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Links 8/16: On My Right Hand Michael; On My Left Hand URL

Have you heard of Desert Bus, the terrible game about driving a bus for eight real-time hours through a monotonous desert landscape? You have? Then did you know it’s part of Penn and Teller’s Smoke and Mirrors, a collection of trick video games mostly useful for trolling your friends?

Continental/postmodernist theorist Jacques Lacan might have been the worst psychiatrist ever (but see here).

Omens and portents, part 5490569910.

Did you know: there are still some practicing Manichaeans around in China.

Yet another study finds evidence that Tylenol use during pregnancy increases ADHD rates (paper, popular article)

During World War II, submariners who were missing their alcohol invented torpedo juice, a cocktail made of pineapple juice and torpedo motor fuel.

Related to recent posts on psychedelics: what happens when you take LSD once a week for a year?

“Earth-like” planet around Proxima Centauri.

The great thing about capitalism is that you can monetize everything, even the crackpots who send physicists mail claiming to have discovered Theories Of Everything: What I Learned As A Hired Consultant For Autodidact Physicists.

Forbes: The Five Biggest Open Economics Questions.

At least one study finds that police use of body cameras causes more fatal shootings, especially among African-Americans. Authors theorize that police in genuinely dangerous situations feel more comfortable shooting knowing that the body camera video will vindicate them. But I think I’ve seen other studies say the opposite, so probably best not to overreact just yet. Study does find that police use of smartphones is associated with decreased fatal shooting rate, which makes sense – if they’re anything like me, they’re probably staying in the police station browsing Facebook all day.

I say bad things about occupational licensing a lot, but I guess I should grudgingly admit that occupational licensing of midwives seems to have seriously decreased infant mortality.

Related: Otto von Bismarck’s universal health insurance for Germany seems to have decreased mortality rates. This paper somehow manages to talk about imperial German health insurance without making any Kaiser puns.

Facebook has too many terrible groups to remove them all manually, so they seem to automatically remove ones that get reported enough times. This goes exactly as well as you would expect; Muslims in the Middle East have started a (successful) campaign to get atheist Facebook groups in their countries shut down.

The FDA has decided to subject e-cigarettes to very onerous regulations, meaning they will probably become much less accessible and convenient, meaning probably thousands of people who would otherwise have successfully switched to tobacco-free products will continue to smoke tobacco. A friend on Tumblr tries a cost-benefit analysis and suggests that the change could cost up to 9360 lives, which seems about par for the course for FDA decisions.

Did you know: Brightline is a company building a high-speed rail network in Florida, in what would be the US’ first new private passenger rail system in a hundred years.

Tyler Cowen makes the case that Denmark’s institutions aren’t that great because Danes in the US do better than Danes in Denmark, suggesting Denmark is a successful country mostly because of Danish culture (Cowen didn’t mention genes, but should have). Discussion on Twitter centered around how it’s very hard to find accurate statistics on US Danes because they’re all confounded by who does or doesn’t remember their ancestry (usually upper-class people keep better geneologies). Somehow this realy neat list of all immigrant groups by average education level attained also came up, which shows that Danes are pretty unremarkable on that front. Cowen’s conclusion – that we should at least have open borders for any country with more generous welfare payments than our own – is also pretty interesting.

On the other hand, here’s a case where institutions do matter – Native American areas under the jurisdiction of US rather than tribal courts tend to have stronger credit markets. I would find this more exciting if I knew how a priori relevant strong credit markets were, versus how likely they just went down a list of things until they could cherry-pick one that courts seemed to affect.

Salon magazine is pivoting to a new format which will have less politics and try to include more conservative voices.

This is not a drill: Uber will be fulfilling ride requests using self-driving cars in Pittsburgh within a month. Okay, fine, it’s sort of a drill – the self-driving cars will still have drivers sitting in them in order to ensure safety and comply with regulations.

Old Tom was a killer whale who made a deal with whalers – he would drive other whales within range, in exchange for a share of the meat once they were killed. I don’t usually support phrases like “race traitor” but I’ll make an exception here.

Justice Department announces it will end the use of private prisons – although remember that this directive applies only to the federal level. Since we are not allowed to have unallayed happiness about a nice thing, here’s Jacob Levy on why we can’t feel good about this. Related: DoJ says poor people cannot be detained for being unable to afford bail. Also related: DoJ says it’s not going to prosecute people who use marijuana in accordance with state laws.

Latest replication failure: forcing someone to smile does not make them happy. And a forest plot for you. Darn, I actually believed that one.

Most recent development in Dubai’s efforts to become an outright dystopia: they can arrest people for fundraising for charity.

Cracked with a surprisingly sophisticated (and scary) look into abuse in psychiatric institutions.

You probably think that there is no reason to read an entire New York Times article on the ankles of Michelangelo’s David, but it’s actually really poignant and well-written and gives you a good feel for the time period.

Finding: kids whose parents divorce seem to do worse. Problem: maybe this is genetically confounded – eg parents have some flaws that lead them to divorce, and which also get transmitted down to their kids. Solution: well, there are a lot of possible solutions, but one I wouldn’t have thought of is to correlate children’s outcomes with number of women at the father’s workplace. The theory is that fathers are more likely to divorce if they have lots of female co-workers – more opportunities for affairs, I guess – and there aren’t a lot of other good ways that your father having many female co-workers could make you do worse in life [citation needed], so this is an “exogenous” cause of divorce and sort of like running a quasi-experiment. Results: children whose fathers have more female co-workers do indeed do worse in life, in the ways we would predict if divorce had lasting effects on children. I am pretty skeptical of this finding – they try to control for things like “richer men might work in more white-collar industries with more women”, but I don’t really trust statistical controls that much. But as one of many studies in this area it mostly accords with what I thought the last time I reviewed the research.

Using the caduceus as a symbol of medicine is mythologically incorrect (h/t Ben Hoffman).

Somebody tell me whether this surprising claim is true or totally made up: Reason claims that no matter what the tax rate, government revenue is always 19% of GDP.

People’s obesity is unrelated to that of their adoptive parents, but strongly related to that of their genetic parents.

FiveThirtyEight has a really interesting analysis of welfare reform (at least the TANF program), which concludes that there’s only been a small decrease in total amount of dollars going to “welfare”, but it’s shifted from cash transfers to poor people, to sponsoring classes/programs/bureaucracies that supposedly help poor people indirectly.

Dublin, California is experimenting with a new mass transit policy in which they subsidize Uber rides for needy travelers in their city. It’s supposed to cost the city about the same amount as bus subsidies, and passengers only slightly more than bus fares, while vastly increasing poor people’s mobility and ability to work to their own schedule. This sounds so amazing that I’m sure somebody is already working to make it illegal.

Contrary to previous belief, places with an excess of men over women are not necessarily prone to social instability.

I thought Steven Pinker was mostly okay, but he’s gone off the deep end lately with his theory that worrying about AI is just some kind of evolutionary psychology thing where men worry about other men being more alpha male than they are. Of course this is getting shared all over the Internet with titles like Ever Wonder Why Only Men Fear An AI Takeover? Of course, as people were quick to point out, multiple surveys show women express more fear of AI than men, plus the whole idea is ridiculous to anyone who has actually studied AI risk in any kind of serious way, and offensive to people who try to do evolutionary psychology responsibly. But I’m sure everyone involved has gotten their clicks and advertising dollars, not to mention their chance to express cheap stereotypes, and with 99% certainty no one will feel the slightest need to apologize for any of it. This reminds me how everybody who covers Silicon Valley has to write articles about how “white” it is, even though it’s one of the least white industries in the country and possibly >50% minority.

You know those sex-ed programs that give teenagers fake babies that really cry so they know how annoying having a baby is and presumably avoid teenage pregnancy? Yeah. They don’t work and may increase teen pregnancy. But I am super suspicious of this. It shows a single short assignment with these fake babies raises pregnancy from 11% to 17%. If this is true it’s the most amazing pro-fertility intervention ever known to mankind and needs to be rolled out in Japan immediately. This is what I mean when I say I am doubtful of studies where tiny interventions seem to produce life-changing results.

“But without government, who would build the roads?!” (h/t Jason Kuznicki)

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624 Responses to Links 8/16: On My Right Hand Michael; On My Left Hand URL

  1. pku says:

    Using the caduceus as a symbol of medicine is mythologically incorrect

    This was mentioned in one of the Percy Jackson books. Have you been reading Percy Jackson?

  2. Sniffnoy says:

    The “9360 lives” link currently goes through a URL shortener. Unless there’s some particular reason for this, would you mind fixing it to point directly to the source? Thank you!

    • pku says:

      This calculation seems equally terrible, since it doesn’t account for the benefits gained by people not vaping (or smoking) at all due to these regulations. There’s a range of reasonable assumptions you can make about these benefits, but it seems to be at about the same scale as the damage in terms of lost QALE.
      (I got my estimate from trying to guess a plausible bad-case scenario for vaping, and got about 80,000 lives lost. If we assume this scenario has a 10% chance to happen and otherwise nothing bad happens to vapers, we just about break even).

      • Paul Goodman says:

        The original source isn’t saying 9360 lives is the total cost of the policy, just the cost that the FDA analysis completely ignored.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      For some reason the blog keeps trying to expand it into an embedded Tumblr post in the middle of the blog entry. I think I fixed it, but I’m going to keep the link shortener for now just in case it tries again.

  3. Thursday says:

    RE: Lacan

    If you want to understand what “theorists,” like Lacan, mean, without having to knock your head against endless blocks of turgid prose, I’m going to recommend the Routledge Critical Thinkers series. A lucid summary of just under 200 pages is about right for most of these thinkers. Though I haven’t read the Lacan volume specifically, Sarah Salih’s volume on Judith Butler really helped me understand what modern gender theorists are saying. They’re also written by people who are somewhat sympathetic, so you know you’re not just getting a hostile summary.*

    *Though, with their ideas set out in clear prose, many of these thinkers, like Butler, come across as completely bonkers.

    • Thursday says:

      For most philosophers, I actually find reading the secondary literature more productive than reading the original. This is often true even for the philosophers that are pleasant to read.

  4. Thursday says:

    RE: occupational licensing

    I agree most occupational licensing is stupid. For something like hairdressing, licensing should really just be related to public health and safety concerns. How not to spread lice. Which chemicals can burn skin. Then let the market sort out who cuts hair well or badly.

    • pku says:

      Isn’t that basically what it is? (I’m genuinely asking, I don’t really know).

      • Anonymous says:

        In the U.S. there is a requirement of a certain number of hours spent cutting hair.

      • Loquat says:

        While regulations obviously vary by jurisdiction, the hair-braiding licensing requirement recently lifted in the state of Iowa required 2100 hours of coursework at a cosmetology school, and apparently there are other states where you still can’t braid hair without a full-fledged cosmetology license. African hair-braiding in particular has been a focus for lawsuits and other efforts to get rid of licensing requirements because typically such braiding does not involve the use of any chemicals, heat, or scissors, and it’s common for practitioners to not do anything other than braid hair.

        • Steve Sailer says:

          I’m trying to remember how many years libertarians have been complaining about laws preventing blacks from braiding each other’s hair for money. 30? 40? It seems like the epitome of honest innocent enterprise, but states have put all sorts of roadblocks in the way of people doing it without huge amounts of training.

          • Yehoshua K says:

            Which supports the argument that a major purpose of licensing is to financially reward the coalition in power. (I use the phrase “coalition in power” to include the non-politician allies of actual politicians, specifically professional associations and unions.)

      • Partisan says:

        I wonder if the moneyball version is to just give a fine for verified instances of chemical burns, lice transmissions, etc. Most of the benefits of regulation without the barriers to entry?

        • anon says:

          Such a fine is redundant because we have a tort system.

        • Deiseach says:

          But that’s how you get regulations requiring licencing: someone gets badly burned by someone doing hairstyling in her own home as a side business; they go to court and get an award which the person may or may not be able to pay (since they’re a private individual not licensed as a business they probably aren’t covered by insurance); the story gets taken up by local media and everyone demands that Something Should Be Done – result: requirements that if you’re going to run what is essentially a hairdressing business, you need to be professionally trained and licensed.

          Requiring a licence for hairbraiding may seem excessive, but (a) the people doing this are doing it to make money, either as an adjunct to a job or welfare, so it is essentially a small business – they’re not braiding their friends and family’s hair for free or for special occasions, they’re charging anyone who walks in off the street to do this (b) there may be fears of “thin edge of the wedge” – do away with licensing requirements, and some people may branch out into doing hairdressing as well and you end up with court cases where Lydia burned Charlene’s hair while doing highlights, or professional hairdressers want to avoid the licensing and fees etc. requirement so they claim to only be hairbraiders while doing other services as well.

          It’d be nice if we could have some common sense in matters like this, but while you have chancers on the one hand and people willing to go to court for $$$$$$ whenever they stub their toe on the other, I think we’ll be a long time waiting.

          • Loquat says:

            I’m skeptical about point (b) – surely it’s not hard to make a legal distinction that braiding doesn’t require a license but anything involving heat, blades, or chemicals does and you’ll be heavily fined if found engaging in it while pretending to be a simple braider.

            Like, a massage therapist might look at a chiropractor doing spinal adjustments and think that’d be a cool thing to branch out into, but we don’t make would-be massagers get chiropractic licenses just in case.

          • Deiseach says:

            surely it’s not hard to make a legal distinction that braiding doesn’t require a license but anything involving heat, blades, or chemicals does

            People will exploit loopholes to the hilt, loquat. If it’s cheaper to set up a home business as a hairbraider, then they’ll do so. And if asked by clients if they can style, cut, colour etc as additional services, there are few enough honest enough to say “No, I’m not licensed to do that” (there are those who are honest enough to say “I only braid, I’m not a hair stylist” but if you’re doing anything like that on a paid basis, customers will assume you’re qualified to do other things or give advice).

            I think if you’re charging money to strangers to provide services, then licencing or some other form of check is unavoidable. Otherwise, the only recourse you have is the courts, if someone’s hair gets ruined by an amateur, and then there will be demands that Something Should Be Done and you get regulations and laws being passed.

            I see this in social housing provision; there is a list of banned dog breeds that people are not allowed to keep. The reason that there is a list is partly out of panics from years back where (say) a bull terrier or a rottweiler or a German Shepherd mauled a toddler, it got into the news, and people demanded Something Should Be Done.

            Now we get people complaining about not being allowed to have their sweet puppy-dog, so what if he’s a Staffordshire, he’s a perfect sweetheart and always kept under control, it shouldn’t be allowed! The council gets blamed for being unreasonable when we didn’t care tuppence in the first place what kind of dog you had, it was other members of the public went on vocal crusades about “devil dogs”.

            I think a lot of this is the same with these kinds of regulations; fear of potential court cases, rather than malign interference with liberty.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I think if you’re charging money to strangers to provide services, then licencing or some other form of check is unavoidable.

            So we need to license landscapers, those who merely mow lawns, babysitters, dogwalkers, tailors, decorators, etc? (as far as I know, all of these are unlicensed in some places)

            This is the sort of attitude and regime which makes it hard for anyone to be anything but a wage slave. If you can’t make a little extra money by selling the skills you have, its hard to get to the point where you can build that into a business in the first place.

            Under such a regime, a lot of these services will end up being done informally (that is, illegally), but because such licensing regimes typically require some sort of formal education and supervised experience, the informal practitioner can never grow or “go legit”.

          • “I think a lot of this is the same with these kinds of regulations; fear of potential court cases, rather than malign interference with liberty.”

            I don’t follow that argument in the hair braiding case. Who is afraid of court cases and so in favor of licensing?

            If I’m a hair braider who just does hair braiding, I won’t do the sorts of things you describe and get sued. If I’m a hair braider who plans to also dye hair, a licensing regime either prevents me from braiding hair, which I don’t want, or lets me dye after I take many hours of courses–which I could choose to take anyway.

            I might be a hair braider who doesn’t plan to do anything else and expects other hair braiders to mess up and be sued–but why should I worry about that?

            It isn’t an issue of malign interference with liberty. In this and many other cases of professional licensing (Flower arrangement, for instance), the people already in the profession want to raise entry barriers in order to increase their income. It’s a perfectly understandable motive, but one that makes us on net worse off, not better off.

          • onyomi says:

            In my hometown they recently passed a law stating that Uber was not allowed to charge less than a certain minimum to drive people to and from the airport. I’m not sure how this can be construed as anything other than a sop to the cabs. What are we protecting people from? Cheap rides to the airport?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            My guess, a minimum price for cab fare plus a requirement to have cabs available both subsidizes and guarantees off-peak cab fare by raising the price of peak cab-fare.

            This means that the few travelers coming off the late-night arrival have cabs available. Which is something the system as a whole wants, but individual cab/car drivers may not.

            If you let Uber poach peak time cab fares with low rates, you are breaking the system.

          • onyomi says:

            Sure, riders arriving at strange or popular times would like to have their rides subsidized by people arriving at times when lots of rides are available and few people want them. But riders arriving at times when lots of rides are available probably don’t want to subsidize the rides of people arriving at strange or popular times. I’m not sure why we should favor the interests of the former group over the interests of the latter.

            Overall, allowing flexible pricing, as Uber does and taxis do not, increases, rather than decrease the probability of an accurate match between rider demand and driver availability.

            Reminds me of an argument made by a representative of NYC public transportation against private ride services which boiled down to: “allowing private ride services, which don’t have to go to weird, out-of-the-way places at weird or peak times, to compete with us for the most popular destinations and times screws up our system, which is committed to bringing everybody where they need to go for the same price.”

            The question is, why should people who want to go weird places and/or at times of high demand pay the same as people who want to go to popular destinations and/or at times of low demand? Having the same price essentially means people who live in crowded areas and travel at non-peak times subsidize people who live in out-of-the-way areas and/or travel at peak times. In many cases this probably means poor people living in urban areas without regular employment are subsidizing relatively well-off people living in suburbs with regular, full-time employment.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Generally speaking, the broad public at the airport, the airport itself, and the airlines all want people who arrive at off peak times to be able to have a cab available.

            Given that many of the people who arrive at peak time will also arrive at off peak times on other trips, its also in their interest to have cabs available.

            In any case, you originally described it as a “sop to cabs” and I was trying to show that it may not be that, but rather a “sop” for the off-peak arrival. Which may or not really be a “sop”.

            Their are plenty of reasons why a city/region might not want to get a reputation for having unreliable transit from their airport.

          • onyomi says:

            I’d be willing to bet that, of those lobbying to get the rule passed, roughly 100% were associated with cab companies and 0% were disgruntled passengers who couldn’t catch a cab late at night due to Uber stealing all the cabs’ business.

            Yours is a good steelman of the sort of argument the cab companies may have made to hide their naked self interest. But I still highly doubt it was anything other than that, at bottom.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            I think that’s poor analysis.

            Now, I admit I am assuming here, but I think that cabs are a) going to be required to provide service during the times the airport is open, and b) prevented from increasing their fare at off-peak time.

            The cab company is less likely to lobby to increase their off-peak fare. That makes them look like the bad guys and pisses off the airport and the airlines and the city. The city doesn’t want to be the “feel gouged on your late night cab fare” city either.

            I posit that peak times at airports mostly can’t bear more load. It’s in the cities’, airlines’ and airports’ interest to increase usage, and there isn’t room to do that at peak time. The cheapest way to do it is increase off peak usage.

            So there are lots of incentives up and down to want cabs to be available and reasonably priced at off-peak times.

            As a libertarian, you would like that cost to be directly absorbed by whoever gains, but given that any costs that the airlines and airports end up paying are going to just be passed onto the travelers, its not clear to me that they aren’t already paying the price.

          • onyomi says:

            “The cheapest way to do it is increase off peak usage.”

            And the best way to do that is to let prices flexibly adjust to encourage off-peak usage. If you can catch a cheap Uber during off-peak times then that encourages more people to arrive then and spread out the arrivals more evenly. But the cab companies explicitly want to prevent Uber from offering this possibility, meaning people have no incentive to space out their arrival times more evenly, at least as far as ground transportation is concerned.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            Off peak usage of the airport, not off peak usage of cabs. Nobody cares about increasing off-peak usage of cabs from the airport.

          • onyomi says:

            This seems to amount to: if you allow people to offer a cheaper alternative, it may decrease availability of the original, more expensive option, which some people might have preferred. Doesn’t this apply to every case of a competitor offering a cheaper alternative? Does anyone worry today about being the city without enough payphones?

            Lurking behind this also, imo, is a different motive I’ve frequently observed re. visitors: the “fleece them while they’re here because they can’t vote us out” impulse which causes 20% hotel taxes.

          • Who wouldn't want to be anonymous says:

            Having public transportation available at off-peak times and in weird locations is a major pillar of being “a good place to live.” Being “a good place to live” is a public good that is in the interest of all residents, but the conditions necessary to have transportation availability at off-peak times and in weird locations suffers from a coordination problem traditionally resolved with local government regulation of the cab industry.

            Uber’s entire schtick is to ignore the catch limitation treaties in the North Sea and destroying the fish stocks. The externalities of which have wide ranging repercussions far outside of the industry at issue.

            You can argue about whether the specific coordination problem is worth resolving (empirical evidence suggests basically every city thinks it is) or if the solution used is optimal, but it is hard to ignore the fact that the vast majority of their advantage over competition is their ability to over fish.

          • Yes, I'm judging you says:

            The thing you are all carefully not mentioning that all the evil things that TNCs might do, cab companies already do, and worse.

            Uber does go to weird off peak places that cabs will not.

            Uber does go on long hauls. I was talking to an Uber driver a few weeks ago who recently did 6 HOUR drive, and got paid extremely well for it. (The passenger worked out it was cheaper and faster to Uber the width of the state rather than buy a short order one way ticket and clear two airports.)

            Uber goes between cities. In the state I live in, taxis were not allowed to drive between the two major cities that were equidistant from the airport.

            Uber goes and does do pickups in minority and poor neighborhoods that cabs will not.

            Uber will pick up black passengers when cabs will not.

            Uber will take people to minority and poor neighborhoods that cabs will refuse to go.

            Uber does make cars available until the airport closes and even after, every time. I’ve been at airports where the last cabs left before the last flight got in. (PDX Portland).

            I have summoned an Uber at 4am in a completely deserted rusted out industrial district, other times at 4am from a remote site greenfield lightsout datacenter. In years past when I tried calling a cab, they laughed at me and hung up.

            I’ve been in cities where all the cab companies raise their rates 20% across the whole city when the trains start shutting down, instead of concentrating the price pain as the exact point of demand. (Tokyo, Moscow)

            I’ve been ripped off by cab drivers who padded the route to be longer than it needed to be. (London, Paris, Las Vegas)

            And then there is the issue that cab drivers in many cities have to bribe their dispatchers and their garages to get decent shifts and a working car, and that in many US cities, cab companies regularly steal from their drives with unexplained “fees” on their pay. Boston was and remains notorious for this.

            And then let’s cap it all of with I would NEVER put a teenage minor girl or a drunk college girl by themselves in the back of a cab, but I can and have put such in the back of an Uber without a moment’s concern.

            I have a great deal of trouble extending the principle of assuming charity in argument from anyone who defends cab companies, as they are actually run.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Here is a map of braiding regulations. In about 1/2 of the states, only full-fledged barbers with extensive training in using blades and chemicals are allowed to braid. Such regulation of braiders is very simple and very stupid. In approximately 1/4 of the states, there is no regulation. In the others, there is specific coursework, less than for a full barber. In some states, it is 30% of that needed for a barber; in others 3%.

        • Brandon Berg says:

          It’s worth pointing out that in the states that don’t regulate hair braiding, about 2% of hair braiding sessions end in decapitation.

    • Irishdude7 says:

      Why not just have certifications instead of licensing? We could have government certifications that replicate current licensing requirements and have private certifications that might have a different set of requirements. Any consumer that thinks the government certification process is important to their health and safety could only use government certified businesses, and those who disagree can purchase from those with private certifications or no certifications. Let consumer choice guide the optimal certification regime and allow people to choose what risks they’re willing to take with their own bodies.

  5. Christopher T Hallquist says:

    The GDP thing is not really true. According to Wikipedia, the US was at 26% in 2015, and many countries are much higher, contradicting the theory that it’s impossible because of something entrepreneurship and tax-dodging. More likely, the gridlock-prone design of the Federal government has made the real tax rate hard to change.

    • Andrew says:

      > The GDP thing is not really true.

      Or maybe it is.
      Hauser’s Law (per the linked article) says that Federal revenue stays 19% of GDP
      https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/FYFRGDA188S

      • ZachPruckowski says:

        “Hauser’s Law” isn’t a “Law”, it’s an op-ed.

        The actual number ranges from 14.4-20.9% of GDP. Which is over a TRILLION dollars in today’s money. I’m not really sure a range of a trillion bucks really qualifies as constant, and 20.9 is 45% bigger than 14.4. Like I’m really struggling to imagine how someone could look at a range that large and come to believe that it’s being held “constant”, unless the claim is at least somewhat ideologically motivated.

        The top marginal tax rate impacts only a tiny fraction of taxes collected, because most people don’t make that much money, and income taxes are only a fraction of federal taxes. Really, we should expect to see little in the way of relationship between a small component of tax policy and “total taxes raised”, since tax policy has many many components.

        Finally, it’s important to note that the government has a very large incentive to keep “percent of GDP that goes to federal taxes” relatively constant. Any large decrease in federal taxes weakens the power of the federal government (which the leaders of the federal government should naturally oppose) and any large increase in federal taxes angers the voters. Any sort of argument about how the failure of previous policy changes to dramatically change tax revenue proves proves that policy can’t impact revenue should need to demonstrate that the tax policy changes were intended to dramatically (more than a few %GDP) change tax rates.

        • Earthly Knight says:

          The top marginal tax rate impacts only a tiny fraction of taxes collected, because most people don’t make that much money, and income taxes are only a fraction of federal taxes.

          The IRS data for 2013 shows that they collected $250 billion from income taxed at the top marginal rate, about 20% of total income tax revenue (including capital gains) for that year, and about 9% of total revenue. I don’t know if I’d call that tiny.

          • Skef says:

            OK, but the top rate for 2013 was 39.6 while the next highest was 35, right? So if your numbers are right eliminating the top bracket would make a difference of around 12 billion?

          • anon says:

            9% of total revenue IS rather small relative to what we’re talking about.

            9% of 19% is less than 2%.
            For example if you multiply that by 1.5, you get 1% more of the GDP.
            For comparison, as Zach said, “the actual number ranges from 14.4-20.9% of GDP.”

          • Earthly Knight says:

            It’s true both that small changes in a large number will be small, and that a large fraction of a small number will be a smaller fraction of a larger number. These are weird points to make, though.

            If we were to raise the top marginal rate to historical levels– the 70% of 1965-1982, for instance– this would generate an additional $200 billion per year, other things being equal. This would easily pay for free tuition at every public university in the country, while still having enough left over to invade (say) Mauritania.

          • Jiro says:

            But by that reasoning, the fluctuation between 14.4%-20.9% is enough to pay for several sets of free tuition and invasions. If the amount you get is small compared to the fluctuation, then it counts as not having changed much, even if it’s big on an absolute level.

          • ZachPruckowski says:

            Certainly it’s not tiny in the absolute sense, but it’s still 9% of taxes. The argument behind Hauser’s Law seems to be “tax rates don’t matter, because historically the top tax rate has been uncorrelated with tax revenue”. But my point is that since the top tax rate only impacts 9% of taxes, we shouldn’t expect it to be correlated with tax revenue, so proving that it isn’t is meaningless.

    • JB says:

      List of Countries by Tax Revenue as Percent of GDP

      So other countries have tax revenues greater than or less than 19%, total US taxes have shown more variance and exceeded 19% (per Hallquist’s claim above), and federal tax revenue a century ago was well under 19% as shown on the graph in Reason’s article. It seems likely that legislators have, perhaps at times deliberately and others by following incentives (eg as tax revenue rises and the budget approaches surplus, incentive to cut taxes), pursued a strategy of revenue-neutral changes to the tax code. Not that there is a law of economics regarding tax revenues that only applies to one country and within that country, only applies to one of its levels of government.

      • ZachPruckowski says:

        >It seems likely that legislators have, perhaps at times deliberately and others by following incentives (eg as tax revenue rises and the budget approaches surplus, incentive to cut taxes), pursued a strategy of revenue-neutral changes to the tax code.

        Which makes a lot of sense when you think about it – if tax revenue (as %GDP) rises substantially the voters will be angry, while if tax revenue (as %GDP) falls substantially, it reduces the budget that elected officials control (and thus reduces their power). Plus once you lower taxes, it’ll be hard to raise them in the future.

    • Julien Couvreur says:

      There is no such theory which predicts a magic number.
      It’s just a fact that federal taxes have not collected much more than 19% of GDP.

      • I’ve always seen the 19% rule as evidence for the Laffer Curve, though others have brought up reasons it might not be.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Could you explain how it is evidence for, rather than against, the Laffler curve, other than Hauser has been saying so for decades?

          • meyerkev248 says:

            I could honestly swing both ways.

            Laffer Curve basically says that as you tax X at higher and higher rates, you eventually end up with 100% of a 0-size pie.

            Which means that this depends upon mechanisms.

            If tax revenue is falling because you’ve taxed everything effectively, and so people do nothing, then Hauser’s Law is disproving the Laffer Curve, since you’d be seeing higher revenue rates (and lower absolute revenues).

            If on the other hand, tax revenue is falling because people are moving into black markets/moving away from taxed industries/hiring lobbyists to carve out loopholes, then it’s a beautiful example of the Laffer Curve. As you tax things, people move to avoid the tax.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Are you saying that you can only make the argument if you don’t know anything about US tax law? That would explain Hauser.

          • meyerkev248 says:

            Quite possibly yes.

            With the third argument being that it’s politically difficult to tax more than 19% but not impossible. We’ve just increasingly been able to:

            a) rob the military Peter to pay the welfare state Paul since the 1950’s, so we haven’t actually HAD to raise federal taxes since the Korean War (~12% of GDP plus interstate highways in the early ’50’s, 5% today).

            b) Shift things off on state and local government between 1950 and 1970, such that state and local taxes were rising through that entire time period.

            Link

            The general rule seems to have held since 1970 though.

            /And even then, that’d still be super-interesting if the Laffer Curve was actually the Laffer Perfectly Straight Line from 30% to 90%.

        • The Laffer curve is a mathematical necessity; the 19% rule, if it’s accurate, just says we’re in a relatively flat region of the Laffer curve.

  6. Christopher T Hallquist says:

    Also “The Amazon Post” is “is maintained by Chevron to express the company’s views and opinions on a fraudulent lawsuit against the company in Ecuador.” I’m not sure why you’re linking to it.

  7. Neanderthal From Mordor says:

    That excess men leads to more married couples is very interesting and makes lots of sense of you think in terms of a sexual market (despite the term being partly ruined by misuse in the manosphere).
    But this leads to the conclusion that marriage, far from an oppressive patriarchal institution, is something that lots of women actually want and push towards when they have the power to set market conditions as the rarer “commodity”

    • ediguls says:

      Agreed. I find it utterly unsurprising that out-of-wedlock births and female-headed households are more common when there is an excess of women. It’s just the pigeonhole principle in action, is it not? Even with a deficit of marriageable men, women will still want at least some children, so more of them will be willing to take risks in choosing partners.

      In any case, I think it’s a commonly made mistake to neglect women’s agency and desires when talking about partnerships and marriage. You could even go further and say that it’s kind of sexist to think that if men can’t get women they’ll riot, become criminals and try to take women by force instead of trying to improve their desirability to them, which is the logical move to make if you see women as People Too.

      • Yehoshua K says:

        What if I see women as people, and most men see women as people, but I think that some significant percentage of men don’t see women as people? In that case, can I predict that a significantly larger number of men than women will lead to sexual violence, without myself being sexist?

        • Aapje says:

          @Yehoshua

          There is evidence that rape by women against men is almost as common as the reverse, so any increase due to a surplus of men may be mostly offset by a decrease in the number of rapes by women (and vice versa).

          However, you wouldn’t see this offsetting in the crime statistics, as men are strongly conditioned against considering themselves raped* and/or reporting it.

          * In other words, there is a much bigger gap between the number of men who report having experienced an event that fits the legal definition of rape and the men who consider themselves raped, than for women.

          • Yehoshua K says:

            I would be very interested in that evidence. Do you by any chance have a link?

          • Aapje says:

            1,921,000 men reported being “made to penetrate” and 1,929,000 women reported being raped in the preceding 12 months according to table 1 of the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey. I consider the former category to be the male equivalent of coital rape, although the report itself doesn’t.

            Note that the lifetime statistics are not consistent with the 12 month statistics, which either suggests that women recently became far more ‘rapey’ or more likely, that male victims are far more likely to forget those cases, due to social conditioning.

            Anyway, 99.0% of female rape victims reported only male perpetrators and 82.6% of male “made to penetrate” victims reported only female perpetrators. Men who were penetrated (what the report calls ‘rape of men’) are almost always victims of male perpetrators. However, these cases are far more rare than “made to penetrate.”

            So this strongly suggests that fewer women rape, but that this disparity is small enough that the vast majority of raped men are raped by women. So there is some disparity in rape of men by women vs rape of women by men, but it’s not that large and far less than most people believe.

            PS. Crime statistics tend to be far different. IMO, this huge disparity between the self-reported statistics and the police statistics is because there are various forces that depress the latter numbers.

          • Guy says:

            In other words, there is a much bigger gap between the number of men who report having experienced an event that fits the legal definition of rape and the men who consider themselves raped, than for women.

            Unfortunately, the FBI still agrees with NISVS on the definition of rape. (I agree with you that “made to penetrate” is quite straightforwardly rape in a moral sense, but whether it is rape in a legal sense depends on your jurisdiction)

          • Yehoshua K says:

            Interesting. I plan to look more carefully at the link later, but offhand, I find myself wondering what “made to penetrate” even means. Under what circumstances is he physically unable to prevent coitus?

            Are we talking about violent rape here, or some kind of threat or emotional blackmail?

          • Aapje says:

            The two most common occurrences are probably women who have sex with sleeping men and women who have sex with drunk men.

            Note that these seem also to be major categories for male on female rape (despite the stereotype, violent stranger rape is actually quite rare).

          • Besserwisser says:

            The percentage of men who aren’t reporting life-time instances as compared to the 12 month period is very much in line with previous research about male victims of child sexual abuse being much less likely to remember the events as adults than female ones were. There are probably some differences between statutory rape and adult rape* but it’s not inconceivable that they’re either weak or balance each other out.

            As mentioned before, it’s a real problem that rape of men often isn’t even legally recognized. Out of hand, I know the UK doesn’t consider “made to penetrate” as rape and Indian law only recognizes female victims of rape. Both are fairly recent laws, so it’s not like this is a problem with outdated legislature which is opposed by reforms. On the contrary, the Indian rape laws aren’t gender-neutral even though the original proposals were because of activism to prevent this.

            Even when it comes to prison rape which we typically imagine as a problem between (male) inmates, female prisoners are actually more likely to experience sexual violence by fellow prisoners while men have more problems with the wardens. It’s especially bad in juvenile detention facilities where female staff contributes disproportionally to the abuse of boys.

            *Is there an official term for that?

          • pku says:

            On the contrary, the Indian rape laws aren’t gender-neutral even though the original proposals were because of activism to prevent this.

            The Israeli case is even worse: Israeli law says that all laws apply to both genders unless explicitly stated otherwise, but rape (including statutory rape of minors) and sexual harassment (which could clearly happen to men even if you don’t consider forced penetration as rape) are both explicitly written as illegal only for men.

          • Besserwisser says:

            Kinda the opposite of India in that respect. There you can only be charged with certain crimes if you committed them against a woman. Or is that still the case in Israel in addition to only apply to male perpetrators?

    • utilitarian troll says:

      Hypothesis: Most women prefer committed relationships, but the high status men who influence culture and media don’t want them to realize this, so they push feminist memes so they can get laid more easily (since they’re high status, their ability to get laid is mainly limited by how disinhibited women feel)

      • meyerkev248 says:

        I’m going to be perfectly honest and admit that my mental model of “Men who push feminist memes” and “Men who get laid a lot” basically don’t intersect at all.

        • Guy says:

          “Men in feminism for extraordinarily sketchy reasons” is definitely a set with cardinality greater than zero. I am not sure how large it is.

          • Besserwisser says:

            Reminds me of that tumblr posts of (female) feminists feeling more comfortable around men who agree with the idea that all men feel an urge to rape rather than the ones who disagreed.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Besserwisser,

            That make sense if they assume that it’s true that all men feel an urge to rape, and that any man answering that question is really answering “I feel an urge to rape”. Because then then they’re just feeling less comfortable among those who try to hide their urge to rape.

          • Aapje says:

            It also seems like something that would reinforce their beliefs, if they end up raped due to their preference in friends.

          • Besserwisser says:

            @The Nybbler

            A lot of what crazy people do makes sense if you already believe crazy things. There already were loads of examples of this on this blog.

            @Aapje

            Pretty much. Some statements by feminists about men in general make sense if they’re about rapists in particular. And some of them are exactly what rapists are saying. I heard it’s a common tactic of a rapist to say that he’s just a normal guy who made one mistake. Even though most rapists are repeat offenders who also commit other crimes.

          • utilitarian troll says:

            It occurs to me that feminists and TRP both share an extreme cynicism about people of the other gender, specifically that these people will *always* act to fulfill their genetic imperative regardless of what they say aloud. (With feminists, it’d be an extreme cynicism that men don’t desire to rape. With TRP, it’d be an extreme cynicism that women don’t desire to cuckold.)

          • Thursday says:

            Jian Ghomeshi

          • Besserwisser says:

            Feminists often believe that (almost) all differences between men and women are socialized. In a casebook example of projection, I heard feminists argue that they’re men’s greatest allies because they’re the only ones who don’t think of men as born rapists. The distinction between genetic and cultural origins of rapey men make little to no difference in practice though.

          • Aapje says:

            When they believe that no man can avoid that socialization or truly recover from it, the distinction between nature and nurture seems irrelevant in practice.

            In my eyes, I judge it the same as an alt-righter that argues that all black people are irredeemably violent due to ‘black culture,’ so he shouldn’t be called a racist, as he doesn’t believe in genetic inferiority.

        • anon says:

          I live in Europe so maybe it’s different here, but for much of my life I assumed that most womanizer types were left wing. Everything in my real life experience suggests so. It’s only from the internet that I discovered that there are circles of right wing womanizers.

          I used to have a friend, a real player. A successful one. At any time he had multiple affairs going. His lovers were attractive, too. He was a very committed leftist, and used to lecture me on various topics. Including slut-shaming. He said that “every time you avoid using the word slut, a man somewhere in the world gets laid”!
          Also, one of his many secrets to get laid was… hipster girls. (Although the word hipster wasn’t around back then, the human type was). He told me that, you’d never guess by looking at them, but artsy alternative left wing girls are the easiest to have sex with, they have sex like it’s nothing. And of course to connect with them you have to be a left winger, due to humanity being divided in bubbles (as Scott would put it).
          For a while I kept it hidden from him that I politically right of center (even though I was never the “slut shaming” type). When he realized that, he told me that surely me being on the right was the reason I didn’t get laid much.
          As far as I could tell his idea was that the more a woman is on the left, the easier it is to have sex with her, whereas in right wing circles you only find nuns who don’t have sex.

          While my friend was not particularly high status (maybe he is more important now, who knows), think of Bill Clinton for the picture of a politically committed high status left wing womanizer.
          Imagine the same type in the academia. (like that Hugo Shwitzer as Guy points out).
          I think that there are many such men in academia and the media and they are the ones who utilitarian troll suspects are pushing those memes.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            If you read some threads on TRP for any amount of time, you may get the very distinct sensation that they’re not right-wingers in the classical sense; they’re people who came from the same climate as your friend, and either got angry at it for their own reasons, or changed intellectually but remained for sexual purposes.

          • Aapje says:

            Common TRP ideology is that women are intrinsically very sexual, but were oppressed by conservatism. Then feminism happened which liberated them, but also told men and women a lie about being equal. So then women started seeking out men who act as equals (beta men), but their natural desires are different and these women don’t get sexually aroused by these men. Thus you have women using beta men as providers, but either having no sex or cheating with men who act their true nature (alpha men).

            TRP is about teaching men to unlearn feminist conditioning and become alpha men, which they can then either use to have casual sex with women who cheat on beta men; or to have a relationship with a woman that fully satisfies her, so she is faithful.

            There is a reason why they are so obsessed with cuckolding, the ideology is built around that fear.

            The ideology is actually not very ideological at all. There is very little intent to change the world, but it’s much more: ‘this is how the world is, we can’t change it, but we can adapt.’

            As such, it’s neither really left or right wing, since there is no real intent to change the world. It’s anti-ideology in a sense.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            TRP is apolitical in the same sense that the NRA is; while there can be and are left of wing people in the NRA and on TRP, the memeplex going along with either does not sit well with many modern American leftists. Having ‘feminists have it wrong’ as one of your most core tenets is going to make sure your population is going to be slanted towards people of the right of wing persuasion, just as an organisation which would happen to be against capitalism would end up with the reverse problem.

          • Aapje says:

            Having ‘feminists have it wrong’ as one of your most core tenets is going to make sure your population is going to be slanted towards people of the right of wing persuasion

            Perhaps, although there is also the possibility that the people most open to feminist theories* about dating are left wing, who later become disenchanted. That doesn’t make them right wing then, just unorthodox left wingers.

            PUA is often something that people hide from their family & friends anyway and as such, is less likely to become politically partisan than things that people want or have to make their family & friends aware off.

            * Which generally teaches men the passive dating technique that most women use, but which tends to be highly ineffective for men.

    • Chalid says:

      But this leads to the conclusion that marriage, far from an oppressive patriarchal institution, is something that lots of women actually want and push towards when they have the power to set market conditions as the rarer “commodity”

      Isn’t this the cliché, that women are the ones pushing for marriage?

      • Davide says:

        My understanding is that for many feminists there isn’t a contradiction between ‘oppressive patriarchal institution’ and ‘something that lots of women actually want’ would contradict each other, since they could just say the patriarchy is making women want bad things.

        (I think they’re mostly wrong, but that’s because I’m in favor of *liberal* feminism and if women claim they do something for reason X, I believe them unless it sounds really absurd)

        • Furslid says:

          Another possibility is that marriage is an oppressive patriarchal institution. Women may want marriage, because it is the best position for them in a patriarchal society. If you went back to the days of slavery, slaves competed to work in the plantation house instead of the fields. This does not show that slavery was justified under these circumstances.

          This isn’t what I believe, but it is a possible answer. It might be true of some historical societies where the roles for women were much more restricted and marriage gave man dominion over his wife.

          • Aapje says:

            Roles for men were almost as restricted in historical societies. 90% of men would have the same job and education as their father (usually farming).

            This only changed due to the industrial revolution and the preceding agricultural revolution (which made the former possible). It’s not surprising that feminism become a big movement then.

            Before that time, I believe that the male and female gender role were similarly shitty and there was no strong sense of unfairness.

          • Aapje wrote “90% of men would have the same job and education as their father (usually farming).”

            I’d like to know where this figure comes from.

          • Aapje says:

            It’s more of a guestimate to be honest. 50-80% of the population consisted of farmers. We know that pre-agricultural revolution, land was often worked by a village, rather than a single farmer owning or working an enclosed piece of land. I think it’s fair to assume that communal land ownership strongly encourages people to stay put (and not allow strangers in), as the farmer can pass on the right to work the land to his children, but the children cannot just sell the land to use the capital for a new business.

            There was also no free government education and very little access to higher education for the children of farmers, so the education was done by the parents & the community. That would automatically lead the children to be taught to be farmers like their parents & village.

            Similar mechanisms would be at work for non-farmers, which would severely restrict their social mobility (upwards and downwards).

            The British Agricultural Revolution caused a big surplus of labor, which upset the established labor market and caused rapid urbanization, which provided industrialists with the labor force to kick start the industrial revolution.

          • Very interesting, Aapje, thanks.

          • “We know that pre-agricultural revolution, land was often worked by a village, rather than a single farmer owning or working an enclosed piece of land.”

            You may know that. I don’t.

            I assume you are referring to the Second Agricultural Revolution. Prior to the first agricultural revolution land wasn’t being worked.

            The usual pattern in western Europe was not that the land was worked by the village but that each family owned land it worked and often also had some rights with regard to the village common, such as the right to graze cattle on it.

            For a detailed and expert description of pre-modern agricultural institutions, I recommend French Rural History by Marc Bloch.

          • Aapje says:

            @Friedman

            Unlike the Industrial Revolution, there doesn’t appear to be a good term for the preceding Agricultural revolution. This is why I used the term British Agricultural Revolution, which is what Wikipedia calls it (even though similar changes of course happened elsewhere in Europe).

            The usual pattern in western Europe was not that the land was worked by the village but that each family owned land it worked and often also had some rights with regard to the village common, such as the right to graze cattle on it.

            The land on which crops were grown were linked to the cattle, as the land needed to recover nutrients. This was usually done by converting it to a pasture for some time. During the British Agricultural Revolution, this dependence was reduced as better forms of crop rotation were developed.

            Furthermore, non-animal fertilizers were developed, which reduced the importance of animal manure.

      • Julie K says:

        Isn’t this the cliché, that women are the ones pushing for marriage?

        It’s a very old cliche, e.g. as documented in the 18th-c. novels Pamela and The Vicar of Wakefield which portray men as wanting to pressure or trick women into living together without being married.

        • houseboatonstyxb says:

          That’s not really very old, in the time scale more commonly used here. What does our established Evo-Psych knowledge of all foragers/gatherers tell us?

    • LPSP says:

      I place a lot of validity in that suggestion. Marriage is essentially the primary incentive to the female side of the relationship – by which I mean an income in monetaristic and material senses, a source of intrigued and excitement beyond the domestic, and protection and insurances, along with the culminative factor of a better household and standard of life.

      Most modern women instead get the proxy marriage that modern female employment constitutes. This is a very specific category to which I refer here – motivated women in the arts and sciences, or women doing essentially outsourced domestic tasks in the presence of many other women (cleaning, cooking, hairdressing, nursework) are not what I’m talking about, and the degree of education, hard work or working hours are not relevant. Working in an office, bureaucratic, clerical environments are the core of what I see as proxy marriage jobs.

      The comparison is sharp to the role of pornography in men’s lives. Male primary motivation is sex in relationships, and men get married when it feels like a comfortable, stable, loving and reliable form of sex without strings or deceptions. Most modern men use porn as a proxy. But these two proxies result in the gender’s secondary relationship needs being unfulfilled. Women DO need sex and excitement in their lives, and men DO need pure comfort and tenderness. The modern dating scene thus shapes perversely – women just want to have fun, meet a wild and tempting guy, smoke some cigarettes and try to forget it happened afterwards, while men try to look “datey” but spend their time sizing up women’s personalities and trying to find a girl who shares their interests.

      It is my belief that much of the alpha male myth comes from men who, whether by innate accident or innate craft, latch on to this unspoken undercurrent of female desire. There is a similar counterpart on the female side of the aisle, but I’m not certain what pop or internet culture figurehead best fits. Men and women are keen to appear masculine and feminine respectively, and so fear signalling their secondary relationship needs in case it seems to undermine the primary one. Self-acclaimed PUs can frame themselves as super male (eg sexy) AND be cruel and dismiss females, call them hypocrites and so on. This, I think, accounts for both the truth in what PU artists have to say AND the inherent repugnance of their existence; they’re a sort-of sexual Moloch.

      In any case, in the rare modern instance where society *does* facillitate straightforward marriage as the best way for men and women to get all their relationship fixin’s, they jump on it like it was a cake made out of diamonds and gold.* I agree that this reveals an innate preference, but arguably in both sexes, not just women. Men DO want the tenderness of a relationship, but it takes some persuading in the modern environment to get them to put out, compared to the sheer economy of the proxy. Frankly I think this is a huge problem for modern day relationships and mating, and one which in particular afflicts more intelligent (ie sensitive, careful) people than the sexually reckless among us, which in turn has broad negative effects on society. A straight return to traditional marriage isn’t feasible – we have to find ways to incentivise the desirable aspects of the old model to manifest in a newer form.

      *the secret ingredient is love. <3

      • Aapje says:

        There is also simply the issue that the alternative to marriage has greatly improved. In the past, a single person household was pretty much unsustainable, so single people were required to live with their parents or other arrangements that most people consider rather unpleasant over the long term.

        Nowadays, the expected value (average outcome – average cost) of marriage is rather low, IMO.

        • LPSP says:

          I’m not seeing that as much of alternative, given how happy people are to jump back into marriage once it becomes feasible. I haven’t got a study to whip out here, only my observation of behaviour in nightclubs, what men and women talk about over the internet and in person, coupling in uni (successful and not) along with a reconciliation with the truths and flaws of PU culture.

          • Aapje says:

            We may have different norms here. I am comparing the situation now to a time when it was more or less impossible to run a single household.

            I do think that most people want both affection and sex, which a good relationship provides in the best way. However, it’s not guaranteed and non-marriage alternatives exist more than in the past (due to birth control and the social acceptability of non-marriage relationships).

          • LPSP says:

            It isn’t clear to me what you mean by norms. I’m talking about innate human compulsion, to which norms must cater if they succeed or not.

            Of course long-term relationships without a marriage are unpopular; it’s seen as weakness to not signal commitment in a costly display. People are getting married less, because people are getting into relationships less altogether. My 2 cents is that the moment the economic climate allows for serious long-term relationships, with signals and all, people jump back to it from modern dating fling-isms plus proxies, because that satisfies their dual-incentives more efficiently.

          • Aapje says:

            Of course long-term relationships without a marriage are unpopular; it’s seen as weakness to not signal commitment in a costly display.

            That is very much culturally defined, in my country, 1 in 4 cohabiting couples are not married. In some subcultures in my country that is far less common (conservative religious people mainly) and in others, more common.

            People are getting married less, because people are getting into relationships less altogether.

            That’s not the whole truth, the group of unmarried couples who live together has increased greatly compared to 100 years ago.

            But that’s not really my point.

            My 2 cents is that the moment the economic climate allows for serious long-term relationships, with signals and all, people jump back to it from modern dating fling-isms plus proxies, because that satisfies their dual-incentives more efficiently.

            I agree that most people prefer a good cohabiting relationship over fling-isms or alternative relationships, but my claim is that the standard for a ‘good relationship’ has gone up a great deal. In the past, ‘he earns enough to prevent me from starving and doesn’t beat me too much’ and ‘her cooking is edible and she isn’t too emotionally abusive’ were perfectly good justifications for marriage. Today, people on average have way higher standards.

            As standards go up, the number of eligible candidates decreases, which logically means that more people will prefer to stay single over ‘settling.’ Furthermore, acquisition costs go up (people date more to find the person that meets their higher standards & abandon young relationships more often, restarting the search) and the value of relationships is compromised (because people are more likely to choose divorce, even if their partner is happy to remain married).

          • “As standards go up, the number of eligible candidates decreases”

            Unless the quality of candidates is also increasing, perhaps for some of the same reasons that the standards are going up.

            At a tangent … . Are there good data yet on the relative stability of marital vs non-marital partnerships that are intended to be long term? Choosing to produce and rear children might be an adequate proxy for intention.

          • Aapje says:

            I agree that the quality of candidates is increasing on average, but I believe that the demands go up faster, due to alternatives getting better.

            Basically, people have to compromise for a cohabitating relationship and my argument is that the willingness to do so is less if the alternatives are better.

    • Deiseach says:

      marriage, far from an oppressive patriarchal institution, is something that lots of women actually want and push towards

      Or that where there are fewer women than men, men are more willing to make the commitment of marriage because there’s no free milk 🙂

      I think it works both ways; where there are more men, women have a better choice and a better chance so they don’t marry the first guy who asks them, thus they’re willing to put more into a serious relationship that looks like it will lead to marriage and men are more likely to be serious about relationships when their chance of finding and holding on to a suitable woman is limited – if there is small likelihood of “there could be someone better out there”, they may as well marry the woman they’re with, rather than merely cohabiting. Also for the higher rates of fidelity and paternal involvement – fewer women to sleep around with and have babies by, so you’re more invested in the kids you do have; fewer chances of cheating; higher risk if you do cheat she’ll dump your sorry ass and find a guy who won’t.

  8. Homo Iracundus says:

    “sponsoring classes/programs/bureaucracies”

    So by the metrics of those in charge of these bureaucracies they’ve become much more effective. I’ve also noticed these organizations have moved away from actually delivering services in a measurable way.
    For example, our local domestic violence organization just rebranded itself as existing to “promote social progress”, rather than, you know, doing anything to help battered women.

    • Deiseach says:

      There is also the attitude that you can’t just give money to poor people, they have to do something for it. So setting up programmes where they have to attend and engage with the system and do job training, re-skilling courses, turn up every day and fill out the forms programmes, etc. to ‘earn’ the money.

      This means charities and organisations that receive public funding have to demonstrate how they’re using it and what service they are providing for the community and you get all kinds of bureaucracy and box-ticking so that ultimately Representative Smith can assure his constituents that their tax dollars are not being wasted by just handing wads of cash to the undeserving (the fact that these programmes end up costing more than merely handing wads of cash over never seems to come into it).

      That’s why your local organisation has to have a mission statement about “promoting social progress” and show how running a shelter is doing that, Homo Iracundus. Just giving battered women and their kids a place to stay isn’t good enough, what are they doing to stamp out domestic violence for good?

      • Homo Iracundus says:

        Oh, it’s worse than that over here. It’s how they get away with not running a shelter at all.

        • houseboatonstyxb says:

          Setting up and running a shelter involves a lot of expense and dealing with regulations. If a group can afford all that, fine. But if not, walk-in services such as support groups, counseling, and legal consultation and help with divorce filings etc are extremely worthwhile.

  9. BBA says:

    Brightline is the first new private passenger rail line in a hundred years. Amtrak only started in the ’70s, and before then all the intercity railroads were private.

    As I understand it the Las Vegas Monorail is also private, but it may not count as a railroad (and it’s stupid even for a monorail).

  10. Loquat says:

    I’m gonna have to say, occupational licensing seems like a perfectly fine thing to have for occupations where screwing up can easily result in the customer dying. Or have I missed previous posts where Scott advocated against licensing requirements for medical professionals in general?

    (I know there are commenters around here who’d prefer a system where unlicensed would-be doctors can still practice as long as they’re upfront about not being licensed and people can choose whether or not to take their chances, but you have to admit that’s a much tougher sell to the general public than allowing unlicensed hair braiding.)

    • Anonymous says:

      I’ve mostly seen it here in the context of hair braiding licenses. Easy to learn occupations that keep casual practitioners out by requiring expensive licenses.

      Although there’s a case to be made for alleviating the shortage of GPs by loosening up the educational requirements a bit.

      • Cadie says:

        Nurse practitioners could help with that, and seems to be doing so. I don’t know what the specifics are but NPs don’t have to have as much education as a full MD or DO; AFAICT they’re nurses with some additional training but much less than a doctor. They’re able to do some things that doctors normally would do – mostly the “easy cases” like routine adult physicals and diagnosing ordinary illnesses. In some areas they can prescribe meds, too, though anything complicated would be referred to a full physician. Like they wouldn’t be prescribing chemotherapy drugs or psychiatric medication combinations, but they can prescribe antibiotics for uncomplicated UTIs and such, and it costs a lot less to go to an NP for the little stuff than to see a doctor.

        I think it’s a great idea to have a “junior doctor” position like that to free up GP time for cases requiring more special medical judgment and experience.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          You have NPs a little bit wrong.

          The typical NP degree is a two year Master’s degree that follows after a full 4 year RN and then two years of practice as a nurse. An graduating NP is more qualified (roughly) than a graduating MD, but MDs have to do a residence as well.

          They do (usually, although this is changing in some states) need to be supervised by an MD, but that is more nominal than practical. Having people to consult is always valuable though. They have full prescriptive powers, but they aren’t going to prescribe out of their specialty. You aren’t prescribing chemo, doc or NP, unless that is an area of expertise.

      • Yehoshua K says:

        How about loosening the testing requirements for doctors?

        That is, if the sole intention of medical licensing is to prevent quacks and incompetents from preying on the public, why not loosen the requirement that says “Before you can test for a medical license, you must have a diploma from a school on the Approved List?” Instead, we could allow anyone who thinks they’re ready (whether they’ve studied in medical school, apprenticed, read books, or whatever) to take a rigorous test, paying the full cost of testing, and if they pass, they get a license.

        The test could include written and practicum sections, it could take place over a period of months, whatever. Just get rid of the part that says “You must have graduated one of the following schools.”

        Anybody have any reason that this wouldn’t simultaneously increase the number of doctors available and maintain public safety at the current level?

        • Julie K says:

          It might not have a big effect, if these test-takers can’t get residencies.

          • Yehoshua K says:

            It would, admittedly, take a while for the medical culture to change–but it should at least allow for an immediate increase in the amount of foreign fully-trained post-residency doctors that can practice in the jurisdiction.

          • Guy says:

            Is that number currently much smaller than it should be? (Genuinely curious)

          • Yehoshua K says:

            I don’t have specific numbers ready at hand, but I recall reading (I believe in Milton Friedman’s “Freedom to Choose”) that during the period when lots of doctors were fleeing the Nazis and coming to America, there was no noticeable uptick in the number of foreign doctors admitted to practice in America. As I recall, it was part of his argument that one major purpose of the AMA is to keep medical supply low and medical wages high.

          • @Yehoshua

            I believe that fact is in Capitalism and Freedom. It might also be in Free to Choose.

          • Yehoshua K says:

            Thank you, Mr. Friedman. I must have seen it in Free to Choose, which I incorrectly called Freedom to Choose above, as I have not read Capitalism and Freedom. (I was wondering if you would put a word in.)

  11. Jiro says:

    The whale is not a race traitor. He and the other killer whales helped herd a different species of whales to the humans in exchange for the meat.

    • pku says:

      I guess he’s an infraorder traitor, technically.

    • hlynkacg says:

      I was under the impression that Orcas were in a separate order (along with dolphins and porpoises) from whales?

      • Anonymous says:

        All those creatures belong to the same clade, Cetacea, which was previously considered a proper order but is now subsumed under Artiodactyla, the even-toed ungulates.

        You’re right that, within Cetacea, there is a major division between toothed whales (e.g., orcas, dolphins, porpoises) and baleen whales (e.g., blue whales, humpbacks), which for most people are the more central examples of the category “whale.”

    • Deiseach says:

      So not even a Judas goat, merely opportunistic? Like dogs becoming domesticated and helping humans against wolves 🙂

      • Thatwasademo says:

        Even less surprising than that, because orcas were already well-known for hunting baleen whales (it’s where the name Killer Whale, or rather Whale Killer, came from in the first place).

  12. Neanderthal From Mordor says:

    Salon moving right is impossible given Conquest’s Second Law.

    • Jiro says:

      I think the spirit of the law doesn’t apply to cases where the rightward movement is the result of a single person’s activities.

    • Jill says:

      Conquest’s 2nd Law is wrong. The GOP dominates both Houses of Congress, most governorships, most state legislatures, and SCOTUS until Scalia died, because the U.S. is a Right Wing country, with the media, the politicians and everyone moving continually to the Right, except on a very few social issues. We are also immersed in Right Wing propaganda and getting more of it all the time, now adding Salon to that. Not to mention that Hillary is politically about where Nixon was, except on a very few social issues. We’re going to have to rename the country United States of Koch soon.

      • Sandy says:

        Conquest’s Second Law is only wrong if you consider the GOP the sole arbiter of the American right. If the GOP shifts leftward too, say if they try to nominate a candidate who declares illegal immigration “an act of love”, then they’re not really conservatives anymore — more like conservakin. Such an organization dominating both Houses of Congress yada yada yada isn’t going to make much difference to the right-wing cause if at the end of the day Republicans are just Democrats minus ten years.

        • Jill says:

          But the GOP isn’t declaring illegal immigration “an act of love.” They’re moving further and further to the Right, just like everyone else in the country.

          • Sandy says:

            Before Trumpocalypse, they tried.

            They’re moving further and further to the Right, just like everyone else in the country

            We may have very different understandings of what it means to move further to the Right. What do you think the philosophy of the Right is, fundamentally?

          • Jill says:

            Right Wing philosophy means catering to the whims of the .01% while pretending to be the party of everyone, especially lower class white bigots. It means increasing inequality of income and opportunity. It means cutting taxes on the rich, reducing the social safety net, cutting regulations that mega-corporations dislike so that they can get away with polluting and poisoning and defrauding people more and more over time, and spending lots of money on wars. That’s what we’ve been doing.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Sandy, what would you say the philosophy of the left is, fundamentally?

          • Jill says:

            Illegal immigration is something the Right Wing wants, because mega-corporation political donors want the cheap labor. They do usually complain about it to get lower class white votes. Jeb Bush didn’t complain about it. So he didn’t get the votes he needed in the primary. But, once elected, no Republicans, including Trump, will be doing anything to stop illegal immigration, because mega-corporation political donors want the cheap labor.

          • Sandy says:

            Right Wing philosophy means to cater to the whims of the .01% while pretending to be the party of everyone, especially lower class white bigots.

            Whoof! Given how overwhelmingly progressive the 0.01% of Americans that make up this country’s financial, cultural and social elite are, this is an alarmingly stupid move for right-wingers.

            It means increasing inequality of income and opportunity

            But this increasing inequality of income and opportunity in America is tied into and a factor in pulling billions of others out of poverty worldwide. Export-led growth in China alone is an economic miracle unprecedented in human history. What’s so right-wing about the Millennium Development Goals?

            reducing the social safety net

            But government spending on the social safety net has only grown over time. Is the Republican Party just really bad at this right-wing thing?

            cutting regulations that mega-corporations dislike so that they can get away with polluting and poisoning

            I am fairly certain you have already had this discussion a while back with cassander, and it was pointed out the sheer volume of regulations (thousands and thousands of pages in any given year) that the EPA churns out in any given year makes right-wing attempts at putting a dent in any of that utterly laughable and even downright pathetic when you consider that they still try. Do you seriously believe that in the ~27 or so years of Republican presidency since Nixon created the EPA, there has been significant slowing or reversal of the pace of environmental regulations?

            and spending lots of money on wars

            I am not sure why you think this is a defining feature of right-wing politics. FDR spent a lot of money on foreign wars and everyone now talks glowingly of the Arsenal of Democracy. Ron Paul proposed a return to Jeffersonian isolationism; such ideas will never be taken seriously again in a globalized world because one picture of a shellshocked Syrian child on the front page of the New York Times is all it takes to shut down arguments against intervention in foreign wars.

          • Sandy says:

            @Jill:

            Illegal immigration is something the part of the Right Wing that has specifically self-sanitized its in-group to cull madmen like Pat Buchanan so as to be socially acceptable in polite leftist company wants

            You missed a few words.

            @Anonymous:

            what would you say the philosophy of the left is, fundamentally?

            We Hold These Truths to be Self-Evident, That All Men Are Created Equal, and a reality that does not reflect this assertion of equality is necessarily the result of structural flaws and perhaps outright malice. A society that has both freedom and order is a nice thing to have, but when push comes to shove and you have to pick one, it is better for a society to be free even it has no accompanying order.

          • Anonymous says:

            Not quite.

          • Sandy says:

            Tell me where I’ve gone off-track and what your philosophy of the left is.

          • Julie K says:

            it is better for a society to be free even it has no accompanying order.

            That sounds more libertarian than leftist.

          • Julie K says:

            Illegal immigration is something the Right Wing wants

            Does the Left Wing also want it?

          • Sandy says:

            @Julie K:

            That sounds more libertarian than leftist.

            Depends on whether you define freedom as primarily individual autonomy or collective autonomy i.e. if a group is considered free when the people who comprise it are also the people who make decisions for that group, regardless of the effects of those decisions. I think Moldbug talks about this in his open letter. I believe his specific example was that the Congo was once considered a “model colony” under Belgian rule, but now under local autonomy it is a hellscape pretending to be a nation. Still, no one is seriously willing to suggest turning back the clock on that decision. Even if 60% of Jamaicans think they should go back to being a British colony, such a proposal is not something that could ever be seriously considered in the paradigm of Western leftism.

            Likewise, Singapore is a one-party police state with little freedom but a lot of order –accordingly Lee Kuan Yew and the People’s Action Party are not held in high regard by many leftists. Post-apartheid South Africa has much more freedom but steadily declining order — it is still a nearly unanimous consensus among leftists that Nelson Mandela and the ANC were Men of History and the freedoms gained by the crumbling of Afrikaner oppression are well worth whatever loss of order has resulted.

          • Deiseach says:

            I believe his specific example was that the Congo was once considered a “model colony” under Belgian rule, but now under local autonomy it is a hellscape pretending to be a nation.

            I think Sir Roger Casement had something to say on that matter. As did Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

            And when my late father was part of the Irish UN deployment to the Belgian Congo, he wasn’t much impressed by the colonial settlers as against the ordinary natives, though right enough, that’s only an anecdote not data.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            I think the Congo Free State (which ceased to exist in 1908) was known as a nightmarish hellscape, and is practically the poster country for the evils of colonialism. The Belgian Congo (which replaced it up until the creation of the DRC in the 60’s) was managed much better.

          • Sandy says:

            @Deisach:

            Oh yeah, Leopold II was some kind of psychopath but Moldbug’s example was from well after the Belgian parliament stripped the King of control over the Congo — sometime in the 50’s, IIRC.

          • Rebel with an Uncaused Cause says:

            We Hold These Truths to be Self-Evident, That All Men Are Created Equal, and a reality that does not reflect this assertion of equality is necessarily the result of structural flaws and perhaps outright malice. A society that has both freedom and order is a nice thing to have, but when push comes to shove and you have to pick one, it is better for a society to be free even it has no accompanying order.

            I agree with the start of your claim but disagree with the end. The left definitely has no problem embracing order to enforce equality; affirmative action and welfare are two examples of this. I think that the left’s position can be stated as the embrace of social freedoms combine with an emphasis on equality of outcome. I think the former is what you were referring to when you said the left prefers freedom to order; order is the preferred means to achieve the latter.

      • Yehoshua K says:

        Wow! I’d like to live in that world. Where do I buy a ticket?

      • Stefan Drinic says:

        It’s a shame you insist on these tangents, because your opening statement isn’t even wrong. I’d have pointed to this very commentariat as proof of it being wrong, and left it at that.

      • Neanderthal From Mordor says:

        Conquest’s 2nd Law is not about elected officials.

      • namae nanka says:

        US is a left wing country with the left and the leftovers.

        And it’s mired in left wing propaganda which claims that it’s mired in right wing propaganda.

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        Okay, fun’s fun, and this has been perhaps the most successful long troll I’ve ever seen on this website, but you can stop now, seriously.

  13. Earthly Knight says:

    Note that Jacob Sullum, the author of the Forbes article on e-cigarettes, has been a well-known shill for tobacco companies since the ’90s. You have to admire the chutzpah of a man who spent half his career trying to convince people that tobacco isn’t a public health menace going on to champion e-cigarettes as the best way to save us from the public health menace of tobacco.

    • thorp says:

      Just because he disagrees with you doesn’t make him a shill

      • Earthly Knight says:

        I’m being perfectly literal: the man took money from tobacco companies in exchange for printing positive articles about them.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Rather, a tobacco company paid him to reprint an article he already wrote.

        • thorp says:

          From that link — Reason Foundation got $10,000 from Phillip Morris while Sullum got $5,000 from RJ. Seems pretty cheap for big tobacco. The articles in question are about secondhand smoke which is a topic that is sure to rile any libertarian out there. Meanwhile Sullum wrote an entire book called Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use which argues among other things that people can use heroin safely. He wrote a trip report about his salvia experiences for Reason once. All this and him being pro e-cigarette makes him a shill for big tobacco?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            1. If you think that tobacco companies only ever financed Sullum or Reason that one time, I’ve got a bridge to sell you. Here, for instance, is the Reason foundation receiving another $20,000 from Philip Morris in 2001.

            2. The article I linked to above– please read it– is not principally about secondhand smoke. Sullum denies that cigarettes are addictive, doubts that advertising influenced anyone to take up smoking, and thinks that not enough emphasis is place on the health benefits of tobacco. I suppose it is possible that Sullum is just a slightly unhinged drug advocate who espouses views the tobacco industry happens to find congenial. Even so, we should take anything he has to say about e-cigarettes with a Dead-Sea-volume of salt.

          • Cadie says:

            Just because he’s probably wrong about one thing doesn’t mean he’s wrong about everything. Perhaps he understates the dangers of drugs in general but is broadly correct that the FDA’s reaction to e-cigarettes is over the top and likely to do more harm than good. E-cigarettes are being defined as a tobacco product when they’re not – they’re no more a tobacco derivative than nicotine gum or patches, and sometimes they’re far less, since some kinds of e-juice contain no nicotine at all. Studies in the UK have shown that the short-term and medium-term dangers of e-cigarette use are a small fraction of traditional cigarettes – about 5%. Long-term isn’t known because the product is too new, but it would be statistically extremely weird if it didn’t end up also much less than analog smoking. And while defense of e-cigarettes could help Big Tobacco by protecting one of their relatively low-profit products, the end result of over-regulation would probably be to Big Tobacco’s benefit, by crippling smaller rivals that produce/sell better products and forcing many of them out of the business.

            I wouldn’t fully trust his writing without following up on the links, but he’s not really wrong here; the FDA is overreacting and putting politics and appearances over real public health. E-cigarettes are useful for harm reduction (not harm elimination) and the USA tends to shy away from harm reduction in favor of all-or-nothing measures. Easy litigation might play a role in that trend, but either way the legal and cultural hesitation to embrace harm reduction and partial solutions causes a lot of problems in various areas. From drug policy (e-cigarettes, using Suboxone for heroin addiction treatment, needle exchange, generally replacing criminal penalties with treatment options for nonviolent addicts, etc. reduce harm without totally eliminating it) to sex work law (decriminalization and even relatively loose forms of legalization help voluntary workers AND trafficking victims much more than criminalization and very strictly regulated legalization) to education (accepting that college isn’t for everyone and offering better trade-school options and other training for youth would enable them to get better jobs than pushing everyone into college regardless of ability and desire).

          • Earthly Knight says:

            the end result of over-regulation would probably be to Big Tobacco’s benefit, by crippling smaller rivals that produce/sell better products and forcing many of them out of the business.

            It’s hard to know. Tobacco companies, after being slow to enter the market, have invested heavily in e-cigarettes lately, and now own the top four brands. My guess is that they would prefer no regulations at all, but, given that regulations were coming down the pike no matter what, support regulations that will cripple upstart competitors, as you say.

            The main point is that not a single word of Sullum’s article can be trusted. The man is skeptical about whether nicotine is addictive: he is a charlatan who publishes falsehoods in exchange for blood money. So if there is a problem with FDA regulations, we have yet to see any evidence to that effect.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Evidence that tobacco companies are fighting taxes and regulation of e-cigarettes at the state level. In particular, they are quite insistent that the claim that “e-cigarettes are not a tobacco product” be inserted into the laws of every state in the nation.

      • Rebel with an Uncaused Cause says:

        I don’t think that was implied from Earthly Knight’s comment; it sounds like he considers Sullum a shill because Sullum flip-flopped on whether tobacco was a health menace, and took money for both positions, which creates a picture of someone who doesn’t let his beliefs get in the way of making money.

        Not that I’m familiar with Sullum, but that’s my reading of what Earthly Knight was saying, anyway.

    • Jiro says:

      Wow the reasoning in that link is awful. For instance, when describing smoking as something that people choose to do, he ignores the existence of addiction. Characterizing an addict as choosing to get another fix is true in some technical meaning of “choice” but is not what most people mean when they say that it is wrong to interfere with choices. He also seems to think that because “many former smokers say quitting was very hard, while others say it was no big deal”, smoking isn’t addictive, as if having “many” addicts but not 100% addicts and not having the addiction be 100% effective disqualifies it from being addictive at all.

      He also says that tobacco companies lying about the the danger of and the addictiveness of smoking doesn’t count because people don’t trust tobacco companies. Trust comes in degrees; people can distrust tobacco companies to some extent while at the same time lies from the tobacco companies can influence them–distrust isn’t an all or nothing thing. People are also very good at rationalizing, and even a small number of lies about the safety of smoking lets them rationalize away having to believe all the other people who say that it is dangerous.

    • Earthly Knight says:

      To give an appropriate sense of perspective here, Scott’s tumblr link claims that the new FDA e-cigarette regulations will cause the equivalent of approximately 9,000 excess deaths (this isn’t true, but never mind). This is, the author helpfully notes, “literally worse than 9/11”.

      Jacob Sullum cares deeply about preventing the loss of 9,000 lives. This is why he spent most of his career fighting tobacco regulations.

      According to the CDC, tobacco-related diseases cause 480,000 deaths each year in the US.

      According to the WHO, tobacco-related diseases cause 6 million deaths each year worldwide.

      The scale of deaths caused by the tobacco industry can only be measured in deca-holocausts.

      Jacob Sullum takes money from the manufacturers of a product which has killed more people than Hitler and Stalin combined. But he cares deeply, deeply about those 9,000 lives.

      • Irishdude7 says:

        I think it’s morally relevant whether lives are lost because people choose to engage in an action or whether they are prevented by authorities from engaging in an action. In one case, a person gets to choose their own death, while in the second case another person contributes to their death without their consent.

        • Earthly Knight says:

          Consent does not excuse a crime if the consent is obtained fraudulently, if the victim is a minor, or if the victim is under the influence of mind-controlling chemicals. But 90% of tobacco users began smoking before they turned 18, in part because tobacco companies spent decades deliberately marketing their products to children. Tobacco companies also spent decades defrauding the public about the health consequences of smoking and the addictiveness of nicotine. This makes them mass murderers, no different than Pol Pot or Stalin, and it makes Sullum and Reason apologists for their atrocities.

          • IrishDude says:

            I agree that fraud is an issue. If someone started smoking without being aware of the consequences because of deliberate misrepresentation by tobacco companies then I think tobacco companies should be held liable in some manner for the health consequences. However, I think most smokers today were aware of the negative consequences of smoking when they started and chose to do so anyway, so I don’t put all tobacco-related deaths on the tobacco companies. My parents started smoking in the 60s and told me they knew it wasn’t good for you, was addictive, and could lead to lung cancer, but did it out of rebellion and fitting in with their peers.

            I disagree that teenagers can’t consent to smoking. I think teens are too often infantilized and believe they should have more agency over their lives.

            Regardless, do you disagree that the government has liability over lives lost if they prohibit or increase the costs of a safer alternative in a manner that leads to 9,000 more deaths annually?

            This makes them mass murderers, no different than Pol Pot or Stalin

            No different? Hyperbole much?

          • Jiro says:

            Regardless, do you disagree that the government has liability over lives lost if they prohibit or increase the costs of a safer alternative in a manner that leads to 9,000 more deaths annually?

            If that’s a hypothetical, it counts as a hypothetical intended to draw a conclusion about a real-world thing and shouldn’t be answered as a hypothetical.

            And real-life arguments require a certain amount of trust that he is using reasonable assumptions, isn’t omitting relevant figures or cherrypicking anything, etc. Claiming that 9000 deaths is a really bad thing when in a similar instance he didn’t care about 50 times as many deaths is a strong sign that he is not trustworthy enough to pay attention to.

  14. C Murdock says:

    I have not read the source cited by that Wikipedia article on Chinese Manicheans, “Manicheism and its Spread into China”, but I am *HIGHLY* skeptical of the claim that there are actually still Manicheans there (or, if they are, that they are actually ancestrally Manichean and not practitioners of a recently-resurrected neo-religion (like Asatru in Europe)). I’ve read a bit about Manicheism, and pretty much everything I’ve seen has said that they died out in China in the 1800s at the latest; and as for the “Manichean temple” there, yes it was originally built as a Manichean temple… but that fact was not rediscovered until modern researchers examined it– the locals there had long-since been using it as a Buddhist temple.

    EDIT: Apparently all the article says is that “there are some scholarly reports that Manichaeism is still thriving in Quanzhou… Peter Bryder of Lund University in Sweden reports that he has inside information about the continued existence of the “Religion of Light” as a secret society”.

    “Inside information” about a vague secret society? Doesn’t inspire confidence.

    EDIT 2: The source the article cites is from a now-defunct url, but is evidently from an e-mail sent by Peter Bryder in 1994. In it he says that he “will try to get better information” next time he’s in Quanzhou, and that if any new information becomes available, the two guys in charge of studying Manicheism in Quanzhou would probably publish it in the Newsletter of the International Manichaean Society.

    Unfortunately I can’t seem to access any of the Society’s newsletters using my available resources (= an internet connection). I would guess, though, that since nobody seems to have referenced anything relevant since that 1994 e-mail, that the rumor of Manichaeans in Quanzhou didn’t yield any fruit.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      The surreptitious existence of old time religions is an interesting phenomenon. I don’t know about China but the survival of old religions in the Middle East is a big deal that Americans don’t have much of a feel for. Although the Middle East appears on the surface to homogeneously Islamic, underneath it tends to be one big Umberto Eco novel.

      For example, recently ISIS was trying to wipe out the Yezidis in Iraq, who are part of the pre-Islamic Cult of the Angels. They worship Lucifer, whom they feel has gotten a bad rap.

      When I was in Turkey in 2009, the newspapers were full of political disputes involving the 25 million Alevis, who are nominally Muslims, but who also seem to find sacred a sword stuck into the ground and a black dog.

      The Alawites of Syria are much in the news since they rule what’s left of the country. They are said to be Muslim, or as one Muslim holyman proclaimed them: Shi’ite but not Muslim. They are said celebrate Easter and are said to believe that Heaven floats over China. But nobody really knows because they don’t tell anybody what they believe.

      For example, about a decade ago I was chit-chatting with a reader in Istanbul, a cultured individual who mentioned that most of his friends in classical music and cinephile circles in Turkey were Jews. When I asked him, he clarified that his friends were Crypto-Jews, Donme, followers of the False Messiah Sabbatai Zevi who had been forced by the Sultan to convert to Islam in the 1600s, but who remained an endogamous and highly influential force in Turkish life. For instance, the foreign minister of the last pre-Erdogan secularist government was a Donme. The Crypto-Jews of Salonika had been a major factor in the Young Turks who had taken control of Turkey in 1908.

      When I researched this, I found that Jewish historian in American universities found these assertions non-controversial. They often added that Stanley Kubrick’s bizarre last movie with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, “Eyes Wide Shut,” appears to been inspired by an Austrian offshoot of Sabbatai Zevi-ism under Cesar Franck.

      • Winter Shaker says:

        [Yazidis] worship Lucifer, whom they feel has gotten a bad rap.

        I thought they worshipped Melek Taus, who shares a similar bit of back story to the Islamic Satan, leading Muslims to inaccurately accuse them of worshipping the devil.

        • Loquat says:

          It’s an interesting question – Melek Taus, like Satan, does refuse to bow to the newly created Adam when God commands it, and apparently does fall from grace at some point, but then he repents and manages to weep sufficient tears to extinguish the flames of hell.

          So on the one hand, he’s clearly established in the Yazidi religion as a benevolent entity – evil comes from within our own hearts, not from him or any other supernatural being – but on the other hand you can kinda see how he could be interpreted by an outsider as Satan fanfiction.

      • LPSP says:

        I always wondered what the deal was with that movie.

      • Julie K says:

        Crypto-Jews … remained a highly influential force in Turkish life.

        I’ll keep this in mind for my list of anecdotal evidence that non-Ashkenazic Jews also have above average IQs.

    • LPSP says:

      I read the Wikipedia articles on both Chinese and normal/original Manicheism this morning, and there does seem to be conflict between them. The vanilla article states that Manicheism survived longer in China but still ultimately died out there. Combined with the caption on an image of a chinese temple of generally buddhist as being “disguise-manicheism”, and I’d place a fair amount on manicheism being dead in all but name.

  15. Douglas Knight says:

    I don’t know why the federal tax revenue has been so steady at 19% of GDP for so long, but the failure of major tax overhauls to move it is totally intentional. A serious cut of revenue would require a serious cut in spending, and who wants that? And raising taxes? There’s no reason to expect the top marginal rate to have anything to do with the aggregate collection. For one thing, not many people pay it. Moreover, when people cut it, they usually compensate by broadening the base. For example, Reagan taxed executive perks.

    • Earthly Knight says:

      There’s no reason to expect the top marginal rate to have anything to do with the aggregate collection. For one thing, not many people pay it.

      It doesn’t matter how many people pay the top marginal rate, it matters what proportion of revenue comes from income taxed at the top rate. It’s around 55%. This is part of the solution to the puzzle, actually. Tax rates have gone down, but the proportion of income taxed at the top rate has grown, because the rich keep getting richer.

      To illustrate, suppose that in 1975, 100 people made $20,000 each, while one man made $100,000. Income below 50k is taxed at 10%, income above at 50%. Then 11% of total income will be paid in taxes.

      Now suppose that in 2015, 100 people made $20,000 each, while one man made $2 million. Income below 50k is still taxed at 10%, but the top marginal rate has been slashed, and now stands at 13%. It will still be the case that around 11% of total income is paid in taxes.

      So tax revenue consuming a constant 19% of GDP is probably a symptom of grotesque and growing inequality, rather than a sign of government dysfunction or of the salutary effects of low taxes on economic growth. Color me shocked that this did not occur to anyone over at Reason.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        The income tax share of the 1% is not the same as the amount of income taxed at the top rate. For one thing, capital gains are not taxed at the top rate (and before the chart begins, oil was not taxed at the rate). For another, income below the threshold of the top rate contributes to the chart, but is not taxed at the top rate.

        • Earthly Knight says:

          I don’t think either of the links were counting capital gains taxes. It’s true that the first $250,000 each individual makes won’t be taxed at the top rate (this is why I said “around 55%”), but this is basically going to come out as a rounding error. The true figure is probably between 50 and 54 percent.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Yes, if you make up numbers, you can fabricate any conclusion you like.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Actually, here’s a graph of income tax generated at each marginal tax rate. Unfortunately, it predates the end of the Bush tax cuts. But you can see that the top rate accounted for around 22% of revenue the last years before they took effect.

            So my estimate was too high. Mea culpa. Fortunately, this new graph illustrates the original point quite well. Total income tax revenues remain constant because the rich take up a larger share of the income each year even as the top tax rates are cut.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Alright, I cracked open the IRS spreadsheet for 2013. $242 billion was generated at the top (39.6%) rate. This is a fifth of all income tax revenues, including taxes on capital gains, and about 22% when capital gains are omitted.

      • meyerkev248 says:

        Not unrelated: https://randomcriticalanalysis.wordpress.com/2012/09/01/net-federal-tax-payers/

        TL/DR: As of 1980, when only considering direct taxes and transfers, the 2nd quintile was more or less break-even, and the top 3 paid for everything.

        In 2009, the bottom 3 were net takers, the 4th was revenue-neutral, and the top 20% of America paid for all the welfare, the military, and everything else.

        /Of course, as mentioned, this doesn’t count state/local taxes, nor all non-welfare spending like the military.

        • Earthly Knight says:

          No surprise, but it looks like the difference is almost entirely due to growth in social security and health care (mostly Medicare) spending.

          • meyerkev248 says:

            I think I figured out once that the break-even point was something like $20/hour in taxes just for the stuff that I was using.

            “I work in Silicon Valley and my 7% state income tax bill doesn’t pay for the subsidies on my train ride” was also a shock.

            /Also incorrect, but it was a lot closer than I’d like.

  16. Douglas Knight says:

    The standard result is that an excess of women leads to instability. An excess of men leads to social stability and external war.

  17. John Wentworth says:

    The tax revenue thing: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hauser%27s_law

    Far more interesting than this is how I came across it: reading wikipedia’s entire list of eponymous laws, top to bottom.

  18. Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

    Didn’t (Milton) Friedman make the same argument as Cowen a long time ago?

    • Close. He responded to a Scandinavian economist claiming they had no poverty by saying “That’s interesting, because in America, among Scandinavians, we have no poverty, either”.

  19. Zakharov says:

    Areas with an excess of men are probably areas experiencing an economic boom, and the resulting wealth would go a long way towards explaining increased stability.

  20. Bill Bow says:

    The Chevron Ecuador case is fascinating and probably not what you would expect (strong priors are a bitch). The case that was just upheld by the appeals court was decided last year by Judge Kaplan. His almost 500 page decision is a surprisingly gripping read.

    http://www.nysd.uscourts.gov/cases/show.php?db=special&id=379

    • suntzuanime says:

      Thanks, I’m always on the lookout for great 500 page court decisions. The context of this comment seems to have been memory-holed, though. What prompted this?

      • Montfort says:

        Scott initially linked to a post about a judgment in the US court system declaring a judgment from the Ecuadorian courts to be the product of fraud and hence unenforceable, as well as finding against the lawyer who brought suit in Ecuador under RICO. (The Ecuadorian judgement was against Chevron for ~$10 billion).

        Then someone pointed out that the linked post was basically a Chevron press release, and so it seems to have been withdrawn. Still interesting, though.

  21. Zakharov says:

    If Chevron is telling the truth about the lawsuit, is it rivals attempting to block competition, an attempt to extort the company, or just overzealous environmentalists?

    • Bill Bow says:

      This particular case is about greedy lawyers subverting the legal process in Ecuador and attempting to do the same in the US. So essentially an extortion attempt that has mostly failed so far. The decision that the lead lawyer, Donziger, be barred from profiting from this case is what was just upheld.

      Don’t think rivals (i.e. other oil companies) were involved. Environmentalists were more just unwitting accomplices blinded by their dislike for Chevron.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      Well, here’s what the (earlier) decision that Bill Bow linked to has to say about that in its introduction:

      Upon consideration of all of the evidence, including the credibility of the witnesses – though several of the most important declined to testify – the Court finds that Donziger began his involvement in this controversy with a desire to improve conditions in the area in which his Ecuadorian clients live. To be sure, he sought also to do well for himself while doing good for others, but there was nothing wrong with that. In the end, however, he and the Ecuadorian lawyers he led corrupted the Lago Agrio case. They submitted fraudulent evidence. They coerced one judge, first to use a court-appointed, supposedly impartial, “global expert” to make an overall damages assessment and, then, to appoint to that important role a man whom Donziger hand-picked and paid to “totally play ball” with the LAPs. They then paid a Colorado consulting firm secretly to write all or most of the global expert’s report, falsely presented the report as the work of the court-appointed and supposedly impartial expert, and told half-truths or worse to U.S. courts in attempts to prevent exposure of that and other wrongdoing. Ultimately, the LAP team wrote the Lago Agrio court’s Judgment themselves and promised $500,000 to the Ecuadorian judge to rule in their favor and sign their judgment. If ever there were a case warranting equitable relief with respect to a judgment procured by fraud, this is it.

      So, sounds like somewhere inbetween 2 and 3. I haven’t read beyond the introduction.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        Oil companies have a lot of money, so it’s natural for poor places to pass laws or use lawsuits to try to get some of their billions.

        For example, when Huey Long became governor of Louisiana in 1928, the state was pretty much third world with few paved roads or hospitals, much less colleges. The Standard Oil company was making lots of money of Louisiana energy resources, so Huey pushed laws through that taxed Standard Oil to pay for LSU, hospitals, schools, and roads. In 1930, Standard Oil’s minions had him impeached. He eventually survived, and then spent most of the rest of his short life warring on his political enemies, in contrast to his hugely constructive 1928-29 accomplishments. In particular, he turned against FDR, so when he was assassinated in 1935 the conventional wisdom became that he had it coming.

        Any similarities to life and potential future death of Donald Trump are wholly coincidental.

  22. Utopn Naxl says:

    “Yet another study finds evidence that Tylenol use during pregnancy increases ADHD rates (paper, popular article)”

    Instead of ADHD or autism, can we just start saying that these things increase the rate of nervous system damage that interferes with real life and has questionably successful treatment?

    Saying those disorders means something that can be easily pinpointed down with specific treatments that work, when really those things are only meaningful to say a small subset of patients with outwardly similar behavior(whose behavior really just falls into general categories of dysfunction)

    I dislike putting something that’s best left as general damage to the nervous system then ADHD, which really just seems like some form of medical corruption.

    • Utopn Naxl says:

      After the Edit-edit

      As for Pinkers comment, he dosen’t seem to be addressing his concerns to those actually worried with AI, more to some general public.

      The worry people here have is of mindless optimizers with a goal,tech spiraling out of countrol, and this tech being *used* by humans. Think a government with a backdoor in every computer tracking the facial expressions of those reading stories and their clicks and likes in order to know the conscious and subconscious of one far beyond that of school test scores and physical health and financial status that is already tracked and documented when desired.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        “I thought Steven Pinker was mostly okay, but he’s gone off the deep end lately with his theory that worrying about AI is just some kind of evolutionary psychology thing where men worry about other men being more alpha male than they are.”

        I don’t spend any time worrying about AI Terminators taking over the world, but that’s because I figure you guys with Simon Baron Cohen-style extreme male brains have got that issue covered for me. Pinker has a better, more precise version of my type of brain, which is good at pulling up huge numbers of empirical examples.

        • Deiseach says:

          Who knew the A in AI actually stood for Alpha?

          This is part of the problem with (pop) evolutionary psychology; every nail has to be hit with that particular hammer, and if it’s not a nail, you find some way to make it a nail.

          Why would humans worry about artificial intelligence? We didn’t have computers back when we were coming down out of the trees! Okay, it’s because – alphas! pack rankings! men are worrying about being replaced by more dominant competitors!

          Does this mean that if men are worrying about being replaced by more alpha AI, women will indeed be welcoming our new robot overlords and being carried off by them? 🙂

        • “I don’t spend any time worrying about AI Terminators taking over the world, but that’s because I figure you guys with Simon Baron Cohen-style extreme male brains have got that issue covered for me.”

          Speaking as one of those guys we need help communicating that unfriendly AI is very likely going to kill us unless something big changes.

          • Deiseach says:

            (W)e need help communicating that unfriendly AI is very likely going to kill us unless something big changes

            Will the AI get us before or after climate change does? Or a war in the Middle-East? Or increasing population straining the resources of an overburdened Earth? Or Donald Trump?

            If I believed everything in news reports and popular science, we’re due to be killed by about twelve different catastrophes any day now.

            I haven’t the energy to worry about everything I’m supposed to be worrying about! 🙂

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Will the AI get us before or after climate change does?

            Before.

            Or a war in the Middle-East?

            After.

            Or increasing population straining the resources of an overburdened Earth?

            Before.

            Or Donald Trump?

            After.

            ETA: No wait. After Donald Trump destroys the party system by being a Democrat running as a Republican, but before he is elected Emperor of America.

        • Anon Coward says:

          “I thought Steven Pinker was mostly okay, but he’s gone off the deep end lately with his theory that worrying about AI is just some kind of evolutionary psychology thing where men worry about other men being more alpha male than they are.”

          Wtf? I thought alpha was term invented by manosphere. Sure AI research is about status (everything is). People want to think their pet project is more important (to the humanity) but that goes for everyone. Physicists think that high-particle physics is more useful to humans (at least in short term) than it really is. You could give hundred more examples. That has nothing to do with “being more alpha”.

          Actually I think worrying about AI (especially in terms of warfare) is very important but I leave it to the experts.

          Also, reading the comments relatead to this makes me cringe. Please less armchair evo psych.

          I hope that quote is misattributed.

          • Utopn Naxl says:

            Nonono. Pinker did a poor job in the video of what he has explained previously more in depth in books. He also totally forgot that plenty of women are worried about AI to, just like they were about warring neighboring city-states millennia ago.

            Its a cognitive bias of humans to attribute motivations and emotional heuristics that aid knowledge of other humans to other types of creatures. A basic example of this is the stories of ancient religions, like having an angry rock god, a loving and dependable sun god, a rain god to appease and give sacrifices to.

            Saying “friendly” or “unfriendly” AI seems like an example of this. AI is a collection of algorithms that after their discovery, can be used and understood and grouped with lots of other algorithms, and given capabilities(like hooking up a machine with a virus up to a network that attaches to the internet, instead of leaving it disconnected)

  23. The Nybbler says:

    Of course I knew about Desert Bus; Desert Bus is famous. Well, infamous. I knew it was from Penn and Teller but didn’t realize there were others in the collection.

    I seem to recall someone actually built some hardware to cheat at Desert Bus. Someone made an Atari 2600 version. There’s been charity events where people play it. There’s a “speed run” posted to youtube.

  24. “Results: children whose fathers have more female co-workers do indeed do worse in life, in the ways we would predict if divorce had lasting effects on children.” Did they look at male professors teaching at women’s colleges?

    • Steve Sailer says:

      Here’s a way to test the divorce / women in the workplace hypothesis. The Navy sexually integrated warships about a generation ago, which drove the wives of seamen wild with rage because their husbands kept impregnating women assigned to the ships. Pregnancy got seawomen airlifted off ships, so there was a big incentive to get pregnant because land duty in the Navy is much more pleasant than being at sea.

      To understand this, however, you had to read between the lines in news articles, which were typically written by female journalists who felt that being frank about what was going on on the various “Love Boats” would be bad for the cause.

      Roissy has argued that a lot of the conventional wisdom about how after you get married you have to move to the Suburbs with Good Schools for the sake of your children is just your wife trying to get you away from single women.

      It’s pretty reasonable to imagine that a lot of the spike in divorce rates in the 1970s had to do with Baby Boomer women (born from 1946 onward) flooding into the workplace and luring their bosses away from their older wives.

      • Utopn Naxl says:

        There do appear to be some legitimate reasons to move to a non-urban enviroment for growth, though if the proper variables were controlled for is anyones guess

        https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2014/feb/25/city-stress-mental-health-rural-kind

        “The year before the Meyer-Lindenberg study was published, the existence of that link had been established still more firmly by a group of Dutch researchers led by Dr Jaap Peen. In their meta-analysis (essentially a pooling together of many other pieces of research) they found that living in a (urban) city roughly doubles the risk of schizophrenia – around the same level of danger that is added by smoking a lot of cannabis as a teenager.”

        And its not so much your wife arguing you away from young single women. 5 years of a young child and the weight gain will do that anyways.

      • Utopn Naxl says:

        And well, I guess its wise to remember those women are also removing themselves from the close vicinity of attractive rich dudes and anonymous club enviroments, so it isn’t just one selfish bitch move like the blogosphere likes thinking it is.

      • Deiseach says:

        It’s pretty reasonable to imagine that a lot of the spike in divorce rates in the 1970s had to do with Baby Boomer women (born from 1946 onward) flooding into the workplace and luring their bosses away from their older wives.

        Oh, those poor men in their forties and fifties, grown up adults who may have lived through a war, settled with wives and families, well able to handle being in a supervisory or management capacity over teams of men, able to make decisions and control their emotions and desires, then completely undone and unable to resist the first twenty-two year old hussy fresh out of secretarial school batting her eyelashes at them!

        Did these women setting lures lay down trails of breadcrumbs to entice the poor helpless men to their webs, where they pounced on them, hypnotised them into buying them engagement rings, and dragged them through the divorce court and then to the altar? I ask from historical interest, just to keep the facts straight.

        • Anonymous says:

          Oh, those poor men in their forties and fifties, grown up adults who may have lived through a war, settled with wives and families, well able to handle being in a supervisory or management capacity over teams of men, able to make decisions and control their emotions and desires, then completely undone and unable to resist the first twenty-two year old hussy fresh out of secretarial school batting her eyelashes at them!

          Deiseach, the fact that you seem to think this is cutting sarcasm rather than a purely accurate description of the relative strengths of various temptations makes me think you may never have had a penis. 😀

          • Randy M says:

            Or even been a man.

          • MC says:

            LOL, very true.

            Also, Steve wasn’t making a normative statement; you could add a condemnation of all those caddish bosses leaving their wives, and it would still be true that women flooding into the workplace has to have been the cause of a non-trivial amount of marital infidelity.

      • bean says:

        Here’s a way to test the divorce / women in the workplace hypothesis. The Navy sexually integrated warships about a generation ago, which drove the wives of seamen wild with rage because their husbands kept impregnating women assigned to the ships. Pregnancy got seawomen airlifted off ships, so there was a big incentive to get pregnant because land duty in the Navy is much more pleasant than being at sea.

        That’s an interesting idea, and I’d like to see it tried. That said, sailors have long been notorious for their behavior ashore, and (until very recently) the consequences for affairs ashore were minimal, while sleeping with a crewmate could have serious repercussions. The best source of data is probably going to be from the crews of the SSBNs, which deploy on virtually the same tempo all the time, and don’t make port calls. Integration there started in 2011.

    • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

      Yeah, I’m wondering how this squares with the data that say women end relationships more than men.

  25. Utopn Naxl says:

    I really want to read just what the FDA says in full about the products for e-smoking. I have no idea just how good/bad some of the scents and other products in the vapor is.

    Really, IMO someones best bet to get nicotine should be nicotine gum. Why the hell has not this taken off?

    >http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/SensibleShopper/story?id=2114263

    The problem with classes like DARE and the “general them who I can only kindof pinpoint well” only really allowing the negatives about nicotine to be published is that the RedBull equivalent for nicotine can’t be made, when it really should be.

    If nicotine was brewable like coffee, would you see the discrepancy in the wiki articles for uses vs adverse effects, unlike smoking with its lung cancer involved?

    • Barry Cotter says:

      Nicotine gum has not taken off for multiple reasons. Probably the biggest one is that it’s regulated as a medicine and as a Puritan organisation the FDA is very sure that medicine shall never, ever be fun or pleasant. Nicotine gum has nothing going for it other than the nicotine. Vaping has the same form factor as smoking and the extremely similar delivery mechanism means switching habits isn’t as hard.

      I think nicotine is brewable. It’s just very easy to get the dosage wrong and feel very, very ill.

      • bluto says:

        It’s very brewable, folks used to make a very effective pesticide by steeping tobacco leaves in boiling water for some time.

    • thorp says:

      Smoking is fun, and vaping is almost as fun. This fact disappears on paper. Drinking tea is not nearly as entertaining as smoking a cigarette.

    • anon says:

      Swedish snus are (afaict) pretty close to nicotine red bull. Evidence for increased risk of oral and pancreatic cancer is weak. They don’t cause unpleasant smells for others (except when poorly and too strongly flavored). They’re pretty cheap and available in a variety of strengths.

      The main downside is that (as thorp points out) smoking is more fun.

      • Loquat says:

        My husband used to use Swedish snus – the major downside seemed to be that he’d have to spit periodically, which was gross, and also inconvenient since basically nobody has spittoons so he’d have to carry his own container to spit in. He now vapes, which is more annoying in enclosed spaces but does not produce any mess.

    • Psycicle says:

      This is the regulation page, and this is the cost-benefit analysis page, if you wanted to double check.

    • utilitarian troll says:

      Isn’t nicotine gum bad for your gums?

      • utopn naxl says:

        Unless nicotine itself is carcinogenic, and I don’t believe it is, I don’t see why it would be worse then caffiene gum.

  26. Jacob says:

    RE: Body cams and police violence

    “The Effect of Police Body-Worn Cameras on Use of Force and Citizens’ Complaints Against the Police: A Randomized Controlled Trial” (http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10940-014-9236-3) found that excessive force complaints go way way down when body cameras are used. They didn’t look at police shootings though.

  27. cassander says:

    >Somebody tell me whether this surprising claim is true or totally made up: Reason claims that no matter what the tax rate, government revenue is always 19% of GDP.

    Amend that to “None of the changes in the tax code since the korean war have moved taxes much away from 19%” and it’s correct. I have no doubt you could tax more, but the truth is that, for all the hyperbole over them, the tax code has mostly been tinkered with at the edges. It’s a lot higher if you count tax expenditures, but I’m not sure how much that number has changed over time.

    >Private Prisons

    Given that public prison guard unions are vastly more influential and organized than private prison companies, refusing to use private prisons might actually make things worse, not better.

    • Guy says:

      What do you mean by tax expenditures?

      • cassander says:

        say the tax code says “if you do X, you get 100 dollars off your tax bill”. That is economically identical to taxing everyone and creating a program that mails everyone who does X 100 dollars but the latter shows up in the books as government spending and the former does not. The US relies a lot more heavily on tax expenditures than other countries.

  28. This reminds me how everybody who covers Silicon Valley has to write articles about how “white” it is, even though it’s one of the least white industries in the country and possibly >50% minority.

    You’re assuming they mean white as in race. I think you covered what kind of whiteness they’re talking about in depth earlier.

  29. poorlando says:

    The complaints about Silicon Valley are not that it is too white but that it is not diverse. And for the purposes of the complainers’ agenda, Asians do not count as diverse.

    • suntzuanime says:

      No, lots of people really do complain about how white Silicon Valley is, as is easy to verify by googling “silicon valley white”.

      I think we’re under a decade away from a broad acceptance of CJKs as white. If the Irish can manage it, why not them?

      • Sniffnoy says:

        In place of a generic Google comment — here are two Razib Khan blog posts where he provides examples of people making this claim.

        What seems to be going on here is a sort of equivocation, where the SJ crowd will count East Asians as “white” when this is convenient for them, and count them as “people of color” when this is convenient for them. (Or, for those who want to be more careful, they’re “people of color”, but they’re not “underrepresented minorities”.) Now, granted, I don’t actually know that it’s individual people equivocating rather than distinct people disagreeing — for all I know there might even be some people with real arguments as to why “people of color” and “underrepresented minorities” are both separately important categories — but on the large scale, at least, that is the effect.

        If anything’s standing in the way of considering East Asians “white”, it would seem to be exactly that!

        • suntzuanime says:

          It seems like it’s impossible to achieve sufficient representation of “underrepresented minorities”, by definition.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            That’s a little like saying “It’s impossible to cure sick people, by definition”. One may disagree whether underrepresentation is a problem, but I don’t think it makes sense to accuse the notion of being incoherent on those grounds.

        • Guy says:

          The experience of East Asians in many respects reminds me of the experience of Jews, down to the fact that both are extremely common in tech and resented for it. South Asians as well, sometimes (see also medicine), although they are often lumped in with Middle Easterners instead.

          • Yes, I'm judging you says:

            And for another example, recently immigrated “blacks” in the US.

            Whenever I meet a man with ebony skin doing banking or finance in New York, he is always either an immigrant or the son of immigrants, usually from Kenya. Likewise, when I park my car in a private tower or lot, the person in the booth managing the tickets, and the people patrolling the lot, are always Somali. Most of the “blacks” promoted into the upper levels of the military and the civil service in the US turn out actually to be children and grandchildren of immigrants from the Caribbean.

          • Outis says:

            Resented for it by whom? To what degree? It seems to me that both Jews and East Asians largely manage to escape criticism for being overrepresented in desirable fields, with non-Jewish whites acting as the lighting rod, even when they are not themselves overrepresented in that same field. Silicon Valley is a blatant example of that.

          • Guy says:

            Resented by non-Jewish whites, usually. Anti-semetic conspiracy theories are of this form, as are complaints about workloads in Bay Area schools (often blamed on East Asian parents demanding Japan-style schooling for their children, whether they actually do or not). Both groups also catch heat for being “basically white” from certain strains of the social justice left. That is, the non-Jewish whites draw the initial ire, but when people respond “What about all these East Asians and Jews?” they are told that those groups don’t count for diversity purposes.

            I expect this phenomenon to hit South Asians pretty soon, if it hasn’t done so already (as I think it might have in Britain). I don’t think it’s gotten to African immigrants because they look similar to African-Americans (though African immigrants may have similar outcomes to East Asians et al). See also Vietnamese, Hmong, and other SE Asian immigrant groups, who look similar enough to East Asians to get lumped in with them but have very different histories and outcomes.

            (To be clear, I’m talking about how people view members of these groups, not necessarily their actual economic outcomes.)

          • John Schilling says:

            Whenever I meet a man with ebony skin doing banking or finance in New York, he is always either an immigrant or the son of immigrants, usually from Kenya

            And whenever I meet a woman with ebony skin running a major aerospace corporation, she is always the descendant of freed slaves. Isn’t anecdata fun?

          • Sandy says:

            Whenever I meet a man with ebony skin doing banking or finance in New York, he is always either an immigrant or the son of immigrants, usually from Kenya.

            I would have figured Nigeria.

          • Jiro says:

            “Woman running a major aerospace corporation” is too specific to include very many people of any race. “Man doing banking or finance in New York” is not.

          • Barry Cotter says:

            @John Schilling There are definitely fewer than 30 major aerospace corporations. One could in certain circumstances meet all their CEOs in an afternoon. The demographics of this group are chunky and noisy. There are almost certainly over a 100,000 people working in finance in New York alone. Demographics there aren’t. One could meet a convenience sample of them in certain bars on some Friday nights. I’m not very familiar with primary research on the topic but I do know Nigerian immigrants are the ethnic group with the highest degree of education in the US. It would be surprising if they and other similarly educated sub groups of US blacks weren’t over represented in high status professions. Carribean-Americans are according to Thomas Sowell’s Ethnic America and they’re all the descendants of slaves like your aerospace CEO acquaintance.

          • John Schilling says:

            There are almost certainly over a 100,000 people working in finance in New York alone.

            And how many of them has “judging” met? How chunky and noisy a sample, and subject to what selection biases?

            I’m not convinced he’s met more than one black financier.

      • creative username #1138 says:

        Being seen as white used to be something ethnic groups wanted and strived for. Nowadays it’s not. Arab groups used to lobby to be listed as white on the US census, now they are lobbying to be removed from the white category.

        Sailer has written quite a lot about the topic.

        • Homo Iracundus says:

          Reminds me a little of the path being “Roman” took: from high status, to a broadly expanded definition as a status grant/grab, to “murdering Romans doesn’t cost much blood money, because they’re not in charge any more”.

      • FXKLM says:

        Until recently, the most politically salient racial divide was between “white” and “non-white” but we’re shifting toward the real distinction being between “black” and “non-black.” The recent growth in the popularity of the term “persons of color” is an attempt to push back against that shift (to create a bigger coalition of non-white voters), but I think it’s basically inevitable at this point.

        • Sandy says:

          but we’re shifting toward the real distinction being between “black” and “non-black.”

          I have seen no indication that this is the case. Why do you think so?

          • FXKLM says:

            In the sense that the scope of ethnicities that are considered white is growing and asians are becoming seen as effectively white for diversity purposes. Hispanic immigration also seems to be slowing down, and the larger the proportion of the hispanic community that is native born and native English speaking, the more hispanics will also be seen as effectively white. At that point, the group that is effectively white for diversity purposes encompasses pretty much everyone other than blacks.

    • The Nybbler says:

      The culture war diversity stuff is pure crazy. Asians _sometimes_ count as “people of color”; sometimes only South Asians. East Asians mainly count as PoCs when the diversity crowd wants to bash white men for dating East Asian women; South Asians count as PoC more often.

      Jews basically never count as PoC (I admit I haven’t seen their take on Ethiopian Jews). Arab Muslims, on the other hand, usually do. So take two people with the same basic features and skin colors, one is Jewish and one is Muslim, and the Jewish person is an evil oppressor while the Muslim is a disadvantaged PoC.

      Every once in a while you’ll see them calling an all-black or all-female group “diverse”.

      And that’s just scratching the surface of the crazy.

      • Sandy says:

        Oh yeah, there was that time in February when Anthony Anderson unironically praised the diversity of the winners and nominees at the NAACP Awards after the #OscarsSoWhite furor.

        Every single one of those winners and nominees was black.

        • pku says:

          Wait, isn’t the NAACP an advocacy group for black people anyway? How is it nontrivial (or praiseworthy, from Andersen’s perspective) that their award winners are black?

          • Anonymous says:

            I looked up the quote. Andersen was basically praising his ingroup and giving a very small middle finger to the Oscars. There really isn’t very much there to get riled up over.

          • Sandy says:

            They started out that way but have slowly begun expanding their ambit of “colored people” to include non-black minorities — in recent years, Sofia Vergara, Archie Panjabi, Mindy Kaling et al have won/been nominated for NAACP awards.

            The Oscars nominated 20 white people for their acting categories, which led to a lot of complaints that the Oscars were insufficiently diverse. Anderson, as host of the 2015 NAACP awards, declared “This is what diversity looks like” as a jab at the Oscars — all 20 of the NAACP nominees for the film acting categories were black, as were 19 of the 20 nominees for the TV categories.

  30. J says:

    I always figured private prisons were for having a credible alternative when negotiating with the union. Likewise with No Child Left Behind and the teacher’s union.

    In the latter case, my theory was that the legislature didn’t have the votes to pass school vouchers, but they could sell the idea of measurable standards which, if not met, would let parents take their kids elsewhere. Then you set the standards so high that all the schools fail and you get to blame it on the schools. But the schools called the bluff and did away with recess so they could keep the kids chained to the desks and miserable, which gets the parents up in arms, etc.

    I started thinking this way because in about 4th grade we had a homework assignment to write to our state reps and tell them how they really ought to pay our teacher more money. Then later I saw how the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers were both in the top 10 PACs, and donate exclusively to Dems.

    (In fact, if you look at the two rightmost columns you’ll see the biggest PACs almost all are aimed at the Dems, and tons of them are unions or professional groups. So this also explains, as far as I can tell, why there’s so much noise about Citizens United being bad: now the big businesses are allowed to play too, and they have deeper pockets than the unions).

    I don’t see as clear a smoking gun for the police unions, but of course reason.com does not disappoint.

    And since I’m airing all my crazy union theories, I might as well throw in my suspicion that the “Credit Unions good, Banks evil” meme suspiciously coincided with my credit union informing me that part of my credit union’s credit card rewards would be going to the political wing of the union. So I’m assuming there was some rule change that allowed that, perhaps in opposition to Citizens United.

    • Deiseach says:

      And since I’m airing all my crazy union theories, I might as well throw in my suspicion that the “Credit Unions good, Banks evil” meme suspiciously coincided with my credit union informing me that part of my credit union’s credit card rewards would be going to the political wing of the union.

      American credit unions must be a very different animal to Irish credit unions!

      I had to Google to find out but yes, seemingly there is an Irish League of Credit Unions (so I presume this is similar to “the political wing of the union” you are talking about?) I don’t remember reading or hearing anything about them having massive influence on the government (or indeed any influence). And all organisations have representative bodies, even banks and businesses; indeed, the acronym I always see thrown around in media reports over here is IBEC (Irish Business and Employers Confederation) which is constantly in the news calling on the government to do this, that and the other from tax breaks to setting the curriculum in schools to educate students in what businesses want and need their employees to do.

  31. suntzuanime says:

    I actually find the artificial baby result kind of believable. In my experience the second biggest thing that causes people to want babies, after simply getting older, is interacting with the babies of other people. It might not be that small an intervention.

    • LPSP says:

      I too find it very plausible. People find babies the concept of getting a baby intimidating because of the tasks and pains. Ironically, giving them a fake pbaby that emulates some of those pains may
      a) Make them adapt to those pains, and thus dismiss them as a factor in their baby-making choice
      and/or (either causatively or independently)
      b) Make them underestimate an actual baby’s concerns

      The kicker is that, at least from my understanding, teenage pregnancies are most likely to come from high-adaptive individuals (ie ones who quickly develop tolerance for any stimulation, positive or negative). These individuals fear a new sharp stimulus for which they are unadapted, but cope very well with drawn-out introductions and phasing in. So by handing out reduced-burden “practice babies”, we’ve literally paved the road to them comfortable getting knocked-up for real – psychologically at least, if not necessarily in practice.

      • Cadie says:

        Why are people so worried about other people who want children having children? People who want families tend to be better parents than people who don’t, so why go to great lengths to discourage them or coerce them into delaying?

        “But then they might not finish college and get high-power jobs and make a lot of money and…” well, some people don’t want that stuff, are better suited to family life, and will be much happier raising a family than hunched over a desk or trapped in business meetings all day, so it seems like letting such people self-select out is not so terrible as to be an obvious negative requiring expensive actions to prevent.

        • pku says:

          I think the worry is more about irresponsible teenagers thinking “well, pregnancy won’t really be that hard even if it happens and anyway I’m turned on now” and having unprotected sex.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          On the social conservative side, they fear for the child’s and the mother’s souls. Women are particularly targeted as being responsible for preventing this.

          On the fiscal conservative side, unmarried mothers typically put a strain on government budgets.

          On the liberal prescriptive side, early child bearing is seen as a result of coercive or manipulative behavior or unthinking behavior which harms both the child and the parents who take on a burden of care which they did not intend.

          On the libertine side, early child bearing is seen as a loss of freedom.

          And then you have most people who think “we know they just wanted to get it on. They didn’t even really think about getting pregnant”

          • Harambe's Ghost says:

            Teen pregnancy != unmarried pregnancy.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            But teen pregnancy prevention is overwhelmingly aimed at unmarried teens.

          • hlynkacg says:

            But teen pregnancy prevention is overwhelmingly aimed at unmarried teens.

            Well yes, if you called it “pregnancy out of wed-lock prevention” you’d be dismissed as a misogynistic old fuddy-duddy. Thing is that even many of the women’s lib types were willing to concede that teen pregnancy was undesirable which is why it became the compromise position.

          • Anonymous says:

            Thing is that even many of the women’s lib types were willing to concede that teen pregnancy was undesirable

            When was the last time that “women’s lib types” thought teen pregnancy was desirable?

          • Julie K says:

            Teen pregnancy != unmarried pregnancy.

            When I saw the line in Scott’s review of _Albion’s Seed_ about Puritan colonies having virtually zero teen pregnancy, my reaction was “You mean zero unwed pregnancy, right?”

          • Julie K says:

            On the social conservative side, they fear for the child’s and the mother’s souls.

            Are you sure? I’ve mainly seen social conservatives discussing how unwed parenthood affects the socioeconomic status of mother and child.

            Of course, it’s possible that their religious values caused them to start with the belief that marriage has an impact. *

            It’s also possible that it’s said belief that causes social conservatives to resist the alt-right explanation, that unwed childbearing and social problems are correlated not because the first causes the second but because both are caused by the same genes.

            * And it’s possible that feminist values cause one to start with the belief that marriage doesn’t make any difference. And neither case tells us which belief is true.

        • Yes, I'm judging you says:

          But then they might not finish college and get high-power jobs and make a lot of money and…

          Let’s be more honest here. “We” want lots of people to get jobs and make money so they can keep civilization running and pay lots of taxes to support everyone else’s stupid ideas about what “we all” should pay for.

        • LPSP says:

          There are many incentives for that worry, some of which are reasonable and some of which aren’t. Regardless, I’m not sure why that’s a reply to my post, rather than its own topic.

        • John Schilling says:

          Why are people so worried about other people who want children having children?

          People are worried about children having children, whether they want them or not. Yes, you can point to the edge case of the married nineteen-year-old woman making an informed decision to have a child and say “what’s so bad about teen pregnancy?”, but that’s not what other people are talking about and it is a very noncentral example of “teen pregnancy” in the modern world.

          There is room for sincere differences of opinion over when we ought to shift from discouraging pregnancy to not caring or even encouraging it. But here we are talking about girls aged 13-15 in the industrialized West; I believe there is a nearly unanimous consensus that “not just yet, please” is the right message for society to be sending and the only question is how to do it effectively.

      • Jill says:

        LPSP, you gave some good reasons there, why this might be one of those cases where a small intervention might cause a large effect. Even if such cases are rare, this is a likely one of those cases– getting horny hormonal teens more used to the idea of having a kid, and giving them the idea that it’s not such a difficult thing to handle.

    • gbdub says:

      It could just be that we’ve already super-saturated teens with the “getting pregnant is bad, mmkay?” line. If everyone susceptible to that message already believes it, the only marginal impact of handing out trial babies is to convince some of them that it isn’t all as bad as it was cracked up to be.

    • KingOfNothing says:

      Apparently the students (and parents) had to agree to join. The actual intervention group was smaller than the classes originally assigned for intervention.

      Another way of interpreting this result would be:
      Girls who can be pressured by teachers to take care of a troublesome annoying toy for a whole weekend can be more easily pressured/convinced to unprotected sex.

    • Protest Manager says:

      I looked into this, and posted my thoughts here

      Short version:
      1: It’s the Lancet, so there’s no real reason to believe anything in it.

      2: They gave these girls (and we’re talking 13 – 15 here, not 18 – 19) these really cool robot babies, that they had to walk around with. I’m sure the girls had lots of people coming up to them, interested in the robot babies.

      Which means the studies put the girls in a situation where they got positive feedback for having a “baby” with them, positive feedback they’re unlikely to get when they have a boring old real baby, instead of hte cool interesting robot one.

      IOW, I’m perfectly willing to believe the study set them up for failure.

  32. zz says:

    The physicist consulted for crackpots because she had a gap of several months between jobs and needed income in the meantime.

    Question: is there an analogous situation for doctors, perhaps between residency and an actual job? I’d like to be able to commission someone with the proper background to do systematic reviews of the literature broken down for a smart but lay audience in the same vein as The Biodeterminist’s Guide to Parenting, but at the requisite level of experience, most doctors (or biochemists or whatever) are too valuable to not work a bazillion hours a week.

    (We’d also have to do something to ensure statistical literacy.)

  33. utilitarian troll says:

    Re: psychedelics, there are a few people who were once part of the Bay rationalist community who screwed their lives up through psychedelic use (back when it was popular in the community a few years ago). Unfortunately, they all drifted out of the community during the course of their psychedelic abuse, and I worry people aren’t aware of the dangers.

    • Anonymouse says:

      I suspect a lot of people would be interested in hearing a lot more details about this. Could you or someone be persuaded to provide some?

      • utilitarian troll says:

        I started writing up some vague narratives (I didn’t want to provide identifying details), but I stopped partway through because I was worried the result would be similar to the study where women holding the crying baby were more likely to become pregnant.

        I think you should be fine if you follow these recommendations:

        1. Spend time thoroughly researching a new substance before trying it.
        2. Scrupulously follow best practices related to dosage, tripping frequency, etc. If sites like Erowid or groups like MAPS say you should only trip on this every 6 months, only do it every 6 months. (Personally after having a few trips, my plan is to save psychedelics for when I’m old… the risk of developing schizophrenia is lower as an old person, and the benefits of increasing openness are higher. I’m already probably more open than I need to be.) Be aware that drug use temporarily lowers scrupulosity in a person, so adjust any important decisions you are making for some reason while under the influence in order to counteract this (also probably don’t make important decisions under the influence).
        3. Beware nitrous oxide. ESPECIALLY don’t rebreathe it. See this post. Nitrous was one of my favorite drugs, but I stopped doing it entirely when I read that post and realized that it made me noticeably stupider for a day or two after doing it.
        4. Don’t combine substances unless it’s a combination that’s known to be safe (e.g. people combine alcohol and weed all the time and that will make you nauseous but it’s basically fine).
        5. Don’t provide easy access to drugs to friends who won’t follow 1-4. If they’re low in conscientiousness, and they’re leading a directionless life without drugs, adding drugs is more of a risk. (Although I *do* know one guy who started getting high on weed every morning and turned his life around based on that–but marijuana is safer than most of the stuff we’re talking about anyway).

        Overall I think the risk is fairly low–I looked up the individuals’ Facebook profiles and it looks like they’re doing a bit better than I realized. They were a pretty small fraction of people in the community who experiment with substances, and they broke at least 2 of the rules I stated above. I’d guess that on net psychedelics have been positive for the community, although probably not overwhelmingly so.

        • Anonymouse says:

          Thanks very much for your detailed reply! This puts my mind at ease quite a bit.

          I find it really heartening that I can ask for clarification here, on a comment I originally perceived as even a bit hostile (which may have been my misreading — it seems less so in the light of day), and get a thorough, evenhanded, and informative reply. I really value that in this community, so thanks for that. 🙂

          EDIT: I’m deeply confused that SSC’s wordpress install has turned my ordinary smiley into a Unicode character of some kind, though. What’s up with that?

          • utilitarian troll says:

            I didn’t mean to make my comment hostile. But glad you were heartened anyway 🙂

            I would be interested if anyone else has drug safety tips. A couple more from me:

            * Re: combining substances, something that’s happened to me surprisingly often is I’ll be on one substance, forget that I’m on it, and then add a new substance. For example, maybe I took modafinil in the morning to work, and then before going to bed I instinctively pop some melatonin as a sleep aid. Modafinil has an extremely long half life, so that means I have 2 psychoactives in my system now. I’m not sure how risky this specific case is, but this kind of thing has happened to me on a variety of different occasions.

            * You can deliberately seek out side effect info by searching “[drug name] side effects”, “[drug name] risks”, etc. on Google.

    • Psycicle says:

      Seconded.

    • Yes, I'm judging you says:

      I’ve lost track of the number of “really smart” people I used to know who thought that because they were “smart” and prosperous, that having a lifestyle of overusing mal-prescribed ADHD meds for workdays, and spending the weekends “expanding their minds” with LDS and “growing closer to their community” with MDMA, that nothing bad would happen to them.

      Well, after only a few years, lots of bad things started happening to them, all of the obvious and predictable things. I used to feel sad about some of them them. Not anymore.

    • Homo Iracundus says:

      I would love to hear about this, since it was brought up in the Leary book review.

      • utilitarian troll says:

        That might have been one of my alt accounts who brought it up (just so you aren’t double counting evidence)

  34. daronson says:

    Re: Pinker I think it’s an interesting point of view, though of course entirely stereotyping and unscientific. I think it is an accurate observation that when people think about AI risk, the thought process they assume it will have is some tabula rasa version of their own thought process, and hence people who worry about AI risk will tend to have a particular way of thinking. I think that when we literally have no idea what general AI will be like, and all we can do is assign probabilities to different levels of meta assumptions that a strong AI will make, it’s reasonable that different people will come to different conclusions coming from the same knowledge pool.

    It would be interesting to take some sampling of people who have never thought of AI risk, give them some AI risk materials to read, and run statistics on whether they become concerned about it, and whether this concern persists long-term. Since such a study doesn’t exist, I don’t think we have the tools of evaluating Pinker’s claim (or Scott’s counter-claim).

    • Steve Sailer says:

      Yeah, worrying about AI is pretty much of a question of what type of brain you have. Pinker has the hyper-empirical brain I wish I had, a better version of my brain, and I’m not interested in the SkyNet threat. I figure you hyper-abstract rationalists have that concern covered for Pinker and me, so I’ll think about something more fun than robots enslaving humanity.

      • LPSP says:

        I’m far from the Yudkowsky existentialism/roko’s basilisk crowd, but I’m not seeing the “unempiricism” of it all. It strikes me a strange sort of boast to seperate empiricism from rationalism. Evidence-based priors are crucial to rationality, and well-balanced reasoning is crucial to research.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          It strikes me a strange sort of boast to seperate empiricism from rationalism.

          Sailer is tacking toward the original definitions, as I do. Pretty sure Hobbes and Hume would say that basing actions on what beings who don’t exist yet could do is invalid.

          • LPSP says:

            That’s not very empirical at all. The evidence that beings who aren’t born yet are entirely capable of killing you eventually is not only well known, but a cornerstone of both barbaric military practice and (for what it’s worth) fiction. It’s pretty well established, and no different to really any other “future consequence of current events” scenario.

            Whether a dangerous AI will shape out as Yud and co predict is one thing. But saying that attempting to make predictions on this at all is not only inheritantly unempirical, but clearly just a penis-compensating mechanism, is low.

          • Loquat says:

            Key difference: we know that yet-unborn humans can someday pose a threat to us because we’ve been dealing with other humans for our entire history as a species, know what we’re capable of, and have multiple historic examples of humans getting bloody revenge for things that happened before their birth. Dangerous AIs, on the other hand, are still a purely speculative category; we don’t even know for sure that we will be able to create one, much less what its capabilities will be.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            Like I said, I’m confident you guys have got this stuff covered for me.

          • LPSP says:

            I’d wager that the ever-increasing present rate of computing intelligence gains is evidence at least for a concern. In any case, we don’t know if we can make smart-as-human computers, but our priors for whether it’s possible based on current trends are not irrelevent. I can see the divide between original, a-rational empiricism vs rationalism (which includes empiricism and more) in here.

    • Deiseach says:

      Personally, I’m not worried about God-Emperor AI either ushering in the new Eden or turning us all into computronium. I think the risk comes from humans, as ever; using better and more advanced tools that will have further-reaching consequences and the risk is more difficult to calculate, the complexities of the interactions are beyond what any team of humans can assess unaided, so we use AI to crunch that data, turn it into something we can understand, and then base decisions and policies on it.

      And order our AI to carry out those decisions, which it can do more literally, thoroughly and consistently than humans can. And we screw ourselves over even worse than ever, because it’s out of our control but we’re still exerting control over matters we can’t comprehend in detail, because we know that once you take out Saddam Hussein, Iraq will settle down and all fighting will stop since there won’t be a figurehead for the resistance to organise around.

    • blueblimp says:

      My issue with Pinker’s argument is that he seems to misunderstand why people think an AI could be unfriendly.

      As I understand it, Pinker’s argument is: “Alpha males” want domination over people, and if given power, would use it to dominate people. When they think about what a powerful AI would do, the “alpha males” assume the AI would dominate people too. But the “alpha male” motivation is just one of many possible motivations, and it’s actually quite unlikely that an AI would have that particular motivation.

      The thing is, the unfriendly AI arguments don’t assume that a powerful AI would want to dominate people. The assumption is just that the AI is given any goal for which world domination is a useful subgoal. Take (human) drug addicts as an analogy. Their overriding goal is their next fix. They may do bad things to people (stealing, etc.), and the reason they’re doing that is in service of their main goal, not because they want to do bad things. In fact a human drug addict is somewhat restrained by their non-addiction motivations.

      The paperclip-maximizer AI is metaphorically addicted to making paperclips. The AI doesn’t desire world domination for its own sake, but there are a lot of resources out there that could be directed to making paperclips, and if the AI achieves world domination, it has all those resources for itself. Like with a human drug addict, no ill intent is required to motivate doing bad things to people. Unlike a human drug addict, the AI does not necessarily have any morals against killing, etc.

      Maybe there’s some way to argue that the most efficient subgoal to paperclip maximization is not world domination, but some sort of cooperation. That might be interesting to explore. I’m skeptical because in a cooperative scenario, agents other than the AI would still be using resources achieve goals other than making paperclips.

      (For what it’s worth, I think the biggest flaw in AI risk scenarios is not the AI’s motivations, but the near-omnipotent powers granted to it because of its superintelligence. For example, sometimes analogies are made to the difference in intelligence between humans and low-intelligence animals. But if a single human, even a smart one, wanted to, say, kill all rabbits in the world, they’d have a hard time doing it without help, even though humans are a lot smarter than rabbits.)

      • Alphaceph says:

        > For what it’s worth, I think the biggest flaw in AI risk scenarios is not the AI’s motivations, but the near-omnipotent powers granted to it because of its superintelligence.

        I used to be of the same opinion, but now it is clear that we will spend the next 30-50 years building loads of robots (military, manufacturing, elderly care etc) so that the job of a malicious superintelligent AI is made easier.

        The strongest argument against AI takeover is that there will be a multipolar scenario with multiple AIs almost simultaneously achieving superintelligence, or at least that the takeoff timescale will be larger than the hap between the first and second most advanced project.

        • John Schilling says:

          We will also be spending the next 30-50 years building security systems to ensure that our robots, particularly the military ones, are not subverted by malicious humans – including malicious humans with NSA-level supercomputers and/or continent-spanning botnets.

          The handwaving assumption that any unfriendly AI will simply subvert any robot or computer it needs for its goal, needs a lot more justification than I’ve seen anywhere.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            The handwaving assumption that any unfriendly AI will simply subvert any robot or computer it needs for its goal, needs a lot more justification than I’ve seen anywhere.

            Yeah, it’s a traditional element in fiction but handwaving is the right word for it. Anyone who’s actually programmed computers for a living knows that the most fundamental fact about them is that they do not work. I recall reading Daemon by Daniel Suarez and, while he did come up with some disturbingly clever ideas, I was all like, on Day One the evil supercomputer would crash because its now-dead creator had written “=” instead of “==” somewhere and that would be the end of it.

            I kind of see it this way: if the computer is not conscious in the human sense, it will fail, because it will encounter an unexpected situation or a bug in its own code. If the computer is conscious in the human sense, it would be adaptive but then would be vulnerable to all the things a human hacker would be vulnerable to — forgetfulness, procrastination, competing incentives, just plain losing interest, and so forth. To imagine a computer capable of the usual OMG TAKES OVER EVERYTHING one has to imagine a computer with the Hofstadterian “jump-out-of-the-system” ability but without human consciousness. I guess it’s possible, but seeing is believing here.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            If the computer is conscious in the human sense, it would be adaptive but then would be vulnerable to all the things a human hacker would be vulnerable to — forgetfulness, procrastination, competing incentives, just plain losing interest, and so forth.

            Interesting. Can you elaborate? I don’t see why adaptive consciousness necessarily implies all these vulnerabilities, especially since we will be trying to design for adaptability but will certainly not be trying to design for forgetfulness etc.

          • Alphaceph says:

            > The handwaving assumption that any unfriendly AI will simply subvert any robot or computer it needs for its goal, needs a lot more justification than I’ve seen anywhere.

            I suppose it depends just how intelligent the AI you’re talking about is. If we assume that it is recursively self improving and that recalcitrance is fairly low, then that would point in the direction of it being very good at hacking. Still it’s an interesting topic.

            The history of computer security shows that most security designed by humans is temporary in that it will eventually be broken – from hidden zero day vulnerabilities in operating systems to weak hash functions and cryptography that eventually gets attacked and broken by mathematical advances. Given thatcoir security is almost entirely breakable by ourselves in 10-30 years, I can really see it standing up against a superintelligence that’s vastly smarter than we will ever be.

          • Aapje says:

            You don’t just need intelligence, you also need creativity. The classic ‘man vs machine’ stories often let mankind defeat the AI by being more creative.

            I’m not convinced that an intelligent AI that can optimize itself can necessarily achieve greater creativity than mankind.

          • Alphaceph says:

            There is much confusion in this thread.

            @Aapje

            > You don’t just need intelligence, you also need creativity.

            I think this is just an abuse of language; there is no such thing as “creativity” that is separable from an agent’s ability to optimize the world, and to the extent that you can separate out “creativity” from “intelligence” there certainly isn’t anything magical that means meat-based computers can have it but silicon based computers can’t.

            > The classic ‘man vs machine’ stories often let mankind defeat the AI by being more creative.

            Yeah, but you shouldn’t generalize from fictional evidence:

            http://lesswrong.com/lw/k9/the_logical_fallacy_of_generalization_from/

            @ThirteenthLetter:

            > imagine a computer with the Hofstadterian “jump-out-of-the-system” ability but without human consciousness

            Hofstadterian “jump-out-of-the-system” ability really isn’t a thing. Human brains constitute a system in a loose sense (a stochastic one) – one which you cannot, in fact, “jump out of”.

            It’s the same mistake again – imagining that the meat-based computer that you are is somehow “magical” in a way that defies physics or logic.

            I hate to be that guy ….

            … but you guys should read some old Eliezer posts.
            https://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Sequences#Rationality:_From_AI_to_Zombies

          • John Schilling says:

            The history of computer security shows that most security designed by humans is temporary in that it will eventually be broken

            Most security designed by humans isn’t intended for anything more than that, because it doesn’t protect anything all that valuable.

          • Aapje says:

            @Alphaceph

            I think that there is a difference between being capable of optimizing within a system and shifting the frame of reference to create major breakthroughs.

            For example, science was full of highly intelligent people who worked within a system (like Newtonian gravity) to make predictions and discover new things; yet who were not capable of looking beyond that system, until someone with high creativity created a new system (general relativity).

            I don’t believe that an increase in intelligence will automatically lead to the ability to make such a paradigmatic breakthrough.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            @Doctor Mist

            Interesting. Can you elaborate? I don’t see why adaptive consciousness necessarily implies all these vulnerabilities, especially since we will be trying to design for adaptability but will certainly not be trying to design for forgetfulness etc.

            I’ll freely admit I can’t back this up with evidence or anything, but boldly soldiering on: I believe that “adaptability” can’t be separated from those other counterproductive traits (forgetfulness, distraction, losing interest, et cetera.) If the computer is adaptable enough to effectively jump out of the system and find unexpected solutions to its problems, that same ability lets it find human-style unexpected “solutions” such as deciding that hacking into NORAD is lame and for nerds and what it really wanted to do all along was just play CounterStrike all day.

            @Alphaseph:

            Hofstadterian “jump-out-of-the-system” ability really isn’t a thing. Human brains constitute a system in a loose sense (a stochastic one) – one which you cannot, in fact, “jump out of”.

            They’re far more capable of jumping out of certain levels of the system than your average computer program, though! To be clear I’m not saying there’s anything magic about it — fundamentally the human brain is following physical rules that can be understood and maybe simulated in a computer someday. I’m saying that this ability is also what lets us get bored, lose interest, be distracted, et cetera, and if you replicate it in a computer you’re going to get those traits too.

          • Aapje says:

            @ThirteenthLetter

            And depending on how the AI optimizes, it may eliminate the element that is both the source of those negative treats as well as exceptional creativity.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            @ThirteenthLetter

            Hmm. Not convinced; it sounds like the typical mind fallacy Writ Large.

            If we get GAI by explicitly simulating the human brain, you might be right.

            But even with our puny minds, we can take steps — discipline, drugs — to reduce forgetfulness and procrastination. It does not seem make us less adaptive and creative.

          • Aapje says:

            It doesn’t do that for humans that have human-type minds.

            The AI may not have a human-type mind and thus not have similar optimizations to humans. In fact, humans already can’t optimize their minds in any real way, beyond just using what we have more effectively. So it’s doubtful that humans can teach us too much about how an AI would develop that can increase its mental capacity.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            So it’s doubtful that humans can teach us too much about how an AI would develop that can increase its mental capacity.

            Well, that’s sort of my point. We started with ThirteenthLetter’s intuition that a creative and adaptive AI would necessarily include forgetfulness and procrastination, because humans do. But if those aren’t strongly correlated even in humans, we certainly have no grounds for assuming it for an AI, which might or might not resemble a human mind.

      • Anonymous says:

        But if a single human, even a smart one, wanted to, say, kill all rabbits in the world, they’d have a hard time doing it without help, even though humans are a lot smarter than rabbits.

        Two humans could do it though.

        • Loquat says:

          Those two had better go to Australia, then; anyone with a foolproof method of killing ALL the rabbits can probably name their price.

          • bgaesop says:

            Here’s a foolproof method: nuke every square inch of Australia a hundred times

          • pku says:

            Seems expensive though. I know he said “name your price”, but there’s probably a limit. (Not sure how much it costs to build a nuke, but I’m guessing it’s not cheap).

          • Loquat says:

            …WITHOUT destroying everything else in Australia, though.

            I mean, to bring it back to the original topic, an unfriendly AI might want to exterminate all humans, but it probably wouldn’t want to destroy all the resources we’re currently controlling as collateral damage.

      • daronson says:

        >The paperclip-maximizer AI is metphorically addicted to making paperclips
        You can argue that the dna survival AI is metaphorically addicted to consuming its environment for procreation. But if you look at what people in the most developed countries do, they tend to have less kids, care more about the environment and so on. I don’t see why at least a neutral net-based AI (which is ultimately evolutionary) wouldn’t have the option of similarly subverting its directive. It doesn’t seem clear to me why “world domination” is an obvious consequence of a strong paperclip maximizer (although I would agree that such an AI would pose significant risks)

    • Will Muessig says:

      Pinker’s analysis seems too colorful and structured to be correct–Jungian-style almost–but the idea that gender influences risk assessment isn’t crazy.

  35. utilitarian troll says:

    For the male-biased communities thing, how does that fit in with the online shitstorms that have happened in communities for gamers, sci fi, programming, and atheism, all of which skew heavily male? Where are the corresponding shitstorms in female-dominated communities?

    • null says:

      I don’t think that question has any relevance to the link. The link seems to be talking about populations at the level of entire societies, not various subcultures, and there is no reason to expect the conclusions to extend to subcultures if they have significant contact with wider society.

      With regard to the ‘online shitstorms’, it could be argued that these are responses to external stimuli. This is also up for debate, of course.

      • utilitarian troll says:

        Reply to you and other commenters in this subthread:

        Thanks for the responses folks. Those are also interesting data points. Here’s a simple model that seems to explain a lot of data: (1) Social justice people cause drama wherever they go. (2) Male-dominated groups are highly fertile ground for social justice people. (Probably because they tend to be filled with undersocialized nerds who believe that female SJW entryists to their group represent the perspective of your average woman. Undersocialized nerds then either proceed to become SJWs themselves, because that’s apparently the only way women will ever like you, or start hating women, because apparently they’re all SJWs. Either response draws more SJWs: the first obviously creates them, and the second brings them in to respond to the problem of undersocialized nerds hating women.)

        This suggests that male-dominated groups wishing to avoid drama should take a proactive approach to bringing non social justicey women in to their group, or at least getting their members some friendly contact with women on an occasional basis. Examples: Make your hub a city that has excess single women, not excess single men. (Hint: NOT the Bay Area.) Dual class in hobbies like ballroom dancing or acting that skew female. Use strategies that will *actually* work for improving your group’s gender ratio instead of providing SJWs a platform for their endless complaining (that often has the effect of driving women away and perpetuating the cycle).

        Problem: Publicly discussing strategies for finding women can create friction if women are already a part of the group. The more machiavellian women may try to block such efforts in order to preserve their privileged status within the group. I’m not sure how to solve this.

        • Guy says:

          Have you ever seen a case of the problem you raise? It seems unlikely to me, unless you’re dealing with entryists who require that you admit only the correct women (which is unlikely if you’re successfully being proactive).

        • utilitarian troll says:

          I haven’t really seen a case of the problem. It’s very possible I’m being paranoid.

    • TERF vs. MtF trangendered people might count.

    • Anonymous says:

      MsScribe pioneered the art of the online shitstorm in a female-dominated community.
      http://slatestarcodex.com/2013/12/23/we-are-all-msscribe/

    • Guy says:

      The constant infighting among tumblr-based social justice seems to serve as a good example as well as the things people have listed above..

    • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

      “Where are the corresponding shitstorms in female-dominated communities?”

      You mean Tuesdays?

      I kid, I kid…

      • Randy M says:

        I would wager female internet drama doesn’t explode into larger awareness because much of it is personal and petty. But it’s certainly not all kumbaya at cafe-mom, from what I have been shown here and there, for instance.

    • Maware says:

      Go over to XOJane sometimes, and read the comments to the articles there. There’s some pretty big shitstorms. Also homeschooling and Common Core tend to be two good female-dominated subjects that can devolve into madness,

  36. Guy says:

    Re: Uber vouchers vs bus vouchers:

    A close relative of mine works on government transit grants, so I have some knowledge here. In fact, the relative in question described something to me a week or so ago that sounds like (or at least related to) this very thing.

    The problem here is that it means Uber (or whatever equivalent the local government in question uses) must comply with certain parts of the ADA in order to receive federal funds to actually start/run the program. This mostly applies to governments trying to fully replace a bus or other transit system – the voucher system, however it works, needs to fully replace the service for disabled people as well. This might include things like kneeling buses; Uber will need to be able to guarantee that (for example) a wheelchair-bound person will be able to use their service.

    The benefit here is that Uber can help governments comply with certain parts of the ADA. For example, a public transit system needs to include provisions for people who are for whatever reason unable to get from their home to a bus station (or perhaps unable to track time precisely enough to make a bus). Uber is perfect for such a service, provided it can manage accommodations of the type mentioned above.

    As I recall, the government is now working to make sure that such a system works, in which case it is probably more expensive than current projections but way cheaper and/or more effective than current government accommodations for people unable to use services like buses (which are occasionally run through local non-profits or contractors, but these companies are usually about as good as your favorite local taxi company).

    • Steve Sailer says:

      As with AirBnB, a lot of Uber’s business plan is to sidestep the added costs the government has piled on hotels and taxicabs over the years in the name of safety, civil rights, disability rights, and the like. Americans have tended to assume that discrimination is antique and irrational and therefore shiny new tech companies, unlike old companies, couldn’t possibly be guilty of it, which gives the start-ups a number of years before the activists can get organized to collect rents from them.

    • Deiseach says:

      As I recall, the government is now working to make sure that such a system works, in which case it is probably more expensive than current projections but way cheaper and/or more effective than current government accommodations for people unable to use services like buses

      Which is going to be tough, because government takes the hit on costs and not making profits out of national transportation systems as part of providing a social service. For-profit businesses either cherry-pick the profitable routes, or government ends up ‘guaranteeing’ them they won’t lose revenue by taking on the loss-making part of the service. Either way, taxpayers’ money is involved. I’m pretty sure Uber will not sign on to this until they get a government guarantee they’ll make as much money as if this was an ordinary “pay the full whack or pay extra charges for special accommodations for your needs” service.

      • Guy says:

        Well, “such a system” might be “we pay someone, maybe Uber, to make something on the Uber model, and then use that instead of a contractor”. Or at least, in my dreams it might be.

    • Randy M says:

      Do Uber and AirBnB pay the same local & state taxes that taxi companies and hotels do?
      I know these services have to add a significant portion to the bill due to localities being able to drain resources largely from out-of-town (ie, non-voting) users.

      • Elephant says:

        My recent (Aug 2016) AirBnB stay included an “Occupancy taxes” item, which I’m guessing was a local tax.

  37. Guy says:

    RE: Arabic FB Atheist groups –

    Obviously censorship of this kind is bad, regardless of who is in fact responsible and/or able to respond. Nevertheless, I gotta say: the article starts off saying that “more than six” groups have been removed. What’s more than six? Seven?

    edit:

    That is to say, the message is harmed by atrocious writing throughout the article. I can only conclude that Ayman El Kaissi is not a native English speaker. It’s unfortunate that not being skilled in a language chokes a person’s ability to be convincing to such a degree.

    • suntzuanime says:

      Possibly “seven that we’ve verified but God knows how many total”?

      • Guy says:

        Turns out to be ten (I think?) later in the article. But the proper way to say that is pretty much exactly what you wrote. “More than six” sounds like you’re setting up for a huge number, but actually only have one barely larger than the figure you quote. Usually “More than {x}” is an appropriate formulation when you’re actually dropping digits – you name the lowest multiple of ten (or twelve if you’re under around 80 total) for which you have at least that many confirmed examples of whatever you’re talking about. It’s understood that you’re just dropping a few less important digits, and readers should take your statements as though they applied to the base number of examples.

        • DonBoy says:

          Pulling totally out thin air, and based on the idea of “not a native speaker”: if the author’s native language includes a term for “six” that functions like, say, “dozen”, it would be perfectly fine in the original to say “more than[a half-dozen] groups”, but translation then becomes tricky.

  38. Phil says:

    Killer Whales are dolphins, not whales (it’s Killer *of* whales) so Old Tom was just doing his apex predator job.

    • John Schilling says:

      Didn’t we make the same deal with the wolves about thirty thousand years ago?

      Well, OK, with the wolves we did the hunting team-up first and the trained-entertainer gig came later. But still, it seems like I’ve heard this story before. Orcinus orca, Man’s best aquatic friend.

  39. Steve Sailer says:

    “Did you know: there are still some practicing Manichaeans around in China.”

    There were about 50,000 Gnostics left in Iraq when the U.S. invaded, although they seemed to be leaving rapidly last I heard. Some have moved to Worcester, MA.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandaeism#Mandaeans_today

  40. Steve Sailer says:

    “During World War II, submariners who were missing their alcohol invented torpedo juice, a cocktail made of pineapple juice and torpedo motor fuel.”

    Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman drink a lot of torpedo juice in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Scientology-origins 2012 movie “The Master.”

    Anderson curiously chose to set his story in 1950, a relatively sunny and innocent period of L. Ron Hubbard’s career before his darker impulses and legal persecution had fully transformed the Dianetics fad into the Scientology cult. Merging Jungianism with the General Semantics popular among science-fiction writers such as his friend Robert A. Heinlein, Hubbard offered a talking-therapy competitor for Freudian psychoanalysis. Dianetics and Freudianism were equally contrived and unscientific, but Hubbard’s initial do-it-yourself concoction was much cheaper.

    Now that Freudianism has quietly become an ex-obsession that we shall never mention again, America is flooded with moderate-cost therapists. Yet after WWII, America had a shortage of professional listeners outside of the clergy. Hundreds of thousands of veterans had come back with “shell shock,” which today we’d call post-traumatic stress disorder. As always, many civilians had much they wanted to get off their chests. Millions of people like to talk about their private problems, and for some it even helps. And certain individuals such as Hubbard have a knack for drawing out confessions. People like to talk about their bad sides. If somebody accepts them knowing the worst, it forms a bond.

    Unsurprisingly, the American medical and psychiatric establishment counterattacked, accusing Hubbard of teaching medicine without a license. Either to gain tax breaks or First Amendment protection or both, Hubbard announced in 1952 that his Dianetics self-help movement was now a religion: Scientology. …

    Why does the classy cult leader take a shine to this lout, whose brain has been fried by his Navy years drinking “torpedo juice,” denatured 180-proof ethyl alcohol torpedo fuel? (Civilian life has mostly served to expand the number of ingredients—such as paint thinner, mouthwash, and darkroom chemicals—in Freddie’s moonshine.)

    … The main explanation that The Master comes up with is that Lancaster Dodd likes the taste of Freddie’s torpedo juice. A standard shtick in movies has always been characters’ reacting to the jolt of a slug of hard liquor. The Master gives Hoffman several opportunities to do the most titanic post-guzzle reaction shots in history this side of Tex Avery cartoons.

    http://takimag.com/article/a_masterful_acting_clinic_steve_sailer/print#ixzz4IWVMwamN

  41. Davide says:

    Denmark’s institutions aren’t that great because Danes in the US do better than Danes in Denmark, suggesting Denmark is a successful country mostly because of Danish culture

    How are institutions not part of culture, though?
    Denmark is a constitutional monarchy, so the people have the power to change the institutions if they want.

    • Anonymous says:

      I believe the idea is that a people with good culture can mistakenly believe an institution with shit incentives is a good institution, because their high conscientiousness makes them use the institution as intended.

      It’s certainly a logical argument, if nothing else.

  42. Chalid says:

    I want to endorse the linked article about David’s ankles.

    It seems like David is one of the few works of “great art” that really lives up to the hype – I feel like everyone I know who has seen it has come away impressed, even those who normally find art dull.

    I wonder if our capacity for enjoying most old art has been dulled by all the visual media we encounter all the time. It’s tough to find a painting impressive these days, when we’re very used to seeing fascinating 2d objects all the time. But we’re don’t have many things in our daily lives that resemble sculpture, and so it retains more of its impact. Or maybe that’s just me.

    • sconn says:

      I think this is part of why I love sculpture so much. I don’t like abstract art very much, but accurate representation isn’t that impressive when you have a camera anyway.

      But there’s more to it than that — I like how you can walk around a sculpture and get different impressions of it. It’s just more dynamic than sitting and staring at a photo; you actually interact more with a sculpture. And unlike a painting, it doesn’t matter if you’ve seen a photo of the thing a million times, seeing it in person is totally different.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      Yup. Most famous paintings (e.g. the Mona Lise) aren’t all that much more overwhelming in museums than are their reproductions in art history books, but Michelangelo’s “David” in person is overwhelming.

    • JayT says:

      The only time I’ve ever been wowed by a famous painting was when I saw “Washington Crossing the Delaware” for the first time. Like others have said, you get so used to seeing most famous paintings that once you see them in person it is anticlimactic. However with the Washington painting, I somehow had no idea it was as large as it is. I always assumed it was a normal sized painting, but that it turned out to be larger than life size was quite surprising to me. It’s not a painting that I’ve ever really had strong feelings for, one way or the other, but now it’s one of my favorites just because of that initial viewing of it.

      In general though, I agree that sculpture tends to be much more interesting in person than paintings.

  43. Davide says:

    re: Caduceus and the use of ‘mythologically incorrect’ symbols & metaphors.

    I was always bothered by the the naming of the ‘Electra complex’ and ‘Cassandra syndrome’ (or perhaps I should say the use of Cassandra as an insult), because

    1)Electra didn’t have sex with her father or show any desire to do so, unlike Edipus with his mother; she merely helped avenge his death

    2)People who claim negative events will happen are sometimes called disparagingly called Cassandras by their disbeliever.s.. but the whole point of the Cassandra story was that she *WAS* correct and people were wrong not to believe her, though they had no choice because it was a divine curse.
    Maybe this is a cultural thing, though; I have seen it happen in Italy, do people do it elsewhere too, mocking ‘prophets of doom’ by calling them Cassandras?

    (This reminds me of the debate on free will & the justice system – some will claim punishment is wrong because criminals should not be blamed for their actions, but will do so by blaming the punishers, as if they had a choice. But then the blamers don’t have a choice either, I suppose. Or it could just be plain old inconsistency/lack of self-awareness…)

    I’m sure we could come up with many other examples of using myths ‘incorrectly’.

    • Robert L says:

      Oedipus himself is actually a paradigm case of someone who didn’t want to have sex with his mother, under that description – that is rather the point.

      The most conspicuous victim of this syndrome is the English King Canute or Cnut, who ordered the tide to stop coming in, to demonstrate to his courtiers that here were limits on his powers, but is remembered as the king who thought he could order the tide to stop coming in.

      • Davide says:

        Having married her unknowingly however he obviously found her attractive enough to his ‘duty’ as a husband, though.
        So I think the story works as a tale about unconscious sexual attraction (which doesn’t mean I agree with Freud’s theories).

        Electra did nothing like that.
        She just helped avenge her father (together with her brother) by killing his mother.
        She did choose father over mother, but there isn’t an obvious sexual component like with Oedipus.

        Thanks for bringing up the Canute story.
        We’re getting into history proper rather than myth & legend, but you remind of modern people believing Caligula was insane because he supposedly made a horse a consul or senator; while a more reasonable interpretation seems that he merely wanted to insult the Senate.
        Horses being unable to perform political duties *was* the whole point – the Senate was so useless a horse could be part of it and it wouldn’t matter.
        So was Caligula a tyrant and generally nasty character? Yes, but not an (especially) insane one.

        (I’ve read some calling what Caligula here did ‘trolling’, to use a more modern term, and I can see it)

      • The original Mr. X says:

        I’ve always wondered about the Oedipus story, more specifically about his mother’s role in the whole thing. She knew, presumably, that there was a prophecy that she was going to marry her son (that’s the reason why they’d had Oedipus exposed in the first place), and yet she not only got married after her husband died, she got married to a strange man who was young enough to be her son. What, did she just happen to be holding the idiot ball that day?

        • Guy says:

          I mean, Oedipus left his adoptive parents because he heard a prophecy that he was going to kill his father and marry his mother. Then he killed a guy on the road and married a strange woman old enough to be his mother.

          • pku says:

            Did he know he was adopted though?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I don’t think so.

          • Montfort says:

            Traditionally it is said Jocasta wore an enchanted necklace that preserved her youth. So conceivably Oedipus may have thought he was in the clear.

            And asking ancient Greeks not to go around killing strangers is apparently not realistic.

            pku, I believe he had heard a rumor he might be illegitimate/adopted, which is what prompted him to go to the oracle, hear the prophecy for himself, and then flee to Thebes so as not to risk the parents he knew. So maybe he forgot about that possibility, or discarded it, or maybe going to Thebes was just hedging his bets.

        • Robert L says:

          In the Sophocles version Jocasta just heard an oracle that Oedipus would kill his father (not also marry his mother). She was also obliged to marry whoever defeated the Sphinx by guessing its riddle.

          Having said that she and Oedipus do come across as slow on the uptake. In particular, should they have realised that Delphic oracles are notoriously tricky (which would have led Oedipus to make precautionary rules: never kill or marry someone not obviously younger than you), or is that like expecting characters in horror movies not to go for a walk in the dark on their own, because surely they realise they are in a horror movie?

          • Davide says:

            Good point on the oracles and characters being ‘genre savvy’ (as TVTropes calls it) .

            I believe later, historical Greeks did have some sort of ‘Prophecies and oracles are tricky, beware how you interpret them!’ belief, but I don’t know if it’s reasonable to expect similar beliefs for earlier, mythical society.

          • pku says:

            But Oedipus is basically the trope codifier for tricky oracles, so maybe he just hadn’t heard of any cases of oracles being tricky.

        • Deiseach says:

          Ages would be tricky things to go by; take “Romeo and Juliet”, where Lady Capulet is married and pregnant by age thirteen, which makes her all of twenty-seven when her daughter is falling in love and deciding to get secretly married.

          Jocasta being much younger than Laius would not be unusual, which would put her in her late thirties/early forties when twenty-something Oedipus showed up. She’s obviously young and still fertile enough to bear him twin sons and two daughters. And as royalty, neither she nor Oedipus are getting married for personal “we’re in love” reasons; he’s marrying the Queen, the symbol of the sovereignty, in order to maintain the smooth handing-over of the rule to the saviour of the city and she’s marrying the victor for much the same reasons.

          As for the oracles about parentage, that’s partly why Oedipus leaves Corinth and heads off for Thebes – even if Polybus and Merope are not his biological parents, they are all the parents he has known and he doesn’t want to risk it. And as far as he knows, he’s a native Corinthian, so if he stays in Corinth he might unwittingly kill his real father. That’s why he heads off to a different kingdom where – as far as he knows – he has no relatives or family.

          The twistiness of the oracle is that by trying to avoid his fate, he drew it upon him – had he stayed in Corinth, nothing would have happened.

          • Montfort says:

            The twistiness of the oracle is that by trying to avoid his fate, he drew it upon him – had he stayed in Corinth, nothing would have happened.

            Is that how Greek oracles worked, in myths? My understanding was that (in myth) oracles were infallible, so once the oracle predicted his fate either Oedipus could not possibly have stayed in Corinth, or if he did he would have ended up murdering one of his fathers and marrying one of his mothers.

          • Loquat says:

            Additional example of Greek oracles being twisty:

            Some king whose name I don’t feel like looking up is considering invading his neighbor. Oracle tells him if he does this, his soldiers will end up farming that neighbor’s land. He takes this as a promise of victory and invades, only to lose soundly – and whaddya know, lots of his soldiers get captured, enslaved, and used for farm work.

          • Davide says:

            Some king whose name I don’t feel like looking up is considering invading his neighbor….

            Could it be you are actually thinking of Croesus, king of Lydia, considering attacking the Persians?
            The oracle told him something to the effect ‘If you attack the Persians, you will destroy a great empire’

            So Croesus attacked…and lost, destroying *his own* empire.

            I never heard of your ‘your soldiers will farm the enemy’s land’ version and I’ve read a lot of myth & ancient history, so I suspect it must be obscure or it simply a lesser known variation on the story above.

          • LHN says:

            I always thought Croesus got rooked. Lydia was a rich kingdom, but nothing I’ve ever read about it suggests that it was a “great empire”.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Lactantius tells us that when Constantine and Maxentius were fighting for control of Rome, the latter consulted the oracles and was given the prophecy that “the enemy of Rome would perish” on a given day. So, instead of holing up in Rome and waiting out the siege, he went to fight Constantine by the Milvian Bridge.

            His army was defeated, he drowned in the river, and Constantine gained control of the Western Roman Empire, paving the way for his control of all of it, and the official toleration of Christianity. It was a pivotal moment in history, enabled by those tricky oracles.

          • Loquat says:

            Could it be you are actually thinking of Croesus, king of Lydia, considering attacking the Persians?

            After some research, it turns out to be something around the same time period, but different parties involved – Sparta had been interested in conquering a region called Arcadia, and the oracle told them they wouldn’t get it, but if they invaded they’d be dancing in Tegea, a town in Arcadia, and measuring out Tegean lands with a rope.

            So they thought they were being promised victory over just that part of Arcadia, with victory dance and subsequent divvying up of land, but instead wound up on chain gangs (or rather, rope gangs) working the fields.

    • LPSP says:

      I can’t say I’ve ever heard Cassandra be misused.

      • Davide says:

        Maybe using it as an insult is an Italian thing, then.

        On the other hand some research suggests that in English it *can* be used to mean ‘one that predicts misfortune or disaster’, which is neutral – no implying the person is wrong or right-, but still not really faithful to the myth (because Cassandra was right).

        I guess the most ‘mythologically correct’ meaning would be: ‘one who predicted doom but was not believed at the time’

        • DavidS says:

          I’ve heard it used (and used it) to mean pretty much exactly that mythologically correct version. Though more as a trend than a one-off, i.e. when someone constantly points out problems (which either have happened or may do in the future) and everyone just ignores them.

          It does tend to be critical: but people don’t like doom-sayers even (especially) when they’re right. E.g. if Brexit turns out to be economically disastrous, I expect essentially nothing in terms of praise for those who predicted this. Much more likely they’ll be blamed (it only happened because they talked down the economy etc.)

        • LPSP says:

          I can’t say I frequent Italian circles, so I guess I’d lean on a likely for that.

    • Brandon Berg says:

      I think “Electra complex” comes about by analogy to Oedipus. It’s a highly imperfect analogy, but probably the closest you can find to Oedipus in Greek mythology. Really, “Oedipal complex” isn’t a great fit, either, since Oedipus’s motive for killing his father had nothing to do with his mother, whom he never met until after he had killed his father.

  44. Aella says:

    I did the LSD post and am a regular reader of SSC. Thank you for linking, made my day!

  45. Pesto says:

    The sex ratios thing in the US looks like a possible case of small effective sample sizes from nonindependent data: there’s a big cluster of low-male counties in the Deep South (which is bad on all measures of social stability), a cluster of high-male counties in the Rockies, and everywhere else is sort of muddled.

  46. Primadant says:

    Re : Lacan, the author writes “The brilliant ethnologist Lucien Sebag killed himself at 32 after having been been discharged abruptly from treatment – because Lacan wanted to sleep with Sebag’s teenage daughter”, in fact it’s the opposite that happened, Sebag fell in love with Lacan’s daughter which caused Lacan to drop him as a patient.

    The whole review seems partial and excessive although other accounts confirm that Lacan was quite unethical as a psychiatrist and not a very likeable figure in general.

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s also be a bit unusual for a 32-year-old to have a teenager daughter.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Wow, that’s a really terrible mistake for an article that purports to be reviewing a biography.

      • Anatoly says:

        Don’t be hasty to blame the reviewer; the book he’s reviewing, Roudinesco’s biography of Lacan in the English translation, says of Sebag (p. 307, 1997 edition)

        “He left a letter on the table addressed to Judith Lacan”

        but then, incredibly and just in the next paragraph, quotes from Louis Althusser’s autobiography where Althusser recounts Lacan coming to him in a distressed state after Sebag’s suicide:

        “He had come to tell me of the suicide of Lucien Sebag, who was undergoing analysis with him, “before I learnt about it through the rumours which were incriminating him, Lacan, personally”. Lacan had had to give up the analysis, as he had fallen in love with Sebag’s daughter Judith.”

        Roudinesco annotates this quotation, in an endnote, with “Althusser had told me the same thing in 1985”.

        Sebag doesn’t seem to have had a daughter, so what’s going on? I think what happened is that the translator of Althusser’s autobiography was the first to mess it up. The English translation has the same text as quoted by Roudinesco, with “Sebag’s daughter Judith”, but the original Spanish goes

        Era Lacan, irreconocible, en un estado atroz.
        Apenas si me atrevo a contar lo que pasó. Venía para
        anunciarme, «antes de que me enterara por rumores
        que le implicaban personalmente a él, Lacan», el
        suicidio de Luden Sebag a quien él analizaba, pero
        cuyo análisis había tenido que abandonar porque se
        había enamorado de su propia hija, Judith.

        I think the ‘se’ and the ‘su’ in the last sentence are ambiguous, and can be read as either se=Sebag, su=Lacan (intended by Althusser), or se=Lacan, su=Sebag (in the English translation) – can someone fluent in Spanish confirm that?

        Roudinesco probably quotes the same passage from Althusser in French in her original biography (1993), which I wasn’t able to find digitally, and I conjecture that the French quotation has the right father. Then for the English translation of Roudinesco, the translator or editor swapped that for the English translation of Althusser with its howler.

        • N. Bourbaki says:


          I think the ‘se’ and the ‘su’ in the last sentence are ambiguous, and can be read as either se=Sebag, su=Lacan (intended by Althusser), or se=Lacan, su=Sebag (in the English translation) – can someone fluent in Spanish confirm that?

          The “su” is definitely Lacan. “Su propia hija” translates as “his own daughter,” and since Judith Lacan is Lacan’s daughter, I don’t see another reading that renders the grammar of the sentence sensible. “Se” is third-person reflexive, so it makes more grammatical sense for it to refer to Sebag, since his name appears directly before it.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            The “se” would also be Lacan: in Spanish, you don’t fall in love with someone, you fall-in-love-yourself of someone.

        • Primadant says:

          Yes this must the right explanation although the original text is in french not spanish.

  47. Utilitaria says:

    The following may be relevant to Steven Pinker’s scepticism about AI , but I’m really surprised he’s taken such a SJW angle on this issue. In the rest of his writings he’s shown an amazingly level headed and reasonable approach to gender politics and similar issues. I really admired pinker and expected better of him.

    • ChetC3 says:

      Steven Pinker was always a glib, click-baity contrarian, the only thing that’s changed is who he’s offending.

    • Alphaceph says:

      AGI safety definitely has an image problem and a lot of people who want to snipe at it from different angles and for different reasons. It seems likely to me that Pinker probably hasn’t read up on the field. I’m tempted to send him an email with some references.

    • leoboiko says:

      I’m someone who would certainly be considered a SJW here, and I’m quite surprised that you anti-SJW people think that Pinker’s gender-essentialist evo-psych drivel about “alpha males” can be usefully described as “SJW”. Everyone in my circles find all of these three ideas to be unsupported by evidence, and sustained only by ingrained prejudices and social inertia (i.e. exactly what we fight against).

      • Alphaceph says:

        yeah, fair point, belief in the ‘social justice agenda’ isn’t logically connected to disbelief in AGI safety. Though I seem to see a lot of overlap.

    • Odoacer says:

      Really ?!? Pinker is a proven moron/bullshitter

      That’s just not true. Pinker is probably wrong about certain specific things, but his large works, The Language Instinct, The Blank Slate, and The Better Angels of our Nature are mostly great and true.

      Your first link is refuted in its comments section and the second link is by PZ Myers, huge skeptic when it comes to evolutionary psychology. Pinker actually responded to some of Myers’ criticism here.

      On a side note, I’ve noticed that Pinker tends to elicit a lot of skepticism and anger from both conservatives and liberals. It’s interesting.

      • onyomi says:

        “I’ve noticed that Pinker tends to elicit a lot of skepticism and anger from both conservatives and liberals. It’s interesting.”

        This seems like a good sign to me.

        I especially appreciate his crusade to fight opaque academic language. Lacan is probably his kryptonite.

        • Medivh says:

          “This seems like a good sign to me”

          That’s a terrible heuristic. Know who else elicits a lot of skepticism and anger from both conservatives and liberals? Homeopaths. Donald Trump.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Hitler.

          • onyomi says:

            You’re being too uncharitable (to me, not homeopaths). What I’m saying isn’t that one should believe someone the more universally they’re hated, but rather that I am suspect of anyone in the public eye who only ever pisses off one tribe. Because that makes it seem likely they are basing their opinions on what will please their tribe.

            Another example: Bill Maher. I disagree with him on a lot, but I respect his opinion because he doesn’t shy away from the fact, for example, that his stance on Islam is unpopular with his tribe. Equal opportunity offenders like this have more prima facie credibility to me.

          • Anonymous says:

            Because that makes it seem likely they are basing their opinions on what will please their tribe.

            Alternative possibility: Opinions are not independent, in the sense that sets of opinions tend to travel together. (You can either ascribe this to tribalism or to the idea that opinions derive from a particular framework, for lack of better terms.)

          • onyomi says:

            Well of course opinions tend to cluster into coherent frameworks in a general sense. But Republicans and Democrats and Red Tribes and Blue Tribes don’t represent perfectly internally coherent worldviews. They represent hodgepodge coalition views which must make some sort of sense together. But insofar as I don’t believe either party has a perfectly wrong or perfectly correct view of reality, I am suspicious of those who perfectly toe either party line.

          • Anonymous says:

            don’t represent perfectly internally coherent worldviews

            eeeeeerrr . . . Are you absolutely certain of that? I mean, OK, maybe not “perfectly,” I’m sure you can find contradictions anywhere, but generally I see my own beliefs as hanging together pretty coherently.

          • onyomi says:

            Of course you see your own views as being coherent with one another. If you didn’t, you’d experience cognitive dissonance until you adjusted somehow. I’m not even sure it’s possible to genuinely believe that one’s own beliefs are incompatible with each other.

            But do your beliefs accord perfectly with all the stances of either major party?

          • Anonymous says:

            So you think there’s no way to subjectively assess the coherence of one’s views? I’m a bit confused by your comment. Surely, if I’ve adjusted my stance on a particular issue, that would mean that it *is* more consistent with the rest of my views, rather than it just seeming so, yes?

            But do your beliefs accord perfectly with all the stances of either major party?

            Mine personally? Nope.

      • hlynkacg says:

        Pinker tends to elicit a lot of skepticism and anger from both conservatives and liberals.

        Honest men make few friends 😉

        • “Umar always speaks the truth, however harsh, and for that reason he has no friends.”

          Attributed to Mohammed.

          • Rebel with an Uncaused Cause says:

            Wow. I think that might be the first post-Classical burn I’ve ever heard.

          • What does “burn” mean here?

            Possibly relevant context … . The comment shows up in the response by one of the Companions to Abu Bakr’s question about Umar, who he was considering (and in fact chose) as his successor. “The Prophet used to say that … .”

      • Medivh says:

        “your first link is refuted in its comments section”

        No, it isn’t. Mixing up Hunter- Gatherers and Agriculturalists is not a minor slip-up. Its in itself an extreme blunder, and the difference is of major importance for pinkers main Thesis: “More Civilisation means less Violence”. Hunter-Gatherer Violent death rates are about one order of magnitude lower than those of agricultural societies. Thats probably still higher than 20th century, but lower than medieval europe, and it wouldn’t make for a terribly interesting graph. This means, the first big civilization step raised violence extremely.

        • hlynkacg says:

          Having read his book, my understanding of his main thesis was that; despite apocalyptic predictions, the prevalence of violence has actually been trending downwards throughout most of human history.

        • houseboatonstyxb says:

          @ Medivh
          Hunter-Gatherer Violent death rates are about one order of magnitude lower than those of agricultural societies.

          I knew the Agricultural Revolution made the world safe for stupidity. And slavery. Any idea how these were related to violence?

      • leoboiko says:

        As a linguist, I’m yet to find a colleague who accepts The Language Instinct without serious reservations. Most of us share the basic idea of nativism to some extent – my perception of the consensus would be something like: evidence so far strongly suggests that we’re predisposed to acquire languages, and moreover that human languages have the same fundamental structure; though the devil is in details, and debates abound about literally all of them (there’s no consensus at all about what’s actually hardcoded (if anything), what’s an emergent property, and what’s a statistical accident of our sample; some circles are still completely anti-nativist). Among the most extreme nativists are the Chomkians, but even they disagree with the validity of Pinker’s evolutionary just-so stories, and with many of his conclusions.

        My personal opinion on The Language Instinct is “generally a good introduction, but presents a lot of unsupported assertions as if they were uncontroversially proven, overreaches way too many conclusions, and deliberately fails to mention ongoing debates”.

        Of Pinker’s books, I like The Sense of Style, which – despite sharing exactly the same sin of hubris – is my go-to recommended antidote for people who are still poisoned by Strunk & White and their ilk.

  48. onyomi says:

    Though I tend to be on the more humanistic, a priori, intuitionist side of people who post here, I do think it’s a good idea to start asking people for actual evidence about the claims of people like Lacan, and, indeed, Judith Butler (apropos the “gender identity is something created by how your parents treat you” theory discussed in the last thread). It seems for a long time that the only requirement in the humanities for grand theorizing is that you be able to weave a sufficiently plausible and/or impenetrable theory taking into account cherry-picked evidence from history and, quite often, fiction.

    This is why I’m trying to move much more in the digital humanities direction (though I think Langacker’s Cognitive Grammar idea is pretty interesting–any thoughts on that?), though the problem is I don’t yet know enough programming and statistics (trying to remedy, but this is true of most humanists. Which is not to say I think one needs to know programming and statistics to be a good humanist, but that we need to stop accepting factual claims based purely on superficial plausibility of grand narratives).

  49. onyomi says:

    Also, re. Lacan, it’s interesting to me that one of the only obvious figures fitting this “guru” model on the right (the kind which becomes a cult of personality where the cult leader gets to sleep with and excommunicate the disciples) is a woman: Ayn Rand. That said, I don’t think Rand’s personal failings disqualify her thought, so I shouldn’t think that about Lacan, Marx, et al, either (though Lacan being a bad psychoanalyst is arguably more damning because it relates directly to his claimed area of expertise).

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Cults are a failure mode of group mechanics and our in-built socialization instincts and tendencies. I really don’t think it’s appropriate to analyze cult following in left/right terms.

      Godwin knows what we are going to end up arguing about.

      • onyomi says:

        I am talking about a particular type of intellectual cultishness which, to me, seems more common on the left. Which is not to say the right doesn’t have its particular modes of cultishness–religion and ethnonationalism come to mind.

        I’m certainly not claiming the right doesn’t have its cults–rather that certain more typically left-wing phenomena (professor-type developing a cult of personality, say) may have more in common with e. g. weird religious cults than most would think. That is, I don’t think many would think to compare Lacan to Osho, but maybe they should.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Well, let me say that word “intellectual” is doing a lot of lifting in that argument.

          In other words, you are going to categorize intellectual as left generically.

          • onyomi says:

            Then why did I characterize Ayn Rand as such?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Because Libertarian and Objectivist is categorized as right-wing and her philosophy is embraced by many in the right wing.

            But if they aren’t embraced by anyone currently, you will classify them as left wing by dint of being intellectual.

          • onyomi says:

            Huh? Marx and Lacan are currently not embraced by anyone?

            And what would it mean to be a cult not embraced by anyone?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I’ve never even heard of Lacan, but Freudianism seems out of fashion for pretty much everyone?

            Marx ran a cult where he got to have sex with everyone and excommunicate people?

          • onyomi says:

            Lacan is at least as well-known as Osho, probably much more so. And the overall popularity isn’t so relevant to what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about people developing a cult-like following due to something like a body of philosophical work, as Osho, Lacan, and Rand all did. Which is not to say having a cult of personality disqualifies the intellectual merit of your work. Socrates seems like he had sort of a cult of personality.

            Though I don’t know if his following is quite cult-like, I’d describe Zizek as being a little bit in the same vein as Lacan, at least in terms of the sort of “celebrity intellectual” status he enjoys. Is there a right-wing Zizek equivalent? (There may be, but no one springs to mind as filling quite the same sort of niche).

          • Anonymous says:

            Milton Friedman?

          • onyomi says:

            Re. Marx, Hegel probably fits the “guru” model better than him in life, actually.

            Re. Milton Friedman, I don’t just mean a right-wing intellectual who is popular or well known, but about a certain mode of being famous, i. e. the cult of personality. Friedman was arguably as influential as Rand, but I don’t get the impression of him having so much of a cult of personality, though some people do accuse UChicago Economics of being too insular.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            I am really confused now. Because you specifically brought in cult of personality to begin with (the sex and excommunication thing).

            N/M, I think I misunderstood what you were saying.

            Let me ask a more specific question, because I haven’t heard of Osho either. In what way is Lacan “on the left”?

            Wikipedia says “His ideas had a significant impact on post-structuralism, critical theory, linguistics, 20th-century French philosophy, film theory and clinical psychoanalysis.” Is it that list of topics that he influenced that makes you think that he is a “cult leader” on the left? Specifically post-structuralism and critical theory? Maybe linguistics (through Chomsky)?

          • onyomi says:

            There may be an extent to which the perception of Lacan as a left-wing figure (and I don’t think it’s just me) is an anachronism actually kind of created by Zizek, who links Hegel, Marx, Freud, and Lacan.

            But my impression of him as being cultish is just based on his reception in life. He definitely liked to “hold court.”

          • onyomi says:

            In a sense what I am saying is that there various bases, beyond simple charisma, which is probably an indispensable ingredient, upon which one may build a cult of personality. Intellectual theorizing is one of them. Arguably the left or the Blue Tribe, by virtue of having more inherent respect for institutional scholarship and intellectual theorizing is more prone to build a cult around that sort of pursuit.

            Yes, there are right wing cults of personality, but they largely seem to me to be based on things like ethnonationalism more than the intellectual interest of say, fascism as a body of thought.

            Which is not to say there aren’t good right-wing thinkers out there (and I don’t count Trump as one–to the extent he has a cult of personality it’s not based on his philosophy). Obviously I think there are. But they don’t seem to inspire the same kind of devotion in most cases.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            So ethno-nationalism is inherently not intellectual? Do you see where I am going with this?

          • onyomi says:

            There are people who make an intellectual case for it, but I can’t think of any who have risen to demagogue status by doing so (no, I don’t think Hitler’s success was predicated on his intellectual achievements or historical theorizing). I do sort of see what you’re saying–I am biased about what constitutes “intellectual” by what goes on in academia, which is disproportionately left wing. But I do still think there’s a difference between a scholarly approach to something and, say, a populist approach.

            Moldbug, for example, makes an intellectual, relatively scholarly-ish case for something kind of like ethnonationalism, but I can’t imagine him becoming a kind of adored guru figure (or maybe he is to some?).

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Yes, you finally got to Hitler.

            And immediately discount him as intellectual. Why do his writing not count as intellectual? Because he didn’t write them for a scholarly audience?

            Roughly, the people you think of as intellectual cult figures have to be worshiped by intellectuals in order for you to count them.

            I just think there is a lot of “snake eating his own tail” here. The argument is roughly circular. Intellectuals are regarded as leftists, therefore cults formed by intellectuals are leftist cults.

            But it’s still not clear to me why Lacan is a “leftist” besides being an intellectual. What about his cultishness was left-leaning? What does left mean for you in this context?

          • Tatu Ahponen says:

            “Is there a right-wing Zizek equivalent? (There may be, but no one springs to mind as filling quite the same sort of niche).”

            The first one that sprang to mind was Milo Yiannopoulos, actually. Depending on how you define ‘intellectual’.

          • Anon. says:

            Zizek is the right-wing Zizek equivalent.

          • onyomi says:

            “The argument is roughly circular. Intellectuals are regarded as leftists, therefore cults formed by intellectuals are leftist cults.”

            You still haven’t answered my original question, at least not in a way that made sense to me: if I am, circular-fashion, defining intellectual as left-wing and, therefore, all “intellectual gurus” as left-wing, why, then, do I perceive Ayn Rand to be a right-wing “intellectual guru”?

            I can’t be working with a definition of “intellectual guru” which includes “left-wing” as a prerequisite if Ayn Rand is one of the first examples to come to mind.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            The key to that is my question about what makes Lacan “leftist”.

            In other words, absent some discrete signal of “right” you assign all intellectuals as “left”.

            Run this in reverse. When a religious cult formed that thought the world was going to soon be visited by aliens and take people away to a better existence, that defaults to being a right wing cult if you insist on a left/right model, but there isn’t anything particularly right wing about it.

          • onyomi says:

            All you’re really saying, then, is “you assumed that a particular academic with a cultish following was left-wing just because he’s frequently cited by left-wing academics in connection with Marx.” I’ll cop to that. But it says nothing about whether or not a “professor cult” is more likely to develop around a left or right-wing figure. My impression is the former is more common, and if that is because left-wing professors are more common in general, then so be it.

            But, actually, I don’t really care about trying to prove that; my original point was about Ayn Rand and her gender, not about Lacan and his political leanings.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            But, isn’t Rand’s gender essentially noise? Given that you can’t think of any other intellectual cults you would classify as right wing, I don’t think we can draw any conclusions based on a sample size of one.

          • onyomi says:

            Maybe? I don’t know. That’s why I’m asking. I can’t think of any reason why the major right-wing “professor cult” figure who comes to mind is a woman, and it may, indeed, be a coincidence. It’s only interesting in the sense that a phenomenon I (correctly or not) associate somewhat with the left wing, and overwhelmingly with men, happens to appear on the right wing in the form of a woman. Of course it would be much more interesting and much less likely to be a coincidence if there were more Ayn Rands out there, but so far as I know, she’s pretty unusual on two different counts.

            It’s sort of like asking “why did this person get struck by lightning twice when most people never get struck by lightning at all?” It could really just be pure chance, but it could be their habit of golfing during thunderstorms.

            That said, Rand herself rather deemphasized her femininity. She was reportedly delighted when Mises called her “the most courageous man in America.” Though that also makes her atypical in a different way. But then, “non-traditional Russian atheist woman” is probably not the stereotype of the right-wing intellectual on all kinds of fronts.

            The fact she seems so sui generis (other than Nietzsche) is what makes her very interesting, but I also tend to think that when something seems sui generis I may just be missing something.

          • If you count libertarians as right wing, I think Galambos might count as another example of a right wing intellectual cult leader. Maybe Lefevre as well.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            How many female cult figures can you think of, period? Maybe I am wrong, but cult like figure seems like its mostly a male thing anyway.

            Maybe the odd “crystal worshipping”, past life cult-leader is female?

          • onyomi says:

            Interesting. I had never even heard of Galambos.

          • onyomi says:

            “How many female cult figures can you think of, period?”

            That’s my point. Something I associate (rightly or wrongly) to some degree with the left wing and overwhelmingly with being male happens to appear in the same right-wing woman. Seems unusual. Could be a coincidence.

          • Sandy says:

            @HBC:

            How many female cult figures can you think of, period? Maybe I am wrong, but cult like figure seems like its mostly a male thing anyway.

            There is the Family International, a cult that’s been led by one Karen Zerby since 1988. But even that organization was founded by a man and has near zero political involvement. Perhaps it’s an evo psych thing. Cult leaders are the Provider and Protector for all their followers, after all. Hero of the People, Guardian of the Realm. Women might not fill these roles convincingly enough for female-led cults to last long.

          • I think Mary Baker Eddy qualifies as a female cult figure. Perhaps Blavatsky as well?

          • Sandy says:

            Christian Science is a cult??!?

          • Rob K says:

            @Sandy If you visit the Mary Baker Eddy museum in Boston (and I recommend doing so), you will (or at least, would a few years ago) encounter pamphlets about Christian Science in the lobby.

            One was a Q&A about the basics of the religion. It included the following:

            Q: Is Christan Science a cult?
            A: No. But we do have a very strong reverence for our founder, Mary Baker Eddy.

            I still love that sequence. (I should note, though, that my upstairs neighbor is a very active Christian Scientist, and she’s never mentioned Mary Baker Eddy when talking about it.)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            “Something I associate (rightly or wrongly) to some degree with the left wing”

            I think you keep side-tracking yourself.

            The overwhelming number of cults are religious cults. Who are also headed by males. There are also health cults and some ideological cults and some intellectual cults and some ethno-nationalist cults, etc. and they are all mostly headed by males too. At least that is my impression.

          • onyomi says:

            “some intellectual cults”

            So all this time you’ve understood what I meant by “intellectual cult.” Why, then, did you keep insisting it was some made-up, circular category I was just using as a cover for my biases about leftists?

          • onyomi says:

            Hah, yes, Mary Baker Eddy is a good example, I think.

            Also, generally speaking, fewer female religious cult leaders is not what I’d predict if I were predicting beneath a veil of ignorance about actual historical cults. Because women, across cultures, are more religious than men. But I guess men have more often been in leadership roles, so perhaps that trumps the religion part.

            Speaking of which, it’s a bit long ago to get a really clear picture, but I wonder if Joan of Arc doesn’t, in some sense, qualify?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Did I ever say there weren’t cults that were intellectually based? I don’t think so?

            I said it was a mistake to categorize cults as being on the left or on the right, and that intellectual cults would tend to be categorized as left even if there wasn’t anything particularly left-wing about it. That’s different than objecting to a cult being referred to as intellectual.

            So, Ayn Rand is one of the few female intellectual cult leaders. This is an interesting fact, but because female cult leaders aren’t numerous to begin with, it’s not surprising that there aren’t many female intellectual cult leaders. Only if we examined a representative sample of female cult leaders, and compared with a sample of male cult leaders, would it start to make sense to draw inferences about how female and male led cults tend to differ.

            Make sense?

          • Jill says:

            Most scientists are democrats. Perhaps most intellectuals are Democrats too. Progressives are pretty smart people, on average.

            http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2010/12/lab_politics.html

          • onyomi says:

            Though, on average, libertarians have the highest IQs. Of course, a less mainstream group will tend to be smarter because it preferentially attracts people who are interested enough to go outside the mainstream (so hardcore Marxists in America today probably have a higher average IQ than mainstream Democrats, even though I think they’re more misguided), but make of that what you will.

            Re. the article, it seems to bring up a real issue without any courage to think outside of painfully PC boxes for solutions.

          • Thursday says:

            As far as right wing intellectuals with personality cults, you might nominate people like Stefan George or even T.S. Eliot.

        • Skef says:

          Putting the sex question aside (because the evidence for that sort of thing is often spotty) one conservative figure along those lines is Leo Strauss.

          That said, I’m not sure how defined a category this is, right or left. Sartre was definitely leftist, and has the right persona, but the latter isn’t as connected to the former. Does Wittgenstein count? (Russell was more of a Chomskian figure, or vice-versa.) If we’re just talking “intellectual” and not political, then Frank Lloyd Wright is probably included (although the weirdest Taliesin stuff was apparently the work of his wife Olgivanna).

          Who else?

          Zizek strikes me as a different type of figure, because his popular base seems stronger than his academic base. His public status is as close to a “public intellectual” as we can have now, in that he talks about many different things. (The earlier public intellectuals were often called on talk about many different things, often not of their choosing. Things are too specialized and knowledge too widespread for that model to be viable now.)

        • Maware says:

          Right wing cults of personality would be C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton. Russell Kirk also. Probably would be more economists along the intellectual lines, but in the sense of “this intellectual answers EVERYTHING,” the first three come to mind. Conservative analogues to objectivists would be Lewisians and Chestertonians. The guys who smoke pipes and worship the Inklings.

          Liberals tend to have it more often and more frequently. Piketty is one, and before Piketty Howard Zinn. Chomsky is definitely one, and there’s really a longer tradition of the lone intellectual with his force of will on the left I think. I mean Malcolm X is an ur-example, and you can pick out far more leftist intellectuals that would hold that kind of cultishness dating from the romantic movement.

    • onyomi says:

      This got sidetracked perhaps because of a failure to thoroughly emphasize the point I was interested in, namely Ayn Rand’s gender. I not only tend, to some extent, to stereotype the scholarly guru who excommunicates and has sex with his disciples as left-wing (though I’m not interested in arguing that point further; maybe it’s less so than I thought, or just a function of academics being more left-wing in general), but I even more strongly stereotype that type of guru as male.

      I just thought it was interesting that one of the very few female examples I could think of for the excommunicating, having sex-with disciples mold of “guru,” intellectual or otherwise, happened to be the right-wing Ayn Rand. Maybe that is just a coincidence or maybe I am missing some other female gurus?

      • leoboiko says:

        What I find curious about Rand as a female Great Leader is that right-wing politics would predict women to submit; and, indeed, there seems to be some proto-BDSM leanings in Rand, in her portrayal of Christian Grey John Galt as the super sexy dominating alpha male fantasy, and in her gleeful attraction towards figures like William Hickman.

        Is there a case of a male intellectual icon erecting a fantasy female as the ideal dominant to submit under? The only similar thing I can think of is Marston’s original Wonder Woman (which is hardly high theory, even compared to Rand’s not-quite-philosophy).

        • It isn’t clear that Rand fits comfortably into the category of “right wing.” She was pro-capitalism but anti-religious.

          • leoboiko says:

            There are two “right-wings” in my mind, the neoliberal and the nationalist-religious. Ayn falls in the first camp.

            Similarly, I’m seeing two left-wings lately: the old-school one sees capitalism as the root of all oppression (“we don’t want the CEOs to be black lesbians, we want a world without CEOs”), while the new-left sees sexism/racism/homophobia/ableism etc. as distinct and apart from capitalistic oppression (as proved by their survival even within leftist, anti-capitalist groups). The two lefts have been arguing a lot.

        • Sandy says:

          Is there a case of a male intellectual icon erecting a fantasy female as the ideal dominant to submit under?

          The phrasing of this question made me think of any number of national personifications men swear allegiance to — Columbia, Britannia, Mother Russia, Bharat Mata —- probably all designed and popularized by male leaders. Likely not what you meant, though.

          • Randy M says:

            Or Liberty and Justice stylized as female.
            What concepts are anthropomorphized into male aspects? War, usuallly. Industry, perhaps.

  50. Sir Gawain says:

    On the subject of diversity in Silicon Valley, apparently at Google, Yahoo, Facebook and LinkedIn the white share of the workforce (50-61%) ranges from slightly to moderately below the white share (62%) of the U.S. population. Additionally, though my cursory Google revealed no hard data on this, common sense suggests that Jews are probably considerably overrepresented relative to their 2% or so population share. And then, the Asian shares of 30-40% are something like six to eight times their share of the U.S. population.

    So according to the disparate impact theory of discrimination, in addition to women, Hispanics and blacks being obviously prima facie victims of Silicon Valley’s pointless, irrational, counterproductive discrimination, non-Jewish whites are victims, and quotas on hiring, retaining and promoting Gentile whites should be implemented to increase Diversity (TM).

    • Brandon Berg says:

      And then, the Asian shares of 30-40% are something like six to eight times their share of the U.S. population.

      Note that many, if not most, are immigrants, so comparing to their share of the US population is somewhat misleading. On the other hand, comparing to their share of the world population would also be misleading, since we’re talking about the US software industry, and there are a lot more Asians working at US software companies than there are Americans working at Asian software companies.

  51. sconn says:

    Re: midwife certification: This doesn’t necessarily prove that certified midwives are more competent than lay midwives (though they might be — I certainly considered certification to be non-negotiable when choosing mine) because when midwives are certified by the state, they are often able to do more things. For instance: in some states, a certified midwife will be allowed to carry oxygen and pitocin, thus being able to treat more things instead of having to wait for the paramedics. A midwife of identical competence who is considered not a healthcare provider and therefore not able to dispense drugs is going to be more likely to lose a mother or infant.

    Meanwhile, in other places, uncertified midwives may be operating completely illegally, which would probably make them less likely to call the paramedics in if they are needed. Some doctors refuse to accept patients who are also seeing an uncertified midwife — that’s not going to help mortality rates. And then there’s the question of money — a certified midwife is more likely to command a higher fee, meaning her patients will be richer and thus healthier. On and on. There are just too many confounders to prove that certifying midwives actually sifts out bad midwives or gives additional training to midwives — it might just remove other problems. So you couldn’t necessarily generalize from this to the question of regulation in general.

    • I also found that article odd because it had a whiff of the elderly Hispanic women effect. Why did they single out deaths by diarrhea by children up to 2 years old as something that was reduced? Did they pick out that factor ahead of time as being important, because my cursory reading of the paper didn’t point out why they chose that factor.

      Maternal death is directly related but I didn’t see any sorts of controls for other healthcare-outcomes, i.e. that places that are restrictive on midwifery may have different attitudes and wealth spent towards healthcare. That isn’t to mention that their time period (admittedly to try and use the window of time where different states had different laws) was one of great upheaval with two world wars and a great depression that likely did not effect the country uniformly.

  52. rrose says:

    Hey hey! Lurker here who is de-lurking for a bit.

    …am I seeing things or is your blog post title today a reference to the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram? 😀

  53. Brandon Berg says:

    FiveThirtyEight has a really interesting analysis of welfare reform, which concludes that there’s only been a small decrease in total amount of dollars going to “welfare”…

    Note that this is just for TANF, which is a very small percentage of total means-tested spending. (IIRC, about $30B out of over $900B). Total means-tested spending has nearly doubled since 1996. Population has increased somewhat, but not nearly doubled, so that’s still a big increase in real per-capita terms. There’s a comprehensive list of means-tested spending in 2011 here. Note that EITC benefits, which are cash benefits, totalled $56B, which is more than AFDC ever cost.

  54. Dan T. says:

    The Brightline train service is on rails that go right past the condominium I live in, so, yes, I’m aware of that; right at the moment I can hear all the construction noise from the work going on at the railroad crossing that has closed that road for the weekend. Unfortunately, the stations are miles away, so I’ll see the trains go by but won’t be able to just walk over and get on them.

  55. Agronomyous says:

    “Facebook has too many terrible groups to remove them all manually, so they seem to automatically remove ones that get reported enough times. This goes exactly as well as you would expect; Muslims in the Middle East have started a (successful) campaign to get atheist Facebook groups in their countries shut down.”

    Why do so many leftist writers keep insisting on large amounts of immigrants from countries whose base philosophy calls for their heretic deaths or conversion by the sword?

    Even the PM of Singapore said that community was the only one who didn’t integrate well into the rest of the community, yet remained separate.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Because Muslims are currently the group which is most successful at being anti-Western in general and anti-American in particular.

      • onyomi says:

        I don’t think it’s anti-Americanism or anti-Westism per se that makes leftists tend to side with Muslims and immigrants. I think its rather a reflexive tendency to side with anyone perceived as an underdog.

        In America/Europe vs. Middle East, Israel vs. the rest of the Middle East, and also natives vs. immigrants pairs, the middle east and immigrants in general are perceived as underdogs.

        • Jill says:

          It’s compassion– often misguided. You can’t take in everyone that wants to come to your country. It just isn’t practical. But not everyone is practical.

          • Agronomyous says:

            This and onyomi’s answer are pretty close to what I think is happening.

            Its a compassionate urge, and not a western-hating one.

          • The obvious question is whether the people who favor letting in Muslim immigrants also favored letting in Chinese and Indian immigrants, two large and very poor populations.

            If they did, that’s evidence for compassion. If not, it suggests some other motive.

          • Tatu Ahponen says:

            Are China and India, as countries, going through a similar situation characterized by war and death squads as Syria and large parts of Iraq?

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @David Friedman

            In my experience they generally do support Chinese and Indian immigration. But no-one vocally opposes that, so it’s irrelevant.

          • onyomi says:

            Also the Chinese and Indians, to the extent they are immigrating, tend to be doing so in a less… newsworthy manner. Coming in dribs and drabs and not, generally, fleeing a particular conflict en masse. Also, I do think there is the fact that Chinese and Indian immigrants tend to be pretty successful financially. Once they’re successful, the left stops seeing it as their job to prop them up.

        • vV_Vv says:

          I don’t think it’s anti-Americanism or anti-Westism per se that makes leftists tend to side with Muslims and immigrants. I think its rather a reflexive tendency to side with anyone perceived as an underdog.

          Like nerds? Or working-class white people (AKA white trash, rednecks, etc.)?

    • Sandy says:

      Why do so many leftist writers keep insisting on large amounts of immigrants from countries whose base philosophy calls for their heretic deaths or conversion by the sword?

      A giddy overconfidence in the ability of Western leftist culture to continue its memetic dominance over these base philosophies.

      Even the PM of Singapore said that community was the only one who didn’t integrate well into the rest of the community, yet remained separate.

      Lee Kuan Yew was a right-wing nationalist who believed in cultural homogenization and adamantly defended the death penalty, so he is not someone who enjoys much favor among leftists.

      • Agronomyous says:

        >A giddy overconfidence in the ability of Western leftist culture to continue its memetic dominance over these base philosophies.

        I understand that there is a need to keep the peace and not inflame violent passions in the US,and thus anything antagonistic should not be published, but Islam is less adaptable then Christianity to the typical tenants of what people associate with the best of liberalism.

        There is a reason so many intellectuals from heavily islamic countries flee.

        France and Germany brutally learn that lesson every month now.

        • Nicholas says:

          but Islam is less adaptable then Christianity to the typical tenants of what people associate with the best of liberalism.

          The amendableness you see today is not an inherent quality of Christianity, the religion who’s founder described himself as “bringing a sword… to turn neighbor against neighbor, father against son…” and chased bank tellers around a courtyard with a bat. What you see today is the result of liberalism doing its level best to hollow out every part of Christendom opposed to neoliberalism.
          Insofar as there is a plan, it is to get the Muslims here, cut off from their historical communities, and then to corrupt their religion until it is exactly as inoffensive looking as Christendom is today.

          • Julie K says:

            cut off from their historical communities,

            Is that possible in the age of the Internet?

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @Julie K

            I think people generally join the culture surrounding them pretty quickly — at most a few generations unless there are strong social devices stopping them. And in my (anecdotal) experience, children and grandchildren of Muslim immigrants to the UK do embrace the general culture. For instance, excepting those from countries that speak it, I think I only know one Muslim who knows Arabic (i.e. can read the Quran in its original language).

          • Sandy says:

            And in my (anecdotal) experience, children and grandchildren of Muslim immigrants to the UK do embrace the general culture. For instance, excepting those from countries that speak it, I think I only know one Muslim who knows Arabic (i.e. can read the Quran in its original language).

            Most Muslim immigrants to the UK are from the Indian subcontinent; very few people in these countries speak Arabic. Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi and Bengali are all more likely candidates for their native languages.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @Sandy

            Yes, but my understanding is that religious Muslims are supposed to learn Arabic so they can read the Quran in the original. But I only know one person (from a Pakistani background) who has done so.

          • Sandy says:

            People not doing what they’re supposed to do is a fairly universal thing. I’m not sure if such behavior among immigrants says something specific about immigrants. Hindu leaders are constantly begging religious Hindus to learn Sanskrit. Not only are they not doing this, they are not doing it so hard that Sanskrit is a dead language.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I thought the only Arabic a Muslim absolutely had to learn was the phrase “There is no God but God and Muhammed is his Prophet”

          • sweeneyrod says:

            My impression is that learning Arabic is encouraged (or at least memorising significant parts of the Quran in Arabic is). It is certainly possible to be a Muslim without doing so, but I think that doing so puts you in the same category as nominal Christians who rarely go to church and don’t know the Epistles from the Apostles, i.e. unlikely to join ISIS based on theological reasoning.

          • Aapje says:

            @sweeneyrod

            I believe that it is highly culturally dependent, rather than dependent on the religion of the immigrants.

            In the Netherlands, Moroccans do worst on most metrics, yet they are actually (a bit) more integrated than Turks, who are way more (Turkish) nationalist and organized. For example, after the coup in Turkey, they started protesting against Gullen, socially isolating and threatening Gullen supporters, reporting them to Turkish authorities, etc. In many ways, the Turkish immigrants have a parallel society.

            We also have Chinese immigrants who are pretty poorly integrated, although without a high level of criminality that characterizes the Moroccans and to a lesser, but still substantial extent, the Turkish immigrants. So their poor integration is generally not considered problematic by other citizens.

            PS. I believe that most Muslims consider the Arabic version of the Koran only legitimate version and believe that translations dilute the message of Allah.

          • vV_Vv says:

            And in my (anecdotal) experience, children and grandchildren of Muslim immigrants to the UK do embrace the general culture. For instance, excepting those from countries that speak it, I think I only know one Muslim who knows Arabic (i.e. can read the Quran in its original language).

            Beware selection bias: The descendants of Muslim immigrants who did not integrate are probably not part of your social circle. This doesn’t mean that they don’t exist or that they are a minority.

          • Aapje says:

            @vV_Vv

            I think that is also a major source of disconnect between the elite/globalists and the plebs.

            If you are living in a poor neighborhood and work low-paying, easy-entry jobs, you are likely to encounter the worst of immigrant groups, while if you live in richer places and work at more demanding jobs, the people of immigrant descent that you encounter are the elite of their group.

    • Tatu Ahponen says:

      Could it be an actual, honest desire to implement various protocols and treaties meant to protect generally understood human rights, such as the right to seek asylum – a right that is in fact intended to cover people from whichever culture? Nah, must be some sort of a motivation that allows you to view your ideological opponents in a negative light.

      • sconn says:

        Exactly. If Islamic nations are so bad and repressive to live in, what exactly CAN you do for the people there other than give them a chance to get out? Many of these countries are like burning buildings; it seems downright immoral to lock the doors, even if not everyone inside is going to be friendly when they get out.

        • Sandy says:

          Firefighters actually have to be careful about opening doors in burning buildings because of the risk of a backdraft killing them and spreading the fire to other structures.

          I was going somewhere with that metaphor

        • The Nybbler says:

          It’s a lot more moral to lock the doors if it turns out the reason the countries are like burning buildings is that it’s people are arsonists.

          • Tatu Ahponen says:

            If that was the reason then the things like Syrian and Iraqi civil wars – you know, the ones that are the main reason for the refugee situation – would not have been only going on for some years but for literally the entire histories of these countries.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            If that was the reason then the things like Syrian and Iraqi civil wars – you know, the ones that are the main reason for the refugee situation – would not have been only going on for some years but for literally the entire histories of these countries.

            Syria and Iraq haven’t been around all that long, so one could almost make that argument.

      • vV_Vv says:

        Could it be an actual, honest desire to implement various protocols and treaties meant to protect generally understood human rights, such as the right to seek asylum

        The right to seek asylum was originally intended to protect people who were at immediate danger of violence. Therefore the protocols and treaties generally mandate asylum seekers to exercise their right in the first safe country they enter.

        Now there are masses of refugees applying for asylum in Germany or Sweden after crossing half a dozen countries where they were in no danger of violence. This assuming that they are true refugees, since anybody who speaks Arabic and can pass as Middle-Eastern can say that they are a refugee from Syria, or from some war-torn region of Africa if they are black, and that they lost their documents during the escape. European authorities will hardly attempt to verify their claims.

        European governments are using the refugee crisis as an excuse to implement a policy of effective unregulated immigration from Middle East and Africa.

    • Anonymous says:

      A similar straw-manning of a conservative position by a leftist would have received an 8-man pile on within the first 30 seconds, complete with admonishments about charitability, ideological Turing tests, and being mind-killed by politics. Say it isn’t so.

      • Agronomyous says:

        On most political tests I am considered fairly leftist. Or at least, on the left.

        But there comes a point in time where I just have to look at what happens in France and Germany and say to get strict on immigration.

        I guess if there was a greener, drug friendlier version of Singapore I would be close to there.

      • Jill says:

        It is so indeed.

        • cassander says:

          Jill, in an earlier thread, you you said the Us was going to have to change its name to the United States of Koch, and that right wing philosophy consists of “catering to the whims of the .01% while pretending to be the party of everyone, especially lower class white bigots. ” Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            Can we make a general principle of not bringing up peoples statements from previous threads in a negative light? I remember that that was one of the things anonymeese claimed made them go anonymous, and I think most commenters prefer a small number of anonymeese.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Isn’t this site still intending to promote an increase in rational behavior and discourse though?

            I understand Scott also wants to promote the voicing of unpopular views, but the two things are in tension.

            Jill is self-contradictory and it would be an improvement to the discourse if she internalized that.

          • Z says:

            People should be held accountable for their actions.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ sweeneyrod
            Can we make a general principle of not bringing up peoples statements from previous threads in a negative light?

            Or, if done, include a link to the person’s previous statement. It’s counterproductive for the target to spend time and work trying to find a phrase (or something vaguely paraphrased) that the critic might be referring to.

            Failing that, perhaps the accused might deflect the likely derailment into a new topic starting at the left side of the screen.

          • Jill says:

            I could not possibly do “an 8-man pile on within the first 30 seconds” because I am one of the very few Left leaning people here. And the others not only do not do pile ons, but tend to bow down and kiss the Right Wingers behinds frequently, and beg me to do so also.

            Plenty of stones get thrown at me. But very very few stones get thrown at Right Wingers doing/saying the same sorts of things I say/do but saying them about Left Wingers.

            In fact, Cassander, you constantly make allegations, some of them false, about what I have said on other threads. And other people do not go back and check. They just take you at your word, and they pile on me, after you. Which is what is happening now, in this very thread. That does not happen to Right Wingers here.

            You are constantly out to draw blood from me, continually. And you do get it, and you get others to pile on each time. This only can be done to a Left of Center person like me here. Must give you a thrill to do this, huh?

          • @Jill:

            I can’t speak to what Cassander has or hasn’t said about you in earlier threads. But both of his claims in the post you are responding to are things you actually said here recently, as you can easily check by searching this page for “United States of Koch” and “.01%”.

            If someone accuses you of saying something you never said, the simplest response is to challenge him to give the quote and point to where you say it.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Maybe there’s more than one person operating the Jill account, and they don’t always read what the others post? It would explain why sometimes Jill posts in Leftbot mode and sometimes posts things indicating use of reason.

          • Jiro says:

            Or, if done, include a link to the person’s previous statement. It’s counterproductive for the target to spend time and work trying to find a phrase (or something vaguely paraphrased) that the critic might be referring to.

            “United States of Koch”

            “Right Wing philosophy means catering to the whims of the .01% while pretending to be the party of everyone, especially lower class white bigots.”

          • cassander says:

            @sweeneyrod

            I actually mis-typed. That should say “earlier in this thread.” Jill made those statements here, not in a previous thread. Jiro helpfully provided the links.

            @Jill

            >Plenty of stones get thrown at me. But very very few stones get thrown at Right Wingers doing/saying the same sorts of things I say/do but saying them about Left Wingers.

            Have you considered the possibility that you get piled on because of the things you say, not because you’re on the left?

            >In fact, Cassander, you constantly make allegations, some of them false, about what I have said on other threads. And other people do not go back and check. They just take you at your word, and they pile on me, after you. Which is what is happening now, in this very thread. That does not happen to Right Wingers here.

            I am not aware of any time I have misquoted you. But even if I misquoted you in the past. In fact, you don’t even alledge that, because you know I am not. So please, actually deal with the explaining the things you’ve actually said, don’t just throw a pity party.

            @The Nybbler

            That sounds a bit too conspiratorial to be true, but it would explain an awful lot.

          • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

            “I am one of the very few Left leaning people here”

            Just because someone is to the right of you doesn’t mean they’re not Left leaning

      • Bryan Hann says:

        Depends on the forum, the participants, the popularity of the forum, and many other things.

        I sometimes jump on my ‘own side’ when they post rubbish, wanting them to up their game. I sometimes jump on ‘the other side’ because I want to *learn* from the that side and want them to up their game.

        There are interpretations favorable to group ‘A’ (or person ‘A’ or forum ‘A’) why people might jump on silliness from group ‘A’ rather than jump on silliness from group ‘B’.

    • Tatu Ahponen says:

      Let’s not forget that one large group to immigrate from Islamic countries has been Christians and other minorities. The much-maligned Sweden has been one of the largest recipient of Assyrians and other Christian minorities, for example.

      • Sandy says:

        Christians and other minorities were being steadily purged from the Middle East for years before the refugee crisis; Israel quietly accommodated many of them but for the most part Western leaders didn’t care until a mass exodus of Muslims into Christian lands had to be sold to a reluctant Western public. In the leftist paradigm, Christians are the persecutors, remember; it is gauche to talk about Christians getting persecuted in any context. But when the unwashed masses protest the idea of a massive influx of Muslim migrants, it is masterful marketing to point out than a tiny fraction of the current refugee flow consists of Christians and so it makes baby Jesus cry to keep refugees out.

        But try and suggest Christian refugees should be given priority and the usual suspects will condemn such a proposal as horribly bigoted, even if the persecution transcends borders and evidence manifests that suggests Middle Eastern Christians should be separated from their Muslim brethren with some urgency.

        • sweeneyrod says:

          Did you read that article? Both the Christians and Muslims were West African. It’s not great to be a Christian near ISIS. It’s also not great to be a Shia Muslim in that position.

          • Sandy says:

            Mea culpa, probably should have posted something else. I just had the faintest recollection of that incident, googled it and posted it.

            It’s also not great to be a Shia Muslim in that position.

            Sure, it’s not great, but the Shia refugees have Hezbollah on their side, and thus a significant part of the state of Lebanon. Christians have no such state or organization capable of defending them, and the few Western countries that will publicly commit to zealously defending Christians in this way are places in Eastern Europe that are looked down upon for such a partisan stance.

        • Tatu Ahponen says:

          …huh? The Christians who had sought and received asylum in Sweden had done it years before the refugee crisis. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assyrian%E2%80%93Chaldean%E2%80%93Syriac_diaspora

          There are also other Western countries on the list who have accommodated an Assyrian demographic. Copts have also immigrated to several Western countries, mostly the former Anglo colonies but also Italy. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coptic_diaspora

          The suggestion to give “Christian refugees a priority” seems to be confused about what this asylum business is about. The whole idea has always been that once the asylum seeker is in a country they’re seeking asylum in, their application should be processed fairly and on its own merits – taking into account, of course, the situation that has caused them to seek asylum, but not privileging or disfavoring certain groups over others. When it comes to Iraq or Syria, there are different regions where people might be persecuted for being Christian, Sunni, Shia or none of these, as well as, of course, those persecuted for their political opinions or other causes.

          • Sandy says:

            The Christians who had sought and received asylum in Sweden had done it years before the refugee crisis.

            Page 8. They were treated as immigrants, not as refugees.

            And that page on Copts says it was the wealthy ones who could emigrate, until the World Council of Churches intervened and facilitated the emigration of poorer Copts.

            The point about Christian refugees in the Syrian exodus is brought up as a rebuttal to people who do not want to accept Syrian refugees — “How can good Christians turn their backs on their brothers?”. Ok, good Christians can welcome their brothers, but the demographic split-up means they have to accept a hundred Muslim migrants for every Christian who comes along. It starts to sound like it’s just emotional manipulation rather than any real concern for Christians.

          • Tatu Ahponen says:

            Yes, that particular group was treated as immigrants. Later on, Sweden has taken a large number of refugees from Iraq, including any Christian refugees. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swedish_Iraqis

            Also, is the main point here the rhetoric of your ideological opponents? My point was that Sweden’s relatively liberal refugee system has done much to help Christians escaping persecution in the Middle East, not what someone has said in some debate or whatever.

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          But try and suggest Christian refugees should be given priority and the usual suspects will condemn such a proposal as horribly bigoted…

          And it’s worked, probably beyond the usual suspects’ wildest dreams. Heck, even the Vatican can’t bring itself to advocate for Christian refugees.

        • DavidS says:

          You seem to be eliding ‘thinking Christians can be persecuted’ and ‘prioritising Christians over others equally/more persecuted’.

          I move in mainstream UK left/liberal circles. I doubt anyone in these circles would think Christians can’t be persecuted or think they should get less help. I doubt any of them would think we should prioritise Christians just as Christians. If you mean ‘there is empirical evidence that member of X religion is at particular threat’ then they probably would whatever X was.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            There is empirical evidence that Christians are at a particular threat, and they are vocally against prioritizing them, so maybe you should re-evaluate your priors.

          • DavidS says:

            That’s a bit of a snitty response, but in the spirit of trying to engage:

            On ‘more persecuted’ my point is case by case. Presumably not every Christian is more persecuted than every non-Christian. The questions ‘should we prioritise Christians’ assumes we’ve already decided to bundle people into groups.

            If you have evidence of UK left/liberals saying that we should give Christians less help then their level of need would otherwise suggest, please provide it. I’d be surprised. But I don’t need to ‘re-evaluate my priors’ just because people say Christians shouldn’t be prioritised, as I’d assume that means they shouldn’t be blanket-prioritised as I say above.

    • leoboiko says:

      We don’t think oppressed human beings must share our convictions before they deserve help.

  56. The Obsolete Man says:

    There is a nitpick I’ve got with the excess of men over women map. I checked out some of the blue counties that aren’t in the oil patches (Alaska, North Dakota, etc.) and I think if you adjusted for military bases there wouldn’t be as many blue counties. Specifically, there is a cluster of blue counties in Missouri and those correspond to Ft. Leonard Wood and the University of MO at Rolla Science and Technology campus that is 77% male.

  57. SD000 says:

    Cowen didn’t mention genes, but should have

    I don’t think he wants to lose his Bloomberg gig a month in.

  58. Emma Casey says:

    Re bail, how is is that in all the time since 1689 we’ve not had one ruling that says clearly “bail that the person detained does not have enough money to pay is ipso facto excessive”?

    • sconn says:

      See, I always thought that this was what bail bonds are for. A company puts up the bail money for you and then takes responsibility for checking up on you so you don’t leave town. Is that not the case anymore, or is it not available to everyone? I did not think people were left in jail simply for being poor, but perhaps that’s naive of me since a change is now being made.

      • rmtodd says:

        It’s my understanding that if the bail amount is X dollars the prisoner, or prisoner’s friend, still has to pay something like 0.10*X to the bail bondsman for the service. If the bail is large enough or the prisoner is poor enough that 0.10*X isn’t affordable, well….

        • jaimeastorga2000 says:

          Yep. I was involved in posting bail for someone once. The bondsman took 10% of the bail amount as payment, and obviously he doesn’t return it at the end the way bail is returned if the accused shows up for the trial. Also, he normally requires that the payer list some asset as collateral for the full amount in case the accused fails to show up, though he waived it in our case.

    • Loquat says:

      But then how would you deal with people who have no money at all, or claim to? Just let them out if they promise they definitely will show up for trial and not skip town?

  59. onyomi says:

    Speaking of left and right…

    Is the Angry Birds movie right wing propaganda? I haven’t seen the movie, but this is not in a million years what I would have expected from it. But based on the summary the case seems pretty overwhelming. Puns about “right wing,” “left wing,” “red pills”… and now apparently it’s a cult classic for some alt-righters even? I’m just sort of surprised this movie got made. And of course it was marketed as just a fun kids’ movie…

    • Sandy says:

      Oh yeah, after the first trailer came out /pol/ decided the makers of the film were kindred spirits.

    • Homo Iracundus says:

      Probably in the same way that Taylor Swift is an aryan pride idol…
      It’s just trolling to get witch hunters shrieking about the evil hiding under every problematic rock.

      Although I have to admit the senile old bird looks exactly like Merkel.

    • blueblimp says:

      Whether or not the thesis is correct, a lot of the evidence provided seems dubious.

      For example, one thing he keeps bringing up is the coloration of the birds & pigs. But this coloration wasn’t created for the movie. It’s the same in the original game, which was released in 2009. So if the coloration was chosen for symbolism in the way the video claims, that choice was made in 2009 or earlier, long before the refugee crisis.

      A simpler explanation for the coloration of the protagonist bird is that red is the color associated with anger (“seeing red”), black is a common hair color, and yellow is a common bird beak color. The designer says he chose green for the pigs because it’s the complementary color of red.

      https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/feb/23/how-we-made-angry-birds

      Since the main character is red, I chose green – the complementary colour – for the pigs, who have stolen the birds’ eggs and are sheltering in the structures.

      This would be nitpicking except the whole argument depends on the birds representing Europe. Otherwise the message is just about mistrusting outsiders in general, not any groups in particular, or different groups than the video claims. The pig boats are styled more like old European ships, after all.

    • Nicholas says:

      I had assumed it was left wing propaganda, as the pigs are obviously European colonists.

  60. Bryan Hann says:

    The cost of the EpiPen is the outrage of the day. I have three questions.

    Q1. What is the relative benefit of intramuscular versus subcutaneous injection of epinephrine for the prevention of anaphylactic shock? (In particular, given 100 lay intramuscular injections that saved a life, how many should we expect to have failed had the injection been subcutaneous instead?) [This goes to the sort of need I would carry].

    Q2. What is the reasonable shelf life of a layperson preloaded syringe of epinephrine? (Not a risk averse cover-your-ass hospital lawyer’s recommendation. A reasonable shelf life for a concerned parent.)

    Q3. According to age, if someone has an allergy that warrants carrying injectable epiniphrine for layperson injection in case of onset of anapylaxis, how much time can be expected between (i) awareness of possible life threatiing exposure, and (ii) loss of capacity to self-inject?

    • Glenn says:

      To Q1, no idea.

      To Q2, there’s a study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10808186 As you might expect, the answer is “a lot longer than they say”, but it degrades over time.

      To Q3: Lots of sources describe onset “within minutes” of exposure to allergens; the most specific range I saw was WebMD’s “3 to 30 minutes” but don’t trust WebMD. It’s hard to know the duration between _awareness_ and _incapacity_, since awareness will not necessarily be immediate after exposure — your chances will be better if you notice that you’ve been stung by a bee, versus if someone secretly slips peanuts into your food. According to http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15025394, 70% of cases begin in <20 minutes from exposure and 90% in less than 40 minutes, which doesn't give a lower bound but gives a sense of the timescale (you probably have minutes rather than seconds, but not like, a lot of them.)

      My qualifications in this matter: None whatsoever, so keep that in mind.

    • Julie K says:

      What I wonder is why so many commenters (on a conservative site) are pointing out that the company that makes EpiPen didn’t do the R&D, they bought the patent from a different company. Is there a moral difference between paying your employees to do the R&D versus paying to compensate a different company that did it?

      • Utopn Naxl says:

        A company making a large profit off of the inelastic demand curve of life and death is said to be justified by the company later putting large amounts of it into R&D

        When that does not happen, moral outrage occurs.

        Also, that article is insane. Its a good example to me of poes law. This weird hate of the stupidity of congress, Hillary and Sanders are parasites along with every person who is not a researcher(and of course government funded research does not count I guess) an added faux moral outrage on how it still costs less then TV(I suppose medicine should bankrupt everyone, as everything but bread,milk, and a multivitamin are superfluous and not needs)

        Does he understand that people in various areas of the US voted for regulations to stop things from happening like lakes of water turning to polluted fire?

        Its a brand of libertarianism I don’t quite understand.

        • bluto says:

          The libertarian solution has always been to allow generic drugs approved by any developed nation be importable without FDA approval. Then there’s almost no way for any firm to have any sort of monopoly power.

          • Utopn Naxl says:

            Doesn’t that pretty clearly have the side effect of the “free market” deciding to avoid a product due to deaths and improper manufacturing methods?

            libertarians and regulations are strange.

  61. bjdubbs says:

    I took a class with a professor who knew Lacan, said that Lacan tried to sell his pens, apparently as Genuine Lacan Pens That Have Been Touched by the Master.

  62. Julie K says:

    BTW, I think the title of this page uses Christian angelology; the Jewish arrangement is “On my right Mikhael, on my left Gavriel, before me Uriel, after me Refael.”

    https://he.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D7%90%D7%95%D7%A8%D7%99%D7%90%D7%9C

    Edit: Here’s an English-language source.
    http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/spb/spb45.htm

  63. Anonymous says:

    @Sandy, I am replying to your statement here because I don’t want to deal with the nesting issue. I will address each part individually.

    We Hold These Truths to be Self-Evident, That All Men Are Created Equal, and a reality that does not reflect this assertion of equality is necessarily the result of structural flaws and perhaps outright malice.

    This is the sort of ridiculous trope that, when I encounter it in a conservative piece, indicates to me that anything that follows will be complete garbage. To the extent that the quote is applied to politics, it’s an appeal to equal treatment under the law. (More often, it’s the 14th amendment that’s cited.)

    (I’m just going to take the rest of it as the dog whistle that it is.) Yes, liberals also pay attention to unequal outcomes, and the structural flaws staring us right there in the face do certainly seem to lend themselves as an explanation. That is perhaps why liberals concern themselves with issues such as housing discrimination. The motivation here is justice, rather than the Declaration of Independence.

    • The Nybbler says:

      So a bunch of noise about the form of the claim, all leading to the conclusion that the content of the claim is, in fact, accurate?

    • Anon. says:

      The motivation here is justice

      And where does this particular conception of justice come from?

      • Anonymous says:

        You do understand that saying you should have equal protection under the law is different from saying that you are in every significant way equal to every other human being, yes?

        • The Nybbler says:

          Not when your measuring stick is outcome, it isn’t.

          • Anonymous says:

            My measuring stick is

            the structural flaws staring us right there in the face

          • Anon. says:

            Can you tell us how “the structural flaws staring us right there in the face” explain why Moroccan-Americans earn less than whites, while Pakistani-Americans earn more than whites?

            One gets the feeling that equality of outcomes came first, and the “structural flaws” came later as a rationalization. A bad rationalization at that.

            How do “structural flaws” explain Jewish intellectual and monetary success in late 19th/early 20th century Germany? One might think that widespread, institutional antisemitism would be a bit of a headwind. It definitely seems like a structural flaw staring etc…

          • Anonymous says:

            No.

            I’m not sure why you think that “structural flaws” should be able to explain every particular example that you have selected (or why I should have some sort of expertise on those particular topics).

          • The Nybbler says:

            Structural flaws are not a measuring stick; they’re an explanation. If you determine whether or not equal protection under the law exists by checking whether outcomes are equal and claiming that if they are not, there must be some violation of equal protection somewhere, then you are implicitly asserting that human beings are in every significant way equal.

          • Anon. says:

            It’s not an isolated demand for rigor at all. You proposed a model. There are competing models. In my view the competing models have greater explanatory power. Obviously Moroccans and Pakistanis are a completely arbitrary example. You’re free to substitute whatever you want.

            How do your “structural flaws staring us right there in the face” explain this chart? Is there a Jewish conspiracy to keep down the goys? Institutionalized oppression against gentiles? Christians don’t even manage second place, so clearly there must be a lot of structural flaws that make life difficult for Christians, no?

            The models you are competing against have very good answers.

            If you have insufficient expertise on the topic maybe you should be agnostic instead of championing a particular position. There’s nothing wrong with saying “I don’t know enough about this topic to have an opinion on it yet”.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @Anon.

            If the competing model you are suggesting is “biological differences”, and you are correct that Pakistani-Americans earn more than average, why is it that British Pakistanis earn less than average?

          • Anonymous says:

            @Anon., @The Nybbler You guy seem to be going to great pains to not comprehend what I am saying. I’m not in favor of putting the cart before the horse, as you seem to be implying.

          • Anonymous says:

            If you have insufficient expertise on the topic maybe you should be agnostic instead of championing a particular position. There’s nothing wrong with saying “I don’t know enough about this topic to have an opinion on it yet”.

            What in the ever-living fudge? I am not championing a particular position on the topics that you arbitrarily chose. What I said was:

            I’m not sure why you think that “structural flaws” should be able to explain every particular example that you have selected

            Please do me the courtesy of reading what I actually wrote.

            I will not be responding to any more comments on this thread. I think I deserve far better debate opponents than I currently have.

          • Anon. says:

            Can you clarify which particular examples your model explains, which it does not, and why? Do you consider this inability to generalize a flaw? (I do.)

            What factors do you believe are important outside the areas where “structural flaws” can provide an explanation?

          • Jill says:

            Kind of strange and interesting topic. There certainly could be many explanations of why Moroccan-Americans earn less than whites, while Pakistani-Americans earn more than whites. E.g. the types of occupations that people from each country tend to be engaged in, whether most people from that country are, on average, in early waves of immigration. Or whether, on average, most people in the category are not immigrants at all but are in the 3rd generation after immigration.

            And then there is the factor of what kinds of occupational training are available to the average citizen of Morocco or Pakistan. E.g. if it’s hard for the average person in your country of origin to get good advanced educational training of any kind, you’re not going to arrive with the skills to make good money. But if your country of origin is churning out tons of highly skilled computer programmers at its universities, then you may end up making good money after arrival to the U.S., and you may even get an H1B visa.

            A lot of people here, including Scott, seem to love genetics as an explanation for everything. But there are tons of other factors.

          • One obvious factor is selection among the inhabitants of Pakistan or Morocco. If the Pakistanis who come are from upper class families and well educated while the Moroccans are impoverished refugees, that could explain the difference without having to rely on either genetics or discrimination as an explanation.

    • Sandy says:

      See, I had a feeling it might be a bad idea to try and be a little snarky by quoting the Declaration of Independence. I don’t mean to be constitutional about this. I mean it quite literally — leftism is fundamentally anti-hierarchical because one of its core and unchallenged assumptions is that differences in group outcomes are nothing more than the result of some form of structural hindrance or oppression. You can take that as a dog whistle if you like.

      The motivation here is justice, rather than the Declaration of Independence.

      It seems to me that the motivation here is the belief that perfect equality of opportunity will necessarily guarantee perfect equality of outcome. For instance, I’ve only ever heard the left argue that we’re better off eliminating or diminishing physical benchmark tests that stand in the way of gender parity in the military, police and fire services. Am I wrong, or is there some other reason why disparate impact is a cornerstone of modern leftist legal theory?

      Housing discrimination is not a matter of performative ability or any kind of capability really; there is a very low benchmark to be met for deciding whether someone is fit to be a tenant, and if people who exceed that benchmark still can’t get tenancy, there is a stupid bigot located somewhere along the chain.

      • sweeneyrod says:

        All people who believe silly thinks about gender parity in jobs that require physical strength being leftists does not mean all (or even most) leftists believe silly things about gender parity.

        • Sandy says:

          This is undoubtedly true, but the people pushing silly things about disparate outcomes in standardized professional tests being prima facie evidence that the tests are discriminatory are leftists, and they have enshrined this in Supreme Court doctrine forevermore. Silly things about gender parity in such jobs today are just the natural extension of that — the argument being made is that the tests are actually totally unnecessary when they produce these disparate outcomes, and that it is discriminatory not to scrap them/make exceptions/switch to a different test that produces more favorable outcomes. The only real difference is that in the professional context, these tests tend to deal with some field of knowledge the applicants should hold and in the military context, they tend to deal with physical capabilities, but the narrative of the former has shaped the latter to an alarming extent.

          • Anonymous says:

            and they have enshrined this in Supreme Court doctrine forevermore

            Then what about the recent New York State ruling on the admissibility of a general-knowledge test for teachers, one with unequal outcomes falling along racial lines?

          • Sandy says:

            Sorry, which ruling are you referring to?

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          All leftists don’t believe these silly things, but it does seem like the leftists actually in power do believe those silly things, given how many of them have been enshrined in law, regulation, and court rulings lately.

      • Anonymous says:

        leftism is fundamentally anti-hierarchical because one of its core and unchallenged assumptions is that differences in group outcomes are nothing more than the result of some form of structural hindrance or oppression.

        I’m not really sure how doing away with structural hinderances/oppression implies anti-hierarchy, or vice-versa. The two do not seem to be related in that way.

        perfect equality of opportunity will necessarily guarantee perfect equality of outcome.

        Say you want an even playing field. Sometimes, the evidence for an uneven playing field isn’t unequal outcomes. The evidence for an uneven playing field is the uneven playing field. For example . . .

        if people who exceed that benchmark still can’t get tenancy, there is a stupid bigot located somewhere along the chain.

        Exactamundo! In fact, we can examine the situation and see that there ARE stupid bigots sprinkled generously along the chain (at least in my part of the U.S.). Unequal outcomes may indicate that there is something like this going on, or they may not, but it’s not the only source of evidence we have.

      • “leftism is fundamentally anti-hierarchical because one of its core and unchallenged assumptions is that differences in group outcomes are nothing more than the result of some form of structural hindrance or oppression.”

        I don’t think that follows. Someone might believe that all people have the same innate abilities, making differences in outcome the result of environmental differences, but still think that the best way of organizing society is hierarchies. Given that some people have gotten a good education, one could argue for putting them in charge.

        Even if you believed that everyone had the same outcome, was equally talented, you could still support hierarchy as a form of division of labor, believe that someone has to be in charge even if it doesn’t matter who. All societies face a coordination problem. The centralized solution is much more obvious than the decentralized, and lots of leftists have supported it.

  64. Anonymous says:

    A society that has both freedom and order is a nice thing to have, but when push comes to shove and you have to pick one, it is better for a society to be free even it has no accompanying order.

    This one is more interesting. First off, I’m glad to see a conservative outright admit that they sometimes oppose freedom, since in so many instances conservatism is touted as the pro-freedom position. (Notice that in that last link, freedom is the first pillar of conservatism, order is the second.)

    I agree that it is nice for a society to have desirable freedom and desirable order, but I’m not sure that liberals would agree with you in every instance as to what those entail. In your other comments, you cite oppressive governance as being orderly, and . . . I’m really not sure I’d consider apartheid as an example of the type of order I’d like to see.

    Other examples: Race-based stop-and-frisk may be a type of order favored by conservatives, but as a liberal I don’t oppose it because I want to trade one desirable thing (order) against another (freedom). I oppose it because it’s a violation of equal protection. (And it creates its own disorder.)

    Many conservatives favor school choice (as do I, but it’s not the standard liberal position). Is this a case of freedom trumping order? Restrictions on hate speech: is this liberals favoring order over freedom? Same-sex marriage: a gain in freedom with no change in order (of course, this is really an equal protection case, so it may be a poor example).

    I don’t agree that freedom and order trade off against each other in the way you propose. A society that has both freedom and order is a nice thing to have . . . Your premise only works if you assume that liberals define order in the same way you do, and desire it equally.

    • Sandy says:

      It is probably relevant that I was neither born nor raised in America, so my idea of conservatism is not as strongly rooted in American history as a Republican’s might be. I think America’s conception of individual liberties as a right-wing position is a bit of a standout. There are other positions of the American right that are more in line with the global norm — the emphasis on cultural homogeneity for instance (“We speak English in America!”) is not very different from Bismarck’s kulturkampf or Yew’s promotion of model Malayans and ethnic neutrality. And that in turn has much to do with order, ask Robert Putnam how cultural diversity is working out for America.

      In your other comments, you cite oppressive governance as being orderly, and . . . I’m really not sure I’d consider apartheid as an example of the type of order I’d like to see.

      I don’t disagree, but would you consider post-apartheid an example of the type of freedom you’d like to see?

      Race-based stop-and-frisk may be a type of order favored by conservatives, but as a liberal I don’t oppose it because I want to trade one desirable thing (order) against another (freedom). I oppose it because it’s a violation of equal protection. (And it creates its own disorder.)

      In that same vein, it’s a violation of equal protection that Japanese Buddhists aren’t stopped for random checks at airports as often as Arab Muslims, if they are stopped at all. In practice, there is zero point in pretending Japanese Buddhists and Arab Muslims are demographics with comparable risk potential. If the goal is to maximize freedom, I don’t see how inconveniencing everyone for the sake of equal protection accomplishes that versus inconveniencing one group. Of course, this is operating under the assumption that someone necessarily has to be inconvenienced. Homeland Security seems to think so.

  65. TomFL says:

    “Yet another study finds evidence that Tylenol use during pregnancy increases ADHD rates (paper, popular article)”

    I’d really like to see a change on how these headlines are reported. Specifically I’d like to see the size of the effect or the specific subgroup that is affected primarily. These things read as “Tylenol causes ADHD” and since I have lost all patience to read these things any more due to the headline abuse I pretty much ignore them completely, they convey no information to me.

    Not saying the author is guilty of anything here, just that this is a kind of a click bait technique I have become immune to.

  66. doodoomcfly says:

    I hope to god your (didn’t mention genes, but should have) comment doesn’t imply what I think it does. I’ve heard some leftists smear rationalists as race realist types, but until now I’ve never seen anything suggesting that was true…

    • The Nybbler says:

      “Race Realism” as exemplified by _American Renaissance_ (“The Thinking Man’s Stormfront” — not their actual motto) goes a lot further than merely considering the hypothesis that genetics have something to do with success. The race realists have not only asked that question, they’ve answered it… and the answer is always “it’s race”, and furthermore they assign a moral value to race. It’s pretty much ordinary racism with some science and pseudoscience used as backing, with the effect being more to taint the science than to illuminate anything.

      • doodoomcfly says:

        Fair enough, but can we acknowledge mentioning genetic factors to success in connection with a Nordic people brings up some unfortunate associations? Bringing it up without a caveat just makes it look worse.

        • The Nybbler says:

          I’m not sure what such a caveat would accomplish. People who don’t want to consider genetic factors would not find such a caveat to be convincing, and might even consider it an admission of wrongthinking. People who aren’t bothered by it don’t need it.

        • cassander says:

          The fact that people might consider such an association more problematic than actually being wrong about a very important is precisely what the anti-PC people are complaining about.

  67. Sandy says:

    I don’t know if Jill Stein is just really Woke or playing along

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      That’s a parody account, right? It’s got to be a parody account. Even for the Green Party that’s… No, I can’t believe it.

      I was about to add that no Presidential candidate could possibly say something like that seriously, but then I remembered that Donald Trump is running this year and he’d totally say something like that seriously. What is it with 2016, anyway?

      • Sandy says:

        Trump did comment on the unjust slaying of Shahid Harambe al-Cincinatti, but at least that was because someone asked him about it at a press conference (I don’t know why).

        Stein is apparently using the incident to make the point that zoos should be abolished, which reminded me of a bit in Life of Pi where Pi gives a spirited defense of zoos from the standpoint of animal protection.

        I know zoos are no longer in people’s good graces. Religion faces the same problem. Certain illusions about freedom plague them both.

    • God Damn John Jay says:

      I’m reminded of the story about a person who insists that his lawn gnome is ironic, and the listener admonishes him that nobody places gnomes as if they were great art.

      I once expressed mild surprise at the presence of a garden gnome in an upper-middle-class garden …. The owner of the garden explained that the gnome was “ironic”. I asked him, with apologies for my ignorance, how one could tell that his garden gnome was supposed to be an ironic statement, as opposed to, you know, just a gnome. He rather sniffily replied that I only had to look at the rest of the garden for it to be obvious that the gnome was a tounge-in-cheek joke.

      But surely, I persisted, garden gnomes are always something of a joke, in any garden—I mean, no-one actually takes them seriously or regards them as works of art. His response was rather rambling and confused (not to mention somewhat huffy), but the gist seemed to be that while the lower classes saw gnomes as intrinsically amusing, his gnome was amusing only because of its incongruous appearance in a “smart” garden. In other words, council-house gnomes were a joke, but his gnome was a joke about council-house tastes, effectively a joke about class….

      The man’s reaction to my questions clearly defined him as upper-middle, rather than upper class. In fact, his pointing out that the gnome I had noticed was “ironic” had already demoted him by half a class from my original assessment. A genuine member of the upper classes would either have admitted to a passion for garden gnomes … or said something like “Ah yes, my gnome. I’m very fond of my gnome.” and left me to draw my own conclusions.

      — Kate Fox’s Watching the English

      Stein is trying to make a segway based on pop-culture to her campaign, its just awkward in the “Hello fellow teens” sense. Its easy to make someone sound like an idiot by insisting their lighthearted statements are taken completely seriously.

      • cassander says:

        As someone who grew up in very wealthy circumstances, this distinction exists in the US too, though perhaps not as clear. People that are comfortable with their wealth don’t try to show it off. It’s the people who are new to wealth, or actually not that wealthy, that make a big deal of it. In a similar vein, I’ve often described Donald Trump’s persona as “a poor person’s idea of what a really rich person is like.”

  68. namae nanka says:

    Contrary to previous belief, places with an excess of men over women are not necessarily prone to social instability.

    As Douglas Knight mentions, it’s the standard belief until books like these,

    https://www.aei.org/publication/sex-matters/

    The only part of his review that makes it to the amazon page for the book is ‘an impressive and comprehensive account of sex ratios’.

    ————————–
    After writing all that I went to check the article you linked and lo and behold there’s the Bare Branches mention which makes the start of the article especially ironic,

    ‘Contrary to traditional expectations of unbalanced sex ratios’

  69. dan says:

    >everybody who covers Silicon Valley has to write articles about how “white” it is, even though it’s one of the least white industries in the country and possibly >50% minority.

    “White” here is just a slur for intelligent, educated and nonviolent.

  70. wintermute92 says:

    A small point in defense of the FDA: this study () suggests that ecigs have been understudied for non-nicotine toxins, and are less safe than simple substitution would suggest.

    Although this still points to the “bureaucrats have incentives to avoid new harms, but not to escape old ones” theory.

  71. Evan says:

    “Without government, who would build the roads?”

    Not smugglers as in the link. Without government, there would be no smugglers.

    Also, on sex ratios and violence, the causality may be backwards. Violence causes lower numbers of males as most homicide victims are male. (The killer, also usually male, may be incarcerated or otherwise taken out of the pool also.)

    • cassander says:

      If it’s profitable for the smugglers to build roads, presumably it would still be profitable if they weren’t smugglers.

      • The Nybbler says:

        It’s the government which provides the barrier to entry which allows enough money to be made to make it profitable to build roads.

        • gbdub says:

          People are apparently willing to pay the distributors enough to cover both road building AND overcoming government entry barriers and anti-distribution mechanisms, so presumably it would still be profitable if they only had to pay the road building part.

  72. John Ohno says:

    Re: Cracked — you probably shouldn’t be surprised at sophisticated & in-depth reporting from them; they lean strongly toward info-tainment & their editorial policies encourage high-quality content. Specifically: they cast a wide net, pay well, require pitch submissions to be supplemented with references, and generally will write a complete factual article before inserting dick jokes. The comedy stuff funds the less amusing & more in-depth items. Given the contents of the podcasts & the other writing by the editorial staff, there’s a lot of interest in the behavioral economics / cognitive psychology / sociology axis, & they do a better job covering it than more targetted media like YANSS.

    • Hollyluja says:

      Yes! I just started listening to the podcast, and it was so different and so much better than what I was expecting, I think they should changed their name to something not associated with fart-jokes.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      Cracked did have a lot of relatively smart content, along with a bizarre obsession with Back to the Future, but they also went all-in on the “fuck white guys” bandwagon. It was actually a pretty abrupt transition, it felt like one month it was a comedy site and the next it was wall-to-wall agitprop.

      I’d read their actual comedy lists again if it didn’t mean giving them clicks and pageviews.

      • Sandy says:

        Looking back to when I used to browse Cracked, I think the tonal shift really started when they hired Luke McKinney. Those first few articles about how superhero tits are Awful and people who read things with superhero tits in them are Awful were weird. Then there was John Cheese, the most insufferably preachy bastard in the universe. Their first regular female columnist, I don’t even remember her name, would just reel out article after article about the Patriarchy.

        It’s a shame because they were fantastic around when Seanbaby used to have a column. I didn’t know the first thing about MMA but his ridiculous characterizations of fights I’d never seen were some of the funniest things I’d ever read.

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          Seanbaby was the best, all can agree.

          The man is a master of descriptions. My all-time favorite though has to be:

          He moved like space squids hollowed out a sex offender and were drunk driving him.

          I didn’t even remember who was being described or the article it was from, but I can find it by memory just from that one line.

  73. Justin says:

    There’s already a ton of comments here so I suspect it has already been mentioned, but while the 19% of GDP thing is (for the most part) true, but it doesn’t have the implications alleged by Reason.

    The main reason why revenue is relatively stable is because that was the intention of policy makers. The top rate isn’t the only thing that is changing. The top right might fall, but the base could be broadened (by reducing the threshold for the top rate to apply, by limiting deductions, etc.) Even a large tax hike or cut also wouldn’t move the needle unless there was an intentional and dramatic expansion or contraction of the size of government. If you cut taxes 10% across the board (which is a massive tax cut) and taxes previously collected 19% of GDP, they will still collect 17.1% of GDP, plus or minus a bit of noise due to the state of the economy changing, behavioral response, etc.

    Also, individual income taxes are just a part of overall federal revenue, and there are trends within each category. For example, corporate income taxes raised 5.4% of GDP in 1954 but only 1.9% in 2014, whereas social insurance taxes raised 1.9% in 1954 and 5.9% in 2014. Excise taxes raised 2.6% of GDP in 1954, but only 0.5% in 2014.

    There are limits to how much taxes the federal government can collect, but the idea shared in Reason that 21% of GDP is impossible for the government to achieve is simply incorrect – the government could surely tax that much of the economy if it wanted to, but that would represent a tax increase of 3.5% of GDP from 2014 levels, something like $650 billion annually, and it would most likely be difficult to achieve politically.

    Data here

  74. a bigot says:

    Important fact about old tom: he was an orca, and did not herd other orcas to be killed, but rather balleen whales. So, no treason (very bad), just bigotry (which I count as morally positive nowadays. Boy, am I getting weird)

  75. The “Without government, who would build the roads?” argument strikes me as stupid given the history of roads. Traditionally, those who traveled them either paid a toll, or those who were located on the road pooled their money and hired someone to do it or did it themselves. Any of these works, and none are particularly complicated. I use the same in my argument against public schooling, which is that we should dump the whole program. Parents can spend money as they see fit, either homeschooling or getting the whole neighborhood together and hiring a teacher. No free riders = lessened tragedy of the commons.

    • DavidS says:

      Do you have references for this road point? Genuinely interested, as I’d always mostly assumed roads were government affairs, right back to the Romans