There are interviews and quotes from Trump going back 30 years where he says America’s allies aren’t pulling their weight and that we should run our foreign policy more in the national interest instead of giving others a free ride. He’s also been a trade and immigration skeptic for a long time. These are issues he genuinely does seem to care about strongly, and I don’t see him giving them up if elected just because others in his party want something else – especially since these were the issues that propelled him to victory over the other Republican candidates in the primaries. On immigration, in particular, there’s a great deal he could do to enforce existing law much more strictly than it has been until now, even without any legislative cooperation.

    2. Lexington

      I’d guess this was all arranged in 2008 to get Clinton to comply with Obama’s nomination.

      I’d guess this has more to do with Clinton being a national figure within Democratic politics for upwards of twenty-five years who got close to the Democratic nomination eight years ago and has been the presumptive post-Obama nominee (not to mention the preferred nominee of the Democratic electorate) in the eyes of just about everyone since then.

    3. Edward Scizorhands

      Clinton has been working since 2012 (at the latest) to make sure she ran unopposed. She did whatever was necessary to push all the other D contenders out of the way. (Sanders came out of nowhere, the same way that Obama did in 2008.)

      Clinton has made sure, and continues to make sure, that her fate is the same as the party’s fate. No choice but Clinton.

  23. TomFL

    I made it my personal goal to track down a couple Trump voters, and I did. I actually didn’t have to look too far, my sister voted for Trump. She gets upset with me when I introduce her to others and always add “She voted for Trump”. Fun, fun, fun.

    Another insight to why people vote for Trump?

    I left WV 30 years ago to live in FL. When I look around FL over the past 30 years I see progress everywhere. Shiny new stuff everywhere. When I go back to WV, it is still 1985. Almost literally true.

    Globalsim has done exactly nothing for WV and neither did WV voting Democratic for almost 50 years straight until recently turning red. Reigning in globalism isn’t very threatening to these people who never saw any benefit from it in the first place. Urban elites and the Washington political establishment might as well be aliens.

    My sister says “why not give someone who has been successful in business” a chance? From her perspective there is much more upside here than downside, they have been living the downside for decades. She is probably right, a perception the establishment class is only in it for themselves is pretty easy to believe. The ratio of the establishment’s focus on global geopolitics vs. what is happening in WV is pretty close to infinity.

    NYT search for Belarus = 397,000 hits
    NYT search for West Virginia = 477,000 hits

    That should give you an idea of how one could come to the conclusion they have been abandoned by the establishment. One would start to feel like an idiot voting for more of the same.

    I think we are beginning to see a fundamental reorganization of politics to class based warfare. The establishment elites should take note there are far fewer of them than the lower classes. An almost singular focus on a liberal world order is wearing thin. It’s beginning to looks like some twisted version of Atlas Shrugged where all the elites move to WorldTown.

    1. Jill

      Neither party does much for poor whites, but at least the GOP promises to. Well, the GOP does give them scapegoats. But that doesn’t actually help them in any way. The GOP doesn’t do things to stop illegal immigration because their donors require that they do nothing, so that super cheap illegal labor is still available. Still, yelling about illegal immigration has won the GOP many elections.

      I guess poor whites want to vote for someone who at least makes nice promises to them, even if they don’t keep them. The GOPers yell more often than the Dems, as can easily be seen from the conventions. So people who are angry and want to yell fit in with the GOP better.

      1. TomFL

        The left has been actively hostile to WV’s economy with their energy policy, and their anti-gun and anti-religion stances do not align well with the culture of WV. That is why WV is red now. Promises look pretty good when compared to the other side that appears to be actively working against you and promises more of the same.

      2. Anonymous

        Still, yelling about illegal immigration has won the GOP many elections.

        You keep asserting this but it’s simply not the case.

        Republican politicians are basically silent on immigration. High ranking Republicans are silent on immigration but push for increasing the number of Democratic voters whenever they get the chance.

        Mickey Kaus detailed the dynamic very nicely:

        If the Republican establishment is so panicked about Donald Trump — a wild, proto-fascist egomaniac with his finger on the button, in their telling — you’d think it would do the one thing that would almost certainly stop him: Surrender. By “surrender” I mean abandon their decades long dream of winning Latino votes through a magic pill called “comprehensive immigration reform” (known to its opponents as amnesty). After Romney’s 2012 defeat, conservatives like Charles Krauthammer argued that if they just caved to the Democrats on this one issue — immigration — they wouldn’t really have to change anything else. (“It requires but a single policy change ….”) In 2013, with Marco Rubio as their smiling pitch man, they tried desperately to sell out on immigration. They failed.

        Today, Trump’s massive rallies can be interpreted as an expression of the historic populist undercurrent animating America’s white working class. Or they can be interpreted, with less sophistication, as Americans saying, as loudly as they can, “WE DON’T WANT YOUR F___ING ‘COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM.’” Either way, anger over elite “more immigration” plans is the molten core of the Trump eruption. Is there any doubt that if “comprehensive immigration reform” went away for good, Trumpism would wither? So why don’t Haley Barbour and Karl Rove call a big K Street meeting where they say, “Boys, we have to throw the damn yahoos this bone. We’re giving up on amnesty.”

        The GOP establishment does have some concerns other than bringing in foreign workers, doesn’t it? It has […] These are all the goodies that a Trump nomination for the Presidency would threaten (and not necessarily only if he lost). Saving those goodies by abandoning the star-crossed immigration cause seems like the obvious choice. It’s Krauthammer in reverse — by simply not caving on this one issue on which they want to cave, professional Republicans can save the rest of their enterprise.

        I’m actually a little baffled that they haven’t done this. Not even one of ’em.

        He then goes though a bunch of reasons why they’re so dedicated to increasing the Democratic vote rolls and rejects all of them and leaves scratching his head.

        The answer is that the Republican party is a controlled organ of the left designed to let the rubes blow off steam.

        1. Jill

          Wow. So the Left, in controlling the GOP, allowed them to dominate both Houses of Congress, most state legislatures, and most governorships, and SCOTUS until just recently. The Left certainly is generous in what it allows to the GOP.

          I don’t see any evidence whatsoever of the vast Left Wing conspiracy that you seem to see.

          And I have seen GOP candidates railing about illegal immigration and getting votes from it. But you are right that, once in office, they do nothing about it.

          1. Anonymous

            I don’t see any evidence whatsoever of the vast Left Wing conspiracy that you seem to see.

            You like Vox, right (you certainly seem to cite it enough)? Look up “journolist”.

            You did read the emails in the wikileaks DNC release, didn’t you?

            Did you read the post here reviewing Malcom Muggeridge’s memoirs?

            There’s a huge amount of evidence for “Left Wing conspiracy”.

            And I have seen GOP candidates railing about illegal immigration and getting votes from it.

            Yes, this is the third time you’ve asserted this on this thread and you still haven’t gone to the trouble of actually naming one of these GOP candidates.

          2. Outis

            You did read the emails in the wikileaks DNC release, didn’t you?

            Most likely, not. Most people haven’t. It isn’t really being talked about in the media; the whole thing pretty much only exists within an online bubble. I recently spoke with a guy who is a strong Bernie supporter (he volunteered for his campaign and everything), and he did not show the slightest interest in the DNC emails.

      3. cassander

        >But that doesn’t actually help them in any way.

        The Republican party doesn’t try to make their brown sector jobs illegal, and often pushes to expand opportunities for them, or at least to slow down the ever creeping democratic war against them. It occasionally cuts their taxes, though, again, mostly just resists democratic attempts to raise them. And it doesn’t spend all day telling them that they’re evil and privileged for being white. Blue collar whites are the most republican demographic in the country for a reason, and it’s not because they’ve been duped.

        1. Jill

          Well, they sure seem duped to me, when they vote for people who end up reducing their health care coverage, the quality of their schools, and various other services they depend on, while the wealthiest people get huge tax cuts.

          1. cassander

            >Well, they sure seem duped to me,

            Yes, you’ve made that clear. I’m trying to help you learn.

            >when they vote for people who end up reducing their health care coverage,

            blue collar whites, by and large, have perfectly good healthcare.

            >the quality of their schools,

            Ah, yes, I remember how our last republican governor campaigned on wrecking the schools. He won in a landslide! Please stick to actual evidence and specific claims, not generic hyperbole.

            >and various other services they depend on,

            what would those be?

            >while the wealthiest people get huge tax cuts.

            If you are referring to the bush tax cuts, they made the tax code more progressive, not less. Please adjust your opinions to align with the facts.

          2. Zombielicious

            If you are referring to the bush tax cuts, they made the tax code more progressive, not less.

            Since we like citing Slate all of the sudden, you might notice where they later ripped the Bush tax cuts as the terrible failure they were. In particular:

            But the benefits mostly accrued to the rich, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. The think tank reports that between 2001 and 2008, the bottom 80 percent of filers received about 35 percent of the cuts. The top 20 percent received about 65 percent—and the top 1 percent alone claimed 38 percent.

            This guy seems to give more detail in explaining why the original Slate article you linked was completely deceptive, as well as referencing this paper arguing for the regressive nature of the Bush tax cuts, as well as during other Republican administrations. (Though to be honest, I didn’t bother reading beyond the abstract. Not my day job etc.)

            blue collar whites, by and large, have perfectly good healthcare.

            Except for where a large portion weren’t covered before the ACA, or couldn’t get coverage because of pre-existing conditions, or still have only really crappy plans where they pay significantly more for the same treatments as most of the developed world does.

            Please adjust your opinions to align with the facts.

          3. A Definite Beta Guy

            I am very tired, but:
            1. Describing the tax cuts as a failure does not mean they did not make the tax more progressive.
            2. The PDF is talking mostly about the federal tax system as a whole, rather than the income tax specifically. That’s discussing a different topic.

            I did not click the Crooked Timber link, for obvious reasons.

          4. cassander

            @Zombielicious

            Your article does not contradict mine.. In fact, demonstrates point. The top 20% pay 86% of income taxes, and they only got 65% of the cuts You’ll note that the share of income taxes the top 20 paid RISES after the bush tax cuts, it doesn’t fall. As I said, the tax code got more progressive under bush, not less, and that’s not my opinion, it’s not the opinion of an advocacy group cherry picking figures, that’s the CBO’s opinion.

            >Except for where a large portion weren’t covered before the ACA, or couldn’t get coverage because of pre-existing conditions, or still have only really crappy plans where they pay significantly more for the same treatments as most of the developed world does.

            Those people largely were not white, and the ones that were white were a substantial minority of the white working class, so no, again, my point stands.

          5. Zombielicious

            This is a gross oversimplification to try and make your point. We’ve moved on from the extremely general statement (paraphrasing) “Republicans favor huge tax cuts for the wealthy,” to the Bush tax cuts specifically, to the average share of income taxes paid during the first six years of the Bush tax cut era.

            The Bush tax cuts covered a lot more than just income taxes, plus the average share of income paid by each quintile changes over time anyway, for factors not just involving the tax cuts of that year, so while CBO data is some evidence in your favor, it’s hardly the nail in the coffin you’re pretending it is.

            From what I can tell searching about, the exact progressive or regressiveness of the Bush tax cuts is widely debated along party lines. It seems to be less debateable that they lead to massive increases in the national debt (including another CBO estimate, ~$1.6 trillion), didn’t spur economic growth to the point of “completely eliminating the national debt by 2010” (paraphrase) that the Heritage Foundation claimed they would, but I expect you can find lots of partisan disagreement with those conclusions too. (I could have linked the primary sources, but most are available through the wikipedia article on the subject – which I usually find a good proxy for how much or little agreement their is on a subject like this – and after all, who has time to read long econ papers linked in blog comments anyway.)

            Mostly though these kinds of debates over the nuances of some decade-old policy in a vain attempt to prove the other side is marginally more evil than yours are unproductive. What’s the point? That Republicans really did have a heart of gold in implementing a progressive tax policy, and that’s why it was such a dismal failure, so if only they’d listen to their wise anti-government base and stop being controlled by the liberal conspiracy, then they’d know that truly regressive tax policies were the best solution? And this explains why GWB was terrible even though conservatives elected him? (Intentionally silly to make a point.) Or that it’s fine that, prior to the healthcare reform that Republicans opposed like it was the apocalypse, tens of millions were without coverage because it only affected non-whites, in spite of the constant accusations that all liberals think all conservatives are racists?

            I don’t think we’re even debating a consistent underlying point anymore. The Slate article is one guy’s interpretation of data from 2004, which many, many people have disagreed with (and I already discussed the CBO thing). The Bush tax cuts are apparently still hugely controversial, and “working class whites have good healthcare” isn’t even well-defined enough to have a fight about. It’s not worth getting condescending over or continuing to argue about something that’s mostly irrelevant just to try and prove who’s side might have been marginally worse on one issue fifteen years ago.

          6. cassander

            Zombielicious says:
            July 29, 2016 at 2:49 am ~new~

            >The Bush tax cuts covered a lot more than just income taxes,

            They were mostly about income taxes. But the CBO also has all tax data, which tells a very similar story.

            >plus the average share of income paid by each quintile changes over time anyway,

            You’ll note that for the period covered, it moves overwhelmingly in one direction, towards the rich paying more, not less. And that holds even when you take into account the changes in the share of income over time.

            >Mostly though these kinds of debates over the nuances of some decade-old policy in a vain attempt to prove the other side is marginally more evil than yours are unproductive. What’s the point? That Republicans really did have a heart of gold in implementing a progressive tax policy, and that’s why it was such a dismal failure, so if only they’d listen to their wise anti-government base and stop being controlled by the liberal conspiracy, then they’d know that truly regressive tax policies were the best solution?

            that the people who vote for republicans benefit from them DO enjoy concrete benefits. I agree completely with you about the normal nature of these debates, but when considering the question “does group A benefit from the policies of Party B” such rehashing is necessary.

            >Or that it’s fine that, prior to the healthcare reform that Republicans opposed like it was the apocalypse, tens of millions were without coverage because it only affected non-whites, in spite of the constant accusations that all liberals think all conservatives are racists?

            No, it’s to accurately describe the the demographic we’re talking about and the concerns they face so we can decide if they are, or aren’t voting against their interests. The average white guy without a college degree either has a decent job, or is likely to in the future. the ACA manifestly did not help him, though it probably didn’t hurt him much either. And I drive this home because, again, it’s the point. The what’s the matter with kansas theory is blatantly, demonstrably wrong. the democrats do not craft policies that benefit these people, and the republicans do.

          7. Zombielicious

            Again, you’re moving goalposts to try and make these statements more defensible, from “poor whites” to “whites without college degrees that have a decent job, or are likely to in the future.” Decent job = enough income to afford healthcare, so this is tautologically true, but overlooks basic facts like how red states deny Medicaid coverage for low-income people, or how many of them who couldn’t get coverage because of pre-existing conditions, or still lack any quality plans due to the high cost compared to most any other developed country in the world.

            You might notice that the poorest states with the worst social services are disproportionately red ones, and have been that way for a long while. This is not a coincidence, and on some level people must know this, or else they would not be so ecstatic about the chance to get rid of all the mainstream Republican candidates who have been running their party for the past half century, and bring in some wild cards like the Tea Party or Trump.

            Blaming liberals and Democrats for all the problems in the world, including some vast conspiracy where they controlled the Republicans as a proxy to achieve their own nefarious liberal ends, as has been posited multiple times elsewhere in here, just makes a nice form of denial to avoid admitting when your past electoral choices haven’t worked out well for you. Unfortunately, this problem isn’t limited to the red tribe, either.

          8. cassander

            @zombielicious

            >Again, you’re moving goalposts to try and make these statements more defensible, from “poor whites” to “whites without college degrees that have a decent job, or are likely to in the future.”

            I’ve only ever talked about one group, whites with diplomas but without college degrees. Relatively few whites are actually poor, as in below the poverty line, and many of those that are are only do very temporarily.

            >facts like how red states deny Medicaid coverage for low-income people,

            Because most whites make too much money to qualify for medicaid

            >or how many of them who couldn’t get coverage because of pre-existing conditions, or still lack any quality plans due to the high cost compared to most any other developed country in the world.

            Because these people are largely mythical. The ACA set up special pools for those people, almost no one signed up.

            >You might notice that the poorest states with the worst social services are disproportionately red ones,

            You mean the ones with large non white populations?

            >Blaming liberals and Democrats for all the problems in the world, including some vast conspiracy where they controlled the Republicans as a proxy to achieve their own nefarious liberal ends, as has been posited multiple times elsewhere in here, just makes a nice form of denial to avoid admitting when your past electoral choices haven’t worked out well for you.

            I agree which is why I didn’t do that.

      4. FacelessCraven

        @Jill – Neither party does much for poor blacks, but at least the Dems promise to. Well, the Dems do give them scapegoats. But that doesn’t actually help them in any way. The Dems don’t do things to stop the decline in education and black cultural cohesion because their donors require that they do nothing, so that teacher’s unions and business avarice can operate unimpeded. Still, yelling about racism has won the Dems many elections.

        At some point, government is actually going to have to get their thumbs out and actually *fix something.*

      5. JDG1980

        Neither party does much for poor whites, but at least the GOP promises to. Well, the GOP does give them scapegoats. But that doesn’t actually help them in any way. The GOP doesn’t do things to stop illegal immigration because their donors require that they do nothing, so that super cheap illegal labor is still available. Still, yelling about illegal immigration has won the GOP many elections.

        You do realize, don’t you, that this is why Trump is the Republican nominee this year? Republican base voters are tired of being controlled by “donors” on this issue, so they nominated a candidate willing to talk tougher on immigration than anyone else, and who has enough personal wealth that he doesn’t have to care what Adelson and the Koch brothers think.

        Perhaps the Republican voters are not as delusional as you seem to believe.

        I guess poor whites want to vote for someone who at least makes nice promises to them, even if they don’t keep them. The GOPers yell more often than the Dems, as can easily be seen from the conventions. So people who are angry and want to yell fit in with the GOP better.

        If the Democrats want to win back the white working class, then shutting up about “white privilege” would be a very good start. I suspect most poor whites are very cynical about the possibility that either party will actually help them economically, but at least the Republicans don’t go out of their way to sneer at and despise them, while the intersectionalist (SJW) faction of the Democrats do.

        A New Old Left that focused on bread-and-butter economic issues, downplayed cultural/racial issues, and was unabashedly nationalistic and patriotic could win over West Virginia. The current Democratic Party cannot.

    2. Jiro

      She gets upset with me when I introduce her to others and always add “She voted for Trump”.

      So why do you do it?

      Presumably she has a reason for not wanting you to out her. This reason may even resemble the reason people have for not wanting to be outed in other ways.

      1. TomFL

        “out her”. It’s not like that. She’s upset in laughable way.

        It may be sacrilege to vote for Trump in some circles, but not the world I live in. If one lives in a social circle where voting for Trump needs to be kept a secret like child molestation I would suggest that this isn’t a circle of free thought and tolerance that it probably thinks it is. The Trump phenomenon is partially explained by this very desire by some to strictly regulate correct thinking.

        People are free to be idiots, and to decide who they think the idiots are. There is no need for society to attempt to uniformly correct this through social pressure.

        1. Nornagest

          I would suggest that this isn’t a circle of free thought and tolerance that it probably thinks it is.

          No shit.

  24. eqdw

    I have yet to meet anybody in person (other than my patients) who supports Donald Trump.

    I know several Trump supporters who read slatestarcodex and I would be happy to explain for you their reasoning if you’re interested

    1. Bugmaster

      I’m not Scott, but I’m still interested. On the other hand, though, I don’t know if Scott would be super-enthusiastic about his blog devolving into another political battle royale…

      1. eqdw

        Oh I’m not a supporter, and I’m not arguing in favour of him. I’m just willing to share the information.

        So basically, as I understand it, there are basically three main lines of reasoning for supporting him amongst my friends:

        1) He is the lesser of two evils. Trump is bad and scary and probably incompetent. But Hillary is worse.

        My friends who subscribe to this line of reasoning are very, very alarmed at the various shady things that surround Hillary, and more importantly they’re alarmed by the public’s acceptance of this. They believe the emails thing was a big deal, and the FBI declining to prosecute (while they trump up charges to get people like Aaron Schwartz to kill himself) is evidence of total systemic evil and corruption. They believe that Hillary will give spoils and sinecure to individuals and groups that don’t deserve it, and for which the nation will be worse off when all is said and done. These friends support Trump somewhat begrudgingly, more as anti-Hillary than pro-Trump

        2) It doesn’t really matter, but all the insanity around Trump is funny.

        These friends believe that the same deep state that makes us all really really sad most of the time, will stop Trump from making us sadder. After all, the President formally does not have the authority to do much of what people are afraid Trump will do, and of the things he does have authority for, well… If the President said “do X”, but the entire civil service doesn’t want to, then it’s a pretty safe bet that X won’t happen. These friends are apathetic to the election, believing that the shit will keep flowing, we just might change its colour. They’re voting for the lulz

        3) #BTFSTTG

        Some of my more out-there libertarian and anarchist friends fundamentally believe that the current US Federal Government is immoral and lacks political legitimacy. They believe that the government as it exists is evil and exploitative. That it’s a gigantic pile of money and power that people fight over, and whenever someone wins some of it, they use it to fight their own personal petty battles. They believe that Hillary (as well as almost every other nominee on both sides) are too Establishment. These are people who like the system as it’s set up, and won’t change it.

        On the other hand, Trump is less likely to do this. Mostly because he’s an unknown that has demonstrated an unwillingness to play nice with the establishment. This argument boils down to, essentially, the Chaos Army strategy. Trump is more likely to fuck things up in interesting ways that results in destroying some of the capacity of the state to enact evil and injustice.

        1. GT

          I’ll give you a fourth one, although it meshes a bit with the first one:

          Much of the scariness attributed to Trump is due to an unprecedented media smear campaign. There’s often been a double standard between Ds and Rs, but never to that level. Expressing MILD doubts about the possible impartiality of a judge was reported as expressing doubts about the intelligence of an entire race. Hesitation to deny specifics on parts of his platform are reported by the media as enthusiastic endorsement of a position (see: making lists of muslim citizens). On the other hand, whenever he answers something quickly, he’s immediately taken to task for it. The idea of the wall itself, and let’s not forget many Dems including Hillary voted in favor of a fence a decade ago, was immediately strawmanned in the media as the worst possible incarnation of that idea (people assuming that he wants to build the wall even over natural barriers that don’t need it).

          Once I sift through the immense amount of bullshit being thrown at him, and compare him fairly with other present and historical candidates, personally I end up with a candidate that isn’t particularly scarier in my mind than another.

          On the other hand, the shrillness of the media attacks on him do convince me that voting for him holds a lot of power. I have a lot of hatred for the media; they as a group are completely irresponsible with their duty of making sure people have the correct information to make decisions. The more they squirm at the prospect of him winning, the more I like Trump.

          1. Aegeus

            Expressing MILD doubts about the possible impartiality of a judge was reported as expressing doubts about the intelligence of an entire race.

            Calling for a judge to recuse themselves is about as far from mild doubts as you can get. He said that Judge Curiel is so biased he can’t do his job, because he is Mexican. There are very few ways to read that without concluding “Trump is judging Curiel by his race, and not by his character.”

            (One of those ways would be “Trump believes that any judge who rules unfavorably is biased against him, and grasped at any argument which could make Curiel look biased.” In which case you’re replacing one character flaw with another.)

            Hesitation to deny specifics on parts of his platform are reported by the media as enthusiastic endorsement of a position (see: making lists of muslim citizens).

            There are some things where denying them is a no-brainer, because the things you are denying are absurd or unconscionable. Saying that nuclear weapons aren’t off the table when dealing with, say, Russia, is just acknowledging an unpleasant reality. But if you say that nuclear weapons aren’t off the table for dealing with ISIS, you’re not showing strength, you’re showing recklessness. You’re showing you don’t understand what nuclear weapons are for.

            The fact that Trump can’t even reject the most extreme ideas when discussing policy is troubling. Either it shows he considers them actually on the table (the media position, because that gets clicks), or it shows that he doesn’t have any idea about the topic and is resorting to vague non-answers that sound good (my position, which doesn’t make him look any better).

            (And if your concern over Hillary is that she’s untrustworthy, then Trump’s inability to pin down a policy position for more than a day should be even more worrying).

            Also, keep in mind that he’s walked his extreme positions back several times. “Ban all Muslims” became “Ban all Muslims from terror-supporting countries” became “Vet refugees thoroughly before letting them in” (aka, what we already do). Sometimes the media was smearing him, but sometimes he really did say those things and it was only afterwards that he said something more reasonable.

      2. FacelessCraven

        TL;DR version:

        “Do you know what the definition of insanity is?”

        “I am the punishment of God…If you had not committed great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you.”

        “…And who knows? Maybe the horse will sing!”

  25. Troy

    On Trump, I think that the phenomenon of “we need to understand Trump voter’s concerns” has less to do with this kind of broad post-partisan trend that you’re describing and more with the horrifying awareness of some progressives that a candidate who they have not taken at all seriously now has a serious chance of becoming president of the United States. Some progressives are being shocked into doing some soul-searching. But this is far from universal, or even typical; when this kind of subject comes up on my Facebook feed, most of my progressive friends are making fun of or criticizing these kinds of arguments.

  26. Troy

    Not only have they stopped caring that much about religion, but they’re willing to adopt progressive religious people as role models and generally share stories that portray religious people in a positive light. Pope Francis gets to be the same sort of Socially Approved Benevolent Wise Person as the Dalai Lama.

    As a moderately conservative Christian, this completely matches my anecdotal experience. Progressives still get up in arms about, e.g., bakers not baking cakes for same-sex weddings or Catholic universities not offering birth control in their insurance plans, but I feel like I see a lot less of “this shows how terrible Christians are” and a lot more of “these conservative Christians don’t understand their own religion; Christianity teaches tolerance and love of neighbor.” There’s a lot less denunciation of Christianity and a lot more telling Christians what they really believe. (See also: “Jesus was a brown-skinned progressive socialist immigrant pacifist hippie etc.”)

    To be honest, I find the latter much more annoying than the former. The former I can recognize as a deep disagreement over values and religion; whereas the latter tends to come off as patronizing, based off of what I would view as a superficial ignorance of the content and history of Christianity. It makes me wonder how Muslims who support, e.g., the death penalty for homosexuality feel when some well-meaning Westerner comes along and says that their beliefs are not “true Islam.”

    1. MC

      They have no problem with “Christianity” as an abstract concept that is tailored to their own preferences, but they do have a problem with Christianity as it is believed and lived by the people who actually fill the pews.

      This is not an adjustment that is likely to reduce conflict much.

    2. Bugmaster

      I don’t think any claim of “this is what Abrahamic Faith X really teaches” is credible, because no version of Christianity, Islam, or Judaism currently in existence totally adheres to its holy books. This would be impossible to achieve, because the holy books are vague and self-contradictory. Instead, each version of each faith adheres to a specific interpretation of the religion, which has built up over the centuries into its own culture.

      There’s no such thing as a “true Christianity” or a “true Islam”; there’s only what people believe. And yes, some of them do believe in killing gays; they are just as Christian (or Islamic or whatever) as the other ones, who believe in loving your neighbour regardless of whether he’s gay or not.

      1. Two McMillion

        Well, most Christians would agree with you about it being impossible to live out “true Christianity.” They just think it’s an ideal to be worked towards.

      2. Troy

        There’s no such thing as a “true Christianity” or a “true Islam”; there’s only what people believe.

        I think this depends on whether one is a Christian/Muslim oneself. As a Christian, I think it makes sense for me to think about what “true Christianity” teaches, because I am thinking about what version of Christianity is, simply, true. In so doing I may appeal to certain sources of authority: e.g., if I think the teachings of Jesus are infallible, I will appeal to the best evidence on what Jesus taught.

        It makes less sense for a non-Christian to make claims about this ideal form of Christianity. Since he thinks all versions of Christianity are false, by “true Christianity” he can’t mean that version of Christianity which is true. It doesn’t make sense for him to appeal to the teachings of Jesus (as against, e.g., the teachings of the church on some particular point) in the same way it makes sense for me to do so, because he doesn’t think Jesus’s teachings are infallible.

        There are, however, sociological and historical facts that can be appreciated by both believers and non-believers alike, regarding how strongly entrenched certain ideas are in a tradition, etc.

        1. Jill

          Religion in the U.S. isn’t about beliefs or dogma. People feel obligated to say they believe in the dogma, but it’s not important to them. Religion here, for most people, is about community or other factors.

          Myths of the Modern American Mind: Religion
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tuGXtcVc330

          A lot of religion the world over is about other things than the religion itself. In many countries, including the U.S. , it is about friends and community and help with raising kids. In some countries in the ME, it’s about not getting executed for being an infidel.

          1. Troy

            I definitely agree that there is more to religion than belief, and I was intentionally oversimplifying to only focus on the propositional aspect of religion. But I think it’s also a mistake to say that religion has nothing to do with belief. Catholics, for example, recite a very specific creed in church each Sunday. You can say it’s just words, and that may be true in some cases, but it’s not in others. It’s certainly not in my own case. Nor is it for numerous other Christian commentators on this blog, or for most Christian philosophers, scientists, and other academics.

            The practical dimension of Christian faith is extremely important, but it’s bound up in the propositional aspects of Christianity. For example, the church communities you mention are formed around shared norms and moral concerns, which are adhered to because the church believes that Jesus or the Bible teaches them. You can’t just excise the community from its historical and metaphysical beliefs about God and his revelations in the world.

        2. Bugmaster

          As a non-Christian, I naturally believe that only a non-Christian could make judgements about which religion is and isn’t true, because of his lack of bias 🙂

          That said though, I think even a Christian would agree that most (and probably all) of the contradictory denominations of Christianity (including his own) claim to be the One True Faith. Their justification for interpreting the doctrine one way or not the other ultimately boils down to their choice of which authority to trust. The choice of such authority ultimately boils down to either a subjective value judgement, or historical tradition and culture. Saying, “my people believed in the Pope since time immemorial and that is why I continue to do so” is not the same as saying “Catholicism is objectively true”.

          Note that most versions of Christianity would agree that “Jesus’s teachings are infallible”; they merely disagree on what it is that Jesus actually teaches. Gods may be infallible, but humans are not.

          1. Troy

            As a non-Christian, I naturally believe that only a non-Christian could make judgements about which religion is and isn’t true, because of his lack of bias

            I didn’t mean that only Christians could make judgments about whether Christianity was true simpliciter. Of course non-Christians can sensibly do that.

            My point was rather that I can sensibly talk about “the real teachings of Christianity” as the version of Christianity which I think is true, whereas you can’t do that, since you think no version of Christianity is true. By the same token, I can’t sensibly talk about “the real teachings of Islam.”

            That said though, I think even a Christian would agree that most (and probably all) of the contradictory denominations of Christianity (including his own) claim to be the One True Faith.

            Sure, but as a Christian, I think that all but one of them is wrong (that’s an oversimplification, but let’s go with it for now). As a non-Christian, you think they’re all wrong.

            Their justification for interpreting the doctrine one way or not the other ultimately boils down to their choice of which authority to trust.

            Well, this is getting into contentious issues about the source of religious belief. I at least try to base my beliefs on the evidence, and I know Christians of other theological persuasions (as well as non-Christians, of course) who do likewise.

            Note that most versions of Christianity would agree that “Jesus’s teachings are infallible”; they merely disagree on what it is that Jesus actually teaches.

            Right, and so among most Christians that’s a sensible criterion on which to adjudicate disputes. But there aren’t clear grounds for a non-Christian who doesn’t think Jesus’s teachings are infallible to side with the majority of Christians who think that (Jesus teaches X)–>(X is a real teaching of Christianity) over the minority who think that Jesus was wrong about some things, or that “God is still speaking” and telling us that today we should do certain things differently.

          2. Bugmaster

            My point was rather that I can sensibly talk about “the real teachings of Christianity” as the version of Christianity which I think is true, whereas you can’t do that, since you think no version of Christianity is true.

            I don’t think this is necessarily correct, since I could potentially still treat Christianity as a consistent fictional narrative. By analogy, I don’t believe that the Harry Potter universe physically exists, but if someone tells me, “Hermione Granger is male”, I would still reply, “no, that’s not true, she is clearly described as female in the books”.

            However, due to the arguments I’ve mentioned, I don’t think that we can apply the same kind of analysis to Christianity. The various versions of Christianity are separate subcultures who derive the majority of their cultural norms from their shared traditions and history — which includes the choice of which interpretive authorities to follow.

            To extend my analogy, reading Harry Potter will tell you absolutely nothing about the fact that your local Harry Potter fan-club prefers to order Root Beer instead of Coke for their monthly meetings; nor their stance on stem-cell research; nor their stance on admitting gay people to their ranks. None of that stuff is in the book.

          3. Troy

            I would take the fictional narrative analogy in a slightly different direction: non-Christians arguing over the real version of Christianity is rather like arguing over what works are “canonical” in the Star Wars or Star Trek universes. There are social facts over what people accept as part of the narrative and what they don’t, but there’s no mind-independent fact of the matter as to whether something happened the way it was portrayed in this book or that (conflicting) movie.

          4. Bugmaster

            Yeah, that’s a good way to put it, I think. So, while all the Star Wars fans believe that Luke exists, not all of them would believe that Mara Jade exists. Those who adhere to the old canon would consider her an established character on par with Luke, whereas those who adhere to the new canon would treat her as a piece of incidental fan fiction (er, unless she has been re-introduced into the canon already, I kind of lost track of it all a while ago).

            But in this case, I think, my point still stands. Both camps would tell you that they adhere to the One True Canon, and that the other camp is heretical. As you say, there’s no mind-independent way to conclusively determine which camp is right; it all boils down to historical/cultural factors. So, there’s no such thing as “objectively correct Star Wars canon”, only large camps of people who believe this way or that.

          5. FacelessCraven

            @Bugmaster – “That said though, I think even a Christian would agree that most (and probably all) of the contradictory denominations of Christianity (including his own) claim to be the One True Faith. ”

            Christianity is by necessity multiply redundant, the idealized version of it exists only in fits and starts if at all, and it has very little to do with obscure theological positions. We are supposed to try our best to get it right, not to actually get it right. The obscure theological stuff is sometimes (though rarely) necessary, but never sufficient.

            “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.”

          6. Corey

            @Bugmaster: I’ve seen that fandom analogy to religion from others involved, e.g. Dave Willis of “Dumbing of Age”, a webcomic he’s writing to help process his de-fundamentalization.

          7. Troy

            But in this case, I think, my point still stands. Both camps would tell you that they adhere to the One True Canon, and that the other camp is heretical. As you say, there’s no mind-independent way to conclusively determine which camp is right; it all boils down to historical/cultural factors. So, there’s no such thing as “objectively correct Star Wars canon”, only large camps of people who believe this way or that.

            To extend the analogy, though, a true Star Wars believer would be one who thought that the Star Wars media were describing history. If one of two conflicting sources really describes actual events, then there’s a clear sense in which that one is objectively correct. So if you think Star Wars is history, then it does make sense to debate over what the actual history is.

            Of course many atheists (especially those of the Internet variety) will regard belief in the historical truth of Christianity as epistemically on a par with belief in the historical truth of the Star Wars narrative — i.e., completely insane. But without making the presumption that this belief is insane, you can’t just pin all disagreement on arational “historical/cultural factors.” Scholars of actual history also debate which sources to trust, and at least in some cases rely on objective publicly available evidence. Many Christians would likewise say they have good reasons for trusting some sources or traditions more than others; they may be wrong, but that can’t be presumed independently of the question of whether there are good reasons to accept Christianity in the first place.

        3. Peter

          I think it’s slightly more complicated than that; there’s a distinction between “pure outsiders” who don’t have a lot to do with a religion, and ex-members and those who have seriously considered joining it who do.

          My example – for a while I decided to seriously investigate Christianity. This involved looking at it from various angles, such as the attitudes and beliefs of those Christians I had around me as examples, and also reading the Bible.

          Let’s just say there are various passages in the Bible I have irreconcilable differences with; I don’t want to go into details. Then I look at the Christians around me, who seem OK, despite the passages, and think “did we just read the same book?” Some people seem to have quite strong powers of reading things into or out of the Bible or other texts (see also: the Constitution of the USA) which are far beyond my literal-minded powers. Often this seems to produce sensible and humane (a cynic might say “read: liberal”) views.

          I’m left with a view of believers – well, those I have personal contact with – as having transcended the theoretical deficiencies of their religion. On the one hand, it’s much better than them not having transcended those deficiencies, on the other hand my sense of honesty prevents me from doing it myself.

          This of course has severe problems as a public “debating position”. Your firebrand confrontational atheist has a nice emotionally straightforward message, and the fuzzy-headed “religions are lovely really, just not for me” (often accompanied by “and those icky conservatives are mangling their religions”) is also emotionally straightforward. The “transcended the theoretical deficiencies” view is not exactly a peacemaking message but not exactly “rallying the troops” either; at best it’s a recipe for détente, and only if you’re lucky enough to be surrounded by understanding counterparts.

          So in general, I suspect that people who have that position largely tend to keep their mouths shut. It’s what I do most of the time.

          1. Troy

            That’s fair enough — in rejecting a religion one seems to need to have some idea of what it is that one’s rejecting. So it does seem that a non-Christian must be able to sat least that there are some things that Christianity is not — that whatever it is, it’s not this really watered-down thing that I would actually be willing to accept.

            Our positions may be reconcilable if we said that an outsider to religion R can reasonably view R as a disjunction of a bunch of different theologies whereas only an insider can reasonably view a particular theology as the true teaching of R. But I will have to think more about it.

          2. Jill

            In the video I mentioned, the prof said “Don’t take my word for it. Try to get into a discussion of religious dogma with people and see how many can stay awake.” Of course they say they believe it. They’d be thrown out of their church if they admitted they don’t think about the religious dogma at all.

            But try to get people into a serious discussion of it and see how far you get.

            Myths of the Modern American Mind: Religion
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tuGXtcVc330

          3. suntzuanime

            Just because I fall asleep in electrical engineering class doesn’t mean I don’t believe in Ohm’s Law.

            Traditionally people hire electricians to deal with hooking up their outlets and whatever, and do not have to engage with the Deep Mysteries. That doesn’t mean they don’t sincerely plug in their toasters and truly expect them to work.

          4. Troy

            suntzuanime is right that people can believe propositions which they don’t fully understand or appreciate the first-order arguments for on the basis of authority. But even if you insist that real religious believers need to be able to have a “serious discussion” about theology, you’re vastly overgeneralizing if you think none can. Go ahead, you’re welcome to get into a discussion of religious dogma with me. I promise I won’t fall asleep.

          5. Edward Scizorhands

            And there is a vast difference between denominations on how they handle dogma. Vast. Wide. Yuge.

  27. Jill

    If anyone needs proof that the Red tribe voters are easy marks who will vote for anyone with an R behind their name, look at this. The current presidential candidate shows no consistency whatsoever. But consistency of policies, or policies at all, matter not at all to Red tribe voters.

    A Full List of Donald Trump’s Rapidly Changing Policy Positions
    http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2016-election/full-list-donald-trump-s-rapidly-changing-policy-positions-n547801?cid=eml_onsite

    The Red tribe’s political donors and beneficiaries are in a very enviable position. They can do or say whatever they want, before, during, and after the election, and still elected or get their agenda carried out.

    This is a triumph of the emotionally oriented fact-free propaganda strategy that Right Wing media has successfully used for years. Trump isn’t the end of the GOP. He’s its greatest triumph. If he wins, Pence will do whatever the GOP establishment desires. And next time the GOP’s “populist” voters will vote for the next person with an R behind his name, as long as he makes them feel good, by scaring them and then “saving” them, and makes a few false promises about what he’ll supposedly do when elected.

    1. Winfried

      I can trust someone who is highly principled with almost anything important to me, or at least I know what I can’t trust them with and what I can.

      I can trust someone that I am paying to take care if things that are important to me. In a similar manner, I can trust those that tie their egos into what they are doing for/with me.

      I have long since lost faith in the idea that government is governed by moral principles, although I really wish this was the case. After that hurdle, I realize that my taxes are not voluntary payments for goods and services provided.

      I’m not in a demographic majority or even a recognized component of a viable coalition. I’m not part of the 1% or part of any group that politicians of either side would recognize as their own. I don’t have power or money to bend their ear.

      So, I can’t trust in the principles of government, I don’t have a voluntary relationship to trust in, and I can’t trust in them having my best interests at heart through their self-interest.

      I’m at least open to the idea of trusting in ego if I have exhausted trusting in greed, and Trump’s ego is enormous.

      1. Lumifer

        What do you mean by “trust”?

        If you mean it as “having my interests at heart”, well, you’re SOL on that front.

        But if you mean it as “predictable”, as in “I trust it to do what it always does”, the government isn’t too bad.

        1. Winfried

          If you don’t like what the government is already doing in certain areas, predicting that they coast in their current direction and continue to grow their power and influence isn’t a positive outlook.

          1. Jill

            This is complicated by the fact that a politician campaigning on smaller government is not necessarily going to do that once in office. W campaigned on smaller government but did the opposite once in office.

          2. FacelessCraven

            @Jill – “W campaigned on smaller government but did the opposite once in office.”

            And that is a big part of why, as has been pointed out a dozen times or more in this thread, the Republican Establishment has just had over a dozen of their preferred front-men publicly mulched by a ludicrous upstart. You think Trump is the worst we can do? Oh man, we’re just getting warmed up.

    2. Corey

      I think at least some of that is due to Clinton being the opponent; there’s little Trump could conceivably do to make him worse than Hillary Clinton in Republican eyes. (For a short time he even professed support for higher taxes on the wealthy – something that I was sure would be the final straw).

      I think if it was Generic Democrat running, some of that effect would still be there, but we’d see more crossover voters – it’d be like Bill Clinton v. Dole in 96, where they called it as soon as election shows started IIRC.

      1. cassander

        >For a short time he even professed support for higher taxes on the wealthy – something that I was sure would be the final straw).

        And has this made you re-assess your opinions on what motivates republicans? Because if not, it should.

        1. Corey

          I was being a bit snarky, but yes, it’s been clear for some time that the plutocrats lost control of the GOP coalition (e.g. the debt ceiling clusterfucks). Today the Make America White Again subgroup is in control, and (according to an insider ITT) the theocrats are temporarily reluctantly on board while they figure out where to go from here.

          1. Garrett

            Try considering that the part that the GOP coalition hated about the debt ceiling issue was not dragging it on further. They had the government reduced by ~10%. And then they squandered that by not only agreeing to increase the debt ceiling but to increase spending even more.

    3. Mark V Anderson

      No, you have this backwards. Many people want to defeat those with a D, and that can only be done with an R. It isn’t because the R’s are so popular. And this definitely goes both ways. I live in a Blue area and there are many here that would never ever vote for an R. How about you, Jill? Would you ever vote for an R?

      90% of voters vote against who they don’t like, not for who they do like.

      1. Jill

        “90% of voters vote against who they don’t like, not for who they do like.”

        That’s true. And is probably why bashing demonizing politics is so wildly effective in getting votes. If tons of people vote for your party’s candidate because the other party is “the Anti Christ”, then your guy still gets elected.

        It wasn’t always this way though. AS mentioned in the vox.com article about Norm Ornstein that I linked to earlier, Newt Gingrich is repsonsible for the most recent wave of demonization politics, and it’s been highly successful of course.

    4. cassander

      Given the numerous, factual errors people have pointed out you making in this and other threads, Jill, I’d suggest against accusing anyone else of spouting fact free propaganda.

    5. JDG1980

      The current presidential candidate shows no consistency whatsoever.

      This is not true. He has been inconsistent on many issues, but on the core belief that American foreign policy should put American interests first, he’s been consistent for nearly three decades.

      Take a look at this ad that Trump ran way back in 1987. It matches up with the same stuff he’s saying this election cycle about how America’s allies aren’t pulling their weight and should be made to contribute more to the defense of the West, and how the trade deficit is a threat to American interests.

      Trump has also been very consistent about getting “tough on crime” and not paying much attention to civil liberties (way back when, he ran an ad calling for the execution of the alleged Central Park attackers). I don’t particularly like this part, but you can’t say it’s just a passing fad. He clearly believes it.

      1. Winfried

        It’s a little more difficult to fault him for specific consistency over general consistency when he outright says he’s a negotiator first and foremost.

        If I’m negotiating with friends or with honest people, I try to speak plainly and ask for what I want and what I can offer. There’s usually not much compromise needed.

        I’ve been working on buying a house and my strategy is much less open and direct, but still all in good faith and in a way that could end with a win win situation and good feelings all around. I’ve been through 4 rounds of initial offers and two for the repairs. It’s changed a few percentage points.

        I’ve bought two used cars in the past and sold three of my own and one for a friend. I felt like I needed a tape recorder, a lawyer, and a suit of armor to make some of these deals. Some of the offers have swung back and forth in multiple rounds of double digit percents.

        Politics on the national and international level certainly isn’t the first type of situation and it might not even be the second. It’s not quite on par with the third, but it’s closer than I’d like it to be.

    6. Outis

      Instead, we got proof that you don’t understand the Red tribe or Trump, but we did not need that.

  28. The original Mr. X

    I was surprised to hear that Christianity is viewed as non-threatening, given how many people seem to think that America is only ever one wedding cake or abortion away from setting up a string of concentration camps to exterminate the gays and feminists.

    1. Scott Alexander Post author

      Even when people say this, I rarely hear that it’s “the Christians” who are going to be doing the exterminating. It’s “the conservatives” or “the whites” or something.

    2. Jill

      How many people think that? I haven’t met any who do and I live in a very Blue area.

      This is a false equivalence. A few Blue tribe folks think Trump has some Hitler like qualities– and then someone goes thinking that there are just as many liberals who have demonized Republicans as vice versa. There is actual evidence that authoritarianism is a common trait of a large percentage of Trump supporters.

      The best predictor of Trump support isn’t income, education, or age. It’s authoritarianism.
      http://www.vox.com/2016/2/23/11099644/trump-support-authoritarianism

      It’s unlikely for the numbers to be equal. Which one is worse? Your own outgroup of course. Maybe Hitler’s party in Germany found a flaw or 2 in their opponent party and tried to convince everyone that the opponent party was equally as bad. Maybe they were successful in convincing people, huh? People do seem to be very often persuaded by the false equivalence argument.

      Two politically opposed parties are not always equal in their flaws. And to assume so is ridiculous.

      One in four Americans think Obama may be the antichrist, survey says.
      https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/apr/02/americans-obama-anti-christ-conspiracy-theories

      “The study revealed that 13% of respondents thought Obama was “the antichrist”, while another 13% were “not sure” – and so were at least appeared to be open to the possibility that he might be. “

      1. orangecat

        “The study revealed that 13% of respondents thought Obama was “the antichrist”, while another 13% were “not sure” – and so were at least appeared to be open to the possibility that he might be. “

        And over half of Democrats believe it’s very or somewhat likely that Bush deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen. In both cases, I expect many respondents are interpreting the question as a proxy for “Is [Obama|Bush] a bad person?”

    3. John Schilling

      The desire to exterminate gays may now be viewed as a fundamental aspect of Republicans, not one of Christians.

      1. Troy

        Exactly. As I note below, now the line is that the Republicans don’t understand their own religion, which doesn’t actually teach opposition to homosexuality.

      2. Jill

        Sometimes you read about a pastor or 2 who wants this. I can’t imagine there are enough people who want this that we should be discussing them now.

        Of course, “journalists” write about odd things to get clicks on their articles. But really.

      3. TomFL

        The last person to kill 50 gay people in a bar was a Democrat by my count, but he was No True Scotsman as we all know. But I can see where painting every Republican as wishing to exterminate gays with almost zero evidence is a strong argument.

  29. Jill

    The major allegiances of both political parties are to donors. The challenge is to get voters to vote for the parties, even though both parties are going to do mainly what their donors have legally bribed them to do. Not that hard though, as voters seem to have the attention span of a gnat, and when candidates don’t keep their promises, no one seems to notice much– or at least they don’t do anything about it, like change parties.

    The Dems do throw a few more bones to the 99.99% than Republicans do, if only out of necessity, because Republicans have a huge Right Wing propaganda machine that gets lots of voters tol vote for anyone with an R behind his name, and gets them to see the other party as the Anti Christ. You can see by the current GOP presidential nominee how few qualifications the guy with the R behind his name needs to have.

    He has no qualifications whatsoever for the office– and he just entertains people and also scares them. And then he acts like a macho/alpha/bully/fool with certainty in order to seem strong and brave and get votes. It’s basically a “Big Strong Daddy to Protect You in this Dangerous World” kind of appeal. No facts, consistent policies, or rationality necessary.

  30. FullMeta_Rationalist

    Wait, why this is novel. I Can Tolerate Anything Except The Outgroup boils down to “political influence is rivalrous”. Did you guys think physical distance was something other than a proxy for political influence?

  31. Lexington

    Not to entirely discount the basic thesis (which I think has merit), but it seem like Religion vs. Atheism debates dying out has a lot more to do with web use trends – people have moved away from open debate forums to self-selecting Facebook groups where 95% of people whose content you see are part of your larger “tribe.” Inter-tribal conflicts are going to be much more prevalent in this situation.

    1. GT

      You are pretty much reformulating the thesis here. The idea is that the groups are getting so isolated that they’re starting the see the other group as a far group rather than an out group.

      1. Lexington

        Maybe. It’s a cart/horse thing. I just don’t think that it’s being driven by group dynamics so much as the changing ways that people interact on the web. Atheists and the religious probably don’t see each other as any less of an outgroup so much as they have fewer interactions due to self-curated social media keeping the two groups from having a mutual forum to antagonize each other, at least in a long-form way. From what I’ve seen, the they’re still at each other’s throats over, say, Twitter.

  32. candles

    I like this article, but I think it’s important not to abstract away details of the groups in question too much.

    The Democratic party, as a coalition, actually has a real and profound problem on their hands.

    In recent decades, the party often had distinct high/low coalition thing going on, with educated, well-off, much more ideological liberals who support the bureaucracy (and often make it up) making promises of government programs to a much larger pool of less educated, less well-off voters (who often came minority communities), who tended to be much less ideological. And the game for Democrats was to get those voters out to the polls. The most important point to note here is that the well-educated liberals, as well-educated liberals, had access to organization and press in a way that poor uneducated people who actually need government programs never do, for all the obvious reasons. But that meant that it was always educated well-off liberals speaking for their poor, uneducated base. Given that well-off, educated, highly ideological liberals have their own set of interests, this heavily colored what they pushed for, and what they used their rhetoric for.

    The post-2008 financial crisis has actually upended this arrangement in some crucial ways; most specifically, the life prospects of many of the highly educated children of those well-off, well-educated liberals are much, much worse. And they’re no longer mainly in the position of wanting to steer the bureaucracy to fulfill their own ideological beliefs, they actually need legitimate material help from the system (for things like student loans debt relief, and dealing with crushing housing markets that have gone utterly out of control recently). Many of them are hitting their 30’s still waiting for their lives to start. And because they are well educated, and capable of organizing with each other, they don’t have to wait for the fat, complacent old liberals to speak for them, the way that poor minorities generally have to.

    I don’t think the Democratic coalition, as currently constituted, is set up to handle this challenge. Anyway, that, to me, is the root of this particular vicious acrimony. Clinton vs Obama in 2008 was divisive, but it mostly about personality and identity politics. I think the age split between Sanders and Clinton represents something much more seismic that the existing Democratic party absolutely does not want to address (and my read on Trump and the Republican party is very similar in a bunch of ways).

    1. Lumifer

      The post-2008 financial crisis has actually upended this arrangement in some crucial ways; most specifically, the life prospects of many of the highly educated children of those well-off, well-educated liberals are much, much worse.

      Citation needed. There has been a lot of data showing that college-educated people don’t have much in the way of an unemployment problem, it’s uneducated manual-labor workers who have been found to be unnecessary. I don’t think the “life prospects” of the highly educated are worse than they used to be before 2008. The two things that changed are the cost of education (and notice that higher education is almost exclusively a Blue-tribe world) and — I’m less certain about this — expectations which got inflated beyond measure. SSC mentioned before that there are great many highly educated young people who are very disappointed that no one is lining up to pay them a lot of money to sit and pontificate about Very Important Problems of the World.

    2. FacelessCraven

      @Candles – Precisely this. There is a general feeling (rightly or wrongly, doesn’t really matter) that things suck and are getting worse. The current political establishment has promised to fix things, hasn’t done so, and faith in their promises is in serious decline. The masses conclude that the establishment is either unwilling or unable to fix things, stop supporting them, and go looking for alternatives.

  33. Two McMillion

    With regard to the atheism thing, my impression is that the internet has become fairly heavily Balkinized. My family is fairly heavily Red Tribe; my friends tilt towards Blue Tribe, and there’s very little crossover between them.

    I’m too young to remember the days Scott is talking about, but if the internet has become more Balkinized over time, this would explain the atheism observation Scott makes fairly well- Christians and atheists have just gravitated towards different parts of the internet where there aren’t very many of the other.

    1. Two McMillion

      This can also explain the shift from religious debates to debates over social justice: with the religious gone to their own corners of the internet, debate has now shifted to intra-atheist affairs. The people in the Christian sides of the internet have their own internal debates, as I know from experience.

  34. Alsadius

    I think the rise of Trump is actually a case of rapprochement. He’s a functional agnostic, perhaps the first one the Republicans have ever nominated. Non-Christians are seeming a lot less like a scary outgroup to evangelicals than they used to be, I’d wager.

    1. Two McMillion

      I don’t think it’s ever been as simple as non-Christians being a scary outgroup. My experience in conservative Christian culture has led me to identify three strands in this kind of thinking:

      – Consider a candidate’s Christianity for Christianity’s sake: These people definitely exist. However, the ones I know also tend to believe that the US should be a theocracy and refuse to vote at all because doing so would mean they approved of our godless current system of government. This seems to be the smallest group. This group tends to hate Trump at least as much as the left does.
      – Consider a candidate’s Christianity as a proxy for that candidate not being “weird”: This group seems to be much larger. The defining sign of this group is that they’re freaked out by a candidate who does anything not sufficiently mainstream. Yeah, they wouldn’t like an atheist, but they also wouldn’t like someone who was really into anime. They object less to atheists and more to “those atheists”. An atheist who can convince them that xir’s not Richard Dawkins can probably do okay with them. This group tends to be much more nominal in their Christianity. This group tends to be either okay with Trump (he hits the right cultural buttons), or intend to grudgingly vote for him because he’s better than Hillary.
      – Dislike anyone who believes things more strongly than they do: This seems to be the largest group of all. There’s some overlap with the last group, of course. These people wouldn’t like an outspoken atheist, but they also wouldn’t like one of the people in the first group who thinks the US should be a theocracy.

      1. John Schilling

        However, the ones I know also tend to believe that the US should be a theocracy and refuse to vote at all because doing so would mean they approved of our godless current system of government.

        I know a fair number of people, some of them blood relatives, who have no problem with the United States being a Christian, Democratic Nation in which Christian voters can and should elect Christian leaders.

    2. Winfried

      I have been more than a little surprised that the people in my social groups who have made lots of noise about how disgusted they were by the openly religious campaigns of the Republicans in the past seem to give no thought or credit to how little this has figured in Trump’s campaign.

      1. Jill

        I’m not surprised. Religious folks are simply one set of fact-free emotion oriented voters. Trump is fact free and emotion oriented enough for them, although he doesn’t share their exact beliefs on religion.

        1. Winfried

          I don’t think my point came across clearly.

          There are some people I know who have railed on and on about how the Evangelicals took over the GOP and were the #1 threat to not only our country but the world.

          Now that the current nominee isn’t in the pocket of the religious right to any appreciable degree, they have not acknowledged it and don’t even seem to realize it.

          Either things have drastically changed in the last decade (either with the world or their assessment of the relative dangers of various threats) or they were just signaling outrage about their political adversaries.

          1. Jill

            Maybe the fear of an authoritarian fundamentalist Christian theocracy has been supplanted by the fear of an authoritarian president who is not fundamentalist, but still thinks he is some kind of king.

            Most of us are pretty bad at predicting how our political opponents will act in changing circumstances. Most Blue tribe members never expected that Trump would get this far or have this many supporters.

            And I don’t think Red tribe folks are likely to guess right about why Blue tribers talk less lately about a threat from a Christian theocracy that seems to not be on the horizon any more currently. It’s likely just because it is not the primary threat on the horizon currently. And the threat that is here looks bad enough to demand most of our attention.

          2. Corey

            Oh, we noticed, did some pointing and laughing at e.g. “Two Corinthians” and the pic of Falwell Jr with Trump in front of Trump’s framed Playboy cover.
            I think mostly we’re just perplexed – whence the support for someone so cartoonishly nonreligious?

          3. Cerebral Paul Z.

            The “evangelical takeover of the GOP” always reminded me of the scene in an Underdog cartoon where the villains have lashed Sweet Polly Purebred to a conveyor which seems to be taking her at an alarming speed toward the spinning saw blade– but every time we cut back to her, somehow she’s no closer to it than she was the time before.

          4. FacelessCraven

            @Corey – “I think mostly we’re just perplexed – whence the support for someone so cartoonishly nonreligious?”

            Conservative Evangelical Christian here. I think the Culture War to impose Christian Government on America was an awful, horrifying mistake and want nothing more to do with it. I see a fair amount of similar thoughts in my community; the main issues are how to disengage without being routed (gay wedding cakes figure strongly here) and where to form the new trenches.

  35. Dave

    I’m not sure how things will go on the Republican side. I haven’t seen the same signs of rapprochement from them – but then Republicans have never shown the same tendency to sympathize with poor exotic fargroups that Democrats do. But I also don’t know as many Republicans and maybe if this were happening I would miss it.

    I think this is happening, and is behind Republican sympathy for Bernie Sanders (while Trump’s praise of Sanders and appeals to Sanders voters are probably insincere, there’s clearly a lot less hate among Republicans for Sanders than for Clinton).

    Generally you’d never expect an openly socialist candidate to get sympathy, even insincere or ill-informed, from Republicans, but I suspect socialism has become a “fargroup” for the right. A typical Trump supporter may know very few Sanders supporters, or if they do, they can commiserate on vague ideas like “the system is broken” or specific ideas like trade agreements and ignore the other vast gulfs between them.

    1. E. Harding

      “Generally you’d never expect an openly socialist candidate to get sympathy, even insincere or ill-informed, from Republicans, but I suspect socialism has become a “fargroup” for the right.”

      -Either that, or just an enemy of an enemy.

      1. The Nybbler

        I think the latter, enemy of enemy. With no policy issues at stake (since Bernie isn’t going to get elected), it’s easy for Trump supporters to sympathize with Bernie..

  36. Jiro

    Talking about how poor they are and how sympathetic we should be and how we need to be more educated in order to understand what they’re going through all sound like instances of fargroup exoticization to me.

    Are you sure that that isn’t a loss in sympathy for the poor instead of a gain in sympathy for the right?

    The left has always claimed to support the poor, and the left has gained a certain measure of support from the poor, but the left has been led by the elites, and this may just be a sign that they’re finally coming out and admitting it.

  37. John Nerst

    A tangent: I also remember atheism vs religion being the big internet slap fight fifteen years ago the way social justice is today. I just thought my interests had changed but if other people notice it too then maybe the change is real.

    You’d expect constant argumentation to lead to more sophisticated positions and greater understanding, but that doesn’t seem to have happened. Maybe it’s the decentralized nature of the debate, with new people coming into the fray all the time and the sense of hopelessness emerging more as a kind of cultural learning.

    The lack of progress is striking. Despite decades of Internet debating (and centuries of non-internet debating), religion vs atheism still seems to suffer from some simple but important misunderstandings. Atheists typically don’t understand that religion is not about beliefs, and that, accordingly, religious people don’t mean the same thing by “believe” as nerdy rationalist-type people do. Even high-level atheists like Dawkins seem to make mistakes like this. In turn I wager most religious people don’t understand reductionism at all, or the fact-value distinction.

    Expecting
    short inferential distances
    is probably to blame for this, if not most interminable debates. If texts like Simler’s essay or understanding of reductionism were common knowledge among internet debaters the way spotting logical fallacies is, then debates like this could progress to higher meta-levels (rather than peter out with no payoff because people get tired of rehashing the same object level points).

    Either this isn’t happening or it’s happening to slowly for me to notice.

    If religion vs atheism dies down with no resolution or even much progress, will this happen with social justice too? I already see signs of this fatigue on reddit and such. People are familiar with the regular arguments and the disagreements start to follow more standardized patterns. Is it just me?

    What if this kind of debate fatigue turns out to be a general pattern that happens regardless of topic, and everyone learns by experience that argumentation accomplishes nothing?

    Then there is the recent research about how opinions are basically pre-rational (Haidt etc.), and how argumentation and reason originated as tools for manipulating others (like Mercier and Sperber argues) and not as ways to think. What if that becomes part of the cultural consciousness like Freudian psychoanalysis has? Are we on the verge of completely losing confidence in rational argumentation? Or maybe, more optimistically, people will grow tired of bad debating and be more aware of the obstacles we face in trying to be rational. I suspect this is one of those “has to get worse before it gets better” kinds of thing.

    1. Scott Alexander Post author

      I think social justice might have more life to it since there are more real-world implications. You can always just accuse some organization of being sexist, then accuse them of erasing you if they try not to talk about the issue. I can’t see how that kind of thing would stop happening unless everyone agreed to never take it seriously (which would be a mistake, since sometimes it’s true). I don’t know if religion has a similar way of forcing itself to be relevant.

      1. Anonanon

        which would be a mistake, since sometimes it’s true

        When false positives threaten to consume your society in a self-perpetuating cultural revolution of purges and struggle sessions, maybe a few false negatives are a small price to pay.

        1. Nornagest

          I’m no fan of Social Justice, but that strikes me as slightly beyond the realistic near-term threat it presents.

          Unless by “your society” you mean “the Social Justice movement”, but I have a feeling you wouldn’t care much about them eating their young.

          1. suntzuanime

            In the medium term, we’re mostly still alive. In the long term, we may have children, or at least nephpersons, whose status we care about.

      2. suntzuanime

        Just because it’s sometimes true doesn’t mean it’s a mistake to agree not to take it seriously. First off, there’s the question of, even if it’s sometimes true, how good of a predictor is it? If you point at random objects and shout “a duck!”, sometimes you will be pointing at a duck, but we should not take you seriously in our duck-finding quest. But even assuming for the sake of argument that Social Justice identifies sexists at a rate better than chance, there’s still the issue of whether it’s safe to cede that much political power to the Inquisition. Concerns like those raised in http://lesswrong.com/lw/in/scientific_evidence_legal_evidence_rational/

      3. John Nerst

        I wonder if exposure to the crazier ideas tends to act as inoculation against the reasonable ones. That sems to be a common pattern elsewhere, hearing the bailey first scaring you away from the motte. That was certainly the case for me and postmodernism. Some things that fall under the umbrella of alternative medicine or conspiracy theories could also fit.

        Sort of like the “bingo cards”.

  38. eyeballfrog

    “There’s a Scientologist Church just a couple of miles from my house, and I recognize that Scientologists do some pretty horrible things, but none of them affect me, or people close to me, or values that I have a personal connection with”

    Aren’t you a psychiatrist? Scientology does not take a very high view of you or your profession.

    1. Scott Alexander Post author

      That’s true, but as far as I know they never actually succeed at doing any damage to us. I’ve never encountered any or had a problem with them.

      1. Saint Fiasco

        Not encountering a problem may be a very bad thing, if the problem is a patient and you don’t encounter them because a scientologist convinced him not to visit a psychiatrist.

        1. John Schilling

          I’m going to hazard a guess that Scott is in no way short of patients. Patience, maybe…

          And even if it is bad for the patient, if Scott and his colleagues are generally not short of patients it means that some people who should be psychiatric patients are in fact not going to be (or will be the patients only of harried overworked psychiatrists). If Scientology is the part mechanism by which this subset is determined, that’s not necessarily any worse than any other mechanism for “sorry, nope, you’re one of the sick ones who doesn’t get to see the doctor today”.

  39. Lumifer

    Let me propose some definitions:

    Ingroup: creatures with whom your System 1 feels kinship and solidarity.

    Outgroup: creatures whom your System 1 perceives as a threat or as competition.

    Fargroup: creatures whom your System 1 feels are not much of a threat or competition.

    Do you this is in the ballpark of being correct?

    Hyperpartisanship is very common in history where it is usually called internecine (or fratricidal) struggle. Since we’ve been talking about WW2, a notable example is Comrade Stalin who was so preoccupied with killing the outgroup in the ranks of his own government, army, and secret service, that he completely mis-estimated the threat from the fargroup Nazis who were doing something-or-other in far-off Western Europe.

      1. Winfried

        OT: Though I don’t agree with your positions any more than I did, your updated posting style is head and shoulders more conducive to a productive atmosphere than it was.

        Thank you.

  40. Theodidactus

    Everyone and Particularly Scott.

    I’ve noticed the conspicuous disappearance of the great bible wars as well, and I was actually going to make an open thread post about raised fundamentalist vs. raised catholic vs. raised etc. atheists, so I’m glad you brought it up.

    Your observations certainly track with my experience. Another factor though might be the retreat of the wilder excesses of Christianity into their motte. In my social network, at least, I’ve seen the religious folks I know adopt a much more ‘live-and-let-live’ approach as they’ve realized their primary weapons just aren’t working. It’s harder to assail them as they rarely make positive claims. When they do fight, they use the weapons of the social justice wars. To some extent this is certainly a bias of my own bubble. I notice I see a lot less of my fire-and-brimstone friends than I used to, which I really don’t like, as I really do enjoy having earnest discussions with believers on faith and it informs a lot of my writing and learning.

    1. Two McMillion

      There was a period of time where openly proclaiming highly religious views got you acclaim and status. That’s become a lot less true lately, especially on social media, so it’s not surprising to me that it happens much less often.

  41. TheAncientGeek

    Theres something similar in relation to Brexit. Leave votes were weak in cosmopolitan areas, where natives get their information about foreigners from interactions with foreigners, but strong in more monocultural areas ….. although I would say that was more a case of getting information from the media.

    1. Peter

      To be fair to the 52%: the votes-for-Brexit and exposure-to-immigrants maps aren’t complete matches. I think the big exception is Peterborough, which has both lots of immigrants and a big Leave vote. Compare with for example nearby Cambridge, one of the biggest Remain voting places, and with a pretty high foreign-born population too.

      It seems that immigration can have successes and failures. If there’s lots of immigration nearby, you can look to see how it’s going – mostly good, but not always, so results will vary, but tend to be pro-immigrant. But bad news travels more easily than good (especially when the Daily Mail and Daily Express get in on the action), so people without much contact will get a biased view.

      1. Tom Hunt

        I would suggest that the origin of that geographical overlap doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with degree of information available. Rather, I submit that most individuals have a preexisting degree of ideological cosmopolitanism, correlated with leftism and the rest of the tribal/geographic factors that come along with it, and 1. people with low cosmopolitanism tend to remove themselves from places with high recent migration, and vice versa; 2. migrants tend to settle in the places that are conspicuously signalling openness to migrants (even though this is for ideological reasons rather than any real fundamental compatibility). Reality needn’t actually impinge on anyone’s ideological beliefs; among people I know, only very few of them (not including me) hold a given political belief because its prescriptions would directly affect their actual lives.

  42. TexasTexasTexasTexasTexasTexasTexas

    “but then Republicans have never shown the same tendency to sympathize with poor exotic fargroups that Democrats do.”

    Middle Eastern Christians. Most Christians who are in a minority in their home country. Probably Jewish people, especially Israelis.

    1. The original Mr. X

      Lots of Republicans view Christians as their in-group, not their far-group.

  43. August Hurtel

    I suggest reading Explanation of Ideology: Family Structure & Social System by Emmanuel Todd.
    People may seem very similar, but in actuality be farther apart than the example of the Nazis and the Japanese.

  44. Zombielicious

    Re: Bernie vs Clinton vs Trump, I came away from the primaries with a fairly different analysis. Scott’s description seems to put too little emphasis on the alleged “party realignments” going on.

    From a blue tribe perspective, the difference between Bernie and Clinton is vast. It’s larger than the difference between Clinton and most Republicans, and on the same scale as the difference between Clinton and Trump. The same is likely true about Trump vs other Republicans, but (not being red-tribe at all) I’m not sure that’s more than a superficial difference in Trump’s rhetoric – I’m kind of skeptical Trump actually wants to be President and would do anything but turn the decision making over to GOP elites if he’s elected.

    What I am fairly sure about is that Trump is a giant wild card in the Republican party who is sowing chaos and alienating other Republicans. If you’re mostly blue tribe and view the Republicans as a group of Sith Lords holding back civilization, this is a good thing.

    This pretty well explains some of the lack of hostility towards Trump. He’s fracturing the Republican party and the stuff he’s said will be held against them for years. If elected, he’ll have more or less solidified that the New Republican Party is a European-style white nationalist party similar to the National Front or Golden Dawn, not to mention a non-negligible chance he may end up impeached. On the other hand, if he loses, the Republicans will just call him a RINO and go back to running neocons and evangelicals. A Trump win would be four years of Bad For The World, but then an era of Good For Blue Tribe (and if you’re blue tribe then also good for the world). As I’ve put it when justifying not voting for Clinton, “I trust the country to survive four years of Trump more than I trust it to survive continued control by the two parties we currently have.”

    On the other hand, to the Sanders crowd, Clinton is basically a neocon in blue tribe clothing. She’s one of the most hawkish candidates out of the entire primary, is openly supported by literal neocons (who are simultaneously disconnecting from Trump), has turned the Democrats into the new anti-Russia, Iraq War-defending, Kissinger-defending, Syria-warmongering party, etc. To a large portion of blue tribe it looks like the party realignment has resulted in Democrats = New Republicans, Republicans = New White Nationalism, Sanders = New Blue Tribe.

    So either I’m falling prey to the neargroup tendencies described, or else the neargroup/fargroup analogy isn’t necessarily a great descriptor here. Blue tribe (the amorphous blob, separate from the Clinton campaign) is weak on criticizing Trump because his nomination is a strategic advantage for them, and both parties are experiencing unusually virulent infighting because they’re in the middle of major realignments which will affect their long-term policy goals and cultural demographics. The ingroup coalitions seem to be actually breaking up and the pieces merging to form new ingroups/outgroups. I’m not sure how long that will continue until the dust settles, or what the new landscape will look like, but I think the specific causes underlying it are more of a factor than just the rise of echo chambers and filter bubbles.

    tl;dr: The object level matters too.

    1. Mercer

      At the risk of sounding rude, I think you’re falling prey to neargroup tendencies and misunderstanding the current Red Tribe situation.

      Donald Trump is troubling for establishment Republicans, but he is not at all troubling for the Red Tribe. The Red Tribe is ecstatic about him. The reason he’s a problem for the former is because he actually represents the Red Tribe, unlike establishment Republicans who’ve historically tried to placate and moderate them. As a Blue Tribe liberal, you shouldn’t be happy about this at all. Its basically the worst possible thing that could happen politically.

      You can’t just collapse political factions into tribes. This isn’t the point of Tribe as a lens. If it was, there’s no reason to use the word. Sanders is absolutely leading a distinct political faction from Clinton, but they’e both Blue Tribe.

      Sanders is a true believer. Clinton is a cynic. The cynic is going to slow the wheels on your movement for a time, sure. But the enemy, the actual enemy, has no interest in “slowing down” your movement. It wants to destroy the whole thing.

      Why does Clinton appear to have much in common with establishment Republicans? Because they’re also cynics. They try to pacify the Red Tribe in much the same way Clinton is trying to pacify Sanders. And in fact, the distance between them and Trump is arguably greater, because the previous ruling Republicans were neoconservatives, which are disaffected Blue Tribers. Thats why neocons and social conservatives were always such an unholy alliance.

      1. Jill

        Red Tribe folks believe that Trump is going to represent them rather than the .01%. But there is absolutely no evidence that he will follow through on promises made, or even remember them once in office. He doesn’t seem to have much of an attention span. He’s an entertainer. The guy Pence he chose, who will probably be his “Cheney” if he is elected and do all the work of government, is an establishment Republican.

        Trump doesn’t need to be a problem either for the Red tribe or for establishment Republicans– although I wish he were. The establishment Republican media has propagandized the Red tribe into always voting GOP because they think the other tribe is the Anti Christ. And Trump can’t even keep a thought in his mind for a minute, much less threaten the establishment.

        1. John Schilling

          Red Tribe folks believe that Trump is going to represent them rather than the .01%. But there is absolutely no evidence that he will follow through on promises made, or even remember them once in office.

          While I have always, and often vocally, suspected that Trump is going to go down as one of the biggest political frauds in recent memory, I think there may be some outgroup homogeneity bias going on here. Trump may not really represent the White Working Class, but he doesn’t represent the 0.01% either. He is a member of that group only in the strictly mathematical sense. In the culture of New York Real Estate, he has always been a brash example of the difference between New Money and Old Money, to the extent that even New Money only really puts up with him when it profits them to do so.

          Which has been frequent, but the 0.01% don’t much like Donald Trump, and he knows they don’t much like him, and he doesn’t like them either. I don’t think it is terribly likely that he is going to wind up being their pawn in the Oval Office.

          1. Jill

            I think it is certain that he would end up being someone’s tool in the oval office, as long as he made a “deal” with them where he would have glory and more money. And the .01%, of which he is a member, is the most likely.

            He wouldn’t really be a pawn, I guess. It’s just that he wants low taxes for himself and other benefits from government that would benefit himself. And he wants the glory of being called president without doing any of the work. Pence would take care of the work– and he would do it in an establishment way and in a way that would lower Trump’s taxes and give him other benefits.

            There is some speculation that Trump is the pawn of Russia. And that is possible. If that’s so, and if he’s already been paid off for it, then he will protect the interests of Russia, above the interests of other people who have not yet paid him off in some kind of “deal” he would make with them.

          2. Mercer

            We’ll know if he’s going to be a tool very quickly once (if) he takes office. His continued insistence on how he’ll assemble the “smartest guys” makes me think we’re going to see status quo rule by experts where the President is just rubber stamping things. He’ll probably do something flashy (he’s a showman, after all) in his first 100 days though, and depending on the nature of that flashy we might get something worth paying attention to

            If he actually tries to fuck with the State Department or Supreme Court or even Congress, we’re going to see fireworks. He won’t end up a tool of the ultra rich, they have nothing to offer him. He may not do much to oppose them (which is as good as owning him, I guess?), but if he chooses to stand in the way of them influencing other elected officials, again, fireworks.

            Don’t be confused though, just because he may not ACHIEVE Red Tribe goals, doesn’t mean he isn’t the Red Tribes champion. Soviet Russia never ACHIEVED communism (which is why true believers can still insist communism “has never been tried”. Oh they tried all right). Just the possibility of the Red Tribe actually disrupting Washington is pretty incredible considering their low social standing and their history of losing.

          3. Zombielicious

            @Jill:
            See the intro to this article for evidence of the “Cheney” theory. Though I question the veracity of the story, given that it may just be a smear attempt by a (former) rival campaign.

          4. Jill

            LOL, a good quote from your article below. Kasich’s people never denied this, that I have heard of. But what else can anyone expect? Anyone with eyes and ears can see that Trump is incapable of doing the work required to be the U.S. president.

            “But according to the Kasich adviser (who spoke only under the condition that he not be named), Donald Jr. wanted to make him an offer nonetheless: Did he have any interest in being the most powerful vice president in history?

            “When Kasich’s adviser asked how this would be the case, Donald Jr. explained that his father’s vice president would be in charge of domestic and foreign policy.

            “Then what, the adviser asked, would Trump be in charge of?

            “Making America great again” was the casual reply.”

          5. John Schilling

            Anyone with eyes and ears can see that Trump is incapable of doing the work required to be the U.S. president.

            As someone who believes and has argued here that Trump is incapable of doing the work required to be a tolerably decent US president, No. Lots of people with eyes, ears, and three-digit IQs can’t see this. And this sort of histrionic exaggeration, beyond being simply false, is unhelpful.

          6. Corey

            @John Schilling, @onyomi: Can you explain what would make you think Trump is interesting in the work of Presidenting? All I’ve seen is a steadfast refusal to learn anything about government or civics or diplomacy, a more-or-less-nonexistent campaign (to be fair free media is doing most of the heavy lifting), and policy proposals that, when they make sense at all, don’t even hint at details (even Paul Ryan at least tries to bury the magic asterisks a bit).

            Even if I try my hardest to interpret Trump’s campaign in a “shrink govermnent to allow tax cuts” value system or even a “Make America White Again” value system I’m coming up short. What are we missing?

            AFAIK the things people like about him (anti-PC, not Hillary, are there others?) are orthogonal to Presidenting.

          7. cassander

            @Cory

            >Can you explain what would make you think Trump is interesting in the work of Presidenting?

            I’d think that running for president is a pretty good indicator of that. Campaigning is an absolutely miserable process.

            >All I’ve seen is a steadfast refusal to learn anything about government or civics or diplomacy,

            I would not confuse ability to signal wonkishness with actual wonkishness.

            >a more-or-less-nonexistent campaign (to be fair free media is doing most of the heavy lifting), and policy proposals that, when they make sense at all, don’t even hint at details

            This might be an issue when it comes to getting elected, but it doesn’t really say much about being president.

            >(even Paul Ryan at least tries to bury the magic asterisks a bit).

            please be more specific on this front.

          8. Corey

            @cassander: simplest explanation is that Trump ran as a ego/publicity stunt and/or grift (like Ben Carson, though scholars disagree about whether Carson was in on the grift or one of its marks), and unexpectedly won.

            Elsewise we have “wonkishness can’t be detected” and “policy proposals don’t matter once governing” which also don’t make sense to me, but it might not be possible to bridge our inferential gaps.

            As for Paul Ryan, his proposals tend to claim revenue neutrality, specify $X in specific tax cuts, specify $Y in specific spending cuts, X is much greater than Y, and he’ll make up the difference with unspecified “other cuts” or “wastefraudandabuse”.

          9. FacelessCraven

            @Corey – Plan specifics (as opposed to specific plans) have high downside and low upside. Government planning appears to be largely indistinguishable from random chance to the electorate; projects are always projected as cheap, easy, and the best thing since sliced bread, and then fail with varying degrees of catastrophe once implementation starts and have to be rescued via patches and workarounds after the fact. Politicians are insulated from these disasters by the party system, which Trump doesn’t have.

            Giving plan specifics will not help with the electorate. He’ll just sound like every other garbage politician. What it will do is give the entire press and both political problems a bunch of complex stuff to attack him over, completely irrespective of the actual quality of the planning*, right when he’s got them on the defense. Better to stick to articulating clear goals that are popular with his supporters, while leaving his opponents no weak point to attack.

            How much planning did Kennedy provide the public when he declared that we were going to the moon?

            *witness the debate over Obamacare in previous elections. Now imagine if Obama were a brash outsider whom the democrat establishment and the press deeply despised.

        2. Jill

          Voters who think anyone with an R behind his name is qualified, or voters who ride on anger and fear, will say he’s qualified. But they can still see he’s not qualified, if they do not cover their ears and eyes. I guess many see this but then go to a great deal of trouble to deny the obvious truth.

          Sometimes I almost hope he will win, so that people who support him can find out the realistic consequences of voting for such a person, and can emerge from their fantasy world. This is a presidential race, not a reality show.

          Going to any trouble to argue that Trump is incapable of doing the work required to be a tolerably decent US president, should not be necessary. Just turn on the TV and look at him and listen to him.

          1. Zombielicious

            Sometimes I almost hope he will win, so that people who support him can find out the realistic consequences of voting for such a person

            I wouldn’t get my hopes up. I don’t remember any of the people who threatened to beat the crap out of me for daring to say we shouldn’t invade Iraq coming back later to apologize and admit to the mistake they had made. Or hear many Obama voters (outside of my bubble) complaining about how their candidate normalized assassinations of American citizens, prosecuted 3x more whistleblowers than all the previous combined, deported more immigrants than Bush or Clinton, lied about mass-surveillance, etc.

          2. Anonanon

            Sometimes I almost hope he will win, so that people who called him double-mecha-Hitler will actually move to Mexico Canada and the level of obscene hyperbole in our public discourse will drop 1000%.

          3. Edward Scizorhands

            There are always people who say they will move to Canada if their candidate loses and then their candidate loses and then they don’t move. Every election.

          4. Outis

            Canada seems perfectly happy to accept every immigrant who gets turned down by the US. I can’t imagine they would complain if they started getting a few Americans too.

          5. Agronomous

            Canada seems perfectly happy to accept every immigrant who gets turned down by the US.

            That is not an accurate summary of Canadian immigration policy. My not-very-nuanced understanding is that they take a few refugees, and a bunch of high-skilled workers, and anybody from Hong Kong who’s a millionaire. Five million low-skilled Mexican laborers? Not so much.

            Now that I think about it, their immigration policy is of practical interest to me. And this is the first election where I’ll be able to plan the move so far in advance: July, instead of November.

          6. Nornagest

            I don’t know a lot about Canadian immigration policy, but I have eyeballed their demographic stats: 14% Asian (in 2011, probably higher now), 1.2% Latin American. It’s pretty hard to square that with “taking anyone the US rejects”.

          7. The Nybbler

            @Nornagest

            They’re taking anyone the US rejects provided they arrive by plane.

            More seriously, they do end up with a lot of Indians and Chinese who have trouble getting into the US due to quotas.

          8. Outis

            Agronomous, Nornagest: swing and a miss. The low-skilled Mexican laborers don’t get turned down by the US, they just hop the border and wait for an amnesty. I’m talking about legal immigration. All the Chinese, Indian, Iranian etc. people who try and fail to go to the US end up in Canada. Even in Europe, if you go to a university and talk to the extra-european students, they all have family or friends in Canada. They try to go to the US, fail, and then Canada just vacuums them up.

        3. GT

          The reason they believe Trump will represent them is because he managed to identify deep Red Tribe values in a way no other Republican leader has in a long while. Because Republican leaders are not Red Tribe, they are Blue Tribe people guessing at what they need to say to reach the Red Tribe. While they’re experimenting, trying to see what amount of “pro-guns” and “anti-abortion” gets the best results, Trump comes in and just nails it. Knocks it out of the park on his first swing. Turned out the magic formula was less anti-abortion, about the same amount of pro-gun, more anti-illegal immigration, less nation building and less globalization.

          Trump is unlikely to be an actual Red Tribe member; he wasn’t brought up in the right environment for it; and he has too many Blue Tribe friends for it to be plausible. But so do all other GOP leaders. Trump is different enough from the rest of the field that he could a weird mutant that works outside of the tribe metaphor. Or he could have had a real, rare, profound transition from one tribe to the other. Or, of course, his ability to see into the heart of people could some freak empathic skill he developed in his career, which he’s now using on an unprecedented scale to further his own goals. While that last one sounds plausible, don’t forget that this would be Trump’s second almost supernatural ability, with his ability to judo the media into helping him entirely against their will.

          Whether Trump is going to actually act on his promise to be their voice, the future only will tell, but you can’t blame the Red Tribe for falling for it: it’s the first time in a while someone who wasn’t doing some sort of insulting, Steve Buscemi-esque “How do you do, fellow red tribers?” routine had a real chance of leading them. And if it’s all an act, then he’s incredibly gifted. Since the other candidates, and especially Hillary, are also worthy of the same cynical analysis, it’s an easy case to make that if all your choices are liars, at least vote for the smartest one.

          1. Jiro

            Because Republican leaders are not Red Tribe, they are Blue Tribe people guessing at what they need to say to reach the Red Tribe.

            Conquest’s Third Law: The simplest way to explain the behavior of any bureaucratic organization is to assume that it is controlled by a cabal of its enemies.

          2. GT

            It doesn’t have to be a cabal. If you’re convinced that the red tribe is nothing but easily swayed idiots, it’s not a big step for blue tribe elites to independently get the idea to abuse that to get elected to office. Or more charitably, to think that the best way to help the world is to channel red tribe votes to something you consider more reasonable and productive. The mostly blue tribe media has been pretty effective until now at making sure no one from the red tribe ever got too much attention.

          3. Harry Johnston

            Isn’t it more likely that the Republican leadership / traditional candidates are simply thinking in terms of “conversative” vs. “progressive” (or whatever) rather than red tribe vs. blue tribe? That is, that they think of themselves as conservatives, and assume their voters are too?

            The idea of subcultures isn’t exactly common knowledge, after all. I’d never heard of it until I started reading SSC.

      2. Corey

        Yeah, the scary bit (for Blues) will be in 2018/20 when candidates (at multiple levels) appear and pick up Trump’s white-ethnat and protectionist-econ schtick, without picking up the cartoonishness and with actual campaign infrastructures.

        1. TomFL

          This is almost a certainty. Any politician who hasn’t sensed this is a path to future victory isn’t a very good politician. Being anti-establishment was always tried by others but they adhered to establishment rules at the same time. There was fear that breaking these rules was inviting establishment blowback that would be fatal to their campaign.

          That fear is gone.

        2. Jill

          Trump is using what has always worked to get votes from the Republican base. But he has gotten rid of the extraneous stuff. Republicans always have known this white ethnic and anti-immigrant stuff works. And they will keep using it. But now they know they don’t have to bother with any kind of appeal other than the emotional anti-other kind of appeal.

          Of course, the GOP never DOES anything about immigration even though it controls Congress, because their donors require cheap illegal labor. Trump likely also likes and makes use of cheap illegal labor, and so is unlikely to build his wall.

          Marco Rubio tried to put an immigration bill through Congress and his fellow Republicans predictably tarred and feathered him for trying. But ranting and raving about illegal immigration gets them votes, just the same.

        3. Zombielicious

          I considered that problem, but I doubt it’ll actually be that kind of long-term disaster (though I could be wrong, and boy that would suck). Mainly because I doubt a European-style white nationalist party, if that’s what Trump represents (and I may be being overly harsh), can sustain itself for many election cycles. Keep in mind that most of the Republican base voted for someone else. He won by virtue of a crowded nomination pool (17 candidates) and a crummy voting system that awards having a mere plurality. In instant-runoff or with only two or three other choices I seriously doubt he would have won. Nor do I think much of the Republican base will keep voting along their traditional, tribal lines if their party sinks to a level that makes Trump look like Cicero by comparison. More likely either they adopt some of Trump’s tactics but shift back in a more moderate direction, or else become a marginalized party and someone like the Libertarian Party, maybe even Democrats (if they get replaced by a new Sanders-esque group, such as the Greens) take their place.

          I could be very wrong about any of this, of course.

          1. John Schilling

            [Trump] won by virtue of a crowded nomination pool (17 candidates) and a crummy voting system that awards having a mere plurality. In instant-runoff or with only two or three other choices I seriously doubt he would have won.

            If the United States chose its presidents by national instant-runoff, we’d now be gearing up for a campaign between – you know the answer, right? – Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Hillary got 16 million votes in the primaries to 13 million for Trump, 12 million for Sanders, 8 million for Cruz, and 4 million for Kasich.

            Yes, you can retroactively tailor the system to prevent a Trump victory. First we split the country Democrat/Republican, Then we do instant runoff. Whatever the election, if it isn’t a landslide you can tailor the voting system to arrange any winner you like.

            But, Arrow’s Theorem. If you have to chose the voting system first, there is no system that can guarantee the victor won’t be a broadly unpopular candidate such that most voters will say, “We’d have preferred this particular other guy, what sort of crummy voting system is this that put such a complete loser in office when this particular other guy has more support?”

            No, not even that one that’s worked so well in that other country lately. Nope, not that one either, no matter how clever it seems.

          2. Zombielicious

            This is interesting, I wasn’t familiar with Arrow’s theorem. Those final vote totals don’t seem to apply, since they would be different under an instant-runoff system. I’ll have to take some time to grok the theorem since this seems pretty counterintuitive.

          3. John Schilling

            Arrow’s theorem is indeed counterintuitive, but it is true. There are a number of different illustrative proofs and quasi-proofs on the web, look around until you find one. If a majority of voters favor candidate A over candidate B, but there is at least one other candidate C that people have mixed feelings about, there is no voting system that can guarantee against B perversely defeating A if the feelings about C are mixed in the wrong way – and what constitutes the wrong way depends on what voting system you use.

            In the specific case of Trump v. Clinton et al, I’m not sure I agree that the vote totals change substantially if you change the voting methods. Most US states have open or open-ish primaries, all allow late registration change, and there is precious little evidence of tactical voting on either side even when it would clearly have made a difference. People seem to have insisted on voting for the candidate they wanted most without regard to the messy details of electoral mechanics.

          4. Zombielicious

            I’ll be sure to stop having opinions on the things I don’t know that I don’t know about, right away.

            Fwiw the “instant-runoff would have prevented Trump” argument has gone around a lot of places, so I don’t think I’m the only one unfamiliar with this counterpoint.

            (ETA: What is even the point of this? That I need to stop commenting on political stuff because of my devastating ignorance, comparable to not knowing arithmetic? Feel free to skip my posts if you think you might be contaminated by the stupidity.)

          5. FacelessCraven

            @Mark Atwood – I’ve never heard of Arrow’s Theorem before, and have opinions about political process, so I guess sign me up for the dunce cap as well.

            @Zombielicious – He’s got a chip on his shoulder, is the point.

          6. John Schilling

            There’s room for a lot of object-level political engagement, talking about or working for optimal outcomes within the existing political system, that doesn’t require understanding things like Arrow’s Theorem. Mark was a bit uncharitable there.

            It’s when you step up to the meta-level and propose the superiority of one political system over another that you really need to understand Arrow’s theorem. But we do that a lot here, and you really do need to understand it at that level or you wind up chasing a lot of wild geese.

            And almost nobody teaches it outside of specialized political-science courses, so we’re going to need a massive new dunce-cap factory if that’s to be the standard.

          7. Garrett

            My experience with the immigration debate in the US is that most people are against illegal|unauthorised|undocumented migration, but have little problem with legalized immigration.
            Most people don’t have a problem with a few more doctors|business people|engineers coming over and competing with high-earners. But those here illegally tend to push down the value of low-skilled manual labor below the legal level.

          8. brad

            I think MA’s statement was unfair. I’m pretty sure there’s even an xkcd comic about the “You never heard of X?!?” thing.

            On top of that, as awesome and clever a result as Arrow’s theorem is, saying there’s no such thing as a perfect voting system isn’t much of an argument for one of the worst ones. By Arrow’s criteria IRV is strictly better than plurality (though not on all the post-Arrow criteria).

            Arrow’s theorem is much more relevant to what should replace plurality than whether or not plurality is crummy.

          9. Salem

            I’m not saying they don’t exist, but I’ve never met an opponent of first-past-the-post who was able to describe the benefits of the system.

          10. Anonanon

            I’ll be sure to stop having opinions on the things I don’t know that I don’t know about, right away.

            Wait, was this sarcasm? Because it’s universally good advice.

          11. brad

            First past the post doesn’t require ranking or scoring. Arguably approval voting is as simple, but on balance probably not. So, really simple for the voter. That extends to understanding how the votes translate to a winner too, which is good for democratic legitimacy. If you have to tell people that we plug the votes into the machine that runs a set of pairwise comparisons, their eyes are going to glaze over and they are going to think the computer is stealing the election.

            On a more technical level it satisfies monotonicity, consistency & participation criteria. It kind cheats on monotonicity — more of an N/A than a pass. Consistency never struck me as terribly important. Participation on the other hand does seem like a desirable characteristic. So that’s a genuine positive that many other systems don’t have.

          12. Salem

            FPTP is normally discussed in the context of representative bodies like Parliaments, Assemblies, etc. In that context you haven’t even scratched the surface.

            Even in the context of primaries, you’ve missed the major advantage. Political parties are coalitions.

          13. brad

            That seems an awfully ungenerous response. The least you could have done was unpack that last bit. Then it would have still been dickish but at least informative.

          14. Salem

            FPTP rewards large coalitions. As such, it incentivises people to form those coalitions before the election. This is good for political parties!

            I’m genuinely surprised this needs unpacking – I wasn’t trying to be rude – but it just emphasises my point, that people who are hostile to FPTP, as a rule, cannot describe its advantages. Shouldn’t that be surprising, considering almost everyone loves FPTP and electoral reform is a fringe issue beloved only by a few? Wouldn’t you think that reformers would seek to understand the other system, even if only to argue against it?

            I’m not even that fond of FPTP – I would like to see a move to PR squared for Parliamentary elections, so each political party receives seats proportional to the square of its vote share. But the point is that elections aren’t purely a matter of a one-off choice, they are repeated games within a structure and serving a particular purpose. The advantages of FPTP, as a political voting system, are mostly in terms of that structure and that context; technical decision theory assuming fixed choices and preferences is wayyyy down the list of relevant considerations.

          15. Edward Scizorhands

            I don’t get why some people call the American election system “first past the post.” It’s not like there is a second past the post. You get the most votes or not.

          16. Harry Johnston

            @Salem, seems that only counts as a benefit if you approve of the existing structure, which I’m thinking most people objecting to FPP don’t?

            And of course MMP (as one example) still encourages political parties. In fact, you wind up with more of them!

            @Edward, the expression isn’t exclusive to the US. I believe it is by analogy to horse racing, in that there is a single winner for each race.

          17. Salem

            That’s like saying getting divorced is good for your marriage, because you can have lots more of them.

          18. Salem

            And sure, if you don’t approve of the structure, then the structural benefits of a choice don’t count – but then why are you arguing about the voting system? If you think there shouldn’t be a Republican primary, we should be doing something else instead, that’s a potentially interesting point, but it’s kinda irrelevant to what kind of voting system the Republican primary should use. Those discussions need to be predicated on the assumption that the best voting system, in this context, is that which best serves the goals of the Republican primary, as those goals fit in with the even larger structures (such as the Presidential system). Anything else is just bloviation.

          19. Harry Johnston

            Oh, you’re talking about the primaries. My mistake. I thought it was about the electoral system in general.

            (Am I right in thinking primaries are unique to the US? Does anyone know the historical background, i.e., why the US wound up with such a different system?)

          20. John Schilling

            (Am I right in thinking primaries are unique to the US? Does anyone know the historical background, i.e., why the US wound up with such a different system?)

            The United States implemented democracy with the perhaps naive expectation that there wouldn’t be strong, permanent political parties. The factionalism in the colonial-era legislatures had been relatively informal; the effects of simultaneously increasing the scale and taking off the British imperial training wheels was not well understood. So there was no explicit provision for party politics in American-style democracy.

            Parties still over an overwhelming advantage to whoever has one, so we got them anyway – as purely private clubs, operating outside of the legal democratic process. They selected their candidates in private, in proverbial smoke-filled rooms, and showed up to the campaign with the resources to make their guy win against anyone except another major party’s guy.

            The bit where the voters are fed up with the party elite choosing people who don’t represent Real Americans(tm) is not new, and during earlier iterations the party leadership on both sides responded with “OK then, why don’t you tell us who you think the candidate should be?”

            Initially, lacking access to national-level electoral machinery, this was done with local private mini-elections, which you can see a vestige of in the caucuses some states still hold instead of primary elections. And the voters were picking, not the actual candidates, but delegates to a party convention that would do the actual candidate-selection. You saw vestiges of that this time around as well.

            Eventually, everyone realized that states were holding lots of elections for minor offices anyway and had the necessary machinery in place, and it would be more convenient and give the appearance of greater legitimacy if we used that rather than have each party arrange things in private. By that time, of course, the state governments were chock full of people who were members of political parties and so thought it quite appropriate for the state’s resources and legitimacy to be placed at the disposal of political parties. And so we got primary elections.

            Which, legally, are non-binding (at least at the federal level). Political parties in the United States are private clubs which can nominate whatever candidates they want, chosen any way they want. It’s just that, by now, not nominating the guy who won the most delegates in the state primaries is such an obvious sign that your party Doesn’t Care What The Voters Think as to be nearly suicidal in a general election.

          21. Harry Johnston

            Thanks John.

            The bit where the voters are fed up with the party elite choosing people who don’t represent Real Americans(tm) is not new, and during earlier iterations the party leadership on both sides responded with “OK then, why don’t you tell us who you think the candidate should be?”

            I think this is the core of it all, but it still leaves open the question of why the same thing didn’t happen elsewhere. Perhaps just for the same reason that all those civil service posts in the US are also elected positions – a kind of a fetishization of the electoral process, for lack of a better word.

            (Are other candidates chosen in the same way, e.g., for the Senate or for positions in the State governments? If not, perhaps this is just something that is only likely to happen for elected heads of state, as compared to Parliamentary systems?)

          22. Salem

            I was talking about the electoral system in general. The primary is just one example. Similarly, the best voting system for Congress is the one that best serves the goals of having a Congress, within the larger structure of the US constitution, and so on. And similarly for the voting system for your local condo board.

            What gives the game away is that proponents of electoral reform want the same voting system for everything – normally some form of PR or approval voting. Which is bizarre! Your Congress, the republican primary, and your condo board have very different goals and exist in very different structures. Why would we expect the same voting system to be appropriate for each? The best systems are PR squared or FPTP for the first, FPTP for the second, and the third will depend on the local circumstances.

          23. John Schilling

            Are other candidates chosen in the same way, e.g., for the Senate or for positions in the State governments?

            Generally yes. We have primary elections for Senators and state Governors, sometimes quite contentious ones. And members of the House of Representatives and state legislatures and the like, but at that level the voters usually don’t care and usually nobody bothers to run against the party leadership’s preferred candidate.

          24. Anonymous

            FPTP rewards large coalitions. As such, it incentivises people to form those coalitions before the election. This is good for political parties!

            This proves too much. It’s an argument against primaries to being with. The smoke filled room incentives people to form coalitions early far better than a FPTP election.

            Sure if you think there shouldn’t be intra-party democracy in the first place you might think FPTP is the least worst option, but that’s a strange place to be advocating from.

          25. Harry Johnston

            Similarly, the best voting system for Congress is the one that best serves the goals of having a Congress, within the larger structure of the US constitution, and so on.

            Just to be clear, were you arguing that FPP was a good system for Congress because it encourages the existence of political parties? Because (if so) that’s the part I don’t get. For one thing, I’d expect Congress to work better without political parties, in a counter-factual universe where we had a choice about it. For another, FPP doesn’t obviously encourage the existence of political parties any more than any other system, e.g., MMP. I suppose it encourages the existence of exactly two political parties, but if that’s your argument you’d need to expand on why you see that as important to the purpose of Congress.

            Of course, being a foreigner, I’m not entirely sure exactly what the purpose of Congress is to begin with. So I may well be missing the obvious.

          26. Salem

            [W]ere you arguing that FPP was a good system for Congress because it encourages the existence of political parties?

            No, I was arguing that FPTP is a good system for a multi-state party primary, because it serves the goals of the party. The party doesn’t want 30 different candidates, they want to winnow that out as quickly as possible to a small number that the press can focus on, all of whom appeal to a large cross-section of the party. The party also wants to force different factions within the party to co-operate with each other. FPTP serves both goals, by rewarding broad coalitions within the party, and penalising small groups.

            I’d expect Congress to work better without political parties

            !!!

            I suppose it encourages the existence of exactly two political parties, but if that’s your argument you’d need to expand on why you see that as important to the purpose of Congress.

            Think about how legislation actually gets made. If you have lots of parties (or, in the extreme, no parties, in which case every delegate is their own party) then all the action is in assembling a coalition of delegates. The delegates will represent a huge diversity of viewpoints, and any number of different coalitions are possible. Consequently, the delegates have a huge amount of political slack – voters have little to no say in which policies get emphasised and which sacrificed in forming that coalition.

            This is actually how things worked early in the American Republic – consequently power-brokers with the backroom influence and intrigue to put together such coalitions could have huge influence and power despite holding no elected office. Alexander Hamilton is perhaps the most notorious.

            FPTP, PR squared, and similar, force (potential) delegates to form their coalitions before the election, removing a lot of political slack from the delegates and putting it in the hands of the voters. These coalitions are called political parties. They mean that the voters get presented with fewer choices, but ensure that what choices are made get carried out.

          27. Harry Johnston

            They mean that the voters get presented with fewer choices, but ensure that what choices are made get carried out.

            OK, I guess I can see how that could be spun as a benefit. Seems to me the first part eliminates most of the value of the second part, but YMMV.

            power-brokers with the backroom influence and intrigue to put together such coalitions could have huge influence and power despite holding no elected office

            I think that’s another example of what I mentioned above as the fetishization of democracy. (I’m still looking for a better word, by the way.) It isn’t obvious to me why it should otherwise be seen as a bad thing. (Plus, is the current US system really all that different in practice? Isn’t it true that politicians aren’t actually obliged to vote with their party, and often don’t?)

            It also seems that it would also hold only in the extreme case of no political parties at all, not so much where a system like MMP means you have five or six significant parties instead of just two.

      3. Zombielicious

        @Mercer:
        You’re right, I was using terms like “tribe,” “party,” and “party insiders” somewhat inconsistently there. And also probably not giving enough credit to the parallel problems within the Republican party re: the base vs. party insiders.

        But I’m not sure it changes the conclusion substantially. It’s questionable how much Trump represents the Red Tribe so much as a few factions within it. A good portion of Republican voters seemed to strongly oppose him during the primary, and he’s not really an ideal choice for the evangelical or social conservative branch. Missing the Ted Cruz endorsement is an example (Cruz may be a party insider, but I think he’s also reflecting the views of much of his base).

        Clinton is the same problem, where she’s nominally a representative of Blue Tribe, but is about as representative of them as Jeb Bush is of the typical Red Tribe member. Establishment candidates are aligning (to some extent – again see the lack of Ted Cruz endorsement), and while the same can’t really be said of populist candidates, a lot of Trump and Bernie supporters who would otherwise never have anything to do with each other still would rather see either of them than any of the establishment candidates. Part of the base of each group is willing to break with the party to remain with the tribe, while other parts follow the formal party regardless of its actual policies or what other options are available. Hence the realignment.

        1. Mercer

          Yeah, tribal divisions don’t explain the whole story, I think I made that point somewhere lost in this giant mess of comments. Some voters vote Tribe, some Race, Faith, Class, Caste, some even insanely vote Principles. I do think you’re mistaken not to fear Trump (as a left leaning individual)…lets say he is only representing some factions of the Red Tribe and not all. When was the last time these particular factions had a serious voice? The reason its been awhile is because these factions don’t tend to just talk when they get one; they tend to scream. You think as a left-winger that the neocon agenda seemed bad? Oh lord, these people called the neocons closet leftists.

        2. The Nybbler

          Hillary Clinton seems pretty solid Blue Tribe to me. She grew up in suburban Chicago and went to Wellesley, for instance. Bernie is also solid Blue Tribe. Trump isn’t Red Tribe by a long shot. From his background he should be Blue, but he’s never acted Blue, and his lowbrow demeanor probably appeals to much of Red.

    2. J.A. Scott

      From a blue tribe perspective, the difference between Bernie and Clinton is vast.

      Wait, what?

      From my blue-greyish position, and the generally very blue context I live in, Bernie and Clinton is a question of tactics, not goals. My impression of liberal portions of the online media – even very Bernie-centric ones – is that it’s much the same; Clinton is seen as being too accomodating, too willing to compromise, too much a part ‘the establishment’ to blow it all up and implement all the changes that they want. On the other side of the coin, Bernie is too potentially alienating, too far left to get the center of the country to follow him, too insistent on ideological purity to get anything done – and worse, he risks handing the country over the Republicans for (disasterous) years.

      …but in terms of overall goals, they seem broadly compatible if not outright indistinguishable in major ways.

      This pretty well explains some of the lack of hostility towards Trump.

      Wait, what?

      Lack of hostility to Trump? The (very liberal) people socialize with treat him as an existential threat to progressivism if not democracy itself. There’s a tactical hostility to Bernie-or-Bust protestors/voters, but it’s always framed in terms like what are you doing, do you not see the vast threat we face that sometimes borders on panic.

      I have no idea where you get the idea that there’s anything like a lack of hostility to Trump. I mean right now the DNC is happening so some of the intra-party conflict came to the forfront, but like…that’s not what my generally-progessive media bubble looks like at all.

      1. Zombielicious

        Re: Clinton vs Bernie – This is somewhat a matter of opinion. But I’d say they’re miles apart based on stances like foreign policy (again, Clinton being by far the most hawkish excepting maybe Rubio and Lindsey Graham), healthcare (universal healthcare via Medicare expansion vs. modest improvements to Obamacare), free college, marijuana legalization, TPP and free trade, views on Wall St, bailouts, tax policy, etc. The policy distance on most of these between Clinton vs e.g. Bush, Rubio, or Kasich is smaller than the distance between Clinton and Sanders. But if we disagree it’d take a lot of effort to quantify and see who is right.

        Re: Hostility to Trump – I thought that was one of the premises underlying Scott’s post (see part three), but maybe I just misinterpreted that, or rephrased it poorly? I didn’t mean literally no hostility, just the comparatively high amount of group infighting, as opposed to focusing all the vitriol on Trump or Clinton (see the Bernie delegate walkout at the DNC or the Ted Cruz non-endorsement). I suppose it was a poor choice of words. When you think that Trump is All The Bad Things, but still spend most of your time focusing on criticizing “your” candidate that is, at this point, the only other option, as Scott described Ehrenreich doing, it comes off as less hostility than you might expect, even if it’s definitely still there.

    3. FacelessCraven

      @Zombielicious – “What I am fairly sure about is that Trump is a giant wild card in the Republican party who is sowing chaos and alienating other Republicans. If you’re mostly blue tribe and view the Republicans as a group of Sith Lords holding back civilization, this is a good thing.”

      If you’re the right kind of Red Tribe, this is also a good thing.

      ” He’s fracturing the Republican party and the stuff he’s said will be held against them for years. If elected, he’ll have more or less solidified that the New Republican Party is a European-style white nationalist party similar to the National Front or Golden Dawn, not to mention a non-negligible chance he may end up impeached.”

      You say that like these are bad things. The EthNat part is obviously awful, but so is the prevailing Social Justice framework surrounding race. Everything else sounds like wins across the board.

      “On the other hand, if he loses, the Republicans will just call him a RINO and go back to running neocons and evangelicals.”

      The hell they will. That ship has sailed. Where we’re going, we don’t need eyes.

      “A Trump win would be four years of Bad For The World, but then an era of Good For Blue Tribe (and if you’re blue tribe then also good for the world).”

      My thoughts on a Hillary win are much the same; better losses in the short-term, then short term wins that compromise all hope for the future. I see Hillary as a soulless, grasping, machiavelian creature addicted to power and driven solely by ambition, but her incentive is actually to leave the country better than she found it. If she does that, well and good. If she doesn’t, our position will be even better next time. Having her in office doesn’t seem materially much worse on net than, say, Jeb or Rubio.

      “As I’ve put it when justifying not voting for Clinton, “I trust the country to survive four years of Trump more than I trust it to survive continued control by the two parties we currently have.””

      Ditto from my position on Hillary. If it were down to Sanders and Trump rather than Hillary, I’d be seriously tempted to continue my streak of voting Democrat.

      ” To a large portion of blue tribe it looks like the party realignment has resulted in Democrats = New Republicans, Republicans = New White Nationalism, Sanders = New Blue Tribe.”

      …what did you think of previous Red Tribe candidates? Romney, McCain, for instance? I recall no shortage of accusations of Repubs being the White EthNat party in those elections; I don’t doubt that a lot of Blues feel that No Really, For Real This Time, I just don’t care. other than that, completely agree. Death to the Demopublicans! Roll those dice!

      1. cassander

        >but her incentive is actually to leave the country better than she found it.

        That might be her incentive, but even if it is, her methods with certainly fail to do that, particularly in foreign policy.

        1. FacelessCraven

          @Cassander – “That might be her incentive, but even if it is, her methods with certainly fail to do that, particularly in foreign policy.”

          Bush was another Clinton, Obama was another bush, I expect Clinton to be another Obama. I see no reason to expect that the establishment republicans would be a decisive improvement.

          1. cassander

            Hillary Clinton is incredibly aggressive, there’s literally not a war of the last 25 years she hasn’t supported, she even rattled sabers over Georgia with John McCain. But she’s also aggressively minimalist and unwilling to stick her neck out. This is a very dangerous combination that leads to the sort of creeping involvement you see in Syria today. It’s not just very likely to fail, it’s likely to fail in ways that are costly, damaging, and prolonged. The next President will send troops to Syria, one of the republicans might have send enough to actually win, Clinton will only send enough not to lose before the next election.

      2. Zombielicious

        @FacelessCraven:
        This is basically why I have very little hope for anything to improve in the foreseeable future. The level of vitriol between tribes (though definitely not between party establishments) is so high that no matter how bad each candidate is, no one will remotely consider breaking the deadlock out of fear for just how much worse four years of the other guy will be.

        Maybe I’ll be right about the realignment, and something good will come of it, but that seems like some extremely wishful thinking. Could talk about it for a while, but it would just get more and more hypothetical.

        The EthNat part is obviously awful, but so is the prevailing Social Justice framework surrounding race.

        I have trouble seeing the SJ extremists as the same kind of threat. They do their damage in every day life – they’re annoying on the internet and get people fired from their jobs for dongle jokes, but I don’t see them having much influence on government policy (could use examples if I’m wrong). Compared to literally deporting millions of immigrants, and putting aside more far-fetched rhetoric like internment camps and banning entire religions. None of the political SJ battles (e.g. cakes and bathrooms) seem remotely on the same scale.

        …what did you think of previous Red Tribe candidates? Romney, McCain, for instance? I recall no shortage of accusations of Repubs being the White EthNat party in those elections; I don’t doubt that a lot of Blues feel that No Really, For Real This Time

        I don’t remember viewing either of them the way people, including myself, view Trump. McCain was unusually bad just by virtue of vowing to continue the Bush-era Iraq War, Gitmo, Patriot Act stuff, but other than that… Of course Obama did that anyway, so by the time Romney ran a lot of us just viewed it as hopeless, no significant difference.

        Some segment of both parties will always cry “communist” or “fascist,” so I don’t think that really means much. Trump and Clinton are both unusually bad candidates, putting it very mildly. Either side has a pretty reasonable case for how bad the other will be this time. Unfortunately it rarely gets turned around for meaningful self-analysis of how bad their own candidate is.

        The good news is I’m not in a swing state, so it’s unlikely I’ll have to make the choice either way. The bad news is that the real decision making is finished – one of these two people is gonna be our next president. There’s still the congressional and state elections, at least.

  45. TheAltar

    I think that articles like those mentioned may purely exist because there’s a demand in the clickbait market for titles that are obtuse and clash with people’s current thoughts. Competition over news article clicks is fierce and if you can write up an article title that sounds like The Last Psychiatrist or Robin Hanson suddenly declaring “X is not X! X is actually Y!” then the people who like that sort of thing will check it out and share it for its “originality”. (Wasn’t there someone around here who made comments about meta-contrarianism a while back…?)

    Base Rate of there being absurdly large numbers of articles out there on every topic imaginable + a demand for articles that satisfy intellectual masochism should lead to lots of articles of this nature. Shifts in real world politics aren’t necessary. It’s probably weak bayesian evidence of such things.

    My personal favorite example of this is http://www.dorkly.com/post/77488/why-deadpool-in-x-men-origins-wolverine-is-actually-way-better-than-the-2016-deadpool

  46. seladore

    You say:

    Partisanism is going to give way to hyperpartisanism, where people hate other factions of their own party with the same venom they previously reserved for their opponents across the aisle.

    I don’t think this phenomenon is at all new. I think this has been a feature of leftist/progressive politics for a long time now. Monty Python was satirising this tendency nearly 40 years ago:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WboggjN_G-4

    (“We’re the People’s Front of Judea… The only people we hate more than the Romans are the fucking Judean People’s Front.)

    I think the interesting question is why this tendency seems endemic to left/liberal groups, and doesn’t seem to happen in right/conservative circles.

    1. Scott Alexander Post author

      It seems to happen a lot on the far-right, but I think maybe the far-right is better separated from the right edge of the Overton Window than the far-left is from the leftward edge.

      1. Timothy Scriven

        That’s hard to quantify in that it mostly depends on where you draw the line at far. I think Americans probably consider people ‘far-left’ more readily than they consider people ‘far-right’.

        Over here, when I hear ‘far-left’ I think, for example, prison abolitionism, the abolition of private property, the abolition of gender etc. etc. in the US it means something much tamer. An American probably thinks of things like ‘cut the military budget in half’. Which I would regard, and my peers would regard, as solidly left proposals, but not far left.

  47. pd

    I’d be happy to scream in your face about how your low-affect polyamorism is an affront to your creator but you’d just ban me.

    1. Scott Alexander Post author

      If I ever need to start feeling more grounded so that I don’t turn on my ingroup, I’ll give you a call.

    2. Le Maistre Chat

      Trolling is more effective when it’s not confusing. I’m a conservative Christian and still can’t unpack how you mean “low-affect polyamorism is an affront to your creator”.

      1. Lumifer

        still can’t unpack how you mean “low-affect polyamorism is an affront to your creator”.

        Translation: “God did not create you so that you can fuck your way through half the town (*and* NOT procreate in the process) solely because you have nothing better to do”.

        (Saturation and contrast adjusted for clarity)

  48. Peter Gerdes

    Hmm, actually on looking at some data not sure if the atheist thing is really changing.

    In google ngrams neither Dawkins nor atheism show a spike around the 90s. Google trends doesn’t go back past 2004 but doesn’t show any sustained decrease in usage.

    So maybe there is a lower per person rate of arguments on the issue but not less interest. Not sure what to make of it.

  49. ConservativeTendencies

    > Republicans still “threaten” me in the sense of being able to enact policies that harm me.

    As someone with conservative tendencies, I literally have no clue what you could be talking about here. Do you mean Republicans could weaken environmental legislation? Or waste a lot of money on the military-industrial complex?

    To me, the #1 overwhelmingly significant fact about the political system is that we send vast trillions of dollars to the government, and that money is spent with tragicomic inefficiency. The word “inefficiency” sounds like wonkishness to most people, but being woefully inefficient when you spend *trillions* of dollars has to be considered a crime against humanity.

    I won’t claim that Republicans are entirely innocent of this crime, but the Democrats certainly aren’t either. The best solution is probably also the simplest one, which is just to send less money to the government. Democrats seem to labor under the absurd delusion that the political system would become rational and efficient if it weren’t for evil Republican interference.

    1. Peter Gerdes

      Sadly you are pitching a rhetorical conception of republicans that doesn’t have much relevance to actual policy making. The size of government has increased just as much (if not more) with republican administrations as democratic ones in the modern era. The aspirations of the party just aren’t a match for the relentless march of bureaucratic entrenchment.

      But as far as do something how about: Troublesome law & order threats to doctors for prescribing practices, drug war overreach generally, opposition to assisted suicide abortion etc..

      I could continue but whether or not you think these are the most important things they are very important to some people and choice of party affects them.

      1. hlynkacg

        …and that’s a good chunk of the reason that the GOP is embroiled in a populist uprising.

        When Romney lost in 2012 lot of conservative pundits were predicted that a populist protest candidate would sweep the 2016 primaries if the party leadership didn’t pull it’s collective head out of it’s ass. That the protest candidate turned out to be Trump of all people is a bit of a shock but the writing’s been on the wall for a while

        1. HeelBearCub

          Completely agree with the idea that the populist writing was on the wall in 2012. In fact, the succession of “ridiculous” candidates in 2012 presaged Trump. The only thing that stopped any of the various contenders to Romney in 2012 was simply their inability to sustain the illusion of certainty.

          When Trump managed to move forward through the “Mexican immigrants are rapists” controversy without having to back away from those comments, it was a sign of what he has been able to do that others haven’t. He will contradict himself three times in a single paragraph and still project absolute certainty in his position.

          It’s the absolute antithesis of rationality, but that isn’t what his electorate is looking for.

          1. Jill

            Yes, voters riding on fear and anger don’t care at all about rationality or facts or policies.

    2. Zombielicious

      I could come up with a pretty long list of ways that blue tribe thinks they will be actively harmed, or have been harmed, by Republican policies, including concrete examples from people I know. As to the rest, perhaps the biggest difference between “anti-government” red tribe and “pro-government” blue tribe could be simply summed up as whether you think the government itself is net-good or net-bad. Even if there’s a lot of inefficiency and waste, pro-gov blue tribe doesn’t think it outweighs the positive utility it provides.

      To give a short list:
      1) Cutting social programs that people depend on (food stamps, medicaid, etc).
      2) Regressive tax policies that hurt low-income earners.
      3) Deregulation that increases the risk of 2008-housing-bubble-style systemic risk.
      4) Repealing environmental protections that increase risk of disease or death through air pollution, etc.
      5) Eliminating public assets by selling them to private corporations.
      6) Outlawing abortion, or instituting laws meant to make the process as difficult and painful as possible (even in cases of rape, for some Republicans).
      7) Repealing smoking bans, thereby increasing the risk of lung cancer.
      8) Starting more unnecessary wars, increasing the national debt, creating more terrorist groups like ISIS, higher risk of terrorist attacks, more refugees, and loss of life for both U.S. soldiers and foreign civilians.
      9) Overlaps with (1), but blocking healthcare legislation which has literally saved the lives of people I know (by allowing coverage despite pre-existing conditions).
      10) Creating more “tough on crime” policies (e.g. drug wars, mandatory minimums, three-strikes laws) which increase the prison population and the chance that ordinary citizens will develop criminal records, spend time in jail, be unable to get a job, or contract HIV in prison, for non-violent crimes.
      11) Causing government shutdowns in fights over routine legislation, suspending government programs and causing economic contractions.

      I could keep going. Not that there aren’t counterarguments to any of these, but I think these are pretty typical examples of ways blue tribe thinks Republican policies will harm them. If you want more specific stuff, see Ralph Nader’s book Getting Steamed to Overcome Corporatism, which is an entire collection of screwed up things the government does, taken all from the same year, and skews heavily against the Republicans.

      1. Lumifer

        perhaps the biggest difference between “anti-government” red tribe and “pro-government” blue tribe could be simply summed up as whether you think the government itself is net-good or net-bad

        Since true anarchists are very very rare, this doesn’t look to be so. There are two similar ways to adjust this towards (some) correctness. The first is to talk about marginal changes: is, say, increasing the size of the current government net-good or net-bad? The second is to use the language of function optimization: most people will agree that it’s possible for the government to be too small (e.g. Somalia) and too big (e.g. USSR). It follows that there is some optimal Goldilocks middle point where its size is just right. Therefore the question becomes whether you want to increase the government to get to the optimum or to decrease it to get there.

        This, of course, is a very crude approach where the only thing you change is size. I would probably argue that changing what the government does and how is more important than changing the amount of money and power it has available at its disposal. But that’s a long and complicated discussion.

        1. Cerebral Paul Z.

          To underline your last point: note that items 6, 8, and 10 in Z’s list are areas where the blues themselves believe less government would be better.

          1. Zombielicious

            To be fair, it’s not quite that simple. With (6), abortion isn’t necessarily reducing the number of laws, but also could include funding or expanding Planned Parenthood, which Republicans generally want to eliminate. With (10), it could include expanding treatment programs alongside eliminating certain laws and closing prisons. (8) is harder to find a counterexample for.

            Honestly I think the whole “big vs. small government” thing is more of a red tribe thought process. Pretty much no one I know in blue tribe is going “yay big government!”, they just like some programs and want them expanded while disliking others and wanting them eliminated. Big vs small government never really comes up as a principle in itself.

        2. Zombielicious

          It was intended as a gross simplification. Just as there are few true anarchists, there are few people who think the government is exactly right just the way it is. So people who think government is “too big” versus “too small” is probably isomorphic to people who would describe the current government as net-bad versus net-good. If it’s net-good, it could probably do a little more, while if it’s net-bad, it should probably be trimmed down a little.

          But yeah, almost everyone would argue over what programs should be cut or expanded. Only die-hard libertarians, anarcho-capitalists, socialists or communists would take an uncompromising position on total expansion or elimination.

          1. orangecat

            I expect you would find a substantial plurality of people who believe that government is a net positive overall, but negative on the margin. (Which is my opinion on many entities, including Apple and Facebook).

            Pretty much no one I know in blue tribe is going “yay big government!”

            That’s pretty much exactly what several DNC speakers have said, in particular Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker.

          2. Zombielicious

            That’s pretty much exactly what several DNC speakers have said, in particular Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker.

            Link? Perhaps some do say that, but I expect it’s more likely they said something that was interpreted by reds as meaning that. My impression is that actual liberals tend to think things more like “healthcare doesn’t cover enough people, we should expand it,” or “the military-industrial complex is too wasteful, we should reduce it.” It’s only in the imagination of partisan reds that liberals are all sitting around plotting ways to waste money on government for nothing more than their own nefarious desire to make everyone dependent on the state. The same way that most conservatives don’t actually sit around thinking, “Gosh I hate those poor people and black people, what can we do to make life harder on them some more?” They’re just stereotypes of the outgroup.

      2. Gbdub

        Uhh, exactly which Republicans are promoting a “regressive” tax policy? “Slightly less progressive” maybe.

        “Unnecessary wars” – you mean like Libya, championed largely by the current Democratic nominee? Or Bosnia, Desert Fox, and Kosovo, led by her husband?

        “Created ISIS” – the terrorist organization that gained most of its momentum in Obama’s second term after he fulfilled his promise to leave Iraq?

        I think your last paragraph is correct – most of your list is what the Blue Tribe thinks the Red Tribe believes/supports, but that’s not necessarily accurate (and to the extent it is, the beliefs may not be unique to the Red Tribe).

        1. Zombielicious

          Regressive tax policy would include things like sales and property taxes over income and capital gains taxes, with no exceptions for what items are taxed and how heavily. This disproportionately affects low-income people. From where I’ve lived, red states tended to have high sales taxes with low or no state income taxes, and no exemptions for items like groceries. So on those particular taxes, poor people end up being hit harder as a fraction of their total income.

          “Unnecessary wars” – Yeah, Democrats do it too, and this is my biggest complaint about them in general and Clinton specifically. But the ones you mention were all relatively small compared to Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s deeply unfortunate that the entire U.S. foreign policy complex is of a single interventionist mindset, but the anti-war wing of the Democrats is significantly larger than what little seems to exist among the Republicans. (edit: Also note that Obama cites Libya as the biggest mistake of his presidency, which definitely contributed to ISIS, and largely has Clinton to blame for it.)

          “Created ISIS” – First off, Obama left on the same timescale Bush had laid out. Secondly, ISIS is widely blamed as being a result of having destroyed the Iraqi government, completely mismanaging the occupation, disbanding the Iraqi military, creating a power vacuum in the region full of military age males with nowhere else to go. Most of which was set in motion during the Bush administration or directly resulted from decisions they made. (ETA: This was probably a combination of bipartisan screw-ups and larger geopolitical events, not something one person or party can be blamed for. I also just listed it as a consequence of previous bad decisions, which – see above – liberals will tend to see Republicans as more prone to make again in the future.)

          I’m aware the Republican voters generally won’t agree with my list, or else they probably wouldn’t be voting Republican. The Democrats are certainly far from having their hands clean as well, but their base also wouldn’t be voting that way either if they didn’t think they were a slightly less disastrous choice than the other option.

          1. E. Harding

            Dude, how many square inches of territory did the Islamic State hold when Bush left office? And which city did the State capture first: Raqqa (never occupied by the United States), Fallujah (occupied by the United States), or Mosul (occupied by the United States)?

            Yes, Obama re-created the Islamic State to overthrow the al-Maliki government and to expand Kurdish rule. I can’t see why that’s even controversial.

          2. Nornagest

            My understanding of ISIL’s history is that it developed out of militant Islamic groups originally formed to fight in the Iraq insurgency, who were pushed underground in the late 2000s by the troop surge and related developments. The Syrian Civil War starting in 2011 opened a power vacuum which allowed them to establish an initial territorial base, from which they spread into Iraq as the weakness of the post-withdrawal government became apparent.

          3. Ed

            I can’t see why that’s even controversial.

            That’s because you don’t have a good theory of mind. Well that or you are lying.

    3. Jill

      Voting for the party that claims to be budget conscious is not useful if that party is, in fact, not budget conscious at all and even tends to get into unnecessary and expensive neocon wars.

      That’s a huge distinction in poltics– what parties say to get elected vs. what they do when in office. There are some huge differences there for both parties.

      1. hlynkacg

        …as I said above, this is a large part of why the GOP is currently embroiled in a populist uprising.

    4. Scott Alexander Post author

      I’ve seen a lot of women saying on Facebook they feel threatened by Republicans’ ability to ban abortion.

      If you literally mean “me”, probably the most plausible way they could directly negatively impact my life these days is by banning nootropics (which the British tried to do recently but changed their mind at the last second) or screwing up psychiatry in some way (banning suboxone would be a good example). They could also screw up immigration in a way that gets some of my friends kicked out of the country.

      1. ConservativeTendencies

        Thanks for the reply, I did mean you specifically.

        I personally cannot see how the issues you mentioned could be anywhere near the same order of magnitude as increasing the efficiency of government spending, but that is probably why we are in different political camps.

        1. Error

          Presumably you need to multiply Scott’s concerns by the number of people with similar ones, then do the same with other fear-sets.

          Comparing losses to government inefficiency to any single fear-set is wrong for the same reason that comparing the total government-inefficiency-loss to the benefits of any single government program is wrong.

          (…I’m having difficulty phrasing that in a way that’s both clear and accurately describes what I’m getting at. Insert charity as necessary.)

      2. Nornagest

        Off topic, but that implies that nootropics have made your life dramatically better? Would you mind expanding on that a bit? Most of those I’ve been exposed to could charitably be described as “subtle”.

      3. gbdub

        I thought a lot of nootropics (e.g. modafanil) were already illegal, at least technically (e.g. using them as a nootropic rather than a treatment for a diagnosed illness is technically breaking the rules)?

  50. Corey

    I think Democrats far-grouping Republicans (and there’s probably symmetry here) comes about *because* of the sorting into different realities – it’s literally pointless to engage. You’ll never convince a Republican to care about global warming, for example, because they’ll just adjust reality to make it not a problem. (And I’m sure there are plenty of symmetries in the other direction, no need to regale me with them in response, I concede whatever argument there is about this).

    1. Alex

      This is correct, but I think it is an unacceptable state of affairs (in both directions) and something needs to be done. If only we knew what.

    2. Jill

      If the other party is Lucifer, how do you communicate, compromise, or cooperate with Lucifer? You don’t. You can’t. You try to extinguish him, and you ignore him until you can do so. Politics has become “religious” in that way. Red tribe folks very very commonly call Hillary or Obama the Anti Christ or Lucifer. I see it all the time on the Net.

      It’s the same way religions use to keep people from leaving the religion– convince them that the other religions and the atheists are infidels, pagans, heretics whatever– trying to tempt them to doubt their faith and end up burning in hell forever.

      1. Lumifer

        If the other party is Lucifer, how do you communicate, compromise, or cooperate with Lucifer? You don’t. You can’t. You try to extinguish him, and you ignore him until you can do so.

        Are you talking about the Democrats’ attitude towards Donald BUT-THIS-TIME-HE’S-ACTUALLY-HITLER!!!!eleven! Trump?

  51. Civilis

    To the fundie-raised atheists it was real, it was a hot war, these people were monsters; to the secular-raised atheists, religious people were just kind of wacky in a problematic way, like the North Koreans, and nobody in America lives their life in a state of constant rage about how evil North Korea is.

    At some level the outgroup vs fargroup distinction breaks down. Group rivalry is to a large degree a product of historical chance, and historical chance favors groups in close proximity. Jews lived in Germany for a long time, and there was a lot of history. Meanwhile, there were very few Japanese in Germany, and little history.

    Take a look at the relationship between the US and North Korea. North Korea is a joke to those of us in the US. The fargroup relationship dynamic you describe is evident. Then look at it as the perspective of North Korea. They hate the US (their fargroup), and their relationship with South Korea (their outgroup) is they’d be fine if they weren’t puppets of the US. The difference to the US right between their feelings about Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims is not that Muslims are somehow an outgroup instead of a fargroup, but that there’s a history with members of that specific fargroup. The outgroup / fargroup dynamic I think in part is a historical accident in that until modern trade and travel, there wasn’t any contact with the fargroup to develop a relationship.

    Partisanism is going to give way to hyperpartisanism, where people hate other factions of their own party with the same venom they previously reserved for their opponents across the aisle.

    I think it’s as much a shifting in values that people believe to be important. Germany and Japan were both nationalistic, militaristic, in love with the ‘will to power’ and into ethnic purity. Oddly, the German relationship with the Kuomintang was based on similar values, whereas the German nationalists shared little in values with German Jews, who they felt were more Jewish than German. In domestic politics, we’ve gone from a nation where people’s politics are defined by the conservative vs progressive values split to a nation where people’s politics are defined by the ‘populist’ vs ‘technocrat’ split or the ‘nationalist’ vs ‘globalist’ split. The conservative technocrats hate the conservative populists more than the progressive technocrats.

  52. Peter Gerdes

    I feel you conflate two different phenomena here.

    1) Heretic vs. Infidel distinction.

    We are inclined toward greater resentment towards heretics than infidels. We place them inside a certain kind of framework for understanding their actions and behaviors and we think it clearly illustrates their error in a way we understand and protest.

    2) Conversational focus on things we think we (broadly speaking) can change or influence.

    In a very real way I *understand* radical Islamic terrorists as well if not better than many western liberal theists (if theism was true and souls were damned/saved for eternity it would make sense to inflict any suffering to save a single soul..and I felt that way when I was catholic) but I pitch my conversations to the liberal theists because the religious crazies can’t be influenced by anything I can convey in speech.

    Maybe this isn’t a great example but the point stands. Sometimes it is this underlying psychological distinction other times it is just practical.

    Or to put it another way there are two major reasons to critique some view/behavior. Because you hope to genuinely influence people’s beliefs and behavior or because you wish to signal that you aren’t one of them.

    The Heathen vs. Infidel distinction applies to attempts to signal group membership. We are in no danger of being mistaken as infidels so need not signal so clearly. The communication effectiveness point is about genuine influence.

    1. Anonymous

      >Pagan

      “Infidel” would be a better word. Pagans are a specific group of religions (though sometimes weirdly defined). Infidels are those not sharing your faith at all. Heretics purport to share your faith, but differently enough that their claim to the namespace is tenuous at best.

  53. Lemminkainen

    I wonder how much of the change you’ve seen in the confrontationalness of atheists just has to do with you and your friends growing up. I became much less confrontational after I stopped living with people who forced me to go to church, and it seems like a lot of my peers made a similar transition.

    1. Scott Alexander Post author

      I asked some other people and they saw the same thing. I’ve also checked the sorts of forums where I remember these fights happening and I don’t see them there anymore. I also can’t think of any social phenomenon along the lines of The God Delusion or the Four Horsemen these days.

  54. Peter Gerdes

    I think your analysis of what happened with the atheist movement was a little too simplistic.

    Lots of things are at play in social movements not just outgroup/fargroup dynamics. In particular the visibility of atheism in the 90s was the result of several factors. All of them reasons why even though the number of people with confrontational atheist views is probably just as high or higher than ever they are less inclined to state them. The pope isn’t seen any differently now, there is just less motivation to point out that he is a ridiculous relic of a silly superstition whose opinion has no real moral weight. After all when his views aren’t in conflict with yours why bother undermining him?

    1) This was the first time society was sufficiently accepting for confrontational atheism to get a positive enough treatment in mainstream culture to have an outbreak (exponential spread like a disease) which eventually eats through the large unexposed population.

    Once the new atheists aren’t in the news or media anymore there is much less prompting to talk about it. Once you’ve all seen the standard discussions that arise from these views why bother repeating them even if your beliefs haven’t changed.

    2) It became clear that the movement wasn’t going to lead to any real of the practical changes to society many people wanted.

    3) Confrontation with red politics trying to classify their religious beliefs as scientific views made it inconvienient to hold firm to confrontational atheist views.

    A basic confrontational atheist point is that there are not “separate magesteria” for science and religion just one notion of truth religion fails. But politically admitting that “creationism is a perfectly valid scientific theory which is convincingly falsified by overwhelming evidence” won’t fly as it would be a free pass to ridicule every supernatural religious belief in public science classes.

    1. Harry Johnston

      creationism is a perfectly valid scientific theory which is convincingly falsified by overwhelming evidence

      I never thought it was. By definition, a scientific theory has to have predictive value; “God did it” fails that test, unless you can provide a mathematical model of God’s behaviour. Even if I though the theory true, I’d mentally file it under “history” rather than “science”.

      Am I overlooking something?

      1. Alliteration

        Creationists do make predictions (or at least claim to) based on their theories. For example, Dr. Wile claims* that creationist models have predicted that even small planets and moons wouldn’t be geologically dead (they are still cooling off from creation), while evolutionary models predicted that planets would be dead (all the energy from forming has radiated away and dynamos haven’t been theorized yet.). Then NASA explored space and discovered that, lo, small planets and moons are geologically dead. (The evolutionary models have since made explications for the geologically activity. )

        (I recommend Dr. Wile as the most scientific of the Creationists that I know of. (Not that he is correct.. just that he is the most rigorous version.))

        *This is all from memory so may not reflect his views perfectly.

  55. HeelBearCub

    Scott is placing a great deal of weight on his subjective experience of atheists vs. theists. I’m not saying his observations aren’t true, necessarily, but the fact that he completely fails to mention Ralph Nader in his analysis of intra-left politics is another marker of how he lacks certain experiences of the change over time of these epicycles.

    It’s also worthwhile to point out that, based on polling, the Bernie voters who will jump to Trump mostly weren’t regular Democratic voters anyway, and that 90% of Bernie voters have already decided to back Hillary.

    The basic idea, that outgroups are formed from people that are near to you is, I think, mostly correct, but it isn’t quite right. Outgroups are people who you perceive to threaten you. As it is easier for someone to seem to threaten you if they are frequently perceived to be adjacent to you (in real space or in transaction space), it’s not surprising that people that we don’t perceive we have any interactions with won’t be the outgroup.

    But as has already been pointed out, feeling that immigrants are the outgroup frequently wanes the more tightly integrated they become, rather than grows. Much easier to hate “those people” when they have strange customs and language. But once you start understanding their customs, and as they master your language, frequently animosity wanes.

    1. Peter Gerdes

      Not threaten you. American soldiers in Iraq fighting ISIS are threatened by them but they are still not an outgroup.

      An outgroup is a group who you feel is close enough to you that you want to jump up and down and point out where they went wrong.

      It’s the same effect one has when someone gives a reason for why they did something that upsets/hurts you. When my wife explains why she is grumpy with me I often need to argue and explain why she is being unreasonable. When the dog barks at me conveying the same emotional content I just shrug and don’t get as emotionally involved.

      The difference is that while I understand both from an outside perspective (they are missing something they desire/expected causing negative emotions) I understand my wife from an internal perspective and can put myself in her shoes and say “ah ha…you are being unreasonable there”

      1. HeelBearCub

        I think soldiers frequently make the opposing force into an outgroup. What function do names like towelhead, camel jockey, gook, or Jerry serve, if not to mock the opposing force in the same manner as one would any outgroup?

        And threats by no means need to be physical. Threatening my desired policy outcomes or my social status will do just as well.

        To a certain extent this is self-inventing, especially in the social status arena. In elevating myself above you in social status, your attempts to elevate your own social status become intrinsically threatening if we view status as a pecking order. It’s not clear to me that social status is necessarily a limited resource that must be fought over, but it certainly seems that we act to a certain extent as if it is.

  56. Jack V

    That’s really interesting.

    I always thought the “ingroup/fargroup” distinction was a good one. Like, some people REALLY HATE terrorists. And others treat it as a “well, bad things happen very rarely, but it’s not really part of my life”, but REALLY HATE islamophobes who conflate “islam” with “terrorism”.

    And the application to politics groups rings true too. People often do stop to think with someone with VERY different views. But people with somewhat different views get the vitriol, “how can you think that”. Or, I’ve seen division between people who treat right-wing politics as as an abstract evil, and those who expected to be victimised by them personally.

    I do wonder about the atheism example though. I’ve seen the same trend you have, but I wasn’t sure if it was a national trend: I put it down to people I know slowly growing older, and getting to know more moderate people of different/any/no religion, and hence slowly more removed from whatever bad effects a different religion had on their lives, and shifting slowly towards “fargroup” not “outgroup”.

  57. Samedi

    What you call “hyperpartisanism” could just be what Freud called the narcissism of small differences. A phenomenon best illustrated by the animosity between the People’s Front of Judea and the Judean People’s Front.

    1. Agronomous

      It’s so typical of you splitters to just pretend the Popular People’s Judean Front doesn’t exist. Now that I see where your true sympathies lie, I will no longer pay any attention to your blatant propaganda.

      Romanes Eunt Domus!

  58. Peter Gerdes

    This is an important point to remember when dealing with accusations of the form “group X is racist/sexist/supports terrorists” because they don’t condemn fargroup as much as outgroup.

    In particular this comes up all the time for Israel. Israel is (rightly) seen by most westerners as being within the sphere of reasonable, rational western secularists (so just an outgroup) while Palestinian terrorists or arab states are genueinly alien to most westerners so are a fargroup.

    Thus, the fact that various academic groups or liberal countries focus their boycotts and criticism on Israel is anything but anti-semitic in most cases. Just the opposite, it’s a recognition of Israelis and jews as part of mainstream “western” culture.

    1. Jiro

      This is an important point to remember when dealing with accusations of the form “group X is racist/sexist/supports terrorists” because they don’t condemn fargroup as much as outgroup.

      In order to make your point you’d have to have a way to determine “outgroup” and “farggoup” that doesn’t look at level of condemnation in the first place; otherwise this is circular reasoning: by definition any enemy group that isn’t condemned is the fargroup, so we would expect them not to be condemned.

  59. Alex

    The GOP view the Democrats as more of an outgroup and ISIS as more of a fargroup. It’s harder for them to have genuine outrage at ISIS for beheading a bunch of people, than for them to have outrage at the Democrats for not mentioning the beheading. Even in cases where they seem angry at ISIS in a non-Democrat related way, I would argue that a lot of it can be traced back to appreciating the way ISIS proves various domestic points, like “Muslims are scary” or “the barbarism vs. civilization axis is important”.

    Hm. I thought in Outgroups the author was making the point that blue tribe’s outgrop is red tribe, symbolised by Mrs. Thatcher, and red tribe’s outgroup is international terrorism, symbolized by bin Laden. If one really lets this think in, I’d say this shows that something is (was?) really really wrong with blue tribe (my own tribe, mind you). Be this as may, pointing out this asymmetry to me seemed important. Applied to European political sentiment, this is the asymmetry between red tribe thinking that refugees are the biggest threat and blue tribe thinking that opposition to refugees is the biggest threat. [Neither stance is very well thought out, in my opinion.]

    I admit, to some extent this has changed. I cannot observe the example the author mentions but I can observe that hatred towards refugees has partly been replaced by hatred towards people who welcome refugees. This makes the red/blue conflict much more symmetrical. However I do not believe that this has made red tribe loose sight of refugees as the original outgroup. Yes, nowadays you will hear about refugees mostly in context of domestic issues and failed blue tribe politics, but I assume that is because domestic issues are all that red tribe really cares about. Refugees now are a domestic issue because they are here (not that I ever knowingly met one in person, but this is how things go).

    And to an even lesser extrent I can believe that ISIS is on the way from outgroup to fargroup. I simply do not see how this should be possible. Post 9/11 you might find people who, off-the-record, implied that the US had it coming somehow, which is terrible, but might explain the bin Laden/Thatcher thing. Nobody thinks anybody had ISIS coming – I hope. Then again, maybe this is only because this time it is Europe that is the target of terrorism. I do not know.

    I remember that when I was young and the Internet was young, people online were debating religion vs. atheism ALL THE TIME.

    […]

    I got a lot of responses. Other people confirmed this was a real phenomenon and that they remember it the same way. The consensus explanation was that there was a moment in the 90s and early Bush administration when evangelical Christianity seemed to have a lot of political power, and secularists felt really threatened by it.

    […]

    The author clearly grew up in different parts of the Internet than myself. To me it was more like “linux vs. windows” (this was during Apples dark year I suppose) and later “C++ vs. Java”. And of course this kind of debate is alive and kicking in the form of “iOS vs. Android” and “Console vs. self declared PC Master Race”.

    Which is to say, I think the topic of such debates is completely incidental. Nobody, I hope, felt threatened by Java. The only difference is that you have to come from a specific background to strongly care about “C++ vs. Java” (and it sure helps if you are 14 years old) but almost everyone can care about “religion vs. atheism” at least for some time. Other topics of that category are “free will” and whatever one’s stance on the hard problem of conciousness might be. The latter probably less so in this commuity, but I digress…

    If the author experiences increasingly less debates on religion I think this only shows that he has moved into higher specialised regions of the internet, naturally helped by the fact that the story of the internet is the story of creating more and more specialized niches. And if the author went to places with a less preselected audience, I think he would find the religious debate a genre that is very much alive.

    I think once Christianity stopped seeming threatening, Christians went from being an outgroup to being a fargroup, and were exoticized has having the same sort of vague inoffensive wisdom as Buddhists.

    Well, most atheists I know, who are willing to debate such things at length are principled people who did not oppose Christinanity specifically but religion in general. The found a new and equally threatening opponent in Islam. I do not think that this is a fundamental change.

    At the same time, old outgroup hatreds will take on a different character.

    […]

    (and of course this blog has been pushing a similar line for reasons that are probably not completely ahistorical or divorced from general trends)

    People are starting to treat Trump voters and Brexit voters as interesting and worthy of respect, which means they’re not really an outgroup any more. Talking about how poor they are and how sympathetic we should be and how we need to be more educated in order to understand what they’re going through all sound like instances of fargroup exoticization to me.

    This, I think is a very important observation and, if true, a grave one. The other day, the author linked to David Chapman:

    I suspect the fault line in the new politics reflects the communal versus systematic modes of relating to meaning. This realignment offers both fearful risks and hopeful opportunities—because both modes are partly right and partly wrong. Although a communal/systematic split could be catastrophic, it may also point the way to a new mode that heals the fundamental crisis of meaningness that has plagued the West for a hundred years.
    (Source)

    Whatever the solution might be, fargrouping the other tribe seems to be as worse as outgrouping it. The problem is, fargrouping, at first glance, looks considerate and as if it might be part of the solution, which it clearly is not.

    After all my criticism of the last piece I have to conclude that this is one of the authors more insightful articles.

    1. Agronomous

      David Chapman is a very smart and very wise guy, but he’s not a very relevant guy. Read him if you want to understand 2046, not 2016.

  60. Thomas Redding

    So, I feel like this is kind of obvious, but someone has to say it. I think a great deal of this shift from political partisanship between parties to within parties can be explained simply by the recency of the primaries. I think that if you look before the primaries, you’ll see more-or-less the same Democrats vs Republicans conflict emerge, with relative unity within each party. Likewise, I expect as we get closer to the general election (and after the general election) the vast majority of this partisan bickering will vanish.

    1. Peter

      Plus the fact that the recent EU referendum has brought out intra-party conflicts in the UK (I mean, the whole idea was to settle a long-running conflict within the Tories), so it’s making it look like intra-party conflict is the new zeitgeist.

    2. Titanium Dragon

      Except we’ve seen the Democrats pull together and the Republicans fall apart.

      I think that the inter-Democrat rancor is overstated but it does indicate a certain level of vulnerability to Trump-style crazy. On the other hand, Sanders lost badly and Clinton hardly tried.

      The Republican stuff is genuinely ugly and is genuine acrimony. The grays and reds are splitting.

  61. Peter

    Hilter: there’s also the Hitler brand ice cream cones.

    The interesting thing here – The Daily Mail – The Daily Mail! – isn’t outraged itself (it’s more busy making puns), but says that the Germans are outraged. Hilter is apparently more fargroup to Brits than to Germans.

    1. MawBTS

      Hilter: there’s also the Hitler brand ice cream cones.

      Okay seriously, is there an…explanation for all of this? Why is India so big on Hitler?

      Is it the swastika thing? The vegetarian thing? The “had a wife who killed herself alongside him” thing? Anyone know?

      1. Mai La Dreapta

        Well, why are Americans so big on Stalin? I think it’s basically “historical villain not connected to any contemporary political side in your country, and therefore open for ironic appropriation”.

      2. Peter

        The version I heard for the ice cream cones is that one of the founders of the ice cream cone company, or one of their friends or family or whatever, looked a bit like Hitler. Maybe he had a bit of a short temper or something. So he got the nickname “Hitler”. And sort-of became the company mascot.

        That doesn’t explain all of the other stuff. Adding to the wild speculation – something to do with Aryans?

      3. John Schilling

        Why is India so big on Hitler?

        The enemy of my enemy is my friend. At least in simplistic theory, and the guy is safely dead so complex reality is unlikely to intrude on simple theory. Hitler never did India any harm, and he was the enemy of the empire that conquered and subjugated India.

        1. Peter

          Britain seems more like one of India’s fargroups these days though: compared with Pakistan, we’re hardly on the radar.

          Someone once said that there’s a thing about former colonies that the hate they feel for their former masters is inversely proportional to their reason for such hate; googling around it seems that this applies to India. For example, here

          1. Alliteration

            Canada never had much of a beef with Britain and still doesn’t, so it seems to be a counter example.

      4. michael w

        -Most Indians have never met a Jew and have only the faintest idea of what that identity would entail. This ties into Scott’s point that Hitler’s too distant to be frightening.

        -Hitler is perceived as a strong leader who returned Germany to prominence, and “did everything for his country.” Here in the West, our emphasis is instead very understandably on WW2 and the Holocaust.

        -India’s government has been for a long time ineffectual, squabbling, prone to devolving power to corrupt local authorities, and prone to bowing to inane demands to curry votes. (I’ve been told a story that the Maharastra government had to reroute a highway mid-construction because a rock along the route looked kind of like a penis, so nearby villagers had declared it an altar to Shiva. See also the recent Jat protests). As a result, a strong central government has a lot of appeal. Many middle-class young indians express a desire for China to invade, so that india can finally be run effectively

        -During the struggle for independance, some Indian factions loosely aligned themselves with Nazi Germany in their opposition to Britain

        -Somebody needs to point out that he isn’t taking about Indo-Aryan 😉

        1. Agronomous

          India’s government has been for a long time ineffectual, squabbling, prone to devolving power to corrupt local authorities, and prone to bowing to inane demands to curry votes.

          Yes, but at least when India’s government curries votes, they taste authentic.

    2. scav

      The Daily Mail maybe isn’t outraged because back in the day, its owner supported Hitler, and the paper hasn’t moved any measurable political distance since.

  62. Rusty

    People are starting to treat Trump voters and Brexit voters as interesting and worthy of respect

    Just for the record, I’m fed up with supporting Brexit and Donald Trump being grouped together as if they were the same thing pretty much. Guilt by association and all that. There was a lot of well reasoned intellectual support for Brexit over many years and I don’t think the same can be said for Trump can it?

    I see plenty of mad articles about Brexit appearing in the US press about how clearly the people supporting it were stupid or evil or think now we have left the EU we will get the British Empire back. Not my experience at all.

    And I am always amazed that the EU gets such a free ride from people identifying as progressives. The Euro has destroyed the lives of millions of people in Southern Europe? Not a problem. EU good Brexit bad. That is all there is and all you need to know.

    1. Jacob

      The UK never had the Euro as it’s currency, if that’s what you’re referring to at the end. The EU and the Euro are related but separate things.

    2. Whatever Happened to Anonymous

      Just for the record, I’m fed up with supporting Brexit and Donald Trump being grouped together as if they were the same thing pretty much.

      Welcome to the alt-right!

      The Cons:
      You get grouped with people you don’t like and have barely anything in common with
      You get some US East Coast guys theorizing about you in internet columns

      The Pros:
      You are allowed to enjoy anime and non-awful memes.

    3. suntzuanime

      There was a lot of well reasoned intellectual support for Brexit over many years and I don’t think the same can be said for Trump can it?

      Human beings don’t generally require supporting arguments. Taking “Trump” as synecdoche for “Trump’s platform”, it depends on what you consider “well-reasoned” and “intellectual”. Certainly there are some people who feel like any argument supporting Trump’s platform would be poorly-reasoned and anti-intellectual by definition.

      1. TomFL

        Calling into question the intellectual elites march toward a utopian liberal world order where the intellectual elites rule all and decide who gets what is of course anti-intellectual. The most qualified people are making all the decisions because they are the most qualified. The most qualified people by definition make the best decisions and since we can’t explore alternate timelines this is assumed fact. The most qualified people tell us who the most qualified people are….hey, wait a minute….I think I may have found a flaw.

  63. MawBTS

    This probably applies to different degrees to different groups of people, and is probably inverted in some cases. A far group that’s safe to love is also a far group that’s safe to hate, nicht wahr?

    I’m thinking of hardcore social conservatism forums, and how they approach the issue of homosexuality. Go to FreeRepublic and they fall into two camps, the “gay people are disgusting abominations of nature (etc etc)” side, and the “who cares, let people do what they want, we have bigger fish to fry like Obama (etc etc)” side.

    What separates the two? I’m thinking it’s the people who only know gays as crazy stereotypes in old movies…vs the people who actually have a gay friend in real life.

  64. sconzey

    This is an important insight but it’s not a new one. The alt-right (and possibly Steve Sailer) have observed the tendency of people to align themselves with distant allies to hurt domestic enemies. The idea is that the distant ally is no threat to you, but your domestic enemy is competing for the same money/power that you are.

    These kinds of near-far alliances are observed throughout history, whether it’s Irish kings bringing over Norman knights to fight their rivals, or the East India Company playing one Indian principality off against another, or Gaddhaffi importing Tauregs to bolster his delicate tribal alliance, or Democrats campaigning for the naturalisation of left-leaning South American migrants, or Mubarak taking US counterterrorism cash to suppress the Islamist-Democratic aspirations of his rural poor, or Merkel importing middle-eastern immigrants to dilute the political influence of the traditionalist right.

    Trump supporters aren’t going to take the Democratic nomination from Bernie Sanders, Hillary did, so Trump supporters are a rational ally when fighting Hillary for the democratic nomination.

    Yeah, Trump probably doesn’t have the best interests of the Democratic Party at heart, but your enemy is in your face RIGHT NOW threatening to destroy all you hold dear and take away everything you worked so hard to achieve. Any ally is a boon.

  65. Ruben

    Potential problem: Areas of Germany with few migrants (e.g. East) have higher rates of racism and Nazism (vote for more racist and Nazi parties, more racists attacks, murders) than areas with more migrants (and it’s not just that migrants don’t attack/vote themselves out). It has often been explained in the German media as “fearing the unknown”, which I guess is the alternative theory to yours.
    I guess you have recourse to the idea that people in Eastern Germany perceive migrants more as their outgroup because they compete for similar grunt jobs, but that’s actually a fairly abstract relationship when the outgroup resides elsewhere.
    Your theory could potentially explain too much because you could often find this sort of angle on a conflict to explain it, but you wouldn’t be able to predict which angle matters and doesn’t (some sort of perceived threat, but this is a bit vague).

    Also, are you focusing on the things that matter the most and do they generalise?
    I guess there’s plenty of online vitriol, so it’s easy to count and so on, but real-world aggression like assaults and murders should probably weigh more strongly. There’s probably more east Germans who’ve killed migrants than adherents of Clinton who’ve killed adherents of Sanders, even though there’s far fewer east Germans. Kind of interesting if it stops at online vitriol mostly. Makes it seem like a more limited phenomenon, if fear of the unknown can make you kill people and hyper-partisanship can make you get into vitriolic online verbal discussions.

    1. Lawrence Kestenbaum

      Another critical difference between East and West Germans is that the East lived for decades under a rigid authoritarian regime which used a lot of force and fear to keep people in line. Even young people who didn’t experience it directly were raised by parents who did. Those who are ruled by violence are surely more likely to resort to violence as a solution to problems.

  66. Markus Ramikin

    “Fargroup” is a useful term, but invoking the near mode/far mode dichotomy seems a stretch to me, I feel like it muddies the issue.

    Outgroups are “near” in identity, and so must be attacked to clearly demarcate one’s own identity. Heretics are a bigger target than pagans, etc. But does that have anything to do with “near mode”? I would say an Englishman hating Poles even when he or she doesn’t even know any personally, or a Nazi hating Jews even though he/she doesn’t know any personally, is thinking in another variation of “far mode”: instead of “exoticising” someone you demonise them, but it’s not concrete/experience-based/whatever.

    Far mode doesn’t have to be nice.

    1. MawBTS

      Heretics are a bigger target than pagans, etc.

      I don’t know if that has to do with demarcating one’s own identity. Pagans are merely ignorant. Heretics have seen the truth and reject it.

  67. Julie K

    Great post!
    I have a better understanding now of how some people despise hassidim but admire the Amish.

    1. Scott Alexander Post author

      Really? Who feels this way?

      (the Hasidim are definitely my problematic fave exoticized fargroup)

      1. Anonymous

        Read gothamist for a month.

        The blue tribe hates the Hasidim because they’re insufficiently adherent to the gender relations that are enforced by the “universal culture”.

  68. Virbie

    This is a nitpick but “Hero Hitler In Love” is not a Bollywood film, it’s a Punjabi one.

  69. onyomi

    It’s especially interesting that this is happening at the same time as Blue Tribe is freaking out about the possibility of a Trump presidency even harder than is typical for either tribe.

    I definitely noticed recently, with surprise, that, in and amongst the many “don’t vote third party, you idiot,” and “you may not love Hillary, but she’s better than Trump” posts, was one link by a very Blue friend to a “here’s why poor white people like Trump” article.

    And indeed, while it treated poor white people with more sympathy than I’m used to seeing them get from the Blue Tribe, it had an almost ethnographic feel–like, “let me explain to you the mysterious ways of this place called West Virginia.” Because to the deeply Blue urbanite academics who populate my Facebook feed, West Virginia might as well be another planet.

    This all makes the “I can tolerate anything…” theory much more interesting: superficially, it seems obvious why people would hate the near outgroup more than the fargroup–throughout evolutionary history and to this day, near outgroups are genuinely more threatening–literally and in competitions for resources.

    What this basic theory would seemingly fail to predict however, is that establishing one’s identity in contrast to some outgroup could be more important even than uniting against a genuinely threatening fargroup–I don’t think, for example, that the deeply Blue person posting the article exoticizing Trump supporters assumes Hillary is sure to win, or that a Trump presidency wouldn’t be so bad.

    If the West Virginians end up propelling Trump to victory I agree with the prediction that there will be less sympathy for them among Blues than otherwise; yet the simple fact that West Virginia would still seem like another planet to the Blue tribe urbanite would not change.

    1. Anonymous

      It’s pretty simple: the blue tribe controls the political party of the red tribe (the Republicans). The blue tribe leadership of the Republican party pretends to be red tribe but is deeply and thoroughly blue tribe (or is simply unwilling to tolerate outgrouping from the blue tribe – same thing either way).

      The blue tribe is reacting to the loss of control of the red tribe’s political organ at a critical time (they’ve nearly fully rigged all elections by importing new blue tribe voters but there’s still a lag before it happens). Every other Republican candidate was fully on board with replacing the red tribe, Trump appears not to be. Every other Republican candidate could reliable be pressured by the media if they made a “gaffe” (statement in favor of the red tribe at the expense of the blue tribe) – Trump doubles down when confronted.

      This is exacerbated by the fact that the Democratic party has a significant minority of red tribe voters that they’re in danger of losing – along with a significant cohort of frustrated low rank blue tribe voters who actually believe the rhetoric (the Bernie voters) who want a share of the spoils. Unfortunately there aren’t enough spoils to be shared with the Bernie voters because they want really expensive things. The blue tribe prefers their newer, cheaper clients who can be bribed with EBT and phones. They’re in danger of losing some of those votes too because that segment doesn’t understand that the reason they’re not getting a cut of the loot is that the only lesson the left learned from the collapse of communism is that there is a line out there somewhere where everything breaks down when you cross it and pull too much out of the private economy.

      The question then becomes “how do we get back those voters until we don’t need them any more”. It’s practical.

        1. Mai La Dreapta

          He… might be? I thought it was conventional wisdom now that the “aw, shucks” Texas good ol’ boy routine was an affectation, and that the Bushes are culturally pretty blue.

          In any case, the overall thrust of the green Anon above is correct. Republican candidates are often Red, but the national party leadership is thoroughly Blue, and sometimes the candidates are Blue as well (Romney being the textbook example of a Blue Republican). This only seems confusing if you’re making the common mistake of conflating Red=GOP and Blue=Democrats.

          1. FacelessCraven

            @Mai La Dreapta – Heavily pro-christianity-in-public-life, anti-abortion, pro-gun, militant foreign policy, pro-business, anti-regulation, dismissive of global warming… What exactly about how he ran or ruled fits blue tribe at all? Heck, I was deep, deep blue tribe during most of his administration, and I hated him like poison.

          2. Mai La Dreapta

            How many of the non-political tribal Blue markers does Romney show? From where I sit (currently in Romania, but in 2004 I was in the US), he seems pretty Blue to me. Conservative, yes, but (as must be mentioned repeatedly) the “tribes” are not just names for your political beliefs, but a complex set of beliefs, practices, and preferences taking in everything from accent to clothing styles. Political beliefs are a part, but not a requirement, of belonging to a tribe.

          3. FacelessCraven

            I’d agree on Romney, and to some extent McCain, but GWB really wasn’t all that long ago.

          4. anon

            The Bush clan is cosmopolitan and hardly nationalist (e.g. consider their close ties to the Saudis).

            What exactly did GWB deregulate, and did it actually hurt any incumbents in the industries in question?

            I don’t agree that militant foreign policy is red tribe.

            Global warming is a distraction. Since GWB left office the blue tribe has consolidated around the idea that it’s a good tool for tricking the poor parts of the world into delaying their industrialization. 10 years ago that wasn’t set in stone.

            (I’m only sorta kidding in making this post.)

          5. onyomi

            I will agree and point out: my parents always vote Republican. My in-laws always vote Democrat. Culturally, tribally, they don’t seem very different; they just have different views on politics.

          6. Jill

            The GOP often has come up with a less extreme Right Wing person to nominate for president, in order to try to get some of the middle of the road voters. But once in office, I don’t see the GOP as doing much that is Blue.

          7. Civilis

            The GOP often has come up with a less extreme Right Wing person to nominate for president, in order to try to get some of the middle of the road voters. But once in office, I don’t see the GOP as doing much that is Blue.

            I think there’s often a selective amnesia at work. The politicians you like can do no wrong, the politicians you hate can do nothing right. The political programs you like were by the good guys, the programs you hate were by the bad guys.

            No Child Left Behind is Bush’s fault, despite being sponsored by Ted Kennedy. Iraq is Bush’s fault, despite Bill Clinton signing the Iraq Liberation Act and bombing Iraq for working with Al Quaeda on chemical weapons, and Gore and Hillary Clinton supporting it before it was politically opportune to be against it. TARP is Bush’s fault, despite being bipartisan.

            Republicans in office have increased regulation, but not by as much as the Democrats want, and increased spending, but not by as much as the Democrats want. They put into place environmental regulations, just not as strict as the Democrats want. They put up with stupid Wilsonian Democratic interference with US foreign policy, only for Jeffersonian Democratic voters to often conveniently forget at election time how their party’s own interference increased the cost and drew out the US involvement abroad. For this, Republican politicians take flack from the Republican voters.

            ‘Bluish, but not as Blue as the True Blue would like’ does not necessarily mean Red.

          8. Gbdub

            Dubya was born in Connecticut and went to Yale. Before 9/11 his main achievement was a tax cut (red) but also a nationalized education standard (blue).

            Romney was named after the founder of Marriott (a family friend), and went to Harvard and Stanford (and BYU). He originally registered as an independent He was the Governor of Massachusetts and oversaw implementation of a statewide socialized health care program.

            They are both culturally very blue, with enough Red accoutrements (“Texas oilman” affectations for Bush, Mormonism for Romney) to be barely plausible as leaders of the Conservative party. Keep in mind that W had to fight a hard initial primary campaign, and was criticized for profligate spending by the proto-tea party. Romney had lukewarm support among deep-Red tribers and cultural conservatives and that’s the main reason he lost.

          9. dndnrsn

            @Gbdub: A national education standard seems like left/right rather than blue/red, and I would put it on the right. Teacher’s unions, strong on the left, tend to be against NCLB and so forth.

          10. A Definite Beta Guy

            But once in office, I don’t see the GOP as doing much that is Blue.

            Med Part D and NCLB are both Blue. I am not sure “tax cut” signifies Blue or Red. Most of those policy changes seem more relevant at the local level and less so nationally.

            HW’s Clean Air Act was definitely Blue.

          11. Jill

            Tax cut for the wealthy definitely seems Red to me. It is true that GOPers have done a Blue thing or 2, but I don’t see it as much.

          12. Nornagest

            NCLB strikes me as fairly nontribal. You could make arguments for it that code as Red (unaccountable teachers’ unions!) or that code as Blue (disadvantaged children!), but the policy itself doesn’t code either way.

            Opposition from e.g. teachers’ unions is a partisan thing, not a tribal thing.

          13. Civilis

            Tax cut for the wealthy definitely seems Red to me. It is true that GOPers have done a Blue thing or 2, but I don’t see it as much.

            Tax benefits for the wealthy in the case of subsidies for Blue-heavy industries like solar power companies or Hollywood have long been a staple way to get donations to the Democratic party. People don’t see it when their people do it.

          14. dndnrsn

            @Nornagest: That’s a better way of putting what I was saying. NCLB is disliked by teacher’s unions because it is a direct and material threat to teachers: in effect, stick-and-carrot standardized testing sees no difference between a teacher given a tough job to do and an incompetent teacher. There’s no need to talk about culture or tribalism or anything like that.

          15. gbdub

            My point re: NCLB was that it was an expansion of the Federal role over something that has typically been the domain of local control – and in that sense is a blue thing (buy yeah, there was also some red flavor “make teachers’ unions accountable” rhetoric around it).

            Jill, please stop saying “tax cuts for the wealthy” – it basically serves much more as a tribal signal than an accurate reflection of reality. And an old dead horse signal at that – it’s giving me the same sort of flashbacks Scott would apparently get if he stumbled into an atheist chatroom circa 2003. Please try to be more charitable to the beliefs of those that disagree with you rather than caricaturing them to make them easier to outgroup.

            Red Tribers (and keep the distinction between tribe and party here) tend to favor tax cuts for everyone, including the rich, and tend to oppose tax increases on everyone, including the rich. But I highly doubt a plan to say, raise the standard deduction a few thousand dollars, or to drop the rate for all the brackets but the top three by 2% would get a lot of opposition from red tribe voters, even though neither would help the wealthy much. And I also bet a plan to only decrease the top income tax rate without touching the lower brackets would be much less popular.

            At most, you could say that red tribers will tolerate tax breaks for people who don’t really need them as long as it means they get a cut. Or that they believe in trickle down economics with the wealthy as growth drivers. That’s still a long way from supporting tax breaks for the rich qua tax breaks for the rich. And “don’t really need them” is itself a value judgment that breaks down on often tribal lines rather than an objective truth.

            As Civilis notes, it’s not like Blue Tribers are themselves purely against using Federal funds to help rich people. They just prefer high taxes with lots of targeted subsidies, where the Red Tribers prefer lower overall taxes. Heck, how many Blue Tribers (at least of the sort likely to run in SSC circles) are openly against Federal tax incentives for Tesla buyers? Literally writing checks to high earners so they can buy a six figure (or nearly) luxury item from a billionaire? Certainly I could twist that with an uncharitable reading (Blue Tribe wants to steal from all of us to give to their insider buddies!) but with a little effort it’s clear that they believe that these subsidies are important to launch an industry that will ultimately benefit everyone.

          16. Jill

            Acorss the board tax cuts for everyone who is wealthy–once, not tax cuts for just for a few industries that are helping to make energy cleaner– are definitely Red.

          17. A Definite Beta Guy

            My point re: NCLB was that it was an expansion of the Federal role over something that has typically been the domain of local control – and in that sense is a blue thing

            Yes, this, and I’d say making education a big issue in general is a much more Blue Tribe thing than Red Tribe thing.

            To go back to the Albion Seed arguments and to simplify, the Massachusetts Bay Colony essentially required a universal literate society. That is not the case for the Southern colonies.

            The Midwestern states have generally higher education spending than expected, but then you’re talking about the Germanic/Scandinavian influence, and those were early Progressives. Those self-described “American” counties do not appear to have much education spending compared to the huge spending in New York.

            Reagan’s school policy was:
            1. Abolish the Department of Education
            2. Prayer in schools

            That maps much closer to my conception of Red Tribe than NCLB, which strikes me as a progressive agenda item that would make Teddy Roosevelt proud.

          18. Jill

            Interesting. I’ve never heard NCLB described as Blue. It seemed to me to be mainly a way to get rid, or at very least disempower, teacher’s unions.

            Also a way to claim that everyone has to take personal responsibility in very unrealistic ways, which is a very Red Tribe thing. That is, the teacher is supposed to take all the responsibility for all her students’ test scoress and learning difficulties, which she has rather limited control over, especially in schools in poor areas.

            It was a way to say “We don’t need to spend a dime on community mental health services or social services, because we can make all students have great test scores just by firing the teachers whose students have low test scores.”

            I have never met anyone Blue who liked NCLB in the least. Everyone Blue I ever met hated it.

          19. Skivverus

            @Cerebral Paul Z.
            To be fair, I haven’t met Ted Kennedy either. Shall we clear the bailey and leave the motte? (that is, for bailey = “people I know of” and motte = “people I have personally interacted with”)

          20. dndnrsn

            Have “blue tribe” and “red tribe” just become how left and right get referred to?

            Regardless of which cultural tribe it was a part of, if the idea of two cultural tribes is correct, NCLB-type legislation is a right wing, not a left wing, thing in the US.

          21. A Definite Beta Guy

            Honestly?
            Opposition to NCLB maps roughly to my concept of “The other team proposed it, therefore it is wrong.” Along with looking at a few things that honestly might offend Blue Tribe, but are minor in the scheme of the entire bill.

            The idea that Blue Tribe seriously opposes standardized testing is farcical. Practically every unit of the highly Blue Tribe college industry considers standardized tests, practically all Blue Tribe parents look at standardized test scores to determine where to move.

            My rough social and family circles suggest Red Tribe is FAR more tolerant of what might be considered “poor schools.”

            I know a Red Triber who moved INTO the city of Chicago, suggesting the schools “aren’t that bad.”

            Of those Blue Tribers interested in starting families, I do not know of ANY willing to consider living in anything less than a GREAT school. The high school servicing my home is considered a ghetto school, and it’s proficiency scores beat the state average by 2500 basis points.

            Just my thought, interested in what others think.

          22. Jill

            yes, NCLB is Red tribe stuff. Basically trying to destroy teacher’s unions and the public school system, particularly in poor areas, where one teacher after another will get fired because her students’ test scores will be low.

            It also screws over the poor– a very Red tribe value. The poor don’t ever get to have experienced teachers, because all their school’s teachers get fired repeatedly, due to the students’ poor test performance– which has very little to do with the teachers and a lot to do with their having parents who are drug addicts or psychotic or in prison or never at home because their single parent is always at work etc.

            The poor also don’t get mental health, addiction treatment or other community resources, since standardized testing of students is supposed to take care of all problems, according to NCLB.

            Of course the Blue Tribe doesn’t oppose standardized testing except when it is used to screw over teachers and the poor.

            Of course, Red Tribe is FAR more tolerant of what might be considered “poor schools.” And NCLB makes these schools even poorer. The Red Tribe consists a lot of poor people who consistently vote against their own best interests, making themselves more poorly educated, less well in terms of health care etc.

            Of those Blue Tribers interested in starting families, I do not know of ANY willing to consider living in anything less than a GREAT school.

            Of course you are right about that, but that is quite consistent with Blue Tribe dislike of NCLB. NCLB makes schools far more dysfunctional, by pretending that teachers are solely responsible for the test scores of their students. This is not true, and acting like it is true makes schools FUBAR.

          23. Nornagest

            It also screws over the poor– a very Red tribe value.

            If you’re really interested in understanding the Right, I might suggest you start by throwing assumptions like this out. This is literally Saturday-morning cartoon villain stuff.

          24. The Nybbler

            NCLB was intended to appeal across political lines and across tribal boundaries. I think it did. The opposition to it was mostly political; if a Democrat had proposed the same thing, the opposition would have taken a different form (more objection to taking away local control, less complaints about treating poor & minority schools unfairly, for instance, though both complaints were in fact made)

            Blue Tribe certainly cares about “great” schools, more than Red Tribe. But NCLB wasn’t about the schools the Blue Tribe people send their schools to; those schools are good already, and NCLB wouldn’t change that. It was about the schools attended by the underclass (both rural and urban). So self-interest doesn’t fit into it for Blue.

            Edit: Jill, Scott’s definitions of the Red and Blue tribes are such that Red includes a significantly larger portion of the underclass than Blue. So “screwing over the poor” is unlikely to be a “Red tribe” value.

          25. Jill

            Okay, you’re right. Screwing over the poor maybe is not exactly what it is. Being too ignorant to recognize when you are being screwed over, and so voting against your best interests as a poor individual, is perhaps more what the Red Tribe value is here. Well, it’s more a practice than a value.

            Poor people voting to have funds slashed on their health care, education, social services, resulting in poorer quality in them. That’s very Red Tribe.

          26. dndnrsn

            If NCLB is blue rather than red, that’s an indication that it’s one of those rare areas that’s blue tribe but right wing.

          27. A Definite Beta Guy

            I guess I am confused on what parts of NCLB read Red. I do not see Red Tribe making any big initiative at the federal level for any education policy. It’d be like seeing someone propose a prayer in school bill that includes an earmark for some gay pride parade, and then suggesting Blue Tribe supports prayer in schools because they voted for the bill.

            Seems…off to me.

          28. TomFL

            “NCLB is Red tribe stuff. Basically trying to destroy teacher’s unions and the public school system, particularly in poor areas”

            What a load of ummmmm…can’t quite think of the word here. Charter schools are the attack vector on teachers unions, not NCLB. NCLB was about accountability and benchmarking. NCLB basically started in FL under Jeb Bush.

            10 years of FCAT results
            http://www.tampabay.com/specials/2012/reports/fcat-district-results/

            Look at the supporting data spreadsheets, Subgroups Math/Reading. Black and hispanic students made huge gains over 10 years, >20% increases in grade level passing. You cannot possibly look at this data and make an assertion about “particularly poor areas”. It is in fact exactly the opposite, they made the most gains.

            It is true that the blue tribe is against these programs, but it certainly isn’t because they aren’t helping disadvantaged students per the data.

          29. Techno-Satanist

            Okay, you’re right. Screwing over the poor maybe is not exactly what it is. Being too ignorant to recognize when you are being screwed over, and so voting against your best interests as a poor individual, is perhaps more what the Red Tribe value is here. Well, it’s more a practice than a value.

            Okay, you’re right. Letting criminals and degenerates run amok in your community maybe is not exactly what it is. Coming up with excuses for why criminals and degenerates should be allowed to run amok, and arguments for why arresting and executing criminals and degenerates is evil are a Blue Tribe specialty. Well it’s more a practice than a value.

            Poor and vulnerable people have been voting to give criminals rights, and even to import sex criminals in masse. They’re voting to allow criminals back into their own communities, and to even force others to accept criminals into their communities resulting in the obvious consequences (crime -> fear -> retreat -> economic shutdown). That’s very Blue Tribe.

          30. cassander

            @The Nybbler and A beta Guy and Jill

            Bush’s original NCLB proposal had 2 main planks. One was more testing and more qualified teachers along with a bunch more money. Two was forcing states that took the money to allow students more freedom to move between public schools. The first of these was to appease the left, the second was for the right, though this was very mild. It had nothing for charters, nothing four vouchers, just letting students in one public school go to another. It was about as mild and inoffensive a proposal as you could manage, which was no accident given that the republican position in the senate was tenuous.

            Of course, the teachers unions went nuts about it, and mobilized the democrats against it. The bill was stymied until Bush cut a deal with Ted Kennedy. The deal was simple. Kennedy would bring over a bunch of democratic votes and the choice provision could stay, but only if it was watered down so much as to make it completely meaningless. that made Bush happy because he could say he passed an education reform bill, and even one that technically had school choice provisions. It made democrats happy because they could feed more money to one of their interest groups. The only people it made unhappy were people who actually believed in school choice and a smaller federal role in education, i.e. red tribers, which is why the final bill got more democratic votes in the senate than republican.

            To Jill, the idea that it’s a right wing plan to wreck schools is laughable. There was nothing in it about teachers unions, even in the original version, much less the one that passed. That blue tribe likes to forget how how warmly they greeted NCLB doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, just that the memory hole is deep. I suggest in future you actually read about things at places other than salon before opining on them, that will help you to avoid looking so foolish.

          31. Corey

            @Jill, @Nornagest: My idea of a charitable interpretation of poor-screwing is: conservative intellectuals (this is somewhat distinct from “Republicans”) support policies that screw the poor in the short term in a sincere belief that this well help the poor in the long term (e.g. by making the pie higher).

            There are always people who hate the poor because they’re poor, but honestly I don’t think that motivates a lot of conservative policy. Poverty and race issues are tied together in a way that complicates that, and probably isn’t worth discussing.

          32. Whatever Happened to Anonymous

            I mean, you can also exert the minimum of charity and assume that some people just don’t care about the poor, rather than actively conspiring to screw them.

          33. E. Harding

            “Have “blue tribe” and “red tribe” just become how left and right get referred to?”

            -Which “wing” was WJ Bryan and Woodrow Wilson on? Their constituencies were both largely Red Tribe.

          34. Nornagest

            I’m skeptical of how valid the tribe labels stay once you go back past WWII. They’re probably stabler than the political ones, but our culture changed a lot over the 20th century.

          35. The Nybbler

            The culture of the large, sparsely populated, rural colonies versus the culture of the small and densely populated urban ones? Goes way, way back.

          36. Nornagest

            The existence of a split goes way back. The specifics of each culture change rapidly.

          37. hlynkacg

            Bryan is pretty clearly Red and Wilson Blue but they provide a demonstration of how “Red and Blue” don’t always map cleanly to “Left and Right” or “Republican and Democrat”.

          38. E. Harding

            No, Wilson was very, very red tribe, though coming from an academic background. He couldn’t win his home state of New Jersey in 1916, but was the only Democratic presidential candidate to win every Utah county. His successor in 1920 lost Manhattan, but still won Kentucky. By 1920, Wilson had pissed off all the Blue Tribe constituencies you could possibly imagine, thus leading to the grandest Republican popular vote victory ever. The smallest decline in the Democratic vote share from 1916 to 1920 was in Kentucky and the Carolinas.

            Both Wilson and Bryan represented the same tribe and party. Both won Manhattan at least once. Bryan was Wilson’s Secretary of State.

          39. hlynkacg

            They may have represented the same party but they did not represent the same tribe, which was the point I was trying to make.

          40. The Nybbler

            @Nornagest

            I suppose you’re right but is it really that crazy to imagine Jefferson penning columns for “Guns & Ammo” to pay for upkeep on the pickup truck he drives around Monticello, while Hamilton’s supporters take a break from their literary roundtables to march for gun control in the wake of the duel at Weehawken?

          41. E. Harding

            “but they did not represent the same tribe”

            -Yes, they did. Just the fact Newt Gingrich is a former college professor does not mean he ever represented the same tribe Obama does today.

          42. hlynkacg

            @E Harding,

            You seem to be conflating “tribe” and political party. A tribe is a cultural construct. It is possible for two people to share political opinions or an occupation without necessarily sharing a culture.

          43. E. Harding

            “It is possible for two people to share political opinions or an occupation without necessarily sharing a culture.”

            -Woodrow Wilson was about as blue tribe as Ross Douthat or Newt Gingrich. Are these people blue tribe?

          44. hlynkacg

            Wilson was far more blue than Douthat and Douthat is pretty blue. Gingrich on the other hand started off pretty red, but has moved towards the center (purple?) with age.

          45. hlynkacg

            To elaborate; Once again you seem to be conflating “tribe” with political party.

            Wilson was very blue. He rose from the ranks of the urban Gentry, was an academic, a proponent of “whig history”, and fairly cosmopolitan for his day. From a policy standpoint he tended to be big on theory but less so on implementation. All these are stereotypically “blue” traits.

            WJ Bryan on the other hand was almost his mirror. Yes there were both academics and democrats. But Bryan was a staunch traditionalist who came from a rural working class background and tended to take a dim view of “new-fangled theories”. Culturally Wilson and Bryan were on separate sides.

            Ross Douthat is an upper class kid from San Fransisco, who went to Harvard to become a journalist. There is very little “Red” about him even if he’s nominally a Republican

            On the flipside Gingrich is a professor, a job typically associated with the blue tribe, but he’s also an Army brat, who married young, and went to a state school. He’s been immersed in a “red” tribe cultural milieu for much of his life.

        2. anon

          Yeah, I agree with Mai La that Bush was blue playing to a red base.

          And in addition to Anon’s point about party leadership, I’d say that Republican *intellectuals* (think tankers, opinion writers, etc. — related to but not the same as the actual party leaders) are thoroughly culturally blue by the time they obtain influence, if not necessarily in their roots or upbringing. I’m thinking of people like Ross Douthat.

          1. E. Harding

            I don’t think Douthat is culturally blue. He seems to me like very much a champion of family values -a Cruz/Romney guy. Romney may have had some blue tribe features (in fact, a lot of them for a Republican), but Cruz was not blue tribe at all.

      1. Titanium Dragon

        The leadership of the Democrats and the Republicans are both gray tribe, or were historically. Trump is a wannabe gray but he doesn’t fit into the grays at all, so he’s using the reds to advance himself.

        The blue and gray tribes are reacting with genuine fear because Trump is evil and the Reds have been radicalized by incessant fearmongering.

        Viewing the “blue tribe” as rigging anything is incorrect, as the blue tribe is not in charge of the Democratic party. Moreover, the idea that the Democrats are trying to “rig the elections” with demographics is comically incorrect; the reality is that the demographic shifts were not something which were even really advantageous to the Democrats until the red tribe went totally insane and alienated the Hispanics (who were, previously, getting along with both tribes just fine, but have now been driven over to the blues for survival). The main reason that the Democrats are winning in the long term is because young people are becoming much more educated. Historically, going to college was a way to induct people into the gray tribe, but the blue tribe has been cargo culting a lot of gray tribe stuff, so now college is becoming blue/gray. The result, though, is that the red tribe is in terminal decline.

        Which isn’t really surprising; the red culture has always been unhealthy, ever since the founding of the US, and now that social mobility is much easier, it is worse off than ever. Young people can switch cultures when they go to college, and they are doing so in droves. The reds are getting older and older and literally dying off.

        Without demographic replacement, the tribe is doomed. It would be dying off more slowly with fewer immigrants, but it would still be dying.

        And indeed, it is worth remembering that the Cubanos aligned themselves with the reds; immigrants are not naturally anti-red. The reds have simply made it that way.

    2. dndnrsn

      This reminds me of something I realized a little while ago: I am, among the bubble I’m in (“blue tribe” insofar as that means anything, generally affluent, left wing, university educated, diverse ethnically speaking, higher than general population % of LGBT people, etc) far more sympathetic to poor white people than the norm.

      But my sympathy for them is like the sympathy of someone in a developed country for a starving waif in an underdeveloped country. There is a criticism of the left by the right (or, by some people on it) that you have white left-wingers who are hugely against racism, against racists, brimming with sympathy for downtrodden minorities … who nevertheless turn out to have picked their neighbourhoods, schools, friends, route to work, side of the street they walk on, etc in such a way as to avoid those same downtrodden minorities. I think there is something to this criticism, honestly: I’ve seen in real life stuff like white people who condemn racism and use the phrase “white guys” as a pejorative … and then they throw a party with a couple dozen people and literally everyone there is white.

      And I realized, I’m just a weird variant of this. I’m from a well-off family, I work a white-collar job, I have multiple degrees, I vote for a left-wing political party, and I know a grand total of maybe half a dozen people tops who vote for right-wing parties. It’s not like I go out of my way to socialize with poor whites.

      1. Titanium Dragon

        Why would you? Poor minorities aren’t part of your tribe, they’re just allies. No one actually wants to live around poor people.

  70. Dumky

    “a person dependent on food stamps has a lot to fear from Republican victories”

    Could you clarify what makes you say that?
    Sorry if this is a tangent from your main point in this post, but I noticed that you regularly make such off-the-cuff remarks that seem taken for granted.

    I’m assuming that you mean “Republicans” as a party of less government and less tax-funded welfare.
    Then some evidence comes to mind for someone who cares about the poor and that make your statement at least questionable:
    – the trend/decline of poverty before government’s war on poverty,
    – the international correlation between economic freedom and standards of living for the poor,
    – the rate of charitable donation by Republicans versus Democrats,
    – the various non-governmental institutions of assistance around the world and prior to the crowding out by taxation,
    – the worldwide progress against extreme poverty which arguably results from governments releasing their grip,
    – or considering how well have government schools succeeded at helping the poor, …
    – Also worth mentioning is the strong religious current among Republicans and the long Christian tradition of community assistance for the needy.

    To illustrate my question with an analogy: yes, your drug dealer helps you manage your toothache pain, and, yes, you may shortsightedly fear withdrawal.
    But it doesn’t mean recipients are correct to fear the withdrawal, that their life will be worse without the drug, that people who want to kick the habit don’t care about their well-being, or that society’s objective health is improved on net by such drug dealing.

    1. Harry Johnston

      Even if we assume all of that is true (I find it doubtful) the individual who is dependent on food stamps still faces the risk of starvation if they get taken away. The long-term benefits (if any) won’t help them much if they’re already dead.

      1. Anonymous

        the individual who is dependent on food stamps still faces the risk of starvation

        No. Not even close. Not in America. We still have various troubling issues with food security (often stemming from culture or localized distributional issues), there isn’t even a category for people who are genuinely at risk of starvation. Literally, the lowest category of food insecurity the USDA uses for research is “Very Low Food Security” (5.6% of households). The definition is, “Reports of multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake.”

        In that category, the worst subcategory (about 24% of it) said that they had skipped eating for an entire day in at least three months of the past year. Troubling? Yes. Can things be done to fix it? Hopefully. At risk of starvation? No.

      2. Anonymous

        the individual who is dependent on food stamps still faces the risk of starvation

        No. Not a chance. Not in America. There’s not even a category for people who are genuinely at risk of starvation. The lowest category the USDA uses is defined as, “Reports of multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake.” That covers a pretty wide set of circumstances (and is 5.6% of households). Looking at subcategories, the worst (24%) said that an adult had skipped eating for an entire day in at least three different months through the year. Troubling? Yes. Can something be done to fix it? Hopefully. At risk of starvation? No.

        1. Harry Johnston

          Uh, surely that’s the status quo with the food stamp programs in place? Does that really tell us anything about what would happen if they were stopped?

          (Also, even if we assume all the people currently receiving food could manage without them, do they know that?)

          1. Anonymous

            surely that’s the status quo with the food stamp programs in place?

            Obviously.

            Does that really tell us anything about what would happen if they were stopped?

            By that standard, then we also don’t know enough about what would happen if they were stopped to make statements about how people would face starvation. Using homeless as a temporary stand-in for really poor, every time I’ve talked to a homeless person, read an essay about what it was like to be homeless, or read social science about homelessness and associated problems, it seems that food is the easiest thing to acquire in nearly all areas of America. We have tons of it, and there are a plethora of ways that it gets out to people. They may not always have the best quality food, but even among populations where people are homeless, mentally disabled, and not on food stamps, it really seems like some sort of sustenance can be readily acquired.

            even if we assume all the people currently receiving food could manage without them, do they know that?

            Lack of knowledge is a huge problem. Heck, as I mentioned, we have a huge problem with people who aren’t even getting food stamps when they are clearly eligible.

            I think it’s useful to distinguish between two situations. There is a group of people who are homeless, jobless, and truly destitute. Often, these people aren’t even on food stamps. They’re much more likely to get food via soup kitchens, other private ready-to-eat food distribution charities, or just asking for someone on the street to buy them McDonalds. The worst case (which is really bad) is dumpster diving. However, since we have such an abundance of food in general, there is a lot of food that is available through dumpster diving. It’s gross and causes many other health issues (up to an including death), but people will generally take this route rather than starve.

            A second group is people who have a home and a place to prepare food. They might have a job (perhaps just part-time), but just not enough money to pay the rent and also buy sufficient food. These people are far more likely to receive food stamps. There are still quite a few private food banks out there intending to help fill in for this category, but it’s not as common as the other methods, precisely because food stamps are really tailored to this group. However, much of the infrastructure is actually there. I just did a search for a network in my state. I don’t live in the city, but I’m also not in the middle of nowhere. Their results gave seven such pantries within 10 miles.

            If you went with the most extreme case (John Schilling proposing to end all food stamps tomorrow elsewhere in these comments), you would probably have a little impact on the first category… maybe a little more unhealthy/dangerous behavior like dumpster diving. The second category would be more impacted. Lack of knowledge of alternative resources would probably lead to days without meals for a lot of people, after which they get sick of it, figure out where these food banks are, and start acquiring food there. These food banks generally have some buffer capacity, so they’re unlikely to get immediately drained to zero. Demand will go up, though… and I don’t think anyone has a great prediction of whether we’d cover the gap entirely. My personal inclination is that we would, because if there was a news story as big as, “Food Stamps Ended Today,” I can guarantee it would be followed immediately by stories about how Food Bank X ran out of food today (if it happened) and imploring the public to donate to Food Bank X. And since (again) we have a massive overabundance of food in America, I think people would donate enough to meet the demand.

            I find it exceeding unlikely that anyone will literally starve. Don’t get me wrong, “Some people will eat food out of a dumpster,” still ends up with people dying who shouldn’t have otherwise died… but this is not starving.

          2. Harry Johnston

            Lack of knowledge of alternative resources would probably lead to days without meals for a lot of people, after which they get sick of it, figure out where these food banks are, and start acquiring food there.

            Or perhaps spend too much money on food because they don’t know what else to do, are unable to pay the rent, and get evicted. Or maybe not, but either way, it still sounds to me like something to fear, no matter what the final outcome might be.

            (Perhaps I should have written something like “fear of starvation” rather than “risk”.)

      3. Dumky

        I’m curious why you find the claims doubtful.

        Like Scott, you seem to be making an assumption about the alternative. Namely they are people in need are left to die, with no assistance from various communities.

        Underlying this assumption is the notion that the only form of community and society is government. In reality, we know that there are and were many voluntary associations, such as NGOs, families, mutual aid societies and other institutions like churches, and many corresponding ways to raise funds for a cause.
        We don’t have “a society” (ie monopoly), but rather a multitude of societies (competing and innovating). Human interactions compose a complex network with many clubs and clusters, not a hub-and-spoke network with government at its center.

        We have hundreds of millions of people who care about the poor, and yet we let the poor starve if we’re not taxed?

          1. Dumky

            Corey, I’d appreciate a source on that. I did a quick check and found charitable giving to be almost exactly 10x the dollar amount spent on food stamps last year ($370 billion vs $37 billion).
            This is an order of magnitude in the opposite direction than you claimed, so I am quite surprised.

            Also, your line of reasoning makes two questionable assumptions:
            (1) if you reduce government taxation, then charitable giving will remain as today.
            (2) a dollar spent by government program has the same effect and cost as a dollar spent by a private charity.

            Just looking at the second assumption, there is some evidence that 70% of the cost of government welfare programs is absorbed by administrators (ie not going to the needy).
            https://www.theadvocates.org/effective-government-welfare-compared-private-charity/

          2. Nornagest

            I wonder how much of that charitable giving number describes chuchgoers giving to their own churches, though.

            Churches tend to do a lot of charity of their own, of course.

          3. Corey

            Fair enough, I have a crappy memory and can’t be arsed to Google on blog comments. I might be thinking of total anti-poverty spending which isn’t the same thing at all. (Especially if it includes Medicaid, which couldn’t usefully be replaced with cash unless it’s a lot more than what’s currently spent on Medicaid).

          4. TheAncientGeek

            It’s not about averages, it’s about rights and fairness. Giving the entire welfare budget to one randomly selected person may be the same as distributing it evenly amongst claimants by some notion of statistics, but it isn’t what solves the problem. Private charity has historically suffered from a miniature version of the problem… donors pick and choose who they donate to.

        1. Walter

          Look, they feed you in jail. No one is starving in the US who doesn’t want to. Punch a guy and *presto* you’ve got 3 squares a day.

        2. Harry Johnston

          Again, I’m talking from the point of view of an individual person. It’s true that they might be able to find a charity willing to feed them. The odds may even be in their favour. But the odds against being killed in a terrorist attack are lower still, and people still fear that possibility, so why would you suppose that people wouldn’t fear having food stamps taken away?

          1. Jill

            I can’t see why it would be likely that they would find a charity that would feed them. If private charities were so well funded and working so well, there would never have been any need to start the government anti-poverty programs we have.

          2. Anonymous

            If a private charity today goes looking for ways that it can help poor people, it will immediately determine that acquiring food is the easiest task they have, so they focus their resources on various other tasks.

            If word came down that food stamps were ending soon, there would be concerted efforts to provide food resources privately before it occurred. Whether or not they would fill the whole gap in time or whether there would be a transitional hiccup is undetermined.

          3. Dumky

            Jill,
            Your question is natural (why did government programs get started in the first place?). It rests on the same assumption I’m trying to probe: “The existence of a problem means that government will solve it by getting involved.”
            This assumption is what my initial question on the thread was basically trying to probe. How do you know that it works better than the alternative?

            In the hints I listed above (with some pointers in the threads) I mentioned the war on poverty and OSHA. Both of their creations seems to correlate with either zero (or even a negative) change in the relevant trends (poverty rate, workplace injuries and fatalities).

            Assuming those data points are representative (no weird selection problem, composition effect, etc), here’s a possible theory how this could happen:
            Yes, poverty was a real problem, as were workplace injuries. They were improving already, but politicians probably thought “progress is not fast enough; in our modern society we can’t tolerate such thing; plus this will be popular and get me elected”. Yet that doesn’t establish that their policies had positive long-term effects.
            Politicians and government bureaucrats are not known for being held tightly accountable, their horizons are short (see the public-choice theory branch of economics), and their audience is mostly captive (see monopoly theory in economics).
            It is also hard for most people to spend the time and reason about counter-factuals. So the programs ride on people’s intuitions (if government is doing something, it must be helping) and incentives (the benefits are visible, but the costs dispersed) and become the status quo (regardless of results).

          4. TheAncientGeek

            This assumption is what my initial question on the thread was basically trying to probe. How do you know that it works better than the alternative?

            if the alternative is hotch-potch of provision form private donors, religious charities, etc it’s been tried. If it’s something new, that hasn’t been tried, you need to specify it.

    2. CAE_Jones

      Ever been unemployed and disabled? Ever needed medication that someone decided the unemployed can’t have because they’d obviously be abusing it? Ever been all of the above and needed something (training, disability-related equipment, etc) which costs considerably more than the resource limit on SSI? Then run into people saying you should just be dependent on your parents for the rest of your life (I keep wanting to add more to this one but it’s all uncharitable because that one just pisses me off so fucking much)? Ever noticed that one party equates all the programs you use to not be an eternal pet with Wellfare Queens™ and talks about cutting or restricting them (and does so: see Kansas), and the other… ur… gets people fired for their political beliefs (I didn’t say either side was good)?
      It really isn’t fun. Let’s not make it more difficult than it needs to be. That wouldn’t make getting a job any more likely. That’d just force me to look up how to build squirrel traps. Or sleep at a busy intersection. … or on the train tracks. Why didn’t I think of that until just now? I have to be terrible at that, too?

      1. Dumky

        Did I claim that poverty was fun or desirable in any sense? I don’t think so. You’re addressing someone else (a strawman maybe).
        Look at my question for Scott. Specifically it is a question about why he assumes the alternative to a government welfare is no security net at all and worse-off poors.
        Your reply is that poverty is terrible without a security net and the poor would be worse off, which begs the same question.

        As a side question (and borrowing from Milton Friedman), would you require your oncologist to have been a cancer survivor, for his analysis to be relevant? In other words, your first sentence is simply ad-hominem.

        1. shieldfoss

          If he is analyzing how un-fun he found the cancer when he had it, yeah, I’d find it quite important that he was a cancer survivor.

      2. Inc

        Government is the only historical, nay, only POSSIBLE entity which might alleviate suffering for the disabled and unemployed. Additionally, it’s super effective, efficient, it creates no perverse incentives, and it’s not funded by theft. Opposition to government charity is tantamount to opposition to all charity. We’ve always been at war with Eastasia.

        1. John Schilling

          Government is the only entity engaged in this work on the necessary scale in the United States today. Any POSSIBLE alternative, will take a decade or more to build and debug at that scale.

          Any plan that involves all or most of the people who can’t presently afford to feed themselves, going without food for ten years, is a bad plan. Try again.

          1. Dumky

            John Schilling, you make an interesting argument about the side-effects of transitioning back to a private social net.
            The current government welfare system has snowballed and centralized over a century. Many alternative and decentralized institutions have disappeared in that process and I agree that it would take time to rebuild and re-organize them.
            But culture has adjusted one way (now people expect government to provide those services) and culture could adjust back.
            As far as which solution takes more building and debugging, has government been known for being nimble, experimental, responsive, competitive, effective?

            But going back to the main question, does that mean you’re just concerned about how to organize a transition, but you grant that such a private social net would be more effective, helpful and desirable?

            One more thing: there is a hidden assumption in your argument about transition pains, namely that the government system is sustainable (ie the poor and elderly will receive service 10, 20 or 50 years from now). But the trends on medicaid, medicare, government pensions, etc make this questionable. (this is also true in France were I grew up)

          2. John Schilling

            But going back to the main question, does that mean you’re just concerned about how to organize a transition, but you grant that such a private social net would be more effective, helpful and desirable?

            “Just” concerned about a transition that is going to involve trillions of dollars and tens of millions of people?

            I’m a libertarian, and even a Libertarian. Yes, I think that in the long run we would be better off with a more privatized and decentralized safety net. But getting there from here, without causing nearly holocaust-level suffering, is a Hard Problem that must not be trivialized as “We can get rid of the safety net we have now because here’s a powerpoint slide describing a better one”. That way leads to a decade or more without any net.

          3. cassander

            >Government is the only entity engaged in this work on the necessary scale in the United States today. Any POSSIBLE alternative, will take a decade or more to build and debug at that scale.

            Except, you know, the thousands of private organizations doing charity work or the millions of companies that hire people. Just because government is the only centralized solution doesn’t mean it’s the only solution.

          4. Dumky

            John Schilling,

            I guess we’re going on a tangent, since you are probably not the audience for my initial question 😉

            I tend to agree with you (how can we minimize pain and disruption? it takes time for people, institutions, norms and cultures to adjust and innovate), but I should point why I’m perhaps less concerned than you.

            The transition concern was also brought during the abolition of slavery (how are they going to adjust to freedom, find jobs, ..).
            Did that turn out to be the case?

            There was a comparative study on how well former communist countries fared when they transitioned slowly vs quickly (I think this qualifies as a transition involving trillions of dollars and millions of people). Their finding is that faster is better, possibly because it doesn’t give rent-seekers time to tap into the privatization effort.
            Is there evidence that the short-term pain was worse than the original soviet baseline, or worse than in the slow transitions?

            Maybe those are not the best examples.
            Would you have some better historical illustrations of your catastrophic concern?

          5. John Schilling

            The LDS Bishops Storehouse is a thing, and it works. And it works pretty well.

            Yep. How long would it take to expand the system by two orders of magnitude, without putting most of it in the hands of people who don’t have the experience and commitment of the ones who have been making it work well at the present scale?

            More generally, and not just for Mark: How often does the private sector achieve even 50% market saturation in less than a decade? It took longer than that to get cellphones in the hands of half of all Americans, or to replace half of the local retail stores with Wal-Marts, for Amazon to put half the bookstores out of business. Taxi services are still going strong in cities where Uber and Lyft are free to operate. And those are in cases where there is a strong profit motive to find and exploit every accessible niche.

            The private sector can be quite responsive on the micro scale, not so much at the macro. And it cannot match bureaucracy in thoroughness. If you shut down the government-run safety nets tomorrow, some people will be taken care of by a more effective, more efficient, less soul-destroying system next week. Literally, next week. Some other people, it will take literally a decade before anyone notices that they aren’t making it and nobody else is helping.

            Those people really do have reason to fear the sort of ideologue who says “Look at the wonders of private charity; let’s cut everyone’s food stamps and Make Things Better!”

          6. cassander

            John Schilling says:
            July 29, 2016 at 12:20 pm ~new~

            >Yep. How long would it take to expand the system by two orders of magnitude, without putting most of it in the hands of people who don’t have the experience and commitment of the ones who have been making it work well at the present scale?

            Does it need to expand 2 orders of magnitude? The number of people on food stamps is not the same thing as the number of people who would go hungry without food stamps.

            > If you shut down the government-run safety nets tomorrow,

            Something no one proposes doing.

      3. TheAncientGeek

        I believe in the theoretical possibility of a decent welfare substitute from a non governmental source, and I believe in the theoretical possibility of a godlike AI turning the world into paradise. In neither case have I seen a blueprint. Hence the theoretically. If you want me to back non government welfare , show me the blueprints, the detailed plan. Otherwise I will continue to believe that the idea is to cut existing welfare and then lose interest.

        1. Dumky

          TheAncientGreek, you may want to respond to my question or the evidence I hinted at that questions Scott’s assumption.

          Regarding your question for a blueprint, imagine this scenario: you are part of the soviet union before it’s transition to a non-communist regime (ie decentralized production structure). Please tell me how shoes are going to be produced. What kinds will be produced? How many? At what price or cost?

          Although I understand the question, it has nothing to do with whether it is the right thing to do.
          What work will slaves do after the end of slavery? Who will pick the cotton? Show me the blueprint.

          But since I do understand the impulse, let me suggest that you read up on mutual aid societies, lodge doctors and philanthropy in general. I can give you some pointers if you care.

        2. TheAncientGeek

          Dumky

          Please credit me with having gone through many iterations if this argument.

          The critical point about the abandonment of government welfare is that it seems to entail the abandonment of a rights-based system, and therefore a lower level of security for potential claimants.
          That has been stated clearly several times, and has not been answered Saying “blah lodges, blah religious charity” does not answer the point, since you are referring to a system which was tried and was known to have holes in the net.

          The analogy with communism is misleading. A transition form communism to capitalism is a transition from something that was known to to not to work to something that is known to. What you are calling for, the uninvention of the welfare state and the reinvention of Victorian charity, is pretty much the opposite. People who reject it are therefore not being unreasonable.

      4. TheAncientGeek

        Specifically it is a question about why he assumes the alternative to a government welfare is no security net at all and worse-off poors.

        Private charity has been tried, and did suffer lack of a comprehensive safety net. So that’s an entirely reasonable assumption. If you think a new version is not going to have that problem, agai, you need to explain why.

    3. benwave

      To me, saying that taking away a beneficiary’s income will make their lives better sounds like a counter-intuitive claim. Naively, I would predict that taking away their income makes their life worse, so I would need more evidence to be convinced that what you say is true.

      I guess what I’m saying is that I feel like the onus of proof is on you in this case. An analogy doesn’t really convince me of anything.

      1. Orphan Wilde

        The beneficiary’s income is dependent upon them not improving their lives.

        Make money, you lose your benefits.

        The welfare cliffs guarantees at least some percentage of people are trapped in poverty by the fact that any improvement will leave them worse-off, so for some percentage of people on welfare, losing welfare will be the best thing that could happen to them.

        It’s not going to be true of everybody, however. It probably won’t even be true of most people.

      2. Dumky

        benwave, thanks for your curiosity.

        I’ve tried to provide a few hints above that suggest that the poor can be better off without government welfare.
        If you’re asking for sources for those claims, I can.

        – Poverty trend before/after the war on poverty (based on census data): https://danieljmitchell.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/failed-war-on-poverty.jpg

        (it’s a tangent, but if you’re curious, look at workplace injuries before/after OSHA too
        http://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/serials/files/regulation/1995/10/v18n4-5.pdf )

        – Economic freedom versus poverty and standards of living for the bottom quintile
        https://mises.org/blog/pope-francis-income-inequality-poverty-and-capitalism-0

        – Rate of charitable giving by conservatives vs liberals:
        http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/21/opinion/21kristof.html

        – Reduction of extreme poverty in the world
        See Hans Rosling’s research
        I have a pointer here: http://blog.monstuff.com/archives/000377.html

        (as an aside, Rosling also surveyed people’s knowledge about those facts, such as the increasing literacy and declining fertility. He found that people, even educated ones, respond worse than random)

        – I skipped a few ones because I have to go to work, but if you ask, I can complete the list.

        I totally agree with your observation (that it seems counter-intuitive).
        In economics, there is what is seen (I tax you and build a bridge, the bridge is seen) and the unseen (what would have happened in the counter-factual). We must train ourselves to analyze the unseen to understand the net effects of policies.

        I like this quote on the topic: “The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.” — H. Hazlitt

      3. Dumky

        benwave, I hope my reply was not silently swallowed by some filter by Scott’s comment system 🙁

        I got a commentID, but I don’t see it appear.
        #comment-389541
        Scott, if you see this, I hope my comment can go through.

        My main point in that reply was providing links sourcing the bullets I had above.

      4. Dumky

        benwave, I do not know where my comment went. I wish I had saved it, as I won’t have the patience to re-type it fully.

        I understand that it could seem counter-intuitive, which is why I listed some suggestive evidence. The task of economics is to understand the counterfactual so see the full/net effects of policies.

        For worldwide extreme poverty trend, see Hans Rosling’s data.
        I have a summary and pointers at blog.monstuff.com/archives/000377.html

        For economy freedom correlating with less poverty and better standards of living for the bottom quintile:
        mises.org/blog/pope-francis-income-inequality-poverty-and-capitalism-0

        For poverty trend before/after the war on poverty:
        blog.independent.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/War-on-Poverty.png

        For charitable giving by conservatives vs liberals:
        http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/21/opinion/21kristof.html

        Sorry if I skip the remaining bullets for now. Back to work…

      5. Dumky

        benwave, I do not know where my comment went. I wish I had saved it, as I won’t have the patience to re-type it fully.

        I understand that it could seem counter-intuitive, which is why I listed some suggestive evidence. The task of economics is to understand the counterfactual so see the full/net effects of policies.

        For worldwide extreme poverty trend, see Hans Rosling’s data.

        For economy freedom correlating with less poverty and better standards of living for the bottom quintile:
        mises.org/blog/pope-francis-income-inequality-poverty-and-capitalism-0

        For poverty trend before/after the war on poverty:
        blog.independent.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/War-on-Poverty.png

        For charitable giving by conservatives vs liberals:
        nytimes.com/2008/12/21/opinion/21kristof.html

        Also, as Orphan Wilde pointed out the US welfare is particularly badly designed, with welfare cliffs:
        zerohedge.com/news/2012-11-27/when-work-punished-tragedy-americas-welfare-state

        Sorry if I skip the remaining bullets for now. Back to work…

        1. TheAncientGeek

          Also, as Orphan Wilde pointed out the US welfare is particularly badly designed, with welfare cliffs:

          So why is Victorian charity the answer, and not a US welfare state remodelled to match one of the better ones worldwide?

    4. John Schilling

      I would say that people on food stamps have little to fear from Republican victories because the Republicans cutting off everyone’s food stamps is about as likely as their reinstituting chattel slavery for Negroes. Entrenched social programs like that get tweaked at the margins, with the tweaks described as massive reforms.

      But if we’re imagining it comes to that, then yes, a lot of people are going to get hurt. You may be able to convincingly argue that if we hadn’t spent a couple of generations handling the “war on poverty” in such a damn fool manner we wouldn’t have so many unemployed and unemployable people to take care of, but we did and we do. Path dependence matters. Cutting off food stamps now, unless accompanied by the sort of massive social and economic engineering programs Republicans are not generally known for, will leave the people who are unemployed and unemployable now, simply unemployed, unemployable, and foodless.

      Enough of them will still be capable of voting and/or rioting that a rational Republican will likely find food stamps the cheaper alternative.

      1. Corey

        Um, at least one State has already tried to impose a work requirement for food stamps (SNAP). Without a full-employment economy like the 1990s this is a real cut.

        Impossible to tell if this is cynical theater (knowing it would (probably) get struck down in court) or sincere bootstrap-yadda-yadda-yadda. One morphs into the other over time, as yesterday’s voting base becomes tomorrow’s politicians. I think (may be biased here) that as long as someone’s foodlessness can be blamed on the foodless individual in some way, most won’t care.

        1. Nornagest

          The current unemployment rate is about 5%, which is about the level seen in 1997 (and lower than 1990-1996). It dropped another point before bottoming out in 2001, but it’s definitely in the same ballpark.

          Of course, that’s the official unemployment rate, and you could probably make a convincing case that that isn’t the whole story.

          1. Loquat

            I’ll chime in with the obvious counter, then – the official unemployment rate doesn’t count people who’d like a job but have given up trying to find one. Labor force participation rate is currently around 62-63%, but spent most of the 90’s in the 66-67% range. You can see a chart going back to 1950 here.

          2. Nornagest

            Sure. But the participation rate glosses over a lot of stuff too, including how many of the people left out are students or retired — and we’re an older and more educated society now than we were in the Nineties.

            But we could go back and forth like this for a while, and the bottom line is that any well-sourced number either of us comes up with is probably going to suck in one way or another. I’ve come across quite a few labor statistics, and while I’d agree the official figures aren’t totally satisfactory, I don’t think really good ones exist.

      2. Dumky

        John Schilling, I agree with you that abolishing a program is very difficult politically. The only government organizations that don’t exist anymore (like some from the New Deal) were actually not abolished, but rather re-organized and re-named.

        But that is besides my question.
        Assuming that small-government and no government-welfare people got their desired changes implemented, are the poor going to be worse off? I’ve hinted a few reasons why that is questionable.

        1. John Schilling

          The specific people who are currently poor are going to be worse off. Your “hints”, which might have been better presented as actual arguments, are long-term general trends. Cutting off food stamps and the like now, might plausibly result in fewer poor people twenty-five years from now.

          Partly because the people born now will be less likely to grow up to be poor people twenty-five years from now in a society that doesn’t have as perverse and dysfunctional a social welfare system as what we now have. And partly because the people who were born twenty-five years ago and are poor now will have starved to death.

          Please find a better plan.

          1. Dumky

            John Schilling,
            As I pointed out in another reply to you, you assume that the government welfare system is sustainable and effective (ie doesn’t create more poverty). How well off will the poor be when it crashes?
            Also, you assume that if you cut food stamps, then other institutions won’t pick up the slack quickly and more effectively.
            On that last point (effectiveness), see the indications of overhead of government administrators (which I also shared above):
            https://www.theadvocates.org/effective-government-welfare-compared-private-charity/

            As a side note, I must take it from your comment that you agree that government welfare programs should not be increased any further, possibly they should be rolled back (but very slowly and carefully), and private solutions should not be further crowded out?
            In my mind, the poverty trend before/after the War on Poverty hints that the War on Poverty has only perdured poverty.

          2. Walter

            I dunno, you keep asking for a better plan, but that isn’t a real thing that can happen.

            Like, what would you say can be done for/to someone on gov assistance who is content there? Take it away if he finds something else? Perverse incentive, you’ve discussed why that won’t work. Take it away and replace it with nothing? He riots or votes for the party who will restore the dole. Feed him forever? Other people note that getting paid for existing seems pretty sweet, and now you are feeding an awful lot of folks.

            It seems like, ultimately, you either suck up the riots or you watch the dems morph into a true patronage party in the Indian mold, and you get the riots anyway, further down the line when the cart has too many sitters, not enough pullers.

          3. Mark V Anderson

            I agree with John that the transition from public welfare to private welfare is likely to be quite deadly to some welfare recipients. But beyond that, there is the issue that we really don’t know if private welfare will be sufficient. I think our society is rich enough that the government should be able to at least allow each person to get above the poverty line.

            By the way, the US already spends far more on welfare than the amount needed to bring every person out of poverty. If many are still in poverty, it is because of the extremely complicated welfare system we have, with 78 means tested programs just in the Federal government.

          4. Mark V Anderson

            I do also want to reply to Dumky about whether the welfare system creates more poverty. I don’t think John’s posting does assume that it doesn’t create more poverty. In fact, it seems very likely that welfare DOES create more poverty, because it obviously creates incentives for those who would prefer not to work.

            But this doesn’t mean that welfare takes away all incentive to work, since even with welfare, the recipients are still poor. Those who want to become middle class can’t do it with welfare. I also think giving every person the right to welfare benefits creates a much more effective minimum wage than the laws we have currently, which put low skilled workers out in the cold if their labor is worth less than the lowest legal wage. If welfare is available to all, then no worker will work for less, without punishing the low skill workers.

          5. TheAncientGeek

            Dumky

            As I pointed out in another reply to you, you assume that the government welfare system is sustainable and effective (ie doesn’t create more poverty). How well off will the poor be when it crashes?

            If you are saying that all welfare systems are doomed to crash, irrespectively of the details of how they are funded, then the burden is on you to show that that is the case. It is not obvious.

            Also, you assume that if you cut food stamps, then other institutions won’t pick up the slack quickly and more effectively.

            Again, the burden on you is to show that voluntary organisations will pick up 100% of the slack even though they face no sanctions for not doing so. It’s the fact that there is no systematic obligation on anyone to perform at any particular level that that makes it prima facie unlilkely thay your scheme is going to get like-for-like results.

        2. Jill

          What private charity can do, compared to government, is likely wildly overestimated by available statistics. A lot of money donated to “charity” really goes to some purpose like art museums which, while good, is not getting anyone out of poverty.

          Or it goes to some cause where the donor has strings attached, so that he gets a lot out of and so is really just making an investment in it.

          Or it goes to someone’s church, where it is used to build church building, buy statues, and send missionaries to Africa and Central and South America to convert people. Which if you are in the church seems good, but it is not keeping Americans out of poverty.

          In fact, since many people give to charity only because their church requires them to tithe or else be punished for their sin of not doing so, it’s not really voluntary, nor is it available to be switched to other more urgent causes if need be.

      3. cassander

        >But if we’re imagining it comes to that, then yes, a lot of people are going to get hurt.

        And the people who are hurt by the policies as they currently exist? Should we not consider their needs?

    5. Scott Alexander Post author

      I’m using “fear” in a literal sense – they feel more threatened. Even granting your drug use analogy (which I don’t), like you say, addicts fear the people who can take their drugs away.

    6. Titanium Dragon

      Poverty started declining prior to the war on poverty and continued to decline afterwards.

      Indeed, the War on Poverty has effectively destroyed poverty in the US; only a very small percentage of Americans are materially poor once you take government aid into account. Our “poverty line” is actually an inequality line; the “poor household” threshold is pretty close to the UK’s median household.

  71. blacktrance

    Does Red Tribe have exoticized fargroups, or is it solely a Blue phenomenon? I grew up among Red Tribers, and didn’t see them talk much about anyone the way Blues talk about Tibetian Buddhists, with the possible exception of Jews, and, to a much lesser degree, Arab Christians.

    1. Guy

      Poor Africans? I feel like everyone exoticizes poor Africans. Or exoticizes Africans by forgetting there are non-poor Africans.

      1. Jill

        Good point. Everyone does exoticize poor Africans. Members of both parties will contribute to charity to help poor Africans. Even Right Wingers think that poor Africans are the deserving poor, as opposed to the poor in the U.S.

        1. Guy

          I wasn’t thinking of it in BSDI terms (despite the obvious implications of my comment…), but yeah. Both sides even have the voluntourism tendencies I was thinking of, though voluntourism is typically the disparaging Grey name for the Blue variant.

    2. hlynkacg

      I’m not sure about “exoticized far-group” but IME Jews and Christians outside the us, along with British commonwealth loyalists are generally viewed favorably as being natural allies and/or fellow travelers.

    3. Nornagest

      Singapore, definitely. Maybe Confucian China if you’re willing to go back or project forward.

      I know one guy with a weird fetish for Falangist Spain, but he might be unique.

      1. Jill

        Singapore is definitely exoticized by fervent capitalists and libertarians, all of whom usually lean Right.

        1. anon

          Probably the most prominent quasi-libertarian (I’m not sure he is really libertarian anymore) Singapore booster these days is Tyler Cowen. He’s spent a significant amount of time there and also seems well versed in its literature and culture. I don’t think he can be accused of exoticizing it. Another booster (I think) is Paul Romer, who strikes me as pretty middle of the road (i.e. if anything slightly left-leaning) as economists go, although also relatively a-political in the partisan sense.

          BTW if you ever get a chance to go to Singapore I highly recommend it. It’s a pretty unique place, due to its colonial history and strategic location. I was only there for a couple days, but it does seem like a very high-functioning society. (A small example: with its equatorial location, mosquito-borne illness — not to mention annoyance — is an obvious potential concern. A Singaporean policy I observed to this combat this problem is to enforce strict rules forbidding standing water, for example at construction sites. Despite being stridently capitalist, this is not a society that fears to use top-down mechanisms to combat economic externalities.)

        2. Techno-Satanist

          Singapore has got something for everyone though. It’s super hard on crime, got low taxes, a strong military, and a free market economy for the Reds yet it has a really good largely public healthcare system, super great public transit and urban planning, and nice public housing (with racial quota systems) for the Blues. I think its living proof that Sanders-style socialism can work well when average population IQ = 108 and low crime rates (partial achieved through hanging everyone with more than 1 kg of weed on them and other such extreme punishments) can work really really well. When your population quality is really high, the usage rate for social services (regardless of quality) is really low and thus the required tax rate is really low.

          Of course, it’s not sustainable without high rates of skilled immigration to dilute the regression to the mean IQ-level children of parents from the previous immigration waves. It may not even be sustainable because modern society is dysgenic (c.f. NPI cohort trends, conscientiousness-fertility trends etc.), even with patch strategies like encouraging abortion for uneducated women and discouraging abortion for graduate women. They’ll likely have a hairy decade or two before mass CRISPRing (which is something that they will have no problem with and will be able to achieve with little social friction) is commonplace.

      2. Le Maistre Chat

        Tolkien had a fetish for Falangist Spain:
        “Nothing is a greater tribute to Red Propaganda than the fact that Lewis (who knows they are in all other subjects liars and traducers) believes all that is said against Franco, and nothing that is said for him.”

        It probably wasn’t weird for Catholics at the time, but has the whiff of hipster counter-signalling in this day and age.

        You know, it occurs to me that in actual traditional societies, there were two kinds of romanticized fargroups: the ancestors and those who lived too far away to gather evidence about. The Iliad has great examples of both: the blessed Ethiopians and men like Diomedes (“no two men could lift that boulder, weak as men are now…”) whom Nestor chides for their own inferiority to their fathers and grandfathers. Somehow conservatives lost the spatial fargroups to progressives while being the only moderns to retain a romantic view of the ancestors.

        1. Anonanon

          Which english catholic writer (Edit: it was the South African Roy Campbell) was it who came home telling everyone about the Assault Guard massacring the monks he was staying with? And the general response of the left was a mix of “liar!” and “Good Riddance!”?

          Yet if a Lutheran is put in jail he is up in arms; but if Catholic priests are slaughtered—he disbelieves it (and I daresay really thinks they asked for it)

          was Tolkien’s take on the reaction. It’s no wonder the English Catholics picked the right side.

    4. anon

      What about right-wing dictators during the height of the Cold War? I suspect the American right romanticized Batista’s brave defense against the creep of Communism just as much as (some on) the left romanticized Che. (I am not making any judgments about who was more justified in their view.)

    5. John Schilling

      Does Red Tribe have exoticized fargroups?

      Israelis. If they lived in the United States, they’d be a conspicuously un-Christian outgroup.

      Japanese, in their Arcane Masters of Business and Commerce aspect, though that’s faded a bit.

      (South) Koreans, Singaporeans, Mercantile Chinese, etc, may have taken up Japan’s slack

      Eastern Europeans, since the fall of Communism

      1. Jiro

        Israelis. If they lived in the United States, they’d be a conspicuously un-Christian outgroup.

        Jews live in the United States and are not the un-Christian outgroup.

        1. John Schilling

          Jews in the United States, from the Red Tribe perspective, are either solid members of the Democratic Outgroup or are local proxies for Israel. Or both.

          1. LHN

            Jews in the United States, from the Red Tribe perspective, are either solid members of the Democratic Outgroup or are local proxies for Israel. Or both.

            I think it has to be more complicated than that, given the relatively positive attitude Evangelicals evince towards Jews. E.g., a 2014 Pew survey showing an average 69% positive rating vs 63 for Catholics, 47 for Mormons, and 30 for Muslims.

            (In my experience this is often attributed to Jews’ role in Christian eschatology. But if that were the primary reason, one would expect philosemitism to be more common than antisemitism in Christian history, or at least among millenarian movements.)

            Obviously there remains an undercurrent of antisemitism out there as well (which social media have made less isolated). But outside that, outgrouping of Jewish urban liberals seems to really be about the urban liberalism more than the Judaism to a historically unusual extent.

        2. Jiro

          Jews are not members of the outgroup for Reds in the US. It is true that Jews tend to be Democrats, but the Reds don’t treat Jews as an outgroup as Jews, nor do Reds consider the Jew/Democrat link to be a natural one (UNLESS THE rED IS A sTORMFRONT MEMBER).

          1. Titanium Dragon

            Bingo. Anti-semitism just isn’t a big thing in the US, and Judaism is not a religion which really draws attention to itself in the same way as Islam does.

            Indeed, most religious groups other than Islam and Wicca (because they think they worship Satan and call themselves witches) mostly get ignored by the religious right.

            They’re actively warm towards the Jews, both because of the whole “Judeo-Christian” thing, as well as because of creepy beliefs that the Jews building the Third Temple will bring about the Rapture.

    6. Salem

      The Red Tribe does this a bit (as others have noticed), but I don’t think they do this to the same extent. Conservatives are much fonder of concentric loyalty, Liberals much fonder of Jellyby-ism.

    7. Scott Alexander Post author

      Hmm…I won’t endorse this until I’ve thought it through more, but it would be fun to say “liberals exoticize across space, conservatives exoticize across time”. I think the Founders, the Greatest Generation, and even the medievals are really exoticized, even though the average conservative would enjoy living among them about as much as the average liberal would enjoy living in Tibet.

      1. John Schilling

        Interesting thought, and I’m tempted to agree.

        Raises the question, if the past is the fargroup to conservatives, is it part of the outgroup to liberals? The place from which all the evils of the present outgroup sprang, all the slavery and patriarchy and so forth, with the present outgroup scarcely any different from their troglodytic ancestors?

        1. FullMeta_Rationalist

          Observation: “Liberals” is (to a certain extent) synonymous with “Progressives”.

    8. GT

      Eastern Europe, but more recently Putin’s Russia.

      They’re still vaguely seen as enemies, but more of a Worthy Honorable Rival type than with any real hatred.

  72. Jill

    Scott mentioned here his previous post on how The Ideology Is Not the Movement, which mentioned this article about how religion is not about beliefs. Religion is about strategies for tribal survival and reproduction.

    http://www.meltingasphalt.com/religion-is-not-about-beliefs/

    So, in the same vein, we can see that politics is not about policies. It’s about getting votes and political tribe survival. Scott Adams, in his blog on his dilbert.com cartoon site, has covered extensively the subject of voters not caring about policies at all. He’s correct about this and about the fact that voters most often vote based on emotion, although he’s quite biased about many other things, due to being a very strong Trump supporter.

    Political tribe survival seems to be enhanced by demonizing the opponent tribe and thus treating it like an infidel religion. That way, the other tribe will always remain a Far Group, never to be communicated with, under pain of becoming evil oneself, and burning in hell, so to speak. The other tribe is Lucifer or the Anti Christ.

    But within one’s tribe, there will be people you can communicate with, though perhaps angrily or bitterly, like Bernie and Hillary supporters.

    Each party seems divided into an establishment vs. populist branch– e.g. Bernie vs. Hillary and Trump and Tea Party vs. everyone else.

    The parties are such Far Groups to each other that the 2 populist groups that are from different parties have not been able to unite to pursue common goals– yet. Maybe that’s in our future. But if so, there would have to be some way for people to cross the Great Divide and cooperate with people whom they formerly considered to be outright evil.

    There has been plenty of populist rhetoric in the GOP, but it turned out to be lies always so far, as there has been no populist action at all in recent times. If Trump were to win, it seems doubtful that he would do many, if any, of the populist things he’s said he’d do. Winning elections is one thing– keeping promises quite another.

    There has been neither populist rhetoric nor populist economic action in the Democratic party in recent times, until Bernie. So something’s changed there.

    Right now we’ve got 2 different political establishment tribes and 2 different populist tribes, and all 4 of these want to survive, get votes, and carry out certain agendas.

    This happens despite the fact that the voters don’t vote on the basis of agendas, but on the basis of emotions that give them pleasant establishment feelings or pleasant populist feelings about the politician running for office– and fear and hatred toward their politician’s opponent.

    1. Mercer

      I think youre slicing the tribes too thinly by granting the existence of two populist tribes and two establishment tribes.

      My take is we have a Red and Blue tribe with internal divisions which are better understood through lens other than tribe, like age, caste, class. There is also a Black tribe, but it is in general allied with the Blues politically.

      Take the Democrats. Hillary voters and Bernie voters are from the same Blue tribe. What distinguishes them is the former are older, the latter younger. When Hillary voters were younger they were likely part of the progressive left. This is why they perceive Sanders’ voters not as evil or other, but as naive and idealistic; they are remembering their own naivety and idealism. Sanders and other older progressives are true believers, who never compromised with reality as they grew older, and for that reason they strike younger Blues as inspirational.

    2. James D. Miller

      Most of Trump’s promises on immigration are different from past candidates’ promises because all Trump would have to do would be to enforce existing laws.

        1. Jill

          The Wall is a great selling point. Trump has said that whenever people start to look bored at his rallies, he brings up the wall and it perks them right up. That doesn’t mean that he would actually build it.

          1. Jill

            It’s not a policy. It’s a way of emotionally pumping up supporters’ interest.

            One thing that Trump has clearly demonstrated is that policies are for suckers– at least in the case of the GOP.

          2. John Schilling

            Once he’s President, or at least once he’s been in office more than a few months, he’ll no longer be able to “perk up” his supporters by telling them how he’s going to build a wall. He’ll have to actually do it, or deal with supporters who are more than just bored.

          3. Agronomous

            @suntzuanime:

            “This politician’s popular policy proposal clearly demonstrates that policies are for suckers”.

            Oh, be nice. “It’s not a policy” can easily be more-charitably read as, “It’s not a seriously intended policy proposal; it’s (really popular) pie-in-the-sky that at best the candidate will make some motions toward implementing if elected.”

            Build the Wall : Trump :: Close Guantanamo : Obama

        2. Corey

          I thought it was interesting that he actually had a workable proposal to extort wall-money from the Mexican government:

          1) Promulgate a regulation saying that wire transfer outfits like Western Union are now “banks” for the purposes of know-your-customer banking regulations, cutting off access to non-citizens and therefore Mexico’s flow of remittances.
          2) Tell Mexico that if they hand over a check for $X during the rule’s comment period, the rule will be withdrawn before it takes effect.
          3) Profit!

          I’d assume remittances would just work around such a ban though, by sending money, money-like objects or valuable goods in some other way.

          1. John Schilling

            I’d assume remittances would just work around such a ban though, by sending money, money-like objects or valuable goods in some other way

            The Mexicans will have no trouble setting up a Hawala network, with the full support of the Mexican government and many well-established criminal networks already operating in the US, and with the US Constitution (Art I sect 9.5 and Amendment IV) providing cover.

          2. John Schilling

            It seems much easier to simply tax remittances.

            That would be the thing that Article I Section 9 of the United States Constitution says you can’t do.

            Also, the people you are trying to tax are by definition literal criminals who have demonstrated the ability to smuggle something much bulkier than a wad of cash across the US/Mexican border.

            So, you’re going to need a Constitutional amendment, and you’re going to need a truly impenetrable border wall, and you’re going to need a time machine because your plan is to pay for building the wall with a tax you’ll need the wall in place to collect. And this is the “easier” solution?

          3. bluto

            John, that just means the structure will need to comply as a Financial Network Maintenance User Fee.

            The tax would only be for 50c on every $100 remitted, Coyotes charge thousands to smuggle the bulkier item across the border. If they were going to smuggle cash across the border, they’d already be doing it in large numbers (have you seen Western Union’s Fees lately). No one already paying tens of dollars in fees to send money, is going to smuggle cash back across the border (risking confiscation of the entire lot as drug money) to save a few dollars in taxes.

            Bonds accomplish that pretty easily.

            1. Issue bonds
            2. build wall with bond proceeds
            3. charge taxes user fee 🙂
            4. pay interest on bonds

          4. Outis

            John Schilling: “No Tax or Duty shall be laid on Articles exported from any State.” Are money or monetary instruments considered articles? I was under the impression that they weren’t.

  73. W.T. Dore

    My guess is that this sort of thing is only going to become more common. Partisanism is going to give way to hyperpartisanism, where people hate other factions of their own party with the same venom they previously reserved for their opponents across the aisle.

    It’s easier to hit the people who are nearby. They might even pay attention!

    1. Anonymous

      Yup. This is why, n social justice justice circles, “allies” are so often the objects of scorn and the target of rants. They’re a stand-in for the far-off outgroup.

  74. Christopher Chang

    I have yet to meet anybody in person (other than my patients) who supports Donald Trump.

    This is almost certainly false; I suggest revising it to “I have yet to meet anybody in person (other than my patients) who both supports Donald Trump and finds it worthwhile to talk to me about it.”

  75. Earthly Knight

    The average Trump voter no longer seems like an uncanny-valley version of me; they seem like some strange inhabitant of a far-off land with incomprehensible values, just like ISIS.

    A quibble, but this has an obviously unintended reading that’s needlessly inflammatory. (“Scott thinks the average Trump voter is just like ISIS!”).

    1. Mai La Dreapta

      Seeing as Scott has also been accused of comparing feminists to Voldemort based on a reading that’s about as silly as this one, I don’t care. People who want to stir up anger over hostile misreadings don’t deserve our concern.

      1. Viliam

        People who want to stir up anger over hostile misreadings don’t deserve our concern.

        We live in the world where people who don’t deserve anyone’s concern sometimes get people fired.

        However, the average Trump voter is less likely to do that.

        1. anonymist

          “We live in the world where people who don’t deserve anyone’s concern sometimes get people fired.”

          Who could he be referring to? Why is he speaking in code?

          This is where i’m reminded of Henri Bergson’s theory of humor.

          “To Bergson life is continually pushing, growing, and moving, both on an individual and evolutionary level. Life is a vitality, a spontaneous exchange of encountering new things and reacting; life should always strive toward the elimination of repetition. Whenever a human being stops being “alive” and resembles an automaton he falls prey to humor and ridicule.”

          The passion of the SSC conservative to enumerate the atrocities that constitute the complete history of the SJW Reign of Terror cannot be tempered by the lack of evidence of said reign.

          Bergson’s theory encapsulated in the phrase “the mechanical encrusted upon the living.”

          Villam almost realizes that the Eich-atrocity has hit bottom in its power to evoke grief and sorrow after two years and four months of its overuse

          But the anti-sj dogma provides no better. And the dogma, once swallowed, becomes reflexive.

          You can choke it back, like the more sophisticated Republicans on this board have done (though choking back “eich” still sounds like “eich), but the talking point jumps out like an outmoded custom.

          The first two years of listening to people who side with employers as a matter of kneejerk libertarian principle, emoting in such bad faith over a single CEO’s resignation was infuriating.

          But now I see that Brendan Eich has been slotted for doom by those who have waved his lightly starched bloody shirt for so long.

          Doomed to be our Terri Schiavo, with Scott Alexander playing the part of Dr. Frist.

          It’s funny. Like a libertarian robotically pretending to care about urban hair-weaving rights. Or disemployment effects.

    2. Galle

      Is that obviously unintended? They’re both about equally divorced from the universal culture.

      1. Vaniver

        Ah, yes, ISIS which jubilantly throws gays off buildings and /r/the_donald which was the only subreddit to not censor a gay nightclub shooting, both about equally divorced from the universal culture.

        1. Galle

          /r/The_Donald loves LGBT people… just so long as they’re getting killed by people they hate more. And so long as they stay in the closet. And are only the L or the G.

          I’m sorry, but when /r/The_Donald tries to pass themselves off as defenders of universal culture values, it comes off as disingenuous as fuck. The only reason they aren’t jubilantly throwing gay people off buildings right this second is because they don’t think they can get away with it.

          1. The Nybbler

            I don’t know much about the /r/The_Donald culture, but what evidence do you have that they’d kill gay people if they could?

          2. Sandy

            This is absurd. r/The_Donald is infatuated with Milo Yiannopolous, an openly and flamboyantly gay Jew who repeatedly talks about how much he enjoys getting fucked in the ass by black men.

            It turns out that there’s a considerable gulf between “I think gay people should not be allowed to marry” and “I think gay people should be kicked off buildings”. And no, there isn’t a short leap between the two positions.

          3. Homo Iracundus

            It’s the rainbow user flare gay members have. Obviously marking us for death at the hands of the TrumpenReich. What other purpose could the icons be serving?
            If Republican Hate Kills, then anything they do clearly has to be some sort of hateful conspiracy to oppress the in-group. Although I wonder how long gay men will be considered part of the left’s in-group at this rate?

            “And no, there isn’t a short leap between the two positions.”
            I feel as if you could have built up this building metaphor a little.

          4. Zombielicious

            Trump himself, as a far as I know, has nothing against gay people, though he opposes gay marriage.

            A large portion of people, gay or not, would consider this “having something against gay people.”

          5. The Nybbler

            @Zombielicious

            In which case I’d say they set their standards too high (and no, interracial marriage is not a close enough analogy). However, even if they insist on that standard, that’s still a far cry from wanting to throw gay people off buildings. Just as, e.g., not wanting women in combat roles in the military is not the same as wanting to have them as property of their father and/or husband…. and if both sets of beliefs have their adherents, it would be wise to make that distinction.

          6. Zombielicious

            True, they’re not equivalent, but I don’t think “has nothing against gay people” is a great way to make that distinction. It’s saying a class of people should be denied rights* based on sexual orientation, which is a more modest form of “have something against them” than something like “throw them off a building.” Otherwise people can always hide behind, “I don’t have anything against x, I just think they should be denied y.”

            * We can debate what’s a “right,” but gay relationships are functionally equivalent to straight relationships, excepting a few reproductive details, and marriage does confer certain rights and privileges on a couple (e.g. hospital visitation). If government was uninvolved in officiating marriage and it was just an informal ceremonial thing, sanctioned by private organizations, with no legal rights conferred, I doubt this would be a political issue.

          7. The original Mr. X

            gay relationships are functionally equivalent to straight relationships, excepting a few reproductive details,

            “Gay relationships are functionally equivalent to straight relationships, excepting the main historical purpose of marriage and the whole reason the state started recognising marriage in the first place.”

          8. John Schilling

            and marriage does confer certain rights and privileges on a couple (e.g. hospital visitation)

            “e.g.” being the abbreviated Latin of “for example”, I repeat my request that the gay marriage rights community retire that one overused example and rotate in a few of the others.

          9. Anonymous

            Potentially very large tax benefits. It’s possible to also have tax detriments but since the status can be opted for or not, being allowed to is a pure optionality win tax wise.

          10. Viliam

            I guess the right loves gays when they are hated by Islam, and throws them under the bus when they are hated by Christianity; while the left loves gays when they are hated by Christianity, and throws them under the bus when they are hated by Islam.

        2. Titanium Dragon

          FYI, there were people at Trump rallies who were shouting “The gays had it coming!” WRT: the shooting, while Trump was talking about how awful it was.

          r/The_Donald is the Reddit approved version of Donald Trump supporters.

    3. Leit

      You picked up on this but not on “the only Trump supporters I’ve met literally had brains that weren’t working properly”?

      1. Nornagest

        I’ll bet Scott’s patients are the only people he’s met that listen to country music, too. He’s a charitable guy, I’m sure he’s figured out that a causal link there is unlikely.

      2. GT

        I’m pretty sure Scott understands that this is most likely due to his patients being the largest source of people outside of his filter bubble that he has to interact with on a significant level.

  76. Quintopia

    Maybe I need to move where scott lives and start hanging out in the parts of the Internet he does, because the world he sees looks starkly different from the one I live in. In my circles, the atheist movement remains, debates rage on, and Trump supporters are everywhere and nothing but vilified by liberals. This is the first Ive heard of Trump supporter sympathy from the left.

      1. Wency

        Building on points made earlier, if you see Christians as an odd minority who mostly keep to themselves, then perhaps the massacres/rapes/beheadings in the name of Islam start to seem a little more threatening. If Christians are powerful and actively restricting you from doing something you want to do, then the occasional faraway massacre seems less of a problem, and let’s not forget the sack of Jerusalem in 1099.

        1. Titanium Dragon

          Bingo. Islam is more of a threat now than Christian extremism, which wasn’t the case for a long time.

        1. Nornagest

          I think fasdfasdfa means that they moved on to attacking Islam, from Christianity.

          I haven’t seen a lot of that myself, but I’ve seen it in a few places — the circle around Eric S. Raymond, for example (though I think ESR himself is some kind of neopagan). Perhaps fasdfasdfa hangs out with those guys, or with people like them.

    1. The Nybbler

      Must be an interesting place. Trump supporters (save one or two exceptions) are pretty much absent or silent from the parts of the world and Internet I’m in. Except KotakuInAction, where they’re treated with scorn by their opponents when they actually promote Trump, but are otherwise generally accepted as being against one or more common enemies (typically SJWs, reddit admins, and the media)

    2. Nelshoy

      I wonder if Scott’s bubble is “ahead” of the more mainstream trends, which I’ve experienced as well. He was certainly included and picked up the SJ/anti-sj debate well before it entered the mainstream. I see a fair bit of this, and if I had to guess, we’ll eventually see more with further splintering of ingroups as our divided cultures continue to deviate from each other.

  77. The Nybbler

    You could have something here. In my very Blue bubble, Trump supporters are treated as some sort of completely alien beings who live in the Alternate Universe Over There; they’re crazy and foolish and evil, but incomprehensibly so. They certainly couldn’t possibly exist within their bubble. Anyone claiming to be an actual Trump supporter is assumed to be trolling.

    1. onyomi

      I would also like to point out the extent to which this reminds me of fashion choices.

      In past elections it might have been like, “Obama=this year’s style; Romney=last year’s style.”

      In this election, it’s “Bernie=this year’s (impractical) style; Hillary=last year’s (practical) style; Trump=literally wearing a garbage bag (could be ironic countersignaling if you’ve got enough cred, tho).”

    2. Mercer

      In my circles conservatives always looked like crazy alien beings. When I was younger I was too naive to understand they were legitimately operating under a different value system and culture. I just saw them as freaks. So while I won’t dispute Trump is something novel, I do think from a far enough left perspective (I grew up in Quebec) he doesn’t look meaningfully different from W Bush. Bush was seen as a dangerous idiot, Trump is seen as a dangerous idiot, its only when you move a bit towards the middle that the obvious distinctions become obvious

      Actually the I Can Tolerate Anything Except the Outgroup is the piece that truly shattered my old perception of conservatives and Republicans. I know a bunch of people who feel more or less the same

      1. Wency

        I was raised in the inverse situation — I grew up surrounded by the idea that liberalism/progressivism/socialism is more or less an evil philosophy designed to destroy all that is good and right for reasons of pure malice and/or insanity. I remember as a child being under the impression that the Nazis and the Ayatollah were both liberals, since they shared the common goal of wanting to destroy America.

        Of course, those of above-average IQ growing up in conservative circles will inevitably be exposed to liberal ideas articulated coherently by the time they go to college, if not much earlier. It’s probably much easier to live your entire life in a liberal bubble and never hear a single coherent defense of conservatism.

      2. LCL

        The follow-up five case studies on politicization is even better IMO, and made me a regular SSC reader.

        Also, Haidt’s The Righteous Mind and his associated follow-up work did a lot to make conservatives more explicable to me (and seemingly to the author as well). I mean standard U.S. god-and-guns conservatives, not the bespoke intellectual web variants you find in SSC comments.

        1. Jill

          Thanks. I am reading that one now. Interesting. Scott has made a ton of interesting posts. I should go back and look at all of them, when I have time.

          1. Corey

            I archive-binged before starting to post – my history is that I tried to participate in Less Wrong in the late 00s, left for non-political reasons (absorbed all the philosophy I could comprehend), read a few things here over the years, then did my archive-binge this year.

            That didn’t prepare me for the Republican tribal alignment of the commentariat, as I didn’t binge on comments, but that’s not an issue for either of us now 🙂

        2. Mercer

          “Bespoke intellectual web variants” slayed me for some reason

          Outgroup was the SSC article I read that made me a regular…hmmm…maybe people just never forget their first?

        3. Jill

          I don’t know how there can be a solution for this politicization issue when bashing and demonization politics work so superbly for winning elections. Gingrich started this most recent wave of that. And political parties don’t stop doing things that work that well.

          When the other party is the Anti Christ, and you’ll burn in hell for cooperating with them, you are not going to cooperate with them or even listen to “Satan.” So your tribe is sealed off from the other tribe, totally protected from even listening to anything they have to say. Your tribe is for the most part also sealed off from the possibility of being free to leave– like a country with a sealed border. Like a religious tribe that tells you you will burn in hell if you ever let atheists “tempt” you with their ideas.

          A brilliant strategy for maintaining tribal membership and enforcing non-cooperation with the other tribe. But it just so happens that it destroys the society as a whole– a Moloch sort of thing.

          1. suntzuanime

            I don’t know how there can be a solution for this politicization issue when bashing and demonization politics work so superbly for winning elections.

            Moldbug does.

          2. Nornagest

            @Jill — The same thing Moldbug says every time, Pinky: replace democratic governance by a system of competing aristocratic states with easy exit rights.

            It might even work if you figured out a way to make the exit rights stable and keep the costs of moving between politics from being prohibitive. Though that’s a tall order.

            @Mercer — No, it’s never been banned (though the name of the ideology-that-must-not-be-named is). It’s just more fun to say “Lord Voldemort”.

          3. Jill

            And who gets to decide who gets to be in this aristocracy and who has to be peasants? Probably this Moldbug himself?

          4. Nornagest

            And who gets to decide who gets to be in this aristocracy and who has to be peasants? Probably this Moldbug himself?

            I’m not totally clear on that. If I had to guess, it’d be whoever has the money to buy the titles during the transition, but I could be wrong there: honestly, my eyes start to glaze over about a third of the way through every Moldbug post. And I definitely can’t be arsed to read the even longer-winded 17th-century political philosophers he likes to cite in support.

            I don’t read him as self-serving, though. I read him as averse to chaos and ambiguity. And as frustrated with progressive politics in ways which make no sense until you realize he lives in San Francisco and he’s generalizing (or, more charitably, predicting the spread of) the city’s politics to the nation at large.

          5. Techno-Satanist

            I think the Landian apolitical, cryptographic, largely AI controlled government is much better than trying to resurrect a system of government that did not work anyway.

          6. FacelessCraven

            @Jill – “I don’t know how there can be a solution for this politicization issue when bashing and demonization politics work so superbly for winning elections. ”

            It’s simple. We kill the Batm- I mean, uh, we burn the existing parties down and start from scratch. Look, we red-tribers will even go first! You can’t say that’s not a generous offer.

            Let us know when you feel like taking things more… seriously.

          7. FacelessCraven

            @suntzuanime – I am willing to entertain proposals for more yet radical change, relative to the current position.

          8. Mercer

            “I think the Landian apolitical, cryptographic, largely AI controlled government is much better than trying to resurrect a system of government that did not work anyway.”

            Would never have guessed from your name

          9. Corey

            @Jill: Moldbug is representative of a philosophy that Scott has written a novel-length anti- FAQ about (and not libertarianism) – that should be determinative enough for you to find out about it in the archives.
            In a very broad approximation, actual monarchism.

          10. Doctor Mist

            And who gets to decide who gets to be in this aristocracy and who has to be peasants? Probably this Moldbug himself?

            Far from it. As I recall, he proposed various approaches without necessarily advocating any in particular. Offer the job to the Prince of Liechtenstein (as the last remaining ruling monarch in Europe). Or somebody runs for President on the “True Election” platform: State from the outset that if you elect me I’ll run things as a dictator for four years, and then we’ll have one more election to decide whether the system is permanent. The one that I found most charming was to pick, almost at random, some small subset of people that as individuals are probably reasonably responsible, and let them elect the first monarch (from outside their own ranks): I think his suggestion was “licensed pilots”.

            I have to admit that I have read some vaguely Moldbuggian writers who seemed to be coming from the direction of “I am your natural ruler and you will all bow before me.” But in truth that’s the exception, not the rule. Far more are saying, “Open your eyes: what we have now does not work. As Scott puts it in his Nutshell steelman, we’re in a hole; stop digging.”

          11. Anonanon

            I’ve said this before, but the goal of “vaguely Moldbuggian” types is “let us work and live without having to worry about political monsters eating us alive”.

            They don’t want to be kings. They just know a king is a lot less likely to mass murder them and their families in the name of The People’s/Volk’s Revolution.

      3. Harry Johnston

        Curious. I’m from New Zealand, and I see Bush and Trump completely differently. Perhaps because I’m not particularly left-wing, by international standards.

        It’s like … Bush seemed mostly OK, I was aware of some religiously motivated malicious policies, but it didn’t seem like a huge deal from this distance. The invasion of Iraq didn’t bother me; I was in my teens when Iraq invaded Kuwait, so as far as I was concerned (on an emotional level at least) Saddam had it coming.

        Compare Trump. He’s just … so very flamboyantly obnoxious, it hits all the wrong buttons for me. It’s like he came straight out of an episode of Fawlty Towers.

        (Plus there are practical differences, such as Bush never AFAIK threatened to renege on NATO. That seems like a pretty big deal to me, even if I am located a long way away from Russia.)

        1. Mercer

          My point is not about my current personal take on them, they are obviously different. Its about my past perception of W, and more importantly, what I feel was the perception of all my peers, and how that compares to the perception of Trump now.

          W was a punchline night after night over here, and then after Iraq he might as well have been Lucifer. Either a complete joke, or the most dangerous man alive. Sounds like Trump, no?

          1. Harry Johnston

            Hmmm. I don’t think that was a common perception of W over here, though perhaps that was just my personal bubble. Of course, you border the US and we’re on the other side of the world, so perhaps this is yet another outgroup/fargroup thing.

        2. Jill

          “It’s like he came straight out of an episode of Fawlty Towers.”

          Exactly. He’s a crazy but entertaining TV show running for president.

  78. Hal Johnson

    I think these phenomena are correctly observed, but I want to add a complicating factor that may clarify why they’re happening.

    One function that “other groups” play is giving people something to base their identities against. Insofar as we are all (in Alan Moore’s memorable phrase) desperately shoring up the crumbling shoals of our own identities, it becomes very convenient to use other people as a model of what we are not. The other tribe or team or (the word I usually use) demographic is different from me by definition; therefore I get a better idea of, and better signal to the world, what I am (or “am”; I’m not trying to hit this too hard).

    But distinguishing myself from a far group is not very useful. I already knew I wasn’t like a Tibetan, and so did all my friends. A near group, though, could be confused for my own. Daddy Warbucks can barely tell a Sanders and a Clinton supporter apart; this is a moment of crisis for the Sanders supporter (to take one example): What if I’m really one of them?

    The Sanders supporter can save the day by attacking Clinton supporters. Say “never Hillary” enough, and everyone will know you’re not the same. In this way we can refine our demographic, shaving off nearer and nearer groups to our own (sorry, I mixed that metaphor).

    We can afford to exoticize Tibetans or Kim Jong Un precisely because they serve no purpose to us. Even Trump supporters may be too other to even imagine our ever being. So we look at what’s closest to us insist to the world and ourselves that we are not Wall Street shills or frattish Bernie Bros (depending).

  79. Nornagest

    I’m starting to suspect that we’re living through the breakdown of the Sixth Party System. Seen through this lens, I’m not sure how much of what you’re seeing would be local partisanship and how much would be breaking across the faultlines that’ll define the next set of alignments — which I suspect will end up being something along the lines of technocracy vs. populism.

    One way to tell might be to see which of the old political outgroups are still hated, and by whom.

    1. Mai La Dreapta

      This is my belief as well. I stated a while ago that the new political conflict was Populists versus Technocrats, which does not map cleanly onto the current two-party system, an so requires a realignment. Hillary v. Sanders is Technocrats v. Populists to the letter, and Hillary’s eventual win is probably the death knell to serious Populist presence in the Democratic party. From now on Populists will be Republicans.

      1. Jill

        I disagree. I think Bernie style Leftists will keep going, keep trying to push Hillary more to the Left if she wins, and keep trying to get a Bernie type person elected next go ’round. Bernie supporters are not just giving up at all.

        1. Mercer

          I have to agree with Jill here, I would be very surprised if the next democratic nominee isn’t a Bernie Sanders-style progressive. Consider: Clinton was an overwhelming favorite with no real opposition at the beginning of the campaign, with people like Warren opting not to run at least in part because they felt she was inevitable/it was her time. Sanders was a nobody who for the longest time didn’t even register as a Democrat. And he almost won, which suggests to me there is a significant progressive movement that was looking for a candidate in a weak field, not that Bernie was a candidate who inspired a movement (not to take anything away from him personally).

          Technocrat vs Populist, Nationalist vs Globalist, Progressive vs Reactionary, Conservative vs Liberal, Elites vs Commoners are all useful ideas to keep in mind, but I’m doubtful any one division is going to be so important it collapses all the others.

          1. The Nybbler

            I think it was because Hillary was the weakest of the Democratic establishment candidates, but her one strength (well, two, counting the “woman card”) was a really good ability to play the inside game. It’s not that Sanders was strong, it’s that Hillary was weak. So I don’t think the Democrats will run a Bernie-style socialist next time, though their next candidate will certainly give Bernie-style socialism plenty of lip service.

          2. Mercer

            The weakest compared to who? No non-President/VP has entered a nomination contest with as much pull as her in ages. A popular sitting VP declined to run against her. I know as a campaigner she has her weaknesses but as far as strong Democratic establishment types who could plausibly be compared to her that’s likely to run in 4-8 years?

          3. Mercer

            I’m not sure why you’d think we’d take Vox’s or Obama’s word for it, Jill.

            It’d be like a Republican linking to Fox News or A GW Bush speech while arguing with you. It feels more like a slap than an attempt at communication.

            Frankly I find the notion that building coalitions over years and years is a “female” approach and generating enthusiasm is a “male” approach to be unbelievably silly, ahistorical, and insulting to women, but I suppose tastes differ.

          4. Jill

            Oh, I forgot. Standard tribal politics. It doesn’t matter WHAT is said but WHO said it. Am surprised you actually read part of one of the articles I cited, although perhaps you did so only to find that one particular point in it that you could disagree with.

          5. Nornagest

            I’m with Mercer on this one, I’m afraid. Vox’s editorial commitment to the Left is so clear that when I see a Vox article I automatically assume I’m only getting half the story, and that’s if I’m being generous. Fox News is an excellent analogy.

            And Obama’s a politician aligned with the establishment left; with this an election year and Clinton the only establishment left candidate in the race, he’s going to give her the most glowing review he can muster that’s still remotely credible. That’s just how the game is played.

          6. Mercer

            Jill, I’m blue tribe, born and raised. I just don’t share its politics. Not that I am much for the red tribe’s politics, either.

            In a bit of a funny twist, this isn’t the first time I’ve encountered that article, it was linked on RealClear awhile back.

            You’re upset I addressed people and not arguments. Nevermind that you did not address my criticism of what I thought was a particularly weird argument Vox makes. Were you expecting people to stop in the middle of this enormous thread, read the entire Vox article even if they had an aversion to Vox, find the best arguments in the article, and debate them? Why not just state that best argument in favor of Clinton yourself?

            What you did equates to telling us “Vox and Obama think Clinton’s a great candidate”. If I told you Fox News had a piece on why Trump was a great candidate, would you bother to read it? I think you’d think it was a waste of time, and you’d be right, tribal politics or not

          7. Titanium Dragon

            Mercer: See my response below, but TL; DR; Sanders never was even close to winning. Clinton could have beaten him by a far larger margin than she did but chose not to do so because he was no threat to her and she got to save her money and effort for the general election.

            Sanders, meanwhile, thought that he was close and then started doing stupid things to rile people up, acting like a demagogue. Once he did so, he was publicly embarrassed on his poor grasp of policy as punishment. But he never had a chance to win; he was always behind and had he ever actually been threatening he would have just been squashed.

            There was just no value in squashing Sanders because he was never going to win.

        2. Titanium Dragon

          Hillary could have crushed Sanders. She didn’t bother because it wasn’t worth doing. Running up the scores in the primaries doesn’t have any value. She was always ahead the entire time, she was never behind, and Sanders never even came close to winning.

          She saved her strength/energy/money for the general election.

          Sanders, meanwhile, went off the rails because he misinterpreted his relative success as “I have a real chance” and not as “Hillary is not actually bothering with me.” He then got nasty and tried to rile people up and acted like a demagogue, and a lot of people (my parents included) got angry at him. I, meanwhile, realized that he didn’t represent my interests at all after I looked into his views and supported Hillary.

          It is possible that the Democrats will have to beat off an idiot like Bernie next time around, but if there is some risk of them winning, you’re going to see them turn much more heavily on them, I think.

          The battle in the Democrats is between the blues and the grays, but most blues don’t realize grays exist, and more to the point, a lot of grays actually do care about blue interests. Moreover, blues have cargo-culted a lot of gray signalling, which makes it hard for the blues and grays in the Democrats to differentiate their tribes as easily as they once did.

          It will be a major problem if the Democrats nominate someone as daft as Sanders while the Republicans are still in meltdown mode.

      2. hlynkacg

        I think that Nationalists vs Globalists is a more likely breakdown, but I wouldn’t bet against you.

        1. Mai La Dreapta

          I think that, in practice, “Nationalists” and “Populists” are the same people, as are “Technocrats” and “Globalists”, so it doesn’t matter much.

          1. Christopher Chang

            I don’t think it’s that simple.

            https://next.ft.com/content/15598db8-4456-11e6-9b66-0712b3873ae1 , asking for a shift to “responsible nationalism”, was written earlier this month by one of the most prominent Democrat technocrats in the country. And he succeeded in articulating what it would take for a Democrat to get my vote in November (and I was a Bernie voter who will be going Trump, not Johnson, if the Democrat candidate fails to offer this).

        2. brad

          I think that Nationalists vs Globalists is a more likely breakdown, but I wouldn’t bet against you.

          When Leon Panetta spoke during the Democratic convention it was the Bernie supporters (I think) that were chanting “No more wars” and the Hillary supporters eventually drowned them out with “USA! USA! USA!”.

          Which side of that is nationalist and which globalist?

          1. Titanium Dragon

            Hillary’s side is globalist. The US is in charge of the world and that is Hillary’s supporters view of things.

            Sanders’ side is nationalist, hence his vehement opposition to the TPP and other international trade agreements, as well as his general stoking of xenophobic sentiments.

      3. Galle

        I think “Populists versus Technocrats” oversimplifies things. I can kinda-sorta see the Democratic and Republican establishments grudgingly holding their noses and working together (and indeed, this may already be happening) but I can’t see left-wing and right-wing populism reconciling.

        1. Jacobian

          Trump has explicitly and directly reached out to Bernie supporters, and some of his policies (trade restrictions, non-interventionism) are right up their alley.

          1. Dain

            If my FB feed is any indication, they’re reacting to such overtures with a royal “Fuck You.” Trump supporters – and Trump himself judging from his recent words at the RNC and in press appearances – are more willing to reach out to Sanders than vice versa, probably because they’re genuinely more populist and less educated, which manifests in a fairly loose ideological self-conception. Sanders supporters, who are more educated and so more ideological, know that being a progressive means giving not an inch to anti-immigrant sentiment.

            Or maybe that’s just a Bay Area-style Sanders support. Could be.

          2. Anonanon

            Sanders supporters, who are more educated and so more ideological

            Or at least, have hit the peak self-perception of both in their sophomore year of college.