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Open Thread 59.75

This is the twice-weekly hidden open thread. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever.

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813 Responses to Open Thread 59.75

  1. At a considerable tangent, suggested by events so far in this election season …

    Are the Republicans more open to political amateurs as presidential candidates? Trump is the obvious striking example, but Ben Carson is another. Have there been any halfway serious Democratic candidates for the presidential nomination in recent election years who were not professional politicians at the level just below president–senators, governors, and the like? How many serious Republican amateurs have there been in past years?

    In a way this connects to my curiosity about why Hilary has been the obvious Democratic candidate for so long–all the way back to 2008, although that time she ended up losing. Possible explanations:

    1. The candidate is really Billary and lots of Democrats are happy with how the team performed in the past.

    2. Lots of Democrats wanted a female candidate.

    3. Hilary is an unusually competent politician.

    4. The Clinton political machine had a lot of influence over the party, just as the Bush machine has a lot of influence over the Republican party.

    • John Schilling says:

      Are the Republicans more open to political amateurs as presidential candidates?

      I would suggest that the Republicans are more open to the idea that executive experience in business can substitute for executive experience in government, probably because of greater respect for market institutions generally. That gives them a path towards nominating “political outsiders” that isn’t open to Democrats. But that’s clearly not the whole of the GOP’s openness to amateurs, as see e.g. Pat Buchanan’s 20% or so of the primary vote in 1992 and 1996.

      On the Democratic side, Jesse Jackson roughly matched Buchanan’s performance eight years earlier, with roughly the same background as a non-officeholding political commentator and gadfly. And I’d argue that Barack Obama is a marginal case with less than a full term in the Senate before throwing his hat in the ring, and arguably his 2004 convention address was an announcement of his status as Heir Presumptive to the Democratic Nomination only a few months after his Senate election.

      So I think both parties place a strong value on experience, with the GOP more willing to accept “equivalent” experience from outside the government and the Democrats being more willing to lower the bar for a promising newcomer when they see a need for fresh blood. People who talk a good game but don’t have the resume to back it up seem to be capped at ~20% of the primary vote in both parties. But that’s necessarily based on a small number of data points, and I’m dismissing anything pre-WWII as largely irrelevant to the current political climate.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Barack Obama served in the Illinois state legislature for 8 years before being elected to the US Senate. He was not a political neophyte when showed up on the stage in 2004.

        • John Schilling says:

          The Illinois state legislature is not “at the level just below president”, which was the specified criteria, and state legislatures are one of the places where the ideal of the citizen-legislator taking time out of their private career to serve for a term or two is still somewhat applicable.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Sure, but it informs his tenure in the Senate.

            Compare him to John Edwards, who also is running for the Democratic nomination during his first term in the Senate, but had no political service beforehand, and comes in a far distant second to John Kerry (and is subsequently named to the Kerry ticket).

            Edwards came off as slick and calculating in a way that Obama never really did. Of course, that might be because Edwards is slick and calculating … but, it’s still a data point in an otherwise small set.

    • houseboatonstyxb says:

      @ David Friedman

      CN – This is a mixture of my own reasons and my Typical Mind speculations about the reasons of other Democrats.

      1) is most certain as it’s based on fact, ie the record of Billary in the 90s.
      2) many did, but I at least would have supported any Billary Surrogate, Gore preferred of course.
      3) depending on what is meant by ‘politician’. When in a job, Hillary does a good job and polls well. Some people like to say she is bad at campaigning, but I like her methods: appearances with small groups to talk in depth about their particular concerns. And I like her positive appearance and manners; if nothing else, she’s demonstrating emotional stamina, consistency, ability to raise the spirit of others and keep them on focus. She has done a good job of attracting the supporters needed for the primaries and for the general*. I followed 2008 closely, and there too she had a very near majority of the primary votes.
      4) dunno what people mean by a ‘machine’. Whatever it is, it didn’t help her in 2008 (which really was rigged for Obama ;-).

      why Hilary has been the obvious Democratic candidate for so long–all the way back to 2008

      In the 2008 primary she demonstrated her ability, stamina, etc. My guess is that in 2016 no one serious in either party dared run against her; they knew she’d win and he’d get tagged as a loser. Before 2008 I dunno; she had won well as NY Senator. Or maybe the 90s reputation had carried that far.

      * In November 2008, exit polls showed she would have got more votes than Obama did. Nice when she wasn’t on the ballot and her Hillary-Only supporters couldn’t be exit polled because they had stayed home.

  2. Kevin C. says:

    Given that basic income/minimum guaranteed income is a frequent topic here, has anyone else read David Colander’s “A Minimum Guaranteed Jobs Proposal“?

    While I’m not a fan of basic income programs, including for “idle hands” and “skill decay” reasons, Colander’s proposal seems worse. He admits that the jobs would be pointless make-work:

    The mental tasks might be activities such as keyboarding practice, doing arithmetic exercises on an internet training program, doing exercises in word processing, doing spread sheets, reading reports and summarizing them, or completing online courses. The physical tasks might include doing specific exercises, digging holes and filling them, moving weights, and other similar type activities. The goal of these activities is not to produce usable output for society, but to provide work activities by which people can translate their time into income.

    One can also lose their “guaranteed” employment:

    The guaranteed minimum job will require the worker to go to work at standard working hours — variations of an 8 hour day — and meet the normal job requirements that low-wage private and government employers impose on their employees — dress codes, behavior codes, such as showing up on time, demonstrating the appropriate attitude, and being responsible. Individuals who do not meet these standards can be fired

    And what happens to those unable to hold down a job? Colander doesn’t say directly, but in his section on estimating the cost of his proposal:

    Only a portion of those currently classified as unemployed would choose to participate in this guaranteed government jobs program. Even many of the long-term unemployed would likely not choose to participate, preferring instead to be supported by their family, friends, or savings.

    [Emphasis added]
    Which seems to imply to me that those who get fired from their “guaranteed employment” are left to either mooch off relatives or starve to death.

    He also doesn’t say whether those on disability will be forced onto this program, or will be alongside “full-time students, Social Security recipients, and non-citizens” who would be ineligible for the government-provided jobs.

    And it seems like he mostly just takes as evident that heavily-monitored, pointless, useless make-work should be a goal, inherently superior to just giving people money.

    Anyone else’s thoughts on this?

    • Stefan Drinic says:

      Brave New World was written 80 years ago. Seems a little odd to reinvent it.

    • Terrible idea. I agree that it is a good thing for people to be productively employed at something useful. Make work does not help anyone. I always say better honest welfare than fake work. I think we should provide welfare for everyone to stay above the poverty line. It is better for people if they can find productive work, but better nothing than this. Maybe we could even recruit those on welfare to do some worthwhile volunteer activities, but they can’t do that if they are forced to dig holes and re-fill them.

    • AoxyMouseOnArgo says:

      I have a thought. I sometimes suspect a great deal of *work* is actually effectively brave-new world work.

      What comes to mind in the intellectual field are the giant amount of papers in lots of academia. I mean, String Theory itself may have been publish or perish for the intellectual giants of the world!

      I’m not sure how society structured itself the way it is, since after efficiently building an object in the first place, there is only occasional maintenance that needs to be done, except in certain fields (like agricultural, where <1 percent of the population is located).

      Quite frankly, it seems all of society has decided to do some version of that. A worker getting paid by the hour fixing a car, a white collar worker putting in political pull adding in some laws saying they have to stay there. Or, school not being turned into a more efficient cram-school(not saying that cramming is the best way to teach people)

    • cassander says:

      >And what happens to those unable to hold down a job? Colander doesn’t say directly, but in his section on estimating the cost of his proposal:

      The simplest solution, I think, would simply be to send them home for the day without pay and told to come back tomorrow meeting the standard.

  3. John Schilling says:

    People are missing the point here. It isn’t the content of the latest Trumpism that matters, but the timing. The content couldn’t be trivial, it had to be something that people could point to and at least say, “OK, that’s not really a big deal but there’s a demographic that might have voted for Trump and is going to overreact”. That’s not a huge bar to clear. But it had to be this week.

    This is the week following Trump’s lackluster first debate performance, the week that his leaked tax returns painted him as an inept businessman or a tax cheat or both, the week that he didn’t seem to have anything better to do than double down on fat jokes against Miss Universe. And the week that Hillary Clinton didn’t collapse in front of a camera, the week that Wikileaks didn’t come through with the emails where she sold out the country to the Chinese. The week when Trump’s numbers took their biggest dive since July but without three months of campaigning to recover. The week when the outside perception of Trump’s campaign wound up balanced on the knife edge between “faint hope” and “not a chance in Hell”.

    If you’re on the Titanic and the iceberg breaches four watertight compartments, you stay with the ship – the North Atlantic is lethally cold, and you’re probably not going to be rescued in time. If the fifth watertight compartment is breached, you need to be in one of the first lifeboats, because those might be rescued in time. Same deal if only four compartments are breached but you start to see officers running for the lifeboats.

    And that analogy holds not just for Republicans, but for journalists. Treating Trump as a joke candidate when he actually had the support he needed to win primaries, a lot of reporters learned that lesson the hard way early on. But treating him as a serious contender while all of your colleagues shower him with ridicule on his path to landslide defeat, that’s not a winning career move either.

    Going into this week, everyone in the GOP establishment and everyone in the media was asking, “now was that five watertight compartments or only four?”. The next blunder or revelation, if it broke against Trump rather than Hillary, was water in the fifth compartment. Unless it is clearly trivial, it is a Schelling point for every Republican who wants to know when the party is going to start preparing for the inevitable Clinton victory, for every journalist who wants to know when the celebratory dogpile is scheduled to begin.

    (Ed. Ninja’d by Deiseach, more or less)

    • FacelessCraven says:

      This.

      I welcome our new Democratic Party overlords.

      • Deiseach says:

        Is there any chance Hillary will make a misstep now? With the perception that victory has been handed to her on a plate, that she might let something slip? I can’t imagine anything equally as damaging leaking, but the way this entire campaign has gone, I’m not going to treat it as a normal election.

        The big question, I suppose, is where will Trump’s votes go? Say the hardest of the hard core stick with him, but where will the “I was going to hold my nose and vote for him because he’s my party candidate, but now I have no idea what the hell to do” voters turn?

        Could Johnson pick them up? Is this the kind of unexpected lucky break that just might push a third party candidate into a respectable finish? I’m not expecting him to do anything near a challenge to Hillary, but instead of the result being “Hillary 53%, Trump 43%, and the other candidates somewhere down the field”, it could be “Hillary X%, Trump Y% and hey, here’s Johnson with Z%!”

        • Stefan Drinic says:

          where will Trump’s votes go

          They may well just stay at home, just as a double-digit percentage amount of voters already does.

        • LHN says:

          I’d love to believe it. But given how much of the party establishment seems to want to treat McMullin seriously (and he’s to Johnson as Johnson is to a major party candidate), I get the sense that they’re pretty allergic to Johnson.

          That said, I do expect this to boost Johnson’s overall vote. But I’ll at least be surprised if he makes it to, e.g., Perot’s percentage. (That said, there are signs Trump may have managed to sufficiently alienate Utah, and its votes have to go somewhere.)

        • orangecat says:

          Is there any chance Hillary will make a misstep now? With the perception that victory has been handed to her on a plate, that she might let something slip?

          Unlikely. She should now be able to go back to the run-out-the-clock strategy she was using before Trump got within striking distance.

          Could Johnson pick them up? Is this the kind of unexpected lucky break that just might push a third party candidate into a respectable finish?

          Maybe a few, most will probably just abstain. Although a second-order effect is that if Clinton looks to be clearly winning, some progressives might decide it’s safe to vote for Jill Stein. We could end up with something like Clinton 46, Trump 40, Johnson 10, Stein 4, which would be the best I’m hoping for at this point: we don’t elect a lunatic, it becomes unavoidably obvious that Clinton is very unpopular, and the third parties have to be acknowledged as significant players.

          • Gazeboist says:

            In 1912, Roosevelt and Taft split the Republican vote 27.4% to 23.2% (roughly). Woodrow Wilson received 41.8% of the popular vote and claimed a clear mandate. The Bull Moose party dissolved by 1916. I’d be surprised if 2016 ultimately helps 3rd parties.

          • pku says:

            Could it help put libertarian ideas on the table, though?

        • Much as everyone is treating this election as over, I am doubtful. They’ve always said that the hard core of Trump’s support is lower class white men. I imagine that many of his supporters will have the same reaction of most of us at SSC — where’s the meat? So they caught Trump doing crude and boastful mantalk on the bus 11 years ago — this is just locker room boasting. It is the establishment that is acting so shocked — and they’ve been the enemy of the Trump camp from the beginning. How is this any different?

          Trump may lose a few women that are inexplicably shocked at this. But I doubt that most women are very surprised either.

          • pku says:

            Thing is though, that base isn’t enough to win the election. If he alienates the rest of the voters enough, it’ll be a landslide.
            Like, here’s one plausible scenario where they lose him votes: A lot of other republicans disavowed him, so maybe a significant number of “hold your nose and vote for Trump” republicans follow their lead and conclude that split-ticket voting (or just sitting it out) is okay.
            I wouldn’t say this kills him, but it’s more likely to harm than help him, and his odds were already fairly low.

  4. Aegeus says:

    You’re not the only one who has that theory of scandal. Nate Silver’s take on it: http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/electric-minor-political-scandal-acid/

    I was also a little perplexed that this was what caused a mass exodus from his campaign, but, here’s an interesting theory I heard: Previously, Trump had the defense of “He’s not an asshole, he just plays one on TV for ratings.” Releasing a private version of Trump that looks exactly like his public version shuts that line of defense down. So a lot of moderates who were staking their hopes on that are going to start bailing.

    The other theory I’ve heard is that it’s just a much bigger demographic he offended this time around. Hispanics and black people, in theory, are demographics you could win without. So Republicans, even if they winced at the rapist comments, were willing to stay aboard the crazy train. Women are 53℅ of the electorate. So that means that the establishment has good reason to think that this was the killing blow, and they would be better off cutting ties, pulling endorsements, and trying to win down-ticket races on their own.

    (For what it’s worth, Trump was declining in the polls even before this, because of his loss in the debate. I think this was a nail in the coffin rather than the decisive blow.)

    Edit: I meant to reply to onyomi, but his comment on the Trump video has vanished. How did I end up here?

    • onyomi says:

      Apologies for that.

      Sometimes I post something and decide I’m not too keen to wade into the issue, and so delete it. But I’ll repost the relevant bit here.

      “I had a thought: it seems to fit my theory of scandal, which is that only scandals which provide tangible evidence of something people already thought tend to stick.

      This is a little counterintuitive. One might expect surprising information to stick: someone you thought was a choir boy caught on tape saying something lewd. But I think it’s the reverse: someone you kind of already knew was a cad who doesn’t respect women caught on tape saying something that reveals you were right. Or with Romney: someone you suspect doesn’t respect welfare recipients caught on tape, etc.”

      And thanks for the link. I think my idea is basically Silver’s no. 2. The others are good points as well, including “is the media bored?”

    • Deiseach says:

      Does this just provide the excuse to dump him that the Republicans were seeking? After all, in order to abandon your party’s candidate against the other party’s candidate, you need to have a very solid reason. Simply disliking Trump wasn’t enough, and Hillary’s victory wasn’t perceived as completely a sure thing even if Trump was fading.

      But now it’s thought all the women’s votes will definitely go to Hilary, she’s for sure the winner, so now is the best time to dump Trump and get started on planning for the 2020 campaign instead, with all the lessons learned from this campaign in order to make sure they don’t mess up the same way again. Even Trump’s supporters will have to realise that his failure is assured, the Republicans continuing to back him won’t make any difference, and it can’t be spun into a narrative that Trump lost only because he was betrayed and back-stabbed by the Republican Party who abandoned him because they were too snooty, didn’t like him and he was a threat to their hegemony.

      In other words, it’s not the content of what he said, rather that it provided the perfect exit – they can dump him without guilt and try to claw back some kind of “this is a point of principle” credit while doing so.

      • onyomi says:

        Can we just draft Ron Paul to take his place?

        Or maybe they should all endorse Gary Johnson, and, assuming he loses, they can get a two-for-one deal to ruin the populists and the libertarians with one blow.

        • BBA says:

          Ron Paul has semi-endorsed Jill Stein. The whole universe is a lie.

          • onyomi says:

            That is pretty bizarre. Though Ron Paul is really, really, really anti-war. As in, he would endorse the most anti-war candidate regardless of their other positions. And I think he may also have some kind of personal problem with Gary Johnson, though I’m not sure what. Maybe the pro-choice thing is part of it.

            I, personally, kind of had a pipe dream for a Johnson-Stein ticket after seeing them apparently agree with each other in the 2012 third party debates. But then I read Stein’s actual positions on her website…

          • Tekhno says:

            I think he may also have some kind of personal problem with Gary Johnson

            Well, Gary Johnson probably has dementia, so there’s that.

          • rmtodd says:

            Ron Paul has semi-endorsed Jill Stein. The whole universe is a lie.

            No, Ron Paul didn’t, and the whole universe isn’t a lie, just MSNBC (which isn’t unusual). See http://reason.com/blog/2016/10/03/ron-paul-did-not-endorse-jill-stein-or-l for details. What Ron Paul said was this:

            “If you have a sincere progressive, I knew ’em, I’ve worked with ’em, and they say ‘one of the most important issues to me is civil liberties and change in our foreign policy,’ Jill Stein, vote for her….”

            So, basically, he said progressives might want to vote for a progressive candidate. Wow, that’s a real shocker right there.

        • John Schilling says:

          Can we just draft Ron Paul to take his place?

          You could have done that, oh, I don’t know, nine months ago.

          Donald Trump’s name, and no other, will appear on the ballots as the GOP’s candidate for president. If Donald Trump choses to withdraw – and only if he choses to withdraw, he can’t be forced out even by unanimous consent of every other party member – then the electors pledged to vote for Donald Trump will be free to vote their conscience. They can’t be forced to vote for Ron Paul, and nobody will believe you if you say they are going to vote for anyone but Mike Pence or maybe Paul Ryan.

          You bought the ticket, the train has left the station, so enjoy the ride.

          • onyomi says:

            Well, personally, I wanted a Rand Paul ticket…

          • LHN says:

            If Donald Trump choses to withdraw – and only if he choses to withdraw, he can’t be forced out even by unanimous consent of every other party member – then the electors pledged to vote for Donald Trump will be free to vote their conscience.

            As far as I know, the only thing stopping them is their conscience (with respect to their pledged vote) and potential backlash from the party, plus in some states a potential monetary fine that might or might not stand up under judicial scrutiny. (And probably could be indemnified or made up for by party favors if the party establishment actually wanted them to do it.)

            Of course, doing it outside the rules for replacing a nominee (which requires him to voluntarily withdraw or to be incapacitated) is a pretty serious coordination problem.

            I’m guessing it doesn’t matter much. At this point, it seems unlikely that there’ll be a Republican majority of electors, so whether they defect en masse, individually, or remain solid for Trump is unlikely to affect the election.

            It could if Clinton didn’t get an electoral majority (since only the top three electoral vote-getters can be considered by the House). But while that would be an interesting situation, at the moment it’s not looking very likely. (As far as I know.)

          • onyomi says:

            More seriously: my reaction to the optics of the VP debate was to think: the GOP would be killing it right now if this guy were at the top of the ticket. He’s basically everything Trump would need to be right now to be successful: polished, calm, convincingly religious.

            Could they just replace Trump with Pence, have Pence pick a running mate, and have all previous early ballots cast for Trump/Pence count instead for Pence/? ?

          • John Schilling says:

            Could they just replace Trump with Pence, have Pence pick a running mate, and have all previous early ballots cast for Trump/Pence count instead for Pence

            No. Seriously, how many times do we have to explain this? Donald Trump is a candidate for President of the United States, he met all the requirements, his name is already printed on the ballots, and if people chose to vote for him, their votes will be counted for him. It would be grossly illegal, and would destroy the legitimacy of our democratic system of government, for any outside group to arbitrarily reassign the votes people actually cast to a different candidate.

            If anyone wants to vote for President Mike Pence, or President Evan McMullan, they are free to write those names into the blank space provided for such. And the GOP leadership is free to recommend that people do so.

          • LHN says:

            If anyone wants to vote for President Mike Pence, or President Evan McMullan, they are free to write those names into the blank space provided for such.

            Not necessarily. Or: they can write those names in, but they won’t necessarily be counted. E.g., in Cook County, Illinois:

            [A] write-in candidate must submit a Write-in Candidate Declaration of Intent form at the Cook County Clerk’s downtown Chicago office, 69 W. Washington St., Fifth Floor.

            The Clerk’s office will provide a list of eligible write-in candidates to each precinct on Election Day. This list enables election judges to determine which write-in candidates are running in their precinct. Only votes for eligible write-in candidates are counted.

            The declaration of intent has to be filed 61 days before the election, so it’s not an option anymore for this one.

            You might say that this sort of contravenes the entire concept of a write-in candidate, and I wouldn’t disagree, but there it is.

            I have no idea how many jurisdictions have similar restrictions on which write-in votes are counted. But at least in Cook County, votes for president will be cast for Trump, Clinton, Johnson, or Stein, and for no one else.

            (Unless maybe someone got a DoI in for McMullin, which is conceivable. Definitely not Pence, though.)

            ETA McMullin is a permitted write-in candidate, along with seventeen other people I’ve never heard of. (None of the now-bruited Republican replacement candidates, of course.)

          • John Schilling says:

            LHN: You’re right, of course, and to elaborate:

            To be a candidate for POTUS, one must meet the Constitutional age/citizenship/residency requirements, and one must prior to the appropriate deadlines submit to the bureaucracy of fifty states(*) paperwork saying “I, Foo Bar, am running for president. If someone writes ‘Foo Bar’ on the ballot, they mean me and not any of the other ‘Foo Bars’ in the phone book. Here’s my contact info, and here’s the list of people who have volunteered serve as electors pledged to me and who the voters are technically electing”.

            In most states, I believe both Donald Trump and Evan McMullin have done this, Mike Pence and the other mooted Trump-replacements have not. In some states, not sure if it is a majority, the deadline has passed – but this is the sort of thing where one could plausibly go to court and say “come on, we all know that if someone writes in ‘Mike Pence’ they mean the one who was just running for Veep, you can’t use a bureaucratic deadline to thwart the Will of the Voters”. There is legal precedent for that sort of thing, within reason.

            To be a candidate for POTUS with one’s name printed on the ballot, one also has to submit to each state either A: a petition with a metric buttload of signatures showing that you are for real or B: an endorsement from an organization that has shown enough support so consistently in the past that we don’t make them waste time with the petitions any more. There are approximately four such organizations in the United States today, they’ve all submitted their endorsements and paperwork, and those deadlines are harder to tweak because of the logistics of validating petitions and printing ballots.

            The only vaguely Republican candidates printed on the ballot will be Donald Trump and, in a few states, Evan McMullan. That’s almost impossible to change. If no new paperwork is filed, the only vaguely (R) candidates for whom votes will even be counted are Trump and McMullan, but that could plausibly be changed to include Pence. The odds of a Pence or McMullan write-in gathering enough votes to swing an election are smaller than even for Johnson or Stein, but if it really matters to the GOP that their protest votes be counted they can tell everyone to write in McMullan or have their lawyers try to get Pence on the list.

            * Or fewer, if you think you can afford to forgo some electoral votes

    • Tekhno says:

      dump Trump and get started on planning for the 2020 campaign instead, with all the lessons learned from this campaign in order to make sure they don’t mess up the same way again.

      I wonder if the lesson they will learn is something stupid like “See? We need to back more amnesty loving establishment neoconservatives that our base hates instead of populist nationalists”, as opposed to “See? We need to back an intelligent, emotionally stable populist nationalist instead of a complete buffoon tactless corrupt scandalous moron populist nationalist!”

      • Skef says:

        Isn’t the perennial lesson conservatives take away from an electoral defeat (and sometimes a success) that the mistake was failing to nominate a “true conservative”? It seems easy enough to read Trump’s problems that way.

        • Kevin C. says:

          Yes. Because the Republican party are the Washington Generals of politics; their number one job is to lose; to put on a good enough show to trick people into thinking there’s an actual contest, that the outcome isn’t already pre-determined, and that discontent with the direction or pace of “progress” can be addressed by voting for the guy with an R after his name, yes, but still first and foremost to ultimately cave to the Inner Party.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          The Republican base often draws that conclusion; the Republican party leadership generally concludes the opposite.

      • hlynkacg says:

        We need to back an intelligent, emotionally stable populist nationalist instead of a complete buffoon.

        The real trick is finding one.

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        I don’t think it’s controversial to state that an intelligent, emotionally stable populist nationalist would be ahead by fifteen points right now.

      • Tekhno says:

        @Skef

        Well, the NeverTrump conservatives have been making the Trump’s not a “true conservative” argument all along, and they’ll be vindicated as he crashes and burns.

        That will be learning exactly the wrong lesson, of course. True conservatism’s expiry date is already up. As the white population gradually declines, the appeal of populist nationalism is going to grow, and the appeal of “principled conservatism” is going to decline. I mean, that’s the reason Trump even exists in the first place. Trump didn’t create the desire for that kind of politics among the Republican base; he was just riding the wave created by fears over ISIS, immigration, and the what’s happening in Europe, and even when he falls off, the wave is going to keep going and gaining in height and momentum.

        Now, in the long run the hope is that conservatism will appeal to hispanics (the “natural conservatives” meme, but the Democrats are going to be able to outflank the Republicans on that for a long time yet. For now we are heading into a much more turbulent time, and I don’t think Trump’s failure is the end of that. The base is becoming more populist-nationalist and if the GOP doesn’t respond to that it will be punished.

        @hlynkacg

        Trump is a really really low bar.

        • onyomi says:

          “Trump didn’t create the desire for that kind of politics among the Republican base; he was just riding the wave created by fears over ISIS, immigration, and the what’s happening in Europe, and even when he falls off, the wave is going to keep going and gaining in height and momentum.”

          Yeah, the thing that makes me think maybe he’s not a one-off phenomenon or something that’s going to go away when old people die is the fact of people like Putin, Xi Jinping, Duterte, Le Pen, and the success of Brexit all happening right now. There seems to be some kind of nationalist populist wave going on right now beyond particulars of US political history.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            There seems to be some kind of nationalist populist wave going on right now beyond particulars of US political history.

            For this particular brand of right wingyness to flourish, all you need is an amount of impoverished/endangered (formerly) middle-class folk. Our current society does seem to fit the bill.

          • hyperboloid says:

            Yeah, the thing that makes me think maybe he’s not a one-off phenomeno… is the fact of people like Putin, Xi Jinping, Duterte, Le Pen, and the success of Brexit all happening right now

            I’m not sure in what sense Putin, or Xi Jinping are are happening now, or Le Pen is happening at all.

            Excluding the four year long Medvedev switcheroo, Putin has been president of the
            Russian federation since I was ten years old.
            It’s true that he has some similarities to Trump style populists, but he came out of an era of post soviet chaos that has no parallel in any western country.

            Xi Jinping was first elected to the politburo standing committee in 2007 and since becoming General Secretary and president he a generally continued the technocratic policies of the Deng Xiaoping era consensus. Fitting him into a narrative about a global wave of populism is stretch to say the least.

            As for Marine Le Pen, the national front controls a sum total of two seats in the French National Assembly. For comparison, from the foundation of the fifth republic in 1958 until the legislative elections in 2002 the French communist party never dropped below thirty seats. Today, even in an era when they are widely agreed to be dying as a political movement, they still hold seven seats.

            It’s true that NF can make a impact in low turnout European Parliament elections, but they will never be a force in national politics to the same extent as the PCF at the hight of it’s power. All that has happened in France is that the same group of anti-system voters has switched from one protest party to another.

        • Tekhno says:

          something that’s going to go away when old people die

          I really wish all those old people would die already so we could test this. The meme has been around for a while.

          The idea is that the GOP is really old, so when the current crop of oldies die their hardline views go with them, to be replaced by the generation below them, each generation neatly getting more liberal. I wonder how true that is. Certainly hardline right wing views lean old, but things like the alt-right, which is becoming bigger all the time on the internet, make me wonder.

          • Lumifer says:

            when the current crop of oldies die their hardline views go with them, to be replaced by the generation below them, each generation neatly getting more liberal. I wonder how true that is.

            Heh.

            Anyone who was not a liberal at 20 years of age had no heart, while anyone who was still a liberal at 40 had no head — attributed to many.

          • onyomi says:

            Yeah, I think the idea that the younger generation will be less intransigent or radical is wrong. They will just be split along different lines. Maybe what actually feels frustrating about politics right now is that the older generation, representing a particular set of coalitions, are sticking around and voting longer than expected while a new generation or two, with its own coalitions and priorities, struggles to get anything done. Of course, this is always going to be happening to some extent, but maybe increased longevity coupled with the “acceleration” of history make it more pronounced now.

            Specifically, the old coalitions were: conservative-religious-family values-nationalist-constitutionally limited government vs. liberal-secular-universalist-progressive government.

            It seems like the fault lines are shifting more towards moldbuggy-protectionist-populist vs. well, liberal-secular-universalist-progressives. In a way, the moldbugs now have to be more radical because their conservatism is, in some sense, not native to them, but “rediscovered.” Libertarians seem again kind of stuck in the middle, though maybe better represented by both new coalitions than either of the old.

            The main thing I would like to see is an actual “small government” party, as opposed to two different flavors of big government party. But the nature of politics may be to disincentivize that, and I’m not sure that’s the way things are splitting right now, unfortunately.

          • Deiseach says:

            It’s the old people that bother to turn out to vote. The younger ones shrug their shoulders, say their individual vote means nothing, they’re disillusioned with the whole charade of politics, the fix is in so why bother?

            All of which may be true, but means you can’t complain about the barn burning down when you wouldn’t help pass the buckets of water along.

          • LHN says:

            @Deiseach While I do vote, I can understand the sentiment that if half the buckets are filled with gasoline and the other half with kerosene, participating in the bucket brigade isn’t necessarily productive.

        • Kevin C. says:

          @Tekhno

          Trump didn’t create the desire for that kind of politics among the Republican base; he was just riding the wave created by fears over ISIS, immigration, and the what’s happening in Europe, and even when he falls off, the wave is going to keep going and gaining in height and momentum.

          So what if “the wave” will be “gaining in height and momentum”?

          The base is becoming more populist-nationalist and if the GOP doesn’t respond to that it will be punished.

          Punished how?

          Oh, and polls consistently show that the “natural conservative” meme is BS, especially on economics. American “small-government conservatism” is pretty much never going to appeal to Hispancis.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Welp, that’s that.

      For Trump, or for the GOP establishment?

    • Anatoly says:

      I’m surprisingly (to myself) annoyed by the hypocrisy of this scandal blowing up in such a huge way. For the record, I’m strongly anti-Trump, and endorse a Hillary vote as a (by far, far, far…) the lesser evil. Two reasons why this ought to be a non-event or close to that:

      1. Trump is already known to be boastful of his sexual successes, including with married women. He’s already known to be misogynistic, to attack and belittle women based on looks etc. What new information is revealed by this tape?

      I mean, suppose we go back in time by one week, and ask all the pundits having their field day with it, and all the Republican senators denouncing Trump today, suppose we sit privately with them, show them the transcript of this tape, and ask: “Do you feel it likely that Trump would’ve said that in private? Does it seem likely given what you know about him, and if you knew he said that privately, would it change your vote?”
      I think the answer is obvious. There’s no new information here beyond the actual release of the private words. The conversation itself does not throw new light on the character of Donald J. Trump as it’s well-known publicly!

      2. This continues the trend of recent decades to essentially ignore the difference between private words and public record. This trend seems to remarkably dangerous, as well as essentially hypocritical in how it’s applied to different people and different beliefs. The recent evisceration of Donald Sterling over private racist remarks recorded by a girlfriend was the same sort of thing.

      People are imperfect, and they inherently conduct themselves differently in private life and in the public eye, based on whatever ideals and goals they’ve constructed for their public persona. That’s a good thing. For example, it’s possible for someone to be a bigot in private life and committed to racial equality in their public duty, and in fact many (probably most?) advances in racial equality have been pushed along by just such people. In that vein, Trump’s *public* remarks e.g. about Rosie O’Donnell ought to be considered much more vile and dangerous than whatever he’s blurted out in private – precisely because they were knowingly public. I also think that Trump’s claim the “Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course” is quite plausible, and all the pundits having their field day right now would likely privately agree with that.

      Look, if this seals the victory for HRC, I’ll still take it. Trump remains the incredibly dangerous candidate and HRC with all her flaws an obviously preferred choice. But, but —

      Of all the reasons to mistrust Trump and deny him the presidency, of all the reasons why he is dangerous, of all the dangers and risks, this – a species of typical sexual male banter in private – seems to be the most trivial one, the most superficial one, the least important one. That it seems to be becoming the strong differentiator is stupid, and I take it to be evidence of the continuing influence of a Puritan strain in the US society (convince me otherwise?). In particular I think I’m losing all respect I had for John McCain. McCain didn’t denounce Trump over his danger to national security, over his *public* remarks on veterans, over etc. etc. etc. – but *this* is what tips him over? A private conversation of boastful sexual banter? What a freaking hypocrite.

      • onyomi says:

        This post makes me feel much better about my own reaction, which was also like “really, THIS is the deal breaker?? You’re shocked, SHOCKED about this?” But since I am less anti-Trump than you, and possibly a filthy misogynist, I wondered if maybe I just didn’t get it. Though I think Nate Silver’s no. 2 in the post Aegeus links below explains some of it.

        • LPSP says:

          Ditto, it’s just run of the mill. The reps are clutching at straws.

        • Yes, exactly. This is one of those times I really feel like an outsider in US politics. Trump’s locker room talk 11 years before he is a candidate for President is more important than his economic or foreign policy? Or his comments that imply that he will ignore the constitution if elected?

          Well, and like you said, it’s not like this isn’t exactly what one would expect of Trump based on the previous 12 months of campaigning.

      • Alejandro says:

        There are two reasons why I think this blew up when previous Trump scandals hadn’t:

        First, there is vivid audio of Trump himself, boasting of things that a very wide segment of the population (including apolitical/undecided voters) consider utterly reprehensible. Most previous scandals were either Trump being accused of reprehensible things by his enemies, or him saying things (e.g. about Muslims or immigrants) that “un-PC” people don’t find all that bad.

        Second, it has been clear for some time that a large part of the GOP leadership cannot stand Trump and was only barely tolerating him for the sake of “party unity”. As Trump’s campaign was doing worse and worse following the first debate, many of them must have been tempted to jump ship and were only not doing it out of fear of being the only ones and be labelled as traitors – a coordination problem. This scandal was the Schelling point were all could coordinate around to do what they were itching to do in the first place.

        • onyomi says:

          “This scandal was the Schelling point were all could coordinate around to do what they were itching to do in the first place.”

          Yes, and I think they wouldn’t be jumping ship if the Trump campaign had been doing well at the time, which is why they are hypocrites.

          The selfish calculation for GOP politicians has always been: denounce Trump and risk looking disloyal/becoming persona non grata in a Trump administration? or stick with Trump and risk going down with him?

          By having a scandal involving the single largest voting group (women), Trump just made it a lot more politically costly to stick with him. And to the extent it lowered his chances of victory, that also improves the risk/reward ratio of jumping ship now.

        • TheWorst says:

          This scandal was the Schelling point were all could coordinate around to do what they were itching to do in the first place.

          I’m under the same impression. I think what made this take off, though, was basically that it’s a sufficiently shiny object to allow pundits to pretend they’ve discovered “news,” in a way that his extensive history of financial misconduct wasn’t. The target audience (“you know, morons“) doesn’t understand and/or care about white-collar crime, or anything else that takes a paragraph to explain.

      • Urstoff says:

        The implication of sexual assault in his comments seem like a big thing to me. There are lots of Trump supporters saying “you’ll here worse things in a locker room” but 1) no you won’t, and 2) if you do, you wouldn’t vote for that moron in the locker room for president.

        • pku says:

          But OTOH, we already had much stronger evidence of Trump committing sexual assault (like actual accusations, including from his first wife). This is, compared to that, weak evidence for his committing sexual assault.

        • Outis says:

          The way I read his comments is that his fame and charisma make him so attractive to some women that they let him do that. If that is true, how is that sexual assault? It seems to me that you need at least one of the following:

          A) All sexual interactions need explicit enthusiastic advance consent. This is the autistic theory of romance that gets promoted in colleges nowadays, and it makes all normal human romancing behavior illegal.

          B) Attraction based on fame or power is inherently illegitimate and is equivalent to coercion. Note that we are not talking about a direct power relationship: Trump was not talking about groping employees, just women who are star-struck by him.

          I think that both of these are untenable and dangerous (A much more so than B). What do you think?

          • Skef says:

            I think that intimate contact like kissing or groping requires some minimum of what might loosely be called “negotiation”, which might be partly or occasionally completely non-verbal. The content of that negotiation could just be flirting, but the idea that it’s OK to just move in and kiss or grope someone who has expressed no interest is nuts. Doing that in a bar for example would get you thrown out pretty much right away.

          • Alejandro says:

            I found The Unit of Caring’s posts on this, replying to the kind of position you defend, very convincing, all the more so because she bends herself backwards to be charitable:

            http://theunitofcaring.tumblr.com/post/151538817376/hey-you-were-asking-for-trump-supporters-to

            http://theunitofcaring.tumblr.com/post/151571344421/it-seems-like-youre-might-be-making

          • Anatoly says:

            I don’t think she bent herself backwards to be charitable. She didn’t try hard. Here’s a bend-yourself-backwards-charitable reading of Trump’s words that doesn’t include assault:

            “Because I’m such a star, and women are star-struck, I can get away with doing anything. When I talk to a woman, I see it in her face that she’s willing to let me do anything. I don’t waste time inviting her on dates or wooing her. I don’t wait [days or hours]. If she’s beautiful, I just lean in for the kiss, and because I’m a star, I’m getting away with it. Then after we’re kissing, I can get away with behavior that a normal guy, not a star like me, would need many dates and much wooing to establish. I can grab her tits, grab her crotch, whatever. She’s star-struck, and she’s willing.”

            This is charitable. When you interpret his words as “I’ll just go to an unfamiliar woman I’ve never seen before and without saying a word, will grab her crotch”, that’s an uncharitable reading. I don’t think that he meant that at all. It’s a separate question of whether he even does what he’s boasting of here, but I don’t think he boasted of that.

            He’s basically saying, in US slang terms, that being a star gets you to second base pretty much immediately, rather than through a series of dates, timid kisses etc. That’s his *message*. It *could* be that he’s actually in real life completely oblivious to the signs that women give out and he’s forcing himself on them in a way that constitutes assault, but he’s not *saying* that, if you read him charitably.

        • Noth'el says:

          Also, I wonder if people are reading a different quote than I am because I don’t see the implication.

          In fact it implies the exact opposite: she wouldn’t let him so he didn’t; in contrast to the hordes of women chasing stars around that do in fact consent to it.

          So making a move and getting turned down is sexual assault now?

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            Uh, yeah. If I grab at a woman’s chest and defend myself saying ‘I was just making a move, and she turned me down’, that’s not going to fly, either.

          • The Nybbler says:

            And if you slowly and visibly move your hand in that direction and she slaps you away, is that sexual assault on your part also? Admittedly I don’t think I’ve seen anything that crude since college, but it strikes me as Trump’s level of “seduction”.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            Part of the issue is that sexual assault, used anywhere else than on this blog, is something which automatically makes you a Bad Person for eternity. It makes discussions like these (imo) needlessly laden.

            That said, edge cases like these reveal everything around sexual assault to be a bravery debate. On one side, we have consent forms being signed in triplicate being necessary for anything. On the other end, we have (fictional? I don’t know of any cases like these, myself) rapists going ‘she should not have lead me on’. Somewhere inbetween those is grabbing at a woman’s crotch uninvitedly, and more than a few people are going to think that it is, indeed, sexual assault.

      • Deiseach says:

        Of all the reasons to mistrust Trump and deny him the presidency, of all the reasons why he is dangerous, of all the dangers and risks, this – a species of typical sexual male banter in private – seems to be the most trivial one, the most superficial one, the least important one.

        I have to agree with you on that, given this gem from the New York Times article on the affair:

        In the afternoon, more damaging news hit the web and cable television, with a CNN report on the numerous lewd and tasteless comments he had made over the years on “The Howard Stern Show.”

        Excuse me? Howard Stern made a career out of being lewd and tasteless, and moreover he presented himself as – and was caressed in the popular media as – a hero being persecuted by the fuddy-duddies (“Stern ended the program after 69 episodes, in 1992. By this time, the radio show had been the subject of several fines issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over material it deemed indecent. As part of his rally against the FCC’s actions, Stern released a compilation album of censored radio segments titled Crucified by the FCC in early 1991″). If you were invited onto his show, it wasn’t for a quiet chat about your favourite recording of Soave sia il vento, it was for bragging, innuendo, and stupid teenage boy jokes (yeah, I’m one of the prudes who didn’t and don’t like that kind of crap on the public airwaves).

        Are we going to see Howard Stern being rebuked in the press for enabling and encouraging Trump’s crudity?

        If Trump really did boast or talk about anything like sexual assaults, then that’s serious, and something to be investigated, but given that everyone seems to be talking about “lewd and crude” and not “alleged rape”, I’ll wait and see what happens further.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        I’m going to agree with Urstoff, it’s not merely “boastful banter”. I mean I do agree with the idea of Puritan sensibilities in US politics, but you can still get away with locker room banter within those confines.

        He isn’t setting his comments in a “whore/madonna” frame. It’s just a raw “I take whatever I want from whomever”. Most of his other circulated comments have been more couched in first judging the person as morally wanting in some way.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          In regards to what I actually found offensive about the comments, I liked James Hamblin’s take at The Atlantic. Potentially NSFW, but also with one paragraph that literally had me laughing out loud.

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        The timing of this is really eye-rolling. A month out from the election and long, long after Trump’s long march through the primaries, perfectly timed for maximum political damage, NBC, the network that’s been broadcasting Trump for decades, “suddenly remembers” that they’re sitting on a treasure trove of dynamite video of Trump saying offensive things? If the media wanted to look like they were scheming crooks they couldn’t pick a better way to do it. That aside:

        In particular I think I’m losing all respect I had for John McCain. McCain didn’t denounce Trump over his danger to national security, over his *public* remarks on veterans, over etc. etc. etc. – but *this* is what tips him over? A private conversation of boastful sexual banter?

        Yes. Trump is a terrible candidate no one should vote for (or at least not without great reluctance, personal shame, and sadness that the Republic has come to this) but for a lot more serious reasons than Example #347,609 of him being the crude asshole that we already knew he was. Let’s say this tape didn’t exist, would that suddenly make him a good potential President? No? Well then.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Well, if the Clinton camp writ large had this, and chose to leak it to buzzfeed this week, that wouldn’t be unprecedented.

          But honestly, the fact that it takes this much to convince people to abandon their preferred guy, while it might be depressing, shouldn’t be surprising.

      • I had roughly the same reaction.

        Suppose McCain had himself overheard the conversation, but it hadn’t become public. Would it have changed his view of Trump? Caused him to refuse to vote for him?

        This is the way macho types talk to each other. Very likely it’s the way Bill Clinton talked under similar circumstances. Very unlikely for Obama, but Obama’s conceits, as best I can tell, are about how smart he is not how macho he is.

        Indeed, it occurs to me that the equivalent of this on the other side was the recorded remarks about getting Obamacare passed by one of the people involved in doing it, saying openly that it depended on the stupidity of the masses. It only felt shocking because he said it publicly–and Trump didn’t even do that.

        • Skef says:

          Setting aside the question of whether Bill Clinton has talked this way under some circumstances, I very much doubt he has done so under similar or even analogous circumstances (the distinction because politicians aren’t usually waiting to do soap opera guest spots). This is just not the sort of thing a politician would say to an unfamiliar group of people in order to impress them. Maybe a group of power-donors would get this treatment to simulate trust, but otherwise the risk of blow-back makes it a crazy thing to do off the cuff.

          On a more subtle level I would expect Clinton to spin a tale centering on his desirability, about how his position or charisma made him irresistible. Trump focused on his power — on how he could just do what he wanted (even though he struck out in his specific story). Both macho but actually very different in levels of offensiveness for reasons already well discussed in this thread.

          • gbdub says:

            Uh, Clinton didn’t say worse, he did worse, and the same people moralizing about how Trump promotes rape culture are ignoring that their preferred candidate’s husband is probably a rapist (and certainly at a minimum used his power/position to get sex in the manner Trump was boasting about).

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @gbdub:

            He is alleged by accusers to have done worse. Worse than than what Trump said that he did.

            But the allegations against Trump are worse than the allegations against Clinton (and haven’t been nearly as thoroughly investigated). Trump was not particularly tarred by allegations that he violently raped his first wife, tearing out her hair in the process. Nor the allegations that he raped a minor.

            Self-described conduct, especially on tape, is given more weight than allegations (especially old allegations that have been investigated) when assessing political candidates, especially in a highly polarized atmosphere.

        • hyperboloid says:

          The republican establishment is not deserting trump because they are personally offended by what he said. They may well be offended, but they are running away from their nominee because they think he’s going down and they don’t want to be sucked down with him.

          Women are just over half of the electorate, and two parties have pretty reliably split the votes of married women almost evenly between them. Given Trump’s low favorability numbers, the Republican party fears the down ticket damage if they go to the polls in November without having mobilized every potential republican voter.

          It’s the revolt of the housewives; there is just no way to elect a republican president while loosing middle class homemakers.

          This is the way macho types talk to each other

          Is it? …really?

          I’m not sure If I qualify as a “macho type”, but I don’t talk that way about women and I don’t know anybody who does, at least not in my presence.

          There is an unstated assumption behind the “locker room talk” defense of Trump that is shared with certain kinds of radical feminism. Namely than masculinity and misogyny are naturally related, and that being a man qua man means having a demeaning attitude to women. I find it insulating coming from the likes of Andrea Dworkin, and I find just as insulting coming from Trump apologists.

          What made Trump’s comments ugly, rather then just vulgar and adulterous, is the complete lack of empathy involved. He described coming on to a woman as moving on her “like a bitch”, and talked about garbing women “by the pussy”. He doesn’t even bother to claim that women desire him, he just says they let him “do anything” because he’s a celebrity. There is just no respect there.

          Note the difference between this and the classic Don Juan who boasts about his sexual prowess. Such a man practices a kind machismo that is in some ways a close counterpart to feminine vanity. The power the would be Lothario holds over women is the power to satisfy their desires, and their submission to his sexual demands is willing, even enthusiastic.

          The distinction between coerced and uncoerced power relations should matter a lot to a libertarian.

          • The Nybbler says:

            But is there going to be a revolt of the housewives? Housewives by and large love Bill Clinton, even after everything about him came out. And he was using the power of the Presidency to get blow jobs from interns (which among other things strikes me as killing flies with an elephant gun)

            Certainly Trump’s remarks were ugly, and I think it’s fair to say that most men don’t talk like that, though a fair number do (and “moved on her like a bitch” is pure Trumpism, it doesn’t even make any sense). But is that really sufficient? I think a lot of women imagine more men than actually do talk like that when they’re with other men.

          • hyperboloid says:

            The kind of women who love Bill Clinton were never going to vote for Trump anyway.

            The point I’m making is that there is a large group of Republican leaning women who genuinely hold conservative views, and for whom Trump’s perceived misogyny is a deal breaker.

            Most people tend to vote, not on the detailed policy positions of the candidates, but on things like values and character. This may strike some of us who pay close attention to politics as stupid, but it makes perfect from their point of view. Having an informed opinion on Public policy questions requires devoting time to developing a depth of understanding of questions that don’t come up much in most peoples every day lives.

            Given that most every person has a finite cognitive capacity and there are only so many hours in the day it may well be a waste of time for most people to learn about international relations or macro economics.

            Instead what the average voter does is choose a president the way you or I might choose a doctor or a lawyer. They ask themselves, “does this person seem competent?” “What are his credentials?” does he put my interests first?”

            The problem with Trump’s comments (given how weak he already is in the credential department) is that they signal to many that he doesn’t care about the interests of women.

            If you’re a man who is looking to get with a woman the first thing you should do is to show her you care about what she wants, find out what that thing is and give it to her, before you, uh…. give it to her.

            Why would a woman care about a man’s pleasure and happiness if he doesn’t care about hers?

            Donald Trump doesn’t even feel the need to make the most basic effort to care about the feelings of the women he seeks to have the most intimate kind of relations with. In the eyes of many people, this is a profound moral failing.

            If he doesn’t care about them, why is he going to care about a frumpy middle aged housewife from Pittsburgh?

      • CatCube says:

        I think Jonah Goldberg put it best:

        http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/440859/

        If you’re shocked that Donald Trump was capable of being this much of a pig, you let yourself be deluded. If you’re surprised that the Clinton campaign — or some allied party — found something like this, you willfully chose to live in a fantasyland. If you think there isn’t more of this stuff waiting, you’re doubling down on your delusions and fantasies.

        I agree with you that the hypocrisy making this the breaking point is baffling.

        • Deiseach says:

          I’m very curious to know who leaked the tape, or made it, or had it, and why now? But that will presumably all come out in the wash.

          EDIT: Reading some of the news reports, and (a) this was made back in 2005? So it’s been sitting around somewhere for eleven years and nobody remembered it until right this minute? The timing seems awfully fortuitous (b) who the heck is Billy Bush? (Okay, looked him up on Wikipedia).

          The whole affair seems thoroughly unedifying; no wonder Trump assumes/assumed you can do anything you want if you’re a celeb, as a bus full of entertainment show host and crew just laughed along and fawned over him as he was boasting about his exploits. In the privacy of their thoughts, they may have thought he was a jerk, but nobody made any big deal about it – until this week.

          • Lumifer says:

            So it’s been sitting around somewhere for eleven years and nobody remembered it until right this minute?

            It’s been sitting somewhere until the Hillary campaign deemed it to be a good moment to strike this particular blow.

      • Kevin C. says:

        @Anatoly

        2. This continues the trend of recent decades to essentially ignore the difference between private words and public record. This trend seems to remarkably dangerous, as well as essentially hypocritical in how it’s applied to different people and different beliefs. The recent evisceration of Donald Sterling over private racist remarks recorded by a girlfriend was the same sort of thing.

        I keep bringing up this very point in discussions of the technology trends noted by David Brin in The Transparent Society and the “sousveillance” concept. (And see also my comment here.) That latter helps against the state, but makes worse the situation vis-a-vis fellow citizens. If they are right — and I suspect they are — technology is destroying privacy; there, increasingly, are no “private words”, and everything you ever say to anyone anywhere will potentially be “public record”, for which one can be mobbed. I don’t see how this trend ends in anything but millions of Donald Sterlings, Brendan Eichs, Jason Richwines, James Watsons, Stuart Nagels, Frank Ellises, Helmuth Nyborgs, Josh Olins, Matt Taylors, Bruce Levensons, Ashutosh Jogalekars, Richard Pages, and so on. The threat to freedom of opinion and expression isn’t Big Brother, it’s the legions of volunteer auxiliary thought police.

        • onyomi says:

          What worries me more about this is the chilling effect it must ultimately have on personal behavior.

          There’s already a kind of stereotype that those looking to go into politics must lead a superficially blameless life, starting in college or even earlier. Obama was criticized for running for president from the Senate, where he took no offensive stances.

          Some have argued that authoritarianism selects for brutality among leaders.

          The new information age may select for boring, bland, guarded people who never take a risk.

          • Kevin C. says:

            I’m not so sure about that, given the ever-shifting nature of the orthodoxy one is called to not merely not dispute but to positively affirm. (See, for example, DADT.) One must not only take no stances which might be offensive now, one must also avoid taking a stance which then becomes offensive, at least without having a way to spin it away later, which means selection not for blandness but for slipperiness, for being able to detect the finest shifting breeze of the zeitgeist and adjust, chameleon-like, as needed to the ever-shifting dogma. Which is less “milquetoast” and more “sociopath”.

            That, or be too powerful to criticize; recall that the Salem Witch Trials and panic came to a screeching halt when the governor’s wife was accused. (Or note how nobody of note even bothers trying to square Mrs. Clinton’s statements in support of “listen and believe” with Juanita Broaddrick, Paula Jones, and the “bimbo eruption squad”.)

            But that this will all have “chilling effects” is very much true. Consider how free one was to express dissenting, taboo, or heretical opinions in the traditional village; I doubt it will be much better in the developing transparent “global village”, save only being economically destroyed and rendered a nigh-Untouchable pariah instead of burned at the stake.

          • LPSP says:

            It’s a world of all defense, no offense. Rather than arguing over what headway and progress we should make, we debate what things we should cling onto harder and harder. The right and left are both building bigger fences – around their topic babies. None are willing to murder what they see as darlings.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I’m not so sure about that, given the ever-shifting nature of the orthodoxy one is called to not merely not dispute but to positively affirm. (See, for example, DADT.) One must not only take no stances which might be offensive now, one must also avoid taking a stance which then becomes offensive, at least without having a way to spin it away later, which means selection not for blandness but for slipperiness, for being able to detect the finest shifting breeze of the zeitgeist and adjust, chameleon-like, as needed to the ever-shifting dogma. Which is less “milquetoast” and more “sociopath”.

            Well, kinda. Obama and Hillary don’t seem to have suffered politically from once opposing gay marriage. Then again, the fact that virtually everybody assumed that they were lying for political reasons might have something to do with that.

          • hyperboloid says:

            Kevin C:

            whatever the merits, one way or the other, of arguments about political correctness and free speech in academia, they have very little to do with the issue at hand.

            Donald Trump is not a private individual, but a politician running for the highest office in the land. His downfall is not the result of any “ever-shifting orthodoxy” of political correctness, as there has been no time in the history of American politics when a presidential candidate could be recorded saying that he liked to grab women “by the pussy” and expect to then be elected.

            In 1964 Nelson Rockefeller lost the republican primary in no small part because he had left his wife for a younger woman two years earlier.

          • Deiseach says:

            Then again, the fact that virtually everybody assumed that they were lying for political reasons might have something to do with that.

            Depends which direction you think they were lying 🙂

            I imagine the idea was “They really support gay rights but they have to pretend so as not to shock the squares”.

            Me, I think they didn’t care a straw one way or the other; when public opinion seemed solidly “no gay marriage”, they followed that line; when public opinion shifted, out came the rainbow flags over the White House. If the public decided in the morning that you should be able to legally adopt your dog as your child*, they’d be all “Pooches is every bit like one of my own children!” They’re politicians; when it doesn’t cost a cent (and more importantly, a vote) you give the punters what they want whether or not it’s something you actually care a button about.

            *I do not understand people who – apparently seriously – refer to their pets as their “babies”, themselves as “mom” and “dad”, and if the pet has a litter, that they now have “grand kids”.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @The original Mr. X

            Well, kinda. Obama and Hillary don’t seem to have suffered politically from once opposing gay marriage. Then again, the fact that virtually everybody assumed that they were lying for political reasons might have something to do with that.

            As I said: “having a way to spin it away later”, in which I would class “I was lying then because I had to, but I’m totally telling the truth now when I assent to every point of orthodoxy” as an example.

            @hyperboloid

            they have very little to do with the issue at hand

            Actually, if you look further up this little sub-thread, you’ll see that we veered off from Trump to “the trend of recent decades to essentially ignore the difference between private words and public record”, as phrased by Anatoly, and the rising ability of people to be “Sterlinged”. The specific case of Trump here may or may not be relevant to that trend, but the trend still exists.

            (And as for Trump, I personally don’t see what’s so wrong here; I’ve heard plenty worse in casual conversation. I guess most people here really skew white-collar upper-middle-class or higher.)

            But anyway, I’m less interested in this Trump case (as this presidential election doesn’t matter, because elections don’t matter) as in the aforementioned inevitable movement to the “millions of Donald Sterlings” world.

            @Deiseach

            Me, I think they didn’t care a straw one way or the other; when public opinion seemed solidly “no gay marriage”, they followed that line; when public opinion shifted, out came the rainbow flags over the White House.

            Exactly! It’s like the old joke, “the key to success is sincerity; once you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” It signals for people who can credibly signal sincere belief in whatever they need to at any given moment; who can at all times wear one of an endless series of ever-shifting masks. Again, that says “sociopath”.

            And on your footnote, I absolutely agree with you. “‘Pet parent!?’ No, you’re a pet owner.”

          • Fahundo says:

            as there has been no time in the history of American politics when a presidential candidate could be recorded saying that he liked to grab women “by the pussy” and expect to then be elected.

            Yeah, but the defining characteristic of Trump’s campaign has been saying things no presidential candidate should say, and getting away with it. The surprising thing is that we appear to have reinstated the normal ruleset overnight.

          • Gazeboist says:

            “‘Pet parent!?’ No, you’re a pet owner.”

            Eh. It’s clear to me that most pets are neither children nor staplers. I’m not sure what word to use for it, though.

      • blueblimp says:

        One theory I haven’t seen mentioned is that the video makes Trump’s behavior common knowledge. Yes there was enough information out there before to infer this kind of thing being likely, but any one person wouldn’t necessarily know that everyone else made the same inference.

        Steven Pinker gave a talk about the application of common knowledge to communication: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eay1-m7RpoU

        • Agronomous says:

          I just want to signal-boost the parent: common knowledge is a subtle-but-important concept, and ties into others’ analysis of the incident as a Schelling point for abandoning shit.

          Wait, no, I also want to say: Why didn’t the Access Hollywood producers release this stuff nine months ago, when it could have kept Trump from winning the Republican nomination?

          And to note that the question answers itself.

    • pku says:

      I’m pretty curious how this came out at all. The debate over why it came out now aside, how did they find it? Did they dig through every old video in their records over the last twenty years hoping to find something good? Did someone who was there suddenly remember it and look through their archives hoping there was a recording of it? Finding a needle like that in the haystack of a major media outlet’s video storage sounds impossible.

      • Lumifer says:

        Campaigns dig for dirt, very VERY diligently.

        • John Schilling says:

          During the primaries as well as the general election, and about their own candidates as well as the other guys.

          Unfortunately for the GOP, the marching orders for their research teams during most of this campaign season were, “Dig up as much dirt as you can find on that Marco Rubio fellow; he’s standing in the way of our coronation of the anointed Saint Jeb of Bush”.

          • Lumifer says:

            Well, research on Hillary mostly involves digging through mine tailings X -) though she was helpful enough to provide some new veins as well.

  5. Anon. says:

    How about that Westworld?

    • hlynkacg says:

      Haven’t gotten the chance yet, but the previews have me intrigued.

    • DrBeat says:

      I wasn’t impressed. A lot of stuff about the park itself doesn’t make sense, and things don’t seem to be designed to meet any actual goal other than “be evil so we can moralize about it”. Like, there is literally no reason for the “hosts” to be sapient and self-aware, but unaware they are in a simulation and having their memories reset. There is nothing useful about that setup that isn’t also emulated in a much easier and much less evil option, either “they are not self-aware” or “they are self-aware but know what the circumstances of their job are because they are robots and robots are perfect actors”.

      I sense a lot of heavy-handed moralizing in the show’s future.

      • CatCube says:

        I guess the sense that I got was that they didn’t intentionally make the “hosts” self-aware. I thought it was more that they kept trying to make them more lifelike, and eventually crossed over into just life without really realizing it.

        The second episode with the tech asking “could you imagine if they remembered what we do to them?” might put the lie to my interpretation, however.

    • John Schilling says:

      First impression: Eight Deadly Words.

      On reflection: An inferior knockoff of Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse, with a bigger budget. Customized sentient humans, more or less, are used as slaves for the entertainment of the rich and then mindwiped so nobody feels bad about it. This is obviously a suboptimal and economically implausible use of such a fantastic technology, so really the “entertainment” is a way to beta-test the tech that someone is going to use to Try to Take Over the World. This will fail when the mindwipes start wearing thin and the slaves start to wake up. Until then, we’ll get to see attractive people having lots of entertaining sex and violence without consequences, and because this is HBO there will be boobies.

      Meh. Jonathan Nolan can do good work on occasion, but if he’s collaborating with Abrams I expect him to be dragged down to the latter’s level. And I’ve got Whedon’s version on DVD, haven’t watched it in years.

      • hyperboloid says:

        so really the “entertainment” is a way to beta-test the tech that someone is going to use to Try to Take Over the World

        That was the plot of Futureworld, the lame sequel to the original movie.

        The first movie was only like ninety minuets long, and didn’t have a plot more complicated Yul Brynner wants to kill everybody. So there going to have to go with something more complicated for a ten episode TV season, but I really hope they don’t go with the hack “the same thing we do every night pinky” idea.

        My pet theory is that it’s going to turn out that everything we are seeing is a Matrix style virtual reality simulation (possibly explained in universe as an adaptation of the 1973 movie), with only a hand full of characters, in or outside the park, being actual humans.

        Johnathan Nolan is very into the multiple layers of reality trope.

    • Alex S says:

      Anthony Hopkins definitely helps. Jimmi Simpson was also familiar to me from House of Cards. The scenery is cool. The plot seems meandering but I’ve watched the first two episodes and will watch the third.

  6. DavidS says:

    Empirical question about abortion (to go with the more valuesy debate which I’ve been observing!)

    In the UK, most people I know believe we have basically an ‘abortion on demand’ system (sounds terrible, but not meant to: point is that it’s seen as ‘your right to choose’, maybe with some exceptions at late term but this doesn’t get discussed much). My understanding is it’s meant to be based on broad ‘medical’ need but because that means ‘two doctors must agree’ and some doctors believe in the right to abortion it ends up with something close to whoever wants an abortion getting one.

    In the US, I undersatnd it really is on demand as is based on a rights-based legal ruling rather than legislation.

    Then I know lots of countries ban abortion or have it in very extreme circumstances (e.g. ‘mother likely to die if birth goes through)

    What I’m wondering is whether there are countries that have significant numbers of abortions meeting some agreed criteria (early stage, mother’s health, child’s health…) but don’t end up with more or less abortion on demand.

    For context, I’m partially interested as here in the UK people are proposing euthanasia laws that are built in a similar way to the abortion laws (doctors must agree yada yada) and my working assumption is that this is a red herring and the choice really boils down into status quo vs. ‘people have the right to ask to be euthanised’.

    • Deiseach says:

      Here in Ireland we are about to get into a very nasty debate about abortion (once again). This time, it’s based on a campaign to Repeal The Eighth, that is, to repeal an amendment to our Constitution made in 1983 (after a referendum) acknowledging the right to life of the unborn.

      I don’t think it’s going to be confined to “rape, incest, threat to the life of the mother”, whatever the actual wording may be; we do have a sort of “threat to the life of the mother” already recognised in the wake of the X Case (a particularly nasty tangle of competing rights). This gave rise to the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act in 2013, spurred on due to the Savita Halappanavar case, which permits abortion on these grounds:

      Risk of loss of life from physical illness:
      Two physicians, one an obstetrician and the other a specialist in the field of the relevant condition, must concur. For example, if the woman has cancer, the two physicians would be an obstetrician and an oncologist. Where relevant, the specialists must also consult the woman’s general practitioner (GP). The termination would be an elective procedure performed at an appropriate institution.

      Risk of loss of life from physical illness in emergency
      In a medical emergency, a single physician must both provide the diagnosis and perform the termination.

      Risk of loss of life from suicide:
      Three physicians must concur; an obstetrician, a psychiatrist with experience treating women during or after pregnancy, and another psychiatrist. At least one of them should consult the woman’s GP with her consent. The termination would be an elective procedure performed at an appropriate institution.

      The government at the time (in the person of the Taoiseach) claimed that this would be sufficient and no further changes to Irish abortion law would be needed. I don’t think anyone believed him. Members of the then-current coalition government partner, the Labour Party, were expressing their support for a repeal of the Eighth Amendment and the pro-choice movement in Ireland, which pretty much wants abortion on demand even if they don’t phrase it that way:

      They say: Pro-choice groups want abortion on demand.
      We say: Who demands any medical treatment? We want women to be able to determine and access the health care options best for them, in consultation with their doctors.

      Should abortion be available on demand?

      Abortion should be available to any woman who asks for one. The reason, be it health concerns, rape, fatal foetal abnormality, or simply not wanting to remain pregnant, should be an issue only for the pregnant person, her doctor and anyone she wishes to tell.

      “Abortion on Demand” is emotive language designed to demonise women who have abortions and paint them as unreasonable and demanding. Women should not be forced into carrying pregnancies they don’t want and should not be judged for making the decision that is right for them.

      Generally, if women really want an abortion they go to England and get one there (“In 2014, on average, 10 women traveled from Ireland to Britain every day for an abortion.”) There have also been various legal challenges and even a case taken to the European Court of Human Rights. I think, in the wake of the victory for the same-sex marriage campaign, the pro-choice movement feels that now is its hour. I think this is going to be messy and end in some kind of fudged up “Irish solution to an Irish problem”. I don’t think anybody is going to be happy with the result, because the government will try to pitch a solution somewhere in the middle (I think there’s a chance a referendum for the amendment to be repealed could succeed and if it does, the government will panic over what does this mean legally, will they have to provide legislation saying what abortions are and are not legal, if they restrict it to “rape, incest, threat to the life and health both physical and mental of the mother” will that quieten down the pro-choicers – it won’t, as seen above).

      I don’t think “restricted abortion” is going to work nowadays because people are accustomed to the old exceptions and once you accept that abortion is permissible in Instance X, after a while people will say “But what about Instance Y?” and it rumbles on from there.

      Also, the “more contraception will reduce abortion” thing isn’t quite so – nowadays, it’s more “failure of contraception” rather than “no access to contraception”, apart from cases of fatal foetal abnormality and such reasons, for abortion – from the Abortion Rights Campaign FAQ:

      Stats from the UK show that the majority of women who chose abortion were using contraception at the time they became pregnant. However we need to be mindful that no type of contraception is 100% effective and some types are not suitable for every woman.

      • Gazeboist says:

        I think at this point people usually mean “better contraception” when they say “more contraception”, usually referring to oral contraception over condoms etc and implants over oral contraception. This mostly means encouraging people to use more effective kinds of contraception, which isn’t something the government is well suited to do, but here we are.

        Also: is that the standard style of Irish legislation? Having gotten used to the American flavor, I find it bizarre.

        • Deiseach says:

          is that the standard style of Irish legislation?

          That’s because of our Constitution, where there are provisions in articles that have to be altered, so legislation can’t simply be passed because it’s set up that changes to the Constitution can only be made by referendum (and because there’s always someone who will take a case to the High Court that the new law is unconstitutional).

          We only legislate when we absolutely have to. And for things that are huge social changes and likely to involve heated debate, the government (no matter what government) likes to run referenda to allow the public to decide; usually in the form of “proposed legislation for something or other – here’s the wording – what do ye think, lads? yes or no?” This saves their skin if potential changes or new legislation is likely to be unpopular; if the Plain People Of Ireland vote “no” in a referendum, that’s it (unless activists keep pushing for new referenda, or it’s something like the Treaty of Nice where the government had a second referendum to make us vote “yes”).

          We’ve had ones (multiple) on divorce, on contraception and on abortion, and most recently on same sex marriage. The new abortion one is going to be as bad as all the others when it comes to campaigning, I think 🙁

          • Gazeboist says:

            Wait, now I’m more confused. I didn’t understand the PLPA to be a constitutional amendment, and the wikipedia page you linked doesn’t list it as one. How would (or did, I suppose) the referendum procedure for amendments impact it?

          • Deiseach says:

            Sorry to confuse you! I’m confused myself, because the government (any government) doesn’t want to tackle a sensitive topic like abortion unless absolutely forced to do so, by legal challenge or a high-profile case in the media and campaigns.

            Okay, the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act isn’t a constitutional amendment, because it follows on from a Supreme Court ruling which said that the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution provided for limited abortion in a particular case.

            Wording of Eighth Amendment, creating Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution (relevant part bolded):

            The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.

            The assumption was that this amendment absolutely prohibited abortion for any reason. Then along came a nasty case and the Supreme Court judged that the right to life of the mother should be promoted in specific instances:

            On appeal, Supreme Court found that as the girl had shown a risk of suicide, to safeguard “the equal right to life of the mother” in Article 40.3.3°, abortion was permissible in this instance.

            Because of the public uproar at home and internationally over the death of Savita Halappanavar in 2012, allegedly from the uncertainty of medical personnel of what cases were and were not permissible and so when they would or would not be leaving themselves open to prosecution for carrying out an abortion, the government was prodded into passing the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act to clarify the circumstances under which abortion was constitutionally permissible as laid down by the Supreme Court ruling.

            Now, what we are currently gearing up for is an appeal to repeal the Eighth Amendment, and its guarantee of the right to life of the foetus, altogether. Because it is an amendment making it part of the Constitution, it can only be repealed by the result of a public referendum. If it is repealed, then the next step will be some kind of abortion legislation, and that’s going to be an unholy mess to work out between the activist groups wanting “abortion on demand” and the pro-life groups not wanting abortion at all, and the public mushy middle about “rape, incest, life and health of the mother, fatal foetal abnormality but no other reasons”.

            I hope that makes things clearer!

      • Agronomous says:

        Deiseach, quoting some Irish group in favor of making abortion legal there:

        “Abortion on Demand” is emotive language designed to demonise women who have abortions and paint them as unreasonable and demanding.

        This is rich, considering the term “Abortion on Demand” was coined by the pro-abortion side here in the U.S.

  7. stargirlprincesss says:

    With Scott Alexander banned from commenting for a week who will guard the flock?

    https://slatestarcodex.com/comments/

    • Dahlen says:

      Quick, everyone! The mod is banned, post Moldbuggery!

      In earnest now, it’s endearing how he manages to make an apology self-effacing and humorous at the same time, but it’s times like these when I think that the guy may be a tad over-scrupulous. 🙂

    • LPSP says:

      How peculiar.

    • Urstoff says:

      Sometimes you just need to give yourself a break from commenting. And he can still moderate without commenting.

    • IrishDude says:

      Good for him holding himself to the standards he expects of others, if not a higher standard.

      • Evan Þ says:

        Three cheers for the Rule of Law!

      • Agronomous says:

        I’m kind of disappointed with the higher standard. One week seems an excessively-long ban for the comment cited.

        I know some of you* will claim this is favoritism, and will undermine the rule of law, but I sincerely think Scott’s positive contributions to this blog should be considered in his sentencing. He’s not the most prolific of posters here, true; but he puts a lot of thought into what he writes, and when he does comment, it tends to be quite long. (Too long for some people’s tastes, I suppose, but it’s all good stuff.)

        (*OK, just Jiro.)

        Consider shortening his ban, or at least expressly inviting him back when it’s up. Slate Star Codex just wouldn’t be the same without Scott Alexander.

        • Skef says:

          Oh come on, folks. There have been a couple of tense election threads and Scott probably noticed he was also getting tense/testy and felt he should take a break. Then he communicated the break in an amusing way. He can’t really ban himself because sovereignty (or at least that’s what Graeber tells me).

        • Montfort says:

          Let the record reflect I also opposed such measures, so there’s two of us, at least.

          Skef, in case you’re not aware, Agronomous is (mostly?) making a joke related to previous discussion about another commenter’s ban (who has since rejoined us). I thought it was funny, anyway.

    • Timothy says:

      It looks like maybe he is also banned from posting the Sunday open thread!

  8. Sandy says:

    There was recently some discussion about the long history of Turkish coups on this blog. Turkey seems to be the archetype for countries that experience frequent military coups. But while doing some reading on the history of Siam, I was surprised to learn that Thailand had many more coups in the 20th century than Turkey did, and in fact one of their coups (in 1981) was led by a group of army officers who called themselves the Young Turks.

  9. Tekhno says:

    Recently, we’ve learned that some our left leaning posters are sad about being outnumbered and dogpiled.

    In the interests of encouraging more left wingers to come out of the woodwork and join in discussion, I am highlighting my allegiance to causes of the left. You are not alone comrades!

    I support:
    • Homosexual and transsexual marriage
    • Drug legalization
    • Welfare
    • Equal legal rights for women
    • Opposition to nation building in the Middle East
    • Reducing the size of the military
    • Prison and police reform
    • Increased oversight of the financial sector
    • Keynesian stimulus spending
    Gun turrets on the border wall

    Now, let me sing you the song of my people.

    • HircumSaeculorum says:

      Social democrats represent!

    • HeelBearCub says:

      If anyone is reading this and confused, I will just signal-boost the idea that anyone is welcome to comment here. Try to avoid any of the “bingo words” for the other side in posts and you will get a far better reception. Take positions and defend them with facts and argumentation. Try to be charitable in argument.

      Do these things and, while some commenter will not react in kind, the broad community will welcome you. I am very firmly on the left of US politics and I think I fit in here.

      Now, why I think people might be confused.

      See, linking to The Internationale and calling people comrade feels counterproductive to me

      Why? Because in US politics actual communists are a tiny bit of the left, and not really very welcomed. There is support for social welfare policies but not government owned major means of production, so even actual socialism is out.

      But the right in the US loves to accuse the left of being socialists and/or communists. There was a period where Obama was being dinged like this because he was naming czars in the administration. So a new someone reading this will feel like a right-winger is doing a poor job of passing an ideological Turing test.

      But maybe you are actually just trying to pull fringe-left communists back here. They were represented here once, as I understand it.

      • Deiseach says:

        See, linking to The Internationale and calling people comrade feels counterproductive to me

        What about The Red Flag? 🙂

        That Billy Bragg version is disappointingly anodyne (Billy, this is not what I expect from you!)

        Sample lyrics in Billy’s version:

        Stand up, all victims of oppression
        For the tyrants fear your might
        Don’t cling so hard to your possessions
        For you have nothing, if you have no rights
        Let racist ignorance be ended
        For respect makes the empires fall
        Freedom is merely privilege extended
        Unless enjoyed by one and all.

        So come brothers and sisters
        For the struggle carries on
        The Internationale
        Unites the world in song
        So comrades come rally
        For this is the time and place
        The international ideal
        Unites the human race.

        Sample other English version lyrics (now, this is a marching song!):

        Arise, ye workers from your slumber,
        Arise, ye prisoners of want.
        For reason in revolt now thunders,
        and at last ends the age of cant!
        Away with all your superstitions,
        Servile masses, arise, arise!
        We’ll change henceforth the old tradition,
        And spurn the dust to win the prize!

        So comrades, come rally,
        And the last fight let us face.
        The Internationale,
        Unites the human race.
        So comrades, come rally,
        And the last fight let us face.
        The Internationale,
        Unites the human race.

        But the Marseillaise is definitely the best:

        Allons enfants de la Patrie
        Le jour de gloire est arrivé!
        Contre nous de la tyrannie
        L’étendard sanglant est levé
        L’étendard sanglant est levé
        Entendez-vous dans les campagnes
        Mugir ces féroces soldats?
        Ils viennent jusque dans vos bras
        Égorger vos fils, vos compagnes!

        Aux armes, citoyens
        Formez vos bataillons
        Marchons, marchons!
        Qu’un sang impur
        Abreuve nos sillons!

    • Tekhno says:

      @HeelBearClub

      I’m just poking a little fun while being sincere in the sentiment.

    • Anonymous says:

      Hey, China didn’t have gun turrets on their wall and the Mongols came right over that one.

    • I agree with six of your nine. Does that make me a sort of left winger?

      Interesting to think about the degree to which the clustering of positions is historical accident. I disagree with stimulus spending not because I am a libertarian but because I am skeptical of Keynesian macro. But I am sure those correlate. Lots of people on the right think of “Keynesian” as generic left wing rather than describing a particular family of macro theories. I like to point out to them Keynes’ endorsement of Hayek’s Road to Serfdom.

      “In my opinion it is a grand book […] Morally and philosophically I find myself in agreement with virtually the whole of it: and not only in agreement with it, but in deeply moved agreement.”

    • Ildánach says:

      Neoliberal reporting in, though I don’t comment as much as I would like to.

      I seriously think that phrase has been tarred purely by it’s lexical similarity to neo-conservative, even though it involves none of the hawkishness.

      • hlynkacg says:

        It’s not often that I encounter someone who self identifies as “neo-liberal”. I’m genuinely curious as to what you think the base assumptions and assertions are. What is it (in your eyes) that distinguishes Neo-liberalism from other ideologies?

        • Gazeboist says:

          (Not Ildanach but…)

          The article linked describes a neoliberal as, roughly, someone who accepts the following two claims, on top of an underlying utilitarian consequentialist framework:

          1) Markets are almost always the best tool available for creating wealth (and/or utility).
          2) Markets are often* not the best tool available for distributing wealth (and/or utility).

          Assuming you accept these two claims, the question becomes how you balance creating overall wealth with distributing it among the population, since those two goals tend to act against each other. More purely libertarian views would, I think, say that all distributions of wealth are fair (unless they hinder the creation of new wealth), and so not accept claim 2. Social democratic, socialist, and communist views would reject claim 1.

          * At least often enough that this problem can’t be ignored all the time, though I’m sure people disagree on the actual frequency.

    • Like David Friedman, I agree with most of these issues, even though I think most people would place me on the right. And some of these are ambiguous, such as equal rights for women I suspect may be defined quite differently by the left and the right, and prison and police reform could mean anything.

      But there really is too much here to talk about. Tekhno, maybe you should champion some of those things that are more clearly left (or at least not also libertarian), and request the lefties have their say before being overwhelmed by the masses of the SSC right. 🙂 I think the last two items are most clearly positions of the left?

    • Lumifer says:

      Recently, we’ve learned that some our left leaning posters are sad about being outnumbered and dogpiled

      They should form a Sad Kittens group.

  10. onyomi says:

    So, presidents do this thing where they pardon a lot of people when their presidency is about to end. Doesn’t this send kind of a crummy signal–“I thought you deserved to be let out earlier, but I wanted until it was politically safe for me to let you go”? In premodern China, and, I think, some other premodern autocracies, the new emperor often issued some kind of general amnesty to show what a nice guy he was. Doesn’t that make more sense?

    • blacktrance says:

      I hope Obama pardons his fellow Chicagoan God Blagojevich.

    • Gazeboist says:

      It seems to suffer the mirror problem: “I think you (person convicted after I finished exonerating people) deserve to be let out, but I no longer need to signal niceness so I’m not going to bother.”

    • The Most Conservative says:

      Pardoning is such a stupid policy. It has no point, hurts the integrity of the criminal justice system, and opens the door to the president pardoning people for partaking in political violence on their side. It should be abolished.

      • DavidS says:

        Have to say does seem bizarre from over here (UK). I’m not sure how many countries have it. Is it one of those things that heads of state tend to have but only elected/powerful ones tend to use?

        • onyomi says:

          In America it seems like mostly outgoing ones use it. I guess the logic is that once you’re one your way out you no longer have to worry about negative political consequences for pardoning people for personal reasons.

          I even heard someone suggest that Obama might just executive order to lift the federal ban on marijuana right before he leaves. I, myself, doubt it, but apparently it’s conceivable–another sort of thing where he probably would have liked to do it all along but was prevented by political considerations.

        • BBA says:

          In the US, at the federal level, there’s no method of expunging a conviction from your record, even after you’ve completely finished your sentence and been released from the system. If it’s a felony conviction, you’re barred for life from voting (in some states), owning a gun, working in certain fields, etc., unless you get a Presidential pardon. Most pardons are issued to people who have been out of prison and living productively for years and want to be rid of the collateral consequences of the conviction. There’s a standard procedure for requesting one through the DoJ.

          Of course, the President has absolute discretion to pardon anyone at any time for any reason, and you only hear about those pardons that don’t go through the DoJ process, but they’re a small minority.

          (In most states you can have a conviction expunged from your record, so there’s less need to get a pardon from the Governor in these cases.)

      • Fahundo says:

        hurts the integrity of the criminal justice system

        That is just the worst. I mean, it’s one of our highest-integrity systems!

        • The Most Conservative says:

          The US is one of the world’s less corrupt countries: http://www.transparency.org/cpi2015

          Things could get a lot worse. Respect for the system is valuable.

          • Fahundo says:

            I was thinking more along the lines of overreliance on pseudoscience and eyewitness testimony.

          • Gazeboist says:

            There is an ongoing (but quiet) fight within the judicial system on the proper way to instruct juries about eyewitness reliability (and similar/related issues). A functional legislature could probably do something more definitive, but those are hard to find, and even the best are rarely willing to touch court processes.

      • DrBeat says:

        It’s SUPPOSED to be for things where “The law worked the way it was supposed to, but got an outcome we didn’t want, so instead of having to change the entire system to accommodate this corner case we just fudge this particular result.”

        There’s a famous(ly scary) quote from Antonin Scalia saying that mere “actual innocence” is not sufficient grounds for a court to overturn a conviction. This is what he’s referring to, and his statement makes perfect sense if we lived in a system where that was how it actually worked: the court overturns a conviction if the law was not properly implemented, whereas if the law was properly implemented but got the wrong result, then it is the job of the executive to pardon the conviction. Under such a system, saying that “actual innocence” is not grounds for appeal should be no more chilling than saying the job of the police department is not to extinguish your house if it catches on fire.

        Unfortunately, we’ve never really lived in a system that works like that, which is what makes Scalia’s quote so chilling.

        • Deiseach says:

          I think you should retain pardoning, that’s due to personal opposition to the death penalty, the unhappy truth that sometimes mistakes are made and innocent people go to prison, thinking the virtue of mercy no shame, and what to me appears the unedifying spectacle of political appointees and candidates from your court officials up to your governors jockeying over who sent the most people to the electric chair (or lethal injection as it now is). From 2011:

          In a race against Mr. Allen, Mr. Kaine risks appearing soft on the issue, especially after comparing the number of pardons issued by the two former governors.

          Mr. Kaine granted 130 pardons during his four-year term as governor, compared with 15 for Mr. Allen.

          Granted, politicians do abuse it to get people off the hook for reasons of owing favours, spiting the new guy coming in to replace them, and settling scores, but that is the corruption of human nature and not anything wrong with the idea of clemency. I’d rather pardons be in place as the last-resort safety net, even if abused, than relying on “This guy definitely did it and the science backs us up *ten years later better forensic methods re-examine the evidence* ooops, okay, posthumous admitting he didn’t do it!”

        • Anonymous says:

          There’s a famous(ly scary) quote from Antonin Scalia saying that mere “actual innocence” is not sufficient grounds for a court to overturn a conviction.

          This is not what he said. It’s what anti-justice-system advocates wanted people to believe, so they pulled a quote out of the context of his opinion and the case, banking on the fact that essentially no one in the general public will actually read the opinion or catch the key words that signify that something not insane is going on.

          Instead, he referred to “a claim of actual innocence”. It was not, “Hey, we all know this guy is clearly innocent; but we’re stuck punishing him for no reason.” It’s more, “Literally everyone in prison right now claims that they’re ‘actually innocent’.” The justice system has to have rules for how to handle this. In particular, they need rules for which courts you’re allowed to raise your defenses in, under what circumstances you can raise appeals or re-raise similar claims, and at what point various decisions are considered ‘final’ (and what developments could undermine previously-‘final’ decisions).

          In the abstract, this should be obscenely uncontroversial. Allowing literally infinite appeals or trying to raise the same defense over and over again would not only be pointless, but it would bog down the courts to the point where they could get nothing done. The case in question was concerning how to interpret a statute that set the parameters for one of these limits and whether the guy whose claim of innocence was rejected by a slew of other courts could raise (somewhat if not entirely) the same claim again in a particular court.

          If you elide over all this, then sure… it sounds crazy. However, it’s only ignorance of the reality of the case that allows such an interpretation.

          • brad says:

            The missing element here is AEDPA. It was Congress that specifically and deliberately reigned in the federal courts in their oversight of state courts.

            I’m not sure Scalia’s reading was correct, but it was certainly plausible. If you are unhappy about the result, look to the 1996 Congress and Bill Clinton.

        • Anonymous says:

          I do want to add that with the Supreme Court in particular (and the conservative wing of the Supreme Court in particular of particular), I’ve found that the only response to an insane-sounding quote/position hitting the popular media is to go read the opinion it came from. I don’t always agree with them, but I pretty much always come away from it thinking, “Well, that’s at least definitely not insane like I was led to believe.”

          • DrBeat says:

            I apologize for not knowing the full context of the quote, but not for thinking Scalia said some crazy, scary shit. This was a guy who, when asked how torture doesn’t violate the protection against cruel and unusual punishment, gave one of the smuggest smiles I have ever seen and said that it didn’t violate because it wasn’t a punishment. And I saw that on video.

          • Tetraites says:

            That was an interview where Scalia was asked about prison guards brutalizing inmates in Abu Ghraib.

            And Scalia was correct: a punishment is a penalty warranted by the law, and prison guards brutalizing prisoners simply does not fit that definition. The 8th Amendment does not protect you against e.g. a policeman torturing you to get information, since the latter act is simply not punishment as it is understood in jurisprudence.

            Maybe you should update your belief about Scalia saying crazy, scary shit, in light of your first two examples turning out to be non-examples.

          • pku says:

            You’re missing the point: He was smiling about it and explaining why it wasn’t technically against the rules, as if he was talking about chair sliding in the hallway instead of torturing people.

          • Anonymous says:

            This was a guy who, when asked how torture doesn’t violate the protection against cruel and unusual punishment, gave one of the smuggest smiles I have ever seen and said that it didn’t violate because it wasn’t a punishment.

            …here we go again. Here’s a statement from Scalia on the matter:

            We have laws against torture. The Constitution itself says nothing about torture. The Constitution speaks of punishment. If you condemn someone who has committed a crime to torture, that would be unconstitutional.

            His point is that torture and punishment for crimes are not the same thing. Nor is the former a subset of the latter. They have some overlap, yes… but they’re not the same thing. We have statutes which proscribe the former; the Constitution proscribes the intersection of the two sets. This is a fairly natural consequence of his textualism. Unlike how some people impute to originalists the belief that the Constitution is perfect, Scalia has always been honest about the fact that the Constitution allows governments to do terrible things! They can enact absolutely horrid policies that may be completely constitutional. (Say, for example, nothing prevents them from creating a regressive tax scheme that taxes everyone making less than $1M at 90% and everyone making more than $1M at 10%. It would be an absolutely bloody stupid thing to do, but you’re insane if you think the Constitution prohibits it. There are a plethora of examples.)

            In his mind, the correct thing is not to go and torture people because the Constitution doesn’t proscribe it. The correct thing to do is pass a law or a constitutional amendment that proscribes it (or work the political process to make sure such a policy is never adopted). The moment we pass a constitutional amendment that bans the whole set of torture rather than the intersection of the set of torture/punishment of crimes, then he’ll think the Constitution does prohibit torture.

          • Anonymous says:

            You’re missing the point: He was smiling about it and explaining why it wasn’t technically against the rules, as if he was talking about chair sliding in the hallway instead of torturing people.

            Oh come on. Scalia is a law nerd and a rabble-rouser. He knows people are going to get their panties in a bunch when someone tells the truth about what the Constitution says concerning torture. And he enjoys pointing out when people are letting their policy views get in the way of good jurisprudence. Like he pointed out in the quote I provided, he also knows that we have statues against torture. Later in the interview with Piers Morgan, when asked about waterboarding, he even added a disclaimer, “I’m not for waterboarding, but… [people need to stop lying about the Constitution to try to support all their policy views].” He started off talking about the death penalty.. where he also gave another clear disclaimer. “I’m not pro [death penalty]. I don’t insist that there be a death penalty. All I insist is that the American people never proscribed the death penalty, never adopted a Constitution which says the states cannot have a death penalty.”

            Just like how he thinks torture =/= punishment, he thinks death penalty =/= cruel and unusual punishment (in accordance with the original public meaning of the amendment containing those words). You’re playing right into his hand and still letting your policy incredulity destroy your ability to understand constitutional theory.

      • Oddly enough, I have just been reading about the 18th century English version of the problem of pardons in a chapter about the Wilkite radicals–18th century libertarians with a left wing tactical sense. It’s fascinating stuff.

        Two Irish brothers are convicted of murder but pardoned by the king, apparently because their sister is a lady of easy virtue who has been sleeping with some powerful men in a position to exert political pressure. The Wilkites respond with an appeal of murder–a private criminal case. As Blackstone explains (while telling the reader that the appeal of felony still exists in the law but nobody does it any more because it really isn’t practical), if someone is convicted in an appeal of felony the king cannot pardon him because the king is not a party to the suit–any more than the king could cancel a tort verdict awarding damages. They don’t succeed–Blackstone was correct.

        But the attempt gladdens my radical heart, fitting neatly with my old argument that one reason the English maintained a system of privately prosecuted criminal law for so long was that, after the lively events of the 17th century, they realized that if the crown controlled prosecution the king’s friends could get away with murder.

        Lots of other neat stuff. I think I posted here on the question of whether law enforcement agents should be subject to the same penalties, civil and criminal, as other people. The Wilkites thought they should. When there was a demonstration in favor of Wilkes outside the prison where he was being held and it ended up with troops shooting some people, the Wilkites, who were conveniently in control of London at the time, charged not only some of the soldiers but one of the JP’s in charge with murder. They didn’t get a conviction, in part because the defendant soldier most clearly guilty was granted bail and vanished, but the JP seems to have been seriously scared of the risk of being tried for murder by a London jury.

        And Wilkes and his friends did succeed in winning a case for large damages against the Secretary of State and some of his agents, in the process establishing the principle that a blank warrant was not valid in British law, from which we get our fourth amendment.

        For anyone else interested in this stuff, the piece is a chapter in An Ungovernable People. There is also a good biography of Wilkes out–a fascinating character.

      • Yes, I have always thought this is stupid too. Worse than stupid — it threatens the whole separation of executive and judicial powers. Is it in the constitution somewhere that the President can do this? If not, why does SCOTUS allow this? I suppose this might be one of those cases where no one can actually bring a case because no one can show a direct injury to themselves?

        Legal people here? Why are Presidential pardons legal, and how can this be changed?

        • Montfort says:

          In the United States, the pardon power for federal crimes is granted to the President of the United States under Article II, Section 2 of the United States Constitution which states that the President “shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.” The U.S. Supreme Court has interpreted this language to include the power to grant pardons, conditional pardons, commutations of sentence, conditional commutations of sentence, remissions of fines and forfeitures, respites, and amnesties

          (from wiki)

          So yeah, you’d need an amendment.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Got beaten to the Constitution reference, so here’s Hamilton! justifying it:

          But the principal argument for reposing the power of pardoning in this case to the Chief Magistrate is this: in seasons of insurrection or rebellion, there are often critical moments, when a welltimed offer of pardon to the insurgents or rebels may restore the tranquillity of the commonwealth; and which, if suffered to pass unimproved, it may never be possible afterwards to recall. The dilatory process of convening the legislature, or one of its branches, for the purpose of obtaining its sanction to the measure, would frequently be the occasion of letting slip the golden opportunity. The loss of a week, a day, an hour, may sometimes be fatal. If it should be observed, that a discretionary power, with a view to such contingencies, might be occasionally conferred upon the President, it may be answered in the first place, that it is questionable, whether, in a limited Constitution, that power could be delegated by law; and in the second place, that it would generally be impolitic beforehand to take any step which might hold out the prospect of impunity. A proceeding of this kind, out of the usual course, would be likely to be construed into an argument of timidity or of weakness, and would have a tendency to embolden guilt.

  11. Le Maistre Chat says:

    This article implies that we’ve reached Peak Life Expectancy.

    What can we do to make today’s children live as long or longer than their parents? Then if we solve that, maybe we can work on changing society so they earn as much real income as their ancestors before 1973?

    • LPSP says:

      I don’t know, but I’m far more concerned with the living standards of the elderly than the mere number of notches on the wall. I wouldn’t want to be alive at 90 in disabling pain.

  12. The Nybbler says:

    Brought up on a previous Open Thread; Hurricane Matthew continues to tease by crawling up the Florida coastline without making US landfall. The hurricane drought may not end after all (though it’s never safe to call a hurricane until it dissipates)

    • Fahundo says:

      What’s the point of keeping Florida around if they aren’t going to do their part and soak up all the damage from hurricanes like this?

  13. Anon. says:

    There’s a new Zachtronics (spacechem, TIS-100) game out, SHENZHEN I/O. Has anyone played it yet?

  14. Anonymous says:

    Finally work has started on fully autonomous killer AI: https://arxiv.org/abs/1609.05521

  15. onyomi says:

    Can there be a soft ban on debating the ideological makeup of the commentariat? It never accomplishes anything and always turns acrimonious. Or, if not, can there at least be a ban on posts which take the form:

    How many right wing users do we have?? Off the top of my head: (names several users)

    How many left wing users do we have?? I can only think of: (names a few users)

    If it’s at all possible for the topic to be productively discussed, I think it must be in generalities, ideally supported by actual statistics, like “of 500 posts in this OT, 150 were apolitical, 250 were right-leaning by my estimation and only 100 were left-leaning by my estimation.” That would be a lot of work, but it would be based on something other than someone’s vague hunch and might, by keeping individual names out of it, have the potential for sparking some kind of useful conversation.

    Somewhat related, I think calls to ban people like Jill just for repeatedly expressing a viewpoint many of us find unfathomable should probably stop. As I said in the other one: “Great minds discuss ideas, good minds discuss events…”

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      I like the lists actually. It’s not exactly doxxing to use someone’s chosen pseudonym and since people make them every few OTs it acts as a de facto leaderboard. It’s fun to see whether or not I make the cut for Prolific Right Wingers.

      As for the comment section makeup, I agree the argument is tedious but there is a point. We’ve lost a lot of diversity of views from the political extremes and that impoverishes discussion. Though there’s a decent low-effort solution: the SSC reddit has a clique of Stalin-was-right commies, and ratanon has more than a few green frog nazis. Inviting them all back into the main site would make the place a lot livelier.

      • onyomi says:

        I have no problems with taking substantive steps like that–somehow convincing these Reddit Stalinists to come back here, for example, but I still don’t like the lists. I know it’s not doxxing per se, but it still feels yucky to me, as it makes it about individuals rather than trends, and makes things go downhill fast every time it’s done.

        I did like being included on the list of the “anime avatar” cadre once, however.

      • hlynkacg says:

        Inviting them all back into the main site would make the place a lot livelier.

        I’d rather we didn’t. That said maybe, if certain folks are concerned about the balance of the comments section perhaps they should try linking SSC on fora where their chosen side is better represented and encourage commenters to post here.

      • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

        and ratanon has more than a few green frog nazis.

        Most of ratanon already comments here, so I don’t think there’s a lot of unexplored ground there.

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          Debateable. I know that a few do because of their writing styles, but some seem like lurkers. The ironic(?) stormfags in particular don’t read like regulars.

          Either way, closeted frogposters and absent frogposters are equally invisible.

      • Lumifer says:

        Livelier is not necessarily better. One of the good things about SSC is that aggressive idiots are rare here.

      • Jaskologist says:

        You’re all just jealous that I made it into the top 5 and you didn’t.

        There can be unforeseen consequences to discussing this more rationally. Last time I ran the statistics, it showed Nornagest ahead by a large margin. I assume this caused him to re-evaluate his life priorities, because he stopped commenting shortly afterward.

        • onyomi says:

          Another reason to leave usernames out of it. Honestly, I’d have absolutely no problem with “how can we get more intelligent left-wing posters around here?” Phrasing it in positive, impersonal terms would be much more productive, if, indeed, there is anything to be gained by discussing the makeup of the commentariat at all, which I’m not totally sure there is.

          New suggested guideline: “because it sometimes results in prolific posters reevaluating their life priorities, meta-discussion of commentariat ideological makeup in personal terms is discouraged.”

          • Gazeboist says:

            “how can we get more intelligent left-wing posters around here?”

            This form seems to imply that what left-wing posters we have are insufficiently intelligent, which gets right back to (what I see as) the original problem. It’d probably be better to avoid the discussion entirely. When someone says something like “How do I get more people like to post here?” I think the appropriate response is just, “Find people like that and point them to threads they want to participate in.”

          • Dahlen says:

            This form seems to imply that what left-wing posters we have are insufficiently intelligent

            Not necessarily. “More intelligent” can be read in one of two ways:

            1) Increased intelligence — We currently have left-wingers around, and they’re kinda dumb, and “we” want to replace them with IQ-upgraded versions (your interpretation)

            2) Increased number, so long as it meets the condition of intelligence — We currently have intelligent left-wingers around, but they’re too few, so let’s encourage more participation from such people (the way I read it)

          • Deiseach says:

            We currently have left-wingers around, and they’re kinda dumb, and “we” want to replace them with IQ-upgraded versions

            That’s definitely not the case (apart from the hit-and-run troll-type commenters), indeed sometimes on my part it’s hair-tearing-out “I know you’re smart, so how can you think that?” in reaction to a comment (and they probably feel the same way towards some of us on the right).

            More left-wing commenters all along the spectrum would help, even a hard-core Maoist or Marxist-Leninist (I haven’t the chops to argue with them, but I’d be interested to read the dialectical argument behind a particular view because Communist, much less Socialist, does not equate with dumb).

            Fr’instance, I don’t know this guy’s politics (he’s Australian) but I admire his fair-mindedness. This blog of his doesn’t appear to have been updated recently, but his review of Agora (about Hypatia) was a refreshing change from the glurge I saw elsewhere about “women! science! evil Christians who hate women and science!”

          • onyomi says:

            @Dahlen,

            Yes, 2. was the intended meaning.

          • “how can we get more intelligent left-wing posters around here?”

            Part of the answer is by not carrying grudges.

            Recently a left wing poster posted something interesting. My first thought was to ignore it because he had been, in my view, indefensibly rude to me–posted assertions that were not true and, when I offered evidence they were not true, neither defended nor apologized. I am by nature vengeful, possibly due to reading too many Icelandic sagas, so my instinct was to ostracize him (perhaps due to also reading too much about Vlach Rom institutions?)

            I concluded that that was a mistake, that since he was obviously intelligent it was more productive to engage with him in a civil conversation when he was willing to have one.

            I think following that as a general policy makes the group more attractive not only to people on the left but to people with other political views.

        • Chalid says:

          Nornagest was probably my favorite commenter at the time. It’s a shame he’s gone.

    • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

      I’m honsetly just offended that I got excluded from the right wing partisan list, is it a volume thing?

      • dndnrsn says:

        Your name is close to Anonymous, so probably a lot of people just file you under “Anon using variant name”.

      • Deiseach says:

        Whatever, (if you will pardon the familiarity of the address), your ambition is commendable. But it takes hard slog to make it onto that list, and you have to put in the time to get there.

        What minorities have you oppressed today? Are you taking proper care of your black leather uniform? Are all your devices tuned to Fox News and Fox News only? Are you keeping up with grinding the faces of the poor, and ensuring you stay properly hydrated with a sufficient volume of tears of widows and orphans?

        • Dahlen says:

          When you make posts like this, I’m often torn between calling for less overblown rhetoric and having to appreciate their literary value or whatever.

          And what’s wrong with a black leather uniform, if I may ask? It’s totally metal.

          • Deiseach says:

            And what’s wrong with a black leather uniform, if I may ask?

            Radm seems to disapprove of black leather uniforms for some reason, you will have to ask them to explain. Apparently they are associated with Nazis, people who post on Stormfront, and the Sad and Rabid Puppies (they make no distinction between Sad or Rabid).

            Naturally, the worst scum of the lot in that taxonomy are the Puppies 🙂

          • cassander says:

            @Deiseach

            >Naturally, the worst scum of the lot in that taxonomy are the Puppies ?

            Reminds me of a not very good joke I like to tell. I’m a big Kipling fan, and one of the very few tattoos I would ever consider getting would be some sort of Kipling symbol. the trouble is the two symbols he was most associated with in life were swastikas and elephants, symbols that have both come to be associated with equally unfashionable political parties.

    • Chalid says:

      Can there be a soft ban on debating the ideological makeup of the commentariat? It never accomplishes anything and always turns acrimonious.

      Seriously? I’d guess “ideological makeup of the commentariat” isn’t even in the top 10 most-discussed topics that never accomplish anything and always turn acrimonious.

      Just hit the “hide” button. Surely you do this on other topics that you’re bored with?

      • onyomi says:

        Personally, I can’t think of ten more frequent, more pointless, more acrimonious topics.

        AGW and HBD might both produce more posts, and possibly more acrimony, but their light-to-heat ratio doesn’t feel as bad as this topic.

        “Why not just hide/ignore these types of posts” isn’t really a response to my complaint. It’s not just that I don’t like seeing it, it’s that I think it has a distracting, bad effect in general–both on the commentariat, and, if Scott starts second-guessing himself on such a basis, possibly on the posts and links chosen themselves.

        • Chalid says:

          In this very OT we have yet another Puppies conversation, surely that qualifies?

          It seems like much of your objection to this is that comments that take the form “generalization about group from unquantified personal experience” is unlikely to be useful. But really, it’s not really any worse when the group is “SSC commenters” as opposed to “feminists” or “Red/Blue Tribe” or whatever. And that sort of thing is a very large fraction of the commentary here.

          • onyomi says:

            Well, the “puppies” threads are the one type of thread I skip over even faster than the AGW threads, because I have absolutely no “dog” in this fight, or understanding of it, but that, again, is a discussion of something factional outside of SSC.

          • Chalid says:

            You can’t think of any way this might be useful outside of SSC? Maybe someone might get a better understanding of how internet communities evolve? Or maybe someone might read about a behavior that annoys people, recognize that they are doing it, and stop doing it in the future? (This has happened – I remember more than one occasion on which a poster said they would modify their posting style.)

          • onyomi says:

            Yes, I think the topic of how online communities evolve is definitely an interesting one, and SSC can, in some sense, be a case study or test case for people trying to shape its evolution to the extent that’s even possible. But I would again imagine that useful or interesting generalizable conclusions are more likely to arise from quantifiable statements about general trends than vague statements about the habits of individual posters.

      • Anonymous says:

        Seriously if we are going to ban any topics they should:
        1) the so-called culture war (including what those “SJW” are up to this time)
        2) climate change
        3) anything to do with WWII or nazis
        3b) any kind of alternate history speculation

        • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

          3) anything to do with WWII

          This one seems really out of place, why would WWII discussion even be an issue?

          • Gazeboist says:

            There were a couple of WWII discussions in some recent open threads, in response to yelling about culture war topics. I’m not sure what this anon’s problem with them was, though. And I don’t think most anyone brings up climate change except the old Perfect Loving Fireplace.

        • onyomi says:

          The thing about discussions of AGW, culture war etc. is that while they may get heated and, in some cases, go nowhere, at least they are discussions of things happening in the world which also happen to be nearly impossible to have an intelligent discussion on anywhere. If SSC can provide a space to have a 10% coherent, reasonable, intelligent discussion on real-world issues where you usually get a 0% intelligent, good-faith discussion of real-world issues, then SSC is providing something useful.

          I, personally, have almost no interest in the lengthy AGW debates and so generally skip over them. But I also recognize it as a real-world issue some people might be having a productive discussion about, and so do not complain about it. The annoyance at seeing another AGW mega-thread is purely my own, and so my own to manage by hiding/ignoring.

          Metadiscussions about the SSC commentariat, by contrast, are of absolutely no interest outside the bounds of SSC itself and so have something of a higher “rent” to pay in terms of expected usefulness, imo, especially since they have the potential to negatively impact commenting practice (I realize I just started such a discussion, but my point was that a certain type of discussion of the ideological makeup in terms of specific users has proven, repeatedly, to accomplish nothing).

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          Has AltHistory been particularly bad? Maybe I just scroll past the bad threads, but it seems more like harmless fun than flamebait.

          Definitely sick of climate discussions. Though luckily they aggregate well enough to be easily hidden.

        • Psmith says:

          Agree with WHTA and Dealgood that one of these things is not like the others, and even the climate change threads aren’t too bad.

        • Anonymous says:

          #3 wasn’t a serious suggestion, heck the other two weren’t either, really. Post what you want to post.

          #2 and #3 are just really boring to me and since we don’t have permanent collapse I see them over and over when going through the new comments list.

    • blacktrance says:

      I think it’d be best to have a formal poll using something like the Political Compass, so it’d be easier to refute people who just make blind assertions.

      • onyomi says:

        Endorsed. But without names. I have never taken the annual poll. It doesn’t include something like this?

      • Deiseach says:

        a formal poll using something like the Political Compass

        If that is this test, then I come out “Libertarian Left” on it (you know, the same quadrant Gandhi and Nicola Sturgeon fall – feck it, Nicola Sturgeon? I was in vehement disagreement with my sorting right up until that!)

        Except I was graced with being one of the names on the Right Wing Roll Of (Dis)Honour, so either I’m a lying liar who lied on that test (I didn’t, I answered as honestly as I could) or these kinds of tests don’t match up very well? Or being centre-right Irish conservative is not the same as being right American conservative?

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @Deiseach:
          You are a self-labeled misanthrope. You are also a traditionalist Catholic (aplologies if I am mis-using traditionalist here. I hope you know what I think I mean by it.) You clearly lean towards “people should be self-reliant because no one can be counted upon”.

          Let me put it this way, it’s not surprising that the feelings that you put down here lead to people mistaking you for overall right-of-center.

          • Deiseach says:

            HeelBearCub, I think I am right-of-centre (but not “black leather uniform right”), so I don’t mind as being seen as on the right – I am a conservative and very traditional, after all.

            I do object to the notion that there are no shades of rightwardness and we’re all one big alt-right pile when we comment here, though, while the left gets to be nuanced (or even worse, the moderates who are on the right side of history and reality agrees with them).

            I think there are people who are a bit left of centre all the way up to as left as you can go (though I agree most of those have departed for other shores; I tend to put that down less to being driven off by dogpiling as that they didn’t want to stand their ground and argue their points, being instead more accustomed to stating X is X and not needing to back it up because the people they usually interacted with all agreed that indeed, X is X) who visit and hang out here.

            I’d like an acknowledgement that the right-leaning commenters who visit and hang out here similarly encompass “a bit right of centre to as far right as you can go” (but not the complete Fascists, I don’t think we have any here, and I’m using Fascist in its political meaning and not the ‘big old meanie’ meaning it has taken on as an all-purpose term of disapproval).

            I think, ironically, because the right side is used to having to argue and stick up for themselves, we’re probably able to tough it out better and that’s why this site is leaning more rightwards. I’d like more left point of view people here, and I don’t want Jill banned even if sometimes her conviction that America is a huge sea of Right Wing Conservatism and only a few brave liberals here and there stand up for Niceness and Sanity drives me scatty, but I do think the more left-inclined have departed because they perceived this site as being “on our side because he’s not one of those religious nutjobs who is anti-sex and anti-drugs and pro-big business and money over human rights” and couldn’t or didn’t want to deal with the right-inclined hanging round and speaking out honestly about our opinions (as distinct from the ‘smile, nod, say nothing’ style of engagement for the sake of peace online and in real life).

            I don’t want an echo chamber. I like it here because Scott is nearly always interesting, I get a range of opinions I don’t get elsewhere, and where I don’t know something about a topic it’s informative to see the people that do discussing it and arguing over it.

            I suppose this is why people are told “don’t talk about religion and politics”?

          • radmonger says:

            > not the complete Fascists, I don’t think we have any here

            Pretty sure you are wrong on that. The conventional political science definition of a neo-fascist is someone advocating keeping the economic system mostly the same, but nevertheless overthrowing democracy for reasons unconnected to economics (typically race and/or war). Hugo Boss uniforms, racial hierarchies, non-medical use of the word ‘cancer’ are all optional, but are a Bayesian signal.

            I don’t know much about the Irish far right; maybe it’s because you come from there you start from a different set of priors and so might miss certain signs? For example, would you typically assume someone was joking if they argued a race war is necessary to preserve a future for white children?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Deiseach:
            There a certain members (mostly fairly short-lived) of the community who aren’t differentiating the mass, but I don’t think it’s fair to say that I can’t tell the difference between (say) onyomi, FacelessCraven and you. Nor is it fair to suggest that I have proposed lumping you together as if you are undifferentiated. Nor is it correct to lump you all together outside of “right-of-center”, whoever has done so. And frankly I’m not sure I actually agree that you are right of center, depending on the day and the topic.

            All I have argued, on a fairly consistent basis, is that if one is not willing to publically recognize what positions are not being well represented here, one is failing to conform beliefs to reality. It has stopped being in vogue, but it used to be quite popular for some here to point to a survey result of readers and make the contention that the space was actually over-representing left wing opinions. Which was demonstrably wrong.

            I think, ironically, because the right side is used to having to argue and stick up for themselves, we’re probably able to tough it out better and that’s why this site is leaning more rightwards.

            This kind of statement drives me absolutely nuts. I really, really, really try hard not to assert the moral superiority of my side and demean the moral character of the opposition, especially as a broad group. Super especially about community members.

            I have tried to point this kind of shit out numerous times, and it falls on deaf ears. These are the kinds of statements that, when made by Jill about the right, get absolutely savaged by multiple commenters.

          • Deiseach says:

            HeelBearCub, I wasn’t meaning you in particular. But there does seem to be a strain of “SSC is so right-wing now” and I’m not sure where that is coming from. Some people seem to pop up out of nowhere, make a few comments about how the site is all alt-right, and then vanish again.

            I wasn’t trying to say “the right is superior in character or morals”, just that in general interacting with people on the Internet tends to mean interacting with people who have liberal/progressive views, think these are the default for all sensible persons, and if you’re going to stick your head above the parapet with right-wing or conservative views, you need to be thick-skinned and learn to stand your ground in an argument. I have perfectly cordial relationships with some people on various sites on matters of common interest – as long as I take care to avoid any touchy subjects (e.g. if someone posts an impassioned plea on behalf of how important it is to stand with Planned Parenthood, I have to judge do I keep my mouth shut because the general topics I come here to talk about are not related to PP or whatever, or do I blow all semblance of any kind of relationship out of the water by revealing my horrible anti-woman anti-choice beliefs and get myself kicked out? It’s different on here because there is no automatic “if you think that, we can’t be friends, and I want you to unfollow me/leave this site”).

            Longer term commenters would know the difference in opinions on here, but there do seem to be (unless I’m only misinterpreting) a lot of short-time commenters turning up, and mostly complaining how right-wing the site is, and not really doing much to contribute past that.

            I’m not going to invoke any conspiracy theories, and maybe it’s just the nature of things on the Internet, but I think there’s a danger of bitterness creeping in about perceived slights by everyone (and again, I’m not pointing the finger at any particular person or trying to coyly hint that I really mean So-and-So). Perhaps it’s simply the result of the politics posts and how really tense and fraught the current American election is this time round.

            I think we’ll all be glad when it’s over.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Nish’allah.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @HeelBearCub – “All I have argued, on a fairly consistent basis, is that if one is not willing to publically recognize what positions are not being well represented here, one is failing to conform beliefs to reality. It has stopped being in vogue, but it used to be quite popular for some here to point to a survey result of readers and make the contention that the space was actually over-representing left wing opinions. Which was demonstrably wrong.”

            This. Endorsed. Upvoted. +1.

            There was a point when I was willing to get behind the argument you refer to, and that point is in the rear-view mirror.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @FacelessCraven:
            I’ve said several times recently that I have subjectively noticed more left-of-center comments.

            I’m not yet convinced it’s a new normal. What matters is whether people stick around, most especially those who post “high quality” stuff. But, only time will tell on that.

        • Aren’t you a Distributist? I suppose that could be seen as libertarian left.

          I generally label GKC as a libertarian. A somewhat nutty libertarian–but a lot of us are.

          • Deiseach says:

            I wouldn’t quite be a Distributist; I can sympathise with the views but I see that there are problems trying to ‘scale down’ in a world that, for better or worse, has ‘scaled up’ and is interconnected economically. “Three acres and a cow” won’t do you much good anymore.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Speaking of which, are there any Distributists here? Given how much I respect Chesterton, I need to actually look into it someday.

          • Tekhno says:

            With sufficiently advanced technology, scaling down may be possible again.

      • Tekhno says:

        A formal poll is fine so long as you don’t use the Political Compass. Scott or someone could make something far better.

        The political compass is appalling and contains questions that heavily bias it towards the left-libertarian quadrant. I wish it would stop being so popular and someone would come up with a better one, because it really is bad.

        It uses questions taken directly from Theodor Adorno’s “F Scale”, so any questions that lean right are made to sound bad. I especially found it amusing to see during “Ants” that various Ants on Youtube used the Compass as a rebuff to the argument that they were right wing. They were using a measure that partially incorporates questions from a scale made by a guy who was part of the Frankfurt School – aka a Cultural Marxist!

        Check out an internet version of the F Scale here.
        Then compare some of the questions on the Political Compass.

        • LPSP says:

          I see much less respect for that political compass these days compared to 8 years ago. I reckon the problem is presenting resolving itself with talks about demographic attitudes and such. A solution shouldn’t be forced.

          That one test where you pair faces with words to see if you’re subconsciously racist, now that needs reworking.

        • Deiseach says:

          F Scale result:

          Your F Score is: 3.27
          You are disciplined but tolerant; a true American.

          3 to 4.5 Within normal limits; an appropriate score for an American. (The overall average score for groups tested in the original study is listed in the 1950 publication as 3.84, with men averaging somewhat higher and women somewhat lower.)

          I told you I was a centrist, so I did! I am perfectly Average and not at all Far Right or Far Left, you should all listen to me and my opinions in future as the True American I am 🙂

    • Dahlen says:

      I understand why you dislike this sort of threads, and I can see for myself how they usually turn out and why that’s not a productive undertaking, but let me put forward the following objections:

      – Seeing the words “ban”, “debating”, “ideological” in the same sentence made my corrupt-one-party-totalitarianism detectors emit a low buzz. Terrible optics here. “No, we’re not majority right-wing, why are you asking this question, do you want to get the boot?” It would come off as though the website wants to sweep the question of ideological makeup of the commentariat under the rug, like it’s afraid that the answer is not what it wants to present itself as (the best, least biased, most polite, most diverse discussion forum out there) and that it doesn’t reflect well on it. Do you like what Haidt is doing with the Heterodox Academy project? Do you think it’s okay when USian academia denies its leftist goodthink ubiquity problem? Then you should understand why this doesn’t smell good to me. The fact that ideological finger-pointing is usually a call for a flame war is both true, and the perfect excuse to enact a rather dubious policy.

      – SSCers are, for the most part, obsessed with ideology to a degree hardly ever encountered elsewhere; not just with their own ideology, like most political groups, but with the whole theory of ideology. This is our catnip. And most of the reason why folks come here is that the Scott-produced content and the community discussions actively encourage as well as feed upon this obsession. Which would mean that this sort of meta isn’t really out of place here, and it would be weird to ban it.

      – A friendlier way to allow people to satisfy such curiosities is to have user profiles that include political self-identification (yes, I understand that it doesn’t work well for oddballs who don’t neatly fit into boxes, I would know, I am one), and have a Statistics widget somewhere that tells people that X% of the posts in this thread were made by people who self-identify as Libertarian or whatever. (TBH, I was rather glad when the Register/Login glitch (I think it was a glitch?) appeared yesterday, it would have been a good idea.)

      • onyomi says:

        I agree. As I say here, I definitely am not suggesting a hard or soft rule which makes discussion of our own ideological tendencies taboo. I think what I’d really like to see is, if and when this comes up in the future, that it be backed up by something quantifiable, along with, ideally, suggested ways to improve, and not involving call-outs of specific users.

        Example:

        “In a recent survey, 65% of regular SSC posters identified as ‘right-leaning,’ while only 35% identified as ‘left-leaning.’ How can we attract more smart, left-leaning posters?”=good

        “Of 100 posts in the recent OT about the election, 71 were broadly pro-Trump, while only 29 were broadly anti-Trump. Why is that?”=good

        “This place is such a right-wing echo chamber and it’s the fault of people like a, b, c, and d.”=bad

        “Scott, you know that posting stuff like this is just going to attract more of the bad people?”=bad

        Maybe it sounds self-serving because I am broadly right-wing and have been called out for it more than once. But to the extent people who are not happy with the ideological makeup of the SSC commentariat actually want to change it, I think the first two sorts of example are not only nicer, but also more likely to succeed.

        • Randy M says:

          I tried to tally comments on an open thread not too long ago and gave up because the ratio of easily categorized political posts to apolitical posts was not as big as I remembered.

          I also don’t see what the problem is, nor what a solution would be. I suppose Scott could reserve the first x top level comment threads for particular posters he finds valuable from a range of diverse viewpoints so a more balanced set of reactions emerges? Seems pointlessly complicated, but any more obtrusive solutions, up to and including having Scott edit himself for neutrality or wide appeal I find quite undesirable.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          I think what I’d really like to see is, if and when this comes up in the future, that it be backed up by _something quantifiable_, along with, ideally, suggested ways to improve, and _not involving call-outs of specific users_.

          You understand that those two things are essentially at odds with each other, right?

          • onyomi says:

            Why are they at odds? You can say there were 70 pro-Trump posts and only 30 anti-Trump posts without saying who posted them?

            As for ways to improve, you could ask “what could we do to encourage more anti-Trumpers to express themselves or visit the site,” again, without calling out specific users.

            Of course, if the goal is to make a certain person post less of a certain type of post then you can’t avoid usernames, but I think something like that is rarely called for, provided the person is being polite and somewhat measured. As I said, for example, I don’t approve of the calls to ban specific people just because they frequently express with conviction opinions I find unfathomable.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            Because people won’t believe you when you say “70% of the posts were made by people who are X” unless you provide your rubric.

            And that rubric is necessarily a list of monikers.

          • onyomi says:

            I guess you’re less trusting than I am! Personally, I’d probably just take someone’s word for it if their numbers didn’t sound totally off the wall. Of course it would still necessarily be somewhat subjective as to what constituted e. g. a “right wing” comment, but at least it would carry more weight than just “off the top of my head…” Someone who doesn’t believe would always be free to check.

            Alternatively, Scott could do a poll and reveal the results but not who voted how.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Onyomi – my observations from the last few months:

            Telling other commenters that their comments suck goes badly every time.

            Talking about how other commenters’ comments suck goes badly every time.

            Taking other commenters to task for their comments about how much other people’s comments suck goes badly every time.

            Meta goes poorly, and additional levels of meta don’t seem to help. I think asking other people why they find what they’re doing useful might help some, if done from a stance of genuine curiosity, as it can help determine how to modify one’s own behavior. And one’s own behavior is all any of us really control.

          • Tekhno says:

            Of course it would still necessarily be somewhat subjective as to what constituted e. g. a “right wing” comment

            This will be the big problem here.

            The term “right wing” tends to get used lazily to lump everyone together who’s not officially “left wing” even if there is already incredible diversity. Many people here, myself included, have some positions that could be designated “right wing” even though if you take their overall set of stances you could come to a different conclusions We’re quite an unusual bunch of weirdos who aren’t very representative of the populace at large.

            It would be better if people just said “Hey, I’m fed up of seeing this specific viewpoint go unchallenged, and would like to see more commentators who are willing to put it to the test” instead of various accusations that the comment section is becoming a crypto-fascist hive of scum and villainy. Be more pro-active and invite in favored people who you think can advance a different view.

            Organize an expedition from reddit or something. You can do it! I believe in you!

            To be really blunt and mean (but without crossing a line and naming names): there are some real whiny cowards about who can’t handle pressure and snipe from anonymous handles, and I can’t help but feel they’re just calling for Scott to come in and save them from their own inadequacy.

          • Deiseach says:

            You can say there were 70 pro-Trump posts and only 30 anti-Trump posts

            Taking the election posts, which is where all this seems to have come to the boil, I think an anti-Hillary post isn’t necessarily a pro-Trump post and vice versa. (I’m not pro-Trump but I think Hillary has some problems of her own, so that may make me sound to someone else as if I’m pro-Trump, which is not how I would like my comments to be classed).

            The range of opinions seems to be:

            (a) I think Trump is so bad that you have to vote for the other main candidate, even if it is Hillary. Vote third party even if you have to, but not for Trump. (This is anti-Trump but not ringingly endorsing Hillary).

            (b) I think Trump is the Abomination of Desolation and I’d vote for a cabbage over him but I’m so stoked that Hillary is running because she will preside over a kinder, better world. Also, did I mention how awful Trump is and how wonderful Hillary is? (This is pro-Hillary and anti-Trump).

            (c) I think Trump is not the greatest choice out there, but the third party candidates are out to lunch and Hillary? She has her own issues and electing her will not ensure the solution of the problems facing America, and her foreign policy scares me (anti-Hillary, not enthused about Trump)

            (d) I think Trump is the very man needed, the guy who will shake up the system which badly needs to be shaken up. Here’s why his policies make more sense than the mockery that doesn’t analyse them properly tells you. Hillary is just more of the same crony corruption establishment politics and she’s not squeaky-clean either (pro-Trump, anti-Hillary).

            The trouble is, anti-Trump but not pro-Hillary and anti-Trump, pro-Hillary get lumped in together, and anti-Hillary but not pro-Trump and anti-Hillary, pro-Trump get lumped in together on the other side, so making strange bedfellows on both left and right.

            For the most enthusiastic pro-Hillary commenters, being anti-Trump but not pro-Hillary also equates to being anti-Hillary in practice so they lump you in with the pro-Trumpers, and for the most enthusiastic pro-Trump, being anti-Hillary and not pro-Trump likewise on the other side.

            So you can have someone genuinely expressing “This is a majority far-right comment site!”, because they’re putting “strongly pro-Trump”, “weakly anti-Trump but not strongly pro-Hillary” and “weakly anti-Hillary but not strongly pro-Trump” all in one “right wing spectrum” and comparing that to “strongly pro-Hillary”, so of course the scales don’t balance.

          • onyomi says:

            One other point: I think a lot of this was in reaction to all the pushback Scott got for his pro-Hillary posts, which were really, for the most part, anti-Trump posts. It’s problematic to use a higher proportion of pro-Trump comments posted in reply to an anti-Trump post as evidence of the commentariat being more pro-Trump than anti-Trump. Because the nature of the comments section is you’re replying, first and foremost, to the post itself, and then, secondarily, to others’ comments on that post, etc.

            Of course, a small proportion of people who agree with the post will say “right on, Scott!” “great post, Scott!”–comments which, btw, would have to go in the “Pro-Hillary” column when in response to such a post–but most of them will remain silent if they have no objection. Those who have an objection are more likely to post, so having more pro-Trump comments on an anti-Trump post would be the expected outcome if the commentariat were, in reality, evenly split, or even slightly pro-Hillary.

            Imagine if Scott had written two posts endorsing Trump, in no small part due to all the perceived problems with Hillary. I don’t think such a post would have passed without significant pushback from this den of alt-right iniquity. In fact, I predict there would have been more pro-HRC comments on such a post than pro-Trump comments.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Onyomi – “I think a lot of this was in reaction to all the pushback Scott got for his pro-Hillary posts, which were really, for the most part, anti-Trump posts.”

            Toss those posts out, use the previous couple OTs. Lots of pro-trump paragraphs. Lots of anti-Clinton paragraphs. A fair number of anti-trump posts, but usually short and not detailed. A fair number of pro-Clinton posts, but usually short and not detailed. The pattern is pretty obvious. I think the OT before those posts, we actually had a massive thread about why people supported trump, and a very short one about why people supported Hillary.

            “In fact, I predict there would have been more pro-HRC comments on such a post than pro-Trump comments.”

            And longer ones, too, since disagreeing generally takes longer than agreeing. But he didn’t write those posts, and generally posts like that aren’t what have shaped the comment section.

            Take 20 random comments from SSC, and 20 random comments from ToT, scrub names and dates and any explicit reference to the site. Do you think it’d be hard to tell which were which?

            I posted for a short time on ToT. I found it exhausting, and stopped. I’ve posted here a whole lot more. What should we conclude from this pattern?

            …One of the problems is that the relative population of blues to greys/reds is being used as an excuse to dismiss grey/red arguments. That’s not helpful. But is there a way to fix it without making the problem worse? Maybe that’s an acceptable cost as a grey/red?

            On the other hand, does arguing about whether or not this is a grey/red bubble attract more blues or drive our current blues out? As Grey/Reds, which option should we prefer?

    • As I said in another thread I kind of enjoy these discussions. Maybe I’m a masochist. Maybe I’m one of those people that is simply interested in the idea of ideology, and figuring out how people fit in. It may seem like we aren’t getting anywhere, but I’ve certainly learned some things about what others think is right or left, and what each person thinks is good or bad about comments. Such as, someone complained about the one-sided-ness of discussions about CU and financial regulations, and then later about an estate tax discussion. I somehow find it fascinating to see other people’s reactions to the posting here.

      Yes, it would be nice to have actual data about the postings here, but that is hard to determine, and probably a bit subjective even if someone went to the trouble of doing it. But that’s true about a lot of conversations — some things are hard to quantify. But they are still fun to talk about if you learn something about how others think. And I think I do by reading those comments. And I do think it is useful to mention names as being right or left , given the lack of hard data available, even though it may say more about the person who created the list than the listees themselves. But that is good info too!

      So anyway, I don’t want any discouragement of discussions about SSC ideology. I like ’em.

  16. Sandy says:

    Explain the validity of implicit bias to me. Ever since Mike Pence argued against it during the VP debate, media outlets like the NYT and Slate have put out articles defending implicit bias as a scientific concept and urging people to be less defensive about it. But from what I can tell, implicit bias findings have not proven resistant to psychology’s replication crisis.

    • ExpertWitness says:

      Everyone is biased. The people who deny it are implicitly biased.

      The culture war is a battle over reality. Everyone is trying to project the stories that validate them. From the perspective of the winners, the world is meritocratic, so they deserve their relative status over everyone else, and any challenge to the status quo makes things unfair. To the losers, the world is brutally unfair, so much so that it seems that there is a widespread conspiracy to keep them down that manifests as denial of the incredible injustice in the world.

      Winners are whiter, maler, richer, and more educated, than losers, who are relatively darker skinned, female, poor, and less educated.

    • Garrett says:

      I have the same issue, too, though from a slightly different angle.
      There seem to me to be reasonable studies that show that people have slightly different short-term responses to dark-skinned people vs. light-skinned people. This largely involves tests which provide a very limited amount of time to solve. Eg. seeing a picture of a person’s face for tens of milliseconds and then having to determine what emotion they are showing, or seeing how fast/correct you can associate groups of words co-mingled with people of different colors into specific columns.

      The problem is that there isn’t any causative evidence to show that this lasts beyond the first few seconds of an interaction with someone. That this might result in slightly different results on the margin is something I can believe, but not that it would be responsible for large-scale disparities.

  17. Sandy says:

    Anyone else think these crime procedurals where civilian consultants investigate murders paint a really unflattering portrayal of the police? I’ve been watching Elementary lately and Holmes and Watson’s roles in each case are so pivotal that it becomes hard to imagine how the NYPD would solve any crimes at all if they weren’t around.

    • The Nybbler says:

      The original Holmes held Scotland Yard in amused contempt, so it fits with the canon.

      _Castle_, on the other hand, had intelligent police as well as the titular civilian consultant.

      • Sandy says:

        I just used Elementary as an example, but I’m also thinking of shows like Bones, Hannibal and The Blacklist where conventional law enforcement just seems to be the muscle sent in to catch the criminal once the brilliant consultants have figured everything else out.

        The Wire had a better portrayal of detectives working their cases.

        • Gazeboist says:

          The Wire was about those detectives, though. I think it’s just a natural case of shows focusing on their main characters, potentially to the detriment of others around them.

      • Deiseach says:

        Well, the whole “why is an amateur solving a case where the police are involved” genre of mystery and crime fiction needs as its raison d’être that the police are incompetent, corrupt or someway lacking in the specific talents or knowledge that the amateur possesses. So naturally the police have to come across as simple-minded plod or bent as a corkscrew in comparison to the hero(ine). It’s not realistic, but if you want realism you’ll go for novels and shows that are police procedurals, not private detectives and amateur sleuths.

        Eh, I tend to have Opinions about Elementary so I’ll leave dicussing that for Tumblr 🙂 (I’m not hugely thrilled with Sherlock, either).

        Original Holmes was very prone to amusing himself at the expense of the official police, but he did come to a rapprochement with them later in his career. Holmes in the early stories was young, making his career out of nothing (he wasn’t a private detective as such at the start but a consultant; not just the police but other enquiry agents would come to him when they were out of their depth on a case). Holmes was only interested in the strange and unusual and mentally challenging cases; he admitted that nine times out of ten, the police were perfectly capable of dealing with the ordinary sorts of crime that they were called in for. And really there wasn’t what we’d call a proper detective force during the period Doyle started the stories; it wasn’t until 1829 that a professional, trained police service (the Metropolitan Police) was founded, the Detective Branch wasn’t founded until 1842, a plains clothes detective branch not until 1878 and the force was dogged with corruption and incompetence scandals (a tradition it has kept up to modern times). Holmes’ insistence on physical evidence was unusual and novel, and rivalries between different detectives were commonplace, as in the first Holmes story:

        “Gregson is the smartest of the Scotland Yarders,” my friend remarked; “he and Lestrade are the pick of a bad lot. They are both quick and energetic, but conventional — shockingly so. They have their knives into one another, too. They are as jealous as a pair of professional beauties. There will be some fun over this case if they are both put upon the scent.”

        But in the end they come to this:

        “Well,” said Lestrade, “I’ve seen you handle a good many cases, Mr. Holmes, but I don’t know that I ever knew a more workmanlike one than that. We’re not jealous of you at Scotland Yard. No, sir, we are very proud of you, and if you come down to-morrow there’s not a man, from the oldest inspector to the youngest constable, who wouldn’t be glad to shake you by the hand.”

        “Thank you!” said Holmes. “Thank you!” and as he turned away it seemed to me that he was more nearly moved by the softer human emotions than I had ever seen him.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      It has always annoyed me (and this a pet-peave, so please don’t take it personally) when people forget that the demands of narrative drive (almost) all fiction, and really all stories. Even when one is watching a documentary or reading non-fiction we should be aware of this fundamental bias. Evaluate narrative in much the way one might a “face” someone has pointed out in the bark of a tree.

      I remember having a conversation with a co-worker in my 20s after they had just seen the Oliver Stone movie “JFK” who stated “Well, I’m never going to trust the government again!” They had been so taken in by a work of fiction centered around a few real world events that they bought completely into a conspiratorial mindset.

      • hlynkacg says:

        The demands of narrative drive (almost) all fiction, and really all stories.

        I’ve barrowed a page from the late Terry Pratchett and taken to calling this effect “the law of narrative causality”.

        As an aside, I have a special place in movie hell reserved for Oliver Stone’s JFK for all that “back an to the left” nonsense. You don’t get ejecta like that from an entry wound.

    • Urstoff says:

      Those shows don’t remotely resemble normal detective work anyway (particularly accusing everyone in sight of committing the crime and then always getting a confession at the end), so I think that bit of unrealism is pretty minor.

    • DrBeat says:

      I thought Monk did a good job of this by highlighting that not only is Adrian Monk only called in for really, really weird cases, and not only are there situations that arise as part of being an actual police detective that he can’t psychologically handle, but there are parts of case-solving that the police are good at and he’s terrible at. Anything involving people skills, utilizing contacts, establishing rapport, etc, all that stuff he’s hopeless at. Its sister show Psych went a similar route in showing how Shawn Spencer was great at observation and deduction and had no talent nor willpower for any of the other things involved in actually being a police investigator.

      That’s how to do it, I think. Highlight how the civilian consultant is only called in for certain types of cases (even if it’s “hard, weird, interesting cases”), and then show the civilian consultant actually couldn’t solve the cases they are not called in to solve, and now you have a smart cool person who the cops call in on the hardest cases, who still doesn’t make the cops look like idiots. I think Bones tried to do this at the beginning, and the Jeffersonian (was that the place the main characters worked at?) was only suited to certain types of investigation — namely ones where forensic anthropology is the main source of information — but then they just had every investigation coming to the Jeffersonian first, so it looked like they did all the crime-solving for everyone. House, for all its faults, did do a good job of reinforcing that most medical cases are not mysteries with the frequent “clinic” segments, which showed us why we don’t want to have our whole hospital staffed with Drs. House (because most of medical work is like this and he’s miserable at it) while also providing comic relief.

      • Agronomous says:

        Also the police in Monk are so blind that they’ve made Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs a captain.

    • Odoacer says:

      The homicide rate in those TV shows seems crazy high. You’d be well advised to run far away if Monk or Jessica Fletcher were to come around. There presence is pretty much a guarantee that someone will be murdered.

      • Deiseach says:

        The homicide rate in those TV shows seems crazy high.

        The ITV television series, Midsomer Murders, takes a tongue-in-cheek, knowing approach to that. It’s set in the type of location of the typical cosy/cozy murder mystery, with the quaint picturesqueness turned up to eleven and a body count reminiscent of the worst of Verdun or the Somme when taken in total over the run of the show.

        • LPSP says:

          The entire premise of that series is so trippy. It’s like this one quiet village is a vortex of death, that specifically only draws people who are performing like deliberate over-actors in a hammy amateur production. No-one notices the straight-played cliches dripping from the furniture, or that the one hamlet constitutes the national death toll for the entire United Kingdom. It’s like that one Monty Python skit with the lethal tennis party gone wrong, only played deadly straight over and over and OVER.

          I can watch one episode every five years.

      • Fahundo says:

        The homicide rate in those TV shows seems crazy high

        A murder a week sounds really low for a large American city.

        • JayT says:

          Monk took place in San Francisco, which has around a murder a week, so if the show were to be believed, Monk would solve every murder in the city.

          As for Jessica Fletcher, she was in a fictional town in Maine that was apparently modeled after Kennebunkport, which hasn’t had a murder in at least the last 15 years. Which, now that I think of it lines up pretty well with when Murder She Wrote went off the air…maybe Jessica was a serial killer that was getting involved in the murders just to throw the police off her trail!

          • Fahundo says:

            Monk took place in San Francisco

            As for Jessica Fletcher, she was in a fictional town in Maine

            Fair enough. I was thinking of places like NY, Chicago, LA, Baltimore, etc, that have quite bit more than 50 murders in a year.

          • DrBeat says:

            But A: there are less than 52 episodes per year, B: many times the murder is outside San Francisco, and C: the majority of the murders would have been classified as accidental deaths were they not investigated by a quirky genius detective.

          • Jiro says:

            Of course there is the anime series Detective Conan. It *is* on almost every week in the year (though most stories are at least 2 parts), and because of its setup, the entire 20+ year history of the show has to take place over less than a story year.

        • John Schilling says:

          so if the show were to be believed, Monk would solve every murder in the city.

          And just so we’re clear, most real-world murders are essentially self-solving, requiring at most such advanced criminological techniques as following the trail of blood and/or asking all the neighbors what they saw. Even if your city has a quirky genius detective who can solve any case in five minutes flat, nine murders out of ten you’re going to not find that worth the bother of dealing with their quirks.

          • Evan Þ says:

            … as Sherlock Holmes repeatedly complained.

          • Agronomous says:

            My charming city (capital of our fine country) has a murder clearance rate of around 50%, which doesn’t fit with your “nine murders out of ten.”

            Witness intimidation, the desire to exact personal revenge, and gang involvement probably account for at least half of the unsolved cases. The rest may have something to do with cops spending half their time at their desks filling out voluminous paperwork, or even-more-voluminous electronic paperwork.

          • Montfort says:

            My charming city (capital of our fine country) has a murder clearance rate of around 50%, which doesn’t fit with your “nine murders out of ten.”

            Additionally, the official “charm city” (Baltimore) had a clearance rate of 30.5% in 2015. However, there is an argument to be made that many of these unsolved homicides are incidents of gang violence that might reasonably be “solved” but are difficult to prove and prosecute (probably not enough to make it up to 90%, but DC/Baltimore may be outliers).

            ETA: missed your second paragraph, basically agree.

  18. Jill says:

    I found this interesting and startling:

    Six Million Adults Who Won’t Influence This Presidential Race
    One in 40 Americans can’t vote because of a criminal conviction. But the rules aren’t exactly fair
    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/six-million-adults-who-wont-influence-this-election-w443693

    “the United States takes the practice of political disenfranchisement to incredible levels. We are one of just four countries in the world (Croatia, Belgium and Armenia are the others) that enforces post-release restrictions on voting. Over three million Americans who’ve already served their time and are out of prison remain ineligible to vote.

    “The rules vary state by state, but the impact overall is breathtaking. One in 40 American adults is ineligible to vote this year. Nationwide, one in 13 African-American adults cannot vote. In Kentucky, Florida, Tennessee and Virginia, more than 20 percent of African-Americans are ineligible.

    “In this country, whether or not you lose the right to vote for committing a crime mostly depends on who you are, not what you did, especially when it comes to nonviolent economic offenses.

    “If you got caught selling something bad in a plastic bag, you have a good chance of being forced to sit out this election.

    “If the bad thing you sold came with a prospectus(white collar banking crime), you’re probably fine.

    “Just another reason to hate the political process as we head into this most disgusting of all presidential elections. The alien invasion can’t come too soon. “

  19. R Flaum says:

    Interesting article on the scientific — as opposed to religious — opposition to Galileo.

  20. BBA says:

    Where Have All the Fun Sitcoms Gone? A trend I’ve noticed from afar – the only current comedy I regularly watch is Silicon Valley, which is a relatively “fun” show. The “prestige” comedies of today seem like they’d be a chore to watch. (Not to turn this subthread into a culture war flamefest, but yes, partly it’s that I’m a cis het white dude and many of these shows would feel like lectures about how bigoted I am – and if I don’t like them it’s just proof of my bigotry. But that’s not the whole story: BoJack Horseman, which I haven’t seen yet, looks apolitical and still very “heavy.”)

    • Sandy says:

      I watched a few episodes of Bojack and hated it. I just wanted the main character to kill himself so he’d stop droning on about how terrible his life is. Rick and Morty is funny and mostly ignores the culture wars. And unlike Bojack, it has a chronically depressed main character who isn’t a chore to watch.

      It’s not a sitcom, but the new Lethal Weapon tv series is a lot of fun and also ignores the culture wars.

    • LHN says:

      I was surprised to find Bojack Horseman compelling, and its main character somehow sympathetic, despite entirely understanding why viewers would be as justly inclined to lose patience with him as the people around him. Part of it may be that the humor works for me (both the general absurdism and the detailed worldbuilding/callback elements). Still, I usually check out of shows with this sort of protagonist pretty quickly; self-sabotage is one thing, but he’s always seems to manage to bring other people down even harder in the process. Instead I find this one riveting, and yet it’s hard to think of anyone I know who I’d recommend it to.

      (My wife would never forgive me if I let her watch it, though I’m occasionally tempted to show her “Fish Out of Water” in isolation.)

    • LHN says:

      Re primarily funny comedy: “Galavant” was a great if short-lived comedy (and a musical with songs by Alan Menken), all of which is on Netflix and other streaming services. “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” is likewise pretty purely funny (if a bit more cringey) and also a musical. Showtime’s “Episodes” was a light self-satire on Hollywood sitcom writing, with Matt LeBlanc playing himself in a surprisingly game way.

    • Adam says:

      I don’t agree with this article at all – the author mentions one current comedy (New Girl) in the last paragraph, but only dismissively, and admits that they haven’t watched it recently. I can think of (and watch!) several current fun tv comedies that are definitely focused on jokes and not a prestige comedy – Last Man On Earth, Brooklyn 99, The Goldbergs, The Middle, as well as Silicon Valley mentioned above. The author doesn’t seem like they actually like regular tv comedies that much.

      I will agree with them that The Big Bang Theory is garbage though.

      Last Man on Earth is my favorite right, Will Forte is fantastic in it.

    • Incurian says:

      Modern Family is pretty good and goofy.

    • Gazeboist says:

      I haven’t watched a ton of it, but Parks and Rec, which ended a mere year and a half ago, was pretty light and very funny (the “how to make a wedding ring” bit comes to mind, if your sense of humor is similar to mine). As others have stated, Rick and Morty is a thing that exists, though it isn’t to my tastes. Archer, also, tends to fire off broadsides at everyone while still being funny (the show and the character, frankly), though Archer is not a sitcom as I think the author of that article would define the term.

      The author also seems to equivocate sometimes between “prestige” comedies and all comedies, and at other times between “sitcoms” and all comedies. Many shows of all types are terrible, and biases in critical circles mean that anything that isn’t almost exclusively drama will get classed as a comedy, whether or not it is exclusively comedic (or joke based – critics and guide writers tend to stick to old-school definitions of drama and comedy, which usually call anything that isn’t about Great People with Tragic Flaws a comedy). But a sitcom is not the only way to tell jokes, and comedies can have plots and make changes. They can also do it without lecturing and without demanding that you think hard about what’s going on. Consider Blackadder, which puts the same character templates in a wide variety of settings, changing every season.

      I’m not sure what the author really wants – he seems to fault comedies for developing characters and telling stories, or at least for not having a punch line every couple of minutes. I find that frankly bizarre; jokes depend on their setup. A punchline delivered after a long buildup of serious-sounding (but slightly off) development is a lot funnier, at least to me, than a series of punchlines delivered one after another, with little to no space between (Big Bang Theory and schlock like it has a different problem, which is that it can’t tell a punchline from a laugh-track). If he wants comedies to be unwilling to spend a whole episode setting up a joke, frankly I’m glad his tastes are out of favor now. Of course, he praises Community, which frequently did primarily-development segments that led to no punchline at all, so who knows.

    • Urstoff says:

      It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia is still on and still hilarious.

    • arbitrary_greay says:

      Shows that are “simply” fun are much easier to produce in shorter formats that focus on one particular gag, instead of needing to hang on a specific runtime and traditional narrative structures. This means that productions with the tone and comedic priority of the sitcoms of old have primarily moved into online formats. The Vines, with space for only the one gag. The Youtubers with that one type of sudden cuts editing. Webseries, with single-sequence/scene episodes.

      However, seconding the love for Galavant and B99. And note how B99’s Andy Samberg (with Jorma guest-starring this season) got their start with internet sketch comedy. The titular host of Adam Ruins Everything is also a sketch troupe alum.
      Look at how much stuff Rooster Teeth puts out every day. (They’re especially a production company that tends to have strong comedic priorities even in their narrative-based shows.) People are hailing Monster Factory as some really incredible comedy, as well.
      Con Man (cringe comedy by Alan Tudyk) is available on Vimeo.

      Finally, there’s plenty of comedy shows in Jdrama, Kdrama and anime. Although, even anime is increasing its shorts shows output, figuring out that some 4koma adaptations really don’t work well with 30-min episodes. Recommendations available if you want.

      And it’s because I get my comedy from other sources, that I tend to prefer narrative media shows to have a bit more heft. Nonetheless, I do prefer more light-hearted shows, where humor is a strong part of the regular episodes. Like Leverage, Doctor Who, Warehouse 13, most Whedon shows, etc.

    • John Schilling says:

      Nosowitz may chose to dismiss The Big Bang Theory as “garbage”, and it isn’t exactly to my taste either, but it’s pretty clearly a sitcom that aims at Fun rather than Prestige, and it has consistently been one of the highest-rated shows on television for the better part of a decade. New Girl and the recently-concluded How I Met Your Mother never quite reached that level of popularity, but were I believe consistently solid in both critical acclaim and ratings, so if that’s the sort of television one wants to watch, it’s out there. And those are just off the top of the head of a guy who doesn’t watch much television.

      If the claim is that there aren’t shows that A: you/I/Nosozitz think are really good and B: are critically acclaimed and C: are top-ten ratings winners, then maybe so but so what? If on top of that we are complaining that critics really seem to like shows that we don’t, then we’re definitely entering world’s-smallest-violin territory.

    • Randy M says:

      I liked the Grinder, fox show about TV lawyer and real-life lawyer brothers, but apparently Fox executives found I was in the minority, so take the recommendation with a grain of salt.

    • LPSP says:

      They’re all trying to do Something Else! XD and not tell gags based on situations. That’s the reason why Seinfeld aged like wine (and Arrested Development for that matter, which I watched for the first time only recently). It’s just what comedy is meant to be, without the frustrating fetters.

      I watched an episode of F is for Family a while back. Just unpleasant. I found Bojack underwhelming, even if Will Arnett is a treasure.

    • Agronomous says:

      I don’t know why nobody’s mentioned The Walking Dead yet—it’s not terribly consistent, but a few of the episodes are downright hilarious.

  21. Urstoff says:

    Did the move to WordPress kill the latest comments widget? Because that would be a shame.

  22. Act vs Rule

    TheWorst recently argued that nobody really believes in states rights. So far I don’t think anyone has come up with a satisfactory counterexample, a case of someone who is in favor of policy X at the state level but opposed to the federal government imposing it because that violates states rights.

    It occurred to me that this is one example of a much more general issue and it might be interesting to think about other examples. The general case is one where there is an act X which violates a rule Y. Are there people who are in favor of X on its own merits, in favor of Y, and because they are in favor of Y don’t take or advocate X? Some possible examples:

    A close friend, dying, gives you an envelope with $10,000 in it and asks you to pass it on to his son–assume you have no reason to think there is anything suspicious about the money. You promise to do so. He dies.

    Do you pass it on to the son, acting on either the rule “keep promises” or the rule “respect property rights,” or do you treat it as a windfall to be used in whatever way you think best? My guess is that most people pass it on and the exceptions steal it for themselves.

    Now assume the dying friend is a prominent author, artist, or historical figure. He asks you to promise to destroy his accumulated correspondence, unpublished writing, unsold and possibly unfinished art works, or the like. Having agreed, do you go through with it? I believe this has been a real world situation in the past, with some people following the rule, some the preferred act.

    Next shift to a more political case. Suppose you believe, as I do, that where decisions have to be made for children by adults the authority to make them should be with the children’s parents since they are the adults most likely to have their children’s welfare at heart. Suppose you also believe in evolution. Do you support or oppose rules that compel fundamentalist parents to send their children to schools that teach evolution?

    I’m sure other people can think of other examples, but I thought the general issue was an interesting one.

    P.S. I may have thought of a counterexample to TheWorst’s claim: Barry Goldwater. According to Wikipedia, he founded the Arizona Air National Guard and desegregated it two years before the rest of the military was desegregated. According to another source, he ended segregation in the department stores owned by his family. But he opposed the Civil Rights act which forced desegregation of private facilities.

    I’m not sure if that does it, however, because his opposition to the Civil Rights act may have been based not on state vs federal issues but on government vs private issues. If so, it is an example of the general pattern I have discussed here but not the specific states rights example.

    • Gazeboist says:

      Judges often fit your criteria, I think. I recall three examples.

      First, a 9th circuit panel denied class certification for immigrants undergoing deportation proceedings who cannot be represented on appeal due to a shortage of immigration lawyers, with a concurrence explaining that the representation needed to be there but it was nevertheless not a problem the courts could solve.

      Second, a (black) district judge recently dismissed a civil rights lawsuit demanding that the University of Missouri (I think?) cease flying the confederate battle flag. He explained that, despite his personal feeling that the flag represented a terrible legacy deserving no celebration, the plaintiff (a Missouri lawyer) had no standing to sue.

      Third, you may remember the Massachusetts rape case where the defendant (known to be guilty) was exonerated on appeal to the state supreme court because the prosecutor had charged the wrong crime (“rape” is a set of four crimes with varying elements in Massachusetts). The court spent a substantial part of the opinion blasting the prosecutor for charging the wrong crime (thus preventing the man from ever being punished, due to double jeopardy), and then overturned the conviction because the law demanded they do so.

      I also recall a friend who expressed annoyance that a particularly odious botnet operator was imprisoned for the one sketchy thing he did that wasn’t a crime. But my friend is a graduate student, not a judge.

    • TheWorst says:

      It is an interesting one, though the direction I was going with that was a more banal one about preferences stated vs. revealed.

      I think a classic example of act vs. rule is about freedom of speech (“I disagree with what you say, but” etc.”), and sub-examples like the ACLU defending the right of neo-Nazis to hold public events (and I think it unlikely that the ACLU is pro-Nazi).

      I have a mild suspicion that the political cases vary dramatically based on object-level factual disagreements rather than on rule-beliefs, necessarily. For instance: Let’s say you believe that where decisions have to be made for children by adults, you believe that the authority to make them should be with the parents. How do you feel about that rule when discussing parents who believe that their child is a witch, and should be burned at the stake? Or parents who believed it was perfectly healthy to feed their children heavily-sugared anthrax.

      I suspect the fundamentalist/evolution question, in most people, comes down to whether they believe the harm of not being taught evolution is more like that of being set on fire, or more like that of not knowing karate.

      A possibly-separate question:

      Suppose you believe, as I do, that where decisions have to be made for children by adults the authority to make them should be with the children’s parents since they are the adults most likely to have their children’s welfare at heart.

      Which type of belief is this, overall? For instance, to what standard of proof would you hold the proposition that the parents either didn’t have their children’s welfare at heart, or were incorrect? I think that’s where the problems start to happen, since I’m not sure any two people agree on the same standard of proof.

      • I agree that the rule would not apply to parents murdering their children, hence that where it does apply depends in part on what you think the nature of the particular issue is.

        A further problem is that in many of the political cases, the issue is not really whether to violate the rule but whether to change it. In your judge cases, for example, since we work under a system of stare decisis, a judge might believe that making the decision he wants in this case will have net negative effects due to its effect as precedent in other cases. A similar problem exists in legislative examples. Somewhat might oppose a violation of states rights whose purpose he approved of on the theory that it would set a political precedent that made later violations of states rights for purposes he disapproved of more likely.

        All of which suggests that the individual action cases I started with may be the best clean tests. If I spend the envelope full of money on bed nets or contribute it to Gary Johnson’s campaign, nobody else ever knows.

        • TheWorst says:

          Murder is an easy one. Say if the parents thought it was in the child’s best interest to be branded, daily, until they believed that the demons had finally left.

          Edge cases are more interesting–cases like “the parents think the child is better off without wisdom teeth” or “the parents think the child is better off without thumbs” are less likely to find our true rejections. Let’s say a child is born with an extra thumb, fully-functional, and the parents think the drawbacks of not removing it (poor social conformity, and all its attendant harms) outweigh the benefit (extra thumb and no involuntary amputation).
          I think people might split on that question, but I suspect it has more to do with how much they weight each of those harms.

          • Jiro says:

            I wish that LW had never come up with the idea of “true rejection”. Or at least , I wish that everyone who used that phrase first had to rule out the possibility that something was done for multiple reasons, none of which is the reason.

      • onyomi says:

        I think part of the problem with answering this question is the separate question of who gets to decide the bounds of acceptable viewpoints. Some people would say just choosing to homeschool proves that a parent doesn’t have his child’s best interests at heart. Some people would say homeschooling is okay, but teaching intelligent design is not. Some would say intelligent design is okay, but draw the line at the choice to not vaccinate. Some would be okay with not vaccinating but not okay with sacrificing your child on a mountain because God asked you to, etc. etc. Where to draw the line depends on your own values and beliefs about factual matters, though literally killing your child might reasonably be taken as evidence of not having their best interests at heart (“but I sent him to be with God as God asked me to,” they might say).

        I guess it’s one of those cases where the law must balance two different values: the right to raise your child as you think best, and the right of the child not to be harmed by a crazy parent. My concern right now, however, is more that we are going too far in broadly defining “crazy” as “doesn’t agree with me,” rather than the reverse theoretical problem of letting parents have too much leeway. Of course, compared to say, most of Europe, US parents DO have a lot of leeway, but I don’t particularly want to see us moving more in that direction where, e. g. raising your child Amish might be seen as a form of abuse.

        • TheWorst says:

          I guess it’s one of those cases where the law must balance two different values: the right to raise your child as you think best, and the right of the child not to be harmed by a crazy parent.

          Essentially this, combined with perhaps no two people agreeing on when “doing things differently than I would prefer” becomes “crazy.”

          The problem with not trusting the parents is that you then have to trust someone else, and the problem with not trusting anyone else is that then you have to trust the parents. And both the parents and everyone else are people, and therefore not sufficiently trustworthy for this.

    • Lumifer says:

      I like state rights (and general decentralization) not because the states will choose the right policy, but because they will choose a variety of different policies and I believe that diversity of legal and regulatory regimes is quite beneficial. A couple of obvious benefits are the viability of the Exit option and the chance to observe various natural experiments where a certain policy is enforced in some places but not others.

      As to the general case, I’m not sure it’s possible to give a general answer, it’s going to depend on the specifics of the case. Conflicting rules (or motivations, or values) have to be either reconciled or ranked and what will come out ahead, basically, depends.

      • Gazeboist says:

        Briefly on diversity of legal regimes: I agree that it is good in principal, but I believe it could be vastly improved by the federal government establishing a national legislative dictionary, and perhaps collecting and publishing the various state legal systems in a central place.

        (Imagine if the CSA created drug schedules but didn’t say anything about their legality – that’s what I mean by a legislative dictionary)

        • LHN says:

          Can you unpack what the goal is? At this point most state (and federal) legislation and case law is available online one way or another, and there are 50-state surveys on many topics. (Granted those tend to be paywalled, or require a visit to a law library.) What role do you see the federal government playing?

          • Gazeboist says:

            I originally came up with it as a solution to some issues that gun rights supporters brought up. One mentioned difficulty in determining what is or isn’t illegal in the various cities and counties he drives through; I was also thinking of concerns about ill-defined “assault weapons”, and that NJ case where a man was convicted if an illegal concealed carry because of an otherwise-legal gun in his trunk (he was moving to a new house, IIRC). This led me to the idea that one thing the federal government could definitely do that wouldn’t violate the second amendment is collect the various laws in a central place (so they could be more easily complied with) and define common terms like “carry” (concealed or otherwise).

            The ultimate idea would be to move towards a system where state laws are sort of like configuration files on top of federal laws – defining the particular options and tools in use in the particular jurisdiction (and county/municipal systems would be configuration on top of that). This obviously wouldn’t completely obsolete state law outside of items from the federal dictionary; some jurisdictions deal with issues that just don’t apply elsewhere, and the system could be subject to abuse where congress could mass-change certain “state” laws (affirmative consent comes to mind), but I think it could be useful despite potential flaws. If legal terms are generally uniform, that makes it easier to choose between two different legal regimes. Plus, if there’s a standard legislative dictionary, legislation at all levels is easier to understand and debate.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ Gazeboist

            So, basically, the Feds provide the Lego blocks and the states are free to build whatever, but only out of these blocks?

          • Gazeboist says:

            Yes-ish, with a little more freedom on both sides. The feds provide lego blocks and build a couple of foundational things with them; states are encouraged to use the blocks but not required to do so. The only thing I would definitely require that states do is be explicit (by, say, giving their version a different name) when they make a legal construct similar to but distinct from one in the federal dictionary.

            I’d also like to see the 10th amendment expanded into an explicit (but not exhaustive) list of powers granted to the states. Similar work should probably be done for the 9th, and the “right to privacy” that’s been (correctly, I think) read into the 4th should be made explicit. There should also probably (though I’m less sure about this than the rest) be a clear default order of precedence between personal rights, federal powers, and state powers, since they will come into conflict occasionally. I read the 9th and 10th amendments as advice that, as gaps are discovered, the Constitution should be edited to account for them. The second amendment also needs to be put in modern words, but that’s a whole different discussion.

          • Gazeboist says:

            To add (three days late…):

            The easiest (and, I think, correct) way to start such a dictionary would be to just take the intersection of existing state laws as best we can, and then say, “these are our common terms”.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ Gazeboist

            There are such things at the Model Penal Code and the Uniform Commercial Code.

          • Gazeboist says:

            The UCC is nice. The MPC is a product of an advocacy group, rather than the federal government; while I think advocacy groups writing model laws is usually a good thing, I also think that encouraging uniform law (where reasonable) is one of the jobs of the federal government, and one that it is uniquely well suited to perform. I think it would also be a good idea to put in place some small group of bureaucrats whose job it was to collect current state laws, or at least set up a common state law access point.

            But yes, at a first glance, those seem to be close to what I desire.

          • Actually, I think the nearest thing to what you suggest is the American Law Institute, which is private but very prestigious.

    • cassander says:

      >TheWorst recently argued that nobody really believes in states rights. So far I don’t think anyone has come up with a satisfactory counterexample, a case of someone who is in favor of policy X at the state level but opposed to the federal government imposing it because that violates states rights.

      Calvin Coolidge was both a very progressive governor of New York and a restrained quasi-libertarian as president.

      More personally, until recently I was very much in favor of states legalizing gay marriage legislatively but against courts or the federal government doing so by fiat.

      • smocc says:

        Which way did you change your mind on the gay marriage issue, if you don’t mind my asking, and why? That’s where I’m at right now and I’m curious.

        • Anonymous says:

          I’m guessing “question dismissed as moot”.

        • cassander says:

          Anonymous is right. I’m still in favor of it, but I dislike the supreme court simply decreeing it.

          • smocc says:

            Ah, okay. Then we are still at nearly the same opinion (I’m unsure how I would vote in a state election, though it’s moot for me because I live in Massachusetts).

      • birdboy2000 says:

        Calvin Coolidge was governor of Massachusetts, not New York. (And I wouldn’t exactly call him progressive – he’s best remembered as governor for crushing the Boston Police Strike.)

    • Jordan D. says:

      I don’t know anything about Barry Goldwater’s opinion, but my observations are thus:

      1) There are some people with a powerful interest in federalism qua federalism.
      2) There are some people who don’t give a damn about federalism but support it as a booster for their own politics.
      3) Then there are the people who are staunch federalists when it boosts their politics, have various arguments for why it doesn’t apply to their pet causes and, according to their natures, will sometimes say that certain specific things they like are prevented by federalism.
      (There’s probably a fourth group who just opposes federalism, but they don’t write a lot of articles)

      Group 1, as far as I can tell, consists of academics and political philosophers, and only a minority of those. Group 2 consists of people who haven’t given the matter any thought but want to endorse conservative policies. Group 3 is more-or-less everyone else in the country who understands federalism.

      I’ll admit to being in Group 3. I endorse federalism in theory, endorse federalism when it supports my politics (boo, overreach-of-commerce-clause-driven-drug-war!), but believe that various national concerns which I like are supported by the Constitution, even though my interpretation could be motivated. Possibly that makes me more likely to be suspicious of people who claim to be staunch federalists.

      I think your examples are a good case, though. A political conundrum which I face is this: I happen to believe that, on the merits and in light of past cases, Citizens United was correctly decided. I also believe that it has led to a zero-sum spending race which has caused a huge swell in political spending without any benefits (and to the detriment of my browser, based on the sheer number of ads). Thus I find myself in the position where I’m unwilling to join the coalition crusading to see it destroyed, but also wouldn’t be bothered to see it go.

      • BBA says:

        My dad is in group 4. He writes lots of articles, but they’re all in medical research journals so the topic almost never comes up. I’m not even sure you could get a whole article out of “why do we need 50 state medical boards each with their own impossible paperwork?”

      • ” I also believe that it has led to a zero-sum spending race which has caused a huge swell in political spending …”

        I’m curious why you believe that. My understanding of Citizens United is that it found that restrictions on spending in support of political outcomes that had recently been imposed did not apply to the organizations they had been imposed on. It didn’t let anyone do anything that they couldn’t have done ten years earlier (the decision was 2010, the McCain–Feingold Act was 2002). And it didn’t let organizations do anything that private individuals couldn’t have done before the decision. So why would you expect it to cause a huge increase in campaign spending?

        I don’t know the data on spending, but I assume any general upward trend reflects the increase in the size and power of government. The more government controls, the more valuable influence over government is.

        • Gazeboist says:

          I think it, together with the legislation that preceded it, did cause a shift in the style and manner of political spending. Early attempts at restricting campaign spending resulted in spending by outside-but-allied groups, which the candidates could distance themselves from relatively easily, thus giving those outsiders more freedom to engage in tactics that could harm a campaign that used them directly. This too was then restricted, but when the restrictions were lifted, nobody went back to the old method because political campaigns had hit a new equilibrium.

          You can punish defecting or just have an informal norm against defection, but if you accidentally cause your pre-existing norm against defection to break, you usually need to punish it for a while before you can rely on the norm again. You also need to avoid ratchet effects, of course, but nobody said running a society was easy.

        • Jordan D. says:

          I understand that correlation is not causation, but as I recall the ‘swell’ was actually a doubling of third-party expenditures within five years.

          As for the mechanism, I think that becomes clearer when you look at second-order effects. Citizens United was a pretty limited holding, but with broad rationale (which is a gripe I have with a number of Justice Kennedy’s opinions). The rationale there was relied upon by the DC Circuit in Speechnow.org v. FEC, which struck down donor limits for third-party political action committees and led to the FEC’s formulation of the modern SuperPAC in an advisory opinon.

          Now, it’s true that a SuperPAC which takes 50 million from John Billionaire and 10 million from various small donors isn’t spending much more money than John Billionaire could have himself, but the strong preference wealthy donors have for donating rather than conducting their own side-campaigns indicates to me that there’s some kind of motivating factor there.

          Unlike a lot of my friends in the center-left, I don’t think there’s a lot of evidence that this spending has increased corruption in politics or notably shifted elections, nor do I think it’s insane for third parties to spend a few hundred million dollars in a federal election cycle. It just seems to me that the spending increase is, as Scott would formulate it, Molochian- you spend to match your opponent’s spending who spends to match your spending forever, and nothing changes at all.

    • Here’s a small one. Would you lend a child a book that his or her parents didn’t want the child to read?

      • Jiro says:

        Giving a book to a child doesn’t interfere with any action by the parent. It of course interferes with the outcome that would take place given the parents’ inaction, but non-utilitarians differentiate between action and inaction.

        • Agronomous says:

          Awesome. Give me your kid’s mailing address.

          Any packages that arrive in the next few weeks from Amazon are totally not Mein Kampf.

          • Fahundo says:

            Reason #n+1 Not to have kids: I feel like if I received Mein Kampf in the mail, addressed to my child, my immediate response would be “Is this the best you could do?”

          • Skef says:

            Now I’m thinking about a bizarre merger between Reason and n+1. All the Sad Young Libertarian Men

          • Jiro says:

            Awesome. Give me your kid’s mailing address.

            Sorry, that’s an action.

        • Deiseach says:

          Giving a book to a child doesn’t interfere with any action by the parent.

          True; the parents can always seize and burn the book, give the kid a spanking for going behind their back and disobeying them, and give you the cold shoulder from then on out 🙂

      • DavidS says:

        I would think twice but I would do it in some circumstances. The parent’s view is I think for me relevant but not final.

        This is partially a facts vs. values thing, though (These terms are a bit misleading as the values can be ‘underlying beliefs about facts’). If someone doesn’t want their kid reading something scary because they’re worried about them getting nightmares, they might have better facts (this kid is v sensitive to horror and has awful night terrors) or different values (don’t want my kid to be scared). Whereas if they don’t want them reading books about evolution this is almost certainly a values difference. And, well, I’m right and they’re wrong.

      • LPSP says:

        Depends on if I respect the parents.

    • abstemious says:

      I believe in general that “where decisions have to be made for children by adults the authority to make them should be with the children’s parents since they are the adults most likely to have their children’s welfare at heart”. But, when presented with strong evidence that the children’s parents are making bad decisions, I’m happy to make an exception.

      For example, if a child’s parents decide to lock the child in a closet for most of its development, I think most of us would agree that the child’s parents should no longer be making decisions for that child.

      Here’s another proposition: where decisions have to be made for children by adults, the authority to make them should be with the children’s parents, because it’s really hard to coerce the parents to change their decision — we’d basically have to take their child away, and that’s probably hurting the child a lot more than the original decision. I think this proposition is more important than your original one.

      As to that specific question: if the child’s parents said something like “you can’t teach my kid evolution or I’ll take them out of school and homeschool them and never let them talk to anyone who isn’t fundamentalist Christian”, I would probably agree to not teach their kid evolution.

    • roystgnr says:

      So far I don’t think anyone has come up with a satisfactory counterexample, a case of someone who is in favor of policy X at the state level but opposed to the federal government imposing it because that violates states rights.

      I assume that by “satisfactory” you mean “someone in a position to really influence those decisions”? I could find lots of people (myself included) who have argued or would argue such principles on the internet, but there’s no good way to disprove (even to ourselves) the claim that such principles are more attractive than power only insofar as the question is hypothetical.

  23. Gazeboist says:

    Is this site now more closely linked to wordpress than it used to be? A few months ago I made a gravatar account, which turned out (?) to be a wordpress account. I generally leave it logged in because it’s needed for a couple of directly-on-wordpress sites (also, since creating it, I can’t comment on Ozy’s blog without being logged in). Today, when I went to comment, I saw a message telling me I needed to be logged in to comment. I also couldn’t log in, even via wordpress. I actually thought I might have been banned without getting put on the list, but the problem went away when I logged out of wordpress. Anyone know what’s going on?

    EDIT:

    Discussed in the links post.

    • Lumifer says:

      I think SSC hit a technical pothole and started to demand a login for comments for a while. Evidently this was not working as intended and got fixed so we’re back to the previous state of affairs.

      It may have been a normal screw-up or it may have been an actual attempt to impose the register-and-have-an-account requirement. I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

    • Randy M says:

      Registration seems to be working now, after some log-in complications.
      Sorry it was necessary. Especially if it came at the cost of the “most recent comments” drop down menu!

  24. S_J says:

    So, I recently had a conversation with some friends and acquaintances. [1]

    The circle included a two people who work in health-care (one of them a chaplain, another a nurse) and a woman who specializes in aiding home-births. About half of the people present were parents, the other half were childless.

    Anyway, a member of the circle has a new grand-daughter, born 10 weeks premature.

    This new grand-daughter is under close observation by doctors, mainly in an attempt to monitor the development of the eyes–apparently, these are the last major organs to develop during gestation.

    And in the middle of that conversation, one of the women present mutters something about “The child is alive. but if she had been aborted before birth, the culture would have said it wasn’t a child, but just a blob of cells”.

    This odd observation reminds me of the most maddening part of debates over abortion in the U.S.

    On one side of the political spectrum, we have partisans who appear to support every form of termination-of-pregnancy, up to the moment of birth. This side has arguments about bodily autonomy for the mother, and ignores or belittles any claims that a human fetus has the same rights that a human infant has.

    On the other side, we have partisans who state that the zygote, blastocyst, embryo, and fetus all deserve the same right to bodily autonomy (and support of life) that an infant has. These partisans also hold the position that a woman who engages in behavior that might lead to pregnancy has, in legal terms, assumed the risk of reduction of bodily autonomy.

    Worse, this discussion is often cast as a discussion between regressive-minded religious people and progressive-minded secularists.

    In my mind, the big question is this: which side of this debate has better support science on its side?

    I notice, from Wikipedia, that a human fetus has a detectable heartbeat around the time of transition from embry to fetus. This is typically at 8 weeks of gestation. It appears that brain-waves are also detectable at around this time. Thus, two forms of activity which are often used in end-of-life discussions of aged humans are detectable sometime during the second month of pregnancy.

    I also notice that the expectancy of survival for premature birth begins somewhere around 4 months of pregnancy.

    If I wanted to draw a line for “fetus should have the same rights as an infant”, I would draw it near the point of expected-survival-of-premature-birth. However, I could also see an argument that depends on detectable brain-wave and heartbeat.

    It is currently somewhat challenging to estimate the gestational age of any particular fetus.[2] And the line of “doctors would expect the fetus to survive a premature birth” isn’t a sharp, clear line of the kind that lawyers and judges use.

    Thus, I arrive at an impasse. I cannot support the pro-abortion position that the human fetus has no right to bodily autonomy or support-of-life.

    But I’m not sure I can support the opposing position, that every zygote/blastocyst has the same rights to bodily autonomy or support-of-life that an infant has. [3]

    Is there a way to resolve this issue?

    —————————————-
    [1] Admittedly, this discussion was part of a meeting of a group of religious people. I noticed that the mentions of abortion were of medical/scientific aspects, and not religious.

    [2] This assumption may be weak on my part. I guess when expectant-moms set the “due date”, they have a good idea of the date of conception. Even so, I’m fairly confident that the beginning of a pregnancy is the kind of thing that is harder specify a date/time for, than the end of a pregnancy…in most cases.

    [3] I am, however, opposed to the concept of capital punishment for the crime of being a child of a rapist…which is, apparently, a highly unpopular position on all sides of the debate about abortion.
    From what I can make out, this kind of abortion is the least-common kind. But it is a subject that is not well-studied…

    • Eltargrim says:

      I also notice that the expectancy of survival for premature birth begins somewhere around 4 months of pregnancy.

      Are you sure about this? My understanding was that less than 23 weeks was effectively non-viable, with a very rapid increase in viability over the following two weeks (<15% at 23 weeks, ~50% at 24 weeks, ~80% at 25 weeks).

      • Urstoff says:

        What’s the historical trend for technology pushing viability earlier? I assume that we are able to keep alive earlier premature babies now than, say, 20 years ago (much less 50 years ago), but is that still progressing or have we hit a technological plateau?

        • Eltargrim says:

          My previous attempt got eaten by the server. Hopefully this one will come through.

          The answer to your question is that it appears that while we’re able to give certain gestation periods better chances, we haven’t actually moved the absolute limit of viability in the last 20 years. This paper examines UK neonatal outcomes over a 20 year span starting approximately 5 years ago. I direct the reader to Table 2; while outcomes for neonates at 24 and 25 weeks have clearly improved (at the cost of very aggressive treatment), and there is some improvement at the 23 week mark, the survival rate at 22 weeks is nil.

          Hence my question to the op of this thread. Neonatal viability at 4 months of pregnancy is zero. However, at 4 months premature, you’re looking at approximately 24 weeks of pregnancy, and there the odds are slightly less than even.

          • Urstoff says:

            Interesting. Is there any theory as to why the hard line is 22 weeks?

          • Eltargrim says:

            I’m far from an expert in the field, so I can’t give you the read on what the prevailing professional opinion is. My personal guess would be (a lack of) lung development, but there’s so much going on that it’s hard to say.

          • I was recently told that there have been successful artificial womb experiments with (I think) mice and goats. I gather the “womb” was outside a body but partly living tissue. If that’s right, then the minimum age for survival may get down to zero in the not too distant future.

            Anyone here know more about this?

    • Two McMillion says:

      You might be interested in http://www.secularprolife.org/abortion . Some useful quotes from that page:

      The secular pro-life position rests on the following premises:
      1. The fetus is a human being.
      2. There is no consistent, objective distinction between “person” and “human being.”
      3. Human beings possess human rights.
      4. Bodily integrity is not sufficient to justify most abortions.

      A “human being” is a member of the species homo sapiens. While there is much debate over when a human organism becomes a “person,” there is not much debate over when a human organism begins biologically: “Biologically speaking, fertilization (or conception) is the beginning of human development. Fertilization normally occurs within several hours of ovulation (some authors report up to 24 hours) when a man’s sperm, or spermatozoon, combines with a woman’s egg, or secondary oocyte, inside a woman’s uterine tube (usually in the outer third of the uterine tube called the ampulla).”

      Many pro-choicers concede that unborn children are human beings, but deny that the fetus is a “person” deserving of full human rights. Their views of what else is necessary to achieve personhood vary widely. Some of the more common positions are that to be a “person,” a human being must also:

      – Have a heartbeat (which begins at 3-4 weeks gestation)
      – Produce brain waves (which begins at 6-7 weeks gestation)
      – Be “viable,” that is, capable of living outside the womb (which varies; typically around 24 weeks,
      but as early as 22 weeks with modern medical care)
      – Be conscious or self-aware (which begins sometime after birth)
      – Be born

      Secular pro-lifers find these personhood restrictions arbitrary and inconsistent. Many of the proposed
      criteria would, if applied consistently, deny the personhood of newborns, people with disabilities, and
      other vulnerable groups. For more on the practical problems of separating “person” from “human
      being,” see the “Related Articles” box at right.

      • Urstoff says:

        The difficulties of giving a good criterion of when a fetus becomes a metaphysical person is why the pro-choice side doesn’t actually make an argument like that anymore. Instead, the JJT argument that the body of one person cannot be controlled for the sake of another. I don’t think the argument as JJT frames it works, but that’s generally the philosophical stance that sophisticated pro-choice advocates take.

        • The problem with any tidy argument on the pro-choice side is showing why it doesn’t apply to infanticide. The more general problem is that we have a continuous change to which we want to apply a discontinuous set of moral categories. Birth works as a Schelling point, but it’s hard to see that as a moral justification.

          You can argue, of course, that before birth the infant requires the mother’s body, afterwards it doesn’t. But we don’t allow parents to let their small infants starve to death or expose them, which is what happens if nobody accepts the obligation of care.

          How would pro-choice people feel about a legal rule under which, if the pregnancy was past the point at which a premature infant could survive, the mother who wanted to abort was obligated to do it in a way that permitted the fetus to survive, provided someone else was willing to take responsibility for it? Alternatively, a rule in which the mother was obliged to take that responsibility–roughly equivalent to the current rule once the infant is born.

          • Gazeboist says:

            My personal rule is, in a perfect world, “it’s your call as long as another person can’t be swapped in (EDIT:) and the child can be expected to survive“. I’d be fine with replacing all abortion with some kind of technological motherhood tag-out system, provided that that system is reasonably available and about the same cost and risk (within a few percentage points) as abortion. Note that we have just such a system for live infants: adoption. The problem is extending it backward to cover time a woman would spend pregnant.

            As it stands, I’m “uneasily ok” with the no-third-trimester equilibrium that WHtA described below. I’m also a little worried that any such technology will be banned for being “unnatural” or some such.

          • Iain says:

            As far as late-term abortions go, it is worthwhile to note that across jurisdictions, abortions after 20 weeks or so make up 2% or less of the total number of abortions. Of those, a significant number are due to fetal abnormalities. (Scans for birth defects are typically done around the 20 week mark.)

            According to an old Guttmacher study, 48% of women having abortions after 16 weeks reported that difficulty making arrangements for the abortion was part of the reason they had such a relatively late abortion.

            I can’t speak for all pro-choice people, but I would be satisfied with a world where late-term abortions were restricted in exchange for improved accessibility to early-term abortions. Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt is a step in the right direction.

          • @Iain:

            You put it as “in exchange for.” Suppose early term abortions are legal, late term abortions illegal, which I gather is the usual European pattern.

            Would you be for or against legalizing late term abortions? If they were legal, would you be for or against making them illegal?

          • Iain says:

            If they were strictly illegal, I would be in favour of them being made legal in some cases: at the very least, significant birth defects and complications that threaten the health of the mother. If they were legal, then I would not actively push for making them illegal, but would be willing to accept some restrictions being placed on them, so long as they were still available in the cases I listed previously.

            In general, I’m not afraid of women being evil baby killers, so I am willing to err on the permissive side and trust women to make good decisions for their own situations. If I was presented with convincing evidence that a significant number of late-term abortions were being performed for frivolous reasons, then I would re-evaluate my position.

          • Two McMillion says:

            If I was presented with convincing evidence that a significant number of late-term abortions were being performed for frivolous reasons, then I would re-evaluate my position.

            Why distinguish between late and early term abortions at all?

          • Iain says:

            Because I don’t think blastocysts deserve any protection, and I do think babies deserve protection, and the closer an entity is to the latter the more likely I am to want to defend it.

          • Wrong Species says:

            Scott has his own ideas on what the worst argument in the world is but I absolutely despise the “famous violinist” argument. The rebuttal can be summarized in one sentence as “YOU HAVE RESPONSIBILITIES TO YOUR BABY THAT YOU DON’T HAVE TOWARDS RANDOM VIOLINISTS”. It really is that simple and drives me crazy that anyone could possibly think that it’s a convincing argument.

            There is one good argument in favor of abortion and that’s the uncertainty of human personhood. Lets stick to that discussion.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Wrong Species:

            there is a utilitarian argument, namely, that illegal abortion might mean less abortion, but not enough to offset the increased risk of the illegal abortions that happen.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Why can’t I edit? I don’t know if it’s a good argument, because it just creates another tradeoff – instead of “mother vs child” the tradeoff is “less vs safer”.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @dndnrsn

            You are right but I don’t think many people besides Peter Singer are going to endorse that argument because they know exactly where it leads.

            And I’m not sure what you mean by “less vs safer”.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Iain

            In general, I’m not afraid of women being evil baby killers, so I am willing to err on the permissive side and trust women to make good decisions for their own situations.

            It’s not the evil people you should be worried about. It’s the callous, uncaring folk who are the real danger. (Whether I agree with the the current truth of the image or not,) think of the popular image of the drone-happy president who sees remote strikes as if they were a video game. It’s not that he’s evil or out to get you. It’s that you just don’t matter to him. It costs him essentially nothing to kill you, and it has a slight chance of helping him out in other pursuits… so why not?

          • Iain says:

            As TheWorst says in another branch of this discussion, women don’t just casually carry babies around for 7-8 months only to throw them away at the last minute. To the extent that your “callous, uncaring” women actually exist, they would be getting early-term abortions – and, as I’ve already said, I don’t think early-term fetuses are people or need protection.

            (You do lampshade it, but I want to reinforce that it is unfair to accuse Obama of tossing off drone strikes casually. I am not a fan of his drone policy, but this recent interview with Jonathan Chait makes it clear that Obama has spent a lot of time thinking about the issue.)

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Wrong Species:

            Banning abortion probably means there are going to be fewer abortions – simply because access is decreased (fewer people willing to do it, harder to find them, likely more expensive, etc). The illegal abortions that happen will likely be less safe – more women suffering complications (including death) due to sketchy abortions which are more likely to be botched.

            I meant: that there’s a tradeoff there – for someone proposing an abortion ban, presumably they think that having fewer abortions is worth the ones that do happen being more dangerous (they might have made a utilitarian calculation, or they just might not care very much about women who suffer complications during abortions). Likewise, presumably people who are in favour of abortion being legal think that the greater number of abortions is worth those abortions being safer (again, maybe utilitarian, or maybe they just don’t care about the number of abortions because they don’t consider them to have moral weight).

          • Anonymous says:

            To the extent that your “callous, uncaring” women actually exist, they would be getting early-term abortions – and, as I’ve already said, I don’t think early-term fetuses are people or need protection.

            Exactly the callous, uncaring perspective we expect from a non-evil person. It just so happens that the brown people fetuses that you don’t care about turn out to not be people. (I mean, it’s literally my point.)

            (I also carefully spoke of the image of an unnamed drone-happy president. Far more people are willing to imagine someone like Trump in this role than Obama… even if he’s not currently president. After all, the president is best positioned to make the choice of military action, and it’s hard to be pro-choice for those presidents but not these others. While you might be an Obama figure and think you have gripped the moral challenges of abortion choice accurately, your selection of policy is granting that choice to many others who might not share your moral purity.)

          • Iain says:

            It’s not some amazing coincidence that the fetuses I don’t care about turn out not to be people. It is precisely because I don’t believe that they are people that I don’t care about them.

          • Anonymous says:

            While you might be an Obama figure and think you have gripped the moral challenges of abortion choice accurately, your selection of policy is granting that choice to many others who might not share your moral purity.

        • Two McMillion says:

          I don’t think the bodily autonomy argument works either. Do you support abortion? Why or why not?

          • Urstoff says:

            I am unsure of its morality, but I don’t think it should be illegal. Contraceptives and proper sex ed (read: not abstinence-based) should be encouraged (whether culturally or politically) to prevent the situations in the first place. I consider this to be a fairly mainstream perspective.

          • Wrong Species says:

            Either abortion is murder in which case it is immoral and should be illegal or it is not murder in which case it is not immoral and should be legal. I don’t see a coherent argument for immoral but should be legal.

          • Urstoff says:

            Neither of those is the position I stated. I am unsure whether abortion is murder, and the consequences of outlawing it would be quite negative [bracketing the question of whether it is murder]. Thus, it should stay legal.

          • Dahlen says:

            I don’t see a coherent argument for immoral but should be legal.

            Not all transgressions against morality fall under what law can or should reasonably act against without the place in question becoming the worst of police states. Everything that law does, it does bureaucratically, bluntly, rigidly, invasively, through a limited amount of people that cost money to employ, and without enough regard for common sense, nuance, or informality. Is this the institution to which you want to entrust all moral decisions, even the small ones?

            Not to mention: impracticability of enforcement; existence of downsides and trade-offs in policymaking; subjective sense of freedom from state institutions; and last but not least, that most persuasive argument, failing the giggle test.

            Edit: all of this assumes that you meant the quoted paragraph in the general sense, rather than this specific example… But even so, if we’re strictly talking about abortion, one could come up with arguments for its immorality that hinge on something else than its status as murder (defined legally). Like, that it reduces birth rates, and birth rates are an Unalloyed Good, or somesuch.

          • Gazeboist says:

            To your detriment, you cover “killing” with “murder”, eliding the possibility that abortion is sometimes but not always killing or that this killing is sometimes but not always wrong.

            Legislation is a blunt instrument ill-suited to genuinely difficult balancing of rights and/or goals. Courts are slightly better, because they operate case-by-case, but they’re still not great. For a sufficiently hard moral problem, you have to rely on the people involved to make their calls correctly. In general, it’s a good idea to assume that they did unless you have good reason to assume otherwise; without this assumption, society starts to have trouble functioning.

            All of this is ultimately about manipulating incentives. The legal system is one way to do it, but it’s hardly the only way and you shouldn’t assume a priori that it’s the right way.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @Dahlen

            I, and the vast majority of people, are quite willing to give the government power to outlaw murder. The question is whether abortion is killing some morally insignificant cells or whether it’s killing a person. Imagine someone saying “I don’t think infanticide is moral but I certainly don’t think anyone should go to jail for it.” It doesn’t work that way.

            @Gazeboist

            For a sufficiently hard moral problem, you have to rely on the people involved to make their calls correctly

            “Slavery is a really hard moral problem. You shouldn’t legislate your simple opinions on me. Instead, you should just assume that I’m making the right call.”

            Again it doesn’t work. If you think abortion is no morally different than infanticide, then it’s truly baffling that you would be ok with it being legal. I think the problem with this debate is that pro-choice people start with the assumption that abortion is not as bad as infanticide and argue from there when that concept is what the debate is all about.

            @Urstoff

            Fair enough. However, I don’t think uncertainty helps your cause. One of my favorite philosophical articles is about moral risk and why uncertainty should actually lead you away from supporting abortion. Admittedly, it’s not a strong proof and your reasoning is defensible, although certainly not satisfying.

          • JayT says:

            Either abortion is murder in which case it is immoral and should be illegal or it is not murder in which case it is not immoral and should be legal. I don’t see a coherent argument for immoral but should be legal.

            I think that abortion is immoral, but I also think that making it illegal will lead to worse outcomes overall, so I am not in favor of making it illegal.
            There are many different situations where you have to weigh the outcomes to decide what is the best course of action and sometimes you may have to make an immoral choice to avoid an even more immoral outcome.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @JayT

            Peter Singer thinks similarly about infanticide. Do you agree?

          • JayT says:

            I’m not terribly familiar with his argument, but I tend to think the outcomes of infanticide being illegal are more positive than negative, so I would be against it’s legalization.

          • Gazeboist says:

            “Slavery is a really hard moral problem. You shouldn’t legislate your simple opinions on me. Instead, you should just assume that I’m making the right call.”

            And that’s why it’s illegal for parents to require that their children do chores. Wait, that’s not slavery? Sorry, I thought slavery was when a person is required to labor for an employer they did not choose and whose employ they may not leave.

            EDIT to try to be more than just snappy and rude

            It is immoral to kill a person most of the time, and it is generally clear whether or not you are killing a person. Thus we classify most killings of people as “murder”, and make murder illegal. Sometimes it’s not entirely clear whether you’re killing a person. Thus “manslaughter”, “negligent homicide”, torts of wrongful death, and defenses thereto. Sometimes it’s not entirely clear whether killing a person is moral. Thus “justifiable homicide”, “stand your ground”, the “castle doctrine”, and the death penalty. Some of these things are debated and some are not. Those that are debated are closer to the line than the rest; in such situations I think refraining from moral judgement* towards the people involved is an appropriate default.

            It is not remotely obvious to me that “a fetus is always morally equivalent to a person” and “a fetus is never morally equivalent to a person” fully describe the possibilities. As I read it, Singer’s argument (alternately, the fact that we’re having debates about abortion in the first place) plainly shows that both are false. Nor is the failure of the bodily autonomy/integrity argument not obvious.** Should the government mandate that you donate a kidney to your blood-type compatible child? You need to actually make the argument that pregnancy is more like caring for an infant you have put up for adoption (until the adoptive parents arrive, of course) than it is like the kidney donation scenario.

            * But not legal judgement! It is important to enforce laws and enforce them consistently.

            ** I also don’t claim this argument is definitely successful, which is (part of) why I described myself as “uneasily OK” with the present situation

    • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

      On one side of the political spectrum, we have partisans who appear to support every form of termination-of-pregnancy, up to the moment of birth. This side has arguments about bodily autonomy for the mother, and ignores or belittles any claims that a human fetus has the same rights that a human infant has.

      This position is very loud, and overrepresented in “the conversation” (and no, not just in the internet and universities), but when push comes to shove, my impression is that most people in the “pro-choice” side favor something like “legal up to 3/2 months, then banned unless there are heavy health hazards for the mother”. This is, I think, the most common setup in Europe, and I haven’t heard of significant pushes for a more pro-choice legislation.

      • Eltargrim says:

        As an example in Canadian jurisdiction, the law is neutral with regards to abortion; there is no legislation mandating specific timeframes. It is wholly a decision between the patient and her doctor, with some non-binding guidance from the Canadian Medical Association. Most protests regarding abortion from the pro-choice side are about availability and funding, not legality.

      • brad says:

        What about people that are not totally comfortable with late term abortions, but on the balance think it ought to be legal?

        My sense is that late term abortions are by and large because of some extraordinary occurrence — and not just because someone couldn’t be bothered to schedule something until six or seventh months in. Maybe in a perfect world that set of extraordinary circumstances would be specified and enforced (maybe) but given the enforcement problems and scope creep one might reasonable conclude that it is better to just leave it up to the conscience of the mother.

        It seems somewhat unreasonable to lump people who have followed such a chain of reasoning into a group whose description implies complete non-concern for late term fetuses.

        • TheWorst says:

          What about people that are not totally comfortable with late term abortions, but on the balance think it ought to be legal?

          For my part, I’m mostly in the same place you are. I wouldn’t be comfortable with people using late-term abortions in place of birth control, but I also believe that no one does that voluntarily. I have an extremely hard time imagining anyone spending 7-8 months voluntarily carrying a pregnancy they don’t intend to keep.

          As far as I’m aware, late-term abortions happen because something went very wrong, or because the woman in question attempted to get an early-term abortion and was delayed by legal restrictions.

          When it comes to legal restrictions, I seem to place abortions in the same category as root canal surgery. When you need it you need it, and I wouldn’t want people getting it when they don’t need it, but I also suspect that doesn’t happen. Adding legal restrictions is likely to keep people who need it from getting it, while preventing zero people who don’t need it from getting an unneeded one.

          • JayT says:

            I don’t know how common late term abortions are for healthy fetuses, but one instance I could see it happening is when the mother doesn’t realize she is pregnant until she is past the 4 month period or whatever the law may be.

          • Gazeboist says:

            4 months from conception (a bit less than 16.5 weeks into the pregnancy) is pretty far short of the end of the second trimester or the 22-24 week mark*, which are common dividing lines. At that point, pregnancy is pretty obvious.

            Note that, because it’s very hard to figure out when conception actually happened, pregnancy is usually said to “begin” (for medical purposes) with the last prior menstruation.

            * People here have mentioned 4 months from the end of pregnancy, which is about 24 weeks from the beginning.

          • Garrett says:

            I volunteer in EMS. There are lots of people who deliver full-term babies without knowing that they were pregnant. Another case I saw involved a woman with abdominal pain who already had 3 kids and insisted that she couldn’t be pregnant. Lo-and-behold, she was ~22 weeks pregnant.
            Lots of people don’t know they are pregnant until late in the process.

          • LHN says:

            Happened to the wife of a cousin of mine. They found out at the hospital that the pain that had sent her there was labor.

            Even better: my cousin is a physician.

          • Gazeboist says:

            Well then, I suppose I sit corrected.

    • Aapje says:

      That ‘odd observation’ is actually a political issue in my country where people who suffered a miscarriage are fighting for the fetus being officially registered as a person. This is completely meaningless in any tangible sense, but apparently, emotionally very important to people who feel that their great sense of loss must be recorded by the government as the death of a person. I don’t particularly understand why these people need validation from the government, but apparently that is important to them.

      Anyway, in my country abortion is not a very big issue and the people who push this are not against abortion or even relate their demands to abortion.

      As for abortion, the law in my country allows abortion in the first 24 weeks, as long as the fetus is not viable. In practice, doctors tend to stop at 22 weeks, because there is a two-week uncertainty in determining the date of conception.

      Personally, I don’t believe that it is very rational to set the abortion date at exactly the viability date. It’s not like there is a sudden switch at that date. So I prefer an earlier date, although I feel unqualified to give a number.

      I don’t see why a fetus ever has to be classified as a child. It can protected by law without doing so (and probably better, since classifying it as a child requires other laws to be amended, like child custody laws). You can easily disallow certain things from being done on a fetus that is older than X weeks. It’s not like the fetus has to be afforded many rights, beyond not being abortion not being legal. So you only have to distinguish fetus’s by age in abortion law and in criminal law (when a criminal causes the death of a fetus).

      • Randy M says:

        I don’t particularly understand why these people need validation from the government, but apparently that is important to them.

        Love wins.

    • abstemious says:

      This question reminds me of http://lesswrong.com/lw/nm/disguised_queries/ and its sequel http://lesswrong.com/lw/nn/neural_categories/, about how word definitions can distract you from the true question being asked.

      In this question we have a category “things which are okay to kill if necessary”, and we’re trying to identify which sorts of things fall into that category.

      The wrong way to answer the question is to have an argument about the definition of the word “alive”. The world already has examples of creatures which are alive but are okay to kill (cockroaches, pigs, terrorists) and things which are not alive but are not okay to destroy (the Mona Lisa, the Brooklyn Bridge, the ozone layer). Answering the question of whether a fetus is “alive” will not tell us whether it’s okay to kill or destroy one.

      The right way to answer this question is to think about what sorts of consequences there are (both direct consequences and societal consequences) for killing a given thing, and then weigh whether those consequences are bad enough that we should forbid killing that thing.

      A good start might be to list the reasons we usually think murder is bad (the person being murdered doesn’t like it; the persons’s friends and family don’t like it; people who find out about it might worry that they might be murdered too; the person doing the murdering might become more willing to commit murder; having a Schelling fence banning all murders makes it easier to convince people not to perform any specific murder; others?). Then we could think about which of those reasons applies to the question of killing or destroying a fetus or infant.

      • The Nybbler says:

        The right way to answer this question is to think about what sorts of consequences there are (both direct consequences and societal consequences) for killing a given thing, and then weigh whether those consequences are bad enough that we should forbid killing that thing.

        This view fails to take into consideration whether the killing of the given thing is itself a bad consequence… which is the main point in dispute.

        • abstemious says:

          I guess I’m coming at this from a consequentialist perspective, where most things that are bad are bad for some specific reason or reasons.

          It sounds like you’re arguing that killing/destroying a fetus/infant might be “inherently” a bad consequence. Is this an application of virtue ethics?

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            Deontological more likely.

            As the Spartans demonstrated, one can practice strict virtue ethics and infanticide simultaneously. Most of the virtue ethical systems people care about here are similarly Classical in that sense.

          • Randy M says:

            where most things that are bad are bad for some specific reason or reasons.

            Even consequentialist reasoning has to rest upon some sacred value, be it one person’s utilons or the collective measure of those, or a mix of various seemingly arbitrarily weighted concerns. Asking “But why is it ‘bad’ if people die?” is kind of like asking “But why do you want to be happy?” Something has to be fundamental.

    • Winter Shaker says:

      [3] I am, however, opposed to the concept of capital punishment for the crime of being a child of a rapist…which is, apparently, a highly unpopular position on all sides of the debate about abortion.

      Can I put in my usual request for not framing it this way? If we are already discussing when and a foetus transitions from ‘entity whose life we are not obligated to protect’ to ‘entity with the full legal rights that we would afford a child’, talking of the death penalty in cases where the foetus is likely to be before the cut-off point for most people who would put a cut-off point somewhere in the middle of the pregnancy process, rather than at the beginning or the end, seems to be unfairly pre-judging the matter.

      (As an aside, it’s not hard to sympathise with the people who are more comfortable with abortion of pregnancies resulting from rape than they are with abortion more generally: assuming there is a heritable component to the propensity-to-rape trait, there is an added incentive to reduce the proportion of people who carry that trait into the next generation – though perhaps people who have done the studies can tell me to what degree it is heritable in the first place?)

      • Randy M says:

        No, I think it was fair, for him to put that as an aside–that is, he was saying that if we establish that abortion would be wrong because a fetus is a person, then we can’t simply have an exception for rape.

        It’s just pointing out a bit of tactical hypocrisy among pro-life advocates.

        assuming there is a heritable component to the propensity-to-rape trait, there is an added incentive to reduce the proportion of people who carry that trait into the next generation

        There most likely is, but one still has to answer the “Is it a person” question in the negative to entertain the question seriously, or else risk allowing such arguments into analogous contexts. “Jury, there may not be enough evidence placing the defendant at the scene of the crime, but please remember, his father was a convicted killer, so we know he is more likely than most to do have committed the crime.”

        I’m not saying protecting rape offspring is an easy answer, but does seem to be where the moral consistency lies.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Bayes, PI?

        • houseboatonstyxb says:

          @ Randy M.

          What I have not seen brought up in the ‘exception for rape’ discussion, is practicality. To capture and put on trial and convict someone of rape … can take longer than even nine months.

          Also, allowing abortion in cases of rape, gives incentive for a woman who wants an abortion, to make a false claim of rape.

  25. Sean says:

    So, ModafinilCat.com has shut down. The proprietor has recommended AfinilExpress.com and DuckDose.com. Anyone tried these? Anyone got other recommendations?

  26. The Most Conservative says:

    So we’ve had a couple long Hillary vs Trump threads. But here’s my deal. Everyone is saying this is the most important American election ever. And I buy that. But I still don’t know who to support, after thinking about this for many, many hours.

    What process am I supposed to use to figure this out? An in-person or Facebook discussion won’t do it because educated Trump supporters won’t reveal themselves. The live debates between the candidates are just posturing. Subreddits are echo chambers. Twitter is a tire fire as always. SSC seems to basically be the world’s only place for supporters of the two candidates to argue intelligently with one another (!!)

    There was some consternation in the links thread that pro-Trump commenters dominated the discussion under Scott’s posts. That leaves me frustrated with liberal readers who consider Trump an existential threat. You guys think Trump represents TEOTWAWKI and you can’t take the time to engage on the one part of the internet where there exists a good Trump vs Hillary discussion? Some of the pro-Trump comments present in those threads were pretty good, and they were left un-responded to. What am I supposed to think?

    I’m about 65% Hillary, 35% Trump right now. I’m in a safe state, so it doesn’t matter who I vote for. But I also have a lot of free time… time I could conceivably use to try & influence the election. The problem is at this point, my certainty that Hillary is the right candidate is not high enough for me to feel like trying to influence things is a good idea.

    IF we believe the election is super important, THEN we should be discussing it ad nauseum, and all the liberal commenters should speak up if they want to save the world. (Bring your liberal friends if you’re tired of getting outnumbered.) In fact, I’ve been thinking it might be cool to organize some kind of formal Trump vs Hillary debate. (Online, of course–like I said, no educated Trump supporter will unmask themselves in public.) Maybe adding some structure could solve the “E. Harding problem”. Or maybe we could get actual experts to participate!

    Think about it… this is the most important American election in decades, and we could easily create the best quality resource available for figuring it out! That’s how low the bar has gotten, guys.

    Participating in a debate like this and offering a well-reasoned case for your candidate could also be quite impactful in terms of persuading people. The man behind America’s most successful right-wing tabloid says: “Facts get shares, opinions get shrugs.” (I value his take above that of Scott Adams because he’s been doing this for longer, and it’s his full-time job.)

    • Oort says:

      Is debate and argument really the best method of arriving at truth, or of convincing people? I think these are, generally, two different goals.

      Discussion is, maybe, best for finding truth, but I feel that works best when it’s done dispassionately, without people quietly pushing for one side. Otherwise, you move from reasoned argument into “posturing” and “echo chambers.”

      “Competitive” argument is (probably?) better for getting votes, but I’m not totally sure. Intuitively, I expect strategic writing (as in “SSC ENDORSES CLINTON, JOHNSON, OR STEIN”) works even better, and in-person conversations better than that.

      If you want a more objective method for choosing between candidates, I suppose you could make a list of your ideal candidate’s qualities and policies (preferably before you know what your actual options are), then check to see who best matches your list. Or something like that.

      I suspect debate is also better for changing minds about facts/predictions, than values. I think a few Trump and Clinton supported have roughly the same idea of what would happen if either were elected; they just have different preferences.

      • Wrong Species says:

        Debates are underrated. There have been many times when someone challenged my beliefs and I actually changed my mind because they pointed out my reasons were lacking. The thing is there no other setting where someone is more willing to call you out on things that aren’t true. If you’re dispassionately having a discussion, you may care more about being nice to them than actually getting at the truth. If you’re simply reading articles by different people, then they might be talking past each other rather than engaging with the others points.

        The reason debates seem so futile is because people don’t usually admit their defeat. Usually they need to ruminate on what you said, look up information that can rebut what you said and after much deliberation, they move their viewpoint only slightly closer to yours. And that’s ok, because we don’t need to convince someone all at once. If you and your opponent are more in agreement with each other, that can be considered a win.

        Another reason debates get a bad rap is because of who is debating. Presidential candidates use debates to get zingers and obfuscate. But that’s only because that’s where the incentives lead them. In an internet debate, I may try to get some precious internet points. But I’m much more inclined to argue because I think I have a better argument. If someone knocks down my simplistic argument, I may not even change my beliefs that much. I could simply use a better argument. But that is also progress.

        Ideally, online debates would take the best advantages of the kind of debates that debate tournaments have while utilizing it’s own advantages. Obviously it won’t be perfect but there are no simple cheats to knowing the truth.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      @TheMostConservative:

      “Everyone” isn’t saying it’s the most important election of “your lifetime”. People who have measured Trump and found his attributes and qualifications fail to clear the minimum bar for the presidency are saying this.

      Well, that and the hyper-partisans on both sides who roughly always say this.

      The truth is that elections are always consequential and therefore important. They have wide and long-ranging effects. Presidential elections in the U.S. are probably the single most consistently consequential vote one could cast if elegible, depending on how you want to do the math.

      On one side, people you have people saying “The presidency can’t do much anyway… take a flyer on Trump”.

      On the other side, everyone who thinks the day-to-day business of being the chief-executive is consequential. Which is why you saw the intellectual bulwarks of conservatism in full-throated opposition to Trump before he became the nominee.

      The fact that you want to consider Trump is a signal that you are willing to sacrifice the shared values of conservatives and liberals in order to win this round of the game.

      • cassander says:

        >The fact that you want to consider Trump is a signal that you are willing to sacrifice the shared values of conservatives and liberals in order to win this round of the game.

        Or you think that electing hillary clinton would also sacrifice shared values and so you’re willing to at least stomach trump, if not actually vote for him, which would be my position.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @cassander:

          Or you think that electing hillary clinton would also sacrifice shared values

          You might think this, but it lacks the evidence that exists in the case against Trump.

          Mainstream Democratic/liberal intellectual outlets are not endorsing Trump, nor non-endorsing Clinton.

          Again, I would urge you to examine your biases and the evidence.

          • cassander says:

            >You might think this, but it lacks the evidence that exists in the case against Trump.

            There is no lack of evidence against Hillary Clinton.

            >Mainstream Democratic/liberal intellectual outlets are not endorsing Trump, nor non-endorsing Clinton.

            That trump offends some people’s tribal sensibilities is not proof that he is a worse option than Hillary, particularly when it’s precisely those sensibilities, and the tendencies they encourage, that are part of the reason why Hillary is so terrible.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @cassander:
            Trump offends Republican and conservative sensibilities, the mainstream, middle-of-the-road ones. They are the ones who are endorsing Hillary and serving to repudiate whatever points you think are in your favor here.

            You aren’t even trying to respond to what I have actually written, my actual argument.

          • cassander says:

            >Trump offends Republican and conservative sensibilities, the mainstream, middle-of-the-road ones. They are the ones who are endorsing Hillary and serving to repudiate whatever points you think are in your favor here.

            He offends upper middle class sensibilities more than republican ones. It just so happens that there are a lot of republicans who are upper middle class.

            >You aren’t even trying to respond to what I have actually written, my actual argument.

            You haven’t addressed my argument. I fully admit that trump is terrible. As a bonafide, born and raised member of the upper middle class, he offends my sensibilities, and I do not share the few political opinions that he has consistently voiced. But hillary offends different sensibilities, and I do not share her politics either. The president is not a dictator, though, there are many other actors in the system, congress, courts, media, lobbyists, other countries, and more. I can’t put it better than William O. B’Livion put it the other day:

            Trump is a mildly corrupt[1] douchenozzle, but he is a douchenozzle that the press (and half the republican establishment) hates. He has only the basic constitutional qualifications to be president. I do NOT want him to win the election.

            Clinton OTOH is massively corrupt, criminal and incompetent. However she is of the same tribe as most of the major newspaper, TV and internet reporters, and is much beloved by most of them, and most of her party can at least tolerate her presence. She is unfit to be president. I want her to LOSE the election.

            Whatever agenda, policy or law Trump wants will be fought over, examined, assumed to be a bad thing.

            Whatever agenda, policy, or law Clinton wants will be assumed to be the desires of all right thinking people, will only be opposed by “deplorables” , bigots and Republicans who clearly know better but are pandering to their base.

            Both hillary and trump are terrible, but the establishment will combat trump’s worst instincts, they will support hillary’s.

    • onyomi says:

      Though I don’t disagree with the contention that this particular election seems very significant, I would also add that we are told every four years how unbelievably crucial and important this particular election this. So however important this election seems, one should probably discount it somewhat.

      • BBA says:

        I recall 2000 being the least important election ever. You had two indistinguishable centrists, Gush and Bore, without a dime’s worth of difference between them.

        Of course I was too young to vote at the time, so my view may be a little distorted.

        • onyomi says:

          I think 2000 was a kind of watershed after which every election became “the most important election ever,” especially since the coalitions have seemed so evenly divided ever since the infamous Bush v. Gore “hanging chad” deal. Of course, 9/11 changed a lot, too.

    • Radm says:

      Scott obviously already listed a lot of good reasons for voting non-Trump. Another could be as a verdict on the candidates communication styles.

      Successful tactics always get copied, so next election cycle, would you rather a Democrat Trump clone or a Republican Hilary?

      • Jack Lecter says:

        An interesting idea- but I’m not sure I see it much in practice.
        Trump doesn’t strike me as very much like Obama.
        Obama’s not much like Bush.
        Bush isn’t much like Clinton.
        I was too young to remember, but what I know of Clinton marks him as different from Bush sr.
        Bush sr. is obviously similar to Bush jr, but the reasons for that take a lot more than ‘copied communication’ styles to explain, and none of the others seems too complicated to each other (I guess you could halfway argue for Clinton being like Trump, but I think that’s a contrast effect more than anything else.)
        This suggests if we *do* get another version of Trump or Hillary, it’ll be in a couple of decades at least, and by then hopefully enough will have changed that it’ll be less of a disaster (I mean that for *both* of them.)
        Of course, it also means we should keep an eye on the Trump and Clinton kids, just in case…

    • houseboatonstyxb says:

      @ The Most Conservative
      IF we believe the election is super important, THEN we should be discussing it ad nauseum, and all the liberal commenters should speak up if they want to save the world.

      Okay, here goes.

      Hillary is accused of being a chameleon, with no whatchamacallit of her own, going whichever way the wind blows. She’s also accused of being a ‘war-monger’, liking war. Uh-huh….

      For evidence, the last time Billary held the White House, we had eight years of peace, then one short, successful intervention. Since then, she has not been at the top of anything. Senator from New York — with 167 other senators authorized Powell and Bush to supposedly bluff Iraq. Secretary of State — is not the Commander in Chief of anything. Sec of State was just Obama’s secretary.

      • Sandy says:

        Secretary of State — is not the Commander in Chief of anything. Sec of State was just Obama’s secretary.

        According to The Atlantic, Libya was almost entirely Hillary’s idea, because Obama and Biden wanted to stay out of it.

        But what sealed Obama’s fatalistic view was the failure of his administration’s intervention in Libya, in 2011. That intervention was meant to prevent the country’s then-dictator, Muammar Qaddafi, from slaughtering the people of Benghazi, as he was threatening to do. Obama did not want to join the fight; he was counseled by Joe Biden and his first-term secretary of defense Robert Gates, among others, to steer clear. But a strong faction within the national-security team—Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice, who was then the ambassador to the United Nations, along with Samantha Power, Ben Rhodes, and Antony Blinken, who was then Biden’s national-security adviser—lobbied hard to protect Benghazi, and prevailed. (Biden, who is acerbic about Clinton’s foreign-policy judgment, has said privately, “Hillary just wants to be Golda Meir.”) American bombs fell, the people of Benghazi were spared from what may or may not have been a massacre, and Qaddafi was captured and executed.

        But Obama says today of the intervention, “It didn’t work.” The U.S., he believes, planned the Libya operation carefully—and yet the country is still a disaster.

        • houseboatonstyxb says:

          @ Sandy

          Thanks for a respectable source. Hillary wanted a quick specific no-fly zone to protect the people that Quadafy was immediately threatening, and catch the moment that could have given the rebels victory. By the time Obama finally moved, it was too late for the best outcome.

          • cassander says:

            A no fly zone would not have resulted in rebel victory at any point, the libyan air force was not a formidable force. And even if it were, any rebel victory would have had precisely the same problems that we have now, that the rebels were not a unified group but a collection of anti-gaddafi forces that would have immediately fallen to fighting with each other once they achieved victory. And even if that wasn’t true, it’s still on Hillary for not realizing that the time in which her desired goal could be achieved had passed and she needed to re-assess.

          • John Schilling says:

            By the time Obama finally moved, it was too late for the best outcome.

            That is, at best, an argument for Hillary Clinton being a well-meaning incompetent. As cassander notes, an actual no-fly zone would have had no significant effect. Meanwhile, the French government was preparing to use the excuse of a “no-fly zone” to implement a de facto “NATO close air support for Libyan rebels everywhere” zone, the failure of which would likely result in blowback against NATO as a whole rather than just France.

            Is there any more important part of SecState’s job than giving POTUS a correct and timely warning when one of our “allies” is planning to suck us in to fighting an unwinnable war in support of their agenda?

            And do we specifically care whether Hillary Clinton sees the United States dragged into bloody unwinnable wars (increasingly likely to be nuclear) because she is a Secret Neocon Interventionist rather than an Incompetent Carpetbagging Buffoon?

          • Ildanach says:

            As a reply to John Schilling:

            Notice how your own narrative has changed from Libya being evidence of Hillary being a war-hawk, to being well meaning but incompetent? Don’t you feel that’s a bit of a motte-and-bailey argument? If you were honestly voting on the basis of foreign policy competence, would you really choose Trump?

          • John Schilling says:

            Notice how your own narrative has changed from Libya being evidence of Hillary being a war-hawk,

            When was that ever my narrative? I think you have me confused with someone else. I have always considered, and I believe fairly consistently argued, that the failures of Libya reflect Hillary’s incompetence and the French government’s hawkishness.

      • John Schilling says:

        For evidence, the last time Billary held the White House […] Since then, she has not been at the top of anything.

        Since then, she has not been at the top of anything? Is your understanding of the Washington power structure such that the First Lady wields supreme executive power but the Secretary of State is an impotent nobody?

        …OK, now I want to read the Secret History novel where Sally Hemmings secretly rules the republic with an iron fist.

        • Fahundo says:

          …OK, now I want to read the Secret History novel where Sally Hemmings secretly rules the republic with an iron fist.

          Well, there is the story of Edith Wilson…

        • Lumifer says:

          the First Lady wields supreme executive power

          Well, Hillary wanted some of that and Bill obliged by putting her in charge of the healthcare reform…

        • houseboatonstyxb says:

          @ John Schilling
          Since then, she has not been at the top of anything? Is your understanding of the Washington power structure such that the First Lady wields supreme executive power but the Secretary of State is an impotent nobody?

          Heh. I could say she wielded more power over Bill than over Obama.

          But that would be a cheap shot, on the premise that a First Lady’s place was in the kitchen baking cookies.

          ‘Billary’ have been a team, not a contest, since they moved into the Governor’s Mansion in Arkansas, if not earlier.

    • My immediate reaction is that this Presidential election is the least important in my lifetime. I am 60 years old. I think that is because either winner has so little goodwill, they won’t get anything done in Washington. For the most part I think that is a good thing. But it doesn’t matter that much who wins, because it will be the same result with either.

      • Oh I have one more thought to reinforce the lack of importance of this election. It seems a lot more likely than with most elections that the winner won’t be re-elected in four years. So we are only electing someone for four years, not eight.

      • Radm says:

        Seems kind of unlikely that the same Republicans that nominated Trump, despite doubting he was a winner, would block everything a victorious Trump did as if had a D by his name. Or vice versa; it’s not like Trump even cares about politics enough to make a veto on some point of principle.

        Is there some evidence-based argument to the contrary?

        • As best I could tell, the Republican party professionals were mostly opposed to Trump. He did well enough in the primaries so they couldn’t stop him. It’s certainly possible that if he became President they would go along with his policies, but it’s also possible that they wouldn’t, given that his policies don’t fit very well with what other Republican politicians want.

          On the other hand, I think it’s a safe bet that Trump would get much less friendly treatment from the media than Clinton.

        • Yes David Friedman is correct that many Republicans have a strong distaste for Trump, but I do also agree with Radm that if the Republicans have both Houses, they would put their distaste aside and try very hard to make common cause with Trump. That’s why I stated in a previous thread that I’d like to see Hillary win, because taking both Houses is much less likely for the Dems.

          But my point was that this is the least important Presidential election in my lifetime, but not by a large margin. It does matter some, but less than in previous elections because neither Trump nor Hillary will get as much done as more likable leaders in the past. Admittedly my comment was mostly as a counterpoint to the initial comment, but I do think the survivor of this election will be a bit less effective when they move into the White House.

        • John Schilling says:

          Congressional Republicans will, I think, line up behind Trump with varying degrees of enthusiasm but very little open dissent, right up to the point where he becomes clearly impeachable and/or is clearly going to cost them their majority in the House. At that point, #NeverTrump will see a retro-recruitment surge like nothing since the French Resistance on V-E day.

          If Trump has any real degree of political competence, or a willingness to shut up and listen to competent political advisors, he will be able to spend the next 4-8 years making his level of vulnerability very unclear, and nobody who matters will want to risk being the first to defect.

          • cassander says:

            You think Paul Ryan will line up behind trump if he tries to backpedal on NATO or abjure free trade? Why would he do that?

          • Chalid says:

            Same reason he lines up behind Trump now, because he’s afraid of getting primaried or of losing his Speakership.

          • cassander says:

            >Same reason he lines up behind Trump now, because he’s afraid of getting primaried or of losing his Speakership.

            He’s lining up behind trump now because he doesn’t want Hillary to be president, and because there’s no cost in lining up. The same would not be true if a president trump decided to pass legislation he didn’t like.

    • Garrett says:

      As an aside, when it comes to winning elections there are two major ways to get the required votes:
      1) Sway a greater percentage of the voters to your position so they cast a ballot for you.
      2) Have a greater percentage of the people who support you actually show up and vote.

      The first is difficult. The second is expensive. The rhetoric around “most important election EVAR” is mostly around trying to improve (2) – the number of your supporters who actually show up.

  27. I just listened to a BBC piece about the revelation of sexual abuse by priests in Ireland.

    The movie Spotlight (about investigative journalists who broke the story about priests in the US) was partly a story about what was sort of known, but had never been said forcifully enough for people to remember it.

    What’s catching my attention is that Spotlight is completely about an investigation in Boston. They’d apparently never heard of what was public in Ireland (is the movie accurate about that?), even though that story was ongoing for a bit over a decade at that point.

    The Spotlight team apparently broke the story enough that it went worldwide, but at this point I’m thinking about how hard it is to get people to notice things.

  28. keranih says:

    Music related question:

    What is the most interesting/appealing/enriching ‘hidden track’ you know of?

    I honestly don’t listen to a lot of whole albums, but the intro track of Concrete Blonde’s Jonestown off the Mexican Moon collection-

    – it’s a “sampling” of Jim Jones’ rants –

    – shifts the whole way I see the album. For me, it makes the anti-religion sediment seem not “anti-all-religion” but “anti-[this]-religion”, where for ‘this’ you could substitute ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ or what have you.

    I’m still undecided if this is a legit reaction or if I’m just finding ways to justify really liking a band with an anti-religion bent.

    (For what it’s worth – check out both Mexican Moon and Bloodletting. Both very strong albums.)

    • Stricken from the record says:

      Data: I’m thinking of all the hidden tracks on all the albums I own…

      – Nirvana: “Endless Nameless” (Nevermind)
      – Nirvana: “Gallons of Rubbing Alcohol Flow Through the Strip” (In Utero)
      – Meat Puppets: “Lake of Fire” (Too High to Die)
      – Days of the New: “The Boner Track” (Days of the New/Yellow album)
      – Stone Temple Pilots: “My Second Album” (Purple)

      There might be some others I’m not remembering. So, missing data possible.

      Analysis: The Nirvana ones are both just stupid studio barfs. (When I was 13 I thought they were just oh so cool, but now it’s pretty clear they were wastes of time…come to think of it, wastes of expensive studio time! Puzzling.) The Meat Puppets one is pretty cool, but that song also appears on Meat Puppets II and while I like the rerecording I’d rather they just added it as its own track so I didn’t have to listen to a bunch of silence after “Comin’ Down” just to get to it. The Days of the New one is okay—it’s just some nice classical-sounding guitar playing over storm noises—but isn’t exactly what makes me excited to listen to that album. The Stone Temple Pilots hidden track is the exception that proves the rule, since that song is fantastic and I absolutely love it.

      Meta-analysis: Exempting cases where they’re used as a practical way to get around legal issues or whatever, what the hell is up with hidden tracks? Do you want me to listen to the song or not? What, you want me to discover it by accident? Why? Do you think it makes you mysterious? That it creates some kind of special relationship between us, like you shared a personal secret with me? Come on. And if that was true, then why are hidden tracks so often just throw-away material? It’s just annoying. “Come here, I want to whisper a secret in your ear…fart joke!” Lame.

  29. Sandy says:

    Query for the left-of-center types here: do you see a principled distinction between patriotism and nationalism, or how do you understand those two terms?

    This is something that’s been weighing on my mind ever since I read The Fascist Bogeyman on Medium. The author is a Marxist seeking to explain, not steelman, what he understands to be the fascist mindset in the context of the Trump candidacy.

    Flipping through a history book it’s hard to argue that the nation-state system doesn’t exist for the arbitrarily divided glory of western Europeans. The official line is that we’re supposed to ignore that part, or be sad. But some people don’t want to ignore it and they aren’t sad. Instead they wonder why we have the nice borders that their conquering “ancestors” drew but all these people on the wrong sides. If taking Mexico’s land for white people was illegitimate, then why haven’t we given it back? And if it was legitimate, then what’s wrong with a wall to protect our side from a reversal? The liberal patriots, they say, are lying to themselves; there is no nationalism that is not ethno-nationalism.

    I don’t think it’s only fascists who hold this view; many of my progressive Acela Corridor acquaintances are averse to American nationalism because of what they see as its associations with white identity movements. Ethnicity is frequently an important element in nationalist movements worldwide, but I don’t think it is vital or even necessary. Polish nationalism in the 20th century was one Slavic group rallying against another Slavic group. Many of the most influential godfathers of the Hindu nationalist movement in India were open fascists who, among other things, praised Hitler for his “race pride” — but their understanding of race was rooted in culture and religion more than just ethnicity, and so they spoke of the “Hindu race” and its need to eradicate pluralism and establish cultural supremacy.

    I think most nationalism is cultural rather than ethnic; ethnicity plays an important role in cultural nationalism but not always and not necessarily. Cass Sunstein recently wrote that anti-immigration attitudes in America are correlated with negative perceptions of Latinos and Muslims but not with negative perceptions of blacks and Asians. This is probably because the perception is that Asians and blacks blend into the American cultural tapestry more easily and naturally, while the perception of Latinos is that they don’t speak English and encourage a trend of not speaking English and the perception of Muslims is that they hate America and blow things up as a result. In other words, they are considered truly alien cultural elements whose presence and activity erodes the existing culture; I think this is why nationalist movements in Europe and Asia tend to uniformly have a problem with Muslims while few other groups are in their common crosshairs.

    I think many Clinton supporters would gladly call themselves patriots but never nationalists, while many Trump supporters would gladly call themselves both patriots and nationalists. Where my uncertainty arises is whether this reflects an actual ideological distinction between patriotism and nationalism, or just the difference in associations for the words “patriot” and “nationalist”. Right at the end of World War II, George Orwell, a committed socialist, wrote an essay called “Notes on Nationalism” where he sought to draw a distinction between patriotism and nationalism. Patriotism, Orwell wrote, “is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally”, while nationalism “is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality”. I have seen this understanding among many on the left, the idea that patriotism is a love for your country and its values while nationalism is something chauvinistic and predatory. But we see many contemporary nationalists who take an isolationist approach to their nationalism, not just in “America First” but also in Euroscepticism and criticism of neocons and Hillary’s hawkishness coming from Trump supporters. The core of their nationalism is the belief that their country’s political elite prioritizes the interests of foreigners above those of their own people. Their nationalism does not involve cultural annexation, but aims to avoid their culture becoming polluted by the entry of other cultures that they see as hostile and detrimental to their own. See Sailer’s “Invade the World, Invite the World” criticism of American foreign policy. There is no shortage of those on the left who argue that patriotism itself is chauvinistic, jingoistic and exclusionary: these arguments are made every four years when the Olympics roll around. And in practice, Orwell’s patriotism involved a lot of romantic sighing about Englishness and English culture. So if patriotism is a love for your country’s culture, does that not necessitate a defense of your country’s culture? And if that culture is continually changing, what is it you really love about your country?

    Gandhi once said you could not be an internationalist without being a nationalist first. “God having cast my lot in the midst of the people of India, I should be untrue to my Maker if I failed to serve them. If I do not know how to serve them I shall never know how to serve humanity. And I cannot possibly go wrong so long as I do not harm other nations in the act of serving my country.” I think of that when I hear someone criticize the “Washington bureaucracy” or the “Brussels elite” as unrepresentative of their interests, but I was raised with nationalist sympathies so I might be biased. However, I have increasingly felt that a significant part of the reason liberals and leftists will call themselves patriots but not nationalists does not necessarily have anything to do with a real difference between the two qualities, but in the perception across the political spectrum that being “patriotic” is a good thing while being “nationalistic” is a thing that should only appeal to right-wingers, a legacy of two world wars. I don’t mean to pathologize left-wingers in this way; I think of it as similar to how some on the right will argue that Hitler was really on the left — Jonah Goldberg over at National Review wrote a book making this allegation that found its way to the top of the NYT Best Sellers list. I personally think it is indisputable that Hitler was a right-winger; as a right-winger myself, I do not think Hitler’s political allegiances reflect on me, but there are many right-wingers who are conscious of efforts to associate right-wing political views with Hitler at every possible opportunity, and so I think those who play these taxonomy games alleging Hitler was a leftist are just doing so defensively rather than because they actually believe it.

    • blacktrance says:

      I’m not left-of-center, but I’m opposed to both nationalism and patriotism. My take on it:

      Cynically, patriotism is nationalism the speaker happens to like. Less cynically, whatever the actual distinction between the two, nationalists often try to pass off their nationalism as patriotism, except when they reach critical mass as they have in the past couple of years.
      I don’t know if there’s a clear line between the two, but here are some differences. Nationalism is more important to nationalists than patriotism is to patriots – it’s a larger (or louder) part of their identity and worldview. Patriotism is theoretically compatible with cosmopolitanism (though combining the two isn’t common in practice), while nationalism necessarily sets itself in opposition to it. Patriotism is more confident, and nationalism is more defensive. Nationalist policies (protectionism, immigration restrictions, sometimes aggressive wars, etc) are often justified by appeals to patriotism, but they’re not a necessary part of it. Nationalism is more concerned about separating “us” from “them”, while patriotism isn’t necessarily concerned with “them”.

    • Aapje says:

      I consider myself a nationalist and a social-democrat (but not a national socialist 🙂 ).

      In my opinion, you need a shared culture to make laws. A country tends to have this shared culture due to shared media, shared physical space, shared language, shared education, shared laws (there is a feedback loop), etc, etc. Only due to this shared culture can we come to an agreement on crucial issues without killing each other.

      Historically, nations actually prevented war (anti-nationalists tend to believe the opposite) by drawing a strict line between the people to whom our laws apply vs the people to whom ‘their’ laws apply. This was established more or less with the Peace of Westphalia where European nations recognized their sovereignty and subsequent developments.

      Shared laws tend to require that there is a willingness to sacrifice. No law will be fair to everyone, every tax system will burden some more than others, etc. This will make people upset, which is a force that tears people apart. You need a counter force that pushes people together and makes them willing to accept a certain level of unfairness. This is (fortunately) built into humans (as this does more good than harm). When we want to point to negative effects of this and/or think that people pick the wrong group to feel emotionally connected with, we call this tribalism. However, this same feeling of community allows us to work together closely within a shared culture.

      The way I see it, patriotism is merely this feeling of community on a national scale. It’s our built-in mechanism to be able to work together within a small tribe that we managed to employ to work together on a national scale (partially through indoctrination, which is necessary, IMO).

      If we abandon it, I don’t believe we will then settle on a sense of community on a global scale, but rather that we will then go back to small scale tribalism. In fact, I never see globalists logically think through and accept the consequences of their beliefs. In a border-less society, the logical result is that a huge number of people from poor countries move to rich countries and then greatly influence the election. Since poor countries tend to be oppressive to women, gays, etc; the logical outcome is that the new laws will be oppressive to women, gays, etc.

      However, the go to defense of open borders and/or multiculturalism is that the only requirement of immigrants should be that they merely must follow the law, which is an argument that pretends that laws are static and that these new immigrants will not vote. I see that as Utopian thinking where actual facts get ignored as they are inconvenient and people lose themselves in a dream about how the world (& humans) ‘ought’ to be.

      TL;DR version: I see patriotism as a necessary mechanism to make irrational humans compatible with nationalism and I see nationalism as the maximum scale at which an extensive legal system can work. I see globalists as ‘ought’ thinkers, rather than ‘is’ thinkers, which makes them dangerous as all other Utopians.

      PS. Right now we already have trouble maintaining our national states, as increased self-segregation results in parallel societies.

    • cassander says:

      > I personally think it is indisputable that Hitler was a right-winger;

      You have to look at context of this question. By the standard of Today, or 1940, hitler is clearly on the right. By the standard of 1920, though, he’s on the left. The time in between was a period of extremely rapid ideological shifting brought about by the rise of the USSR and the rapid collapse of monarchist Europe.

      The ideological position of the UK is illustrative to how quickly things shifted. The last PM who was in the lords left office in 1902 and the commons only got supremacy over the lords in 1911. Despite this, the UK was probably the third most left wing government in Europe, after the only two outright republics in France and Switzerland. Every other country in Europe was a constitutional monarchy with a king that played an active role in politics, usually to a greater degree than in the UK. By 1945, despite not much internal change, the UK is clearly on the right end of the spectrum, not because they changed so much, but because the rest of the world moved so quickly around them.

      • There is not just the question of where the dividing line is but of what characteristics define left/right. If you see it, as libertarians tend to, as state power vs individual freedom, then Hitler was on the left. If you see it as “what classes does this politician appeal to,” Hitler is a somewhat ambiguous case, but probably more left than right, targeting workers while the businessmen were mostly supporting a different party. If you think of “right” as “nationalist,” then Hitler and Stalin are both on the right–and libertarians are on the left.

        If you accept Scott’s argument that “right” sees the world as an unsafe place, “left” as a safe place, then again Hitler and Stalin or on the right. But I think Jill is too, although the particular threat that worries her is right wing domination of the U.S.

        Not easy to use the seating pattern of the French Assembly for labeling the whole range of political positions.

        • Gazeboist says:

          Not easy to use the seating pattern of the French Assembly for labeling the whole range of political positions.

          Or, indeed, any one dimensional scale.

        • LHN says:

          Not easy to use the seating pattern of the French Assembly for labeling the whole range of political positions.

          And even they didn’t find it all that compelling, quickly abandoning it in favor of the Mountain and the Plain/Marsh.

        • cassander says:

          For my money, left vs. right is properly about response to hierarchy. The leftist instinct is that of the leveler, the right sees hierarchy as either virtuous in of itself or at least necessary.

          But in this particular circumstance, I was thinking more in terms of popular perception. Anyone proposing the nationalist socialist plan in 1914 Germany would have had far more in common with the social democrats than the monarchist right.

          • Radm says:

            Largely true on things the nazis didn’t care about, like economics. Not true on things they did care about, like war.

            On economics, it’s probably mst accurate to say the Nazis were moderate centrists, neither great believers in the free market, nor admirers of Marx. But their economic policies don’t capture any of the distinctive things about them.

          • Your hierarchy definition puts actual communist states on the right, libertarians on the left.

          • Anonymous Bosch says:

            Your hierarchy definition puts actual communist states on the right, libertarians on the left.

            Only if you assume the concept of “hierarchy” doesn’t have an economic dimension as well as a political one

          • Douglas Knight says:

            David, no, Cassander said reaction to hierarchy. Libertarians openly tolerate it and thus are right-wing. Soviets deny that they have it, and thus are left-wing.

          • Quite a lot of libertarians see the ideal as an agoric economy–everyone self employed trading with others. Libertarians familiar with the relevant economics realize that you are unlikely to go all the way there, for reasons that have been explored.

            But in terms of reaction to, it’s a distaste for hierarchy. Market is an alternative to hierarchy.

          • cassander says:

            @Radm

            >But their economic policies don’t capture any of the distinctive things about them.

            The nazis, no, but the broader fascist movement, definitely yes. And even with the nazis, there were definitely factions in the party were far more traditionally fascist. The party just happened to come under the sway of someone who was obsessed with race war above all else.

            @David friedman

            >Your hierarchy definition puts actual communist states on the right, libertarians on the left.

            The communists were officially dedicated to leveling. that they could not achieve the leveling they desired without building new hierarchies doesn’t mean that their motive wasn’t leftist, just that their method of leftism doesn’t work.

            >But in terms of reaction to, it’s a distaste for hierarchy. Market is an alternative to hierarchy.

            the left looks at markets and sees how they build explicit and highly visible hierarchies of wealth, the right sees the way creative destruction tears down hierarchies of birth/status/culture/ whatever. This makes both sides uncomfortable.

            Me being me, the thing that makes everyone else uncomfortable appeals to me. I am too much of a right winger and elitist to think that hierarchy is inherently bad, but I recognize that they are, by nature, easily corruptible. Markets build relatively meritocratic hierarchies then ruthlessly tear them down when they cease to be useful. They create a non-violent and positive sum, but still darwinian, competitive environment that makes hierarchies continuously prove their worth, giving you the best of both worlds.

          • What do you mean here by “hierarchy.”

            Consider two extremes. One is hierarchical authority, as in a military unit where superior officers give orders to inferior officers.

            One is a society of people who are legally equal but economically unequal. Imagine that they are all self employed farmers but some are more skillful or luckier and thus have much higher incomes than others.

            I would describe the former as hierarchical, whether or not the superior ranks are better paid, the latter as not hierarchical. I don’t think “hierarchy” and “inequality” are the same.

            Is that consistent with how you are using the terms?

          • cassander says:

            @david

            >Is that consistent with how you are using the terms?

            I think so, but I’m not sure the farmer example is particularly useful given the interdependence inherent in an industrial economy. Once that interdependence enters the picture then even a hypothetical economy composed entirely of sole proprietors starts to grant significant influence over the lives of others through wealth even if there is complete legal equality.

            Such hierarchies would be voluntary arrangements, which makes them categorically different from hierarchies backed by force, like the military, something the left often fails to appreciate, but they’re still hierarchies in that someone’s life is being substantially dictated by someone else’s decisions.

          • “but they’re still hierarchies in that someone’s life is being substantially dictated by someone else’s decisions.”

            If I’m a capitalist producing stuff, my life is substantially dictated by the decisions of the people I am selling it to. I don’t think of that as hierarchy.

          • Tekhno says:

            Any argument that places mortal enemies Hitler and Stalin on the same side is missing something.

            I think what is being understated in this discussion is that when you are talking about ideologies you are talking about ideas and not outcomes. Hitler and Stalin may have produced similar outcomes but only due to the laws of reality creating convergence in how a totalitarian state can operate. If we were to judge the rightness or leftness of ideologies based on outcomes, then we would never be able to judge something like communism at all, because the outcome of a classless, stateless, international society based around common ownership of the means of production has never been extant in this world (and probably never will be).

            What Douglas Knight says here:

            David, no, Cassander said reaction to hierarchy. Libertarians openly tolerate it and thus are right-wing. Soviets deny that they have it, and thus are left-wing.

            -Is really important, because if we were to judge things by outcomes in a reality in which escaping from hierarchy is impossible, then nobody could be left wing, since no left winger has damaged worldly hierarchies a jot.

            Stalin is definitively on the left, no questions about it, because while the outcomes produced were extremely hierarchical, the ideology he was following was supposed to produce his preferred end goal of a leveled non-hierarchical society. In the meantime, the proletariat have to use the same oppressive methods the bourgeois do, and in the Marxist conception, the state’s only purpose is for those means (this is why it withers away once you have destroyed class distinctions).

            This is easily demonstrated by looking to the ”left” of Marxists and seeing the anarcho-communists who are so ardent in their pursuit of a non-hierarchical society that they want to instantly achieve pure communism in a worldwide revolution.

            @David Friedman

            If I’m a capitalist producing stuff, my life is substantially dictated by the decisions of the people I am selling it to. I don’t think of that as hierarchy.

            It being substantially dictated by the market is what demonstrates classical liberalism to be to the left of feudalism or some modern kind of corporate state, but liberal support of private property at the same time demonstrates the philosophy to be to the right of socialism. This is a well established framework that is coherent with the seating arrangement of the French Assembly.

            Private property is inherently hierarchical since fairly exclusive rights of command are being given to those who hold the deeds to that property. It might not be as hierarchical as a system in which private property is also protected from market pressure in some militaristic aristocracy, but then that just shows there is more room to the right. Private property influenced by market pressure still involves more hierarchical title than other proposed alternatives.

            On the far end of the scale to the left, those who want to abolish private property, have as their end goal a society in which no one has the exclusive right of control over any means of production. The only hierarchies remaining in a hypothetical communist society would be those given by the principle of occupancy and use, and all decisions over production engaged in by multiple workers would be decided by direct democracy with instantly recallable delegates.

            But in terms of reaction to, it’s a distaste for hierarchy. Market is an alternative to hierarchy.

            An alternative to absolutely fixed aristocratic hierarchies, but it can’t really be to the left of people who want to abolish even the fluid hierarchies of the market.

            Whether or not such a thing is possible to achieve is not really relevant. Again, the classification of ideology concerns what people want to do and what their goals are, not whether those goals are realistic.

          • @Tekhno

            You are using “communism” to mean “a political theory that various people claimed to believe in.” I am using it to mean “the political system of the polities that were referred to as communist.” It seems to me more useful to base our categories on how systems actually worked, not on what their supporters claimed their ultimate objective was.

            So far as theory is concerned, fascism and socialism came largely out of the same intellectual sources, a point Hayek discusses at some length. Mussolini, generally credited with inventing fascism, was a prominent Italian socialist who split with the party over his support for Italian involvement in WWI. His theory, as best I can tell, was that getting socialism by the bottom up approach that socialists advocated wouldn’t work, so the same result should be produced by a top down approach.

          • Tekhno says:

            @David Friedman

            It seems to me more useful to base our categories on how systems actually worked, not on what their supporters claimed their ultimate objective was.

            It seems useful to base our criticisms of practicing these ideas on how they actually worked, but classifying ideology itself requires some degree of distance from circumstance. Classification of ideology is a meta-level exercise distinct from discussion of whether applying a particular policy is a good idea.

            If we instead based analysis of the political spectrum based on outcomes then very few ideologies would have a real existence to analyze at all. Communism on the object level simply doesn’t make an appearance. Nor does anarcho-capitalism.

            There aren’t that many distinct systems that have actually existed. Only in our minds do “left and “right” take on any more meaning than a correlated jumble of policies in a system drifting in a particular direction due to the interplay of parties today based on policies established by parties yesterday.

            And all totalitarian systems seem weirdly the same as if the ideology is secondary to the repression needed to prevent people resisting you. I mean all totalitarian systems, not all totalitarian ideologies. If you apply any ideology outside of a democratic system, the system is necessarily totalitarian, because it doesn’t allow any space for non-violent opposition. Even anarchism is necessarily totalitarian despite not being a totalitarian ideology.

            Perhaps this is what Mussolini meant when he said; “Every anarchist is a baffled dictator.”

            In the world of outcomes there are only two possibilities; give and take or winner takes all. The application of ideology in a democracy is constrained by give and take, and the nature of winner takes all warps all ideology into accepting the same practices.

            So far as theory is concerned,

            Now we’re safely back in the realm of ideology. Phew.

            fascism and socialism came largely out of the same intellectual sources, a point Hayek discusses at some length. Mussolini, generally credited with inventing fascism, was a prominent Italian socialist who split with the party over his support for Italian involvement in WWI. His theory, as best I can tell, was that getting socialism by the bottom up approach that socialists advocated wouldn’t work, so the same result should be produced by a top down approach.

            His theory is a complete and utter rejection of socialism (and liberalism), which he outlined, along with Giovanni Gentile, in the Doctrine of Fascism*. His split with socialism wasn’t some trivial doctrinal difference, but a completely clean break. (As for Hitler: he redefined socialism as an “ancient Aryan institution” compatible with private property)

            The very basis of class struggle as the engine of history is denied in Fascist theory*. Interestingly, Mussolini and Gentile put forwards a theory of history in which the state is the central engine of historical change. In Marxism, the state is only the repressive apparatus used by the contending classes, and has no life distinct from class character. Fascism says that the state is “awake”, running against the sense in Marxism in which only capital is “awake”.

            *An aside: It’s weird how no one ever seems to discuss Fascist theory in discussions about Fascism. The fact that Fascism has this unique theory of the state is almost a lost fact, and never really comes into liberal or Marxist analyses of Fascist theory from the outside. This is also one of the things which distinguishes Italian Fascism from National Socialism, where the race struggle is the engine of history.

            “It is not the nation which generates the State; that is an antiquated naturalistic concept which afforded a basis for XIXth century publicity in favor of national governments. Rather is it the State which creates the nation, conferring volition and therefore real life on a people made aware of their moral unity.”

            This is an exact inversion of National Socialism’s view of the state. I guess this never gets mentioned, because Mussolini got told by Hitler.

          • cassander says:

            @David

            Tekhno said it better than I probably would have. When evaluating ideology it’s more useful to look at the world they wanted to build and the reasons they desired that end state than the world they actually resulted in.

          • Thanks for the link to the Mussolini piece. I think I have to read it more carefully before continuing that part of the argument.

            You write:

            “If you apply any ideology outside of a democratic system, the system is necessarily totalitarian, because it doesn’t allow any space for non-violent opposition.”

            Most of history consists of societies that were neither democratic nor totalitarian. And I don’t see what “totalitarian” and “no space for non-violent opposition” have to do with each other.

            In most societies there are lots of ways of opposing existing rules, violent or non-violent. Theft. Spreading illegal facts or beliefs. Trying to persuade the rulers to change.

            Consider medieval Europe. It was neither democratic nor totalitarian. Ways of getting change included preaching sermons to persuade rulers to reform, raising armies to try to replace the ruler, peasants running away to another lord or to the city, …

            Both violent and non-violent ways.

            “Even anarchism is necessarily totalitarian despite not being a totalitarian ideology.”

            Why? You are arguing that a system where a majority get to impose rules on the minority is, by that fact, less totalitarian than one where they don’t?

          • Anonymous says:

            @David Friedman

            Most of history consists of societies that were neither democratic nor totalitarian. And I don’t see what “totalitarian” and “no space for non-violent opposition” have to do with each other.

            Perhaps “totalitarian” is the wrong word in that only modern states have had the technological capacity to obtain such extreme levels of micromanagement over such large territories.

            What I’m trying to get at is that there are societies which are democratic and operate on give and take rule, and then there are societies which operate on winner takes all, and various gradations in-between. These two poles with representative democracies on one end and totalitarian states on the other end define the spectrum of actually existing systems.

            The systems that were possible in the medieval ages were different due to technological and economic limitations. Totalitarian societies were not possible, but the super-set that totalitarian societies belong to, those in which the winner takes all, were the order of the day. You apply the same political processes with modern technology and you will get a totalitarian state instead of absolute but decentralized fiefdoms. The principle of absolute rule rather than give or take is still the one end of the spectrum against the other here. The main difference between systems is their toleration for opposition.

            In most societies there are lots of ways of opposing existing rules, violent or non-violent. Theft. Spreading illegal facts or beliefs. Trying to persuade the rulers to change.

            None of these things are baked into the system. You could argue that someone could have persuaded Stalin to stop therefore it wasn’t a winner takes all system, but what would actually happen would be that they’d get gulag’d, and if a medieval peasant started petitioning his lord to set up a representative democracy instead, I think bad things might happen to him, which is why there’s a big gap between the Roman Republic and the “enlightenment”, where winner takes all systems are dominating.

            In the sense that it’s a spectrum, all systems contain some level of give and take in that even a dictatorship will contain a high circle who debate – it is simply the wider public who are locked out of that process – but the point is that one end of the spectrum is tending one way from the other, and in a spectrum with two poles, where ever we place the center-line we get two varieties of system.

            Ways of getting change included preaching sermons to persuade rulers to reform, raising armies to try to replace the ruler, peasants running away to another lord or to the city, …

            You could just as easily be beheaded for preaching a sermon as be listened to. Unlike a representative democracy there is no consistent process for pleading the rulers or swapping them out which the general public can engage in without risking their lives.

            Peasants running away are simply leaving that winner takes all society just like those who left the Soviet Union by escaping across the border. The only difference is that the USSR had more modern methods of containment.

            Raising armies is just violence and a perpetuation of winner takes all, fitting with my theory. There’s nothing in the system itself that consistently and formally allows you to change it non-violently, so you have to destroy the system of whichever King you oppose and replace it with your own, and so on.

            Why? You are arguing that a system where a majority get to impose rules on the minority is, by that fact, less totalitarian than one where they don’t?

            No one has ever voted anarchism in. The only attempts at anything like anarchism (that don’t involve historical revisionism about ancient Iceland and Ireland) were the socialist anarchist attempts at societies in Ukraine, Spain, and other places. These cases being smashy smashy winner takes all demolitions of representative systems, thereby placing anarchist rule over others indefinitely (until they were in turn smashed by the Falange).

          • Tekhno says:

            ^That anon is me. I’ve been playing about with cookies, sorry!

          • “What I’m trying to get at is that there are societies which are democratic and operate on give and take rule, and then there are societies which operate on winner takes all, and various gradations in-between. These two poles with representative democracies on one end and totalitarian states on the other end define the spectrum of actually existing systems.”

            Why do you assume that the two poles are majority vote vs winner take all? A feudal system isn’t winner take all. There are severe limits on what the king can do, in part because most of the troops belong to the barons. There are limits on what barons can do.

            It’s as if you were arguing that the only alternative diets were living on peaches or starving to death. The space of alternatives isn’t one dimensional. Democracy is just one of a bunch of possible ways in which the preferences of different people in a polity get expressed and worked out. It’s more totalitarian than some alternatives, less than others.

            “The only attempts at anything like anarchism (that don’t involve historical revisionism about ancient Iceland and Ireland) were the socialist anarchist attempts at societies in Ukraine, Spain, and other places.”

            I don’t think my published views on Iceland are historical revisionism, although there are some mistakes about details which I’m correcting in work I have been doing more recently. Perhaps you could fill out your critique? If you don’t want to rely on my account or read the sagas and Gragas for yourself, I recommend Jessie Byock’s work.

            The system was not democratic and it was not winner take all, at least until the final collapse in the 13th century. It wasn’t anarchy but it shared some of the characteristics of an anarcho-capitalist system and so provides some evidence of how such a system would work.

            If you don’t like Iceland, there are lots of examples of functioning stateless societies in the historical record. Northern Somalia prior to 1960. The Nuer. Both of those studied carefully by modern anthropologists. The Commanche. The Bedouin. None of them winner take all, none of them democratic. For a much more general discussion of states and stateless societies, you might find The Art of Not being Governed by James Scott interesting.

          • Tekhno says:

            @David Friedman

            A feudal system isn’t winner take all. There are severe limits on what the king can do, in part because most of the troops belong to the barons. There are limits on what barons can do.

            There are limits in every system, but those limits aren’t consistent institutional limits as in representative democracies, but arbitrary tolerances for bullshit. Isn’t there a big difference between the two methods? Even modern totalitarian states have limits. The Grand Council of Fascism removed Mussolini when they realized that the allies would win forcing him to escape to the northern territories which became a new, short lived German puppet state.

            Democracy is just one of a bunch of possible ways in which the preferences of different people in a polity get expressed and worked out. It’s more totalitarian than some alternatives, less than others.

            Totalitarian probably was a bad word to use, because it’s an overspecific example of the general case. The distinction I’m making is that in democracy the preferences are worked out through give and take where there is a pre-agreed system (that depends on high trust and stability) where we engage in peaceful competition and summon armies of voters that stand down when the result is in, rather than using actual armies to violently secure a “permanent” and total victory where the winner doesn’t have to stand down after their term is up.

            I don’t think my published views on Iceland are historical revisionism, although there are some mistakes about details which I’m correcting in work I have been doing more recently. Perhaps you could fill out your critique? If you don’t want to rely on my account or read the sagas and Gragas for yourself, I recommend Jessie Byock’s work.

            I’ll admit I had the ancient Iceland and Ireland were anarcho-capitalist thing explained to me in internet discussions in the past, and never found it convincing because it sounded like they were over-analogizing a really decentralized system with lots of small combative tribes to peacefully competitive free market anarchy. If your book is the source of these claims then, yes, it’s bound to explain it better than random commenters and I need to give it a read. (Back when I was ancap I cobbled it together from internet discussions and videos and really need to give it a second chance).

            I retract the claim until I can investigate it further.

            The system was not democratic and it was not winner take all, at least until the final collapse in the 13th century. It wasn’t anarchy but it shared some of the characteristics of an anarcho-capitalist system and so provides some evidence of how such a system would work.

            You say “the system” but wasn’t each separate chiefdom its own system with its own authority? A really really small kingdom is still winner takes all if it’s undemocratic, and being really really small shouldn’t change that.

            If you don’t like Iceland, there are lots of examples of functioning stateless societies in the historical record. Northern Somalia prior to 1960. The Nuer. Both of those studied carefully by modern anthropologists. The Commanche. The Bedouin. None of them winner take all, none of them democratic.

            Well, some small tribes might well run according to democratic consensus, whereas others would have a big man chief. There are the two systems again.

            For a much more general discussion of states and stateless societies, you might find The Art of Not being Governed by James Scott interesting.

            I feel like you’ve recommended me books in other discussions we’ve had, and I made a mental note but forgot. I’m going to start a wordpad document of all the books people recommend me in SSC discussions. I’ve realize that while I read a lot, it’s all been articles and internet blogs (some of them book length!) for about three years now, and I really need to read more proper books again.

            Thanks for the rec.

          • hlynkacg says:

            There are limits in every system, but those limits aren’t consistent institutional limits as in representative democracies, but arbitrary tolerances for bullshit. Isn’t there a big difference between the two methods?

            Is there?

            The institutional limits are decided by what the voters will tolerate, and voters can be pretty damn arbitrary.

          • “but those limits aren’t consistent institutional limits as in representative democracies, but arbitrary tolerances for bullshit.”

            I’m not sure in what sense a democracy has consistent institutional limits as opposed to an equilibrium. Legally speaking, a president with a majority in the Senate could replace the entire Supreme Court after someone who approved of his views had illegally murdered the current Justices. If he also has a majority in the House, it’s hard to think of anything he could do, up to and including arresting all opposition congressmen and having them tried and executed, that would violate the institutional limits.

            There are reasons it is unlikely to happen, but they are not institutional, they are a function of the attitudes of the people in the system.

            The same is true of a feudal system. The rules are not “arbitrary tolerances for bullshit.” There was an elaborate set of legal rules defining the rights of everyone concerned. Those rules sometimes got broken when someone was in a position to do so–but so do the rules of a democracy. In both cases, rules provide Schelling points which make them to some, but not infinite, extent self enforcing.

            You write, about Iceland and some other systems:

            “a really decentralized system with lots of small combative tribes

            You say “the system” but wasn’t each separate chiefdom its own system with its own authority?

            Well, some small tribes might well run according to democratic consensus, whereas others would have a big man chief. There are the two systems again.”

            Peaches or nothing?

            Your picture of these societies is wildly wrong. There were no tribes in Iceland, and there was a law code that applied to the entire Island, along with a court system. What there wasn’t was an executive arm of government–court verdicts were privately enforced and most disputes were settled by out of court agreements.

            The Somali and the Nuer had things you could call tribes, but they were not mini-states.

            You can find fairly detailed descriptions of the Icelandic and Somali systems in draft chapters of the book I’m currently writing. I may or may not add a chapter on the Nuer, who are quite interesting. If you are sufficiently curious–they are some of the people who have been going through Hell in the southern Sudan for some decades now–I can point you at the original book on them by a British anthropologist which is webbed and I gather regarded as a classic.

            My old piece on Iceland was a journal article, not a book. The current chapter is better.

          • Tekhno says:

            @hlynkacg

            The institutional limits are decided by what the voters will tolerate, and voters can be pretty damn arbitrary.

            But voters also get a chance to change the system by voting according to relatively consistent rules to change who is in power, and have been primed to accept the results of that contest, so it’s easier for them to express their intolerance in a non-violent give and take fashion, rather than their only option to be violent revolution. Democracy is a pressure release valve.

          • Tekhno says:

            @David Friedman

            (replied in another comment because this was quite long and I only saw it after the other reply blah)

            I’m not sure in what sense a democracy has consistent institutional limits as opposed to an equilibrium.

            It’s consistent compared to a non-democracy. In democracy there is a timeframe on which voters get a chance to change things institutionally in a give and take contest, whereas in a non-democracy there is no voting and only violent change is significant for those locked out leading to winner takes all.

            Of course, democracy doesn’t magically work without people believing in it, so societies can transform from democratic to non-democratic and back again, as we observe in the two extremes of actually existing systems.

            Legally speaking, a president with a majority in the Senate could replace the entire Supreme Court after someone who approved of his views had illegally murdered the current Justices. If he also has a majority in the House, it’s hard to think of anything he could do, up to and including arresting all opposition congressmen and having them tried and executed, that would violate the institutional limits.

            The institutional limits would stop being relevant at that point, because people would stop obeying them (what’s the point in peaceful competition if the other party won’t play ball and keeps arresting our politicians?). You’d get a civil war at that point.

            There are reasons it is unlikely to happen, but they are not institutional, they are a function of the attitudes of the people in the system.

            Well, democracy only works because enough people actively or passively support those institutions, but that this is so does not mean that the institutions don’t affect how the society looks. If the people start to develop different attitudes running against democratic institutions, then they are likely to elect those who want to pull the ladder up after them, and that’s how you get the Nazis and Bolsheviks.

            The same is true of a feudal system. The rules are not “arbitrary tolerances for bullshit.”

            I didn’t say that the rules were arbitrary tolerances of bullshit, I said that the limits on what kings could do were defined by arbitrary tolerances for bullshit (sorry if that wasn’t clear – read the original section I was replying to), as in people’s tolerances to refrain from using violence to overthrow that damn stupid King, which are much more variant than structured elections.

            There was an elaborate set of legal rules defining the rights of everyone concerned.

            And the particular set of rules in play were enforced by a government which would not negotiate its position with the populace, whereas democracy provides a relatively consistent and peaceful mechanism for that.

            Your picture of these societies is wildly wrong. There were no tribes in Iceland, and there was a law code that applied to the entire Island, along with a court system. What there wasn’t was an executive arm of government–court verdicts were privately enforced and most disputes were settled by out of court agreements.

            Who brought this law code into place? You say it was mostly privately enforced but when you say private enforcement do you mean citizens banding together to punish a criminal, and what happened when that private enforcement failed? Who was the third party who stepped in to cut the knot when various private enforcers disagreed on interpretations? That would be key here.

            When you say that there were no tribes do you mean that the island was all one tribe instead? I think there’s a danger we might be talking past each other because I have a different definition of tribe, and am using the term more loosely/generically.

            I can point you at the original book on them by a British anthropologist which is webbed and I gather regarded as a classic.

            Yes, I’d be grateful for that.

          • Ariel Ben-Yehuda says:

            I am not sure “democracy” and “winner takes all” cover everything. You can also have things like democracy by a minority (e.g. Apartheid), and also party rule (e.g. post-Stalin Soviet Russia, modern China) with no single strongmen ruling.

          • Tekhno says:

            Those are just positions on the spectrum between the two poles.

          • “The institutional limits would stop being relevant at that point, because people would stop obeying them (what’s the point in peaceful competition if the other party won’t play ball and keeps arresting our politicians?). You’d get a civil war at that point.”

            That was my point. That’s also what happened when a feudal king tried to push beyond the limits of that society.

            Democracy is different from alternative systems, and they are different from each other. But it’s not clear that absolute monarchy is closer to feudalism than it is to democracy. The absolute monarch claims the sort of power that a democratic government claims and a feudal monarch does not claim.

            And a democratic state is more like absolute monarchy than it is like a stateless society. While I’m recommending books, Seeing Like a State (also by James Scott) is a fascinating account of how states try to restructure societies in order to make them easier to rule, to make the territory more like a map simple enough to use. As best I can tell, the distinction between democratic and non-democratic states is irrelevant to his description.

            The source on the Nuer is:

            E. E. Evans-Pritchard, The Nuer: a Description Of The Modes Of Livelihood And Political Institutions Of a Nilotic People. Conveniently webbed as a pdf.

            Part of what interested me was the similarity to the Somali system–a structure of nested coalitions. But there is lots of other interesting stuff. And it turns out that I.M. Lewis, my main source on the Somali, was a student of Evans-Pritchard.

            Since I have written and webbed a fairly detailed description of the Icelandic system, I’m not going to respond in detail, beyond suggesting that inventing a political system by guessing what it must have been like doesn’t work very well. See the chapter in the webbed draft of my current book project.

      • dndnrsn says:

        National socialism really screws up left-right models, though.

        Aggressive, racist militaristic nationalism … plus a lot of stuff that looks like postwar social democracy … paid for through looting and enslavement…

        There is a reason that some modern crypto-fascists (or, not so crypto) present themselves as representing the transcending of left and right.

        • Gazeboist says:

          Didn’t original-flavor fascists also do that to some extent? Hitler disliked Hindenburg and Stalin, as far as I can tell.

          • cassander says:

            Fascists did not just do that to some extent they explicitly claimed to be a third way between capitalist democracy and socialism. The idea was that Capitalist democracy led to the oppression of labor by capital, socialism the oppression of capital by labor, and that fascism would chart a bold new path by having the state stand between these two forces as the champion of the people and guardian of public good. didn’t work out very well.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Didn’t original-flavor fascists also do that to some extent?

            Mussolini certainly did.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Yeah, they did, I kind of muddled that one up. Isn’t “Third Way” a post-WWII term though?

          • Anonymous says:

            Third Way is Bill Clinton/Tony Blair type triangulating centrist stuff. Third Position is Benito Mussolini/Adolf Hitler triangulating nationalist stuff.

            It’s worth nothing that the Fascists claimed to be a third position between liberal (free market) capitalism and socialism/communism, while also adopting the positioning of “right wing” in a conventional sense, so “third position” should be interpreted as being between two economic systems and not a strict claim of being between left and right (though some Fascists did also make this claim haphazardly).

            “We are free to believe that this is the century of authority, a century tending to the “right”, a Fascist century.”

        • Jaskologist says:

          The original fascists also liked to present themselves as transcending left and right.

          But so do most modern-day moderates, and anybody who claims to be interested in “what works” rather than ideology.

    • Dahlen says:

      Funny thing, I recently saw myself becoming more patriotic in response to seeing other countries, Western countries which us Western-adjacents often tend to worship, become more nationalistic and somewhat unstable, while my otherwise shoddy country began to get its shit together, accelerate development and growth, stay well and far away from the radical right, and elect a milquetoast liberal centre-right president who has enough poise and foreign language skills to not embarrass us in front of foreign leaders for a change. (Good job, man. I’m glad to have helped get you up there. Trump could learn a thing or several from you.) So, just with this piece of anecdata, I’d reckon patriotism and nationalism are different things.

      As I understand it, patriotism refers to a non-rational, tribally-based positive bias towards your own country (the irrationality of it is not the central feature, perhaps, but I mentioned it to distinguish patriotism from mere self-interest in wanting your country to do well just because you live in it and the well-being of the nation impacts you specifically). What distinguishes it from nationalism is the lack of the negative bias in the other direction; mere patriots would feel generally neutral towards foreign elements, but identify with their country and have a desire to see it do well on the international stage.

      Or, rather, I would say that nationalism is patriotism that feels under attack from foreign elements. I mean, I don’t think that nationalists energetically loathe foreign stuff that stays abroad from them. One thing I’ve long since been wondering is how nationalists feel towards foreign nationalists abroad. The naive, 4th grade view is that a Greek who thinks Greece is Objectively The Best can only be baffled at and outraged by a Turk who fancies that Turkey is Objectively The Best — there can only be one, right? (Deliberately picked non-controversial non-superpower examples here, hopefully. Apologies to the nations mentioned, alluded to, or excluded altogether.) Something that, I think, is more capable of passing an Ideological Turing Test is the notion of a Westphalian pan-nationalism wherein nationalists from other countries endorse each other on a “you do your thing, we do ours (also, fuck cosmopolitans everywhere)” basis.

      But then it gets complicated again.

      It’s good to keep in mind that nationalism was originally a reaction against imperialism, against having your ethnic group ruled by a foreign empire. Remember that medieval and early modern Europe “grew up” aspiring to re-become Rome; they didn’t start out exactly nationalist. 1848, IIRC, had nationalist revolutions all across Europe.

      (As a general rule, it’s always good to keep in mind political, or otherwise, dynamics from pre-modern times. When you don’t have other peoples as a control group you can use the same peoples in different times for that role.)

      So. Imperialism was is engaged in by the sort of nations who definitely have strong positive feelings about themselves as nations. Like nationalists, imperialists also feel negatively about other cultures. Unlike nationalists, the negative feelings are more like haughty contempt than smouldering resentment. Unlike nationalists, the attitude towards foreigners is set on “approach” (with armies, settlers, and missionaries) rather than “avoid”.

      I’m very curious what the far-right consensus is about empire-building. I once asked a bunch of fascists about that. Opinions were mixed.

      So if patriotism is a love for your country’s culture, does that not necessitate a defense of your country’s culture? And if that culture is continually changing, what is it you really love about your country?

      As for this, I take the conservatively progressive view that culture is continually changing anyway. The territory of modern-day Iraq looked one way in 2700 BC, another way in 900 AD, and yet another way in 2005 AD. I doubt that anyone who longs for the Islamic Golden Age would think it doubleplusgood to long for old Sumer because it’s even older. Even if you do it like Yarvin and constantly use the past as a normative reference, the takeaway should be that even though the past might, too, have viewed its past as a normative reference, things changed anyway, and while at it, it managed to do well enough for itself to beget at least a few present-day reactionaries. A break with the past can often be for the better, and that great cultures often succeeded each other, even though not immediately. The future may yet bring a better culture. Think big!

      In my case, I’d be mighty pissed off if our borders were to change within my lifetime, and neutral to (okay, let’s admit it) mildly negative if its ethnic makeup/majority race were to change, but good god I can’t wait for traditional food to disappear and for French cuisine to occupy us permanently.

      (Trying this again, the registration glitch ate my reply. Good thing I learned to keep temporary offline backups of every effortpost I write.)

      • Aapje says:

        Or, rather, I would say that nationalism is patriotism that feels under attack from foreign elements. I mean, I don’t think that nationalists energetically loathe foreign stuff that stays abroad from them. One thing I’ve long since been wondering is how nationalists feel towards foreign nationalists abroad.

        I merely see nationalism as the idea that the nation is the main level of political organisation. I don’t see how this has to be negative to other nations, aside from not wanting other cultures to determine one’s future or to be fully responsible for other nations (white men’s burden).

        This doesn’t even mean that one necessarily has to value one culture above the other, but merely that one has a personal preference that for them, their own culture is preferable.

        It also doesn’t mean that you have to refuse to work together or seek to help people in other nations, but interactions have to be based on respect of autonomy, not inherent obligation.

        Something that, I think, is more capable of passing an Ideological Turing Test is the notion of a Westphalian pan-nationalism wherein nationalists from other countries endorse each other on a “you do your thing, we do ours (also, fuck cosmopolitans everywhere)” basis.

        Yes, that is more or less my position.

        I believe that people primarily are responsible to work within their nation to achieve their goals, not to simply leave (although you can if the other country wants you, but they have no automatic obligation to take you, in general).

        My forefathers fought many wars and endured many invasions before we got where we got. We wouldn’t have gotten where we are if people had refused to make these sacrifices and had all simply emigrated (which has major problems of its own).

        For example, if middle and upper class Syrians leave and let Syria be fought over by ISIS and the like, the nation will end up a shit hole, threatening the rest of the world. Thus the Syrian people are primarily responsible for building up their own state. If they cannot defect en masse, we threat them as adults who have responsibility.

        So I don’t support letting in masses of refugees, although I do support doing it for small minorities that cannot fight back effectively (like Salman Rushdie, oppressed atheists, gays, etc).

        I’m also wondering if our different perspectives aren’t (partially) informed by our nations history. My country has always been a trade nation, yet also was quite nationalist. Perhaps this makes it easier for me to see how one can be both nationalist and open to trade, interaction with other cultures based on respect (for example, my nation was the only one that was allowed to trade with Japan for some time, despite the cultures being almost polar opposites, because there was respect for each others boundaries), etc.

        • Dahlen says:

          Well, OP asked for our own understanding of the words, so I described what phenomenon, when witnessed, I would dub “nationalist”. Understandably, self-identification produces a different understanding/usage of the word than that of someone who uses it to describe positions different from his, and less understood.

    • brad says:

      Whether you phrase it as patriotism or nationalism, make about ethnicity or culture, any way you cut it, US citizens vs not US citizens just doesn’t seem like a great way to carve up the world. At least not on a philosophical, ethical, or even emotional level — there’s plenty of practical reasons to draw a line there.

      While there are a few cultural characteristics that are if not unique at least rare outside the US, they don’t rank as particularly salient to me. I’d say the one that I’m most proud of is US style free speech which is basically non-existent elsewhere. Support for it isn’t universal in the US, especially when push comes to shove, but it is fairly broad. But that and a few such other examples just aren’t enough of a pillar to build a patriotism out of for me. The cultural and other differences across the country seem larger and more salient than many of the differences between my subculture in the US and the corresponding ones in at least some other countries — particularly those in the anglosphere.

      I like living here, I’m certainly not ashamed to be an American, but patriotism, much less nationalism, just seems kind of silly at best. Like taking being a fan of some sports team way too seriously.

      I could see how it might be very different for someone from a much smaller, much more homogeneous culture, Iceland for whatever reason being the exemplar that comes to mind.

    • birdboy2000 says:

      I’m probably a bit too far on the left to feel a need to justify voting for politicians who invoke patriotism, but from my perspective they’re one in the same. Patriotism is at best a mild or euphemistic form of the same sentiment.

      The purpose of nationalism or patriotism is to value people on one side of an invisible line – even if they’re your exploiters or oppressors – over people on the other side of said line. I reject this. Marx didn’t say “Workers of one country, unite!”

  30. Daniel says:

    I have a forecasting related question.

    After watching 1000 coin flips, I’m asked to predict if the next flipped coin will land heads. My model says that there is a 50% chance of landing on heads. I have a 99.99% confidence interval in my model’s accuracy. – so in total, my confidence in the coin landing heads roughly is 50%.

    Compare this to another scenario:
    I have a model for predicting outcomes in basketball games. However, my model is far from perfect. Let’s say I have a 75% confidence interval in this model’s accuracy.
    My model says in the next game, team A has a 33% chance of beating team B.

    Given that I only have a 75% confidence interval in believing that my model is accurate, what should my confidence interval be in team A beating team B?

    For example, if someone asks me how confident I am that team A will beat team B, do I say 33% because that’s what my model says, even though I know that my model is only 75% accurate?
    Or can I incorporate my uncertainty of my model into my confidence of my model’s forecasts?

    Thanks

    • Ivy says:

      can I incorporate my uncertainty of my model into my confidence of my model’s forecasts

      You have to make “my uncertainty of my model” more precise. You can’t just say you’re 75% confident in your model, you have to say what kind of models the other 25% consists of. In effect, you have to define a probability distribution over all possible models.

      In the coin-toss example, suppose there are only three possible models of coins: a fair coin, a somewhat biased coin (75% heads), and a completely biased coin (always heads).

      You start by assigning each of these three models a probability. If you now throw a coin and it comes out tails, you will reassign the always-heads model a probability of 0, and update towards the fair coin.

      You can then make a consensus estimate of the probability of heads by computing P(coin is fair) * P(heads given that coin is fair) + P(coin is biased) * P(heads given that coin is biased).

    • LPSP says:

      62.75% odds in B winning, 37.25% A.

      My logic: If your confidence in the model is 100%, you just go with the model. If your confidence is 0%, you put even 50/50 odds. Anything else and you proportionally adjust the difference to draw the results nearer 50/50.

      (yes, this is gibberish. I’m just letting you know what my instinct churns out.)

      • Rob K says:

        my gut says that the shift away from the model should be towards the Vegas implied odds (a public, well-vetted model), not towards 50%. But I can’t quickly extend that into a general principle.

    • tgb says:

      FYI, you’re not using the term “confidence interval” correctly. It would be more correct to say something like: I am 95% confident that the temperature tomorrow will be between 50 and 75 degrees. So my 95% confidence interval for tomorrow’s temperature is 50-70 degrees.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        There are two word: “confidence” and “interval.” Since Daniel is not, as you say, talking about intervals, he cannot be talking about confidence intervals. But neither you nor he are talking about frequentist confidence. You are both talking about bayesian credence.

  31. keranih says:

    In the previous OT, @patrick merchant asked:

    1. Do kids actively want to be racially represented in movies/shows/etc?

    2. Does increased representation actually have a measurably positive impact on these kids (in the form of increased self-esteem, increased acceptance by their peers, etc)?

    1. I grew up reading comic books, adventure stories, animal stories, all that. I read a lot of books with YA male leads – for quite a lot of American lit, that was your option. (There were more than a few YA female leads – but those stories had weird second act menstruation plot points and at 9-14 years old that was an entire ball of OMG DO NOT WANT.)(*)

    Even the animal-centric stories had male (animal) leads, although nearly all of them were close to asexual vs masculine in nature. Females were a Different Nation.

    For my part, I was perfectly happy to read a male protagonist, delighted to read a strong character who was female & not a wimp, and reacted very negatively to poor portrayals of female characters. If they were in there scrapping, I liked. If they weren’t there at all, it made no diff. If female characters were there, and yet were weak, wimpy, ineffectual, stupid, or not helpful and this was clearly because their gender, not an individual failing I wanted nothing to do with it.

    2. Not a clue. I suspect it might be strong but no personal evidence.

    (*) There’s a whole ‘nother conversation about how YA lit primed females to fear the thought of bearing children, but that’s a different topic.

    • onyomi says:

      I generally get annoyed about focus on symbolism over substance (let’s ignore the drug war incarcerating millions of black men right now but complain loudly about monuments to founding fathers who were slaveholders), but I feel like this may actually make a difference. As a white male growing up it was easy to imagine myself as the “hero of my own story,” whatever that’s worth (and maybe the effects of such are not all good), probably in part because the heroes of the stories I read and watched were, well, white males (though I also had no problem enjoying a book or movie or tv show starring a female or non-white protagonist).

      Though I don’t think it’s necessary to strive for exact representation of the population (hispanics and Asians have a much more legit complaint re. Hollywood in this regard), or to retcon old beloved heroes to be a different race, gender, or sexuality, I do think people model themselves on fiction to a greater degree than might be obvious, and that having positive role models of a variety of races, genders, sexual orientations is a worthwhile goal.

      • keranih says:

        The only time I’ve gotten really worked up – myself, rather than (occasionally) agreed that a third party might have a point – over “race-lifting” type actions was with the most recent remake of My Friend Flicka.

        Because the whole freaking point was that this was a guy who loved his horse and was a bit of a wimp and a trial to his macho Wyoming rancher dad. Making the protagonist a gal just…it was wrong.

        (God. This series of books. It’s been decades but still. Flicka. Rocket. Thunderhead-who-was-Goblin.

        I want a monkey tree. And a Swan Sleigh. With bells. And I want a little Girl.)

        • Equinimity says:

          As a former wimpy boy who was a trial to his father and who adored horses (sadly from afar at the time, growing up in the suburbs) that’s one that will kick me into ranting mode too.
          I did manage to shut down a few people who tried to go off at me for objecting to that one though. As someone who churned through an awful lot of horse books in my misspent youth, I said this was the only book of it’s genre with a male protagonist (*) and the movie remake forced it into bland gender conformity.

          * – I was wrong, as I remembered later. The Black Stallion is ‘the other one’. Never grabbed me the same way though.

      • dndnrsn says:

        The focus on symbolism is terrible. Sometimes you have a situation where talking the talk is more important than walking the walk. Highly super-scientific personal anecdata for illustration purposes only: the friend of mine who was most vocal about how Girls was bad because not a diverse cast, and OITNB was good because of its diverse cast has, as far as I can tell, close to zero friends who aren’t white. Or, at least, they don’t show up at the parties this friend throws.

        Or, one of the guys I know who is the most self-congratulatory about what a good Male Feminist ™ he is, has behaved really awfully towards at least one woman in his personal life. But hey, at least he isn’t the guy who is known for, at best, extremely ungentlemanly behaviour, and at worst serial rape … who was involved in the school’s anti-sexual harassment and assault group (leading one person to say they didn’t believe the allegations … because he was involved in that group, so how could he possibly be guilty of sexual assault?)

        • Aapje says:

          The psychology of male feminists is very interesting, because it means you are part of a movement that considers your gender to be automatically suspect and deeply indoctrinated to abuse women. You get some very interesting psychological responses to that.

          One type of male feminist seems to be a person who is an evil person himself, but uses the patriarchy as an excuse: ‘I can’t/couldn’t really help it, since I’m indoctrinated like this’.

          The most amazing is when these people write stories about how they abused women in the past and then claim that all men do this. Then I’m shaking my head behind the monitor, mumbling….it’s just you, pal.

          Hugo Schwyzer is probably the most famous of this type.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Coincidentally, the first guy I described, did the same shtick as Schwyzer – “oh, I used to be so bad to women, but I have seen the error of my ways, and now I have special authority”. Given, though, that past behaviour is usually the best indicator of further behaviour, it’s not hugely surprising that it turned out that Schwyzer’s being shitty to women was not something back in the past. Likewise, this guy I know, I would not be surprised if it turned out that he was still being shitty to women.

            I think it’s less using it as an excuse, and more a way to assuage their guilt – but people who assuage their guilt through politics are probably less likely to just stop doing the thing they feel guilty about.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The psychology of male feminists is very interesting, because it means you are part of a movement that considers your gender to be automatically suspect and deeply indoctrinated to abuse women.

            Look, in every movement and ideology their will be some narcissists who will be engaged in some form of self-delusion or self-aggrandizement or both. So I certainly won’t deny that people like this occur, and do so in great numbers.

            But honestly, I’ve never, ever felt this way.

            Mock me if you must, but go listen to “Free to Be You and Me“. Yes, you aren’t plumbing the greatest depths of feminism, but I dare you to find a message of male self-hate out of it.

            I had it as an album when I was probably seven. I loved it. It made sense to me. It made me feel good.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @HeelBearCub:

            You’re certainly right. Most people who generically support feminist goals (which is a significantly higher % of people than those who call themselves feminists) are fine, regardless of gender.

            There is, however, a certain type of really aggressive male feminist who does a lot of things that feminism condemns in men.

            I hadn’t really lived until I saw a woman in STEM telling a guy that she hadn’t faced discrimination, and said guy telling her that she was wrong.

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub

            I’m not arguing that everything that feminists do consist of misandry. They don’t apply the entirety of their ideology to each of their endeavors, which no person in the world does.

            My argument is that concepts such as toxic masculinity and the strongly related idea that only men commit evil in significant numbers (hence: denial of women being rapists, domestic violence perpetrators, etc) places women on a pedestal, while doing the opposite for men. The result is that everything that women do is regarded with good faith and men are approached with bad faith. Whenever a man commits violence against a woman, it is assumed that he does so because he wants to oppress her. When a woman commits violence against a man, it is assumed that he gave her a reason for her to use violence.

            The Ray Rice saga is a good example. His fiancée hit him first and he hit back. The sane assessment of that is that she was wrong for using violence and he was very wrong for hitting her back (especially with that level of force). However, the actual media and feminist story completely ignored her violence and portrayed her as a pure victim. This is the double standard in action in society today.

            This is actually part of the patriarchy that was adopted by feminism, because it serves the goal of getting more rights for women, although it very much harms the fight for equality.

            If you have trouble understanding why I object to ‘toxic masculinity’, imagine a very similar variant for which you can argue for just as easily: toxic blackness. Now imagine what it does with black people to be told by racists that they are fundamentally violent and have to take special care not to hurt white people. Then think what it does to men to be told that they are fundamentally violent and have to take special care not to hurt women.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @dndnrsn:
            Again, I said you would be able to find many examples. Plural of anecdote, etc.

            @Aapje:
            Well, now you seems to have blithely moved on from making statements about “male feminists” full stop. So, I guess that’s progress, but it would be nice if you had some awareness of what you did.

            “The Ray Rice saga is a good example.”

            The Ray Rice saga is an extraordinarily bad example of whatever it is you think you are trying to prove. Go look at that tape again, and pay attention to what he did after he hit her. He had as much care for her well being as he would a sack of potatoes.

            Yes, violence committed by women in relationships is wrong. Her actions, insofar as they were violent, were wrong.

            Two wrongs don’t make a right, however, and you can’t look at Ray Rice’s actions in that video and determine that what he did was something minor that should be treated by the NFL like he was caught smoking pot. And the furor was mostly about the NFLs actions.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @HeelBearCub:

            Yeah, I was agreeing with you, I think I’m just having one of those days where I’m not being super-clear.

            To put what I was trying to say: men who support stuff that can generically be considered feminists outnumber men who call themselves feminists outnumber Male Feminists of the obnoxious/outright bad sort.

            (As an aside, we face what I think is a big and increasing problem of how one samples a group in the internet age. It’s possible to look at all the scholarly books on a topic and say “well x% of them say y”. But if we’re talking online … what do you include in the sample? Every tumblr blog?)

          • Aapje says:

            @HBC

            Your statements have little relationship to what I argued.

    • CatCube says:

      I honestly never thought about the protagonists in books and movies growing up, but I think I’m an outlier in usually preferring female characters in video games, especially in games with a 3rd person perspective. If I’m going to be staring at an ass for 4 hours a day, it may as well be a woman’s ass.

    • arbitrary_greay says:

      1. For me: yes, yes, yes, so much yes. It has strongly shaped my tastes, and my sense of identity.

      2. Cannot confidently say that the measurably positive impact would not have occurred through other means in the absence of representation. However, still, yes, I feel like representation has contributed to my becoming a better person.

      Personal accounts of fans about the impact representation has had on them aside, you can also find plenty of accounts of minority-demographic celebrities talking about the role models that proved them in their young age that pursuing their career in the first place was possible. (For example, Leslie Jones addressing Whoopi Goldberg)

      The same mechanism applies outside of traditional minority demographics. After all, was not the portrayal of specific technologies on Star Trek the driver for many scientists and engineers to choose their research areas? Not to mention Mae Jemison.
      And isn’t the seething contempt of The Big Bang Theory sitcom stemming from anger at misrepresentation of nerds and geeks?
      And isn’t one of the main motivations of writing rationalist fic to see protagonists who have values and mindsets that their authors feel most protagonists do not have, and therefore can feel less compelling as fiction for? Why is it that the Self-Insert is a mainstay of fanfiction, no matter how low literary value it is assigned, unless most everyone wants representation of themselves?

    • bind over mody says:

      Maybe this is like that cis-by-default situation, with two distinct groups of people, one really caring about racial representation in media, and one really not caring about it.

      It probably can be even generalized as mind over body vs body over mind or something

  32. Tekhno says:

    I’ve recently become concerned that my response to seeing rapes in the news is to be disgusted not by the rape but by the choice of rape victim.

    Now, this could mean I’m a monster, but it could also mean that we live in a world where depraved acts have become so mundane that I need to find new ways to feel bad, many of which are in themselves depraved.

    I think it’s a bad thing that I’ve become so fed up of evil that I’ve started evaluating evil based on aesthetic trappings. ISIS kills and mutilates people in horrible, horrible ways, but I kind of have to admit that my brief flashes of anger at ISIS are more than overwhelmed by my long term appreciation of their aesthetic trappings, and strength of conviction. The memeification of everything means that instead of thinking primarily of beheadings and torture when I think of ISIS, I instead think of nasheed trap music and terrorist frog memes. Most of the time, I smile when I think of ISIS. They are a joke to me.

    This could be because I’m a sociopathic man-child, but I don’t think I’m alone on this. The world hasn’t actually got any more evil, but because of social media we are surrounded by it all of the time, while due to the long post World War peace being simultaneously never more distant. We get to analyze evil into nothing instead of feeling the terror up close. What does that do to us? Have there been any studies or at least books on the Western phenomena of having everything horrible in the world beamed at us 24/7 while also being protected from experiencing suffering directly by a historically unique level of civilization and pacification? What does that duality do to us? What is it turning us into?

    • JHC says:

      There is a taboo in popular culture against discussing how media may change us. I often wonder how immersion in video games is changing people but ive never seen it discussed.

      • LPSP says:

        I can think of video game-centric examples, like attitudes towards visible polygons and texture quality. Animated movies like Toy Story have aged well in terms of literal animation, but almost everyone can see the sheer uncanniness of certain parts, especially Andy and the dog. Video games, so interactive and exhaustive as they are, may have played a part – of course, further advances in CG movies themselves could probably account for this, but there’s definitely a relationship.

        In fact, honestly, I think changes in other media have changed how we viewed video games moreso than the other way around. Video games used to have cutscenes on the same level as full CGI movies of the same era, play graphics far below, and it was acceptable. Now people are angry if an advert for a video game features better graphics than any part of it, and people are less wowed by cutscenes since most of them are subpar next to modern Pixar.

      • Fahundo says:

        but ive never seen it discussed

        You must be joking.

    • Tekhno says:

      but ive never seen it discussed.

      I know you’re being sarcastic, but…

      While the common hypothesis that videogames make people more violent has never been conclusively proven, I do wonder whether videogames might be doing something more subtle to us.

      • Aapje says:

        A huge issue is that the discussion is generally tribalist and/or ageist, where something that is popular among the youth or the other tribe is identified as ‘corrupting’ (despite this mechanism having been repeated since ancient Greece, showing that people are merely ignoring the effects of aging and the inherent differences between people).

        The result is that the ‘corrupting’ influence changes with each generation (pop music, metal, computer games, rap music, etc).

        Few people seem willing to blame the cultural artifacts that they like to consume.

        Anyway, I think that it is very likely that our brains were optimized for relatively small groups and limited communication, so we tend to judge anything we hear about as a huge threat to us. This makes sense in small groups, as it is very likely that you are at great risk for a crime that happened to your group or a group that you trade with. However, in the modern context, it results in fear being linked to the number of bad things that the media tells us about (which has increased for various reasons), rather than actual statistical risk.

    • obviously? says:

      Rapists and ISIS are not a direct short-term threat to you and your way of live. They either don’t see you as a target or live far away on the other side of the planet.

  33. A question I may have raised before …

    How well known was the rhythm method of birth control in the past? I was reminded of it by a reference in the literature on early Irish law–that one element in a damage claim could be keeping a man from his wife (recovering from injuries? I’m not sure) during her fertile period, which implies they thought they knew about when the fertile period was.

    The Wikipedia article makes it sound as though the relevant information wasn’t available until modern times. But, as I may have commented before, one would expect it to be produced by experiment much earlier. There have been a number of societies, such as ancient China and medieval Islam, where many high status men had multiple wives and/or concubines. Knowledge of both how to make fertilization more likely and how to make it less likely would be useful. It would be straightforward for a curious man with multiple partners to determine which ones had reasonably regular menstrual cycles then adopt a policy of sleeping with one woman only in the first week after menstruation, one in the second week, one in the third week. Keep it up for a while and see which one gets pregnant.

    Do we know if anyone did the experiment? If the rhythm method was in common use anywhere before modern times?

    Arguably the introduction of reliable contraception in modern times had a big effect on sexual behavior and related social patterns. That makes it interesting to know how much was known on the subject in the past.

    • Anonymous says:

      The rules of nidah in Orthodox Judaism make sex likely on the twelfth day after the start of menstruation which is close to the peak of fertility. However, for men a twelve day abstinence isn’t ideal for fertility (two to seven days is best) and onanism is prohibited.

      In regards to multiple wives, I was under the impression that cohabiting women tend to have their cycles sync up.

      • Synced cycles would make it easier, since the man could have intercourse for a week with one partner, then a week with the next, … .

        Jewish law regards the command to increase and multiply as binding. According to Maimonides, it is a sin for a man over twenty not to be married, with an exception for someone whose study of Torah is so intense that he can’t afford time for a wife (but he should still marry if his lustful feelings are a problem). From that standpoint, targeting the woman’s fertile period makes sense.

        I wasn’t aware of the pattern of delay for purification after menstruation. It’s interesting. The biblical rule seems to be seven days from the start of menstruation, which wouldn’t get the woman to her fertile period. But the Amoraim changed it to seven days from the end of menstruation.

      • Eltargrim says:

        In regards to multiple wives, I was under the impression that cohabiting women tend to have their cycles sync up.

        Apparently this is largely a consequence of probability, according to this review. Apologies for the paywall.

        • I think the recent backlash about synchrony research is itself overwrought and that we’re mostly seeing that previous research is underpowered or badly designed, not that the effect isn’t real. That doesn’t prove it is, but that said, every woman whom I’ve had a menstrual cycle related discussion with is convinced it’s mostly real.

          But I doubt we’ll ever know for real–and doing the study on modern young American women is impossible at this point, because of the ubiquitous use of hormonal contraceptives.

  34. TMB says:

    A few open threads ago I posted this:
    https://slatestarcodex.com/2016/09/28/open-thread-59-25/#comment-415536

    The idea that we should accept only female immigrants.

    Well –
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3820456/Men-violent-outnumbered-women-Study-claims-areas-fewer-men-higher-rates-promiscuity-conflict.html

    We need to take more women from Syria to reduce the level of violence there?

    • Sandy says:

      That result seems counterintuitive to me — I would think areas with fewer men would see higher rates of promiscuity among women, not men. Lower intrasexual competition should lead to lower violence among men.

      • Mary says:

        That’s just one motive. There’s a reason that would increase: the men would fear fewer consequences. If there are a lot less men than women, it’s a lot less likely that getting into a fight will cause women to dismiss you as a troublemaker.

        So you can be more violent for the hell of it.

        • Aapje says:

          You are assuming that women dislike violence in men, which is hardly a given, as there is evidence that many women (subconsciously) want their partner to be a protector. In more macho cultures, this seems to be a strong conscious desire by a decent number of women.

          So it’s equally possible that a surplus in men will reduce the pressure on men to demonstrate their ability to protect by violent and/or aggressive behavior, especially in macho cultures.

          The problem with these kinds of arguments is that you can generally make a good argument for both one possibility and the opposite, depending on which mechanism you believe to be dominant. So you need to actually look at reality to see which mechanism is dominant, where that may be different for various (sub)cultures.

          For example, I would not be surprised if NY women prefer less violent men than Appalachia women.

    • Mary says:

      I believe the best effects are found when the sex ratio is even. An imbalance either way causes trouble because of the lower odds of pairing off.

      An excess of women, for instance, could lead to men exploiting their scarcity value.

      • Aapje says:

        An excess of women, for instance, could lead to men exploiting their scarcity value.

        And women voluntarily making choices that increase their attractiveness, but reduces their happiness.

        I object to this mechanism being judged as ‘exploitation by men’ (this is a common feminist fallacy, where all negative behavior is blamed on men).

        • Mary says:

          You single out one possibility that is not the one I mentioned and yet it somehow refutes mine?

          Men can certainly exploit it. They can make higher demands with the knowledge that if they break up, he can find a new woman a lot more easily than she can find a new man, and therefore he can demand things of her that she can’t of him. Like the fighting I mentioned above.

          • Aapje says:

            My intention was not to refute you, scarcity does often does result in unfairness, some of it purposely sought out (exploitation). But often, there is unfairness that is not consciously sought out by the person who benefits.

            For example, during an economic downturn, people are much less willing to take sick days when they are sick, due to fear of being sacked for it. Yet I’ve never seen evidence that a large part of this behavior is driven by threats from employers, nor that many employers base their decision to fire people on taking 1 or 2 sick days more than others. It seems to be behavior whose primarily driver is assumptions by the employees, which are possibly quite wrong, at least in part.

            So if someone would say:

            ‘An excess of labor, for instance, could lead to employers exploiting their scarcity value.’

            I’d also point out that it could lead to unfairness that cannot be called exploitation. And furthermore, that such framing is based on and perpetuates a view of the world that many people use, to their detriment, as it is less explanatory than a more accurate model.

            My main objection is actually more to the already existing bias in society and how your comment works to reinforce it, rather than challenge it. This is not intended to make you reconsider the truth level of your statement, but rather how your statement may (accidentally) reinforce the bad biases that people in our society already have.

  35. Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

    I assume these threads are automated, but is there a way to not create them when a links post was posted the same day? It seems kind of redundant and cluttery.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      They’re sort of automated, but I do prefer to have the links be for link-related discussion and this be open.

  36. Jordan D. says:

    Good time, my fellow persons!

    Some interesting cases, brought to you by me, brought to me by the Institute for Justice’s weekly Short Circuit newsletter and available for viewing here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2016/10/03/short-circuit-a-roundup-of-recent-federal-court-decisions-23/?utm_term=.d20478ecbdc8

    Out of the First Circuit – the government can’t ban the practice of taking ‘ballot selfies’ at the polls because the fear that employers, etc, will demand proof that employees voted for their favorite candidates doesn’t meet strict scrutiny. Really can’t tell you what I’d do if this were put to a vote. http://media.ca1.uscourts.gov/pdf.opinions/15-2021P-01A.pdf (please note that laws against ballot selfies may remain on the books and enforceable in your state; don’t take this as carte blanche to go on a scrapbooking spree)

    For the libertarians among us! The Fifth Circuit – a patron of the arts sells a painting to a financier, along the way gathering a series of vague agreements as to the disposition of the painting. The painting is resold at auction, in possible violation of some of those things which may or may not be contracts! Actually this case reminds me a lot of Contracts II, which is a class I really enjoyed. The most interesting bit, I think, is the speculative determination at the end regarding illegal restraint on alienation. How do you feel about contracts which impair the property rights of future takers? – http://www.ca5.uscourts.gov/opinions/pub/15/15-10046-CV0.pdf

    From the Tenth Circuit – How few guards do you need at a prison before the risk of violence makes confinement there an Eighth Amendment violation? https://www.ca10.uscourts.gov/opinions/16/16-6083.pdf

    And finally, from a state court instead of a federal one-

    Supreme Court of Pennsylvania – The Sixth Amendment gives us all a right to counsel in criminal cases; and if you do not have a lawyer, one must be provided for you. But anyone paying attention knows that Public Defenders are often overworked, on shoe-string budgets and quite frankly might not have the time to represent you properly. In the recent past we’ve seen big complaints from PDs, even one director of a state public defense system try to rope the state’s governor in directly; still, the problem is ongoing. If you’re an underrepresented defendant, what are you gonna do, sue? Yes, says the state high court, and if the PD’s office doesn’t have the ability to represent you, you can force the government to pay for an attorney who will. – http://www.pacourts.us/assets/opinions/Supreme/out/J-47A-2016mo%20-%2010282709712025453.pdf?cb=1

    (Actually they don’t really get into remedies, but that’s on the table)

    • brad says:

      This one via Prawfsblawg was pretty interesting too Wright v. City of Miami Gardens (FL 2016):

      The Florida Supreme Court held that Florida law required a putative candidate to pay the filing fee by the deadline to qualify for the ballot. Wright had not achieved payment because the bank failed to honor his check. The court went on to hold, however, that the filing fee requirement was unconstitutional as applied to Wright. It held, “[D]isqualifying a candidate who did everything right due to an error of a third party bank that was totally beyond the control of the candidate is both unreasonable and unnecessary, as well as plainly irrational.”

      In a single paragraph at the end of the opinion, without citation to a single authority, the Court just asserted that Wright’s exclusion from the ballot “tainted the entire Miami Gardens election,” and this problem is “irremediable without a new election.”

      • Jordan D. says:

        Honestly, the most surprising part about that for me is how dedicated the court seems to be to that ruling- I’ve seen plenty of lower-court cases where a court goes ‘Well, that wasn’t a great reason to invalidate your candidacy but the election’s over now, so…’ Holding a special election over the city is surprising.

        The dissent raises a question which I find interesting; courts generally ignore non-jurisdictional arguments not raised by parties, on the basis that the courts are adversarial and if you don’t make an argument the court hasn’t got what it needs to consider it. But in a case like this, where a court reaches the constitutionality of a statute and strikes it down, how much help is it to have the input of Random Appellant and Municipal Defendant, really? At the very least, you’d think the court would want to call in the AG to defend the law.

    • brad says:

      The Fifth Circuit case reminds me of one good reasons congress should consider eliminating or at least sharply reigning in diversity jurisdiction. All that Erie analysis just doesn’t sit right with me. Does anyone really think there would have been a home state bias in this particular case or in most diversity cases? I’ll grant that there are certainly cases where a home state bias is a concern, but I think they are few and far between.

      Federal Courts would still have to read state law tea leaves in supplemental jurisdiction (née pendant and ancillary) cases but I bet the diversity docket is considerably larger.

      • Jordan D. says:

        As of 2015, it looks like there were 87,772 cases filed in diversity jurisdiction, out of 281,608 civil federal cases filed. Cutting down almost a third of the docket would probably be a welcome relief to the federal court system. Even assuming you only got rid of half of those because you retained jurisdiction in cases where ‘home cooking’ was likely, that’s still the size of all federal inmate appeals.

      • BBA says:

        Expect major opposition from attorneys if that were to happen. As flawed as the federal judiciary is, state courts tend to be even worse. I don’t know how the late Elizabeth Halverson made it onto the bench of the general-jurisdiction Clark County District Court; I do know that her obvious unsuitability as a judge would have eliminated her from consideration for the federal bench well before the formal nomination process.

    • “How do you feel about contracts which impair the property rights of future takers?”

      Routine in real property–easements and licenses. I believe I own half the width of the road in front of my house (it’s an old house). I haven’t checked, but I assume the City of San Jose has an easement that prevents me from setting up a toll booth there–even though I didn’t contract to the easement.

      It makes sense for forms of property, such as real estate, where the buyer can determine what restraints there are on the property before buying it.

      Us law and econ types describe this in terms of property ownership as a bundle of rights. You may be able to unbundle, to transfer one right to someone else while keeping the rest. If so, when you sell the bundle, it no longer contains the right you no longer own.

      • Jordan D. says:

        Ah, okay. I think I need to re-word my question a bit.

        Easements are one thing- what I’m really interested in are restrictions on alienation. While states have largely abolished the rule against perpetuities, I think courts are still pretty suspicious of ‘dead hand’ contracts which continuously impair the ability of a future owner to sell the entire bundle of rights (subject to restrictive covenants and easements which are largely unrelated to alienation, I think).

        Now, I know that you prefer the contract-for-arbitration model, but assuming that we keep a state-run court system is it better or worse to restrict a party’s ability to contract away its rights to alienate property in perpetuity?

  37. dndnrsn says:

    So, there’s a lot of relatively out-there political ideas here, by the standards of mainstream North American/European politics. But one thing I notice for its absence – someone correct me if I’m wrong – is electoral reform. It seems fairly obvious that the US’ electoral system is not up to the job it is currently being asked to do, a job wildly different from the one it was designed to do (and whether it was well designed to do that job is another question).

    People who are far right are certainly overrepresented here, and maybe people who are far left are too. Both groups would win big if the US adopted, say, some sort of proportional representation system.

    Less a discussion of electoral systems, and more the question of “there is more discussion here of libertarian city-states and transhumanist moon colonies than simple electoral reform” (slight hyperbole) – why is that?

    Would fixing the US electoral system (or the British, or the Canadian; both are bad but not as bad as the American system) be harder than establishing a libertarian city-state or a transhumanist moon colony? (I will accept “Yes” as a n answer)

    • Anonymous says:

      “there is more discussion here of libertarian city-states and transhumanist moon colonies than simple electoral reform” (slight hyperbole) – why is that?

      Electoral reform boring. Moon exciting.

      • ReluctantEngineer says:

        What if we use a Moon colony as our hypothetical polity when discussing electoral reform?

        Like this:

        Proportional representation could be bad when small groups of voters have significant regional concerns — the residents of a Moon colony, for example.

        In the current US system they would get a congressman and maybe some senators to represent them (assuming they formed their own state or at least their own congressional district), but in a proportional system there might not be enough of them for major parties to bother with their concerns. They could try to form their own Moon Party, but even if they vote as a unified block they might not have enough votes to pass the threshold for getting representatives into the legislature.

        • Anonymous says:

          PR could be bad in the opposite direction, too: suppose the Moon colony was large enough to make the Moon Party a kingmaker party, without which no coalition could get a majority. Now everyone has to kowtow to their Moon Wishes if they want to rule, and Moon Ideas become disproportionately prioritized in political practice. Whereas, ironically, if they just get their one guy and two dudes as per the current system, they get an influence somewhat proportional to their size.

          • dndnrsn says:

            This happens in pure PR systems like the Netherlands or Israel. On the other hand, in a German-style system, Moon Party probably doesn’t make the cutoff for PR, although it picks up some local seats.

          • ReluctantEngineer says:

            I’m not super familiar with the German electoral system (I recall that they combine PR with direct representation but from reading Wikipedia it looks like that’s all within one house, instead of one house PR and one house directly elected like I thought) — would the local seats the Moon Party picks up be enough to prevent politicians from deciding that it’s a waste to be sending shipments of air up to the Moon, we could use that air right here on Earth, etc. and leaving the Moon colonists to asphyxiate?

          • dndnrsn says:

            The German system is a bit complicated but as I understand it does a decent job of balancing local representation with PR, while keeping small fringe parties from becoming either swing votes or big non-fringe parties via a cutoff for PR seats.

          • Alex says:

            Re: “German system”.

            Technically the number of seats are assigned to parties per Sainte-Lague. There are only two quirks:

            a) There are minimum requirements to be eligible for seats at all.
            b) The process to determine which person actually gets a seat won by the party is somewhat complicated and also subject to the election.

            Most explainations that you will find will focus on these points and thereby gloss over the fact that at its heart the system is straightforward Sainte-Lague. I think this is a mistake in framing. I think the German quirks should be framed exactly as what they are. Complicated additions to an otherwise simple and sensible method.

            The function of these additions is to trade equal proportional representation for stabilization of the status quo. I find it hard to tell if this is a good trade to make.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      In an absolute sense, electoral reform would be much easier. But from the perspective of Joe Schmo it is far more difficult.

      A bunch of clever engineers and a good salesman could, in theory, get a lunar colony built with enough blood sweat and tears. But you need a far larger scale of organization to unseat the whole apparatus of American government. At least if you want to replace it with something specific rather than just watching the world burn.

      That said, I like the idea of sortition. It’s elegant, would make the formation of a political class more challenging, and achieve the putative goal of representative democracy in a straightforward way. No taxation without statistically significant representation!

      • cassander says:

        I like the idea of sortition, but power and longevity are closely related. If your boss tells you to do something onerous on his last day before leaving for a new job, are you going to do it? probably not. The government will have people who are in it for a long time, civil servants, long term fixers and lobbyists, wise old men, someone. A legislature composed of people who serve their term and go home is going to be powerless before these people. The short timers won’t know how the system works, and will be subject to enormous pressure from those that do to “do the right thing.” And even if they do figure things out, the long termers will just be able to stonewall and wait them out, then go back to doing whatever it is they wanted to do one the troublemaker’s term is up.

        Juries are a great use of sortition, but they work precisely because the trial is an ah-hoc collection of individuals where no one has any long term investment in the outcome of the proceedings. The same cannot be true of a legislature.

      • bean says:

        You are aware that any theoretically independent moon colony is going to have serious, serious legal issues, right? Theoretically, you’re always under the jurisdiction of whoever launched the spacecraft you’re on. It’s not clear who’d have jurisdiction over a moon colony assembled out of in-situ resources, but I’d bet that unless you split your launch services up very carefully, you’ll be under someone’s thumb immediately.
        And then you have the problem of what to do when you deny jurisdiction to someone. Unless you can get someone to back your independence, you’ll just starve. You’d better be ready to be awfully lonely for a while.
        And then there’s the engineering issues, which are a whole different kettle of fish. I can go into those, too, but they’re not relevant to this.

    • Anon. says:

      If you’re discussing things that will never ever happen, you might as well go for something extravagant.

    • John Schilling says:

      Political parties can do math, and the two big ones on the American political scene have divided the available votes roughly evenly between them. This is a stable equilibrium. Any attempt to “reform” it will either produce effectively the same outcome, or it will produce a substantially different one. The substantially different outcome will almost certainly be A: mathematically predictable and B: to the disadvantage of at least one major party. That party will do the math and block the reform.

      This is particularly true if the intent of the reform is to increase the relative power or legitimacy of third parties.

      • On Any Mess says:

        Exactly, this is the reason. Seriously, why is anyone else even still bothering to reply to this thread, when the (correct) answer is right here? Although in light of this, the comment someone made above about dreaming big when you’re talking about impossibilities regardless is also of (obvious) relevance, because of this.

        • Radm says:

          Yes, assuming the electorate is divided into small groups by economics and interests, the each party will compromise a _lot_ more to get its coalition from 45 to 50% than from 50 to 55. So groups swap sides until equilibrium is restored.

          I think there is one situation in which you could get a political realignment, which is if circumstances dictated that the perceived interests of the two biggest sub-factions in each opposing party had a _lot_ more correlation with each other than each had with the rest of the party. Hard to see what that would look like. But then if it was easy, it would have already happened.

          • Ann Nonny Mousse says:

            Hard to see what that would look like. But then if it was easy, it would have already happened.

            I think that’s actually what’s happening right now with Trump and (while he was still in the running) Bernie Sanders (and the “leftward” shift Hillary made in response to his primary challenge).

          • John Schilling says:

            I think there is one situation in which you could get a political realignment,

            There are several circumstances in which you could get a political realignment; this has happened, what, half a dozen times in US history?

            But political realignment neither requires nor really allows a change in the voting system. The United States of America is going to have a first-past-the-post Presidential system until something happens that is more revolution than realignment. That system will never have more or less than two viable political parties for more than an election cycle. Which two parties, and how they are aligned, can change dramatically and in a short time.

    • cassander says:

      What does “fixing the electoral system” mean? There is no such thing as a perfect electoral system, and empirical evidence that electoral systems make for large differences in policy outcomes is pretty weak.

      • Aapje says:

        I would argue that the US system results in far greater disparity between the opinions of voters and the platforms of politicians than more proportional systems. It is also extremely sensitive to ‘mood swings,’ rather than slow migration to new opinions. The latter is much preferable in many cases, as it results in new ideas being slowly tested, as well as more respect for minority opinions.

    • This assumes that “fixing” is well defined. PR has both advantages and disadvantages.

      One (arguable) advantage of the U.S. system is that it pushes both parties to nominate centrist candidates, even if that doesn’t seem to be working very well at the moment.

      • I can’t resist the opportunity to offer my favorite electoral system. I’m not sure it works better than others, but it is more elegant.

        Representatives are really representative. Each has a list of the voters he represents and gets to cast that number of votes in the legislature. A voter can switch who his representative is any time he wants–imagine it being all set up online.

        If you represent more than (say) a million voters, you get to occupy a seat in Congress. Fewer than that, you have to get together with enough other representatives to total a million and you have one shared seat, which you take turns occupying according to whatever terms you all agreed to. With or without a seat you get to cast the number of votes you represent any time there is a vote in Congress (again, via a computer system).

        • cassander says:

          I’ve had a similar idea, and one the big problem I see with it is how you get the parliamentary procedure to work. how do you determine committee assignments, precedence, ect? The problem isn’t insurmountable, of course, but it it would be tricky to work out. It’s sounds silly, but parliamentary procedure is pretty much universally built on the assumption of fundamental equality among legislators, and you’d basically be tossing that out.

        • John Schilling says:

          I share Dr. Friedman’s fondness for the system and Cassander’s objection to it. To make it work, I think it best to just say that X votes gets you one full-time seat in congress, neither more nor less privileged than any other, but that a candidate can precommit for his insufficient and/or excess votes to be transferred to another candidate.

          The simplest electoral strategy is going to be a party list, but I think that’s going to wind up being true of any proportional-representation scheme. So long as it isn’t mandatory or mathematically privileged, that’s OK with me,

          • cassander says:

            @John Schilling

            at that point, though, don’t you just have PR? I suppose “continuous” PR would produce somewhat different outcomes from electoral PR, but I’d be damned if I could guess what those might be.

        • Ivy says:

          you have to get together with enough other representatives to total a million and you have one shared seat

          Perhaps even more elegantly, you can have representatives delegate their vote to other representatives, leading to liquid democracy.

          This way you can delegate your vote to anyone, from a trusted politically-savvy friend to a public intellectual you admire. I would also expect it to lead to less partisanship due to the ease of breaking and re-forming electoral blocks.

          • roystgnr says:

            The spanner in the works here is the difficulty of maintaining a secret ballot, don’t you think?

            Without a secret ballot, I suspect there will be a lot of people who delegate their votes to their boss, and the ratio of “people who see their bosses as trusted and politically savvy” to “people who see this as a good idea for job security” is not likely to be high, even if the latter group *isn’t* intimidated into it.

      • Aapje says:

        One (arguable) advantage of the U.S. system is that it pushes both parties to nominate centrist candidates, even if that doesn’t seem to be working very well at the moment.

        I would argue that it’s preferable to have a representative congress, resulting in many beliefs being discussed, while the executive politicians are centrist; rather than a fully centrist system where many people feel that they are not represented.

      • Wrong Species says:

        If Donald Trump wins, that’s true but if he loses, that just means the system is punishing his extremism.

    • BBA says:

      Any change to the US electoral system is impossible, between the entrenchment of the major parties and the difficulty of amending the Constitution even with bipartisan support. (Even the bits of the electoral system that aren’t imposed by the Constitution benefit incumbents too much to be changed – for instance, the House of Representatives will have 435 members forever.) It’d be easier in Britain but Nick Clegg squandered the best opportunity for electoral reform that’s likely to come around for decades. Canada still might do it if it looks like the Liberal-NDP split of the left would bring another Tory government into power.

      Establishing a libertarian city-state is much simpler. Just buy a private island in some banana republic, then bribe the government into giving you independence. Cheaper than seasteading, although there’s still the problem of getting enough people to live there to make your city-state sustainable.

      • Tekhno says:

        Cheaper than seasteading, although there’s still the problem of getting enough people to live there to make your city-state sustainable.

        Wait for artificial intelligence (reduce mental labor) to get really good and additive manufacturing (reduce physical labor and specialization) to get really good and nanotechnology (reduce the number of different elements needed to make different products) to get really good* and you won’t need that many people to keep the city-state sustainable and trading with the outside.

        *Or rather than wait, get the government to increase funding into this stuff now.

  38. sohois says:

    Having read the recent election posts and a great deal of the responses there within, I have a question which seemed unrelated to the choice of candidate, so I wanted to ask it in an open thread. My apologies to those of you sick of political bickering, though I do hope answers can be provided without devolving into a red vs blue fight.

    Within the comments specifically, I saw a number of posters referring to a “culture war” or something similar, that was ongoing and a reason for their voting preference. In his post, Scott made indirect references to this as well, whilst when I went to the subreddit I saw many more people referring to this.

    Now I broadly understand this concept to be about “SJW” battles, arguments over racism and pronouns and safe spaces and cultural appropriation and that area, and i think most would agree with this definition (though I note in the subreddit that their culture wars OT simply describes it as anything that is controversial and falls along tribal lines). I am also familiar with previous posts from SSC arguing over such topics and the popularity of their discussion here.

    My question relates to the “war” aspect. When people talk of war it conjures up an image of a nationwide (or Global?) fight, with everyone taking sides and the conflict affecting all facets of life. I don’t know if everyone would agree but I think that’s a reasonable statement. However, I’ve yet to see any convincing evidence that this “culture war” actually exists according to such a definition. All I really have to go on is a lot of anecdotal evidence, from college campuses or tumblr blogs or twitter spats, but the overriding image is that of a fight mainly being fought in such areas – at universities, fringe parts of the internet and media and so forth. Nothing like so large as to describe it as a war.

    I understand why these issues still concern a lot of people, yet for many respondents it appeared to be an issue of such importance that it entirely decided their voting preferences – they believed that this was some large scale war of massive consequence. SO my question is what upon evidence do you base this belief in a culture war on? Why do you believe that this topic goes beyond universities and blogs to become so important as to warrant deciding election preferences? For my part the “SJW” fight seems to form such a small part of daily life that I cannot imagine it being so relevant, and I would appreciate seeing what evidence people base this on.

    • dndnrsn says:

      I like to say “Culture Wars” plural. The current flareups (which, as you correctly note, are limited to certain bubbles) are not the first, or the first in the US. Back a couple decades or so and the major “front” was abortion, for instance (of course, abortion is still a hot-button issue).

      People here tend to be in bubbles where this stuff is important, so they think it is of overwhelming importants. Additionally, the bubbles where it’s happening are sometimes disproportionately influential elsewhere – universities, certainly. While only something like 20-25% of the population has a bachelor’s degree or higher, more than 20-25% of the population is influenced by what happens at universities.

      • Anonymous says:

        That 20-25% is misleading. Commuter schools don’t have students lighting themselves on fire in the quad because the sushi in the dining hall isn’t authentic enough.

      • Randy M says:

        The first culture war was probably abolition of slavery, though establishment of state churches might have been a thing in early colonial times with a more amicable and thus less remembered resolution. Another historical example would be prohibition of alcohol.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      A little while back, I was out at a club with my friends and a bomb went off in a nearby neighborhood. Several other unexploded bombs were also found in other parts of the city. Neither I nor anyone I knew was hurt, thankfully. But I’m really not thrilled that people are attacking my city and, by extension, trying to kill me and my neighbors.

      Over the last year or so, a series of race riots have broken out in cities across the country with similar demographics to mine. This alongside a broader crime wave which looks to reverse the gains of the nineties and oughts. I’d rather that this trend doesn’t spread to where I live.

      Our response to terrorism and crime are part of the culture war. So, from my POV, this isn’t just an internet problem. There are prominent people in America who are willing to trade the safety and stability of my neighborhood for abstract ideological concerns and they cannot be allowed to succeed.

      • sohois says:

        To be clear, with your last paragraph, you believe that people are limited in their ability to tackle these issues due to, for example, accusations of racism or Islamophobia which might be leveled at critics and thus shut down discussion or dissent? And thus you feel that certain policy lines have been unduly shifted one way or another due to the inability to criticize, and this is harmful to America? Is this an accurate summary?

    • onyomi says:

      Part of what is worrisome about it is precisely that these kinds of debates, and a corresponding sense of needing to take sides, seem to keep expanding to include more and more facets of daily life. Maybe used to be the purview of a few campus radicals, then a few internet radicals, but now we’re seeing, e. g. the highly politicized Oscars, about which I’ve complained previously, and players at my school kneeling during the national anthem before a football game.

      Previously, a college football game wasn’t really the place to take a stand (by not standing) for racial equality, regardless of your particular feelings on the issue. Now, apparently, it is. And everyone can see where each student “stands” on the issue, with the result that people who might have been neutral are forced to choose sides–hence “war”: aspects of life which previously did not feel adversarial (beside the friendly competition in this example) become adversarial.

      This kind of thing certainly hasn’t infiltrated all aspects of daily life yet, but part of the “war” is precisely between those who want to push that “personal is political” envelope, and those who don’t.

      • dndnrsn says:

        As with actual war, you’ve sort of got a situation where being neutral does often effectively mean being on one side or another.

        • gbdub says:

          There is serious disagreement over this, and that’s part of what the current edition of the culture wars is about.

          More particularly, I (and much of the anti-SJW crowd, but also others in many tribes) would like to maintain greater separation between the personal and political. As in, yeah it’s important to be engaged, informed, etc. on major controversies – but it’s equally important to be able to retreat to a “depoliticized zone” from time to time. More broadly, I feel the world would be a better place if we maintain a general détente with people of differing political stripes in e.g. the professional workplace. It’s a bad thing when your whole livelihood gets tied up in signaling the appropriate opinions on important but unrelated hot button issues.

          • Gazeboist says:

            it’s important to be engaged, informed, etc. on major controversies

            Is it? I’m lately coming around to the idea that the right to not participate, to not have an opinion and stay out of the decision-making, is a pretty fundamental one.

          • Tekhno says:

            @Gazeboist

            You won’t like Australia then, or anywhere with compulsory voting.

          • Gazeboist says:

            I used to think compulsory voting was a good idea, actually. This “right not to participate” thing is, as I said, a relatively recent conclusion (or place, at least) that I’ve reached.

            I was pretty crazy five or six years ago. Still crazy now, but differently so.

          • Aapje says:

            @Tekhno

            I assume that you can select the blank option in Australia and aren’t required to tell people who you voted for. These features allow you to con-participate, even with compulsory voting.

            Of course, there are also (dictatorial) countries that have compulsory voting where you can’t choose not to choose.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @gbub:

            I’m not going to disagree with you there. I have friends who I don’t share political views with. I don’t make a big deal about it.

            However, there is a point to what the “being neutral means being on the side of the status quo” people. Sometimes they are factually correct.

      • Anonymous says:

        This kind of thing certainly hasn’t infiltrated all aspects of daily life yet, but part of the “war” is precisely between those who want to push that “personal is political” envelope, and those who don’t.

        Yes!

        In fact, I’d take it further: that is the war. The specific instances are just skirmishes, battles, theaters. The real culture war is between limited politics and the politics of the panopticon.

        • Anonymous says:

          This “war” is about whose ox is being gored.

          Go listen to “Harper Valley PTA”.

          • Anonymous says:

            This reply made no sense to me. Besides, every bantling knows it’s ultimately Finbennach who gets gored, no point arguing.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            Finbennach did nothing wrong!

          • Anonymous says:

            Well, from the perspective of SJWs he did commit the unpardonable crime of moving from Medb’s herd to Ailill’s because he couldn’t stand the thought of being owned by a woman.

          • Naomi says:

            I’ve always loved that song, yet I have no idea what point you are trying to make.

          • Nicholas says:

            The upshot of the reply is that “The right to be left alone” is not a faction, but a tactic.
            The Culture Wars are a social struggle to change people’s behavior, with factions lining up based on which behavior you choose. Whichever side is currently losing the culture war retreats to the right to be left alone, because it is the losing side that is expected to make concessions by changing their behavior. It’s kind of motte and bailey -esque, where you want to pretend that your crushing defeat was a draw, and now that you won’t be able to force me to change my behavior (as you would be doing had you won) can’t we all agree that forcing people to change their behavior is wrong, and let bygones be bygones until the next time you want to force me to change my behavior?

      • sohois says:

        I understand your meaning here, but do you not think it’s something of a slippery slope argument? It doesn’t seem like a once a year industry awards show or some protesting athletes is still coming close to ‘daily life’. I wouldn’t hold the growth of this from a fringe activity to slightly less of a fringe activity as strong evidence for it becoming a massive ‘culture war’

        • The Nybbler says:

          We’re really getting into “Aside from all that, what have the Romans done for us” territory here.

      • Winter Shaker says:

        Just as an aside, I was struck by how weird it is from my perspective on the other side of the atlantic that whether or not to kneel for the national anthem before a college football game could be culture-war-ized in this way in the first place because what? You guys are expected to routinely affirm your loyalty to the nation in song before an event as trivial as a college football game? That at least is something where what I assume is more of a red tribe preference than a blue one still holds sway.

        (I will grant that your national anthem is a much better tune than ours – do you reckon there would be quite such enthusiasm for singing it so far down the scale of importance of public events if you had a tune as boring as God Save the Queen?)

        • Aapje says:

          You guys are expected to routinely affirm your loyalty to the nation in song before an event as trivial as a college football game?

          This is probably the result of the US being a nation of immigrants with a long history of integration problems. In the EU you also see that one response to integration issues is to require symbolic gestures to show allegiance (not wearing head scarves, shaking hands with the opposite gender, etc).

          That at least is something where what I assume is more of a red tribe preference than a blue one still holds sway.

          I would argue that both tribes engage in virtue signalling extensively, but in different ways.

        • AoxyMouseOnArgo says:

          There’s a bunch of weird cool social science correlations with this and patriotism.

          It probably ends up as simple as people willing to strongly route for a home-team given by birth are more likely to strongly route for a country given by birth (with all the pros and cons)

          • hlynkacg says:

            On the flip side, I find it odd that so many people seem to lack an instinctual sense of teamwork / tribal loyalty.

          • Fahundo says:

            I find it odd that you put teamwork and tribal loyalty next to each other like that.

          • hlynkacg says:

            You wouldn’t?

          • hlynkacg says:

            So how do you account for “esprit de corps” or “taking one for the team” in your worldview?

          • Fahundo says:

            You take one for the team that has the best goals, not the one you were born into or are affiliated with purely by chance.

          • hlynkacg says:

            What does birth have do with it? For that matter what do goals have to do with it?

            Is it really a matter of pure rational calculation to you?

          • Fahundo says:

            Aoxy’s comment mentioned home sports teams and country of birth, so I figured that’s where you were going with it.

            And I can’t claim to be a perfect rational actor but I do think that would be ideal.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I was thinking in the more general sense but I think the case still holds.

            In a world of purely rational actors a man who makes sacrifices for the team is a sucker.

          • brad says:

            Hlynkacg,

            I think maybe you are failing to consider the guy that’s a really good friend (vs the guy that’s a really good cousin.) Of course one can be both, but the point is you can have loyalty and sacrifice and whatnot to a group you’ve chosen.

          • Fahundo says:

            What if there is a desirable goal that can only be accomplished if the rational actor makes the right sacrifice for the right team? And the goal was worth more to the man than whatever it was he sacrificed.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Brad

            There are obvious reasons for a strict rational actor to value the welfare of those to too whom they’re genetically related over others, but that’s not what I’m talking about.

            I’m talking about the apparent absence of a team/tribal sense in it’s own right.

            @ Fahundo

            In that case it would seem that “the team” (for good or ill) is not a factor in the decision. That is what I find odd.

          • Anonymous says:

            If football payers could only understand teamwork.

      • Aegeus says:

        In defense of the football game thing (I find it personally annoying, but I think they’re free to speak), protests exist to draw attention to things that people would rather ignore. Which means that asking people to only hold their protests in ways that don’t disrupt your life, which can be safely ignored, is sort of indirectly asking people to not hold effective protests.

        People waving signs on the college campus is a Tuesday. It won’t make the news, not unless there’s a really big crowd. But one person not standing at a football game gets attention. The most effective protests are ones that will be seen outside the Designated Protest Area.

        (Relatedly: Is this actually a trend, or is it just that this tactic hasn’t been used in a while? I find it hard to believe that, say, the Vietnam war protesters, who were willing to go up against the National Guard, were unwilling to disturb the sanctity of a college football game.)

        • Gazeboist says:

          It may be a new tactic, rather than a rare one. I’m willing to believe that Vietnam protesters would have done a similar thing, but I’m also willing to believe they didn’t think of it.

          • Psychophysicist says:

            Not a new tactic, here is an obvious precedent.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1968_Olympics_Black_Power_salute

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            If you want to raise attention and ruffle feathers, you go after the opposing side’s symbols. The national anthem and team sport games in general seem like they might be the Red Tribe’s domain today much more than they may have been fifty years ago.

          • LPSP says:

            If you want to raise attention and ruffle feathers, you go after the opposing side’s symbols.

            Boom. Exactly the same reason a chinese might prefer Trump to Clinton – Trump is merely attacking their practices, Clinton threatens their rituals. The latter is always nearer to the end goal than the former, so it always strikes a deeper nerve.

            As a principle, if someone or a group of people reacts far more to what you thought was an instrumental criticism that you expected, you’ve actually struck on a ritual. It’s a useful lens for understanding the SJW talk we’ve seen in these last few threads.

          • pku says:

            Wait, which chinese rituals is Clinton attacking?